Bookends | #015

Malice by John GwynneSpring is finally here and the pretty, pretty sunshine and blue skies are making my days far more joyful than the constant grey clouds. Although, with the pretty sunshine, my reading has suffered. I’ve been enjoying walking outside during my lunch breaks and evenings rather than settling in with my books.

That said, I do have a few to chat about. The weekend was gloomy after all…  Continue reading “Bookends | #015”

Autumn Recommendations: Historical Fiction

As an historian, it is no surprise that I love historical fiction. I love how easy it is to learn about the past and the life it gives to well known characters of our past. I particularly enjoy reading about periods I know little about as once I have finished I will go and look up the actual events and learn more. It is safe to say I’m happiest when reading stories set in the past, even when reading fantasy I prefer it to be set in some feudal land. I love Kings and Queens, and battles with swords/axes/arrows, not guns and cannons. Here are a three I have really enjoyed in the past year. Continue reading “Autumn Recommendations: Historical Fiction”

Giordano Bruno Series by SJ Parris – A Review

Published by Harper

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

NB: This picture is missing the first novel in this series, Heresy, but my review stands for all of them. 

Set in Elizabethan England, Giordano Bruno is an ex-Dominican Monk who was excommunicated for reading Erasmus and his controversial beliefs such as stating that the Earth orbits the sun. Handsome and charming, Bruno is soon taken under Elizabeth I’s spycatcher Sir Francis Walsingham’s wing as he has a penchant for finding trouble, and discovering the gruesome truth behind it.

Continue reading “Giordano Bruno Series by SJ Parris – A Review”

The Winter Crown by Elizabeth Chadwick – A Review

 

Published in 2014, 483 pp, Sphere 

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

The second installment of Elizabeth Chadwick’s Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy, The Winter Crown opens in the winter of 1154. Eleanor is married to the young Henry FitzEmpress, son of Geoffrey of Anjou, the father of the Plantagenet dynasty, and Empress Matilda, heiress of the English throne, and is playing the part of child bearer well. Whilst Chadwick’s first novel, The Summer Queen,  focuses on young Eleanor, this one portrays Eleanor the woman. We have seen her overcome many hardships and flee from an unhappy marriage for the love of a young, feisty suitor. However, not long after the honeymoon period wears off, we see that young Henry is a force to be reckoned with. He has the Plantagenet temper and refuses to share power. He is desperate to claim his birth right; the English throne, and will do whatever it takes to get it. This leaves Eleanor alone to raise the children she bears him and to stew over the fact she is no longer in her homeland the Duchy of Aquitaine.

Continue reading “The Winter Crown by Elizabeth Chadwick – A Review”

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse – A Review

Published in 2015, 694pp, Orion 

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

I’ve been eyeing this up all year and I finally took the plunge. The story is set in Carcassonne in 1209 and in 2005, intertwining the lives of Alais Pelletier du Mas and Alice Tanner. Normally, I avoid books set across multiple time periods as I tend to find them poorly linked and unbelievable, but this one *thankfully* is utterly breathtaking – and I am so glad I finally picked it up.

Beautifully written, the narrative slips between the lives of the two heroines, one life echoing the other. Alais’ story begins in Carcassonne, an impressive fortress city in the south of France on the cusp of the Fourth Crusade. Continue reading “Labyrinth by Kate Mosse – A Review”

Monarch Series: Empress Dowager Cixi

Fact File

 

  • Name: Empress Dowager Cixi
  • DOB: 29th November 1835
  • DOD: 15th November 1908
  • Reign: 1861-1908 China – Qing dynasty

 

Rise to Royalty

At just 16 Cixi was chosen to become a concubine for Emperor Xianfeng. She started as a third-grade concubine but rose to secondary consort to the Emperor after the son she bore him turned one – she was the only concubine that bore him a male heir. At the age of thirty, Emperor Xianfeng died and Cixi’s five year old son became Emperor Tongzhi.

On his deathbed, Xianfeng had set up an eight-man regency group to rule China after his death. It is believed this is due to his mistrust of Cixi and his belief that she would meddle in affairs of state. If this is true, he had every right to be wary. Continue reading “Monarch Series: Empress Dowager Cixi”

Versatile Blogger Award

Versatile Blogger AwardHello everyone! Hope you are all enjoying your Sunday. I’m just trying to relax and recover after completing the Cambridge Half Marathon this morning! I still can’t believe I did it, and we managed to raise over £1000 for Cancer Research UK which is of course, fantastic.

Anyway, I have been nominated for The Versatile Blogger award by Continue reading “Versatile Blogger Award”

Monarch Series: Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great was born the daughter of a German Prince on 2nd May 1729 and died in 1796 as the Empress of Russia. Catherine’s reign is often referred to as the Golden Age of Russia as she successfully expanded her borders, maintained friendly relations with Europe’s leading powers, encouraged Enlightened thinkers and won strategic battles. Many believe the myth that she died during an intimate moment with a horse which stems from her active sex life,yet she did far more for Russia than produce court gossip…

Continue reading “Monarch Series: Catherine the Great”

Monarch Series: Isabella of Castile

Inspired by my b.e.a.u.tiful Rifle Paper & Co desk calendar, I will be dedicating a post every month to one of the fabulous female leaders portrayed in said calendar. Some posts may be a list of facts, others myth busting or perhaps even an article about their life/achievements. I’m not too sure at the moment, I’ll have to see how each ruler strikes me! I may even throw some male rulers in too, just to spice things up a bit! Anyway, watch this space.

This month is dedicated to the formidable Isabella of Castile, who held the Crown of Castile from 1474 – 1504. Mother of the famous Katherine of Aragon and one half of the Spanish Catholic Kings, Isabella is known for reviving and uniting Spain after her brother and predecessor depleted its coffers.

Continue reading “Monarch Series: Isabella of Castile”

Dissolution – A Review

Wow. C J Sansom’s first novel in his Shardlake series is excellent. A murder mystery set in the turbulent years after Anne Boleyn’s execution and when the dissolution of corrupt monastic houses was underway, Sansom depicts a vivid world with larger than life characters.

Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer and a reformist and as such, trusted by Thomas Cromwell. Having orchestrated the fall of Henry VIII’s second and most controversial queen Cromwell had turned to rooting out papists and ensuring all holy houses swore an oath of loyalty to the king’s supremacy over their church. The murder of one of his commissioners in a monastery in Kent could draw unwanted attention and suspicion over the desired submission of the house. Enter Shardlake. In Cromwell’s favour and eager to prove his loyalty to the Vicar-General, Shardlake is dispatched along with his ward Mark Poer to seek the truth of the commissioner’s murder quickly and efficiently. However, as soon as he arrives it is clear the monastery at Scarnsea holds many secrets and lies.

Like any good murder mystery everyone is under suspicion and many clues point to different culprits. As the days pass more scandalous events occur that keep you guessing at what exactly had happened. I gasped so many times while reading and i was desperate to learn who the murderer was. The protagonist was endearing and likeable, Sansom certainly created an unforgettable narrator. He cleverly intertwines factual events with current historical theories into his fictional plot with ease. The writing was a joy to read and the expert descriptions plunge readers into the tumultuous sixteenth century.

I recommend this for anyone who enjoys historical fiction and whodunnit murder mysteries. It is not quite as fast paced as perhaps more stereotypical plots in the genre but it fits with the Shardlake’s character and the period in which it is set.

Devoured this in two sittings and cannot wait to go and buy the second in the series, Dark Fire!

5 stars.