The Poisoned Cup by Edward Lanyon

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Good afternoon readers, it’s Thursday and I have another brilliant review for you. Now this one comes with a sigh because it should have been posted, well a little while ago to say the least but my disorganised brain managed to miss it completely. It’s been sat in my drafts waiting to be posted for a very long time, but today is the day. In terms of reading, currently I am wading through 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami and it is an absolute masterpiece; I cannot stop reading it; the review will be up probably in the next year seeing as in total the three books span over 2000 pages but we’ll see: for now, this (very) long awaited review.

You’ve seen Braveheart – now discover the other side of the story. In 1286, King Edward of England sends his aged confidant, Sir Henry de Grenville, to Scotland to negotiate a marriage that could unite the two kingdoms. In a tragic accident, the Scottish king dies and his country is left without an heir. In a desperate bid to avoid civil war, the Guardians of Scotland invite King Edward to arbitrate on the succession. But war ensues anyway, a war that quickly engulfs England. Sir Henry is caught up in a bitter conflict against the army of William Wallace. But there is a spy in the Wallace camp…

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So, this is a full on whirlwind of a historical fiction book and as you all know I adore historical fiction. The book follows an ageing English Knight who happens to be working for King Edward the first. His job is to bring peace between England and Scotland; the angst between the two kingdoms is beginning to build to a startling level. However his plans are scuppered when the King of Scotland, Alexander is killed in a sudden accident; all must be done to stop the incoming of a civil war. With no clear path of how to unite the two, war wages and Sir Henry is caught up in the heat. Step forward William Wallace, a mean and fierce man and a little different to the figure we see in the film Braveheart. Lanyon spills a brutal tale of battles, knights, one beautiful maiden and a rip-rolling story.

So the first thing to mention is this feels like a very well-researched and investigated story; the story feels real and definitely transports you to medieval times which of course it is supposed to. I liked the idea that history can be a little set up to make certain historical figures seen in a more positive light and Lanyon forces the reader to re-think the portraits we see of such historic figures. What I also found truly intriguing was the brutal nature of the book: this is an author who does not step back instead the writing is heady, ruthless but also fully formed. It feels like you’re there in the action, feeling the heat of the battle, the roar in your ears; it’s a wonderful thing when historical fiction manages this.

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I thought the characters were fleshed out with style and precision and I liked the way that some are historical figures whilst others are fictional and created from the author’s imagination. I thought the political line of fiction was woven throughout and helped to add to the action and make it feel all the more real. Two slight wobbles; I did wonder how far the character profiles of some of the characters such as William Wallace had been pushed to fit with the storyline and some of the events that occurred did push the boundaries of believability a little but I was so consumed that didn’t affect how much I enjoyed the book to a point where it became a major issue.

I really did enjoy this wonderfully told historical fiction; this type of plot-line isn’t my first port of call, I often prefer the tales of what was happens away from the battle and I tend to read books that focus during world war one and two but this novel has definitely opened my eyes to the other types of historical fiction that are out there waiting to be read.  My only slight complaint would be how honest the character profiles are and how far they have been played with to fit with the plot-line being woven but I thoroughly enjoyed this tale. It has a real sense of what historical fiction should do and how to engage the reader. A lovely, but rather brutal tale.

Links

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Goodreads

Publisher

Baggy Pants and Bootees by Marilyn Chapman

Good afternoon readers, hope you are well. I’m finally feeling a little better after a week of feeling under the weather. I’ve been struggling to get rid of this hacking cough and runny nose but I’m slowly, slowly turning it around. It’s been a reasonably busy week and I’m slowly working through my incredibly busy email inbox. If you are waiting for a review it is on the way and there are a number scheduled for next week which I’m super excited to share with you. Today’s review however is from Marilyn Chapman, sent through to me by the wonderful people at Publishing Push. A historical fiction and my favourite genre of book, would I fall in love with it as a story? Read on to find out.

 When war baby Sophie joins the macho world of 1960s journalism she’s determined to prove that she’s ‘one of the boys’. Her career is threatened by a phone call from her estranged mother setting Sophie on a quest to uncover the secret of her birth. Was her father the all-American soldier she dreamt of when she was a child, or someone far more sinister? This is the story the ambitious reporter was destined to write. Helped by the charming but mysterious David, Sophie uncovers the story of a heartbroken wartime orphan, a GI romance and a terrifying rape that leads to an innocent man’s court martial – and finds clues to her own unhappy childhood. Torn between her secret love for Steve, the newspaper’s most eligible bachelor, and her desire to know who she really is, Sophie follows David to search for her father. Only when faced with the startling truth can she accept the tragedy of love, loss and betrayal, and begin a very different kind of future.

 Powerful eh? I’m not sure how a lover of historical fiction could resist this step back in time to the 1960’s. As the blurb suggests the book follows Sophie as she joins the world of journalism however a worrying call from her mother sets her on course to discover the truth about her father. Was he an American soldier or is there something more terrifying that needs to be exposed. Sophie, with a little help from the impulsive David starts to unravel the truth about her past. I was really hooked by this novel almost from the first page. It helps that the plot line is so solid in its raw state as having that strong sense of direction in a novel really helps the author to pop in characters and weave them around the foundations of the storyline.

 I found Sophie utterly delightful; watching her deal with the everyday challenges of working as a reporter and in an office was a great way to add depth to the character and pull the reader into the story. I warmed to her immediately and found myself really wishing her to succeed. She’s a little stubborn and obstinate but it only makes her all the more spunky and exciting to read about. Steve is also, slightly surprisingly, a very warm and sweet character despite calling Sophie ‘Frigidaire’ when she politely rebuffs his romantic advances. This is then contrasted with the spiteful character that is Frances, Sophie’s mother. However as we learn more about her past I softened and caved feeling sullen and sorry for her. For an author to weave this so skilfully is a lovely touch. Only small critique in terms of characters; I did guess David’s part in the story a little earlier on than I would have liked however it doesn’t detract from the story enough to really cause an issue. I just wish it could have been held back a little longer. Additionally I would have liked the romantic interest in the story to have taken more of a prominence in the book. I think there was potential there to weave another storyline but again another small critique.

 Technically the writing style is solid, not too description, not too much dialogue and just the right pace. For this type of novel, although I want it to be pushing ahead, it’s more about unearthing the characters and to race it would be a shame but Marilyn manages it just right. I liked that as the narrative wore on the story is told between Sophie set in the 60’s and then back to her mother Frances in the 40’s. The contrasts made between the two eras are told with skill and dexterity which is really needed in historical fiction. I definitely felt transported to another time and that’s why I like historical fiction so much because of its potential to take you to another time and place.

 This is a wonderful read full of delectable characters and a real understanding of what you need to spin a delightful historical fiction novel. The characters are warm, well built up and through this the twists and the turns of the book feel all the more real because you are so involved in their story. Overall a wonderful read and one I would definitely recommend. Will there be a sequel? I really hope so.

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Two Sons: A brief insight into a new book review from mylittlebookblog

Good afternoon bloggers, hope you’ve having a wonderful day whatever you are doing on this gloomy Wednesday. Today I have a little bit of a teaser for you; I am currently working with Authoramp on a number of their releases and this will be a book reviewed in a little while so here’s an insight into the book and the author.

Two Sons: The story of two families divided by war and united in grief

It’s 1932 and Hitler and the Nazi Party are threatening to take control of Germany. There is a growing fear of another war.

Two families from vastly different backgrounds make their way to visit their sons’ war graves in the Flanders region of Belgium. John and Annie Williams are on their annual trip from England in memory of their son, Herbert, who had been killed while fighting at the battle of Passchendaele in 1917. Erich and Martina Lehmann have travelled from Germany to pay their respects to the memory of their son, Kurt who died in the same campaign. During their visit, the couples meet and in the wake of such devastation, confrontational events take place.

‘Two Sons’ moves from the war on the western front to the domestic lives of both families over a period of two decades. Having lost their sons in one conflict, both families fear that they may have to make further sacrifices in light of the growing threat.

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About the Author

Stewart Gill Owen was born in Blackburn and grew up in Lancashire. After art school, his career was in design and advertising, and as a lecturer in further and higher education. He now lives in Somerset with his wife Jessie. Their two daughters often visit, bringing the five grandsons with them. Stewart is a keen historian. It is the most immediate and ‘living’ history that has inspired Two Sons, which is his first book. Many of us still have links with the First World War. Stewart lost an uncle in Flanders and one of his ancestors was the poet Wilfred Owen. Something that happened so long ago is in many ways still with us.

Reviews

“This is a very engaging story with rich characterisation, a roller coaster of emotions and excellent period detail.” Bruce Payne, Amazon UK.

“I really enjoyed this read, and would congratulate the author on the way he handled such a sensitive subject and told the stories of two separate families intertwining the past with the present.” Weeki, Amazon UK.

“This book is a sensitive reminder of the impact the war had on both sides. A very good read, which I highly recommend.”  JR Hold, amazon UK.

“One hundred years on this is a very relevant book for young and old. Read it. You will giggle and cry, and be glad you did.” H P Johns, Amazon UK.

Background

“Some of my family history forms the basis of this book,” says Stewart, “I changed some of the characters, added to the detail of events and changed the name of the family. I wanted to tell a story that promoted the experiences of joy, pride, despair, love, grief and the fear of loss. Two Sons is about those emotions, it’s about the passion and the feelings that many of us share, regardless of nationality, class, faith and status.”

It’s a story about the consequences of the battle of Passchendaele that took place in Flanders in 1917. The book is based on a number of confrontational encounters that takes place between a British and a German family in Belgium in the summer of 1932.

“I chose the date because, in July of that year, Hitler and the Nazi party were threatening to take control of Germany” says Stewart, “and there was a growing fear in Belgium of the possibility of renewed hostilities.”  During the visit, heated disagreements and arguments take place. The story moves from the battlefields of the Western Front to the domestic life of the families over a period of two decades.

The choice of the battle of Passchendaele as the main campaign theme of the story was very deliberate. “Passchendaele or as it was also known, the Third Battle of Ypres,” explains Stewart, “became it’s known, not only for the scale of the carnage and the high level of casualties, but also for the mud and the creation of a desolate landscape that is so recognizable as a typical image of World War One.”

“Although it’s a work of fiction,” continues Stewart, “I wanted the detail to be as accurate as I could make it and this involved considerable in-depth research. My view is that this is a story that has never been told in any depth before. This is my first novel I know it wont be my last I’m already working on a sequel.”

Hope you enjoyed a little sneak peak into an upcoming review for mylittlebookblog, look out for the review coming soon!

The slant of light: Steve Wiegenstein

Good evening lovely, lovely readers! Sorry there are been less reviews up recently, I have been struggling (as always) to find enough time to write, read, work and socialise but here is another review for you to get your teeth into. Apologies that it has taken so much time to get up but I have been busy scheduling reviews and somehow this one got missed out! Organising my inbox is on my list of things to do! Additionally any comments anyone has or any questions about my thoughts on the book pop them in the comments box below as I am going out now to stuff my face and my tummy with wine and cheese fondue whilst watching the breakfast club. I am incredibly classy I promise. Hope you enjoy this darling review.

Set during the brink of the Civil War, this beautifully written novel traces James Turner, a charming, impulsive writer and lecturer; Charlotte, his down-to-earth bride; and Cabot, an idealistic Harvard-educated abolitionist as they are drawn together in a social experiment deep in the Missouri Ozarks. Inspired by utopian dreams of building a new society, Turner is given a tract of land to found the community of Daybreak: but not everyone involved in the project is a willing partner, and being the leader of a remote farming community isn’t the life Turner envisioned. Charlotte, confronted with the hardships of rural life, must mature quickly to deal with the challenges of building the community while facing her husband’s betrayals and her growing attraction to Cabot. In turn, Cabot struggles to reconcile his need to leave Daybreak and join the fight against slavery with his desire to stay near the woman he loves. As the war draws ever closer, the utopians try to remain neutral and friendly to all but soon find neutrality is not an option. Ultimately, each member of Daybreak must take a stand–both in their political and personal lives.

The book follows James Turner, notably a lecturer, who has written a utopian novel named Daybreak. It inspires a man from Missouri to donate land into the idea of creating a real life version of the book that Turner had written. Charlotte, a lovely but waif-like character immediately joins Turner hopeful to escape her sad home as well, with the two being joined by Adam Cabot who has links to the abolishment of the slave trade. The story hangs on the characterisation of these three characters as they work together and sometimes against each other in the hope of living the perfect Utopian life.

So anyone that has read my blog for a while or knows me personally will know that I am an absolute sucker for historical fiction in almost any shape or form. I love that it comes in so many shapes and sizes and even when two books explore and write about the same era they come out entirely differently! I think the genre is so versatile and although sometimes difficult to pull off, when done well it is truly wonderful. This book caught my eye because the cover is stunning and when I read the blurb and thought ‘I really don’t know a huge amount about this time in history,’ I was set for a brilliant read; and it honestly was. Learning about the utopian movement was a real learning curve for me and I liked how the writer contrasted the looming Civil War and the idea of a perfectly working society. I also really liked the time span it took on; it is not always known when reading a book how many days, weeks, years the plot contains but by setting it between 1857 and 1862 it allowed for a real in-depth plot line and allowed the author to really play around with the feelings and events of the characters.

The characters are all very well built up and the author really plays with the, creating diverse and interchangeable relationships that allowed the story to grow and increase pace. I really liked the romance that is stitched between the day to day running of the community and I thought it allowed each of the characters to get their time to shine. I found James a little cloying and thought that Charlotte came across a lot stronger as a character but their contrasting characteristics helped to give the story body. I found it compelling and a good contrast to the strong historical and political themes that were running through the main plot line. The secondary characters are given body which helps the book feel very real and you find yourself getting more immersed in the story line; look out especially for George Webb’s son and Sam Hildebrand who crop up throughout the story. I liked that the writing style wasn’t too over descriptive but instead suited the plot line much better than a flowery descriptive style would have.

Overall I really liked this historical fiction simply for its different and interesting plot line. As I have become a more involved reviewer I have found that books with originality are harder to come by. Notably this is why I read very little romantic fiction because you end up reading the same re-hashed story a number of times over. This book is like nothing I have read before and for that I implore you to purchase a copy and give it a read. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

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