Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Historical Flavour of The Week: Henrietta-Maria of France-Happy Birthday too!

This is one feisty lady with a streak of stubbornness, determination, unswerving loyalty to theCatholic religion and undying love and faithfulness to her husband Charles I of England.

Henrietta Maria was born 400 years ago today. Her illustrious ancestry makes it that she was the daughter of the Great Bourbon King, Henri IV and Marie De Medici- no ordinary- quiet- lifestyle personalities either…

Born the youngest child in her family, she barely knew her father the Great King; he was assassinated before she even turned one. Henrietta Maria would grow up to be a very charming bright-eyed princess with a case of strong personality to spice things up.

She met Charles I after he had declined to marry the Infanta of Spain. Although he immediately took a liking to her, it took a while for the two to become compatible- to say the least. Henrietta was quite argumentative and could not do without her grand entourage that she hauled over from France to be by her side. To make matters more difficult for the King of England, his pretty Queen was a Catholic with a zest for conversion as her ultimate goal.

Their life together decidedly got better when the Duke of Buckingham, Charles greatest friend and confidant, died; leaving the King to rely and confide solely in his wife. She had finally earned her right as confidante and closest ally to the King. The King also managed to convince her that ridding herself from her French staff and followers would be beneficial to get their marriage back on the right track. When all that was cleared up, things finally settled and from that point on the two were inseparable in both love and royal business.

The marriage produced six children. The firstborn, Charles II was different from the rest. Henrietta considered him to be very ugly, too tall, but irresistibly charming with the distinguishing advantage of being born with a grand and definite kingly allure. Her last child would be her favourite; Henrietta –Anne, or Minette, as she was often called (read about her here).

Henrietta Maria dedicated much of her time helping the King with his business, and of course, a lot of the country’s turmoil had to do with Royalty and religion. The Puritans, whom Henrietta Maria hated because of their rigidity, fervor, and ugly ‘roundheads’ as she called them, had much to do with the doomed fate of the English King.

No sooner were they separated due to the aggressive and fast-paced circumstances, Charles was imprisoned and then soon after beheaded. By that time Henrietta had already fled, as agreed by both to be the best solution. She was in France when she heard about the tragedy. This was a devastating blow she would never get over from.

During her time in France, Henrietta managed to care for her baby, Minette while she raised money to help re-install the monarchy through Charles II, her son. All the while, being a fervent believer and promoter of the Catholic faith, Henrietta also founded a convent, where she later lived.

Henrietta Maria of France, Queen Consort of England, Scotland and Ireland was mother to two kings: Charles II and James II. She was also grandmother to Mary II, William III and Anne of Great Britain.

I just finished reading a Jean Plaidy book on her: Myself My Enemy, which was fabulous to say the least. If you wish,
you can read my review here.

Interesting Tid-Bits:
I was so interested to learn that the state of Maryland was named after her by her husband. Also named after her is Cape Henrietta Maria in Northern Ontario, where James Bay and Hudson Bay meet.
Another, but very tainting and not so pleasant fact: there was a slave ship carrying slaves to the US that sank in the Key West named after her as well.

British Civil Wars, Britannica,

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Moments.. My Romanticized AMR List

For me there’s nothing better than the comforting feeling of curling up with a good book and a cup of tea- Except that these days that’s a real cliché…
It's more like- Hurry! Read, Read, Read!
It s seems like I have more of my share to read than I can actually handle.  The problem is that a lot of the books on my TBR list are for me ABSOLUTE -MUST –READS; now how’s that possible?  Am I the only one?
Let me tell you a bit about some of the books on my list- it wouldn’t be so bad if that’s where they stayed…The problem is that now they’ve become a constant ‘think- about- getting-to’. Don’t get me wrong.  I wouldn’t have it any other way- I actually live for this kind of adrenaline-and I will get to them probably faster than my worries will have me stressing...but still!
Right now here are the books I’m dying to read; which are part of what I have now renamed my AMR list (Absolutely-Must Read- List). They’re not necessarily all for review (could be)- Just exceptional ones that have me longing to get to!


To name a few..and this is not counting all those deleiciously tempting, famous memoirs staring at me at this very moment…

I’d love to know what’s on your AMR List?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Announcing Giveaway WINNER...

The WINNER of Cleopatra's Daughter is....

Wanda of Winnipeg Manitoba!!!


Send me an email with your contact info please:)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesday-Upcoming Historical Fiction and More...

Today, I have the perfect Teaser Tuesday for you…

I just read three chapters of what seems will turn out to be a fascinating new historical fiction novel!

Do you know Melanie, better known as Erzibet from: Madame Guillotine (Kill Them All, God Will Know His Own) 

For history buffs or anyone interested in fantastic detailed information on French history (my personal favourite), and historical figures, Melanie’s blog is the place. In this terrific blog, Melanie exhibits her true talent as a writer. Her knowledge in history is backed by an astounding repertoire of history sources and bibliographies that are certain to baffle. Besides the history, I also enjoy reading some of her ‘life’ posts that she interjects every once in a while to give us a brief look into her everyday life (which by the way, is pretty colourful in itself). A mother, wife, friend, historian and writer, Melanie is so interesting to read about!

-And for some of you Marie Antoinette lovers (make some room for me amongst you all), Melaine has another blog entitled: The Journal of Marie Antoinette where she writes her own fictional version of what Marie Antoinette’s journal might have been like. Go check it out-You’ll love it!

So now that I’ve updated anyone who hadn’t already heard of this wonderful upcoming author-back to what I initially intended to write about when I started my post:

Teasers of Melanie’s first three chapters of her novel set in 18th c France- during the revolution…

Each of the chapters is written in the first person by a different lady, at a different time.

Chapter 1 is on Sidonie- Paris, October 1773.
(Here are several excerpts put together to form the teasers):

‘They came for me while I was still asleep... ‘You are to come with us, Madame,’ said a tall pockmarked man that I had never seen before who stood a little apart from the others, his dirty, straggling hair hanging down the back of a threadbare purple velvet coat that had clearly seen better days...
We made our way down the wide, marble staircase, its steps worn away in the middle by years of use that led down to the candlelit entrance hall and for a brief moment I paused in front of the portrait that Greuze had painted of me in happier days, when I was just sixteen, had recently given birth to Lucien and was still flushed and ecstatic with the joy of new motherhood. ‘Take your last look,’ my husband’s sardonic voice called up from the hall below, ‘like you, it will be gone by morning.’...
I heard my baby wail in her crib at the top of the house and the sharp clip clop of her nurse’s shoes against the floorboards as she went to tend to her. ‘Adélaïde...’ I began, before tears overwhelmed me and I had to stop, not trusting myself to speak without sobbing.
‘She will be treated in the same way as her sisters,’ he replied coldly. ‘No one who bears my name will ever suffer unjustly.’ I reached out and grasped his wrist, clinging on as he twisted his arm and tried to shake me off.’

Chapter 2: Adélaïde, Paris, February 1789.

‘I woke with a start, clawing at the damp bed sheets and twisting my head from side to side, just as I always did when I had The Dream.
‘Adélaïde?’ Hortense hissed from the next bed. I turned my head to look at her, unable to see much more than her pale, round face, prim white cotton night dress and long blonde plaits in the gloom. ‘Did you have the dream again? The one about your mother?’ Her soft, still faintly provincial voice was concerned. We had slept in neighbouring beds for seven years, ever since she had first arrived at our school and she had been woken by The Dream at least twice a week during that time...
‘Maybe she will come back one day,’ Hortense whispered now, just as she always did.
I nodded. ‘Maybe.’ Neither of us really believed it. She had been away for so long and I didn’t even know if she was alive or dead. No one had ever told me and I was too afraid to ask. All I knew was that she had gone and that she had not taken me with her...
I had lived in this room for seven years ever since I had first arrived at Penthemont at the age of nine along with my older sisters, the twins Lucrèce and Cassandre. Up until that time we had lived on our father’s country estate under the care of one of his unmarried sisters, Mademoiselle Aglaé until she had died and it had been decided that we should be sent to school.’

Chapter 3: Lucrèce, Paris, July 1789.

‘Soft summer rain began to fall against the windows, pattering delicately against the glass. I stared at it, remembering how it had rained on my wedding day as well, three long years ago... We had met only once before, six months earlier when he had come with my father to Penthémont and I could barely remember him, recalling only his great height and the way he had not smiled as his blue grey eyes looked down into my blushing, anxious to please face, scrutinising me for defects. ‘She is very small for fifteen,’ he had remarked carelessly to my father, in the manner of one who feels that they have been presented with a poor bargain. ‘I do not like how thin she is and you did not tell me that she has red hair.’...’

Enough of a teaser? All I can say is that I had a difficult time figuring out which teasers to post, since every single line is captivating and urging to read on. Melaine tells me she is presently writing her next chapter on Cassandre, Lucrece’s twin. I can’t wait to read more and find out what happened to Sidonie- where did she end up? Where is she now? Will her children ever hear from her again? And what of Adelaide, the youngest sister with the talent for art? Lucrece is now a Duchess, a sad one- despite the looks of a blissful marriage...her innocence and dreams shattered by the lusty encounter she wished she had never witnessed...
I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this descriptive and intriguing18th c novel.

I'll keep you posted;)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Book Review: Cleopatra's Daughter + GIVEAWAY

Michelle Moran’s books have helped revive my fascination for all that is ancient.  The characters encountered in her books, such as in Nefertiti, the Heretic Queen and now, Cleopatra’s Daughter, are ones that many of us have read about before.  Never though, have they been portrayed as incredibly interesting, intricate, deep and real as seen in Moran’s books.

Cleopatra’s Daughter grabbed my interest immediately.  The thought of reading about Cleopatra’s children; their thoughts and emotions within the first pages and throughout, was exhilarating to say the least.  I can’t think of a book that has yet to have transported me into ancient times with such vivid imagery as this one.  The ancient world is not one that can be depicted with ease.  Yet, Moran magnificently brings out the splendor, the glitter, the gold, the exquisite and the opulent-living in contrast with the coarse  and crude, all at their origin. 
I was amazed by the clash of class and refinement between the Greeks (and Egyptians, both in Alexandria) and the Romans of the times.  The differences in not only customs, fashion, architecture, but especially in languages and education, left me in awe. Cleopatra stands out as the regal queen of knowledge meshed with beauty, glamour and class.  She  also strongly believed in equality between genders- allowing her daughter the same privileges as her sons.  Culture and Education were most important to her and she made sure that Marc Anthony also was taught Greek and more; there where his Roman upbringing lacked.
But this was not only a story of awesome history and facts- Cleopatra’s Daughter mostly focuses on Selene and Alexander’s life after the death of their beloved parents.  Forcibly brought back to Rome, these last surviving heirs of Alexander The Great, were expected to live as Romans within the palace of Augustus (Octavian), the man responsible for the dreadful fate of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony.
I loved learning about life in ancient Rome and how these teens (throughout the story they seemed so much older than their actual age) dealt with every obstacle and challenge they faced.  So much is dealt with in this book.  These royal twins faced with an unbelievable turn of fate were extremely close.  I enjoyed that they could speak in a different language when secrecy was necessary; another of the benefits brought about by Cleopatra’s expectations of culture and education at its finest.
In this beautiful novel, we encounter many historical figures such as Octavia (Marc Anthony’s wife prior to Cleopatra- and also Augustus’s sister),  a Numidian Prince, Augustus’ daughter, Julia, Marcellus, Octavia’s son, a beautiful Gaelic slave, Gallia, and the infamous architect Vitruvius, to name a few.  Each has a superb role in this novel that unravels to perfection, culminating in an ending that will leave you breathless- Let me just say that the last fifty or so pages kept me glued with anxiety and endless tearing.
A story that absolutely needs to be read! Excellent!
Side Note:  Moran provides a glossary of terms, list of names, a map of the time, as well as, an historical follow-up of the characters and their fate.
Cleopatra’s Daughter will appeal to readers of history, mystery, love, romance, intrigue, arts and culture, anthropology and so much more-without an ounce of drudgery- an incredibly easy-to read page turner.  There’s something for everyone in this fabulous book.

NOTE: Because this book touches upon the relevance of equality in women seen by how Selene was brought up by the Great Cleopatra - for the way she was educated in architecture (amongst other disciplines), a field only accessible to men at the time- and brought up as an equal with her twin brother...I deem this book perfectly qualified for the Women Unbound Challenge.

And now … who will be the LUCKY ONE to win this GIVEAWAY???
A Big Thanks to Michelle Moran and Crown-Random House, I have an extra copy here for one of my lucky followers! 
(US and Canada only)

1 Chance:  Leave a comment with your email.
5 Chances: Become a Follower of my Blog (If you’re already a follower, you get this automatically)
5 Chances: Place this on your Side bar or Blog about it.
2 EXTRA Chances every time you tweet and leave me the link
Winners announced on November 22nd.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Announcing the Winner of The Lover's Path.....

The beautiful Fiabla, The Lover's Path, by Kris Waldherr goes to...

PRICILLA of: The Maaaaa of Pricilla!

Congratulations- You'll absolutely love this book!  Please email me your cointact info:)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book Review: Georgette Heyer's No Wind Of Blame

No Wind of Blame, by Georgette Heyer

As you know, I mostly read books based on history (fiction and non-fiction) as well as literary and regency…this one was none of the above. I read it because it was a Georgette Heyer one and I just couldn’t pass it up. I figured that I love a good mystery, humour and Heyer- so I made the exception and took the plunge into a 20th c read. Blame it on Georgie…

No Wind of Blame is an hysterically funny murder mystery. Who gets killed? No other than the most inconsiderate, obnoxious, good for-nothing, adulterer, gambler, schemer, middle-aged- and he’s not even remotely close to being handsome; Wally Carter. Wally is married to a once-famous actress, the very flamboyant, but kind and warm-hearted, Ermyntrude. The couple lives with Ermyntrude’s eccentric young daughter, Vicky and plain Mary, Wally’s niece.

Everything is in preparation for a grand dinner for their guest, the Russian Prince Varasashvili (whom everyone, except Ermyntrude, thinks is way over the top). All the guests, which include some neighbors (liked and disliked) and friends (including those who would rather be more than just friendly towards Ermyntrude)are also invited to hunt for sport.

As situation will have it, Wally has one… with all the characters in this story. Firstly he owes money he gambled, to his neighbor Mr. White(who is crude and detested by Ermyntrude for his vile ways). Then there’s Mr. Steel, who is secretly (but it’s no secret) in love with Ermyntrude and this annoys Wally in no small way. Pierce is a young man who claims that Wally has misled a young lady and she is now in the ‘family way’ so he wants Wally to own up (ca-ching, ca-ching). Vicky is  the young step-daughter who is always causing him stress with her young mundane ways. Mary, his niece, has taken Ermyntrude’s side now that he’s claimed a gambler and a womanizer. Then there's the desolate Ermyntrude who is hysterical with him for having gotten hismself into so much trouble (but nonetheless, she’s rich and he desperately needs her money to clarify all his troubles). Lastly, there’s that darn Prince (whose name matches that of Wally’s dog)- The Prince who is way too elegant and way too gallant towards Ermyntrude…

On that fatal day that Wally gets shot, who’s to blame? Everyone’s got motive and everyone’s got a glitch in their story or alibi. It’s more than touch- and –go for the inspectors and just when the suspect seems found and the mystery solved, something else comes up.

Heyer’s talent is incredible. How she’s kept me dancing through more than 360 pages of ‘It’s him-No -it’s her’, I just don’t know. All I know is that I laughed right through this one.

For anyone who loves a good funny mystery, read this. You won’t be disappointed. As for me, I’m done- although I did find this entertaining and a definite change of pace and genre, it’s back to Heyer regencies from here on.

I’d like to Thank Danielle from Sourcebooks for this fun and engaging read.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sophia's Corner- Book Review of Little Women

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

This is the story about 4 sisters. Their names are Meg, the oldest, Jo, Beth and Amy the littlest. Their father was at war and the girls lived with their mother. Meg gets married, Jo is a writer, Beth is very kind but gets very sick and Amy grows up and goes lives in Europe with her aunt. Many sad things happen about sickness and happiness. But there's good happy parts too.

What I liked best: I liked their Christmas and when they gave breakfast to the poor and how they helped eachother.

What I didn’t like so much: There is a very sad part in this story that made me cry about one of the sisters.
I liked this book but it’s not one of my favourites even though it has pretty photos.

I give this book 3 castle only because it was good but it wasn't one of my favourites.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Book Review + Giveaway!!

There’s nothing I enjoy more than reading about 16th c Venice.  But Imagine reading a book written by a person who actually lived in those days!  Filamena Ziani (or Filamela: nightingale) was a female artist of  16th c Venice.  This is the first actual English publication of her work , which was at the time, dedicated to her patroness,  Felicita Lando.  As a female musician-singer-writer, Filamena’s work never received the recognition due.  Kris Waldherr, through her enchanting illustrations has magically recreated this written work of art, by the nightingale and ‘Virtuosa’ of the times- someone who actually existed back then and even has a palazzo named after her!

This story or ‘fiabla’ of forbidden love, is about a young Filamena who is raised by her older sister Tullia, a notable Courtesan.   Tullia wants to shield Filamena from the world’s cruelties and the pain and torments that love can bring.  One evening while her sister is entertaining noble society gentlemen, Filamena is invited to sing in the background.  There she spots the man who was to become the love of her life...her forbidden love.

This novel is so beautifully created that you can just get lost in the splendor of the artwork.  Every single page is designed to enchant.  There are letters carefully tucked in envelopes and beautiful historical maps, card-size illustrations (the basis for the Love Tarot series) that can all be found within this splendid book.  But not only is this book breathtaking and fulfilling to the senses as is, the story itself is incredibly captivating.

At the beginning, I read along for the sake of romance and getting lost in a world of a different era…but as I kept reading, I discovered that this was not an ordinary love story.  I was surprised to find mystery, intrigue, and a twist of fate that I really did not expect.  I enjoyed this book through and through and the fact that the story was written by someone who actually lived in a place and time that fascinates me makes me feel like I found a treasure. 

In addition, the prelude to the Lover's Path is writen by Marina Rossetti, the curator of 'Museo di Palazzo Filomela (curator of the Museum of Filomela's Palace).  Here, she briefly describes the life, work, art, and documentation supporting this historical figure, time and place. 

Breathtaking, brilliant, interesting, interactive, historical - A splendidly precious creation.

Whether you immerse yourself into the reading, the history, the artwork, or just for the browsing- The Lover's Path  is a definite conversation piece.  This book is a real gem.

Side Note:  I believe that although  The Lover’s Path is  a mere 135 pages and is unpretentious in its reason to be- it’s got great merit in having brought forth a woman’s voice, thoughts and talent that were sadly suppressed at a time when women had no place in the arts.  It has sustained its message throughout the ages and Filamena’s talent has finally been brought to light.  A special Thanks to Kris Waldherr for playing a major part in this success.
(I’ll be entering this one in the Women Unbound Challenge for sure!)



Courtesy of Kris Waldherr…

GIVEAWAY :  The Lover’s Path!!!!  (US only)

 To Enter:
1 Chance:  Leave a Comment
2 Chances:  Become a Follower of this Blog (If you’re already a follower you automatically get this)
5 Extra Chances:  for every Tweet, Blog Post, Blog Side-bar Post

Winner Announced on November 12th

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book Review: Sandition, By Jane Austen

Uncompleted, Sandition was the last of Jane Austen’s work.

Another delightful short read by Austen. I can’t say enough about how much I revel in these brief , yet brilliant works. Sandition brought me the light read and humour I desperately needed after the meatier books I last dove into.

Sandition, is the name of a new beach resort village in its coming of age. Because it is a relatively unknown area in need of new residents, travelers and reputable people-the then local entrepreneur, Tom Parker, starts up the story on a tour in search of a physician for his new community. Along the way (and due to a small injury) he must stop for help in a town – and lucky for him, the people are very welcoming and readily available for help. Mr. Parker and his wife, appreciating the warmth and kindness of these accidental hosts, as a gesture of appreciation, offer to take the daughter of Mr. Heywood (the main man who helped and hosted them) a Miss Charlotte Heywood, back with them as a guest in their home in Sandition.

Charlotte is the heroine of this story and everything is pretty much seen through her eyes. In Sandition we meet such colourful characters as the very rich, elderly and twice-widowed, Lady Denham; her niece and nephew by her second husband, her cousin Clara- a beautiful and demure young lady. But- the funniest of all characters are Mr. Parker’s siblings who have endless ailments (all of them purel y made up). One of these, Diane (Parker’s sister) is on a mission to ‘fill up’ the town and in doing so, she is constantly busy and bustling around , leaving Charlotte to wonder if the illness isn’t but an act.

Sadly (for me), the story ends abruptly with the arrival into Sandition, of the dashing Mr. Sidney, Parker’s brother . I say sadly because I was just getting into it- just when the characters started coming together for the meshing of a story line…Sandition has got me wondering how this one could have turned out. The characters are delightful and true to Austen’s originality and good sense of build up to a story that would surely have become another of her great masterpieces. It also saddens me to think that it was during this very year of writing Sandition that Jane Austen passed away.

This is my 5th of 6 Austen reads, for the Everything Austen Challenge.

Does anyone know if there’s an Austenesque sequel to Sandition by another author? I’d love to see the take on this one.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Book Moments: More Challenges...

After an incredibly busy October that included 3 birthdays (all within the same week!)- and one being a Sweet16; all I can say is that I was sooo looking forward to the respite that November would bring. And now that November is finally here, I find myself overloaded with books to read and reviews to write. That’s OK, I love it! In fact, my compulsion has led me to join in 2 more reading challenges. I’m not nuts or anything(well maybe a little) but there is a practical side to me as, I’m making sure that besides the reading-for-fun thing; these also fit my reviewing schedule;

Besides the ones I'm already participating in; which are:

The Jean Plaidy Challenge   



I’ve found two more interesting challenges to join:
At Virginie Says,   there’s The Four Month Challenge Part 2


‘The challenge will begin on November 1, 2009 and will end on February 28, 2010.  Each book you read can only be used for one category.  You can ‘read’ up to ‘2 audiobooks if you choose, but you don’t have to.  You can read books you are also reading for other challenges’.   See categories and point system here.  

I have sort of an ongoing list for this challenge- and so far, it looks like this:

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher,Kate Summerscale
The White Queen, Philippa Gregory
an Elena Vidal book, set in France
No Wind of Blame, Georgette Heyer
Gwenhwyfar, Mercedes Lackey
O’Juliet, RobinMaxwell

This next Challenge gives me a bit more time to complete since, like the Plaidy one, it’s a year-long challenge:

Women Unbound   is a book blog related to Women’s Studies and they’ve just announced this challenge for November 2009- November 2010.  I originally learned about this on my friend Lilly’s blog: Reading Extravaganza and thought it would be fun to join; especially since all I read is mostly about women in history.

For more info on categories and reads, check it out here
I’ve chosen the Blue Stocking Category and here are my picks so far:
Memoirs of The Empress Josephine, Madame de Remusat (I’m finally going to read this!)
Memoirs of Madame Vigee-Lebrun
Madame de Pompadour
Lucrezia Borgia
(I’m still working on my list…)    
What challenges have you joined so far?