Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir @alisonweirbooks @randomhouse

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I think it’s safe to say that if you have a love of history, as well as a keen interest in royalty, there is a strong probability you’re fascinated with King Henry VIII, and his many wives. It’s also likely you remember the order of his wives thanks to this mnemonic device: Divorced (Katherine of Aragon), beheaded (Anne Boleyn), died (Jane Seymour), divorced (Anne of Cleves), beheaded (Catherine Howard), survived (Catherine Parr). Such is the case with me… my fascination with Henry VIII and his wives took root as soon as I first learned about him.

Through the years, I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the subject—both fictional and factual—but I must confess that of all the wives, it’s the story of Anne Boleyn that most strongly captured my interest. Depending upon the writer of the book (or article), Anne Boleyn was either a conniving, manipulative woman who seduced the king and was guilty of adultery during their marriage, or a woman who genuinely loved her husband (and also enjoyed wielding the power that came with being Queen of England), who was wrongly accused and ultimately put to death so that the King might find a new Queen to provide him with the longed-for male heir to the throne. I, myself, am sympathetic towards Anne and like to think that her character lies somewhere in the middle—not completely good, but not completely bad, either. Sadly, much of the truth of her life has been lost over the centuries, so there’s no way to be completely sure of the type of woman she was; whether history has recorded her nature truly or falsely is something we can never know for certain. Perhaps it is for that reason Anne Boleyn is such an attractive subject to write about in novels, weaving known facts with speculations on what her life, and her motivations as Queen, were like.

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession is historical fiction at its finest. Weir’s vision of Anne’s life may differ with those of Boleyn enthusiasts, but I didn’t let my own preconceived notions about Anne interfere with my enjoyment of the book… and I enjoyed it immensely. I found it to be a wonderfully written novel, and I was reluctant to set it aside, but even I have to sleep sometimes.

Weir does a fine job, in this reader’s opinion, of making Anne neither sinner nor saint in totality. There are times Anne strays closer to one side or the other for a while, but this served to bring her to life in my mind, showing her to be a complex person prone to conflict of thought and feeling, rather than the caricature she could easily have become in the writings of a less skilled author.

For me, the most intense part of the novel was Anne’s impending death. I could feel her shock at the accusations against her, her despair when she realized Henry would not intervene and prevent her death, and, finally, her acceptance of the inevitable. Weir’s Anne goes to her execution gracefully, with a quiet dignity that is unshakeable right up to her final moments.  The death scene itself was not at all what I expected, but something more… it was unique (compared to other scenes I’ve read about Anne’s beheading) and made a sad ending even more heartbreaking.

I highly recommend novel this to Tudor enthusiasts. I think this is a novel you will enjoy getting lost in for a while.

(NB: King Henry VIII’s marriages to Katherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves didn’t actually end by divorce, but rather by annulment.)

I received an advance review copy of this novel courtesy of Ballantine Books via Netgalley.

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Author: Alison Weir

Title: Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession

Series: Six Tudor Queens #2

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published: May 16th, 2017 by Ballantine Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Random House

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About the Book

A novel filled with new insights into the story of Henry VIII’s second—and most infamous—wife, Anne Boleyn. The second book in the epic Six Tudor Queens series, from the acclaimed historian and bestselling author of Katherine of Aragon.

It is the spring of 1527. Henry VIII has come to Hever Castle in Kent to pay court to Anne Boleyn. He is desperate to have her. For this mirror of female perfection he will set aside his Queen and all Cardinal Wolsey’s plans for a dynastic French marriage.

Anne Boleyn is not so sure. She loathes Wolsey for breaking her betrothal to the Earl of Northumberland’s son, Harry Percy, whom she had loved. She does not welcome the King’s advances; she knows that she can never give him her heart.

But hers is an opportunist family. And whether Anne is willing or not, they will risk it all to see their daughter on the throne…

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About the Author

Author Alison Weir
Author Alison Weir

Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Marriage Game, A Dangerous Inheritance, Captive Queen, The Lady Elizabeth, and Innocent Traitor and numerous historical biographies, including The Lost Tudor Princess, Elizabeth of York, Mary Boleyn, The Lady in the Tower, Mistress of the Monarchy, Henry VIII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Life of Elizabeth I, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. She lives in Surrey, England, with her husband.

Author photo via Goodreads. Author bio via publisher.

Bookstagram (7-19-17)

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I’m constantly watching and (impatiently) waiting for the mailman to arrive when I’m expecting a book to arrive. I drive my family NUTS because I keep asking if the mail has come yet, and did anyone check it yet? I can’t stop myself from asking though, because it’s vitally important that my books are brought into the house swiftly and not allowed to sit in the mailbox for an eternity… all sad and alone…

What? Books have feelings, too. They’re full of feelings! They might get lonely out there, pining away to meet their new book friends that already live inside. To leave them stuck outside… in a dark, hot, metal box? Why, that would be book abuse! And cruelty to books is NOT allowed here.

Where was I? Ah, yes. Driving everybody nuts asking if the mail has come, and if there is a package for me. I’m expecting a few books at the moment, so I’ve been irritating my family for a couple of weeks now. You can imagine their (short-lived) relief when a package DID come for me on Monday from Skyhorse Publishing.

THE EDGE OF FOREVER (THE EDGE OF FOREVER #1) by Melissa E. Hurst

In 2013, sixteen-year-old Alora is having blackouts. Each time she wakes up in a different place with no idea how she got there. The one thing she is certain of? Someone is following her.

In 2146, seventeen-year-old Bridger is one of a small number of people born with the ability to travel to the past. While on a routine school time trip, he sees the last person he expected—his dead father. The strangest part is that, according to the Department of Temporal Affairs, his father was never assigned to be in that time. Bridger’s even more stunned when he learns that his by-the-book father was there to break the most important rule of time travel—to prevent someone’s murder.

And that someone is named Alora.

Determined to discover why his father wanted to help a “ghost,” Bridger illegally shifts to 2013 and, along with Alora, races to solve the mystery surrounding her past and her connection to his father before the DTA finds him. If he can stop Alora’s death without altering the timeline, maybe he can save his father too.

ON THROUGH THE NEVER (THE EDGE OF FOREVER #2) by Melissa E. Hurst

In 2013, Bridger and Alora found a way to prevent Alora’s murder and return her to the century she was born in, preserving the timeline and preventing a possibly disastrous future.

Back in the year 2147, Bridger is following in his father’s footsteps by wrapping up his military training at The Academy for Time Travel and Research. Alora is adjusting to life in the twenty-second century, and learning to master her powers; as a Dual Talent, she has the rare―and secret―ability to bend both space and time.

But unrest is growing in the North American Federation. As the government moves to limit the rights of Purists, people who refuse genetic modifications, violent protests break out. At the same time, paranoia and anger about the existence of Dual Talents seems to be growing―both among Purists and within the government itself.

Then a masked Time Bender arrives from the future. He insists that war is coming, and only Bridger and Alora can stop it.

There’s just one problem: they have no memory of each other.

What’s really cool about this, is that I only expected to receive ON THROUGH THE NEVER, which is the second book in THE EDGE OF FOREVER series. In my reply to an email their publicist sent me, I mentioned that I hadn’t read the first book yet, but the OTTN sounded so good, I couldn’t resist it. Now… if I’m being honest I was hoping they would sent the first book. But I didn’t see why they would bother, so I shrugged it off for what it was—wishful thinking—and promptly forgot about it. When I opened up the package and saw both books, I whooped and hollered so loud that I’m pretty sure they heard me in the next county. It felt sort of like an early birthday present (my birthday is this weekend) so I was especially happy.

I’m not sure when I’ll get to these little beauties, but I suspect it won’t be too long, as it’s been a while since I last read a time-travel story. I’m really looking forward to diving in and having a new adventure that REALLY appeals to the geek in me!

Bookblogger Problems: The Dreaded Information Search

Bookblogger Problems graphic

If you’ve been following my blog for more than a minute, you’ve seen that I like to include a photo and short biography of the author(s) along with my reviews. I also include purchase links, as well as links to the publisher’s and author’s websites. It wasn’t my idea, of course—numerous others in the bookblogging community were doing it long before I did—it seemed like a nice little extra to include with my reviews, so I started doing it, too. Once I’ve got a review ready for posting, I have to admit it pleases me a great deal to see all those extras added to the bottom of the page. It gives it a nice finished look, and I still can’t believe it took me so long to start doing it.

But there are some nights that I find myself wishing I hadn’t started doing it, because finding a needle in a haystack might be easier than finding the information I need.

Goodreads is my go-to destination for quick access to author information. I’m ALWAYS on Goodreads for one reason or another, so it just makes sense to check here first. Awesome authors will have a Goodreads author profile that includes a photo, short bio, and a link to their website. (Bonus points for authors who are SO awesome, they also remember to include a link to their Twitter profile or Facebook page!) I’m pretty fortunate in that most of the authors I’ve read are awesome enough to have a nicely filled out profile on Goodreads. But every now and then, I’ll come across an author profile that is a vast wasteland in comparison. Oh, the horror!

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I was putting together the skeleton of a review post tonight, and ran into such a profile. I googled until my fingers were ready to fall off, but I finally lucked out and found everything I needed. Good thing, too… I was starting to think my google-fu was weak. Ha!

Seriously, though. It got me thinking about how difficult it can sometimes be to find all this stuff, and how frustrating it can be at times. There are times I’ve spent more time trying to find something I need for the review than I spent writing the actual review… and I spend a lot of time writing my reviews.

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Many of us use Netgalley as our source for ARCs. The publisher pages always include links to their website and social media pages. For example, the Berkley Publishing Group page includes information about themselves (a publisher bio, if you will) and several relevant links (see photo, left).

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if they did the same sort of thing on the individual book pages? All the author’s information that (most) bookbloggers like to include with their reviews in one handy-dandy place. I’d think I died and went to bookblogger heaven if such a thing were to happen!

Yeah. I know there’s probably ZERO chance of that happening, but a girl can dream, right?!

Ah, well. It’s frustrating at times, but if I had to go through it with every book review I write? I’d still do it, no question… I love being a bookblogger too much to give it up over something so trivial!

That wraps up this edition of Bookblogger Problems. I’ll be coming back with more as soon as I think of something else to moan and groan write about on this topic!

Lilly’s Tale (The Milk-Blood Trilogy) by Mark Matthews #Review

Lilly's Tale: The Milk-Blood Trilogy cover

I’ve struggled with how to review this book, and even now, I’m sure not quite sure what to say. This is likely to go down as the strangest book I’ve read this year. And yet… I was unable to set it aside, and felt a strong desire to finish it.

I felt very conflicted as I read it, as there were many times I found it difficult to suspend disbelief as I progressed with the story. There was one thing in particular that (in my opinion) should have garnered an extreme reaction of fear to other characters when they saw (can’t say because SPOILERS), but that didn’t happen. Rather than treating it as something scary, it was treated as a minor curiosity. Each time it happened, it threw me out of my focus on the story and all I could think about was how surreal it was.

Then again, perhaps that was the point?

This isn’t your usual horror story where the evil thing is some sort of supernatural monster. In Lilly’s Tale: The Milk Blood Trilogy, the evil is heroin addiction. The “monsters” (so to speak) are the addicts themselves, and the horror is what their addiction compels them to do. Yes, there are ghosts and creepy supernatural things happen, but it takes a back seat to the evils of drug addiction.

Maybe I’m overthinking it, but that’s the conclusion I kept coming back to over the many, many, many times I’ve tried to work out my feelings about this book.

The fact that I have given it so much thought speaks to the author’s ability to weave together an unconventional story that stays with you long after you’ve read the final page. I’m not going to forget this book anytime soon… that’s for sure.

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Author: Mark Matthews

Title: Lilly’s Tale: The Milk-Blood Trilogy

Genre: Horror

Published: January 1st, 2017 by Wicked Run Press

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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About the Book

Shocking. Powerful. Stunning. The MILK-BLOOD TRILOGY is page-turning suspense pulled from newspaper headlines and unlike anything you’ve ever read. The author has pulled from his experience as a social worker to capture the horror of urban decay, poverty, and heroin addiction. LILLY’S TALE has been called “an urban legend in the making” and has been optioned for film. Now, for the first time, read all three powerful titles in one collection.

MILK-BLOOD

Lilly is ten years old, living in poverty, born with a heart defect, and already addicted to heroin. Her mother is gone from her life, and there are rumors that she was killed by her father and buried near the abandoned house across the street. The house intrigues her, she can’t stay away, and the monstrous homeless man who lives there has been trying to get Lilly to come inside. For her mother is there, buried in the back, and this homeless man is Lilly’s true father, and both want their daughter back.

ALL SMOKE RISES

The “absolutely stunning” follow up to MILK-BLOOD

A patient breaks into his psychiatrist’s house in the dark of night and plops a charbroiled carcass onto her kitchen island. The body is ten year old Lilly, she’s been the victim of a house fire, and her mouth is stuck in a permanent scream. Now there are decisions to make, for she may be not be dead yet, only heroin may relieve her suffering, and her family is coming for her.

THE DAMAGE DONE (A short story featuring the origin of Lilly’s father)

After years of suffering with mental illness, heroin has opened up the gates of heaven for Jervis Samsa. It is all that makes life bearable. But when he gets trapped in his basement without a scrap of dope to shoot, he needs to go to any lengths to get high. The results are something monstrous, and his basement bedroom becomes a hell for those who enter.

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About the Author

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Author Mark Matthews

Mark Matthews has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Michigan and a Master’s Degree in Counseling. He is the author of five novels, including On the Lips of Children, MILK-BLOOD, and All Smoke Rises. All of his novels are based on true settings, many of them inspired by his work as a counselor in the field of mental health and treatment of addiction. He’s the editor of the anthology GARDEN OF FIENDS: TALES OF ADDICTION HORROR. He lives near Detroit with his wife and two daughters.

Author photo & bio via Goodreads.