All posts filed under: Book reviews

My thoughts on books I’ve read

The first time I read The Lord of the Rings.

I was eleven years old, when I first read The Lord of the Rings, and it changed my life.  I’d been a sporadic reader up until that point, occasionally reading a book when bored, or reading something to appease my parents.  But I soon realised as I slowly made my way through all three volumes over a long hot summer in the mid-eighties, that The Lord of the Rings was different.  This was a book that I loved. So much so, that from that point on I became an avid reader.  I was then always known to be the boy with a book in his hands, desperately wanting to recapture that feeling of complete immersion in a world far removed from my own.  Be it fantasy novels or historical, throughout university and beyond, the sight of me carrying a book or with a novel stuffed in a coat pocket or bag was so common that it was only remarked upon on the rare occasion it was missing. The attraction of escapism is obvious, but this wasn’t …

Bernard Cornwell, The Winter King. A great combination of myth and history.

Bernard Cornwell has always been a great favourite of mine, managing to combine exciting action with historical events – informing the reader, whilst keeping them on the edge of their seat.  So I was intrigued when he decided to write a series of novels based on the legend of King Arthur.  The Winter King is the first of the Warlord chronicles and is set in ancient Britain just after the Romans left its shores and the Saxons started to make incursions into the British Isles.  King Arthur comes to hold back the impending storm, and by so doing spawns the legend that has inspired the myth that has lasted through the millennia. The difficulty with any Arthurian novel is striking the balance between historical accuracy and the myth that has grown over the past fifteen hundred years.  Most people realise that Sir Thomas Mallory’s concept of knights in shining armour is completely inaccurate, but do you throw out all the elements of the legend you think untrue or exaggerated?  If so you may come up …

The Liveship Trilogy by Robin Hobb. A master author at the top of her game.

The Liveship traders of Bingtown operate to the south of Six Duchies – the land we visited with Hobb for her Farseer novels.  However, don’t expect the same characters to pop-up or a continuation of the raids from the Red Ships.  This is a very different story, and although the lands and novels are intrinsically linked, you need no knowledge of the Farseer novels before you embark on this series.   We meet a new cast of well-crafted characters and a set of books that possibly represent Hobb’s most accomplished work. The story revolves around the Bingtown traders, a group of families who prosper on the Cursed Shore – a land where life is made difficult by the acidic waters of the Rain Wild River that runs from far inland into the sea near their town.  The secret of their prosperity is their Liveships.  They are crafted from Wizardwood that comes from a secret source far up the Rain Wild River and give their ships a great advantage over their competitors, not least because only ships …

Readers Favorite! Roman Mask, 5 Stars! #books

You may notice a silver medal on the top right hand side of my blog, showing five stars.  This is from readers favorite, who have awarded me this after reviewing my book, Roman Mask.  Readers favorite are The fastest growing book review and award contest site on the Internet.  They are the recipient of “Best Websites for Authors” awards by the Association of Independent Authors. They are also used by the large publishing houses Penguin, Harper Collins, Random House, and Simon & Shuster among others. The reason I went to these guys to review my novel, was because I felt it was important to get a completely impartial view on my novel, from a source that is world recognised and renowned for their fair and honest reviews.  Needless to say, I was delighted to receive 5 stars!  They also have an annual book award contest in April, so who knows, I might just take part in that too! Anyway, here is the review I received: Reviewed By Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers’ Favorite Thomas MD …

Allan Massie, Augustus. A Emperor like no other… #books #greatreads

If you really like your Roman Imperial history, or would like to learn more, this is a great place to start.  Alan Massie’s novel on Augustus is both detailed and engaging, an excellent commentary on the man who probably did more to shape the Roman Empire than any other – high praise when you consider Julius Caesar is on that list. Augustus is largely accepted as Rome’s first Emperor (Julius Caesar was dictator for life) and although Augustus preferred to go by the term ‘princeps’ or first citizen, he completely reformed Rome’s old Republic into an imperial super-power capable of controlling the vast lands and provinces that stretched through Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa. Alan Massie’s novel is a fictional memoir from Augustus, as he recounts his life.  It is divided into two parts.  The first is recounted by a middle aged Emperor in a triumphant tone as he retells the period of the civil wars which followed the assassination of his uncle, Julius Caesar.  He tells of his ascension to power as, with the …

Julian May, The Many Coloured Land….more fantasy than Sci-fi #greatreads #books

Okay!! I know what you’re thinking! How can you call this a fantasy novel? This is surely Sci-fi, after-all it starts in 22nd century Earth?  Not only that, the plot includes two exiled warring alien races.  Surely Sci-fi right?  Well no, not really, and that’s because the Saga of the Exiles series, which starts with The Many Coloured Land, actually reads far more like a fantasy novel than anything else.  That’s because the advanced technology of the 22nd century has given Earth’s inhabitants the ability to create a time portal back to Earth’s Pliocene Era (basically six million years ago, long after the dinosaurs but before the arrival of man).  The time portal is a one way trip, so only the 22nd century’s discontents, disenfranchised, and the odd criminal are willing to make the journey, seeking a technology-free wilderness on the other side. What they find instead is the exiled warring alien race, users of powerful mind powers, who have also cast aside the advanced technology that took them to our world. The wilderness of the …

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie, a different kind of hero

In most fantasy novels we have become quite accustomed to heroes with impressive physiques, great with a blade or bow, probably good looking too.  There is nothing wrong with that, one of the great things about fantasy writing is that we can escape to other worlds, where an early grave is often only avoided by our heroes’ physical prowess.  However, there are other ways to be remarkable, and sometimes it’s refreshing to find someone who survives through their wit rather than their brawn. That’s the case with Joe Abercrombie’s new ‘Shattered Sea’ series, which starts with the novel ‘Half a King’.  The lead character, a prince of a ruling family, has been born with one withered arm and a malformed hand.  As he lives in a warrior society, where a man’s worth is judged by how adept they are with their weapons, he suffers the scorn of his peers and his stern father.  But our character has assets that the others don’t, a sharp mind and resourceful spirit. I won’t go into the plot in …

Not an ordinary fantasy trilogy – Robin Hobb, The Soldier Son Series

I mentioned this series when I wrote my post on Wednesday, and since then I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot.  The Soldier son trilogy isn’t for everyone, and I know some people who were never keen on it as it was a big departure from Robin Hobb’s other books set in the Three-Kingdoms, or those on the Live Ships and Dragons of Bingtown.  The Soldier Son novels, despite being works of fantasy, are set in a relatively modern world with rifles and guns, and Hobb develops an unorthodox main character from that which you’d normally expect from a fantasy series.  However, these novels strengths are that they cover a lot of issues that we would recognise from our own world, and really make you think about our own perceptions to those same issues. I don’t want to give too much away, but the conflicting issues in these novels are between the progress and development of the modern world on the one-side, and the traditions and magical beliefs of a land that is coming …

The City – Stella Gemmell

It had taken me a while to purchase this novel, and get around to reading it.  David Gemmell, Stella’s late departed husband was one of my favourite authors, so I’m not sure why it had taken me so long, surely I should have been eager to buy it as soon as it came out…but I didn’t. I think the reason why was in case I was disappointed, and then the final link to her husband’s great writing would be gone.  But I shouldn’t have been so reticent, Stella Gemmell has proved with her first solo novel, The City, that she is a writer in her own right now, and I won’t hesitate to purchase more novels from her in the future. Stella Gemmell has previously worked with her husband on many different projects, and finished David Gemmell’s last trilogy on Troy posthumously, so I knew I wasn’t dealing with a novice when I picked up her novel.  However, with her previous work I was never quite sure where her influence started and his ended, but …

C J Sansom, Sovereign

I don’t often read crime novels, I’m not sure why, my grandmother used to love them, but I could never generate the necessary enthusiasm for finding out whodunit.  Maybe my mind just doesn’t work that way, or I have too much sympathy for the bad guys, either way, I’d have made a terrible detective. So it’s an unusual choice of novel this week that I write about – C J Sansom’s Sovereign that features her sleuth Matthew Shardlake.  I was drawn to it because of the period of history, Tudor England in all its pomp and splendour; a court full of intrigue and danger, the land in a flux of great change and upheaval, yet beginning to erect the pillars of society that we now identify with as forever English. As this is a crime novel I don’t want to give away the plot by discussing the characters too much, because as with any crime novel, they are key to the storyline.  I’ll just say that Shardlake is an interesting and unusual investigator, hunchbacked and often …