Tag Archives: Book Review

The Third Nero

19 Jul

“The Third Nero” by Lindsey Davis is set shortly after the events of “The Graveyard of the Hesperides”, Flavia is dealing with the fall out from the wedding and a plot upon the Palantine. As the book’s title suggests, someone is posing as Nero…again. But this one is a little more serious. This one holds a traitor at the heart of Domitian’s bureacracy.

“The Third Nero” fairly bounces along. As per usual some of Flavia Albia’s family make an appearance. In this case her cousins Marcia Didiia, and Marius. Also making an appearance is the exotic dancer/assassin Perella.

A nicely plotted little yarn which is vintage Lindsey Davis.

Highly recommended.

Fated

9 Jul

“Fated” by Benedict Jacka, was recommended to me by Carol on Goodreads, as she knows I love Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series.

In “Fated” Alex Verus is a wizard. A diviner who can see all the threads of the immediate future and work out the best one to use. A relic has been found, and it may contain an artefact of great power. A selection of wizards, all of them not very nice, regardless of their chosen path, all want Alex to figure out how to access it.

So far, so fantasy. Where “Fated” differs is that, unlike a lot of fantasy novels, dark and light are not clearly delinated. In this world there really isn’t much to chose between either side. Most of the wizards are a despicable bunch of outright wankers.

The pace is fast and furious. I sat down to have a look at it to decide if I actually did want to read it, and was hooked by page 3. There’s a nice little Harry Dresden/Jim Butcher joke on page 3 by the way. See if you can spot it.

I like Benedict’s portrayal of Camden, where Alex lives in London. A lot of people view it as all ‘peace, love, and mung beans’. Benedict’s portrayal has a more gritty vibe. More ‘ peace, love, and hand us your wallet and no-one has to get hurt.’.

This is a rare 5 star review from me. And I’ve already reserved book two from my library.

Dunstan

13 Jun

“Dunstan” by Conn Iggulden is a stand alone novel in the autobiographical novel category. The Dunstan in question is Saint Dunstan, builder of both Glastonbury Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral, and spiritual advisor to several early English/Wessex kings.

Iggulden interprets some events from the life of Dunstan in very interesting ways!

His Dunstan is far from a saint – being a bully, a liar, a cheat, and a murderer. Given the time he lived in, this is quite probably more accurate than an hagiography could manage.

A rambunctious romp through Dark Age Britain leaving piles of bodies in its wake.

In a word: Fun.

Highly recommended.

Ravens of Avalon

6 Jun

“Ravens of Avalon” by Diana L. Paxson is based on Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Avalon” series and moves into true historical territory with one of the principals of the story being Boudica.

There’s less of Avalon in this one. More on how Avalon became the successor to Mona after the dreadful massacre of the Druids.

The main thrust of the story is the Roman conquest of Britain and the Iceni lead uprising that destroyed three towns and created a legend.

As you would expect with a title like “Ravens of Avalon” The Morrigan plays a large part in the proceedings.

The spiritual aspects are handled well, and there was nothing that felt jarring or out of place. Diana L. Paxon has a good feel for Celtic spirituality.

If you like historical fantasy, I highly recommend this book. It doesn’t have to be read as part of the series. It stands alone quite well.

Golden Prey

31 May

I really wasn’t sure how I was going to like “Golden Prey”, the latest Lucas Davenport novel by John Sandford.  Lucas is now a US Marshal, removed from his support network of Del Capslock, Jenkins, Shrake, and Virgil.

I need not have worried.  Lucas has two excellent new foils in the form of the Marshal services Special Operations Group marshals Bob and Rae.  They give Lucas a run for his money and the three characters gel well together.

Members of a drug cartel are murdered, and one of them’s granddaughter is also killed.  Evidence suggests that one of the Marshal’s most wanted, a guy named Garvin Poole is the killer.  Lucas sents out to hunt him down.

So far, so Sandford.

However, the plot goes spinning almost out of control with cartel killers also on the hunt, including a female torturer known for her creative use of power tools, a lesbian couple who also work for the cartel, and a shoot out at an art gallery.  Way, way, way over the top.  Not just over the top but galloping down the other side!

But, being John Sandford, it all works.  It all comes together in a fast paced, at times outright hilarious, riot of a novel.

This is John Sandford at his very best.  This is the pick of the John Sandford novels over the last five years.

Highly recommended.

A Murmuring of Bees

9 Apr

“A Murmuring of Bees”, edited by Atlin Merrick, is the latest offering from Improbable Press, the gay romance/erotica Sherlock Holmes imprint.

The stories in this anthology revolve around bees, and, of course, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.  As with any anthology, the stories go from not very good, to mediocre, to excellent.  And, of course, it’s always a matter of personal taste.  My favourite stories were:

“Tales from the Riverbank” by Kim Le Patourel;
“The Secret Diary of Dr John Watson MD” by Kerry Greenwood; and
“The Love of Apiology” by Amy L. Webb

Some stories are straight out romance, but others are most definitely erotica.  So if man on man sexual intercourse offends you, then do not read.

A pleasant way to while away an autumn afternoon.  Recommended.

Shakespeare’s Local

5 Apr

“Shakespeare’s Local” by Pete Brown is a fascinating look at the George Inn in Southwark.

There has been an inn on the site since the 14th Century, and Pete Brown looks at the history of Southwark through the focus of the George.

The George Inn sits next door to the site of the Tabard, with the White Hart next door.  Both famous inns in English history/literature.

This books is rich in history, trivia, and humour.  Pete Brown frequently wanders down byways following odd little thoughts.

If you are interested in Southwark, history, pubs, oh and Shakespeare, this is the book for you.

Highly recommended.

The Confessions of Young Nero

3 Apr

Margaret George has made a career out of excellent pseudo-autobiographical novels.

“The Confessions of Young Nero”, the first part of the life story of Nero, is a welcome addition.

It starts with Nero’s earliest memories and goes up to the fire that destroyed much of Rome.

Margaret George is taking an interesting path with this book.  Her Nero is not the monster of legend, but a young man doing his best in a crazy and often dangerous world.

It is interesting to see a depiction of Nero as man with hopes, fears and loves, rather than the tyranical nutbag of history.  History, as they say, is written by the winners, and none of the Emperors who came after him had a vested interest in rehabilitating him.  In fact for many of them, the blacker they could paint him, the better.

I thoroughly enjoyed this rich and vibrant novel and look forward to reading the rest of Nero’s story.  Even though I know how it ends.

Move Along, Please

21 Mar

There are books of grand epic adventures. Around the world in 80 days. Across the Gobi desert on a skateboard. Sailing the Atlantic in a bathtub.

This isn’t one of them.

“Move Along, Please” by Mark Mason is something much better. A journey achievable by any one of us.

He sets out to travel from Land’s End to John O’Groats using only local buses. He has a fine old time and encounters some interesting people along the way.

The book is peppered with interesting facts about people and places and makes what, on the face of it, is a fairly mundane journey, into something exciting and adventurous.

It’s also a look at the peculiar English trait of eccentricity.

A delightful, entertaining book for the armchair traveler in us all.

Highly recommended.

Death in Profile

19 Mar

I find it very hard to resist a crime novel set in London, and when it’s set in one of my favourite parts of London, it’s doubly irresistible.

“Death in Profile” is the first of the Hampstead Murders series by Guy Fraser-Sampson.

There is a serial killer stalking London and the case team are working out of Hampstead nick.When Detective Chief Inspector Tom Allen is stood down and Detective Superintendent Simon Collison is put in his place, the scene is set for a complex and interesting story.  Especially as the most recent killing just doesn’t seem quite right.  Profiler Peter Collins is brought in to assist and things get interesting.

Guy seamlessly blends a modern police procedural with the Golden Age of detective fiction.

“Death in Profile” is an absorbing and entertaining read.  The characters are all well rounded and believable.  I hope we see more of Collison in future books.

Highly recommended.

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