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review 2018-12-29 22:12
An Uneven But Ultimately Satisfying Historical Fiction
The Crescent and the Cross - Kurt Scheffler

I normally reserve disclaimers for the end of a post -- but I'm going to start this post with one. I've met Kurt Scheffler, he seems like a good guy. He has taught every one of my children, is currently teaching two of them, and will be teaching one for the next three years. He's beloved in my house and the impact that he's had on my kids is almost incalculable. Also, one of my kids bought this for me -- not in a "hey, here's an easy way to get brownie points" kind of move; but a "I know someone who wrote a book, my dad likes books, I should combine those things" kind of way. So basically, I'm trying to say that I have every reason to airbrush what I'm about to say, but I'm going to try to not do that. Also, no parent wants to see one of their kid's teachers use the word "whoring" that much.

 

This is the story of The Battle of Tours (in 732) and events leading up to it, told through the lives of people close to Charles Martel and Charles on the one hand and a couple of the leaders of the Muslim forces involved in the Arab invasion of France. Specifically, that's Charles, his longtime friend, his sons, his mistress, and some children who are adopted by a close associate and are practically part of his household; and then the son of the Caliph and Abderrahman.

 

It's your typical historical fiction, blending historical events and fictionalized events into one narrative. I really liked some of the characters a lot, and the ones I had no patience for were the one's the book doesn't want you to enjoy. I'm not convinced that I didn't like them for the same reasons I wasn't supposed to like them -- it wasn't their less-than-savory characteristics, but their portrayal. But still, that's better than many novels are able to pull off.

 

I'm not going to try to summarize the plot more thoroughly than that, or talk about any of the particular characters -- this post would quickly become too long to bother with. The story takes awhile to coalesce -- it almost feels like the novel couldn't decide what it was going to be about for the first half -- it started trying to be X, then it became Y, then Z and quickly A, B, and finally settling on being C (I might have exaggerated a bit there, the book might have settled on B). That's how it felt, I should say. In retrospect, I don't think that was the case, it was simply taking it's time (arguably too much) setting the stage and establishing the characters before launching into the major story.

 

That said, I found myself enjoying each version of the story the novel gave us along the way, and when it seemed to shift into a different story, I was disappointed to leave X, Y or Z -- at least until I got into the new version. Scheffler can tell a story, that's clear. He's skilled at sucking you in and feeling what he wants you to.

 

I do have a few quibbles with the book -- I'll only talk about a few. My notes are full of question marks when we got a historical particular, I just wasn't sure if he got the timing on some things correct. There's a lot of anachronisms -- for example, Pascal's wager a few centuries early (sure, someone could've said it before Pascal -- but it seemed a bit off); some statements about equality that sounded like Martin Luther King, Jr.'s rough drafts; and people holding opinions/values that I just can't accept given the time (mostly benign things, I should add, like a noblewoman baking as a hobby). The villains might as well be wearing black hats and twirling mustaches, while the "heroic" characters are subtly drawn and live in the gray -- I just wish the villains got the same treatment. Practically every character is very aware of the historical significance of the struggle they're part of -- particularly when it comes to the ultimate (and impending) battle between Charles Martel's and Abderrahman's armies. I don't doubt that sometimes individuals understand how vital a role they play in the grand scheme of things, but this seemed a bit overkill (or this is a case of one of the greatest conglomerations of narcissists ever).

 

There's redemption, personal reformation, romance, action against a sweeping historical backdrop -- there's something for almost everyone here. Could this book have been better? Yes. Given the themes, the scope, the characters, the setting -- there's a lot more that Scheffler could've done here. Also, it would've been very easy to make this incredibly dull and/or hack-y. Scheffler avoided that -- and I'm very happy about that. In the end, we're left with something in the middle -- an entertaining work with a few problems. You'll keep turning the pages to see what he does with the characters, but you'll wonder a little about the background and details. At worst (or best?) this'll spur you to further reading on the history of the period after reading Scheffler's fictional take. Really can't complain about that, right? I'm glad I read it.



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&#10004; Read a book you received as a gift.
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Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2018/12/27/the-crescent-and-the-cross-by-kurt-scheffler-an-uneven-but-ultimately-satisfying-historical-fiction
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review 2018-12-27 14:12
love love LOVED this one!
Behind the Iron Cross - Nicola M. Cameron
Independent reviewer for Archaeolibrarian, I was gifted my copy of this book. A sensual heiress, a wounded playboy and the soldier who will serve them both. Oh I liked this one, I liked it a LOT!!! Meet Kat, a wealthy business woman trying to help expand her company and repair a very damaged Germany after WW1. Meet Sam, Kat's best friend, fiancee, and her dead brother's lover. And Friedrich, a decommissioned soldier forced to sell his body to keep his widowed sister-in-law and her baby fed. Like I said, liked it A LOT! The scene is set with Friedrich going to the club Kat and Sam frequent for the first time. There is am immediate connection between the three, and it burns bright through the whole book. I didn't find it as explicit as some BDSM or menage books, but that might be just me. It IS sexy, oh yes, don't think that it isn't, and what is here is very well written. Maybe it's because a lot of words used were from that time, and not today's words for things. I didn't mind that I didn't find it as explicit, I just needed to mention it! I LOVED how it all worked though! Kat is a Dom; Sam, a confirmed homosexual (but he can be with women, should he and Kat actually get married and need to produce an heir!) and Friedrich is the glue that binds all three of them together. Kat shows him all kinds of things that he didn't even know existed and Sam shows him just how good it is to be with a man. I liked the business espionage line, wasn't sure how that was gonna go and I do so love being kept on my toes! And I absolutely LOVED the solution that Sam comes up with to get Friedrich, Elise and Rudi out of Germany; to give Kat a husband; to give Sam a wife AND heir and for the three of them to be together back in the States. I was reading when Sam was talking and I'm thinking "What the bloody hell is he going on about?" And then, ping! Light bulb moment just a fraction of a sentence before Sam laid it out! Loved it! First I've read of this author, unless there is something tucked away in a bo x set I might have read. I'd like to read more! You know what?? I wrote 4.5 stars at the top pf the page when I sat down to write this up, but now? I can't think why I did that, or what to take the half star off for, so . . . . 5 full stars! **same worded review will appear elsewhere**

 

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text 2018-12-20 19:19
REVIEW BY DEBBIE - Behind the Iron Cross by Nicola Cameron
Behind the Iron Cross - Nicola M. Cameron

In the hedonistic wonderland of Cabaret-era Berlin…

…where money can buy you anything you desire…

…and love comes with a pink rose and a practiced smile…

The year is 1925, the Great War is over, and Berlin has become the manic playground of Europe’s elite. Against a glittering background of nightclubs and hot jazz, a sensual American heiress, a wounded playboy, and a desperate German army officer forge a decadent pact of pleasure. But their nights of uninhibited passion soon lead to a forbidden emotional connection, one that will threaten their future … and their lives.

 

Source: archaeolibrarian.wixsite.com/website/single-post/2018/12/20/Behind-the-Iron-Cross-by-Nicola-Cameron
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review 2018-12-09 15:43
Miss Mabel's School for Girls (Network Series, #1) - Katie Cross
For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

I've had the Kindle version of this book for a while now, but I am so bad about actually reading the ebooks I have. While vacationing in Mexico, I decided to only read ebooks and settled on this one. Perfect length for reading in a week between wading in the ocean and pool activities. 

This was kind of a tricky book to review. I liked the concept of the story, but it was a little slow to start. The whole book kind of reads like a prequel, just setting up the action for the series. Many things happen, but they all seem to just set up later events in comparison to being important in and of themselves.

The book also appears to be heavily influenced by Harry Potter. Not bad in its own right, but it's just been done so many times before. There were a few good creative twists. I did like that it was an all girls school and the focus on female power. The overall story is kind of an all-girl witchy YA mashup of DivergentThe Hunger Games, and Harry Potter

Overall, the writing was good. Bianca gets stuck in her head a little too much at times, making her narration kind of annoying, but for the most part it was good. 

There are definitely ups and downs in the story. Sometimes you are really engaged with it and sometimes it's just kind of going along. But overall, I enjoyed the book. There was a link for a free copy of the second book inside the ebook. I liked this one enough to download the second book and continue the series. 
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review 2018-12-04 17:49
Cowboy, Cross My Heart
Cowboy, Cross My Heart - Donna Grant
What was meant to be a relaxing trip home turns into quite an ordeal for Naomi as she finds her best friend caught up in some corrupt affairs.
 
Naomi had just returned home to Texas to visit her mother and best friend, Whitney who was the reigning Rodeo Queen. Attending a roping competition with Whitney, Naomi was viewing the cowboys and everything around them through the lens of her camera. Naomi had left this world behind to attend college and begin her photography career. Being home, reminded Naomi of what she had left behind. Whitney had been acting strangely since Naomi had arrived and now, viewing Whitney through her camera Naomi could see that what she had felt, was not just a feeling. Naomi now had proof, as she clicked her camera, that Whitney was not acting like herself.
 
The struggle was real as someone tried to pull Naomi’s camera away from her. Naomi struggled to hold onto it and soon someone else was helping her. In the end, she now had the broken camera. Who tried to take it from her, they don’t know but Whitney seems upset with Naomi for wanting to investigate the matter. Seems a bit strange but with Whitney acting weird to start with, perhaps these two incidents are related? Naomi decides to develop the film which was inside the camera and that’s when events in the book start getting interesting.
 
With the pictures developed, more individuals are added to the troubles in the novel. Brice, the individual who helped save Naomi’s camera, and his family now play an important role in the novel. This was originally a short visit to Texas, but there is an immediate attraction between Naomi and Brice. Things gets pretty hot between the two of them as this investigation gets underway.
 
There are some very evil men who take advantage of their power in this book. Why they went this route is beyond me but they needed to be stopped but they had other plans first.
 
I read that this book is the second in the series but this is the first book that I had read and I didn’t feel lost as I read it. I enjoyed the story and I liked the male characters the most. They seemed more honest and reliable. There were a few parts in the story that I felt were kooky. As I read these parts I was thinking, what? Are you serious? So that just happened and I am supposed to believe that without any explanation. I wished the author would have provided some backup for all the major events in this story, it would have made it more believable.
 
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

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