Category Archives: Non-fiction

Book Review: ‘Tudor Wales’ by Nathen Amin

Title: Tudor Wales: Full-colour guide to the many places in Wales associated with this famous dynasty

Published: 15th March 2014

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Author: Nathen Amin

Facebook: www.facebook.com/HenryTudorSociety

Twitter: @nathenamin

 

Synopsis:

The Tudors are one of history’s most infamous families and the era over which they reigned still captures the public’s interest without rival. ‘Tudor England’ in itself has become a well-known phrase that covers many aspects of the era, particularly architecture, arts and the lifestyle. What is often overlooked however is that the Tudors, whilst coming to encompass all that is considered great about England, were a Welsh dynasty with their roots firmly entrenched in the hills across Offa’s Dyke. This guide will take you on a journey throughout the beautiful country of Wales and expose the reader to the hidden gems of the Tudor era, from Harlech Castle in the north to Pembroke Castle in the west, and from the holy Bishop’s Palace at Lamphey to the sacred Cathedral at St David’s. From Dale, Carew and Penmynydd to Raglan, Conwy and Denbigh, every part of W ales has Tudor links, both to the royal Tudors and their more obscure Welsh ancestors. This guide will put you on the path to a true Tudor experience in the Land of their Fathers.

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2017 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A book about the Tudors.

Well this is a great guide of Tudor places to visit in Wales and I found quite a few that would be on my list to check out. You get snippets of history about the areas links to the Tudors and those who may have used or lived in the buildings, castles, manor houses etc, thrown in with beautiful photographs of the areas and places themselves. You have a handy key at the front so you could easily plan out a visit to some of the areas within. You also get a family tree and timeline of key events to give you an idea of what was happening at the time these places came to be.

The main places I think that would be on my list are: Carew Castle, Pembroke Castle, Tenby Tudor Merchant’s House, Raglan Castle, St Fagans National History Museum, Beaumaris Castle and Gwydir Castle (though to me this looks more like a large manor house). I think you can see a bit of a theme here with the places I picked, in that I really like castles. Whether they are still standing strong or have been slowly taken by the hands of time they have so much history within them that you can’t help but be in ore with the designs and how they would have been made.

Many of these castles designs were ahead of the time with adding the likes of hexagonal towers to fifteenth century designs – like with Raglan Castle. From high turrets and keeps, to moots and enforced doors and walls six feet thick, each castle had its own way of protecting itself from the siege of others. Many would change hands a few times over throughout the time of change from the Wars of the Roses to the Tudors reign. With many seeing improvements made by those who would then be the protector of it.

If a building could talk imagine the tales it could tell. If any of these buildings, castles or manor houses could talk I think you would be in for a historical treat with the battles that took place, literally and figuratively when with more of a verbal match. Great little guide through the lives of the Tudors, how they linked back to their Welsh roots and the fabulous places still around today for us to go and see.

4 out of 5 stars

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Book Review: ‘Henrietta Maria’ by Dominic Pearce

Title: Henrietta Maria

Published: 15th November 2015

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Author: Dominic Pearce

 

Synopsis:

At the heart of the English Civil War stands the wife of Charles I, Henrietta Maria. She came to England in 1625 at the age of fifteen, undermined by her greedy French entourage, blocked by the forceful Duke of Buckingham and weighed down by instructions from the Pope to protect the Catholics of England. She was only a girl, and she had hardly a winning card in her hand; yet fifteen years later she was the terror of Parliament.

We see Henrietta Maria in the portraits of van Dyck, and hear her voice in the letters which she wrote to her husband and many others. She is a historic queen who inherited from her father, the great French statesman Henri IV, undying convictions about royal and divine authority and about just governance. There was always brutal violence in the background of her life from the early moments (her father was assassinated when she was six months old); she lived through civil war both in England and in France (the Fronde); she was tortured by the fate of Charles I; but her spirit – and her family – prevailed. Two of her children sat on the throne of England (Charles II and James II) and three of her grandchildren followed them (William III, Mary II and Anne). Her life is a story of elegance, courage, wit, energy and family devotion on a grand scale.

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2017 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A History book.

A new and enticing biography of a Queen who has stayed in the background through many discussions on Charles I, their son Charles II and the English Civil war. Dominic takes the reader on a journey through her younger life before she became a player in a much more dangerous royal game in England.

From the start Henrietta Marie’s life was going to be a controversial one with religion and political gain always playing a part in the path she was being led down. At the age of fifteen she was a pawn placed in a high position when she became the wife of Charles I, then Charles, Prince of Wales. The marriage had its set backs from the very beginning with religion being the key player. She was Catholic and he Protestant. Part of her dowry always stated that this was never going to change and this is what sent fear into many a political mind. Their marriage, after a few set backs to being with, well she was just a child and couldn’t speak a word of English, seemed to be a happy one after the birth of their children. She was a very loyal woman and fiercely protective of her children and her husband.

When her husband became king you would think that they would be safe from persecution but the fear many had over her control of the king was great. It wouldn’t take long for whispers of dislike to get louder and have more of a political backing, mainly when they tried to impeach her. Which would soon bring about the start of a civil war. It was at these most difficult times that many would think she would cower and hide but she just stepped forward to help her husband take back control of the country they were losing. She was condemned and attacked at every turn but still carried on to see things through. Having the means to help where she could with other countries. She was a daughter of France so they were always there to help her, just not always as much for her husband. An interesting view on the English Civil War and the part the she played in it, from close up and a distance.

The war would end and the lose was great with the death of her husband but she knew she still had work to do to help her son claim back what was rightfully his. The Scots may have taken him as their King but the rest of the land was something else entirely. No matter the set back she always seemed to have a plan up her sleeve, not always taken though as soon it became clear that her children, most of whom she had not seen in years, were coming into their own and not needing her or her opinions. It was probably why she felt so strongly for her youngest Henrietta Anne, as she was the last one to mould in her own image.

Throughout her life she had many a friend who stayed close no matter the danger, though not all could be saved from it. She outlived most of her children and saw the fall and rise of the English royal reign when her son Charles II took back control. Her cultural influence can be seen today through the architecture designed by her protégé Inigo Jones and the art that was a love of hers. She was a creative creature from the start and seemed to want to please others, though I’d say only when deserved. This was a very interesting insight into a hidden figure of history.

From not knowing anything about her before reading the book I will admit to going back to the family trees at the front of the book from time to time just to remind myself who people were and how they were connected. Can get a little confusing when they all have the same name but that was just something they liked to do at the time so you have to just go with it.

5 out of 5 stars

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Book Review: ‘Death Scares Me’ by Keelen D. Cloud

Title: Death Scares Me

Published: 9th February 2016

Author: Keelan Cloud

 

Synopsis:

Modern poetry and short stories.

 

Review:

An interesting collection of poems and short stories that start to interlock the further you get to the end. Some I liked more than others and some were a little stranger the deeper they went but overall an interesting read.

I liked the flow and pace of the ‘Real Good Country Girl’ poem. You could almost imagine it as a country song about a guy describing his perfect country girl with what she’d look like and how she’d act. I was almost humming a tune with it to see how it would go.

First Verse:

“I want a real good country girl

I want a real good country girl

She’ll be moral and chaste

With a pretty little face

Wearing ribbons and curls

In our beautiful world.”

Found a fun message from ‘Shopping at the Goodwill Store’ poem with how you can be thrifty with your money. Every loves a bargain and you can find some interesting buys, you just have to hunt for them. If you know where to look you will get a true find with money to spare.

The short story I liked was the one with the on going battle between a couple of farmyard tomcats fighting it out. The older one of them is protecting the honour of the female from the farm while the younger one is trying to become the new top cat. The battle commences but is set between a few parts. Each one is a winner and loser at certain points but it’s the younger one who always seems to bite off more than he can chew. Not just with their fight but with when other animals pop up too. They might hiss and spit at each other but need to mend fences or they will soon get a telling off from their owner. The battle is over and peace rains but how long before another starts? Oh to live the life of a cat. Eat, sleep, protect your territory, sleep, eat again, get some fuss from your owner and then sleep some more. Purrrfection!

3 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.

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Book Review: ‘Light A National Poetry Day Book’ edited by Gaby Morgan

Light

Title: Light A National Poetry Day Book

Published: 1st October 2015

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Edited by: Gaby Morgan

Poets: Deborah Jane Roshan Alma, Brian Moses, Chrissie Gittins, Liz Brownlee, Rachel Rooney, Michaela Morgan, Jan Dean, Paul Cookson, Roger Stevens, Joseph Coelho, Indigo Williams and Sally Crabtree

Synopsis:

A free poetry book to celebrate National Poetry Day 2015 with poems on the them of light from Deborah Alma, Brian Moses, Chrissie Gittins, Liz Brownlee, Michaela Morgan, Jan Dean, Paul Cookson, Roger Stevens, Joseph Coelho, Indigo Williams and Sally Crabtree.

National Poetry Day is a mass celebration, a special day on which all are invited to discover and share the enjoyment of poems. It’s a chance to let language off the leash and to relish the sounds that words can make when they are spoken with delight.

We hope that the poems in this book – all inspired by this year’s National Poetry Day theme of light – will kindle an enthusiasm for poetry that continues to grow long after the day itself, Thursday 8 October 2015, has passed.

Review:

A great little collection of poems brought together all using the theme of light.

Each poet has a section of the book dedicated to them where it says little about who they are, shows the poem they created using the theme of light, what their inspiration is to writing poems, some writing tips on how they create them along with a favourite poem of theirs by someone else. A great reference book for people who want to get a feel for whether they would like poetry – either to read or maybe have a go at writing for themselves.

My favourite poems were Playing with Stars by Brian Moses and Beware of the Grey by Paul Cookson.

 

Playing with Stars by Brian Moses

 

Young children know what it’s like

to play with stars.

 

First of all it’s a wink and a smile

from some distant constellation,

then it’s hide and seek as they disappear

in a cover of cloud.

Sometimes children see how far

they can travel to a star

before familiar voices call them

home to bed.

 

Like all good games, of course,

you need to use a little imagination

when playing with stars.

More experienced players

can jump over stars or shake down a star.

Some can trap them in butterfly nets,

but you should always let them loose again.

Stars grow pale and die it you cage them.

 

Sometimes the stars tell stories

of their journeys across the sky

and sometimes they stay silent.

At these times children may travel themselves,

wandering a line that unravels

through their dreams.

At these times too the stars play their own games,

falling from the sky when there’s no one there to catch them.

 

Sometimes you find these stars on the ground,

dazed and confused. Be warned though:

even fallen stars may be hot to touch.

 

Young children know what it’s like

to rescue stars, to hold them gently

in gloved hands and then,

with one almighty fling,

sling them back to the sky.

 

Adults forget what it’s like

to play with stars,

and when children offer to teach them

they’re far too busy.

 

I liked this one as it shows the innocence of children and the use of their own imaginations. It shows how when you get older you tend to lose that child like essence and it takes a child imagination to try and bring it back to you. How many of us as children thought you could catch a star? I know I did – I mean there was even a song about it ‘catch a falling star and put it in your pocket save it for a rainy day’.

Beware The Grey by Paul Cookson

 

Beware of The Grey

Beware of The Grey

Fading your dreams

And ambitions away

 

Beware of The Grey

Beware of The Grey

Melting the night time

Into the day

 

He’ll take all the colours

And drain them away

Beware of the evil

Beware of The Grey

 

Whatever you do

Whatever you say

Keep you eyes open

Beware of The Grey

 

Don’t put off tomorrow

What can be today

Follow your vision

Beware of The Grey

 

He’ll shade all your dreams

And whisper and say

Don’t worry – give up

Beware of The Grey

 

Where there’s a will

There’s always a way

Little by little

Beware of The Grey

 

He’ll suck out your dreams

And say It’s okay …

Accept second best

Beware of The Grey

 

Beware of The Grey

Beware of The Grey

Fading your dreams

And ambitions a

w

a

y …

 

I liked this one as it’s trying to get you to be aware of things that could bring you down. It wants you to dream big and never give up on them. Don’t let anyone say you can’t do it, just always try your best before your dreams start to fade away.

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4 out of 5 stars

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Book Review: ‘Lost Voices of the Nile’ by Charlotte Booth

9781445642857

Title: Lost Voices of the Nil: Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt

Published: 15th August 2015

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Author: Charlotte Booth

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Charlotte-Booth-Egyptologist

Twitter: @nefercharlie

Synopsis:

When we think of ancient Egypt, we think of the gods, the pharaohs and the pyramids. However, life for the average Egyptian was very different from this glorious perception and was not so unrecognisable from the lives we live today.

This book tells the history of the ordinary population of ancient Egypt, using the stories of real people – often strange, at times amusing and ultimately very recognisable. Booth introduces us to a number of fascinating people, including Taimhotep, who married a man twice her age and turned to the god Imhotep to help her to conceive a son; Naunakhte, who disinherited her children for neglecting her in her old age; Kenhirkhopshef, a man seemingly obsessed with making lists; and Paneb, the ‘bad boy’ of Deir el-Medina. History is made up of people and personalities, and each of these characters has a story to tell.

 

Review:

Quirky, well researched, interesting read and goes down as another off my 2015 Reading Challenge – A non-fiction book.

So much has been packed into this book with each section easily accessible. Good that there was a map at the beginning so when different areas were talked about you had an idea of where they were in relation to each other – also shows the distance some would have travelled to go from one settlement town to another.

The images inside of Deir el-Medina – which seems to be the main place spoken about throughout – show just how vast the area they lived in was. From just looking at the remains that are left you can get a feel for what it was like in its day, and that it would have been quite an imposing area to live in.

Many aspects of the Ancient Egyptians lifestyles are very similar to our own, showing that sometimes the old ways are the best. Took me a little longer to read than your everyday fiction book but I think that was due to the amount of information being given and letting it all sink in. I do love finding out about the history of the Ancient Egyptians and will always watch a documentary on the subject whenever there is one on TV as I find their way of life in general fascinating.

There were many interesting facts that I picked up along the way throughout this book that stuck with me from either being a little bizarre and quirky or just fascinating in seeing how aspects of the Ancient world still play a part in today’s society.

Passing the Time chapter – They seemed to have their own version of our present day Gladiators competitions where two men would try and knock each other down with polls. Only difference is that they were on boats, rather than podiums, on the River Nile and they would have to knock the other into the water, only then would they win. There was however a side of danger with this sport, once in the Nile there could be a high chance of being eaten by a crocodile or if your opponent got a bit too competitive they could harm you while trying to knock you down with the pole.

Household Religion chapter – The Ancient Egyptians had many gods and it is surprising how the stories go with how many times they could die and be reborn – usually being made out of clay. The story of Isis, Nephthys, Osiris and Seth is the main focus in this chapter and it goes round quite a few times with who dies and comes back. So much so that I did have to re-read to make sure I followed the correct path they were taking.

Love, Sex and Marriage chapter – I have to say the dream interpretations that they had for the very wide rarity of dreams they could have were just brilliant. They were very different between whether you were male or female. For a man to dream he is having intercourse with either his mother or sister this is good (friends will stay close or he will inherit something) whereas if he dreams he is having sex with his wife in the sun this is bad (maybe it’s the whole in the sun bit rather than being with their wife but either way the gods will see his miseries if he does). For a woman they are that much stranger. If she is dreaming that she is married to her husband she will be destroyed and if she embraces him she will experience grief. Then there are a few about if an animal has intercourse with them and if this happens mostly she will be either punished or is likely to die soon. The interpretations between the sexes is very different and you have to wonder whether they were thought up by men or women – either way I think most women at the time would have been wise to keep quiet about what they were dreaming about.

Childhood chapter – Adulthood started so much sooner for the children of Ancient Egypt than it would today, they were barely in their teens before they would be put to work. The boys would, more often then not, follow in their father’s footsteps and the girls would start to take on more roles within the family household. This did not stop them from having fun and playing games just like children of today though, only difference is that it did not last as long.

Working for a Living chapter – The everyday jobs that existed at the time are what you would expect them to be – farmers, labourers, scribes, priesthood and being in the military – where they were usually paid in food rations or with goods rather than with money. But the one I found most interesting was that women could become professional mourners. It appears that women of the deceased’s family would not be able to show their grief in public as it would be ‘considered unseemly’, so they would hire professional mourners to show their grief in their place. Most professions would be past down from father to son, mother to daughter, so it would seem if you didn’t like what your parents did for a living you didn’t have many options of what you could, or more likely would, be doing.

Overall a very informative read that isn’t too heavy to get through so if you are interested in what the everyday life of the Ancient Egyptians was really like then check it out.

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4 out of 5 stars

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