Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Title: The Serpent's Tale 

Author: Ariana Franklin 

Rating <3 <3 <3 <3 

Summary: Ariana Franklin combines the best of modern forensic thrillers with the drama of historical fiction in the enthralling second novel in the Mistress of the Art of Death series, featuring medieval heroine Adelia Aguilar. 

Rosamund Clifford, the mistress of King Henry II, has died an agonizing death by poison-and the king's estranged queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is the prime suspect. Henry suspects that Rosamund's murder is probably the first move in Eleanor's long-simmering plot to overthrow him. If Eleanor is guilty, the result could be civil war. The king must once again summon Adelia Aguilar, mistress of the art of death, to uncover the truth. 

Adelia is not happy to be called out of retirement. She has been living contentedly in the countryside, caring for her infant daughter, Allie. But Henry's summons cannot be ignored, and Adelia must again join forces with the king's trusted fixer, Rowley Picot, the Bishop of St. Albans, who is also her baby's father. 

Adelia and Rowley travel to the murdered courtesan's home, in a tower within a walled labyrinth-a strange and sinister place from the outside, but far more so on the inside, where a bizarre and gruesome discovery awaits them. But Adelia's investigation is cut short by the appearance of Rosamund's rival: Queen Eleanor. Adelia, Rowley, and the other members of her small party are taken captive by Eleanor's henchmen and held in the nunnery of Godstow, where Eleanor is holed up for the winter with her band of mercenaries, awaiting the right moment to launch their rebellion. 

Isolated and trapped inside the nunnery by the snow and cold, Adelia and Rowley watch as dead bodies begin piling up. Adelia knows that there may be more than one killer at work, and she must unveil their true identities before England is once again plunged into civil war . . .

Review: The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin is the second book in the Mistress of the Art of Death Series, it takes you back into the world of Adelia, who is a young female doctor in England who specializes in the study of the death, and specifically for King Henry the Second, in how they were murdered.  In this book she is summoned to find out who murdered the King's favorite mistress "Rosamund the Fair", according to popular rumor it is Eleanor the King's wife who is desperately jealous of the woman, however after closer inspection of the evidence Adelia does not believe this to be true.  Adelia's character in this story stay's true to the first book while Rowley is now a bishop, and therefore there love is now difficult, she is still in love with him though and dedicated to their baby though  she is dedicated to her profession and still wants no marriage.  She is not the historical fiction woman that I am used to reading about, but I do enjoy this series, it is filled with historical detail and very historically researched, and every time she had to give her companion the Moor "doctor" credit for her work because she is a woman in 1100's England i feel bad for her.  The book kept me engrossed although I did have to put it down for a few minutes at a time because there are SO many details, and at times my brain got overloaded,  I did however finish in a day and a half. If you enjoy a mystery, with a little emotion mixed in then I'd recommend the series, there are only four, sadly the author died, so there will be no more as far as i Know but they are very good books.


I, Mona Lisa

Title: I, Mona Lisa

Author: Jeanne Kalogridis

Rating <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary: "My name is Lisa di Antonio Gherardini Giocondo, though to acquaintances, I am known simply as Madonna Lisa.  My story begins not with my birth but a murder, committed the year before I was born…"

Florence, April 1478: The handsome Giuliano de' Medici is brutally assassinated in Florence's magnificent Duomo. The shock of the murder ripples throughout the great city, from the most renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, to a wealthy wool merchant and his extraordinarily beautiful daughter, Madonna Lisa.
More than a decade later, Florence falls under the dark spell of the preacher Savonarola, a fanatic who burns paintings and books as easily as he sends men to their deaths.  Lisa, now grown into an alluring woman, captures the heart of Giuliano's nephew and namesake.  But when Guiliano, her love, meets a tragic end, Lisa must gather all her courage and cunning to untangle a sinister web of illicit love, treachery, and dangerous secrets that threatens her life.
Set against the drama of 15th Century Florence, I, Mona Lisa is painted in many layers of fact and fiction, with each intricately drawn twist told through the captivating voice of Mona Lisa herself.

Review: I, Mona Lisa takes you into the heart of Florence  when the monk Savanarola, was preaching his messages of hell fire and brimstone against the Borgia pope's decadence and lust, the evilness of sodomy, and what was going to happen to the rich of Florence if they did not repent and change their ways; in the middle of all this you meet you Madonna Lisa, her sick Mother, her faithful yet beautiful slave, her deceitful Father and the hateful and demanding world which she is tossed into.  From the first page of the novel the reader is tossed into a world of cathedrals filled with murderers, intrigue, affairs, and people who are loyal to causes that will ultimately get them killed or out them on the wrong side of an executioner's axe.  

Young Lisa must negotiate her way through a world that is both unkind and dangerous while meeting some of the most famous people that we revere today such as Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Lorenzo the Magnificent, and so on, the world's most famous painting is started, and the girl behind it is transformed into a flesh and blood character who fights increasingly overwhelming odds to live her life, and save the lives of those she loves, this was an amazing book and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. 



Thursday, May 17, 2012

Title: Where Lilacs Still Bloom
Author: Jane Kirkpatrick
Rating <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Book sent  for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.
Summary: German immigrant and farm wife Hulda Klager possesses only an eighth-grade education—and a burning desire to create something beautiful. What begins as a hobby to create an easy-peeling apple for her pies becomes Hulda’s driving purpose: a time-consuming interest in plant hybridization that puts her at odds with family and community, as she challenges the early twentieth-century expectations for a simple housewife.
Through the years, seasonal floods continually threaten to erase her Woodland, Washington garden and a series of family tragedies cause even Hulda to question her focus. In a time of practicality, can one person’s simple gifts of beauty make a difference?  

Review: Where the Lilacs Still Bloom, was a beautiful story about a young German housewife/Frau in Washington in the early 1900's who encouraged by her Father's word's follows her passion in cultivating an orchard and garden, and growing new varieties of apples and flowers (specifically lilacs eventually) in it. Her first project is an apple which she wants to make crisper and easier to peel for the pies she makes her husband; this is also how she presents the project to her young German husband to it will be easier for him to accept her new hobby.  In the time she is living Hulda is pushing the boundaries for a simple young house frua who should really just be taking care of her family and helping with the chores of the farm but Frank her husband support's and love's her, and assists her with her gardening endeavors, at one point even selling part of their cow herd so she can order flowers from France.  The way he and their family see it is flower's are part of God's creation and can be seen as a part of worship for his wife so as long as the family's needs are seen to everything is fine. The story follows the Klager's and their family's lives as their children grow through the garden and they face love, sorrow, and the emotions that every family does. Changes affect this family as any other but you see it through the changes in a young woman , than a more mature woman, as when she says,"We're blessed Frank. We planted good seeds in our children and tended them well." This is a wonderful work, and anyone who loves gardening or flowers, will love it, or anyone who enjoys a good book in general I would recommend it or its author.

Author's Web Site

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Title: Belladonna: A Novel of Revenge

Author: Karen Moline

Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Summary:Who is Belladonna?

In New York City, she's known only as the mysterious masked woman who presides over the most exclusive, opulent club of the times.

In Virginia's blue-blood countryside, she's known as the Contessa, the elusive heiress who flaunts convention and shuns human contact.

But then there are a wretched few who remember her from "The Club" and knew her as a fresh-faced innocent whom they desired...and misled...and left to the sadistic devices of a nobleman who robbed her of her youth, her dignity, and, ultimately her heart.

As Belladonna's story, told by one of her faithful manservants, slowly unfolds, we learn the horrifying truth behind Belladonna's masks and her insatiable desire for vengeance. It is a truth that involves betrayal, murder, depravity -- a truth so chilling that it will pit brother against brother, father against son, and will force Belladonna to ultimately confront the one man who can ultimately either destroy her, or set her free.

Review: While I love historical fiction, this is not the normal type of book that I dive into, however I actually read it in one sitting because I stayed up all night reading it.  It takes you through the time period's of the middle 1930's through the late 1950's and a brief glimpse into the future.  Belladonna is a young girl who gets kidnapped while she is in England visiting with her cousin June, and is essentially auctioned off by members of a sadistic "Club" that sells young girls , for the purposes of what they like to think of as a grand experiment in human nature, owning a slave, and sexual slavery and S&M, when you hear about what Bella Donna Goes through in her younger years as Isabella at the hands of "His Lordship" the "Club" member who "buys" her it reminds you of modern day sex slavery except victims don't usually get the chance to receive any money in return to extract revenge on their persecutors.

The story is told from the point of view of one of the twin brother's who help BellaDonna escape, as well as escaping themselves; they know they must get Belladonna  out from under the iron grip of "His Lordship, after she has been trapped with him for over ten years, and is breaking emotionally; After they escape the book describes how she recovers and gets her iron grip on revenge through the help of a kind rich older man; Once this period of her life ends they start planning revenge  and do so first by opening Club Belladonna and finding a member of the "Club" and ...well if you want to know just read the book...I couldn't put it down... if you want a darker adult read about a woman on the path of revenge this is a good one...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Title: Sold
Author: Patricia McCormick
Summary: Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family’s crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family. 

He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at “Happiness House” full of hope.  But she soon learns the unthinkable truth:  she has been sold into prostitution.

An old woman named Mumtaz rules the brothel with cruelty and cunning.  She tells Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family’s debt—then cheats Lakshmi of her meager earnings so that she can never leave.

Lakshmi’s life becomes a nightmare from which she cannot escape.  Still, she lives by her mother’s words—Simply to endure is to triumph—and gradually, she forms friendships with the other girls that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world.  Then the day comes when she must make a decision—will she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life? 

Rating <3 <3 <3 <3

Review: The story of Lakshmi is told from the viewpoint of first a innocent, twelve-thirteen year old girl who lives in the mountains of Nepal with her Mother, step father, and infant sibling.  They are very poor, and she describes how they live, survive, do chores, and the simple pleasures that she enjoys like having her Mother brush her hair, or playing hop scotch with her friend from next door who she misses because she went to work as a "maid" in the city.  Lakshmi's Step father is a gambler so her trouble's begin there, when he decide's that she needs to "work" to help pay for the family expenses in the city; or this is what she and her Mother believe; that she is going to be a city maid; she is taken into the city where she  journeys first with a woman than a man and is then sold into the brothel of Happiness House where the owner Mumtaz a very cruel woman works the girls to death and beats them with a strap if they don't obey.

At first Lakshmi shows some resistance but when she is told that she must work off her debt and that it goes to her family her resistance weakens and she does what she is told...there are many smaller characters from this point on in the book that warmed my heart like one of the other girl's sons, and the tea boy...they offered Lakshmi hope where there was little. To see what happens for this young girl you need to read this shows another look into the harrowing world of human/sex trafficking in another part of the world and will again make you hug your daughters/niece/any young person close when you know this is a reality for so many young girls in the world. A wonderful book, and I liked the preface of Lakshmi telling the entire story, it was simple and to the point, the ending was very hopeful, but we all need that sometimes =)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Priceless: A Novel on the Edge of the World
Author: Tom Davis
Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3
Summary:Photojournalist Stuart Daniels has found purpose in life. After suffering the fallout of a tragic assignment, Daniels rediscovered his faith while helping a young African orphan. Now his photo work carries a greater mission: To educate people about social injustice happening around the world.
Daniels next assignment carries him back overseas and into the heart of Russia. Once there, Daniels is persuaded by an old friend to help save two girls from a desperate situation. Soon he becomes a key player in a dangerous campaign to rescue helpless women trapped in the sex-slave trade. What Daniels encounters during his journey will shake his faith, test his courage, and even threaten his life. Yet as Daniels gets deeper and the stakes get higher, he will discover that hope can be found in the darkest of places.

Review: Priceless is another book that took me into the heartrending world of human trafficking, this time into the cold streets and corners of Russia. Here the reader meets Marina a young girl who was left in a Russian orphanage by her Mother, and who by trickery has landed in the inhumane world of human trafficking, she is dragged from one place to another and used as a piece of human "merchandise" by men, even "men of God" and is drugged, beaten, and starved, the storyline follow's a photojournalist Stuart, who is in Russia on assignment, to document the Aids epidemic, but instead becomes involved in the underground world of human trafficking to try to save Marina and girls like her.

This book was not one that i wanted to put down, it was very heart rending, and really took you deeper into the world of human trafficking which is a subject I have been trying to learn more about; my only dilemma was that I would have liked to have heard more of Marina's side of the story, but overall, it is a wonderful book.