Friday, February 12, 2016

HFVBT: Brandy Purdy's The Secrets of Lizzie Borden - Review #LizzieBorden

My thoughts
"I can only tell you this, for whatever it is worth to you, all those old adages about money embroidered on so many samplers are absolutely true; it cannot buy happiness and it is the root of all evil."

This, a quote from Lizzie Borden in the book, entirely sums up the story of Lizzie, at least as told in this book. This fictional account of Lizzie and the murders of her parents is so excellently told, it reads like it was written by Lizzie herself. I am thoroughly impressed with how engaging it is and the amazing polarity of the character of Lizzie. Purdy has outdone herself.

As one long fascinated with the story of Lizzie Borden, I, like many others, have often speculated on whether she truly committed the murders (I have always leaned toward yes) and if she did, what was her motivation. Unlike the many stories I've watched about Borden in the television medium, this telling fully develops Lizzie as a person. We learn of her inner fears and wants. We learn of a life with very little love from a miserly father and a grave and cold sister. And not only was her father a miser, but he was also condescending and always quick to inform Lizzie of her naivety and lack of worth in the eyes of others, except as a source of getting to his wealth. Lizzie was a woman so desperate for love and affection that trying to grasp it in any way she could was what ultimately led her to the rash decision and terrible acts that would change her life forever.

Going back to the quote above, Lizzie thought that she would be free...and she was. She was free to spend money and live the way she always wanted. And yet, although she was acquitted of the murders, no one ever truly believed she didn't do it and that stain would follow her the rest of her days. She could never feel truly loved because someone always seemed to have ulterior motives of getting close to her to get her story, or for notoriety. Sadly, the one time she had a chance at happiness was dashed because of her notorious past. She was destined to spend the rest of her life alone.

That Lizzie was a bisexual woman is neither here nor there. There are plenty of people in history that I'm sure were the same. In Lizzie's case, instead of being liberated by loving who she wanted, because of the norms of the time, and her upbringing to feel shame, she could never truly be happy, or feel good about herself and how she felt toward other women. Suppressed sexuality can lead to volatile feelings and this may be another clue to the motivations of her committing the murders.

We will never truly know if she did it or not. Since she was acquitted by a court of law, one wants to believe that perhaps she was innocent. However, in my mind, I must go along with the portrayal in this book, which coincides with what I've always believed. Do I think what Lizzie did was wrong? Yes, I do. Do I feel she was not punished properly? Yes, I do. Lizzie received a far worse punishment than if she would have been sentenced to hang. She sentenced herself to a life of loneliness and self-loathing. To me, that was punishment enough.

The Secrets of Lizzie Borden really is a must read. I can't even begin to express how much I enjoyed this book. I highly recommend it.

About the book

The Secrets of Lizzie Borden
by Brandy Purdy

Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Kensington Books
eBook & Print; 384 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

In her enthralling, richly imagined new novel, Brandy Purdy, author of The Ripper’s Wife, creates a compelling portrait of the real, complex woman behind an unthinkable crime.

Lizzie Borden should be one of the most fortunate young women in Fall River, Massachusetts. Her wealthy father could easily afford to provide his daughters with fashionable clothes, travel, and a rich, cultured life. Instead, haunted by the ghost of childhood poverty, he forces Lizzie and her sister, Emma, to live frugally, denying them the simplest modern conveniences. Suitors and socializing are discouraged, as her father views all gentleman callers as fortune hunters.

Lonely and deeply unhappy, Lizzie stifles her frustration, dreaming of the freedom that will come with her eventual inheritance. But soon, even that chance of future independence seems about to be ripped away. And on a stifling August day in 1892, Lizzie’s long-simmering anger finally explodes…

Vividly written and thought-provoking, The Secrets of Lizzie Borden explores the fascinating events behind a crime that continues to grip the public imagination—a story of how thwarted desires and desperate rage could turn a dutiful daughter into a notorious killer.

About the Author
Brandy Purdy (Emily Purdy in the UK) is the author of the historical novels THE CONFESSION OF PIERS GAVESTON, THE BOLEYN WIFE (THE TUDOR WIFE), THE TUDOR THRONE (MARY & ELIZABETH), THE QUEEN’S PLEASURE (A COURT AFFAIR), THE QUEEN’S RIVALS (THE FALLEN QUEEN), THE BOLEYN BRIDE, and THE RIPPER’S WIFE. An ardent book lover since early childhood, she first became interested in history at the age of nine or ten years old when she read a book of ghost stories which contained a chapter about Anne Boleyn haunting the Tower of London. Visit her website at, you can also follow her on Facebook as Brandy Purdy aka Emily Purdy.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cat Thursday - Authors and Cats (50)

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

The second Cat Thursday of each month is Authors and Cats Thursday. Each time I will feature an author with their cat(s), or pictured with a cat(s).

This month's author is Alice Walker, who celebrated her birthday on February 9.

Alice Walker, one of the United States’ preeminent writers, is an award-winning author of novels, stories, essays, and poetry. In 1983, Walker became the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction with her novel The Color Purple, which also won the National Book Award. Her other books include The Third Life of Grange Copeland, Meridian, The Temple of My Familiar, and Possessing the Secret of Joy. In her public life, Walker has worked to address problems of injustice, inequality, and poverty as an activist, teacher, and public intellectual. (from Goodreads)

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cat Thursday - Cats in Art (17) and In Memoriam: Rockykins

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

I would just like to thank you for staying loyal to Cat Thursday through all of my personal crises. I appreciate all your well wishes.

Attr to Ambrosius Benson (1519-1550) Portrait of a Woman with Cat 
(stylistically in between Ambrosius Benson & Adriaen Isenbrandt)

Bruno LILJEFORS Cat in the Summer Meadow

Charles Burton Barber, A Rival Attraction, 1887

Le Chat Angora by Fragonard

I have some sad news. One of our good friends here on Cat Thursday, Troythulu and Eccles, have lost their beloved Maine Coon, Rockykins. We're sending our love and hugs their way and wishing the dear boy much happiness across the Rainbow Bridge. Losing our beloved fur babies is so hard. RIP

Photo credit: The Call of Troythulu

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sophie Perinot's Medicis Daughter - Review #SophiePerinot

My thoughts
I first learned of Marguerite de Valois (Princess Margot) upon watching the 1994 French film, La Reine Margot. The subject matter and her character fascinated me and ever since I've been intrigued to learn more about her. When I was given the opportunity to read and review Medicis Daughter, I couldn't wait to say yes.

Perinot is a talented historical author. She takes characters already known to us and makes them even more real. Princess Margot's mother, Catherine de Medici, a woman both maligned and admired in history, quite lives up to her reputation of Madame la Serpente in this depiction. I have heard arguments on both sides regarding her true nature, but the fact remains that she would have had to have been a formidable woman to navigate the treacherous times she lived in. That she pretty much used her daughters as pawns while worshiping her sons, namely Henri, was the difficult part of this book. How women of royalty could stand to live the way they were forced to live is beyond my comprehension. I guess my 21st century self can't wrap my head around having no choices in your own life. This being said, Margot really learned to hold her own. Perinot has depicted Margo as a strong and resilient woman who weathered the storm and finally came into her own when she showed her mother she had no control over her any longer. It was a triumphant moment and I cheered at the end.

There are so many remarkable women in the history of the world and I know I can always count on Sophie Perinot to tell a compelling story while staying true to historical detail. I can't wait to read what she publishes next. If you haven't read this one, you really simply must!

About the book

Publication Date: December 1, 2015
Thomas Dunne Books
Hardcover & eBook; 384 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margot’s intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.

Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot’s heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: her mother’s schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot’s wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul.

Médicis Daughter is historical fiction at its finest, weaving a unique coming-of-age story and a forbidden love with one of the most dramatic and violent events in French history.

Advance Praise
“This is Renaissance France meets Game of Thrones: dark, sumptuous historical fiction that coils religious strife, court intrigue, passionate love, family hatred, and betrayed innocence like a nest of poisonous snakes. Beautiful Princess Margot acts as our guide to the heart of her violent family, as she blossoms from naive court pawn to woman of conscience and renown. A highly recommended coming-of-age tale where the princess learns to slay her own dragons!” –Kate Quinn, Bestselling author of LADY OF THE ETERNAL CITY

“The riveting story of a 16th century French princess caught in the throes of royal intrigue and religious war. From the arms of the charismatic Duke of Guise to the blood-soaked streets of Paris, Princess Marguerite runs a dangerous gauntlet, taking the reader with her. An absolutely gripping read!” –Michelle Moran, bestselling author of THE REBEL QUEEN

“Rising above the chorus of historical drama is Perinot’s epic tale of the fascinating, lascivious, ruthless House of Valois, as told through the eyes of the complicated and intelligent Princess Marguerite. Burdened by her unscrupulous family and desperate for meaningful relationships, Margot is forced to navigate her own path in sixteenth century France. Amid wars of nation and heart, Médicis Daughter brilliantly demonstrates how one unique woman beats staggering odds to find the strength and power that is her birthright.” –Erika Robuck, bestselling author of HEMINGWAY’S GIRL

About the Author
SOPHIE PERINOT is the author of The Sister Queens and one of six contributing authors of A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii. A former attorney, Perinot is now a full-time writer. She lives in Great Falls, Virginia with her three children, three cats, one dog and one husband.

An active member of the Historical Novel Society, Sophie has attended all of the group’s North American Conferences and served as a panelist multiple times. Find her among the literary twitterati as @Lit_gal or onFacebook.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cat Thursday - Inside is better than out

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

Thank you for all the well wishes last week. I am finally feeling a lot better and hoping to be completely recovered by the weekend, albeit still a bit weak. I have movies to see! I appreciate you all bearing with me and sticking with Cat Thursday. 

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Yearly Remembrance...Heath Ledger

Gone too soon, on this day, 8 years ago. Rest in peace.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cat Thursday - One week hiatus

I am seriously ill (I think I might have pneumonia). I'm going to the doctor tomorrow...hopefully, if the weather cooperates. Cat Thursday will be back next week.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Rebecca Foust's Paradise Drive - Review

My thoughts
I have to admit to going through something of a midlife crisis at this point in my life. I'm not acting out or experiencing it in the traditional, obvious ways (like an affair...not possible since I'm no longer married), but in subtle ways like job disillusionment. Really just disillusionment in general, I guess. So, Pilgrim's journey/experiences in these brilliantly written sonnets really hit home for me.

The written word has always had a deeper meaning for me than just entertainment, and never is that more so than when I read poetry. As I'm going through this period in my life, I found myself really identifying with many of Pilgrim's experiences in these sonnets.

She finds herself at parties, teeming with the examples of the seven deadly sins and she shuts herself in the bathroom to escape, to read. Soon, she is always armed at these occasions with a book in her purse. Sound familiar? I always have a book with me and could so see myself doing this. Especially if subjected to the narcissism and elitism she finds herself exposed to.

"...Pilgrim ran for the bathroom, not for coke 
as others supposed, but for something
more covert and rare: a book, 
or any bit of anything written. An antidote 
to the twitter Out There..."
(Page 5)

And then her fears in regards to her special needs son (autism, Asperger's, spectrum disorders), as I have dealt with these same fears with my son. Powerful, powerful words...

"...and where to find 
the manual that tells how to respond
to the loved child who from his snug bed
whispers, I wish I were dead, Mom?
Tell me, Dr. Spock, what to do about that,
what does a mother fucking do about that?"
(Page 18)

And what so many of us run to and alas, it doesn't help/didn't work, at least not in my case...

"Pilgrim knew what the answer was: get born
again. Even if it hadn't worked out 
so well the first time. Te altar-call part,
the prophesying, the speaking-in-tongues
all felt a lot like a Ouija board cheat, 
you know, wanting it so much that, OK, 
(Page 61)

And here, I think what we perhaps all were taught and continually strive for, even through our trials, midlife crises, etc...

"...So clear then, the rules: 
better yourself. Work hard. Save. Pay the bills."
(Page 15)

As I said, profound. If you love poetry, you must pick up this book. 

I leave you with this final sonnet, which speaks to my love of books and reading, to the mother who instilled that love in me, and to the validity of the escape and redemption that can come from reading a book...

Forgotten Image

Your mother, reading on the stairs in light
poured in a wide shaft. At night, shadows,
soft thuds and pleading, clink-clink of his ice
in the glass. Your mother, reading. Light seen
through a chink in a cellar wall. The attic air,
dry and danced with bright motes. You know
it's there, at the top of the house, the stairs
you must muster the mind to ascend. But how?
Where is the first step? Your old notebooks,
dust-felted, stacked up somewhere. Your mother,
reading. The sense of another life, inside 
and outside the walls. An attic, other upper rooms
in the home. Other homes. You are a mother now,
too--so many open mouths, so much to do--
your mother reading, reading herself alive. Showing you.

About the book
Paradise Drive links 80 sonnets in a narrative about a modern Pilgrim on a journey from rust belt Pennsylvania to the glittering suburbs of Marin County, California. The book takes great pleasure in questioning, tinkering with, and ultimately exploding the sonnet form. It has been well received, with more than 50 reviews and features since its release last April. Rumpus and the Washington Review of Books included it in their National Poetry Month picks, and the San Francisco Chronicle recently published this review.

About the Author
Rebecca Foust was the 2014 Dartmouth Poet in Residence and is the recipient of fellowships from The Frost Place, the MacDowell Colony, and the Sewanee Writer’s Conference Her fifth book, Paradise Drive, won the 2015 Press 53 Award for Poetry. Her other books include All That Gorgeous Pitiless Song (Many Mountains Moving Prize), God, Seed (Foreword Book of the Year Award) and two chapbooks that won the Robert Phillips Chapbook Prizes in 2008 and 2009. Foust’s poems appear widely in journals including American Academy of Poets Poem-A-Day series, Hudson Review, Massachusetts Review, Poetry Daily, Sewanee Review, and Verse Daily. A first generation college graduate, Foust attended Smith College (BA 1979), Stanford Law School (1979), and Warren Wilson College (MFA 2010). She lives in Northern California and works as Poetry Editor for Women’s Voices for Change and assistant editor for Narrative Magazine.

Foust has won the 2015 American Literary Review Creative Writing Award for Fiction judged by Garth Greenwell and the 2015 James Heart Poetry Prize judged by Jane Hirshfield.

Visit other stops on the tour!


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cat Thursday - Authors and Cats (49)

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

I'm REALLY late today! Sorry! I had a bit of difficulty finding an author with a birthday in January who is also a cat owner/lover (and one I haven't used previously). Finally found one!

Mr. Tammet and Abby. 
Credit Nick Cunard for The New York Times

Happy Birthday this month to author Daniel Tammet. He celebrates his birthday on January 31st.

Daniel Tammet was born in a working-class suburb of London, England, on 31 January 1979, the eldest of nine children. His mother had worked as a secretarial assistant; his father was employed at a sheet metal factory. Both became full-time parents.

Despite early childhood epileptic seizures and atypical behaviour, Tammet received a standard education at local schools. His learning was enriched by an early passion for reading. He won the town's 'Eager Reader' prize at the age of eleven. At secondary school he was twice named Student of the Year. He matriculated in 1995 and completed his Advanced level studies (in French, German, and History) two years later.

In 1998 Tammet took up a volunteer English teaching post in Kaunas, Lithuania, returning to London the following year. In 2002 he launched the online language learning company Optimnem. It was named a member of the UK's 'National Grid for Learning' in 2006.

In 2004, Tammet was finally able to put a name to his difference when he was diagnosed with high-functioning autistic savant syndrome by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University's Autism Research Centre.

The same year, on March 14, Tammet came to public attention when he recited the mathematical constant Pi (3.141...) from memory to 22,514 decimal places in 5 hours, 9 minutes, without error. The recitation, at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, set a European record.

Tammet began writing in 2005. His first book, Born On A Blue Day, subtitled 'A Memoir of Asperger's and an Extraordinary Mind', was first published in the UK in 2006 and became a Sunday Times bestseller. The US edition, published in 2007, spent 8 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. In 2008, the American Library Association named it a 'Best Book for Young Adults'. It was also a Booklist Editors' Choice. It has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide, and been translated into more than 20 languages.

In 2009, Tammet published Embracing the Wide Sky, a personal survey of current neuroscience. The French edition (co-translated by Tammet himself) became one of the country's best-selling non-fiction books of the year. It also appeared on bestseller lists in the UK, Canada, and Germany, and has been translated into numerous languages.

Thinking in Numbers, Tammet's first collection of essays, is published in August 2012.

In 2008 Tammet emigrated to France. He lives in Paris. (Bio from Goodreads)

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Monday, January 11, 2016

One of my favorites...gone. RIP David Bowie 1947 - 2016 #davidbowie

I was utterly shocked when I saw the Facebook post from David Bowie's page at 12:32 am this morning...that he had died from an 18 month long battle with cancer. I had no idea that he even had cancer. I don't think anyone but his family and closest friends were aware. Once I realized it was indeed true and not another hoax, I was hit with crushing sorrow. I have been a fan of his since I was a child. What can I parents had great taste in music. I remember owning and wearing a David Bowie t-shirt to school regularly when I was in the 6th grade. Most of the other kids were like, "Who is he?" So, I consider myself a lifelong fan. His music in the 80s defined me, and then I rediscovered his earlier stuff in the late 80s/early 90s. And then there was his acting career. Who can forget his stellar role in Labyrinth or his fantastic, yet heartbreaking, turn in the masterpiece that was The Hunger.

I will truly, truly miss him and will now be adding another yearly tribute to my blog in January, each year on the day of his death, January 10, 2016 (I post a tribute to Heath Ledger each year on January 22, the date of his death...this will be the 7th year). I have his biography, David Bowie: Starman by Paul Trynka so I will be reading it very soon...if I can get past the sadness.

As a tribute today to what truly defined him, his genius music, I've shared some of my favorites below.


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