Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Branches of Time


Rating: 3.5 Stars


I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

First, I'd like to provide the synopsis as was given to me by the author:

"The population of the island of Turios is mercilessly exterminated by the workings of black magic. Only Bashinoir, badly wounded, his wife Lil, and the Priestess Miril have survived. Determined to give their loved ones a worthy burial, the three soon discover that the corpses have disappeared. Their only hope for salvation now lies in the magical protection of the Temple, as sinister threats continue to pursue them. A shadow spreads over their hearts, dividing and destroying them, as their bodies appear to be fading away. Feeling increasingly isolated, Bashinoir watches as the two women grow closer… 

In the Kingdom of Isk, wizards and wisemen alike must bow down before the insatiable King Beanor, whose greed for power and war is matched only by his hunger for sex. A young woman he has chosen as his next bride does not, however, wish to surrender her freedom to love and live. Will games and tricks under the sheets turn the tide in a war that has lasted thousands of years?"

Imagine that, another work of fiction. People who know me well are going to wonder what happened and where the real Sarah has gone. No worries though, it is still me. I was contacted by the author, Luca Rossi, via Twitter and he asked if I would be interested in a copy of the book. I decided to accept, despite the fact that science fiction/fantasy, etc are so NOT anything I am typically interested in. I am firmly ground in the here and now or, honestly, in medieval England. What got my attention though, was the tag line as seen on the cover, "Can you live knowing that those who love you never existed". It was intriguing to me, though I wish had taken a peek at the summary or prior reviews on Goodreads to have a heads-up about some of the more violent/sexual aspects of the book as related to King Beanor, who is a completely irredeemable and cruel despot who thinks of nothing but his own wants. Those mostly have to do with sex, and he has several wives who he treats horribly, as well as prostitutes who he thinks nothing of beheading in a flash of rage. He is also keen on destroying the barrier that keeps his kingdom isolated and annihilating those responsible for said barrier. He's awful, but I can not tell you whether or not he gets what he deserves - a slow and painful death - because that would be a spoiler and that's just not nice.

One thing the reader should be prepared for is this one to end very abruptly and it will be a bit of a shock if you are not. I was not, as I said I avoided other reviews (and the Goodreads page even, which would have showed me that this was #1 in the series). It was a disappointment for me that it occurred when it did, because it was at a crucial point for the two characters who I was most interested in, as they dealt with happenings in Beanor's Kingdom of Isk. I can't say anything about WHY this point is crucial, because it will give away important events, but I did not want this volume to end where it did and I know I will have to read the next one to know what happens.

As stated in the synopsis, far from Isk is the island of Turios, whose inhabitants have all been killed by forces of black magic raining down sharp shards of rocks that have literally sliced and diced nearly all of the populous. Three survivors seeks refuge in the Temple - a husband and wife, Bashinoir and Lil, as well as priestess of the temple, Miril. The priest was slaughtered with the rest of the citizens as he was officiating a wedding ceremony, and now Miril must try to keep the barrier protecting the island up all by herself. Again, if I say too much more it will give away major plot points.

The most interesting aspect of the book to me comes in two forms: first, the time-travel aspect and how someone has gone back to change things and Miril realizes they must themselves travel back as well to try and survive. Someone has changed time, causing the bodies of their dead loved ones to disappear. Lil starts disappearing briefly, right before Miril's eyes. This made the story for me and made me want to keep reading.

The second aspect of the story that was most interesting to me is Ilis, an apprentice wizard in the Kingdom of Isk employed by King Beanor, and Milia, the newest of King Beanor's forced wives. For a third time, I can't say anything else about my worry for them without giving more plot away. But they are the most interesting characters to me at this point, for where their story could go. I hope they get the chance.

The biggest reason I did not feel I could give the book four whole stars is due to the sexual content. King Beanor is violent and cruel and the glimpses we see of him and his wives were VERY off-putting to me. I would have preferred his cruelty be shown in a different way, but then it would not have provided the catalyst needed for certain events to be set in motion. For me, the science-fiction is most interesting, the time travel plot going on. This is of course purely subjective. Some people won't mind it, some people will feel the way I do. In all honesty I prefer books without sex. When the story itself is interesting, I'd rather the focus be on furthering that. I have a strict no romance/erotica/etc policy because too often, the sex IS the plot. It was certainly not the plot in this book, for which I am glad, but I hope there is less in the next book.

In some ways reviewing fiction is much easier than reviewing non-fiction. With the non-fiction, if I misquote an author or misuse the facts, I am the idiot who did not remember what I read and thus lost the whole point of the book. Fiction, on the other hand, is kind of up to me. I can love or hate a character and the author has no control over it really. There are characters I have absolutely abhorred that friends loved and vice versa. The real problem with fiction then, is the fact that with books like this that have twists and turns, I can't say a whole lot without giving away important parts of the plot - something I mentioned above three times.

So, all in all, I would say this is a book I can recommend to those who enjoy the sci-fi/fantasy genres. I am interested in reading the second volume as well to see how this adventure continues.

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune


Rating: 4 Stars


Initially this book caught my attention because of the Clark mansion on the cover. I have an obsession with Gilded-Age New York but had never heard of the Clark family - apparently I was not alone in this. The title was intriguing, though I did no research on Huguette before reading. Perhaps that was for the best.

I am so torn as to what I believe. Was she essentially held hostage by a hospital and her money men, nurse, and personal assistant, who all but forced her to sign these massive checks? Or did she simply love to give away money as though it were nothing? Truthfully, a bit of both may be true but I'm inclined to believe she was, for the most part, mentally sound the majority of the time. She was simply generous beyond the telling of it. And when you have THAT MUCH money, a million seems like pocket change. But still. It was her money and it feels like so many people had malicious intentions and only sought to benefit themselves.

I especially find the behavior of her nurse's children appalling, knowing just by hinting at financial trouble they could get a couple thousand, or a million, out of her. Her nurse seems just as awful. But her family? The 19 descendants who already received a previous inheritance? DISGUSTING. None of those rats ever bothered to try for 40 years to communicate with her, yet once there was money to be had, they were so concerned.

The story itself it wonderfully told and easy to breeze through, starting with Mrs Clark's father and how he slowly but surely made his fortune. It's heartbreaking to read of loss after loss that Huguette endured; to outlive her mother, father, and sister by so many years.

It's easy to speculate on what drove Mrs Clark to behave as she did - and further heartbreaking to learn of the terrible condition she was in when she was taken to the hospital for cancer treatment. Surely there was some underlying condition, but I appreciate the author respecting the privacy that Huguette fought so desperately for, even time and again when she was literally robbed by Citibank and her precious family jewelry sold. She suffered tremendous setbacks, yet continued to do as she pleased, collecting her dolls and designing an assortment of housing for them, among her various art projects.

I truly hope plans for a movie do no go through - especially with Ryan Murphy at the helm. It is time to let this extraordinary woman rest in peace.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

John of Gaunt


Rating: 3.5 Stars


I received a copy of this text for free directly from the publisher, Endeavour Press, in exchange for an honest review.

I am wavering back and forth on this one a bit, three stars or four. This was an incredibly informative read, in particular when it came to the Duke of Lancaster's military exploits (and unfortunate lack of success in most cases), but it was lacking in the areas I was most interested in - his personal life. I wanted to know more about his relationship and eventual marriage to Katherine Swynford and while the book touched on it, it never got quite as much attention as I would have liked. However, one must remember when reading this book, that it was first published in the early 1900s. Times have changed and new information may have come to light in that time that was not available to the author then. Or, perhaps more likely, the author was less concerned with that aspect of Lancaster's life. Either way, the book is heavy on the details of battle plans, which is not necessarily my area of interest. I kept reading though, because the book is still a well-written of a most interesting life, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster - founder of the House of Lancaster and what would eventually lead to what we call today the War of the Roses.

Early on, the book is just as much about Lancaster's older brother Edward, the Black Prince, as it was about John. One would expect as much, seeing as how Lancaster was the fourth son (but third to survive to adulthood) of King Edward III and as a son so far down the line it was never expected that he would eventually play such an important role behind the throne. It is easy to understand then why there is not nearly as much information about him as we may like, and what we see from that time comes in relation to what is known of his older, just as famous, brother.

As an interesting (to me, at least) aside while on the topic of the Black Prince, I recently read an article concerning the siege at Limoges - where in the book it is discussed that the prince had roughly 3,000 thousand men, women, and children massacred. It actually may not have happened that way. New documents that have been discovered indicate that after the siege, this massacre may not have taken place but instead 300 hostages were taken. While we may never know for sure, it is an important point to make when reading older texts such as this that new information is being discovered all the time. And I would like to believe it did not happen, but the Middle Ages were quite a different world altogether and it can not be dismissed entirely; massacres like that occurred often in battle.

One of the most interesting sections to me occurred when it came to the non-battle-oriented aspects, such as the management of Lancaster's lands, who was in charge of what, etc. While this information was specific for Lancaster, it also could have been about any other noble with large landholdings, and I could appreciate the information as being just about the time period in general as it was about him. I love the Middle Ages and there are certainly times where the book focuses more on the period itself. I feel like maybe that was due to the fact that there were simply times in Lancaster's life that could not be accounted for, so generalities had to take the place of Lancaster-specific info. I am not entirely opposed to that practice, but there does need to be a balance between subject and general information.

I also enjoyed the sections detailing Lancaster's retreat and seeking refuge in Scotland. I do not think most people (who know of the time period) realize quite how many times Lancaster had to defend himself against his enemies who sought to bring him down. Many thought he was angling for the throne himself, which may well have been true. But time and again when he could have gone after it, he did not. It is intriguing to think about how different England might look today had that happened and he been successful. Or maybe not, seeing as how his son Henry Bolingbroke would go on to become King Henry IV anyway. Or, history could have gone a completely different direction had any of the Edwards (Edward III, Edward the Black Prince, and the Black Prince's son, also Edward) managed to live just a bit longer. Richard II might never have been king at all and that would be something to contemplate.

After I muddled through the Castile battles and plans and the like, I was excited to see a chapter regarding Katherine Swynford. I thought finally, what I have been waiting for. But alas, it was not solely devoted to this aspect of Lancaster's life and so I was a bit disappointed. I wanted to know so much about their life and their children, and perhaps I simply have to seek other books to find more information on this topic, for reasons I addressed above.

Overall, I can say that I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the Middle Ages and the larger-than-life figures who lived in that age. This text will be of special interest to those who are keen on military information and the Hundred Years' War, as well as Lancaster's forays into Castile and Leon. Despite its age, the book is still very informative and would be a great addition to a medieval books collection.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Mad Bomber of New York: The Extraordinary True Story of the Manhunt That Paralyzed a City


Rate: 4 Stars


Let's take a moment to admire the cover first, shall we? While I am not about judging a book by its cover, I do appreciate the beautiful ones and it is a bonus when the content and cover match to meet/exceed my expectations.

I really enjoyed this one, it was an interesting story that I knew nothing about - you'd think in some US History class I'd have heard about this at some point, a "mad bomber" who planted devices around New York City for SIXTEEN YEARS (1940-1956), and was only caught in 1956 after a few weeks of communication with a newspaper. He hit major targets - Penn Station, Radio City Music Hall, Grand Central Terminal, you name it, there was probably a home-made bomb there at one point in that time period.

Fun Fact: One bomb was planted somewhere in the Empire State Building that to this day has not been found.

The author details the life of George Metesky, this 'mad bomber' who terrorized New York City for 16 years before finally being apprehended. From childhood we meet George, the quiet boy who was the baby of the family, who eventually enlists in the Marines and by all account served his two years admirably, being honorably discharged with a classification of 'excellent'. From that time on, George lived with his two older sisters after the deaths of their parents in the home they'd all grown up in. A fourth sibling had already married and moved out. It is an interesting dynamic created, as neither sister ever married either, and they basically devoted their lives to taking care of George, yet they had no idea anything of his private life, thoughts, feelings. And certainly no idea that there was anything in him that could turn him into such a destructive force for so long a period of time. George's civilian life was fairly standard, though reclusive, for a few years until he gained a job at Hell Gate in the city, a massive power plant owned and operated by Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Con Ed for short. By all accounts there he was shy, considered 'peculiar', but was polite and courteous to his co-workers. The reclusive tag stuck there as well though, as he never seemed to develop many - if any - work friendships. It was here at Hell Gate that a workplace injury would set the course for the next sixteen years of Metesky's life.

After being exposed to a toxic mix of chemicals and soot that left Metesky coughing up blood and supposedly laying on the floor of the plant for two hours with no first aid administered, he eventually is admitted to the hospital in Waterbury and his rage at his former employers grows to the point where he begins fashioning  bombs and planting them in public places in order to draw attention to his plight. This comes after his case is dismissed several times asking for more and additional benefits to help pay for medical treatment and other costs. Bombs accompany notes accusing Con Ed of treachery and this goes on for almost two decades until Metesky is finally apprehended after a few weeks corresponding directly with the New York Journal-American newspaper. The rest of the tale them involves Metesky's court hearings, admission to Matteawan State Hospital (an asylum for the insane), his continuing battle with illness, and finally his release and return home - where he would live until 1994, having outlived nearly everyone involved in his case.

This truly is such a fascinating story, I did not want to put it down (even when I had to do things like go to work). I had no idea that there were so many serial bombers active in the early 1900s, long before the Unabomber, and definitely had never heard of the Mad Bomber of New York, something that in a strange way I feel is unfortunate for this man. It seems a strange thing to say, considering his bombs eventually injured several people, but you really can't help but in a roundabout way kind of feeling bad for the guy. He was injured on the job and Con Ed did little to help with his care - not entirely their fault however, as it was over a year from the incident before he filled his case. But in turn it created what could have been a PR nightmare for them - imagine if a similar incident would have happened today in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and camera phones. Regardless of time limit, public pressure alone would have the company paying millions for the rest of his life.

One thing that baffled me throughout the book was, whenever Metesky planted a device, it was accompanied by a letter that emphasized how he was wronged by Con Ed and published in the newspaper. Given the legal battles that Con Ed had gone through with Metesky, it is a wonder that no one made the connection. He talked of getting justice and their 'dastardly act' against him - the same wording he used when addressing them directly. Did they really screw over hat may of their employees that George and peculiarities did not stand out among them? As years pass, it is equally strange to me that Con Ed worked to purposely conceal employee files when it was finally pieced together that the bomber was a former worker for the company. Con Ed insisted employee files before (I believe it was) 1940 had been destroyed, yet magically they somehow found his file later on when several secretaries were assigned to just that task. It clearly shows they had something to hide, and would at least be publicly held responsible in some capacity for loosing the mad bomber on the city. Another telling factor is that the secretary who found the file, Alice Kelly, declined to accept the reward money and shunned attention from being the one to 'discover' it.

While I felt bad for Metesky, there's a point where eventually you realize someone is going to be seriously injured with his bombs. Metesky always maintained he did not want to hurt the public, and wanted to bring attention to how he had been wronged. Yet he began building bigger and stronger devices that did end up injuring several people. When that fact was pointed out, Metesky claimed that it was the fault of the police for not evacuating the public and keeping them safe. One of the most severely injured men was an elderly Porter at Penn Station who was in the bathroom at the time of one of the explosions. Yet he said he had no ill feelings toward Metesky about what happened, which I find truly amazing. I think there were a lot of people who might have understood why he did what he did, even if they didn't agree with his methods.

I don't typically read books that deal with true crimes, but this story really was fascinating. It helps that no one died in the bombings, otherwise I am not sure I could have handled reading much of the story. That fact doesn't excuse what Metesky did, because people were injured, though I think it is also clear he was mentally ill and a danger to society as a result. But come on, due to what he felt was his patriotic duty, he promised - and kept the promise - to not plant any more devices after the news of Pearl Harbor reached the mainland and would refrain until the war was over. At first you think, well gosh that's nice of him, and on the other hand you're like, wow dude, so self-centered. But then you remember, oh wait you are crazy, and it all makes sense again.

In my lifetime, we have grown accustomed to the uniforms worn by bomb squads, and the methods they use to deactivate explosive devices (Helloooo 'Speed' and Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock speeding through LA on a city bus, ha!). That's why I especially love the many photographs included, particularly the one that shows the kind of armor the bomb squad detectives wore in the first half of the 20th century. There were so many wonderful photos included in the book - several of Metesky as well - but among my most favorite was the photo of the detectives removing the bomb from the Paramount Theatre at Times Square in December of 1956. You look at it and think there is no way those guy could survive if the bomb went off. It is amazing how far we have come in that time.

The author does a fantastic job weaving Metesky's life story together and showing how he became the Mad Bomber, without judging him. I found the reporting to come across as unbiased and that to me is the mark of a good storyteller - one who lets your arrive at your own opinion of the subject. Great read, highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Second Podcast Is Posted!

My second podcast with Depth Xpressions is up. I review 'A Year Unplugged: A Family's Life Without Technology' by Sharael Kolberg. If you have already read my written review, I expand a bit on why this book just did not work for me.

Silicon Valley...Apple...Hannah Montana...American Idol...repeat...a million times...

Sarah's Book Nook Podcast

Sunday, March 6, 2016

JFK and LBJ: The Last Two Great Presidents


Rating: 4 Stars


I received this text as an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

While some might take issue with the title itself, I found this text to be everything I wanted it to be. This includes a better look at a much-maligned president who I feel deserves better than the treatment he has received, being in the unenviable position of assuming the presidency upon the assassination that shocked the nation.

Like so may others, I have bought into the Kennedy myth. I don't now how else to describe it but fascinating. This whole dynasty, this mystique created around this family of handsome sons and beautiful daughters - complete with scandals and cover-ups, what's not love? I say that last part a bit cheekily, because they are also a prime example of what happens when children have too much money and too little supervision. Even so, much of what I have read so far has focused more on the family and less on the politics. This is why a book like this that devotes pages to the "what ifs" had Kennedy not been assassinated was interesting. The issue of Civil Rights is addressed at length especially, and the point made that LBJ was by far the more progressive of the two in pushing through his plans to deal with that, as well as poverty, education, and the myriad of other issues that are overlooked and brushed to the side because of Vietnam.

I have to admit that until the last few years, I bought into the myth about LBJ as well, how terrible a follow-up he was, this kind of bumbling hick from Texas who was crude and rude and having affairs left and right. While some of the latter part is still true, I never really questioned the sources of the stories, until I began reading a little more about him and finding out just how much JFK and his staff did not get along with LBJ and his, and how poorly he really was treated as the vice-president of the most powerful nation on earth. Usually history is written by the victors, but when you are on the same side and battling the Kennedy mystique, I think we all know who was going to win. Among other topics covered, this book really does a fantastic job to rehabilitate LBJ and restore him to the level of respect he deserves. Until reading this, I had no idea how successful he really was in the domain of domestic policy and find it disheartening that all of that seems forgotten. I am not trying to diminish the devastation of Vietnam in any way, but I think it is worth recalling the policies enacted to benefit our country. In fact, you'd think it would be good company to be in when the book states at 57% that only FDR could claim a "comparable record of legislative success". LBJ's reforms impacted so many aspects of our country - health care, economy, education, poverty, environment, immigration. it is unfortunate that his image even needs rehabilitation. It was additionally disheartening to read things like, "By August, 1967, LBJ's rating had fallen below 40%, and his unpopularity was so acute that he had to virtually give up travelling around the country because his personal safety could not be guaranteed" (57%).

The book is incredibly well-researched, and written by a former British correspondent who covered the White House during this turbulent time. While its whole purpose is not to rehab the image of LBJ, I feel that is the most important thing it does. It's a well-written analysis of these two presidencies and all the baggage that comes with that, and I highly recommend it.

1066: What Fates Impose


Rating: 4 Stars


I received a free copy of this book from the author, G.K. Holloway, in exchange for an honest review.

Yes, another fiction text! This was one I knew I'd not be able to say no to. My love for Anglo-Saxon England would not allow such nonsense. I was interested to see how fiction authors deal with all the mysteries surrounding 1066 - particularly that of the succession of Harold, whether or not he swore any oath to William, and Harold's unfortunate death.

I might also say ahead of time, that I think it is terribly unfortunate that Harold was never able to reach his full potential as king. By the majority of the non-fiction accounts I have read thus far, they indicate Harold was a fair and just ruler and it is always intriguing to me to wonder how England might look now had William not been successful and the Plantagenet dynasty never followed. I also find that fiction or non-fiction, I really loathe William the Conqueror. Really, I mean I just hate him so much. I know war in the middle ages was awful and horrible atrocities were committed and it almost seems worse somehow, and it seems quite strange to hate someone who lived 1,000 years before me, but I do.

From the get-go I was drawn into this novel, which traces the events from Edward the Confessor's marriage to Edith, Harold's sister, to the many trials and tribulations (some very rightfully deserved) of the Godwinsons, to Harold's oath, Edward's death, and then the devastating battles that ensued as Harold's country was attacked both by his own brother, and the man he supposedly promised to support for the crown.

Something I appreciated before the text was a list of main characters, because even with my background in non-fiction, man those Anglo-Saxon names are a trip and it is almost impossible to keep everyone straight. One thing I am interested in looking into more is how many of the characters were actual people and how many might have either been invented or a combination of real people. Obviously not the most well-known historical figures, but the supporting ones. This list of characters would be especially helpful for those who are unfamiliar with, or just learning about the time period.

One aspect of the story I was supremely excited to see was the inclusion of Edward the Exile, Edmund Ironside's younger son. In so many of the non-fiction books I read that cover the larger history of England, even Edmund Ironside himself doesn't always get a mention. So, Edward and his brother (also named Edmund) rarely make appearances unless it is a specific text devoted wholly to this time period. This was incredibly important to me, as it shows the thoroughness of the research necessary to write a great historical novel of such and important and turbulent time in England's history. The only part that bothered me was the statement about Edward the Exile 'dropping dead' not long after arriving back in England from his exile in Hungary (where it is believed that he and his brother spent the majority of the lives, having been spirited out of England in order to escape being murdered by Cnut after their father Ironside's ((likely)) murder). Unfortunately there are theories that either Harold himself, or someone in his family, had Edward the Exile murdered to stop him from succeeding Edward the Confessor. Since the Exile's son Edgar was considered too young to rule, another obstacle was cleared for Harold. I wish this aspect had been explored a little more, though it just may be that there is so little evidence as to how Edward the Exile died, the author's best bet was to simply say he died and move on.

One of the parts I was most interested in was how the author would portray the meeting between Harold and William in Normandy, after Harold's capture by Count Guy. Controversy has swirled around this meeting for nearly one thousand years. I don't doubt that Harold swore an oath to support William's claim, but I am inclined to believe it was under duress. If Harold's life was being threatened, or the life of his nephews who were hostages of William's, Harold would have had no choice. There is also the matter of whether or not Harold swore the oath over the holy relics in William's possession, which would have made the oath irrevocable; it has been posited that the relics were hidden within the table/casket and Harold did not actually know he was swearing on them. Within this text, it is presented as a Harold being drugged in some way, combined with the fact that he was repeatedly kept from seeing/retrieving his nephews. Eventually when Harold is about to depart, knowing that he has been made to swear an oath he does not intend to keep, he still is only able to take one of the boys with him. I have no doubt that treachery by Williams abounded in this situation (just as Harold himself used treacherous means to achieve his own ends in other situations), and that Harold did not willingly support the claim. How could he, when he was angling for the crown himself? I found the portrayal of these scenes accurate and interesting; again the research behind the novel is evident.

One thing that is difficult for me - in any fiction text that relies on it - is the sheer amount of dialogue that occurs toward the middle to later third of the novel. This is most likely a personal thing, as I am typically a non-fiction reader, so I do not often have to deal with dialogue. It has been a while since I have read much fiction at all, so I don't know how much would be considered too much, but toward the middle it seemed to get especially heavy. Yes, I know dialogue is necessary in fiction, but my brain is wired mainly for non-fiction so it takes some getting used to for me. Additionally, I did find some of the dialogue to be out of place, or word-use was simply incorrect for the time period. This will be less noticeable for those with less knowledge of 1066 England, but the instances were noticeable to me. There were not many, so this is not a major issue.

After Harold and his men won at Stanford Bridge, it was hard for me to keep reading, but only because I knew what awaited him at Hastings. While Harold was no saint, I do believe that having been chosen by the Witan, and given the controversy surround his trip to Normandy, he was the rightful king and William the usurper. But I can hardly fault him completely, given what would play out in England for the next 400+ years, culminating in the dawn of the Tudor dynasty. As for the text, the battle scenes are written well, and you almost feel as though you are there while you are reading. Leading up to Hastings we also see what William and his men are up to, raping, murdering, and pillaging as they go. There is a particular that was very difficult for me and I ended up skipping over involving the murder of an infant. I do not stomach scenes like this very well, especially being a mom to a young child. I ended up skipping over most of the text having to do with the activities of William's men. I know soldiers and mercenaries did terrible things, as they continue to do in our lifetime, and whether or not this actual event occurred, I did not even want to subject myself to reading it. This is the mark of a talented writer though - evoking strong emotions such as mine indicate Holloway has done something quite right, and it made me even angrier at William and his invasion.

So, in summary, I can recommend this novel for those interested in the time period and the people, my dear Anglo-Saxons, who inhabited England before the Norman Invasion. I personally always say to start with non-fiction first so you have an idea of what the 'historical' parts are vs, the 'fiction' parts. This is an engaging, lively novel that will bring history to life for you, and if you are already well-acquainted with the period, you will find many figures you know and love - or in my case with William, abhor!