Book Review: Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession

I have loved history since my 8th grade year when I had a teacher that made it fun and interesting.  She was always excited about what she was teaching and it made me want to know more.  I started reading about 90% historical fiction after this point.  I had to learn about places and people while I was enjoying the story.

During my freshman year of college, as a history major, I finally bought a copy of a book I had had my eye on for several years.  The book was The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory.  I was enthralled!  Gregory’s writing was stunning and the characters were brought to life before my eyes.  It centers around the younger sister of Anne Boleyn, Mary, who becomes the mistress of Henry VIII.  Even though the story is centered around Mary it was Anne who fascinated me.

Anne Boleyn was the infamous second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I.  She has been described in many ways from temptress, witch, whore, martyr and pawn.  Her beliefs and stubbornness to stand up for them made her the target for many.  Changes came to England during the years of her courtship and marriage to Henry that reshaped the world.  She was executed in the Tower of London on May 19, 1536 on the charges of treason, witchcraft and adultery.

There are differing opinions about this woman who is still very unknown to historians even today.  Little is known but many books have been written about her.  One of the latest is by Alison Weir as part of her Six Tudor Queens series.  As soon as I could get my hands on this book I was ready to read it!

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir

First Line: Her skin was rather sallow, Anne thought as she studied herself in the silver mirror, and she had too many moles, but at least her face was a fashionable oval.

Summary: Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII, spent her early years in the courts of Burgundy and France.  She learned from duchesses and queens on how to be a lady but it is a king that truly changes her life.  When the King Henry VIII notices her and wants her to be his mistress Anne decides that she is not going to be used like other women of her time.  She tries to discourage the king but to no avail.  But when Henry proposes marriage to her, even though he is already married, she sets her sights on the ultimate power.  After years of legal and religious battles she finally is crowned queen but it turns out to not be all that was promised.

Highlights: The descriptions are very detailed.  I could feel the frustration with the Great Matter as much as Anne and Henry.  Anne is a smart and passionate woman who knows what she wants and is willing to do whatever she can to achieve it.  There is so much in this novel about a woman that very little is known.  The author takes you all the way back to Anne’s childhood which most books do not do.

Lowlights: I have read many books about Anne Boleyn.  And a book that is written by a historian like Alison Weir, I was expecting more.  There were things that I did not agree with in her descriptions of Anne such as the sixth finger.  Plus she makes Anne seem more like a child at times when she was a powerful woman with strong beliefs.

FYI: Some of this is written for a more dramatic and fictional account than most historians have been able to back up.  Great for a fun and interesting book about the life of Anne Boleyn, the unfortunate second wife of Henry VIII.

If you are ever lucky enough to visit the Tower of London, visit her grave in the chapel and the memorial to Anne Boleyn (and many others who lost their lives inside this fortress).  It has been 481 years since that fateful day on Tower Green and people still remember this fascinating woman.

Book Review: The Light of Paris

The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown

First Line: I didn’t set out to lose myself.

Summary: Madeleine is a married woman who is bored and unhappy with her life.  Her husband is controls everything from the money to what she

is allowed to do with her day.  She loves to paint but he has made it clear that he does not think that this is something she should be spending her time doing.  When she goes home to visit her mother she finds her grandmother’s journals in a trunk in the attic.  Through the writings of a woman she barely knew she finds out more about herself and what she wants from life.

Margie is a young woman in 1924.  She was a debutante but remains unmarried making her practically an old maid.  When the chance to chaperone her younger cousin around Europe is presented she jumps at the chance to see the world before she settles into marriage with one of her father’s business partners.  But the trip doesn’t turn out as planned.  Her cousin ditches her in Paris leaving Margie with the question of what to do alone in Europe.  Rather than take her parents advice and return home she decides that Paris has more to offer her, even if it’s only for a little while.

Highlights: Paris!  It has been 11 years since I visited the City of Lights but I want to go again.  This book took me back to the 4 days I got to spend there in college.  The monuments, cathedrals and the food were magical!  I envy Margie the chance to live in this beautiful city.  I liked the flashbacks.  It made the story richer as you found out more about each woman.  I was able to connect with them and became invested in each of their lives.

Lowlights: Most of the story was very predictable.  I knew what was going to happen in most of the book but that is not always a bad thing.  It felt like a safe and comfortable read.

FYI: You will want to visit (or live) in Paris after this!

Book Review: The Hollywood Daughter

The Hollywood Daughter by Kate Alcott

First Line: Dropped something.

Summary: Jesse is the daughter of a Hollywood publicist in the 1940s. She attends a prestigious school where she gets to see the biggest star of the time, Ingrid Bergman. As she watches the stunning young actress in real life and on screen she comes to idolize her. After her mother believes that Jesse is becoming too involved with the Hollywood lifestyle her parents decide to send her to a Catholic school. She believes that her life has come to an end but it really is only the beginning. She learns more about herself and the world around her.

Highlights: Ingrid! The description of her is beautiful. I immediately had to place her movies on hold to see more of her work. The author does a wonderful job of making you feel the injustice that was thrown at Ingrid after her scandalous affair that ostracized her from her American fans. I was so mad at the public, the media and the Catholic Church but at the time it was normal.

Lowlights: There were little pieces in the story that seemed to be thrown in as fillers but didn’t seem to have much relevance to the overall story. Her friend seemed like a side story. She seemed like she should be more important but it was more in the background.

FYI: Place The Bells of St. Mary’s on hold! Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman are stunning.

Book Review: The Edge of Lost

Note: This review is from Linda, a member of the library staff.

“The Edge of Lost” by Kristina McMorris

First line: Alcatraz Island, October 1937 Fog encircled the island, a strangling grip, as search efforts mounted.

Staff member Linda sits in the break room and reads “The Edge of Lost.”

Summary: Shanley Keagen is a 10-year-old orphan in Ireland in the 1920’s. He lives with his drunken and abusive uncle in a run-down slum in Dublin. His uncle takes advantage of Shanley’s skills, pushing him into performing in low-class pubs and then taking what small wages Shanley earns.

Shanley convinces his uncle to migrate to America where they can make more money from Shanley’s entertaining. They make their way to America, but his uncle dies during the voyage. Alone at only 12, Shanley must figure out how to get through Ellis Island with no family contacts in his new country. He befriends a young Italian boy, Nick Capello, whose family has been visiting Italy and are on their way home to the U.S. The boys convince Nick’s parents to accept Shanley as their long deceased son Tommy, so Shanley now has a new family. So begins his new life in America as Tommy Capello.

The book details Tommy’s life growing up in an Italian family, his relationships with his siblings and the Italian mob during the 1930’s. After trying to save his brother Nick in a supposed bank robbery, Tommy is sent to Leavenworth Penitentiary.

Linda recommends “The Edge of Lost” to patrons who like historic fiction, or fiction with unexpected plot twists.

While there, he once again begins entertaining, this time his fellow inmates, with his jokes, stories and voice imitations. Tommy is then transferred to Alcatraz to serve the remaining time on his 20-year sentence. While there he becomes the model prisoner and eventually finds a way to escape with help from some unusual contacts.

Linda’s thoughts: I chose this book because of a post on Pinterest I saw that someone had shared. I found the very beginning of the book to be somewhat slow, but after about 25 pages I became interested in the plot. The story has a twist I never expected and it was difficult to stop reading! I highly recommend this book with its action, surprise situations, and plot-twisting end.

Book Review: The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

First Line: “When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen.”

Summary: After the loss of her neglectful parents in India, young Mary Lennox is sent to live with her widowed uncle in a Manor on the English moor. Bitter and angry, Mary is forced to play by herself among the gardens of the manor, but when a lovely robin shows her the way into a hidden garden, Mary’s world and heart are changed. As she delights in the flowers and creatures of the moor, she discovers that gardens aren’t the only secrets at Misselthwaite.

Highlights: The Secret Garden is the perfect story to read in spring as it vividly details the magic of growth. Burnett makes the reader feel the warm moor winds and the lush green of the gardens, encouraging the reader to step outside and reach down into the earth. This book is a healer, and if readers are looking for a gentle yet magical read, Burnett’s characters, writing style, and timeless story will take hold of your heart.

Lowlights: This book was published in 1911 around the time the Yorkshire dialect was popular. Burnett has many characters who speak this way and it can be both challenging and frustrating, especially for younger readers, to understand what’s being said. Our library, however, has an annotated edition of the book that may help to understand the dialogue.

FYI: This book has inspired a number of film adaptations, but my personal favorite is the 1993 version with Maggie Smith. It is a great family film and a perfect end to reading this book. I would also recommend this book as a read-aloud or continuous bed time story for families with young children, especially around this blooming spring season.

 

 

Book Review: The Book Jumper

The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser

First Line: Will ran.

Summary: Amy and her mother, Alexis, decide to make a trip to Scotland to their family estate on an island called Stormsay.  When they arrive at the ancestral home and she finally meets her mother’s family she learns a secret that will take her love of reading to a whole new level.  The two families that live on the island are able to jump into books and interact with the characters and story. Their mission in life is to protect the stories and keep them running smoothly.  On her first day of lessons as a book jumper she enters the world of The Jungle Book but as the days pass things in the literary world start falling apart. It appears that someone is stealing ideas from stories!

Highlights: Once again the cover caught my attention. But the idea that someone could jump into a story and live along with the characters is a dream come true.  What story would I jump into?  The possibilities are endless. The little twists were fun and kept you wondering.  The other stories were chosen well with a variety of different themes.

Lowlights: Spoilers. Several of the books that are mentioned I have not read but the plot gives away the endings to many of them.  It made sense for the story and it isn’t a major problem but it was a little frustrating.

FYI: This story was originally published in German.

Book Review: Unblemished

Unblemished by Sara Ella

First Line: It can’t be true.

Summary: Eliyana is a girl who likes to hide because of a birth mark that spreads across her face. But when her mother dies her world turns upside down. Her guardian tries to protect her but things keep happening that lead her to a new world she never knew existed. As she learns more about this alternate world she finds that she has to find strength in herself to save it and its people.

Highlights: I don’t know what it is but I love YA covers! This one is beautiful and draws the reader to it. I loved that the main character wasn’t the go-to beautiful girl with amazing skills. Eliyana is normal with insecurities just like everyone else. The other main characters are developed to the point where you are cheering or booing them. You get invested in the story.

Lowlights: The problem I had was the plot got a little too complex at times. I was lost for a while until it all started to come to climax of the story. There are a lot of characters as well, with many different abilities to keep track of.

FYI: Violence but not more than most YA novels.

Late April new releases

The sun is shining a little bit more lately and the temperatures are warming up as well. We are getting those April showers that are supposed to bring us flowers in May. And April is giving us a great shower of new books to read as well. Here are some of the most anticipated titles that will be released in the second half of April.

“The Stars are Fire” by Anita Shreve will be released April 18, 2017.

April 18: The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve
The latest novel by acclaimed author Anita Shreve is based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine’s history. It’s October 1947 and fires break out along the Maine coast. Before long, the fires are burning from village to village. Grace and Rosie are left to care for their small children when their husbands join the volunteer to fight the fires. As fire sweeps through their village, burning their homes to the ground, the women retreat to the sea, their only refuge, watching as their homes are burned to the ground and frantically protecting their children. As morning dawns, they are penniless, homeless and left to await news of their husbands’ fate.

April 18: The Fix (Amos Decker #3) by David Baldacci
Amos Decker watches as a man kills a woman, then turns the gun on himself, right outside FBI headquarters. Despite Decker’s powers of observation, he is baffled by the murder. He and his team can find no connection between the man and woman whatsoever. Then Decker is ordered off the case by an agent from the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“Blade Bound” is the final installment in the Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neill.

April 25: Blade Bound (Chicagoland
Vampires #13) 
by Chloe Neill

This is the final installment in the Chicagoland Vampires series (cue my tears here). Cadogan House is infiltrated and Merritt is attacked by a vampire apparently under the power of dark magic. Chicago is again under supernatural attack as a wicked sorcery spreads through the city. It’s up to Merritt, with her Liege, love and master of Cadogan House — Ethan, at her side to save her city and all those she loves.

 

April 25: Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
From Pulitzer Prize winner Strout comes a piece of fiction that is reminiscent of Olive Kitteridge in its complexity and richness. During the writing of My Name is Lucy Barton, Strout realized that the characters that Lucy and her mother talked about had their own stories. You’ll learn more about the “Pretty Nicely Girls,” Tommy, and Lucy Barton’s sister Vicky.

Lisa Unger’s latest novel, “The Red Hunter,” puts two wronged women on a collision course.

April 25: The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger
Two wronged women on wildly different paths are on a collision course that ends at one old house. Zoey Drake’s parents were murdered in a home invasion when she was a child. Claudia Bishop is trying to put her shattered life back together after a brutal assault. Claudia hopes to find a fresh start in restoring an old house. Zoey has embraced the rage within her and excels in martial arts. Zoey seeks justice and Claudia seeks peace, in the one place they have in common.

 

 

April 25: Burntown by Jennifer McMahon
Eva’s father is an inventor, and has possession of blueprints for a fantastic invention by Thomas Edison, one that will allow people to speak with those who have passed. Her father builds the machine and one night it whirrs to life on its own with a warning of danger. Eva wakes, and her father and brother are dead, and she and her mother need to hide from an evil man who is searching from them. Eva changes her name to her Necco—her favorite candy, but as she searches for the truth, she meets two more women who are on journeys of their own.

“The Girl Who was Taken” is the latest from Charlie Donlea.

April 25: The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea
Megan and Nicole are high school seniors in Emerson Bay, North Carolina. One summer night, they disappear from a beach party, and the police can’t find a single clue. Everyone has nearly lost hope when Megan suddenly reappears, having escaped from a bunker in the woods. Fast forward a year and Megan is a national celebrity after writing a bestselling book about her ordeal, but Nicole is still missing. Megan knows more than she shared in her book, but where will that knowledge get her?

Click on the title of any book to find it in our catalog.

Book Review: Girl in Disguise

Girl in Disguise by Greer MacAllister

 

First Line: Like any Chicago tavern in deep summer, Joe Mulligan’s stank.

Summary: Kate Warne is a widow looking for her place in the world. She doesn’t fit into the conventional occupations of women during the 1850s in Chicago but when she walks into the Pinkerton Detective Agency she finds her calling. Based on the real-life first female detective in the US. Kate goes undercover to find thieves and murderers. No one believes a woman can do this job but she proves them wrong.

Highlights: I love the history. I have never heard about Kate Warne but she sounds fascinating even though we don’t know much about her. I loved Greer Macallister’s first book and was excited to read this one too! She writes a gripping story with amazing leading characters. I liked that the cases were all short so that the story doesn’t drag on and get slow.

Lowlights: I felt like the end was a little flat. I wanted a little more but it needed to be summed up and it did that. But still a great book!

FYI: Some violence. Great for lovers of historical fiction and books about strong women who defy the times.

Book Review: Queen of the Tearling trilogy

Queen of the Tearling trilogy by Erika Johansen

  First Line: Kelsea Glynn sat very still, watching the troop approach her homestead.

Summary: Kelsea Glynn is the Queen of the Tearling. She was raised away from her mother, the capital city and the life of a queen. When she returns to New London she knows that she has the right to rule but it comes with more challenges than she expects. There are enemies everywhere plotting her downfall. The neighboring Red Queen who has been taking Tear slaves for years, the ministers in her cabinet and even the church leaders have expectations from the new queen but Kelsea is not an ordinary queen. The magical Tear jewel gives Kelsea new powers that she has no idea how to harness. Visions of the Crossing, the exodus from a distant land of advanced technology, begin to invade her mind and show her the vision of what the Tearling was meant to be. As she learns more about the past, the present is creeping in from all sides as the enemies advance on her and her kingdom.

Highlights: The detail is fabulous. Everything is beautifully written and the characters are complex and filled with secrets. You think you know what is going to happen but then it is turned upside down. There are little twists that keeps the reader guessing. I loved the flashbacks. All the books were amazing and highly recommended.

Lowlights: The one problem I had was the time in between reading each book led to me forgetting facts or confusing events and names. There is so much detail that it is hard to remember it all but each book does a good job of summarizing the last and ties it up at the end.

FYI: There is violence, sex, magic and language but it doesn’t deter from the story but only enriches it.