Five Fandom Friday: My to-be-read pile

fandom5friday_zps5c82dc45

One of my new years resolutions was to get my to-be-read pile under control.  The top of my bookcase in my bedroom is a dedicated space where I keep the books i have yet to read.  However, that orderly pile has begun spilling from between my bookends, and the overflow has formed two additional stacks. This simply won’t do!  I am trying to make time to read more as well as attempting to curb my urge to buy every interesting-looking book that catches my eye.  This is proving challenging, particularly as I often feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices each time I begin a new book.

 

So I felt that this 5 Fandom Friday Prompt was timely and served two purposes.  Firstly, it will help me identify five books that I am most looking forward to reading and secondly, it will give you a glimpse at my reading material.  Let’s make a start.

 

il_570xN.382752207_9hnq

 

  1. The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

I’m obsessed with Tudor history and historical fiction set in this era always piques my interest.  I am a fan of Philippa Gregory’s novels, because I think she does a brilliant job creating strong connections to her characters and it’s fun to imagine what it might have been like to live during those times.  The Lady of the Rivers focuses on Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Henry VII’s grandmother in law.  Jacquetta was a formidable woman and possibly a witch.  I have already read The Red Queen and The White Queen, and Jacquetta was a background character in each of those stories.  I’m really looking forward to reading a story with her at the forefront.

 

2. According to Yes by Dawn French

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to sit down with this book, because each of Dawn French’s other books has barely lasted a week on my shelf before I’ve torn into it. I absolutely adore her characters and her witty yet heartfelt writing style.  From the cryptic blurb on the back, I get the impression that this is going to be a tale of self-indulgence and finally breaking free after a lifetime of denying ones own impulses.  And it sounds very juicy indeed.

 

3. The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

There’s a reason why this book has been sitting on my shelf for such a long time.  Terry Pratchett is my favourite author, and this is the final book that was published after his death.  I have been trying to work up the courage to read it, because I know that it’s going to be emotional, almost like saying goodbye to a close friend.  The Shepherd’s Crown features one of my favourite Pratchett characters: Tiffany Aching.  Tiffany is a young witch who is steely and fierce yet still has all the vulnerability of a teenager.  I know I’m going to love this book, but it breaks my heart that once this one is done, there are no more new Pratchett books left to read.

 

4. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker

Since seeing the film several years ago, I have been burning to read The Colour Purple.  The copy on my shelf is battered and dog-eared, having been purchased from a tiny book stall in Melbourne.  This story of two sisters in the Deep South, facing unimaginable oppression and fear, promises to be moving and poignant.

 

5. Aimee & Jaguar by Erica Fischer

A true story of two women who fell in love in Berlin in 1942, and the gut-wrenching realities that pulled them apart.  I have been searching for more queer fiction to add to my literary menu, and this story has been on my to-read list for quite some time.  I am truly looking forward to being transported back in time by the words and pages, and walking with the two title characters as they discover one another and develop their love.

 

What have you been reading lately?  What’s on your to-read pile?

Things I love Thursday 9/2/2017

Welcome to another Things I Love Thursday.  In my opinion, Thursday is the perfect day to take stock of the things I’m grateful for and that bring me joy.  By the time Thursday rolls around, I’m beginning to lose momentum from the long week behind me and I’m usually truly ready for the weekend.  Taking the time to think about the good things from the past week really gives me a chance to look at things with fresh eyes.

 

This week I love:

  • Playing with the Macro settings on my camera.  I found this rad beetle-exoskeleton thingy that had been abandoned by it’s owner on the bark of the huge tree in my backyard.  I had a wonderful time photographing it.

 

 

 photo DSCF1043_zpsawefu8ty.jpg

 

  • My awesome boyfriend who rescued me from an enormous spider that was crawling across the bedhead at 4am last weekend.  We both hate spiders, so very very much.  And the fact that he was willing to stay in the room with the spider to make sure I was out safely and calmly meant the world to me.
  • Rain storms to break the oppressive summer heat.
  • Making veggie pies for dinner that taste amazing and look way fancier than they actually are.
  • Iced coffee
  • Starting work on my first knitted jumper.  It’s going to be super chunky and TARDIS blue.
  • Singing along to Blink 182 in the car and reminiscing about my teen years.
  • Saving Mr Banks
  • The new fennec fox kit who was born at Taronga Zoo last month.  This little dude is crazy cute and so energetic!
  • Finding a book I’ve been dying to read and a big ball of Noro silk yarn at a trash and treasure market.  I spent the princely sum of $3.
  • Watching a bunch of Lucy Worsley’s documentaries on Youtube.  In particular I’ve been enjoying History’s Biggest Fibs and also Fit to Rule.  Lucy is so lovely and makes history sound so cheeky and magical.
  • Dexter.  I’m finally getting around to watching this after so many years and I’m really enjoying it.

What do you love this week?

Personal Heroes: Jane Seymour

Before we begin, I should clarify that the Jane Seymour I’m talking about is Henry VIII’s third wife, not the actress who played Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman. Hmm-kay! Good to get that out of the way.

This is the third part in my drawn-out series about the six wives of Henry VIII. As you already know, I am a ginourmous Tudors addict and tend to devour anything on the topic. If you haven’t already read them, you should check out my posts on Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn to get you up to speed.

Image source: Wikipedia

Jane was a member of the Seymour family, who were one of the most noble families in England during the Tudor reign. Her family were the direct rival of the Boleyn family, so it was a big shock when Henry chose Jane to be his third wife, not long after Anne Boleyn’s execution. In fact, Henry had been in love with Jane long before Anne’s death. At one stage, he sent her a purse filled with money, and the request that she become his mistress. Jane promptly sent the purse back, unopened, and refused his request. She was not willing to become Henry’s lover while he was still married, and she was offended by the idea that he could buy her affection.

This act established the fact that Jane was a woman of high morals. She was a devout Catholic and adhered strictly to her principles. She was kind and charitable and refused to take part in unsavoury behaviour. It was her chastity and virtue that made her an attractive prospect for Henry, who had begun to tire of Anne Boleyn’s fiery temper.

It would seem that Henry thought that Jane would be a malleable wife, and that her kind nature would make her easy to manipulate. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, Jane was steadfast and never wavered from her principles. She was careful never to behave disloyally to her husband, but she refused to take any action which went against her own morals. She also worked hard to reunite Henry with his estranged daughter, the Princess Mary. Her ultimate goal was to restore Mary to the succession, as Henry had taken her out of line for the throne after he divorced her mother. She didn’t manage to do this, but she was able to restore the relationship between Henry and his eldest daughter.

Before Jane became Queen, the court of England was a lively place, filled with dancing, music and fashionable clothing. Jane felt that these practices were extravagant and distracting, and worked to reduce the decadence of the court. She required her ladies to dress more modestly than was fashionable at the time and encouraged them to beautify their souls by attending regular church services and performing charitable deeds.

Jane was the only one of Henry’s wives to give him a living son. Prince Edward became the heir that Henry had long hoped for. However, Queen Jane became very ill after the birth, and died several days later due to an infection. She was only 29 years old.

Henry was devastated by the death of his third wife. By all accounts, it seems that she is the wife he loved most dearly, and he cherished her memory. It took a lot of persuading by his councillors to convince him to marry again. When he died, Henry was next to Jane Seymour.

I find Jane Seymour admirable because of her strong sense of principle. Although she was kind and charitable, she would not allow herself to be walked over or manipulated. She stood fast by her morals and would not do anything that would offend her values. She acted according to her conscience even when it meant going against the social norms or fashions of the time. I truly admire the clarity of her values, and her refusal to act against her conscience.

Anne Bolyen

Today I’d like to indulge my love of the wives of Henry VIII by writing a little about Anne Boleyn. You might remember this post I wrote last year about Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife. Anne was Henry’s second wife, who he married in secret before his divorce to Katherine was finalized. There are many who believe that Henry’s marriage to Anne was illegal, and that their daughter, Elizabeth I was illegitimate. Regardless of whether this is true, what can certainly be said of this couple is that they had a fiery union, which forever changed the course of English history.

 

Image from English History.net.

When I wrote about Katherine of Aragon, I described her as a hero of mine. I must admit that I cannot think of Anne Boleyn in the same way. There were many things that Anne did during her short life that I simply don’t agree with. She had an affair with a married man (a king, no less), betrayed her queen, encouraged Henry to overthrow the Catholic church and create a new church with himself at the head and was incredibly cruel to Mary, Henry’s daughter from his first marriage. Her behaviour was not always admirable, and I disagree firmly with many of her choices. For these reasons, I cannot call Anne Boleyn a hero or role model in my eyes.

 

 

However, there are many very aspects of Anne’s personality and behaviour that I do admire. Anne’s determination and ambition were fierce. This was very unusual for a woman of her time. For the most part, Tudor women were expected to marry and have children, nothing more. They were not considered to be in charge of their own destiny, usually going straight from their father’s house to their husbands’ house and having very little independence. Anne was a woman who took her fate into her own hands and worked towards her own goals. Although her father and her uncle were both powerful men who played a large role in her ascent to queen, Anne achieved her goals greatly by her own efforts. She was cunning and clever, and used her sexuality and wit to capture King Henry’s heart.

 

 

Anne had watched her sister, Mary, have an ill-fated relationship with the king, and learned from her mistakes. Mary was quick to submit to Henry’s advances, and after a short affair he grew bored with her. Although Mary was very attractive, she was not clever enough to hold the king’s attention for very long. When Anne began to pursue Henry, she employed a tactic now known as ‘playing hard to get’. She made it clear to the king that she loved him, but refused to allow him to sleep with her. She flirted with him, but refused to allow him to see her alone. During this time, Henry was overwhelmed by Anne’s wit, beauty and intelligence, and longed to spend more time with her. However, she was very clear that she would not sleep with him until she was his wife. Henry’s desire for Anne drove him to find a way to divorce Katherine of Aragon, so that he could make Anne his wife. This involved the reformation of religion in England, and the creation of the Church of England.

 

 

Anne was very highly educated, which was unusual for a woman during this time. It was normal for a wealthy woman to learn courtly arts, such as singing, dancing and playing a musical instrument. Women also typically learned how to sew and do embroidery. In addition to all of these skills, Anne was able to read and write at a very high level. She was able to speak English, Latin and French and was regularly encouraged to take part in philosophical and theological debates. She was an uncommonly smart woman, which is part of the reason that Henry found her so appealing. There were many women at court whom he could have turned to if he wanted light entertainment, but Anne was his intellectual equal. He saw in her the opportunity for a wife who was a companion as well as a lover.

 

 

Ultimately, Anne’s ambition became her downfall. Once she and Henry had married, his desire for a son and heir took over his desire for Anne. Anne was a very fertile woman, and had no difficulty becoming pregnant. Their first child was a baby girl, named Elizabeth, who went on to become one of the longest reigning monarchs in English history. After this, Anne fell pregnant many times, but failed to produce another living child. She had many miscarriages and several stillbirths. All of her stillborn babies were boys, which upset Henry. Anne had risen as high as she could while she was able to manipulate her destiny. However, once the key to her success- a male heir- was no longer something that she could control, she began to falter. She fell into a depression and her fiery temper turned on her husband. The once- happy couple began to bicker and fight on a daily basis. Henry turned his affections to a number of mistresses, and finally settled on the pious Jane Seymour, who would become his next bride.

 

 

Anne met a tragic end, when she was executed for treason. She was accused of having sexual relations with a number of men at court, including George Boleyn, her own brother. Her trial and subsequent execution were engineered by Henry, when he began fall out of love with her and doubt her ability to give him an heir. She was beheaded in a public execution. Very soon after this, Henry announced his engagement to Jane Seymour.

 

 

Although Anne is not someone that I personally look up to, there can be little doubt that she had an enormous impact on English history. Her daughter is one of the best-loved monarchs of all time and The Church of England is still a thriving. Her determination and passion are admirable, although I don’t actually agree with the purpose for which she chose to employ them.

 

 

Do you have any questions for me about Anne Boleyn? Are there any historical figures that you admire?