Books/book review/Fantasy/Romance/wars
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Time Travel Romances: adding an element of je ne sais quoi?

Time Travel Romances: The Big  Book of time travel romances with 9 authors.

Sarah Woodbury: After Cilmeri series

Well who doesn’t love a good romance and add in an element of a different time in order that a hunky hero can be extracted from that time – see Outlander’s popularity both as a book series and TV series – and the scene is set…

Yes, I am great Outlander fan and am still working my way through Season 1 on the TV – not quite as I remember the books but I’ll forgive them. Interesting choice of actors for the leads – Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan  – clearly not going for well known though they use the more well-known in smaller parts. I am not really sure about all the muscles on Sam but that just emphasises what is expected of a time travel hero. He has in fact ousted David Tennant – who is perhaps more the thinking woman’s hero style? – as the top actor for women – the heartthrob of the moment. The good thing about these 2 actors is that Sam is genuinely Scottish and so the accent is good and also they actually use Scotland and Culloden Moor and so on for the settings. Expect to get a lot more tourists following their story from Inverness  to castles to moors..

So I bought a collection of books all about time travel and haven’t yet got further than the first book in the collection. That is because the first book lured me into buying 9 more! Yes 9 books in this series – about Wales in the medieval period and the book in the collection was a prequel. I was actually very glad that I came across the prequel first as it set the scene very well indeed.  Again, I am sure it will encourage tourists and vote this series as the next to be televised after Outlander – has a wonderful storyline that even brings in Arthurian legend so ideal TV fodder.

This series of books by Sarah Woodbury about Wales in the time of Edward I of England – 1239-1307, posits an alternative history. Remember that at this time the Barons were rather feisty and were forever in rebellion against their king(s) as they wanted more power over their lands, less taxes, and more land generally.  Wales at this time was not easy under an English king and there were 2 rebellions – 1276 and 1282. The second rebellion led to Wales being completely conquered by the English, the building of some very fancy castles and English people being settled into new towns and villages to ‘subdue’ any further ideas that Wales could be different. The Welsh language declined in use as a result and the English heir to the throne became the Prince of Wales and received the monies and land etc from this Principality which was then recognised as a separate entity with its own laws.Carreg_Cennen_Cast_2622615b cardiff

Many of the issues that bedevilled the English throne came from the Marcher  Lords – these were Anglo-Norman  nobles appointed to guard the Welsh borders with a strong sense of their own independence from the English Crown.  The Earls of Chester, Gloucester, Hereford, Pembroke and Shrewsbury were the Marcher lords. They were originally established as earldoms after the Norman Conquest with a great rights and privileges that other nobles did not possess. Marcher lords were tricksy – they often deceived and spoke carefully, letting few actually know their ral intent – Machiavelli would have approved. Their overall intent to increase their power – even down to trying to take the English (or Scottish) crown if they could. Alliances were fluid and each mman considered themselves first even before family. Counsins fought each other and brothers too, sons and fathers were often on different sides. Sometimes even the women joined in and raised armies – which of course, they then had to find a man to lead as there was very little real power for women at this time. The Marches – or borders of Wales were effectively a frontier country with violence an everyday occurrence – the Welsh, as with the Scots, did not want to be governed by the English and made their feelings known.

So these books imagine we are back in the time of Llywelyn ap Gruffiudd who was the prince of Gwynedd the major last remaining territory in Wales. A number of people appear to have a genetic predisposition to time travel   ie it runs in families, and travel to and fro the modern world, beginning with Meg, and the world of Llywelyn.   The prequel story stops just before the what-if history starts with Llywelyn about to have a change in his future which will impact the future of Wales and England and in due course, even Scotland.

The strength of these stories are three fold. 1. They are set in medieval romantic Wales 1284Wales, with, as far as I can tell, accurate descriptions of life as it would have been there, and set in the wonderful countryside of Wales, damp and rainy notwithstanding; 2. Each chapter is told through the eyes of a different character, and as you progress through the books, each book relates the story of a different pair of characters and their interactions with the others; and finally 3. The historical events are real but set within the story and therefore with a twist. There were Welsh rebellions, but in our world they failed, in theirs they don’t; in our world the king was always Edward and he was asked to ‘interfere’ or intervene in the Scottish succession, in their world it was David but still the King of England who intervened.

Do I recommend them? Of course… after all I have spent a lot of money in buying all 9 books…

However, having looked at the abstracts from the author’s other books, I shall leave her other series for a while – after all I can’t afford to keep buying sets of 9 books every few weeks or days in this case!  I think I need to go back to the box set I originally bought and read some more of them!

 

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Bucket List? What’s Yours?

Scheduled to Die

By Alan Cupp

NetGalley Review

4 stars

You have a time to die – set by someone-else – what do you do?

This is a PI Carter Mays Series, Number 2.

When stalking gets out of line- the good pick-up line comes into play and stalking becomes something much more sinister.

There is a circle of criminal behaviour – they tend to operate within areas of familiarity.  A geographic profiler will analyse the crimes committed and can discover this circle of familiarity by certain signatures which identify which criminal has caused these acts. It lets us know the likely place of living of the criminal and/or where they work and socialise, and sometimes what they may work at. An understanding of the spatial pattern of a crime series and the characteristics of the crime sites can tell investigators other useful information, such as whether the crime was opportunistic and the degree of offender familiarity with the crime location.

The criminal profiler’s job is to create a psychological profile of a criminal suspect, which can then be used to help catch the suspect. This is done by examining evidence from the crime, interviewing witnesses and victims, and analyzing crime scenes. Information gleaned from these investigations can then be used to help the profiler determine a pattern of criminal behaviour, which hopefully can be used to find out more about the suspect.

“It’s a combination of analyzing the physical and behavioral evidence, reconstructing a crime from the beginning to the end and coming up with the most scientific determination possible with the information available.”
– The Profiler by Pat Brown

In this book it was difficult to work out the circle of familiarity and as to whether or not these crimes were opportunistic. But he chose single women away from their home and work, and as a sociopath who was charming and apparently trustworthy, would pick them up in bars and so on, and then announce “You are the one I have chosen to kill. What will you do with the days you have left to live?”

He felt that now these women would experience “true” life – you know when you will die (and not from an illness which will inhibit your action) and so your perspective on life will change. Do you go through your bucket list and see how much you can achieve and cross off? Do you buy everything you have ever wanted, designer clothes, yachts and so on, even though you know cannot pay for them, because you will be dead before the bill becomes due?

Or – Do you go to the police?

Going to the police is very disappointing to this sociopath and thus he terminates those women early. Those who go through their bucket list get longer – but he never tells you the exact date of your death..

So here we have the next victim going to a PI instead of the police – does this still count against her? And the PI is left to become the profiler and discover just what the victims had in common and how the sociopath made a living.

 

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Rivers and Gods: Good and Evil?

The Waterborn

By

Greg Keyes

A Net Galley review

This was a very different conception of a world and very imaginative. I was fascinated by the River and all the Gods and Goddesses both small and large – a very pagan view of the world and animalistic. The issue of the power given by the River was a new take on how gods choose who is to rule and the control that was part of the power that the water had to manage its own traffic and who could or could not perform activities on it.river

Somehow I found it also a bit creepy. And rather in the line of horror stories where people transform into …. other creatures anyway like zombies but here creatures related to the river such with octopus arms.  So there was a price to pay by the Emperor’s descendents for the power he had received and the river took that price as the child reached puberty.

The River here also could take a physical form – or at least the streams cold and could mate with humans, which is reminiscent, in some ways, of the Greek stories of gods and goddesses and how some are good and some are not and some demand a heavy price for what they offer. See Midas and gold for instance. So this story has these echoes.

We do have a hero and a heroine, who come from very different cultures and tribes, and who have a very different relationship with the River and its tributaries as a result. And it is their trials and tribulations that this book starts the saga with.

I am still divided in my mind whether I liked the book or found the River too creepy and thus didn’t. Either way it is a well devised story and well told. Note – I am not a Stephen King fan and I suspect that this book would appeal to them more than me..

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Organic Vegetables are best

Green Beans and Summer Dreams

By

Catherine Ferguson

Review for Netgalley

A light and feel good book where all ends well and happily but there are many trials and tribulations to go through first.

Here we have someone whose life and romances do not go well and being unemployed but owning a large garden thinks she can set up a business selling hervegetable-heart.jpg vegetables, just as she did when a child outside by the road. But she does not set up a road-side stall or even go to a market to sell her goods, rather decides that a box scheme whereby she delivers the vegetables to a customer would be the way to go.

Certainly boxes of vegetables are regularly being delivered all round the UK and I, myself, have a box of (certified) organic vegetables delivered to me on a regular basis.

In the UK you need to be certified as organic to sell your goods as being organic and this our heroine did not realise until told. So, although she grows her vegetables in an organic manner she is not certified and thus cannot sell her vegetables as organic. This is a serious flaw in her scheme until she finds an alternative supplier and so her delivery scheme grows despite a number of set-backs all of which are detailed in an amusing fashion here. She is a far from cynical or world-wise young women let alone having any business savvy, and thus many disasters befall her on her way to success.

What surprised me was that a: she did not set up stall also in a Farmer’s Market; b: she did not use her glut of crops to make her soups and jams and even chutneys, despite being told how delicious they were; and c: she did link up with her neighbour to sell her cakes and biscuits as additional items for her customers. I know that soups, jams and chutneys sell well in Farmer’s Markets from my own experience of buying them, and I don’t fret if they are not organic so long as they are local.

So chick lit at its best with a happy ending – which I had predicted from ye very first meeting of the two characters…

 

 

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A feather in his cap: Yankee Dudel and Independence

 

Written in my heart’s own blood

by

Diana Gabaldon

I wait with patience now, for each and every book in this series, and each time, there is the worry that it might be the last.

Once again, have we come to end of the story. But not to worry, having been reading her website and blog and Facebook page, I am now assured that the 9th book is being written and that if you really want, you can get daily spoilers from the text. I did think about this but then thought maybe not so much, as if I get really interested in the spoilers and then have to wait another few years – it takes around 4 for her to write the full nine‐course meal with wine‐pairings and dessert trolley. Or full-length book. Then I might get rather frustrated!

All are safe again but – we never did find out the full story of the daughter and her husband travails before they finally reached home – is there a book in that I wonder? And will they become the next hero and heroine of the saga as time moves on and a new American history can be developed with them and their children now they are all well and all together? We shall see – read the daily spoilers if you can’t wait to find out!

And by, jove, aren’t they all very lusty right into middle age and beyond…never missing an opportunity for some hanky panky.

Now that I’ve got all that off my chest what did I think?

Well, it is always surprising to me, how Gabaldon manages to write a book of some 800 or more pages and yet we have only moved on a very few years in people’s lives. Her books are always chock-a-block with rich descriptions and intense language. Yet her academic background is not in literature as you might imagine but in Quantitative Behavioural Ecology (PhD) and scientific computing. Now take your prejudices out of your pocket and look at them again, as at the same time as she studied the reasons why birds build their nests where they do, she also wrote scripts for cartoons and comics. And for 12 years she was an academic professor before giving it all up to become an author about Scotland and Scottish people to which she had no affinity. Unlike so many Americans she has no Scottish roots at all and at the time of writing her first novel had not even been to Scotland once. Indeed she was born in Arizona and still lives there.

She admits to taking an amount of novelistic license with her ‘history’ of the American War of independence including some of the actions and whereabouts of General Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, GCB (21 August 1754 – 15 January 1833) who was a British soldier and politician; and who is probably best remembered for his military service during the American War of Independence. He became the focal point of a propaganda campaign claiming that his men had slaughtered surrendering Continental Army troops at the Battle of Waxhaws also known as the Waxhaw Massacre. His first name – Banastre – was in fact a family surname which was given to him as is often the case, in order to remember that side of the family. This is still quite a common practice in the USA where we do see a number of rather unusual first names used (especially for girls we British think).

He was hailed by the Loyalists and British as an outstanding leader of light cavalry and was praised for his tactical prowess and resolve, even against superior numbers. His green uniform was the standard of the British Legion, a provincial unit organised in New York in 1778. Tarleton was later elected a Member of Parliament for Liverpool and became a prominent Whig politician. Tarleton’s cavalrymen were frequently called ‘Tarleton’s Raiders’. All this of course from the trusty Wikipedia site plus some others. See the picture of tarleton below as painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Quite a dashing young man don’t you think? And look – a feather in his cap!

220px-Banastre-Tarleton-by-Joshua-Reynolds

Now I did use my search engine quite a lot for this post as I so love it when people use unusual words. I have a bit of a thing about etymology…

So I started of course with looking at just what a ‘Dumpy’ chicken looked like dumpy chicken and then went on to actual language.

First on my hit list [I may well have missed some out that my readers are not sure of, but as I have read a lot of Victorian and historical literature I do know what a Macaroni is for instance – a dandy from Regency times in case you were wondering – and other terms which are not that common] was

  • Absquatulated. Now Gabaldon took a bit of a liberty with this one as apparently it didn’t come into common use until 1820/ 1830. It means to escape, flee or abscond. It is slang and is pseudo-latin.
  • Extravasation . Is to erupt, or an egress or passage out.
  • Peelywally. I was fairly sure I knew this as Scottish dialect but checked anyway and I was right – pale and sickly looking.
  • Cingulum . a belt or girdle. A cloth round the neck.
  • Banyan. A loose flannel undergarment from the Indies. OR a title of bravery. Take your pick on context.
  • Leporello. Nothing to do with lepers, but accordion or concertina pleated material.
  • Gorget. A piece of armour that protects the throat, later morphed into a crescent shaped piece of metal with a chain for officers to denote rank and regiment.

I also liked her use of the Scottish dialect and speech patterns and also the use of the Scottish spellings of words. One could really almost hear the characters speaking. Not having yet been able to see the TV series, I do hope they speak with a good broad accent!

I also checked on what type of drink Bunnahanhain was, I was fairly sure that it was whiskey and so it was, from Islay.

Now some of you may have already recognised Peleg if you read your and know your Bible, I don’t, but it appears that it means division as it was during his days that inhabitants of the earth were divide up between him and his brother. The sons of Eber.

I did also wonder what a trudging stream was, and couldn’t find any reference other than its use as trudging – being hard work to walk in and slow and difficult – we trudge when we are tired. So the stream was such a stream – one difficult and tiring to walk in.

Other words I checked on were: castrametation the laying out of an army camp; and yaupon holly which actually seems to mean tree tree – yaupon coming from the Catawban word for tree; and gigging which is practised in the Southern States – and is the use of a gig or 3 pronged pole to catch – yes – frogs usually.

So was this book all that I hoped it would be having waited to read it until I was on the Queen Mary (I had figured I needed something substantial to keep me from getting too bored as I knew I would be doing a lot of sitting around)? The short answer is yes. It was all that I hoped. Another 5 stars for Gabaldon. I guess more than anything it is her language that attracts me. The storyline is interesting of course, but that would only give it 3-4 stars. It is the language that makes it up to 5.

Oh and by the way, as I will write in my post about my visit to Boston I went on the Tea Party tour! So I know a little more about how the war started – sort of…

 

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