Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Wilder Rose ~ Two Lives

Susan Wittig Albert has done a masterful work with the two subjects of her book, Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. It is a novel, a novel with facts to be explored. In her very fine reader's companion to A Wilder Rose, Albert says " Writing novels about real people can be a tricky business"

What can be so tricky about it, you might well ask? Laura Ingalls Wilder's stories about a time gone by are now a fabric of our society and part of legend, part of our childhood. Let me let Laura herself explain " All I have told is true bit it is not the whole truth".

We knew her as an unpublished, inexperienced writer who put pencil to paper and wrote her memories of life on the prairie and frontier with her family. In actuality, Wilder and her daughter Rose were collaborators in taking the memories of pioneering and making them publishable and saleable.

The author's years of meticulous study of original documents including the diaries and day journals of both women and scholarly comparisons of the writing of both are compelling but sympathetic. We can enjoy them by understanding that both of these women lived through hard times and created stories that endure.

Susan Albert ends her very excellent Reader's Companion with a  statement in response to those who say that something has changed with this new knowledge. I wholeheartedly agree with her when she says, "Do the books really 'mean something different' "? I don't think so."

They are "books that we still cherish, some eight decades after their  publication."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hey There Georgie ~ Her Royal Spyness

So pleased that I grabbed this review copy of this book from NetGalley which was there to announce and promote the seventh book in the series, "Heirs and Graces". Rhys Bowen is a favorite author but I had not gotten to this series yet and so glad I now have. The rest of the books are now a must.

Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie is a delightful, vibrant and funny character who is marvelously well developed. I would have loved the book even if any mystery had not developed but happily it did. Georgie was an intuitive if not physically adept sleuth. Her cousin the Queen appreciates her thinking and daring and will surely utilize her skills in the future.

The dreary castle in Scotland she was born in as daughter of the Duke of Rannoch and Glen Garry was described so well as was the London town house belonging to her family. Poor Georgie had really never functioned without a maid to assist her and had to quickly discover how to do just about everything or be cold and hungry.

Her brother the Duke, Hamish called "Binky" was suitably stuffy but with warmth and affection for his sister. Her adorable grandfather and her typical actress-cum-socialite mother were superb characters.

It is obvious why Rhys Bowen has won just about every mystery writing award that exists. She is brilliant and so is Georgie!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Paths of Exile ~ Post Roman Britain springs to life

 A.D. 617. This year was Ethelfrith, king of the Northumbrians,
slain by Redwald, king of the East-Angles; and Edwin, the son of
Ella, having succeeded to the kingdom, subdued all Britain,
except the men of Kent alone

This quite enchanting look through the mists of time back to 7th century Britain finds Eadwine, son of Aelle who is driven out of Deira (Northumbria) by Ethelferth into years of exile.

Ethelferth is most likely brother-in-law to Eadwine and exactly why he pursued Eadwine is not known but Carla Nayland fleshes out those unknown years is a superb fashion. Her research and scholarly attention to detail is impeccable. The terrain as well as culture and customs of post Roman Britain are described beautifully.Her characters sprang to life and entertained me.

I recommend this book to historians and lovers of ancient British fiction and I anxiously await the sequel.         

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Swarming of Bees- So Delightful!

From the Anglo Saxon Chronicle A.D. 627 "This year was King Edwin baptized at Easter, with all his people ".

Hild was an orphan who had become a member of the household of her great uncle, King Edwin and she is one of those baptized with Edwin. She becomes an Abbess and is wise, beloved and has political importance,so that the Synod of Whiby is held at her monastery sometime around 664.

A delightful book with very well developed characters such as Hild, her herbwife Fridgyth and the daughter of King Oswy. A wonderful blend of facts and mystery, superimposed on actual historical events.

Real life characters such as Caedmon the poet and later Saint,Wilfred of York and Aldfrith the son of King Oswy spring off the page and entertain.

I loved this book and recommend it to historians and mystery lovers alike.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Handfasted Wife ~ A Gem

So very glad that I saw this book in someone's "want to read" status! This is an era and a family that I can't get enough of reading and the author surely did them justice.

I am thrilled that this is the first of a planned trilogy and that I can revisit Elditha's family and hopefully it will be soon. Carol McGrath has done impeccable research and is so very knowledgeable on these troubled times. The use of The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, Domesday and Orderic Vitalis through out the book in chapter headings was very inventive and informative.

McGrath's author's note was very clear and detailed on what is known of that time, what was probable and what was her thoughts could have been possible. I highly recommend this novel and Carol McGrath's Blogs as well.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Christmas Wassail - Such history and mystery!

Kate Sedley's new book provided me with a wonderful visit with old friend Roger the Chapman and his family and friends. Bristol Christmas traditions of the era were very new to me and I was absolutely entranced with hearing about them in The Christmas Wassail. The Saxon era customs and beliefs were still very important to the city's inhabitants.

The series astonishes with how each book is more exciting than the one before, something I would not think possible. I found myself gasping aloud at Roger's escapades and entanglements. He needs to take care!

Sad as I am for the tale to end I always look forward to the next episode in Roger's retrospective of his life and times. A must read for Richard III fan as well as,historical mystery and medieval history lovers.

 I very much appreciated being allowed to review this fine book and gave it five stars!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Shadows and Strongholds and Lords of the White Castle ~ The Fitzwarins


I am delighted to be able to review Shadows and Strongholds for the digital version. Elizabeth Chadwick is a superb writer and researcher whose skills are more developed over time. Her research is on various levels and are intriguing and satisfying.

The FitzWarins are a family well worth exploring as they epitomize their place and time in post Conquest England.Fulke Fitzwarin, called Brunin with his Norman appellation, was said to be a dark throwback to his grandfather a mercenary from Lorraine. So many of their society had similar roots and they attempted like all families to rise above any dubious origins. Blood, however, runs true, as the saying went at that time.

Shadows and Strongholds is the superb sequel to the Lords of the White Castle, also now out in digital. Together they make the finest read imaginable. Make the acquaintance of Fulke le Brun and his associates and your life will be enhanced immeasurably.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Queens of Love and War- A Trilogy

A very well written book now compiled into a trilogy. This is an era I love to read about, Eleanor and Henry are my favorite couple. For a history lover some supposed events surprised me but a novelist can take those liberties and Ellen Jones did it well.

It is a great way to read all of the books together, be prepared to spend time with the volume. I think the effect on interspersing vignettes of Henry's mistress and her son Geoffrey with his life with his family works quite well. It was a harsh time and difficult to conceive what life was actually like. The contrasts between nobility and common people were well done and graphic.

I appreciate the opportunity to review this edition of Ellen Jones work and hope this volume is very popular.