Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sister of the Lionheart - Novel from time of Crusades- Hilary Benford ~ Engrossing read!


I really enjoyed this book about Joanna who is my number two favorite Plantagenet, Eleanor being  number one. It was not a quick read, reason being that it had such historical depth , but it was very engrossing. There is not a great deal written about Joanna and her relationship with her parents, so this one was very much appreciated by me.

Hilary Benford wrote a fine novel, and I am excited that there will be a sequel. Very much appreciated was the excellent author's note, medieval glossary and genealogy of the royal families who were involved, as well as a great  map of 12th century France. I enjoy this period as my Norman Irish maternal line worked for the Norman kings beginning with John and his son Henry.

I feel pretty sure that the novel was very close to how things transpired. Joanna was very a sympathetic character  and held my attention to the end. Recommended to all who like medieval historical novels and this family and era.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Mists of Glen Strae - Highland Ballad Series Vol.2 - Kristin Gleeson- Out now!


Happily there will be another novel in the Highland Ballad Series in 2017. It was so very enjoyable, although it is about a very complicated time in Scotland's history,and the sequel may pull the pieces together for me.

Kristin Gleeson's fine Historical Note indicates that Queen Mary was only 14 at this time. I always need a refresher about her years in France and why the Scots were not united behind her when she returns. 

This period, when Mary Queen of Scots was 14, was very tumultuous and complex in both countries with England of course trying to intervene. The borders between Scotland and England, called "debatable lands" were always in upheaval, although I think that this was not where we find this part of the series situated. 

Religion seems to be becoming a divider and would continue to be between the clans as the years passed. My husband's parents were born and raised in Scotland, and came to the US and married, were Church of Scotland and Catholic and lowland vs. highland Scots. They never discussed either religion and his father was from Huntly the Gordon estate.

Consequently, the relationship between Ian, and Abby the heroine,was frowned upon. Abigail, a Gordon, although raised in France would not be expected to have dealings with certain clans and their followers. I suspect that the next book will have some mention of Huntly Aberdeenshire and I am greatly looking forward to it.

I was not a great fan of Diana Gabaldon but am very much a fan of Kristin Gleeson and her works.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

An Unjust Judge- A Sixteeth-Century Burren Mystery - Cora Harrison ~ Always superb!

I received this ARC from Netgalley. Cora Harrison's Burren series has been a favorite for a long time and this one did not disappoint me at all. I had not figured out who the murderer was even to the very end, and why the murder happened at all remains a mystery.

There was a fine cast of characters, some of whom like the absent Cormac, young son of Mara the Brehan, have come into existence in this series. Her Grandson who possibly will inherit as Brehon if English laws do not inhibit that exchange happening is another and early in the series we met King Turlough O'Brien. Always, a fine mystery and it's resolution, is juxtaposed against other forms of justice which exist at this time in Ireland in the English speaking districts.

This murder of the "unjust judge" was complicated by the presence of the retired Brehon's nephew who had hoped to inherit, but was a protégée of  Stephen Gardiner's,  presumably sent to disrupt the Gaelic legal system. In fact, the storyline indicates the presence of many Brehons and Lawyers in training who could pursue law gathered in this one place at the same time. 

One of the final few scenes in the book included a  giant congor eel who attacked one of the suspects, sort of a chilling type of retribution. Life was harsh in the Burren and  their isolation  was both a protection and a risk factor. 

Brehon Mara's husband,King Turlough Donn’s rule of three kingdoms, threatens to be minimized by these same Anglo ruling forces, who call him a "captain" and not a king. As always, historical facts are woven into a fine mystery which includes great depth of  likeable characters.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Julian of Norwich- Janina Ramirez~ Bene Est!


"All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

When I received this ARC I moved beyond a person who found comfort in Julian of Norwich's writings to a more enlightened understanding of her work and life. What remains unknown, was much of her early life, and even exactly what, and how, her work came to be preserved over centuries.

The Protestant Reformation in England did not destroy this or rather these writings. This potentially dangerous work or works survived. How did they get out of Julian's cell after her death? Were they removed to Carrow Abbey? There is silence on any knowledge of how this happened but it did happen.


English Benedictine nuns, one of whom was Gertrude More Great great Granddaughter of Thomas More, Catholic martyr fled to Cambrai France and formed a community. Gertrude was just 17 years old. and elsewhere I discovered she was joined by two cousins, and later her sister Bridget. Did someone from that family have Julian's manuscript or a copy secreted? 


It did exist in Cambrai, probably copied by hand, as in 1670 the first printed copy was published by the nuns chaplain Serenus de Crecy. It existed in the hardships they experienced in the French Revolution, when they were incarcerated with 16 Carmelite nuns who were guillotined. 


The English nuns were able to escape, wearing the habits of the dead sisters, and fled back to England. No original copies of Julian's writings made it out of France, sadly, but existed as copies. Three copies exist to this day, in 1877 a more modern audience got access.In 1901 Grace Warrack's sympathetic treatment in modern English became hugely popular.


What an enlightening and enjoyable short biography this was. 5 Stars 




                             

Friday, November 11, 2016

Almodis, The Peaceweaver - Tracey Warr - Vivid characters and history!

A definitely enjoyable book that seemed to be historically accurate, I do quickly check history to better understand characters. It is definitely an era that I find fascinating as was "Conquest" which was my favorite of the two books. I am reading "the Viking Heritage" now and of course the characters are connected.

I did not know nearly enough about this part of France and it is interesting. My maternal line was named Faunt (L'Enfant ) and were Anglo Normans in Ireland from the 12th century. My Grandfather's Y DNA line goes back to Sardinia. We know when they went to England and into Ireland but not when they moved into Normandy. They were in the employ of the Norman Kings from 1250 until the 1500s. So of course I am entranced!!

Almodis did not take to being a Peaceweaver really well, or rather she did but she had some huge bumps in that road. I adore the fact that her children were cohesive with each other even though they all did not share the same father. 

She had two loves and one very messy marriage if all of this is accurate. The author says some thoughts and actions of her characters were fictional but the basic facts are there. She was very resilient, partly from being a child hostage in her grandmother's court and partly, presumably, from some terrible events that she both witnessed and experienced.

All three of these books are superbly done with vivid female heroines. So excited that "Conquest" has a sequel coming. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Conquest, Daughter of the last King - Tracey Warr - Just wonderful!

5 Stars. This was an amazing book on many levels for me and I was indeed sorry for it to end. I think there may be a sequel, and I have downloaded The Viking Hostage by Tracey Warr so I'm comforted..

Nest ferch Rhys is someone I knew about historically, and since my name is Carrow, also someone I needed to know about. I should tell you that I pursue genetic genealogy and have tons of Welsh DNA matches I cannot yet figure out. John Carrow my 9th great grandfather was likely from close to there and his sons and grandsons marry into Welsh families. I did know about Carew Castle, and Nest's children, but this book has so much more. That of course is one level of amazement.

I think all the characters in this novel have great depth, some more than others. The author has positioned her story in a way that brings Nest into contact with important persons in her life. Gerald FitzWalter de Windsor ( Carew Castle) and Henry I of England and  Owain, Nest's cousin who abducts her were some of them. Haith who is historically known as Hait,Sheriff of Pembroke was not known to me and Nest's last husband was not either. 

The history as we know it was amazingly well documented (Orderic Vitalis and other documents) and the characters were vivid and engaging. Sybil de Montgomerey and her husband Robert FitzHamon ( known as FitzHamon here) Lord of Gloucester and Glamorgan, a confidante of some  of the sons of William the Conqueror, specifically William Rufus and Henry I.

That Sybil Montgomery and Fitzhamon's  ties lead them in different directions at the time that Nest is entrusted into their care is a strong thread in the story. Gerald's  ties to Glamorgan are known as was his on again and off again career at Pembroke Castle so it works quite well.

Definitely recommended to all Medieval history lovers of this period. It is engaging and  artfully written  and is one time that multiple person storytelling works for me.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Flood - Ann Swinfen - On to the sequel!

Terrific book and loved it so much I immediately started Book #2 "Betrayal". It does have some sad events but they are tempered by positive ones as well. The characters have grit,resilience and greatly support each other in a distressing time period of the English Civil Wars.

Mercy and generations of her family have lived in this same place of the Fenlands. Long accustomed to a life where interdependence on others was the norm, they were thrust into a time of upheaval and unrest. Cromwell is now in charge, the King is imprisoned and nothing is as it always was.

The Fenlands required group effort and the village had long used common lands and areas for their existence. Unscrupulous of shoots of Cromwell's government had run amok and sold or leased lands to Dutch investors who proceeded to demolish the natural draining and dyke lands in a dangerous manner. 

As the winter rains threatened new settlers and the long time occupants were thrown together for survival against a threatening flood. Common effort is required for survival as the book ends with everyone sequestered in the village church.

I am now off to the sequel to see what comes next. Very close to 5 Stars!