Saturday, October 8, 2011

"His Last Duchess" by Gabrielle Kimm

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  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (October 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402261510
I have read other books about the Medicis. Many of them irk  me  just a bit with their concentration on sex and depravity. Yes, we all have noted that the Medici family was prone to some perversity but that is rally only a small part of the story of this truly amazing Renaissance family. The history of Florence and the Medici family is, perhaps, not complete without some portrayal of their odd familial sexual perversion but it need not be the focus of a book to be interesting. At least on my opinion - and although I don't consider myself a libertine by any stretch of the imagination- neither am I prude.

This book was a happy exception to the rule about fiction based on the Medici family. My favorite thing about the book is that it poignantly depicts the beauty that was Florence during the Renaissance. As a reader I can almost smell the air, breath in the scents of cooking and flowers, walk through sun warmed porticos and wander through darkened, shuttered room where anything might - and sometimes does -happen. This is a well researched book that shines with the basis of fact that makes reading good historical fiction so enjoyable and satisfying.

The story takes the reader through 16 year old  Lucrezia de Medici's ill fated marriage to the wealthy &  handsome Duke of Ferrara, Alphonso D'Este. Yes, there is some sex - but it a part of the story - not the story itself. That makes all of the difference for me as a reader.

The book is well researched, well written with subtlety blended plot lines that will have you routing for Lucrezia as the book nears the end. It's a compelling read that I certainly think can't fail to please. I thoroughly recommend this as a very readable, enjoyable, and illustrative book about this famous family.

"Dimensional Beaded Embroidery : A Reference Guide To Techniques" by Jamie Cloud Eakin

* * * * *

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Lark Crafts; 1 edition (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600597961
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 8.8 x 0.7 inches 
This new book from Lark is a real treat for bead-o-philes everywhere.  The directions are clear and complete, concise, well illustrated and well written and easy to follow.

The chapters include:
  • Materials and Tools
  • Basic Techniques
  • Getting Started and Designing
  • Using Components
  • Surface Stitches
  • Bezel Stitches
  • Edge Treatment Stitches
  • Attachment Stitches
  • The Projects !
There is a wealth of information in this well designed book and, if you're not already into bead embroidery - you surely will be by the time you've paged through this book. I have to admit that jewelry making has never been one of my greater obsessions, but thanks to being able to see some of the amazing jewelry making titles in the Lark line up I have to confess that I have dabbled a bit! Good Lord - one more thing to add to my peripatetic resume! I am, however, trying to stick to small things like earrings. If you have a hankering for beaded embroidery or are, like me, a technique junkie, this is a good book to have in your library! You'll be able to create these amazing beaded embroidery projects easily by following the super well done instructions! Go on - you know you need another obsession don't you ?!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

"The Women Of The Cousin's War: The Duchess, The Queen and The King's Mother" by Phillipa Gregory, David Baldwin, Michael Jones and Bianca Amato and

* * * *
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (September 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451629545
I have some confessions to make. I owe some apologies as well. After I did my series of reviews for Helen Hollick life, work and health all went through a bit of a burble. It's been long enough that I have considered deleting this blog. I felt I had let myself and my few readers down by taking such a long hiatus. I know - blogging without obligation and all of that....but I was feeling pretty low. I have kept on reading though and now I realize that I don't want delete this blog because I still have so many wonderful books to share with all of you. You may not be interested in all them but everything I write about is a book I have found interesting for one reason or another. Lately I have been in a non-fiction phase on the literary front and a natural dyeing phase on the artistic front - so those are where I will begin to crawl back into the comfort of my willow tree.

I realize that I have a book from the Helen Hollick tour to settle on a lucky winner - and I will. I'll notify the winner and write to Helen to give her person's name. I hope you will accept my apology for being so long in getting back to you.

Okay - now about this excellent read.

Alongside this book I was also reading "Elizabeth: England's Slandered Queen" by Arlene Orkelund - so the combination could not have been any better! I think that it would be helpful if you have read Phillipa Gregory's earlier books, "The Red Queen" and "The White Queen" since they are mentioned quite often. You'll understand who's who alright without knowing about the books but the references  sort of make you want to refer to those books (and maybe that's one of the ideas). I would have been as happy without the reference - but no matter. I think the the "Red Queen" and "The White Queen" were panned a bit when they first came out but I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

I was truly excited when I saw that this book was available for order. The women of the cousin's war were, in my opinion, some of the most fascinating, intelligent, strong willed and motivated women of their time.  I have always been a special fan of Elizabeth Woodville and her brother, Anthony, Lord Rivers. I think they were part of a very interesting family - well ahead of their time in terms of education and inquisitiveness. Elizabeth withstood such an incredible amount of stress and weathered it all with some aplomb I think. The stresses of their age are so very different from the stresses most of us deal with - but I've always believed - stress is stress and managing stress is what makes a winner (no - I don't manage stress too well!). I really admire Elizabeth and think that she was a most fitting Queen Consort for Edward IV. A strong role model for women of her time.

My hope for this book was that it would elucidate the war in context with the women who played such  important roles in the war. I was not disappointed from that perspective! Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, her daughter Elizabeth Woodville, the Queen (one of my favorite monarchs) and Margaret Beaufort, wife to Henry VII and mother to Henry VIII.  What an amazing trio of strong, well educated, survivors and game changers they were! I learned quite a bit about them and their familial relationships - which is what I wanted to understand more clearly. I found that this book really helped me sort out the myriad 'players' in this most important historical frame.

I might have given this  5 stars had it all been more 'fleshed out' but that was probably not the idea for this book - it's more of an introduction and, for me at least, a clarification and time line. As an introduction to these amazing women and their important roles in the long conflict that ruled their lives I found the book to be well worth the reading - and keeping. This book will remain as a permanent part of my "British History Library"! It really helped me to get a sense of these women and where they fit in the political framework of this conflict; the men in their lives and the conflicts and the family politics that shaped their lives and the lives of their families - and of British history itself.