Tuesday, September 20, 2011

EROMENOS by Melanie McDonald: Review: BLOG TOUR

SERIOUSLY GOOD BOOKS--Historical Fiction


What is the nature of love? Of control? These big questions without easy answers are the heart of the book, as we watch Antinous come to his own conclusions about both.
No one knows what happened to the real Antinous. All that is known is that he drowned in the Nile and then Hadrian deified him. McDonald has given us the imaginary voice of a young man whose image has been immortalized in busts and sculptures, a young man who may very well have been as haunted as his death is mysterious.

My Review:

It was extremely refreshing to read this novel. Not only because it was about a period in history that I am not very familiar with, but also because it shows a side a history that people don’t often talk about. Historical Fiction will always be my favorite, but sometimes it does get a little repetitive, especially when you’re reading novels about the same historical figure, but by different authors. One of the main reasons Eromenos is so refreshing is because it takes the genre I love, but throws a twist into it, a very good twist!

During Greek and Roman times it was acceptable for powerful men, such as Hadrian to sleep with and love young men. I love that this book gives the reader a whole new perspective on love and relationships during this time. I think there will be some readers who are too narrow minded to enjoy Eromenos, but I am definitely not one of them. It was a short, easy read but it was also full of information about the most powerful man of his time, Hadrian, who was the ruler when Hadrian’s Wall (obviously named for him) was built in England. This was during the time when Roman’s still ruled the majority of land, including most of present day England. It is about intense love and loss, and it was a fascinating read that opened my eyes to a whole new genre of literature.

 I commend the author for this book, which was exceptionally well-written, informative, and tasteful.  Not to mention one of the most original love stories that I’ve had the pleasure to read.  Open-minded readers who are interested in time period should definitely purchase this book. It’s rare to find a historical fiction novel that is open to expanding boundiaries, and changing what you thought you knew about the historical fiction genre. My only complaint is that it was so short. I wanted to know more about the lives of Hadrian and his lover, and I think it easily could have been longer and more detailed. Other than that I was pleased, and in my opinion the book deserves a four out of five stars.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

THE SECOND DUCHESS by Elizabeth Loupas: Review


In a city-state known for magnificence, where love affairs and conspiracies play out amidst brilliant painters, poets and musicians, the powerful and ambitious Alfonso d'Este, duke of Ferrara, takes a new bride. Half of Europe is certain he murdered his first wife, Lucrezia, the luminous child of the Medici. But no one dares accuse him, and no one has proof-least of all his second duchess, the far less beautiful but delightfully clever Barbara of Austria.

At first determined to ignore the rumors about her new husband, Barbara embraces the pleasures of the Ferrarese court. Yet wherever she turns she hears whispers of the first duchess's wayward life and mysterious death. Barbara asks questions-a dangerous mistake for a duchess of Ferrara. Suddenly, to save her own life, Barbara has no choice but to risk the duke's terrifying displeasure and discover the truth of Lucrezia's death-or she will share her fate.

My Review

The Second Duchess is one of the best historical fiction novels that I’ve read in awhile! I love pretty much any type of historical fiction, but the author, Elizabeth Loupas, added a twist to this historical fiction novel by adding the element of mystery.

Apparently the Duke of Ferrara has long been suspected of killing his first bride, the flighty Lucrezia de Medici. When his second wife, Barbara of Austria, moves to Ferrara it is immediately put into her head that the first duchess was murdered.  Those who are putting these ideas in her head are those who are against the Duke of Ferrara and Barbara of Austria's marriage. Barbara is a strong willed and intelligent woman who decides to take it upon herself to find out the truth of the suspicious death of Lucrezia. At first when the Duke of Ferrara finds out, Barbara is punished, but as he grows to respect her he gives her more freedom to ask questions and find answers. The part that I really liked is that the author has Lucrezia’s “immobila” (basically her ghost) following the action and the investigation the whole time, and giving hints here and there (to the reader) of what really happened. I was unable to guess who the murderer was until the very end of the novel! I would be set on believing that one person had been the murderer, and then another clue would come about that showed that they could not have been the person who murdered Lucrezia. I also liked that Loupas didn’t make Lucrezia’s “ghost” out to be some creepy, haunting presence. Only the reader knows that she is there, and all she does is comment on certain things that happen in the investigation and in the lives of her former husband and his new duchess.

This was the first book I have read in awhile just for me, not for a review. It was nice to sit back and read and not worry about taking notes down. Although, I find that I forget quite a few parts of books when I don’t write things down!  I would definitely recommend this book to historical fiction lovers. I knew nothing of Lucrezia de Medici or Barbara of Austria prior to reading this novel. I had heard of the Duke of Ferrara before, but not of this Duke of Ferrara, so it was very interesting to read about the history of a different group of people, with the author's amazing creative license of course!

It is definitely a book worth 5 out of 5 stars!

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Brief History of the Isle of Mull in Scotland--Interesting Article!

A brief history of the Isle of Mull (Scotland)

The general consensus agrees that the Isle of Mull has been inhabited since after the last Ice Age ended, which would be around the year 6000 BC. Inhabitants of the Bronze Age built abundant brochs, menhirs and also a stone circle, along with pottery, knives, burial cairns and other tantalizing evidence of the period.

During the time between around 600 BC and 400 BC, the inhabitants of the Iron Age were involved in the construction of defensive forts and crannogs. 563 AD saw an important and pivotal point in the Christian period, when it is thought that Christianity was first introduced to this particular area of Great Britain when St. Columba arrived from Ireland and set up a monastery close to the south western point of Mull.
Mull was to become a part of the Lordship of the Isles during the 14th century, subsequently being taken over by the MacLean clan in 1493 following the collapse of the Lordship.

There remains a legend which states that there are the remains of a Spanish vessel somewhere in the mud of Tobermory bay – laden to the gills with gold and treasure. Needless to say, the true identity of the ship and its cargo remains a mystery and the matter of dispute, but the story is nonetheless an incredibly famous local legend. 

Some believe that the ship in question is none other than the Florencia, which belonged to the defeated Spanish Armada and was known to have fled the British fleet in or around 1588, anchoring in the area to stock up on provisions. There was a dispute regarding payment and the ship was to catch fire, eventually spreading to the gunpowder reserves and causing an explosion which would sink the ship. Legend has it that the cargo hold also hid no less than £300,000 in solid gold and valuable treasures.

Others believe that the ship in question was named the San Juan de Baptista and according to records was used for carrying troops and such, rather than treasure and gold. This particular account speaks of the chief of the island at the time cutting a deal with the commander of the Spanish ship to add provisions and supplies, along with refitting the ship in exchange for their help in an ongoing feud with enemies and conspirators on the nearby islands. The tale tells that the ship was sunk during the conflict that ensued.

Whichever of the tales happens to be true, if any at all, extensive searches were carried out for the wreck and whatever it may or may not have been carrying from the 17th century right through to the end of the 20th and sadly, nothing of value or significant interest has so far been found.

At the time of the so-called Highland Clearances during both the 18th and 19th centuries, the 10,000 inhabitants of Mull were reduced to under 3,000.

During the Second World War, the entire island was to become a restricted area, with Tobermory bay becoming a naval base. The whole of the restricted area and the base within was put under the control of one Sir Gilbert Stephenson, who was known to rule from his leather furniture with such an iron fist and terrifying temper that he was donned with the nickname ‘The Terror of Tebormory’. A total of 911 ships and vessels passed through between the years of 1940 and 1945, with the base being used to train in anti submarine combat.

The Isle of Mull continues to display its rich history and boasts a number of iconic and historic buildings for the admiration of visitors, including Torosay Castle and Duart Castle which remain open to the public from the early spring until the end of the summer. There is also the remains of a small distressed castle by the name of Moy Castle which can be found on the shoreline of Lochbuie.

Visitors can also find the remains of a number of interesting chapels, including those located at Kilvickeon and Pennygown. There are also plenty of important archaeological sites, ranging from standing stones to chambered cairns. One of the most notable is that of the prehistoric stone circle located at Lochbuie and another three stone groups found close to Dervaig.