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