...making decisions on the basis of what seems best instead of following some single doctrine or style.
Me in a nutshell!!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Royal Book Review of The Secret of the Glass by Donna Russo Morin...

Since I am one of the last to do a review I will not belabor the point by telling the story all over again instead I have decided to bullet the main points and highlights.

  • Sophia Fiolaro is the eldest daughter of Zeno Fiolaro a Murono Glass Maker

  • She is a no nonsense kind of gal, rather reserved compared to her two younger boy crazy sisters

  • She has inherited the artistic gift of glass making from her father

  • She has to create her pieces in secret because it is against the law for women to pursue glass making.

  • In fact the government controls the glass making industry. Don't think you are going to leave for another country to pursue your glass making career. The Venetians will track you down and kill you. The Murano glass makers are the best in the world and the secret of their glass making is not going to leave Venice.

  • Being the eldest daughter with no brothers and the fact that her father, Zeno, has dementia puts Sophia in an uncompromising position. She must marry money so her family is provided for and her younger sisters have dowry's otherwise they will end up in convents.

  • The man that has offered marriage to Sophia is of course older, chubby, with bad manners and a horrible family. He could care less about Sophia other than the fact that she gives him some notoriety.

  • Predictably Sophia hates him and falls in love with a tall, dark handsome young man that she can't marry. Of course they are drawn together, Sophia lamenting that her life will be without love and she can't abide that.

  • This is just the gest of the story to get you interested in reading the book. There is oh so much more to the story which does make it worth while to read.


  • Traveling through Venice in the gondolas

  • Becoming acquainted with the glass making process

  • Learning about the measures that were taken to protect the secret of the glass

  • Galileo's involvement~I really knew nothing much about Galileo. It is still amazing to me that as late as the early 17th century mankind still viewed the earth as the center of the universe. It was only a century before that the earth was still viewed as being flat.

  • Learning about St. Mark's body being buried in Venice and that he is their Patron Saint

  • How women were excluded from art and viewed really as fluffy, nonsensical beings in 17th century Italy.

  • Learning about the politics involved between the Doce, Pope and the glass makers.


  • Sluggish. Too much description and information crammed in.

  • Predicable with the arranged marriage, and impossible love

  • Well researched

  • Beautifully described scenes

  • Loved the Italian phrases

  • Learning about Galileo was my favorite part, that was done very well.

  • All in all it was an entertaining book and fast read.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...

A view from a double decker bus in London crossing Tower Bridge

Click on picture(s) to enlarge


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Secret Of The Glass Event...

Don't miss out on some great reviews, interviews, and creative posts on The Secret of The Glass by Donna Russo Morin. You can find the schedule on HFBRT site.

Friday, February 19, 2010

History of the Canals in Venice and How They Work...

To coincide with this months HFBRT event featuring Donna Morin's soon to be released novel The Secret of the Glass I have chosen to do my creative post on the Canals of Venice.

I have always been fascinated with Venice. I haven't been there yet but plan to go, it's on my bucket list. My main fascination with Venice is the canal system, a miraculous civil engineering feat. The city of Venice is located in North Eastern Italy in a lagoon on the Adriatic sea. It is not built on solid ground, but on a cluster of 117 mud islands connected by 177 canals. It dates far back into the Roman empire when it was broken up into small villages with houses built on stilts. During the 9th century Venice became an important fishing and commerce site. The villages became connected into one government which began building residences and businesses along the canals.

The city is built on wood pilings driven 15' into the clay below. Wood is used for the pilings. When wood is underwater with no oxygen it does not corrode or decay, but rather petrifies and turns into a stone substance. The city is connected by 25 miles of canals which are tributaries of the Grand Canal which empties into the Adriatic Sea. The canals function as roads and every form of transportation in the City of Venice is on water or on foot. The only land entrance into the city is in the north east portion where there is a railroad connection and car parks. Venice is Europe's largest urban car free area, remaining the only city in the 21st century entirely without automobiles or trucks.

The purpose of the canal system was to avoid flooding and create drainage. Despite this system Venice still floods. All through the city there are wooden poles which mark the water level. If the water level reaches a certain height then the flood alarm is sounded throughout the city. The greatest recorded flood was in 1966. Since then the population has been on a steady annual decrease. Venice is considered a dying city today only propped up by the tourist trade.

Although the natives may be leaving it is still one of the number one European cities visited by tourists every year. Mainly they come to see the fabulous palazas, art, venetian glass works and of course to take a ride down the Grand Canal in a gondola. Most locals use the city's Water Buses and Taxis or their own private boats for transportation. The tourists almost exclusively use the romantic gondolas. In the 18th century there were thousands of gondolas on the canals of Venice but now there only remains a few hundred. I always wondered about the long pole they use to navigate rather than oars. There is a reason, the poles are several feet high and the gondolier pushes his pole along the bottom of the canal to steer the gondola.

You don't want to go swimming in these canals. They may look the beautiful blue green of the Adriatic Sea but you can imagine how polluted they are after centuries of waste being transported through them out to the sea. This brings to mind one of my favorite "old" movies Summertime starring Katherine Hepburn and Renato Di Rossi filmed in Venice in 1955. Ms. Hepburn does a stunt in the movie where she falls backwards into a canal. As a result she contracted conjunctivitis in both eyes which plagued her the rest of her life.

I hope you enjoyed this mini history of the the grand canals of Venice. I know I surely enjoyed the research and I want to thank Ms. Morin for giving me the opportunity to read The Secret of the Glass. It was very motivating for me to study up some on this fascinating city.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...

Marion Rose Wallace
my granddaughter now 7 months old.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Winner of O Juliet by Robin Maxwell giveaway...

Congratulations REM you are the winner of this lovely book. I will be contacting you through email for your address info.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wordless Wedensday on Thursday...

La Jolla Cove, CA
1.5 hrs from my driveway!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Book Review~The Follies of the King by Jean Plaidy...

This book has it all, treachery, adultery, murder and intrigue. Lord Byron coined the phrase Truth is stranger than Fiction and in the tale of Edward II and Isabella, Byron is spot on!

Prior to reading this book I knew next to nothing about Edward II. My only reference being the movie Braveheart which now I see as a total Hollywood myth.

A few clarifications in reference to the Braveheart myth:

Isabella was not married to Edward II when Edward I was alive. They were betrothed and Edward II would go to France to marry her following his father's death.

Isabella never met William Wallace. William was executed before Isabella and Edward II would marry.

Edward I never pushed Piers Gaveston from the window. Edward I had Gaveston banished to his home land Gascony, forbidding him to ever return to England.

Edward II was not a fopish, feminine man. He was a tall, handsome, strong man who loved the outdoors.

With that out of the way; what I now know about Edward II:
  • He was fond of young men.
  • He married Isabella and they had four children together. Yes he was the sire of all her children.
  • He neglected his duties as King and husband in favor of his current paramour, Piers Gaveston and Hugh le despencer were his favorites. He spent a lavish amount of money, bestowed estates and titles on these young men all at the expense of his subjects.
  • He was no military strategist. He hated conflict and war. He had no control in Scotland and the Northern borders were constantly being raided by Robert de Bruce. He lost miserably at Bannockburn.
  • He brought the country to the brink of civil war because of his affair with Piers Gaveston and disregarding the advise of the Barons.
  • He was a kind man.
  • He loved nature and being outdoors.
  • He commuted the death penalty for Roger Mortimer the traitor to life imprisonment which he would later regret.
  • He loved his children, in particular his son and heir Edward III.
  • He was generous to a fault with his friends.
  • He abdicated his crown in favor of his son.
  • He was betrayed, imprisoned and murdered for his Follies and remains in history as one of the most maligned monarchs of England.
One of the unfortunate things about this story is that Edward II is remembered for all his Follies and never for the mercy he showed for the Knights of the Templar. I was so impressed with this bit of history that I have to share it. King Phillip of France, Isabella's father waged war on the Templar's because of all their riches. Rumors were raging throughout France regarding these Knights. They of course were false and totally based on ignorance. However; these rumors were fuel to the fire for King Phillip it was his chance to get his hands on all the Templar money. He was rounding them up, torturing them into false confessions, burning them at the stake and seizing their fortunes. This went on for quite a few years. During this time Phillip encouraged his son-in-law Edward to do the same in England. Edward just ignored him at first, and then after much prodding by his father-in-law put his foot down and told him that he would not do the same in England, that the Templar's were safe on English soil. Edward had great respect for the service they provided for his father during the Crusades. To me this one heroic and compassionate act needs to be remembered in history just like the Danish King who rode out among the Nazi invaders wearing the yellow star of David in WWII. It took a lot of courage to stand up to King Phillip of France, who was known as a ruthless character.

As my followers know Jean Plaidy is one of my all time favorite historical fiction authors and she certainly did not disappoint in The Follies of the King. I was intrigued from page one until the end. It was a great, thought provoking tale. Edward II is my 18th great grand father and I wanted so badly to find some good and redeeming qualities in him. To me Ms. Plaidy has done a masterful job of portraying his character, leaving me with a great deal of love and compassion for this man.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Bard Unveiled~pt III of The Life and Times of Will Shakespeare

In early 2009 a great discovery was made. An original portrait of William Shakespeare was found adorning the walls of Newbridge House, home base of the Cobbe family outside Dublin. It had be languishing there for centuries. One day in early 2009 Alec Cobbe was visiting the National Portrait Gallery in London. It was during this visit that he noticed quite a resemblance of the man in the portrait in his home and a certain portrait of Shakespeare in the Gallery.

He was so certain that this was one and same man he contacted Professor Wells, a famous Shakespeare scholar. Upon seeing the portrait Professor Wells was convinced himself of it's authenticity, especially after finding out that Cobbe's portrait was inherited through his cousin’s marriage to the great granddaughter of Shakespeare’s only literary patron, Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton.

The portrait was put through all manner of testing possible. As a result Professor Wells and other Shakespearean scholars were convinced that this was the Bard himself. The portrait is now on display in the museum next to Shakespeare's home on Henley street in Stratford.

It is believed the Shakespeare's retired in Straford around 1613. There are no plays attributed to him after this date. He and Anne returned to Straford as a wealthy couple. While driving on the bus down the main street of Stratford last summer it was pointed out to us certain Tudoresque type buildings along the street that were built by Shakespeare as retirement homes. He was very concerned about the elderly that didn't have family. He wanted make sure that they had assisted living provided for them in their later years. I was just blown away by this information. It was just such a forward thinking idea for the time period. To me this information says volumes about the character of this man.

Shakespeare died 23 April 1616 at the age of 52. He is buried in the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. He left the bulk of his estate to his eldest daughter Susanna and one third of his estate along with his second best bed to his wife Anne. Second best bed refers to the matrimonial bed.

As it seems with such great artists, Shakespeare was not revered in his lifetime. He did have success and died a wealthy man. But he had his critics. Over the years there has been much speculation regarding his life and works, such as; Was he gay? Was he really a Catholic during a Protestant reign? Did he really write all of his work, or was it written by another who just used his name? Volumes have been written concerning the above controversies, too much information to share on one little blog. My take is that the Bard was married, had children, was a literary genius, and no saint. He wrote 17 comedies, 10 historical plays, 10 tragedies, and any number of sonnets and poems. He has been the foremost influence in English literature and theatre for the last 400 + years.

My favorite well known quotes by Will are as follows:

All the world's a stage,And all the men and women merely players;They have their exits and their entrances,And one man in his time plays many parts,His acts being seven ages. ~ As You Like It.

This above all: to thine own self be true,And it must follow, as the night the day,Thou canst not then be false to any man.Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!~ Hamlet

Two households, both alike in dignity,In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.From forth the fatal loins of these two foesA pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrowsDoth with their death bury their parents' strife~ Romeo and Juliet

You would be surprised at how many Shakespeare isms we use in our daily life:

  • A pound of flesh
  • A sorry sight
  • An itching palm
  • Bated breath
  • Budge an inch
  • For goodness sake
  • Good riddance
  • Heart on my sleeve
  • In my heart of hearts
  • In my mind's eye
  • It smells to high heaven
  • Knock, Knock! Who's there?
  • The milk of human kindness.

These are just a few in over 200 famous quotes from Shakespeare's works. I am sure you recognise these quotes, and like me have used them in conversation many times.

I have so enjoyed this past week posting about Mr. Will!!! Really as a man in literature I revere him. All of this came about because of the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table event promoting the newly released O Juliet by Robin Maxwell. I look forward to our continued events over this year and hope you will all check often to see what is coming up.

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