Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: Granada Gold

Armageddon falls on my twelfth birthday:

I see my Christian parents conquer Moorish Granada.
I am Juana Trastamara, part-English, heiress of the Alhambra,
and future troubled Queen of Spain.

From SA Carney's website:

Granada Gold is based on the true story of young Juana Trastamara. During the Granada War, she befriends Lord Edmund Sales, commander of the English longbow archers fighting for Christian Spain. In 1492, Juana’s parents – Queen Isabel and King Fernando – defeat the Moors, expel the Jews, and send Columbus sailing across the Atlantic. Juana’s arranged marriage to the womanising Habsburg duke, ‘Phillipe the Handsome’, is a personal disaster. Trapped in an increasingly abusive marriage, Juana has only one place to turn: England. Through Lord Sales, Juana meets Tudor King Henry VII, who falls deeply in love with her. The stage is set for international royal passion, betrayal, and death.

I really liked this fast-paced snapshot into part of the life of Juana "la loca" - or Juana / Joanna the Mad, Queen of Castile as she later became known.

The period covered is from late 1491 and finishes in December 1500.  Our story sees the fall of Granada to the Christian Monarchs - Isabella and Ferdinand; a curse; the expulsion of the Jews; the voyages of Columbus; family tragedy; and the betrothal and marriage of Juana to Philip the Handsome of Burgundy.  And it is from this time in Juana's life (ie: her marriage to Philip) that we begin to see the background to the stories of her madness.

As mentioned, it is a short tale, narrated by Juana that will keep you fascinated with each turn of the page.

For more on Juana / Joanna:
Sister Queens by Julia Fox
Juana the Mad: Sovereignty and Dynasty in Renaissance Europe By Bethany Aram
Juana of Castile: History and Myth of the Mad Queen edited by María A. Gómez
That Other Juana: Queen Juana I of Spain (Juana la Loca) by Linda Carlino
The Last Queen by CW Gortner

Sunday, December 15, 2013

History Extra - Book Reviews

I was sent this link via a history forum that I am a member of, and thought it would also interest readers - Book Reviews | History Extra.

These reviews cover a wide range of history topics and is part of the BBC History Magazine website.  The hardest part will be deciding what to include on your shopping list!

December Additions To The Library

December is done and dusted, and the order for December has gone in - though I anticipate a January delivery due to the Christmas break.

Gaelic and Gaelicized Ireland in the Middle Ages by Kenneth Nicholls
This edition is completely revised and enlarged in the light of research, by the author and other scholars, carried out on the subject in the intervening period. New information on late Irish law and the institutions of the autonomous lordships has been added, as well as illustrative matter.

Years of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
In 1666, a young woman comes of age during an extraordinary year of love and death. Inspired by the true story of Eyam, a "plague village" in the rugged hill country of England, "Year of Wonders" is a richly detailed evocation of a singular moment in history.

Elizabeth Woodville by David Baldwin
Elizabeth Woodville is undoubtedly a historical character whose life no novelist would ever have dared invent. In this revealing account of Elizabeth's life David Baldwin sets out to tell the story of this complex and intriguing woman.

The Struggle for Mastery: Britain 1066-1284 by David Carpenter
The two-and-a-half centuries after 1066 were momentous ones in the history of Britain. In 1066, England was conquered. The Anglo-Saxon ruling class was destroyed and the English became a subject race, dominated by a Norman-French dynasty and aristocracy. This book shows how the English domination was by no means a foregone conclusion.

Special Operations in the Age of Chivalry, 1100-1550 by Yuval Noah Harari
Alongside the familiar pitched battles, regular sieges, and large-scale manoeuvres, medieval and early modern wars also involved assassination, abduction, treason and sabotage. This book surveys a wide variety of such undercover operations from the eleventh to the sixteenth century.

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle by Anglo-Saxon Chronicle English
In the late 9th Century, under King Alfred the Great of England, scholars compiled a history of the island from the invasion by Julius Caesar to 891. The narrative, drawn from many historical accounts, was known as the Anglo Saxon Chronicle. After Alfred's death, the Chronicles were continued, with some versions being updated yearly until 1154. 

Katherine Swynford by Jeannette Lucraft
In this fascinating book, Jeanette Lucraft treats Katherine as a missing person and reconstructs her and her times to uncover the mystery of the 'other woman' in John of Gaunt's life.

The Normans in Europe by Arthur Henry Johnson
The sword and the cross The Normans (or Northmen) forged an empire that lasted four hundred years. Though principally known for their seat of power in Normandy, they originated from Viking stock and at the height of their supremacy had made their influence felt throughout Europe and into the Middle East. This was a martial people and its leaders took and held power with a cunning, ruthless and often cruel efficiency whilst at the same time contributing to the culture of their time. 

Medieval Punishments by William Andrews
Dive into the macabre history of England and Old Europe in this treasure chest of historical punishments. In the pages of Medieval Punishments are punishments from a less enlightened period, creating a thoroughly researched historical document that sheds light on the evolution of society and how humans have maintained social order and addressed crime. 

Stasiland by Anna Funder
In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell; shortly afterwards the two Germanies reunited, and East Germany ceased to exist. In a country where the headquarters of the secret police can become a museum literally overnight, and one in 50 East Germans were informing on their countrymen and women, there are a thousand stories just waiting to get out. Anna Funder tells extraordinary tales from the underbelly of the former East Germany.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Review: Six Million Accusers - The Capture of Adolf Eichmann

"their blood cries out but their voice is not heard"

Again, another fascinating book by author David Lawrence-Young.  This time we are taken through the events that led up to the capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the leading SS Officers behind The Holocaust.

I had in the past watched a wonderful documentary, narrated by Gregory Peck, called The Hunt For Adolf Eichmann, detailing the planning that went into this most famous kidnapping.  
Adolf Eichmann, 1942.jpgIn the years after World War II, Eichmann, whose name had come up numerous times during the Nuremberg Trials, had become one of the most wanted Nazi war criminals. Unfortunately, for many years, no one knew where in the world Eichmann was hiding. Then, in 1957, the Mossad (the Israeli secret service) received a tip: Eichmann may be living in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
After several years of unsuccessful searches, Mossad received another tip: Eichmann was most likely living under the name of Ricardo Klement. This time, a team of secret Mossad agents was sent to Argentina to find Eichmann. On March 21, 1960, the agents had not only found Klement, they were certain he was the Eichmann they had been hunting for years.

On May 11, 1960, the Mossad agents captured Eichmann while he was walking from a bus stop to his home. They then took Eichmann to a secret location until they were able to smuggle him out of Argentina nine days later.

In "Six Million Accusers" (working title), rather than provide a clinical play by play of the events as they happened, David instead takes us on a personal journey with the main characters - and the faceless men of the Mossad become more human as their story develops inconjuction with that of the capture of one of World War II's most notorious men. We learn about their own history and why they were chosen above all others for this risky venture.

The journey was 15 years in the planning, culminating in the capture of Eichmann in Argentina in May 1960 - he is then spirited away to Israel (though not without a few heart-stopping moments for our intrepid crew - and readers alike!), before facing trial and being executed for his crimes.

As LIFE reported to its readers in its April 14, 1961 issue:
Once in a while some great man becomes the symbol of the era in which he lived. Less often one man becomes the symbol of a quality of his era — of its good or evil, its reason or madness. Such a man is Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi, a symbol of the hatred and unspeakable hideousness of Hitler’s Germany.

David's skill as both narrator and story-telling is beyond par - and this is yet another fascinating story in his growing collection of eclectic tales from the annals of history.   That the reader is sucked into the story and becomes one of the characters is just another of David's quirks as an author. "Six Million Accusers" is another must read - once you begin the journey, it only ends when you look up from your page and wonder where the time went.

Interesting Links:

  • From History Today: Richard Cavendish describes how Adolf Eichmann was captured in Argentina on May 11th, 1960.
  • From CNN: Mossad's hunt for the other Adolf: Spy agency's search for Eichmann revealed
  • From Spiegel Online: The Long Road to Eichmann's Arrest: A Nazi War Criminal's Life in Argentina
  • From The Guardian: Adolf Eichmann's capture, as told by the Mossad, in Israel exhibition
  • From the Jewish Virtual Library: The Capture of Nazi Criminal Adolf Eichmann

Stehanie Dray - Daughters of the Nile

Daughters of the Nile slide

From critically acclaimed historical fantasy author, Stephanie Dray comes the long-awaited new tale based on the true story of Cleopatra's daughter.

After years of abuse as the emperor’s captive in Rome, Cleopatra Selene has found a safe harbor. No longer the pitiful orphaned daughter of the despised Egyptian Whore, the twenty year old is now the most powerful queen in the empire, ruling over the kingdom of Mauretania—an exotic land of enchanting possibility where she intends to revive her dynasty. With her husband, King Juba II and the magic of Isis that is her birthright, Selene brings prosperity and peace to a kingdom thirsty for both. But when Augustus Caesar jealously demands that Selene’s children be given over to him to be fostered in Rome, she’s drawn back into the web of imperial plots and intrigues that she vowed to leave behind. Determined and resourceful, Selene must shield her loved ones from the emperor’s wrath, all while vying with ruthless rivals like King Herod. Can she find a way to overcome the threat to her marriage, her kingdom, her family, and her faith? Or will she be the last of her line?

Read the Reviews

"A stirring story of a proud, beautiful, intelligent woman whom a 21st century reader can empathize with. Dray's crisp, lush prose brings Selene and her world to life." ~RT Book Reviews

"The boldest, and most brilliant story arc Dray has penned..." ~Modge Podge Reviews

"If you love historical fiction and magical realism, these books are for you." ~A Bookish Affair

Read an Excerpt

Below me, six black Egyptian cobras dance on their tails, swaying. I watch their scaled hoods spread wide like the uraeus on the crown of Egypt. Even from this height, I'm paralyzed by the sight of the asps, their forked tongues flickering out between deadly fangs. I don't notice that I'm gripping the balustrade until my knuckles have gone white, all my effort concentrated upon not swooning and falling to my death. And I would swoon if I were not so filled with rage. Someone has arranged for this. Someone who knows what haunts me. Someone who wants to send me a message and make this occasion a moment of dread. My husband, the king must know it, for he calls down, "That's enough. We've seen enough of the snake charmer!" There is commotion below, some upset at having displeased us. Then Chryssa hisses, "Who could think it a good idea to honor the daughter of Cleopatra by coaxing asps from baskets of figs?" The story the world tells of my mother's suicide is that she cheated the emperor of his conquest by plunging her hand into a basket where a venomous serpent lay in wait. A legend only, some say, for the serpent was never found. But I was there. I brought her that basket. She was the one bitten but the poison lingers in my blood to this day. I can still remember the scent of figs in my nostrils, lush and sweet. The dark god Anubis was embroidered into the woven reeds of the basket, the weight of death heavy in my arms. I can still see my mother reach her hand into that basket, surrendering her life so that her children might go on without her. And I have gone on without her. I have survived too much to be terrorized by the emperor's agents or whoever else is responsible for this. If it is a message, a warning from my enemies, I have already allowed them too much of a victory by showing any reaction at all. So I adopt as serene a mask as possible. My daughter blinks her big blue eyes, seeing past my facade. "Are you frightened, Mother? They cannot bite us from there. The snakes are very far away." I get my legs under me, bitterness on my tongue. "Oh, but they're never far enough away."


Daughters of the Nile cover

Available now in print and e-book!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Powells | IndieBound | Goodreads

Available now in print and e-book!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Powells | IndieBound | Goodreads

Stephanie Dray Headshot

STEPHANIE DRAY is a bestselling, multi-published, award-winning author of historical women’s fiction and fantasy set in the ancient world. Her critically acclaimed historical series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into more than six different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. Her focus on Ptolemaic Egypt and Augustan Age Rome has given her a unique perspective on the consequences of Egypt's ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has-to the consternation of her devoted husband-collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.