Saturday, 14 April 2018

Book Review: Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession by Alison Weir!

When I finished Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen I was convinced. Yes, she was the true Queen. And Anne Boleyn? Nope, I did not like her and never would, she was the villain of the story. Well- obviously Henry VIII is the villain but Anne Boleyn was a minor villain and while not deserving of being beheaded, wasn't going to get my sympathy. Well, enter Alison Weir and A King's Obsession! By the end of this, I ended up crying for a Queen long since dead. Again.




It is the spring of 1527. Henry VIII has come to Hever Castle in Kent to pay court to Anne Boleyn. He is desperate to have her. For this mirror of female perfection, he will set aside his Queen and all Cardinal Wolsey’s plans for a dynastic French marriage.

Anne Boleyn is not so sure. She loathes Wolsey for breaking her betrothal to the Earl of Northumberland’s son, Harry Percy, whom she had loved. She does not welcome the King’s advances; she knows that she can never give him her heart.

But hers is an opportunist family. And whether Anne is willing or not, they will risk it all to see their daughter on the throne…


Oh, Anne Boleyn. Did you know that decapitation isn't an immediate death? I went on a Google deep-dive after this and science has some buck wild thoughts on the matter. I totally cannot un-read some of the details of experiments. But, even before this terrible end, I was feeling sorry for Anne Boleyn. She wants to marry for love, against her father's wishes, and ends up with just the worst man so that the family can gain points. Reading her whole story from childhood, you connect with her as a character and it feels all the more brutal when she's treated so badly.

There's also the blending of contemporary ideas with the thoughts of the time. Anne was surrounded by women leaders and was a strong independent woman who thought that women could rule. She was taught- at least in this fictionalised world- that she had the feminine power to flirt and lead men that way. This endeared me to her and I just wanted her to get a happy ending, goshdarnit. The author's note goes into feminism in 16th Century Europe and the women leaders Anne served, and it's so so interesting.

And that Author's Note. Obviously, any historical fiction is going to be that, fiction. But Weir's Author's Note at the end of these books show the detail of research and are often the most interesting part of the read for me- these books are fantastic so this isn't a slight. I just love reading about how she went about writing. There is much less source material to use when it comes to Anne, in comparison to Katherine, and a lot of the material comes from a hostile source. This just makes the depth of the story all the more impressive.

Alison Weir continues to amaze me. She completely turned my opinion on Anne around, my emotions were all over the place and even with 500+ pages, I always want more when it comes to this series.

-she added her name, so that anyone finding the inscription in years to come would know who had written it. By then she would either be famous or forgotten.

Have you read any good books about Anne Boleyn?

Saturday, 7 April 2018

What's your Favourite Book? Feat. Rebecca Reads!

Welcome back to my cruel, cruel interview series where I ask book people the most difficult question of all- what's your favourite book? I've loved seeing everyones reaction to Jenny's answer and I love Beckys answer. I think it's fascinating how people answer this question and the reasonings they have behind their choices.

Becky blogs over at Rebecca Reads with a focus on childrens literature as she is a trainee teacher. I think this is such a wonerfully unique perspective, as most people reading this age group probably don't spend as much time around so many different kids. I know when I read MG, I haven't got a clue what kids these days would think! So, Becky, what's your favourite book?



Becky: As a reader, whenever someone asks me the question, what is your favourite book? I panic. It’s one of the most difficult questions you could ask me. It’s like asking a parent who is their favourite child! So when faced with this question for this blog post, I had a really long think about my answer. So I decided to narrow it down a little more, to just children’s literature. And how could I choose between two?

As a trainee teacher, I love reading children’s literature, and over the past couple of years it’s brought me so much joy! I have two favourites in children’s literature, Wonder by R.J Palacio and The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange.



I first discovered Wonder 2 years ago thanks to Twitter! I thought it sounded interesting and I very quickly added it to my tbr list! It’s about a boy called Auggie, who has a facial disfigurement and is going to school for the first time. The book follows his early experiences in school and how those around him react to this transition. I love this book, because it covers such unique and difficult topics to discuss with children, but in a way that makes it more accessible for them and allows them to connect with a character who is experiencing difficulties. The lessons that can be learnt from this book are immense! You can read a full review here.



The other book, the secret of Nightingale Wood, is a book about a young girl, Henry, in 1919 who has experienced great loss and her father has gone away for work. She is at home with her mother, who is seriously ill. Doctor Hardy wants to take care of her, but Henry suspects that the doctor isn’t treating her mother correctly. Then she discovers that there is a fire lit in the woods just beyond her house, which may hold all the answers she needs. I again loved this book because it dealt with such difficult topics, such as loss and mental health, but in an accessible way. Lucy’s writing style is so lovely and the book flows really well. You can read a full review here

I have never really had favourites in other genres, I don’t know why, I just don’t think I’ve found ‘that book’ yet. The one that really sticks with me and I want to re-read constantly. Obviously Harry Potter is another favourite, and whilst I watch the films all the time, I don’t have the urge to constantly re-read the books, maybe the length puts me off a little!



As a child, my favourites were the famous five series by Enid Blyton, I couldn’t get enough of her books, and constantly re-read them, but now I struggle to get into them as much, maybe it’s because the writing style is quite old fashioned, and I’m used to a more modern writing style. My favourite books are ever changing. Who knows if these two books will be my favourite this time next year?

Make sure to check out Becky's wonderful blog here and her Twitter too! I'm definitely going to have to pull out my old Enid Blyton books, she was such an influence on my childhood so I wonder if I'll still like them now!

What do you think of Beckys choices? Were you an Enid Blyton fan?

Monday, 2 April 2018

Fostering: The Kittens of Wildfell Hall!

I tend to focus on books when it comes to my blog, but today I want to take a minute and talk about something that goes hand in hand with books- Cats! More specifically, the first foster cats that I had for longer than 24 hours. You can read about that experience and what I learned here! But if you love pictures of cats, this is the post for you.



So, let me introduce to you: The Kittens of Wildfell Hall. Gilbert and Esther were named for characters from my favourite book of 2017, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë.






I fostered Gilbert and Esther after they were spayed/ neutered for a little over a month before a place opened up for them in the nearby Cats Protection adoption centre. My task was to socialise them because they had been feral for the first six months of their lives. Feral life is not easy. Along with finding food, unless these ferals are TNR'd (trap, neuter, return) they won't be vaccinated and will constantly be reproducing. Not to mention that around 80% of feral kittens die in their first year.

Socialisation is a sooner-the-better kind of deal. It takes longer the longer they're out there and not interacting with humans. And the general idea is that six months is about when it stops being effective. So Gilbert and Esther got taken in just in time, the vet that neutered them aged them at about six months! It's actually pretty lucky that Esther wasn't pregnant as cats can start reproducing at four months.



It was a long and tough journey socialising these two. Esther was much more amiable and loved to play, but Gilbert was frightened half to death by humans. He spent the first few days hidden under a side table in the corner, creeping out for food and occasionally batting at the toys. I even heard him having a nightmare one night, whining in a way that made my heart break.

But persistence, spending every spare second holding and stroking, and even hand-feeding (jelly cat food is gross to touch) softened up both of them to the point where I think both of them could be definied as lap cats! When they were taken to the adoption centre, I'll admit, I shed a tear! I was constantly refreshing their pages on the site, keeping an eye on the centre's Facebook and double-checking my emails. In the end, they were adopted seperately.



Esther is now called Dotty. Her adopter was lovely and sent me a couple updates. She has settling in nicely and they adore her. She'll always be Esther to me though!



Gilbert took a little longer to be adopted. They found a heart murmer at the vet check that happens when a cat is taken in to the adoption centre. You can imagine that a pre-existing condition, unable to be covered by insurance, can be a major consideration for someone! He was eventually adopted, but not before I was seriously considering foster failing (a term for when you just can't give them up).

So that was my experience with the Kittens of Wildfell Hall! I'll be posting a little more about cats I foster but don't worry, lots of book posts too!
Aren't they just the cutest? 

Friday, 23 March 2018

Books I Read in February!

February was a weird reading month for me, in that I read a lot but I stopped getting a lot of feelings from reading about half-way through the month. As you can imagine, that kind of pumps the brakes. But this had me testing out a lot of different genres and continuing series, starting new series and jumping around which can be fun.



The Fear Within by J. S. Law*
I really liked the first book in this series; Tenacity. I felt that the female main character was written wonderfully, the plot worked for me and there was LGBT+ representation in a military setting which- yay! The Fear Within was good but didn't hit all the high spots of Tenacity.
The plot was great and while the links to the first book were a little heavy-handed, I can see where the narrative is going with that overarching plotline while the book deals with a new case. And Dani was as wonderful as she was in book one.
However, I felt like this slipped into gratuitous violence, specifically towards women. The characters talk openly about Feminism and even reference the misogyny rife on Twitter so I don't think this is the issue. I think it's just a norm in this genre that women are often victims of physical and sexual assault. But I'm not really sensitive to these kinds of things, so for me to feel uncomfortable- that's quite a level to reach.
I'll read the next book, but I'll definitely be going with my guard up.
"If I want to hear childish, misogynist crap like this I'll go and speak my mind on Twitter."

I have to say, I didn't find the cast of characters that breifly inhabit Blandings Castle as charming as the ones from Something Fresh, which I read in January. But the wit and charm of Wodehouse stay constant and is super refreshing. I can't think of any modern books that quite manage the same vibe and it's genuinely calming. When I want a book that isn't life-and-death, with low stakes but great plot, Wodehouse is my new go-to.
Situated in the middle of one of those districts where London breaks out into a sort of eczema of red brick-

Recently I've been un-hauling a lot of the series I read as a teen because I tended towards not-great YA. It turns out that teen-Imogen had some taste after all though because, while I'm pretty sure I only read one of these books, I bought eight of them. And they're not half bad!
The whole thing is very mid-2000s. You get words like 'skank' and the idea of 'girl games'. But even though she sees it as 'abnormal', I like having a narrator that loves school and learning. She's smart and her intelligence is useful in a way that makes her a strong female character without having her take on male sterotypes of strength.
For the second time since starting my Twitter thread of 2017 reads, this was a book I originally gave four-stars and marked down to three while writing my wrap-up and thinking it over. I'll still read the next one but whether I buy into the whole 15-book series is hanging on that. I don't want anymore women called skanks, but I do want to dive into more of Rachel Caine.
She resented being scared in a library! Books weren't supposed to be scary. They were supposed to... help.

Full review coming soon!



I've really liked Katherine Clements historical fiction books in the past! The Crimson Ribbon and The Silvered Heart were my first foray into the genre and convinced me to keep giving it a chance. But The Coffin Path is a historical ghost story and maybe historical ghost stories aren't for me... For example, I didn't like The Woman in Black by Susan Hill at all. And while I liked this better, it wasn't something I was reaching for whenever I had a free minute. The setting and vibe were great, super creepy, but I didn't click with the characters or plot that much.
Although this is set in Yorkshire, my Greater Manchester town got a mention for being rebels against the King. That was pretty neat.
The truth weighs heavy on my. If only my purse did the same.


Oh boy, I cried. I don't think I've read this one since the original release day so it was kind of wild to listen to the audiobook for the first time. Stephen Fry could read the phone book and make it wonderful.
As for the story, I'd say everything was resolved okay but, much like the ending of Lost, I'm not sure I completely get it? But the whole book felt much more densely plotted, full of action and emotion, it didn't drag like some of the other books in the series. I feel like JKR knew exactly what needed to happen to get from A to B and that was a lot. So it was all packed in.
Overall, I'm glad that I've gone from start to finish with this series as an adult. But I have a lot of complicated feelings about the diversity, or lack of, and seperation of author and story can be hard.
There was a brief silence in which the distant sound of Hagrid smashing down a wooden door seemed to reverbarate through the intervening years.


What did you read in February?

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