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

 

Return to Ithaca by Glyn Iliffe

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It is with a great sadness that I say goodbye to Odysseus and company (for the time being).  This epic series, so brilliantly conceived and written, has come to it’s conclusion.  Throughout my life of reading I have periodically gone back and reread a book or a series of books.  This practice has been decidedly put on hold the last few years as my humble book reviewing blog has garnered the attention of many authors who now ask me to read and review their work.  That coupled with my own novel writing has put a crimp in going back to reread any of my favorites.  The Adventures of Odysseus series may change that.  Whether it is because ancient Greek history was my first love or because the author has written some damned good books, I will be rereading this series.

The story of Odysseus comes to a close as he returns to Ithaca to reclaim his home, his throne and his family.  The emotional roller coaster ride the main characters experience is the highlight of this volume.  Odysseus, Eperitus, Telemachus and Penelope go through the gamut of doubt and fear; hope and happiness as they battle the scheming suitors for the right to rule.  The story is well known and it is a credit to the author for taking it and making it his own, giving the reader a fresh look at this ancient tale.  5 stars

Blood Enemy (The Long War for England – book 2) by Martin Lake

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An uneasy peace exists between Alfred and the Danish warlord, Guthrum, but there are other Danes with designs on Wessex.  In the continuation of Alfred’s quest to rule England; all of it, the author has wrought a tale of tested loyalties, difficult loves and the emotional stability of a warrior caught in a frenzied blood lust.  The twins, Ulf and Inga are now part of Alfred’s retinue and this story finds them learning who and what they are.  As in the other works by Martin Lake, I was drawn into the mindsets of the protagonists, in this case English and Dane, as each group struggles to maintain and increase their hold on English soil.  The history between Saxons and Danes is long and bloody, making any semblance of peace, compromise or acceptance virtually non-existent especially since the divisions are multiplied by religious fervor – reminds me of today actually.  The author superbly brings those challenges to the fore and has produced another delightful page turning journey into the making of England.  4.3 stars

Fields of Mars – Marius Mules X by S.J.A. Turney

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The Rubicon River, a rather insignificant stream with a rather major significance.  Fronto is once again with Gaius Julius Caesar and follows him across that river and into open rebellion against fellow Romans.  In MM X, the author presents the events of Caesar’s siege of Massilia and his campaign in Hispania against Pompey’s legions.  In a nice bit of plot interweaving, we find Fronto, once again in charge of a legion, with Caesar at Ilerda while at the same time he is also mentally occupied with the Massilia situation due to his business interests there and the fact that his nice villa is now a Roman camp.  The cast is replete with some old favorites, Galronus, Antonius, Brutus, and a nice cameo from Musgava and crew.  On the flip side we have some nasties like Ahenobarbus and Petreius for example.  We are also introduced to an intriguing character, Salvius Cursor, one of those characters who make you wonder if you’re supposed to hate him or to like him – trust me, you’ll understand as you read the book.  The author puts on another display of his battle prowess, but to me it was more of a story about the characters; the mindsets of Caesar – the way he prosecutes this war; Fronto and the fact that he is aging but can’t stay out of the action; Salvius and his need for bloodshed.  It is a masterful telling of historical events that changed the Roman world with a fine smattering of fictional tweaking.  It is sad to realize that we are on the down slope of Marius Mules; only five more volumes to go.  🙂  4.7 stars

Half Sick of Shadows by Richard Abbott

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First, a confession; my only exposure to the famous ballad, The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson, is the musical adaptation by Loreena McKennitt.  Perhaps I once had to read it for a class in school, but since my reading preference has always been prose, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that I have simply forgotten.  Anyroad, this adaptation takes the Arthurian legend and adds the author’s own personal touch; an adaptation that, while remaining true to the original’s basic story line, is reminiscent of the science fiction episodes I used to watch on Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.  The progression of The Lady through the various stages of her existence, and the descriptions of the eras in which she awakes are masterfully told by the author.  The inner turmoil of The Lady, as she struggles with the Mirror to gain access to the people she comes in contact with, drives the tale as the Mirror cautions her time and again about the dangers involved.  The conclusion of the tale, though a heart rending scene, is also one of hope as The Lady finally finds out who she is.  Kudos to the author for a most interesting slant on this well known ballad.  4.7 stars

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

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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.  🙂

 

 

Killer of Kings by Matthew Harffy

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Beobrand, mighty warrior, lord of his own hall, leader of his own war band but still tormented by events in the past.  Sent by King Oswald on a seemingly innocent mission finds himself embroiled in war and conflict.  He also finds that the main tormentor, the man he has pledged to kill, is among the foes arrayed against him.  In this latest installment of The Bernicia Chronicles, the author has taken this rash, headstrong, Dark Age warrior, and as he has done throughout this series has turned up the angst, turned up the rash/reckless responses, and turned up the brooding melancholy. A short quote, “It seemed it was his wyrd to become that which he most despised.”

The author also exhibits his same flair for bringing the reader into the scene he is describing, whether it is Reaghan placating/pleading her goddess or Beobrand in the midst of sword-song.  Killer of Kings is a multi-layered, page turner; an excellent addition to what has become one of my favorite series.  4.6 stars

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Blurb:

AD 636. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and the fourth instalment in The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Beobrand has land, men and riches. He should be content. And yet he cannot find peace until his enemies are food for the ravens. But before Beobrand can embark on his bloodfeud, King Oswald orders him southward, to escort holy men bearing sacred relics.

When Penda of Mercia marches a warhost into the southern kingdoms, Beobrand and his men are thrown into the midst of the conflict. Beobrand soon finds himself fighting for his life and his honour.

In the chaos that grips the south, dark secrets are exposed, bringing into question much that Beobrand had believed true. Can he unearth the answers and exact the vengeance he craves? Or will the blood-price prove too high, even for a warrior of his battle-fame and skill? 

Author info: 

Matthew grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

Buy links

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2nNItf2

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2nNEyPz

iBooks: http://apple.co/2ocWWEi

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2ocS2Y7

 

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Website: www.matthewharffy.com

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