This Time: Richard III in the 21st Century--Book 1
on May 30, 2012
Shakespeare got it wrong!
When a wealthy history buff endeavors to unravel the truth about his favorite English king, he funds a time travel project. According to Shakespeare’s play, King Richard III was a hunchback who murdered his wife and two nephews, but he was wrong. The novel opens as Richard III fights his last battle, the one where he gets cut down in a bloody massacre, but time-travel scientists drag him into 2004. They leave a “look alike” body behind so that history remains in tact. Unfortunately the rich historian thinks he owns Richard. He plans to “question” Richard and send him back to die.
While I was reading this fascinating book, I wondered who I’d like to snatch from history. There are so many remarkable people I’d enjoy meeting, but my favorite would be Benjamin Franklin—a pivotal character in our country’s forming. He franchised businesses, started the postal system and lending libraries, and served as ambassador for his fledgling country. It would be fun to meet him.
King Richard III did not have much “fun” as his captors grilled him about his life. Since he was an intelligent soldier, he immediately tried to find a way to escape from his prison. Wouldn’t anyone? How can he survive in a strange new world? He must develop allies. The excellent narrative follows his journey from an archaic royal to a modern man. We appreciate his struggle to learn modern English and catch up on history, while we cheer his romantic adventures and quest to save his son.
The author helps us understand King Richard III in a way that Shakespeare never imagined. I don’t know much about English history, but I learned a lot about the problems that faced royalty of that time period from this well-written novel. I peeked at the sequel, Loyalty Binds Me, and I’m anxious to find out how Dickon (his favorite nickname) manages to get into more trouble during the next phase of the story. Buy this book and discover how Shakespeare got it all wrong in his famous play. (I’m still wondering how we can snatch Benjamin Franklin.)
Loyalty Binds Me: Richard III in the 21st Century--Book 2
on June 18, 2012
A History Lesson With a Bang!
Having read This Time, the first book in the series, I felt compelled to discover what happened in the sequel. The author did not disappoint me. When Richard and his new family make a pilgrimage to England, they’re propelled into a political chess game between “friendly” world powers. Governments are anxious to secure the “time travel” device invented by Sarah, Richard’s new wife, but they also want proof that it works. Arrested for a crime that might have occurred 500 years ago, Richard is faced with a “no win” situation, lie or remain silent and get locked up for years as a “terrorist threat.” He might protect himself but what will happen to his family in the meantime?
Richard understood politics in ancient England, but a battle of wills involving the FBI and MI5 might be beyond his abilities. Luckily “Dickon” finds champions for his cause, a Ricardian solicitor and a feisty woman reporter. How can he “prove” he didn’t murder his nephews in 1483 when the authorities are determined to compare his DNA to bones found at the Tower of London?
I absorbed more English history in these novels than I ever learned in high school. That’s probably due to Joan’s superb skill as a writer. She brings the fascinating mystery and intrigue during the 15th century to life in a character who remembers the events. But why should anyone in modern times care enough about Richard III to form a society and hold “mock” trials about his guilt or innocence? Historians should follow Joan Szechtman’s example and “transport” their favorite characters from history into an interesting novel. We might all learn more than we ever thought possible. She weaves enough information from the first book into the sequel to make it a stand-alone novel. Buy this book today and get a “history lesson with a bang.”
The Weeping Empress
on May 23, 2013
A dark “fairytale” worthy of the Brothers Grimm
When Chiyo wakes up in a strange world, dressed in pajamas, she’s unprepared for the violence and danger that await. How did she get there? Why did someone pluck her ordinary life with a husband and young daughter? Fortunately Chiyo meets two samurai warriors, Senka and Muhjah. Without knowing how to fight, the girl grabs a sword and jumps into the bloody battle to save herself. She gains a grain of respect from the warriors, who let her tag along in their journey.
She’s landed in a cruel world, filled with death, destruction, and unjust treatment by the rulers. Can Chiyo learn to survive while she searches for a way to return to her own world and find her family? This is not a fairytale where the lost princess finds a knight to fight her battles and lives happily ever after. This is a gritty tale of hardship and determination. Chiyo must swiftly learn to wield her own sword and steal herself against the revulsion of killing. She works hard and becomes good at it.
Chiyo joins the expert swordsmen to fight “hit and run” skirmishes against cruel rulers. Although survival fuels her efforts in the beginning, revenge becomes her motivation to live and fight day after day. Chiyo becomes a legend, and religious zealots seek to use her as a weapon to restore their power.
This is not a typical sword and sorcery tale. There’s plenty of bloody fighting, gruesome battles, dramatic sword play, and distasteful torture. Chiyo is not an ordinary beautiful damsel in distress. She dives in and wields a sword, learns to cultivate the “monster” inside that enjoys fighting, and wins one battle at a time. Chiyo won’t let others control her destiny, and uses her own sorrow and anger to wreak a just revenge. It’s a “fairytale” worthy of the Brothers Grimm but not one fit for children.
Vampire Origins - The Strigoi Book 1 - Project Ichorous
on June 13, 2013
Who knew there were different clans of vampires?
Join the world of vampires and live forever. Do you have a choice? Probably not because the lost Romanovs, Anastasia and her brother, Nicholas would surely have turned down everlasting, bloodsucking life if they had a choice. Yes, the Romanovs are now undead and residing in Vlad's castle in Transylvania. Vlad Strigoi is a vile character, sucking the life out of anyone who strikes his fancy, but an innocent teenage girl might be able to destroy him. Scarlett is a beautiful redheaded teenager with three brothers and a younger sister, raised by a single father--because Vlad killed her mother and turned her into a vampire, too. Scarlett's barely able to control her raging teenage hormones and conquer the world of dating. Can she really be the one to kill a vampire who is thousands of years old and one of the original five?
There are five different clans of vampires with different rules of existence, the Strigoi, Cambion, Strix, Nosferatu and Bretonnian. Who knew? The author has created a history for vampires dating back thousands of years. We learn some of that history in this first book of the series, and avid readers will surely learn more in future volumes.
It might be difficult to "like" any of the vampires when they feed on humans regularly, but the author makes us understand their problems and hope they can overcome their blood lust. Some of the vampires fight their tendencies, feeding on volunteers or taking blood from packages, but Vlad Strigoi wants to create an unending supply of blood by enslaving comatose humans and draining them slowly. Humans are just a food source to him. Can Scarlett fulfill the prophecy and rid the world of this evil vampire?
The author fleshes out various characters, delving into the teenagers' relationships with young vampires, and making the readers care about the innocent humans. We cringe as they fall under the spell of their vampire lovers, and pray that they can escape a terrible fate. This is just the first volume, so we'll need to wait to learn the whole story.
Colours In Blackness - A New Life
on Sep. 11, 2013
X-Men go to high school
The first book in this series introduces the main character, Laura, and the friends she makes in the hospital/school that is studying their special talents. It's got elements of X-Men and elements of high school mixed together, told from the first person point of view of a teenager. There are mysteries about the cause of the students' special gifts, and what happened to a missing girl. Laura meets two hunky guys and must choose between them (a problem any teenage girl would like). She also faces normal teenage stress about meeting new friends, mixed with worry about the violent visions she experiences.
As an adult, I'm more removed from the teenage scene, but I'm sure teenage girls will identify with the heroine and appreciate her feelings and worries. Since this is the first book in the series, readers get to know the characters and might want to follow them through more adventures.