Thursday, September 26, 2013

My interview!

Hey, all!

Below is the link to read my interview with Kayla Posney at the Pittsburgh Historical Fiction Examiner.
This interview was thought-provoking and great fun!

Check it out!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Call Me Zelda (Erika Robuck)

Let's start playing September catch-up with this great book which was published in May. 

Call Me Zelda is the story of Zelda Fitzgerald (not just the wife of Scott!) and her nurse Anna.

Brilliant. This book was brilliant. Not only did the author follow the historical details, but she created characters who were fully-developed and real. The insight the author has into Zelda's mental illness is all lent to Nurse Anna as she cares for and bonds with Zelda Fitzgerald, sometimes seemingly to her own detriment.
  Nurse Anna has her own past, full of war, loss and unimaginable suffering, and as her story slowly unfolds,as she slowly gives more of herself to her patient, so does Zelda's. The story, the characters, the relationships all had such depth and honesty that it was somewhat bittersweet to watch it all unfold. 
From Nurse Anna's first star-struck encounter with Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, through the day to day all-consuming, draining care of a self-destructive schizophrenic, during the quiet garden conversations and even Zelda rescuing Nurse Anna from herself, this book was brilliant and I recommend it to anyone

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Upcoming Reviews (and such!)

Cynthia's Summer Sabbatical is coming to an end!
It was a great, lazy Summer and many interesting books were read.
Look for new reviews beginning in September!

Did I mention that I learned to hula-hoop this Summer?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Liar's Gospel (Naomi Alderman)

The Liars' Gospel by Naomi

The Liar's Gospel is the stories of 4 characters connected to Jesus of Nazareth: his mother, Mary; his betrayer, Judas; his persecuter, Caiaphas; and his accidental rival, Barabbas. Four chapters, four characters, four viewpoints-each from the first person.
It has taken me a while to review this book, simply because I wasn't sure what to say about it.
I must first say that I am a Christian, and although this book is pretty far off from what Christians are generally taught, it was very interesting. Who is to say it did not happen this way? The characters were very realistic, flawed and human. And although each of the characters play an important part in Jesus' life, Jesus didn't always figure prominently into their lives. To some he was a passing madman, someone to feel sorry for, or simply forget.
I enjoyed the author's simple, earthy writing style, and appreciated that she held no punches. As a Christian, the lack of divinity (for lack of a better phrase!) was sometimes hard to take, but I made it through and I am glad that I did.
My favorite line of the book comes from Caiphas--"This?" He asks...he lives a whole life and is remembered for "This?" Pretty brilliant.

House of Rocamora (Donald Michael Platt)

House of Rocamora

House of Rocamora is the continuing story of Vicente de Rocamora, former confessor to the Royal House of Spain and former candidate for Inquisitor General, now an exiled and self-circumcised Jew named Isaac.
Vicente has left Spain in his long journey to find himself and peace for his soul. He has lost all he holds dear and must start anew. He has traveled to Amsterdam in 1643, seeking to find a broad-minded society and to study his true calling, medicine. Although many question his desire to start a new career in his forties, they are also flattered to be acquainted with such an illustrious person and impressed by his intelligence and intensity. As years pass, Isaac de Rocamora does find a measure of harmony in his career and new family, but as with everything in his long life, tragedy intertwines with fulfillment, and at the last he finds himself again seeking his soul’s peace.
This book is well-written, though it is a bit slow in the beginning, as Isaac is still unclear about his true path and does some wandering. It will help the reader to have read the first book in this series, Rocamora, to understand the impact of events happening in the early sections of this novel. The story picks up as Isaac begins to see his way and put his plans and ideas into action. I enjoyed both books in the series, though I believe I enjoyed this sequel a bit more than the first book, and look forward to the next, which I hope is not too long in coming.
My review courtesy of the Historical Novel Society.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Forgotten Queen (D. L. Bogdan)


The Tudors were a fiery, memorable family.  Headstrong, passionate, often foolhardy, restless… this describes the forgotten Tudor, Queen Margaret of Scotland.  She was Henry VIII’s older sister, but more importantly, she was the mother of King James V of Scotland, the father of Mary, Queen of Scots.  She tried to set into motion peace between England in Scotland, which would finally be realized with her great-grandson James.
Margaret leaves England at an early age to wed the King of Scotland.  Though they have a loving relationship, Margaret can never understand why he must always have a mistress.  She sees this as a personal affront, but when he dies a few years into their marriage, leaving her a pregnant widow, she misses him dearly. Through several regents, Margaret tries to hold Scotland together. She realizes much too late that her second husband, the Earl of Angus, is greedy and grasping, and by then Scotland is in an uproar.
Margaret lived a long life, having many children. Only two survived infancy, the future King James V and the neglected Lady Margaret Douglas. Bogdan’s Margaret is impetuous, selfish, passionate, lonely, and full of regrets.  Yet she never stops dreaming, or hoping for the best for her adopted homeland of Scotland.
This is an excellent, fast-paced story.  Margaret is a fully developed character who was at times infuriating, and at others pitiful.  The love Margaret must have felt for her country comes through in Bogdan’s lovely descriptions of the country and in Margaret’s feelings about it.  Highly recommended.
My review courtesy of the Historical Novel Society.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Forbidden Queen (Anne O'Brien)

Review: The Forbidden Queen by

One of my favorite stories in English history is the story of Katherine of Valois and Owen Tudor's marriage.  So romantic, so unexpected, so honest.
But this book is not just about that particular story.  This book is about Katherine of Valois, beginning from her neglected childhood in a French court ruled by a mad King and an absent Queen.  Katherine is telling the reader her story, from her point of view, naive and foolish as it may have been at times.  Katherine is heartbreakingly honest with both the reader and herself as she rises to become Queen of England to the great warrior King Henry V, the man she dreamed would be her hero and true love, but died before the dream could even be touched upon.  Katherine is straight forward and remorseful as she tells the reader of her depression and melancholy after the death of Henry, and then angry when her lonely heart falls victim to the schemes of an ambitious courtier.  Katherine is truthful, never sugar-coating her actions, even when she happens to accidentally fall deeply in love with her servant, Owen Tudor.  Katherine makes no excuses for herself as she grasps for the happiness that she has always sought, fighting tooth and nail with council and country for what she believes her family deserves. 
Anne O'Brien has written a beautiful, bittersweet novel.  This story deserved to be told, in exactly this manner.  Katherine's story, on Katherine's terms.  Highly Recommended.