Happy New Year!


I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's Day and a fantastic 2009!  I look forward to spending it with all of you!

Review: Doomed Queens by Kris Waldherr

It's not easy being queen, as well we know from stories of Anne Boleyn and Marie Antoinette. Kris Waldherr recounts fifty tales of queens that met unfortunate endings, including Alexandra Romanov and Mary Stuart to some lesser known stories, such as Queen Anula from Sri Lanka who murdered four consorts, including two kings. Her end was met when she was trapped in the palace and set on fire.

Waldherr brings wry humor and funny anecdotes for each tale, as well as, artwork throughout. It's a great, short read that will keep you engaged, while providing some very interesting little tidbits of knowledge. Highly recommended to all lovers of history!!

Amy Says: 5 / 5

Amy's Best Reads of 2008

2008 is coming to a close and now is the time for reflection on the past year's reading. This year was awesome for me...I read my first Chadwick, bonded with the Cheney sisters in Carroll's series, found Gabaldon and Scotland, fell in love with Jamie Frasier, still miss Barbara terribly from the Koen books and Fiona from Tea Rose, mourn sweet Marie-Therese and fell in love with the most endearing characters I have ever had the pleasure of reading in Guernsey. I fell short of my goal of reading 50 books this year, although only by 3. However, quality trumps quantity here, so it's all good. So, here, my dear readers are my most yummy reads of 2008 (in no particular order).
  • When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman
  • Time and Chance by Sharon Kay Penman
  • Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman
  • Daughter of York by Anne Easter Smith
  • Lords of the White Castle by Elizabeth Chadwick
  • The Falcons of Montabard by Elizabeth Chadwick
  • The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll
  • The Courtesan by Susan Carroll
  • The Silver Rose by Susan Carroll
  • The Huntress by Susan Carroll
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  • Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
  • Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
  • Drums in Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
  • Through A Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen
  • Now Face to Face by Karleen Koen
  • Four Queens by Nancy Goldstone (non-fiction)
  • The Marsh King's Daughter by Elizabeth Chadwick
  • The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner
  • Within the Fetterlock by Brian Wainwright
  • Marie-Therese: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter by Susan Nagel (non-fiction)
  • The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
  • The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
  • The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran
  • The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer
  • Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Mailbox Monday - Christmas edition!

Hello dear readers! I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday! Mine was "fam-tastic"! We had some kinfolk over for a few days and had a blast!! 9 people plus 8 animals in 1 apartment equals good times.

Santa and others were very good to me this year with respects to books, so I thought I would share with you my haul.

From the best BFF ever, Michele at A Reader's Respite:

The Fool's Tale by Nicole Galland
The King's Pleasure by Norah Lofts
Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
To Hold the Crown by Jean Plaidy
From Santa and gift cards:

Question of Guilt by Julianne Lee
Royal Escape by Georgette Heyer
The Spanish Bride by Georgette Heyer
An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer
Queen Isabella by Alison Weir
The War of the Roses by Alison Weir
Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses That Stole Their Father's Crown by Maureen Waller
Catherine the Great: Love, Sex and Power by Virginia Rounding
The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick
The Time of Singing by Elizabeth Chadwick
Court Lady and Country Wife: Two Noble Sisters in Seventeenth Century England by Lita-Rose Betcherman

Wow....how beautiful is that list?! So, what goodies did you get?

Happy Holidays!!

I would like to wish all of you very happy holidays from my family to yours! No matter where or what you celebrate I hope it's full of joy, family, friends and love. I look forward to a great blogging year in 2009! Be safe!

Review: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

In this extraordinary novel, Karen Maitland delivers a dazzling reinterpretation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales—an ingenious alchemy of history, mystery, and powerful human drama.

The year is 1348. The Black Plague grips the country. In a world ruled by faith and fear, nine desperate strangers, brought together by chance, attempt to outrun the certain death that is running inexorably toward them.

Each member of this motley company has a story to tell. From Camelot, the relic-seller who will become the group’s leader, to Cygnus, the one-armed storyteller . . . from the strange, silent child called Narigorm to a painter and his pregnant wife, each has a secret. None is what they seem. And one among them conceals the darkest secret of all—propelling these liars to a destiny they never saw coming.
There's not a better way to end the year of great reads in 2008 than to end it with Karen Maitland's first book, Company of Liars. This book has everything: love, death, friendship, witchcraft, deception...it's a little historical fiction mixed with a little fantasy rolled in to one yummy nugget of a novel.

The plot was excellent, the storytelling was just amazing and the characters are ones you are not soon to forget. This is one of those that stay with you a while. I find myself missing Camelot the most.

My favorite quote: "Home is the place you return to when you have finally lost your soul. Home is the place where life is born, not the place of your birth, but the place where you seek rebirth". - Camelot

I recommend Company of Liars to anyone who appreciates good storytelling.

Amy Says: 5 / 5
Karen Maitland website - her new book, The Owl-Killers is due out in the UK on March 26, 2009. Click here for more information.

Outlander Challenge 2009!

Michele at A Reader's Respite and yours truly, Amy, are hosting the 2009 Outlander Challenge!! Gabaldon's latest An Echo In The Bone is due out in Fall of 2009 and to get us prepared we are re-visiting the Outlander series (and all of Jamie's yumminess). We'd love for you to join us!

The rules are simple:
  1. Sign up!
  2. You must read each of the six current Outlander Series novels prior to the publication of An Echo in the Bone (scheduled publication September 2009).
  3. The format can be of your choosing (audio, book, Kindle, etc).
  4. You must post your thoughts/comments/inspirations/criticisms at least once on each book.
  5. Books can crossover to other reading challenges if you wish.
  6. Have fun!

Stop by our website (that Michele put together so beautifully) to sign up and grab the button! Come on...grab it...you know you want to.

Mailbox Monday

Here are some books that the lovely postman brought me last week:

The King's Daughter by Sandra Worth (courtesy of Sandra Worth - thanks for this lovely Christmas present)

Doomed Queens by Kris Waldherr (courtesy of me - aren't I nice?!)

An Involuntary King by Nan Hawthorne (courtesy of Nan Hawthorne)

Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn (courtesy of Shelf Awareness)

And the winner is...

Congratulations goes to Ana T. for winning a copy of Georgette Heyer's Simon the Coldheart!! Yeah!! Send me an email with your address and I'll get it right out to you!

There were 62 entries and the winner was chosen by a very precise and scientific method: My husband called out a number between 1 and 62...he chose 18 (after his favorite baseball player's number, Daryl Strawberry) and Ana T. it was!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and threw their name in the hat! Come on back, ya hear?! Ha!

Review: Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

Heyer does it again with this delightful tale of finding love when you least expect it.  Young Kitty Charing finds herself in quite a pickle when she learns what her eccentric guardian has in store for her.  The mean old goat has put a stipulation in his will that in order for her to inherit his fortune she must marry one of his great-nephews.  Say what?!  Well, that is just the most absurd thing she has ever heard and she means to take no part in it, except of course, to use it to her advantage.

One of the old goat's great-nephews and prospective suitors, "fashionista" Freddy Standon, joins forces with Kitty to get her out of dodge, so to speak.  They fake a betrothal and persuade the eccentric to allow Kitty to stay with Freddy's family in London.  She has never been there and is dying to get out of the boring, old house she has been stuck in for years and meet people her own age.  What follows is a super cute story that will leave a smile on your face when you reach the end.

Kitty is adorable and naive and sweet, but she isn't your typical flawless heroin - she has her faults like the rest of us and the fact that your never quite sure who Kitty is going to end up with was the best part for me.  If you're a fan of Heyers, Cottilion, will be up there with your favorites!

Amy says:  4/5

Wordless Wednesday

Welcome to the inaugural Wordless Wednesday post! I found this beauty of a picture and thought you would all like it as much as I do! Now, this is one tree I would love to climb up and spend the day in!

This Day in History for December 16

1431: the eight-month-old son of Henry V and Katherine of Valois becomes King Henry VI of England. Facts being that infants did not typically make very productive kings, Parliament appointed Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester as Protector and Defender of the Realm and the Church. Once Henry was of age he was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey and King of France two years later in Notre Dame (although he didn't have free "reign" there until 5 years later).

Henry VI was a very unpopular king. His marriage to Margaret of Anjou brought about the nasty Treaty of Tours where England lost Maine and Anjou to the French. The crown's finances were in the loo and corruption was a spreading cancer at court.

Not only was he a poor king, but he was also a bit crazy. Henry's first mental episode started with having a breakdown in 1453 after hearing of the English defeat in Aquitaine. His illness was more than likely passed down from his grandfather, Charles VI of France and can be traced back a few generations.

While Henry was in the throes of madness and the throne was as unstable as he, the War of the Roses began with York and Lancaster fighting over the crown. The Royals fled to Scotland. In 1470 the Yorkists were defeated and Henry VI was put back on the throne. This proved to be a short change of venue as he was soon imprisoned in the Tower of London where he had the unfortunate luck to be murdered. Some say it was Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III), who was also accused with murdering Henry's son Edward.

You can now find Henry safely intombed in Windsor Castle, if you should fancy a meeting.

If you'd like to read more about Henry VI check out:

Lady of the Roses by Sandra Worth (a story of the War of the Roses and the court of Henry and Katherine)
The Queen's Secret by Jean Plaidy (the story of Katherine of Valois and her secret marriage to Owen Tudor)

Review: Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer

Lady of Quality was Georgette Heyer's last novel and although it's not her best, it is still a cute, fun read. While Heyer continues with her first-rate characters, I hate to admit that the plot seemed a little too "cookie cutter". This is your classic I-hate-you-but-wait-no-I-love-you type stories, but Heyer works it well.

From the start I was engaged - I mean how great is it when you're already giggling at the first page?! The story flows well and moves along nicely. As I mentioned earlier Heyer is wonderful with character development and this novel was no exception - you can't help but fall in love with Annis - yes, she's pretty much perfect, but you can't NOT like her. I didn't quite understand what made her fall in love with Oliver Carleton, but who am I to question love? It seems to me that Annis brought out the best in him, how ever much he drove her to distraction!

So, if you're in the mood for a nice, little tale of independence, friendship and love then I recommend Lady of Quality.

Amy says: 4 / 5

For the love of Heyer

Passages to the Past is hosting it's second contest! In honor of my new infatuation with Georgette Heyer I am spreading the love to one lucky winner! Up for grabs is Simon the Coldheart.

In the early 15th century, during the middle of the Hundred Years' War, England and France were fighting for sovereignty over France. It was a time of hand-to-hand combat, the invention of the longbow, and real knights in armor.

Simon Beauvallet was born in 1386, the illegitimate son of Geoffrey of Malvallet. After his mother's death in 1400, he and his half-brother, the legitimate son and heir of his father, became great friends of the Prince, fighting against France.

Known for his silence and nicknamed "the Coldheart," Simon nonetheless loved children and had a complex and deep personality. After the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, he was sent to besiege Belremy, where he met the lady, Margaret, who eventually surrendered to the English and became his bride.

Here is the dealy-o:

  • contest is open to international entries.
  • all you need do is leave a comment with your email and BAM! your name will be entered! It's that easy!
  • contest is open until midnight on Friday, December 19th.
  • good luck to everyone and read on, my friends, read on.

More fodder for my book buying

I seriously have a problem. But, if you're here that means you probably do too. So, join me in celebrating the dysfunction!

Released in US: November 25, 2008

Queen Isabella of Castile, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, and Queen Victoria of England were respected and admired rulers whose legacies continue to be felt today. Their daughters—Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England; Queen Marie Antoinette of France; and Vicky, the Empress Frederick of Germany—are equally legendary for the tragedies that befell them, their roles in history surpassed by their triumphant mothers. In Triumph's Wake is the first book to bring together the poignant stories of these mothers and daughters in a single narrative.

Isabella of Castile forged a united Spain and presided over the discovery of the New World, Maria Theresa defeated her male rivals to claim the Imperial Crown, and Victoria presided over the British Empire. But, because of their ambition and political machinations, each mother pushed her daughter toward a marital alliance that resulted in disaster. Catherine of Aragon was cruelly abandoned by Henry VIII who cast her aside in search of a male heir and tore England away from the Pope. Marie Antoinette lost her head on the guillotine when France exploded into Revolution and the Reign of Terror. Vicky died grief-stricken, horrified at her inability to prevent her son, Kaiser Wilhelm, from setting Germany on a belligerent trajectory that eventually led to war.

Exhaustively researched and utterly compelling, In Triumph's Wake is the story of three unusually strong women and the devastating consequences their decisions had on the lives of their equally extraordinary daughters.

Released in US: July 7, 2009
Re-released in US: May 1, 2009

Advent Blog Tour: December 8

I was very excited when I saw this on Reading Adventures! I love anything to do with Christmas!! One of my favorite things to do to get me in the holiday mood is to watch Christmas movies, so for my Blog Advent Day I thought I would share with you some of my favorite Christmas movies.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (I prefer the classic, but the other one deserves a nod too) A Charlie Brown Christmas Scrooged National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

What are yours?

Sunday Salon

Happy Sunday! Amy checkin' in with you here...just got done decorating the abode for Christmas with lil' Passages to the Past and it looks like really awesome! Decorating is a lot like moving - you never know how much stuff you have until you un-pack (or pack) it. The most fun part for me is hanging the ornaments. My mom is really great about buying me a new ornament every year, as well as, handing down ones from when I was little. The most special are My First Christmas from 1977, Mommy To Be bear with a baby belly, Our First Christmas for me and Mr. Passages, another My First Christmas for my daughter and a lot of ones she's made throughout the years. Do you have any favorite or special ornaments?

Christmas Tree Pictures, Images and Photos
Went to a couple library sales this weekend and I swear those old ladies get meaner and meaner every time!! I can't wait to be old and bitchy (vs. young and bitchy) ha!! Here's what I managed to grab before I took a cane to the shins.

On a reading note, I am still hanging with Annais in Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer and am enjoying my time there. I should have the review posted this week.

On a blog note, I've been pondering my "This Day in History" posts and I've decided to change it up a bit. From now on with your history lesson for the day I'll be including titles of books relating to the subject at hand - that way you can read it for yourselves!

Which Jane Austen character are you?

I am Marianne Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

Sweet - Sense & Sensibility is one of my all-time favorite movies and I just adore Kate Winslet!!

Jean Plaidy 2009 UK Releases

Random House UK have been re-issuing Plaidy's books and here is what they have planned to come out (so far) in 2009. Their usual routine is to come out with 3-4 of her books (in series order) every quarter. I know I'm not the only one who collects Plaidy books, so I thought a lot of you would be interested.

March 5, 2009:

June 4, 2009 (no covers yet):

Madonna of the Seven Hills (Lucrezia Borgia, Book 1)
Light on Lucrezia (Lucrezia Borgia, Book 2)
The Scarlet Cloak
Defenders of the Faith

Side note: The Book Depository has free shipping to the states.

Review: The Conqueror by Georgette Heyer

The Conqueror is one of six historical novels written by Georgette Heyer, who is best known for her Regency Romances, and if this is an indication of the other five - then sign me up!

Heyer brings us back to 11th Century Normandy and introduces us to William, Duke of Normandy, (a.k.a. William the Bastard) through the eyes of Raoul de Harcourt - a knight in Duke William's retinue.

Raoul began his service to the Duke as a young knight and he quickly rose to be one of William's most trusted friends. Loyalty is a running theme throughout the novel - loyalty from a knight to his lord. Raoul may not have agreed with a lot of the tactics used by William, but he trusted and respected his lord enough to comply. Don't get me wrong, Raoul was no pushover - he voiced his opinions when it was warranted, but in the end he knew his role and played the part.

Duke William was a very intriguing man - ambitious would be putting it lightly. He valued brain over braun and cunning over might. Once he saw something he wanted, he got it. Doesn't matter how, but he got it. Which leads me into a great scene with William and his future wife, Mathilda....but I'll leave that for you to read! Let's just say it's not a good idea to call William a bastard!

One aspect of why I love historical fiction is the educational factor. I know I'm a total dork, but it's true - I've learned so much history through all the historical fiction novels I have read. I take some of it with a grain of salt cause it's historical fiction after all, but for the most part I know a lot more than I did a few years ago. While reading The Conqueror I learned a great deal more about the difference between an Englishman (or Saxon) and a Norman and the Battle of Hastings scene was not put-down-able!

I enthusiastically recommend this novel! Heyer's writing is impeccable and her research is without a doubt one of the best. Character development is awesome and dialogue excellent. The Conqueror keeps you enthralled during and wanting more when you're done...which is how every good book should be!

Amy says: 5 / 5

Soundtrack: Conquest by Whitestripes
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