The Scribe’s Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

scribesdaughter.jpg

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.

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

lions_al rassan.jpg

Let me just state from the get-go…I fancy myself as an author given that I have written and published a novel (with more to come) but when I read someone like Guy Gavriel Kay, I ache to have just a little of his talent; just a little more ability to draw word pictures in his manner.  Lions is a complex story of love, loyalty, and devotion during a period of great upheaval; a period reminiscent of the Moorish-Christian competition to see whose God is best(sadly, still going on.)  If I get anything out of reading this tale it is this, that the genocidal insanity of religious domination in political affairs is quite possibly the saddest concept in human history.

Another aspect of Lions is the almost impossible situations some of the characters find themselves in; especially when it comes to love and loyalty…so many lines are crossed and in such a way that the differences between Jaddite-Asharite-Kindath pale in significance to the individuals involved.  The Kindath physician Jehane, the poet/warrior Ammar, the Jaddite warrior Rodrigo and many others, provide the reader with characters so fully developed as to make the story seem historical rather than a fantasy account.

So, my peeps and fellow travelers, prepare for an emotion filled, heart tugging tale from a master at his craft.  5 stars…or maybe two moons…or maybe just the Sun..read the book, you’ll get what I mean.  🙂

 

 

The Du Lac Chronicles by Mary Anne Yarde

du lac chronicles.jpg

Alden Du Lac lost his kingdom to the ever ambitious Saxon, Cerdic and is about to lose his life.  Enter Cerdic’s daughter, Annis and thus we are thrust into a powerful story of loss, betrayal, torment, and above all, the love that sees them through.  Annis is young and inexperienced having been sheltered and basically ignored, by her father.  Alden, a son of Lancelot, is/was a king and is haunted by what he feels is his betrayal to his people.  Book one of this series, follows them on an uncertain, tortuous path, firstly to escape the wrath of Cerdic and eventually to prepare to confront him.  I found myself immersed in the time and place as the author skillfully interlaces an emotion filled love story with the the actions of ruthless and ambitious men, and the history of Cornwall.  I love a good Arthurian tale, and while he is already dead at the time of this one, I welcomed this ‘it could have happened this way’ take on the aftermath of his demise, and am looking forward to book two.  4.3 stars

 

Roma Amor by Sherry Christie

romaamor.jpg

Whenever I think of Caligula, I see John Hurt’s I,Claudius portrayal, one of a madman ruling an empire.  In Roma Amor, we find a different Caligula, one who is still working out how to be Emperor while trying to keep at bay the tormenting demons in his mind.  This story, while it is certainly about Caligula, is more than that.  Marcus Carinna returns to Rome, a successful military campaign completed and hostages in tow and finds himself in a struggle to find the truth about his family and the truth behind Caligula’s rise to power.  It is also a tale of loyalties, mostly misspent loyalties, to the greater good of Rome.  I found it easy to like Carinna and likewise felt the pain and anguish he experiences throughout the book.  Indeed, that is one of the strengths of the story, that the characters, real and fictitious, are believable; no matter their station or role.  The plots and subplots keep the reader guessing as Carinna and Caligula head into a clash of wills; a clash that an emperor usually wins…but I will leave it at that.  3.8 stars

Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage

approachingdark.jpg

With the deposing of Edward II, the ruler over England is now Edward III, though he is ruled by his mother Queen Isabella and her lover, the formidable Lord Mortimer.  Adam now serves the young King, his loyalty is resolute even though he still harbors great affection for Mortimer.  In this, the third tale of Adam and his wife Kit, the author brings to life the increasing tension in the royal court as Edward III comes of an age where he longs to shed his keepers and take up the mantle of kingship on his own.  It is a story filled with twists and turns; the emotional frailties of the human spirit; the battle for control of the crown; the longing for home and loved ones.  It is also a story of love and romance; Isabella and Mortimer, Edward and his young wife Phillipa, and most especially between Adam and Kit.  The author is on her game when it comes to the foibles and joys of the bonds of love.  An eloquent, page turning drama awaits the reader, though I must admit to having to stop turning pages when Kit and Adam are – well you’ll see for yourself.  🙂  I’ve come to appreciate the amazing talent Anna Belfrage has exhibited in drawing me into the stories she writes, and Under the Approaching Dark is another fine example of that talent.  5 stars

The First Blast of the Trumpet by Marie Macpherson

firstblasttrumpet.jpg

I attended Knox Presbyterian Church in Detroit, MI when I was young; indeed it was the church in which I was married, so, reading about the life of John Knox seemed like an interesting thing to do.  What I found, in The First Blast of the Trumpet, was far more than just a historical fiction biography.  Scotland in the mid-16th century was filled with religious and political turmoil.  It was an era of burgeoning church reform; building on the Lutheran reformation in Germany.  It was also a time when Henry VIII of England wanted Scotland for his own.  In this turbulent atmosphere the author has produced a wonderfully crafted tale; one that propels the reader into a world where the Church is beginning to lose it’s grip on the populace; a world where Scotland is struggling to maintain its independence; a world where the reader experiences life in a Cicstercian Abbey.  While this is the story of John Knox, the main character in the first book of this trilogy, is Elizabeth Hepburn, Prioress of St. Mary’s Abbey.  I fell in love with Lisbeth right from the start, a jaggy thistle with romantic dreams but whose future was not hers to control.  As the story progresses and the jaggy thistle grows up, Elizabeth becomes what was a rarity in a male dominated society; a strong woman able to defy and even defeat her male counterparts and overlords.  Yet, she is also a woman troubled by that romantic streak she maintains in memory and even in hope.  The story is also full of the dramatic tension between the corrupt officials of the Church and the reformers.  John Knox was destined for a life in the Church but doubts about the teachings of the Church and the influence of others leads him to turn his back on the Church and by extension his Godmother, Elizabeth.  Naturally, the Church responds viscerally as heretics are now burning for their sins.  This emotion packed look into the early life of Knox; this tale filled with unexpected turns; this work replete with characters who draw you into their world, comes with Hoover Book Reviews highest recommendation.  4.8 stars

P.S. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention? forewarn? my peeps and fellow travelers of the enchanting use of archaic Scottish throughout the book.  I jalouse you may want to keep Google nearby if you want to ken the meanings.  🙂

 

 

Rosa by Jeanette Taylor Ford

rosa.jpg

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