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Yes, I have a secret addiction. I love to re-read novels. There’s a simple reason for this addiction. I tend to read really quickly, absorbing whole paragraphs at a gulp. I learned years ago to keep a reading diary, because I devour good books so quickly that sometimes I forget that I have even read them. My bad.

Right now, I am re-reading Wolf Hall, which I read when it was first published. I love it even more the second time through, because this time I am appreciating more than the story. Hilary Mantel’s careful research is obvious on every page, and her skill at recreating Tudor times is breathtaking. This book is even better the second time around. The author transports us into the world of the Tudor court, and chooses an unlikely person for her protagonist. He is Thomas Cromwell (who is not related to Oliver Cromwell), a low-born man who rises through the ranks to become very influential in Henry’s court. The story of Henry’s machinations to get free of Katharine of Aragon so that he can marry Anne Boleyn take up much of the narrative. Once I have finished Wolf Hall, I will reread  Bring Up the Bodies, the second installment of her story about Tudor times. If you like historical fiction, you will love this book. BTW, Hilary Mantel won the Man Booker Prize for this book. I’m hoping she also gets nominated for the sequel.  (See below…)

News flash! October 16, 2012: Hilary Mantel has won her second Man Booker Prize for “Bring Up the Bodies,” which is the second book in Mantel’s Tudor story. It is an incredible achievement to win 2 Man Booker Prizes.

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Author: Lisa See

Historical fiction, set in 19th century China, in a remote province where old ways are adhered to most rigidly. This moving story of the life-long friendship between two girls who are “old sames” is also a story of cultural mores long left behind as the 20th C took over. Footbinding figures very strongly in the story, as does the abiding friendship of women. Also much in evidence is the arrangement of marriages by brokers (who are women) and the roles of women in this almost medieval culture. This is truly a window into a long-ago world, and a story of true heart-felt love between the two women, Lily and her ‘old same,’ Snow Flower. Their match (a sisterhood, if you like) lasts their lifetime. Really enjoyable read that transported me to an other world.

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Finished reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” by EL James, last night. Can’t think of anyone I would recommend this book to. I don’t know what I expected from this book (I had some stupid notion that vampires were going to be in it, but no–not true.) The publisher calls this book “erotic romance.” It’s just not that romantic, in my humble opinion (IMHO.) Very little wooing or “making love.” But there sure is a lot of f***ing.

I’d class it as so-so “erotica for women,” and I was quite bored with it by the last half (I didn’t care where they did the deed next) but I soldiered on to the end. In the last couple of chapters I was “skip reading.” Needless to say, I won’t be buying any of its sequels. On a positive note, I thought that the author created realistic characters, and the dialog was well done. But neither is what is selling the book…heh. I recommend you take a pass on this book, even though it is riding high on the best-seller lists. (There is no accounting for taste.)

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I just never get tired of reading historical fiction about the Tudors. I have also read The Other Boleyn Girl and The Queen’s Lover, by the same author.
In The Boleyn Inheritance, the author tells the story of three of Henry VIII’s wives, giving voice to each of them in alternating chapters. The queens who tell this story are Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Jane Rochford.

This book reads like a gossip tell-all of the Tudors, with a mad King Henry on the throne. The time period is 1539 to 1542. Queens are married, set aside, divorced, or beheaded by Henry. His word is law, and he does not hesitate to send anyone who disagrees with him to the Tower, for beheading. He kills many people: his closest associates, his wives, those who may even be rumoured to be against him, and of course, those who disagree with his departure from the Pope and the Roman Catholic church.

Once a young and handsome king & adored by all, by his middle age (“old” to his later wives) he has become very fat: a gross man, with a suppurating wound on his leg that causes him to stink. He wants (and his country wants) him to have a son, but he is getting farther and farther away from having a chance at that. His two princesses, Mary and Elizabeth, fathered when he was much younger, live far from court. Fat old Henry is “unmanned,” most especially with Anne of Cleves, who repelled him in her appearance. With young Kitty Howard, he is unable to impregnate her. All along, his wives are having liaisons, and the court becomes a very dangerous place. This is a very good read, and makes a good counterpoint to Hilary Mantel’s stories, which are told from Cromwell’s point of view. It was good to read Tudor story from the point of view of some of the women.

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Author: Garth Stein

What a wonderful book! I couldn’t put it down, and raced through it. I am going to read it again very soon. This is the story of a dog’s life, as told by the dog. OMG, this dog was so real that I started talking to my dog, Spike, as though he were the English-speaking dog of the book. You have to read this book. Take it at face value, as the dog’s story, or take it as an allegory. Or maybe it is both. All I know is that I had a huge lump in my throat at the end of the book.  10/10 on my personal scale.
I loved this book so much.

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Author: Hilary Mantel

This book is riding high on the best-seller lists right now. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it because I loved the first book so much. Once again, Mantel takes us back to Tudor times. The first book in the series, Wolf Hall, ended with the deposition of Katharine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife. We all know that Henry cast off Katharine in order to get Anne Boleyn into his bed. Anne held out against Henry’s desire until he married her, and she became Queen Anne. Wolf Hall was a great read and deservedly won the Man Booker Prize in the year that it was published.
In Bring Up the Bodies, Mantel again uses Thomas Cromwell’s voice to tell the story. He has become Henry’s “fixer,” to use today’s terminology. In fact, in BUTB, Cromwell has become Henry’s Master Secretary. After three years  of marriage with Anne, Henry decides his fancy has turned to Jane Seymour, and he needs Cromwell to smooth the way to get rid of Queen Anne. Lies are told, and situations grossly misrepresented – or maybe not. Maybe they are true. No matter. The king will get his way. It’s still a great story, even all these centuries later, and Mantel is a gifted story-teller. I loved this book, with its wonderful writing that brings the Tudor court to life. Can’t wait til Mantel publishes the planned third book in this series.

Aside: The cover art had some sort of copyright protection attached to it (I think) and just would not transfer here. I was sorry I couldn’t include the cover art with my review. This was the first time ever in my reviews that I could isolate the cover art, but could not complete its transfer into my blog. (However, you can see the book’s cover on Amazon.com)

 

Addendum, October 16, 2012: Tonight, Hilary Mantel has been awarded the Man Booker Prize for 2012 for Bring Up the Bodies, her second Tudor novel, and her second Man Booker Prize. Kudos and thanks to this fantastic author who has brought to life the lives of those in the Tudor Court.

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This was a re-read. I had not read this book in over 20 years, and I enjoyed it more this time than ever before. Much of the setting is Leaside, where both Atwood and I attended Leaside High School (she was 2 years behind me.) In the book, the school is called “Burnham High.” The main character, Elaine, is an artist, thinking back over her life at ‘mid-life,’ and remembering much of the past and her relationships with family, friends, and men.
In this book Atwood recounts the dreadful treatment (in childhood) of Elaine by her so-called friends, especially Cordelia. Probably the best-ever depiction in fiction of how girls can gang up on other girls. Much of this book really resonated with me, both the above-mentioned content, and Elaine’s progress into adulthood. I especially enjoyed the ‘back and forth’ between the life of the adult Elaine, and the remembered childhood/young womanhood of Elaine.

This is a really amazing book, and kudos to Atwood for nailing the experience of girlhood/school/Toronto. This was definitely worth a re-read. Now I am off to read the sequel to Wolf Hall– Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies.

(More Tudor shenanigans  – Anne Boleyn is going to die – really!)

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