A Shape on the Air by Julia Ibbotson

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An intriguing mystery awaits you, dear reader.  Time slipping to the 5th century, parallel lives, a Dark Age village in Britain.  The story drew me in as Viv, and her friends unravel the secrets of her strange experiences.  Well written, characters you can believe, twists and surprises, and a lovely descriptive touch make this two era tale an excellent choice whether you like mysteries, or a bit of post-Roman British historical fiction.  I highly recommend this.. 4 stars.

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The Berlin Affair by David Boyle

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An interesting tale about the British Intelligence attempt to crack the German coding system known as Enigma.  Xanthe Schneider is a young American studying in England where she meets a member of Parliament who subsequently ends up in Berlin.  Is he betraying his country?  Xanthe is recruited to find out.  The story is entertaining as she makes contact with him, but conflicting emotions cloud her ability to do the job she was sent to do.  She also attracts the attention of the Gestapo and that element is a prime plot line that reaches a rather stunning conclusion.  All in all the story is well written and researched.  My only real complaint, valid or not, is that the book is too short.  Other than that it is a good read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in a spy thriller taking place in 1940 Berlin.  3.7 stars

 

The Scribe’s Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

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When I first saw this book popping up in discussion via a Facebook group I belong to, I decided that I wanted to read it even though it is not historical fiction but rather a historical fantasy tale.  So, I put it on my radar to be read when time allowed.  However, the forces of the universe deemed it was time when I won a copy of the book, and so as to not disrupt those forces, I disrupted my schedule instead; gladly as it turned out.  It is a gripping tale that held my interest from the beginning and kept me thoroughly entertained.  The main character, Kassia is struggling just to survive day to day living with no real prospects for the future.  Then a stranger appears and offers her a job that will pay enough to see her and her sister Irisa through for quite a while.  What she doesn’t realize is that this sets off a chain of events that changes her life forever.  The story is compelling, the characters are well written, the imaginative settings and differing cultures the author conjures up make this a truly excellent read.  Part of the blurb for the book states that Kassia is a thief. That is certainly true as she stole my heart along the way.  4.3 stars  I am looking forward to the sequel.

After the Ides by Peter Tonkin

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Ahh, that tumultuous period after Gaius Julius Caesar’s assassination.  A power vacuum now exists in Rome providing the drama as the contestants for that power vie for and against each other.  Lots of work for the agents who used to work for the now divine Julius and who are now firmly in Antony’s camp carrying out his wishes and commands throughout Italy and beyond.   Given that the historical events are pretty well known it would take a creative  imagination to render the fictional bits believable and intriguing.  The author has done that through the actions of the elite group of agents conjured up to bring the story to life.  They mesh seamlessly with the likes of Antony, Octavian, Cicero etc, as they interact with friends and foes.  The story flows nicely as it heads to the tension filled collision of Antony and a Cicero provoked Senate.  As well as providing an intriguing tale, the author has splendidly described the geographical locations; an example of that is Antony’s retreat from Mutina into the Alps following Hannibal’s route. My only real complaint is that book 3 isn’t out yet.  4.7 stars

The Earthly Gods by Nick Brown

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Indavara held captive by unknown persons for nefarious purposes.  Cassius Corbulo gone off the “Service” grid to help an old friend while he awaits any word on the whereabouts of Indavara.  The Agent of Rome series by Nick Brown is a must read for anyone interested, not only in the doings of the Roman world, but also those who like a good mystery/detective/action/thriller.   As the series has progressed, so too, have the main characters…to the point where Corbulo/Indavara/Simo have become fictional favorites of mine.  As in the previous volumes, the author gives the reader an excellent tale filled with surprises and an imagination filling description of the places and people involved.  The main difference in this episode as opposed to the earlier ones is that this one does not follow a particular historical event, but rather is more personal in it’s context giving the author a chance to explore in more detail the things that make Corbulo and company tick, exposing more of the emotions and feelings of the crew.  I eagerly await the next volume.  4.7 stars

The Bloody Black Flag by Steve Goble

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The life of a pirate is a hazardous one, fraught with many dangers.  How much more so when you are sailing with a captain who is a bit maniacal.  Spider John Rush and his best mate Ezra join the crew of Plymouth Dream and find themselves at odds with many of their shipmates, a situation that thrusts Spider John into a mystery to be solved and revenge to be meted out.  The tale is engaging and certainly exciting.  Life aboard a pirate vessel is presented in fine detail; the characters are believable; the plot lines are nicely filled with surprises.  All in all it is a page turning read that keeps the reader on the edge of their seats as mysteries are unraveled as Spider John seeks answers and revenge.  4.2 stars

 

The Afflicted Girls by Suzy Witten

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Having lived in Salem, MA. for 30 plus years I can attest to the fact that witches are still big in Salem.  In fact, witches play an important part in the tourism that fuels the economy in these parts.  I reckon that the curiosity of today’s tourists is akin to the infatuation of pious Christians or the centuries worth of fear our ancestors felt when dealing with the strange and unusual.  The author has rendered a tumultuous period of our history into a gripping tale of greed, lust and ignorance.   I was particularly keen on the author’s ability to bring to life the caustic atmosphere of the villages involved; the day to day struggle; the ever present differences in class; the overwhelming hold of the church on the lives of the villagers.  Her characters are well defined for the time and for the society they lived; a society dominated by obedience to authority no matter that the authority figures are abusive or just plain blind to truth.  The Afflicted Girls is full of drama as the plot begins to unfurl and thrusts New England into a rash of horrible deeds. Page turning and replete with surprises (some disgusting), The Afflicted Girls is a worthy recipient of your reading time.  4.3 stars