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Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Crown in the Heather

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Review of The Crown in the Heather by N. Gemini Sasson

Overview from www.barnesandnoble.com: Love and loyalty. Betrayal and murder. What is the cost of a crown?
In 1290, Scotland is without a king. Two families - the Bruces and the Balliols - vie for the throne.
Robert the Bruce is in love with Elizabeth de Burgh, the daughter of an adherent of the ruthless Longshanks, King of England. In order to marry her and not give up his chances of someday becoming King of Scots, Robert must abandon his rebel ways and bide his time as Longshanks' vassal.
But Edward, Longshanks' heir, doesn't trust the opportunistic Scotsman and vows to one day destroy him. While quietly plotting his rebellion, Robert is betrayed by one of his own and must flee Longshanks' vengeance.
Aided by the unlikely brilliance of the soft-spoken young nobleman, James Douglas, Robert battles for his throne. Victory, though, is never certain and Robert soon learns that keeping his crown may mean giving up that which he loves most-his beloved Elizabeth.

My Review:


This week’s story, like many, is the first in series (probably a trilogy). It was free when I got it on Barnes & Noble’s website. And last I checked it is still free now as an e-book.

Our story opens with Robert the Bruce and primarily features his point of view. Although some of the action shows Robert as a young man, most of it takes places as he is aging. The narrative seems to take off when he crosses his father by deciding that he will no longer be Longshanks’ man—think Braveheart because that is exactly the time period we are talking about.

Later Robert changes sides briefly to be with the woman he loves and to stay alive. It is not enough to put him back in his father’s good graces even if he thinks he is only doing what he thinks is best for his beloved Scotland.

Robert along with another main character, James Douglas, another Scottish noble, knows what it means to play both sides of the fence. Unfortunately James Douglas also sees what happens to those who double cross Longshanks when Longshanks kills his father.

Our final main character, the one I liked the least, is Longshanks’s son, also named Edward I think. We get an idea of the hatred between father and son from the get go as Edward refers to his father as his “sire.” It struck me as a rather cold name for a father and as I read further and further into the book, I believed that this was the author’s intention.

The writing was well done. I kept turning pages and wondering what was to happen next and yet the language seemed respectful of the time period it came from. Also, two out of the three protagonists were likable. The third was someone I felt sorry for but not enough to find him likable. He seemed as cruel as his father was and was not able to turn his bad childhood experiences into something positive the way that Douglas did.

I learned a lot from this story. The thing I appreciated the most was learning about Marjorie Bruce, Robert’s daughter. I didn’t know she had even existed. Her relationships with her father and step mother were beautifully portrayed here.

The story took me on a great ride and it was nice to see someone other than Mel Gibson as William Wallace as well, even if it is only in this story. I recommend this one as a great read and not too much bad language though there is some. There is also some violence, as well as attempted rape.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Two Reviews for the Price of One


Product Details

First up: The Eyes That Moved (short story) by Rachelle M. N. Shaw

Overview from www.amazon.com: Kendra is a young girl who has a knack for spotting unusual trinkets and abandoned houses that hold treasures of their own. When she meets Adam, a fellow sleuth and collector, they decide to embark on their biggest adventure yet: the Whitson house. The house is a marvel, and its secrets are even juicier than Kendra had imagined. The third and final floor of the house holds something Kendra has been waiting a lifetime for. But she may have signed on for more than she bargained. There’s a darkness in the house that wasn’t there before, a pair of eyes in every corner, watching, waiting for her time to come. And Adam isn’t at all who he claimed to be.

My Review:

This story was given to me to review by a fellow writer in any way I see fit so I’ll begin with this one. Our main character, a girl named Kendra, likes old houses and has a date with another young man to explore one close to her neighborhood.

At first she finds no one there. She begins looking around and finds an old family tree that fascinates her for a while but her friend Adam wants her to move on.

That’s when she finds the creepy dolls and the truth about why she has been brought there. But is it too late?

I don’t usually review short stories but I was approached by someone on Facebook and I agreed. I am glad that I did because I thought it was really well-done. For those who like supernatural stories that are not too scary, it is perfect.

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Review of  Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation by Ian Hall

Overview from www.barnesandnoble.com: The year is 69 AD, and the Romans have been lords of the southern part of Britain for over twenty years, but their roads stretch forever northwards. Knowing their armies will one day march on these roads, the Brigante King Venutius decides to send two of his young sons further north to safety.

Sewell, a northern druid, is given the task. He must first locate the boys, then get them safe to his homeland in the Caledonii nation.

It is a dangerous journey into hostile lands
He cannot fail.

My Review:

The next story for review was slightly longer but I think it was just designed as a teaser to get the reader into the series. And, as I suspected, at the end of the story there was a blurb about reading more books in this series.

But was it good enough for me to even consider that? The answer is a resounding yes. I hope the author is reading though because I am not sure if I can actually afford to buy future novels so if he would consider sending me a review copy I’d greatly appreciate it.

Our main character is a Druid named Sewell. The time is 69 AD in the South East of what would one day become Scotland.

His new assignment is to help a local king get his wife and children out of the area before the nasty Romans come through destroying everything in their path. And to top it off they also have to look out for their fellow monarch Cartimanda who has joined the side of the terrible Romans. She will no doubt be looking to curry favor with them.

The story combines some elements of Fantasy and the supernatural along with Historical Fiction. The writing is well-done and the characters are interesting.

Though I suppose it might not have interested me so much if it were not for my love of history and the fact that I remembered a lot of these characters (Cartimanda) from The British History Podcast.
There are some elements of sexuality but there was nothing graphic as I recall. Of course there is also some violence. Still, I found it engaging and well-done.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

New Book Preview: A Baron for Becky

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Genre
Regency romance, historical romance
Heat rating
R for implied sexual content, 2 out of 5 flames
Giveaway
Free copy of A Baron for Becky to random commenter

Book Blurb

Becky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde - the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.

Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn't want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.

Excerpt:

PG heat level
Aldridge never did find out how he came to be naked, alone, and sleeping in the small summerhouse in the garden of a country cottage. His last memory of the night before, had him twenty miles away, and—although not dressed—in a comfortable bed, and in company.

The first time he woke, he had no idea how far he’d come, but the moonlight was bright enough to show him half-trellised window openings, and an archway leading down a short flight of steps into a garden. A house loomed a few hundred feet distant, a dark shape against the star-bright sky. But getting up was too much trouble, particularly with a headache that hung inches above him, threatening to split his head if he moved. The cushioned bench on which he lay invited him to shut his eyes and go back to sleep. Time enough to find out where he was in the morning.

When he woke again, he was facing away from the archway entrance, and there was someone behind him. Silence now, but in his memory, the sound of light footsteps shifting the stones on the path outside, followed by twin intakes of breath as the walkers saw him.

One of them spoke; a woman’s voice, but low—almost husky. “Sarah, go back to the first rosebush and watch the house.”

“Yes, Mama.” A child’s voice.

Aldridge waited until he heard the child dance lightly down the steps and away along the path, then shifted his weight slightly letting his body roll over till he was lying on his back.

He waited for the exclamation of shock, but none came. Carefully—he wanted to observe her before he let her know he was awake, and anyway, any sudden movement might start up the hammers above his eye sockets—he cracked open his lids, masking his eyes with his lashes.

He could see more than he expected. The woman was using a shuttered lantern to examine him, starting at his feet. She paused for a long time when she reached his morning salute and it grew even prouder. Then she swept her light up his torso so quickly, he barely had time to slam his lids shut before the light reached and lingered over his face.

She was just a vague shadow behind the light. He held himself still while she completed her examination, which she did with a snort of disgust. Not the reaction to which he was accustomed.

Image result for jude knight

Author bio
Jude Knight writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

Jude Knight is the pen name of Judy Knighton. After a career in commercial writing, editing, and publishing, Jude is returning to her first love, fiction. Her novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was released in December 2014, and is in the top ten on several Amazon bestseller lists in the US and UK. Her first novel Farewell to Kindness, was released on 1 April. It is number one in a series: The Golden Redepennings. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Desecration

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Review of Desecration by J. F. Penn 

Overview from www.barnesandnoble.com: Death isn't always the end.
LONDON. When the body of a young heiress is found within the Royal College of Surgeons, Detective Sergeant Jamie Brooke is assigned to the case. An antique ivory figurine found beside the body is the only lead and she enlists Blake Daniel, a reluctant clairvoyant, to help her discover the message it holds.
When personal tragedy strikes, Jamie finds her own life entwining with the morbid fascinations of the anatomists, and she must race against time to stop them claiming another victim.
As Jamie and Blake delve into a macabre world of grave robbery, body modification, and the genetic engineering of monsters, they must fight to keep their sanity, and their lives.

My Review:

I return to another book by J. F. Penn with the novel, Desecration, which by the way is a very appropriate title considering some of the things that happen in this book.

Our main character is a young woman named Jamie who is also a police officer. But we don’t begin with Jamie the police officer. Instead we first glimpse the Jamie who is the mother of a dying child. This is a side of her life that she keeps secret from most of her colleagues.

She the children’s hospice for work, hoping to leave the disturbing images of her daughter dying behind. When she gets her next case though, all she gets is even more death, and we are not just talking about the murder victim, Jenna.

Digging deeper into the murder victim’s investigations she finds out about the underside of a morbid death worship type culture. One suspect, the love interest of Jenna’s, makes a living by posing dead bodies in provocative positions and then selling them to the highest bidder.

Others, Jenna’s parents, use the dead bodies for the advancement of science. At least that is what they claim but after seeing the freakish specimen’s in jars at a local museum Jamie begins to wonder how any of this can be legal.

For me it seemed to be more of a cautionary tale about how even art and science can go too far in their effort for pleasure and the greater good. This is what could happen when someone makes art or even science their god. The ends can justify the means in the eyes of such people and even make them forget their own humanity.

I will warn you. This story is macabre and downright creepy but there are some scary possibilities. I hope I don’t live to see this reality but it is something to think about, and possibly give you nightmares. Also, like the last novel I reviewed by Penn, the language is sometimes a bit strong.
It is a good book to read if you like mystery and thriller novels that make you think, and if you can stomach the dark aspects of it. In fact, you might not want to read this when you are eating. It is up to you.

I am not really sure whether I want to recommend this one or not. Just remember, you have been warned.