29 Apr 2018

From the Dark to the Dawn by Alicia A. Willis

 Decadent Rome, 61 Anno Domini. The masters of the universe have crushed the Iceni rebellion with an iron hand, slaughtering and enslaving her people.

For Philip, his existence as a captive means living to hatred. He despises his rich, young master, resenting his life of servitude and the wrestling feats Marcus forces him to perform. Bitterness engulfs his soul until he only lives for the day when he will crush the might of Rome.

Then Christianity enters the picture. Taught by a Jewish breadmaker to know the man called Christus, Philip begins the struggle to forgive and honor his master. But forgiveness is not easy towards one who lives for himself.

Marcus Virginius knows nothing but power and pleasure. Destined to a successful career serving Nero in the Praetorian Guard, he wants no part of Christianity. And he is determined to crush Philip’s newfound faith – no matter what it takes.

Join Philip and Marcus in their journey of redemption, faith, and forgiveness. Is love enough to conquer hate? And will the light of the gospel ever surmount the darkness of Rome?

Persecution abounds – will the two young men survive its terrors and live to experience the bright hope of a new dawn?

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Very good read. Reminded me in parts of Ben Hur and Quo Vadis. Aside from some of the names, I believe it was also thoroughly researched: I was pleasantly surprised to find the names of some well-known Historians in the preface.

The beginning, set in Britannia in the aftermath of the revolt of British Queen Boudicca was also fascinating. Philip, the former British slave makes me wonder about the way Christianity might have come to the British Isles, although that is not what the story is about.

The story has a gospel message, but not so overwhelming that is ceases to be an enjoyable read, or just a vehicle for preaching.

Recommended for all those who enjoy Historical Fiction and stories set in Ancient Rome.

View all my reviews

27 Apr 2018

First Line Fridays 27: A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters

Friday has spun around again! Today I am featuring the first novel in a series of Medieval Detective stories which has become famous around the world, thanks to the TV adaptations starring Derek Jacobi which were first broadcast in the 1990s. 

A Morbid Taste for Bones was the first book in the Cadfael Chronicles, a series of historical mystery novels which featured a rather unusual sleuth: a 12th century Benedictine Monk by the name of Brother Cadfael. 
Cadfael is a Welsh came, which is fitting, because the stories are set in and around the city of Shrewsbury, which is on the Welsh borders in the modern county of Shropshire during a period known as 'The Anarchy'. This was a civil war between two rival claimants to the English throne in the first half of the twelfth century, Matilda and her Cousin Stephen of Blois, both grandchildren of William the Conqueror. 

Ellis Peters was in fact the pen name of a female author Edith Parteger,  and those familiar with the TV series might be surprised to discover that the book featured was in fact the first book Chronologically, because the TV adaptation co-starring Stephen Moyer and Anna Friel  was the final episode of season two.

My grandmother used to own the complete collection of the novels, and Amazon recently had the first three titles on offer on Kindle, so I purchased them.

In the remote Welsh mountain village of Gwytherin lies the grave of Saint Winifred. Now, in 1137, the ambitious head of Shrewsbury Abbey has decided to acquire the sacred remains for his Benedictine order. Native Welshman Brother Cadfael is sent on the expedition to translate and finds the rustic villagers of Gwytherin passionately divided by the Benedictine's offer for the saint's relics. Canny, wise, and all too wordly, he isn't surprised when this taste for bones leads to bloody murder.

The leading opponent to moving the grave has been shot dead with a mysterious arrow, and some say Winifred herself held the bow. Brother Cadfael knows a carnal hand did the killing. But he doesn't know that his plan to unearth a murderer may dig up a case of love and justice...where the wages of sin may be scandal or Cadfael's own ruin.

The first line is rather on the long side, so I might not bother to use it when commenting on other member's blogs this week.

On the fine, bright morning in early May when the whole sensational affair of the Gwytherin relics may properly be considered to have begun, Brother Cadfael had been up long before Prime, pricking out cabbage seedlings before the day was aired, and his thoughts were all on birth, growth and fertility, not at all on graves and reliquaries and violent deaths, whether of saints, sinners or ordinary decent, fallible men like himself.

So that's my contribution for this week. Be sure to click the meme to check out what the other members of the First Line Fridays Group are reading, or just post the first line of your current book.
Happy Reading and have a great weekend. 


13 Apr 2018

First Line Fridays 26: Annabeth's War by Jessica Greyson

Not much news from me: except my new Blog theme. Do you like it? I think it looks like a Wordpress theme, but I could not get the dropdown list to work, which is disappointing. It still needs some tweaking but I do like it, since I'm not likely to get a self-hosted Wordpress.org theme anytime soon. 

I finished two Kindle books this week (one was a novella, so I guess it doesn't count), and still on track for trying to clear my Kindle backlog this month. That means, when I finish one book, I work my way up my Kindle Library with the books arranged by the date added, and download ones I have not read.
There are some  books I've had on there for 3 years and more, so its really about time I got around to reading them. So the book I am featuring today is a YA Fantasy novel I got as a freebie in 2015.

With King Harold away at war Lord Raburn has his eye on the throne. Those who dare to stand in his way fall beneath his power. All but one. A girl named Annabeth. Can a common, ordinary girl, with love for king, country, and her father, achieve the impossible?

Trained by her father, a master swordsman, outlawed Annabeth has only her sword, her wits, and her disguises to keep Belterra from falling entirely into Lord Raburn's clutches. Can she rescue her captured father and Prince Alfred? Will one girl keep the kingdom from falling?
Of course, even though this book is not historical and not based on real events or persons, I do love the names Harold and Alfred. Good Anglo-Scandinavian names.
The first line from the Prologue reads:

Annabeth took a deep breath looking up at the five tall boys before her. Curling her fingers, she rubbed them against her palms, wishing she held a sword in her hand.

So that's my First Line from this week, from of the the three older books I actually have downloaded on my Kindle at the moment.

Click the meme to see what other members of the group are reading and don't forget to comment with your own first line.


9 Apr 2018

First Line Fridays 25: Guibert of Nogent and an introduction to Medieval Literature

My first post in nearly 3 weeks. I have been remiss, again, and struggled to decide which book to share this week. I have already shared two of the books I am currently reading or have started. I was going to share a Historical Fiction novel I am going to start soon, but I just did not feel like doing that one. 

So instead, I'm sharing a Kindle book of a rather unusual genre. It consists of two short books written by a 12th century French monk named Guibert of Nogent. One is a spiritual autobiography, and other a short treatise on relics: one of only a few books composed by a man largely forgotten until modern times. 
The Publisher, Penguin books, have famously published many works of modern and historical literature, which I have started adding to my Kindle collection.

The first Western autobiography since Augustine's Confessions, the Monodies is set against the backdrop of the First Crusade and offers stunning insights into medieval society. As Guibert of Nogent intimately recounts his early years, monastic life, and the bloody uprising at Laon in 1112, we witness a world-and a mind-populated by royals, heretics, nuns, witches, and devils, and come to understand just how fervently he was preoccupied with sin, sexuality, the afterlife, and the dark arts. 

Exotic, disquieting, and illuminating, the Monodies is a work in which the dreams, fears, and superstitions of one man illuminate the psychology of an entire people. It is joined in this volume by On the Relics of Saints, a theological manifesto that has never appeared in English until now.

I don't think the synopsis does full justice to the book, so my 'First Line' which is actually from page 3 will allow the author to speak for himself over a distance of nearly 800 years.

"When the world stood in ignorance of God, when it lived in shadows and the shadow of death, when it kept a communal silence as the night was driving its course, whose worthy action, whose summons could compel your all-powerful Word to come down from its royal throne?
Not even the negligence of all humanity could keep you from showing mercy, so it is no wonder if you are full of mercy for one individual, even a heinous sinner."

See now why I love Medieval Literature? Such profound thoughts from a misunderstood time. 

Happy Friday and Happy reading until next week. Don't forget to click the meme to see what everyone else is reading, or share your own First Line.


5 Apr 2018

A Loyal Heart by Jody Hedlund: Celebrate Lit Blog Tour, Giveaway and Review

About the Book

Title: A Loyal Heart  
Author: Jody Hedlund  
Genre: Adult medieval romance  
Release Date: March 6, 2018

He’s taken her as his prisoner. But she’s holding his heart captive. In gaining their freedom, will they lose what matters most? When Lady Olivia’s castle is besieged, she and her sister are taken captive and held for ransom by her father’s enemy, Lord Pitt. Loyalty to family means everything to Olivia. She’ll save her sister at any cost and do whatever her father asks—even if that means obeying his order to steal a sacred relic from her captor.

As Lord Pitt’s commander, Sir Aldric is in charge of the beautiful but feisty new prisoner. He has his hands full attempting to keep Lady Olivia out of trouble. When Lord Pitt throws her in the dungeon and threatens to hang her for stealing, Aldric conceives a plot to save Olivia’s life—betrothal to him.
Can Olivia give up the prestigious match her father has arranged with a wealthy marquess in order to marry a lowly knight like Aldric? And can Aldric move beyond his past mistakes to embrace love again? When loyalties are tested, they’re thrust into danger that could cost them their love and their lives.

Click here to purchase your copy!
My Review: ⭐⭐⭐


I have to confess to some trepidation when I signed up for this book's blog tour, because I really did not get on with with first two books in the series. I turned out to be better than I thought in terms of the story.
I agree that there is a need for clean Young Adult Romances that promote virtue and traditional values such as honour, faith and chivalry. Parents seeking such a book will certainly find it here, and I would have loved reading it when I was a teenager. There is adventure, excitement aplenty, colourful yet flawed characters, and plenty of romance.

Yet it was often hard for me to suspend my disbelief, and overlook some of the inconsistencies of history and continuity.
First off, I think this novel could have done with an editor. In one place the word 'chaff' was used, where it should have been 'chafe', and 'affected' where it should have been 'effected'.

In the first scene, the heroine Olivia did not have time to put on her gauntlets (armoured gloves for the hands), then a few sentences later, it was stated she was struck 'on the gauntlet', then only seconds later, her opponent can see her bare hands, her gauntlet having magically disappeared.
In another place, Olivia drops her dagger, which is described as 'clattering to the ground': when she was standing on a riverbank. Items dropped on grass don't clatter.

Also, something which made the battle scenes unrealistic was that a number of times, characters were either threatened with, or actually wounded by being stabbed or shot through convenient gaps or slits in their armour at the neck, and other places.
Literally, why? Why on earth would any professional soldier leave the most vulnerable parts of their body uncovered and unprotected? It defeats the whole purpose of armour. Yet it kept happening. 14th century fighting men did not leave their necks or their armpits uncovered, like the characters do here. They wore specially made pieces of plate, chain maille or a padded jacket under their armour, to protect those areas.

Second, I maintained with the previous titles, and still would like to maintain that these books are essentially fantasy or fairy tales.
I say this because a number of readers have claimed they are set in late 14th century England, but almost nothing in them bears any resemblance to the history or geography of that country. Even the disclaimer at the front of the book is completely unnecessary, since no historical figures appear in it. Apart from the names of two of the castles, Ludlow and Wigmore, in a region historically known as he Welsh Marches (the castles are located in the neighbouring counties of Shropshire and Herefordshire) everything is made up.
The use of those names and the mention of 'Welsh' people is a problem though, setting it in a historical context, and creating a certain expectation of accuracy that is not really met.

Take the landscape. Its just castles, with heath land or forest in between. Characters riding for days, and not coming across any settlements or other people. Where are the towns, villages and cities? The historical Ludlow castle is situated within 30 miles of two cities, Shrewsbury to the North, and Hereford to the South, not even including the small town of the same name which it was built within the bounds of. Castles did not exist in isolation: they normally protected something, and the food needed to come from somewhere.

Some of the other historical inaccuracies are more specific. For a start, the claim made several times that prisoners of war, especially women and children were routinely mistreated and abused by their captors. Not so. In fact, historical evidence shows that in Medieval England noble prisoners were normally treated well: allowed to go hunting, and even attend court.
There were exceptions of course: King John starved two of his prisoners to death, and hanged Welsh captives, but he became known as a bad King for a reason. Which is the point really, such treatment of noble prisoners would have been plain stupid.
It reflected badly on the reputation of their captors, deprived them of the ransom which was the main reason for taking prisoners in the first place, and put them in danger of reciprocal treatment if they were ever captured.

Second, was the political system: or rather the complete and total lack of it. Nobles constantly attacking and killing each other, which was not the norm at this period, especially not in England, which was known as one of the most stable states in Europe precisely because it was normally peaceful and not riven with internal turmoil. Nobles were supposed to bound by their oaths of fealty to the King, normally made in person at the time of his coronation.
The King was supposed to keep the nobles in check and uphold law and order. The King in these books seems to be pretty useless: he's never there, and does not deal with problems until the last minute. Or just sends his lackeys to do his bidding, by attacking and destroying other noble's castles and stealing their possessions like a bunch of Vikings, centuries after the Viking Age ended.

Maybe I am over-analyzing things, and I hope I can be forgiven for that. Its just I am rather protective of my nation's history, and hate the idea of people getting the wrong idea by reading this as a work accurate history, rather than the work of invention that it is.

And its a good fictional tale, but should not be taken as serious history. That's the point, really. Even putting aside all the above, the basic details about food, clothes plants and the like is generally authentic: although the armour was outmoded for the time.

I received a copy of this book from the author and Celebrate Lit Blog Tours. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

About the Author


Jody Hedlund is the author of over twenty historicals for both adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards including the Christy, Carol, and Christian Book Award. Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats.
Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).
When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.

Guest Post from Jody Hedlund


The Growing Need for Sweet Young Adult Romances By Jody Hedlund

This past year my youngest daughter turned twelve and entered seventh grade. And she decided that she wanted to read my books. Of course I was thrilled that she was taking an interest in my writing. But since my adult historical romances are more intense and contain some mature themes, I handed her the young adult series I’ve written.
As she started the first book, I peeked in her room a time or two to ask her how she liked it. “It’s the best book you’ve ever read, right?” I teased. “It’s okay,” she replied, teasing me right back. The true test for how much she liked the series came when she couldn’t put the book down.
She hid away in her room and read all day. Then she read the second book the next day and the third book the day after that. She never did gush over the series. But she didn’t need to. Her serious reading marathon told me all I needed to know! Then when I was writing the fourth book in the series, she asked me if she could read it early before it was published which was another testament to how much she enjoyed the series.

 “As long as you promise to say that I’m your favorite author,” I said, teasing her again. I’m happy to say that she finished A Loyal Heart just as quickly as the others. Although I’m not sure that I’m her favorite author, I’m satisfied that she loved the series.
 Even more, I’m thrilled that I could hand her sweet romances full of chivalrous qualities—like courage, sacrifice, honor, and loyalty. As she’s being entertained, she’s learning lessons about character traits that are important in relationships.
My daughter, like other young teens I’ve talked to, really enjoys medieval settings and stories. In some ways, those kinds of stories connect them to the princess fairy tales they used to love when they were little. Let’s face it, even adult readers still love stories about knights and castles and daring damsels! In a book market for teens that has grown increasingly dark, jaded, and sexual, I only wish I had more to offer my daughter and other young women. It’s my passion to continue providing wholesome, clean romances for teens, books I know will encourage and uplift as well as entertain.

How about YOU? Is there a teen reader you know who needs an alternative to what’s available in the market? I encourage you to gift them with A Loyal Heart. And make sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win the entire series that you can read, pass along, or even gift to your library.

Blog Stops

Among the Reads, March 27
books n baubles, March 28
By The Book, March 29
Genesis 5020, March 29
Book by Book, March 31
Mary Hake, April 1
Novels Corner, April 2
Remembrancy, April 3
Carpe Diem, April 5
Simple Harvest Reads, April 7 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)
Pursuing Stacie, April 8
Bigreadersite, April 8
margaret kazmierczak, April 8 (interview)
Henry Happens, April 9
Joy of Reading, April 9


And now... the giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Jody is giving away a grand prize of An Uncertain Choice, A Daring Sacrifice, For Love & Honor, and A Loyal Heart!!
Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!
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