Monday, May 16, 2016

One of my top five books that I've read in 2016.

Lilac GirlsLilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received this advanced reader copy for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I also participated in an online discussion on Goodreads with the author. What a wonderful first book by this author! It was about three different women at the same time period, whose paths cross in unexpected ways. I didn't realize until the end that it was actually based on a true story and two of the characters were real people. The discussion was very interesting and I really liked hearing what the author actually had to say about this book; what a privilege it was to partcipate!

I have read many many holocaust-themed books and this one is very different. First of all, it deals with the all-women's Ravensbruck camp, that I didn't know as much about as the other camps we usually hear about (although I knew that Corrie Ten Boom from The Hiding Place was sent here). Then there was an American, Caroline, in this story, and her story about how she helped from the US was very interesting. It made me want to read more about her and her true life. Then there was the German female doctor's story, and the horrible experiments she was made to perform at the camp. I did not like her character (a true person) very much - she was a brainwashed Nazi.

The book was a long book, but from the beginning I almost could not put it down. I found it to be extremely well-written and believable and a fast read. I cannot wait to read more by this author! I highly recommend this book and it is out now in the stores.

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I loved this Philippa Gregory book!

The Taming of the Queen (The Tudor Court, #4)The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to this book on audio from the library. I have to say, it was one of my most favorite Philippa Gregory books. It is about Henry VIII's last wife, Catherine Parr, who I did not know much about before. What an accomplished woman, one of the first to publish a book under her own name (after Henry's death), titled Lamentations of a Sinner. She also authored some other books, but not under her own name, as it was too dangerous. I had always thought she was Henry's oldest queen, when, actually, she was only 31 years old when they wed. He was her third husband, as she was a two-time widow, her last being to a Lord Latimer. It was nerve wracking when reading the book, wondering if he was going to arrest and behead her, like he did to two others of his wives, even though I knew he did not, ha ha. But, still, it kept me on the edge of my seat. lthough it is historical fiction and much of it was fiction, it still made me dislike Henry more than I ever did before. He was a murderer, an egomaniac, a fat slob (the scenes of his eating as a glutton for over two hours per meal were disgusting), crazy, and just a terrible person and father.

Catherine was actually in love with Thomas Seymour (Jane's Seymour's brother and Henry's former brother-in-law) and wanted to marry him, but when Henry asked her, she really had no choice, and was forced to marry him, knowing that the only way their marriage would eventually end was in the death of either one of them. In reading about her after I finished the book, I learned that she did marry Thomas Seymour four months after Henry's death and finally became pregnant and delivered her first and only child with Thomas, a daughter, Mary Seymour. Unfortunately, she died in childbirth, only a year after Henry's death. Nothing is known about Mary after infancy. Some sources say she grew up and married (she was raised in her uncle Edward Seymour's home), other sources say she died as a young child, around age 3.

Catherine, or KP as she signed herself (spelling her name Kateryn) was a good stepmother to Henry's three children, especially to Elizabeth and Prince/King Edward, who were young (ages 9 and 6) at the time Catherine became their stepmother. They were very fond of her. She was also very beautiful and extremely intelligent and wise, and knew just how to handle Henry and save herself from his wrath and from his murdering her. She was very learned, and, I think, pretty much self-taught. She was very religious and a fervent reformer of the church of England, not wanting the country to return to Catholicism.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the painting of the family portrait for the first time, including all three children and Catherine. This is an actually portrait and it's life size. If you google Henry VIII family portrait you can find it. It has both girls on either end, with Will Somers (Henry's "fool" behind Elizabeth and Mary's "fool" behind her. In the center panel are Henry, Edward and Catherine (well, she posed for the photo and it was her clothes), but when it was unveiled, it turns out the artist substituted Jane Seymour's face for Catherine's, the dead queen (number 3) who died giving birth to Edward!! What a dirty trick for Henry to play on her. Catherine was very gracious though (she wanted to save herself), even though she was extremely angry and hurt over it. Check out the painting for yourself!

I think the author did a brilliant job of researching this queen and the time period and I just loved this book. The narration was wonderful and I really liked this narrator, Bianca Amato, who I believed has narrated Ms. Gregory's other books in this series.

BTW, I also partially read the ebook version and at the end of the book there is an interview with the author, discussion questions, and a preview of her next book, Three Sisters, Three Queens. It looks good!

I highly recommend this book, especially if you are a Philippa Gregory fan.

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