Review

Review: Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen by Alison Weir

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I learnt about the Tudors endlessly at school. It seemed to be our history topic every other year, but we always started with the infamous Henry VIII, and then moved on to his children. Therefore I really know very little about Henry VII, and his wife Elizabeth, in comparison – particularly Elizabeth, who barely seems to have gotten a mention in the school textbooks. It seemed like this book, by well-known historical writer Alison Weir, would be a good introduction to the ‘first Tudor queen’.

Whilst this book was immensely detailed and clearly Weir cares a lot about the subject matter and did her research very carefully, it perhaps did not feel like the right choice for someone with very little knowledge on Elizabeth to begin with. I just felt glad that I already had a lot of knowledge of later in the period, otherwise I think this book would have been very confusing. For anyone without a prior knowledge of English history, this would not be the right book at all. As you might have noticed, our monarchs have never been creative when it came to choosing names, so history books can often get confusing, what with endless Henrys, Elizabeths, Thomases etc… Obviously this is nothing to do with the author, but I feel like a family tree might have been to some advantage here, especially as the book opens a while before the birth of Elizabeth.

It is also not an easy book to dip in and out of, which I like to do with some history books – some I can read all the way through, others I’d rather just read certain bits. There are chapters only, no sub-chapters or even headings or sub-titles, which made it really quite difficult to work out where I wanted to focus on or not. And whilst some sections were really interesting – for example on Elizabeth’s childhood, her marriage with Henry VII, others were really quite dull. Weir also seems to have a habit of listing items and prices, which seemed unnecessary in some places – although the conversion to modern day currency was interesting, making the opulence of the monarchs all the more clear.

Overall, an interesting book that might be a difficult read for some, and that could definitely have benefited from sub-titles or sub-chapters, easily allowing the reader to pick out sections to read. It feels quite a heavy text without it, and whilst this may work for some, it doesn’t feel like a good place to start for those unfamiliar with this area of history.

Misc.

So You Want To Learn About… SPACE

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I often find myself wishing that I knew so much more about so many different things. Science, languages, different areas of history… there’s so much that I’m missing out on! Over the past few years I’ve been reading more and more non-fiction to try and fill these gaps, so I thought it would be fun to turn this into a blog feature where I recommend non-fiction books based on a certain theme. These will either be ones I’ve chosen myself because I want to read more about them, or ones suggested in the comments – so if there’s anything you want to learn more about, let me know!

Today’s theme is space. As most of you already know, I absolutely LOVE science fiction – whether I’m reading, watching a film or playing video games, I LOVE SPACE!

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BUT – I don’t really know much about it. At least, the real factual stuff. This is something I’ve been wanting to educate myself on for a while (BECAUSE SPACE IS COOL), it is just a matter of finding accessible books because I was never the best at science in school…

So which non-fiction books out there look really good?

A Brief History of Time Cosmos The Hidden Reality

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, Cosmos by Carl Sagan, The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene

Death by Black Hole Parallel Worlds An Astronaut's Guide

Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos by Michio Kaku, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

Big Bang The Grand Design The Elegant Universe

Big Bang by Simon Singh, The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene

Do you have any recommendations? Which topic would you like to see next?

Thoughts

Thoughts #49: Favourite Non-Fiction Books Written By Women

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As the title suggests, today I wanted to discuss my favourite non-fiction books written by women, as part of Women Writer’s Month. Non-fiction is a topic that’s not often included in the book blogging community when we gush over books, as I have discussed before. I’d love to hear whether you’ve read any of these or have any recommendations; let me know in the comments.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please

Yes Please is Amy Poehler‘s autobiography, or rather anecdotal memoir. Amy is one of my comedy queens and I absolutely love her, a love which began when I first watched Parks & Recreation, where Amy appears as Leslie Knope. It is one of my favourite series ever, one that I can watch again and again and again. This book is typical of her sense of humour and is pretty perfect for any fan of hers – or fan of Parks & Rec.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

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The second of my comedy queens, and often seen on screen with Amy Poehler, Tina Fey has also written a memoir: Bossypants. I read this one more recently, and I’d also recommend it if you’re a big fan of either Saturday Night Live or 30 Rock, as Tina discusses various events that went on behind the scenes of those two shows.

A Ride in the Neon Sun by Josie Dew

A Ride in the Neon Sun by Josie Dew

If you enjoy travel writing, then Josie Dew‘s A Ride in the Neon Sun is definitely for you – particularly if you’re a fan of Bill Bryson, because Josie has that same wonderful wit. However, all of her books are about travelling a new country by bicycle. I’ve read a couple of her other travel memoirs and they’ve all been wonderful, but this one was definitely my favourite.

Love and Louis XIV: Women in the Life of the Sun King by Antonia Fraser

Love and Louis XIV by Antonia Fraser

Antonia Fraser is very well-known for writing historical non-fiction, and Love and Louis XIV: Women in the Life of the Sun King is one of the few that I’ve read, although I plan on reading many of her other works. I first read it when I was 18, whilst studying Louis XIV as part of my A Level History course. I’ve been trying to find more books about female historical figures that are also written by women – and if you’re looking for the same, this is a good place to start.

Pompeii by Mary Beard

Pompeii by Mary Beard

Mary Beard is one of my absolute favourite historians – she is so enthusiastic and passionate, I love it. Pompeii is my favourite of all her books so far. Instead of looking at the elite of the town, she takes a look at the life of the ordinary citizen. There is also an accompanying television show if you are interested!

What are some of your favourite non-fiction books written by women?

Review

Review: The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I would definitely consider myself a fangirl. There are so many fandoms I’m a part of, whether they are books, films, television shows or video games. Therefore, a book that discussed all the wonderful parts of being a fangirl seemed pretty damn perfect to me. And according to The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, I am a Potterhead, a Whovian, a Tolkienite, a Bookwalker, a True Believer, a YA Book Nerd, a Whedonite and Girl Who Games – and I am PROUD to be all of those.

As a girl who plays a lot of online games, I have sadly encountered a lot of casual (and sometimes not so casual) sexism. And also a lot of disbelief – I distinctly remember playing one particular online game, and just sitting around chatting to my guild. I always tend to play female characters (normally with red hair!), but I have plenty of male friends who do the same and guys playing as female characters is pretty prevalent in the MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) world. So I was innocently sat around and this guy just came up to me and said ‘So you’re one of those types then’. I asked him what he meant, and he responded with something along the lines of ‘Why the hell would a guy want to play as a female character, it’s so weird’. He had just assumed I was a guy playing as a female character, and by that reasoning ALL girls in the game were actually guys, because A GIRL PLAYING AN ONLINE GAME, THAT CAN’T HAPPEN. I then told him I was actually female and why did it even matter (because it’s a GAME, you can be whoever you want), and he proceeded to try and flirt with me. Nope. No. Not happening. And this is why I was happy to see a chapter on online gaming and how sometimes gender can unnecessarily and sadly have a negative impact on your experience.

There were plenty of other great themes: explaining the whole ‘otaku’ image and why you should avoid certain convention habits like glomping (ugh), a chapter on feminism and awesome women from various fandoms as well as some wonderful references that appealed to my nerdy self. BUT, and this was really quite a major issue, I honestly felt as if the author was just trying too hard to appeal to her audience. Overuse of slang made me cringe regularly and, despite the intended audience probably being girls in their mid-teens to early twenties, a lot of the book felt incredibly childish.

In addition, about three quarters of the book was really basic, self explanatory stuff. You’re going to pick this book up if you’re a fangirl of some kind, therefore you’ve probably already done most of the stuff the author gives advice on: attending conventions, using social media (yeah… really) and other things, most of which were really very dull to read about.

Overall, the book was fun in parts, but really really made me feel embarrassed for fangirls worldwide in others. The last quarter of the book was definitely the strongest – it would kind of be wrong to write a book like this without a chapter on feminism. This was something I greatly approved of, something I honestly feel we need a little more of in our science fiction and fantasy. Also, I’d like to thank the book for providing me with the knowledge that a letter from Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, to her mother, written in 1782, is probably the first recorded use of ‘feels’. Just imagining a duchess flailing around, whining about ‘her feels’ provides me with a great mental image!

Review

Review: A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Despite not having seen the accompanying television series, I pretty much proved Lucy Worsley’s point when I was drawn to this book because of the title. A tale of how the British public have been obsessed with the idea of murder, particularly in the past three hundred years or so, it’s actually quite a lot more than that. Covering the development of the police force, the popularity of horror and true crime novels, famous authors inspired by true crime and other anecdotes like the origins of Madame Tussaud’s, Lucy Worsley manages to pack a lot into one volume.

The first chapter, the story of the Ratcliff Highway Murders, just didn’t do much to grab my attention despite its rather morbid happenings, and I have to admit that I only glanced over much of it – and I actually skipped over many more, but there were some stand-out sections. For example, the chapter on the first appearance of the ‘Penny Dreadful’ was fascinating – these were cheaper alternatives to true crime novels and therefore also accessible to the lower classes. It also explains the name of the recent TV series, which features familiar characters from horror and crime together in one place. There are also sections on authors like Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie – which serves to remind me that I haven’t read anything by either of them!

Although I may have skipped some chapters, this is definitely the sort of history book you can read the entirety of due to Worsley’s writing style, which panders to all. She does not assume the reader is familiar with the history, which makes it perfect for anyone with a new interest in the subject, yet she also does not patronise. However, some areas just unfortunately failed to capture my interest at all. Recommended if you’re interested in the history of criminology and inspiration behind true crime, or fancy reading something a bit more macabre!

Top Lists

Horror October: Top Ten Horror Books On My TBR List

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Today’s Horror October post features the top ten books on my ‘to be read’ list that I want to read most urgently. I’d love to know if any of you have read them, and what you thought! I’ve linked to each book on Goodreads underneath the picture. These are a mix of books from Netgalley and Edelweiss that I still haven’t gotten round to, as well as my own purchases.

TBR Horror

This House Is Haunted by John Boyne, Amity by Micol Ostow and The Haunting Season by Michelle Muto

TBR Horror

The Furies by Mark Alpert

TBR Horror

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

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The Troop by Nick Cutter

TBR Horror

A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley

TBR Horror

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes and The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

TBR Horror

Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #14: HBO’s Rome

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The TV series this week is: HBO’s Rome.

HBO's Rome

A down-to-earth account of the lives of both illustrious and ordinary Romans set in the last days of the Roman Republic, from Julius Caesar’s civil war of 49 BC to the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.

Yet another series that I haven’t seen, but really need to – especially as it covers one of my favourite periods of history. I can think of so many different books to recommend for fans of this show, so I’ve tried to narrow it down a bit. I’ve included both fiction and non-fiction in today’s feature.

Looking for fiction?

The Aeneid by Virgil Imperium by Robert Harris Ovid the Augustan Scapegoat by Michael Soloman

The Aeneid by Virgil is the classic tale of the foundation of Rome, by Aeneas, a Trojan who escaped the Trojan War and traveled to Italy. I’ve chosen this one not so much because of what it covers, but when it was written – during the fall of the Roman Republic and therefore during the period that Rome is set. Robert Harris’ Imperium follows Cicero, the famous orator, lawyer and politician (and whose name means ‘chickpea’, a fact that will always amuse me), of the Roman Republic. The series is a fictional biography of his life, and features familiar historical figures from the show such as Julius Caesar and Pompey. Ovid: An Augustan Scapegoat by Michael Soloman is set a little after the end of the show: in 14 BC, after the death of Emperor Augustus (Octavian). It uses fact mixed with fiction to create a tale of the poet Ovid, exiled from the Roman Empire and never pardoned.

Or non-fiction?

Rubicon by Tom Holland The Roman Triumph by Mary Beard The Classical World: An Epic History of Greece and Rome by Robin Lane Fox

Tom Holland’s Rubicon is a very highly regarded account of the end of the Roman Republic, with lively portraits of historical figures such as Cicero, Cleopatra, Spartacus and Virgil. Mary Beard is quite possibly my favourite historian/classicist EVER, and I had the privilege of meeting her last year, so naturally I have to recommend one of her books! I’ve chosen The Roman Triumph because it’s more of a general look at Rome than some of her other work – although to be honest, I’d recommend any book by her. My final non-fiction book of choice would be The Classical World: An Epic History of Greece and Rome by Robin Lane-Fox (who also comes recommended by Mary Beard, if I remember correctly). This book is a pretty brilliant brief account of the ancient world and is wonderfully written. I could list so many more non-fiction books (basically half of my coursebooks for university) but I think that’s enough for now!

Are you a fan of HBO’s Rome? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any series or films you’d like to see recommendations for?