Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas

In the tradition of Arianna Franklin and C. J. Sansom comes Samuel Thomas’s remarkable debut, The Midwife’s TaleIt is 1644, and Parliament’s armies have risen against the King and laid siege to the city of York. Even as the city suffers at the rebels’ hands, midwife Bridget Hodgson becomes embroiled in a different sort of rebellion. One of Bridget’s friends, Esther Cooper, has been convicted of murdering her husband and sentenced to be burnt alive. Convinced that her friend is innocent, Bridget sets out to find the real killer.
Bridget joins forces with Martha Hawkins, a servant who’s far more skilled with a knife than any respectable woman ought to be. To save Esther from the stake, they must dodge rebel artillery, confront a murderous figure from Martha’s past, and capture a brutal killer who will stop at nothing to cover his tracks. The investigation takes Bridget and Martha from the homes of the city’s most powerful families to the alleyways of its poorest neighborhoods. As they delve into the life of Esther’s murdered husband, they discover that his ostentatious Puritanism hid a deeply sinister secret life, and that far too often tyranny and treason go hand in hand.

I received a copy of this book from netgalley for my honest opinion.  Well here it is, I loved this book! Right from the first page I was hooked, not in the kind of 'gotta sit and read this in one sitting' hooked.  But where I wanted to sit and enjoy the ride.  Sam Thomas has a way with words that is nice and smooth, I felt like I was right in that time period with Bridget and Martha.  His descriptions had me visualizing buildings, walks through York and right down to Bridget's husbands.

"...I was struck once again by the artist's inability to portray him as any less pathetic than he had been in life. In truth, it was a peculiar kind of masterpiece.  As in life, my  husband's eyes were somehow both sunken and bulging, and his uniquely weak chin became his most remarkable feature.  His ears were perfect for a man twice his size, and his nose seemed to be recoiling from the prospect of smelling his own fetid breath.  More than once I had considered remarriage if only to rid my home of so perfect a picture of so ridiculous a man."

A wonderful mystery that had me guessing right to the end. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Forgotten Queen by D. L. Bogdan

From her earliest days, Margaret Tudor knows she will not have the luxury of choosing a husband. Her duty is to gain alliances for England. Barely out of girlhood, Margaret is married by proxy to James IV and travels to Edinburgh to become Queen of Scotland.

Despite her doubts, Margaret falls under the spell of her adopted home. But while Jamie is an affectionate husband, he is not a faithful one. And nothing can guarantee Margaret’s safety when Jamie leads an army against her own brother, Henry VIII. In the wake of loss she falls prey to an ambitious earl and brings Scotland to the brink of anarchy. Beset by betrayal and secret alliances, Margaret has one aim—to preserve the crown of Scotland for her son, no matter what the cost…

Here is a book that I was looking forward to reading. I read Secrets of the Tudor Court a number of years ago and enjoyed it, The Sumerton Women is on my shelf waiting to be read (a win from Bippity Boppity Book).

I wanted to know more about Margaret Tudor, until recently I didn't even know there was another Tudor sister, but in my search to find the connection between Mary Queen of Scots and the Tudors I found her.  Then I found out about this book, NetGalley sent me an arc and I was in my glory.

Maybe my expectations were too high, I am not sure, but this book was somewhat of a letdown.  I have given it 3 stars.  I just could not connect with any of the characters, Margaret was really getting on my nerves and just didn't seem to grow up at all through out this book. Her selfishness was annoying. If that was the authors intent then she did a good job of it.  The book begins when she is 12 and continues for another 30 or so years. There were times when I was lost as to what year it was, it would have been nice if jumps of a couple years were noted a little easier. Even with breaks between paragraphs.

I will say that I liked the ending,  without saying more and spoiling it for someone. It did end nicely and actually addressed the issues that I had with Margaret.

ARC received from Netgalley for my honest opinion of this book.

Monday, December 24, 2012

To Die For by Sandra Byrd

Meg Wyatt has been Anne Boleyn's closest friend since they grew up together on neighboring manors in Kent. So when twenty-five-year-old Anne's star begins to ascend, of course she takes Meg along for the ride.

Life in the court of Henry VIII is thrilling... at first. Meg is made mistress of Anne's wardrobe, and she enjoys the spoils of this privileged orbit and uses her influence for good. She is young and beautiful and in favor; everyone at court assumes that being close to her is being close to Anne.

But favor is fickle and envy is often laced with venom. As Anne falls, so does Meg, and it becomes nearly impossible for her to discern ally from enemy. Suddenly life's unwelcome surprises rub against the court's sheen to reveal the tarnished brass of false affections and the bona fide gold of those that are true. Both Anne and Meg may lose everything. When your best friend is married to fearsome Henry VIII, you may soon find yourself not only friendless but headless as well.

A rich alchemy of fact and fiction, To Die For chronicles the glittering court life, the sweeping romance, and the heartbreaking fall from grace of a forsaken queen and Meg, her closest companion, who was forgotten by the ages but who is destined to live in our hearts forever.

I am going to start this review by being very honest.  I didn't want to read this book, I mean how many times can one read about Anne Boleyn?  I know her story, who doesn't?  The only reason that I did end up reading this was because I won the sequel to it (thanks to Amy at Passages to the Past).  Every reader knows you can't read the second book in a series until you have read the first, I purchased it.  For that I am extremely grateful.

To me this isn't really about Anne Boleyn, well it is, but it is about friendship, about loyality, its about relationships. How a friend sticks with you through thick and thin, is there for you through the worst that life has to bring, and how much worse can it get then what happened to Anne Boleyn.

Definitely an author I will read more of.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

1st Annual Historical Holiday Blog Hop & Giveaway

Welcome to the 1st Annual Historical Holiday Blog Hop hosted by Passages to the Past, running from Dec 10th to the 17th. 

2013 promises to be another great reading for Historical Fiction. These are some of the books that I am looking forward to.

I can't leave out those books that don't have covers yet:
Daughters of the Nile by Stephanie Dray
The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick
The White Princess by Philippa Gregory
The Empire of the Night by Eva Stachniak
The Last October Sky by Juliet Grey
The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (#3 of the Wolf Hall series - just discovered that while writing this blog - guess I'd better hurry up and read the first 2)
The Secret History by Stephanie Thornton
Storm Bringers by Philippa Gregory

My giveaway is a preorder of a new release for 2013.  A book of you choice (up to $15), can be from The Book Depository or an ebook from amazon or kobo.  Or if you really don't want to wait till next year you can let me know what you would like. This is open worldwide (whereever Book Depository ships to)

To enter all you have to do is leave me a post telling me your favorite book of 2012 and one you are looking forward to in 2013.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir

In this engrossing novel of historical suspense, New York Times bestselling author Alison Weir tells the dramatic intertwined stories of two women—Katherine Grey and Kate Plantagenet—separated by time but linked by twin destinies . . . . involving the mysterious tragic fate of the young Princes in the Tower.

When her older sister, Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days’ Queen, is executed in 1554 for unlawfully accepting the English crown, Lady Katherine Grey’s world falls apart. Barely recovered from this tragic loss she risks all for love, only to incur the wrath of her formidable cousin Queen Elizabeth I, who sees Katherine as a rival for her insecure throne.

Interlaced with Katherine’s story is that of her distant kinswoman Kate Plantagenet, the bastard daughter of Richard III, the last Plantagenet king. In 1483, Kate travels to London for Richard’s coronation, and her world changes forever.

Kate loves her father, but before long she hears terrible rumors about him that threaten all she holds dear. Like Katherine Grey, she falls in love with a man who is forbidden to her. Then Kate embarks on what will become a perilous quest, covertly seeking the truth about what befell her cousins the Princes in the Tower, who may have been victims of Richard III’s lust for power. But time is not on Kate’s side, or on Katherine’s.

Katherine finds herself a prisoner in the Tower of London, the sinister fortress that overshadowed the lives of so many royal figures, including the boy princes. Will Elizabeth demand the full penalty for treason? And what secrets will Katherine find hidden within the Tower walls?

Alison Weir’s new novel is a page-turning story set within a framework of fascinating historical authenticity. In this rich and layered tapestry, Katherine and Kate discover that possessing royal blood can prove to be a dangerous inheritance.

My second Alison Weir novel, following An Innocent Traitor (which centered on the three Grey sisters).  Even though I knew the outcome of Katherine Grey's life I still wanted to grab her by the arm and tell her to run, run fast and run far.  But alas one cannot change history.
Kate Plantagenet I did not know even existed.  The illegitimate daughter of Richard III. Richard who is rumored to be responsible for the disappearance of his two nephews from the tower. A daughter who didn't want to believe the rumors could be true. The book jumps back and forth between the lives of these two young girls born over 50 years apart.
  I really enjoyed this book, to get a glimpse of the lives of the well known through the lessor known ones.  Even though very little is known about Kate Plantagenet the author wove a very believable, sympatetic story. More is known about Katherine Grey and her family.

Note: An e-copy of this novel was provided to me by the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a fair and honest review

Saturday, December 1, 2012

2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

I haven't done a reading challenge is a couple years.  Just discovered this one over at Historical Tapestry. The challenge runs January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2012. There are different levels to sign up for and and I think I'm going to enter in at the Ancient History level (which is 25+ books) because seriously most of my reading is historical fiction.

If there is a negative side (though not really that negative) is that I will get to see what others are reading, and not wanting to miss a good book I imagine my tbr pile will grow in leaps and bounds. 

Each month, a new post dedicated to the HF Challenge will be created. To participate, you only have to follow the rules:
1. Everyone can participate, even those who don't have a blog (you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section if you wish)
2. Add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to our monthly post (please, do not add your blog link, but the correct address that will guide us directly to your review)
3. Any kind of historical fiction is accepted (HF fantasy, HF young adult...)
During these following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels: 

20th century reader - 2 books
Victorian reader - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books
Medieval - 15 books
Ancient History -25+ books

Thursday, November 29, 2012

1st Annual Historical Holiday Blog Hop

Calling all fans of Historical Fiction and blogs!  Beginning December 10th to the 17th, Amy and Passages to the Past will be hosting  The First Annual Historical Holiday Blog Hop!  

 So many authors are involved and as well as lots of of bloggers, too.  

The list of books on the grand prize page is a book lovers dream.
I will be participating with a giveaway (international) with one of my favorite Historical Fiction books (having a little trouble right now though deciding which one).

Be sure to come back and check it out.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

1961 England. Laurel Nicolson is sixteen years old, dreaming alone in her childhood tree house during a family celebration at their home, Green Acres Farm. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and then observes her mother, Dorothy, speaking to him. And then she witnesses a crime.

Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to Green Acres for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by memories and questions she has not thought about for decades. She decides to find out the truth about the events of that summer day and lay to rest her own feelings of guilt. One photograph, of her mother and a woman Laurel has never met, called Vivian, is her first clue.

The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths some people go to fulfill them, and the strange consequences they sometimes have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers and schemers, play-acting and deception told against a backdrop of events that changed the world.

 I received a copy of this from the publisher via Kate Morton's facebook page, which is also the cover pictured above.

Kate Morton has written a book that grabbed my attention with the prologue and really didn't let go until the last page. It was a book that I enjoyed so much that I savored it.  I didn't rush through it, but enjoyed the process.  I learned about Dorothy, Vivian and Jimmy.  I learned about their dreams, ambitions, struggles and fears during war torn England.  It was a book that was so smooth, all the dots connected nicely and an ending that I will admit didn't see coming.

Ever since The Forgotten Garden I have been a fan, then came The House at Riverton and it reminded me why Kate is a favorite of mine, now add this book and I am hooked.  Though I must say that the author does have her hands full topping this one, definitely a 5+ rating for me.

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a cute meme hosted by The Story Siren and I love it.

I was away for the past 10 days, so the damage was minimal.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - This was suppose to arrive before I left and would read on my trip, but alas it was not to be.  Having read so many good things about this book I am really hoping my expectations aren't too high.

The Queen's Secret by Victoria Lamb - never read anything by this author but I keep seeing her name buzzing around Goodreads and blogs.  Picked this up at Heathrow Airport

The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham - again another author I want to start reading.

This was an ebook purchased, on sale 80% off, how could I resist?

Wish there were more hours in a day.

Monday, November 5, 2012

In My Mailbox

Daughters of Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt (I have heard so about about this author lately and was lucky enough to find this book at my favorite thrift shop)

The Queen's Pawn by Christy English ( is right around the corner from my place)

Arthur - King of the Middle March by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Arthur - The seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey (I received the second book in series from Netgalley, so need to read the first one first)

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani (love the cover)

The Lady's Slipper by Deborah Swift (another thrift shop find)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Assassin's Wife by Moonyeen Blakey

Second Sight is dangerous... Nan's visions of two noble boys imprisoned in a tower frighten her village priest. The penalty for witchcraft is death. Despite his warnings, Nan's determination to save these boys launches her on a nightmare journey. As fifteenth-century England teeters on the edge of civil war, her talent as a Seer draws powerful, ambitious people around her. Not all of them are honourable. Twists of fate bring her to a ghost-ridden house in Silver Street where she is entrusted with a secret which could destroy a dynasty. Pursued by the unscrupulous Bishop Stillington, she finds refuge with a gypsy wise-woman, until a chance encounter takes her to Middleham Castle. Here she embarks on a passionate affair with Miles Forrest, the Duke of Gloucester's trusted henchman. But is her lover all he seems?

"The author reveals through a vivid, gripping narrative the fear, violence and chaos of that time. Will the assassin's wife have the power to alter the course of history? Read this book and find out."

".a vivid and visceral journey into the darkest hearts of men during the Wars of the Roses... An incredible, unforgettable story, surely made for the screen. Moonyeen Blakey is a major new talent to watch."

Debut author Moonyeen Blakey is a force to be reckoned with.  She has taken a young girl named Nan, someone very likeable, someone that I immedately felt for, and placed her in a dangerous world.   A girl with visions, rejected by her own family and the community, with only a priest that listened to her and actually believed what she was saying.

An original story that brought an interesting view of the War of the Roses and the mystery surrounding the  Princes in the Tower.  I really like a story that does not focus on the main players but with background ones, in this case a fictional one along with main (real) players (Anne Neville being one, I had to read The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory as soon as I finished this book).

Definitely a author that I will be reading more of.


Friday, August 3, 2012

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Mattie Gokey has a word for everything. She collects words, 
stores them up as a way of fending off the hard truths of her life, the truths that she can't write down in stories.
The fresh pain of her mother's death. The burden of raising her sisters while her father struggles over his brokeback farm. The mad welter of feelings Mattie has for handsome but dull Royal Loomis, who says he wants to marry her. And the secret dreams that keep her going--visions of finishing high school, going to college in New York City, becoming a writer.
Yet when the drowned body of a young woman turns up at the hotel where Mattie works, all her words are useless. But in the dead woman's letters, Mattie again finds her voice, and a determination to live her own life.
Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, this coming-of-age novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.

Hardcover, 389 pages
Published April 1st 2003 by HMH Books for Young Readers 
personal library

Jennifer Donnelly became a favorite author of mine when I read Revolution and she delivered again with A Northern Light.  A wonderful coming of age book that I couldn't put down.  Any book that involves books in the story is a bonus too.  Through the voice of Mattie I just couldn't help but feel for her and what life has delivered her.  Set in 1906 women really didn't have much of a say in the direction their life would take.  Add a mother's death, younger siblings, dreams that she was fighting to keep alive, plus throw in a possible murder mystery and what do you get?  A book that kept me up and never wanting it to end, in fact I wish there was a sequel, that's how sad I was to see it end.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Winner of the 2011 Newbery Award.
The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby. I closed my eyes to the dusty countryside and imagined the sign I’d seen only in Gideon’s stories: Manifest—A Town with a rich past and a bright future.

Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.
Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”
Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.

Powerful in its simplicity and rich in historical detail, Clare Vanderpool’s debut is a gripping story of loss and redemption.

Continuing on my quest to read Newbery Award winners, this was the 2011 winner, I don't think that I would have picked it up otherwise. I am so glad that I did, what a wonderful debut. Again this was an audio for me and the reader brought the story to life. I could picture the train tracks, the front porches, the tree house and so much more. The story itself I enjoyed immensely, a charming coming of age story. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner

"No one believed I was destined for 
So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.

As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.

 C.W. Gortner has a way of writing that not only grabs hold of you, but you can feel the emotions in his characters.  I noticed this more so in The Last Queen (which I LOVED and one of these days will write a review for it).   One can't help feel what Isabella was going through, the scenes were easy to visualize and the story flowed right along.  I know very little about Spanish history, other than what I can remember from grade 6 history, which went along the like of 'in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue'.  This book opened my eyes to the mother of Katherine of Aragon and Juana.  I read The Last Queen first (since it is about Isabella's daughter Juana), but I wish that I had read this one first, it was hard going into this book with an opinion of Fernando that wasn't all that nice. This book did soften my feelings for him somewhat.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Secret River by Kate Grenville

After a childhood of poverty and petty crime in the slums of London, William Thomhill is sentenced in 1806 to be transported to New South Wales for the terms of his natural life. With his wife Sal and children to tow, he arrives in a harsh land that feels at first like a death sentence. But his first glimpse of land for the taking awakens in him a desire he never had before: to own that land, no matter the cost to his soul. From the winner of the 2001 Orange Prize

My first HF that takes place in Australia, the first book in a trilogy and my first book by Kate Grenville.

The author has a really nice way of describing the outback, I could visualize the country, the Aborigines and even the little hunts with the bark flaps. This is one of those books that stays with you even when finished. The story was centered around William, but I think I would have liked to have gotten to know Sal's thoughts and feelings, especially towards the end. The ending was a little predictable, but that's ok.  I look forward to reading the next one.

I do have one con for this book, not the writing but the ebook format.  I read this on my Kobo (it was cheap and I had a coupon code - what can I say I am cheap).  It's been a while since I have been in school, but this book had no quotation marks, not one, in the whole book.  For the dialogue everything was in italics. Is that something new?  Very confusing, I usually take italics to mean a thought or something unspoken, this was the opposite.  Once I figured that out I was good to go, though I did regressed a few times. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire . . . but who was this woman who became one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous and amazing story comes to life as only Michelle Moran can tell it. 


The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin. Smart and ambitious, Marie Tussaud has learned the secrets of wax sculpting by working alongside her uncle in their celebrated wax museum, the Salon de Cire. From her popular model of the American ambassador, Thomas Jefferson, to her tableau of the royal family at dinner, Marie's museum provides Parisians with the very latest news on fashion, gossip, and even politics. Her customers hail from every walk of life, yet her greatest dream is to attract the attention of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI; their stamp of approval on her work could catapult her and her museum to the fame and riches she desires. After months of anticipation, Marie learns that the royal family is willing to come and see their likenesses. When they finally arrive, the king's sister is so impressed that she requests Marie's presence at Versailles as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. It is a request Marie knows she cannot refuse--even if it means time away
from her beloved Salon and her increasingly dear friend, Henri Charles.
As Marie gets to know her pupil, Princesse Elisabeth, she also becomes acquainted with the king and queen, who introduce her to the glamorous life at court. From lavish parties with more delicacies than she's ever seen to rooms filled with candles lit only once before being discarded, Marie steps into a world entirely different from her home on the Boulevard du Temple, where people are selling their teeth in order to put food on the table.
Meanwhile, many resent the vast separation between rich and poor. In salons and cafes across Paris, people like Camille Desmoulins, Jean-Paul Marat, and Maximilien Robespierre are lashing out against the monarchy. Soon, there's whispered talk of revolution. . . . Will Marie be able to hold on to both the love of her life and her friendship with the royal family as France approaches civil war? And more important, will she be able to fulfill the demands of powerful revolutionaries who ask that she make the death masks of beheaded aristocrats, some of whom she knows?
Spanning five years, from the budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, "Madame Tussaud "brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom. "From the Hardcover edition."

Paperback, 605 pages
Published 2011 by Quercus 
from personal library

Here is a book where I didn't like the cover, neither of them, more so after I read the book because I just don't feel that either of the covers matches the picture I have in my head of Marie Tussaud

Again another audio for me, and again a wonderful reader. Felt like Marie was sitting there telling me the story herself.

The only reason I really even read this book was because it was by Michelle Moran.  I loved Nefertiti and Cleopatra's Daughter and even though I love HF, the French Revolution doesn't interest me, well at least it didn't.  Now I am interested and will be reading more.  The author has a wonderful way of portraying life in those times, she has done a lot of research into her subject and it shows. Michelle has a writing style that is easy to follow while learning history at the same time. Her words flow so smoothly that it was hard to put down at times.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Changling by Philippa Gregory

Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of the first-ever teen series from #1 bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl.

Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.
     Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.
     Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.
     The first in a series, this epic and richly detailed drama is grounded in historical communities and their mythic beliefs. It includes a medieval map of Europe that will track their journey; and the interior will include relevant decorative elements as well as an interior line illustration. And look for a QR code that links to a note from the author with additional, detailed information about the setting and the history that informed the writing. With Philippa Gregory’s trademark touch, this novel deftly brings the past—and its salacious scandals—vividly and disturbingly to life.

I will admit that I am a sucker for book covers.  This one grabbed me right away.  What can I say, Philippa Gregory started my HF journey with The Other Boleyn Girl and given my love for YA, it just called my name.

So what did I think of the book?  I wanted to love it right away, I wanted it to grab me and not let go. I was home alone and just wanted to get lost in this book, didn't happen and I was disappointed.  It just felt flat to me, even to the point where I forced myself to continue reading.  Finally about half way through it picked up, and finally I couldn't put it down. The characters just seem to lack emotion, feeling or whatever I couldn't connect with any of them, though Freize ended up being my favorite.  Even now 3 weeks after I finished reading nothing stands out that I can remember.  Will I continue with this series, I guess maybe I will see what the cover looks like :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Iliad by Homer

TOLSTOY CALLED THE ILIAD A miracle; Goethe said that it always thrust him into a state of astonishment. Homer’s story is thrilling, and his Greek is perhaps the most beautiful poetry ever sung or written. But until now, even the best English translations haven’t been able to re-create the energy and simplicity, the speed, grace, and pulsing rhythm of the original. In Stephen Mitchell’s Iliad, the epic story resounds again across 2,700 years, as if the lifeblood of its heroes Achilles and Patroclus, Hector and Priam flows in every word. And we are there with them, amid the horror and ecstasy of war, carried along by a poetry that lifts even the most devastating human events into the realm of the beautiful. 

I am taking a history course right now and find this time period fascinating. This was an audio read for me and I am glad that I went that route with this book.  The reader did a wonderful job and I felt like I was right there, his tone of voice was perfect, smooth and easy to listen to.  

This is a new translation and I was drawn by the cover (covers do it to me all the time).  Stephen Mitchell has translated other poems and comes highly recommended.

About the story, I know next to nothing about the Trojan wars (only that it lasted 10 years) and from the movie Troy.  My course didn't really dwell much on it either.  I found this poem was focused quite a bit on the gods and knowing nothing not much about them I learned a lot.  Sort of a who is who of gods.  There was also a lot of names and at one point thought that I was going to actually hear about each of the 1000 ships and who was one them.  Am I complaining?  No I really enjoying this audio it brought a time period to life for me that was hard to imagine and I am glad I took the time read it.  Honestly I think I can see myself reading this one again too.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Elizabeth I by Margaret George

 Elizabeth Tudor, queen of enigma-the Virgin Queen who had many suitors, the victor of the Armada who hated war; the gorgeously attired, jewel- bedecked woman who pinched pennies. England's greatest monarch has baffled and intrigued the world for centuries. But what was she really like?

In this novel, her flame-haired, lookalike cousin, Lettice Knollys, thinks she knows all too well. Elizabeth's rival for the love of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and mother to the Earl of Essex, the mercurial nobleman who challenged Elizabeth's throne, Lettice had been intertwined with Elizabeth since childhood. This is a story of two women of fierce intellect and desire, one trying to protect her country, and throne, the other trying to regain power and position for her family and each vying to convince the reader of her own private vision of the truth about Elizabeth's character. Their gripping drama is acted out at the height of the flowering of the Elizabethan age. Shakespeare, Marlowe, Dudley, Raleigh, Drake-all of them swirl through these pages as they swirled through the court and on the high seas.

This is a magnificent, stay-up-all-night page-turner that is George's finest and most compelling novel and one that is sure to please readers of Alison Weir, Philippa Gregory, and Hilary Mantel.

I have never read a Margaret George novel, I have only listened to them.  This is my second listen (Memoirs of Cleopatra, being the first).  With the right reader an audio book can be a truly wonderful experience.  Elizabeth I was a truly wonderful experience.

Kate Reading did a marvelous job, with her accent it felt like Elizabeth herself was telling her story.  Margaret George wrote a story that kept me wanting for more.  Even though the book starts off in 1588, it does jog back and forth in time and it does this very smoothly, as current situations bring them about. Also alternating between Elizabeth and Lettice (her cousin) it brought another point of view.  

Margaret George is a very talented author, I look forward to 'not' reading more of her books.  I am thinking Helen of Troy sounds interesting. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

From award-winning author Eva Stachniak comes this passionate novel that illuminates, as only fiction can, the early life of one of history’s boldest women. The Winter Palace tells the epic story of Catherine the Great’s improbable rise to power—as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne.  Her name is Barbara—in Russian, Varvara. Nimble-witted and attentive, she’s allowed into the employ of the Empress Elizabeth, amid the glitter and cruelty of the world’s most eminent court. Under the tutelage of Count Bestuzhev, Chancellor and spymaster, Varvara will be educated in skills from lock picking to lovemaking, learning above all else to listen—and to wait for opportunity. That opportunity arrives in a slender young princess from Zerbst named Sophie, a playful teenager destined to become the indomitable Catherine the Great. Sophie’s destiny at court is to marry the Empress’s nephew, but she has other, loftier, more dangerous ambitions, and she proves to be more guileful than she first appears.

What Sophie needs is an insider at court, a loyal pair of eyes and ears who knows the traps, the conspiracies, and the treacheries that surround her. Varvara will become Sophie’s confidante—and together the two young women will rise to the pinnacle of absolute power. 

With dazzling details and intense drama, Eva Stachniak depicts Varvara’s secret alliance with Catherine as the princess grows into a legend—through an enforced marriage, illicit seductions, and, at last, the shocking coup to assume the throne of all of Russia. 

Impeccably researched and magnificently written, The Winter Palace is an irresistible peek through the keyhole of one of history’s grandest tales.

I had the privilege last week of  attending a book reading by the author.  I met her and yes she signed my book.  A very lovely lady, it was my first experience at a book reading and her accent just added so much to the reading.

I went into this book thinking it would be more about Catherine the Great then about Varvara the spy.  I had very little knowledge about Russia and had only heard the name Catherine the Great, so I was very excited when NetGalley gave me an ARC.   Having discovered (from the author herself) that she is working on a sequel this book made so much sense as it paves the way for the next one - wish I could remember what it will be called.   This book was both entertaining and I learned things about Russia that I never knew before. Another bonus, Eva is a Canadian author and I think that is great!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Lily of the Nile and Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

Heiress of one empire and prisoner of another, it is up to the daughter of Cleopatra to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers... 

To Isis worshippers, Princess Selene and her twin brother Helios embody the divine celestial pair who will bring about a Golden Age. But when Selene's parents are vanquished by Rome, her auspicious birth becomes a curse. Trapped in an empire that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, the young messianic princess struggles for survival in a Roman court of intrigue. She can't hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her hands, nor can she stop the emperor from using her powers for his own ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined to resurrect her mother's dreams. Can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win-or die?

Sorceress. Seductress. Schemer. Cleopatra's daughter is the one woman with the power to destroy an empire... 

Having survived her perilous childhood as a royal captive of Rome, Selene pledged her loyalty to Augustus and swore she would become his very own Cleopatra. Now the young queen faces an uncertain destiny in a foreign land.
The magic of Isis flowing through her veins is what makes her indispensable to the emperor. Against a backdrop of imperial politics and religious persecution, Cleopatra's daughter beguiles her way to the very precipice of power. She has never forgotten her birthright, but will the price of her mother's throne be more than she's willing to pay?

I started these books as soon as I finished Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George, I just had to find out what happened to her and Mark Anthony children.  Having been taken captive by Octavian to Rome Selene vows that she will get Egypt back and fulfill her mother's dreams.  

My favorite would be Lily of the Nile, I loved how it portrayed each of the children, you got a real sense of the emotional impact all these changes were having in their lives.  I mean seriously what would it have been like to live back then.  Your parents are dead (that was their choice, but for that time period they really didn't have a choice), you get dragged across the  Mediterranean  Sea - not knowing what was in store for you.  Were you to be dragged in Triumph through the streets of Rome or something far worse? Then arriving in Rome weeks later to a country totally different in every aspect then you are accustomed to.  

Song of the Nile I also enjoyed, there were times I wanted to grab Selene by the shoulders and give her head a shake, but alas I couldn't.   There is a 3rd book to complete this series, not sure when it will be released but I will be reading it as soon as it does.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

To Kill A Mockingbird by Lee Harper

The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic. 

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

What really can I say about this book?  It's a classic that took me this long to read (not sure why I didn't have to read it in high school - but maybe if I did I would not have liked it this much)
It was full of quotes, I love quotes.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

“Atticus said to Jem one day, "I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird." That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. "Your father’s right," she said. "Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” 

“People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.” 

“Pass the damn ham, please.”

“See there?" Jem was scowling triumphantly. "Nothin' to it. I swear, Scout, sometimes you act so much like a girl its mortifyin” 

“Ladies in bunches always filled me with vague apprehension and a firm desire to be elsewhere.” 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Miracle for Jen by Linda Barrick

I received Miracle for Jen compliments of Tyndale House Publishers for my honest review.  They have also provided another copy to giveaway.  If you would like to enter for a chance to win this book just leave a comment.  Draw will take place on March 31th.

"Lord...take this year and my life and allow Your glory to shine! Take it and use it to its fullest potential."
an entry for Jen's journal, written just 3 months before the crash

On the night of November 5, 2006, the Barrick family was driving home from church when their van was struck by a drunk driver. Fifteen-year-old Jen suffered multiple skull fractures and severe brain trauma and was not expected to survive the night. But against all odds, she did. As she lingered in a coma, doctors warned that if Jen ever woke up, she would be cursing and screaming in confusion due to her brain injuries. Instead, after five weeks she opened her eyes and began praying and praising God. Jen didn't remember her middle name, recognize her parents, or recall that she had a little brother, but she remembered Jesus and every word to every praise song and scripture she had hidden in her heart before the accident. As any loving mother would, Jen's mother Linda wanted God to heal Jen, make her like she was before. Normal. But a loving God had something else in mind--instead of making her normal, God is making Jennifer and the whole Barrick family--extraordinary, miraculous. Hope Out Loud is the remarkable true story of a family who overcame tragedy and learned to trust God's plan for their lives in a whole new way.

It is hard to know where to start with this book.  Here is a story that could totally have been avoided, it should never have happened.  A drivers license suspended, a driver slumped over his steering wheel, pulled over by the police just minutes before the accident.  But still it happened.  How does a mother (family) get past that?  Told from the point of view of Linda Barrick, Jen's mother.  Here is an emotional packed book that grabbed me and I had a hard time putting this book down.  

Miracle for Jen is an amazing book it will cry, make you laugh, it will make you live each day to the fullest because you don't know what is around the corner, that you life can change in the blink of an eye.   It will  make you realize that even in the toughest times, even in the darkest hours there is still hope. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

11/22/63 by Stephen King


In this brilliantly conceived tour de force, Stephen King—who has absorbed the social, political, and popular culture of his generation more imaginatively and thoroughly than any other writer—takes readers on an incredible journey into the past and the possibility of altering it.
It begins with Jake Epping, a thirty-five-year-old English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching GED classes. He asks his students to write about an event that changed their lives, and one essay blows him away—a gruesome, harrowing story about the night more than fifty years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a sledgehammer. Reading the essay is a watershed moment for Jake, his life—like Harry’s, like America’s in 1963—turning on a dime. Not much later his friend Al, who owns the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958. And Al enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination.
So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson, in a different world of Ike and JFK and Elvis, of big American cars and sock hops and cigarette smoke everywhere. From the dank little city of Derry, Maine (where there’s Dunning business to conduct), to the warmhearted small town of Jodie, Texas, where Jake falls dangerously in love, every turn is leading eventually, of course, to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and to Dallas, where the past becomes heart-stoppingly suspenseful, and where history might not be history anymore. Time-travel has never been so believable. Or so terrifying.

My first Stephen King book since Cujo and Pet Sematary when they first came out.  I usually shy away from Stephen King, his books are massive, they are scary and to be honest kinda creepy.  Why then did I read this one?  

The premise of this book was too intriguing to pass up, and I'm glad I didn't.
There was no horror, blood and guts usually associated with Stephen King (remember Misery, legs chopped off? didn't read it but sure did hear about it).  Does that mean this is a boring book?  No of course not, it is anything but.   You gotta ask yourself what life would have been like if Kennedy wasn't assassinated on 11/22/63, what if you could go back and change it.   Or better yet, should you?

Life in the late 50's, early 60's, so different from today and King did a wonderful job of portraying it.  Sock hops, dancing, pound cakes.  No cell phone, computers or internet.  This book was well researched and the story just flowed nicely, I had a hard time putting it down - 'just one more chapter'  - devoured it in less than a week.

If you're avoiding it because you think Stephen King only writes horror, please reconsider.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s revengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome; only two– the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander–survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts. 

Paperback, 431 pages
Published March 1st 2010 by Quercus Books (first published January 1st 2009)
from personal library
Continuing my Egyptian theme, Cleopatra's daughter seemed the next logical choice.  This was an audio for me.  I love audio books, usually have one on the go at all times.  I can listen while taking my puppy for a long walk and get lost in the story.  If its a really good book I tend to have a cleaner house too (looking for something to do while listening).

I was warned before hand that this book had a YA feel to it, which to me is fine since I love YA books.  Maybe if you didn't take that into account one could be disappointed, I wasn't.  It was a refreshing read as this is a part of history that I am not familiar with.  I think Michelle Moran did a good job of portraying Selene and her twin Alexander, what a confusing time it would have been for both of them.  The story does center more with Selene as a 12 year old and later on when she is 15.  It seemed to be historical accurate and keep my attention throughout.

I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.