Category Archives: Favorites

Quotable: The First Bad Man by Miranda July

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It is no secret that I adore Miranda July. I first fell in love with her film work and was ecstatic to learn that she wrote books, as well. I am finally reading The First Bad Man and, like with everything that she produces, there are quotable gems throughout the novel. I wanted to share a couple of these quotes with you today; I am sure that I will find many more between now and when I am ready to write a post about the entire novel.

“I wondered how many other women had sat on this toilet and stared at this floor. Each of them the center of their own world, all of them yearning for someone to put their love into so they could see their love, see that they had it.”

“We all think that we might be terrible people. But we only reveal this before we ask someone to love us. It’s a kind of undressing.”

“If you were wise enough to know that this life would consist mostly of letting go of things you wanted, then why not get good at the letting go, rather than the trying to have?”

Purchase Miranda July’s novel and prepare to feel refreshed: Barnes & Noble: The First Bad Man by Miranda July

This isn’t related to the novel (though maybe we could look deeply into its meaning and connect it with the characters), but this is one of my favorite short videos that she has put together:

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Filed under 2015, Favorites, novel, Women Writers

The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown

51+mE0mV0ML._AA300_Title:  The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown
Author:  Claire Ridgway
Author’s website:  The Anne Boleyn Files
Non-Fiction/History

In April of 2012, I read Ridgway’s other book on Anne Boleyn, The Anne Boleyn Collection, in order to grow my knowledge on the actual life and story of Anne Boleyn.  As a fan of Ridgway’s website, The Anne Boleyn Files, I had a feeling that I would enjoy her books, as well.  My inkling was spot-on.  So, naturally, I was ecstatic to learn that there were even more books coming out by her!

I decided to kick off 2013 with The Fall of Anne Boleyn because, really, it’s been far too long since my last Tudor read.  And while I have a few biographies sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be cracked open, I opted to revisit Ridgway’s personable and accessible writing style instead.  Similarly to The Anne Boleyn Collection, The Fall of Anne Boleyn, at times, reads like a conversation that the reader could be taking part in with the author.  I love that you don’t only get historical facts and excerpts from actual letters from the Tudor players, but you really get to share in Ridgway’s love of Anne Boleyn.

Another positive about Ridgway’s books is that she presents all sides.  She admits that it is difficult to decipher everything that really happened during this time, but instead of only presenting one view or one scenario, the reader has the opportunity to not only learn what Boleyn’s contemporaries thought and said (where primary resources still exist) but also what ideas historians have recorded, deduced, and proliferated since then.

My interest in Boleyn only grows the more that I learn about her.  She was a far cry from a witch or concubine as some believe(d) her to be.  Anne Boleyn was a woman who fought to gain her position.  She valued education, charity, and spiritual reform.  She believed in the validity of her ideas and, with her feisty nature, did not shy away from sharing them – even though she was a woman.

For anyone looking to learn more about Anne Boleyn, I highly recommend Claire Ridgway’s publications and website.  You will not be disappointed!

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Filed under 2013, Anne Boleyn, Biography, Favorites, Non-Fiction, Tudors

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

0806_gone_425Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Mystery/Suspense

My final read of 2012 – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – is definitely a book to be added to my ever-growing list of “favorites”.  This book was a gift and, while I have seen the title show up in reading lists, bestseller lists, and all over GoodReads, I never took a moment to read the synopsis and decide for myself whether or not I should check it out.  I am incredibly thankful that someone gifted it to me, however, because this is a book that I just could not put down.

Before I read the Millennium trilogy, I never would have considered myself a Mystery/Suspense kind of girl.  My main memories of the Mystery genre from my bookstore days were ridiculous, never-ending series where cats solved crimes or titles that I considered more in the realm of  really terrible “Chick Lit” than a book of substance.  However, thanks to Stieg Larsson, I’ve thrown my old prejudice opinions out the window and am finding some novels that I really, truly love.

Gone Girl is the story of a missing woman (Amy, the wife) and the #1 suspect (Nick, her husband – of course).  Each chapter is told in either the POV of Amy or Nick, laying out both sides of the story/experience for the reader.  The characters are complicated inasmuch as it’s difficult to really love or hate either of them 100%.

Through the entries in Amy’s diary, the reader takes a short journey through the beginnings of her relationship with Nick – the meeting, the inside jokes, the early years of their marriage, but when both of them lose their careers in journalism and then move out of New York City, it appears that their marriage gets rockier and rockier.

From reading other reviews (very carefully avoiding any spoilers), I knew that there were going to be a lot of surprises and I can honestly say that I was not disappointed.  I had this nagging desire to find out what happened to Amy and whether or not Nick really did it.  Needless to say, I am very happy that I had this past week off from work; otherwise, I would have been pretty exhausted each day from staying up late, powering through as many pages as possible before finally succumbing to sleep.

In 2013, I will definitely be checking out Gillian Flynn’s other two novels, Dark Places and Sharp Objects.  If my excitement didn’t sell you on Gone Girl, a professionally written summary is included below:

Marriage can be a real killer.

   One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.

   On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

   As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

   With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

Check out Gone Girl on Amazon.

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Filed under 2012, American Author, Books, Favorites, Fiction, Gillian Flynn, Mystery, Women Writers

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

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Title:  Norwegian Wood
Author:  Haruki Murakami
LOVED IT!

Murakami is, hand’s down, one of my favorite authors.  While I’ve only read three pieces by him, all of the works that he has penned are on my “must-read” list.  Entering any of his worlds, the reader must enter knowing that he or she will experience a wide range of emotions.  Norwegian Wood is definitely no exception.

For each of us, there are songs, smells, or places that transport us to the moment of a memory.  Just like that.  “Norwegian Wood” by The Beatles is that song in Murakami’s novel by the same name.  The narrator, Toru, experiences love, loss, and life throughout the course of the novel.  The reader journeys with him through friends’ suicides, stressed and struggling attempts at romance, and frustrating friendships that threaten to pull Toru into an empty way of existing.

I can’t do justice to the story through any description.  Here is a summary:

A special movie-tie in edition for the long-awaited film release based on this beloved novel by Haruki Murakami: the story of one college student’s romantic coming-of-age, a journey to that distant place of a young man’s first, hopeless, and heroic love.

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before.  Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable.  As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

Norwegian Wood is  a beautiful, haunting, and emotional story.  I wouldn’t expect anything less from one of Murakami’s novels.  It left me wanting more.

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writer’s block by Charles Bukowski

Today’s poem is about something that plagues me more than I’d like…

 
writer’s block
Charles Bukowski

 
the typewriter sits silent, it’s as if you’ve
been betrayed, it’s as if a murder has
occurred.
yet words still run through your brain:
“the Spanish bird sings!”
what can
that mean?
at least it’s a ripple, even if unusable.

when will the keys
beat into the
paper
again?
it’s so very easy to die long before the
fact of it.

I look at the machine resting under its black
cover; an unpaid gas bill sleeps on top of
it.

there is a small refrigerator in the
room, it makes the only audible sound
here.

I open it and look inside:
it’s empty.

I sit back down in the chair and wait; then I
decide to fool the
typewriter.

I write this
now
with a ballpoint
pen
in a red
notebook;
I am sneaking up on a poem;
there will soon be something for that
frigging
typewriter
to do!

there is a French expression, “without
literature
life is hell.”

the glory and power of that!

now let the Spanish bird sing!

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Filed under American Poetry, Charles Bukowski, Favorites, Poetry

A celebration, this is: Sylvia Plath


Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932.  As we all know, she is no longer with us, but her writing and passion live on.  For me, personally, I have yet to find another writer who touches me in the same way that her words touch me.  Her fiction, poetry, letters, and personal journals are treasures that will all continue to live on as  classics forever.

In celebration of the memory of her life, here are a few videos of Sylvia Plath reading some of her work:

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Filed under Confessionalist, Favorites, Poetry, Sylvia Plath

Rizzoli & Isles: Body Double by Tess Gerritsen

Title:  Body Double (Rizzoli & Isles series)
Author:  Tess Gerritsen
Length: 339 pages
Loved it!

It’s been a while since my last Rizzoli & Isles novel.  After reading Body Double, though, I know that I will not have as long as a gap before reading the next book in the series!  Once again, Gerritsen kept me guessing and glued to the story.  Before I jump into my thoughts, here is a synopsis of the book:

Boston medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles literally meets her match–and must face a savage serial killer and shattering personal revelations–in the brilliant new novel of suspense by the New York Times bestselling author of The Surgeon and The Sinner.
Dr. Maura Isles makes her living dealing with death. As a pathologist in a major metropolitan city, she has seen more than her share of corpses every day–many of them victims of violent murder. But never before has her blood run cold, and never has the grim expression “dead ringer” rung so terrifyingly true. Because never before has the lifeless body on the medical examiner’s table been her own.
Yet there can be no denying the mind-reeling evidence before her shocked eyes and those of her colleagues, including Detective Jane Rizzoli: the woman found shot to death outside Maura’s home is the mirror image of Maura, down to the most intimate physical nuances. Even more chilling is the discovery that they share the same birth date and blood type. For the stunned Maura, an only child, there can be just one explanation. And when a DNA test confirms that Maura’s mysterious doppelgänger is in fact her twin sister, an already bizarre murder investigation becomes a disturbing and dangerous excursion into a past full of dark secrets.
Searching for answers, Maura is drawn to a seaside town in Maine where other horrifying surprises await. But perhaps more frightening, an unknown murderer is at large on a cross-country killing spree. To stop the massacre and uncover the twisted truth about her own roots, Maura must probe her first living subject: the mother that she never knew . . . an icy and cunning woman who could be responsible for giving Maura life–and who just may have a plan to take it away.

This is the first book in the series where the reader really gets a closer look at Maura Isles.  The character from the novels is incredibly different from the character on the television show, but she is definitely my favorite character in both.  So, needless to say, I was ecstatic to see that the book started out from the POV of Isles.

Besides loving this book for being Isles-centric, disturbing, and, well, full of everything that I’ve come to love about Gerritsen’s novels, this book felt even more “Girl Power-y” to me than the preceding novels.  Specifically, there is a lot of focus on motherhood and the question of what makes a mother.  Is it merely passing your genes onto a child?  Is it the fact that you carry a child in your womb for 9 months?  Or is it the instinct to protect your child at any and all costs?

There were times that I choked up while reading this novel and there were many times that I wanted to cheer for the feminine strength being displayed by each of the characters.

I very much look forward to the next installment in the series!

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Filed under Favorites, Series, Tess Gerritsen, Women Writers

Hiatus, complete + Game of Thrones

I guess that No Other Appetite is just emerging from some sort of unannounced hiatus… So, hello!  I’ve missed writing and now that our move is kinda sorta winding down and we’re settling in, I hope to resume writing with the same frequency that I had going leading up to the insanity of house-buying.

Over the past few months, I have read as much as possible, so I have a few books to write up about over the next few weeks.  Currently, however, I’m soldiering through Game of Thrones due to my recent obsession with the television show.  While tackling a novel as LONG as this one (coupled with the big move) possibly derails me from surpassing my goal of reading 45 books this year, it’s proving to be well worth that sacrifice.

While I am far away from being in a position to write my review/reactions to the novel, I can share that my favorite character (and who I am personally rooting for to win the Game) is Danaerys Targaryen (AKA Khaleesi or Mother of Dragons).  I ran a few internet searches for sites dedicated to her (while trying my best to not read too much history on her character as I don’t want to ruin what may or may not happen…) and found a few nifty sites that I am going to share here.

Oh, I also purchased this neat-o t-shirt from TeeFury:

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I will say – I haven’t been this excited about a specific literary character since Lisbeth in the Millennium trilogy.

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Filed under Fantasy, Favorites, Fiction, Series

Katharine of Aragon (trilogy) by Jean Plaidy

Titles:  Katharine, The Virgin Widow; The Shadow of the Pomegranate; The King’s Secret Matter
 
Author:  Jean Plaidy
Length: 643 pages (all three books in one volume)
Highly Enjoyable!

As I have mentioned many times (most recently, perhaps, right before my vacation?), I am enthusiastic about Tudors history – both fictional and real, actual history.  To further feed this obsession, I scoured GoodReads for any and all books that I could find.  Not too far into my search, not surprisingly, I came across Jean Plaidy’s name and the seemingly never-ending list of titles.

The books that I wanted to start with are the three about Katharine of Aragon – Spanish Princess, English Queen, and the first lady unlucky enough to NOT provide Henry the VIII with a strapping young son.  While I know that the Showtime series isn’t the most historically accurate account out there, I was drawn to their portrayal of her and immediately felt some warmth towards her personality and story.  While I have yet to read an actual biography about her, the fictional accounts of her that I’ve encountered so far (The Other Boleyn Girl and these books by Jean Plaidy) paint her in a similar way to the show, leading me to believe that she truly was a kind-hearted, spiritual woman who commanded respect and honor.

Reading Plaidy’s novels felt like I was reading closer to an actual historical account of the happenings in the Tudor court than when reading The Other Boleyn Girl.  Because of this, while still enjoyable, it took a little longer to get through them.  There is a fair amount of dialogue and action, however, and the keeps the books an entertaining read.  And while the story is undoubtedly focused on Katharine of Aragon, she doesn’t hold back from sharing a glimpse into what King Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey, and the rest of the major players are up to, thinking, or plotting.

The version that I purchased (published by Three Rivers Press, featuring an awesome reading guide/questions) is the only version to contain the entire trilogy covering Queen Katharine’s story from her arrival in England from Spain in 1501 (to marry the young and sickly Prince Arthur) until her own heart breaking death on January 7th, 1536.  Let’s take a closer look at the three individual books in this volume….

Katharine, The Virgin Widow

IN THE ROYAL MARRIAGE MARKET 
THE INFANTA OF SPAIN WAS A TRUE PRIZE.

In the eyes of the world, Katharine of Aragon was a precious object to be disposed of for the glory of Spain. Her parents, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, send her to England to become the bride of Arthur, Prince of Wales.
But soon her frail husband was dead, and a fateful question loomed: Was the marriage consummated, as Katharine’s priest avowed, or was the young widow still a virgin? On that delicate point hinged Katharine’s–and England’s–future. Meanwhile, waiting in the wings was her willful, handsome brother-in-law, bold Prince Henry, who alone had the power to restore Katharine’s lost position.

Jean Plaidy’s narrative genius sparkles in this story of a remarkable royal marriage that inspired some of history’s bloodiest deeds . . . 

I struggled slightly to get into the first book, but, really, only because I needed to adjust to the third person narrative (I’m a sucker for first person…).  The story begins with an introduction to the children of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York during a horrific scene in which the king’s best dogs fight lions to the death.  This scene, in all its gruesome detail, sets the reader up for the plight of anyone else’s wish (or bravery) placed against that of a king’s.  When the dogs win, they still lose because they dared stand up against the king of all animals.  It’s important for all to know, and heed, their place in the social order.

At the beginning of the stories, the children are awaiting (quite eagerly) the arrival of the Infanta from Spain – a young girl born from the honorable Queen Isabella and her consort, Ferdinand.  Briefly, upon arrival (and after settling in), Katharine grows accustomed to the young prince she is set to marry.  He’s kind, shy, faithful, and does not appear to have a cruel bone in his body.  Everything changes when he dies during an outbreak of the sweating disease, however.  This is when Katharine enters into the first troublesome period of her life.  Forced into living without any allowance, she stays in a house with her ladies in waiting and servants, unable to pay them and unable to leave to return to Spain.  Her future is full of uncertainty and relies upon the whims of a fickle and greedy King.

The novel ends with her marriage to King Henry VIII – as he apparently loves to go against the advice and demands of anyone else – for why should he listen to them? HE is the King of England.  In the final scenes of Katharine, the Virgin Widow it appears as though her fortune has changed and happier days lie ahead.  Little does she know…

 The Shadow of the Pomegranate

The marriage of Katharine of Aragon and King Henry VIII was a match made in heaven. But hardly were they wed when powerful people in Henry’s court started spinning webs of intrigue around the innocent royal pair.

King Henry VIII is still a young man.  He loves games, dressing up, and proving to his people that he loves them.  Some of actions seem brazen while all of actions seem highly juvenile.  Above all else, though, he yearns to have a son and is confidant that he and Queen Katharine will produce many.  Only time will tell, though, as their first child born is, in fact, a son, but dies only after a very short time of being alive.

As we all know now, they never have a son.  Instead they have a healthy, intelligent, and highly talented daughter Mary.  If only she were born a boy… is a thought that is repeated throughout this book.  Katharine, alone, seems to be able to find the tenderness in his eyes and is willing to see him with a greater filter of warmth than most others might be willing to.  Perhaps even greater to her love for him, however, she adores her daughter and is devoted to protecting her interests.

The second book also brings the rise of Cardinal Wolsey, who acts as a major influence in directing the course of the king’s life – all with the intent of progressing his own interests..  The second book also brings an increase in the tumult that is King Henry VIII’s moods.  His rage flares up and, once aggravated, seems to know no bounds.  The longer he goes without a son, or, as he sees it, a legitimate heir to the throne, the angrier and less reasonable he becomes.

By the end of the The Shadow of the Pomegranate (which, by the way, is Katharine’s symbol, which is representative of fertility – cruel irony) with the King’s infidelity becoming public knowledge and an accepted fact of how things are going to be.  Bessie Blount, his favored mistress in the court, produces him with a son, whom he names Henry Fitzroy.  The affair and child are both flaunted in front of Katharine, but she maintains composure and finds solace in the fact that she is the Queen of England, beloved of the people.

 The King’s Secret Matter

The personalities and intrigues of the English royal court are brought to vivid life in this tale of Katharine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII. The twelve-year marriage of Henry and Katharine has declined from an idyllic union into an uneasy stalemate. The king’s love for his aging queen has grown cold, and he is angry with her failure to give him the heir to the throne he desperately wants. When the seductive Anne Boleyn arrives at court, the king is captivated by her dark beauty and bold spirit, and becomes obsessed with his desire to possess her. With his chief advisor, Cardinal Wolsey, the king devises a secret plot to declare the marriage with Katharine null and void. But Katharine refuses to surrender to his wishes and fights desperately to retain her title and safeguard her daughter, Mary. The ensuing power struggle is one of the turning points in English history, and these pages capture it in spellbinding detail.

We can all guess what happens in the third book,  The King’s Secret Matter, can’t we?  The state of Katharine’s life is in rapid decline.  The king barely visits her.  Her nephew, the emperor, constantly breaks promises with King Henry VIII, thus, creating a distaste for all thing Spanish in his eyes – his wife being one of those “things”.  There are countless women in court who jump at the chance to sleep with the King and he is more than happy to make their wildest dreams come true.

And, as in any royal story, people are unceasingly plotting, planning, and seeking ways to further their own interests, at no matter what cost to others.  Unfortunately, for Queen Katharine, there aren’t many in the court able to fight for her interests since her interests are contrary to the King’s.  And, in this book, he does not shy away from sending “traitors” to the chopping block.  By the final page, we have bid adieu to the majority of the original players and are faced with a new set taking center stage.  And at the very center of that stage is Anne Boleyn (or, as it appears the people of England call her, Nan Bullen).

Katharine, once a woman to know all of the comforts and honors of a Queen, dies in a dank, lonesome building, far away from her daughter, Mary.  Throughout all of her protestations against the King’s cry that their marriage was never valid, she cared most about preserving her daughter’s  honor, dignity, and name.

These books increased my admiration and love for Katharine of Aragon.  They also made me feel even more excited to learn more about this period of English history.  Additionally, I will also read more of Jean Plaidy’s novels.  Her writing is clean and leaves you feeling like you actually, possibly, learned something.

Are you interested in the Tudors?  Which authors do you prefer?

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Filed under Favorites, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Series, Tudors, Women Writers

What do you read on vacation?

Tomorrow morning my husband and I hop on a VERY early (5:45 AM!) flight out to the west coast.  We’re not going to hit up any beaches, though, as our preference lies with exploring the desert…

The beauty of Death Valley

But, regardless of the wonderful sights and adventures that we’ll be enjoying, one of the most important parts of any and all vacations is, quite simply, what to read!  Like with most trips, I planned this one out.  I set myself up to be right in the middle of Jean Plaidy’s Katharine of Aragon trilogy.  I want my Tudors fix and I don’t want to run out of pages before I return home to the full expanse of my ever-growing bookshelves.

Over the weekend I finished the first (and shortest) of the three – Katharine the Virgin Widow and am starting in on The Shadow of the Pomegranate.  So far, I’m totally loving this series.  I will admit, that it took a little extra effort to get myself into the rhythm of Plaidy’s writing, but I feel like I’m genuinely learning some history, feeling entertained, and nurturing a growing appreciation of Queen Katharine.

To leap into these stories almost immediately after The Other Bolelyn Girl was a little bit of a minor shock (especially since I thoroughly enjoyed Gregory’s writing style and the voice that she created for Mary Bolelyn), but I’m beyond happy that I worked my way through the “slower” parts of Katharine the Virgin Widow and am moving further along in the book.  Things start to get really interesting after the marriage finally takes place.

Luckily for me, and for all fans of Plaidy’s writing, she’s an enormously prolific writer, so I still have a plethora of options to move onto next!  In the meantime, however, I’ll enjoy having the characters from this era of the Tudor court accompany me on our trip out to Death Valley.

What book(s) do you bring with you on vacation?  Do you plan them ahead of time or do you just take along with you whatever you’re currently working on?  I’d love to hear!

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Filed under Books, Favorites, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Jean Plaidy, Women Writers