#132 ~ The Conqueror

December 28, 2008 at 9:13 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Historical Fiction, Reading | 6 Comments
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The Conqueror by Georgette Heyer

The Conqueror tells the story of William the Conqueror, from his bastard birth, to his life as the Duke of Normandy, and finaly to his triumphant rise to the throne of England. Given the circumstances of William’s life and the political climate of both Normandy and England in the 11th century, this is quite an undertaking.

After reading The Reluctant Widow, I was very excited to start The Conqueror. My thinking was that if I loved her Regency Romances, I would really love her historical fiction. I was mistaken. Unlike The Reluctant Widow, this novel took me over a week to finish. This was mainly due to the slow and inconsistent pacing of the plot. While much time and energy was spent on William the Conqueror’s numerous battles, very little was spent on his relationship with Matilda or who he really was as a man. This lack of character development was true throughout, filling pages with numerous supporting characters between whom I could not readily distinguish. For me, they further bogged down the story and made it seem even that much longer than it really was.

There were flashes of Heyer’s brilliance when she tells of the circumstances of William’s birth, when she introduces Raoul, the fictional man through whom we meet William as a man and learn of his exploits, and when she tells of William’s “courting” of Lady Matilda. I also found it interesting to learn of ways in which William modernized the warfare of the day through strategy and the inclusion of archers. Clearly, William is a man capable of capturing the imagination of readers nearly a full century after his full and adventurous life. Unfortunately, this potential was lost to me amidst the superfluous characters and many of the battles in Normandy that did not add to the plot or provide any additional insight into William or, for that matter, Raoul or Matilda.

While The Conqueror did not engage me or take me away to time and places of William’s life, I am glad to have read it. This novel is best approached as one to read over a period of time. It would be interesting to read this in chapters or sections as a prelude to a thorough biography. I am curious to learn more about William, Matilda and and the lives of their children. In that way, this novel was a success. I hope to find a good book that focuses on the life that William and Matilda shared. If you have any suggestions, I would be most appreciative.

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To buy this novel, click here.

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SantaThing

December 24, 2008 at 4:45 pm | Posted in Books | 17 Comments
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santathingThanks to a fun post written by Fyrefly, I found out about SantaThing, a wonderful Secret Santa type of book exchange facilitated by LibraryThing.  I received my SantaThing books yesterday and I’m so exicted!  I got Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer and The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman.  I am loving Georgette Heyer these days (review of The Conqueror coming soon), so Charity Girl is right up my alley.  I haven’t heard of The Dress Lodger before, but it sounds really good.  Many thanks to my Santa.:)

I also had fun playing SantaThing, too.  I selected The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  She likes a combination of literary and historical fiction, so The Monsters of Templeton was the first thing that came to my mind.  To fulfill her literary fiction needs, I thought the combination of F. Scott Fitzgerald and a current Brad Pitt movie would hit the spot.  I’m looking forward to reading that myself next year.

I think that SantaThing was a huge success and I’m looking forward to participating again next year.  For the LibraryThingers out there, did you participate?  If so, tell me all about your loot!

We’re All Sick and/or Tired

December 15, 2008 at 4:23 pm | Posted in Books, Family, LIfe, My Life with Books, Reading | 12 Comments
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Hello everyone.  I haven’t been very prolific in my blogging or my commenting this month because ever since Thanksgiving one or more of us have been sick.  Danny has been sick since Thanksgiving.  Allison has had a cold/congestion last week that kept Danny and I up a couple of hours a night for a few nights until we discovered that nasal spray helped her.  Then, I was off on Friday with Emma.  She had a temperature of 104, keeping us up a good part of the night Friday/Saturday.  Needless to say, I’m a bit exhausted and haven’t had much energy.  What time I do have I need to put into finishing my Christmas cards.  I make them by hand and I’m really under the gun to get them out by Wednesday.  Normally I have them out the first week of December…

I am currently reading The Conqueror by Georgette Heyer.  I’m enjoying it, but it’s not as compelling as The Reluctant Widow (although, it’s becoming more compelling as of what I read during my lunch break).  I was also able to finish The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones (I absolutely loved) and My Husband’s Sweethearts (enjoyable).  I’m hoping to have those reviews between now and Wednesday if I can.

I am feeling a whole lot better about my near fatal ARC pile up now that I’ve finished over half of those that I promised.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now and it feels good.  I’ve been peaking at what is ahead and I’m really excited.  The Triumph of Deborah is up next, followed by Tomato Girl.  Both of those novels read very well over the first few pages.

I recently found out about a fun Book Club application for Facebook.  I don’t know if any of you have Facebook accounts or not, but you might be interested in it, too.  I’ve been using it some over the weekend and enjoy it.  It allows users to create their own book clubs and I like how that is set up.  I think this might work a whole lot better than what we used for Immortal.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  I’m planning on starting a Historical Fiction book club.  I’ll post an update.  If anyone would like to add me as a friend on Facebook, my email address for that is speedhaven (at) gmail (dot) com.

As much as I love the holidays, I’m looking forward to the New Year and getting back into my blog and yours!

#128 ~ The Reluctant Widow

December 7, 2008 at 9:23 am | Posted in Books, Historical Fiction, Reading | 9 Comments
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The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer

Elinor Rochdale, the daughter of a disgraced member of the aristocracy, is headed by coach to a rural village where she has been offered a position as a governess for a wealthy family.  She is bored to tears by working as a governess, but since her father’s suicide, she has no other choice.  Her extended family has been less than gracious to her.  As she steps off the coach, a driver asks her if she is the one who answered the advertisement in the paper.  After she says yes, she is shuttled into a wonderfully luxurious carriage and taken quite a distance.  Although it is very cold outside, she is snug in the carriage and quite surprised that the family hiring her would go to such lengths to see that she arrives in comfort.  What is not yet known is that the driver was talking about an entirely different advertisement.  Mr. Carlyon  posted for a woman to marry his disreputable cousin, Eustace Cheviot.  This misunderstanding takes Elinor’s life into quite an unexpected and mysterious direction.

Carlyon, a wealthy landowner and Eustace’s reluctant guardian.  He is under suspicion of acting in his own best interests, not his cousin’s.  Because of Eustace’s near constant drunkenness and gambling problems, there wasn’t much in his estate that wasn’t owed to debtors.  Still, Eustace held title to Highnoons, an estate he inherited from his mother, that was near Carlyon’s own estate.  Highnoons was no price, however.  Eustace let it fall into disrepair just as he had his own young body.  As such, Carlyon was desperate to marry Eustace off, so that he would inherit nothing from the young man upon his death and thus be free of suspicion.  When Elinor walks into his home, he sees her as the answer to his situation and will not take no for an answer.  Despite her protests, Carlyon knew that she would accept his offer after he learned that she grew up in privilege.  He may have found an inheritor for Highnoons, but he did not gain the return to a more trouble-free life. Elinor proved to be a tough customer, not easily won over like most others.  Time and time again, Carlyon had to prove himself by her.

The Reluctant Widow is full of interesting characters, humor and farce.  Elinor is a strong woman who, despite everyone’s deference to Mr. Carlyon, tries to stand up to his requests.  She cannot understand why others, even those who have just met him, are so eager to follow his commands.  She enjoys the fight every bit as much as he does.  Nicky, Carlyon’s younger brother, and his dog Bouncer provide a lot of laughs as this young man tries clumsily to live up to his brother’s reputation.  I enjoyed watching Elinor’s relationship with Nicky grow throughout the novel.  Despite having married into the family only a few hours before becoming a widow, it is clear that Elinor was the right fit for that family.  Nicky needed her solid feminine influence just as much as she needed his company to keep from growing too morose and frightened over the situation at Highnoons.

This is the first novel I have read taking place in England’s Regency period and I absolutely loved it.  It would be the perfect book to get lost in while curled up in bed or on the couch.  I thought I was taking a chance on this book because I’m not one who normally reads books classified as historical romance.  I’m afraid I may have underestimated the genre.  Not all romances are equal and this is far from the a Harlequin title and more engaging to me than something by Danielle Steel.  After just one novel, I can see her quickly becoming one of my new favorite authors.  I am very excited that SourceBooks is reissuing many of Georgette Heyer’s 50+ novels.  If you haven’t read Georgette Heyer or would not normally pick up a historical romance, I strongly encourage you to give The Reluctant Widow a try.

This review is lovingly dedicated to Dewey, a woman who helped make the book blogging community what it is today.

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A special thanks to Bethany at B&b exlibris for designing this beautiful graphic.

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To buy this novel, click here.

The Sunday Salon ~ Savoring Reading

November 30, 2008 at 8:27 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe, Reading | 12 Comments
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The Sunday Salon.comHappy Sunday, everyone!  I hope that this post finds you fat and happy after a relaxing Thanksgiving weekend.  Thanksgiving was fun this year because both girls had an understanding of what it is about and actually wanted to watch the parade with us Thursday morning.  This also promises to be a fun Christmas as well.  Both girls are starting to get on pins and needles waiting for Santa.  I can’t wait until Christmas morning!  Something tells me they won’t be sleeping in again this year like they did last year.

Savoring Reading

I want to, but I don’t – at least not recently.  This hit home last night as I was finishing up The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer.  I thoroughly enjoyed my first Regency Romance, but as the back cover got closer and closer, my thoughts were already shifting to my Mining ARCs spreadsheet and the book I would be reading next.  When I finished the novel, there wasn’t a minute between putting The Reluctant Widow on my nightstand where it awaits my review (most likely Wednesday) and picking up The Front Porch Prophet by Raymond L. Atkins.  The reviews of this novel have been wonderful and I’ve really been enjoying the first 40 pages.  Still, I know that as I get closer to finishing it, I will start drifting toward whatever might be the next novel on my spreadsheet.  I just don’t like this.

This wasn’t how it always was.  I distinctly remember sitting back in my rocking chair holding my copy of Life of Pi to my chest after I finished it.  I played the novel back through my imagination, stopping from time to time to pick up on portions of Pi’s journey that I missed or overlooked during my reading.  The Monsters of Templeton, Wicked, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, The Last Queen, Gardens of Water, The Thirteenth Tale, The Other Boleyn Girl, Innocent Traitor, The Witch’s Trinity, The Gargoyle, and The Kite Runner had similar affects on me.  I even miss the reactions I’ve had with books I didn’t care for such as Perfect Match and Eat, Pray, Love.  At this point, I’m reading books as fast as I can to fill all of the obligations I’ve made since July.  There doesn’t seem to be room to fully appreciate a great book or get my dander up over a book that pisses me off.  There’s always that next book pushing its way into my consciousness like a permanent tooth unwilling to wait until the Tooth Fairy has been summoned.

Although I was a little blue about this last night, It has occurred to me that all is not lost until my spreadsheet is completed, though.  When I write my reviews, I am also savoring my books in a different way.  It takes me between one and two hours to write my reviews, and that is after a day or more thinking through what I want to say.  That might not feel as luxurious to me as I would like, but it is very much time spent reflecting on what I’ve read.  Between the time I finish my review of A Civil General and Wednesday, I’ll most certainly be reminising over old times with Elinor as I prepare for my review of The Reluctant Widow.  And let’s not forget that there is nothing stopping me for rereading the books I would have wanted to spend more time with after I’ve finished plowing through my ARCs.  That’s even something to look forward to, now isn’t it?

Have you been savoring any books recently?  I’d love to hear about your experiences.  I have no problem living vicariously through others…

Mailbox Monday on Tuesday

November 18, 2008 at 5:18 pm | Posted in Books | 13 Comments
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Last week was a wonderful week for Literate Housewife’s mailbox (front porch, actually).  It was a bonanza of wonderful books and was by far the most exciting mail week I’ve had since I started my blog.  So, what was it that makes me so excited?  Take a look:

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The Reluctant Widow and The Conqueror by Georgette Heyer ~ sent by Sourcebooks
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The ENTIRE Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer ~ won as part of Maw Books’ month long awareness campaign for Darfur and sent to me by Hatchette Book Group.  I cannot tell you how left out I’ve felt about this from day one.  Now I can hardly wait to make it through my existing ARCs so I can dive on in.  With the movie, I’m having a hard time not scrapping everything and reading Twilight

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford and signed by the author (!) ~ won from Marcia’s contest (lucky, lucky me!!!).  Marcia’s review is wonderful and I cannot wait (again).

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The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones ~ snagged as part October’s Early Reviewer from LibraryThing.  It’s been at least 5 months since I snagged my last book, but in October I hit the jackpot – and it was completely accidental.  Given the number of ARCs I have, I only picked a couple historical fiction looking books in October and almost didn’t.  When I requested The Jewel of Medina, I didn’t connect it at all to the controversy earlier this year when Random House decided to pull this book for fear of offending Muslims.  Now, published by Beaufort Books, I can see what the entire stir was about.  Yeah!

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