Sergei & Hans by Dennis Santaniello

25695519

Two WWI soldiers; one German, one Russian and their serendipitous meeting during maneuvers in the beautiful but dangerous winter storms in the Carpathian Mountains.  In a series of poignant flashbacks and memories, this tale brings out the depth of character, the changes one endures, the challenging of one’s beliefs under the duress of war and duty.  Well crafted and entertaining, Sergei & Hans shows forth the human element midst the dehumanizing machine like precision of armies at war. The author brings the reader along so as to experience the grandeur of the Carpathians while at the same time the utter hopelessness and despair of a POW longing only to be back home.

4 stars

Advertisements

A Black Matter for the King by Matthew Willis & J.A. Ironside

40828441

Blurb

TWO POWERFUL RIVALS — ONE DECISIVE BATTLE

Now a political hostage in Falaise, Ælfgifa forms an unlikely friendship with William, Duke of Normandy. William has been swift to recognize her skills and exploit them to his advantage. However, unbeknownst to the duke, Gifa is acting as a spy for her brother, Harold Godwinson, a possible rival for the English throne currently in the failing grip of Edward the Confessor. Homesick and alienated by the Norman court, Gifa is torn between the Duke’s trust and the duty she owes her family.

William has subdued his dissenting nobles, and a united Normandy is within his grasp. But the tides of power and influence are rarely still. As William’s stature grows, the circle of those he can trust shrinks. Beyond the English Channel, William has received news of Edward’s astonishing decree regarding the succession. Ælfgifa returns to an England where an undercurrent of discontent bubbles beneath the surface. An England that may soon erupt in conflict as one king dies and another is chosen.

The ambitions of two powerful men will decide the fates of rival cultures in a single battle at Hastings that will change England, Europe, and the world in this compelling conclusion to the Oath & Crown series on the life and battles of William the Conqueror.

My Review

Let me start out by saying that Aelfgifa is probably the character in fiction I’ve found who is closest to me in terms of biting wit, though I will admit freely that I’ve never gone one on one with powerful individuals such as Duke William of Normandy, or her brother, Harold Godwinson. To me, those conversations were the highlight of this tale. That’s not to imply the other facets of the book aren’t worthy, indeed I was thoroughly entertained by this telling of the monumental events leading up to and including 1066. It is the kind of writing that draws the reader into the settings, you are sitting in the herb garden eavesdropping on William and Aelfgifa; thundering alongside William and Gallet as they spur their coursers into the enemy; commiserating with Aelfgifa as she struggles to convince Harold of a better course of action. Intense drama, creative working of the sparse historical record, and a detailed look into what made William and Harold tick. William’s volatile temperament, Harold’s miscalculated duplicity are a couple examples of the genesis that became the Norman invasion of Saxon England. A rousing, page turning tale awaits you my fellow readers. 5 stars

About the Authors

03_J.A. Ironside.jpg

J.A. Ironside (Jules) grew up in rural Dorset, surrounded by books – which pretty much set he up for life as a complete bibliophile. She loves speculative fiction of all stripes, especially fantasy and science fiction, although when it comes to the written word, she’s not choosy and will read almost anything. Actually it would be fair to say she starts to go a bit peculiar if she doesn’t get through at least three books a week. She writes across various genres, both adult and YA fiction, and it’s a rare story if there isn’t a fantastical or speculative element in there somewhere.

Jules has had several short stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as recorded for literature podcasts. Books 1 and 2 of her popular Unveiled series are currently available with the 3rd and 4th books due for release Autumn/ Winter 2017.

She also co-authored the sweeping epic historical Oath and Crown Duology with Matthew Willis, released June 2017 from Penmore Press.

Jules now lives on the edge of the Cotswold way with her boyfriend creature and a small black and white cat, both of whom share a god-complex.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS

03_Matthew Willis.jpg

Matthew Willis is an author of historical fiction, SF, fantasy and non-fiction. In June 2017 An Argument of Blood, the first of two historical novels about the Norman Conquest co-written with J.A. Ironside, was published. In 2015 his story Energy was shortlisted for the Bridport short story award.

Matthew studied Literature and History of Science at the University of Kent, where he wrote an MA thesis on Joseph Conrad and sailed for the University in national competitions. He subsequently worked as a journalist for Autosport and F1 Racing magazines, before switching to a career with the National Health Service.

His first non-fiction book, a history of the Blackburn Skua WW2 naval dive bomber, was published in 2007. He now has four non fiction books published with a fifth, a biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies, due later in 2017. He currently lives in Southampton and writes both fiction and non-fiction for a living.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS

 #ABlackMatterfortheKingBlogTour #MatthewWillis #JAIronside #War #Normandy #Historical #HistFic #HistNov #blogtour #HFVBTBlogTours
 
Facebook Tags: @hfvbt @airandseastories @dystopianironside @penmorepress
 
Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @NavalAirHistory @J_AnneIronside @PenmorePress1

 

03_A Black Matter for the King_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL.png

The Year of the Snake by M.J. Trow & Maryanne Coleman

40221844

A murder mystery set during the enlightened reign of Nero (well, maybe not enlightened, more of a spoiled kid playing with power). An aged Senator, Gaius Nerva dies suddenly and it is assumed it was a natural death, but his devoted steward/slave Calidus thinks otherwise and embarks on an investigation. This search for the murderer leads in many directions including to the Imperial Court.  A cleverly concocted set of circumstances reveals many suspects and motives. Calidus, now a freedman, is persistent despite a lack of results, and an increasingly dangerous situation. The authors kept me engaged throughout this many faceted who done it including a look at Nero and the strange relationship he has with his mother, Agrippina; an interesting subplot to this enjoyable look at what Rome was like during this rather bizarre period of history. The characters, from the upper echelons of Roman society to the seedy underworld of the delightful cut purse thief, Piso are brought out in exquisite detail. The conclusion of the investigation and the resulting revelations is a top notch bit of creativity, though I will not say more about that.  🙂  4 stars

 

The Lady of the Tower by Elizabeth St.John

36337228

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  A fascinating tale of the period when England said goodbye to the Tudors and hello to the Stuarts. The protagonist, Lucy, grows up in a household where she is treated with contempt by her guardian and by her scheming sister Barbara. In a time when women had very little say in their futures and where the intricate, backstabbing antics of the Royal Court, Lucy struggles to survive.  Married to an important member of the King’s retinue of courtiers, she finds herself living in the infamous Tower of London, the wife of the Tower Gaoler.

The author paints a vivid picture of life in the early 17th century. I was drawn in by the descriptive, and indeed the educative nature that arises from the pages. Lucy, a woman, dares to formulate and even more daring, lets her opinions known. It was indeed a world dominated by men of noble birth, not very unlike the world we live in now(substitute rich for noble). In Lucy’s words, “I so tire of these court behaviors, where the men who rule think only of their own affairs and not of those of the citizens of this land.” Words that I utter every day.

I chose to read this book not knowing much of the period, at least not from the perspective of the court of King James and his son Charles. I now know a lot more, and if there is one thing I love to do is to learn history. If I can do that and be entertained along the way, then so much the better. The author has done those things while at the same time preparing the way for a sequel. After all of the pain, anguish, fear, and even the joys of her life, Lucy emerges as one of the more interesting characters I have come across in my historical-fiction reading. 5 stars

Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton

Image result for bone lines bretherton

BLURB: A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.

In present-day London, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.

Bone Lines is the story of two women, separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life.  A tale of love and survival – of courage and the quest for wisdom – it explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.

Although partly set during a crucial era of human history 74,000 years ago, Bones Lines is very much a book for our times. Dealing with themes from genetics, climate change and migration to the yearning for meaning and the clash between faith and reason, it also paints an intimate portrait of who we are as a species. The book tackles some of the big questions but requires no special knowledge of any of the subjects to enjoy.

Alternating between ancient and modern timelines, the story unfolds through the experiences of two unique characters:  One is a shaman, the sole surviving adult of her tribe who is braving a hazardous journey of migration, the other a dedicated scientist living a comfortable if troubled existence in London, who is on her own mission of discovery. 

The two are connected not only by a set of archaic remains but by a sense of destiny – and their desire to shape it. Both are pioneers, women of passion, grit and determination, although their day to day lives could not be more different. One lives moment by moment, drawing on every scrap of courage and ingenuity to keep herself and her infant daughter alive, while the other is absorbed by work, imagination and regret. Each is isolated and facing her own mortal dangers and heart-rending decisions, but each is inspired by the power of the life force and driven by love. 

Bone Lines stands alone as a novel but also marks the beginning of the intended ‘Children of Sarah’ series.

REVIEW

Anthropology has always fascinated me. During the early 1970’s  when I was in college, I focused on two subjects – ancient history and physical anthropology, so I was immediately drawn to the subject matter in Bone Lines. The finding of Sarah and the speculation that she might have been migrating back to Africa because of a natural occurring climate change event is the focal point of Bone Lines and really caught my interest (I surprised myself in that I actually understood the scientific portions of the tale after all these years – a testament to the descriptive ability of the author). It is a very well thought out tale full of surprises while at the same time giving the reader some interesting ideas and thoughts to ponder. I especially enjoyed Eloise’s letters to Charles Darwin – lots of soul searching and mind expanding going on in those. All in all, an enjoyable read featuring two strong female protagonists; a speculative look at life on earth 74,000 years ago – an earth in the throes of a volcanic winter; and the emotional/mental turmoil of a gifted but troubled scientist.

5 stars

 

Stephanie Bretherton Author Pic.jpg

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Who do you think you are? A daunting question for the debut author… but also one to inspire a genre-fluid novel based on the writer’s fascination for what makes humanity tick. Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast

Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.

Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)

 

Website: http://www.stephaniebretherton.com/

Twitter : @BrethertonWords

Instagram: @brethertonwords2

 

Bone Lines Blog Tour Poster.jpg

Roma Nova Boxed Set – Books I-III by Alison Morton

27834128

Before the collapse of the Western Empire and the Ottoman victory in the East, a group of Romans comprising twelve of the oldest families leave Rome and setup a new country in the region between Italy and Austria, Roma-Nova and it has survived into the 21st century. The three books in this set chronicle the story of Carina Mitela who is living an unassuming life as an office cubicle worker in the U.S. when she is suddenly thrust into a maelstrom of danger and intrigue. This story has elements of history, romance, international and political intrigue, rogue/shadowy covert agencies, a coming of age/coming to grips with the reality of who you are, a really nasty bad guy; a wealth of plots to keep you entertained. The action is plentiful, the emotions are highly charged and the characters are full of life.  All three are page turning, sleep depriving delights to read. 5 stars

 

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

4980

Let me preface my remarks with this useful tidbit. Whenever I am asked to name my favorite author(s), or which author(s) I would invite to a dinner party, two names always top the list(s) – Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut. In a way those choices do seem a bit odd, given that most of my reading of their work was decades ago, and I have since been exposed to so many really wonderful writers. Perhaps my preference for Mark and Kurt stems from the simple fact that they present a look at America unclouded by myth and legend. And that, my peeps and fellow travelers, is what I like – a questioning of the status quo, a questioning of what we value in this country, a questioning of where we are heading.

Kilgore Trout, a prolific writer of science fiction novels, novels that only see the light of day in tawdry, men’s magazines, is unexpectedly invited to an Arts Festival. Dwayne Hoover, a well to do car salesman, unexpectedly meets Kilgore Trout and in the course of events reads one of Trout’s books, thus setting in motion a climatic ending that includes Kilgore meeting his maker. Among the truths Dwayne discovered in the book is this:

You are pooped and demoralized, ” read Dwayne. “Why wouldn’t you be? Of course it is exhausting, having to reason all the time in a universe which wasn’t meant to be reasonable.”

Taking on and skewering many of the characteristics of the human race, and the chaotic, random, arbitrary nature of the universe, the author blends his pessimism with his sardonic wit and has produced another masterpiece. Listen – I challenge my peeps and fellow travelers who have not read Vonnegut to rectify that…  Sirens of Titan – Slaughterhouse Five – God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, etc, etc. At the least you will be entertained, perhaps you may even begin to question things.  🙂

5 Stars