Katherine of Aragón, The True Queen by Alison Weir

katherineofaragon

Katherine, the daughter of the King and Queen of Spain, came to England and married Arthur, the Prince of Wales, only to be widowed after six months. Political intrigues following her subsequent betrothal to Henry nearly prevented her marriage to the future King, but they were wed following the death of Henry VII, and Katherine became Queen of England at last. She had no way of knowing the man she loved so deeply would eventually become the source of her greatest sorrow.

I’ve already read and loved the second and third books in this series, so I was eager to read Katherine of Aragón, the True Queen. I was saddened to read about her ill-fated pregnancies: two miscarriages, two stillborn sons, and two other children who lived briefly (first-born son, Henry, for 52 days) before succumbing to death—leaving her with only one child, the Princess Mary.

Henry VIII is shown to be a loving husband to Katherine, until it becomes clear that she cannot give him the male heir he so greatly desires. That is when he conveniently begins to have a troubled conscience over having married his brother’s widow, saying it was against God’s law for them to be wed, despite knowing that Katherine’s marriage to Arthur was in name only. Katherine is deeply hurt, outraged that he wants to have their marriage annulled (leaving him free to marry Anne Boleyn and, hopefully, have a son with her), and refuses to agree their marriage is unlawful—not only because she loves her husband, but because she will do nothing to make her daughter illegitimate in the eyes of the world. She refuses to recognize the divorce when it happens, despite the hardships Henry imposed on her over the years, including being separated from her cherished daughter. Katherine maintains to her dying day that she is the Queen of England, and Henry’s true wife.

The reader sees everything through Katherine’s perspective, so there are many things afoot that she is completely unaware of, as she is completely isolated from everything and has little contact with the outside world.  It was brutal to see her get her hopes up about a reconciliation with Henry, only to realize he was still adamant about getting rid of her. And yet, through it all, Katherine’s love for him never wavers, and she remains pious throughout the long ordeal.

This was such a fascinating, compulsive read that I was sad to reach the end after spending four days fully immersed in Tudor England. Weir painted an amazingly vivid world with her words that it almost felt as if I were there, and I thoroughly enjoyed this fantastic novel.

If you love reading novels about the Tudors, and haven’t started reading this series, I highly recommend that you start now!

Add to Goodreads

Author: Alison Weir
Title: Katherine of Aragón, the True Queen
Series: Six Tudor Queens #1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: May 31, 2016 by Ballantine Books
Rating: 5 stars

Other books in this series:

About the Book

Bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir takes on what no fiction writer has done before: creating a dramatic six-book series in which each novel covers one of King Henry VIII’s wives. In this captivating opening volume, Weir brings to life the tumultuous tale of Katherine of Aragón. Henry’s first, devoted, and “true” queen.

 

A princess of Spain, Catalina is only sixteen years old when she sets foot on the shores of England. The youngest daughter of the powerful monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, Catalina is a coveted prize for a royal marriage – and Arthur, Prince of Wales, and heir to the English throne, has won her hand. But tragedy strikes and Catalina, now Princess Katherine, is betrothed to the future Henry VIII. She must wait for his coming-of-age, an ordeal that tests her resolve, casts doubt on her trusted confidantes, and turns her into a virtual prisoner.

 

Katherine’s patience is rewarded when she becomes Queen of England. The affection between Katherine and Henry is genuine, but forces beyond her control threaten to rend her marriage, and indeed the nation, apart. Henry has fallen under the spell of Katherine’s maid of honor, Anne Boleyn. Now Katherine must be prepared to fight, to the end if God wills it, for her faith, her legitimacy, and her heart.

About the Author

Alison Weir (born 1951) is a British writer of history books for the general public, mostly in the form of biographies about British kings and queens. She currently lives in Surrey, England, with her two children.

Before becoming an author, Weir worked as a teacher of children with special needs. She received her formal training in history at teacher training college.

Advertisements

Women of the Blue and Gray: True Civil War Stories of Mothers, Medics, Soldiers, and Spies by Marianne Monson

blueandgray

Women of the Blue and Gray delves into the often ignored, yet vitally important, contributions made by women during the Civil War. Monson introduces us to a varied group of women, both Union and Confederate, and tells their stories. The bloody war wrought by a bitterly divided nation led many brave women—regardless of wealth or color—to rise up and do their part as nurses, spies, smugglers, and (disguised) soldiers.

In my experience, when it comes to reading about history, books tend to fall into one of two categories: (1) informative, but boring to read, or (2) informative, but written in such a way that keeps the reader fully engaged at all times. Happily, Women of the Blue and Gray falls into the second category. I was fascinated with the stories of each woman, often amazed at how courageous they were—especially given that it was in a time where women were often considered too ‘delicate’ to do most things. I was especially moved by the stories of African-American women who took dangerous risks as spies, despite knowing how grave the cost would be if ever they were caught. It was also gratifying to see that Native Americans included in this book. Their stories weren’t as easily found, but it was important to see the role some Native American played during the war, and how the Tribes were affected, as a whole, due to the conflict.

I highly recommend this book to women’s history enthusiasts. I think you’ll enjoy learning about these women as much as I did.

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Shadow Mountain via Edelweiss.

Author: Marianne Monson
Title: Women of the Blue and Gray: True Civil War Stories of Mothers, Medics, Soldiers, and Spies
Genre: Nonfiction, Women’s History, American History
Publication Date: August 7th 2018 by Shadow Mountain
Rating: 5 stars

About the Book

Hidden amongst the photographs, uniforms, revolvers, and war medals of the Civil War are the remarkable stories of some of the most unlikely heroes–women.

 

North, South, black, white, Native American, immigrant–the women in these micro-drama biographies are wives, mothers, sisters, and friends whose purposes ranged from supporting husbands and sons during wartime to counseling President Lincoln on strategy, from tending to the wounded on the battlefield to spiriting away slaves through the Underground Railroad, from donning a uniform and fighting unrecognized alongside the men to working as spies for either side.

 

This book brings to light the incredible stories of women from the Civil War that remain relevant to our nation today. Each woman’s experience helps us see a truer, fuller, richer version of what really happened in this country during this time period.

About the Author

MARIANNE MONSON has worked with books her whole life, as an editor, a passionate reader, and an author. She is the author of nine books and counting, including historical fiction, children’s books, and young adult novels. She teaches at Portland Community College, and her two children love writing almost as much as she does.

 

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser #Review @MetropolitanBks

prairiefires

How much do you know about Laura Ingalls Wilder? If you’ve only read her Little House books and/or watched Little House on the Prairie on television, you probably don’t know as much as you think you do. Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder explores the life of the beloved author (as well as that of her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane). Shedding light on little-known facts about the Ingalls and Wilder families—as well as the history of the times they lived in—will allow Little House fans to understand Laura in ways they never imagined.

What I Liked

bigbooks

At 640 pages, Prairie Fires is a BIG book—a tome, if you will—and I was as excited about that as I was about the subject matter. It’s been a while since I indulged myself in a lengthy read, so I was looking forward to spending some quality time with this book. It needed every single one of those 640 pages, because there was a lot of fascinating material covered in this book. It isn’t a book solely about Laura—in order to get a better understanding of her life, Fraser included bits of history throughout that allows the reader to have a complete picture of what things were like during a particular time. The amateur history buff in me adored reading those portions, because I love learning about history.

I loved learning things about Laura I never knew, such as finding out she was a descendant of Martha Ingalls Allen Carrier—hanged as a “witch” during the Salem Witch Trials. Another fascinating tidbit was about her uncle, Tom Quiner, who in 1874 ventured into the Black Hills—part of the Great Sioux Reservation established by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868—inciting the gold rush that would ultimately culminate in the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876.

It’s simply not possible for me to write about everything I liked about this book, because there are far too many things to list. Suffice to say that I was thoroughly engrossed as I read, and finished reading with a greater knowledge of who Laura Ingalls Wilder truly was—flaws and all.

What I Didn’t Like

Hmm. Well, I can tell you one thing: I definitely do NOT like the fact that I don’t have a hardcover edition of this book sitting in a place of prominence on my shelves! I shall have to give myself a stern talking-to about it, and hang my head in shame for failing to acquire it, because—obviously—my shelves demand to be adorned by a copy of this wonderful book!

2b3g1l

What do you mean it doesn’t count?! It’s all I’ve got!

*sigh*

Okay. FINE. There is nothing I didn’t like about this book. Now, go engage the Borg or something, will ya, Captain? I hear they want Locutus back…

(I have no idea where all that came from, but it amuses me, so I’m going to leave it in the review. Ha!)

Final Thoughts

Fraser’s impressive research is evident throughout, and makes for a captivating read. Relevant historical information is seamlessly blended in with the biographical aspects of the book, and that information serves to enrich the reading experience and provides clarity for matters that the modern reader may not fully grasp without that lens into the past.

I feel this is a book every Wilder fan would enjoy reading, and I highly recommend it not only to them, but to any reader who has an avid interest in the history of homesteading pioneers in America.

A word of caution, however, for Little House fans—Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote beautiful stories that we all treasure, but she was only human, and had her share of foibles and flaws, as we all do. Like anyone, if she’s been put on a pedestal, she will tumble to the ground… so don’t be surprised if you find she had certain attitudes about things that you find disagreeable.

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Metropolitan Books via Netgalley.

 

gr

Author: Caroline Fraser
Title: Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Genre: Biography
Published: November 21, 2017 by Metropolitan Books
Rating: 5 stars

WINNER OF THE 2018 PULITZER PRIZE IN BIOGRAPHY
WINNER OF THE 2018 NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR BIOGRAPHY

About the Book

The first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie books
One of The New York Times Book Review‘s 10 Best Books of the Year

Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls—the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains, and the woman who wrote the famous autobiographical books. But the true saga of her life has never been fully told. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser—the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House series—masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder’s biography. Revealing the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life, she also chronicles Wilder’s tumultuous relationship with her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, setting the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting that have swirled around the books.
The Little House books, for all the hardships they describe, are paeans to the pioneer spirit, portraying it as triumphant against all odds. But Wilder’s real life was harder and grittier than that, a story of relentless struggle, rootlessness, and poverty. It was only in her sixties, after losing nearly everything in the Great Depression, that she turned to children’s books, recasting her hardscrabble childhood as a celebratory vision of homesteading—and achieving fame and fortune in the process, in one of the most astonishing rags-to-riches episodes in American letters.
Spanning nearly a century of epochal change, from the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl, Wilder’s dramatic life provides a unique perspective on American history and our national mythology of self-reliance. With fresh insights and new discoveries, Prairie Fires reveals the complex woman whose classic stories grip us to this day.

About the Author

Caroline Fraser was born in Seattle and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University in English and American literature. Formerly on the editorial staff of The New Yorker, she is the author of two nonfiction books, God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church and Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution, both published by Henry Holt’s Metropolitan Books.
She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic Monthly, Outside Magazine, and The London Review of Books, among other publications. She has received a PEN Award for Best Young Writer and was a past recipient of the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writer’s Residency, awarded by PEN Northwest. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her husband, Hal Espen.

Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir

janeseymour

This next book in the Six Tudor Queens series tells the story of Jane Seymour, third wife of King Henry VIII. This fictionalized tale of Jane’s life begins at her childhood home of Wulfhall and, in time, we see how Jane came to serve as a maid-of-honor for the Queen—Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife. When she arrives, the King’s pursuit of Anne Boleyn, another of Katherine’s maid’s-of-honor, is already well underway. Jane remains fiercely loyal to her beloved Queen Katherine, even after she is forced to leave her and serve Anne, instead. When Anne is unable to provide a son for the King, he sets his sights on Jane, and marries her eleven days after Anne’s beheading. Jane was able to give Henry the son he so greatly desired, but died shortly thereafter.

I still haven’t read the first book in this series, but I enjoyed the second very much. I was excited to read about Seymour, hoping it would be as enjoyable as the book about  Boleyn.

Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen swept me back into the Tudor era and kept me enthralled the entire time. The fanciful element of Jane being haunted was a nice addition to the story; it was never over the top, and didn’t detract anything from the main story. It was presented in such a way as to be believable that would Jane might feel haunted, and I enjoyed reading those portions.

The real Jane Seymour left behind no letters, so little is known about her thoughts on events that took place during her time at Court and, later, as Queen. Despite that, Weir has written a wonderful novel that makes fine use of the facts known about Jane, her family, and the time she spent with Henry.

Filled with rich imagery and careful attention to detail, Tudor fans are sure to love reading about Henry VIII’s third bride… I certainly did!

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Ballantine Books via Netgalley.

Add to Goodreads

Author: Alison Weir
Title: Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen
Series: Six Tudor Queens #3
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: May 15, 2018 by Ballantine Books
Rating: 5 stars

Other books in this series:

About the Book

A novel of the devout young woman who became the unwilling object of King Henry VIII’s ardor–and the mother of his only son. In this third book in the epic Six Tudor Queens series, the acclaimed historian and bestselling author brings new insight to this dramatic story, showing how pure fear for her life determined Jane Seymour’s actions.

 

25-year-old Jane Seymour wants nothing more than to become a nun. But her ambitious father has forced her to live at court as lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine of Aragon, a fellow-Catholic whom she soon comes to love and admire. So Jane is appalled when King Henry shunts Katherine aside in his lustful pursuit of Anne Boleyn, but even more so when he takes Anne’s life in his rush to wed–Jane herself!

 

Unwilling to marry but terrified to resist Henry’s advances for fear she might share Anne’s fate, and propelled by her family, Jane becomes Queen of England a mere ten days after Anne’s execution. She knows she must produce a male heir without fail. Her very life depends on it.

The Missing Girls by Carol Wyer #Review @carolewyer @bookouture

missinggirls

The Missing Girls finds DI Robyn Carter on the trail of a killer yet again when a stakeout that was meant to lead to a drug bust turned up a the body of a teenage girl instead. she is left with few leads and too many unanswered questions when the body of another girl is discovered. The pressure is on to find the killer, and Robyn needs to solve these murders in a hurry because someone she cares about is missing—and time is running out.

What I Liked

I loved the second book in this series, Secrets of the Dead, so I had high expectations for The Missing Girls. I wanted a chilling crime spree committed by a villain whose identity I would be completely unable to figure out before the Big Reveal came, and Wyer definitely pulled that off. That chilling crime spree I hoped for took on an even more distressing note when the motive behind it was revealed, because it was the sort of thing that felt like it could easily happen in real life.

I also wanted to learn more about Robyn Carter, herself—particularly concerning her memories of her dead fiancé, Davies Hilton, and her struggle to deal with his loss.

An unexpected twist at the end of the book completely surprised me; I finished this one some time ago, and I am still blown away by it!

What I Didn’t Like

As much as I loved the cliffhanger ending, I didn’t like having to wait for the next installment of the series. (Okay… I know that barely counts as a dislike, but it’s the best I could come up with for this section of my review.)

Final Thoughts

The Missing Girls is an intense thrill ride that’s the very definition of unputdownable. With a series of crimes made all the more frightening due to the believability of the motive behind them, the villain in this novel will be hard to forget. The surprise bombshell at the end of the book is destined to take your breath away and have you rushing on to book four as quickly as possible.

If you haven’t started reading the DI Robyn Carter books, you seriously need to get on board with this series, because hours of entertainment awaits you!

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Bookouture via Netgalley.

gr

Author: Carol Wyer
Title: The Missing Girls
Series: DI Robyn Carter #3
Genre: Crime Thriller
Published: September 14th, 2017 by Bookouture
Rating: 5 stars

About the Book

One girl found dead. Another girl gone…
Long shadows danced on the tin walls. Inside the trunk lay Carrie Miller, wrapped in plastic, arms folded across her ribcage, lips sealed tight forever…
When, a girl’s body is found at a Midlands storage unit, it is too decomposed for Detective Robyn Carter to read the signs left by the killer.
No one knows the woman in blue who rented the unit; her hire van can’t be traced. But as the leads run dry another body is uncovered. This time the killer’s distinctive mark is plain to see, and matching scratches on the first victim’s skeleton make Robyn suspect she’s searching for a serial killer.
As Robyn closes in on the killer’s shocking hunting ground, another girl goes missing, and this time it’s someone close to her own heart.
Robyn can’t lose another loved one. Can she find the sickest individual she has ever faced, before it’s too late?
An utterly gripping and darkly compelling detective thriller that will have fans of Robert Dugoni, Angela Marsons and James Patterson hooked from the very start. You will not guess the ending!