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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

What Did I Read in 2009?

I posted my top reads earlier in the week but decided to post a bit more information on my adventures in reading this year. I'm actually surprised at how much I read, even for a speed reader like me! And I am sure I've missed some!

  • Total books read: 74
  • Genres:
Historical Fiction: 70
Other: 4

  • Time Periods:
Ancient: 1
Roman/Celtic/Saxon: 3
Medieval: 37
Tudor: 27
17th Century: 1
Colonial: 1
19th Century: 2
Modern: 2

List of Titles:

The Conqueror, Georgette Heyer
The Bastard King, Jean Plaidy
The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, Robin Maxwell
The Sunne in Splendor, SKP
A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury, Edith Pargeter
A Rose for the Crown, Anne Easter Smith
Daughter of York, Anne Easter Smith
The King's Grace, Anne Easter Smith
Bitter is the New Black, Jen Lancaster
A Hollow Crown, Helen Hollick
The Traitor's Wife, Susan Higginbotham
Secrets of the Tudor Court: Pleasure Palace, Kate Emerson
The First Princess of Wales, Karen Harper
The King's Daughter, Sandra Worth
The Queen's Sorrow, Suzannah Dunn
Katherine of Aragon, Jean Plaidy
The Virgin Queen's Daughter, Ella March Chase
The Queen of Subtleties, Suzannah Dunn
The Concubine, Norah Lofts
The King's Pleasure, Norah Lofts
The Spanish Bride, Laurien Gardner
Falls the Shadow, SKP
To the Tower Born, Robin Maxwell
The Queen's Devotion, Jean Plaidy
My Father had a Daughter, Grace Tiffany
Mary, Queen of France, Jean Plaidy
A Lady Raised High, Laurien Gardner
My Enemy, the Queen, Victoria Holt
The Other Queen, Philippa Gregory
Plain Jane, Laurien Gardner
The Secret Bride, Diane Haeger
In the Shadow of the Crown, Jean Plaidy
The Lady in the Tower, Jean Plaidy
Mademoiselle Boleyn, Robin Maxwell
The Last Wife of Henry VIII, Carolly Erickson
The Rose without a Thorn, Jean Plaidy
Duchess of Aquitaine, Margaret Ball
Katherine, Anya Seton
Brief Gaudy Hour, Margaret Campbell Barnes
The Innocent Posie Graham Evens
Hammer of the Scotts Jean Plaidy
Follies of the King, Jean Plaidy
Star of Lancaster, Jean Plaidy
A Secret Alchemy, Emma Darwin
Queen of Shadows: Novel of Isabella, Wife of Edward II, Edith Felber
Azincourt, Bernard Cornwell
When Christ and His Saints Slept, Sharon Kay Penman
The Vow on the Heron, Jean Plaidy
Passage to Pontefract, Jean Plaidy
Red Rose of Anjou, Jean Plaidy
The White Queen, Philippa Gregory
The Sun in Splendor, Jean Plaidy
Time and Chance, Sharon Kay Penman
The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey
Devil's Brood, Sharon Kay Penman
Legacy, Susan Kay
The Marsh King's Daughter, Elizabeth Chadwick
The Last Boleyn, Karen Harper
The Queen's Bastard, Robin Maxwell
The Queen's Handmaiden, Jennifer Ashley
Dreaming the Eagle, Manda Scott
Two Brothers, David H. Jones
The Tudor Rose, Margaret Campbell Barnes
The Court of the Midnight King, Freda Warrington
Gwenhwyfar, Mercedes Lackey
O, Juliet, Robin Maxwell
The Boleyn Wife, Brandy Purdy
Willoughby's Return, Jane Odwie
The Greatest Knight, Elizabeth Chadwick
The Heretic's Daughter, Katheleen Kent
The Heretic Queen, Michelle Moran
Blue Christmas, Mary Kay Andrews
The Winter Mantle, Elizabeth Chadwick
The Stolen Crown, Susan Higginbotham

So what does this all mean? Well, if you want to get me a gift, historical fiction set in Medieval or Tudor England is a safe bet! It also means I'm up pretty late at night reading in bed!

Happy New Year!

Booking Through Thursday - Looking Back

Booking Through Thursday is hosted by Deb at Wordpress.

It’s the last day of the year, and you know what that means … nostalgia and looking back.

Q: What were your favorite books of the year? (Books that were new to you in 2009, if not necessarily published this year.)

Wow! A big question! Well, I posted about this on my blog a couple days ago but I don't mind re-listing my top 5 reads of the year (I read soooo many!).

1. The Sunne in Splendour, Sharon Kay Penman
2. Katherine, Anya Seton
3. The Heretic Queen, Michelle Moran
4. The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey
5. The Greatest Knight, Elizabeth Chadwick

Can't wait to see what 2010 has in store for me! There are a lot of books coming out that I can't wait to read!

This Day in History...

December 31, 1720 - Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart), known as the ‘Young Pretender’, was born in Rome, Italy.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Remember These?

So I know this has NOTHING to do with historical fiction but I saw it at Booking Mama and HAD to post about it as well. Talk about a blast from the past...

Anyone remember The Babysitters Club series of books??? I LOVED those books when I was younger. I collected them! My two favorites were the one where Stacey and Maryanne baby sit for a family at the beach on vacation and the super special where they were camp counselors. Anyway, an article in the New York Times says they will be making a comeback. The original publisher will be reissuing the first two books (with some slight changes in terminology to keep it up to date, i.e no mention of cassette players, etc.) PLUS a prequel that looks at the four original girls the summer before the school year portrayed in the series.

I might just sneak a peek at that since I loved them so much growing up. I always had one question though...there were over 200 books and they were published over a span of longer than a decade...HOW were those girls STILL in the 7th/8th grade???

Now if they'd just reissue Sweet Valley High....

Jane Austen Challenge

I found yet another challenge that I'm going to try to complete in 2010! I need to stop! Haha!

The Jane Austen Challenge is hosted by Haley over at the Life (and Lies) of an Inanimate Flying Object.


--Anyone can participate. Bloggers: leave a link to your challenge in the comments. Non-bloggers, leave your name (and e-mail if you like)


**Newbie 2 books by J. Austen, 2 re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)

**Lover 4 books by J. Austen, 4 re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)

** Fanatic 6+ books by J. Austen, 5+ re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)

--Challenge books can overlap with other challenges.

--Any format counts: bound book, e-book (check online for free downloads of J.A’s copyright-free books), audio book, or any other thing you can think of.

--Challenge runs January 1st 2010—December 31 2010.

--You can change which level you read!

I will be going for the NEWBIE level.

This Day in History...

December 30, 1460 - Richard, Duke of York is defeated at the Battle of Wakefield. Richard; his 17 year old son Edmund, the Earl of Rutland; and the Earl of Salisbury were all killed. Richard's claim to the English throne passed to his eldest son, Edward, who would become Edward IV.

Battle of Wakefield

Richard, Duke of York

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Lady's Top Reads of 2009

I saw the ladies over at Historical Tapestry using this beautiful image with their lists of favorite reads from the year and I hope they don't mind my using it! I just loved it!

I read A LOT and I mean A LOT of books this year. 99.8% of them were historical fiction (hence my decision to start this blog a few months back!). I have kept a reading log over at the Historical Fiction Online forums but as I started THAT list about May, I probably missed a few that I had read before that. Anyway, I believe I read about 72 books this year (though I will be on a plane some tomorrow and I may finish a book in that time!). It was really hard to pick just 5 to mention since I read so many wonderful ones! You can read my reviews by clicking on the books. There are a few that I have not posted reviews for yet.

Here are my top 5 picks for 2009:

1. The Sunne in Splendour, Sharon Kay Penman
I can't say enough about Penman's novel about Richard III. Every book I read about R3 I compare to this one. It is absolutely fantastic and I haven't found anything that comes close to matching it in its "splendour."

2. Katherine, Anya Seton
This was a wonderful love story about John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford, basically the ancestors of most of Britain's monarchy.

3. The Heretic Queen, Michelle Moran
Ancient Egypt has always intrigued me and Moran's novel about Nefertari kept me hooked from beginning to end. It was really amazing.

4.The Greatest Knight, Elizabeth Chadwick
I am hooked on Chadwick's novels after reading just a couple and this one has me panting for the sequel! I really loved William Marshal's story and can't wait to see what awaits him in the next reigns.

5. The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey
Another R3 novel (who I have become obsessed with this year) only this one is told through the eyes of a modern detective who sets out to solve the mysteries surrounding the King. A really interesting read and one that brought up some intriguing points to think on.

And a few honorable mentions:

The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, Robin Maxwell
The Traitor's Wife, Susan Higginbotham
A Rose for the Crown, Anne Easter Smith
When Christ and His Saints Slept, Sharon Kay Penman
The First Princess of Wales, Karen Harper

There are many, many, MANY new books coming out in 2010 that I can not wait to read so I know I will have a huge list to pick through at the end of next year when it comes time to decide on my favorites!

This Day in History...

December 29, 1170 - Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by four knights believing they were acting on direct orders from King Henry II. Becket's death turned him into a martyr and haunted Henry II for the rest of his life.

If you are interested in reading about Becket and Henry II, Sharon Kay Penman's trilogy (When Christ and His Saints Slept, Time and Chance, and Devil's Brood) covers this time period.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Alphabet in Historical Fiction Challenge: C

We had some extra time to do this letter and I've finally found the time to post mine!

Each fortnight the ladies at Historical Tapestry will post a new letter of the alphabet and you do a blog post about a work of historical fiction that has that letter:
  • as the first letter in the title
  • as the first letter of the author's first or last name
  • the first letter of a character's first or last name
  • the first letter of a place where an historical event took place
So here is my post for the second letter of this challenge: C

The Winter King, Bernard Cornwell

From the back cover:

It takes a remarkable writer to make an old story as fresh and compelling as the first time we heard it. With The Winter King, the first volume of his magnificent Warlord Chronicles, Bernard Cornwell finally turns to the story he was born to write: the mythic saga of King Arthur.

The tale begins in Dark Age Britain, a land where Arthur has been banished and Merlin has disappeared, where a child-king sits unprotected on the throne, where religion vies with magic for the souls of the people. It is to this desperate land that Arthur returns, a man at once utterly human and truly heroic: a man of honor, loyalty, and amazing valor; a man who loves Guinevere more passionately than he should; a man whose life is at once tragic and triumphant.

As Arthur fights to keep a flicker of civilization alive in a barbaric world, Bernard Cornwell makes a familiar tale into a legend all over again.

This was the first of Cornwell's books that I ever read and it was positively remarkable. Instead of the usual Arthurian story that is full of Merlin and magic, knights in shining armor, and Camelot, we have a a story that breathes life into a possible historical basis for the legend behind Arthur. If you are looking for a fantasy or romance, this is not the Arthur book for you. The story is told through the eyes of Derfel, a Saxon child raised by the Britons and a ward in Merlin's household. He works his way up through the ranks to become a great solider and one of Arthur's close friends. Through his eyes we see an Arthur that really "could have been." He is not a king but a powerful lord. He is a great man and respected but just a man with his own faults and weaknesses; Merlin is not beside him helping out with lots of magical spells. We see a gritty, harsh, dirty 5th Century England full of superstition, violence, and bloodshed, only a generation or so removed from the Roman occupation. The descriptions of scenery, battles, etc are positively amazing and you will feel like you are in the middle of it all. Cornwell has included characters that we are familiar with but some of them (Lancelot in particular) are given very different personalities or rolls in the overall story (Mordred for example is the true king, Uther's grandson, but a crippled infant, while Arthur is Uther's bastard son who has come to protect the child). Cornwell includes a few maps and character and places lists at the beginning which will really help you keep up with who is who and where they are, since he does not use well known names for most of the locations. I think what I enjoyed most about this story (and the next two in the series) was that they are written in such a way as to be incrediably believable; I can really believe that THIS Arthur existed.

If you enjoy this book, make sure that you read the following novels in the series: Enemy of God and Excalibur.

This Day in History...

December 28, 1065 - Westminster Abbey was consecrated. Edward the Confessor, the abbey's founder, was ill and could not attend the ceremony. He died in l066 and was buried in a shrine before the High Altar in his new church.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tudor Book Challenge

Joined another challenge for 2010! Luckily all the ones I'm planning on participating in have books that can overlap. Even if they didn't, I'd still be doing them.

Here's the newest challenge I hope to finish! It is the Tudor Book Challenge, hosted by Michelle at Benedictionary. There are 4 levels you can join at but sign ups end on Dec 31!! There will be some prizes as well!

The Challenge Levels:

King or Queen – You are the ruler of your dominion. You will read at least 11 Tudor-related books.

Nobleman or Noblewoman - You are honorable, indeed. You have earned your title by agreeing to read at least 9 Tudor-related books.

Courtier – You are a rising star in the royal court. You have decided to read at least 7 Tudor-related books.

Commoner – Your role in the kingdom is small but mighty. You are going to read at least 5 Tudor-related books.

I am joining at the King or Queen level.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - History

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Deb over at Wordpress.

Q: Given the choice, which do you prefer? Real history? Or historical fiction? (Assume, for the purposes of this discussion that they are equally well-written and engaging.)

Oh!! My favorite thing in the world! Reading about history! I prefer historical fiction just for the entertainment really. I have no problem whatsoever with reading a good non fiction book on a topic that interests me, but I just like the historical fiction way of reading on a topic. I really like seeing a person's thoughts and feelings (even though they are in most cases products of the author's imagination), things that aren't going to be recorded in most history books. I will sometimes read some non-fiction if I want more details and information on a topic (I have Alison Weir's The Wars of the Roses and The Children of Henry VIII that I'm working through at the moment).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas to all!!

Lady Gwyn will be enjoying the holidays and all the preparations leading up to it this week, so there won't be any new posts until the 28th (unless I come across something really interesting of course!). I will have a couple of reviews to post and a post/discussion about one of Henry VIII's wives. I also will be getting my post up for Historical Tapestry's ABC Challenge (we're on the letter C).

Hoping to get some books or money to buy books this year!

I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe Christmas!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

What did she say?

I get a bit miffed nowadays when it is deemed "politically incorrect" to say Merry Christmas. Forgive me, but Christ IS what Christmas is all about? Yes? Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to post how the phrase is said in various languages that have a connection to the historical fiction I love to read!

So, if I was in Wales I would say Nadolig Llawen.

And if I was living during the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine I would probably say (in French) Joyeuz Noel.

The Gaelic version is Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr!

If I was at a Saxon court I would say Heughliche Winachten un 'n moi Nijaar.

If I was speaking Latin it would be Natale hilare et Annum Faustum!

And, as I have this in my blood, the Choctaw Indian translation is
Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito.

But how ever you say it, have a wonderful and blessed Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!

This Day in History...

December 18, 1559 - Queen Elizabeth I sent aid to the Scottish Lords in the hopes of driving the French from Scotland.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

This Day in History...

December 17, 1843 - Charles Dickens' wonderful A Christmas Carol, the tale about Ebenezer Scrooge, was published.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This Day in History...

December 16, 1485 - Catherine of Aragon was born to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. She married Prince Arthur when she was 16 but he died within a few months. She later married Henry VIII but her first marriage would come back to haunt her.

December 16, 1653 - After Charles I was executed, Oliver Cromwell wasn't able to get the Parliament he wanted and became Lord Protector, turning himself into an uncrowned king for the next four years.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

  • The Stolen Crown, Susan Higginbotham

    Upset, as if three men's deaths were no more than a spoiled bolt of fabric or an overcooked piece of meat. "You knew all along he planned to kill them."

    "Indeed. There is no telling what I might do, lawless wretch that I am." I inspected my sleeve. "Yes, I could fit a dagger right here..."

    Book Review: The Heretic Queen

    The Heretic Queen, Michelle Moran
    5 roses

    This is the first of Michelle Moran's books that I have read and after reading it, I can not wait to read her other two! It was simply amazing! So good in fact that my book club will be reading it in a few months!

    **Review may contain spoilers!**

    This is actually Moran's second book and tells the story of Nefertari, beloved wife of the great Pharaoh Ramesses II and niece of the infamous Nefertiti. The story covers Nefertari's life from a young orphaned princess in the court of Seti I up through her crowning as Queen of Egypt in her mid teens. We really see her struggle against the lasting legacy of her family - still considered heretics by the people of Egypt. Nefer, as she is called by Ramesses, also has to struggle to outwit and triumph over two women determined to see her destroyed - Iset, Ramesses's first wife, and Iset's "adviser" Henuttawy, Ramesses's aunt. They see her as a threat to the power that they want to hold. However, when Nefertari is taken under the wing of Ramesses's other aunt, Woserit, she is put on the path that will help her triumph. Once they are married, while it is a passionate relationship, Nefertari also proves how valuable she is to Ramesses as she is very intelligent, well versed in many languages, and does not shy away from warfare - even going into battle with him! The struggle between Nefertari and Iset and their "advisers" for the title of Chief Wife really is a battle between good and evil as there is an underlying story of palace and political intrigue throughout.

    This is an absolutely fascinating and gripping story that I could not put down; it is full of mystery, lies and intrigue, love, passion, and loyalty. There are many gaps in the history of ancient Egypt but I felt Moran did a great job filling in some of them to make an excellent story. It is written in the first person POV, which can limit the story sometimes but in my opinion does not hinder the story here. The author does an absolutely wonderful job of describing not only the characters, who really come alive, but also the sights and sounds of ancient Egypt; I could close my eyes and picture what Nefertari was seeing. As to the characters, the love story between Nefertari and Ramesses is made even more wonderful because it is true and I was pulling for Nefertari's triumph from the start. I loved seeing how she grew and matured into the intelligent woman who knew how to make herself indispensable to Ramesses, ultimately helping her to win the crown. It was also touching to see how much Ramesses cared for her, never letting idle gossip or the opinions of others poison his true feelings. Every story has to have a villain and I can't think of two characters that I have ever hated more than Iset and Henuttawy; I loved every triumph Nefertari had over them.

    I would highly recommend this book to anyone, especially those with an interest in ancient Egypt. Yes, I realize that there have been liberties taken but I don't think that takes away from the story at all. I can not wait to read her first novel, Nefertiti and her latest Cleopatra's Daughter. This is a wonderful book by a very talented author and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

    This Day in History...

    Something a bit random as I couldn't find anything really "historical" for today!

    December 15, 1982 - The 'Major Oak' in Sherwood Forest, which is said to be Robin Hood's tree, was fitted with a fire alarm. Legend has it that Robin Hood hid from his enemies inside the hollow part of the trunk. This huge tree has a width of 35 ft, is 52 feet tall, and weighs an estimated 23 tons. Its age is estimated somewhere between 800 and 1000 years. Its branches are so big and heavy, they are now supported with poles.

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Mailbox Mondays

    Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. It is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!!

    I got two this week from two different book swaps! Yay for the holidays!

    I received the first of the Outlander series from a holiday swap at Looking forward to reading it as it comes highly recommended.

    After seeing a blog post about this book I added it to my Goodreads wishlist...and got it at my Book Club's book swap yesterday. Really looking forward to getting into this one.

    I recieved this ARC to review through and Sourcebooks. It is the beginning of a trilogy by the author that is being reissued.

    This Day in History...

    December 14, 1861 - Prince Albert, beloved husband and consort of Queen Victoria, died of typhoid fever. After his death Queen Victoria withdrew from the public eye and wore widow's black for the rest of her life.

    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    This Day in History...

    December 13, 1847 - Emily Brontë published Wuthering Heights under the name Ellis Bellwas.

    Saturday, December 12, 2009

    Book Review: The Heretic's Daughter

    The Heretic's Daughter, Kathleen Kent
    3.5 roses

    I have always found the Salem Witch Trials interesting and this book caught my eye. It is the story of the trials and events leading up to it, told through the eyes of Sarah Carrier, daughter of Martha Carrier, who was executed as a witch. The fact that author is a descendant of the Carrier family adds a personal connection to the story that makes it even more gripping.

    **May contain spoilers**

    A letter from Sarah Carrier Chapman to her granddaughter, written in 1752 and explaining how she wants her family to understand the truth behind what happened in Salem, opens the novel and thrusts the reader back in time. The story begins about a year before the trials start when the Carrier family moves to Andover and find they've placed themselves in a community full of fear and superstition. Though out the year leading up to the hysteria we see how people formed the grudges that lead them to turn against neighbors and against family members. The Carrier family finds itself eyed suspiciously almost from the start. Once the witch hysteria grips the area not only are Martha and Sarah accused but her three brothers are as well. Before she is arrested, Martha extracts a promise from Sarah that she will do whatever she must to survive and then entrusts her with a journal that contains the truth about her father's past. Once Sarah, her mother, and brothers are in the Salem jail we get a horrible look at what each day was like for the accused witches. The story ends soon after the children's release and Sarah eventually marries and has a family, though it takes her many years to finally read her mother's journal about her father's past.

    The beginning dragged a bit for me though it was essential to the story to see how the different players formed their grudges against each other. There is a feeling of terror and panic as the story builds to the trials, knowing that people are conspiring against the Carrier family and then seeing the ridiculous and insane charges that are brought against not only them but the rest of the accused. The most interesting part of the story for me, besides the descriptions of the trials, was the mystery surrounding Sarah's father - a man of Welsh blood, fought with Cromwell, and is rumored to have been the man who executed King Charles I. I found this whole mystery surrounding Sarah's father intriguing and I wish there had been more about it. The characters are all very well developed with very unique personalities and and it is easy to spot those that will eventually turn against the Carrier family. The main character, Sarah, behaves as a child in that society would have been expected to behave though you do get glimpses of some spark and fire within her. It is easy to see in Martha's character why she was accused of witchcraft; being opinionated and headstrong was not smiled upon, especially in a woman of that time. There is typical tension between mother and daughter throughout the majority of the novel, which really adds to the reality of the characters, but it begins to evaporate when Martha entrusts her with her father's secret and it really vanishes all together once Sarah sees her mother's strength and courage during the trials. The descriptions and details in the novel really help make the time period come alive and the description of the conditions in the jail are absolutely horrific. The last chapter is a bit anti-climactic as it gives the reader a look into what happens to Sarah and her family in the years after the trials. Even though Sarah finally reads about her father's past we aren't really told what it was, merely given a few hints that point in one direction, which was a bit disappointing.

    Having never read any fiction about the trials beyond Arthur Miller's The Crucible I found this an interesting and gripping book to read. So much attention is paid to the people of Salem in most works about the trials that you don't see how people in other areas were affected (and it really was quite widespread). I would suggest this to anyone who has an interest in reading about Salem and the witch trials.

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    This Day in History...

    December 10, 1282 - Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, prince of Gwynedd and last native Prince of Wales, was killed in a brief encounter with English forces at Ifron Bridge. Llewelyn is a main character in Sharon Kay Penman's Welsh trilogy (Here Be Dragons, Falls the Shadow, and The Reckoning).

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    BookingThrough Thursday - Mark the Spot

    BTT is hosted by Deb over at Wordpress.

    What items have you ever used as a bookmark? What is the most unusual item you’ve ever used or seen used?

    Hmm...well, I pretty much use whatever is nearby! I do have some bookmarks but I usually forget to grab one when I start a book. I have used store receipts, paper coupons, the hold slip from the library, the library checkout slip, a CLEAN tissue, a twisty tie, index card, etc, etc. One thing I try very, very hard NOT to do is dog ear the pages. If I absolutely can not find ANYTHING to save my place, I do this as a very last resort, and then I only turn down a very, very small tip of the corner.

    This Day in History...

    Only a little literary tidbit today...

    December 10, 1907 - Rudyard Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. This was the first time an English writer had received it.

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    This Day in History...

    December 9, 1608 - English poet John Milton was born in Cheapside. One of his best known works is Paradise Lost.

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    The Alphabet in Historical Fiction Challenge: B

    Each fortnight the ladies at Historical Tapestry will post a new letter of the alphabet and you do a blog post about a work of historical fiction that has that letter:
    • as the first letter in the title
    • as the first letter of the author's first or last name
    • the first letter of a character's first or last name
    • the first letter of a place where an historical event took place
    So here is my post for the second letter of this challenge: B

    The Last Boleyn, Karen Harper

    This is another telling of the now very well known story of Mary Boleyn, sister to Queen Anne Boleyn. While Philippa Gregory brought this story to worldwide attention, this novel was published years before Gregory's version and seems to be deemed as more historically accurate.

    From the back cover:

    Greed, lust for power, sex, lies, secret marriages, religious posturing, adultery, beheadings, international intrigue, jealousy, treachery, love, loyalty, and betrayal. The Last Boleyn tells the story of the rise and fall of the Boleyns, one of England's most powerful families, through the eyes of the eldest daughter, Mary.

    Although her sister, Anne, the queen; her brother, George, executed alongside Anne; and her father, Thomas, are most remembered by history, Mary was the Boleyn who set into motion the chain of events that brought about the family's meteoric rise to power, as well as the one who managed to escape their equally remarkable fall. Sent away to France at an extraordinarily young age, Mary is quickly plunged into the dangerous world of court politics, where everything is beautiful but deceptive, and everyone she meets is watching and quietly manipulating the events and people around them. As she grows into a woman, Mary must navigate both the dangerous waters ruled by two kings and the powerful will of her own family in order to find a place for herself and the love she so deeply desires.

    I have already written a full review about this book and you can read it here.

    This book may throw off readers who have read Gregory's work on the same subject because there are so many differences. However, most people seem to feel that Harper's work tends to be more historically accurate. We get the story completely from Mary's eyes here and it really is focused on her and her life, not just Anne's life through her eyes. While history seems to want to classify Mary as a loose, unintelligent girl, Harper's portrayal paints her as a someone caught up in the events around her but with the intelligence to find her way out at the end. I really liked her character in this book; she doesn't seem so syrupy sweet and shows that she does have a mind of her own (though her stubbornness in some matters was irritating at times!). I am also glad that Harper chose not to make Anne seem like a horrible, evil, witch; her character was much more believable to me here. I would certainly suggest that anyone who has read Gregory's take on the Boleyn story and is interested in reading more to pick up this book. It was probably the first historical fiction account of Mary's life, originally published as Passion's Reign in 1983.

    Book Review: The Greatest Knight

    The Greatest Knight, Elizabeth Chadwick
    4.5 roses

    I could not wait to get my hands on this highly recommended book. Having encountered William Marshal in Sharon Kay Penman's trilogy about Henry and Eleanor, I was anxious to read about his life and I was not disappointed. Elizabeth Chadwick brings to life a truly remarkable person in William Marshal. Ladies, beware! You may just develop a crush!

    The story covers his early years as a young knight in a lord's household, his years perfecting his skills in the tournaments and the fame it brought him, his time as a knight with the "Young King," Henry II's oldest son, through his marriage to Isabelle de Clare, and the early part of Richard I's reign. Most of the novel focuses on William's time with Henry, the "Young King" and his many interactions with the volatile Plantagenet family. He becomes a valuable and trusted adviser not only to the Young King but to Henry II, Eleanor the Queen, and even to Richard I, though we don't see but the very beginnings of this relationship in this book.

    In true Chadwick style, this was beautifully written with great descriptive writing, especially when dealing with William's feelings. The descriptions of not only the sights, sounds, and smells of the medieval world but of the secrets, jealousy, and sly maneuvering within the politics of the day really plunge the reader right into the middle of the twelfth century. Marshal really was revered as the greatest knight of his time, known for his honesty, loyalty, and exceptional prowess with a sword, so there was no need for embellishment, which makes it that much more amazing. We really see how William grows and matures throughout the course of the story, overcoming several instances of suspicion, betrayal, and even capture, and we can see how he struggles to make the right choices. I have to admit that the first part of the story, while moving along at a very fast pace, dragged for me a bit (hence the rating of only 4.5 roses), though that has everything to do with the fact that I am not that interested in learning the ins and outs of medieval tournament life and nothing to do with Chadwick's storytelling. However, once the intrigue surrounding Henry II's sons begins to simmer, the story really picks up. William is caught in the middle of the rebellions against Henry, trying to stay loyal to the Young King, Henry II, and even to Eleanor of Aquitaine; not an easy feat. I'd have to say my favorite part of the book comes very near the end, when he marries Isabelle de Clare. By historical accounts she was twenty something years younger than William when they married but it appears they had a good marriage and relationship. I absolutely loved the interaction between the two. The way he treats her and keeps her in his confidences and decision making is really touching (and where ladies are going to fall in love with him!).

    My only beef with the book was that it ended! I can not wait to get the sequel, The Scarlet Lion, which covers the rest of William's life during the reign's of Richard I and his younger brother, King John. I would highly recommend this book to any lovers of medieval historical fiction, the middle ages, the Plantagenet, etc, etc. It really is that good and its true!

    Teaser Tuesday

    Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

  • The Stolen Crown, Susan Higginbotham

    Though I am not old - eight and thirty now - I have seen my fair share of crownings. My sister Bessie was my first.

    Because of our youth, Harry and I were to be carried on squires' shoulders during most of the procession - a subject Harry waxed indignant upon when we were told. "I'm too old for that! I stayed awake through our entire wedding, after all."

    This Day in History...

    December 8, 1542 - Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was born to Mary of Guise and King James V. She would be a thorn in Queen Elizabeth's side until her execution for her involvement in a plot to kill the Queen.

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    Mailbox Mondays

    Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. It is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

    Got one in the mail today that I snagged through Bookpleasures. It is an ARC that I am super excited to get into!

    The Stolen Crown, Susan Higginbotham

    The upcoming novel about Katherine Woodville, sister to Elizabeth, Edward IV's beautiful queen. This focuses on her life and marriage which should be really interesting. Richard III shows up in it so of course I can't wait to see how he comes across in this telling! Ms. Higginbotham's other works are wonderful so I've no doubt that this will be a hit as well. Keep an eye out for the review!

    This Day in History...

    December 7, 1431- Henry VI of England was crowned King of France. He was only ten years old.

    December 7, 1941 - The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which lead to the US entering WWII.

    Friday, December 4, 2009

    This Day in History...

    December 4, 1154 - Nicholas Breakspear, the only Englishman to become Pope, became Adrian IV.

    December 4, 1586 - Queen Elizabeth I sentenced Mary Queen of Scots to death after it was discovered that Mary was involved in a plot to assassinate her. It took her almost 20 years to finally come to this point.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    If You're Interested in Reading About Richard III...

    I saw a post like this at Passages to the Past and discussing different books on Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth I. I thought it was a wonderful idea that really helps people find books on a subject they're interested in reading. I thought I'd do a similar post (and I'm planning on doing several of these actually).

    I decided to list some books about Richard III. I know when I became interested in reading about Richard I was very appreciative of everyone who suggested different books that I might find interesting; there are certainly a lot of them out there! Most of these will be historical fiction though I will list a some good non-fiction choices. Most of these will also probably be much more pro-Richard as I tend to lean that way. This is by no means the only books out there on Richard. There are thousands. I just chose to mention some of the ones that I feel are exceptional or have been recommended.

    The Sunne in Splendour, Sharon Kay Penman

    Probably my favorite (and in my opinion the BEST) book on Richard III. Its a big book so be prepared!

    A Rose for the Crown, Anne Easter Smith

    The first in a York trilogy, this story is about Richard, though told mainly through the eyes of one of his mistresses. In my opinion, this is the best of the trilogy.

    The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey

    A modern look at Richard through the eyes of a detective who sets out to solve the mystery surrounding Richard and the deaths of his nephews. I really, really enjoyed this one.

    The Court of the Midnight King, Freda Warrington

    Another look at Richard through the eyes of two people close to him. The very unexpected ending may throw you for a loop!

    The Reluctant Queen, Jean Plaidy

    This is the story of Anne Neville, Richard's wife. I thought this was a very good book and I liked seeing Richard through his wife's eyes.

    The Tudor Rose, Margaret Campbell Barnes

    This is really the story of Elizabeth of York, Edward IV's oldest daughter, Richard's niece but Richard plays a roll in this one up until his death. Richard fans beware, he is not painted in the best light here.

    The White Queen, Philippa Gregory

    The latest by Gregory is about Elizabeth Woodville and is the first in a trilogy. Richard doesn't come across pure as the driven snow but he's not a horrible villain either. I think the next book may feature much more of him in it.

    The Seventh Son, Reay Tannahill

    This version of Richard's life comes very highly recommended but I have yet to get my little hands on it. I've been told it has a very realistic and believable Richard.

    The Rose of York Trilogy, Sandra Worth

    I haven't been able to get any of these books either but I am still trying. There are mixed reviews on these though so make your own decision if you want to try them out.

    We Speak No Treason Series, Rosemary Hawley Jarman

    A series about Richard with either 3 or 4 books, depending on if you get the first two combined into one volume. I haven't been able to find these yet either but I have heard very good things about them.

    The Lodestar, Pamela Belle

    Another book that comes highly recommended and is Richard's story told through the eyes of a member of his household.

    Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, A.J. Pollard

    A non-fiction look at Richard and his part in the disappearance of his nephews. I have not read this one yet but I have seen recommendations for it.

    Richard III, Charles Ross

    Another non-fiction that I have not read but has been recommended.

    Royal Blood, Bertram Fields

    Written by a US attorney, this non-fiction really looks into the disappearance of the princes. This is one that I really want to read.

    Richard III: The Maligned King, Annette Carson

    This is another I'd like to get my hands on and pour through. The author raises some interesting and controversial questions.