Saturday, 28 September 2019

#BookReview — Dragons in the Clouds by David Blair #mIddlegrade #HistoricalFantasy #Dragons

Dragons in the Clouds
By David Blair

“Dragons in the Clouds’’ is a epic adventure that takes place during a time period when Dragons were alive and freely roamed the land. The people during this time were getting eaten by a vicious species of Dragon. The ruling King finally orders the total annihilation
 of all living dragons. A powerful wizard, named Merlinus, who is a friend to the king, does not agree with the Kings order, for Merlinus knows all Dragons are not what they seem. So he does what he must to protect a family of Dragons that he had befriended. And to protect his Dragon friends, Melinus performs the spell of weightlessness and tells the Dragons to fly up and to hide in the cover of the Clouds. An unforeseen ability of the Dragons weightlessness spell is that a Dragons fire now looks like that of lightning and their roar is like that of thunder. Melinus tells the Dragons to live within the clouds and to only come down at night to eat. An apprentice to the wizard who has grandeur of his own has a plan for Dragons that he has hidden deep within a mountain cavern. Now enters a widowed mother, her young boy, who had also befriended a dragon, though a very young one. They suddenly find themselves caught between the Kings order and a battle that has begun between two species of Dragons. A battle that would determine control of the skies above the Kingdom of Albian. This Apprentice’s plan has consequences that may bring the Kingdom and perhaps the very world we live in today to an devastating end.

“Merlinus might be hiding dragons...”

On the orders of King Arturus, all dragons are to be killed on sight. There have been too many deaths, too many good men devoured by these loathsome beasts. It is time to put an end to the dragons' unchecked reign of terror.

For the powerful sorcerer, Merlinus, Arthurus’ decree is both troublesome and disturbing. Not all dragons, kill. Not all are loathsome. But the King is set upon driving the dragons to extinction and this Merlinus cannot allow. However, to go against the king and the will of the people is a monumental risk. If it is ever discovered that he is hiding dragons, then the consequences will be severe.

Unbeknown to Merlinus, he has an enemy. An enemy who will do anything to discredit the renowned wizard.

Can Merlinus save the dragons in time? And who is this enemy that would destroy everything that Merlinus has worked so hard to achieve?

From a dark and dangerous night in the Albion Forest to the dragons last stand high up in the sky above Merlinus’ castle, Dragons in the Clouds by David Blair is the unforgettable story about one man’s fight to save a species from annihilation and the unbreakable friendship between a young boy and his dragon.

With its easy prose style and a wonderfully compelling narrative, Dragons in the Clouds is a real treat for children of middle grade reading age. The story is compelling, without being overcomplicated, and there is enough action to keep even the most reluctant reader entertained. 

Set within the backdrop of Arthurian legends, Dragons in the Clouds is a thoroughly enchanting story and perfect for children to not only read alone, but it also works as a great bedtime story. I thought the relationship between David, and his best friend, Rago the dragon, was beautiful in its simplicity and enjoyable in the telling. David has more reasons than anyone to hate the dragons, but like Merlinus, he understands that not all dragons are the same. David will defend Rago, no matter what that may cost him. David is a young hero that the reader can really get behind, and his relationship with Rago helps drive this story forward.

I thought the characterisation of Merlinus was terrific. He is everything a wizard should be. He is intelligent, cunning, and above everything else, he is someone who will take a stand against injustice even in the face of considerable opposition. His desire to help the dragons is marred only by the fear that the dragons will be discovered.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It had everything an excellent middle-grade book should have. Younger readers of Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon series will be utterly enchanted by David Blair’s Dragon in the Clouds.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Pick up your copy of
Dragons in the Clouds

David Blair

I am the creator and writer of the original story, ''Dragons in the Clouds'' My most favorite and influential writer would be Rod Sterling, of the fame television show ''The Twilight Zone''. Also Charles Dickens, ''A Christmas Carol'' to this day has a place in my heart. I was captivated watching that show. All my work has a paranormal feel too it. I recently worked as a production supervisor for EnterAktion Studios. I started my story telling at the young age of 14. A student film called ''Destination Destiny''. I am so grateful to have this opportunity.

Connect with David: Website • Twitter • Goodreads.

#BookReview — Antonius: Son of Rome by Brook Allen #AncientRome #HistoricalFiction

Antonius: Son of Rome
By Brook Allen

For over two-thousand years, Marcus Antonius—Marc Antony—has been one of history’s most controversial men. His story was buried with him and written by his enemies. Now his entire saga is revealed in a compelling trilogy by Brook Allen.

After young Marcus Antonius’s father dies in disgrace, he yearns to restore his family’s honor during the final days of Rome’s dying Republic. Marcus is rugged, handsome, and owns abundant military talent, but upon entering manhood, he falls prey to the excesses of a violent society. His whoring, gambling, and drinking eventually reap dire consequences. Through a series of personal tragedies, Marcus must come into his own through blood, blades, and death. Once he finally earns a military commission, he faces an uphill battle to earn the respect and admiration of soldiers, proconsuls, and kings. Desperate to redeem his name and carve a legacy for himself, he refuses to let warring rebels, scheming politicians, or even an alluring young Egyptian princess.

"Well, someday he'd prove himself.
He'd command legions.
He'd be Rome's greatest soldier..."

But not yet. First, Marcus Antonius has to grow up.

However, this is not a good time to be a child. The Republic is dying, and Spartacus is leading his fellow slaves to revolt against their Roman masters. Worse still, Marcus Antonius is now the head of the household. However, he is not old enough. He is not ready for such a responsibility.

Marcus Antonius' father's death brought nothing but scandal and disgrace. His mother is no longer invited into society. If it were not for her cousin, Gaius Julius Caesar, then Marcus Antonius would have found himself adrift.

Under Caesar, Marcus Antonius could grow to be the kind of man he longs to be. Alas, affairs of state and war drag Caesar away from the impressionable child. And as scandal rocks the family for a second time, Marcus Antonius becomes the very thing he wanted to avoid...

From the acid smoke of a funeral pyre to the splendour of Alexandria, Antonius: Son of Rome by Brook Allen is the story of the early years of the life of Marcus Antonius.

I have read many wonderful historical fiction books that depict the glory and the splendour of Ancient Rome. In these stories, I have witnessed the political intrigue in the Senate and the Assemblies. I have marched alongside the Roman Army and observed terrible battles — not all ending in victory. In these books, I have also experienced the poverty of the plebs and the slaves. I have walked with soldiers, generals, even Caesar. But never have I walked with Mark Anthony. As a child, I can remember watching Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Cleopatra and falling somewhat in love with the whole idea of Mark Anthony. As a teenager and one who so happened to adore Shakespeare, I met him again. But since then, I have not had the pleasure. Until now. Antonius: Son of Rome is the book that I did not realise I had been waiting for.

As I read the last sentence of Antonius: Son of Rome, as I noted the final full stop, as I closed the book, I was for one truly terrifying moment in the life of an Editorial Book Reviewer, utterly speechless. Words that usually come so easily for me suddenly became somewhat harder. Where do I even begin? What could I say that would convey just how incredible Antonius: Son of Rome is? I could talk about the easy prose style, and how reading this book was effortless, it needed nothing from me but the commitment to keep reading — you do not need a comprehensive knowledge of this period in history to understand what is going on, the writing speaks for itself. Allen, like any tour guide worth one's salt, will take good care of you, she will show you a world that, up until now, you have only glimpsed on the screen or in your imagination. I could talk about the dialogue, which is rich and vibrant and bold and above everything else so incredibly successful. But even that does not even begin to describe how great this book is. I could talk about the story, and how it appalled, impressed and fascinated in equal measures. And yet, not even that could sum up the beauty, the majesty of this book. Perhaps I could spend some time talking about the historical accuracy in this novel — how Allen has a historian's eye but a novelist's heart. To write with such precision, with such attention to detail, not only made me as a reader rejoice at discovering I was in the hands of a master, but it also made this book shamelessly compelling and impossible to put down. I could talk about all of that, but it is the star of the show, the portrayal of the protagonist that irrevocably and irreversibly closed the deal for me on this book.

Marcus Antonius (Mark Anthony) — general, politician, a loyal supporter of Julius Caesar, an enemy of Octavian and husband to Cleopatra. We all know the story. Well, I thought I did. Allen starts at the beginning. We meet Marcus Antonius when he is a very young, impressionable eleven-year-old boy, and oh, how I adored him. Allen has presented us with this desperately grief-ridden child who is trying so hard to be the man of the house — the strong one in the family. My heart broke for him as he struggled to come to terms with his father's death, and along with that, he suffers the disgrace that his father also brought upon their heads silently and without comment. At such a young age, Marcus Antonius had so much responsibility placed upon his shoulders, and in this book he does not act like the politician he would become — he is very much a child and a lost one at that. Not much is known of Marcus Antonius' early life, but much can be surmised, and I thought Allen portrayed this time in Marcus Antonius life with such care and diligence that I can only applaud her — wonderfully written. 

But the death of his father, as history will tell us, was not the only terrible event to mar Marcus Antonius' young life. The execution of his stepfather Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura was also a bitter blow. This book had me in tears on more than one occasion, but the death of Lentutlus had me reaching for the Kleenex and sobbing so hard I had to close the book for a moment. What happens then to Marcus Antonius is really not that surprising. I thought Allen did well recreating this time in Marcus Antonius life with the resources she had available. Kudos, Ms Allen.

Allen has portrayed Marcus Antonius as a man who thinks deeply but also a man who loves deeply. She has also presented us with a man who, despite his somewhat capricious beginnings, is very moral, and very honourable. He is at all times, apart from when dealing with money lenders, a man of his word. Marcus Antonius is a man that men look up to and other envy. As he matures and begins to find his way, Allen lets us have these little glimpses of the man he is destined to be. When he finally gets his first commission, Marcus Antonius finds the place where he not only excels but is supposed to be. Marcus Antonius came into his own, and it was glorious to read and wonderful to envisage. 

As I have said before, you don't need to know anything at all about Marcus Antonius to enjoy this book. I cannot praise this novel enough. It really is a book in a million. Never has a book screamed to be made into the next big Netflix television series as Antonius: Son of Rome does.

If you read only one historical fiction book this year, then please, please, let it be this one — a brilliant, brilliant story. I wish I had written it. I, for one, cannot wait to find out what happens next — book two cannot come soon enough.

I Highly Recommend. 

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Pick up your copy of
Antonius: Son of Rome

Brook Allen

Brook Allen is a Music Educator in a rural community near Roanoke, VA. Aside from her regular classes, she teaches two ensembles, a Chorus and Recorder Consort. Born in Salt Lake City, UT, Brook was raised in Omaha, Nebraska and has lived all over the U.S., from the Pacific Northwest, all the way down to Florida. She graduated with a B.A. in Music Education and has a M. A. in Liberal Studies, with an emphasis on Roman History. Brook is happily married and has two energetic Labrador Retrievers. Voraciously active, she cycles, hikes, and loves to travel.
Connect with Brook: Website • Twitter • Facebook.

#BookReview — Gift of the Gods: Silver and Gold, Volume 2 by Thomas J. Berry #AncientGreece #HistoricalFiction

Gift of the Gods: Silver and Gold
By Thomas J. Berry

Five men and women in Ancient Greece are set on a dangerous journey of self-discovery during the bitter conflict of the Peloponnesian War.

The climatic war between Athens and Sparta is over and, while peace has settled upon the land, bitter factions are at work to resurrect the bloody conflict.  The rival superpowers align themselves with new allies and embark on an overseas adventure with far-reaching consequences.  The democrats of Athens seek conquest and wealth abroad while the militant Spartans play a deadly gambit to stop them.  In the midst of this struggle, one man makes a fateful decision that will change the course of history forever.

As the powerful city-states gather their armies once more, men and women from across the region have far more pressing needs.  A harried mother sees her world turned upside down and struggles to make peace with her husband.  A rich playboy with grand ideas has finally achieved the power to make those dreams a reality while another agonizes over a promising future that has slowly slipped away.  A Spartan officer emerges from his brother’s shadow to claim his own stake in the world and wipe away the stain of his ignoble birth. A young slave struggles to find the courage to save, not only himself, but the ones he holds most dear as he discovers the true meaning of family.

Five men and women come together to weave an epic story of conquest, love, betrayal, and sacrifice.  Their lives will take on new meaning as the political landscape around them changes irreversibly.  How will they navigate these turbulent times and plot their own destiny towards peace?

"I have had frequent dreams of late, dreams of danger and ruins for Athens..."

But what did Socrates know? 

The Peace of Nicias had brought an end to the bloodshed — and the war. But until Sparta has surrendered Amphipolis to Athens, as was agreed, then why should the Athenians relinquish Pylos? One could almost argue, "How can there be peace when the terms of the treaty have not been fulfilled?"

Peace isn't what Athenian politician, Alcibiades, wants anyway. He wants glory and honour and above everything else, wealth. The only thing that could pose a problem to his plans is the Spartans and fellow politician, Nicias. So when the opportunity comes, Alcibiades uses his cunning to pick a fight with the Spartans and provoke a war.

War with Athens seems inevitable. However, Sparta is a land of warriors. They will face this new threat with courage, and they will be victorious. They have to be.

Socrates' warning has, unfortunately, come too late. The Athenians had come too far. Alcibiades would not, he could not, stop what he had put into motion. The Athenian fleet would sail. Alcibiades was not leading his people to destruction and ruin. Socrates was wrong— he had to be. The armada would not burn — how could it? Alcibiades was not leading his men to their deaths. He was leading them to glory and riches. To a land of silver and gold...

From the festival of Pyanepsion in Sicily to the utter defeat of the Athenian army under Nicias during the Siege of Syracuse, Gift of the Gods: Silver and Gold by Thomas J. Berry is in all ways a Historical Fiction triumph.

Told from the viewpoint of five very different people from opposing sides, Gift of the Gods: Silver and Gold is as rich and as potent as the wine once served in the dive bars in Syracuse, Sicily. This is a story that is not only tense, powerful and compulsive in the telling, but one that is also profoundly moving. 

Nothing is beyond the telling, and Berry's attention to the historical detailing is as staggering as it is accurate. Berry has brought this time and this place back to life in his crystalline prose and his compelling narrative. But, this book is not for the faint-hearted. Berry does not gloss over the history, nor does he gloss over the reality of the battles and the appalling treatment and torture of the prisoners. This book is a realistic retelling of this period of history.

The political landscape has been carefully documented and brought back to life in the raucous Assembly. The duplicitous Alcibiades was masterfully portrayed. He gets what he wants through cunning and tricks, and if he can embarrass Nicias at the same time, then so much the better. Likewise, I thought Berry had a lucid understanding of General Nicias, and his struggle to curb Alcibiades' ambitions. Nicias comes across as a shrewd politician, a man who seeks to keep the peace — he would rather work with Sparta than against her. But, Alcibiades is a formidable opponent, and Nicias can do nothing but watch as his beloved Athens is propelled towards another war. The consequences of which, as history will tell us, was disastrous for both Athens and Nicias. It is certainly a fascinating time in history, and Berry has really outdone himself in his portrayal of both of these very charismatic men.

Of course, in times of political unrest, such things spill over into everyday life, and Berry demonstrates this fabulously with the exclusion of the Spartans in the 420 Olympic Games. Berry is one of those authors that has an intuitive understanding of the power of words and how they fit together, which may sound a little strange, but it is true. He is a master at his craft. Berry's writing is as effortless to read as watching a Wolfgang Petersen's Troy, and it is just as rewarding. This skill is clearly demonstrated when Berry brings back to life the excitement, the danger, and the thrill of chariot racing at the Olympics. I could feel and see the enthusiasm of the crowd, the nervous agitation of the horses, and the determination of the competitors. Brilliantly written and wholly unforgettable. I could talk about how fabulously written that chariot race scene was all day, which I think says it all.

Another character that I must not forget to mention was Andreas. He has lived in the shadow of his brother for too long, and now that his brother is dead Andreas has the chance to prove himself. Through Andreas, Berry has allowed us a glimpse as to what life as a Spartan soldier was like. I thought it was a wonderfully compelling representation. Brilliant.

There are several other characters in this book, Cathryn being one of them, who gave a different perspective to the story. All the characters are wonderfully depicted, and they all helped to drive the story forward. 

I am not jesting when I say there is enough adrenaline in this book to keep you reading all night. It is one of those books that you simply cannot put down. Fans of battle heavy historical fiction will fall in love with this book. There is no doubt in my mind that Thomas Berry has written a masterpiece. 

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club

Pick up your copy of

Gift of the Gods: Silver and Gold

Thomas J. Berry

Thomas Berry received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from St. Bonaventure University. A lover of history and literature, he has found his true passion in writing historical fiction. When not writing, he enjoys long distance running and has completed several marathons. He currently lives with his wife and five children in New Jersey.

Connect with Thomas: Website • Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads.

Friday, 20 September 2019

#BookReview — The Brotherhood of the Black Flag: A Novel of the Golden Age of Piracy by Ian Nathaniel Cohen #HistoricalFiction #Pirate

The Brotherhood of the Black Flag
A Novel of the Golden Age of Piracy
By Ian Nathaniel Cohen

Michael McNamara has one last chance to fight for king and country.

His once-promising career in tatters, McNamara leaves the newly-United Kingdom behind in search of a new life. With no other skills but the sword, he joins forces with a pirate turned pirate hunter determined to rid the Caribbean of the Brotherhood of the Black Flag once and for all.

Eager for the adventure and a worthy cause to fight for, McNamara pits himself against treacherous seas and battle-hardened buccaneers...and uncovers an international conspiracy that threatens thousands of lives.

The Golden Age of Piracy is about to end...but not without one final reckoning.

"Everything you've heard about Captain Reynard is true..."

Michael McNamara should have paid more attention.

 But everyone says Stephen Reynard, Captain of The Predator has seen the error of his ways. It seems that the love of a good woman can change even the most unscrupulous of characters. There is also a rumour that this once infamous pirate has made a deal with the English Crown. 

It is true that one must set a thief to catch a thief — the same can be said for pirates. Charged with bringing an end, once and for all, to the illegal and barbaric practices of piracy, Reynard wastes no time in hunting down his prey. And although he already has a loyal crew, there is always room for one more.

Having left the British Navy under a cloud of disgrace, and having lost his job as a smallswords instructor, McNamara seeks new opportunities in Jamaica. But never in his wildest of dreams could McNamara have imagined that he would sail under the command of Captain Reynard. Despite what he has heard, McNamara likes this reformed pirate. He respects Reynard. He trusts him. And five hundred pieces of eight is enough to turn any man's head. One voyage with Captain Reynard and McNamara could set up a business of his own. It would be madness to refuse...

From the relative safety of the Salle des Armes in Bath to the High Seas of the Caribbean, The Brotherhood of the Black Flag: A Novel of the Golden Age of Piracy by Ian Nathaniel Cohen is a book rich in heroism, love, hate, retribution, as well as valour in the face of a horrifying evil.

Powerfully imaginative and with a keen eye on the entertaining, Cohen has penned a book that is not only an enthralling epic adventure set during the Golden Age of Piracy but one that is also witty and inspired. I loved everything about this story. The vivacious storytelling and the fast-paced narrative swept me away.

The story is told, for the most part, from the perspective of Michael McNamara. McNamara is a very moral man. He will stand up for injustice, no matter what that costs him. McNamara is also charismatic and extremely amiable. McNamara judges a man by what he sees, and not by reputation, which at times can make him seem incredibly naive. However, McNamara is the kind of character that a reader can really connect with. He is wonderfully portrayed — a true protagonist in this tale of cut-throats and crime.

With a sense of the theatrical, Stephen Reynard is everything a respectable captain should be. He is kind, compassionate, and more importantly reformed. Reynard is a man who is easy to admire, and just as easy to love — he is a classical romantic, a diamond in the rough. With his charismatic personality, it was very easy to see why Catalinina fell in love with him and why McNamara respects him so much. Cohen has presented his readers with this incredible, enigmatic anti-hero. Many times, I found myself chuckling at not only the things Reynard said but also, as one would expect from a great showman, how he said them. I was thoroughly entertained by Reynard's character from start to finish. Reynard is a very complex character who hides behind a mask of good humour and good intention. His character drove this story forward, and it made this book not only swashbucklingly compelling but next to impossible to put down.

Cohen's attention to historical detailing was beautiful to behold. And his adaptation of life on board a former pirate ship and the crew that comes with it was sublime. Very realistic and absolutely effortless to read. Kudos, Mr Cohen.

There is a hint of romance in this book, and of course, there is the all-consuming passion of the High Sea, but what Cohen does not romanticise is the realities of piracy and how truly awful these men were. Accuracy in depicting this era and these men were obviously at the forefront of Cohen's mind while he penned this book. The pirates in The Brotherhood of the Black Flag are cruel, vicious, and unmerciful. They thrive on misery and suffering. They take what isn't theirs, and damn the consequences. This was a ruthless era and a dangerous one. The Brotherhood of the Black Flag does not gloss over the facts. This is what pirates were like, and this is why they were feared.

If you love a good pirate adventure with a huge plot twist, then The Brotherhood of the Black Flag: A Novel of the Golden Age of Piracy is the book you have been looking for.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club. 

Pick up your copy of
The Brotherhood of the Black Flag

Ian Nathaniel Cohen

Ian Nathaniel Cohen is a native of Miami, Florida, where he grew up immersing himself in swashbuckler literature and film. He graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2003 with a BA in Radio/Television Production and a Minor's Certificate in Applied Computer Science. He also received his MA in Asian Studies from Florida International University in 2006, where he teaches the course Asia Through Film as an adjunct lecturer. In 2010, his essay "Heroes & Villains of the East", analyzing the evolving depiction of the Japanese in Chinese and Hong Kong martial arts cinema, was published in FIU's Japan Studies Journal.

He also writes a review blog, the INCspotlight, focusing on classic films, comic books, and video games.

Connect with Ian:  Twitter • Goodreads.

#BookReview — The Potential For Love by Catherine Kullmann #RegencyRomance

The Potential For Love By Catherine Kullmann When Arabella Malvin sees the figure of an officer silhouetted against the sun, for ...