Book Review: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel

The Clan of the Cave Bear is the first book in the Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel.

Summary (from back of book)

The first novel in Jean M. Auel’s magnificent epic of life on the glacial continent of the last Ice Age, when two kinds of human beings, Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon, shared the earth.

Its heroine is Ayla, a courageous and indomitable young woman whose story beings when she is a five-year-old orphan adopted by the Clan, a group of Neanderthal.

Ayla inspires first surprise, then wariness and finally acceptance by the Clan.  She is cared for by its medicine woman Iza and its wise holy man Creb.  But she makes an implacable enemy of the group’s future leader. Broud does all he can to destroy her, but Ayla is a survivor.

Favourite Quote

“Accept her into the clan!  She’s not Clan, she was born to the Others.  Who said anything about accepting her into the clan?  It wouldn’t be allowed, Ursus won’t like it.  It’s never been done before!” Brun objected.  “I wasn’t thinking of making her one of us, I only wondered if the spirits would allow her to live with us until she gets older.”

“Iza saved her life, Brun, she carries part of the girl’s spirit now, that makes her part Clan.  She came close to walking in the next world, but she’s alive now.  That’s almost the same as being born again, born to the Clan.”

Review

I absolutely adore this series, and The Clan of the Cave Bear as the first book in it is simply magnificent.  I have read this book (and the subsequent instalments) so many times, and as soon as I open the covers I am transported back in time to the last ice age.  I find this period in time fascinating, and the amount of research that was carried out in order to make it as accurate as one can so many millennia later, is clear as soon as you begin reading.  From descriptions of the landscape and the processes involved in their evolution, to plants and their medicinal properties, this book is rich in, and overflowing with, information and detail.

The characters were engaging, and Ayla’s adopted family – Iza, the clan’s medicine woman, and her brother, Creb, the mog-ur or spiritual leader of the group – were wonderful, and are my favourite characters after Ayla herself. Brun, as the strong but fair leader who often finds himself torn between tradition (which to the Clan means security) and something new (which they fear), deals compassionately with the problems Ayla’s presence gives rise to.

This story is packed full of emotional drama that left me in tears on more than one occasion.  The storyline was captivating, and though you can work out how the book is going to end, it still comes as a bit of shock and is highly emotional.  Ayla is a strong young woman with a desire to learn anything and everything, so that she is always growing and developing, and it is this, rather than the fact that she looks different that sets her apart from those around her.

The Clan of the Cave Bear is imaginative and unique, and the storytelling abilities of the author are amazing.  We get to hear the story from the viewpoint of all the characters without it getting confusing, but we are also not in any doubt that the story is that of Ayla, a young orphaned girl taken in, raised and loved by a group of Neanderthals.

This book is one of my all-time favourite reads.  I would recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction and are interested in the Palaeolithic. However, if you struggle reading great swathes of detailed description, this might not be the book for you.  Also, it is worth remembering that although Auel extensively researched the book, it is ultimately a work of fiction not a science text book.

Rating

 

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Book Review: The Vault of Bones by Pip Vaughan-Hughes

The Vault of Bones is the second book in the Brother Petroc series by Pip Vaughan-Hughes.

Summary (from back of book)

In the darkness of 13th-century Europe, the most precious treasures of the Christian world lie in a small church in the great ruined city of Constantinople: the crown of thorns, the spear that pierced Jesus’ side, the shroud bearing the imprint of Christ.

On the other side of the globe, Petroc of Auneford has left his old monastic world for London alongside the enigmatic Captain de Montalhac, purveyor of fine relics and other exotic trinkets to anyone with sufficient money and desire.

For Petroc, the trip is soon blighted by tragedy, but grief is no guard against greed.  The great powers of Christendom are gathering.  All covet the power of the most precious relics – and Petroc finds himself right in the eye of the storm.

Favourite Quote

But before I laid down my head I put my head out of the small window and craned to look up at the great walls of the city.  A little moonlight glanced off the cut stones and sank into the gashes and wounds of siege and time.  They had not kept out the robbers, these walls, and perhaps it was their penance to be reduced to a home for ivy and pigeons.

Review

This was an interesting story, if a slow read.  The pace did hamper my enjoyment of the book.  If the book had been perhaps 100 pages shorter, I think I would have found it more gripping, and more of a thriller.  Every place the characters stop in is accompanied by a detailed travel guide to the place as it would have looked and sounded like in the thirteen century, which on the one hand adds detail to what is going on, but also slows it down considerably.

That being said, it did have an entertaining storyline and the cast of characters were engaging.  Petroc has led a colourful life of late, something his monastic life hadn’t prepared him for.  The crew of the Cormaran are a diverse bunch, and their captain, Michel de Montalhac as a dealer of the finest relics, is interesting and likeable.

I hadn’t read the first book in the Brother Petroc series before reading this instalment, and I wonder if it would have allowed me to enjoy it more.  And yet, there was enough in it to keep me reading to the last page, hence my rating.

I would consider reading book one, and the later books in the series.

Rating

2.5 / 5

Book Review: Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwall

Summary (from Goodreads)

Four thousand years ago, a stranger’s death at the Old Temple of Ratharryn-and his ominous “gift” of gold-precipitates the building of what for centuries to come will be known as one of mankind’s most singular and remarkable achievements. Bernard Cornwell’s epic novel Stonehenge catapults us into a powerful and vibrant world of ritual and sacrifice at once timeless and wholly original-a tale of patricide, betrayal, and murder; of bloody brotherly rivalry: and of the never-ending quest for power, wealth, and spiritual fulfillment.

Three brothers-deadly rivals-are uneasily united in their quest to create a temple to their gods. There is Lengar, the eldest, a ruthless warrior intent on replacing his father as chief of the tribe of Ratharryn; Camaban, his bastard brother, a sorcerer whose religious fervor inspires the plan for Stonehenge; and Saban, the youngest, through whose expertise the temple will finally be completed. Divided by blood but united-precariously-by a shared vision, the brothers begin erecting their mighty ring of granite, aligning towering stones to the movement of the heavenly bodies, and raising arches to appease and unite their gods. Caught between the zealousness of his ambitious brothers, Saban becomes the true leader of his people, a peacemaker who will live to see the temple built in the name of salvation and regeneration.

Favourite Quote

The forest was all dark danger, which is why the woods were for ever being felled and why women were not allowed into it.  They could forage for herbs among the copses close to the settlement, or they could travel through the woods if they were accompanied by men, but they could not go alone into the trees that lay beyond the outermost fields for fear of being assaulted by ghouls and spirits, or of being captured by the outcasts.

Review

This tale tells the possible story of the construction of one of the most iconic symbols of prehistoric human achievement, Stonehenge.  Set in 2000 BC, the book sets out to give an explanation of what it was, why it was built and who built it.  Of course, much of this is speculation, and as Bernard Cornwall points out in his historical note at the end, all of the characters and deities mentioned in it are fictitious.  But, fiction is an interesting way of trying to answer history’s puzzles.  That being said, available archaeological evidence was also used where it was possible.

The stand out themes of the story were the detailed explanations of how the stone circle was constructed, phase by phase, and the bronze age religion and superstition.  Many of the characters were also fascinating.  The three brothers, Lengar, Camaban and Saban, couldn’t be more different.  Aurenna – the sun bride – and Derrewyn – the priestess / witch -were also interesting.

There is much drama, ritual, action and adventure to be found within these pages, and the rich historical detail is interwoven with the gripping storytelling .  I appreciate not everyone will like the attention to detail that the author has included in the story with regards to the building of the circle.  I have read reviews which have stated this information was boring and slowed the story right down.  I personally didn’t find that, but rather relished reading it because I found it added plausibility and authenticity to the story as well as the characters.

If I had to sum this book up in three words, I would say it was: fascinating, imaginative, captivating.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in prehistoric peoples and / or Stonehenge.  However, there are lengthy descriptions of so if you don’t enjoy that kind of detail, you might not enjoy this.  I do like it, and I enjoyed it.

Rating

 

Book Review: Ruso and the Root of all Evils by R.S. Downie

Ruso and the Root of all Evils is the third book in this Roman mystery series by R.S.Downie.

Summary (from Goodreads)

At long last, Gaius Petreius Ruso and his companion, Tilla, are headed home—to Gaul. Having received a note consisting only of the words “COME HOME!” Ruso has (reluctantly, of course) pulled up stakes and brought Tilla to meet his family.

But the reception there is not what Ruso has hoped for: no one will admit to sending for him, and his brother Lucius is hoping he’ll leave. With Tilla getting icy greetings from his relatives, Lucius’s brother-in-law mysteriously drowned at sea, and the whole Ruso family teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, it’s hard to imagine an unhappier reunion. That is, until Severus, the family’s chief creditor, winds up dead, and the real trouble begins…

Engrossing, intricate, and—as always—wonderfully comic, Ruth Downie’s latest is a brilliant new instalment in this irresistible series. This is everything we’ve come to expect from our charming, luckless hero.

Favourite Quote

“Anyway,” continued Cass, “I can’t pray to Christos.  You’ll have to do it.  You’re not married.”

“Does that matter?”

“Christos’ followers are supposed to obey their husbands.”

Review

This book was enjoyable to read and well-written, full of engaging characters and entertaining storylines.  My favourite character has to be Tilla.  She is simply fantastic: brave, unrepentant, compassionate, and independent. And poor Ruso – he has so much to put up with, and things just keep getting worse for him.

I guessed the culprit but not the ending.  Indeed, towards the latter part of the book, I was driven to keep reading by a need to find out just how the story would conclude.

I liked the author’s style of writing; fairly short chapters that mostly end with a new twist or turn in the plot.  This gave the story a good pace and instilled in me an insatiable desire to read just one more chapter, then another, then another…more or less until I finished the book.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy their historical fiction set in the ancient Roman world, and, if you love Lindsey Davis’ Falco series, I think you will love this one too.

Rating

Book Review: A Dreadful Penance by Jason Vail

A Dreadful Penance is the third book in the Stephen Attebrook Mysteries by Jason vail

Summary (from back of book)

November 1262 is an unlikely season for war.  But war nonetheless is coming to the March, the wild borderland between England and Wales.  Not the war that most fear between the supporters of the King and the rebellious barons uniting around Simon de Montfort, but with Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, the Welsh warlord who styles himself Prince of Wales and who has united the fractious tribes of his land against the English.

The English are uncertain, however, where and when the blow will fall.  So, Sir Geoffrey Randall, coroner of Herefordshire, dispatches his deputy, the impoverished knight Stephen Attebrook, to the border town of Clun to make contact with a spy in order to learn Llewelyn’s plans.

At the same time, Randall directs Attebrook to investigate the murder of a monk found dead in his bed at the Augustine priory of St. George at Clun.

The assignment casts Attebrook into the middle of a desperate feud between the priory and the lord of Clun and reveals a forbidden love that can only result in suffering and death.

Favourite Quote

Although he could not help looking clownish – a little round man with his head wrapped in linen who could barely keep his place upon his mule – any fool was dangerous with a sword.

Review

This is the first book I have read in the Stephen Attebrook Mysteries and I loved it.  I have added the other books to my TBR list, but this novel works well as a standalone.  The author provides enough information on what has gone before to ensure the reader can, not only keep up with the storyline, but enjoy it also without feeling like they needed to have read the first two books before this one.

Stephen Attebrook is an interesting character.  I like his fairly abrasive personality and the antagonistic camaraderie he shared with Gilbert Wistwode,a clerk also in the employ of Sir Geoffrey Randall.

I thought the story was a little slow to get going at first, but a couple of chapters in and the pace and the drama suddenly picked up.  What followed was an entertaining, gripping read, that I struggled to put down.  The historical detail was fascinating, with sufficient depth to bring the time and place to life.  The only thing I didn’t like was that I felt the ending was too abrupt.

I am eager to read more of this series, and would recommend this books to anyone who has an interest in the Marches during the medieval period and to those who enjoy historical fiction in general.

Rating

Bookish Reflections – July 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

July was Indie Only Month at Sammi Loves Books, so only Indie books were read and reviewed.  I think 2017’s selection of chosen reads were the best yet for this challenge.  I had so much fun and can’t wait for next July to come round so I can do it all again 🙂

Books I’ve reviewed

Favourite read of the month

Shadow of Doubt by Linda Poitevin / The Silence Between Moonbeams by Sarah Doughty

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

None this month.  I’ve been good! 🙂

Books I’ve downloaded 

  • Listen by Sarah Doughty
  • The Silence Between Moonbeams by Sarah Doughty
  • Norfolk Twilight by M.L. Eaton

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • Shadow of Doubt by Linda Poitevin
  • A Body in the Backyard by Elizabeth Spann Craig
  • The Case of the Bygone Brother by Diane Burton

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

July was Indie Only Month at Sammi Loves Books, and as such I decided to set no definite reading goals.  I was definitely pleased to hit 7 books this months as I was only expecting to make 5 or 6.

What I’m reading and reviewing in August

August is Historical Fiction Month at Sammi Loves Books.  And my TBR pile for this challenge is almost floor-to-ceiling high.  I know in all likelihood I won’t get through more than 6 books, but I do have a tendency to get a little over excited for this reading challenge 🙂  Below is a selection of priority reads that I’ve earmarked for August – hopefully I will get through them all:

  • The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel (read, reviewed and awaiting posting)
  • Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwall (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • The Iron Hand of Mar by Lindsey Davis (almost finished reading)
  • The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland – this is a re-read; I’ve read a Karen Maitland book every Historical Fiction Month so far, and I’m not intending to break the tradition 🙂
  • Traitor’s Gate by D.K. Wilson – I’ve read the first and third books in this fantastic series based on real Tudor crimes and I’m really looking forward to reading book 2.

Goodreads Reading Challenge

My goal is 57.  I have read 28.  49% complete.  Currently 5 books behind schedule.

Other reads (books not on Goodreads)* : 2

Total books read so far this year: 30


* “Other reads” means books that are not listed on Goodreads, but ones that are still of novel / novella length.  I’m not counting anthologies, single (very) short stories, magazines / ezines, but I will count short story or poetry collections if they are not too short.

Book Review: Listen by Sarah Doughty

Listen is the third book in the Earthen Witch series by Sarah Doughty.

Summary (from Goodreads)

When vampires Liam and Jon go missing, it’s up to Aisling Green and her friends to find them, but doing so and surviving what awaits won’t be easy.

Battling against things she cannot fight isn’t something Earthen witch Aisling Green is used to, but she must act quickly and outsmart the one that wants her dead and save the lives of her friends before it’s too late.

As they follow the trail, they rescue a most unlikely person, and uncover a deeper, more sinister plot. With the lives of the two vampires on the line, they must fight for their lives, try to rescue their friends, and stop the evil plans. In the face of so much danger and uncertainty, they are forced to go to war and make a discovery that will change everything. The question then becomes at what price will they be forced to pay to survive?

Favourite Quote

And then I felt his lips pull back into a smile.  “In order to kill the Earthen you must wear a pink tutu and sing I’m A Little Teacup,” the vampire responded in that same old Romanian accent.

Review

Having enjoyed the first two Earthen Witch novels, Just Breathe and Focus (you can find my reviews for them here, and here), I knew I had to read the third instalment in the series to see how Aisling and Connor and their friends were fairing.

I love this world Sarah Doughty has created.  The unique mythology is detailed and fantastic and just adds richness to this supernatural fantasy series. Witches, vampires, werewolves, shamans and sphinxes, this book series has them all and more besides.  Both the major and minor characters are engaging, each with own background story to tell, adding further depth to an already captivating cast.

Aisling is a great main character.  She is so very strong even though past experiences have left their mark.  With the love and support of Connor, she overcomes, and that is a great message.  It makes her believable…realistic…human, and reminds the reader that anything is possible.

The story is well-paced and there is action throughout, leading to an entertaining, engaging read.  And as for the ending, all I’m going to say is that it sets the story up nicely for the next book.

If you like the paranormal romance genre, you will love this series, but I recommend you start at the beginning with Just Breathe so you can fully immerse yourself in the scope and magic of the Earthen Witch world.

Rating

I downloaded a copy of Listen by Sarah Doughty for Free via Smashwords