Tag: Books: First Reads


Review: The Wake

Posted 23 April, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

The Wake
By: Paul Kingsnorth
Format/Source: Galley courtesy of the publishers via NetGalley

Everyone knows the date of the Battle of Hastings. Far fewer people know what happened next…Set in the three years after the Norman invasion, The Wake tells the story of a fractured band of guerilla fighters who take up arms against the invaders. Carefully hung on the known historical facts about the almost forgotten war of resistance that spread across England in the decade after 1066, it is a story of the brutal shattering of lives, a tale of lost gods and haunted visions, narrated by a man of the Lincolnshire fens bearing witness to the end of his world.

Written in what the author describes as ‘a shadow tongue’ – a version of Old English updated so as to be understandable for the modern reader – The Wake renders the inner life of an Anglo-Saxon man with an accuracy and immediacy rare in historical fiction. To enter Buccmaster’s world is to feel powerfully the sheer strangeness of the past.

I heard of this book in passing last year when it was longlisted for the Man Booker (first crowd-funded novel to be longlisted) but then it slipped out of my radar again. It caught my interest again earlier this year when I found out that actor Mark Rylance bought the film option for the book. I re-read the premise and what made the book unique, which piqued my curiosity. I was approved a galley copy of this novel courtesy of Unbound via NetGalley. This book was released on 20 March 2014.

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Review: The Pope’s Dilemma

Posted 13 April, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Pope’s Dilemma: Pius XII Faces Atrocities and Genocide in the Second World War
By: Jacques Kornberg
Format/Source: Galley courtesy of the publishers via NetGalley

Pope Pius XII presided over the Catholic Church during one of the most challenging moments in its history. Elected in early 1939, Pius XII spoke out against war and destruction, but his refusal to condemn Nazi Germany and its allies for mass atrocities and genocide remains controversial almost seventy years after the end of the Second World War.

Scholars have blamed Pius’s inaction on anti-communism, antisemitism, a special emotional bond with Germany, or a preference for fascist authoritarianism. Delving deep into Catholic theology and ecclesiology, Jacques Kornberg argues instead that what drove Pius XII was the belief that his highest priority must be to preserve the authority of the Church and the access to salvation that it provided.

In The Pope’s Dilemma, Kornberg uses the examples of Pius XII’s immediate predecessors Benedict XV and the Armenian genocide and Pius XI and Fascist Italy, as well as case studies of Pius XII’s wartime policies towards five Catholic countries (Croatia, France, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia), to demonstrate the consistency with which Pius XII and the Vatican avoided confronting the perpetrators of atrocities and strove to keep Catholics within the Church. By this measure, Pius XII did not betray, but fulfilled his papal role.

A meticulous and careful analysis of the career of the twentieth century’s most controversial pope, The Pope’s Dilemma is an important contribution to the ongoing debate about the Catholic Church’s wartime legacy.

I hadn’t been on NetGalley for, errr, a very long time :3 When I logged on and started casually browsing through the most recent titles added, this book popped up. It caught my curiosity because I had some vague idea what went on during Pope Pius XII and knew of the controversy surrounding his papacy thanks to an essay that was submitted to the undergraduate history journal I was on the committee for years ago. I was fortunate to have been approved a copy of this book for review as I wanted to see how this author went about analysing his papacy. This book was released on 24 February 2015 (though the University of Toronto press is listing its release date (for the paperback, I believe?!) as 23 July 2015).

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Review: The Siege Winter

Posted 23 March, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Seige Winter
By: Ariana Franklin & Samantha Norman
Format/Source: Advanced reading copy courtesy of the publisher via GoodReads First Reads programme

1141 a.d.: King Stephen is warring with his cousin Empress Matilda over the throne of England. Every cathedral, every castle, every seat of power will swear fealty to one or the other—but not every stronghold is as strategic or as valuable as Kenniford Castle in Oxfordshire. Its mistress, sixteen-year-old Maud of Kenniford, swears fealty to Stephen, but Matilda’s forces have decreed that she marry the odious John of Tewing.

Life in the fenlands carries on as usual—that is, until the mercenaries ride through the marsh, and a small red-haired girl named Em is snatched and carried off. After the soldiers have finished with her, they leave her for dead. But fenland girls are not easy to kill.

Although she has lost all memory of her past life, including her name, Em survives and falls under the protection of Gwyl, a Breton archer. Together Gwyl and his new protegé—now crop-headed and disguised as a boy—travel through the countryside giving archery exhibitions. But there is one man who hasn’t forgotten the little red-haired girl. He has some unfinished business with her, and he is determined to see it through.

And one freezing winter in an Oxfordshire castle completely besieged, he might well get his chance…

I was really sad to have learned (quite late after the fact) that Ariana Franklin had passed away a few years ago. I never read her Mistress of Death series but read and loved her standalone novel The City of Shadows. The premise of this novel sounded really interesting and I’m happy to have received an advanced reading copy of the novel through GoodReads. As an aside, I find it a bit strange that they flipped the title around for the North American release (the UK release was under the title The Winter Siege) but anyway…This book was released on 3 February 2015.

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Review: The Buried Giant

Posted 2 March, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

The Buried Giant
By: Kazuo Ishiguro
Format/Source: Advanced reading copy courtesy of the publishers via GoodReads First Reads programme

The Romans have long since departed, and Britain is steadily declining into ruin. But at least the wars that once ravaged the country have ceased.

The Buried Giant begins as a couple, Axl and Beatrice, set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen for years. They expect to face many hazards—some strange and other-worldly—but they cannot yet foresee how their journey will reveal to them dark and forgotten corners of their love for one another.

Sometimes savage, often intensely moving, Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel in a decade is about lost memories, love, revenge and war.

Whoo-hoo, a new novel by Kazuo Ishiguro! I’ve read two of his books before, The Remains of the Day (review) and Never Let Me Go (review), having especially come to really enjoy the former, so I was curious to read his latest literary endeavour (so naturally I was flailing when I learned I had won an ARC of this novel). This book will be available on 3 March 2015.

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Review: The Marriage Game

Posted 10 February, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

The Marriage Game
By: Alison Weir
Format/Source: Advanced Reading Copy courtesy of the publishers via GoodReads First Reads programme

The new novel from the New York Times bestselling historian Alison Weir tells the story of one of history’s most scandalous love affairs: the romance between the new, young “Virgin Queen” Elizabeth I and her handsome married courtier, Lord Robert Dudley.

He is her dashing Master of Horse. She is the 25-year-old newly crowned English Queen, a title she holds only because there is no male heir to inherit it. Yet in spite of her tenuous hold on the throne, young Queen Elizabeth begins a flagrant flirtation with the handsome but married Lord Robert, taking long unchaperoned horseback rides with him and constantly having him at her side. Many believe them to be lovers, and over time the rumors grow that Elizabeth is no virgin at all, and that she has secretly borne Lord Robert’s child. When Robert’s wife is found dead, lying at the bottom of a staircase with her neck broken, there is universal shock followed by accusations of murder.

Picking up where Alison Weir’s bestselling novel to date, The Lady Elizabeth, left off (but standing completely alone), The Marriage Game tells the dramatic story of the “Virgin Queen’s” reign, framed by Elizabeth’s long and tumultuous relationship with Lord Robert. Did they or didn’t they? Rivers of ink have been spilled in determining the answer to this burning historical question, and you can be sure Alison Weir has strong opinions about Elizabeth’s questionable virginity, based on a lifetime of research. But fiction gives her a free hand to explore this intriguing love affair in its every colourful detail, and the resulting novel is one of her best.

I’ve read one of Alison Weir’s nonfiction books before (Lancaster and York–very good book if you want to read more about the War of the Roses, btw) and knew that she had written a number of fiction titles, but I never read any. I was thus pleasantly surprised to learn that I won an ARC of this novel from GoodReads. This book will be available on 10 February 2015.

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