Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What are you reading?

I finished The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau.  She paints an interesting picture of the conflict between the Roman Catholic Church and the Crown.  Many of the characters in the Tudor period came to life in this book such as the Princess Mary and Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester.  I liked the detailed information about the period such as the introduction of the translation of The Bible by Tyndale so that all those who were literate could read it; a shocking thing at the time.  I liked the main character, Joanna Stafford ,with all her vulnerabilities.  I, however, preferred the writer's first book, The Crown. I moved on to The Third Gate by Lincoln Child and to my surprise, that was about another crown; the hunt for the double crown of Pharoah Narmer. Narmer was the God-King who united Egypt into one kingdom.  This story delved into the paranormal, archaeology, the use of propofol (the Michael Jackson drug) to induce hypnosis, and introduced me to the term "Enigmalogist". In this book, the enigmalogist was an interpreter of strange happenings, a ghostbuster type.  I enjoyed the story; couldn't put the book down but found the ending not so satisfying.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

I have moved on to Bilyeau's second book, The Chalice. One theme in this book is destiny. A key sentence on page 308 is, 'There is a destiny one creates. And there is a destiny ordained.'

The first book, The Crown, introduced us to Joanna Stafford, of noble birth, former lady in waiting to Queen Katherine, who has answered the call to be a novice nun. The setting is 16th century England and King Henry Vlll is on the throne.  This is a period when the people of England are caught between the Crown and the Papists. Catholic Churches, monasteries and nunneries have been dissolved. Sister Joanna and her sister nuns have been displaced from the nunnery in Dartford.  Her plan is to make a living for herself and her cousin's son, Arthur, by continuing the weaving business that the nuns had engaged in prior to the Dissolution. We got a hint of romance in the first book which continues in this book in that Sister Joanna seems to be attracted to two men, Brother Edward, a friar, and Geoffrey, now a constable assigned to Dartford.  It was common for the displaced nuns and monks to marry as they tried to fit into civilian life.  I am on page 308 and I do not know yet which young man Joanna will choose. I would like Geoffrey to win her over.

There are many subplots in this story. One  plot in the story has to do with prophecy and Joanna's reluctance to listen to the prophecies ordained for her.  So far she has heard two prophecies and she does not fully understand the meaning and is puzzled about her role in the prophecies.  She is supposed to hear a third prophesy.  All she knows is that her role in the prophesy is linked to the future of England possibly the future of the Catholic Church.

I do not know at this point how the title of the book fits into the story.  There are some slow parts in the story.  While I am enjoying the subplots in the story, it is not as captivating as The Crown.  At this point I would give it 4 stars out of 5.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Beggar King - Historical Fiction

I am on page 362 of The Beggar King, The Hangman's Daughter series by Oliver Potzsch, almost at the end, and I am still not sure I understand who the bad guys are in this story.  The setting is the 17th century Bavarian town of Regensberg. There is conspiracy after conspiracy, treachery after treachery in this story.  All the minor characters seem not to be who they say they are.  So far, they all seem very shady: the Beggar King, the Venice Ambassador; The Raftmaster; the patricians of the city; the dead bath house owners, Kuisl's sister and brother-in-law; and even Kuisl's wife seems to have some secret past. 

Hangman Jakob Kuisl has been targeted, tricked into leaving Schongau for Regensberg so that he could be accused of  murder in that town.  The leaders in the city seem to have conspired together to accuse him.  Kuisl got a taste of the brutal punishment that he himself has imposed on others in his role as Hangman.  His chief tormentor who wants the punishment to be more and more severe is a voice from his past, which he can not remember fully, and a leader in the city.  The feisty hangman's daughter, Magdalena, and her paramour, Simon, just happened to have run off to Regensberg to start a new life together when they find themselves having to find evidence that Kuisl is innocent.  Then they have to go into hiding after being accused of arson. In the meantime some prostitutes are disappearing and turning up dead. How their deaths connect with Kuisl, I do not know at this point.

I am not as excited about this story as I was with the other two in the series. Too many things are going on in this story.  Who committed the murders and why?  How do the politics and church issues relate to the murders? What is up with this great war in the past?  Who is killing the prostitutes and how does that connect to the main story? What was the mystery powder found at the scene of the murder? So many aspects to this one story.  I was the one who recommended the first book in the series to my book club and we loved it.