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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Middle Grades/YA early British History Made Interesting. In two languages!! Check out Laurel Rockefeller's, Boudicca

March 20, 2014 
 4 - 18   2 - 12
From the books description:
Why is The MorrĂ­gan's raven crying? Only Britons with hearts for true liberty know!

In 43 CE Roman conquest of Britannia seems all but certain -- until a chance meeting between King Prasutagus of the Iceni and a runaway slave of royal decent from the Aedui tribe in Gaul changes the fate of the British islands forever.

Rise up for liberty with the true story of Boudicca: Britain's Queen of the Iceni and discover one of the most inspiring stories in history!

Based on the accounts of Roman historian Tacitus and supplemented with archaeology presented by the BBC. Told through the eyes of a 5th century mother and daughter facing the Saxon invasions.

Now in Chinese also. What a positive event for author Laurel Rockefeller.  Check out the two covers. Both available through Amazon.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Belated Birthday, Mr. President.

December 28, 1856- A President is born. Happy Birthday, Mr. President. Read about his childhood in Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a President.

Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a President is being used in schools and libraries for biography projects for upper elementary, MG readers. It is also finding favor with older readers who know more of the history of this president. Get to know Tommy, Thomas Woodrow Wilson.

The little boy who became President Thomas Woodrow Wilson was born December 28, 1856. In honor of his birthday, I am repeating my earlier blog about my childhood biography of him. Known to his family as Tommy, I think you will like the little boy that lives through one horrific war only to be called upon to lead us into another.

In Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a President, readers will get to know Tommy through his family and friends, through his leisure moments, and even through his stubbornness and his caring for others. Each chapter provides insight into the youngster who became 28th president of the United States. The reader will see Tommy learn from his faith and family, and from the history lived. These lessons learned were later evident as President Thomas Woodrow Wilson guided his country through another war, World War I. 

In "Tommy" we get a glimpse of everyday life in a southern town not directly in the line of fire in a bloody civil war. An important strand in the book is found in the many parades, all verified, that took place in Augusta during that time. At the beginning of the war the parades were glorious. By the middle and end of the war the tempo of the parades was changing. The following except describes one memorable parade.

  An excerpt from Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a President.

     The future President of the United States stood on the edge of the field fascinated by the parade passing in front of him.  He had seen many parades since the war started two years ago, but this one was different.  There were no brass bands playing, no freshly uniformed infantry units stepping high and no prancing cavalry horses.  No one was marching, and no one was cheering.

     This was not a parade of clean, smartly dressed military men.  This was a parade of ragged men in tattered uniforms.  Their sabers and sashes were replaced by blood and bandages. And dirt. 

     There was no one to watch this parade by the railroad track in Augusta, Georgia, but seven-year-old Tommy and his young friends.  Playing in the fields near the tracks, they had heard the solemn ringing of the troop-train's bell and watched as it shuddered to stop beside the field.  Curious, the boys ran to the train and watched as slowly it emptied its cargo of Civil War wounded.

          A few of the injured limped unaided, but many more shuffled, supported on one or both sides by others who were themselves wounded.  Others hobbled on crutches.  One man, with a foot missing kept his head down and his eyes on the bandage at the end of his leg.  He seemed to be looking at the foot that wasn't there.                               
     After the walking wounded came men on litters.  Their bodies, their heads, their limbs wrapped in bloody, dirty bandages.  Some of the blood was old and caked; some new and oozing. 
    One man alone seemed to see the boys.  His large body was covered with a blood-soaked blanket on which several medals and many flies competed for space.  His head and face were covered with bloody, dirty bandages.
     A foul, wretched smell filled the air through which the litters moved.  It was not a smell like the barnyard or the cow pen.  It was not even a smell like hogs being slaughtered.  This smell was worse, much worse.  As it grew stronger, Tommy and his friends covered their mouths and noses as to protect themselves from this smell which instinctively they knew to be the smell of death.

     Finally, from the car nearest the engine came a different sight.  Men under guard.  Men whose arms and legs were bound together, making it hard for them to walk.  So they too shuffled.  And they too were covered with dirt and blood and bandages.

     One of Tommy's friends  finally broke their silence.  "Come on," he said.  "Let's get back to our game."

     Everyone turned to go but Tommy.  Tommy stood still, only his head moving to follow the hundreds of wounded and dying soldiers who were passing by.

     Finally, he turned and headed, not toward his friends, but back to his home and the security of his family. He could play no more that day.  He wasn't sure he could ever play that game again.

      The boys had been playing war. 

Tommy: The Civil War Childhood of a President
A Childhood Biography of President Thomas Woodrow Wilson
By Julia Faye Dockery Smith

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An Old Woman swallowing dreidels, oil, latkes and other things, and great artwork. What a special way to start Chanukah.

Today is the beginning of Chanukah, so I decided to review a wonderful book that came my way a few weeks ago. I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Dreidel by Caryn Yacowitz and illustrated by David Slonim.

What a great book for all, but especially for our Jewish friends. The time-honored "There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly," is adapted to items found in Jewish life. The family has gathered for Chanukah when the story begins. We start with "I know an old lady who swallowed a dreidel, A Chanukah dreidel she thought was a bagel, Perhaps it's fatal." Then of course, she had to swallow other items trying to offset the expected effects of swallowing a dreidel. She swallows some gelt, a brisket, some sauce, the latkes, etc. Did she even try to swallow the menorah? Was swallowing the dreidel fatal? You must read the book to find out. You will love the journey.

The beautiful, in every sense of the word, surprise is the artwork that accompanies this tale. The illustrations are parodies of famous artworks from the world over. They are usually hilarious and always true to the original. Everything from the Mona Lisa to The Scream and Christina's World can be found. At least 14 different artists' works are wonderfully parodied by the illustrator, David Slonim. Not just one illustration per artist, but many. One of my favorites, and this was a hard decision, is Van Gogh's full page Starry Night complete with a menorah. For some reason, too, Christina's World also speaks to me. The artist states that he wanted the book to transcend Chanukah and speak to the universal human experience of family gatherings and celebrations. He has succeeded beautifully through great artworks.

I'm so glad I received this book through Goodreads. I've enjoyed it immensely, but tomorrow, the second day of Chanukah I will gift it to my dear Jewish friends to share with their grandchildren. I rather hate to let it go, but in the spirit of my season and their season, I will


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

When I was growing up, there were always books for Christmas. It's still that way at our house.

When I was growing up, there were always books for Christmas. My parents taught me the value of reading very early in my life. From my first memories, I can recall being read to by one or the other of them. Books were always around the house, and Dad was a prolific reader.

When I entered first grade, no pre-k or kindergarten then, I quickly became an avid reader for myself. By fourth grade I had read every book in our elementary school library, mostly biographies of American heroes.  Thank goodness that after fourth grade the local library was on the bus route and even within walking distance when necessary.

But it was at Christmas that I received the seeds of a family tradition and added to my list of books read. I discovered early on that my Mom listened closely to my ramblings about books I wanted to read. She would then rush out and buy them for Christmas. They would quickly be hidden away, or so my folks thought.

I discovered the hiding places and would sneak the books out and read them. After putting them back I would casually say something to the fact that "Oh, Joanne's mother bought her such and such, and such and such, etc, and she let me read them." A little later I would mention other books I wanted to read, the list was as endless as it is now, and Mom would dispose of the read books and put more in their place. Some Christmases this pattern could be repeated 2,3 or even 4 times.

I was well into high school when it stopped and I never learned if she had a 'deal' with the local bookstore, or if those books went under someone else's tree through the church or work gift collections. I always felt that I had outsmarted my parents.

Years later, my Mother casually let it slip that she and Dad knew exactly what I was doing, and they helped perpetuate the myth. Perhaps that would explain why they started buying and hiding the books immediately after Thanksgiving.

They also helped start a family tradition, for everyone in my family knows they will have a book or books under the Christmas tree. When our daughter married, we were told that it wasn't necessary to buy our son-in-law a book because, well, you know. He received a book and has for the past 22 Christmases, and some birthdays! No complaints. The same story with our daughter-in-law. "Not that much of a reader," she said. Now, 13 years later, she feels free to give me lists of titles she wants to read. This year there is possibility that there will be a boyfriend of a granddaughter in attendance. If so, he will get a book. It's our family tradition.The secret is simply getting to know their interests.

In that vein, here are some books that would make great Christmas and Hanukkah gifts. Most of these are not from the best seller list, but great reads just the same. Let's also help other writers develop a fan base.
Happy Holidays to all.








More suggestions in a few days. Would love to hear YOUR suggestions.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Kennedy Wives: Triumph and Tragedy in America's Most Public Family is engaging.

"The Kennedy Wives: Triumph and Tragedy in America's Most Public Family"  by Amber Hunt and David Batcher is really quite engaging. My first thought was "another Kennedy/Kennedy women book". This one, however, is an easy read, full of behind the public stage scene and manages to make all of the women someone to whom we can relate. The book made me laugh and made me cry. It reminded me of stories I had heard before, and related many new stories.

The women, and the men with whom they are directly involved, each have their own chapter or chapters with the matriarch Rose getting a real in-depth presentation. She is fascinating in her own right, even before becoming the bride of Joe Kennedy, Sr. Born in the middle of the relentless and deadly hot summer of 1890, Rose was in peril of dying. Instead she lived until 1995. Her life alone is worthy of a scholarly work.

The other women are, in my opinion, fairly treated, but this is not a fawning tribute to any of them. The least personable seemed to be Jackie, but then, perhaps her role in life kept her at a distance. Edward's wife at the time of his death is an interesting woman. One wonders how things might have been different had she come along earlier.

This is a well written, enjoyable book. If you have an enthusiastic Kennedy reader in your circle, they will probably want to read this. Othes can read and learn from it.

This is a new book, published December 2, 2014. Available at multiple outlets. I won my copy on goodreads.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

With December 7, 2014 approaching, re-posting this blog. Let us not forget.

December 7, 1941--" War Comes To Paradise" Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii

A brief story or the morning attack on December 7, 1941 told in large print and historic photos. A short tour of today's memorials to the memory of that morning and those lost and those that survived. Originally written as a video pictorial history for middle schoolers, the author was amazed at the number of parents and grandparents who wanted to borrow or purchase a copy. The text and photos are now available in an 8X10 history book. Appropriate for middle grade students to veterans. The pictorial tour tells of the many ships in port that day, of the buildings, planes, airstrips and bases away from the harbor front. The author spent several weeks at Pearl Harbor studying with scholars. For two weeks she had the privilege of having lunch each day with survivors of the early morning attack. This book is a concise history of that morning and a look at today's memorials published with gratitude to those who gave their lives and those who survived.

USS Utah Memorial

USS Arizona Memoial

Sunday, November 30, 2014

As Close as Sisters by Colleen Faulkner should be shared with your good friends. A true book about friendship.

From the book blurb: Since the age of twelve, McKenzie Arnold has spent every summer at Albany Beach, Delaware, with her best friends Aurora, Janine, and Lilly. The seaside house teems with thirty years of memories--some wonderful, others painful--and secrets never divulged beyond its walls. 

My reaction: Good friends, seaside memories, death, and dying. This is a wonderful book. Be prepared to laugh and cry as you read the stories of these four young ladies and their many years of friendship. 

On this, the summer they are all in their early forties, the ugly head of cancer seems to threaten their idyllic summers together. Will this all too familiar monster be the catalyst that ends life as they have known and loved it? 

As we get to know the four main characters we learn about their loves, heartbreaks, secrets, and hopes, and we learn of that one defining event of long ago. The women are all likable, believable characters. They not only have formed a true bond of friendship but they do the almost impossible of keeping it together through the years and from around the world.

Get ready to laugh and cry, to be thoroughly entertained by these four good friends in this well written, easy and engaging read. I know several young women the age of the characters and think they and their generation will relate easily to this story and its characters.

I won the book on goodreads and am happy to recommend it. It is available in online and in books stores in paperback, large print, and ebooks. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

OMG. True Colors is scarily realistic!

Having taught middle school for 30 years, I can say with some authority that True Colors, by Krysten Lindsay Hager is scarily realistic. The author has an uncanny memory for the middle school years. Her characters speak and act realistically. To adults their obsessions may seem banal, but to middle schoolers, their thoughts, fears, insecurities, and shifting feelings of friendships are the basis of their universe. Hager focuses on this middle school universe in such a way that one begins to wonder if she is still she a middle schooler?

The main character, Landry, wants to be one of those squealers who runs toward her friends shouting "OMG, do I have news for you" but she is not. She sees her life as BORING. Even when her life takes a positive turn, her low self-esteem continues to plague her. There are several reasons for this; overbearing friends, false friends, parents who are separated but do manage to get together and then fight, and boys. Then there are the BFF's who unfriend and refriend at the slightest perceived slight. They, too, are middle schoolers going through their own angst.

Then there's THE HAIR! Beautiful, long silky hair, but Landry does not see it that way. How often have I seen girls behaving like Landry, crying about their hair, and changing their hairstyles between classes....even in class if the teacher is distracted.

Honestly, I felt as if I were back at my middle school post watching girls who I knew would grow up to be fine, but who needed support for the moment as they came and went through my classroom and my life. My only negative concern is very petty. I think the girls acted more like the seventh graders I've known than eighth graders. Eighth graders are usually getting their act together a little more than Landry and her friends. But who knows, in the sequel, they might just reach that eighth grade level of maturity.

I was gifted this book by the author for an honest review. I can honestly recommend this book. I think middle school girls will see themselves and their friends in many of the characters.

Available at

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History

Throughout the history of man, great leaders have emerged when needed. Through many of them we see that one man can make a difference. The Churchill Factor tells of one such man in a refreshing manner. Reading about this man and his exploits could have been plodding and full of ponderous thoughts and conclusions. It is not. The book is written in such a way that the reader feels as if he/she knows and usually understands this historical figure who is still larger than life to most of us. 

In observance of the 50th anniversary of his death, this very engaging work gives us insight into the man and his place in history. For scholars, writers seeking to know more about Churchill and his impact on the world as we know it, and for those of us who are amateur historians this book deserves a place on your TBR list. Published  Oct. 23, 2014, this would make a great gift for the history buffs on your list. I highly recommend it.  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Time for a Elementary/MG Review: KIBBLE TALK: You might want to read this before daring your best friend to eat dog food!

"I dare you to eat some dog food." How many times has a good friend or a cheeky little brother issued this dare. Too many to count, I'm sure. In Kibble Talk by Cynthia Port, the dare is issued to Tawny by her best friend Jenny who knows that Tawny will accept the challenge. Yes, she does, and things change fast and furiously. Immediately Jenny's dog begins talking to Tawny. Frightened, but keeping this horrible transformation to herself, Tawny runs home.

It is at home that the fun really begins for Tawny has a huge dog, a Great Dane with the improbable name of Dinky. Dinky becomes a major character in this story and a very colorful one. I think all kids would love a Dinky type dog in their lives. 

It is through Dinky that we learn that Tawny can really talk, or read the thoughts of dogs. Their 'conversations' lead to many adventures. In a short time Tawny learns that Dinky, large as he is, really wants to be a small, cuddly lap dog. (Is this a comment on people in general, for so many of us want to be tall if we are short, short if we are tall, etc.?)Tawny tries to help Dinky achieve his dream and along the way they win a Dog Beauty Contest but almost lose a best friend. Jenny, still in the dark about the results of her dare, now feels displaced by a DOG!  How humiliating. 

In the end, everything works out, for Tawny, Jenny, and Dinky, but not before some hilarious episodes. A lot of the fun comes from the interaction of girl and dog. I think most children would love to be in Tawny's place, at least for a little while. I know most children would love the silliness of this book. It had me laughing out loud many times.

The book is well written and easy to read. It is the first in a series. I think teachers might use this book with reluctant readers. It's funny; they like funny.The first chapter of the next book is included at the end of the book. Kibble Talk is available as paperback or Kindle book.

I received a paperback, signed copy from the author in order to review if I felt like it. I am happy to review and give it 4 1/2  stars as a delightful upper elementary /and early middle school book.  

My signed copy will soon be wrapped and given to my grandson as he turns 9 later this month. He will also laugh out loud and read aloud many passages to his parents. I think all my grandchildren, ages 5 to 11 would love this book.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

John Grisham tackles big issues on Gray Mountain

I just finished John Grisham's new release, Gray Mountain. Writing a review and blogpost about it leaves me feeling somewhat ambivalent. I need to be honest about it and it hurts not to be able to praise it unconditionally.

 Several years ago I stopped reading certain contemporary romance authors because they were writing by formula. Three paragraphs into those stories,  the reader could have completed the manuscript.

That's the way I felt about Gray Mountain...written by formula. Young, inexperienced lawyer meets important social/environmental problem. She, in this case, should have been in over her head, but she manages to survive and make a difference. Throughout the book, I never wondered if she would win, if she would make a difference, I knew she would. The question that drove the plot was how would she do it.

There was not, however, one big climatic courtroom scene as there usually is. But, and this is something new, the lack of such a scene seems to keep the door open for a sequel for this lawyer and her fellow Brady, VA lawyer friends, for by no means were all of her cases and interests solved.

This was a treatise on big coal, strip mining, environmental destruction, and black lung disease. All compelling subjects.  The protagonist and her friends tackled all of these problems. Along the way lives were lost, secrets told, and ambitions altered.

Being a Grisham fan, I wanted to love the book. I didn't. It was a good book, but not one of his best books. I must admit, however, that the book keep me involved and kept me reading. I read the book immediately upon release, and completed it in a two days.

While I was writing this review four reviews of the book, all from newspaper or magazine reviewers came across my desk. They all disagree with me. "Powerful", "Gripping", "His best legal drama in years," and "Takes suspense to new heights." Well, two of the characters did go flying several times.

If you are a Grisham fan, you will read the book, and you might simply say, 'not one of his best.' or you might disagree with me completely. If you are trying to introduce Grisham to new readers, don't start with this book. Others have more memorable characters and are more compelling.

Still, I am now awaiting John's next novel.

Friday, October 24, 2014

WWI, France, and the cruelest of lies: M.K. Tod's "Lies Told In Silence" has all that and more.

Because this novel is now available on BookBud for .99 through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I am re-posting this 2014 review. WWI fans, take note.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote that "The cruelest lies are often told in silence." This thought forms the premise of M.K. Tod's WWI novel of war, love, and betrayal of the cruelest kind. 

It is May 1914, and based upon inside knowledge that his war department position gives him, 16 year old Helene Noisette’s father believes war is imminent. He is convinced that Paris will be Germany's next target. Long before most of his friends are fleeing Paris, he sends his wife, daughter, mother and younger son to safety. 

In an irony of fate, within four months, this safe haven, a small village in northern France, is much closer to the war zone that is Paris, and the displaced family finds themselves in a sleepy rural village less than 20 miles from military buildups and battles. For some reason, Father Noisette stands by his decision and is adamant: Paris is unsafe. The family cannot return.  

Thus for long, empty years, Helene, her mother, Grandmother and younger brother live within hearing, and often seeing, distance of the war. Their near isolation, however, brings these three generations of women together to cope, to love, and to learn about each other in ways that Paris would not have provided.

The isolation also provides young Helene with the opportunity to meet Canadian soldiers who are fighting valiantly for the Allies and France. Love blooms, grows, and promises a bright future. Battles with the enemy and with father promise something else entirely. The lovers are parted. The waiting begins. Will their love find a way and lead them back to each other or will the war and untold lies tear them apart forever. 

The characters are believable and the setting is clearly depicted.  the story, based upon historical facts of WWI and the author's vivid imagination, is told in clear, concise language. This is an easy read. I would recommend this book to readers of American and WWI historical fiction.  I bought my Kindle edition through Amazon.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What a surprise! I like Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers

The following is the first paragraph in the publisher's book description: "Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others."

I never expected to like this book, but I did. I am as surprised as anyone. Even with all those elements that usually send me running to my 'normal' historical fiction shelf, I found myself drawn into the story and wanting to know more. 

Set in Medieval France our heroine learns that she has been sired by Mortain, the god of death, and as his daughter she is to be an assassin for him.  At the Convent which worships Mortain, she learns to stalk, entice, and kill men who bare the marque of Mortain. 
On her second assignment in Mortain's name, Ismae is sent to the high court of Brittany, posing as a cousin or mistress if need be, of a Breton nobleman. Actually she is there too spy on her subject, Duval and determine if he is a spy working against the Duchess of Brittany. If he is she is to kill him. 
Ismae has worked very hard to avoid contact with men for she despises them for their treatment of her and all other women in her world. As in all good literature, there must be a complication. That complication is of course a physical attraction between Duval and Ismae. Both fight it but..... Now that poses a real complication for Ismae and Duval, and also for the Convent and the orders they have given Ismae.
Ismae is a likable character with a gentle side that is in contrast to the path her life has taken. My favorite character was a gentle giant who could snap a man in two if need be. He expertly exemplified the idea that gentle behavior can be part of any man (or woman) in the right circumstances. 
Robin LaFevers' unexpectedly enjoyable novel has a dark side full of castles, escapes, court intrigues, assassins, friendship and attraction. Ismae's current assignment is fulfilled, but that fulfilling only leads to more questions and leaves an ending that is open for the next book. This is book one in a trilogy. All the books are now available.
I bought my copy as a Kindle edition from Amazon. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Daffodils by Alex Martin

Daffodils  might seem a bit of an incongruous title for a book about war. It is not, for even in war we must have hope. Daffodils in the fields of England and daffodils in the fields of France raise their sunny faces and offer hope even in the darkest of times. Daffodils by Alex Martin is a book about hope. And love, and sorrow, and despair. And war. But always, hope pushes through just as daffodils will push through the the seemingly frozen earth in Spring.

Katy has a zest for life. A thirst for adventure. When that zest and thirst take her job and her reputation, Jem, who has loved her forever, steps forward and saves at least her reputation. He also gives her a new title, housewife and later mother.
Heartache and deep sorrow tear the young couple apart and WWI offers Jem a refuge.

Upon the news of his possible death in the field, Katy, trying to escape a manical Vicar who wants her love, joins the WAAC. Her life no longer belongs to her, but to the military, her country, and the war. It is here that Katy finally finds her strength.

There are many contrasts in this book, none greater that the contrast between the two settings: Wiltshire, England and the battlefields of France. A second major contrast is between the classes that occupy rural England in the years before WWI. There is also a contrast between types of love. These contrasts Katy must learn to discern.

This is an enjoyable historical fiction. An easy and quick read, the book has many descriptive passages. I most enjoyed the play with words that the author uses when she is describing a character's thought processes. The scenic descriptions are more predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless. The author's in-depth research is evident.

Daffodils is a good read. It is not great literature, but it is certainly good literature, and a very good story. There is now a sequel Peace Lily. Yes, I will read it.

I recommend this book. My copy was a verified purchase through Amazon where it is now only .99 in the USA. It is also available on Amazon UK.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rebel Yell by S.C. Gwynne: history, war, an engaging character...a winning combination.

I am always amazed at the ability of some authors to take a well-known and well-loved historical figure and bring him or her to life one more time. S.C. Gwynne has done just that with Rebel Yell. Readers who are familiar with Civil War history will think they know all about Stonewall Jackson. This book will give even those most familiar with Jackson new insight into the man.

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson is a heroic character, a romantic character, and a tragic character. His battlefield strategies confounded and confused not only the enemy but his own compatriots. His grief for a lost love was felt by women everywhere. His tragic death gave rise to grieving on both sides of the line. He is remembered today, studied today, and in this case is a remarkable read for today.

I recommend this book to all who are interested in anything related to the American Civil War. It is a fast, well-written, well-researched work that should be on your to-read list.

S.C. Gwynne is the author of the New York Times bestseller Empire of the Summer Moon, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Publication date: Sept. 30, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Wouldn't we all love to inherit a Parisian apartment left untouched since before WWII? I know I would.

The Paris Time Capsule is inspired by a true story. A story of an actress and demimondaine in Paris before WWII. She was beautiful and well-known. A portrait of her was pained by Giovanni Boldini. From these bare essentials, Ella Carey has written an engaging tale.

Unexpectedly inheriting from an unknown benefactor a Parisian salon filled with antique Parisian furniture and artwork which is worth a fortune, our main character is thrown into a setting of former splendor and mystery. Why did Cat Jordan inherit? Who was this woman? Where are the 'real' descendants of the deceased?

Soon we meet one of those real descendants, Loic Archer, from the south of France. His mother is the daughter of the deceased woman. No, they are not fighting to get the inheritance. Rather, Cat is fighting to make them take it. At the same time, of course, Cat and Loic are fighting an attraction for each other. Rather, she is fighting it. He seems perfectly fine to give in to the attraction from the first day. Cat can't give in. She is engaged to marry a millionnair in New York City.

This is a small, easy to read, delightful summer day or rainy afternoon read.  It is the first in a proposed series.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Tudor blood, a beheaded sister who was queen, and art history. An interesting book.

SISTERS OF TREASON,  by Jane Fremantle, has as a backdrop a familar story, the short reign of Lady Jane Grey. The book, however, goes a step beyond other historical fiction books and gives us a look at Jane's two sisters, both somewhere in line for the crown. In addition, the court artist figures prominently in thier story.

As usual, with the Tudors, this is a tale of politics, family, love, and loss. We get to know Jane's sisters, Catherine and Mary. Catherine was impulsive and given to making unwise decisions, usually in the name of love. Lady Mary, on the other hand, seems the most suited to any type of high rank but is burdened with a crooked spine and a tiny stature almost as a dwarf.

Both girls have inherited the cursed Tudor blood that puts them, or at least Catherine, in line for the Queen's distrust. Mary excapes by being the Queen's "pet", treated almost as a pet monkey would be treated. She hates it, but endures it.
The girls are under the loving and watchful eye of the court painter Levina Teerlinc. She becomes not just a trusted advisor, but a mother figure to the girls. From Levina's viewpoint, we see life at court from another point of view.

The book covers the reigns of both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. Family feuds, royal blood, and religious upheaveal cloud the girls' everyday existance. This is an interesting sideline to the Tudor history and art history of the time. I enjoyed the book.