Death of Kings (The Saxon Stories #6) by Bernard Cornwell

13623969Death of Kings (The Saxon Stories #6) by Bernard Cornwell
Publisher/Year: Harper, 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟



As the ninth century wanes, Alfred the Great lies dying, his lifelong goal of a unified England in peril, his kingdom on the brink of chaos. Though his son, Edward, has been named successor, there are other Saxon claimants to the throne–as well as ambitious pagan Vikings to the north.

Torn between his vows to Alfred and the desire fo reclaim his long-lost ancestral lands in the north, Uhtred, Saxon-born and Viking-raised, remains the king’s warrior but has sworn no oath to the crown prince. Now he must make a momentous decision that will forever transform his life and the course of history: to take up arms–and Alfred’s mantle–or lay down his sword and let his liege’s dream of a unified kingdom die along with him.


What I thought

I feel like, at this point, it’s safe for me to say that it’s a given that I’m going to give each of these books a five-star rating. Yes, I could go into minute detail about all of the things I enjoyed or all of the minor flaws I could list. But let’s be real, that would get redundant pretty quick…not to mention, no book is perfect. Let it suffice to say that these books have come to occupy a very special place in my heart, and I’ve loved each one, flaws and all. I will say I did enjoy this one a little more than the last one, but that seems to happen with each book in this series. Uhtred is getting older, and I am still so fascinated by his character development. He is beginning to realize that he is no spring chicken, and this brings a whole new element to his character. England’s history hits a turning point in this installment, as well. I’m definitely curious to see what will happen in the books to come. I think Edward will learn, slowly but surely. I’ll be onto book #7 just as soon as it shows up in my mailbox!

The Burning Land (The Saxon Stories #5) by Bernard Cornwell


The Burning Land (The Saxon Stories #5) by Bernard Cornwell 
Publisher/Year: Harper, 2010
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟



At the end of the ninth century, with King Alfred of Wessex in ill health and his heir still an untested youth, it falls to Alfred’s reluctant warlord Uhtred to outwit and outbattle the invading enemy Danes, led by the sword of savage warrior Harald Bloodhair. But the sweetness of Uhtred’s victory is soured by tragedy, forcing him to break with the Saxon king. Joining the Vikings, allied with his old friend Ragnar–and his old foe Haesten–Uhtred devises a strategy to invade and conquer Wessex itself. But fate has very different plans.

Bernard Cornwell’s The Burning Land is an irresistible new chapter in his epic story of the birth of England and the legendary king who made it possible.


What I thought

As I continued on to the end of book number five in this series, it is seriously impressive to me that the momentum of these books has yet to die down for me. Not that I want it to! It’s just that I’m the type of reader that needs to be always switching up what I’m reading. I just can’t stop reading these! I HAVE to know how Uhtred’s tale will turn out.

Anyway, I’m keeping this review short & sweet. Cornwell’s writing is just as engaging as it’s been. I honestly just love this series. One thing I did want to note about this particular book is that I found it quite interesting and clever that as Uhtred’s life takes a tragic turn, his story has him kinda all over the place, which is very reflective of his life in this book.

Another solid entry to a very beloved series! Bernard Cornwell is a must-read author!

My Side of the Mountain (Mountain #1) by Jean Craighead George

231794My Side of the Mountain (Mountain #1) by Jean Craighead George 
Publisher/Year: Puffin Books, 2001
Format: Paperback
Pages: 192
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟


Summary (from Goodreads)

Every kid thinks about running away at one point or another; few get farther than the end of the block. Young Sam Gribley gets to the end of the block and keeps going–all the way to the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. There he sets up house in a huge hollowed-out tree, with a falcon and a weasel for companions and his wits as his tool for survival. In a spellbinding, touching, funny account, Sam learns to live off the land, and grows up a little in the process. Blizzards, hunters, loneliness, and fear all battle to drive Sam back to city life. But his desire for freedom, independence, and adventure is stronger. No reader will be immune to the compulsion to go right out and start whittling fishhooks and befriending raccoons.

Jean Craighead George, author of more than 80 children’s books, including the Newbery Medal-winning Julie of the Wolves, created another prizewinner with My Side of the Mountain–a Newbery Honor Book, an ALA Notable Book, and a Hans Christian Andersen Award Honor Book. Astonishingly, she wrote its sequel, On the Far Side of the Mountain, 30 years later, and a decade after that penned the final book in the trilogy, Frightful’s Mountain, told from the falcon’s point of view. George has no doubt shaped generations of young readers with her outdoor adventures of the mind and spirit. (Ages 9 to 12) –Emilie Coulter


What I thought

When I was younger, Jean Craighead George was (and still remains) one of my favorite authors. How I managed to miss this book as a child is beyond me, but I am oh-so-glad I have discovered it now. This is a book I’m going to need to own.

As a nature enthusiast, I found so much delight in Sam’s story. I could just relate to him in a number of ways. I’ve always dreamed of retreating to the woods & finding my own Walden. I loved Sam’s journey into the wilderness, as well as his awe & appreciation for even the smallest & simplest things in nature. As for the plausibility of the story, I don’t really see how this story is so far out of the realm of possibility. My dad tells many tales of him & my uncle building their own cabin in the woods & being gone for days at a time. It was just the times. The only thing I found strange was that his parents let him skip school. But even then, I think what makes me feel worse is that it seems more unlikely that kids nowadays would be interested in anything other than screens long enough to attempt a venture like Sam’s. But I digress.

This is an excellent book, and it’s one I’m glad I read. If you enjoy the outdoors, young or old, add this to your list–especially if you enjoy survival or Walden-type stories. Sam is truly a delight, and for me, he is a kindred spirit whose character I will always hold dear.

The Bingo Palace by Louise Erdrich

195326The Bingo Palace by Louise Erdrich
Publisher/Year: Harper Perennial, 2006
Format: Paperback
Pages: 274
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟



At the crossroads of his life, Lipsha Morrissey is summoned by his grandmother to return to the reservation. There, he falls in love for the very first time–with the beautiful Shawnee Ray, who’s already considering a marriage proposal from Lipsha’s wealthy entrepreneurial boss, Lyman Lamartine. But when all efforst to win Shawnee’s affections go hopelessly awry, Lipsha seeks out his great-grandmother for a magical solution to his romantic dilemma–on sacred ground where a federally sanctioned bingo palace is slated for construction.

Louise Erdrich’s luminous novel The Bingo Palace is a tale of spiritual death and reawakening; of money, desperate love, and wild hope; and of the enduring power of cherished dreams.

What I thought

Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite authors, hands down. She is a slow read for me, but that doesn’t detract from my love for her. Her writing is not for everyone–her stories are told in a very non-linear way. But y’know, I like that. It takes me a long time to read & a bit longer to process, but I like that. Erdrich’s writing makes me think & it makes me feel. It might be different to read a non-linear storyline, but it feels very reminiscent of a normal human thought process. Not to mention, she just has a way of putting things into words that takes my breath away. My copy of this book is simply riddled with favorite quotes.

As for the plot, you can tell that Erdrich draws on a traditional oral storytelling background. The story meanders, forward & backward, dipping into & out of reality. These characters are some of my favorites, too. For as much as he got on my nerves, I couldn’t help but feel bad for (and also somewhat fond of) Lipsha. Shawnee Ray has become one of my favorite of Erdrich’s characters. I hope to see her make her own choices & her own happy ending. Fleur Pillager was another of my favorites, she was such a mystical character.

All in all, I can’t really put my finger on what it is that I loved about The Bingo Palace & Louise Erdrich. She isn’t for everyone, but I have adored everything I’ve read of hers, including this one. If you are looking for an introspective read, I highly suggest The Bingo Palace, as well as Erdrich’s other books.

Always Emily by Michaela MacColl

18296048Always Emily by Michaela MacColl
Publisher/Year: Chronicle Books, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 276
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟



Two girls on the brink of womanhood, torn between family duty and self, between love and art…

Emily and Charlotte Bronte are about as opposite as two sisters can be. Charlotte is practical and cautious. Emily is curious and headstrong. But they have one thing in common: a love of writing. And when two strangers appear on the desolate English moors that surround their home, they must combine the imagination and wit usually reserved for their pens to unravel a string of mysteries.

Is there a connection between a series of local burglaries and rumors that a neighbor’s death may not have been accidental? Can the handsome young man Emily met on one of her solitary walks be trusted? Or is the equally handsome local landowner that keeps appearing on Charlotte’s doorstep the one they should confide in? And what about the seemingly mad woman that Charlotte encountered at a crossroads on the outskirts of the village–is she the key? There are a lot of knots to untangle, and they had better do it quickly–before someone else is killed.

Michaela MacColl has drawn upon her own love of writing and reading to craft a suspenseful tale inspired by the real-life Emily and Charlotte, young writers who would grow up to author several of the most enduring English novels of all time.


What I thought

This little book turned out to be delightful! This was my morning-coffee-before-work read, and I very much looked forward to picking this up each morning. If you are a fan of YA and enjoy the writing of Charlotte or Emily Bronte, you would be a fan of this book.

It took me a few chapters to really get into the story, but I think that may have been because though this book is labelled as YA, it had a younger, almost middle grade feel. This is not a bad thing, by any means, it just means that I had to adjust. One of the things I actually ended up really enjoying was the feel of this novel. It did feel like MacColl was nodding to the Bronte sisters without making it into an overbearing tribute. The story & the setting were moody & atmospheric, while also romantic & adventurous. It was really just a nice story, all around. I also loved seeing Emily & Charlotte brought to life & I was a big fan of how MacColl interpreted their personalities.

The only thing that I wasn’t a huge fan of was the epilogue. I can’t quite place my finger on why, but maybe it was that it felt almost abrupt to me? I’m not sure.

Overall, I really liked this book, and I WILL be reading more by Michaela MacColl in the future. As I said, if you like the classics and YA, this is a really great story, full of charm, that truly brought Emily & Charlotte Bronte to life.