Review: The Pagan Lord (The Warrior Chronicles/Saxon Stories #7) ~ Bernard Cornwell

The Pagan LordAt the onset of the tenth century, England is in turmoil. Alfred the Great is dead and Edward his son reigns as king. Wessex survives but peace cannot hold: the Danes in the north, led by Viking Cnut Longsword, stand ready to invade and will never rest until the emerald crown is theirs.

Uhtred, once Alfred’s great warrior but now out of favor with the new king, must lead a band of outcasts north to recapture his old family home, that great Northumbrian fortress, Bebbanburg.

Loyalties will be divided and men will fall, as every Saxon kingdom is drawn into the bloodiest battle yet with the Danes; a war which will decide the fate of every king, and the entire English nation.

3 Thumbs-UpI haven’t read any of the other books in this series, and after ploughing my way through this I feel I should give a word of advice; do not even attempt to read this book unless you have read the previous six.

Having read other books by this Author, I went into this being acquainted with the way he puts a plot together and develops his characters, and I was not disappointed by what I found within the pages of this novel, his attention to detail from a historical point was apparent on every page.  However, it was the main character I had the most problem getting to grips with, and I attribute this entirely to my not having read the series from the beginning.  I found that I had no idea as to the personality traits and motivation that drove this character through the book and, because of this lack of background I found the book very hard to finish.

Using the weather to reflect mood is always a good direction for an Author to go, especially if their novels are set in times about which very little is known; but in writing this book I felt that the Author had just a little too much grim weather, in both nature and the demeanour of the main character, that really began to pull me down and make me weary. Another issue I had with this book, was the overuse of the word ‘and’; it appears everywhere from the beginning of a sentence, to liberally sprinkled in the same sentence it began, to linking sentences and starting paragraphs.  There were way too many of them.  I can’t remember any of the other books I have read by this Author using the word so liberally, but by doing so it made the calibre of this piece of work fall dramatically.

I haven’t decided whether I will backtrack to read this series from the beginning, but I would recommend any books by this Author who enjoys a good historical read; with this book though, just remember to start with book one.


Review: The Paris Architect ~ Charles Belfoure

Paris ArchitectLike most gentiles in Nazi-occupied Paris, architect Lucien Bernard has little empathy for the Jews. So when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise secret hiding places for Jews, Lucien struggles with the choice of risking his life for a cause he doesn’t really believe in. Ultimately he can’t resist the challenge and begins designing expertly concealed hiding spaces—behind a painting, within a column, or inside a drainpipe—detecting possibilities invisible to the average eye. But when one of his clever hiding spaces fails horribly and the immense suffering of Jews becomes incredibly personal, he can no longer deny reality.

Written by an expert whose knowledge imbues every page, this story becomes more gripping with every life the architect tries to save.

3 Thumbs-UpThis debut novel had all the components required to make it a great read, but unfortunately the Author seemed to have difficulty fitting all the pieces together.

The main protagonist is the architect mentioned in the title and, although the reader learns a lot about their background in architecture and his relationship with his Father, there is actually very little depth to a character that could have been so much more.  As I read I felt a no connection with him and at times thought him to be rather a wimp.  Yes, he does grow morally as the novel progresses, but I still couldn’t get rid of that feeling that he wasn’t doing growing as a person but he was moulding his selfish ways into a more acceptable shape for the time and situation in which the book is set.  By the time I finished reading I felt I cared more, and knew more about the motivations and personalities of lesser characters than I did the main.  The Author did a skilful job when writing some of his lesser characters, making you despise some of them so intensely it was surprising whilst at the same time making the reader wonder why.

Having been to Paris many times I recognised a lot of the places that were mentioned in this novel, but I gained a greater appreciation for them when they were described from the viewpoint of an architect, which is the Authors profession.  I had always thought there was something unique about the buildings in Paris, and through his descriptions of the way an arch curved or a pillar was placed, I was able to make sense of why I felt this.  For those readers who have not been to Paris, the Author transports them to this place and gently gives them a guided tour of the city.  Despite being a qualified architect, the Author has taken great pains not to bog down this story with the minutiae of his art, rather leaning on the side of caution and giving enough technical information to keep the book interesting, but not enough to bore the reader.

The chapters and action flow smoothly through the first two-thirds of this book, whether it is horrendous crimes against a person or the designing of a building, everything joins seamlessly and with jarring the reader.  For some reason this was not the case with the closing portion of the novel; suddenly sentences seemed to be very choppy and ill thought-out, the chapters appeared to have been thrown together in an almost random fashion and, for me, it became a little irritating to have this smooth flow so abruptly interrupted.  I would like to say it may have been the intent of the Author that his book end in this fashion, but as the action played out in these last chapters the way in which they were constructed didn’t convince me of this.  I am surprised that the editor did not pick up on this, and it did actually make the novel lose something for me.

I would however, recommend this to those readers who like a good, not great, World War II novel and anyone who just likes an interesting read.


Historical Novels, Author Events – February 2014

The following list of Historical Novel Author Events is provided courtesy of the Historical Novel Society


4 February
Janet Oakley gives a talk on Hiking Clubs and CCCs and how they shaped recreation in the North Cascades; 7:30 – 8:30pm at the Bellingham Public Library, Bellingham WA.

5 February
Petrea Burchard joins the Brown Bags & Books book club at Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse in Flintridge, CA, at 1:00pm, to discuss her novel, 
Camelot & Vine.

8 February
Janet Oakley gives a talk on Hiking Clubs and CCCs and how they shaped recreation in the North Cascades; 1:00 – 2:30pm at the Blaine Library, Blaine WA.

12th February 
Margaret Skea speaking about /reading from Turn of the Tide at Heiton Village, Scottish Borders United Kingdom

February 17 – 24
The Bellingham One-Act Theatre (BOAT) Festival is back! Enjoy a healthy slate of plays, many of which are original works being staged for the first time. .Tree Soldier: A Reader’s Theater. will be staged at 9:00 pm each evening.  Pass tickets are $10:00



Review: The King’s Grave: The Discovery of Richard III’s Lost Burial Place and the Clues It Holds ~ Philippa Langley, Michael Jones

The Kings graveThe first full-length book about the discover of Richard III’s remains by the person who led the archeology team and the historian whose book spurred her on

The mystery of who Richard III really was has fascinated historians, readers and audiences familiar with Shakespeare’s dastardly portrait of a hunchback monster of royalty for centuries. Earlier this year, the remains of a man with a curving spine, who possible was killed in battle, were discovered underneath the paving of a parking lot in Leicester, England. Phillipa Langley, head of The Richard III Society, spurred on by the work of the historian Michael Jones, led the team of who uncovered the remains, certain that she had found the bones of the monarch. When DNA verification later confirmed that the skeleton was, indeed, that of King Richard III, the discovery ranks among the great stories of passionate intuition and perseverance against the odds. The news of the discovery of Richard’s remains has been widely reported by the British as well as worldwide and was front page news for both theNew York Times and The Washington Post. Many believe that now, with King Richard III’s skeleton in hand, historians will finally begin to understand what happened to him following the Battle of Bosworth Field (twenty miles or so from Leicester) and, ultimately, to know whether he was the hateful, unscrupulous monarch of Shakespeare’s drama or a much more benevolent king interested in the common man. Written in alternating chapters, with Richard’s 15th century life told by historian Michael Jones (author of the critically acclaimed Bosworth – 1485) contrasting with the 21st century eyewitness account of the search and discovery of the body by Philippa Langley, The King’s Grave will be both an extraordinary portrait of the last Plantagenet monarch and the inspiring story of the archaeological dig that finally brings the real King Richard III into the light of day.

5 Thumbs-UpThis is definitely not a dry history book, and for those who know next to nothing about Richard III they will receive an almost personal history lesson about this Monarch as they progress through the book.  This is an extraordinarily user friendly book.

The chapters in the book alternate between the story of searching for, and eventually finding the grave of Richard III and his factual history, and it is not the one everyone is familiar with  and painted by Shakespeare and the victor of Bosworth Field.  However, in reading this book it soon becomes apparent that this is more than a simple recounting of an archaeological dig; it is very personal to the Author and that comes through in their writing.  The book is loaded with an impressive amount of information, both about the search itself and, as I’ve already noted, the history of this King, but it s the delivery of this information that really impressed me.  There is not a point in this book where the delivery becomes stale and dusty, the Authors managed to make every part of it enjoyable to the reader.

The sections of the book that cover the identification of the remains, and the scientific techniques used are equally as interesting as the descriptive scenes of the battle that took the Kings life.  They covered disputes and grievances between the House of York and the House of Tudor with great tact and never once came out in favour of one House or the other.  This book will also serve to dispel some of the images people have that Richard III was just an all-round evil man; it informs the reader of all the good he did for the country and shows him in the context of the world he lived in.  Through the Authors writing skills the reader is introduced to a man of deep convictions and courage whilst at the same time showing he was definitely not a saint.

The great strength of this book is that it captivates like a well-written historical novel while at the same time informing and educating the reader.  This strength kept me up late into the night to finish this book and once again stoke the flames of my love of history.  Richard III, the last King of England to come from the House of York and the last Plantagenet King found his champions in these hard working people, and will finally have the burial a Monarch deserves, particularly one of such fame.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of all forms of history, plus those who want to learn a little more about this period of time in England.


Review: The Struggle Trilogy ~ Nelson Lowhim

Struggle“The struggle knows not the logic of morals” is an Arabic saying.

A man, Walid, lives in Baghdad, where bombs tear apart markets and flesh, Americans shoot at anyone who crosses them and the police are too scared to stop murderers as the streets run red with blood. Walid must protect his family, his neighborhood, from this onslaught of violence. But how? He decides to use his brains and gun. As a consequence, he dives into the underbelly of a city in the throes of civil war.

Fighting other Iraqis and the Americans, Walid must figure out how to live just one more day.

Mohammad, Walid’s childhood companion, decides to sell out his friend to get personal justice.

Qassem, an Iranian, trained to work in the shadows for Tehran, plays with men’s lives to achieve his goals.

Douglass, an American soldier, dutifully carries out his mission.

Everyone fights to come out on top, but not all of them can survive. Who will make it to see another day?

4 Thumbs-UpAlthough this is a review on a trilogy of books, I really feel it is more a review on just one book.  If you are going to read this, please don’t try to break it down into three parts, just jump straight in and read it as if it is a complete book, I assure you that you will not be disappointed.  While I am on this subject, I’m not sure why the Author chose to split this book into three as it works very well as a full novel on its own.  Also you if have a weak stomach, be warned that this is a book set in a combat zone; the scenes of violence contained in it cannot be avoided and, in some places, they may make the reader sick to their stomach.  However, this is also one of the strengths of this book, as it serves to bring right into the readers comfortable reading spot a perspective on a war that has often been used as a political tool by Governments far and wide.

The main protagonist is in this book is not a likeable one at all, despite starting out with good intentions in his fight for the preservation of his life and that of his Family’s he soon slides into a world that brings about actions which truly make the reader doubt if he ever had a decent bone in his body to start with.  If it had not been for several other characters I encountered in reading this novel, I think the main character would have truly made me reconsider completing this book.  Other characters are written in such a way that they add depth and breadth to the story; the humanity or inhumanity of war is reflected through their actions and shown in the turmoil they face on a day-to-day basis.  The Author has done an excellent job of taking personalities from both sides of this conflict and making them equally likeable or not, regardless of their background; with a skilful pen the Author demonstrates the motivations of all the different groups operating in this war without taking a firm stand for one group or the other.  Regardless of whether the reader likes the characters or not in this book, there is no avoiding the fact that we are reading about real and suffering people who endure the unthinkable and have, like all humans, lapses in their moral codes.

For me, I found this to be a very emotional book to read; knowing the Author is a Veteran themselves and had actually been in the same dark place my Husband had, made me realize that this was just as much as healing tool for the Author as it was a piece of fiction based on facts for the reader.  The book is full of common military terms and, at times I could hear the words of the Author echoed in conversations I have had with others that were in Iraq during the early years of the war.  Although many readers may think that the ending to this book is rather weak compared to the rest of the contents, I felt it was very indicative of the nature of this conflict; there are no clear rules of engagement and no nice clean happy endings, at the end of the day there are losses on both sides and each have to rebuild not only their homes but their lives as well, physically and mentally.

This is a very thought-provoking novel, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who would like to get another perspective on the Iraq war and those who are interested in military books.


A Story Can Change Your Life ~ Peter Everwine


A Story Can Change Your Life

On the morning she became a young widow,
my grandmother, startled by a sudden shadow,
looked up from her work to see a hawk turn
her prized rooster into a cloud of feathers.
That same moment, halfway around the world
in a Minnesota mine, her husband died,
buried under a ton of rock-fall.
She told me this story sixty years ago.
I don’t know if it’s true but it ought to be.
She was a hard old woman, and though she knelt
on Sundays when the acolyte’s silver bell
announced the moment of Christ’s miracle,
it was the darker mysteries she lived by:
shiver-cry of an owl, black dog by the roadside,
a tapping at the door and nobody there.
The moral of the story was plain enough:
miracles become a burden and require a priest
to explain them. With signs, you only need
to keep your wits about you and place your trust
in a shadow world that lets you know hard luck
and grief are coming your way. And for that
—so the story goes—any day will do.

Peter Everwine

Review: FEAR! ~ Steven Nedelton

abstract backgroundA real life drama. In this expansive examination of Man’s nature, the author takes us into a world where the government controls everything, war is a constant reality, and no one can be trusted. Throughout it all, one family clings to their values while standing fast against the forces that would see them torn apart.

Ranging in time from the distant past to the near future, FEAR! takes the reader on a journey to the center of Hell.

3 Thumbs-UpA word of warning; if you are easily offended by the ‘f’ word, and feel it is pretty pointless in a book and has no place there, don’t bother to pick up this book as you’ll find offense on nearly every page.  However, if you can come to see that the use of it may actually help the plot in some way, give this book a try.

The book itself is rather enjoyable spanning a time frame from the far distant past to the near future, and as a descriptive writer this Author excels as events and locations in the book come to life before the readers eyes.  With a deft use of words, they are able to transport the reader to the era in which the plot is taking place so vividly that they will have to lay the book down occasionally to check that they really are in their own time.  However, if you are not a fan of time leaping plots you may find this book somewhat confusing as it moves from one era to another quickly.  The way in which the Author does this can make the structure of the book somewhat difficult to follow if the reader is new to the idea of time leaping in their reading material, but it is worth persevering with to read this intriguing book.

The Author does not just limit his descriptive writing talents to the location and events in the novel, he uses them to great effect when writing the characters encountered.  For the most part these are very well-developed and realistically three-dimensional, which added depth to the book, unfortunately the Author was not able to sustain this level of development in all their characters to the point where some seemed to be caricatures of what they truly could have become if more time had been taken in their development.

If you are looking for a solely plot driven book then you will be disappointed in this one, as it appeared to me to be more character driven than plot driven, and as some of these characters were a lot less developed than others it actually affected the pace making it limp painfully along in some places.  I’m not sure if the Authors intent was produce a character driven piece of work, or whether this happened more by chance, but it would have added immensely to the novel if there had been some plot to help in the areas where the characters were too weak to carry the book.

If you enjoy time travel books you may well enjoy this novel, but if you are looking for something deep and meaningful this is not the book for you.


Review: One Dog Too Many (Mae December, #1) ~ Lia Farrell

One Dog too manyMae December runs a successful dog boarding business in Tennessee. When her neighbor, Ruby Mead-Allison fails to pick up her unruly Pomeranian from Mae’s kennel, Mae pokes around and discovers the woman’s body. She is found with a traffic counting cord around her neck, wearing one red boot. While delving into the mystery of Ruby’s death, Mae meets handsome Sheriff Ben Bradley. Together they find no shortage of suspects. Ruby was standing in the way of a project that would widen her rural road and make the area safer. Was she killed by an angry neighbor? The Road Commissioner? Her estranged husband? Her disinherited brother? The Sheriff may not appreciate Mae’s amateur detecting, but he responds to her as a woman. Meanwhile the murderer thinks its time to put a permanent stop to Mae’s meddling.

Part of the ‘A Book from every State of the Union’ Reading Challenge – Tennessee

5 Thumbs-UpWhat a great start to a series.  This Author’s debut novel contains exactly all the right ingredients needed to make a perfect cozy mystery.

Even if the reader wasn’t aware when they picked this up that is was set in the South, as soon as they start to meet and get to know the characters it would become apparent.  The women and their mannerisms all reminded me of the Southern women I have encountered since coming to live in the US, and some even resembled family members which made me smile.  Through a crisp writing style the Author brings their characters not only to life, but has them serving sweet iced tea to the reader as they progress through this book, and in this way it I found it very easy to connect with them and establish a relationship; even their gossip made me feel included in their everyday lives.

Although this is a cozy mystery, it is written in such a manner that it reflects its setting.  There is no rushing to the climax, which when it comes is fast paced and packs a punch, but rather a slow and deliberate feel to the whole plot; rather like life in a small rural Southern town, slow, deliberate and with meaning in everything that takes place.  So carefully has the Author worked at setting the scene for the plot that the reader is pulled into the town itself and made to feel part of a community where everyone knows everything about everybody… or do they?  In the writing of the dog boarding and breeding side of the novel, it was plainly obvious that not only had the Author done extensive research into these subjects, but then taken the time to make them interesting enough to their readers as to not seem out of line with the rest of the happenings; this time was well spent as I found these parts of the book very interesting and not off-putting at all.

I would highly recommend this book to lovers of a good cozy mystery, and I will definitely be reading more in this series as they appear.


‘Take it away Mr. Keillor’

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
~Thomas Mann

writers almanacIt has been a few months since I turned over the post of the day to someone else, but today, Wednesday January 22 2014, I am turning my blog over to “The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor”.  For those of you reading who may not be familiar with this web site, or have not read the previous post in August last year, it contains daily poems, prose, and literary history from Garrison Keillor, and other Authors.  Not only do these great folks keep this website full of wonderful tidbits, they also produce a podcast for us to listen to as we go about our day.  So, without further ado, take it away “The Writer’s Almanac”:

“It is Enough”
by Anne Alexander Bingham

To know that the atoms
of my body
will remain

to think of them rising
through the roots of a great oak
to live in
leaves, branches, twigs

perhaps to feed the
crimson peony
the blue iris
the broccoli

or rest on water
freeze and thaw
with the seasons

some atoms might become a
bit of fluff on the wing
of a chickadee
to feel the breeze
know the support of air

and some might drift
up and up into space
star dust returning from

whence it came
it is enough to know that
as long as there is a universe
I am a part of it.

“It Is Enough” by Anne Alexander Bingham. Reprinted with permission of the family.


It was on this day in 1938 that Thornton Wilder‘s play Our Town was premiered at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. Our Town is about the fictional town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. In the first act, Emily Webb and George Gibbs are children together; in the second act, they marry; in the third, Emily has died in childbirth and is looking back from beyond the grave with other dead citizens of Grover’s Corners, and she decides to revisit the happiest day of her life, her 12th birthday.

Wilder had trouble writing the third act, but when he finally found inspiration, it came fast. He was in Zurich, entertaining a friend (and probably lover) named Samuel Steward. Steward wrote later: “He insisted we stay up until dawn to hear the bells of Zurich as Max Beerbohm has described them. That was in my drinking days and I kept going into every café we passed. My feet were getting wet and so was I, and I kept hollering for an umbrella. When daylight came I went home to dry out and fell into bed and slept all day, but Thornton went to his hotel and wrote the last act of Our Town,which begins with the graveyard scene with the umbrellas. He confessed later that he had ‘struck a match on me,’ and that the graveyard umbrella scene came from my complaining about my walk in the wet.”

Our Town was revolutionary for its time because Wilder decided not to use any scenery and almost no props. He thought that they got in the way of seeing the play as truly universal, and he wanted his play to be more like the great Greek tragedies. So he got rid of the excess visuals and he added the group of the dead people of Grover’s Corners, who commented much like a Greek chorus.

From Princeton, the play moved to Boston, where it was a flop. The Boston critics gave it poor reviews, it played to half-empty houses, and some audience members — including the wife of the governor of Massachusetts — walked out. But two New York theater critics, Brooks Atkinson and Alexander Wolcott, convinced the director and producer to give it another try and bring the show to New York. It did much better there, although some people found it inspiring and others depressing. But Our Town won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize for drama, and it is now estimated that, on average, Our Town is performed at least once every night somewhere in the world.


Today is the birthday of Sir Francis Bacon (1561) . He was born in London, and he was, among other things, a philosopher, a statesman, an essayist, and a champion of modern science. He was born into a family with connections at court, but he criticized Queen Elizabeth’s tax levy and fell out of favor. When Elizabeth was succeeded by James I, Bacon’s career got back on track, and in 1618, he was named the Lord Chancellor. His glory was short-lived; he was convicted of accepting bribes in 1621, and banned from political office for the rest of his life.

He spent much of his intellectual life challenging Aristotle’s view that knowledge should begin with universal truths. He said, “If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.” InNovum Organum (1620), Bacon wrote that scholars should build their knowledge of the world from specific, observable details. His theory is now known as the scientific method, and is the basis of all experimental science.



It’s the birthday of the man who founded the science of electrodynamics:André-Marie Ampère, born in Lyon, France (1775). Ampère didn’t have much in the way of formal schooling, but he was given free rein of his father’s large collection of books. Some say that Ampère was a math genius from the time he was young, working out complex mathematical formulas with crumbs of bread. When he was 13, he wrote and submitted his first mathematical paper, but it was turned down because he didn’t understand the principles of calculus. He immediately arranged to study calculus with a local monk. He loved it, and wrote that he was “animated with a new ardor.”

These were the years of the French Revolution, and when Ampère was 17, his father was arrested and guillotined. Ampère was so upset that for a couple of years he gave up studying mathematics. He came out of his depression when he fell in love with a woman named Julie. He wrote about a walk with Julie and two companions: “I sat on the grass beside her and ate some cherries that had been at her lips. All four of us were in the large garden when she accepted a lily from my hand. We then went to see the stream; I gave her my hand to jump over the little wall and both hands to climb up again. […] I sat again beside her as we four observed the sunset which gilded her clothes with a charming light.”

Ampère was not the most dazzling suitor; he wore unfashionable clothes, he was socially awkward, and his teeth were crooked. But he continued to woo Julie with constant attention and love poems. They were married in 1799 and soon had a son. Ampère was offered a job teaching mathematics at a school in a town 40 miles away, but just before he moved, Julie became sick, and he had to leave his wife and son behind in Lyon. He was able to move back after a year, but Julie died soon after, and he was once again miserable. He moved to Paris, but he didn’t fit in there and he missed his friends in Lyon. Feeling desperate, he quickly remarried, to a woman who married him for his money and stopped speaking to him after a few months; this marriage ended, leaving Ampère with custody of a newborn daughter.

Despite his rocky personal life, Ampère continued to make major contributions to mathematics, chemistry, and physics. He produced work on partial differential equations, discovered the chemical element fluorine, and wrote about the wave theory of light. In September of 1820, he attended a lecture about the findings of a Danish physicist, who had accidentally discovered that a magnetic needle was deflected when it was placed next to an electric current. Ampère was fascinated, and less than two years later, Ampère gave a speech on his theory of electromagnetism. He devoted the rest of his career to the subject. One of his great strengths was that he had the mathematical knowledge for the theoretical side as well as the scientific knowledge for the experimental side. His most important discovery, named Ampère’s Law, was a mathematical formula that could determine the relationship between the magnetism operating around a closed loop and the electrical current passing through that same loop.

In his final years, Ampère continued to teach, and he published his Memoir on the Mathematical Theory of Electrodynamic Phenomena, Uniquely Deduced from Experience (1827). It was in this work that he coined the word electrodynamics. His personal problems continued — he lived with his son, but the men were too similar, both with the tendency to suffer in silence and then explode into anger. This arrangement worsened when his daughter moved in with her abusive, alcoholic husband, a lieutenant in Napoleon’s army who frequently got drunk and terrorized the family with his extensive collection of weapons.

Ampère died at the age of 61. His is one of 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower, under the first balcony. The ampere — the unit of measurement for electrical current — is named after him.


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Review: The Sonnets and Other Love Poems ~ William Shakespeare

ShakespeareShakespeare became famous as a dazzling poet before most people even knew that he wrote plays. His sonnets are the English language’s most extraordinary anatomy of love in all its dimensions–desire and despair, longing and loss, adoration and disgust. To read them is to confront morality and eternity in the same breath.  The Sonnets and Other Love Poems includes all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, the long narrative poems “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece,” and several other shorter works.

4 Thumbs-UpReading Shakespeare in school is a little bit like being told to eat your greens at the dinner table; they are supposed to be good for you, but as soon as we hit adulthood we chose to give them up.  Shakespeare has never felt this way to me, but I did realize recently that my knowledge of his writing was rather one-dimensional, being limited to his plays. I picked up this little book, only 206 pages, decided I would expand my mind, and read the dreaded love poems and sonnets.  I was very pleasantly surprised by what I encountered.

Like many modern-day Authors, playwrights and poets who are firmly placed in a particular genre, Shakespeare is stereotyped as a playwright who filled the acts of his plays with doom and gloom, foreboding and dread and, in some cases motivational and uplifting speeches to enthrall and shock his audiences.  He covered topics in his plays that would not even be spoken of in polite society today; none of this is apparent in this wonderful collection of sonnets and poems.  Given the time period in which he penned this now collection, they filled me with a new respect for this man who, amidst all the horrors that accompany living in the late 1500’s – early 1600’s, could still find beauty and hope in his surroundings.  Also, when taken into consideration his poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece were written whilst plague ravaged England, it is a true measure of the man’s skill that he ignored these happenings and focused on the human traits of lust and moral confusion to convey his message.

Although appearing first in this book, the sonnets were the last of Shakespeare’s non-dramatic works to be published, and in writing them it appears to the reader that they are actually seeing inside the writer’s soul at what truly makes him tick.  In reading this collection it broadened my mind as to who Shakespeare was, and actually gave me a greater appreciation for his works as a whole.

I would recommend this collection to those who love good poetry, but also those who may shy away from anything Shakespeare.  This is the kind of book you take on a picnic to the park, and dip in and out of while enjoying the warm sun and a good glass of wine.