Monday, November 5, 2012

"Illuminations" by Mary Sharratt


* * * *

  •  288 pages
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (October 9, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547567846


I have always had an interest in Hildegard Von Bingen but have never known much about her. While this is a work of fiction the historical facts (I checked reference sources to compare) are, on the whole, quite correct.

The story begins with Hildegard as a child. Her family despairs that her 'visions' are heretical. At age 8 (some historians think that she was 14 rather than 8) she is sent to become an anchorite as the handmaid for the wealthy, but somewhat mentally unstable (or is it blessed by God) Jutta Von Sponheim who is beautiful but masochistic. The anchorite is a walled in room attached to the male only monastery. An opening in the wall provides the means through which  meals and message are exchanged and a high window allows for just a bit of sunlight. As Jutta becomes more and more fanatical, wearing a chain with spikes wrapped around her body and denying herself food and drink, Hildegard's own visions become stronger -as does her will to survive. Hildegard also has auditory inspirations that allow her to create some of the most beautiful music of the time.  One monk, Volmar, becomes a friend to her, although he is most devoted to the saintly and beautiful Jutta. When several other young novitiates are brought to join the anchorite with Jutta,  Hildegard forms a special bond with one of them - who will ultimately betray her.

The book follows Hildegard as she struggles to regain her hold on life after Jutta dies. For a time Hildegard remains in the anchorite with the other novitiates. The walls have been removed and her garden grows as she learns about the benefits of plants and medicine. The balance of the book reveals Hildegard's struggle to found  her own monastery in run down Rupertsberg which is close to Bingen. The real , human, trials and tribulations of procuring the funds needed to rebuild the monastery find Hildegard becoming more and more demanding of her flock - telling them that the stark privations and meager food they have are all for the good of their new home and monastery. Some will find the going too difficult and leave for the houses of other Benedictines. Ultimately, the nun with whom Hildegard has formed a special friendship - one that some mutter is less than chaste - returns to her home and her wealthy mother - devastating Hildegard and forever changing her outlook on life.

This book provides an excellent 'feel' for what middle age Germany was like. It was a world torn by politics (sound familiar?!) and one in which females were definitely considered the 'weaker' sex. This is a beautifully written book. I have to admit to being a fan of Mary Sharatt's other books as well. She has an evocative writing style that holds your interest from start to finish. Lyrical, mesmerizing, beautifully written. This is a story that would appeal to so many people on so many different levels. It's a story about women in the middle ages, it is about the church hierarchy, the church's power and control, the spiritual ideology of the time, it's about women's rights and about the vision's that made Hildegard Von Bnger the passionate woman and nun who changed the way women were perceived by the church and by the society in that time period.

It's an 'illuminating' read! 

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Spirit Of Lost Angels" by Liza Perrat


  • * * * * *
  • File Size: 541 KB
  • Print Length: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Perrat Publishing; 1 edition (May 11, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

This debut novel from author Liza Perrat marks the beginning of what I think wil be a glowing career as a writer. I honestly feel that the quality of the writing will put the author up in the ranks of historical fiction nobility. Yes, that's how good I think this book is! I was so sad when it ended. I need more!

Victoire is the book's main character and life presents trials and tribulations for her family - the CharpentiersTheir homestead is destroyed by fire. Mother is the villages midwife and herbalist. Father is a carpenter whose work becomes more difficult to find and who travels  to find work. While he is away working he is crushed by the wheel's of a noblemen's carriage and barely makes it home before he dies of his injuries. Losing her father inculcates a hatred for the nobility on the mind of young Victoire. As a way to rise above their poverty Victoire's mother teaches her how to read and write - hoping that knowledge will be her salvation and her escape from their small, impoverished, village way of life.

Victoire's mother deeply mourns the loss of her husband and vows publicly that "God does not exist" and that she will never enter a church after the funeral for her husband. It is at this time that Victoire begins her education in the ways and uses of herbal medicine and midwifery. The villagers, however, believe that a woman who refuses to enter a church is surely in league with the devil and that her use of herbal medicine is the work of the dark one. As a result Victorie's mother is drowned on the village's riverbank - the banks of the Vionne river. Before she is murdered she manages to pass her pendant of an angel to Victoire - and leaves her daughter to unlock the meaning of the pendant and the significance of the angel.

As an orphan, the care of Victoire falls to the village priest who finds employment for her in Paris as a maid in the house of a noble family. In short order the Baron, the master of the house, takes Victoire as his mistress and - as things happen- Victoire finds herself pregnant by her despised employer. Her daughter, Rubie, is birthed with the help of the cook of the household, Claudine. Feeling that she has no other option, Victoire leaves Rubie on the steps of a church to become a foundling rather than to have them both thrown out of the house by the Baron. Victoire leaves the angel pendant and a letter with her daughter in the hopes that it will be kept for the little girl - so that Rubie will know that her mother did love her but felt she had no choice but to leave her in the hopes of providing her with a better life that she could offer her by herself.

Upon the death of his wife, a fellow villager, Armond, marries Victoire to help care for his children, one of which is Victoire's childhood flame, Leon. Their early relationship becomes a secret as together Victoire and Armond build a prospering business as inn keepers. They have children, a beautiful set of twins. The fates again cast their hands and within several years Armond is dead and Victorie lapses into a severe depression, just as her mother had when her husband died.  Her twins drown in the Vionne River as Victoire dozes near the river bank - they is nothing that she can do to save them and she has no memory of the event.

Her severe depression causes the village to believe that Victoire is possessed and she is sent to the infamous Salpetriere asylum in Paris. This a place from which few people who walk in ever walk out. A place of unspeakable filth and depravation. Since she is considered a child murderer her life is especially bad inside the walls of this awful place. It is here, however, that she is befriended but a wealthy patron. They both craft an escape and Victoire finds herself, implausibly, financially well off thanks to the woman's generosity. 

As Victorie rebuilds her life she discovers the meaning of the "lost angels", has a surprising reconciliation, finds her Rubie and some modicum of ease.  This is a story of strife, loss, neglect, pain, sorrow, suffering and remorse, but it is more than that. It is also a story of love, triomphe, healing and recovery. It's a story of redemption and second chances and it is about the good that can occur even in the bleakest of lives. 

I can't help but think that this will be the first in a long line of huge success' for Liza Perrat. She weaves this tale with consumate skill and finesse and her characters are all very well developed and they are believable people. It's a book that will leave wishing it had been so much longer! From the first page to the last it rivets your attention.

I can't recommend this book more highly! If the review seems filled with hyperbole it's because I truly was amazed at what an outstanding read this was. You won't regret reading this book - it's mich more that it's modest price!



Partial disclaimer:
I was offered a free copy of this book for review by the author but I opted to pay for it myself instead. It's a modest price for such an incredible read.






Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"Sacred Treason" by James Forrester


  • * * * * *

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (October 1, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402272660

James Forrester is the nom de plume of Dr. Ian Mortimer whose non-fiction books have delighted me for many years. A couple of my many favorites of Dr. Mortimer's is "The Time Traveler's Guide To Medieval England" and "The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England".

Dr. Mortimer, writing as James Forrester, has now taken his unique and admirable writing talents to the realm of historical fiction. His  Clarenceux Trilogy begins with Sacred Treason which has, gratefully, now been published by SourceBooks, a publisher that I have come to rely on for excellence in historical fiction publications.

Set in 1563, as Elizabeth's reigns over a Protestant England, political intrigue, religious strife and citizen unrest remain hallmarks of the kingdom's daily life. The main protagonist, a 'secret' Catholic by the name of William Harley, holds the eminent position of Clarenceux King (senior officer at arms). It is in the stormy hours of a late night that a Catholic friend, Henry Machyn, knocks on Harley's door to press a manuscript into his hands, begging for him to guard the book and saying that he (Machyn) will soon be dead. Intrigued by what he has been  charged with guarding, William Harley, begins to investigate the contents of this obviously important book; finding within it's pages clues that involve religion and the security of the crown.

Alerted by the importance of this manuscript well known figures such as spymasters Sir William Cecil and Sir Francis Walsingham hunt down the Clarenceux (William Harley) whose life is quickly upended as his house is sacked, a servant murdered and his family forced to go into hiding. With no idea what the real importance of the book is Harley and Henry Machyn's widow, must race to unearth the clues that hide within the books pages before he loses his reputation and, quite possibly, both of their lives.

The hunt for the clues leads these two hunted people through the back alleys of London and into the parlors of some very interesting people- each of whom holds a piece the book's puzzle in their collective knowledge.

As you might expect from one of Britain's premier historians, this book is a thriller that is impeccably fast paced, highlights superbly written plot lines and well developed characters that combine with Forrester's unique grasp on the historical facts to produce a novel that is gripping throughout and has the added benefit of an ending that is worthy of the book!

The novel began just a tad slow - but it was just a few pages before I could not put the book down! It's a fast paced page turner that can't help but grab you and pull you in! While I don't necessarily read historical fiction to actually learn history, given the author's knowledge and abilities, this book does have the added benefit of his expert knowledge of the period which lends itself to the historically correct 'feel' of the book. It's a romp through time that you will not regret taking!

Don't miss out on reading this book! I'm now eager to read book two which I hope Sourcebooks will also release before too long! 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Shrink, Shrank, Shrunk" by Kathy Sheldon

* * * * *
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Lark Crafts (October 2, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1454703495
  • Dimensions: 9.9 x 8.4 x 0.4 inches 

I received this book book for review and I actually had to chuckle to myself. I missed the shrinky dink craze of the 70's and had no experience with shrink plastic of any sort before I made the pears on an Artist Trading Card that I made last month and that was based on the colors of pears. I have to admit to becoming interested in the possibilities - and then, this book arrives! What good timing! Thank you Lark!

If you've ever had any questions on what this shrink plastic is - this is the book for you! It's clearly written, beautifully illustrated, clear, concise and, I have to admit ,that I am planning to give several of the suggested projects a whirl because they are 'that' nice looking. I guess my comment would be "this is not your grandmother's - or mother's - shrink plastic art. 

Kathy Sheldon gives very well presented information about the relatively short background of this intriguing product and the projects that are presented, designed by some really excellent artists, are things that will both catch your eye as well as your imagination. You'll find all necessary information about what supplies you will need - none of which are very costly. I bought my dedicated polymer and plastic oven at the thrift store for a song and the plastic sheets are also quite economical. I think most of will have the other required items in our crafty homes already - so you'll most likely be almost ready to go when the book lands on your doorstep - or in your Indie bookstore's bag.

It's a really fun book, filled with really nice projects that will be sure to please any crafty gal or guy. With adult supervision and assistance I think that older kids can join in the fun with you too.

The pear on the lower left is my first attempt at using shrink plastic. I used the inkjet variety.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Winter King by Thomas Penn

* * * * *
I have to admit to being a history geek. For me, history is alive and energizing - not something static and remote. My obsession is European history from the 12th through 17th centuries - especially British history - so of course this book piqued my interest immediately.

I had not read too terribly much about Henry VII in the past and, with this book, Thomas Penn, brings this most important of English monarch to life in a very enjoyable, very interesting, fashion. There is no pedantry about this book, although the historical research  and detail is truly remarkable . It is detailed to be sure but the details add to the read - they don't detract from the flow of the book as can become an issue with some dry historical missives. This book is lively, enthralling, detailed and enjoyable!

"Winter King" has put some of the names and historical circumstances into prospective for me. Although Henry VII was a power house of a monarch it is his son, Henry VIII, who generally gets most of the press. I learned more about the man who became the King; how he managed to cling to the monarch in a very uncertain time, how he found his way through a mire of intrigues & plots to depose him, and how, it is my impression, he was the King who really was spymaster. Mentally agile, ruthless,intelligent, thoughtful and canny, Henry VII is an engrossing historical character and this book is a winner!

Yes! I heartily recommend it for other history obsessives or Tudor fans. Well done!

Monday, August 6, 2012

"Shadow Of Night" by Deborah Harkness

Yes, you're seeing it correctly - SIX stars!
* * * * * *
  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (July 10, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023486
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 2 inches 
  • Also available as a e-book and an 'Audible' talking book   I had pre-ordered this book and began to read it immediately - and I also listened to it in the Audible version (which was done by a remarkable gifted narrator, Jennifer Ikeada. That's how much I did not want the story to end.

I became a huge fan of Deborah Harkness' work after I read her first novel ,  A Discovery Of Witches. That book book left me spellbound - and it was another read that I just wanted to go on and on. Shadow of Night is a the second book in a 3 book "All Souls Trilogy" and it is is a remarkable piece of fiction. I don't know how she manages it but Ms. Harkness has fashioned a world of 'creatures' (vampires, witches, daemons, and warm bloods) that, although totally fiction, feels more like world we might all want to inhabit....at least I sure do!

This volume continues the fantasy world and romance of Diana Bishop and Matthew deCleremont. Diana, a witch who has never wanted to learn about her powers, is an Oxford professor of history who has discovered a very 'bewitched', very important alchemical book called Ashmole 782. She uncovered this mysterious tome while she was studying at the Bodleian library in Oxford. Matthew is a 1500 year old vampire who falls head over heels in a forbidden love for the witch (the 'covenant' that guides the behavior of creatures specifically forbids love between creature species).

In a search for the origins of Ashmole 782 Diana and Matthew "time walk" back to 1590 - an Elizabethan time of wars, superstitions and persecutions. Matthew is employed by Elizabeth I as a member of her spy networks. Together, Diana and Matthew, search for the many strands of truth, relationships and rivalries that twine together as they strive to uncover the secrets contained in Ashmole 782.

This book is fantastical, extraordinary and filled with passion, mystery and intrigue. It so much, much more than just a quirky story about a vampire and a witch. It's enthralling, riveting and totally, thoroughly magnificent. I have to put these two books of Deborah Harkness' up there on my top ten novels of all time.... that's how much I like them!

I found it fascinating to look up some of the history of the legendary "School of Night" - and other historical references in the book that I found has a basis in true historical fact. Fascinating stuff.

My only concerns are:
1. How long will I have to wait for the third book of the trilogy to be published?

2. When will the movie be made? If ever a book needs to be made into a movie - this is the one! I can't wait!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

"Mistress Of Mourning" by Karen Harper

* * * * *
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Trade; 1 edition (July 3, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451236906
  • 8.2 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches 

I'm a past fan of Karen Harper's books - so I had "Mistress of Mourning" on pre-order and, as luck would have it, I had a break in my "must-read's" when it was released and I decided to delve right into this excellent read. I found it to be a fascinating book that ended all too soon.

Although this book is most definitely a historical piece of fiction the historical notes on chandlers (wax workers), their guilds and ritual duties during the Tudor period was fascinating stuff in and of itself. This book is also a romance but the romance part of the book was woven into the narrative very skillfully and produced a a solid plot line with the romance part being believable and highly readable - not suger sweet or over-the-top oohhhhinh and ahhhing's.

The plot involves Queen Elizabeth of York - the wife of the infamous Henry VII, and the chandler (wax worker) Varina Westcott - a widow with more autonomy than the age normally allowed for women. Varina's love interest is one, Nicholas Sutton, an ambitious and loyal servant to the Royal family. The tale includes pieces of the story of the 'princes in the tower', Elizabeth's two brothers whose deaths in the Tower are a mystery to this day, and two of her children who died in infancy - as so many babies were in those days. Varina is a master chandler (wax-worker) who has an uncanny ability to carve wax into, besides beautiful pillar candles and beautiful angels, uncanny likenesses of people. The Queen has used Varina's talents to fashion likenesses of her departed brother's and children but Varina's greatest mission has yet to be assigned.

When Arthur, Prince of Wales, the Queen's eldest son, dies suddenly after only months of marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Varina and Nicholas are sent on a secretive mission to investigate the death and bring their findings back to the Queen. Was Arthur's sudden demise from an ague really as simple as that or was it something more sinister? Was a murder plot involved?

You'll have to read the book to discover the answer - but I do believe that you'll enjoy the reading of this book very much. Entertaining from start to finish, this book will appeal to historical novel fans, Tudor fans, romance fans and anyone else who enjoys a good murder mystery and a highly enjoyable book!

 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Machine Embroidered Seascapes By Alison Holt

 * * * * *
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Search Press (May 8, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844486847
  •  8.5 x 0.7 x 11 inches

I have become enamored with the work of Alison Holt- machine embroiderer extraordinaire. I reviewed an earlier book of Ms. Holt's about flowers, woodlands and landscapes last December and I still go and take the book down off the shelf for inspiration.

This is her latest book from Search Press - one of hand-full of my favorite art/craft book publishers. Seascapes is another hit of a book! 
A small thing perhaps but I really like it when the cover of the book is the same as the dust jacket 
The contents page
As is usual with Search Press, the book is laid out beautifully and the instructions are well written, easy to follow and very well illustrated. Here Ms. Holt discusses the proper way to set up your machine for free motion embroidery - her method really works!
Setting up your sewing machine for machine embroidery the Alison Holt way!
Detailed instructions and examples for each type of stitch. 

The book highlights the creative process from start to finish and is well documented and easy to follow. Detailed descriptions and illustrations of how to create cliffs, headlands, deep water, waves, sand, lighting, atmosphere, rocks, pebbles, foam, skies, and clouds are all covered. There is an excellent section that covers how to use sketches and photographs as inspiration for your embroidery as well as how to plan your work using paint and stitch to create to right atmosphere.

One section covers how to effectively paint your background as a starting point- using photographs as a guide. There is an entire chapter that focus' on how to transfer your design to cloth - and how to use masking fluid to enhance the design before painting.

Also included are five project pieces to get you warmed up to use your own imagery successfully.

The book illustrates how to create every imaginable part of a seascape that you might want to add. This book is very detailed and thoroughly illustrated in great detail. One the most interesting things to me is how Ms. Holt uses paper in her work to enhance the overall effect of the machine embroidered stitches. I love this technique!

All in all this is a book that will delight many artistic types - both hand and machine stitchers will find great inspiration from this book as will textile artists, quilters and painters. Yes! I do love this book and can't  imagine why you wouldn't want to have a look at this book for yourself!
Using paper to enhance the stitching's effect in wave. Genius!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Two New Books! Perfect Summer Reading For Creative Minds

* * * * *
This is a cross-post from my arts blog ...
 
Two new titles from Lark Crafts are sure to please - and will be welcomed additions to your summer reading list. By now, some of you have realized that I seldom review books that don't garner 4 or 5 starts from me. I simply won't waste precious time reading books that don't please me .. so my star rating are genuine - it's just the reason that you never see reviews from that are not worthy of my time and attention!  I'm exceedingly grateful to be able to review some titles from Lark - and, even though these titles are provided to me, if I review them  it means that I would buy them for myself. 
So here we go: 
  • Paperback: 132 pages
  • Publisher: Lark Crafts (June 5, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1454701996
Collage is definitely not my strong suit - generally I struggle with it and use it sparingly in my work. That being said, with my keen interest in all things transparent, I have found a renewed interest in collage and this book arrived at the right time! The book is beautifully written and, most important, the instructions are clearly written and illustrated.
The book covers the basics, of course: supports, adhesives, cutting tools, paints, how and where to gather images, on-line resources, storage and organization (did I use that word really?!). Next up are some basics about designs and composition and a chapter called "Layering 101" which is excellent!
The next section, which I love is called "50 Creative Exercises" and these exercises are are on using certain elements in your collage - like whites, typography, image pairings, dreams - you get the idea. These exercises are not specifically instructional, although each presents a paragraph to get your thought train moving,  but rather the idea is illustrated with examples. Trust me - the images are worth more than more words would be in the context of the exercises!

An image library is provided to get your creative juices flowing and a succinct Resource Guide is included for products, paints, glues, software, imagery and books. Well thought out. This one is a keeper for certain - and I actually think I will find renewed interest in using more collage in my mixed media work because of it !
 
* * * * *
  •  112 pages
  • Publisher: Lark Crafts; Pap/Cdr edition (June 5, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600597954
I have to admit that my crewel working days have long been over, but when I saw this book a quilt design popped into my head - and it won't go away! I have 'a thing' for circles and these are all circle designs !! Beautiful, whimsical, perfect circles. The books begins with a chapter entitles "New Crewel Basics" which I think is a perfect refresher for those who have done some crewel work before or for beginners who know nothing of the joy of gliding wool threads through linen or twill fabrics. Linen types, threads, needle choices, hoops, design tracing, knotting and supplies are covered in this chapter. Most importantly this chapter includes detailed diagrams of all of the stitches that you will use in making the designs contained in the gallery of designs that follow.

Next up is my favorite part of this truly wonderful book - the "New Crewel Design Gallery". Each design includes a border strip that has the necessary information for making the design; fabric, thread, stitches used, how to finish and any applicable notes for the pattern are included here.

A gallery of projects for the designs follows - pillows, skirts, bags, etc. Now - here's the thing - this book also contains a CD of all the motifs in the book. Can you say perfect?! Yes, I'm really happy with this fab book of inspired circular designs !


 

Monday, June 4, 2012

"The Queen's Vow" by C.W. Gortner

* * * * *

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (June 12, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345523969




To be upfront I should mention that I'm a fan of C.W.Gortner's work. Each of his books has been a memorable read for me - books that I am sorry to have end because I just want to keep reading!

As soon as I had "The Queen's Vow" in my hands I knew I was going to like it - and like it I did! I had been waiting for this book to be written! There hasn't been much written about Queen Isabella; we hear about Isabella & Ferdinand and we hear about their funding explorations to the New World but we don't often hear about Isabella the person, the woman and the Queen as a "stand alone" character. This book explores the person who was the Queen to perfection. From her happy familial beginnings, to her determination to marry the prince she loved at all costs, to her strength and military prowess as Queen - C.W. Gortner brings it all into focus.

The book also lends insight into the upbringing of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first, beloved, Queen. Catherine seems to have inherited her mother's strength and tenacity - and strict adherence to her faith. Isabella taught her children well and this book also provides an excellent view on some of the regional politics of the day - the politics that also affected Isabella's daughters who became Queens in their own right.

Crisp, exacting details allow the reader to feel as though they are walking alongside this indefatigable woman whose determination and strength of will made her one of the world's most famous Queen's. Yes! I highly recommend this book. I couldn't put it down!



Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"San Juan Islands...and Beyond" by Karyn F. King

* * * * *

I get to live in one of the most beautiful, most natural, places in the world and I am oh! so proud of it. I gave up a lot to live here and have never regretted my decision to move her for a moment. It's a little slice of genteel rural paradise.

Photographer Karyn F. King has made it her mission to document the wealth of natural beauty by having her book of amazing photographs published. Now, you too can enjoy the beauty of the place that I call home.
 This a map from the book - it depicts our county's island composition.
Here's a look of some these islands as seen from overhead - I've always considered them to be 'dream-scape' islands

 
Karen has included a wealth of images that cover many aspects of the Island's beauty. She has included photos of seals, otters, eagles, whales, many avian species, ducks, landscapes, sailing boats, docks , water sports, you name it - if's it's 'island related' it's in these pages! Karyn donates a full 25% of the proceeds from the sale of this book to : the Whale Museum (here on San Juan Island), ASPCA, World Wildlife Fund,Red Cross Disaster Fund, and the North West Organization for Animal Health - so this is a great "feel good" purchase.

Karyn wanted the books to be sold only through local venues so that the money stayed within our area. Copies of Karyn's amazing, beautiful book can bepurchased for $25.95 plus shipping etc at the following locations:

  • The Whale Museum: PO Box 945, Friday Harbor, Wa. 98250   Phone: 360-378-4710

We're blessed with some of the most amazing sunrises and sunsets of anywhere in the world and Karyn has images of some of the best !
 Ferries - our main mode of transportation to the "America" as we call it when we go to the mainland. You get to our little slice of Paradise by ferry, aircraft or personal watercraft only!

Boating enthusiasts have long understood that our picturesque harbors offer some the world's best boating / sailing experiences to be found.

Get yourself a copy of Karyn F. King's wonderful book, do some good for the animals of the world by purchasing it and then sit back with a cup of coffee or tea and be prepared to be mesmerized!

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Queen Of The Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife Of WIlliam I" by Tracy Borman

* * * * *
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (April 3, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553808148
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches 
When I heard that Tracy Borman was releasing a new title I had to pre-order it right away. I has so enjoyed her earlier work , "Elizabeth's Women" (I ordered if from Amazon UK so that I would not have to wait for the US release!) that I had high hopes for "Wife of The Conqueror" - and I was, happily, not disappointed!

Many of us have read a book about William , or at least know about who he was and what his claims to fame are, but few of us know much about his Queen, the very first Queen of England, Matilda, who wielded as much power as any women of the time, acting as regent in Normandy whilst William was about the business of conquering England. Matilda was the backbone of her family and she is largely responsible for fostering an environment of understanding and cooperation after William conquered England, deflecting tensions and skirmishes with a deft hand.

Ms. Borman has sifted through "historical artifacts and documents" to compile an excellent, highly enjoyable, biography of this truly unique women.  Matilda was diminutive at 4 feet 2  inches tall but she had the intellect and courage of any man of her time. 

From the jacket: "...this mother of 9, including four sons who went on to inherit William's French and English dominions, confounded the traditional views of women in medieval society by seizing the reins of power whenever she had the chance, directing her husband's policy, and at times flagrantly disobeying his orders..."

I think that Ms. Borman has the ability to sift through historical documents and collate the information - presenting a biography that is at once both easy to read as well as packed with significant historical notes. The reader gets a clear image of the people and the times. The reader absorbs the history lessons  easily because the book is so well written.

I believe that this book will delight anglophiles, history buffs and biography readers, but it may also well hold the interest of people who are primarily historical fiction readers - because the book reads so well. Yes! I highly recommend this book. Bravo Ms. Borman!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

'Winter King' by Thomas Penn

* * * * *
  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 6, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439191569
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches 
I have to admit to being a history geek. For me, history is alive and energizing - not something static and remote. My obsession is European history from the 12th through 17th centuries - especially British history - so of course, when I was offered the chance to review this book, my interest was piqued immediately.

I had not read too terribly much about Henry VII in the past and, with this book, Thomas Penn, brings this most important of English monarch to life in a very enjoyable fashion. There is nothing pedantry about this book. It is detailed to be sure but the details add to the read - they don't detract from the flow of the book as can become an issue with some dry historical missives. This book is lively, enthralling, detailed and enjoyable!

"Winter King" has put some of the names and historical circumstances into prospective for me. Although Henry VII was a power house of a monarch it is his son, Henry VIII, who generally gets most of the press. I learned more about the man who became the King; how he managed to cling to the monarch in a very uncertain time, how he found his way through a mire of intrigues & plots to depose him, and how, it is my impression, he was the King who really was spymaster. Mentally agile, intelligent, ruthless, thoughtful and canny, Henry VII is an engrossing historical character and this book is a winner!

Yes! I heartily recommend it for other history obsessives or Tudor fans. Well done!

Monday, March 26, 2012

'The Book Of Lost Fragrances: A Novel Of Suspense" By M.J.Rose




 * * * * *
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (March 13, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451621303
  • Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Also available as an e-book

I wish I could have adjusted my 'star ratings' to add a 6th star - because that's how much I enjoyed this book. Riveting stuff!

I have to admit to being a long time fan of M.J. Rose but I think that this is her best yet, although I was, and am, a huge fan of The Reincarnationist. Ostensibly this book it is to be one in a series but I find that this is a solid stand alone book. MJ Rose has an excellent trailer video about the book on her website - and you also find information about about the Joya fragrance that was inspired by the book.

When I was given the opportunity (thank you Amy Bruno!) to review this book I have to admit to not having any idea what it might be about. The minute I began reading though - I was hooked and could not put the book down until I finished... and I have to admit that I was sad when it ended!
Author M.J. Rose
This book has all of the elements that make heart sing when I read a book. Fragrance - I am a 'nose' and the industry of fragrance has intrigued me for many years. My memories are tied to scent. What a perfect addition to the book's theme!  Other titilalting  elements of the book include an ancient artifact from Egypt and the book is set in one of the world's most glorious cities - Paris. This book is a thriller to be sure, but it is also a story about families, love, the creation of fragrance, the bonds between people and how thin the veil between now and then can be. It's an irresistible combination that flows strongly from the first page through to the last gripping scene.
I found this book to be unstoppable, "un-put-downable and thoroughly engrossing from the first page to the last ! You simply can't miss with this book!
      
The synopsis:
A sweeping and suspenseful tale of secrets, intrigue, and lovers separated by time, all connected through the mystical qualities of a perfume created in the days of Cleopatra--and lost for 2,000 years.

Jac L'Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances--and of her mother's suicide--she moved to America. Now, fourteen years later she and her brother have inherited the company along with it's financial problems. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing--leaving a dead body in his wake--Jac is plunged into a world she thought she'd left behind.

Back in Paris to investigate her brother's disappearance, Jac becomes haunted by the legend the House of L'Etoile has been espousing since 1799. Is there a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation - or is it just another dream infused perfume?

The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra's Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet's battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac's quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past. 


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Comments about the book from well known people:

"From 18th-century Egypt and France to present-day Paris, New York, and China, Rose's deliciously sensual novel of paranormal suspense smoothly melds a perfume-scented quest to protect an ancient artifact with an ages-spanning romance. Rose imbues her characters with rich internal lives in a complex plot that races to a satisfying finish." Publishers Weekly, Starred and Boxed Review

"Amazing... utterly engrossing. Elegantly written, with unforgettable characters. Will keep you up all night—and leave you with powerful feelings of revelation, wonder, and the infinitude of human possibility." New York Times best selling author Douglas Preston
"Compelling... suspenseful tale. Once you catch a whiff, you will be enchanted". Associated Press

"Rose has entered another realm and written what is bound to be one of this year's best books." Seattle Post-Intelligencer

 
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About the author, M.J. Rose:
M.J. Rose (www.mjrose.com) is the international best selling author of eleven novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her next novel THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES (Atria/S&S) will be published in March 2012.

Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio.
 
A note about the author's fascination with fragrance:
M.J. Rose:  I've been fascinated with lost fragrances since long before I started writing The Book of Lost Fragrances... since I found a bottle of perfume on my great grandmother's dresser that had belonged to her mother in Russia. Here is one of those lost fragrances that stirs the senses and the imagination... (reasearched and described  with the help of the perfume writer  Dimitrios Dimitriadis
GUERLAIN - DJEDI
The most coveted and rare perfume from the Guerlain portfolio, Djedi was launched in 1926, right on the heels of Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. Presented in a flacon resembling a golden sarcophagus with its lid being raised, Djedi is an exploration into decomposition and decay. Gloomy and desolate, Djedi has a dry, arid quality like the shifting desert sands… a "closed over the ages" feel furnished by dry vetiver, oakmoss, musk, and leather. This olfactory requiem pays hommage to fallen ancient Egyptian dynasties that have been lost to the sands of time.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Give-A-Way from Lark ! "Beaded Fantasies" by Sabine Lippert

What could be better than a great book? A great book that offers you a chance to win it !

Lark Books, one of my favorite craft publishers is offering a great chance to win a copy of this book!

The opportunity closes on March 15th at 9pm EDT. Go HERE for all of the information. Good luck !!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

'All The King's Cooks: The Tudor Kitchens of King Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace" by Peter Brears

* * * *

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Souvenir Press; Second Edition, September 1, 2011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0285638969 
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches 
This is an absolutely fascinating little book - well maybe not so little - about what it was like to supply food and beverage to the legions of court followers during the time of Henry VIII. I think we think little of what it was like to work in the kitchens and cellars of this vast Palace and how it was that the thousand upon thousands  of people who attended the Court daily were wined and dined. 

The books takes on a well written, easy to read look at the legions of workers and ingredients that were required each day.  

The chapters, as laid out in the geography of Hampton Court) include:

The Counting House (the hub of it all)
Serving The Courts (numbers, quantities and costs)
The Outer Court (poultry, bakehouse & woodyard)
The Green Cloth (counting house) Yard (jewels, spicery & chandlery)
The Pastry Yard (saucery, confectionary, pastry)
The Paved Passage (larders, boiling house,work houses)
The Hall Place& Lord's Side Kitchens (boiling, broiling & roasting)
The Privy Kitchen (food for the Rex)
Dining In The Chamber (etiquette & ritual)
Recipes !
Preparing For Dinner (pantry & cellars)

The book opens with a detailed diagram of The Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace with each area delineated on a numbered chart. That alone is pretty fascinating!

Cooking on this scale is something that none of us can really appreciate. Meals were served in what were called 'messes' - which got me to wondering if that is where our modern term "mess hall" came from. Different messes were meant for different groups and each group was allotted a certain amount of food and beverage a day - obviously the higher your rank the better, and greater quantity of daily sustenance, you were given.  There were maximum provisioning prices set per person - and the personnel of the Green Cloth were given a monumental daily task of working within their budgets to supply the ranks with their vittles!

The book is illustrated with many black and white images and a selection of color photographs that include Hampton Court Palace and the entrance to the Green Cloth area, photos of recreations of  Tudor fare and kitchen workers. I think that Tudor era confections are what truly amazed me the most. I have always been a marchepane fan but the Tudors did their sweets with style! Finely detailed figurines of knights and ladies - all colored to perfections. I think I might have wanted to collect these sweet treats rather than eat them!

I found this to be a fascinating book that should hold wide appeal for historians, Tudor fans and gourmets. The only thing that could have it better would be more color photographs! It's really an amazingly fun read!