Monday, June 30, 2014

Mailbox Monday: Emma Campion, Susan Carroll, Kate Quinn, Jeanne Kalogridis, Clare Gibson

A Triple Knot by Emma Campion Releasing 7.8.2014
"The critically acclaimed author of The King's Mistress brings another fascinating woman from history to life in an enthralling story of political intrigue, personal tragedy, and illicit love.

Joan of Kent, renowned beauty and cousin to King Edward III, is destined for a politically strategic marriage. As the king begins a long dynastic struggle to claim the crown of France, plunging England into the Hundred Years’ War, he negotiates her betrothal to a potential ally and heir of a powerful lordship.

But Joan, haunted by nightmares of her father’s execution at the hands of her treacherous royal kin, fears the king’s selection and is not resigned to her fate. She secretly pledges herself to one of the king’s own knights, one who has become a trusted friend and protector. Now she must defend her vow as the king—furious at Joan’s defiance—prepares to marry her off to another man.

In A Triple Knot, Emma Campion brings Joan, the “Fair Maid of Kent” to glorious life, deftly weaving details of King Edward III’s extravagant court into a rich and emotionally resonant tale of intrigue, love, and betrayal".

The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll
"From Brittany's misty shores to the decadent splendor of Paris's royal court, one woman must fulfill her destiny while facing the treacherous designs of Catherine de Medici, the dark queen.

She is Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle, one of the Cheney sisters, renowned for their mystical skills and for keeping the isle secure and prosperous. But this is a time when women of ability are deemed sorceresses, when Renaissance France is torn by ruthless political intrigues, and all are held in thrall to the sinister ambitions of Queen Catherine de Medici. Then a wounded stranger arrives on Faire Isle, bearing a secret the Dark Queen will do everything in her power to possess. The only person Ariane can turn to is the comte de Renard, a nobleman with fiery determination and a past as mysterious as his own unusual gifts.

Riveting, vibrant, and breathtaking, The Dark Queen follows Ariane and Renard as they risk everything to prevent the fulfillment of a dreadful prophecy even if they must tempt fate and their own passions".

The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn
"One powerful family holds a city, a faith, and a woman in its grasp--from the national bestselling author of "Daughters of Rome" and "Mistress of Rome."
Rome, 1492. The Holy City is drenched with blood and teeming with secrets. A pope lies dying and the throne of God is left vacant, a prize awarded only to the most virtuous--or the most ruthless. The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web...
Vivacious Giulia Farnese has floor-length golden hair and the world at her feet: beauty, wealth, and a handsome young husband. But she is stunned to discover that her glittering marriage is a sham, and she is to be given as a concubine to the ruthless, charismatic Cardinal Borgia: Spaniard, sensualist, candidate for Pope--and passionately in love with her.
Two trusted companions will follow her into the Pope's shadowy harem: Leonello, a cynical bodyguard bent on bloody revenge against a mysterious killer, and Carmelina, a fiery cook with a past full of secrets. But as corruption thickens in the Vatican and the enemies begin to circle, Giulia and her friends will need all their wits to survive in the world of the Borgias".

"My name is Lisa di Antonio Gherardini Giocondo, though to acquaintances, I am known simply as Madonna Lisa. My story begins not with my birth but a murder, committed the year before I was born…"

"Florence, April 1478: The handsome Giuliano de' Medici is brutally assassinated in Florence's magnificent Duomo. The shock of the murder ripples throughout the great city, from the most renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, to a wealthy wool merchant and his extraordinarily beautiful daughter, Madonna Lisa.

More than a decade later, Florence falls under the dark spell of the preacher Savonarola, a fanatic who burns paintings and books as easily as he sends men to their deaths. Lisa, now grown into an alluring woman, captures the heart of Giuliano's nephew and namesake. But when Guiliano, her love, meets a tragic end, Lisa must gather all her courage and cunning to untangle a sinister web of illicit love, treachery, and dangerous secrets that threatens her life.

Set against the drama of 15th Century Florence, I, Mona Lisa is painted in many layers of fact and fiction, with each intricately drawn twist told through the captivating voice of Mona Lisa herself".

The New Colored Pencil by Kristy Ann Kutch
"Learn to draw and paint using colored pencils in The New Colored Pencil: a how-to guide for creating vibrant, textured, and easy art illustrations by best-selling author and teacher Kristy Kutch
Master the Latest Breakthroughs in Colored Pencil Art

If you want to create colorful, radiant works of art, colored pencil and related color media (wax pastels, watercolor pencils, and so on) provide you with limitless options for adding vibrancy to your creations. In The New Colored Pencil, artist and instructor Kristy Ann Kutch guides you through the latest developments in color drawing media with examples of and recommendations for the newest pencil brands, drawing surfaces, and groundbreaking techniques (including using the Grid Method, grating pigments, blending with heat, and more). Supported by step-by-step demonstrations and showcasing inspiring art from some of today’s best colored pencil artists, The New Colored Pencil shows you how to use color theory to your advantage, combine color media, create and enhance textures, and experiment with surfaces to create interesting effects. Whether you use traditional wax-based, or watercolor colored pencils,The New Colored Pencil will take your art to the next level".
The Ultimate Birthday Book by Clare Gibson
"The Ultimate Birthday Book; Revealing the Secrets of Each Day of the Year." ~Lizzie~

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Book Review: LEONARDO’S SWANS by Karen Essex

The d’Este sisters Isabella and Beatrice were destined for grand marriages during the Italian Renaissance. Their father the Duke of Ferrara nicknamed “the diamond” for his hard negotiation tactics secured a betrothal for his eldest daughter Isabella to the Captain of the Venetian army: Marquess of Mantua Francesco II Gonzaga. It was a love match, which was a rarity for the time and Isabella grew up receiving passionate love letters from her betrothed. The younger of the sisters Beatrice was to marry Ludovico Sforza the regent for the Duke of Milan. Ludovico Duke of Bari was dragging his heels from the beginning because he was reportedly in love with his current mistress that he was not allowed to marry. Eventually both sisters would go on to their new glamorous lives. Newly married the sisters both had high hopes of love and ruling their new kingdoms. Despite all the changes in their lives everything was not as they thought it should be especially between the sisters. It  all had started as childhood differences and later became complicated womanly differences. It was a childish rift that could affect them for the rest of their lives.

The rift between the sisters started when they were brought up in separate households. Isabella was at her mother’s knee and received a very fine education. She was also taught the finer qualities of being a lady. Meanwhile her grandfather raised Beatrice at his court. She was encouraged to ride horses and do exactly what she pleased. Isabella grew to become a cultured lady while Beatrice remained the fearless tomboy. Despite of their differences they loved each other and were close enough yet everything was a competition to see who was better. The rivalry between them did not change much as they grew into women. Then everything took a dramatic turn when they married because it was obvious fortune had played a cruel joke on the sisters as far as husbands go.

Isabella’s husband Francesco was a solider at heart; his family was of the lesser nobility and was famous for their extraordinary horses but they were not a super rich family. Beatrice’s husband Ludovico was a rich and powerful Duke. He collected art, employed Leonardo da Vinci, was well read, and not to mention handsomely charismatic. Each of the sister’s husbands possessed qualities that the other sister coveted. It was truly sad that if the husbands had been switched both sisters would have been a much happier from the beginning. Taking what fortune had dealt them the sister’s lives changed dramatically overnight. They both became deeply involved in the politics of the worldly courts. There was an abundance of intrigue between all the Italian states at this time and even with in their own courts. Everywhere they turned there were courts filled with vipers just waiting for a moment of weakness to attack. All of Italy was on the verge of all out war and now they had to worry about not just their home fronts but the French were now after them. The French might just be unstoppable if they were victorious all would be lost. Differences and husbands aside the sisters were not just fighting for their own livelihood but for the future of their houses, all of Italy and to save the fragile love that was only recently born between the sisters and their husbands.

5+/5 I LOVED this novel and found it really complicated to write a review about not because the book was complicated but because the sister’s lives were very complicated. They were jealous of each other yet they loved each other at the same time. It really was a beautiful novel set in a heartbreaking era of turmoil: the Italian Wars.

R- rating for sexual references
FTC-This novel is part of my personal collection. I received no compensation for this review.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mailbox Monday: Michael Ennis and Tarot Cards

The Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis
"Against a teeming canvas of Borgia politics, Niccolò Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci come together to unmask an enigmatic serial killer, as we learn the secret history behind one of the most controversial works in the western canon, The Prince...When Pope Alexander dispatches a Vatican courtesan, Damiata, to the remote fortress city of Imola to learn the truth behind the murder of Juan, his most beloved illegitimate son, she cannot fail, for the scheming Borgia pope holds her own young son hostage. Once there, Damiata becomes a pawn in the political intrigues of the pope’s surviving son, the charismatic Duke Valentino, whose own life is threatened by thecondottieri, a powerful cabal of mercenary warlords. Damiata suspects that the killer she seeks is one of the brutal condottierri, and as the murders multiply, her quest grows more urgent. She enlists the help of an obscure Florentine diplomat, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Valentino’s eccentric military engineer, Leonardo da Vinci, who together must struggle to decipher the killer’s taunting riddles: Leonardo with his groundbreaking “science of observation” and Machiavelli with his new “science of men.” Traveling across an Italy torn apart by war, they will enter a labyrinth of ancient superstition and erotic obsession to discover at its center a new face of evil—and a truth that will shake the foundations of western civilization".

Learning the Tarot by Joan Bunning
"Learning the Tarot is a complete course on how to use the tarot cards for personal guidance. The 19 lessons in the course cover the basics and then move gradually into more advanced concepts. Exercises and sample responses for each lesson help you learn and practice. For simplicity, only one easy layout is used throughout the course - the Celtic Cross Spread. Learning the Tarot focuses in detail on the actual process of discovering meaning in the cards. Lessons cover topics such as how to consider one card by itself, how to look for card pairs, and how to create the "story" of a reading. A convenient reference section contains two pages of information for each card including a picture from the popular Waite deck, a description, keywords, action phrases and suggestions for cards with similar and opposite meanings.

The Duchess of Milan by Michael Ennis
"Set amid the intrigue and pageantry of 15th-century Italy, this gripping, meticulously researched historical novel features two unforgettable heroines and a supporting cast that ranges from Leonardo da Vinci to Christopher Columbus. Ennis depicts the personal and political struggles in which these ambitious and amorally cunning women take part. Map; family trees".

The Complete Guide to Tarot Reading by Hali Morag
"Tarot card reading, dream symbolism, astrology, and the reading of body characteristics are explored in depth, as is the use of objects, such as crystals and coffee grounds, significant in their ability to connect humans with another realm of existence. Other avenues into otherworldly experience, such as channeling, the I Ching, meditation, and Wicca are also extensively discussed".

Complete Book of Tarot Spreads by Evelin Burger and Johannes Fiebig
"Tarot is like a puzzle or a work of art—and a great way to maximize intuition and have fun, too. In this insightful, imaginative look at interpretation, two of the best-known authors in the field examine 122 card layouts, complete with instructions on when and how to use them. Learn the basics; read personality and year cards in a way that's specifically related to your own interests; and explore larger cards and networks of cards. Featuring a rich variety of approaches—including Cycle of the Year (with 20 major layouts), tarot and astrology, and Arthur A. Waite and Aleister Crowley's Golden Dawn System—this guide contains the tools for finding answers to life's pressing questions".

True Love Tarot by Amy Zerner and Monte Farber
"Love's Magic is Right at Your Fingertips!
Simply concentrate on your question, pull one card from Amy Zerner's gorgeous, new True Love Tarot deck, and let Monte Farber's accompanying, 176-page illustrated guidebook give you direct and insightful advice for finding love or improving an existing relationship. It is easy to use! The twenty-two included love spells also work on a deep heart-and-soul level that will entertain and empower you and help you find your way on the road to happiness and romance that lovers throughout time have tread.

Monte and Amy are tarot experts, legendary lovebirds, and the creators of the best-selling Enchanted Tarot and Instant Tarot Reader. In their True Love Tarot kit they have focused the ancient power of tarot on the art of love. This time-honored system is designed to show you the steps to take to romance, partnership--even your soul mate!
Each of the 78 cards of the True Love Tarot deck is a uniquely beautiful collage--a magical fairy-tale world of dreams and fantasy that makes every one of your tarot readings a work of art.
True Love Tarot uses Monte and Amy's proven relationship secrets and the timeless spiritual teachings of the ages to guide you to open your heart and make wise decisions on the path to love.
If love is a game, True Love Tarot will provide your winning strategy for long-term companionship and happiness"!

Tarot for Beginners by P. Scott Hollander

"The Tarot is much more than a simple divining tool. While it can give accurate and detailed answers to questions when used for fortune-telling, it can also lead you down the road to self-discovery. This text tells the reader how to use the Tarot cards for meditation and self-enlightenment, as well as for divination. It offers a straightforward definition of the meaning of each card that can be applied to any system of interpretation, with any Tarot deck, using any card layout. The book also requires no prior knowledge of the Tarot. It provides an overview of the cards of the Major and Minor Arcana in terms of their origin, purpose and interpretive uses as well as clear, in-depth descriptions and interpretations of each card".

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Book Review: THE SCARLET CONTESSA by Jeanne Kalogridis

In 15th century Italy Caterina Sforza was a formidable foe. She was a woman with the heart of a man and she ruled just as any man could maybe even better. Her adopted sister Dea was her constant companion all through their childhood. Growing up in the home of the vicious Duke of Milan’s house meant not living a sheltered life. One of the Duke’s favorite “pass times” was raping the local women and he never excluded the nobility. Caterina and Dea could not ignore the screams that came from her father’s rooms at night. Both girls would grow up and realize that even though they were women they could wield just as much power as any man could.

Dea by chance discovered she had a gift for reading “triumph cards”. She could foretell the future from the cards good or bad; she saw it all. Caterina and Dea shared the same fate and the same cards came up almost every time. The tower card always appeared but who’s tower was it, when and where were unknown but even if the women knew the end all that really mattered was how they got to that point and if they could survive it. They had to be prepared for whatever the tower held in the future.

Caterina married one of the most powerful men in Italy. Count Girolamo Riario was nephew to the Pope and leader of the papal army. It was not a love match but it evolved into a power match with Caterina being the leader in the end. Caterina ruled everything, she took lovers, ordered her armies, and all the while had Dea consult the cards for what the future held. Dea had her own ambitions; top on the list was to find her beloved husband Matteo’s murderer. Matteo was secretary to Caterina’s father and held not only the duke’s secrets but fiercely protected his own. In the end Pope Alexander VI and his son Cesare became their greatest enemy. A one-time friend that could also be considered a foe, Pope Alexander and his son lusted for not just Caterina’s person but her lands also. At this time in Italy the Borgia’s were on a rampage and not even the bravest women in all of Italy were left unscathed and Caterina was next on the list to take down all in the name of the Holy Father.

4.5/5 Awesomely far fetched but wildly exciting historical fiction readings. I enjoyed this novel but the whole time I read it I knew there must have been a lot of historical liberties taken by the author. I would not recommend this novel to readers that need historical accuracy because this would not be your cup of tea. I would highly recommend this novel to newbies in Italian historical fiction.

X-Rating for sexual encounters and violence
FTC- this novel is part of my personal collection and I received no compensation for it.

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