Apologies in advance for spelling errors in this review. Ms. Gregory dips her toes into the Plantagenant waters as she explores the Wars of the Roses through the eyes of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of the York King Edward of England. This book is an easy listen with the narrator's voice drawing one into the story and making the listener like Queen Elizabeth as a person and view her as a mother to her many children. Elizabeth is probably best known as the mother to the two princes who were killed in the Tower by their uncle, Richard, Duke of York, King of England, who would (eventually) lose his throne to Henry Tudor. But as is the case with most of Ms. Gregory's stories, this novel is told through the day-to-day happenings of the women in the story.
I found myself unable to turn off my iPod while listening to this book. The story was well-written, the action of the story (which takes place through Elizabeth's eyes) was well-researched and the characters were likable. It's a good "summer read" or, in my case, nice to snuggle up and listen to while knitting. The novel is not complex, but it was well worth listening to.
I have liked several of Brad Meltzer's books in the past and had read the first book in this "Culpa Ring" series. I also was out of books to listen to by always-great authors like Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, Tom Clancy, David Baldacci and James Rollins. This was a painful listen in every way.
First, unlike so many other reviewers, I am NOT a Scott Brick fan. I think the criticisms here that he reads each sentence as if the weight of the Universe is hanging on his next breath is an apt description of every book he narrates. If the story itself is good enough, I can suffer through Mr. Brick's love affair with his own pronunciation. Unfortunately, this book was almost as bad as the narrator. He makes the characters either too whiny or too self-important or puts an inflection in his voice that makes the listener know "this is the BAD GUY." The overly dramatic narration made it almost impossible to finish.
Secondly, I could have gotten past the narration if the story wasn't SO incredibly weak. I don't believe that the story was convoluted or told out of order as some other readers have suggested. The story was just plain stupid. When I am reading espionage thrillers (and I read many, many books within this genre), I'd like there to be some sort of basis in reality. I can willingly suspend my disbelief to a certain point -- all espionage has some angle that is not credible. Where Mr. Meltzer fails miserably in this story is that at no place in the story did I ask myself "could this really happen?" or "is there someone like this running around the federal government?" Without that mere hint of realism, the story is laughable.
It was not a good use of my credit. More importantly, after agonizing through yet another of Scott Brick's narrations of a Meltzer novel, I am done. The two -- author and narrator -- are a deadly combination. And not in a good way.
Let me first do my standard disclosure: I do not like Elizabeth Tudor. Whenever I write a review about Tudor fiction, I feel it is only fair to state that up front because my dislike of Elizabeth I may or may not color my opinions. I try to be fair, but I don't like her.
That said, I DO like what Robin Maxwell does with Elizabeth in this fictional portrayal of her teenage life. The story is set during the time period, following Henry VIII's death, when Elizabeth had been restored to the line of succession, but came in behind her brother Edward (now King of England but a child) and her sister, Mary Tudor. Elizabeth lives with her stepmother, the Queen Dowager, Katherine Parr, and with the Lord Admiral of England, Thomas Seymour. The story of Katherine's quick marriage to Thomas, her pregnancy and death from childbed fever is incorporated into this novel of the relationship between Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour -- which was always suspected, never confirmed and which is the source of all of the rumors that Elizabeth may have had a child after all. There are no spoilers here -- Alison Weir wrote a brilliant novel on this same subject and her research is always flawless.
I like Robin Maxwell's writing. I like it a lot. As I said in a previous review about The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, I do not want to like Elizabeth Tudor, but I find my eyes opening just a little. Any author who can get me to feel sorry for Elizabeth is talented by definition. That said, I find the Princess terribly whiny in this novel; not the narration, the dialogue. However, we are talking about a teenage girl who has had a difficult life, always fearing for own life, never certain of her place. I continuously thought to myself as I listened to this novel that "if there was an older man hitting on a teenage girl NOW, his backside would be locked up." That alone, the pursuit of Elizabeth by Thomas and the lengths to which he manipulated her young emotions, is worth the listen.
You will not, after listening to this book, like Thomas Seymour. He was never the most likeable person to begin with, but Ms. Maxwell portrays him in such a way as to be beyond detestable. He borders on evil and that is my sole criticism of this novel -- my own research has not shown Seymour to be evil, just grasping and scandalous and greedy beyond measure. From the historical viewpoint, he probably deserved his execution for treason; I'm just not sure he deserves as much loathing as Ms. Maxwell creates for the reader/listener. I have no doubt he seduced Elizabeth Tudor. I have no doubt he attempted to steal the Protectorship of England from his older brother. I do have my doubts as to the lengths he may or may not have gone to in order to gain the power he sought.
Overall, this is a fantastic book. I listened to it avidly and enjoyed it thoroughly. It's well worth a credit (in fact, I purchased extras to get this book and Ms. Maxwell's other Elizabethian novel, The Queen's Bastard).
My title says it all. I downloaded this book because I was done with all of the Philippa Gregory books, Alison Weir fiction and non-fiction, most of Carolly Erickson (I draw the line at her Jane Seymour novel based on the reviews). This book is simply OUTSTANDING. Interestingly, the novel was written in 1997; it is not a "new book." Yet I had never seen it nor heard of it until I really went searching for a new audiobook to listen to while my kids swim and I WANTED a Tudor novel that carried some respectability (hence, the reason I refuse to download Erickson's Jane Seymour book). The author's note at the end of the recorded book explains how her novel came to be and her thoughts on the new interest in the Tudors that started around the turn of the 21st Century, including the Elizabeth movies with Cate Blanchett and The Tudors on Showtime. Don't just turn the book off at the end.... the note is fascinating as well.
I always try not to give away spoilers in my reviews, but let's face it: Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth Tudor don't hold a lot of secrets. Or do they? Ms. Maxwell's exceptional novel explores the relationship of Henry VIII's controversial and much discussed second wife through the view of a fictional diary kept by Anne Boleyn... a diary given to Elizabeth Tudor shortly after she took the throne of England. The history is seemingly flawless (I would need to double check a few facts, but it seems pretty strong) which is a rarity in the Tudor historical fictions. Anne and Elizabeth come back to life -- really back to life; it's as if Anne is speaking to you. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is a unique perspective on one of the best known characters in all of history. It gives a plausible, yet teasing, hint of what may have caused many of Elizabeth's opinions on marriage and her role as Queen.
Many people who have read my reviews may have picked up on the fact that, although I am fascinated by the Tudor family, I do not like Elizabeth Tudor. I am a Catholic Scot -- my sympathies lie elsewhere for obvious reasons. As I read or listen to each novel and much of the non-fiction as well, there is always a point where I inwardly roll my eyes and think "oh well, the victors write the history." Like Ms. Maxwell, I have spent a lifetime studying the Tudors and the people who made up not only the English Courts but the intrigues of religion and politics and greed that truly ruled the Reformation. Each and every part of this novel is true to history without the occasional whining of Phillipa Gregory's portrayals of the female characters. No matter how much I dislike Elizabeth Tudor (because we Scots DO hold grudges), I felt my eyes opened and disliked Queen Elizabeth and Anne Boleyn a little less after listening to this magnificent novel. That is the highest praise I can give a novel.
I know Tudor history. I have studied it my entire life. I am a fan of many of Ms. Gregory's other novels; both of the Tudor series and the newer Cousins' War series. I decided to re-listen to the Boleyn Inheritance to be fair to the author (and for lack of anything else to listen to while at endless swim meets and practices for my kids). I tried to love this book and couldn't do so.
First, let me state that I was able to re-listen to this novel without feeling as if my teeth were being set on edge as I felt about "The Red Queen." The story is not awful, but the players are terribly whiny. From a historical viewpoint, I wholeheartedly understand that women in Henry VIII's Court were often victimized. However, the constant repetition of "poor me" becomes too much by the time the listener is halfway through the novel.
The focus is on Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard (wives #4 and 5) and Jane Boleyn. The latter two women are wholly unlikeable; Katherine because she is a silly twit and Jane because... well, Jane Boleyn is one of the nastier women in English history. I love the portrayal of Anne of Cleves and she makes the story worthwhile as a whole. My biggest complaint is that Ms. Gregory simply tried to excuse too much bad behavior on the part of Katherine and Jane and to place blame on King Henry. It isn't an invalid theory, but the characters are portrayed in such a way that I simply didn't care about their inevitable fates.
On the plus side, the three voice narration is STUPENDOUS !!! It is unique. It gave life to the characters (regardless of how much I liked the characters). The book is worth a listen and the historical facts are superb. Ms. Gregory can not ever be faulted for straying too far from the facts (as Carolly Erickson so frequently chooses to do). It's good Tudor fiction -- if one can stand the whining.
This book is a "what if" nightmare but told in a very non-threatening way. Many doomsday books have an aura of scariness or horror as a backdrop. This book does not. It's a character and community study of what would happen to Society if all of our gadgets suddenly went off.
The story is one that is not only worth reading because it is so well-written and narrated, but because the idea of an electromagnetic pulse as a weapon is not really science fiction -- it's a real possibility. The lead character is a widowed father of two girls, retired military, living in a small Southern town and teaching at a local college. The point of view, although not first person, is through his eyes and his emotions. The human emotions and fear felt by the townspeople and others is real but not the star feature of the novel. Instead, the novel is in some ways a practical survival guide; how would food be organized, how would a town deal with non-townspeople, how would our old and our sick survive (or not). Despite the practicality aspects of the storytelling, the flow of the novel never fails to invite the reader (listener) to care about the people.
This is not a "how to survive the zombie apocalypse" guide -- far from it. It's a story about people, dealing with day-to-day details of a lifestyle that they never expected and for which they are unprepared. There is sadness and joy. Mostly, there is a real story to be told.
I read one of Steve Berry's books years ago and really liked it (The Romanov Prophecy), but had never taken the time to keep up with him. I saw n unreada paperback copy of this book on my shelf and happened to be looking for a new audiobook and hopefully a new author. To say that I found everything I was looking for would be an understatement of monumental proportions.
The hero of this book (and several others that follow) is Cotton Malone. He's a retired lawyer, secret agent-type who lives in Europe and tries to sell collectible books. I say tries because trouble tends to find Cotton and take him all over the globe into fantastic adventures. The series as a whole is wonderful. This book shines particularly brightly.
The characters find themselves on the trail of the Templar treasure. I'm thinking to myself: "of course they are looking for Templar history because ALL novelists try to find Templar treasure." I never give away plots in my reviews or add spoilers, but Berry succeeds in re-telling the Templars in a way that is exciting, historically accurate and that encourages the reader to move on with their own studies. Like, James Rollins and Brad Thor, Steve Berry devotes a segment at the end of his novels to what is and isn't true -- completely freaky in the case of this particular story! I love books where you read, you learn and you want to learn more but in a fiction context.
Since I listened to this novel, I have downloaded and listened to each and every book Steve Berry has ever written. I took a brief pause from a non-Cotton Malone book when James Rollins's new book came out and then dug right back in. I have ignored some of my favorite authors while I listen to Berry. I have recommended Berry to all of my friends. I have lent the paperback copy that was on my shelf to two other swim moms who have read, returned and recommended. I simply cannot express how MUCH I love one of my new favorite authors.
I think James Rollins is incredible. Although a few of his earlier, non-Sigma Force, books were weak, I was unable to turn this audiobook off. I actually fell asleep two nights with my earbuds in from exhaustion, not from lack of action in the story.
Rollins has developed these characters so that the reader can't help but care about them. In this novel, he delves deeper into their lives and uses the DNA premise of the book to add to character development. As always, I felt as if I was in the locations where the story took place; feeling the muggy heat of the American South, the jungles of Africa, the tension in a White House that is inhabited by a President who may or may not (no spoilers) be part of the enemy. Rollins's true gift is his ability to link science, history, story and characters into a palette of extraordinary writing and story-telling.
I never quite know where a Sigma Force novel will end (other than with me wanting more). If you haven't read the other books, I do have to advise that you start from the beginning only so that you feel the true richness of these people that Rollins has created. I know that I am always sad when one of these books ends and Bloodline was no exception!
A warning first, this is a series with a lead character who is developed more in each novel. John Wells is flawed, complicated and you need to start from the beginning. The author does not waste pages and pages (hours and hours as you listen) repeating his character development and the events that have shaped who he is now.
That said, I downloaded this book the day it was released. I started reading Peterson's books as a result of a recommendation from other authors I had read -- Vince Flynn, David Baldacci, Brad Thor. I haven't stopped since. The stories are well-written. The characters are not cookie cutter Good Guys and Bad Guys. You root for Wells and his mission, but you understand why his life is so full of shades of grey.
In this most recent novel, Wells is tasked to finding the source and purpose of drug dealers within the American military in Afghanistan. Are these men just acting for profit? Is there a mole in the CIA (for whom Wells privately works on occasion)? Is there more to these dealings than just greed? The story flows beautifully and Wells continues to work on his own growth as an individual. Great way to escape for a few hours.
I was reluctant to download this book and devote time to it. Ms. Gregory's last book, The Red Queen, was weak both in story and in substance. I felt vested in the author's continuing telling of the War of the Roses characters and I knew I had some listening time so I committed the credit.
SO glad that I did ! The story of Jacquetta, Dowager Duchess of Bedford and mother to Elizabeth Wydville of "The White Queen," is fascinating in the extreme. This is, naturally, a novelization of her life, but Ms. Gregory fills in period details, politics and sociology in a beautiful blending of fact and fiction. The society's fixation on the unexplained as "witchcraft" is a theme of the novel which travels from Joan of Arc to the rise of King Edward IV (The Duke of York). It is a prequel to The Red and White Queen stories and both characters from the prior novels are re-introduced as children.
The narrator was outstanding. Her voice was extremely fluid and melodic. As I listened, I felt soothed while still being wholly entrapped in the story. It was like not being able to put a book down; I quite literally had my earbuds in my ears around the clock. Since I usually knit while listening, I got a LOT of work on my Christmas projects done. My sole criticism of the book is that, as with the Red Queen, there are a few too many repetitive passages -- I understood almost immediately that Jacquetta knew she shouldn't be telling fortunes with tarot cards; Ms. Gregory did NOT need to repeat the same passage of writing fifteen or twenty times.
All in all, a great read of a very good story. Good choice for fans of Philippa and also for those who want to learn about pre-Tudor English history without reading Allison Weir's non-fiction epics (which I also read).
It took me about an hour into this book to become truly interested in the story, but then I was REALLY interested. My critique of the story would be that it was fractionally predictable, but the character development was very well done and I am looking forward to the next book. The narrator seemed to whine a bit too much for the female characters; I don't believe that they were "written" that way.
Good story, lots of Templar history, nice balance of good guy vs. bad guy.
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