Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Ice Queen by Bruce Macbain - Book Review

The Ice Queen
Book 2 in the Odd Tangle-Hair Saga
By:  Bruce Macbain
Published:  November 30, 2015
Blank Slate Press
Genre:  Historical, International
Pages:   294 Paperback, 294 PDF
Source:  Author/Blank Slate Press

In this second volume of his saga, Odd Tangle-Hair travels to Russia to take up his post as skald to Harald, the young renegade prince of Norway.

Intrigue and danger await him when Odd finds himself 'caught between two wolves - the arrogant, bullying Harald, and his sworn enemy, Ingigerd, Grand Princess of Novgorod, who schemes against Harald by seducing Odd. While political intrigue swirls around him, a Pecheneg horde explodes across the steppe, and Odd must use his wits to rescue the besieged people of Kiev.
I was eager to read of Odd Thorvald’s travels to ancient Rus as I’d had the chance to read book 1, Odin’s Child, which left off with Odd landing in Russia, and because I’m fascinated with Russian history and culture.

In The Ice Queen, Odd’s (aka Odd Tangle-Hair) journey takes him to early Novgorod and to the court of Prince Yaroslav and Princess Ingigerd. Odd is a sort of orator/scribe or court poet to prince Harald under whose protection he travels.

If you enjoy historical reads (especially in the first millennium, 1031) rich in cultural detail, this is your book. Odd has many adventures that illustrate life at court in Novgorod, social and religious customs, mythology, and of course politics and battles of the rough times, all written in an easy-reading style.

Interestingly, Ingigerd (who is of Swedish descent) takes Odd to be her lover but she’s very clever and we’re never really sure what she’s scheming. Intelligent women of the time I imagine felt oppressed and stifled with no real outlets for their abilities so I liked reading about Ingigerd’s machinations. She’s a strong female MC with some political power who plots with the best of them but is still very much a woman.

Odd is a friendly and likeable hero. His pitfalls of character make him very realistic. And we see him suffer the winds of fate as the tides run against and for him in turn.

The novel takes the reader through the early Russian landscape with Odd eventually getting embroiled in a mission to Miklagard, or Constantinople, to be continued in The Guardsman. So settle yourself in for a highly enjoyable sojourn through Bruce Macbain’s well researched and culturally detailed book. 4.5 Stars!

My thanks to the author and Blank Slate Press for a reading copy.
And a special thanks to my Russian and East European readers!

You will find Bruce Macbain at the following links:

Thursday, 18 February 2016

The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner - Book Blast

The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia by C.W. Gortner
Publication Date: February 9, 2016, Ballantine Books
Hardcover, Ebook, Audiobook
400 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source:  Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
“A spider web of Renaissance intrigue with a legendary cast . . . Impressive research, a lush background, and deft characterization
make for a fascinating read.”
Margaret George, New York Times bestselling author.
Infamy is no accident. It is a poison in our blood. It is the price of being a Borgia.

Glamorous and predatory, the Borgias fascinated and terrorized 15th-century Renaissance Italy. Lucrezia Borgia, beloved daughter of the pope, was at the center of the dynasty’s ambitions. Slandered as a heartless seductress who lured men to their doom, was she in fact the villainess of legend, or was she trapped in a familial web, forced to choose between loyalty and survival?

With the ascension of the Spaniard Rodrigo Borgia as Pope Alexander VI, the new pope’s illegitimate children—his rival sons, Cesare and Juan, and beautiful young daughter Lucrezia - assume an exalted position in the papal court. Privileged and adored, Lucrezia yearns to escape her childhood and play a part in her family’s fortunes.

But Rome is seductive and dangerous: Alliances shift at a moment’s notice as Italy’s ruling dynasties strive to keep rivals at bay. As Lucrezia’s father faces challenges from all sides, he’s obliged to marry her off to a powerful adversary. But when she discovers the brutal truth behind her alliance, Lucrezia is plunged into a perilous gambit that will require all her wits, cunning, and guile.

Escaping her marriage offers the chance of happiness with a passionate prince of Naples, yet as scandalous accusations of murder and incest build against her, menacing those she loves, Lucrezia must risk everything to overcome the lethal fate imposed upon her by her Borgia blood.

Beautifully wrought, rich with fascinating historical detail, The Vatican Princess is the first novel to describe Lucrezia’s coming-of-age in her own voice—a dramatic, vivid tale set in an era of savagery and unparalleled splendor, where enemies and allies can be one and the same, and where loyalty to family can ultimately be a curse. 
C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California, as well as an AA from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

After an eleven year-long career in fashion, during which he worked as a vintage retail buyer, freelance publicist, and fashion show coordinator, C.W. devoted the next twelve years to the public health sector. In 2012, he became a full-time writer following the international success of his novels.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard at Hampton Court, learned about organic gardening at Chenoceaux, and spent a chilly night in a ruined Spanish castle. His books have garnered widespread acclaim and been translated into twenty-one languages to date, with over 400,000 copies sold. A sought-after public speaker. C.W. has given keynote addresses at writer conferences in the US and abroad. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights, in particular companion animal rescue to reduce shelter overcrowding.

Half-Spanish by birth and raised in southern Spain, C.W. now lives in Northern California with his partner and two very spoiled rescue cats.

For more information visit C.W. Gortner’s website and blog. You can also find him on FacebookTwitterGoodreadsPinterest, and YouTube. Sign up for C.W. Gortner’s Newsletter for updates.

*Giveaway available only in the U.S.A.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Desperate Moon by Jennifer Ott - Book Review

Desperate Moon
By:  Jennifer Ott
Published: November 23, 2015, Amazon Digital Services
Genre:  Paranormal, Historical, Vampire
Pages:  390 Print, 544 Calibre eBook
Source:  Author/Via Bostick Communications

Countess Katerina Vaduva roams Eastern Europe as a vampire for nearly six hundred years experiencing the horrors of mortal man - wars, plagues, genocide and torture. For centuries, she seeks shelter and security in the castles of counts and sultans.

When her husband the Count of Slovakia passes, she pursues a new life with a colonel in the Prussian military. While her new husband quests victory at battle, Katerina desires a Naturalist scientist who seduces her with knowledge and a greater understanding of herself, for this she will risk everything for the one thing she never had - immortal love and the pursuit of progress.
The vampire trend in books is still out there, and Jennifer Ott's take is quite different from the usual modern, YA versions. Desperate Moon is well rounded with oodles of philosophy, medicine, politics, and sex. These are shown through the experiences of Katerina, a 600 year old vampire, and then along with Dr. Siegfried Andrasko. We begin in 1800s Eastern Europe. Katerina’s old husband dies and she and her maid servant, Hilde, set out on travels from their quiet town.

Katerina remarries, a handsome young Prussian Colonel and then meets Dr. Seigfried Andrasko at a ball at their home outside Prague.  Seigfried becomes a physician-psychiatrist to her, both listening to Katerina’s history and studying her medically. He’s something of an eccentric character who understands what she truly is and is more interested than frightened.

The novel examines interesting ideas like Katerina experiencing the feelings/natures of her victims, and Seigfried’s medical study of her blood as well as a look at all the repeated experiences of humankind that do not change over Katerina’s long life.

I really like the theme that Katerina and then Seigfried are interested in bettering the condition of humanity in discovering cures for diseases. When you think about it, vampires live very long lives and so should come to know a lot more than the average human being about pretty much everything. Why not do something good for mankind with it?

Fav quote pg 366
“… but the world does not want cures. They are quite content with their fears.”

The character of Katerina is well written, her sombre acceptance of the world’s ills for 600 years displayed in her sangfroid about things that would turn regular humans upside down such as unfaithful spouses.

Overall, the writing is of a passive style but pleasant though it left me feeling kind of melancholy. The book is quite long and there is some repetition of the sad state of mankind. There are a few anachronisms. The ending is short but interesting and hopeful. I would recommend this for the fans as a thoughtful, East-European-flavour odyssey into the mental workings of vampires, as well as a nostalgic, historical type read. 4.2 Stars!

You will fine Jennifer Ott on the web at these links:

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Broken Banners by Gelineau and King - Novella Review

Broken Banners
A Reaper of Stone, Book 2
By:  Mark Gelineau and Joe King
Publish Date:  February 15, 2016,
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Genre:  Fantasy, Medieval
Pages:  114 PDF Novella, 139 Calibre eBook Reader
Source:  Authors/and via NetGalley

Slaughtered and left for the crows, soldiers of the King’s Army lay dead in a field. A grim reminder: the king’s law ends at the gates of the capital.

Elinor fought for what she believed and now she is an outcast. No soldier will follow her. No officer will stand with her. Yet when she finds her brothers and sisters slaughtered, she cannot turn her back on them.

Long ago, they swore an oath. Not to the king, but to each other.

And woe to those who break that bond.
*Possible Spoilers*

This is Part 2 in the A Reaper of Stone series, which in turn is a series in the Echoes of the Ascended parent series. I was keen to read Broken Banners partly because I’m fascinated by current popular medieval, historical/fantasies (GoT, Last Kingdom) and so my thanks to the authors for a PDF reading copy.

Lieutenant Aldis Janen of the King’s 95th wrangles a dubious military commission to Heights Ward Keep via the keep’s chamberlain in order to help pay off some debts (Aldis makes for a good flawed character).

Elinor, also a lieutenant of the King’s army, has just come out of some sort of debacle from Timberline. Still, she has Conbert and his group of engineers, and they too are headed to Height’s Ward Keep to transfer to the 95th.

But there is a change sweeping through the realm of Aedaron and brutal events are afoot.

This novella is largely a brilliant battle foray by Elinor against Garett, the banished son who has overtaken the keep. I really liked Elinor as the strong, kick-ass female MC though there seems to be something supernatural about her battle skills.  In the previous book she gave an oath to “a spirit of the old age” so perhaps this is the source.

There are also fighters known as Razors that also have dangerous super abilities.

Overall, this is concisely written and has interesting characters. Because Book 1 (A Reaper of Stone) is also a novella, I think this series will make a better compilation volume when part three is completed and hopefully they will be combined. It would also benefit from more description of the environment and the characters themselves. Broken Banners is great on battle strategies and corrupt officialdom but, at least in this segment, there is no romance to speak of (a hint perhaps).  I really love at least a modest subplot of romance and feel this would help round things out.

I would recommend this novella to readers who are keen on the above mentioned qualities, and to check out the completed series as it promises to be very good. Awesome book cover. 4.3 Stars!

The end of this novella also gives perhaps too much in the way of previews of other books in the series, and some promo reviews. You will find Mark Gelineau and Joe King as the writer duo GelineauAndKing at these links:

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Linda Bloodworth Indie Author Interview

Today I have a special feature, an interview with Indie author, Linda Bloodworth. Linda has recently published A Raven's Touch, a young adult, paranormal, fantasy. I'm pleased to host an interview with her and delve into the mental workings of a fellow Indie writer so please join me!

Are you strictly a Young Adult writer or do you have other genres in you calling out to be written?
When I was first writing A Raven’s Touch, I never really thought of myself in a category. I suppose people like to organize styles/genres, so for now I am YA/Paranormal/Fantasy. In the sequel to A Raven’s Touch, I believe I may delve deeper towards the horror genre, just because that is my favourite. I love the idea of unveiling your darkest fears and facing up to them. After all, you’re always the hero, right? 

Do you write in silence, or do you need to have music/TV/other on in the background?
I prefer to write in silence. The only time I want to hear music is when I’m working on a tough scene and a particular song may help me get into the mood. While writing A Raven’s Touch I listened to “Possum Kingdom” by the Toadies around 300 times over the course of 3.5 years. Seriously. That song was very influential and got me into the right frame of mind.

I see that you’re self-published with Pronoun, a main platform for the main retailers. Do you think there is any value in signing on with a publishing house as of February 2016, or do you feel at this time that Indie is the total wave of the future?
That’s a good question. I’m of the mind that this is the era of indie. Yes, a big publishing house can give you marketing support, but it cannot give you soul. The only time a publisher will provide a big push is if you’re already a big name or they think they can really make money off you. With big money come big responsibilities. You don’t get to pick your book cover, you don’t get to say who edits your work, or in some cases even agree with the edits. The author becomes the show pony and has to go to various book signings and whatever else the publishing house wants. I am a very private person and this is beyond what I am willing to do. For some this sounds glamorous and exciting, and personally, I would not be able to handle such interaction. Not to mention the degradation of my personal control over my work. I do believe you can achieve greatness on your own terms even if it takes a little while longer.

Do you consciously decide that your book characters will have specific traits and strengths or weaknesses or do these come about intrinsically as you write the story?
You know, I honestly can say I never plan for anything. Half way through my third major re-write I decided to throw in supporting characters that I didn’t even dream of, but there they were. More than half the time the characters are as much as a surprise to me as they are to the reader.

What is the writing process like for you?
Hard. Rewarding. Surprising. Each time I sit down to write I don’t know what’s going to happen. Sometimes I paint myself into a corner, and miraculously find a way out. It’s never oh, look at me, I’m a writer so fantastic. It’s more like goodness, can I really call myself this, how can I even compare with the greats? Writing isn’t like any other job. There are manuals on grammar, and structure, but there’s no manual for your heart. Allowing your pen to flow is a delicious rush because you can create worlds that people fall in love with all from a few words strung together. The process of write, edit, repeat is painful, but in the end it’s what drives me and what I live for every day.

Check out one of Linda's reviews, 5 Stars! Veronica the Pajama Thief  
Linda Bloodworth loves chips, like really, ketchup to be exact. Ketchup chips are only found in Canada. Lucky for Linda she lives in Toronto with her husband and three fur babies.In between writing, debating for hours about the Oxford comma, and the misunderstood semi colon, Linda enjoys camping, and getting away from the city on day trips.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions Linda and sharing your experiences in writing in the Indie world! All the best in 2016.

You will find Linda on the internet at these links: