Thursday, 22 December 2011

Becky Bookworm Book Review: The Viking Dead by Toby Venables

Do you like horror? Do you like vikings? Do you like endless battles? Do you like grizzly gorey details? Do you like - zombies?
Then you're bound to enjoy The Viking Dead by Toby Venables - read my review of this book at the FantasyGuide.com 
- just click on the cover! .... IF YOU DARE!
The Viking Dead (Tomes of the Dead)

Monday, 19 December 2011

Becky Bookworm Book Review : Conquest by Stewart Binns (Is 2 Hereward's better than 1?)

ConquestConquest by Stewart Binns

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Sadly this book has a lot of good plots and interesting characters (Harold Godwinson, Harald Hardarada, William Duke of Normandy, El Sid and more) and covers many years worth of history from different countries that the author Stewart Binns really should have slowed the pace down, focused on a few key moments and maybe made this one book into a trilogy at least.

The side effect of cramming so much into one set of book covers made everything seem rather rushed, all the events tended to be almost glimpsted by the reader, the narrator never giving them a chance to settle to experience what the characters were experiencing in such turbulent years. This too also made some events either seem a bit out of place or maybe too set up in order to drag the reader along to the next big event of the characters life and so the reader can never really connect to the full dramaticness of each event occuring, just a mere acceptance is required. A lot of this is signalled by the narrator accounting a lot of stuff in brief details - we never get to encounter many of the great battles this portrayal of Hereward experienced in southern Spain or Normandy, let alone his more peaceful time spent living in Dublin with his new friends and lover Torfida etc, even the great battles of 1066 were over within a chapter or two!

Unfortunately I have recently finished another book focusing on the mysterious character of Hereward the Wake and it does exactly what Stewart Binns should have done, focued on a few select years, a few key events, not travelled so much across the globe and spent enough time showing the reader the depth of the characters lives and the world they lived in. I prefered Jame's Wilde's version (see my 'Hereward' review) to this one.

View all my reviews

Friday, 16 December 2011

Becky Bookworm Book Review - Hereward by James Wilde

HerewardHereward by James Wilde

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is defintely one of several Hereward based historical novels I'd recommend. It has a movie style epic and gripping start and the characters are so rich in detail and depth and the plots so intricately woven together that even Shakespeare's plots seemed simple compared to the ones in this book.
It truly takes the reader into the reality of the anglo-saxon world complete with characters from simple peasant folk through monks and priests, warriors and hurscals, noble ladies and the cut-throat (literally) power-hungry men of court, including one Harold Godwinson portrayed in a light never before seen or considered but is based well within his historical context of an ailing King with no heir.
There is as no suprise a lot of death, battle, sword fights, murder and gore in this novel but it demonstrates that despite the mixed and developed culture of the anglo-saxons the sword and honour in the face of death was still a powerful rule in the hearts of men, like Hereward, in particularly so due his own crazed bloodlust frenzy that arises within him when he is forced to draw blood.
The story does cover a lot but it does it with great care and sadly it ends all to soon at the start of Hereward's famous rebellion against William the Conquerer. I can only hope a sequel is planned.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Soul Chaser - Grand Reveal of Chapter 8 - Dreams and Stories

It's taken me more than 6 months to complete and even then this chapter deviated a lot from my original chapter plan but it has all been the better good as I hope it reveals even more about my main character and helps establish a firmer connection with the reader, it has done with me anyway, most of the secrets revealed in this chapter came about as quite a natural occuring suprise. And it creates a great build up to the excitement and runic magic planned for Chapter 9! Remember though that this is still a rought draft and may well complain  plenty of spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes that I apologise in advance for but I just love to share the world of SC when it's straight from my finger tips like this. So please do have a scan through and let me know what you think - or better yet go to through chapters 1-5 via links above to emerse yourself truly into the world of gods, souls and legends that is ........

Chapter 8: Dreams and Stories

Water splashed and sloshed against the sides of the boat, almost creating a natural series of beats as the oars sliced into the surface of the sea. Each stroke was firm and gentle, strong and sure, but at a steady pace which suited the warmth on our backs and the gentle breeze tickling our naked arms. My hands gripped the sides not out of fear, but for the need to hold onto something, as the hands I wanted to hold were manning the oars. I looked up into the eyes of the man rowing us smoothly amongst the bigger and more expensive boats and ships docked that day. I sensed no ill intentions from his returning gaze, just the glow of happiness, the pulsating love he had for me, but something lingered behind it all, a small worry perhaps? I looked elsewhere, wondering who the people were who owned the rich yachts, what the rooms inside were like, whether there was caviar and champagne in the fridge. I noticed a vortex of seagulls swirling directly above our heads, their loud, mind piercing calls heralding the summer’s mid-day sunshine.
            “Are you hungry?” The man asked making me turn my focus again.
I didn’t answer because I wasn’t sure. I didn’t feel hungry but then again I didn’t feel not hungry. I was afraid it might be sea-sickness which would spoil the day for us both. In the end I just shrugged.
            “Mum made you an extra set of sandwiches in case we got hungry on the way out. You’ve got marmite and cheese or chicken salad?”
I knew the first option was my favourite but the fact that he offered me the other showed they were still trying to get me to eat healthier.
            “Well I might have one of the chicken salad; this rowing has built up my appetite.” He put the oars at rest and knelt over the large food chiller container that sat between us.
            As he unzipped the box open I felt a shadow swoop over us, I looked up and the seagulls were scattering across the vast blue sky, shrieking louder than before. I couldn’t detect anything wrong; I wasn’t even sure what predator if any the seagulls had in the sky. I could still glimpse the harbor side crammed with people out enjoying the day. It is out of that moving mass that one black thing emerged, gliding smoothly over the boats and swooping across the dappled sparkling sea. I watched, curious and fascinated as to what it could be. It grew as it shrunk the distance between us, its identity revealed as a bird as black as Whitby jet. It let out a call as harsh as rocks being crushed to dust in a grinding machine. Just the eeriness of its call made me grip the boat tighter. I tried to call to my companion, my curiosity transforming to fear. I looked down into our humble boat and neither he nor our chilled picnic box was there. Disappeared. Vanished. I was on my own and facing a terror that was so intense it had taken away my voice. My eyes were now bewitched with the incoming threatening black bird that now landed onto the vacant bench before me. It stood tall, twitching its head from side to side, showing one red eye and then one black eye. It fluttered its wings and opened its beak, I cringed expecting the horrid noise from before but my fear became shock as a croaking voice uttered. “Reignlief!” I lost control of my senses and felt myself fall into the bottom of the boat. The bird’s aged voice repeating that one word over and over again before the blackness that had consumed my vision finally blocked up my ears.
*** *** ***
            Typical. Bloody typical. The Norn’s must be having hysterics when weaving my thread, to let my mind become so absorbed by a nightmare, that taunted me with memories I could not name in my heart. Those were my thoughts when for the first time in five years I lay in my bed, shivering with cold panic and tears blurring my vision. I gulped hard to control my weeping eyes and wrapped the blankets tighter against my body only to make myself jump at the unfamiliar sight of my wings mimicking my arms. I wrapped my front in my large white feathers. It was a very strange night I was having but then I laughed at myself without care when I remembered all the other strange nights I experienced previously. No, that night wasn’t strange, it was new, full of new lessons, new limbs, new challenges and the fear that comes with each snippet of memory my soul discovers.
            I rubbed my eyes, shook my head a little and sat up slowly allowing my wings to recoil back behind my shoulders. For a moment I sat there focusing on their presence, it felt like I had a large, warm, friendly goose strapped to me. After another moment of relaxing in the security of their connection to me, I relit the candle on the table with a small flash of the rune Ken (^) and rummaged in the bottom of my trunk. Amongst the heavy shadows of clothing I came across, with some relief, the small ash wood engraved box containing parchment, quill and ink and a few pieces of my Valkyrie jewelry such as my silver torque bracelet. Bringing it up onto the table I caught myself marveling in a rather silly manner at the scenes the flickering candle light depicted before me.
            Each side of the box had a scene from famous Norse legends and sagas. The one on the front with a silver clasp in the middle depicted Sigurd the Blacksmith, slaying the dragon Fafnir, the left side had Grettir the Strong being hurt by a wicked enchantment from a log that washed up at his secret hideout. On the right end was four figures holding what appeared to be a giant platter until you see beneath it is a small marking of a tree with a couple on its left and a cow and dog on its right. That was Yggdrasil at the birth of the world with the four Giant Dwarves, their names that of the four winds, holding up the sky so tree, man and animal could live. The rear side of the box though was particularly special, a scene very few of those who live outside the Norse Pantheon know about.
Engraved is a paradisiacal landscape with great plants and wondrous creatures, and under a pavilion in the centre are sat two women, one clearly older than the other due to the length of her dress but each holds a bird at her feet. The older and more regal holds what looks like a hawk or eagle, the younger and sterner of the pair is holding what could be first perceived as a goose but when examining the flair of its wings is clearly a swan. This secret scene depicts the untold legend of how Frigg and Freya recognized each other upon the Peace Treaty and Alliance with the Vanir. Frigg gave Freya the gift of a royal Eagle; Freya in turn granted her new Mistress the grace and beauty of the Swan. All Valkyries in training are granted magical swan feather cloaks in honour of that exchange yet only ever will Freya be allowed to adorn the wings of an eagle.
That box, like so many special items I’ve been given or earned during my handful of years with these gods and their shield maidens, always had some saga, tale or legend attached. Its own life story of how it came into being, how it came to be owned by whom and all that happened after. Such as Freya’s Brisingamen necklace, to be wrought of gold so fine that it glowed as bright as the sun even in a dark room. It was crafted by four dwarf brothers when they discovered a boulder sized lump of gold that had no impurities found in the much smaller lumps in their mineral mine. Only the Aesir Gods and some of the oldest Viking Einherjar remember the part of the saga where the four brothers had to slay a Wyrm King who slaughtered their family in pursuit of their discovery. No, everyone remembers the more exciting and even naughtier part of that necklace’s tale, how Freya sold her beauty and body in order to gain it.
It’s this eternal link to someone’s past, someone’s life, someone’s memories and experiences that I quickly appreciated as I learned that my own past life was missing from my soul. When I learnt that truth I felt cheated by some cruel force by not just ending what life I had young but withholding what life I did have. I was like a faulty toy on the production line, somehow, before, during or after my demise Death in whatever form it was, released my soul incorrectly, almost leaving a remnant of me behind in my physical body. A bit of me that may seem unimportant now I’m forging a new life but without the past I don’t truly know who I am or who I was. I know things about me unconsciously like what foods, music, and clothes I like and what things I don’t like but I have no real reason why. I have no truth or experience behind even the smallest of my decisions.  
Martha compared my amnesia of the past life to those mortals who suddenly and quite randomly forget everything in a form of amnesia known as retrograde amnesia. They have to remake entire lives and relationships with those who knew the old them. Some of them never did revert back to their old ways and recall their old memories. Some never could rebuild those relationships that could be closest to them. Things had changed too much. They were too different. The major difference in my situation is I have no one to tell me I didn’t use to like marmalade or I used to be head over heels in love with some celebrity. I’m a blank page in the middle of a book with no story behind me and the story of my future yet to be written.
It was that great void in the centre of my being that drew me to gorge upon any and all legends and sagas I came across or heard a member of the Einherjar discussing and this ultimately led me to befriend my first Aesir God. Bragi, God of Poetry and Skalds. The father of narratives true and fictional, long or short, famous or folklore. He was the ancient story teller and he wrote special sagas for every single one of Odin’s Einherjar. There wasn’t a Norse epic or legend he didn’t know and he even knew ones set before the time of Ask and Embla.
During those first few weeks of my internal struggle to accept the truth Bragi was the only other Aesir to approach me without making me nervous or feel unworthy. He helped me gain a taste of what normal was like.
Bragi first introduced himself when he came across me, alone, by the side of a natural spring in the great woodlands surrounding the central citadel of Asgard’s old quarter. I was still yet without a role during those first weeks as Kate consulted as much as she could with the Norn’s, Freya and Frigg regarding my unusual memory condition.
I knew Bragi was one of them, one of Odin’s family, by the way he dressed in the traditional greens of a national park ranger yet he had a ruggedness about him that made me think traveler of some type. He wore a moss green wool jumper with a long waistcoat of various green patterned and tartan fabrics. His trousers were patterned like army camouflage and I remember raising an eyebrow at the modern hiking boots he wore. I tried not to look too much at him. I didn’t want his company or attention. I just wanted to be alone and away from others so I didn’t feel so out of place.
“You don’t know who I am, do you?” He called across to me, not taking any further steps once we were aware of each other.
I observed his face, his delightful smirk, the sparkle in his oak brown eyes and his shoulder length hair the colour of golden sand.
“Should I?” I replied uncertain and nervous. I wasn’t yet sure what would happen to my already faulty soul if I did, by accident or purpose, anger a God.
“Depends on how much you like a good story.” He began walking casually towards me. “There are those that can only go to sleep if I weave them a tale to slumber by. There are some who shed not a single tear in regret, pain or grief yet when I describe two lovers kept apart they weep like I have broken their hearts.” He flung his leather satchel upon the grass and knelt down. “And there are some that have been around as long as I have and can’t stand my arrogant voice anymore.” He held out his hand. “I’m Bragi, the story man.”
How can you not smile when such a character walks up to you?  I took his hand in a limp handshake and gave him a fragile smile.
“I’m Jennifer but I prefer it if you call me Jenny.”
“Well, Jenny, why are you enjoying the woodlands by yourself? Where are your friends?”
“They’re all busy.”
Bragi gazed down at me, his smile fading a touch. “When did you arrive in Asgard?”
“Only a week or so ago.”
“Have you not been assigned to a Hall yet?” Bragi enquired regarding the various Halls of resident Gods. Souls could seek employment to them be it Freya’s as a Valkyrie, Frigg’s as a Maid or even Idunn’s orchard as a Gardner tending to her Golden Apple trees. That is of course if you were a woman, men had the choice of Odin’s Hall, Valhall and become Squires to his Einherjar, live with Thor and you could become master blacksmiths or even become Watchers under Heimdall who will teach the many ways and signs of tracking both supernatural and natural foes. The third alternative was becoming a local in a sense and resuming a version of mortal life in the many district quarters and set up a shop or tavern to cater for other locals.
“They, I mean I, don’t quite know my talents yet. I haven’t decided.”
“Well why not base your new role on what profession you had in your past life?”
I stared away into the blades of grass and randomly picked a daisy to fiddle with. “I don’t know what it was.”
“Ah, I see, a little memory loss is normal with the conversion from death, you’ll remember in time and then you’ll know which Hall to choose.” He explained the problem as if it was a very minor setback. “Did you visit any nice woodland like this when you were alive?”
“I’m not sure.” I kept my eyes fixated on the daisy; its white petals glowed in the shafts of sunshine coming through the trees canopy.
“Ok then, did you leave any family behind in your past life? Parents already passed on or still alive?”
“I don’t think so…my memory is still fuzzy.”
“What can you remember from the time before?” That was the first time I detected a hint of concern in his voice but the shame of my condition still wouldn’t let me meet his eyes.
I could only give him an honest answer as what little truth I knew was all I had. “I know my name is Jennifer Wallace. I don’t remember what my life before was like. I don’t remember why or how I died. I remember Kate finding me and bringing me here. That is all I know of my life before, this.”
“Do you even know where you died?”
“No. I remember no names of people, nor names of places.”
“Hummm.” He turned around and delved into his bag, dragging pieces of paper out in a rush. “I think I might be able to help. Will you let me try?”
I let my eyes connect with his then, at the hope of learning all the truth about me, although I didn’t stop to wonder why Kate hadn’t introduced me to Bragi earlier if he was a possible cure in some way.
“Sure, I have nothing to lose if it doesn’t work.” I joked feebly. “What do we need to do?”
“Firstly I need you to write your full name on this bit of parchment and then coil it around this quill you will use to write it with.”
“Erm, don’t we need a pot of ink or something?” I was a bit confused.
“Oh, no, no, this quill is enchanted, as it writes it produces its own ink and never runs out. Perfect for when I’m collecting stories you see.”
“Ok.” I laid out the parchment across my leg and tried to write as clearly and as neatly as possible, although it did come out more like scribble than I’d hoped. I then wrapped the quill as he’d asked.
“Good now I want you to hold it at the feather tip end and I will take hold of the quill bit. We need to use both hands so just put it between them. That’s it. Hold it gently so you don’t bend the feathers just keep in contact with it.”
“Now what do we do?”
He shuffled around a bit to sit cross legged in front of me. “Now, I need you to close your eyes and focus in your mind on your own name. Imagine it up as words before you and keep repeating it over and over again inside. Keep concentrating on it until I tell you to stop, ok?”
I nodded once and closed my eyes. The shafts of sunlight passing over me as the soft breeze stirred the trees, turned my inner vision into a kaleidoscope of glittering gold and shimmering purple shades against a background of ruby red. I focused and imagined as Bragi instructed and I felt my breath become slow, my muscles ease and my mind less tense with the simple task of repetition. I could hear the fragile dappling sound of the spring gurgling up from the earth. The breeze rippling through the leaves in the towering trees made me think of the sea’s waves rushing against a stone and sand beach.
The vision inside was broken when Bragi’s voice reawakened my senses.
“Well, you certainly are unique.”
“Can I open my eyes?”
“Yes and you can let go of the quill and parchment too.”
The sunlight dazzled me for a tiny portion of time. I noticed Bragi turning the parchment piece over and over again, his quill stuck rather casually amongst the grass blades into the soil. I wondered if this enchanted quill would clean itself of dirt too.
“Well? Did it work?”
“Depends on what you mean. If you meant did I get to read your soul then yes. If you meant did I learn anything about you and your past, no, not really. Although…”
“Although what?”
“A connection was made. Your soul did leave its mark. See?” He handed the parchment back and where my name should have been written was now a small square written with the same ink. It was a blank square. Just four lines, a box.
“What does it mean?”
“That is actually a rune. Its name is Wyrd and is linked with Fate, the Unknown. It’s a rare and peculiar rune in that it has no defined mark and so it is often just symbolized as a blank square. Its meaning is always dependant on the person who has drawn it and the context it was drawn. I’m not as adept at runes as most of the other Aesir but I would advise in your case that this rune represents your transition from your old life into this. It perhaps suggests that whatever life you had before is not as important or as crucial as you might think, at least not yet. Wyrd’s symbol without a square is unending and thus has no beginning. In relation to you it means that your true purpose, not just in your life in Asgard, but your presence in the very universe, regardless of which realm and in what state, living or dead, is yet to be determined but it does not mean you will be without purpose forever. Certain events, choices or actions may yet have to be performed before you become aware of your true purpose and only then will your past and present become complete and help you follow your future destiny.” He took the paper gently away from me and stuck it back in his satchel along with this quill. “But, as I said, if you want a more precise rune reading you had best seek Freya or even Odin for that. They are the true masters at interpreting the signs.” He added with a smile which denied his bashful claim. “In simpler words, the presence of Wyrd represents you rather well at the moment, as a blank page. A story yet to be told or read. And you know what I always say about stories I don’t know yet?”
“What?”
“If there’s a story I don’t know, it’s either because it’s not worth knowing or, because the story is of such epic proportions that when it is enacted it leaves such a mark on the universe that its fame will echo through the ages, it won’t require me telling it by a million firesides.” He took my hand and held it in a caring manner. “So who knows what kind of story you will be part of, so do not despair just yet of your memory loss, it might be a key part of your life’s narrative.”
“Do you think I’ll ever remember what I’ve forgotten?”
“I sincerely hope you do Jenny, if only because you are now a great curiosity to me. And I mean that in a good way.”
“Thanks, I think.” I stared back into the pool of spring water as a dragon fly whizzed across it.
“Now, I’m pretty sure I know of a story that will make you smile, at least it will make you giggle.”
“Oh yeah?”
“Yes, most certainly because you will be the only person in the whole of Asgard who won’t know any of the stories I hold in my head. Would you like to know why Loki has no testicles?”
I chuckled which made his smirk bloom into a grin.
“Would it surprise you then to know how he lost them in an amazing feat of making the Giantess Skaldi laugh?”
And that was the beginning of my often daily story telling sessions with Bragi whose skill as a Skald for stories old and new numbed my loss and made me feel a bit more connected to the new world I found myself in. It was his idea a few months later that I keep a journal of any flashes of possible memories such as visions of places, faces, voices, scents or sounds.
So I recorded what I could remember of my newest nightmare vision into my journal. Its pages were well used due to the many evenings I’d felt lonely or sad and flicked through it in the hope reading the same notes over and over again will unlock the blackness in my head. That night though, just like the fresh feeling of shivers when I awoke from the nightmare, when I wrote the word,
Reignlief
as I presumed it was spelt, I could hear the echo of the raven’s harsh voice and recall the gentle smile of the man in the boat. It made me hold my breath just glancing over that word, a word I have no idea what its meaning is and what its purpose was in the nightmare, nor why a raven spoke it to me. I felt nervous at the strange and vague familarness of it. I was afraid because I did not know if it was some confused part of my lost life, contained in that one word, or perhaps the nightmare was something worse. Not a vision of my past, but of a possible link to the future, some yet unexplained peculiar side effect of being blessed with wings and having shared the blood of nine Elder Valkyries and Freya herself.  
            Not wanting to unnerve myself any further I quickly folded the parchment back into its well worn position and placed it right at the bottom of my chest of possessions, where my finger tips alighted upon something soft, warm and throbbed with familiarity. I pulled it out from the mass of shadows that was the contents and cradled it in my hands, I smiled. Even in the flickering light of the candle I could make out the runic letters representing J and W entwined in a similar fashion to Bindrunes, in gold and copper toned threads on the suede pouch.
            “Hello fella’s”, I whispered to no one but myself and brought the pouch of runes up to my heart. I felt a light tingle spread out from my chest and down both arms and wings to the tips of my fingers and feathers. “I know I’ve forgotten you lately haven’t I? A lot’s changed, I’m sure you’d understand.”
            “Is anyone at home?” Mist called through the tent entrance flaps.
            “Yes, I’m awake if that’s what you mean.”
            She strode in looking none the worse for her early hours visitor last night and to prevent myself looking even the slightest bit guilty I hurriedly packed my belongings away. But Mist stopped me before adding my pouch of runes.  
            “Keep them with you, their powers are needed today.”
            “Why, what’s the plan?”
            “I believe your soul has recovered enough from your transformation to begin the Scry of Seidr. It is a powerful ritual which will guide you, with the support your own runes, to identify the Seidr word locked deep within you. Knowing your Seidr word and understanding its meaning to you, will allow you to summon and dismiss your new wings at will. This will make it a lot easier for me to begin teaching you how to fly.”
            “Fly! I’m finally going to learn how to fly!” I shrieked in rushed excitement.
            “Hush Jennifer, not quite yet but soon, you must first complete the Scry of Seidr first if we are going to take your training to that level.” She held open the entrance flap, allowing the lazy dawn sunshine to light up the tent. “But first we must get you well fed; you will need all your energy and focus for this challenge.”
            “Great, what’s for breakfast?”
            “Eggs, bacon and beans.”
            “You didn’t steal them all did you?” I added with slight suspicion, remembering the chicken from yesterday.
            “Eggs yes, but I couldn’t steal bacon straight off a pig’s back now could I?” Mist laughed, guiding me out to face another new day on the north-east coast.

Follow my blog if you ever wish to gain even the slightest clue about the future of our young Valkyrie as she learns not just to master her wings but learns more about herself, and those around her, in ways she has yet to imagine - in Soul Chaser - to be continued....  

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Becky Bookworm Book Review: Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

Queen of KingsQueen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is a must read for fans of historical fiction and supernatural fantasy as it combines both in a fantastic explosion of forgotten gods, curses and spells, shamans and priests, ghosts and murder, love and revenge.

It all begins from the day Cleopatra is tricked into believing her lover Mark Antony is defeated in battle and he is tricked into believing Cleopatra has completed the suicide pact she made with him.

Of course when Cleopatra learns the truth it is too late to save Mark and the conquerer Augustus goes on to rub her nose in it which only makes her more pissed off as you would expect. So she makes an even more dangerous pact with a blood-lustful god of Sekhet who claims Cleopatra's soul and lives on in her spirit giving her body strange powers and strength.

It then of leads of course to the famous scene where Cleopatra is 'killed' by a a cobra but how can anyone die if they have no soul?

She of course espcapes from her own tomb thanks to her new enchanting relationship to creatures of the night like snakes and bats.

Augustus does his best to keep the rumours of her rising from the dead a secret but it has seriously spooked him enough to send out his soldiers far and wide to 'hire' powerful mages, shaman and forgotten Priestesses to protect him from whatever sorcery Cleopatra yields in her undead form.

At first Cleopatra merely wants to rescue her children from being royal hostages and escape to the south but after witnessing the death of one of the sons she bore with Mark Antony revenge and Sehket surge forth in ways beyond human imagination.

And so the story rolls on as the magic and power of Cleopatra's will and Sekhet's hunger for blood do battle across land and people with the sorcerers hired by Augustus (although each has their own motive and story to accompany they're powers) taking many lives both innocent and guilty to the god of death, Hades but will this endless savage quest for honour and revenge reunite Cleopatra with Mark and her son the way she hoped?

Although the first half of the story is truly seat gripping, heart wrenching and bone shaking in the gore and savagery of the new Cleopatra half human half god, it does lead to a bit of an unrealistic but gob-smacking battle of roman legions and the powers of gods from up high and down below as each part of this complex tale tries to accomplish their own agenda against each other.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Becky Bookworm Book Review: A Discovery Of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of WitchesA Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is a beautiful amalgamtaion of aspects of magic and shades of mystery. And all involving an often overlooked character in the world paranormal/supernatural that are not wolf like or drink blood, but have powers of their own and certainly do not fly brooms or have black cats. Yes, I'm talking about witches and how they are still around, powers, potions and spells and all, living amongst us mere humans just like the vampires and werewolves of Stephenie Meyers. Except this is definitely an adult novel, altough some older teenagers may also enjoy it simply for the deep love story involved. Yes there is that too, as some may almost expect nowadays when an author involves the paranormal creatures in our modern day world. But yet again Deborah Harkness deviates from the norm even in that respect by not just having a human fall in love with a vampire, but a witch which brings its own unique problems than a mere human, PLUS and it is a mighty big plus, they don't fall in love like troubled teenagers but over a book. But this is no ordinary a book, it is a book which rumours to contain the history, origins and future of the three races in this novel, Witches/Vampires and Daemons (imagine them as creative but mad geniuses like Mozart) and although no one race can say who created and more importantly who lost it many centuries ago, but when the key character Diana, mistakenly comes across it in the Bodlean Library in Oxford, England (brilliant new setting for this paranormal world) she suddenly gains the attention of all three races, in a manner that isn't all together entirely friendly. The key thing about Diana is, not only is she a witch with famous heritage (being from the family of some famous american witch trials) but she is a reluctant witch, she's trying her hardest to live a normal human life without magic involved in any way. Apart from the one moment she simply magics a book off a very high shelf and is caught by a mysterious and charming vampire. And a whole seat-gripping saga of suspicion, betrayal, seduction, romance, friendship, secrets, lies, danger and a covenant breaking love begins from that moment on....
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Norse Fantasy + Viking History (Non-fiction) Book Reviews now up @ FantasyGuide.com

We have a duo of good books for fans of norse mythology and viking history alike today.
You can read my reviews of these recommended books:

 


Both are now up and available in the Viking History Non-Fiction and Norse Fantasy section
of the popular and growing Viking Book section of FantasyGuide.com

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Becky Bookworm Book Review @ FantasyGuide.com - The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone

You can now read my latest review of the classic viking historical fiction novel
The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone
@ FantasyGuide.com


Just click on the cover to be taken to the site where you can read this particular review and discover more of the my favourite Viking Historical fiction, Norse Fantasy and Viking History Non-Fiction reviews

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

My Fav Historical Viking + Norse Fantasy Book Review collection - all available at the Fantasy Guide.com!!

Are you a fan of viking history?
Are you a lover of norse mythology?
Do you wish that someone would write books involving those two subjects?

Well never fear for Becky Bookworm and FantasyGuide.com are here to solve your cravings of viking and norse delight!

I've read AT LEAST 20 fantasic and highly recommended books in these two categories, suitable for all ages and I've even blogged about quite a few under the tag Becky Bookworm Book Review (you can also glance at the authors and titles down the side under my tag lists).

But now these FAB tales and reviews can all be found in one place ...

The new and improved VIKING BOOK SECTION @ FantasyGuide.com courtesy of my viking loving friend Will who's helping me to spread some nordic love around the world.

Simply follow the link at the end of this post to be taken to this special viking and norse lovers haven - you will find book reviews of individual and series on Historical Viking fiction, Norse Fantasy fiction and new on the scene Viking non-fiction (for you academic fans out there) PLUS brief guides written by myself to introduce you to these two fab genres if you've never come across them before.

The newest book up there this week is my review of Loki by Mike Vasich so go check it out!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

New Norse Fantasy book to buy, read and enjoy - The Sleeping Army by Francesca Simon

I came across this fantastic sounding new Norse Fantasy book via this very interesting article in the Guardian website regarding lots of new viking themed projects in documentary, film and books that the british public have to look forward to from the new year onwards (http://gu.com/p/32zcb/tw) and this author and book was mentioned. I immediatly looked it up on Amazon and I'm extremely happy to say it is available as a hardback book and as Kindle eBook!
 
The answer to your immediate questions is YES I am going to buy it (not sure if to go traditional or modern in format) and YES I will most definitely review it once I've finished it. The whole plot idea sounds truly original and featuring some famous archeological figures not many (or at least me) with vikings but it's good to see more Vikings, Gods and Myths come out in books.
 




Book Description


One of the bestselling children's authors in the world, the creator of the Horrid Henry series, launches an exciting new novel for children aged 8+

Product Description

Freya is an ordinary girl living in modern Britain, but with a twist: people still worship the Viking gods. She's caught in her parents' divorce, and shuttling between bickering adults is no fun. One evening, stuck with her dad on his night shift at the British Museum, she is drawn to the Lewis Chessmen and Heimdall's Horn. Unable to resist, she blows the horn, waking three chess pieces from their enchantment; the slaves Roskva and Alfi, and Snot the Berserk. They are all summoned to Asgard, land of the Viking gods, and told they must go on a perilous journey to restore the gods to youth.If Freya refuses she will be turned into an ivory chess piece but, if she accepts her destiny and fails, the same terrible fate awaits her.Brilliantly funny, original and a wholly new take on the Norse myths - and the travails of contemporary family life.
 
Amazon.co.uk - Book link:
 
Waterstones.co.uk - Book Link:

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Becky Bookworm Book Review - Loki by Mike Vasich - Norse Fantasy Special

LokiLoki by Mike Vasich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book to me personally contains enough captivating storytelling as Runemarks by Joanne Harris and enough fascinating character depth as Ice Land by Betsy Tobin - and until now they were my 2 top favourite for all time norse fantasy books - they have now just been joined by the masterpiece that Mike Vasich has created in Loki.
With each chapter you can feel his passion for norse mythology come through and the way he weaves the legends and myths so seemlessly and beautifully into his personfications of the Aesir and Giants and even right into the very landscape of Asgard and Jotunheim itself is genuinely mind blowing.
Although the whole story of events leading up to and including Ragnarok revolve around Loki's fortunate or misforunate role and explore his own characters evolution almost as he learns about his true heritage it also revolves around his opposite, Odin, the All-Father and reveals in a new light the curse and blessing of knowing what has happened, what will happen and what must happen.
Mike also interprets the myths in interesting new ways in particular the binding of Fenrir and how Loki's daughter Hel became rule of the Underworld kingdom. Each is so unique and different but also in a way fits the puzzle of his magnificent saga that even deep rooted norse myth lovers have no problem with accepting the small but significant changes he has made. And in these small changes he himself explores the origns of such myths and why they are told as they are and not how events actually unfolded in his world version of Asgard. I loved the way he portrayed Yggdrasil and it's awesomeness, the Norn's with their collective insight into past, present and future and the Valkyries with their spectral ability to shift instantly from one position to another. The only tweeny weeny problem I did have was with his depiction of the einherjar, Odin's army of loyal undead warriors. It irritated me slightly with the way Mike decided to make them truly undead without the ability to magically heal so when they fought and lost a leg, they really did loose it. It might have suited the aspect of death that accompanies Odin but surely after mellenia of years fighting there would hardly be any undead warriors left in any kind of fighting fitness? After all no warrior can fight for eternity perfectly without being hit, cut, stabbed, wounded and mortally wounded?? I kind of read over this as they didn't feature an awful lot until the end and even then there is no specifics about their physical condition just the way they died.
Otherwise this book is a 100% MUST READ FOR ANY FANS OF NORSE MYTHOLOGY! Mike Vasich really does pump new blood and energy into the old gods and their old tales. *Please note this fantastic saga is an eBook and is available on Amazon for Kindle*

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Saturday, 29 October 2011

Viking and Norse Fantasy Tricks and Treats - pick an e-book - IF YOU DARE!

Firstly to anyone who actually is a frequent reader or visitor to this blog I can't APOLOGISE enough for being absent from this little haven of viking madness for 2 whole months! Sadly real life just got pretty darn hectic and left me with little time or energy to put anything new up PLUS I've continued to be a very bad writer and not write a single extra word to Soul Chaser *hangs head in shame*. I think I need a big kick up the ass and possibly another six week holiday without any family matters distracting me.
Anyway, I have returned hopefully for the frequent future back to my little piece of the world wide web. And I have some possibly exciting yet some readers may curse me as black as Hel's body for this, in that my partner got me the newest cheap Kindle e-reader as an anniversary present and I am loving it! Not only is it just so easy to read from and still enables you to get lost in a good book (and yes I will still be reading proper books as they are now known as all the best viking history books have yet to appear as an e-book (although The Hammer and the Cross is available as an e-book so if you have a Kindle and LOVE vikings and history I can't recommend it enough - go to the tabs by the left hand side to find the title and it will take you to my review). But the other special thing is it's introduced me to a whole host of extra viking historical and norse fantasy books that aren't available in traditional form but the one I'm reading at the moment is pretty impressive and although some haven't had reviews yet I'm hoping I haven't picked any bad eggs but I will review them like proper books as I finish each one so you will learn as I do.
So here is my new Kindle Viking Historical and Norse Fantasy Fiction reading/to-read list - why not download one and share the experience with me:

New Norse Fantasy and Viking Historical Fiction Kindle E-Books











                           Loki
                           Loki
                         by Mike Vasich
                                         tagged: currently-reading and norse-fantasy






Daughter of Fire and Ice
tagged: to-read and historical-fiction 
 
Sigrun's Secret
tagged: to-read and historical-fiction 
 
Immortal Souls
tagged: to-read and norse-fantasy 
 
Loki: Why I Began the End
tagged: to-read and norse-fantasy 
 
1066: Apocalyptic Visions
tagged: to-read and historical-fiction 
 
Bracelet of Bones
tagged: to-read and historical-fiction 
 
Hereward
tagged: to-read and historical-fiction 
 
The Ship in the Hill
tagged: to-read, norse-fantasy, and historical-fiction 
 
The Vikings: Revised Edition
tagged: to-read and books-of-interest 
 
The Viking Dead
tagged: to-read and norse-fantasy 
 
The Spear Of Odin
tagged: to-read and norse-fantasy 
 
Odin-Son:The Berserk Saga
tagged: to-read and historical-fiction 
 
The Mask of Freya
tagged: to-read and norse-fantasy 
 
Erika T. Red
tagged: to-read and norse-fantasy 
 
The Changeling
tagged: to-read and norse-fantasy

I am currently reading the top book  'Loki' and it is turning out to be a fantastic read with great depth to the characters and a riveting blend of myth into the plot line. Of course I'll put a review up as soon as I can when I've finished it. Which will be pretty soon as I'm 80% of the way through!

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish any and all readers a Happy Halloween - may you not get spooked in the night as Odin begins his wild hunt of all creatures that lurk in the dark. So if you hear a screaming wail outside under the moon, don't worry it's just Odin and his Valkyries whizzing by hehehe.

As I'm unforunately away in Wales again for my study week I won't get to participate in any halloween fun and games like normal but here's something I did earlier, like last halloween, to get you in the halloween spirit.
These were Halloween buns made in 2010 - the buns with runes on spell out 'SOUL' *middle row 'CHASER' *bottom row.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Food and Drink - A True Story - flash fiction biography

Food and Drink: A True Story - A Flash Fiction Biography

It was Sunday and Mum has yet again set the table fit for a banquet of fifty not a small family of five, three members sat at the table, whilst two were absent. One being upstairs still sleeping through the daylight hours and the other had long vacated from the house to one of their own.
The souls of several hundred cooked garden peas drifted away in the streams of steam coming from each of the small, round, green bodies. Their flesh so tender they burst their guts open upon the lightest prick of a fork. Almost mimicking the similar explosion of flavour you get when eating fresh raspberries or ripe grapes. Roast potatoes glowed with their golden, crispy tan in the bowl next door. The only garish feature of the table was the bright orange of the carrots, although I guess it would have been worse if they were the vivid purple some people claim they can be. The slabs of lamb meat upon my plate were a deep brown which looked more appealing when I had decorated them with large dollops of moss green mint sauce and then soaked them in delicious bisto gravy. To accompany this feast I required a large tumbler glass of water, mainly due to the overdose on mint sauce which always made me thirsty.
The man whom I call Dad, but acts nothing like him, prefers to choose this meal time to open up a bottle of red Shiraz to wash his food down. He opens the bottle with a loud pop, as the cock jettisons out. Allowing him to pour the ruby liquid with a slosh into his large glass. He offers Mum one out of some small decency. She politely refuses. He simply shrugs and claims it for himself.

One plateful and three large glasses later the so called man of the house proclaims himself full and abandons the dining table for his prime seat in the living room. The half drunken bottle of wine goes with him to sit on the coffee table at his side. I am left to help Mum box away the left overs and deal with the washing up.

Only a few hours after six Mum and I say our brief and casual goodnights to him and escape to our rooms. The man is left with the TV remote in one hand and a new glassful of wine in the other.

The ten o clock news has been gone when I wake up suddenly in the night, for that is when I recognise him slowly making his way up the stairs, one creaky floorboard at a time, accompanied with a deep and weary sigh when he reaches the landing. I peer through the hinge gap on my bedroom door just as his teetering figure begins to make its journey to bed, from wall to wall. For that split second I spot the familiar oblong shape in his right trouser pocket, I can hear the tell-tale splish and splash of the bottle he is escorting to his bedroom. It is his only company these nights for Mum departed his bedroom many months ago and has claimed my brothers has her own.

Come morning two bottles stand empty on the kitchen side. Two more bottles that we add to the almost full glass recycle box outside. As I watch them collected to be reused I know it's my parts of my Dad's soul they are taking away also, constantly given in exchange for the deceitful poison we all know as alcohol.

Flash Fiction Fun - can you guess who/what it is?

At one of my writing group sessions we were discussing the theme of light and had to come up with a common phrase and rewrite it in an original way.
One member gave me the line "the furnace burns bright" which of course made me think of one type of person who features quite often in norse myths and legends. From the flash fiction below can you guess who I'm describing?

"Flickering flames crunch and crackle through the pulsating glowing coals, casting a spall of heat and light onto the cylinder being held above. Creating the enchanting lure of gold under the watchful eyes and steady hands of the tamer of fire."

Becky Bookworm Book Review: Magus of Stonewylde by Kit Berry

Magus of StonewyldeMagus of Stonewylde by Kit Berry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book may at first reading seem to be directed more towards the teenage reader but it deals with some deep adult issues of power, ove, freedom, rules of society, right and wrong and more importantly childhood. This of course is all discussed through some very fascinating characters (although having read first person narrators for so long it took me a while to adjust to this omniscient narrator) and set within the 'backwards' seeming village society and reclusive world of Stonewylde. A place set in the Dorset countryside with all the majestic beauty and dark magic that lingers within the New Forest today. A place where the powers of the early druids still rule the hearts and minds of the villagers and Hallfolk (the aristocracy of Stonewylde) today.
The entire story was captivating right through to the end and I finished it within five days eager to grasp my hands on the three books which follow this wonderous tale. If you love the old ways, star crossed lovers, twists and turns and ancient powers and a web of secrets in a world set within our own but follows the ways of centuries past then you will LOVE this book as much as I did.

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Becky Bookworm Book Review: A Brief History of the Vikings by Jonathan Clements

A Brief History of the VikingsA Brief History of the Vikings by Jonathan Clements

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is a suprisingly pleasant read and although it says Brief History on the front it doesn't feel like it. Each chapter gives enough details, dates, key characters, key locations etc that you are left satisfied not disappointed when it's time to move onto the next one. I am paritcularly impressed by the second to final chapter he's devoted to a key character not discussed in other history books I've read, Harald Hardrada. It allows you to follow him from his childhood through his years abroad gathering glory and treasure until he finally claims the throne of Norway and is lured to England with the death of Edward the Confessor. The other goods things are it of course looks at the Norse myths and gods and the influence on the Vikings, the Vikings impact on an international scale from the various countries they raided, fought in or discovered and settled. Whether this is a passing interest or a research project, you can not fail to learn a lot and have a developed understanding after reading this if you are interested in the vikings culture and history and people in any way at all.

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Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Becky Bookworm Book Review: Fenrir by MD Lachlan - Sequel to Wolfsangel

Fenrir (Craw Trilogy, #2)Fenrir by M.D. Lachlan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


MD Lachlan is proving to have as deep an imagination as Tolkein showed in Lord of the Rings, with his mind blowing sequel to Wolfsangel with Fenrir.

The sequel may still feature more brotherhoods of Vikings but he has taken the reader into the world of the early medieval French dukes, knights and princesses and most notable of all, monks and prophets. But to add a little to the rabble of viking armies around Paris MD Lachlan introduces some fascinating characters of Munin and Hugnin, a brother and sister who worship the All Father and his madness through some very dark magic.

The over all story is riddled with patches of shadow, twilight, horror and glorious blood but in such a way as to not be overwhelming but always used to make particular characters at particular moments in the plot develope into something the reader never ever expects. And that is the true beauty of this dark tale of mad gods, powerful runes and never ending love - that even though the reader may think they know how things will work out having read Wolfsangel but Lachlan always proves those expectations to be false. The reincarnations of the two brothers, one wolfman, another werewolf are never who you expect them to be and in this one we get the suprise of the original Witch returning in a very unlikely place and it goes even more so for the form Odin chooses to live and die by.

My favourite parts of this new blood fuelled saga has to the scenes where certain character evoke the power of Odin's runes. Lachlan describes them so beautifully I can't help but wonder that the way he describes them is the same magic that flows within his imagination. The way the runes are called upon and used seems so natural it strengthens the readers mind view of the scene. And what makes it even more special is that such runes weren't used in such ways in the first book but in this sequel it seems all aspects of the doomed gods and lovers and the magic that binds them together has increased ten fold with dramatic and stunning effects in the ficitonal world and upon the reader.

And on that note the only thing left to say is that MD Lachlan has succeeded in making a sequel that dwarfs the original, showing the strength of his imagination in more ways than one. And making it a good bet that the third in this series will undoubtedly be fantastic.
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