The Duchess of Milan by Michael Ennis
Summary: A bestselling historical epic of simmering sex, betrayal and intrigue. In 15th-century Italy, two women face each other with a ruthlessness and brilliance no man has ever matched. Enter their world of splendor and depravity, of passion and evil, of wit and cunning
I discovered this book at a yard sale, at the cost of 50 cents. I have always loved history, as well as reading, so what could be better than a book about historical fiction. I also enjoyed the artwork on the hardcover.
This was my first foray into Renaissance Italy and the wonderful Beatrice d’Este!
I’d never heard of the author, and once I began it, I must admit it was confusing at first to keep up with the characters - I felt a bit lost and almost didn’t finish it. However, after the first few chapters, I quickly found myself swept away to late 15th century Italy. I found myself thinking about events when I was away from the book and frustratingly, at times, when I was trying to get to sleep.
This was my first historical fiction foray into Renaissance Italy and a wonderful introduction to the wonderful Beatrice d’Este, her sister Isabella d’Este, cousin Isabella of Aragaon, Leonardo da Vinci and the powerful and intriguing Lodovico Sforza (Il Moro). Their personal struggles are set amidst the ongoing shifting balance of power of the Italian city-states, its art, culture and commerce. Ennis manages to cover this vast historical landscape while still making his narrative intensely intimate. He further enhances this feeling by the use of excerpts from actual letters between many of the characters/historical personages involved.
What drives this book is the compelling relationship and power struggle between two women, Beatrice and Isabella of Aragon. At a time when submissiveness and heirs is what is expected of high born women, they refused to be passive, instead their choices have historical and cultural significance that have far reaching influence.
To help the reader, and very much appreciated and often referred to by me, a genealogical chart of the ruling houses of Italy and France, map of Italy, cast of characters and a glossary of Italian words and phrases are included.
Now, I can’t say how accurately Ennis captures the history, since I am no expert, but I can certainly say I thoroughly enjoyed his interpretation. Why this hasn’t gained a larger readership is a mystery to me. I’m just very fortunate to have been one of those small numbers and very thankful for having found it; although this book is out of print now, it is well worth the search for anyone curious enough to want to read it.
Most of all, this book made me look into the relationship I had with my own family, which resembles very much the relationship between Beatrice and Isabella. I realized that despite all their actions towards each other, at the end, they admited their love for one another was true.
6:07 pm • 11 January 2013
A Treasure Reborn by Pamela Griffin
Summary: Derek is after what’s rightfully his.Derek Burke’s father never gave him so much as a kind word during his life, but before his death, he left him one piece of a crude map to a silver mine. Derek’s brother and alleged half sister have the other pieces of the map-apparently a ploy to bring the three estranged siblings together. As the oldest son, Derek is outraged at having to share this inheritance. Will stealing the map from his siblings and striking out alone bring Derek success in his hunt for treasure? Or will reluctantly helping Penny Crawder, a young widow, and her daughters cross the wilds of Nevada make him realize what’s truly valuable?
Their relationship is far fetched - she trusts him but didn’t trust any other man since her husband’s death a year ago, enough to take her and her daughters across a desert to a new city. The plot surrouding Derek and his siblings to find the mine never fully developed. Overall, I was left asking what just happened.
8:01 am • 6 December 2012
Wind in the Stone by Andre Norton
Summary: A Mother Flees into the woods with her infant girl-child, escaping a mage seeking to enslave the Valley and destroy the Forest, while the depraved sorcerer holds the babe’s twin brother captive in a black tower. When the mother dies, the girl is adopted by the strange denizens of the Forest. As she grows, the girl cultivates an astonishing skill: the ability to truly hear the sounds of her world. But her future will be fraught with trial and terror, for it is her ultimate destiny to confront the magician’s protege and her most powerful adversary: her own brother
A foray into the consciousness of its antihero opens this stately chronicle of evil vs. goodness from a veteran, celebrated author. Irasmus, formerly an apprentice at Valarian, the Place of Learning, has renounced his teachers and plundered their powerful cache of knowledge, with which he wishes to reawaken the Dark of Chaos, an evil kept in check for generations by the Covenant of Light. The imperfectly trained yet potent Son of Darkness begins building his empire with enslaved “low-grade demons” and, gradually, the people of the Valley. Among the captives, the villagers of Firthdun are unique in their adherence to the old ways; they nurture a lingering Old Blood ability to commune with the Wind, a natural force commanded by a female entity called Theeossa. Meanwhile, laboring to undo the damage unwittingly wrought, the mages of Valarian enlist the aid of Theeossa and the children of her Forest. To combat Irasmus, Forest and Valley inhabitants alike must place their faith and future in three youths of the Old Blood: a girl named Cerlyn, and a pair of twins born of a terrible rape. While skillfully conceived and deftly written, this novel moves slowly, for each advance is related from a variety of sketchy viewpoints. The inevitable showdown between the forces of dark and light thus arrives as more of a relief than as the thundering climax Norton (Scent of Magic) clearly intends it to be.
7:52 am • 6 December 2012
“Wind Warrior” by Vella Munn
Overall: Great book! Liked that it was a romance story that wasn’t engrossed in the typical romance novel sexuality. Also enjoyed the messeges it carried about how we invaded their lands and tried changing them because of our own beliefs.
In 1809 Spanish-held California Territory, cultures clash between the Chumash Indians and the invading Spaniards. One of the Indian chiefs, Black Wolf, watches in abject horror as the Spanish, in the name of their God, force the People to give up their religion in order to worship Christianity. Even with their submission, the Spanish use the natives as cheap slave labor.
Even as he hates the Europeans, Black Wolf reluctantly finds himself attracted to Lucita Rodriguez, daughter of a vicious commandant. Lucita falls in love with the proud Indian leader. However, the Chumash have had enough and plan to revolt. It is up to Lucita and Black Wolf to find a way to stop the bloodshed yet find a place for the Chumas and Spanish cultures to thrive side by side. If they are successful against all odds, they can develop a permanent relationship of their own.
Vella Munn is one of the best writers of Native American historical romances on the market today. Her latest tale, WIND WARRIOR, is a fats-paced, action packed thriller that showcases two wonderful star-crossed lovers. Though the Spaniards seem more like caricatures without any redeeming qualities, Ms. Munn’s brilliant homage to the lost culture of the Chumash makes this a fabulous historical romance.
9:46 am • 25 July 2012
“The Charm School” by Susan Wiggs
“The captain had abandoned society. She was too unrefined for it. An awkward misfit in an accomplished Boston family, Isadora Peabody yearns to escape her social isolation and sneaks aboard the Silver Swan, bound for Rio, leaving it all behind. Ryan Calhoun, too, had a good family name. But he’d purposely walked away from everything it afforded him. Driven by his quest to right an old wrong, the fiery, temperamental sea captain barely registers the meek young woman who comes aboard his ship. To the Swan’s motley crew, the tides of attraction clearly flow between the two. Teaching her the charms of a lady, they hope to build the confidence she needs to attract not only their lonely captain’s attention, but his heart, as well. For everyone knows the greatest charms are not those of the formal lady, but rather the possibilities of a new world built on love”.
Great book by a great author; enjoyed that the bad boy and the underdog woman ended up together, despite his past and despite her what many considered bad looks! I like that she was intellegent.
1:45 pm • 23 July 2012
“The Quest” by Lyn Stone
Summary: “Victim of an abusive marriage, Iana vowed in her widowhood never again to put her fate in masculine hands. But one man, Henri Gillet, heir to the Trouville dynasty, had aroused her slumbering desires - and endagered her deepest resolve. Love, Henry Gillet pondered, was simple. Noble obligations were not. And now he faced a royal-sized dilemma - for though the Lady Iana hadsaved him from certain death, her shadowed past, so full of the darkest secrets, stood between them and threatened a future together!”
Basically, Iana meets Henry wounded in the woods after Everand (the boy Henry takes as his own son) comes and gets her from her village, asking for help. She takes with her Tam, a orphaned girl whom she adopted when the mother died of sickness. Henry vows to give her payment if she sees him to his family, dead or alive. She goes, not wanting to wait around for her brother to come marry her off to a man she does not love or want to marry.
She ends up meeting all of Henry’s family - Rob, his wife Mairi, Henry’s parents, and Jehan, the woman who wanted Henry at first, then turned her eyes to Iana’s suitor set up by her brother. Despite insisting she would never remarry, Henry duels off the suitor, and takes her hand in marriage, despite her lack of title or wealth (or his problems with conceiving an heir). The happy ending is that his troubles are over, as the book ends with Iana telling Henry that she is pregnant.
10:41 pm • 7 July 2012
“If you Deceive” by Kresley Cole
Summary: “Ethan MacCarrick was a heartbreakingly handsome rake until a powerful nobleman ordered him brutally beaten adn his face scarred for a crime he didn’t commit. Ethan’s reprisal - bankrupting the nobleman and forcing his exile - does little to appease his wrath. Ten years later, a haughty, mysterious beauty enchants Ethan - the daughter of his enemy. At last, Ethan will have the revenge he’s craved; he’ll promise her marriage, seduce her, then cast her aside…when Madeleine’s family was suddenly plunged into destitution and dishonor, she steeled herself against further heartache. She never weakened, never trusted, until a towering, scarred highlander relentlessly pursues her, breaking down her defenses. The passion between them burns hotter than Ethan’s fury, and soon he finds he can’t let her go. But when Madeleine uncovers the truth about him, can Ethan convince her to accept all that he now offers - when he once destroyed everything she had?”
This book was unlike most other romance novels I’ve read; it was suspenseful, believable, non-cheesy, original, and VERY VERY sexy. The characters were realistic, as was their love. I was scared when Maddy got cholera, thinking she had left Ethan after finding out the truth about him, only to die in La Marais… but was happy to find that she lived. I was relieved that she remained married to Ethan, and that they had 3 children together, resolving the issues between them. I didn’t think I would like Ethan’s character at first, because he used so many women, but by the end, I wanted him to “get the girl”. Overall, a good book.
10:22 pm • 7 July 2012
Dances With Wolves
“When a drunken major ordered Lieutenant John J Dunbar to an abandoned army post, the war-weary soldier suddenly found himself alone, beyond the edge of civilization, with only a wolf and some roving Comanches for company. Thievery and survival soon forced Dunbar into the Indian Camp, where he began a dangerous adventure that changed his life forever. Each day in the wilderness, Dunbar became more Indian, learning the ways of a proud and glorious people.But when his past came back to haunt him and he was facedwith the greatest decisionof his life, Dunbar discovered who the real savages were and where his loyalties lay” - Back cover summary.
I can now understand why my husband both loves and hates this book, as well as the movie it is based on. The characters are wonderful, and you become attached to each one as their lives are played out before us in the text. However, it’s hard to ignore the very real fact of what the white people did to the Indians - we drove them from their homelands, murdered their livelihood by slaughtering buffallo for no reason…we called them savages, yet that is what we are, and what we will continue to be if we force ourselves on other cultures and peoples as we have the Indians. A+ book - it shed a much better light on Indians than what was given in school.
1:33 pm • 20 April 2011
Wind on Fire Trilogy
The Wind Singer, written by William Nicholson.
Kestrel Hath’s schoolroom rebellion against the stifling caste system of Aramanth leads to explosive consequences for her and her family: they are relegated to the city’s lowest caste and are ostracized. With nothing left to lose, Kestrel and her twin brother, Bowman, do the unthinkable: they leave the city walls. Their only hope to rescue the rest of their fmaily is to find the key to the wind singer. The wind singer, a long-defunct device in the city’s center, was once the source of happiness and harmony in Aramanth. But the key was given to an evil spirit-lord, the Morah, in exchange for the Morah’scalling off its terrible army of Zars.
Armed with desperate bravery, wits, and determination, Kestrel, Bowman, and a tagalong classmate named Mumpo set off to find the key. Along the way they meet kind allies and terrible foes, but in order to succeed in their quest they must face teh most sinister force of all: the powerful Morah.
When picking out this book, I didn’t realize it was part of a trilogy - it is a well written book, with a sort of whoville feel to it - only instead of being happy, the people are the grinches, and Kestrel and Bo are the whos that are trying to bring back happiness. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.
1:25 pm • 25 February 2011