Short Story Review: The Shrine by Ben Kane

The Shrine is the short story prequel to Eagles at War, the first book in the Eagles of Rome trilogy by Ben Kane.

Summary

The story is set in Mogontiacum, Gallia Belgica in 6BC, and Lucius Cominius Tullus, a Roman soldier, has just accepted a promotion.  The new post involves a transfer, moving from the Twenty-First legion to become a centurion in the Eighteenth, stationed in Vetera.  En route, he pauses on the way, to watch the famous footrace in Mogontiacum after which he decides to visit the local shrine.  The shrine in question is the temple to Magna Mater (the Great Mother) and Isis.

But his stay there is not to be a quiet one.  Neither will it be easy to forget…

Favourite Quote

“Piss off,” hissed Tullus.  He had no woman.  The army was work enough.

Review

I really enjoyed this short story.  It served as a great introduction to the character of Tullus and to the location: the German frontier. This period in Roman’s history fascinates me, and so I found the not-too-heavy, yet still rich detail of the setting a rewarding read.  One of my interests is in ancient religion so the part of the story set in the temple held me captivated.

I especially enjoyed reading the “note from the author” at the end of the story, as it explained how and why the story came about.

I’ve already gone out and bought a copy of Eagles at War, and am looking forward to begin reading it.  Tullus sounds like an interesting character and I want to see how his story unfolds, as I am aware of the events that happen round this time in this part of the empire.

If you’ve yet to read any of Ben Kane’s books, why not pop over to Wattpad and give this short story a read for free? (Here’s the link if you’re interested.)

Rating

 

Bookish Reflections – April 2017

A monthly round up of all things bookish at Sammi Loves Books…It’s my attempt at becoming more accountable in my reading and reviewing habits…


In a nutshell

Another bout of the flu and Camp NaNoWriMo have perhaps slowed my reading rate this month, but at least it has meant that I have caught up with the books I’ve been waiting to review.  I’m still behind on replying to review requests, and I’m wondering if in the future an email account dedicated to “Sammi Loves Books” would help with this.  Any ideas or thoughts gratefully received!  So, let’s take a look at what I’ve been up to book-wise, this month…

Books I’ve reviewed

Favourite read of the month

Inquisition by Alfredo Colitto

Books I’ve bought

  • A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold by George R.R. Martin

Books I’ve downloaded

None this month.  I’m getting good at this, though I do need to start reading some of the ebooks I have already downloaded.  I seem to be completely focused on actual, real books at the moment.

Book review requests I’ve accepted

Still behind with email responses 😦  May will  be the month everything gets back on track – I’m determined to make it so!

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

March’s “What I’m reading and reviewing next month” goals

What I’m reading and reviewing next month

  • Guenevere: The Queen of the Summer Country by Rosalind Miles (read but not yet reviewed)
  • The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • The Shrine by Ben Kane

There are a few other books sitting on my bookshelves that I have my eye on too 🙂

Goodreads Reading Challenge

My goal is 57.  I have read 15.  26% complete.  Currently 3 books behind schedule.

Other reads (books not on Goodreads) : 1

Total books read so far this year: 16

 

Book Review: Requiem for a Mezzo by Carola Dunn

Requiem for a Mezzo is the third book in the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries by Carola Dunn.

Summary

When Daisy’s next door neighbour gives her tickets to the opera at the Albert Hall, she has her fingers crossed for a quiet evening out with the dashing Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard.  Things are going swimmingly until after the interval when one of the soloists drops dead on the stage.  And it quickly transpires that the victim, Bettina Westlea, made many enemies in the musical circle she moved in, the majority of which were with her on stage at the time of her death…

Favourite Quote

(2 favourites this time as I couldn’t choose between them!)

Tall and sleek, she wouldn’t have been caught dead in last year’s calf length hems, though her budget was as limited as Daisy’s; she made her own clothes and spent on materials and trimmings the equivalent of what Daisy put into books and gramophone records.

*

‘Daisy!  Don’t tell me you’ve fallen over another dead body?’

Review

I am a big fan of Daisy Dalrymple.  I like the way perfect strangers just walk over to her and unburden themselves of all they know about whatever crime the Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher is working on, much her to bemusement and his annoyance.  How can he keep her safe if she finds herself right in the middle of everything?  It’s also nice to see how much Alec recognises and respects Daisy’s intelligence and independence.

There is such an interesting list of characters in this instalment, hailing from all corners of Europe.  This adds flavour and colour to the story, and as the majority of the cast are all singers, they have entertaining artistic temperaments too.

Light and easy to read, these books are full of the charm of the era in which they are set, though you will find mention of some of the main events that had a tremendous effect on people at the time: the First World War, the influenza epidemic and the Russian Revolution.

If you like cosy mysteries set in 1920s England, I think you will enjoy these books, as you will if you enjoy Kerry Greenwood’s Miss Phryne Fisher stories or pretty much anything written by Agatha Christie.

Rating

Book Review: Inquisition by Alfredo Colitto

Summary:

Bologna, 1311. Mondino de Liuzzi, a well-known physician is staying late at the university where he teaches.  This is nothing unusual for he often stays late in order to secretly study corpses in an effort to understand as much as he can about the human body.  When a surprise knock on the door disturbs him, he answers it to find one of his students holding the body of a murdered friend.

The victim: a Templar knight.  But what is striking is that there is something very unnatural about the dead body: his heart has been turned to iron.

Mondino’s curiosity is piqued.  How could a human heart be transformed into a solid block of iron?  Is it alchemy?  In order to find out, he is going to have to help a wanted man catch the murderer and in so doing, go up against a dangerous and ambitious Inquisitor…

Favourite Quote:

It was clear to his scientific mind that the transformation of Angelo da Piczano’s heart was not the result of the shadowy spell of a witch, but the much more concrete art of alchemy.

Review:

A few times I’ve had trouble reading books that have been translated into English; they can lack fluidity, creating jarring sentences that inhibit the pace of the story.  Inquisition was translated by Sophie Henderson, and in my opinion, she has done a fantastic job.  It was so well translated that, if it hadn’t been for the brief mention of it at the start of the book, I would never have guessed.

Fourteenth century Italy was vividly brought to life as I worked my way through the story.  Mondino de Liuzzi is an engaging character; he has an interesting job as a physician teaching at a university at a time when science and religion are at loggerheads.  He is a complex character that finds himself in a very difficult, and very dangerous, position.  And as he tries to unravel the mystery of the iron heart, he has much more to contend with.  The rest of the cast are just as well thought out and believable as Mondino, and like the scientist, have their own secrets and agendas, making this a fast-paced, gripping read.

Filled with action and drama, secrets and revenge, Inquisition is a suspenseful read which held my attention from the very first page.  A number of times I wondered how the characters were going to get out of the situations they found themselves in, and there were more than a handful of twists and turns to keep me guessing.  I also thought the ending was clever.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  I recommend it to those interested in any of the following: the history of fourteenth century Europe, the early days of modern science, the Knights Templar and the Inquisition.

Rating:

Book Review: Daylighters by Rachel Caine

Daylighters is book fifteen, and the final instalment, in the Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine.

Summary:

While Claire was away at MIT, Morganville changed dramatically.  On their return from Massachusetts, the gang are welcomed home at the town boundary by the police and quickly separated into two groups: vampires and humans.  Quickly, they realise that Morganville is not as they left it.

It seems that the Texan town has undergone a major transformation.  The town which has had a neglected look ever since Claire arrived, is now being done up.  The people are happy and carefree, and there isn’t a vampire in sight.  It should be a good thing, but there is an insidious undercurrent of evil at work…

An organisation known as the Daylight Foundation has taken over Morganville, and the residents couldn’t be happier.  However, Claire and her friends have already crossed paths with this group before and they are not what they pretend to be.

Can Morganville be saved?  And what of the vampires that live there?  This is the hardest fight Claire and her friends have had to deal with yet, and the one that has the most serious – and permanent consequences – should they fail…

Favourite Quote:

“There were a few things scarier than a bipolar vampire off his meds, but to be honest, not that many.”

Review:

This is the final book in the Morganville Vampires series, and it is both a welcome ending, but bittersweet too.  This is one of the longest book series I’ve read, behind The Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters at 20 books, and the Marcus Didius Falco series, also at 20 books long.  Unlike the two latter series, I didn’t feel like these books could go on forever, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed them any less.

So, on to the review…

This book started with the major cliffhanger ending from the previous book.  As a story line for the finale of a series, this was perfect.  It was dramatic, full of action and energy, not to mention tension.  About the ending…it was what I expected, but perhaps not what I would have liked.  But then I have felt like that at the end of a number of series and trilogies.

As the story unfolds, it is clear to see just how more grown-up Claire is now than when we first met her in Glass Houses (in fact, her transformation is remarked upon by another main character).  And that is what the author has done well; shown us as the series progressed how the characters have developed and altered according to the trials they have faced.

Who am I going to miss the most now that the series has ended?  Myrnin; definitely the crazy Welsh alchemist-scientist vampire with the vampire bunny slippers.

So, to sum up…It’s sad that the series has ended, but it ended well.  I’m so glad that I came across this series and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Rating:

Short Story Review: The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen

Summary

A widowed king remarries, but his new queen turns out to be a witch who doesn’t like her twelve step-children. So she schemes to get rid of them by casting a spell to turn them into swans. And she succeeds in the case of the eleven princes, but her efforts are hampered when it comes to the princess Elisa.

However, Elisa doesn’t forget her brothers.  In fact, she takes it upon herself to save them, no matter the personal cost to herself, which turns out to be quite high…

Favourite Quote

You have the powers to set your brothers free, but have you the courage and determination?

Review

I came across this Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale while researching some of the less well-known fairy tales that he had written.  Everyone’s heard of The Little Mermaid and The Snow Queen, but I was looking for something a little different. The purpose: to write a short fairy tale re-telling about an evil queen / step-mother character from a fairy tale for a call for submissions I had seen.  To boost my chances of acceptance, I thought it best to try and find one of the less popular stories. (On a side note, the story was accepted and will be released as part of an anthology later this year – yay!)

One thing that really struck me as I read The Wild Swans was the strong religious aspect to it.  Modern retellings tend to ignore religion / religious themes in these stories as they aren’t necessarily what a modern audience wants to read.  This most of all, I found hardest to read as in places it was laid on fairly thick.  There was a lot of praying, piety and self-sacrifice going on – heavy stuff for a children’s story.  And, I think reading the original made me aware of how old the story is (it was first published in 1838), and how it’s a product of its time.

Apart from that, the story-telling and imagination of the author really shone through, allowing me to enjoy the rest of the fairy tale.  Elisa is a strong character, a young woman with a determined attitude, who puts the well-being of her brothers above her own.  And of course, all the usual fairy tale elements are present too – a prince, the fairy godmother and the triumph over evil.

I’m pleased I found this, pleased that I read, but reminded of the fact there is a reason why many fairy tales are being retold for a modern audience.

Rating

I downloaded a copy of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales Volume 2, containing The Wild Swans, for free from Project Gutenberg

Book Review: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Linger is the second book in The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater.

Summary:

Sam Roth is no longer the boy who turns into a wolf when the temperature drops.  He is now just a boy with a future ahead of him and the girl he loves beside him.  However, his past is never that far from his present, nor is the weight of responsibility on his shoulders ever far from his mind.

Grace Brisbane, the girl who didn’t turn into a wolf when she was bitten as a child, now has all she’s ever wanted.  A real future with the boy she loves and the prospect of a life away from Mercy Falls when she goes off to college.  However, something’s not right, and the future she had thought was hers is no longer certain.

As their world begins to fall apart, what will become of them?

Favourite Quote:

“I never knew there were so many kinds of love or that love could make people do so many different things.

I never knew there were so many different ways to say goodbye.”

Review:

In the second book in this series we find that the roles of Grace and Sam have been somewhat reversed.  Isabel, their reluctant confidant from Shiver, comes into her own, as she tries battling her own demons and helping her friends.

We are also introduced to a new character, Cole. I liked how his story was the complete opposite of Sam’s: Sam struggled to remain human, whilst Cole struggles to remain a wolf.  Another aspect of the story that I like is that Sam uses song lyrics to process what he is feeling and what is going on around him.

I enjoyed reading this book, however, I didn’t think it was as good or as gripping as the first in the trilogy, probably because I found it harder to connect with a few of the characters this time round, at least for the first half of the book.  This made it much harder to rate.  I didn’t think I could give it a 4, the same as I gave Shiver, but it is much better than a 3, so I tagged an extra ½ on to the rating below.

I am looking forward to reading the final book of the trilogy, Forever, to see what happens to Grace and Sam, Cole and Isabel and the rest of the wolf pack.

Rating:

3.5 / 5