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B. Gaskell-Denvil (MELBOURNE, VIC Australia)

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The Secret Queen: Eleanor Talbot, The Woman who put Richard III on the Throne
The Secret Queen: Eleanor Talbot, The Woman who put Richard III on the Throne
Price: £3.79

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important insights: both serious and enjoyable, 9 Jun. 2016
This is a book of serious and fascinating research, clearly explained and very well written.
The rights and wrongs concerning Richard III arouse passion these days, and too many who criticise are simply expressing bias. Even those who claim to be serious historians are more interested in their own blindly obstinate bias, rather tha entering into genuine research on the subject. There exists considerable bias on both sides of course, but although this author does not deny his support of Richard III's reputation, his research is careful and honest.
This book is an impressive attempt to understand one of the most controversial elements of Richard III's life, i.e. was he, otr was he not, a usurper? With so little contemporary documentation now available to us, it seems surprising that the amazing Titulus Regius is often simply overlooked or blatantly denied, without much genuine exploration on what the truth may have been.
Here is a book which explores in depth and brings up some intensely interesting possibilities - even probabilities. I consider it a must-read for anyone interested in Richard III himself and his era. It is not necessary to accept every word written here, but it is absurd to dismiss the entire content without serious consideration.
The insights are fascinating, convincing and wonderfully backed by genuine sources. Mr. Ashdown-Hill has uncovered essential facts along with some logical assumptions. Read with an open mind - and follow some of the most important research of recent years.
At no point does this book lapse into pointless insistence or biased irrelevance. This intensely readable collection of relevant details really should be read by anyone and everyone before they then make statements about the actual situation regarding Richard III's acceptance of the throne.
I certainly recommend this book.

In the Shadow of the Storm (The King's Greatest Enemy)
In the Shadow of the Storm (The King's Greatest Enemy)
by Anna Belfrage
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting new series, 13 Feb. 2016

This highly accomplished author has begun a new series, and it seems as though it will be as much popular and compulsive reading as her previous series, The Graham Saga.
This first part begins with a bang, which really draws the reader in. The medieval habit of arranged marriages comes to the fore, but the heroine Kit is not of the class already habituated to the practise, and she is horrified by the idea of marrying a total stranger. Not that her groom is particularly eager either. But there’s a twist. He thinks she is someone else entirely. So the reader becomes ever more intrigued, as we wonder what will happen when the subterfuge is uncovered.
The historical situation regarding the much despised Hugh Despenser has always been one of curiosity and doubt. So this book brings us a set of characters we know will build up to a series of villainy and adventures way beyond the normal. In other words, we are in for plenty of surprise and excitement as the series unfolds.
The author certainly knows her history and is particularly clever bringing together fact and fiction as she introduces her own plot into the vivid truth of the past. The thoroughly repulsive Despenser and the more admirable Roger Mortimer arte both brought to life with some excellent characterisation. How Ms. Belgrade will cover subsequent historical events including King Edward II’s death in the end, since this is one of history’s perennial puzzles, will be fascinating to discover.
The skill in bringing the known facts into a fictional tale is very cleverly mastered, so that I quickly felt I could take just one more small step, and find myself within be in the book, ready to take sides in the rebellion. Therefore the promise of adventure to come is very real. The central relationship is deliciously compelling, Adam grows more interesting each chapter and Kit is a brilliant heroine and I love her already. This is a series which I look forward to following.

Rivers of London: 1
Rivers of London: 1
by Ben Aaronovitch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious folly, 18 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Rivers of London: 1 (Paperback)
Although not what I would normally expect from a fantasy novel in general, this book is a brilliant and deliciously different fantasy-folly. It introduces us to a young London copper who discovers he has magical powers. Shortly after this, the reader realises that he is by no means alone. The London police force is evidently riddled with wizards, and it’s just as well. They have a lot to contend with. London has become a boiling turmoil of incredible violence and bloodshed (what’s new?). From visiting the spirits of the Thames, we follow the quick eradication of a few errant vampires, discover a few lost rivers barely heard of since the medieval, and a whole lot more. The plot weaves, interweaves and generally confuses us with continuous unexpected twists and turns. This is intensely clever and, as far as my past reading is concerned, unique.
Above all, the humour is completely adorable. I confess that there were moments when the whimsy wais so unrelenting that I needed a rest to put my brain back into focus – but I am not complaining. I soon missed my fix and returned to the magical city.
The plot itself is actually nonsense but that doesn’t matter either. Though goodness knows if anyone not accustomed to life, habits, slang and the basic language of modern Londoners would actually understand half of it.
And so to Londoners and anyone else with a spirit of literary adventure, I strongly recommend this as a few days of complete enjoyment, endless smiles and frequent laughs out loud. Even the constant and outstanding brutality remains good humoured. Now – that’s clever!
I bought the audio edition and having listened to a great stream of other audio books, this is most definitely the first one where I have fallen in love with the narrator! Brilliantly read with just the right touches, accents and inferences. A perfect narration and beautifully apt for the book itself.
Quite a joy in all aspects.

Pawn in Frankincense (The Lymond Chronicles)
Pawn in Frankincense (The Lymond Chronicles)
by Dorothy Dunnett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The master of historical fiction, 18 Jan. 2016
Dorothy Dunnett is often considered the greatest master of historical fiction, and I believe she earned her title many times over. This is my favourite of all her work, and the book which I believe shows fewer of her occasional weaknesses. Dare I say it – I believe her work often tends towards over-dramatization and invariably includes a few irritating and repetitive habits – but no author is perfect. On the whole I believe she was an absolutely exceptional author of this genre, and Pawn in Frankincense, part of the Lymond series, is in my view a masterpiece.
This is book 4 of 6. There are few disappointments throughout, and I consider it important to read the entire series for full comprehension – the books do not really stand alone.
The cast of characters is vast, and many are historically genuine figures, mixed expertly with the fictional characters of Ms. Dunnett’s invention. Historical accuracy and an absolute wealth of fascinating and mainly accurate detail is another of her amazing strengths. She does sometimes decorate the truth and play a little with the true exact order of past events but on the whole real history is respected here in all its glorious eccentricity, terror, delight and atmospheric fascination..
But her expertise is remarkable in many other areas, and the incredible weaving of plot with incident, incident with character, and character with plot comes out tops. Since the storyline is spread over six books in total, this is quite an impressive achievement. Once started, this book seems quite impossible to put down.
Lymond himself is a complicated character and he has (I confess) moments when I tire of him and wish his creator had done things a little differently. But on the whole he is magically fascinating and leaps fully breathing and seductively tempting from the page. A hero to yearn for indeed, never ever one dimensional and without being either too perfect or too vice-ridden.
I won’t go into the plot because this is far, far too unyielding and lengthy, but I pick this book beyond all others for its haunting sadness mixed skilfully with delicious humour. I cried over this book. I don’t over many. It is the very best work of an outstanding literary creator.

The Embroiderer
The Embroiderer
Price: £4.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and unique, 18 Jan. 2016
This review is from: The Embroiderer (Kindle Edition)
A most impressive debut novel, this book is both absorbing and extremely well written.
When mentioning the history of Greece, most people would immediately assume of ancient saga, myth and legend. Yet Greece has experienced far more recent suffering and turbulence, and “The Embroiderer” gives us a fascinating insight into this country’s last hundred years of bloodshed and tragedy.
This remarkable book tells us a remarkable story. The plot spreads over the lives of three generations, covering a considerable period of time. We are led through the Greek War of Independence during the 1820s to the horrors of WW2 and finally almost contemporary world of 1972. . Ms. Gauci proves remarkable skill in combining and interweaving the different characters and periods so that the reader absorbs a unique understanding of how Greece and her people have changed due to the difficulties, the dangers, and the developing countries around. This is a family saga involving three generations and specifically a family mystery which pulls us into the turmoil experienced by Greece over many, many years.
The atmosphere leaps from the pages and creates a lasting effect, drawing us into the place, the time, and the intrigue.
The pace is even and never slow, the background history is always intensely interesting and never tedious, the switch from character to character is never confusing since the characters are individually delightful and well drawn, and the desire to keep reading is relentless. This is a book I am delighted to have discovered, and would definitely recommend.

Richard Duke of Gloucester as Lord Protector and High Constable of England
Richard Duke of Gloucester as Lord Protector and High Constable of England
by Annette Carson
Edition: Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great boost to knowledge and understanding, 5 Aug. 2015
For those interested in the life and times of Richard III, there is often confusion puzzling over the events of 1483. This little book - small on pages but huge on information - explains in considerable detail the responsibilities, powers and obligations of the two principal titles Richard held at that time - Lord Protector and Defender of the Realm and High Constable of England. Based on an enormous amount of documentation and historical precedent, these titles are put under the spotlight. The book makes no attempt to explain individual situations which arose at that time, but the understanding of the inherent powers involved, makes a great deal clear. Both extremely readable and extremely insightful, I consider this book absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in this fascinating period and Richard III himself before coming to the throne. I had to buy the book from the authors website but I have been told that the Kindle version will soon be available on Amazon.

Water's Edge
Water's Edge
by Jane Riddell
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insight and characterisation, 31 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Water's Edge (Paperback)
The elderly widow of 4 grown children is intending to remarry. She suggests a family reunion, during which she plans to make the announcement. Not everything goes to plan.

As her children gather, it becomes obvious that each of them, and the one teenage granddaughter, are all deeply troubled by their own individual problems. These problems begin to unwind as each member of the family starts to confide or muse over the complications of their lives, past and present. The reader begins to enter into these interweaving threads, sympathising or otherwise with the characters involved.

With flash backs and further insights, the psychological stresses of this family are played out against a Swiss background, bringing each of the personalities into believable and interesting contrast. It is this character definition which keeps the book alive and holds the reader’s interest throughout. Although there is often little action and the pace tends to slow too much at times, and although some aspects of the situations seemed to me a little clichéd, on the whole this novel is very well written and flows smoothly. Curiosity concerning each of these people is certainly aroused. Switzerland plays its own small part, adding to the many layers presented. It is an absorbing read, and I can honestly say I enjoyed the journey.

The King's Grave: The Search for Richard III
The King's Grave: The Search for Richard III
Price: £7.49

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uniqye, topical and fascinating, 23 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These two authors are an interesting team and their alternate chapters make a satisfying combination. Pjilippa Langley is the principal inspiration and instigator behind the recent discovery of Richard III's remains. Her many years of painstaking preparation and steadfast work both on the likely site, on gathering the necessary permissions from all the present bureaucratic powers that be, and in raising the money needed for such a major archaeological endeavour, enabled the whole amazing discovery to be both attempted and accomplished. This exceptional effort, knowledge and patience, clearly led to considerable frustration for her over the years, but the absolute success is certainly a accolade to her understanding and dogged persistence. She has since been criticised for her emotional reactions, but considering all the years of work she had invested in the project, I think anyone would be entitled to a few emotional reactions. She has also been criticised for her early expressed instinct as to the place, marked "R" (for reserved) in the Leicester car park where she believed the body was lying. But such criticism is both boorish and ignorant. Ms. Langley was proved right - enough said. Besides, is there any woman in the country who has never experienced some valuable insight through pure instinct?
I found her chapters quite enthralling. The story of her endeavours and eventual breakthrough is fascinating indeed, very well told, frequently moving and often inspiring. She is charmingly honest in her storytelling and although she makes kind excuses for the failings of others, she makes no excuses for herself.
Michael Jones, the historian, wrote the other half of this book - inserting chapter by chapter the necessary background to the project with a clear `potted' version of Richard's III's life. Although he played no part in the unearthing of Richard III's body, he is an expert on the era and principal characters, and therefore offers a concise summary of the man behind it all. Jones has his own beliefs regarding some aspects of the king's life, and there is an interesting debate at the end of the book where both authors state their opposing beliefs, backed by knowledgeable research, on whether Richard III did - or did not - order the deaths of the princes in the Tower.
Some of Michael Jones' chapters seem more readable than others, and whereas some clarify the past situation beautifully, others (Chapter 6 regarding the pre-contract and Hastings' execution for instance) are muddled and inconsistent while following a mismatch of contradictory sources, while his best chapter is that on the battle at Bosworth. Certainly Jones gives us nothing new, but he does present an explanatory background for the figure revealed by Philippa Langley and the Leicester University Archaeological team who were finally persuaded to follow the trail.
This is a book which will surely be enjoyed both by the general public as well as by the knowledgeable - and enjoyable it most certainly is.

Middleham A Castle Made For Kings - The Richard III Collection
Middleham A Castle Made For Kings - The Richard III Collection
Dvd ~ John Fox

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Middleham Castle brought back to glory, 15 Nov. 2013
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This is an excellent production. Middleham Castle in Yorkshire, England, was a prominent seat of power and politics in medieval times, but it is now a dark and forbidding ruin. This excellent DVD brings back the colour and the detail - walking you through the great halls, chambers and surrounding countryside as though you were really there in its days of glory. The special effects are well done, and marvelously accurate. The remaining ruin includes all the clues necessary for the imaginary reconstruction of stairways, entrances and windows. There is also a clear explanatory dialogue which also explains the manner in which the castle could be attacked, and how it would have then defended itself..
For those interested in the period, and in castles in particular, this is a wonderfully interesting addition to knowledge. However, I imagine it would also be interesting for those who have little knowledge - bringing something so unusual back to life can fascinate almost anyone. This also helps correct many modern misunderstandings! No, inhabited castles were not ugly bare stone inside. They were not dark and gloomy, were not freezing and draughty - and were not horribly uncomfortable to live in.
So this is a great job very well completed. I only wish it had been longer.

Sons of the Wolf
Sons of the Wolf
by Paula Lofting
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Atmosphere and historical accuracy, 26 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Sons of the Wolf (Paperback)
In a word - atmosphere.
Here is a book that takes us into another world - a passionate and absorbing world which really existed hundreds of years ago in England before William of Conqueror subjugated the country in 1066. With an exemplary accuracy and depth of research (with just a couple of tiny question marks) the author really draws us into a rich wealth of realism. She makes us breathe the forest leaf, smell the wood smoke, hear the calls of the people and animals, and really see the fascinating colours of the past.
The plot is complicated and beautifully intertwined, with a wide cast of interesting characters to keep up the action and the surprises.
Most of the characters are memorable and on the whole I found the depth of characterisation excellent and most of them really do come alive. Their realism draws on the flaws and weaknesses of humanity as well as determination and strengths. There are no saints or demons here, and the various shades of endeavour and motive are well presented without unrealistic extremes. I was at first particularly impressed by the two main protagonists - Thane (Thegn) Wulfhere and his daughter Freyda - both of whom I found likeable, individual and extremely well defined. However, I admit that as the plot developed I found these two characters ever more believable but far less likeable. I was a little disappointed from time to time to realise there were few if any characters I could actually like or respect overmuch, and my sympathies with most of them waned as the story progressed.
I confess there were a few characters I found difficult to accept, namely the Thane's twin sons (and heirs) who seemed to me unnecessarily foolish and childish for those times when young men grew up fast, and childhood was not an accepted excuse for anything. The twins' actions, which often seem to be presented as humour in the book, I personally found unacceptable behaviour and frankly hard to swallow. However, they all - even the unpleasant twins - continued to be interesting and these many shades of colour and differing attitudes all serve to bring a multitude of levels to the story, and therefore adds to the manner in which one feels personally involved in this absorbing world.
This ancient period of history can prove very difficult for authors for various reasons, one of which is the complication of the unusual names used at that time. This is a problem which readers need to overcome, but here the author helps considerably by explaining each character and giving repeated instances of their names and titles. Indeed, in the end I found this repetition somewhat overdone, and during dialogue it seemed occasionally unrealistic.
Unfortunately I found repetition one of the book's few flaws, with repeated explanations of motive and intent. Occasionally I also felt I was being told too much instead of being shown through the action, and although it was helpful to have some matters explained - I would still have preferred to discover the facts through the storyline rather than have explanatory passages show up within the narrative. Yes - I know - some people are never satisfied. And I admit that with so much to explain, it can be very difficult for an author to develop such explanations naturally within the plot.
However, there are far more strengths than weaknesses and this is a story I found deliciously original and invigorating. The pace is mostly fast moving, the writing style is pleasant and fluid, making the reading easy and entertaining, and the content is neither tediously detailed nor over-descriptive - yet at the same time produces a wide and plausible picture of these unusual times which certainly draws you in. It does not attempt to produce an academic insight into the past, but at the same time it makes the atmosphere come alive.
I believe the haunting and atmospheric cover gives an emotional insight into the book's qualities. And there is clearly more to follow as there is no definite end or climax - simply an invitation to follow the adventure in the as yet unpublished sequel. To summarise, this is a book I would recommend as there is a great deal to enjoy. It is a thoroughly entertaining story with many twists and turns.

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