I am sitting in stunned silence after having finished Lincoln. Author Gore Vidal handled the end of the President's life in a powerful, yet poignant w...moreI am sitting in stunned silence after having finished Lincoln. Author Gore Vidal handled the end of the President's life in a powerful, yet poignant way. Even though the ending of this chapter of history and his life, are all too well-known, the manner in which events were presented casts it in a new and thoughtful light.
The last 400 pages flew. Even though I am very familiar with the main players of the Civil War, this book surprised me with its characterizations; all-too human in their vices and flaws, and sometimes annoying or pitiable. Vidal states in an Afterword that the main characters are all reconstructed from "letters, journals, newspapers, diaries, etc." The research that went into those individuals must have been staggering.
At the very end of the book, a main character is asked where he would place Mr. Lincoln amongst American Presidents; he places Lincoln at the very top, above Washington. When queried about why he was greater than Washington, the character replies (and I paraphrase) that the Southern states had the Constitutional right to secede from the Union, but it was Lincoln who said no, and took the "terrible responsibility" for waging what at that time was the greatest war in human history to put the Union back together again. After reading this book, I would have to agree.
Vidal's prose is easy to read; what is difficult at the start is sorting out all of the primary and secondary characters that are introduced. Keeping track of which general did what in which battle can take a little time, but it is well worth it. By the time you are in the last third of the book, the story flies by. What a memorable novel.(less)
This is a book I picked up at the library, expecting a light yet somewhat sleazy holiday read. Instead, I got a book that had been researched obvious...more This is a book I picked up at the library, expecting a light yet somewhat sleazy holiday read. Instead, I got a book that had been researched obviously over a period of years; many of the interviews were of people who had either been patients or otherwise directly involved in the events, as well as close family members of those involved.
Dr. Feelgood was the term that the Secret Service applied to Dr. Max Jacobson, a person who became involved with many celebrities and with the Kennedy White House after beginning to treat John F. Kennedy for back pain and fatigue. These treatments began after JFK's former roommate introduced the then candidate for President to Jacobson; all treatments were unnofficial and secret. Notably secret were the ingredients of the shots; Jacobson told everyone they were "vitamin shots" and at one point said "vitamins and hormones." Well not really. They were actually liquid methamphetamine in a fairly large dose (30-40 mg) combined with steroids. As Jacobson's huge ring of patients discovered, they needed more and more to maintain and some wound up self-destructing. How Jacobson kept going himself is unknown as he was also a meth addict for more than 30 years.
The book's strong points include a list of patients from Dr. Jacobson's records, with the ones who were personally interviewed for the book marked. The list of interviewees is extensive and lends authenticity to the claims of drug use and addiction. Footnotes also help clarify sources. Jacobson had many, many celebrity patients to whom he administered his miracle shots beyond JFK, including Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Nelson Rockefeller, Winston Churchill, Jackie Kennedy, Lee Bouvier Radziwill (interviewed), Harry S. Truman, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor (interviewed), and Frank Sinatra. When you look at the list, it is shocking to think of all of these people doing meth...especially since most didn't know what they were really getting. Further bolstering the authors' claims was the interview of the two New York Times reporters who investigated Jacobson in 1972. Jacobson, apparently well into a meth induced delusion, thought he was going to be recognized and rewarded for his work and wound up telling them everything.
The background on Dr. Jacobson is fascinating, including his claim that it was his recipe for meth that the Nazis distributed in tablet form (35 million) to soldiers, sailors, and pilots of the Reich at the beginning of World War II. Jacobson was Jewish and when he fled Germany, he claimed he was forced to hand over the formula. There are some historical problems in this section, though. The authors link Kristallenacht (1938) with the Reichstag fire (1933). To link the two directly I think is faulty with the time passage between them. Also, it seems very fortuitous that Jacobson met Jung, Adler, Freud, and Albert Einstein. All in all, Jacobson's background seems so touched with celebrity as to be a product of his meth addiction and his imagination. Finally, the Kaiser was a member of the House of Hohenzollern, not Hapsburg.
Where the book really falls down is the discussion of the assassination of JFK and the bullet entry and exit wounds. This, obviously, has been highly contested for years. But it just seemed that the book should not have strayed into conclusory territory about bullet exit and entry wounds as I don't believe either author, nor any contributor, is a forensic expert in this area. I think it undercut the book's authenticity in general. It is pretty clear that the CIA had motive to get rid of JFK. This book was published in 2013 but likely well before a documentary from PBS' NOVA was aired about the assassination ("Cold Case JFK," 11/13/2013). In that documentary, two forensic pathologists, a wound ballistics researcher, and a firearms expert (among others) speak to and show compelling evidence that it could indeed have only been Lee Harvey Oswald firing and using full-metal jacket bullets. The authors are definitely entitled to their opinions but that data may have been of interest. At any rate, the CIA definitely could have hired and set up Lee Harvey Oswald for just the reasons cited in this book. I just felt the foray into the argument about bullet wounds was not supported by the rest of the book.
There are also a few editorial errors that were annoying that did not alter my rating of the book but that indicate that the editors let the authors down. On one page the last name of Bob Cummings' second-wife-to-be is spelled both Fong and Font; on another, the German Chancellor's last name is spelled both Adenauer and Asenauer. There are a couple of puntuation goofs, a problem with a bibliography entry, and some run-on sentences that desperately needed to be hacked apart. That may be nit-picky but what those errors do is make the book look unprofessional and the story not as believeable.
This is a short but shocking slice of American history. I cannot believe that there hasn't been more press about JFK having a psychotic break at The Carlyle Hotel in New York due to methamphetamine. I do really wish that the book had lived up it's unspoken celebrity promise and had discovered other "prominent" figures such as Elizabeth Taylor, Roddy McDowell, Rex Harrison, Yul Brynner, etc who are all listed as patients. This is still a short but interesting read. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the darker part of American history. (less)
I saw this book on NPR's Best Books of 2013 list. Usually I don't care about lists, but the brief description caught my attention. This is an innovat...more I saw this book on NPR's Best Books of 2013 list. Usually I don't care about lists, but the brief description caught my attention. This is an innovative story in that the main character speaks from multiple points of view. Justice of Toren, a 2,000 year-old troop-carrying starship is the main character. To make it even more interesting, it narrates mainly from two viewpoints: either as the ship, or as Breq, the Artificial Intelligence ("AI") of Justice of Toren trapped in a single female body. How can that be? Well, the story also involves two main timelines: when Justice of Toren was a starship, and the other when it's AI inhabits only the body of a lone-surviving ancillary soldier of the ship. If this isn't confusing enough, the ancillary cannot tell the difference most of the time between human males and females so it uses the preferred pronouns of the empire it serves, which happen to be female.
The stories of Breq and Justice of Toren unfold individually, joining as you realize what happened to the ship over 1,000 years ago in an act of treachery. You also find that the body of Breq is referred to as a "corpse soldier," a tool that the empire once used in it's rapidly expanding territories: as worlds were annexed, approximately half of the population would be taken, frozen, and kept on troop carrying starships. When needed, they were defrosted and were taken over by the artificial intelligence of that ship. Thus the corpse soldiers, or ancillaries, could be directed to serve the human lieutenants and captain. The ship could maintain complete control over the troops as well as total vigilance, being in a thousand places at once.
This is the basis of the story. From this point the story continues on but the main discussions seem to revolve around what it means to be human, what it means to be alive, and what happens when authority splinters and battles itself. There are certainly other issues to be considered as author Leckie weaves in many philosophical points of civilization vs. the "uncivilized."
This was an interesting and different storyline for science fiction. I look forward to the next book in the series. (less)
**SPOILERS** This is a nightmare case: three children die horribly and three teenagers are sent to prison for life, one on death row. It's also a nig...more **SPOILERS** This is a nightmare case: three children die horribly and three teenagers are sent to prison for life, one on death row. It's also a nightmare because of the incompetence and bad behavior (coerced confession from a teenager with a 72 IQ) of the local police; prosecutorial misconduct; judicial misconduct and bad rulings; and crazy, violent step-parents of some of the murder victims.
I went from cringing at the violence of the three eight-year-old's deaths to cringing at the local police's mishandling of their bodies, destroying evidence. Police yell and scream at teenagers to coerce a confession, and then to get corroborating statements in scenes that come right from film noir. The police lose evidence of one potential suspect, and deliberately ignore another because he is a drug informant. A juvenile officer with a wild imagination, a penchant for lying, and a talent for embezzlement whips the community AND law enforcement into a Satanism "froth." The medical examiner withholds information until the second trial without telling anyone. The prosecutors meet with the judge and discuss trial strategy without the defense knowing about it. The judge makes rulings at trial that I doubt state supreme courts in any other state would uphold. And it goes on and on. There is so much that went wrong or was done wrong it's hard to believe that this isn't a novel instead of a highly researched and end-noted journalistic exposé.
The writing style is as smooth as the subject matter will allow; it's difficult to have a flowing narrative when you are constantly flipping to the end notes. But you have to read the end notes; every contention is backed up with the source material, as well as additional information. Sometimes the end notes were very enlightening. Leveritt never indicates who you should think is the murderer, but it became very clear to me that the police had had the murderer in front of them all the time; they questioned him apologetically and let him go.
This is a book that shows how the justice system can really fail everybody. When you convict the wrong person for a murder, the murderer remains at large to kill again. You haven't done ANYBODY any favors by getting a conviction for "closure." Although there have been HBO documentaries made about this case, a motion picture has recently been made with the same name as this book, "Devil's Knot." I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about crime and the legal system.(less)
A short, but elegant play which engages the reader with verbal fencing and subterfuge between the main characters. The psychological duel between Dr....more A short, but elegant play which engages the reader with verbal fencing and subterfuge between the main characters. The psychological duel between Dr. Greenberg and psychiatric patient Michael Aleen will keep you fascinated, and ultimately will pull you down the road to the wrong conclusion. The cryptic contributions by nurse Miss Peterson won't help you sort out what's really happening either. At 56 pages, I sat down and read the entire play all at once. If you like writing that keeps you thinking and engrossed in the story, this is for you.
I became aware of this play after reading a news release on the internet that it was about to become a movie, with filming starting in November 2013 in Montreal. The announced cast members are Bruce Greenwood, Catherine Keener, Carrie-Ann Moss, and Xavier Dolan. I'm not sure how the play will be expanded, but I look forward to seeing it on the big screen. (less)
A revealing look at Minnesota history, Scott Berg's work is a true eye opener as to the reality behind the events of the Dakota War and all of the fa...more A revealing look at Minnesota history, Scott Berg's work is a true eye opener as to the reality behind the events of the Dakota War and all of the famous names associated with it. As the old saw goes,"[H]istory is written by the victors." However in this case, Berg does a great job of presenting the view of events from all sides through an extensive knowledge of the people and places involved. I was absolutely stunned by the breadth and depth of his research of an enormous series of intertwined events.
This book goes well beyond simple historical finger-pointing as to the events leading up to the first clash in this war, and explains how Abraham Lincoln's background may have shaped how he handled it while being in the midst of the bloody Civil War. There is significant background included about the native tribes, Abraham Lincoln and his family, and all of the main characters involved whether in Minnesota, in Washington D.C., or on the battlefields of the East. With this detailed background information, it is much easier to understand many of the actions taken during this time (1862, and the aftermath reaching to 1864 and later).
This is one of the most detailed history books I have read in a long time; it is not for the faint of heart or for the casually interested. All of the concentric circles of history that Berg links together create an intricate exploration of 19th Century Native American, political, and military figures. Berg's conversational tone and clear writing, however, make it the type of book that once you figure out what's going on, you have to keep reading. This is also a must-read for those interested in history who live in or around Minnesota, or who have, and want to know what really happened. There are no soothing tones of Dave Moore's voice discussing past architecture and events as in "Lost Twin Cities," nor the all-too-perfect recountings of figures such as Henry Sibley, Alexander Ramsey, or William Mayo in other local history productions. Sibley, Ramsey, Mayo, and Alexis Bailly are four locally well-known names; Berg pulls no punches and reports both the bad actions (quite a few) and the good (not nearly enough) of these well-known Minnesotans. (Mayo, a doctor, was involved in the grave-robbing of the 38 executed men* and kept the bones of Cut Nose for many years in a cast-iron rendering pot to use for lessons in osteology for his sons, founders of the Mayo Clinic; they later put the bones on display in their new clinic. Bailly kept slaves and young mixed-blood Native American servants which his wife beat "...to keep the household running smoothly.") Berg further recounts the actions of Civil War Generals Pope, McClellan, and Hooker and paints a remarkable portrait of each that at times includes stunning incompetence and irresponsibility. (Pope's reporting of the Dakota War to Lincoln transcends irresponsibility as all-out lying.)
This is an excellent book that I was recommending to others while I was in the middle of reading it. I feel well-prepared to read other history books on any of a number of specific topics relating to 1850's-60's Minnesota.
*Grave-robbing was something that many physicians of the 19th Century participated in, not only to get cadavers for dissection and learning, but also to get a skeleton for the explanation of diagnoses to patients. But it doesn't make it any less shocking that a name as big as Mayo became, dug up, stole, and desecrated one of these bodies, does it?
This is a work of both historical fact and historical conjecture set in the 14th and 15th centuries. The main focus is on the queen of the title, Yol...more This is a work of both historical fact and historical conjecture set in the 14th and 15th centuries. The main focus is on the queen of the title, Yolande of Aragon, Queen of Sicily, and mother-in-law to "the Dauphin of France." ("The Dauphin" was later crowned Charles VII of France.) Joan of Arc is "the Maid" of the title, and the author's conjecture revolves around how an illiterate peasant girl was able to gain an audience with the Dauphin of France, much less become his champion against the English and the Burgundians. The author's hypothesis that Yolande of Aragon heard about Joan's (Jeanette's) visions and maneuvered her into an audience before the Dauphin is the central point of this work.
Although Joan of Arc (her name in French is Jeanne d'Arc) is a well known name, Yolande of Aragon has been lost in the mists of time. Yolande, born in 1381, was the daughter of King John I of Aragon and his queen, Yolande of Bar. She married Louis II, King of Sicily, Duke of Anjou, and Count of Provence. Together, Yolande and Louis II, King and Queen of Sicily, had five children: one daughter, Marie, who became the Queen of France by marrying Charles VII while he was still dauphin. As you can see, Yolande of Aragon was intimately involved in the royal family of France. She also had French territories to protect from the English and the Burgundians, who not identifying themselves as being French had allied themselves with the English. The overarching conflict of the time was the Hundred Years War, involving all of these parties with the English Kings Henry V and his son Henry VI (during Yolande's life) claiming lands in France. (One source in the UK states the time of this conflict as 1337 to 1453.) And, just to make it interesting, King Charles VI (b.1368 d.1422), was apparently schizophrenic for most of his life, with at least one pyschotic episode in which he attacked his own troops. For the main of his life, Charles VI had disabling episodes which rendered him unable to rule, and in which his queen, Isabeau of Bavaria, and others, spent extravagant sums of money and generally took advantage of the government and the people of France. Mix this all together and you have an unstable central government, invading English, civil war, and the nobility murdering each other. And Yolande had both a husband and a son spending years and a tremendous amount of money trying to retake their hereditary interests in Sicily.
Yolande of Aragon was an intense and highly intelligent woman. A master diplomat and tactician, she readily took over running their lands in France when Louis went to war to retake Sicily. She had a master network of spies as well as a fortune with which to spend to make things happen. Over her lifetime, she gained power within the kingdom of France rarely achieved by any man of her time. Author Nancy Goldstone makes the case from contemporary sources that Yolande strategically manouvered Joan of Arc into the court-in-exile of the Dauphin to bolster his flagging ability to fight the English. It is clear that Yolande had the expertise, as well as the personality to look out for her daugter and son-in-law's interests for most of her life.
Goldstone also makes a strong case from contemporary sources about how Joan of Arc was essentially purchased by the English from the Burgundians who captured her. The English proceeded, with the full knowledge and assistance of the Catholic Church, to treat her very brutally when compared to the ongoing laws of chivalric behavior toward a captive that had been established. The English wanted her dead so they could hold the French throne in a dual kingdom of England and France. High ranking members of the Catholic Church obliged while lining their own pockets with gold. Joan was pronounced a witch and a heretic and burned at the stake, an unusual punishment for one who had been a military leader. But then she had worn men's clothes when riding into battle, and that became one of the strongest arguments for her execution. From Goldstone's recitation of medieval sources, it sounds like that was an even greater sin at that time than hearing the voices of female saints who urged her to rescue France from the English.
I was not well acquainted with French history but this book is well researched and written with an occasional seasoning of wry humor. The author has added to the back a very necessary diagram of the genealogy of the French royal family, as well as Notes and a Bibliography. Also included are contemporary maps and illustrations. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Joan of Arc or in Medieval French history. (less)
Many reviewers focus on what they see as a bizarre, unequal, and abusive relationship between the main protaganists billionaire business man Christia...more Many reviewers focus on what they see as a bizarre, unequal, and abusive relationship between the main protaganists billionaire business man Christian Grey and recent college graduate, Anastasia (Ana) Steele. She did say yes to everything that happens in the story and could have left at any time. So she's naive, gullible, starstruck... or just plain dumb. Many women don't have alot of experience with men when in college; she may have been naive in the first few chapters but she progressed into being obsessed by him. And Christian? Why yes, he has a number of personal problems, money not being one of them. While the furor broke through the literate ranks about Ana's subservient role in what has been called an abusive and even sick relationship, I kept calling the book "Fifty Shades of Bad Writing" to friends. The plot was somewhat inconsequential; my impression of it was that it was a cross between an old Harlequin Romance and Hustler magazine. If Ana only had huge eyes and a heart-shaped face, this could have qualified as a Barbra Cartland Romance. Well, maybe if you vigorously scrubbed out all of the deviant sex.
The author's website says that E.L. James is a former tv executive from London. I have a two-part hypothesis about the character of Christian Grey: 1) The author put together what she thinks is a particularly hot man with problems that she would love to solve and found somebody to publish the fantasy; and 2) The author figured out a way to slap together a three-part story that clearly has its roots in the TV mini-series, complete with cliff-hanger and sold the idea to a publisher. It's pure formula.
It was the writing and the total lack of fact-checking that really disgusted me. The first big mistake that I saw was that Ana calls her roommate's Mercedes a "Merc." That's fair in Europe or the UK, but Ana is in Vancouver, Washington, and says later in the book that she hasn't been outside of the U.S. (page 46). Being a long-time Merc owner, this really slapped me across the face. That is, when I finished the incredible run-on sentence that euphemistically could be referred to as the second paragraph. EDITOR FAIL. There are so many things that an editor should have caught in this book that I don't think I have room for them all.
"Laters, baby!" You've got to be kidding. Skeezy, to borrow a slang term. How about this gem: "He jerks her ponytail back, 'It's only just not painful.'" Yes, but that sentence certainly is. Or "NDA." You mean "non-disclosure agreement?" I'm not aware of attorneys or business people throwing around that jargon because it smacks of self-importance and sounds STUPID.
The conversation with Air Traffic Control was so incredibly inaccurate! NO ONE gets on the air and says "P-D-X." They say "Portland Tower." That is to avoid confusion with another tower on the same frequency. Also, Christian doesn't preflight his helicopter before he takes it out; unbelievable. Or this bon mot, "[I]t's equipped for night flight." Ummm, they're all equipped for night flight, genius. A fixed-wing or rotary aircraft may not be equipped for instrument flight. Nice try, it's obvious you don't know how to fly. Glad that was cleared up so spectacularly. "PDX to call..." what the hell does that mean? Christian also says "...over and out..." to Seattle Control, ostensibly the tower. Was that from a WWII movie? Nobody has said that in decades. Ditto for having Seattle Tower say "...over." Really? And as mentioned above, the author got the registration wrong for the helicopter. Why would a US based business use a helicopter registered in Canada for flying around the US? That was a stupid mistake.
The sex contract? *YAWN* It was a crutch to expand the story. On pg 104 (Kindle) the contract says 7 hours of sleep; on pg 171 it says 8 hrs. I thought she didn't want to obey the rules on that so how did it get increased? On pg 175 she describes it as a "bloody contract." That might be fair if she's reading a lot of English novels, but I don't think most of those classics have the word "bloody" in them.
"Well this has full wireless N...." I think he's talking about a Mac since he mentions a "Me" account. So is he trying to say the laptop itself has it's own wireless network? The phrasing is atrocious. The author writes about Ana's feelings as "deer/headlights, moth/flame, bird/snake." How about describing the overall quality of the book as "trash/dumpster?" Her Subconscious and her Inner Goddess. Really unnecessary crutches in the narrative that became increasingly annoying with time. Crap, double crap, and jeez. All jarring while reading the text. Get the author (and the editor) a thesaurus. Some of the emails were entertaining, but overall, it seemed like another way to get out of writing a decent narrative.
Some of the story was humorous, such as on pg 397, "I gaze at my mom. She is on her fourth marriage. Maybe she does know something about men after all." ARE YOU KIDDING ME? It sounds like she doesn't have a clue. And, they have unprotected sex fairly soon after Ana starts on the mini-pill. Not funny at all. Just because she's having her period doesn't mean she can't get pregnant at this point.
Oh, and the sex? Gross and disturbing at times. But not as disturbing as the writing. (Ok, it's not fair to compare the sex to the writing; the writing is far worse.)
Dr. Tabor's four decades of research about Paul and his role in the development of Christianity has resulted in this, his latest well-researched work...more Dr. Tabor's four decades of research about Paul and his role in the development of Christianity has resulted in this, his latest well-researched work. The main portion of this book is divided into nine sections that logically present Tabor's research and his arguments: Paul not only departed vividly from the teachings of Jesus and the original Twelve Apostles, but his later and completely independent interpretation of the message of Jesus actually superceded the teachings of Jesus in the surviving Christian faith.
According to the evidence presented by Tabor, Paul never actually met Jesus, but instead proceeded to teach his (Paul's) gospel after having visions of Jesus talking to him seven years after the crucifixion. Further, Paul was never "made" an apostle by the surviving Apostles as led by James, the brother of Jesus. The closest he came was what appears to be a "live and let live" agreement between him and the original Apostles (who were still spreading the teachings of Jesus amongst the Jewish population) that Paul could continue to preach in the name of Jesus to the Gentiles. Paul believed he was chosen by God to do this before he was born, so he thought his gospel was superior to that of the Twelve Apostles'. He also held the belief that Jesus had been sent to carry out the first part of God's plan and he had been sent to carry out the second part, and exhorted followers to be like him. There was an innate conflict between what Paul preached (without learning first from the living Jesus or the Twelve Apostles) and what the remaining Apostles would continue to preach in Jesus' name. The differences were and are staggering.
The Christian beliefs that were affected go to the core of the religion. The beliefs surrounding the Eucharist, whether blood and body are being consumed or if it is the Jewish ritual of blessing for bread and wine; baptism, whether it is when the seed of the Holy Spirit is implanted or if it is the traditional water purification ritual of the Jewish faith. The resurrection of the dead: is it in a reformed body from the sleep of the dead, or in a glorious new spiritual body that is apparently neither male nor female, as according to Paul. These are only examples; Paul believed that the revelations he received from his visions of the heavenly Christ were far superior to any of the teachings of the earthly Jesus. When Paul proceeded to preach to the Gentiles, it was his version that was heard and remembered. Tabor brings in other writers and accounts contemporaneous to Paul for a cross-analysis; what emerges is the likelihood that these other sources that are in the background of Church may be closer in tone to Jesus' message than the current core beliefs of Christianity. Because of the thoroughness of Dr. Tabor's work, his conclusions become far more than a hypothesis or argument. Although the subject matter is very detailed, I found Dr. Tabor's writing style to be very readable and the evidence presented believable. (less)
This is a novel of World War II as experienced by two British young people: Saba Tarcan, a half-Welsh half-Turkish singer recruited to sing for the t...more This is a novel of World War II as experienced by two British young people: Saba Tarcan, a half-Welsh half-Turkish singer recruited to sing for the troops, and Dominic Benson, an English RAF pilot. The two meet when Saba sings for a hospital burn ward in which Dom is recovering; the story continues when Saba defies her father to accept an invitation to audition for ENSA in London and Dom and Saba meet again. As Saba is sent to Cairo to begin her performance tour through the desert, Dom arranges to be assigned to fly out of bases in the same area. A mutual interest gradually develops into a romance simultaneously as the action continues through Alexandria and Turkey.
This was a well-written book that was easy to read. Gregson includes a tremendous amount of 1940's detail that adds but never detracts from the story. Exquisite descriptions of makeup, haircolor products, and clothing, to bustling street scenes and time spent by off-duty pilots and entertainers created an ongoing visual as good as any top-rated motion picture. The characters that inhabit this book are well-rounded and three-dimensional; none become the easy stereotype of being all-good or all-bad. They suffer from regrets, self-doubt, bad tempers, and other character flaws but continue to breath life into the storyline.
I have no problem recommending this book and would call it a "novel" and not a "romance." I look forward to reading Gregson's other novels.
Author Sandra Byrd tells the tale of Kateryn (Katherine) Parr, last wife of King Henry VIII, through the eyes os fictional character Juli...more **Spoilers**
Author Sandra Byrd tells the tale of Kateryn (Katherine) Parr, last wife of King Henry VIII, through the eyes os fictional character Juliana St. John. The story opens in Marlborough, England in 1542 introducing Mistress St. John as the educated daughter of a deceased knight who also had a prosperous shipping business. Juliana has religious beliefs and opinions that veer into the area of "reformed" thought, particularly in the area of the ability of women to read and preach the gospel. She is 18 and not particularly worldly though not uneducated. Enter Thomas Seymour who meets her and finds her to be a potentially well-suited companion to his love, the Lady Latimer (Kateryn Parr). After Lord Latimer dies of a protracted illness, King Henry VIII courts and proposes to Kateryn, making her his sixth and final queen. This is a time of stormy religious upheaval, with the life of the queen and other religious reformers literally at the whim of an ailing and cantankerous king.
I appreciated Ms. Byrd's writing in the language and style of the time period; it was actually interesting and relatively easy to read. I'm not an expert on the linguistics of the mid-16th Century, but from reading quite a bit of history in that time-frame I believe she is fairly accurate. I was concerned about reading yet another book about Henry VIII's doomed six wives, but this book held my attention more and more as I progressed. It's obvious that Ms. Byrd has spent quite a bit of time researching the Tudors, as well as the 16th Century (I put most of her reference list on my Goodreads to-read list). The attention to detail was just right; I was able to picture the textures and colors of the gowns and other items without those descriptions overwhelming the narrative. I also found the religious detail to be interesting, germane to the story, and not extraneous. More I think would have detracted from the story which is centered upon Juliana St. John and her position and relationship with Queen Kateryn. Ms. Byrd also introduces the reader to the little told tale of Mary Seymour, daughter of Queen Kateryn and Thomas Seymour.
Overall, this was a compelling book because of the danger posed by the Queen's views on the reformation of religion in England, and this in turn involved and endangered the main character, Juliana. This drove the storyline more and more as the book progressed and provided the necessary tension to keep the reader coming back. As this is based in fact, it is a marvel that the Queen felt so compelled by a belief system that could have resulted in torture and a painful death for her. I was also fascinated by the mystery of Mary Seymour; how could the cousin of the king disappear?