Thorns in a Realm of Roses: The Henry Queens by Thomas Crockett (ARC Review)

Thorns in a Realm of Roses: The Henry Queens by Thomas Crockett

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This book was an ARC from John Hunt Publishing Ltd through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the author

Born and raised in New York, Thomas Crockett spent thirty years as a theatre director and writing teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. On retirement Thomas turned his attention to his writing. He is an avid traveler, and enjoys a love of reading and researching Italian and English history, about which much of his writing is focused.

Blurb

England, 1541. King Henry receives an anonymous letter suggesting that his fifth wife, the young Katherine Howard, whom he had called a rose without a thorn, may have led an unchaste life before they married. In the rose gardens of Hampton Court Palace, Henry feels the illusion of youth and virility slip away; he faces an uncertain future. Must he dispatch yet another wife? Old, overweight and increasingly infirm, could he find love and marry again to further secure the Tudor line? Written with literary invention, Thorns in a Realm of Roses spans the final years in Henry’s reign. Peeling back the layers of life at Court, it examines the hearts and minds of Henry, his often misbegotten queens, neglected daughter Mary and his many loyal, though wary, advisors as they all struggle to survive in a world embroiled in political and religious upheaval ruled by a petulant King.

Review

I was very excited to receive this book as my first book from NetGalley. I was also really happy to have been granted this book as I love historical fiction and the Tudor period is one of my favourites in history.

Sadly though I was severely disappointed. To be honest the second chapter almost made me give up. The dialogues in this book are exhausting, they are long winded and pointless waffle. Also you struggle at times to follow who is talking as it is all very confusing. I only pushed on because I wanted to give the book a chance because it was my first NetGalley read and because I enjoy anything to do with Henry VIII.

The other issue I had with this book was how it flitted around from one point in time to another and gave no real clue about how much time had passed. It made it very hard to follow and disrupted the flow of reading for me.

The other element which I found extremely annoying was the historical inaccuracy as seen below:-

“Look what happened to Henry Bolingbroke of Lancaster when he murdered Richard II in 1399 and became Henry V. His reign and life ended quickly. His son Henry VI fared worse. He lost what his father gained, that being France, and soon after lost his throne, dying insane.”

Henry Bolingbroke was made Henry IV not V so his son was Henry V. This surely should have been checked and researched by the author. For a historical fiction novel this is a glaring error in the text that should have been picked up by somebody.

An element that I did enjoy was when Henry met with his children and interacted with them. I also enjoyed how his relationship with Katherine Parr was portrayed. Henry VIII in his final years is not a pretty picture, spoilt child comes to mind and Crockett got that right in this book. If his wives did not bow to his every demand they ended up removed from his side and in two cases from life itself.

All in all I did not really enjoy this book, I found it hard to follow and in places poorly written. I also sadly could not forgive the historical inaccuracies within the book. I have given this book 2 out of 5 Dragons and the only reason it did not get 1 was because I managed to finish it but in all honesty it was a hard slog.

Lady Book Dragon

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The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy by Tim Burton (Review)

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories by Tim Burton

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About the author

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Tim Burton was born in August 1958 and is an American filmmaker, artist, writer and animator. He is famous for his dark, gothic and eccentric horror and fantasy films. He often works with Johnny Depp and Danny Elfman.

Blurb

Twenty-three illustrated gothic tales from the dark corridors of the imagination of Tim Burton. Burton – the creative genius behind Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and Nightmare Before Christmas, among others – now gives birth to a cast of gruesomely sympathetic children: misunderstood outcasts who struggle to find love and belonging in their cruel, cruel worlds. His lovingly lurid illustrations evoke both the sweetness and tragedy of these hopeful, yet hapless beings.

Review

When I saw this book in the bookshop a few days ago I grabbed it and immediately had to buy it. I love all the work of Tim Burton but I did not know he had done a book. I was so happy to find this book and very excited to read it. Yesterday I finally had time to sit down with a mug of tea and read it.

This book is a collection of short tales illustrated by Tim Burton himself, what is not to like? All the tales feel like children’s stories with the short little paragraphs and illustrations, however this is far too gothic and gruesome in places for children so Young Adults and upwards is a must.

The book is depressing, gruesome, gothic but most of all hilarious but naughty hilarious because you feel like you should not be laughing at these tales. I found The Melancholy Death of the Oyster Boy to be very depressing, I felt very sad about the fate of the Oyster Boy and I was rather shocked about how he died.

Another element that surprised me was how many tales contained parents who hate their children. It made me wonder what Burton feels about his own children to be honest. I am not complaining though as it made for good reading.

Nearly all the tales are my favourites but a few are my absolute favourites. Stain Boy is one because this reminds me of some of my nephews who no matter what get dirt everywhere and clean clothes do not stay clean for long. Sue was another favourite, the idea of someone walking around with a tissue attached to their face made me giggle.

I loved everything about this book, the illustrations, the stories everything is just brilliant. The book took less than half an hour to read, I found I wanted it to last longer. I definitely plan on re-reading this on halloween. This book has a massive 5 out 5 Dragons.

Purchase this book from Waterstones

Lady Book Dragon.

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Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot (Review)

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot, illustrated by Edward Gorey

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About the author

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Edward Stearns Eliot born 1888 in St Louis, Missouri, USA. He settled in England in 1915 and published his book of poems in 1917. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats began life as a collection of poems dedicated to his godchildren, it was published in 1939. Eliot received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948 and sadly died in 1965.

About the Illustrator

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Edward Gorey (1925-2000) was an American writer and artist well known for his macabre and humorous illustrations. His first book, The Unstrung Harp; or, My Earbrass Writes a Novel (1953) was followed by many more. He illustrated work by T. S. Eliot, Edward Lear and Saki, among others.

Blurb

Cats! Some are sane and some are mad. And some are good and some are bad.

Review

I read this book as soon as I brought it home, but I read it in a very special way. I put on the musical movie starring Elaine Paige and John Mills and read the poems along with the musical, I might have also sang along as well. In short I had way too much fun and my poor husband had to endure a great deal.

I absolutely loved this book, I love the poems and I love the illustrations. It is all wonderful and I’m not sure I can choose a favourite poem because how can anyone choose a favourite cat?

The main thing I love is how all the different cats have attributes you can see in real life cats. I can certainly see many familiarities with the cats in the book with my own cats. T. S. Eliot clearly owned and had a lot of love for cats in his lifetime.

My favourite poem and cat was The Rum Tum Tugger he is just the epitome of cats. When you offer a cat some yummy food they would rather have something else, when you offer them fresh water they would rather drink from a puddle and so on.

I had amazing fun with this book and to be honest I keep going back to it now and reading my favourites. I also loved how the illustrations perfectly complimented the poems. I can not recommend this book enough to people especially if they are cat lovers, a quick read and would make a perfect gift to the cat lover in your life. I gave this book a massive 5 out of 5 Dragons.

Lady Book Dragon.

Purchase from Waterstones

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The Inner Voice of Love by Henri J. M. Nouwen (Review)

The Inner Voice of Love by Henri J. M. Nouwen

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About the author

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Henri Nouwen was a renowned priest and author, respected professor and beloved pastor of the L’Arche Daybreak Community in Toronto. His many bestselling books include The Return of the Prodigal Son, Home Tonight and Bread for the Journey. He died in 1996.

Blurb

The Inner Voice of Love is Henri Nouwen’s ‘secret journal’. It was written during the most difficult period of his life when, following the breakdown of a close relationship, he lost his self-esteem, his energy to live and work, his sense of being loved – even his hope in God.

For a long time Henri felt that what he had written during this time was too raw, intense and private to share. Instead he produced The Return of the Prodigal Son, in which he expressed some of the insights he had gained during the crisis. However, as time went on his feelings changed due partly in response to the persuasion of friends who asked ‘Why keep your anguish hidden from the people who have been nurtured by your writing? Wouldn’t it be a consolation for them to know about the fierce inner battle that lies beneath many of your spiritual insights?’

The warm reception enjoyed by The Inner Voice of Love over the years testifies to Henri’s generosity and wisdom in sharing this difficult part of his journey. For everyone who is living through the pain of broken relationships or suffering from the loss of a loved one, this book offers new courage, new hope, even new life.

Review

A friend recommended this book to me and last year I started to read it, since then I have dipped into it and read a little occasionally. This book is made up of one to three page reflections, which are all under different titles.

At the beginning I enjoyed this book and found it useful but as it went on I found it rather repetitive and it started to drag. I realise this book was written at a very difficult time of Nouwen’s life but I think it should have been edited as certain parts are basically saying the same thing but are just under a different title.

I also disagreed to a certain extent with his advice about relationships and how breaking of relationships can be devastating. As a priest he has never experienced in my opinion the biggest relationship which is marriage. Marriage is sacred and in the eyes of God forever, and to cope with a marriage break up must be devastating but Nouwen has no true experience of this, yes he will have seen marriage break ups and experienced the end of friendships and loss of loved ones but in my opinion he can not generalise all relationships like he does in the book.

I also disagreed with the fact that most of his reflections seem to be based on Nouwen withdrawing from society. This I do not find to be beneficial to anyone, everyone needs help from friends, everyone needs to know there is someone there for them.

All in all I found this book a bit of a struggle as I did not agree with all of it and found it repetitive. As a Christian I agreed with a lot about what was said about God in our lives but not all of it. I gave this book 2 out 5 Dragons.

Purchase from Waterstones

Lady Book Dragon

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On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts by Thomas De Quincey (Review)

On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts by Thomas De Quincey

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About the author

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Thomas De Quincey was born on the 15th August 1785 and died on the 8th December 1859. He was an English essayist best known for Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.

Blurb

The provocative early-nineteenth-century essayist casts a blackly comic eye over the aesthetics of murder through the ages.

Review

So on to the fourth Penguin Little Black Classics book and this one really took me out of my comfort zone. I picked this book up thinking normally I would never dream of reading a book about murder being a fine art and to be honest after this I do not think I will read another book about murder being an art form.

I did struggle a great deal with this book and I really did not see the comic side in it that is mentioned in the blurb. I found it very hard to get into and very disturbing that people seem to enjoy studying murder. I also did not like the fact that murder was referred to as an art form. However it wasn’t all bad, I did find certain little stories inside it interesting, for instance the story about Descartes was very interesting.

I think it was a disturbing essay and it made me wonder what type of mind Quincey has to come up with this essay. However the essay was an eye opener about things that were happening in that point of history. However I didn’t really enjoy the book and wouldn’t read it again. This is why sadly I have only given the book 1 Dragon out of 5.

To purchase this book from Waterstones please click here.

Lady Book Dragon.

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The Endgame by Jeffrey Archer (Review)

The Endgame by Jeffrey Archer

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About the author

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Jeffrey Archer was born in England in 1940, he is a former politician and author. Archer was a member of parliament from 1969-1974 but did not seek re-election due to a financial scandal that almost bankrupt him. Facing bankruptcy Archer began to write and in so doing revived his fortunes. Archer’s political career has been filled with scandal and in 2001 he was sent to jail for perjury and perverting the course of justice, in 2003 he was released. All his life experiences influence his writing and make for interesting reading.

Blurb

Taken from To Cut a Long Story Short, Jeffrey Archer’s fourth collection of short stories, The Endgame is an irresistible, witty and ingenious short read.

After he becomes a widower, wealthy Cornelius Barrington decides to test the loyalty of his family and friends to himself, or his money, by declaring himself bankrupt, enlisting the help of his old friend and trusted lawyer, Frank Vintcent, to make the ruse authentic. Soon though, Barrington is left pondering whether blood really is thicker than water . . .

Review

Today I had a very gap filled day teaching so I thought I would read a short story in the little gaps. This made a nice change from the recent short stories by Jeffrey Archer that I have read as the recent ones have all involved men dropping everything to run after a young pretty woman.

This is a beautiful little story where the main character Cornelius needs to rewrite his will but first he wants to see who deserves his wealth. Cornelius has always suspected that certain members of his family and friends prefer his money rather than himself, so he decided to put his theory to the test.

When Cornelius pretends to be made bankrupt he watches his family and friends reactions to what has happened and finds out who his true friends are. As the story develops it is interesting to see Cornelius’ plan unfold and how each member of his family reacts and how his friends react.

This story shows how money can make people react differently, even act like crazy people and yet there are people out there who money does not touch and who remain true. I really enjoyed reading this short story and I was upset when it ended as I did not want it to end but for the story to develop further. Considering it is a short story there is a lot of content within it and there is never a dull moment. It just shows Archer’s talent as a writer to make a story work so well in such a small space of time. I gave this story 5 Dragons out of 5 Dragons.

To buy the complete book of short stories from Waterstones please click here.

Lady Book Dragon.

The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue by Anon (Review)

The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue

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About the author

The author is sadly anonymous but this is a well known Icelandic saga composed at the end of the 13th century.

Blurb

Ranging across Scandinavia, England and Ireland, a Viking-age epic of two poets in doomed pursuit of Helga the Fair

Review

This is the third book of the Penguin Little Black Classics and a quick little read of just 52 pages. The book contains 25 verses of skaldic poetry which are scattered through the story.

This book is essentially a love story, where two poets are in pursuit of Helga the Fair, both travel around earning glory and renown hoping to make themselves worthy of Helga’s hand in marriage.

I enjoyed this book to begin with and found the verses of poetry enjoyable, however as the story went on I found the poetry began to get on my nerves and broke up the flow of the story. I must admit I started to skim read it as I could not bare it any longer, the story was still really good though. The thing I found a struggle to get used to in the beginning was the big lists of names, but once I got used to the style this was ok. A lot of store is held in one’s ancestors and family in this book so great lists of names are often given, even if those characters are not featured in the story.

I also enjoyed how the characters travelled around Scandinavia, England and Ireland and the accompanying adventures. It was interesting learning about the kings and rulers of that time and what they were like. The other element I enjoyed was how Christianity moved across the countries and the old ways were forgotten. This was considered a really good thing in the book but I wonder whether everyone was so willing to drop the old ways and take on the new faith. In my opinion I think this element is seen through rose tinted glasses by the author.

“All the men who have been mentioned were living at the same time, and it was about this time that the best thing ever to have happened in Iceland occurred: the whole country became Christian and the entire population abandoned the old faith.”

This is an excellent little book, which will not take long to read and was a good introduction for me to Icelandic sagas. I enjoyed reading the book but because the poetry got on my nerves I only give this book 3 Dragons out of 5.

To purchase this book please click here

Lady Book Dragon

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