Saturday, 6 June 2015

Lamentation, C. J. Sansom


Publisher: Pan

Pages: 706

Main Characters:

Mathew Shardlake, John Barak, Queen Catherine Parr

 
Lamentation is the long awaited sixth addition to C. J. Sansom's epic Shardlake series. The novel is set in 16th Century England at time when the country was going through numerous religious changes at the whim of King Henry VIII. The rich and powerful of the country are divided into two different sects, the Conservatives and Reformers, whom both wish to have the ear of the King and influence his religious doctrine. People are being declared heretics by the state and the most radical reformers are burnt at Tyburn, as the King seems to be retracing his steps to the Church of Rome. England and especially London is not a safe place to live for anyone who questions the Old Faith.

Trying to avoid the religious divide is lawyer Mathew Shardlake whom after helping the Queen of England a year ago, is trying to stay out of matters of state. However, when a knock on his door in the middle of night reveals a young lawyer named William Cecil, Shardlake is quickly drawn back into the intrigue of the Royal Court. Cecil takes him to Whitehall to meet with his Master- Lord Parr. Once again, Shardlake is thrown into the cut-throat world of the English Crown as it is revealed his old Mistress (Queen Catherine Parr) is in mortal danger because of a book she secretly wrote.

The book is called Lamentation of a Sinner in which the Queen confesses that she has sinned during her life but through studying the bible and prayer to Jesus, she has repented her sins and will try and live a virtuous life. Although the book is not technically heresy, the fact the Queen wrote it without telling the King could easily be declared treason and with Henry’s short temper and love of beheadings, it could end badly for the Queen. Especially when her unpublished manuscript is stolen from her chambers! Shardlake is tasked with finding out who stole the manuscript but is on limited time because if the book is published by the thieves ,it will be the end of the Queen, the reformers and Mathew Shardlake.

Once again C. J. Sansom does not fail to impress with his new novel. It seems like forever ago that his last novel in the series Heartstone came out and I actually didn’t realised he’d realised a new book until I bumped into this one in a book shop! The book was extremely tense and well written. I love how Sansom portrays 16th Century London. His research into the street layouts and how he describes them really makes you feel you’re walking the city with Shardlake and Barak.

In addition, the novel has so many different levels of intrigue to it. There’s the mystery behind the book theft, a murder and an old family quarrel which Shardlake tries to solve throughout the book. Sansom builds and builds the tension all the way through the book leading to a big reveal near the end. But for me, the reveal was a little disappointing and kind-of average. However, that is until you read a little further on and find out who the real puppet master is in the novel and his confrontation with Shardlake is awesome!

This series of books is one of my favourite and is easily on par with series like A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. There’s the same level of intrigue, back stabbing and murder which I think is great, so if you love watching and reading A Game of Thrones then definitely check out the first book in this series Dissolution.

For author’s website click here.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Down Under, Bill Bryson


Publisher: Black Swan

Pages: 394

Main Characters:

Bill Bryson

 

Down Under is the hilarious travel guide to Australia written by famous travel author Bill Bryson. The book is based around Bryson’s five different trips to the continent/country of Australia during the 1990’s, ending with his most recent trip in 1997.

Bryson tells his tale from every corner of Australia, from the baking heat of the Northern Territory’s Outback to the wet tropics of Queensland, Bryson has a humorous story and honest opinion on Australia its culture and its (sometimes) unusual people. To summarise his humour, I think a quote explaining one of New South Wales’ remotest towns (which I can’t remember the name of!) really shows how the book is written.

‘(the town) is a real Australian town, where the men are men and the sheep are scared!’

The book is full of these witty, sharp one liners, which I absolutely loved and they often had me bursting out with laughter, especially when he talks of the casualness Aussies have towards their dangerous animals. For me, the book was made even more enjoyable because I have visited a lot of the places Bryson writes about and pens these funny quotes about and for most of the time, I couldn’t agree with him more!

I originally meant to read this book before I set off for my travels to Australia but at the time the Kobo store didn’t actually sell it. I wanted to read it before Australia in the hopes it would give me some inspiration on where to go in the country and what sites I should go and see. However, I’m glad I read it afterwards because the book is not really a travel guide but more of a collection of funny stories. In addition, because I’d already visited most of the places Bryson goes to in the book, it gave me a lot of nostalgia and a longing to go back to Oz. On the other hand, I think that Bryson does over exaggerate some of Australia’s features, especially if you’re doing your travelling on a backpacker’s budget. One example of this is the Great Barrier Reef. Bryson calls it the most beautiful place on Earth and though it is an amazing place, the reef I visited wasn’t as spectacular as you imagine it to be. He also talks of the immense Outback as if it is something more than what it is. It is staggering how huge the Bush is and that much of it is still unexplored, but when you’re driving through it and know you have another twelve hours of driving to do, it soon gets very, very boring.

Down Under was a great read and I highly recommend it to anyone who plans to visit Australia or to anyone who’s already been there. I’m excited to check out Bryson’s other books, especially his book about Europe as that’s where I plan to travel next!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

It's Been A Long Time!


So it’s been almost a year and a half since I last posted on here and that to me is a little sad. Updating this blog was a huge part of my life for the first two years of my time at university, as it helped me mellow out from the drag of uni work! As most students will know, the third year of university is a whole other kettle of fish and really cut into my casual reading time as I was mostly reading about Winston Churchill and the Second World War, which to me is an amazing subject but to most, isn’t really what they want to read about in their spare time. Plus some events that happened in my personal life and starting a full time job really made me lose my love of fiction as I was usually too tired or too fed up to read or write about books. I think during this period I read one book and that was Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography, which I thoroughly enjoy but never actually finished.
Jumping Crocodiles, Northern Territory, Australia
 

Not that I’m complaining, but the last ten months of my life have been spent travelling around the world. I’ve been to Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand and the US and the last thing I wanted to do was spend time writing about books as I was too busy lying on beaches and drinking cocktails! However, all that time on the beach gave me a great opportunity to get back into reading, which I’d forgotten how much I loved. Reading casually is the best hobby or past time ever and meeting so many new people whilst travelling has also given me so many new book suggestions to read. As hard as it is lying on a beach all day, reading whilst travelling is great because it helps fill an amount of time where you would be otherwise sat staring at the back of an old Japanese man’s head on a bus, or listening to a family of Americans arguing on a trip to the Grand Canyon. Luckily, I’ve read some great books throughout my time travelling such as, The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith and its sequel Silkworm. Books I’d never thought I’d read such as Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones because I’d always thought it was a children’s novel.
 
Osaka Castle
 

With the joy of reading has come all the nostalgia of blogging and how happy I used to be when I’d post a book review and people would read it. That’s why I want to try and get the ball rolling and get this blog back on its feet! I’m hoping to post on here on a regular basis but don’t really want to put any time restraints on myself because then it becomes less of a hobby and more of a job (and I ain’t getting paid!). This is something I want to do professionally so writing this blog is a good form of practice and most importantly, it’s fun!
Queenstown, South Island NZ
 

So I plan to get my own domain name and make adam-p-reviews a website and not just a blog. I also want to re-format my blog so it’s easier and clearer to navigate and looks a whole lot more professional. Again, I don’t have a set time frame for this but hopefully it happens in the next few months! I’d also like to encourage any authors to get in contact with me about reviewing their books. I’m sorry to anyone who has already e-mailed me because I literally just checked my e-mails today and it’s the first time for about a year. But, if you’re reading this and still want a review please e-mail me again and I promise I’ll get back to you.

So I hope this post clears up where I’ve been, where I am and where I want to go with this blog. If you’ve got any questions please feel free to send me an e-mail or check out my Facebook page.

And for anyone who’s interested I’ll leave a list of some of the books I’ve been reading whilst I’ve been away and maybe you can send me some suggestions of similar books to read. Thanks for taking the time to read this post, I hope you enjoyed!

 

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

Silkworm, Robert Galbraith

Emperor of Thorns, Mark Lawrence

Prince of Fools, Mark Lawrence

Legionary: Viper of the North, Gordon Doherty

The Maze Runner, James Dashner

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

The Empty Throne, Bernard Cornwell

Horns, Joe Hill

The Boys From Brazil, Ira Levin

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones

Down Under, Bill Bryson

 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Agent of Rome, The Imperial Banner, Nick Brown,


Publishers: Hodder

Pages: 421

Main Characters:

Cassius Corbulo, Indavara, Simo





The Imperial Banner is  the second book in Nick Brown's The Agent of Rome series and sees us return to the third century and our inexperienced, unlikely hero Cassius Corbulo. After the events in The SiegeCassius and his manservant Simo have some down time solving some minor crimes which understandably Corbulo enjoys! However, after a long standing conflict between Rome and its greatest rival Persia comes to an end, Corbulo and Simo are called back into action by the Imperial Security Service. As part of the peace treaty between Rome and Persia, a symbolic battle standard know as the Faridun's Banner (or the Derafsh Kaviani) which was captured by the Romans in the war, is agreed to be returned to the Persian Emperor as part of the coming together of the great Empires. The Imperial Security Service is tasked with transporting the standard from Antioch to the peace talks between Rome and Persia. However, when the convoy does not report in several days after its departure, the Service begins to fear the worst and Corbulo is tasked with retrieving the Standard from whomever stole it. Luckily for Corbulo, the Service provides the young officer with a body guard to protect him from the bandits that likely stole the Standard. 

Indavara is a sword for hire and is tasked with protecting Corbulo on his investigation. A freed Gladiator, Indavara is an expert in sword fighting and archery, which is lucky for Corbulo because when Indavara first meets him, he is being attack by three Legionaries! At first Corbulo and the Service expect that the convoy was ambushed by brigands left over from Queen Zenobia's rebellion. However, when clues are unearthed and rumours about Antioch's leading politicians are proved true, Corbulo's belief that the attack on the convoy was an 'inside job' becomes stronger and stronger. Nevertheless, his superiors disagree and are convinced that the Banner was stolen accidentally by opportunistic bandits. With his limited experience, Corbulo is uncertain whether to follow orders or go with his gut instinct,but after a failed assassination attempt on his life, Corbulo is certain that Roman politics and political intrigue is at play and follows his leads to the heart of Antioch's society.

In my review of The Siege I said that I really enjoyed the book because Corbulo was not made out to be a hero, but instead was a scared and inexperienced teenager, which for me made the book more realistic. In The Imperial Banner, Corbulo is still inexperienced teenager but he also becomes a very arrogant and at times, unlikable character. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed this factor because again it made the novel and Corbulo seem much more realistic. I could imagine that a rich, aristocratic teenager who has the authority of the Roman Emperor would be arrogant and self-righteous and therefore a little bit unlikable. I don't know if this was intentional but I do really like how Corbulo isn't really the hero that seems to appear in books in this genre. In addition, I found the story behind Faridun's Banner intriguing and thought it was a good mystery for Corbulo to uncover! 

All in all, this was a great historical mystery novel in a very promising series and I can't wait to check out the next novel  The Far Shore. I would suggest this book to fans of other Roman history novels such as Simon Scarrow's Marco and Cato series or Anthony Riches's Empire series. I'd also suggest it to fans of other historical mystery novels such as C. J. Sansom's Shardelake series. 

For author's official website click here.







Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Strangled Queen, Maurice Druon


Publishers: Harper Collins


Pages: 269


Main Characters:

Louis X, Marguerite, Guccio Baglioni, Robert of Artois



The Strangled Queen is the second book in Maurice Druon's nail-biting The Accursed Kings series. The novel follows on from The Iron King and finds medieval France in turmoil after the death of one of its most successful and respected Kings, Philip the Fair. His son Louis has inherited the Kingdom but does not possess the brilliance of his late father and is easily swayed in making decisions by his bold and charismatic uncle Charles of Valois. Charles is of the old ways of France and hated most of Philip the Fair’s new bureaucratic methods which modernised the Kingdom. In addition, Charles hated the new methods most of all because they raised the middle class into the social elite. He wants France to return to the era of chivalry and the time of powerful nobility. To do this, Charles manipulates his weak nephew by promising him a new marriage after the embarrassment of Marguerite of Burgundy (Louis wife) and Philippe d’Aunay’s affair. However, to achieve his goals Charles must first remove his greatest rival Enguerrand Marigny, the old King’s closet advisor, from the French court.

Meanwhile, Marguerite of Burgundy and her sister Blanche are still been held prisoners by Louis X, whom is awaiting the appointment of a new Pope to divorce his marriage from his adulterous wife. The miserable dark cell is enough to crack the once beautiful and powerful Queen of France and forces her to write a confession that states her marriage was never valid. However, after no news is heard from the King after the departure of the letter, Marguerite’s future looks very bleak and when new condemning evidence is discovered against Marguerite and her protector, Enguerrand Marigny, her future also looks very short…

I found this book much better than The Iron King. Don’t get me wrong, I did really like the first book, I thought as a historical-fiction novel it was probably one of the best I’ve read this year because it was so full of historical detail. However, as a thriller I didn’t think it was that thrilling and thought marketing the novel as ‘the original Game of Thrones’ was very misplaced. The Strangled Queen on the other hand totally fits this bill! It was full of political intrigue, plots and betrayal that I loved and like The Iron King, Druon’s historical detail was top notch. Coupled with the intrigue, Druon successfully and entertainingly shows the weakness of the French crown at the start of the thirteenth century.

This was a great novel and has got me really excited to read the next book in the series The Poisoned Crown, which from the sound of its title already sounds epic! I’d suggest this book to anyone who likes historical-fiction, especially authors such as Bernard Cornwell and his Grail Quest series. I’d also suggest it to fans of Game of Thrones because as George R. R. Martin explains in his Forward note at the start of the book, this novel was the inspiration behind GoT.

For author's official Goodreads page click here.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Daddy was a Punk Rocker, Adam Sharp


Publisher: Adam Sharp


Pages: 132


Main Characters:

Adam, Martine, Colin



Daddy Was a Punk Rocker is the deeply moving memoir written by Adam Sharp, who tells the story of his amazing life, but often difficult and troubled upbringing. Been an unwanted son of a heroin addict mother (Martine) and a punk rock father (Colin), Adam’s young life was plagued with violence and abandonment. In addition, moving from households in Manchester and Newcastle made Adam question who he was as he struggled to create an identity. However, because of his spirit, determination and the belief that his father will always come good, Adam goes on to become a successful but troubled young man.

It’s hard to give a review of what happens in this novel because I don’t want to give too much away. What I think you guys should know is that this book is truly well written and moving. I loved how honest Sharp was in the novel, which must have been really hard because it’s his own life he's talking about! Nevertheless, I think it’s great that he holds nothing back as it makes his story so much more grittier and real. It also makes his memoir extremely sad. This is because throughout his childhood and adolescence, Adam clings to the idea that one day his father will be like any other Dad and return drug free and ready to whisk Adam away to a home where they can listen to punk music together.  To try and speed along this dream, Adam constantly pushes himself to be stronger, smarter or faster in the hope that his personal achievements will impress his father.

However, by putting his Dad on this pedestal, Adam continually sets himself up for a fall when Colin breaks his promises  by not showing up to their meetings or by returning to his drug addiction. I thought this was so sad because in the mind of a child this must be devastating- to do all that you can to impress someone in the hope they will love you and care for you and then to have it totally ignored must have been heart breaking! You can see why Adam does some of things he does in the novel. Of course, there are some happier moments in the novel too but again I don’t want to say too much and spoil anything!

All in all this book was a great read about a father and son who both wanted to share their lives together but unfortunately couldn’t. I got so addicted to Adam’s story that I was reading it on my iPhone at work because I just could not get enough! I’d suggest this book to anyone who wants to read a novel that’s a little bit different but that’s also immensely honest and entertaining to read! Plus, at the minute the e-book is only 79p on Amazon which I think is an absolute bargain so make sure to go and buy it!

P.S. I’d like to say a massive thank you to Adam Sharp for getting in touch with me and introducing me to his amazing work! Thanks Adam!


For author’s official website click here.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

I Haven't Fallen Off the Face of the Earth, I'm Just Travelling Around It!

Hey guys! Just a very quick video to let you know I'll be in Taiwan between July 11th - 2nd August 2013 so there won't be any posts or updates on my blog or Facebook.

P.S. Please excuse the phone bleep!

Please remember to comment, rate and subscribe.



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