Book Review Owen by Tony Riches

Owen (Tudor Trilogy, #1)Owen by Tony Riches
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The legacy of King Henry VIII has always fascinated me, but I knew very little about the earlier accounts of the Tudor dynasty. Thus, I selected Owen: Book One of the Tudor Trilogy by Tony Riches to learn more about how the Tudor Dynasty was established. The story of Owen, the great-grandfather of Henry VIII, is as fascinating as the tales about the legendary king. Told in the first-person perspective of Owen, the story begins in 1422 when he first meets his new mistress, Queen Catherine of Valois, the young widow of King Henry V. The queen’s young son, Harry (Henry VI), is crowned King of England and France. Nobles responsible for the young king’s upbringing tightly control the queen’s life and her influence on her son. Owen, serving as the Keeper of the Wardrobe, loyally serves and befriends Queen Catherine and gains her trust. Rumors of Catherine’s affair with the 2nd Duke of Somerset prompts a parliamentary statute that forbids her to remarry until her son comes of age. Soon after, Catherine and Owen fall in love and secretly marry in the backdrop of political turmoil that ultimately leads to the War of Roses.

Author Tony Riches has masterfully written a poignant love story narrated by Owen in the present tense. The moment-by-moment narrative helps the reader more actively engage with Owen’s life journey. The story is rich with vivid descriptions and natural dialogue that highlights Owen’s wit and cleverness. Although his childhood has been shattered by the loss of his Welsh noble parents and heritage, Owen becomes the unlikely second husband to Queen Catherine and the father of her children. Their secret love and marriage have tragic consequences in the backdrop of the War of Roses. Yet Owen’s firstborn son, Edmund, ultimately becomes the father of King Henry VII, the first monarch in the Tudor Dynasty.

Owen: Book One of the Tudor Trilogy is one of the best historical fiction novels I’ve read this year. I highly recommend this book to historical fiction readers, particularly those interested in the Tudor Dynasty.

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Review The Insurmountable Edge by Thomas Goodfellow

The Insurmountable Edge: Book OneThe Insurmountable Edge: Book One by Thomas Goodfellow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The U.S. is on the brink of a deadly war with China in the debut international thriller, “Insurmountable Edge: Book One” by Thomas H. Goodfellow. The only person who can counter the threat is the steel-edged General Jack Wilder. His execution of some of the deadliest missions on behalf of the US in the elite special forces has forged him into a deadly weapon which enemies will have to reckon with. Jack Wilder is similar to Jack Reacher created by Lee Child, but he has his own unique foibles.

The story starts out in a horrific scene where two children are forced to dig their own graves before they are stoned to death. General Jack Wilder then takes over as the narrator. Retired and living at his plush Californian ranch, he cares for his hellbent seventeen-year-old ward, Adelaide, and his army buddy, Jeff, suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD). Ironically, Wilder’s unresolved issues with PSTD makes him prone to hallucinations.

A striking physician, Kate, seeks Wilder’s help in solving a series of murders with international security implications at a company she oversees. Meanwhile, war is ready to break out in the Middle East with China that will have an “insurmountable edge“ in the conflict. Tasked with investigating the insurmountable edge, Jack Wilder’s mission twists with unexpected turns as murders pile up and he is sometimes off edge talking with imaginary people and animals—possibly clues to political machinations behind the scenes. The book does not end with a classical cliffhanger but continues in what will be a three-book series that should connect the murders and international conflict.

Author Goodfellow has written an action-packed thriller filled with unique, memorable characters and vivid descriptions. The interactions between the characters and the smart, crisp dialogue work hand-in-hand with action scenes and unexpected twists to drive the story forward. Even though Wilder struggles with his own internal turmoil, he is an engaging character with a hint of chivalry toward Kate. But make no mistake, he is more than capable of maximum damage against his enemies.

“The Insurmountable Edge,” is an exciting start to a three-book series that spins a complex web of international intrigue and unforeseen enemies that promise to be the ultimate match for Jack Wilder. Highly recommended for fans of complex international thrillers with a hero you can root for.

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Book Review Not a Blueprint, It’s the Shoe Prints that Matter Nine Norstrom

Not a Blueprint, It's the Shoe Prints that Matter: A Journey Through Toxic RelationshipsNot a Blueprint, It’s the Shoe Prints that Matter: A Journey Through Toxic Relationships by Nina Norstrom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not A Blueprint, It’s the Shoe Prints that Matter: A Journey Through Toxic Relationships, is a memoir of Nina Norstrom. In the author’s note, she broadly defines that a toxic relationship can be with people, alcohol, disease, and our internal emotions to mention a few. The memoir provides an overview of Nina’s life journey, beginning in her childhood growing in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father who abuses her mother. The author’s daughter, China, is born out of wedlock as a result of a liaison with a married man. Although she continues seeking relationships with males so China can have a father figurehead, these relationships don’t work out. The one driving force that motivates the author to overcome obstacles is to provide for her daughter as best she can. The heart of this memoir is Nina’s unconditional love for her daughter who must battle cancer as a young woman.

Author Norstrom tells a heartfelt story with a straight-forward, relatable voice. After each chapter, she provides insight into what lessons she has learned from each experience. Although she doesn’t always make the wisest decisions, her heart is in the right place as she struggles to learn the lessons from her journey through life. A bonus from her memoir is a list of support groups that can help people through times of grief.

I recommend this memoir to readers who are looking for insight on how to overcome toxic relationships by following the footprints of this author as her trial unfolds in this story.

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Book Review Forged by Iron by Eric Schumacher

Forged By Iron (Olaf's Saga Book 1)Forged By Iron by Eric Schumacher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Forged by Iron is the first book in The Saga of King Olaf that sweeps you into a Nordic adventure in 960 AD. The Viking-era book is based on the tales of King Olaf but is told in first-person by Torgil, a twelve-year-old boy sworn to protect the reckless 8-year-old Prince Olaf. The story begins when the shy but courageous Torgil helps rescue Olaf after the young prince recklessly jumps off a cliff with a dare from his older companions. The resentment that Torgil holds for Olaf is established at the beginning of the tale as the Norns weave the fates of the young boys. They are both caught up in the political machinations of Holger who betrays and kills Olaf’s father. Under the protection of Torgil and his father, Queen Astrid and Olaf are forced to escape with their lives on a harrowing journey through Norway, into Sweden, and modern-day Estonia. The travails the boys face forge them into hardened young men bent on vengeance.

Author Eric Schumacher masterfully captures the essence of the characters while telling a riveting adventure and coming of age story of two boys who must face almost insurmountable challenges. Torgil is an engaging character. Although he is sometimes jealous of Olaf, Torgil nonetheless does his duty to protect the young prince even though they sometimes clash. What makes this tale rise above others in this genre is the author’s ability to vividly capture the Viking culture and the harsh landscapes they must traverse. The story is rich with vivid, unique descriptions as seen through the eyes of a boy. One of the aspects I liked most is Torgil’s confused feelings about the queen’s handmaiden, Turid, in a budding relationship in which they reach out to each other at difficult times. The poignant moments are juxtaposed with the harsh realities that they face as they are chased by enemies bent on their destruction. Extra bonuses in the book include regional maps and a glossary of Viking terms which are used in the narrative.

Forged by Iron immerses you in the legendary tale of King Olaf as told by his protector’s point of view. I highly recommend this character-driven Viking adventure for those who are swept up in the Nordic culture, landscape, and clashes. I look forward to continuing this saga when the next book comes out in this series.

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About Eric Schumacher

 

Eric Schumacher is an American historical novelist who currently resides in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife and two children. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended college at the University of San Diego.

At a very early age, Schumacher discovered his love for writing and medieval European history, as well as authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Those discoveries continue to fuel his imagination and influence the stories he tells. His first novel, God’s Hammer, was published in 2005. His latest books, War King, was released in October of 2018 and Forged by Iron was recently released.

You can contact Eric Schumacher and learn more about his books at:

Amazon Author Page

Website/Blog

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Goodreads

 

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Book Review Antonius: Second in Command by Brook Allen

Antonius: Second in Command (Antonius Trilogy, #2)Antonius: Second in Command by Brook Allen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Antonius: Second in Command” by Brook Allen is the second book in the Antonius Trilogy, spanning the period of 54 BC to 41BC. The saga of Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) continues in this book at the time he is accepted as a military officer under the command of Julius Caesar. Marcus demonstrates his prowess as a strategic, courageous military leader that Roman soldiers can enthusiastically follow on the battlefields of Britannia and Gaul. With undying loyalty to Julius Caesar, Marcus becomes second-in-command to the renowned Roman general. However, when Marcus assumes political power in Rome on the behest of Caesar, his reputation and marriages flounder. Even though Caesar repudiates him for his political blunders, Marcus remains loyal. After winning Caesar’s trust again, Marcus becomes consul and adeptly administers Rome through chaos after Caesar’s assassination. However, he then faces his greatest challenger, the nineteen-year-old Octavian and adopted son of Caesar. He eventually allies with Octavian to wreak revenge on Julius Caesar’s assassinators at the battle of Phillipi, where the third book of the series will continue.

Author Brook Allen masterfully weaves battle scenes, family drama, and political conspiracies into the saga of Marcus Antonius. There is no doubt that Marcus is a formidable military commander with flashes of brilliance in the political arena. Yet, his womanizing, gambling and drinking continue to lurk him at critical times which his political rivals can use against him. The epic storytelling is engaging and addictive. The battle scenes are described with vivid details. The characters pop off the page, particularly Flavia (Marcus’s third wife) and Octavian. As a fan of the HBO series, “Rome,” I found this book even more intriguing with its rich historical background. One of the most fascinating incidents is when Marcus Antonius has to exchange his young son as a hostage so he could negotiate a truce with the senators who murdered Julius Caesar.

I highly recommend this superb series for fans of historical fiction set in Rome. The essence of Mark Antony and Roman politics rings true back then as it does in modern politics today.

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Book Review Antonius: Son of Rome by Brook Allen

Antonius: Son of RomeAntonius: Son of Rome by Brook Allen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I purchased “Antonius: Son of Rome” by Brook Allen, I was excited to read the novel about the early life of Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony), an enigma in Roman History. Though the book is fictional, it captures the true essence of the controversial Roman figure, whose reputation was smeared by his enemies and Augustus Caesar. The story begins when the eleven-year-old Marcus Antonius grieves for his father who has died in disgrace. His mother soon marries Publius Cornelius Lentulus, a consul in Rome. As a teenager, Marcus possesses the promise of military talent, but he succumbs to the excesses of whoring, gambling, and drinking that leads to calamitous consequences. Even so, Marcus shows unyielding loyalty to his step-father, Publius Cornelius Lentulus, who is executed for leading the conspiracy to murder Cicero and set fire to Rome. He also demonstrates undying love for Fadia, a slave he frees and marries. After he is forced to leave Rome to escape creditors, he is educated in Greece where he adopts many of their beliefs and lifestyle. To redeem himself, Marcus joins the military staff of Aulus Gabinius, the Proconsul of Syria, as chief of the cavalry. His reputation as a military leader rises when he successfully fulfills his mission to defeat rebels in the middle east. His accolades pave the way for him to serve with Julius Caesar in Gaul (to be continued in the next book).

Author Brook Allen has written an engaging story of a young Roman nobleman born into a family that has fallen from grace. Although Marcus Antonius has major character flaws, his attributes as a military leader and his courage and loyalty to those he loves are qualities that help him on his journey to greatness. The author has masterfully weaved the historical accounts of Antonius into a tale that rings true. The story is suspenseful and provides insight into Marcus Antonius and Roman politics.

“Antonius: Son of Rome” is one of the best historical fiction books that I’ve read. I highly recommend this novel to those who relish reading historical fiction set in ancient Rome. I’ve purchased the second book, “Antonius: Second in Command,” and look forward to reading it.

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Book Review ‘Til Death Do Us Part” by Jan Sikes

'Til Death Do Us Part‘Til Death Do Us Part by Jan Sikes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Til Death do us Part,” by Jan Sikes is a heartfelt story based on the author’s life and her soul mate and husband during their later years together. This is the last book in the series spanning their lifetimes together. The forward gives an overview of the previous books which I had not read but helped to orient me on what happened beforehand. Thus, I could read this final book as a stand-alone novel.

The story follows the story of Luke and Darlina Stone in the last decade of their marriage after they’ve already overcome many hardships since he was released from jail . Although Luke Stone has significant health problems, he’s given another chance to rediscover his passion for country music after being interviewed by a magazine. Again inspired to write music and to perform, he introduces and shares his passion with Darlina. Both he and she write music and perform together as his health declines over the years. Luke grasps each moment of happiness and adapts to his health challenges by focusing on his creative energy with his wife at his side. This is an inspirational love story of two people who are devoted to each other and find meaning in every aspect of their lives. The quote that resonates in my mind at the end is: “When I pass from this life you’ll hear two sounds. You’ll hear a train whistle blowing and you’ll hear an owl hooting.”

Jan Sikes has written a story that touches the human spirit. Although some creative liberties have been taken, the novel is based on the author’s real events which you can easily relate to. It is a story about not giving up but following your dreams and remaining true to those you love. It struck every emotional chord as I read it because it spoke to the heart.

I highly recommend this book to readers who love poignant, realistic stories that inspire you to live your life to the fullest.

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Book Review The Burning Son by TH Leatherman

The Burning SonThe Burning Son by T.H. Leatherman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fasten your seatbelts for the action-packed space odyssey, “The Burning Sun,” by T. H. Leatherman. The story starts in breakneck speed over Yale’s night sky where navigator Mark Martin witnesses the Erethizon forces (known as the “procu-bears”) ambushing his home settlement. Mark helps his sister, Sophie escape, but he can’t save his senatorial father who’s been captured by the enemy. To flee their desperate situation, the brother-sister team hooks up with a female captain in need of a medic and navigator on her pirate spaceship called the Leonard Fox. And with an “aye, arrr,” they burst through the enemy blockade. Escaping danger, at least for the moment, Sarah and Mark become acquainted with the motley crew, including the foxlike Muscats who oversee the engineering bay. To his dismay, Mark learns his homeland’s republic has been transformed into a monarchy under the control of the Erethizons. He is determined to find a way to free his father and his home planet, but he faces threats from unknown forces lurking among the crew. The twists are unexpected in this riveting odyssey, and the ending will make you hunger for the next adventure in the series.

Author Leatherman’s space odyssey is told from first person point of view of Mark Martin. The story effectively captures the humor in his voice to make this a fun read. The story is fast-pace and the dialogue is snappy. The narrative is lean but adequately describes the characters and the interstellar worlds. The competing races of the humans (the Terran Confederation), the engineering-minded Muscat, and the amphibian, psychic Dru are unique and intriguing. They must join forces to defeat the Erethizon, whose crusade is to seize control over every world and to spread their fanatical religious beliefs. Action dominates the beginning of the story. It is not until later that I feel grounded in the interstellar worlds and can fully understand the stakes.

“The Burning Sun” is recommended for science fictions readers who love their tales fast-paced and full of action. The additional bonus of a spaceship full of quirky characters makes this book a fun and entertaining read.

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Book Review War King by Eric Schumacher

War King (Hakon's Saga, #3)War King by Eric Schumacher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hakon’s Saga Book 3, War King, is a riveting Norse historical action adventure set in 957 AD. The saga continues for King Hakon Haroldsson, who wrested Norway’s throne from his murderous brother, Erik Bloodaxe, but mercifully spared Erik’s family. This is a mistake Hakon regrets later when he must face the sons of Erik, who are bent on avenging the wrong done to their father and family. Erik’s sons ally with the Danish king, Harold Bluetooth, and wreak havoc on the region with their brutal raids and plunder. The book is divided into three parts in which Hakon must defend his realm against all odds in three major military campaigns. He uses sound strategy and battle tactics to overcome his enemies. But, as a Christian king, he begins to question if the bloodlust to defend his realm has only resulted in fear and sorrow for his people and those he loves.

Author Eric Schumacher masterfully tells the story from the point of view of King Hakon, an engaging character who demonstrates strength, loyalty, and self-reflection. What makes this tale rise above others in this genre is the author’s skill in vividly capturing the Viking culture. Through graphic detail, readers are immersed in the chaos of fighting, but the battle scenes and tactics are presented with clarity. The saga not only captures the excitement of battle but is also character-driven. Extra bonuses in the book include regional maps and a glossary of Viking terms which are used in the narrative.

War King immediately draws and keeps readers immersed in the legendary tale of King Hakon through rich details of the Viking culture, landscape, and clashes. Highly recommended for those seeking Viking adventure.

I voluntarily reviewed this book for the Historical Novel Society, and the review is also posted in the Historical Newsletter HNR Issue 88 (May 2019).

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Book Review Davida by Karen Ingalls

Davida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-GaudensDavida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens by Karen Ingalls
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Davida by Karen Ingalls is a beautifully written love story based on the real-life model and mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a 19th century sculptor. As a young girl, Albertina Hultgren immigrates to the United States after the tragic death of her father, a woodsman. She misses her father’s fanciful stories about visiting the forests to gain insight from mystical creatures.

After adjusting to her new life in Hoboken, New Jersey, Albertina makes life-long friends and learns to speak English. At a Christmas party, where her mother and aunt have prepared the meal, she captures the attention of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. He impetuously lifts her chin and exclaims she has exquisite beauty and would like to do a sketch of her someday. Her mother reluctantly allows Albertina to pose in his studio after he convinces her that his intentions are honorable. As he creates his art, using Albertina as a model who is publicly known as Davida, they fall deeply in love and she becomes his mistress. She accepts the terms of their relationship, knowing the liaison could create a scandal that could jeopardize his career in a Victorian society. This is ultimately a love story about a woman who gives her unconditional devotion to an acclaimed sculptor and shares his passion for his artwork, regardless of her hardships and the stigma of giving birth to their son out of wedlock.

Author Ingalls’ prose is as eloquent as the artistry she projects in the story. Davida is depicted as the epitome of the Greek goddess, Diana, who finds solace and strength from nature to reach into her inner soul and to find her true self. The love story comes across as almost mythical because Davida sacrifices almost everything to make sure Augustus achieves the pinnacle of his true passion to create masterpieces. Davida is a heartfelt story that fills you with both joy and tears. The paperback is beautifully formatted and reflects the artistry in the story.

For those who believe in true love, Davida is a must read by Karen Ingalls, the only surviving great-grandchild from the union of Davida and Augustus. She fills in the minimal facts about their union with her own imagination of how a Swedish immigrant becomes the true love and mistress of an acclaimed artist.

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