My 2016 Reading List (So Far)

For The Love by Jen Hatmaker

More than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst (my online book study for January)

Taming the Queen by Philippa Gregory

Nobody’s Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle

Hands-Free Life by Rachel Macy Stafford

If You Find This Letter… by Hannah Brencher

The Four Loves by CS Lewis

Vols 19-22 of Fables


The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

Ah, the discovery. The day that you walk through the bookstore, minding you own business, only to find that a book that you have been anticipating slipped through its release date without you even noticing. That was me and The White Princess, Gregory’s latest addition to The Cousins’ War. I was being so good, purchasing only what was on my list and making record time to boot, and here was this beauty just calling to me. So I used the last of an anniversary gift to purchase it for myself and have been enjoying it in the short spurts that I get to read for myself in the midst of raising an 8-month-old. This also happens to coincide with the premiere of the Starz production of “The White Queen” series, which is based upon The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The White Princess.

As I began to read, having only recently finished The Kingmaker’s Daughter, I instantly had the urge to lay all four books of The Cousins’ War side by side and see how seamlessly Gregory moves from one character’s point of view and emotional space to another’s. Anne Neville saw Princess Elizabeth of York as plying her wiles to steal Richard III away from her, to remove Anne from her place and cement her own position. In Anne’s eyes, it had naught to do with love but was merely a ploy well-used by the Woodville women in the past. As you begin The White Princess, however, you see Elizabeth in deep and painful mourning for the man she loved, the selfsame RIchard III. She gives each character an original voice and their own, defensible position. Doesn’t matter if you’ve read the same story from three different viewpoints already, you instantly feel for Elizabeth, especially in the light of her sister Cecily’s spite, though poor Cecily herself has been ill-used by Richard III. Well, at least her own mind, if no one else thinks so. Now Elizabeth must cement her position again and marry Henry Tudor. He needs her to solidify his throne and the beginning of his dynasty; she needs him to save her family and restore them to a position of pride and power. She must do her duty as the daughter of Edward IV and as a Woodville woman.

I am looking forward to diving ever deeper into this book and losing myself in the world of the Roses once again.

The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory

I have just crested page 100 of Philippa Gregory’s The Kingmaker’s Daughter and I marvel on how much has happened in just these first 100 pages. Let me remind you, there are 412 pages in this book, so I have hardly scratched the surface.

Gregory paints such a picture of tumult, confusion, embarrassment and agony for Anne and Isabel Neville that it breaks your heart over and over again. Within 100 pages, we have had three rebellions and have just embarked upon a third. It’s all rather amazing that so much has happened in only 100 pages.

Anne Neville is an incredibly sympathetic character. You feel for this poor girl who has been taught familial loyalty no matter what and is thus moved back and forth in a deadly chess game by her constantly scheming father Warwick the Kingmaker. You can see the effect that the tumult has on her mind and her heart, as well as on her perceptions of the world. She had been taught that the world was one way and, at a moment’s notice, that idea can be turned on its head, presented as her new normal, and leave her foundering for a foothold, poor girl.

I am greatly looking forward to see what continues to happen with Anne Neville as she and her elder sister are played for pawns by their power-hungry father. Though he may never be able to possess the throne himself, Warwick will take it any way he can and sacrifice whomever he must to make his power complete.

Just how safe can one be? Even his daughters?

Author Spotlight: Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory’s body of work was not the first royal fiction that I began reading but, as I look at the bookshelf that houses my historical/royal fiction (four shelves high), it has definitely become the most prolific of all the authors that I read. When I picked up Gregory’s newest addition to The Cousins’ War series, The Kingmaker’s Daughter, one of the blurbs on the back caught my attention and made me smile with agreement. Entertainment Weekly raved, “If only grade-school history books were written so vividly,” and I definitely had to agree. Gregory’s body of work was not the first royal fiction that I began reading but, as I look at the bookshelf that houses my historical/royal fiction (four shelves high), it has definitely become the most prolific of all the authors that I read.

Gregory’s work is painstakingly researched and the sheer amount of detail that pervades her novels is, by far, a more enjoyable way to learn than purely informational texts citing dates and reasons politic. Gregory incorporates heart and emotion and personal motivation into her novels, breathing life and kindling warmth and love and rage and betrayal and mercy into these historical figures who have gone before us and yet shaped our world with their passing. She has contributed to my ability to be able to quote, from memory, the history of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I’s courts in all their tumult of heart and politics. As I did so to my husband on a drive home one day, he finally just looked at me, marveling, and asked, “How do you remember all of this?” My response was, “Are you kidding? Even soap operas couldn’t come up with stories as good as this! It keeps me coming back for more; I can’t help it!” And it does, Gregory’s work keeps me salivating for more and more. When I heard that The Kingmaker’s Daughter was coming out, I was very excited, trying to imagine the tale that she would weave around Warwick’s poor daughter Anne in the court of the dashing Edward IV and his painfully-beautiful queen Elizabeth Woodville. I picked it up this past Friday and have begun reading it. But I am taking it in slowly, rather than devouring it all at once. If I devour it, cloister myself away with it, as Inigo Montoya says, “It’ll be over too quickly.” And I want this experience to last, as I do all of them.

Gregory’s love for her art shows in the work that she puts into each novel, not just her royal fiction but every novel series. Her ability to bring these figures across the bridge from mere history into character whom we fall for, root for, care about, love, and hate. They become characters that we hold close to us and that is a feat in and of itself: breathing life into history and making it relevant to us. These figures go through many things that we do: family squabbles, destroyed relationships, unstable economies, following our hearts despite societal expectations, etc.

So, Philippa Gregory, thank you for all you have done with your work, for the beauty that you have given to history once more. Your talent is amazing and a blessing and I will continue to look forward to and devour your work.

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

YAY!!! Here’s one of my happy moments. I never seem to know when Philippa is coming out with another of her wonderful books about Royals but when I see them in the store, it is like Christmas Day!

Gregory’s novels normally are based around Tudor History, focusing on the era of Henry VIII. This novel, however, focuses on the process of creating that great King. The focus of this novel is the White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, mother of Elizabeth of York, who would one day marry Henvry VII and birth the brilliant but spoiled Henry VIII.

A widow after her husband Sir John Grey, who died in the battles between Edward of York (later crowned Edward IV) and Henry VI. At this time, England was split between two families: the Yorks and the Lancasters. The Lancastrians historically supported Henry VI but, after he was defeated by Edward, Elizabeth’s family turned their coats in support of Edward, much to their own chagrin.

Now a widow, Elizabeth needed a King’s dispensation to regained the lands that were given in dowry to her first husband’s family; they had, so far, refused to return the lands and money to her after Sir Grey had died and Elizabeth had returned to her family’s house. So Elizabeth and her mother concocted a plan to gain the King’s favor. Let’s just say, it worked far better than they’d dreamed.

Now that she is Queen and her family has become the most powerful in England, Elizabeth must now deal with the perils of being royalty. Will she be able to maintain her hold on her reputation and her family’s name?