Review – I, Claudia – A Novel of the Ancient World – Lin Wilder

This #HistoricalFiction, it might be argued, could be controversial. It’s the story of the wife of Pontius Pilate – the man religious history has damned with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  This is Claudia’s story – starting with the person barely out of girlhood with big and dangerous ideas, and a terrible foresight.

The author crafts this well enough, with sympathy, despair at what will come, but from an intriguing perspective. What did Pilate think? Did he have a choice? Of course, we don’t know that – but that’s what historical fiction is about – it’s the might have been.

The chapters jump between Claudia, setting out to marry a man she has never met, and Pilate’s promotion to Governor of Judea – and the inherent troubles therein.

Although the jumping between points of view is a little confusing at times the story is very engaging.

4 stars.

 

Review – Lawyers in Hell #Sharedworld #darkfantasy #historicalfic

https://amzn.to/2pPSKtm – AMAZON UK

https://amzn.to/2GkYHWw – AMAZON

Lawyers in Hell cover

Lawyers in Hell forms part of the Heroes in Hell shared world. As usual with these anthologies, there is an eclectic mix of stories. Some I enjoyed more than others, but there was nothing I didn’t like. From Guy Fawkes trying to sue Satan (Fawkes believes he is a martyr and thus should be in heaven) to Leonides dealing with a recalcitrant Alexander, to ex-presidents, to succubi causing mayhem and Erra and his Sibbiti (an ongoing theme) there is mischief afoot in Hell.

It shows the talent of these authors that although the stories are clearly written by different people, feature a bewildering array of historical characters in all sorts of weird situations they flow smoothly in a brilliantly crafted world.

Humanity will be humanity – even in hell. And thus individuals wish to sue other individuals and the lawyers who worth and the Hall of Injustice are kept busy. Of course, being hell, nothing is simple, nothing works properly and there’s always a hidden agenda. All the characters have some form of penance to pay – be it taking cases they cannot win, representing demons, facing monsters, dealing with the unpredictable technology, and generally trying to survive Hell. The stories are sad (as I said humanity seeks to be humanity with its many faults), darkly humorous, clever, weird and enticing.

5 stars.

Review – City at the Edge of Time – Fantasy

#review #fantasy #sacredband

Janet Morris

5 stars

https://www.amazon.co.uk/City-Edge-Time-Sacred-Band-ebook/dp/B0755P12F2/

Politics, deadly magic, legend, love and the machinations of gods abound in this fantasy tale of immortals, pawns and power.  This is the fifth Sacred Band novel and steps aside from the usual locations to a mythic city lost in time. When Nikodemos literally falls from the sky in a god-born storm he must not only save himself from the strange and hostile customs of the place but save the city from the wrath of gods and mages.  This book, more than the other Sacred Band tales, is Niko’s adventure and of all the characters he is the one who the reader takes to heart. Whereas most of the others are more than human, demigod, or wizard Niko is the fighter whose courage and honour shine brightly but he is a mortal man, with all the flaws entailed. This is Niko’s tale – can he deal with these strange people, the woman who loves him, and away from his bond with the band.

As usual, the pace is fast and the writing melodious and intelligent. The Sacred Band books are not for the faint of heart, or those shocked by violence and bloodshed.  This is a tale of friendship, but also mistrust, a tale of immortality but also death, and a tale of love and hatred, thus it is many-layered, supremely crafted tale which thrills the reader.

It does help to be familiar with the characters – but it can be read as a stand-alone. You’ll soon love Tempus, Niko and their world. Don’t expect this to be Sanctuary, the city here is strange, ancient and apart from the world – an immortal wanderer – like Tempus himself.  And the challenges are very different.

In many ways, this is a story about being stuck in the past, the old ways and the terror of ‘what is out there’ and the new. It’s a tale of having strayed from the correct path, of corruption and the will to power.

Grab this book and lose yourself in the world Morris weaves. Nothing will ever seem quite the same again with such magic.

 

 

Review – Magic for a Rainy Day #fantasy #fairytales

5 stars #fantasy #fairytales

This delightful collection of short stories twists and turns with Celtic magic from Scotland, to Ireland, to Fairyland. Fairytales retold, and with a heart and passion that is apparent in every word. None of the stories is particularly long or heavy; there is a lightness of phrase from the author which is refreshing and fits the ambience of the collection.

I found myself laughing, smiling and recalling tales from old – particularly with the Irish tale of Banoffee Pie and Black Pudding. This is a fine tale of fairy gifts and being careful what one wishes for.

The last tale –They Stole My Love Last Night was poignantly told, sad and moving with a bittersweet ending. It was a good finale to the collection.

I’d like to learn more about these characters, especially the half-wyndling Skye, and read more of her adventures. Definitely recommend this to readers of fantasy, fairy tales and mythical stories.

 

Set in Scotland, Ireland, and the Pacific Northwest, these five stories share three things: a little rain, a little fantasy, and a lot of heart.

In “Sidewynd,” Sky Patel balances life between Edinburgh and its mirror in the faerie realm. Until the balance breaks.

In “The Flat Above the Wynd,” Sky’s inherited responsibilities double when past mistakes come back to haunt her.

In “Banoffee Pie and Black Pudding,” Alyssa Granville’s troubles begin with a strange gift from a stranger Irish man.

In “(Not a) Fairy Tale,” a bullied teenage girl learns a startling truth. But fairies don’t go to high school…do they?

In “They Stole My Love Last Night,” Celtic music, fairies, and ghosts collide, turning a bitter story sweet.

Review – Tempus Unbound #Fantasy – Janet Morris

Review for Tempus Unbound

Tempus on Amazon UK

Tempus Unbound cover

5 stars

This particular Tempus/Sacred Band book is a little different – for a start, it’s all from Tempus’ point of view, and we have only Tempus himself, Cime and Askelon from the former books. Don’t let this put you off, there’s a host of worthies – not least Mano the mercenary from the future and bad guys to rival anyone in Sanctuary.

Called to Lemuria, a strange citadel between the worlds, and times it’s a chance to right wrongs if only you can work out WHICH wrongs. Tempus is lonely, alone save for his petulant and truculent god. Who is who, and who needs whom? That’s one of the questions asked as Tempus fights an old enemy in a new and unfamiliar world. The future is dark, and war will out. Strife is all and king of all. And so it was in his own time, and in this possible future. We see our hero struggle with technology he can barely imagine and his friends see power and courage they can barely comprehend. Gods, magic and tech fight as Tempus tries to save his sister, and save the world from his deadly sister. Choices are made, and regrets are put aside in the names of love and courage. Ideals are questioned, and truth is harsh.

As usual, the characters are supremely crafted, with a richness that brings emotion and a real sense of reality. In Morris’s world, anything is possible, and the reader believes it.  These aren’t easy reads, they have a high level of violence, sex and themes that require the reader to engage their brain. But this, and the other Sacred Band/Tempus books are worth the time, and the brainpower. Rarely does a reader find a world so rich, or characters so enchanting, or writing so lyrical.  The tempo of the book is a call to war, a call to stand for what is good, and a call to give all.

Heartily recommend this – even if you’re unfamiliar with the characters, and setting Tempus Unbound takes the reader on a journey from ancient times, to a future and it’s a thrilling journey and is a great intro to Tempus and his worlds.

Tempus Unbound on Amazon

Review – Judy: A Dog in a Million – Damien Lewis – Military History, WWII, Animals

Review- Judy: A Dog in A Million

Damien Lewis

5 stars

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judy-Million-Runaway-Worlds-Heroic-ebook/dp/B00HVBK15U/

The impossibly moving story of how Judy, World War Two’s only animal POW, brought hope in the midst of hell.

Judy, a beautiful liver and white English pointer, and the only animal POW of WWII, truly was a dog in a million, cherished and adored by the British, Australian, American and other Allied servicemen who fought to survive alongside her.

Viewed largely as human by those who shared her extraordinary life, Judy’s uncanny ability to sense danger, matched with her quick-thinking and impossible daring saved countless lives. She was a close companion to men who became like a family to her, sharing in both the tragedies and joys they faced. It was in recognition of the extraordinary friendship and protection she offered amidst the unforgiving and savage environment of a Japanese prison camp in Indonesia that she gained her formal status as a POW.

Judy’s unique combination of courage, kindness and fun repaid that honour a thousand times over and her incredible story is one of the most heartwarming and inspiring tales you will ever read.

 If you only read one book in your life read this book. And have the tissues to hand, as you’ll need them!

A puppy born in Shanghai started her life of adventure and courage by running away from her siblings, mother and human carers. Judy was finally rescued and adopted by the Royal Navy as a ship’s mascot on HMS Gnat, and then patrolling the turbulent and dangerous waters of the Yangtze river, during the China/Japan conflicts.  She fought pirates, gave early warning for hostiles and increased the morale on board. Later assigned to HMS Grasshopper Judy and her crewmates were engaged in warfare against the Japanese in World War Two and in 1942 the ship was torpedoed. Not only did Judy survive this but she pulled men to safety, found water on the largely hostile island the survivors of HMS Grasshopper and HMS Dragonfly found themselves and fought with local wildlife to protect her companions.

Judy and the soldiers trekked hundreds of miles – hoping to reach safety in Sumatra (then a British protectorate). They were too late, as it had fallen into Japanese hands.

Taken to a POW camp in Northern Sumatra the sailors, Judy included, were taken to the very pit of hell. One particular man shared his meagre rations with a starving dog and a life-long and incredibly close friendship was born.  Smuggled out of one camp and into another via a sack on the back of her human (which saved Judy’s life) she again was a rescuer when the ship transporting the captives was torpedoed, with great loss of life.  She dragged men towards what little floating wreckage there was, and pushed wood towards others when she was too exhausted to drag anyone else. The death count would undoubtedly have been higher that day if Judy had not been there.

The men were forced to work on the Pekanbaru Death Railway, and again Judy was there to keep soul and body together (such as there were then) and would even steal food from under the noses of the captors in order to help feed the starving, emaciated men she loved.

Primarily this is her story, but it’s also a story of human survival and the enormous capacity for love between humans and dogs. She kept man and mind together in the darkest days, with her love and her loyalty. More than one man is quoted in the book that they would not have survived those terrible months and years without her. Lives were risked by men and dog every day in the fight to survive, and the fight to stay together.

Awarded the Dicken Medal (the animal VC) for bravery the citation stated -“For magnificent courage and endurance in Japanese prison camps, which helped to maintain morale among her fellow prisoners and also for saving many lives through her intelligence and watchfulness.”

The author, clearly, has researched this book well, speaking to some of the remaining survivors of the terrible camps, and terrible days. She truly was ‘a dog in a million’.

For more information about the Dicken Medal – go here: https://www.pdsa.org.uk/what-we-do/animal-honours/the-dickin-medal

https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/the-dickin-medal

For more info on Judy’s remarkable life please see the links below.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/judy-the-dog-who-became-a-prisoner-of-war

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judy_(dog)

http://www.pekanbarudeathrailway.com/judy-prisoner-81a-gloergoer-medan

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/05/140518-dogs-war-canines-soldiers-troops-military-japanese-prisoner/

For more information on the Pekanbaru railway (believe me it’s not easy reading). http://www.pekanbarudeathrailway.com/

 

Review Carnelian Throne – Janet Morris – #Sci-fi #fantasy #dystopian

REVIEW #sci-fi #fantasy #dystopian #heroicfiction

Carnelian Throne

The fourth in Silistra Quartet does not disappoint. As ever the action starts immediately, with incredible creatures, fierce battles and searching of souls.  Our heroes are, by this time, ‘more than men (and women), and less than gods’ but in a land of largely bronze age people, ruled by creatures of ‘Wehrkind’ gods they appear.  And the locals aren’t impressed. In a quest for answers and revenge Sereth, Estri and Chayin must battle to free themselves from old rules, old beliefs, old prejudices and ghosts of their own pasts and emerge not only victorious but as rulers of this land. Ties of loyalty are truly tested, and the question of evolution, species selection and ranking is very much to the fore.

The Wehrdom creatures are fascinating – semi-telepathic creatures of all shapes and sizes, from eagle like creatures, to half man half beast, to those who just communicate with them. Led by a ‘dreaming’ king for a thousand years they wage war, they live, they die and they are manipulated in a kind of selective breeding or eugenic programme to remove the lesser (ie human) species and in ‘Wehr rage’ they are truly formidable.
As allies and enemies, these beings shape this story and this part of the world they inhabit. I found them worthy of pity (as pawns), frightening for their strangeness, enlightening for their intelligence and loyalty, and infinitely intriguing. They appealed to the mythic aspect I love so much in this author’s work.

Delcrit – the simple and lowly character we are introduced to early on – proves his worth and his destiny in a surprising twist.

The entire quartet brings forth questions on the wisdom of technology, the place in the world for the sexes, species, politics and laws. Biology is queen here, nature is queen, but the heroes must find their place among their own kind, and forge a future and protect their world from enemies many of which are of their own making.

The Silistra books are not simple, or easy to read but they are enthralling, exciting and thought-provoking. Silistra is dystopian – it is not Earth – but it COULD be. The characters are not us – but they COULD be.

As with all Morris’s work, the prose is very lyrical and very poetic. There is a beat to her work which pulls in the reader. No words are wasted, no scenes are out of place or unnecessary and thus it makes for a thrilling and evocative read.

There is treachery, love, bravery, intrigue, a lot of ‘fight or die’, complex characters and a supremely crafted world – everything one would expect in such a work.

Loose ends are firmly tied off, scores are settled and places allotted, and answers found.

5 stars.Layout 1

Review – 1888 – London Murders in the Year of the Ripper

1888 – London Murders in the Year of the Ripper by Peter Stubley

#truecrime #LondonHistory #JacktheRipper

1888 is a year that entered history for all the wrong reasons – the Autumn of Terror was the time the unidentified serial killer known as Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of London. But these were not the only crimes in what was then the capital of the British Empire, and the primary trading port of the world.

This fascinating book recounts a whole year of killings; some were done in pitiful desperation, some for the usual reasons – greed or love, some were done on the spur of the moment, some were done in madness but all were tragic in their own way. In part this is a social commentary – almost all the killers and the majority of the victims were poor. This was a time without many rights for women or children, domestic violence was very common, families were often large and money was scarce. In, what was arguably, the most civilised city on Earth, life was cheap and crime was rife.

Most of these tragic tales are little known – forgotten by time, and overshadowed by the Ripper’s crimes. This is the first time I have seen some of these outlined, and I read a lot of true crime. The author deals with the subject sympathetically, non-judgementally and references particular articles, laws, biographies etc. It’s obvious a lot of research was done to select these accounts and to present them accurately, and in the context of the time. In the case of the Ripper, the author does not speculate on a possible perpetrator, as many crime writers do, he simply presents the facts and states that no one was ever identified as Jack the Ripper.

Overall I’d recommend this to readers of Victorian history, true crime, British history and those interested in the social commentary of the time.

5 stars

 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15931984-1888

Review – Murders and Mysteries, People and plots

Murders and Mysteries, People and Plots: A Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire Miscellany

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28867416-murders-and-mysteries-people-and-plots

3.5 stars

I found this local history book when I was looking for something else. As I was born in Buckinghamshire it appealed to me.

The author is/was a vicar and this showed throughout the book. There was a bias towards the religious personages and buildings of the area, and although interesting enough some wider accounts would have been nice.  The author knows his stuff and has obviously spent time researching the areas but all the accounts are pretty short, and sometimes a couple lumped in together, which gets rather confusing.

There were a few odd grammatical features – which began to get on my nerves after a while – mostly capitalisation where none was needed. Perhaps it was a style choice for the author, but it did throw me out of the accounts somewhat.  That said the book was nicely laid out, with a reasonable mix of illustrations and prose and could be easily dipped into.

None of the accounts was especially detailed, but there were quite a few and these provided enough information to whet the appetite and leave the reader wanting to know that region of England better.

Overall I’d say a good first insight into the local history of this English counties.

 

 

 

 

Review – The Martian – Andy Weir – Sci-fi

Review

The Martian – Andy Weir – Science Fiction/Adventure.

5 Stars

 

I bought this on the back of trailer for the film – which I rarely do. It looked amazing, and it was.

This can best be summed up as Robinson Crusoe in space.  In a future not too distant or improbable mankind is beginning to colonise Mars. It is still a hostile, alien world filled with danger but in the spirit of exploration and adventure that has marked humanity since the dawn of history this is merely a hindrance, not a barrier.   When one of their number is swept away, injured in a terrible storm the rest of the crew must make the difficult decision to leave a man behind – if they look for him then no one gets home.  This is not really their story.

Watney, the man who was last seen disappearing in a dust storm, badly injured and left for dead is alone, light years from home on a planet determined to kill him. Rescue is years away, if it comes, and so he must use that determination and pioneering spirit which marks out his ilk. This is HIS story.  The excitement picks up quickly and does not let up.  Watney’s dark humour and positive disposition weave a spell on the reader, one wants him to meet the challenge, to survive and to do what no one has done before.

Without wishing to give too much away the book progresses to NASA and Earth discovering his plight and he becomes the most famous man on two planets, as it were. Think of the real life coverage of the brave Apollo 13 crew – the whole world watched as they defied the odds and came home. That is the feeling here. I found myself unable to put the book down, and could imagine watching on TV as the story unfolded. I REALLY wanted Watney to survive. I really felt for his crew and his dilemma.

There is some technical language – which is mostly explained in the diaryesque way of storytelling. It certainly doesn’t overwhelm the story and brings a sense of realism. It’s science fiction with a good dose of science fact.

If I have a criticism it’s perhaps some of the minor characters are not nearly as well defined as Watney, but then again there is a big cast and this is not really their story.

Overall – Excellent, exciting, well written and engaging.