Kate Quinn’s historical fiction novel The Serpent and the Pearl follows the rise of the infamous Borgias to power in Rome. The story begins when the beautiful Giulia Farnese’s world is turned upside down when she finds out her marriage is an utter sham and she is to become Cardinal Borgia’s mistress. Together with her bodyguard Leonello and her cook Carmelina, Giulia enters Borgia’s dangerous world of passion, power and politics. In the midst of corruption and violence, the three companions learn how to play the political games that skyrocketed Borgia to power if they want to survive.
Unlike other historical novels, Giulia is not a helpless heroine. She’s smart, vivacious, and brave. While she starts off as a naïve young girl, once Giulia begins her relationship with Cardinal Borgia and gives birth to a daughter, she starts testing the political waters and putting her quick-witted intelligence to good use. Readers who are looking for a strong female character will be rooting for her from start to finish. Despite the liberties taken with the Borgias’ real-life history, Quinn weaves a compelling tale about the bloody politics that took place in 1492 that keeps readers and history buffs still riveted even today.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Tuesday, January 6th, 2015||No Comments »|
Singer, dancer, and psychic healer Alessandra Belloni takes viewers on a magical journey using theater to explore the healing power roots of the tarantella, which is an Italian folk dance. Belloni explains the dance has roots in the rites of the Maenads, who worshipped the Greek God Dionysus and morphed into a celebration of the Black Madonna in the middle ages. However, no matter the era, the tarantella was used to cure women of depression, malaise, and sexual repression.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Thursday, September 25th, 2014||No Comments »|
Everyone knows the famous artists of the Renaissance: Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, etc. However, unless you’re an art historian, you probably haven’t heard of the female artist Artemisia Gentileshci. In Susan Veerland’s The Passion of Artemisia, the plucky heroine is a decidedly modern woman whom readers can sympathize with. The story begins with a public humiliation as she accuses Agostino Tassi, an assistant in her father’s painting studio in Rome, of raping her. Of course, in Renaissance Italy, no one believes her and instead sides with her rapist.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Thursday, May 1st, 2014||No Comments »|
If you’re sick of the endless snow that’s engulfed the northeast and need a pick-me-up, then make sure you purchase Michael Heatley’s Italy!. This book, which is part of the Small Panorama Series, provides beautiful photographs of famous historical sites and breathtaking images of the Italian countryside.
To make it easier for readers who may not be familiar with Italy or its history, Heatley arranged the chapters by region: northwest Italy and the Ligurian coast, southern Italy and Sicily, central Italy, northeast Italy, and of course, Venice and the Veneto. The introduction also has a map and the book is peppered with fun historical tidbits, which makes it easier for readers to get a sense of the different regions, particularly if they’ve only glossed over Italian history during their school years.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Wednesday, February 19th, 2014||No Comments »|
In her second novel called Song of the Nile, Cleopatra Selene II is older, more feisty, and is determined to get her hands on her birthright: her mother’s Egypt. In order to return to her home, Selene has turned herself into Emperor Augustus Caesar’s (formally known as Octavian) most unlikely apprentice. However, when she’s forced into a marriage with Juba II, the King of Mauretania, Selene uses her status as a religious icon and the magic of the Egyptian Goddess Isis to turn her new kingdom into a prosperous land. Despite the backdrop of religious persecution from Rome, Selene must wrestle with her ambition and her desire to live free from the Emperor. She may love Egypt and want to re-claim her birthright, but first Selene has to decide if it’s worth it to risk her soul.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Saturday, December 14th, 2013||No Comments »|