31 July 2009

My first reading challenge: Banned Books

There's a first time for everything. I usually don't consider doing challenges; the subject might not be something I'm interested in and I have so many books to read (and am so mercurial in my reading habits) that it gets hard to work in a challenge.

I jumped at this one: BiblioBrat is hosting a Banned Books Challenge during the month of September. This challenge is really simple: read at least one book that has been challenged/banned (for a list you can visit the UCSD page or the ALA). Read at least one book that has been challenged/banned.....I can do that! And I get to flaunt my "I read banned books" buttons! Challenging books makes me grumpy so I'm all for a challenge that highlights infringements on the individual's right to the Freedom to Read.

I've decided to read two books. I've never actually read The Satanic Verses so that will be book Numero Uno. I also have Mailer's The Naked and the Dead in my to-read pile so I'll read that, too. Since I'm still only half done with American Psycho, if I polish that off in September then that would make three.

Who's with me on this challenge?

30 July 2009

2009 Man Booker Prize Longlist

The 2009 Man Booker Prize Longlist was announced yesterday. I like the breadth of titles/authors under consideration but, being that the award is made off British publication dates, at least one contender has yet to hit bookselves on the US side of the Pond.

A S Byatt » The Children’s Book » Chatto & Windus
US release: October 6, 2009 - I would consider ordering from a UK source as long as I can find one that is not Amazon and the shipping wouldn't be astronomical, at which point it probably wouldn't arrive until October anyway.
J M Coetzee » Summertime » Harvill Secker
This will release September 3, 2009, in the UK (according to various online retailers) and I can't find a reliable US date.
Adam Foulds » The Quickening Maze » Jonathan Cape
No US date as yet.
Sarah Hall » How to Paint a Dead Man » Faber & Faber
US release: September 9, 2009
Samantha Harvey » The Wilderness » Jonathan Cape
Released in the US February 2009.
James Lever » Me Cheeta » Fourth Estate
Released in the US March 2009
Hilary Mantel » Wolf Hall » Fourth Estate
US release October 10, 2009
Simon Mawer » The Glass Room » Little, Brown
No US date as yet.
Ed O’Loughlin » Not Untrue & Not Unkind » Penguin
No US date as yet.
James Scudamore » Heliopolis » Harvill Secker
No US date as yet.
Colm Toibin » Brooklyn » Penguin
Released in the US May 2009
William Trevor » Love and Summer » Penguin
US release September 19, 2009
Sarah Waters » The Little Stranger » Little, Brown
Released in the US April 2009

This gets to a small problem I have with books coming out of the UK because it seems like so many books have a significant delay between the UK and US releases (and I'm sure that the problem is reversed for residents of the UK). Aside from haggling amongst different publishers for UK-based authors' manuscripts, I see no real reason why it should take that long for a book to arrive in the US once it has released in the UK. Or any other English-speaking county, for that matter. The book has already been edited for publication so you don't have to check for typos or anything else the copy-editor might be needed for. There's no reason to change covers and you don't have to translate the book. So load the text into the printing press and off you go.

Translation brings up another sticky point. I LOATHE "translations" from British English to American English. It is pointless and offensive that I, as a reader, cannot enjoy the authors words as set out because some editor in an office somewhere thought that I might not understand British slang or spelling. Newsflash: slang adds color and it isn't a different language. A different language to me is anything not English (I can read German and some French but not well enough to sense nuance and idiom so bring on the translations in that case).

My point? I want my copy of The Children's Book. Now. Chop, chop, US publishers.

Booking Through Thursday: The ha-ha*

What’s the funniest book you’ve read recently? Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response at Booking Through Thursday!

Welll.....I don't read many "funny" books, at least not recently (as I peruse my book journal). I tend to read books with a degree of funny like:

Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann
Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The Westing Game (Puffin Modern Classics)

Beowulf on the Beach by Jack Murnighan
Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits

and Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby.
Shakespeare Wrote for Money

The last truly "funny" book I read (one meant to make you bust a gut at times) was probably
First Amongst Sequels by Jasper Fforde
First Among Sequels (Thursday Next, #5)
and that released in 2007. I'm not counting "listenings" in this list because Thursday is my road-trip buddy and the last listen of a Thursday book was about three weeks ago.

I think I prefer "snark" to "funny" (which probably explains why I liked Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris).
Then We Came to the End

*"ha-ha" is one of my favorite words; it is a laugh, a sort-of sunken ditch/retaining wall, and a novel by Dave King.

28 July 2009

Nominations are open at LbW!

The nominations thread is open for business at Literature by Women. I'll be taking nominations by PM at BNBC until the end of the day August 3; the voting shortlist will be up the following morning.

Come on by!

Teaser Tuesdays: The Pickup

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

If he says that one more time! So how it has to be is not what he will do about this letter, this document passing a sentence on his life, but what we are going to do.

~p 55, The Pickup, Nadine Gordimer*

* Gordimer's The Pickup is our August read for "Literature by Women" at Barnes and Noble Book Clubs; come visit and don't forget to put your $0.02 in by voting for our next batch of books.

27 July 2009

I'm still me!

Just an FYI for everyone who follows me from BNBC - my pen name has changed to "Melissa_W" due to some combining/improvements going on at BNBC.

Which means I need to update some links (like the one in the previous post because I don't think it will work correctly now).

Musing Mondays: Online Book Sites

Musing Mondays is hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page...
Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about online book sites…

Do you have an account with an online book database site (LibraryThing, Shelfari, GoodReads etc)? If so, do you have a preference? Do you use it for - your own record keeping? finding new books to read? social networking?

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Musing Mondays post, or share your opinion in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog), and make sure to comment on Rebecca's original post. Thanks.

Haha! I did a Goodreads post last night, how crazy is that for anticipation? As previously posted, I do have a Goodreads account and have just re-started using it - as in seriously using it - but I don't have Shelfari or LibraryThing. Which is probably a good thing. I also have a My B&N page which I tend to update slightly more often because I'm on the Barnes and Noble Book Clubs website far more often because of my moderating duties; I also like My B&N because I can favorite CDs and DVDs, too, along with my B&N reviews and favorite B&N Review and B&N Studio pieces.

I don't use either for record-keeping, as such. I have huge Excel databases that I use for generalized keeping track of what I own and my hand-written journals to tell me what I thought of something and when I read it.

26 July 2009


I've had a Goodreads account for quite some time - since August of 2007 to be exact - but I never really made much use of it. I think I only entered 10 books and joined two groups and that was kind of that. I'd get the email updates for a few of my friends (one friend has over 1000 books in her profile, so she was obviously getting mileage out of it) but never felt terribly compelled to visit much until last night.

I'm not sure how I wound up on Goodreads last night. I think it might have been because I dropped by Lauren Willig's site for news about Pink VI or Lizzie Skurnick may have mentioned Goodreads reviews on her blog. So I signed into Goodreads for the first time in nearly two years and proceeded to follow Lauren and Lizzie, re-arrange some books, play trivia, stalk, er, follow Alain de Botton, and waste a good 3 hours of sleeping time in general.

Moving forward to today, I combined this new thirst for all things Goodreads with my mission of culling the rapidly growing book collection. I entered all the books in my "in-progress" bedside bin, the "TBR" books on my desk, the new book I bought today (The Big Rewind by Nathan Rabin), and then proceeded to go entry-by-entry through my book journals starting in 2003 to update my "read" list. I didn't put every single entry in - that would be nuts - and I didn't even have accurate information on some of the books I either DNF'd or got rid of (hastily). I rapidly discovered that searching isn't all that accurate by title and ISBN is far more accurate causing me to look up books at B&N then copy-and-paste the ISBN into Goodreads. I also discovered a mistake where the publisher data for RHI and B&N editions of Dorian Gray were mixed up causing the RHI data to appear on the B&N page of Goodreads (and I know I had the right ISBN because I got the book and checked).

I also updated the Goodreads widgets on my blog to those really snazzy montage widgets. I have three now. Since I'm a nerd.

I increased my Goodreads shelf count to 204.

I culled 10 books from the collection. It's better than I had been doing.

I've got some reviews to write (both movie and book) and some knitting to finish. Catch y'all later.

23 July 2009

Teaser Tuesday: Shelf Discovery

On Thursday. Oh well (I didn't get my book until Wednesday anyway).

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The most delightful thing to me about Judy Blume books is that unlike so many other children's books, they never feature a sage adult offering the younger characters wise counsel in their time of need (at the most, during the height of her spiritual crisis, Margaret's mother suggests Margaret go to the movies with a friend.)....

~p 52, Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick

(and I pre-ordered this sucker as soon as humanly possible - it is fantastic!)

BTT: Preferences

Which do you prefer? (Quick answers–we’ll do more detail at some later date)

Reading something frivolous? Or something serious?
Usually something serious because even my frivolous books are on the serious side

Paperbacks? Or hardcovers?
Paperbacks - I'm a scribbler and feel less bad about writing in a paperback and paperbacks weigh less so I can carry more.

Fiction? Or Nonfiction?

Poetry? Or Prose?
Generally prose (unless we're talking Christina Rossetti)

Biographies? Or Autobiographies?
Biography if I'm looking for information, autobiography if I'm looking for personality

History? Or Historical Fiction?
History (get the facts right!)

Series? Or Stand-alones?
Stand-alones (Thursday Next, Harry Potter, and Lauren Willig are the exceptions)

Classics? Or best-sellers?
Classics. Definitely.

Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose?
Both (but never mind the bread, please)

Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness?

Long books? Or Short?
I have never chosen/read a book based on page count.

Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated?
Illustrations are nice - they need to be relevant, though.

Borrowed? Or Owned?
Owned, then I can scribble in them.

New? Or Used?
Generally new since I can never find what I need locally in used.

21 July 2009

I always knew I was magical!

And a little bit weird. So this makes sense:

The What Work of Literature Are You? quiz
Your result...

100 Hundred Years of Solitude
Anything is possible, right? I mean ANYTHING! Hell, you might sprout wings and fly away... or you might live to see seven generations of your own family carry your name, only to be wiped away in one fell swoop. You might conquer foreign lands, travel through time, see a ghost, be a ghost... it doesn't matter. If you can dream it, you can make it reality.

This is at ROFL quiz (this is the "share" link for my result).

15 July 2009

Newsweek's Meta-List: How many have I read?

Newsweek has created a top-100 meta-list of the best books ever. I seem to have read a good portion (books in bold are ones I've read, asterisks denotes an in-progress item or partial read).

1. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
2. 1984, by George Orwell
*3. Ulysses, by James Joyce
4. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
*5. The Sound and The Fury, by William Faulkner
6. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
7. To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
8. The Illiad and the Odyssey, by Homer
9. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
10. Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri
11. Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
12. Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift
13. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
14. Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
15. The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger
16. Gone with the Wind, Margaret by Mitchell
17. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
18. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
19. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
20. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
21. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
*22. Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie
23. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
24. Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
25. Native Son, by Richard Wright
26. Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville
27. On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin
28. The Histories, by Herodotus
29. The Social Contract, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
*30. Das Kapital, by Karl Marx
*31. The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli
32. Confessions, by St. Augustine
33. Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes
34. The History of the Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides
35. The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien
36. Winnie-the-Pooh, by A. A. Milne
37. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis
38. A Passage to India, by E. M. Forster
39. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
40. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
41. The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version
42. A Clockwork Orange, by Antony Burgess
43. Light in August, by William Faulkner
44. The Souls of Black Folk, by W. E. Du Bois
45. Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
46. Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
47. Paradise Lost, by John Milton
48. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
49. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
50. King Lear, by William Shakespeare
51. Othello, by William Shakespeare
52. Sonnets, by William Shakespeare
53. Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
54. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
55. Kim, by Rudyard Kipling
56. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
57. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
58. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
59. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
60. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
61. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
62. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
63. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
64. The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing
*65. Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust
66. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler
67. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
68. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
69. I, Claudius, by Robert Graves
70. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers
71. Sons and Lovers, by D. H. Lawrence
72. All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
73. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
74. Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White
75. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
76. Night, by Elie Wiesel
77. Rabbit Run, by John Updike
78. The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
*79. Portnoy’s Complaint, by Philip Roth
80. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
81. The Day of the Locust, by Nathaniel West
82. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
83. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiel Hammett
84. His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman
85. Death Comes for the Archbishop, by Willa Cather
*86. The Interpretation of Dreams, by Sigmund Freud
87. The Education of Henry Adams, by Henry Adams
88. Quotations from Chairman Mao, by Mao Zedong
89. The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James
*90. Brideshead Revisted, by Evelyn Waugh
91. Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
92. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, by John Maynard Keynes
93. Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad
94. Goodbye to All That, by Robert Graves
95. The Affluent Society, by John Kenneth Galbraith
96. The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
97. The Autobiograhy of Malcom X, by Alex Haley & Malcom X
*98. Eminent Victorians, by Lytton Strachey
99. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
100. The Second World War, by Winston Churchill

Looks like I've read 58 and 10 that I've partially read. Not too shabby.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Spoiler-free short review

This is a short review - spoiler-free - and I'll give you a week or so to get to the theatre and see it. After that, I'll assume the die-hard fans went and I'll do a more in-depth post.

I loved it. Best midnight movie premiere I've ever seen. I think the writer and director did a great job streamlining the plot for a 2.5 hour movie; there were some scenes I would have loved to keep in but I really didn't miss them while in the theatre. Particular kudos go to Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy, a really fine job there, and also to the props department because the Room of Requirement set-up was fantastic.

I'm not usually a crier at movies, and thought I wouldn't in this instance because I knew the outcome ahead of time, but near the end (you'll know) the music rose and so did the lump in my throat. In my opinion, the scene is far more touching and intimate than the "do" in the book.

Thumbs down to the billing. Timothy Spall (Worm-tail) is listed individually in the primary cast even though he appears for a maximum of 30 seconds while both Tom Felton and Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) are listed among the secondary characters but have a significant amount of screen time. It's just wrong.

Previews (and there were five official ones this time, so huzzah):
"pre-preview" preview (meaning shown in rotation with the ads prior to the start of the actual previews) - Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - looks like a Pixar film because all the people look like Ratatouille characters but it's not Pixar, not sure about this one
1. 9 - Tim Burton-produced post-apocalyptic animated film that he didn't direct (but he might as well have because it looks like a Burton-styled film); intriguing but not sure I want to see it in the theatre
2. G.I. Joe - again, different preview than the last, jumps a great deal more through different scenes, the first preview was a better sell
3. Sherlock Holmes - Guy Ritchie-helmed, big-budget, action-hero style update of the Holmes canon, intriguing, but I can't quite see how the minimal-action, intellectual style of the originals will hold in this version, visually quite interesting but the style is beginning to look like all the paranormal action movies use the same cinematographer
4. Shorts - daft-looking tripe in which some kids find a rainbow colored stone that grants wishes, the stone presumably falls into the villain's hands, and the kids have to go save the world; I must vomit now
5. Where the Wild Things Are - looks to be a beautiful adaptation of such a favorite children's book; I almost cried watching the preview

13 July 2009

15 books (again)

This is making the Facebook rounds so I thought I'd blog it (again) pretty for the very nominal reason that it might be different than the last time. I think the last time was a BTT post.

15 books
Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends, including [Jackie] because [Jackie is] interested in seeing what books [Jackie's] friends choose (I will tag this in Facebook once it imports from my blog feed).

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
2. Alpha Chi Sigma pledge cannon/sourcebook (it is book-length)
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
4. Matilda by Roald Dahl
5. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne (and all other Pooh books)
6. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
7. Are you there, God, it's me, Margaret? by Judy Blume
8. Blubber by Judy Blume
9. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
10. And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts (this seems to wind up on all my lists)
11. Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher
12. The Inferno by Dante Alighieri
13. The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar
14. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (which grosses me out, and it's not a favorite at all, but I happened to think about it so I guess it stuck with me)
15. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

04 July 2009

ABC Book Meme!

This meme appears courtesy of Rebecca at Lost in Books!

For this meme, you list a favorite* book that starts with each letter of the alphabet. If you don't have a book for a letter (such as Z or X) than you can substitute a favorite book that simply has that letter in the title (ex. The Lost City of Z or Hot Six by Janet Evanovich). However, you can only do this a maximum of 3 times. (Z, X, and Q. But not Z, X, Q, and V.) Books can be of any genre from fiction to non-fiction to poetry to textbooks.

A: And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts
B: Bleak House by Charles Dickens
C: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
D: Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
E: East of Eden by John Steinbeck
F: The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
G: The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
H: The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
I: The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
J: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
K: Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn by Carol Sulcoski
L: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
M: Middlemarch by George Eliot
N: The Natural Knitter by Barbara Albright
O: The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline by Lois Lowry
P: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Q: Queen Isabella by Alison Weir
R: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
S: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
T: Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
U: Utopia by Sir Thomas More
V: Villette by Charlotte Bronte
W: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
X: X-men
Y: Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Z: The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks

On an unrelated note, I bought (yet) another book: Don't You Forget About Me: Contemporary Writers on the Films of John Hughes (it was in the clearance sale and I love Sixteen Candles)

*Not sure exactly how "favorite" this is; it's more like whatever I could think of first that I actually liked particularly for the rarer letters.

01 July 2009

What have I acquired now?

We are having a clearance sale at the store. Clearance sales can be bad news.....and I've purchased other books....and been sent others. Yipe! I need to purge some of the office [painful *ow* ].

Books purchased:
Cheri and the Last of Cheri by Colette
The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce
The Film Club by David Gilmour
Portnoy's Complaint and Operation Shylock by Phillip Roth
Vanessa and Virginia by Susan Sellers
The Angel's Game by Carols Ruiz Zafon
My Father's Tears and Other Stories by John Updike
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

Books purchased in the 50% clearance sale:
Under Western Eyes by Joseph Conrad
Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley
Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West
How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis
The Kingdom of God is Within You by Leo Tolstoy
The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic
The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne
The Enormous Room by e.e. cummings
The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Knight of Maison-Rouge by Alexandre Dumas
The White Company and Sir Nigel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Darling by Russell Banks
On Grief and Reason by Joseph Brodsky

Books received from publishers and the BN editors:
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton
Hot House Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin
Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer

Oh my....I need some ice cream or a lie down. Or some counseling. I need to get some things read!

Henry VIII: The King and His Court

Alison Weir's biography/history of the Tudor court was next up on my list of Weir non-fiction (I haven't decided yet if I'll continue with her two novels). Henry VIII: The King and His Court does not disappoint. It is a meticulously researched and detailed historiography but still has an easy-to-read style; Weir keeps even the mundane interesting.

Now, I read a few reviews that complained because too much of the book was about other people of the period rather than solely about King Henry VIII. In rebuttal I'd like to point out the secondary title which reads "The King and His Court" and indicates that the contents of Weir's book will go far beyond the male-heir-obsessed Tudor king. The extensive detail Weir provides for the people and environment surrounding her primary subject is indeed a specialty. With this book we not only get an extensive biography of Henry VIII, but also detail regarding his father's reign (particularly the influence of Henry VIII's paternal grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort), specific detail of the households and professional activities of the major political players, particularly Wolsey, Cromwell, and Cranmer, and very detailed accounts of life at the Tudor Court. This is detail I am particularly interested in because, as a way of life, it does seem particularly strange to me, a 21st century, self-sufficient woman. The way the households were structured, both the King's side and Queen's side, the types of books purchased, gifts that were given and received, which ambassadors were at court, which factions were in ascendance, and so on are all topics which seem glossed over in the rush to teach a "History" full of dates and lurid facts. It's pretty common knowledge that the Court dressed and entertained lavishly but Weir breaks down what types of clothing were worn, where the cloth came from, who made the clothes, what food was common, how it was served, who did the serving, who devised the entertainment, and how much it all cost (converted into modern values it is a truly staggering sum). All of this detail goes a long way toward determining how Henry VIII was influenced - both as a child and as an adult - and how that impacted on his marital relationships.

The only complaint I can voice about the book is the selection and arrangement of the paintings, murals, and drawings included in the two sections of color plates. Weir does specifically mention certain paintings, object d'art, and residences (and goes into detail, particularly with respect to Holbein) as she moves through Henry VIII's reign and a number of these extant items are included in the color plates. However, the arrangement of these plates is deplorable; they don't follow the chronological order of the book causing the reader to flip back and forth to find a painting or refresh the memory. For example, the dynastic mural with Henry VIII, Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, and Jane Seymour was commissioned in 1537 from Hans Holbein and this is described in the later half of the book but the image (of the copy made in the 17thc before the mural was lost) is included in the first group of plates; similarly a page with miniatures of all six wives occurs in the first group of plates but the majority of their history, Katherine of Aragon excepted, occurs in the latter half of the book. It got a bit irritating after a while (for information's sake, this website has a fantastic collection of Tudor portraiture from the entire dynasty).

My next Weir: The Six Wives of Henry VIII