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Topic: 2012 HF Challenge Course 2 - Celebrate History - Discussion

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Subject: 2012 HF Challenge Course 2 - Celebrate History - Discussion
Date Posted: 1/1/2012 9:23 PM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2009
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Date Posted: 1/2/2012 6:18 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
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OK OK I have decided to use The Hellfire Conspiracy by Will Thomas as my choice for the "summer Olympics, book set in London" category.  This was the fourth and very excellent installment of the Barker and Llewelyn mystery series set in late Victorian London.  As the series has progressed the reader finds out more snippets of information about Cyrus Barker's mysterious past and and the tidbit in this book was quite surprising.  The storyline revolves around the disappearance and murder of young girls from the Bethnal Green area and taunting letters from a purported killer.  I also love the dog!



Last Edited on: 1/2/12 6:18 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/2/2012 9:46 PM ET
Member Since: 11/12/2011
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I'm stumped on this category. I can't think of any HF set in London. Wait, is The Other Bolelyn Girl set in London? Even so, I don't care to reread that one. Any suggestions?

Cheryl, I'm tempted to check out the Hellfire Conspiracy just because you "also love the dog!" Gotta love quirky recommendations like that.

Date Posted: 1/2/2012 10:57 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
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DW ... have you read any of the Will Thomas series? They are wonderful, intelligent mysteries ... all of them set in London. The first one is Some Danger Involved. (And, Linda & I certainly concur that you should not reread The Other Boleyn Girl.)

Other suggestions you might consider:

  • London in Chains, Gillian Bradshaw
  • The Sir John Fielding series, (1st one is Blind Justice), Bruce Alexander
  • Sebastian St. Cyr series, (1st one is What Angels Fear), C.S. Harris

 

Good luck!

Kelly



Last Edited on: 1/2/12 11:06 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/3/2012 5:57 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
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Dw: I would certainly start with the first of the Will Scott books, Some Danger Involved.  The dog is in all of them so farwink

Date Posted: 1/4/2012 7:04 AM ET
Member Since: 11/12/2011
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I'll check it out, though it might not be until next month. I'm currently tacking a daunting NF book about the Pananma Canel, and work is only going to get busier this month. At the moment, the last thing I need is an addictive series.



Last Edited on: 1/4/12 7:05 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: The Alienist - Book Featuring a U.S. President
Date Posted: 1/7/2012 11:14 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
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My first book of the year and first for the challenge is The Alienist by Caleb Carr.  This book has been around a long time and kept popping up on HF lists and discussions so I decided to pick it up.  Theodore Roosevelt is featured in the book as the newly appointed commissioner of the New York City police department. When it becomes apparent that a serial killer of young boy-prostitutes is at large, T.R. secretively hires an investigative team headed by an eminent and controversial psychiatrist ("alienist") who uses new and unproven forensic techniques to "profile" the killer.  The book has some graphic and disturbing scenes, given the topic, but it's fast paced, suspenseful, and full of well-researched, historic details about NYC in 1896. I gave it 4 stars.



Last Edited on: 1/7/12 11:37 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 1/7/2012 11:00 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
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Donna, I also really enjoyed The Alienist. However, I recommend you pass on the sequel ... not nearly as good ... KP

 

Date Posted: 1/8/2012 6:23 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
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Hi Kelly, thanks for the tip.

Date Posted: 1/8/2012 7:15 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,482
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I read Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik for the "year of the dragon" category.  This was the sixth installment of the series about Temeraire, a celestial dragon and his captain Will Lawrence.  This was one of the weaker book of the series although the last section redeemed the whole for me.  Not a bad book, I just felt it dragged and wandered too much...can't really say too much more without being a spoiler for anyone who wants to read these.

Date Posted: 1/9/2012 7:53 AM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
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Flinished Juliet by Anne Fortier for the weddings category and she gets married twice in this novel.  I liked it quite a lot.  If anyone wants to read this one, send me a credit and it's yours.  My copy is an ARC in excellent condition.



Last Edited on: 1/13/12 8:11 AM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 1/9/2012 10:08 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
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I read the Henty The Dragon and the Raven for the "Year of the Dragon" category.  I gave it 3/5, but that's rather generous, really.  As a novel it's only a 2, but the history is good, and that matters a lot ot me, so I was generous.  If you're interested in Alfred and Saxon England, and Europe overal v. Danes (France to Italy) then it's worth reading for the category.  If Uhtred is really all you're interested in  ;-) then definitely choose something else.

Date Posted: 1/10/2012 6:56 AM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
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Ooh, I've had The Alienist sitting on my shelf forever too...I may have to use it for this challenge!  Thanks Donna (and Kelly!)

 

ETA:  "If Uhtred is really all you're interested in.."   Gosh *flutters eyelashes* whyever would you say that, Sharla?  laugh

Date Posted: 1/10/2012 7:09 AM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2007
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I'm just jumping in to add my thumbs up for The Alienist, as well. Very good book. I couldn't put it down. I've also heard the sequel is not up to par with the first. Ah well, they can't all be winners....
Date Posted: 1/13/2012 12:30 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
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I just finished an e-book, The Last Pendragon.  It occurs to me that it might fit for the "dragon" in the title.  It was pretty good, historical fantasy, Wales in the 650s.  I think I'll read more by this author.

Date Posted: 1/14/2012 8:41 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,402
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Item C - End of the World - read a book that spans 52 years

I read Russian Winter, by Daphne Kalotay about a prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet in Stalin's Russia.  It begins in the late '40s when Nina auditions for the Bolshoi, and ends in the present day in Boston as she agrees to auction off her jewelry collection for charity.  The story slips back to her experiences as a struggling dancer, her love affair with a poet, her friends who must struggle with the politics of Stalinist Russia.  Another story involves the young woman in Boston who works for the auction house, and a university professor and Russian translator with mysterious ties to the Russian ballerina.  It was a fascinating novel, certainly makes me grateful to have been raised in a free democratic country, and it's incredible to consider the pain and tedium experienced by struggling dancers.

Linda

 

 

Date Posted: 1/15/2012 12:53 AM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
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The End of the World category,

I have just finished reading Adrienne Sharp's The True Memoirs of Little K, about Mathilde Kschessinska. It sounds like a biography but it is indeed a novel. Mathilde was the mistress of the future Nicholas II beginning when she was 17 and newly graduated from St Petersburg Imperial Ballet School, lasting for 3 years ending when married Alexandria, but their friendship lasted a life time. The facts seem to bear this out. She was made prima ballerina assoluta in 1896, and she acquired a great deal of valuable property over the next 20 years which Ms. Sharpe suggests is evidence of the Czar continuing patronage. True or not her influence over the ballet went on long after the affair was thought to have ended. It is told in first person and it works in this case, I found it fascinating. The 100 year old Mathilde tells her story and says the biography she wrote in 1954 is just “fiction and lies”. Now at the end of her life she needs to tell her son the whole truth. So begins her story…

I am no expert on the Russian Revolution or the Romanov’s, it is true she was a known mistress to the Czar, he didn’t have many.  She was also the lover to two Grand Dukes, but there is no evidence that her son Vova was Niki’s son, he could have also been the son of her lover at the time the Grand Duke Sergi Mikhailovich a first cousin to Czar Nicolas II.  The Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich also a first cousin of the Czar was her lover as well, and years later became her husband in exile. It is a plausible story and that is why I think it works so well.  The research for this novel must have been immense and I am always happy when an author really knows the subject and conveys the time period so well. Mathilde is unapologetic how she lives her life, the dancers of the Imperial Ballet expect to become mistresses to powerful men, why shouldn’t she be the Czar's mistress as well as a Prima Ballerina, and amass a fortune?  Ms. Sharpe explains that the dancers of the Imperial Ballet where servants of the Czar I realize just how totally the common people were owned and used by the powers that be.  There is so much more to this story that I cannot adequately convey.  The devotion of Nicolas to Alexandria, the politics of the ballet, and court, the mind boggling opulence of the time.

This is the kind of book I love to read.  The one that sets me on a voyage of discovery;  I have already investigated getting my hands on a copy of her memoirs the one she wrote in 1954, the memoirs are in the libraries of several universities in my area.  There are also a couple of other books on her life so I will have to acquire them.  I think that Sharpe did a great job and, I give this book a strong 4 stars.



Last Edited on: 1/15/12 9:09 AM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 1/15/2012 6:43 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
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That books sounds like it needs to be on my list!

Date Posted: 1/15/2012 12:31 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
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This sounds fascinating!  Great review, Letty!

Date Posted: 1/17/2012 2:20 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
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Item A - read a book set in London (site of Summer Olympics)

I read Revelation, fouth book in the Matthew Shardlake mystery series by C.J. Sansom.  Lots of very gruesome murders in this one, but as usual I enjoyed the story and the characters.  

Linda

Date Posted: 1/20/2012 7:33 AM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
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Wedding Category.

The Second Duchess by Elizabeth Loupas

It is always so gratifying to find a new author that really understands the historical fiction genre, someone that does not sex up or dumb down the story.   Loupas tells us the story of the Archduchess Barbara of Austria who marries the Duke Alfonse of Ferrara.    Despite the whispers that he had killed his beautiful young wife Lucrezia de’ Medici, Barbara comes to the ducal court to further both her brother the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambitions as well as her husband’s.  She doesn’t expect to be loved she knows she is not beautiful in truth she only wants to have a chance to live a life out of the cloister, and to have children.  This is a part historical fiction part mystery and it is told in a unique way. First person in 2 parts, there is Barbara’s voice and surprisingly Lucrezia’s she is in between worlds for in fact she has been murdered and wants to see the villain punished.

The story begins as Barbara arrives in Ferrara the morning of her wedding day. The woman sent to dress her hair whispers to her; “He murdered his first duchess with his own hands, they say.”   Barbara knows this she has heard it often enough.  It is too late now anyway there has already been a proxy marriage; this day is just a formality.  The duke is a cold, arrogant, controlling ass, and you can almost believe he did kill his first wife.  Barbara has to know, if he did he or didn’t, she sets out to find out the truth.  Only to be warned never to mention the first duchess by name, and to stop her meddling if she doesn’t, she too might share Lucrezia’s fate.  But everyone and I mean everyone talks about her all the same.

I think that Loupas does a great job creating the atmosphere of a treacherous court in Renaissance Italy, she does take some liberties, with the known facts but to her credit she is very upfront about this in the afterwards.  5 stars, and I can’t wait to read what is next for Elizabeth Loupas, this is an author to watch.     

Date Posted: 1/20/2012 11:00 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
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Great review of The Second Duchess.  I'll be on the look-out for this one.

Date Posted: 1/20/2012 12:28 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,402
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Item E - Book with a wedding scene

Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King has two wedding scenes.  Gruadh (sometimes called Rue) first married Macbeth's cousin, Gilcomgan, in a standard Roman ceremony on the porch of the parish church.  After Gilcomgan's death, Macbeth claimed the right to wed his victim's widow.  Gruadh at that time requested a ceremony in the old Celtish way with charms and blessings.  Macbeth agreed and as part of the ritual, they circled the priest three times. 

11th century Scotland was a new setting for me, learned much history and geography, old customs, etc.  Recommended.

Linda

Date Posted: 1/20/2012 12:55 PM ET
Member Since: 6/29/2008
Posts: 1,756
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Letty, I also used The Second Duchess for the wedding category and loved it! It was a time and place I was not familar with and Ms. Loupas did a great job introducing me to it.

Date Posted: 1/20/2012 1:46 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
Posts: 9,174
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Aubree,  Have you read any of C.W. Gortner's books The Confession's of Catherine De Medici and The Last Queen.  These deal with the generations before this one. Barbara talks about her grandmother Juana la loca, and In Confession's it deals with Alfonse's grandparents.  I like both of these.

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