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 Haunted Queen

Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir

First line: “A health to the bride!”

Summary: Jane Seymour is the daughter of knight. With aspirations of becoming a nun, she did not consider that life at court was in her future. However, when her plans to join a nunnery change she joins the household of Queen Katherine, the wife of Henry VIII. Jane is devoted to the queen so when a maid of honor, Anne Boleyn, starts to attract the king, Jane must decide where her loyalties lie. When Anne becomes queen, Jane is forced to serve her. As Anne’s power wanes the king’s eye begins to stray. Jane becomes the focus of his attention and his future queen.

Highlights: Weir’s portrayal of Jane Seymour is the best one I have read. Jane is a very boring queen. She has very little time to establish herself in history but what we know of her is that she was meek and obedient. At least this is what we assume but in The Haunted Queen we get a little bit of fire injected in to her character. She has opinions, thoughts and questions. Even though she is afraid to voice them, we as the reader get a look into her mind and see more than the quiet mouse she is remembered as.

Lowlights: I felt that more of the book was centered around Anne Boleyn (who is my favorite of Henry’s wives). We see the events unfold through Jane’s eyes but not much about Jane herself. Which leaves a small portion at the end of story to center around her time as queen.

FYI: Weir does a great job so far on each of the queens. Check out Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen and Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession to read the first two books in the series.

Book Review: The Last Tudor

The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory

First line: I love my father because I know that he will never die.

Summary: The story of the three Grey sisters, heirs to the throne of England. The story is broken into three parts following each of the sisters as they struggle to survive during the reign of their Tudor cousins. Jane is named Queen of England on the death of her cousin, King Edward VI. However, her reign lasts only nine days. Katherine is a young beauty who can only think of love and becoming the heir to the throne. Mary, an invisible member of the court is constantly watching and learning from the mistakes of her sisters.

Highlights: I loved the flow of the narrative. This story felt more like Gregory’s earlier novels. It was more novel than facts and occurrences. I had recently become more interested in the Grey sisters. It was great to have my favorite author cover their lives and loves.

Lowlights: Elizabeth was portrayed as a very vindictive woman. I am sure that she had many faults but part of me wants to continue to think of her as the great queen.

FYI: Long book but very good.

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: 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.