Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army by Edoardo Albert

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A delightful tale of a rather unusual monk and his attempts to get rich while avoiding the Danish horde that is running roughshod over Britain. Conrad is a schemer, always ready with a plan; which is a good thing as his plans have a way of not going according to plan. His companion, Brother Odo, a very devout monk, unwavering in his faith in God and in Conrad’s plan(s), provides much of the mirth while also provoking sympathy from the reader. The author has crafted an entertaining version of the Danes – the sons of Ragnar; Ivarr, Ubba, and Halfdan – and the eventual clash with Aethelred and Alfred. I particularly enjoy historical-fiction when the historical events are written in such a way that the fictional aspect; the interaction of the fictional characters with the historical, the way that the story is tweaked to allow the reader to think, “Yeah, it could have happened that way.” Conrad Monk and The Great Heathen Army did just that while also sparking periodic chuckles and chortles from this amused reader.  4 stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Marius Mules XI – Tides of War by S.J.A. Turney

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The author has done it again. Tides of War had my attention fully riveted from the start.  This is book eleven in one of the more fascinating, entertaining, educating and creative series I have come across, and it has not diminished one iota; indeed it just gets better. When I start reading the newest episode of Marius’ Mules, I feel as though I am getting together with old friends, though even after so many adventures together, they still find ways to surprise me. I guess that’s a testament to the author’s creative ability in that he continually tweaks his characters as they grow older, a little more bone weary, but still forces to be reckoned with. This part of the Caesarian saga is the great chase across the sea to Dyrrachium and beyond, as the Gaius Julius Caesar/Pompey Magnus battle for supremacy comes to a head (literally). 🙂 I know that I am repeating myself, after all this is the 8th Marius’ Mules I have reviewed, but I will say it anyway; to wit, Mr. Turney is a master in describing where the action is taking place, and writes a hell of a battle scene. The most impressive feat, I think, is no matter that the historical events portrayed in Tides of War are well known, the author presents them in a manner that is fresh, detailed, and integrated with his own creative touch. Yes, my peeps and fellow travelers, I will have to repeat another phrase I have used before: 5 stars

My Lady Zane by Steven M. Sullivan

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When I was contacted by the author to see if I’d like to read and review his new book, I took a quick look at the backlog of books I have waiting, then I took a quick look at the blurb about My Lady Zane. My backlog quickly grew by one. What intrigued me most was the 1780’s settlement on the Ohio River, Zanesville (modern day Wheeling, West Virginia). It is an era and locale that I am extremely interested in given that I have written a novel about The French & Indian War. 🙂 , but that’s only half of the story. Leah Sullivan is a Marine Sergeant stationed in Iraq. Her grandmother writes to her about their ancestor Elizabeth Zane (Betty), and her life in the hostile environment in the new settlements southwest of Fort Pitt along the Ohio River. So, what we have, dear readers, is a well crafted story that takes place in two different eras of American history; two different women caught up in dangerous combat situations against the revenge filled furor of their respective foes.
Strong characters, from the indomitable spirit of Betty to the tough exterior of Leah to the frontiersmen making the wilderness into a home, this tale is replete with them. In addition to the intriguing story lines, the author has put the reader right smack dab in the middle of the action. The sound and smell of the woodlands, the fury of fired muskets; the inescapable heat and barrenness of the Iraqi desert suddenly filled with the fury of battle. It is a cracking read, hard to put down, and certainly one to be enjoyed.
5 stars

Son of Zeus by Glyn Iliffe

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Heracles, the natal result of a Zeusian dalliance, is the subject of Mr. Iliffe’s new series. Son of Zeus is a wonderful telling of the first part of the Heracles myth; the enmity and hatred of Hera toward him is the focal point as Heracles struggles mightily not only with the first three challenging labors but with his own peace of mind as he tries to understand why he murdered his children.  Heracles, while known for his strength, is shown to be a man totally driven to find the redemption he is promised, and it is this aspect that drives the narrative. The three labors in this tale are marvelously written; the rank bestiality and cunning of the Nemean Lion; the absolute innocence of a young girl in the Ceryneian Hind; the seeming unstoppable Hydra, take the reader into the heart of the action and drama. While Heracles is up against impossible tasks, his wife Megara is also trying to come to grips with the horror she had gone through. This story line, her search for the answer as to why he did what he did, is crafted in a heart rending fashion, and is another example of the author’s skill in presenting believable characters. I am certainly looking forward to book 2, the author ends book 1 with a lovely nugget for us to chew on.

4 stars

 

Last Dance in Kabul by Ken Czech

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The Ultimate Dance Between Love and War

When his superiors ignore his warnings of an impending Afghan insurrection in 1841, British army captain Reeve Waterton vows never to return to Kabul. But then he rescues strong-willed Sarah Kane from an ambush and his plans for civilian life and self-preservation unravel around him.

At first Reeve dislikes Sarah as much as she loathes him. She’s as impudent and disdainful of authority as he, plus she’s betrothed to his bitterest rival.

It’s only after Reeve’s closest friend is brutally murdered and the Afghan tribes explode in revolt that he and Sarah discover their desperate need for each other. When the retreating British army is caught between the jaws of Afghanistan’s blizzard-wracked mountain passes and hordes of vengeful tribesmen, Sarah and Reeve must rely on their skills, courage, and blossoming love just to survive.

MY REVIEW

An intense tale of the British in Kabul Afghanistan in 1841, and the insurgency that drove them out, Last Dance in Kabul had my attention riveted from the start.  The characters are well developed, as are the story lines. I was impressed with the historical aspect of the tale as well, and with the pure drama of the action throughout the book; especially in the climatic retreat through the mountains. I am always grateful for books that highlight a period or event in history that I am not familiar with. The British in Afghanistan is not a subject brought up much in American history classes; though it probably should be taught if just to highlight what a nightmare it is to invade that country. Ask Alexander, or the Russians, or the British(more than once), or the Americans deployed there now.  Last Dance in Kabul is a cracking read; enjoy the drama, the romance, and be prepared to be shocked at the warfare. 5 stars

About the Author

Dr. Ken Czech is a retired history professor and an internationally recognized authority on the historical literature of exploration and sport. His passion, however, has turned to writing fiction. He and his wife Mary live in Central Minnesota on an abandoned granite quarry.

For more information, please visit Ken’s website. You can also find him on FacebookAmazon and Goodreads

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Bloodaxe – Erik Haraldsson 1 by C.R. May

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An exhilarating start to a new series, Bloodaxe follows the early life of Eric Haraldsson, the favored son of Harald Fairhair, King of Norway. Favored son or not, the path to true acceptance as rightful heir is strewn with Fairhair’s bastard progeny. Honing his skills as a warrior and a leader of men, and enriching himself and crew by raiding villages and churches, Eric returns to his homeland ready to rule. What follows is a stirring rendition of revenge for wrongs done in the past, and making war on half-brothers who dare to resist. Through the telling of this tale I felt myself relishing in the spray of the sea as Eric’s warship plowed from one adventure to the next. Eric Bloodaxe, as the name implies, is a character true to his time, and is not hesitant to deal out death. however, the author has endowed him with a depth that complements that warrior instinct with a clarity of purpose, and a will to succeed. Looking forward to the next chapter. 4 stars

 

Nothing is Forgotten by Peter Golden

 

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From the beloved author of Comeback Love and Wherever There Is Light, comes a novel about the life-changing journey of a young man who travels from New Jersey to Khrushchev’s Russia and the beaches of Southern France as he finds love and discovers the long-hidden secrets about his heritage.

In 1950s New Jersey, Michael Daniels launches a radio show in the storage room of his Russian-Jewish grandmother’s candy store. Not only does the show become a local hit because of his running satires of USSR leader Nikita Khrushchev, but half a world away, it picks up listeners in a small Soviet city.

There, with rock and roll leaking in through bootlegged airwaves, Yulianna Kosoy—a war orphan in her mid-twenties—is sneaking American goods into the country with her boss, Der Schmuggler.

But just as Michael’s radio show is taking off, his grandmother is murdered in the candy store. Why anyone would commit such an atrocity against such a warm, affable woman is anyone’s guess. But she had always been secretive about her past and, as Michael discovers, guarded a shadowy ancestral history. In order to solve the mystery of who killed her, Michael sets out to Europe to learn where he—and his grandmother—really came from.

Featuring Peter Golden’s signature “vivid characters and strong storytelling” (The Washington Post), Nothing Is Forgotten changes our understanding of the impact of World War II on its survivors and their descendants, and will appeal to fans of novels by Anita Diamant and Kristin Hannah.

REVIEW

What originally drew me to this book is the time it takes place. I grew up during the Cold War as does the protagonist in Nothing is Forgotten. As I started reading it I soon realized that this was more than just a coming of age tale, though there is that element to it. Instead what I found is a captivating, and well crafted mystery/romance/spy vs spy story as Michael/Misha delves into his family’s past. The author delivers a plot with many turns and unexpected developments that certainly make this a  page turning delight to read. The characters are believable, the backstory historical events are gut wrenching, the description of the places involved pull the reader in – all in all a very enjoyable foray into the not too distant past.   5 stars

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Peter Golden is an award-winning journalist, novelist, biographer, and historian. He lives outside Albany, New York, with his wife and son. He is the acclaimed author of the novels Comeback Love, Wherever There Is Light, and Nothing Is Forgotten.

For more information, please visit Peter Golden’s website. You can also connect with him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.