Wednesday, October 22, 2014

(Review) The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees

Paperback cover. 
Publication: Amy Einhorn Books/G. P. Putnam's Sons a member of Penguin Group USA, April 1, 2010.
Genre: Historical Fiction.
Format: Hardcover.
Pages: 352.
Rating: 4 Stars for Very Good.
Source: I won a hardcover copy of the book. It has been in my to be read pile such a long time I don't remember who sent me the book.

The book is available at Amazon.

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, is loosely based on the life of the private author Louisa May Alcott. The time period of the story is July to November 1855. However, the story begins and ends with Alcott as a 48 year old woman reflecting on her life.
Louisa is the second daughter in a family of four daughters. Her oldest sister is sensible Anna. The younger sisters are Lizzie and May. Their hardworking and long-suffering mother is named Marmee. Their head-in-the-clouds father is Bronson.
The Alcott family lives in financial poverty. They depend on "charity" from family and friends. The family has recently moved to Walpole, New Hampshire.
Bronson is a speaker and author for the Transcendentalism movement. He makes little money, but he boasts and dreams large ideas.
The family is friends with the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. A new poet Walt Whitman is introduced. The girls are taught to value intellect, reason, free-thinking, and independence.
Louisa is anxious to begin her life away from the family and live in Boston. She is a writer and wants to pursue writing full-time.
On the cusp of her freedom she meets Joseph Singer. Will their relationship change her plans?

My Thoughts:
I enjoyed reading the story.
It is a quick read.
I saw many similarities between The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott and Little Women. 
There are strong descriptive scenes of humanity, bringing intimacy and warmth to the story. Marmee's body language, voice, reactions, and affects on her daughters made an impression on me.
Bronson is a selfish, emotionally unhealthy man. He is abusive in his neglect, but does not see himself this way. He has an inflated ego. His family is patient and forgiving to him.
After reading the story I can understand Louisa's behavior and choices. But I don't have to like them.
The story is not a happy ending. People who are readers of Louisa May Alcott already know a little about her life and will not be surprised by The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott. However, there is a poetic beauty to this story that I loved.
"We must never give if we are hoping for something in return." A quote from Marmee. Photograph of Louisa May Alcott.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Edward II Blog Tour, October 28th-November 4th, 2014

An Edward II blog tour is scheduled for October 28th through November 4th, 2014. 
Edward II: The Unconventional King by Kathryn Warner is available to purchase through the following links.
Amberley Books

The hosts for the tour:
October 30---Susan Higginbotham
November 4---Olga at Nerdalicious

Kathryn Warner can be found at the following links:

Monday, October 20, 2014

(Review) The Anglo-Saxons, General Editor James Campbell

Publisher: Penguin Books 1991.
Genre: Non-fiction, Anglo-Saxon, England.
Format: Paperback.
Page: 272.
Rating: 5 Stars for excellent.
Source: Self-purchase.

The link to see inside the book: Amazon. 

The Anglo-Saxons is not available in an ebook. I don't feel an ebook would ever do justice to its vivid photographs. The paperback size is 8.2 x 10.9.  

Link to purchase at Amazon. 
Three historians have compiled an in-depth chronicle of the Anglo-Saxon era. James Campbell, Patrick Wormald, and Eric John began with the Roman rule in Britain, and ended with the Battle of Hastings. Specific studies of Christianity, German settlers, reigns of kings, manuscripts, Vikings, warfare, and key battles are all explored.
The Anglo-Saxons is a large glossy paperback. A must-have for all readers of British history, especially those keen on the Anglo-Saxon era.  

My Thoughts:
I love this book. I repeat, I love this book! I'm giddy, and this is an unusual response from a gal who is reserved in nature.
I read the book cover to cover and zeroed in on the photographs and illustrations. Most of the photographs and illustrations are in black and white, some are in color. But all of them are fascinating.
An added gem to the The Anglo-Saxons, is the large amount of information gleaned on ecclesiastical history in Britain. I did not expect to read-in several areas of the book-a study on Christianity. A sub-chapter titled "The Making of the Early English Church," examines "culture" and "values" the Christian church provided. One of my favorite chapters was "The Age of Bede and Aethelbald." A synopsis of Bede's book is included in this chapter.
A personal goal of mine is to read and study ecclesiastical history. I have the book written by Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People. I hope to read this book later this year or in the new year.
The Anglo-Saxons vacillates between academic reading and narrative history reading.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: The Plantagenets, The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones

Publisher: Viking, April 18, 2013.
Genre: Non-fiction, House of Plantagenet, Kings and Queens of England, medieval history.
Format: Hardcover.
Pages: 560.
Rating: 5 Stars for excellent.
Source: Self-purchase.

Available @
Barnes and Noble

A second book has recently been released, The Wars of the Roses. The book was published October 14, 2014.

The highlighted link will pronounce the word Plantagenet correctly.

The Plantagenets, is a precise chronicle of their rule in England, from Henry II to Richard II. Dan Jones, began by giving an account of Henry I, and the "ship-wreck" that ended the life of his son and heir, William Aetheling in 1120. Henry II, born in 1133, was the son of Matilda, the daughter of Henry I, and her second husband Geoffrey Plantagenet of Anjou. After Henry I died, Stephen of Blois, staked his claim to the throne. There was a power struggle between Stephen and Matilda, and their armies clashed. "Eventually, in 1148, Matilda left England." Matilda's son, "Henry II was crowned at Westminster Abbey on December 19, 1154, with a heavily pregnant Queen Eleanor sitting beside him."
The history section at libraries and book shops are filled with non-fiction and historical fiction books pertaining to Tudor History. I love reading Tudor History, but my true passion is the Middle Ages. Reading a book that spans from 1120 to 1400 "is my cup of tea."
Henry II
My Thoughts:
While reading The Plantagenets, I looked for new historical information I'd not read before. One of the Plantagenet rulers who was not regarded with respect then nor now is King John. King John ruled 1199 until 1216. He reigned after his brother Richard I died. Their parents were Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor is one of my favorite historical figures, John is not a favorite. My first introduction to John was in the movie, The Lion in Winter. Nigel Terry portrayed John as a blubbering incapable person next to his brothers Richard and Geoffrey. Movies and books can change how we feel about historical people and events. I admit being influenced by the movies depiction of John.

I have not changed my mind in regard to thinking warm positive thoughts about John, but I do understand him a bit better. He loved an extravagant lifestyle. He took more baths than most people in this era. He had a problem with rage. John had a strong interest in law and wherever his royal court traveled, "a judicial circuit" prevailed. I was surprised to read he had sympathy for the poor. John "was a hands-on king, closely involved in day-to-day governance and keen to intervene in person wherever he could, from disputes between the great barons to stone throwing between boys." Taxes increased heavily during his reign, then followed seizure of lands. Taxes was one way he controlled England. Dan Jones expressed, "The second way in which John used the law to profit was far more political and eventually caused him far more problems. He used it as a direct tool by which to both tax and control the great barons of England."  
Reading through the generations of the Plantagenet kings and queens, I was able to compare their personalities as well as reigns.
Jones provides a fascinating narrative study of each royal figure. He examined their characters and the decisions they made.
Edward I, Edward II, and Edward III are kings I plan to read more extensively. I'd not been interested in Richard II until reading The Plantagenets, but I've decided to read more of his history in the near future.
The Plantagenents has been one of my absolute favorite books I've read thus far in British History. I'm anxious to read his next book, The Wars of the Roses. 
Richard II

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review: The Prodigal Son (The Graham Saga, Book 3) by Anna Belfrage

Publisher: Matador/Troubador Publishing, 2013. The book is currently published by SilverWood.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Scotland, Charles II, 17th Century.
Format: Paperback.
Pages: 390.
Rating: 4 Stars for very good.
Source: I won a free copy from The Review Group in December 2013.
The link for the posted giveaway, which includes a review by Lisl's Bits and Bobs.

Link for the website of Anna Belfrage.

The series is available at Amazon:
The Graham Saga
A Rip in the Veil Book 1
Like Chaff in the Wind Book 2
The Prodigal Son Book 3
A Newfound Land Book 4
Serpents in the Garden Book 5
Revenge and Retribution Book 6
Whither Thou Goest Book 7---will be released in November.

Website of Anna Belfrage.

In the third Graham Saga book, Matthew Graham has recently returned to the lowlands of Scotland, from the British colony in North America, Virginia. Matthew and his time-traveling wife Alexandra have several children. Matthew has a son from a previous marriage named Ian. Charles II (1630-1685) has enforced loyalty to the Church of England. Matthew and his kinsman are loyal to their Presbyterian ministers.
The Prodigal Son exemplifies loyalty and passion, both for their beloved homeland of Scotland, and in Matthew and Alex's marriage and family.

My Thoughts:
The Prodigal Son is the only book in the series I've read. I don't think The Prodigal Son can be fully understood, especially in reference to Alex's time-travel and Matthew's detour in Virginia, unless the previous books have been read. I'm curious how Matthew and Alex's relationship began. I'm curious of the relationship Matthew had with Ian's mother. I'm curious of when the hatred and animosity between Matthew and his brother Luke began. References to each of these are given in The Prodigal Son, but I want a full story. I'm planning to read all of the books in the series.
The relationship between Matthew and Alex is passionate. Their steamy relationship keeps Alex pregnant through a majority of the pages in the story. It is hard for me to believe she had the energy it took to care for several children, clean and cook for a large family (no modern conveniences), and have the desire for sex. The chemistry and love between Matthew and Alex intoxicates them, and they are swept away from the hardship of life. It is their love and loyalty to each other that led me to love this story and rate it four stars.
Alex is from the year 2002, she is bold in speech and freely shares her mind. Matthew has lived with Alex long enough that he understands her views and personality. Alex is frustrated at times, and as a source of comfort and sentimentalism, she reflects on her previous life. I believe Alex is learning to curb her speech, but it is difficult to change a character trait.
The Prodigal Son gave me a view of what life was like for the people of Scotland under the rule of Charles II. His actions against the Presbyterian ministers were cruel and barbaric.