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Hysterical Fiction

Hysterically writing and revising historical romance...

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Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1)
Hilary Mantel
Torch in the Forest
Marcie Kremer

Sam: The One and Only Sam Snead

Sam: The One and Only Sam Snead - Al Barkow Jack Nicklaus’s quote on the cover of SAM, THE ONE AND ONLY SAM SNEAD, encapsulates the excellent job done in this biography by famed sportswriter Al Barkow. “…I think you will find that the man behind the simple swing was more complex than most of the public knew.” In this well-researched and entertaining book, Barkow paints a picture of a complicated, gifted athlete, sussing out the subtle influences of Snead’s West Virginia backwoods upbringing and his early experiences as a “country boy” who could play golf far better than the country club set he played with and against. Snead emerges as a Shakespearean tragic character within whose greatest gift lay the seeds of his own destruction – his matchless, rhythmic swing – which, in a world so dramatically different from his own native roots, created preconceptions and expectations that anyone – even with more education and world experience -- would have struggled to overcome and meet. Readers might sometimes wish Barkow’s chronology in the narrative were a bit smoother, but, in order to do justice to a man whose legend is almost larger than life, it had to be difficult to blend the aspects of the golf swing, the daily competitions, the historic tournaments, and the development of Snead’s character in a strictly-adhered-to timeline. For non-golfers, one or two of the detailed descriptions of tournament play might prove to be confusing, but for lovers of the game, they prove fascinating and insightful. Al Barkow’s thorough biography of Sam Snead will be enjoyed by readers who enjoy complex characters as well as the drama of competition in the centuries-old game of golf.

Eleanor and Tapering

Eleanor and Tapering

220px-Ben_Bernanke_official_portrait You can surely imagine Eleanor’s surprise at learning about tapering.  For her, tapers are what are lit to guide everyone’s passages through the dark halls of Blystoke and other castles she visits.  Tapering also is what her feelings do when she thinks of having to marry that despicable William.  Her thoughts taper off into blankness and she reaches for a goblet of wine.  She can’t imbibe too much, however, for she must keep her faculties sharp.  Plotters are scheming to take her forests from her and to ruin her and her sister’s lives.  Alas, her feelings for Lord Hugh are not tapering in the least, she blushes to think.  What can she do?  What would Ben Bernanke suggest?  Put a call on Hugh?  She certainly could not think of shorting him.  She takes another sip and ponders what the future holds. 

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Eleanor and Kauai

Lihue United

First off, Eleanor has no idea that Kauai even exists, but, should she ever see it, she would surely feel at home, because this remote island resembles the village around her castle in so many ways. First, there are few shops and markets, and those that are here close when sun sets, just as they do in the village of Blystoke. Second, everything is built of stone — see the church — except, of course for the peasants’ thatched roof cottages.  Third, and most important, everyone knows who everyone else is — there are fewer than six degrees of separation here.  Ah, Eleanor sighs….six degrees or less of separation.  How she wishes there was less than one degree of separation between her and Lord Hugh.  Will they ever meet as one?

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Eleanor, Keeping Vigils, and St. Oswald’s Day

Naturally, Eleanor knows of St. Oswald, he having been the Archbishop of York and Bishop of Worcester, and she is well aware of his proclivity for keeping vigils.  St. Oswald’s vigils were in keeping with his desire to shape up the monastic orders, so he would keep long vigils with the townsfolk and the brethren, encouraging them to be faithful.  Eleanor, on the other hand, keeps her vigils for an entirely different reason — Lord Hugh.  Her sleepless nights are haunted by dreams of his handsome visage, and she tosses and turns, wondering, will he ever pay her any mind, save for trying to belittle her intelligence and her management of her forests?  Eleanor offers up a prayer to St. Oswald, in the hopes that someday, perhaps, she may be granted her wish — to be faithful to Lord Hugh. What think you, dear readers?

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Eleanor, Saint Anne’s Day, and Unmarried Women

Eleanor is well-aware of the meaning of today’s date, because it is the feast day of Saint Anne, the patron saint of unmarried women.  Until recently, she’s been quite happy to be a widow, free of the disgusting Edgar, who fell off his ship on the way to the Crusade.  Then, she met Lord Hugh, he of the intense, blue-eyed gaze and arrogant attitude, and her life changed.  Now, she cannot rid herself of thoughts of him — thoughts that haunt her day and night.  She blushingly admits to herself that she will now light a candle to St. Anne, in the hopes that Hugh might come to his senses and renounce his bid to wed her sister and ask for her hand, instead.  But, how to convince him, when he is so stubborn?  Please, St. Anne, come to our heroine’s aid!

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Eleanor on the Road

imageWhen Eleanor chooses to go on the road, she sends a servant to notify her Master of the Horse and her knights, as well as Nicholas the Steward, so that all the horses, guards, and provisions will be at the ready. Naturally, she has never heard the term “road trip,” this year being 1272. ‘Twould take her two days to journey to see that devilishly handsome Lord Hugh, a time she would spend daydreaming of his intense blue eyes and what it might feel to have his strong arms around her. Truly, she blushes at the thought. A modern road trip would flummox her, indeed; she would arrive at Lord Hugh’s castle in a few hours’ time, not giving her enough time to plan how to defeat his plans for wedding her sister. Besides, horses need no fuel besides hay, nor they ever get flat tires. Eleanor would far prefer her own time period, should she be given the choice. Now, what to do about Hugh and her sister?

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July 13, 2013 · 4:43 pm

Father’s Day and Independent Women

If Eleanor knew it was Father’s Day, she would celebrate and honor the memory of her dear father, who entrusted her with the care of her younger sister Mary, and who taught her their family motto, “Honor et Fides.”  It is he who gave her a fierce, independent spirit, encouraged her analytical powers, and cautioned her to, above all, be effective in what she did.  In 1272, as you know, dear reader, women were given scant power, save for being pawns in political games, as that cur, William of Litchfield, is plotting.  Thanks to her father, Eleanor is up to the task.

What she doesn’t know, however, is that her father also prepared her for dealing properly with Lord Hugh, he who is so condescending to her, and yet, whose gaze transfixes her, sending her heart all a-flutter.  Happy Father’s Day!

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Flag Day for Eleanor!

Eleanor’s pulse races!  ’Tis Flag Day, and the flags on the battlements of Blystoke Castle are fluttering in the breeze, awaiting the arrival of Lord Hugh — yes, the one whose arrogance incenses her, but whose blue eyes pierce to the very core of her being.  If she were to fly a flag just for Hugh, (she blushes to think!), it would be argent in colour, charged with a red heart in the center, pierced through with an arrow of or.  Pierced, indeed, Eleanor sighs.

Then, her spirits flag, as she worries about the dilemma in which she finds herself — the wretched William lusting after her, devilishly handsome Lord Hugh who wishes to marry her sister, and the infernal poaching in the forests that has jeopardized her reputation and has goaded Lord Hugh to accuse her of mismanagement and naivete and worse.  What to do?

One thing she will not do, Eleanor vows, is to raise the argent flag of surrender.  She will unflaggingly pursue the criminals and extricate herself and her sister from the mesh of lies and intrigues that threaten them.  Being a “mere woman,” as some have so rudely said to her (we’re remembering Lord Hugh, here), will definitely not prove to be an obstacle.  Into the fray, she tells herself, with flags flying!

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Aloha from Eleanor and King Kamehameha Day

Now, of course, Eleanor has no inkling that there is such an event as King Kamehameha Day.  Indeed, she has never even heard of Hawaii — who would have even dreamed of this tropical paradise back in 1272?  However, knowing Eleanor, she would more than welcome a chance to put a lei around Lord Hugh’s neck (please, no homophone thoughts, here) and bid him a real aloha.  Her face burns, of course, at the thought of being so close to that devilishly handsome Lord Hugh, but, forsooth, she would paddle a canoe all the way to Hawaii if she could but gaze into his eyes, uninterupted.

So, let’s celebrate the unification of Hawaii under King Kamehameha, knowing that Eleanor longs to be united with Lord Hugh.  She  must, however, battle her despicable liege lord William — and even Lord Hugh, himself, whose marriage proposal to her sister now fills Eleanor with feelings that are quite the opposite of aloha!

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Eleanor and St. Ephrem’s Day

Naturally, Eleanor knows of St. Ephrem, the saint whose day is today.  He wrote multitudinous, lyrical hymns that warned the populace of his day — the 4th century — against the deceit and wiles of unscrupulous people.

Aha! Eleanor thinks, with a little smile.  She could most certainly use some of those hymns to spur herself on in her battle against the scurrilous William of Litchfield, he who sloshes his wine on the high table in his eagerness to lean  closer to her.  ‘Tis quite difficult to quell the nausea she feels upon even seeing him, much less having to sit at table with him, or even having to share a wine goblet with him.  ‘Deceitful’ and ‘unscrupulous’ are the perfect words to describe this cur — actually, ’tis a slur upon all dogs to call William a cur.  She knows he waits with anticipation for his poor hapless wife to die in childbirth so he can marry Eleanor.  Heavens forfend!  Eleanor can barely countenance the thought, and she would rather be a slavey in the kitchens than be wed to the spittle-flecked William.

Whom she would really like to marry, she admits to herself, is that Lord Hugh, he of the intense blue-eyed gaze that holds her rapt.  Wiles and deceit are not her methods; she must rely on luck and fortune to bring him her way.  If only he felt the same about her, but he seems to be quite taken by her younger sister Mary….Oh, readers, what can Eleanor do?

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Eleanor and the Horror of Fleur-de-Lis Day

Oh, the horror! Eleanor knows it is Fleur-de-Lis Day, and she shivers in her solar when she contemplates the possibility of her hapless dear sister’s soon-to-be arranged marriage with the rheumy Count of Thiercy of France.  The fleur-de-lis symbol of the French monarchy seems sinister to her, even more so because Mary will have to leave England for the forsaken country of France, wedded to an aging count to achieve the selfish political aspirations of her liege lord, the lecherous William of Litchfield.  France!  ‘Tis so far away.  The alternative, however, is nearly as bad — since that handsome, oh-be-still-my-heart Lord Hugh has just asked for Mary’s hand in marriage.  That cannot be!  Eleanor wrings her hands and paces her solar.

Truth be told, Lord Hugh haunts her own dreams, waking Eleanor in the middle of the night.  What can she do?  How can she allow Mary to wed Hugh, when she herself cannot stop longing for him? But, how can she give Mary up to the disgusting Count of Thiercy, he of the dreaded fleur-de-lis country?

Lord Hugh….Lord Hugh…Eleanor gazes out her window at the forest…how can she resolve this dilemma?

Fall to Grace - Susan Bien Susan Bien's debut novel takes off at breakneck speed and never relents. FALL FROM GRACE is a real page-turner, filled with insider details on international investment banking, the A-life in New York City's "Masters of the Universe" world, and layers upon layers of insight into the way we live our own lives from a surprisingly artistic perspective. Throughout, Bien's voice is smart, razor-sharp incisive, and witty. Comments from her characters are often hilarious head-snappers, such as, "My mom loves everybody. I swear she'd let Saddam Hussein spend the night if he had nowhere else to go." Bien knows this world, and her vivid details and her characters' perceptive observations make the story jump to life off the page. This book is highly recommended to anyone who wants an insider view into this world - and to anyone who is struggling with the meaning of life on many levels. Bien's conclusion is a game-changer and worth the read.
The Chemistry of Fate - Meradeth Houston What a rollicking, soaring read! I don't usually read paranormal YA, so this well-written book was a welcome surprise! Houston's lyrical descriptions of the setting and vivid details about the characters really made the book come alive and seem normal – not even paranormal – but grounded in reality. Carefully constructing her evocative images, the author actually makes it easy to believe that characters can grow wings and have a supernatural existence in a parallel world. The alternating points of view were engaging and added to the believability of the plot. To give everything up for love is an admirable motive, and when Ari loses her wings for love of Tom, it is transformational, indeed. If you're not sure about paranormal, I encourage you to give THE CHEMISTRY OF FATE a test flight – and you won't even need wings!
Carl Hubbell: A Biography of the Screwball King - Lowell L. Blaisdell If you love and respect the game of baseball and all its intricacies and nuances, you will thoroughly enjoy CARL HUBBELL: A BIOGRAPHY OF THE SCREWBALL KING, by Lowell Blaisdell. Reading Blaisdell’s self-deprecatory prologue could make a reader concerned that there really wasn’t enough information about Hubbell to write a biography, but, all fears are allayed once the book begins. Rather, it seems that Blaisdell’s training as a university history professor led him to be extremely circumspect and realistic about the amount of research he was able to do, especially considering that the media and the press weren’t as visible and as intrusive in Hubbell’s time as they are in the present. The achievements of Carl Hubbell, modest southpaw from Oklahoma, resonate today, even with the changes in the game, which Blaisdell has rigorously documented. To strike out five Hall of Famers in a row in an All-Star game and to have an ERA of 0.0 in a World Series game boggle the mind. Imagine striking out Babe Ruth on a called strike![return]Blaisdell does a thoroughly-documented and insightful job of describing the way the game was played in the 1930’s and 1940’s, such as how the MLB owners worked on making the baseball heavier with thicker cowhide and raised seams, resulting in fewer home runs and improvements in ERA’s, as well as making it easier for a screwball picture like Hubbell to have greater leverage. Additionally, Blaisdell sketches out how the Depression era changed baseball, as well, resulting in cutting down squads and giving little relief for pitchers. To save money on travel and to try and increase attendance, the emergence of double-headers and the “canceled wet-field games” extended winning streaks for teams, since they could play at home for longer times.[return]The backstory of the wins and losses that Hubbell was involved in is fascinating for its insights into the characters and their motivations and what factors were operating at the time to influence their decisions. Blaisdell supports his contention that Hubbell was a great pitcher by careful analysis and documentation. Blaisdell’s ability to look behind the statistics and re-create the game situations and the methodology that ran them is complemented by his lively writing style. Words and phrases such as “nemesis,” “heartbreaker,” “fierce struggle” add to the feeling of actually watching the game in person for the reader.[return]Carl Hubbell’s achievements are memorable, and Lowell Blaisdell does an excellent job of bolstering his thesis and making the story of this incredible pitching phenomenon memorable as well.
Beyond the Scoreboard: An Insider's Guide to the Business of Sport - Rick Horrow Sports business analyst Rick Horrow’s latest encyclopedic book on the intertwined worlds of sports and business is filled with fascinating details and insider information. Such gems as “Five Sports Television Innovations Fans Can’t Live Without,” “Not Your Father’s Turf: An Iconic American Brand Reinvents From the Ground Up,” and “How They Made Their Money,” a recap of the owners of pro sports teams, are promising fodder for conversations at the sports bar.[return][return]Horrow’s excellent research, his attention to detail, his humorous take on various facets of the tightly-knit relationship between pro sports and business cannot be faulted. With such a grasp of rich details and insights into what makes fans, players, and owners tick, it is a great read for a sports fan who would like to know more about what truly drives the business side of professional sports.[return][return]A more careful organizational schema would have aided readers in surfing the waves of information breaking over them. Within each chapter, a chronological organization would have clarified and even enhanced the impact of the knowledge so deftly assembled by Mr. Horrow. Additionally, the chapters themselves could have benefited from a more logical organization within the book’s overall structure. [return][return]Clearly, Mr. Horrow knows whereof he speaks, and this book is a must-read for the sports fanatic who would like to know insider information about this multi-billion dollar industry and the intricate and Byzantine machinations that comprise its astounding hold on the American psyche.
Take Time for Paradise: Americans and Their Games - A. Bartlett Giamatti;Jon Meacham The late former Major League Baseball Commissioner and Yale President A. Bartlett Giamatti has written an elegant and philosophical dissertation on the integral relationship of baseball and American life and leisure. Jacques Barzun once wrote that “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball,” and Giamatti’s excellent analysis of the spirit of American independence intertwined with the strong sense of community in our leisure time gives credence to that observation.[return]As sports fans, all of us have jumped to our feet in the midst of a game or performance. Giamatti’s insights into why that happens demonstrate the depth of his far-ranging thought. He writes, “And when in the midst of that free time activity a person on the field or fairway, rink, floor, or track, performs an act that surpasses – despite his or her evident mortality, his or her humanness – whatever we have seen or heard of or could conceive of doing our selves, then we have witnessed, full-fledged, fulfilled, what we anticipated and what all the repetition in the game strove for, a moment when we are all free of all constraint of all kinds, when pure energy and pure order create an instant of complete coherence. In that instant, pulled to our feet, we are pulled out of ourselves. We feel what we saw, become what we perceived.”[return]Giamatti also does not spare the “cult” of the young athlete in his incisive analysis of leisure and sport and their places in American life. He writes of young star athletes who discover their careers are over: “…there is no place in the general culture for them when they no longer fit in the cult…because no one told them or they refused to believe that there comes an end to running, an end to the cheers, an end to the life lived on the cuff, an end to the endless pleasuring of themselves.” He continues, “Blame or guilt is not the issue. The issue is to warn us against giving over our young as hostages to any powerful social convention, even one as seemingly innocent or pleasurable as sports.” Powerful observations such as these deserve to be read again and again and pondered by everyone, not only those whose careers are in the sports industry. We fans are part and parcel of this phenomenon.[return]In his insightful analysis of the geometry of baseball and its relationship to force and energy, readers who are not die-hard fans of the sport may find the explanation a bit lengthy and repetitive, but for those of us who do truly believe baseball is inextricably interlaced with American life, it rings true and presents another valuable dimension to the almost hypnotic draw of life on the baseball diamond.[return]Baseball fans who spend time musing about the philosophy of baseball and its relationship to life in America today will truly enjoy this book. Sports fans who are more than just the “put the feet up and pop a beer” type of fan will also appreciate Giamatti’s profound analysis and insights into American life and culture. The sad counterpoint to all of this is that Giamatti is no longer with us, and we cannot look forward to more of his beautiful and philosophical observations.
Sam: The One and Only Sam Snead - Al Barkow Jack Nicklaus’s quote on the cover of SAM, THE ONE AND ONLY SAM SNEAD, encapsulates the excellent job done in this biography by famed sportswriter Al Barkow. “…I think you will find that the man behind the simple swing was more complex than most of the public knew.” [return]In this well-researched and entertaining book, Barkow paints a picture of a complicated, gifted athlete, sussing out the subtle influences of Snead’s West Virginia backwoods upbringing and his early experiences as a “country boy” who could play golf far better than the country club set he played with and against. Snead emerges as a Shakespearean tragic character within whose greatest gift lay the seeds of his own destruction – his matchless, rhythmic swing – which, in a world so dramatically different from his own native roots, created preconceptions and expectations that anyone – even with more education and world experience -- would have struggled to overcome and meet.[return]Readers might sometimes wish Barkow’s chronology in the narrative were a bit smoother, but, in order to do justice to a man whose legend is almost larger than life, it had to be difficult to blend the aspects of the golf swing, the daily competitions, the historic tournaments, and the development of Snead’s character in a strictly-adhered-to timeline. For non-golfers, one or two of the detailed descriptions of tournament play might prove to be confusing, but for lovers of the game, they prove fascinating and insightful.[return]Al Barkow’s thorough biography of Sam Snead will be enjoyed by readers who enjoy complex characters as well as the drama of competition in the centuries-old game of golf.