Liverpool Connection by Elisabeth Marrion

MarrionLiverpoolConnectionWhere I Got It: Review copy via the author Audiobook Monthly (thanks!).

Publisher: Self-published (2015)

Narrators: Nancy Peterson

Length: 6 hours 35 minutes

Series: Book 2

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 2 in a trilogy, The Night I Danced with Rommel being Book 1. This book can be read as a stand alone.

The story starts in 1926 in Ireland. Annie and her friends feel they need to emigrate to England to find work and a better life. At age 16, she arrives in Liverpool and starts off with relatives. Pretty soon she has found a sweet beau. Marriage and children follow. As WWII erupts through Europe, Annie and her family and friends are tested in ways none of them had anticipated. This story is based on the actual lives of the author’s ancestors, which makes it that much more poignant.

I really enjoyed Book 1 in this series, but I think I enjoyed this one just a smidge more. Maybe that is because this book references Hilde’s life from Book 1 from time to time and I can clearly see the parallels between Annie and Hilde. For both of these books, I really appreciate how the author simply tells the tales of the ladies during WWII without relying on drama. Life was a handful to start with and it doesn’t need extra drama to validate the characters.

One of the things I learned from this book was that the Irish did not have to participate in WWII. However, several of Annie’s family and friends (Irish) living in England decide to join up with the English forces. This caused a lot of grief for Annie’s family and some felt this was betraying their heritage. And those that joined the service weren’t limited to just the men. In England during WWII, women were also drafted into war service. The author does a great job of showing how suddenly one’s life can change during this time period. One moment you’re getting dressed, making tea, planning to go to work at the clinic or local grocery and the next your answering the mail and realizing that you have to report to the military for uniforms and training.

I highly recommend this book, and series, to folks who want a realistic view of noncombatants during WWII. Everyone was affected and it’s great to have books like these to show more than just the great battles and espionage.

Narration: Nancy Peterson did another excellent job, putting on the perfect Irish lilt for Annie and her family. I was really impressed with her range of character voices and I loved how much of the book was performed in an Irish accent.

What I Liked:  Such a realistic fiction; shows how severely lives of noncombatants were affected; educational while being entertaining; poignant; the cover art. 

What I Disliked: Nothing – I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

What Others Think:

Historical Novel Society

Mary Ann Bernal

The Bitter Trade by Piers Alexander

AlexanderTheBitterTradeWhy I Read It: Historical fiction combined with a coffee conspiracy, in England? Why not!

Where I Got It: A review copy via the blog tour & Netgalley (thank you!)

Who I Recommend This To: It’s a nitty gritty historical fiction, for those who like more reality than fiction.

Publisher: Tenderfoot (2014)

Length: 448 pages

Author’s Page

Calumny (Cal) Spinks lives with his father and mother in a village outside of London. Hi English father (Peter) drinks a bit too much and has more secrets than Cal can stand. His French mother is ill and weak and loves her son dearly. It’s the 1600s and unrest is in the air. Peter Spinks, a fair silk weaver, has kept his son in the dark about his past and has refused to add his son’s name to the apprentice list. Cal is nearing the age at when he will no longer be eligible to be an apprentice and that door will forever be closed to him. It’s maddening to Cal. Then Garric enters Cal’s life (and returns to Peter’s) on the very same day tragedy strikes the family. Cal is forced to make a new life in London in Clerkenwell neighborhood. There, he finds that many folks have secrets and he’s determined to find out Garric’s biggest secret.

I found the main protagonist, Calumny Spinks, to be fully engaging. He grows through out the book as he has one adventure (or mishap) after another, as he unravels these secrets and gains some of his own. He’s a bit of a rogue, enjoying the lasses so much that I was surprised he wasn’t in more trouble. His mouth can be sharp and foul as needed.

The setting is nearly a character itself (just how I like my settings) and you never forget that you are in 1688 England. Public sanitation is all but nonexistent; the food is fairly simple if rich and hearty at times; traveling from point a to point b takes time. The Glorious Revolution plays an important role in this book and I have to say that I was not educated on this event in history at all. So my only word of caution to folks venturing into this book is that it would be beneficial to go over a brief accounting of the politics of the time to better enjoy this book. If you don’t know the basics (as I didn’t) then I fear you will miss out on some of the nuances of the book (as I did).

The pacing is great – not so fast-paced as to gloss over stuff and not so detailed as to bog the reader down. And the prose is excellent. The imagery sometimes had me chuckling out loud, nodding my head in agreement, or even grimacing. Here’s an example from early on in the story (no spoilers): ‘Abigail was boiling bones in the back kitchen. The more rotten the stock, the better the soup, she said, and hers was as rich and spicy as a woman’s summer-sweat.’ At times the characters, and the language, get quite bawdy, but I also enjoyed this as it was realistic and it didn’t eclipse the plotline.

Early on, the female characters are here and there and not integral to the plotline. It is only later on as the story progresses that we get a few ladies who are more than just lovers, mothers, and pretty things to coo over. Of course, I would have liked to see plot-necessary ladies earlier in the book, but I was content that the author made use of them at some point.

Over all, a very good read having an intricate plotline, a fully engaging lead character, and being educational to boot. If coffee and revolution and English history are your things, then this is definitely a good read for you.

What I Liked: Cal Spinks is a very interesting character; realistic prose and setting; you always feel like you are in 1600s England; the cover; all the secrets to unravel; how the plot turns out.

What I Disliked: These are two small points – 1) If you aren’t familiar with the Glorious Revolution, then you might be a bit lost in the politics; and 2) we could have used a few more women who were integral to the plot, especially early on.

What Others Think:

Check out the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour

Flashlight Commentary

Book by Book

Back Porchervations

With her Nose Stuck in a Book

Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Interview & Giveaway: Deirdra Eden, Author of The Watchers Series

EdenKnightOfLightHello All, please slap your eyes together and enjoy the following interview with the charming Deirdra Eden, author of Knight of Light, Book 1 in The Watchers series. Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway, which includes chances to win copies of the book as well as a $100 Amazon gift card.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

YES! Fantasy has actually become a subculture that is pretty magical and inspirational to creative people. Fantasy is also a genre being used to explore and expose many of the world’s problems today, without being overly political.

Are minions/sidekicks just throwaway devices in a tale? Can they become more? Do they need to become more?

They are the spice in the soup. They enhance your main character, plots and overall story.

Over the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

Perhaps, but there will always be the age old story of good vs. evil.

Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

I would love to see a unicorn. Don’t ever want to see a Shadow Wolf.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

Twilight. I’d be a vampire hunter.

What nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

Family history and the Atlas.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Queen Rania and Niecy Nash – Love those ladies!

Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent? Is there a PC game to book adaptation that worked for you?

The Chronicles of Narnia! Not sure about PC. I do like World of Warcraft though.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

Okay, so this one time, at a writer’s conference, I met this man, he said he was an author. Everyone is an author. He asked me what I wrote, I told him fantasy. Then he got all excited and told me he wrote fantasy too. He was pitching to a publisher that is REALLY hard to get into and I was like, Yeah, every fantasy writer wants to publish through them. Some time later, I was doing some research on famous fantasy authors and SAW HIM. Tracy Hickman, the author who started Dragonlance. GAH! It’s probably best I didn’t know or I would have fan girled. My husband wants to meet him sooo bad. I could have totally tried to see if he wanted to do a double date since he doesn’t live too far from me. BTW he did get accepted by the publisher.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMVJ6btZLFA&feature=youtu.be

The Watchers Book 1: Knight of Light

In England, 1270 A.D., Auriella (pronounced yurr-ee-ella) flees her village after being accused of witchcraft. Pursued by nightmarish creatures, she struggles to accept the truth about her humanity. Filled with fairies, dwarves, pixies, dragons, and monsters, Knight of Light is an enthralling tale that will capture the imaginations of readers young and old.

The Watchers Series has been described as Braveheart meets Supernatural.

The mythology for the series is based on many theological texts from dozens of sects with correlating themes. Ancient writings include The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Traditional Apocrypha, The Pearl of Great Price, and The Kabbalah.

“The Watchers” are supernatural beings in human form whose duty it is to protect and guard mankind from the armies of darkness.
Unfortunately, as the Book of Enoch mentions, some of these Watchers go bad. Although the mythology is based on these texts, Deirdra Eden’s The Watchers Series is written in a traditional fairytale style with a young girl’s discovery of incredible, but dangerous powers within herself, a cast of humorous side-kicks, a quest for greater self-discovery and purpose, and villains of epic proportions.

About the Author

 



“My goal in writing is to saturate my books with intrigue, mystery, romance, and plot twists that will keep my readers in suspense. I want to see fingerprints on the front and back covers where readers have gripped the novel with white knuckles!

Aside from writing, I enjoy jousting in arenas, planning invasions, horseback riding through open meadows, swimming in the ocean, hiking up mountains, camping in cool shady woods, climbing trees barefoot, and going on adventures.”

-Deirdra Eden

Find Deirdra Eden and The Watchers Series online on AmazonDeirdra’s websiteFacebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Wattpad, and Pinterest.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle

FremantleSistersOfTreasonWhy I Read It: I really enjoyed Fremantle’s Queen’s Gambit so I had to check this one out.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Elizabeth Tudor fans who have always been curious about the Grey sisters.

Narrator: Georgina Sutton, Teresa Gallagher, Rachel Bavidge

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2014)

Length: 15 hours 28 minutes

Author’s Page

Opening in the mid-1500s England, the remaining Grey sisters (Catherine and Mary) are still in mourning after the execution of their elder sister, Lady Jane Grey. Mary Tudor rules England and holds strong, vehemently, to the Catholic faith. Religious executions become, perhaps not normal, but far too common as religious intolerance grows over the years. The plot takes place over several decades as Queen Mary Tudor is replaced by her half sister Queen Elizabeth Tudor. Much of the story is told through the eyes of Catherine and Mary Grey, along with their mother’s best friend, the court painter Levina Teerlinc. Catherine is a bit of a flirt and seeks love and safety in affection. Mary Grey, who was born with a crooked spine and a small stature (which becomes apparent with age) must rely on her wits as she has zero prospects for a marriage. With court intrigue ever threatening to turn them into the reigning monarch’s enemy, these ladies are hard pressed to stay out of trouble.

This was an excellent read. It’s that simple. I loved learning about this little corner of history that I was previously ignorant of. I greatly enjoyed the characters. The plot, while driven by history, was still captivating. While I had heard of Lady Jane Grey an her execution I had never considered her immediate family and what became of them. Her two younger sisters were kept close at court, I expect to see if they had any designs upon the throne that needed to be squelched quickly. Jane’s mother goes on to have a second marriage, one that removes her from court but not from worrying about her remaining daughters. With Mary Tudor on the throne, there is royal intrigue constantly circling the Greys as they have a strong claim to the throne via their Tudor blood.

From the artist Levina we learn some gruesome details about the weekly burnings of heretics as Queen Mary attempts to make the whole of England Catholic. Of course weekly executions are never really useful in maintaining a stable government. Queen Mary needs an heir. From Levina, I got a very good sense of constant tension she and the Greys were in. Those wishing for more religious freedom pushed for another queen, one who could reproduce. However, once Queen Elizabeth takes the throne, the Grey sisters may or may not be in worse circumstances.

With all that said, I believe my favorite character was Mary Grey. She is physically deformed in an age where good looks were associated with the grace of Heaven and bad looks (including birth deformations) were often considered the sign of the Devil. due to Mary’s small stature, she is often treated like an intelligent pet or a doll by the courtiers and the Queen. She is commanded to sit upon the Queen’s knee and keep her entertained with her quips. Mary also has to tolerate the rude remarks by the other court ladies when the Queen isn’t looking. Indeed, her life from a young age looks bleak except for the fact that she will never be eligible to rule England as she can bear no children. No, Mary must use her eyes, ears, and mind to sift her way through decades of court intrigue.

Catherine Grey is also interesting because she had so many love entanglements. She was married at a young age, and pretty much in name only, though the two younglings did their best to sneak a few kisses here and there. With the fall of the Greys from grace (execution of Jane Grey), the marriage was ignored by the parents. Catherine goes through a few years of keeping a few young men dancing on their toes around her. Early on, I found her quite vapid, which suited her character’s actions. But as time went on and life became more serious for her, I found myself getting attached to her character too.

Levina Teerlinc as not quite an anomaly of her time; she earned the bulk of the yearly income with her court paintings and kept her household staffed and fed. In an age where so many women were dependent on a husband or male relative, she stood out in this regard. The author included an afterward in which she explained that very little is known about Levina and she was required to make several educated guesses about Levina’s life. I say she did a very good job and made Levina quite believable.

This book makes history interesting not only for showing what the women were up to, but also capturing how the whim of a monarch can affect so many at this time and place in history. The ending was very satisfying, and there were a few poignant moments that got a little tear from me. That speaks to how attached I became to some of these characters.

The Narration: I think the publisher did the listener a good turn when they decided to employ three narrators for this book. I felt that all the female characters were given greater distinction with the additional narrators. Each of them performed well and feel there was good continuation from one to the other when the point of view shifted. I especially loved the main narrator for Catherine as she caught her often silly and sometimes vapid inner monologue quite well. I truly felt like I was listening to the inner thoughts of a love struck fool.

What I Liked: I feel I am no longer an ignoramus on this facet of history; the characters were excellent; the plot, even knowing the general outline, was still riveting; Mary Grey was a most fascinating character; Levina stood out as being employable and monetarily self-sufficient; the explanatory afterword; the narration.

What I Disliked: No dislikes on this one.

What Others Think:

History and Women

Madame Guillotine

Bibliophile’s Reverie

These Little Words

Historical Novel Society

Tudor Book Reivews

Shiny New Books

Killer Aphrodite

Luxury Reading

Edwin: High King of Britain by Edoardo Albert

AlbertEdwinHighKingofBritainWhy I Read It: I knew little about this time period in England and wanted to begin my exploration through this book.

Where I Got It: A review copy via the blog tour hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Anyone who enjoys old English history from before England was one united country.

Publisher: Lion Fiction (2014)

Length: 351 pages

Series: Book 1 The Northumbrian Thrones

Author’s Page

Set in the 600s AD in what would some day be called England, the various small kingdoms jokey for supremacy. We enter the story with Edwin, who is a grown man with a deceased wife and two sons. He has also lost his father and his kingdom to the never ceasing political intrigues and warring kingdoms. This time and place is undergoing change. The Anglo-Saxons hold to the old ways, in language, politics, and religion, while the Britons are introducing ideas, language, and religion from the European continent. As you might guess, the culture clashes this causes adds to the grief and consternation of many of our characters, and makes for a riveting story.

The story is well-paced, keeping the reader engaged and moving the story forward without shorting the reader on plot or character development. As Edwin struggles to gain rulership and then hold it, he has to pay price after price. Some of those prices haunt him in the ghosts of the deceased. I really enjoyed the historical aspects of this book: travel by sea was often safer and quicker; having a private room was a luxury reserved for the ruler of the hall and his lady; a war between two kingdoms could have been as little as 100 men (the total of the trained, fighting forces of both factions). Life was gritty, hard, and for many, way too short.

The religious aspect was presented in context, the author showing the mistrust and misunderstanding inherent on both sides. Since each side claims to speak for some supreme being(s), and each side has their rituals (often viewed as magic or casting curses by the other), there were often misunderstandings and sometimes outright competition for supremacy. Edwin, in his rulership, has to learn to walk a fine line trying to keep all happy and from killing each other.

Now here comes my one criticism. The women are few and far between. They occasionally play some pivotal point, but those scenes were sometimes cut short. For instance, Edwin must take a second wife and she suggests he allow her to sit in on his council meetings. He grants her this, even allows her to speak, but before we get to hear her persuasive words, the scene cuts to the hall singer. Once we return to the council, the decision has been made and the meeting is breaking up.  The women have limited roles in this book, so I would have liked to see those roles flushed out and made whole in living color.

Even with that one fault, I often found myself staying up way too late reading this book. It’s engaging, educational, gripping at times. Many of the characters are neither good nor bad, all of them being heroes in their own minds, and all of them doing some harm to another. I like my characters like that as I find myself able to connect with nearly all of them at some point throughout the book. This book is a worthy read and I look forward to the second in the series.

What I Liked: Plenty of history with accuracy; conflict due to culture clashes; very interesting characters.

What I Disliked: Could use more women.

Places to Find Edoardo Albert

 Website

Twitter

Facebook

Follow The Tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Monday, August 25
Review at Princess of Eboli
Review at 2 Book Lovers Reviews

Tuesday, August 26
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Wednesday, August 27
Review at Dab of Darkness

Thursday, August 28
Interview & Giveaway at Dab of Darkness

Monday, September 1
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Tuesday, September 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, September 3
Review at The Writing Desk
Review at The Mad Reviewer

Friday, September 5
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Monday, September 8
Review at A Book Geek
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Tuesday, September 9
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, September 10
Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Interview & Giveaway at Thoughts in Progress

Friday, September 12
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Monday, September 15
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Tuesday, September 16
Review at Layered Pages

Thursday, September 18
Review & Giveaway at Beth’s Book Reviews

Friday, September 19
Review at Book Drunkard

AlbertEdwin_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Interview & Giveaway: Edoardo Albert, Author of Edwin: High King of Britain

AuthorEdoardoAlbertIt is my pleasure to have Edoardo Albert on the blog today. His novel, Edwin: High King of Britain, is the first in the series chronicling the Christian kings of England of old. Come enjoy our chat on historical figures, Tolkien, how the Anglo-Saxons took their swearing seriously, and more! Scroll down for info on the Giveaway!

Who are some of your favorite historical villains? Who are some of your favorite historical heroes? In general, are these villains and heroes misunderstood by the modern public?

Of course, Aristotle was right: all men act according to what they see as good – even the worst men in history do not get up in the morning to twirl their mustaches and cackle, “What is the evillest thing I can do today?” But yet, men do evil, and great evil at that. A favorite villain must be one with a certain style and panache, so I suppose someone like Napoleon would rank at the top of the tree there: a man whose vanity and energy plunged Europe into a decade and a half of war, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and a world remade, yet whose charisma was such that he is still regarded as a hero as much as a villain. Such was his personal magnetism that I’m sure if I’d been in his orbit I would have ended up circling the Napoleonic sun along with all his other satellites. As for heroes, you’d be hard put to do better than William Wilberforce and the others who campaigned, and succeeded, in ending an institution as old as humanity and one that no one could really have imagined could be ended: slavery. But, since evil lacks imagination, slavery and human trafficking is on the way back, for what better way to demonstrate pure power than to own other human beings.

As to these and other historical figures being misunderstood, it depends on where you stand on the debate as to whether one can enter into any other age in any real way. The cultural and historical relativists have strong arguments, but in the end, as a writer, I plump for the belief that the fundamentals of human existence unite us through the ages. Besides, all men consider their time to be normal, and in writing historical fiction that is one of the great rules to bear in mind when dealing with the strangeness of past cultures.

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

To be honest, mostly by ignoring them. Bathroom breaks are the common lot of humanity and although the toilet difficulties in pre-modern times are quite interesting they are better dealt with a non-fiction book (in fact, that could be a whole new book right there – Toilet Habits of the Past!). Anglo-Saxon swear words have transferred all too well to modern English, so I haven’t felt any particular need to include them, and a characteristic of pre-modern and barely literate peoples was a far greater reverence for language, so even the cursing was better done. There’s quite a bit about travel in Edwin: High King of Britain, for with roads being generally poor, rivers and sea were more highways than obstructions.

AlbertEdwinHighKingofBritainMyths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

At the most surface level, it has spawned various fandoms, from Harry Potter to Tolkien geeks to Trekkies. The writers of the golden age of science fiction were indirectly responsible for the space race, their writing inspiring many of the scientists and engineers that worked on the Apollo missions. Modern fantasy fiction seems to have had a more diffused effect; it’s probably stepped into the void left by the decline of religious belief in some countries of the old West, although in that case its more placebo than anything else. I suspect the jury is still out as to whether its long-term effects will be for good or ill.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

The Lord of the Rings. It still stands head and shoulders above all modern fantasy, and to read it again would be to enter Middle-earth afresh – who wouldn’t want to do that?

What nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

For the world of Edwin – a very real but only dimly perceived world – the two foremost documents are Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Without them, we would have only archaeology, which is vital for a deep understanding of a world but leaves us without names or actors within that world. Apart from these foundational sources, there has been a great deal of excellent scholarship on the period, notably by James Campbell (a different Campbell to the one who wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces), Peter Hunter Blair and Nick Higham. I’ve also hugely benefited from my conversations with my archaeologist co-writer of Northumbria: the Lost Kingdom, Paul Gething, who shared his expertise, knowledge and passion for the period with me through many long conversations.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Apart from Paul, my wife and children. Harriet is my first reader, my best critic and, as an actress and voice teacher, the perfect person to read my stories out loud to me; there is no better way to learn if something works or not than to hear it read to you. And having a family has simultaneously reduced the time I have available to write by half but increased my productivity when I do write by something like fiftyfold – I have reason to write other than myself now!

Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Thucydides and Herodotus are on my to read list, along with the Aeneid, from the Classical period. The lack of sources for the early Anglo-Saxon era means that it’s really not that difficult to read everything that’s survived from then, and Bede is such a pleasure to read that I return to him frequently.

With the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

I would hope it means that people will read more widely; I suspect that little of the self-consciously literary fiction of the second half of the twentieth century has any lasting value, but some of the genre novels will survive as long as people read – Stephen King is a better chronicler of our times than the vast majority of literary novelists. As to me, I read widely as a matter of course, so I’d be delighted to be lured out of my comfort zone.

If you could go enjoy a meal in a historical setting (time travel, here we come!), where/when would that be, and what would you eat? Who would you invite from that time and place to sup with you?

Gosh, that’s a tough question! Part of me would like to attend the Last Supper, but I’m not sure I could bear to be present for the events of the day afterwards. Apart from that, I’d like to invite Dante and Boccacio to a high medieval feast in Italy – days of feasting, song and conversation – and then to drop into the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford in the 1930s when Tolkien, Lewis and the Inklings were all in full flow.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Read! Bring up children. Day job – the usual stuff writers do when they’re not writing.

I snooped around on your website. You have written in several genres: SFF short stories, history books, a biography of Tolkien, a children’s book, historical texts on Islamic philosophers. Which do you find more challenging: the non-fiction or fiction works? Are there genres you would like to branch out into even further? Do you work on more than one book at a time?

Non-fiction and fiction present different challenges. With non-fiction the first and greatest challenge is to tell the truth. Of course, that’s also the challenge of fiction, but the templates of truth are different in each case. Non-fiction requires adherence to sources, proper understanding and sifting of contemporary scholarship – with its enthusiasms and biases – and synthesis; there’s always more you could write! Fiction demands the writer remains true to the story and its characters, removing himself from them as far as is possible. I think working in different areas has benefited me hugely as a writer and I’d definitely hope to write in further genres; in fact, a book I’ve been commissioned to write on the spiritual history of London is turning into something of a new genre in itself: part history, part travel, part spiritual autobiography, I’m making it up as I go along! When writing, I usually just write one book at a time, but I’ll probably be reading and researching the next at the same time.

Thank you for your questions; they really made me think hard!

About the Book

Debut historical fiction series vividly recreating the rise of the Christian kings of Northumbria, England.

In 604 AD, Edwin, the deposed king of Northumbria, seeks refuge at the court of King Raedwald of East Anglia. But Raedwald is urged to kill his guest by Aethelfrith, Edwin’s usurper. As Edwin walks by the shore, alone and at bay, he is confronted by a mysterious figure–the missionary Paulinus– who prophesies that he will become High King of Britain. It is a turning point.

Through battles and astute political alliances Edwin rises to power, in the process marrying the Kentish princess Aethelburh. As part of the marriage contract the princess is allowed to retain her Christian faith. But, in these times, to be a king is not a recipe for a long life.

This turbulent and tormented period in British history sees the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon settlers who have forced their way on to British shores over previous centuries, arriving first to pillage, then to farm and trade–and to come to terms with the faith of the Celtic tribes they have driven out.

The dramatic story of Northumbria’s Christian kings helped give birth to England as a nation, English as a language, and the adoption of Christianity as the faith of the English.

Places to Find Edoardo Albert

 Website

Twitter

Facebook

Giveaway!

Edoardo Albert has one paperback copy of Edwin: High King of Britain. The giveaway is open to US, UK and Canada residents. In order to enter, leave a comment answering this question: What historical figure would you like to read a historical fiction on? I’ll select at the end of the book tour (midnight September 19th, 2014). Leave me a way to contact you in the comment (email, twitter, etc.). Good luck!

Follow The Tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Monday, August 25
Review at Princess of Eboli
Review at 2 Book Lovers Reviews

Tuesday, August 26
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Wednesday, August 27
Review at Dab of Darkness

Thursday, August 28
Interview & Giveaway at Dab of Darkness

Monday, September 1
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Tuesday, September 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, September 3
Review at The Writing Desk
Review at The Mad Reviewer

Friday, September 5
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Monday, September 8
Review at A Book Geek
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Tuesday, September 9
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, September 10
Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Interview & Giveaway at Thoughts in Progress

Friday, September 12
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Monday, September 15
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Tuesday, September 16
Review at Layered Pages

Thursday, September 18
Review & Giveaway at Beth’s Book Reviews

Friday, September 19
Review at Book Drunkard

AlbertEdwin_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

All Clear by Connie Willis

WillisAllClearWhy I Read It: I loved the first book in this duology, Blackout.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To: WWII historical fiction fans who don’t mind a bit of time travel.

Narrator: Katherine Kellgren

Publisher: Audible Frontiers (2010)

Length: 23 hours 46 minutes

Series: Book 2 All Clear

Author’s Page

If you haven’t read Blackout, you need to do so before reading this book because the All Clear definitely needs it in order to understand the characters and setting.

This was an amazing conclusion to the party started by my favorite characters in Blackout. Eileen, Polly, and Mike are still trapped in WWII England during the Blitz with none of their drops opening. They come up with several creative ways to let Oxford of 2060 know where and when they are all the while trying to affect the timeline of WWII as little as possible. But despite their best of intentions, they are each thrown into situations where they simply can’t stand back and do nothing. Which of course causes them to doubt that age old rule about time travel: Historians can’t affect the timeline. Polly and Mike, our experienced travelers, try to keep their concerns about having affected the timeline from Eileen (because it is her first assignment). Lots of action in this meticulously researched book.

I am going to go all gushy on this book and try very very hard not to spoil any plot points. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and had a hard time putting it down. If I ever have to do high school History Class again, please let them assign any of Connie Willis’s time travel novels! If I had had this book in high school, I might have gone on to major in History instead of Environmental Science. WWII had so much happening in it that I was totally oblivious to. For England, everyone was affected by the War, and nearly everyone had a role to play in it – young, old, woman, man, chorus girls, rectors, fire fighters, puzzle solvers, shop girls, and nurses. That is something that I really didn’t understand until I read this duology. All the wars I have been alive for have been fought on foreign soil and my daily life has not been affected by them. I feel a little uncomfortable saying that, now that I know how much WWII affected the world.

The characters were so much fun. Of course we have our main characters (Eileen, Polly, and Mike) but even the side characters all have these little ticks and notches that make them very real and personable. I especially loved the Hodbin children (Vinny and Alf) in book 1 and they have an appearance in book 2. Mr. Humphreys and Sir Godfrey, the chorus girls, and the ambulance drivers, even the characters from 2060 – they all make an excellent backdrop for our main characters. At first, I was a little frustrated that Mike and Polly wanted to keep so much from Eileen (to keep her from worrying) even though they are all stuck in the same barrel of sharks. But by the end, Eileen proves to be very resilient. So my initial frustration turned into deep satisfaction when Eileen is proven to be made of stern stuff.

This book has more than one plot line. We have Mike, Polly, and Eileen in the Blitz and then skip forward a few more years and we have Ernest towards the end of the war working with the puzzle solvers and Intelligence team that gave out false info in order to fool the Germans. We also have Mary, an ambulance driver, during the V1 and V2 rocket bombardment. Then we also have little snippets of 2060 Oxford. Towards the end of the book, we get one or two more short timelines. Despite all that, I felt it wasn’t too hard to follow. Perhaps this is because each chapter starts with a time and location.

The ending wrapped up questions about time travel, and required sacrifice. It was a beautiful ending that really spoke to the underlying theme of the ‘unsung hero’, those who served the country simply by holding it together. If you are one of those folks who have found WWII to be a dull topic, I ask you to give these books a chance – they could very well change your mind.

The Narration: Katherin Kellgren did a great job with this large cast of characters, nearly all of them with English accents. I loved how patient Eileen sounded, how the Hodbins could put curiosity and fake innocence into such simple sentences, and Mike’s American accent. The audio version of this book has a short forward by the author in which she explains some of her inspiration for a few of the characters in the books.

What I Liked: Time travel is used as a tool and it doesn’t go all mystical trying to explain the physics of how it works; I learned a lot about WWII from this duology; there’s a bit of Shakespeare; the Hodbins and Alf’s pet snake; how everyone was affected by the war and had to chip in and help out; very satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: If you aren’t paying attention, you may get a little muddled on the timelines (but you can always flip to the chapter heading to figure out when you are).

What Others Think:

The Book Smugglers

SF Reviews

SF Site

Adventures in Scifi Publishing

Medieval Bookworm

Shanghai Sparrow by Gaie Sebold

SeboldShanghaiSparrowWhy I Read It: It was the cover.

Where I Got It: ARC from Netgalley (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Steampunk fans!

Publisher: Solaris (2014)

Length: 373 pages

Series: Book 1 Shanghai Sparrow

Author’s Page

Set in Victorian times, Eveline (Evie) Duchen and her family live in the country, a life of privilege, and also a life that rubs elbows with the Fae. But then tragedy strikes, and Evie, her sister Charlotte, and her mother must move to the city and live with her uncle. But then tragedy strikes again and Evie finds herself living on the streets, until she is taken in by the steampunk tinker Ma Pether.  From there, things get even more odd for Evie. A British agent (Mr. Holmforth), who is stationed in Shanghai, has an unhealthy interest in the little known (and quite under appreciated) science called Etherics. Believing that Evie has inherited some family talent for this esoteric field, he hunts her down. And that is when she finds herself forced into a school for girls, one that trains them to be spies for the British Empire.

The world of Evie was so easy to fall into. The steampunk and fairy elements weren’t all glitzy and distracting. No, they were subtle and a part of Evie’s every day life. And that allowed me to focus on Evie and her storyline, which was very engaging. She’s cheeky, but also tries very hard to take care of those she cares about. Her life of hard knocks has taught her the value of listening at doors, sneaking around, and being nimble of mind as well as foot. And all those skills are put to the test in her interactions with Mr. Holmforth.

The story actually starts with Mr. Holmforth in Shanghai. He’s trying to climb the ranks of the bureaucracy of the British Empire but something about his bloodlines holds him back. Or rather the prejudices of his fellow workers and, well, the whole British society hold him back. We learn he is scheming, trying to get his hands on a weapon in development that could launch his career, make him a shining star in the eyes of his coworkers.  And then he tracks down Evie and only tells her the barest of information while motivating her with promises of security balanced by threats to those she calls friend.

I loved the way the Fae in and out in this story. We learn a tiny smidgeon of their lives away from humans, but mostly we see how Evie interacts with a few choice Fae. They find humans a pleasant distraction, and interesting digression from their normal lives. Liu, who is more fox than linguistics teacher, shows more of an interest in Evie and her talent in Etherics. In fact, he is the one to give a most potent warning: Do not threaten the Fae, for if they take you seriously, they will annihilate all of humanity. Gulp! That can’t be good. So Evie has to try to navigate that while keeping Mr. Holmforth happy.   

If I have to put down a criticism it is that the story starts out with Mr. Holmforth in Shanghai, and then jumps in time and location to Evie in England. It took me a while to figure out that not only had a geographical leap been made, but also a chronological one. That was early on in the book and I got over it quickly and went on to happily enjoy the rest of the novel.

Steampunk, fairies, precocious young lady, secret spy school for young girls, and an esoteric science known as Etherics. Yeah, all that goodness wrapped up in an awesome book cover. go get yourself a copy!

What I Liked: Evie was so easy to connect with; little bits of steampunk placed into the crannies and corners of the narrative; Liu and his foxy tail; the side story of Charlotte; how Evie sorts it all out; spy school for young ladies; the cover.

What I Disliked: There was one leap in time and place early on in the narrative that threw me off. But I got over it. 🙂

What Others Think:

Tolerably Smart

Drunken Dragon Reviews

Koeur’s Book Reviews

Silas Marner by George Eliot (pen name of Mary Ann Evans)

A warm fire makes a snoozy kitty.
A warm fire makes a snoozy kitty.

Why I Read It: It was highly recommended by a friend.

Where I Got It: Borrowed from a friend.

Who I Recommend This To: If you are into classics that have strong moral storyline, then you might be interested in this book.

Narrator: Nadia May (AKA Wanda McCaddon)

Publisher: Blackstone Audio (2008)

Length: 6 CDs

Author’s Page

Silas Marner is a weaver in 1800s England. The story starts out with a stolen pocket knife and a bit of coin and Silas is accused of taking both. His friends and society believe him guilty and so he leaves, embittered, to go live near a small village called Raveloe. There, Silas continues to work as a weaver, leading a solitary life. Little by little, he builds up his hoard of coins. His life becomes three activities: weaving, delivery of weaving for payment, and counting his coins nightly. He’s a very lonely man and quite OK with that. Next, we jump to the brothers Godfrey and Dunstan Cass. They are troublemakers – making trouble for others and for themselves. Their father, Squire Cass, is the biggest landowner in the area. While Godfrey married secretly, and keeps his wife and child at arm’s length stashed away in poverty, Dunstan has some money troubles. Someone steals Silas’s coins and that same night a child wanders in to his place to warm up from the winter snow. A woman is found dead on the path that leads to Silas’s house. Silas adopts the kid and raises her as his own.

A weaver friend of mine lent this book to me because I am also a weaver. It is my first George Eliot book. I found it rather boring. The story could have been told as a novelette and gotten the same moral points across. I also found the moral points to be one-sided and hence, not interesting. The characters are pretty much one-dimensional never really straying from their initial set of traits. There are a few women in this book, but they have very minor, slim roles: mother, wife, lover, daughter.

Also, there was a religious bent to it that I didn’t fully get. Silas came from northern England and there attended chapel. Whereas in Raveloe people attend church. I am not too sure what the distinction is and how it relates to 1800s England. But it was clear that church was the way to go if you wanted to be a fine upstanding citizen. Also there was one scene where a neighbor’s wife comes over with her youngest to teach Silas some basics of child care and she brings lard cakes. She uses a stamp (probably iron) to put some letters in to the top of the lard cakes while squishing them flat (IHS) which she assumes are good letters as she sees them at the church. She is illiterate and doesn’t know what they mean and the book never explains to the reader assuming everyone will know. When I see IHS, I think industrial hygienists. But I am guessing these stand for some Latin religious phrase. The religious bent itself didn’t bother me; the lack of explanation so that I, the reader, can fully understand the culture bothered me.

The book ends with a strong scene that upholds the morals already laid out in the book. While the over all message seems to be that love is extremely important to a happy life, it is given to the reader is a very high-handed way.

Narration: The narration was decent. Each of the female characters had individual voices. Silas’s voice was well done. The various Casses kind of blended together, but they are related so I can see how the narrator wanted them to all sound similar. The best voice was that of Dolly Winthrope, the neighbor’s wife who helps Silas with his young charge.

What I Liked: This is was a small slice of 19th century conservative small-village England.

What I Disliked: The pacing was slow; the characters were one-dimensional; rather heavy on the morals.

What Others Think:

50 Year Project

Becky’s Book Reviews

Jules’ Book Reviews

Katherine Bailey on Books

Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

FremantleQueensGambitWhy I Read It: I think it’s obvious by now that I enjoy reading books set in the Tudor time period, and this fit in nicely.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Tudor fans and those who enjoy women’s historical fiction.

Narrator: Georgina Sutton

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2013)

Length: 14 hours 24 minutes

Katherine Parr is about to be twice widowed, tending her elderly husband in his final sickness. He is in great pain, and Katherine knows something of the herbs that ease his pain, and can ease his passing. However, she hesitates as she also holds not only her immortal soul in her care, but also her husband’s. Once he passes, Katherine is summoned to the English court by Lady Mary, King Henry VIII’s daughter. Katherine (Kit) happily attends Mary, and introduces her stepdaughter, Meg, who is not only recovering from her father’s recent death, but also from the violent religious uprisings of only a few months past. The English court is full of various perils, for both the wise and the young such as Kit, Meg, and their close confidant Dot (their personal maid and friend). As the King sets his eyes on Kit for his sixth wife, the ladies become closer.

This is a rich and thoroughly engaging book, alternating between Kit’s and Dot’s point of view, giving the readers both the royal and kitchen scene. The main characters walk onto the page fully formed, with back stories and goals of their own. I was easily drawn into the story. I will say that briefly, I wondered if this was Book 2 in a series because the main characters are dealing with the after effects of events that happened a few months previous to the opening of this book. Indeed, I even went so far as to check on various book sites, and finally checking the author’s site – and this is indeed Book 1. Still, I had that little niggling feeling that I was missing some part of the story.

That aside, I loved listening to the two points of view. Dot, as the maid, has greater run of the castles and grounds, but she also has to do all the packing and unpacking as the court rotates through the various royal residences. Kit has all the fancy clothes and jewels (which are quite weighty), but nearly all her motions, her life in fact, is dictated by King and court needs.

Spanning several years, the book encompasses various historical characters and tackle the numerous religious questions of the Reformation without being preachy. I had a true sense of the predicament Kit found herself in, having her personal views the opposite of Lady Mary, and periodically, opposite to hose of the mercurial King Henry.

As much as I enjoyed this novel, with it’s insights into Katherine Parr’s life, I must bring up my one criticism. Only the main female characters have any depth; all the male characters are one dimensional. Not only that, but all the male characters commit some wrong towards the lead ladies in some form. A few regret their trespasses and they are portrayed in a gentler light. Since the story lacked a single male with altruistic motives and characteristics throughout the novel, the story was a slightly unbalanced. True, the 1500s were not a time where gender equality was even thought of, so perhaps this was done on purpose to provide the backdrop if blatant and socially acceptable gender inequality.

Even with that criticism, I would not pass up another book by Elizabeth Fremantle. The writing and pacing were well done, keeping me engaged. It was obvious a sizable amount of research went into the book, and the details were definitely appreciated by this reader.

The Narration: Georgina Sutton had distinct voices and accents for the main characters, and a variety of male voices (those these sometimes slipped a little to the feminine). I enjoyed her sniffs and sneers for the various snotty expressions by the characters.

What I Liked: Rich historical backdrop; even knowing the historical facts, I was still fascinated to see how this author would play out the narrative; Dot became my favorite character; the ending was bitter sweet and a perfect fit for the story.

What I Disliked: I initially thought this was Book 2 because of the numerous references to events that occurred prior to the the beginning of Book 1; all the male characters are one dimensional and users of one sort or another.

What Others Think:

Flashlight Commentary

Let Them Read Books

The Tudor Book Blog

So Many Books So Little Time

Medieval Bookworm