Monday, November 18, 2013

Covenant With Hell ~ #10 by Priscilla Royal

So far the best I have read in an enjoyable series, although probably sequels are supposed to do that. Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas continue to develop character, depth and acquire insight and self knowledge. Priscilla Royal is a fine historian and knows her period well. It is a period I appreciate as my ancestor(s) were one of Edward's household knights in Ireland.

The setting is just prior to Palm Sunday's pilgrimage to the Walsingham shrine in 1277. The times were unsettled and the premise is that Edward was still unproved and an unpopular king with many pretenders to the throne. Murders and plots to kill the king are untangled by Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas and she is quite prominent as her brother had the king's ear at that time.

Some interesting aspects to Brother Thomas' life are revealed as well as his skills as a sleuth and his charity. His prior prison record again comes to the fore as do other earlier events in his life.Do these events take him out of Tyndal Abbey in the future?

Prioress Eleanor herself acquires more personal serenity through prayers and the pilgrimage itself. The Bell Tower of Ryehill Priory, an invented place, has a very important place in the tale.Ryehill is a poor and impoverished place which ultimately has a change of fortune after some unfortunate events.

Come to the village of Walsingham, in East Anglia and meet Gracia a street child who is entangled with everyone at Ryehill Priory as well as spies and murderers. I am surely glad I had the opportunity to do so.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Contributing authors of "Castles Customs and Kings" ~ all my favorite authors

It is so very difficult to tear myself away and to finish the books I have dates to review...
Judith Arnopp, Carol McGrath, Paula Lofting,Sherry Jones,Nancy Bilyeau, Anne O'Brien, Debra Brown, Tim Vicary...Oh My!

The new favorite authors that I am finding.. Give me strength to put it down ..

Full review to come~

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gracianna ~ A cultural exploration of a life~

Trini Amador has chosen to memorialize his Basque grandparents by this fictionalized but mostly biographical tale of their lives. Titled Gracianna, it is nonetheless a cultural snapshot of  the Basque people and particularly those in the Pyrenees. I have a very old ancestral tie to the Pyrenees region , although my family became political Aquitanians and Anglo Norman , so I very much appreciated this glimpse.

As a Cultural Anthropologist by education, I took the opportunity to speculate on Gracianna's personality as a vestige of an  isolated ethnic group. The Basque language has stayed very much the same since the Stone Age and has very little in common with the Indo European and Romance languages which surround it.

Gracianna was fiercely protective of family and extremely self reliant and almost excluded others into her inner circle. Fortunately for their descendants, Juan Lasaga, her adolescent sweetheart and husband, was less so. Juan followed Gracianna to Paris and entwined his life, lovingly about hers.
Ultimately he saved her life, literally as well as figuratively with his physical presence and tenacity.
Was Gracianna's family of origin different in some way than Juan's or  were they just individual personality traits?

The  author stated that his grandparents were " like two strong tower foundations linked but a bridge..unable to really be one", or was that true? Amador also tells a story of a time in their later years ,when they reverted to their youth, sleeping outdoors together under an oak tree overlooking their sheep ranch.

Their wartime Paris  experience involved the Nazi occupation of Paris and the French Resistance Movement. Gracianna's sister Constance's incarceration in a concentration camp near Auschwitz was described with stark and chilling language, and her almost inexplicable release was startling. This was a large part of the author's tale and the part I enjoyed the least.

I am glad that Amador exhumed a childhood memory to construct this tale and that I was able to review it for my Blog. It definitely was thought provoking and provided many  questions to research, which is definitely why I read books!

About the AuthorTrini Amador vividly remembers the day he found a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering through his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun. This experience sparked a journey towards Gracianna, Amador’s debut novel, inspired by true events and weaving reality with imagination. It’s a tale drawing from real-life family experiences.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Love Roman Britain! ~ Dark Omens by Rosemary Rowe

So very glad I received this book for a review from Netgalley. I must go back and look at the series to find when Libertus rejoined his captive wife, as his family life adds a fine dimension to the series.

Rosemary Rowe's descriptions of Roman Britain and those who lived there are superb and historically possible, at least in my estimation. The darkness of the period is hinted at but seldom overwhelms. Libertus is an increasingly cheerful character despite his earlier history as captive and slave.

Characters are very well developed and humorously portrayed, if a bit modern in their thought processes.

The mystery in Dark Omens weaves religion and class structure in a very entertaining and intriguing tale of murder and exile. A complicating blizzard grinds the Empire,  and specifically the countryside around Glevum, to a halt with exciting consequences. Recommended for historical mystery fans as well as this who enjoy this ancient period.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Elizabeth of York : A Tudor Queen and Her World

Elizabeth of York is currently in the literary spotlight and Alison Weir contributed greatly to the existing body of knowledge. I chose to review this book so I could be more informed about what Elizabeth's life was like in actuality. I was not disappointed in what was offered by this fine history.

Weighing the more than adequate evidence, anecdotes, fiscal records and arriving and some conclusions, Weir concludes that the marriage between Henry and Elizabeth was a happy one and that Elizabeth had a good and full life.She is the ancestor of most of the rulers of England since that time,and she bridged an era of change by her life.The meticulous accumulation of scholarly detail was a tribute to a life well lived.

Alison Weir's conclusions are different from some authors that have been offered in quite recent books.I think she proved her case and am not sure that others did so. Perhaps it is a bias or an interpretation but facts were definitely offered in this case. I appreciated the opportunity to read this one as I also did with those with opposing opinions. It is up to the reader/historian to decide, I feel.

I received this book from NetGalley to provide a review

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Monmouth Summer ~ A Unique Read!

The summer of 1685 in Monmouth may be significant for my family. Much, if not most, of my reading is geared to significant events represented in historical fiction. I jumped at the chance to get this book for free, but was not expecting to become so engrossed in it that I would not put it down until I finished.

Tim Vicary has written a fine novel about this brief moment in time that was so catastrophic for many in the West Country. The history seemed impeccable and writing about common men and women and their reasons for rebelling made an effective tale.

James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, had tried and failed to get prominent people to join in his rebellions, so he wooed the West County peasants and tradespeople. They had the Civil War strife, which had enveloped their lives a generation before, as background.

Ann Carter and her father Adam were well developed characters although their motivation was discordant by today's politics. The day to day life of the villagers of Colyton was descriptive and compelling. Robert Pole, an officer in King James militia, opens the tale as Ann's love interest.

The ending, we know, is disastrous for thousands of persons involved. It is terrifying to read of how little justice was dispensed for misguided men who were manipulated by their dreams for a better life.
My own research has shown me that family members fled the area at that time for anyplace that gave them some protection.

I recommend this book for history enthusiasts.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Anvil of God ~ Book One of the Carolingian Chronicles

Charles Martel founded the Carolingian dynasty and was the ruler of medieval Western Europe. He and his descendants, called Carolingians laid the early foundations of  what would come to be the kingdom of France. The lands north of the Pyrenees were being collected and won by the Merovingian kings with the assistance of their mayors of the palace.

Charles Martel was the illegitimate son of Pippin II, a family who had reduced the Merovingian kings to mere figureheads. Their family became  hereditary mayors of the palace  at that time in Austrasia. They were the power behind the throne and soon usurped the powers of the kings. Charles Martel became the mayor of the palace of Austrasia, instead of the legitimate grandson of Pippin II, by the acclamation of the nobility.

I learned a great deal about the origins of feudalism and empire by reading this book. Gleason is a fine historian and has a appreciation of the cultures of the regions involved in this pivotal time in history. The characters  have energy and dimension as well as being powerful figures.

Charles Martel was a skilled administrator and warrior as his mayoral duties would dictate. He surely established the beginnings of feudalism and  knighthood. His son Carloman, at least in this tale seemed like an early Christian knight, although his chivalry surely went astray. Pippin the younger son was much less religious and more a man of the people. Hiltrude his daughter, here called Trudi was an enigma. Gripho the younger son portrayed by Gleason was shallow, juvenile and not very highly esteemed. How much of the personas of Charles' children is factual, even the author is unsure of, so little is known of them.

Battle scenes were graphic but that was the nature of war, then and now. I recommend the book to lovers of historical novels as well as battle buffs, although that is not my favorite genre. I look forward to the next installment of the family and hope it continues with future Carolingians. This family was important ancestrally to so many that I feel strongly that the remainder of the descendants of Charles should be explored in depth.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I found it a very worthwhile read.
                              ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After a 25-year career in crisis management and public affairs, J. Boyce Gleason began writing historical fiction and is publishing his first novel ANVIL OF GOD, Book One of the Carolingian Chronicles.  With an AB in history from Dartmouth College, Gleason brings a strong understanding of the past to his historical fiction.  He is married, has three sons and lives in Virginia.

                 GIVEAWAY!! GIVEAWAY!!   
                                   This fine book will be given away to one of you from today through the end of the Book Tour. Get your entry in by November 29th at 6 PM by posting to this blog or sending me a  e-mail or message at Google. I will choose a number at random and then notify you of your success. The giveaway is for one paperback and US only.