This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~~William Shakespeare, Richard III

Friday, July 31, 2009

My July Book Review(s)

I thought since I read so many books and I know a few of y'all enjoy reading as well, I would put up a book review at the end of each month over one of the books I finished that particular month. I am going to put up two today since I finished one at the end of June that I really want to review as well! :)

Katherine, Anya Seton (read in June)
5 roses

I really, really enjoyed this book. It is based on a true story of a love affair that changed history - that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (one of Edward III's many sons), the ancestors of most of the British royal family. This book tells of how John, (grandfather to the future Henry V) falls in love with the already married Katherine and how they overcome marriages, rebellions, war, and plague to finally be together.

Katherine, a naive 15 year old, right out of the convent at the beginning of the story, is married off to Hugh Swynford, one of Edward III's knights (by John who comes to regret doing this because he's fallen in love with her), and has to try to run her husband's very run down and almost poverty stricken manor at Kettlethorpe. After her husband dies of apparent wounds during the war in France, John and Katherine finally give in and become lovers. John won't marry her though because he is planning on marrying the heriess to the throne of Castile so he can eventually become its king. He does make her the governess to the children by his first marriage. Katherine stays with John for many years, however, bearing him many children (all given the last name Beaufort) and bearing all the negative critisism of their love. After loosing her daughter in the midst of the peasant's revolt, she feels she is being punished for her sins and tells John they must seperate. Several years later, John defies convention and marries his long time love, making her Duchess of Lancaster and making all of their children legitimate. Their son, John Beaufort, ended up being the great-grandfather of Henry VII. Joan Beaufort was Edward IV and Richard III's grandmother.

The characters in this book all seemed very REAL to me. There were none that were completely good or bad like you tend to get in a lot of stories. Katherine comes across as very human in her thoughts, opinions, and desires. Sometimes I just wanted to slap her for her stubbornness, other times I wanted to try to comfort her and let her know that things will be alright. John of Gaunt, while obviously very ambitious (and I wanted to slap him occasionally for being so ambitious that he'll ignore his true feelings) , still can make your heart go all a flutter.

Queen of Shadows, Edith Felber (read in July)
4 roses

This was the third book I have read covering this particular period in English history. Some of you may be familiar with a bit of this period, thanks to the Mel Gibson film Braveheart, though that movie obviously took many liberties with history. The previous books I had read about this period all portrayed Queen Isabella as a spiteful woman, totally deserving of her eventually nickname "the She-Wolf." She is much more sympathetic in this novel and I didn't feel like I hated her at the end of the story.

Isabella, Princess of France, comes to England married to Edward II (son of the great Edward I, who beat William Wallace). She is in love with her golden haired husband at first, comparing him to King Arthur. He eventually kills that love because of his blatant flaunting of his preference for his male favorites (first Piers Gaveston, then Hugh Despenser). Isabella sees how the barons of England are fed up with how Edward rewards his favorites with land, titles, and money and how he seems to leave the governing of his kingdom to these favorites and fears that her son (the future Edward III) will not have a kingdom to inherit if things don't change. The king's current favorite, Hugh Despenser, is a greedy, powerhungry man who is making enemies all over England, poor and rich alike. It is during this time that she meets and falls in love with Roger Mortimer, a prisoner in the Tower, and helps him escape to France. After being reduced basically to a prisoner by Hugh Despenser (her servants, money, and children all taken away), she contrives to be sent to France to plead with her brother for peace between the two kingdoms. Once there, she begins making plans return to England and overthrow her husband, setting her son on the throne. After almost two years in France and then Burgandy, she, Mortimer, and her son Edward, sail back to England with an army supplied by Burgandy, where they are victorious without having to draw a sword. Isabella is able to extract revenge on the Despensers and Edward II gives up his throne to his son. At the end the author gives a bit of a different twist on what eventually happens with Edward III, Isabella, and Mortimer, making it seem as if Isabella realizes that Mortimer is becoming like the Despensers and helps her son escape from his clutches.

Since in the other books I have read that deal with Isabella make her seem like a real b***h, this was quite a change and made me see that maybe she wasn't quite as evil as history seems to make her. There are times when I feel like she is being a bit selfish or blind, but overall she does come across as much more likeable. Edward II, on the otherhand, really seems completely inept for the job of being king and is completely blind when it comes to his favorites, refusing to believe anything negative about them.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Some of my favorites...

Thought I would share a few of my favorite scrapbook pages. These are some I've made over the past two years. I don't really have a set style or anything like that...I just tend to try things out to see how they look. I like using all kinds of "things" on my pages as, ribbon, felt and fabrics, gemstones, glitter, brads, paint, chipboard, buttons, ink....everything! I have several albums I'm either working on or have finished. I made one for my parents for their anniversary last year and I have one covering Logan's entire 1st year (it is HUGE!!!). Ones that are on going right now are a small 8x8 album for me and Johnny, another one full of Logan, an album about my 2001 trip to London, and an album just for me. Scrapbooking is kinda therapeutic for me. I get to be creative, it is nice, quite time for me, and I'm preserving pictures and memories that everyone can enjoy for years to come. It is interesting for me too look back over all the pages I have done over the past two or three years and to see how my style has changed so drastically. I use a much bigger variety of techniques, emebellishments, ideas, etc now than I did when I started. I suppose that is the way it SHOULD be...I'm learning! :)

Of course, all this costs money (lots and lots and lots of money) so I do try to keep it to a minimum (one shopping trip a month is my goal). There are always so many new things that I want to get my hands on, though!

Everyone says I should try to find a way to make some money off my scrapbooking but I'm not quite sure how to do that. I suppose I could try to make albums for other people...but that would take quite a bit of time and I don't know how long folks would be willing to wait to get theirs back. However...if you would like for me to do something for you...just holler!! Besides the scrapbooks, I have made zillions of 6x6 recipe cards, decorated a few 6x6 albums, make my own cards for Christmas (and other occasions)...all kinds of fun stuff. It sure would be awesome to be able to make some money doing something that I really love!

I have gotten my mom interested in scrapbooking as well and she has enjoyed the scrap sessions we've gone to at the local Archivers' store. Haven't been in a while but we've both been really, really busy. I even made her a bag to carry some of her scrapbook supplies in for her birthday last year.

So enjoy these few examples of some of my favorites!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

HELP!!! :)

So, to all y'all more proficient and experienced bloggers (guess Webster's will have that in the dictionary soon...yay for making up completely new words!) out there, I could use a little help.

How do I get backgrounds on my blog?? I don't want to use the plain Jane options they have here anymore (though I do like pink). Would love something tried a Google search but that's like searching for a needle in a haystack. I see such lovely blogs and mine is so boring. I have found some sites that offer templates...but I can't figure out how to get all that new HTML code in without deleting all the little "widgets" on my page. How can I change the fonts (namely the Title font) to something more fun?

Oh...anyone know of a job that might work for me??? Lol!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Can't Get Enough...

...historical fiction that is! (what were you thinking???)

I love historical fiction. I can't remember when I started liking it, but it certainly has me in its grasp now! There is just something wonderful about being able to read about people in British history in a way that makes them seem REAL; you're not just reading a textbook. I love it. It is something that if its just not your thing...well...its not your thing and that's okay. I find most anything else dull and boring now.

Of course, my picks 99.8% of the time have to do with British history. I can't get enough of all that. There's so much history there and its so fascinating!! I mean really, the history of some of the British monarchy are THE original soap opera!! Henry VIII? Need I say more? I started out with the Tudors (Henry, all his wives, Elizabeth I) and I really enjoyed delving deeper into their history. After a while though, I was reading the same info over and over again and I began to travel further back in time to read more. There are some fascinating people! The Norman Conquest (y'all know that William the Conqueror won his wife by beating her up??), Edward I and William Wallace, Edward the Black Prince, Henry V and Agincourt, the War of the is absolutely fascinating to me and I'm gobbling books up as fast as the library can get them to me!

I have read Philippa Gregory and I have enjoyed (most) of her books but I do NOT consider them very historically accurate. They are bringing more people to the historical fiction genre and causing older historical fiction authors to be republished, so for that I am eternally grateful to her. However, I have come across some wonderful authors that I can't get enough of and feel that they stick to history pretty well (as well as someone writing FICTION can). Some of my top favorites are:

1. Sharon Kay Penman
2. Jean Plaidy
3. Anya Seton
4. Karen Harper
5. Robin Maxwell
6. Alison Weir
7. Rosaline Miles
8. Bernard Cornwell

There are so many out there and they cover so many different areas of history. My preference just happens to be British. I love it all so much that (drum roll please) I have been trying my hand at some writing. Its something I've always loved to do and I'm really giving it a push right now. Wish me luck!*Oh...the three pictures, starting from the top are: the Plantagenet coat of arms, Caernarfon Castle in Wales, and the Tudor Rose.