The Virgin of the Wind Rose (Christopher Columbus) by Glen Craney

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While investigating the murder of an American missionary in Ethiopia, rookie State Department lawyer Jaqueline Quartermane becomes obsessed with a magical word square found inside an underground church guarding the tomb of the biblical Adam.

Drawn into a web of esoteric intrigue, she and a roguish antiquities thief named Elymas must race an elusive and taunting mastermind to find the one relic needed to resurrect Solomon’s Temple. A trail of cabalistic clues leads them to the catacombs of Rome, the crypt below Chartres Cathedral, a Masonic shaft in Nova Scotia, a Portuguese shipwreck off Sumatra, and the caverns under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Intertwined with this modern mystery-thriller, a parallel duel is waged:

The year is 1452. One of the most secretive societies in history, Portugal’s Order of Christ, is led by a reclusive visionary, Prince Henry the Navigator. He and his medieval version of NASA merged with the CIA scheme to foil their archenemies, the Inquisitor Torquemada and Queen Isabella of Castile, who plan to bring back Christ for the Last Judgment by ridding the world of Jews, heretics, and unbelievers.

Separated by half a millennium, two conspiracies to usher in the Tribulations promised by the Book of Revelation dovetail in this fast-paced thriller to expose the world’s most explosive secret: The true identity of Christopher Columbus and the explorer’s connection to those now trying to spark the End of Days.

REVIEW

A sprawling tale spanning 500 years, The Virgin of the Wind Rose, is about as exciting as it gets. It is also a very erudite tome…the reader will inevitably have to think about what they just read…the word square, the navigational methods, the zealous religion aspect, etc. The story alternates between the late 15th century – the mysterious Portuguese sea going activities, and modern day where Jaq and Boz are pulled into a conspiracy to usher in The Last Days – The Rapture. Meticulously researched, the author creates a plausible scenario for the activities of the Portuguese sea going visionaries, and the cult like evangelicals. The characters are well written; their thoughts and emotions on full display. I enjoyed the inner debate of Jaq’s Christian beliefs versus her mounting doubts…but even she, a talented, well educated person can blurt out ,”Everyone knows Jesus was a Christian.”…cults will do that even to smart minds.

The Virgin of the Wind Rose is an unusual read. A page turner with a caveat – must slow down a bit to understand the arcane nature of the narrative, but once the pieces of this 500 year old puzzle fall into place, it is a good read..a very good read.   5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Uncovering by Lorelei Brush

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Shahnaz is a liberal but observant Pakistani Muslim, a nurse with a dream that all pregnant women will deliver healthy babies. At her parents’ command she weds Naseer, a gentle man who encourages her work. But marrying Naseer means she must live with his extended family, including his fundamentalist older brother, Raja Haider. When their father dies, Raja Haider becomes head of the family. With this new power, he orders Shahnaz to quit her job and stay at home. Mild Naseer respects his brother’s authority, but Shahnaz rebels with the strength of a courageous warrior.

Brush explores a Muslim society threatened by extremism. The story churns with the struggles of obedience versus self-determination, piety versus zealotry, and tradition versus progress. Some seek peace, and others pursue violence to achieve what’s holy.

REVIEW

This, my fellow readers, is one intense story. A culture driven by centuries old traditions forms the basis for this tale of an amazing woman caught between the restrictions of her religion and the very real need for her work with pregnant Pakistani women. The characters jump off of the page with the reality of the time and place. Uncovering is one of those books that is so emotionally charged that it tugs at the reader’s heart. Repressive, insular, power over the less fortunate is something that we all need to face up to. Despite the obstacles, we can, like Shahnaz, dare to hope, dare to change.  5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Nexus (Roma Nova #4.5) by Alison Morton

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Mid 1970s. Ex-Praetorian Aurelia Mitela is serving as Roma Nova’s interim ambassador in London. Asked by a British colleague to find his missing son, Aurelia thinks it will only be a case of a young man temporarily rebelling. He’s bound to turn up only a little worse for wear.

But a spate of high-level killings pulls Aurelia away into a dangerous pan-European investigation. Badly beaten in Rome as a warning, she discovers the killers have kidnapped her life companion, Miklós, and sent an ultimatum: Back off or he’ll die.

But Aurelia is a Roma Novan and they never give up…

Set between AURELIA and INSURRECTIO in the Aurelia Mitela Roma Nova adventures

REVIEW

I have read all of the Roma Nova stories, and have enjoyed them all immensely. It’s one of those series that although it is an alternate history, a made up geo-political world; it rings so true as to seem real. In this backstory novella, the author has not diminished that effect at all.  Nexus gives us another chapter in the life of one of my favorite fictional characters, Aurelia Mitela. An exciting tale that follows Aurelia on what started out as a  search for a missing person and becomes a roller coaster ride of adventure, and danger…two things that are sure to bring out the Praetorian in our heroine. So, my fellow readers of Roma Novan history, prepare to be entertained, and to learn a little more about Aurelia Mitela.  5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Passage by Prue Batten

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Meeting Alex Tremayne changed Annie’s life.
Losing him through a shocking farm accident shattered her.

Passage is the story of one woman, Annie Tremayne, and her journey through grief.
After Annie loses Alex, her husband and soulmate, she withdraws into the state of solitude that has always been her refuge.

Unsure how to move forward, she leans on Blighty, her bizarre little Jack Russell terrier for comfort, wishfully encountering the spirit of her late husband and craving the dry wit and understanding of her French friend, Lisette.

Amongst the raw beauty of Tasmania’s east coast, Annie discovers stalwart friends where she thought she had none and, ever so occasionally, there are glimmers of what could be.
With the help of feisty Blighty, her husband’s earthy wisdom, and the glaring honesty and wit of Lisette, Annie begins the journey back from sorrow.

Will she reach the other side?
Maybe only her diverse companions know…

REVIEW

I know that in every review I’ve written about the books by Prue Batten, I have waxed effusively on the beauty of her prose; the eloquence, the spot on emotions, narrative descriptions that linger, like the smell and sound of the sea, and so on. So it might seem ironic that my favorite sentence in Passage is this:

‘You know what, Blighty?’ she mumbled into his coarse fur. ‘Life is such shit sometimes.’

Then again, maybe not so ironic when taken in context. Passage is one of the most poignant stories I have read in a long time. The coming to terms with grief for Annie is a grueling passage, and the author has given her an eloquent, heartrending tale to tell. A highlight feature, for me, is Annie’s conversations with her recently deceased husband, Alex. The give and take between them is priceless and helps set the tone for dealing with the other people in her life…a new way of understanding the events..a new way of understanding herself.

So, my peeps and fellow readers, Hoover Book Reviews gives it 5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐, and it’s highest recommendation…

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Editor’s note:

Yeah, I know it says historical fiction on the Paulitzer, but hey, like I said I don’t read contemporary fiction very often, and this is the only Paulitzer currently in stock. 😁

Go Down the Mountain by Meredith Battle

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Go Down the Mountain was inspired by the stories of the people who lost their homes to Shenandoah National Park in the 1930s. At once dramatic adventure, moving love story and recollection of a vanished life, the story follows mountain girl Bee on her harrowing journey to discover the truth about her family, living and dead.

Bee is a nervy, teenage beauty whose beloved father’s sudden death in a snake charming accident has left her alone with her abusive mother. Her one salvation is Miles, the big-city photographer who promises escape and a life full of the adventure she craves. But when Bee is caught in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with a government man who takes her family’s land and won’t stop until he claims her too, it may be Torch, the boy she grew up with on the mountain, who becomes the man she needs.

REVIEW

An out of the blue read and review request…I suppose my small contribution to the literary world does have its perks. I was, at first, intrigued by the locale of this novel, as I drive through the region often, but have always looked upon it as a repository for Civil War story fodder – the exploits of General Thomas Jackson or General Philip Sheridan. It is, however, the stories and lives of the ordinary folk and their daily struggle for existence that captured my attention in this riveting account of Depression Era Appalachia. The main character, Bee Livingston, is a feisty, resourceful, and totally captivating young woman caught in the throes of dispossession and the harsh reality of her family life. If any of my peeps and fellow travelers have seen the old John Wayne movie, Shepherd of the Hills, you may, as I did, sort of model Bee after Sammy, the young heroine in the movie. Written in a very engaging style, the tale flows nicely through the trials and tribulations of the Hollow folk facing eviction from their homes by an unfeeling, and downright cruel government. The author captures the essence of mountain culture, and reminds us that there are periods of our country’s history that aren’t too reflective of our stated ideals of justice and equality. An entertaining and informative tale awaits you, dear reader.  5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Lords of St. Thomas by Jackson Ellis

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Born and raised in St. Thomas, Lord lived in a small home beside his garage with his son, Thomas, his daughter-in-law, Ellen, and his grandson, “Little” Henry. All lived happily until the stroke of a pen by President Coolidge authorizing the construction of the Boulder (Hoover) Dam. Within a decade, more than 250 square miles of desert floor would become flooded by the waters of the Colorado River, and St. Thomas would be no more.

In the early 1930s, the federal government began buying out the residents of St. Thomas, yet the hardheaded Henry Lord, believing the water would never reach his home, refused to sell. It was a mistake that would cost him―and his family―dearly.

Lords of St. Thomas details the tragedies and conflicts endured by a family fighting an unwinnable battle, and their hectic and terrifying escape from the flood waters that finally surge across the threshold of their front door. Surprisingly, it also shows that, sometimes, you can go home again, as Little Henry returns to St. Thomas 60 years later, after Lake Mead recedes, to retrieve a treasure he left behind―and to fulfill a promise he made as a child.

REVIEW

Intrigued as I was by the premise of this tale, a look at an obscure part of the country, an obscure bit of our history, I was not prepared for the drama and emotion that like the making of Lake Mead, flood the pages. It is a coming of age story in a town that is destined to disappear due to the building of The Hoover Dam. Though it is the mid-1930’s, I could still resonate with young Henry, especially the honing of baseball skills by throwing a ball against a wall.  The author has crafted a tale that while unique in its setting, is not so unique as to the human condition – tense family situations, the fear of the unknown future, the struggle to live up to expectations – all of that and more make this an enjoyable read.  I have driven the southern shore of Lake Mead, and the stark barren, desert landscape is vividly described by the author, as is the out of place look the lake has in this drought ridden, sun baked land. As the blurb states, Henry returns 60 years later as the lake has receded and uncovered parts of St. Thomas. Without spoiling it for future readers, I can say that the author has provided the reader with an exciting, dramatic conclusion to this wonderful tale.  5 stars

ROMA NOVA EXTRA: A Collection of Short Stories (Roma Nova Thriller Series Book 8) by Alison Morton

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As a disclaimer, I must issue this warning. After reading Roma Nova Extra, you may experience some side effects; such as, the overriding compulsion to reread the Roma Nova series. Oh yes, my peeps and fellow travelers, this collection of short stories is that compelling.

I have always found history to be more than just interesting, even if it’s the history of an alternative/fictional world, and in this volume of stories, the author fills in some gaps, provides insight as to how Roma Nova came into being. One such story, Victory, is a perfect example of the Roma Nova adherence to their past; to their beliefs – their passion for keeping the old ways alive and to not succumb or submit to those who would see their downfall.

The stories, a mixture of historical perspective with some more personal tales give the reader a further glimpse into this amazing fictional country – it’s past, and it’s future. An enjoyable collection that is sure to delight the faithful readers of the Roma Nova series.

5 stars

Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton

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BLURB: A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.

In present-day London, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.

Bone Lines is the story of two women, separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life.  A tale of love and survival – of courage and the quest for wisdom – it explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.

Although partly set during a crucial era of human history 74,000 years ago, Bones Lines is very much a book for our times. Dealing with themes from genetics, climate change and migration to the yearning for meaning and the clash between faith and reason, it also paints an intimate portrait of who we are as a species. The book tackles some of the big questions but requires no special knowledge of any of the subjects to enjoy.

Alternating between ancient and modern timelines, the story unfolds through the experiences of two unique characters:  One is a shaman, the sole surviving adult of her tribe who is braving a hazardous journey of migration, the other a dedicated scientist living a comfortable if troubled existence in London, who is on her own mission of discovery. 

The two are connected not only by a set of archaic remains but by a sense of destiny – and their desire to shape it. Both are pioneers, women of passion, grit and determination, although their day to day lives could not be more different. One lives moment by moment, drawing on every scrap of courage and ingenuity to keep herself and her infant daughter alive, while the other is absorbed by work, imagination and regret. Each is isolated and facing her own mortal dangers and heart-rending decisions, but each is inspired by the power of the life force and driven by love. 

Bone Lines stands alone as a novel but also marks the beginning of the intended ‘Children of Sarah’ series.

REVIEW

Anthropology has always fascinated me. During the early 1970’s  when I was in college, I focused on two subjects – ancient history and physical anthropology, so I was immediately drawn to the subject matter in Bone Lines. The finding of Sarah and the speculation that she might have been migrating back to Africa because of a natural occurring climate change event is the focal point of Bone Lines and really caught my interest (I surprised myself in that I actually understood the scientific portions of the tale after all these years – a testament to the descriptive ability of the author). It is a very well thought out tale full of surprises while at the same time giving the reader some interesting ideas and thoughts to ponder. I especially enjoyed Eloise’s letters to Charles Darwin – lots of soul searching and mind expanding going on in those. All in all, an enjoyable read featuring two strong female protagonists; a speculative look at life on earth 74,000 years ago – an earth in the throes of a volcanic winter; and the emotional/mental turmoil of a gifted but troubled scientist.

5 stars

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Who do you think you are? A daunting question for the debut author… but also one to inspire a genre-fluid novel based on the writer’s fascination for what makes humanity tick. Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast

Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.

Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)

 

Website: http://www.stephaniebretherton.com/

Twitter : @BrethertonWords

Instagram: @brethertonwords2

 

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Roma Nova Boxed Set – Books I-III by Alison Morton

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Before the collapse of the Western Empire and the Ottoman victory in the East, a group of Romans comprising twelve of the oldest families leave Rome and setup a new country in the region between Italy and Austria, Roma-Nova and it has survived into the 21st century. The three books in this set chronicle the story of Carina Mitela who is living an unassuming life as an office cubicle worker in the U.S. when she is suddenly thrust into a maelstrom of danger and intrigue. This story has elements of history, romance, international and political intrigue, rogue/shadowy covert agencies, a coming of age/coming to grips with the reality of who you are, a really nasty bad guy; a wealth of plots to keep you entertained. The action is plentiful, the emotions are highly charged and the characters are full of life.  All three are page turning, sleep depriving delights to read. 5 stars

 

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

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Let me preface my remarks with this useful tidbit. Whenever I am asked to name my favorite author(s), or which author(s) I would invite to a dinner party, two names always top the list(s) – Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut. In a way those choices do seem a bit odd, given that most of my reading of their work was decades ago, and I have since been exposed to so many really wonderful writers. Perhaps my preference for Mark and Kurt stems from the simple fact that they present a look at America unclouded by myth and legend. And that, my peeps and fellow travelers, is what I like – a questioning of the status quo, a questioning of what we value in this country, a questioning of where we are heading.

Kilgore Trout, a prolific writer of science fiction novels, novels that only see the light of day in tawdry, men’s magazines, is unexpectedly invited to an Arts Festival. Dwayne Hoover, a well to do car salesman, unexpectedly meets Kilgore Trout and in the course of events reads one of Trout’s books, thus setting in motion a climatic ending that includes Kilgore meeting his maker. Among the truths Dwayne discovered in the book is this:

You are pooped and demoralized, ” read Dwayne. “Why wouldn’t you be? Of course it is exhausting, having to reason all the time in a universe which wasn’t meant to be reasonable.”

Taking on and skewering many of the characteristics of the human race, and the chaotic, random, arbitrary nature of the universe, the author blends his pessimism with his sardonic wit and has produced another masterpiece. Listen – I challenge my peeps and fellow travelers who have not read Vonnegut to rectify that…  Sirens of Titan – Slaughterhouse Five – God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, etc, etc. At the least you will be entertained, perhaps you may even begin to question things.  🙂

5 Stars