Hoover Book’s 2015 Top Baker’s Dozen Reads

Taking stock of the many books I read and reviewed this past year and I just gotta say that it wasn’t easy whittling them down to the finalists.  Here they are, listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name…

  1. Scenes From a Life by Richard Abbott
  2. Tobias by Prue Batten
  3. Kingdom of Rebels by Derek Birks
  4. The Black Stone by Nick Brown
  5. The Scarlet Thief by Paul Collard
  6. A Year of Ravens by Downie, et al
  7. Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray
  8. America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
  9. Bandits of Rome by Alex Gough
  10. A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay
  11. Very Like a Queen by Martin Lake
  12. Red Horse by M.J. Logue
  13. Aurelia by Alison Morton
  14. Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn
  15. Praetorian-The Great Game by S.J.A. Turney

As you can see, the list ended up more than a baker’s dozen  🙂

You can peruse my reviews on this here blog:





The Cross and the Curse by Matthew Harffy


One of the perks of having a growing reputation, a well deserved one for this humble scribbler of book reviews, is obtaining advanced copies of an author’s upcoming release.  Such was the case here as the author sent me a copy of The Cross and the Curse, the follow up to his excellent debut, The Serpent Sword.  Beobrand is now a renowned warrior in the retinue of King Oswald, is married to a beautiful and loving woman; things are looking up…for a while at least.  Mr. Harffy has avoided any semblance of a sequel jinx by putting together an intriguing account of what it could have been like when the Cross met the old gods in post Roman Britain.  Beobrand, while not a follower of Christ, is oath sworn to a very Christian king while at the same time he has to deal with a witch who has a surprising link to Beobrand and utters a terrible curse upon him.  An entertaining story ensues, one with great story-lines and and plenty of Dark Ages treachery and heroics. Add in a bit of inner turmoil and a dash of wavering sanity and you have a page turning tale that leaves you yearning for book three. 5 stars

The Sun Shard by Robert Bayliss


Took a delightful journey through a fantasy world where mammoths still roam and Neanderthals are imbued with a magic that a human ruler will kill for to unlock it’s secrets. There is a power struggle between civilizations in this world and an ancient evil desires blood. I don’t read a lot of fantasy nowadays… not sure why because I used to love stories/series like Terry Brooks’ Sword of Shannara or David Eddings’ tales. Well, Mr. Bayliss did a fine job rekindling my interest. I was hooked from page one of The Sun Shard and the author kept me enthralled throughout with a plot full of surprises and wonderful characters, both human and Flint Fathers.  A captivating tale of intrigue, action and the realm of other worldly magic and mystery.  5 stars  Am looking forward to book 2.

About the author:

Hello, my name is Rob Bayliss. I’m married to my lovely wife, Clare, and we live in the gorgeous county of Somerset with our two wonderful kids and our adopted Patterdale Terrier.

I’ve always had a love of history (and Anglo Saxon history in particular) and through the wonder of social media I found mutual aficionados of the subject. Always ravenous of books of historical fiction, I found myself guided by Facebook friends to The Review. Here, as the name suggests, books are reviewed, discussed and word of them spread far and wide amongst a supportive network of readers and writers. Through the Review I have been made aware of, and subsequently read , a wide variety of books outside my usual comfort zone of historical fiction and fantasy.

Speaking of which, inspired by writers I met in this virtual reading room, and at a loose end one day, I started writing myself. I find writing now one of the most enjoyable hobbies possible and when people enjoy what you have written, well, there are few feelings that compare to it. I self published The Sun Shard, a fantasy set in an alternative renaissance world and I am currently working on the sequel; The Dead Gods. Just for fun I’ve also started a blog where I can reminisce, shoot the wind or perhaps indulge in a short story or two.

My fantasy Author Page can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Flint-Steel-Fire-Shadow/207886762713911

Twitter: https://twitter.com/?lang=en-gb

My Blog Page: http://sunshard.blogspot.co.uk


The Prospect of This City by Eamonn Martin Griffin

prospect of this city

London in 1666 is not a reading destination I had visited prior to getting the chance to read and review this enjoyable and entertaining book by Eamonn Martin Griffin.  The author has done a fine job of detailing the situation between the English and the Dutch and as such provides the necessary background and characters to bring about the historical conflagration.  The story is laid out in a day by day format and is full of exquisite detail about life in London, the smell of the Thames, the piles of offal, the crowded byways and the sought after entertainments (puppet shows, street corner preachers, ale and whores.)  The main characters are written in a believable fashion, from the religiously zealous Dutch agent who can rationalize any action he takes by the expedient of his relationship with God, to the rapidly diminishing naivete of the baker’s son as he proceeds down a path full of intrigue, mystery and danger.  Given that the story takes place in only three days (well, four counting the epilog), the pace is brisk but not as to detract from the author’s ability to flesh out the plot and still throw in some surprises.  4 stars

Marcus Falerius Fronto (of Marius’ Mules by S. J. A. Turney)

Wonderful interview with our old friend, Fronto.

The Protagonist Speaks

mariusmulescollectionDear readers, tonight we have with us Marcus Falerius Fronto, commander of the Tenth legion and long-time companion of Julius Caesar. Marcus Falerius comes to us off the pages of Marius’ Mules series of novels.

How was it progressing through positions to command the Tenth under Caesar?

Trouble. Seriously, no one can work alongside Caesar for any length of time without questioning what they are doing. The thing is: I remember him in Hispania as a quaestor, when I was just a fresh faced tribune. He was only in Hispania for two years and then went back to Rome, but when he came back as the governor a few years later I was still there and still in the army. Since we’d last met I had gone from being an innocent lad on the first steps of the ladder to being a battle-hardened officer, putting down endless troubles with the…

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Legionary: Gods & Emperors (Legionary 5) by Gordon Doherty

Legionary 5

Once more into the chaos of the Roman Empires in the late 4th Century.  Thrace is overrun with the Gothic horde of Fritigern, threatening to wrest the area away from the Eastern Empire and Emperor Valens. Will the Western Empire and it’s greedy boy emperor, Gratian, arrive in time to ensure a Roman victory or will nefarious doings doom Valens and the XI Claudia?  In this, the fifth book of the series, Gordon Doherty, weaves a masterful tale of intrigue, persistence and soul damning obedience.  By this time, we who have followed the exploits of the XI Claudia, know of the loyalty, love and fears of Pavo, Gallus, Sura and the rest (including the gastric outbursts of Quadratus).  All of those things are put to the test in the dry, dusty and sweltering plains outside of Adrianople in a battle for the region.  The lead up to the final outcome is a treat for the reader’s eyes as the author conjures up gut wrenching turmoil, both in his characters and in the minds of his audience.  As for the final battle, well I must admit that it was hard to get through, though I must also admit that the fault of that lies in the fact that I was doing childcare for my three year old granddaughter while reading it and not with Mr. Doherty.  The author has demonstrated once more his prowess at describing a battle field and the sights and sounds of the terror, bravery and the dying.  A stellar entry into the author’s portfolio of exceptional historical fiction…5 stars.


Winter Festivities

Nicely put by a friend across The Pond 🙂

With the winter season finally taking hold, the effects of Storm Desmond has thankfully not affected where I live. The River Ouse holding steady for the time being anyway. With so many losing so much, it makes you feel grateful for every blessing you can. Something that is becoming abundantly obvious is that every one of us should be grateful every day for waking up warm, alive and safe, because so many don’t or can’t.

Religion has played high on the media’s topic and at this time of year there are many religious festivals. From Christmas to the Winter Solstice. Our household is a dual faith one, my daughter being a catholic and myself a pagan. We celebrate both festivities and acknowledge the message that all the festivals bring, which is unity, family and love.

For me as a pagan, it’s a time where all my harvest has been gathered and now…

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Very Like A Queen by Martin Lake

very like a queen

I was privileged to get an advance copy of this, the sequel to A Love Most Dangerous.  I have enjoyed reading many of the author’s books but to me his best work thus far has been the two on the life of Alice Petherton, the marvelously created favorite mistress of King Henry VIII of England.   In the world of coincidences, a Facebook group that I belong to posed the question of which fictional character you have read comes most to life for you?  I read a lot of historical fiction and have met many great fictional characters, Fronto from SJA Turney’s Marius Mules series,  Blaise de Garsenc from A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay, etc and I now include Alice.  Martin Lake’s portrayal of a woman caught in the machinations of Henry’s court and who survives that tortuous road is brilliantly done; so much so that for me she lives and breathes in my mind even after I finished the book.  That is not to say his other characters are second class, on the contrary, his Henry, Thomas Cromwell and the others make this book a very special read.  I had 5 stars in mind after the first couple of chapters and that thought never wavered throughout.  I am hoping that Martin Lake has room in his pen and/or keyboard for more of her story.

Killer of Men by Christian Cameron


I put off too long starting The Long War series by Christian Cameron.  Killer of Men is the first installment of the epic story of East vs West, pitting the Greek city-states against the might of the Persian King of Kings.  That is the backdrop to this thoroughly entertaining tale of one man’s journey from his home in Plataea  becoming a feared warrior, a killer of men.  The author deftly constructs the world of Miltiades of Athens and Darius the Persian; the descriptions of everyday life, the detail in the battle scenes, the scope of heroism and betrayal displayed by well written characters – besides the protagonist, I especially enjoyed the portrayals  of Briseis, a woman who will scheme with the best of them and of the philosopher Heraclitus (a personal aside – one of my favorite philosophical aphorisms comes from Heraclitus, the one about not being able to step into the same river twice).  All of those elements propel Arimnestos from a lowly farm existence to his eventual status as a hero.  As far as the war is concerned, this volume is an excellent stage setter for the next book, Marathon and I will not put off reading that one.  5 stars for Killer of Men.