Monday, October 19, 2009

CW Gortner Interview


The wonder C.W. Gortner, author of The Last Queen, based on Juana of Castile, was kind enough to conduct an interview with me where I was able to ask him some questions about his The Last Queen as well as his future book based on Catherine Medici. I was honored that the talented Gortner was kind enough to take the time to converse with me and take the time to answers my many questions. If you have not read The Last Queen I highly recommend it. You can find my review here

1) Why do you think Juana was betrayed by those she trusted, who let the world think she was mad?

I think Juana was betrayed for the same reasons so many women of the time were: misogyny and power. Her husband Philip wanted her throne so badly, he longed to prove himself so desperately, he just got caught up in his own ambition to such an extent he ceased to see Juana as a human being. Women in particular in those days were still regarded as subservient to men, and though women had ruled countries and would continue to do so very successfully, it still was enough of a rarity for men to challenge it. We must remember that virulent anti-women tracts such as John Knox's, which he published in the 16th century against Mary of Scots and Elizabeth I, reflected a prevailing sentiment; a woman's place was to bear her husband children and care for his hall, not sitting on the throne. It's barbaric but it's one of the distasteful and unavoidable aspects of the era, and Juana was victimized by it as were thousands of other women. Calling a woman mad because she challenged a man's right was, unfortunately, something all too easy to use.


2) How do you think Isabella her mother would have reacted if she had know what was done to her daughter?

I would hope she'd have been horrified. Though Isabella herself did some very questionable things in her lifetime, she believed absolutely in the right of the monarchy and she would have wanted her daughter to rule. Isabella bequeathed her throne to Juana in her will, with the stipulation that if Juana proved unable or unwilling to be queen, a regency would be set up until Juana's son Charles came of age. It is very unfortunate that while on her deathbed, Isabella was so divided by the rumors she'd heard of Juana's alleged instability; it probably tormented her, as she was unsure as to what would happen to Spain once she was gone. But I do not believe Isabella thought her daughter was mad or incapable of ruling: I think she tried to prepare Spain for every possible scenario, in case something happened to Juana.


3) What did you discover about Juana during your research that didn't make it to the book?

Like her mother, Juana was deeply religious. Her faith was strong and it sustained her; unfortunately, during the editing process this aspect of her personality was deleted, to better emphasize her own internal strength and courage. She also had a passionate love of music and always kept a company of hired musicians in her employ.


4) Do you think Philip loved Juana or the titles and lands she brought into their marriage? If he did love her what caused him to treat her so monstrously after such a short time of marriage?


I think Philip was incapable of truly loving anyone. He had such a dysfunctional childhood, with his mother dying while he was a baby and his father being so aloof and physically distant. He was raised by servants and governors, taught to be a Habsburg prince first, before all else. Emotional maturity was secondary, if it was ever considered at all. Power, wealth, and titles: these are what mattered. I think his sense of self was warped by everything expected of him. I believe he probably cared for Juana at first, as much as he could, but when things became difficult he lashed out because he was frustrated by his own inadequacies. While Juana had a truly honest heart, Philip did not. He was horrifying to her, but I do try to understand all of my characters, good and bad, to get a sense of where they come from and what makes them who they are.

5) How do you think Juana would have fared as Queen?

Interesting question. I like to think, with the right Council and advisors at her side, that she would have done well. It's not inconceivable that she could have ruled, but she was under so much pressure from her opponents, had been physically and emotionally abused to such an extent, it's difficult to judge 500 years later how she might have fared. However, judging by how she stood up to everything and never backed down, and looking at her longevity, even while imprisoned, she was undoubtedly a very strong woman, who may well have made a strong queen.

6) I read somewhere that Juana was so in love with Philip that she became mad with her obsessions and this why she is called Juana the Mad. Where do you think this idea came from?

It's part of her legend, the traditional explanation, and an excuse that her opponents used, I think, for why she had to be locked up. I don't believe it; I believe Juana did fall in love with him, yes, but she also did not react to his infidelities in the way she was expected to, and this sowed the legend. In Juana's era, it was expected that a prince would be unfaithful to his wife; she was supposed to deal with it and not make a fuss, much as Catherine of Aragon did with her husband Henry VIII's numerous infidelities, at least until Anne Boleyn came along! But Juana did not act conventionally. On the contrary, she took strong offense to Philip's deceit and even publicly confronted his mistress. To many of those around her, her behavior looked neurotic, almost obsessive. To us today, her reactions seem justifiable, but this is how legends start, with a kernel of fact. Later, when Juana was accused of being mad, her previous reactions to her husband's philandering dovetailed rather neatly into the entire scenario that she'd gone "mad of love" for Philip.


7) And of course I must know more about your next book. I read that you found Catherine to be one of the most fascinating woman in history. What drew you to her story?

Catherine at first for the same reasons that I was drawn to Juana; Catherine de Medici is maligned by history, and I’m always attracted to dark historical legends. I figure, if the person had a strong enough personality to garner a legend, then the truth has to be even more spectacular. And as in Juana’s case, Catherine de Medici’s legend – while certainly lurid, even heinous—doesn’t begin to do justice to her incredible strength and complexity. Catherine rose from obscurity as a neglected queen-consort to dominate France during one of the 16th century’s most savage religious conflicts; she was mother-in-law to Mary, Queen of Scots, and mother of the last Valois kings; she ruled at the same time as Elizabeth I, who seriously considered marrying one of Catherine’s own sons. She led an intensely dramatic, tumultuous life; she made many mistakes, one of them so violent and bloody it blackened her name forever; but she also showed remarkable tolerance in an age infamous for its bigotry, and her fight to save France from destruction forestalled the fall of the French monarchy for 200 years, until the Revolution. I like to say that just as Juana is far more than the stereotypical passionate woman who went mad out of love, Catherine is much more than the clich├ęd evil queen, with her poisons and hidden daggers. I hope readers will find her as fascinating as I have, for she has become one of my favorite historical characters.

8) Also what are you going to work on next after Catherine?

Hopefully, I am returning to Spain. I recently submitted the proposal and sample chapters of my new novel to my editor, so I've got my fingers crossed!


Jasmine, thank you so much for your generosity and for taking this time with me. I hope your readers enjoy THE LAST QUEEN. Readers can always visit me at http://www.cwgortner.com to learn more about my work and upcoming books, as well as special offers such as a virtual tour of Juana’s world.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Booking Through Thursday

I was wanting to try a certain author and wished I knew someone who had read her works so I could get a recommendation when it occurred to me that having a “YOU ask the question” Booking Through Thursday might be fun. Each participant could ask a question they’ve wanted to discuss with other readers. Perhaps, like me, you’d like a recommendation of a certain author’s best work, or perhaps you LOVE a certain genre or series but no one else you know does and you’d just like to discuss it with someone. Or perhaps you want to try a new genre and would like recommendations from seasoned readers.

I'm not sure what to make of this question so I thought I would just talk about a few books I loved . I would love to discuss both of them but have yet to find many poeple who have read them.

The first book I love is Courtesan by Diane Haeger. I know I have posted about it in the past but not many people know of this book or the characters in the story, Diane de Poiters and King Henri the II of France. Haeger herself has said that when she discovered this fascinating love story between Henri and Diane it prompted her to want to write a book about them letting others know about one of France's most poignant and beautiful love story. The writing in Courtesan is wonderfully fluid but truly the magnificence is the tender and real love between Henri and Diane. I simply could not put the book down and loved every lovely moment I was in their world. It inspired me so much that for the first time after reading a historicla fiction book I went looking for other books about these two amazing people. I read the non-fiction book The Serpant and the Moon writen by a descendant of Diane's and still look for glimpses of them in other books. While i doubt Ill ever find anything as wonderful as Courtesan I can't stop craving and yearning to find more about this real life Romeo and Juliet. I do not like travel much but if I ever find myself in France one day my only wish is to visit Chateau de Chenonceau and stand in the same place these two once did.

The other book I loved and wish to discuss with others is Queen of Camelot by Nancy McKenzie. Queen of Camelot was the first book I ever read dealing with Arthurian times and it has left an indelible mark on how I see these characters. Queen of Camelot is Arthur's story told through the eyes of Guinevere. The book chronicles her life as she grows up in the Northern part of Wales. By the time she is in her teens the name Arthur has spread through all of Britain as a magnificent fighter and keepr of the peace in Britain. Through a series of events she is chosen to be his bride and she journeys to a fledgling Camelot and meets the man behind the legend. All of the characters associated with Arthur's legends are there: Lancelot, Merlin, the round table knights, etc. McKenzie weaves an enchanting story showing us the love that can be had both romantically as well as the mark of brotherhood and loyalty. Without spoiling the book too much I have to say that Lancelot, Arthur, and Guinevere are beautifully written and their relationship so multi faceted its hard not to fall in love with them all.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Last Queen



I read The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner this summer while I was on vacation. I had been introduced to the world of book blogging at that time and had wonderful things about this book all over the book blog world and just had to have it for my cruise. I brought it and one other book with me but admit that I spent every minute of my vacation (well every minute my husband would let me) reading this book. I was intrigued at the character of Juana who previously the only information I had about her was that she was mad and crazy over her husband Philip the Fair. I was delighted to learn that Juana was part of the powerful family of Isabel and Ferdinand (the very same who funded Columbus) as well as the older sister of the wronged Queen Katherine of Aragon. As soon as I started reading I was swept into Gortner's Spain. I was especially taken in with the description of the Moorish city Alhambra where Juana spent much of her youth. I enjoyed a glimpse Juana's childhood, especially her relationship with her sisters, as she developed from a strong willed girl to a determined and dogged woman.

Before reading Gortner's book I simply knew Juana as what history has painted her, mad. As I read The Last Queen and saw the circumstances and position that Juana was put in time and time again, by those closets to her and the ones who she trusted the most only to be betrayed and hurt by, it made her seem human. I feel like anyone put in her position time and time again the way she was would break and act out against those who hurt them. Many times when we read historical fiction we fail to realize that these people and events really happened. That life in courts at the time were filled with manipulation, betrayal, political maneuvering, and at times even death. To live among this day and in and day out sometimes without any knowledge of who to turn to or what the next day might unfold can be very frightening and overwhelming. In Juana's case as a woman surrounded by men who take advantage of her position it is not hard to see why her passions and indignation at her treatment would cause her to act out in a way that protocol at the time would dictate as crazy.
Gortner's ability to transform situations and take these real events and show us the workings behind them that cause Juana to act out is the beauty of this book and of her story. Combined with masterful storytelling and historical facts Gortner's Last Queen is a book I simply couldn't put down, at times to the dismay of my husband. I felt when i was finished reading that I understood Juana more as well as learned a great deal about Spanish history which I did not know before. One of the most amazing things I also discovered about this book was that the author C.W. Gortner is a man! I never thought a man would be able to convey a story through a woman's eyes and understand a woman's needs, fears, hopes, etc, as well as Gortner made Juana's.

And whats even more wonderful is that Gortner will be releasing a new book next year about Catherine Medici a woman that history has tainted so black as to call her Serpent Queen. I myself have a biased view on her being that I read a book about her husband and mistress that captivated me to no end. Still I feel that if anyone can change the way people view a character Gortner would be that author. In the same way he showed us that madness is not always what it seems I feel he can turn our views on the queen known to be the mastermind behind The Bartholomew Massacre. Needless to say i am dying to read his next book as well as anything else he might put out.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Updates

I have been MIA for a bit and the reason is I'm pregnant! I found out last week and its been consuming a lot of time and thoughts if you can imagine. Its our first so there will probably be a lot of baby books being read in the near future heehee. Anyways I am currently reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and have a huge backlog of TBR books especially since I was gifted quite a few more of for my birthday. I will be reviewing a few books hopefully this weekend and next week starting with The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner which I read this summer. I have been in contact with C. Gortner as I anxiously await his new book about Catherine coming out next year. Anyways thats whats been going on with me and I hope to be back reading and blogging real soon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Birthday Books

























I had a wonderful birthday away and of course got some birthday books which always are nice. My best friend got me both The Time Traveler's Wife (which I have been dying to read especially with the movie out and everything) and a book by her favorite author Mitch Albom, For One More Day. She gave the same books to my other best friend who was with us on the trip and we are planning on reading them together which will be a lot of fun. I also got gift cards and cash from my family to buy even more books! I cant wait. Now I have to figure out what I want to have in my hot little hands heehee

Friday, September 25, 2009

Birthday

Today is my 28th birthday. Nothing big just another wonderful year and more to look forward to. I am going away with my girlfriends for 2 days to celebrate and am so excited I cant sleep anymore! Hope everyone has a great weekend!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Squeeeee


I am so excited to announce that I was asked to review my first book by a publisher. I received an email today from a publisher asking if I would be interested in reviewing a book called Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel based on the rise of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII. I immediately emailed back saying yes. I am just so excited someone would consider my thought and opinions worthy and I hope that I can do the book justice. Squeee what a way to start the week!

Wolf Hall comes out October 13th. Hilary is an award winning writer and the author of nine other novels. She also writes book reviews for The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and London Review of Books.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Philippa Gregory 2

I finally got time to take pictures of my night with Philippa Gregory. Because I ended up going alone, my friend who was suppose to come with me had to take a stray kitten she found to the vet, I didnt take any pictures because I was too shy. Phillipa was wonderfully funny and nice and she shook my hand when I nervously told her what a big fan of hers I was. I was able to get three books signed, My copy of The White Queen, a copy of The White Queen for my friend, and my copy of The Constant Princess (my second favorite of hers after The Other Boleyn Girl which I was unable to locate) I very much enjoyed meeting her and hope to meet her again in the future as well as attend other talks by writers I like.

Here is my reminder that I did indeed meet the fabulous Philippa Gregory




Booking Through Thursday






Booking Through Thursday asks "Whats the most enjoyable, most fun, most darn entertaining book you've read recently?"

Hmmm I guess I would have to say The Luxe series. I read both Luxe and Rumors and am awaiting the end of the month for Envy to come out on paperback to start that. While I thought I wouldn't care for the series too much as its young adult I find myself captivated by the ever moving plot as well as truly getting attached to certain characters. I am actually very anxious to read the next book Envy but am making myself wait for the paperback so I don't have 2 paperbacks and 1 hardcover as I hate mixing the two. I find myself anxious to know the fate of two specific characters and feel a bit like a child having to wait. The books are certainly light and fluffy but the intrigue and gossip make the experience a lot of fun. I dont even want to talk about the wait for the 4th and final book Splendor which will be released at the end of October but wont be coming to paperback for a year after that.

BBAW- Reading Meme



Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
No I like to read in bed so no food.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea ofwriting in books horrify you?
I would never write in my book willingly, that's sacrilege

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?Laying the book flat open?
Most of the time I just memorize the page number though I do use book marks at times and even lay it open (*gasp*) if I know Ill be back quickly

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?
Fiction. The only non-fiction I like is cute animal stories.

Hard copy or audiobooks?
Hard copy. I think reading and listening require different skills and I prefer to read so I have time to visualize, digest, and reread if need be.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are youable to put a book down at any point?
It depends on the book. Some books I can put down others I can't.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
I usually try to reason it out but I have been known to look things up later.

What are you currently reading?
Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig

What is the last book you bought?
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory which I got signed when I met her and which I still need to take a picture of

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?
I really like to finish one book before starting another. If I pick up another while reading another book it usually means I am about to quit the first book.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
I like to read in bed snuggled up under the covers with pillows and pets around me. I don't have a specific time though I do a lot of reading at night.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
I like them both.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
Philippa Gregory is one of my favorites. My favorite book is Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and I encourage everyone has tried to read it to get through the first fifty pages and the book gets better.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
By size of how they look together on my bookshelves though I do try my best to keep series together. The only time I cant is when some are paperback and some are hardcover. I hate that and usually try to stick with one or the other.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

As a birthday present (25th is my birthday) my husband and I took some pictures together. This is my favorite shot.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Philippa Gregory

I met Philippa Gregory tonight! I went to see her in Princeton and I got two books signed; The White Queen and The Constant Princess. I will take pictures of the signatures tomorrow Im exhausted after a super long day and getting lost on my way home from the event. Phillipa was funny and informative and I loved her British accent and jokes about the monarchy. This was my first book signing event and I really had a good time so I might have to look out for other authors I like now. The people running it are very efficient and I waited less then half an hour in line to get my books signed and shake hands with the brilliant Philippa. I was alone so no pictures sadly but hopefully next time. She said that The White Queen is the first of six books based on the Plantagents and the War of Roses. After that she is thinking of revisiting the Tudors again as she said she has had her eye on a certain person though she did not mention who it was. Im beat but what a great night.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Historical Fiction Round Table



An amazing event being held for all historical fiction lovers is coming September 14-18. To read more click here! I can't wait for the fun to begin!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Finds

Being Chinese I am attracted to books dealing with Asian culture. Though I am the child of two immigrants I see myself as firmly American being born and raised in this country in a town where I was one of the few minorities. Growing up I never appreciated my culture, wanting to be Caucasian like all my peers and thus scoffed at learning Chinese and Chinese school as well as all the little tidbits and things my family would try to impart on me. Only as I grew did I learn to appreciate the culture and history of the country my family is from. I look back regrettably at the years I wasted not wanting to be bothered learning more about the culture I come from. Though I can carry a conversation in Chinese reading and writing are lost on me and probably always will be. I'm sad at the idea that my family's heritage might die with me as I lack the skills to pass on anything meaningful to my own children. I hope that my children will come to embrace and love their heritage at a younger age then I did. So it is with a natural curiosity that I have come to enjoy books written about Asian culture and by Asian writers. I very much enjoy Amy Tan and Lisa See's books as they teach me more about my heritage as well as incidences that I can relate well to in my own life. This week I found two new books based on Asian culture that have sparked my interest and I will be adding to my TBR pile.

The first is Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet about a Chinese boy falling in love with a Japanese
girl right before the start of World War II. When the war starts the little girl's family is taken away to interment camps and the little boy promises to wait for her in Seattle. After recently reading Lisa See's Shanghai Girls it touches a bit about the war and how Chinese immigrants feared being taken away to interment camps and trying to distinguish themselves from Japanese American

The second is The Calligrapher's Daughter which is based on Korean history, that
of which I admit I know very little about but am eager to learn more about. It deals with Korea during the time of Japanese occupation and the struggles of one girl trying to seek her own path while her father pushes her to stay on the traditional one.

Philiipa Gregory Book Tour

Philippa Gregory's US and Canada book tour dates are up. You can find them on her website. My friend and I are going to try to go to it together this Tuesday. I hope I can get out of work in time to make it but even if Im late Im going. Now I have to get my hands on The White Queen this weekend to get her to sign it. Should I bring another one of her books with me too in case she is feeling generous? I cant find The Other Boleyn Girl (my favorite of hers and the reason I got into reading historical fiction) but I do have my Constant Princess I could being as that is my 2nd favorite of hers. I am so excited and I hope I can make this and take some pictures of the event and Philippa.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Release The Queen's Mistake by Diane Haeger





The Queen's Mistake by Diane Haeger is coming out October 6, 2009. Based on Catherine Howard, Henry VIII"s 5th wife and cousin to his second Wife Anne Boleyn, it will be interesting to see Haeger's take Catherine who history has deemed mostly silly and frivolous. I myself am quite excited to read this as I am a big fan of Haeger's writing and though I felt her most recent, The Secret Bride, was a misstep I forigve all as she introduced me to the sweeping love of King Henri II and Diane de Poiters (in her book Courtesan ) which I simply can't get enough of. Here is Amazon's description

"
"When the young and beautiful Catherine Howard becomes the fifth wife of the fifty-year-old King Henry VIII, she seems to be on top of the world. Yet her reign is destined to be brief and heartbreaking, as she is forced to do battle with enemies far more powerful and calculating than she could have ever anticipated in a court where one wrong move could mean her undoing. Wanting only love, Catherine is compelled to deny her heart's desire in favor of her family's ambition. But in so doing, she unwittingly gives those who sought to bring her down a most effective weapon-her own romantic past. The Queen's Mistake is the tragic tale of one passionate and idealistic woman who struggles to negotiate the intrigue of the court and the yearnings of her heart. "


The Luxe



Well I finished The Luxe today and enjoyed it enough to go out and buy the second book Rumors and place it ahead of Rhett Butler's People which was next on my TBR list. All in all I enjoyed The Luxe a lot. I am a big fan of the show Gossip Girl and so much of the witty banter and dialogue reminded me of the show. The Luxe is essentially Gossip Girl set in the early 1900's. It flows easily and the characters grow on you. The story line is one that is familiar to aristocracy; money, gossip, image, and doing whats best for the family. I enjoy the way Godbersen starts each new chapters with a little snippet of an article or letter to give you an idea of what lays ahead. Lastly I will admit I am a sucker for a good looking cover and will read books with beautiful covers just to see what is going on inside those pages and The Luxe and its subsequent sequels are some of the most lovliest covers you will ever see. So if you are looking for a fun romp in high society with gorgeous gowns, debonair men, and gossip abound you might want to take a stroll into the young adult section and pick this one up...the cover alone is worth it I say!

Booking Through Thursday


Booking Through Thursday asks "Whats the most informative book you read recently"
For me that would have to be Gone with the Wind. Despite Gone with the Wind being a love story about Scarlet and Rhett I also felt Margaret Mitchell was writing a love story about a lost South as well. Being from NJ and thus living in the north I never really gave much thought to what people meant when they talk about Southern culture and while I heard of Southern charm and civility it never occurred to me where those things came from. Gone with the Wind opened my eyes to this lost culture of gentleman and gallantry. It was also informative in its description of the Civil War and the ravages the people of the south felt during and after the war. It made me understand the life and culture these people were fighting to save even if I whole heartily abhor the idea of slavery. I also surprisingly learned a bit about the Klu Klux Klan and while I despise them as well I understand a little about what their driving force was when they started though it still can not excuse the atrocities they commit. All in all I felt for someone like me who has little to no knowledge about the South this was an inside glimpse at the culture and lifestyle of a people and how even today you can see vestiges of these old customs alive today in Southern charm and hospitality.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Award


I received this wonderful award from Esme. The two of us have bonded over our love of cats and books. Thank you so much Esme!

Wordless Wednesday

From my vacation in August to the Caribbean.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Teaser Tuesday



I am partcipating in my first Teaser Tuesday hosted by Should Be Reading

Grab your current read.
Open to a random page
Share (2) teaser sentences from somewhere on the page
Be careful not to include too many spoilers
Share the title and author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR pile if they like your teaser

"Oh what's that old adage...heart stopping envy is the sincerest form of flattery? You should learn to view papers as I do"
pg 78-79 The Luxe by AnnaGodbersen

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cleopatra's Daughter


I won a signed copy of Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran through Hist-Fic Chick, Allie. I can't believe it. This is the first book I ever won and I am so excited to read it. Cleopatra's Memoirs by Margaret George is one of my favorite books and I became utterly fasinated by Cleopatra because of it. I am so excited now and will be checking my mailbox daily now! Thanks so much Allie!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gone with the Wind

I just finished Gone with the Wind and thought I would throw up some thoughts about it while they were still fresh. I had seen the movie years ago as a child and never really understood what the movie was about though as I read bits and parts of the movie came back to me. I think for me the overall theme of Gone with the Wind is not only the love between Scarlett and Rhett but also a love story about the south as it once was. Much of the book is a history lesson on the ravages of the Civil War on the south and in many ways I feel that the Old South is as much as a character in the book as the people. One of the best parts I think of the book is the depth of character development Mitchell does. Since the book is well over a thousand pages she has time to change the characters slowly and in many ways the South changes in the same way. Since the book is so long and there is so much to it I thought I would break down my thoughts into the four main characters of the book: Scarlett, Rhett, Melanie, and Ashley. All of them leave an indelible mark in the book.

Scarlett- Scarlett is the narrator of the book. At the start of the book she comes off willful, spoiled, and used to getting her way. When her heart is crushes she runs headlong into a unwanted marriage at the same time the Civil War really begins. Throughout the book as the south gets ravished by war Scarlett is forced out of her pampered coddled world into something harsher and rougher then she has ever known. Instead of foundering though she rallies and gathers her wits and strengths to secure her home and those she loves. This however has a price as she becomes a calculating and more determined while showing a great deal of brightness and intelligence in desperate times. While Scarlett is not my favorite character you see the world through her eyes and thus I do find myself admiring her pluck and gumption when faced with such hardships as war. She is certainly not the most lovable character but she is a real one with human flaws that we have all have and at her heart I feel she does have the best intentions.

Rhett- For me Rhett Butler is the soul of Gone with the Wind. Since his arrival briefly at the start of the book my entire time reading was spent waiting for his appearances. His wit, charm, and devil may care attitude as well as the image of Clark Gable makes him absolutely swoon worthy even if his character is at times a bit of a cad. As it is his love for Scarlett is plain to see for everyone, save Scarlett, and that in itself is the beauty of his character. Understanding Scarlett's nature with men he always dangles his affection right above her head in a way that she misses it completely even as he stands throwing it at her time and time again. Rhett propels the story in my mind and the times where he is not there are spent longing for his return. In the end despite some bad behavior I do think he is a gentlemen understanding the Southern notion of loyalty when the matters are most high.

Melanie- Melanie is the character that at the start of the book I merely tolerated and absolutely loved at the end. Melanie is the kindest sweetest girl you will ever met but at the start of the book that seems to be all she is. Weak physically and overly sweet and kind she lacked depth of character until a pivotal moment in the book which I won't say to spoil things. From that moment on you see Melanie's strength and fortitude of character lies beneath the surface of her calm demeanor and while not seen often when dire times come the strength she carries is immeasurable. Because the book is seen through Scarlett's eyes you don't even fully realize the beauty that is Melanie's character until the very end of the book. The loyalty and love she gives to the ones closets to her heart is a testament to the fact that those quiet and meek can carry a fire and toughness that outshines the rest.

Ashley- Ashley's character was one that I was quite puzzled at for a while. The object of Scarlett's love Ashley is a very quite unassuming person throughout the beginning of the book. Seen as the essential Southern boy with a head for books and literature he is the man of Scarlett's dreams. For much of the book I felt that this love of Ashley Scarlett had was simply in her own mind as Ashley's character seemed to not even really notice or care for her. One scene in the book, one of the most powerful and passionate in my mind, changed that view for me and made Ashley a character in the background so far for me spring into life. In the end Ashley is the character most closely tied to Old southern ways. After the war, he like the south, is unable to let go and adapt to the changing world around them. He lives in the old ways which no longer match up to the quickly changing world around him. I think Rhett said it best when he described Ashley as "A gentleman caught in a world he doesn't belong in trying to make the poor best of it by the rule's of the world that's gone" In the end there is nothing but pity for this lost man and the world he misses so dearly.

Lastly I conclude with some additional thoughts. Truly this book opened my eyes to the Civil War and the effects and ramifications it had on the people of the south. Not being from the South myself it was a very interesting glimpse into their lives seeing their value of honor, loyalty, and family above all else. While its been hundreds of years since this war and modern times have certainly changed us all I can now see the remnants of this world gone past. While much as changed some of its charm will never fade away.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Finds


I am in the midst of reading Gone with the Wind currently and without getting too much into detail (saving that for a review) I utterly captivated by Rhett Butler's character and can't get enough of him. Because of this I went out searching for more on him and found that recently another book was written, authorized by Margaret Mitchell's family, called Rhett Butler's People. I am dying to learn more about the man behind the mustache and witty words so this will probably be what I read next. I have read a few books like this, where another author tries to fill in the blanks and questions we are left with after the original author is gone. Though nothing can replace the original book if you read these with an open mind to another interpretation of characters you love they usually can be quite enjoyable.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Booking Through Thursday


Booking Through Thursday asks "What's the biggest book you read recently"
I would probably have to say Gone with the Wind which I am currently still in the midst of. Not only as it big in size, being well over a thousand pages, but its big in its name as its a Pulitzer Prize winning book that has captured generations selling well over 30 million copies as well as spawning an epic Academy Award winning movie staring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh.

I am about half way through the book now but I think when I am done I will write up a little post on my thoughts.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The White Queen

I am dying to read this book so I enter every contest I see about it. S Krishna has a contest ending today at 11:59PM so if you are like me and still trying to get your hands on this book enter now!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Courtesan


Today I thought I would write a little about another favorite book of mine; Courtesan by Diane Haeger. I had never heard of Diane Haeger before I read Courtesan even though I think she had two other books out before Courtesan. I remember walking around Barnes and Noble one rainy Friday looking for my next book fix. Most of the time when book browsing I mentally take in titles I might be interested in and then go home and look them up on Amazon to see how good they were. As it happens though that rainy Friday I had a coupon (a rarity for Barnes and Noble which is why when Borders and their weekly coupons moved in next door I quickly switched allegiances) that was going to expire so as I wandered the bookshelves I came across Courtesan. After a brief skim of the back which stated this romance became legendary in France I snatched it up and dashed home eager to start. I did not know much about French history at the time as I mostly focused on England and the Tudor era when reading so I was keen to learn more about this legendary couple. As it was I was swept away into the court of King Francois (the contemporary of King Henry VIII ) and into the lives of his courtiers and children. His second son Henri (named after said English king) was a lonely, angry teenage boy outcast in his father's court by both his father and brothers. Years ago when King Francois waged war against Charles V and lost Henri and his older brother Francois were taken hostage. Those years in a Spanish prison colored Henri's feelings for his father and his bitterness and anger toward his father made life at court difficult from him. At the beginning of the book a woman named Diane de Poitiers is making her way back to court after a long period away. Diane is different from the other courtiers of the time disliking Francois' open and liberal court. Upon her arrival Diane finds herself at odds with the King's mistress, Anne d'Heilly, who sees her as a rival for the King's affection and works to make her life more difficult at court. An unlikely protector arrives in the form of young Henri and a love story is born.
Haeger does a masterful job of making both Henri and Diane and their love come to life. Through circumstances greater then themselves they find each other and share a love that is tender, raw, and encompassing of their worlds. Henri is transformed from a bitter petulant boy to a caring, sweet, gentlemen who lives for Diane's happiness. Its not hard to get swept away in their love and I have been in love with both Henri and Diane and their story ever since.

This transitions nicely into another book I read recently called The Devil's Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis
which is about Catherine Medici, Henri's wife for political reasons. Since reading Courtesan I have been desperately looking for other books that involve these two fascinating people (I also read The Serpent and the Moon which is an non-fiction book about Diane and Catherine written by Princess Michael Kent a direct descendant of both women) so I was over the moon excited for the release of The Devil's Queen. While I knew that the book was about Catherine and would be told through her eyes I still eagerly wanted to see Henri and Diane even if it was through her eyes. The Devil's Queen is certainly a more sympathetic book toward Catherine who has a notorious reputation (Madame Serpent they called her) as a Queen and regent through her sons after Henri's death. I enjoyed seeing Catherine's youth as I had heard it was a difficult one and it was interesting to see how the children of Henri ruled on after him. One big issues I did have though with the book was that Kalogridid omitted a daughter (Claude) and a son (Hercules) which I didn't really understand. Overall the book was interesting enough especially the events leading up to the St Bartholomew Massacre and the relationship Catherine had with her sons. especially her younger son in the book Edouard. I was disappointed through as the relationship I had grown to love in Courtesan between Henri and Diane was not portrayed the same as I had hoped which I guess was something I should have expected considering the book was through Catherine's eyes. In the end it was still a good read through nothing compared to Courtesan. Still I will always be on the hunt for more books that tell the story of Henri and Diane so I am still glad I read this one.

Friday Finds


I met with my book club (me and a friend from college who share the same love for historical fiction, pretty book covers, and romantic stories as well as the same birthday!) on Wednesday and as we were perusing around Barnes and Noble trying to pick out our next month's book (we choose Luxe which is why you see it waiting in the wings) we stumbled upon this baby. The book is called Fairest of All by Serena Valentino and its based on the Wicked Queen of the Snow White legend. Its suppose to let you understand what drove the Queen to attempt the murder of a sweet innocent young girl. My friend and I were both drawn instantly to the cover as we recognized the woman (we both agree though that face however resembles Maleficent of Sleeping Beauty more then the Wicked Queen of Snow White) My love of fractured fairy tales was instantly awaken at the idea of seeing this story from the Queen's point of view. We noticed that this book came out from Disney Press so we are both wondering (and hoping with crossed fingers) that they will continue this idea and create a series based on all the famous Disney villians. I am definitely adding this to my list. If you are looking for this one in your local bookseller its in the young adult section and is a very small square book, about 250 pages long.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Booking Through Thursday


Booking Through Thursday asks "Whats the lightest. most "fluff" kind of book you read recently"


I recently read Love the One Your With by Emily Giffin one of my favorite "chick lit fluff writer" books. She is also the author of Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and Baby Proof all of which I have read and enjoyed. All of her books are light and easy and for the most part stand alone (Something Borrowed and Something Blue are connected with the same characters ) so quick and easy to pick up and read. I love Giffin's style of writing as she writes almost the exact way I feel I think and talk (and even write at times) slipping in and out of little tangents and side stories and minute details but still managing to create and effortless read. Since I had read her three other books before I felt like I knew what to expect going in but I have to say Love the One Your With hit me unexpectledly in a good way. The story is essentially about a woman, newly married to a wonderful husband, when she runs into her ex randomly on the streets of NY. The ex that broke her heart and still might even have some of it. For me the experience, without going into too much personal detail, hit home in many parts as I too have struggled in the early years of my marriage wondering about decisions and the idea of happily ever after. Needless to say to see many similities in thoughts and emotions from my own life come to life in the pages made me feel like maybe I wasn't alone in my own fears and doubts and at the end of the book the message I took from the book matched the conclusion that I myself had come to during these last few years of marriage. In the end the book felt very satisfying to me and yes it did make me cry so it won even more points in my book for that. So while I was expecting a very light fast read with this one I was pleasantly surprised at how much this book made me think, experience, and learn.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Award


I received my very first blog award from my wonderful friend Lizzy over at Historically Obsessed (the blog that started me on my own bookie blog) Lizzy is such a wonderful friend and I love going to her blog and seeing all the wonderful historical fiction news she posts. Thank you so much Lizzy for this special honor!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wordless Wednesday


Today, as it happens ,is my 3rd wedding anniversary.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Wuthering Heights


Today I thought I would start up my book reviews starting with Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Wuthering Heights is my favorite book of all time. I first read it as a junior in high school and was so enthralled by the story that I ended up writing both my junior and senior paper on the book and the author. Since high school I have reread the book countless times and still love it as much as I did the first time I read it. Whenever I tell people Wuthering Heights is my favorite book I usually get a strange reaction. Most people who have tried the book have a hard time getting into it as Wuthering Heights is a narrative within a narrative so it does take about fifty or so pages in before you get to the crux of the story, Heathcliff and Catherine. Once people manage to get through to the heart of the story they often talk about how Heathcliff is a vile and horrible man and its impossible to like him or the book because of this nature. Heathcliff is indeed a person that is hard to love but for me Wuthering Heights is absolutely a love story in every way. While Heathcliff and Catherine share a love that is neither conventional or one that we might ourselves want to be in they are obviously madly in love with one another. Heathcliff and Catherine are both characters that are very flawed; Catherine is selfish and spoiled, Heathcliff angry and vengeful but even they at their worst deserve to receive love. It makes me think that even though no one on earth is perfect and we all have bad sides that we all deserve to experience love and happiness too. Wuthering Heights, for me, embodies all the things that love should be, blindingly passionate, maddening at times, and something you can not live without. Many years ago when Britney Spears first started dating Kevin Federline and the world did a double take it made me think of Wuthering Heights. While we on the outside could not understand the appeal of their love and we deemed it as crazy at the pace they were moving I saw two people who were so swept up in their emotions and passions that nothing else mattered to them. Like all consuming loves it burned as quickly as it came and the ending fizzled out as we know it now. Still I feel envious of it as I feel in our everyday lives we miss out on these feelings because life gets in the wayas evryday life's constraints don't allow us to be as free as we would like. Only those who have the means to live the way they want can truly have the luxury to be able to move on the whim of an emotion. Most likely if Catherine and Heathcliff were given the opportunity to live their lives together they too would have burned each other out and separated but because they were never given that chance their fire still burned and as we saw in Heathcliff it never left him until the day he was finally reunited with his soul. When I read Wuthering Heights I am reminded of that yearning and fervor. I hope that everyone gets to experience that kind of maddening passion at least once in their life. For me it is the essence of being alive..

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Finds

Should Be Reading asks for new book finds.

In my first week of book blogging I found the most curious book of all to share with you all. The title is Jasmyn by Alex Bell, which despite the difference in spelling is my own name, so naturally it captured my attention. I read a summary about it only to be struck by some strange parallels in my own life. The title character Jasmyn is 27 years old (I am 27), a young newlywed (I am coming up on my 3rd anniversary with my husband so still newlyweds in my mind though in the book Jasmyn has only been married for a year), a widow (thankfully not me), with a brother in law named Ben (which I have!). After that the similarities end but still some mightily close coincidences wouldn't you say? From what I gather from the summary I read the book lends itself to be somewhat of a fractured fairy tale with strange magical events and characters which I must say is right up my alley. I have adored fairy tales since I was a child (my love of reading was born at a young age) and absolutely love readi
ng about stories I loved as a child in a different more adult way. Though I am not into horror I have to say I do have a penance for things that are tweaked ever so subtly toward the darker side. (Think Coraline or The Looking Glass War stories based on Alice in Wonderland) Needless to say with the fairy tale element as well as the character similarities this is one book I have to get my hands on!Even the cover reminds me a bit of a fairytale...like Sleeping Beauty's castle in a macabre kind of way.

Another find this week is a book that I have walked by many a time at Border's. The cover itself alone was enough to draw my attention though after reading the back cover the story was also quite appealing. The book is Luxe by Anna Godbersen. After reading a All Things Royal's review about it I promptly added it to my list. As a fan of the show Gossip Girl I have a feeling this book will be combing my love of Gossip Girl and historical fiction and I cant wait to see how it turns out.


Favorites

Since deciding to start this blog I decided I would try my hand at writing reviews. Like I stated in my introduction my reviews will more likely be musings of the story and how I felt about it rather then a summary of the entire book. I decided to start this off my reviewing my favorite ten books listed below. I will dedicate a time to write about each book over the next few weeks.

Jasmine's Favorite Books in no particular order save the first book which is my absolute favorite book of all time

-Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
-The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
-Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
-Queen of Camelot by Nancy Mckenzie
-Courtesan by Diane Haeger
-The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
-Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
-The Cider House Rules by John Irving
-Twilight by Stephenie Meyers
-The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George

All of these books have touched me in a special way and most of them I have re-read several times because of the emotion and joy I get from reliving the stories again.

A special mention goes out to 2 series, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling and The Shopaholics Series by Sophie Kinsella, and one children's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick that also are very special to me and if I find reviewing to be fun and worthwhile endeavor I will review as well.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Giveaways

I have been reading some other book blogs recently and came across a few giveaways that I thought others might be interested in.

Historically Obsessed is giving away The White Queen by the fabulous Philippa Gregory ending August 15th

Jo-Jo Loves to Read is giving away The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd ending August
14th

Historical Fiction is having 2 giveaways! One is for The Red Tent by Anita Diamant ending August 27th and possibly with more then one winner. The other is The Queen of Shadows by Edith Felber ending August 20th.

Hist-fic Chick is giving away a signed copy of The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran ending September 1st.

Peeking Between the Pages is giving away Twenties Something Girl by Sophie Kinsella ending August 22nd.

Welcome

Welcome to my little book nook on the Internet. My name is Jasmine. I go by enchantingdragon online so naturally a book blog for me would be Literary Dragon =)


This blog was born so I could have a place to keep track of all the books I have read, plan to read, and want to read as well as a way of keeping track on new releases and book blogs that I subscribe to. I love reading as well as hearing about other people's reactions to things I have read so feel free to email me to discuss, I welcome the insight and friendship. I might right reviews here from time to time but I must say I review books differently then most. When I review books I mostly talk about how I view the story and characters within it. I rarely summarize the story rather reflect on the emotions or lack thereof the book evokes from my persons which is why I love to hear how books I read affect others in the same way as well as things that others might have noticed or got from a particular character, scene, imagery, etc. I am a huge fan of historical fiction and mainly read those though I do dapple over to the classics (my favorite book is Wuthering Heights), chick lit (love the Shopaholic sereies), regular fiction (Cider House rules is one of my favorites as well), and of course non-fiction about cute cuddly animals (Marley and Me & Dewey both had me in tears). I also have a love for re-made fairy tales/mythical legends. I am always out searching for my next book (which is why my TBR pile is miles high )so if you have any recommendations please feel free to share though I must add I rarely read non-ficiton and I can not abide horror.