Shellie’s quick take:It’s a stand-alone historical fiction novel that has horror and romance elements wit...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Shellie’s quick take:It’s a stand-alone historical fiction novel that has horror and romance elements with a vampire as the main character. Set in Egypt in the 1200s, the main character (Count Saint Germain assisting as a translator) and a group of European Christian pilgrims are searching for holy sites and relics in the African desert, in hopes of redemption or money.
Shellie’s description: Sidi Sandjer’min (Count Saint-Germain’s name with an Egyptian twist) has been living at a Coptic monastery with his helper and friend Ruthier, assisting the monks and their visitors with their medical needs. He knows many languages and is an apothecary and a physician with knowledge that is advanced for the time.
Due to an edict passed by the ruler of Egypt that forces European inhabitants of the country to leave the land, Sandjer’min and Ruthiers decide their best option to avoid any persecution is to join a band of Christian pilgrims on their travels to visit churches and monasteries, as they are heading into the more remote areas of the Ethiopian highlands away from the main tributary of the Nile river. Set during a time without our modern conveniences, there is ample room for hardships and excitement and the story delivers.
With the faith of the zealous at its core, this is a novel which examines the place of religion in creating the world’s history and political climate during the 1200s.
Shellie’s thoughts: This is my first Count Saint Germain novel even though it is the 26th book in the series. Happily, I was not lost at all by reading this latest novel since the book stands completely alone. And according to Tor’s blog, all the novels in the series are that way; you can start anywhere in the huge collection and not feel lost or slighted.
I devoured this novel in a few days, which is a rarity for me. It was intriguing and has well-developed characters, romance, darkness, intrigue, medical predicaments, historical detail, geographic information and an exciting story line. What may put some readers off is that the main character is a vampire, fearing that there will be all those traditional vampire characteristics that so many readers are bored with. However, the vampire aspect is only a slight part of the story line. I would consider this book foremost a historical fiction book and it’ s really light on the vampire theme. Adding to the interest for me is that Count Saint Germain is an old, wise and kind vampire.
This is an entertaining book that I recommend for historical fiction lovers, horror readers, vampire aficionados (even though it is light on traditional vampire darkness) and anyone looking for a comprehensive and attention-grabbing read. 4 stars for this historical horror novel. I will be reading more from this series and will consider Chelsea Quinn Yarbro a go-to author when I am interested in a guaranteed good read.(less)
Look past the cover to find a down-to-earth, mildly spiritual (Catholic), yet contemporary look into the l...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Look past the cover to find a down-to-earth, mildly spiritual (Catholic), yet contemporary look into the life a commitment-phobic middle aged male nurse. When he finds himself “home” for the first time in 20 years he is forced to decide what is truly important to him. With strong threads containing mental illness and disabilities, internal and external conflicts, sweet humor and more - it’s one of my favorite “uplifting” reads of the past year.
About: Sean is a nurse who has spent most of his adult life in areas of the planet where there are more people than resources. Places where people are grateful for what little help a medical professional can give them even if it’s only a little more time to live. Sean has chosen this hard yet satisfying life because he is running from internal demons - a fear that he has inherited a nasty form of dementia called Huntington's disease. Sean doesn’t want to know if he has the disease, refuses to be tested for it, and has “a plan” once the symptoms begin to appear.
When he receives a letter from his sister while still working in Africa, she directly states she needs him to return to take on his share of their family responsibilities. So he does, but not entirely based upon the letter. It appears the fates have conspired to bring him back home since he’s completely burned out and his back is aching so badly - so back to Boston it is.
Needless to say things are not the most functional with his family. There are A LOT of complications. His aunt (the family Matriarch) is loosing her memory, his sister deserves some of the freedom he’s enjoyed over the years (she too may have the disease) and she is resentful. But the most significant “complication” is his pre-teen nephew, who is in a precarious transitional period, and in desperate need of support. And then there’s the dog.
Thoughts: This was a rewarding and slightly funny read with its real-life aspects that takes the tone from sweet to unsentimental. There are the shocking parts about nursing in a third world country, and dealing with the devastation of dementia, abandonment, alcohol abuse, and childhood psychological disorders. This book is a real mix of true-to-life problems with complex emotions and entanglements associated with them. But they are handled seriously and with a soft touch by the author.
The story has a mild element containing Catholicism. Appropriately so, since the main character - Sean’s da/dad - is from Ireland. And since the characters are of Irish decent there is also a fun part where several of the characters take a trip to Ireland. This may intrigue many readers and I enjoyed it quite a lot.
But I think the best part of this story are the characters. They are complex, well developed and mostly likeable; even the prickly ones, giving a literary feel to the novel. It’s being marketed as women’s fiction (look at the cover), but it’s more than that. I can say that men may enjoy this novel too if they can get beyond its cover’s femininity, and its obvious design for attracting women. Publishers have to sell books and women buy the most.
Just a few mild complaints - The Shortest Way Home is another one of those reads where there is a light romantic element which was slightly too “mushy” for me, and also several of the sex scenes left me with a misplaced guffaw (not my favorite reaction for a “romantic interlude”). However, it was an engrossing and entertaining read. I devoured it in a few days and give it a 4-star rating. (less)
A contemporary and historical mix that’s based around two story lines separated by 100 years. Its complex main characters, intriguing plots, and amazing equatorial African settings (which includes lions and gorillas) immerse the reader into its pages. The question is: how will these two characters be linked together in the end?
About: The historical story line is set in 1899 when Jeremy, a young American Engineer, travels to Africa in order to manage a team of 700 men constructing a railroad line in the heart of the continent. The workers are brought in from India to work on the line which is being built for access to the area for “Western” settlers. As the railroad workers battle the inhospitable drought-torn environment and malaria-causing mosquitos, they are ravaged by two 400 pound lions. The lions target the workers, just as they have been targeting the African natives. Jeremy, the only person with a gun, feels responsible for protecting “his” workers and begins to hunt them. As he becomes entwined with a native African tracker, who helps him find these elusive man-eating cats, the entire area remains terrified as one human per night is taken, killed and devoured by the starving lions.
In the parallel story which is set in the year 2000, Max, an ethno-botanist, has been commissioned to travel to the Congo by a US pharmaceutical company. She is to find and bring back a special plant that contains a chemical which may help victims of heart attacks and strokes. While searching in the mountain forest she becomes inextricably involved with the team of scientists who are living among and studying a wild gorilla family whose survival is in question. Max also finds that she too may be in danger.
Thoughts: Three Weeks in December is a terrific read and I think it has many elements which would be perfect for group discussion due to its layered and controversial themes. Audrey Schulman addresses environmental issues, gender issues, racial issues, and includes one character with a disability, making this a rich book, ripe for discussions.
It is a wonderfully descriptive story of equatorial Africa, with visions of the Savanna and jungle mountain areas, including interesting flora and fauna. While reading I kept thinking about the similarities of humans to gorillas, the complex and huge number of unknown plants that may have life-saving chemicals in their leaves, and the contrast with the torrid, dusty and dangerous areas where the lions reside. I could not help but think how easily a huge hungry cat could make us part of their menu.
The best part of the book is its complex characters, each with interesting personal attributes, giving the story depth and color. I learned from an online interview with the author that creating these characters took her some time and included repeated re-writes. A link for that interview is included on the blog.
I thoroughly enjoyed Three Weeks in December, with its exotic setting, complex characters, and in-depth relationship with the native animals and African environment. For me it was one easy-to-read story where I lost myself, my favorite type of book to read. I will be including Schulman’s other novels on my “to-be-read” list. I completely loved her writing style. I give this wonderful book a 4.5 stars.(less)