Rebellion has always been in the O’Reilly family’s blood. So when faced with the tragic death of her brother during Northern Ireland’s infamous Troubles, a teenage Nora joined the IRA to fight for her country’s freedom. Now, more than a decade later, Nora is haunted by both her past and vivid dreams of a man she has never met.
When she is given a relic belonging to Brigid of Kildare, patron saint of Ireland, the mystical artifact transports her back eighty years—to the height of Ireland’s brutal civil war. Here she meets the alluring stranger from her dreams, who has his own secrets—and agenda. Taken out of her own time, Nora has the chance to alter the fortunes of Ireland and maybe even save the ones she loves. In this captivating and adventurous novel from Jodi McIsaac, history belongs to those with the courage to change it.~Goodreads Blurb
With an intriguing mixture of Irish mythology and politics, Author Jodi McIsaac has created a new historical fiction series for the masses. The Easter Rising happened just over 100 years ago and sometimes it is easier for people to forget the pain and hardships that the Irish people went through to get to the point that they are at today. Starting in 2005, we are wiped back in time to just after the Tan wars to when it was quickly becoming a Civil War in the North with Catholics and Protestants each fighting for their homes and their lives. We follow Nora O’Reilly from Belfast to Kildare and through time to help the mysterious man haunting her dreams.
As enjoyable as I found this first book, I did find myself doing separate research on certain parts of history that McIsaac glossed over or assumed the reader knew or didn’t need to know. Typically I find that historical fiction writers can add too much history and bog down the fiction but in this case it was the reverse. The fight for independence and freedom in Ireland is a complicated and nuanced history, but I felt that parts of the story were very one sided. Though that may have just been part of the writing style. If you like Irish history, historical fiction, and some time-travelling women this would be a great book for you. The second book of the series comes out on the 17th of January 2017, so I look forward to reviewing it as well.
Notes about the Author: Jodi McIsaac is the author of the Irish contemporary fantasy series The Thin Veil (47North) the thriller A Cure for Madness (Thomas & Mercer) and the forthcoming historical Revolutionary series, starting with Bury the Living (47North).
She grew up in New Brunswick, on Canada's east coast. After abandoning her Olympic speed skating dream, she wrote speeches for a politician, volunteered in a refugee camp, waited tables in Belfast, earned a couple of university degrees, and started a boutique copywriting agency. She loves geek culture, running, and whisk(e)y.
Mondragon, by Aran Jane, is a sci-fi/biopunk action adventure, set more than a thousand years in the future, after a ceasefire between genetically mutated Martian colonists known as "newstylers" and the unmodified "accidentals" back on Earth.
In Shanghai, Earth's capital, battle-weary Derek Mondragon looks after wounded fellow soldier MacCullum, the last casualty of the Newstyler Rebellion. Meanwhile, his home life deteriorates, resulting in the mother of his child abandoning them both.
Derek is troubled by MacCullum's obsession with an ancient codex that warns of an existential threat tied to the current interplanetary conflict. When MacCullum is attacked in his hospital room for that knowledge, and then Derek's young daughter is removed to a hatchery (a state-run orphanage that turns kids into science projects), Derek goes AWOL to take matters into his own hands, only to land unexpectedly in the middle of a secret mission that might decide the fate of everyone on both planets. ~Goodreads Blurb
A feat by newly published author Aran Jane, Mondragon is a speculative science fiction novel that draws you into his world. It looks like our own, and yet it turns our view on its head. With space exploration, the introduction of new technology and an almost fantasy style of biological manipulation of human life Aran Jane manages to create a world quite unlike our own while filling it with the all too common human emotions and flaws.
With some speculative fiction you are introduced to a world that just seems to have one or two differences that make the world an alternative timeline. Such as who wins the second World War in The Man in the High Castle and the like, this novel has taken the common idea of uploading ourselves in order to transport ourselves across the galaxy and expanded upon it. It assumes a world where we have advanced to a point where those who have uploaded their existence and those who retain their humanity are at odds. This leaves you with a them versus us that isn’t bound by race but by “progress.” The idea that science would progress to an extent that people created by what we today would see as natural creation would be viewed as accidentals. It gives a thought provoking viewpoint that keeps the reader wondering which side to choose.
While the distinction is made early between newstylers and accidentals, one must read further on to really understand what the author means. Simply saying this is “A” and these guys are “B” left me to try and fill in the blanks. Later on in the book I was able to understand as the world building was fleshed out and more of the back story was filled in. So even if you don’t automatically understand I encourage you to keep going. The threads you’re given at the beginning do eventually make a rich tapestry.
Speaking of the world building and the science part of the science fiction, I have to give a thank you to the author. Many times authors will fudge the facts or at least play with the numbers or the nature of the sciences to suit their story. While I am no quantum physicist and my grasp of the sciences is limited, I found Aran Jane’s way of explaining the mechanics of his sandbox and showing the readers the limits of the science refreshing.
Using the Voynich Manuscript was a lovely touch as well. In a world full of technology and code breakers, it is still a source of fascination today. Unsolved and full of a language that no one understands, it is a mystery that has been written about many times. Aran Jane’s choice in making it a message from the past to the future was an interesting turn as was his decision over the Voynich witches inclusion.
While I’m not crazy about the fact that all the women in Mondragon’s life, besides his wife, seem to flock to him, I am glad that the author included women in a manner that made them more than bystanders. It kept the story from becoming a sausage fest and a boys brigade. I could have used more women but I leave that us to the author’s next work.
For a newly published author’s first book I am impressed and look forward to whatever he publishes next. Mondragon is a 479 page book with rather lengthy chapters(25.) I would not recommend this book for a light-hearted read as it is quite dense(in a good way.) If you are looking for a world that you can dive into and really enjoy, this would be perfect for you. A delightful read that is sure to capture your mind and leave you wondering at your own humanity.
Hoping to make a clean break from a fractured marriage, Agatha Christie boards the Orient Express in disguise. But unlike her famous detective Hercule Poirot, she can’t neatly unravel the mysteries she encounters on this fateful journey.
Agatha isn’t the only passenger on board with secrets. Her cabinmate Katharine Keeling’s first marriage ended in tragedy, propelling her toward a second relationship mired in deceit. Nancy Nelson—newly married but carrying another man’s child—is desperate to conceal the pregnancy and teeters on the brink of utter despair. Each woman hides her past from the others, ferociously guarding her secrets. But as the train bound for the Middle East speeds down the track, the parallel courses of their lives shift to intersect—with lasting repercussions.
Filled with evocative imagery, suspense, and emotional complexity, The Woman on the Orient Express explores the bonds of sisterhood forged by shared pain and the power of secrets.
With the success of the real Agatha Christie’s novels, the Orient Express has become a synonym for murder mystery. Any story with it in the title seems to be destined to have at least one body show up. Not so much in this one. I had assumed that this would be a murder mystery surrounding the person of Agatha Christie, similar to the Doctor Who Episode “The Unicorn and The Wasp.” A huge fan of Hercule Poirot and Agatha Christie’s works, I was excited to sink my teeth into a whodunit.
A quick read at a little over 300 pages, this is not a murder mystery, I wouldn’t even call it a mystery at all really. Falling firmly in the historical fiction category, this female based novel sheds light on the time after Christie’s breakdown. With bits of Middle Eastern culture and history sprinkled throughout the story, you find yourself racing through the pages. There is something exciting about reading about travel, and the descriptions really make the book. Combining the known history of two women, Ashford has created a lovely story about three women who meet on the Orient Express and change each other's’ lives. This isn’t a hard read, and I would definitely recommend this book as some light summer reading.
In the midst of the Second World War, Eva receives the devastating news that her husband is missing and presumed dead. Neither wife nor widow, she lives in a numb state of limbo until, in the heat of an English summer, she meets Bill, a black American GI. Despite their vastly different backgrounds, neither can deny the love that overcomes them in the frantic weeks that follow, when every day could be their last.
After Eva discovers she’s pregnant, Bill is shipped off to join the D-day fight, leaving her alone in a bigoted world. As her mixed-race daughter, Louisa, grows up, how far will Eva go to keep her safe and bury the past? And how far will Louisa go to uncover the truth?~Amazon.com Summary
Right off the bat, readers are pulled into the 1940's. The war is on and the men folk are off doing solider things. The women have taken over the men's jobs and the only blokes around are the old, the infirm, the children, and the allies. I've read stories like this a hundred times, and yet I can only assume I was just waiting for this one. Ashford has managed to not only make a wonderfully written historical fic, but also turned it into a family saga that gives me a warm gushy feeling of a Hallmark Classic.
Family saga stories are a tricky business. They only really excel if they are able to give us, as readers, a sense of closure that we aren't always able to get in the real world. That missed opportunity that might have made the difference between happiness and despair, It’s a wonderful “what if” feeling that haunts us as we get older. With a well done family saga story all the ends are finally gathered into a beautiful family tapestry. The Good Guys get their rewards and the Bad Guys get what’s coming to them. If only life could be as well written as Ashford’s story.
Another note that has to be made is the truly realistic human element of this love story. It isn’t all sunshine and roses even with the war on. There’s racism, sexual assault, false accusations, death, and yet there is an overwhelming message of human survival in the face of everything.That is what kept me going throughout the story. I wanted everything to work out, I wanted them to be happy and I was able to put this book down satisfied that life was finally going to be okay for them. This ability to draw me in and cause me to care for the characters will make me pick up and read anything else by Ashford that passes my way. BUY IT.
In 1886, Ludwig II, the Fairy-tale King of Bavaria, was deposed after being declared insane by doctors who had never met him. He died mysteriously soon thereafter, his eccentric and beautiful castles his only legacy. In The Ludwig Conspiracy, master of historical suspense Oliver Pötzsch brings the Mad King back to life. An encoded diary by one of Ludwig’s confidants falls into the hands of modern-day rare-book dealer Steven Lukas, who soon realizes that the diary may bring him more misery than money. Lukas teams up with a beautiful art detective, Sara Lengfeld, to investigate each of Ludwig’s three famous castles for clues to crack the diary’s code as mysterious thugs and Ludwig’s fanatical followers chase them at every step. Just what in the diary could be so explosive?---Amazon.com Summary
Since reading Oliver Pötzsch Hangman’s Daughter Series, I have grown to really enjoy his style of writing and I looked forward to reading this new one, The Ludwig Conspiracy. That being said, I feel as though this wasn’t what I hoped for. The writing was lovely and the author has a great knack for describing the scenes so that the imagination can paint a picture. The history and facts were laid out and yet the characters just didn’t hold as well as I would have liked. As much as I judge formula writing, I have to admit it has its advantages. There as certain boxes that have to be checked in order for a novel to work and at times it can help round out an otherwise flat story line. This story follows an idea, and a formula similar to The Da Vinci Code and the National Treasure series.
I hadn’t really heard of Ludwig II in any real sense except to know that the Disneyland castle was mirrored off of his castle. Even in German class, he was only touched upon, before moving on to more modern leaders of Germany and Austria. Historical fiction as a whole genre is a gift in that regard. It takes historical characters that the average reader might not have more than a baseline understanding of who they are and through the novel, the readers learn to care about them and their story. This isn’t just my viewpoint obviously if one looks at how many stories are written about the Tudor family alone. The story is broken up into two tales one in modern times and another in the time of Ludwig II. The history in the story is solid and the end of monarchs usually have good stories behind them. This is no exception. Anyone who read and enjoyed the Da Vinci Code, will like this to a degree. I would equate it to a nice summer read of a book. You don't expect as much out of it and are pleasantly surprised when it's good.
While the writing was well done, the characters weren't fleshed out very well. Couple that with the fact that every character had to have some twist to their lives left me suspicious and not sure who I was rooting for. Not only do both narrators have their honesty questioned, but they are both obviously hiding something. The problem with this unreliable narrator theme is that it leaves the audience not certain if they should care. If they don't care then why should they finish the story?
Small spoiler for you here, there is a bit of a love story going on in each tale. It may seem a little harsh but I felt that it was an unnecessary element in the modern side. It felt fake and read like something added in to check a box. History- Check. Mystery- Check. Romance-Well if I have to, Check. Not only that, but when it came to a moment of plot twist reveal, of which there were several, I was left puzzled. Character elements were added that simply led me to be confused and rather annoyed. Then when Lead Man was forced to be parted from Lead Lady, he seemed indifferent and left without much of a struggle. After being forced into this adventure over the course of several days, most of which would bond these two together, it left me feeling as though he wouldn't even add her to his Facebook (if he knew what that was.)
At the end of it all, I would recommend this book. I wouldn't buy it, I would definitely borrow it, or use my KindleUnlimited for it. Another option would be to support your local library and hit them up for books. If you enjoy Historical Mystery Fiction, please check out The Hangman's Daughter Series, because it is very good and this author deserves so much more.
Oliver Pötzsch is a German writer and filmmaker. After high school he attended the German School of Journalism in Munich from 1992 to 1997. He then worked for Radio Bavaria. In addition to his professional activities in radio and television, Pötzsch researched his family history. He is a descendant of the Kuisle, from the 16th to the 19th Century a famous dynasty of executioners in Schongau.
Their average age was twenty-five. They came from Berkeley, Cambridge, Paris, London, Chicago—and arrived in New Mexico ready for adventure, or at least resigned to it. But hope quickly turned to hardship as they were forced to adapt to a rugged military town where everything was a secret, including what their husbands were doing at the lab. They lived in barely finished houses with a P.O. box for an address in a town wreathed with barbed wire, all for the benefit of a project that didn’t exist as far as the public knew. Though they were strangers, they joined together—adapting to a landscape as fierce as it was absorbing, full of the banalities of everyday life and the drama of scientific discovery.~ Goodreads Summary
Look everyone is going to harp on about it so let me just get it out now, this book is written in first person plural. The use of the royal sounding "we" rather than "I" is used through out this book and it does not stop after the first few pages to lapse into a more conventional style of writing. There I said it. Guess what? I loved the style. It gave the group a harmony and a stronger voice. Instead of merely identifying with one woman and then alienating the others you are shown the group as a being. A simple take us or leave us being. I loved it. It has to be said that some may find this type of reading to be too difficult and the multi-voice to tiring to follow. I like a challenge, no one reads Shakespeare because it's easy, or dissects Odysseus because it's fun. We're in it for the thrill of besting the pages. If you can pull your self above the different style then this book is a wonderful fleshed out view of the Manhattan Project written by someone actually born on one of the secret bases.
Everyone wants to know what it was like from the men who actually built the bomb, and while this is fascinating it isn't enough for me, nor should it be for you. I can't look at greatness without thinking about the sacrifices they had to make to get there. How many days did they miss with their families? Did they make every moment count or did they expect them to be waiting for them? Were they a parent or were they simply an adult who lived in the same house? This book showed the struggles and the triumphs of the families of Los Alamos. These women were taken away from their families and their friends and forced to adapt. With military families you are volunteering for this life but in the science community you might not be expecting it. They became military families and yet not quite. They didn't fit the box since their husbands and fathers were civilians so they didn't get all the things that go with it. These are the stories that need to be told. NOT just about great people doing great things but of the families who sacrifice their happiness and their youth for these great people.
This story was a great view into the mind of women who either had to bond or further isolate themselves. Each of them bound by simply not knowing what secret they were protecting. This life was hard and exhausting, that really comes through on the page. Take the time, accept the Plural First and enjoy the crap out of this book. Because of the risk of you giving up after a few chapters, I would say borrow it at your local library or KindleUnlimted it. If you like it buy it, if not then feel free to let me know why.
In 1676, an unlikely pair—a young Puritan widow and an English spy—journeys across a land where greed and treachery abound. Prudence Cotton has recently lost her husband and is desperate to find her daughter, captured by the Nipmuk tribe during King Philip’s war. She’s convinced her daughter is alive but cannot track her into the wilderness alone. Help arrives in the form of James Bailey, an agent of the crown sent to Boston to investigate the murder of Prudence’s husband and to covertly cause a disturbance that would give the king just cause to install royal governors. After his partner is murdered, James needs help too. He strikes a deal with Prudence, and together they traverse the forbidding New England landscape looking for clues. What they confront in the wilderness—and what they discover about each other—could forever change their allegiances and alter their destinies. --Amazon.com
I wanted to love this book, I really did. A widowed woman in Puritan times fighting to get her daughter back and getting a shiny knight on horse back for her troubles, what's not to love? The exhausting trip it took to get there. If you're going to read it, borrow it from the library or use Kindle Unlimited. Anything that won't make you grumpy about wasting time. Now I love me some historical fiction, most of the books I am going to review on are historical fiction or sci-fi/fantasy it's just what I like. This book gets a pass from me, in that I would add it to a pile of books for a friend but it wouldn't be a solo gift. It just doesn't stand up by itself.
The main male lead, James Bailey, is just wrong. He is supposed to be the other half of this story, the equal to Prudence Cotton. Yet he seems to simply be a seires of PADs (Plot Advancement Device.) Need to get past a guard? Use James. He has a magical (not literally) pass. Need to find your daughter? Use James. Need to get your stuff back from your brother-in-law? Now where did we leave James? He has his own specified mission and between right now after reading this book a couple of weeks ago and just writing this I couldn't tell you if he ever succeeds.(Edit: I checked. He sort of does, but in a backwards way that makes little sense) I could understand the shallow strokes on this character if this was a newbie's novel but the author has over twenty books under his belt. At that point, what's the excuse?
Leaving the characters to one side, trust me you can put them anywhere, the mystery/conspiracy side of all this was a bit too easy. I need a good mystery. Growing up on Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, I love a mystery with just enough twist for me to not realize the butler did it in the first few pages. The book is only 345 pages long and yet it manages to dawdle for the first two-thirds of the book and then rush to wrap everything up in the end. In this case the butler definitely did it and you can tell who the bad guy is right when he appears on the scene. I have to give props to the author though, he could have dressed him all in black and gave him a black mustache to twirl but that must have been too much.
I tried to love this book so much, I need good historical fiction. It doesn't have to be great, trust me I'll read the trashy Tudor novels, and the silly bodice rippers but give me something to sink into. This book toys with you. There were so many moments when I was on the verge of getting to a good part only to go a few more pages in without getting anything. It was the equivalent of eating a bread sandwich, Just a nice piece of bread between two other pieces of bread. Should I also mention that any hope of a non white bread character that anyone can relate to was killed off in the 1st half of the book? Yeah, thanks for that. Oh, he might be interesting. And now he's dead. Great.
This one gets a Meh Goodwill would take it, on a scale from holding up my trashcan to sitting next to my plastic skull named Bob. (Bob gets all the good books)
With 99.7% of the Earth's population dead and gone, the few who remain struggle to survive in an empty world. The scattered. The leftovers. These are their stories.
Meet Mitch, a father infected with the zombie virus. He knows he has 24 hours until he turns. Maybe a little more if he's lucky. He's been a half-ass father. Checked out. Distracted. Can he find a path to redemption in his final hours? Can he make sure his kids are taken care of before time runs out?
Meet Travis, a 23 year old wimp who ran away as his parents were murdered by raiders. Now he surrounds himself with towers of scavenged booze and prescription pills. He only wants to numb the pain. Then he comes upon the men who killed his family. Now he has a choice.
Meet Erin, a 16 year old girl taking care of an 8 year old orphan. Six months ago she was worried about prom. Now she worries about zombies and raiders and feeding a little girl.
Meet Teddy. Meet Baghead and Delfino. Meet Rex and Ray and Lorraine. Meet the utterly lost who look for meaning in humanity's fading glow.~Goodreads Blurb
Now typically when faced with a Zombie novel, I tend to move on to the next book pretty quickly. For me, zombies are best done in a visual media. Whether that is in graphic novel sense or film and tv, that’s where I cubbyhole my zombies. It appears that I have been doing myself a great disservice if zombie novels are like The Scattered and The Dead. Fair warning this is not one of those books that you can pick up and read in a night. At close to 650 pages, settle in for the long haul with a comfy chair and some Chinese takeout.
For a zombie book there are surprisingly few zombies running amuck, but I think the focus on the characters was a great choice by co authors Vargus and McBain. The various Points of View(POV) really kept the story fresh, a feat in itself in a 650 page book. We as an audience are given a plethora of different people to root for and like any story there are those characters that I couldn’t really force myself to care about(Damn it Mitch.)
Well-written and with a style that lends itself well to immersion in reading, I couldn't help but wonder if like Dickens they were being paid by the word. A different set of authors might have been able to parse down on the length of the novel which is one of the reasons it took me so long to post a review. The other reason is that I wasn’t really driven to finish the story. While there is guaranteed to be some internal conflict in the eventual end of the world. I felt that the view I was left with wasn’t the hope inspiring “Life finds a way” but a “oh, end it already” at least for a few of the characters. I look forward to reading the shorter, follow up novels but I don’t think this will be on my re-read list. I’m grateful for the opportunity to read outside my usual wheelhouse and I will definitely give the zombie genre another look. That being said, I might recommend splitting this book into 2 parts, simplifying parts and giving it a bit of a connecting arch.
I would recommend borrowing this book, whether it be from your local library or Kindle Unlimited. Not for people looking for a quick read or simple formula reading.
Freelance Editor & Reviewer