28 Oct 2014

The Daring Heart of David Livingstone by Jay Milbrandt

Kindle Edition, 262 Pages, 
Thomas Nelson, September 23rd 2014 

The captivating, untold story of the great explorer, David Livingstone: his abiding faith and his heroic efforts to end the African slave trade
Saint? Missionary? Scientist? Explorer?
The titles given to David Livingstone since his death are varied enough to seem dubious—and with good reason. In view of the confessions in his own journals, saint is out of the question. Even missionary is tenuous,considering he made only one convert. And despite his fame as a scientist and explorer, Livingstone left his most indelible mark on Africa in an arena few have previously examined: slavery.

His impact on abolishing what he called “this awful slave-trade” has been shockingly overlooked as the centerpiece of his African mission.
Until now.

The Daring Heart of David Livingstone tells his story from the beginning of his time in Africa to the publicity stunt that saved millions after his death.

For those, like me, entirely unfamiliar with the life and career of David Livingstone, this book proved a useful account of his historical legacy and importance. This said, it is not, in the strictest sense, a full or complete biography- the focus and overall argument is clear from the outset. It proposes that his main goal was to destroy the central African slave trade- thus those looking for a conventional biography laying bare the great man’s personal life may want to look elsewhere.

There are many personal insights and accounts of his adventures (or more often misadventures) in Africa, and relationship with the people and fellows. Sometimes, a less than flattering picture emerges. Livingstone was passionate about his convictions, certainly, but also comes across as obsessive and obstinate to a fault- and at times, unwilling to admit responsibility for mistakes, an aspect which provides a useful and better-rounded view of the man.

It would be easy, in hindsight, to consider Livingstone to have been a failure, but as the full picture presents a different story. Perhaps the overarching argument that the abolition of slavery was the principal goal all along has some shortcomings, but this was the main way in which he ultimately, proved successful.

My only real complaints mostly regard small details. The author made the common error of conflating England and Britain throughout, and the writing seemed a little repetitive and patchy in places. The bibliography demonstrates the level of research and dedication that has gone into the work, which is commendable for an author from outside the historical discipline.

I received a copy of this book free from Thomas Nelson via Booklookbloggers in exchange for review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

21 Oct 2014

New Release- A Lady at Willowgrove Hall- Sarah E. Ladd

 A Lady at Willowgrove Hall- Whispers on the Moors #3 
Thomas Nelson, October 7th 2014
352 Pages 

Her secret cloaks her in isolation and loneliness. His secret traps him in a life that is not his own.

Cecily Faire carries the shame of her past wherever she treads, knowing one slip of the tongue could expose her disgrace. But soon after becoming a lady's companion at Willowgrove Hall, Cecily finds herself face-to-face with a man well-acquainted with the past she's desperately hidden for years.

Nathaniel Stanton has a secret of his own one that has haunted him for years and tied him to his father's position as steward of Willowgrove Hall. To protect his family, Nathaniel dares not breath a word of the truth. But as long as the shadow looms over him, he'll never be free to find his own way in the world. He'll never be free to fall in love.

When the secrets swirling within Willowgrove Hall come to light, Cecily and Nathaniel must confront a painful choice: Will they continue running from the past . . . or will they stand together and fight for a future without the suffocating weight of secrets long suffered?"

A Lady at Willowgrove Hall concludes new author Sarah Ladd’s Whispers on the Moors series, Regency Romances set in a fictional county in the North of England. The last two I heard as audiobooks, so this was my first proper read. There is little real connection with the characters or events with the first two books in the series, which might seem daring for the last novel in a trilogy, or for fans wishing to ‘hear more’ of the characters from the last books, but it seemed to work well enough.

The story is based around Cecily Faire, a hurting young lady harbouring a secret that she fears could ruin her, securing a position as a companion to the elderly owner of Willowgrove Hall. When she arrives she discovers a face from her past, and Nathanial Stanton, the steward who harbours a secret of his own. The setting is common for Regency Era stories, and though the secrets of the main characters are known to the audience from the outset, their impact on the character’s lives and those around them works well as the central part of the plot.
Although ostensibly ‘Christian’ fiction, there is little real religious content, or at least less that the first book. However, there are important messages about forgiveness, honesty, and the destructive influence of bitterness and resentment on people’s lives. So it could be classified as clean romance with the Christian flavour, perhaps.

The writing style was generally good, with some beautifully descriptive passages of gardens and the landscape.
My only complaints were that the story did seem rather slow and lagging in places, and some inconsistency in the use of language. In some places, for instance, the characters used Americanisms that seemed rather out of place in an early nineteenth century British setting- but in other places the correct British idioms or terms were used. Also, there seemed to be some confusion of the name of the fictional county of Wiltonshire and the main town within in- which was also called the same.
 I feel it bears mention that whilst English counties may be named after the principal town or city within them, that town does not have the same name as the county, and they never have names ending in 'Shire'.

 The Romance was sweet, though some passages were a little clich├ęd, but generally it’s a good, light read if you want a cosy, easy to follow, edifying story.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley for review, I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

13 Oct 2014

New Release- The Abbot's Agreement- Mel Starr

Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon # 7 
Lion Fiction/Kregel 258 Pages, August/November 2014

"My life would have been more tranquil in the days after Martinmas had I not seen the crows. Whatever it was that the crows had found lay in the dappled shadow of the bare limbs of the oak, so I was nearly upon the thing before I recognized what the crows were feasting upon. The corpse wore black..."

 Master Hugh is making his way towards Oxford when he discovers the young Benedictine - a fresh body, barefoot - not half a mile from the nearby abbey. The abbey's novice master confirms the boy's identity: John, one of three novices. But he had gone missing four days previously, and his corpse is fresh. There has been plague in the area, but this was not the cause of death: the lad has been stabbed in the back. To Hugh's sinking heart, the abbot has a commission for him ...

It’s been eighteen months or so since I read my last Hugh de Singleton novel, and I have to admit, despite some of the (entirely legitimate) comments made by other reviewers, this was one of my personal favourites.
Provided expectations are not placed too high, its generally quite good- of course there is no high drama, political intrigue, and little in the way of real action or tension, but this is not something the series generally contains.
Those expecting such things (or a series to the level of another Cadfael) may be disappointed. The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton are a more slow-paced with the occasional foray into Medieval Medicine and surgery which I for one appreciate as someone personally fascinated with the subject.

I personally enjoyed the descriptions of life in and the working of a medieval Benedictine monastery, some of the other descriptions of social life, the impact of the Black Death and the exploration of some of the religious beliefs and ideas of the period. The story did perhaps drag a little in places, and Hugh is certainly not the sharpest tool in the barn, but generally the story was compelling enough that I wanted to read on. There is something endearing about Dear Hugh, despite his occasional failings a sleuth, and even Arthur, his burly bodyguard.

My only major gripe in terms of the plot-line was a serious contradiction given about the evidence of the night the murder was committed. Without meaning to give too much away it was early on stated that there was no moon on that night- and later that there was a full moon and a cloudless sky allowing persons to see clearly. This is not presented as an error, or seemingly even remembered, and for mystery buffs, might be considered a heinous fax pas- and perhaps the solution was a little obvious. Yet for all that, those seeking a ‘light’ mystery with sound historical content, or a clean read with a Christian flavour may be satisfied.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

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