Monday, October 31, 2016

I am the Chosen King by Helen Hollick

Harold Godwinson has been raised around power. As the Earl of East Anglia and brother to the queen during Edward's reign, Harold commands much respect. Known to be a good warrior, a faithful lord and a good husband, his life seems fairly easy, except the familial relationships. Tracing his life from his early adulthood to death, readers see Harold as a man.

Hollick's books are always a treat and this one is no different. Harold is a great hero; a man of his word who loves his family. His family is also nicely done, some of his chief rivals are his brothers.  I enjoyed watching Harold grow and do his duty, even when it was difficult. Though this book is labeled as #2 in the series, I think it's a perfect stand alone as well. Readers will be swept away to the rough English countryside and rue the day they heard of William. 

I purchased this book from Amazon.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Written in the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zant Review and Exerpt

Hannah, a simple shepardess, living with her father is kidnapped by slavers and sold in Alexandria. She is bought by Tarek, who is living with his mentor and father figure, Alizar. She is nursed back to health and soon finds a new family within Alizar's walls. Though she longs for her freedom, she is learning at the Alexandria library and singing for patrons. As the battle for Alexandria heats up, Hannah finds herself in the middle of it.

This book was really good. It has all the elements of fantasy; magical tablets, pagan rituals, and science all intersect. This book also deals with life and love. The characters were realistic. The plot, even though I knew the some of the ending, was excellent and kept me very engaged. I loved the blending of Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures portrayed in Alexandria. I highly recommend this book.


This excerpt is continued from 100 Pages A Day on Oct 26th.
Alizar lowered his voice. “Are you well?”
Hannah nodded. “Tired. The pain of my past haunts me. I see the faces of the dead: my father, Suhaila, the girl in the market, the ox driver on the road. How is it you remain so elevated after all you have been through, Alizar? You have lost a son and two wives, yet you seem so full of faith in the future.”
Alizar closed his eyes against the sun. “Hannah,” he began slowly, “as a shepherd you have within you a sense of the natural world and its forces that the people of Alexandria cannot even imagine. In this way, you have something even greater than faith because you have an understanding of your place in the family of things, whereas I cling to my cumbersome instruments and my incomplete maps, always unsure. My faith in the future, if you can call it that, stems from knowing that whatever trial I face is my teacher. Resistance takes energy, you see. Better to just surrender to the greater forces that brought us this birth.” Alizar licked his rough lips and looked up at the sky, running a hand through his matted hair. “At my age, Hannah, I have seen that even my mistakes were the right path, so I do not worry so much about making them anymore. But I do make an effort to keep some fuel in the lantern, so to speak. You must laugh in the face of adversity. In the end, humor is the greatest weapon against the pain. The dead are gone. One day we will join them, every one of us. It is the way of things.” Alizar touched Hannah’s shoulder to reassure her.
Hannah smiled weakly, looking out over the sea of palm trees dancing in the scorching breeze, and then she turned back to Alizar. There was a question she had been meaning to ask him. “In the time I have lived in your home, Alizar, I have seen you come and go from many different churches and synagogues. But what god do you pray to?”
Alizar smiled and stretched his arms overhead as Jemir scored three tips in his game and howled in victory, his elbows thrust out in a quirky chicken dance. “Why, I pray to them all, Hannah,” he said.
Hannah made a face. “You cannot pray to them all,” she said flatly.
“Oh, but I do,” said Alizar, a playful look in his eyes. “You see, the one God, the Great I Am of Moses, is a radiant mystery, like a light that is too bright to look upon. And so we interpret that light through colored glass, a bit like the dome in the Great Library. Each color is a name we give it: Yahweh, Ahura Mazda, Krishna, Isis, Poseidon, Demeter, Elohim, Shakti, Shekinah. It is as though we can only describe that much greatness by naming it in part. By definition, I think God, or Goddess, must be beyond our intellectual sciences, and even religions, the same way geometry is beyond what a fish can ever comprehend.”
Hannah folded her arms. “If what you say is true, then for the Egyptians, Seth and Osiris would be the same, but that cannot be, as one is evil and one is good.”
Alizar smiled. “You are right. Osiris and Seth are as opposite as day and night. But day and night have something subtle in common, do they not?”
“They have nothing in common.”
“But they do. Day and night are events of the sky. Now the sun. Now the stars. Now the moonlight. They sky does not say, ‘Oh, the sun is leaving and I cannot abide the night’s return. I think I shall just be day from now on.’ So when I say I pray to all the gods, I do. They are each a necessary aspect of the formless God.”
“So you are a pagan, then?”
“You ask me if I am pagan, I say yes. You ask me if I am Christian, I say yes. You ask me to which religion I adhere, I answer that I adhere to any religion that has love as its foundation, truth as its windows, faith as its door. Anything less is drawing lines in the sand. How should we decide where to draw those lines? I draw one here, you draw one there. We erect cities, and we defend the lines, and many innocent people die. For what? For God? God has no boundaries. God knows no separation. We are the ones who imagine separation. For us, Hannah, there is leaving God in birth, and there is returning to God in death, and in between there is only this breath. Whatever the religious interpretation, I believe it is the breath of the Goddess of life itself.”
“Are you not afraid of the Parabolani?”
“I have no fear of the Parabolani or the bishop. If they kill me, they will kill only a man.” Alizar smiled, quite satisfied with himself.
The angel turned, listening.
This excerpt continues at StoreyBook Reviews on Oct. 28th.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tidewater by Libbie Hawker

Pocahontas is the young spoiled lowborn daughter of Powhatan. John Smith, the commoner and former slave, now the leader of the settlers in Jamestown. They form a bond, each trying to keep the peace while not betraying their group. Told from the perspective of the Native Americans, this book tells the side of history commonly forgotten.

I really enjoyed Hawker's previous books, and I found that I enjoyed this one just as much. Pocahontas is a spoiled girl full of dreams of power and knowledge, but she is very lovable. I enjoyed watching her mature and admit her failings. I also liked her loyalty to both her tribe and her adopted brother. I hated how her story ends, but you can't change the past. The scenery is beautiful and raw at parts, but life was raw too. This book is wonderful and leaves the reader wanting more, while rethinking history.


Monday, October 24, 2016

I am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith

At fourteen, Livia Drusilla is politically astute. Overhearing her father plot to assassinate Julius Cesar, she knows that politics are life and death. She is married off to a patrician and ally of her father, Tiberius Claudius Nero. Though the marriage wasn't of her choosing, Livia finds a small measure of happiness even through fleeing political strife. But Octavius, the heir to Julius Cesar's political fortune, must have Livia as his wife. Life as the wife of Rome's most esteemed politician can be draining, but Livia thrives.

This book shows off the softer side of the scorned woman, later known as Julia Augusta. Taking her from a young age to the beginning of the golden age, it shows a woman who cares for her family and Rome. I enjoyed watching her rise to the top of Rome, especially as a woman and one who had been on the losing side of history. The book is very full of plotting!

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Man's Word by Martin Jensen

Once again sent by King Cnut to investigate loyalty; Halfdan, Winston and Alfilda find themselves in Thetford's busy fair & market. Their host, a wealthy farmer is going to court to accuse a thane of assaulting his slave girl. The thane lies, and the case is dismissed. Angry words are spoken, and the thane is found dead the next morning. A trail of lies and bodies begins stacking up for the crime solving trio.

This case is the most complex case for Halfdan, Winston and Alfilda to date. The politics seems to really be pushing in on this case. The women are left out of court proceedings and the chances for Halfdan to regain his standing seem to be improving. This leaves our characters in a bit of a pinch to quickly solve this case. I loved the interaction and freshness Alfilda brings to the book. The book is really well written and enjoyable.

I purchased this book from Amazon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Oathbreaker by Martin Jensen

Halfdan and Winston the Illuminator are given a job by King Cnut to seek out any ill feelings in the North. On their way North, a monk is murdered and his hand is severed while praying after a heated argument between the two sects of monks. The murder case is assigned to Winston and Halfdan, who quickly realize the case is not as simple as they thought.

This is the second book in the King's Hound series and its a bit slower paced, but still very good. This mystery took me a bit longer to solve out that the first. The politics and history blend seamlessly in his whodunit mystery. I enjoyed watching Halfdan grow and I really grew to love Alfilda.

I purchased this book from Amazon here.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The 13th Tale by Diane Setterfield

The reclusive author Vida Winter scandalized readers when she released a collection of 13 tales that only included 12. Now, at the end of her life, she longs for the truth and commissions Margaret Lea to write her biography. Margaret, feeling the pain of secrecy within her family, finds a kindred spirit in Ms. Winter. As Margaret pulls the truth from Ms. Winter, the truth becomes crazier.

This book isn't like most of the books I've read. A story within a story is the most accurate description. I loved how Margaret and Ms. Winter were so different, but were alike in many ways. I enjoyed sleuthing along with Margaret, as well. This was a really good book and I enjoyed it a lot.

I purchased this book from Amazon here.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Thinara King by Rebecca Lochlann

I got these out of order.
The Thinara King, second novel in the Bronze age of the Child of the Erinyes series starts with Chrysaleon winning the hand of Adriela and the title of Zagreus. Wishing to delay meeting his end, he plots to use an old prophecy to take over Crete and rule with Adriela at his side. When Crete suffers the double tragedies of a earthquake and tsunami, as well as an invasion by a spurned competitor, Adriela's throne and dignity are taken from her as she is kept captive. Adriela must fight: for her life, her home and her husband.

This novel really springs to life. The action takes on a deeper meaning as Adriela grows from a child to a woman and queen. The love triangle starts to deepen and things really heat up. This is a fantastic read! 5 stars!

I read all three of the Child of Erinyes in a three part kindle book I purchased from Amazon here.

Monday, October 10, 2016

In the Moon of Asterion by Rebecca Lochlann

In the final portion of the Bronze age period of this six part masterpiece, Chrysaleon seems to be winning. Menoetius has been chosen to be Chrysaleon's cabal, setting in motion Chrysaleon's takeover of Crete and 8 year rule. But just as things fall together, they fall apart. In the final pages and days of this story, history is made.

Wow, this is how you end! The plot twists and turns like Crete's famous labyrinth. This book is mesmerizing. I can't wait to see what the next lives have to offer for our cast of characters. This end of this portion of the novel is heartbreaking and awesome. Fabulous!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Year God's Daughter by Rebecca Lochlann

Princess Aridela of Crete enjoys her mother's peaceful reign. The spoiled younger daughter who brings a smile to everyone's face is destined to be the High Priestess, despite rumors that she would be a better queen than her older sister. Two half brothera from another land come to Crete with a secret mission to overthrow Crete and subjugate her goddess Athene and the yearly sacrifice of the king, only one has Adriela's best interest at heart.

What seems the end is only the beginning. I loved this line. Loved, loved, loved this book. The book is enticing, rich and mesmerizing. I can't say enough good things about it. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Katherine by Anya Seton

Katherine de Roet was raised in an abbey, but comes to the court of Edward II. There she is unhappily married to a uncouth knight attached to John of Gaunt. After nursing Blanche, the Duchess of Lancaster in her final days, she catches the eye of John and they begin a love affair. Their love story is captured in this classic historical fiction novel.

This is the first Anya Seton book I've read. You can tell it's an older book, but the language isn't terrible. The story flowed nicely, and I felt like I knew Katherine better than I did before. This classic historical fiction book is well worth the read.