Saturday, January 15, 2011

W is for Wolf Hall

This will be my last post for the 2010 Historical Tapestry Challenge.  I have scoured my bookshelves, my memory, and my reading lists, but I have never read a historical novel or author with the letters X, Y, or Z.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel is definitely one of the best books I have ever read.  I can't stop recommending it to friends, family, and library patrons.  I passed my copy along to several people and bought copies as Christmas presents last year.  I've very glad that it has won several awards.  It's one of those books that I know I will reread over and over again.  The writing style is amazing.  I loved how Mantel made it feel like you really knew Cromwell and you were in his head with his thoughts.  Before I read Wolf Hall, I had always sort of disliked Cromwell (not hard, I know), but after reading this book, I found that I had quite a bit of sympathy for him and actually kind of liked him.  That's powerful writing!

Here's a review of the book from Amazon:

No character in the canon has been writ larger than Henry VIII, but that didn't stop Hilary Mantel. She strides through centuries, past acres of novels, histories, biographies, and plays--even past Henry himself--confident in the knowledge that to recast history's most mercurial sovereign, it's not the King she needs to see, but one of the King's most mysterious agents. Enter Thomas Cromwell, a self-made man and remarkable polymath who ascends to the King's right hand. Rigorously pragmatic and forward-thinking, Cromwell has little interest in what motivates his Majesty, and although he makes way for Henry's marriage to the infamous Anne Boleyn, it's the future of a free England that he honors above all else and hopes to secure. Mantel plots with a sleight of hand, making full use of her masterful grasp on the facts without weighing down her prose. The opening cast of characters and family trees may give initial pause to some readers, but persevere: the witty, whip-smart lines volleying the action forward may convince you a short stay in the Tower of London might not be so bad... provided you could bring a copy of Wolf Hall along.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Reading Challenges for 2011

This year I will be participating in Historical Tapestry's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.  I read historical fiction all the time, so it won't be a total challenge for me, but it will definitely be a challenge that I'm going to enjoy!   There are different levels of participation which are:

Severe Bookaholism: 20 books
Undoubtedly Obsessed: 15 books
Struggling the Addiction: 10 books
Daring &Curious: 5 books
Out of My Comfort Zone: 2 books

I think I will go for Severe Bookaholism.  In 2010 I read 30 books, so I think for 2011 I should be able to handle reading 20 historical fiction books.  I have pretty much completed my quest of reading books from all the different genres.  This took me much longer than I anticipated, but it was fun, and I learned quite a bit about genre fiction.  

A second challenge that I am taking on for 2011 is to read from my bookshelf.  I have rows of unread books on my shelf that are begging to be read, so I am taking the advice of Susan Hill, author of Howard's End is on the Landing, who took a journey through the books in her house.  A small article appeared in the November/December 2010 issue of Library Journal about her challenge.  I thought it was a great idea, so I will be reading my way through my own bookshelf this year.    

I am also going to continue my challenge of reading all the Caldecott books.  I don't have too much further to go to complete this challenge.   

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

V is for Virgins

There are two books that I read within the last year or so with very similar titles... The Virgin's Daughters by Jeane Westin and The Virgin Queen's Daughter by Ella March Chase.  Both novels were excellent.  I look forward to reading more by each of these authors.  Both of them were new to me.  

The Virgin's Daughters by Jeane Westin:
In a court filled with repressed sexual longing, scandal, and intrigue, Lady Katherine Grey is Elizabeth's most faithful servant. When the young queen is smitten by the dashing Robert Dudley, Katherine must choose between duty and desire-as her secret passion for a handsome earl threatens to turn Elizabeth against her. Once the queen becomes a bitter and capricious monarch, another lady-in-waiting, Mistress Mary Rogers, offers the queen comfort. But even Mary cannot remain impervious to the court's sexual tension-and as Elizabeth gives her doomed heart to the mercurial Earl of Essex, Mary is drawn to the queen's rakish godson..

I see on Amazon that Westin has another book out now called His Last Letter: Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester which I will have to add to my growing to-read list.

Here's a review from Publisher's Weekly of The Virgin Queen's Daughter by Ella March Chase:
Tudor intrigue inspires yet another historical romance in this story of a willful girl who discovers she is the Virgin Queen's illegitimate daughter. Five-year-old Elinor (Nell) de Lacey is the apple of her scholarly father's eye, and while the two are visiting the Tower of London, Nell makes a childish attempt to rescue Princess Elizabeth. By the time Nell turns 16, Elizabeth is queen, Nell's father is dead and Nell, over her mother's objections, heads to court. In short order, she's exposed to the court's conspiring and cajoling, seducing and betraying, plotting and protecting. A symbol of that world, Lady Jane Grey, haunts Nell as she uncovers the truth about her birth while trying to resist the charms of Sir Gabriel Wyatt. When Nell arouses Elizabeth's suspicions and possibly her wrath, Baroness de Lacey, once a lady-in-waiting herself, returns to court to prove the power of a mother's love. While Chase is no Philippa Gregory, her novel should still be manna for fans of Tudor romance infused with interludes of torture and head-rolling between the dance lessons and marriage rumors.