Book Review: Wyvern Of Wessex

Wyvern Of Wessex

Eadwulf is back in the Sea Eagle with Bjorn and his crew in a quest to discover if Eadwulf’s father, King Beorhtwulf of Mercia, is still alive after twenty years as a slave. Bjorn’s great dragonship carries them down to the searing June temperatures and strict laws in the Moorish lands of al-Andalus. But searching for Beorhtwulf proves more difficult than they’d expected, causing them more trouble than they bargained for…

In Wessex, King Aethelred is now dead, leaving his twenty-one-year-old-brother, Alfred, to succeed to the throne. Though his succession was agreed by the witan, Alfred must now prove himself worthy of the kingship or lose it. But Wessex is in turmoil, besieged by Viking Danes intent on subjugating the kingdom – and knowing that the new king is young and inexperienced. Alfred must use all his wiles if he is to outthink and outmaneuver Guthrum, the Dane who nearly becomes his nemesis.

Alfred’s victories and defeats take him on a journey of learning, during which he gains experience and strength. We share his highs and his lows and how he rises from the depths of despair to save his beloved kingdom from total conquest.

And at his side at his greatest time of need, is his new ally and friend, Eadwulf of Mercia.

“Wyvern Of Wessex”, the third book in author Millie Thom’s epic “Sons of Kings” trilogy, is a well-researched historical novel set in the 9th Century. It continues the adventures of the fictional Eadwulf of Mercia intertwined with the historical Christian King Alfred and his epic struggles to unite and solidify a kingdom and battle against the ever-present invasions of the pagan Danes. Though much has been previously written about Alfred and his Danish antagonists, Millie Thom takes a fresh, detailed, and interesting look into the personal lives of the King, his family and friends, and of those who battle against him. This is a historical novel clearly written by an accomplished author who knows and enjoys her subject. I highly recommend.

Links to Millie Thom books and author information:

Amazon US http://amzn.to/2udCDJH

Amazon UK https://amzn.to/2MfSLAy

Amazon Au https://amzn.to/2Kg7WME

WordPress: https://milliethom.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MillieThom

 

An Amusing Halloween Read

TheHalloweenTreeBradbury

One of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury, provides a wonderful fantasy Halloween romp in his 1972 book ‘The Halloween Tree’.

“It was a small town by a small river and a small lake in a small northern part of a Midwest state,” reads the opening line.

In the typically quirky, spooky fantasy style only Bradbury can conjure, we follow the mysterious Mr. Carapace Clavicle Moonshroud as he leads a group of eight Halloween-dressed boys on a trick-or-treating journey that turns into a mission across time and space to find the group’s missing friend, Pipkin. Along the way, they discover the role that fear of death, ghosts, and the supernatural have in shaping our world.

This adventure is just pure Ray Bradbury fictional fun.

Author Millie Thom’s Book 3 Available

Author Millie Thom has a new release:  Wyvern of Wessex, Book 3 of her Sons of Kings series.

WyvernOfWessex

I’ve added it to my library alongside her first two books, each of which I’ve read, enjoyed, and reviewed.

Book 1, Shadow of the Raven, review can be found here.

And Book 2, Pit of Vipers, review here.

You can learn more about this wonderful series at Millie Thom’s blog.

Book Review: 1177 B.C .

1177BC

1177 B.C. The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline

I enjoy history and found this book a fascinating and educational read. The work is a quest to identify the forces responsible for the demise of the Bronze Age ‘civilizations’ of Egypt and its immediate neighbors. It is written in an easy to understand style with relevant footnotes, an extensive bibliography, chapter notes with comments, and a reference called “Dramatis Personae” listing the chronology of the major rulers and related personnel of the region beginning with Adad-nirari I (ruled 1307-1275 B.C.) to Zimri-Lim (ruled 1776-1758 B.C.).

Cline’s presentation is scholarly and focused exclusively on the blending of literary and archaeological evidence of eastern Mediterranean, Aegean, and Middle-Eastern (or Near East) regions of the Late Bronze Age, most notably the interactions and conflicts between Egyptian and Hittite empires, the Mycenaean civilization, and the elusive and hard to define Sea Peoples.

Inscriptions and regional letters from individuals, rulers, and emissaries presented in this work were a fascinating read providing insight into the thinking of the time and, for me, reinforce the common notion that ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.’ It also stretches the definitions of what I would call ‘civilization’ and ‘civilized behavior.’ For instance, take this inscription from the pharaoh Kamose (17th Dynasty of Egypt) writing in 1550 BC about his victory over the Hyksos whom he calls “Asiatics:”

“I sailed north in my might to repel the Asiatics…with my brave army before me like a flame of fire and the…archers atop our fighting-tops to destroy their places…I passed the night in my ship, my heart happy; and when day dawned I was upon him as if it were a hawk. When breakfast time came, I overthrew him having destroyed his walls and slaughtered his people, and made his wife descend to the riverbank. My army acted like lions with their spoil…chattles, cattle, fat, honey…dividing their things, their hearts joyful.”

Cline’s thoughts on what, exactly, brought about the collapse of Bronze Age civilizations in his region of interest are based on facts gathered from the many scientific and literary research disciplines studying the region examining many factors including but not limited to earthquakes, droughts, disease, fire, warfare against invading Sea People, local insurrections, and changing economic considerations. He writes: “In my opinion, none of these individual factors would have been cataclysmic enough on their own to bring down even one of these civilizations, let alone all of them. However, they could have combined to produce a scenario in which the repercussions of each factor were magnified, in what some scholars have called a ‘multiplier effect.’ … The ensuing ‘systems collapse’ could have led to the disintegration of one society after another, in part because of the fragmentation of the global economy and the breakdown of the interconnections upon which each civilization was dependent.”

The presentation of the ‘multiplier effect’ and ‘systems collapse’ is a compelling argument for the eventual end of the Late Bronze Age in this region but one issue stands out for me as wrong. Though the work is a highly detailed, fascinating historical presentation, I find Cline’s assertion that the destruction of the regional civilizations covered in this work was somehow the result of the collapse of a ‘globalized’ society and ‘globalized’ markets that over a period time marked the end of the Late Bronze Age a bit off the mark. I would not normally quibble over such an issue but this incorrect terminology appears to be used solely to manufacture a direct correlation of those Late Bronze Age circumstances with today’s world; and, in doing so, somehow serve as an apocalyptic warning to our current, truly globalized market and intertwined global society. But Cline’s presentation focuses solely on a specific region. Therefore, Cline’s ‘globalization’ is actually ‘regionalization.’

In reality, the only consistent common denominator I could find between the collapse of ‘civilization’ in Cline’s Bronze Age stories and the drama of the world we live in today is they have humans serving as both the protagonist and antagonist in the drama that is human history, Bronze Age or otherwise.

I suppose Cline can be forgiven for attempting to draw parallels between then and now in an optimistic belief that somehow we can save ourselves from the same forces of destruction that ended the Late Bronze Age. Sadly, the most relevant similarity between the collapse of those “civilizations” and our current world is both were/are populated by humans and we do not have a good track record when it comes to learning from history.

Nevertheless, I found this book an intriguing read and a welcome addition to my library.

Book Review: A Fame Not Easily Forgotten

JuneWestphalBook

Eureka Springs, Arkansas is one of my favorite places to visit. It is quirky, beautiful, full of unique artists, craftspeople, writers, entertainment venues, and natural scenery. It is a town built seemingly overnight in July 1879 following the discovery of what was then and is believed to be now curative powers in the waters of the many natural springs in the area.

In “A Fame Not Easily Forgotten”, researchers, historians, and authors June Westphal and Catharine Osterhage spent four years culling newspaper articles, historical records, written accounts, and rare photographs to compile a reasonable and accurate description of what many call the “City That Water Built.”

In mid-December 2015, just prior to my departure on a thirty-day winter holiday, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with June Westphal at her book signing at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum. I was impressed by her extensive knowledge of the town, its inhabitants, and the entire region.

Here’s an excerpt from the Preface of A Fame Not Easily Forgotten: An Autobiography of Eureka Springs:

Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a remarkable place—and utterly improbable. Why would anyone in the late 1800s, traveling on horseback or in wagons, traverse dirt paths through the steep Ozark Mountains to what must have seemed like the end of the earth? Why would they settle and build elaborate structures on sharp, rocky inclines?

The answer is, water. Pure, abundant spring water reported to have extraordinary curative properties—hope of healing was that powerful and that compelling. So, come they did. Build, they did. And while the water may not have reached expectations, the beauty and magic of the place captured the hearts of so many, they stayed, or kept returning. They still do…

The extensive research is well documented, includes many old pictures of the early days of expansion and growth of the town, and makes for interesting, informative, and entertaining reading. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the area and its history. You can order your own signed copy of this book from the Eureka Springs Historical Museum.

Handling Bad Reviews

AristotleQuote

Writers are people (well, most of us are). However, even those with the greatest ability to shrug off negative comments find it difficult not to be hurt by criticism of our work. Naturally, the first reaction is likely anger before depression sets in and we begin to question our writing ability. Happens to all of us. But take heart! As Agatha Christie’s detective Poirot might advise: “Do not despair, mon ami, for there is always hope.”

In the case of a bad review, the hope lies in how it is handled. The first best advice is to ignore it, shrug it off. Do nothing and get back to writing. There’s just no pleasing everyone so don’t even try. Keep in mind a review is just an opinion. Nothing more.

Book Review: Gone to the Grave

GoneToTheGraveAbbyBurnett

The leaves cross over our graveyards

When the cold wind blows and raves

They whirl and scatter on the frozen ground

Then settle on the sunken graves

They put me to mind of the children of the earth

The mournful condition of us all

We are fresh and green in the spring of the year

And are blown in the grave in the fall.

–Florence Elizabeth Rutherford, 1873-1889

Rutherford Cemetery, Independence County, Arkansas

*

Abby Burnett’s Gone to the Grave: Burial Customs of the Arkansas Ozarks, 1850-1950 is an interesting, intriguing read exploring the traditions surrounding death, local customs and rituals concerning bereavement, and the burial practices in the Arkansas Ozarks. It is excellent in its research, narrative, and visual presentation. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in such subject matter.

I had the pleasure to meet author Abby Burnett, a former freelance newspaper reporter, at the Books In Bloom event in Eureka Springs, Arkansas May 2015 and again this past week during her presentation at the Fayetteville, Arkansas Public Library. Her speaking and presentation abilities are every bit as impressive as her knowledge and expertise on Arkansas burial history and customs.

*

 “This painstakingly researched and thoroughly engaging book is as much an anthropological and sociological study as it is a historical and folklorist account of death, dying, and burial in the Arkansas Ozarks…there is virtually no source of information that Burnett hasn’t explored—epitaphs, business ledgers, funeral home records, obituaries, WPA questionnaires, health department regulations, oral history interviews, ministers’ journals, censuses, mortality schedules, doctors’ notes, undertakers’ record books, historical photographs, museum collections, and newspaper accounts…”

–Allyn Lord, Director, Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, Springdale, Arkansas

*

I hear a voice you cannot hear

Which says I must not stay,

I see a hand you cannot see

Which beckons me away.

–S. N. Lyle, 1875-1932

Lowes Creek Cemetery, Franklin County, Arkansas