Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book Review #20 The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner

The Tudor Secret
by C.W. Gortner

Genre: Historical Fiction / Romance / Mystery / Espionage
Ages: 15 and up

Brendan Prescott is a foundling of unknown birth. Raised by the Dudley family, he is a lot smarter than most give him credit for. At the age of twenty, he is sent to the court of Edward VI to serve as the squire of Robert Dudley. Edward VI is ill, probably dying, and his sister Elizabeth Tudor has come without permission to visit him. From the first moment Brendan set eyes on her face and she smiled at him, he was lost. He soon finds himself caught up in intrigues and dangers far beyond his experience. He does not know who he can trust, but with only a light-fingered stable boy and a feisty lady's maid to help him, Brendan is determined to serve and protect the princess and perhaps discover the secret surrounding his own past.
Normally I am not a big fan of the Tuder era, but I quite liked this story. Brendan Prescott is an interesting character with a dark past and many secrets, which is my favorite sort of protagonist. I also love historical espionage, stories about the people in the shadows who shaped history without their names ever being known. There are some liberties taken with historical fact, but the author was considerate enough to list the changes he made in the back of the book, which I like.

There are some pretty foul insults in this novel, as well as a use of the f-word. I give it a 5.10 for profanity.

There is a vague scene of sexuality between an unmarried couple, it doesn't fade away but it is brief and doesn't go into specifics. There are also some rather crude references and innuendos. I rate it a 6.10.

There are some scenes of violence, mostly just people beating up on each other but a couple that are worse. There are also some references to torture. It rates a 5.10.

                                                     Lieder Madchen

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Review #19 The Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw

The Beacon at Alexandria
by Gillian Bradshaw

Genre: Historical Fiction
Ages: 13 and up

Charis is a wealthy young maiden of Ephesus, she is lovely, intelligent and altogether obsessed with the art of medicine. With the help of her brother and her old nursemaid, she flees marriage with a brutal man who accused her father of treason and tortured her friends. For her, it turns out to be the chance of a lifetime. She disguises herself as a eunuch and travels to Alexandria, the world's capitol of medicinal knowledge. Apprenticed to a true Hippocratic, she enters a world of wounds, herbs, illness and dissections, and she found that practicing the art of healing was what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
Eventually, she found herself working as the personal physician to Athanasios in his last months of life. When he passes away, Alexandria is thrown into turmoil. There are riots in the street and Charis, called Chariton, is right in the middle of it all.
Gillian Bradshaw is brilliant when it comes to capturing the feel of ancient times. Athanasios is fascinating, as is the theological war that was waged between the Arian and Nicene factions within the Christian church of the time.
I confess that I have always found stories in which a girl disguises herself as a boy to be immensely entertaining, and this one was more realistic in the sense that she was pretending to be a eunuch rather than an entirely male person. I always love the moment of dawning comprehension when someone inevitably discovers the truth, especially if it is the person the lady is in love with. :) There are several parallels to Twelfth Night in this novel, and as a lover of Shakespeare I liked that. (There is a character named Duke Sebastianus who came from Illyria, as well as a few scenes with clear Shakespearean influence. However, the story and romance are completely different.)
This book also has a couple of rather different and unusual marriage proposals, some more welcome than others. :)

The language is pretty mild, the s-word is used a few times but not as an expletive so I give it a 3.10.

There are a couple of scenes of violence, several references to torture and an attempted rape so I give it a 5.10.

There are several sexual references and some innuendos as well as a fade-away and some unwelcome touching, so it rates a 5.10

                                              Lieder Madchen

Chivalrous Deeds: A Historical Fiction Challenge

This challenge can be found on the Bippity Boppity Book Blog.
It was the name of this challenge that first caught my attention, I love tales of chivalry. :) This challenge is also interesting in the fact that it has no defined goal except to read more books set in a larger variety of times and places than anybody else, which adds a fun element of competition. For this challenge, you read historical novels with connections to court and royalty. However, you are not allowed to read a book set in the same court as the last one you read. For example, if I was to read a book about Elizabeth I, it is against the rules to read another about her right away but you can come back to her later after reading a book that is about, say, Richard the Lionheart. This rule makes things more interesting, I think. :)

1. The Tudor Secret by C.W, Gortner (Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Mary Tudor)
2. The Falcons of Montabard by Elizabeth Chadwick (Baldwin II of Jerusalem)
3. The Running Vixen by Elizabeth Chadwick (Henry I)
4. Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw (Hatshepsut)
5. Petra: City of Stone by T.L. Higley
                                                     Lieder Madchen

Friday, February 25, 2011

Reading Challenge Addict 2011

This challenge has its own blog Here.
I cannot seem to stop joining reading challenges, so when I found this I had to join. :) My goal is to complete all nine of the challenges I have joined and complete the goals I have set for myself.

Here they are:
Time Travel Reading Challenge My goal is 20 books.
Italy in Books Reading Challenge My goal is 20 books.
Speculative Fiction Reading Challenge My goal is 20 Sci-Fi books.
Historical Fiction Reading Challenge My goal is Severe Bookaholism: 20 books.
Jane Austen Reading Challenge My goal is Fanatic: 12+ books.
Classics Forever Reading Challenge My goal is Level 4: 13+ books.
Young Adult Reading Challenge My goal is 100 books.
Chivalrous Deeds My goal is to be the most widely traveled.
Once Upon a Time Challenge My goal is Quest the Second.

If I join any more I will have to put them up, too. :)

                                        Lieder Madchen

Italy in Books Reading Challenge 2011

This challenge can be found at the Book After Book Blog.
I love Italy. I love Italian books and Italian history and the one place I would go if I could go anywhere in the world would be Italy, so this challenge is a good one for me. :)
My goal is 20 books in this category.

                                        Lieder Madchen

Speculative Fiction Challenge 2011

This challenge can be found at the Floor to Ceiling Books Blog. I thought this one looked like fun, but I am going to narrow the peramaters of the goal for myself and only count Science Fiction and bump the number up to 20.

1. Skyfall by Catherine Asaro
2. Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder
3. The Moon's Shadow by Catherine Asaro
4. The Ruby Dice by Catherine Asaro
5. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
6. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (Sequel to Leviathan)
7. The Resurrection by Henry Parker
8. Born of Shadows by Sherrilyn Kenyon
9. Outside In by Maria V. Snyder
10. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
11. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
12. Divergent by Veronica Roth
13. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
14. Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch
15. Alien Tango by Gini Koch
16. Alien in the Family by Gini Koch

                                            Lieder Madchen

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2011

This challenge can be found on the wonderful Historical Tapestry Blog. Historical Fiction is probably my favorite literary genre (with Fantasy as a very close second). I love to find interesting stories that inspire me to go look up what really happened.
My goal is Severe Bookaholism: 20 books.

Here is what I have got so far:
1. Cleopatra's Heir by Gillian Bradshaw (Ms. Bradshaw graciously agreed to an interview, which was awesome.)
2. The Champion by Elizabeth Chadwick
3. Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson
4. The Blackstone Key by Rose Melikan
5. The Counterfeit Guest by Rose Melikan
6. The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner
7. The Falcons of Montabard by Elizabeth Chadwick
8. Men of Iron by Howard Pyle
9. The Love Knot by Elizabeth Chadwick
10. The Running Vixen by Elizabeth Chadwick
11. Daughter of the Game by Tracy Grant
12. No Shame, No Fear by Ann Turnbull
13. Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
14. The Ballad of Gregoire Darcy by Marsha Altman
15. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
16. The Betrayal of Maggie Blair by Elizabeth Blair
17. Petra: City of Stone by T.L. Higley
18. The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
19. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie King
20. Quintspinner by Dianne Greenlay
                                             Lieder Madchen

Book Review #18 Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson

Lady of the Glen
by Jennifer Roberson

Genre: Historical Fiction / Romance
Ages: 16 and up

This is the story of Catriona "Cat" Campbell and her tumultuous romance with Alasdair Og "Dair" MacDonald. Their two families have a long-standing feud and it is only by the purest chance that the two of them keep meeting, sometimes under less than fortunate circumstances. Scotland is in turmoil, the MacDonalds of Glencoe fight for James while the Campbells are loyal to the King of England. Cat is fiercely proud, but she is tired of all of the bloodshed and strife. Dair is slightly more easy-going but no less stubborn. They will have to overcome their families, childhood conditioning, and the politics of the time if they are to be together.
I have always loved novels about the Jacobites and their attempt to regain their liberty from England, I always root for them even though I know that they lose. I loved the characters in this story, and Jennifer Roberson is a brilliant storyteller (her Robin Hood novels are also very good). The only slight problem I have with this novel is that there are a few more sexual references than I am entirely comfortable with, but that seems to be unavoidable in novels about Scotsmen. (I think it might be because of the kilts.)

This book gets a 4.10 for profanity, there were some insulting terms used as well as a great many "bluidys".

I give it a 7.10 for sexuality because of a few varyingly graphic scenes and quite a few rather crude references and innuendos.

There are several scenes of violence in Lady of the Glen, some more graphic than others, including a massacre. I rate it as a 7.10.

                                          Lieder Madchen

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jane Austen Challenge 2011

I found this challenge on The Life (and lies) of an inanimate flying object Blog, she seems to have some fun challenges! I love Jane Austen, but it seems that lately I am going through a phase where I am reading a lot more than I usually do. I have read all of Jane Austen's works, save for Northanger Abbey, and I have been meaning to read them all again (and Northanger Abbey for the first time).
My goal is Fanatic: 12+ total, 6 by Jane Austen, 6+ re-writes, spoofs, etc.
It should be fun!

1. The Second Mrs. Darcy by Elizabeth Aston
2. The Darcy Connection by Elizabeth Aston
3. Mr. Darcy's Dream by Elizabeth Aston
4. Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons by Jane Austen and Vera Nazarian
5. Mr. Darcy's Obsession by Abigail Reynolds
6. Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith
7. The Ballad of Grégoire Darcy by Marsha Altman
8. The Road to Pemberley Anthology edited by Marsha Altman
9. A Pemberley Medley by Abigail Reynolds

                                       Lieder Madchen

Classics Forever Reading Challenge 2011

This challenge can be found on The Life (and lies) of an inanimate flying object Blog. I only like a few "classics" but what I like about this challenge is that anything that is old enough to be in the public domain counts, and I can think of a lot of old books like that. (My collection of old e-books is huge!)
My goal is Level 4: 13+ novels.
As a more personal goal, I want to, for the most part, read old books that few people will have heard of as well as The Importance of Being Earnest. (I watched the movie a couple of nights ago and now I want to read the book.)

1. Men of Iron by Howard Pyle
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

                                    Lieder Madchen

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Young Adult Reading Challenge 2011

I am kind of behind on my challenges, I have been joining them left and right but not posting about them, so now I am having to do them all at once. :)

I found the YA Challenge on the Jamie's Bookshelf Blog. I read a lot of YA novels, so I thought it looked like fun. My goal is to read 100 books in this category, and I have already started. :)

1. The Angel Experiment by James Patterson (Book 1 in the Maximum Ride series)
2. School's Out - Forever by James Patterson (Book 2 in the Maximum Ride Series)
3. Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports by James Patterson (Book 3 in the Maximum Ride Series.)
4. A Hidden Magic by Vivian Vande Velde
5. The Final Warning by James Patterson (Book 4 in the Maximum Ride Series.)
6. Max by James Patterson (Book 5 in the Maximum Ride Series.)
7. Fang by James Patterson (Book 6 in the Maximum Ride Series.)
8. Angel by James Patterson (Book 7 in the Maximum Ride Series.)
9. The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (Book 1 in the Ranger's Apprentice Series.)
10. The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan (Book 2 in the Ranger's Apprentice Series.)
11. The Icebound Land by John Flanagan (Book 3 in the Ranger's Apprentice Series.)
12. The Battle for Skandia by John Flanagan (Book 4 in the Ranger's Apprentice Series.)
13. Erak's Ransom by John Flanagan (Book 7 in the Ranger's Apprentice Series, chronologically book 5.)
14. The Sorcerer in the North by John Flanagan (Book 5 in the Ranger's Apprentice Series.)
15. The Siege of Macindaw by John Flanagan (Book 6 in the Ranger's Apprentice Series.)
16. A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
17. Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
18. A Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee (The Agency Book 2)
19. The Seven Towers by Patricia C. Wrede
20. Cloaked by Alex Flinn
21. The Kings of Clonmel by John Flanagan (Book 8 in the Ranger's Apprentice Series.)
22. Halt's Peril by John Flanagan (Book 9 in the Ranger's Apprentice Series.)
23. Aurelia by Anne Osterlund
24. By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson
25. The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
26. Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce
27. To Darkness Fled by Jill Williamson
28. Close Kin by Clare B. Dunkle (Book 2 in the Hollow Kingdom Trilogy)
29. In the Coils of the Snake by Clare B. Dunkle (Book 3 in the Hollow Kingdom Trilogy)
30. Scorpia Rising by Anthony Horowitz (Book 9 in the Alex Rider Series)
31. Raising Dragons by Bryan Davis (Book 1 in the Dragons in Our Midst Series)
32. The Education of Bet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
33. Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder
34. No Shame, No Fear by Ann Turnbull
35. Forged by Fire by Ann Turnbull (Sequel to No Shame, No Fear)
36. Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy
37. King of Ithaka by Tracy Barrett
38. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
39. Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr (Sequel to Wicked Lovely)
40. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (Book 1 in the Song of the Lioness Quartet)
41. Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
42. In the Hands of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce (Book 2 in the Song of the Lioness Quartet)
43. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
44. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (Sequel to Leviathan.)
45. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce (Book 3 in the Song of the Lioness Quartet)
46. Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce (Book 4 in the Song of the Lioness Quartet)
47. Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman
48. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
49. Random Magic by Sasha Soren
50. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
51, 52 and 53. Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
54. City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
55. The Betrayal of Maggie Blair by Elizabeth Laird
56. The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong (Book 1 of the Darkest Powers)
57. The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong (Book 2 of the Darkest Powers)
58. The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong (Book 3 of the Darkest Powers)
59. Outside In by Maria V. Snyder
60. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
61. Entwined by Heather Dixon
62. Evermore by Alyson Noel
63. Wings by Aprilynne Pike
64. The Song of the Ovulum by Bryan Davis
65. Hereafter by Tara Hudson
66. Fallen by Lauren Kate
67. Torment by Lauren Hate
68. Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon
69. The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
70. Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
71. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
72. The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
73. Legacy by Cayla Kluver
74. Destruction From Twins by L. Carroll
75. 400 Days by L. Carroll
76. Blue Moon by Alyson Noel
78. Shadowlands by Alyson Noel
79. Dark Flame by Alyson Noel
80. The Diamond Secret by Suzanne Weyn
81. Violet Eyes by Debbie Viguie
82. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
83. Die For Me by Amy Plum
84. Passion by Lauren Kate
85. Divergent by Veronica Roth
86. Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast
87. Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury
88. Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
89. Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready
90. Spellbound by Cara Lynn Schultz
91. The Trouble With Spells by Lacey Weatherford
92. The Demon Kiss by Lacey Weatherford
93. Blood of the White Witch by Lacey Weatherford
94. The Dark Rising by Lacey Weatherford
95. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
96. The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
97. The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
98. The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
99. The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong
100. Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

                                     Lieder Madchen

Book Review #17 The Thirteenth House by Sharon Shinn

The Thirteenth House
by Sharon Shinn

Genre: Fantasy/ Romance
Ages: 15 and up
Sequel to Mystic and Rider
The band of adventurers that traveled the land in Mystic and Rider have been split. Senneth and Tayse are in Brassenthwaite attempting a reconciliation with Senneth's brothers, while Kirra, Donnal, Justin and Cammon are on a mission to rescue the kidnapped regent-to-be Romar. However, it is not long before they are reunited. Senneth, Tayse, Justin and Cammon have been assigned to protect the Princess Amalie as she tours the country in an effort to quiet the disturbing rumors that abound about her. Kirra, followed as always by Donnal, is also touring the land disguised as her sister Casserah, who has been named heiress to Danalustrous but refuses to leave home in order to meet people. Of course, nothing is more natural for Kirra than to join her friends. Before long they learn just how necessary they are if Amalie is to be safe...
This is my least favorite novel in an otherwise wonderful series. I liked the plot and characters, but I really did not like the romance. Love triangles annoy me, and I hate adultery. This story focuses on frivolous, vibrant, selfish Kirra and her affair with the married Romar. Despite all of her friend's warnings, she insists on doing what she wants when she wants, regardless of who she will hurt. I like Kirra, but sometimes she makes me mad.

The language is about the same level as Mystic and Rider, maybe slightly less, so I give it a 4.10.

There are some mild sexual references and innuendos as well as a few fade-away scenes between an adulterous couple, so it gets a 5.10.

There are several scenes of violence, none that are overly graphic, so I rate it a 5.10.

                                                Lieder Madchen

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Back to Practice!

Last Friday I made it to choir practice for the first time since our Christmas concert. The first week of practice, I had a flu bug, the second week the lady I ride with to practice wasn't feeling up to it, the third week she broke a tooth, the fourth week I had a bad head cold, but finally we made it. :) The new music we have started working on for the Fruhlingkonzert (spring concert) in April is really hard, and we haven't even begun work on the music for our trip to Leavenworth, WA. in May for the Maifest. Practice was a lot of fun (there was one song with a lot of "ba ba-aaas" in it, so we joked about sounding like sheep) and it was great to see my friends again.
I still speak hardly any German, but I love singing in foreign languages. Last year we all went to Nanaimo, B.C., Canada for the Nord-Pazifischer Saengerbund (I hope I spelled that right, it means "North-Pacific Song Festival", it is where all of the German choirs if in the northwest meet up for a big concert and a party. (Germans love to party!) We took a bus and a ferry up, two modes of transportation I had never tried before. I have been in the Liedertafel Harmonie for just over a year now, and I have had massive amounts of fun with it. :)

                                    Lieder Madchen

Book Review #16 Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn

Mystic and Rider
by Sharon Shinn

Genre: Fantasy
Ages: 14 and up

This is one of my favorite fantasy novels by one of my favorite fantasy authors. I love the characters with all of their many differences and complex loyalties. The romance in this book is magnificent, not the usual sort where the two characters start out hating each other or where they have instantaneous chemistry, but rather the kind that slowly slips through their guards before they can do anything to prevent it.

Mystic and Rider takes place in a land where mystics (people with magical abilities) are feared and persecuted by the larger part of the populous. The king, however, accepts and supports them. Indeed, he trusts one mystic enough to send her and a party of mystics accompanied by two of the elite King's Riders to investigate disturbing rumors of rebellion against the crown. Senneth, a mysterious woman with extraordinarily powerful abilities, leads their expedition, followed by the lovely, aristocratic Kirra and the faithful Donnal (both shape-shifters) as well as the Riders, stubborn, solid Tayse and young, cynical Justin. Along the way, they pick up a boy named Cammon who has eerie mind-reading talents. This unlikely group sets out divided, the Riders not quite able to trust the mystics, but they slowly form bonds of respect and even affection as they face dangers and difficulties of every kind, from a marauding wildcat to a fanatical priestess who is determined to rid the land of all mystics.
This book is the first in a series of five novels, all of which are highly entertaining, especially the third one. :)

I give this book a 4.10 in profanity, for multiple uses of the term for an illegitimate person and a couple instances of mild swearing.

This book gets a 7.10 in violence for several skirmishes with enemy soldiers. The characters also discover the bodies of murdered families and there are references to the murder of an infant who was killed many years ago.

There is some mild innuendo and  a few references, so I rate it a 3.10 in sexuality.

                                        Lieder Madchen

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Second Time's the Charm: Multiple Proposals in Literature

Here is my contribution to the Valentine's Day mood. :)

I was watching the British BBC miniseries North and South with my sister and sister-in-law, and when it reached the scene where John Thornton first proposes, I started thinking about all of the wonderful romances where the gentleman must prove his determination by not taking no for an answer. Here are some of my favorites. :)

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

What are your favorite stories where the gentleman had to propose two or more times before he succeeded in wooing fair lady?

                                        Happy Valentine's Day!
                                                    Lieder Madchen

Mailbox Monday (2)

I was very excited when The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Simonsen arrived in the mail on Wednesday morning. I hardly ever get mail, so it is always fun, but it is especially exciting when one is getting a new book. :) I finished reading The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy at about one o'clock on Thursday morning. (It was a very fun book.) I won this copy on a giveaway at the lovely Diary of an Eccentric blog, and I had been looking forward to its arrival for a few days. :) I already have a review posted, click here to read. It is nice to be able to do a Mailbox Monday where the book actually came in the mail. :)

                                            Lieder Madchen

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Review #15 The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy
by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Genre: Romance
Ages: 13 and up

This book made me smile. On the surface, the story is (mostly) the same as the original Pride and Prejudice, but in the background, everything has changed. Characters that were previously next to invisible come to the front and points of view are all switched around.
Miss Anne de Bourgh can see that her cousin, Fitzwilliam Darcy, is hopelessly in love with the lovely Elizabeth Bennet. Rather than allow his clumsy attempted proposal to ruin his hopes for future happiness, Anne decides to take matters into her own hands. What if the coincidences that brought Lizzy and Darcy together in Pride and Prejudice were not actually coincidences? This story has Anne, with a little help from Georgiana Darcy, scheming and plotting away to bring together two people who were obviously perfect for each other. I loved the portrayals of Anne (who I have long believed to have more in her than previously seen), Georgiana (I would love to read her Gothic novel), Jane (who grows a bit of a backbone), and Mary Bennet (who may get a romance of her own!). This story made me laugh several times, especially near the end when all of the plans and manipulations begin to fall into place.

There are a few instances of profanity scattered throughout and Darcy calls Wickham a rude name at one point, so I rate it a 3.10.

There isn't any violence in this book.

There are several sexual references and some innuendo so I give it a 3.10.

                                         Lieder Madchen

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Rating System

I didn't really think my rating system all the way through when I first started, I have mostly been coming up with the numbers by instinct. Here I shall lay out all of the vague ideas I have in my head, and I will do my best to stick with it. However, I reserve the right to rate something as higher or lower than it technically is depending on how natural or plot-necessary it is.

1. A  couple of uses of made-up swearwords, or one or two uses of mild profanity, such as the word "damn" or "hell."
2. A few uses of mild profanity.
3. A single use of the word for an illegitimate son, or an impolite word for a woman, or the sh-word.
4. A few uses of the type of word listed in #3.
5. A single use of the f-word.
6. Frequent uses of mild profanity and one or two uses of a worse word.
7. Several uses of the words described in #3, plus a single use of the f-word or several uses of mild profanity.
8. A few uses of the f-word.
9. Many uses of all kinds of profanity.
10. Constant and pervasive use of strong language.

Violence is a harder category to quantify. You can have a battle with no blood, and a fistfight that is brutal or vise-versa. You can also have a bloody scene that doesn't bother you in it's context, or a fight with no blood that is psychologically more disturbing. For this category, I will be more general.
A significant amount of blood will earn a 4 or up.
Rape, no matter how vague, will always earn a 5 and up, as will murder.
Graphic gore, such as entrails or amputation, will get a 6 and up.
Anything above a 6 will likely be one of the above only more graphic, disturbing, and/or in larger quantities.

Mostly my rating of this category has to do with what made me uncomfortable, which was generally anything above a 6, but now I shall try to be more specific. I have only ever read one book that I would rate a ten, and I had no idea that it would be so full of sex when I picked it up.
1 and 2 mean that there is practically no sexuality, only mild innuendo or a brief reference.
3. Some innuendo and multiple references.
4. A scene of sexuality that fades away before anything happens, but you still know what happened.
5. A scene that gets to the touching stage (but not the touching of certain body parts) before it fades away.
6. A scene that doesn't fade away but is still rather vague.
7. One descriptive scene.
8. Multiple scenes of varying explicitness.
9. One or two disturbingly graphic scenes.
10. Many graphic scenes throughout the novel.

Any ratings that do not seem to match up with what I have listed above, for example, a rating of a 4 in sexuality for references only, means that there are more references or worse references than I would rat a 3. I hope this is useful to you in understanding my ratings, I know it will be useful to me :) I think I might have to go adjust some of my previous ratings...

                                                      Lieder Madchen

Book Review #14 The Plight of the Darcy Brothers by Marsha Altman

The Plight of the Darcy Brothers
by Marsha Altman

Genre: Romance, Fan-Fiction
Ages: 14 and up
Sequel to The Darcys and the Bingleys

This book is considerably darker than the first one, but it has you laughing soon enough at the "colorful" antics of Georgie Bingley and Geoffrey Darcy. (One should never leave the children alone with the menfolk, it can get messy.) Once again, Ms. Altman's wonderful sense of humor keeps you laughing even when the Darcy family faces its most difficult times.

The Plight of the Darcy Brothers begins on a sad note, Elizabeth has just miscarried for a second time. Both she and Darcy are heartbroken, but society dictates that they pretend that nothing happened. Distraction from their grief arrives in the form of a mysterious letter from Mary Bennet, who has been abroad on the Continent. Her missive requests that Jane come to Brighton alone to meet her. Elizabeth, of course, decides to come along, and so the two sisters leave their husbands in charge of the children. Both Elizabeth and Jane are shocked when Mary reveals that she is pregnant. The father is a young Italian who claims he cannot marry her, and so Elizabeth and Darcy embark on a journey to find this young man and make him do the right thing by Mary and the child. Their trip leads to unexpected places, and Darcy discovers things about his family that he had never even dreamed of before.
While this book is not as bright and cheerful as The Darcys and the Bingleys, it delves deeper into the emotions and personalities of the characters, especially Darcy. I can hardly wait to see what happens next in this beautifully written series!

There is no profanity in this novel, but a less-than-polite term for one of illegitimate birth is used several times, and a couple of women are called (or call themselves) a rude name, so I give it a 5.10.

There are some sexual references, as well as a pervading theme of illegitimacy, and a prostitute plays a major role in the plot, so it rates a 6.10.

There is one scene of bloody violence and one of the characters is a flagellant, so it gets a 6.10.

                                                      Lieder Madchen

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Review #13 Cleopatra's Heir + Interview with Author Gillian Bradshaw

Cleopatra's Heir
by Gillian Bradshaw
Review and Interview with Gillian Bradshaw

Genre: Historical Fiction
Ages: This one is very difficult for me to put an age to, my sister read it at 12, and liked it, but from what she said it may have been better to wait a year. I first read it when I was 14, and it didn't bother me at all. 13 might be the perfect number. :)

This book is on my top-ten historical fiction books, what number it is exactly, I cannot say. I have never been able to pick out a Number One, but this one could be it. I have always loved Ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt, and Cleopatra's Heir blends all three cultures beautifully. I have read it three times since I first discovered it.

Caesarion, son of Cleopatra and Julius Caeser, was supposed to die. History says that he was killed, betrayed, but what if he survived? What if, somehow, he escaped? Wounded, wracked by epileptic seizures, he stumbled away from his own funeral pyre, stumbling as far as he could before collapsing on the road. The merchant Ani, a pious Egyptian, came across this wounded boy in the desert and took him in, caring for his wounds with absolutely no idea what he was getting himself into.
Caesarion is a proud, arrogant, determined and utterly impractical person who is portrayed in a completely believable fashion. One would think that such a person would be no fun to be around, but I found myself hoping as the story went along that he would somehow survive and find a new life.

There is hardly any languague in this book, though there is some calling on of mythical god, I give it a 4.10.

There are scenes of violence scattered throughout, including some ancient medical practices that are basically torture, so it gets a 6.10.

There are some sexual references as well as a somewhat disturbing scene where slavers inspect a young girl, so I rate it a 4.10.

I am pleased to welcome Gillian Bradshaw to Songs and Stories, she has graciously agreed to answer a few questions and it is absolutely wonderful to have her here. :)

What made you decide to write a story about Caesarion?

I suppose I was intrigued by the contrast between his background as the son of two of history's most legendary figures and his own insignificance. (It's surprising how many people don't realize that Cleopatra had children at all.) I wondered what it would have been like for him, and what would have happened if he hadn't died so young.  I did a bit of research, decided he would probably have been a monster, like his parents, put the project aside for a bit--then hit on the epilepsy angle, which made me sympathize with him again.

In all of your research and studying, who is your favorite out of all of the historical figures you have come across?

Eh.  Hard one: it tends to vary with what I'm reading now; there's also a distinction between figures I like and those I find fascinating. (A lot of the most fascinating figures in history aren't very likable--e.g., Augustus, Constantine, Oliver Cromwell . . .)  At the moment the one I like most would be John Lilburne, or possibly his wife Elizabeth--Levellers, who campaigned for democracy during the English Civil War.  He was excitable, quarrelsome, generous and self-sacrificing; she was incredibly brave and loyal. I like Athanasios of Alexandria, too, though he undoubtedly was a rabble-rouser, and Socrates always seems utterly charming. 

Which genre do you enjoy writing more, historical or science fiction?

Which do you prefer, cheese or apples? I like both, at different times.  Writing something with a contemporary setting means I have more freedom in the language and metaphors I can use, and I can communicate things about the characters from, e.g., the clothes they wear or the sort of car they drive.  On the other hand, I love history.

That said, my science fiction got steadily more and more realistic, until the last one I wrote (Bloodwood) was entirely a realistic novel (apart from the hallucinations.)   This is odd, because I love science fiction and fantasy, and find it much easier to write than realistic contemporary fiction, as well as more fun to read.  Blood was a painful struggle all the way through: why did I have to do it?  I don't know, though I'm very proud of that book, even though practically nobody's read it.  In contrast, the few fantasies I've written were very easy, done between more serious books just for fun. (These aren't the Arthurian books, which were the first novels I ever wrote, but some others that couldn't find a publisher.  I'm thinking of self-publishing one on Amazon for the Kindle, if you're interested.)

If you could meet one of your inventions, which one would it be?

Archimedes, I suppose.  Though I think that of all the characters I've invented the one I feel most sympathy for is Caesarion.  I was very pleased that you liked him too.

Do you ever think about what happens after the book ends? Such as, what happens to Arion and Melanthe after the end of Cleopatra's Heir?

Oh, I often think about what happens to the characters after the book ends!  But I can only write about it if it's a proper story.  Obviously, Arion and Melanthe are going to move back to Coptos, and the family will get rich from the Red Sea Trade, which boomed big-time in the early Empire.  I think their marriage will have some rough patches, since his temperament isn't an easy one, but she'll keep it happy.
I'd  like to have Arion meet Hermogenes, from 'Render Unto Caesar'.  They would have been contemporaries, and both involved in trade.  But I don't know if there's enough of a story there to sustain a whole book.

Are you working on anything new? Can you tell us anything about it?

I have another book coming out next month; it's called 'A Corruptible Crown', and is the sequel to 'London in Chains', my Civil War book. It's set in 1648, and the chapters alternate between Lucy, the heroine of 'London in Chains' and her husband Jamie.  I've also about finished research the next one, which will be set in 1688 in England and the Netherlands; this is to tie off some of the themes (printing and radical politics) of the last book.  After that I may go back to the classical period or I may do something completely different.

As I mentioned, I'm also intending to self-publish a fantasy book and see whether anybody reads it!

I hope that's some help.  I am most impressed with your efforts as a blogger!

Best wishes,

Gillian Bradshaw

Thank you for answering my questions! It was wonderful getting to talk to you after having read so many of your books. I hope you do publish that fantasy story, I would definitely read it! A Corruptible Crown sounds great, I really liked London in Chains and I would love to see those characters again. :)

                                          Good Luck!
                                                   Lieder Madchen

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday, set up by Laura Fabiani of Good Clean Reads, looked like so much fun that I had to give it a try. :) I haven't actually got anything in my mailbox, but apparently e-books count so I will go with that. :) I just got a copy of Lydia Bennet's Story from, and I am very excited about it! I haven't read anything by Jane Odiwe yet, but her books look great. :) I am sure there will be a review on this one before too long...

                                                            Lieder Madchen

Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Review # 12 The Darcys and the Bingleys by Marsha Altman

The Darcys and the Bingleys
by Marsha Altman


Genre: Romance
Ages: 14 and up

The Darcys and the Bingleys is my favorite of all the Pride and Prejudice sequels I have read so far. I love the humour and the wonderful brotherly rivalry between Darcy and Bingley, it made me laugh many times, especially when they were betting about whose wife would have a baby first. :)

Part one chronicles the first year of marriage, beginning right before the double wedding of Darcy and Elizabeth and Jane and Charles. Both couples struggle with pre-marital nerves and a great deal of unsolicited advice from numerous relations, with everyone concerned wishing that the wedding could be done with so that they can actually spend some time with their respective spouses.
Part two takes Darcy on another adventure into the world of marriage-prevention when Bingley asks his favor in investigating a suitor of Caroline Bingley's. This seemingly straightforward task leads to excitement and peril that nobody suspected, and that may place all of their lives in danger.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves comedy, romance, and adventure. I, personally, will definitely be re-reading this one in the future, as well as keeping an eye out for later books in the series.

There is some very occasional and mostly mild language in this book, so it gets a 2.10.

There is quite a bit of innuendo and references, but any scenes of sexuality fade away before anything happens, which I like. I give it a 5.10.

There are two scenes of violence in this novel, so I rate it a 5.10.

                                                  Lieder Madchen

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Book Review #11 The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

The Healer's Apprentice
by Melanie Dickerson

Genre: Fantasy, Fairytale Re-telling
Ages: 12 and up

Once again I must thank people at the SurLaLune blog for posting that this book was available for free on Kindle, I had never heard of The Healer's Apprentice until then. :)

The Healer's Apprentice is the story of young Christian girl named Rose. Her family is poor, so her mother is constantly trying to marry her off to this merchant or that, but Rose will have none of it. She intends to be the healer when her mentor, Geruscha, gets too old, and the healer doesn't have to marry anyone.
Lord Wilhelm Hamlin, the Duke's heir, is betrothed to the Lady Salomea, whom he has never met. She has been in hiding for years, sent away by her father who wished to keep her safe from the evil Moncore. Wilhelm has been trying to find and neutralize this threat, but he is always one step behind.

This is a lovely re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, the characters are wonderful, their personalities rich and complex. They struggle to fulfill their duties to their families even while they are desperate to break free, which keeps one hoping that somehow there will be a miracle for them. The minor characters are also interesting, Hildy, Gunthor, Rupert, and Geruscha especially. I liked how realistic it was in the medieval sense of how important reputation and honor was, and how horrible a loss of either would be. This is Melanie Dickerson's first novel, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for any more.

There is no profanity in this book.

There are some sexual references and innuendos, as well as one aborted assault, so it rates a 6.10.

There are several scenes of violence scattered through this novel, mostly mild but with one that was a little disturbing, so I give it a 5.10.

                                                                Lieder Madchen

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Time Travel Reading Challenge 2011

I found this reading challenge on the At Home With Books blog, and it looked like a lot of fun. I love time travel stories and I feel quite positive that I can find at least twenty novels that fit the category. :) My first book is Catch the Lightning by Catherine Asaro. Here is a link for anyone else who wants to take up he challenge! Time Travel 2011 Reading Challenge

1. Catch the Lighting by Catherine Asaro, Book 2 in her Skolian series. (It does not really have anything to do with the first one.) A futuristic, not-quite-human soldier crash lands in an alternate late eighties Los Angeles, where he befriends a troubled young woman, well, perhaps more than befriends. :) Ages 15 and up.
2. The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale by Christine Bell
3. Rise of the Darklings by Paul Crilley
4. Unleash the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon
5. Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon
6. Ruby Red by Kristin Gier

I will keep updating this list as I go along. :)

                                       Lieder Madchen

Book Review #10 The Orchid Affair + Interview with Author Lauren Willig

The Orchid Affair
by Lauren Willig
Review and Interview

Genre: Historical Romance
Ages: 14 and up. However, some of the earlier books in the series are more of a 15 and up.
Book 8 in the Pink Carnation Series by Lauren Willig

Laura Grey has been a governess for sixteen years, and wanted to get her feet wet before she got old. However, when she joined the League of the Pink Carnation, she did not know that she would be right back at her old job of watching other people's children, albeit the children of an agent of the French police. The plan is simple, spy on Andrè Jaouen, teach his children, and report back to the Pink Carnation. However, nobody is as they seem and things rarely go as planned... Meanwhile, in the present, Eloise and Colin are in Paris, and Colin is having more difficulties with his rather dysfunctional relations while Eloise is still determinedly researching new material for her ever-expanding dissertation.

The Orchid Affair has the same brilliant humor that has characterized Lauren Willig's other novels. Where else would a spinster governess get to wield a sword? Where else would you find lovers of marzipan pigs? The Orchid Affair is a pure, fun, swashbuckling, adventure romance with great characters who are always managing to get themselves into the most complicated, and often ridiculous, situations, and one never knows how they are going to get out or what they might do next.

There is only some rare usage of profanity in this novel, but one use of the f-word means that I rate it a 5.10.

There are a couple of scenes of violence and some references to torture, but there isn't anything very graphic so I give it a 4.10.

There are some sexual innuendos and references, as well as one scene between an unmarried couple that fades away before it gets beyond touching, so it gets a 6.10.

This book was so much fun that I read through it in a single afternoon. On an impulse, without letting myself think long enough to get nervous, I e-mailed Lauren Willig and asked her if she would like to do do an interview, and I was absolutely thrilled when she wrote back and said that she would! Without further ado, I would like to welcome Lauren Willig to the Songs and Stories blog, and here are seven questions and her answers...

Lauren, how did you come to be interested in the French Revolution? When did you first decide to write a book set in that time?

Blame it on 80’s TV mini-series!  When I was ten, a Napoleon and Josephine miniseries aired on one of our local television stations.  Before that, my two historical obsessions had been Eleanor of Aquitaine and Queen Victoria.  After that, it was all about the Bonapartes.  I nagged all the adults in my life for Bonaparte-related books and even named the guppies from my 5th grade science experiment after Napoleon’s numerous relations.  It wasn’t much of a surprise when Napoleon ate the rest of the guppies, but my interest outlasted the fish.  In my senior year of high school, I managed to persuade the History and English departments to let me research and write a novel about Napoleon’s stepdaughter, Hortense de Beauharnais, my very favorite of the Bonaparte clan.  It wasn’t a very good novel, but it did mean that I became very, very familiar with the private lives of the Bonapartes.

I wandered away from the French Revolution for a bit.  I majored in Renaissance Studies in college and then toddled off to grad school to pursue a degree in Tudor/Stuart England, dismissing anything after 1714 as just hopelessly modern.  But Napoleonic France was still there, waiting for me.  When I decided to write a novel for my own entertainment, at the end of my second year of grad school, I wanted to pick an area far enough away from my dissertation topic to feel like vacation but near enough to my own areas of expertise to be familiar.  And what better time period than my old stomping grounds, Napoleonic France?  I set the book in 1803, because I needed to have an English heroine in Paris, and the Peace of Amiens was the one time that would be realistically possible—and the rest all followed from there!

The characters in The Orchid Affair are somewhat different than in your previous novels, Laura and Andre are older than your other characters, and there are two children involved. How did you like writing about older and younger characters than you usually do?

Historical romance tends towards ingénues—but I was thirty-two when I began writing The Orchid Affair.  I’d written a couple of slightly older heroines, with all the usual excuses—the years on the marriage market, the family that couldn’t afford to pay for a Season, the villain who had locked the heroine in a box—but even that meant that my oldest heroine was twenty-five.  I decided it was time to write about a different sort of heroine, one who wasn’t part of that structured social world, one who had been around the block—or, in Keats’ more elegant phrase, much had she traveled in the realms of gold and many goodly states and kingdoms seen.  The result was thirty-two year old governess Laura Grey, a woman with a lot of life under her belt. 

Making my heroine older meant that I could write about an older hero without worrying that he should be on a sex offender registry somewhere.  My hero is thirty-six, and, like my heroine, he’s not your standard aristocratic dilettante.  He’s a hard-working former lawyer, now employed by the Prefecture of Paris, working eighteen and twenty hour days, seven days a week.  As a lapsed lawyer with lots of friends in the fields of finance and law, I know many thirty-something workaholics.  Having seen them navigating the shoals of work and family life, often with great difficulty, I had many excellent models to use for my hero as he struggles with the problem of being a single dad with a demanding job and two young children.

Since I don’t have any children of my own, I was very nervous about tackling children as characters.  Children in fiction are tough; I didn’t want to make them too sickeningly adorable or too mind-numbingly precocious, since those are the major pitfalls in trying to write convincing child characters.  Fortunately, I have two much younger siblings, who, while they’re all grown up now, provided excellent research opportunities back in the day, as well as an old friend who has two fabulous kids who just happen to be about the same age as Gabrielle and Pierre-Andre (um, not like there was any overlap there or anything).  She was lovely about loaning them out for tea parties, even though they are (a) sickeningly adorable, and (b) mind-numbingly precocious,

Augustus Whittlesby seems to keep popping up, will he be starring in his own book soon? Maybe alongside the Pink Carnation?

It gives me great pleasure to announce that Augustus Whittlesby will be starring in the next book, Pink IX, which comes out in January 2012.  There’s been a great deal of speculation about Augustus’ relationship with Jane, so I’ll tell you this right out: although Jane plays a large role in Pink IX, she is not the heroine.  We meet Augustus’ heroine, Emma Delagardie, briefly in The Orchid Affair.  Don’t be fooled by the French last name.  She’s actually an American, from upstate New York.

Here’s the Pink IX blurb:

As Napoleon pursues his plans for the invasion of England, English operative Augustus Whittlesby gets wind of a top secret device, to be demonstrated over the course of a house party at Malmaison.  The catch?  The only way in is to join forces with that annoying American socialite, Emma Morris Delagardie, who has been commissioned to write a masque for the weekend’s entertainment.  Even so, it should leave plenty of alone time with Augustus’ colleague (and goddess), Jane Wooliston, who has been tapped to play the heroine.  Or so Augustus tells himself.  In this complicated masque within a masque, nothing seems to go quite as scripted… especially Emma.

I’ve been posting bits and pieces about Emma and Augustus (and bits and pieces of the new book) on a new feature on the News page of my website called Teaser Tuesdays.

Warning: each chapter of Pink IX begins with a snippet of Augustus’ poetry.  If you can call it poetry.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you….

Do you think Eloise and Colin will ever get their own full-blown adventure?

Eloise and Colin are certainly off for more adventures after Orchid Affair… but as to whether they’ll ever get a full-length book, I can’t say.  It’s an idea with which I toy from time to time.  Right now, I’m itching to write a mystery novel—in which Eloise and Colin are the suspects in a murder case.  We’ll see if that happens.  I have some other ideas for them, as well.

In your acknowledgements, you name Rafael Sabatini's Scaramouche as a source of inspiration. Out of personal curiosity, have you read his other works? (My favorite of his books is the Sea-Hawk.)

Although I do love Captain Blood, my favorite Sabatini has always been Scaramouche.  I hate to say it, but the movie version of The Sea Hawk spoiled me for the book.  I’d grown up on the Errol Flynn swashbuckler, so was terribly disappointed to read the book and find it so very different from the movie.  I’ll have to give it another go one of these days.

What is your favorite time period other than the French Revolution?

My real scholarly field, the one in which I was working when I began writing The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, is Tudor/Stuart England.  I started as a mid-Tudor girl, with a sideline in Renaissance Scotland, and wound up specializing in the English Civil War.  But my favorite time period, the one in which I most like to vacation, is the early eighteenth century.  Jacobite rebellions, broad-skirted dresses, men in elaborate frock coats, poems by Pope and scandalous theatrical performances—what’s not to love?

Is there a new novel that you are working on? What flower are you considering for it?

Now that Pink IX is all done (see above), I’m just getting going on Pink X.  For those of you who have read the past books, this is Tommy Fluellen’s story.  While it deals with a missing Indian treasure, the book has surprised me by wanting to be largely set in Wales.  I’ve been learning all sorts of interesting facts about Welsh history… and about Tommy! 

I’m dreadful with the flower-picking, so if anyone has any good suggestions, let me know….

Thanks so much, Natalie, for having me here on your blog!  And if anyone wants to know more about the books, you can always find me on my website,, or my Facebook author page,!/pages/Lauren-Willig/10504674644.

Happy reading!

Thank you so much for answering my questions and being my first interviewee, it was great to have you here! I am looking forward to Pink IX and I hope we can do this again sometime!

                                                      Natalie (Lieder Madchen)