Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Interview and Contest: Shana Galen - The Rogue Pirate's Bride

Today I have Shana Galen over for an interview, and as usual there is a chance to win a book, this time her new book The Rogue Pirate's Bride.

Welcome!

1. Could you tell me a bit about yourself…
SG: Hi! Thanks so much for having me. I’m a wife and a mother and a former English teacher. I write fulltime now, which in my world means during naps and after bedtime. My first book was published in 2005, but I’ve been writing and working toward publication since 2000. I write adventurous Regency-set historicals that a lot of reviewers call out-of-the-box. I’m not sure why because the stories seem to fit nicely in all of my boxes. The Rogue Pirate’s Bride is my eleventh book.

2. Your newest book is called The Rogue Pirate’s Bride, what it is about?
SG: The Rogue Pirate’s Bride is a book about revenge. The hero, Bastien, is intent upon avenging the death of his mentor by the Barbary Corsair Jourdain. He’s pursuing Jourdain and plans to sink his ship. Meanwhile, Raeven Russell, the heroine and daughter of a British admiral is pursuing Bastien in order to avenge the death of her fiancé, who was the captain of a ship Bastien sunk. Raeven sneaks on Bastien’s ship just as he catches sight of Jourdain’s ship and sets sail. That’s when the problems really begin.

3. What was your inspiration behind making Bastien a privateer?
SG: I always wanted to write a book about a pirate, but the golden age of pirates was pretty much over by 1802, when my series is set. There were still Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean, but they were based out of North Africa, and my hero is half English and half French. So I thought I would make Bastien a privateer sailing under a letter of marque (like a letter of legitimacy) from Spain. That way he could harass ships, particularly British ships, with the excuse that he was doing so to protect Spain from its enemies. So basically privateers were legitimate pirates. Bastien is very particular about his status. He insists he’s a privateer, not a pirate, but my heroine, Raeven, makes little distinction between the two. She’s the daughter of a British admiral, so she is a perfect antagonist for a privateer with a letter of marque from Spain, who was at odds with Britain at the time.

4. This book is a part of the Sons of the Revolution series, could you tell us a bit about the series?
SG: The series is about three brothers who are separated as children when peasants attack their country chateau during the French Revolution. Julien, from The Making of a Duchess, is the eldest and escapes with his English mother to London. When he grows up, he sets out on a quest to find his younger brothers, Armand (The Making of a Gentleman) and Bastien (The Rogue Pirate’s Bride), and reunite the family (except for their father who was guillotined).

5. And coming back to a certain pirate subject, why do you think they are so interesting?
SG: To me, pirates are interesting because they are the ultimate bad boy. In modern times, we think of the guy in a leather jacket on a loud Harley. In the nineteenth century, pirates were the rebels. They didn’t follow laws and rules, they went wherever they wanted, and they controlled a really big ship with some pretty powerful cannons. Pirates are rogues in that they are vagabonds. They don’t settle down, go to work every day, raise a family. It’s an exciting lifestyle, on the outside. For someone like me, who is very settled with a mortgage, a child, and work deadlines coming up, sailing away with a pirate is a nice daydream.

6. What is coming next from you?
SG: I have a new series we are now calling Jewels of the Ton about three glamorous courtesans in Regency London. They stumble upon some dangerous diamonds and some equally dangerous men. The first book is titled When You Give a Duke a Diamond, and it will be out in September.

Thanks!
Thanks so much for having me. I’ll be popping in all day.


Giveaway:
2 copies/2 winners of The Rogue Pirate's Bride

1. Open to US and Canada
2. Ends March 8
3. Just enter.
Shana will be stopping by so be free to ask her anything. Or maybe tell me why you like pirates.

THE ROGUE PIRATE’S BRIDE BY SHANA GALEN – IN STORES FEBRUARY 2012

Revenge should be sweet, but it may cost him everything… 
Out to avenge the death of his mentor, Bastien discovers himself astonishingly out of his depth when confronted with a beautiful, daring young woman who is out for his blood… 

Forgiveness is unthinkable, but may be her only hope… 
British Admiral’s daughter Raeven Russell believes Bastien responsible for her fiancé’s death. But once the fiery beauty crosses swords with Bastien, she’s not so sure she really wants him to change his wicked ways… 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shana Galen is the author of five Regency historicals, including the Rita-nominated Blackthorne’s Bride. Her books have been sold in Brazil, Russia, and the Netherlands and featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. A former English teacher in Houston’s inner city, Shana now writes full time. She is a happily married wife and mother of a daughter and lives in Houston, Texas, where she is working on her next Regency romance series! For more information please visit www.shanagalen.com, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.  

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Review: The Sounding - Carrie Salo

Form: paperback, 478 pages
Genre: supernatural thriller
Target audience: adults
Review by Anachronist

Synopsis (from Amazon.com):
In the Book of Revelation, a man named John has a prophetic dream. He dreams of the final prophecies that will come to pass - and the seven archangels that guard them. Each angel waits to sound their trumpet at God's appointed time, preparing humanity to fight and win the final battle. 2,000 years later, Father Chris Mognahan is a member of the Hetairia Melchizedek, a secret society within the Catholic Church that studies Biblical omens. The society asks Chris to investigate an unusually grotesque crime - a murder on a college campus where the killer's hand literally burned off the victim's face. While the killing seems isolated at first, the society ties the murder to the final Biblical prophecy and a terrifying omen that the order of the prophecies is about to be disrupted. The final battle is coming too soon - long before humanity is prepared to win it. Suddenly, Chris finds himself fighting against time and hell to keep the prophecies in order and stop an early Armageddon. He is joined by a band of unlikely allies, and together they find themselves in Rome above the Vatican Necropolis - the city of the dead - where the future is revealed to them in ancient texts. They are not alone, however; an evil as old as time itself hunts them. As they travel across continents on their mission, the demonic force follows relentlessly, waiting in every shadowed corner, and every dark place. As Armageddon descends, Father Chris finds that his only hope lies in a young woman within the group who has a secret gift - and their belief that God Himself may have sent her to keep the final angelic trumpet from sounding out the early end of the Earth.

What I liked:
I must admit this novel surprised me nicely several times. I must admit it – I started to read it with a very negative feelings. First I thought it was something in the style of Dan Brown (insert an expletive of your choice). The more I read the more I was delighted to be wrong. Then I thought it was veering too much toward paranormal romance and I was wrong again – there is some romance, it is rather paranormal but don’t expect testosterone-filled heavily muscled, devastatingly handsome he-angels strutting around with their wings, making girls swoon (or, in a version for boys, angelic super-model girls with perfect proportion and fantastic hair dancing semi-nude in the moonlight. Or whatever such creatures usually do). A wrong book.

Its first huge asset was a number of very likeable, three-dimensional characters, some of them with a great sense of humour. First of all we have Elise Moore who is an angel, Remiel, but also a normal 19-year-old college student, working part time in a bar, fancying boys and men, swearing and having fun. She has some paranormal gifts but she must learn how to use it and it is not always easy. What’s more, when she is attacked she doesn’t wait for rescue, she doesn’t pray, she defends herself, hurting or even killing. That’s my angel - I have a soft spot for such heroines. Especially that she has pangs of conscience later. 

Then there are several Catholic priests: Father Chris, Father Alan and a mute visionary monk called Francis. All of them are not exactly like your average image of a Catholic priest and take it from a girl born and bred in a Catholic country. They are more like normal people: they can fall in love (not spoiling, nuh-huh), they can sin, they are angry with the Vatican’s bureaucracy and red tape (from time to time, not overly so) even though they love their God and are good Christians. The main baddie (called the Other, a demonic entity of a kind) was simply delightful - so similar to our she-angel in some aspects that I gasped with joy more than one time. He also understood her the best (and my heart was dancing – that’s my demon!). In other words these characters made this book a very interesting read. Taking into account the fact that it is Ms. Salo’s debut novel – chapeau bas! This lady knows her craft!

Then there is Vatican and its mysterious churches like palaces and palaces like labyrinths and labyrinths serving as catacombs. It could be really felt that the author was there, saw that all and most probably bought a t-shirt or two, maybe even one similar to a habit ;). It was very entertaining and well-written.

Finally the plot - it was good, original, full of suspense, even riveting from time to time, with the right emphasis in all proper places and a great final – no mean feat, many good novels have been ruined for me by a weak/improbable ending. Now a warning for those readers who must have their HEA no matter what. This book might make you cry. Seriously. I didn’t cry but if I weren’t one hard-as-nails daughter of a chienne (pardon my French) I would have cried for sure. There’s a HEA of a kind but not what you expect. It is a bit heart-wrenching.

My last remark: don’t worry if you don’t know the Bible or the Catholic church. Everything is explained nice and easy. Sometimes too easy – but it is a matter for my other section.

What I didn’t like:
Some minor info dumps appear in the text – not very bothersome and even partially understandable (try to explain the history of the mankind from the Bible to a lay man in five sentences, or the history of Vatican) but still noticeable. It was not my major problem, though.

My major problem was that sometimes, just sometimes, some blatant factual errors slipped in. Like for example when one of the savant priests, Alan, says that Eve was the first Jewish woman (p.176). Hello? Jewish? How come? There was no such a thing as nationality at the beginning and even much later, right? Eve was just a woman as Adam was just a man or I am missing something?

Then our Bible scholar says that Bathsheba was the downfall of the Jewish king David and the death of their firstborn son interrupted the royal bloodline of kings. It made me truly mad – let me explain why. I promise it will be nerdy and longish but interesting :p

Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, was a very beautiful woman. King David saw her from his balcony while she was bathing in her private garden. I suppose he was at the peak of his male menopause – anyway he coveted her rather badly. A king has its rights – Bathsheba was brought to the royal palace asap and she was impregnated by the happy king while her hubby fought for David abroad. In an effort to conceal his sin, David summoned Uriah from the army, hoping that he would go to bed with Bathsheba to…er…cover things up nicely.  Uriah, however, was unwilling to violate the ancient kingdom rule applying to warriors in active service which said that they had to refrain from carnal pleasures and sleeping under their own roof. Stupid, honorable, unimaginative knight. The desperate king gave the order to his general, Joab, that Uriah should be placed in the front lines of the battle and then betrayed - left to the hands of the enemy. David had Uriah himself carry the message which was also his death warrant (the same trick was repeated by Shakespeare in Hamlet later). After Uriah’s murder, David made Bathsheba his wife.

David's action was displeasing to the Lord and, even though the king confessed his sin and expressed sincere repentance, Bathsheba's child by David was struck with a severe illness and died a few days after birth. The king accepted it as his punishment; mind you, according to the law he was supposed to die himself as he committed both adultery and murder. Kings have it easier, no matter what.

Now tell me, was Bathsheba in your opinion really a downfall  of David or was it rather his own lust? 
When it comes to the infant, punished for the sin of his father – it was neither the first nor the only son of David at that time so his death, although sad, couldn’t interrupt the whole bloodline. David, like many Eastern kings, had a lot of wives and concubines; some of them bore him sons years before he met Bathsheba (let me quote here the names of just two older princes alive: Absalom and Adonijah). Even a mediocre Bible scholar would know that much.

Final verdict:
A nice supernatural thriller with several great twists and turns and an original gallery of characters. For a debut – a great book, but I hope the author will try to omit factual errors in the future. Nevertheless I would like to read her other books (when she writes them of course)!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Review: Thief's Covenant - Ari Marmell

Once she was Adrienne Satti. An orphan of Davillon, she had somehow escaped destitution and climbed to the ranks of the city’s aristocracy in a rags-to-riches story straight from an ancient fairy tale. Until one horrid night, when a conspiracy of forces—human and other—stole it all away in a flurry of blood and murder. 


Today she is Widdershins, a thief making her way through Davillon’s underbelly with a sharp blade, a sharper wit, and the mystical aid of Olgun, a foreign god with no other worshippers but Widdershins herself. It’s not a great life, certainly nothing compared to the one she once had, but it’s hers. 


But now, in the midst of Davillon’s political turmoil, an array of hands are once again rising up against her, prepared to tear down all that she’s built. The City Guard wants her in prison. Members of her own Guild want her dead. And something horrid, something dark, something ancient is reaching out for her, a past that refuses to let her go. Widdershins and Olgun are going to find answers, and justice, for what happened to her—but only if those who almost destroyed her in those years gone by don’t finish the job first.

Series: Widdershins #1, Genre: Fantasy/ YA, Pages: 240, Published: Feb 21, 2012, Publisher: PYR, Source: For review


My thoughts:
I have read other books by Marmell, and even though this one is YA it's still bloody, but not that violent. How to explain, people die, a lot, but it's not shown as it would be in an adult book. Still, poor Widdershins.

At first I was not sure if I would like how it jumped in time, but it worked perfectly. Because each flashback showed me something new. First we got Widdershins as she is now, a young thief with few friends. Then there is poor Adrienne, alone on the streets, a pick-pocket among others. Then there is Adrienne, a young woman of means (and it sure made me wonder how she got there, but I found out.) Things that happened two years ago made Adrienne stop being Adrienne, and Widdershins was born. I liked her, she was tough and she has the best sidekick. A God who she can hear, but that the reader can't hear. But I could still see him in my mind and he was too funny.

The story is about a lot of people hunting Widdershins, for different reasons. But it is all connected, even if I will not say how and why. The story worked so well and there was even a surprise gasp from me, oh I loved that surprise. Bravo. But I am being  tease now since I will not tell you what that was.

Being the girl I am I am hoping for a romance to blossom, how it would work I do not know, but it is there ;) I am looking forward to book 2 to see if anything happens.

Conclusion:
The ever so cool Widdershins made this my fav Marmell book to date. I liked that the book was dark, yet light and it did not end with a cliffie either which is always appreciated. But still I do want to know what happens next, because things are far from over. I would recommend this one to fantasy lovers, young and old.

Cover:
I really like it.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Review: A Local Habitation - Seanan McGuire

October “Toby” Daye is a changeling, the daughter of Amandine of the fae and a mortal man. Like her mother, she is gifted in blood magic, able to read what has happened to a person through a mere taste of blood. 
Half-human, half-fae, outsiders from birth, most changelings are second-class children of Faerie spending their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Toby is the only changeling who has earned knighthood, and she re-earns that position every day, undertaking assignments for her liege, Sylvester, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills.
Now Sylvester has asked her to go to the County of Tamed Lightning to make sure that all is well with his niece, Countess January O’Leary, whom he has not been able to contact.  For Tamed Lightning has somehow been cut off from the other domains, and now someone has begun to murder January’s key people. If Toby can’t find and stop the killer soon, she may well become the next victim….

Series: October Daye #2, Genre: Urban Fantasy, Pages: 377, Published: 2010, Publisher: DAW, Source: Bought

My thoughts:
It's Friday and I will try to make it short, you know I always say this but never quite managing making it really short ;=)

Anyway, yay, one more October Daye book for me to read. I really liked book 1 and wanted to read more. The series is just so dark and she doesn't always save the day at the first try. People die, as seen in book 1. I also like the world, the fairies are all around us, in our world, in the Summerlands, always hiding. A great world, and a great heroine. Poor Toby, will she talk to her mum again? What about that which she left behind 14 years ago? That breaks my heart and makes me wonder.

Back to this book. She is sent to find out why Duke Sylvester's niece is not answering his calls. A mystery she has to solve if she wants to live. This would be the only negative things about the book, 95% of the book takes place at an office building over a few days. I do like a good change of scenario, so that does not make this book as good as book 1.

As for romance, Connor..but I do not like him, he should know better. He belongs to someone else, someone who would kill poor Toby. Therefore I love Tybalt. One: He is a cat! I love cats. Two: Well he is a cat, duh, I love them. So that pretty much brought me over to this team. And he is all mysterious and weird.

And look, this is not short... Ok I can't make it truly short, oh well.

Conclusion:
Thanks to a contest win I got book 3, since, well I need to read more. A recommended serie. 

Cover:
Ok.

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My Flash fic

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Review: The Eye of the world - Robert Jordan



The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Pages: 814
Published: 1990 by Tor
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The wheel of time #1

My thoughts this time around:
I am re'reading these books for my WOT challenge and just like so many times before I loved the book. I know it by heart now because I have read it so many times before.

I love Rand and what he is to become, he will always be my fav. His and Mat's journey in this book is my part and of course when he meets the queen. Gotta love that part and how everyone tells him that he looks like something. Awww, to read that the first time around.

When the book ended I wanted to pick up the next one at once. That is how good this series is, even though I have also re-read book 2 a bunch of times. But I wanted to know what is going to happen...even though I already knew. There is magic in this series, a nostalgic longing grips me every time.

I am not going to go on and on, because I could, I will just keep it short. Awesome series that should be read.



"We rode on the winds of the rising storm, 
We ran to the sounds of the thunder. 
We danced among the lightning bolts, 
and tore the world asunder."  



Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Review: Passage - Lois McMaster Bujold

Young Fawn Bluefield and soldier-sorcerer Dag Redwing Hickory have survived magical dangers and found, in each other, love and loyalty. But even their strength and passion cannot overcome the bigotry of their own kin, and so, leaving behind all they have known, the couple sets off to find fresh solutions to the perilous split between their peoples.

But they will not journey alone. Along the way they acquire comrades, starting with Fawn's irrepressible brother Whit, whose future on the Bluefield family farm seems as hopeless as Fawn's once did. Planning to seek passage on a riverboat heading to the sea, Dag and Fawn find themselves allied with a young flatboat captain searching for her father and fiance, who mysteriously vanished on the river nearly a year earlier. They travel downstream, hoping to find word of the missing men, and inadvertently pick up more followers: a pair of novice Lakewalker patrollers running away from an honest mistake with catastrophic consequences; a shrewd backwoods hunter stranded in a wreck of boats and hopes; and a farmer boy Dag unintentionally beguiles, leaving Dag with more questions than answers about his growing magery.

As the ill-assorted crew is tested and tempered on its journey to where great rivers join, Fawn and Dag will discover surprising new abilities both Lakewalker and farmer, a growing understanding of the bonds between themselves and their kinfolk, and a new world of hazards both human and uncanny.

Series: The Sharing knife #3, Genre. Romantic Fantasy, Pages: 422, Published: 2008 by EOS, Source: Library

My thoughts:
Why oh why am I such a sucker for punishment? This series must have enchanted me. Because book 1 was good, a tad boring in place, book 2 was good too, still more boring, but this one. Yes here I finally was truly bored. Now I will not rush to read book 4 at once.

The other books have been slow but here the slow pace took another form as Fawn and Dag and a bunch of others makes it down the river..slowly. Nothing happens, well something at the end, but by then I was bored and even skimmed a page or two. But then again what does any of this matter, I already scared away all of you with my previous two reviews.

And Dag is turning 56 in this way, congrats, Fawn is turning 19 later..yeah.

So...yup, nothing happened. Dag wondered about Magic, Fawn was not really around much. The other characters were ok I guess. And farmers are still bloody stupid, but so are lakewalkers. Work together people!

Conclusion:
Not exactly a series I would recommend, still it beguiled me.

Cover:
Ok

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Review: Songs of the Earth - Elspeth Cooper

The Book of Eador, Abjurations 12:14, is very clear: Suffer ye not the life of a witch. For a thousand years, the Church Knights have obeyed that commandment, sending to the stake anyone who can hear the songs of the earth. There are no exceptions, not even for one of their own.

Novice Knight Gair can hear music no one else can, beautiful, terrible music: music with power. In the Holy City, that can mean only one thing: death by fire—until an unlikely intervention gives him a chance to flee the city and escape the flames.

With the Church Knights and their witchfinder hot on his heels, Gair hasn’t time to learn how to use the power growing inside him, but if he doesn’t master it, that power will tear him apart. His only hope is the secretive Guardians of the Veil, though centuries of persecution have almost destroyed their Order, and the few Guardians left have troubles of their own.

For the Veil between worlds is weakening, and behind it, the Hidden Kingdom, ever-hungry for dominion over the daylight realm, is stirring. Though he is far from ready, Gair will find himself fighting for his own life, for everyone within the Order of the Veil, and for the woman he has come to love.

Series: The Wild Hunt #1, Genre: Fantasy, Pages: 496, Published: Feb 23 2012, Publisher: Gollancz, Source. For review


My thoughts:
Religious persecution against those with magic. Yes that always brings forth emotions in me. They are the perfect baddies, sitting in their cold towers preaching about salvation and hunting innocents with magic in their blood, even if those loves the Goddess just as much as the rest.

We got Gair, our hero, who is being tortured because he has magic. A good hero who finds his own way, friends and love down the road that is this book. He never loses faith either, something that is not easy after what he has been through. But he does does wonder what he really is.

Still what I liked most was the story. We had our Spanish inquisition, they had theirs; going after those who heard the song. There are even fundamentalists in the desert that they are fighting. A world very true to our own in a way. In other ways not to much, they have a one true Goddess, they have magic, and they have a veil that separates other world from theirs. A veil that is breaking, and then all hell will break loose. 

A church is always a good bad guy, because we as the reader know that Gair is good and it not to blame for hearing something that is in tune with the earth itself. And as the story progresses I learn more and I do want to read the next book because how can this end well when the world is caught up in their own madness?

Conclusion:
An interesting start to a new series. It is so familiar, yet so different from our own world and that makes it ring more true. I hope book 2 is just as exciting.

Cover.
It looks cool when I see it irl


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And I am over at Alternative Read with a review of Dark Enchantment by Anya Bast

Monday, 20 February 2012

Blog Tour: The Crown - Nancy Bilyeau + giveaway


I am taking part in the virtual blog tour of Nancy Bilyeau's book The Crown. And I asked Anachronist to review the book. At the end of this review there is a giveaway of this book.


An aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father—and preserve the Catholic faith from Cromwell’s ruthless terror. The year is 1537. . .

Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 448
Publisher: Touchstone
Published: Jan 2012
Review by Anachronist

What I liked:

First of all let me tell you that after finishing Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel not so long ago I was really curious about this one as it concerned a similar period, only some years later – after the death of Jane Seymour, the queen number three. I wasn’t disappointed. My enjoyment was even enhanced by the fact that Ms Bilyeau presented the events as seen by the supporters of Catherine of Aragon and the Catholic Church, for whom Thomas Cromwell and his allies, closing the convents and confiscating their properties, were evil incarnated. It is always nice to hear the other side of the conflict.

Joanna Stafford was certainly a great heroine – loyal in her friendship, consistent, intelligent and curious enough to break and tweak the rules of her convent while searching for the truth. Her mother was a lady –in – waiting of Catherine but Joanna, after one horrible day at the court, preferred to enter the convent instead. At the end of the book it is explained how horrible her first experience really was. I found it a nice touch, showing that any royal court was a nest of vipers, a very demanding and dangerous place especially for a young girl. I would compare it to working for a big international concern – a lot of stress, plenty of traps, murky, merciless rivalry, no guidelines whatsoever.

Some secondary characters were a bit flat but I liked Edmund, the Dominican friar. His problems were interesting, I’m just sorry we weren’t shown more of him.

The plot was filled with excitement, intrigue and espionage; small wonder the book, although not exactly short, was a quick, entertaining read, especially telling a story of a rather unknown medieval king, Athelstan, and his precious regalia. I fully enjoyed the fact that the novel was very well-researched, at least for such an amateur historian like me. I especially liked the description of Stonehenge and a strange pilgrimage of monks to that place. I also liked the convent life and the theme of messages hidden in tapestries.

What I learned:

Athelstan or Æthelstan ( c. 893 or 894 – 27 October 939), called the Glorious, was the King of England from 924 or 925 to 939. He was the son of King Edward the Elder and the grandson of Alfred the Great . Æthelstan's success in securing the submission of Constantine II, King of Scots, at the Treaty of Eamont Bridge in 927 through to the Battle of Brunanburh in 937 led to his claiming the title "king of all Britain". According to William of Malmesbury, Athelstan had also the kings of the North British (meaning the Welsh) submit to him at Hereford, where he exacted a heavy tribute from them. His reign is frequently overlooked, with much focus going to Alfred the Great before him; however, it was of fundamental importance to political developments in the 10th century - Athelstan was the first King of a unified England from 927 A.D. Although he established many alliances through his family, he does not appear to have married or had children, although there is an uncorroborated allusion to an illegitimate daughter. (from Wikipedia)

What I didn’t like:

After finishing the reading I must say I felt a bit cheated. First of all, the tension started to ease too soon for me and at the end it kind of disappeared completely, even before I found the answer to all the mysteries. Mind you, the book is dubbed into a religious thriller. It was especially strange as it finishes with nothing less but a cliffhanger – we are not exactly sure what the future holds for Joanna and her fellow ex-nuns and ex- friars. Cliffhangers, contrary to the popular belief, don’t make me more curious; if anything, they make me twitchy and angry; in this case the ending was especially disappointing because I suspected something totally different, like a marriage of the main character with one of her suitors. Speaking about romance…I might be wrong but personally I didn’t feel the author handled it well. Let me explain.

First we get a very strong and a very promising beginning, then the whole thing, along with the guy in question, is forgotten for most of the book, then the author resurrects it all a bit superficially just to allow it to fizzle into nothingness. It was mean – if there are plans for a sequel (what author doesn’t plan a sequel nowadays) Ms Bilyeau could have at least hinted at it. In short I would prefer the novel ending in a more conclusive manner and its romantic thread executed in a different style (but you know me – I am rarely pleased when it comes to that).

Final verdict:

Despite my romance problem and a rather equivocal ending it was a nice book, especially if you like the Tudors and 16th century in England. I enjoyed reading it and I would recommend it for fans of historical thrillers.


                                                           The tomb of king Athelstan


GIVEAWAY:
1 copy of The Crown

1. US only
2. Ends Feb 29
3. Just go ahead and tell me if you are entering. That's it.


Nancy Bilyeau's Website:  http://www.nancybilyeau.com
Nancy Bilyeau on Twitter: @TudorScribe
Tour Event Twitter Hashtag:  #TheCrownVirtualBookTour



Sunday, 19 February 2012

Review: The High King's Tomb - Kristen Britain

A thousand years ago the armies of the Arcosian Empire, led by Mornhavon the Black, crossed the great sea and tried to conquer the land of Sacoridia -and during Karigan G'ladheon's early years as a Green Rider, Mornhavon's spirit, sensing weakness in his prison walls and seeking vengeance, began to wake. With the ghostly help of the First Rider, Karigan had managed to drive off the spirit of Mornhavon-but for how long, no one could know. And now, the descendants of those Arcosians are ready to strike, reaching out to claim the land their forebears had tried to conquer. Worse, these vengeful enemies had spent generations honing their powers of dark magic-a force against which the Sacoridians had no defense . . . .

Series: Green Rider  #3, Genre: Fantasy, Pages: 768, Publisher: Gollancz, Published: April 2011, Source: For review


My thoughts:
This is the third book in the Green Rider series and even though it ended well in the last one, things are yet to be resolved. 

The enemy is defeated, and yet he is not. Karigan is in love with the king and he loves her, but this fairy tale can get no happy ending and he is to be married. Which breaks my heart because they love each other and should be able to be together. But I liked her strength as she stays away, her sense of duty and honor is strong.

This book is about Karigan and a new rider being sent away to find something to save the D'Yer wall. We also learn a bit more about her rider gift. Then there is the story of Grandmother, an evil woman who is hiding with followers of the Second Empire. A bunch of evil idiots who wants to take over the country. And last the story of Alton and Dale who is trying to save the D'Yer wall, because for it to fall would mean that the darkness behind will escape. As for the characters, Grandmother is a good bad guy since she believes everything she does is good, and those are always the scariest. Karigan is good as always and I mourn her loss when she is not allowed to be with the one she loves. Then we got the usual baddies and good people trying to do their best in a world in turmoil.

And as the book ends I have no idea what will happen next, and I can't wait to read the next part. What will happen? And most of all, will she be happy? Because I do want happy even if that means not being with the one you loved first.

Conclusion:
An adventurous third part in this saga and I am looking forward to reading more.

Cover
More horses

Friday, 17 February 2012

Review: Midnight in Austenland- Shannon Hale

Series: Austenland #1
Genre: Modern JA adaptation. mystery, romance
Pages: 288 (hardcover)
Published: Jan 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: NetGalley


When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests' Austen fantasies. 

Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn't sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside's mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte's heart be a sign of real-life love? 

My thoughts:
I have not read Austenland 1 so I do not know if all the characters there was in here, but anyway, it works well as a stand alone.

This one has Northanger Abbey vibes as the heroine Charlotte takes a mystery game every seriously and suddenly everything is wrong. What is fact and what is made-up. Austenland is suddenly very dark.

Who would not want to do what Charlotte does, I mean she stays for 2 weeks at a mansion pretending to be in 1816 and everyone there is playing this game too. I would love to is the answer. But Charlotte needs it after her ass of a husband left her. There are also romances for all those who join so fun fun. There are three gentleman residents, her brother (not really though), a colonel, and brooding Mr.Mallery. And what would Austenland be without a brooding man?

The mystery comes from a game the play, or is it a game? Then there is Miss Gardenside whom Charlotte recognizes and who is acting strange too. That is only the beginning as Charlotte tries to come to the bottom of this. And like Charlotte I had no idea where the little game they began started and ended.

One thing I was not that happy about though, and that was there were snippets from a year back, a couple of months back and so on. All about her failure of a marriage. I would rather just have stayed in Austenland.

Conclusion:
A nice little mystery romance.

Cover:
Fits

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Thursday, 16 February 2012

Review: The Accidental Vampire - Lynsay Sands

Series: Argeneau #7
Genre: Paranormal romance
Pages: 384
Published: February 2012
Publisher: Gollancz
Source: For review
Ever since an accident turned her into a knockout vamp, Elvi Black's been catching her z's in a coffin, staying out of the sun, and giving up garlic. She knows there's more to being undead than what she saw in Dracula, but she can't very well ask her mortal friends about proper biting etiquette. But when her neighbors placed a personal ad for her in the local paper, she never imagined she'd meet Victor Argeneau, a vampire who could have his pick of any woman; dead or alive.

Rich, powerful, and dropdead gorgeous, Victor's the perfect man for a novice neck-biter like Elvi. He's willing to teach her everything he knows, but he'll have to do it fast. Someone's out to put a stake through her new vamp life, and only Victor can keep her safe - and satisfied; for all eternity.

My thoughts:
I do like how fast I read these Argeneau books, I start them, and then I just continue until I am finished. A fast, good book.

It's book 7, but this is a series that you can jump around a bit in. Still book 1 explains the nano thing fully, sure it is explained here too so if you want to, then jump right in and read this one. The book also has a map of all the members in this big family, and this is good.

How on earth Elvi was not noticed before I do not know. Small towns I guess. Yes she is the resident vampire, now that is a nice little town I would like to visit where they are so nice against the undead who craves blood. And this is one of the fun things about this book. Elvi does not know anything about vampires. She thinks they are soulless, likes coffins and all those myths we all know so well. But these vampires are not really vampires and she will learn her lesson. She was nice, because she was so lost when it came to all of this. 

Then we got the hero, Victor, who is old as dirt and comes to town as he is an enforces and Elvi, well she is breaking a lot of laws. But there will be passion, other suitors and someone else in this book will find love too. A story I really liked.

Conclusion:
Fun and light is the word. A nice lovestory about how an accidental vampire finds love.

Cover:
Ok

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Review: Legacy - Lois McMaster Bujold

Series. The Sharing Knife #2
Genre: Romantic Fantasy
Pages: 356
Published: 2007
Publisher: EOS
Source. Library

Fawn Bluefield, the clever young farmer girl, and Dag Redwing Hickory, the seasoned Lakewalker soldier-sorcerer, have been married all of two hours when they depart her family's farm for Dag's home at Hickory Lake Camp. Having gained a hesitant acceptance from Fawn's family for their unlikely marriage, the couple hopes to find a similar reception among Dag's Lakewalker kin. But their arrival is met with prejudice and suspicion, setting many in the camp against them, including Dag's own mother and brother. A faction of Hickory Lake Camp, denying the literal bond between Dag and Fawn, woven in blood in the Lakewalker magical way, even goes so far as to threaten permanent exile for Dag.


Before their fate as a couple is decided, however, Dag is called away by an unexpected--and viciously magical--malice attack on a neighboring hinterland threatening Lakewalkers and farmers both. What his patrol discovers there will not only change Dag and his new bride, but will call into question the uneasy relationship between their peoples--and may even offer a glimmer of hope for a less divided future.


My thoughts:
This time I knew it was romantic fantasy, but honestly, how can so little happen? 

They came to the camp, peeps hated his farmer wife, tension -> tension -> and more tension. He went to fight. -> silence. More tension and then the end. 

Sure I still enjoyed it, but I think it is the world that saves it for me. It is a splendid world. I am so angry at the farmers for their stupidity. I think the lakewalkers should let those idiots get eaten. They save the farmers and do not even get a thank you. I am happy to get more explanations of times long gone. So yes the world is good. 

Ok, let's get back to the reason why it was icky in book 1. Spoiler warning but that you gotta take if you are reading a review of book 2. Dag is in his 50s, Fawn is 18 and is short as a kid. He mistook her for one the first time they met. Sure lakers live longer and therefore he looks to be in his 40s. Coughs, not much better now is it.... 

Conclusion:
But I will read more, because I want to know how this story unfolds. A lot may not happen, but she still got me reading.

Cover:
Suits the book (nothing happens in it ;)

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Review: It was the War of the Trenches - Jacques Tardi

Genre: Graphic Novel, WWI
Pages: 118
Published: 2010
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Source: Library

World War I, that awful, gaping wound in the history of Europe, has longbeen an obsession of Jacques Tardi s.  It Was the War of the Trenches is Tardi s defining, masterful statement on the subject. Tardi is not interested in the national politics, the strategies, or the battles.Like Remarque, he focuses on the day to day of the grunts in the trenches, and, with icy, controlled fury and disgust, with sardonic yet deeply sympathetic narration, he brings that existence alive as no one has before or since. Yet he also delves deeply into the underlying causes of the war, the madness, the cynical political exploitation of patriotism. And in a final, heartbreaking coda, Tardi grimly itemizes the ghastly human cost of the war, and lays out the future20th century conflicts, all of which seem to spring from this global burst of insanity. 

My thoughts:
It was a bit jumpy so for that it would get a 2, but still he used poems and the way the novel was done, well it gets a 3 for that. Impressed I was not, but it was still a very good WWI graphic novel. It showed the horror in its truth.

I liked the way it portrayed war. The horrible thing is not men killing the enemy. It's war after all. Yes it is unimaginable why it is being done, but that is the way it always have been. The horrible thing here is killing your own.

There was the man who did not understand French and was sentenced to death for not following an order. It was the man when the war started who did not stand up and praise France and was beaten to death. It was the Jewish man sent out to take down a corpse, a task everyone knew would kill him. The men who tried to take a trench, but had to turn back, and then was shelled by their own for being cowards. It was the women and children being used as human shields and was killed because the enemy was behind them. It was the man who did not ran fast enough and was killed by their own for it. That is the horrible fact of war.

"I'm back. I got lost. In which trench, and for how much longer, the mud, the cold, the rats, the fear and the lice?





Monday, 13 February 2012

Review: Love in Mid Air - Kim Wright

A chance encounter with a stranger on an airplane sends Elyse Bearden into an emotional tailspin. Suddenly Elyse is willing to risk everything: her safe but stale marriage, her seemingly perfect life in an affluent Southern suburb, and her position in the community. She finds herself cutting through all the instincts that say "no" and instead lets "yes" happen. As Elyse embarks on a risky affair, her longtime friend Kelly and the other women in their book club begin to question their own decisions about love, sex, marriage, and freedom. There are consequences for Elyse, her family, and her circle of close friends, all of whom have an investment in her life continuing as normal. But is normal what she really wants after all? In the end it will take an extraordinary leap of faith for Elyse to find--and follow--her own path to happiness. An intelligent, sexy, absorbing tale and an honest look at modern-day marriage, Love in Mid Air offers the experience of what it's like to change the course of one's own destiny when finding oneself caught in mid air.
Genre: Fiction, Pages: 320, Published: Feb 1, 2012, Publisher. Allen & Unwin, Source: For review

My thoughts:
I read this one slowly, it was just one of those books that had a way that you took your time with it. It also made me think about things.

Elyse is unhappy. She tries to talk to her husband, but he can't see what's wrong. Their marriage is in trouble and he is blind to it. Because what would the town say!? And so she has an affair. Now this is not something I usually like. but here it makes sense and it gives her power. It makes her happier and it makes her want to leave this crappy marriage. This also made me think as the author says that the best thing women do is staying. They stay, no matter what.

It's a tale about trying to save a marriage, forbidden lust, finding yourself again and about friendship. What she would do without her friends I do not know. They are rocks in her life and she complain to them about her bad marriage, and to some, about the affair. The reader also gets to see the marriages of the friends, and not everything is rosy there either. But every woman is different and can handle different things.

It was a good book and it felt so real. She tried her best, she did the wrong things, but at the same time the right things. And she really did try. It's a book with scenes from a life.

Conclusion:
I can't say why it made me think about so many things, but it just did, love, life and everything else. It was a book where I wanted the heroine to find herself and therefore save herself.

Cover:
nice

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Review: A slot machine ate my midlife crisis - Irene Woodbury

Genre: - contemporary fiction  with a dash of romance
Pages: 350, ebook
Published: 2011
Review by Anachronist

Synopsis:

Wendy Cantrell, 45, has just married her steady boyfriend of seven years, Roger, and became Mrs. Sinclair - a respectable wife of a popular architect. They both moved to Houston where he started to work over a big new development, Magnolia Crescent, leaving his wife alone in a house full of chameleons and cockroaches - an isolated newlywed in a strange city, freshly unemployed and feeling more like fish out of water with every passing day.

When Wendy’s friend, Paula, phoned her and suggested a long weekend in Las Vegas, Wendy went over the moon. Finally a bit of fun and shopping far from Roger’s new conservative friends and their nosy, conceited, gossiping wives. She went to Las Vegas and never returned. For many reasons. Wendy found Vegas  more laid-back than L.A., quirkier than Denver, looser than Houston. In Vegas, irreverence and outrageousness were the order of the day. She loved the wackiness and impulsive energy of that place. Her husband didn’t understand at all.

Roger went ballistic but Wendy decided it was her turn to be busy, especially that she got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to work as a real clothing designer, not to mention her Ann-Margret act in the local casino. Was she just in the throes of some hideous midlife crisis, making a complete fool of herself because she‘d lost her job – and her identity – with it? What would become of her marriage and her career?

What I liked:

This novel was full of surprises. First of all its main heroine, Wendy, was far from a cliché I expected, judging this book from the cover. She was funny, she liked flirting, shopping and eating out but she tried to be faithful to her husband and she behaved in a far more dignified way than her younger friend, Paula.

It is a first-person narration so we get to know a lot about Wendy and her complicated marriage situation. Sometimes her reactions and musings are trite, sometimes poignant but always honest and believable. I do appreciate honesty a lot.

The way the plot was developed made the reading interesting as well. It wasn’t the ordinary “a married woman meets another guy and finds the love of her life but it’s already too late” kind. Practically till the very end we don’t know what Wendy’s decision will be. Such hesitancy about the future didn’t feel spurious although I did think once or twice how come a mature woman, knowing a man intimately for seven years, became so undecided all of a sudden. Well, the author tries to explain it in a logical way but you have to be patient.

Finally Las Vegas…well, here I share the feelings of Roger, who says:

“No other city in the world objectifies women as much and seems so proud of it. This whole town reeks of inauthenticity! Everything is fake. The buildings are façades or reproductions. Most of them are as disposable as movie sets in Hollywood. The breasts are silicone or saline. The entertainers are impersonators. Even the marriages are a sham. Vegas is an endless pit of illusions, cheap fakes, and trumped-up imitations, most of them stolen.”

In other words even if I were close to this city I wouldn’t feel like visiting it. However I did like the fact that the author presented both sides of it – the advantages and disadvantages. Let’s quote Wendy here:

“On these raging binge-fests of consumerism, I never thought about tomorrow, I didn‘t look back on yesterday, and I couldn‘t have cared less about today. Screw all that perspective and moderation stuff. I was suspended in a never-never-land of No Limit Shopping – guaranteed to take away the pain, make you forget about everything, and then some.”

 “At the end of these binge days in the Valley of the Malls, everything was hazy and blurred. I felt disconnected from reality, floating around in space at some cosmic super mall, where the only reality was shopping, shopping, shopping, eating, eating, eating. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else existed. It was a nirvana state, but agonizingly empty once the anesthesia wore off and I was back to square one the next day.”


What I didn’t like:

The title. I find it shallow and misleading. A slot machine eats just one kind of food – your money. Also the titles of particular chapters were a bit too long and silly. I would prefer there were no titles at all, just numbers, but it’s only me.

I  found some surprising mistakes inside. When a woman who, allegedly, worked a long time for an exclusive boutique chain speaks about Christian Laboutin instead of Louboutin, it makes my eyebrows arch. I am not a fashion fan but even I’ve heard of this designer brand name and its fabulously uncomfortable but beautiful and rather expensive shoes. Another example – fung shui instead of feng shui. Did the editor take a nap?

What’s more? Some expressions were repeated a bit too often like “lickety-split”. After a while it started to annoy me.

Final verdict:

This book surprised me rather nicely. Despite some shallow parts and scenes straight from “Sex in the City” I enjoyed it, especially that the ending took me by surprise...again. :)


Friday, 10 February 2012

Review: The Rogue Pirate's Bride - Shana Galen

Passionate, action-packed Regency romance by RT Reviewer’s Choice award-winning author Shana Galen features the swashbuckling Sebastien Harcourt, marquis de Valere, and the nautical genius heroine destined to best him. After escaping France on a privateer’s ship, Sebastian becomes the notorious privateer Captain Cutlass. His reputation as a rogue precedes him and he’s undefeated in battle, until he crosses swords with the beautiful daughter of a British admiral. Raeven Russell is out for revenge, but now she’s not so sure she wants the dashing captain to change his wicked ways.

Series: The sons of the Revolution #3, Genre: Historical romance, Pages: 384, Published: Feb 7, 2012, Publisher: Sourcebooks, Source: ARC, for review

My thoughts:
Yes this is book 3, have I read the other ones? That would be a no, do I mind? No. Do I want to read the rest, well yes ;) The 2 precious books are about his brothers, and in this one we meet Bastian who thinks he brothers are long dead, but he will of course learn otherwise.

Bastian is a privateer, with a letter from the Spaniards. He is a good captain with a sad past. And oh yes of course I like him. He is a pirate and a French nobleman, what is there not to like? And then he meets Raeven who wants to kill him for revenge as he killed her fiance. But she will be pudding in his hands soon enough.

I do like a couple who does not like each other at first, ok Bastian thinks she is pretty, but she is a hellcat with a sword out after blood. But every side has two stories and so she will learn. She is not your usual kind of heroine either. She grew up on a ship, she knows her way around one and she sneaks off dressed in pants. She is not a pretty little thing that sits at home and drinks tea. She is refreshing and sure she does stupid things but I also know that when she does get into trouble she can hold her own.

There will be a hunt at sea. Clashes between these two, passion and quite the adventure before the story comes to an end. I like the couple and I also got curious about her previous books in this series. These brothers have suffered a lot.

Conclusion:
Be swept way by a dashing privater. Romance, pirates and a couple from two different worlds.

Cover: 
This one I do like :D

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My flash fic for the week

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Review: The Lord of Illusion - Kathryne Kennedy

Series: The Elven Lords #3
Genre: Alternate history / historical romance/ paranormal romance
Pages: 384
Published: Feb 7, 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Source: For review, ARC

He'll do anything to save her... 
Rebel Lord Drystan Hawkes dreams of fighting for England's freedom. He gets his chance when he finds a clue to opening the magic portal to Elfhame, and he must race to find the slave girl who holds the key to the mystery. But even as Drystan rescues Camille Ashton from Dreamhame Palace, it becomes unclear exactly who is saving whom. 

For the fate of humankind lies with Camille... 
Enslaved for years in a realm where illusion and glamour reign, Camille has learned to trust nothing and no one. But she's truly spellbound when she meets Drystan—a man different from any she's ever known, and the force of their passion may yet be strong enough to banish the Elven Lords from this world forever.

My thoughts:
This is the third and last book in the series. The Elven rule is to come to an end, or least the rebels hope so. Many years have gone by since book 1 and in this book we meet Drystan Hawkes. The couple from book 2 has raised him in Wales and so the story continues. 

Drystan is more of the bookish kind of hero, and I do love a hero who loves books. He is also in love with a woman he has been dreaming of and wants to find her. And we all know that that woman will be the mysterious slave girl. Camille who has been mistreated and does not trust men. It's not a love story that will be easy but true love will always win and their passion can conquer everything.

The book is about these two finding each other, the rebels trying to win the war and the cruelty of the Elven Lords. It's quite the race to the finish line.

One thing I was not too happy about and that was that there was a mention of two other couples that has stolen scepters and I felt cheated. I wanted to read their stories, but I can't since they are not written, and I really wish they had been written. Instead it had jumped over a few important things and come to this point so that there could be ending to it all. Still I liked the book even if I felt like I wanted to read those stories too.

Conclusion:
It's an enchanting story about love, passion and magic.

Cover:
Hm, either take out her or him

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Review: The Golden Hour - Margaret Wurtele

Genre: Historical Fiction (or where did that line go now again)
Pages. 329
Published: Feb 7th, 2012
Publisher: New American Library
Source: For review
In this stunning debut set in the summer of 1944 in Tuscany, Giovanna Bellini, the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat and vineyard owner, has just turned seventeen and is on the cusp of adulthood. War bears down on her peaceful little village after the Italians sign a separate peace with the Allies-transforming the Germans into an occupying army.

But when her brother joins the Resistance, he asks Giovanna to hide a badly wounded fighter who is Jewish. As she nurses him back to health, she falls helplessly in love with the brave and humble Marco, who comes from as ancient and noble an Italian family as she does. 

My thoughts:
There was just something in her voice that pulled me in and kept me interested, all while I had my heart in my throat. Because even if this was somewhat lighter, and dealing with the war from another point, it was still a time where she and the ones she loved could die at any moment. And I was scared.

I liked Giovanna's innocent because it was believable. She lived in a sheltered world, her mother was an aristocrat,and her father had worked his way to the top. She was rich, and perhaps a bit spoiled. The war had not really come to their door, she did not know about the horrible things going on. And there is where we meet her, the Germans come to town, and they are sure handsome in their uniforms. Which led me to my first oh no! moment. Which I shall not talk about any longer. But the war slowly comes into her life. Her brother fights with the resistance, and she learns, and she wants to help. To help takes courage in a time where anything can kill you. Especially when her brother asks her to hide a wounded fighter who is Jewish. Another thing that got me worried since I knew what would happen if anyone found him or her.

There is a light over this book that never makes it too violent. Everyone experiences war in different ways, depending on where you are and what you are. I liked the story here from Giovanna's point of view, because it was another POV from what I am used too. There is also romance in the book and a young's woman's struggle to grow up, and get out from under her parents' thumb.

Conclusion:
I really liked this book. Romance, war and life. I'd like to read more books by her, and as it seems to be her first fiction book I hope she writes more.

Cover:
Lovely.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Over at Alternative Read today

Go on over and read my review of Grave Witch by Kalayna Price


Grave witch Alex Craft can speak to the dead, but that doesn’t mean she likes what they have to say . . . 

As a private investigator and consultant for the police, Alex Craft has seen a lot of dark magic. But even though she’s on good terms with Death himself—who happens to look fantastic in a pair of jeans—nothing has prepared her for her latest case. Alex is investigating a high profile murder when she’s attacked by the ‘shade’ she’s raising, which should be impossible. To top off her day, someone makes a serious attempt on her life, but Death saves her. Guess he likes having her around . . . 

To solve this case Alex will have to team up with tough homicide detective Falin Andrews. Falin seems to be hiding something—though it’s certainly not his dislike of Alex—but Alex knows she needs his help to navigate the tangled webs of mortal and paranormal politics, and to track down a killer wielding a magic so malevolent, it may cost Alex her life .


Sunday, 5 February 2012

Review: The Discovery of Jeanne Baret - Glynis Ridley

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe
Genre: non-fiction, historical
Target audience: adults
Publisher: Crown
Published: December 2011
Book form: paperback, 291 pages
Review by Anachronist

Synopsis (from Amazon.com):

The year was 1765. Eminent botanist Philibert Commerson had just been appointed to a grand new expedition: the first French circumnavigation of the world. As the ships’ official naturalist, Commerson would seek out resources—medicines, spices, timber, food—that could give the French an edge in the ever-accelerating race for empire.

Jeanne Baret, Commerson’s young mistress, housekeeper and collaborator, was desperate not to be left behind. She disguised herself as a teenage boy and signed on as his assistant. The journey made the twenty-six-year-old, known to her shipmates as “Jean” rather than “Jeanne,” the first woman to ever sail around the globe. Yet so little is known about this extraordinary woman, whose accomplishments were considered to be subversive, even impossible for someone of her sex and class.
            
When the ships made landfall and the secret lovers disembarked to explore, Baret carried heavy wooden field presses and bulky optical instruments over beaches and hills, impressing observers on the ships’ decks with her obvious strength and stamina. Less obvious were the strips of linen wound tight around her upper body and the months she had spent perfecting her masculine disguise in the streets and marketplaces of Paris.
            
In The Discovery of Jeanne Baret, Glynis Ridley unravels the conflicting accounts recorded by Baret’s crewmates to piece together the real story: how Baret’s identity was in fact widely suspected within just a couple of weeks of embarking, and the painful consequences of those suspicions; the newly discovered notebook, written in Baret’s own hand, that proves her scientific acumen; and the thousands of specimens she collected, most famously the showy vine bougainvillea.

What I liked:

This book is definitely a very well-researched position which presents plenty of interesting facts concerning life and habits of people living in the 18th century in France and abroad. Although the main emphasis is on the ethnobotanical tradition and, more generally, French scientists and thinkers such as Jean le Rond d’Allembert, Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire, the ordinary people and their fates are mentioned often as well, especially women.

The narrative voice of Ms Ridley is quiet and pleasant although you really must take your time to get into the book. When you finally find the right rhythm, though, you can find such interesting historical tidbits as a short history of the coffee trade, and a fresh look into the situation of women in France prior to the Great Revolution (I didn’t know that they were not allowed to rent a flat on their own or stay on a ship for longer than just a moment – it was the law mind you!)

Overall, if you are a girl/woman living in Europe or in the USA, after reading this book you might stop complaining about your life for a significant period of time. The fates of women used to be much, much worse, especially poor, uneducated women who, like Jeanne, gave birth to an illegitimate child.

What I didn’t like:

With a title like that, I expected the book would be more focused on the main heroine, Jeanne Baret, who was the first woman to make a tour around the world on a ship. In other words, I expected a portrait, perhaps with some other people close to her and some plants in the background. What I got was a full-scale landscape, teeming of different people, plants, breathtaking vistas, ships, cities, and even animals. The heroine was a bit lost in the middle of all these goodies and, in my opinion, the whole book suffered because of that.

Don’t get me wrong – we still get to know plenty about Jeanne, her family and her profession. However, it is a bit too diluted; as soon as you start getting interested in the story of this strong and undoubtedly very brave woman the author throws your way one digression after the other; even if these are interesting per se, they dwarf poor Jeanne and her ordeal, making the book bland as a result. Pity.

Final verdict

I feel Jeanne Baret’s life deserves our full attention – I suppose she would be a great heroine of a truly gripping fictional story. Let me use this section to tell you why I think so.

This peasant female botanist was literate in times when 90% of women couldn’t read and write but still she couldn’t support herself without relying on Philibert Commerson. She supported his career, teaching him about plants and their properties. She had to give up their child to an orphanage because the boy would be an obstacle to Commerson’s plans. She worked very hard during circumnavigating the globe – harder than plenty of men around her, harder than her official employer and secret lover. She had to conceal her sex while living on a rather small ship full of men. She had to take care of Commerson’s ailing leg and the plants they gathered together. In return she was gang-raped by the crew at least at one occasion and her selfish employer failed to defend her. After Commerson’s death, she was left high and dry - far from home with just clothes on her back – their house in Paris with everything inside has been impounded. And, miraculously, she still found her 'happily ever after' – married a soldier, returned with him to France and made a life together.

Was her time with Commerson a complete failure? No. He taught her independence and she used that knowledge – after returning to France she petitioned the ministry and received her outstanding wages – a lump sum which made it possible to buy a house and some land. I love such endings!





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