Books and More Books

More books! Yeah for reading!

The Last Lion 3: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-65

This is the final installment of a three-volume series on the life of Winston Churchill. The second one was published almost 15 years ago, so the wait for this one has been long. This volume was completed by Paul Reid who finished the manuscript after the original author (William Manchester) became ill and eventually passed away. While the voice and tone of this volume is slightly different, I think it was excellent and a wonderful achievement. I would not recommend this series for a casual reader of history, these are enormous books and are filled with a remarkable amount of detail. I do not think this series could be paralleled in any sense and this book was just unbelievable.

I didn’t think my love for the second of the series could be surpassed, but the incredible courage and bravery shown by the British against the greatest military power in the world was nothing short of inspiring. The book begins with Churchill’s appointment as Prime Minister and the dark reality that World War II is beginning. The incredibly difficult decisions he made are carefully described alongside his often difficult and demanding nature. This volume has so much information about World War II and the relationships he had with Roosevelt and Stalin. If you enjoy history (especially the history of World War II), I cannot recommend this enough. The entire series is brilliant, but this final work is nothing short of incredible.

To Marry an English Lord

This was just like reading celebrity gossip from 1890. It was such a fun read and filled with the gritty details of marrying for money and aristocratic snobbery. My only criticism is that information is kind of scattered throughout the books. There are so many people covered and it was occasionally confusing when marriages and people are discussed in short articles. I had to spend time flipping back to try to remember who a person was since it had been 30 or so pages since they were last discussed. Otherwise, it was a fun and gossipy read.

Descriptions of how American “mamas” left snobbish New York with their daughters to find a brighter future across the pond were oftentimes borderline hysterical. The societal rules and traditions were exhausting to read about, no wonder wealthy women didn’t work, they spent all day running “calling cards” around to each other and making sure their gloves were so tight that the outline of their fingernails showed. Their lives look completely exhausting (and I’m not being facetious).

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

Oh holy fantasticness. I cannot express to you how much I all caps LOVED this book. Catherine the Great was the Empress of Russia for thirty-four years. She wasn’t born in Russia and she was not descended from the Romanovs, she went there to marry the heir to the throne. He eventually became Tsar, she realized he was an idiot, and she took power. Seriously badass lady.

It never ceases to amaze me the degree of power and influence she held over a country that she wasn’t born to and didn’t have a birthright to rule in. Besides the incredible and unbelievable nature of her story in general, this particular version of it was captivating in a an entirely new way. Massie’s focus on her as a woman and a person actually made me feel like I knew her. I felt like I knew how and why she reacted to events and I often felt myself enraged at certain points.

My biggest gripe about the majority of works on her life is the focus on her sexual activities. So she had several lovers and enjoyed sex, I don’t see how that becomes a the major storyline of her life. It’s beyond aggravating. Thankfully, Massie presented her desires as honest and earthly and they were not tinged by the giant slut caricature that so frequently haunts her legacy. Just let the woman get laid! Why must it be so scandalous that a grown woman had sex? We all know that if she were a man, her passionate interests would would a mere footnote in history. At least she wasn’t dumb enough to marry them (*cough* Henry VIII *cough*).

Anyway, this is an incredible book for a history lover. I would definitely recommend it to someone who is new to Russian history or Catherine the Great, I feel like you don’t have to have a lot of knowledge about this era or this dynasty to enjoy this work.

Also, I think her son Paul looks a lot like Toby Jones. I can’t get over it.

Potemkin: Catherine the Great’s Imperial Partner

This proved to be the perfect follow-up to Catherine the Great. Potemkin’s life is meticulously detailed from his assistance in the coup that placed her on the throne to his life as her lover and as a brilliant statesman. The author does presuppose that they did in fact have a secret marriage, but I don’t buy it. Other than that little issue, it was a compelling read. My only gripe is that the author was highly repetitive with several points, but it didn’t ruin the value of the work. It’s not the most engaging biography I have encountered, but it was worth getting through the sluggish parts to learn about this brilliant man. I like him significantly more than I did before reading this as it frames him in a significantly different light than previous readings. I wouldn’t recommend this to someone who is new to the era as the wealth of information can be overwhelming at times.

Have you read “1775: A Good year for Revolution“? I’ve been vacillating over whether or not to pick it up because I’ve heard such mixed reviews. I loved “The Cousins War: Religion, Politics, Civil Warfare, and the Triumph of Anglo-America” by the same author, so I have high hopes for his newest one.

I am currently reading “Terra” by Gretchen Powell (of Honey, I shrunk the Gretchen hilarity):

I’m about halfway through and I struggle to put it down at night. If you’re a fan of young adult dystopian novels, this will be right up your alley. Gretchen very generously sent me this to read and I honestly love it thus far. It’s been a great escape from reality. If you are interested, you can buy it here. I’ll do a better review when I finish it.


Filed under Books

36 Responses to Books and More Books

  1. Melissa

    Catherine was married for, like, 7 years and didn’t have sex…I think that makes her an anti-slut? Props to her for waiting so long before scratching that itch.

  2. Erin

    Good GOD the books you read wear me out!!! Fine Ms. Smartypants, I will buy your last suggestion only because I cannot fathom reading the other suggestions….also thank you for the link to the authors blog, I will now be adding it to my reader :)

  3. Thanks for the books! Terra sounds good.

    Curious, how many books do you have going at one time?

    The Kidless Kronicles

    • Reese's Runner

      Well, I try really hard to just have two, but usually it’s more like 3 or 4. I just get so excited about new ones and I want to start them immediately. I also read based on my mood, so that requires a whole lot of options… It’s a terrible habit.

      • Daisy

        OMG that is so me, to the point where buying a Kindle was a necessity. I got tired of lugging 8 books around on vacation, that’s not even a joke. I spent 10 days in St. Lucia and the thought of being stuck with a book that didn’t fit my mood for a day on the beach was just unbearable so I just hid books in all my different pockets so the husband didn’t see how many books I actually brought. He took one out, I’d put one back in when he wasn’t looking, heheh.

        • Reese's Runner

          Exactly!!! I used to take an entire backpack of books on vacation and I would FREAK out when I ran out (God forbid I actually have to look out the window and enjoy the scenery). That’s actually how I started reading Harry Potter. I ran out on vacation and stole my little sister’s book. Obviously, that was one of the best things that ever happened to me, but usually that situation ends in tears.

          • Erin

            DAMN THAT UMBRIDGE WOMAN….now you can tell which book I am on….I am so pissed I have had to stop listening a few times to this book because of sheer outrage. I am on disc 20 of like 24 and I HAVE TO FINISH IT. Being addicted to Jim Dale’s voice and other things that are your fault Cely!

          • Reese's Runner

            I can’t say that I’m sorry. Not one bit. And yes, Umbridge is THE WORST. God, what I wouldn’t give to read those books for the first time again.

      • Dave L

        “It’s a terrible habit”…yeah, America really needs to crack down on all our obsessive readers. It’s a national epidemic, really. It won’t be long before I see you down at the B&N, trying to score a Longfellow (so to speak), then when they shoo you away, it’ll be off to Half Price Books, then the Free Clinic (library). Shocking, the kids these days…

        • Reese's Runner

          I know, I need professional help. Punk. It’s a bad habit because I forget things and cross characters between the books. It’s a little disorienting when you are wondering where the hell the Nazis are in 1790s Russia.

  4. Okay, how long until you loan any of the above books to your favorite pregnant librarian? Because I want to read them all now…

  5. Daisy

    Hooray, thank you!!! I went out and bought “To Marry an English Lord” after I saw it on your blog a few months ago? LOVE IT. Can’t wait to try your other suggestions!

  6. Ashley

    How dare you besmirch the character of Henry VII. ;)

    I’ve got to get my hands on that Catherine book now.

  7. DUDE!! I am so happy you’re enjoying the book so far — thanks for the shoutout. I literally cannot wait to hear what you think of everything when you finish. Is it appropriate to squee right now? I’m going to do it anyway. SQUEEEEEE!

    Also, I’m totally a multi-book starter. At any given time I have at least 2 books going, but probably 3. Which is why my Kindle is my prrrreeeecccciiiioooouuuussssss.

    • Reese's Runner

      I totally stopped two other books when you sent yours hahaha. And yes, if something happens to my Kindle my world will end. I am not taking it on my trip because I’m so afraid of losing it. I will just have to use the Kindle app on my iPad. Hard decisions.

  8. Marcy

    I don’t do history books but this is giving me ideas for my dad’s birthday present. I am not buying him a whole series of books right now, I am broke and I have already bought him some things. Do you have any #1 favorites?

  9. Britt

    I’m working on David McCullough’s collection now, just finished “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris” and loved it!

  10. All those books look fabulous! I love to learn about History. Especially European history, they were some pretty raunchy bunches of folks. Have you read “Green Darkness”? It’s set during the reign of King Edward and Queen Mary. It’s really fascinating and it seems to be right up your alley.

  11. Allison

    Thanks for posting this! I just finished reading “The Kingmaker’s Daughter” by Philippa Gregory after you suggested a couple of her other books. Loved it!

    I love reading about women in history. Catherine the Great may be my next historical BFF.

  12. Justin

    I don’t know how to read

  13. Emelda

    I download books from my library (thank you Austin Public Library!) onto the iPad. Downside – you have 14 days to get that baby read and I have a podcast addiction issue at the moment.
    Green Darkness was good, I really enjoyed all of Anya Seton’s books. Other great historical fiction authors: Karleen Koen (she’s from Houston!), Sarah Dunant, Carolly Erickson, C.W. Gortner, Diane Haeger, Kathleen Kent (“The Heretic’s Daughter”), Michelle Moran (currently reading “The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court”)
    A non-fiction to throw out: “Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens” by Jane Dunn.
    One of my favorite reads in the past few years is “Cutting Stone” by Abraham Verghese. Fiction and not historical so I’m not sure Miss Cely will approve. ;)
    Thank goodness for Goodreads – where I keep track of: need to read, want to read, and oh yes I already read that!

    • Reese's Runner

      I LOVE Elizabeth and Mary! Great book. And I’ve seen Cutting for Stone, but I’ve never committed to picking it up. I also like Sarah Dunant and Kathleen Kent as well!

  14. Cheryl

    Can’t wait to read “The Last Lion.” Right now, I’m reading “Joseph Anton: A Memoir” by Salman Rushdie. It’s about his life following the fatwah that was declared after he wrote “The Satanic Verses.” Actually, it really is a memoir. There is a lot more about his early life than I expected. I am just starting the chapters where he has gone into hiding. As terrible as it is to say that someone else’s misfortune makes for great reading, it really is a good read.

  15. Girl be readin!
    That’s all I got because I am far too dumb to read any of those books. I just finished Beautiful Creatures, which could have been written by a 12 year old.

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