Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Voices From The Bunker

It has been a little while since I posted anything, mostly because I have been extremely busy writing a thesis. I figured I should get a new book or two in before the New Year!

Voices From the Bunker is an extremely intense book. It's non fiction (of course :) ). The authors are really just arrangers. They dug through manuscripts from Traudl Junge, Hans Baur, and Otto Günsche to come up with this book. These three were with Adolph Hitler on the last days of his life. Junge was a secratary, Baur his pilot, and Günsche his military advisor and friend. This book was extremely difficult to read. It goes into the details of life in the Fuhrer Bunker, Hitler's marriage to Eva Braun, his last will and testament, and his eventual suicide. Thankfully, it didn't delve into the Goebbels Family and that horrific story. But, it did bring to life the feelings in the bunker, how cloistered it felt, and the pressure of impending doom coming from the Russians.

I did do a light of highlighting in this book because I'm using it as research. And for once it's not on my Kindle so I can share page numbers! But I'm only going to share one quote because I thought it was great. A quick set up: Hitler and his "inner circle" are returning to Berlin from his summer home. They are planning on settling down in the Reich Chancellery and the bunker below. The Allies (America, Great Britain, France etc), have just broken through the German front on the Western Border and the Soviets have just decimated a German garrison in Hungary and are moving into the Eastern side of German. Traudle Junge quotes, "We joked that Berlin was the ideal spot for his headquarters, as it would soon be possible to travel from the Eastern to the Western Front by subway." (pg 136). I think this quote shows how desperate the German situation was becoming. Unfortunately for the German civilians, it would get a lot worse.

This book was really good because I feel like it showed a different side of things. Academically, there are thousands of books about Hitler and the Third Reich. But this book was from his close confidants. Mind you, Hitler still isn't shown in a good light. Junge talks about her disgust for what he had done often. She also mentions how his suicide completely left the German people abandoned and how selfish it was for him to do that. But I think it's good to look at someone from a different perspective. No matter how you slice it, Hitler was an evil man. But he was still a man. This book shows that.

You can get the book here. I recommend it if you have any interest in this period of history.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Crimson Petal and The White; The Apple

Why am I reviewing two books in one go?? I'll tell ya why. Because you can't not read The Apple after reading The Crimson Petal and The White. Michael Faber wrote a wonderfully brilliant novel that led me through 800 pages of awesomeness, only to drop me off in the middle of nowhere. I fell in love with the characters and felt so sad when the book ended because.. well, there wasn't much of an end. Then I discovered The Apple. Faber followed up TCPatW with a great little novella of short stories. I finally found out what happened to the characters that I felt so connected to.
The Crimson Petal starts with a prostitute. Now, Faber does a great job of bringing you into the world of Victorian England with great language, an easy story telling narrative, and scandal. The prostitute we start with isn't a main character, but she does show up a few more times. The main character is a girl named Sugar. Yes, she is a prostitute. But she is such a likable prostitute. You can't help but fall in love with this woman on her journey. She meets a somewhat down in the world William Rackham who turns his fortunes around to give Sugar whatever she wants. 800 pages may seem like a HUGE book, and yes it is. But it is such a great read that you probably won't notice the size. I read this book as slow as I could because I wanted to savor every moment of it. The Apple was much the same way, although much much shorter. I highly recommend both of these. However, reader be warned!! If you are easily offended by sexual things in books, I don't suggest you read this. It IS about a prostitute after all. But it will give you an interesting look into the world of prostitution back in Victorian London.

You can get TCPatW here. The Apple can be seen here. Both are fantastic. I would recommend snuggling up to a fire and having a good snack on hand to read these!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To Hold the Crown

This isn't my first Jean Plaidy book. She wrote under several pseudonyms but probably the best one is Jean Plaidy. A lot of people who are attracted to the Tudors tend to gravitate towards her since she has written so much about them. I must be a total weirdo, because I cannot get into her writing. Mostly I feel like I'm being talked down to while I read her stuff. Well, I had decided that even though I didn't like the other book of hers I had read (Murder Most Royal), I needed to give her another shot. It's hard to judge harshly on an author if you have only read one of their books. Well, To Hold the Crown wasn't any better and a book that should have taken me days to read ended up taking me weeks. I learned a little, but grumbled a LOT about trying to finish this book.

To Hold the Crown is the story of Henry VII. If you go look at the synopsis, Elizabeth of York is touted as a main character, but Henry dominated for the most of the book. It told very little of their story together and Elizabeth is treated as a brood mare for the large majority of the book. When she dies, I felt nothing for her character. I wasn't sad because I hadn't known her at all throughout the book.

My biggest problem with this book was the editing. Whoever sent it to print, didn't do a great job. The letter "c" randomly popped up in the most weird words (ex matcurity). My second biggest problem was how she treated young Henry VIII. Now the ladies over at Goodreads in the Tudor History Lovers group will tell you that I am a staunch Henry VIII supporter. I feel that while he wasn't a great person in his later years, his younger years are often overshadowed by some of the misdeeds he had done. That being said, Jean Plaidy wrote a 12 year old Henry VIII like he was a blood thirsty womanizer, who wanted nothing more than to count the heads on London Bridge and constantly get his own way. Henry apparently wanted to take the crown at the tender age of 3 from his older brother who he felt wasn't suited for the job. Now I realize this is historical fiction. But seriously, make it a little bit believable for me.

I have a couple of quotes, but I'll just cull it down to one. This particular quote deals with the mother of Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth Woodville. Woodville's husband was Edward IV, a yorkist king who died leaving the contention of the crown in an awkward standing. Edward had been a heavy drinker, partier, and he loved sex. He had several mistresses. In this quote, Woodville is talking about the relief she felt in his mistresses. In Woodville's own words (again don't have pages because I'm reading from a Kindle) "Not that she ever attempted to (get rid of any mistresses) for she had been secretly glad that there were other women to cater for his insatiable sexuality." Now, I don't know about you, but if my man was off with other women, there is no way I'd be secretly glad. Maybe that's just me? It didn't ring true for me.

For those of you who are Plaidy fans, the book can be found here. Other people have mentioned a liking towards her style of writing, but as for me, I think I can now officially say that I don't think I'll be reading another one of her books for a very very long time.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Confessions of Catherine de Medici

So, I finished this book a couple of days ago, but I've been a little preoccupied to write about it. Confessions of Catherine de Medici follows the story of Catherine from the time she is a little girl up to her death. After reading Wolf Hall, this book was a breath of fresh air. It was nice to ease into a book that didn't require my full brain power. C. W. Gortner is a brilliant writer and I really look forward to delving into some of his other books. I really felt Catherine's hatred towards Diane de Poitiers, her husband's mistress. And the inner turmoil of Catherine was written in such an interesting way that I couldn't put the book down (I had to sneak peeks at it during work!!). I had had apprehensions about a man writing a story from a woman's view, especially one such as Catherine after reading a review on Amazon. However, all I can say is that C.W. got it right, and I feel the reviewer was incredibly unfair towards him. You can get the book here. I highly recommend it! It's a beautiful book!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wolf Hall

This book was a beast of epic proportions. I don't know if I can recommend this book to people who don't know much about the Tudors. It'll have you diving for facts and wondering who the main players are. Thankfully, the Tudors are one of my favorite royal families, so the fact diving was kept to a minimum. I also read it on my Kindle which was a Godsend when I wanted to highlight something. I'll share a couple of my favorite passages with you.
Unfortunately, since I did read this on my Kindle, I can't give you specific page numbers.

This quote is Thomas Cromwell (the main character) talking about Anne Boleyn, the King's new love interest. Just some quick background info.... Anne Boleyn became Henry VIII's second wife after his divorce from Katherine of Aragon. She was a liberal Catholic, meaning she leaned a bit more Protestant than most in a time when Catholicism was king. She was the mother of Elizabeth I. And, due to smear campaigns, it is said she had a sixth finger (never ever been proven). The author, Mantel, uses this rumor in such a great way in this book. Anne had developed these huge sleeves and hid her hands in them (hence the sixth finger rumor). Cromwell is referring to her habit of doing this in this quote:
"It is so much a habit with her that people say she has something to hide, a deformity; but he thinks she is a woman who doesn't like to show her hand."
Another favorite quote that doesn't require more info:
"Well,' Rafe says, 'let us run up and down Cheap: Thomas Cramner has a secret, we don't know what it is!'"
"Tell him to go north, or I will come where his is and tear him with my teeth!'
'May I substitute the word 'bite?'"

And the last quote that I really liked isn't really funny but just good. Cromwell is talking about Thomas More (the famous author of Utopia) and how he will use his connections on the Continent to make it seem like More is the victim in all the proceedings against him (it's extraordinarily complicated, and I can't give enough information here. A couple good sites to go to get more info would be or the Goodreads Tudor Group.)
"And sending it out of the kingdom to be printed. Depend upon it, in the eyes of Europe, we will be the fools and oppressors, and he will be the poor victim with the better turn of phrase."

I seriously cannot recommend this book enough. It won the Man Booker Award in 2009. Let me warn you, it's incredibly difficult to get into. Just bear in mind that most of the "he"'s in the book are Cromwell and it should be an easier read. Once I had figured this out, I couldn't put the book down! You can find it here, complete with other reviews!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Sunne in Splendour

This book was a MASTERPIECE!! I absolutely fell in love with Sharon Kay Penman's Richard III. This is the story of the last of the Plantagenets and the rise of the Tudors in 15th century England. This is a massive novel, but so worth the time it takes to read.

The book starts with a young Richard III and his brothers cavorting around a forest. The story follows the trouble of Edward IV and his journey to the throne, all the while being helped by his brother Richard. It's about the culmination of the War of the Roses (Lancaster and York), the rise and fall of Richard, the start of the Tudor dynasty. A bear of a book, but so emotionally involved that I had to take a couple of days off of reading when I had finished. I love when a book will make me cry, and Penman's writing ability is amazing!!

Marie Antoinette: The Journey

I picked this book up last January because I really liked the cover. I know, never judge a book by it's cover, but c'mon!!! You can't tell me that a pretty cover doesn't draw you in!! The author, Antonia Fraser, has written another one of my favorite books The Wives of Henry VIII, so I already knew I liked her writing style. Needless to say, when I started the book, I was disappointed. None of the pizazz of her other book seemed to be present in this one. I love it when I'm wrong about a book. Not only was this one of the best books I've read all year, it is written in such a way that you begin to feel like you are reading a novel rather than an historical biography.

This book was the inspiration for the movie Marie Antoinette with Kirsten Dunst. The movie couldn't be further from the book. I didn't enjoy it at all. The book was INFINITELY better!!
It starts with Marie Antoinette's childhood. Personally, I'm more interested in the French Revolution story of her than her childhood, which could be the reason why I didn't like the beginning of the book. Regardless, Fraser gives a very detailed account of what life was like for Antoine (as she was known before she went to France) in Austria. The story of her life continues with the tragic culmination of her execution by the guillotine. After spending 300+ pages with Marie Antoinette, I felt a weird sense of loss. Of course, if you know the history of her life, you know what is coming in the book, but it still was a incredibly moving moment.

I highly recommend this book, as it gives great detail to Marie's life, an interesting insight into what she lived through, and the reality that she was a woman who was one of the many casualties of Madame Guillotine.

Reading books

I read constantly. Reading is a great escape. When you delve into a good book, it can take you anywhere in the world. I've been reading books since I was four years old, and I haven't stopped!! When I read a really fantastic book, I have to talk about it to someone, anyone. Most of my friends don't read, or if they do, the books they pick up aren't something that I would read. So what did I do?? Create a blog! Where I can talk about different books I have read, get opinions from others, and share my genuine love of books and knowledge.

I'm really into history, so a lot of what I read revolves around different parts of history that I enjoy. I also read a lot of random things. I'm a member of the Good Reads community, and if you are really into books, I suggest heading over there and joining up!

This year, I have presented a challenge to myself: read 60 books by the end of December. I'm currently working on my 37th. So, I have a lot of material to start blogging about!!!