Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Who is this mysterious

In the village of Lauscha in Germany, things have been done the same way for centuries.  The men blow the glass, and the women decorate and pack it.  But when Jost Steinmann passes away unexpectedly one September night, his three saughters must learn to fend for themselves. While feisty Johanna takes a practical approach to looking for work.  Ruth follows her heart, aming to catch gthe eye of a handsome young villagere.  But is is dreamy, quirt Marie who had always been the most capticated by the magic - and sparkling possibilities - of the craft of glassblowing.  As the spirited sisters work together to forge a brighter future fr themselves on their own terms, they learn not only how to thrive in a man's world, but how to remain true to themselves - and their hearts - in the process.

My previous experience of translated novels has not been good until recently and since then it has been blown away.  Perhaps it was the subject matter that affected my previous experience or that modern translators are not so literal but convey the essence of the novel.  Whatever it is I am glad that I have resumed my adventures into translated novels; otherwise this gem would have gone unread.

My initial reaction was how is this about the glassblower who dies in the first chapter leaving three daughters.  Each daughter has a particular trait which most of us can identify with.  The sisters relationships with each other is reasonably realistic and engaging; but at times annoying beyond belief (as it is with normal sisters).  As we experience their trials and tribulations we also learn who the glassblower actually is.
This is not an historical novel per se and even the glass blowing elements (albeit fascinating when they occur) are few and far between.  The characters are well written even though sometimes what they do or say is at odds with the setting of the novel; they are extremely interesting whilst they are extremely flawed.  Initially they are portrayed as innocent and annoying, having been cosseted by their father (and not knowing the ways of the world – be it good or ill) but when they experience ‘real life; they become hardened to it; and move forward, and take on untraditional roles in their village of glassblowers.  But the novel develops these characters and they become reasonably grounded women who have found their place in their world.

I cannot say that the action is constant or fast paced as they are periods of monotonous inactivity.  Indeed the story line does not have a definite time line and appears to jump in places.  Ultimately this is a novel of women overcoming adversity by becoming successful against all the odds.

This reader has becomes so involved with these women that she will be looking forward to reading the next novels in this series.

Full Disclosure: I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I rated this 4 stars on Netgalley and 'I really liked it' on Amazon (4 stars) and Goodreads (4 stars).

Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem in Elizabethan England

TWO QUESTIONS HAVE ALWAYS PLAGUED HISTORIANS:  HOW COULD Christopher Marlow, a known spy and England's foremost playwright, be suspiciously murdered and quickly buried in an unmarked grave - just days before he was to be tried for treason?  HOW COULD William Shakespeare replace Marlowe as England's greatest playwright virtually overnight - when Shakespeare had never written any thing before and was merely an unknown actor?  Historians have noted that the Bard of Stratford was better known at that time "for holding horses for the gentry while they watched plays".  The Shakespeare Conspiracy is a historical novel that intertwines the two mysteries and then puts the pieced together to offer the only plausible resolution.  The novel, a wild romp through gay 16th Century Elizabethan England, is a rapidly unfolding detective story filled with comedy, intrigue, murder and illicit love.  And most importantly, all recorded events, persons, dates and documents are historically accurate,  You will ... Get the scandalous view of the real William Shakespeare, with his sexual peccadilloes, illegitimate children and mistresses ... Wander through the gay world of Christopher Marlowe, when it was acceptable to be homosexual just so long as one stayed within one's own class - ad did Kings like James I, Edward II and others ...  Observe Inspector Henry Maunder matching wits with Christopher Marlowe's patron, Sir Thomas Walsingham - one cleverly hiding the facts and other cunningly discovering the truth ...  Watch the arguments unfold, showing the actual reasons tat many historians believe that it could only have been Christopher Marlowe writing tall those great works.  It's a tale of murder, mayhem and manhunts in the underbelly of London as the Back Plague scourges the country and the greatest conspiracy plot of all time is hatched.  It's ... The Shakespeare Conspiracy!

Elizabethan history has been a topic of great discussion, deliberation (and is one of this reader’s favourite historical periods).  It is often the topic of many mysteries not least those many novels based on the work of the astrologer John Dee.  This is a period of history that is extremely rich in more ways than one.  The Tudor era is a topic that this reader is particularly interested in the many works of John Dee but for many other reasons including the Witch Holocaust and the Shakespeare ‘who was he really’ question (previously dealt with to some extent in the excellent novel The Rose Labyrinth??).

This novel, in particular, proposes that Shakespeare was a member of the infamous ‘School of the Night’ which included Christopher Marlowe,George Chapman, Thomas Harriot, and Sir Walter Raleigh (and is mentioned in Love’s Labour Lost).

This novel is apparently the result of 10 years of extensive and meticulous research which is evident (not least in the many appendices that are added at the end of the novel which make least 20% of the total of the novel (according to my Kindle) but not having read it all this reader is not sure how much of this is repeated from the novel itself.

This novel proposed an alternative reason for Marlowe’s early death and the sudden resurgence of Shakespeare; and for this reader had a certain ring of truth to it.  What did rankle this reader is that there are just too may modernisms used in the narrative as whole to totally immerse this novel in the Elizabethan era; an era familiar to most historians and others.

All that said the characters, for me, felt rather one dimensional.  It seemed that that the author had spent so much time on finding the footing of this novel that he did not establish plausible and fascinating characters.  Another element that detracted from this novel were the numerous spelling and punctuation errors which this reader hopes are fund before final publication.

Even though this period of history is shrouded in mystery the novel is written in an easy manner and flows from one historical detail to the next be it in England, or Italy; Padua or Venice, Verona, Milan or Sicily.  Having not visited many of these places I cannot say whether their portrayal is accurate.

Although this is a well-researched novel, founded on fact, it is not necessary for the reader to know every miniscule detail that occurred during this historic period.  Yet despite this meticulous research there were still some historical errors such as people drinking tea some 100 or so years early.  Also there was the introduction of 21st century language with did not fit with the telling of the story at all.

Although overall the story is interesting the ‘history professor’ butts in very frequently giving us extraneous background material that would have been better left in the appendices (as detailed as they are).

If you want an alternative point of view of this period in English history you cannot go far wrong but be aware of the provisos in this review.

Full Disclosure: I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I rated this 4 stars on Netgalley and 'I liked it' on Goodreads (3 stars) and Amazon (4 stars).

Monday, 30 November 2015

I am sure this is the beauty saloon everyone wants to go to:

Stella's mama never should've put Stella on the church prayer list.  With Stella's twenty-seventh birthday coming up fast, Nancy desperately wants to see her daughter married and giving her grandbabies.  Petitioning heaved seems like a surefire way to get it done.  But in Cadillac, Texas, where the gossip's hotter than the city's famous jalapeño peppers, it isn't long before all hell breaks loose.

Heather, the bossy leader of the chruch's Prayer Angels, thinks a summer ball will get Stella and the town's other single gals paired off.  But nobody can tell redheaded spitfire Stella what to so - not her mama, not Heather, and not even the sexy beau Stella's been seeing in secret.   Together, Stella, her best friends Charlotte and Piper, and te loyal customers of the Yellow Rose Beauty Shop hatch a good old-fashioned scheme to sabotage the ball.  But will it wreck Stella's relationship with her mama forever?  And what will the church folk think when Stella reveals the identity of her mystery man?

When I started reading this novel I did not realise that it was the third in the series.  But having realised that it did explain why many of the relationships felt grounded so early (they had been begun two books earlier).  To be honest, it did not really matter, although this reader will be looking for the preceding novels as this one as such good fun.  I was captured by this novel from the get do and did it held my attention until the final page.

I am not one to reveal the plot of the novels I review but believe me when I say this one is a humdinger.  It seems to be a modern Steel Magnolias but in contrast it is laugh-out-loud funny.  For this reader it epitomises the ‘movie/vampire’ notion of what the Deep South is.

As with Steel Magnolias this is a novel about the relationship of strong minded and strong willed women who have interfering alpha mothers.  As in most life situations there is a mean girl and the one in this novel is a doozy.  Each character is unique (as I life) but the reader can identify with each and every one of these women.  There is a wonderful American usage of malapropisms courtesy of Agnes (I soo want to be her when I grow old) which is one of the many reasons that made this a laugh-out-loud novel.

The characters in this book are well rounded, rich, relatable, and leap off the page.  They are sassy, independent, loyal and full of heart.  This novel deals with relationships, new beginnings and ultimately gossip and its consequences.  Ultimately this novel epitomise small town America; and how everyone knows everybody else’s business. 

Although laugh-out-loud funny there are strong themes in this book, together with a powerful romance that makes the heart beat faster.  This is this reader’s first Carolyn Brown novel but I can categorically say it will not be her last.

If you miss this novel you will be missing a treat.

I rated this 4 stars at Netgalley and 'I liked it' at Amazon (4 stars) and Goodreads (3 stars).

Sunday, 29 November 2015

We are all awaiting

"Beneath a cloak of darkness and mystery, it has arrived ...

Palestine: 1948 - With the winds of war fast approaching an scrupulous archaeologist finally finds the remains of the man he's been shearing for ... unfittingly releasing an ancient evil on the world.

White River, Arkansas: 1980 - In a secret lab, top-level medical scientists work together to harness the power of previously unheard of DNA manipulation.  But when the project finally comes to fruition with the birth of a specially"designed" baby.  It just as abruptly comes to a bloody halt, with the facilities and nearly every member of the team wiped out, silenced forever ... almost.

White River, Arkansas: 2019 - The small town awakens one morning to find itself ground zero of a joint UN-US terrorist training exercise.  Residents face martial law, a cashless economy, and a host of ruthless leaders seemingly bent on making the maneuvers more than just a military operation.  Outraged citizens begin to rise up and fight back, but it soon become clear that something evil has arrived in White River ...

A darkness unleashed on an unsuspecting world."

As a fervent Matthew Riley, Raymond Khoury fan I thought this would suit my need for factual based mystery thrillers with a bit of sci-fi thrown in. 

I would not say that this was the easiest read ever but it was very thought provoking.  There were three distinct timelines in this novel 1948, 1980 and 2015.  Each time-line provided an interesting element to the story. 

The relationship between the two main characters of the 1948 part of the novel was not explained in enough detail and left this reader scratching their head later in the novel.  The 1980s DNA sections were interesting but gruesome; and it is this reader’s fervent hope that such things did not and do not continue to occur.  The way the three storylines merge is interesting to say the least.  Yet slightly fantastical!

This novel started really well and this reader’s initial assumption made concerning the ‘unnamed Jew’ was incorrect yet my second guess turned out to be correct.  But how one gets from a despot Jew to the antichrist is too much for this reader to comprehend.  There were quite a few places where the detailed dialogue not only did not ring true but affected the action and pace of the novel.  I am not sure if this is intended as part of the ‘preachy’ part of the novel or something that just happened but it did detract from the whole experience.

The story is told in the third party and therefore throughout the book the point of view (‘POV’) changes which can be rather confusing for the inattentive reader.  That said this reader followed the story easily.  The story itself was well paced with loads of action (it may have even left the way open for a sequel).  The book also dealt with many ‘taboo’ issues with a great deal of grace.

This reader felt that the ending was rushed, unless the author intends to produce another novel in the series and then the novel ended just right.

It is this reader’s fervent hope that this does not happen but then again would the antichrist use those people who are the dregs of society – somehow this reader does not think so.  This novel got me to question my faith to a degree and in so doing resulted in me deepening my faith (not too bad for a novel!).

I rated this 4 stars on Netgalley and 'I liked it' on Goodreads (3 stars) and Amazon (4 stars).