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Thursday, February 19, 2015

AETHElRED THE ILL -ADVISED RIDES AGAIN



 Do you like Vikings? Do you want  to increase your Anglo-Saxon vocabulary by fifty words, thereabouts? Do these chilly nights make you long for  a thrilling romp through the  byways  of  really Olde England? Do wish to time travel to  shires where aethelings hunker down in burhs to await the arrival of the dreaded Norsemen?If you answer  yes to any of these questions,  Patricia Bracewell's THE PRICE OF BLOOD, the sequel to  SHADOW ON THE CROWN,  is the novel  for you.


This new novel centers of the relationship between King Aethereld of England and  Emma of Normandy whom he married in 1002.   As such, it is a bittersweet romance and a treat for readers who do not mind being served up historical personages who left behind so little data they must needs be recreated from a a piece of bone and a hank of hair.  


Readers who prefer fiction based on documented historical facts will do well to focus on Aethereld, commonly known as the Unready--according to experts in the Anglo-Saxon  language, unræd actually means ill advised.  He is better documented than his wife.  Bracewell does a superb job of turning the  dry facts of his life into  vibrant text. She leads her audience into  a time when Danish marauders-- the ISIS of the  twelfth Century--subject an already  ravaged England that  to a scorched earth  strategy. They burn, rape, pillage  then ask for  higher and  higher tribute. Aethreld's reaction to these events is less than intelligent. He finds it wise to create  wider fissures in the body politic,  as he  orders the assassination of  formers allies, severely limits his sons' participation in government and rejects  Emma's   counsel.  Meanwhile, his Danish opponent, Sweyn the Forkbeard, plots greater  mayhem.

Throughout the story, Bracewell's  sweet and gentle  Emma tries, tries, and tries again to reason with her husband though, frankly, she would just as soon dally with his son Athelston.  At the same, her  foil, Elgiva, concubine of Sweyn the Forkbeard's son  Cnut, has dangerous plans for England's royal house. Leave your garth, buy the book, fasten your headrail and prepare for a wild ride aboard a longship.A glimmer of the high Middle Ages is yet to shine, but I doubt you will be disappointed.

Monday, February 16, 2015

AETHELRED AND EMMA--UNREADY OR NOT


A review of Patricia Bracewell's THE PRICE OF BLOOD. will be published in the last week of February 2015. Click here for a review of Bracewell's previous novel, A SHADOW ON THE CROWN

 A review Kate Quinn's LADY OF THE ETERNAL CITY will follow. Click here for a review of Quinn's THE SERPENT AND THE PEARL

NEW TITLE IN DANIEL SILVA'S GABRIEL ALON SERIES

Photo from Fine Arts America

Daniel Silva announced, recently, that the title of his his new Gabriel Alon crime novel is THE ENGLISH  SPY.Will Alon get a desk job? As for the Memunha, Daniel says that he is Immortal. Richtexts is glad to hear that.

JASON GOODWIN'S YASHIM COOKBOOK



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JASON GOODWIN'S YASHIM COOKBOOK

Monday, August 18, 2014

A LITTLE LESS OO, A LITTLE MORE LALA, PLEASE










I wanted to like Renee Swindle's A PINCH OF OOOLALA. I wanted to say at very page, as I am doing with the novel I am currently reading, “Beautiful.” Despite the title, which hints of cancan and fin-de-siecle hoopla, this is a story of love and loss in which flippancy is very much out of place. Billed as a satisfying tale of love, friendship and family, it does include all these ingredients, along with a bakery called Scratch where Abbey Lincoln Ross, visually stunning wedding cakes.” This sounded promising and most readers hope that a new book will live up to the promise of its blurbs. This one does not.
I found as disappointing a cake that outlived its shelf life. Mind you, with every new novel I read, I want to praise its author. Unfortunately, I find it impossible in this case.
That does not mean that A PINCH OF OO LALA will not be a commercial success. There have been writers I found mediocre and who went on to sell movie rights for their work to the likes of Julie Robertson. I am well aware that every reader has a different definition of competent writing. Movie makers probably think less about the music of the words than they do about the music of the cash register.

Well, then, A PINCH OOLALAH might yet make cash registers play symphonies all over the country. It is hip, it is very much in the spirit of the age, it has a main character whose career seems to be more more rewarding than her love life. I confess that I know very little about the universality of Abbey's plight. I do not think about target groups and demographics as publishers must. I tend to focus on the way the story is told. My problem with Abbey is that she never really comes to life on the page. I know that she is owns a bakery, that comes from a an unusual family, that she has very good friends and I I know that she loves jazz. In fact, she uses her deep understanding of jazz as a yardstick to measure the potential compatibility of a prospective lover. Well and good. As someone who experienced betrayal and pain, she is very cautious about opening her heart to a man. She yearns to be part of a couple, to have children, to continue to honor her own values. No doubt there is universality in all that. But does it read well? I do not think so. I am not sure whether the essential truth of this novel is that you cannot have your cake and eat. I know this much about this story--its ingredients simply refuse to blend.  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

IN BRIEF--THE BAKLAVA CLUB





                                                      A MULTI-LAYERED DELIGHT


Jason Goodwin's THE BAKLAVA CLUB meets all the requirements of an excellent  novel--great setting,  great plot, a rock solid historical foundation, memorable characters, clear, luminous writing, romance that never lapses into the ordinary rock. All this rests on historical foundation only an erudite writer can build. Goodwin's fans know that he only gets better. Even so, they will be surprised at how deftly he handles the the evolution of characters such as that of  the eunuch for whom the series is named. Up to now, self-contained, self-controlled, self-effacing, clad in drab brown,  Yashim has led a quiet life punctuated by visits to the Ottoman valide and dinners with the scholarly Polish ambassador Palewsky. Only crime solving disrupts his routine. That is, until a group of Italian revolutionaries, a Finnish beauty, and Natasha, the daughter of an exiled Decembrist, cross his path.
What brings  people of such different backgrounds to Yashim's Ottoman Istanbul? Global politics,  of course.  The Italians want to kill a Polish prince and thus cause a shift in global power. The valide wants to make a tiny mark in Russian  history.  Palewsky wants Poland to be Poland once again. Yashim wants to make a difference, to right wrongs and he wants to come to terms with the damage done to him.
Are  all these different  wishes granted? You have to read the book to find out.  I promise that in the process you will be amused, you will learn fascinating historical facts, you will share delightful feasts and you will grow fonder of Yashim and friends.