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review 2017-11-20 13:14
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 2 - Guy Fawkes Night: Headless Chicken Parade Part 1: Giordano Bruno
Heresy (Giordano Bruno #1) - S.J. Parris

 

Giordano Bruno (1548 – February 17, 1600) was an eminent Italian philosopher, mathematician, poet, and cosmological scientist, whose theories extended the then-novel Copernican model. Bruno proposed that the stars were just distant suns surrounded by their own exoplanets and raised the possibility that these planets could even foster life of their own; and he insisted that the universe is in fact infinite and could have no celestial body at its "center". -- Raised in Naples as a Dominican friar from age 13 onwards, his interest in the writings of Copernicus and Desiderius Erasmus attracted the attention of the Holy Inquisition before he had even turned 30, and rather than become a martyr for the sake of his philosophical and scientific beliefs then and there, he fled from his monastery and from Italy and, having made a name for himself as a scholar in France and attained the patronage of French King Henri III himself, he eventually turned up in Britain in 1583, where he was introduced to Francis Walsingham and agreed to become a spy in Walsingham's network. The Inquisition did eventually catch up with him in 1593, however, and he was tried for heresy and burned at the stake in Rome's Campo de' Fiori in 1600.

 

While you will be able to glean the above biographical facts (up to 1583) from the beginning of S.J. Parris's Heresy and the book actually has an engaging beginning, it all goes rapidly downhill (or it did for me, anyway) from the moment when the first of several murders occurs. -- Parris's book uses details from Bruno's actual stay in England, in sending him to Oxford for a philosophical debate with the then-Rector of Lincoln College, John Underhill (who indeed opposed Bruno's views). The rest of the story is fictitious, however, and I sincerely hope the personality of this book's Giordano Bruno has nothing whatsoever in common with that of the real-life philosopher and scientist, because if it had, it would be nothing short of a miracle how he ever managed to evade the Inquisition and find his way all the way to France and, later, England.

 

As for "Bruno the sleuth," leaving aside that initially there isn't even a good reason for him to involve himself in the investigation into the dead man's murder

(even the discovery that the man was a clandestine Catholic, and that his death may thus fall into the purview of Bruno's mission as a spy, follows his death; there is nothing to make Bruno suspect as much while the man is still alive),

(spoiler show)

the murder and its immediate aftermath are described in such a fashion that anybody who has read Arthur Conan Doyle's

Silver Blaze

(spoiler show)

can't fail to notice one fact pointing very damningly in one particular direction right from the start -- and surely the real-life Giordano Bruno's intellect would have been on par with that of Sherlock Holmes in every respect? And it certainly doesn't get any better by the fact that the one person who thus draws, if not the fictional Bruno's attention, then at least that of this book's reader to themselves in a very conspicious manner, with the same act also eliminates a witness in a manner identical to that used by Ellis Peters in

the fourth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael, St. Peter's Fair

(spoiler show)

... and that in connection with a second murder, a few days later, Parris employs precisely the same slight of hand already used by Agatha Christie in

Murder at the Vicarage.

(spoiler show)

 

So, I found myself looking in one particular direction from page 95 onwards, and though it turned out that I had the dynamics between two of the persons involved the wrong way around, I never wavered in my belief that the solution lay that way -- which makes a 474-page book a mighty slog to finish, particularly if the book's alleged super-sleuth is running around like a headless chicken, missing just about ever vital clue that doesn't actually explode in his face, and standing by passively and helplessly and / or letting himself be tricked, manhandled and otherwise be manipulated in a way I'd possibly have expected from a rookie investigator, but not from a distinguished intellectual like the real life Giordano Bruno, who after all had, himself, demonstrated considerable cunning in evading the persecution of the Holy Inquisition and make his way, undetected, all the way from southern Italy to France and England.

 

There is one final twist that I didn't see coming exactly this way around (although I should have, and just possibly might if I'd still cared enough to engage with the book at that point), and I'll also have to give Parris credit for an engaging beginning and for her knowledge of the period -- even though I wondered several times how her version of Giordano Bruno, who had never before been to Oxford in his life, could have the city's layout down so pat within a day at most that the book reads as if Parris had had a map of 16th century Oxford sitting next to her manuscript virtually all the time.

 

Final note to those who don't care for first person present tense narration: There is an excerpt of the series's second book (Prophecy) included at the end of my edition, and while I didn't actually read it, I've seen enough of it to be able to recognize that it's written in that particular narrative voice. (Heresy is not -- it's in first person past tense.)

 

I read this book for Square 2 of the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Guy Fawkes Night: Any book about the English monarchy (any genre), political treason, political thrillers, or where fire is a major theme, or fire is on the cover.

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review 2017-11-18 22:18
Book Review of Nefertiti's Heart (The Artifact Hunters Book 1) by A.W. Exley
Nefertiti's Heart (The Artifact Hunters Book 1) - A.W. Exley

Cara Devon has always suffered curiosity and impetuousness, but tangling with a serial killer might cure that. Permanently.

 

1861. Cara has a simple mission in London - finalise her father's estate and sell off his damned collection of priceless artifacts. Her plan goes awry when a killer stalks the nobility, searching for an ancient Egyptian relic rumoured to hold the key to immortality.

Nathaniel Trent, known as the villainous viscount, is relentless in his desire to lay his hands on both Cara and the priceless artifacts. His icy exterior and fiery touch stirs Cara's demons, or could he lay them to rest?

 

Self-preservation fuels Cara's search for the gem known as Nefertiti's Heart. In a society where everyone wears a mask to hide their true intent, she needs to figure out who to trust, before she sacrifices her own heart and life.

 

Review 3*

 

This is the first book in The Artifact Hunters series. I have been wanting to read this book for some time, but due to my large reading list haven't been able to do so until recently.

 

Cara Devon is a character I found likeable, but did want to do her some physical harm when she made impetuous decisions that put her life on the line. She also rushed into a relationship with the viscount, even after being sexually abused for years. This aspect I found most unbelievable, considering she was uncomfortable even hugging an old childhood friend. She is a young woman living in Victorian London. She returns to her deceased father's house with the intention to sell off his collection of artefacts he had acquired. One of the artefacts is rumoured to be Nefertiti's Heart, a gem of immense power reputed to give the owner immortality. Unfortunately, there's a killer after the artefact too and Cara soon finds herself facing some hard choices - continuing to run from the killer, or being helped by Nathaniel Trent, a viscount and a pirate/businessman/crime lord who wants the artefact for himself.

 

As I said above, I have been wanting to read this book for some time, so when I started reading I was very excited. The story is told through the eyes of both Cara and Nathaniel, though mostly through Cara's. The story started off strongly, with danger around every corner, which kept me hooked. Then the story took a more sedate turn about half way in and somehow lost the immediacy when the two main protagonists became more romantically involved. I'm not saying this was a bad thing, only that the story flow seemed to slow down and it focused more on the romance side than the adventure/action one. I still found myself riveted to the story, but it somehow became more predictable and when certain events happened it felt inevitable. I love a good plot twist that surprises me, but I could see more than a few of them coming from a mile away, even the revelation of who the killer was. This dampened my excitement over the story somewhat. I reached the end of the book with mixed feelings.

 

I love reading books in the steampunk genre and feel I don't read them often enough. However, I feel the author did a wonderful job in bringing the characters to life, as well as the Victorian past. So why the low rating? This is because although I enjoyed the story, I didn't feel any emotional attachment to the characters. Other readers may have a different reaction, so I will leave it to you to decide whether or not to give this book a try. As for me, I am considering reading the remaining books of the series, though due to my large reading list it could be some time before I would be able to.

 

A.W. Exley has written a wonderful steampunk romance/adventure that kept me hooked from beginning to end. I loved her fast paced writing style. Though the pace slowed down half way through, I thought the flow was wonderful as it flowed easily from scene to scene.

 

Although there are scenes of a sexual nature that are not explicit, I do not recommend this book to younger readers due to some violence and gore. I do, however, recommend this book if you love Egyptian mythology, steampunk or fantasy genres. - Lynn Worton

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review 2017-11-18 17:35
Spineless by Juli Berwald
Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone - Juli Berwald

TITLE:  Spineless:  The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone

 

AUTHOR:  Juli Berwald

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2017

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ISBN-13:  9780735211278

 

______________________________

 

"Jellyfish are an enigma. They have no centralized brain, but they see and feel and react to their environment in complex ways. They look simple, yet their propulsion systems are so advanced that engineers are just learning how to mimic them. They produce some of the deadliest toxins on the planet and still remain undeniably alluring. Long ignored by science, they may be a key to ecosystem stability."

 

This book is more of the author's personal memoir than any type of science book about jellyfish.  Berwald's enthusiasm for jellyfish is obvious and the writing style flows nicely.  She includes some incredibly interesting information about the creatures, but there is simply too much personal "stuff" about her, her kids, her husband, her travel trips and the people she meets to wade through.  After a while the biographical pages became boring and wading through all the irrelevant "stuff" to get to the interesting jellyfish information became annoying.  The book is also disappointing in terms of illustrations, diagrams and/or photographs.

 

If you are looking for actual science about jellyfish, try the wikipedia entry.  If you like biography with some interesting jellyfish information, then you might like this book.

 

 

 

 

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review 2017-11-18 08:05
William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return: Star Wars Part the Sixth
William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return - Ian Doescher

—O knavery

Most vile, O trick of Empire’s basest wit.

A snare, a ruse, a ploy; and we the fools.

What great deception hath been plied today—

O rebels, do you hear? Fie, ‘tis a trap!

~Admiral Ackbar, Act IV, Scene 3

 

Yes, good Admiral, ‘tis a trap! I was lulled into a false sense of security by the general awesomeness of Star Wars meets Shakespeare and everything was going swimmingly—until I was forced to picture Harrison Ford as Han Solo singing a jubilant love song. A trap indeed! Minus half a star for that!*

 

*Not really for that. I just enjoyed this slightly less than The Empire Striketh Back and slightly more than Verily, A New Hope, so I rated accordingly.

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review 2017-11-17 15:22
Dentin Littleā€™s Still Not Dead
Denton Little's Still Not Dead - Lance Rubin

It took me a while to get back into the swing of things when I started listening to this novel. Denton is supposed to be dead but he has now lived past his death date and is currently the first person to do so. Denton is not happy in his new life, he misses his friends and he is bound and determined to return to them. He wants to find Paolo and he is determined to find him. To return to his previous world where friends and family believe that he is dead just cannot happen, can it?

 

This novel was funny and I liked how devoted Denton was to his friends. They The were his constant. I started to admire Denton as he started to think on his own and take chances. I thought it was hilarious when Denton went to the funerals as he had to think and act quickly. This was a great conclusion.

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