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CarpeLibrum

Carpe Librum

Reviews and bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.

If I am lost, you will find me in medieval England.

You can also find me - and my books - on my blog.

Historical Novel Society

Currently reading

Hanging Mary: A Novel
Susan Higginbotham
The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears
Mark Batterson
House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown
Nathen Amin

Socrates in the City by Eric Metaxas

Socrates in the City: Conversations on "Life, God, and Other Small Topics" - Eric Metaxas

A series of talks on 'life, God, and other small topics,' this book is the thinking person's alternative to pop psychology and prosperity gospel (that will seem much more clever and applicable if you listen to the book).

 

Based upon other reviews, I can see that listening to the audio version of this book is much more enjoyable than reading the paperback. That makes sense, since the audiobook is a recording of the Socrates in the City events with different lecturers taking on a variety of topics before opening up the session to Q&A.

 

Listening to this made me think and added several new books to my TBR. Definitely worth a listen.

The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer

The Outcasts of Time - Ian Mortimer

This novel is beautiful in its prose, fascinating in its historical detail, and emotive in its themes on humanity and the passing of time. I was first drawn in by the promise that renowned historian Ian Mortimer would be taking readers on an adventure through time. Finding that this book does that while also making thought provoking statements on the human condition, I was helpless to put it down once I started it.

The story of John of Wrayment and his brother begins in 1348 during a devastating outbreak of the plague. One would think that any time might be preferable as an escape from the fate of man during that time, but such does not prove the case through John's eyes. He sees the plague as 'a second Flood. God is clearing the land. Not with water but with pestilence.' Yet, he is even more horrified by what he discovers when he accepts a supernatural offer to live his remaining six days on earth, each 99 years further into the future than the last.

The brothers explore Exeter and its surrounding area through the ages, the cathedral where John has sculpted those he loves into the faces of angels and disciples, serving at their centering point regardless of the century. John at first finds comfort in finding the face of his wife there, but his fear and anxiety is enhanced as the statues that seemed so permanent crumble and wear away the further he gets from his own time. Out of all the changes he sees, this seems to impact him the most. The loss of his own work and what was supposed to be eternal memorial of his family.

When we think about traveling into the future, I think we expect to see progress and increased happiness. Certainly, we would think that one leaving the time of the plague would see that, but that is not what John notices. He is confused by what we would call advances. 'We worked long days and had straightforward pleasures. But now, so many things are easier - yet what does the world do? It revels in causing suffering and killing.' John is horrified at the loss of faith that he observes. 'We were far more united and accepting of God's will. In this new century, people are all divided and unsatisfied, hoping that God will smile on them personally.' 

John wishes only to do good in order to please God, but the further he gets from his own time, the more he realizes that is no longer a key goal of the people. He is also frustrated by his inability to perform a heroic deed in any era. Due to his bedraggled state and lack of possessions, he finds himself at the mercy of others rather than able to help them. 'If Christ were living in this day and age, would He not have ended up in a workhouse?'

'Every day is composed of . . . of an unpredictable horror - no, of a horrific unpredictability.'

It seems that time travel is not all it is cracked up to be.

Each day/century brings John closer to his death and he grows eager for it. Though he is disappointed in his failure to do a great deed for God, he cannot tolerate what he witnesses occurring in the world. 'Men are starting to direct things that rightly only God should control.....Men've strived to compete and outdo one another, as if nothing is the will of God and everything is the will of man.' Instead of being impressed by progress, John sees only disintegration of faith and character.

Thankfully, there are a few bright spots included in John's six day journey. He meets at least one kind person in each time, and it is these small comforts that enable him to move forward.

I was eager to discover what would happen to John once his time was up, but I will not reveal it here. I will only say that the ending was satisfying and reiterated the message that John had already taught us, 'What is important is what does not change - that mothers and wives are so happy when they hear that their sons and husbands are alive that they run around the house yelling for joy; that men do their duty in the face of great danger not purely for themselves but for all their community.'

An amazing read - my favorite of this year.

The man who has no knowledge of the past has no wisdom.

I received this book through NetGalley. Opinions are my own.

The Counter-Reformation of Queen Mary I

I am back at EHFA today looking at Queen Mary's attempt at counter-reformation in England.

 

Source: http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2017/11/the-counter-reformation-of-mary-i.html

Killer of Kings by Matthew Harffy

KILLER OF KINGS (The Bernicia Chronicles) - Matthew Harffy

Killer of Kings is an enjoyable addition to Matthew Harffy's Bernicia Chronicles. From the time I read The Serpent Sword I have been hooked, and it has been quite the adventure watching Beobrand go from young, arrogant warrior to husband & father....and admittedly, he remains an arrogant warrior if he is now one with scars, aches, and regrets.

In this installment, Beobrand comes up against foes that he is powerless to claim victory over. What I love about this series is that, in the midst of violence and gore, we get some satisfying character development. Beobrand is almost broken by the fact that he cannot simply charge in and expect to win every time. He has to swallow his pride, leave people behind, and learn how to choose his battles. Not that he always learns from his mistakes, and part of the fun of this series is waiting to see how his infamous luck will hold out for him.

While Beobrand is off on his latest adventure, Reaghan is attempting to hold down the fort at home. This is understandably difficult considering Reaghan's uncertain status. Her rise from thrall to leading lady is jealously disdained by Rowena, a woman who considers herself far above this interloper. I have to admit that Reaghan is a disappointing substitute for Sunniva, who seemed to help Beobrand mature and evolve. Reaghan still comes across as little more than a bed-warmer. I found myself cheering for Rowena's evil schemes, and I'm pretty sure that was not the author's intent.

A trip to Beobrand's home village fills in many gaps and ties up some loose strings with surprising efficiency, so that, by the time Beobrand arrives home, one wonders where the next book will head. I know that I am eager to discover what trouble our impetuous hero will get into next.

In Three-Quarter Time by Pam Lecky

In Three-Quarter Time: A Short Story - Pam Lecky

So much happens in these few pages that I found myself wanting more. The characters were just starting to feel like friends when suddenly my time with them was over. What greater recommendation can I give than that?

Lecky gives readers a glimpse of life in Dublin during WWI, the excitement, the romance, the tragedy, the loss. There's a lot of emotion packed into this short story with the main character's sister suffering long-term illness, her brother enthusiastically volunteering to take his part in the glorious war, and the man she secretly loves hoping to find his fortune in America.

Did I say that I wish it was longer?

The Beaufort Dynasty?

New on the blog - my meanderings about the Tudors being Beauforts.

 

Source: http://samanthawilcoxson.blogspot.com/2017/11/the-beaufort-dynasty.html

Katharina: Deliverance by Margaret Skea

Katharina: Deliverance - Margaret Skea This novel convincingly portrays a young Katharina Von Bora, a woman who would have been long forgotten were it not for her own boldness and choice of husband. Like thousands of other young girls, Katharina was sent to a convent to relieve her family of the burden of raising and marrying her off. Unlike almost all who had come before her, Katherina chose a different path than the convent at great risk, a path one might say indicates greater faith in God than a lifetime in a nunnery. Skea does a marvelous job of filling in the gaps in Katharina's life - of which there are many - while working within the framework of known historical facts. It would have been tempting for an author to write Martin and Katharina's story as more romantic than it truly was, but Skea does not give in to this temptation. Katharina makes a decision based on much more than passionate love, a type of decision that is rarely made in modern courtships, and this story is faithfully told. Though Martin Luther is not heavily featured until later in Katherina's story, he is present through quotes that appear at the beginning of each chapter, giving the reader the sensation that the two were on paths destined to intersect long before they knew each other. While their courtship is not the stuff of a romantic blockbuster movie, we are given hints that they did indeed grow to love each other very much through glimpses of Katharina later in life. Neither Martin nor Katharina is perfect. Luther's fiery temper and impetuosity is on display, as is Katharina's willingness to firmly defend her own opinions. It is made clear that neither was the other's first choice, but they both determined to make the marriage work, not only for their own sake but for the greater glory of God. 'He is a good man, who, if some of his wilder impulses can be contained, may yet become great.' Become great he did, with an amazing woman to support him. I am excited to read more of Katharina's story in Skea's next book. I received this book through NetGalley. Opinions are my own.

The Reformation: Henry & Luther

I am at EHFA today blogging on - you guessed it - the Reformation!

 

Source: http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.ca/2017/10/the-reformation-henry-luther.html
Happy Reformation Day!!
Happy Reformation Day!!

1517 by Peter Marshall

1517: Martin Luther and the Invention of the Reformation - Peter Marshall

This book is not really about Martin Luther or even exclusively about the year 1517. It is more of a detailed study of the posting of the 95 Theses - whether or not it really happened and how the action (whether historical or legend) has been viewed and inspired others throughout the five centuries since.

 

While this was an interesting study, I couldn't help but wonder throughout my reading of it how much it really mattered. I will admit that, as one who has studied the era and even visited Wittenberg, I am not entirely convinced that Luther did boldly nail the 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church on October 31, 1517. However, the spark of the Reformation was lit and Martin Luther's journey began on that day, even if he did just mail the discussion points to his archbishop rather than immediately publicize them.

 

The author includes a detailed study on how the beginning of the Reformation has been memorialized and celebrated through the ages. This is partially evidence to disprove the Theses posting, but it is an interesting look at how different people in different ages and circumstances viewed Luther's work. Different generations placed more significance on the Diet of Worms or the burning of the Papal Bull or simply Luther's birth or death anniversary. How did we come to focus on the Theses posting as the most significant event giving life to the Reformation? The author is not sure and seems disappointed in the choice.

 

I can relate. I have stood before the doors that are now bronze and embossed with the words of the 95 Theses, and was thrilled to be there. But wasn't Luther's 'On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church' more important? Wasn't the Diet of Worms when he truly stood up for reform? Maybe, but before those more compelling events, Luther had to go through the experiences that the 95 Theses brought about. Maybe the burning of his notice of excommunication is more defiant and bold, but it would not have happened without the 95 Theses.

 

Maybe the passing years have injected October 31, 1517 with more of the drama of the events that followed it because we like the movie-worthy moment of the mild and obedient monk angrily hammering his objections to the door of the very church he is protesting. Maybe the Theses really weren't posted until Luther had been ignored by the proper chain of command. Maybe he had a student glue them up, as would have been more proper than the professor of theology taking nails to the church door. Maybe people didn't gather in excitement the moment the notice went up. However, in retrospect, people of Luther's time and many more since have recognized October 31, 1517 as the day when Martin Luther began something that changed the world.

 

I received this book through NetGalley. Opinions are my own.

Henry Tudor's Claim to England's Throne

Was it as shaky as we think it was?

 

Source: http://samanthawilcoxson.blogspot.com/2017/10/henry-tudors-claim-to-englands-throne.html

The Last Lancastrian: A Story of Margaret Beaufort

SURPRISE! You can read my novella featuring Margaret Beaufort RIGHT NOW! No pre-ordering, no waiting. Get a peek of Margaret's life before she became known as the formidable king's mother.

 

Source: http://myBook.to/LastLancastrian

Edith Cavell: Faith Before the Firing Squad by Catherine Butcher

Edith Cavell: Faith Before the Firing Squad - Catherine Butcher

This biography is concise and inspiring. It features a woman who would not have expected to have her life story interest others, but that is part of what makes Edith Cavell so compelling. She is the sort of woman we all hope we would be if circumstances challenged us the way they did her.

 

Edith's faith was a significant element of her life and story, and it is included appropriately in this book. From the day she was born until the day she died, the love of God and promise of heaven guided Edith's actions. She did not wish for recognition, only to help others. "When Reverend Gahan said, 'We shall always remember you as a heroine and a martyr,' she replied, 'Don't think of me like that, think of me only as a nurse who tried to do her duty.'"

 

The author demonstrates how Edith became the kind of woman who would selflessly assist others, even when she knew she was endangering herself. This vicar's daughter, governess, and nurse grew up with the desire to serve a vital part of her character. Not that she is portrayed as unbelievably perfect. Mistakes and faults of character are also explored to give readers a comprehensive picture of who the real Edith Cavell was.

 

She was an intelligent woman with a servant's heart who willingly gave up her lives for others. Even when Edith knew she was being spied upon by Germans, she continued to help those trying to escape. When she knew the next person she helped might be preparing to betray her, she wouldn't take the chance of turning away someone who truly needed her. Once she was convicted of her 'crimes' she worried only about those she was leaving behind.

 

The recent 100th anniversary of Edith's execution has stirred up renewed interest in her, and she is a woman worthy of remembering. Her strength and courage in the face of deceit and violence is an inspiration to us all.

 

I received this book through NetGalley. Opinions are my own.

 

The Gods Divided by Richard Sotnick

The Gods Divided - Richard Sotnick

This is the story of Ben and Olive, a couple mismatched in faith but united in love as war breaks out across Europe. There was potential for it to be the haunting story that it promises to be, but it never quite gets to that point.

 

There is no question that the author did his research. The facts of the couple's story are clearly presented, but that is the novel's most significant problem. It reads like a list of facts, a retelling of events lacking the emotions that must have been a part of them. The reader is told that Olive spent three miserable months looking for a job, but we are not there with her enduring it. We are told that she worked herself to the point that she had to be hospitalized, but we never experience her weariness or despair. Even the romance comes across much more like a torrid affair than an enduring love story.

 

The title of this book led me to believe that there would be themes of faith involved, but Ben asks early on 'what relevance is religion in today's world?' While Ben is Jewish and Olive is Catholic, their faiths do not seem to impact their worldview beyond putting up barriers to their marriage. Neither really practices their faith, but it is repeated multiple times that if it weren't for their differing faiths (and the fact that Olive is already married) that they would get married.

 

Dialog is stilted and repetitive as the author seems to be trying to tell everything just as it happened - including the chain of communication that means the reader hears everything multiple times as different people talk about it. A storyteller's skill would relate the sharing of information without restating it for every character that becomes involved.

 

In the end, a true story that should be an emotive tale was bland. I never felt any connection to Olive or any suspense involving her search for Ben (which, again, we are just told she is doing, the reader is never involved). This novel could be reworked to be so much more than it is, drawing the reader into Olive's trials and heartbreaks, but as it is written we are never fully invited in.

 

I received this book through NetGalley. Opinions are my own.

The Heroines of Plantagenet Embers

I am a guest blogger today at Tudors Dynasty with a post about what drew me to the leading ladies in my novels.

 

Source: http://www.tudorsdynasty.com/heroines-plantagenet-embers-guest-post

Historic Places: Wittenberg

This might be my favorite one yet!

 

Source: http://samanthawilcoxson.blogspot.com/2017/10/historic-places-wittenberg.html