Wow. I picked The Birth of Venus up from the library on my way home from school one day and read it from cover to cover in four hours (completely igno...moreWow. I picked The Birth of Venus up from the library on my way home from school one day and read it from cover to cover in four hours (completely ignoring my homework). I can only think of one or two other times that a book has captivated me that easily. The book follows Alessandra Cecchi, a teenager in Italy during the late 15th century, the peak of the Renaissance. Her father brings home a young painter from northern Europe who is commissioned to paint and decorate the family's chapel. Alessandra, who loves art herself, is entranced by this mysterious painter (and I do mean mysterious, we never learn this guy's name!). Before anything else can happen, Alessandra's parents suddenly marry her off to a much older man, a man who hides a dark secret. In the mean time, Savonarola, a monk who destroyed what he believed to be immoral art, held book burnings (!), and ranted and raved about numerous other things, is raising hellfire in Florence. The city faces destruction and waves of change. Along the way, Alessandra grows up, deals with life, and still finds herself drawn to this painter. One reason I enjoyed this book as much as I did is the fact that Alessandra is so likable. She has the three S's: she's sarcastic, smart and strong (well, as strong as a woman in the Middle Ages could be). Several things still puzzled me. The first was the language. The slang and curse words seem very 21st century....words that I'm not sure were casually thrown around in the 1400s. The second is the identity of the painter. Like I said before, we never find out his name (in effect, he's only called 'The Painter'), but just who is he? We are led to believe that he became someone famous, a person we ourselves would have known and learned about in school. If anyone has any idea, please throw out your guesses, it's killing me! All in all, the story, setting, characters, and events are brilliant. There is humor, drama, sadness and love. I will say that there was a semi-graphic sex scene that was entirely too awkward, especially when you find out later details. Luckily, the good far outweighs the bad!(less)
I don't think I can really write a good review for Pillars of the Earth...it's just so big and complex with so many characters. You will love the appr...moreI don't think I can really write a good review for Pillars of the Earth...it's just so big and complex with so many characters. You will love the appropriate characters (Jack, Aliena) and despise the evil ones (William, Alfred, that bishop with the funny name)...and Philip, he's just weird. If you enjoy historical fiction books and aren't daunted by size, this is for you. 5/5*
I didn't expect I'd like this book but I did. You always hear how Jacob had twelve sons but never anything about his lone daughter, Dinah (minus the o...moreI didn't expect I'd like this book but I did. You always hear how Jacob had twelve sons but never anything about his lone daughter, Dinah (minus the one chapter in Genesis). The way recorded events are taken and woven together with interesting details in between is brilliant. I didn't particularly like the way Joseph was made out to be arrogant at the end, but nothing is perfect. This is a good reflection on the way people lived in the B.C. days, even though Jacob and his clan were anything but normal. Why are people taking offense to this book and the characters? It's fiction. Mostly made up. Who cares? It's a good book. (less)
Following in the path of her usual non-fiction, Alison Weir's Eleanor of Aquitaine is no light read. I found myself struggling through parts of it and...moreFollowing in the path of her usual non-fiction, Alison Weir's Eleanor of Aquitaine is no light read. I found myself struggling through parts of it and wondering if it would ever end. We learn all about every known aspect of Eleanor's life: her lineage, early childhood, marriages, children, feats, and later life. There is a chapter solely about the geography and trade of Aquitaine. Another interesting chapter is about the daily lives of those living in England in the mid-twelfth century. So many facts and tidbits are crammed into this book!
She may have been a very important woman, but there's not all that much historical record of her. There are long periods of Eleanor's life that are just plain missing from records; we don't know where she was or what she was up to. That being said, I still feel in order to fill those gaps we get waayyyyy too in depth into the lives of Louis VI, Henry II and Richard and John. We learn so much about their antics, which is interesting, but I truthfully didn't care about them. I was reading this book for Eleanor, obviously. If Alison Weir had written this book strictly focusing on Eleanor herself, it could have been reduced down to, oh, 100 pages or so and been ten times easier to get through.
I've heard about Eleanor of Aquitaine for a long time and knew the basics of her life, but this was the first book I'd read solely about her. Because of that fact, I felt lost half of the time. I would only recommend this book if you are pretty familiar and comfortable with Eleanor's life. In order to get a clearer picture of her, I'm going to resort to some of Jean Plaidy's fiction, The Courts of Love. Hopefully I'll get a nice, simplified version, then maybe I'll pick up this book again.
**spoiler alert** I love this. Avalon is a beautiful story about searching for the unknown while finding yourself along the way (at least that's how I...more**spoiler alert** I love this. Avalon is a beautiful story about searching for the unknown while finding yourself along the way (at least that's how I saw it). I love the time period it was set in: ancient history in modern eyes. Old England, the mountains of Iceland, the 'founding' of Greenland, King Edgar, Leif Erickson - all the best. The only part I didn't like was how Merewyn and Rumon didn't end up together in the end. After spending the entire book rooting for them, the letdown disappointed me way too much. 5 outta 5.(less)
Alison Weir, you never cease to amaze me. I think I am knowledgeable about a subject/person/era, and you laugh in my face with your wonderful, well-re...moreAlison Weir, you never cease to amaze me. I think I am knowledgeable about a subject/person/era, and you laugh in my face with your wonderful, well-researched, interesting books. You could be a cult leader for all I know; you say something is fact, and I will believe it. Your books are an addiction for nerdy history lovers like me, and The Princes in the Tower is another drug of choice for me. 4/5 *(less)