“Waiting On” Wednesday ~ The King’s Fool, by Margaret Campbell Barnes

waiting-on-wednesday“Waiting On” Wednesday is all about the books that we are anxiously awaiting; anticipating the day that they are published.  Jill over at Breaking the Spine is the host.  Thanks Jill!

kings-fool


Description on Amazon ~

First published in 1959 by world-renowned historical novelist Margaret Campbell Barnes, King’s Fool is a remarkable insider tale of the intrigue, ruthlessness, and majesty of the Tudor court. When country lad Will Somers lands himself the plum position of jester to the mercurial King Henry VIII, he has no idea that he’s just been handed a front-row seat to history.

With a seat near the throne and an ear to the floor, Somers witnesses firsthand the dizzying power struggles and sly scheming that marked the reign of the fiery Tudor king. Somers watches the rise and fall of some of the most enigmatic women in history, including the tragic Katherine of Aragon, the doomed Anne Boleyn, and Mary Tudor, who confided in the
jester as she made the best of the fragile life of a princess whom everyone wished was a prince.

Based on the life of the real Will Somers, King’s Fool is infused with Margaret Campbell Barnes’ trademark rich detail and
historical accuracy. This intimate peek into the royal chambers gives readers a unique view on one of the most tumultuous periods in English history.

Includes a bonus reading group guide written by the author’s great granddaughter.

Doesn’t this look good?  After reading and loving My Lady of Cleves, I  can’t wait ’til this one comes out in April 2009.  It’s being published by Sourcebooks Landmark.

So spill, what book are you waiting to get in your hot little hands?

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Cutting Loose, by Nadine Dajani – Book Review

cutting-looseCutting Loose, by Nadine Dajani
Publisher: Forge Books
Publication Date: September 30, 2008
Format: Trade Paperback, 384 pages

In Cutting Loose, Nadine Dajani explores the lives of three women faced with a crossroads in their lives.  Over the course of the novel, they step outside the boundaries of their comfort zones in order to transition, change and grow.

Ranya has been pampered and spoiled all of her life by her Saudi Arabian family, but she is forced to face life on her own and without any resources after she finds out that her husband is gay and her family cuts her off when she refuses to return home to them. Zahra is from a poor Palestinian family who made sure that she got the education that she needed to become successful, all the better to earn enough money to support them. Even though she has managed to do all that they require, she doesn’t enjoy her work, and is in love with her boss, George, who doesn’t return her feelings. In her own quiet way Zahra is trying to figure her way out of an untenable situation. The trio is rounded out by Rio, a successful magazine editor from Honduras. Rio has climbed from poverty to success and she has well-defined goals along with the determination to see them through; she also has big and strong ideas about what she wants. However, Rio has some decisions to make as her affair with the boss’ younger brother Joe threatens to undermine the career and magazine she worked so hard to attain.

I really enjoyed this lovely novel about working women who are making changes and trying to either hold on to the place that they’ve created for themselves in the world, but at the same time working toward expansion and growth. The women aren’t necessarily friends with each other; in fact both George and Joe are both taken with Ranya, much to the dismay of Zahra and Rio, who are at odds with each other with other over the magazine that Rio edits.  That was a wonderful change from the regular script of friends working together to overcome the odds – o matter what their differences, and competing interests, they have to work together either to solve a problem or to maintain the status quo with the men in their lives.

The characters were well-developed and the novel, which is told through their alternating perspectives, is consistent in their characterization, and it was easy to follow their stories. I like that I got a different view of the lives of Middle Eastern women. It was really refreshing to see a different type of Middle Eastern woman’s life, ones that I wasn’t sure existed. While Ranya’s family definitely has cut her off and wants her to come back home, she has been educated and is adored by her family, and her mother is genuinely concerned about her and the problems that she is having in her marriage.  Ranya is just like any other spoiled child who defies her parents and finds that she has to make her way on her own for awhile.  In contrast, Zahra is from a poorer Palestinian family who is relying on her to make their fortune.

Rio is constantly trying to keep her place in a male-dominated world after struggling to overcome her poor Honduran upbringing, and struggles with her identity as a darker-skinned, curvaceous woman in a place like Miami, which is dominated by a beach ideal that she does not fit.  Rio is such a rich character and her point of view was deeply nuanced, but I was still disturbed to see that she had the most explicit and the highest number of sexual encounters in the novel.  But I cared about her, as I cared about all of them.  I was particularly interested in the way that Zahra would deal with her family concerns as they competed with her interests and I wanted to know how she would work that out.

Cutting Loose was a great read with a lot more depth than you would expect from the girls-gone-wild cover.  I was wary of the book when seeing the cover, but glad that I continued to read because it was a lovely surprise.

Read More Reviews At:

S. Krishna Books
Genre Go Round Reviews

Have you reviewed Cutting Loose, by Nadine Dajani? Please e-mail me your link or leave it in the comments, I’d love to have it here.

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Chosing to Be: Lessons in Living from a Feline Zen Master, by Kat Tansey – Book Review

choosing-to-beChoosing to Be: Lessons In Living from a Feline Zen Master, by Kat Tansey
Publisher: iUniverse Star
Publication Date: September 5, 2008
Format: Trade Paperback, 168 pages

“The idea that I might already be the answer I am seeking is revolutionary to me to say the least.” I put the book down and turned to face him more directly.

“This is not a revolutionary idea, Kat.” Pooh said. “It is over 2600 years old.  If this is the first you have heard of it, I am beginning to understand why you have been so depressed.  Perhaps it is time for me to teach you how to discover your Buddha nature.” [3]

I admit that I saw a gorgeous kitty cat on the cover and couldn’t think about anything else.  I also saw the words zen and feline master and got even more excited because well yes, I think my cats are zen and they definitely seem to be the masters of this house more so than I am; definitely the book for me.  I was expecting a book filled with things like, don’t care about what others think because cats don’t or something along those lines.  I got a whole lot more with this interesting book on meditation and human being’s inherent Buddha nature.

Kat Tansey has written a wonderful introduction to meditation and finding the Buddha mind.  Suffering from a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and depressed because she can no longer lead the active life that she once led, Tansey turns to meditation to alleviate her depression and lead a more centered and balanced life.  Enter Poohbear Degoonacoon, the Feline Zenmaster, and his trusty sidekick Catzenbear.  Through a series of humorous interchanges Pooh advises Kat on finding a human meditation teacher and carefully guides her through the frustrations of beginning meditation practice and the five hindrances.

I had no idea what was going on when the cat first strolled into the kitchen, jumped on the counter and started chatting up the author.  I was wondering what kind of crazy non-fiction/memoir this was.  Was she dreaming? Hallucinating? Crazy?  But I quickly came around and thoroughly enjoyed the technique as Tansey was able to break down her experience of meditation and the Buddha mind in a simple manner, and through a very amusing teacher (Pooh is a loveable combination of understanding and patient, condescending and snarky all at the same time).  She also succeeded in illustrating parts of the meditation practice-making it more accessible, through watching her cats and how they interact with the world.  The book takes place over the course of a year, and what I especially appreciated was the way she outlined her frustations- not getting it at first, and the baby steps that led her to meditating more successfully and on a regular basis.  That was very helpful for me.

I would recommend this book for a number of reasons- interested and amused by cats, curious about meditation, interested in a story of how one woman turned her life around after serious depression and how she did it?  This one will work for all of the above.


Read More Reviews At:

Lesa’s Book Critiques

Socrates Book Reviews

Adventures in Never-Never Land

Have you reviewed Choosing to Be: Lessons in Living from a Feline Zen Master? Please e-mail me your link or leave it in the comments, I’d love to have it here.

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My Lady Of Cleves, by Margaret Campbell Barnes – Book Review

my-lady-of-clevesMy Lady of Cleves, by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Publisher: Sourcebook Landmarks
Publication Date: September 1, 2008
Format: Trade: Paperback, 352 pages

“In order to take her mind off  Henry’s coming and the approaching hour she went on trying to fix each day’s incidents chronologically in her mind as she had not been able to during the emotional whirl of living them.  She preferred to have things unequivocally clear– even the sequence of events leading to her own shattered pride.” [92]

Anne of Cleves  is one of three sisters to the Duke of Cleves.  She has always known her place in the family.  Her sisters are the beauties and she is content to be the one who has always held things together.  She makes sure the household runs- supervising the cooking and mending, always making lists and remembering things for people like medicine and supplies, and  visiting the sick.  Quiet and observant Anne values that people come to her when they want to unburden themselves and talk about their troubles.

Henry VIII, ever in search of a bride, sends his emissaries to Cleves, where he hopes to form a political alliance, to paint portraits of the two unmarried daughters.  Anne’s mother knows that Anne is capable of running a royal household, but it is Amelia who is prettier, more lively- the one who can be spared.  But when royal artist Hans Holbein sees and paints who she really is, it is Anne who is chosen on the strength of her beauty to be the next Queen of England with all the inherent intrigue and dangers that it might entail.

I loved reading this book; I was so engrossed in it that I finished it in a day!  Barnes succeeded in taking a woman, who for the most part has been a footnote in the history of Henry VIII’s wives,  and molded her into a complex and compelling woman who always faced her challenges with dignity and grace. Hers was a difficult situation which was complicated by the fact that she was not completely fluent in the language of her adopted country, but it was a wonderful thing to watch her learn, grow and come into her own even as she learned painful lessons and had to make sacrifices in her decisions.  Even in briefly knowing the details of her story and what awaited Anne, I was totally connected and rooting for her the whole way through.

I was absorbed with these characters and their stories. There were no caricatures here.  Each person is presented as the complex and multi-faceted individuals that they are. Barnes’ portrayals are so clear and beautiful.  You clearly see Henry in his monstrous self-delusion and selfishness but you also see him as haunted by the decisions that he has made, and as the thoughtful and courtly gentleman that he was and can be when it suits his purposes.  The conflict and strain which are handmaidens to both his daughters are apparent as they grow up in the uncertainty of his love and their changing status in the kingdom.Mary is more thoughtful and nurturing, while Elizabeth is a child wanting love and affection but also guided by her ego and will.

Another strength of this wonderful novel is the lush descriptions of life in Henry VIII’s England and what life was like at the castles.  All the plots and sub-plots were woven with the richness that left nothing to the imagination as to what they were wearing and eating, and the rituals of the people and of the court.  This was an exquisitely visual novel. The sub-plots were thoughtful and while I know that some are speculation, they were also probable.  If you like good fiction I would definitely check this one out.  If you like historical fiction then this is a must read.

Read More Reviews At:

At Home With Books
Becky’s Book Reviews
Eclectic Closet
Passages to the Past
Reading Adventures

Have you reviewed My Lady of Cleves? Please e-mail me your link or leave it in the comments, I’d love to have it here.

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Misadventures of Oliver Booth, by David Desmond – Book Review

the-misadventures-of-oliver-boothThe Misadventures of Oliver Booth, by David Desmond
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication Date: October 1, 2008
Format: Trade Paperback, 224 pages

“Oliver Booth did not believe in New Year’s resolutions.  Instead, he felt that it was the responsibility of others to adapt to what he considered to be his minor quirks. He was wrong.” [3]

Oliver Booth is a self-styled “antiques dealer” selling Mexican made Louis the Fourteenth reproductions just around the corner from fashionable Worth Street in Palm Beach, Florida.  As an obese, gauche and rude social climber Oliver spends his time being obnoxious to his staff (employee turnover is frequent), bathing, and not paying his bills.  When high society doyenne Margaret Van Buren wanders into the shop looking for a bathroom for her grandson, she meets Oliver and his latest assistant, Bernard, and offers them an opportunity of a lifetime- an all expenses paid shopping trip to Paris to find antiques to furnish her guest house.  Bernard is just happy for the opportunity to work and learn and Oliver just wants to charge Mrs. Van Buren as much commission as he possibly can, will both men be able to get what they want?

More farce than satire, The Misadventures of Oliver Booth takes a look at Palm Beach high society through high teas and parties at the nonexclusive (filthy rich is the only criteria) Morningwood Club, presided over by Margaret Van Buren.  I’m not quite sure how, because he doesn’t seem to fit the only criteria, but Oliver Booth is a member of Morningwood and wants to take every opportunity to either be with or take advantage of the wealthy members of society.  Oliver is despicable to be sure, but I must admit that I felt some sympathy for him if only because Bernard and Mrs. Van Buren were always trying to teach him lessons, which were usually painful, humiliating and just not that funny.  I never felt that they had to interact with him so I didn’t see where anything that happened was compelling, aside from providing comic relief.  Mrs. Van Buren could have chosen to deal solely with Bernard, especially since he was the one skilled enough to bring her project to completion.  If I had a stronger reason for any of these people being in each other lives, or had I liked the characters more I think I would have felt differently. For all that she thinks that she has deeper insights into life and beauty, Mrs. Van Buren is a snob, and Bernard seems be both uninteresting and directionless if handsome.  He follows along with whatever.

I think my difficulties with this book were that I was never quite sure what it was supposed to be.  In a few places I did feel like I was getting a satirical peek at what society is like in Palm Beach, but barely more than that.  Most of the situations to me seemed either heavy-handed over the top or just absurd.  Oliver attends a $1,000-a-plate New Year’s Eve party at the Morningwood Club and is seated at a table all by himself (presumably because he is so obnoxious) and is told that he will have to pay extra when he would like a bit more food.  Seriously?  Does that happen? I don’t know, maybe.  But it would have been more interesting for me for me to see high society forced to interact with the buffoon of a social climber who has paid to be a member of the club and paid again to be present at the party. The book also strangely veers off from Oliver to a long section where Bernard is playing keeper for Mrs. Van Buren’s grandson.  It was strange.

I’m not much for over the top and unrealistic humor so this probably just wasn’t the book for me.  But, it’s a fast read and funny in places. Most other reviews I have read seem to really enjoy recommend it so if you’re up for a farce Palm Beach style, then you might want to check it out.

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Have you reviewed The Misadventures of Oliver Booth? Please e-mail me your link or leave it in the comments, I’d love to have it here.

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Down to a Sunless Sea, by Mathias B. Freese – Book Review

down-to-a-sunless-seaDown to a Sunless Sea, by Mathias B. Freese
Publisher: Wheatmark
Publication Date: 2007
Format: Trade Paperback, 134 pages

“Jon went on as if I was there, as if I was not there.  He told one anecdote after another, black pearls on a string, each with a dark lesson he had learned or imagined he had, each revealing more to me, more than I ever needed or wanted to know.” [84]

Down to a Sunless Sea is a collection of stories about people who are at worst suffering from some defined or undefined mental illness and at best have a grim outlook on life.

Reading short stories is very different from reading novels, and as I hadn’t read any short stories in a while this collection was quite startling.  Novels give you a chance to get the lay of the land and you slowly come to realizations about the characters as they unfold not all at once, but over several chapters.  Short stories plunge you right into the heart of the action, and in this book that is right into the minds of some seriously unbalanced people and their often grim experiences and/or outlooks on life. These differences definitely colored my reading of the stories in the first half of the collection as I struggled to find my balance in territory I hadn’t explored in a while. Still I didn’t get the point of a lot of these stories and it made me start to think about what is the point of short stories or any stories at all.  I think all writing fiction, short stories and novels, when they are successful,  convey at the very least how things affect people or other things.  I’m not quite sure I got that here.  I felt as if I were reading a bunch of vignettes or characters sketches in someone’s writing notebook.

The characters are a strange bunch. I didn’t like any of them but I didn’t dislike any of them either.  They just were. There were moments when I caught a glimpse of ways I have felt and reacted to things, albeit to a different degree. Little Errands, one of the best pieces for me, details the neurotic and obsessive-compulsive behavior of an unnamed narrator who is trying to run errands and mail letters, and having a very frustrating time of the experience, which unfortunately is their way of life.  Fortunately for me I can have my little moments of neuroticism and infrequent OCD behavior and just call it a bad mood or a bad day.  Insanity is in degrees and as with most things in life usually just a few steps away.

There was a little moment that resonated with me. It was brought into focus from the unformed knowingness in the back of my mind with this sentence:

“I missed Billy not because we were close, that is nostalgia; I missed Billy because he is a part of an arc in my life, a player in it, part of the context that explains me to me.” [106]

I definitely have some people in my life that have defined periods of time for me and who I was then.

Some stories that stood out for me were The Chatham Bear, Little Errands and Nicholas (and this one probably because the pov was so different than the rest of the book, it was more interesting for the misspellings and grammar of the character).  The tone of the first story was dreary and it remained relentlessly so throughout all the stories.  No bright spots here.  I worked through them slowly over a couple of weeks as they were hard to pick back up once I had put them down. If you’re looking for light or upbeat read, I think the title says it all.

Read More Reviews At:

Books I Done Read
Errant Dreams
Book Chronicle

Have you reviewed Down to a Sunless Sea? Please e-mail me your link or leave it in the comments, I’d love to have it here.

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Last Week on Linus’s Blanket ~ 12.21.08

Most Read Post

  • In Hovering Flight, by Joyce Hinnefeld

Top Non-Review Post

  • 2008 Year In Review ~ Memoirs

5 Most Read Reviews

  • In Hovering Flight, by Joyce Hinnefeld
  • Islands of the Divine Music, by John Addiego
  • The Bookmaker, by Michael J. Agovino
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  • Foe by J.M. Coetzee

Top Review of All Time

  • The Boxcar  Children by Gertrude Warner Chandler

Newly Reviewed Last Week

Read Last Week

Commentary

  • Foe continues to be in the top 5 and it’s searched a LOT. I think it might be college students looking for summaries or other material for their papers.
  • The Boxcar Children, reigns supreme.

What reviews are people buzzing about on your site? Have you reviewed any of these books?  Please e-mail me or leave me a link in the comments.

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Musing Monday ~ Last Minute Gifts

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about Christmas book buying…

In
these last few days before Christmas, I'm sure there are plenty of us
scrambling to get our last minute shopping done. Are you buying any
books for friends or family (or even yourself)? Do you expect to
receive any bookish gifts from others – books, or book-related?

I have procrastinated with the gifts this year.  I have 3 more to buy, but happily for me, they are for family members who like to read and that means I will get to spend some time browsing.  I need a romance, a children's book and a really good fiction novel.

I don't expect to see a lot of books as gifts this year.  Anyone who knows me well enough to buy me a book also knows me well enough to know that I don't need anymore!

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