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!

Sep 14, 2010

Book Review: Dark Moon of Avalon by Anna Elliott

 Happy Release Day to Anna!

Dark Moon of Avalon: A Novel of Trystan and Isolde by Anna Elliott
(Book #2 in the Twilight of Avalon Trilogy series, Twilight of Avalon: Book One released May 5, 2009)
Touchstone Simon and Schuster, September 14, 2010
Review copy generously provided by the author, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Big 4 stars!
She is a healer, a storyteller, and a warrior. She has fought to preserve Britain's throne. Now she faces her greatest challenge in turning bitter enemies into allies, saving the life of the man she loves . . . and mending her own wounded heart.

The young former High Queen, Isolde, and her friend and protector, Trystan, are reunited in a new and dangerous quest to keep the usurper, Lord Marche, and his Saxon allies from the throne of Britain. Using Isolde's cunning wit and talent for healing and Trystan's strength and bravery, they must act as diplomats, persuading the rulers of the smaller kingdoms, from Ireland to Cornwall, that their allegiance to the High King is needed to keep Britain from a despot's hands.

Their admissions of love hang in the air, but neither wants to put the other at risk by openly declaring a deeper alliance. When their situation is at its most desperate, Trystan and Isolde must finally confront their true feelings toward each other, in time for a battle that will test the strength of their will and their love.

Steeped in the magic and lore of Arthurian legend, Elliott paints a moving portrait of a timeless romance, fraught with danger, yet with the power to inspire heroism and transcend even the darkest age.




In May of 2009, I read Anna Elliott's debut novel (which was a favorite of the year for me) Twilight of Avalon and I found myself immersed in Arthurian legend that was told with intoxicating ease that drew me into Dark Ages Britain. I was eager to read book two, Dark Moon of Avalon, but once I finally received it I had to put it aside in the priorities list. Which was unfortunate because upon opening Dark Moon I was struggling to see where we were in the time line, as over a year had passed since I read the first book in the trilogy (review is here). Soon enough I was beguiled by the storytelling and I was once again falling in love with Anna Elliott's story of the two star-crossed lovers. Anna's writing is deeply and thickly rooted within its story that you have to pace yourself with her writing so that you do not miss anything. This is not the love story you would think it would be at first glance, it is the author's reimagined history of a very early Britain as it struggles to become the kingdom that its leaders know it can be.


 

Dark Moon of Avalon begins as Isolde is asked by King Madoc to go to the council meeting to visit with the Irish King Goram, with hopes of uniting certain leaders with those that would be beneficial for the salvation of Britain. What follows is a long journey to meet with these leaders which is fraught with peril along the path. Lord Marche is the enemy that Isolde was once married to from Book one who now haunts her dreams with visions of Marche and Trystan locked in a fierce sword fight.  Isolde is lucky to have trustworthy allies at her side as she makes her journey, and she finally meets up with Trystan who agrees to guide her towards a meeting King Cerdic, someone who is of doubtful character, but can help turn the tide of war in a positive turn for Britain if he agrees to her courageous plan.

Not a story that is told to be an action-packed adventure, this is a character-driven heroic tale of good vs. evil, with strong tones of true love and honor. Enchanting, intriguing and powerful writing makes this a story to be savored as we get into Isolde's head and heart along her journey, making us thoroughly respect and admire Isolde's strength of character and bravery. We witness Isolde struggling with romantic feelings for her childhood friend as she keeps the distance between them just enough to be laced with tension. The reader is treated to the author's reimagined Dark Ages setting that evokes the magical Arthurian theme but also offers a whole new twist to the traditional Tristan and Iseult tale. Anna Elliott's love story of Trystan and Isolde is virtuous and sweet,with the wonderful ending in book two which leaves us on tenterhooks awaiting the final installment in the trilogy.

For those of you who read Book one and remember Dera from the story, Anna has shared with her readers a free short story titled The Witch Queen's Secret which can be found here. And coming soon is Morgan & Merlin—The Beginning, another short story offered as a free download from the author; and this is a prequel to book one that looks incredibly amazing!

Sep 7, 2010

Giveaway: Industrial Pioneers by Patrick Brown - Reliving the Past through Marcellus Shale

Industrial Pioneers: Scranton, Pennsylvania and the Transformation of America, 1840-1902
Hardcover: 142 pages
Publisher: Tribute Books (June 16, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0982256558


During the nineteenth century, Scranton served as the face of a rising America and a hub of technology and innovation-between 1840 and 1902, the city of Scranton changed from a lazy backwoods community to a modern industrial society with 100,000 residents. During this time, Scranton's citizens desperately tried to adapt their thinking to keep up with the rapid changes around them, and in the process forged the world views that would define the twentieth century.

Please welcome the author of Industrial Pioneers with the following guest post, courtesy of PUMP UP YOUR BOOK VIRTUAL BOOK TOURS:

Reliving the Past through Marcellus Shale


American history has an eerie way of repeating itself.

In 1840, America needed coal to fuel its economy. Investors from throughout the country began offering farmers in Northeast Pennsylvania huge amounts of money for their land to gain access to coal hundreds of feet below ground.

In 2010, America needs clean energy to fuel its economy. Investors from around the world have begun offering landowners in Northeast Pennsylvania huge amounts of money for the right to recover the natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation, almost a mile below ground.

Sound familiar?

Scranton, Pennsylvania, was the Silicon Valley of the nineteenth century. Driven by overwhelming demand for the coal, iron, steel, and steam technology that the city produced, Scranton grew from 100 to 100,000 people between 1840 and 1900. It was the “Electric City” at a time when electricity was the most exciting innovation in the world, and it was the face of industrialization and immigration in the United States.

By the mid-twentieth century, however, Scranton symbolized a decaying America. Its steel mills and factories were moving to other states. Lax regulations led to catastrophic environmental damage throughout the region and the unintentional flooding of area mines. The large corporations that supported the area’s economy moved away, and Scranton became, as a recent book title puts it, “the face of decline.”

What happened? What changed? What led Scranton to go from boom to bust?

Scranton’s early business leaders cared deeply about Scranton, and had a real stake in seeing the city grow. They made a point of attracting entrepreneurs, inventors, small businesses, and new technology to Scranton. They chartered the city’s gas and water companies, supported local businesses, and personally got involved in local politics. Perhaps most importantly, early business leaders actually lived in the city. Within this environment, the city flourished.

By the turn of the twentieth century, however, something had changed. When Walter Scranton decided to move his family’s steel business to Buffalo, New York, he simply remarked, “It’s tough on Scranton.” Professional managers appeared in the workplace, and strove to increase efficiency as much as possible. As corporations prioritized profits during this period, the communities in which they operated were often left behind. Scranton was no exception.

The natural gas in the Marcellus Shale represents a second chance for Scranton. Certainly, some residents of the area will sell their mineral rights and become very wealthy while natural gas is quietly pumped elsewhere. The larger question, however, is whether the region can leverage its natural resources to create the type of enduring prosperity that that drives a region’s economy for generations. Will Scranton attract entrepreneurs, inventors, and scholars? Will it create smart industry regulations? Will it become a hub for energy research and new technologies?

Residents of Scranton who know the history of the city have a roadmap for success. Will they use it?

Patrick Brown was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He graduated Magna cum Laude from Georgetown University, where he won the Morris Medal for best senior history honors thesis. He currently teaches high school social studies in the Mississippi Delta through Teach for America.


His latest book is Industrial Pioneers: Scranton, Pennsylvania and the Transformation of America, 1840-1902, a detailed history account of the town of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Purchase the hardcover from Amazon or Smashwords in E-Book format.


You can visit his website at http://www.industrialpioneers.com .

For USA followers of The Burton Review, Pump Up Yor Book Virtual Tours is offering a book giveaway of Industrial Pioneers: Scranton, Pennsylvania and the Transformation of America, 1840-1902. Giveaway ends on Sept 18th, I will email the winner.

Please leave us a comment here with your email address to be entered for one entry.
+2 entries: Blog post linking to this post
+1 entry: Facebook or Tweet this post

Good Luck!

Sep 6, 2010

Mailbox Monday!

Please don't steal my images!Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme that is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.
Mailbox Monday is on a blog tour! The popular meme started over at The Printed Page blog is on tour! September's host is Bermudaonion Weblog.

Another week, another book.

With the mini-hoopla regarding Jonathan Franzen's newest book, Freedom, I decided to go back and get a previous one from Paperbackswap to see what all the fuss was about. I chose one from his backlist that seemed to have the most positive reviews. Have you read it?

So, in my mailbox this week:

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
ISBN-13: 9780374100124 - ISBN-10: 0374100128

Publication Date: 9/1/2001
Pages: 568

THE CORRECTIONS is a grandly entertaining novel for the new century-a comic, tragic masterpiece about a family breaking down in an age of easy fixes.


After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson's disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives. The oldest, Gary, a once-stable portfolio manager and family man, is trying to convince his wife and himself, despite clear signs to the contrary, that he is not clinically depressed. The middle child, Chip, has lost his seemingly secure academic job and is failing spectacularly at his new line of work. And Denise, the youngest, has escaped a disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain of an affair with a married man-or so her mother fears. Desperate for some pleasure to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.


Stretching from the Midwest at midcentury to the Wall Street and Eastern Europe of today, THE CORRECTIONS brings an old-fashioned world of civic virtue and sexual inhibitions into violent collision with the era of home surveillance, hands-off parenting, do-it-yourself mental healthcare, and globalized greed. Richly realistic, darkly hilarious, deeply humane, it confirms Jonathan Franzen as one of our most brilliant interpreters of American society and the American soul.

Sep 2, 2010

Giveaway! Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel now in Paperback!

The Man Booker Prize winnner of 2009 that took readers by storm was Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall... and it is now out in Paperback!
Picador is sponsoring the book giveaway to one of my lucky blog followers in the USA...

Check out the Readers Guide here!

Fellow facebook user? You can officially "LIKE" Wolf Hall on their facebook page here which is the official Facebook fan page of Hilary Mantel, run by Picador.

In case you've been under a rock and need a refresher, the synopsis of Wolf Hall courtesy of Picador:

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall is "a darkly brilliant reimagining of life under Henry VIII. . . . Magnificent." (The Boston Globe).

You want a copy for yourself? Comment here with your email address letting me know your interests in Tudor history!
 
+1 for each facebook or twitter or blog shout out linking to this post.
 
Giveaway ends September 11!

Aug 31, 2010

Book Review: Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock

Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock
Random House, September 7, 2010 USA
Pages: 416
Hardcover 978-1-4000-6609 $28.00
(UK: Bloomsbury May 4, 2009)
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating: 3.5 stars, bordering towards 4

She was the first woman to inherit the throne of England, a key player in one of Britain’s stormiest eras, and a leader whose unwavering faith and swift retribution earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” Now, in this impassioned and absorbing debut, historian Anna Whitelock offers a modern perspective on Mary Tudor and sets the record straight once and for all on one of history’s most compelling and maligned rulers.


Though often overshadowed by her long-reigning sister, Elizabeth I, Mary lived a life full of defiance, despair, and triumph. Born the daughter of the notorious King Henry VIII and the Spanish Katherine of Aragon, young Mary was a princess in every sense of the word—schooled in regal customs, educated by the best scholars, coveted by European royalty, and betrothed before she had reached the age of three. Yet in a decade’s time, in the wake of King Henry’s break with the pope, she was declared a bastard, disinherited, and demoted from “princess” to “lady.” Ever her deeply devout mother’s daughter, Mary refused to accept her new status or to recognize Henry’s new wife, Anne Boleyn, as queen. The fallout with her father and his counselors nearly destroyed the teenage Mary, who faced imprisonment and even death.

It would be an outright battle for Mary to work herself back into the king’s favor, claim her rightful place in the Tudor line, and ultimately become queen of England, but her coronation would not end her struggles. She flouted the opposition and married Philip of Spain, sought to restore Catholicism to the nation, and fiercely punished the resistance. But beneath her brave and regal exterior was a dependent woman prone to anxiety, whose private traumas of phantom pregnancies, debilitating illnesses, and unrequited love played out in the public glare of the fickle court.

Anna Whitelock, an acclaimed young British historian, chronicles this unique woman’s life from her beginnings as a heralded princess to her rivalry with her sister to her ascent as ruler. In brilliant detail, Whitelock reveals that Mary Tudor was not the weak-willed failure as so often rendered by traditional narratives but a complex figure of immense courage, determination, and humanity.

You must forgive the length of this review. It is indicative of a thought process of my views on Mary and my struggle to find the inner persona of Bloody Mary. Mary Tudor, daughter of King Henry VIII is well known as Bloody Mary due to the many burnings of the heretics during her reign as queen. Daughter of the pious Katherine of Aragon, Mary was strictly Catholic and refused to acknowledge anything other that Catholicism just as she refused to acknowledge her half-sister Elizabeth I as anything other than the whore's daughter. Queen Elizabeth seems to be the one who is remembered more fondly than Queen Mary, even though it was Queen Mary who was the first female anointed queen. Why is Elizabeth the more exalted? Is it the fact that Elizabeth reigned for a longer amount of time and therefore was privy to more successful events such as the defeat of the Spanish Armada? Was it because of the reign of James I after Elizabeth I that everyone started to realize what they were missing once Elizabeth was gone? The reign of Mary was a difficult one with a strained marriage to King Philip of Spain, which the Englishmen did not appreciate a Spaniard and his consorts infringing on their territory. But Mary was always her mother's daughter, and embraced her Spanish blood along with her uncle Charles V as well as the Catholic religion. The stubbornness and defiance of Mary has always intrigued me, and I am always eager for more light to be shed on the figure of Queen Mary I, who is often overshadowed by her terrorizing father and later the successful reign of her sister.

The purpose of reading biographies for me is to gain further insight into the actual character of the person, and to find some sort of hidden truth that I had previously missed. The persona of "Bloody" Mary is one that has been debated for many years and I wanted to form my own opinion about her. I have read several novels on Mary, but nothing non-fiction that specifically focused on Mary. Those novels would also slant one way or the other in regards to Mary's character: she was either a religious zealot or a victim of her father's tyranny. Perhaps she was a little of both. I wanted to discover something tangible that would help me to form a better opinion of her; perhaps something that I had not grasped previously.

With this Tudor biography we are thrusted quickly into the Anne-Boleyn-hater world. Anna Whitelock, author of Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen presents Bloody Mary's biography in such a way as to martyr Katherine of Aragon and Mary Tudor while throwing the whole mess of blame on to Anne Boleyn's doorstep. What I wanted out of this book was another look at Mary along with some little known tidbits and facts, yet I had not expected the extreme slant against Anne Boleyn. Even I realize that Katherine was treated unfairly when Henry's devotion turned to Anne, but was it all Anne's fault for the events that occurred that lead to Katherine and Mary's fall from their father's grace? Anna Whitelock believes it so. She heavily relies on Chapuys, the imperial ambassador for Charles V, cousin to Katherine, and later Simon Renard. Can we expect an unbiased view from Chapuys?

Whitelock writes: "When Anne went to visit her daughter {Elizabeth} at Hatfield in March, she wasted no time in humiliating her {Mary}. She 'urgently solicited' Mary to visit her and 'honour her as Queen' saying that it 'would be a means of reconciliation with the King, and she would intercede with him for her'. Mary replied that 'she knew no other Queen in England except her mother' but that if Anne would do her that favor with her father she would be much obliged."

Why does Whitelock see this as only being humiliating to Mary?  Why can't she see it as Anne extending an olive branch to her step-daughter to try and keep the peace, with which Mary spurned and shoved away? This point of view and the authors tone turned me off, but once we got past the Anne Boleyn period the author was more pragmatic in her telling of Mary's story. And since Mary's story is reflective of the times themselves, the author then went into the main events of England with more detail than I needed, especially where the rest of Henry's wives were concerned. I am annoyed with the fact that with each Tudor-themed read they must then go into the monotonous stories of the succession of Henry's six wives. The issue at hand was Mary Tudor, and I didn't get any information about Mary as the author told the seemingly obligatory six wives story. The relationships of the wives with Mary were not expounded upon either.

The six wives period is heavily laced with Mary's father instructing her to abandon her mother's wishes and to obey Henry as Supreme Head of the Church. This was the main storyline for several chapters. Finally, Henry dies, Mary's young brother Edward is King, and then Edward takes up the task of harassing Mary about her religion. To Mary's credit, she never disavowed her Catholicism and always stood firm in regards to hearing mass. Even when I had thought it would just be so much easier to live in peace with the kingdom and to go with the flow of the reformation, I was empathetic towards Mary during this time. She was resolute in the manner even after she realized that many of her staunch supporters were punished or killed because of their loyalty to Mary. I would have been interested to read about how Mary reacted to these punishments towards her supporters, but all the author lets through is the fact that Mary moans that she is losing her friends. Is this a selfish motive or was she truly bemoaning their fate? Mary even had the notion to flee England when the pressure for her to convert became too much, but she stood her ground and realized her place was in England and that her destiny was to be its Queen.

When Edward took the throne, the will of Henry was disregarded when Edward Seymour became the Lord Protector. Henry wanted the council of sixteen to help advise Edward but "it was agreed" that Edward Seymour was the best choice as a Lord Protector. Eventually he steps on too many toes and is done away with. Nearing his death and fearing the work he has done is about to be thwarted by the Catholic Mary, Edward declares both of his sisters as illegitimate which means that the Duke of Northumberland's plans to gain the throne for his own son Guildford could actually work if he married Lady Jane Grey, the next relative in line. Once Edward VI dies, Mary rightfully seizes the chance to rise up and grab the throne herself. This is where I hoped the biography would take off, which was a little more than halfway through the book. She seemingly was the opposite of her brother in beliefs; the author writes that Edward changed his father's will and the succession that Henry had laid out which had recognized Mary and Elizabeth. Again, there was a lot of back story that could have been told here, but we merely get the fact that John Dudley, Earl of Northumberland was an upstart and he was dealt with summarily after his plan for Lady Jane to become Queen had backfired.

What was heartening was the support for Mary at her accession. I had never read such a swift but thorough account of the rising for Mary to win back the throne. The people loved her, she was their once revered Queen's daughter, and they were ready for the reform against the papistry to end and the destruction of the monasteries to be over. The people were beginning to show signs of their hatred of a currupted government and Mary was a beacon for Catholicism and to restore a sense of righteousness back to the royal crown. An interesting point that was made by the author was the fact that after years of relying on the Imperial ambassador and Charles V to help Mary's cause, they decided to not help her win her crown back, as he didn't think she would be the victor. Whitelock portrays the procession and coronation with an eye for detail unlike I have previously seen. I was amazed at how much the English were ready to welcome Mary as their Queen, regardless that she was a woman. It seems the government under the Lord Protector of Edward VI and then the Dudleys along with the Edwardian Reformation was a bit too much for the common people. Another interesting note was that the everlasting 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard, held Mary's crown for her during the coronation festivities.

Mary's relationship with her husband Philip seemed to cause the most discontent to her people, and the fact that she failed in providing an heir. Mary was willing to ignore her people's wishes when she chose to marry Philip, stating that it was for the good of the realm and to secure the Catholic religion for England's future. Yet, the false pregnancies seemed to turn the people against her, as she lost their favor when she could not secure the Catholic succession, just as her mother could not provide her husband with the longed-for male heir. All eyes turned towards Elizabeth, the next obvious successor, who was Protestant, but the daughter of the hated Anne Boleyn. Which religion to choose? Did some choose Catholicism only to survive Mary's reign, knowing that soon Elizabeth would pick up the task of the late King Edward's reformation?

I would have enjoyed seeing more of Mary's sister, Elizabeth I and how their relationship grew or faltered, but there was not much that included Elizabeth during the bulk of the biography except that Mary did not trust her and supposed her to be her mother's daughter and a heretic. Elizabeth was implicated in the several plots that occurred during Mary's reign, but nothing was proven. Edward and Mary seemed cordial enough until Edward became the Protestant leader and Mary skirted around Edward the issues as much as possible.

To move onwards to the writing itself, the sixty-six chapters were extremely short, which makes for an easy look-back type process if you wanted to look into a specific aspect of Mary's life. The writing was clear and concise and full of details in regards to Mary, but was lacking that a-ha moment of insight for me. The tempo was even and undramatic which made the getting through the book a longer process. I have now gained a new-found respect for Alison Weir, whom others tend to criticize when her sentences contain words such as "could have" "would have" and "perhaps", but I missed that train of thought in this biography. In contrast, Whitelock stays true to the well known story and the repeating of 'letters and papers' even though she tends to rely on not so reliable sources. There were more issues discussed in this biography than are typically addressed in novels, such as those that concerned the many plots that rose against Mary, which helped to illustrate the amount of unrest that Mary's reign carried. Since I was looking for more insight into the character of Mary, I would have appreciated further intuition which Weir would typically provide with her pondering style of commentary.

There is not an extreme wealth of new information for the Tudor buff with this biography, but plenty of facts that may help to form your own opinion on Mary Tudor, a much misunderstood figure. The author did well when exuding the nuances and the religious beliefs of the times.With the quick chapters and the look at some issues that have not been overly written of before, this would be an excellent read for those who are looking for a look at the Tudor times that Mary lived in and ultimately reigned over. Overall, I came away with the feeling that Mary was not as much a "misaligned" figure as some like to claim. She was stubborn and adamant with her religion which is admirable, yet the amount of intolerance she expressed is still something that I cannot condone. She relied on her husband Philip for affairs of state, as Whitelock stated that she wrote to him imploring him to come back to England to help to control her government. Bringing a foreigner like Philip, who also brought England to war with France, was not something that England was ready for. The acts of Mary should not be reflected on the writer, though, and I would recommend this biography for those who would like to glean more information regarding the beliefs of Mary and to gain an accurate portrayal of England during Mary's reign. I am still on the hunt for something that would make me more empathetic towards Mary, I really want to like her, but no matter how hard Whitelock tried to show Mary as a misunderstood woman I could not garner that full realization with this telling, though I do agree with the characterization of "the complex figure of immense courage, determination and humanity".

I found this interesting quote regarding this book, which I agree with in all ways except the great verve part:
'This rollercoaster of a story is told by Whitelock with great verve and pace...It is good to find this book saluted as 'an impressive and powerful debut' by David Starkey: he has recently been quoted denouncing the feminisation of history by women biographers. Clearly he is able to lay aside such sentiments when faced with a proper historical work. Quite right too.' (Antonia Fraser, Mail on Sunday)

Aug 30, 2010

Mailbox Monday!

Please don't steal my images!Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme that is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.
Mailbox Monday is on a blog tour! The popular meme started over at The Printed Page blog is being hosted by Chick Loves Lit for the month of August!

This week was fantastic, every now and then I receive a treasure from PBS, and this is one of them!

I received from Paperbackswap:
Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery by Eric W. Ives

Lady Jane Grey is the queen England rejected and one of the most elusive and tragic characters in English history. Here, Eric Ives, master historian and storyteller presents a compelling new interpretation of Jane and her role in the accession crisis of 1553, with wide-ranging implications for our understanding of the workings of Tudor politics and the exercise of power in early modern England. This is the first major study of the 1553 crisis, created after Edward VI's untimely death left the Tudor dynasty in turmoil. It presents a vivid portrait of Lady Jane Grey, one of the least studied figures of English history, depicting Jane as a forceful, educated individual. It subjects Jane's writings to an original literary and religious analysis. It demonstrates that Edward VI's will gave Jane and her supporters strong legal grounds for her claim to the throne. It offers a fresh assessment of other characters involved in the 1553 accession crisis: including Edward VI; Mary Tudor; and, John Dudley, duke of Northumberland. It illuminates the inner workings of Tudor politics and the exercise of power in Early Modern England.

Aug 27, 2010

In Pictures

What a busy summer its been! Many life changes have occurred for me, and many are for the best, and some days have been full of trials.
I could be writing about all the great things I've been reading lately.. but I've been busy enjoying the great outdoors this summer, and wishing my flowers would thrive.. (maybe next Spring).. but it has been a summer to remember!

So, I decided to post some of the best things of the summer today (in pics!). School started for the 3rd grader this week and I am looking forward to hearing of her experiences this year. And perhaps the three year old will decide it's okay to go potty in the actual potty. But, one day at a time.
We did cave in, and got little rodents, aka dwarf hamsters, for the kiddos. They're cute! (REALLY!) A fun addition to our little family.

 Picture taken just before sunset from my front yard. It was fantastic.. and humbling.
This American Flag was my husband's 50th birthday gift this summer.

C'mon babies, grow!

This fantastic one of a kind birdhouse and matching stand was bought from a sweet craftsman at the side of the road during one of my summertime shopping trips. 
May the Lord bless and keep those close to me. May you
walk with sunlight shining and a bluebird in
every tree... (I've been enjoying the cardinals in my yard!)

Thanks for reading, folks! Enjoy the last of the summer!

Aug 25, 2010

The Witch Queen's Secret: Anna Elliott Freebie!

Last year, I read my very first Arthurian-style read when I reviewed Anna Elliott's Twilight of Avalon. It was one of my favorite reads last year because of the intelligent writing that entertained me with an entirely new story for me which was that of Isolde and Trystan. You can read my review and get more background here.

In honor of Anna's release date of September 14 for book two in her Avalon series, Dark Moon of Avalon, (which I am looking forward to reading soon!) she is offering a couple of freebie short stories as a gift to readers!

The first, titled The Witch Queen's Secret, is available now; you can download it for free in various e-reader and printer compatible forms on Anna's website here. Or (because of Amazon policy) it's available for 99 cents on the Kindle store here.
The Witch Queen's Secret
Between Books I and II in the Twilight of Avalon Trilogy


Dera owes Britain's former High Queen Isolde her life. But as an army harlot, the life she leads is one of degradation and often desperate danger, with small hope for the future either for Dera or for her small son.

Through a Britain torn by war with Saxon invaders, Dera makes her way to Dinas Emrys, last stronghold of Britain's army, to beg Queen Isolde's help once more. Isolde offers Dera a new life, both for herself and for her child. But when Dera and Isolde uncover a treasonous plot, Dera must leave her little boy and undertake a dangerous mission, the outcome of which comes to her as a stunning, but wonderful, surprise.

And as she risks her life, Dera also draws nearer to Queen Isolde's most closely-guarded secret: one that Britain's courageous witch-queen may be hiding even from herself.

Anna also explains that this "middle" story is self-contained; you don't have to have read any of the Trystan and Isolde books to understand The Witch Queen's Secret.

Aug 23, 2010

Mailbox Monday

Please don't steal my images!Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme that is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.
Mailbox Monday is on a blog tour! The popular meme started over at The Printed Page blog is being hosted by Chick Loves Lit for the month of August!

This week was a good one.. I received from Paperbackswap:

Silent In The Grave by Deanna Raybourn, which is Book One in the Lady Julia Grey series. I had received book 4 in last week's box for October publication, and want to get some background first. I wish I could read all of them before the fourth... it seems like the series is a lot of fun. I sat down and read the first chapter of book one when it arrived and it looks like a fun read! I can't wait to start it, but I am stuck in a long winded studious read right now.


"Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave."

These ominous words, slashed from the pages of a book of Psalms, are the last threat that the darling of London society, Sir Edward Grey, receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests.

Prepared to accept that Edward's death was due to a longstanding physical infirmity, Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth.


Determined to bring her husband's murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward's demise. Dismissing his warnings that the investigation will be difficult, if not impossible, Julia presses forward, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.
Also from PBS:
An Uncommon Woman - The Empress Frederick: Daughter of Queen Victoria, Wife of the Crown Prince of Prussia, Mother of Kaiser Wilhelm by Hannah Pakula

An epic story of wars and revolutions, of the rise and fall of royal families, and of the birth of modern Germany is brilliantly told through the lives of the couple in the eye of the storm--Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, and her handsome, idealistic husband, Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia.

 1997, 704 pages!



Again from PBS:
Seven Days to the Sea: An Epic Novel of the Exodus by Rebecca Kohn (2006)

As a child, Miryam foretells the birth of a leader who will save their people from oppression—a vision so vivid that she dedicates her life to seeing it fulfilled in her brother, Moses. But after many years, she wonders in the deepest confines of her heart if her sacrifices mean anything, if her calling is real.
Tzipporah, a desert shepherdess who knows nothing of her husband's divine purpose, suffers as he is torn from her by a strange god, a foreign people, and an unforgiving sister. In her heart, she harbors terrible secrets that haunt the love she shares with Moses and threaten her tenuous peace with Miryam.
Together, Miryam and Tzipporah weave a narrative that gives voice to the women of Exodus—their lives, their community, and ultimately, their sisterhood.

From Sourcebooks  an advance release of A Darcy Christmas (October, 2010) An omnibus of novels by
Carolyn Eberhart, Amanda Grange and Sharon Lathan:

From two bestselling and a debut author comes heartwarming Christmas tales sure to delight Jane Austen fans:

From Amanda Grange, the bestselling author of Mr. Darcy's Diary and Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, Christmas finds the Darcy's celebrating the holiday with preparations for a ball, but the festivities are interrupted by the arrival of a very special gift... Ever sensual and romantic, Sharon Lathan highlights everything that's best and most precious in the celebrations of the holiday season. After a quarter of a century together, Darcy and Elizabeth reminisce... Jane Austen meets Charles Dickens! Carol Eberhart's Mr. Darcy's Christmas Carol finds Darcy encountering ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, who show him his life if pride keeps him from his one true love.

Aug 19, 2010

For those annoying continuous Emails..

I love Goodreads because I can keep track of my books there. I also like to see what other reviewers are saying about particular books before I make a purchase, and it is all right there at my fingertips without the fuss.

There is a group on Goodreads that is called Free Book Giveaway.. which I have joined and entered a few of my Book Giveaways there to promote this blog. Now I get an email several times a day from the group, with members posting their own giveaways. Which is great for some people, but it gets tiresome to me because the group itself is not separated out into genres. Therefore, every book giveaway promotion that is offered is getting emailed to me.

This can happen in any group, where any topic is discussed within that group that you are a part of, and you are about to get a slew of unknown emails about any discussion, which can flood your inbox.

So I found a way to set your settings in Goodreads Groups. You can set your emails to digest, individually or weekly. In the general settings I had already changed this to Digest which included all my groups, but at this time for some reason in the individual group of Free Book Giveaway I had to go in and edit the membership
(which was a pain to figure out, so I thought I would share my adventure with you):
Go to the group homepage, and find
You are a member of this group (edit membership) which is on the right side pane. Click the Edit Membership link.
Another screen comes up with these options:
You can either Leave the Group, or click another time where it says:
 
group discussion update emails
edit group discussion updates (Click this)

And then the list of every topic comes up and the first one is ALL which is where I clicked to recieve this in a DIGEST, which negated the individual emails.

Alternatively, if you are someone who LOVES FREE BOOK GIVEAWAYS!
Go to this Goodreads group, Join, and you can edit your membership to Individual and you will be alerted each time a member enters a book promotion there!

Good Luck!

Aug 18, 2010

Wonderful-ness

Every now and then you come across an interesting article online and you read it in its entirety. So I read this article today called Turn Ugly Dresses into Nice Ones for $1 and I was inspired. Nope, I can't sew, so the idea behind this phenom is not what struck me. Sadly (apologies to Gramma Erma, the Crochet Blanket Queen) I realized at age 6 my abilities were lacking...

The setting: Mrs. Cooney's first grade class, Oxhead Road Elementary School.
The task: Sew a pretty purple scarf along with the rest of the class.
The crime: Stitch, knot, purl, knit, tuck, under etc. was all Greek to this youngster.
The outcome: Long chain-like strings for the cats to chase.

And so while the rest of the class continued to sew pretty little scarves for their mommies, I was allowed to read to the rest of the class during the Sew-A-Scarf time. The book blogger was born. =)

The point of the blabbering here.. the article that I read directed me to the Blog for the New Dress a Day, and this girl is the cutest thing eva!! You have got to run over there and read some of her blog posts, she had me in stitches!!! tee hee!

Book Review: The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy


The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Plume (February 26, 2008)
ISBN-13: 978-0452289062
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:4.5 Stars of 5!


The richly imagined tale of Deborah, the courageous Biblical warrior who saved her people from certain destruction.


In ancient Israel, war is looming. Deborah, a highly respected leader, has coerced the warrior Barak into launching a strike against the neighboring Canaanites. Against all odds he succeeds, returning triumphantly with Asherah and Nogah, daughters of the Canaanite King, as his prisoners. But military victory is only the beginning of the turmoil, as a complex love triangle develops between Barak and the two princesses.


Deborah, recently cast off by her husband, develops a surprising affinity for Barak. Yet she struggles to rebuild her existence on her own terms, while also groping her way toward the greatest triumph of her life.


Filled with brilliantly vivid historical detail, The Triumph of Deborah is the absorbing and riveting tale of one of the most beloved figures in the Old Testament, and a tribute to feminine strength and independence.

This is a story that deftly interweaves itself through faiths and cultures and greed and power which is emphasized by Eva Etzioni-Halevy's fantastic storytelling through endearing characters from both sides of a war in ancient Israel. The novel begins as the women of the opposite sides are awaiting the news of the outcome of the battle, but we are then treated to a series of flashbacks and a buildup to the battle so much so that we are vested in both sides of the battle and wish for peace on both sides before we learn the outcome ourselves. A better educated person may be able to recall the outcome of the battle between the Israelites and Canaanites for which this novel is based. I had no idea so I had to do a quick wikipedia lookup to gain some further insight, because the suspense was too much for me.

The Bible tells us the story of a compelling woman named Deborah, who was a judge of the Israelites. In the novel, the author breathes new life into the era of the Judges and shows us all facets of the battle that Deborah helped to wage against the Canaanites and King Jabin. Most importantly in this story was Nogah, a young woman torn between the two conflicting faiths of the Israelites and the Canaanites. Nogah was the daughter of an Israelite slave, who later learns that her seemingly non-existent father is none other than King Jabin, believer of gods and goddesses. Although mother and father are worlds apart in culture, Nogah's heart is open to both of them and their views. It is through Nogah's eyes that we feel the strain of the wars and the conflict it causes between the two faiths.

Another key figure in the story is Barak, the leader who Deborah chose to lead the war against the Canaanites. He is an enchanter of women: they fall in love with him almost instantly, including Deborah and Nogah. The one who Barak wants, however, is another of the Canaanite King Jabin's daughters, Asherah. As Barak was the leader against the Canaanites and the perpetrator of death amongst her family and people, Asherah is unforgiving. Yet, she has little choice in the matter of her situation as a captive of Barak's. It was hard to connect with her due to her unforgiving nature which was a contrast to the other characters of the novel, but made for a well-rounded story. I was enthralled by the plot and the characters who were so vividly portrayed in alternating third person with an interesting timeline of flashbacks and their present times.

The author's prose was so fluid and addictive that I didn't want to put the novel down. And yet I valued the importance of the story in itself so I forced myself to savor the experience. The only quibble I had with the story was the way that it was saturated with sex. The women seemed overcome with lust especially where Barak was concerned and that became tiresome. The sexual scenes were told with grace, though, and the powerful storytelling outweighed the negative leanings I had due to the amount of sexual content of which I had been forewarned of.

I am so glad to have read this novel, and wish I had read it sooner. It is eye opening and poetic, and a must read for those who are intrigued by the history of religion and heritage of Israel, and it serves well for readers of historical fiction. I plan on also reading Eva Etzioni-Halevy's previous novels, The Garden of Ruth and The Song of Hannah. In biblical fiction, I have also read India Edghill's Delilah which I really enjoyed and I plan on reading more from India Edghill and Antoinette May as well. The genre of biblical fiction is vast and I must take baby steps, but after this fantastic read I know it is well worth the wait.

Aug 17, 2010

Winners winners..

I recently held two contests for the book giveaway of THE SECRET ELEANOR and HIS LAST LETTER which coincided with interviews of the authors. Click the links to get to the interviews.
The reviews of the two titles are here:
The Secret Eleanor
His Last Letter

The winner of The Secret Eleanor is: LAMusing

The winner of His Last Letter is: Rheanna

Congratulations, Emails have been sent!!

Still ongoing is the 2 book giveaway for Philippa Gregory's The Cousins War series! Enter here.
Have a great day!