Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!!!

Wishing you a rainbow
For sunlight after showers—
Miles and miles of Irish smiles
For golden happy hours—
Shamrocks at your doorway
For luck and laughter too,
And a host of friends that never ends
Each day your whole life through!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Review & Blog Tour: The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen

"Will I ever understand the workings of the human heart? Will I ever know why we so often love those whom we cannot possess, and why we do not cherish those whose love we do possess? We are as thistledown twitching and turning in the current, captives to feelings we cannot control. How are we to understand those persons who mean the most to us when we cannot truly understand our own blind and hapless selves?"

Sofonisba Anguissola

Lynn Cullen's novel, The Creation of Eve, tells the story of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first gifted female painter of the Renaissance. She studied with Michelangelo and her work was noted in her own time in The Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari, but she has largely been forgotten by the modern world.

Early in her life, Sofi displayed a talent for drawing. Her father, a printer and bookseller, defied convention and encouraged her to develop her gift. Painting, at the time, was a pastime for men, like most other activities. So his support was crucial for her success. She was invited by renowned artist Michelangelo to study with him after he saw one of her sketches. While in Rome, she meets Tiberio Calcogni, another student of Michelangelo's. She falls in love with him but their single assignation is discovered. She flees for her home in Cremona, fearing the consequences.

She hopes to hear an offer of marriage from Tiberio, but none is made. In order to save her own reputation and that of her family, Sofi accepts a position as lady-in-waiting to King Philip of Spain's third wife, Elisabeth of Valois. Doing so requires her to give up her dream of becoming a master painter. (Employees of the king are not allowed to sign their work. Sofi's portraits done after her arrival in Spain are unsigned, resulting in confusion and mis-attribution of her work to contemporary male artists.)

King Philip had been married twice before (most notably to Mary Tudor of England) and widowed twice. His ambition to marry Elizabeth I of England after the death of her sister has come to nothing. So, he is in his early thirties when he marries Elisabeth of Valois, daughter of Catherine de Medici of France. She is just fourteen years old.

Elisabeth of Valois

Sofi grows to love the young, impetuous Queen. But she is increasingly troubled by Elisabeth's developing interest in the King's half brother, Don Juan. The relationship between the King and Queen is often strained. He is saddled with the enormous task of running an empire that spreads over most of Europe. He does not have the youth or glamour of Don Juan and can't take the time to try to truly win the heart of his wife. The result is a love triangle that can never result in a happy ending. Sofi can only be there for the Queen and do her best to lessen the friction that exists between the three.

King Philip II of Spain

When Sofi eventually hears the fate of Michelangelo and her beloved Tiberio, she is devastated. But she cannot afford to show her pain and grief, the inquisition is in full swing. And though she is only a lady-in-waiting, she has developed enemies. She will have to tread carefully to emerge successfully from the embroiled court of Philip II.

Lynn Cullen

This is historical fiction at its best! Fascinating real life characters with life breathed into them by a talented writer with a gift for imagining the possibilities so well that the story feels not only possible, but probable. I loved Sofi and her story and appreciated a look at Philip of Spain that was not through the eyes of any of the Tudors. A lovely book, vividly imagined, full of rich history. I loved it and highly recommend it!

All of the paintings displayed on this page were painted by Sofonisba Anguissola.

For more information about the author and her books, please visit her website. You can also see more of Sofi's paintings at Lynn's website, click here.

The Creation of Eve is published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, ISBN 978-0-399-15510-6.

Many thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing my review copy! You can see all the other stops on the blog tour here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review & Giveaway: Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein

For the past two years, Jenna Rosen's life has been in a tailspin. A terrible accident while on a family vacation to Alaska resulted in the drowning of Jenna's only child, six year old Bobby. Though Jenna's husband, Robert, seems to have gotten past the grief and pain, she has not been able to do the same. Therapy, medication, alcohol...she has tried them all and is still in a fog.

Enduring another boring party business party of Robert's is the last straw, Jenna has to get away. She takes the car and leaves, driving north from Seattle, and finds herself unable to stop. When she reaches Bellingham she finds herself at the Alaska ferry station. Impulsively, she buys a ticket, deciding to visit Wrangell, the town where her Native American grandmother lived and died. She pushes from her mind the fact that Wrangell is only a few miles from where Bobby drowned.

From the moment she arrives in Wrangell, strange things start to happen to Jenna. As she teases out the meaning of her strange dreams and odd happenings, an unbelievable story starts to emerge. The Kushtaka, spirits of the local Native American tribe, the Tlingit, are legendary for their collection of human souls, usually those who have drowned. The soul is then trapped with the Kushtaka and cannot rest. The more Jenna hears about this story, the more convinced she is that Bobby has been taken and must be helped to escape the Kushtaka so that he can be at peace. For help she turns to Eddie, a wounded fisherman who takes Jenna into his home and David, a Shaman who has had previous experience with the Kushtaka. They are all skeptical, it is a leap of faith for all concerned.

This is a story with a familiar theme, the loss of a child and the path of the parent to survival afterward. But the mystical quality of Garth Stein's tale makes it unique and special, bringing centuries old myth into the modern world. At times chilling, haunting and touching, Raven Stole the Moon is an emotional journey readers won't want to miss.

Garth Stein is also the author of the widely acclaimed novel,The Art of Racing in the Rain. For more information about all of his books, please visit his website.

Raven Stole the Moon is published by Harper Collins, ISBN 978-0-06-180638-4

I really enjoyed this unconventional novel, would you like to win a copy? Just leave me a comment here with your email address. You must enter by midnight eastern time on March 20 and you must have a US or Canada mailing address. Winner will be drawn at random and notified via email. Many thanks to Sarah at Terra Communications for providing my review copy and the one for the giveaway!!

Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

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Thank you to Beth at Beth Fish Reads and to The Blogger Guide for helping me to customize my template and to Andrea at The Little Bookworm for improving my header!!

About Me

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.