Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Fire Dance- Helen Tursten ~ Return to Goteborg, Sweden

Irene Huss is a favorite of mine as is the Goteborg Sweden setting and this book did not disappoint. The author has aged her characters gently and appropriately with enjoyable status updates on their present activities. Even Sammie the dog is enjoying life as much as he did when I last visited the family.

Aiding the readjustment was a split timeframe for the mystery, two or more mysteries were taking place over a fifteen years period. A child was suspected of knowledge of a crime but was protected by family and child protective service workers. Fast forwarding over those years we meet the young woman who was the child Sophie as a victim of a violent murder. Was she a victim or merely a disturbed child who grew up in a terribly dysfunctional family?

Sophie's mother, brother, father and other family members definitely warranted Inspector Huss' attention. She is accused of spying, trespassing and causing bodily harm to at least one member of this family. At the same time her husband developed amnesia and her twin daughters add their own distractions to her successful policing of the case.

The ending was unexpected but well done. Helen Tursten knows how to weave a plot successfully and to maneuver her characters in a believable manner. I received a review copy from NetGalley and am quite glad I did.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Stark and Dramatic

So very excited to be able to review this long anticipated work by  this excellent author.. The book was riveting and of course I was barely able to put it down after I had started. Philippa Gregory's version of the day to day life of Elizabeth of York was stark and dramatic to say the very least.

Henry VII is more obsessed than I could have imagined with the various Pretenders to the throne.Since he is essentially a Pretender himself, this is a bit puzzling. That he was not a good husband to the Princess Elizabeth was not something I had expected, although I don't know why.
His mother and he were known to be controlling and cold and he surely was that. The fact that he put to death or imprisoned many,if not most of Elizabeth's relatives should have been a clue.

Gregory's belief is that a love had grown between Henry and his wife which his strange behavior eventually extinguished. I found that especially poignant and sad and I grieved for Elizabeth. She seems to have had a warmer relationship with her mother and siblings and her cousin Margaret which is a comfort. She adored her children and she had a comfortable life as Queen of England.

Gregory is such a superb writer that all of those things really mattered to me as I read it. It definitely was not just a story but gripped the heart. A must read!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

COLOSSUS The Four Emperors ~ A trip to ancient Rome

David Blixt did a masterful job with word pictures of Rome and the Romans  in a troubled period. I agreed to review this fine book for a blog tour although it is not my usual epoch to read. What a surprise and a delight to find characters who leapt off the page and engaged my imagination. My three years of high school Latin and Junior Classical League also served me in good stead, although I surely learned things about Nero that Miss Cooper never shared with us.

Nero's suicide threw the Empire into the first Civil War in just about 100 years, surely the result of his erratic and despotic rule, which prompted many Senators to declare him an enemy of the State. Enter Galba, then Otho and finally Vitellius who was a disaster. Each of them had their supporters, regions and Legions to back them, albeit briefly. The gens Vespasia which Blixt embodies as not one but three men named Titus Flavius Sabinus, I,II and III, emerges from this unrest as a steadfast family who serve the Empire well.

The book begins with the younger brother of Titus Flavius Sabinus the eldest being named as general of the war in Judea. Several Christian  executions such as Symeon ben Jonah, Marcus and Saul of Tarsus  also feature prominently in the opening chapters and their remaining friends and family appear throughout in sympathetic fashion. Cultures begin to mesh together in a  time of civil unrest

Eventful  and sometimes brutal events transpire throughout the telling of this tale  which is not always my preferred choice of novels but such were the times. Ritual suicide, which surprised me to read of was explained by the Roman belief of a "good death" being as important as a life well lived.

The family Vespasian had it's ups and downs but remained essentially true to one another, with the possible exception of Sabinus Major who had a serious case of sibling envy. The book closes with Vespasian being chosen as Emperor by the Senate in December 69 after being declared by the armies in Egypt and Judea in July of that year. This family prevailed and ruled the Roman Empire until 96 AD.
About the AuthorAuthor and playwright David Blixt's work is consistently described as "intricate," "taut," and "breathtaking." A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS'D series, including THE MASTER OF VERONA, VOICE OF THE FALCONER, and FORTUNE'S FOOL) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY'S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history. As the Historical Novel Society said, "Be prepared to burn the midnight oil. It's well worth it." Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, David describes himself as "actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order."

For more about David and his novels, visit

Sunday, October 6, 2013

871 AD Mercia and the Danish Invasion

I very much enjoyed The Circle of Ceridwen and the time or history it illuminated. Historical novels that verify the times and people utilizing the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle appeal greatly to me. Ceridwen was mostly a believable character although some of her life choices seemed improbable.

The Danish invasions are important reading to me on several levels, and this time period especially so,as it lays a framework for when the Normans began to come to England.

"A.D. 871. This year came the army to Reading in Wessex;there was much slaughter on either hand, ; but the Danes kept possession of the field"

Such was the time that Octavia Randolph wrote about and Ceridwen lived. It seems accurate and believable to me and times, people and places all developed extremely well.

I plan to go now and purchase the other two books in the series as I am missing my daily trips into Essex and Mercia

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Martin Jensen ~ The King's Hounds

This is the first title of Martin Jensen's to be released in English and I am sure it will not be the last.The title the "King's Hounds" is a play on words that suggests the probability of further mysteries to be solved, as does King Cnut's making such a comment. The Translator is very much to be congratulated as the book was amusing and entertaining.

King Cnut Sweynsson is recently crowned and has convened a combined meeting of the Witenagemot and Danish Ting to bring his varied peoples together in Oxford. Winston the Illuminator, who grew up in a monastery, is summoned by the Lady Ælfgifu the Mistress of Northampton to paint King Cnut. Enroute he encounters Halfdan of Oakthorpe a dispossessed Saxon whose father and older brother had been killed at the Battle of Assundun fighting the Danes.

Winston and Halfdan encounter each other on the way to Oxford and join forces. Halfdan is hungry and Winston is unprotected and their mutual needs work well together. Their first encounter leads them to the later mystery they are commissioned to unravel.

I was very happy to have been able to read this for a review. I recommend it highly for historical mystery as well as medieval period historical novels.