Tag Archives: #bookreview

#BookReview ‘Prophecy’ by SJ Parris @thestephmerritt #historical #crime

Prophecy is the second instalment of SJ Parris’s Giordano Bruno books, based on the real-life Italian philosopher. Parris has taken some of the known facts about the real Bruno and enhanced rumour into fact, making him a spy for Queen Elizabeth I’s spymaker and Secretary of State, Sir Francis Walsingham. The result is a delicious mix of proven historical fact, betrayals, plots and assignations with a healthy dose of invention and a charismatic character to root for. The real Bruno was also a cosmologist, proclaiming that the universe was infinite and that the stars in the sky were suns, like ours, circled by their own planets, and this theme runs throughout the books. To our modern eyes, Bruno appears a scientist; in his time, he was deemed a heretic. SJ ParrisIn Prophecy, Bruno must play a dangerous game on behalf of Walsingham, living in the house of the French ambassador and party to a plot to put Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne. Always an outsider – Bruno is a religious exile, a renegade monk who escaped his Italian friary in search of sanctuary from the Inquisition – and has learned to be an observer amongst dangerous factions in order to survive. He has also learned to defend himself with his fists.
Queen Elizabeth makes herself vulnerable to influence through her burgeoning interest in prophecies and astrology. When a maid in the queen’s household is found dead, her body branded with astrological signs, fear stalks the streets. Pamphlets about with fantasy and rumour are sold freely. Bruno is charged by Walsingham to identify the murderer. The pace of the story ramps up when Bruno makes a connection with the men plotting in support of the Scottish Queen. As the various parties dance elegantly around each other, stepping into shadows and dissembling in full light, Bruno must unravel true friends from false.
Second in the series, this book moved much quicker for me than the first, Heresy. Key characters are already established as is the historical context, political manipulation and religious conflict [intricate at the best of times]. There are plenty of traitorous suspects, dodgy meeting places, ill-advised assignations and dark alleyways to furnish twists and surprises a plenty.
Prophecy was a 4* read for me. Now I’m looking forward to reading the next book, Sacrilege. My first love is CJ Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series, but this runs it a close second.

Read my review of HERESY, first in the Giordano Bruno series.

If you like this, try:-
Dangerous Women’ by Hope Adams
The Other Eden’ by Sarah Bryant
The Confessions of Frannie Langton’ by Sara Collins

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
PROPHECY by SJ Parris @thestephmerritt #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5ub via @SandraDanby

#Bookreview ‘Winter of the Heart’ by @EG_Parsons #historical #romance

EG ParsonsWinter of the Heart by EG Parsons is a good old-fashioned romance about bad choices and second chances involving a heroine who is afraid to love again, a widower grieving for what he has lost and a violent husband, set in post-Civil War South Carolina.

In 1876,Megan Connors starts a new life as a schoolteacher on a ranch at Willow Creek. Finding the children eager to learn, she hopes her dreams of a good life are coming true. Except for her boss, the rude ranch owner Charles Donavan, glamorous neighbour Alicia who expects to marry Charles, and a ghostly presence. When romance starts to blossom, Megan must admit she is not free to marry. When her former husband William arrives to claim her, Megan must leave with him and return to their home in Clearwater, Virginia.

The second half of the novel is a tale of survival. Megan plans her escape from William’s house but with winter approaching she gets lost and wanders into the mountains. Encounters with a bear, bandits and snow leave her almost dead. Meanwhile Charles realises his behaviour to Megan was harsh. He leaves his ranch and with the help of confidential investigator James Marshall, investigates Megan’s story. Marshall sends a man into the mountains to search for Megan but, growing impatient, Charles follows. Is Megan dead, or is she sheltering in one of the remote homesteads cut off by snow until spring comes.

I read this quickly on a plane and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Amazon UK

If you like this, try:-
‘Barkskins’ by Annie Proulx
The Knife with the Ivory Handle’ by Cynthia Bruchman
‘Summertime’ by Vanessa Lafaye

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
WINTER OF THE HEART by @EG_Parsons #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3yz via @Sandra Danby

#Bookreview ‘Things Bright and Beautiful’ by @anbara_salam #literary #womens

Anbara SalamHow to describe Things Bright and Beautiful by Anbara Salam? It is a tale of the 1950s set on a Pacific island where the author authentically creates the sweltering heat, the humidity, the tropical jungle and the natives. It is a claustrophobic tale of differing religious beliefs where confusion, conviction and malaria bring about an unexpected ending. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, it was a wild card choice and I really enjoyed it.

Bea and Max Hanlon arrive on Advent Island in the remote New Hebrides as Max takes up his post as island missionary to spread the word to the heathen natives. It is not what they expected. Bea is soon picking rat droppings from their bag of rice while Max deals with a lack of clocks making scheduling a morning service difficult. Not to mention the group praying and singing at night, this ‘dark praying’ is intended to expel dark spirits and is done outside the Mission House whilst Max and Bea attempt to sleep. The authorial tone is at first fond and humorous as Bea and Max face up to their difficulties shackled by language differences and the late arrival of their trunks. They are literally thrown in at the deep end. Bea negotiates the many taboos and starts a kitchen garden. I particularly enjoyed the description of one mysterious vegetable as ‘hedge’. But their house is their own, until the previous missionary reappears unannounced. The always-humming Marietta cannot take a hint and tramps around as if she owns the place. She is the grit on which the story takes a dark and threatening turn.

Two small criticisms. There are so many peripheral characters with island names that I ceased to remember who was who. And at times the island dominated character and plot.

If you are looking for a novel in which to lose yourself, this is it. An atmospheric, spooky and at times downright yucky tale of how religion can turn quickly into fanaticism. It is about a fight for survival in a world which starts off as a dream and ends as a nightmare. I enjoyed Bea’s journey as she adapts to her new world, makes the best of things, makes friends, ignores the silliest taboos and gets herself into trouble.

In the jungle, is it the fittest that survive or the cleverest? A highly imaginative debut.

Amazon UK

If you like this, try:-
‘The Signature of All Things’ by Elizabeth Gilbert
‘How to Stop Time’ by Matt Haig
‘Then She Was Gone’ by Lisa Jewell

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL by @anbara_salam #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3qL via @SandraDanby