I am sorry that it has taken me so long to write a new blog, but as many of you know from reading my Facebook and Goodreads posts, I have been dealing with an injury that has forced me to severely limit my time at the computer. This, of course, wreaked havoc upon my deadline, gave unholy glee to my unwelcome roommate, the Deadline Dragon, and caused a lot to just slip through the cracks. I am—I hope—on the mend now, though.
In my last blog, I promised to hold a drawing for all of my readers who posted comments about any of my mysteries on that blog. I finally was able to do that drawing and the winner is Chris Torrance. I can give you a hardcover edition of Prince of Darkness or Dragon’s Lair, Chris; just let me know which one you prefer. I started thinking about it after you emerged as the winner and remembered that the first four horses in a race receive prizes. That seemed like a good idea so I drew three more names. Sara, I will be happy to give you a copy of Prince of Darkness, too; you mentioned that you would like to read that one. Rosemary and Thomas Greene , you are also winners. I am afraid you’ll have to settle for paperback editions, but you both can choose between Dragon’s Lair and Prince of Darkness. Unfortunately, I’ve about run out of copies of The Queen’s Man and Cruel as the Grave. Please contact me through my Contact Sharon feature on my website and once I have your addresses, I can send the books out.
I really enjoyed the reader responses to my last blog. So many of you provided wonderful first sentences from books you enjoyed and all of them made me want to read those books. Of course at this point, my TBR list is so long that I’d need nine lives like a cat in order to read them all. That is true for virtually all book lovers. This is why the saddest Twilight Zone episode ever was the one about the librarian who somehow survived a catastrophe, emerging to find NYC was intact but all the people were gone. I saw it as a child, so I am very fuzzy on the details. All I remember is the ending. He was naturally stunned at first, but then realized he could spend the rest of his life reading. But as he sat on the steps of the New York City library, he dropped his glasses and they broke. I think I cried when that happened.
I still have to pace myself when it comes to using the computer, so this will probably be my shortest blog ever. Not surprisingly, it is book-themed. Here is my question: What was the book you read this year that truly resonated with you, one you will long remember? This is sure to give us all dozens of new books to add to our TBR lists as we go happily off into book bankruptcy together.
For me, it was The Underdogs: children, dogs, and the power of unconditional love by Melissa Fay Greene. This was one of the most moving and inspirational stories I’ve ever read. The author tells the true story of Karen Shirk, a young woman stricken at age 24 with a neuromuscular disease that put her in a wheel chair and made her dependent upon a ventilator. She was turned down by every service dog agency in the country because she was “too disabled.” Instead of despairing, she trained her own service dog, but she was haunted by the thought of all the people who were being denied the service dogs that would have enabled them to lead productive lives, especially children.
The result was 4 Paws for Ability, the service dog academy that she founded and runs today in Ohio. The Underdogs tells the story of how this came to be, interspersed with heartbreaking glimpses into the lives of overwhelmed parents struggling desperately to help their stricken children, families whose lives would be transformed by the service dogs that Karen selected for them. As I read this remarkable book, I could only marvel at the resiliency of the human spirit and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The Amazon description of The Underdogs says it better than I could: “Written with characteristic insight, humanity, humor, and irrepressible joy, what could have been merely touching is a penetrating, compassionate exploration of larger questions about our attachments to dogs, what constitutes a productive life, and what can be accomplished with unconditional love.” I have decided that if I am ever lucky enough to win the lottery, a good portion of those winnings will go to Karen Shirk and 4 Paws for Ability. It costs over $16,000 to train one of her service dogs, most of which she finds in shelters; she helps the families to raise the money. But if ever anyone deserved a financial good angel, this is the woman.
I’d like to close by calling a few books to your attention. I do this from time to time, for even though I have not read these novels, I think they might be of interest to my history-loving, book-loving readers and friends. I will start with Samantha Wilcoxson, who has written two intriguing novels about historical figures we have come to care about. Her newest is Faithful Traitor: the story of Margaret Pole. Margaret was the daughter of George of Clarence, who was murdered—no other word for it—by Henry VIII and would later by beatified by the Catholic Church. Her second novel tells the story of a woman familiar to any readers of The Sunne in Splendour, titled Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: the story of Elizabeth of York.
Moving back to the twelfth century, Hilary Benford has just written a novel about Richard I’s sister, Joanna, titled Sister of the Lionheart. I really enjoyed writing about Joanna and can well understand the magnetic pull she exerted upon Hilary. And Charlene Newcomb is continuing the story of two fictional young knights who accompanied the Lionheart to the Holy Land on the Third Crusade. The first book was titled Men of the Cross and her new one is called For King and Country. All of these books are available on Amazon’s mother ship and its satellite sites and the last time I checked, they were garnering some very enthusiastic reviews.
Lastly, there is finally a biography out of the eldest surviving son of Henry II and Eleanor, known to history as the young king and to readers of my books as Hal. It has proven to be harder to hunt down than a unicorn; I am still waiting for my copy to arrive from Amazon. But the young king’s eloquent and devoted champion, Kasia Ogrodnik, has just received her copy, I think from Book Depository. I am looking forward to reading it, albeit feeling a bit frustrated that it was not available when I was writing Devil’s Brood. I have a few reservations simply because I wonder if there was enough extant material on the young king to support a full-scale biography.
Dr Judith Everhard, the highly-regarded scholar who wrote the brilliant Brittany and the Angevins, once told me that she’d initially meant to do a biography about the “forgotten” son, Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, only to discover that there was not enough material to warrant a biography. She wisely expanded the scope of her project to include the other Angevins, especially Henry, and I will be forever grateful to her for that, as she is the first historian to study Geoffrey and his too-brief reign in Brittany. The author of Henry, the Young King is another noted historian, Matthew Strickland, whose previous books I enjoyed greatly and found very helpful in my own writing. So if anyone can do justice to a biography of the young king, this is the man.
Well, so much for this being a brief blog. You’d think I’d know better by now. One final thought; here is the link to Kasia’s always interesting blog about the young king and his flamboyant family. http://henrytheyoungking.blogspot.com/
July 31, 2016