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, fantasy, new release, review, Uncategorized, young adult

The King’s Champion by Xina Marie Uhl is worthy of its cover.

Great review for my latest novel by SciFiMonkeys.com!

Young adult fantasy novel swords sorcery friendship love adventure magic fun

I love the cover of The King’s Champion by Xina Marie Uhl! Swords tend to be popular with fantasy novels, and with good reason. We immediately know that the book contains warriors, probably some epic fighting, possibly magic, and hopefully a great story. Thankfully the inside of this book lives up to its cover.

Source: The King’s Champion by Xina Marie Uhl is worthy of it’s cover.

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.

 

review, Uncategorized

Book Review: Lower Education by A.M. Leibowitz

Lower EducationLower Education by A. M. Leibowitz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hard-nosed educational consultant Phin Patterson is used to breezing into town, analyzing troubled schools and taking off before his superiors bring the hatchet down, disrupting the status quo. When he takes a job in small town New York, though, he figures he’ll do what he’s always done and be finished in no time. No harm, no foul. This town is different, though. For one thing, it doesn’t take administrative assistant Dani long to figure out that Phin’s hiding something. And then there’s deliciously attractive school psychologist Alex, who’s someone he has a significant past with. It seems, though, that Phin’s past is now wrapped up with his present and it’s proving harder than he thought to keep the two separate.

Lower Education is a slow build kind of story, one which relies on multi-faceted characterization and strong dialogue to guide the reader through the tale. What it lacks in narrative tension it makes up for in a real world premise, a well-rounded setting, and characters who juggle work and home. I particularly liked how refreshingly open they were about their sexuality. The heart of the story lies in the relationships, like it does for any satisfying romance. Most satisfying is the front row seat to savor the fissures that appear in bad boy Phin’s carefully constructed emotional walls when he slowly lets love in

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Purchase here: Lower Education