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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

This Day in History...

August 31, 1422 - Henry V died. His son, Henry VI, aged nine months, acceded as King of England.

August 31, 1888 - The body of Mary Ann 'Polly' Nichols, Jack the Ripper's first victim, was found mutilated in Buck's Row.

August 31, 1997 - Diana, Princess of Wales, her companion Dodi Fayed, and their driver were killed in a car crash in the Place de l'Alma underpass in Paris. It is believed they were trying to avoid the paparazzi.

Monday, August 30, 2010

This Day in History...

August 30, 1146 - European leaders outlawed the crossbow. It was hoped that wars would eventually end by banning the weapon.

August 30, 1682 - The founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn, sailed from England.

August 30, 1831 – Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, mother to Prince Albert (Queen Victoria's husband), died. She had only been married to Albert's father for five years before the marriage was dissolved.

August 30, 1862 - Confederates beat the Union at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at The Printed Page. It is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Mailbox Monday is on a blog tour! The popular meme is being hosted by Chick Loves Lit for the month of August!

Georgette Heyer's Regency World, Jennifer Klouster

Thank you so much Lizzy at Historically Obsessed for sending this one my way! I am already loving it!! It is a wonderful and detailed look at everything about the Regency period - from hats to gambling debt and everything in between.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book Review: For the King's Favor

For the King's Favor, Elizabeth Chadwick
4. 5 roses

I love Elizabeth Chadwick's books and always look forward to a new one eagerly. This novel was published (in the UK I believe) as The Time of Singing but I had never read it so I was excited when the opportunity arose through Sourcebooks to review the novel for it's US release. I was not disappointed - but then, I have never been disappointed with Ms. Chadwick's novels.

The novel tells the story of Roger Bigod, heir to the earldom of Norfolk, and Ida de Tosney, mistress to Henry II. While at Henry's court to settle his inheritance, Roger meets Ida, Henry's somewhat reluctant mistress and mother to his illegitimate son William Longespee, and something sparks between the two. What follows is a story full of conflicts as Roger and Ida try to form a life together - Roger constantly having to prove he is not the traitor his father was, Ida's heartbreaking choice as a mother, the ongoing problem with Roger's stepmother over the Norfolk inheritance, and the troubles within the royal family - and all this is after Roger has to truly "win" his lady love and get permission from the King to marry his former mistress!

While this may all sound a bit fantastic, Roger and Ida's story is true, which makes this novel so much more lovely. Readers who have enjoyed the series on William Marshal will be thrilled to see him appear here in as a secondary character. Unlike William Marshal, there is no where near as much recorded history about Roger Bigod; however Ms. Chadwick is able to piece together what is known with her little bits of creativity flawlessly, creating a very believable character and story. Her attention to historical detail and accuracy is again very obvious but you do not feel like you are being beaten over the head with information. Once again she has used her wonderful talent of effortlessly recreating medieval life for her readers making it easy for a modern person to picture what life was truly like for these very real people. She has created characters that are multi-dimensional and a joy to read about, taking people who could have been lost in the mists of time and given them new life. I thought Roger Bigod, while not a stud like William Marshal, was a good, noble, and honorable man and it was very easy for me to root for him throughout the novel. While reading I noticed that Roger's struggle with his stepmother and stepbrothers slightly resembled a "Cinderella" type story and that gave me a little chuckle. Ida's story is heartbreaking at points (my heart ached for her when she would pull William's baby shoes out and look at them). Her struggle to rebuild a relationship with the son she had to give up is very touching and Ms. Chadwick brilliantly shows what a rough life a medieval woman - even a noble born one - had to struggle through. Just like modern couples, Roger and Ida have some serious conflicts to work through during the course of the novel, making their story even more accessible to readers. The other characters in the novel all have a very distinct personality and it is easy to like them or despise them. I found myself really disliking Ida's firstborn, William, as he grew older; his arrogance really grated on my nerves and his snobbish ideas on his mother's new family made me want to spank him. Beyond the characters populating the novel, there is wonderful description of the extremely turbulent times Roger and Ida are trying to struggle through. Life could be quite rough on a normal basis but at this point in time there was the added danger of political intrigue nobles had to navigate through and Ms. Chadwick does a superb job of portraying how this threat could really hang over someone's head, influencing every aspect of their life. One surprise for me was the fact I really enjoyed all the information on the rebuilding of the Bigod estate, Framlingham, in Norfolk. I also enjoyed seeing characters that figure into Ms. Chadwick's newest novel about Roger Bigod's son Hugh and the Marshal's oldest daughter Mahelt. It is amazing how she is able to weave all these stories together, even in separate books!

I will caution some readers - this is not an action packed, super suspenseful novel. It is a well written story of two people struggling to create a life together amidst a very turbulent time. It is a very enjoyable read (but of course we are talking about Elizabeth Chadwick!) that will introduce the reader to two little known figures in history. I can easily recommend this book to all readers. Chadwick fans will certainly enjoy another fantastic novel, readers who are rather picky about the historical accuracy in their historical fiction will be pleased with the attention to research, and those who aren't picky will get facts that aren't skewed out of shape to fit the author's storyline. Pick this one up; I don't think you will be disappointed!

To read more about the Bigods, read Chadwick's newest novel To Defy a King.

*Thank you to Sourcebooks for the review copy of this novel!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Funny

CSI - Norman style....

see more Historic LOL

This Day in History...

August 27, 1172 - Henry, the Young King, and his wife Margaret of France, are crowned "junior" king and queen of England. Henry II was still King and wanted to assure the line of succession by crowning his heir while he himself was still alive.

August 27, 1660 - Because of his attacks on Charles II, John Milton's books were burned in London.

August 27, 1883 - Krakatoa, an Indonesian volcano, erupts. Over 36,000 people were killed. This explosion is one of the most violent volcanic events in recorded history.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

This Day in History...

August 26, 55BC - Julius Caesar crossed the Channel for his invasion of England.

August 26, 1346 - Edward III and his son Edward the Black Prince, defeated Philip VI of France at the Battle of Crécy.

August 26, 1819 - Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and future consort to Queen Victoria, was born in Bavaria.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This Day in History...

August 25, 1482 – Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI, died in France.

August 25, 1530 - Future Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible) of Russia was born.

August 25, 1554 - Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, died. He was the uncle of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.

August 25, 1944 - Paris is liberated by the Allies.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This Day in History...

August 24, 79 - Mt. Vesuvius erupts. Pompeii and Herculaneum are buried under volcanic ash.

August 24, 1113 – Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou was born. He was the father of Henry II.

August 24, 1200 - King John married Isabella of Angouleme in France.

Monday, August 23, 2010

This Day in History...

August 23, 1305 - William Wallace is executed by Edward I for treason. He was hanged, beheaded, and quartered in London. Afterward his body parts were displayed in different cities as a deterrent to other would be "rebels" against the King.

August 23, 1775 - George III declared that the American colonies were in an open and declared state of rebellion.

August 23, 1914 -The Battle of Mons - the first major battle of World War I.

August 23, 1940 - The German Luftwaffe began night bombing London (the London Blitz).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

This Day in History...

August 22, 565 - St Columba reported seeing a monster in Loch Ness in Scotland. It was the first reported sighting of the monster.

August 22, 1358 – Isabella of France, wife of Edward II, died in Norfolk.

August 22, 1485 - Richard III was defeated and killed at The Battle of Bosworth Field by Henry Tudor. He was the last English king to die in battle. His short reign is still the topic of much mystery and speculation - even now, over 500 years after his murder.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

This Day in History...

August 21, 1123 - Bernard of Clairvaux died. (Readers familiar with Eleanor of Aquitaine will recognize him.)

August 21, 1996 - The new Globe Theatre in Southwark opened with a production of Two Gentlemen of Verona. This was actually the third Globe theatre: the first built by Shakespeare burned down after a performance of Henry VIII and the rebuilt theatre was torn down in the 1600s.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Funny

Thank you to my friend Karen for sending this my way!

Mr. Knightley - My Favorite Austen Hero

Until about three weeks ago if you had asked me who my favorite Austen hero was I probably would have said (after much thought) Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility. I wouldn't have really called him a "hero" (and he certainly wouldn't have called himself one!) though that is what he is classified as but he is quite the gentleman and you can't help but love him for his attachment to Marianne. I have seen several different adaptions of the book and by far my favorite portrayal is the one by Alan Rickman. He really seemed to fit the part and his voice! Really, what can be said about his voice but wow!

However, about three weeks ago I finally picked up and read Emma ... in about a day. Really. It was marvelous; a fantastic comedy of manners with some very comical moments and very memorable characters. And the most memorable? Mr. Knightley of course! He has now become my favorite Austen hero. He was, after all, Jane's favorite hero and created in him her "ideal Regency English gentleman." And boy did she ever!

A little background on the character for those of you who have not read this novel (and if you haven't...why??): Mr. Knightley of Donwell Abbey is the principal land owner in Highbury (the little town where the story takes place), is about 37 or 38, and a close friend of Emma Woodhouse and her father. In fact, Emma's older sister and Knightley's younger brother are married and living in London so there is a very close relationship between the families. Knightley is intelligent, kind, sensible. and very generous. Being an old friend, he is very concerned with Emma's "upbringing" (though she is 21 in the story...) and worries about her. He is the only person in the novel who can gain the upper hand with her and is the only one who will find fault with her (which is something she needs). Knightley just wants (so he thinks) Emma to be the wonderful young lady he knows she can be and sees that as his reason behind his constant concern over her activities. Of course, his feelings run deeper than he originally expected. At the end his patience does win out and he wins the woman of his dreams.

So that is a very generalized look at Mr. Knightley but there is so much more to him! He is quite the gentleman, friendly to every one despite their "situation" (remember there were strict social classes at this time all dependent upon how much money one had). He always goes out of his way to help the impoverished Mrs. and Miss. Bates and their niece, Jane Fairfax (so much so that some believe he is going to marry Jane at one point!). He also considers his tenant farmer Robert Martin a friend; Martin even comes to him for advice on whether to marry or not. So while he is obviously aware of his own situation in the community he is not at all snobbish about it and uses his position to help as many as possible. Even when Frank Churchill arrives Knightley is able to be the perfect gentleman around him, never revealing how much he dislikes him and suspects Frank isn't all that he seems. There are some wonderfully humorous moments between Knightley and Emma that show he is quite funny and witty. Even when he is lecturing Emma, he is not at all unkind and you can tell by his words and manner that he truly wants to help her. After she insults Miss. Bates at the Box Hill picnic you can tell that his anger with her stems from his extreme disappointment in her behavior, knowing she is a better person than that (and feeling this change is because of Frank Churchill). You will not find Mr. Knightley covering the pages of the novel but his presence is there even if he, physically, is not; Emma is usually concerned with what Mr. Knightley will think and even finds herself guided by his opinions (even if she is not aware of it).

There have been a few different TV and movie adaptions of this wonderful story but my favorite is the 1996 Miramax version with Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma and Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley. As another blogger stated, "he is the definitive Mr. Knightley," a statement with which I heartily concur. Northam is wonderful in this role. Besides being oh so suave and handsome (yes, all the Knightley pictures in this post are of him!), he really brings the character to life. He just has gentleman written across him. His mannerisms, his humor, his emotions all fit with the Mr. Knightley of Austen's novel - and he looks so comfortable and at ease in those Regency clothes! Throughout the movie I find my eyes drawn to him whenever he appears, he really steals the scene! He does a superb job with the script; in fact some of the most memorable lines (or scenes) are his. His "Badly done, Emma. Badly done" is one of the most famous lines from the movie. After seeing this movie I have found it very easy to picture Northam's Mr. Knightley in the various sequels or retellings of Emma I've come across (the best, in my opinion, is Barbara Cornthwaite's George Knightley, Esquire).

I love this movie so much that I have yet to return it to Netflix! Of course when I've gone looking for it in the $5 section at Target, I can't find it, though I've seen it numerous times over the years! I highly recommend this movie to any Austen fans; I do not think you'll be disappointed. Besides the wonderful Mr. Northam, there is some other fantastic acting in the movie. Get it! Watch it and see for yourself what a wonderful job Mr. Northam does with this character! I am very glad I watched Showtime's The Tudors before I saw this movie. Northam plays Sir. Thomas More in the series and I think I would have cried to see my Mr. Knightley meet More's horrible end!

This Day in History...

Couldn't find hardly anything for today!!

August 20, 1866 - President Andrew Johnson declares that the Civil War is officially over.

August 20, 1940 - Churchill gives his famous "The Few" speech to the House of Commons.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This Day in History...

August 19, 1186 - Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, son of Henry II, died after a jousting accident in Paris. He is buried in Notre Dame.

August 19, 1274 - The coronation of Edward I at Westminister.

August 19, 1284 - Alfonso, Earl of Chester, third son of Edward I, died at Windsor. At the time of his death, he was the heir because his older brothers had already died.

August 19, 1561 - Mary, Queen of Scots, arrived in Scotland to assume the throne. She had spent 13 years in France.

August 19, 1631 - John Dryden, English poet and dramatist was born. He would become the first official Poet Laureate of Great Britain.

August 19, 1692 - Four men (one a clergyman) and one woman are executed after being convicted of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials.

August 19, 1685 - The 'Bloody Assizes' began with Judge Jeffreys regularly sentencing people to death.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This Day in History...

August 18, 1587 - An expedition led by Sir Walter Raleigh landed at what is now Roanoke Island, North Carolina.

August 18, 1590 - The governor of the Roanoke Colony, John White, returned from a supply trip to England only to find the colony deserted. Nothing was ever found of the colonists.

August 18, 1962 - Ringo Starr joined The Beatles.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

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 “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 participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

George Knightley, Esquire, Barbara Cornthwaite

... and Knightley, who, seeing suddenly what he had never seen before, could hardly hear the music for the clamour in his own mind condemning him as the blindest fool in England. How could he have been so unconscious of what was in his own heart?

The library was dark and cold; Knightley stirred up the fire which had almost expired and lighted a candle from the one he had carried in with him. He sank into the chair nearest the fire and began his mortifying reflections.

This Day in History...

August 17, 1153 - Eustace of Boulogne, son of King Stephen, died unexpectedly. This made the way very easy for the future Henry II.

August 17, 1473 - Edward IV's second son, Richard, Duke of York, was born.

August 17, 1483 - It is presumed by some that the uncrowned Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York, were killed in the Tower of London on this day.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia over at The Printed Page. It is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

For the month of August, MM is being hosted by Chick Loves Lit!

It was a happy, Austen-ish book week for me. :)

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, Daniel Pool

I came across this one at Borders and thought it sounded interesting. Has quite a bit of good information on the period in it.

Jane Austen for Dummies

Another reference on the Regency period but this time solely focused on Austen's works. Very interesting!

George Knightley, Esquire, Barbara Cornthwaite

Another telling of Austen's Emma through the eyes of the hero, Mr. Knightley. This one had some great reviews so I'm eager to get into it!

This Day in History...

Some pretty random stuff today!

August 16, 1513 - Henry VIII and his troops defeated the French in the Battle of the Spurs.

August 16, 1841 - President Buchanan and Queen Victoria exchange the first messages on the newly laid transatlantic telegraph cable.

August 16, 1948 - Famed baseball player Babe Ruth died.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

This Day in History...

August 14, 1040 - Duncan I of Scotland was supposedly murdered by Macbeth, who then became king. He ruled Scotland for 17 years before Duncan's heir killed him.

August 14, 1479 - Catherine of York, daughter of Edward IV, was born.

August 14, 1941 - The last execution at the Tower took place.

August 14, 1945 - Japan finally agrees to the terms of surrender and World War II ends.

Friday, August 13, 2010

This Day in History...

Not much for today...

August 13, 1860 - American sharpshooter Annie Oakley was born.

August 13, 1910 - English nurse Florence Nightingale died.

August 13, 2008 - American swimmer Michael Phelps sets the Olympic record for more gold medals won by an individual with his win in the men's 200m butterfly.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Book Review: Mr. Knightley's Diary

Mr. Knightley's Diary, Amanda Grange
3 roses

Since I've discovered how much I love Austen's Emma and the characters she created, I have been on a hunt to find any sequels based on this work. There are a few out there. This author has written several other "diaries" from the view points of other Austen heroes (Mr. Darcy and Col. Brandon) and seeing as I absolutely loved Mr. Knightley I snatched this one up very quickly. It was a fairly decent read.

As the title suggests, this is Mr. Knightley's diary and we see most of the events from Emma through his eyes. Obviously things that were said or occurred when he was not present aren't mentioned (unless someone else has informed him of them) and we do see some of Knightley's activities beyond what Austen included in the original work. Some of the lines and speeches from the original are here, though many of them are cut down in length and that makes sense as this is supposed to be a diary and Mr. Knightley would not remember every single word spoken. Some may have a problem with the description of events from the original being cut down in size but again, this is a diary and Knightley is not going to record absolutely everything. I did find it interesting to see what some of his daily activities were, as we never get a hint of what his life is like away from Emma and Hartfield. In this version we see him with his gentlemen friends playing whist, at Donwell Abbey seeing to his accounts and tenants, and even a small glimpse of him visiting his brother in London. One thing I wished for more of in Emma was detail on Mr. Knightley and his life and his background. While we don't get any more information on his background in this adaption than what we get in the original, we do get a glimpse of what a gentleman's daily life might have been like. It appears the author really tried to portray Knightley as close to Austen's vision of him as possible, or at least as close as possible to what an English Regency gentleman would have been like on a day to day basis. I always enjoy a look at "the other side of the story" when it comes to well known fictional characters.

All that being said there were some things that I did not like about this adaption. While I feel Grange did try to paint a believable Knightley some of the things he "says" and feels just don't ring true to me. Some of it seems a tad juvenile and I found myself thinking, "there is no way Mr. Knightley would have said that!" Some of his thoughts just did not come across as ... manly or true to his character. I was not overly fond of the way Grange shows him coming to the realization that he was in love with Emma (I really can't see Knightley sitting in a gentleman's club discussing marriages and intimate feelings with a friend). It seemed to happen in an instant, like a light bulb went on over his head, and there were no good indications of where his feelings were headed, beyond the typical "He just didn't like Frank Churchill...for some reason" type of reflections. There really was no more insight into Knightley's feelings for Emma and that is something I would have enjoyed seeing explored more. I felt there was more passion in his feelings for Emma in the original but the reader is not going to get a hint of that here; I really was hoping for more. There really just wasn't that much more to this novel than the original and I really would have enjoyed a deeper look into Knightley's character. In the original you could feel there was much more to him than what meets the eye but you just don't get that feeling here. Granted, Mr. Knightley is not "seen" nearly as much as some of the other male leads in Austen's other works so the author had to fill in a lot of gaps in the story. However, it did seem to get a bit old to hear him say (again) that he walked over to Hartfield and had an enjoyable evening. Grange also included a very bizarre situation with Miss. Bates at the end of the novel which just does not fit in with Austen's original story. I really was scratching my head over that one!

Overall this was an enjoyable read solely for the fact that I got to see more of my beloved Mr. Knightley and it is always fun to see stories from a different point of view. It was a nice, easy, light read though lacking in the emotion and passion I kind of expected. There were some points that I was not fond of but it didn't detract too much from the overall narrative. I think I would have enjoyed it much more if there had been more depth to the story as I came away feeling like I didn't know that much more about Mr. Knightley as I did at the end of Emma. I would recommend this to Austen fans, though the die-hard fans may have a problem with some of Mr. Knightley's thoughts here. I certainly would recommend it to those who really enjoy this new fad of spin offs and sequels based on Austen's work. It certainly does not live up to the original but it was a fun read nonetheless.

Book Review: The Book of Eleanor

The Book of Eleanor, Pamela Kaufman
1 rose

Have you ever read a book and then wondered how in the world you ever finished it? As another publication about Eleanor of Aquitaine this year, I was quite interested to see how this author handled the lady's amazing life. I was left wishing I had saved my money.

This novel covers Eleanor's life from slightly before her marriage to Louis of France until her son Richard comes to the throne. We see her married to Louis, divorce him, marry Henry, have several children, and end up imprisoned. That really is about the extent of the historical accuracy in this novel. Everything else left me wondering if this was possibly about some other Eleanor as absolutely nothing between its covers resembles what I've read previously about her. Please be warned, this review will probably contain some spoilers.

I felt like this novel was bad almost from page one to the end. The character portrayals were horrible and the story itself was almost completely unbelievable (at least to those who have read much on Eleanor and her life). The overall writing was not that bad (not good but not completely horrible) but the ridiculous plot overshadowed it. I understand that historical fiction authors are going to twist some historical facts to fit the story they want to tell. I feel in this case that Kaufman twisted things so much that Eleanor's life is hardly recognizable. To start out, the author has Eleanor and her handmaid literally dumped at a very ruined castle at Old Sarum, apparently sent there by Henry, hoping she'd die of exposure. Thinking she's going to die soon, she begins writing her story (while hallucinating about her dead grandfather). What? I know Eleanor and Henry were at odds for 16 years but I've never heard any accounts of Henry purposefully putting her in harm's way. Next, it appears in this novel that Eleanor was coerced into her first marriage and never wanted it (though I believe I've read where she either instigated the match or at least knew that it was a wise move politically). I can handle that though as it makes Eleanor's situation a bit more sympathetic. The author portrays Eleanor's first husband, Louis, almost as a maniac who is so obsessed with the thought of Eleanor possibly having an affair that he pretty much keeps her under lock and key. I know there were issues in their marriage stemming from his apparent lack of interest in performing the marital duty but really? His constant hysterics and paranoia was just OTT in my opinion. Next, Eleanor is tricked and forced into marriage with Henry! And when I mean forced, I do mean forced. Henry is portrayed as absolutely brutal and cruel, truly living up to his ancestors' claim of having descended from the devil. I am sure Henry could be ruthless when it came to his enemies, etc, but I've never heard of him being particularly cruel just for the hell of it. At this point I wanted to throw the book against the wall but I persevered, thinking that maybe the author was merely painting Eleanor's marriages in such a horrible light to show how much she really loved her "true love" and that things would improve and start to resemble a more familiar story. Not a chance. Throughout the book Eleanor manages to have a long standing affair and pass off two, if not three of her children, as Henry's. We do see (vaguely) their sons' rebellion against Henry, we hear of the Young King's death, Eleanor runs into Rosamund, there's the hint of Henry's affair with Princess Alais (and a miscarriage), and Henry does finally die after being betrayed by his son John. Between those events (or rumors) the author has thrown together all kinds of creative ideas to make the story move along. I have to wonder again why authors feel the need to ruin stories of Eleanor; her life was more fantastic and drama filled than any author could imagine (or so I thought). There was no author's note at the end to tell us where she got her information or how she came up with her ideas. The reader is just left with this mess of a story. There weren't even any really good descriptions or details to mention; nothing that really stood out in my mind as helping the reader envision a time so distant from our own.

I know there are plenty of rumors out there about Eleanor and there is no way to prove or disprove any of them (though most seem merely politically motivated to discredit her). Honestly, I don't mind if some of them show up in books about her because I know these rumors existed. However a catastrophe like this was, with some ideas so absolutely OTT that they are completely unbelievable, is just unnecessary. I did try to find something good to say about the novel but I pretty much searched in vain (though, like I said, the writing itself was not horrible or too juvenile). After reading this, Alison Weir's novel on Eleanor doesn't seem nearly as awful; at least she stuck to known rumors. I would warn most readers to avoid this one, unless you really want to read a book that seems full of nothing but imagined ideas about Eleanor. I gave it one star because at least the author was creative.

This Day in History...

August 12, 30 BC - Cleopatra dies, allegedly by suicide.

August 12, 1762 - The future George IV was born at St. James's Palace.

August 12, 1904 - Tsarevich Alexei, son of Tsar Nicholas II, was born at the Peterhof Palace.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This Day in History...

August 11, 1467 - Birth of Mary of York, younger sister to Elizabeth of York. She died when she was 15, a year before her father, Edward IV.

August 11, 1587 - Walter Raleigh's second expedition to the New World landed in North Carolina.

August 11, 1597 - Hamnet Shakespeare, William Shakespeare's only son, died in Stratford-upon-Avon of unknown causes. He was eleven.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Review: Emma

Emma, Jane Austen
5 roses

I have a goal to read more Jane Austen this year (and I have an Austen reading challenge as well!). I have always loved her novel Sense and Sensibility and wanted to expand into her other works. This one did not disappoint! It is a fantastic tale with all the usual Austen humor and wittiness that work so well in her stories! In fact, it is now up there with Sense as my favorite Austen work!

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

The first sentence in the novel really sets the stage for all the mistakes the main character makes throughout! This novel tells the story of Emma Woodhouse, a privileged young lady who, with nothing else to occupy her time, loves matchmaking among her friends. She loves it so much that she doesn't pay any attention to her true love right under her nose! Of course things don't go the way Emma would like and there are the usual misunderstandings but things work out in the end and everyone ends up with who they are destined to be with.

This had been called one of Austen's best works and I can agree with that. I really loved this story. This certainly is the "lightest" of Austen's novels as you will not find any lives ruined or huge scandals that ruin reputations. It is simply (and wonderfully so) the story of a small, English village where the inhabitants really have nothing substantial to occupy their time; none more so than Emma. I think one of the things Austen is so marvelous at is her ability to really focus on her characters and their everyday lives and none of her novels do this as well as Emma. As there is no serious "action" the story must therefore focus on everyday occurrences. You could call this a comedy of manners as the characters revolve within a very strict code of behavior and etiquette where everything should move along very smoothly but of course, because of meddling (mainly Emma's) things always go completely wrong! The novel is full of the usual, heavy Austen dialogue and description which I'm sure can get tedious for some readers (I did find myself skimming over some of Miss. Bates' extended ramblings) but, as in her other novels, it does not get in the way and can really help the reader come to terms with a time very foreign from our own. Many modern readers find the "elitist" attitudes in Austen's books a turn off and condemn the novels. However, Austen is not intending to make these attitudes seem wonderful; if some readers would look closer they would realize that she is really satirizing these attitudes and showing them for the silliness they really were. The main character, Emma, can be a bit annoying at times, but she is so open about her own faults and weaknesses that its hard to dislike her. In fact, you do see her acknowledging in several places her mistakes and is able to laugh them off and learn from them. Austen herself said that Emma was a character that nobody would really like but herself; I disagree.Yes, she can come across as snobbish, arrogant, and overly conscious of her place in society but what can you expect from a girl who has been raised by a doting father and governess? Mixed with those slightly irritating qualities, though, is a sweetness and a true desire to be helpful which really makes her endearing. I highly doubt Emma's personality is that much different from other young ladies of the time. I think the true shining star in this novel, though, is Mr. Knightley, Emma's close friend and true English gentleman (supposedly this was Austen's favorite hero as well and created her ideal gentleman in him; his name is no accident). He is kind and thoughtful, witty and intelligent, but blunt and always ready to bring Emma back down to Earth. Their bantering back and forth is really charming. I only wish we knew more about Mr. Knightley's background and that we could see more of him in the novel! The rest of the characters in the novel are all brilliantly drawn and even though they are not the focus of the story, you come to know them as well as the two mains: the eccentric and hypochondriac Mr. Woodhouse, sweet and naive Harriet Smith, the kind Westons, slightly foppish Frank Churchill and the very reserved Jane Fairfax, the kindly Miss. and Mrs. Bates, and the exceedingly arrogant Eltons.

This is a wonderful and delightful story and I would highly recommend it to anyone. It is a light and charming story about a slightly flawed but kind young lady (and who among us is not flawed?) who, through a series of blunders, grows and matures. It is also a humorous story poking fun at the strict code of behavior and the social classes of the day.

*There have been several movie adaptions made including my favorite starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma and the drool-worthy Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley. The movie Clueless starring Alicia Silverstone is a modern adaption of the story.

This Day in History...

August 10, 1675 - Charles II laid the foundation stone of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

August 10, 1776 - News of America's Declaration of Independence reaches London.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday was started by Marcia at The Printed Page and is on tour for the next year! This month it is being hosted by Chick Loves Lit!

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

In my quest to read more Jane Austen, I finished Emma a week or so ago (and watched the 1996 version with Jeremy Northam (mmm...) and Gwyneth Paltrow) and decided to try some of the "spin offs."

Emma and Knightley, Rachel Billington

This is a sequel I picked up at Books-a-Million.

Mr. Knightley's Diary, Amanda Grange

Another I picked up at Books-a-Million, it tells the story through Mr. Knightley's eyes. This author has also written "diaries" from the view points of other Austen heroes.

This Day in History...

August 9, 1173 - Construction started on the campanile of the cathedral of Pisa (the Leaning Tower of Pisa). It would be over 200 years before it was completed.

August 9, 1854 - Henry David Thoreau published Walden.

August 9, 1902 - Edward VII is finally crowned King of England after the death of his mother, Queen Victoria. The coronation was delayed six weeks due to his emergency appendectomy.

August 9, 1945 - The second atomic bomb is dropped on Nagasaki.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

This Day in History...

August 8, 1296 - The Stone of Scone, which Scottish kings had been crowned on for centuries, was seized by Edward I. It was finally returned to Scotland in the 1990's.

August 8, 1503 - Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VII, married James IV of Scotland.

August 8, 1588 - The English fleet engaged and defeated the Spanish Armada in the Battle of Gravelines. The defeat saved England from invasion.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

This Day in History...

August 7, 1574 - The birth of Robert Dudley, illegitimate son of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (the Queen's favorite) and Lady Douglas Sheffield.

August 7, 1606 - The first documented performance of Shakespeare's Macbeth at Hampton Court Palace.

Friday, August 6, 2010

This Day in History...

August 6, 1195 - Henry the Lion of Saxony dies. He was the husband of Matilda, daughter of Henry II of England.

August 6, 1623 - Anne Hathaway, William Shakespeare's wife, died.

August 6, 1809 - Alfred Tennyson, famous English poet, was born.

August 6, 1945 - B-52 bomber "Enola Gay" dropped the first ever atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

This Day in History...

August 5, 1063 - Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, King of Gwynedd and for a time King of Wales, was killed by his own men and his head was sent to Harold Godwinson.

August 5, 1100 – Henry I, son of William of Normandy, is crowned King of England after the mysterious death of his older brother William II (William Rufus).

August 5, 1301 - Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent and youngest son of Edward I, was born at Woodstock.

August 5, 1305 - William Wallace, Scottish hero and champion of Scottish independence, was captured by the English near Stirling. He was later executed as a traitor.

August 5, 1620 - They Mayflower departs from Southampton on its voyage to America.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This Day in History...

August 4, 1265 - Simon de Montfort was defeated and his body mutilated at the Battle of Evesham. The Royalist forces were led by the future King Edward I.

August 4, 1792 - The English poet Percy Shelley was born.

August 4, 1944 - After an anonymous tip, Anne Frank and her family are discovered in their annex and arrested.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Sime Medieval - Coming Spring 2011!!

So besides being an avid lover of historical fiction and all things British and medieval, I also love computer games. I am a long time player of World of Warcraft and I love role-playing type games.

I saw this and about fell out of my chair. I know what I am purchasing next year!! I loved the original Sims game so this is right up my alley! Medieval Sims!!! How awesome is that! The description I found was quite intriguing.

The Sims Medieval

From The Sims Medieval offers players a chance to build up a medieval kingdom, controlling characters from all walks of life, from Kings and Queens, to Knights and Wizards, Blacksmiths and Bards. It provides a host of storytelling possibilities in the form of quests, from crafting a legendary sword to arranging a royal wedding, to protecting the kingdom from an evil sorcerer, to finding the fountain of youth. Every quest plays out differently depending on which Hero Sim the player is controlling.

From Players can choose to customize every new Hero that comes to the kingdom, including selecting their traits and their fatal flaw. Players get close to their characters, not only sending them on epic quests, but also making sure they carry out their daily responsibilities such as healing the sick, trading for exotic goods, or forging armor. From having a baby to competing in a royal tournament, what happens to their Sims is up to the player.

Giveaway: The White Queen

The release date for Philippa Gregory's newest novel The Red Queen is fast approaching (within a day or so here in the States). This is the second novel in her Cousins' War series and I decided I would host a giveaway for the first book in the series, The White Queen. While her newest novel focuses on Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII's mom, the first novel focused on Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV's queen and mother to Elizabeth of York (who became Henry VII's wife and mother to Henry VIII).


I have a beautiful hardcover copy to giveaway to one lucky person! To enter:

1) Be a follower of this blog.
2) Leave a comment with your email address.

For extra chances to win, leave separate comments with:

3) Link to where you posted about it in your blog
4) Link to where you posted about it on Twitter or Facebook

This giveaway will be open until August 31 and is open to all readers! Good luck!

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB at Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

♛ Grab your current read
♛ Open to a random page
♛ Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
♛ Share the title & author, too, so that other participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Book of Eleanor, Pamela Kaufman

I protested. "That sounds like tyranny, Mother. Isn't Henry supposed to be different from King Stephen? Won't he start another insurrection?"

I was in a school for jobelins: the thief presents the true owner with the stolen goods, then demands a reward.

This Day in History...

August 3, 1460 - James II, King of Scotland, died after being injured by an exploding cannon at Roxburgh Castle.

August 3, 1492 - Christopher Columbus sets sail from Spain.

August 3, 1553 - Mary I enters London to be greeted as the new Queen. She rode with her half-sister Elizabeth.

August 3, 1934 - Adolf Hitler becomes the supreme leader of Germany. He combined the offices of President and Chancellor.

Monday, August 2, 2010

This Day in History...

August 2, 1100 - William II of England, son of William the Conqueror, was killed by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest. He was allegedly mistaken for a deer. His ambitious younger brother Henry became King.

August 2, 1776 - The Declaration of Independence is signed.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

This Day in History...

August 1, 1402 - Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, son of Edward III, died at Kings Langley.

August 1, 1492 - Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain drive the Jews out of their country.

August 1, 1714 - Queen Anne died at Kensington Palace. George, the first of the Hanover monarchs, succeeds her as George I.

August 1, 1944 - Anne Frank makes the last entry in her diary.