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The Secret of the Glass by Donna Russo Morin
The Secret of the Glass

Mirella, April 26, 2010

Italian Historical Fiction at its best!

For centuries, the talented Murano glassmakers of Venice have been distinguished and honoured. Their secrets to glassmaking closely guarded, their prized products highly sought after. Now, author Donna Russo Morin, has penned a novel that sweeps the reader into the 17th century world and lives of these secretive, revered artisans.

The Venetian government highly protects its glassmakers, their factories, and their families, for this is what brings wealth and fame to La Serenissima. Venetian law forces them to live on the island of Murano, their movements closely guarded. When three glassmakers secretly try to flee their restrictive life, they are found murdered. No one can escape these restrictions.

Sophia Fiolario is the eldest daughter of a wealthy glassmaker who has no sons to inherit his highly successful factory. Sophia has a special bond with her father and is passionate about the art of glassmaking. But women are prohibited from learning the mysteries of this highly classified art. It is considered a crime and the penalties are severe and destructive. It can ruin their family and the carefully cultivated reputation of their factory. Sophia has learned the art covertly from her father, the truth of which they must keep highly guarded, even from their own family.

A marriage is arranged between Sophia and an elder impoverished nobleman who will inherit the glass factory upon Sophia’s father’s death. The family cannot refuse even though the nobleman is cruel and uncaring. Sophia knows it will mean an end to the idyllic life she knows and the end to her furtive glassmaking ventures. While in the throes of the loveless betrothal, Sophia encounters one man who opens her heart and holds the key to her future happiness.

Donna Russo Morin has written a majestic novel, breathtaking in its prose, and sweeping in its scope, about 17th century Venice at the height of its glory. What left me most in awe about this novel, was the highly detailed descriptions of the scenery, streets, architecture and famous people like Galileo himself. It literally transports you to Venice with all its beautiful sights.

The characters had depth and realism with scores of emotions. I literally fell into the story as if I lived and breathed the same air as Sophia and her family and friends. From its festivals and government, life in Venice is masterfully rendered. Ms. Morin is a master storyteller and this is one of best written novels of Venice I have ever read. For lovers of Venetian history, or aficionados of the 17th century, this is one novel worth reading. But you’ll have to wait a little. The novel is scheduled for release early in 2010.
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Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran

Mirella, April 15, 2010

In Narbonne, France, in the year 1320, a midwife and her apprentice aid a woman in the desperate throes of childbirth. The baby lies trapped in her belly and the mother is faced with a terrible decision – cut the baby from her belly or both she and the child will die. But when the child is sprung from the womb, it is evident there is something amiss with the child who is born with unnaturally white skin and odd-coloured eyes. Believing the child is from the devil, the apprentice flees with the newborn to the river where she cuts out the baby’s tongue, silencing it from ever speaking the devil’s words.

Mute, Auda grows to womanhood in a time fraught with the dangers of the Inquisition. Her father, a scribe, skilled in the new art of papermaking, teaches her to read and write. Writing affords her an escape from the realities of her harsh life, giving voice to the thoughts she cannot speak. She aids him in producing the paper which is more affordable than parchment. Whenever he takes her out into the world, she is careful to cover her albino skin with hood and mantle for fear of catching the attention of the Inquisitors.

When their new art of papermaking comes to the attention of the vicomtesse, she takes Auda into her household as her personal scribe. Auda's newfound independence leads her into trouble, however, when she is accosted by a mob who believe she is a witch. A young artist comes to her rescue and love soon blossoms between them.

As Auda’s writing grows bolder, the vicomtesse encourages her, even though her work is considered heretical and in support of the intelligence and power of women. But the arms of the Inquisition are long and Auda and her father find themselves captured, facing a bleak, almost incomprehensible fate at their hands.

Watermark is the poignant, multi-faceted tale of a mute albino woman who must navigate a path in a world fraught with intolerance, suspicion, and fear. Vivid with description and details, from the very first chapter, the reader finds themselves immersed in the story. The art of papermaking has been carefully researched and described, relaying a strong understanding of how paper replaced parchment and ultimately changed writing and reading forever. The terror brought by the Church and the Inquisition, is also a major source of conflict within the novel and is believably represented.

But it is the heart-rending tale of a horribly disadvantaged young woman that is at the true heart of this story. Papermaking and scribing offer consolation to her muteness and state as an albino, which force her to live in seclusion and on the fringes of a society who will never accept her. Through vivid language and in depth descriptions, Vanitha Sankaran nudges the emotion and credibility out of the story, making the reader truly understand the complexities of this turbulent era through the thoughts, dialogues, and actions of her characters.

Watermark is a delightful, engaging tale about determination, perseverance, love, and forgiveness.
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Pope Joan by Donna Woolfol Cross
Pope Joan

Mirella, October 13, 2009

Pope Joan is one of those remarkable novels that evokes images of a spectacular time and period. Pope Joan's achievements, in the face of social oppression against women punishable by death, are remarkable, even in today's world. How a impoverished child, abused, ignored, and trod upon, achieved the greatest throne in Christendom is truly a marvel. But that is not the only reason why this story is so endearing. It is the impeccable research and details into the Dark Ages that makes this novel resound with vibrancy.

The novel is rich with intrigue, murderous plots, deadly secrets, adversity, religious zealots, and power mongers. Add to this, a secondary plot of love and loss, and you have a tale that is truly riveting. It is no wonder the novel will soon be made into a major motion picture.
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(2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
Cleopatra's Daughter

Mirella, October 13, 2009

In this third novel by author, Michelle Moran, the reader is swept from the pyramids of Egypt into the glory of Rome. Cleopatra's daughter, Selene, is the narrative voice of the novel as she journeys into the year 30 B.C. and the decadence of the Eternal City.

The novel is geared to appeal to a wider audience, which includes young adults. Thus most readers will find this novel a smooth, comfortable read. Nevertheless, it packs a mighty punch. The strength of this novel is not only found in its intricate details of architecture, art, sport, fashions, and politics of the time, but is also rich with court intrigues and brutalities of the Roman Empire when it was at its peak.

For lovers of historical fiction, Michelle Moran's books never disappoint, and this novel is no exception. Filled with grand details and numerous emotional scenes, the reader is immersed in the times, so accurately and confidently portrayed. A hgihly recommended read.

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