In tenth century Italy, Sara loses her parents and sister to the plague. With nowhere to go, she reluctantly enters a convent as a novice, but her spiIn tenth century Italy, Sara loses her parents and sister to the plague. With nowhere to go, she reluctantly enters a convent as a novice, but her spirit, her heart, her disposition are not suited to becoming a nun. Sara is a woman of strong passions, of fire, and of an exultation of life itself. Although the attack by savage Saracens, occurring at the outset, is horrendous and violent, in a way it works in her favor, as it frees her from a dreary, lonely future cloistered away in a nunnery. It forces her to take charge of the few other survivors. She herds them to safety, but the Saracens catch on and come chasing after them. In her first act of heroism, she sends the other nuns on and stays behind to distract the warriors, a brave effort which ends badly for her--yet again, what she suffers works in her favor, for had it not happened, she would never have met the love of her life.
I'm not sure if Sara's age is ever mentioned, but it's pretty obvious that she's young: probably a teenager. The choices she makes as she travels with the mysterious Nicolo rang true for me because of her age and the sequestered life she's lived. Sara's heart aches for romance, for adventure, for excitement--as a teenage girl's will, always, whether the century is the tenth or the twenty-first. Even though she can see Nicolo is falling in love with her, she keeps certain secrets, wanting to "create a perfect scene" with him at "the perfect moment." Because of this choice, things go down a very different path than she envisioned, and she must endure a long period of regret, but in the end, this, and everything that happens, becomes a ladder of growth for her.
I loved the author's descriptions. The soldiers in the barracks, swilling liquor and bragging about their sexual prowess, the herald finally coming with the dagger and message for Umberto, sending him into unaccustomed realms of doubt and trepidation. In fact, what I loved best about this novel is the beautifully descriptive way the author has written it. Every scene comes to life. Every bower, every forest, every meadow, clearing, villa and coastline. I could almost smell the mud, hear the birds, feel the armor heavy upon my back.
Sara is wholly sympathetic, a fierce woman who will never allow herself to be defeated--and oh yes, there are a few who try very hard. Umberto's oft-spoken declaration is "I will break you yet, Sara." But in fact it is Nicolo who comes closer to being broken than Sara. Umberto, the baron, is a delightfully complex man. He is cold and vicious, yet there seems unplumbed depths to him when he calls out "Sara!" after she has cursed him. He is affectionate and agreeable to Imelda, leaving the reader wondering why he cannot be to Sara. This character is quite the enigma.
Very reminiscent to me of "Le Morte d'Arthur," by Sir Thomas Malory. I recommend it to those who yearn for tales of lady loves, heroic acts and brave heroes, where honor and courage are worth dying for....more
Magical, otherworldly, a modern-day hunt for the Grail, this story drew me in from the first page, with mystery and tension that slowly escalates fromMagical, otherworldly, a modern-day hunt for the Grail, this story drew me in from the first page, with mystery and tension that slowly escalates from page one to the end. I loved the characters, who were vividly created, both good and evil, members of the "real" world and those who exist in a dream-like other place, but there are two other characters to this novel: Bermondsey and the Grail itself. I loved seeing Bermondsey through Adelaide's eyes, with its "long and tangled history, stretching back to the Romans," and London itself was deftly and wonderfully described so that I felt I was there. I suspect a lot of research went into this story, though it's all so subtle that it's completely unobtrusive.
The author is a gifted storyteller, offering rich, heady prose. The action takes off from page one, when Adelaide is sucked into this other world without warning, right from her office space, and the intrigue only heightens: two victims are trapped in Time and ghostly waters, and Adelaide is determined to free them.
The Bermondsey Grail does an excellent job of mixing our modern hustle and bustle and noise with a magical, lost, medieval era that many of us long for.
The characters, led by Adelaide, a single woman of indeterminate age, are wonderfully engaging. They run the gamut from good to pure evil, the kind of evil that fools you for a long time, and good that is created from past hurt, good in defiance of all expectations. I found myself looking forward to what crazy outfit Imogen would be wearing next, and the slow crumble of Joe's defenses. Interestingly, I noticed that everyone is beautifully described except for Adelaide, leaving the reader to make of her what he or she will.
Slightly, vaguely reminiscent of the Narnia books, and/or The Da Vinci Code, yet completely unique....more
The sequel to "Curse" furthers the adventures of Nell and her friends, and brings all of them into more acute danger. Our feisty heroine, Nell, is detThe sequel to "Curse" furthers the adventures of Nell and her friends, and brings all of them into more acute danger. Our feisty heroine, Nell, is determined to find the lost final pages of "The Book of Wexkia," and more people of her own kind. This goal takes her and her supporters to a few different worlds, Gramlax and Corl and Linque, and draws the attention of dangerous entities who do NOT want this information found.
Nell is fearless and takes on some really bad bad guys, meets new offworlders who help her in her quest, and becomes very close with a whole new set of friends. She even meets her grandmother for the first time. She has amazing powers that continue to develop in this book and go a long way toward protecting her. For me, one of the major themes is her expanding powers, how she learns to deal with them and control them, and learns to control her own fiery emotions.
Entire worlds are fully envisioned. There's lots of imagination in these books. The descriptions are quite unique, and the author makes her scenes and characters foreign yet familiar at the same time: no easy feat. She even tackles bullying.
Another delightful and compelling read in the continuing saga, perfect for all ages. My mind is already wondering what we'll discover in book three, "Justice," and I'm looking forward to jumping in! ...more
The characters in Rubies achieve the rare status of being "real," easy to imagine fully, and sympathetic.
Characters are the core of a story for me. IThe characters in Rubies achieve the rare status of being "real," easy to imagine fully, and sympathetic.
Characters are the core of a story for me. If the author doesn't get that part right, the rest just doesn't matter, which is why I have such a problem with so many movies these days, that give all their attention to action at the expense of character development. If you don't really care what happens to a character, what good is all that exciting action?
Rubies goes on to achieve a believable setting, during the up and coming power of Nero--a fascinating time in our history, and it's written in such a way that readers don't have to know Roman history, or the Roman language, to enjoy it.
Rubies of the Viper was a pleasure to read from beginning to end. Highly recommended....more
What a roller coaster ride this was! The story begins in a scene of battle, and two men, both wounded, pledging lifelong friendship. They make it backWhat a roller coaster ride this was! The story begins in a scene of battle, and two men, both wounded, pledging lifelong friendship. They make it back to their homes, hoping for lives of peace and harmony, but such is not to be.
Each finds love and marries, but their wives are very different creatures from each other. One utilizes superstition and magic to improve her life, to make it more complete, while the other uses the same things to harm others she is envious of.
But in one of life's inexplicable twists, what she does comes back to strike her squarely in the face, leaving her with a terrible choice to make. I did NOT see that coming.
I was completely engrossed in this marvelous tale. Although I happened to be reading one of my all-time favorite books at the same time as this, one I re-read every year, I ended up abandoning it in favor of discovering what would befall the characters on the next page in this book. I had to know how it would all be resolved. I often mentally work out an ending as I read books, but in this case, I was actually quite wrong in my assumptions.
Seldom if ever have I so longed for an antagonist to receive his or her just desserts. The antagonist of Orphan of the Olive Tree is evil incarnate! What eventually happens to this person is not what you might think, yet is eminently perfect in every way.
I felt the thoroughness of the research, and clearly saw the setting, and the importance of the Church in everyday life, just as I imagine it truly was. The lovely descriptions throughout engaged all my senses. Historical tidbits are woven in with great skill, so that the reader never bogs down into boring details, but the mental image of the place and time comes to rich, vibrant life. I always enjoy descriptions of food and herbs in the historical novels I read, the medieval methods of healing arts before the time of antibiotics, the fascinating properties of certain flowers and roots, and this book was exceptional in that regard.
I did notice that another review or two called the book "predictable." I found it anything but. I hoped for a certain outcome, but how would it be achieved? That was the million-dollar question. The ending, when it came at last, (and the author keeps you wondering until almost the last page) was very satisfying. In fact, the dénouement moved me to tears.
One of my favorite lines: "A tarantula thinks it is king of the world until someone crushes it beneath a heel."
A compulsive read for me, highly recommended....more
In "Ravensdale," Elliot continues her skill with satire, and tongue-in-cheek humor, combined with engaging characters the reader cannot help but rootIn "Ravensdale," Elliot continues her skill with satire, and tongue-in-cheek humor, combined with engaging characters the reader cannot help but root for.
I haven't read many novels set in the 1700s, but this story won me over. I was so engrossed that I couldn’t stop reading and ended up with a terrible headache, but it was worth it. What an amazing bunch of characters! First of all, there’s Lord Reynaud Ravensdale, the Disgraced Outlaw and Earl: this is a character to really fall in love with. He’s intelligent, quick, wild, impetuous, an amazing shot, and absolutely bursting with honor. Oh, and he’s apparently handsome to the point of being “nondescript,” a term that will come to haunt Lady Isabella, the heroine of the story. Isabella is an amazing kick ass woman, and a true, perfect match for the larger than life Ravensdale. She has no desire to be a shadow to a man—any man. She wants to run off and become a brigand (like the mysterious Mr Fox.) Reynaud and his cohorts have their hands full in their well-meaning but inept and misguided attempts to make her a prim, docile “lady.”
There are several layers to this story, which I don’t wish to spoil. One thing I enjoyed very much and do with all of Elliot’s books is the humor. It’s not very often I get to guffaw when I’m reading historical fiction. The setting is brought to life through picturesque descriptions that made me feel I was there, breathing in the scent of roses and watching the butterflies rise, dancing in the moonlight.
An eminently satisfying book. Bold, swashbuckling characters. A tender, memorable romance. Action, growth, and personality development working alongside plot. Not to be missed! ...more
I received an ARC for reading and reviewing purposes.
I've been bothering the author for months now trying to get my hands on Book Three of Xenofreak NI received an ARC for reading and reviewing purposes.
I've been bothering the author for months now trying to get my hands on Book Three of Xenofreak Nation. I read it in a matter of two days, I think it was: it was quite difficult to put down.
Action lovers will be thoroughly happy with this, the eagerly-awaited third installment of the Xenofreak Nation trilogy. It never stops: one event leads into the next like gunfire. Lives hang in the balance as the Typhoid-like supervirus expands. Where did this contagion come from, how is it spread? Who is to blame for it? How can people protect themselves? These are the questions Bryn and Scott, Jason and Mia must answer, and quickly, before more deaths occur. The bad guys return as well, Maddy, Fournier, Dundee, and Maddy's father, Philip Singh. All have their own agendas, and some of it is, well, very bad for humanity.
There were times I wondered how these tireless heroes could go on, how they could possibly deal with yet another crisis. Yet, somehow, they do, to a backdrop of riots, trickery, and murder.
The book is filled with amazing, prophetic, imaginative twists, encompassing science, medicine, and futuristic technology that I found enthralling and captivating. I hope some of these ideas actually come to pass.
A must-read for fans of the first two books....more
I really loved this book: part mystery, part ghost story, part love story, part action-thriller. From the first page, I was involved and intrigued, anI really loved this book: part mystery, part ghost story, part love story, part action-thriller. From the first page, I was involved and intrigued, and many hours were lost in this supernatural world set in both modern-day London and the last century. I believe the author has touched upon an idea that is mesmerizing not only to other writers but avid readers as well. The idea? Of a fictional character coming to life. Actually tearing himself out of the pages of a story and forcing his way into the real world, bent on revenge. "Motivated by Gothic dark passions of obsessive love and hate as it is... a disembodied Heathcliff." Who out there who has ever read or written a book is not able to think of a character he/she would love to meet, face to face?
A compelling concept.
The creator of this problem is Aleks Sager, a protagonist who begins as almost an anti-hero, yet soon he reveals just how sweet and loveable he truly is. He will go to great lengths to protect the woman he loves from the dangerous character he wrote into life.
Elliot writes beautifully, visually, so that the reader is caught up in the smells, the textures, the food and lights and life of London. Each scene is immediate, vividly drawn, filled with sensory details. There's more: she's a master at characterization: I LOVED the way Aleks and his best mate, Rick, banter and curse at each other, and poor Natalie's vapid thoughts, and the wonderful Aunt Sally. Then she brings in the scary, paranormal element, which includes, yes, an ouija board. Elliot never fails to include humor in her stories, a dry, tongue-in-cheek look at the foibles of humanity.
Perhaps it's inevitable that a modern day woman falls in love with this romantic figure from old Russia. Their scenes together are so animated, as are all the scenes, really, that I began to think what a wildly popular movie this story would make. Ivan Ostrowski, the character dragged from fiction into reality, is more enticing than any zombie or vampire out there.
I received an advanced reader's copy of this book for review purposes.
Dying Phoenix is its own story, but in its pages, the reader gets to know the chI received an advanced reader's copy of this book for review purposes.
Dying Phoenix is its own story, but in its pages, the reader gets to know the child of Andrew Cassimatis and his young Greek lover, Anna, from Proctor’s book The Long Shadow. As I dearly loved The Long Shadow, I was thrilled to see Andrew again and to meet his tempestuous, mesmerizing, passionate daughter, Nina. Nina will capture your heart instantly.
Nina has grown up in England, though she was born in Greece: she's married to the deeply flawed yet somehow loveable Englishman, Max Hammitt, so she is a child of two worlds, just like her father. As she says, “My mother’s Greek warrior blood stirs in me.” It is, perhaps, this warrior blood that sends her over to Greece during a dangerous time of political uproar and upheaval.
When the book opens, Max and Nina are separated, due to casual infidelity on Max’s part. Needless to say, Nina is not the type of woman to easily forgive such a betrayal.
It just so happens that Max is in Greece at the same time as Nina, though they aren’t together. He gets caught up trying to rescue a young girl from her brutal pimp—an act of kindness that causes him much harm later in unforeseen ways, leaving me feeling very sorry for him.
Set in the tumultuous political events of the nineteen-sixties, Nina and Max are swept up in terrible circumstances. They are exposed to, and endure, much, as do many others.
Dying Phoenix is lyrical and immediate. It is both beautiful and ugly. It will seize you and place you into those ancient towns, the dusty streets, nightmarish prisons, the riots and their repercussions. The dialog is especially well done: natural and flowing, spiced with Greek phrases, it gives an enticing flavor of native conversation.
Max, Nina, and Andrew are wonderful characters, but there’s also an unforgettable supporting cast—finely-drawn, idealistic resistance fighters, older, jaded, yet surprisingly caring friends, innocents caught up in savage situations. Dying Phoenix alternates between beauty and brutality, never shying away from reality or falling into trite euphemism.
All these things left me feeling I was in the hands of a master author. I read Dying Phoenix with great enjoyment, and at times sadness, punctuated with shock. Though I’m an American reader, and a bit too young to know much about this period in Greek politics, I was utterly absorbed by the story, never lost or confused. A captivating follow up to The Long Shadow, Dying Phoenix is a masterful creation, deserving of high accolades.
This book is an amazing fantasy ride, full of unique characters and vivid scenes.
Nell is facing college and has secretly applied to one. But there's aThis book is an amazing fantasy ride, full of unique characters and vivid scenes.
Nell is facing college and has secretly applied to one. But there's a reason her father doesn't support this idea, and it isn't any reason you've ever heard of before.
For seventeen years, Nell has lived a rather lonely--but fairly normal--life. Then one day an alligator speaks to her, and from that moment on, BIG changes come barreling, sweeping her away from any hint of normalcy, and taking her good friend Sam with her.
This story surprised and delighted me at every turn. I don't want to give any spoilers, but The Curse of Wexkia has a lot going on. It's a little bit sci-fi, a little bit fantasy, a little bit teenage angst, a little bit rebellion, and a little bit sweet budding romance. While the story ends very satisfyingly, there is definitely room for a sequel, and many more adventures. ...more
In "The Golden Dice," Caecilia has matured significantly, and has borne another son. She's made her choice. She is committed to Veii and her husband,In "The Golden Dice," Caecilia has matured significantly, and has borne another son. She's made her choice. She is committed to Veii and her husband, Mastarna. Unfortunately, peace remains elusive, and Mastarna spends much time fighting the Romans, even as political intrigue continues unabated in Veii, as well.
The characters Storrs creates are magnetic, especially the compelling Mastarna, but in this book, he is joined by a more courageous, willing-to-gamble Caecilia and more characters as well that I have found unforgettable. There is Arruns, the brutal yet somehow enchanting guard with the snake tattoo. I can easily see why Semni wants him so, and I found their scenes together mesmerizing. There's Tarchon, Mastarna's son, who is led astray, and Drusus, who becomes a lightning rod. But two of the most compelling characters, fleshed out gorgeously in this volume, are Pinna, poorest of the poor prostitutes, and Semni, the artistic, independently-minded, slave. Pinna, especially, I sympathized with. Storrs brings the pathetic life of a low prostitute, one who plies her trade at gravesites, to vivid life, and I do so want her lot to improve. She has the guts to set her sights high, and I like that!
Pinna and Semni become major characters in The Golden Dice, and I love them both. They add great dimension to the story.
The religion, traditions, customs, and lifestyle of the Etruscans are told in vivid detail in this book, which I actually read first, before "The Wedding Shroud." I had no trouble at all doing this. "The Golden Dice" works well as a stand-alone novel. With Caecilia having chosen her side and standing firm with the Etruscans, one wants them to triumph over Rome. Yet Storrs creates equally compelling Romans, in the character of Camillus, the captivating general, Drusus, and Marcus. Each character, in his-her own way, draws the reader into their thrall.
Twists and turns abound in this beautifully told, complex story that takes place in the later years of the nineteenth century. The Crawfords of HoldawTwists and turns abound in this beautifully told, complex story that takes place in the later years of the nineteenth century. The Crawfords of Holdaway Hall make an offer to a young lady, Abbie, an offer that is more than simple courtesy and care: they have something in mind, something that concerns her. This is the secret of "Cry of the Peacock." What is Ruskin's motive when he asks for Abbie's hand in marriage? A marriage, which, if it takes place, would be well beneath his station? Why does Abbie's Aunt Newhaven despise the Crawfords so much? Into this strange tableau of Ruskin asking for the overseer's daughter's hand comes the two younger Crawford brothers, David and James. Their father has not confided in them: neither understands why their brother is trying to win the heart of this common lowborn woman and they don't believe love has won him over.
Both set out to discover the truth, and both are inclined to think Abbie a gold digger. For her own part, Abbie doesn't understand Ruskin's motives either, but the pressure put upon her to accept his offer is tremendous, from everyone except her aunt. Her instincts warn her that something isn't right and she hardly knows Ruskin, but cold hard commonsense fails her when it comes to another young man.
From page one, "Cry of the Peacock" is a mystery, a journey of discovery, a peeling of the onion down to its core of truth. I found it deeply compelling, a character-driven story with a flavor reminiscent of "Pride and Prejudice." Having read the author's debut novel, "Of Moths and Butterflies," I was looking forward to a new set of well-drawn protagonists and first-rate dialogue, and I wasn't disappointed. Christensen's selfish, sometimes cruel men, especially, are so well done that one wants to throttle them. Lighthearted scenes are juxtaposed with dark drama, and carry the reader through to a satisfying end. I enjoyed it thoroughly. ...more
I just love this author's books & am always eagerly anticipating the next one. She has a never-failing imagination and an extremely sharp mind. ShI just love this author's books & am always eagerly anticipating the next one. She has a never-failing imagination and an extremely sharp mind. She weaves science fiction into fantasy flawlessly, and creates real characters the reader can root for. She is also a professional: there are no typos or grammar gaffes in her books. Every one I've read has been a true pleasure, both for the clean format and the story. I'm impressed with her knowledge and/or research into scientific things. This one reminds me a little of "The Andromeda Strain", for the way everything in the story, no matter how fantastic, is believable.
This is Book Two of a planned trilogy. I wish I had read Book One, "The Gossamer Sphere: The Gossamer Crown" first, because I'm detailed like that, and like to do things in order. As it turns out, I was offered Book Two, this one, as an ARC before I had a chance to read Book One, and I decided to go for it. It worked beautifully. I was never lost or puzzled. The story flows so well, with backstory effortlessly integrated, little by little, and characters fleshed out so gracefully, that I never had to pause.
Nearly every chapter ends with a new twist, a startling cliffhanger, and each time, I wondered, "How are they going to get out of this!" Things happen fast, and I never felt I could begin to predict what would come next, or how it would end.
The Gossamer Sphere itself is an amazing invention. It changes some of these characters. Some become shape shifters, some can use telepathy. Because the world is as it is, there are those who are afraid of these changes and want to destroy the people who have been altered. But the reader definitely wants them to find a way to triumph, survive, and thrive.
The books take place in the near future, not so far away that everything is strange. Most everything is familiar, almost as though in the present day. There are a few older folks, but most of the characters are in their teens, and even though they are exceptional (they've actually saved our world), they are still your typical hungry, sometimes awkward, sometimes hormonal, teenagers, and enormously likeable.
I highly recommend this book as I do all of Conway's! ...more