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Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings by Amy Kelly
Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings by Amy Kelly
by Amy Kelly
Edition: Paperback
20 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Matchless queen finds perfect biographer, July 3, 2014
I first read this biography when I was sixteen. I thought it was brilliant and one of the best books I'd ever read. I am MUCH older now, and have re-read it several times, and I still think it is one of the best books I've ever read, and certainly the best biography. Literate, thoughtful, scholarly--a masterpiece. Please try it--the language takes no prisoners, and you may have to consult a dictionary, but it is spellbinding. What a woman Eleanor was, a marvel in any age.

P.S. Why is the cover graced with a portrait of Eleanor of Portugal, who lived several centuries later? It's a well-known portrait, and it would not have been hard to find a more appropriate illustration. One can be sure Miss Kelly had nothing to do with it!!


The Late Scholar: Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane Investigate (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Mystery)
The Late Scholar: Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane Investigate (Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Mystery)
by Jill Paton Walsh
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.07
56 used & new from $12.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Imitation NOT the sincerest form of flattery, June 29, 2014
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Ms. Walsh's novels based on the characters originated by Dorothy L. Sayers have gone steadily downwards in quality: Rambling, unrealistic plots, poor characterization, lackluster dialogue have increasingly marred these books. Reintroducing Harriet's Oxford friends without regard to how old they would actually be--many more should have retired--and imagining that these women would not know of Lord St. George's passing? Not likely. But in the end, can anything worse be said of such a book than that it reveals a critical clue and discusses plot points from one of Miss Sayer's own novels? Don't waste your money on this one. And if you haven't read Miss Sayer's novels, you have many hours of far superior enjoyment to experience.


The Attenbury Emeralds: The New Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Mystery (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries with Harriet Vane)
The Attenbury Emeralds: The New Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane Mystery (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries with Harriet Vane)
by Jill Paton Walsh
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.48
54 used & new from $6.45

2.0 out of 5 stars Mildly diverting if you've never actually read Dorothy L. Sayers, June 29, 2014
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There are 2 ways to look at this novel: if you haven't read Dorothy L. Sayers (and if you haven't, you have a world of fun awaiting you), this book could conceivably be entertaining if you were on a plane or laid up. If you HAVE read Miss Sayers, don't even think of buying this book! This novel conveys nothing of the wit and intelligence of Sayers' protagonists, introduces highly unlikely social situations, and even worse, its plot wanders like a lost child. Coincidence plays too great a role. And Miss Sayers would be turning in her grave at the many mistakes in titles of the nobility. (One character in particular appears in the novel numerous times under the wrong surname, according to Ms. Walsh's own character list.) The Dowager Duchess is reduced to complete idiocy. Skip this one (and its sequel, "The Late Scholar.") Lazy and boring.


The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
by Jonas Jonasson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.00
97 used & new from $6.34

3.0 out of 5 stars Overhyped, but enjoyable nonetheless!, May 18, 2014
Expectations for this book are set way too high by the cover blurbs--I did not find it "laugh out loud funny" or "hilarious." It was just amusing enough to carry me through the whole 385 pages. I think it has to be a matter of individual taste as to whether you find the main characters too flat or just distant enough to remind you that it is a fairy tale after all. I did find the characters engaging, although "Pike's" transformation in the last part of the novel pushes it too far. Like some other reviewers, I did find the story a little too reminiscent of "Forrest Gump" and "Zelig"--almost too firmly in the picaresque tradition. You may find the Epilog annoying.

All in all, a rather likeable book with, for some, a certain charm--check out a sample or read a bit in a book store if you can before you buy to see if it's your cup of tea.


Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France
Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France
by Evelyne Lever
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.82
182 used & new from $0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars NOT the last queen of France, January 10, 2014
How much good can be said of a biography of which even the title is incorrect?: Marie Antoinette was NOT the last queen of France. Two queens followed, both of whom were closely related to her: her daughter Marie Therese, as the wife of the 20-minute king, Louis XIX: and her niece, Maria Amalia (daughter of her sister Maria Carolina), who was the consort of Louis Philippe.


The Wives of Henry VIII
The Wives of Henry VIII
by Antonia Fraser
Edition: Paperback
247 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Accessible portrait of six queens, October 13, 2013
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An extremely readable biography of the women who married Henry. My only complaints are: that the family tree showing the Plantagenet descent of Henry and his queens is error-ridden; that in the time since the book was published, the identities of a few of the portraits included have been reconsidered; and perhaps her judgement of Bessie Blount and Katherine Howard is a bit cold--tho not without pity. Well worth reading, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is a Tudor beginner.


The Leopard: A Harry Hole Novel (8)
The Leopard: A Harry Hole Novel (8)
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A new Jack Reacher, and that's not (in this case) a good thing, July 5, 2013
This book is a horrifying thrill ride punctuated by scenes that expose the inner workings of the characters with humanity and finesse. There are parts of this long dark novel which remind me very much in some ways of the Per Waholoo/Maj Sjowal Martin Beck novels in terms of its depiction of modern Norwegian society. There are a million plot turns, though I think that some of the major secrets of Nesbo's characters will be relatively easily guessed. The high level of violence, not to say sadism, could (and perhaps ought to) put off many readers.

The main problem is Harry: He now reminds me of Lee Child's Jack Reacher, the Energizer Bunny of protagonists. No matter what physical punishment he's handed, or in what certain death-defying situation he finds himself, Harry finds the way out. He's become a different, and less interesting central figure. I have enjoyed the earlier books in this series, but I can't say I'm looking forward to "The Phantom" if it represents a continuation in the direction Nesbo seems to have taken in "The Leopard."

(For those wishing to sample a non-Harry Hole Nesbo novel of exceptional skill, read "Headhunters.")


Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses
Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses
by Sarah Gristwood
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.88
90 used & new from $4.39

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 and half stars, June 10, 2013
"Blood Sisters" is certainly an enjoyable history of a very contentious period of English history, centering on the lives of some of the women involved in "The Cousins War"--the Wars of the Roses. I did enjoy following Ms. Gristwood's speculations about the chaotic events of the day. One cannot blame her for the fact that every third lady was named Elizabeth, Margaret, Anne, or Cecily! She did a good job of keeping their nomenclature well-enough organized so that it is not too hard to follow.

Where not much is known about historical personages, it is easy and natural for us to fill in the blanks, perhaps as we would like to see them filled in, and to have favorites. While the book was enlarged by Ms. Gristwood's evident passion for her subject, it also suffers from the fact that there are no footnotes (although there is a short section of notes arranged by page number at the end of the book), so it is harder to travel with her has she forms her conclusions. It's frustrating, as it is clear the author has done quite a bit of research. My only other quibble is: why select Queen Anne, nee Neville, consort of Richard III, as one of the ladies to be focused on, as it is clear that the very scant information we have about her is largely a grab bag of contemporary rumor and speculation? She is a shadow, and remains one, though a very poignant one: If Richard was actively contemplating a foreign marriage even as Anne lay dying, grieving for her dead boy, what must her feelings have been? Perhaps, indeed, that is what remains after reading 'Blood Sisters'--how ruthless an age it was.


Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings Who Invented England
Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings Who Invented England
by Dan Jones
Edition: Hardcover
15 used & new from $9.04

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3 and half stars, June 6, 2013
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Dan Jones' "Plantagenets" has a lot going for it: it's clear, stream-lined, and relatively objective. It's a good place to begin if you wish to learn about the English dynasty which began with Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and for Jones' purposes, ends with Richard II. It's a very good place to trace the origins of the English system of parliamentary rule. The great queens among the Plantagenets get their due. But it is neither a work of literary elegance nor of tremendous scholarship (no footnotes, and, at least in the kindle edition, only a recommended reading list which presumably reflects the origins of Jones' information). No new ground is broken as far as I know. But for someone just wanting to "get their feet wet," with this high-handed, short-tempered, often very disagreeable, yet nevertheless fascinating collection of monarchs, it makes a good launching pad.

P.S. Someone somewhere asked how this book compares with those of the late Thomas B. Costain, who also chronicled the entire dynasty, through Richard III. Both authors work successfully on a very broad canvas. I would say Jones has the advantage of more recent scholarship and information, and he is probably more objective than Costain. But there is something engaging about Costain's passions and his somewhat purple prose. And he was a strong believer in the innocence of Richard III in the death's of the young princes in the Tower. Even more than Jones, I would guess that Costain's work might inspire a lifelong love of history, even though one might come to disagree with him in the end.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 7, 2013 2:10 PM PDT


The Duke's Tattoo: A Regency Romance of Love and Revenge, Though Not in That Order (The Horsemen of the Apocalypse Series Book 1)
The Duke's Tattoo: A Regency Romance of Love and Revenge, Though Not in That Order (The Horsemen of the Apocalypse Series Book 1)
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A novel of promise, November 16, 2012
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Georgette Heyer (once revived from the swoon occasioned by the scandalous premarital connection of our heroine and hero and their near-continuous state of arousal) might well have relished "The Duke's Tattoo." As many other reviewers have mentioned, this is a highly enjoyable novel for much of its length. Certainly the major difficulty with the book is the acknowledged problem of tediously artificial barriers to the happy union of the duke and his lady. This is a gifted and intelligent writer, who seems very capable of moving out of Ms. Heyer's shadow. I look forward to her next novel.


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