Saturday, July 15, 2017

Red Rose White Rose- Joanna Hickson - Keep reading!!

This was a very good book, well researched and written and I enjoyed it. My only problem was that I could not get "into it" for a long time due to the quite blatant fictional aspects of the book. Yes, I understand it was a novel. Let's go right to the point,though, and say she did not have an adult brother named Cuthbert, and that it is extremely doubtful that Cecily Neville had an illicit physical affair with a fairly close relative.

So what would have been a 5 star book for me sort of melted down to maybe 3.75. I almost did not finish it but I am very glad that I did. Once I got going on it, I could not put it down. The historical details were mostly excellent and the last half of the book was a delight. 

Except that Cecily had no such adult brother, the role of Cuthbert as "other voice" worked very well. Perhaps he could have been a well depended on squire so there was not SO much fiction but he lent credence to the "unseen" things we needed to hear about Cecily and Richard's life.

I do recommend this book to those who admire this part of the Plantagenet family and just say.."keep reading" as it is certainly worthwhile! 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sins of Inheritance- Maureen Ash - Nicolaa de la Haye gets it done ~ 4 Stars

This is a series I have enjoyed for years, this one was not my all time favorite but it was still quite enjoyable. There were at least two mysteries involved in this story: one was involving King John, the second was about a long missing Sicilian boy, and third was an unrelated mystery of a family of drapers with an illegitimacy over generations which culminated in a murder.

The Medieval Lincoln and its historical atmosphere of the series is just right, but sometimes the characters do not spring to life. Nicolaa de la Haye, hereditary castellan of Lincoln castle, and her husband Gerard de Camville, Sheriff of Lincoln always are credible, this book is no exception. Gianni could be a bit more colorful as could the Templar.

If there is another outing I will be glad to read it. Recommended for historical mystery Medieval fans.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Roman Woman: Everyday Life in Hadrian's Britain - Lindsay Allason-Jones ~ Summa Cum Laude ~ 5 Stars

Such a wonderful book, I put everything aside to read this one and wish I could find another. I am sort of obsessed with accurate stories about Roman Britain that make the characters feel contemporary and I feel this one did just that.

Senovara the female protagonist is a hard working person from an earlier time who, nonetheless, has motives and feelings that I could identify with. I saw reviews that said it was not a romance or a mystery but perhaps it was a little of both? 

I say that because even with the cultural constraints on marriage, Senovara and Quintus had a great deal of love for each other and their respective families. The story ends with Senovara "adjusting herself to fit more comfortably against Quintus' rough tunic.

Mystery is surely there with the military wives learning how to interact with other cultures both as marital partners and their friends and peers. Mysterious also is what gods were answering their prayers as they would speak them. In some cases the wives were more sophisticated but often the men as we read about the eclipse and it's portents.

My 3 years of high school Latin and my degree in anthropology has made me appreciate who we are and where we came from over many centuries. Latin and the Romans have shone an everlasting spotlight back in time for all of us. I hated for this book to end. Summa Cum Laude Lindsay Allason-Jones

Friday, June 23, 2017

The First Queen of England - MJPorter ~ Will look for more~

 I rounded this up to 4 stars..maybe 3.75 or so, and the reason is, I felt the characters were not as developed as they could have been. Elfrida was pretty much ruled by her passions,especially for Edgar, and I am not sure that did her justice. She was after all an important figure as Queen and Dowager Queen for many years, but it was a novel after all.

M.J.Porter, in his quite excellent historical note, probably explains this, as he says that: first, it is the least historical novel he has written and, secondly, that he usually focuses on men in this period. The author bases most of his sources on contemporary accounts, which is good. He also says that were he to write a sequel it would be of Elfrida and be ten years later.

Edgar,known as 'The Peaceful', although we did not get into much of this in this tale, was the first King of all England. He built a very large navy and kept the Danes from pillaging as well as keeping peace in the Danelaw. Shires and Hundreds were briefly mentioned as he met with his Eldermen as well as his and his Queen's support of monastic reform. 

He died at only 33 years of age but I think there were some very good years that could be part of a sequel or two. Overall I did like the book and am going to look at others this prolific writer had penned.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Beyond Absolution - Cora Harrison ~ Preorder this great mystery ~

So I stayed up late finishing it as I could tell it was going to end badly for some.."Noli respicere post tergum"  says Mother Aquinas.." Do not look back"..

It was a riveting book in so many ways for me..first I continually marvel that my great Uncle Patrick and family lived in that part of Cork at that exact time..well  Uncle Patrick died in 1907, his son in 1913 and his wife and daughter in 1921 but his granddaughters were still living at Little Cross Street. Secondly that so very many experienced those hardships that went on and on.. Great Uncle Patrick's  two older sons got themselves to New York and New Jersey well before that.

It was a complex but extremely interesting plot which slowly resolved itself, but not without some tragedy. A murder in the Confessional of a beloved priest had so very  many ramifications, which the fight for a Republic complicated, as did personal greed and ideology.

So now we readers and followers of Reverend Mother and her entourage will be waiting and wondering what will happen. Will Reverend Mother have a debilitating illness and she mentions her age? Will Inspector Patrick recover, and what role will Eileen be playing in future  and will they collaborate. I wish I knew but for sure you need to preorder this copy now.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC.

The Devil's Cup - A Hawkenlye Medieval Mystery - Alys Clare ~ Last of a successful series ~

"September, 1216. A foreign army has invaded England. The country is divided.King John summons Sir Josse d'Acquin to support him."

I received an ARC of this book from Severn House via NetGalley for a review. I have read all of the Hawkenlye Mysteries and review many. I give the book 4.5 stars and did very much enjoy it, although the mystery was a bit more contrived and slow than it maybe needed to be.

That being said, if this is the last Heloise mystery, it is wonderful that most of the characters are well and settled at the end. It was a good ending to a long series, if that is the case. 

"Sir Josse d'Aquin is summoned to assist the beleaguered King John in the 17th - and final - Hawkenlye mystery." 

Ah.. that is what it says..Maybe one more peek in a few years? How will Meggie do? How will Heloise and Josse do in their declining years? Who will join the family in the future - and importantly how will Hawkenlye Abbey fare?

 The book will be out in late July so you have lots of time to start reading other books in the series so that you too are able to really appreciate this final mystery. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Raven's Widow, A Novel of Jane Boleyn - Adrienne Dillard ~ Dramatic, Sympathetic, Well Done ~

What a great effort to reconstruct the historical facts available to us; Adrienne Dillard's fine research has made Jane Parker Boleyn a sympathetic as well as dramatic figure. I applaud her for that and totally agree; a 10 year marriage, where Jane cohabited with George Boleyn and lived in the court supports this hypothesis.

There are many people who were players in, and victims of, Henry VIII 's cruel narcissistic rampage through his reign who deserve our sympathies. Jane apparently was one such and I am sure that Mary Boleyn and her children were also. Adrienne's fine first novel "Cor Rotto" sheds light on Mary Boleyn's life after Henry though her daughter Catherine Carey Knollys. 

This novel has even more depth, character development as well as giving readers historical vignettes back and forth in time. A very fine Author's note take us through the known facts, including many that were unknown until fairly recently. 

Jane Boleyn was, and is, a tragic figure of course; who would not be who was executed in this time? What the author has done is to make her a vivid and believable heroine who was resilient for as long as she could be. I look for more by this fine author.

Recommended for fans of those affected by Henry VIII and other novels in this turbulent era. 5 Stars.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Catherine Carey - History In a Nutshell Series - Adrienne Dillard ~ Great Small Book ~

4.5 stars..A very nice small book by an author I follow now; I am also reading The Raven's Widow. I got right into this one and finished overnight, Mary Boleyn and her children are favorites of mine.

I am hopeful that Catherine, Henry and Mary 's lives were mostly good and this author does also. The Jane Boleyn book tells me that she is sympathetic to Henry VIII's victims and has searched for the good times of their lives to share. I am very hopeful that Adrienne Dillard continues with this effort and this family. Henry Carey's life would be wonderful to illustrate and I adore Robert Carey also.

There was a confusing part in the middle about the number of children. It seemed the author was going to list them after an ": " but then a narrative ensued, which did list them but not in a list. Other than that I have no complaints and am hoping for more.

Adrienne Dillard provides fine historical detail which backs up her hypotheses and I recommend this book for others who read about this troubled time. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Huntsman's Tale - Ann Swinfen - Book 3 is charming~

"Oxford, Late Summer 1353. 
Hearing that his cousin is short-handed for the harvest, Nicholas Elyot takes a group of friends back to the family farm to help. When a deer hunt ends in tragedy, suspicion is directed toward the huntsman, a friend of Nicholas."

This is a great series and the ending makes me hopeful that it will continue. A trifle slow perhaps in the beginning but it picked up speed and barreled towards the exciting ending.

Nicholas and his coterie are fun to read about and he seems to help them to be more "well-rounded" in their lives. Will Philip decide to make his family life permanent although it may impact on his life? Will Nicholas' workers continue to have their lives better?

Additionally this period of the 14th Century after the Black Death has been illuminated very well, and presented a prime setting for the crime that Nicholas and his friend Jordain encounter. It is very well documented historically and that perhaps is the best part.

Recommended to all lovers of historical novels, especially those in Medieval times. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Great Ladies:The Forgotten Witnesses to the Lives of Tudor Queens - Sylvia Barbara Soberton - Informative Read ~

This was a fine read, a bit heavy on Elizabeth I and known facts, but I enjoyed knowing about the interactions with Katherine Carey Knollys and others. Some little known interactions were mentioned which I appreciated reading about. 

There were other less remarked upon vignettes, such as the brief life of Mary Seymour daughter of Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour, that were the reason I decided to read the book.

I definitely have noted the other books by this author and will be acquiring them also. I am giving it 4 + Stars and definitely will recommend it to others

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Bear and the Wolf - Ruth Downie & S.J.A. Turney ~ Such a Treat ~

Very happily I stumbled upon this short novel by favorite author Ruth Downie and SJA (Simon) Turney while looking for some Anglo Saxon books. I did not realize there was such a book, but was very glad that she and Simon Turney had another collaboration. ( see " The Year of Ravens")

Here it is:"A short story of love and danger on the empire's most hostile frontier..from two acclaimed authors of Historical Fiction "
It read like a full length novel with depth of character and plot as well as very accurate historical detail. A quite marvelous authors' note tells of "Prince" Caracalla son of the Emperor Severus who was violent and without scruples.

The setting is Vindolanda on Hadrian's Wall, where Senna the main female character's tribe lived within a long day's walk. As a reader who has an anthropology degree and love this era, the landscape was meticulously described. "The Maeatae live next to the cross-wall ,which cuts the island in half", was how it has been explained, which suggests it is not the Antonine Wall .

Brigius, the main male character is Senna's man, of the Votadini tribe and a solider in the Second Nerviorum stationed at Vindolanda. There is a very intricate plot and a complex battle scene which I must reread now to get straight. ( I read too fast) I must also try to figure out which of Senna's family survive this event by rereading the battle.

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Tribute Bride- Theresa Tomlinson - 5 stars- A Great Find and Terrific Read!!

"A flood ruins King Alle’s kingdom. His crops are destroyed and he does not have the necessary grain to pay his yearly tribute to neighbouring war-lord, Aethelfrid. Instead he offers him his daughter, Acha, who, aged 16, must become a peace-weaver bride to the most brutal and feared warrior in the land. "

What a terrific book this was! I found it while starting to reread "A Swarming of Bees" which I loved.. I may have even loved this book more but will know when I finish my reread ( which is the same group of people more or less)

These people from Anglo Saxon Chronicle "A.D. 617. This year was Ethelfrith, king of the Northumbrians,slain by Redwald, king of the East-Angles; and Edwin, the son of Ella, having succeeded to the kingdom, subdued all Britain,except the men of Kent alone, and drove out the Ethelings, the sons of Ethelfrith, namely, Enfrid. Oswald, Oswy, Oslac, Oswood. Oslaf, and Offa"

Mentioning here that Oswald, Oswy and Oslac were his nephews from his sister Acha, these nephews did not go away so this book and "A Swarming of Bees" are must reads!! I just loved the characterization and the historical details were superb. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Girl in the Glass Tower -Elizabeth Freemantle ~Poignant and Sad ~

Arbella Stuart, niece to Mary, Queen of Scots and presumed successor to Elizabeth I, has spent her youth behind the towering windows of Hardwick Hall. As presumed successor to the throne, her isolation should mean protection - but those close to the crown are never safe. 

I received an ARC from Netgalley and Penguin UK for this book for an unbiased review and I would give it above 3 stars so 3.5. I thought that the juxtaposition of Ami the poet's story with Arbella Stuarts's was hard to do well and might have been better with only a few vignettes of Ami. Did it detract from Arbella's character, perhaps?

I have not read a book about Arbella and although she was not a vibrant subject, I appreciated the very fine historical details. Elizabeth Freemantle had a wonderful afterward that really did the trick. Perhaps less of being a "novel" and more of the historical details would have worked for me.

Having said that, I do recommend it to Elizabethan Era lovers and Bess of Hardwick followers. I think the King James era was done quite well. Very poignant. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

On Copper Street: A Victorian Police Procedural - Tom Harper Mystery ~ Chris Nickson ~ Gritty and Gripping!

"Detective Inspector Tom Harper finds answers hard to come by in his latest, most challenging, investigation to date."

Nothing is more satisfying than a Chris Nickson historical police procedural, set in various time periods, in Leeds. Why Leeds? The author says "It's where I was born and raised , and that puts a place in your bones." 

I think there is more than that however. Leeds, in whichever epoch we see here described, exemplifies a time and place that existed and mattered and vanished but not without a trace. Each subsequent era left it's mark upon those who follow, other regular working class men and women, who chose to make their city a good place. 

Why police procedurals? Because good and bad people exemplify all places, and are a necessity to describing a society. Chris Nickson is an accomplished author who writes with a deep sociological perspective of "his" Leeds.

D.I Tom Harper, soon to be Superintendent Harper, becomes plunged into a series of murders. "Leeds, England. March, 1895. The day after his release from prison, petty criminal Henry White is found stabbed to death at his terraced home on Copper Street." 

These crimes are bookended by his promotion, and the deaths of important people in his life. His touchstones are his wife, Annabelle a suffragist and political figure in her own right, and his daughter Mary. His predecessor's death is a blow to him but he leaves him a touching legacy gift.

If you like historical police novels, this one has all the elements, with a maiming by acid of two youngsters which leaves several mysteries of it's own. Several innocent or well meaning people came to untimely ends which is why I did not always read it at night.

Please join Superintendent Harper and Annabelle,newly promoted Inspector Ash and Fireman,, former copper, Billy Reed in Victorian Leeds. Start with "Gods of Gold" Book 1 ,why don't you? You will enjoy this series.

I received an ARC via Netgalley, and Severn House for an honest review. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Clash Of Spheres - Sir Robert Carey mystery~ PF Chisholm ~ Out this week!

"It's late August, 1592. Sir Robert Carey, cousin to Queen Elizabeth from the wrong side of Henry VIII's blanket, remains at his post on the Borders at Carlisle. He has at last been confirmed by his monarch as Deputy Warden and is still deeply in love with Lady Elizabeth Widdrington while despising her elderly, abusive husband (will the man never die?). Carey remains estranged from his dour but lethal henchman, Henry Dodd"

The story is  intriguing but perhaps a bit too intricate, as events are presented in vignettes that go back and forth in time, winter and then the previous summer and back again. The intricacy is my only problem with the book, whose characters I adore and  an author I admire.

Henry Dodd did not really want to have Robert Carey killed, but the thread of the book goes there more than once. Janet his wife does want a child to secure Dodd's land but at what expense? 

The complicated plot against the Scots King James is because Elizabeth will die soon ( see the book the Duke of York) and bring the Spanish and English under James' control. 

Lady Elizabeth is still with her " her elderly, abusive husband" but I know that will end also and she will be with Robert Carey ( Duke of York book). Did Henry Dodd really die at the end? I am not sure but since we are left with that impression a sequel will be in order.

I suggest reader start with Book # 1 of the series ( there is a special price for that) and get to this point..Well worth every one!! I give it 4.5 for the hard to follow parts ( a paper book which is NOT an ARC might be easier to go backwards with) 

Feast of Sorrow - A Novel of Ancient Rome- Crystal King ~ A fine first novel

I received an ARC from NetGalley which I saw on Twitter for an honest review. It was an era I enjoy a lot so I requested it.I give it more than 4 stars maybe 4.25- 4.5 which is great for a first novel.

The story devolves around Marcus Gavius Apicius, a Gourmand, who a real person that we know a fair amount about. Thrassius, his kitchen slave, the main character was fictional, as are his contemporaries. Passia,his love who he eventually marries and Sotas, his long time friend were fictional also. Will there be any sequel? That would be very fine - if so I am sure that the fictional characters will acquire more depth.

Apicius and Apicata ( who possibly was not his daughter but this version makes it so) were real characters we heard about in other Roman Annals like Seneca. Tacitus said that Sejanus, also real "Disposed of his virtue at a price to Apicius, a rich man"

The author is fond of cooking ( which I'm not, sorry) and mentions that Sally Grainger's "Cooking With Apicius" a 2006, is a favorite of hers. Food lovers will like this book! I am a lover of Ancient Rome and I liked it quite well, and look forward to the author's next outing.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Watergate - A Muirteach MacPhee Novelette - Susan McDuffie - A treat!!

4.5 stars. Nice little novella although I usually prefer a longer book. It took about a third of it for me to orient myself as to why Muirteach McPhee was in that place, as well as where that place was located.

The water-horse is a mythical creature which could be Nessie, as of course Muirteach was at Loch Ness. The beast or water horse or kelpie, as Muirteach said spoke with Uisdean's voice "or perhaps I heard the words in my mind. "

However or whatever it was, you see, had killed Dubhglas and his wife Sorcha. Celtic monsters are said to be still seen in lakes in Scotland, as well as actual vicious fish off the coasts.

A delightful small book. I recommend Susan McDuffie's characters. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Year of Ravens - Anthology with Ruth Downie - What a read ~

Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire.

Sometimes getting into a novel written by a group of authors, even excellent authors does not work for me. However this one was different and I just loved it!

Ruth Downie writes so wonderfully about Roman Britain, and I could not get enough of Ria! This one is Ria - "A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war" - she is the daughter of Prasutagus king of the Iceni.

"A conflicted young warrior finds himself torn between loyalties to tribe and to Rome." Andecarus who had been fostered in a Roman family but was son of Boudica's war chief and dies at his side.

I am very much hoping to see this same team of authors come back with a sequel, if that is possible. At least the half sisters Keena daughter of Boudica the Queen and Ria daughter of a slave. Hoping ~

The Rainbow Comes and Goes - A Mother and Son on Life, Love and Loss~

I borrowed this on my kindle from the library and it was good if not spectacular. I did not know a lot about Gloria Vanderbilt and it was an eye opening read, although I thought I read one about her young years.

Her life was not a particularly pleasant one, although she definitely had good years. Apparently both she and son Anderson Cooper are and always have been on good terms. The book ends with this quote.
"I know her. She knows me. She is my mother. I am her son. The rainbow comes and goes"
That sums it up fairly well.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Brotherly Love - Lorna Peel - a fine historical romance about 19th Century Ireland~

4.5 Stars ( which does not show so am making it 5)

I really enjoyed this book about rural Ireland and Lorna Peel's historical facts were excellent. I am not a romance reader although have made exceptions for historical romances, and am glad I did for this one.

I said this while reading:"an amazing read! I am of Irish descent and know about this period but not faction fighting etc. " and the book blog indicated:"Ireland, 1835. Faction fighting has left the parish of Doon divided between the followers of the Bradys and the Donnellans. Caitriona Brady is the widow of John, the Brady champion, killed two years ago. Matched with John aged eighteen, Caitriona didn’t love him and can’t mourn him. Now John’s mother is dead, too, and Caitriona is free to marry again.
Michael Warner is handsome, loves her, and he hasn’t allied himself with either faction. But what secret is he keeping from her? Is he too good to be true?"

Some of my ancestors in Tipperary were said to have been part of the 18th century "Whiteboys", a retaliatory movement  by the rural poor against an oppressive class structure. However my own immigrant ancestor  from that area was in the British Army and in a local Barracks charged with keeping the peace. The "Ribbonmen" in Peel's tale is the 19th century version and the Constabulary  who invaded were maybe similar to some of the local barracks charged with "peacekeeping".

I was thrilled to read this book and will hope there will be a sequel. The characters could use a bit more development, same for dialogue, but it was well done overall.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Queen's Midwife - Lozania Prole - Lives and Loves of the Royals 2 ~ Pleasant Read

Alice is a young girl of uncertain background, who was placed by her aunt in a noble home, to be a seamstress. Due to her aunt's occupation as a healer, Alice eventually becomes a young midwife in King Henry VIII's court. Henry's wives repeated failures to produce living children gives Alice a number of years of employment.

This is story which explores the reign of King Henry superimposed on Alice's life. It is a unique way to tell both the story of Henry's marital and personal failures and the life of Alice. The ending is a nice twist, which left this reader happy for the main character. I plan to read Book 1 now. Enjoy!