The Norseman by Jason Born

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Though I have been a prolific reader all of my life, I didn’t embark on my reviewing career(?) until early in 2013.  At that point I discovered, through some new author friends I made on social media, the wonders and benefits of sites such as WordPress and Goodreads.  It was while setting up my to be read list on Goodreads that I added The Norseman by Jason Born, it being my intention to get to this pretty quick as I was hungry for some good Viking stories.  Alas, my to be read list kept growing, I kept reading and reviewing trying to whittle it down but my reviews caught the eyes of some more authors who then started requesting that I read and review their labors of love. I succumbed to their wishes, lured on by the promise of autographed copies.  Yes, dear readers, your humble scribe was guilty of the sins of greed and pride.  However, I have repented and have resolved to make a dent in that to be read list so let this review be a testament to that fact.

This tale starts the story of Halldorr, a Norseman who along with some historical figures, such as Erik the Red, Leif Ericsson and a host of Scandinavian kings, Olaf Tryggvason, Sweyn Forkbeard and Haakon, fill the pages with relentless action and drama.  Halldorr is an old man recounting his life from his youth on Greenland, to his exile and the subsequent travels and adventures that mold him into a feared and respected warrior in the service of Olaf.    As well as the expected ferocity and violent action, the author has also portrayed the more human aspects of life, love, hate, sorrow and joy intermingled with the harshness of survival in northern Europe in the 11th century.  The narrative certainly grabbed my attention from the beginning but then the Battle of Maldon happened.  As stated earlier, I read a lot of historical fiction and as such I read a lot of battle scenes.  While there are scenes of violence and fighting prior to Maldon, it is that battle that thrust the author into the rarified air of  being compared to some of my favorite battle authors, Ben Kane, Simon Turney, Gordon Doherty, to name but a few.  Mr. Born evokes not only the visceral sights but enables the reader to feel the sword and axe strokes, to smell the gruesome by products of the violence, to enter into the minds of the combatants; in short, the author puts you in the action, makes you part of the shield wall.  All told, this tale is a fine example of good research coupled with imaginative creativity and I will certainly pursue the rest of this series. Ironic isn’t it?  I’m whittling down my to be read list but now that I have found Jason Born to be to my liking, I now have to add his books to the pile.  🙂   5 stars

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Scenes From a Life by Richard Abbott

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Scenes From A Life is a most apt title for this multi-layered tale of ancient Egypt and Canaan.  Makty-Rasut is a scribe who fashions scenes from the lives of his clients on the walls of their tombs.  The narrative is also setup to give the readers glimpses into the scenes from his life as he attempts to understand the vivid dreams he has.  His journey up and down the Nile and finally to
Canaan leads him to find what he lost in the past(won’t say more about that-no spoilers)… The author, as he did in the first book in the series, In A Milk and Honeyed Land, describes what life was like in 1200 BC in exquisite detail and brings to life the culture of the Nile Valley and of the hill country to the north.  Full of emotional highs and lows the story unfolds a tapestry woven with all the pieces that make up what it is to be human, then and now.  If you’re looking for some well written historical fiction about an era not as well covered as say, ancient Greece or Rome, then I cannot recommend highly enough this series by Richard Abbott.  I will be going on to book three as quick as I can.  5 stars.

About the author:

Richard lives in London, England and writes about the ancient middle east – Egypt, Canaan and Israel. His interest began with a study of how styles of literature and poetry were shared cross-culturally in the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages. Having taken those studies as far as he wanted on an academic level, he switched to using the material as background for historical fiction. In a Milk and Honeyed Land and its successors sprang out of the desire to tell the stories of ordinary town and village life of those days, rather than the exploits of kings and conquerors.

He works professionally in IT quality assurance. When not writing words or computer code, he enjoys spending time with family, walking, and wildlife, ideally combining all three pursuits in the English Lake District.

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Gladiatrix by Russell Whitfield

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Well it took a while, nearly two years, from the time I decided I wanted to read this series to the actual reading thereof.  My only regret in waiting so long is that by now I probably would have finished all three books but that is tempered by the fact that I still have two more to go.  The author has created a very entertaining tale, one that grabs you on page one and doesn’t let go.  The subject concerns a gladiatorial school that specializes in female arena fighters, Gladiatrices, and the struggle to survive in a harsh environment, one in which there is very little hope for a long and prosperous life.  Enter the protagonist, Lysandra, a Spartan Priestess of Athene and a trained warrior.  She is arrogant and is condescending to anyone not from Hellas, to her they are all barbarians.  The tension and drama that emanates from her abilities and her mindset fuels this tale of survival, hate, revenge and even love.  I like the way she is characterized, from the depths of her despondent moods to the heights of her triumphs.  A wonderful tale indeed.  5 stars.

About the author:
I’ve had an (almost) life long fascination with ancient Greece and Rome, sparked by seeing the The Three Hundred Spartans on ITV in the seventies.

I was educated to A-Level, but did not complete college, preferring instead to seek fame and fortune in a heavy metal band.

Sadly, fame and fortune were not forthcoming and a career in telesales beckoned. A series of jobs followed culminating in the heady heights of ‘content editor’ for a large multi-national. Its not brilliant, but it’ll pay the bills until I get that call from Angelina Jolie demanding to option my books.

Gladiatrix is my first novel, but the sequel, Roma Victrix is due out in March 2011 and at the time of writing, I’m at work on a threequel.

I’m a bit of a geek (all right, a lot of a geek), I love watching DVD’s, reading comic books and historical fiction novels. And I used to play Traveller and Dungeons & Dragons…but that was a very long time ago.

In an attempt to stave off an ever increasing beer-gut, I’ve taken up Silat – a Malaysian martial art, but in all honesty, I’m rubbish.

Still, in a strange quirk of fate, I’m actually training with the person who inspired me to write the Gladiatrix novel! A few years ago, I saw a documentary on the telly called “Gladiator Girl” which was about “Great Dover Street Woman” – purportedly the only physical remains of gladiator uncovered at the time, a “fact” (its contended) made more unusual because the fighter was a woman. Anyway, the lead actress in that is also a Silat Guru – Cecily Fay is her name – and now, years later, I’m training with the Gladiatrix herself.

I love Heavy Metal. As a child of the 80s, I’m into all the old stuff, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Manowar, Judas Priest et al. However, these days my favourite band are called Hysterica – Gladiatrix Metal, believe it or not (I didn’t till I went to their website, but the proof in in the pictures.An all-female five piece, they sound great, look great…And they have swords – what’s not to love).

Thanks for looking at my page – I should add that its a privilege to be in a position to have one of these sections on Amazon. If you’re reader AND a writer, don’t give up! Believe me when I say that despite all the knocks and rejection letters, if you keep at it you’ll get there in the end

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Killer City by Seumas Gallacher

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This is the second Jack Calder book I have read so far, so I sort of knew going in what to expect and those expectations were met.  That is, of course, if you’re expecting a nonstop multi-national thrill ride.  When a colleague’s son is framed for murder, the ISP group spring into action to clear his name.  What they uncover in the process is the very lucrative and powerful gang controlled drug trade in Manchester and are soon up against ruthless foes who will stop at nothing to remove anyone in their way.  I rather enjoyed the byplay between the ISP personnel not only among themselves but also with the other agencies they work with.  It is a somewhat stereotypical macho environment inhabited by a corps of men who have seen the elephant and who are very good at what they do, within or without the parameters of law.   Rather than a detriment to the story, the stereotypes fit in well, after all when watching The Maltese Falcon do you want the stereotypical hard boiled private eye Sam Spade or the frivolous antics of Inspector Clouseau? The frantic action coupled with enough plot twists makes for an entertaining read.  4 stars

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Seumas Gallacher…Author Background

Seumas Gallacher was born in the cradle of the Govan shipyards in Glasgow in the so-called ‘bad old days’, which were really the greatest of days, where everybody was a true character of note. An early career as a trainee banker led to a spell in London, where his pretence to be a missionary converting the English fell on deaf ears. Escape to the Far East in 1980 opened up access to cultures and societies on a global scale, eventually bringing the realisation that the world is simply one large, extended village. The lifelong desire to write resulted in THE VIOLIN MAN’S LEGACY, the first in a planned series. Seumas’ sequel novel, VENGEANCE WEARS BLACK was launched in early July 2012. The third, SAVAGE PAYBACK, was released in late 2013 with at least two other books to follow in the same vein. Ebook downloads on his novels exceed 70,000 to date. Seumas lives in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. wall copy 2 …Authors…why bother doing a Blog?… …yeez can slice and dice umpteen different approaches to maintaining a Blog… as a writer, the conventional wisdom tell yeez it helps to get yeez ‘presence’… well, I think there’s also as many definitions of ‘presence’ as yeez can think of… this ol’ Jurassic’s been scribbling away at this Blog thing for a coupla years now, and must confess the driving force for maintaining it has gradually changed… initially I knew as much about blogging as I did about Mexican knitting patterns or Persian Hieroglyphics… in pursuit of extending readership reach, the Blog was an addendum to the other SOSYAL NETWURKIN channels I dabble with… Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and LinkedIn… I laptop-tapped maybe twice a week, with no rhythm or purpose, no base, no direction… then a few things started to click, mentally, not just on the Mac… the content, which the cognoscenti will tell yeez is paramount, began to take shape… a regularity of style evolved… the crime thrillers lived in the novels, and that can be pretty heavy-duty violent stuff… and any quill-scraper knows it’s vital to have your ‘Author’s Voice’ in the books… I found the Blog forming into an intrinsically different kind of writing… much like cartoons cater to short-term attention from readers, so also, most Blogs attract the same probable eyeball time… ideally for me, anything between 300 and 400 WURDS is plenty, but that’s not set in stone… the Blog becomes the ‘Author’s Brand’… a brand is by definition recognizable… mine attempts to be the tongue-in-cheek, humorous, reflective flow of consciousness of a comparative newbie… an independent, self-publishing plume-pusher… an old f*rt from a separate career, stumbling through the maze that is the new-fangled reality called the Internet… and somehow coming out the other side, still bewildered, but surviving, hopefully successfully… populating the Blog occasionally are a couple of characters, Mabel, and Matron… Mabel is best described as an almost imaginary presence, somewhat akin to the invisible rabbit, Harvey, that the great actor James Stewart conversed with in the movie of the same name… that allows for ‘asides’ and commentary to flow… Matron is the character who keeps the writer in check occasionally by the administering of a huge syringe loaded with no-one quite knows what, and it’s impossible to tell whether or not she’s also a figment of the writer’s addled brain… the biggest change in the impact the Blog has on me is that it permits me to indulge another kind of writing from the novels, and doing it almost daily dictates a discipline I welcome… it now also connects automatically with all my other SOSYAL NETWURK linkages, hitting a possible 14,000+ readers for every Blog Post… and most importantly… IT’S FUN and I’m LUVVIN IT!… Blog                : seumasgallacher.com Twitter                        : @seumasgallacher Facebook         : http://www.facebook.com/seumasgallacher Email               : seumasgallacher@yahoo.com

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Tobias by Prue Batten

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Once again I was asked to preview the newest release by Prue Batten.  Once again I was pleased to do so.  Once again I was thrilled with the result.  Tobias and his twin, Tomas, are dispatched on a perilous mission by their employer, Guy of Gisborne, one that could ruin the Gisborne family if the mission fails.  Amidst the drama that unfolds considering the mission is the painful drama of the falling out between Tobias and Tomas.  The lifelong bond shared by the twins is taxed to the limit and leads to reconciliation, retribution and finally revenge.  The story exudes in excitement as the mission is beset by problems right from the start and only culminates after much opposition and suffering.  The characters are painted in such a way as to enable the reader to soak up the texture of their feelings, their fears, their joys.  As evidenced in other works by the author, her descriptive flair is in top form whether you are shipboard in a storm or just marvelling at Constantinople’s majestic architecture.  One illustration should suffice : “The biggest church in Christendom stood above him, the staircase could have been the one that led to Heaven for all he knew, so beautiful, so perfectly cut from marble, the basilica walls stuccoed and the colour of faded Judas blossom, windows underlying the gold leafed cupola like an imperial diadem. It sat almost in silhouette as the late afternoon sun sought to bed behind it.”   It is my humble opinion that Prue Batten has another winner on her hands and am certainly looking forward to book 2.   5 stars

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Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn

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First off let me start by begging Kate Quinn for the use of her magical Muse.  The combination of the author’s fertile imagination and the delicate yet lush landscapes inspired by that Muse has produced a multi-layered tale of intrigue and adventure.  The backdrop to the intrigue is the reign of Trajan and who will succeed him.  The obvious, and only choice, in the mind of the Empress Plotina, is their ward Hadrian but Trajan is not of the same mind as his wife’s.  The relationship between Trajan and Hadrian as portrayed in this tale reminds me of the frosty relationship between Augustus and Tiberius in the BBC drama I, Claudius.  Hadrian to Trajan is just as Tiberius was to Augustus, very useful but not in the succession plan.  The adventure comes in the form of Trajan’s war in Dacia and reintroduces us to Vix, the child gladiator now returned to Rome in pursuit of his dream of glory in the legions.  Enter Sabina, my favorite character in the book I think, enigmatic, adventurous, and niece to Trajan and probably closer to him than anyone else in the imperial  household.  A tempestuous affair between Vix and Sabina is interlaced through the dramatic events of the narrative.  And Titus, poor background seeking Titus, his unlooked for rise in Rome is one example of the author’s skill at character development.  Another gem in the category of a well drawn character is the Empress Plotina.  Forgive me another I, Claudius analogy but Plotina is much like Livia, both masterful manipulators of events, both with boundless ambition, a most delightful lady.

The end of this tale, well it’s not really an end, is it?  Ms. Quinn leads us right into the next episode, which I for one will be getting to asap.  5 stars

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Spartacus II The Gods Demand Sacrifice by Robert Southworth

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In this, the second volume in the Spartacus series, Rome is controlled by two powerful men, Pompey, the patron and boss of Cassian and Crassus who wants Cassian dead for what transpired in volume one.  Thus, Crassus sets his most ruthless killer upon Cassian and anyone who is part of his family or who works for him.  What the author does with that as the main story line is provide you, dear reader, with a non-stop, vivid story of action and dramatic turns of events.  Flabinius, the hired assassin, has his own army of followers who carry out his every command without hesitation or remorse as Flabinius commands them in an atmosphere of fear.  Cassian and his family and those who choose to join him, are forced to flee their homes in hopes of out pacing the relentless pursuit.  That is a good plan but their assailant is not easy to shake.

What unfolds is an exciting tale of suffering and loss, revenge and retribution against the backdrop of the power politics in Rome.  The author  has done a splendid job in allowing his characters to grow in this episode and he brings you into the depths of their sufferings and to the heights of their triumphs.  The ending is a nice teaser for book three and am looking forward to continuing in this story of Spartacus.  5 stars

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