books, literature, review, Uncategorized

Book Review: The Half-Drowned King

Here’s another of my Historical Novel Society reviews – this one all about the Vikings and drowning, which seems to be a thing in publishing lately, for some odd reason.

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The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker. Harper Little Brown, 2017. ISBN 9780062563699; $27.99, Hardback.

It is 9th-century Norway, and the Vikings are sailing, raiding, battling, and attending the gathering of peoples known as the Thing. Ragnvald Eysteinsson, a young warrior, finds himself betrayed by the very men he fought alongside, and left to drown in the cold waves of the Viking seas. His sister, Svanhild, faces challenges of her own back home, where she must navigate the social waters of suitors. The mercurial Solvi juggles political alliances and personal attachments deftly, and the warrior Harald of Vestfold—King Harald—comes to claim the loyalty of Ragnvald in a move that will change the course of each character’s lives.

A first novel, this title is also the first book of a trilogy. The author can trace her own lineage back to King Harald and, inspired by this family history, she has studied Norse history and literature for many years. Her attention to detail is the most enjoyable aspect of this book, which does an excellent job of evoking a vibrant society from years past. The opening scene, which finds young Ragnvald dancing across the oars while his ship sails, is evocative, dreamlike, and overwritten. The rest of the book follows this pattern.

This is the kind of book to sink into and enjoy for its beauty and atmosphere, not the kind to read for thrilling adventures or a complicated plot. The characters spend a lot of time debating things in their heads, and this trait serves to slow the narrative. However, if you are patient and in the mood for a period piece that brings to life a bygone era, you may find this volume satisfying reading.

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books, literature, Uncategorized, US history

Book Review: Wisconsin Logging Camp, 1921: A Boy’s Extraordinary First Year in America Working as a “Chickadee”

That’s quite to book title, isn’t it? Well, it’s an interesting book and worthy of a looooong title. Here’s another of my Historical Novel Society reviews.

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Wisconsin Logging Camp, 1921: A Boy’s Extraordinary First Year in America Working as a “Chickadee” by James Bastian. Trails, 2015. ISBN 9781934553541; $18.95, Paperback.

Will Heinlein is only eight years old when he finds himself an orphan. Suddenly he is a new immigrant to the United States with no family nearby and no prospects. How will he survive, much less live up to the promise of the book’s subtitle?

The narrative opens years later when Will is a wounded soldier in World War II, and then backtracks to Will’s childhood. It takes a while before he becomes the promised Chickadee, or a boy who was given the job of helping the loggers by tending to the trails of their horse-drawn wagons. First, though, the reader is taken on an engaging trip through the struggles of American immigrants and European soldiers and country people. When Will finally does get to the logging camp, his experiences are well-detailed and immerse the reader in the personalities, dangers, and concerns of the workers.

The book is an unusual mishmash of fiction and nonfiction. The title and black and white photographs point toward nonfiction while the storyline and characters are fictional. The narrative reminded me of an oral interview with an irascible old World War II veteran. Well-researched without being pedantic, it gives a good look into the challenges of the era: war, disease, and economic devastation. Similarly, it shows how hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit helped America to thrive even before the explosion of prosperity that World War II engendered.

The author has a strong voice and a good hand with characterization. Despite this, though, it was sometimes hard to accept that an eight-year-old protagonist would speak and behave in the manner portrayed. If you can overlook this flaw, however, the story will take you on an entertaining journey.

books, literature, review, Uncategorized

Book Review: Good Water by John D. Nesbitt

Another review originally posted on the Historical Novel Society’s website.

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Good Water by John D. Nesbitt. Five Star, 2016. ISBN 9781432832759; $25.95; Hardback.

Tommy Reeves is a young ranch hand working his way across the West, accompanied by his friend Red Armstrong. When the two of them come across a settlement of Mexicans nearby, they can’t help be interested in the people there, especially the pretty young women. Despite the fact that their foreman orders them to stay away from the settlement, they return. Their defiance sets in motion a devastating chain of events that result in violence and murder.

The book proceeds at a slow, loping pace through most of the story events, relaying them in a restrained and understated manner. Characterization is satisfyingly complete, and the laconic style of dialogue is especially effective in portraying the Old West. The book really shines with its wonderful, authentic details, though. Most westerns don’t go into detail about how to skin an antelope or cook tortillas on an open griddle, but this book does, with fascinating realism. At its heart the story involves Tommy’s coming of age. His romance with a beautiful Mexican girl also illuminates Mexican culture and the challenges they faced due to their ethnicity.

Lots of the story’s pivotal action scenes take place offstage, so don’t expect a traditional shoot ‘em up tale of revenge and gunslingers. While the narrative does include range fires, bullet wounds, and other Western tropes, it suffers overall from a lack of drama. However, if you are looking for a story which evokes the spirit of the West, with its hardworking settlers, simple lifestyle and wide-open sky, you can’t go wrong with Good Water.

 

books, literature, Uncategorized, young adult

Book Review: A Castle in England by Jamie Rhodes

For some time now I have been reviewing books for the Historical Novel Society (an organization filled with probably the MOST enthusiastic history lovers I have ever seen). This children’s graphic novel is my favorite so far.

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A Castle in England by Jamie Rhodes. No Brow, 2017. ISBN 9781910620199; $19.99; Hardback.

For several months in early 2016, researcher and author Jamie Rhodes lived in Scotney Castle in Kent, South-East England. There he walked the grounds, pondered the ruins, and studied the archives for stories illuminating the castle’s centuries-long past. The result is a young adult graphic novel that includes five tales that span the ages from the late 14th century through the early 20th century. Each part is illustrated as a comic by a different graphic artist in their own unique style. Family trees, historical context information, and facts pertaining to Scotney Castle during the associated period accompany each story in order to provide needed information to help the reader more fully understand what he or she has read.

The stories include “The Labourer” (medieval), “The Priest” (Elizabethan), “The Smuggler” (Georgian), “The Widow” (Victorian), and “The Hunter” (Edwardian). Each of them is inspired by actual events that took place in, near, and around the castle.

The tales are engaging and interesting, making each a quick, easy read. Trying to figure out what, exactly, the tale ultimately means is not as easy or quick, though. Because of this, it is necessary for the reader to carefully examine the family tree and historical context information and think about how the tale was presented, and perhaps even read it over again with these details in mind. For that reason, the graphic novel becomes a potent educational tool for young people and adults alike, and not a piece of spoon-fed diversion. Highly recommended.

ancient history, books, fantasy, literature, new release, Uncategorized, writing, young adult

YA Fantasy Book Release! The King’s Champion

Today is a day that will live in infamy! Errr, wait a minute. I mean, today is a famous, fabulous, FANTASTIC day! For Book One of the Land, The King’s Champion, is finally available for purchase. How many years have I been writing, revising, angsting about and generally fiddling around with this book is more than I want to admit. If you like swords, sorcery, friendship, bickering, fun, drama, and dastardly deeds, this book is for you.

Anyhow, enough blathering. For, *drumroll please* ta-da ….

Young adult fantasy novel swords sorcery friendship love adventure magic fun

A nameless orphan and a despised prince must conquer a living magic that threatens to destroy them and the people of their sprawling, beautiful land.

The first book in a fantasy series of swords, sorcery, and adventure.

A generation ago, a great war convulsed Cantwin. Amidst blood-soaked battles the Stormlifter kings rose up to save the kingdom by imprisoning the dark god Moleck in hell for all eternity.

Or so they thought.

Seventeen-year-old Lance thinks his life is just about perfect now that the prettiest girl in the village wants him. Sure, he dreams of fighting far off battles, but that’s nothing more than a fantasy. Until the elders order him away to find a name for himself.

In the dazzling capital, Lance navigates court intrigues with Prince Kieran’s unlikely friendship. Yet the glitter and gold obscures a dark conspiracy. Soon the two friends find themselves propelled to the edges of the world on a desperate quest. The stakes: Lance’s life, Kieran’s throne, and the survival of the Land itself.

Hunted by assassins, and haunted by the awakening of a strange and frightful power within them, they must find proof of Kieran’s claim to the throne before a dark god’s vengeance destroys them all. For the Power is summoning a champion, and it will not be denied.

Excerpt on Book’s Official Website

It’s this sense of fun, combined with a fast-paced series of adventures, which constantly place Lance in dangerous situations, lends a surreal atmosphere to the story, and leads readers to become more than casually involved in the outcome of his quest …. a story packed with satisfying twists, wry humor throughout, and the coming of age of a young man just beginning to realize his strengths and weaknesses. Young adult through adult readers will relish this original, lively story.Midwest Book Review

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Amazon * Smashwords

To Come: Barnes and Noble * Google Play * Apple Store

About the Author

Xina-300x225Xina Marie Uhl spends her days laboring in obscurity as a freelance writer for various educational projects and dreaming of ways to scrounge up enough cash to: 1. travel the world, and 2. add to her increasing menagerie of dogs, cats, and other creatures. The rest of the time she writes humorous titles such as The Cat’s Guide to Human Behavior and A Fairy Tail and Out of the Bag, fantasy like Necropolis, The Ruling Elite and Other Stories, and quirky romantic historicals like Whiter Pastures and All Mouth and No Trousers (to come). The King’s Champion is the first of a six book series.

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ancient history, books, historical romance, humor, literature, romance, Uncategorized, women

Two More Days and These Will be History

Mybookcave.com is running a free promotion for just two more days. Thirteen historical novels – no money. What could be better. Check them out HERE. We’ve got some pretty fascinating times and places – Ancient Egypt, Byzantium, the Middle Ages, the American Revolutionary War, Antarctica at 1900 and more. Love, war, betrayal, triumph. We’ve got it all, baby! Come have a looksee:

Page from the Past reduction

As of Saturday they’ll be history, so click quick.

ancient history, books, fantasy, literature, Uncategorized, writing

My First Bundle, Baby

Bundles are a thing now. Did you know that? Because I didn’t until recently. And now I’m in one! Wild! Anyhow, a bundle is when a number of authors combine their books or stories into a bundled set–also known as a box set–for readers to download. There are a few bundling sites, one of which is Bundle Rabbit. I may have signed up with them because of their association with bunnies.

HutchRock on pixabay, fluffy bunny, lion bunny

Ahem.

Anyhow, the bundles are usually themed. Like, bunny books. Or westerns. Or Heroic Tales. Like this one, which includes 19 tales of adventure, heroism, fantasy, and derring-do:

cover

The advantage to the readers is that they get a number of books for a low, low price. For the bundle above, the minimum is a mere $4.99 USD. OR you can pay whatever you want above this price. It’s available through Kobo, Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble, too. WAY COOL, huh?

Look at how pretty?

boxset

My contribution is my dark fantasy/ancient history inspired adventure Necropolis. It’s down off Amazon and related sites now (except for the paperback) in order for me to try some different promotions with it.

What? You say you haven’t heard of Necropolis? I’ll be generous and assume you haven’t been living under a ziggurat.

Cover art for Necropolis by Xina Marie Uhl

In an ancient desert city where the spirits of long dead rulers rustle through the winding streets, a prison guard is forced to save the life of a young priest whose lost memory holds the key to the fate of two cities. Become entangled in the web of political rivalries, sorcerous intrigues, headlong adventure and deep emotion that is . . . Necropolis!

If you’re a reader, give bundles a try. They are a good value, especially since Necropolis alone is priced at $3.99. If you’re a writer, look them up – the book landscape is changing at a lightning speed, and bundles are the latest storm.

coverfan

books, general wackiness, historical romance, history, literature, romance, Uncategorized, women, writing

Dun Dun Dun. New Release Day!

At last, the day has come! What, you say? The Second Coming is upon us? Nay! My romantic historical wackadoodle novelette is here! Surely that’s of equal import … ? Err. Let’s just forget I wrote that.

Anyhow, this novelette is 10,000 words of icebergs and explosions, potions and provocations. Don’t wait to get it! Seriously. The end might be nigh.

Humor romance Antarctica historical

Whiter Pastures
Xina Marie Uhl
Genres: Adult, Historical, Romance, Humor

A romantic novelette in the Icebound series, an ongoing collection of polar delights.

Behold dogsleds and penguins. Howling winds and cold, pitiless wastes. This is Antarctica, where the intrepid inhabitants of the frozen ends of the earth battle the terrain, and each other, to find love—in a past much like that of the early 1900s.

Reluctant spinster Florance Barton fled to the British Antarctic base to escape a scandalous love affair, among other things. Amidst the handful of other women there, Florance is the perfect chambermaid, meek, mild, and forgettable. No one has a clue that she’s also a novice spy.

When handsome young Handy McHanagan arrives at the base, he sets everyone agog. He’s charming, artistic, and … an accomplished gardener. His arrival may just be a mistake on the part of naval command. Or is it something more sinister?

Killer seals and subzero ice storms and aren’t the only danger in Antarctica: a enemy spy is on the loose. Florance has been ordered to choose between queen and country and her heart. Because penguin is off the menu now–and murder is its replacement.

Order Ebook Now!

Free on Kindle Unlimited, $1.49 for purchase

Amazon.com

books, Cover reveal, historical romance, literature, Uncategorized, women

Coming Soon! An Ice-Tastic Cover Reveal!

The thermometer is climbing where I am. Today it is in the mid-80s. Not so bad, really. But the temperature is supposed to rise a couple of degrees every day for at least a week. And I don’t have an air conditioner. Is it any wonder that I am dreaming of going someplace like this:

les-anderson-175669

Photo courtesy of Les Anderson

I mean, yeah, there’s not a whole lot to do there after a while, but at least I would not be sweating.

Anyhow. This quite nicely relates to a wondrous event that is happening in honor of my Antarctica-themed historical romance novelette’s debut, whose cover reveal is coming! Soon. Very soon. Woo hoo! Confetti! Screams of excitement! Come on, get into the spirit. Okay, then, how about some actual description for the story to get you hyped.

Whiter Pastures
Xina Marie Uhl
Publication date: July 5th 2017
Genres: Adult, Historical, Romance
Goodreads

A romantic novelette in the Icebound series, an ongoing collection of polar delights.

Behold dogsleds and penguins. Howling winds and cold, pitiless wastes. This is Antarctica, where the intrepid inhabitants of the frozen ends of the earth battle the terrain, and each other, to find love—in a past much like that of the early 1900s.

Reluctant spinster Florance Barton fled to the British Antarctic base to escape a scandalous love affair, among other things. Amidst the handful of other women there, Florance is the perfect chambermaid, meek, mild, and forgettable. No one has a clue that she’s also a novice spy.

When handsome young Handy McHanagan arrives at the base, he sets everyone agog. He’s charming, artistic, and … an accomplished gardener. His arrival may just be a mistake on the part of naval command. Or is it something more sinister?

Because killer seals and subzero ice storms and aren’t the only danger in Antarctica: a enemy spy is on the loose. Florance has been ordered to choose between queen and country and her heart. Because penguin is off the menu now–and murder is its replacement.

How about now? Can I get an “Amen”? There’s one more thing you can give me, if you’re feeling generous. You can sign up to post the reveal when it happens on Wednesday, June 28th, 2017. Xpresso Book Tours will send you an email with the posting information two days before the reveal. All you need to do is to SIGN UP HERE.

Thank you in advance from the bottom of my (sweaty) heart!