Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett

Bennett’s fiction debut is an extraordinary, detailed account of the family of Sir Thomas More during the reign of Henry VIII. The narrator of the story is Meg Giggs, More’s foster child.

The book follows the life of Meg, a kind, generous young woman with a knack for the healing arts. The love of her life is a man named John Clements, former schoolmaster of the children in More’s household. Clements returns after an extended absence and asks Meg to be his bride. She is thrilled and accepts his proposal though she soon finds out that Clements has a past shrouded in mystery, and she may never know the whole truth about him.

Against the backdrop of daily life is the storm of religious controversy that begins to mount. The fighting between the Protestants and Catholics grows with Sir Thomas Moore caught between it all. The painter Hans Holbein also plays a major role in the story as he comes to paint a portrait of the More family. His keen observances into the life of the Mores’ are fascinating, and Bennett’s descriptions of his painting techniques are beautiful. Portrait of an Unknown Woman is a wonderful piece of historical fiction.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A New Goal

Another goal...I counted up the number of books I read in 2007 (41) and decided that in 2008 my goal is to read 50 books for my own pleasure. I did read a few more than 41 books last year, but I don't count the nonfiction ones that I read for reviews for LJXpress. I don't know why. I guess just because they are work related. I also have not been counting the books I read for school and research. So I guess I'm just mostly interested in recording the fiction and nonfiction that I have read by choice.

My Caldecott challenge is going well. I'm reading Abraham Lincoln now and will have it finished today. I have also figured out which books I am going to read to complete my Genre Challenge. I used Joyce Sarick's book for suggestions and also a few other RA guides that we have here at work. Later today I will post the Newbery's I have read over the years so I can start working them into my reading list.

I have a pile of books at home that I am longing to read. I have to postpone abit because I have a book to read for LJXpress that is due in two weeks, and I have another book to complete for my book discussion group. It's Ruth Rendell's Adam and Eve and Pinch Me. So far it is interesting with quirky characters. I think I know what's going to happen, but I'm hoping for a great twist at the end. The book jacket promised psychological suspense and malice, so we shall see.

I just finished Maeve Binchy's Evening Class for my book discussion title for March. It was appropraite to read in March because of St. Patrick's Day. I thought I would absolutely hate it and was dreading it because it is a huge book, but I really enjoyed it. I would read another one of Binchy's. Most of the people in my discussion group enjoyed it as well.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Royal Panoply: Brief Lives of the English Monarchs

Carolly Erickson, the author of several royal biographies and fictional accounts of historical figures, brings readers a brief introduction to each of the English rulers. Starting with William the Conqueror and ending with the present queen, Elizabeth II, Erickson devotes about ten pages to each monarch. She focuses on each monarch’s entire life, from birth to death providing engaging details and entertaining facts about each royal over 1000 years of Britain’s past.

A recommended read for those interested in English history but want the short version of it!

The Passion of Artemisia

The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland tells the story of Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi, a talented woman whose life has been full of disappointments and difficulties. Her early life consists of humiliation and betrayal. Her father eventually arranges her marriage to other painter. Artemisia thinks that she will finally be able to put her past behind her and start fresh, but her husband soon becomes jealous of Artemisia’s talent and is unforgiving of the fact that Artemisia was the first woman to be elected to the esteemed Academia dell’ Arte in Florence, before he becomes a member.

This novel abounds with detail of the Renaissance in Florence and contains beautiful descriptions of painting. It is a moving portrait of a woman who makes sacrifices but never looses sight of what she wants for her career, her daughter, and her dreams.