Napoleonic Wars – Update

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The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries by Jacques-Louis David, 1812

I mentioned a little while ago that I wanted to read more about the Napoleonic Wars or the Peninsular Wars. I thought I’d post an update on how that was going. I realize that that post didn’t get a lot of love – sad! – but for those few of you who are interested, here’s the breakdown so far.

Finished:

Nelson’s Trafalgar by Roy A. Adkins, review here

His Majesty’s Dragon and Throne of Jade, both by Naomi Novik, alternate history of the conflict with dragons! Lots of fun, more about the dragons than the actual events of the war.

None But You, Captain Wentworth book 1 by Susan Kaye. Reimagining of Persuasion by Jane Austen. Wentworth is in the naval war against Napoleon but then retires, so there’s only a slight connection.

Currently reading:

The Spanish Bride by Georgette Heyer. Historical fiction based on real people. Lots of detail, lots of descriptions of Lord Wellington’s Spanish campaign.

Napoleon’s Wars: An International History 1803-1815 by Charles Esdaile. I gave up on this one, then picked it up again. Lots of information, but not presented in a context where I really understand what’s going on. Doubt I’ll finish it, but we’ll see how far I get.

To Read:

Napoleon in Egypt by Paul Strathern. Looking forward to this one.

An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer. Also based around Lord Wellington but different emphasis.

For You Alone, Captain Wentworth book 2. Again, only slightly connected, but I’ve had this duology on my list for some time.

Black Powder War, Temeraire book 3. Not sure how much of the war is in this one, but I think it has some of the eastern campaign.

Decided Against:

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Reading the book descriptions made me conclude that I wouldn’t enjoy this one right now. Maybe someday I will pick it up, but it sounds like a long saga of events with no conclusion and that doesn’t appeal to me.

Conclusions:

If you are interested in the war or the navy or 19th century history, I would recommend Nelson’s Trafalgar. Great book. If you are into dragons and like the idea of an alternate history with lots of locations, I would recommend the Naomi Novik series. It’s a lot of fun. If you want some romance with history added, I would recommend Persuasion by Jane Austen. The reboots are okay so far, but not anything like as a good as the original. If you like historical fiction with some romance, I would recommend the Georgette Heyer books. She also wrote historical romances, but the emphasis here is on the history, not the romance. Picky distinction, but it’s there.

I’m beginning to get a little tired of this, so I think I will just keep it as a interest for the rest of the year but not feel like I have to read all these books at once. We’ll see what else I can find.

 

 

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Book Review: Nelson’s Trafalgar

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Nelson’s Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World by Roy Adkins

Nonfiction

Summary:

In this account of the Battle of Trafalgar, Roy Adkins stunningly evokes the unsurpassed violence of nineteenth-century naval warfare. For more than five hours, sixty ships fought at close quarters as their occupants struggled under the constant barrage of cannon and musket fire, amid choking fumes and ear-splitting explosions. Nelson’s navy was severely outgunned; twenty-seven British battleships carrying 2,150 guns faced thirty-three French and Spanish ships carrying 2,640 guns. Yet the British gunners, quicker and more disciplined, carried the day. While the men maneuvered the ships and kept the cannons firing, the women tended the sick and helped the boys carry gunpowder cartridges to the gun decks. When Nelson died in the midst of the battle, French Vice-Admiral Villeneuve remarked that “to any other nation the loss of a Nelson would have been irreparable, but in the British Fleet off Cadiz, every captain was a Nelson.” Adkins has drawn on a broad range of primary source material to write this powerful, unforgettably vivid history that captures as never before the harsh conditions in which sailors lived and died, the mechanics of nautical combat and the human costs of the conflict. 

Review:

Absolutely brilliant. If you have an interest in history, particularly European or military or maritime history, you must read this book.

Let me start with what it is not. It is not a biography. The various figures central to the conflict are briefly profiled, but certainly not in any depth.

It is not about politics. Or economy, or the history of the war, the causes of conflict, or even about any of the land battle related to Napoleon.

It’s about the Battle of Trafalgar. It’s about the weeks immediately preceding the conflict, followed by an incredibly detailed account of the events of the battle itself, drawn from primary sources and supported with charts, maps, and portraits of the people involved. And then it’s about the consequences of this battle. It is everything I wanted and nothing I didn’t want.

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Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté,

The author does a great job of explaining the events, which I expected, but he also explains the significance of the battle as well. Without going into too much detail, he sets the whole event in its historical context.

I really can’t recommend it enough. I’m so glad my library had this book. I’m giving it 5 stars.

 

Currently reading, 3/18 – Napoleon!

Hey fellow readers! I’m back. I didn’t mean to take such a long break, but I didn’t feel like I had anything to say, so I — didn’t? Say anything? Lame excuse, I guess, but there it is.

But today I’m back with a my current reads and plans for the rest of the month. I was looking at my library request list and realized I had several books on there about the Napoleonic Wars. Why not do them all in one big lump? So that’s what I have planned for the rest of the month. Here’s the books on my TBR list:

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik. – done! This was a reread since I thought this one would sort of ease me into the whole subject. Lots of fun, combines fighting Napoleon with dragons. This is the first in the series and I really enjoyed revisiting this one.

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Hey, it’s got a blurb from Stephen King. Can’t be all bad!

None But You, (Captain Frederick Wentworth, #1) by Susan Kaye – done! Written as a companion to Jane Austen’s book Persuasion from the hero’s perspective. Not as good as I hoped, but I will still read the next one.

Napoleon’s Wars: An International History 1803-1815 by Charles Esdaile.  Currently reading. Already happy with it because it has several maps and color photos of paintings. Over 500 pages.

Not reading yet, but I’m also planning on reading:

Nelson’s Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World by Roy A. Adkins

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susannah Clarke, reread – also the TV series!

Can you think of any good ones I have missed? Maybe I’ll watch Night at the Museum 2 as well!

 

 

 

Major Lord David, a review

Major Lord David by Sherry Lynn Ferguson


Decades of war with France are over and Napoleon Bonaparte is safely confined on Elba. Yet Major Lord David Trent finds his homecoming far from peaceful. His father, the Duke of Braughton, is determined to see his son wed, and he has a very specific bride in mind: his neighbor’s daughter. David cannot recall that the neighbor even has a daughter, much less one he might find appealing! And after years spent fighting on the Peninsula, he is in no mood to be ordered to court anyone.

Wilhelmina Caswell has always been in love with Lord David, as her family is well aware. Her preference, and the designs of both their fathers, would seem to make the match inevitable. But as the spring of 1815 advances along with an emboldened Bonaparte, a looming battle threatens thousands of lives and one growing love at Waterloo.

It’s funny how sometimes when you’re reading, all your books 📚 sort of align. I’m listening to a book about Napoleon in Egypt and then I started this one, which is about an English officer in the war against the French, and the in Touch there was a section about his life in Egypt.

This is a neat little historical romance between two lovers who grew up as neighbors and then fell in love. 💓 My problem though was that the conflict between the two was more annoying than believable. Billie was too afraid of her feelings or something to admit them. I got tired of that. It was really sudden on David’s part, but too slow on hers.

Some reviews mentioned not liking the descriptions of war in a romance book. I didn’t have any problem with that. The synopsis made it pretty clear that was was a major theme in the book. I’ve read other books set in the era that have similar passages, notably The Spanish Bride by Georgette Heyer. If you wanted pure romance, then this will probably not satisfy. I thought it was good enough that I want to read the next book in the series. All of these so far have been clean as far as sexual content, so if you like it steamy this book is not for you.

Tips on writing a battle

by Ian J Miller If you write historical novels, you may end up having to handle battles, and the question is, how to do it? The simplest way is to focus on one or more persons on the front line. You may be able to write some important character aspect of the protagonist, and […]

via Writing Authentic Battle Scenes — A Writer’s Path

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.

 

Witness to Revolution

Title: Red Fire: Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Author: Wei Yang Chao

Setting: Beijing, China 1960s

Ever wondered what it would be like to be a witness to history, to watch these watershed moments take place in front of your eyes? From what I’ve read, the answer is – terrifying. Wei Yang Chao was a witness to one of the biggest revolutions in history, especially if you go by the sheer number of people involved. He attended one rally that included over a million people, and the prospect of violence at every turn. He was lucky to survive.

This book  is a first-hand account of the Cultural Revolution in China. Chao was there after the Summer Palace was destroyed. He was a witness to the rise of the Red Guard. He saw teachers and other “enemies of the state” tortured, sometimes to death. His own parents were victims of a “struggle session” as soldiers his own age smashed through the house and beat his parents.

This was an incredible but grim read. To me it was nothing but terror and abuse, as the country fell into chaos. But Chao was more caught up in the struggle. At times, he wanted to fight against the class enemies, but when people he respected became targets, he would question why this revolution had to be so violent.

I would definitely recommend this book. I knew little about this time, so I found it darkly fascinating. It’s not for everyone. It is violent. But it’s an important record of real life.

I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Dead Wake

Title: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Author: Erik Larson

Setting: NYC and Atlantic Ocean, May 1915

Story: The RMS Lusitania was one of the top luxury liners of the day, filled with the bright and beautiful (and a bunch of 2nd & 3rd class passengers too.) Millionaires, actors, writers, debutantes and spies all crowded aboard this ship. Besides the passengers, the ship was carrying beautiful paintings by Van Gogh and other masters, editions signed by Dickens and Thackeray, gold bullion, and lots of ammunition. So when it went down, the news traveled fast, and eventually resulted in the United States entering World War I.

Review: I knew a little bit about the Lusitania, but I’d never heard the whole story. I’ve read other books by this author, so when I found this one on audio at the library, I couldn’t wait to check it out.

The numbers are pretty sobering. Out of 1962 passengers and crew, only 764 survived. But what makes it more interesting than the statistics is the way Larson tells the story. By using journals and letters that survived the voyage, he lets you get inside the ship and travel right along with them on their final voyage. I had my favorite people and I was trying not to skip ahead, but I admit that I couldn’t stand it and had to look up who survived and who died.

I have a couple of criticisms about the book though. The first is that he spends all this time talking about President Woodrow Wilson’s courtship of Edith Bolling. Wilson’s state of mind and his love life weren’t really relevant to the story. His reluctance to enter the war was relevant and didn’t get enough discussion.

Also, I was left wondering about the passengers who survived. What percentage of them were first class? Did it matter where their cabins were? How many were women and children? Maybe he answered these questions, but since it was on audio, I could have missed that part.

It did definitely get me interested in the story. It was all so sad and so pointless. Why wasn’t the ship more protected? Why hadn’t Wilson done more to help with the war already? I was totally involved in this story. I’m giving it 4.2 stars out of 5.

 

Review: Mayflower

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Title: Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

Author: Nathaniel Philbrick

Published: 2006

Themes: immigration, race, war, religion, geography

Format: physical book

Source: favorite author

I remember doing the little Thanksgiving sketch in grade school, the one with Pilgrims and Indians all sharing a nice dinner of turkey and cranberries and shaking hands to be friends. Turns out that wasn’t particularly accurate. For one thing, they probably didn’t have cranberries. For another, that wasn’t the start of a peaceful new era with everyone living Happily Ever After. War was looming over them.

In Philbrick’s book, he talks about how the Pilgrim Fathers and the Native Americans, mainly Massosoit’s tribe, got off to a bit of a rocky start. But they were each committed to peace and were able to work things out. If the story ended there, America would look very different today. But it didn’t. Fifty years later, their children and grandchildren had forgotten what they each owed the other and focused only on what they wanted. What happened next was tragic.

I really liked this book, but it took me a while to read it because I knew how it all ended – with a war. And not a war like the American Revolution, which Philbrick has also written about, one that ended with a new nation and us sending King George’s soldiers packing and rejoicing all around. But one that ended with a virtual genocide.

Parts of this book were really hard to read. There were atrocities on both sides. The amount of racial hatred – on both sides, but especially among the English – was pretty disgusting. But it did help me understand the American character and the military traditions that eventually emerged from this conflict. If you are a history fan, I would recommend this one. It was a solid, if sobering read. Be sure to read it in a physical format at the maps are essential to understanding the story.

 

Book Review: Ashes

Title: Ashes (Book 3, Seeds of America) 

Author: Laurie Halse Andersen

Setting: Virginia 1780-1781, including the Battle of Yorktown

Escaped slaves Isabel and Curzon have been looking for Isabel’s sister for years, and they finally have an idea where she is. Unfortunately, Ruth isn’t as excited to see them, and they’re stuck in the path of a battle. They could ask the Americans for help, but Isabel is still bitter about the way the so-called Patriots have been treating escaped slaves. Curzon doesn’t like it either, but he doesn’t trust the English even less than the Americans.

And that is the central point of this book – for a war of independence, people of color were never treated with equality or fairness. Huge numbers of Blacks fought in the war, and many of them were former and current slaves. But you never hear the story of these soldiers.

Washington, Jefferson, and other American heroes were all slave owners. Both chased down slaves who had escaped during the war and brought them back. At least Washington freed his slaves in his will and has never been accused of fathering any children with them, so I’d say he sort of tried to the right thing. But Jefferson is different story.

Back to the story – Isabel has no interest in getting involved in the war, so she is trying to find a safe place to wait it out. She hopes to go back to Rhode Island and buy her own farm there, one where she can live with her sister in peace. But her sister won’t even speak to her and the only way to get to Rhode Island is to survive the fighting right now. Curzon’s loyalty to the American cause drives a wedge between the friends and Isabel has no one to rely on but herself.

This is a great series. With the popularity of Hamilton, books set in the 18th century are really hot right now. I won’t say that I liked it as well as Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, but it is really good. Recommended for any teen.