In 1740, young Cormac O'Connor arrives in New York City from Ireland to avenge the deaths of his parents. On the voyage to New York and after their arIn 1740, young Cormac O'Connor arrives in New York City from Ireland to avenge the deaths of his parents. On the voyage to New York and after their arrival, Cormac shows kindness to an African slave, Kongo, who later repays his kindness by granting Cormac eternal life. The conditions are that Cormac can never leave the island of Manhattan and must fully carry out his mission of revenge. It isn't until the early 2000s that this is accomplished, and in the meantime, we see Manhattan grow from a small village mostly populated by the wolves in its forests to the thriving mega-city we all know it as today. From the American Revolution, the slave revolts, the Civil War, the Prohibition, to 9/11, we see all of these events through the eyes of one person.
Interestingly enough, in an interview at the end, the author says he actually completed the book on September 10, 2001. He says, "I couldn't have a New York novel that had the 1835 fire and the cholera and smallpox epidemics, and not include September 11." I felt that the 9/11 section was the most haunting, but that's probably only because it's the only section of the book I'd ever personally experienced.
Overall, this was a pretty interesting read. I should mention that there are about 150 pages of back story before he even arrives in New York, but most of it was relevant as to why Cormac is doing most of the things he does. I felt that as concise and long as this book was, we still missed out on some periods of time that would have been fun to read about; the entire 20th century was virtually ignored. How fun would it have been to read chapters about the flappers?
Immediately upon finishing this book, I spent at least 15 minutes figuring out what I would have done if I'd been in Cormac's place. I think I'd like the fact of observing history in the making and watching all the changes going on around me. It'd be like being a vampire..without actually being a vampire. On the flip side, it would be torture to have all the people I ever cared about eventually die and leave me alone. As in Cormac's case, never being able to travel beyond one place would be pure torture!...more
I was scarily reminded of PS, I Love You - it even took place in Ireland! It was a nice look at the grieving and recovering process after the death ofI was scarily reminded of PS, I Love You - it even took place in Ireland! It was a nice look at the grieving and recovering process after the death of a loved one. I read it in a day and greatly enjoyed it. I fear the books dates itself though, references to Posh Spice and Kid Rock definitely made me laugh. *edit: but it was published in 2006/2007...so it is purposefully dated...okay.*...more
Jane Austen may be the author of easily one of the most popular novels of all time, but how much to her readers actually know about her? In my case, nJane Austen may be the author of easily one of the most popular novels of all time, but how much to her readers actually know about her? In my case, not much. Sure, I knew a few things about her, such as that fact that she never married, and....well, that's it.
After finishing 'Jane Austen,' this is in no way true anymore. Catherine Reef's book, while favoring a younger audience, is extremely well written, interesting, and very informative. The book covers Jane's entire life and almost every aspect of it: her upbringing, schooling, parents, siblings, young love, sickness, and of course, her writing. All of her novels are summarized rather extensively; I initially thought this was an unnecessary part to the story, but the author lets the summarizations connect to Jane's life and the modern movie adaptions are also visited.
Now we all know that every single one of Jane Austen’s six novels focus on young women whose economic and social future depends on the fortune they marry into. While this simple plot may sound trivial and petty to us, this was probably the number one worry of females in this era. Historically, women typically did not inherit anything from their parents, except maybe a small sum of money, so they had to look to potential husbands to assure their futures. The richer the man, the better. If women could not find a husband, they were written off as spinsters and became financial burdens to the family members that had to support them for the rest of their lives. Jane Austen experienced these troubles firsthand; though she received several offers of marriage in her youth, she never married and was passed around from her parents and brothers until her death. The fact that she was still able to inject so much humor and wit into her stories puts her miles above what the typical 'spinster' would have done. She obviously loved her family very much, particularly her fellow unmarried sister Cassandra.
Faults? I can only think of one: the pictures included don't really have anything to do with the page they are placed on. You may be reading a section about Jane's writing, and here's a picture of her brother talking about his political career. Sometimes the pictures even served as minor 'spoilers,' alluding to things that hadn't been mentioned yet in the text. Maybe this is only because I'm reading an early version of the book, hopefully this is cleared up during publication!
I'd give Jane Austen somewhere between 4.5 and 5 stars. Like I said before, it was an extremely interesting read and I learned a lot...so much so, that I was able to use some of this knowledge in a paper I wrote for my Theories of Literature class. Recommended if you like biographies, history, and obviously, the wonderful works of Jane Austen....more
*Be prepared for a slightly biased review. I've hated Mary Stuart ever since The Other Queen (which I didn't like anyways). I've never warmed to her e*Be prepared for a slightly biased review. I've hated Mary Stuart ever since The Other Queen (which I didn't like anyways). I've never warmed to her even though I've surprisingly read a lot about her. Why then did I choose to read a 900 page about her life? ......I don't know.*
If you haven't read The Autobiography of Henry VIII, you need to. Right now. Seriously, it's one of the best books I've ever read, and unfortunately, those were the expectations in which I started this book with. Mary Queen of Scot and the Isles is a monster of a story relaying the life of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, Queen Regent of France, and self-proclaimed Queen of England. The book covers her entire life and then some, from before her birth until after her death (which was horrifying to read about).
Mary literally reached her peak by 22 years old. She became queen of Scotland when she was only a few days old and was Queen of France by 16. She was a beloved by all and destined for greatness. She was at her prime when she was 20 and married Henry Darnley and gave birth to James, the future King of both Scotland and England. There were several problems though. Her husband was a prick, and she was Catholic, and worst of all, a woman. Her gender played such a role in her downfall, yet it was interesting at the same time to read about Elizabeth, another female monarch who managed to use her gender effectively and wisely. After Mary was pushed off her own throne, she spent 20 years either in exile, captivity, or on the run. After a botched assassination attempt on Elizabeth, Mary was blamed and sentenced to death.
As a former psych major, I read into a lot of details in this book. A major theme is her country's perspective of their Queen. Like I said before, she was beloved by everyone as a child and teenager, but mainly because she lived in France and the nobles could run the country the way they wished. After a few bad decisions in her 20s, almost all of her allies turn against her. She is outed as a murderess, whore, and heretic. Towards the end of her life, she has almost no friends left. Her son is taught to hate her and she can find no sympathy anywhere. In fact, after her death, anything she ever touched is burned.
As for Mary herself....she barely had a voice, even though this is her story. Was she a misunderstood martyr or a spoiled, whining princess? I don't think Margaret George even knows the answer to that. My feelings are this: Mary Stuart did not deserve her throne, she botched a great opportunity for Scotland's future and can't accept that. Therefore, I don't like her. I still keep reading books about her though, just to find one where she isn't so annoying.
So...do I recommend it? Maybe. If you already like Mary, or want to learn more about her, definitely go for it. It's plenty detailed and very historically accurate. This book isn't for the faint of heart though! When I say it's big, I mean it. It's a monster. I find finishing a huge book to be rewarding though.
Overall, 3.5 stars, mostly out of loyalty to Ms. George....more
Guess what?! I have a new favourite Queen. Sorry Tudor queens, but Catherine of Braganza has taken your place. For being a rarely talked about personGuess what?! I have a new favourite Queen. Sorry Tudor queens, but Catherine of Braganza has taken your place. For being a rarely talked about person in English history, she sure was a fascinating person. She may not have conducted scandalous affairs or had her head chopped off, but she is memorable in her own way.
Jean Plaidy’s book, The Merry Monarch’s Wife, is written in the form of Catherine's memoir (J.P. likes to do this a lot...it's not really my favourite writing technique). I knew very little about her life in Portugal as an Infanta, so that was really interesting to read about. Her Portuguese relatives were rather....um, eccentric. I think I want to learn more about her crazy brother Alfonso. Catherine comes to England as an old lady of 23 and marries Charles. As the years pass, she must deal with Charles's numerous mistresses and bastard children, and also threats against her for being Catholic. When Charles dies, we learn about how she deals with the disasters of the succession and the Monmouth rebellion, and also the mounting prejudice she faces when William and Mary came to the throne. Fed up with England, she spends her remaining years back in Portugal.
Charles's and Catherine's relationship is my favourite part of the story. Catherine never had any children, thus skewing the succession (in favour of the Catholic James II). Charles was pressed by his advisors to divorce Catherine; he refused this suggestion and kept her safe, even though it was at the risk of the country. Also, he always defended her against his mistresses, she would always take precedence in his eyes. How adorable is that? It's certainly different that what I've read about with other English monarchs (ahem, Henry VIII).
Some interesting tidbits I found out about Catherine: she was the person who introduced the custom of drinking tea in England. The practice was virtually unheard of before she arrived. Can you imagine the country without its tea?! The English can also thank her for bringing the fork to tables. It is also speculated that Queens, the New York City borough, is named after her, though there is some debate about that.
This book just further reinforces the fact that I love Jean Plaidy! I recently bought The Loves of Charles II, which has another POV from Catherine (along with his mistresses, of whom you learn about in this book too). I'd even recommend this book to those who don't normal read historical fiction. It's a great book with plenty of action, culture, and a rather unconventional love story. 5 stars!
For those of you who have seen the Harry Potter films, remember Moaning Myrtle? Who can forget her whiny, simpering voice? Well, in The Last King, a British television series that chronicled Charles II’s life as King, Catherine of Braganza was played by the same actress who played Moaning Myrtle (I also saw her in Bridget Jones’s Diary....she sure has a wide range of characters). Surprisingly, she was AMAZING! Her portrayal of the queen is what truly made Catherine a favourite. (Speaking of Harry Potter nerdisms, Filch, Narcissa Malfoy, teenaged Tom Riddle and Oliver Wood are also in this series). Anyways, the entire mini-series about Charles II is wonderful, I highly recommend it....more
So, I adore the show The Tudors, this can be no secret. I may or may not have spent all day Sunday watching the marathon on BBC. I love the history anSo, I adore the show The Tudors, this can be no secret. I may or may not have spent all day Sunday watching the marathon on BBC. I love the history and time period first and foremost, but I also like the costumes and particularly the actors who bring such life and feeling to the characters. While Johnathan Rhys Meyers is not your typical Henry VIII (very slim and brunette), his queens usually stole the show (namely Natalie Dormer and Maria Doyle Kennedy as Anne Boleyn and Katherine of Aragon, respectively). Henry Cavill as Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk was the ladies' eye candy and the actress playing Katherine Howard was...well, the airhead. However, in the first three seasons, there was this somewhat seedy character always lurking in the background, Thomas Cromwell. He has some big roles in the overall story, he managed to get Henry divorced from Katherine of Aragon, was able to send Anne Boleyn to her executioner, engineered the destruction of the Catholic church in England, and found Henry his fourth bride, Anne of Cleves. And of course, we all know his unfortunate end. I've always found Cromwell to be a very interesting guy, so I jumped at the chance to read a book about him, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. It follows his life from about 1527 to 1535, during the years Cromwell worked as secretary to Henry VIII.
One of the things I noticed about Cromwell in The Tudors was that he was almost always alone. His wife gets one mention early on (historically, she died soon after), and we see his son exactly two times. Cromwell just seems to be a loner; sad and misunderstood. Well, in this book, his children, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews, cousins, and various wards all live with him. He is definitely not a lonely guy...in a way this made me happy. He didn't seem like such a tragic character when I found this out. Overall, I loved the way the author portrayed him. I think Hilary Mantel must be a very humorous and sarcastic woman, for she sure injects it into almost all of her characters.
I've read many books about Anne Boleyn, but this portrayal of her is hands down my absolute favorite. The best word that I could come up with to describe her is feisty. Cromwell thinks she may be a little psychotic, and he has perfect reason to. She calls Jane Seymour 'pasty-face' and vindicates her evil uncle, the Duke of Norfolk. She thinks her sister Mary Boleyn is a slut and Cromwell is an ugly little man. Yet through all of this apparent bitchiness, I saw her as a witty and extremely sarcastic girl....all still likable somehow. She knew her place but knew how to use it to her advantage. I'd recommend this book just for the Anne Boleyn angle.
One of the big problems with this book is sparse usage of names; the text is littered with personal pronouns. Just keep in mind that whenever you see a 'he,' 'him,' or 'his,' it is 98% of the time referring to Cromwell. It still can be a hassle to read the book, especially when new characters seem to get introduced out of the blue, but I promise, if you can handle it, it'll all be worth it. It was such a different angle on what I already know so much about, it was quite refreshing - 4 stars. I'll leave you with some of my favorite quotes from the book, there were dozens of them!
"A little later, he hears that Anne has taken the wardship of her sister's son, Henry Carey. He wonders if she intends to poison him. Or eat him." (pg. 131)
"The boy has lingered at the door to drink in his praises. A hard Cromwellian stare - the equivalent of a kick - sends him out." (pg. 154)
"At New Year's he had given Anne a present of silver forks with handles of rock crystal. He hopes she will use them to eat with, not to stick in people." (pg. 273)
"The king is a complainer too. He has a headache. The Duke of Suffolk is stupid. The weather is too warm for the time of year." (pg. 282)
"Believe me, God intends some peculiar blessing by this princess [Elizabeth]." (pg. 450)
"The child Elizabeth is wrapped tightly in layers, her fists hidden; just as well, she looks as if she would strike you. Ginger bristles poke from beneath her cap, and her eyes are vigilant; he has never seen an infant in the crib look so ready to take offense." (pg. 512)
"Incest is so popular these days!" (pg. 556)...more
It's official - Diane Haeger is one of my favorite authors. I love her ongoing series about Henry VIII's court, and The Queen's Rival was no disappoinIt's official - Diane Haeger is one of my favorite authors. I love her ongoing series about Henry VIII's court, and The Queen's Rival was no disappointment. I read it in less than 24 hours.
This book explores the life of Bessie Blount, one of Henry's very first mistresses. Though not much is known about Bessie's early life, we follow her through her years as a maid-of-honor to Queen Katherine of Aragon, her affair with Henry, and the birth of their illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. Little Henry is the only bastard that the king ever acknowledged as his own. Barely at the age of ten, young Henry was bestowed as the Duke of Richmond - he was later seriously contended to become the king's heir to the throne. Bessie's and the king's affair comes to an end when the child is very young, mainly due to two new girls at court: the Boleyn sisters. Mary Boleyn is just a brief dalliance, but Anne is a tempting, alluring, and lustful object for the king to conquer - but we all know how that story ends. The book concludes with the death of teenaged Henry Fitzroy. The grief that his two parents feel is heartbreaking; Bessie, because she lost her dear firstborn son and reminders of happier days with the king, and Henry because he has lost his one and only living son, and possible heir.
Diane Haeger always picks very interesting figures to write about (I loved The Secret Bride, about Henry's sister Mary). Bessie Blount was very prominent in her days at court, days that are often forgotten when Anne Boleyn and more notorious women later come into play. It was refreshing to read a book that took place around Henry VIII but did NOT focus on one of his wives. I also liked this look at the younger (20ish) Henry VIII; I've read too much about him where he's just the old, fat ailing King. Here, he was a man with whom every woman at court was in love with. Bessie was a character I like very much. She is portrayed as a very clever girl, if not a little too lovesick sometimes. She certainly led a very interesting life. I also read elsewhere that Bessie later briefly served Anne of Cleves - can you imagine how awkward that would be??
4.5 stars to a well written and very interesting book. DEFINITELY recommended to all lovers of the Tudors and romantic historical fiction. A big thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC - it was much appreciated!...more