It's moving day --

I am jumping the frustrating ship at Live Journal and moving to Word Press. There's a lot more options for cataloging my books by era, author, etc. as well as other fun things.  You have no idea how time consuming it's become to post at LJ, let alone get the blog list updated. I've added some new blogs to my blog roll and hope to add a few more widgets and gadgets once I get a chance to figure out how they all work.

Any who, feel free to come on over and see what I've got going on at Word Press here.

Countdown to May

It's not May yet, but it's getting closer. Don't forget to stop by at Marg and Daphne's blogs to see what they're cooking up.

                So, are you dying to know more about the people and places in To Defy a King? Tired of waiting for May 6th to get here? Hoping that darned volcano doesn't delay the Royal Mail? Who would have thought that a little volcano in Iceland could impact book shipments anyway?

To Defy a King is about Mahelt Marshal, eldest daughter of my favorite hunk in history William Marshal and Isabelle de Clare. The book covers Mahelt's life from her betrothal and marriage to Hugh Bigod, son of the Roger Bigod, the Earl of Norfolk through the Baron's rebellions against King John. You can read more about Mahelt here and Hugh here at Ms. Chadwick's blog Living the History. Prior to her marriage to Roger Hugh's mother, Ida de Tosny had a relationship with Henry II (covered in The Time of Singing) and her first child, William Longespée, was a result of that relationship - those who have read Roberta Gellis' Roselynde Chronicles should remember William and his relationship with half brother King John. On the other side of the sibling coin are Ida's children from her marriage to Roger and they in turn are related to William - including Mahelt's husband Hugh - and there's not much love lost between those two brothers.

Framlingham Castle

Much of the action takes place at the Bigod's main residence at Framlingham, but another of their holdings, Bungay Castle, caught my interest and I thought I'd post a bit about it here. According to Wik, the name of Bungay is thought to come from the Anglo-Saxon title 'Bunincga-haye'. Due to its high position, protected by the River Waveney and marshes, the site was in a good defensive position and attracted settlers from early times. The castle was built by the first Earl of Norfolk and according to this website it was a fortress  built to defy a king.

Not much left of the old castle now, but it must have been impressive in it's hey-day.

Eventually the Earldom was given to the Howards (Tudorphiles should recognize that name) along with Bungay Castle, although after time it fell into ruin and was given to the town of Bungay. It is now managed by a charitable trust, and you can find lots of fun info and legends here. In the 18C author Elizabeth Bonhote used the castle for the setting of her book Bungay Castle - do read it, it's good fun and perhaps the first teen detectives in fiction? As for the legends, were the Black Dogs of Bungay  real? Is St. Mary's church really haunted by the ghost of Hugh Bigod the first Earl of Norfolk? Inquiring minds want to know.....
How many days left?

Countdown to May

          Since Daphne, Marg and I have been driving everyone nuts the last six months asking when May was going to arrive and bring us the latest Chadwick Novel, To Defy a King, we thought we'd have some fun and do a countdown and talk a bit about why we love Elizabeth Chadwick. To kick it off we're talking about some of our favorite Chadwick books and you can read Daphne's post here.

I first came across her books about four years ago when I was *new* to the historical fiction genre. In my younger days I read just about anything, but more recently I’d been reading true crime, and whilst trying to find something different I discovered Joan Wolf’s awesome Born of the Sun buried in a forgotten stack of books and after that I never looked back. I explored historical romances a bit and then found Anya Seton and *gasp* yes Philippa Gregory. I loved PG’s books then, but not sure about now….

Somehow Chadwick’s books started showing up on my Amazon rec’s and I ordered Falcons of Montabard and I became a serious Chadwickholic. I had to have them all and I had to have them now. Fortunately I bought them before she lost her US publisher and those books started to become hard to find and spendy – although I was too busy clicking the purchase button and to pay attention to all the prices. I shudder at what I paid for Daughters of the Grail and The Leopard Unleashed but live and learn. Besides, last time I looked they're even more expensive now.

  For me The Falcons of Montabard had it all – I loved watching Sabin mature from a young hellion into a fierce, noble warrior as well as a loving, gentle husband (he is such a H.U.N.K.).  You'll feel like you're there as you experience the sights, sounds and smells of Outremer (Israel).  Annais was a great female lead, first wed to a man she cares for but doesn’t love to her steamy (and I do mean steamy) relationship with Sabin. And what a nail biting finish – just when you thought it was over Chadwick takes the reader on a hell of a ride.

  Next up for me was Shadows and Strongholds. A coming of age story, this book is the story of Fulke "Brunin" Fitzwarin, and takes him from childhood to manhood. As a young boy, Brunin withdraws into himself to avoid the pain from his domineering overbearing grandmother, and his father sends him to train as a squire to Joscelin de Dinan. As Brunin blossoms under Joscelin's care, he eventually becomes a strong young man and a knight to be reckoned with as he learns to deal with the shadows of his youth and banish them forever. The relationship between Brunin and Hawise is very sweet and one I’ve revisited several times – if I’m in a book slump this is always a sure fire bet to cure it.

   The Marsh King’s Daughter is a bit different from the author's usual story; you won't find any lords, ladies or knights in this one. Just a fascinating look at the ins and outs of the wool trade and an interesting foot note in history on the disappearance into the quicksand of King John's treasure. I really enjoyed the pairing of Nicholas and Miriel and as for Robert, what a delightfully OTT baddie.

No matter which one you pick, you’re always guaranteed of a magic carpet ride to the medieval period. No one, but no one, sucks me into another century like Elizabeth Chadwick. And check out the very cool widget Daphne came up with,

May. Came. Early.

I can't imagine a better sight than the mail carrier dropping off this package yesterday, and happy to see it got out of the UK before the planes were grounded,

Now if we weren't so darned short handed I'd be able to take a couple days off to read........

A Memory of Lions by Parke Godwin

4.0 out of 5 stars "Every man must have a lord"

"...that's a devil out there. A devil who only looks like a man. I don't want to meet him unshriven."

Or is it a devil? The story begins after the Conquest, after the Harrying of the North, as the de Neuville family rebuilds on the northern lands awarded them by King William. The Saxons may be conquered, but their customs, laws and mindset constantly clash with that of the Normans, and the Normans don't give a d*** about what the Saxons want.

De Neuville's daughter Gerlaine is attracted to Gurth, the illegitimate son of the former Saxon lord, but when their relationship is discovered Gurth receives a brutal punishment at the hands of Gerlaine's father With tensions already high, the Norman violation of the Saxon's sacred "hearth right" brings on horrific consequences as the outraged Gurth demands wergild (man payment). Gerlaine holds to her love for Gurth until the punishments against her family becomes too dear and love changes to hatred and revenge.....

There's actually a whole lot more to it than that but you really do need to read it for yourself, I don't want to spoil it for you. Despite what the somewhat cheesy cover implies, this is not a romance novel - this is very dark story about the struggles between two completely disparate cultures. I really enjoyed Godwin's writing, it's very subtle and understated and you do have to pay attention or you'll end up backtracking. This was just a really great read with quite a surprise twist at the end and I am looking forward to more from this author. I understand he's written one on Harold Godwinsson as well as a series on Robin Hood.

31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan


31 Bond Street31 Bond Street  I think I like the cover I found at the UK better, but I'm still in the minority on this one - unfortunately it just didn't rock my world.

The story begins in 1857 as police are called to 31 Bond Street upon the horrific murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell. Poised for a run at the mayor's office, ambitious D.A. Abraham Oakey Hall sets his sights on Widow Emma Cunningham as his #1 suspect. Supposedly living in Burdell's house as a tenant and *housekeeper* of sorts, Emma produces a marriage certificate (but can she prove its real?) and further complicates the matter - did she murder the not-so-good doctor for his money and prestigious home? In steps defense attorney Henry Clinton to get to the bottom of it all. Clinton's efforts to unravel the mystery lead to many side trips, from land speculation to the underground slave trade to shady Tammany Hall politics to courtroom drama.

 The book is based on real people and events and while very well written, this one just didn't come to life for me. I didn't connect well with Emma and really didn't care much what happened to her and the only character I cared about came to a sorry end. I found the courtroom scenes rather tedious, but then perhaps with a jury summons in my very near future that was the last thing I needed reminding of (been less than three years since the last time). Lastly, despite all the hype I don't feel the author really brought the city and it's players to life for me, I've seen better in Celeste de Blasis' Wild Swan trilogy as well as Kathleen Winsor's Wanderers Eastward, Wanderers West along with the Castles in the Air series by Patricia Gallagher. Don't get me wrong, this is a good book it's just not a great one. 3/5 stars.

My copy? Library of course. Go and bother Harriet. She's still not divulging her book sources on all those blogs of hers.

My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful novel

Mary Sutter is from a well-to-do family in Albany New York and the females in her family have been midwives for generations, but Mary dreams the impossible dream of being a surgeon. When the sabers rattle between the North and the South and the men of Albany gleefully join the Army, Mary heads for Washington City - if she can't be a surgeon she'll nurse instead - and she is soon literally up to her neck in wounded soldiers. Mary's story takes her to several battlefields and through her eyes we see the horror of what these poor soldiers suffered at the hands of ignorant politicians and incompetent generals. I haven't the words for it, so I will let these quotes do the *talking*,

"If we let one on the train who will die anyway, it will doom two."

"In all the world, there is not medicine enough to heal what ails the Union army, mopping or no."

"How do you forget coffins? How do you forget to supply tourniquets? How do you forget that people might die?"

"Days later, the citizens of Washington would remark that the Potomac had turned the color of rust, but would not make the connection until news of the enormous numbers of casualties came pouring in."

"If they had just washed their hands between patients, then all those deaths could have been prevented."

This is a novel that will move you and anger you. I actually had to put it down a couple of times and take an emotional break with something lighter. You will learn a whole lot more about the removal of limbs than you might ever wish to know and if you are the least bit fainthearted this might not the book for you. One more thing, if you're expecting "a gorgeous love story" as one jacket blurber mentions - you are not going to find it here. Yes there are three men who love Mary but that is not the main focus of this book, nor should it be considered *chick lit*. Like other reviewers, I wasn't that fond of the chapters with Lincoln and his cronies but other than that this is a solid five star read, and would make an excellent book club choice if you're looking for lively discussions. 

My copy courtesy of Amazon Vine.

How to regain your reading spot from the pet

Anyone else have this problem? Get up even for a few minutes and find your pet firmly enconsed in your chair?  Well I have finally solved that problem and it works like a charm.

Grumpy gus, isn't she? No way is she parting with the spot.

OK, so usually she's a bit sweeter than that but not when it's time to budge. So how to get her out without a fuss and a few slaps? Step one, pick up nail trimmers,
 Four Paws Ultimate Touch Nail Trimmer for Cats
Step two, pick up one of kitty's paws and prepare to trim.

Step three, watch kitty immediately evacuate to another spot. Works like a charm everytime.

The Conquered Heart by Denee Cody

It’s 1170 and Dermot MacMurrough is desperate to regain control of his kingdom from rival Rory O'Connor. He pledges his daughter and the lands she’ll inherit from him to the powerful Norman earl Richard de Clare. A proud Irish Princess, Eve (Aoife) is none too thrilled with the match but princesses must do what princesses must do and she eventually weds him. As desirable as Richard finds Eve, he still yearns for his lost love Rosamund Clifford, who King Henry II took as his mistress. Can he forget Rosamund in Eve's embraces? Can Eve learn to love Richard, hated Norman or not? Will her father's constant betrayals and shenanigans keep the two apart? Can their marriage withstand the hatred the Irish have for the Norman invaders as well as the bigotry the Normans carry against the Irish?

The Marriage of Aoife and Strongbow (1854) by Daniel Maclise

 I found this to be a light, entertaining read with a nice blend of history and romance. The sex was fairly tame compared to what's in today's romances and outside of a couple of anachronisms and a bit too modern speech out of Eve at times it was good fun. The Rosamund Clifford twist was an interesting one, and gives a good basis for some of the *tensions* between Henry and his otherwise loyal Earl. The story is based on people and events that really happened and for those who are fans of Elizabeth Chadwick's The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion should note that Richard and Eve are the parents of Isabel, who went on to marry my favorite hunk in history, William Marshal. Not the greatest book ever written but still entertaining when you're in the mood for a lighter read and a bit of romance. 3.5/5 stars.