A Novel of Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt

Read the book review of my latest favorite novel by Robin Oliveira.

Newest novel by Tracy Groot

Featured in February's Historical Novel Society magazine as an Editors' Choice.

Welcome to the new look!

I changed the look of my blog!

Favorite reads of 2013

These were the best of the best for 2013 - use this short list to help you with your next library trip!

Meme Posts

Add to your ginormous TBR pile!

Jul 31, 2009

Friday Fill-In- Guess the King?

Join in the Friday Fill-In Fun

And...here we go!

A Royal Riddle .. this one was fun. Guess the King?

1. It's time for me to defend my crown that I stole instead of Protecting it.

2. If you are a royal wanna-be off to the tower with ya; it's not a bad place for ya unless of course yer my nephews.

3. I must be England's King at all costs cuz I am a TRUE Plantagenet!

4. Victory at Tewkesbury and the peaceful years after is the best thing I have ever known.

5. My crown is simply only meant for a TRUE Plantagenet(me!)

6. The last time I laughed really loudly was thinking of driving all those Woodvilles out of the
royal family ..oops.. let's execute that one...

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to marrying Elizabeth of York, tomorrow my plans include oops, I take that back you pesky Londoners and Sunday, I want to defeat that pretender Henry Tudor!

So.. Which King am I?
=)
See My other Fill-In's HERE

Jul 29, 2009

Booking Through Thursday ~ Funny Reads

Booking Through Thursday is hosted by Deb
Deb says:

What’s the funniest book you’ve read recently?


The Georgette Heyer novels come to mind immediately.
I read The Unfinished Clue, The Nonesuch, and The Convenient Marriage and each of them were quite funny, if we were splitting hairs I would say probably The Convenient Marriage was more giggly for me.
Delightful is the proper word.

Heyer's romances and mysteries are a delightful read.
See my Review for The Convenient Marriage
See my Review for The Unfinished Clue
See my Review for The Nonesuch

Sourcebooks Landmark has been reissuing Heyer's novels and there are many more for me to read which I hope to get a chance to someday. What about your funniest read lately?

Waiting on Wednesday~The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty

Sponsored by "Breaking the Spine". This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

"The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty" by G.J. Meyer

On Sale: February 23, 2010
Price: $30.00
ISBN: 978-0-385-34076-2 (0-385-34076-1)

I can never have too much Tudor stuff. Especially when it's non-fiction. I believe that newer books use the newer findings through historical research and utililize the good parts of all the previous works. Unlike some of the scholarly works that I've come across lately, this one is an affordable price. The post I did for a waiting on Arthur Tudor in May (here) is a whopping $95.00.

This is a 680-700 page body of work that I look forward to!

The author has also written "A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918" which has garnered 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon, so I'm eager to see what is in store for us with his research on The Tudors!

Jul 28, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - The Tudor Rose

TEASER TUESDAYS is hosted by ShouldBeReading and asks you to:
♠Grab your current read.
♠Let the book fall open to a random page.
♠Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
♠You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

Page 91 From "The Tudor Rose: A Novel Of Elizabeth of York" by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Why in God's name, he wondered, could he not bring himself to take his son's advice and startle the truth out of Gloucester by asking straight out, "What have you done with our nephews?" If any man in England had the right to ask, it was he; but the question which had simmered so long in his mind stuck in his throat.

Jul 27, 2009

Book Review: "The Blue Notebook" by James Levine

Published by Spiegel & Grau. July 7, 2009.
Hardcover, 224 pages. ISBN: 038552871X

The Burton Review Rating: 3 stars.. I can't say I ENJOYED it, but the story was compelling.

"An unforgettable, deeply affecting tribute to the powers of imagination and the resilience of childhood, The Blue Notebook tells the story of Batuk, a precocious 15-year-old girl from rural India who was sold into sexual slavery by her father when she was nine. As she navigates the grim realities of the Common Street—a street of prostitution in Mumbai where children are kept in cages as they wait for customers to pay for sex—Batuk manages to put pen to paper, recording her private thoughts and stories in a diary. The novel is powerfully told in Batuk’s voice, through the words she writes in her journal, where she finds hope and beauty in the bleakest circumstances."

Batuk writes in a blue notebook of her sexual encounters as she is sold into a type of orphanage that exists solely to profit from the sadistic torture of children. The words she writes are haunting and yet Batuk still writes with a teenager-inspired attitude. Disturbing and dirty are the perfect adjectives for this read. Although the storyline is on the outrageous and shocking side, the actual writing was fluid and pleasant, for quite an unpleasant topic. There were synonyms used for certain things that made the book a bit unique, such as nests as opposed to cells that the children were housed in; perhaps the use of these 'cleaner' words made the book more readable for me. Body parts were also substituted with 'cleaner' words, and yet still disturbing as it came from out of the mouth of the child. Without these synonyms, the language that the writer would have had to use throughout the book would have very much jaded my views even more, as there are multiple instances of child rape and sadistic torture. The synopsis states hope and beauty are within Batuk's words, and I did not see hope or beauty at all. There is not a shadow of beauty within this heartbreaking tale of children who live and die within brothels at the whim of sexual needs of others.

The Blue Notebook is a horrifying tale of sexual abuse and prostitution in Mumbai, India. Since the book reads easily as you are trapped within the bowels of low-lifes and sadists, it was a fast read in few sittings, thankfully. If it wasn't any faster I would have put it down because it was a crudely disgusting story of how one teenage girl attempts to survive the degrading culture that she was born into. For some reason I was compelled to read it, as I hoped that there would be a happy ending, or a reason for the writing.. a light at the end of the tunnel.. something positive as a message in the wake of such human depravity. I did not find that here. If there was something a bit more hopeful and if there were more heartening characters instead of almost everyone (everyone except those who worked in a hospital) being a child abuser, perhaps I would have felt the story was more worthwhile to me. I was saddened by all the corruption that fed on the children of India, and wonder if any of this is true. If it is remotely true, which I gather the prostitution and slavery is indeed a reality, I wonder why after all these years it still goes on. Selling children into sexual slavery! As an American with basic rights and morals it is just pure disgust that I feel for the people who allow this to continue. And perhaps that is the message, that these children have no voice, have no choices and have no life beyond utter misery.


The interesting thing about this whole topic is I wonder how the author, James Levine, came up with this idea, to write a story of an exploited young prostitute. This debut novel shows promise of a literary future, I just hope his next venture is not something that makes my stomach churn again. I read that he has loosely based this novel on a girl he had interviewed regarding this topic. The author James Levine M.D. is a professor and a researcher in the USA, and is not an author by trade. He somehow felt compelled to write this story and he is probably a bit amazed at how much attention he is getting. I read a blog post by Lezlie at Book n' Border Collies (she is hosting a book giveaway until 7/31) when she had the opportunity to hear him speak and he said that the USA has more child prostitutes than India or Thailand. That shocks me! He is donating all U.S. proceeds from this book to the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children (http://www.icmec.org/)

I realize that a disturbing, disgusting and horrific read is probably not up your ally, so if you are deeply touched by the plights of children, and are able to help in any way, how about donating directly to them? Just a thought. Or if you are inclined to purchase this book, (I would definitely keep this book out of reach from your children) Amazon has it currently for $16.56, eligible for Free Super Saver Shipping. You may also want to try Royal Oak Book Shop, with the lowest price online of $11.00 and $3.90 normal shipping.

Mailbox Monday~ Norah Lofts & more Historicals!

Welcome to The Burton Review 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. Here's what I received during the last week:

"Here Was A ManHere Was a Man: A Novel of Sir Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth I" by Norah Lofts, pub. July 2009
"In one of her earliest works, beloved author Norah Lofts brings us her riveting and romantic account of Sir Walter Raleigh and the court of Elizabeth I. Raleigh knew from the time he was a boy that his life would be exceptional. He dreams of someday exploring the New World he's heard about in snippets of sailors' stories on the docks of the fishing villages where he was raised; and his good fortune leads him to rise in the court of Elizabeth I, becoming a most trusted friend and advisor to the power players of the day.
Raleigh's wit, ambition, and adventurous spirit endear him to all, including the queen herself, but Elizabeth's favor proves as much hindrance as help, as Raleigh still has but one goal in mind -- to take to the seas and secure his place as one of the great explorers of the age. The queen will not allow her young knight to be taken from her side, repeatedly refusing his requests for expeditions, until she at last reluctantly grants him permission to conquer in her name. Meanwhile, between journeys, his passion is stirred, not by the queen but by her lady-in-waiting Lisbeth. His loyalties are split between the boundless opportunities the queen can bestow and the pull of his own heart.
With cameo appearances by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Sydney, and other luminaries of the day, Lofts once again paints a colorful, nuanced, and moving portrait of the Elizabethan Age. Here Was a Man is another timeless classic from the legendary Norah Lofts."


"The Lute Player: A Novel of Richard the Lionhearted" Pub. date December 8, 2009 also by Norah Lofts. This one is 592 pages! I am definitely looking forward to it. Original copyright 1951, no new book cover photo yet online but you can spot it in my photo below, I have an ARC which I am not supposed to quote from but this is on the Back cover (I needed a synopsis!):
"In the trademark style of Norah Lofts, the beloved bestselling historical novelist, it is the ones usually behind the scenes who take center stage to tell the story. In The Lute Player, Blondel, the musician whose life was constantly linked to that of the King, steps forward to tell this tale of romance, war and betrayal.
One of the most legendary figures in medieval history, Richard the Lionhearted led his knights onto the Saracen battlefields, inspired by a vision of the Holy Land. In The Lute Player, Lofts introduces readers to the Soldier-King as he launches the Third Crusade. During the years of fighting and intrigue, King Richard's life was intertwined with two strong women who loved him: Berengaria, Princess of Navarre, and his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. While his union with Berengaria was ill-fated, his mother loved her son with a frantic, possessive pride.
Along with Blondel, Berengaria and her hunchbacked sister help to tell the story of Richard's life, as Lofts paints a complex and human portrait of a legendary king."

Via Shelf Awareness for review:


The Day The Falls Stood Still"The Day The Falls Stood Still" by Cathy Marie Buchanan
"1915. The dawn of the hydroelectric power era in Niagara Falls. Seventeen-year-old Bess Heath has led a sheltered existence as the youngest daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company. After graduation day at her boarding school, she is impatient to return to her picturesque family home near Niagara Falls. But when she arrives, nothing is as she had left it. Her father has lost his job at the power company, her mother is reduced to taking in sewing from the society ladies she once entertained, and Isabel, her vivacious older sister, is a shadow of her former self. She has shut herself in her bedroom, barely eating—and harboring a secret.
The night of her return, Bess meets Tom Cole by chance on a trolley platform. She finds herself inexplicably drawn to him—against her family’s strong objections. He is not from their world. Rough-hewn and fearless, he lives off what the river provides and has an uncanny ability to predict the whims of the falls. His daring river rescues render him a local hero and cast him as a threat to the power companies that seek to harness the power of the falls for themselves. As their lives become more fully entwined, Bess is forced to make a painful choice between what she wants and what is best for her family and her future.
Set against the tumultuous backdrop of Niagara Falls, at a time when daredevils shot the river rapids in barrels and great industrial fortunes were made and lost as quickly as lives disappeared, The Day the Falls Stood Still is an intoxicating debut novel."

I purchased:
"
Secrets of A Lady" by Tracy Grant Trade Paperback, August 2007 Secrets of A Lay by Tracy Grant
"In the glittering world of Regency London, where gossip is exchanged– and reputations ruined–with the tilt of a fan, Mélanie Fraser is the perfect wife. Devoted to her husband, Charles, the grandson of a duke, she is acknowledged as society’s most charming hostess.
But just as the elegant façade of Regency London hides a dark side, Mélanie is not what she seems. She has a secret: one that could destroy her perfect jewel-box life forever…and the cost to keep it is an exquisite heirloom ring surrounded by legend and power.
The search for it will pull Mélanie and Charles into a gritty underworld of gin-soaked brothels, elegant gaming hells, and debtors’ prisons.In this maze of intrigue, deception is second nature and betrayal can come far too easily…"




Murder Most Royal, reprint I also purchased via Alibris and BooksForGoodwillGetJobs (Highly recommend them, great quality and super FAST STANDARD SHIPPING!!) While I'm here let me inform you to NOT use BargainBookStores via Alibris.
"Murder Most Royal: The Story of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard" by Jean Plaidy
"
Against a violent background, the story of ill-fated Anne Boleyn is told with remarkable insight and is interwoven with that of the other murdered Queen, Catherine Howard. Anne is seen as the humble daughter of a ruthless father, cheated of her lover, so that out of her proud nature grows that ambition which destroyed her, leading her to exchange the powerful role of King's mistress for the dangerous one of King's wife. While she moves forward to tragedy, the little Catherine Howard is seen growing up, amid circumstances which may shock and horrify but which cannot fail to arouse deep interest and pity.
And through the book strides the magnificent, dominating figure of Henry VIII - sanctimonious, hypocritical, shrewd, cunning and ruthless, sometimes sentimental but always amorous. The theme of this long and powerful novel is murder - and not only the murder of one of the most fascinating personalities in English history, Anne Boleyn, but of many more of the vital and famous people who lived in the dangerous days when a carelessly spoken word, or his nearness to the throne, was sufficient to send a man to the block."


A late arrival for the week, on Saturday I received:
THE DEVIL’S QUEEN: A Novel of Catherine de Medici (On Sale July 21, 2009) by Jeanne Kalogridis. Another fast shipment via Alibris from Seller
Book Culture Inc, got this brand new book for $12.94 + 3.99 shipping. Can you hear my voice tingling with excitement? No? Well it is giddy with glee.The Devil's Queen I am so looking forward to this one I am daring to move it up on my to read list. ARGH The AGONY of AWESOME books!! It's a pretty hefty hardcover of 468 pages, so I think I ought to read a quick read/review before I pursue the pleasure of this one. Weep.
"Confidante of Nostradamus, scheming mother-in-law to Mary, Queen of Scots, and architect of the bloody St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, Catherine de Medici is one of the most maligned monarchs in history. In her latest historical fiction, Jeanne Kalogridis tells Catherine’s story --- that of a tender young girl, destined to be a pawn in Machiavellian games.
Born into one of Florence’s most powerful families, Catherine was soon left a fabulously rich heiress by the early deaths of her parents. Violent conflict rent the city state and she found herself imprisoned and threatened by her family’s enemies before finally being released and married off to the handsome Prince Henry of France.
Overshadowed by her husband’s mistress, the gorgeous, conniving Diane de Poitiers, and unable to bear children, Catherine resorted to the dark arts of sorcery to win Henry’s love and enhance her fertility --- for which she would pay a price. Against the lavish and decadent backdrop of the French court, and Catherine’s blood-soaked visions of the future, Kalogridis reveals the great love and desire Catherine bore for her husband, Henry, and her stark determination to keep her sons on the throne."

I received from Paperbackswap:
A ClassicEleanor of Aquitaine and The Four Kings by Amy Ruth Kelly
"The story of that amazingly influential and still somewhat mysterious woman, Eleanor of Aquitaine, has the dramatic interest of a novel. She was at the very center of the rich culture and clashing politics of the twelfth century. Richest marriage prize of the Middle Ages, she was Queen of France as the wife of Louis VII, and went with him on the exciting and disastrous Second Crusade. Inspiration of troubadours and trouvères, she played a large part in rendering fashionable the Courts of Love and in establishing the whole courtly tradition of medieval times. Divorced from Louis, she married Henry Plantagenet, who became Henry II of England. Her resources and resourcefulness helped Henry win his throne, she was involved in the conflict over Thomas Becket, and, after Henry's death, she handled the affairs of the Angevin empire with a sagacity that brought her the trust and confidence of popes and kings and emperors."


"Red Rose of Anjou" Part 13 Plantagenet Saga by Jean Plaidy

"Margaret of Anjou came to England and married King Henry VI. Born to a family of strong women, Margaret was no exception. She was passionate, impulsive, loving, violent, and more enamored of the crown than of her peace-loving husband. Henry was king, but the Earl of Warwick -- known as the Kingmaker -- supported Richard of York. In a fateful scene in the Temple Gardens, as men were called to pluck a rose to show which side they stood, Richard and Henry were on opposing sides. It was a prelude to the War of the Roses.
In this turbulent period, amid the fortunes of war, men who loved power took center stage, and Henry, poor ineffectual Henry, wished only to be left alone with his books and his music. Yet his wife Margaret schemed for his power, and later for his son's -- and rushed headlong into disaster."

JennyGirl wrote an awesome review over at Jenny Loves to Read, so I also ordered the classic:
"A Room With A View" by E.M. Forster
"A classic tale of British middle-class love, this novel displays Forster's skill in contrasting British sensibilities with those of foreign cultures, as he portrays the love of a British woman for an expatriate living in Italy. One of Forster's earliest and most celebrated works."

For review, I also received:
"Delilah" by India Edghill which comes out this fall. Marie's Mailbox
Can you find the ARC in the photo of my books this week? It looks like another awesome cover, her last two were beautiful covers as well. I am quite excited about this one! (See my
Waiting on Wednesday post for two of her other books.)
"Richly imagined in hauntingly beautiful prose, India Edghill's Delilah is what the Bible may have been like had it been written by a woman. Delilah is a character whose compelling voice will keep you turning the pages in this truly remarkable story." Quote of Michelle Moran, author of NEFERTITI

Another surprise in my mailbox:

Homesteader"Homesteader: Finding Sharon" by Dave McGowan (thank you!)
"
Staking a homestead claim in the untamed Canadian frontier of the 1880s was a hard proposition. When the manager of a large cattle company, Portis Martin, runs roughshod over the settlers, Hank James takes a stand.
Martin had been using every trick he knew against the homesteaders, but then James and his partner arrive to take him on.
Fighting against the land-grabbing cattle company, James decides he wants it all, including the woman he loves. He finds Sharon calling herself Miss Sadie and running a bordello. The true grit of Western settlers is tested in this historic saga."


I received another Awesome mix this week.. took me forever to compile. Which do you like best? It's really tough to pick!! And a big Happy Birthday to my Hubby, I love you! (Thanks for putting up with my book obsession!)

Jul 25, 2009

The Sunday Salon~ Elizabeth Woodville On My Mind

The Sunday Salon.com

This week I have been rediscovering my thrill for the Wars of The Roses. A wonderfully intriguing era of England which lasted for about 30 years before Henry Tudor, father to Henry VIII, finally came to the throne. There are so many people involved, so many families and fates sealed that it is a story that keeps breathing new life into itself every time I start reading about it again. And so it is with my current read, The White Queen by Phillippa Gregory. I am happy to report that I am enjoying the novel for its historical fiction and entertainment value; I am unabashedly calling this a must read especially for newbies to the era. The book is being told in first person by Elizabeth Woodville (or Wydeville) who married the Yorkist King Edward IV. She had many children, and two of them were the ill-fated Princes in the Tower that many can recall the story of. Did Richard III do it, or some even say Henry Tudor? Did they both die, or did Prince Richard escape only to reappear as Perkin Warbeck years later? Elizabeth's eldest daughter is Elizabeth of York, queen to Henry VII.

This is a subject I can go on and on about, but I do not want to just be repeating the billions of other blogs and sites that are devoted to the topic. I will say that Alison Weir's book "The Wars of The Roses" and "The Princes in the Tower" were very interesting reads, but please read some fiction on the subject to get you going first! Otherwise most of the texts are overflowing with names, dates, battles and facts that the true drama and sense of emotion is taken out of it. The fictional account of Elizabeth Woodville as The White Queen is a wonderful introduction to the period, and must of course only be taken at its entertainment value. If it peaks your interest as I hope it does, then most certainly move on to some of the very informative books out there on the subject. I also have Desmond Sewards' book on the subject, but haven't gotten to reading that one yet. I have read David Baldwin's book "Elizabeth Woodville" and found it lacking the insight one expects to receive when wanting to know more about that particular person. But the book was excellent for a review on The Wars of The Roses, and not a large book at that, so another good summary to get your interest peaked. Then once you have formed your opinions about what really happened to the princes, you need to head on over to Goodreads Group for some debates! There is a fun Richard III group that I enjoy, and they are doing a group read in September I believe of The White Queen.
While I perusing Richard III threads at Goodreads Groups, a note was posted about the passing of Ikonopeiston who's real name was Jemimi Victoria Finley Fowlkes. I was so sad to learn that she died of kidney and heart failure. I wanted to post it here not to be morbid, but to just write it in case anyone who knew her online had missed the announcement. And then of course I hope she is not upset that she is mentioned in the same blog post that I am touting Phillipa Gregory's new novel, I hope that is not too much for her soul to bear. She was a beloved member on Goodreads and everyone valued her opinion and thoughts, especially regarding the Medieval Era. My heart goes out to her husband, Roy. Rest in peace, Ikon.
I will have my review up of "The White Queen" closer to its publication date in mid August. I had wanted to do a sort of a group review with my fave fellow bloggers out there but it seems they may not get their books in time. I'm holding off posting my review till I know more of their schedule. So we'll see how that idea goes, but if anyone has a review to do on The White Queen and wants to join in, let me know and we'll see what develops :) I will most definitely be doing a giveaway for a brand new copy of the ARC of "The White Queen" at that time as well.

~~~~

I must mention that you must come back tomorrow for my Monday Mailbox post, because I am still in awe of the wonderful reads that came my way. I just cannot get to them fast enough, unfortunately. I have had some great mailbox monday's lately. (see them here). I will be busy for years to come.
~~~~

I have to mention that Historically Obsessed had a fun post about Historical Barbie Dolls, technically they are Gene Dolls but still fun to look at. See the original post and click the links to the photos.

As promised, I have been mentioning my birthday presents, and I've got a great piece to show you that my mother bought for me which I just received. I love this, the real lace inside is beautiful vintage Bridal Lace. Click the picture to learn all about it, this bracelet is called Antique Beautiful Limoge Roses & Lace Bracelet. My mother spent way too much money on me this year; (see last week's post to see my other present from mom) I can't help but wonder if she is trying to make up for the fact it is my first birthday without my father here. Thank you mom, you don't need to spoil me like crazy (but I LOVE it!!)
Generously added by Joy since my present was late for my birthday I also received a matching Heart Pendant to complement my bracelet. Thank you to you too Joy!! And if you are new to my blog, you need to see my original Birthday Post where an awesome Anne Boleyn bracelet is featured as a present from my husband. And this is the last post you'll see about presents.. whine.
While I was going over to look at pictures, I found the artists' Blog, where she posts her creative ideas etc. And I was so thrilled to see so many pictures of her workspace, it was so adorably vintage. Have a look at Joy's vintage heaven here at her blog called Notes from a Charmed Life. This is her blog and not the official website where you can order jewelry from (http://www.cupidscharm.com/).
So what's been going on in your world this week? Join The Sunday Salon and post all about it!



Jul 24, 2009

Friday Fill-In: Guess the Famous Queen #3: Who Am I?

Join in the Friday Fill-In Fun

And...here we go!

This is a Royal Riddle, Who am I?

1. Although my first husband died in battle, it is not the end of the world.

2. Sitting here, listening to the sound of rain falling, I blew a whistling wind to blow Warwick and George's ship off its course.

3. Vengeance is bittersweet yet it tastes so good!

4. Sometimes, putting others first is a necessity, especially when it comes to promoting my large family whom everyone else thinks are just upstarts.

5. The mere fact that the King met me under a tree and soon after married me is breathtaking, really.

6. Well, maybe there is just a little truth that I used a little witchcraft to make him devoted to me. That's for me to know and you to wonder about.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to entertaining my royal husband, tomorrow my plans include devising another plan to rid of George and Sunday, I want to make sure my sons don't go to the Tower!

Can you guess this Queen?

Jul 23, 2009

Booking Through Thursday ~ Reading Preferences

Booking Through Thursday is hosted by Deb; Deb says:
Which do you prefer? (Quick answers–we’ll do more detail at some later date)
Reading something frivolous? Or something serious? SERIOUS
Paperbacks? Or hardcovers? EITHER
Fiction? Or Nonfiction? FICTION
Poetry? Or Prose? PROSE
Biographies? Or Autobiographies? BIOGRAPHIES of Rulers
History? Or Historical Fiction? EITHER!
Series? Or Stand-alones? STAND-ALONES most often
Classics? Or best-sellers? CLASSICS
Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose? BASIC
Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness? PLOTS
Long books? Or Short? MEDIUM :) 450 pages is good
Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated? Love pics in the middle of my non-fiction books
Borrowed? Or Owned? OWNED
New? Or Used? NEW OR USED; whichever is cheapest at the moment

Those that know me and my blog, will know that my preference is Historical Fiction. Bur right up there with Historical Fiction is also Historical Non-Fiction. I am still reading England Tudor Era books, and have expanded my library to include Napolean and Louis XIV but still have not read them yet.

I love books that have a fluid style of prose to it, lyrical.. something that keeps me entertained without being fruity. I always notice when sentences seem short or stunted and that takes me longer to get used to as I read. I read a stream-of-consciousness book recently (Follow Me by Joanna Scott) and it bothered me slightly as it started to sound a bit more like insanity was knocking.

How about you?

Jul 22, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday - Delilah

Sponsored by "Breaking the Spine". This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Coming in Fall 2009 is India's next novel, DELILAH (or Samson & Delilah, I've seen it both ways already). A retelling of the story of Samson and Delilah, DELILAH completes what turned in to an loosely-knit trilogy:

DELILAH, QUEENMAKER, and WISDOM'S DAUGHTER.

ISBN-10: 0312338910 Coming November, 2009

Visit the Author's Website to Read an excerpt from DELILAH

Previous books are:

WISDOM'S DAUGHER (2004)

This is the tale of Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba, who rules the spice lands and bows before the will of the Goddess.This is the tale of Solomon, the King of Israel and Judea, who built the golden temple to Yahweh in Jerusalem. Once he prayed that he might rule wisely.This is the tale of Solomon's wives, of his concubines .... and of his daughter Baalit, more beloved than any son.



QUEENMAKER (1999)

Turning inside out the traditional view of David as a beloved king and gentle author of the Psalms, India Edghill's well-written debut novel Queenmaker paints a dark picture of the lauded biblical hero as seen through the eyes of his first wife, Michal.

Jul 21, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays ~ Twilight of A Queen

TEASER TUESDAYS is hosted by ShouldBeReading and asks you to:
♠Grab your current read.
♠Let the book fall open to a random page.
♠Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
♠You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

'Twilight of a Queen' by Susan Carroll RELEASES TODAY!

See my review below and also to enter the giveaway for this one!


Twilight of A Queen

"I have always had a gift for chicanery and deception. This time I can put my talents to good use and convince the queen to leave Meg in peace forever. Just one more trance is all it will take."

Jul 20, 2009

Book Review: "Twilight of A Queen" by Susan Carroll~Giveaway

Twilight of A Queen By Susan Carroll"Twilight of a Queen" A Novel written by Susan Carroll
Category: Fiction; Fiction - Historical; Fiction - Romance - Historical
Format: Trade Paperback, 480 pages
On Sale: July 21, 2009
Price: $15.00
ISBN: 978-0-449-22109-9 (0-449-22109-1)
The Burton Review Rating: 3.5 stars

Fifth in "The Dark Queen" Series (aka The Cheney Sisters of Faire Isle): The Huntress, The Silver Rose, The Courtesan, and The Dark Queen
"As war and treachery loom, an ambitious man’s mission threatens to topple two dazzling realms and their formidable rulers: Catherine de Medici, the Dark Queen, and Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle. It is 1588, and as the Spanish Armada prepares to besiege England, Paris balances on the brink of revolution. To maintain her grip on the throne and on the dark magic that has become her obsession, Catherine de Medici turns to Louis Xavier, a ruthless corsair who was schooled in the dark arts and has mastered piracy along the Spanish main. But Louis’s basest instincts are held in check by the kindness of Lady Jane Danvers, a British exile whose innate sense of honor is but one facet of her complex and passionate nature.

On Faire Isle, Ariane Cheney, unaware of the escalating threat from the Dark Queen, struggles with the task of protecting the daughters of the earth and their vast store of ancient magical wisdom. Weak and desperate for an advantage, the ailing Catherine makes a devil’s bargain that will cast a shadow over all."


Being that this new release is the fifth in the Cheney Sisters series, the first question I am asked is if I had read the previous four titles. The answer is no, though they all do sit patiently in a quaint cubby hole in my nightstand. In the normal way of things I would not read a series out of order, but in this case I wanted to review this some time this year rather than later. Otherwise it would sit unheeded in my quaint cubby hole with its' mates. As I began to read this, I did not feel at a disadvantage as the story wore on, only that I realized some of the events of the previous books were lightly touched upon throughout so that a new reader would not be lost in the current story. It served to whet my appetite for the other stories though and I do plan on pushing the other reads further up on the list so that I could learn more about the Cheney Sisters. They did not figure prominently in this novel except for Meg, but I could tell that their exciting events were featured in the previous books.

The title 'Twilight of A Queen' refers to the formidable Catherine De Medici, whom many have heard of for her dabbles in witchcraft and sorcery. She was the mother of French Kings, and was the other woman in her husband's life. Her true story is amazing in itself, and in this novel we see Catherine as an aging woman with aches and pains and struggling to maintain control over her witless son Henri; struggling to maintain a grip on the kingdom that despises her. She is intent on finding the infamous Book of Shadows and Meg, who is the person that Catherine believes holds the key to the book. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with the Dark Queen and her Royal son, I have a preference towards the Royal stories themselves and those were my favorite parts of the book.

With Catherine's waning power and obsessing over the secrets of the Book of Shadows is where Louis Xavier comes in as he is contracted by Catherine to procure the book. He is a dashing swashbuckler pirate with family issues. His dialogue was quite amusing to behold and he was really a typical arrogant man, and bastard being the right term here in all ways. The adventure takes off when Catherine pays Xavier to also bring back young Meg, the Silver Rose, from Faire Isle. Unbeknownst to Catherine, Xavier's father is also the Cheney sisters' father, and the twists begin.

For a clue on our Xavier's character, Miri asks what happened to her prized bird and her father's journals:
{Xavier:} "Regrettably I was obliged to eat the bird and I had to use the journals for kindling."
Miri paled, but she rallied, saying, "Well, if you were cold and starving, it is quite understandable. I only hope you remembered to thank the bird for sacrificing his life for you."
Xavier stared at her as though she were mad.

He was quite a rogue, I'd say. And yet all this just serves as the setting and backdrop of the story as this novel is primarily the focus of Jane Danvers who is exiled on Faire Isle from England, suffering from religious persecution of Elizabeth I and her secretary Walsingham. Jane Danvers and her brother Ned had been under Elizabeth's radar before, and I found a connection to Bess of Hardwick an interesting tidbit, as Jane and her brother were wards of Bess at one time. England itself is another behind the scenes feature as the rumors of the Spanish Armada loom and scare everyone in England for a time.

With "Twilight of A Queen" we see the conclusion of The Dark Queen series as a romance develops along with the many adventures of the pirate as he must choose between family loyalty (of which he never was known to do) and risk his life if he does so, or does he choose to be beguiled by a spell of The Dark Medici Queen herself and her money. I found the writing to be fluid and fast paced and did not see any glaring issues, except for the multiple mentions of dark fog in the opening of the novel. There seemed to be more of a predictability to this story since we knew this is the final book in the series, therefore there can not be a lot options logically to it. But despite even that, the storyline and the characters were indeed a delight and since I have not read the other books I do have something to look forward to. For those who have read the previous four and were looking for more of a dramatic conclusion, the actual ending here may not achieve that for you. I enjoyed the book all the way up to the ending and then it felt a bit forced and rushed. Perhaps after 5 novels surrounding virtually the same person the author was getting a little burnt out. But I still think that this is a fun series to tackle and is worthwhile for me to go back and read the others to catch up with the rest of the story.

~~Giveaway~~

Are you ready to read Twilight of A Queen by Susan Carroll? You can purchase it now, or enter here to win a copy.
Random House will send one lucky reader in the USA or Canada a copy of this book!
To enter you must do all of the following:
1-Comment on this post with your Email address.
2-Recommend to me a Catherine De Medici book that you have read
OR tell me why you want to read this and if you have read the series yet.

Please pay attention to these qualifications!
Giveaway ends August 7!

Mailbox Monday~ Biblical & Global Histories

Welcome to The Burton Review 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. Here's what I received during the last week:
Probably can't beat my favorite Mailbox Monday from last week, but I did get a few interesting ones this week. My favorite one I think I will be the Louis XIV one. I love finding old books on royalty (& in good shape)!

From a wonderful win over a month ago, I won the Asian Heritage Month Book Giveaway via Hachette Books. I had recently read several books by Japanese authors and loved them. And you can follow the links for a full description & photos that lead to Goodreads, I am feeling lazy this week, and it's a LOT of books.

Transparency: Stories (Paperback) by Hwang, Frances Short Stories "..captures the thousand minor battles waged in the homes of immigrants--struggles to preserve timehonored traditions or break free of them, to maintain authority or challenge it, and to take advantage of modern excesses without diluting one's ethnic identity."

Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home (Paperback) by Sunée, Kim "At a South Korean marketplace, three-year-old Kim Sunee's mother deposits her on a bench with a fistful of food and a promise to return. Three days later, a policeman takes the little girl and what is now a fistful of crumbs to a police station, where she learns that her mother isn't coming back."

Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans Au of... (Paperback) by Takaki, Ronald "Ronald Takaki relates the diverse 150-year history of Asian Americans. Through richly detailed vignettes--by turns bitter, funny, and inspiring--he offers a stunning panorama of a neglected part of American history."

Free Food for Millionaires (Paperback) by Lee, Min Jin "..her conflicts, relationships, and temperament that inform the novel. She is the child of immigrant Korean parents who work in the same laundry in Queens where they have always worked and are trying hard to hang on to their culture. Casey has catapulted out of that life on scholarships but now that college is over, she hasn't the same opportunities as her white friends.."

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food (Paperback) by
Lee, Jennifer 8* Yes that's an 8 for an initial. Guess there were a lot of Jennifer Lee's and she wanted to stick out. Mission Accomplished. "... her search, Jennifer 8 Lee traces the history of Chinese-American experience through the lens of the food. In a compelling blend of sociology and history, Jenny Lee exposes the indentured servitude Chinese restaurants expect from illegal immigrant chefs, investigates the relationship between Jews and Chinese.."

And also from a win from Hachette Books:
Testimony by Anita Shreve "At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape. A Pandora's box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices--those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal--that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment."

From Paperbackswap, I recieved:


Mary :: Janis Cooke Newman Pub. 10/2007

"An engrossing novel about Mary Todd Lincoln – one of history’s most misunderstood and enigmatic women.Writing from Bellevue asylum — where the shrieks of the other inmates keep her awake at night — a famous widow can finally share the story of her life in her own words. From her tempestuous childhood in a slaveholding Southern family through the opium-clouded years after her husband’s death, we are let into the inner, intimate world of this brave and fascinating woman."




Louis XIV And The Greatness Of France by Maurice P. AshleyLouis XIV Publication Date: 2/1/1965
First Sentence: KING LOUIS XIII, the second Bourbon King of France, and Anne of Austria, the sister of the Habsburg Philip IV of Spain, were the parents of Louis XIV, and they detested each other. Read the first page

Thirty-plus years later there is only one review on Amazon, and no sypnopsis. At 192 pages it should be a quick and easy read, and I need to know more about the famous Louis.


The Diary of a Young Girl : The Definitive Edition :: Anne Frank After reading Miep Gies story on how she helped the Anne Frank family, she had suggested this book which is updated and more complete then from the original late 40's version.


Received for Review via Shelf Awareness:
The Brutal TellingThe Brutal Telling by Louise Penny Pub. Sep. 2009 "Chaos is coming, old son.
With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?
As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling."


SOUTH OF BROAD by Pat Conroy Pub. Aug. 11, 2009 "Charleston, S.C., gossip columnist Leopold Bloom King narrates a paean to his hometown and friends in Conroy's first novel in 14 years. In the late '60s and after his brother commits suicide, then 18-year-old Leo befriends a cross-section of the city's inhabitants: scions of Charleston aristocracy; Appalachian orphans; a black football coach's son; and an astonishingly beautiful pair of twins, Sheba and Trevor Poe, who are evading their psychotic father. The story alternates between 1969, the glorious year Leo's coterie stormed Charleston's social, sexual and racial barricades, and 1989, when Sheba, now a movie star, enlists them to find her missing gay brother in AIDS-ravaged San Francisco. Too often the not-so-witty repartee and the narrator's awed voice (he is very fond of superlatives) overwhelm the stories surrounding the group's love affairs and their struggles to protect one another from dangerous pasts. Some characters are tragically lost to the riptides of love and obsession, while others emerge from the frothy waters of sentimentality and nostalgia as exhausted as most readers are likely to be. Fans of Conroy's florid prose and earnest melodramas are in for a treat."

I picked this one for my last Waiting on Wednesday post, and I just received the galley, which should be an interesting interpretation of the Virgin Mary:Girl Mary


Girl Mary: A Novel by Petru Popescu Pub. Date: September 08, 2009 "The epic story of the Virgin Mary--not the icon, but the real teenage girl who seduced everyone, even God, with her soulful simplicity. Brings to life Mary of Nazareth as a beautiful, complicated girl in love, seen through the eyes of famous characters."

I also went shopping to support my local used bookstore, Roma's PreRead Books:

A Queen of this Realm by Jean Plaidy (I already have this but I liked the Three River Press cover better)
An oldie: The Plantagenets No. 4, Lady of the Garter by Juliet Dymoke

The Red Tent - Anita Diamant "The story of the biblical Dinah. Because it is based on a story in the Bible, many readers feel an extraordinary connection to its cast of characters, whose names and tales are part of our culture, and our families"

Wishing on Dandelions :: Mary E. Demuth ISBN-13: 9781576839539 "At seventeen, Maranatha admittedly has some trust issues--her mother abandoned her, a neighbor boy abused her for years, her best friend has left for college and God, ever since He spoke to her underneath the pecan tree three years ago, has remained elusive."

Are you still here!? Congrats to you if you are.. this was a long one (15 books!) All I can say is, I should be reading!

Jul 18, 2009

The Sunday Salon~ Books and BBAW

The Sunday Salon.com

"What is the Sunday Salon? Imagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them, and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake...."

Happy Sunday to you! July is just whizzing by, isn't it?! I have been reading "Twilight of A Queen" by Susan Carroll this past week. This is an entertaining read, more so then I had thought it would be. Not that I expected a 'bad' read, I just assumed it would be dark and moody, but there is a male character here who is just a joy to read about. Although if I knew him in real life I think I would have to slap him a couple times. The novel is regarding 'the Dark Queen' Catherine De Medici, the Dowager Queen of France, mother to three kings. She is a formidable character in a lot of books out there that are begging to be read by me. I am especially waiting for C.W. Gortner's next release, and I do not want to be burnt out on tales of her before I get to his novel. He thinks it is in final draft *crosses fingers!

I have not read the previous 4 in this Dark Queen series by Susan Carroll, but I certainly intend to, especially since I have had them patiently waiting for me for the past year or so. I even have Susan Carroll's 'Bride Finder' series which I snagged first edition hardcovers off of Ebay on a slow day. Have I read those? Nope. (insert sigh here). I am a Book Glutton. I should be a Charter member of Bookaholics Anonymous. Bibliophile. There are so many books yet so little time. I could go on.

I think I am going to read a quickie book next, I've been eyeing "The Blue Notebook" by James Levine so that might coming up. Then I've got some Austen sequels to review for the end of August and that means I have to read Pride and Prejudice! And Phillippa Gregory's The White Queen is in there somewhere also..


If you were around sometime last September, you would remember the first ever Book Blogger Appreciation Event. My Friend Amy has announced this week that it is happening again this year, and I am excited because it will be my first time participating. I didn't start book blogging until December/January, so I'm one of the newbies still. There will be special guest posts, daily blogging themes, and giveaways. I plan on hosting giveaways here and joining in on the community spirit, so I hope to see you there! It is from Sept. 14 to Sept. 18th and you can find all the information on how to register for the event here. Nominations are now open for your fave blog in different categories at this page here.

If you have an iPhone, have you downloaded the Barnes & Nobles iPhone App? I did, and it is pretty neat. Not that I shop there, the closest one is miles away.. But fun if you go out somewhere like a friend's house, take a picture of a book you like there, and the app finds the book for you at B&N Locations. This does not work on the older titles though, as it is only recognizing books from its current databases. I took a shot of Norah Lofts' "A Rose for Virtue" and it came up as an Animal Encyclopedia. Not quite. (The book is old.) It is a very neat idea, though. Download it now for free for a limited time.


My darling sweetcakes husband bought me ANOTHER Bookcase, so now there are 3 bookcases in the hallway, and 2 smaller ones in my room. Woohoo. I have almost an entire bookcase to fill up. Bring it on! I love a challenge. On my booking Through Thursday I mentioned something along the lines "build it, they will come" in regards to my empty bookcase.. then BOOM I get an Email that I won $100 in Alibris cash to use on their site!! WOOHOO I haven't gotten that special coupon code that will allow me to spend the free $100, but I sure have my wishlist filled up and ready to add to cart! Is that an awesome win, or what? That is Special with a Capital S.


Remember my Birthday from a couple weeks ago? Well my mom's gift has finally shown up:
From Cupids Charm (Handmade Vintage Style Jewelry):
Portrait of Marie Antoinette, painted in 1762 by Martin Van Meytens at age 7 years old. The background is handwriting from a copy of the official French Revolutionary inventory of her jewelry, dated 21 August 1795. It is very pretty, the back of the pendant is also the inventory sheet. Just need to find a pretty sterling silver chain now, which shouldn't be too hard online. And thank you to Ms. Lucy for showing me the Cupid's Charm website when she did, I then had some fabulous ideas to tell my family what I actually wanted for my birthday.
I also got a set of Swarovski earrings from Cupids' Charm but I can't find the pics anymore, the website just keeps saying Sold Out. They look to match the beaded drop that is on the pendant. Very pretty.


Mom bought another piece from her, but it hasn't come yet. And she said it was the bigger piece, and I just found out that there will be an extra piece with THAT because of the delay. I love spreading my birthday out. Almost makes turning a year older worthwhile.

I hope everyone else is enjoying their weekend. And remember to sign up for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I am starting to think of the giveaways already!

Jul 17, 2009

Friday Fill-In: Guess the Famous Queen #2

Join in the Friday Fill-In Fun

And...here we go!

1. Boar meat and bread make a quick and easy dinner.

2. My book of prayers is the book I'm reading right now.

3. July brings back memories of my stillborn son.

4. The fact that I had to give King Henry his heir was obvious.

5. They say if you tell your dreams to be realistic they will come true. I dreamt I would be Queen, and I was. ;)

6. With Elizabeth in my arms, I begged Henry to think it over.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to kissing Elizabeth goodbye, tomorrow my plans include hoping George isn't executed and Sunday, I want to pray for a skilled swordsman rather than the Ax!
Who am I?

Jul 16, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - The Colossal TBR pile

Booking Through Thursday is hosted by Deb; Deb says:

"Follow-up to last week’s question:
Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?"

TBR= To be read

A 'waiting room' I think I am fortunate to not have. It seems the questions from previous weeks are blending together for me, as they all just keep pointing to my bookcases.. Unlike some other folks who have stacks of books throughout the house, I am lucky enough that my books are all shelved in my bookcases. My husband is kind enough to recognize the growing amount of books that have been accumulating and he has accommodated the need for bookcases recently. Another one added last night as I slept. NOTHING is in there yet. So I'm off to buy more books.. (just kidding, honey..maybe). I am more of the 'If you build it, they will come,' mentality. Sounds good, eh?

Within those bookshelves, there are more TBR then not. If it is an ARC that means I am getting to it in the near future and those are all on one shelf. The rest of my books, although part of the TBR pile, they are organized by their genre. So I have the Arthurian/Avalon books on half of a shelf, and then medieval era books, then Tudor books, and the general fiction are about two shelves worth and I have them grouped up with 'like' books.

So to cut back to the question.. I'd say my books are mingling party-goers. Someday the life of the party (hey, that's me!) will come along and play with them. For now, its more like window shopping.

Are you one of those who is always stepping over stacks of books?

Jul 15, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday - 'Girl Mary' by Petru Popescu



Sponsored by "Breaking the Spine". This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:


Girl Mary

Girl Mary: A Novel by Petru Popescu

Pub. Date: September 08, 2009

Simon and Schuster
ISBN-13: 9781416532637
368pp

"The epic story of the Virgin Mary--not the icon, but the real teenage girl who seduced everyone, even God, with her soulful simplicity. Brings to life Mary of Nazareth as a beautiful, complicated girl in love, seen through the eyes of famous characters."

Jul 14, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - Sarah Dunant's Sacred Hearts, released today!

TEASER TUESDAYS is hosted by ShouldBeReading and asks you to:
♠Grab your current read.
♠Let the book fall open to a random page.
♠Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
♠You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!


In honor of today's release of the new novel by Sarah Dunant, I direct you to my review below this post. I definitely recommend the read!

Sacred Hearts: A Novel

"Before the screaming starts, the night silence of the convent is already alive with its own particular sounds."

"So that in the end the only real choice open to a young woman was to yell herself into crazed silence or, with God's grace, find the wit to turn rebellion into acceptance of what cannot be resisted. Just as so many others had done before her."

Sacred Hearts: A Novel by Sarah Dunant is available today at all major bookstores.

Read the first chapter at Book Glutton.

Jul 13, 2009

Book Review: "Sacred Hearts" by Sarah Dunant

Sacred Hearts review by The Burton Review

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Random House (July 14, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400063825
The Burton Review Rating: 4.5 stars

The 'Sacred Hearts' Book Trailer:







"Santa Catarina, a convent near Venice, is home to over one hundred women in 1567. But with powerful forces for change raging outside the convent, and with the world of the women within threatened by a new arrival, passions, hysteria, and conflict will come to threaten their very survival."

Honestly, in the back of my mind as I was enjoying the words of this book that I was reading, I had the seed of doubt already planted that I would be able to have the fortitude to write a review that could do this novel justice. Given the truth that on the outside, the setting may seem a bit bland to some - a nunnery back in the old days- 'how exciting can that be?'- I was intrigued, enthralled, engrossed with everything that went on within those convent walls.

And there is not a wide cast of characters here. We have the abbess of the convent Madonna Chiara, the dispensary nun Zuana, and the novice nun Serafina, along with the additional cloister of nuns who add depth and flavor to the story. This is a story that is multi-faceted from the struggles of the faith of the women, from lessons on herbs and medicine, young love, stigmatas and on to the descriptions of what lengths the convent goes to in order to promote a woman's worthiness for God. What happened in mid-1500's to the unwed women in Italy is that they went to a nunnery. The dowries were so high that if there was more than one daughter in the house, they could barely afford for one daughter to wed. That is where the novel opens up as we meet the newest unwilling member of the convent, Serafina, who is thrust into this unknown world by her family who have cruelly abondoned her. Sister Zuana is chosen to be a guide for Serafina, though with all the strict confines and rules of a nunnery it is difficult for them to gauge each other's character or even ask questions of each other. Throughout the story we are touched by these two women as they each struggle with their own questions of faith, of their needs, of friendship, and how they prepare themselves for God.
"So that in the end the only real choice open to a young woman was to yell herself into crazed silence or, with God's grace, find the wit to turn rebellion into acceptance of what cannot be resisted. Just as so many others had done before her."

Serafina, a young woman, was in no way prepared to be forced into the society of saintly and religious routines, and how and if she accepts this fate is what the novel's events center on. Zuana is reminiscent of how she once was in Serafina's shoes as a novice nun unprepared for the abrupt change in the way to live within this restrictive society sixteen years before Serafina's own arrival. Although Zuana does not show outward compassion towards Serafina, she tries subtly to make her understand that 'resistance is.. fruitless', and Zuana is fully drawn to this young woman. We experience Zuana's whimsical thoughts of what life would be for her if she had not entered the convent decades earlier, as Zuana was also not bred merely for convent life to serve God, she had a natural calling to serve others with her expertise of herbal remedies.

Each of these women possess a talent that uniquely separates them from the rest. Zuana is the dispensary clerk and through her rare upbringing she has the knowledge that rivals that of a doctor, and is invaluable with her medicinal herbs for the convent. And Novice Serafina is young, beautiful, rebelliously in love, and is a song bird that outshines any other. The realization that their lives are meant for God is something that both the women think about and we are let into their minds to witness their profound journeys. Within these walls of which they are trapped they are required to conform to the strict rules of the convent. Even sheltered from society they are not immune to the religious reformation taking place and how their church believes that they should be doing more honoring of God then is already being done; things have the potential to get even stricter than they are accustomed to and simple luxuries that are already few and far between may be taken away right down to the Choir.

Sacred Hearts was well-written with its flair of nostalgia and historical importance as I found the writing to be fast paced within a slow moving yet suspenseful spiritual journey; the pleasing prose had me from the onset. I valued the small psalms, prayers, quotes that were interspersed into the story and also appreciated the fact that this was treated as a novel and not as an effort to preach to whether God exists and how we should feel about that. The rare criticism of the writing is that there were a few times when the story was being told through one nun's eyes and then we stopped the timeline and went back to the other nun and their point of view of the same event which was really unneccessary and disrupted the flow, but thankfully occurred only a few times. It was difficult to get used to the idea of the women being in cells, in essentially a prison, regardless of what they had wanted out of their life. It brings to mind the thought of how many women truly perished within a nunnery, whose life meant nothing to no one but themselves and God, all because they did not have the money to marry. There is an intriguing plot that wraps you up in the suspense of how Serafina reacts to her fate, as she believes that her only way to survive is to escape. And when she attempts that, her reversal of fortune is life threatening and shocking.

And as expected, I can not do this novel justice within my review for fear of giving away the whole thing.. but this is a must read, I loved it, and felt very introspective while reading it. I am blessed to be born in these modern days so that I can have the freedom make my own life altering choices.