The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory

     First of all, I am pleased to say that Philippa Gregory has done it again!  She has managed to put her readers completely into the world of the two Tudor kings.  Unfortunately, it is a world where I was glad to simply be a visitor, and not one who had to reside there  She has brought this insane world to life through the telling of Margaret Pole’s life, a Plantagenet living in the dangerous world of the Tudors.

     In this book, Gregory gives us a new look at Henry VIII, a look that shows all his warts and few of his glory.  In fact, after reading this book, I feel hard pressed to even think of one glorious thing about Henry.  That is not much of a reach for me, since he put his first wife Catherine of Aragon aside, and in an attempt to kill her, forced her into a damp castle with no luxuries to keep her well; beheaded his second wife Anne Boleyn, over trumped up ridiculous charges no one then, nor now believed; his third wife Jane Seymour, died shortly after delivering his son; his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, was lucky to have her marriage annulled and herself to be  called Henry’s sister and kept well-maintained away from court; his fifth wife, Catherine Howard was not so lucky, being beheaded, again on charges no Queen should have been brought up on; and his final and luckiest wife, Catherine Parr managed to outlive the King.

     Margaret Pole was a Plantagenet, related to King Richard III who Henry VII had defeated to begin the reign of the Tudor’s.  It is here that the curse is begun.  The curse that no first-born Tudor son would rule, and that the Tudor rule would end in the reign of a Virgin Queen.  How odd that this curse worked.  It was the bane of Henry VII, and Henry VIII, and from what I’ve read and studied seemed to be at the root of the evil created by the two Tudor Kings.

     I won’t ruin the book, just tell you that once again we have a well-researched beautifully created work of historical fiction that is mostly historical and a little fiction.  Just the way I like my historical fiction.  The story is exciting, leaving me wanting to keep reading long after I should have been in bed.  It was a pleasure, even though it took the glitter off Henry VIII.  There were already many things that I thought about Henry and when the glitter was removed, it was the women in his life who had my sincere admiration.  I highly recommend this book, and will leave you with a wonderful quote from Philippa Gregory:

 “The fiction, as always, is secondary to the history; the real women are always more complex and more conflicted, greater than the heroines of the novel, just as real women now, as then, are often greater than they are reported, sometimes greater than the world wants them to be.”

The Undertaking by Audrey Magee – Book Review

   

    I have to start this review with the observation that I had a hard time reading this book.  I had no love for any of the characters, and was hard-pressed to find much in the way of empathy for them.  Okay, now that I got that out of the way, onward with the review.

This was a look at WWII from the perspective the Spinells, a lower-middle class German family who decided the way up was to join the Nazi party.  The daughter, Katharina, marries a soldier (Peter Faber), by proxy, as part of the German breeding program.  Her reason for marrying was that if Peter died, she would receive a pension.  Peter marries her so that he can get honeymoon leave.  During this leave, Peter joins his new father-in-law on his nightly rounds of beating, killing and rounding up Jews in Berlin.  During the honeymoon Katharina gets pregnant.  Peter goes back to his unit and is eventually sent to Stalingrad.  It’s during this time that the Spinells begin to enjoy the rewards of Mr. Spinells nightly labor.  Katharina and her mother are given extra food, jewels, furs and a large new apartment to live in.  There is no mention of exactly how they receive these things, or who originally owned them.  They just accept everything as their due, since they are such “good” Germans these things are “owed” to them.

The book never talks about the war in any other way than how glorious it is.  The bland tone of the book actually made it easier to  read, but never to understand any of their actions.  I don’t want to have any spoilers, but if you are looking for reasons (lofty or otherwise) as to how this family was able to live with themselves, you won’t find them.

The book itself is wonderful, but the characters are reprehensible.  Mr. Spinell manages to thrive regardless of how the war turned out, and in the end was busy working for the Russians and learning the language.  He’s a man who will land on his feet, no matter what.

Another reviewer thought that the undertaking was all about the marriage between Katharina and Peter; I felt that it was a metaphor for the “great undertaking” of the German war machine.  Both fell apart and didn’t last in the end.

I would definitely recommend this book, as a book doesn’t have to be pleasant to be good.  It was very thought-provoking and once again brought up that age-old question, “What would I do in such a situation?”

Blogging 101 – Assignment – Dream Reader

 

This is an assignment on writing for our Dream Reader. This blog is actually set-up as something that I would read. My love of books has been one constant in my life. As a child I read to escape a world that was extremely negative and punishing. I was always the “odd man out” in my family and was the scapegoat for everything that went wrong. So, my reading was one way (actually the only way) for me to escape my environment. It has continued to be a great escape in my life. I love my children, but the need to escape the constant “want” and “need” of them has been through books. Even though they are older now, I still want to read; although the need to read has abated, somewhat.

            In a lot of ways, books have been my obsession; and that is okay. The library is my refuge. My quiet place to retreat to when the loudness of everyday life is too much. I’d love to know if books have helped other people to cope as they have me.

The Accidental Apprentice by Vikas Swarup

    

  This book is about Sapna Sinha, a sales girl who “accidentally” meets billionaire Vinay Mohan Acharya, a businessman. Acharya wants Sapna to take seven Life Tests in order to see if she is the one who will run his business after he dies. The book is not only about the seven tests, but also about Sapna’s life, family and relationships. On the surface, Sapna is not a person you would think that a billionaire would want to leave his fortune and business to upon his death. However, as the book continues, we learn that she is indeed an honorable person. Without going into detail, the seven tests are a way for Acharya and us, the readers, to see exactly what sort of person Sapna is.

      I found this book interesting and extremely readable not only for the plot, which was fast-paced and thrilling, but also for the slices of Indian life it afforded me. As someone who reads in order to learn (what more enjoyable way is there to learn than by reading a novel), I felt as though I was there on the busy, hot and humid city streets with Sapna, seeing and feeling through her eyes. The seven tests were real-life tests that Sapna is at first not aware.  Sapnas’ relationships with the other characters in the novel were a way for the writer to tell us of her family history, and also how she managed to cope with the curve balls that life had thrown at her and her family.

      I thought this book was both plausible and enjoyable. When I read a novel, I want it to do a variety of things for me. Some of these things include: bring me into another world; teach me something; and entertain me. Not only did this book fulfill my criteria, I also found Sapna to be a character that was interesting, personable, and most importantly someone to root for. And, I really like reading a book in which I find the main character someone that I can relate to and cheer on. This book fit the bill, plus the ending was a nice surprise. I highly recommend it!

Introducing Myself

    

      I love books. I’ve loved books since before I began reading at the age of 4, which was not surprising as my mother also loved books. My earliest memories are of her reading to us before bed. It was my favorite time of day and Dr. Seuss taught me to read. I’d follow her finger and learn the words as she read them. That’s also how I taught my kids to read.

      With my nose stuffed in a book, I’ve visited more times and countries then I can count. I’ve been to Middle Earth over a dozen times since my preteen years. I’ve fought on both sides of the Civil War. I’ve been to India, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, both the South and North Poles. Ancient Egypt has been visited many, many times, along with ancient Greece. I was with Odysseus during the Odyssey and Hector during the Iliad. I’ve been an Amazon Warrior and an Amish woman. All these times lived between the pages of books. In reality I’ve never been to any of these places, but I still have knowledge of where Cheapside was in London, not to mention Hogwarts and its’ surrounding grounds.

 

My life has been forever changed and my knowledge increased by my reading. I’ve been taught many different points of view, from the extremely wealthy to the extremely poor. And, my life has been enriched in more ways than I can count.

In this blog, I plan on posting a review a week, so I can share these wonderful books with you, and hopefully start some discussions with other people who share my passion with books!