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Latest Reviews

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A long petal of the sea / Isabel Allende ; translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Amanda Hopkinson.
Author: Allende, Isabel, author. -- Caistor, Nick, translator. -- Hopkinson, Amanda, 1948-, translator.
Publisher: London : Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020. -- 2020.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 23/05/2020 3:23:16 PM
Member Rating:
The Long Petal of the Sea By Isabel Allende. This is a story of love and relationships in times of two major periods of political turmoil spanning a period of almost 50 years. It begins during the Spanish Civil War in the mid-1930s. The protagonist and his sister-in-law flee Spain and remake their lives as refugees in Chile. They become entangled with an elite family and establish connections with Salvatore Allende elected as Chiles first radicalMaxist president in 1970. He was killed in a military coup led by General Pinochet that overthrew his government in 1973. The author is the step-daughter of Salvatore Allende who was also the cousin of her natural father. She herself had to seek exile in Venezuela as a result of this coup. The story is fast paced. There are no stylistic quirks so it easy reading. Perhaps it is too easy. For me there was an absolute absence of those sporadic suspenseful events where you feel you cant wait to get to the next chapter. It needed something more to add some zest. To be fair this might be expected given what the author says in her notes. Apparently she met the man on whom she modelled her protagonist late in his life. She heard his life story and did a little research. After this she confesses she didnt need to write the book it just wrote itself. So no surprises. But it is written in interesting historical periods. Learn a little about the Spanish Civil War Chilean society and culture and a couple of tumultuous periods in its history. Learn how people from different social classes and backgrounds coped with the challenges presented. I only gave this novel two stars but given what I said in the last couple of paragraphs others may find more interest in it. It is certainly worth a read.
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Danubia : a personal history of Habsburg Europe / Simon Winder.
Author: Winder, Simon.
Publisher: London : Picador, 2013.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 5/05/2020 8:13:57 PM
Member Rating:
This is essentially a story about the Hapsburg dynasty which ruled vast portions of Europe for over 600 years. It is also a story of the Holy Roman Empire for which it provided emperors until it formally ceased with the rise of Napoleon. Thereafter the dynasty continued to rule the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of World War I. While Winders historical information may be accurate his presentation is incoherent. It is not a chronological stroll from the beginning to the end of the dynasty. He is all over the place like a dogs breakfast. At one point he may be talking about one emperor or historical event then without warning may jump back or forwards a century or two before jumping onto another subject and time. As he gives no historical table of personalities or events I was forced to consult a secondary source e.g. an encyclopaedia or Google to orientate myself in time. Then there were his interludes into the present where he would recount some personal experience when he travelled through former Hapsburg lands. He shows us churches and other monuments explores literature artworks and music. Which is fine if you appreciate these historical productions but I found it often distracted from the general flow of the historical narrative. This is probably not a book to read from beginning to end. It is more a dipping book. I often found myself scanning skimming and skipping to find the next interesting bit. And I did find many of interesting bits that I read thoroughly. But I also skipped a lot. A cohesive history this book is not. But it does contain history plus much more. Give it a go and see if it appeals to your tastes.
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Wolf of Wessex / Matthew Harffy.
Author: Harffy, Matthew, author.
Publisher: London : Head of Zeus, 2020. -- ©2019.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 4/04/2020 2:18:44 PM
Member Rating:
Book series review by Rob Loveday. The Bernicia Chronicles by Matthew Harffy. A lover of historical fiction But seeking a break from Roman legions marauding Vikings swashbuckling Crusaders and Tudor England. Well enter the world of 7th century Anglo-Saxon England with Matthew Harffys sextet a seventh due in June 2020 published as the Bernicia Chronicles series. The Anglo-Saxons are carving out their rival kingdoms alliances are shifting and uncertain battles frequent. In addition those damned native Britons the term WelshWaelisc is born just won’t lie down and accept defeat. The setting is historically real although the amount of documentary evidence with which the author had to work is scarce. Hence he has created a fictional protagonist to work with historical characters. Historical notes at the end of the novel and maps and a glossary of place names at the front assist the reader to immerse herhimself in this past milieu. Trace our heroes rise from unknown and untried wanna-be warrior to a lord-commander with his own band of loyal warriors in the service of his king. Actually he serves three kings during the series they seem to have a short shelf-life in this tumultuous series. There’s battles and intrigues there’s the odd mystery there’s fraught and murky personal relationships all to test our hero and his followers. Join them in this journey through a little known and little covered period of English history. I have just finished reading the sixth in the series Storm of Steel. The previous five in order are The Serpent Sword, The Cross and the Curse, Blood and Blade, Killer of Kings, Warrior of Woden, The seventh Fortress of Fury is due for release in June 2020. I must admit that while the first five had a fair smattering of history for their setting and events the sixth lacked it. As I mentioned above historical evidence for this period is scarce so it appears Harffy is running out of authentic backing. The sixth novel Storm of Steel is essentially a totally fictional swashbuckling seventh century tale. Still if you seek adventure and battle you have it. Also although the hero and protagonist loses some of his right-hand men his loyal gesiths along the way his invincibility wears a little thin by novel six. Maybe Harffy will kill him of in the seventh novel. Im going to read it to find out. I recommend reading the novels in chronological order. Knowing key characters backgrounds adds to appreciation of their behaviour. That said you still should not have trouble enjoying these novels if you cherry-pick them randomly.
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Storm of steel / Matthew Harffy.
Author: Harffy, Matthew, author.
Publisher: London : Aria, an imprint of Head of Zeus, 2019.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 4/04/2020 2:17:58 PM
Member Rating:
Book series review by Rob Loveday. The Bernicia Chronicles by Matthew Harffy. A lover of historical fiction But seeking a break from Roman legions marauding Vikings swashbuckling Crusaders and Tudor England. Well enter the world of 7th century Anglo-Saxon England with Matthew Harffys sextet a seventh due in June 2020 published as the Bernicia Chronicles series. The Anglo-Saxons are carving out their rival kingdoms alliances are shifting and uncertain battles frequent. In addition those damned native Britons the term WelshWaelisc is born just won’t lie down and accept defeat. The setting is historically real although the amount of documentary evidence with which the author had to work is scarce. Hence he has created a fictional protagonist to work with historical characters. Historical notes at the end of the novel and maps and a glossary of place names at the front assist the reader to immerse herhimself in this past milieu. Trace our heroes rise from unknown and untried wanna-be warrior to a lord-commander with his own band of loyal warriors in the service of his king. Actually he serves three kings during the series they seem to have a short shelf-life in this tumultuous series. There’s battles and intrigues there’s the odd mystery there’s fraught and murky personal relationships all to test our hero and his followers. Join them in this journey through a little known and little covered period of English history. I have just finished reading the sixth in the series Storm of Steel. The previous five in order are The Serpent Sword, The Cross and the Curse, Blood and Blade, Killer of Kings, Warrior of Woden, The seventh Fortress of Fury is due for release in June 2020. I must admit that while the first five had a fair smattering of history for their setting and events the sixth lacked it. As I mentioned above historical evidence for this period is scarce so it appears Harffy is running out of authentic backing. The sixth novel Storm of Steel is essentially a totally fictional swashbuckling seventh century tale. Still if you seek adventure and battle you have it. Also although the hero and protagonist loses some of his right-hand men his loyal gesiths along the way his invincibility wears a little thin by novel six. Maybe Harffy will kill him of in the seventh novel. Im going to read it to find out. I recommend reading the novels in chronological order. Knowing key characters backgrounds adds to appreciation of their behaviour. That said you still should not have trouble enjoying these novels if you cherry-pick them randomly.
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Warrior of Woden / Matthew Harffy.
Author: Harffy, Matthew, author.
Publisher: London : Head of Zeus, 2019.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 4/04/2020 2:15:02 PM
Member Rating:
Book series review by Rob Loveday. The Bernicia Chronicles by Matthew Harffy. A lover of historical fiction But seeking a break from Roman legions marauding Vikings swashbuckling Crusaders and Tudor England. Well enter the world of 7th century Anglo-Saxon England with Matthew Harffys sextet a seventh due in June 2020 published as the Bernicia Chronicles series. The Anglo-Saxons are carving out their rival kingdoms alliances are shifting and uncertain battles frequent. In addition those damned native Britons the term WelshWaelisc is born just won’t lie down and accept defeat. The setting is historically real although the amount of documentary evidence with which the author had to work is scarce. Hence he has created a fictional protagonist to work with historical characters. Historical notes at the end of the novel and maps and a glossary of place names at the front assist the reader to immerse herhimself in this past milieu. Trace our heroes rise from unknown and untried wanna-be warrior to a lord-commander with his own band of loyal warriors in the service of his king. Actually he serves three kings during the series they seem to have a short shelf-life in this tumultuous series. There’s battles and intrigues there’s the odd mystery there’s fraught and murky personal relationships all to test our hero and his followers. Join them in this journey through a little known and little covered period of English history. I have just finished reading the sixth in the series Storm of Steel. The previous five in order are The Serpent Sword, The Cross and the Curse, Blood and Blade, Killer of Kings, Warrior of Woden, The seventh Fortress of Fury is due for release in June 2020. I must admit that while the first five had a fair smattering of history for their setting and events the sixth lacked it. As I mentioned above historical evidence for this period is scarce so it appears Harffy is running out of authentic backing. The sixth novel Storm of Steel is essentially a totally fictional swashbuckling seventh century tale. Still if you seek adventure and battle you have it. Also although the hero and protagonist loses some of his right-hand men his loyal gesiths along the way his invincibility wears a little thin by novel six. Maybe Harffy will kill him of in the seventh novel. Im going to read it to find out. I recommend reading the novels in chronological order. Knowing key characters backgrounds adds to appreciation of their behaviour. That said you still should not have trouble enjoying these novels if you cherry-pick them randomly.
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The serpent sword / Matthew Harffy.
Author: Harffy, Matthew, author.
Publisher: London, UK Head Of Zeus 2017. -- London Aria, 2017. -- ©2017.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 4/04/2020 2:13:21 PM
Member Rating:
Book series review by Rob Loveday. The Bernicia Chronicles by Matthew Harffy. A lover of historical fiction But seeking a break from Roman legions marauding Vikings swashbuckling Crusaders and Tudor England. Well enter the world of 7th century Anglo-Saxon England with Matthew Harffys sextet a seventh due in June 2020 published as the Bernicia Chronicles series. The Anglo-Saxons are carving out their rival kingdoms alliances are shifting and uncertain battles frequent. In addition those damned native Britons the term WelshWaelisc is born just won’t lie down and accept defeat. The setting is historically real although the amount of documentary evidence with which the author had to work is scarce. Hence he has created a fictional protagonist to work with historical characters. Historical notes at the end of the novel and maps and a glossary of place names at the front assist the reader to immerse herhimself in this past milieu. Trace our heroes rise from unknown and untried wanna-be warrior to a lord-commander with his own band of loyal warriors in the service of his king. Actually he serves three kings during the series they seem to have a short shelf-life in this tumultuous series. There’s battles and intrigues there’s the odd mystery there’s fraught and murky personal relationships all to test our hero and his followers. Join them in this journey through a little known and little covered period of English history. I have just finished reading the sixth in the series Storm of Steel. The previous five in order are The Serpent Sword, The Cross and the Curse, Blood and Blade, Killer of Kings, Warrior of Woden, The seventh Fortress of Fury is due for release in June 2020. I must admit that while the first five had a fair smattering of history for their setting and events the sixth lacked it. As I mentioned above historical evidence for this period is scarce so it appears Harffy is running out of authentic backing. The sixth novel Storm of Steel is essentially a totally fictional swashbuckling seventh century tale. Still if you seek adventure and battle you have it. Also although the hero and protagonist loses some of his right-hand men his loyal gesiths along the way his invincibility wears a little thin by novel six. Maybe Harffy will kill him of in the seventh novel. Im going to read it to find out. I recommend reading the novels in chronological order. Knowing key characters backgrounds adds to appreciation of their behaviour. That said you still should not have trouble enjoying these novels if you cherry-pick them randomly.
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The cross and the curse / Matthew Harffy.
Author: Harffy, Matthew, author.
Publisher: London, UK Head of Zeus 2017. -- London Aria, 2017 -- �2016
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 4/04/2020 2:12:40 PM
Member Rating:
Book series review by Rob Loveday. The Bernicia Chronicles by Matthew Harffy. A lover of historical fiction But seeking a break from Roman legions marauding Vikings swashbuckling Crusaders and Tudor England. Well enter the world of 7th century Anglo-Saxon England with Matthew Harffys sextet a seventh due in June 2020 published as the Bernicia Chronicles series. The Anglo-Saxons are carving out their rival kingdoms alliances are shifting and uncertain battles frequent. In addition those damned native Britons the term WelshWaelisc is born just won’t lie down and accept defeat. The setting is historically real although the amount of documentary evidence with which the author had to work is scarce. Hence he has created a fictional protagonist to work with historical characters. Historical notes at the end of the novel and maps and a glossary of place names at the front assist the reader to immerse herhimself in this past milieu. Trace our heroes rise from unknown and untried wanna-be warrior to a lord-commander with his own band of loyal warriors in the service of his king. Actually he serves three kings during the series they seem to have a short shelf-life in this tumultuous series. There’s battles and intrigues there’s the odd mystery there’s fraught and murky personal relationships all to test our hero and his followers. Join them in this journey through a little known and little covered period of English history. I have just finished reading the sixth in the series Storm of Steel. The previous five in order are The Serpent Sword, The Cross and the Curse, Blood and Blade, Killer of Kings, Warrior of Woden, The seventh Fortress of Fury is due for release in June 2020. I must admit that while the first five had a fair smattering of history for their setting and events the sixth lacked it. As I mentioned above historical evidence for this period is scarce so it appears Harffy is running out of authentic backing. The sixth novel Storm of Steel is essentially a totally fictional swashbuckling seventh century tale. Still if you seek adventure and battle you have it. Also although the hero and protagonist loses some of his right-hand men his loyal gesiths along the way his invincibility wears a little thin by novel six. Maybe Harffy will kill him of in the seventh novel. Im going to read it to find out. I recommend reading the novels in chronological order. Knowing key characters backgrounds adds to appreciation of their behaviour. That said you still should not have trouble enjoying these novels if you cherry-pick them randomly.
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Killer of kings / Matthew Harffy.
Author: Harffy, Matthew, author.
Publisher: London : Aria, an imprint of Head of Zeus, 2018. -- London : Aria, 2018. -- �2017.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 4/04/2020 2:12:19 PM
Member Rating:
Book series review by Rob Loveday. The Bernicia Chronicles by Matthew Harffy. A lover of historical fiction But seeking a break from Roman legions marauding Vikings swashbuckling Crusaders and Tudor England. Well enter the world of 7th century Anglo-Saxon England with Matthew Harffys sextet a seventh due in June 2020 published as the Bernicia Chronicles series. The Anglo-Saxons are carving out their rival kingdoms alliances are shifting and uncertain battles frequent. In addition those damned native Britons the term WelshWaelisc is born just won’t lie down and accept defeat. The setting is historically real although the amount of documentary evidence with which the author had to work is scarce. Hence he has created a fictional protagonist to work with historical characters. Historical notes at the end of the novel and maps and a glossary of place names at the front assist the reader to immerse herhimself in this past milieu. Trace our heroes rise from unknown and untried wanna-be warrior to a lord-commander with his own band of loyal warriors in the service of his king. Actually he serves three kings during the series they seem to have a short shelf-life in this tumultuous series. There’s battles and intrigues there’s the odd mystery there’s fraught and murky personal relationships all to test our hero and his followers. Join them in this journey through a little known and little covered period of English history. I have just finished reading the sixth in the series Storm of Steel. The previous five in order are The Serpent Sword, The Cross and the Curse, Blood and Blade, Killer of Kings, Warrior of Woden, The seventh Fortress of Fury is due for release in June 2020. I must admit that while the first five had a fair smattering of history for their setting and events the sixth lacked it. As I mentioned above historical evidence for this period is scarce so it appears Harffy is running out of authentic backing. The sixth novel Storm of Steel is essentially a totally fictional swashbuckling seventh century tale. Still if you seek adventure and battle you have it. Also although the hero and protagonist loses some of his right-hand men his loyal gesiths along the way his invincibility wears a little thin by novel six. Maybe Harffy will kill him of in the seventh novel. Im going to read it to find out. I recommend reading the novels in chronological order. Knowing key characters backgrounds adds to appreciation of their behaviour. That said you still should not have trouble enjoying these novels if you cherry-pick them randomly.
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Blood and blade / Matthew Harffy.
Author: Harffy, Matthew, author.
Publisher: London : Aria, 2016. -- ©2016.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 4/04/2020 2:11:53 PM
Member Rating:
Book series review by Rob Loveday. The Bernicia Chronicles by Matthew Harffy. A lover of historical fiction But seeking a break from Roman legions marauding Vikings swashbuckling Crusaders and Tudor England. Well enter the world of 7th century Anglo-Saxon England with Matthew Harffys sextet a seventh due in June 2020 published as the Bernicia Chronicles series. The Anglo-Saxons are carving out their rival kingdoms alliances are shifting and uncertain battles frequent. In addition those damned native Britons the term WelshWaelisc is born just won’t lie down and accept defeat. The setting is historically real although the amount of documentary evidence with which the author had to work is scarce. Hence he has created a fictional protagonist to work with historical characters. Historical notes at the end of the novel and maps and a glossary of place names at the front assist the reader to immerse herhimself in this past milieu. Trace our heroes rise from unknown and untried wanna-be warrior to a lord-commander with his own band of loyal warriors in the service of his king. Actually he serves three kings during the series they seem to have a short shelf-life in this tumultuous series. There’s battles and intrigues there’s the odd mystery there’s fraught and murky personal relationships all to test our hero and his followers. Join them in this journey through a little known and little covered period of English history. I have just finished reading the sixth in the series Storm of Steel. The previous five in order are The Serpent Sword, The Cross and the Curse, Blood and Blade, Killer of Kings, Warrior of Woden, The seventh Fortress of Fury is due for release in June 2020. I must admit that while the first five had a fair smattering of history for their setting and events the sixth lacked it. As I mentioned above historical evidence for this period is scarce so it appears Harffy is running out of authentic backing. The sixth novel Storm of Steel is essentially a totally fictional swashbuckling seventh century tale. Still if you seek adventure and battle you have it. Also although the hero and protagonist loses some of his right-hand men his loyal gesiths along the way his invincibility wears a little thin by novel six. Maybe Harffy will kill him of in the seventh novel. Im going to read it to find out. I recommend reading the novels in chronological order. Knowing key characters backgrounds adds to appreciation of their behaviour. That said you still should not have trouble enjoying these novels if you cherry-pick them randomly.
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Ideas that matter : a personal guide for the 21st century / A.C. Grayling.
Author: Grayling, A. C.
Publisher: London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2009.
Review by: Loveday, Robert J. Mr.  on: 22/03/2020 2:20:10 PM
Member Rating:
A. C. Grayling is a contemporary philosopher of renown. An academic, broadcaster and columnist, he has written in excess of 30 books.

This book is an A-Z of ideas ideologies, institutions and abstract concepts. Topics range from the religious to the political, from the economic to the cultural, from the philosophical to the scientific and technological. There are 170 to 180 entries in all, from one to four or five pages each.

You needn't read every essay. The book is ideal for cherry-picking. I skipped relatively quickly through some of the more abstract classical philosophical items but read with intensity those to do with political ideologies, the various religions and socio-cultural concepts.

The essays are easy to digest, packed with information and thought provoking. To say easy to digest and thought provoking in the one sentence may seem contradictory. But no. While his opinions and explanations are clearly presented and are enlightening, they often require pause to analyse, synthesise and evaluate. I often found myself pausing to compare and modify my previously held perceptions. This density of thought meant that I seldom read more than a dozen pages in an hourly reading session.

So if you seek an intellectual challenge, if you like to refresh your perspectives with alternative ones or if you simply want a greater understanding of the complex world that we as a species have created, give A. C. Grayling a go.
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