I was prepared to love this one . . .I’d read the first two books in the series, but a small detail put me off at the beginning. A name, Elin von Snakenborg. I’d heard of Helena, but the difference was enough to throw me off. I trusted the author and kept reading.
I’m glad I did! I discovered how Elin became Helena, a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth I. Her story pulled me in. Plus, the real Helena was a great character, the kind of friend Elizabeth needed when she didn’t know who to trust.
I knew the prologue would come into play, but when it did, it caught me by surprise. And then, I couldn’t stop reading. It was Aesop’s fable with the frozen snake. Instead of gratitude, the snake bites/kills the person who saved it. The moral – you knew I was a snake when you found me. There’s a human one waiting for Elizabeth, and for Helena. I guessed Elizabeth’s, but Helena’s, it kept me reading.
This book may be fiction, but it hits all the important parts of Elizabeth’s history, especially the plots that threatened her from the moment she became queen. What makes this book unique is that it lets you see England and Elizabeth from Helena’s eyes. One of the best quotes, “It would behoove us at court, I thought, to better pay attention to what she did and not only to what she said. She showed us all what she told very few.” It’s great advice. Look at someone’s actions. They’ll tell you far more than what they actually say.
I forgot to share another quote from book 2. Juliana remembers some advice from Euripides. “Time will discover everything . . . it is a babbler and speaks even when no question is put.” So if you’re looking for an answer, give it time, and eventually, time will answer you.
What happens when serving a queen may cost you your marriage—or your life?
From the author of To Die For comes a stirring novel that sheds new light on Elizabeth I and her court, a book that evokes the Tudor period's complexity, grandeur, and brutality.
In 1565, seventeen-year-old Elin von Snakenborg leaves Sweden on a treacherous journey to England. Her fiancé has fallen in love with her sister, and her dowry money has been gambled away. Ahead of her lies an adventure that will take her to the dizzying heights of Tudor power and plunge her to the riskiest, most heartrending lows.
Transformed through marriage into Helena, the Marchioness of Northampton, she becomes the highest-ranking woman in Elizabeth's circle and Elizabeth's dear friend and confidant. But in a court surrounded by enemies plotting the queen's downfall, Helena is forced to choose between her unyielding monarch and the husband she's not sure she can trust—a choice that will provoke catastrophic consequences.
Vividly conjuring the years leading up to the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots, Roses Have Thorns is a multi-layered exploration of treason, both to the realm and the heart.
~~~ A discussion of potentially sensitive content may be found on the author’s webpage for this book for those who would like to preview it before reading.
This book and Juliana, had me from the first page, the first chapter. That’s when she meets Thomas Seymour, brother of Queen Jane, the one who gave Henry VIII his only son. Thomas offers Juliana a position in Katherine Parr’s household, and I get to watch historical figures move in and out of the house.
Katherine was never my favorite queen, but I’ve gained a whole new level of respect reading how she treated people. Thomas had his eye on her for a long time, and when he thinks he’ll marry Katherine and all her wealth, the king snaps her up. No one argues with Henry VIII.
Thanks to Juliana, I had a front row seat to history. The story is fictional, but it’s based on real events. It’s like following the basic plot lines of history, but adding in the emotions, the things people might have said and done. The things that never made it into history books.
This time period is full of the life/death religious fight between the Catholics and Protestants. Juliana has prophetic dreams. Her biggest challenge, to decide who to tell/who not to. The wrong person would call you a witch. The right one would listen and wait to use the information. One of Juliana’s dreams – a parchment falls from a bishop’s pocket. It’s an arrest warrant for Katherine. The dream might not have happened, but Henry really signed a parchment. Someone found it and gave it to Katherine. That saved her life.
Juliana gave me the chance to see Elizabeth grow up, to watch the horror when Thomas pursues her, and the death of Katherine in childbed fever. Her only child, Mary Seymour, dies young, but this novel connects real events to let her live past childhood. The first time I read this book I was hooked by Julianna’s story, and the second time . . . I could see the nuts and bolts of the story, and how Sandra Byrd put them together.
PS – my newest story – it’s about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence. I realized after writing how Sandra uses a friend to tell Anne Boleyn’s story, that I’m using her technique . . . I’m on chapter 6, and I have one signer telling the story, just like Sandra 😊
In a court full of intrigue, what if the most heart-wrenching secrets Juliana must keep are her own?
Sir Thomas Seymour offers Juliana St. John a place in the household of Katherine Parr, a welcome reprieve. Juliana blossoms under Kate's maternal warmth, but all is not well. Juliana has the gift of prophetic dreams and "sees" terrible events visited upon the highborn. If her prophetic gift is discovered, she will be accused of heresy or, worse, witchcraft.
Katherine Parr is a beautiful, intelligent woman whose generosity is surpassed only by her kindness. Unsurprisingly, she attracts the attention of King Henry VIII, who recently dispatched his fifth wife. Unfortunately, being Henry's beloved carries no small risk for Kate and her household, especially after she becomes his queen. As a member of the queen's inner circle, Juliana bears witness to a barrage of plots within the increasingly treacherous court—many intended to remove Kate's influence and, perhaps, her life.
As Henry's illness progresses toward death, those seeking to claim his power descend on the queen. Meanwhile, Thomas Seymour is revealed to be both more and immeasurably less than the kindhearted benefactor Juliana once thought him to be. As the queen's trusted confidante, Juliana is a well-practiced secret keeper. But when unforeseen violence upends her future, the most heart-wrenching secret she keeps is her own.
Threading historical fact through gripping fiction, Byrd creates a rich tapestry of one young woman's battle to protect those she loves from harm.
I didn’t realize I have the 1st edition of this book, until I started writing this post. The original, came out in 2012. This is the new 2023 cover. It’s an update, but I won’t buy it . . . most of the story should be the same.
I pulled it out to reread when I bought book 2. It’s the 2nd edition. I didn’t know it existed, until last week. Tonight I went ahead and bought book 3. The Tudors fascinate me, especially Anne Boleyn. Can you imagine a woman, changing the religion of a country, in a time period dominated by men? Wow! Amazing!
What makes this book different from all the others about Anne, is that it combines 1st and 3rd person. The story is about Anne, but it’s told by her best friend Meg Wyatt. It works because you can see her through Meg’s eyes. I don’t know of any other books that do this. I’m tucking the idea away . . . for my own writing.
The author also has 4 sections of back matter. Sandra uses an author’s note to show what is historically true, and what she changed to make it read better. For example, the Wyatts had 2 daughters, but neither was named Meg. Why? Too many names were the same. Changing them doesn’t change Anne’s story, but it makes it easier for a reader to follow.
Sandra also shared her bibliography. Then she added in a readers’ guide with discussion group questions. She ended with an author’s Q & A that let me peek into the choices she made when writing/revising. One of them – why she told the story from Meg’s point of view, not Anne’s.
When Anne Boleyn catches the eye of the king, Meg Wyatt accompanies her dearest friend to the thrilling court of King Henry VIII. However, as Anne and Henry's affections grow, Meg receives devastating news: the man she loves is forfeiting their future together to pursue his calling as a priest. Heartbroken, Meg commits to ensuring Anne's well-being.
The court crawls with climbers; some see Anne as an ally, while others consider her an adversary. In a place where deception and intrigue are common currencies, it is difficult to discern friend from foe—even within one's chambers. Anne's status rises, and Meg remains her loyal confidante, positions neither takes lightly. Unfortunately, the same determined ideals that make Anne a worthy queen and a champion for the English Reformation provide her enemies with a deadly foothold on her future.
Charismatic Henry is a single-minded king and a fickle-minded man. When Anne cannot produce the male heir he desires, she falls out of favor, allowing her enemies to pounce. Accusations and false testimony prevail. Anne Boleyn is sentenced to die.
Meg bears witness to her friend's stalwart grace, even unto death. Weighted with grief, Meg expects a dim future. But then, an unexpected source reignites a long-held spark still kindling in her heart. Could that which is worth dying for be exactly what makes life worth living?
Fusing compelling fiction with historical facts, To Die For is a masterful tale of unflinching friendship and unquenchable love.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. This book takes you back to England in 1715. Here’s the back story . . . Queen Anne died in 1714, and her heir . . . German George. Naturally that didn’t go over in England, so James Francis Stuart decided to fight for the crown.
The interesting part – Anne, George, and James were all related, through King James II. The Brits got rid of him because he was Catholic. Replacing him – William and Mary – Protestants. Fun fact – Both Anne and Mary were King James II’s daughters.
This book is listed on Amazon as Religious/Christian historical fiction, and also as historical Christian romance. The story focuses on the fight between Catholics and Protestants. I haven’t read a lot of religious stories, but this one isn’t teachy-preachy. I go to church for that.
Instead, it focuses on the relationship between a man and a woman on opposite sides of the fight. They find common ground in faith, and prayer.
Part 2 - A Few Good Quotes: You’ll find one at the beginning of each chapter. Here are a few of my favorites . . .
1. I can make a lord, but only God can make a gentleman. KING JAMES I – Chapter 2 - He became king after Elizabeth I died. He was the first Stuart from Scotland to rule England.
2. Hide not your Talents, they for Use were made. What’s a Sun-Dial in the shade? BENJAMIN FRANKLIN - Chapter 32 – He was born in Massachusetts. In 1706 it was a British colony. Poor Richard’s Almanac made his writing famous, but that was long after the 1715 rising against George I.
3. No more tears now; I will think about revenge. MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS - 44– She wanted to become queen so she plotted the death of her cousin, Elizabeth I. Mary was arrested and executed, but her son, James I became king after Elizabeth died.
4. A rule that may serve for a statesman, a courtier, or a lover: Never make a defense or apology before you be accused. CHARLES I OF ENGLAND - 52 – He was the only English monarch executed for treason.
5. In private life he would have been called an honest blockhead. LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGUE, SPEAKING OF GEORGE I – 61 – Lady Mary was part of George’s court, and she put her thoughts into a book.
6. We are twice armed if we fight with faith. PLATO – 62 – He was a famous Greek philosopher who lived 300 - 400 years before Christ.
In 1715, Lady Blythe Hedley's father is declared an enemy of the British crown because of his Jacobite sympathies, forcing her to flee her home in northern England. Secreted to the tower of Wedderburn Castle in Scotland, Lady Blythe awaits who will ultimately be crowned king. But in a house with seven sons and numerous servants, her presence soon becomes known.
No sooner has Everard Hume lost his father, Lord Wedderburn, than Lady Hedley arrives with the clothes on her back and her mistress in tow. He has his own problems--a volatile brother with dangerous political leanings, an estate to manage, and a very young brother in need of comfort and direction in the wake of losing his father. It would be best for everyone if he could send this misfit heiress on her way as soon as possible.
Drawn into a whirlwind of intrigue, shifting alliances, and ambitions, Lady Blythe must be careful whom she trusts. Her fortune, her future, and her very life are at stake. Those who appear to be adversaries may turn out to be allies--and those who pretend friendship may be enemies.
I bought book 3 when I got the others in August of 2011. It’s all about the plot and rising tension. It increases every time the fight grows between the Capital and the Districts. Katniss and Peeta are used as tools by both sides. For Katniss, it’s her choice, but the Capital uses torture to force Peeta into becoming its mouthpiece.
There are three places that tug at my emotions, and they’re all near the end. The first comes when Katniss returns to District 12, and so does Buttercup, Prim’s cat. Every time I read it; I tear up. There’s something about the situation that tugs at my emotions, and I don’t know why.
The second is when Katniss describes how she and Peeta grew back together slowly, and the final . . . when Katniss retells how difficult it was to have children. They’re both lovely, and they’re part of a satisfying ending, but they just don’t hit me emotionally the way Buttercup’s scene does. After all these years, I still can’t explain why it’s my heart moment.
The other two books hit me differently this time, I think because of how the world has changed. But book 3 is about an actual revolution, with guns and bombs. That’s happening, but it’s in the Ukraine. My head knows about it, but it doesn’t touch my heart, not yet. I’ve experienced the things that happened between the Capital and the Districts in books 1 and 2. They affected how I feel, how I think. I hope I never have to experience war, with guns and fighting, the way Katniss and Peeta did.
The greatly anticipated final book in the New York Times bestselling Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss Everdeen. The final book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins will have hearts racing, pages turning, and everyone talking about one of the biggest and most talked-about books and authors in recent publishing history!
I’ve had book 2 since August of 2011, and I always read it after book 1. I remember back then what a writing mentor said about the ending, that it wasn’t satisfying. That surprised me then, but not now.
After all these years of plotting stories, I can see that the ending comes too fast. Katniss goes from blowing up the force field surrounding the arena to a hospital bed.
That’s where Haymitch finally explains how the games started the revolution. It needed Katniss as its symbol so the rebels pulled her out first, but Peeta was captured by the Capital, and that’s the end of book 2. It was unsatisfying because it was super abrupt, just like my mentor said back in 2011.
This time I was struck by how we’re forced to trust the news and the stories they choose to tell. That’s what the Capital does. If you watch the main stream news channels, you hear what the Democrats want. If you watch other sources, you hear the Republican side. Sometimes they even show the same event, from totally different perspectives. And the truth, it’s probably somewhere in the middle, I hope.
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.
I bought The Hunger Games back in August of 2011. I’ve read it a couple times since then, and those first few pages always pull me in, even though I know the story. What keeps me reading time after time, the characters. They’re 3-D. From Katniss to Haymitch to President Snow. Hero, villain, and supporting characters, they all have their own unique, distinctive personalities.
And the plot – Katniss and Peeta are picked as tributes for District 12. They must compete to survive the Hunger Games, with all its twists and turns and bitter ending. Who knew that poison berries could be as toxic as apples? The complications follow Katniss and Peeta home to District 12, and into the next book.
What struck me this time, that didn’t before, the government. It signals its virtues, and the people, they accept it. It reminds me of what I see on the news. My biggest fear – that our problems will get worse, just like the Hunger Games, until people are willing to stand up and fight for what’s right. Hopefully, before it’s too late.
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to death before-and survival, for her, is second nature. Still, if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
I bought this book back in July of 2011. I’ve read it a couple of times, and I’m always struck by the darkness of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. Seeing it through the eyes of the new American ambassador, it highlights the ruthlessness of the Nazis. They were interested in power, not the welfare of the German people.
This time, I didn’t notice the darkness as much. I tuned into the similarity between then, and now. In the last four years, we’ve been from January 6th to the George Floyd riots. From Covid to the Ukraine. Now China and Taiwan. It’s the darkest period I can remember.
The other thing that struck me, was looking at the diplomats at the State Department. The ambassador called them the Pretty Good Club. I wish they’d been the Best Ever. We needed them in 1933, and we need them today. My fear – we’ve got pretty good people, who just aren’t quite good enough. They’re interested in power and in their own careers, not in the welfare of the American people. I pray that good will prevail, sooner, not later.
Erik Larson has been widely acclaimed as a master of narrative non-fiction, and in his new book, the best-selling author of Devil in the White City turns his hand to a remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power.
The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first, Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany”, she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate.
As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance - and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.
Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming - yet wholly sinister - Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively listenable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.
This book came out at the end of May in 2018. I bought it in early July because I was working on a lockdown story for kids, and I was curious what the adult version looked like – it’s as different as night and day.
What fascinated me – how Nora built the plot. The first five chapters are about set-up and world building. We meet the main characters. We watch them react to the first shots, to the arrival of the police, and to the funerals. It’s a drama roller coaster.
In the middle the two main characters learn to cope. One becomes a policeman. The other an artist. That’s when Nora adds in a new twist – a hidden conspirator who’s picking off survivors, and the hunt is on.
It was a typical evening at a mall outside Portland, Maine. Three teenage friends waited for the movie to start. A boy flirted with the girl selling sunglasses. Mothers and children shopped together, and the manager at video game store tended to customers. Then the shooters arrived.
The chaos and carnage lasted only eight minutes before the killers were taken down. But for those who lived through it, the effects would last forever. In the years that followed, one would dedicate himself to a law enforcement career. Another would close herself off, trying to bury the memory of huddling in a ladies' room, helplessly clutching her cell phone--until she finally found a way to pour her emotions into her art.
But one person wasn't satisfied with the shockingly high death toll at the DownEast Mall. And as the survivors slowly heal, find shelter, and rebuild, they will discover that another conspirator is lying in wait--and this time, there might be nowhere safe to hide.
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!