Complicated royal intrigues carry on in latest Gregory series

“The White Princess” (The Cousins’ War #5)” by Philippa Gregory. Touchstone, 2013. $27.99

The labyrinthine tree of the English royal family is equal parts intriguing and infuriating. At no point is this more clear than during the Wars of the Roses, or the Cousins Wars, which Philippa Gregory’s covering in her latest series. The most recent installment, “The White Princess,” starts just after Richard III’s death at Bosworth, with his lover Elizabeth adrift in the Tudor court, about to marry the victorious Henry VII.

Through Elizabeth’s eyes, the Tudor court has a sweaty, nervous grip on power and is surrounded by the corrupting stink of newfound power. As the book progresses, Elizabeth’s dilemma — poised between York and Tudor — becomes more clear and, by mid-book, her character is painted with a much more vivid brush.

For Gregory fans following the series, this latest tome will slake their thirst. For those new to the genre, the twists and turns of a complicated story in a complicated time might be too frustrating to bear.

Beth Colvin, bcolvin@theadvocate.com

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman. William Morrow Books, 2013. $25.99

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” Neil Gaiman’s first adult fiction novel since “Anansi Boys,” does not disappoint. This book is different from his other novels and short stories. While Gaiman does typically employ suspense, horror and fantasy, this was the most terrifying book I have ever read. My heart pounded and I had to keep reading just so that I would know it got better. But it never really got better.

This is mostly a story about children and grown-ups. Set in England, the unnamed main character returns to his hometown for a funeral.

Once his obligations are done, he goes by his childhood home and is eventually drawn to the Hempstock Farm. Sitting by the duck pond out back, he remembers a horror from when he was 7. The narrator has a lonely childhood until he finally makes a friend, 11-year-old Lettie Hempstock. The Hempstocks — Old Mrs Hempstock, Mrs Hempstock and Lettie — are fascinating and wonderful. The monster in this story is terrifying for how real she could be. Her terrors could happen in a real world despite the fantastic motivations.

The narrator’s friendship with Lettie sustains and protects him through the violence and the terror. Gaiman’s use of language is beautiful as always. The audio book, narrated by Gaiman, is also a pleasure.

Elizabeth Dequeant, Baton Rouge

“Replacement Child” by Judy L. Mandel. Seal Press, $16.

Judy Mandel’s memoir teeters between heartbreak and solace, balancing a life story shaped by a terrifying plane crash with details of the crash itself.

Mandel was born after the crash, a “replacement” for a daughter killed in the crash and little sister to the daughter that survived, albeit with a future of surgeries and scars.

There are few parts of her life left untouched by American Airlines Flight 6780, and her often-painful and honest account is mostly untainted by the long pages of woe-is-me droning memoirs centered on tragedy so often contain.

Beth Colvin, bcolvin@theadvocate.com


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