Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession (Six Tudor Queens #2) by Alison Weir

 

30231546._SY475_

Anne BoleynA King’s Obsession by bestselling author and historian Alison Weir, is the second novel in the Six Tudor Queens series. An unforgettable portrait of the ambitious woman whose fate we know all too well, but whose true motivations may surprise you. 

Alison Weirs’ Six Tudor Queens #5 (Katheryn Howard, the Scandalous Queen) was due to be released back in May, but finally came out in August due to some horrible virus thing! Her final Tudor Queens instalment (Katharine Parr, the Sixth Wife) is expected in May 2021, so I thought I’d share with you my review of book #2, which is about Anne Boleyn.

Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres, particularly when it’s about the Tudor period. I requested this from NetGalley back in 2017, half expecting to be turned down as Weir is such an established author. But, lo and behold, I got approved, and I was utterly delighted!

Anne Boleyn was Henry’s second wife out of the six. Their relationship was an uphill struggle from the outset as Henry was still married to Katherine of Aragon for the best part of their courting, which caused controversy among the masses. This painted poor Anne as a harlot and whore. She was neither. In fact, she was a sassy, educated, well travelled woman who certainly knew what she wanted out of life. But back in the 1500’s, women generally weren’t to be seen as having an opinion to voice. They were there to help secure families’ futures, the most important thing of course was to have a son, and in royalty, that all important heir.

Alison Weirs historical knowledge shines from page one. She portrays the era with pinpoint perfection, every minute detail brought to living colour with ease. What I found most satisfying was that the basis of the story was factual. The author achieved an in-depth history lesson that was fascinating because the characters actually existed. She gave them their own part to play, and added their personalities, reactions and mannerisms based on her fantastic knowledge as a historian. The vision she had as a fictional author brought together an accurate depiction of events with drama and passion to make for a truly memorable read.

I’ll be honest in saying that it wasn’t the easiest read for me at times. At around half way through I had to stop for a while, in fact, for well over a week, because it was getting heavy. Not to hold, as it was on my kindle, (the physical book is a satisfying 544 pages) but heavy on the politics and religion. That was by no means a bad thing, because during the Tudor period, England was going through some very tough times, and Henry Tudor was responsible for a huge amount of uproar and change, so it was necessary and relevant to the story. But in order for me to get full enjoyment from it, I really did need that break. I’m not the best at taking in political plots and religious intricacies, and on various occasions I found I wasn’t connected to what I was reading. That, however, did not have any adverse effect on the story flow, it didn’t make me enjoy it any less, if anything, it made me more determined to finish it.

On finishing, I discovered at the end a ‘Timeline’ and a ‘Dramatis Personae’ which really helped to fill in a few gaps where I didn’t quite connect or understand certain areas of the book.

All in all, this is a fantastic read which I recommend to any fan of British History, it’s not the easiest, but it’s well worth persevering with because Alison Weir is an incredible author.

img_0273

Summerwater by Sarah Moss

cover186274-medium

On the longest day of the summer, twelve people sit cooped up with their families in a faded Scottish cabin park. The endless rain leaves them with little to do but watch the other residents.

Summerwater was inspired by a family holiday that Sarah Moss had in Scotland where it relentlessly rained.

‘You can’t wait for the fucking weather, not here, you’ll be dead before it stops raining.’

The story revolves around twelve very different families over a twenty four hour period. But in fact, they have a lot more in common with each other than they actually realise.

‘…who the fuck goes on holiday where there isn’t even a chippy?’

This book is a ‘people-watchers’ dream. After all, what else is there to do when it’s pouring down outside? You’ve just spent a small fortune on a musty old cabin in the woods, and the sun seems like a long distant memory. You’d sit and watch the world go by from inside that cabin and judge each other of course! That’s what I would do anyway. Get my moneys worth one way or another. British holidays are a lot to be desired at times.

‘People get on best, in Claire’s view, when they’re apart at least half the time…’

We get to meet bored young children and angsty teenagers, newly engaged young things and married couples whose relationships have become stagnant and barely tolerable as they approach old age.

What they all have in common is they are disgruntled by the weather, their lives in general, and most of all each other.

‘What do you want, Josh whispers in her ear. A cup of tea and a bacon bap, she thinks, would be excellent, but she says kiss me…’

We’ve all been there, those family holidays where we try our hardest to make the best of a bad situation. Sitting indoors with no phone signal or WiFi can force our minds back into the real world, whether we like it or not. What is it about the British, is it really such a strain to talk and connect with each other?

‘Have a bath, he said’ …Women’s magazines always say that, a long scented bath, as if everything from baby weight to infidelity will dissolve in enough hot water, as if you can spend enough on bath salts to cover the smell of self-loathing and rage.’

In between each chapter, Moss delicately brings in another aspect to the story. Brief, evocative description of the surroundings, vignette style chapters which connect the surrounding natural world to the characters. Whilst reading these, they gave me welcomed respite from the character-driven trope. A breather almost, to prepare me for the next ‘human’ instalment.

‘You probably don’t notice when you’re in your prime, do you; in fact, if you’re thinking about your prime it’s almost certainly over.’

What I loved most about Summerwater was it’s simple concept mixed with the complexities of being human, being loved and being angry.

This story is littered with a dark humour I wasn’t expecting. I experienced real hearty belly laughs on numerous occasions. I read some of it in the bathtub too, soaking away my own ‘self-loathing and rage’! At one point I looked up into the bathroom mirror and saw my facial expression which I think was mixture of a ‘knowing smirk’ and a deep connective understanding. I read about 30 pages towards the end out loud to myself as I had a few hours on my own. I wanted to properly ‘hear’ the characters’ voices. The dialogue was chatty, easy. The descriptions breathtakingly beautiful.

The final few pages of Summerwater was phenomenal. I’ll say no more on that subject, I suggest you read it.

This is the first time I’ve read anything by Sarah Moss, and I’m delighted to discover she has a back catalogue which I will definitely get through.

I’ll leave you with a final quote, from Justine. She’s a Mum of two with a running-obsession, but what is she REALLY running from? She was definitely my most favourite character of all;

‘…old ladies, powder and lipstick to totter to the corner shop with one of those trolleys because they’ve not bothered to lift anything heavier than a biscuit since the menopause…’

Big thanks to Sarah Moss and Picador for sending me an advanced copy via the NetGalley platform in exchange for an honest review.

The Hoarder by Jess Kidd

36269325._SY475_

The Hoarder is the mesmerising second novel from Jess Kidd. It is a dark, comical tale of haunting and hoarding.

 

‘Time wavers and retreats at Bridlemere, coughing and shambling. Here is history mutely putrefying and elegance politely withering’.

Two weeks it took me to read The Hoarder by Jess Kidd. Two weeks of beautiful, poetic writing, which ambled along at a pace slower than I normally would like. That said, the speed at which this story unfolds was exactly how it should be. I devoured every sentence, re-read many paragraphs, I wasn’t itching for a conclusion or big reveal, I was deep in the moment, sucked in by incredible writing.

I loved everything about the story, the writing style, the characters, the humour, the sadness and poignancy. Whilst reading, I felt as though I was transported to Bridlemere, the aromas of a once grand mansion seeped into my senses, the quirky characters had my undivided attention, and the paranormal elements added an unusual and often amusing twist.

‘Sometimes the wind dropped down and hid behind the dunes, sometimes it sent playful handfuls of sand skipping. Sometimes it raised colossal storms to scour your arse all along the strand’.

I’m not entirely sure whether I’ve read anything with Irish protagonists before, if I have, it’s gone unnoticed or forgotten. The sometimes slightly crass dialogue brought smirks and smiles, just breaking up the flow enough to give it an edge, perfectly placed, no profanity for the sake of it.

The Hoarder is faultless, I am finding it difficult to review in all its perfection. I didn’t read too much about it prior to starting it, and went in blind. I just had a funny feeling it would blow me away. And it did just that.

img_0273

About the Author

Jess Kidd was brought up in London as part of a large family from County Mayo. Her first novel, Himself, was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards in 2016 and she was the winner of the Costa Short Story Award in the same year. In 2017, Himself was shortlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and longlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. Her second novel, The Hoarder, was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award in association with Listowel Writers’ Week’. Both books were BBC Radio 2 Book Club picks.
@JessKiddHerself | jesskidd.com

Wounding by Heidi James

img_1073-1

‘I’m getting old and bitter. Soon I won’t recognise myself’.

Are you a woman of a certain age?

Have you lost your identity?

Are you really only known as so-and-so’s wife or what’s-his-faces’ mother?

Look, do you want to just juice up your tedious existence and do some crazy shit to remind yourself that you do actually have a pulse?!

It’s all very well isn’t it when everyone else thinks they know who you are, but in fact, you’re desperate to feel something. Anything.

Oh yeah, what was I doing? Got sidetracked….

Anyway ladies, READ THIS BOOK. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to a bit of self-clarity without getting into trouble.

And gents, married gents, new Fathers, READ THIS BOOK TOO. It might give you an insight as to why us women are so complicated and sometimes unreachable.

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

53717123

It’s August 2020 and I’m sat on my sofa in the searing heat. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and I’ve attempted to read just 2 books in as many weeks and couldn’t finish either of them. 

My concentration is at record rock bottom levels and I’m yearning for a book to take me away from this shitshow. 

I thought I wanted gently calming and quiet reads, but they were just not cutting it. My eyes were seeing the words, my brain was somewhere else entirely. What I didn’t realise (aah, hindsight!) was that I needed a big, powerhouse of a book to slap my brain around with, get it out of slump-mode using good old fashioned brute force. 

So mindless scrolling on Twitter was all I could focus on. 

Then it happened. I came across a very eye catching bright red ARC of a book not due out until Spring 2021. 

The die-cut front cover was gorgeous. The synopsis, terrifying. The End of Men would either wake up my reading with a violent shake or send it further down into blank oblivion. I was prepared to run that risk. The world around me has partly shut down and my mind was rapidly following suit. 

I’ve got hundreds of books to be read, but what did I do? I requested it on NetGalley of course! 

It seemed like a bit of a madcap idea to read about a deadly virus, I’m trying to escape the continuous doom and gloom of this world, not add to it. What the hell am I doing?! 

Anyway, I had my request accepted and dived straight in. 

There’s a global pandemic and men are dying. Men are dead. Women are carriers, fiercely protecting their sons, watching as their husbands are savagely taken by this killer disease. The thankful ones had daughters. Only one in ten men are immune. 

The End of Men is in the literary fiction genre, with fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian tones that were worryingly real. 

‘The world is closing down’.

It was hitting temperatures here in Hampshire, UK of 35 degrees, yet I felt chilled to the bone. 

Written in multiple points of view from various parts of the world, from Scotland to Singapore, from Canada, to the USA and everywhere else in between, I was able to follow every thread of this story with ease. Usually any more that two or three viewpoints throw me when I’m reading, I struggle to remember who’s voice I’m hearing. All these characters were diverse and the writing style was crystal clear. Everyone’s journey was a path I  followed with ease. 

‘Billionaires have become millionaires, the value of money has evaporated, and this city built on sexism and mans ability to play God through technology is falling apart at the seams.’

At around the halfway mark, I had this niggling pain in my face. I thought I was perhaps coming down with something. (Oh no, those awful paranoid Coronavirus thoughts were creeping in!) Turns out I’d been clenching my teeth so hard whilst reading that I’d given myself a tension headache and jaw-ache! What a relief! So I took some paracetamol and carried on reading. 

‘I have never felt so powerful. This must be what men used to feel like. My mere physical presence is enough to terrify someone into running. No wonder they used to get drunk on it.’

The tables have turned. Women are the future in Sweeney-Baird’s world. Women are being relied upon to save the world, the human race. I’d say it’s about time too, judging by the state of our real pandemic, maybe turf out the blokes, us girls could surely do a better job. (I’m looking at you, New Zealand!)

What I wasn’t expecting was how frightened I felt if we were to be without men completely. Who would remove the spiders? Reach the top shelf for the gravy granules? Clean the windows? I’m joking, obviously. I’m no Stepford Wife, (one of the books I read and thoroughly enjoyed this year by the way!) but seriously, thank goodness this was a work of fiction, albeit too close to reality for comfort at times. 

‘Tonight, I will drink a lot of wine, something I only allow myself to do occasionally to avoid slipping into the kind of sodden, drunken grief that I can see the appeal of very clearly’. 

I know it sounds completely nuts, but I would say this is recommended reading for any person, man or woman, who’s life has been affected by  Covid-19. So that’s EVERYONE then. It’s put our current situation into better perspective for me, that’s for sure. For the first time since March I’ve felt a little more positive and a lot more thankful because actually, things really could be a whole lot worse.   

‘Bad things and good things can coexist…..’ ‘And we have to find the good where we can.’

Ladies and gentlemen, give that man in your life an enormous hug. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Five solid stars from me.

I’d like to say a massive thank you to the author, Christina Sweeney-Baird, the publisher, Harper Fiction for sending me an advance copy in exchange for an honest review via the NetGalley platform.