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review 2016-10-09 16:38
The course of true love never did run smooth
The Lady Anne (Above all Others; The Lady Anne Book 2) - Ammonia Book Covers,Brooke Aldrich,Lawrence G. Lovasik

I write this review as one of the members of behalf of Rosie’s Books Review Team. I was provided with a free copy of the book as part of the team.

I have read and enjoyed La Petite Boulain, the first book in the Above all Others series and really enjoyed getting to know a bit more about Anne Boleyn’s childhood, and particularly, the way the story was told, in the first person from the point of view of young Anne, or, to be more precise, the young Anne as remembered by the older Anne at the moment of awaiting her death in the Tower.

Here we see Anne return to England after spending part of her childhood and teenage years in courts abroad. She is sad to leave France, as she feels by now more French than English, and the weather and the difficulties of her trip don’t help make her feel at home. Luckily, things take a turn for the better quickly. She meets Thomas Wyatt, a neighbour, accomplished poet, and a childhood friend, and once she joins the court, becoming one of Queen Katherine’s ladies in waiting, she soon meets interesting people, makes new friends, rekindles old friendships, and becomes a fashion icon and very admired for her style, accomplishments, and her personality.

I was curious to see how this novel would portray Anne as a young woman, in an era more familiar to most people than that of her early years. She is presented as an interesting mixture of a clever and intelligent woman, with far wider knowledge and experiences than many of the women her age she meets, but still a young girl at heart, who loves the idea of courting, handsome and romantic knights, and has to admit to being proud of the way men are attracted to her and women copy her dresses and jewels. She changes her mind often and she thinks she is in love with Tom Wyatt one day, although it’s an impossible love, but then decides it’s only friendship. She falls in love with Henry Percy (of much higher standing than her as he’s due to become the Earl of Northumberland) and with her father’s approval pursues a marriage that would have been very advantageous for her family, but when Cardinal Wolsey and Henry’s father forbid the match, her disappointment makes her hate him. And then, there’s King Henry…

I must confess that I enjoyed the discussions about Anne’s ideas and her education in religion and philosophy in the first book, and there were only passing references to it here (partly because she worried about the company she keeps and how they would react if they were aware of her opinions, and partly because there are other things that occupy more of her time), and there is much more about romance and romantic ideas. King Henry seems to notice her following an accident (although perhaps before that) and her behaviour and her refusal to become his mistress seem to spur him on rather than make him forget her and move on. If Henry Percy gave up on her without a fight, this is a man who would risk everything (even the future of his kingdom) for his own enjoyment and to prove himself, and in Anne, he meets a challenge. Not being a big reader of romance, the pull and push of the relationship and the will she/won’t she (especially knowing how things will turn up) part of it was not what interested me the most, although the scenes are well done and I found the fights and disagreements between the couple enjoyable. I became intrigued by King Henry’s portrayal, not so much by what he does and says, but by how others see him. There is a very apt warning her brother George gives her, recalling how King Henry was walking with his arm around a nobleman’s shoulders one afternoon and two days later the said nobleman’s head was topping a pole on the King’s orders.

I was more interested in matters of politics and alliances (confusing as they were), the inner workings of the court, marriages and births, and Anne’s reflections about the roles of women and men in the society of the time, that she struggles against but ultimately feels obliged to follow. I was also intrigued by the depiction of her family, her brother George, always close to her, her sister Mary, who although Anne always saw as too free and easy, she comes to understand and appreciate (and who manages to achieve a happy existence in her own terms, eventually), her mother, who suffers from a strange illness, and her father, who appears to be only interested in the family’s advancement (although claims that it is not for himself, but for those who’ll come after). He seemingly has no respect for morality if it can get in the way of achieving his goals, and at times he treats his daughters as pawns or worse. In the novel, Anne is portrayed as having much of the initiative, at least at the beginning, regarding her relationship with King Henry, but I was very intrigued by the role her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, would come to play, and how much he influenced later events and the rise of Anne to become Queen.

This volume made me wonder, more than the first one, how reliable a narrator is Anne supposed to be. She makes a very interesting comment about wearing masks and the fact that we all perform our roles in public, whatever our feelings or thoughts might really be. After all, this is Anne remembering her life and trying to distract herself from her likely dark fate. Sometimes she does protest too much, when talking about her accomplishments, intelligence and fashion sense, and insists that she does not believe in false modesty. She also talks about Tom Wyatt’s affections and how she had not encouraged him, but she evidently enjoys his attentions. At other times, she describes events and scenes as if she were at the same time protagonist and observer (from telling us what she was feeling and her concerns, she will go on to describe what she looked like or what she was wearing). She does highlight the behaviours she thinks show her in a good light and easily finds ways in which to dismiss some of her more selfish or problematic behaviours, but at a time such as the one she’s living through, after having lost everything and everybody, it’s only understandable. If anything, it shows her as a complex and contradictory individual and makes her appear more real.

The writing is once more fluid and beautifully detailed, bringing to life places, customs and times long past.

Although I know what will happen next, I’m intrigued to read Anne’s version of events and look forward to the next book. I highly recommend this series to anybody interested in Anne Boleyn who enjoys historical fiction, and to anybody who is considering reading about such a fascinating historical figure.

 

 

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text 2016-09-14 19:39
Reading progress update: I've read 1%.
American Supernatural Tales - Edgar Allan Poe,Ambrose Bierce,Henry James,Stephen King,Richard Matheson,Norman Partridge,Shirley Jackson,Ray Bradbury,H. P. Lovecraft,August Deleth,Charles Beaumont,Robert Chambers,Robert Howard,David J. Schow,Thomas Ligotti,Karl Edward Wagner,Clark Asht

Found this one at the library. It fits for the black cat square . That's good because I was having a hard time finding a book I was excited about for that one.

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review 2016-06-01 16:25
Falls the Shadow - Sharon Kay Penman

"Here Be Dragons" is probably my favorite Penman novel, with "Sunne in Splendour" it's only rival. "Falls the Shadow" and "The Reckoning" are the two other parts of Penman's "Welsh Princes" Trilogy and I avoided them for years based on the titles and knowledge of its contents alone. "Here Be Dragons" is a rarity among Penman's fiction--essentially a love story, one with a happy, if somewhat bittersweet ending. She makes you fall in love with medieval Wales in that book and knowing history--and seeing those titles, I was reluctant to read the tragic events that caused it to be swallowed by England.

Well, I'm glad I finally caught up with this one, even if it doesn't quite have the place in my heart of my top two favorites--thus four stars instead of five. t have just one more Penman book to read--the sequel to this one continuing the story of one of the characters, Llewelyn ap Gruffudd. So I think I can safely say that for all his flaws, Simon de Montfort, the central character of this book is Penman's most heroic, inspiring figure. Penman calls him in her afterward "Shakespearean" and she paints his virtues and his flaws vividly. Which at the end actually made it harder for me as I drew towards the end. It's not because of flaws in the writing or pacing--rather than the reverse. I know English history all too well, but if I hadn't--well, Penman does all to well in depicting the reasons Montfort was in for a fall. I also think she did better in her later Angevin series about Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine in showing a tension between antagonists so your sympathies were pulled in both directions. There's not much appealing here about Montfort's enemies, although from time to time she does make you feel a little sympathy for the hapless, utterly inept Henry III.

I'm both looking forward to and almost dreading reading "The Reckoning." After that one I won't have more Penman to read--only reread. And I doubt there's going to be a happy ending for any character--any historical figure--I care about. Certainly not for Wales. I do know one thing though after having read about a dozen Penman books--it'll be a great ride.

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review 2016-05-24 21:26
Book Review of Phoenix Rising: A novel of Anne Boleyn by Hunter S. Jones
Phoenix Rising: A novel of Anne Boleyn - Hunter S. Jones

The last hour of Anne Boleyn's life...

 

Court intrigue, revenge and all the secrets of the last hour are revealed as one queen falls and another rises to take her place on destiny's stage.

 

A young Anne Boleyn arrives at the court of King Henry VIII. She is to be presented at the Shrovetide pageant, le Château Vert. The young and ambitious Anne has no idea that a chance encounter before the pageant will lead to her capturing the heart of the king. What begins as a distraction becomes his obsession and leads to her destruction.

Love, hate, loyalty and betrayal come together in a single dramatic moment... the execution of a queen. The history of England will be changed for ever.

 

Review 4*

 

This is an intriguing look into the last hours of Anne Boleyn's life. A friend of mine recommended this book to me. I am not really a huge reader of historical fiction, but who hasn't heard about these royals and the tragic circumstances leading up to Anne Boleyn's beheading? So, being curious, I decided to give this book a try.

 

First off, I would like to say that the cover is very striking. It definitely catches the eye and has many elements in it that are relevant to the story within the cover.

 

This book is told in first person by various characters, from Anne Boleyn herself to King Henry VIII and the executioner amongst others. The author has taken real facts but added her own fictional twist to the tale. Unfortunately, I found this story, although a page turner, to be a little too dry for my taste. I felt that there could have been more meat added to the fictional sections to make it more scandalous. I don't know if Henry really loved Anne or not, or whether the accusations he levied against her were true or not either. Henry must have found himself under extreme pressure to father a male heir for him to annul his marriage and order Anne's death, then set his sights on Lady Jane Seymour. Or he was an utter womanizer and it was his infidelity he was hiding by accusing his wife of it instead when she failed to give him the son he desired. We can only guess at his thoughts, though his actions on the day of the execution was rather telling in my opinion.

 

What I did discover about Anne Boleyn from this book was that she was strong willed and had many enemies that wished her ill. I am not sure if she would have gone to her death without a fight. Whether she was drugged/sedated up until her beheading to keep her quiet one will never know. However, what I do know is that she was a formidable woman who faced death with grace.

 

Hunter S. Jones has written an intriguing fictional tale of real events. Her descriptive writing brought the past to life and her fast paced writing style kept me turning the pages. However, by having each chapter told through the various characters, I found the flow a little choppy and slightly disconnected from each other. But, having said that, I would consider reading more of this author's books in the future.

 

Although there are no scenes of a sensuous nature, there is mention of execution and beheading. Therefore, I do not recommend this book to younger readers (under 12) or those with a nervous disposition. However, if you love historical fiction and you're interested in the Tudor's, this is the book for you. - Lynn Worton

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review 2016-05-15 19:34
When Christ and His Saints Slept: A Novel - Sharon Kay Penman

I'm a great fan of Sharon Kay Penman's <i>The Sunne in Splendour</i>, about Richard III and <i>Here Be Dragons</i> set in medieval Wales. They're two of my favorite books of historical friction, both unforgettable and moving me to tears. <i>Here Be Dragons</i>, despite being rooted soundly in history also is one of the most moving love stories I'd ever read. The last Penman novel I read though, based on Richard the Lionhearted, was a disappointment. It dragged. Frankly, through much of it I was bored.

So I started this book with some trepidation-but I found this was more the Penman of old, not the one that disappointed. This didn't for me quite reach the heights of those two favorite books--but it was still a terrific read that made me feel for the characters and feel transported to another time. It wasn't an easy read at times--not because of style or skill--but because I know English history too well to know this would end well. And Penman has a gift for making you care--even as you're exasperated with her characters. A character describes the battling cousins flaws pretty aptly. King Stephen too easily influenced and not resolute enough; Empress Maud incapable of listening to anyone and way too stubborn. And poor England caught in the middle. The tragedy of it all being, at least as Penman presents it, is that Maud *did* learn from her mistakes--and if she had received the kind of support she deserved and would have gotten had she been male--from her father, her husband, Stephen himself, might have made a decent monarch. I wound up feeling for both. And her picture of the young Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine and the early, happy part of their marriage was involving, even fascinating.

And frankly happy to follow characters I didn't know about, either because they're historically obscure or fictional. Because history doesn't leave much room for happy endings with real lives sadly enough. This one is well worth the read.

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