Sunday, December 25, 2011

Childhood Christmas Memories

What memory from your childhood do you miss the most?

Mine actually happened before Christmas in preparation for our Christmas Eve Swedish dinner with my dad's side of the family. Sometime in the week before Christmas my dad and I would make a trip to a little Swedish delicatessen in what was once a Swedish neighborhood on the Southwest side of Chicago. Mom would bundle me up in two pair of red corduroy pants, red rubber boots, my grey coat with black velvet collar and cuffs and white mohair knitted mittens and matching ear warmer hat tied under my chin (it itched fiercely). Dad wore his grey overcoat, black rubbers over his shoes and the obligatory hat that all men wore in the 50s. We'd trundle off in our green '55 Chevy into the city from the outskirts (not a suburb, but still considered "the sticks" by most of the family).

We'd arrive at this small shop situated on a corner and have to search for a parking spot somewhere down the street as folks waited in a line outside the door until they could enter into it to purchase the goodies inside. We shuffled and chatted with our fellow customers puffing out clouds of condensation into the frigid December air. Well, dad chatted. The conversation was mostly in Swedish which dad answered in English. I clung to his hand in amazed awe at his understanding what was being said. Dad was tall, just under six feet, but he always grew at least a foot in my estimation at his ability to understand Swedish. That was the beginning of the magic that surrounded him and the delicatessen. When we finally entered the shop, with the little bell over the door announcing our presence,  the sights and smells of wonderful goodies folded me into its magical embrace. 

The women behind the tall, glass covered counters filled with a variety of fish, sausages, meats, and salads seemed like fairy godmothers dressed in large wrap-around white aprons. Their faces, pink-cheeked and glistening, smiled, laughed and called to each other and their customers in Swedish. Dad would point me to the shelves on the other side of the shop and I had to search out jars of lingonberries (oh, the delight of those deep red sweeties!) and large round-wheeled packages of kneckabrod (hardtack to most folks). He would order potates corv (potato sausage) and a fairy godmother would hold up a circle of links and ask (in Swedish, of course) how many he required. Then he'd proceed to order the silta (pickled herring), head cheese, bruna beenar (brown beens) and bundost (a wonderful cheese with caraway seeds). Then the piece de resistance was ordered - Lutefisk! (And if you haven't heard of Lutefisk, look it up. A very unprepossessing delicacy that is not to everyone's taste, but considered the absolute necessity at these celebrations.) Another fairy godmother would come out from behind the counters and approach a line of small wooden barrels against the shelves. She'd crack open a lid, reach down with a pudgy bare hand into salt brine and raise for my father's consideration a long, dripping plank of the white fish. After a couple more of her dips into the barrel dad would settle on what he estimated the right size for our group of 20 or more family members.

All of this would be wrapped in white butcher paper or tucked into white take-out boxes and lovingly place in brown paper bags for us to cart home. I hated to leave that little shop, but other customers were still shivering outside the door so we'd both leave with smiles on our faces and bundles in our arms for the ride home in the Chevy. I felt I had been allowed to share in a magical way a peek into my father's own childhood. Today I'd call it a time warp or a step out of the Doctor's Tardis. Back then it was just plain magic!

***Excuse the phonetical spellings of the Swedish. I never learned it and always wish I had.

Happy New Year blessings to you all!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

November Hangover and an Excerpt from Bloodstone

November was a devil of a month!

No, I did not win NaNoWriMo. Far from it. But! It did stoke me to continuing writing! Lir and Simon have been with me in my waking and sleeping since the first day of NaNo. In fact, I think I've written more in the last week than in the entire month of November.

The cleaning and preparation for Turkey Day near did me in and left little time for writing. But it was worth it! The Loomis Clan Plus ate, laughed and laughed some more, and told their stories. Hilary, my daughter-in-law, positively glowed with the completion of her first trimester of pregnancy. It was the first time she and my son, Critter, met the Loomis bunch. Our little house overflowed with family, friends and dogs (who simply wriggled with delight and were as exhausted as we were when it was over). On the Friday after T-day I could hardly move, but it was a good feeling of exhaustion and aching muscles.

And then there came the demise of the vacuum cleaner and the death of the garage door opener. Ugh. Money and Bud's Holiday Cheer (which is always in short supply due to an understaffed Post Office) flew out the front door. Ah, well.

Anyway, here is another excerpt. This one is from last night's writing.


It was a great relief to have Caddy take charge. Lir envied the children she greeted as she headed toward the sleeping caves. No responsibilities, all the time in the day to have fun, and Caddy to stroke and kiss the hurts away. She pulled the curtains back that surrounded her bed-shelf against the cave wall. Her groan of pure relief echoed against the wall as she slipped off her boots and wiggled her toes. Then she fell, face-first, onto the wool-filled pallet atop the shelf. Her mind still whirled with the days events, though, so she turned onto her side to face the wall. She reached out her hands and placed them flat against the chill stone. She closed her eyes, breathed deeply, cleared her mind as well as possible, and sent her prayer into Euphmum, the Mother.

       Mother, fold and embrace Onodath Zumcar into your loving arms
                                           as we send him to you. 
      Hold Caddy, Cort, Torn, Simon and all the children here in the Caves
                          in your fierce protection and abundant love.
      And give me strength, Mother, to face these days - to face [spoiler here] - 
                              and to do what is best for your children.
         If it be in the best interest of ALL, please ease these burdens I carry.
                    Help me find my place within the Weave and live it 
                                   with strength, beauty and love.

Lir felt the familiar warmth of the Mother’s love and energy flow from the stone into her arms and through her body. It had been this way since she was old enough to leave the cradle and sleep upon this shelf-bed. Each night before sleeping she would pray herself and her small problems into the Mother through the stone of the Cave walls and be filled with comfort, assurance and strength for the next day. She hadn’t known until she was about eight summers old that not everyone did this. She’d taken it for granted. No one had told her to do it. It just came as natural as breathing to her. She’d flattened Purdis, a portly youth apprentice to the Foundary, for teasing her about it. No one bothered her about her odd habit of praying into the Cave walls after that.

It was not that praying was unusual in the Caves. Indeed not. Caddy had instructed them all from the time they were tots to give thanks to the Mother for their food, shelter and friends with the usual prayers at meals on the first day of a ten-day. She had told them the stories of the Weave. They celebrated the festivals of the Winter Moons, Spring Blossoms, and Harvest Moons. But most of the children took them as “Caddy’s tales” and had little understanding of their importance in the history of the people of Euphemric.

Lir lay back and snuggled down into her pallet. She pulled her ragged quilt up under her chin. She had struggled to make that sorry quilt under Caddy’s frustrated tutelage. She had no patience for needlework. She wanted to be running. She had squirmed and complained the entire time of the making. It was moot who was more thankful for the quilt to be done - her or Caddy. 
She now fingered and stroked the pitifully embroidered symbol of the Weave that decorated the top of the quilt. [Describe the symbol]. A small, gentle voice whispered in her head and it wasn’t Simon’s voice. It was a voice she’d heard most every night of her life.

You are an important strand in the Weave, my daughter. A strong and vibrant thread. I am with you. Take heart. 

She had always thought that voice was the mother who had given her birth, [spoiler].

She suspected she had been mistaken.


It always amazes me how things pop up while I'm writing that I never could have expected. That symbol, fer instance. I have no idea what it is. I suppose I will have to draw something? Or have someone draw something? I don't know. But I'll leave that until later and just go on writing.

Monday, November 28, 2011

ArabellaArabella by Georgette Heyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd never read a Georgette Heyer book before. It was delightful! I'm not sure why I didn't give it five stars. Perhaps because I had to look up so many words! So many Regency era British colloquialisms! There were passages where I hadn't a clue what was being said! At the same time, I was in awe of what must have been some exceedingly serious research into the era.

When I checked into the copyright year I was also in awe. 1949 - the year I was born! 62 years old and this book could have been written yesterday. Again I was in awe. Timeless! The characters are vivid and strong. The plot, while not tremendously original now, still stands because of those characters. Loved it!

View all my reviews

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Way Behind, but Still Plugging....

Here's another excerpt:

She had all she could take of being bed-ridden and cooped up in that bedroom. She had been “allowed” to sit in the kitchen in front of the hearth for an hour the last two days, but that had only made her more anxious to be up and about. Her coughing had subsided. It was not altogether gone, but her chest was no longer tight. She slid from under the covers that had been so welcome a short time ago and searched the room for her tunic and trews. She could not find them, anywhere. She stood in one of Torn’s threadbare, but clean, nightshirts non-plussed and beginning to fume.

“Torn! Torn!”

She heard the thump of his boots in the kitchen after a few minutes. The door opened. He stood there with his shopkeeper’s apron tied around his waist and two boxes under one arm. “What? What is it? Are you all right? I was busy with a customer.” His broad brow crunched into an annoyed frown. A honey-brown curl of hair drooped on his forehead.

“What have you done with my clothes?” Her arms crossed her chest and a bare foot tapped the floor impatiently.

“Your clothes?” By the Mother….I thought you’d fallen or fainted or…. Lir. I’m busy with a customer. I’ll bring your clothes when I’m done with him.” He slammed the door behind him as he left.

“You’ll bring them now!” she called through the door. “Or I’m coming out as I am! See what your customer thinks of that!” She opened the door and stomped through the kitchen to the doorway of the shop.

When she saw who was the customer, she quickly darted back into the kitchen. “Damn.” She whispered. It was Zumcar’s twitchy orderly. She closed her eyes and sent a quick prayer to the Mother that he hadn’t seen her. 

He didn’t see you.
She opened her eyes to see Simon sitting on the back rung of one of the kitchen chairs. He was tottering a bit as the bird was a bit more weight than the chair could balance, so he hopped onto the table.

You won’t tell Caddy I stood on the table, will you? She does like to harp at me for that. Seems I bring disease and destruction and she doesn’t want me poisoning your food. Huh! 

Lir could swear the Rakthat actually rolled his eyes. She grinned. “Sounds like Caddy.”

So, why are you being so hard on Torn? He does have a business to run. And why are you afraid of that simpering fool of a customer?

Lir pulled out a chair and sat. She put her head in her hands. “I don’t know. I’m just fed up with being sick, I suppose. I know he has a business to run.” She looked up at the bird. He toddled over to her, bent his sleek head and began grooming her blonde curls with his dangerously fierce beak. “But he took my clothes!!” she groaned.

He did. He took them and threw them into the fire.

“He what?” Lir stood so quickly that her chair fell backwards. “Ouch!” She looked down at Simon on the table. He held a generous strand of white-blonde curly hair in his beak. She rubbed at the sore spot on her head.

He dropped the strand and eyed her with a sharp, beady one-eyed glare. Well! That’s your own fault you know.

She righted the chair and sat back down. “Yes. But what am I supposed to wear now? I can’t be a Runner in this.” She pinched the front of the nightshirt and drew it from her even thinner body.

Caddy actually told Torn to burn the clothing. Then she sent him out to purchase new things for you.

“Oh, frag. I do hope he hasn’t brought back a dress. He’s always going on about how he’d like to see me in a dress. He didn’t get a dress, did he?

No, he didn’t. He and Caddy already had that argument and she won the day when she managed to convince him you couldn’t be a Runner in a dress.

She grinned. “I wish I had heard that argument.”

Oh, it was a grand one! Simon bobbed his head several times and did a little dance on the table. Now, about that customer….

“That customer was Zumcar’s orderly. I met him when I went to the Castle for Zumcar’s message. Weasely kind of fellow. He made me quite uneasy. If he had seen me in this nightshirt here I can’t imagine what stories he would have taken back with him. And he might have guessed that I was not what I pretended to be. I can’t afford that.”

No. No you can’t.

So, Lir and the story are moving on, albeit a lot more slowly than I'd like. Thanksgiving is next week and I've a house to clean. But I will keep on....

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day Nine of NaNo

So, yesterday and today I got some writing done. Not a humongous amount, but I'm pleased with it. Tonight, before I sleep, I will ask Lir to show me more. That's what I do. Then the next day I have things lined up. It works for me.
 Of course, I know generally where all this is going, but it is totally amazing to me that I am continually surprised with the details, pertinent sidetracks and new characters that pop up. It makes me feel like I am both writing and reading. My characters lead the way. I think this is what makes writing so exciting for me
 Here's an excerpt from today's writing:
by B. Navta
Copyright 2011

  Lir awoke several times, although she was unsure whether she was awake or still sleeping. She’d been dreaming fever dreams of a man with a huge bird head who spoke softly in her ear and a Guard who continually beat her with a club that turned into a bucket of water that nearly drowned her with its impact. She coughed and spluttered trying to get her breath in the deluge. When she’d awake she was definitely struggling to catch her breath and coughing painfully. Then she’d drift off back into her disturbing dreams. 

 She finally awoke and became somewhat cognizant of her surroundings. She was covered in sweat and shivering uncontrollably. She turned her head which pounded fiercely with her movement to see that a fire in the hearth had died to a few coals. How long had she been sleeping? And for that matter, where was she? She tried to shake her head to clear it, but moaned at the racking pain that movement sent through her whole body. She settled back and tried to think. She didn’t close her eyes as she knew she’d be back dreaming bird heads and buckets quickly.

 She lay still, only moving her eyes over what she could see and that in itself was painful. A house, obviously. A ruin of a house. That meant she wasn’t back in the Caves. A house. How’d she get here? She listened to hear if there was anyone else in the room. All she heard was rain pouring down on the roof and dripping somewhere. She heard no other movement, no tell-tale breathing. Alone, then. But she somehow knew she hadn’t been alone. 

 Let’s see. She tried recalling her movements. I had a message. A message for….ah! The gem mines. The gem mines….I ran to the gem mines. I got to the gate and….and I wasn’t alone, was I? I looked up to the top of the palisade and…. 

 “Simon!” She bolted upright. “Ohhhhhh.” She began coughing and coughing. Her head spun and she was nauseous. She leaned to the side of the bench she was on and retched. When that was done, she limply slid herself cautiously back down to lay on the bench. 

 “Simon,” she whispered. This time she closed her eyes, but a myriad of images flooded her. Simon at the gate of the castle. Simon flying with her as she ran to the mines. Simon swooping down from the porch of the Commander’s quarters. Simon hovering over her in the rain and leading her to this house. 

 Where was Simon? 

 And then another thought struck her. She had seemed to take Simon’s presence and his talking - well, thinking? - to her in stride. That was so unlike her. She was a questioner and suspicious. Life in the valley had taught her that was the only way to survive. Why had she just accepted that a bird could converse with her? Perhaps Simon was the dream? There was no bird here. But then how did she get here? 

 “I’ve gone mad. That’s the answer,” she whispered to herself. “Completely and totally mad.”

She felt she had an answer, maybe it wasn’t exactly the answer, but right now it sufficed and she let herself slip into a blessed oblivion. She felt as if a gentle and warm black blanket surrounded her within loving arms. She smiled. “Mother.” And then she knew no more.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fish and Visitors....

Well, two days have gone by with nary a word written by yours truly. I have been totally absorbed and distracted by "The Saga of Gunther: The amazing story of a starving Houdini dog." I won't detail it here as I've posted the daily accounts on Facebook. I'll only say here that we were visited (relentlessly) by a neglected and starving Black Labrador Retriever named Gunther who was frightened of humans (snarled as you approached him and/or fled by climbing fences) and barked smack under my bedroom window for most of the night. After four visits from Animal Control, the placement of a humane trap that Gunther was too smart to get caught in, bowls of food and water and a cushion and blanket for the cold nights, Gunther happily toddled off into the Animal Control van with nary a look back at us. We are all happy that Gunther will be taken care of properly (a vetting at the vet, neutering and finding a happy forever home through the auspices of the good and patient folks at Animal Control and the Wonder Lake Veterinary Clinic) and that we can get back to our normal routine - and an entire night's sleep! Dusty, Brandy and Archie are very happy to get their yard back. I think dogs rely on routine even more than we humans do. They were all out of sorts by the third day of the Gunther saga. Brandy didn't even want to go out into the yard for a pee. We had to coax her and then she rushed back to the door. What's the saying? Fish and visitors smell after three days? Yup. That was definitely the attitude of our Pack.
BlackhawkBlackhawk by Joanna Bourne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jo's books just get better and better! I am continually amazed at how she manages to create a French inflection into her characters' dialogue. It is sentence structure I am sure, but I'm never really aware of it. It is also her ability to know her characters so well, that every movement and thought completes the picture of who they are.

To date, Justine's and Adrian's relationship is the most believable within the Spymaster series. And that couldn't be easy with such complex characters. Even their most intimate scenes seem complete and totally within character.

I am in awe.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day One of NaNoWriMo

*Big sigh of relief* I managed to create 1864 words of my new project, "Bloodstone." Haven't decided yet whether it is a novel or novella. We'll wait and see.

It is always interesting to find out new things about your MC (main character) and to meet new characters that you'd never met before. Two particularly popped up in today's writing. Diana Gabaldon terms these sorts as "mushrooms." They pop up and create themselves into an integral part of the story. They may or may not appear again. One of mine I am sure will return, the other.... well, we'll see.

This is part of what keeps a writer writing, I think. The unexpectedness of your own creations grabs you and keeps you going to find out where they will take you.

I look forward to tomorrow!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

November Approaches....

and that means NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). *big apprehensive sigh* My history with this endeavor is disappointing, to say the least. November of 2009 saw me in hospital for gallbladder surgery. November 2010 saw me in hospital for an angiogram. Needless to say, not much writing got done.

I am approaching this November with great trepidation - and a plan. I have chosen not to continue with my efforts on my WIP (work-in-progress) titled "Snow's End," but instead work on what I've realized is it's prequel, "Bloodstone." Both are working titles, of course. Perhaps the Universe - and my body - will look more kindly on this effort. I can only hope.

Both are fantasies set on the continent of Fizruh on the world of Euphemric. The main character of "Bloodstone" is a young girl of fourteen summers named Lir. She lives in a place called The Caves deep in the walls of a crevass-valley in the middle of the Wasnang Desert. The valley was once the seat of a noble family around which was built an oasis-like, thriving and cosmopolitan city. It is now a tumbled-down place of fear and deprivation due to the now master of the city, Magsett Arn.

Lir - tall, lithe and athletic and dressed in torn trews and an over-sized, ragged tunic to hide her maturing femininity - has become a Runner. She has gained a trusted reputation among the beleaguered folk of the city for her quickness and reticence when delivering messages. The story begins when she is called to Arn's castle to deliver a message to the gem mines at the far west end of the valley.

So. There it begins. Now, November, you ain't gonna get a part of me this year! Nope. I will triumph! Hah!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Great Silence: Britain from the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz AgeThe Great Silence: Britain from the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age by Juliet Nicolson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent anecdotal account of the ending and post-war years of WWI, The War to End All Wars. At times I was on information overload and had to set the book aside to embrace what I had read. But I think the abundance of these accounts and the pace of their presentation drew a more dimensional picture of the immense loss and desperation that birthed the following Jazz Age.

I've had a great interest in this period due to the fact that my parents lived through them. My mother was born at the very beginning of that war and my grandmother gave accounts of how they watched the frequent funeral processions passed down their street in Chicago with the coffins of both fallen soldiers and those who succumbed to the Spanish Flu. It was a frightening time to be a young family wondering who would be next to follow one of those coffins.

My father, then a young boy of about 9 or 10, was asked by his father who lay in bed with the Flu to post a map of Europe on the wall of his bedroom and keep track of the movements of the US soldiers with thumbtacks. My dad built wireless radios to keep track of the news for him. My dad was an enterprising kid who then sold them to other families in their small town of Donaldson, Indiana.

Luckily, no one from my immediate family succumbed to either war or Flu.

Highly recommended to those with an interest in this era.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Murder on St. Mark's Place (A Gaslight Mystery, #2)Murder on St. Mark's Place by Victoria Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm really taken with this series! The main characters of Sarah Decker Brandt, midwife and nurse cum detective and Sergeant Detective Frank Malloy are irresistible. I've also grown quite fond of Sarah's neighbor, Mrs. Ellstrom.

These are delightful quick reads.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Galway BayGalway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have ancestors who suffered through the potato famine in Ireland, came to Amerikay and settled in Chicago much like the characters in Galway Bay. And my great-grandma was also named Honora as is the main character. (Though great-grandma was born in Vermont, not Ireland.) I had to read this book! I was not disappointed.

Not only was the story of the famine heart-wrending and fascinating, but so was the early history of Chicago. I grew up in Chicago and the names and places were brought to life in a way I hadn't known before. Marshall Field's, for instance. My great-aunt was a buyer there shortly after the period in the book, and my grandma and mother both worked there, too.

I felt connections and threads to my own family. Something came alive in me that had been hovering in the background all my life. Very moving.

The book is well-written and moves well. I recommend it to anyone interested in historical fiction, but particularly those with an Irish ancestry.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Murder on Astor Place (A Gaslight Mystery, #1)Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed reading this. My favorite time-period, set in New York and the main character is a midwife born to the Knickerbocker set, so she lives on the cusp of two worlds. And her compatriot in crime detecting is a Copper under the auspicious term of Teddy Roosevelt as NYC Police Commissioner.

It's fast-paced, the characters are well drawn and well written. I will look forward to reading more in the Gaslight Mysteries series.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I ran across this quote today and thought it very appropriate here:

No. No wolf wastes time on vengeance, and that is what this is. Vengeance, pure and simple. When people look most vicious, what you are seeing is not their animal side. It is the savagery that only humans can muster. When you see me loyal to my family, then you see the wolf.
Fitz in Robin Hobb's Fool's Fate from the Tawny Man series

Friday, April 22, 2011

Where Do I Start?

It's difficult to know with whom to begin - I've read so many good writers this last year. I believe I'll start with one whose books remain more closely in my memory than most. Sarah Dunant's  books about the lives of three different young Italian women during the Renaissance fairly throb with the tension, repression and creative energy of an era which produced the likes of Da Vinci, Boticelli, Caravagio, Michaelangelo, Machiavelli, Bocaccio, the Medicis, Savanrola and the Borgias. The names themselves conjure up opulence, brilliance, depravity, cruelty and upheaval swathed in the golden hue of Italian sunlight.

Sared Hearts was the first of Dunant's that I read. I was sold on her after that and moved on to The Birth of Venus and In the Company of the Courtesan after that.
In the 15th Century young noblewomen of marriagable age - sixteen in the case of Serafina around whom Sacred Hearts revolves - had two possible futures before them. They could marry a man chosen for them by their family or they could be sent to a convent. If they were not the pretty one or the dutiful one, but rebellious or too smart or one of too many sisters then they were literally sold to a convent with a bride's dowry. Therefore, they became "brides of Christ."  

Serafina was sold away in this manner when she had become too fond of an artist who painted a chapel on her father's premises. She came to the walls of convent Santa Caterina into the care of Suora Zuana, the dispensary mistress. Serafina raged and rebelled against her incarceration, throwing the peace of the convent into disorder and distress. This engaging and passionate young woman's story along with the story of the women who resided with her in Santa Caterina are thrown up against the turmoil of the Roman Catholic Church set on the brink of its own repression and rebellion.

In The Birth of Venus Alessa Cecchi isn't even fifteen when she is married off to a wealthy, older man of Florence. Alessa is a bright young woman who has a love for both learning and sketching. The story follows her through her particular passionate journey during the reign of the de Medicis in northern Italy. A time when the lifestyle of luxury, learning and brilliant art is threatened by the hellfire propounded by Savanarola. Alessa finds her very life and her passion for art at risk.

I mentioned earlier the sunlight of Italy. I've often wondered if possibly it was the sunlight, that particular angle upon the hills, fields, vineyards and seaports that nutures the passion that helps manifest such talented artists. I don't know. But I do know that when I visited Venice (way back in the middle 1960's when I was a young girl of sixteen) I didn't just see the sunlight, I felt it. I don't mean the warmth, I felt something else. It's aura? It's energy? I'm not sure what it is, but I felt it. I've never been anywhere else where the sunlight took on such a presence in itself.

I mention this because the third book of Dunant's that I read, In the Company of the Courtesan, is set in Venice. This Venice of the mid-sixteenth century was full of mystery, secrets and paradoxes.  Great beauty and great ugliness, the powerful and the disempowered live cheek by jowl amidst a city steeped (quite literally) in its own unique history.

The Courtesan Fiammetta and her dwarf companion, Bucino, flee the sack of Rome to rebuild their enterprise in Venice. Together they navigate Venetian society to acquire the wealthy and notable patrons to support her. But it becomes a harrowing and painful learning experience for them both.

Bucino has become one of my favorite characters of late. Sharp-tongued, very intelligent and wise in what we would call "street smarts," I found myself more engaged in his story than Fiammetta's. He reminds me of George R.R. Martin's character Tyrion in the Song of Ice and Fire books.

Overall, I was totally drawn into the atmosphere of the Renaissance in all three books. Without a doubt Dunant has researched the era well, but craft of her words, a sort of polite lyrical quality that serves the era well, had me compelled to turn the page - like I wanted to know what the next stanza of the song would bring.

I recommend all three books to those interested in historical fiction and the Renaissance in particular.

Dunant's next book, Blood and Beauty, about the notorious Borgia family will be out in July of 2012.

Upcoming reviews:
Judith Merkle Riley's Margaret Ashbury novels
Robin Hobb's Rain Wild Chronicles and
Jane Lindskold's Thirteen Orphans books

Friday, April 15, 2011

I'm Back....or Guilt and the Stacks of Unreviewed Books Have Finally Caught Up With Me....

It's been a long time since I've been here....a very long time. A lot and not much has happened in the year or so. Mostly, I have been reading when not letting dogs in and out, mopping up cat erp, vacuuming up dog hair and sending out the occasional resume. No employer has yet seen fit to hire me, so I move on to Social Security and anxiety for my future. Not unlike many Americans my age, I suppose. Reading has helped keep me from pulling out my white hair and annoying those around me with panic attacks and crying fits.

I have also fallen deeply in love with my NOOKcolor. I swore that I would be one of the holdouts who turned up their noses at e-readers for the "real thing." But since the stacks of books had started to take over my room and fall on Fox and Archie as they run madly chasing each other through it, I decided to scope these tekkie magnets out. And the NOOKcolor grabbed my heart immediately with its endearing features of full-color covers, wifi so I can check email and FB without chasing Bud or Stephie off a computer, and....wait for it....FREE BOOKS! I mean....FREE BOOKS!! Be still my blood-pressure-med-supported heart!

So my library has grown by books and bytes! I am not going to review every last one I've read with you, but share those I have found the most interesting - authors I've come to love and want to read more of, both new authors and those who've been around but whom I've just discovered.

It's good to be back!