Throwback Thursday – Princesses

Since I have a book about Norman Queens on here, I thought I would rerun this post about princesses, as a sort of companion piece. Enjoy!

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Title: Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History – Without the Fairy Tale Endings

Author: Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Setting: worldwide, across history, across time

If you’re thinking Disney has the scoop on princesses, you are so far wrong. Real princesses are fierce, ruthless, vain, spendthrift, ambitious, violent, mystical, proud, and occasionally, mentally ill. Not really all at once, but as a whole, they are about as far from the sweet virginal doll as it’s possible to get.

This is a book club read and it’s going to be  a fun discussion next month. McRobbie sorts the women out by type – heroes, warriors, madwomen, etc. Some of these stories were totally shocking. And some were already familiar to me. I knew quite a bit about Hatshepsut, who started as a princess right enough but wound up as a pharaoh in her own right.

But others were entirely new to me. Princess Olga of Kiev was absolutely dedicated to the cause of revenge. When her husband was murdered, she embarked on a terrific campaign of getting her own back against the country responsible. When she was through, hundreds of men were dead and she was a national hero.

This was an extra treat since the author picked such a wide range of princesses. Instead of the usual choice of white Europeans, she went world wide – African, Asian, all over. She also makes an effort to tell the whole story, not the traditionally accepted Eurocentric story. The book is organized generally by the accepted story first, then the real story after. Some of the stories are quite short, but others are really long.

As far as the “mad” princesses go, it was enlightening to see the way women with mental illness were treated throughout history. Some of them clearly  needed restraint or something, but it was sad to think that so many of them could have been helped with modern treatment. One princess with an eating disorder and a distorted body image seemed especially sad to me.

Some of the stories were a little racy, many were violent, and some were seriously messed up, so I wouldn’t recommend this one for kids, but teens would get a kick out of it. Nothing deep, but a good introduction to the real stories behind this figures. There are also suggestions for further reading.

Who is your favorite real life princess? Tell me in the comments.

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Queens of the Conquest: A Review

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Title: Queens of the Conquest: England’s Medieval Queens, Volume 1

Author: Alison Weir

Source: NetGalley

Setting: roughly 1050 – 1200 England and Normandy

Publishers Synopsis: The story of England’s medieval queens is vivid and stirring, packed with tragedy, high drama and even comedy. It is a chronicle of love, murder, war and betrayal, filled with passion, intrigue and sorrow, peopled by a cast of heroines, villains, stateswomen and lovers. In the first volume of this epic new series, Alison Weir strips away centuries of romantic mythology and prejudice to reveal the lives of England’s queens in the century after the Norman Conquest.

Review: This book was a beast. If you’ve ever wanted to know anything at all about the Norman Queens of England, the answers are in here. What they ate, what they looked like (probably), what historians said about them, their families, their children, their hobbies, how they dressed, what they did, and most of all, who they were – it’s all in here.

It’s just very slow to get through. I felt like I read this book for a month and I barely got through it. It’s not the writing. That was pretty entertaining, and I liked that Weir’s own opinions were in here. I think it was the format. I read this on my phone, and that made it feel like a chore to read.

I would recommend it, if you like dense, meaty history with a lot of detail. Just don’t expect it to be a quick or easy read.

Band of Brothers – Review

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Encore review

Title: Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne

Author: Stephen E. Ambrose

Genre: History, WWII

This non-fiction book is the basis for the TV miniseries of the same name. It focuses on an American paratrooper company, the first of its kind, and takes them right through World War II. It highlights some of the soldiers and officers and gives an account of them through every action. Their first battle was on D-Day and they stayed in the center of things in Europe right through V-E Day and beyond.

Some things the book did well. For the first time, I really understood why so much looting occurs after a battle. It also gave a really good picture of how this company became so close and why that is important for survival during a battle.

However, the names and places sort of all blurred together in my mind. Major Winters was one exception, but for the most part, I had a hard time telling the soldiers apart. I liked the ‘Where Are They Now’ section in the back, but what would have really helped would have been more pictures. Same with the places. I am not strong on geography, and some of these places were pretty small. I don’t know why they didn’t include a single map, but it was a major oversight.

The story got me interested enough to do a little research on my own. I found that this book is a little controversial – not everyone involved felt it was an unbiased account, and some felt that Ambrose’s scholarship was a little sloppy. However, it was a good story and now I’d like to read more from some other writers about their own experiences. Recommended, but it could have been a better book.

Hamilton At War

downloadI received this free in exchange for a honest review. My views, however, are my own.

Title: Alexander Hamilton’s Revolution: His Vital Role as Washington’s Chief of Staff

Author: Philip Thomas Tucker

“Sell-out crowds every night enjoy the smash hit Hamilton on Broadway, which presents a fact-filled and entertaining glimpse into the patriot’s life. But very few of us know about Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, General George Washington’s trusted military advisor.”

If you thought Rob Chernow’s masterpiece Hamilton was just not detailed enough, then this book is for you. I’m a major fan of Alexander Hamilton – the guy was a genius and I’m glad to see him finally getting the credit he deserves. But even I was a little daunted by the level of detail in this new book by Turner.

I agree with his basic premise – we focus a lot of what Hamilton accomplished before and after the revolution, but sometimes overlook what he did while he was serving. This book deals mainly with the extraordinary relationship between Washington and Hamilton. They became an amazing team who Got. It. Done.

But while the book was insightful and like I say, I love the idea, the writing was often repetitive. He’d wind up saying things three times in one chapter. I don’t need that. I can remember what you just said. And then the level of detail – naming so many names, for instance – was really just too much. I would recommend this one for serious readers of American History and advise others to pass.

 

Review: Band of Brothers

Encore review!

Title: Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne

Author: Stephen E Ambrose

This non-fiction book is the basis for the TV miniseries of the same name. It focuses on an American paratrooper company, the first of its kind, and takes them right through World War II. It highlights some of the soldiers and officers and gives an account of them through every action. Their first battle was on D-Day and they stayed in the center of things in Europe right through V-E Day and beyond.

Some things the book did well. For the first time, I really understood why so much looting occurs after a battle. It also gave a really good picture of how this company became so close and why that is important for survival during a battle.

However, the names and places sort of all blurred together in my mind. Major Winters was one exception, but for the most part, I had a hard time telling the soldiers apart. I liked the ‘Where Are They Now’ section in the back, but what would have really helped would have been more pictures. Same with the places. I am not strong on geography, and some of these places were pretty small. I don’t know why they didn’t include a single map, but it was a major oversight.

The story got me interested enough to do a little research on my own. I found that this book is a little controversial – not everyone involved felt it was an unbiased account, and some felt that Ambrose’s scholarship was a little sloppy. However, it was a good story and now I’d like to read more from some other writers about their own experiences. Recommended, but it could have been a better book.

Can’t Get Enough Hamilton

Who doesn’t love this guy? Besides Aaron Burr. Which brings me to this book I read: Duel with the Devil by Paul Collins.

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The subtitle here is: The true story of how Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr teamed up to take on American’s first sensational murder mystery. It was pretty sensational, and I loved the look at how the court system has changed, but I was really reading it for the interplay between Hamilton and Burr.

Elma Sands and Levi Weeks lived at the same boarding house in Manhattan. They had a close friendship, so close that when she went missing, all eyes turned to him. Then her body turned up in a well nearby. He was arrested for her murder, just before the mob closed in and lynched him themselves. But was he really guilty?

The description of the early court system was really interesting. Hamilton and Burr both worked for the defense. NYC being as small as it was, everyone involved on the case knew each other and had worked together – the defense, the jury, the prosecution, the witnesses – they all had ties. Burr’s company even owned the well where the body was found. But there wasn’t a lot of room to choose anyone else.

This wasn’t the best book ever, but it was good. The author and I have very different takes on Hamilton and Burr. He would describe Burr as a war hero. Um, no. Not buying it. Burr was an opportunistic show-off. Hamilton was the true hero. And his description of the duel left out a few key parts. But the emphasis was on the trial, and he did a good job there. Recommended for those interested in New York, in law, or in the Founding Fathers.

I received this free in exchange for an unbiased review.

Winner of Biography Giveaway!

Time is up for my first big giveaway ever, and the winner is — (insert drum roll) —

Dominic from DP news!

Dominic, leave me a comment with your full name and address and I will mail your prize out to you. Don’t worry, I will not post it here or put you on any annoying mailing list, because I hate those too.

Here’s what Dominic wins:

Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker by David J. Skal

Some Desperate Glory: The First World War the Poets Knew by Max Egremont

Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science’s First Family by Shelley Emling

All these were ARCs that I would like to share with someone else, and they’re all biographies.  Plus some grammar-themed children’s books.

Grammaropolis Presents Nelson the Noun

Grammaropolis Presents Vinny the Action Verb & Lucy the Linking Verb

Also a few bookmarks, stickers, maybe a trading card or two, and one steampunk coloring book.

If you didn’t win, I have more books to give away this year, including Rain by Cynthia Barnett, and Land on Fire by Gary Ferguson. Also, if I can figure out how to give away ebooks, I have several of those I received as ARCs which I could send on.

Working on a Biography Giveaway!

Who likes free books? Dumb question, right? Who doesn’t? My plan is to usher in the new year with a book giveaway. Right now, I have a stack of books waiting for a new home. Here’s the list so far, but it may change.

Free Swag: 

Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker by David J. Skal

Some Desperate Glory: The First World War the Poets Knew by Max Egremont

Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science’s First Family by Shelley Emling

All these were ARCs that I would like to share with someone else, and they’re all biographies.  Plus some grammar-themed children’s books.

Grammaropolis Presents Nelson the Noun

Grammaropolis Presents Vinny the Action Verb & Lucy the Linking Verb

Also a few bookmarks, stickers, maybe a trading card or two, and one steampunk coloring book

It’s a small stack of books so far, but if you’d like to donate some goodies for the giveaway, I’d love to feature budding authors, small publishers, illustrators and so on.

EDITED

How to enter:

  1. Follow my blog.
  2. Follow me on Twitter @cindy_bohn
  3. Comment below with your favorite book from 2016

Make sure you tell me your user name. You can enter all three ways, but there will only be one winner. The contest runs until January 2 at noon, MST. Good luck to all of you!

 

Vampire book review!

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This one totally should have been up for Halloween, but I didn’t finish it in time, so Merry Christmas, bloodsuckers!

Something in the Blood: The  Untold Story of the Man Who Wrote Dracula

by David J. Skal

genre: non-fiction, biography, and horror

where did I find this: Received by Library Thing for an early review – Thanks!

I’ve always been bugged by the sparkly vampire type of story. Vampires should not sparkle. They shouldn’t be the heroes of any story. They are the villains. I’m okay with them as silly, campy villains like in Bugs Bunny or Scooby-Doo. I’m fine with them as menacing villains like in Buffy. I like a good comic vampire. But as a possible romantic partner? A misunderstood sort of fellow who agonizes over his need for blood but at the same time keeps it PG and clean, avoiding any real mention of the violence inherent in its very existence? No thanks.

In a new book by David Skal, the writer confronts head all the most disturbing aspects of vampires, and he does it with a scholarly thoroughness. The blood and gore, the violence, the sexual dominance, the violation – he really examines it, what it all means, and where it fits into Victorian society of the times. He uncovers all the little secrets of Bram Stoker and his influences. If you are a reader who thought Dracula was just a crackling good horror story, you would appreciate it so much more when you see what you missed.

But.

Why are we reading so much about so many other things? Where are you going with this, Mr. Skal? So many times listening to this, I  would just be getting into the story of Bram Stoker, when the writer would introduce a new character, like Oscar Wilde, or Oscar Wilde’s mother, or Oscar Wilde’s brother, or a friend of Oscar Wilde – seriously, why so many Wildes? – and we’d wander totally off the into somewhere else. By the time we meandered back onto Stoker, I had completely lost track of what he was talking about before.

So I don’t know how to rate this. I think I’m going to take the easy way out and give it 2.5/5 stars and split it right down the middle. Also, if it does sound interesting to you, I would recommend the print version instead of audio. The author read it, and he did a fine job, but like I said, sometimes I wanted to skip ahead and the tracking made it impossible for me to know when a chapter was coming to an end.