Monday, July 22, 2024

Monday Meme #50

I am reviving this little feature after eight years. You might see a couple recycled from when I did this in 2016, but they were funny then and they are still funny now. Occasionally they will be more introspective or comforting. No matter what, they will be about reading and books.

One is Eleanor, obviously. But the other is books.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 20, 2024

Stacking the Shelves #297

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature hosted by Reading Reality. It is a chance to showcase all the goodies you've collected throughout the week, whether they're bought on-line or in-store, an ARC or a final copy, borrowed from a friend or the library, physical or digital, etc

Library Treasures

NetGalley ARCs
So technically this is not an ARC because it was first published in 2023. But it was offered as a read-now for 48 hours because book 2 is available for request and comes out in November. Since NetGalley is how I received it, that is how I am classifying it.

Happy Reading

Thursday, July 18, 2024

First Line Friday #190

First Line Friday is a weekly feature and simple to do - grab the book nearest you and post the first line. Carrie hosts this over on her blog Reading is my Superpower.

William Shakespeare is popularly supposed to have been born on 23 April 1564, or St. George's Day.

Happy Reading!

NetGalley ARC | Henry VIII's Children: Legitimate and Illegitimate Sons and Daughters of the Tudor King

I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating | ⭐⭐⭐

I struggled a bit figuring out to even rate this one. There was definitely some author-bias and she was very pro-Cromwell and all of that came through clearly. Even so, this was a good read.

I think the children of Henry and his many wives are often overlooked, so I always appreciate books that focus on them specifically. Of all, Mary's childhood and teenage years show the most tumult. In the prime of their marriage, Henry was fully committed to the future Mary could have. He worked out deals regarding potential marriages, and the pageantry surrounding her birth indicated that all would be well and more children would come.

They would, of course, but no others would survive born of Catherine and Henry. Others too, with mistresses or wives, but the celebrations since Mary would not be duplicated until Edward came along and Jane had the good fortune to pass before Henry grew tired of her.

The main focus here are the four children officially recognized as Henry's heirs - Mary I, Henry Fitzroy, Elizabeth I and Edward VI. I appreciated Fitzroy's inclusion, and the depth with which the author discussed his life, as she did the lives of his siblings. I feel like so often, Fitzroy is kind of shuffled aside because he was not legitimate, and sometimes people do not realize how close he came to the throne. It's likely that Henry would have changed the rules of succession to see Fitzroy succeed him. But he died young at 17, though older than the others who died young as well - even Edward VI, who only made it to 15. Imagine a whole different Tudor world, potentially without ever seeing the other three take the throne. 

I honestly can not imagine growing up with the constant threat that your life could change on a whim, given Henry's paranoia and cruelty. Mary experienced the trauma most accutely, having been ripped from her mother's arms and never allowed to see each other again, even as Catherine was dying. It does not excuse the executions that took place under Mary's reign, but it certainly explains why she turned out the way she did, trying so hard to grasp onto a world that no longer existed.

The author discusses at length the childhoods of Henry's children. She details the make-up of their households, their teachers and nurses, the locations they lived or traveled to, and amounts of money spent for upkeep. These amounts are especially staggering in some cases when looked at in today's numbers.

Henry knew firsthand the dangers of not having enough sons. He was the spare, not considered for kingship, yet upon Arthur's death Henry's life changed immediately and drastically. Given how much time he suddenly spent with his own father, it is easy to see how he became paranoid over the succession. Henry would have also known of the Pretenders and others' claims to the crown of England. He knew he must have sons to continue the family line, yet over and over stillbirths and miscarriages stole heir after heir.

Despite the main focus being on the four acknowledged children, the author also explores the possible children that Henry never claimed. I have read many books about the Tudors over the years and there are so many varying opinions, yet just enough evidence to tell us exactly...nothing concrete.

It's likely that at least one of Mary Boleyn's children was fathered by Henry, but no record exists to tell us for sure. As for many of the others, I have a hard time believing that Henry really had that many illigitimate children. During the course of his marriage to Catherine, he had an affair with Bessie Blount, Fitzroy's mother. Then likely Mary, and the last few years of his first marriage were spent obsessed with Mary's sister Anne.

Henry was so obsessed, in fact, it is quite possible he would do nothing to risk finally being able to marry her and had no other affairs in that time. That is a rather large chunk of time, but Henry was always childlike in pursuit of something he really wanted when told he could not have it.

It is also curious that, if Henry did have other children with women who were unmarried at the time, why he did not acknowledge and raise them as he did Fitzroy. It's understandable why he did not do this with Mary's second child (if the boy was actually his), because Mary was married at the time and the children, Catherine and Henry, were raised belonging to her husband William. But Fitzroy's mother gave birth to their son, and a few years later was married off. This is also the affair that lasted the longest, something like seven or eight years.

Considering all of this, it is hard to see when Henry would have had time for numerous other affairs and children. I'm not saying there could not be others, I just think the varying claims by different authors make it all seem unlikely because no one can even agree on a number or what constitutes actual evidence. I've seen some authors suggest Henry fathered as many children as four or five others besides those most likely to be his (again, Mary's children). There's simply not enough evidence for this.

All things considered, I still found this a worthwhile read. The attention to detail of their childhoods was fantastic. I also appreciated seeing their stories overlap and how the siblings might have bonded, or not, as they grew under the watchful eye of their larger-than-life father. Mary knew him best, and suffered the most for it. Elizabeth and Edward were close as could be, given living arrangements. I wonder what they all thought of Fitzroy - Mary as having known of him, and the younger two being told of him later, perhaps? Elizabeth was only three when Fitzroy died, and Edward was born after.


NetGalley ARC | The Night House

I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Rating | ⭐⭐1/2

With a cover like this I expected some scares. Instead I got a completely bizarre sometimes nonsensical book that started out so strong and had me hooked, then grew gradually weaker until the end when I just kind of went, "...meh?"

When Richard is fourteen, his parents die in a house fire. He is sent to live with his aunt and uncle in a small town called Ballantyne. He is an outcast from the start, but manages to convince one kid to hang out with him. But when Tom disappears, everyone thinks Richard has tossed him in the river. No one believes him that they made a prank phone call from a telephone booth and then the receiver ate Tom right up. Richard begins seeing things and hearing voices, then a second classmate vanishes. Richard is unable to convince everyone that Fatso, as he was rudely nicknamed, morphed into a giant bug and flew away after having dinner at Richard's house one evening. Richard is sent away to a correctional facility, where strange events continue to happen.

I love love love unreliable narrators, but Richard was on a whole other level, to the point this just bordered on absurd. Richard was awful and unreliable, which is also not typically a deal-breaker because some of my favorite characters have been not-so-great people. They're just that well written. And it's not that Richard isn't well-written, he's just such a little jerk. He's mean and always looking for trouble, nevermind the homophobia and misogyny. He was just so mean that when everything started happening, it was hard to feel bad for him. I kept reminding myself his parents had died, but eventually I just did not care because he's unlikable and not in a fun way.

The first part of the book was the best and I was so into the story, had no idea where it could go. Part two is told with Richard as an adult. Not the worst, but the feel of the story shifted and I wasn't as into it. Part three...I don't even know. It felt like a big letdown but I can't even explain why because, spoilers.

Overall I can't say I really recommend it, unless you want a bizarre read that leaves you thinking, "...WHAT? OH. Oh."

NetGalley ARC | I Know Who You Are

I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating | ⭐⭐⭐

I asbolutely loved I'll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. Her dedication to solving the case was admirable and I wish she could have lived to see the results. For four decades the identity of the Golden State Killer was a mystery but thanks to so many who worked hours on leads and clues, he was finally unmasked as Joseph DeAngelo. He was responsible for dozens of rapes, murders, and robberies and terrorized the cities in which he lived.

I was interested to read this one, then, because the whole investigation fascinates me. Many people had crucial roles in finally figuring out that DeAngelo was responsible for so much trauma and terror.

The author is billed as an amateur but that is a bit misleading. She may have started out by researching her own family history, but that evolved into her becoming one of the top investigators of genetic geneology in the country.

While the title indicates one case, we are actually shown several that the author has worked on over the years. Some have happy endings for families but many do not. GSK is also not her only cold case, and I feel that her work is so important to help bring closure to families.

On the other hand though, we have to consider the expectation of privacy through these geneology sites where so many have submitted samples to. The work the author does is absolutely not covered in the terms of agreement on these sites, which leads to complex arguments about the pros and cons of using them as an investigative tool. It is not nearly as simple as the author makes it out to be and we have to tread very carefully here.

We see the process the author uses for each case as she discusses at length all that goes into it. First there is the need for a usable DNA sample. With that, she also has to search for all kinds of documents such as birth/death/marriage records, obituaries, and more. She works with teams of law enforcement agencies and attorneys to provide as much information as possible.

Given all of this, I should have loved this book. But I didn't and it took me ages to read, hence only three stars. The jumping around in time was frustrating and I think the cases would have been better served by keeping one case per chapter. I get that the GSK case was something bigger than some of the others she worked on, but the writing just felt so chaotic with the jumping around. She weaves around from topic to topic, back and forth in time, and gives plenty of unrelated anecdotes and things from her personal life. These things were distractions and unnecessary.

I also think the issue of privacy needed to be explored more thoroughly. At times it felt like the author was quite dismissive of this expectation if it was for the greater good of crimes being solved. But what about those who have nothing to do with the crimes that don't wish to be found? Her focus is solely solving these cases, which is important work, but for those not wanting to be involved, it is unfair to force them to be.

Overall this would be of interest for those who are captivated by the technology and seeing how it is used in a variety of cases. If you are looking only for more info on the Golden State Killer case and his crimes, you will be underwhelmed.

ARCs Challenge II | Update #2

Three weeks ago-ish Eleanor had to go with her father for a week and I did THIS to pass the time. I was drowning in ARCs and it was far more successful than I thought it would be.

Then last Tuesday I did this thing to try to motivate myself to get going on reviews for these ARCs while Eleanor has to be gone again for another week.

Eleanor came home yesterday and it was such a relief to have her with me. We had such a fun day and will cram as much as we can into these last few weeks before school starts again.

Now that the regular custody schedule has resumed with our vacations over, I am getting more reviews done today. I will post another update before picking Eleanor up again tomorrow morning. 



Not Started

Reviews Completed
(click cover to go to review)

Reviews to Come
American Demon - Sept, 2022 (NetGalley)
Nothing but the Night - Sept, 2022 (NetGalley)
The Night in Question - May, 2023 (NetGalley)
Expletives Not Deleted - May, 2023 (Author Gift)
The Return of the Ripper? - May, 2023 (NetGalley)
The Women of Rothschild - Oct, 2022 (NetGalley)
Dead of Winter - July, 2023 (NetGalley)
Henry VIII's Children - May, 2023 (NetGalley)
Thin Air - Oct, 2023 (NetGalley)
Let Him In - Oct, 2023 (NetGalley)
Suddenly a Murder - Sept, 2023 (NetGalley)
After You Vanished - Aug, 2023 (NetGalley)
Tangled Vines - Aug, 2023 (Publicist via NetGalley)
The Clinic - Jan, 2024 (NetGalley)
Last Girl Breathing - Nov, 2023 (NetGalley)
No One Can Know - Jan, 2024 (NetGalley)
Who Haunts You - Sept, 2023 (NetGalley)
That's Not My Name - Jan, 2024 (NetGalley)
The Merciless King of Moore High - Apr, 2024 (NetGalley)
The One that Got Away with Murder - Apr, 2024 (NetGalley)
Win Lose Kill Die - Nov, 2023 (NetGalley)
The Heiress - Jan, 2024 (Publicist via NetGalley)
A Place for Vanishing - Jan, 2024 (NetGalley)
I Know Who You Are - Feb, 2023 (NetGalley)
The Night House - Oct, 2023 (NetGalley)
Perfect Little Monsters - May, 2024 (NetGalley)
If Something Happens to Me - May, 2024 (NetGalley)
The Nature of Disappearing - Jun, 2024 (NetGalley)
They Were Here Before Us - Mar, 2024 (NetGalley)
Two Sides to Every Murder - Jun, 2024 (NetGalley)
The Lake of Lost Girls - Nov, 2024 (NetGalley)
The Midnight Feast - Jun, 2024 (NetGalley)
Seasick - Jun, 2024 (NetGalley)
Malicia - Jun, 2024 (NetGalley)
Death at Morning House - Aug, 2024 (NetGalley)
Murder in the Scottish Highlands - Sept, 2024 (Gift via NetGalley) 
One House Left - Aug, 2024 (NetGalley)
The Debutantes - Oct, 2024 (NetGalley)
The Blackhouse - Jan, 2023 (NetGalley)
A Few Days Full of Trouble - Jan, 2023 (Publicist via NetGalley)
Broadmoor Inmates - Aug, 2023 (NetGalley)
Worst Medieval Monarchs - Sept, 2023 (NetGalley)
The Society for Soulless Girls - Sept, 2023 (NetGalley)
West Heart Kill - Oct, 2023 (NetGalley)
The Rosewood Hunt - Oct, 2023 (NetGalley)
Through the Morgue Door - Feb, 2024 (NetGalley)
A Midnight Puzzle - Mar, 2024 (NetGalley)
Tudor Executions - Jul, 2024 (NetGalley)
Vantage Point - Jan, 2025 (NetGalley)
Arthur, Prince of Wales - May, 2023 (NetGalley)
Crime and Punishment in Tudor England - Aug, 2023 (NetGalley)
This Book Kills - Sept, 2024 (NetGalley)
Killer House Party - Oct, 2024 (NetGalley)
Great Scandals of the Victorians - May, 2024 (NetGalley)
Under This Red Rock - Mar, 2024 (NetGalley)

Wish me luck!

Happy Reading

NetGalley ARC | The Hitler I Knew: The Memoirs of the Third Reich's Press Chief

I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating | ⭐

This is a biography of Hitler written by his press chief Otto Dietrich, who served Hitler from 1933 to 1945, while he was in prison after the war. He believed Hitler was what Germany needed to pull them out of the misery following WWI and it was clear despite claiming he was 'disillusioned', that he STILL thought of Hitler as a great man when all was said and done.

Hitler is not one of those people that gets to be other-sided. There is no other side for him. Whatever positives there might have one been about him are throroughly and irrevocably negated by the fact that he ordered the extermination of an entire group of people, a mass genocide of millions. The author clearly admired Hitler still, and barely mentioned anything related to the wholesale slaughter of men, women, and children.

The author also references quite often the demonic spirit or demonic personality that Hitler displayed. Absolutely not. There is no one and nothing to blame for the choices Hitler made, except Hitler himself. Referring to it as "demonic" attempts to absolve him of responsibility, gives it this air of something occult-ish or supernatural (something the Nazis loved and were obsessed with), and this can NEVER be allowed to happen for him or the minions who followed his orders. Here there is no way to separate the men and women from their actions and this can't be allowed to happen. They are all guilty. Yet Dietrich hardly mentions the mass murder, or camps, the ghettos and murder squads that came before the gas showers and crematoriums.

Dietrich claims to have just accepted what was told to him and chose to stay on as Hitler's press chief for the entirety of the war. There is no way he didn't know what was happening, or going to happen, as the Final Solution was developed and put into action. Yet his silence on this aspect is deafening. There is zero accountability, which is unsurprising.

After Dietrich was found guilty in 1949 of crimes against humanity, he was sentenced to seven years in prison by the US Military Tribunal. it was determined at Nuremberg that under his direction, the German press was to "enrage Germans against Jews" in order to justify what was happening with the ever-increasing restrictions, and eventual imprisonment and murder. Unfortunately in 1950 Dietrich's sentences was communted ot time served and he was released. He should have died in prison and not with his freedom, as he did in 1952.

The fact that Dietrich chose to have this published only after his death also speaks volumes. Books like this can be dangerous because there can be no white-washing of the crimes committed against the Jewish population of Europe. These men and women were human and evil, and deserved to die for their crimes against humanity. Yet many "escaped" or were released from prison early. Both outcomes are unacceptable and I fully support the continued pursuit of any Nazis still alive today who have yet to answer for their crimes.

Despite the complete lack of accountability, I would still recommend this read for those with an interest in WWII and trying to understand how someone like Hitler was able to come to power and keep it for so long. When everyone around you is also evil, it is easy to be seen as 'normal'.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Would You Rather... | #43

I began posting this back in 2018 and thought I would bring it back, given that my motivation to blog has returned with force. You might recognize some from prior use, but I am changing up which ones are paired together to give a variety of choices.

There's no real criteria or guidelines. Choose the nook you would love most if given a choice, justify it however you'd like.

Nook A

Nook B

Which one do you love most?

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

NetGalley ARC | Henry VIII: A History of his Most Important Places and Events

I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Henry VIII has been the subject of countless books both fiction and non-fiction, tv shows, and films. Nearly everyone with an interest in history knows his name, even if they know few other details. Once the ideal renaissance prince, he evolved into a cruel tyrant who everyone feared - even, especially, those closest to him.

For all that I have read on the Tudors and Henry specifically, I have never read a book like this. Here, his life is told through the lens of the places he lived, worked, and played, and thus the major events that took place at the various locations. I love this unique way of telling the story of his birth, life, and death.

The part that bums me out the most is, of course, the places that either no longer exist, or have been remodeled to the point that Henry would not recognize them today. I'm even happy to traipse about the ruins of the former palaces, as it is better than having nothing left at all. Greenwich Palace remains one of the biggest losses of my historical life. To have seen it in its prime...that would be magical. And what I would not give to see Nonsuch. This palace was unique because it is one that Henry had built from scratch. It stood until the end of the 17th century, then was demolished and this pains me to no end.

The author begins in London and highlights many of the palaces along the Thames, as well and Westminster and the Tower. From there we move to the countryside to the many hunting lodges and manor homes Henry used, and even across the channel to Calais where Henry and Francis met at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

Even though I was familiar with all of these locations, the massive attention to detail was fantastic and I learned so much about the buildings themselves. The author presents each location and the events that took place in Henry's lifetime, and also lets readers know what these places look like today.

This text is well-researched and thorough. There were photos and sketches, which I found helpful but would always appreciate more. I love comparing the historical drawings with the landcape today, even when it makes me sad thinking about Nonsuch and Greenwich. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone with an interest in the time, even if you're already well-versed on Henry's life. It's a unique perspective and provides so much additional information.