Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fantasy Fiction Reading Challenge 2015


I've been looking for a fantasy fiction reading challenge to take part in for 2015. I've not found one, so I've created my own.
If you're interested in joining me there are minimal rules.
1. To read a list of fantasy fiction sub-genres: Wikipedia. 
2. Read at least 3 fantasy fiction books in 2015.
3. The challenge begins January 1, and ends December 31, 2015.
4. There is no Mr. Linky for the sign-up. In the comment section of this post, list both your intention of signing up for the challenge, and the future links to your reviews of books read.
5. You are welcome to copy the above illustration for the reading challenge and post on your blog.

The fantasy fiction books I plan to read in 2015 are:
1. Tolkien, A Dictionary by David Day.
2. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien.
3. Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
4. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
5. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

All the books listed are owned by me and have been in my TBR pile for too long. I'm hoping to add more books to read in this list.

Monday, December 15, 2014

(Review) Christmas Poems, Selected and Edited by John Hollander and J.D. McClatchy

Publisher: Everyman's Library Pocket Poets, Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.
Genre: Christmas poems.
Format: Hardcover.
Pages: 256.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.
Source: Library.

Link @ Amazon. 

I've enjoyed reading this book of Christmas poems at night before bedtime. There are several poems that I knew because of the familiar Christmas songs I sing. There are a few poems that are odd; for example, "A Christmas Card, After The Assassinations." Instead of writing a summary and my thoughts section, I'll share my favorite poems from this little gem.

The first and last stanza of a poem written by John Heath-Stubbs.
The name of the poem is "For The Nativity."

"Shepherds, I sing you, this winter's night
Our Hope new-planted, the womb'd, the buried Seed:
For a strange Star has fallen, to blossom from a tomb,
And infinite Godhead circumscribed, hangs helpless at the breast.

A Love, shepherds, most poor,
And yet most royal, kings,
Begins this winter's night;
But oh, cast forth, and with no proper place,
Out in the cold He lies!"

"Shepherd's Song At Christmas" written by Langston Hughes.

Stanzas three through six.

"Watch out for my flocks,
Do not let them stray.
I am going on a journey
Far, far away.
But what shall I bring
As a present for the child?
What shall I bring to the Manger?

I will bring a lamb,
Gentle, meek, and mild,
A lamb for the Child
In the Manger.

I'm just a shepherd boy,
Very poor I am-
But I know there is
A King in Bethlehem.
What shall I bring
As a present just for Him?
What shall I bring to the Manger?

I will bring my heart
And give my heart to Him.
I will bring my heart
To the Manger."

Lastly, "It Came Upon The Midnight Clear" by Edmund Hamilton Sears. The first stanza.

"It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold:
'Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From heaven's all gracious King.'
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing."




Saturday, December 13, 2014

(Review) In Search of Alfred The Great: The King, The Grave, The Legend by Edoardo Albert and Katie Tucker

Publisher: Amberley Publishing August 11, 2014.
Genre: Non-fiction, Anglo-Saxon history, Vikings, Alfred the Great.
Format: Kindle/ebook.
Pages: 202.
Rating: 4 Stars for very good.
Source: Free pdf copy from Amberley Publishing in exchange for a review. I bought an ebook Kindle copy. The Kindle copy is what I read and reviewed.

Amazon  link for the book.
Author link at Amazon. 

Further links on Alfred the Great:
The British Monarchy
Royal Family History
BBC History
History.net
History Today
The Daily Beast/remains of Alfred the Great found
Britannica
Open Library, The Works of King Alfred the Great


Summary:
Alfred the Great had not thought he'd become king. He was the youngest of four brothers. He was born in AD 849. He became king of the Wessex kingdom in AD 871. Wessex was a kingdom in southwest England. During the early part of the Anglo-Saxon period, England was not a united country. The land was divided into sections, each with a ruling monarch. There were seven main kingdoms: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Wessex. "The Great Heathen Army"-Vikings arrived AD 793. During Alfred's reign he was successful in battle against the Vikings; however, he believed the Vikings were God's punishment upon them for their lack of learning. Alfred sought literacy and education in England. He was a pioneer in leaving his own words on paper as a testimony of his life.

My Thoughts:
The Anglo-Saxon period is my favorite era in British history. I've been anxious to read a non-fiction book on King Alfred. At 202 pages, In Search of Alfred The Great has been a wonderful starting point in a study of Alfred.
Usually when writing a review I express likes and dislikes. In Search of Alfred the Great is my last non-fiction book to review in 2014, and I plan to do something a little different. The following bullet points will explain what I learned and found interesting.

  • The story of wicked Eadburh. 
  • The Vikings-their plan and how they carried it out. 
  • The story of Judith of Flanders.
  • Alfred's physical infirmity. 
  • The history of the Britons who were pushed westward into Wales. 
  • The story of Guthrum, king of the Danish Vikings. 
  • The plan to bring literacy to England. 
  • The fortresses Alfred had built.
  • Alfred's naval actions. 
  • The finding of Alfred's bones. 


Friday, December 12, 2014

(Review) The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones

Publisher: Viking, October 14, 2014.
Genre: Non-fiction, The Wars of the Roses, Plantagenets, Tudors, British History Reading Challenge 2014.
Format: Hardcover.
Pages: 416.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars for very good/good.
Source: Free copy from Viking in exchange for a review.

Link for the book at Viking-Penguin.

Link for the book at Amazon. 

Catherine de Valois, married to Henry V

Summary:
The Plantagenets is the first book in the series. The theme of The Wars of the Roses is aptly noted in the subtitle: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors.
The introduction and epilogue holds the story of the Pole family. They were the last of the York family, the White Rose. The execution of Margaret Pole was a gruesome and horrifying end to a niece of two kings, Edward IV and Richard III.
The time period for The Wars of the Roses is 1420 to 1541.
Less emphasis is given to the actual battles of the Wars of the Roses. More emphasis is given on the individuals who were apart of the political factions.
Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury

My Thoughts:
I loved The Plantagenets. It is a heavy but enjoyable study of the Plantagenet lineage and history.
The Wars of the Roses (I'm sad to say) is less remarkable. I have read so many other books about this period in British history, I was hoping to read something new. I'm not stating this is a bad book. It is an engaging book. There were a few brief stories I'd not read before (see below points). But I do not feel it is a 5 star review.

What I enjoyed about the book:
  • Dan Jones writing style is sharp with description for the characters.
  • Owen Tudor, "...lover, husband and secret companion of Catherine de Valois, queen dowager of England." The Tudor family (before Henry VII) is of strong interest to me because I love Welsh history. 
  • The best pictorial description of Henry VI, I've read than any other book. 
  • A macabre story of a mistress caring for a lover's severed head. 
  • Brief stories of the impostors during Henry VII's reign. 
What I wanted to see more of in the book:
  • A detailed and descriptive Battle of Bosworth. 
  • Lengthier study of the two imprisoned princes in the tower. 
  • A dimensional Richard III.
My review of The Plantagenets. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Spotlight on Sudetenland by George T. Chronis

Sudetenland

by
George T. Chronis
[Historical fiction]
Release date: September 30, 2014
self-published
Hardbound Equivalent = 600 pages
ISBN: 978-1483538204
***

SYNOPSIS

Sudetenland© is the premiere novel by author George T. Chronis. The book delivers suspenseful and sweeping historical fiction set against Central European intrigue during the late 1930s leading up to 1938’s Munich Conference. Having swallowed up Austria, Adolph Hitler now covets Czechoslovakian territory. Only France has the power to stand beside the government in Prague against Germany… but will she? The characters are the smart and sometimes wise-cracking men and women of this era – the foreign correspondents, intelligence officers, diplomats and career military – who are on the front lines of that decade’s most dangerous political crisis. If Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš ignores the advice of French premier Édouard Daladier and refuses to give up Bohemian territory willingly, then Hitler orders that it be taken by force. The novel takes readers behind the scenes into the deliberations and high drama taking place within major European capitals such as Prague, Paris, Berlin, Vienna and London as the continent hurtles toward the crucible of a shooting war. [provided by the author]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After years as a journalist and magazine editor, George T. Chronis decided to return to his lifelong passion, storytelling. A lover of both 1930s cinema and world history, Chronis is now devoted to bringing life to the mid-20th Century fictional narratives that have been in his thoughts for years. Sudetenland© is his first novel. Taking place during turbulent times in Central Europe during the 1930s, the book took eight years to research and write. The author is already hard at work on his second novel.
Chronis is married with two daughters, and lives with his wife in a Southern California mountain community.
Visit his website. Follow his Tumblr page. Connect with the author.
Book Excerpt:

Ros strutted into Lasky's office, coming to a dead end in front of the wood desk that was as long as Rhode Island. She tapped the sole of her shoe on the floor impatiently while Lasky bellowed at someone else in the newsroom. At least the afternoon view over Manhattan was pleasing. Blowing in like a foul wind, Lasky slammed the door and walked right past her.
"Boss, I'm sorry to run a little fast with your image back there," Ros offered up in appeasement.
Still rounding his desk, Lasky shook her off with a wave of his hand. "Forget it. That's not why you're here. I have a job for you."
Wondering whether she should be concerned or happy, Ros decided to play along. "What kind of job?"
Sitting down, Lasky rifled through some paperwork until he found the document he was looking for.
"Yeah, go find this guy Lester downstairs, he'll get you all set up. Lodging, fares, advances, the whole low-down," Lasky finished, handing her the form.
"Who's Lester? What are you talking about? Where am I going?" she blurted out before taking a wild glance at the paperwork.
Lasky thought if he could keep Ros distracted, maybe he could get the problem child on the boat before she could cry about needing a raise. He reached out and grabbed the form back. Throwing it on the desktop, Lasky signed the paper with his fountain pen.
Done, he thrust the page back at Ros. "Paris. I'm sending you to Paris."
Ros looked down at the form, then at Lasky, then back at the form. "I'm going to Paris? When did someone around here start liking me?"
"Stop dreaming, no one around here likes you," Lasky taunted her while he walked back around to the front of his desk. "That screwy Miranda just stabbed me in the back. She found herself some guy over there, got married, and now she's running off to some French island in the Caribbean. I need someone to pick up the pieces in Paris. That's you."
"Just slow down. Miranda got hitched?" all of the angles weren't coming together in Ros' head.
"Yeah, nice announcement: Hi Harry, I got married, and I quit," Lasky mimicked a feminine voice. These damn ditzy broads were always letting him down. But Ros showed promise. Pointing his finger repeatedly at her nose, he continued his rant. "Miranda left me high and dry, so I'm sending you to pick up the pieces. You, I don't have to worry about. With that mouth, no one is going to be marrying you."
"Harry!" Ros yelled indignantly. "You're not painting a very enticing picture for me here. What if I don't want to go to Paris?"
Lasky stared at her incredulously. "Who doesn't want to go to Paris? Any one of those stooges out there would kill to go to Paris but none of them have what you've got."
With her natural skepticism starting to boil over, Ros leaned in closer and started jabbing Lasky in the shoulder with two fingers, slowly backing him up against the desk.
"I know what you're up to Harry," her tone low and threatening. "Miranda was on a fashion beat. That means to you the only thing I got that those mugs out there don't have, is boobs. It's another glorified gossip beat, you rat!"
"It's Paris! C'mon, every woman wants to go to Paris," Lasky shouted in his defense.
"That's not the point," Ros continued poking him. "I'm tired of going to county fairs. I'm tired of the only labor unrest stories coming my way having to be in washing machine factories. I'm tired of reporting on this ditzy socialite, and that boring dolt of a millionaire. I want a real beat like a real reporter, Harry. I can do the job just as good, or better, as those guys out there and I cost less."
"Stop trying to get on my good side," Lasky retorted, readying his counter attack. He hadn't expected this much of a fight. But he needed her and he couldn't run the risk of her bolting. "Listen, give me a chance here. You're the only person I've got who can jump in and take over for Miranda. But you're also a hell of a lot better than she is... err, was. You won't have to work as hard to cover her beat. In case you haven't noticed, between the Nazis and Mussolini, there's one crisis after another going on over in Europe. I'm sure there's going to be some important stories Walter and our boys won't be able to get to. What you do with your free time is up to you."
Somewhere in there were a couple of compliments, but she wasn't going to let him twist free that easily. Paris did sound kind of nice, and he was throwing her a bone in the way of real work, but Ros was sure the beat would take up more time than Lasky was promising, and she wanted something else from him... for pride, and because she could.  So Ros just silently stared Lasky down, daring him to add one more carrot to get her to sign on.
"Okay, and I'll throw in a raise," Lasky conceded after a long standoff.
"Done!" Ros threw her arm out to shake hands with Lasky to seal the deal.

Thank you to Emma, the author of: