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).
Espionage and spy novels almost always reflect the politics of their authors. I'm not complaining since I happen to worship at the altar of Brad Thor, Vince Flynn and Ben Coes, but their politics come through loud and clear. Not so with this novel or its successor novels. About halfway through the second of the three novels, I figured out the author's politics (and interestingly agreed with the author's critique of the actions of talk radio hosts) and by then I was HOOKED on this story.
I refuse to give the spoilers that any sort of substantive review would reveal. The theme of the story is that the wife of a candidate for President is accidentally assassinated during a speech the candidate is giving the latter part of a primary season. As the investigation progresses, many more deaths take place, seemingly unrelated. The lead character, a specially-assigned Secret Service agent, is left to track the assassin and to link the deaths. The novel is beautifully written and I listened very late into the night to go through the story and to find out what happens. I'd call it a "page turner" if I was reading in book form.
The only minor negative was the way in which the narrator performed a couple of the female voices; really snarky and crass and not how I "hear" the character speaking. The other warning that I have to give is that the author attempts to add bold sexuality and is unsuccessful. The sex scenes almost appear to be plugged in to fill in some sort of formula and the writing of the sexual scenes is not necessary to the story. Many other authors can allude to the sex without actually writing it. I'm not a prude, but the sex scenes are such that I can't let my teenager read a book that he would otherwise LOVE.
Immediately after finishing the first novel, I downloaded the second and then the third novels in the series. I simply could not stop listening to this series and cannot wait for another addition. Love the characters. Love the story. LOVE the lack of political in-your-face opinions. This is a great book.
I truly don't know where to start with how much I disliked this book so I'll actually begin with the few positives.
Bianca Amato's narration was extraordinary and the only feature that allowed me to finish this novel.I have listened to books she has read in the past where I wasn't in love with her voice, but for this book, her voice was well-paced and soothing to listen to. She got the gender voices done without over-exaggerating the differences. Truly, I would not have finished this book (and almost didn't) but for the narration. I have never put those words in a review before.
The novel brings the War of the Roses series to a conclusion and merges it into the Tudor series (The Constant Princess would logically follow from the conclusion of this story). I'm very glad Ms. Gregory wrote the Tudor books and The White Queen first so that I know that, somewhere, she has some knowledge of the time period. This book most certainly does not demonstrate any such knowledge.
The negatives are based in the "levels" of the book that Ms. Gregory defines at the end in her "Author's Note." Apparently, her intent was to create a "novel about a mystery that has never been solved." Therefore, she unabashedly makes stuff up left and right throughout the entire novel. I would love to see a single piece of historical research that even hints that Henry VII raped Elizabeth of York repeatedly prior to their wedding in order to see if she was fertile and only married her once she became pregnant. For Tudor fans out there who have done an iota of research, this is painful to read material. I completely understand that Ms. Gregory is of the school of thought that one of the two princes survived the Tower of London and that Richard III was not responsible for their deaths. I'm not taking a stand on that question in this review -- even if you accept as true that the younger prince (who would have rightfully been Richard IV of England) was not in the Tower of that he somehow survived or that someone other than Richard III or one of his minions killed the princes, the story doesn't work.
I will give a fiction writer every reasonable inch of "willing suspension of disbelief" to allow them to tell their story. What I will not enable with any positive comments is not warning the reader in advance that the author's plan is to do so. A recent book called "The Boleyn King" says at the outset: what if Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII had a son and Anne Boleyn was not executed? That is a very good premise for a novel and I enjoyed the story. It was fun, it was completely against any and all historical facts and I had no problem with the story BECAUSE of the disclosure. Ms. Gregory attempts in her Author's Note to justify her diversion from anything resembling truth.
Even more grating was the author's use of repetition as a literary tool. I've complained about this style in other novels she has written (specifically, "The Red Queen"), but she perfected whiny repeated phrases in this most recent epic tale. Once again, I found myself thinking "ok Philippa, I get it... Henry VII is afraid of 'the boy' who might be young Richard... I get that Henry VII and his ridiculous mother, Margaret Beaufort, trust no one and have a spy network. I get that Elizabeth of York is emotionally torn between her duties as a York princess and her duties as a Tudor wife." I felt like my ears were bleeding from the use of the words: "the boy." I'd be very interested to see a proportional word count of how many times that phrase appears. It could easily be up to 25% of the words in the entire novel. Maybe it's the presence of Margaret Beaufort -- the repetition was ghastly in the novel about her as well.
I have never, ever given a story one star until today. This book was simply horrible. Ms. Gregory fails in her attempt to re-write history; written by the victors or not. The characters are shallow and false. The writing is borderline unbearable. The "mystery" that is "solved" by the novel has nothing to do with Elizabeth of York so even the title of the book is misleading. If Ms. Gregorty wanted to write a "what if" story about the younger prince in the Tower, she should have called it "The Missing Prince" or something else that more truthfully highlights what the story is about -- not used an interesting woman from York/Lancaster/Tudor times and crammed her into being the emotional outlet for a fairytale that has no basis in fact.
If you have read all of the other books and really want to finish the story, go ahead and wade through this tome. Otherwise, use your credit more wisely.
Excellent book and another reason (besides Brad Thor) that I am frequently seen with earbuds firmly implanted. When Ben Coes and Brad Thor come out with books on the same day...???? Well, that's just not spreading the wealth out over time !!
In this fourth installment of the Dewey Andreas series, Mr. Coes wraps intrigue, Chinese politics, romance and Dewey's take-no-prisoners approach into one excellent package. I'm doing my usual "no spoiler" review, but Dewey goes on some serious rampages in this novel: well justified and no holds barred. My only critique is with the narrator that read me the novel -- I'm almost ready to put Coes on the list of books (James Rollins too) that must be physically read because the narration was really bad. When Dewey is speaking to himself to keep his morale high, the narrator groaned and grunted like.... Well, it wasn't a good narration. It was bad enough that I took away a star from the novel as a whole -- which I LOVED.
The story never stops moving. As events unfold, they do so with logical purpose and credibility. Some thrillers leave me saying "that's not even remotely possible," but Coes's writing is step-by-step, country-by-country, event-to-event. And all at a non-stop pace that leads to me being very anti-social for the 14 hours or so when I was listening. Great novel. Read the first three books first !!
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!
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