November 3, 2017

Heartstone by C. J. Sansom

Title:  Heartstone
Author:  C. J. Sansom
Pages:   634
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Series:  Shardlake, Book 5

Synopsis:  Summer, 1545. England is at war. Henry VIII's invasion of France has gone badly wrong, and a massive French fleet is preparing to sail across the Channel. As the English fleet gathers at Portsmouth, the country raises the largest militia army it has ever seen. The King has debased the currency to pay for the war, and England is in the grip of soaring inflation and economic crisis.

Meanwhile Matthew Shardlake is given an intriguing legal case by an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr. Asked to investigate claims of 'monstrous wrongs' committed against a young ward of the court, which have already involved one mysterious death, Shardlake and his assistant Barak journey to Portsmouth. Once arrived, Shardlake and Barak find themselves in a city preparing to become a war zone; and Shardlake takes the opportunity to also investigate the mysterious past of Ellen Fettipace, a young woman incarcerated in the Bedlam.

The emerging mysteries around the young ward, and the events that destroyed Ellen's family nineteen years before, involve Shardlake in reunions both with an old friend and an old enemy close to the throne. Events will converge on board one of the King's great warships, primed for battle in Portsmouth harbour: the Mary Rose...

Review:  I love these books.  Matthew Shardlake is such an interesting and likable character.  This was a great mystery.  I had no idea what had happened in either of the cases being investigated and when the answer was revealed, I was completely surprised.  I love when that happens!

The historical portions of these books are always very detailed and it's obvious that much time and research went into making them as realistic as possible.  How the common man lived in these times is horrendous and wartime is even worse.

Some of the previous stories were more exciting, but this one was very good.  I can't wait to get the next (and I'm afraid the last) book of this series.

Rating:  10 / 10

October 27, 2017

Fortress of Ice by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Fortess of Ice
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  402
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Tristen, Book 5

Synopsis:  Two surprising allies have emerged to aid the embattled ruler in a struggle he must win: Cefwyn's two young sons. Aewyn Marhanen is the prince destined to rule. Aewyn's half-brother, Elfwyn Aswydd—the bastard son of the king and the sorceress Tarien Aswydd—has spent years unaware of his parentage, yet now it is his time to emerge and claim the gifted birthright he's been denied for so long.

But a dark, sinister magic has crept close to the young man and seized hold of the kingdom. Nothing is as it seems, as the bonds of family strain against the powerful forces that would see them undone—and the battle is joined to unmask and destroy the malevolence that threatens to unhinge the king's peaceful and fragile reign.

Review:  I was upset at the very beginning of this novel.  The first few pages are supposedly a synopsis of the events that happened in the past books, but some of the events never happened.  The author used this three page description to add facts that never actually took place in the books.  It didn't bode well to me.  But, the story was solid.  It's set 15 years after book 4 so perhaps the inclusion of information that wasn't previously revealed is excusable, but it felt a little bit like cheating.

Either way, Cefwyn's two sons are honest and loyal young men.  Their determination and love for one another is stronger than the dark forces that stand against them.  It wasn't my favorite of this series -- Tristen, Uwen and even Cefwyn are secondary characters in this tale.  Aewyn and Elfwyn, both sons of King Cefwyn, are by far the more important roles.

Still, this was a wonderful, fantastical ride and I highly recommend the entire series to anyone who loves some really good fantasy.

Rating:  8 / 10

October 20, 2017

Fortress of Dragons by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Fortress of Dragons
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  422
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Tristen, Book 4

Synopsis:  It started long ago, in a tower at the Eye of Time, as a war between the shadowy Immortals who came before our kind. That war persists today, as the wizard Mauryl's Shaping confronts the Shadows that Hasufin summoned from Chaos against the Siddhe lords.

Tristen is that Shaping, a halfling creature of Fire and Shadow. Both more and less than human, he turned back sorcery's tides in the legend-heavy battle of Lewenbrook. Tristen's victory brought his friend Cefwyn the burden of a Kingdom, Ylesuin, and the light of a love that would outlast the ages - Ninevrise, with her gift of prophecy.

But the Lines that hold the world in place are shifting once again. The lightning-sheeted sky is aflame with sorcery's terror and magic's promise. Tasmorden has raised an army of rebels, and planted betrayers in Cefwyn's Dragon Guard. Once again, Cefwyn's peril is Tristen's call to arms.  Astride black-maned Dys, with the eyes of Owl and the counsel of Auld Syes, with the friendship of Crissand and the loyalty of Uwen, Tristen takes up his sword inscribed with "Truth" and "Illusion" back-to-back on its blade.

But the day will not be won by iron edges. Even Tristen's double-edged sword cannot cut through the knot of this new challenge. For Tristen is facing more than a pretender to Cefwyn's throne. The Shadows he sees are not from the overwhelmed sun, but straight from Ruin - a flow of darkness covering the world like ink.  If sorcery is wizardry gone askew, what is magic's dark side? A wind, as nameless as the abyss from which it rises and as cold as the knowledge of Tristen's true origin....

Review:  This was meant to be the last book in the series, I think.  But the author wrote a fifth one, so there is more story and I've already started it.   This book was wonderful and had very many good parts in it.  The characters are still believable and Uwen is still my favorite.

However, there were parts that weren't so much fun this time around.  The national religion seems determined to hate anything they don't understand.  And they don't understand Tristen.  Even so, I can't wait to read the ending to this marvelous tale, although I'll be sorry to see it end.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

October 12, 2017

Fortress of Owls by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Fortress of Owls
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  394
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Tristen, Book 3

Synopsis:  "I Dreamed of Owl. That Means Wizardry is Near."

Tristen is a weapon in an ancient war between wizardry and sorcery. He is a summoning and a shaping, brought to life by a wizard. And his sword is a weapon as well. Its keen blade, marked Illusion on one side and Truth on the other, once helped Tristen win the throne of Ylesuin for the young king Cefwyn, gaining Tristen the stewardship of the brave country of Amefel.

Tristen's rule in Amefel is blessed with two extraordinary friends: one a stalwart and simple warrior, the other a young rebel with royal blood. But the scarlet banners of war are unfolding again, and far more than a kingdom is at stake. Now Tristen must take up the sword--as well as the Sihhë magic he has forsworn. He is destiny's own, created a combatant in a far older and more fearsome conflict than any ever imagined by mere mortal man. And he is about to do battle once more. . . .

Review:  Owl, a Shadow from Tristen's first days after his Summoning, has returned.  Owl is, well, an owl, but he's also a Shadow and somehow tied up in the plans Mauryl made for Tristen when he Summoned him.  He leads Tristen out of his city and into the winter snows to save two women.  The last two women Tristen would have chosen to see again.

Uwen is still my very favorite character, although I've also come to really like Ninevrise, King Cefwyn's new wife.  The army has gathered and war is coming with Spring.  I can't wait to read what happens next.

Rating:  10 / 10

October 5, 2017

Fortress of Eagles by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Fortress of Eagles
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  478
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Tristen, Book 2

Synopsis:  Tristen is both more and less than a man. A summoning, a shaping, he was brought to life by a wizard, to serve a king yet to be crowned.

Now the wizard is dead.  And young Cefwyn is king.

Cefwyn has a dream: a united Ylesuin, and a peace this land has never known.  Cefwyn needs his only friend, this young man of mysterious origins who is more brother than vassal. He relies on Tristen, and trusts him though he knows not why, as he plans the war that will bring his dream to pass...or bring ruin upon them all.

Review:  I love this series!  I tried two other books (both of which I couldn't finish) before I finally allowed myself to revisit Tristen, Cefwyn, Uwen, and all the rest of the great characters in this story.  Speaking of the story, there was plenty of excitement but not of the warlike kind.  The politicking and backstabbing of the courtiers was almost worse than war! 

Now, I'm geared up and determined.  I'm reading the rest of this series, three more books, non-stop.  Anything less is just a waste of my time.  I want to read more about Tristen, especially now that he's been made His Grace, Duke of Amefel, where the people cheer him as Lord Sihhe.

Rating:  10 / 10


September 26, 2017

The Husband by Dean Koontz

Title:  The Husband
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  415
Genre:  Thriller
Series:  None

Synopsis:  What would you do for love? Would you die? Would you kill?

We have your wife. You can get her back for two million cash. Landscaper Mitchell Rafferty thinks it must be some kind of joke. He was in the middle of planting impatiens in the yard of one of his clients when his cell phone rang. Now he’s standing in a normal suburban neighborhood on a bright summer day, having a phone conversation out of his darkest nightmare.

Whoever is on the other end of the line is dead serious. He has Mitch’s wife and he’s named the price for her safe return. The caller doesn’t care that Mitch runs a small two-man landscaping operation and has no way of raising such a vast sum. He’s confident that Mitch will find a way.  If he loves his wife enough. . .

Mitch does love her enough. He loves her more than life itself. He’s got seventy-two hours to prove it. He has to find the two million by then. But he’ll pay a lot more. He’ll pay anything.

Review:  This was a fast read and had plenty of excitement.  I just find so many of this author's stories to be so similar.  They are perfect for a plane ride or a day at the beach, but they aren't all that satisfying when I have so many better books to read.  Still, it was fun and a good story.

Rating:  5.5 / 10

September 22, 2017

Fortress in the Eye of Time by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Fortress in the Eye of Time
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  568
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Tristen, Book 1

Synopsis:  Deep in an abandoned, shattered castle, an old man of the Old Magic muttered almost forgotten words. His purpose -- to create out of the insubstance of the air, from a shimmering of light and a fluttering of shadows. that most wonderous of spells, a Shaping. A Shaping in the form of a young man who will be sent east on the road the old wizard was too old to travel. To right the wrongs of a long-forgotten wizard war, and call new wars into being.

Here is the long-awaited major new novel from one of the brightest stars in the fantasy and science fiction firmament.  C.J.Cherryh's haunting story of the wizard Mauryl, kingmaker for a thousand years of Men, and Tristen, fated to sow distrust between a prince and his father. A tale as deep as legend and a intimate as love, it tells of a battle beyond Time, in which all Destiny turns on the wheel of an old man's ambition, a young man's innocence, and the unkept promised of a king to come.

Review:  I very nearly gave up on this book at the beginning.  It's so detailed, with language so intricate, I was re-reading sentences over and over to make sense of them.  I persevered because I love this author.  I had faith it was worth the struggle.  Somewhere around the fifth chapter, I realized the writing was no longer bothering me.  It had become part of the magical, mythical setting in the story.  It made the story more real, which makes no sense unless you've read this story.

Mauryl the wizard and Tristen his Shaping are wonderful characters.  The evil they face is a Shadow named Hasufin and this being is horribly, wonderfully evil.  My favorite character though was Uwen.  He is assigned to be Tristen's guard and shield-mate, but he becomes Tristen's most trusted friend.  I completely loved Uwen.

I wish I had time right this second to read the next story.  There are four more and I'd binge read them all.  But, I have another book I need to read, so I'll save book two for later.

Rating:  10 / 10

September 14, 2017

Off the Page by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer

Title:  Off the Page
Author:  Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer
Pages:  359
Genre:  YA Fantasy
Series:  Between the Lines, Book 2

Synopsis:  Meet Oliver, a prince literally taken from the pages of a fairy tale and transported into the real world. Meet Delilah, the girl who wished Oliver into being. It’s a miracle that seems perfect at first. Sure, Oliver doesn’t know that you shouldn’t try to open your locker with a dagger or that there’s no such thing as “the ruler” of the local mall. But he also looks at Delilah as if she’s the only girl in the world --- the only girl in any world --- and Delilah can’t help feeling that being with him is a dream come to life.

But not every story can have a happy ending. Because the book wants Oliver back. And it will turn both worlds upside down to get him.

Oliver and Delilah will have to decide what --- and who --- they’re willing to risk for love and what it really means for a fairy tale to come true.

Review:  This book was a nice, happy ending to a fun YA series.  I can't say I'll be keeping these books, but I am glad I read them.

Rating:  6.5 / 10

September 7, 2017

Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer

Title:  Between the Lines
Author:  Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer
Pages:  352
Genre:  YA Fantasy
Series:  Between the Lines, Book 1

Synopsis:  What happens when happily ever after ... isn't?

Delilah hates school as much as she loves books. In fact, there's one book in particular she can't get enough of. If anyone knew how many times she has read and re-read the sweet little fairy tale she found in the library, especially the popular kids, she'd be sent to social Siberia forever.

To Delilah, though, this fairy tale is more than just words on the page. Sure, there's a handsome (well, okay, hot) prince, and a castle, and an evil villain, but it feels as if there's something deeper going on. And one day, Delilah finds out there is. Turns out, this Prince Charming is real, and a certain fifteen-year-old loner has caught his eye. But they're from two different worlds, and how can it ever possibly work?
"And how do you know that you're not part of a story book?  That someone's not reading your story right now?"
Review:  A book where the characters are real.  This is like The NeverEnding Story set in modern times and with a twist.  The prince from the fairy tale wants to come to the real world.  How much fun is that?  It's a whole lot of fun and the story has plenty of memorable characters.

While this is not my favorite of Ms. Picoult's books, it is a good read and it's very nice that she co-wrote it with her daughter.

Rating:  7 / 10
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