Friday, September 30, 2016

Anna Belfrage's Days of Sun and Glory - Review #Historical #Fiction

My thoughts
I first became aware of Queen Isabella of England, wife of Edward II, in watching my favorite film of all time, Braveheart. I loved the character, although her story line in the film did stretch the boundaries of truth. In the film, she was a smart, strong, independent and defiant character and I greatly admired her. So, that is who I envisioned when I read her parts in this book. The author did a fantastic job of portraying Isabella as I imagine she really was.

I've actually done a lot of reading on Isabella, Edward II and Edward III. My great interest in the story behind Braveheart led me to read more about Edward II and his father, and then more extensively down the line regarding Isabella, Roger Mortimer and Edward III. I feel that Belfrage really captured the historical context of this troubling time in Edward II's reign. It felt like stepping into history itself.

I'm really not much on love stories (a skeptic from life experience), but I can't deny the wonderful relationship between Kit and Adam. Although the jealousy and possessiveness on both their parts got a bit old, in all, their enduring and loving marriage was endearing.

The politics and intrigue are on point with the age of 14th century England. War comes about once again and the strife it causes is palpable and accurately portrayed here.

This is the second book in Belfrage's The King's Greatest Enemy series, yet it can very much be read as a stand alone. She clearly has a knack for writing compelling historical fiction. I can't wait to continue on with the series.

About the book
Publication Date: July 4, 2016
eBook & Paperback; 418 Pages
Series: The King’s Greatest Enemy
Genre: Historical Fiction

Adam de Guirande has barely survived the aftermath of Roger Mortimer’s rebellion in 1321. When Mortimer manages to escape the Tower and flee to France, anyone who has ever served Mortimer becomes a potential traitor – at least in the eyes of King Edward II and his royal chancellor, Hugh Despenser. Adam must conduct a careful balancing act to keep himself and his family alive. Fortunately, he has two formidable allies: Queen Isabella and his wife, Kit. England late in 1323 is a place afflicted by fear. Now that the king’s greatest traitor, Roger Mortimer, has managed to evade royal justice, the king and his beloved Despenser see dissidents and rebels everywhere – among Mortimer’s former men, but also in the queen, Isabella of France.

Their suspicions are not unfounded. Tired of being relegated to the background by the king’s grasping favourite, Isabella has decided it is time to act – to safeguard her own position, but also that of her son, Edward of Windsor. As Adam de Guirande has pledged himself to Prince Edward he is automatically drawn into the queen’s plans – whether he likes it or not.

Yet again, Kit and Adam are forced to take part in a complicated game of intrigue and politics. Yet again, they risk their lives – and that of those they hold dear – as the king and Mortimer face off. Once again, England is plunged into war – and this time it will not end until either Despenser or Mortimer is dead.

Days of Sun and Glory is the second in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.

About the Author
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours.

When Anna fell in love with her future husband, she got Scotland as an extra, not because her husband is Scottish or has a predilection for kilts, but because his family fled Scotland due to religious persecution in the 17th century – and were related to the Stuarts. For a history buff like Anna, these little details made Future Husband all the more desirable, and sparked a permanent interest in the Scottish Covenanters, which is how Matthew Graham, protagonist of the acclaimed The Graham Saga, began to take shape.

Set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, the series tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with her next project, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Life never stops rolling.

The first installment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, was published in 2015. The second book, Days of Sun and Glory, will be published in July 2016.

Other than on her website,, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on Facebook, Twitterand Goodreads.


Never miss a post!

* indicates required

Thursday, September 29, 2016

#BannedBooksWeek 2016 - Who has most influenced your love of books & your right to read?

This is an easy one for me. My parents. 

From the first day I can remember (that's around age 3 or so, I think), I remember my parents reading. They read all the time, every day. On family vacation car trips, one of them would read aloud to the other while he/she was driving. They instilled the love of reading in me and my sister at an early age. When we went to the grocery store, if we were well-behaved, we didn't get a toy...we got a Little Golden Book (I still have all of them too...thanks to my wonderful mom). Both of my parents are still avid readers, especially my mom. She reads more (and faster) than I do. I recommend books to them, and they read them. Dad reads more horror so those are the ones I recommend to him. With Mom, it's horror too, but also literary fiction and sometimes historical fiction. As far as my right to read, they never restricted what I read. When I was about ten, I started reading more adult books and they were fine with it. They trusted my judgment and knew that if I ever became confused, I would come to them for answers. We were very open in that way. I really feel such deep gratitude that they encouraged and nurtured my love of reading.

A funny story, as an aside, regarding my dad. My mom and I used to visit her dad several years back before he died (RIP) and every time I saw him, he would say this, "When you all used to come visit, your dad always had his nose in a book." I can just imagine him as a young man, sitting there reading while visiting family. It makes me smile. 

I must also give a shout out to my high school English teacher, Mrs. Fitch. I had her for three out of four years. In her class, we read Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and Henry Miller's The Crucible. She always made the study of these works so interesting. She also knew that I loved to read, and recommended books to me all the time. It was because of her that I read one of my favorite books of all time, The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel. She was my favorite teacher and I will never forget her.

Who influenced you?

Here are some book marks you can print out, courtesy of the ALA. Click here.


Never miss a post!

* indicates required

#CatThursday - #BannedBooksWeek version #cats

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 created this one a few years ago in honor of BBW. Still a classic!

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Easy-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.


Never miss a post!

* indicates required

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

#BannedBooksWeek 2016 - Which banned book character would you want to eat lunch with?

I'm taking my answer from the Banned and Challenged Classics list at the ALA. Number 40 on the list: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

First, the reason this was banned, and in this case, it was banned, or should I say burned.

  • Burned in Alamagordo, NM (2001) outside Christ Community Church along with other Tolkien novels as satanic.
Here we go again with calling fantasy books satanic. Can you believe this happened as recently as 2001? Actually, I can. There are some really delusional people out there. 

The character I would have lunch with from this book/series? Gandalf!

Can you imagine what an interesting conversation that would be? I always love the whimsy Gandalf has when he interacts with the Hobbits, and yet he is strong, and very smart. It would be exciting to pick his brain about the history of Middle Earth and all of his experiences.

I actually have a top three, Gandalf being the first:

2. Scarlett O'hara
3. Celie (The Color Purple)

Who would you have lunch with?

Here are some Banned Books Week statistics...


Never miss a post!

* indicates required

Monday, September 26, 2016

#BannedBooksWeek 2016 - What book would you go to jail for?

The American Library Association has some really cool prompts this year to stimulate conversation about banned/challenged books. Today's question is...

My answer...

I thought about this for a while. I went through the top 10 challenged books lists from the past 15 years and I decided on the Harry Potter series. The series was on the top 10 lists in 2001, 2002, and 2003. The reasons? Predominantly occult/Satanism. This is why I would go to jail defending this series. Challenging books that teach within their wonderful story lines about friendship, loyalty, love and so much more, and labeling them as occultism/Satanism is just plain hysteria, in my opinion. These are the beliefs that led us to accuse, convict and execute twenty people for witchcraft in the Salem witch trials in the 17th century. That people still believe and fear these things so much that they would deprive their children (and the children of others) of reading one of the most wonderful fantasy book series in the history of books is unfathomable. So yes, I would go to jail defending Harry Potter.

How about you?


Never miss a post!

* indicates required

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Banned Books Week 2016 #bannedbooksweek

Today is the first day of Banned Books Week. Every year, I do a series of posts in honor of the week and the books that are so important to be kept in circulation, and read by generations to come.

As it's the first day, I'm going to talk a bit about what Banned Books Weeks actually is, for those who still may be unfamiliar, and why it's such an important week. I'll also share the list of the top ten frequently challenged books of 2015, and some thoughts on a couple of books on the list.

From ALA -

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community; librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types, in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. Check out the frequently challenged books section to explore the issues and controversies around book challenges and book banning. The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools. While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.

The reasoning behind Banned Books Week, and why it's important, is that it highlights the importance of free and open access to information. The week also brings together the entire book community, online and offline...libraries, booksellers, publishers, journalists, bloggers, teachers and readers who recognize the need to speak out and support the freedom to produce and have access to all materials, even those that are considered unconventional or unpopular.

The focus on efforts to remove or restrict access to books helps to draw attention to censorship and the harm it can cause. It's important to remember that books continue to be banned and targeted for removal and restrictions in libraries and in schools. However, many of the books challenged have remained available due to the extraordinary efforts of librarians, teachers, students and community members who,  by standing up and speaking out, refuse to let the freedom to read be abused.

  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
  3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
    Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
  6. The Holy Bible
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
  7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
  8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
    Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
    Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).

Fifty Shades of Grey - I have personally refused to read this book because 1) I have heard it's poorly written and 2) I have a problem with any woman allowing herself to be subjected to abuse because she's in love with a man, AND believing that she will be able to change him. Now, granted I did not read the book and I know there were many who really liked it, or at least didn't absolutely hate it. However, after reading many reviews on Goodreads, I know that this is a book I would not want to waste my time reading. My sister made me watch the movie. I wish I could get those two hours back. 

All of the above being said, and I get the reasoning behind the challenges to this book (who wants their daughters thinking this is a normal relationship and wanting something like it?), I do think that this is the moment when parenting comes into play. If your daughter wants to read it, perhaps read it with her to demonstrate and point out the reasons why the relationship in the book is a harmful, inappropriate relationship. This is why being aware of what your kids are reading and watching is important, so we don't miss those teachable moments. I realize there are parents who are not involved and aware. Perhaps those are the kids these challenges are trying to protect, but by protecting the few, harm is being done to the many by restricting access to certain books.

The Holy Bible - I am not a Christian. Let me get that out of the way right away. I used to be a Christian. I was raised Baptist and then converted to Lutheran and was baptized Lutheran about ten years ago. I have since abandoned Christianity for personal reasons. I now consider myself an AgnosticDeist and a Pagan. I believe in my right to not have to commit to just one if, or until, I decide to. On that note, I also believe and support the right of eveyone else to believe what they believe. I do not believe the bible is the word of God. I believe that it is more of an allegorical book meant to teach lessons, much in the way of Aesop's Fables. That being said, I certainly do not begrudge a believer to believe in, and have access to, the bible. To challenge the bible because of religious viewpoint is just as bad as restricting a book because of homosexuality. People believe what they believe and they are what/who they are. The First Amendment is there to protect these rights:


How are you celebrating Banned Books Week?


Never miss a post!

* indicates required

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Cat Thursday - Silly shots #catthursday #cats

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)

Cats doing what they do best...acting silly. 

This one below is SO Alice!

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Easy-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.


Never miss a post!

* indicates required

Monday, September 19, 2016

I'm signing up for my new reading should too! #13WLRP

I decided to creat the 13 Ways of Looking at The Lifetime Reading Plan perpetual reading challenge after recently reading from two books: 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley and The New Lifetime Reading Plan by Clifton Fadiman and John S. Major. As I was looking at the lists in both books, I thought that these lists would make for an awesome reading challenge to broaden our reading horizons.

This new reading challenge is being hosted at my new reading community site, Gather Together and Read. I have also moved all the challenges I host to this site so everything is easily gathered in one place.

This is a perpetual challenge, meaning there is no set ending or goal. You read at your own pace. It's really about challenging ourselves to read perhaps beyond our comfort zone, and to read books that are considered "great" or, as Jane Smiley said, books "that would illuminate the whole concept of the novel." Also, many of the titles on the lists will easily crossover with other reading challenges!

To make things a bit more challenging (just so the challenge doesn't languish, as many perpetual challenges do), I'm going to follow the lead of Read the Nobels and host a yearly challenge inside this challenge where you commit to reading a set amount of books from the lists in a year. That will kick off on January 1, 2017.

In addition, I will host read-alongs of books from the list periodically. I want to make this site about community and I think read-alongs are an excellent way to foster community.

Both lists for the reading challenge can be accessed in the sidebar menu at the site.

I hope you will join me! Sign up here.


Never miss a post!

* indicates required

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cat Thursday - Authors and Cats (56)

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).

I missed Authors and Cats last week! I have been so forgetful lately. So, I'm just going to go ahead and do it this week!

A very happy birthday this month to one of my favorite authors, Stephen King! (September 21)
King is known to be more of a dog lover, but it seems they do always have cats in their household. I would think they do at least inspire him, as they have figured prominently in at least two of his works, Pet Sematary and Cat's Eye

Here are a couple of shots of SK with some kitties. I couldn't corroborate for sure, but according to these images, one or both of these cats may be the cat from the Cat's Eye film. King was still relatively young in these shots. He looks like he's having fun. 

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Easy-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.


Never miss a post!

* indicates required

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Reading Life (45) - #TopTenTuesday #RIPXI #Bloggiesta

Scroll down for Bloggiesta wrap-up.

Seems I'm in a blogging rut of a sort. I post reviews and Cat Thursday, but nothing much else. Trying to get back into the swing of things. I have Banned Books Week at the end of the month so want to be in a better frame for (almost) daily posts that week.

I decided to participate in Top Ten Tuesday this week. It has been a while. I actually like making lists so not sure why I don't do this every week. Here are my top ten favorite literary fiction novels (these may also fall into other categories):

In no particular order...

1. The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger - I loved, loved, loved this book. Even after seven years, it still stays with me. It was actually one of my first reviews on this blog (HERE).

2. The Keep, Jennifer Egan - This book blew me away. It was utterly what I was not expecting and that made it all the better. If you haven't read this...well, you really should.

3. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold - This was another of my first reviews on this blog (HERE). I liked this because of it being a cautionary tale, but also the story was incredibly poignant.

4. The Color Purple, Alice Walker - Not much explanation needed here. The movie is actually one of my favorites. I read the book years later and loved it even more. Brilliant story. (Review here)

5. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro - Ishiguro is a brilliant writer. He knows how to get to the meat of what makes people tick, and it's not always pretty, or ideal. He is one of my favorite authors which is why he makes the list twice...

6. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro - This is a book not to read if you don't want to sob uncontrollably. Also, don't go watch the end of the film after reading the book. More uncontrolled sobbing. The movie was good. The book is better. The book makes you think...really think...which is my favorite kind of book. (Review here)

7. The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd - A wonderful book, based in fact, about the strength of the human spirit and bonds that can't be broken.

8. The Mountain Story, Lori Lansens - I actually just finished reading this a couple of weeks ago and haven't even had time to review it yet. It is not just about being stranded on a mountain, but about people...what they do to each other and how they love each other in spite of it all.

9. The Gift, Cecelia Ahern - I know Ahern is categorized as a "chick lit" author, but this book is not chick lit. It was a great book to read at Christmas because it has a message, but would be good to read any time of year. Another "will have you sobbing" book.

10. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak - I think everyone has read this so it will be apparent why it's on the list. A book about human bonds, love, tragedy, and how books can bring people together. (Review Here)

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI

11th year! So glad to have Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings back hosting again. I'm a bit late with this sign-up, but I have a ton of spooky reading going on this Sept-Oct. Yay!

My levels of participation:

Read four books, of any length, from the very broad categories earlier defined as perilous. They could all be by the same author, a series of books, a random mix of classic and contemporary or whatever you like.

Here's what I have on my plate:

  • The Night Parade, Ronald Malfi (currently reading)
  • The History Major, Michael Phillip Cash (currently reading)
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs (currently reading, hosting read-along at Castle Macabre)
  • Salem's Lot, Stephen King (read-along in Oct. for TuesBookTalk & the Stephen King Challenge)
  • The Kept Woman, Karin Slaughter
  • various other horror novels

Short story read-alongs at Castle Macabre for Season of the Witch:

Edgar Allan Poe:
The Mask of the Red Death 
The Pit and the Pendulum

H.P. Lovecraft
The Dunwich Horror
The Dreams in the Witch-House

I've already seen Ghostbusters and The Disappointments Room and I have to finish watching the last few episodes of Stranger Things. American Horror Story's new season starts tomorrow!

Movies I'm also planning to see:

The Blair Witch
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
The Girl on the Train
Ouija: Origin of Evil
Rob Zombie's 31

and tons of scary movies and paranormal/horror TV shows on television!



  • finish working on the new community reading site I've been promising since August :(
    completed site url:
  • finishing touches on new perpetual reading challenge accompanying the intro of new site
  • sign-up post for FrightFall Read-a-Thon
  • create button for new reading challenge to start January 1, 2017
  • visit other participants
  • work on book catalog and my home library site (A Library, Collected), if I have time
  • ...if I think of anything else
  • mini-challenge at Guiltless Reading - create a book map Done. Here:
I accomplished a bit...not a ton, but I'm satisfied. :-)

Recent book acquisitions...

from Goodwill:

Treasured Stories of Christmas (from Norman Vincent Peale, Helen Steiner Rice, Pearl S. Buck, and more)
The Curious Cast of Benjamin Button, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The American Senator, Anthony Trollope
Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History, Fawn M. Brodie
Redcoats & Rebels, Christopher Hibbert
The Light in the Ruins, Chris Bohjalian

What's going on in your Reading life?


Never miss a post!

* indicates required

- See more at: