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J.T. Brannan : Extinction (review + Interview)

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JT Brannan is the Bradford-born author of Extinction, Origin and Stop at Nothing.

Trained as a British Army officer at Sandhurst, before deciding to pursue a writing career, he is a former national Karate champion and doorman.

He now writes full-time, and teaches martial arts in Harrogate, where he lives with his wife and two young children.

He is currently working on his next novel.

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 An extraordinary discovery in the Sahara desert will turn history on its head…

A series of unexplained phenomena create shockwaves across the globe – a huge religious statue moves its arm, and there’s a spate of floods and earthquakes. Many think it’s the end of the world…

Investigative journalist Alyssa Durham receives a call from an old friend claiming that these phenomena may not be entirely natural, but when he is assassinated in front of her, she finds herself on the run for her life.

Alyssa teams up with Jack Murray, a scientist from a secretive government research laboratory, to uncover the truth. But who wants them dead, and what are they trying to protect?

As chaos descends, Alyssa and Jack are drawn into a battle against an unknown enemy with the highest possible stakes, because one thing they’ve learnt is that nothing is safe from extinction..

Review

I had high hopes for this book and it didn’t let me down. When I first read the authors debut book Origin I found myself initially a little incredulous at the scope of the book. But then I re-read the book and found myself marvelling at the brass balls of the author, his ambition, drive and imagination to cover so many of the unanswered questions in the world, so many conspiracies under one book cover.

That however gave me a set of expectations for book 2, and initially my first read didn’t deliver that same ballsy scope, but then instead it delivered a quality thriller, and built to a world defining action packed book. One with great characters, ambitious global implications, high octane action and some very tight sparse fast paced writing.

As per book one JT Brannan keeps the reader guessing throughout the book, the edge of the seat action means that the book can easily be a single sitting read, 400 pages goes so fast. Its a real testament to the writing style, skill and the plot of the book.

I’m not going to explore the plot its self, the product description gives enough flavour, anymore is too open to spoilers. Suffice to say, nothing is as it seems, big brother is watching you, and nothing is to crazy and idea, it may just be true.

(Parm)

Q&A

Thank you for agreeing to answer some questions:

1: Book 1, what gave you the inspiration for such an insanely ambitious plot?

My agent asked me to come up with a high-concept thriller, and I remembered a story my wife and I had discussed one evening. We had been talking about advances in science, and wondering what effects this might have on a future society. How long could people live, after embracing genetic engineering, advanced medicine and nanotechnology? We decided that the most likely scenario would be that the rich – those who could afford it – would be the major beneficiaries, which might polarise society even more than it is today. What would result from such conflict? This discussion led me to develop a story which explored these ideas, but it was very much in the science fiction genre, and so the idea was shelved. But when my agent asked me for a unique, high-concept idea, I went back to this story and decided to twist it around and use it as the background for a contemporary action thriller. I’ve also always been interested in conspiracy theories, and I thought it might be fun to see if I could find links between any, in order to come up with a unique, all-encompassing conspiracy that could help to explain everything. Ambitious, as you say, but lots of fun!

2: After the high of book 1, book 2 is always a nail biter (congratulations on pulling it off) Was it hard having to start with new characters?

No, I really enjoyed it. It was a chance to explore different people with different ideas. In Extinction, neither Alyssa nor Jack have any sort of combat training, and I thought it would be interesting to see how these ‘non-professionals’ would cope when they’re hurled into a very dangerous environment. There’s a bit more of the ‘everyman’ about them than the characters in my first novel, and I think the result is really exciting. We really don’t know if they’re going to get through it or not.

3: What was the inspiration for book 2?

I’d read about HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) whilst researching Origin, and although it didn’t make an appearance there, I was very interested in what I found out and wanted to use it in another story. Essentially, it is a huge antenna array in the Alaskan wilderness, used to examine the ionosphere for the purposes of research into radio communications, navigation, and so on. But there are some people who claim that it is really intended to be used by the US military as a ‘weather weapon’, an ultimate WMD that can destroy entire countries through deliberately causing natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

I was also reading a lot about Gaia theory, the earth’s ongoing history of mass extinction events, various beliefs in a natural destruction/regeneration cycle and so on.

When I was thinking about my second book for Headline, it occurred to me that these two things put together might make for quite an interesting conflict, and therefore gave me the background to Extinction.

4: Without giving away any plot for book 2, book 3 will require new characters. Have you thought about a series using a repeated character?

Yes I have! My agent and editor have both asked me to explore such a venture, and so I am developing an idea for an ongoing series right now. I can’t say any more about it yet, but watch this space!

5: Will we see any more Mark Cole? (for those who have not read Stop at Nothing, do so its fantastic, the American Bond)

If there is enough interest, I would love to. I already have ideas about other adventures for Mark Cole, so maybe one day!

6: If you had to sell Extinction in your own words…..

Extinction is a fast-paced, exhilarating rollercoaster ride of a thriller, which deals with the most terrifying threat of all – the complete eradication of life as we know it.

7: Do you have your own writing process?

Not really anything laid out in stone, as such. The only thing is that after the concept phase, I like to research everything and plan it all out in meticulous detail, before I write a word of the actual novel itself. As far as the writing goes, I write at whatever time of day I can fit it in, wherever I happen to be. Sometimes I write at the dining table in our conservatory, other times I write in the café at our tennis club, and other times I write on the sofa whilst my daughter watches cartoons next to me. I’ll try and write an average of 1000 words a day, but this can range from absolutely nothing, up to 10,000 words if things are really flowing. I try and be as flexible as possible, which is important with a family. If the sun’s out and it’s a lovely day, we’ll all go out somewhere and I’ll write some other time.

8: Any tips to pass on to an aspiring thriller writer?

I think reading a lot is very important. You have to really love the genre, know it inside and out. I don’t mean you have to know anything about the authors, or remember every name of every character they’ve ever written; it’s more about the feel of the genre, how to get those ‘hooks’ in, how to get a reader to keep reading. Reading thrillers and trying to identify what makes the good ones work so well is a large part of this.

I would also recommend reading works on structuring stories too, as I believe it is vital for novels in the thriller genre to be properly constructed. If you set something up, there has to be a pay-off later in the book for instance. If not, the reader is going to feel cheated in some way. You have to know where the story’s heading, or you won’t be able to layer things in throughout; the ending will just appear out of nowhere, and again the reader might well feel cheated. Story by Robert McKee is good one to start with on this topic. It’s written from a movie screenplay perspective, but the principles hold up just the same for novels.

Another thing is to write. Everything needs to be practised if you want to be good at it, and writing is no exception. There comes a time when all the reading has been done, all the research, all the theory. There’s only one thing left, and that is the actual writing itself!

9: Top 5 favourite books?

Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy, First Blood by David Morrell, Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, and The Running Man by Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman.

 10: Book you wish you had written?

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. Who wouldn’t want to have invented James Bond?

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Filed under Action/ Adventure Thrillers, J T Brannan, Thrillers

Ben Kane : Clouds of War (Review)

Author: Ben Kane

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Author Bio

Click above for author bio info: (and visit his wonderful web site)

Book description

Clouds of War

Buy a Signed copy from Goldsboro Books

As Rome’s war with Carthage continues, two friends – now on opposing sides – confront each other in one of the most brutal sieges of all time. A new Hannibal novel by the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Forgotten Legion series.

213 BC. Syracuse. Under the merciless Sicilian sun, a city is at war.

Outside the walls, a vast Roman army waits. Yet the city’s incredible defences, designed by Archimedes, mean that Syracuse will not be taken easily.

A veteran of the bitter war since its beginning, Quintus is ready to give his life in the service of the Republic. But dangers face him from within his own ranks as well as from the enemy – who include his former friend, the Carthaginian, Hanno.

Hanno has been sent by his general Hannibal to aid Syracuse in its fight against Rome. Pledged to bring death to all Romans, he is diverted from his mission by the discovery of Quintus’ sister Aurelia, a captive within the city.

Two friends on opposing sides. A woman caught between them. They are about to meet in one of the most brutal sieges of all time.

Who will survive?

Review:

Its very easy for a lot of historical fiction to get classed as swords and sandals. Most peoples who dont read the genre have the impression thats its a bit of a dry, wordy style book with a lot of stabby stabby blood, war death maybe some sex and then the end. Firstly Swords and Sandals is so much more than that, there is humor, comradeship, tactics, fighting skills, characters and more, so never judge a book by its label.

That said Clouds of War is not swords and sandals in my opinion, so if you read the genre or not this book is something different, something much more personal, its a history lesson, its a life lesson, its a story of love, life, grief, both personal and national and romance. Its a book filled on a very personal level, it has an energy, a pace and a deep love of history you don’t find in many books, and not many authors have the skill to carry off.

As usual with my look at a book, i’m not going to risk spoilers, or try and pull apart the plot, too much chance of spoiling the book for others. The book blurb tells you all about this stage of the story of Hanno, Quintus and Aurelia. What i will talk about is once again is Ben’s amazing writing. There are a few authors who can leave me thinking about a book for more than an hour or so after i finish the review, There are even fewer who can elicit a real emotional response. Maybe i’m a sentimental old Granddad these days, but some of the familia led plot was just heartrending. I guarantee that this book will reduce some readers to absolute tears. Where with Anthony Riches you know that at some point someone is going to get a yard of steel through the guts, its almost part of the boys own action of it. With Ben it again is no surprise to see death, but it could be murder, famine, thirst, disease or war and it might not be just a family member it could be a whole village, a legion anyone. The man is so much more brutal when it comes to mortality, but only in terms of relaying the brutality of life and war in the ancient world.

Ben probably more than any writer shows you life in the ancient world, warts and all. And none of that should put a reader off, just the opposite, you MUST buy this book. This is the culmination of years of writing lessons learned, adding all the feedback, adding every nuance and experience to his writing skill.

This truly is a must buy Highly recommended book

(Parm)

Forgotten Legion Chronicles

1. The Forgotten Legion (2008)
2. The Silver Eagle (2009)
3. The Road to Rome (2010)
The Forgotten LegionThe Silver EagleThe Road to Rome
Hannibal
1. Enemy of Rome (2011)
2. Fields of Blood (2013)
3. Clouds of War (2014)
The Patrol (2013)
Enemy of RomeFields of BloodClouds of WarThe Patrol
 Spartacus
1. The Gladiator (2012)
2. Rebellion (2012)
The GladiatorRebellion
For those not aware authors Ben Kane, Anthony Riches & Russ Whitfield will be doing another fantastic charity walk in 2014

They are walking from Capua to the Forum in Rome in late April 2014, raising money for: MSF – Médecins Sans Frontières & Combat Stress. Last Year over £18,000 was raised, lets see if we can help them top that this year. (there is also a film crew this year, so i fully expect some fun, interesting and crazy footage in the near future)

Give Generously

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Filed under Ben Kane, Historical Fiction

Writing Historical Fiction and Fantasy By Miles and Christian Cameron

Writing Historical Fiction and Fantasy

By Miles and Christian Cameron

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Miles Cameron Fell Sword web site

Christian Cameron Website

Writing Historical Fiction and Fantasy: It’s something I’m asked all the time since I admitted to being Miles and Christian too–which is harder?

I hope I won’t appall you by saying that they are basically the same.  Heretical, I know.  I’ve been very interested in a conversation among my friends and some other authors online–I’ve discovered that most HisFic readers don’t read Fantasy, and most Fantasy readers don’t read HIsFic. Interesting.  I’d like to suggest to both groups that you try dabbling in the other, and I’ve tossed out the names of some of my favorites in this blog to give each group a place to start. Er–after you read all my books…

Anyway, I read both.  I love them both.  If I didn’t have to spend my waking hours reading history (right now its essays on the education of boys and girls in the early Renaissance) I’d read Ben Kane and SJA Turney and Anthony Riches–AND CJ Cherryh and Michael Scott Rohan and Scott Lynch.  I’d read them all, all day.  In between bouts of fighting in armour.

Anyway, here’s my point.  Historical fiction is, in a way, all fantasy.  The past is another country.  We cannot go there in the real world, and when we visit it in literature, we acknowledge a suspension of disbelief.  It is virtually impossible for us to understand Greek worship of the gods–or Roman.  It’s too far away.  Ancient Greek clothes?  I honestly think I know as much as anyone on the planet, and I’d kill for one bog-corpse in a 6th c. BCE chiton.  Want to start a fight at an academic party among people who study Classics?  Ask someone either 1) how a phalanx worked, or 2) what Socrates meant when he said almost anything.  So when I write that period (which I hear I do with some authority) I’m, in fact, creating a whole world.  It’s informed by hundreds of hours of serious research–but I won’t pretend I know.  NO ONE KNOWS.  Hell, we don’t even know if Alexander was a great general.  The first serious description of him was written down hundreds of years after he died.  And 50 BCE is as far removed from 300 BCE as 2015 AD is from 1765 AD…

But even more entertaining–all Fantasy is history.  (Out there somewhere, one of my friends is throwing my comments across the room).  But–it is.  No one–really–can write about anything but what they have experienced.  History–the written record of human experience–is just that, the sum total of all our stories.  I have never read a fantasy novel that didn’t owe virtually all its culture to history.  Tolkien?  Slam dunk.  Guy Gavriel Kay?  Obvious.  But even when you get to ‘original’ worlds–if they bother to ‘create’ economics or religion or weapons or armour…  One of my favorite fantasy series is ‘Wizard of Earthsea’ by Ursila LeGuin.  No part of her work is based on one simple history.  It’s not ‘Rome, disguised’ or ‘Greece’ or ‘Egypt.’  And yet every page is, in fact, informed by all those cultures, and the books would be very different if they were written in China…  My university D+D group (yes, friends, I am and was a D+D nerd) used to say we could type a borrowed culture in one weapon.  Curved swords or straight?  Dirk or dagger?  Bronze or iron?

When a fantasy novelist wants to truly understand the culture she’s creating–where can any of us possibly go for data but history?

By the way, I’ve read some awesome books that were purely speculative, about alternative cultures that bear little or no relation to history–on the surface.  Perdido Street Station by the superb China Mieville comes to mind–and yet, virtually every cultural allusion will return you to Victorian London; the whole novel is (to me) grounded in history. (The architecture, for example).

Of course, I’m a fanatical historian.  So I see everything through the lens of history.  But its not a bad lens, and it is the tool I use to focus my writing.  My Red Knight and Fell Sword are NOT set in Arthurian England. They are not set on Earth–even an alternate Earth.  In fact, they have a cosmology and everything–they are set in a multiverse not unlike Michael Morcock’s, because Mr. Morcock (whose work I also admire) was also a fan of medieval hermeticism.  In the Red Knight’s world, there is a Jesus and a Mohamed (at least, people believe in them) for reasons that may or may not be explained–but I know why.

That said, the real reason that many of my characters are Christian is because I wanted to write my skewed re-telling of the Arthurian tales in the same mythos from which they REALLY sprang–the Christian mythos.  It’s a fantastic set of beliefs that are arguably deeper, stranger, and better developed than anything any fantasy writer could invent…
That’s history.  Basically, the best stories ever told.  Our story.
Good reading!

Miles and Christian Cameron

Books by Miles/ Christian Cameron

Traitor Son Cycle
1. The Red Knight (2012)
2. The Fell Sword (2014)
3. The Dread Wyrm (2015)
The Red KnightThe Fell Sword
Tyrant
1. Tyrant (2008)
2. Storm of Arrows (2009)
3. Funeral Games (2010)
4. King of the Bosporus (2011)
5. Destroyer of Cities (2013)
6. Force of Kings (2014)
TyrantStorm of ArrowsFuneral GamesKing of the BosporusDestroyer of Cities
 Long War
1. Killer of Men (2010)
2. Marathon: Freedom or Death (2011)
3. Poseidon’s Spear (2012)
4. The Great King (2014)
Killer of MenMarathon: Freedom or DeathPoseidon's SpearThe Great King
 Tom Swan and the Head of St George
1. Castillon (2012)
2. Venice (2012)
3. Constantinople (2012)
4. Rome (2013)
5. Rhodes (2013)
6. Chios (2013)
CastillonVeniceConstantinopleRomeRhodesChios
 Novels
Washington and Caesar (2001)
God of War (2012)
The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
The Long Sword (2014)
Washington and CaesarGod of WarThe Ill-Made Knight

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Filed under Christian Cameron, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Miles Cameron, Uncategorized

Pierce Brown: Red Rising (Review)

Author

Pierce Brown

Pierce Brown spent his childhood building forts and setting traps for his cousins in the woods of six states and the deserts of two. Graduating college in 2010, he fancied the idea of continuing his studies at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a magical bone in his body. So while trying to make it as a writer, he worked as a manager of social media at a startup tech company, toiled as a peon on the Disney lot at ABC Studios, did his time as an NBC page, and gave sleep deprivation a new meaning during his stint as an aide on a U.S. Senate Campaign.

Now he lives in Los Angeles, where he scribbles tales of spaceships, wizards, ghouls, and most things old or bizarre

Book Description

red rising

“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a miner and a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he digs all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of the planet livable for future generations. Darrow has never seen the sky.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better future for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow and Reds like him are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow joins a resistance group in order to infiltrate the ruling class and destroy society from within. He will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

Review

Red Rising by Pierce Brown: This book was a foray into something different for me, which is my personal challenge this year “To Read as many books as i can that take me out of my comfort zone”.

Right from the start i had to hang on to the book covers to stop from being swept up into the maelstrom of this plot and transported to Mars. I was amazed to discover its being billed as a Young Adult novel. Its complex world building and multi-layered society is leaps ahead in style and depth of almost any other YA book i have ever read. It very much put me in mind of Julian May and the Many Coloured land series (this being one of my all time fav series, gives you an idea of the compliment here).

Taking place on Mars, introducing the Red, the bottom of society, the worker slaves, in a society led by the elite Golds. One red is destined to rise from his station, to learn adapt and grow. It is this adaptation and growth that allows the reader to experience all the levels of emotion. through failure, victory, death, love, friendship, comradeship and so much more.

Inevitable comparisons will be made to Hunger Games, but this blows that series away. For me this is right up there with the quality of Wool by Hugh Howey A book that transported me to another time another place and other reality. For those that read you will understand the phrase : Book hangover, this is what i have now, i don’t know what to read next as my hair of the dog… but it will need to be damn good.

READ THIS BOOK
(Parm)

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Filed under Dystopian, Pierce Brown, Young Adult

Christian Cameron: Great King review

Christian Cameron

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Christian Cameron was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa, and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history.

After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto (that’s Ontario, in Canada) with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice, currently age seven. He attends the University of Toronto when the gods move him and may eventually have a Masters in Classics, but right now he’s a full time historical novelist, and it is the best job in the world.

Christian is a dedicated reenactor and you can follow some of his recreated projects on the Agora. He’s always recruiting, so if you’d like to try the ancient world, the medieval world, or the late 18th century, follow the link to contact us.

Author Web site

Author Forum

Also Christian Cameron is Miles Cameron: read about the reveal

Review

great king

I find it more and more difficult to write a review of Christians books, it’s so expected to write how wonderful they are.

This book is no exception. The characters as ever are some of the most rounded and real that you will read in any historical fiction novel, the action is probably the most realistic and authentic (all driven by his passion for Re-enactment and trying to live the parts, to write about them). What sets these tales apart is that while i get the cut and thrust of battle that i love in these ancient tales, i also get so much more.

The Hero Arimenestos isn’t perfect, he is very flawed, he can be vain, arrogant, passionate, impulsive, heroic. But more than that, he is a family man, his family being more than just relations, his ship mates, his friends, Plataea and his fellow hero’s. So often he finds himself on opposing sides to people he cares about while fighting with of for those he is indifferent to, but country wins over personal loyalty. The tug of war for his soul played out on the page. It’s this emotional tug of war that Christian Cameron excels at in his writing, drawing on what i can only assume is personal experience in the armed forces, and his own innate kindness as a human being.

I can’t go into the history behind the novel in anywhere close to the depth of the author or even JPS (review on here) what i can say is that i felt the history, it felt real. I felt i was there for every battle, for every race, for every tear and every heartbreak and betrayal. The ending and the inevitable death of the Spartan king is heart-breaking and crushing for the reader, portraying a fraction of what the men of the time must have felt. all again showing the skill of the writing.

This truly ranks up there as my all-time favourite series.

(Parm)

Other books by this author

Series
Tyrant
1. Tyrant (2008)
2. Storm of Arrows (2009)
3. Funeral Games (2010)
4. King of the Bosporus (2011)
5. Destroyer of Cities (2013)
6. Force of Kings (2014)
TyrantStorm of ArrowsFuneral GamesKing of the BosporusDestroyer of Cities
Long War
1. Killer of Men (2010)
2. Marathon: Freedom or Death (2011)
3. Poseidon’s Spear (2012)
4. The Great King (2013)
Killer of MenMarathon: Freedom or DeathPoseidon's SpearThe Great King
Tom Swan and the Head of St George
1. Castillon (2012)
2. Venice (2012)
3. Constantinople (2012)
4. Rome (2013)
5. Rhodes (2013)
6. Chios (2013)
CastillonVeniceConstantinopleRomeRhodesChios
Novels
Washington and Caesar (2001)
God of War (2012)
Alexander: God of War (2013)
The Ill-Made Knight (2013)
The Long Sword (2014)
Washington and CaesarGod of WarAlexander: God of WarThe Ill-Made Knight

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Filed under Christian Cameron, Historical Fiction

Tudor Conspiracy Blog Tour (Final Day). Plus an Original Essay by C.W. Gortner Mary Tudor: A Catholic Tudor Queen

The Tudor Conspiracy blog tour poster

Tudor Conspiracy

 The Author

 CWpicture

C.W. GORTNER holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California.

In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. His novels have garnered international praise and been translated into fourteen languages to date. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues.

He’s currently at work on his fourth novel for Ballantine Books, about the early years of Lucrezia Borgia, as well as the third novel in his Tudor series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles (US) or Elizabeth’s Spymaster (UK).

Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. lives in Northern California.

Author Web Site

Welcome to CW Gortner and thank you for the blog post Mary Tudor Catholic Queen

Mary Tudor: A Catholic Tudor Queen

An Original Essay by C.W. Gortner

Mary I of England is without doubt one of history’s most reviled and misunderstood figures—a queen who overcame tremendous odds to win her throne in 1553 yet who managed by her death in 1558 to have deeply divided her realm, responsible for a savage persecution that terrorized her realm. She ruled only five years but so terrible is the memory of her deeds that she has earned the sobriquet of “Bloody Mary”, a name for which she is still known today.

Mary was the sole surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, daughter of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain. Catherine was sent to England to marry the Tudor heir, Prince Arthur, but his sudden demise left her a widow. Catherine claimed the marriage had never been consummated, and her impoverished isolation in the years that followed stoked the ardor of the new heir, Henry, who, upon his coronation, wed Catherine despite a six-year difference in their ages. Catherine and Henry were married for twenty-four years; stalwart and devout, indubitably in love with her husband, Catherine endured numerous miscarriages and the death of an infant son before finally giving birth to Mary in February of 1516.

As Henry’s sole heir (for despite his later obsessive quest for a son, a daughter could inherit his crown) Mary was adored by her parents. Historical sources recount numerous occasions when the handsome king displayed his fair-haired daughter to his court, showing off her skill with music and graceful charm. But Henry’s disillusion with his aging, now-barren wife catapulted him into a tumultuous affair with one of Catherine’s ladies in waiting, the ambitious Anne Boleyn, who would settle for nothing less than marriage. Thus, at the age of fifteen, Mary’s entire world was turned upside down, her status yanked out from under her as she watched her mother, clinging to her title and rights, exiled to a remote manor, where Catherine died in appalling conditions and in fear for the safety of the daughter she’d been forbidden to see. Anne Boleyn also vented her spleen, forcing Mary to serve Anne’s infant daughter by Henry, Princess Elizabeth, and even, sources claim, plotting to have Mary killed. The cataclysm unleashed by Henry’s passion for Anne changed England forever, resulting in a nascent reformation that would in time make Protestantism the official faith, even as Anne waged desperate battle to protect herself and her child. In 1536, Anne lost her battle and was executed on trumped-up charges; within weeks Elizabeth joined her half-sister Mary as a bastard daughter of the king.

Mary’s struggles continued while Henry married four more times. Steadfast in her Catholicism, the faith in which she’d been reared and which her mother had exhorted her to uphold, she finally gave into her father’s demands to acknowledge him as Head of the Church—an act that haunted her for the rest of her life, as she felt she’d betrayed her mother’s trust and her own belief that the only true church was the Catholic one. In those years, she developed an often uneasy relationship with her half-siblings, Elizabeth and their brother Edward, born of Henry’s third wife, both of whom had imbued the radical spirit of the Reformation.

Various suitors for Mary’s hand came and went; at the age of thirty-seven, when many women were considered unmarriageable, she found herself in the hunter’s snare once more when John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, usurped her claim to the throne upon Edward VI’s death and set his daughter-in-law, Jane Grey, in her place. Often neglected and ignored, prematurely aged by self-imposed seclusion, Mary displayed her innate Tudor ferocity, eluding her pursuers to amass an army and march on London. She may have been a Catholic spinster but the people cheered her as the rightful queen and rallied to her cause. She was crowned in the summer of 1553, sending Jane Grey, Northumberland and his sons to the Tower. Many of the new queen’s advisors, including the wily Imperial ambassador, Renard, urged Mary to execute her prisoners but she consented only to Northumberland’s death, promising release in time for Jane and the Dudley sons. Even in questions of religion she expressed caution, citing her people’s hearts could only be won back in stages. Nevertheless, one of her first acts was to overturn the annulment of her mother’s marriage to Henry VIII, casting further doubt on Elizabeth’s legitimacy.

The advent of her marriage to Philip of Spain, son of the Hapsburg emperor and Mary’s cousin, Charles V, who had long been a scion of support, if not actual assistance, changed everything. Suddenly, Mary saw the possibility of happiness bloom before her: the chance to be love and be loved, to become a wife and mother. As Renard pressured her to deal with all remaining threats to her faith and crown, including Elizabeth, whom he believed was the active figurehead of Protestant opposition, the deep-seated wounds inflicted on Mary since adolescence flared anew. She remembered her hatred of Anne Boleyn, her helpless horror over her father’s zeal to amass the Church’s wealth and abolish its power, her heartrending sorrow at the separation from, and death of, her mother, and the long years of humiliation. The past could be absolved, she believed. Everything that had gone wrong could be put to right, if only she roused the strength that Catherine of Aragon had shown; the unstinting fervor that her maternal grandmother, Queen Isabella, had employed to unite Spain. She saw herself as a savior, who must do whatever was required to bring about her people’s return to the Catholic fold.

Caught in a maelstrom of her own convictions, Mary precipitated her tragedy.

It is too simple to condemn her as a monster, though she behaved in a monstrous way. Her execution of Jane Grey and subsequent burning of over two hundred Protestants, among who were Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, and Bishops Ridley and Latimer, blackened her name and left her country in chaos, the smoke of the pyres only clearing once she took to her deathbed after a false pregnancy that may have been uterine cancer. She left behind a realm ravaged by political and religious dissension, widespread famine and penury. The loss of England’s last possession in France, the city of Calais, was a blow Mary declared would be found engraved on her heart. Even in her final hours, she was beset by those who implored her to condemn Elizabeth—an act she refused. In doing so, Mary unwittingly accomplished in death what she had failed to do in life: She gave England back its hope, in the form of a virgin queen, whose unparalleled grandeur and longevity would define an era.

Product Description

Tudor C jpe

 Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary’s court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen – or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner’s The Tudor Conspiracy
England, 1553: Harsh winter encroaches upon the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen to popular acclaim and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower. But when she’s betrothed to Philip, Catholic prince of Spain, putting her Protestant subjects in peril, rumors of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person whom many consider to be England’s heir and only hope – the queen’s half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.

Haunted by his past, Brendan Prescott lives far from the intrigues of court. But his time of refuge comes to an end when his foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings him disquieting news that sends him on a dangerous mission. Elizabeth is held captive at court, the target of the Spanish ambassador, who seeks her demise. Obliged to return to the palace where he almost lost his life, Brendan finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary herself, who orders Brendan to secure proof that will be his cherished Elizabeth’s undoing.

Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing – and no one – is what it seems.

Review:

Its always a privilege to be invited to take part in a blog tour for a new book, historical fiction is a genre I really enjoy reading so i pretty much had to take part in this. But… Im really not a fan of the Tudor period, its one of the few parts of English history we covered at school. The trouble is my history teacher was terrible, she like to sneak off for a cigarette in the supply room rather than teach, we were educated in most of our subject matter direct from dry dusty text books. Recently though several authors have managed to bring to life periods of history i considered “potentially boring” so how could i not give C.W. Gortner the benefit of the doubt.

I’m bloody glad i did, the book was incredible; the whole period brought to life, given colour and passion, intrigue , violence, action and the tension of well constructed conspiracies. The characters especially Brendan Prescott are life like and more importantly believable. Its very easy to make a hero larger than life in a book, but Prescott is just a clever real young man, someone thrust into the middle of big conspiracies, hiding his own secrets like the rest of the people he deals with. Princess Elizabeth  is cool, calm and enigmatic as expected, but also scared, troubled, frightened and doing all she can and all she thinks is right for her country, and to survive her sisters papal leanings and advisers. This really is a wonderful book that flys along at such a pace its over before you know it or want it to be.

I highly recommend reading this book and series

(Parm)

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Filed under C.W. GORTNER, Historical Fiction

Paul Collard: Maharajah’s General (Review)

Author

collard

Paul’s love of military history started at an early age. A childhood spent watching films like Waterloo and Zulu whilst reading Sharpe, Flashman and the occasional Commando comic, gave him a desire to know more of the men who fought in the great wars of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. At school, Paul was determined to become an officer in the British army and he succeeded in wining an Army Scholarship. However, Paul chose to give up his boyhood ambition and instead went into the finance industry. Paul stills works in the City, and lives with his wife and three children in Kent.

Book Description

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MG

A riveting tale of battle and adventure in a brutal land, where loyalty and courage are constantly challenged and the enemy is never far away. Jack Lark barely survived the Battle of the Alma. As the brutal fight raged, he discovered the true duty that came with the officer’s commission he’d taken. In hospital, wounded, and with his stolen life left lying on the battlefield, he grasps a chance to prove himself a leader once more. Poor Captain Danbury is dead, but Jack will travel to his new regiment in India, under his name. Jack soon finds more enemies, but this time they’re on his own side. Exposed as a fraud, he’s rescued by the chaplain’s beautiful daughter, who has her own reasons to escape. They seek desperate refuge with the Maharajah of Sawadh, the charismatic leader whom the British Army must subdue. He sees Jack as a curiosity, but recognises a fellow military mind. In return for his safety, Jack must train the very army the British may soon have to fight…

Review

Maharajah’s General: Reading this book has been a pleasure, Since book one The Scarlet Thief i have been a fan of Paul Collards writing, he has an engaging style, he writes like able characters. One thing that hamstrung him slightly in book one was book brevity, as a debutante he had been limited to a low page count, and as such the book was edited down, removing, i feel some of the extra depth and flavour of the Crimea and the the books characters.

This doesn’t happen in book 2, I devoured book 2 in a single day, and then broke my normal never return to a book rule and read it again the next day. This is the first book in years i have enjoyed that much that i had to go back and read it again immediately ,(i just have too many books to do this).  What we the reader have here is a new Sharpe, its not since i first picked up Sharpe’s Eagle that a single character captured my imagination so totally, this supported by a fast fluid pace of writing, and a vivid portrayal of the Indian country, people, time period, the east India company and as usual the brutal, uncompromising and occasionally morally bankrupt officer corp coupled with the efficiency of the ordinary men of the British army, all this condensed into 336 pages of explosive action, violent emotions, uncompromising unbending discipline and a man with the courage to do what is right.

The impressive thing about this book is that it hooks you in from the first page with realism, i have read in reviews that there is no way a man from the ranks could impersonate an officer, This isn’t as far as i can see a valid point, there are examples of officer impersonation in history, Jack Lark as an orderly was around officers enough to be able to copy their mannerisms etc, so that point for me is covered. His skills as a soldier..well we see him learn most of them on the battle field, and as most officers learned the same hard way, again this is not going to make him stand out. So to any naysayers, “sit back and enjoy the book, stop looking for fault where there is none, just enjoy a bloody good book.” Oh and a very nice fitting nod to the authors love of Zulu with the use of regiment and last ditch battle (loved it, as its one of my favorite films).

The spirit of Sharpe lives again in another time, in another war, in the guise of Jack Lark, buy the books and enjoy the adventures. I hope the publisher have the sense to get book 3 underway quick smart.

Very Highly recommended

(Parm)

Series
Jack Lark
1. The Scarlet Thief (2013)
2. The Maharajah’s General (2013)
The Scarlet ThiefThe Maharajah's General

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Paul Fraser Collard

Phil Hogan: A Pleasure and a Calling (Review)

The Author

phil hogan

Phil Hogan was born in a small northern mill town, and now lives in a small southern commuter town. He is married with four children and has been a journalist for 25 years.

Synopsis

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a pleasure and a calling

You won’t remember Mr Heming. He showed you round your comfortable home, suggested a sustainable financial package, negotiated a price with the owner and called you with the good news. The less good news is that, all these years later, he still has the key.

That’s absurd, you laugh. Of all the many hundreds of houses he has sold, why would he still have the key to mine?

The answer to that is, he has the keys to them all.

William Heming’s every pleasure is in his leafy community. He loves and knows every inch of it, feels nurtured by it, and would defend it – perhaps not with his life but if it came to it, with yours…

Review

I normally review a book the same night i finish reading it, so this book is new for me in 2 ways, 1) its way way outside my comfort zone 2) i waited a week before reviewing it.

I was talked into reading this book by some very nice, well read and clever ladies…. that alone would normally scare me off, but they were batting 2 for 2 on recommends so i had to give in. They had told me the book was “chilling” and “disturbing”. So Initially i was a bit worried that i didn’t find it affected me that way. I found it intriguing and thought provoking. I found it to be something that was so normal, and then so wrong, and yet so easily real that it may well be happening right now. It was then that the disturbing hit. We have a man, a normal everyday man, who has access to every house he has ever sold. Would you in his place with unfettered access to a strangers house, would you look, could you resist, and even more so, if you had access to the house of people you know, could you resist a peek?

The answer is Yes, but isn’t there just that little voice that yearns in us all to know, that little bit of uncertainty, the inner paranoid self that wants to know more…or maybe that’s me? Could you ever look is the question the book asks me. The answer thankfully is no. But the fact that it makes you ask this question and others is a testament to its clever powerful writing.

The weeks gap before writing this review has actually led me from this book being a clever read to its true impact, because in a week its not left me, i have had parts of the book jump back into my head at odd times, take over my dreams, generally disturb my thoughts, colour some of my views and question, Would I?

all of this has led me to the realisation that this book is truly a terrifyingly, creepy, disturbingly real tour de force, showing how trusting we can be with modern services and suppliers, people who we let in our lives and houses, and that’s before we even worry about digital entry. Read it and be afraid…bloody afraid.

Very highly recommended

(Parm)

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Filed under Crime, Phil Hogan, Thrillers

Conn Iggulden: Stormbird Competition

Stormbird Review

Stormbird

Historical fiction master Conn Iggulden retells the gripping story of the English civil war in his new Wars of the Roses series.

King Henry V – the great Lion of England – is long dead.

In 1437, after years of regency, the pious and gentle Henry VI, the Lamb, comes of age and accedes to the English throne. His poor health and frailty of mind render him a weakling king – Henry depends on his closest men, Spymaster Derry Brewer and William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, to run his kingdom.

Yet there are those, such as the Plantagenet Richard, Duke of York, who believe England must be led by a strong king if she is to survive. With England’s territories in France under threat, and rumours of revolt at home, fears grow that Henry and his advisers will see the country slide into ruin. With a secret deal struck for Henry to marry a young French noblewoman, Margaret of Anjou, those fears become all too real.

As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who, or what, can save the kingdom before it is too late?

The Wars of the Roses series will be a benchmark for historical fiction, showcasing Conn Iggulden at his finest.

Question

In Stormbird one of the key characters is William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk 

What was his nickname?

All answers to be commented on this blog.

Competition will close on the release day of the book Oct 10th. (winner picked at random)

Prize:    1 Copy of Stormbird signed Limited stamped HB.  This is limited to 20 copies worldwide and have all sold out. (sold for £50 a copy, so a nice collectors book)

any questions leave a comment: and good luck

(Sorry UK only… Shipping costs are insane)

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Filed under Historical Fiction

David Gibbins : Rome Total War: Destroy Carthage (Review)

David gibbins

David Gibbins has worked in underwater archaeology all his professional life. After taking a PhD from Cambridge University he taught archaeology in Britain and abroad, and is a world authority on ancient shipwrecks and sunken cities. He has led numerous expeditions to investigate underwater sites in the Mediterranean and around the world. He currently divides his time between fieldwork, England and Canada.

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Book Description:

rome TW

How far would you go for Rome? Carthage, 146 BC. This is the story of Fabius Petronius Secundus – Roman legionary and centurion – and his rise to power: from his first battle against the Macedonians, that seals the fate of Alexander the Great’s Empire, to total war in North Africa and the Seige of Carthage. Fabius’ success brings him admiration and respect, but also attracts greed and jealousy – the closest allies can become the bitterest of enemies. And then there is Julia, of the Caesar family – a dark horse in love with both Fabius and his rival Paullus – who causes a vicious feud. Ultimately for Fabius, it will come down to one question: how much is he prepared to sacrifice for his vision of Rome? Based on Total War: Rome II, the bestselling game, Destroy Carthage is the first in an epic series of novels. It is not only the tale of one man’s fate, but is also a journey to the core of Roman times, through the world of extraordinary military tactics and political intrigue that Rome’s warriors and citizens used to cheat death.

Review:

I have found this a tough book to review, i have been searching for what i hope is the best comparison to describe it. (not sure I cracked it but here goes)

The book right from page one suffers from and gains from its link to the video game (are they still called that… damn I’m showing my age) I loved the first Rome Total War, but it sucked time like a black hole. It and the Intro to the book gave the book a bit of a Manual feel. Then there is the style of the book, it instructs the reader, it gives a depth of background to Rome at the time that you dont find in many Roman fiction titles, the army, the politics and how they all fit together, all like a lesson plan, or a game world build.

All that may have you screaming…NOOOO don’t buy it… But that’s because i haven’t tempered it with..

David Gibbins is an excellent writer, i think he may have to blend his normal thriller style with the historical fiction writing to really lift the series to the next level. But what he does provide in this book is an insight into a period of Rome that few have covered, and a look at the political machinations of the Roman senate and upper echelons or power, and how the powers that be, may have finally ended up in front of the walls of Carthage. David does start to bring out his ability with characters creation, but i think some of that growth was hindered by the semi instructional style of the book.

I really want to see how this series progresses and grows. Here is a book I enjoyed and that taught me something, its not often I feel as if I have been educated throughout a book and entertained at the same time.

I really think you should try this book and stick with it to the end, If you’re a gamer you will love the information it gives on the different empires and the different army units and how to use them in battle. If you are a reader of fiction, then you will enjoy coming at a story from a different angle. I’m very interested to see how book two pans out. I’d love to see some comments on others views of this book.

But basically go buy the book.

(Parm)

Other books

Review of last book by David Gibbins

Jack Howard
1. Atlantis (2005)
2. Crusader Gold (2006)
3. The Last Gospel (2008)
aka The Lost Tomb
4. The Tiger Warrior (2009)
5. The Mask of Troy (2010)
6. The Gods of Atlantis (2011)
aka Atlantis God
7. Pharaoh (2013)
AtlantisCrusader GoldThe Last GospelThe Tiger WarriorThe Mask of TroyThe Gods of AtlantisPharaoh

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Filed under Historical Fiction