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The First English Revolution (Continuum Sources in Ancient History)
The First English Revolution (Continuum Sources in Ancient History)
by Adrian Jobson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £36.00

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 8 April 2013
This was a well researched and rewarding read for anyone interested in the thirteenth century Baron's Wars between Henry III and Simon de Montfort. It is balanced- you won't find Simon the Saint on these pages!- but that is one of the things I loved about it. The conclusion discusses the Wars' place in history and draws comparisons with the reigns of Edward Ii, Richard Ii and Charles I, which was a great end to a great book.

Blood Sisters: The Hidden Lives of the Women Behind the Wars of the Roses
Blood Sisters: The Hidden Lives of the Women Behind the Wars of the Roses
by Sarah Gristwood
Edition: Hardcover

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read, 8 April 2013
This book is a good read, well written in an easy to digest narrative of the period. It clearly has a wide potential audience, and I would say with confidence that you do not need any prior knowledge of the period to understand and enjoy this book. Everything is clearly written, and as a popular history there are not endless notes and citations. Gristwood does quote from primary sources; when she does she tells us the author of her quote, but not always the name of the writing and never the page numbers. This might prove frustrating for people wanting to look at the sources for themselves.

The seven stories are interlinked nicely, and the move from one woman to another is smooth and does not disrupt the author's prose at all. The women who I especially enjoyed in this book were Marguerite of Anjou and Elizabeth Woodville; their stories were covered well and rumours against them argued fairly. Margaret Beaufort was treated well in the beginning, but I thought the balance slipped towards the end of the book when she was discussed alongside Elizabeth of York. (That could just be me, though.) Sadly, even though Anne Nevill was one of the author's case studies, she does not feature much in the narrative. That is of course not the authors fault; sources about Anne are scarce.

As one would expect from a work of non-fiction, care was taken to be factually accurate and fair throughout. One thing that did stick out was towards the end we had Edward of Warwick executed because the Spanish said so- there was no mention of him plotting with Perkin Warbeck, which actually is the crime he was executed for.

On the whole, this is a good book and I would recommend it to people interested in learning more about the period.

King John (The Yale English Monarchs Series)
King John (The Yale English Monarchs Series)
by W. L. Warren
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Research slightly dated but still an excellent read, 8 April 2013
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"He had the mental abilities of a great king, but the inclinations of a petty tyrant."

This is an excellent analysis of the reign of king John. Rather than presenting a 'baddie', Warren has crafted a scholarly yet accessible portrayal of a widely misunderstood monarch. It wasn't all disaster, it wasn't all tyranny; some of John's opponents were just as shifty as he was. This is a rewarding read for anyone interested in John's reign, though a little heavy going in places.

One little niggle is the citations. They are meticulous and complete, but are numbered by page, not chapter. As the notes are end rather than foot, this could be a little frustrating.

One further thought- this book was written in 1961, so some of the research is naturally outdated. The new Yale edition features a foreword by D.A. Carpenter, which I recommend is read before reading the main text.

Montfort The Early Years 1229 to 1243 (Montfort The Founder of Parliament series)
Montfort The Early Years 1229 to 1243 (Montfort The Founder of Parliament series)
Price: £1.99

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Historical integrity? WHERE?, 8 April 2013

I am totally in love with thirteenth century England, so this book appealed to me as soon as it showed up in my amazon recommendations. Unfortunately, I have walked away very disappointed.

Ashe claims this book has 'historical integrity' and continually states '34 years of research have gone into it'. It seemed to me that rather than showing historical integrity, she has gone out of her way to make Simon de Montfort look like the Superman of the 1200s at the expense of every other character. The Plantagenet royal family are reduced to a bunch of cuckolds, bastards, whores and deformed freaks, all on flimsy or next to no evidence. Eleanor of Provence becomes an adulteress (on more than one occasion! see [...]...), Edward I the bastard child of de Montfort (see [...]...), Edmund Crouchback goes from warrior to hunchback, Henry III is a chump and a cuckold.... It made me feel sick. Eleanor of England is married to the wrong William Marshal, Simon lives at Kenilworth YEARS before it is awarded to him and his wife.... If it is true that she has researched this book for 34 years, there's either deliberate mistakes or her research is plain sloppy.

I have contacted Ashe to ask her about her sources, because I was genuinely upset by the demonisation of the historical figures in this book and her 'historical contexts' (authors note to you and me) was impossibly vague. Upon checking the sources myself, I found she had cherry picked and deliberately changed and misquoted them. Her response was rather rude. She has defended her 'research' by publicly trashing the work of scholars such as Marc Morris, Michael Prestwich and Margaret Howell; and the work of much better historical novelists, such as Elizabeth Chadwick and Sharon Penman, among others. I'm sorry, but Prestwich is THE authority on Edward I imo and you don't trash his research without something solid.

I do enjoy historical fiction and appreciate that dramatic licence is sometimes required. However, when something is advertised as historically accurate I expect it to be so.

Historical integrity my foot.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 13, 2015 10:14 AM GMT

Eleanor de Montfort
Eleanor de Montfort
by Louise J. Wilkinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £30.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biography of an intriguing woman, 8 April 2013
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This review is from: Eleanor de Montfort (Hardcover)
Before reading this book, I had chatted about it in social network groups with friends. Some described it as dry, which to me shows no two people read the same book, because I didn't find this dry at all. I found it engaging, detailed, thorough and an excellent study of the life of Eleanor of England, daughter of king John and sister of Henry III. I particularly enjoyed the chapter about 1265- an important year, and a year for which Eleanor's household accounts survive.

The author focuses on Eleanor and does not meander into the lives of the men around Eleanor, which was good for me because I have books about the men already; I wanted to read about Eleanor, and this book provided. This is the life of Eleanor, patchy though it is in places.

I thought this was an excellent read and would recommend it.

The Plantagenets
The Plantagenets
by Dan Jones
Edition: Hardcover

96 of 102 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good narrative history, 23 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: The Plantagenets (Hardcover)
The aim of this book is to tell the story of the eight Plantagenet monarchs that ruled England between 1154 and 1399. Each monarch in turn has his story told; which wars he fought in, the land he gained and lost, who he married and who were his children.

In his prologue, Jones tells us his intention with The Plantagenets is to tell the story in an entertaining way. In this he is successful. I was gripped by the stories of Henry II, Richard I and Richard II, because these are the reigns I am unfamiliar with. As the book is written to entertain and tell the story of the Plantagenet dynasty, not to analyse, those that are familiar with the monarchs may find this book is not for them. I found I learned nothing new about Henry III, Edward I and Edward II; but this is because I knew about these reigns before reading, it is not the fault of the author. This book would be a good introduction to the Plantagenet dynasty.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Some chapters, as I said above, really held my interest and I loved them, but others didn't really engage me. I found that the author was often very biased, and his love or hate for the monarch in question was really obvious. John is described as a `delinquent', Henry III `feather brained' and Edward II as `England's worst ever king'. These sort of sweeping, judgmental statements I found very off putting. I especially found with Edward II there was no attempt at all to be neutral; he was even blamed for the failings of Richard II. On the other hand, Edward III and Richard II's chapters were very good reading. The author certainly knows his stuff where these two monarchs are concerned.

As this book is a popular, narrative history it was not referenced in an academic way. Primary source material is still used and quoted though, which was a great addition to the narrative. When learning about Henry II, for example, we have a quote from Gerard of Wales; a man who apparently knew Henry well. This was ideal for a narrative book- someone who is reading for entertainment does not want to be bogged down with footnotes. A further reading section is provided at the back of the book, for people that want to learn more about the monarchs in the book that intrigued them.

The author uses his book to bust a few common myths, which I think is great. Henry II ordering Becket's death and Edward II's supposed red hot poker death are both challenged. Again, though, with the good comes the bad. The author states Edward II was kept in a dungeon at Berkeley; not true, he was kept in comfort in his apartments. Edward II did not give Isabella's wedding presents to Piers, he asked him to take them to the Tower for safe keeping. Henry III's attempted assassin broke into his apartments in September 1238, not some time in 1237. (OK, now I'm just nit-picking. Sorry.) We also learn where Jones stands on the `did Edward II escape?' mystery, but I won't spoil that for potential readers.

All in all, a good narrative history book. There were parts I loved, and parts I didn't. If you want an introduction to the Plantagenet dynasty, this is the book to read. Also, I love the cover. Is there a better portrait than Richard II's?
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 31, 2014 1:25 AM BST

A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain
A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain
by Marc Morris
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Edward I- A man of his time, 17 Oct. 2012
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Edward I is infamous in the historical world. To many modern pairs of eyes, he was a bully, a tyrant, a `cruel pagan', an oppressor and one of England's worst kings. His overall reputation, it is fair to say, is not very good. He is remembered by many people in an extremely negative way.

Is this a fair assessment, though? I'm not so sure. It's easy to look back in hindsight, through our modern eyes, and condemn a medieval king for his actions and their consequences. The fact that in his biography of Edward I, Marc Morris does not, makes it an extremely refreshing read.

`A Great and Terrible King' is a detailed account of the life and reign of Edward I, from the time of his conception and birth to the day he dies. Morris tells Edward's story with skill. Edward's life had many complex incidents that, in this book, flow from the pages with apparent ease. The book is written beautifully.

Marc Morris looks at all of the challenges Edward faced; from the Provisions of Oxford and crusades to the Holy Land during his father's reign to his conquest of Wales, battles to regain his lordship of Gascony and gain control of Scotland in his own. As well as looking at the details behind these incidents, we learn the reasons why these things happened. The conquest of Wales, for example, was not Edward merely being a cruel and oppressing tyrant; it was Edward being a medieval warrior king, wanting to make life better for his subjects.

We also learn about Edward's family life. He appears to have loved his wife and their many children very much. His family life is dotted with sadness, he lost several daughters when they were young and two of his heirs. The Eleanor crosses, three of which survive, teach us about the scale of Edward's grief when he became a widower.

The great thing about this book is it is not a whitewashing, but it is not a dressing down either. Morris works hard to highlight the many positives of Edward's reign, but does not shy away from pointing out his mistakes, either. For me, though Edward is my favourite monarch by a long way, his wars in Scotland were, well, pointless. Attacking Stirling after they had surrendered and imprisoning Bruce's female relatives were not his finest moments.

Anyway, this book is an absolute must read for anyone who is interested in Edward I and medieval England. An outstanding book!

(This is the second time I've read it, by the way. That can't be bad.)

The Sins of the Father: A Mediaeval Mystery (Mediaeval Mystery Series)
The Sins of the Father: A Mediaeval Mystery (Mediaeval Mystery Series)
by C. B. Hanley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent medieval mystery, 4 Oct. 2012
. In this novel we meet Edwin Weaver, the young son of the bailiff at Conisbrough Castle, Yorkshire. It is the year 1217. Edwin is set the task of solving the mystery of who murdered the Earl of Sheffield while he was visiting the castle in just a couple of days- and he's not short of suspects! The action of the novel is set against the backdrop of civil war between the protector of the new boy king Henry III, William Marshal, and the lords who are in support of Louis of France.

As well as meeting Edwin at Conisbrough, we meet his Lord, William de Warenne, Earl of Surrey; his sister Isabelle and her maid, Joanna; Edwin's friends- Robert, Simon and Martin, the Earls' pages; Sir Geoffrey, an older knight who is one of Edwin's father's friends; Father Ignatius, the village priest and Simon's teacher; and later the Earl of Sheffield and his younger brother. These characters are well developed within the story, and their personalities really shine through the pages.

The scenes and characters are very authentic; their personalities, attitudes and character traits are realistic for the time.

In addition to the brilliant scene setting and excellent period detail, Hanley can write a thumping good story. This mystery is a real page turner, with several plot twists throughout. I was hooked from the prologue, which is mysterious and intriguing. The prologue becomes part of the bigger story later on, with everything coming together into a surprising conclusion. Hanley is a gifted storyteller, with her words flowing beautifully from the page. In fact, I can't think of one thing I disliked about the novel, it was excellent. Five stars! I sincerely hope there is a sequel.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [DVD] [1981]
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [DVD] [1981]
Dvd ~ Simon Jones
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £5.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 30 years later......still brilliant, 16 Aug. 2010
I remember watching this program in the early 90's, my uncle had them on vcr. When I saw this release I had to buy it, and I'm so glad I did.
The script is brilliant, the acting is brilliant, Marvin is brilliant.... It's a shame it ends where it does. This series is so much better than the remake of 2005. Just goes to show, you don't need fancy computer graphics and special effects to make good entertainment; a fantastic script and cast outdoes them every time.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 24, 2010 12:15 AM BST

Traitors of the Tower (Quick Reads)
Traitors of the Tower (Quick Reads)
by Alison Weir
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.99

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good for beginners, 21 July 2010
I picked this book up to read on a bus journey. As a history enthusiast, I quite enjoyed it and think its a good book for people who are interested in the period but don't know where to start.
My one 'issue' with Alison Weir is; she can't seem to make her mind up about the fate of Francis Dereham. Two of her books give him a simple beheading (which is widely seen as incorrect) and a third book gives him the full traitors death. To people that do not know the era very well, this could be confusing.
Other than that one little niggle, a good quick read!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 4, 2012 10:16 AM BST

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