Monday, November 13, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday!

***EDIT*** I totally forgot to add From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil. E. Frankweiler and have failed as a parent. Even though Eleanor is only four and can't even read chapter books yet.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and a fun way to see what other bloggers are reading.

This week's theme is "Top Ten Books I Want My Future Children To Read". Seeing as how I already have a child, my Mighty Girl named Eleanor, this list is tailored specifically for her and not some imaginary child that may or may not ever exist.

Note: If you have checked out my blog regularly, you might know that I am currently writing a biography on Eleanor of Aquitaine. As a result, I have come across tons of material relating directly or indirectly to the mighty queen. As I am collecting these books, it is my goal to pass this collection on to my Eleanor when she is old enough to read them (right now she is four). As such, in the list below you will find more than one book about the queen.

Here they are, in no particular order:

1. I began reading this one to Eleanor when she was still in utero. I read it to her every night from about six months into my pregnancy, right up to the night before she was born. It was the first book I read to her after she was born, and if you are skeptical about what a newborn might "remember" from prior to birth, consider this: Eleanor was not a fussy baby by any means, but in those first few months she would have short periods of unrest a few times a week, between 6:30 and 8:30 PM. When I would begin reading this book, it never failed to capture her attention and she would lay quietly in my arms as I read.

Every. Single. Time.

Books are magic, people. Start 'em young.

2. Of course. I am so seriously excited for Eleanor to read this one, because we both love books so much - I may even start reading it to her in the next couple months.

3. Every time I even look at this book, I get that knot in the pit of my stomach like, "Oh man, this is such a lovely, heart-wrenching, beautiful book." It is not terribly long, but it is one that will stay with you forever.

4. Another favorite from my childhood that I hope Eleanor will love as much as I do.

5. Really, I hope she loves this whole series. But this, of all the books, is the one I went back to time and again when I was younger. My own copy is so worn and falling apart, but that's how you know a book is well-loved.

6. I want to BE Jo March. I wanted her to marry Laurie and be a writer and I cried and cried when she could not do both. Yet I read it over and over, and each time loved it more than the last.

7. Normally I am not one for books about the Vietnam War, but for this one I will always make an exception.

8. Obviously because dinosaurs are awesome. My mom told Eleanor that she did not need to like dinosaurs just because Momma likes dinosaurs, and I said there will be no malarkey in our home about 'not liking dinosaurs'. I don't even know what that means. Luckily, Eleanor figured out on her own how cool dinos are, so I am sure she will find her way to this one in the future.

9. I first read it in high school, and have read it multiple times since then. Such a well-crafted murder mystery from the master. I do hope Eleanor will appreciate this one as well, though it shows its age.

10. Another must, one I fell in love with in high school. Knowing about the lives of Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda add an additional layer of appreciation to this novel.

11. The first time I read this book was the summer between 5th and 6th grade. My youngest, uncle who was in college, had an office area in the basement of my grandparents' home with bookshelves full of books and records and cassettes. I could amuse myself for hours in the basement, playing the music and reading the books. I found To Kill a Mockingbird one such afternoon and became so engrossed that I stopped listening to music and my grandma noticed how quiet I had become. She hollered down to me asking what I was doing and I showed her the book I had started. I thought she was going to have a heart attack right then and there because she was so sure my mom was going to be angry with her for letting me read a book at such a young age with some very adult themes. And yet, with the story being told through the eyes of a child a few years younger than me, I understood everything that was happening, and went on to finish the book the same afternoon. Mom was not angry, but Grandma checked on me a lot more often after that.

12. I would like to think I could be as brave as the family in this story, but I hope I never have to find out.

I know, right?! You might be wondering where all the non-fiction has gone. Never fear, those gems are next.

13. It's not a Top Ten Tuesday without a little Dan Jones, is it? While I have enjoyed all of his works thus far, this book holds a special place in my heart because I read it while I was pregnant with Eleanor, and it is the book where I first discovered who Eleanor of Aquitaine is. It would not be a stretch to say that Dan Jones named my baby, would it? It would? Oh well, he thought the statement was funny WHEN I GOT TO MEET HIM AT A BOOK SIGNING IN ST. LOUIS. I really hope Eleanor loves history in general, but that she might find some affinity for those wacky Plantagenets that I have grown to love so dearly.

14. One of the best biographies of Eleanor that I have read so far.

15. I want Eleanor to be able to look at information from the period, examine the potential bias, and analyze why we view Eleanor of Aquitaine as we do today, based on how historians and chroniclers wrote and continue to write about her.

16. A little background information never hurts.

17. A good look at not only Eleanor, but other queens from Medieval England before and after. Very well-done and their various reigns weave together nicely.

18. A fantastic collection of essays regarding Eleanor and various aspects of her life and reigns.

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19. Perhaps my Eleanor will be an unapologetic history nerd like myself, and give these primary sources a go when she is older. If so, I hope she will be able to pick out the biases and connect the information from one chronicle to the next to figure out what is true and what is embellished.

There you have it! Let me know what you think and if we have any books in common.

Happy Reading,

Thursday, November 9, 2017

First Line Friday: Martin Luther Edition

First Line Fridays hosted by Hoarding Books

Happy First Line Friday everyone. FLF is a weekly blog feature hosted now by Hoarding Books. After you leave me a comment or your own first line, head over to Hoarding Books to discover other bloggers and the lines they have chosen to share this week.

I am a little late on this post, and should have used this book last week, but I didn't, so here we are:

"Martin Luther lived an eventful life; consequently, the question of what to leave out becomes every Luther biographer's major challenge."

I think 'eventful life' might be an understatement, no?

Happy Reading!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday!

It's Tuesday, and time for another TTT that I can participate in! Thanks as always to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting this weekly feature.

This week's topic is "Ten Characters Who Would Make Good Leaders". It is pretty open-ended, as it is up to each individual blogger just exactly who or what those characters might be leading. Given my non-fiction tendencies, my list will be about those who I consider to have been good leaders. This doesn't mean they were always great people because most of them weren't. However, I am looking at them from the perspective of a leader as someone who lead or could have lead their country in some way. Whether that means they were leading their countrymen on Crusade, or leading the government and officials against a wayward son trying to steal his brother's throne, all lead at some point in their lives.

Here they are, in no particular order. I have also chosen to say relatively little about them, compared to my normal novellas. I'd like their names to simply (mostly) speak for themselves.

1. Eleanor of Aquitaine
(General bad-ass. Got shit done while Richard was in the Holy Land. Continued to get shit done when he was captured, when he returned home, when he died, and when John inherited the throne.)

2. Boudica, Boudicca, Boudicea, Bouddica
(Girl was FIERCE. Commanded an army in the tens of thousands, though Roman estimates put that number beyond 200,000. Avenged the rape of her daughters and her own public humiliation by slaughtering a bunch of Romans.)

2. William Marshal
(Served the first five Plantagenet kings: Henry II, Henry the Young King, Richard, John, and Henry III. Lead troops into battle into his late 60s.)

3. Harold Godwinson
(Last true Anglo-Saxon king. Sorry Edgar. If only he had waited for reinforcements instead of immediately marching to Hastings from Stanford.)

4. Alfred the Great
(The man who paved the way for England to become united under his grandson Athelstan. He was able to repel the Danes time and again, and lay the groundwork for the future kings.)

5. Henry II
(I mean, whatever. He was only one of England's greatest kings, even though he was a lousy husband.)

6. Richard I and Saladin
(Had to put these two together, because I feel like they really brought out the best in one another. And by best I mean who could be the most slaughter-y. They sent each other gifts throughout their battles, though they never met in person.)

Happy Reading!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

First Line Friday: The Devil's Brood Edition

The Devil's Brood is one of the names used to collectively refer to the children of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II - more specifically the boys, who were given to rebelling against their father with their mother's (rightful) encouragement. But more on that story in a minute. First, a word from our sponsors.

First Line Fridays hosted by Hoarding Books

First Line Friday is a fun little weekly event that has grown drastically in recent months, and is now hosted by Hoarding Books. Check out the blog and visit other participants to see what lines they have found of interest.

My line this week comes from a volume that I was psyched to get my hands on because it is specifically about one of Eleanor's children NOT named Richard or John.


"In early June 1183, Henry III, king of England, lay dying in the little town of Martel in the Quercy."

Two things: 
1. Do not be confused by the author referring to Henry the Young King as Henry III. Technically this is true because when Henry was getting antsy for power, his father had him crowned so he would be known as 'the Young King'. True to Henry II's nature though, the title gave his son zero power. So, had Henry the Young King outlived his father he would have been Henry III. This did not happen, and so John's son Henry was the actual Henry III.

2. There is a story that, while in her continued captivity for aiding their sons in rebellion against Henry II, word arrived that Henry the Young King had died. Eleanor supposedly stopped the messengers from giving her the news because she already knew her oldest surviving son was dead (Henry was their second child. Their first son William died near the age of three).

Now, to quickly follow up on this Devil's Brood business. Here's the story according to Gerald of Wales (a royal clerk to Henry II who sometimes liked to play it fast and loose with a lot of facts, even in stories far more plausible than this one). According to ol' Gerald, the counts of Anjou were descendants of the devil. He stated that at some point, a count of Anjou had married a beautiful woman named Melusine. As time went by, the count noticed his wife did not attend Mass. According to Gerald, it was years. (I'm a bit confused as to how it took years for the dude to notice she always skipped out on Mass. It was kind of a big deal.) So, the count forced her to remain in church during the Eucharist. The stories I have read vary from this point, some saying she grabbed two of her children and flew screaming out the window, others saying she alone did so. Either way, her demonic nature and origin were revealed in the fact that she could not withstand the holy ceremony taking place and got right on up out of there via the window. Screaming the whole way. Lovely.

This legend was used to explain why the sons were so often involved in violent disputes, even with one another and also their father. There was no time between childhood and adulthood, this thing we refer to as teenage and young adult years. You were a child until age 13, when you could legally be married as dictated by the Church. As a result, three young men (John was the baby of the family, so Henry, Richard, and Geoffrey were primarily the combatants for several years), very much products of their age, inherited both the best and worst traits of their strong-willed parents. It should come as no surprise that the boys were always ready to turn on one another if they felt their own inheritance threatened (such as when Henry II attempted to force Richard to give Aquitaine to John. Yeah, right, like that was EVER going to happen. And it didn't.) It says a lot that, even in an age we consider so bloody and violent, the first Plantagenets and their behavior was somehow considered unnatural and had to be explained away from a legend such as this.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

First Line Friday: Buffy Edition

First Line Fridays hosted by Hoarding Books

Happy First Line Friday, hosted by Hoarding Books.

This week the line I am sharing comes from my (tied-for-first-with-FRIENDS) favorite show of all-time.

I LOVE Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Okay, not Buffy herself because truthfully, she annoyed me a lot of the time, at least in later seasons. Or, mostly season six when I was super angry at her for most of the time when she was being ridiculous and hooking up with Spike.

I love the show, the characters, the stories that Joss wrote in this amazing and terrifying and real world he created. I stumbled upon the show about halfway through season 2. I recall very clearly the first episode I ever saw was "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered", when Xander asked Amy to do a love spell on Cordelia, which of course backfired. I was hooked. I could not get enough of anything having to do with the show. This includes a time when I pretended I was sick to stay home from school so I could listen to a radio interview on KDWB with David Boreanaz, that lasted all of maybe ten minutes. Mom KNEW I was faking and let me stay home anyway. That's real love.

Anyway. I love the show and still watch it - because of course I have the series on DVD. 2017 is especially important, because this year is the 20th anniversary of the show's debut and thus, a fandom was born. I have not been able to stay away from Amazon, and now have a neat little collection of anniversary items:

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My line this week, however, comes from this extra special treasure, the 20th anniversary edition Watcher's Guide. It is from the introduction titled "Life After Buffy" by Christopher Golden, who penned many books within the Buffyverse.


"It's difficult to remember with any real clarity what the pop cultural landscape was like before the arrival and the popularity of Buffy the Vampire Slayer".

Ain't that the truth.

I don't think I can ever really accurately convey what this show meant to me growing up and still means to me now as an adult. I can tell lots of stories about it and how obsessed I was/am, but that does not really do the show justice. If you have never watched the show, I implore you to give it a try. I can even give you a top ten list of the best episodes, but this one really is worthy of a series-long binge. Don't let the title fool you, and do not believe the hype about one vampire show being just like every other. Buffy is so much more than that.

Happy Reading

Monday, October 23, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday!

Hooray for a TTT that I can participate in! It has been a little bit since there has been a topic I can make work for my non-fiction treasures and boy, do I have some good ones on the list this week!

If you are unfamiliar with Top Ten Tuesday, it is a weekly meme started years ago by The Broke and the Bookish. Tons of bloggers participate each week and it is always a lot of fun to take a look at what others come up with. It is also a good way to connect with those who share similar reading tastes.

This week's theme is Top Ten Unique Book Titles. I have selected some fun ones that amuse me, some that are salacious, and those that cover more serious subjects and deserve attention. They are not listed in any particular order. Leave a comment about my choices and let me know what you think!

Happy Reading!

1. Empire of Mud: The Secret History of Washington, D.C.


2. The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History


3. Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans


4. The Red Bandanna: A Life. A Choice. A Legacy.


5. The Lost King of England: The East European Adventures of Edward the Exile


6. The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium


7. The Unreformed Martin Luther: A Serious (and Not So Serious) Look at the Man Behind the Myths


8. 102 Minutes: The Unforgettable Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers


9. Quinsey Wolfe's Glass Vault/The Bride of Glass

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(I know this is cheating a little, putting two books in one entry but I like the series and damn, aren't those covers beautiful?)

10. Blue on Blue: An Insider's Story of Good Cops Catching Bad Cops


11. Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High


12. Met Her on a Mountain: A Forty-Year Quest to Solve the Appalachian Cold-Case Murder of Nancy Morgan


13. The Prisoner in His Palace: Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaid