New Read: The Dragon’s Blade: The Reborn King

In the bitterly cold and dreary weather of February, I found myself needing to escape to another world, so I picked up The Dragon’s Blade: The Reborn King by Michael R. Miller; which had sadly lay in my Kindle’s to-be-read folder for too long! And It was only as I neared the end and no conclusion seemed forthcoming that I realised it is the first book in a planned fantasy trilogy.

Immediately, we are thrown into the action of the dark, fantastical realm of Tenalp; as the last of the proud race of dragons is forced to flee their ancestral home of Aurisha, by a never-ending hoard of mindless demons sent by the dark lord, Rectar and the traitorous wizard, Castallan. During the bloody fighting, King Draconess is killed and Prince Danuir is mortally wounded. Fearing they will be lost without an heir to the powerful Dragon’s Blade, the last good wizard, Brackendon is forced to perform a dangerous rebirthing spell upon Danuir, which leaves him a helpless babe.

I know what your thinking… a dark lord and a traitorous wizard, isn’t that The Lord of the Rings? Initially, I have to admit I thought the same thing, but reading on I discovered some interesting differences to enjoy about Miller’s new creation too. The biggest being the dragons themselves. These are not the traditional scaly, winged, fire breathing beasts you might have imagined. Instead many generations ago, with the help of magic, the dragons of this world shed their beastly form for a human-like one, whilst retaining their impressive strength and longer life spans.

Meanwhile twenty years pass and with no knowledge of his true heritage, Danuir grows up hidden away in a human village in the Boreac Mountains. However his life is turned upside down when he comes of age and the Dragon’s Blade magically presents itself to him. With it comes a bewildering array of new strength, powers and memories. Now as the demonic forces are poised to finally destroy the beleaguered alliance of humans, fairies and dragons for good, all hopes rest upon his young shoulders, as the long-awaited king who can wield the legendary Dragon’s Blade.

All the while I just had to feel for poor Danuir, who is just trying to figure out exactly who he is! Once an arrogant prince full of scorn and pride, the kinder and humble rebirthed Danuir has a lot to come to terms with. Especially when unnerving memories start to resurface and old prejudices frustratingly erupt in moments of anger, which leads to uneasy relations with his human friends. Towards the end of the book though, Danuir does seem to be getting a better handle on things – balancing the strength and authority of his former self, with the fairness and humility he has now.

During this dangerous adventure out of the Boreac Mountains, through the Cairlav Marshes and to the fairy homeland of Val’Tarra, Danuir is helped and joined by an eclectic collection of characters. Including old friends, the wizard, Brackendon and human hunters Cosmo, Ballack and Garon and new acquaintances Blaine, the Guardian of Tenalp; Kymethra, a shape-shifting witch and a mysterious young woman, Cassandra. While I thought all of these characters were good, I didn’t always find Cassandra that believable. However she does have many secrets and twists to come that explain some of her behaviour and actions.

Overall, I thought The Dragon’s Blade: The Reborn King was a fun, fantasy adventure which certainly helped me to escape from miserable February! My only problem was at the end I wanted to know what happens next! Good read.

Thank you to the author for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Can you recommend any similar fantasy?


The Classics Club: Spin #17 Result

This week saw the arrival of The Classic Club’s 17th Spin, which is my first spin since creating my brand-spanking new list. To join in all you simply had to do was list and number any 20 books that remain on your Classics Club list before Friday, 9th March, when the club would announce the winning number. So the results are in and our spin number is…


Which means I have The Tenant of Wildfel Hall by Anne Brontë to read by Monday, 30th April. I am really pleased with my result because I have long wanted to read something by Anne, as I have already enjoyed books by both of her sisters, Emily and Charlotte Brontë.

Now my only dilemma is do I wait till I have finished This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald or abandon the former to start this?!

Have you read this? If you also took part, what was your result?

New Read: The Case for Grace

As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and I am very lucky that my church has it’s own book club to help me with this. Last month we read the international bestseller Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi. Next up was The Case for Grace by New York Times bestselling author Lee Strobel.

As an award-winning journalist, Lee Strobel is well known for his ‘The Case for…’ books, where he has explored the evidence for the Creator, Christ, Faith and The Real Jesus. In this book, Strobel investigates the very heart of God and His transforming work in the lives of men and women today through the power of grace. Grace – the favour shown by God to sinners – is perhaps God’s most amazing gift to man. A gift which we can neither earn or lose, but which is instead always there for us, no matter how low we may sink.

With true candour, Strobel shares his own journey from Atheism to Christianity, as an example of God’s redeeming love for spiritually wayward people. Also he travels around the world to capture the inspiring stories of other people, whose lives have radically changed and who have come to understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of God’s amazing grace. I was particularly interested to encounter the stories of an addict, a prodigal son, an adulterer and even a murderer. As well as stories about people riddled with guilt and people rendered bitter, who have learnt to forgive themselves and others.

Through these stories I was encouraged to think about how God’s grace could further transform my own life and relationships. However I didn’t get a firm definition of what grace is. What Strobel does do is discuss different views on grace and how it is unique to Christianity. Interestingly the cat school of bhakti Hinduism and the Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism come close, but the Christian teachings on grace are unparalleled in world religions. I would have liked more discussion like this, however Strobel didn’t want this to be a textbook on grace. Instead he wanted to illustrate God’s power to change our lives, for which I think he was successful.

Overall, I thought The Case for Grace was a compelling collection of inspiring stories of grace and transformation – I look forward to discussing it at my book group’s meeting next week. Our next read is But is it Real?: Answering 10 Common Objections to the Christian Faith by Amy Orr-Ewing. Good read.

Have you read this? Have you read any of Lee Strobel’s other books?

New Read: A Monstrous Regiment of Women

After enjoying The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, the first Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery, by Laurie R. King, I started collecting more books from the series. Unfortunately I had to wait till the end of last year to find a copy of the second book in the series: A Monstrous Regiment of Women, but as you can see I didn’t wait long to read it!

It is 1920 and Sherlock Holmes’ brilliant, young apprentice Mary Russell is now a grown woman, an Oxford graduate and on the cusp of gaining her longed for independence along with her large family inheritance. With this new found freedom and her passion for divinity, Mary finds herself drawn to the New Temple in God and its charismatic leader Margery Childe, a self-proclaimed suffragette and mystic. However when a prominent bluestocking from Childe’s most inner-circle at the Temple is found dead, it seems Mary has stumbled upon another baffling and dangerous mystery to solve.

When we first met Mary Russell, that sunny day in 1915, she was a lonely 15-year-old orphan. Now Mary has bloomed, under Holmes’ tutelage, into a strong, brave, intelligent woman, who on reaching her majority is able to rid herself of her unpleasant aunt and so step out into the world on her own for the first time. While in the first book I found the age gap between Mary and Holmes a little creepy, now Mary is all grown up it is even easier to see how well they suit each other and this book sees the burgeoning of a deeper affection between them.

This new mystery also sees Mary stepping up and taking the lead, with Holmes taking a back seat; but you know he always has her back. As Mary delves deeper, it is revealed that three more women have mysteriously died and what makes it even more suspicious is how each victim had just changed their wills to benefit the Temple. Putting herself in extreme danger, Mary decides to use her own new wealth as bait to whoever it is committing these terrible crimes. What ensures is another thrilling mystery full of secrets, danger and disguises, with the added glitz, glam, drugs and freedom that came in the age between the wars.

And then of course you have Sherlock Holmes. While Holmes isn’t the main protagonist of this book, I do think King has continued to draw him well – he is older, in a new situation and solving new crimes, but I always felt what King had him do and say was believable and true to Doyle’s original. I think I will always prefer Doyle’s classic stories, however I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to see Holmes, even if in a smaller role, in another mystery through this book and I look forward to more.

In conclusion, I thought A Monstrous Regiment of Women was another nostalgic and thrilling mystery. I look forward to reading more from this series – I already have the next book, A Letter of Mary. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any of the other Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books?

New Read: The Plague Charmer

A year or so ago, I read Karen Maitland’s The Raven’s Head. While it was darker than I am used too, the real issue was the thoroughly unlikeable protagonist! However I was suitably impressed by the writing to want to read more. So I was thankful to have the chance to read another of her dark historical fictions: The Plague Charmer.

In this book, Maitland took me back to 1361 – thirteen years after the Great Pestilence ravaged England – to Porlock Weir, a small fishing village on the bleak Exmoor coast. After drought, an ill-omened black sun and afeared rumblings of the pestilence’s return, this beleaguered community is hit by a terrible storm, that smashes weirs, floods homes and blows in a half-dead woman. This mysterious stranger offers to help the villagers, but for a price no one is willing to pay. Shortly after the deadly sickness arrives and as fear turns to hysteria, the stranger’s cost no longer seems so unthinkable…

Maitland shows the following trials and tribulations of the villagers through the narrations of a varied assortment of characters: Will, the dwarf; Sara, a packhorse man’s wife; Matilda, a militantly devout woman; Janiveer, the woman from the sea; and some of the inhabitants of the nearby manor; who blockade the road, trapping the villagers, to protect themselves. Plus there are many more diverse characters for our narrators to interact with. Such a large cast did make it harder for me to make personal connections, but I did still become fond of Will and Sara, and it was interesting to have a large range of people from the Medieval social spectrum featured.

I also can’t fault Maitland’s eye for detail. She really has thought of every little detail and aspect, so that this tale of suffering, loss and fortitude with touches of the supernatural is brought vividly to life. After finishing the book, I was fascinated to discover in Maitland’s research notes that she took inspiration from many real Medieval places, events and people. So while this was still darker than I would prefer, I found myself absolutely gripped! The characters helped too, as they are well drawn and realistic: there are good, bad and murky in between characters. Plus Will was a great character to lighten the mood.

Overall, I thought The Plague Charmer was a compelling and completely believable dark historical fiction, with clever supernatural twists. I would definitely be up for reading more by this author. Good read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or have you read anything else by Karen Maitland?

New Read: The Vietnam War (A Very Brief History)

Last year, I had a bit of an US politics theme going on in my reading through Mark Black’s A Very Brief History series. I read about Richard NixonJohn F Kennedy, The Cuban Missile Crisis and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. So it seemed only fitting to continue this in the new year with The Vietnam War instalment.

Before reading this, what I knew about this disastrous war was what I’d learned from watching the amazing films: Good Morning Vietnam (1987) and Forest Gump (1994). Turns out they’d taught me a fair bit! From reading this though I was able to get a better grip on the numbers involved; the shocking loss of life and the complicated politics behind it. Also I always thought the only foreign forces involved were the Americans, but Australia and New Zealand sent troops to support the South Vietnamese too. While North Korea, the Soviet Union and Republic of China weighed in with support for the North Vietnamese. All in all this war was a whole lot bigger and more devastating than I had ever imagined. No wonder it went on to define a generation.

If it hadn’t been for these Black’s short histories, I doubt I would have ever read about US presidents, politics or this war otherwise, which would be a shame because I have learnt so much from them. This clear, fast paced and concise history is broken down into bite-size chapters on: the background of the war; US foreign policy; the escalation of the war; policy under Richard Nixon; policy under Gerald Ford; other foreign involvement; the US defeat and withdrawal; and the aftermath of the war. This style is helpful for a reader, like me, to learn quickly the main events and essential facts.

Overall, I thought The Vietnam War: A Very Brief History was another quick and interesting read. A good starting point on an important event in history, but I would need to read on for more in-depth detail. With six more editions from this series on my Kindle, I think it seems appropriate to read the Ronald Reagan one next. Okay read.

Have you read this? Or anything else about the Vietnam war?

New Read: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and I am very lucky that my church has it’s own book club to help me with this. After finishing and discussing Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung at the end of last year, the club’s first book of 2018 was the award winning, international bestseller Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi.

In this engaging and though-provoking book, Qureshi candidly describes his dramatic journey from Islam to Christianity. Personally, I didn’t know a great deal about Islam so it was fascinating to find out more. It was truly touching how Qureshi offers such an intimate window into his loving childhood and close-knit family, who instilled in him a passion for Islam. At first a strong advocate for his Islamic faith, it was both inspiring and utterly heart-breaking to see the inner turmoil that ensues when Qureshi is unable to deny Jesus anymore but does not want to deny or hurt his family either.

As well as being a spiritually uplifting read this was an education for me. Firstly, I learnt that there are more strands of Islam than simply Shia and Sunni, as Qureshi’s family are part of the small, persecuted Ahmadiyya sect. Secondly, rather than reading the Quran from cover to cover, as a Christian might the Bible, I learnt that Muslims are taught to memorise sections that are considered sacred and important. Being from a loving, peaceful family these were the sections Qureshi learnt, however on further investigation he was horrified to discover many violent sections too; which could be used to incite hatred and war.

My copy also boasted bonus content. This included ten extra contributions from scholars and experts, one to be read at the end of each section, which I found really insightful and helpful. There is also a new epilogue that covers the first ten years of Qureshi’s life as a Christian, including: his ministry, marriage, the birth of his daughter and thankfully, reconciliation with his family. Sadly just before reading this I heard Qureshi died last September from stomach cancer. He was just 34 years old. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. We can only be thankful that he was able to share his beautiful story before he became ill.

In conclusion, I found Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus to be an eye-opening look at Islam and an inspiring tale of finding true peace in Jesus. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend my book club meeting this month to discuss this book as I was unwell. However I have my copy of The Case for Grace by Lee Strobel, who coincidentally provided the foreword for Qureshi’s book, lined up to read for our next meeting in March. Great read.

Have you read this? Have you read any other books about conversion?