Monday, 24 July 2017

Excellent read - S. J. Parris' Treachery

Treachery (Giordano Bruno, #4)Treachery by S.J. Parris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent read akin to Stephen Saylor's Gordianus the Finder series. The style is similar as the the premise. However, rather than a murder mystery in Roman times it is set in Elizabethan England. The author conveys a great sense of the period with its slums at one end of society and nobility at the other. Treachery is set in Portsmouth with Sir Francis Drake about to lead an expedition to the New World for plunder. However a suicide on board requires investigating and Bruno, an Italian philosopher is on hand to delve into the seedy depths of Elizabethan Plymouth. The scrapes come thick and fast for an excellent read. 

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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Power of the Sword by Wilbur Smith

Power of the Sword (Courtney #5)Power of the Sword by Wilbur Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great tale set in post First Word War South Africa. This is the 5th Courtney book. It's hard to say who the main character is as the tale switches between so man. There is even a mention of Nelson Mandela. The tale centers on the Hanai diamond mine and Centaine and her son Shasa. Once again Smith's knowledge of Africa brings the tale alive. His knowledge of its history in this turbulent period also makes for a very readable tale. At over 800 pages it is value for money and still a page-turner, mainly due to the easy to read narrative rather than an exciting plot. There are several characters to hate and the main one for me was Manfred De La Ray, although Smith also manages to create a little sadness for this character as well. Superb writing.

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Wilbur Smith's The Quest: Epic Read

The Quest (Ancient Egypt, #4)The Quest by Wilbur Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent book, but borderline historical fiction and tending to fantasy. Still, an excellent read. This is the fourth in the series involving Taita, the once slave who is now more of a mystic/warlock. There's lots of mysticism and set in ancient Egypt that works really well but the reader has to suspend some belief. The journey is certainly epic as Taita seeks the source of the Nile and the reason for years of drought. There's giant, killer toads and an ancient goddess to contend with. Smith's descriptions are beautiful and his knowledge of Africa brings the books alive. A great read for historical fiction (with some tongue in cheek) and fantasy fans alike.

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Saturday, 1 July 2017

Falling Down a Hole - With Style.

One weekend, in winter, on exercise with the territorial army, I was walking along a hill top near Loch Striven. It was completely dark even though it was early evening. The ground was gently undulating and long shadows were cast by the bright lights from below, and I mean bright lights. There is a base at the bottom of the hill and floodlights illuminated it. It was almost too bright to look down the hill.

Walking wasn't too hard, but I was carrying a large pack for the weekend ahead and a rifle. I stepped out onto what I thought was a shadow and promptly fell about six feet down a hole. I landed heavily on my knees and given the weight I was carrying I was amazed something didn't break. Being a good soldier I was still carrying my rifle, surprisingly!

Strewth. The pain. My knees were agony.

It took a moment to realise what had happened. I was kneeling by the side of a burn. Looking up the steep sides I saw where I had fallen from and it was quite a tumble. Rising, I clambered up the slope hoping no one had noticed. I was really embarrassed. The lights below had cast very dark shadows and what I had mistaken for a slight dip in the ground was in fact a not too deep ravine with a burn at the bottom.

Being the officer in charge of the platoon I did my best to ignore what had happened but snickering from behind revealed that others had seen. Damn. There goes my reputation...again.

Monday, 26 June 2017

An Excellent Read: Conn Iggulden's Stormbird: The War of the Roses.

Stormbird (Wars of the Roses, #1)Stormbird by Conn Iggulden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent tale which brings to life how the War of the Roses started. It is clearly a complex time and the prologue nicely sets the scene: Edward the third's death bed and several of his sons hovering in background, already plotting who will rule. Iggulden does a great job of bringing clarity to what is a confusing time. History books can be very dry but a well written historical fiction can add a huge extra dimension, making the period come alive. The historical note at the end provides a glimpse into fact versus fiction and I think Iggulden does a great job of steering between fact with intriguing fiction. This is a great period of history that Game of Thrones can only emulate. It has the same sense of betrayal, political motivated murder and great characters determined to succeed. There are epic battles seen from the point of view of either Lords or lowly archers. A great tale.

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Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Invictus by Simon Scarrow: A Review - A Stunning Read

Invictus (Eagle, #15)Invictus by Simon Scarrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Scarrow is a reliable author but this is certainly one of his better books. It's been a while since I read a good page-turner and I managed to read this in a couple of days. It has everything in a book for a historical fiction (and most fantasy fans). There is political intrigue, numerous hard-case villains, battles and a great plot. Set in Spain ad with a silver mine at risk there is the hallmarks of a good tale. Not only does Scarrow deliver but there is a twist to the plot and the underlying politics wins out.

Spoiler - Julia's betrayal was hard to accept but I sense a carry on on this tale in a follow up novel. I bet she's not the villain she is made out to be.

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Thursday, 15 June 2017

Defiant Unto Death by David Gilman: A Review

Master of War: Defiant Unto Death (Master of War, #2)Master of War: Defiant Unto Death by David Gilman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you want to read about men clashing in heavy armour this is a good read. It does drop off after a great start and the tale fixates on domestic life. It is still readable but a bit slow. When it gets going again there is some great action. Set some years after the battle of Crecy it follows Thomas Blackstone's adventures. He was an archer at Crecy and for his actions, becomes a knight. The tale has its bitter sweet moments which make it all the better. However, I often heard myself saying foolish woman to one of the main characters as once again she puts herself in harms way. I will be reading the next installment.

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