Review: A French Wedding by Hannah Tunnicliffe 

Lovely story, but not what I expected. I thought, “A wedding! France! Cheese! Pastry!” And I got a wedding… but not until the very very end; France… well a part of France  caught very much in between England and France in language and culture; cheese… yes, but not everyone liked it; and pastry… oh the very best pastries and cakes made by chef Juliette. 

Juliette set aside her personal baggage to be Max’s personal chef. For Juliette, life was even easier that way. When Max invited a bunch of friends to stay at his home for the weekend, Juliette was ready to cook for them like a madwoman. But things went wrong at every turn due to the shadow Max’s mood cast. Whether he meant to or not, Max kind of ruined everything for his friends and his chef. And that kind of ruined the story for me. 
Good writing, good plot, depressing main character. 

-calliope 

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Review: A Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell

pale-horsemanThis series is just breathtaking. Seriously, I kid you naught, it left me breathless more than once. I won’t say that Cornwell’s battle scenes are g rated, but I have read much more graphic…however Cornwell does have me having to slow myself down, alternately, afraid of what I am about to read, whilst at the same time trying to rush ahead to see what happens next. At one point in the novel, I think I actually said, “HOLY SHIT” in the middle of the night.

But before you wander off, thinking this isn’t the story for me because you hate that type of thing, let me remind you that this isn’t just about battles. In fact, there are only a few that take place in this novel. This is a novel about a young warrior named Uhtred. Northerner nobleman by birth, English by circumstance, Dane by force, Pagan by choice, but warrior at heart.

One has to be reminded time and time again that Uhtred is only a young man in this, the second novel, of the Saxon Stories. He is still battling with his choices, his conscious, his loyalties, his religion and most definitely with his warrior soul.

Watching Uhtred make his journey into adulthood and trying to weave his way through all that he faces, be it strategical, personal, or political, is in of itself, well worth the time it takes to read this series. You will be hard pressed to find someone who inspires or moves you as much as Uhtred does.

More than that though, this is an amazing retelling of history through fiction. I find myself searching for Alfred the Great and reading more about these battles and the locations. Of the defeats and the obsession of religion. Of how he came to be…and of how he came not to be..This is a story that inspires one to learn more about what came before.

I have always found England fascinating. From time to time, I’ve asked people, here in England, how does it feel to know that you walk where kings and knights have walked? On the very same ground. Where legends were born and countries were made? They often look at me like I am either daft or a lunatic. Here, however, is the proof. The very same places that I see around me are here, mentioned in this novel. The chalk grounds I see are where blood was spilled in the wars between the Saxons and the Danes.

That is what great story telling is about. As I went to sleep each night reading this novel, I awoke, not in the 21st century, but in the 9th. In England as it must have been then, the damp, the sound of battle cries in my head, the smell of fires, the bitter cold, and the knowledge that we fight for a cause…and her name is England…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now A Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell

Review: A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

winter*Note of interest* The kindle edition of this novel has the acknowledgements in the front of the novel. Those acknowledgements gave away a huge part of this novel. If you’re at all familiar with the synopsis, then it probably won’t give anything away for you…However, I hate to know anything other than the title of a novel before reading it, so I was a wee bit peeved at this oversight of the formatters. The DTB copy that I own has the acknowledgments at the end…WHERE THEY BELONG!!!

This novel…I loved it. I was so fascinated by it that I found myself trying to find out more about PG himself…and of how this story was inspired/loosely based upon his grandfather. Knowing these things…and well…because of the book itself, Harry Cale haunted me.

Other reviewers say PG’s writing is beautiful. I’m sorry…I didn’t see his writing as lyrical or beautiful. If you happen to read this review, Mr Gale, no offense meant! I promise! However, I found Harry Cale beautiful. I could hear the silence of his solitude. My ears were deafened by it. I believe Harry will haunt me for a very long time. I so much want to sit beside him. I want him to know how much I admire his strength and his sense of honor. I want him to know that he is not alone.

Yes, this story is interesting. It’s opened up conversations with me and other people. I just had to tell others about this book. It’s made me think. To try to imagine what society must have been like not so long ago. It has made me sad. It has made me admire. It has made me ponder what all of this meant to PG, the author. Has it shaped the man he was…or shaped the man he is…or is it shaping the man he hopes to become? I spent only several hours reading this novel…but I have spent countless hours thinking about it….

Yes, again, the story itself is wonderful. It’s interesting. No, I’m not going to tell you what the novel is all about…you should know by now that’s not how I do reviews! What I will tell you is that, no matter how wonderful and interesting the story is/was…Harry Cale is even more interesting and wonderful…

I’m telling you…he is going to haunt me for a very long time…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

Review: A Cotswold Christmas by Kate Hewitt 

This quick and easy holiday romance was cute, but not as satisfying as I’d hoped. Maybe its brevity precluded some of the depth I’ve come to appreciate in cozy romance novels. 

Anna heads to the Cotswolds from New York City, hoping for a respite from the pressures of life: relationships, work, and family. What she finds is no room at the inn, and a second-rate offer by the innkeeper’s cousin Colin. Colin is a happy go lucky guy who forms an attraction for Anna. 

I won’t spoil it, but when two roads diverge in a yellow wood, Anna and Colin don’t have too many choices: they fall for each other or they don’t… someone moves halfway around the world or someone doesn’t. 

This is book one in a series, and it definitely seemed like an introduction. I wanted more substance, some subplots, and a more memorable hero. But it was charming and well-written, and a nice way to familiarize readers with a new setting… especially for the price ($2.99). Here’s hoping book two hits me right in the heart! 

-calliope

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Review: The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Series #1) by Bernard Cornwell

68527F’ing hell what a book. What in the world am I to read next as I can’t jump into book 2 right away. I need to savour this series and my beloved warrior, Uhtred Ragnarson…

That was all I could write when I finished this book and attempted to do a review. Really…I was just overwhelmed…now it has been several weeks and I still don’t know what to say…

Here is part of a conversation I had with with a mate when she told me she didn’t like historical reads:
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Really isn’t that different than some of the other stuff you’ve read honestly…except some of it is based on fact…King Alfred the great, the Danes and some of the battles…but people are people no matter the time…

Basically a young orphaned boy that discovers what it feels to loved and valued for the first time in the enemy’s camp…later his loyalties are tested time and time again…people want him to be educated, but he just wants to be a warrior…

A quote that won’t leave my mind from the book

‘Touch a harp,’ I said, ‘and it just makes noise, but play it and it makes music.’

The same is true about writing…put letters on a page and you just have words, but written by a gifted writer and true magic can happen….

Once again (never happens enough for me) a book I’ve read that is well deserving of its high ratings…
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That’s what this book was to me…true magic….I am ready to continue on with book 2…let’s be honest…I can’t stop thinking about book 1, even though it’s been near two months…I might as well follow my heart and carry on…

as testament to another quote from the book…

Destiny is everything

Until next time…

Urania xx

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

Review: Forty One by Lesia Daria

  
This might be a novel about being a housewife, or being Eastern European and feeling misplaced living in England, or coming to terms with depression, or allowing your emotions to catch up to everything that’s happened in your past. 

And maybe this book is a mirror, reflecting the failures and sins of the reader. The thing is, I don’t quite enjoy my flaws staring back at me. And I don’t like all the gloom and doom of Forty One. The WHOLE THING is gloomy with tiny bits of shimmer thrown in, every piece of which Eva manages to dull with her depression. I also didn’t appreciate the betrayals to marriage.  If you’re depressed, think long and hard whether this book will make you feel better (understood and validated) or worse (dragging you deeper) before deciding to read it. 

I prefer a bit of happy escapism in my daily reading.  But some people (ahem, Urania) think it’s totally awesome when a book makes the reader uncomfortable, pushes the reader to reexamine her values, brings to light that which is usually hidden. So I admit to my negative and egotistical nature… And heretofore I’m moving on to a more uplifting read! 

Technically, the writing was long-winded. I skipped entire pages of droning and description, and still the book took forever to read (over 8000 locations, felt like maybe 8 hours). 

Know what I loved, though? When Eva is in Poland, her family traditions around meals and holidays were very similar to my family traditions when I was a little girl. I thank the author for bringing me a piece of my childhood, eating pierogies and golombki before Christmas midnight mass, and sharing the opłatek with my relatives. 

-calliope

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Review: Keeper’s Reach (Sharpe & Donovan) by Carla Neggers

  
Emma and Colin are at it again – solving crimes and saving lives – but this time they’re not really doing it together. Emma is supposed to be visiting the sisters at her old convent to get some closure before her wedding. But she gets drawn in to a dangerous situation when Colin’s brother Mike has some ex military contacts visiting. Colin vacillates between rushing in to save the day and keeping his emotions in check and doing a deliberate investigation first. 

I miss the banter Emma and Colin had in book 4 of this series (Read the review here), but I did like their display of trust and protectiveness for each other. Just like in book 4, I was a little confused with the numerous characters. They didn’t all come clear to me until the end, and by that time I think I missed something. 

I always enjoy a good FBI story, and Keeper’s Reach gets extra points for being set in New England and the Cotswalds. I also loved that Neggers continued the stories of art thief Oliver York and secondary character Father Finian. A possible rekindled romance for Mike and Naomi held my interest, too.  

I wish Neggers focused more on action — while maintaining the awesome descriptions of locale that she does so well — instead of describing characters. I get that the ex military pals were supposed to be central, but it’s hard to develop a bunch of new characters for one mystery in one book. 

I hope to see more Sharpe & Donovan capers in the future!

-calliope

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