Sep 28, 2009

Mailbox Monday ~ Buried in FANTASTIC Books.. squeee!

Mailbox Monday
Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. And I am adding what I purchased, swapped, etc.

Monday started off with a bang .. one of those old US MAIL crates was on the front porch waiting for me when I got home from work, and it was of course full of books!! WOWZA

I have no problems having a huge TBR pile, its the Books to review now that stress me out. Thankfully, there are only a few of those.

From Paperbackswap, I received:
The Madonnas of LeningradThe Madonnas of Leningrad : A Novel :: Debra Dean
"One of the most talked about books of the year . . . Bit by bit, the ravages of age are eroding Marina's grip on the everyday. And while the elderly Russian woman cannot hold on to fresh memories -- the details of her grown children's lives, the approaching wedding of her grandchild -- her distant past is preserved: vivid images that rise unbidden of her youth in war-torn Leningrad.
In the fall of 1941, the German army approached the outskirts of Leningrad, signaling the beginning of what would become a long and torturous siege. During the ensuing months, the city's inhabitants would brave starvation and the bitter cold, all while fending off the constant German onslaught. Marina, then a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum, along with other staff members, was instructed to take down the museum's priceless masterpieces for safekeeping, yet leave the frames hanging empty on the walls -- a symbol of the artworks' eventual return. To hold on to sanity when the Luftwaffe's bombs began to fall, she burned to memory, brushstroke by brushstroke, these exquisite artworks: the nude figures of women, the angels, the serene Madonnas that had so shortly before gazed down upon her. She used them to furnish a "memory palace," a personal Hermitage in her mind to which she retreated to escape terror, hunger, and encroaching death. A refuge that would stay buried deep within her, until she needed it once more. . . .
Seamlessly moving back and forth in time between the Soviet Union and contemporary America, The Madonnas of Leningrad is a searing portrait of war and remembrance, of the power of love, memory, and art to offer beauty, grace, and hope in the face of overwhelming despair. Gripping, touching, and heartbreaking, it marks the debut of Debra Dean, a bold new voice in American fiction
."

Nell Gwyn: Mistress to a King by Charles Beauclerk
"Written by a direct descendant of the union between Nell Gwyn and King Charles II, Nell Gwyn tells the story of one of England's great folk heroines, a woman who rose from an impoverished, abusive childhood to become King Charles II's most cherished mistress, and the star of one of the great love stories of royal history. Born during a tumultuous period in England's past, Nell Gwyn caught the eye of King Charles II, the newly restored, pleasure-seeking merry monarch of a nation in full hedonistic reaction to Puritan rule. Their seventeen-year love affair played out against the backdrop of the Great Fire of London, the Great Plague, court scandals, and the constant threat of political revolution. Despite his other lovers' Machiavellian efforts to win the king's favor and humiliate Nell, the self-proclaimed Protestant whore earned the devotion of her king and the love of her nation, becoming England's first people's princess. Magnificently recreating the heady and licentious, yet politically charged atmosphere of Restoration England, Nell Gwyn tells the true-life Cinderella story of a common orange salesgirl who became mistress to a king."

From Sourcebooks to review "Arabella" by Georgette Heyer
"One Little White Lie . . .
Armed with beauty, virtue and a benevolent godmother, the impetuous but impoverished Arabella Tallant embarked on her first London season with her mother's wish in mind: snare a rich husband. But when fate cast her in the path of arrogant, socially prominent Robert Beaumaris, who accused her of being another petty female after his wealth, the proud, headstrong ingenue made a most startling claim -- she was an heiress! Suddenly Arabella found herself the talk of the ton and pursued by every amorous fortune hunter in London. But would her deceitful charade destroy her one chance for true love . . . ?"

And some of these from Historical-Fiction.com, before the horrific flood.. so devastatingly sad!

Reluctant Queens (Queens of England Series, The: 8th Volume) - by Jean Plaidy, I won from Royal-intrigue, thank you!
"In 1470, a reluctant Lady Anne Neville is betrothed by her father, the politically ambitious Earl of Warwick, to Edward, Prince of Wales. A gentle yet fiercely intelligent woman, Anne has already given her heart to the prince’s younger brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Unable to oppose her father’s will, she finds herself in line for the throne of England—an obligation that she does not want. Yet fate intervenes when Edward is killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury. Anne suddenly finds herself free to marry the man she loves—and who loves her in return. The ceremony is held at Westminster Abbey, and the duke and duchess make a happy home at Middleham Castle, where both spent much of their childhood. Their life is idyllic, until the reigning king dies and a whirlwind of dynastic maneuvering leads to his children being declared illegitimate. Richard inherits the throne as King Richard III, and Anne is crowned queen consort, a destiny she thought she had successfully avoided. Her husband’s reign lasts two years, two months, and two days—and in that short time Anne witnesses the true toll that wearing the crown takes on Richard, the last king from the House of York."

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende "An Orphan raised in Valparaiso, Chile, by a Victorian spinster and her rigid brother, young, vivacious Eliza Sommers follows her lover to California during the Gold Rush of 1849. She enters a rough-and-tumble world whose newly arrived inhabitants are driven mad by gold with the help of her good friend and savior, the Chinese doctor Tao Chien-California opens the door to a new life of freedom and independence for the young Chilean. Her search for the elusive lover gradually turns into another kind of journey, and by the time she finally hears news of him, Eliza must decide who her true love really is."

Harriet & Isabella (for review) by Patricia O'Brien
"It is 1887, and Henry Ward Beecher lies dying. Reporters from around the world, eager for one last story about the most lurid scandal of their time, descend on Brooklyn Heights, their presence signaling the beginning of the voracious appetite for fallen celebrities we know so well today.
When Henry Ward Beecher was put on trial for adultery in 1875, the question of his guilt or innocence was ferociously debated. His trial not only split the country, it split apart his family, causing a particularly bitter rift between his sisters, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Isabella Beecher Hooker, an ardent suffragist. Harriet remained loyal to Henry, while Isabella called publicly for him to admit his guilt. What had been a loving, close relationship between two sisters plummeted into bitter blame and hurt.
Harriet and Isabella each had a major role in the social revolutions unfolding around them, but what happened in their hearts when they were forced to face a question of justice much closer to home? Now they struggle: who best served Henry -- the one who was steadfast or the one who demanded honesty?"


Queen of Shadows: A Novel of Isabella, Wife of King Edward II byQueen of Shadows Edith Felber
"In fourteenth-century England, beautiful Queen Isabella-humiliated by her weak, unfaithful husband-is emerging from the shadows to take her revenge. But her newly arrived, twenty-oneyear-old Welsh handmaiden, Gwenith de Percy, also seeks vengeance-against the English invaders who crushed her beloved Wales. Isabella's once-golden marriage is now her penance. Due to his rumored relations with men, Parliament forced Edward to share his throne-a demeaning arrangement that torments Isabella.
With the help of her secret, noble lover, Roger Mortimer-an enemy of her husband, imprisoned in the Tower of London-the queen plots to take control. Thrilled by this turn of events, Gwenith realizes that a king cannot afford to be weak-especially when his formidable, discontented queen seeks his power as her due
."

From another win, at Jane Austen Today they had a fun soiree last week, and I won Lady Susan by Jane Austen. A short read at 80 pages, a collection of a letters detailing: "Beautiful, flirtatious, and recently widowed, Lady Susan Vernon seeks an advantageous second marriage for herself, while attempting to push her daughter into a dismal match. A magnificently crafted novel of Regency manners and mores that will delight Austen enthusiasts with its wit and elegant expression."

Then from Books Up For Grabs, I selected:

A Beautiful hardcover, Stealing AthenaStealing Athena by Karen Essex
"Stealing Athena is the story of two women, separated by centuries but united by their association with some of the world's greatest and most controversial works of art. Aspasia, a philosopher and courtesan to visionary politician Pericles during Athens's Golden Age, defies societal restrictions to become fiercely influential in Athens' power circle. Mary, the Countess of Elgin and a beautiful Scottish heiress, charms the fearsome men of the Ottoman Empire to make possible her husband's costly acquisitions, all the while brazenly defying the social conventions of her time. Both women prevail yet pay a heavy price for their rebellion. A tale of romance, intrigue, greed, and glory, Stealing Athena interweaves the lives of two of history's most beguiling heroines."

The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel by Kathleen Kent "Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. Often at odds with one another, mother and daughter are forced to stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft. This is the story of Martha's courageous defiance and ultimate death, as told by the daughter who survived.Kathleen Kent is a tenth generation descendent of Martha Carrier. She paints a haunting portrait, not just of Puritan New England, but also of one family's deep and abiding love in the face of fear and persecution."

Whew. That was all on Monday.

The rest of the week I received some more absolutely awesome titles (plus roses two days in a row as a surprise from the hubby!):


For Review I received:
(lots of goodies here, hence the roses to divert attention.. I am triple-blessed)

Elizabeth's Women by Tracy Borman (SQUEEEEE!!) "In this original chronicling of the life of one of England's greatest monarchs, historian Tracy Borman explores Elizabeth's relationships with the key women in her life. Beginning with her mother and the governesses and stepmothers who cared for the young princess, including her beloved Kat Astley and the inspirational Katherine Parr, "Elizabeth's Women" sheds new light on her formative years. Elizabeth's turbulent relationships with her rivals are examined: from her sister, 'Bloody' Mary, to the sisters of Lady Jane Grey, and finally the most deadly of all her rivals, Mary, Queen of Scots who would give birth to the man Elizabeth would finally, inevitably have to recognize as heir to her throne."

Secrets of the Tudor Court: Between Two Queens by Kate EmersonBetween Two Queens "Pretty, flirtatious, and ambitious. Nan Bassett hopes that an appointment at the court of King Henry VIII will bring her a grand marriage. But soon after she becomes a maid-of-honor to Queen Jane, the queen dies in childbirth. As the court is plunged into mourning, Nan sets her sights on the greatest match in the land . . . for the king has noticed her. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time Henry has chosen to wed one of his queens’ maids of honor. And in newly Protestant England, where plots to restore the old religion abound, Nan may be the only one who can reassure a suspicious king of her family’s loyalty
But the favor of a king can be dangerous and chancy, not just for Nan, but for her family as well . . . and passionate Nan has a deep secret she must shield from the king and all others, for it could put her future—and her life—in grave jeopardy should anyone discover the truth.
Based on the life of the real Anne Bassett and her family, and drawing extensively from letters and diaries of the time, Between Two Queens is an enthralling picture of the dangers and delights of England’s most passionate era."


The Lady in the Tower by Alison WeirThe Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir
"The imprisonment and execution of Queen Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife, was unprecedented in the annals of English history. It was sensational in its day, and has exerted endless fascination over the minds of historians, novelists, dramatists, poets, artists, and filmmakers ever since. Mystery surrounds the circumstances leading up to Anne's arrest and imprisonment in May 1536. Was it Henry VIII who, estranged from Anne, instructed Master Secretary Thomas Cromwell to fabricate evidence to get rid of her so that he could marry Jane Seymour? Or did Cromwell, for reasons of his own, construct a case against Anne and her faction, and then present compelling evidence before the King? Following the coronation of her daughter Elizabeth I as queen, Anne was venerated as a martyr and heroine. Over the centuries, she has inspired many artistic and cultural works and has remained ever-present in England's, and the world's, popular memory. Alison Weir draws on her unsurpassed expertise in the Tudor Period to chronicle the downfall and dramatic final days of this influential and fascinating woman."

In a deal from Celticlady's Ramblings:
The Virgin's Daughters: In the Court of Elizabeth I by Jeane Westin "In a court filled with repressed sexual longing, scandal, and intrigue, Lady Katherine Grey is Elizabeth's most faithful servant. When the young queen is smitten by the dashing Robert Dudley, Katherine must choose between duty and desire-as her secret passion for a handsome earl threatens to turn Elizabeth against her. Once the queen becomes a bitter and capricious monarch, another lady-in-waiting, Mistress Mary Rogers, offers the queen comfort. But even Mary cannot remain impervious to the court's sexual tension-and as Elizabeth gives her doomed heart to the mercurial Earl of Essex, Mary is drawn to the queen's rakish godson..."

Brief Gaudy Hour: A Novel of Anne Boleyn reissue 2008 by Margaret Campbell Barnes, original 1968; "The enigmatic Anne Boleyn comes to life in this charming, brilliant portrayal by acclaimed British novelist Margaret Campbell Barnes. The infamous love of King Henry VIII and the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn undertook a rocky journey from innocent courtier to powerful Queen of England. A meticulous researcher, Margaret Campbell Barnes immerses readers in this intrigue and in the lush, glittery world of the Tudor Court. The beauty and charms of Anne Boleyn bewitched the most powerful man in the world, King Henry VIII, but her resourcefulness and cleverness were not enough to stop the malice of her enemies. Her swift rise to power quickly became her own undoing. The author brings to light Boleyn's humanity and courage, giving an intimate look at a young woman struggling to find her own way in a world dominated by men and adversaries."

And before the good mailbox finds I went on a mad retail therapy dash during lunch and I bought at the used bookstore:


Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks "When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna's eyes we follow the story of the fateful year of 1666, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition. As death reaches into every household and villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive and grow, a year of catastrophe becomes instead annus mirabilis, a "year of wonders."
Inspired by the true story of Eyam, a village in the rugged hill country of England, Year of Wonders is a richly detailed evocation of a singular moment in history. Written with stunning emotional intelligence and introducing "an inspiring heroine" (The Wall Street Journal), Brooks blends love and learning, loss and renewal into a spellbinding and unforgettable read."

The Captive by Victoria Holt "Veteran novelist Holt (The India Fan) returns to a familiar scenario by depicting a hardy young 19th-century Englishwoman who is embroiled in murder and exotic adventures. When a ferocious storm off the African coast capsizes the vessel on which she is sailing, Rosetta Cranleigh is rescued by a deckhand who admits, after their lifeboat drifts to a remote island, that he is actually Simon Perrivale, a nobleman's illegitimate child, forced to flee England after being wrongly accused of slaying one of his father's other sons. Taken hostage by pirates, the pair escape after being sold to a Turkish pasha."

Eve: A Novel of the First Woman by Elissa Elliott "It is the world’s oldest tale: the story of Eve, her husband, Adam, and the tragedy that would overcome her sons…. In this luminous debut novel, Elissa Elliott puts a powerful twist on biblical narrative, boldly reimagining Eve’s journey. At once intimate and universal, timely and timeless, this unique work of fiction blends biblical tradition with recorded history and dazzling storytelling. And as it does, Eve comes to life in a way religion and myth have never allowed—in a novel that explores the very essence of love, motherhood, faith, and humanity.

In their world they are alone…a family haunted by banishment, struggling for survival in a harsh new land. A woman who has borne and buried children, Eve sees danger shadowing those she loves, while her husband drifts further and further from the man he was in the Garden, blinded by his need to rebuild a life outside of Eden. One daughter, alluring, self-absorbed Naava, turns away from their beliefs. Another, crippled, ever-faithful Aya, harbors a fateful secret, while brothers Cain and Abel become adversaries, and Dara, the youngest, is chosen for a fate of her own."

The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook "With its family secrets and hallowed texts containing explosive truths, The Night Journal suggests A. S. Byatt’s Possession transplanted to the raw and beautiful landscape of the American Southwest. Meg Mabry has spent her life oppressed by her family’s legacy—a heritage beginning with the journals written by her great-grandmother in the 1890s and solidified by her grandmother Bassie, a famous historian who published them to great acclaim. Until now, Meg has stubbornly refused to read the journals. But when she concedes to accompany the elderly and vipertongued Bassie on a return trip to the fabled land of her childhood in New Mexico, Meg finally succumbs to the allure of her great-grandmother’s story—and soon everything she believed about her family is turned upside down."

Shield of Three Lions: A Novel by Pamela Kaufman "The return of a classic, by bestselling author Pamela Kaufman. Richly rewarding, superbly written. . . . The richness of the characters, the historical details, and the story as a whole make this novel a memorable reading experience. Eleven-year-old Alix is the daughter of the baron of Wanthwaite, whose lands along the Scottish border are among the best in England. But when her family is killed and her lands seized, Alix is forced to flee from the only home she's ever known. Her one hope of restoring her inheritance is to plead her case to King Richard the Lion Heart, who is far away in France, preparing to go on his Crusade. Alix resolves to follow him. She cuts her hair, dresses as a boy, and takes the road south to London. Disguised as a beautiful young boy, Alix is more than befriended by the handsome and mysterious King Richard, even becoming his favorite page. Their relationship sets tongues wagging and places Alix in considerable danger as the battle for Jerusalem unfolds."

The Winding Stair: Francis Bacon, His Rise and Fall by Daphne du Maurier "An engaging biography of lawyer, writer, and philosopher Sir Francis Bacon.
"All rising to great place is by a winding stair," wrote Sir Francis Bacon. It wasn’t until he was forty-five that Bacon’s feet found the first step on that staircase, when King James I made him Solicitor-General, from where he rose through the ranks to become Lord Chancellor. Many accounts of the life of Sir Francis Bacon have been written for scholars, but du Maurier’s aim was to paint a vivid portrait of this remarkable man for the common reader. In The Winding Stair, she illuminates the considerable achievements of this Renaissance man: as a writer, lawyer, philosopher, scientist, and politician."

This post took me an hour and a half to create. And you are skimming it, aren't you?! I'm WATCHING you!!