Thursday, June 16, 2016

(Review) By Helen's Hand by Amalia Carosella

Publication Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical fiction, Greek Mythology, Odysseus
Pages: 429
Source: Free copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and Amalia Carosella
Rating: 5 stars for excellent

Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Tour Schedule @ Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Summary: 
With divine beauty comes dangerous power.
Helen believed she could escape her destiny and save her people from utter destruction. After defying her family and betraying her intended husband, she found peace with her beloved Theseus, the king of Athens and son of Poseidon.
But peace did not last long. Cruelly separated from Theseus by the gods, and uncertain whether he will live or die, Helen is forced to return to Sparta. In order to avoid marriage to Menelaus, a powerful prince unhinged by desire, Helen assembles an array of suitors to compete for her hand. As the men circle like vultures, Helen dreams again of war—and of a strange prince, meant to steal her away. Every step she takes to protect herself and her people seems to bring destruction nearer. Without Theseus’s strength to support her, can Helen thwart the gods and stop her nightmare from coming to pass?

My Thoughts:
I reviewed Helen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella, April of 2015. I had mixed feelings about the book, but have fallen in love with By Helen's Hands.  I had reservations about a few of the themes in Helen of Sparta, but By Helen's Hands is an amazing story with a twist.
One of the things I've learned about human characters in Greek Mythology is they too can have extra special talents. They attribute the gods as having these special powers, but their strength, beauty, charm, reasoning, or heroic prowess are remarkable.
Helen has the "gift" of beauty and charm. Her beauty and charm is mesmerizing to men. They are obsessed with her body, voice, hair, eyes, and skin. She is intoxicating and they loose all rationality. She is something to be won, attained, and conquered.
Human character is a strong element in By Helen's Hands. I'm fascinated by the way in which both men and women react to Helen, because their reaction shows what is in their heart. Some of the characters want power or prestige, some want extravagant gifts, and some want to be a god themselves (to be worshiped.)
Few characters in By Helen's Hands love Helen. The rest of the characters want her for selfish reasons.
Odysseus is a secondary character. He is portrayed as neither one of the selfish men who want her, nor one of the men who love her. He is a balanced individual.
By Helen's Hands is a pre-story to the Trojan War. It is a twist on another possibility of Helen, Paris, and the Trojan War.
Menelaus is a cruel tyrant. He is an abusive man. He is Helen's thorn. Her monster. The person she most fears.
By Helen's Hands is a character driven story and I love stories where the characters (whether good or bad) come to life and keep me reading till the last page.
One of my favorite scenes in the story is where Hermes, Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera visit Paris. An enticing arrangement is presented. Paris thinks he has the upper hand, but the gods are not trustworthy. Throughout the story references are made about the gods, they are untrustworthy and connive. I feel the gods are bored and play with the lives of humans. The gods have the same problem as humans have: selfish desires. They are as imperfect as humans. The gods have special powers, but they are often indifferent and have malicious contempt for humanity.
A twist at the end of By Helen's Hands shocked me, I did not see the change in script. I loved the twist and I loved the ending.
Bravo!

Giveaway:  To win a $40 Amazon Gift Card, sponsored by Amalia Carosella, please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below. Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on June 24th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. By Helen's Hand

About The Author:
Amalia Carosella graduated from the University of North Dakota with a bachelors degree in Classical Studies and English. An avid reader and former bookseller, she writes about old heroes and older gods. She lives with her husband in upstate New York and dreams of the day she will own goats (and maybe even a horse, too). For more information, visit her blog atwww.amaliacarosella.com. She also writes fantasy and paranormal romance as Amalia Dillin.
You can also connect with Amalia on FacebookGoodreads, and Twitter here and here.


Tour Schedule:
Monday, May 16
Tour Kick Off at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, May 17
Review at The Reading Queen
Wednesday, May 18
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Thursday, May 19
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Monday, May 23
Review at Creating Herstory
Tuesday, May 24
Review at Book Nerd
Wednesday, May 25
Review at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, May 26
Review at Helen’s Daughter
Wednesday, June 1
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Friday, June 3
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Monday, June 6
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Wednesday, June 8
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Thursday, June 16
Review at Impressions In Ink
Friday, June 17
Review at Layered Pages
Monday, June 20
Review at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, June 22
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Friday, June 24
Tour Wrap Up at Passages to the Past





Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Lord of Ireland, The Fifth Night, Book Three by E.M. Powell

Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Thomas and Mercer, a trademark of Amazon
Genre: Historical fiction, Historical thriller, 12th century, England, Ireland, Henry II, John
Pages: 370
Source: Free copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour and Amazon. 
Rating: 4 stars for very good



Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour page

Summary:
England, 1185. John is a prince without prospect of a crown. As the youngest son of Henry II, he has long borne the hated nickname ‘Lackland’. When warring tribes and an ambitious Anglo-Norman lord threaten Henry’s reign in Ireland, John believes his time has finally come. Henry is dispatching him there with a mighty force to impose order.
Yet it is a thwarted young man who arrives on the troubled isle. John has not been granted its kingship—he is merely the Lord of Ireland, destined never to escape his father’s shadow. Unknown to John, Henry has also sent his right-hand man, Sir Benedict Palmer, to root out the traitors he fears are working to steal the land from him.
But Palmer is horrified when John disregards Henry’s orders and embarks on a campaign of bloodshed that could destroy the kingdom. Now Palmer has to battle the increasingly powerful Lord of Ireland. Power, in John’s hands, is a murderous force—and he is only just beginning to wield it.

My Thoughts:
I've not read any stand alone books on John Plantagenet, the youngest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
I have a nonfiction book on my shelf to be read, King John: Treachery and Tyranny in Medieval England: The Road to Magna Carta by Marc Morris.
I've been anxious to study John, to unravel his character a bit. From what little information I've read about him, he is described as calculating, manipulative, volatile, and callous.
E.M. Powell has reflected these character traits and more in The Lord of Ireland.
While reading The Lord of Ireland, John is the character that drew my attention to foremost. Even when he is not in a scene, the other characters are menaced by his control and power.
John reminds me of a "bull in a china shop," because he forces his way through a situation to achieve his ambitions.
Sir Benedict Palmer is sent to Ireland by Henry II. Palmer's wife, Theodosia, does not want to be absent from her husband.
They are an unusual pair for this era, a married couple who are devoted to one another and are in love. Marriages during this age were arranged. I'm sure there were many couples who did love one another, but marriages were more like business transactions, a union created for dowries and to procreate.
Theodosia is intelligent and brave. She takes great risks on behalf of her husband. Their story line kept me reading till the end.
Another couple is Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath, and wife Eimear. I did not quite figure them out in the book. I understand how their marriage came to be, and I understand their "arrangement." I did wonder if there were undertones of something else? They are a mystery to me.
I enjoyed reading The Lord of Ireland. I believe the characters are what popped for me in the story. I am anxious to read the previous books in this series.
I want to mention, The Lord of Ireland can be read without reading the previous books in the series. It can be read as a stand alone book.


About The Author:
E.M. Powell’s medieval thrillers The Fifth Knight and The Blood of the Fifth Knight have been number-one Amazon bestsellers and on the Bild bestseller list in Germany.
Born into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State) and raised in the Republic of Ireland, she lives in north-west England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.
She reviews fiction and non-fiction for the Historical Novel Society, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine.
Find more information at E.M. Powell’s website and blog. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Barnes and Noble

“With her fast-paced mysteries set in the tumultuous reign of Henry II, E.M. Powell takes readers on enthralling, and unforgettable, journeys.” -Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown
“Both Fifth Novels are terrific. Benedict and Theodosia are not merely attractive characters: they are intensely real people.” -Historical Novels Review
“From the get-go you know you are in an adventure when you enter the world of E.M. Powell’s 12th century. Peril pins you down like a knight’s lance to the chest”-Edward Ruadh Butler, author of Swordland

Saturday, May 28, 2016

(Review) Theodore Roosevelt and The Making of American Leadership by Jon Knokey


Publication Date: October 27, 2015
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Genre: Nonfiction, Theodore Roosevelt biography, American history, Spanish-American War
Pages: 512
Source: Free copy from Jon Knokey and Author Marketing Experts in exchange for a review.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent





Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Website for book: Making of American Leadership. 

Summary:
In the preface, the casket of Abraham Lincoln is in route through New York City. It will journey through several states on its way to Illinois for burial. People gather beside the roads to pay their respects to the fallen 16th president. Young Theodore Roosevelt, and his brother, Elliott, are spectators of the funeral procession. Their view is from a second floor window. They are viewing a critical moment in American history. Later, Theodore will spark his own pivotal moments in history. Theodore was an unlikely leader, he had health problems as a youth, and he was known as an arrogant fellow in college. Further, he came from a wealthy background affording him to live in luxury and to associate with the upper class of people. However, several responsibilities and life experiences molded him into a man who became a capable leader,
But it was not the charge up the hill that put him in the White House. It was his ability to lead those from different backgrounds that made him president of the United States. He knew how to lead the Fifth Avenue clubman of New York as well as the frontiersman from the West. And when he got the opportunity to lead them together, he healed the scars of the Civil War and united a nation around a new vision: America as a superpower. Page xiii
The book is divided into three parts: "foundation," "ruling," and "leading."
The book stops at the point where Theodore Roosevelt takes the oath of office as the 26th president of the United States.
Highlights of the book is Theodore's childhood and youth, personal life, Civil Service Commission, term as New York City Police Commissioner, the training of the Rough Riders, and the Spanish-American War.
A strong endnotes and bibliography is included.

My Thoughts:
When I read a biography, I am hoping the character will come alive as a flesh and blood person. I've read biographies before where the characters are academic and cold. In Theodore Roosevelt and The Making of American Leadership, Theodore Roosevelt lives and breathes.
Additional reasons for giving this book 5 stars for excellent:

  • Theodore Roosevelt is dimensional. I learned of his strengths and weaknesses. He was a complicated man to pin down as one distinct personality. After reading the book, I see him as a dynamic man with moments of passion and activity. He is a man of vision and idea. He is a man who has the strong ability to befriend a person of any rank, culture, race, or socioeconomic class.  However, he is a man who can be stoic, withdrawing during periods of depression.
  • Theodore Roosevelt is a hero for all people who have wrestled with a disability. He had a childhood illness, was weak in physicality, and possibly had a depressive health condition. 
  • He was a voracious reader. He is a man after mine own heart. 
  • He was unafraid to get dirty. He worked alongside his soldiers. He ate when they ate. Slept where they slept. 
  • Life experiences transformed him, they "made" him. He did not give up, but persevered through hardships to the next step and then the next step. He was bully! 
  • If I could visually see Theodore. I am sure my eyes would not want to turn-away. Knokey has captured this essence of Theodore by keeping my attention from the first page to the last page. 
  • He was a person who wanted to "know" people. He was unafraid and unhindered to grasp the hand of a working class man. He did not place himself on a level above or below. 
  • One of the aims of the book, and it is reflected in the title, is "The Making of American Leadership." I believe this book should be required reading for those who are at this moment in American history wanting to become the next president. Isn't this the kind of president we want? A person who hears what the American people are saying (both listening with the ears, and hearing with the mind and heart), and will execute just action (not sweep away those things that are not beneficial politically.)

Links for further reading:
Wikipedia
White House
Biography
Article from The Atlantic: How Teddy Roosevelt Invented Spin
Theodore Roosevelt Association



Buffalo soldiers who participated in Spanish-American War. 



Thursday, May 12, 2016

(Review) Simply Calligraphy: A Beginner's Guide To Elegant Lettering by Judy Detrick

Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher:  Watson-Guptill 
Genre: Nonfiction, Calligraphy
Pages: 96
Source: Free copy from Blogging For Books in exchange for a review.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.

Summary:
Art journaling and penmanship has become popular. On Pinterest, boards have been created in order to share and help those of us who are apart of this artistic community.
Back in high school I took Art I. In this class I learned calligraphy. I have loved this art ever since.
Simply Calligraphy: A Beginner's Guide is a basic study of the art, and a stepping stone to further study.
The focus is on italic, small lettering, punctuation, and capital letters.
The first section of the book is on the tools needed.
The last section in the book gives ideas for calligraphy uses.
Other types of lettering is introduced.

My Thoughts:
Simply Calligraphy has two strong elements:

  1. The book is easy to read and understand. The information is clear and concise. 
  2. Just the right amount of information is given to a student. The book is not a heavy calligraphy study, but beneficial to a beginner. 
I love the engagement Detrick has with the reading audience. She is positive and made me feel apart of a one-on-one lesson. 
Helpful hints are given, for example, "make sure you." The author knows from her experience in teaching the "things" beginning students will not know to do. 
I believe this is a worthy book for a beginning calligrapher student! 



http://www.BloggingForBooks.com
Amazon



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JUDY DETRICK is a calligrapher and designer living on the Mendocino coast of Northern California. She taught calligraphy and graphic design at College of the Redwoods on the Mendocino coast for more than twenty-five years and developed the Graphic Arts Certificate Program there. Her work can be found in several anthologies of calligraphy and graphic design, and she is represented in the Richard Harrison Collection of Calligraphy and Lettering at the San Francisco Public Library. She served as editor of Alphabet, the Journal of the Friends of Calligraphy from 2007 to 2010. A parallel interest of hers is letterpress printing, and under the imprint of the Attic Press she has produced several limited edition books and a wide collection of ephemera. She teaches regularly at the San Francisco Center for the Book, for the Friends of Calligraphy, and at other venues throughout California.
Website of Judy Detrick

Thursday, May 5, 2016

(Review) The Voyage of Odysseus, The Adventures of Odysseus Volume 5 by GLYN ILIFFE

Publication Date: March 11, 2016
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Genre: Greek Mythology
Pages: 538
Source: Free ebook copy from Glynn Iliffe
Rating: 5 stars for excellent---fabulous

Glyn Iliffe Website

Amazon, The Voyage of Odysseus, Volume 5
Amazon, The Oracles of Troy, Volume 4
Amazon, The Armour of Achilles, Volume 3
Amazon, The Gates of Troy, Volume 2
Amazon, King of Ithaca, Volume 1
Odysseus
Links for further reading:
In2Greece
Ancient History Encyclopedia
Britannica
Greek Mythology

Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus
Summary:
The Voyage of Odysseus is the story of Odysseus and Eperitus's long voyage home after the Trojan War. During the journey home to Ithaca they encounter islands with strange creatures and humans inhabiting: Cicones, Lotus-Eaters, Cyclops, Laestrygonians, Sirens, and Circe. Some of these creatures tear apart and eat humans; and some want body and mind control of the men. At the beginning, there are twelve ships, but the peril at sea, dangers on the islands, and power struggles among the men leave few survivors. Meanwhile, Odysseus's wife is plagued with other suitors hoping for marriage, and his son becomes a man with out a father.
Eperitus is a loyal comrade in arms fighting alongside Odysseus. Epiritus's great love is Astynome.

My Thoughts:
The story of Odysseus, the Trojan War, and his journey home is known to readers of mythology. Glyn Iliffe retells through the use of vivid imagery, the emotions of the home sick men, the tired and haggard feelings of the battle weary men, mythical creatures who have no qualms about defeating and killing those who have already suffered, and the dream all humans have of just wanting to go home.
There are several reasons I have awarded 5 stars for excellent for The Voyage of Odysseus. 

  1. An emotional story. Feelings of homesickness, fear of the unknown, betrayal, destruction of those things in life most precious, a powerful love story, a battle fatigued body, and sacrifice. These descriptions pulled at my heart. I felt apart of the story, because I cared for the characters. Further, I can relate to some of the feelings they felt. 
  2. External and internal conflicts. The external conflicts are the war and monsters they fought. An external conflict is any opposition outside the body. The characters also struggled with internal battles: betrayal, sacrifice, and homesickness.
  3. The characters are sometimes aided by the gods, but they are flesh and blood humans. They wrestle with mythical creatures and bleed and die. They are kept close to the edge of super-human strength, yet Iliffe reminds me they are mere men and women, and thus vulnerable. 
  4. The primary goal is presented throughout the story. It is hoped for, yearned for, cried over: home. The comfort and joy of home. It is a goal all military men and women yearn for, live for, and die for. This is the "it factor" of The Voyage of Odysseus: the travel home and all that it takes to achieve. 
The Voyage of Odysseus is the 2nd book I've read in this series. 



Glyn Iliffe studied English and Classics at Reading University, where he developed a passion for the stories of ancient Greek Mythology. Well travelled, Glyn has visited nearly forty countries, trekked in the Himalayas, spent six weeks hitchhiking across North America and had his collarbone broken by a bull in Pamplona. He is married with two daughters and lives in Leicestershire. He is currently working on the concluding book in the series. 

(Review) The Sons of Godwine, Part Two of The Last Great Saxon Earls by Mercedes Rochelle

Publication Date: March 7, 2016
Publisher: Sergeant Press
Genre: Historical fiction, British history, middle ages
Pages: 346
Source: Free paperback copy from Mercedes Rochelle in exchange for a review.
Rating: 3 stars for good

Amazon





Summary: 
Emerging from the long shadow cast by his formidable father, Harold Godwineson showed himself to be a worthy successor to the Earldom of Wessex. In the following twelve years, he became the King’s most trusted adviser, practically taking the reins of government into his own hands. And on Edward the Confessor’s death, Harold Godwineson mounted the throne—the first king of England not of royal blood. Yet Harold was only a man, and his rise in fortune was not blameless. Like any person aspiring to power, he made choices he wasn’t particularly proud of. Unfortunately, those closest to him sometimes paid the price of his fame.
This is a story of Godwine’s family as told from the viewpoint of Harold and his younger brothers. Queen Editha, known for her Vita Ædwardi Regis, originally commissioned a work to memorialize the deeds of her family, but after the Conquest historians tell us she abandoned this project and concentrated on her husband, the less dangerous subject. In THE SONS OF GODWINE and FATAL RIVALRY, I am telling the story as it might have survived had she collected and passed on the memoirs of her tragic brothers.
This book is part two of The Last Great Saxon Earls series. Book one, GODWINE KINGMAKER, depicted the rise and fall of the first Earl of Wessex who came to power under Canute and rose to preeminence at the beginning of Edward the Confessor’s reign. Unfortunately, Godwine’s misguided efforts to champion his eldest son Swegn recoiled on the whole family, contributing to their outlawry and Queen Editha’s disgrace. Their exile only lasted one year and they returned victorious to London, though it was obvious that Harold’s career was just beginning as his father’s journey was coming to an end.
Harold’s siblings were all overshadowed by their famous brother; in their memoirs we see remarks tinged sometimes with admiration, sometimes with skepticism, and in Tostig’s case, with jealousy. We see a Harold who is ambitious, self-assured, sometimes egocentric, imperfect, yet heroic. His own story is all about Harold, but his brothers see things a little differently. Throughout, their observations are purely subjective, and witnessing events through their eyes gives us an insider’s perspective.
Harold was his mother’s favorite, confident enough to rise above petty sibling rivalry but Tostig, next in line, was not so lucky. Harold would have been surprised by Tostig’s vindictiveness, if he had ever given his brother a second thought. And that was the problem. Tostig’s love/hate relationship with Harold would eventually destroy everything they worked for, leaving the country open to foreign conquest. This subplot comes to a crisis in book three of the series, FATAL RIVALRY.

My Thoughts:
After a prologue narrated by Queen Editha, the wife of Edward the Confessor, the story alternates narration between her brothers: Harold, Tostig, Leofwine, Wulfnoth, and Gyrth. 
Each of the Godwine brothers tell the story of the events from their point of view: the history surrounding them and their personal stories. 
A strength of The Sons of Godwine is in telling the dynamics of the Godwine family: the brothers disagreements and rivalry. 
A weakness of The Sons of Godwine is I felt all the brothers voices sounded similar. I did not perceive a distinct crisp voice for each brother.  
A strength of The Sons of Godwine is the unfolding of historical events in the years before William the Conqueror became England's king. 
A weakness of The Sons of Godwine is the story is strong on narration and less on a scene or descriptive style. Many of the sentences begin with "I", "I said" and "I was." For me, I prefer a story that is a strong blend of narration and scene. A story where I can perceive and understand the internal goings on of a person (their thoughts and feelings) and also see the person and their surroundings through a descriptive scene. I want to be swallowed up in the story. I want to feel what the characters feel and see what they see. There is some reflection from the characters minds, but I did not feel it was deep enough.  
Over-all the book is an easy read and entertaining. I feel it is a good beginning point for a person who is interested in reading a historical fiction story of the Godwine family. 

Author Information: 
Born in St. Louis MO with a degree from University of Missouri, Mercedes Rochelle learned about living history as a reenactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. A move to New York to do research and two careers ensued, but writing fiction remains her primary vocation. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.
For more information visit Mercedes Rochelle’s website and blog. You can also follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.


Blog Tour Schedule:

Monday, April 18
Guest Post and Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, April 20
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter
Friday, April 22
Excerpt and Giveaway at Queen of All She Reads
Sunday, April 24
Excerpt and Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Monday, April 25
Review at Book Nerd
Wednesday, May 4
Excerpt at Layered Pages
Thursday, May 5
Review at Impressions In Ink
Friday, May 13
Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, April 28, 2016

(Review) The Jane and Bertha in Me, Poems by Rita Maria Martinez

Publication Date: January 12, 2016
Publisher: Aldrich Press/Kelsay Books
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 90
Source: Free ebook copy from Poetic Book Tours, and Rita Maria Martinez, in exchange for a review.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.

Poetic Book Tours
Poetic Book Tours on Facebook

Amazon



Rita Maria Martinez is a Cuban-American poet from Miami, Florida. Her writing has been published in journals including the Notre Dame Review, Ploughshares, MiPOesias, and 2River View. She authored the chapbook Jane-in-the-Box, published by March Street Press in 2008. Her poetry also appears in the textbook Three Genres: The Writing of Fiction/Literary Nonfiction, Poetry and Drama, published by Prentice Hall; and in the anthology Burnt Sugar, Caña Quemada: Contemporary Cuban Poetry in English and Spanish, published by Simon and Schuster. Martinez has been a featured author at the Miami Book Fair International; at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, Florida; and at the Palabra Pura reading series sponsored by the Guild Literary Complex in Chicago. She earned her Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Florida International University.

Tour Stops:
April 4: Musings of a Bookish Kitty (interview)
April 10: Emma Eden Ramos (review)
April 12: Everything Distils Into Reading (review)
April 15: Book Dilettante (review)
April 16: Suko’s Notebook (review)
April 18: True Book Addict (review)
April 22: Jorie Loves a Story (review)
April 25: Diary of an Eccentric (review)
April 26: Unabridged Chick (review)
April 27: Pretty Purple Polka Dots (review)
April 28: Impressions in Ink (review)
April 30: Create With Joy (review)

Summary:
This spring marks the bicentennial of Charlotte Brontë’s birth. In her ambitious and timely debut, The Jane and Bertha in Me, Rita Maria Martinez celebrates Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre. Through wildly inventive, beautifully crafted persona poems, Martinez re-imagines Jane Eyre’s cast of characters in contemporary contexts, from Jane as an Avon saleslady to Bertha as a Stepford wife. These lively, fun, poignant poems prove that Jane Eyre’s fictional universe is just as relevant today as it was so many years ago. The Jane and Bertha in Me is a must-read for any lover of Brontë’s work.

My Thoughts: 
Three sections holding a total of 38 poems:
"Femme Covert"
"The Gothic Grotesque"
"Promiscuous Reading"

"Fashion Remedy" is the first poem in the collection that drew me in with its provocative language. "Jane's grown weary of lingeried mannequins, of women spritzing her like exterminators."
In this poem, Jane's anger is just below the surface, ready to leap-up. Eddie is controlling and a manipulator. He's kept secrets from her, "mothballs beneath the bed." Jane questions if she can trust him again. She is drawn to him even though her intuition prompts otherwise. 
A second poem I love is "Cause and Effect".  This is a poem that must be read aloud. I love the pronunciation of the words on my tongue and lips. "She puckers, she contours, she slathers her kisser with Pink Panther lipstick before slipping under plaid quilts because there's a macaroni-shaped scar on her lip." Bertha is eccentric, different, off. However, she's a thinking woman, even if her thoughts are out-there, these thoughts and ideas need someone to disentangle and translate. 
"Letter to Edward" reeks anger, yet there is self-control. Sarcasm is spewing. 
Lastly, my favorite poem is "Reading Jane Eyre II." "I opened a can of alphabet soup and searched for clues in letters, life preservers in broth." I could read this poem 100 times and find something different that reaches out to pluck my emotions. 

A few of the poems did not appeal to me, because there is a strong tone of raw biting aggression. On the other hand, poems are not always "moonlight and roses." I appreciate the collection of poems and over-all loved reading them, but a few of them did not appeal to me. 

The Jane and Bertha in Me is a Rubik’s Cube(TM) of Jane's. Each poem is a smartly annotated, hauntingly revisionist homage to Jane Eyre. Martinez’s astounding poems are literary, conversational, personal, fun, as she confidently transports her Janes from the Moors to Macy’s, from Thornfield Hall to the world of tattoos.  —Denise Duhamel, author of Blowout
Rita Maria Martinez’s The Jane and Bertha in Me gives an unusual twist to the well-known characters from Jane Eyre, envisioning Jane at the guidance counselor, Bertha getting a makeover. These persona poems give us greater insight into the minds of madwoman and governess alike and even minor characters like Blanche and Alice, with beautiful, lush language and empathetic vision. Even casual fans of Brontë’s great book will enjoy this lively re-imagining.  —Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of The Robot Scientist’s Daughter

Further links for reading:


Thursday, April 21, 2016

(Review) The Guardian: A Tale of Andrew Murray, A Tale of Scottish Independence by Jack Whyte

Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Forge Books
Genre: Scottish history, historical fiction, 13th century, the Battle of Stirling Bridge
Pages: 560
Source: Free advanced reader copy from Forge Books in exchange for a review
Rating: 4 stars for very good

Link for book at the publisher: The Guardian

Jack Whyte's website

Jack Whyte's Facebook

Jack Whyte's Twitter

Amazon
Barnes and Noble







The Guardians Trilogy:
The Forest Laird, William Wallace
The Renegade, Robert Bruce--this book can be confusing in the title. It is newly titled as Robert the Bruce
The Guardian, Andrew Murray, also known as Andrew de Moray

I noticed there is a discrepancy in the change of book titles. This can be confusing. All of the trilogy books are A Tale of Scottish Independence and The Guardian Series. The first book is about William Wallace, the second is Robert the Bruce, and the third is Andrew Murray.

I wish there was a map included in my advanced reader copy. This link includes an easy to understand map of the Battle of Stirling Bridge: BBC Bitesize.

Further links for reading:
Andrew Moray from Education Scotland
The Son of Scotland
Crann Tara

YouTube video on William Wallace by Jack Whyte. I did not find a video pertaining to this book.


The book begins with the "Author's Note". Jack Whyte answers and explains, "What is historical fiction?" I loved this introduction piece from the author. It is true, some readers do not know the definition of historical fiction.

Father James Wallace, or Jamie, is the narrator of the story. He is the cousin of William Wallace. Chapter one is dated 1343, Jamie is looking back on life in regards to the history of his cousin William Wallace, and Andrew Murray. Andrew Murray joined forces with William Wallace in the Wars of Scottish Independence. They battled the English king, Edward I, and his army.

The story is narrated and from the perspective of Jamie. He is both a man of the priesthood and a (sometime) soldier. He has written the tale to set the story straight on William Wallace. He believes his cousin has become a "demigod" and he wants an honest portrayal to be presented.

The year is 1297.
Edward I (ruled 1272-1307) invaded Scotland wanting to claim lands. Scottish forces gathered and fought to defend and reclaim their homeland.

Over-all I loved this story. This is the first book I've read from Jack Whyte. I plan to read more!

Several points lead me to award this book 4 stars for very good.

  • Historical accuracy. 
  • Portrays the brotherhood of the men in arms. Their devotion, camaraderie, commitment, strength, and sacrifice. 
  • Shows the transformation of William Wallace. He had a dramatic change in his demeanor and focus after his family's death. 
  • Records the life of Andrew Murray. His motivations, family, and part in the Battle of Stirling Bridge. 
  • Impressive and descriptive view of Stirling Castle. 
  • A masculine story, but filled with the imagery of humanity and its vulnerability.
  • Powerful account of battles and the battlefield afterwords. 
  • Jamie is an insightful and reflective man. Through his lens I saw how he processed the horrors of a battle, carnage, and death.
  • An especially emotional moment in the book when Jamie stops to give viatica or viaticum, last rights. 
The book is more of Jamie's reflection on this period in time, 1297. The book contains the characters, William Wallace and Andrew Murray. However, it did not reflect strongly the one man, Andrew Murray (in the subtitle). The story is wonderful, but it does not relay to me what the subtitle referred. I feel Jamie, Father James Wallace is the principal character.