Godiva by Nicole Galland – Book Review

Godiva by Nicole Galland
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins

The story of Lady Godiva riding through town naked to relieve her people’s unfair taxation has long been a part of popular mythology. Nicole Galland re-imagines this history and brings Godiva brilliantly to life. Her Godiva is a feisty woman, someone who is motivated not onlywere by her pride, but by loyalty to the people she loves and a strong sense of right and wrong.

I found Galland’s version of Godiva and her story to be very convincing. Both Godiva’s character and the plot itself are very well developed, so that the fact of her riding through town makes sense from both directions.

As always, Galland paints a vivid historical picture and provides a compelling view of the past.

Note: I began this book in audio and initially really enjoyed Emma Jayne Appleyard’s narration, and particularly getting to hear pronunciation of pre-Norman British names. About 1/3 of the way through there was a period of a few minutes where I could hear some mouth noises. As I had already abandoned another audiobook that day for excessive mouth noises, I had no patience to continue and switched to the print copy I already had. If the noise abates relatively quickly I think the audio would actually be the better choice because of the way Appleyard brought Godiva to life and for the aforementioned pronunciations.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.

 

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The White Princess by Philippa Gregory – Mini Book Review

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory
Published by Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Hey guys, I don’t really have time to write much this week, but The White Princess came out a week ago already and I wanted to give you some quick thoughts. This is a continuation of Philippa Gregory’s Cousins’ War series (I previously reviewed the following other books in the series: The White Queen, The Red Queen, The Lady of the Rivers, The Kingmaker’s Daughter, and the nonfiction companion Women of the Cousins’ War). In this book she focuses on the eldest daughter of Edward IV, the wife of Henry Tudor (Henry VII), and the mother of Henry VIII, Elizabeth of York. If you want more information about what is contained in the story, you can see the feature I wrote about it for the SheKnows Book Lounge.

A couple thoughts:

  • Gregory’s Elizabeth was in love with her uncle, Richard III and, in fact, even carried on a love affair with him (before this book begins, obviously, since he is dead by the opening pages). This is not outside the realm of possibility, since there were rumors at the time he was planning to marry her. However, I thought we were reminded of this fact just a little too often at the beginning of the book, where seemingly every mention of Richard was followed by something along the lines of “my lover.” Luckily that went away before too long, particularly as Elizabeth began to find her way in her marriage to Henry Tudor.
  • What makes The White Princess really special is the level of conflict Gregory introduces that is internal to Elizabeth. She finds herself stuck initially between her mother (and her missing or dead brothers who should have inherited the throne) and her husband. This may not seem like such a conundrum as she didn’t exactly marry for love, but once she has a son who is set to inherit the throne from her husband, Elizabeth’s life becomes much more difficult. There are so many rebellions and pretenders to the throne around and Elizabeth has to work out for herself where her loyalties truly lie. Although this is a major theme, each time it is presented in a new enough way that it doesn’t seem redundant, just ever more heartbreaking for Elizabeth.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.

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Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant – Audiobook Review

Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant, narrated by Edoardo Ballerini
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Random House

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

By the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty and creativity of Italy is matched by its brutality and corruption, nowhere more than in Rome and inside the Church. When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy as Alexander VI, he is defined not just by his wealth or his passionate love for his illegitimate children, but by his blood: He is a Spanish Pope in a city run by Italians. If the Borgias are to triumph, this charismatic, consummate politician with a huge appetite for life, women, and power must use papacy and family – in particular, his eldest son, Cesare, and his daughter Lucrezia – in order to succeed.

Cesare, with a dazzlingly cold intelligence and an even colder soul, is his greatest – though increasingly unstable – weapon. Later immortalized in Machiavelli’s The Prince, he provides the energy and the muscle. Lucrezia, beloved by both men, is the prime dynastic tool. Twelve years old when the novel opens, hers is a journey through three marriages, and from childish innocence to painful experience, from pawn to political player.

Thoughts on the story:

The Borgias rival the Tudors as one of the most dramatic families of the European Renaissance. Dunant approaches the family with a very literary and somewhat reserved bent. In the early pages of Blood and Beauty I worried that I would have a difficult time getting into the book because Dunant keeps the reader very distant from her characters. I need not have worried, though. Dunant tells the story of the Borgias beautifully and with such reality and tension that even knowing the history and where all of their lives were headed, I was completely rapt.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Edoardo Ballerini. You guys. He’s fabulous. Like, he’s just really fabulous. I’ve got a serious audio crush on him now. Every part of his performance is masterful.

Overall:

Amazing. The book, the audio edition, all of it. Read it or, even better, listen.

For more information, see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher

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The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan – Book Review

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
Published by Knopf, an imprint of Random House

In 1947, Frances Gerety needs just one more thing for the advertising campaign she’s working on. Just a signature line for the De Beers account. Hastily, in the middle of the night and desperate for sleep, Frances jots down a short phrase: A Diamond is Forever. Gerety’s story, that of a woman who is single by choice and helps create the “tradition” of the diamond engagement ring is set against the story of three different families with three very different relationships.

The Engagements is a beautifully written exploration of love, marriage, and the association diamonds now have with both of those things. All four sets of lives – Gerety and the three families – feel incredibly realistic, showcasing many of the difficulties of marriage, as well as the unique nature of any individual marriage.

I loved The Engagements. Loved it! I started reading it at a time when I only had a few minutes to read it each day and that made it a little difficult to get into, what with the four rotating story lines. Once I cleared some time and sat down with The Engagements, I flew through it and didn’t want to put it down for anything. When you take time with it, the characters come alive, their stories and their joys and pains engulf you.

The Engagements is absolutely wonderful. Very highly recommended.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.

 

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The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen – Book Review

The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen
Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House

What if Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII the son he craved? She might never have been accused of treason and incest, she, Katherine Howard and Jane Grey might have kept their heads, and neither of Henry’s daughters might have ever become Queen.

It is against this backdrop of a history that never was that Laura Andersen places The Boleyn King. At 17, Henry IX, known to those close to him as William, is itching prove himself to his advisers and his country. Unfortunately, there are many who still dislike William’s mother, not least Protestantism she brought when Henry broke with the church to marry her – the Protestantism that William and England still practice. For many, Mary is still Henry’s rightful heir, and William, Elizabeth, and their two best friends have inadvertently uncovered what may be a plan to put Mary on William’s throne. Will they be able to unravel the plot in time to stop what is coming? 

The Boleyn King is a fun exercise in ‘what ifs.’ I wasn’t really expecting the thriller-esque plotline, but it was fun, engaging. And really, it makes sense: there is less open resentment for William than for the parade of queens that took the English throne after the death of Henry’s historical son, Edward, but the changes in English religious wife brought on by Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn leaves its scars on the populace regardless. Recommended.

For more information, check out the publisher’s page

Source: Publisher

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