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Topic: 2009 H/F - #4 - New to You Author

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Subject: 2009 H/F - #4 - New to You Author
Date Posted: 1/13/2009 8:43 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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4. Read a book of Historical Fiction from a "new to you" author.

Date Posted: 1/13/2009 10:18 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,353
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Well, I finished "Mistress of the Art of Death"  on 1/7/2009 and I have to say that that book had me thoroughly engrossed. I think that Ariana Franklin described the time period quite well and certainly brought a lot of suspense to the story line. I had pretty much figured out who the villian was about half way through the book, but that still didn't take away from my desire to KEEP ON READING! I will definitely search out more of her books in the future.

Date Posted: 1/13/2009 2:06 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,474
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I finished Nefertiti by Michelle Moran and as I stated elsewhere I thought it was good but not great.  It is a good novel by a first time author with nice detail about everyday life in Egypt of the time.  I had read another book, The Egyptian by Mika Waltari that is about this same time era of the changing of worship of the old gods of Egypt to the new one god Atun.  That one is an oldie but goodie that I remebering liking a lot better.  I also am spoiled by Margaret George's Cleopatra.  I don't think I will ever find another Egyptian character as memorable as her heroine, plus it is also one of my all time favorite books.

Date Posted: 1/13/2009 2:10 PM ET
Member Since: 8/12/2005
Posts: 809
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Cheryl, I'm also planning on reading Nefertiti for this category. I'm hoping to get to it within the next couple of weeks.

George's Cleopatra was wonderful! I need to set aside time to read it again. I learned so much about the history of Egypt, and I got lost in the story for two weeks.

Date Posted: 1/15/2009 1:16 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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I'm sliding in our BOM this month into this category, so I finished my first Anne Easter Smith novel yesterday 1/14.

Date Posted: 1/22/2009 2:22 AM ET
Member Since: 10/2/2007
Posts: 10,280
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Last Edited on: 2/2/15 2:24 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/23/2009 7:39 PM ET
Member Since: 3/6/2006
Posts: 3,070
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Last night I started The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies.  I was interrupted so am only 20 pages in.

Date Posted: 3/1/2009 3:16 PM ET
Member Since: 10/2/2007
Posts: 10,280
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Last Edited on: 2/2/15 2:42 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/5/2009 6:48 PM ET
Member Since: 3/6/2006
Posts: 3,070
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Just finished Lady Macbeth ( I changed books ).  It was soooo good,; a keeper.  I always get confused by the Macbeth facts and Shakespeare's Macbeth and tend to get Hamlet thrown in the mixture somehow, too.  ;)

This was written first person by Macbeth's wife, Gruadh, from her childhood until her later widowed years.  A family tree is included (everyone is related to everyone somehow!) She had been married to cousin of Macbeth's and he died when she was pregnant with their child.  Macbeth marries her while she is still pregnant, and very newly widowed.  They both have claims to the throne of Scotland due to bloodlines and so she is made an outright queen rather than queen consort when Macbeth becomes king.  I won't say much else, just, go read it!!

Date Posted: 3/5/2009 6:54 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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I have that one on the way to me, I'm glad to hear that it is good.

Date Posted: 3/31/2009 6:55 AM ET
Member Since: 8/10/2005
Posts: 4,599
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I finished the first Edward Marston historical mystery in the Domesday series, The Wolves of Savernake and thought it was quite good. I've got a couple more in the series here and will definitely carry on. I was actually surprised by the 'whodunit' which doesn't happen all that often, and there was lots of great period detail.

Cheryl

Date Posted: 4/20/2009 10:47 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
Posts: 3,237
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I read A Thread of Grace and Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell this weekend. I liked Dreamers of the Day, because it was about an era I'm interested in (Egypt/the Middle East in the 1920s) but I have to say I didn't really see what the point was of the story. A Thread of Grace was also about an era I'm interested in (WW II Europe) but it really felt like a waste of my time at the end. I can't say more without giving away plot stuff.

Anyway, I don't think I need to read anything else by this author! :-p

Date Posted: 4/21/2009 1:08 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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Doesn't sound like it, Janelle. Bummer.

Date Posted: 4/22/2009 11:32 AM ET
Member Since: 4/15/2005
Posts: 456
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I tried to read A THread of Grace a few times, but the story never really captivated me, so I gave up and passed my copy along.  OTOH, I have a friend who read it and LOVED it.   Different strokes and all.  The concept of the story is great - but I just couldn't connect with the author's writing.  If I don't like the writing style, nothing is going to get me to slog my way through a book.

I also gave up on Lady Macbeth -- it just didn't grab me, although I did make it about halfway through before I ran out of renewal time at the library.  I like the concept and despite the great reviews, something about it didn't hook me, so I didn't feel bad about not knowing how the story ended.



Last Edited on: 4/22/09 11:33 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/1/2009 12:24 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,400
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For this challenge I was considering a book by either Vanora Bennett or Christie Dickason.  After reading Cheryl's recommendation of Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Bennett (her choice for the patron of the arts challenge) I opted for this book.  Due to religious/humanist discussions, references to Erasmus and the colleagues and enemies of Sir Thomas More, parts of the novel were a bit slow-going.  But, the story of Meg, More's adopted daughter, her husband John Clement, and her relationship with the artist Hans Holbein created a fascinating and interesting novel.  Cheryl referred to a new and different slant to the mystery of the Princes in the Tower.  Interesting, indeed, and I have come away with a more sympathetic view toward Sir Thomas More and his portrait of Richard III.  Maybe he had a compelling reason for writing history the way he did.

Linda 

Subject: Completed!
Date Posted: 5/18/2009 9:50 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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Over the weekend I finished my book for this challenge, As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann.  I posted lengthy comments on it in the HF thread - "Shelley & Michelle's May BOM."  I won't re-state them here, but if you're interested, check out that thread. 

Date Posted: 5/21/2009 1:00 PM ET
Member Since: 7/21/2008
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I also finished up As Meat Loves Salt last night.  My thoughts are also in the thread with Shelley's if you're interested.

Date Posted: 5/25/2009 11:27 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,400
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I selected The Candlemass Road, by George MacDonald Fraser for this challenge category. My overall idea for a "new to you author" was to pick someone who I may or may not want to read more of. In other words, not a "one title sort of author." With his Flashman series tempting me, Mr. Fraser seemed like a good author to try. And, I'm glad I picked this book and I will definitely be reading more of this author's books.

This book is set in the violent and volatile border country between England & Scotland during the later years of Queen Elizabeth I's reign. It is a quick read - just a little over 150 pages, excluding the author's historical note, and basically covers one event. But in covering this one event, the author cleverly introduces a variety of characters, several different themes and perfectly captures the "customs of the country". All in 150 pages, the book touches on themes of religion and faith, on right and wrong, on the question of "the greater good," and on honor and keeping faith with a promise given.

The story is told in 1st person from the viewpoint of a priest who is employed by one of the largest landowners in the area (and one of of our main characters). His presence is tolerated and he is allowed to minister to the needs of those who hold to the Catholic faith, as long as he does not try to foist Catholicism on anyone else. In other word, "do your work, but keep a low profile and don't get in anyone's way."

Being written in 1st person, Fraser uses the style and language patterns of the times, not just in dialog but throughout the book. Although it took a little time to get into the rhythm, this technique gave a depth and flavor that really enhanced the novel. For example:

I asked should we not see my lady afore we went, and he swore he would as soon take leave of the parish council "that change their minds but once each quarter hour, so my lady may prove a weathercock like all her sex, and like as not will repent her design and put my neck in the halter again. We have our gear and our charge and a clear way to Triermain; 'tis enough."

I close with a recommendation for this book and also a line from the historical note in reference to the author's research: So those were the materials I used to make The Candlemass Road, a fiction which is simply an echo of events which happened every day along the border. In that, it is a true story, and its people, noble and simple, reiver and officer, once lived on the Marches, not so long ago.

Kelly



Last Edited on: 5/25/09 11:31 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/4/2009 5:17 PM ET
Member Since: 8/12/2005
Posts: 809
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^^^^ Damn you, Kelly, now I have another book for my "want to read" list!   ;-)

I just finished The Crimson Thread by Suzanne Weyn and decided to put it in this category. It's a retelling of "Rumpelstiltskin" from the "Once Upon a Time" series of fairy-tales for young adults. It read more like historical fiction than fantasy, although there is some subtle magic woven into the story. It's basically left to the reader to decide whether certain occurrences were "magical."

The story is set in New York City in 1880 and features a family of Irish immigrants newly arrived in America. Bridget O'Malley obtains a job as a seamstress in the home of a wealthy textile tycoon. Her father rashly boasts she can create spectacular, one-of-a-kind dresses, but she luckily has a friend named Ray Stalls who turns out to be a master tailor. His creations open a door for her into the realm of the privileged, but she is dismayed to discover their riches are built on the backs of poorly paid, ill-treated workers, some of whom are mere children. The story examined the beginnings of labor movements and unionizing.

I really enjoyed the story and will definitely read more books by Weyn and others in the "Once Upon a Time" series. The author's note says Weyn has written more than 100 books - whew! Looking over other books in the series that I have on my TBR pile, it seems many of the stories are in historical settings (while others are pure fantasy). I probably will fit a couple more of these books into challenge categories. Every single one of them even has a headless lady on the cover!

I posted a review of The Crimson Thread at my blog. http://scalingmounttbr.blogspot.com/2009/07/crimson-thread-by-suzanne-weyn.html

 

Date Posted: 7/9/2009 2:02 PM ET
Member Since: 5/18/2009
Posts: 388
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I have so many books in my TBR pile that would've worked for this challenge, but I ended up picking Anya Seton. I felt like I've really been missing out on some good books, based on the reviews her books get at Amazon.

I finished Katherine today. I don't know if I just went in with really high expectations or what, but I didn't think it was amazing. It was a very readable book, and I enjoyed learning about the time period. It just didn't blow me away.

I found the romance between Katherine and John a bit too "twee" for my liking. It just seemed to come on so quickly for each of them, though at different times (Katherine loved him pretty much as soon as they met, whereas it took a few meetings for John). I don't know, I guess I'm just not really impressed by characters who fall in love on a whim. Besides being attacted to each other physically, I couldn't figure out what drew them together in the first place.

Overall, I'm glad I read it and I did enjoy it. I would probably rate it around 3.5 stars.



Last Edited on: 7/9/09 2:02 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/10/2009 6:22 PM ET
Member Since: 6/26/2008
Posts: 456
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I just finished reading The Widow's War by Sally Gunning.  I've never read any of her books before and from what I can tell, with the exception of this book and its "sequel," her other books aren't historical fiction, but rather contemporary mysteries.  I can't tell you how much I enjoyed The Widow's War.   I wrote a lengthy review for the book already (linked above), so I don't want to just repeat myself, but I really look forward to reading her other historical fiction book, Bound, whenever it comes up on my WL (though perhaps I'll get this one new from the bookstore or borrow it from the library as I don't know how long I can wait to read it).  Perhaps I will even try her mystery books one day, not my usual genre, but I really liked her writing style! :-)  I'm so glad that this challenge gave me the chance to get to know Sally Gunning's work! :-)



Last Edited on: 7/10/09 6:25 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/10/2009 9:15 PM ET
Member Since: 8/12/2005
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Great review, Brenna! I just received this book from PBS and will definitely move it up on the TBR pile.

Date Posted: 7/10/2009 10:04 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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Brenna, I've read both of her books and enjoyed them both, but I think I'd have to say that I liked Widow's War just a tad bit more. Bound is still definitely worth reading though.

Date Posted: 7/10/2009 10:43 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,400
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Linda & I also really enjoyed Widow's War, but refresh my memory ... isn't there something a little sexually dark or explicit or something like that? I remember thinking throughout nearly the entire book what a great book it would be for my niece ... right up until ... something that I can't quite remember right now ... Also, I felt that it was maybe a little gratuitous in that it didn't add anything to the book & the book would have been just as great without that aspect (whatever the aspect is!)

Kelly

Date Posted: 8/15/2009 11:30 PM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
Posts: 924
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I just finished The Vanishing Point by Mary Sharratt. It is set in a time period (late 1600s) and a location (colonial Maryland) I was really interested in, but the majority of the story takes place on an isolated, overgrown farm, so I didn't get a chance to "see" much of colonial Maryland in this book.

I really liked the book at the beginning, but the further I got into it the less I liked it. Although I liked Hannah a lot at first, all of her inner turmoil and continuous second-guessing started to grate on my nerves. I also had a hard time buying some of the mystical aspects of the book--especially the part where Hannah gazes into a crystal ball to see her first love. The ending was heartbreaking and a bit disappointing. I don't think I'll be seeking out any of the author's other books unless one comes up that really, really sounds interesting.

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