ready for today's book reviews? The first book is a Tudor romance, the second an etiquette manual, and the third a guide that will help young adults succeed in life. Let's get started:
Queen Elizabeth's Daughter by Anne Clinard Barnhill
Nope, the title doesn't refer to a fictional daughter of Elizabeth I. This is the story of Mary Sheldon, Elizabeth's favourite ward and cousin. Mary's parents died when she was very young, so Elizabeth took her in and brought her up like if she were her own child. And like all good mothers, Elizabeth wants what's best for her daughter. She believes that, for Mary, that's a marriage to a rich and powerful nobleman who can give her all the luxuries the young girl has grown accustomed to at her court. But Mary doesn't care about riches and, to Elizabeth's favourite candidate for her hand, Edward de La Vere, Earl of Oxford (who happens to be a nasty piece of work who treats Mary horribly when the Queen isn't around), she prefers John Skydemore, a widower with five children and a small fortune. Worse, he's a Catholic, at a time when Catholics plot to kill Elizabeth and put Mary of Scotland on the throne.
The mother-daughter relationship Elizabeth and Mary had, allows us to see the motherly side of the Tudor Queen. Elizabeth is very headstrong. Although she doesn't allow her "daughter" much freedom, she always has her best interests at heart, and believes that she's just doing what's best for her. Clinard Barnhill has done a great job at portrayed Elizabeth's interior struggles and contradictions. As a ruler she needs to show strength even when she'd like to be merciful, and her uncertain life has made her paranoid, weary of marriage and desirous to keep her loved one close to her. This has a huge impact both on her life and on those of the people she loves. As a result, Mary, a lovely and pure girl in the midst of a rapacious and lascivious court, is torn between her love and loyalty for the Queen and her determination to live her own life her own way.
Although this is a time of religious upheaval, political uncertainty, and all kinds of plot, the Queen's Daughter is mainly a romance novel. We get to see how the relationship between Mary and John blossoms and cheer the two lovers as they try to overcome all the obstacles put in their way. But as lovely as that is, there really isn't much action in the book, which, as a consequence, flows quite slowly at times.
The author has clearly done her research, and the book is full of small details that bring the Tudor court to life. At the same time, though, there are some passages, when she explains the political situation of the times, that read more like a textbook. I wish she had found a way to weave those into the narration seamlessly too.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it to those who love a good Tudor romance or are curious to see how Elizabeth I fares as a mother.
Available at: amazon
Do you think that etiquette is dead or has become useless? Well, think again. Although social conventions aren't as strict as they used to be, it's still important to know what's the most appropriate conduct in a variety of occasions. By doing so, we shows our respect for other people in everyday situations, and feel more comfortable when we find ourselves attending important social events.
In this book, Lucy Grays gives tips about how to dress for different events, how to behave when eating out or travelling, how to write different types of letters and emails, how to act when you're staying at someone else's place, and a lot more. A whole section is dedicated to the etiquette that regulates the "rites of passage", such as christenings, marriages, funerals, and other religious ceremonies. This is particularly helpful for people who are invited to a religious ceremony of a different religion.
Because, as mentioned above, etiquette isn't as strict as it used to be, a lot of the tips here are given more as general indications of how you should behave, rather than as rigid laws to be followed at all costs. If you make a mistake, no one will think badly of you, but, when in doubt about something, it's always best to ask someone before the event how you are expected to dress or behave, or, once there, to look what other people are doing and follow their example.
Because the book was written by a British author for The National Trust, the target audience is obviously British. However, just because social conventions have loosened up everywhere in the Western World, the book still provide enough tips that could be useful to those living in other countries as well.
The book is written in a straightforward and engaging manner and flows easily. A quick read, I devoured it all in one afternoon. Overall, it's an informative and interesting guide that I recommend to anyone who would like to know the proper code of conduct in different social situations, are planning to visit Britain for more than a weekend, or are simply interested in etiquette manuals.
Available at: amazon
We all want to be successful, yet few of us are. So, we convince ourselves that, to succeed in life and make our dreams come true, we need to be rich, beautiful, young, or lucky. But that's not true. Everyone can be successful if they have the right tools. According to Jacobson, these are: self-esteem, money and time management, and planning and goal-setting. All important skills employed by successful people that, however, aren't taught at school and rarely at home. Most people just pick up their parents' habits, unaware that even them weren't taught how to manage their money, or their time, or how to reach their goals. Thus, they create a vicious circle that causes them to fail and to settle for less than they want and deserve.
No one told Jacobson what the tools of success were or how to use them. Therefore, for too many years he too played it safe, living a life he didn't like. He made many mistakes, until he figured out "how to strategically prioritize, plan, and most importantly, execute your goals for success" to attract the life he desired. And now he's teaching you how to do the same. It's not easy. It requires a lot of hard work, soul-searching, and sacrifices. But the rewards are worth it.
The book is full of anecdotes about the author's life and those of his mentors and friends, which allows the reader to relate to Jacobson and make him/her realise that, if he succeeded, so can they. Every chapter ends with a "call to action". These are exercises that will allow you to put in practice what you have learned in the book and will, if done regularly, allow you to pick up the right habits to succeed in life.
Although the book is targeted to teenagers and young adults, it provides tips that can benefit people of any age. The book really demystifies success, showing you what it really takes to reach your goals. And that's something you can do at any age. It's never too late, although, of course, the soon you start, the better. Highly recommended.
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Disclaimer: I received these book in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.