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 ar...moreIn 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!(less)
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 of...moreI 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.*(less)
Same story, different viewpoint. Interesting all-in-all. Another sobering realization of just how many people were executed during the Tudor era...don...moreSame story, different viewpoint. Interesting all-in-all. Another sobering realization of just how many people were executed during the Tudor era...don't get too attached to a particular character, they are more than likely going to get their head cut off. One major thing that bothers me is the cover - I'm pretty sure that's a painting of a Medici.(less)
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 disappoin...moreIt'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!(less)
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, n...moreJane 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.(less)