March 31

Happy Birthday to . . .

King Henry II of France
March 31st 1519


The Hunger Games Trilogy ~ Suzanne Collins


Ok, so being totally honest here… when I first heard of this book I was kind of like … hhmmm ok, really not my thing. I’m really not into futuristic sci-fi novels and that is exactly what I thought this was at first. The whole idea of the novel being based on a televised game was a little far-fetched for me. I really had no plans on reading it however it was all my co-workers talked about in the staffroom at lunch time and how excited they were for the movie to come out. Their obvious delight and love for the novel made me curious and intrigued me into giving it a chance. Then when my scholastic order forms came in and I saw that I could get the whole trilogy (plus a mockingjay pin) for only 20$, I really couldn’t resist. And I have to say that I am so glad that I finally caved and read the series because it was AMAZING!

I literally read the entire series in 4 days. I read The Hunger Games in less than 3 hours on a Thursday night after work. I read Catching Fire throughout the day on Friday - reading bits and pieces on my lunch break and after work. Mockingjay took a little longer - I started on a Sunday morning and finished Monday night. I have not gone through a series this quickly since Twilight and Harry Potter. This is definitely a series that you need to read consecutively - if you don't have the second and third book readily available to you once you are finished with the first, you will drive yourself crazy waiting to read them. I could.not.put.these.books.down!!!

The Hunger Games


In the post-apocalyptic country of Panem located in the ruins of North America, the 74th Annual Hunger Games are about to begin. An annual event that occurs as punishment for a previous rebellion against the Capitol, each district must send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 to 18 to compete in the Hunger Games. The tributes are selected by lottery, everyone has their name added once a year and you can choose to enter your name extra times in exchange for a terse, a grain and oil supplement from the government, to compete in a televised battle in which only 1 can survive. The tributes will all travel to the Capitol where they will partake in ceremonies, interviews and training prior to being dropped off into the arena to do battle.

Katniss Everdeen is a 16-year old girl from District 12, one of the twelve districts in Panem, where the countries of North America use to exist. When Katniss’ younger sister Prim is selected, Katniss does the unthinkable and volunteers to take her sister’s place as tribute in the 74th Hunger Games. Katniss knows that she as some hope for survival as she has been providing her family with food by secretly hunting in the woods after her father died a few years earlier. Joined by Peeta Mellark, the other tribute from District 12, Katniss makes her way to the Capitol with their mentors, Haymitch Abernathy, the only other victor from District 12, and Effie Trinket, the Capitol’s representative from the District. Katniss must learn to survive and to make choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love in order to be victorious.

I loved this novel! It had just about everything to make it a great novel:
þ A resourceful and intelligent heroine who does things her own way and doesn’t back down from anything or anyone
þ A sweet and sensitive hero who loves the heroine unconditionally
þ An original and unique setting – a world that is believable and rich in detail
þ A thrilling plot with twists and turns at every corner that keep the reader on the edge of their seat trembling with excitement and anxiety
þ Outstanding secondary characters who add so much to the story be it the much needed voice of reason or humour in a crisis
þ An ending that provides the perfect premise for the sequel but also concludes the present book 

Collins is a born story-teller. She writes in an intense, slow-burning style - she is able to constantly build up the anticipation to the climax of the story that keeps the reader hooked from the very beginning but she is still able to create tender scenes and vibrant descriptions. The gore and brutality of the battle scenes was amazing - the idea that teens could kill each other when it came down to kill or be killed was shocking, kind of reminded me of Lord of the Flies. I also loved how the secondary characters really added to the story - I loved Cinna and Katniss’ glamour team - they added comic relief to the story and made it a little softer, a break from the deadly action (which I also loved!).

One of the few things that I would have liked to enhance the story was a map. I would have liked to have seen exactly where all of these districts were located based on the fact that they all had specialties, for example District 12’s is mining, District 11’s is agriculture, and District 3’s is electronics, just to name a few. The other flaw was that since it is a trilogy, you know that Katniss will survive - although I really can’t blame the book itself for that, if I hadn’t been living under a rock (apparently I was as I didn’t know about this book for the longest time especially considering it was first published in 2008!) my perspective might have been different not knowing that the story would continue on.

When I got to the end of the book and saw “End of Book 1” I was so relieved that I had purchased the trilogy and I that I had the second book on hand to start reading. If you are going to read the series (and trust me, you should) you must have the second book or else it will drive you crazy not knowing what happens next!

Catching Fire


Against all odds both Katniss and Peeta have survived the Hunger Games but it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy - they have just won honour for their District and wealth and safety for their families but there are rumours of rebellion among the districts and Katniss and Peeta become the faces of rebellion. The Capitol is angry and the Capitol wants revenge.

Oftentimes sequels just don’t live up and end up being disappointing but not in this case. This is yet another AMAZING book - it was just as good as the first! Catching Fire had all of the same elements from The Hunger Games and it just kept building on it. The writing is just as strong and the details are just as remarkable - although the writing is simple, the story is thematically complex. This story seamlessly picks up where the first novel left off. The characters are even more developed throughout this installment and I have to admit that I fell a little bit harder for some of the characters - I was unsure of how I felt about Peeta and Katniss together but I found myself really rooting for them (sorry Gale!). This story is full of twists and turns and there were surprises around every corner.



Once again Katniss has defied the odds and has survived the Hunger Games for a second time so now you would think that she would be safe, but that is not the case. The Capitol is angry. Again. Still. The Capitol wants revenge. Again. Katniss must fight to protect those who she loves and defy the Capitol one more time.

I have to say that I was disappointed with Mockingjay. Perhaps it was because of how utterly amazing the first two installments of this series were or because my expectations were so high, but there was something missing from Mockingjay - it just was not as fun to read. As the series progressed I had an insatiable hunger for more and unfortunately my want was never satisfied. The overall tone of this novel was depressing and I felt that the readers were not given any closure on some of the characters and their relationships.

The story was still intense, suspenseful and full of action but I found myself missing characters, especially Peeta, who I had grown especially fond of. He was present throughout the novel, but it wasn’t the Peeta that I feel in love with - it was a mere shell of his character. I was never really all that fond of Gale, and the fact that he became the male hero in this novel kind of bothered me considering his presence in the previous two novels was minimal. I also didn’t like Katniss in this installment either - she went from a spunky, spirited, “you can’t make me do anything I don’t want to do” character to a character with a “who care’s” attitude. Sure, I guess that after everything she went through the change might have been justified but I think that she lost some of her charm.

A lot of my favourite characters were noticeably absent- they were just about all killed off. There were some who were killed so fast that I didn’t even know what happened to them! I understand that in a war there will be causalities but I really wish that Collins had given them a grander death specifically Finnick – their deaths were unbefitting of the characters. The deaths were rushed and quite often pointless and they almost seemed like Collins was killing off secondary characters because she couldn’t bear to part with any of her main characters. It was almost like death for the sake of death to emphasize the fact that they were in a dangerous and deadly situation. I was also disappointed in the fact that Katniss basically spent the entire time on the sidelines – only getting directly involved when someone else commanded it. She was totally awesome in the arenas and in real-life battle; she was a little bit of a letdown at least until the final mission, in which she disobeyed an order – finally the real Katniss came back . . . it only took 2/3 of the novel. She also leaves the reader wondering about what happens to a lot of the other characters.

I was expecting a totally epic conclusion to this amazing series and unfortunately, it fell short. That being said however, this series will remain some of my favourite books and definitely a series that will be read again and again. 

Three Maids for a Crown ~ Ella March Chase

In an age where producing sons was all that mattered and Queens rose and fell depending on the sex of their child, three girls with royal Tudor blood were born to the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk, parents with a passion for gambling and an ambition to climb the royal ladder. The stakes they wager – their daughter’s lives against their growing ambition. For the oldest daughter, Lady Jane Grey this means that they will stop at nothing to place the crown of England on her head as Queen. But when their plan to marry her to Edward VI fails, they strike a far deadlier arraignment with the Duke of Northumberland. For the middle daughter, Lady Katherine Grey her beauty will not save her from her parent’s ambitions. To survive her family’s shifting fortunes, Katherine must learn to change with the times and serve as a lady in waiting to the Queen who executed her sister and then again to Elizabeth, who is determined to humble the “upstart Grey”. Katherine comes close to stealing her cousin’s throne and risks the fury of a desperate Queen for love. For the youngest daughter, Lady Mary Grey, a dwarf with a twisted spine who never hopes to win a man’s devotion or love, no one expected much of her or for her. Her size is both a blessing and a curse; she is able to hear everything, the good and the bad. In an effort to protect the people that she loves, Mary will be the catalyst for disaster.


This was a pretty decent novel – it was impeccably researched and beautifully written. Normally I am not a fan of novels that switch back and forth between different character’s perspectives however it worked in this case. It was a refreshing change to hear the story of the Grey sisters from the lesser known sisters, especially from Mary. The author was particularly effective at distinguishing the voices of the three sisters as the voice that was given to each individual sister was unique and realistic – one could definitely relate to the characters; Jane with her desire to be the perfect daughter and to do whatever is expected of her; Katherine, the beautiful daughter who has unrealistic notions of love and Mary, the neglected and unloved daughter who manages to outlast them all despite a life of extreme hardship and disaster.

I have to be honest – it took me a while to really get into the story. I found it slow to begin with but it started to pick up about a third of the way in. I also was not completely convinced with the portrayal of Elizabeth – I know that she could be cold, calculating and manipulative but honestly; she was portrayed as a total “witch” whereas Mary was portrayed in a rather saintly light, and as if she did nothing wrong despite the fact that it was by her hand that Jane lost her head.

Overall it was decent read and the characters voices are enchanting. Chase was able to weave together a suspenseful novel and was able to sweep the reader away into a world where one wrong move could end up costing you your head. 

March 29th  1461

The War of the Roses:
The Battle of Towton was fought on the 29th of March 1461, near the villag of Towton in Yorkshire. At the time, it was the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. More than 50,000 soldiers from the Houses of York and Lancaster fought for hours throughout a brutal snowstrom on that day, which also happened to be Palm Sunday. Reportedly 28,000 died on the battlefield and the battle itself brought about a monarchical change in England - Edward of York defeated Queen Margaret and displaced Henry VI (Lancaster) as the King of England.


Happy Birthday to Princess Cecily of York,Viscountess Welles



Happy Birthday to Mary Tudor, Queen of France

For more information: Mary Tudor, Queen of France




Why do we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day? 
The main reason for the celebration is to commemorate the day of Saint Patrick, a Christian missionary who later became the patron saint of Ireland, although he was never officially canonized. Saint Patrick was the principal champion of Irish Christianity and expelling the pagan religion of the early Irish. It is said that Saint Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. This day of celebration is grounded fundamentally on religion however in the 20th century it took on a more cultural role. 

Today, St. Patrick's Day is probably the most celebrated Saint's day; it's a day where EVERYONE is Irish! In most countries St. Paddy's Day is a celebration of Irish culture and celebrations include prominent displays of the colour green, feasting, copious consumption of alcohol (including the infamous green beer!) and parades. Basically, it's just an excuse to get dressed up and get drunk, and have an all around awesome time! Happy St. Paddy's Day! 


In a Treacherous Court ~ Michelle Diener

Flemish artist Susanna Horenbout is set from her home in Belgium to the court of Henry VIII to serve as the King’s personal illuminator. Susanna comes from a line of distinguished illuminators, her father having served in the court of Margaret of Austria, but no matter how talented Susanna is, she is constantly living in the shadow of her brother Lucas, that is until her father sends her to England to serve Henry. Aboard the ship, a man dies in Susanna’s arms after revealing to her a secret message for the King, a secret that will put her own life in danger. Upon her arrival she is greeted with an attempt on her life only to be rescued by John Parker, the King’s Keeper of the Palace of Westminster and Yeoman of the Crossbows, but most importantly, the King’s most lethal courtier. Soon Parker and Susanna become entangled in a plot against the King and they must find out who is responsible before they become the next victims. A murder and conspiracy theory set in the Tudor Court.


This is a fantastic debut novel from Michelle Diener! It is a nail-biting, page-turning suspense filled thriller with assassination attempts, political plots and court intrigue.  In a Treacherous Court is an exciting blend of historical fiction, mystery, adventure, suspense and romance. The story is a historical suspense novel first and a romance second – and the romance is realistic; not an over the top crazy love story, but one that flows and fits in nicely with the rest of the drama. The characters jump off the pages – I confess that I kind of fell in love with John Parker, in fact he might be my new historical fiction crush. I also love that Susanna is a strong, independent woman who can fight in a dress, not a wimpy female protagonist who falls in love with the hero and does nothing. I like that she has some spunk and fire in her soul. My only problem with Susanna is that though she is brought to court to work as an illuminator, she really doesn’t illuminate anything, but I guess she was a little busy trying not to get killed a half dozen times in one book. I was also impressed with Diener for being able to create a story that is set in the court of Henry VIII but he is not the main character but rather plays a supporting role.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a great story. If you liked books like The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato, you will definitely enjoy this one too. I can’t wait for the next instalment The Keeper of the King’s Secrets due out in April 2012. 


Et tu, Brute?

File:Cesar-sa mort.jpg 

The Ides of March

Julius Caesar was assassinated at the foot of a statue of Pompey, where the Senate was meeting, on the 15th of March 44 B.C. Caesar was stabbed 23 times by a group of conspirators led by Marcus Brutus and Cassius. The group included another 60 co-conspirators. Before Caesar went to the theatre to attend the Senate meeting, he had been given advice by a soothsayer informing him not to go, but Caesar did not listen. A soothsayer bids you beware of the ides of March. 

Rival to the Queen ~ Carolly Erickson

This is the story of Letitia Knollys, grand-daughter of Mary Boleyn (Anne’s sister) and cousin to Queen Elizabeth I. Lettie (as she is affectionately known) is sent to her cousin’s court at the age of 16 to serve as a maid-in-waiting to Elizabeth where she quickly catches the eye of Robert Dudley. This story is about a complex love triangle between Elizabeth, Lettie and Robert – as told from Lettie’s perspective. Two cousins bound by blood, yet destined to fight over one of Tudor England’s most charismatic men.


Ok, so I have some major qualms about this novel. I am normally a fan of Erickson’s novels but this one was horrendous. I actually had to force myself to finish it. The characters are lame and the relationships fall flat – for a story that is based on a love triangle, there was no real drama! A lot of the events in the story are implausible, such as Elizabeth leaving her diary out and open for anyone to read or Robert Dudley declaring to a room of courtiers that he had shared Elizabeth’s bed.

The unsympathetic portrayal of Elizabeth was definitely different from anything else I have read about her or based on her. Erickson created Elizabeth as a manipulative, abusive and bitter woman who cared about no one but herself. While I have read a lot about Elizabeth that does not paint her in the best of lights, I have never seen her portrayed such as this. I have often seen her being described as stubborn, clever, calculating and indecisive but never have I seen her described as being a total “witch”.

There were also parts of the story that were totally and utterly pointless and I was seriously questioning why they were included in the first place, for example the return of Lettie’s brother’s long lost love. Really, what was the point of that whole chapter? Was there a minimum amount of pages that were required for publication? There could have been so much more added to the story of the rivalry between Lettie and Elizabeth instead of this fluffy and pointless filler. I honestly felt like the “rivalry” (without drama ... kind of a lame rivalry) was over half way through the book. The last half dragged on and on ... I felt like the book would never end. In the later half Lettie loses a lot of people in her life, but there are no emotions and nothing is explained, it is just mentioned in passing and the reader is left wondering what became of these characters.
This book could have been a lot better if Erickson had simply focused on the rivalry between the cousins and the love triangle instead of adding in all of the extra unimportant filler. I have to say how thankful I am that I found this at my local library and did not waste my money purchasing a copy. Definitely not worth the read and definitely not Erickson's best work. 


The Tsarina's Daughter ~ Carolly Erickson

It is 1989 and Daria Gradov is an elderly grandmother living in the rural West. What neighbours and even her children don't know, however, is that she is not who she claims to be - the widow of a Russian immigrant of modest means. In actuality she began her life as the Grand Duchess Tatiana.

This is the story of Tatiana (Tania) Romanov, the second daughter to Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra. Tania and her sisters and brother life a life of luxury in pre-revolutionary Russia in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. When little Alexei is born with "the English disease" (hemophilia) the family turns to the illiterate monk Rasputin as the key for his survival. Soon war breaks out and revolution sweeps across the country sending the family into imprisonment if far away Siberia. 


The Tsarina's Daughter was a hard book for me to give a typical rating to. Normally I don't have any trouble deciding where it should land on my rating scale, however this one proved to be difficult, therefore I have decided to give it two sets of ratings. As a story, I give it 4 stars; the story itself was imaginative, and very well written. The characters were well developed, though unbelievable. However as a historical fiction, I give it 1 1/2 stars; where was the history? The idea that Tatiana Romanov was able to escape from the palace on multiple occasions, had two lovers before the age of 18, and to escape certain death and married a common soldier ... all highly unlikely to occur. I think that a lot of people, myself included, thinking that when a book is marketed as a historical fiction that we expect there to be some liberties taken with the characters - conversations and small events. However, when there are details in these novels (such as the daughter of the Tsar having two lovers while in her teens, one of these relationships being condoned by her aunt) it almost ruins the integrity of being called a historical fiction.

While I love imagining "what might have been" in regards to the demise of the Romanov family, even this story seemed a little too far fetched to believe. I am a fan of Erickson as both a historian and as a writer however I was greatly disappointed with this novel - it is definitely not one of her best works. I would caution those who are interested in reading this book - if you are a purist, definitely do not read this novel, it will only drive you crazy pointed out all of the historical inaccuracies and portrayal of the Imperial family. However, if you are looking for an interesting read, a "what if..." story and aren't too particular about the inaccuracies, then this is a decent read.


On this day . . .

March 4th 1461

Wars of the Roses in England:

Lancastrian King Henry VI is deposed by his Yorkist cousin, who then becomes King Edward IV  

Roses-Lancaster victory.svg


Bride of New France ~ Suzanne Desrochers

Taken from her parents as a young child and presumed to be an orphan, Laure Beausejour has grown up in a dormitory in Paris surrounded by prostitutes, the insane and other forgotten women. She has grand dreams of using her needlework skills to become a seamstress and to one day marry a nobleman. These dreams however will remain just that, as Laure is sent across the ocean to New France as a fille du roi. Laure knows nothing of her new home except for stories of ferocious winters and equally ferocious Indians who, legend has it, eat the hearts of French priests and scalp French women. Laure must learn to adapt to her new life in Ville-Marie (modern day Montréal) where she is expected to marry and produce many children while her husband abandons her for the harsh winter to live with the Algonquians as a courrier du bois. Bride of New France explores many of the challenges that a young fille du roi must face upon her arrival in her new home.
I was stoked to finally read this story and I have to say that I was beyond disappointed. A lot of the time I found myself questioning why certain things were included . . . for example there were some characters thoughts randomly in the middle of the page and I had no idea why they were there or who was thinking them and really, what was the point of having them there. Prime example – what was with Deskaheh cutting her? What was the point of that and why was that not explained if it was an important detail? And if it wasn’t important what was it doing in the story? The story was dull, there was no climax and it was predictable.

The first half of the book wasn’t bad – Laure’s life in the dormitory in Paris and the voyage across the ocean – these parts were interesting but once she arrives in Ville-Marie the story takes a turn for the worst . . .  the story became so boring and tedious and I just could not wait to be finished. I feel like Desrochers missed an amazing opportunity to really dive into the life of a fille du roi and really explore the challenges and struggles of these girls. The latter half of the book felt like the author was getting tired of writing this story. I really disliked Laure once she arrived in New France – in Paris she is adventurous and determined to make something of herself but once she arrives in Ville-Marie she seems to be defeated and as if she is just an empty shell simply enduring life in New France. She does not grow as a character but rather digresses; I would have loved for her to accomplish something and persevere through the challenges of her new world rather than just suffer and passively watch her life pass by. I also found her to be very selfish and she was extremely snobby and stuck-up even though she came from nothing and has nothing other than her needlework skills which are of no use to her in New France.

This book could have been so much more and I think that is one of the main reasons why I was so disappointed in it, along with the one-dimensional characters and strange thoughts/conversations. To be honest, I really wouldn’t recommend this book.