I will be away for several days - the hubby and I are going on a cruise! We've never been on one before, so I'm really looking forward to it. We are leaving out of San Juan and will stopping at Aruba, Curacao, St. Martin and St. Thomas. This is a picture of the ship - Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas. I'll be back the week of October 8th. Happy blogging!!
What results is a mostly cohesive story, that tells the tale of how Tristan wins the right to Iseult but plans to marry her off to his uncle and how a love potion gone wrong cause the two to fall hopelessly in love with each other. The pair attempt to fight their feelings but fail miserably and are eventually caught. But even then, they can not stay away from each other and what follows is often funny, sometimes sad and ultimately, tragic.
I found the story beautiful to read. It reads almost like a bard telling the tale, often simple and lyrical. All of the things of a good medieval story are here - shining knights in armour, a beautiful damsel, sorcery, monsters and treachery. There's even a dragon!
But, there were parts that just didn't seem to fit in with the story or had a slightly different style. Those things didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story though and I found myself regretting that I don't speak French as I would love to read this in its original version. For some reason, I'm just sure it is even more beautiful.
Imagine that everything is going just swimmingly. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and all’s right with the world. You’re practically bouncing from health and have money in your pocket. The kids are playing and laughing, the puppy is chewing in the cutest possible manner on an officially-sanctioned chew toy, and in between moments of laughter for pure joy, you pick up a book to read . . .
What is it?
This is really a hard question for me. First of all, my life never goes that well! Secondly, I don't change what I"m reading based on the mood I'm in. I might not read at all if I'm not in a very good mood but I tend to stick with one book until I finish it. And with my TBR list so long and set out in the order I plan to read them, it would probably freak me out too much to pick up a different book than the one that's supposed to be "next". I know, I have control issues...
Having read several historical fiction books about The War of the Roses, I wanted to get an idea of what was true and what wasn’t, so I picked up this non-fiction book some time ago. This book contains a lot of information. Without restating the entire saga, I thought I would set out some the author’s observations about the period that I found interesting.
*In the 15th century, England was the most peaceful country in Europe. It had no standing army and its citizens lived relatively quiet and happy lives. The fact that England is an island, helped this immensely.
*Since there was no standing army, the battles during the Wars of the Roses were fought by forces raised for a particular occasion.
*Generally, kings and princes did not take an active part in actual battles. There was one important exception – civil war – where the purpose was to create fear in those taking the field against his king.
*An Englishman born in 1450 who lived to be 40 would see three civil wars (The Wars of the Roses) and the forcible change of the monarch 5 times.
*The wars were not caused by economic or political tensions; but rather, by the shortcomings and ambitions of men (primarily Henry VI, Warwick and Richard III).
*The propaganda of the time would probably rival today’s media frenzies.
*At times, the relative success of one side over the other has less to do with the “rightness” of their cause than with where they stood in the greater web of European politics and who was on their side.
*Richard’s actions after the death of Edward IV were both “extraordinary and unforeseeable”. Which is why he was successful.
*If Richard had been content to be Protector, he would have been the dominant voice in the government for several years. But like others before him, he wanted more than he had.
*There is no theory put forward as to who killed the Princes in the Tower; only that they died during Richard’s reign.
*Although Richard was a competent military general, he lacked one important quality: the ability to make men want to fight for him – even those who had benefited the most from his reign.
*The choice of one man – William Stanley – at a decisive moment changed history. Choosing to support the unknown Henry Tudor, Stanley made it clear that he no longer wanted Richard as his king.
I found those last two points particularly thought provoking. Much of what I have read so far about Richard III has been the rather "romantic" version (see Susan's latest blog for the "unromantic version) and although I haven't considered him a saint by any means, I have preferred to give him the benefit of most doubts. But after thinking about the above, I thought what greater condemnation of his kingship (and perhaps him as a person) can there be? Surely, those that turned against him were intelligent men of sorts. That couldn't have all been wrong about Richard and/or fooled by Henry Tudor, could they? To choose a total unknown who had been living in exile over a known authority figure I think goes against human nature. It's one reason incubment office holders have such an advantage when it comes re-election time.
Even though this was a non-fiction book, for the most part it was pretty readable. There were a few times I got a little bogged down in the details and I found myself taking notes (like I would have in college) to set out the sequence of events for myself for later reference. The book also contains a wonderful genealogical table with names and titles that I found very helpful. For some reason I have a hard time keeping people and their titles straight. So when the author referred to the "Duke or Earl of such and such", I could look at the table and figure out who that person was and who they were related to.
The Beloved - Posie Graeme-Evans
Spring of the Ram - Dorothy Dunnett
Children of Henry VIII - Alison Weir
Master of all Desires - Judith Merkle Riley
I also received Helen of Troy by Margaret George from a friend over at Historical Forum who was so disgusted by it, she couldn't wait to get it out of her house!! But, since different people like different books, I'm still willing to give it a try.
The book begins with Richard’s appointment as Lieutenant of Ireland which Cecily views as a form of exile. But Richard wants to prove his loyalty to Henry VI and he has a fair amount of success in bringing the warring Irish chieftans under control. He is described as fair, but stern and has the ability to speak with the common people and understand their difficulties.
But lying just under the surface is the belief of many that Richard has a greater claim to the throne of England than the current king. If Henry VI had not been so incompetent, the people probably would have been content to leave things as they were, but it is clear to everyone (including Henry himself) that he just wasn’t cut out to be king. Despite Richard’s efforts to bring about government reforms through Parliament, the country’s affairs continue to go poorly. Richard feels he has only one option left – an armed challenge.
So sets in motion a sequence of events that will be bring the country to civil war. Through the back and forth losses and victories of each side we learn more about Richard and Cecily as people, especially Cecily and her concerns for her children. There are references to the allegations of Edward’s illegitimacy, and Cecily is forced to deal with a great deal of conflict within her own family (especially with some of her siblings). Richard is finally pushed to make his own claim to throne, justifying it by what it best for the country. But he is disappointed when the nobles are not so quick to accept him. Eventually an agreement is reached which allows Henry to remain King for the rest of his life and Richard is declared Protectorate and heir. I really felt rather sorry for Henry at this point. He knows he is not a good king and he really doesn’t even want to be king, but he knows no other life and the thought of having to become something else scares him.
Cecily realizes that now they have an even bigger reason to fear Queen Margaret since the King has disinherited their son. She also recalls an old curse that was put on the Beaufort family and she wonders if her children will be the last generation. After Richard is killed in battle, the Yorkists come to the conclusion that the only choice left to them is to proclaim their own king (Edward) with the acceptance of the army and the people of London. But Edward’s victory is overshadowed by Cecily’s worry that something is lurking which will end it all.
The "something" comes from an unexpected quarter – an old friend of Cecily’s with a daughter named Eleanor Butler. When confronted by his mother, Edward prefers to sweep it all under the rug figuring no one ever needs to know. If only he knew what we do!
This was a short book (153 pages) but jammed packed with information. At times, it had almost too much information, especially with the number of people. Trying to keep everyone straight and how they were related was nearly impossible. A good family tree and/or list of characters would have been particularly helpful. I believe that the author wrote a series of books on the War of the Roses but this is the only one I have been able to find so far. I am definately interested in reading the rest of them.
Here are my new ratings:
Excellent -Perfection! Great story, wonderful characters, riveting action – a real page turner. Definitely a keeper and one I would like to reread. 5 stars
Very Good - Very enjoyable book. Had a few things that annoyed me but didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the story. 4-4.5 stars
Good - Overall, good story but parts of it just didn’t work for me. 3-3.5 stars
Average - An OK book, but nothing special. Some good parts; some bad parts. 2.5 stars
Poor/Disappointing - Definitely did not meet my expectations and/or really didn’t like it that much. 1-2 stars
Don't Bother/Did not finish - One of the worst things I’ve read (or tried to read). Zero stars
Okay, so the other day, a friend was commenting on my monthly reading list and asked when I found the time to read. In the ensuing discussion, she described herself as a “goldilocks” when it comes to reading–she needs to have everything juuuuuust right to be able to focus. This caught my attention because, first, I thought that was a charming way of describing the condition, but, two, while we’ve talked about our reading habits, this is an interesting wrinkle. I’d never really thought about it that way.
So, this is my question to you–are you a Goldilocks kind of reader?
Do you need the light just right, the background noise just so loud but not too loud, the chair just right, the distractions at a minimum?
Or can you open a book at any time and dip right in, whether it’s for twenty seconds, while waiting for the kettle to boil, or indefinitely, like while waiting interminably at the hospital–as long as the book is open in front of your nose, you’re happy to read?
This is an easy one: I can read anytime, anyplace. I frequently read while watching TV, while my daughter is at practice, waiting in the car, riding in the car (but not driving!) etc. I've even been known to read while in the kitchen cooking dinner. Noise doesn't bother me. In fact, I prefer some background noise while I'm reading which is probably why I turn the TV on even if I'm not really watching it. I guess I would require some light in order to read since I still haven't mastered reading in the dark!
I think the only situation I've been in where I couldn't get comfortable to read is when my daughter is driving. I've tried it a couple of times, but there's just something about riding with a teenaged driver that ruins my concentration!
Originally published in 1974 (under the title Tudor Tapestry), A Royal Ambition is the story of Katherine of Valois, a light, fluffy story about her romance with Owen Tudor.
Katherine is a young princess of France when Henry V of England comes to negotiate for her hand in marriage. She is plagued by a mean (but beautiful) mother who doesn't want to lose the power she has acquired due to her husband's mental instability. Queen Isabelle is particularly cruel to Katherine's young brother Charles and openly claims that he is not the king's son. As the politics in France change, Isabelle vows to make her son suffer by marrying Katherine to Henry of England and agreeing that their children will rule France.
On her journey to England, Katherine meets a young man in her husband's service - Owen Tudor - and they are quite taken with each other. Owen is charming and sensitive (two things her husband definately is not) and the two begin to spend time together. Katherine even goes so far as to make it clear to Owen how she feels, but regrets that she is Queen of England and so her future must lie elsewhere.
Katherine and Henry's marriage is covered quickly as is Henry's death. The rest of this short book (290 pages - but my copy is a large print book) covers Katherine and Owen's secret marriage, the birth of their children and their life together mingled with tidbits of the political situations in England and France. Katherine and Owen are completly devoted to each other even though they experience some rough times. Katherine's health does not seem to always be the greatest and after the birth of her sixth child, she becomes very ill. On her deathbed, she begs Owen to go to Wales where he will be safe and Henry to always remember his half brothers and take care of them.
This is primarily a love story mingled with enough history to give you context. There's no real attempt to get into the head of the characters or to go beyond the bare bones of the story. I don't have anything against light, fluffy love stories - sometimes, they are a nice change of pace. For what it is, it does an OK job, but overall, it's rather lackluster.
But they are not the only ones looking for the young girl - the Dark Queen of France, Catherine de Medici - also wants to find her and the mysterious Book of Shadows that they think she possesses. Upon hearing about the search, Ariane sends her good friend Catriona O'Hanlon (Cat) to warn the girl's father in London. Cat is a fiery Irish gal who follows the old ways of the earth and is quite skilled with the sword and the bow.
Since leaving France, Martin le Loup has seemingly turned himself into a respectable English gentleman and is determined that his daughter Meg forget about her mother, magic, the Silver Rose and everything she learned from the Book of Shadows. But young Meg is not so sure she wants to give all that knowledge up, even though she desperately wants to please her father.
It is inevitable that Cat and Martin fall for each other - but not without a fight and not without complications. Martin has managed to achieve his appearance of respectability by working for Francis Walsingham - Queen Elizabeth's "spymaster"- and has managed to get involved with the uncovering of a plot to get rid of Elizabeth and replace her with Mary of Scotland.
Through danger, betrayal and several plot twists, Meg finds herself in the middle of the plot and seeking an audience with Queen Elizabeth herself to explain. Meg admires the queen and thinks they have a lot in common - they both have a lot of enemies who want to destroy them, just as many more who want to use them and an evil mother no one wants to talk about. By the end of the story, we learn the fate of the Book of Shadows and the stage is set for the next book. I already can't wait!
The Dark Queen was my favorite of the previous three books and I think I liked this one just as much. The story had some nice suspenseful sections and there were a couple of times you were left hanging and had to wait a few chapters to find out what happened next. The lust/hate/love relationship between Martin and Cat was rather predictable, but I can live with it. I found Martin to be a charming, thoughtful man who is a good father to boot, but whose desire to protect his daughter sometimes makes him lose sight of what is right in front of him. Cat is rather rough around the edges, but that only adds to her likeability. Meg is a precocious child struggling with the battle within herself between who she is and what her father expects her to be.
I don't think its necessary to read the other three books before reading The Huntress as Carroll does a good job of summarizing the events that have already taken place to get the characters to where they are now. But I highly recommend all of them.
Words to live by: Life is made up more of smaller things and ordinary moments than great events or cataclysmic happenstances and we should all thank the good Mother Earth for that. It's how people survive. Cat to Martin on why it is people simply go about their everyday affairs after something major happens.
Rating: Very Good