Saturday, August 9, 2014

"Flight Of The Sparrow" by Amy Belding Brown

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  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Trade (July 1, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451466693
  • Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches

I was offered the opportunity to review this book by a wonderful publisher's representative. She had not been sure that I would like "Flight Of The Sparrow" since she had read (and how cool is that she actually looked and read!) my preferences, and had noticed that I tend to 'specialize' in European historical fiction from the 10th through 19th centuries. I am SO glad that she contacted me since is a true gem of a book! I would have been unfortunate had I missed this chance to read it!

"Flight of the Sparrow" recounts the story of Mary Rowlandson, nee White. Mary was was born in Somersetshire, England. Her family left England around 1650 and settled in Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. After another move to the frontier village of Lancaster, she met and married the puritan Reverand Joseph Rowlandson in 1656. During the time of King Philips war (sometimes called the first Indian War) there had been a dramatic increase in hostilities. On February 10, 1675 the town of Lancaster came under attack by several tribes. The loss of life was large, the settlement was burned and many women and children were taken as hostages. Mary Rowlandson was one of those women. She and her daughter Srah were both seriously wounded during the raid. Despite Mary's attempts to heal her daughter along the way, Sarah died from her injuries some days later. Mary survived her wounds and became the slave of one of the ruling women in the tribe. In May 1676 Anne was ransomed back to English for the tidy sum of 20 pounds.

Once I picked this book I could not stop reading it. 

"Flight Of The Sparrow" begins with Mary's life slightly before her capture. It then recounts her captivity, her 'redemption' and her life after her captivity. Amy Belding Brown narrates Mary's struggles; both to survive and prosper during her captivity, as well as the pain and frustrations that she contends with after her return to English life. 

Mary discovers that she experienced more freedom as a captive than she had even been able to achieve as a 'good wife' in her own, Puritan English, community. She appreciated the relative freedoms that women were allowed within the Indian communities. Mary was even allowed to become a bit of an entrepreneur; sewing clothes in exchange for food, shelter and other small comforts that made her captivity more easily managed. She also meets a "Praying Indian named James Printer. James becomes Mary's protector within the Indian community and, over time, Mary develops a deep, but forbidden, respect and love for this intriguing man.

When Mary is 'redeemed'  by the English her husband does not come to meet her. He had raised the money for her redemption but shows no happiness when Mary returns to the family home. He treats her as if she is 'tainted'. Mary's confusion leads her to feel as though she has no place in English society any longer nor is she able to return to the Indians whose way of life is fast fading. Mary feels adrift, alone and lonely.

After I read the book I did a bit of research to see how well the story followed the actual events. I have to say that I have seldom read too many other historical fiction books that follow the reality as faithfully as this book does!

This is a riveting read, with seamlessly intertwined plotlines and characters that are beautifully portrayed and exceptionally well developed. The realities of everyday life in the colonial period are exceptionally well portrayed. The  grinding routines; the daily tasks of hearth and home, garden and house keeping. You can 'feel' the pain of loss through starvation and ill health; you can relate to the constraints that were put upon the people by their strict faith, and the physical constraints that the women of the community, especially, experienced. They endured the actual constraints of their clothing as well as  the societal constraints of being a good, puritan wife and, upstanding member of the community. The community left no room for any personality variations. It must have been a suffocating existence for many.

Amy Belding Brown knows this history and portrays it will all of its good and bad points. She does not flinch from the realities of the time

I was so pleased with this book that I ordered Ms. Belding Brown's first book, Mr. Emerson's Wife

Friday, July 4, 2014

"The Dreaming; Walks Through The Mist" by Kim Murphy

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  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Coachlight Press, LLC (January 1, 2011)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0971679092
  • or as a  Kindle e-book
  • File Size: 573 KB

This book was an unexpected treat, and I am grateful to the author, Kim Murphy, for reaching out to me to suggest that I might like it. I am a pushover for anything 'time travel', and when it combined with historical fiction I am totally  hooked! 

This book, "The Dreaming; Walks Through Mist"" follows the story of Phobe Wynn, aka "Walks Through Mist" and her startling journey from the early 17th century to 21st century Virginia. She is found by the roadside with whip marks across her back and injuries from being hit by a car. She claims to be from the 17th century. She acts the part, and she speaks a native dialect that had been considered 'dead' for some 200 years. Can she be believed?

Phobe / Walks Through Mist, is befriended by the detective who was assigned to case. He himself feels like a stranger in a strange land because he had been adopted by a couple after he was discovered in the woods as a toddler. No one could ever find out where he had come from or who had left as a vulnerable child alone in the woods.

Walks Through The Mist was a cunning woman in her time, and, in an effort to explain how she arrived in the 21st century, and how and why Lee had been deserted in the woods, they venture into "the Dreaming" (a scrying tool used by cunning women). They are aided in their search by Lee's ex-wife, Shae, a psychologist who specializes in regressions and her fiancé Russ.

Will they come to accept that Phobe/ Walks Through Mist really is who she says she is? Can a person from the 17th century simply 'appear' in the 21st? Is this some hoax or is it reality? What is the true story and true identity of the man who was abandoned in the woods at a young age? Can two people from another time and place really find each other again? These questions are all answered in a most unique way. This book is a page turner!

This is an absorbing story. I did not want to put it down. The plot is well organized, the characters are very well developed, and the intertwined stories all flow flawlessly.

This book will have a wide appeal for anyone who loves well turned historical fiction, fiction that highlights early Virginian history, or just excellent fiction in general! Now I am off to find the next Kim Murphy book to read!


FROM THE AMAZON PAGE
"...Witch trials in Virginia? Salem wasn't the first...

Psychologist Shae Howard treats a patient who claims to recall nothing of the current century. Under hypnosis, Phoebe Wynne tells an astonishing tale of an ocean crossing to Colonial Jamestown, followed by near starvation and a daring escape to a nearby Indian tribe.

Although Shae's ex-husband, seasoned police detective Lee Crowley, is intrigued by Phoebe's story, he remains skeptical regarding her claim that she's from the seventeenth century. A Native American himself, he does, however, admit to feeling a kinship with Phoebe. How is it that she seems to understand his pain and anger at being caught between two cultures?

Phoebe shows Lee "the dreaming," which reveals a misty world where the Powhatan people and Colonial Jamestown come to life... and connects him to his own past. Is Phoebe delusional? A witch? Or has she indeed traveled through time? ..."

Sunday, June 29, 2014


  • * * * *

  • Series: Lucy Campion Mysteries (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (April 22, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250007889

I saw this book at the library and decided to give it a try. I'm very glad that I did! It's a fascinating, mostly historically correct, tale of a murder that occurred just after the great London fire of 1666, they year that many resident's considered the year of the devil. This devastating fire occurred on the heels of the great plague.

A corpse is discovered in a barrel outside of a burned tavern. The tale follows the investigation of the murder by one Emma Campion; maidservant, love to the master's son, printer's apprentice and bookseller as she works with constable Duncan.

Ms. Calkins spins a solid plot with deftly managed twists and turns. I discounted one star for some of what I consider a bit stilted dialogue.Ms. Calkins states in the afterward that she 'modernized' old English. That was a good decision but I felt that some of the dialogue felt strained. That being said I found this to be a very enjoyable read, and I will now be looking forward to reading her fist book and waiting for the third!

ps: I thoroughly enjoyed the afterward to this book which should not be missed. It defines what parts of this novel are straight from the history books and what parts of the history have been fictionally 'massaged' to make the story flow.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

"A Triple Knot" by Emma Campion aka Candace Robb

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  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (July 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307589293


Oh my! It's been way too long since I have posted ! Sincere apologies. Life just took me away, and the days pass so quickly. I have been reading a lot though and some more reviews t do soon. On to the review of this most excellent read....

I had a hunch that I would like this book when I received it, but one never knows does one! Emma Campion is a pen name for Candace Robb who has a host of earlier historical novels to her credit. As Emma Campion she also penned the excellent, to my mind, noteworthy, novel "The King's Mistress" which is a novel based on the story of Alice Perrers, mistress to King Edward III.

This is the story of Joan of Kent who was the niece of King Edward III. Joan, who was considered quite a beauty in the middle ages, fell in love for all the right reasons with Sir Thomas Holland. He was, unfortunately, much older than she , and he was also below her in rank. This match was challenged and she was forced into a second, loveless marriage to another nobleman who was chosen by the men in her life who used her as a political tool. Her second husband and her cousin, The Black Prince, all refused to allow her to return to Sir Thomas, who was, in reality, her legal husband.

This book covers the prolonged, political battle that is waged in order to support her claim that her marriage to Sir Thomas should be legally upheld. The struggles that Joan and Sir Thomas had in maintaining their love throughout their struggle is well depicted and the characters in this book are well developed. The dialogue flows smoothly between characters and scenes.The political forces of the time are highlighted and the daily life in medieval times is well presented and is quite historically correct.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read, and had to read it straight through. I look forward to more books under this pen name, and I can recommend this book to all lovers of historical fiction - or fiction in general!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Nails: The Story Of The Modern Manicure" by Suzanne E. Shapiro


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  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Prestel (April 25, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-3791348353
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 7.9 x 0.6 inches

I have so many reviews to get done at this point, but this book struck a note with me and so here it is. I used to have acrylic nails but had them removed 25 years ago when I moved to my rural island. Now, at  gently riper age, I am more intrigued than ever with nails, nail art and color,color, color on my nails. I am a wee bit obsessed I think, but hey, nails can be nice at any age!

Why a review on a nail book, when I have novels and non-fiction and craft books to review? Well, this book fits better than you may think with my passions. It's HISTORY! The history of nails and manicures. Aside from enjoying my nails I am always curious about my passion - history. This book reinforces that the more we change the more we all remain the same.  I love the art and vintage advertisements that wreathe the pages of this lovely, well done book.

First let me say that I am astounded that I have bought a book about nails, much less that, at a ripe older age, my nails are in the best shape that they have ever been, and I have been enjoying nail art, and vibrant nail lacquers tremendously. 

This book appeared at the perfect moment for me to want to grab. It is the only nail/manicure book that I have ever bought, and most likely, that I may ever buy, but I love this book! This book is a delight! It combines my enduring love, that of history, with a new love, artful manicures. 

The book traces the history of manicures and nail colorants through the ages. It has really only been since the 1920's, 1929 more specifically, that the use of bolder nail shades has been popular. It makes me wonder if I would have been a shy bloom or a bold vixen back then!

This is a richly illustrated book with wonderful images of paintings and advertisements  from past decades. It's a beautifully done, well researched and historically accurate book (not that I am an expert on this sort of history mind you).  I think that it will hold wide appeal for anyone who loves manicures and nail art of course, but it should also bring a smile to history buffs like me who always want to know how a fad, or style, came to become so popular. I am tickled pink...​make that neon pink....with this book!

Well done Ms. Shapiro!