Category Archives: History

WWW Wednesday (2012-April-4)

The tornados are here, saving the world is here, Authors4Trayvon is here, and the garden is here.

Now. Wednesday! From shouldbereading:

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

Dissolution  The first in a mystery  series set in the time of Henry VIII, with Matthew Shardlake sent by Cromwell to root out papist sin and debauchery (plus straighten out some financial issues that should result in more money for the Crown, natch) from a problematical abbey. This has been highly recommended to me.  So far I’m greatly enjoying it.


It’s an interesting contrast to Nancy Bilyeau’s The Crown. The more I listen to Dissolution (I’m listening to the audiobook) the more I appreciate the tale Bilyeau told from the more unusual point of view of a young Roman Catholic nun who loves her faith and her Church, and yet also loves England and her King.  This doesn’t take away from Dissolution at all. I’m enjoying it very much. Two sides of a coin, but mysteries, both taking place at about the same moment in time–Henry’s marriage to Jane Seymour.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Book Thief. Five stars.

What was it like to be German during the Fuhrer’s reign? Not a member of the elite, but one of the powerless? How many times have people outside Germany pondered whether or not they would have gone along with the crowd, whether they would have drunk the Kool-Aid? The Book Thief explores that idea in unexpected and deep ways.

This is a gorgeously written book. The prose sometimes stopped me cold just long enough to savor it before moving forward. Not so often that it got in the way of the story, just often enough to make this book of difficult subject matter lush and beautiful.

Death’s point of view is fascinating. It gives just enough distance and subjective thought to keep the story from getting too intense. Yes, I love intense emotion in books, and this had its moments. But the use of Death as a character was a profound and appropriate choice, for he brought vision and distance in moments when it was needed. Again, five stars.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Tough question.  I have shoved several aside that were top of my list in order to read library books, and I still have a couple of library books to read. New books are popping into the queue. I can see I’ll never go back to my “must read NAO!” list if I keep this up.  Stay tuned until next Wednesday to find out which book shouldered its way to the top of the stack!

What about you? What are your WWWs? If you post on your blog, leave a link below! Otherwise answer here.



Filed under Books, England, History, Library books, Mysteries, Reading, Review, WWW Wednesday

Rollin' the blogs!

I have discovered an eclectivity of blogs to read this past year or so. [And made up a word. Eclectivity. Use it. I dare you.]

Once upon a time blogs were more popular and there were a number that I read.  I followed them by RSS feed and sometimes if I missed a few days, the feed was so overwhelming I’d just ignore it for weeks.  Not a very efficient method of doing something I actually enjoyed doing.

These days it’s easier. As I’ve pointed out before, all you have to do is sign up [see top of sidebar on right] to get a blog in email.  It doesn’t pile up unread. I can glance and delete quite easily if I don’t have time or am not interested.  Or read and enjoy.  And frankly, all of the blogs I’m following this way are ones I read and enjoy.

Without further ado, let me share a sampling of blogs I enjoy enough to have them delivered via email.

An on the nose title for an off the charts blog. English History Fiction Writers Blog. I discovered it via Nancy Bilyeau, whose Tudor-era mystery will be out in January and I can’t wait. This entry gives a glimpse of the heart of her book, and I’m already salivating.

Speaking of eclectic, Bill Chance is. If you’re from Dallas, I can almost guarantee that this Detroit-transplant has found places you don’t know. His reading and movie-watching are definitely off the beaten tracks and his exploration of the world around him is definitely worth checking out.

Ah, and then there is Peggy Isaacs. I am trying to remember if she let the snark fly when she was taking my classes and honestly don’t recall, but she definitely shares her attitude freely in her blog, and I am vastly entertained. Watch out for the animals. Her Man vs Beast feature is out to get you.

Through another blog, An Austin Homestead [she has a spinning wheel and a Corgi, how cool is that?] I discovered Nude Soap. Primarily because the blogger makes it, and owns the company. I bought some soap and creams for Christmas gifts and everything is getting raves. I can’t say enough about it, and will add it to the pooks recs page. But I have to point out that An Austin Homestead is no longer in Austin. She moved to Oregon! But I’m sure she’ll continue to make me drool over her vegetables and fruits and chickens and what-nots, just like I did when she was in Austin.

This is the impact she had on me this Christmas. Because of her blog, I, pooks, the not-very-domestic-goddess, baked cookies.  And not just cookies–drop cookies that anybody can manage. The roll-and-cut-with-cookie-cutter cookies. I was inspired by cookies on her site, and used the directions from this video, and ended up with gingerbread Texas cookies!

I was going to post a picture.

I can’t find my cable to download the pics.

User your imagination.  They were big!

Meanwhile... Saved! Found the cable!

PS Time is running out. If you want a chance to win a book of your choice in my contest, subscribe to this blog and comment here before midnight Dallas time, January 6!






Filed under Dallas, Education, England, History, Writers, Writing

The Black Hawk, a review

One problem I have with writing reviews is that I don’t like negatively influencing what someone might buy. You know how it goes. Somebody you respect urges you, read this book, and you do and don’t like it. Well, you know, “I love this book and you might, too,” is one thing. But, “This book didn’t work for me and this is why,” has the potential to do something worse, in my opinion, and that’s discouraging someone from reading something they might have loved.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I actually loved a lot about Joanna Bourne’s The Black Hawk.  

The characterization was superb. I loved Hawker. I loved Owl. These characters were sensitively and exquisitely drawn. I sometimes ached for them. Both were children with horrid pasts who grew up scarred yet amazingly strong. She was French and he was English, and both were spies. They were enemies in love, and it worked on every level. This is romance at its finest.

I’ve sought out other reviews and every one I’ve read was written by someone who had read all of Bourne’s previous books and has waited with great anticipation for Hawker’s story. I wonder how much difference it makes that these reviewers opened the book already knowing Hawker at different periods in his life, had already fallen under the spell of his personality and the things he overcame, and entered the story with that knowledge.

Here’s the way it worked for me. I had read one previous book and honestly, really liked it a lot, and honestly, remembered little about it when I opened this one. And when I opened this one, it worked. I didn’t know Hawker’s past, nor did I know Owl’s. And from the earliest pages I was caught up in their story.

[Do you sense a “but” coming?]

This book is told through a series of flashbacks that were perfectly executed. I never got lost, and once I got into each time period (which didn’t take long) I was caught up in the tensions and dramas of the moment. As a novel, this structure worked.

As a romance novel? Here is my “but” and I offer it knowing that few other reviewers have had this problem. I was never able to sink fully into the narrative of the story–despite how beautifully the relationship was drawn–because it was not told chronologically and did not give me the “romance novel” experience of a building tension that left me breathless, wondering what would happen next. I knew from the beginning what would happen next. They would survive to a certain age and position in London. “How” was a question, but I was robbed of much of the drama. When one flashback ended in what could be seen as an ultimate betrayal of one gravely injuring another, I was not left with the devastated individual dealing with the knowledge that their beloved would think it was done deliberately. I didn’t suffer with the other who must have believed that very thing.

Instead, I was whisked back to the present.

It was only when I finished the book that I was able to put all of this in perspective, to understand how I could find the book so well-constructed and emotionally gripping, and yet feel distanced. It was because the very construction that on the one had worked, did not ever allow me to completed give myself over to the story and live through the characters.

I say this knowing that I am in the minority, and hoping I don’t discourage anybody from reading this book. I do wonder if it would have been different, had I entered the book with the same deep background knowledge and affection for the characters as the typical romance reviewer.

As a novel I would give it 5 stars, meaning, I enjoyed the heck out of this book.

As a romance, I would give it 4, and since it was meant to be a romance I will have to stand by that rating.

But hey, if you like romance, read it and let me know what you think. It’s a book worth reading.

[Subscribe to this blog, comment on the contest entry, win a prize? It could happen!]


Filed under Books, History, Novels, Review, Romance

Review: Game of Kings, by Dorothy Dunnett

The Game of Kings (The Lymond Chronicles, #1)The Game of Kings (Lymond Chronicles, 1) by Dorothy Dunnett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finally I got past the archaic language and just kept reading, and understand why my friends love this series. It’s excellent, and the good news is that I have five more books to read in it.

Mary Queen of Scots is but five years old, Henry Viii is dead and the English are invading Scotland to capture the child queen and raise her to be their young King’s bride and queen.  It’s a little-explored slice of history that is rife with drama.

This is like James Bond if he were even more suave, even sexier, even more dangerous, had more emotional depth and lived in the time of flounce and lace and dashing highwaymen on dark roads at midnight.  Adventure, betrayal, and a story that twists and turns.  As I said, now I understand.

View all my reviews


Filed under Books, England, Fiction & Literary, Goodreads, History, Reading, Scotland

Leviathan and Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld

Okay, about that steampunk challenge.

One steampunk book a month for a year.  Twelve steampunk reads.

I’m on my third in October.  I could space them out and list/review one a month, but that makes me itch.  I am just going to mention them as I read them, and don’t expect any real reviews from me because that’s too much like work.

Also, the first three have all been audiobooks that I downloaded from audible (if you sign up, tell them dallaspooks sent ya) and so what I will actually be discussing is a different experience than reading.

First, Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, and its sequel, Behemoth. These are YA (Young Adult) novels that have been getting fabulous word of mouth and I finally broke down and decided to read them listen to them. And I’m so glad I did. Set on the brink of World War I, Leviathan begins the night that Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated in Sarajevo, with their 15-year-old son being rousted out of bed and hustled away from the palace by a sinister pair of men–and straight into action-packed adventure which continues into its sequel. I don’t know how long the series is projected to be, but there are clearly more coming.

In the meantime in England a 15-year-old Scottish girl is pretending to be a boy so she can be an airman with the British Air Service, as her brother is and her father was before her. Again–straight into action-packed adventure.

In this revisioning of World War I the nations are the same and on the same teams, but many of the details are different.  The world building is superb. The German side are “Clankers” whose war machines are fantastical and mechanical. The English side are “Darwinists” who have created strange new creatures (or “beasties,” as Deryn calls them) to go to war.

Scott Westerfeld’s world is amazing. The action is almost nonstop but always inventive and fresh. The characterizations are rich. At the end of each book are author notes that describe what aspects of the books are true history and where Westerfeld got creative, and I was as fascinated by the real history as I was the books themselves. It was gratifying to see that some of the more interesting twists were historic facts that he’d woven sp deftly into his stories it was impossible for me to know what was real and what was new.

Alan Cumming as narrator is phenomenal. He reads with breathless energy, gives the characters appropriate and wonderful accents that enhance their personalities and backgrounds, and made me want to listen nonstop.  At a time when I was highly distracted by a lot of real life issues, these books were always compelling and easy to fall into.

I highly recommend them as audiobooks or to read. I may actually end up buying these books because the art looks pretty darned cool.


Filed under Audible, Audiobooks, Books, Fiction & Literary, History, Novels, Steampunk, Steampunk Challenge, Young Adult

I’m in so much trouble.

Your result for The Six Wives of Henry VIII Test…

Anne Boleyn

Witty, Sophisticated, Passionate, Emotional, Stylish, Intelligent, Outspoken.

“The Most Happy”

Anne Boleyn is one of the most infamous women in history. She is also probably one of the most misunderstood. Many myths abound, including that she had a mole on her neck, and a sixth finger. This is highly unlikely, as such things were seen as signs of witchcraft, she probably would not even have been allowed in court, let alone be chosen by Henry as a mate- he desired a male heir above all else, and would never have risked a ‘bewitched’ son.

Anne was the second, possibly third, Boleyn woman to pass through Henry’s chambers. Her mother was rumored to have been young Henry’s mistress, and her sister Mary was without doubt. As their father, Thomas Boleyn, was a man with more ambition than honor, he engineered both daughters relationships with Henry, and probably did the same with his wife. But Mary Boleyn’s relationship with Henry ended with an illegitimate son (probably Henry’s), a sad marriage, and the nickname, “the Great Whore”.

Anne was engaged to Henry Percy and had no ambitions to join in the family’s power games. But as a lady in waiting to Katharine of Aragon, Anne caught Henry’s eye, and Henry, had Henry Percy banished from court. Thomas Boleyn missed nothing, and set Anne to seducing Henry.

Anne was charming, witty, sophisticated, and talented in music and dance- all things Henry liked in a woman. She had no trouble bringing Henry to his knees- she knew what he wanted became all the sweeter to him when he couldn’t have it. She demanded he seduce her with letters and poems, he sent her royal jewels, and she rebuffed him, refusing to give him her virginity outside of marriage.

Sometime during her father’s scheming Anne fell in love with Henry. They resided together in the castle, held court with her in Katharine’s throne. He granted her noble title. Finally, after being refused an anullment, Henry divorced Katharine. Henry was excommunicated from the Holy See- the beginning of Restoration.

Anne and Henry wed in 1533, and Anne gave birth so soon to the infant Elizabeth I, it’s believed that the two had been secretly married in 1532 in order to consumate their union.

The marriage lasted three years. Anne failed to deliver the promised heir, which Henry saw as a sign from God that his marriage to Anne was impure. His eye was wandering, particularly to Jane Seymour, and Anne, ever so passionate, would not tolerate any straying from her bed. If she had taken the king from Katharine, who had been with him for decades, then her position was just as precarious. She had gotten Henry to declare Elizabeth the one heir by bastardizing Mary, daughter of Katharine, but no one outside of England recognized the child as sovereign heir, refusing Henry’s offers of betrothal. That Anne requested the deaths of Mary and Katharine is rumored but not evidenced.

Following the death of Katharine, who had suffered in isolation, Henry became more convinced that Anne was a mistake. She miscarried a few days later, and it was over.

Henry accused Anne of witchcraft, questioned her virginity at the time of marriage, and high treason- adultery. The men of her court were questioned and tortured, the women of her court were largely disloyal- many of them having been in service to the beloved Katharine of Aragon before her- and gladly spoke against her. Anne was imprisoned, and there wrote letters to Henry begging for the freedom of her innocent friends and family (her brother was accused of having relations with her.) and begging for the future of her daughter. It was all for naught- her accused lovers were tortued into admission- even though some of them were quite homosexual- and murdered. Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. Anne saw the beheading of her brother George, her best friend, and probably also homosexual, through the bars of her tower window.

Anne Boleyn was executed May 19, 1536. Laying her head on the chopping block, she repeatedly commended her soul to God, and then, the scandal of christendom, the woman who caused the birth of a new religion, the second wife of Henry VIII, was beheaded.

Henry married Jane Seymour eleven days later.

Take The Six Wives of Henry VIII Test
at HelloQuizzy


Filed under Asinine Quizzes, England, History

Paranoid, much?

I have a book checked out of the local library that I can’t believe they actually had. Very obscure aspect of UK history and I can’t imagine why this suburban library ever invested in it back in 1966.

It’s exactly what I need (possibly, anyway) to find some nuggets to help me in my world/history building, since the troubles I’m writing are about this time and place, and that’s so amazing to me, that there’s even a single book that is this specific.

When I realized I didn’t have time to read it, I started to buy it used. I have picked up a number of reference books dirt cheap on the internet, and would rather pay 4-6 bucks each for them (that’s including shipping and handling) and have them on my shelf when I want them, than to check them out and not get around to reading them, like has happened with this one. Thing is, these others aren’t even in the local library.

So, I go to buy this one and the cheapest out there is $50, and they go up to over $100, and so I guess there is some sort of demand for it, thought who can imagine why.

So I went online to renew it and SOMEBODY HAS PLACED IT ON HOLD. When I turn it in (it’s due today so I may go ahead and drive over and drop it in the slot) somebody else is waiting for it, and I have two thoughts:

1) who the hell wants this book about this obscure topic?
2) they sure as hell better not be about to steal the book, or rather, “lose” it, pay what it cost back in the day, and then… am I being paranoid? Yes.


Okay, and a third thought:

3) Do I just keep it out longer and pay the fee while I read it, just in case somebody is going to “lose” it, pay for it and then sell it for a profit?

Or am I just being totally paranoid. I mean, why would anybody even know the book exists if they weren’t already interested in this topic and location?


Don’t mind me. I’m being insane today.


Filed under Books, History, Writers, Writing