Within the Hollow Crown

August 31, 2009 at 3:30 am (Historical fiction) (, , , , , )

Within the Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Within the Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Within the Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes
MacRae-Smith Company, 2nd printing, 1947
359 pages
Genre: historical fiction

Synopsis & Review: After the death of the Black Prince in 1376, Edward III’s heir was Richard of Bordeaux, and as the oft-repeated adage “Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child” goes, his reign was a much-troubled one. Due to his young age, Richard II was initially ruled by his Plantagenet uncles, especially John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester. As he neared his majority Richard initially distrusted John of Gaunt–as did most of England–but his loathing was reserved for Gloucester and his party. Control of the government remained in the hands of a series of councils as prominent men struggled for supremacy, a condition offensive to the young Richard, who longed to restore England to a peace and prosperity unknown in England for decades. While the great tussled over influence, England strove to surmount the devastation of years of foreign campaigns and plague, a situation that came to a head in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. The Revolt provoked the first independent moment of Richard’s sovereignty, but control of the government was soon back in the hands of other men.

After his marriage to Anne of Bohemia, however, Richard would assert himself more strongly, but the depredations of his minority inspired another rebellion, and his chancellor and household members were dismissed, and some executed. The crisis ended only upon Richard’s assumption of control at his majority and the return of John of Gaunt to England. Together the two worked to restore peace and stability, and Richard finally ended wars with France and began establishing a culture of the arts in England. But the death of his beloved Good Queen Anne devastated Richard, and the period of his “tyranny” began, a time that ended only with the usurpation of his throne by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke and Richard’s subsequent imprisonment and murder.

For centuries Richard II would be remembered as extravagant, incompetent, weak, even mad, a ruthless tyrant unable to even provide an heir, a man from whom England had to be saved. But was the story so simple, or something far more complex? Read the rest of this entry »


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Born to Run: A Novel of the SERRAted Edge

August 31, 2009 at 12:06 am (Fantasy, Young adult) (, , , )

Bonr to Run by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon

Bonr to Run by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon

Born to Run: A Novel of the SERRAted Edge by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon
Baen, 1992
336 pages
Genre: urban fantasy

Synopsis & Review: Tannim and the elves of Fairgrove Elfhame have a soft spot for children in need and hot cars. For the latter, they’ve set up a stock car racing club, including experiments with fusing magic and technology to shield elves from cold iron. With the former, they try to develop a rapport with streetkids until they can get them to a safe environment, such as Underhill. When Tannim, representing Fairgrove Industries, recruits Sam, a former Gulfstream employee to act as a technological front for them, he also finds himself distracted by a teen runaway.

Tania Delaney left her home in hopes of finding people who cared about her, people who wouldn’t crush her dreams. Instead, she found herself living on the streets, selling her body for rent and food money at the ripe old age of fourteen. While cruising a Savannah bar for johns one night, she hears Celtic folk-rock and is enchanted by the sound. While there, Tannim glimpses her, and persuades Tania to accept some money and food credit, hoping to get her off the streets sometime soon. Bemused but elated by her windfall, Tania stays off the streets that night, going back to her rathole to share with her friends Jamie and Laura.

While Tannim works on gaining Tania’s trust, he also distracted by hostile activity by the local Unseleghe Court, who seek to eradicate Fairgrove and its elves. To fund their mortal world activities, the Unseleighe Sidhe are running a child pornography ring specializing in S&M and snuff films. Noting Tannim’s interest in Tania, they move in to acquire her in a bid to destroy Elfhame Fairgrove once and for all.

Yes, Born to Run is chock full o’ elves, magic, unicorns, Nineties alt-rock, kiddie porn, ghosts, boggles, and trolls, yet it still sucks. And I totally enjoyed it back in eleventh grade. Read the rest of this entry »

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Booking Through Thursday: Recent Fluff

August 29, 2009 at 3:04 am (Memes) (, )

btt2What’s the lightest, most “fluff” kind of book you’ve read recently?

What do we mean by “fluffy” here? Something light, frothy, insubstantial, I assume, but are we giving that a negative connotation? Fluff goes both ways, I find.

My first instinct was to list Emily Giffin’s oeuvre, which I read in July. But I hesitated because, as light and fluffy as the books were at times, they also addressed some very real concerns for women, concerns to which I could relate. That streak of authenticity and sympathy which appears in all of her books–and in all good “chick lit”–made it impossible for me to dismiss them outright.They’re fluffy, but heavy fluff. Not great, but these bubbles aren’t made of soap and water, but rather that toxic goo you blow up with a straw.

Another book that sprang to mind was Ballerina, a scathing slice of the New York ballet world. Though I adore it for its bitchiness, I must admit that is pure fluff. But oh, such fun, interesting, wickedly amusing fluff!

But fluffiest of all would be To Dream of Snow and Captive Bride, both books I loathed for their almost contemptuous dismissal of their readers, as though readers of romance novels cannot discern good writing–and as though they do not deserve it. While romance does not make up a large part of my reading these days, I retain a healthy respect for the many excellent craftswomen in the genre, writers who seem to enjoy both their readers and their readers’ enjoyment of their work. These were fluff not because they were romance novels, but because they were worthless, with no redeeming qualities.*

Actually, I take that back; Captive Bride is hysterically funny at times.

*I really do sound like such a hater when it comes to these two. I better read something else sucky soon before yawl get tired fo my endless griping.

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It’s Wednesday! What are you reading? (26 August)

August 26, 2009 at 3:30 pm (Memes)

on_mondaysI’m a couple of days behind this week, but it’s been a rough week for me. If you follow my work exploits over at the lol-iday inn, then you know what happened: I was robbed at knifepoint at work last Thursday night. As a consequence, I’ve been pretty stressed out and distracted, and well, just haven’t been reading or writing book reports much. However, I am doing rather better now, and hope to get caught up.

Last week saw posted book reports for A Night in Transylvania, Little Women, Little House in the Big Woods, and the splendid Captive Bride. Along with the latter two, I finished Farmer Boy–but have not yet started Little House on the Prairie.

I’ve got a lot of library books out right now, so I’ll be trying to restrain myself to finishing those before school starts in a few weeks. I picked Within the Hollow Crown back up at long last, and have made enormous progress.

In the realm of pleasant and exciting news, Jenny of the delightful Jenny’s Books passed a Zombie Chicken Award on to me! I’m super excited and pleased with myself (haha), and will be passing that along shortly. Jenny’s great; I love her blog, and you should check it out!

Stay tuned in!

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Captive Bride

August 20, 2009 at 12:52 am (Romance, Total crap, Trashy novel) (, , )

Captive Bride by Carol Finch

Captive Bride by Carol Finch

Captive Bride by Carol Finch
Zebra Books, 1st printing, 1987
496 pages
Genre: Historical romance, total crap

Synopsis & Review: I’m going to have to just lift the back copy for this one, pardon me (read it aloud for the greatest effect)  …

Impetuous Rozalyn DuBois would have had nothing to do with that rogue Dominic Baudlair had she not sworn to her grandmother she had a fiance. Now, caught in a scheme of her own making, the feisty beauty had to pretend affection for the virile stranger. She truly detested how his sinewy arms embraced her and how he possessively pressed her close. In fact, the blue-eyed hellion hated him so much that she planned revenge on the domineering rakehell by deciding to trick him into falling madly in love with her–then to drop him cold!

Jet-haired Dominic couldn’t believe his fortune when that saucy minx begged him to act as her betrothed. it was even better luck that she didn’t know he was her father’s greatest rival in the fur trade. He’d delightedly plunder the provocative chit’s ample charms, undermining his enemy with each arousing caress. The warm and tender feelings that surged through him could never be more than desire. The cunning scoundrel vowed he’d be the richest trapper in the territory through Rozalyn … even if it meant first making her his sensual slave, and then claiming her as his

The fiery brilliance, vibrant colors, and radiant glow of the Zebra Hologram Heart was a shimmering reflection of Zebra’s guarantee to publish novels of consistent quality. I don’t know what level of quality those books were supposed to be, but Captive Bride leads me to believe that it was the quality of total crap. Read the rest of this entry »

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Booking Through Thursday: Recent Best

August 20, 2009 at 12:16 am (Memes) (, )

btt2What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

(Tell me you didn’t see this one coming?)

(I totally did.)

Looking back over my recent books, I notice there’s been a sharp increase in children’s and YA books, juvenalia of all sorts. Like a lot of people, I find them soothing when stressed–though I also feel slightly embarrassed, like I should be reading some ponderous “adult” tome. But then, I’ve always felt that way, even when I was a wee tot.

Without playing favorites, I must say two of the best recent books are Little Women and Little House in the Big Woods, both of which are excellent examples of children’s literature–and worth reading by adults. I feel both are essential entries in the canon of English language children’s literature. For an adult book, I’d probably have to go all the way back to The Bearkeeper’s Daughter for something I’d call “best.”

It’s hard to decide something like that, though; I often think of my books as superlative, like you have in high school:

Best Trashy Ballerina Novel!
Best Novel about the Anarchy!
Best Scary Vulture Spirit Novel!
Best Mindbogglingly Bad Prose!
Best Book About Quilting in the Pacific Northwest!

(If you were wondering, I was voted “Most Likely to Have a TV Movie Based on Their Life.”)

Maybe I need to read some better books, though. I seem to dislike a lot of the non-juvenalia I’ve been reading.

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