Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Reading Adventures:

Welcome to this month's reading adventures. 
Grab a chair and let us tell you about some great books.

Khloe Wren

Styxx by Sherrilyn Kenyon
At around 360,000 words this is one massive book! Any one who has read Kenyon knows her love of torturing her heros, and Styxx raises the bar. I think I read 95% of this book with tears in my eyes. The torture and abuse Styxx suffers is unimaginable and by the time you finish the book you feel like you've lived it yourself. Styxx does get his well deserved HEA... but as Kenyon so often does, not until the final chapters.

I recommend this book, but be warned, it's not for the faint of heart and definitely is a 18+ book.

The Emperor's New Nightingale by Angela Castle
On the planet Ario within the Four Galaxies of Harmony. Peace is kept by a special Song Krystal. Once each life time the Emperor seeks a new nightingale – One pure voice, who makes the Krystal shine, keeping the peace among the stars.
 When full figured Julie is kidnapped from Earth, she is whisked away to sing before the Emperor, but when she escapes, she finds herself on an alien world, ruled by music. She wanders into a Song Tavern and finds friendship and employment.
Orin Emperor of Ario, in disguise, visits his friends Song Tavern. The moment he meets Julie and hears her sing, he knows she is his nightingale.
As their passion grows, the forces of evil are working to drive them apart and bring darkness to the galaxy. When Julie uncovers the plot to destroy the Krystal, she must race against time to save the galaxy and her Emperor or lose them both forever.

I love Angela's writing style and her use of witty humor. Nightingale is no exception. As a singer, I love the concept of this book. I couldn't put it down and read it in two days. The chemistry between Julie and Ario is explosive and I fell in love with not only the main couple but all the background characters too. Highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys erotic romance.

Alison F

Currently reading on the train:

1356 by Bernard Cornwell

1356 is the follow-on from the novels Harlequin (The Archer’s Tale in the US), Vagabond and Heretic. The main character is Thomas of Hookton, an illegitimate English archer who participates in one of England’s greatest mediaeval victories, the battle of Crecy.

I have only just started reading 1356, but have no doubt I will enjoy it as much as I did the three previous novels. Cornwell has a fine ability to describe the blood and gore of the mediaeval battlefield, as well as the day to day life of the people without turning it into a history book (not that there is anything wrong with a history book – I possess more than my fair share of history books – as well as historical novels). Cornwell portrays the English and Welsh archers very well and it is easy to see why they were so feared (and so successful!). The English long bow (or war bow) definitely has a starring role in these novels.

In 1356, Thomas of Hookton is a mercenary leader known as Le Batard. And he is a very successful mercenary. As successful as he was as an English archer. Thomas’ journey from English archer to mercenary leader is told in the preceding three books. In the opening chapters, a French count discovers just how dangerous it can be to renege on an agreement with Le Batard.

The previous three Thomas of Hookton novels were an enthralling journey through mediaeval life and warfare and I have no doubt that 1356 will be just the same. They would make a great gift for a male reader in your family (if he hasn’t discovered them already), but they are also a good choice for women with an interest in historical (particularly mediaeval) novels (non-romance ones, that is).

I will add one caveat however. If you are the least bit squeamish, then this is probably not the book for you. Cornwell is nothing if not honest in his accounts of battle scenes and various other bloody (in the literal sense) bits of life in the Middle Ages. As a general rule, I can be a bit squeamish myself, but it says something about the storyteller if the strength of the story is such that I can overlook/accept the gory bits. This is one of those strong stories.

And in an interesting publishing side note, the reason Harlequin was published as The Archer’s Tale in the US was because the US publishers thought the public might confuse it with Harlequin books and think it was a romance. I. Kid. You. Not.

Previously read on the train – 

Lionheart by Sharon Penman (also known as Sharon Kay Penman)

Lionheart, as the name suggests, deals with the English King Richard the First (aka Richard the Lionheart or Richard Coeur de Lion). I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The book covers the period of the Third Crusade, starting with the journey to the Holy Land, via Sicily and Cyprus and ending with the truce between the Crusaders and Salah Al-Din (whom English history calls Saladin) and Richard’s preparations to return to his own lands. While this is essentially a book about the Third Crusade, and Richard’s part in it, it is also very much about Richard the man. Penman paints a very human portrait of Richard with all his strengths and failings. She shows his love for his mother (the remarkable Eleanor of Aquitaine – the bits about Eleanor and Berengaria’s journey to meet Richard in Sicily I found to be fascinating) and his sisters, and his relationship with that most elusive of English queens, Berengaria, in the very early part of their marriage. She portrays Richard as the superb battle commander that history has always remembered him has, but she also shows a more personal side of a King regarded as one of history’s greatest (even if he nearly did bankrupt the Kingdom and leave it ultimately in the ‘tender’ care of one of history’s most reviled Kings, John Lackland). Richard is shown as being fearless, almost to the point of being foolhardy, with his own life, but very concerned with the lives of his men (one of the reasons he would not attack Jerusalem – Richard knew it was an unwinnable battle and the loss of life would be horrendous). The poor relationship between the French and the English is a major sub-plot running through the story. Yes, Richard is arrogant and some might say foolhardy. Yes, he had an undeniable flair for the dramatic and used it to great effect. He could be careless of others, but equally he could put the welfare of others ahead of his own. He was clever, witty and good-looking. He was a superb fighter and commander, and pitched in with the rest of the Crusaders in the rebuilding of retaken castles. But he also suffered from poor health and some self-doubt.

I have always thought that Richard suffered a bit from bad press, and this novel goes some way towards giving a more balanced view of this remarkable man. It is faithful to the history, but this doesn’t prevent Penman from telling a very good story. If you knew nothing of King Richard at all, you would still find this an engaging story.

The author’s notes at the end of the book give an indication of just how much research Penman does for her books and it was interesting to note that she apologised for some historical inaccuracies in previous books.

I look forward to reading the sequel, A King’s Ransom, as well as the novel about Henry and Eleanor and their children, Devil’s Brood (which is sitting on the bookshelf trying to convince me to bump it up the schedule).

And if you think there is a theme of mediaeval warfare in my reading at the moment, well then, you would be right <g>. I find bows and siege engines far more fascinating than guns.

Elizabeth Rolls

I have been re-reading Diana Wynne Jones's last book, Enchanted Glass

I love this book. It is, if genre definitions matter to you, YA. It is also probably the start of something she was thinking about before cancer claimed her. I miss her bitterly and this book is very much a bitter sweet read. There are things hinted at that will never be answered directly by Diana but it is a wonderful read, and perhaps if I re-read her other books I will work out the answers for myself. For anyone yet to discover Diana Wynne Jones, my other favourite is The Homeward Bounders. Yes, I can see where it is going, but since I want to go there that isn't a problem.

Eleni Konstantine

Wild Encounter by Nikki Logan

5 stars

I was very lucky to read an early draft of the first few chapters of this back when the Bootcampers formed. I knew then how wonderful a writer Nikki Logan was and thought this book would one day be published. What can I say? I was right.

Wildlife worker, Clare Delaney is captured with her African Wild Dogs. She calls the leader, Alpha, who does protect her from the rougher men of the group. However, she takes things into her own hands and plans her escape. What follows in an emotional roller coaster ride for both Clare and Alpha, with danger abound. 

Clare is a strong but vulnerable character and Alpha is an onion. Logan peels back the layers in a rhythm that hitches up as the novel progresses. The romance is at is centre but so are the questions of survival, duty and trust. And the wilderness is very much another character in the story - beautiful and vast. 

If you like romance, action, suspense and nature, you'll love this book. 

I also love the cover.

Now for the audio book of the month....

The Ultimate Neil Gaiman Audio Collection by Neil Gaiman

5 stars
Children's stories

A great way to introduce yourself to Gaiman's work though I have read his work before. Even though I had read Wolves In The Walls and Coroline before, hearing them was a great way of re experiencing them and getting something new from the stories as well. 

Both Neil Gaiman's and Dawn French are excellent narrators.

The stories are fun, fantastical and witty, and there is always social commentary scattered in them.  I thoroughly enjoyed this collection.

Contains stories:
The Wolves in the Walls
Crazy Hair
The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish
Odd and the Frost Giants


This is my last Reading Adventures column. Emmeline Lock will be taking over the reins next month, while I take over the SARA News. 

Until next month, happy reading!


  1. 'Wild Encounter' has me intrigued, Eleni. Love Nikki's passion for wildlife!

    1. She sure does have passion, Carla. I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

  2. Alison, those historical novels look great. My TBR pile is yet again groaning.

    Khloe, I have started the Dark Hunter series but am way behind.

    Elizabeth, I haven't yet read any Wynne Jones. She is definitely an author I've been meaning to read for ages.


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