Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner - Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours Review

The Queen's Vow by C. W. Gortner
2013, Ballantine Books

Format? paperback
Source? the publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
FTC Disclaimer: The publisher provided a complimentary copy of The Queen's Vow in exchange for an honest review.  The review below and the opinions therein are my own and offered without bias.

Title? Yep...makes sense...Isabella vowed to serve her country and keep its interests at the forefront of her life...and she did. 
Cover?  Love it! Isabella was not a Barbie Doll...I appreciate a cover that doesn't try to make her look like one. 

Why? I haven't read anything else about Isabella and I liked that this book was focused on her...not just her along with Ferdinand.  Not very often do we see their names separated.

What Now? I have so much more to learn!
It may also be time for me to watch the Showtime series The Borgias...anybody seen this?

Golden Lines

She embraced me. "You don't need to apologize.  You are my infanta.  I'd go to the ends of the world to serve you." (39)

"Though I'd been raised in a rural area where animals were regularly slaughtered for sustenance, it seemed un-natural to me to turn a creature's suffering into a crowd-pleasing spectacle. (51)

Our families shared Trastamara blood through our ancestors, but enmity and rapacity had led Castile and Aragon to wage war against each other for centuries. (58)

...if Enrique made a bastard his heir, it would be an affront to his divine right to rule.  He would divide the realm, anger the grandees, and invoke chaos.  He would invite God's wrath upon Castile - and upon all of us. (69)

Be brave, Isabella.  Wait for me. (88)

"She's perfect," he whispered to me at night, when he snuck into my rooms, defying the prohibition that I must not receive him until I'd been churched, cleansed of the stain of childbirth by a priest's blessing. (190)

Therefore, while Fernando assumed charge of our military affairs that year, I undertook the diplomatic - suffering endless hours of penning letters until spots danced before my red-rimmed eyes and my fingertips bled. (198)

Cardenas nodded, clearly discomfited to be the bearer of this news.  "He told me that just as he raised Your Majesty to your current station, so will he take you down." (244)

"Few will support the defense of those deemed responsible for our Savior's crucifixion." (271)

"...We are building a new nation for a new age; it's what we dreamed of, all those years ago.  This is our time.  And once we purify Castile and Aragon, we'll turn our sword on Granada.  We'll take up the Reonquista and rid the land forever of the infidel." (298)

I first met the Genovese navigator in the monastery of Guadalupe in Extremadura, where we'd come to stay shortly after the New Year celebrations. (328)

"Fine," I conceded, "no armor.  It's too hot anyway.  Just a breastplate and sword," I added, "in case I should run into one of those mishaps you seem so concerned about." (337)

"No." His voice was flat. "There will be no withdrawal.  No one threatens my wife." (342)

By royal command, every Jew who did not convert to the Catholic faith must leave (368).

Short and Sweet Summary

Third in line to the throne of Castile, Isabella was never expected to rule.  However, rule she did, with Ferdinand of Aragon at her side.  A woman of strength and not just an adornment for her husband, Isabella relied on her staunch Catholic faith to guide everything she did and encouraged those around her to do the same. 

What I Liked

The Google Factor:
expectations of widowed queens the children of those marriages
King Juan II, Isabel of Portugal and Constable Luna
Archbishop Carrillo of Toledo
Beatriz Bobadilla
calming "drafts"
Enrique and Blanca of Navarre
King Enrique IV, Marquis Villena, Queen Juana, Beltran de la Cueva, and Joanna la Beltraneja
Salic Law and the history of female succession
hija mia, aya
Dona Mencia de Mendoza, lady-in-honor to Queen Juana
ladies' style of the Moorish tradition including makeup
grandees, sala, dai, alcazar, scimitars, obsequies, Te Deum, intransigence,
Louis of France - the "spider"
availability of clean water
Alfonso, Isabella's brother
Alfonso of Portugal
Fray Tomas de Torquemada
existing letters between Ferdinand and Isabella
Don Fadrique Enriquez, Lord of Medina and Admiral of Castile
the Black Death/the plague and flux
wedding night customs
Cardinal Borgia
the prenuptial agreement - Capitulations
Tanto monta, monta tanto
Con blandura
Sephardic influence at court
Heresy and conversos, mass conversions of 1391
"My moon"
Rabbi Abraham Seneor, Cabrera, Cardenas, Chacon - the inner council
Jewish persecution
the Holy tribunal of the Inquisition in Castile
Medicis of Florence, Habsburgs of Austria, and Edward IV, the printing press and educational opportunities for all
birthing customs, dripping honey into the baby's mouth, the birthing stool, did Fernando really stay with Isabella during Maria's birth and the death of her twin?
Juana the Mad
Cuesta de la Matanza, the Hill of the Slaughter
Master Cristobal Colon
Beatriz Galindo, La Latina
Boabdil's surrender at Granada
the Alhambra decree
Moorish Wars

Maps, family tree, discussion with the author about history vs fiction

A royal marriage that was actually happy...I couldn't help but wonder if Ferdinand and Isabella's marriage was successful because each was a monarch in his/her own right.  The power was equally divided via a prenuptial agreement which was designed to protect the interests of both Castile and Aragon but ended up also protecting the interests/responsibilities of the king and queen's peoples in order for them to be able to focus on each other.  That's my romantic notion of it anyway...even though I like to declare myself without a romantic bone in my body :/

Isabella's desire and work toward education for women.

What I Didn't Like

A reminder that even though we like to heap criticism on Henry VIII, his lifetime and particularly the treatment of his wives, royalty were raised to believe that their rights were divinely appointed.  Personal happiness was not an option; they had been born to serve God and no one else.  If they had to cut down their own family members to protect God, then so be it.

The sad reality that even though theirs was a happy marriage, Fernando still fathered illegitimate children by other women.

Another sad reality that even a well loved queen spent much of her life defending her throne and/or trying to produce sons.

Because of their propensity to name their children the same names...for many generations, it is difficult to keep up sometimes with who's who when you go off on your own to learn more.  I never felt lost while reading Gortner's novel, but I did have to re-visit chapters to make sure I had all the Juanas, Alfonsos, Enriques, etc straight.

Overall Recommendation

Those interested in the life of a strong queen who actually participated in her reign in other ways besides dressing, scheming and/or preparing herself for her husband's whims will enjoy this foray into the life of Isabella.  Gortner also provides the readeer with a detailed look into the history of Jewish persecution as well as that of early Muslims.

The Author

Other Stops on the Tour

Tuesday, July 2
Review at The Book Barista

Wednesday, July 3
Review & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Thursday, July 4
Review at Sweet Tidbits
Interview at Unabridged Chick

Friday, July 5
Review at Twisting the Lens

Monday, July 8
Review at nomadreader

Tuesday, July 9
Guest Post at Bibliophilic Book Blog

Wednesday, July 10
Review at From L.A. to LA

Thursday, July 11
Review at Peppermint, Ph.D.

Monday, July 15
Review at Paperback Princess

Tuesday, July 16
Review at Book Nerds

Wednesday, July 17
Review at Book Addict Katie
Review at Always with a Book

Thursday, July 18
Interview at WTF Are you Reading?

Friday, July 19
Review at A Book Geek

Monday, July 22

Tuesday, July 23
Review at Lost in Books
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook

Wednesday, July 24
Review at Legacy of a Writer

Thursday, July 25
Review at Booktalk & More
Guest Post at Lost in Books

Friday, July 26

Monday, July 29

Tuesday, July 30
Review at Long Ago Love
Review & Interview at The Life & Times of a Book Addict

Wednesday, July 31
Review at My Reading Room

Thursday, August 1
Review at vvb32 Reads
Interview at My Reading Room

Friday, August 2
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at Amused by Books

Monday, August 5
Review at Reader Girls
Review at Review From Here

Tuesday, August 6
Review at Layered Pages
Guest Post at Review From Here

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mother of the Year...again.

As parents to be, we make all kinds of plans for our children.  
Then, as they grow up, we end up implementing things we never intended.  

I truly remember when I said my kids would never eat McDonalds. 
Go ahead and sneer and snort at know you said it too :p
My oldest could spot the golden arches miles away :)

Anyhoo, besides the obvious slip-ups, we also do things un-intentionally.  
This time my middle daughter was the recipient of my parenting "snafu."

Let's back up for a minute in case you haven't heard of my hoo-hah issues.
Part 1 is available here.
Part 2 is available here

Go ahead. 
Catch up...I'll wait.

The part I didn't already share was that a couple days after my surgery, after looking at my horribly deformed hoo-hah, I had no idea whether what I was looking at was normal, if any progress was being made, where exactly the stitches were, where exactly certain parts of my anatomy had gone to...etc.
I came up with a brilliant plan to take pictures, so I could SEE the progress. 

Oh. yes. I. did.  

Do not panic; I will NOT be sharing those.  

They've been deleted anyway, bc after I took the first two, it hurt worse to look at them, and I decided it's too weird anyway to take pictures of my hoo-hah.

Ahem. Cough. Cough.  
Stay with me, people.

Fast forward 3 weeks to yesterday.  

I'm sitting at the bar in our kitchen reading a book.  
My middle daughter comes in from work and says, "Mom, I wish you'd tell Reagan to stop taking so many pictures with your phone; for some reason your phone syncs up with mine so any time Rea takes pictures, they also load onto mine."

Not looking up from my book, I said, "Mmmhmmm,"

"It's a pain that I have to delete all of her stuff; it would be different if she just took one or two pics...but she takes tons in a row of the very same things...herself making funny faces mostly."

Again, still engrossed in my book, "I know, I's my phone; I have to delete them too." 

Then, she hits me with the big daddy of all big daddies.

"You know I got those pics of your VaJJ too."


She had my undivided attention then.

Me: "I deleted those!!"

Middle Kid: "Yeah, well, they still showed up on my Photo Stream."

Me: WHAT??? HOW?? OMG!!! 

Middle Kid: "I have no idea. Somehow our Photo Streams are synced."


Middle Kid: "Maybe not for life; I deleted it really fast once I realized what it was."

We spent the next few minutes figuring out how to UNsync our Photo Streams.  

We told my husband and the youngest about what had happened.  
Reagan, the 9 year old, immediately yelled, "Oh my goodness!! Did she put it on Facebook????"

Middle Kid and I both screamed, 
 Oh my gahhhhhhhhh!!!."  

Middle Kid shivered, and I passed out just thinking of the possibilities. 

And then we deleted both our Photo Streams again for good measure.

See, I told you I win.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver - TLC Book Review

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver 
HarperCollins, 2012

Format? Hardback
Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours
I received my copy of Flight Behavior from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions in this review are my own and offered without bias. 

Title? the "flight" obviously refers to the butterflies and their migratory behavior...but it also refers to Dellarobia and the connections were so subtle but so me, that's the test of a real writer, to take the obvious and make it lyrical :)
Cover? Perfect!

Why? I fell in love with Kingsolver when I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  I had heard of her before, of course, particularly The Poisonwood Bible, but had just never gotten around to reading her.  Seriously, you should see my copy of Animal Vegetable Miracle...the spine is broken, there are annotations on every page, it's obvious I read some of it while by the pool, etc.  What made me read Flight Behavior instead of any of the other Kingsolver fiction was, in fact, some of the criticism of the book concerning the focus on global warming, nature, sustainability, etc. 

What Now?
I want to read more Kingsolver...where should I start??

Golden Lines

They would say the same thing she'd heard her mother-in-law tell Cub: that Dellarobia was a piece of work (9).

Just motherhood, with its routine costs of providing a largesse that outstripped her physical dimensions.  She'd seen ewes in the pasture whose sixty-pound twins would run underneath together and bunt the udders to release the milk with sharp upward thrusts, jolting the mother's hindquarters off the ground.  That was the picture, overdrawn. (60)

Dovey affected a television voice: "In a scandal of national proportions, the president was seen flirting today with a sexy Tennessee woman wearing pajamas outside the home." (107)

Not just an orange passage across a continent as she'd imagined it before, not like marbles rolling from one end of a box to the other and back.  This was a living flow, like a pulse through veins, with the cells bursting and renewing themselves as they went. (146)

"Well, for one thing," she said, "when you clear-cut a mountain it can cause a landslide.  I'm not crying wolf here, Cub, it's a fact.  You can see it happening where they logged over by the Food King, there's a river of mud sliding over the road.  And that's exactly what happened in Mexico, where the butterflies were before.  They clear-cut the mountain, and a flood brought the whole thing down on top of them." (171)

If Ovid Byron was torn up over butterflies, he should see how it felt to look past a child's baby teeth into this future world he claimed was falling apart.  Like poor Job lying on the ash heap wailing, cutting his flesh with a husk.  That's where love could take you. (232)

"Cause," he said, "is not the same as correlation.  Do you know what I mean by that?" (243).

Truly, they were no better than the city people always looking down on southerners, with one Billy Ray Hatch or another forever at their disposal. If people played their channels right, they could be spared from disagreement for the length of their natural lives.  Finally, she got it.  The need for so many channels.  (258)

"An animal is the sum of its behaviors," he said finally.  "Its community dynamics.  Not just the physical body." (317)

"That is a concern of conscience," he said.  "Not of biology.  Science doesn't tell us what we should do.  It only tells us what is." (320)

There are always more questions.  Science as a process is never complete.  It is not a foot race, with a finish line.  (351)

"The key thing is," Juliet said, resting her elbow on the table, that beautiful wrist bending under the weight of its wooden rings, "once you're talking identity, you can't just lecture that out of people.  The condescension of outsiders won't diminish it. That just galvanizes it." (395)

Short and Sweet Summary

Dellarobia Turnbow sets out one afternoon to change her life by cheating on her husband.  At the top of a hill through the woods on the mountain, Dellarobia instead finds a treasure, trees and everything else covered by monarch butterflies, so surreal that Dellarobia sees it as a sign and returns home.  Scientists converge on Dellarobia's small Tennessee community to find out why the butterflies have changed their migratory patterns and what that change means for their survival as well as the survival of the communities affected by the interruption of the natural processes at work.  Dellarobia also finds her own life affected by the butterflies plight as she finds her wings and decides on her own flight plan.  

What I Liked

Kingsolver presents various sides to the argument of global warming, but that's not all Flight Behavior is about.  With Dellarobia, Kingsolver is able to present a variety of sides, the inter-related causes and effects of any natural phenomena and most importantly, human intervention or "meddling."  What mankind sees as progress has both positive and negative consequences.  Do we always have to have more of everything?  Is there always one right side and one wrong side?  Imagine what kind of sustainable progress we could make if all sides worked together.  Just imagine.  Pie in the sky?  Maybe.  But, what's so wrong with pie?

Roy and Charlie - I grew up watching border collies on a dairy farm and I never got used to what they could obedient they solid, loyal and gosh, smart!! It's almost like the animals talk to the herd (like the ending in the movie Babe ;P).  I'm also a sucker for a story that includes dogs in the family...sorry-not sorry.

Dellarobia's ability to see the shortcomings of her life in the Tennessee hills but also her ability to see those same shortcomings as strengths in certain situations.  For example, at one point in the story, an environmentalist from the city shares with Dellarobia a list of the things she can do to make the Sustainability Pledge he is advocating...things like taking her own Tupperware to a restaurant for leftovers when Dellarobia and her family haven't eaten out in two years due to their financial situation.  Or encouraging Dellarobia to commit to buying used items as much as possible when that's all she has anyway.  I snickered through this entire conversation because it's a perfect example of the "outsider" or "do-gooder" who thinks his/her answers are the ones that will solve the problem for everybody.

Representation of the South - I loved this...loved it.  Kingsolver's picture is so accurate, so accurate I felt like  I was reading a book written in my own community...or really some of the surrounding communities here in Mississippi.  Most of us have been eating out of our gardens since we were little kids, picking our own veggies, caring for animals, outside, eating meat our families either raised or hunted or no meat at all, eating what was in season or doing without (and not even realizing most of the time that we were doing without), shopping at consignment stores, handing down furniture, building our own homes, living around extended family members who all worked together for the good of the family as one, making important decisions community-wide and in church.  

The media - a perfect reminder of why we should question what's reported.  Ask for the facts from both sides of the argument (or however many sides there are) and then make up your own mind.

King Billy - The reader learns about the monarch butterflies right along with Dellarobia.  She's smart and can take Dr. Byron's academic talk and make it into a real world example.  I had a Chemistry teacher like that once.  I made an A in his class too :) 

Dovey - if we all had just one friend like Dovey - sassy, smart, funny, forgiving, loyal, honest and open.

Research is messy, messy, messy...a ton of work, and many times the researcher ends up with more questions rather than any definitive answers.  The most minute details cannot be overlooked and sometimes have the most meaning.  As an academic researcher, I know firsthand how overwhelming this process can be, especially when you have a host of people standing over you wanting to know the answers.  

On pg. 379, Kingsolver briefly introduces a very minor character named Beulah Rasberry, and then several pages later Dr. Byron's wife, Juliet mentions that she's originally from Mississippi.  My maiden name is Rasberry...and obviously, I'm from Mississippi so I couldn't help but wonder where Kingsolver got the name...or if it was something she just dreamed up. :)

On pg. 397, Kingsolver also talks about a 1976 article in National Geographic about the discovery of the monarch's migration to Mexico.  As I read this, I had a feeling of deja-vu; my father always had National Geographic magazines around our house (still gets them to this day), and I loved the vivid photos.  I felt sure I had seen that particular one.

Um, yep...sure did :)

What I Didn't Like

The first part of the novel where Dellarobia is headed out over the hill to meet someone and cheat on her husband.  I read through that part thinking I wasn't going to like the book.

Tina Ultner - admittedly a stereotypical reporter, but another reminder that even the most obnoxious have an that they (and their camp) think is right.  

Overall Recommendation

Fans of conservation, the South, sheep farming, the Tennessee mountains, the tricky dance between science and tradition as well as so-called progress will love this one as I did.

The Author

Other Stops on the Tour

Tuesday, June 4th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, June 5th: 50 Books Project
Monday, June 10th: Love at First Book
Tuesday, June 11th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, June 13th: she treads softly
Friday, June 14th: I Read a Book Once
Monday, June 17th: Suko’s Notebook
Tuesday, June 18th: Mom in Love With Fiction
Thursday, June 20th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, June 20th:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Monday, June 24th: Amused By Books
Tuesday, June 25th: Joyfully Retired
Wednesday, June 26th: Wordsmithonia
Thursday, June 27th: Conceptual Reception
Monday, July 1st: Giraffe Days
Tuesday, July 2nd: The Well-Read Redhead
Wednesday, July 3rd: Dreaming in Books
Monday, July 8th: Peppermint PhD
Wednesday, July 10th: nomadreader
Thursday, July 11th: Olduvai Reads