Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I don't know why I used my credit for this book...

But I am so glad I did!  Let me start with the publisher's summary:
The year is 1570, and in the convent of Santa Caterina, in the Italian city of Ferrara, noblewomen find space to pursue their lives under God's protection. But any community, however smoothly run, suffers tremors when it takes in someone by force. And the arrival of Santa Caterina's new novice sets in motion a chain of events that will shake the convent to its core.
Ripped by her family from an illicit love affair, 16-year-old Serafina is willful, emotional, sharp, and defiant - young enough to have a life to look forward to and old enough to know when that life is being cut short. Her first night inside the walls is spent in an incandescent rage so violent that the dispensary mistress, Suora Zuana, is dispatched to the girl's cell to sedate her. Thus begins a complex relationship of trust and betrayal between the young rebel and the clever, scholarly nun, for whom the girl becomes the daughter she will never have.
As Serafina rails against her incarceration, others are drawn into the drama: the ancient, mysterious Suora Magdalena - with her history of visions and ecstasies - locked in her cell; the ferociously devout novice mistress Suora Umiliana, who comes to see in the postulant a way to extend her influence; and, watching it all, the abbess, Madonna Chiara, a woman as fluent in politics as she is in prayer. As disorder and rebellion mount, it is the abbess's job to keep the convent stable while, outside its walls, the dictates of the Counter-Reformation begin to purge the Catholic Church and impose on the nunneries a regime of terrible oppression.
Sarah Dunant, the best-selling author of The Birth of Venus and In the Company of the Courtesan, brings this intricate Renaissance world compellingly to life. Amid Sacred Hearts is a rich, engrossing, multifaceted love story, encompassing the passions of the flesh, the exultation of the spirit, and the deep, enduring power of friendship.
©2009 Sarah Dunant; (P)2009 Random House
I knew nothing about the writer before listening to this one but remembered long gone quotes like, "Taker her to a nunnery!"   I read a novel where a queen forced a lady to give her young daughters. Really young girls (under 8), to the church. I knew that many women of the time gave themselves to the church rather than be forced to remarry but wondered about what it might be like living in a convent in those times. 
This story answers some of my questions but in a most digestible way. I really liked the story line as well as the characters.  (In some ways, they reminded me of my college years at an all girls university and the dorms I lived in!) 
Rosalyn Landor is a wonderful narrator by the by. 
Before I listened to the book, I was thinking it would probably end up as 3 out of 5 but I finished it as a 5...yes, I really, really liked it!

So I like English history..

And I gotta tell you, Elizabeth Chadwick, does such a marvelous job! This time she caught me with this one:
The Time of Singing is 16 hours of wonderful story telling with the voice of Peter Wickham. This is what the publisher had to say:

When Roger Bigod, heir to the powerful earldom of Norfolk, arrives at court in 1177 to settle a bitter inheritance dispute with his half-brothers, he encounters Ida de Tosney, young mistress to King Henry II.
A victim of Henry's seduction and the mother of his son, Ida is attracted to Roger and sees in him a chance of lasting security; but in deciding to marry Roger, she is forced to make a choice. As Roger's importance as a mainstay of the Angevin government grows, it puts an increasing strain on his marriage.
Against a volatile political background the gulf between them threatens to widen beyond crossing, especially when so many bridges have already been burned.
©2008 Elizabeth Chadwick; (P)2009 Soundings

You won't believe where I first really became of Roger Bigod (our primary character)!  Yes,!  Turns out he was involved in my ancestors' lives! So naturally I had to use one of monthly credits on it!
If you have read (or listened to) The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion, you will find this book dove tails nicely with them (like I did) as all the characters were ones you became familiar with in those books.  I periodically had to stop listening to go online to understand a bit more of the history or I had to go a bit deeper into the history.
Roger's father is verbally abusive. His step mother is out for her sons only. Things don't get a lot better after his father's death. Ida's lot, in it's way, is not much better. Life is not easy for the upper crusters who have to watch what they say and do so they do not fall into the pits dug by others or those tinder toes of THE KING.
If you have not read any of her novels, and you like historical fiction, what rock have you been hiding under? The people are real, the language seems realistic to me, and the fiction just carries me right along as I learn!
Even if you don't care a fig about the history, it is still a good story! So scoot on out to your bookstore or library and pick up the book in it's written or spoken version and see how fast you become a follower!

What to do?

Cleaning up a mess you made on line can be very boring and time intensive.  My friend then is audio!  BOOKS!!!  With a big mess, that means LOT OF BOOKS! First up is:
The publisher's summary:
A hero of the crusades, Dominic le Sabre has returned in glory and in triumph to claim his reward: the beautiful Saxon bride awarded to him by the conqueror king. But Lady Margaret of the Blackthorne cannot yield to the bold Norman invader.

The beloved daughter of a sacred tribe of the Celtic mystics, she fears an ancient curse that could bring further turmoil to her battle-scarred land...and sorrow to her marriage bed.
With a word, the lady could turn her wedding into war. But there awaits in the noble knightᅵᅵs embrace a promise of passion unbound - and a love that neither violence nor treachery can tear asunder, a love both invincible and...untamed.
©2008 Elizabeth Lowell; (P)2008 Brilliance Audio

This was a really fun romp which helped the time fly.  I have to admit that a few times I was really glad my computer was running slow. Of course I could have rebooted but then I would have to stop the book. It does lean more to the fictional than the historical but I needed something lighter.
I don't normally go for series books because they so often leave you dangling.  (I hate when authors do that to me.)But I have to give props to Elizabeth Lowell as this books wraps up nicely. I guess that means I will probably put the next one on my wish list. 
Oh, the narrator on this book (Anne Flosnic) was good. A nice English voice to complement a nice English story.  I am glad I used my monthly credit on this one.