Thursday, November 19, 2015

(Review) Sons Of The Wolf by Paula Lofting

Publication Date: August 1, 2012.
Publisher: SilverWood Books
Genre: Historical fiction, Anglo-Saxon, Middle Ages, England.
Pages: 396.
Source: Won through a giveaway from the author.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.


B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree.

Paula Lofting website
Paula Lofting blog
Sons Of The Wolf Facebook page

In 1054, during the reign of King Edward, a thegn named Wulfhere lives with his family at Horstede, Sussex, England. His trusted servant is Esegar. When the story begins, Wulfhere and Esegar have returned to Horstede from a long campaign. Wulfhere is greeted by his children and wife. It is apparent the couple has had serious problems and both of them are apprehensive of their reunion. Wulfhere's children have grown since his departure, his eldest daughter Freyda is of marriageable age.
Sons Of The Wolf is the chronicle of a family during the years before the Norman conquest and William the Conqueror's reign.

My Thoughts:
What I love most about Sons Of The Wolf is the dynamics of Wulfhere's family. The marriage of Wulfhere and Ealdgytha is complex and complicated. They are the parents of several children, they have servants, Wulfhere is often away on campaign and Ealdgytha is left responsible; intermingled in this is Wulfhere's extra activity, which causes divisive feelings between the couple. Lofting has shown me through their marriage and personalities a dimensional view of the couple. I am shown positive and negative character traits. I am shown reactions to choices. I am shown their internal conflicts and external battles. The weaving of their story throughout the book is one of the top elements that kept me reading. It is easy to like or dislike characters because of their personalities or conduct. However, I never felt a need to take sides, but felt an immediate pull for both characters.
A second point I loved about Sons Of The Wolf is the history of the how the people lived during this era. From the homes they lived in, to the duties of wives and servants, the responsibilities of a thegn, the culture and customs of the people, and the campaign battles that were fought.
I've grown attached to Wulfhere's family and look forward to reading the sequel The Wolf Banner Rises. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Play It Again Sam, from Casablanca

(Review) The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Publication Date: February 3, 2015.
Publisher: St. Martin's Press.
Genre: Historical fiction, World War II, France, French Resistance, Nazi Germany.
Pages: 440.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

Barnes and Noble

The Nightingale is one of the twenty best books according to Amazon.

France, 1939.
Antoine and Vianne Mauriac, and young daughter Sophie, live in Carriveau, France. They live an idyllic life. Vianne's insecurities about her past is strengthened by the loving relationship she has with Antoine. Vianne's father abandoned her and a young sister named Isabelle after their mother's death. Vianne's father lives in Paris and Isabelle lives with him.
Vianne and Isabelle are polar in personalities. Vianne is domestic, reserved, dependent, and filled with guilt and insecurities from the past. Isabelle is passionate, bold, independent, and intent in finding a calling.
The story begins and alternates with two time periods: World War II and 1995.
The Nightingale has several themes: family saga, civilian affects of war in France, love story, World War II history, French Resistance, Holocaust, and reconciliation.

My Thoughts:
This is the best fiction book I've read in 2015. Magnifique!
I'd read a few reviewers remark the story is sentimental. Good grief. How can this story not be sentimental? It is filled with emotional and riveting scenes. In addition: feelings, thoughts, dialogues, and circumstances all reflect this nature. The sentimental element of the story is a strong bite that carries the reader through till the end, but it is not the only element.
The following reasons led me to award The Nightingale 5 stars for excellent.

  • Multiple layers and definitions of love: a love a mother has for her child, the love between two people who are romantically in love, the love of two sisters, the love for one's country, the love for freedom, forbidden love, and love given and received despite the consequences. 
  • The character from 1995, gives the story a conclusion, and a perspective that only comes from maturity in looking back at the past. 
  • Internal and external conflicts. The Nightingale has several examples of conflicts. Some conflicts are both internal and external. 
  • A story of sacrifice. The two sisters showed a beautiful and loving example for all people throughout history who have given the ultimate in love. 
  • The two sisters are the strength of the story. When the book begins, one sister seems to triumph in strength over the other sister, but a transformation occurs for both.
  • Passion. When I think of passion my first thought is passion between lovers, but what about the passion for our country, for freedom, and for peace? 

Friday, November 13, 2015

(Review) Parisians: An Adventure History Of Paris by Graham Robb

Publication Date: April 26, 2010.
Publisher: W. W. Norton and Company
Genre: Nonfiction, short stories, Paris history.
Pages: 496.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 3 stars for good.



Parisians is twenty short stories of people known to history and those less known. The main character of the book is Paris, the secondary characters are the people who have lived or visited Paris. The first story begins in 1789. Each story is in chronological date progressing to our modern time. The next to the last story brings the reader to 2005. The last story is a wide lens view of the city from the seat of a bicyclist touring Paris. Historical events, geography, and architecture are referred to in this tour.

My Thoughts:
One of the strengths of Parisians is the wide variety of stories. Graham Robb gave an excellent well-rounded view of Paris through the lens of its people. From a young artillery lieutenant visiting Paris and the Palais Royal for the first time, to a famous author who's wife should have received a crown for kindness and integrity.
My favorite story was "Madame Zola." Through her life's actions, she lived a life of grace and mercy.
Over-all, most of the stories I was uninterested in. A few held my attention.
The front cover of the book is wonderful. It's a perfect cover depicting a panoramic view of the beautiful city of Paris.  

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Poetic Introduction to November

"O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness."
William Shakespeare

"Delicious autumn!
My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."
George Eliot

"Now Autumn's fire burns slowly along the woods, 
And day by day the dead leaves fall and melt, 
And night by night the monitory blast 
Wails in the key-hold, telling how it pass'd 
O'er empty fields, or upland solitudes, 
Or grim wide wave; and now the power is felt 
Of melancholy, tenderer in its moods 
Than any joy indulgent summer dealt. 
Dear friends, together in the glimmering eve, 
Pensive and glad, with tones that recognize 
The soft invisible dew in each one's eyes, 
It may be, somewhat thus we shall have leave 
To walk with memory,--when distant lies 
Poor Earth, where we were wont to live and grieve"

William Allingham

"The wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too,have known autumn too long."
E.E. Cummings

"Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower."
Albert Camus

"There is a harmony
In Autumn, and a lustre in its sky,
Which through the summer is not hears or seen,
As if it could not be, 
As if it had not been!" 
Percy Bysshe Shelley

"In prayer it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart."
John Bunyan

Brainy Quote
Poem Hunter

Thursday, November 5, 2015

(Review) Spirit Of The Highway, The Highway Trilogy Book 2 by Deborah Swift

Publication Date: September 28, 2015.
Publisher: Endeavor
Genre: Historical fiction, young adult, England, 17th Century.
Pages: 292.
Source: Free copy from Endeavor, and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, in exchange for a review.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.

Spirit of the Highway (Highway Trilogy, #2)

England 1651.
England has been engaged in a bitter Civil War for nearly ten years. Ralph Chaplin, a farmer’s son, has fallen for beautiful copper-haired Kate. There is only one problem – he is a Roundhead soldier and she is a Royalist lady.
Tired of bloodshed, Ralph volunteers to fight, sensing that the Battle at Worcester will be a chance to finish the fighting for good. He longs for peace, so he can forge a secure future and find a different, more equal way of life for himself and Kate.
But war is not what he imagined, and soon he has made a deadly enemy; one who will pursue Ralph and those he loves, and wreak vengeance. What’s more, Ralph finds he has just as many enemies at home, as on the battlefield.
Told by Ralph’s ghost, Spirit of the Highway is the stand-alone second part of the Highway Trilogy based on the real life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, highway woman, and heiress.

My Thoughts: 
I enjoyed reading Spirit Of The Highway. However, I believe the book is written for an older teen and not a younger teen. The language and romantic elements are not appropriate for my granddaughter's age (6th grade), but more for high school age. This is the only aspect of the book that I had a "red flag." 
Spirit Of The Highway is a story of sacrifice, passion, and internal conflict. Ralph and Kate are in an impossible situation. They are from different social classes. They are from differing political factions. During this period in history marriage is not a choice, but arranged by families. Throughout the story their plight is the strongest opposition. The political climate is an opposition, but the attraction and relationship Ralph and Kate have for each other drew me in emotionally, and carried me through to the last page.  
Spirit Of The Highway is not written for a strong history lesson, but with the intent of showing two young people in an impossible relationship during the English Civil War. The year for the story is 1651, and this was the last year of the war. 

About The Author: 
Deborah Swift is the author of three previous historical novels for adults, The Lady’s Slipper, The Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance, all published by Macmillan/St Martin’s Press, as well as the Highway Trilogy for teens (and anyone young at heart!). Her first novel was shortlisted for the Impress prize for new novelists.
She lives on the edge of the beautiful and literary English Lake District – a place made famous by the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge.


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Spirit Of The Highway

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

(Review) Wolf Hall, Thomas Cromwell Trilogy #1 by Hilary Mantel

Publication Date: Paperback 2010.
Publisher: Picador.
Genre: Historical fiction, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, British History.
Pages: 604.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.


Wolf Hall is a historical fiction story of the period in time when Henry VIII wanted to be rid of his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn, his concubine. Henry wants a male heir. Katherine has not provided him with a male heir. His legitimate heir is a daughter Mary by Katherine.
Thomas Cromwell is the chief minister to Henry VIII. Henry expects Cromwell to advise and bring about a conclusion to Henry's marriage to Katherine. An ending of the marriage is not accepted by the Pope, nor by Europe's royal houses. Henry is a lone renegade is his hapless state of not having a male heir.

My Thoughts:
What I love about Wolf Hall is Hilary Mantel's uniquely written view of the characters. For example, Thomas Cromwell's opinions of the old king, Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon, Arthur, Mary Tudor, and Anne Boleyn. I love it that she neither flatters the characters, nor is she indignant, but shows their human qualities, both positive and negative (and with dry humor.)
I love Mantel's descriptions of characters. The use of heavy descriptive words that oozes their demeanor, or state in life, or dismal future.
"Mary Tudor is a pale, clever doll with fox-colored hair, who speaks with more gravity than the average bishop." Page 76.
"Once Winchester has gone, Anne hangs over the king again; her eyes flick sideways, as if she were drawing him into conspiracy...Her face seems sculpted in the purity of its lines, her skull small like a cats; her throat has a mineral glitter, as if it were powdered with fool's gold." Page 503.
A second aspect I love is I felt as if I were sitting on a perfectly placed perch, able to see and hear the characters without them knowing I was there. For example, there is a fascinating dialogue between the cardinal and Thomas Cromwell. They discuss people, their own personal lives, projects, God, the king, and fears. Their conversation is one of two men who are knowledgeable about each other's lives, mannerisms, speech, and history. They are observant and can read each other's faces. The cardinal tells Thomas two jokes. I felt this scene was phenomenal.
There are places in the story where I am "told" the story in swift third person sentences, then things shift and I'm given a panoramic view by zeroing in on one characters particular observations. This too is a wonderful switcheroo in the change of writing style in telling the story.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

(Review) The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Publication Date: 2010.
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Fiction, Abandoned children, mystery.
Pages: 549.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.


In 1913, a four year old girl is left abandoned at a shipping dock in Australia. The little girl is brought home to live with the O'Connor family. They name her Nell. At age 21, her father, Hugh O'Connor, shares the circumstances of how she came to live with them. In 1975, Nell travels to England to investigate her true parentage and reason for abandonment. Nell's granddaughter Cassandra has a strong voice in The Forgotten Garden. Cassandra's story will uncover mysteries thought hidden.

My Thoughts:
I loved this story! It has several gems that bring about a treasure of a book.

  • Travel. 
  • Mystery.
  • Romance.
  • Danger.
  • Story-telling inside the main story.
  • A hidden garden.
  • Starting over from the old life.
  • Complex characters.
  • Twists.
  • Engaging plot.
  • Hidden meanings. 
The story travels back and forth through different years: 1900, 1907, 1913, 1914, 1975, 1976, and 2005. Often when time travel takes place in a story I get lost. I did not have a problem with the varying dates of history. 
A main character is Nell, she is shown as dimensional, showing positive and negative aspects of her personality and life choices. Despite my dislike of at least one choice, I really liked her and felt drawn to her story. 
A second main character is Nell's granddaughter Cassandra. She and Nell were close; but the mystery surrounding Nell, and Nell's gift to Cassandra, has been a shock. Cassandra has painful memories from her past; but the journey to her grandmother's past will hold blessings for Cassandra. 
The Forgotten Garden is a well-written and memorable story. This is the second book I've read from Kate Morton. The first story was The House at Riverton. A new book has recently been published, The Lake House. I plan to purchase a copy soon.