Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of King Henry VIII by Gareth Russell

Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of King Henry VIII



Color me impressed by this book.

It takes Catherine Howard, a woman who has been maligned by historians throughout the years, and turns her into a fleshed out person while not absolutely boring me in the process. Russel claims that she wasn’t ditzy, wasn’t stupid, and she had a very set personality. He also believes that Catherine never committed adultery with Culpepper, a theory that I’ve heard before.

While I’m still not buying the last half of that (because I think that there might have been something physical there and it wasn’t all just words or lies), I really found myself liking this Catherine. She was interesting. She had a personality. She wasn’t some little girl that Henry took an interest in, but really a woman who could have been a great queen because she was brought up in nobility. In some ways, she reminded me of myself. A penchant for getting things right, for not wanting to embarrass herself in front of everyone. And she got upset when someone did embarrass her in any way.

Russell structured giving her personality around explaining the history of her family and the times that they were in, showing how one influenced the other. I thought it was a bit heavy on explaining the history of those around her as opposed to her personal history, which is why I rated it four stars. Having read about this topic quite often, it just felt like but I also learned a lot more about foreign policies and specific family members she had that weren’t key players in the story that is usually presented about her life; that she had sex before Henry, cheated on him, which then led to her death. And that’s all her life amounted to.

In short, this book was beautifully written (seriously, it was for a history book) that challenged what has been said about Catherine Howard both in the past and now. He directly challenges quite a few theories and addresses various things by showing the logical conclusion. He shows what evidence is disregarded to get to those theories, then comes up with his own. That’s quite difficult to do since Tudor history is so talked about.

I found this to be a very refreshing book, one that I want to own and come back to one day to have a closer read.

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers



CW: family death, genocide, rape, and child soldiers

I think the hardest thing about this book is that I don’t know what to say about it. It was a good book, excellent at times. It hit me hard with what happened and what they went through. Yet, I felt like the writing could have drawn me in more and made me feel even more deeply with Loung Ung and what she went through.

By no means am I saying that this is a bad or unimportant book. As someone who had only heard the name “Pol Pot” in passing and had no idea what he was connected to, this book taught me more than I thought I would ever know about what happened in Cambodia.

This book is told from the perspective of a five-year-old. That was a double-edged sword. While I appreciate the ignorance and how true the author stayed to how she felt or what she knew — not what she remembered plus research to make it more polished — it also made it harder for me to get into. It took me the longest time to get into the book because I felt a disconnect between Loung and myself.

It follows her story carefully for the next four years, taking her from education camps to labor camps to a camp training child soldiers to fight against the Vietnamese (called Youn in this as a derogatory term). It follows her through the loss of family members, too. Their family of nine was whittled down to five. And then further because Loung went to America with one of her brothers.

Being someone incredibly close to my immediate family (for me, that’s my mom and dad), I can’t imagine how that felt and how to go through that in your formative years. The constant fear and starvation, knowing that you could be killed for no reason at all. It’s something that I can’t comprehend entirely.

So, while this book is a very important book — and I know that many Americans are as ignorant as I am; we talk about the Vietnam War but never the Cambodian genocide — I felt disconnected and apart from it for a while. I wanted it to have an emotional impact like The Best We Could Do, but it never got there for me.

Red Adam’s Lady by Grace Ingram

Red Adam's Lady


2/5 – DNF at 24%

I was given a copy in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion.

Chicago Review Press approached me last month about reading this book for review. While romance isn’t usually my genre, I thought the reviews I read for it were good and it was historical fiction set in a period that I’m very familiar with.

What it came down to, for me, was that it was very slow. I could read a paragraph and nothing could happen. Then, my eyes would glaze over and suddenly I’d miss everything. Which is what I don’t like. I hate it when I can’t read a book because I’m getting too bored with it.

However, the writing was well-done — it definitely felt like a medieval story with how people were being addressed — and I thought it was rather period accurate. It’s definitely a different sort of romance, starting it off with an attempted rape of the heroine, Lady Julitta, by the “hero”, Red Adam. They marry to protect her honor, even if she beat him up. Lady Julitta is a heroine that someone can get behind and understand. She was interesting and, if the pacing had been different, I likely would have finished it and liked it.

Simply put, a book that just wasn’t for me.

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

What Happened



When I picked up this book, I wasn’t quite sure how I’d react to it. From what it looked like, it was going to be a pity party about why she lost and where she’d put the blame on everyone else but her.

I also would have preferred Bernie Sanders. Since I’m registered as an independent, I can’t vote in the primaries in my state. However, when it became clear that she was the Democrat nominee, I 100% changed and knew that my vote was for the most competent person running. It was also a vote against Trump as well. Because there was no way I was having a racist, misogynistic, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, rapist asshole as my president. It was also a vote for history, for a woman who knew what she was extremely competent.

Yet, I didn’t think she had a strong platform because I never heard anything about it. It was all about her damn emails. And what you heard about it, it sounded like another four years of the same old, same old. While that sounded like bliss to me, it wasn’t what others wanted. And there was Trump, spouting his racist rhetoric about how all immigrants are rapists, murderers, drug dealers, or terrorists.

What Clinton did in this book was lay out what happened and what her platform was because the news focused on her emails and the circus Trump was running to confuse everyone. It was doable. It had clear solutions rather than grandiose ideas that Trump (and Bernie) spouted off. And while she did some blaming, she explained what was going on for her to say this AND took a whole lot of responsibility.

The end of the book stuck with me the most. It called for empathy. For kindness and loving people. For understanding people even if you don’t agree with them. It was basically the same message of One Nation After Trump, a book that I loved because of that message of spreading empathy rather than hating and shouting at people. And, sadly, people ignore that message. Yet it’s one I stand by and agree with wholeheartedly.

Even if you didn’t vote for her or hate her guts, I highly suggest you read Clinton’s book. It was enlightening and heartfelt down to its core. It almost feels like required reading for everyone who watched the 2016 election happen.

Lore – The Podcast



Image result for lore podcast

When I was a kid, I always found a way to convince my parents to let me sleep downstairs in the basement. Now, we never had a TV in our living room like most families. We keep ours in the basement. So, Fridays or Saturdays, I would convince them to let me sleep down there so I could watch one show.

What was that show?

Truth or Scare.

You don’t have to watch the whole thing, just around 30 seconds of it. This show was my shit. It basically took scary stories — haunted castles, weird creatures, hotels, etc — and had creepy music that combined with Michelle Trachtenberg’s really (to kid me) freaky voice. My mom remembers, to this day, me bursting outside and shouting about how I watched it all by myself and didn’t get scared.

There were more things like this, too. I also loved the shows Mystery Hunters (which Discovery Kids also did), Martin Mystery (a TV show also aired on Discovery Kids), and basically anything else. If you want links to some of this stuff, hit me up. I was young when I first watched a horror movie. I was around nine when I convinced my parents to let me go to The London Dungeon. If you don’t know what that is, Google it.

So, when Amazon came out with Lore last year, I got excited. But, I watched some of it and found it kind of dull and campy. Last month, I got bored of listening to audiobooks at work since I split my attention and find it hard to write meaningful reviews for all of you. Now I’m listening to podcasts.

Let’s just say I binged this podcast within three weeks. Over 80 episodes. And I binged it all.

I loved Aaron Mahnke’s voice. It was super soothing despite the creepy topics that he covered. Haunts, creatures, werewolves, animals, etc. Even though I loved his voice, I knew a lot of the lore he brought up because of my weird childhood interest in those things. That or just random research I did when I was curious after drinking a teensy bit too much and thinking of the fae or mermaids.

The music attached to the podcast really enhanced everything. It was beautiful music and fit with the soothing theme so well. It never got too creepy, although there were a few times where I felt sick to my stomach over something or had a chill go down my spine. Certainly doesn’t help that I work in a cave and have fears that he brought up.

Overall, I really enjoyed the podcast and can’t wait to listen to even more of it.