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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

TWYLIGHT TOWER by Karen Harper




I had intended reading The Poyson Garden as part of the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge on Royal Reviews, but when I went to reserve at my local library, it was no longer on the catalogue.
So that's the reason for reading Twylight Tower.

This story is set in 1560 and Elizabeth 1 has sent William Cecil to Scotland for negotiations with Mary. Cecil is uneasy about leaving on this journey as Elizabeth has been spending too much time with Robert Dudley, and not enough attention on affairs of state.
Shortly after Cecil departs for Scotland, the court's master lutenist plunges to his death from the parapet (near Elizabeth's chamber). It is assumed that he accidently fell after drinking too much, but the other loyal servants of the Queen are not so sure, and believe he was pushed.
Onto the scene appears a young musician and begs to be taken into the Queen's service. This lutenist is good, but something is not right. It soon is discovered that the musician is a girl (it was first though the musician was a eunach).
Elizabeth feels that she is being watched all the time, but dismisses this as being upset at the death of her previous musician.

Robert Dudley is constantly in the Queen's attendance, eventhough his wife Amy Robsart is ailing and living in the country. We know that Robert is ambitious and will do anything to reach the top.

There are twists and turns in this story, always including the workings of the Royal Court, with all its intrigues and jealousies.
The Spanish Ambassador is also at court, lobbying for Elizabeth to take a husband, and building up a network of spies around the palace.

Tradedy strikes close to the throne, when Elizabeth is almost killed whilst performing in one of the plays that she enjoys.

The death of Amy Robsart brings tragedy close to the throne also and suffice to say that the young lutenist wreaks her revenge on the Queen with this incident.
It transpires that she is one of the bastard offspring from King Henry's time.

I am become quite involved with the characters in this series and look forward to reading the other books.

Here are the pages that I have created for my Historical Reading Journal



Friday, 19 March 2010

BOOK REVIEWS


I just can't seem to get into the swing of posting on my blog everyday. Always other "things" to do.
A couple more book reviews to add - always can find time to read!!

I am a fan of Matthew Reilly's books and CONTEST is the author's first novel, which was self published (1996) after being rejected by every major publisher in Sydney (Australia). That attitude certainly changed once he wrote other books.
Before I read this story, my husband Michael said that I would think twice about visiting a large public library.

As usual with Matthew Reilly books, the theme is action packed from start to finish.

"A thief breaks into the New York State Library and comes away with nothing but the biggest nightmare of his life, and being put in jail (where he reckons he is safe from the monster). He had awakened Karanadon, a monster that has been teleported there as part of a Contest.
The human contender is Stephen Swain, who has also been transported there from his home, together with his daughter Holly (she happened to be close to him at the time).
Stephen thinks he has entered a nightmare, especially when he discovers he has to fight for his life if he wants to come out of the library alive.

Don't want to give too much away, as it will spoil all the twists and turns that are in the story.

For a change of pace, the next book DEATH BY DARJEELING (by Laura Childs), is the first in the tea shop mystery series.
The author has also written a Scrapbooking Mystery series.




Was lucky to get a copy of this book from BOOKMOOCH, as the theme of the mysteries intrigued me, as I am a tea drinker (as well as coffee).

The character of Theodosia, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop is a strong independent woman, and she is helped in the shop by Drayton,who is her major domo and expert tea blender; the waitress and chef is a young girl called Holly.

At a tea party catered for by the shop, a well known property developer dies, after drinking tea and it turns out he was poisoned. Of course, all eyes are on Theo, who desperately tries to save her reputation and track down the killer.

Interesting snippets throughout the story of the various tea blends and names of tea.

Enjoyed the story and look forward to reading others in the series.

Friday, 12 March 2010

COZY MYSTERY STORIES

As well as enjoying historical fiction, I am also a fan of mystery novels, and after coming across the Cozy Mystery site
I have a good list of authors to choose from.

A couple of stories that I have recently read are:

THE BOHEMIAN MURDERS - A Freemont Jones Mystery (by Dianne DAY).

The period for this story is 1906 and Freemont Jones is forced to leave San Francisco after the devasting earthquake. She goes to the bohemian beach community of Carmel-by-the-Sea and is looking forward to being reunited with her friend, Michael Archer, and setting up her typing business.
But she is not prepared for the way that Michael has arranged a cottage for her, situated in the artist colony and feels that she will be restricted. So she takes up the offer of being the fill in for the Lighthouse keeper for a period 6 months and also rents out a small shop for her typing business. The lighthouse duties only really take up a few hours during the day and she has a man to help out with the other duties.
One day while carrying out her duties on the watch,she sees through the binoculars, a body in the water. When the body is recovered from the water, no-one seems able to identify the person (a young well dressed woman).
Freemont therefore undertakes to find out what happened and promises herself that she will pay for the burial for the woman. But this turns out not be an easy task.

I found the character of Freemont to be a lively, independent person and enjoyed the story.

The other book was THE CHOCOLATE BEAR BURGLARY - by Joanna CARL

As I love chocolate, couldn't resist the title of this book. Also a good read into the chocolate making business.
Lee McKinney works with her Aunt Nettie in the shop - TenHuis Chocolade.
To participate in the "Teddy Bear Getaway" organised by the chamber of commerce at Warner Pier, Michigan (where the shop is located), Lee and Nettie agree to display a collection of antique chocolate moulds.
The moulds have been in the same family for generations and are quite valuable.
But after a burglary at the shop, the antique dealer who asked for them to be on display is murdered, and the main suspect is Lee's young stepson, who has left home.
Once Lee starts delving into the background of the moulds and the family who owns them, secrets are exposed and her life is put in danger.

THE GRADUATE


THE GRADUATE
Originally uploaded by emerging artist2008

I knew that the chilli cut out would come in handy for a card sooner or later, and for the background, used a page from a book of latin that I acquired from a library sale.

BE CREATIVE


BE CREATIVE
Originally uploaded by emerging artist2008

Background for this card is a serviette (love collecting these now for the wonderful colours and prints).
Also I have been collecting quotes from various sources, which add to the images.

QUEENS


QUEENS
Originally uploaded by emerging artist2008

I have a multitude of historical images and thought I should start using some. Pleased with the other "bits" that I have added to make up the composition.

PEARL DEALER


PEARL DEALER
Originally uploaded by emerging artist2008

A real mixture of paper finds for this card - background paper from a sheet that I downloaded from a scrapbook site; image from a travel magazine, and the text is from a family research matter that I was looking into. Unfortunately my husband's family don't have Chinese ancestors, (at this stage anyway).

Thursday, 11 March 2010

READING GROUP BOOK REVIEW

con-tain-it

The idea for the journal mentioned in my previous post was inspired by Roberta's blog and check it out for other great ideas.

ANNETTE VALLON - by James Tipton

I decided to read this book for the Historical Challenge as I had seen a couple of reviews on blogs that I follow.
Also I had not read many books centred around the French Revolution, and the character, Annette Vallon, was unknown to me.
Book covers and the "blurb" inside sometimes can be deceptive - in other words, too much hype and not enough substance.

The story starts in the period 1785-1791 in the Loire Valley France.
Annette and her family are in the high social classes, and her mother has aspirations for Annette's future, especially when William Wordsworth is brought to their acquaintance and is definitely of the working class.

I felt that there was too much padding for my way of thinking and the story became bogged down.
Didn't press on with the rest of the book.

I did though start up a Reading Journal for the books in this challenge, and here are the pages for Annette Vallon:




Thursday, 4 March 2010

BEACH MUSIC by Pat Conroy


This book was our set read for the month of March, and at our book group meeting yesterday (3rd March), everyone agreed that it was a great story.
Having to pick the titles for the year, I always ponder how the other ladies will relate to the books and looks like I picked a winner here.

Some of the topics that stand out in the story:

Family Relatonships
Love and Loss
Holocaust
Jewish Race
Vietnam War
Alcoholism
Living in Italy
Suicide

This book has all of the above themes and probably a lot more that I may have missed.
Very intense story to read and so well written - especially the family relationships.
Jack's family - how different all the 5 boys were - their mother Lucy, her poor and heartbreaking childhood and how she overcame this and rose to become a much respected and well loved woman and mother.
Shyla's family (Jack's dead wife) and how the legacy of the Jewish holocaust stayed with her family and eventually took her life (suicide).
Jordan - the son of a career Army man, and how his life panned out because of his father.

Had never read any of this author's books before and will probably look for others:

The Prince of Tides
The Great Santini
The Water is Wide
The Lords of Discipline.

The author's descriptions of life were spot on.

THE LAST BOLEYN by Karen Harper


Another book for the Historical Fiction Challenge on ROYAL REVIEWS.
This story gives another slant of the Boleyn family (have read Phillipa Gregory's book The Other Boleyn Girl which I enjoyed).

I was not aware that the Boleyn name came into being in 1530 - previously the family name was Bullen and Anne had wanted the name changed and pronounced Boleyn, a French spelling and much more suited to a future queen of the realm.

We are shown how manipulative the fathers, husbands etc. were in order to become powerful. Thomas Bullen, the father of Mary and Anne was a power hungry man who thought nothing of using his daughters and also his wife to attain his aims.

Mary Bullen is sent off to France (at a young age as was the custom) to be at the French Court in the service of Princess Mary Tudor, King Henry's sister, who was now the Queen of France.
When King Louis XII, dies, his nephew Francois, comes into power, and besides having eyes for Princess Mary Tudor, casts his net at young Mary, who becomes bedazzled by his handsome appearance and everything about him.
Young Mary is finally seduced by Francois, and comes to realise just how ruthless life at court can be.
William Stafford, a member of King Henry's court, becomes entranced with Mary whle on the King's business in France. His love never waivers for Mary even when upon her return to England, her father arranges a marriage with Will Carey.
As was Henry's want, he wants Mary and has her. For 5 years she is his constant companion, and has 2 children by him,Henry and Catherine, who over the following years are taken from her and used as pawns - once again by her father.

I don't want to give too much away, but Mary's marriage to Will Carey is a loveless match, and all the while, "Staff" is in the background watching over Mary, who comes to realise she is falling in love with him.
Will Carey dies and it is sometime before Mary and Staff can marry - all the time playing politics at court and becoming involved with Thomas Cromwell.

The decline of the Boleyn family comes about when Anne and her brother George are beheaded - King Henry wanting to marry Jane Seymour.
Thomas Boleyn, the father is now a broken man, who has now lost all his power and position at court.
But Mary survives all, and her and Will return to his family property Wivanhoe.

Excellent story.