Friday, November 16, 2018

Black Prince

The Black PrinceThe Black Prince: England's Greatest Medieval Warrior by Michael Jones, 408 pages

He was three years old when he was named an earl.  He became a duke at six.  He was first placed in charge of the kingdom at the age of eight, while his father was overseas.  He fought in his first tournament at fourteen.  At sixteen he led men into battle, distinguishing himself commanding a division in the dramatic English victory at Crecy.  At twenty-six, he led the army that crushed the French at Poitiers.  At thirty-two, he ruled as Prince of Aquitaine.  After a long, debilitating illness, he died a week before his forty-sixth birthday, leaving behind his elderly father and nine-year-old son, the future Richard II.

Edward, the eldest son of England's Edward III, was not known as "the Black Prince" during his lifetime - indeed, the origins and meaning of the name are somewhat obscure.  In that lifetime, he was celebrated as the flower of European chivalry, combining bravery and piety, humility and magnificence.  Michael Jones recaptures these qualities in his lively portrait of Edward's life and world.

Thursday, November 15, 2018


Magic StrikesMagic Strikes by Ilona Andrews 310 pages

Reviewed by Rae C.

This is book three in the Kate Daniels series. 

My review of book one
My review of book two

This is an alternate reality world (or possible future) where technology is often overcome by waves of magic.  Cars and electricity will stop working during a magic wave, and when tech comes back on, magical things will often not work, or won't work in the same way. Kate has magical powers of her own, and she work both in the Mercenary Guild (who you call when the cops can't help you) and The Order of Merciful Aid (the cops). 

A regular character, Saiman, who has the ability to shift his appearance but is not a member of the Pack- half-human and half animal- and also has an extreme amount of intel on the various magical forces, hires Kate to help him at the Midnight Games- a kind of Thunderdome, fight to the death, with various magical and otherworldly creatures and weapons.  Saiman is part owner under a fake name and one of his fake appearances.  Initially Kate is just there to give her opinions on the fights and one team in particular.  Of course, Kate ends up in the ring, kicking *** and taking no names.  We learn more about her parentage and powers, more about Saiman (oooh he has a great secret!), more about Andrea, and Curran... The ending of this book is so enticing!  I cannot wait for book four to get here!  I love this series because the romance isn't overdone, in fact, the first two books were just a tease.  Ironically, I keep wishing for a just a bit more bodice ripping, and this book delivers. 

Highly recommend! But don't read these books out of order! 


Magic BurnsMagic Burns by Ilona Andrews  260 pages

Reviewed by Rae C.

This is book two of the series.
My review of book one

Kate Daniels lives in an Atlanta besieged by waves of magic so strong that technology is left powerless, and sometimes skyscrapers collapse.  When the magic rolls through the cars stop and the lights go out, so people will ride horses or magic vehicles, and use fey and other magically charged lights. Kate now works for the Order of Merciful Aid as well as the Mercenary Guild.  And in this book there is a magic "flare"- much stronger than usual, in fact, strong enough for Gods and their entourage to enter this realm.  Kate helps a young girl, Julie, whose mother has gone missing, along with the rest of the witches in her coven.

I like this book a lot.  I love the introduction of Julie, and Julie's storyline- especially the romantic interest Julie has for a boy who is just worthless (sorry, that could be considered a spoiler). And I love Andrea's developing character, and I won't give any spoilers on that.  The romance between Curran and Kate begins to sizzle, and we get some very interesting information on Pack relationships, especially alphas. We also learn a lot more about Kate's background and what she is capable of- enough to make accurate guesses about what is going to be revealed in book 3- and we explore a lot more of this alternate Atlanta, and it is spectacular!

My problems were with the use of Celtic mythology.  Bran is obviously modeled on Bran the Blessed, I was okay with that. And the inclusion of the Fomorians led me to think that the authors had done some real research, and then tailored it to fit their story.  (There's scant information available in the old stories on the Formorians, the sea demons that the Celtic tribes had to fight when they arrived in Ireland.) But Bolgor the Shepherd was a little too over the top and obviously pure invention- and invention that is not rooted in any sort of existing mythology that I know of.  Bolgor doesn't behave or have powers in a manner suited to any branch of Celtic mythology.  And this strange Morrigan versus the Great Crow? Well,  just turn your academic brain off if you need to, and let the characters exist solely in the story.  That's what I did.

Couldn't wait to read book 3 when I finished this one!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


The Girl in the Locked RoomThe Girl In The Locked Room by Mary Downing Hahn
193 pages
Reviewed by Rae C.

Jules is tired of moving, and she hates the creepy old houses that they live in while her father renovates. The dad is a total narcissist.  The mom's a writer and really self absorbed. Both parents lack any supernatural gifts. Jules is a psychic and medium, although she doesn't know it.  She's felt things and seen spirits in other houses, but thinks it is her imagination.  But this time, Jules finds more and more evidence that Lily, the girl in the locked room, was real, and that she needs Jules help to cross over.

Really well done supernatural thriller!  It's not super scary, or horror.  Just an old-fashioned ghost story. It's well written and paced, well plotted, and the ending is satisfying in terms of issues with Jules' family, but the ghost story had a somewhat sloppy resolution. (See below if you don't mind spoilers.)  But the complaints I have weren't enough to spoil my enjoyment of this book!

(****SPOILERS**** and complaints: the inclusion of Frozen Charlotte dolls for no reason; relying on Dianna Wynne Jones alternate reality theory but not explaining clearly why Lily's bones weren't in the wardrobe, and thus, how two Lily's would now be inhabiting the alternate world.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


LaurusLaurus by Eugene Vodolazkin, translated by Lisa C Hayden, 362 pages

Laurus is a beautiful, subtle novel set in a vividly recreated Medieval Russia.  It tells the story of Arseny, called Rukinets and Ustin and Amvrosy and Laurus, a doctor, a penitent, a pilgrim, and a hermit, not successively but progressively, as he and his world are poisoned by sin and healed by grace.  

In her introduction, translator Hayden candidly discusses the difficulties of bringing Vodolazkin's deliberately inconsistent use of archaic language into English - without being able to experience the original, it seems that she has done an excellent job, reinforcing the story's intimations of the relationship between time and eternity, the living and the dead.  This is only one of many profound themes in this marvel of a novel - richly imaginative, empathetic without being sentimental, historically authentic and yet timeless.