Teaser Tuesday: Jan 8

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly book meme originally featured at Should Be Reading. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

This is a book that I received from my Secret Santa from work last year, and have been meaning to get through for a little while, reading bits here an there as I’ve had time. I’ve heard this book was a little different in writing style and genre (historical fiction vibes) then I have read recently, and in the last year, so I thought I would give it a go.

So far it’s an intriguing read, but does require a bit of attentiveness, not really an adventure book that you can just blitz through. So far, I am enjoying it so look out for the review of this one soon!

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” ‘I thank you for your advice,’ said Fritz. ‘I think, indeed, that women have a better grasp on the whole business of life than we men have. We are morally better than they are, but they can reach perfection, we can’t. And that is in spite of the fact that they particularise, we generalise.’ ” (126)

Book Review: Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang

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Published: 2013

I came by this book when I was looking for a biography to read about an important historical figure. I was keen to stay away from any American or European people because I feel like I was taught a decent amount about those two continents in my education. I wanted to find someone fascinating from a part of the world I knew very little about. So I narrowed it down to East-Asia. Well at least we made progress right?

What intrigued me about his book right away is that it was based in the Victorian Era, a period I feel I had grasped well in school, and it was about an important woman of power. Pardon my naivety, but I didn’t know that women could easily gain influence and power in China during this period. As I began to read the book, I realised just how amazing thing woman was. It was indeed very rare for a women to not only make political and economical decisions in a country, not to mention also rule for such a long period of time (nearly 50 years)!

Empress Dowager Cixi started off as a concubine to Emperor Xianfeng, as the author explains, “a Chinese emperor was entitled to one empress and as many concubines as he pleased” (3). Her role as concubine came with no real power, she was merely meant to please her emperor. So how did this incredible woman manage to become Empress and bring China from a medieval empire into the modern age? Well you are going to have to read the book to find out!

As someone who has studied History in school, I must say that there are many authors out there that can make an exciting period sound awfully tedious and can drown you with facts and figures as an attempt to impress you with their knowledge. Little attempts are made to make historical fiction engaging as well as educational. I think this book does an amazing job with this. Jung Chang manages to tell a story in such an engaging way, I couldn’t put down the book the same way I couldn’t put down the heart-racing The Maze series by David Dashner. Without a second thought, I could pick up the book even now and start re-reading it!

I marvelled at every page at how incredible this woman was and what a tumultuous time she ruled in (through many attacks from the Japanese, Russians and the West to multiple assassination attempts on herself). She was a very shrewd individual who was able to push aside her own feelings and opinions in order to find ways to ways to make China a strong empire. This means introducing then controversial and Western tactics such as building up a military and railway system to better transport it’s people and produce.

If you are interested in Chinese history, but may be a little bit overwhelmed as to where to start I would recommend this book. As someone with nearly zero prior knowledge about China I was able to follow everything without any issues, probably because Jung Chang does such a great job explaining everything! A definite must-read!

Have you read up about an amazing person in history? Let me know the title and author so I can add it to my list!

Book Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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Published: 2011

I must say that his novel got a lot of a positive reviews on both Goodreads and general rankings I saw on multiple book reviewers here on wordpress. I was really intrigued, as the plot sounded really interesting. Taking on the Trojan war through a completely new perspective? Yes!

But I must say I was very uninspired. For a long time I tried to determine why I felt like this because in theory I should really like it. The history seemed very well re-searched (found out that Miller actually did her BA and MA in Latin and Ancient Greek), and it was a well planned out storyline during a fascinating time(took her 8 years to write this novel!).

So why on earth did I not love this book as well?

Then I realized that I felt nothing towards the narrator, Patroclus. He was extremely weak, his entire life was just consumed with loving, looking at and following Achilles around like a lost puppy. It was literally unbearable. I just found him really unlikeable. It did ger a little better in the second half where he actually spent a few hours not stalking Achilles, found a hobby (healing wounded soldiers) and actually found other friends (don’t get too excited it was really just one friend; Briseis). Understandably, the author wanted to re-write the famous tale of Troy through a new perspective, not one of other powerful figures but someone a bit more “average”. Sadly, the narrator was below average and didn’t possess any likeable feature in my opinion.

The writing style also suffered. The one word that I would probably used to describe it is uninspiring. Miller spent too much time repeating herself and going on and on about how obsessed Patroclus was with Achilles. Scenes of him marveling at Achilles probably make up about ¾ of the book, easily. I don’t really want to read the same thing over and over again, especially when nothing new is added to the repetitions.

Maybe I am missing something…

Verdict: Still confused why this book had so much hype, failed to be inspiring, I would read if you like ancient history and obsessive lovers.

Have you read this book? I would love to hear your interpretations, and maybe shed some light so I could grow to like this book!

Book Review: The Empty Throne by Bernard Cornwell

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Hello FriendlyBookWorm Readers!

I will start by admitting that I am an intruder to this blog, and very fortunate to be the boyfriend of Miss FriendlyBookWorm herself. I know, how did I land such a catch?

The purpose of this entry is to review a book for her and for you guys, and the book in question is The Empty Throne by Bernard Cornwell. I have read a huge number of Cornwell’s books, most notably the entire Sharpe series, and he has become one of my favourite authors for his style of writing.

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The Empty Throne is historical fiction taking you back to Saxon England (or Englaland as the Saxons called it) and follows the journey of Lord Uthred of Bebbanburg (Bamburgh). He is one of the ealdormen of the Lord Æthelred and the Lady Æthelflaed. Basically at this point, there is a succession crisis in the area of England known as Mercia, with the next in line being female. This, as we all know, is a big problem. It’s made more interesting with attempts by the King’s brother to assassinate various heirs to the throne and the fact the Danish decide to invade at this exact point.

As the story is largely told from the perspective of Lord Uthred, one of the last Saxon Pagans in a nation that is now mostly Christian, you also get a brilliant overview of how much of an impact Christianity was having at the time.

’Father Penda,’ Wulfheard said, ‘let us pray that God persuades the Lord Uthred to cast away his Pagan trinkets. God listens to our prayers,’ he added to me.

‘He does?’

‘And I prayed for your recovery,’ he lied.

‘So did I,’ I said, touching Thor’s hammer.

One of my favourite things about Cornwell is the way he creates the environment of the time to his best of his ability to give you a real understanding of what it must have been like back then. All of his books, and this one is no different, also have a historical note at the end explaining exactly what was fictional and what was real so that you do actually learn some history whilst enjoying a great book.

Overall I would say that The Empty Throne is a great story with some good plot twists, some great themes and a really cool insight into a part of British history I knew very little about. I would highly recommend it, with the advice that you figure out all the place names before you start. Took me ages to figure out that Eoferwic was York…

Finally, thanks for letting me hijack the real reviewers blog,

Adios Amigos!