What’s Ashley Reading?: When Women Ruled the World

When Women Ruled the World by Kara Cooney

The cover image is the famous bust of Nefertiti.

First line: In the fifth century B.C., thousands of years after her lifetime, the Greek historian Herodotus wrote about a certain Nitocris, a queen whose husband-brother had been murdered by conspirators.

Summary: Egyptologist Kara Cooney takes us back to Ancient Egypt and the rule of six remarkable female kings. In a time where men ruled everything these women were able to rise to the highest position in the ancient world using their own cunning. Using years of research and her own deductions we look at their rise to power, their reign and their eventual fall from grace.

My Thoughts: Before starting this book I had only heard of three of these female pharaohs: Hatshepsut, Nefertiti and Cleopatra. I was really excited to delve deeper into each of their lives and reigns but I got the extra bonus of learning about three other incredible women from Ancient Egypt. Each of them came to power in different ways. Some through marriage, others religion, and by default as well. Cooney does a fantastic job giving the background of each pharaoh’s dynasty and the events leading up to their reign.

The fact that we know so much about events from 5,000 years ago is astounding to me. The Egyptians left lots of details about the reigns of their monarchs either on monuments, temples or tombs. We are very lucky to have these records. And hopefully over time we will discover more as the search continues for more tombs. I really hope that one day we will find the tomb of Nefertiti!

It has been a dream of mine to visit Egypt and see the pyramids. The thought of walking where these god-kings once did would be awe-inspiring. I have long followed the work of Zahi Hawass, a world renowned Egyptologist, but I think I will keep an eye on Kara Cooney as well. She has another book all about Hatshesput which I hope to read soon.

My one critique is the fact that the author tried to compare current events to Egyptian culture. It did not flow well and it takes you out of the mindset of the facts. I skipped those paragraphs. Luckily they were few and far between.

FYI: If you want a historical fiction book similar to this then try Nefertiti by Michelle Moran.

*This is my pick for #8 (A book by an author who is new to you) in the ReadICT reading challenge.*

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Eleanor of Aquitaine Trilogy

I love to hold a paper book.  There is something about feeling the pages in my hands.  However, sometimes I find I like the convenience of a digital copy.  I can take it with me where ever I am using an app on my phone.  How cool is that?  Plus, we have such a great selection of books available on our Sunflower eLibrary.  The app used to be called Overdrive but is slowly migrating over to Libby by Overdrive.  It is a fantastic upgrade.  Definitely check it out if you enjoy ebooks and audio books.

*This review will be a little different because the library does not own a physical copy but only a digital one that is available on Sunflower eLibrary.*

  Eleanor of Aquitaine Trilogy by Elizabeth Chadwick

1. The Summer Queen

2. The Winter Crown

3. The Autumn Throne

First line: Alienor woke at dawn.

Summary: This is the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine (or Alienor as she is called in the book).  She was married to two kings, one of France and one of England.  She was the mother of kings.  However, she was a duchess in her own right and a very strong and determined woman.  She traveled to the Holy Lands on a crusade.  Through her the Plantagenet dynasty began.  Her life was not all easy, she faced imprisonment, war and death but managed to achieve greatness in the face of it all.

Highlights: I loved this trilogy.  This was my first interaction with Elizabeth Chadwick’s work and I was very impressed.  Chadwick brings Eleanor to life.  She shows what a strong woman she was.  I loved seeing her take on kings and prove that a woman is just as powerful.  The writing is superb.  I will definitely be reading more of her books.

I had heard very little about Eleanor before picking up these books.  As I read I learned so much about her and life in the 12th century.  Her family life was very erratic and messy.  I find it hard to believe how dysfunctional her family was.  Her sons were constantly fighting with one another and their father.  She had to be the peace keeper but also an instigator once in a while.  But I found her fascinating!  I think after Anne Boleyn, Eleanor is my favorite female historical figure.  She did so much, lived a long life and is still remembered nearly 900 years later.

 FYI: This is perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory!

 

Book Review: The Cruel Prince

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

First line: On a drowsy Sunday afternoon, a man in a long dark coat hesitated in front of a house on a tree-lined street.

Summary: After the murder of her parents by a faerie of the High Court, Jude and her sisters are taken back to the land of faery. For years, Jude has trained and wished to be a part of the Court even if she is only human. When the chance arrives in the form of a transition of power, she takes her chance. Entering the world of intrigue, she must outwit her family and the wicked prince, Cardan.

Highlights: This is only the second book by Holly Black that I have read and I definitely know that I will be reading more. Her characters are fantastic. Jude is another kick butt girl in a world where is she is actually considered weak. However, she wants to be a part of the faerie world. And who would not want to be an beautiful immortal? The twists and turns were perfect, leaving the reader shocked and intrigued. There seem to be many books about faeries recently. It is following a growing trend but I think this one will not get lost in the group. I cannot wait to see where the author takes us in the next installment.

Lowlights: It started slow with the introductions and character building but it is worth the wait. Don’t give up on this one too early!

FYI: Book one in the The Folk of the Air series.

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.