23 August 2013

Thursday's Review: The The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones

A Copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

Publisher:  Viking Adult
Publication Date:  April 18, 2013
Price: $24.99 Hardback
           $16.99 Digital Edition
           $10.99 Trade Paperback (to be released in US March 2014)
Genre: Non-fiction History
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am a self proclaimed history geek.  Although my first love was, and always will be, Historical Fiction, over the years I have developed an intense love affair with many well written History books of the non-fiction variety.  I have said many time, on here no less, that a good Historical Fiction book should peak my interest and make me seek out factual books on the given subject to fill in the gaps and give me the "true" picture.  As a result, I am always excited when I found one of the said History books that I can not only enjoy, but recommend.  The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens who made England  by British historian Dan Jones is just such a book.   

When it comes to history, nothing is more fascinating to me than the history of the families designated as Royalty and their nobles.  If you look throughout history, there are not many families or dynasties that you can find who would be more fascinating than the Plantagenets.  From the beginning of their rule in England in the 1100s, to the splintering of their family into the Lancasters and Yorks, and on to the takeover of England by the Tudors, the Plantagenets have had a huge affect on the history of England and Great Britain.  To me, they are the dynasty that all other Royalty, English and other, are measured by. 

Dan Jones' book begins with the death of Henry I's son William and the demise of Norman rule in England. From there he deftly covers the history of the Plantagenet Dynasty, ending with Henry Bollingbrooke's takeover as Henry IV and the end of the reign of Richard II.  Here is a family full of heroes and heroines, crusaders, thieves, murderers.  Their lives had tragedies and triumphs.  At times they were both brilliant in their rule and careless in their mistakes, but through it all, they made England into a force to be reckoned with.  Dan Jones captures all of these events and their consequences and impacts, and he does it with a writing style that reads more like a good story than just the listing of facts and dates.  That is perhaps the best thing about this book.....it reads like a good story, not like a textbook.  I became so engrossed in the lives of the various members of this ruling family, that I would find that I had been reading for an hour or more without realizing it.  

In the end, I enjoyed this one so much that I actually spent the $25.00 to buy myself a hardback copy to read and re-read at my leisure.  I can say, that almost never happens when I am given a book to read for review.   Dan Jones' book, though, is the kind of book that I can see myself enjoying more than one, while also using it as a reference on the Plantagenet Dynasty.  My only complaint was that the book ended too soon, leaving out some of the more familiar members of the family.  Although I understand the reason to stop at the point that this books ends, I am holding Dan Jones to his "promise" of  a second book to finish the tale.  I am highly anticipating this second book, and only hope that he meant what he said about writing it and that it comes out soon.  This book is highly recommended by me to anyone who is interested in the history of the ruling families of England, but of England and Great Britain itself.  

21 August 2013

Tuesday's Review: Wedding Cake and Big Mistakes by Nancy Naigle

A Copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for a review

Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication Date:  July 9, 2013
Price:  $12.95 Paperback,  3.99 Digital Edition
Genre: Romantic Mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Over the first two books, I have grown to love the inhabitants of Adams Grove, VA, so I was excited to read Nancy Naigle's third Adams Grove book, Wedding Cake and Big Mistakes.   In this installment, Carolanne Baxter and Connor Buckham are law partners and long time friends.  As their best friends, Garrett and Jill (remember them from the first book, Sweet Tea and Secrets?) are getting married, murder breaks out in the town and Carolanne's father is implicated, putting Carolanne and Connor at odds.  

Once again, Nancy has taken us to the small town of Adams Grove,where everyone knows each other and their secrets....at least they think they do.  I love spending time in this little town.  Nancy's writing style is wonderfully warm, just like the town and it's inhabitants.  Her books always make me feel as if I am living in Adam's Grove with the characters. The people in the town are just the way I would imagine a small town populace to be.   You have your town busybodies, some with quite quirky personalities, the predictable and the unpredictable, but below it all is a common thread in their lives that allows them to really care for each other.  My favorite thing about this series is the way that Nancy makes me feel about he characters in the stories.  As in the past books, I found the characters in this one easy to become involved with and easy to love or hate, trust or mistrust, as was required.  

The other thing that is great about these books is that they are such relaxing reads.  Here there are not convoluted plots that take a lot of brain power to figure out, or follow, for that matter.  What you see is what you get, and that is a nice, easy love story with a little bit of intrigue thrown in and a lot of Southern charm.  The what is pretty easy to figure out and follow, and there is just enough blurring of the why to make it interesting.  I find these books delightfully refreshing and a great break from some of the more complex books that I might read.  

Although I am usually a stickler for reading a series in order, Nancy has made it easy to pick up these books and read them in any order.  In fact, I would probably be more accurate to refer to them as books whose characters are linked, rather than an actual series of books.  In fact, in looking the books up on several sites, there is some confusion as to how the books are related.  On some lists Wedding Cakes and Big Mistakes is listed as the second book in the series, on others it is listed as the third, and on still others it is listed simply as "An Adams Grove Novel".  I would go with the last descriptions.  Whichever way is correct, I would recommend all three of the novels currently published and am looking forward to the next one, Pecan Pie and Deadly Lies.