Divided Empire by Brian Kitchen

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A scintillating story of adventure in the late 4th century as agents of the Emperor try to piece together a plot to bring back Pagan worship to Britannia and to retrieve a document that identifies the leaders.  Plenty of twists and surprises as Flavius and friends find there is more to it than meets the eye and people aren’t always who or what they seem.  Action galore awaits as the team travels in pursuit of a mysterious woman and a gang of vicious cut throats who also want that document, at any price.  Well written characters and a nice descriptive narrative have me convinced to read book two.  3.8 stars

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Rosa by Jeanette Taylor Ford

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Every once in a while I am drawn out of my cocoon, the comfort zone of my favorite reading genres.  In this case I was asked by the author to give Rosa a try despite it being a modern day mystery/romance tale…far from the ancient times, places and subject matter I usually frequent.  Rosa certainly got my attention right away as the story sort of begins at the end giving the reader a kind of heads up that there may be opportunities to try and guess what’s going to happen next.  However, the author doesn’t make it easy to guess correctly as she provides many clues, twists and turns to keep the reader turning the pages.  The characters are well thought out as are the descriptive portions of the narrative as the reader follows Rosa around the estate and surrounding countryside.  I won’t go into spoiler mode about the eventual solving of the mysterious goings on at the manor…suffice to say that it caught me by surprise having formed a different outcome in my own mind as I read the tale.  I guess it is okay to step outside one’s normal habits and try something different on occasion.  4 stars

The Portuguese Affair (The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez Book 3)Ann Swinfen

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The third book in this marvelously crafted series finds Christoval/Kit part of an expedition being led by Francis Drake and John Norreys; the goals are to play havoc with what remains of the Spanish Navy after the defeat of The Armada and to place the rightful King of Portugal (rightful in the eyes of England) back on his throne.  From the outset, Kit is faced with disease, death, suffering and the very poor decisions made by the leaders of the force they command.  The author has once again published a story that while it is easy to read, is full of drama and excitement.  Imagine you are on a ship heading back to England, having had very little success in the mission and filled with the unwanted remnants of the conscript army with no food and only a little water.  The author places the reader alongside Kit making it possible to experience the untold misery; not only to the poor soldiers but to Kit’s over burdened mind.  There is much that Kit goes through that would have brought low many others.  A tale that has the reader turning the pages in anticipation of the twists and turns of the plot and in appreciation of an author with a great imagination and the wherewithal to put that imagination on paper.  It is also a tale that has the reader reaching for book four as the author has once again penned a last sentence full of mystery and foreboding.  5 stars

The Wolf Banner by Paula Lofting

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It seems that just about everyone wanted to rule England…the French, the Godwins, Edward and his heirs, the Danes.  It also seems that anything that could go wrong for Wulfhere does go wrong.  In the sequel to Sons of the Wolf, the author pulls out all the stops and delivers a scintillating run up to the cataclysmic events coming in 1066.  Wulfhere is a prime example of the range of emotions the author uses to bring the reader into the mindsets of the main and bit players in this chaotic, uncertain time.  A champion fighter, respected thegn and loyal servant to the King, Wulfhere endures much turmoil and suffering and has to dig deep to survive everything thrown at him.  The author also gives the reader a penetrating glimpse of the dance between the parties vying for power; be it the throne of England or the Earldom of Mercia.  Duplicity, underhanded dealings, and the pragmatic approach to the politics of the day are dealt with in an informative and entertaining fashion.  A page turning delight awaits, dear reader.  4.3 stars

The Fire and the Light by Glen Craney

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I found myself in unfamiliar territory regarding location, time and subject while reading The Fire and the Light, not that that is a bad thing.  The 13th Century is not my normal reading period, French history is not my usual subject and the Albigensian Crusade is just a distant history lesson long since forgotten.  What I found in picking up this book is a marvelous story by Mr. Craney.  He has taken the bits and pieces of this historical event and has crafted a tale worthy enough to be thought of as actual history, rather than fiction.  The characters are superbly written, from the spiritual leader of the Cathars, Esclarmonde, to the dastardly members of the Church seeking to destroy her and her band of heretics.  The emotions and the conflicts engendered by the Cathar beliefs are true high points in the narrative; the giving up of everything, including those you love, the willingness to die for those beliefs, the extreme suffering endured…all of this and more kept me enthralled and entertained throughout the tale.  Once again, I found myself immersed in a setting so brutally real that I would put the book down for a bit, catch my breath before returning to it.  4.7 stars and a Hoover Book Review “Highly Recommended Award”

 

 

Books of 2016

I have two of the books in your list…Rosa is on my Kindle and Clash is…well, Clash is mine 🙂

As the first day of 2017 starts to end, it’s time to reflect on the books that I’ve been reading in 2016. Admittedly, reading has been a struggle this year with job redundancies taking mind space as well as trying to finish books that I’ve started. So here is my list of the books I’ve managed to read and enjoy. They are not listed in any order of preference.

The first one I’m going to talk about was one that had me gripped from the very first page and I couldn’t put it down. A wonderful gothic ghost story and I highly recommend any of Jeanette Taylor Ford’s work

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2. The Witches Daughter by Paula Brackston. I’ve just finished the sequel to this and I love the characters and world weaved by Brackston.  If you are a fan of history with an element of fantasy then you’ll love this just…

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The Lion and the Rose by Kate Quinn

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The sequel to The Serpent and the Pearl continues the trials and tribulations of the three main characters, Giulia Farnese, Carmelina and Leonello, all of whom play prominent roles in the lives of the Borgia clan.  Kate Quinn has delivered a masterful look at the historical timeline of Pope Alexander, the sixth of that name, and has filled in the gaps with stunning results. Edge of the seat drama coupled with exquisite glimpses of the pomp of the Vatican Court and the powerlessness of those who serve.  Hardhearted cruelty, tenacious loyalty and love being found in all the wrong places are some of the highlights that await you, dear reader.

In all of the Kate Quinn books that I have read prior to this I have felt a twinge of envy for her very talented Muse and The Lion and the Rose was no different.  Kudos for another well written series.  4.8 stars