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

anneboleyn

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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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.

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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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

mark-matthews
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.

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite #Review @jenwaite4444 @PlumeBooks

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing cover

I’m not sure how long I had this ARC before I started reading it, but it was apparently long enough for me to forget it was a memoir. It happens sometimes, but I usually remember once I start reading. As I read it over the weekend, I was convinced I was reading an engrossing psychological thriller… until I read the acknowledgements at the end. That’s when I realized I was actually reading a memoir. All of this actually happened. The chill that went through me at this realization was far more intense than the ones I’d been having as I read the book.

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing is unique in that it is written in the style of a novel, simultaneously telling the story of the beginning of the relationship with her husband, and its devastating end, in “Before” and “After” segments.  Waite’s seemingly perfect marriage unravels shortly after the birth of her daughter, when she discovers her husband has been unfaithful—something he denies repeatedly, despite evidence to the contrary. In her search for the truth, she realizes her husband fits the definition of a psychopath and is incapable of truly loving anyone. Her marriage was built on a foundation of lies. For her daughter’s sake, Waite must find the strength to begin a new life.

The damage that can be done by someone with a dangerous personality disorder cannot be understated. Gaslighting is a particularly heinous manipulation that leaves the victim confused and disoriented, questioning their ability to remember events correctly. This is a single example of the many ways such a person can mentally torture their victims.

This powerful memoir is heartbreaking, often chilling, and incredibly hard to put down. It feels wrong to say I “enjoyed” reading it, given the pain and suffering the author went through, but I’m glad I read it. I think books such as this one are important because they shine a light on the destructive behaviors of abusers… perhaps the better equipped people are to recognize the signs, the lesser the chance they will be a potential victim? One can only hope.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Plume via Netgalley.

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Author: Jen Waite

Title: A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal

Genre: Memoir

Publication Date: July 11th, 2017 by Plume

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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About the Book

What do you do when you discover that the person you’ve built your life around never existed? When “it could never happen to me” does happen to you?

These are the questions facing Jen Waite when she begins to realize that her loving husband—the father of her infant daughter, her best friend, the love of her life—fits the textbook definition of psychopath. In a raw, first-person account, Waite recounts each heartbreaking discovery, every life-destroying lie, and reveals what happens once the dust finally settles on her demolished marriage.

After a disturbing email sparks Waite’s suspicion that her husband is having an affair, she tries to uncover the truth and rebuild trust in her marriage. Instead, she finds more lies, infidelity, and betrayal than she could have imagined. Waite obsessively analyzes her relationship, trying to find a single moment from the last five years that isn’t part of the long-con of lies and manipulation. With a dual-timeline narrative structure, we see Waite’s romance bud, bloom, and wither simultaneously, making the heartbreak and disbelief even more affecting.

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About the Author

Author Jen Waite
Author Jen Waite

Jen Waite lives in Maine with her young daughter. She is applying to graduate school to become a licensed therapist, specializing in recovery from psychopathic relationships.

Author photo and bio via Amazon.

The First City by Joe Hart #Review @authorjoehart @AmazonPub

The First City (The Dominion Trilogy #3) cover

NB: If you haven’t read the first two books in this series, please be aware this review will contain spoilers for those books.

In The First City, the third and final book in The Dominion Series, we come to the end of Zoey’s story. Her fight has become even more crucial when she watches a video message informing her she has an unborn daughter back at the ARC… and is told she might hold the key to the survival of mankind. Unwilling to risk the lives of her friends, she sets off alone, traveling to Seattle in search of answers. What she finds is danger from both old and new threats, unexpected reunions, and—finally—the long-sought answer to who she is.

This is a fantastically satisfying wrap-up to the trilogy, and I enjoyed it immensely. There were no loose ends left dangling, and the resolution of each character’s journey always seemed fitting.

I’ve read several books in this genre, and this trilogy ranks highly as one of the best of them. I thought the basis of the trilogy—female births almost nonexistent, and the resulting consequences of that—to be a unique take on a dystopian society; an approach that (as far as I know) had not been done before. It created an even more frantic sense of impending doom, with the very real possibility that the human race could eventually die out. The way people reacted to this catastrophe—bringing out the worst, rather than the best in them—also felt like something that could easily happen in such a world.

If you’re a fan of this genre, you should give this trilogy a read. I think you’ll enjoy it, as a whole, as much as I did.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer.

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Author: Joe Hart

Title: The First City

Series: The Dominion Trilogy #3

Genre: Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic

Published: March 28th 2017 by Thomas & Mercer

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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About the Book

In the thrilling conclusion to Joe Hart’s Dominion Trilogy, Zoey discovers who she truly is—and who she must become.

Zoey has only ever known a world with few women and a society capable of unimaginable evil. Now she’s about to learn she may be the only hope it has for salvation.

After she and her companions flee a vicious attack, barely escaping with their lives, Zoey finds herself faced with a new threat: video evidence suggesting she is the mother of an unborn baby girl—and the key to mankind’s survival. Knowing that her former captors will stop at nothing to control the power that lies within her, Zoey sets out on her own for the last American city, Seattle, in search of answers. But a new enemy awaits her there, and the truth she seeks may lead to her destruction as well as that of all humankind.

This stunning finale, hailed by bestselling author Blake Crouch as a “rapturous, thought-provoking, [and] impossible-to-put-down thriller,” begs us all to consider what we would do when asked to choose between humanity’s survival—and our own.

Other books in the series:

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About the Author

Author Joe Hart
Author Joe Hart

Joe Hart was born and raised in northern Minnesota. Having dedicated himself to writing horror and thriller fiction since the tender age of nine, he is now the author of nine novels, including The River Is Dark, Lineage, EverFall, and the first two books in the Dominion Trilogy, on which this graphic novel is based. When not writing, he enjoys reading, exercising, exploring the great outdoors, and watching movies with his family. For more information on his upcoming novels and access to his blog, visit http://www.joehartbooks.com.

Author photo and bio via Amazon.

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