Owen – Tony Riches

download (51)

Owen is Tony Riches first book in his Tudor trilogy detailing the life of Owen Tudor.

Owen Tudor led a remarkable life. He was born in North Wales and was from a noble, Welsh family and was descended from Owain Glynwr who led the Welsh Wars of Independence which ultimately collapsed and destroyed the family. As a result of these wars the rights of the Welsh people were severely diminished and we see Owen’s frustration at this throughout the novel and how Catherine fights for him to have the same rights as an Englishman.

Owen is probably most famous for secretly married Henry V’s widowed queen, Catherine of Valois after serving in her household and having children with her, starting the Tudor dynasty in the process. Following the early death of Catherine, Owen is no longer protected and he is arrested and spends a time in the horrific Newgate Prison. He escapes but is recaptured and held under house arrest. He is then pardoned and flees to France.

Owen was intimately involved in the Wars of the Roses and through him we see both the many battles and the politics happening behind the scenes. After Edmund’s death Owen spends a lot of time looking after his grandson as Jasper works tirelessly for the Lancastrian cause. Owen NEVER played it safe. He died at 60ish at Mortimers Cross when he was captured and executed.

This novel is a bit different from the portrayals of Owen we see in other novels and history books. He is not the ladies man he is often portrayed as. He actually comes across as a bit of a jobsworth in the beginning of the novel and seems very serious.

The narrative in this book is short, sharp and to the point. Riches does not waste words and the story moves at a considerable pace. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the time period. There are not a lot of novels out there focussing solely on Owen Tudor and it is well worth a read.

Advertisements

Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

images (11)

In the first sitting reading this book I sat up to 2.30am and the only reason I stopped was because I had to get up at 6am to catch a train through to Edinburgh for work.

Thirteen Reasons Why is probably the most talked about book this year thanks to the controversial subject matter and the Netflix series based on it. It is a novel about a girl who commits suicide and leaves behind thirteen tapes explaining her reasons for doing it. The tapes are to be passed along by each of the thirteen people on the tapes until they have all listened to them. If you are receiving the tapes you are one of the reasons.

At times when reading Hannah’s reasons you think ‘Is that it?’ but she does say there’s more going on than just these thirteen stories, things she can’t bring herself to talk about and therefore deal with. And I suppose lots of little incidents can add up over time until a person feels overwhelmed. The book shows us how a build up of little comments and small incidents can haunt you. The book gives us stark reminders that we should take more care of how we treat those around us.

“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything…affects everything.”

There are so many points where Hannah reaches for help but people don’t see or realise. It is quite frustrating reading at times. The sad fact is that all the incidents in this novel are stuff that happens all too often in high school – kids can be really, really mean.

The ending. I didn’t feel let down exactly but I wanted to know more. Though I’m not exactly sure how this could have been done. For example, I wanted to see Bryce get his comeuppance, etc. But this would probably have taken away from the main story.

The chapter when Hannah goes to Mr Porter was frustrating. His response didn’t seem appropriate.

Did he do enough? I would say no. Was his suggestion of moving on the correct way to deal with it? Again, I would say no. Hannah was being very cryptic and not giving full or direct answers so I suppose there may not have been much more that he could have done. He could have tried harder to get more out of her. I was just a bit disappointed and angry that a high school guidance teacher was telling a young girl her only option was to just move on and forget about it when talking about sexual assault.

I watched the television series after reading the novel. It was very different – much darker and more graphic. You see a lot more of Hannah’s parents then you do in the novel and there is more back story to the other characters who receive the tapes. It is still worth the watch even if it makes uncomfortable viewing at times.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone. Although it is a young adult novel I think it would appeal to adults too. The subject matter in this book is so important and needs to be talked about more.

The Queen’s Man – Sharon Penman

images (10)

The Queen’s Man by Sharon Penman is the first in a series of historical mysteries set in medieval England in the reign of Richard I.

It is 1193 and King Richard is missing after being on Crusade in the Holy Lands.

The main character, Justin de Quincey, sets off for London after discovering that he is actually the illegitimate son of the Bishop of Chester, the man who raised him as a foundling. His father refuses to acknowledge him and will not give him any information about who his mother it. On his travels Justin comes across a roadside attack. The victim is a goldsmith, Gervase Fitz Randolph who was on his way to court with a letter of news of Richard’s whereabouts. Before he dies, he gives the letter to Justin whom he makes promise to deliver it. When Justin reads the letter he realises he has extremely important information about where the King is.

Justin reaches London and delivers the letter to Richard’s mother, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine who is anxiously awaiting news of her son. After reading the letter she commissions Justin to find Randolph’s killer and discover if the attack was random or if there is more to it. In his investigation Justin discovers plenty of people with a motive for the murder – the goldsmith’s family, a jealous love rival, even the King’s brother, Prince John – it is a difficult task.

In his travels Justin comes across Gracechurch Street and makes new friends there and the odd enemy. There is a real sense of community there. The people there help Justin in his quest and look out for each other. Justin’s fight with his father is in the background all through the story.

Sharon Penman is one of the top historical fiction writers and you can tell this. The historical background is so accurate and detailed. The characters – real and fictional – are so well written but the stand out character for me was John. Penman managed to make his seem so creepy, he appears from nowhere and actually gives you shivers.

I would thoroughly recommend this book. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Warwick – Tony Riches

51lWREEUdiL._UY250_

Warwick is a novel about Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick who was also known as The Kingmaker. He is credited with putting Edward IV on the throne during the Wars of the Roses, a 15th century conflict between two branches of the Plantagenet family – the Lancasters and the Yorks.

I liked this portrayal of Warwick, he did seem a bit stiff sometimes – too good – but I liked that it wasn’t the standard textbook version of him you always see. Normally when you read a book about the Wars of the Roses, Warwick is portrayed as an extremely ambitious man and while he is ambitious in this novel we also get to see a more human side of him. Yes, the Warwick in this book chooses the course most advantageous to him and his family but we see the reasons and emotions behind his decisions. Some would have us believe that Warwick changed sides in the conflict simply because he was furious at Edward for marrying Elizabeth Woodville but it is much more complex that that. After that he was prepared to do whatever it took to see one of his daughters on the throne and he was was ultimately successful in this, if only briefly. This Warwick is portrayed as a man of intelligence and forethought, NOT JUST ruthless ambition. In this novel you see more of his personal relationships with people – his father, his brother, his wife, his mistress, etc.

There is a really good balance between the battles of the time and the story of the man himself. This is a book that, really, could be read by anyone, there is a perfect balance between the battles and the love story to suit everyone. Unlike other books that are aimed at one genre or the other this has just enough of both and not too much of either. The romance in Riches’ books isn’t cheesy. The level of historical detail is excellent. There is accuracy in the context. It is apparent that Riches did and enormous amount of research. Warwick as a character develops throughout the novel. The only slight criticism I have is that the book seemed to focus on the big events without really touching on what happened in between but I understand that trying to fit such a big time period into 300-odd pages is a hard task. It was really easy to read, even the parts about the battles but it wasn’t dumbed down. The story flowed well. It could have been a bit longer, as I said before it felt like it squashed a lot into it’s 300 pages and skimmed some pieces of important history but I still really enjoyed it. This book is not as polished as Riches other two novels, Owen and Jasper but I think this was my favourite out of the three.

This was a great insight into a very turbulent time in history and a good portrayal of a man we usually only see as a side character in books about Edward IV or Elizabeth Woodville. You don’t often see novels focusing solely on him so it was nice to see him brought into the limelight. He was someone who drove and changed history and deserves to be looked at in more depth.

Divorced, Beheaded, Died – Kevin Flude

download-45

This book is a great little summary of British monarchs in easy to read bite-sized chunks – a pocket history. It’s not for people who have a lot of knowledge about British history but it would be a useful book if you wanted to remind yourself who’s who.

There is a brief history of each person, their basic story but a good introduction to people if you are looking for a gentle ease into the history of the monarchs.

It skims over the Scottish and Welsh monarchs, the information on them is minimal and squeezed into a few pages at the end.

There were a few “facts” that I raised my eyebrows at though but other than that I’d say give it a read if you want to brush up on your British history in a light way.

The Disney Book – Jim Fanning

download-22

A history of Disney all in the one book. What’s not to love?

Pretty much everything that was created, worked on by Disney is in here with hundreds of beautiful illustrations of original drawings, models, plans and photos.

If you are a Disney fan (which I am) you love this book (which I do). It is Disney’s history in bite size chucks with lots of visual aids. You also get the added bonus of a Disney film cell.

There is a handy timeline with all the cartoons, films, theme parks and deaths in it and there are fun facts throughout the book.

It is a coffee table book and a must-have for Disney fans!

download-23