Sunday, March 24, 2013

White Heart and Four Sisters ~ Sherry Jones

The White Heart was the prequel to a book I already read and immensely enjoyed, Four Sisters All Queens by Sherry Jones. This wonderful interpretation of four sisters of 13th century Provence was entrancing and superbly researched. The author loved each of these sisters and brought them to life in these pages in an admirable and scholarly fashion.

Marguerite, Queen of France, Eleonore, Queen of England, Sanchia, Queen of Germany and Beatrice, Queen of Sicily are sisters of the royal family of Provence where, lacking male heirs, her parents raise their daughters to be substitutes for sons.

Ramon Berenguer, Count of Provence and Beatrice of Savoy essentially raise their daughters in an atmosphere of continual warfare to be like female warlords. In actuality they served as peace weavers did in Anglo Saxon times but just as successfully. They were strong and resourceful and true to their family of origin, as best they could be, given the circumstances each found in their own situation.

Blanche de Castile, mother in law to Marguerite of France sprang to life in the novella White Heart. Blanche was the granddaughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine who was chosen by her grandmother to marry Louis VIII of France. Blanche loved her husband and was a constant support and source of strength to him in his life. When her husband died she became regent for her son Louis IX and guardian of her other children,despite her great grief.

Great writing, superb research and colorful characters are the hallmarks of this author. Recommended to medieval and royalty novel aficionados as well as history enthusiasts

The Plantagenets- Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England

An impressive history of an incredible lineage all wrapped up in one volume. It starts with the tragic wreck of the White Ship which took the life of Henry I's heir. This in turn set the stage for a seemingly endless civil war between Stephen of Blois and Matilda, "When Christ and his Saints Slept", or “The Nineteen Year Winter” .

Henry and Eleanor and their lineage are important and meaningful to me;I learned a great deal about others who came after him. The others also impacted the history of the British Isles, allowing the resilience of that time and place to evolve.

Richard II's ouster ended this book, although another will hopefully follow. The next will detail, in this fine fashion the Wars of The Roses and the beginning of the next dynasty.

A critical thought is left behind that only Henry II and Edward II were really great kings and they left inadequate sons behind them.
Why? The author definitely has the knowledge and the craft to let us understand why. He has made these men and women come to life for his readers, at least one last time.

Recommended for historical buffs and thoughtful readers of the periods detailed. If you want to understand this era and these shapers of destiny, then read this book. When you are finished, put it away carefully for the next time.

I appreciated so much the opportunity to read this galley and learn so much.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Fine Time to Read ~ The Borgias ~The Hidden History

Clearly this week was a fine time to be reading and finishing a book about Popes and the underpinnings of Papal Renaissance history. As the events progressed to the election on the second ballot of Francis I on my television, I held in my hand a superb historical version of many of the same events and was able to learn much more about the history of the Papacy, other popes and the murky underside of at least that political scene vis-a vis politics of Rome.

Rodrigo Borgia, who became Pope Alexander VI,had been a Cardinal for more than 40 years and he was not seeking, nor expecting this to happen. Cardinals elect Popes, as we have seen this week and a handful of Cardinals instead of over one hundred, would have had a much harder time doing their job. Rodrigo's had helped him on his rise through the military ranks and did not fail to support his rise to becoming Pope Alexander VI.

GJ Meyer's contention, which he clearly proved, was that the Borgias were no worse and for the most part were much better than other Renaissance Italian families. A partial explanation is that the Borgias were actually Spaniards in a time and place that that was looked down upon. They were a clan of ambitious power brokers but such was the power structure of the time in Italy, Spain and France, and they rose to the top.

A fitting companion to Meyer's treatises on the Tudors as the Popes were shaped political history in this period of time. The Borgias with their military and religious political supremacy operated like Warlords and took care of their own.

The author is a splendid writer and a superb researcher, the documents he utilized to prepare and defend his treatise were awe inspiring. I am grateful to him and to NetGalley for the opportunity to accompany the Borgia family on their hidden journey through history

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mary Sharratt- Illuminating a Time and Place

A wonderful book which I will read again and again.I knew little about Hildegarde von Bingen although I had read a few writings. How modern she was and wise and most of all resilient.

Hildegarde was just a fun loving little girl when she was given to the church, not only as an ordinary nun but as a companion to a self professed anchorite. She was bricked into a very small 2 rooms for 38 years with no options or recourse.Her strong personality kept her sane, as did her through-the-screen relationship with Volmar a young boy monk.

Her life began when Jutta von Sponheim, the Anchorite dies from her ascetic lifestyle and self imposed hardships. Hildegarde's biographer Guibert of Gembloux tells it that she was 8 years old when she and 14 year old Jutta are bricked into the annex to the Disibodenberg Abbey; Jutta's biographer, Hildegarde's life ling friend Volmar says they were 14 and 20 and had spent some years together at the Sponheim Castle.

The fact remains that her mother gave her to the church because her visions were disturbing and her health was not robust.In Scivias, her first book she strongly denounced offering child oblates to monastic life;her mother never contacted her but reportedly regretted her action for the remainder of her life, sent her her only valuable possession upon her death and spoke her last words about Hildgarde.

Extremely thought provoking and extraordinarily well written. I will begin to read Mary Sharratt's other books.I am so grateful that I purchased this as a daily special

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Read - Oleanna by Julie K.Rose

Oleanna was a book about the land and place my own grandfather came from in 1918. Sogn og Fjordane (south Fjord)and Sunnifjord have stark
and beautiful landscapes; in the early 20th century,it was the
homeland its natives were escaping in droves.

Oleanna herself attempted to follow her 2 brothers to America and decided against it even as the opportunity was available to her. The land and the life she was used to called her back. It is a beautiful story of a haunting place and the contrast between early 20th century Norway and the US was astounding.

A story of love, hardship, betrayal and renewal.Recommended for Nowegian descendants and anyone who loves to explore people and cultures. It deserves the accolades it received

Friday Read - Grateful to Nancy Bilyeau

So very grateful to the author for her thoughtfulness, foresight and graciousness to send me a copy of The Crown, in the mail, when I requested a copy of this book to review. Although delighted at the unexpected gift, I soon became more so when I met Sister Joanna Stafford. We had two journeys to make and I did so hate for them to end. A sequel must be in store as Joanna's story is not complete; she has much more to say to me.

Joanna Stafford, gently born to a noble house and cousin to the king, is a Dominican novice nun   when I made her acquaintance.Facing the dissolution of religious houses, Joanna acts with incredible courage and daring.She loves the contemplative life she is leading in Dartford Priory and wishes for no other.Life events are soon to impel her into the middle of this time of upheaval and demand her to take action to try to stop the ravages of this very brutal time.

It took my breath away to realize that Joanna was traveling to witness her cousin, Margaret Bulford's death at the stake for her part in The Pilgrimage of Grace. Would this event really happen? It seems that it would, and indeed, did. Joanna was able to achieve her goal of being physically present so  her beloved cousin would not die alone without the comfort of prayer.

The Chalice , Sister Joanna Stafford's second outing, outdid her first in heroic and dangerous deeds.
Having come to the attention of  the Bishop of Winchester earlier and forced to spy for him, Joanna remains an important part of the intrigues of the Reformation and the Dissolution. Life as those in religious vocations knew it had come to an end; Joanna and those dear to her were residing in the nearby town after being turned out of their beloved Abbey.

Resourceful as always, Joanna was attempting to transition to another lifestyle, when she again comes to the forefront of attention. Born in a noble family, she is related to many of the power players in the realm, including the Duke of Norfolk and King Henry himself.  A flashback to a traumatic  time ten years prior explains many of  Joanna's life choices, apparently she can see the future.

Nail biting suspense follows  Joanna's revelation of having the possibility to change the future. She is loved by two men and attempts a normal life.When that does not come to pass she seizes the opportunity to reverse the power struggle between the crown and religion.It is 1538, a tumultuous time, and she makes her way to the Continent  and the Low Countries always steps ahead of pursuers.

Joanna has survived all the threats and perils and I am left hoping I encounter her again very soon.She will be back I feel sure with her old friends and new excitement.This is a must read for historical mystery enthusiasts and lovers of Tudor England and its intrigues.