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Tuesday, January 08, 2019

My review of The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

About the book:

This is the story of the making of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred the Great, his son and grandson defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England’s four kingdoms.

The story is seen through the eyes of Uhtred, a dispossessed nobleman, who is captured as a child by the Danes and then raised by them so that, by the time the Northmen begin their assault on Wessex (Alfred’s kingdom and the last territory in English hands) Uhtred almost thinks of himself as a Dane. He certainly has no love for Alfred, whom he considers a pious weakling and no match for Viking savagery, yet when Alfred unexpectedly defeats the Danes and the Danes themselves turn on Uhtred, he is finally forced to choose sides. By now he is a young man, in love, trained to fight and ready to take his place in the dreaded shield wall. Above all, though, he wishes to recover his father’s land, the enchanting fort of Bebbanburg by the wild northern sea.

This thrilling adventure—based on existing records of Bernard Cornwell’s ancestors—depicts a time when law and order were ripped violently apart by a pagan assault on Christian England, an assault that came very close to destroying England.

My review:

I decided to read this book because I watched the Netflix series three times. Then I joined a Facebook fan group and people talked about how good the books were. So I decided to try the series. The first book pretty much captures the first season. While there are some variations that don't exactly match the TV series, the book and the heart of the story (and characters) are the same. What I enjoyed about the book was how well the author developed the main character. He was easy to relate to and the content moved at a fast enough pace that it held my attention. Since I watched the show before I read the books I prefer the television adaptation, however, I plan to read the rest of the books in the series because I love reading history and the author is able to transport me to the era by his vivid description of the times. I would definitely recommend this book for people who love European history and battle scenes.

The Last Kingdom was published in 2006 by Harper Collins. 

Saturday, December 01, 2018

My review of “Why We Get Fat and What to Fo About It” by Gary Taubes

About the Book:

What’s making us fat? And how can we change? Building upon his critical work in Good Calories, Bad Calories and presenting fresh evidence for his claim, bestselling author Gary Taubes revisits these urgent questions. 

Taubes reveals the bad nutritional science of the last century—none more damaging or misguided than the “calories-in, calories-out” model of why we get fat—and the good science that has been ignored. He also answers the most persistent questions: Why are some people thin and others fat? What roles do exercise and genetics play in our weight? What foods should we eat, and what foods should we avoid? Persuasive, straightforward, and practical, Why We Get Fat is an essential guide to nutrition and weight management.
Complete with an easy-to-follow diet.  Featuring a new afterword with answers to frequently asked questions. 

My review

I actually finished this book. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and found myself talking about it with people during lunch and as I went about my day. My youngest son already avoids carbs but I have always been a skeptic. At the same time I saw that his avoidance of carbs had merit and he looked great. Healthy too.  

Now in my fifties I thought about all of the people I’ve known who have gotten sick over the years with diabetes due to high carb diets and now I see the truth.  Metabolic issues are caused by eating the wrong foods for years on end. I found the science and research in the book compelling. I started to pay attention to what I ate and felt better than I have in a long time. Then I noticed if I did eat some sugar that my stomach would hurt and I just didn’t feel good. When I ate it all the time I couldn’t sense a difference but when I steered clear of carbs for a few days and then ate sugary food it really hurt my stomach. 

My body clearly agrees with the author of this book’s premise. I am glad I read it as it has motivated me to take better care of myself and pay more attention to what I eat. Well worth the money. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

My review of The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

About the book:

The final novel in the Cousins’ War series, the basis for the critically acclaimed Starz miniseries, The White Queen, by #1 New York Times bestselling author and “the queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) Philippa Gregory tells the fascinating story of Margaret Pole, cousin to the “White Princess,” Elizabeth of York, and lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon.

Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter—Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret’s contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors.

After the sudden death of Prince Arthur, Katherine leaves for London a widow, and fulfills her deathbed promise to her husband by marrying his brother, Henry VIII. Margaret’s world is turned upside down by the surprising summons to court, where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. But this charmed life of the wealthiest and “holiest” woman in England lasts only until the rise of Anne Boleyn, and the dramatic deterioration of the Tudor court. Margaret has to choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, or to her beloved queen; to the religion she loves or the theology which serves the new masters. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret Pole has to find her own way as she carries the knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors.

My review:

Really good story, and like the history of the Titanic, you know a tragic ending is part of the journey. I think the author did a great job at showing you the highs and lows of the main character’s life. I really identified with Margaret Pole's internal conflict and the denial she had to use to cope toward the end. The last scene was intense.

In some ways the anticipation of this tragedy this probably dragged out the reading for me because I wanted to avoid the sad ending, though I wanted to finish the book. Good authors make you care. And Maggie had such a tragic history and relationship with the tower to include her brother and then other members of her family - all killed to prevent them from taking a throne they didn't even want. She only desired to live discreetly and with her family intact.

Since I watched the mini-series "The Tudors" I remember the scene where Margaret is told she is to be executed and she flips out. So sad. Another fabulous read by Philippa, who is one of my all-time favorite authors because she really knows how to tug at my heartstrings, and she always does this without inserting graphic sex and violence. Love it!

The King's Curse was published by Simon and Schuster and released in August 2014.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

My review of The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

About the book:

A successful LA artist, Roman Velasco appears to have everything he could possibly want―money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman’s past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn’t know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist―an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison.

Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it’s as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together . . . until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship―and both their lives―forever.

My review:

The MasterpieceThe Masterpiece by Francine Rivers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book, though I suspected that I would given the author is one of my favorites. I haven't read a novel by Francine Rivers in the past four years, though, so it's been awhile. This story was engaging and well-written. Then again, all of her novels are easy to digest and enjoy. This story was set during the present day and in California. One of the main characters went from rags to riches and discovered both poverty and wealth bred discontent. The other main character lived under a cloud of shame for past mistakes as many women do. Of course, her choices came from a life of insecurity that started when she was a young child. She had lost her parents and was resented by the person tasked to take care of her. The characters had intense backgrounds and shared a trauma bond of sorts, though they didn't even realize that was one of the things that attracted them to each other in the first place.

I tend to enjoy historical novels the most, but I did enjoy this story for the redemption theme and example of how waiting on God's timing is always best. Jumping ahead will only get us hurt. Often our impulsive behavior interferes with God's greater plan. The message was clear. God can save anyone, but we have to trust Him and not try to change the person ourselves. We know this is true (those of us that believe) but this story shows how that process could ideally happen. Good story.

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 25, 2018

My review of Bread of Angels by Tessa Afshar

About the book:

Purple. The foundation of an influential trade in a Roman world dominated by men. One woman rises up to take the reins of success in an incredible journey of courage, grit, and friendship. And along the way, she changes the world.

But before she was Lydia, the seller of purple, she was simply a merchant's daughter who loved three things: her father, her ancestral home, and making dye. Then unbearable betrayal robs her of nearly everything.

With only her father's secret formulas left, Lydia flees to Philippi and struggles to establish her business on her own. Determination and serendipitous acquaintances--along with her father's precious dye--help her become one of the city's preeminent merchants. But fear lingers in every shadow, until Lydia meets the apostle Paul and hears his message of hope, becoming his first European convert. Still, Lydia can't outrun her secrets forever, and when past and present collide, she must either stand firm and trust in her fledgling faith or succumb to the fear that has ruled her life.

My review:

I've read two of Tessa's books prior to this one. Both made my favorites list for that year mainly because I read them practically straight through. As a reader, I want to get lost in a book to the point that I forget I am reading. Tessa's writing is very good.

That said, this story didn't grab me as much as the others. But that may have more to do with the distractions I've had this year than the story itself. This novel features Lydia, a character came from the New Testament, and the other two books featured women from the Old Testament. The author did a good job setting up the New Testament time period and developed the setting so I could relate to the characters. I also saw Paul and his followers through Lydia's eyes. That was well done.  This story was never boring, just different,

I found some parts of this book to be more captivating than others, probably due to my familiarity with the story like the woman that followed Paul and Silas around saying they were servants of the most high God. Like most Biblical fiction authors, Tessa offers a fresh perspective that may cause you to ponder your life and priorities. At any rate, this book is worth taking the time to read if you enjoy Biblical fiction.

Bread of Angels was published by Tyndale Fiction and released in June 2017,
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