Saturday, 23 July 2016

Book Review: Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir!

How do you get me excited about a new series? Promise six books in six years, each detailing the entire life of one of Henry VIII's six wives. That's how Alison Weir has grabbed me hook, line and sinker. Starting with a 600 page account on the wife who he was married to the longest, and changed religion in the UK forever to divorce, Katherine of Aragon.

A Spanish princess. Raised to be modest, obedient and devout. Destined to be an English Queen.

Six weeks from home across treacherous seas, everything is different: the language, the food, the weather. And for her there is no comfort in any of it. At sixteen years-old, Catalina is alone among strangers.

She misses her mother. She mourns her lost brother.
She cannot trust even those assigned to her protection.

So I bought a finished copy of this book, in hardback, despite owning a proof copy because I loved this book so much. I am so excited for this series. The idea of the six hardcopies lined up is the definition of shelf porn, and I wanted to support it in any way I could. I've only bought one other book that I own a proof of before and that was Conquest by Jennifer Ridyard and John Connolly, and I never shut up about that book. This is going to be the same kind of thing. 
While most fictional versions of Henry VIII and his wives only tell the story of the wife when they're married to him, this starts with a sixteen year old Catalina and ends with her death. All the books I've read/ shows and movies I've watched about the era always move the focus onto the next wife as soon as they pass out of Henry's favour. I found myself learning so much about pre-and-post-Henry Katherine despite previously thinking I was knowledgable about the Tudors. I loved this aspect because lets face it, Henry's wives are a heck of a lot more interesting then Henry himself. 

And yes, I say that I was learning because Alison Weir is a historian, has written history books and this is historical fiction based on intense research and the newer theories about Katherine with letters written out verbatim. This was very clearly based in fact. And I will say that while Alison Weir is a very talented historical fiction writer who made reading this six hundred page mammoth a delight, there was only five or six times the writing really stood out as great, rather than just pleasurably readable.

But what I loved most was that it wasn't unbiased and it wasn't omniscient. It was Katherine knowing what little she was told and feeling the way she felt. Her villain was Anne Boleyn, and while reading, I disliked her too! But I know that the next book from Anne's point of view will see Katherine as getting in the way of what she wants. Reading is all about perspective and empathy, and I can't wait to see how I feel when I read about the same time and the same events from the other side. That book cannot come out soon enough. Can you tell I'm excited? I'm so excited.

In the end, I cried over someone who has been dead for 500 years when I reached the last few pages of this book. I'm not religious, but I hope Katherine got something for her devout faith. She was a true Queen in every sense.

"And tell the King that I am ready to obey him in everything save for the obedience I owe to two higher powers- God and my conscience."

Will you be picking this book up? (You should.)

Monday, 18 July 2016

Currently Reading #2

It's that time again where I show you what I'm currently reading and talk about it a little. This is just a relaxed post in case you were remotely interested in my reading habits! I posted #1 about a month ago and those books are still on my 'Currently Reading' on Goodreads but I'm not actively picking them up every day like...

The Harper Connelly omnibus! Honestly, after finishing The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola, I needed something contemporary/ paranormal and something I reliably knew that I would enjoy. I haven't read one of the books in this omnibus since April but I could jump back in no problem. That's just the kind of writer that Charlaine Harris is. I love her. I'm on the third of the four books; An Ice Cold Grave and I think it's my favourite so far.

And The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Yes, the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy that was in my 'Eventually' TBR. Apparently, eventually was three months later. I'm not totally sold on it so far though, I'm like 150 pages in and even though it is really easy to read (it's Middle Grade after all), I just feel like barely anything has happened even with the whole- men can hear thoughts, women are dead thing. Has anyone else read this? Is it worth persevering?

So that's what I'm currently reading! What about you?

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Book Review: The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola!

I seem to be reviewing books where eyes are the main theme lately. First, Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, and now The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola! Maybe it's my subconscious telling me I need to go visit my optician. Luckily, I can see well enough to read and here's what I thought of this new release...

Set in London in 1837, Anna Mazzola's The Unseeing is the story of Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding. 

After Sarah petitions for mercy, Edmund Fleetwood is appointed to investigate and consider whether justice has been done. Idealistic, but struggling with his own demons, Edmund is determined to seek out the truth. Yet Sarah refuses to help him, neither lying nor adding anything to the evidence gathered in court. Edmund knows she's hiding something, but needs to discover just why she's maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone would willingly go to their own death?

The Unseeing took me about a week to read, and not just because Pok√©mon GO has been taking over my life. This book completely beat down my goal of 1000 pages a week because I found myself reading it in short chunks. The problem is dual narrative, it's rare that I can really connect with a character when the chapters are just ten or twenty pages. Both characters were fascinating, I just wanted to spend longer with them and delve into their point of view for longer before moving on. 

And yet, because of the actual storyline, the plot felt padded out. On page 298/360 it says; 'It was not over. It had only just begun.' and I noted this down to see if I would agree later on. I did. The pace picked up, more happened and it felt like a trotting horse just saw a rabbit it wanted to catch. I personally enjoyed the last 60 pages more than the first 300 because it felt like more was actually happening. 

Despite the issues with pacing, I did really want to know what happened and the slow feeding of hints into what happened kept me interested. The thread of intrigue when it came to eyeballs was cleverly done and really brought the past and present in the story together. From the cover I expected something creepy, but it turns out history was scary enough.

Anna Mazzola makes it easy to see how a woman in the 1800s can find herself in a less then ideal situation. The past was horrible and the way women were treated was just disgusting. Sarah's devotion to her son had my heart, and I was routing for George the whole way through. Sarah cared about him, and I ended up caring too. I'd definitely read a sequel to find out how he's doing. 

This fictionalised account of the trial of Sarah Gale is definitely more fiction than fact. The character of Edmund is completely fictional, as is her sister and what is concluded to happen. Taking the story with a grain of salt wouldn't be enough, best bring the whole salt shaker. But if you're interested in the Edgware Road Murder, you might want to check out this version of events. You might just be convinced.

The Unseeing is out now and you can get a copy here!

"'It's a funny expression, isn't it: "fallen woman'? As if women fall by themselves, by accident.' He voice was sharp. 'Most, I think, are pushed'."

Will you be picking up this book?

*I was sent this book to review as part of The Unseeing blog tour!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

My 6 Reading Goals for 2016: 6 Months to Go!

I posted up my 6 Reading Goals for 2016 in January and thought I'd do a little mid-year check in now that it's July! I think it's important to re-visit goals because it's easy to not be able to see the forest for the trees. When you're just picking up book after book you don't always remember that you wanted to read classics, or non-fiction, or whatever. So here are my goals and how I'm doing!

1. Read a couple Non-Fiction books! 
Three! Boom! So far I've read Green River Killer, a graphic novel but a non-fiction one so I'm counting it, I struggled through Hot Feminist by Polly Vernon and I rolled my eyes repeatedly at Fredrick Nietzsche's Aphorisms on Love and Hate. And, y'know, university work is non-fiction. Overall it hasn't been a totally positive experience so I'm not actively looking for non-fiction reads this side of the year.

2. Read a book over 600 Pages!
Does 597 pages count? Because I think it should. Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir blew me away and I know I owe a full review on it but I seriously can't get my head around how much I loved it. Even though it took me a month to read. Probably because of the 597 pages. Plus, according to Goodreads the 20 hour audiobook of American Gods by Neil Gaiman translates into 635 pages?
I'm not sure if I feel this goal is completed but I won't feel bad at the end of the year if this is it.

3. Read a couple classics!
The only classic I've read was my required reading of Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe. My plan to read Catch-22, 1984 or Brave New World hasn't happened- yet!

4. Get rid of some books!
Nope. Not even close. I have swapped a couple on Read it, Swap it and sold a few on eBay but my TBR remains ridiculous.

5. Complete some of the unfinished series on my shelf!
Whelp. Apparently my goal was to halve the amount of unfinished series on my shelf! Well I finished one; the Red Rising trilogy. I've caught up with another; the Kathryn Dance books by Jeffery Deaver. I've been continuing on with the Kitty Norville books by Carrie Vaughn. However, I've also started three new series; the Lux series by Jennifer L Armentrout, the Harper Connolly Omnibus by Charlaine Harris and I'm currently reading the first Chaos Walking book by Patrick Ness that you might remember from my 'Eventually' TBR. In short, I'm failing at this goal.

6. Read 16 books!
Done! I'm at 33 so far which actually isn't that great for me. I read 80 books last year and I was kind of hoping to keep that up. Unfortunately, degree work and classes and all sorts of other nonsense does not a lot of reading time make.

Did you have any 2016 Reading Goals? How are you doing?

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