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Topic: 2010 H/F Challenge #2 - H-M

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Subject: 2010 H/F Challenge #2 - H-M
Date Posted: 11/26/2009 6:12 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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Discuss the books you read for the alphabet challenge, letters H through M.

Date Posted: 1/2/2010 5:43 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
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I finished Heretic by Bernard Cornwell today, which I'm using for the letter "H."  Great book!  I really enjoyed the whole series. 

Date Posted: 1/4/2010 7:38 PM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
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I read I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles for the letter "I". It was very enjoyable and probably my favorite fiction book about Elizabeth I.

Date Posted: 1/9/2010 8:35 AM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
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I finished Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Macquire, which was my book for the letter "M."  It was pretty good, but I liked Macquire's Wicked and Son of a Witch much better.  This was the re-telling of the Snow White fairy tale with Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia thrown into the mix. 

Date Posted: 1/19/2010 6:43 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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I read "The Color of Lightning" by Paulette Jiles for my letter "J".

What a great story!! And, based on real life too! After the conclusion of the Civil War, Britt, an ex-slave, and his family, move to Texas with dreams of starting a business transporting freight for the forts and homesteaders in the area. This leads to his being gone the n ight the Comanche and Kiowa come raiding at his home and the other homes in his small community. His wife and children are taken captive and Britt does everything he can to get them back.

There is also a Quaker named Samuel who has just moved to Texas to head up the Indian Affairs. He holds the belief that the Indians can be dealt with through fairness and kindness, but quickly becomes disillusioned after he finds he can't convince them to stop raiding.

It was an excellent story! There is actually still a monument for Britt Johnson in Texas.

 

Date Posted: 1/20/2010 1:34 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
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That sounds really interesting.  Yet another book to add to my RL/WL.

Date Posted: 1/21/2010 7:40 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
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Finished "Company of Liars" by Karen Maitland last night. This book started out by really grabbing me, but........ ( I know I'm going to be the proverbial"wet blanket" here), I ended up not caring for it very much. I thought that her writing was excellent - the plot was enough to hold my attention so that I could finish it. My problem with it is the "fantasy aspect" ( I think). I realize that superstitution ran wild in that time period and I am also aware of the strange things that the mind can do, but I am obviously a much more reality-based person. Now, I'm wondering if I can make it through Lawhead's Hood trilogy!:/

Date Posted: 1/21/2010 8:34 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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Jeanne, I understand your reaction completely. I remember saying to a friend of mine who had recommended the book - about halfway through the book - oh, come on, a boy with a swan wing. For real?

But then I came to understand (I think) that these were euphemisms of a sort. Sybolism is perhaps a better word. For people who were damaged in some way. The ending still haunts me.

Date Posted: 1/21/2010 8:44 AM ET
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Yes, Genie - I believe these were symbols of damaged people and I agree with you about the ending - disturbing!  I never had a problem in the past with books involving symbolism (or fantasy for that matter), so I'm not really sure what exactly bothered me about this particular book. I'm going to have to see how I do with some others that may be on this order or are just plain fantasy!

Date Posted: 1/21/2010 11:51 AM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
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Jeanne - Hmm, interesting about your reaction to COL.  It didn't bother me at all, but then again, I like a little bit of fantasy thrown in with my HF from time to time.  You may not care for her second book, The Owl Killers either, as that has a definite fantasy/mystical aspect as well.

BTW, am I the only one to find the relationship between the couple (their names escape me at the moment) just totally creepy?  I was maybe missing something in the symbolism, but I really couldn't find any redeeming value in it.  It was just icky to me, although I liked the characters individually. 



Last Edited on: 1/21/10 11:53 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/25/2010 9:36 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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I just finished "Men on White Horses" by Annette Motley. This is easily the best fiction I have read about Catherine the Great! The book starts right before Catherine (then known as Sophie) travels to Russia and ends shortly after she gains the throne. I really, really wish Motley had written a sequel!

The history was close to perfect with some conjecture on things we can't know for sure; like the real father of Catherine's son. We get to experience all of the intrigue and politics of living a court life and we get to see Catherine grow from a young girl, who really just wants to rule without any real thought of what she will have to do in order to rule, into a grown woman who has realized exactly what she has to give up and gain for that crown. In the beginning of the novel, I was afraid that Catherine was going to be portrayed as an absolute angel with no faults and she was in some ways, but the author told the story in a way that allowed the reader to learn all about Catherine's faults on our own.

I do wish the portrayal of Tsarina Elizabeth had felt a bit more fair. She was shown as a sort of madwoman who couldn't control her impulses. I would have thought her to be more clever and careful, especially when you consider where she ended up!

Now, I want to read "Catherine the Great: Love, Sex, and Power" by Virginia Rounding. I know the fiction was good when it compels me to find some non-fiction about the subject. ;-)



Last Edited on: 1/25/10 10:21 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Alice J. (ASJ) - ,
Date Posted: 1/25/2010 10:14 AM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2009
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Men on White Horses sounds really good I will have to add it to my wishlist. too bad it is already full. Goes on the the overflow page

Alice

Date Posted: 1/27/2010 8:47 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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I finished Mariana this a.m. I enjoyed it very much. 4/5 stars.

Outlander meets Wuthering Heights in Mariana. With the requisite HEA ending, Mariana is a historical romance. There's sufficient bits of accurate 17th century history within for the purists amongst us. The story takes place, in part, during the Restoration period (following the English Civil War). Charles II is on the throne.

However, as a time-travel romance, equal parts take place in more current times - I'd say 10 to 20 years ago. It's an interesting twist on time-travel, though. I don't want to say more, but the plot (to me at least) was very original.

It lost a star because the author's research was just a bit too obvious in parts. This is, of course, a minor issue. But a bugaboo for me. I don't care for traditional history lessons. (:

Anyhoo, I highly recommend it for lovers of historical romance, especially those stories outside the typical formula. I also recommend it to historical fiction purists as long as they don't mind a romance sub-theme.

While I'm not using the story for the "R U Kidding Me?" category, it fits, if anyone is still looking.

Date Posted: 2/6/2010 3:29 PM ET
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I finished Frontiers by Michael Jensen today.

Part gay historical romance and part thriller, Frontiers re-imagines the Johnny Appleseed story. In this far-fetched retelling, Johnny (John Chapman) is a gay man, who meets up with a crazed killer in the middle of nowhere. Not knowing he's a killer, he spends the winter months with the man. He makes a harrowing escape to a new settlement - Franklin, Pennsylvania - where he stakes a claim and attempts to comes to terms with who he is.

As a romance, the story has a happy ending. But there is much angst along the way, not too mention the horror he suffers at the hands of the crazed man. I found it to be a pleasurable fast read. But be aware that it contains explicit m/m scenes.

Date Posted: 2/15/2010 5:28 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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I finished Lion of Ireland by Morgan Llywelyn today. My review is posted in the ROOTS thread.

Date Posted: 2/25/2010 4:28 AM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
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See my comments on The Stolen Crown by Susan Higgenbotham under the Roots category in challenge 1.

Date Posted: 3/1/2010 9:56 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,355
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I started and finished " Hood" by Stephen R Lawhead yesterday. Since I am not really crazy about fantasy, I had some misgivings about these books, but I found this one to be quite entertaining as well as quite unbelievable - but fun!

Date Posted: 3/7/2010 10:34 AM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2009
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For K I had chosen The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent. I loved it! A story of the Salem witch trials told through the eyes of a young eleven year old girl, but the author has made it so much more than that.Kent details the narrow, hard-scrabble existence of the puritan settlersin a way thatbrings them to life without demonizing them. More horrifying maybe isthat some of the actions and motives that lead to and drive the trials are all too human.Through young Sarah, the heretic's daughter, we experience how a survivor might have coped with the attempted destruction of her family, and see through her eyes the broken families and individuals around her. Thereare some details about the trials, particularly about the holding of prisoners, I hadn't known before, adding to the sense of injustice about the treatment of the accused.So far,the best HF I've read this year.



Last Edited on: 3/7/10 10:39 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 3/8/2010 7:56 AM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
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For H I read The Hawk That Dare Not Hunt By Day by Scott O'Dell. I have been searching for this book since I was 15(over 20yrs ago). I had read it in my school library, loved it and started looking for it to own. After a long wish list wait, a wonderful PBSer sent me a pristine copy. It was great to read it again. Scott O'Dell was a great historical fiction writer. Granted, it is not as detailed as the books I am use to reading now, but as a YA author, he was great.

THTDNHBD (long title, lol) is about William Tyndale who hid from Henry VIII's spy's and the catholic churchto translate the new testement into English at the same time that Martin Luther was translating it into German. The story is told through the perspective of a 16yr old seaman whose uncle has agreed to help deliver the new bibles to the markets in London. They continue to move around Germany where they are hiding out, trying to avoid the king's "searchers". It gives a little history about what the church in the 15 hundreds was willing to do to keep the masses ignorant.

Date Posted: 3/21/2010 2:28 PM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
Posts: 2,915
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Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon: Finally finished a book by Gabaldon, probably because it was requested from me and was a WL that I had filled. While I have seen some mixed reviews of the book, I liked it. Lord John Grey is a highly intelligent and ethical soldier who finds himself getting into some rather interesting situations. In this book he acquires a most likable young companion, Tom Byrd, who attaches himself to Lord John as his valet, and the two work to unravel two murders and locate Tom's brother, Jack. It all gets rather complicated as the two find their enemy, Trevelyan, is not who they believe at all and they solve the murders. Are the murders justifiable homicide? Grey ponders as he finds himself trapped aboard a ship heading for India. To discover the answer pick up a copy of this book This was a good read!

The Song of Hannah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy: This was a so-so read. The primary source was The Bible. This is the story of Hannah, her son, Samuel, her best friend and the first wife of her husband,Pninah, and the husband, Elkanah. The author created a story in which Samuel is sexually attracted to his father's first wife. She based Samuel's attraction to his father's wife, Pninah, on the fact that even though Samuel had grown up in the Temple, became a judge in another town, he moved back to his father's town to make his home. He may only have moved back to be close to his family. I found the premise weak at best and would not recommend this book. I was quite disappointed. The Red Tent was a far, far better read.

Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell is a most delightful and easy-to-read story. When I first glanced at the book cover I thought it would be about Mozart and while he is a key character the main characters are the four Weber sisters from a poor musical family. Mozart falls in love with the second oldest daughter and her lovely soprano voice. Alyosia, beautiful and self-centered, seeks fame and wealth. Mozart knows that at 17 he cannot support a wife and asks Aloysia to wait until he can. She agrees but is attracted to another when she gains a contract as an opera singer. This man provides an escape from her childhood family. Meanwhile, with the death of the father, the female Webers must support themselves. Aloysia's contact helps and the mother opens a boarding house. Broken-hearted, Mozart pours his energies into his music and resolves to stay away from the Webers. However, he rents a room in the boarding house and his contact with the family continues. The oldest daughter is as talented as Aloysia but her success comes later. Restrained by a mother who wants to relive her youth through her daughters each of them finds it difficult to move into the world and live their own lives. The youngest, Sophie, wants to become a nun while the second youngest, Constanze, tries to hold the family together. Of course, nothing goes as the mother plans but every daughter finds lives of their own. Constanze and Mozart fall in love and marry.

Avalon The Return of King Arthurby StephenLawhead: This is the story of the return of Arthur after the death of King Edward, who supposedly commits suicide. It begins with a man named James Arthur Stewart who is working to retain his inheritance, Blair Morven. All looks bleak until he meets Enbries (alias Merlin) whose tale is too strange to believe. James is to be the next king of England! He who cannot even retain his inheritance? Enbries totes out the proof - birth certificate, parents, marriage certificate, and all paperwork pertaining to his past to prove it. Once James believes the fun has only begun. The political wheels turn rapidly to discount the claim and smudge his reputation. James has difficulty coping with all of this but while he is a fair, honest, and courageous man who has the interests of the people foremost in his heart he must prove it to the people of England. Enter the evil Moira (Morgian) his ancient foe in another life who strives to thwart James in his quest to be crowned king. This is quite a good read and if you enjoyed the original story of Arthur, Merlin and Morgian you will find this updated version most entertaining. I did.

In the Shadow of the Crown by Jean Plaidy: The story of Mary, firstborn daughter of King Henry VIII told by Plaidy in the voice of this tragic woman. Born to Katharine of Aragon and Henry VIII, she enjoys her father's affection, his scorn when he declares the marriage invalid and his daughter a bastard, and finally his affection again when she does what she must to please him and save her life. She believes that she has a greater purpose in life - to bring back the Catholic church to England. Her father's frail son, Edward, is king for a short time, leaving the crown to Mary whose tender heart and lack of political finesse make her life difficult indeed. She marries Philip of Spain, love at last she believes only to discover that for him it was an arranged marriage. This is a sad tale well written by an author I had not yet read. Good choice for this challenge.



Last Edited on: 11/3/10 8:44 AM ET - Total times edited: 12
Date Posted: 3/21/2010 7:50 PM ET
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I liked Private Matter, but the subsequent books in the series are even better. My favorite was one of her short "Lord John" stories - something about a succubus. Enjoy!

Date Posted: 3/29/2010 10:03 AM ET
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I FINALLY completed The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley! Great read, but I would call it marginally HF. Most of this book is more contemporary, but she draws on people and events going back to the 12th century as well as WWll. The prose is excellent - you feel as if you are really there (in Chinon, France) and the book turns into quite a page turner! Definite thumbs up for this book!!

Date Posted: 4/7/2010 4:19 PM ET
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Finished Imperium by Robert Harris and I have to say that this author really knows his Roman history! The mind swirls with all the different names and it seems as if there is a cast of thousands. One thing for sure: politics hasn't changed much at all. I like his style and I would be very tempted to read more, but this is not an area that I am particularly interested in. Still, I would give this a 4 out of 5.

Date Posted: 4/18/2010 5:57 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2009
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For "I" - I Am of Irelaude by Juilene Osborne-McKnight about the legendary bard Osian and St. Patrick of Ireland (or Padraig). Intertwined into Osian's and Patrick's story are wonderful tales told by Osian of the life of Irish legend and leader of the Fianna, Finn MacCumhail. Patrick, a native Briton who had been kidnapped and enslaved by the Irish in his youth, had no love for the people he was there to convert; but through his increasingly close friendship with Osian, who has come from the "otherworld" to help him, it is Patrick who is transformed. This is more a story about how Ireland's Celtic/Druidic past changes Patrick, than Patrick converting Druids to Christianity, which I liked. Blending Irish Folk tales and celtic mysticism into historical fiction, I thought this is a different and entertaining take on Ireland's Celtic past. All in all, quite a good read with a bibliography appended to the back.



Last Edited on: 4/18/10 5:58 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/16/2010 8:24 PM ET
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For the letter, O, I read The Outter Banks House by Diann Ducharme. Didn't like it. Too boring. Not enough on what the jacket said about KKK involvement.

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