04 March 2011


A historical fiction book about Catherine Howard, the 5th wife of Henry VIII and the most enigmatic in my opinion. I am fast deciding that Catherine Howard is the most fascinating of Henry's wives. She was the only one of his wives to never have her portrait painted, which kind of symbolizes her whole marriage to Henry. It was like it wasn't even there. She was also his youngest wife, and as such, she has been portrayed as everything from a complete harlot to a naive teenager, with the truth most likely being somewhere in the middle. In this book, she is portrayed as a the naive young girl buffeted about by the intrigues of court and the machinations of the power hungry Howard family of which she is a member. As a result, it took me a while to get into the book because I had to get used to the one sided Catherine the author chose to portray. Once I did, though, the story was captivating. I found Libby's take on Henry VIII as an aging man determined to feel young again perhaps the best part of the book. 

Although the portrayal of Catherine in this book was one sided, neither she, nor the other characters were one dimensional. The portrayal of the court of Henry VIII and the various players was enjoyable. In addition, the story, while not exactly believable in all respects, was a good fictional story. The only drawback was that I had to convince myself not to get caught up in the characterization of Catherine and view her as simply a girl in WAY OVER her head. 

Just a word to the wise, also. This book is considered as a Young Adult novel, and it stands well as young ADULT. However, since it is a book that deals with the court of Henry VIII, there is a lot of instances of a sexual nature both within and without of wedlock. Although the descriptions are quite tame by today's standards, I would caution whether this a good book for 'tweens and very young teens. 

As an aside, I think it very interesting that the only two wives that Henry VIII had beheaded were both Howards.


I belong to a book club where a member gets to pick a genre each month and we all read whatever books we want to from that genre. When I first saw the shelf for February was Science, I admit it, I groaned. Then I figured that I like thrillers, so a book on forensics might be pretty good. And I was right. Dr. Michael Baden is a forensic scientist, medical examiner, news consultant, and expert witness. He has been involved in many cases over his career, including many high profile cases. In addition, he has consulted on the forensics in such endeavors as the identification of the Romanov remains in Russia, TWA flight 800, the Thomas Jefferson paternity case, and many others. In his lectures and meetings he has come across some of the most well known people in the field of forensics including the man who teaches a class on blood spatter, the "forensic bug" guy, and Dr. Henry Lee. His chapter on Doctor Lee is especially fascinating. 

Marion Roach is a contemporary non-fiction writer. In addition to this book, she has written a book about Alzheimers, and has been published in many of todays leading magazines. She is also the sister of author Margaret Roach. She has a wonderful writing style that is easy to read and really makes Micheal Baden's stories come alive. In addition, she attended many meeting with him and classes with the experts that they profile, bringing her first hand knowledge into the writing. 

Between Marion Roach's writing style, and Michael Baden's experience in forensics, this book was a surprisingly easy read. Definitely a 4 star read and recommended for anyone who is interested in the science behind the thrillers that are so popular. 

03 March 2011


Although this book purports to be true and based in fact, one has to wonder how truthful the items in the book actually are. I found myself many times looking something up on the internet just to be sure the author wasn't pulling my leg. Especially the first half of the book, which was so over the top it was actually humorous. I found myself laughing many times. I had to keep reminding myself of the historical context, though. In that light, I can see some of these ideas actually taking shape in someone's brain. Additionally, most of what I looked up on the internet checked out in some fashion, although not in the detail that the author provides. In fact, I kept thinking of the book A Million Little Pieces, which was purported to be true, and ended up being mostly fiction. 

The second half of the book was very different, though. By that time, the author had gotten to the War on Terror. Things that he said and quoted became much more believable. In addition they became easier to verify. In fact, the uses and situations described in the last half of the book made even the beginning of the book seem more believable. By the end of the book, I was totally enthralled. 

If you are into conspiracy theories and secret and clandestine government programs, this is the book for you. To say the least, it was an entertaining read, highlighting all of the crazy people who are out there in the world taking themselves very seriously. I am now curious to see how the movie was done.