Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Katherine of Aragon the True Queen

From Amazon:  Bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir takes on what no fiction writer has done before: creating a dramatic six-book series in which each novel covers one of King Henry VIII’s wives. In this captivating opening volume, Weir brings to life the tumultuous tale of Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s first, devoted, and “true” queen.

A princess of Spain, Catalina is only sixteen years old when she sets foot on the shores of England. The youngest daughter of the powerful monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, Catalina is a coveted prize for a royal marriage—and Arthur, Prince of Wales, and heir to the English throne, has won her hand. But tragedy strikes and Catalina, now Princess Katherine, is betrothed to the future Henry VIII. She must wait for his coming-of-age, an ordeal that tests her resolve, casts doubt on her trusted confidantes, and turns her into a virtual prisoner.

Katherine’s patience is rewarded when she becomes Queen of England. The affection between Katherine and Henry is genuine, but forces beyond her control threaten to rend her marriage, and indeed the nation, apart. Henry has fallen under the spell of Katherine’s maid of honor, Anne Boleyn. Now Katherine must be prepared to fight, to the end if God wills it, for her faith, her legitimacy, and her heart.

From Me:  Allison Weir does an amazing job of filling in with her wonderful imagination the details that make the story of these historical figures come to life.  One can not help but like both Henry and Katherine!  They are wonderful characters and are so in love in the beginning of their marriage!  I listened to the part of the story this morning on my way to Starbucks when Katherine has lost the first baby because she was born too premature.  The second baby was a male child and the entire kingdom celebrated.  However this baby never made it to childhood as he died while Katherine was at court with Henry.  The part that I am listening to this morning is that Katherine is pregnant again.  Henry and his soldiers are ready to sail to France to fight Louis (Henry considers it a crusade because France's King Louis is no friend to the Pope).  Henry makes Katherine the ruler in his absence.  He tells her that she will rule as wisely as did her mother, Isabella.  Henry takes Wolsey with him...but leaves to advise Katherine.  Henry seems to be very in love with Katherine still.  They both hope that this child will be a boy and a heir to the throne.

 For six months in 1513, she served as regent of England while Henry VIII was in France. During that time the English won the Battle of Flodden, an event in which Catherine played an important part with an emotional speech about English courage. 

Here is a link to a very easy to read article that explains the order of the wives:

And an excellent article by Philippa Gregory.  


From this same site (above):

There is also an explanation on the site that Isabella (and thus Katherine) was a descendant of John of Guant on this site.



Today I read part of chapter 18 of 34.  The interesting thing that the author creates is the idea that it is Katherine herself who begins to believe that God is punishing both her and Henry for something....and perhaps it is indeed the marriage that is not right in the eyes of God.  Allison Weir is painting the picture in the year in which Henry's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy (Henry the son of the King), is born.  Katherine has endured 7 or 8 births by this time.  And they have only one child (Mary) to show for her years of pregnancies.   Her figure is ruined.  She looks much older than her 33 years.  Henry on the other hand is 28 and extremely handsome and virile.  He knows how to have a good time!  He is strong and handsome.  But Allison paints the picture that he is still loyal and kind to his wife.  They still have a strong love between them.  But Katherine is already becoming a person for whom her sewing and church duties each day are filling her life.  And while one feels very sorry for Katherine when she hears the news that Bessie Blount has born the King a son, there is the feeling that Katherine is tired and ready to give up her childbearing days.....The King still comes to her bed and both wish for a son, but Allison is preparing us for Katherine to be content with no longer having this travail in her life.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Baker's Secret

In a continuing World War II book pattern that I have been reading, I started one more WWII book tonight.  I am reading it via audible.com.

Here is the synopsis from Good Reads:

From the critically acclaimed author of The Hummingbird and The Curiosity comes a dazzling novel of World War II—a shimmering tale of courage, determination, optimism, and the resilience of the human spirit, set in a small Normandy village on the eve of D-Day

On June 5, 1944, as dawn rises over a small town on the Normandy coast of France, Emmanuelle is making the bread that has sustained her fellow villagers in the dark days since the Germans invaded her country. 

Only twenty-two, Emma learned to bake at the side of a master, Ezra Kuchen, the village baker since before she was born. Apprenticed to Ezra at thirteen, Emma watched with shame and anger as her kind mentor was forced to wear the six-pointed yellow star on his clothing. She was likewise powerless to help when they pulled Ezra from his shop at gunpoint, the first of many villagers stolen away and never seen again.

But in the years that her sleepy coastal village has suffered under the enemy, Emma has silently, stealthily fought back. Each day, she receives an extra ration of flour to bake a dozen baguettes for the occupying troops. And each day, she mixes that precious flour with ground straw to create enough dough for two extra loaves—contraband bread she shares with the hungry villagers. Under the cold, watchful eyes of armed soldiers, she builds a clandestine network of barter and trade that she and the villagers use to thwart their occupiers. 

But her gift to the village is more than these few crusty loaves. Emma gives the people a taste of hope—the faith that one day the Allies will arrive to save them.

Here is a URL for a very good explanation of the beaches that includes an historical photo:


and really good photos here:


from this site I found the photo below:


Friday, November 24, 2017

This Dark Road to Mercy

The book club is reading this Dark Road to Mercy this month.  I drug my feet before buying the book.  And I am having trouble finishing it.  I really like the part in which Easter talks.  I like Easter a lot!  But the other parts are hard to struggle through.  I am stuck right now in a part that involves a saw.....I just can't turn it back on!  I want to finish it in time to go to the meeting, but it is hard to make myself finish.

Here is the review from Amazon:

Hailed as "mesmerizing" (New York Times Book Review) and "as if Cormac McCarthy decided to rewrite Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird" (Richmond Times-Dispatch), A Land More Kind Than Home made Wiley Cash an instant literary sensation. His resonant new novel, This Dark Road to Mercy, is a tale of love and atonement, blood and vengeance, a story that involves two young sisters, a wayward father, and an enemy determined to see him pay for his sins. 
When their mother dies unexpectedly, twelve-year-old Easter Quillby and her six-year-old sister, Ruby, are shuffled into the foster care system in Gastonia, North Carolina, a little town not far from the Appalachian Mountains. But just as they settle into their new life, their errant father, Wade, an ex-minor-league baseball player whom they haven't seen in years, suddenly reappears and steals them away in the middle of the night. 
Brady Weller, the girls' court-appointed guardian, begins looking for Wade, and quickly turns up unsettling information linking him to a multimillion-dollar robbery. But Brady isn't the only one hunting him. Also on the trail is Robert Pruitt, a mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta, a man determined to find Wade and claim what he believes he is owed. 
The combination of Cash's evocative and intimate Southern voice and those of the alternating narrators, Easter, Brady, and Pruitt, brings this soulful story vividly to life. At once captivating and heartbreaking, This Dark Road to Mercy is a testament to the unbreakable bonds of family and the primal desire to outrun a past that refuses to let go.

I thought that the ending was a bit contrived, but nonetheless, Easter managed to send her father a baseball signal to "stay on base".  And there was hope that the girls might eventually live a stable life.

Monday, October 9, 2017

She Walks These Hills

I started She Walks These Hills today on the way back from Starbucks.  I loved Sharyn McCrumb's book King's Mountain.  As I read that book, I wished that I had written it.  It is exactly the kind of book that I would like to write.  I have high hopes for this new book.   

I am reading it for our book club at Gallaher Village Library.  It isn't for certain that I will attend the meeting, as our knitting group is leaving for NC on the same day.  So it remains to be seen if we leave before the meeting.  But I decided to read the book in hopes that I might be able to do both things that day.  Imagine that, huh?

The author says that this story is partly based on a true event.  Katie Wylie was kidnaped from Mitchell County, NC in 1779 and taken to a Shawnee Camp on the Ohio River.  She escaped her captors and followed the deer paths that ran along the ridges above the rivers to return to her home area. 

OK....I am still reading the book in November.  We did leave for NC before the book club meeting.  I like the book a lot.  But what got my attention tonight is the idea that the people who lived in the Alps moved to many places....but they always chose to live in the mountains.  She says that there is a word for Hillbilly's in every language ....a derogatory term describing people who choose to live on the mountain with freedom instead of living somewhere else where they might have more economic advantage.  Somewhere "down the mountain".....

Mitchell County is shown on the map below outlined in red:


From Sharyn McCrumb's own website:


Historian Jeremy Cobb is backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, attempting to retrace the tragic journey of eighteen-year-old Katie Wyler, who was captured by the Shawnee after the massacre of her pioneer family in Mitchell County, North Carolina. In late summer, Katie escaped from a Shawnee village on the banks of the Ohio, and followed the rivers through the wilderness to find her way home - a brave journey that ended in sorrow. Jeremy, a city-bred graduate student with no trail experience, is determined to complete his scholarly quest, unaware that his journey will be both a trial of hardships and a mystical experience. He does not know that the spirit of Katie Wyler is still seen wandering the hills, trying to get home. Mountain wise woman Nora Bonesteel sees her every autumn "when the air is crisp and the light is slanted and the birds are still." Hiram Sorley, known as Harm, is also at large in the Appalachian wilderness. Sorely, who has escaped from the Northeast Correctional Center in Mountain City, Tennessee, is the focus of a wide-spread manhunt involving most of the area's law enforcement officers. There's just one problem: nobody wants him caught. Harm has become a folk hero. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood feels sorry for Harm, imprisoned for life for killing a hated local bureaucrat. There is even some doubt about Harm's guilt. Besides, the elderly convict has Korsakoff's syndrome, a disease that robs its sufferers of their recent memories. To Harm, it is always 1967. Harm doesn't even remember the crime. For Martha Ayers, who wants the job of deputy, catching Harm Sorely would be the best way to prove her fitness for the position. Harm, an Appalachian Don Quixote on the edge ofreality, meets both Jeremy and the still-wandering Katie Wyler on his journey back to a home that isn't there anymore. He is the "last moonshiner, " holding the dream of an unspoiled wilderness in the fragile web of his delusions. When he goes, it will be lost forever.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Much to my surprise I am fascinated by this book by Jack Weatherford.  From the Amazon sale site:

The name Genghis Khan often conjures the image of a relentless, bloodthirsty barbarian on horseback leading a ruthless band of nomadic warriors in the looting of the civilized world. But the surprising truth is that Genghis Khan was a visionary leader whose conquests joined backward Europe with the flourishing cultures of Asia to trigger a global awakening, an unprecedented explosion of technologies, trade, and ideas.

Fighting his way to power on the remote steppes of Mongolia, Genghis Khan developed revolutionary military strategies and weaponry that emphasized rapid attack and siege warfare, which he then brilliantly used to overwhelm opposing armies in Asia, break the back of the Islamic world, and render the armored knights of Europe obsolete. Under Genghis Khan, the Mongol army never numbered more than 100,000 warriors, yet it subjugated more lands and people in twenty-five years than the Romans conquered in four hundred. With an empire that stretched from Siberia to India, from Vietnam to Hungary, and from Korea to the Balkans, the Mongols dramatically redrew the map of the globe, connecting disparate kingdoms into a new world order.


But contrary to popular wisdom, Weatherford reveals that the Mongols were not just masters of conquest, but possessed a genius for progressive and benevolent rule. On every level and from any perspective, the scale and scope 
of Genghis Khan’s accomplishments challenge the limits of imagination. Genghis Khan was an innovative leader, the first ruler in many conquered countries to put the power of law above his own power, encourage religious freedom, create public schools, grant diplomatic immunity, abolish torture, and institute free trade. The trade routes he created became lucrative pathways for commerce, but also for ideas, technologies, and expertise that transformed the way people lived. The Mongols introduced the first international paper currency and postal system and developed and spread revolutionary technologies like printing, the cannon, compass, and abacus. They took local foods and products like lemons, carrots, noodles, tea, rugs, playing cards, and pants and turned them into staples of life around the world. The Mongols were the architects of a new way of life at a pivotal time in history. 

And from Wikipedia to help me sort people out as I read:

Genghis Khan[note 3] (c. 1162 – August 18, 1227), born Tem├╝jin, was the Great Khan and founder of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death. He came to power by uniting many of the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia

The last chapters that I have read explain that one of the practices that started Temujin on his road to success in the early days of his conquest was to exterminate the men who opposed him who were leaders in their own right.  But then to actually adopt the people that had been part of the opposition into his camp so that there was no retaliation from subdued opponents later.  He would even choose a male child to be adopted by his own mother to raise so that the child became his brother.

And tonight I am reading about the fact that while rulers and conquerors over history have asked men to die for them, Genghis never willingly gave up a single man.  All of his strategy was absolutely about not loosing any men in the battle.

I finished the book last night.  Truly I was fascinated to the very end.  And then the author spoke for quite a long time about how he became involved with the story of Ghengis Khan which was interesting in it's own right.  The one thing that I would add to the above information is that the Mongols never imposed their own religion nor their own language (in fact it was forbidden for people who were not Mongols by birth to learn the Mongol language) nor their own ways of life on those people who had been conquered.  When much later in the Mongol empire they built boats and became involved in trading, they themselves were NOT the merchants.  They transplanted merchants who already had those skills to run the trading posts all over the world.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."

I loved these words....but I am not sure just where they come from.  Perhaps I will get that figured at the library meeting on Thursday.  

I balked at reading this book for the selection of the library group this month.  I read the first two books a long time ago (before  I began to blog) and thought to myself that I was finished with this author.  But I do like to go to the meetings and I do like to have read the book....so Friday, I bought this on audible. 

It was pretty much a shoot m up until tonight.  And suddenly Dan Brown got my attention.  I love the part of the Medicis!  The fact that the money that they spent supporting struggling artists was the main reason for the renaissance.  This book said that they actually moved Michelangelo into their home during his young life.  That it is their gift to the world ....the wonderful works of these young artists!  A rich family that supported monetarily the art being produced by artists who were living in their own lifetimes.  Such a simple concept.  Why does it jump out at me when I read it in a book of fiction while reading history analysis or the history section in a travel book I totally miss the concept entirely.  

Dan Brown also gets my attention as he describes so many of the sights in Florence.  His description of the Porto Romano area is altogether different from what one might read in a travel book.  

The Porta Romana, once known as the Porta San Pier Gattolino was the southernmost gate in the 13th-century walls of the Oltrarno section of Florence, region of Tuscany, Italy. It stands at the confluence of a number of roads: accessed from north by Via Romana, Via de' Serragli, and Viale Francesco Petrarca. In addition, a central road along the Boboli Gardens begins near the gate, and allowed the inhabitants of the Pitti Palace to exit and enter Florence with minimal travel on city streets. Beyond the gates are the Via del Poggio Imperiale and Via Senese. The latter led to Siena and points south such as Rome, hence the name. When the majority of the defensive walls of Florence were razed in the 19th century, only a few, and sometimes partial gate structures were left standing including Porta San GalloPorta San Niccolo, and this gate with a snippet of merlonated wall.

While I was looking for the name of the Porta Romana, I found the below site in which the author discusses some of the sites mentioned in Dan Brown's Inferno.  Don't want to loose that idea.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

More WWII books from book club

I made my report at out book club at the Guyandotte library on Thursday.  My report was about my WWII jag.  And the main idea is that it is like the story of the blind men who "see" an elephant.  One feels his legs and compares him to a tree....another feels his tail and compares him to a rope.  Etc.  My books have been a bit like that.  Each of the books that I have read have told about how the war affects different places in that time period: Berlin, Germany, France, Italy, and the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw.

I had thought that perhaps I would get off this "jag" and read something else, but by serendipity others had read WWII books as well.  So whether I read them now or later, I wanted to put down some of the ideas,

Here are the WWII books that were suggested:

Kinderlater by Milton Gay Mieuwsma about the children of the Holocaust (need to check spelling)
Skeletons at the Feast about East Germans who farmed
The Maggie Bright about England and Dunkirk
And If I Perish a book about nurses in the Philippines
We Band of Angels about nurses in Africa
Story Teller by Jodie Picolt about the Holocaust

A couple of other books were mentioned of interest to me:

First I killed my Father (Cambodia) by author of Lucky Girl which tells about her life after she comes to the US
Liar Temptress Soldier Spy by Karen Abbott about women spies during the Civil War in US
Frog Music by Emma Donahue

Weeks later I found this review:

"Ellen Marie Wiseman's provocative and realistic images of a small German village are exquisite. The Plum Tree will find good company on the shelves of those who appreciated Skeletons at the Feast, by Chris Bohjalian, Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay, and Night, by Elie Wiesel." --NY Journal of Books

"The meticulous hand-crafted detail and emotional intensity of The Plum Tree immersed me in Germany during its darkest hours and the ordeals its citizens had to face. A must-read for WWII Fiction aficionados--and any reader who loves a transporting story." --Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us

"Wiseman eschews the genre's usual military conflicts of daily life during wartime, lending an intimate and compelling po.....