Sunday, 27 July 2014

Sunday Wrap Up: Week ending July 27, 2014

Be sure to see below for details on this week's giveaway!

Above the Fray by Kris Jackson. A Review by Rob Bayliss

Part One – The Ascent  

Battle lines are being drawn as the Union and Confederacy square up to one another. A young Virginian telegrapher, called Nathaniel Curry, leaves his native Richmond to view a balloon flight in Washington. Without realising the implications, and with a youthful sense of adventure, he joins Professor Thaddeus Lowe aboard a balloon that rises to greet the dawn. As an experiment he transmits instructions and coordinates, inadvertently directing artillery fire on a Confederacy position. in his own country. When word leaks out that he was implicated in this attack he is denounced as a traitor and disowned by his own brother. Forced to leave his home, family and sweetheart he seeks employment with Professor Lowe who is putting together a Balloon Corps to assist the Union cause.

Part Two – The Descent

As the war drags on the Confederacy becomes more and more desperate. It becomes clear that they cannot win; the Union has more men, greater industry and better equipment but perhaps lesser generals.

Losses and shortages caused by the Union's blockade stiffens the resolve of the Confederacy.  Nathaniel Curry finds himself being drawn more into espionage, while the Balloon Corps struggles to retain its funding, looked upon by the military as an unnecessary financial drain. In the end it is forced to cease operations.

Above the Fray is really an extraordinary book. It is meticulously well researched from the science of ballooning to the topographic description of the Civil War battlefields. I found myself totally absorbed in the life of Nathaniel Curry. There is humour here and there, but it is the humour of the gallows, as the war brutalises everyone and everything it touches.

It is a wonderfully written story; the language so fully evokes the lost world of the Confederate States of America, that even I, an Englishman, could hear the different accents in the dialogue. I learnt much about the American Civil War that I never knew before. It almost reminded me of the film Forrest Gump (albeit a very much darker tale), the way young Curry lives through major battles, crucial events and the individuals he meets (even a young Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin). Being in the Balloon Corps surrounded by scientists he is even exposed to the science of the age, able to discuss Darwin's Origin of Species and its implications for religion. Through Curry's eyes we can see the old order being swept away as the modern USA evolves.

The story of Above the Fray will stay with me for some time. I can't reccommend it highly enough and I would urge that you should read it, too.

Like this excerpt? Like to get your name in the hat for a free copy? See the rest of the review!


Louise E. Rule Interviews D. W. Wilkin for The Review's Author Interview

Welcome, David, I would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.

For those who haven't yet read your book, Beggars Can't Be Choosier, would you like to give an outline of the story David?

Sure. Beggars is the story of the Earl of Aftlake who is born with a title, but with very little in the way of money. He has about 100 pounds a year which is near poverty for a titled lord. And it is the story of Miss Katherine Chandler who finds that society snubs her for the low birth of her father and his far too rapid rise to wealth and riches. She needs a husband with stature and Lord Brian needs an heiress. An arrangement is made, though not with a typical stipulation, and they are united. He can use the wealth to build a career for himself in politics and reacquire possession to all the properties of his family that have been mortgaged. She can find a place in society that will allow her to have stature and find perhaps some revenge against those who have snubbed her. As a Regency, though, when such a thing is arranged, the road that the two take to fall in love will twist and turn, but it is inevitable that they will fall in love.

Did you already have a title in place for your book, or is it something that evolved as you wrote the story?

Actually no. I considered it another of my Regency projects, but the title did suggest itself to me as more of the story developed. I started the first draft in April of 2010, so not sure when I actually titled it. I do like that I could play upon the words and take a common cliché, twist it a bit, and see that it worked.

Research is, of course, imperative for an historical fiction novel. How much research did you have to do, and did you travel to the UK to visit the places that feature in your book?

I've been to the UK several times. My grandfather was an Englishman, and had started the old Millet chain of what was first Army surplus and became better known as camping goods. the depression and marrying my American grandmother, had them do what I find many couples do, move close to the wife's family, and so we live over the pond. but with many English relatives, I have travelled often to the isles.

I do less research now on a Regency novel I am working on, than my earlier works. I have it in my veins now, but I still add to my research daily. I have a degree in history from UCLA, and add to my extensive collection of history on the era all the time. I also post every day a biography of a Regency era person at my blog: 

There's loads more to Louise's interview, so come check it out!


Feature Post by Paula Lofting: An Investigation into the Parentage of Hereward (the Wake) 

As an author writing in the 11thc, at some point I knew that the heroic character of Hereward, wrongly known as "The Wake", would have to make his entrance upon the stage. So I wanted to sift through the information there is about him and separate the myth from the fact. Whist doing a book search about him, I came upon a recent work by Peter Rex that features Hereward and other English rebels who fought to retain their lands from the grasping Normans who had invaded in 1066. The first was The English Resistance: The Underground War Against the Normans by Peter RexThis book was a great starting point in learning the facts around the events that were the rebellion years. The Conquest only began in 1066; it took roughly more than six years before England was well and truly subjugated.This book included Hereward and his men along with many others such as Eadric the Wild, Earls Waltheof, Morcar and Edwin, as well as Edgar the Atheling. Then I got my hands on Rex's book about Hereward in which he seeks to discover who this man was and what the facts are that are known about him, plucking him out of the mists of legend and giving us the man that belongs to what is known about the history of the time.  Like the French resistance in the Second World War, the English fought back to rid their land of the invaders, unfortunately they hadn't bargained on the Conqueror's determination, or the ruthlessness of their overlords.  Still, the bravery of such men as Hereward and Eadric the Wild would go down in history and mythology. But just who was this man whose  'a brief life in history and a long one in romance' (Charles Plummer, Oxford Scholar)? Let's take a look at what the evidence actually turns up.

Have a look indeed~~let's go see what else Paula finds for us


Louise E. Rule Reviews The Audible Version of Wolf's Head: The Forest Lord by Steven A. McKay

Audible Cover

In April of this year, Steven asked me if I would review his book, Wolf's Head, on the Audible format. I was very keen to do this as I had already enjoyed reading Steven's book very much. I try to get all my favourite books in paper/hardback as well as Kindle and Audible, if they are available. This is so that I can read/listen to my books wherever I am.

A narrator has to possess skills of reading a story without the listener being aware of the narrator him/herself. Some narrators, I have found, sound as though they are just reading out loud rather than telling a story, while others transport the listener within the very realms of the story, where it is possible to be submerged within it without being aware of its telling.

When one reads one gives each character a voice of their own, and the more the story progresses, the more permanent those voice characterisations become. This is why I think that it is important, no, imperative, that the narrator of an audio book should be well attuned to the story being read. For example, once a certain voice has been given to a character it must be maintained throughout the reading. It is only in this way that the listener can truly become engrossed in the story.

With this in mind, I was really looking forward to listening to the audio version of Steven's book.

With all my expectations, I had great hopes, but at first I felt a wee bit disappointed. I restarted the book several times because it took me a little while to get used to the narrator's performance. I felt that he needed to put more feeling, more humanity into it. As the story went on, however, the narrator settled into his stride, and then I enjoyed the performance more. He conveyed the female voice quite well, which must be difficult for a male narrator. Overdoing the female register can sound like the ubiquitous Pantomime Dame. There is an element of skill in getting this right so as not to reduce the authenticity of the story being read, and by so doing, carry the story forward without the listener being aware of the narrator.

Find out if Louse's experience with an audio book compares to your own by clicking right here.

Last week's Wrap Up.

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