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Apr 27, 2011

In the Footsteps of Elizabeth I: Margaret George Does Dallas!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Ok, well she DID do Dallas. I had the fabulous opportunity of meeting with Margaret George after her Arts  & Letters Live lecture that was held at the Dallas Museum in April for her Elizabeth I: A Novel tour. You can read my review of Elizabeth I here. I loved the book, and I was so thrilled that she was coming to Dallas. Margaret is very sweet in person, and her lecture spoke of her writing processes as well as her main character, Elizabeth. This couldn't come at a better time for me personally, as I feel I have now read so much on Elizabeth from non-fiction to fiction that I have a firm grasp of her character.

Yet, as Margaret suggested, there is always something intangible about Elizabeth, something vague that a reader always struggles to capture. But can a writer capture that? I believe Margaret rounded out Elizabeth's story very well for me, especially since the novel focused on the later years of her reign. Most of the reads I came across would focus on Elizabeth's lusty father and all of his wives, and if it focused on Elizabeth there were always scenes regarding Thomas Seymour or Robert Dudley. This time around, we had Dudley's step-son, the Earl of Essex as a leading character along with Lettice Knollys who is also a favorite Tudor of mine.
Margaret's lecture was titled "In the Footsteps on Queen Elizabeth I: Adventures In Research". She shared with us her experiences of becoming a writer, and her research tactics. She didn't have scholarly training as a writer, but she had great fortune to live in foreign places as a child due to father's career. Living in places like Israel, she felt very close to history as a child living next to places where historic events occurred. Her school in Jaffa, The Tabitha School, was run by strict Scottish missionaries, and was supposedly the place where St. Peter raised the little girl Tabitha who had died also known as Dorcas. She said she came from a bookish family, where her father had Ph.D. in 18th century literature and her mother taught high school English, and they all liked to read. She started writing as a hobby when she was young, from stories about horses to teenage stories as something that she did for her own pleasure. Only once she decided to write Henry VIII's story is when she became focused on her writing. Margaret wanted to introduce a young Henry to readers, when at that time there was not a lot about the young Henry as opposed to the monstrous traits that some writers focus on. Although Margaret has given us the story of Henry VIII, Mary Queen of Scots and now Elizabeth, we won't be seeing a book on Mary Tudor anytime soon from Margaret. She feels Mary's life is just so full of depressing events and it would just be sad to delve into her story.

Margaret went on to discuss her research process of reading books for research, making notations (in pencil!) in the margins, and then writing separate index cards categorized by topic. She showed us an example of an index card for her research on Elizabeth's progresses where Margaret made notes of what book referred to which progress in which year and what unique fact she learned that could be incorporated into her developing story. Elizabeth used these progresses as a bit of PR, and she liked to do them during the summer. It was very interesting to see how Margaret detailed out the pages numbers of which book to get herself organized to store facts such as how far a progress went and how long it was. Once upon a time, she used to write her huge books by hand! She also discussed the merits of first person versus third person point of views and how she used those in her books.

When Margaret is done with the actual researching of books and filling in index cards, she prefers to go to the actual places in her story. She visited the sites of Elizabeth just as she did for her previous books. At this point in the lecture, Margaret held up an Elizabeth tea cosy (audience laughed when Margaret was poking around under the tea cosy), showing how some of the royal figures in history get reduced to such a thing, but yet we still have no idea of who Elizabeth was. She really feels like the only way to get a glimpse of what's inside her character's heads is to be put in that setting of which they lived. Elizabeth left almost no private letters, and her poetry that is attributed to her cannot actually be authenticated.  We get nuances of Elizabeth through the contemporaries, but Elizabeth controlled her image as much as she could, as well as controlling what portraits were commissioned of her.

Margaret also discussed the outlook Elizabeth may have had on her beheaded mother, Anne Boleyn. She showed us a photo of the ring Elizabeth had commissioned which features both the portraits of Anne and Elizabeth. Even though she didn't attempt to rehabilitate Anne's reputation, she clearly had some bond or love of her mother simply for the fact that she wore that ring. And her father.. well, what do you do when your father beheads your mother? (More audience laughter). Elizabeth learned much from her father's reign, and she learned early on regarding the dangers of being close to the throne. Margaret shows us a portrait of Elizabeth when she was about thirteen years old, and how it was abundant with books. Did she want to portray the fact that she was a harmless bookworm, with no ambitions of the throne for herself, especially being third in line to the throne? It certainly was a clue that she was someone to not be tossed off as a silly girl. Further portraits of Elizabeth were always heavy with symbols, many dealing with purity and virginity.

The Ermine Portrait, 1585

An intriguing fact of Elizabeth is the fact that she was the Virgin Queen. Margaret discusses how Elizabeth wouldn't marry someone among her subjects (Dudley), which leads to rivalry and maybe riots. Yet, why didn't she want to marry to merge with another foreign power? She knew that to do so, England would be put at risk after her death. She also didn't want to share her status as Queen and give off any power to a consort which would breed discontent just as Philip of Spain did when he married Elizabeth's sister, Mary I. At the time, sexual relations conferred a legal status of a relationship, thus compromising her royal sovereignty. Margaret goes further into the speculations of the marriage negotiations, and the psychological reasons behind Elizabeth's refusal to marry. As popular story goes, King Henry IV of France reportedly said that Elizabeth's maidenhead was one of the three great mysteries of his day. He did not say what the other two were!  The audience loved this little story!

Margaret talked about the major crises or her reign: Mary Queen of Scots, the Armada, and the Earl of Essex. Elizabeth was not a vicious ruler like that of her father. She didn't want to execute Mary Queen of Scots or the Earl, but only did so when she had no other choice when they threatened Elizabeth's crown. An interesting fact Margaret offered is that Essex was the last nobleman to actually challenge the crown thereafter. Elizabeth's reign did not encompass many notable positive changes or events such as the Magna Carta, yet she goes down in history as a much loved monarch.

Elizabeth loved controlling her image such as her orchestration of the famous scene of addressing her troops wearing her virginal white dress as well as a breast plate. If anyone missed the speech she wrote, Elizabeth made sure it was copied and distributed throughout the land. Margaret shows us some portraits as well as her funeral effigy. The effigy was probably made from her death mask and the closest we would come to an accurate image of her, as she was not around to make sure it make her look young and vibrant.

After discussing Elizabeth, the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions of Margaret George. She told us that she is studying Nero for her next book, as she loves larger than life characters, and it takes about five years for her books to shape out. So we'll have quite a wait, yet that gives me the chance to read the rest of Margaret George's books. I think I will start with Mary Magdalene..

Margaret George signing, & me, being ecstatic.
Of course, after the lecture, I was able to get my books signed by Margaret George! I apologize for the yucky photos, iPhones are not the best cameras.. but here I am with Margaret George! She personalized and autographed the books, and she was such a pleasure to meet. She was extremely gracious, especially by scoring me those wonderful front row seats at the Dallas Museum. I was honored to be escorted by my mum who puts up with my bookish pursuits and gets to read my books sometimes before I do! Thank you to Margaret George for giving me memories to treasure for a lifetime!
Front row reserved seats for me! Squee!!

Apr 25, 2011

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson, a debut novel of postwar England

Monday, April 25, 2011

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Penguin/Viking/Pamela Dorman Books (April 28, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-0670022632
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating: Four Stars

A tour de force that echoes modern classics like Suite Francaise and The Postmistress.

"Housekeeper or housewife?" the soldier asks Silvana as she and eight- year-old Aurek board the ship that will take them from Poland to England at the end of World War II. There her husband, Janusz, is already waiting for them at the little house at 22 Britannia Road. But the war has changed them all so utterly that they'll barely recognize one another when they are reunited. "Survivor," she answers.

Silvana and Aurek spent the war hiding in the forests of Poland. Wild, almost feral Aurek doesn't know how to tie his own shoes or sleep in a bed. Janusz is an Englishman now-determined to forget Poland, forget his own ghosts from the way, and begin a new life as a proper English family. But for Silvana, who cannot escape the painful memory of a shattering wartime act, forgetting is not a possibility.

One of the most searing debuts to come along in years, 22 Britannia Road
Light, witty, fun and entertaining this is not. Provocative, emotive and despairing it is. 22 Britannia Road follows the effects of World War II on a wife and husband who were apart for six years because of the war. Silvana and Janusz were newlyweds in Poland when Janusz goes to become a soldier, and both meet up with horrific circumstances that are beyond their control. Silvana and her son Aurek survive in the forest, making acquaintances along the way, and Janusz travels throughout Europe during the war. The novel is more character driven and not focused on the details of the war, but it was a backdrop for why these two were put in the position they were in.

Finally the two reconnect and attempt to rebuild their lives in Ipswich, England. Silvana is no longer the svelte redhead, but a gray haired mess who lived on twigs and bugs for the last six years. Their son Aurek is not quite the social butterfly. The family needs to adjust to each other, to England, and communicate through the secrets that have built walls between them. The novel's title is the address of the house that Janusz buys in England, hoping for a renewed life as an English family with English roses. They have pleasant neighbors, Janusz works hard at his job, and there should be no issues. However, there are secrets that they both keep, and the boy himself creates a lot of havoc as he doesn't fit it in at school and is not used to sharing his mother with anyone. A fantastic feature to the present story is the back and forth between time lines of the struggles during the war from each of Janusz's and Silvana's viewpoints. Sometimes this switching back and forth becomes jarring, but the author did it so well and cohesively as the underlying tone of each chapter merged with the next, it was a seamless transition.

Not just about the themes of love, friendship and loyalty, it holds the darkness of secrets and the quiet tremors of fear of one's future. The novel, along with its beautiful cover, brings about a sense of hope along with the silent plea for normalcy after such a horrific time. They all just want to be a family, but there are more than just emotional scars that hinder their progress. Laced with suspense as we watch the characters develop and self-destruct, 22 Brittania Road is a formidable page-turning debut novel that tugs at your heartstrings.

The publisher is generously offering one lucky follower their own copy of 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson!
To enter, leave a comment with your email address.
For extra entries, (+1) tweet this post, or (+1) facebook the link.
Open to USA, ends May 2nd. Good luck!

Apr 17, 2011

Rivals in the Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rivals in the Tudor Court (Tudor Court 2) by D.L. Bogdan
Kensington Paperback April 26, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0758242006
Review copy provided by the author, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating: 4 stars
The death toll in Henry VIII's England can be counted in the thousands. No one was more aware of this than Thomas Howard, third duke of Norfolk. Relying on his indomitable force of will, cleverness, and sheer good fortune, Thomas Howard manages to be one of the king's only intimates to survive an unforgettable reign of terror. This impeccably researched companion piece to "Secrets of the Tudor Court" chronicles the ambitious duke's life, loves, and remarkable capacity to endure. Before he was the king's uncle, before he was his nieces' ultimate betrayer, Thomas Howard was a hostage at the court of Henry VII while his father was imprisoned in the dreaded Tower of London. There he would marry the queen's sister, his forever princess Anne Plantagenet. While he founded a dynasty, his career as soldier and sailor brought him acclaim and the trust of the Tudors. But when unspeakable tragedy robs him of family and fortune, Thomas must begin again. Abandoning notions of love, Thomas seeks out an advantageous match with the fiery Elizabeth Stafford, daughter of the duke of Buckingham. Clever, willful, and uncompromising in principle, the young duchess falls victim to a love she cannot deny. When Thomas takes on a mistress, the vulnerable Bess Holland, Duchess Elizabeth prepares to fight for all she holds dear. Only then does she learn she faces a force darker than anything she could ever have imagined, an obsessive love that neither she nor Bess can rival.
Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, was a key player both behind the scenes and not-so-behind the scenes during Henry VIII's reign. Tudor fans recognize his name as the one responsible for putting his two nieces under the King's nose, ripe for the plucking. After Henry tired of mistresses Mary Boleyn and Bessie Blount, Thomas saw that Henry had eyes for Mary Boleyn's sister, Anne. And of course the rest is history.. Anne becomes queen, fails to give Henry the male heir and is summarily executed on trumped up charges of adultery. Another niece becomes available, Kitty Howard, who moves on become another Queen Catherine to King Henry.

But who was this man, the formidable Thomas Norfolk? Behind the political movements and shrewd judgement, he is one powerful noble who managed to escape the axe, although he came close and was saved by Henry's death alone. In D.L. Bogdan's previous book, Secrets of the Tudor Court, Thomas's daughter Mary Howard was the focus of the story but the story held frightening glimpses of Thomas himself, who is better known simply as Norfolk.

Why did he seem to be so cruel to his family? He beat his wife, his children, and paid his servants to do it some more. Not a very likable creature indeed, and D.L. Bogdan take us back to Thomas's beginning as a child struggling to make up for his short stature. His desire to be the best soldier earns him recognition, and Queen Catherine of Aragon favors him as well as King Henry does. He always wants more though, and he brings his family down whomever stands in his way.

Bogdan brings us the story of Thomas as he becomes more and more powerful, while also looking at the women in his life. We are treated to a never before seen look at Thomas Howard as he is undeniably happy with his first wife Anne Plantagenet until tragedy strikes again and again. The hardened man takes another wife with Elizabeth Stafford and we hope that perhaps he can come full circle, but he becomes more and more hateful, especially as he takes on a mistress, Bess Holland. We get the point of views of Thomas, his wife Elizabeth, and his mistress Bess, as they all struggle to maintain their wicked triangle of love and hate in Thomas's cruel world. With the intermingling of their lives, Bogdan presents a page turning story of loyalty, treachery and ambition giving us the Tudor flair that fans love.

Apr 13, 2011

Finding Emilie: Guest Post by Laurel Corona

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
The following is an article written by author Laurel Corona, who has recently published her newest novel, Finding Emilie (4/12/2011), which I consumed in a weekend and loved. Emilie sounds like such a magnificent lady-- charming, scientific, exhibitionist, Voltaire's lover...

Finding Emilie, by Laurel Corona
Emilie du Châtelet: Physicist and Party Girl

The Marquise du Chatelet’s parlor at her husband’s ancestral home in Cirey looked in many respects like that of any other aristocrat. The banquettes were plush, the chairs ornately carved, the tea and liqueurs beautifully arrayed in Sevres porcelain cups and tinted crystal glasses, the cakes and pastries freshly baked by the servants in the basement kitchen.

Only one thing was unique: in the center of the parlor, with chairs arrayed around, was a bathtub--a bathtub with Emilie in it, happily chatting away with her guests while clothed only in a diamond necklace and a silk chemise, transparent when wet. When her water cooled, a manservant recalled in his memoir, he would bring hot water and pour it between her parted knees, which revealed, in his words, “all her nature.”

Well, why not? Emilie du Chatelet was brilliant at everything, but was best at two things: knowing what she wanted, and getting it. From the age of ten she used her prodigious mathematical intelligence to beat adults at cards at the salons, then taught herself math and science from the books she bought with her winnings. As a young wife and mother, she occasionally cross-dressed to go to scientific meetings forbidden to women. When she wanted to learn to sing, she hired one of the voice teachers at the Comedie Italienne as her private tutor, learning whole lead soprano roles by heart even if she would never sing on stage.

Vivacious, irrepressible, charming, and daring, Emilie blazed through the world of Louis XV’s France, but her corset, wig, and panniers hid the most incredible thing about her: her first-rate scientific mind. Emilie du Chatelet used her privileged life to become one of the most important women of science not just in her era but in any. The fact that she is not a household word has far more to say about others than it does about her.

Believing until her thirties that her studies were just for curiosity and that she would never amount to anything as a scientist, she spent years helping her lover, Voltaire, conduct scientific experiments and write a work on Newton which he claimed as his own work. Voltaire had no particular aptitude for such work, but he wanted a seat in the French Academy of Science as a complement to his fame as France’s preeminent man of letters. He never got close. Today, it’s commonly believed that any solid, original thinking in Voltaire’s scientific works is attributable to Emilie.

A prize offered by the Academy of Sciences for the best paper on the nature of fire caused Emilie to break away scientifically from Voltaire and submit her own paper anonymously. She did not win, but received an honorable mention and the unusual acclaim of having her paper published alongside the winner--an indication that the only reason she had not won was because the Academy was unprepared to give the prize to a woman.

She continued a dual life of courtly obligations and scientific work into her early forties, when at the unheard-of age of forty-three, she got pregnant by a dashing young soldier- poet, with whom she had a passionate affair.

Premonitions of death in childbirth caused Emilie to work at a breakneck pace on her most important work, a translation of Newton’s Principia Mathematica. But hers was no mere translation. Few could comprehend Newton’s work, so Emilie rewrote it in French that scientists could understand. She also wrote commentaries to explain and expand upon Newton’s points, and in places where Newton had not presented adequate mathematical proof, Emilie figured out what those proofs would be and supplied the equations. Her translation of Newton’s Principia is still, 250 years later, the standard one used in France.

Unfortunately, Emilie’s premonitions turned out to be true. After an uneventful labor and delivery, she died six days after the birth of a daughter, Stanislas-Adelaide, probably of an embolism.

My novel is about finding Emilie on many levels. First, I “found” her and wanted to tell her story. But the book is less about her than her daughter. Effectively orphaned, Lili (as the girl is known) grows up, at least in my imagination, as unusual and independent of mind as the scandalous woman who bore her. Reaching her teens, Lili’s world closes around her as an impending loveless marriage threatens to take away her independence of spirit and dreams for her future. Believing that learning about her mother may point the way for her own life, she sets out to find Emilie for herself. Last, readers will find Emilie through the real-life scenes that appear between the chapters.

Welcome to 2011, Madame la Marquise! A more appreciative world awaits.
Thanks to Laurel Corona for providing her with this piece! Her books can be found at online retailers at the following links:
Barnes and Noble
Book Depository

The Burton Review posted a review of Finding Emilie here, and the author's previous release Penelope's Daughter here. Visit more articles by Laurel Corona here and here.

Apr 11, 2011

Finding Emilie by Laurel Corona

Monday, April 11, 2011

Paperback, Simon & Schuster, April 12, 2011
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars
Woman is born free, and everywhere she is in corsets. . . .

Lili du Chatelet yearns to know more about her mother, the brilliant French mathematician Emilie. But the shrouded details of Emilie's unconventional life—and her sudden death—are elusive. Caught between the confines of a convent upbringing and the intrigues of the Versailles court, Lili blossoms under the care of a Parisian salonniere as she absorbs the excitement of the Enlightenment, even as the scandalous shadow of her mother's past haunts her and puts her on her own path of self-discovery.

Laurel Corona's breathtaking new novel, set on the eve of the French Revolution, vividly illuminates the tensions of the times, and the dangerous dance between the need to conform and the desire to chart one's own destiny and journey of the heart.
Finding Emilie is about a young lady, Lili, looking to replace the void that was created within her as her mother, Emilie, passes away soon after Lili's birth and her father wants nothing to do with her. It starts off with a group of letters which sets the scene for how Lili came to be and for a bit of characterization of the supporting figures that are in her life.

Lili grows up with Delphine and is treated as part of the family under Madame de Bercy's roof, and where she is allowed to cultivate the spirit and inquisitive nature that she inherited from her scientific mother. The setting is the Enlightenment age of France, even though Voltaire's wild views were ridiculed by the French government. Lili and Delphine prosper under Delphine's mother's watchful but tolerant care, and eventually the two realize they must part and make good marriages. What comes next is the proverbial race to the finish line, hoping against hope the two girls will be able to make marriages that are both advantageous and amenable at the same time.

Much like the stories that I grew up with, there is a lot of wishful thinking and fairy-tale whimsies so typical in young girls, but I loved the way it was told. I was totally immersed in the character of Lili, even though it was told in third person I felt very close to her throughout Lili's story of self-discovery. Even though there were a lot of scientific references as Lili explored flowers under microscopes and thought about philosophies, I was not put off with the amount of it. I must have felt I was close to discovering the meaning of the universe right along with Lili.

A strong feature of the novel were the very characters, from the boys to the men and the servants in the many grand houses that were frequented. There were balls and the queen, and Voltaire, too. I loved feeling like I was whisked away to another time, as author Laurel Corona captured the essence of her characters with exquisite detail, making me feel like I had lost a friend when I concluded the novel. I was not disillusioned at all with the fact that the novel focused more on the character of Lili rather than solely on the historical details of the pre-revolutionary France, as I did not pick up the book with any expectations of the latter. By doing so, I was taken by surprise with how Laurel Corona's writing immediately drew me into her reimagined world of the daughter of Emilie du Châtelet and the story of her coming of age. Finding Emilie goes easily on my favorites of 2011 list.

Apr 8, 2011

Wickham's Diary by Amanda Grange

Friday, April 08, 2011
Wickham's Diary by Amanda Grange
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (April 1, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-1402251863
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating: 4 stars
This prequel to Pride and Prejudice begins with George Wickham at age 12, handsome and charming but also acutely aware that his friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, is rich, whilst he is poor. His mother encourages him to exercise his charm on the young Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh in the hopes of establishing a stable of wealthy social connections.

 At university, Darcy and Wickham grow apart. Wickham is always drinking and wenching, whilst Darcy, who apparently has everything, is looking for something he cannot find. Wickham runs through the money Darcy gives him and then takes up with the scandalous Belle, a woman after Wickham's own greedy, black heart.
Wickham's Diary is a quick little foray into Austen's famous Pride and Prejudice characters and is worth each little page it is printed on. It can be seen as a sort of prequel to P&P from wicked Wickham's point of view as he grows more and more jealous of the brooding Darcy. Everything Wickham has he owes to the elder Mr Darcy's generosity, yet George Wickham had known from the start that he must marry an heiress in order to sustain his lifestyle. Not a very likable character is he, but a fun read nonetheless as I really enjoyed the inside look at George as he schemes for his fortune.

The best part of the story was learning the background of George's parents, and I loved the character of his mother. Our favorite Darcy himself is not a big feature, as this novella is written diary style through Wickham and speaks of how annoyed Wickham is with Darcy. Georgiana is indeed a more featured character as George sets his sights on her, and I really wish the ending hadn't ended the way it had because it felt like there was a lot more to occur at that particular moment. There was no real sense of closure, but perhaps the author was leaving that up to Austen's Pride and Prejudice itself. Also, one must take into account this is a novella, and was seemingly meant as a explanatory precursor to the wild antics of George Wickham in Pride and Prejudice. I enjoyed it very much, and would have loved to have read it as an in depth novel. Grange's writing is perfect for evoking Austenesque tones and I look forward to perusing her backlist such as Mr. Darcy's Diary: A Novel, Captain Wentworth's Diary and Colonel Brandon's Diary.

Apr 5, 2011

It's April 5, Everyone!! Updates and housekeeping (ugh!)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011
What a great day it is today!! April 5 is my son's 4th birthday!! Happy Birthday to my little Oliver.. he was much wished for and I couldn't have asked for a little boy more perfect than my little guy. Oliver's big sister is pretty special too, and we are going to Chuck E Cheese.. the mother of all Kids Fun places, as it is always picked by the kiddos for their birthday celebrations. Since my stepdaughter is almost 17, I feel like I've been going to Chuck E Cheese's for quite a few years. Now I feel old.

Another fabulous reason for April 5 being a great day is that two of the favorite books that I've read this year are being released!!

TO BE QUEEN by Christy English... And you can enter right here to win your own copy of this great story of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Two lucky winners, plus it's an international giveaway! I highly recommend this title, and you can see my review by clicking here!

Elizabeth I: A Novel by Margaret George (click for review).. another huge chunky book but I loved every page of it! This is a fabulous book and I am looking forward to reading her backlist after this reading experience. And I get to meet the author tomorrow night at the Arts and Letters Live Lecture at the Dallas Museum!!

If you are in the Dallas area, you won't want to miss this chance to learn about Margaret's research on one of our favorite historical figures. Rest assured, I will be posting all about my experience, I am so excited to meet her!!

And as a side note, some not-so-nice person decided to open apparently a fake wordpress blog called The Burton Review, using my old domain which I lost several months ago due to Google technical errors. It has been a nightmare, and I almost wanted to give up the blog altogether I have been so frustrated with these domain issues.

So now when I am googled as The Burton Review, that fake site comes up. GRRR!! In an effort to not have another fake site pop up, I have again purchased another domain, but the blogspot domain will auto-direct you to the current site, thankfully. When you have time, update your bookmarks and links to and I would really appreciate it so very much. The more times Burton Book Review gets googled and clicked hopefully it will knock out the old domain off its pedestal as top of the list. Which I loved being top of the list back when it was mine! Again, another GRRR.

If you are a new linker, and would like an  updated button, please use the button below. I have made it a little smaller than the previous button, so if it is on your sidebar this one may fit better anyway. Let this be a warning to others.. purchase the variants of your "trade name" if possible as far as .net and .org etc because this has been a headache.

And on yet another frustrating note, for those who subscribe to this feed via Google Friend Connect, I have no idea why but the feed may not be updating in Google Reader. If you can, I would appreciate it if you signed up to receive my posts via email instead of relying on the google reader, which hasn't updated in a month for me, but it did for one of my followers (confused!). On the top left hand corner of my sidebar, you can sign up to receive the emailed updates. I have a sneaky suspicion that my traffic has dwindled because of the stupid google reader not updating.

If you do use Google Reader, you need to hit the link under the Email Subscribe, and subscribe in a reader..
Subscribe to The Burton Review and once your are there click ADD SUBSCRIPTION.
That should update your feed to your google reader since I just set that one up. Definitely the most sure-fire way to receive my posts would be the Email Direct feature, but it couldn't hurt to try both. Annoyance, right? Why does Google make everything so difficult?!

In case blogspot users weren't aware (I wasn't till today).. there is a spot on the Settings for Email & Mobile. Once you find that page from your dashboard, you can select the option to convert your pages to Mobile-friendly on mobile devices. This is a feature that I think everyone should use.. especially those blogs like mine that are heavy on the graphics, and it makes the mobile surfer much happier to be able to see your actual content much better. There are some bloggers who don't realize that their text doesn't show up on mobile devices because your backgrounds don't show up. For one particular blog I attempted to visit on the mobile phone there is a white background and white text... makes it kind of difficult to read it.

The NEW button!
HAVE I LOST YOU YET?! HANG ON!! Onwards to happier things...I wanted to direct you to a new spot on HF Connection which features a guest post from book/author publicist Diane Saarinen whom many of my fellow book bloggers may have worked with before. Diane would love to see some of your thoughts on the topic of Pitching Book Bloggers. She mentioned one of my pet peeves how authors out of the blue tell me when they want me to run a review, even though they have never read my review policy. They don't seem to realize that we book bloggers take time out of her personal lives to offer our book reviews, and many of us work full time and have families to take care of first. Before I go crazy venting here..hop on over to Historical Fiction Connection and join in on the discussion. You also have the opportunity to purchase her newest ebook on Pitching Book Bloggers, and if you are a book blogger you can get it free.

Happy April 5th everyone, Happy Birthday to my crazy Oliver, and Happy Release Day to Christy English and Margaret George!!

Apr 1, 2011

To Be Queen by Christy English

Friday, April 01, 2011

To Be Queen by Christy English
Paperback, 400 pages
April 5th 2011; NAL Trade
ISBN13 978-045123230
Review Copy provided by the author, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating: 4.5 stars

Christy English's second novel brings us her favorite protagonist of Eleanor of Aquitaine. English's previous work of last year, The Queen's Pawn, focused on the relationship between Eleanor and her ward, Alais, who was purpoted to be a mistress of Eleanor's second husband. For this novel, the author steps even further back in time to bring us a prequel to the tumultuous marriage of Eleanor and Henry and brings us the early years of Eleanor as she sows the seeds of ultimate strength and power as only she could.

Eleanor was a woman brought up to believe in herself and Aquitaine as her legacy, above all things. As she recognizes that her dream of becoming a Queen of France was not as fruitful as she would have imagined, she begins to realize that being Queen alongside the pious King Louis was only holding her back. We are always hurried through this marriage to France with our previous Eleanor reads, but now the author takes the time to reimagine this time of Eleanor's life and attempts to prove just how worthy of a woman Eleanor truly was.

Louis wasn't that man to make Eleanor be all that she knew she could be.. and the vassals and priests of Louis' court weren't about to make her feel welcome. Eleanor is unfulfilled in many ways, and the lack of a son and heir for France finally gives Eleanor a way out of the marriage. As that is the simply put timeline of Eleanor's marriage to Louis, the author weaves for us an incredible journey of passion, power, manipulation, lust and greed into a compelling story of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Before the infamous devil's brood, before Henry II locked the scheming Eleanor away, the author gives us the glimpse into the woman that always knew she was destined for the greatest things.

The author's prose drew me in in the beginning, and I was very impressed with how the story had moved along with its atmospheric tones. Towards the end, though, I admit to being tired of the romps in the gardens of Persian roses.. the author takes several liberties with the fiction part but you need to take it as a whole package and simply embrace it. Although the first half seemed stronger than the last, I still enjoyed the entire book immensely and can appreciate the strength and will power of Eleanor that Christy English successfully portrays through To Be Queen. I can also appreciate the rare look at the early life of Eleanor, which is often rushed through. Eleanor's sister Petra is featured somewhat, as well as Louis VII in all his pious inadequacies, but we also have Amaria who is seemingly the most loyal servant and helpful person to Eleanor throughout. The court of love that Eleanor is famous for is also a theme in this story which helps flesh out the character of Eleanor as she strives to maintain her sense of loyalty to her family name and her homeland. Of all the amazing things that Eleanor has done in her life, the fact that she was a queen twice is pretty significant, as well as the fact that barons of Aquitaine swore allegiance to her as a young woman. That Eleanor of Aquitaine is a legend in her own right is a wonderful excuse for women to feel more empowered after reading of all that she accomplished and endured.

If you are looking to either aquaint yourself with Eleanor or if you consider yourself well-versed on her life, I would recommend Christy English's passionate novel on Eleanor which offers a look into the beginnings of the Queen like no other novel before her. You can start with both of English's novels on Eleanor, and I then suggest you move on Sharon Kay Penman and read the trilogy that begins with When Christ and His Saints Slept which will bring you deeper into the history of England following the steps that start with the usurper King Stephen and end many years later with Eleanor's youngest son King John (of Elizabeth Chadwick fame).