Review – Silent on the Moor

Silent on the MoorI started this series with book five, I think. It was a few years ago so I’m fuzzy on details but I remember enjoying it immensely even though I knew very little of the characters. Based on that one book, I decided the series was worth a look and started at the beginning, like one should when they read a series. This is book two in the Lady Julia Grey series following Silent in the Grave, and if you happen to like your historical fiction tied up with a bit of romance, try these books.

Lady Julia Grey, once more far away from Nicholas Brisbane, takes off with her sister to his home in the country to get re-acquainted, and more. Things of course, aren’t what they seem at Brisbane’s Yorkshire home, Grimsgrave. The estate, old and moldy, is falling down and the once proud family that used to own it is more than strange. Julia, after snooping around, manages to get herself involved in a family mystery and let’s face it, sometimes things are better left unsaid. From there, everything goes downhill.

Can I just tell you how much I like Brisbane? He’s moody, slightly unpredictable, and well, hot and lovable. Yes, there’s a reason Julia becomes all unladylike in his presence. I don’t usually go for these sorts of things in books but I think I found my guilty pleasure and I don’t care. I want to read more of these and I will. Bring on book three, library!

Silent on the Moor

By Deanna Raybourn

Mira

ISBN: 9780778326144

Review – Lords of the North

Lords of the NorthThis is the third book in the Saxon Stories series following The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horseman. I’ll try to avoid spoilers but you know the drill.

Uhtred helped Alfred win his last war against the Danes, but now, Uhtred is bored and tired of Alfred and his priests. Feeling unappreciated — Alfred rewarded him for his war efforts but minimally at best — Uhtred buries his hoard and leaves for the north with plans to capture Dunholm, a northern stronghold. After he inadvertently frees slaves, he also frees the region’s king, Guthred, and he now the men he needs to help him win Dunholm. Except, the gods are no longer smiling on Uhtred and his life, which had been running relatively smoothly, once more takes a strange turn when Guthred sells him into slavery. In an odd twist of fate, his only ally in the north, Hild, a former nun, convinces Guthred she must return to Alfred in Wessex and her nunnery. Upon returning to Alfred, she becomes Uhtred’s only hope for rescue.

Uhtred is a bastard in many ways, except when he’s not, and that can be a lot of the time. He’s a lord in his own right, except he has no land and the land that is his is being ruled by his uncle who usurped Uhtred’s father. Uhtred wants his land back and going north is his way of signaling to Alfred that he’s done with the war. Alfred isn’t ready for that to happen yet, and while he won’t admit it, he needs Uhtred more than Uhtred needs him. While Uhtred might be unreliable, when he makes an oath he won’t break it and Alfred keeps using that one very loyal part of Uhtred. Uhtred knows it but keeps letting it happen because he knows it’s the only way. To be fair though, Uhtred keeps using the oaths to his advantage as well so it’s fair play on both sides.

This is the third book in the Saxon Tales and I have a huge lag between books. Not because I wasn’t enjoying the series, I have been, but I forgot about the series until my last visit to the library when I decided to pick them up again. Cornwell is a favorite when I need some historical fiction, even though he can be a bit on the brutal, bloody side. Then again, he is writing about a very brutal time in history so it all fits. Besides, I like Uhtred. He’s surprising in that he’s extremely loyal, can be a very good guy when he wants to, which happens more often than he cares to think about, and he’s a bit of a softie, especially when it comes to the ladies. I swear, this man is always falling in love. It never gets mushy though which is what I like.

Here’s to the fourth book — Sword Song.

Lords of the North

By Bernard Cornwell

HarperCollins Publishers

ISBN: 9780060888626

 

Review – At the Mountains of Madness

At the Mountains of MadnessThis turned out to be a difficult review to write (one of the reasons why it’s taken me so long to post it). After reading The Shunned House, also by Lovecraft, I had very high hopes for At the Mountains of Madness. Unfortunately, I’m torn. I alternately liked and disliked this book and I’m not at all sure what to say about it.

There is one thing this man can do really well and that is freak you out. I read several chapters of this book before bed one night and woke up every hour with the strangest dreams. I stopped reading it in bed after that. While the story is slow, it’s a re-telling of an Antarctica expedition that went bad, it does have some great parts. Notably, the descriptions of alien-like cities, worlds, and creatures left behind. The expeditions to and explorations of these alien cities are some of the most interesting parts of this book. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the equipment on the expedition. I know that sounds boring but it’s not. Don’t forget, this is a recounting of an expedition so these details are important to the story and while they may seem boring, they set the scene, if you will.

What I didn’t so much enjoy was the slowness of the story. I know I should’ve had sympathy for the narrator who was having trouble telling his story but I wanted to poke him and tell him to move it along. The tension does build this way and you do end up wondering what happened because he doesn’t come right out and tell you. He holds back; obviously the story is terrifying for him and re-living the story isn’t something he wants to do. You need to stay with him and listen carefully because those details provide a much larger and scarier picture. The problem for me was that I didn’t have much patience for the character and I wanted to know more about the aliens before he was ready to divulge info. Yes, the story does provide ample time to use your imagination but mine didn’t seem to be working when I was reading. This happens.

The version I borrowed from the library had an introduction by China Mieville, a favorite author of mine. But thanks to schedules and the library wanting their books back, I didn’t have the chance to read his breakdown of the story which I think would’ve gone a long way for me in thinking more deeply about the story itself. I was saving it for the end and never got to it since it took me longer to read than anticipated. I’m thinking I might need to request this again to read that introduction.

I still want to read more Lovecraft though. Is there something you’d recommend?

At the Mountains of Madness

By H.P. Lovecraft

The Modern Library

ISBN: 0812974417

 

Giving up on Swamplandia!

Yes, I’m giving up on Swamplandia!. Normally, I wouldn’t say anything about a book I don’t finish, so I’m not sure why I’m doing it now either. I wanted to love this book like loads of other people did. It’s interesting, Russell is a fantastic writer by all accounts, but I don’t read much contemporary fiction and I think that’s getting me. I want something magical to happen with the alligators and it’s not going to. There’s some weird spiritualist stuff going on but, well, yeah. So, I move onto something else and return this book back to the library for another to enjoy. So as a send off…

Dear book,

I know your next reader will love you.

All the best,

The reader who abandoned you

Has the read ahead curse been broken?

I like to read the last page of a book. Sometimes, I do this before I start a book, but most times, I read the last page before the end of the first chapter. Sometimes I read even more than the last page. You see, I like to know how things are going to turn out. I’m not good with spoilers. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll all agree. Some people tell me this habit ruins the story, but for me, that isn’t the case. I like to see how an author is going to get me there. It not how it ends, it’s the journey to the ending that I want.

So, I’m reading Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell, the third book in the Saxon Tales series, and Uhtred, my favorite character, is in trouble. I get nervous. But I don’t read ahead. In fact, when I come to the end of the dreadful chapter, I put the book down and don’t read for the rest of the night. I could have read ahead, and in most cases, I would have but something stopped me. I wanted to let this one play out and see what would happen. Instead of quelling the anticipation, I let it build. This might be a first for me people. That’s why I’m telling you all this.

I think it’s because I like this particular character so much. Uhtred is a Saxon, raised by Danes, in 880s Britain. He’s brutal, but loyal, shrewd but bullheaded, brilliant in battle, and an excellent battle strategist, but somedays he doesn’t stop to think. And that gets him in trouble, and in this particular case, it lands him in a boatload of trouble. I like that about him though. He’s an unpredictable character but a great narrator. He knows he’s flawed but he’s got one hell of a story to tell and all you want to do is listen.

Maybe that’s it then. Maybe my habit has not been broken. It’s not that I can’t read a book without looking ahead, I have, but I like the knowing. The knowing is a good thing for me. But I’m playing this one fast and free. Any bets on how long I can hold out before reading the end?

Review – The Courtier’s Secret

The Courtier's SecretWhen I picked up this book, I was looking for historical fiction and I got it. Historical fiction was my staple for a long time and is still a comfort read for me, especially when I hit a slump. And to be honest, anything set in Versailles gets my attention even if Marie Antoinette is not part of the story. This book features the Sun King and is set slightly before Maria Antoinette arrives on the scene.

Jeanne du Bois is now back at Versailles, kicked out of the convent her father shipped her off to. She’s outspoken, and as far as her father is concerned, a hindrance to everything he needs to get ahead. Wanting her out of his house, he plans to marry her off to a man who can help him politically but does nothing for Jeanne romantically. Not wanting anything to do with her father’s plans, Jeanne does what she can to sabotage everything he’s set in place and goes on with her life as usual, which includes a secret life only she and her uncle know about.  In this secret life, she poses as a musketeer and fights alongside the men tasked with protecting the crown. When Jeanne happens upon a plot to kill the queen, a woman she greatly admires, she finds can’t give up the charade. When love enters the picture, it becomes even more difficult to hide her feeling and cover up her second life.

I have to say, it’s totally unbelievable but it’s fun. Who wouldn’t want to be a sword wielding musketeer instead of standing around smelly Versailles waiting for someone more important to pass by? Although, I always love hearing about the court rituals and the silly gossip and this story has that and more. The details about the king’s toilette were at once fascinating and so strange I wanted to laugh. I’ll never understand how people, royalty or not, could live like that. And why anyone would put up with it to be in favor of the king confounds me, but not living in that time, I can’t even begin to understand the fascination with watching someone get their hair curled. But, yes, I like very much to read about it.

Jeanne is part of the upper class with the strange rituals but she shuns most when possible. The fencing lessons her uncle bestows on her are just one of her many offending traits, at least to her father. Her mother is interesting in that she wants to help her get out from under the tyranny of her father, who is just a cruel and mean individual, that can’t and won’t see the world around him even when it’s in his best interest to do so. You don’t ever feel sorry for him.

Love story time. Jeanne falls for her fellow musketeer Henri. Her father wants her to marry a sniveling little man named Poligniac because he thinks it will increase his access, and mostly to get back at Jeanne and his wife for transgressions only he seems to perceive. Without saying, there’s a happy ending here.

Donna Russo Morin is a new to me author but I’ve seen her books around. This is her first book for me. My library only had this one but I might have to see if it would be possible to get more. I liked her style.

The Courtier’s Secret

By Donna Russo Morin

Kensington Books

ISBN: 9780758226914

More Mini Reviews

More mini reviews. I’m beginning to like these short takes. Be warned, you might see more.  This time, a short story about a boy and a book about the Loch Ness monster. Enjoy.

The Year of the Big ThawYear of the Big Thaw

By Marion Zimmer Bradley

A Gutenberg Project Ebook

Superman. That’s what I thought about as soon as I finished this short story. A boy is found and raised by a caring farmer and his wife who tell no one about the boy’s appearance and let everyone guess as to where he came from and how he came to live with them.

This is an interesting little story and if you’re a fan of Marion Zimmer Bradley, I suggest giving this very brief story a try; it’s only about 25 pages. I always forget that she wrote more than fantasy along the lines of The Mists of Avalon, that being my favorite of her works. But I know she’s written a lot of science fiction, most of which I haven’t touched. I should read more of her science fiction and thanks to the Gutenberg Project, where I found this little beauty, I’m going to make that happen.

If you’ve read some of Zimmer Bradley’s science fiction, suggestions on where I should start?

 

The LochThe Loch

By Steve Alten

Tsunami Books

ISBN: 0976165902

Zachery Wallace is a marine biologist who is called back to Scotland to help out his father who has been arrested for murder. How does a marine biologist help an absentee father who is accused of murder? By proving the Loch Ness Monster exists, of course. Yep, Angus, Zachery’s father, claims a monster ate the man he’s accused of killing and Zachery needs to get over his fear of the water, a great trait in a marine biologist, and anger directed at his father, to prove his innocence.

I read this book in October 2012 as part of my regular creepy Halloween reading. It fit the bill. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t bad. It was silly and entertaining. I always enjoy anything Loch Ness related so that was a plus. And it was fun. The story is farfetched but I read it in one afternoon curled up on my couch so I don’t have much of anything bad to say about it but I’m writing this review months later and not much of the story remained with me either. If you like stories like this, I say go for it. Spend a weekend and entertain yourself with a story of the Loch Ness monster, if you like that sort of thing.