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MARIA GRAZIA "SMaryG" (Italy)

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Call to Juno (A Tale of Ancient Rome Book 3)
Call to Juno (A Tale of Ancient Rome Book 3)
Price: £3.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Ancient history becomes life, love and passion, 21 April 2016
It's been an amazing journey since The Wedding Shroud, through The Golden Dice, to Call to Juno. It is one of the best trilogies set in the past I've ever read. It includes 3 page-turners I really enjoyed to delve into. Dense with tension, emotion and sensuousness, crowded with unforgettable vivid characters, the three tales of Ancient Rome will stay with me for their enchanting picture of a world so near to my heart but so distant in time: the magic and beauty of the Etruscan world, the allure and intrigue of Ancient Rome. As I wrote in my first review of Elisabeth Storrs's works, ancient history becomes life, love and passion in her novels.

The journey of the main characters is so interesting, touching and gripping the reader comes to relate to and care for all of them. Caecilia and Mastarna, Arrun and Semni, Pinna and Marcus are my best favourite ones. Though very different from one another, they are all complex, round characters, brave human beings ready to sacrifice themselves for what they believe in and for whom they love.

A Call to Juno is an emotional ride. The reader follows the main characters through tough and testing times: a siege, a terrible epidemy, the end of a very long war resulting into winners and losers. But in a time of great hatred, forgiveness and love will prevail in the hearts of our heroes and heroines.

If you love historical fiction which resonates to contemporary hearts, I recommend you to read this saga. What I particularly appreciate in this trilogy is Elisabeth Storrs's blend of historical accuracy with smooth, fascinating story - telling. Last but not least, if you are not into series, you must know that you can read the three books both as a saga but also as stand-alone novels.

Read my complete review at my FLY HIGH! blog
[...]


The Lords of the North (The Last Kingdom Series, Book 3)
The Lords of the North (The Last Kingdom Series, Book 3)
by Bernard Cornwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.84

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I loved the series, 18 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
What drew me to reading “The Lords of the North” was my surprising reaction to the BBC TV series “The Last Kingdom” based on the first two books in Bernard Cornwell’s saga. I loved the series, which I honestly didn’t expect when I had a look at it by chance.
I was actually doing something for my job, looking for interesting exciting video materials to make my lessons about medieval history less plain. How can one make teenagers love that complicated period in British history when Alfred the Great managed to unite all the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and defeated the Vikings? Show them a trailer and a few clips from a TV series which turns cold facts into cool stuff. Could Uhtred’s adventures among the Saxons and the Vikings work the magic?

What I usually search for is gripping materials but simple language, more than historical accuracy. My students are non-native speakers, foreigners trying to learn English. What I need is visual/audio aids which can motivate them both to study their history/literature book and to discover more about those distant historical figures and periods. At the same time, they can improve their language skills.

Now, back to my main purpost after this digression. I am quite obsessed with my profession, aren't I? Once a teacher, always a teacher.

Did I like it?

The Lords of the North is a page-turner, with good descriptive pages and hilarious dialogue exchanges. The story is followed by Uhtred’s point of view and narrated by the protagonist in first person and in retrospective. He is a very old man looking back at his adventurous long life. This makes the reader deeply aware of his incredible irony and smartness, as well as his flaws, impulsiveness and extreme loyalty. Loyalty, a defect, you wonder? It can be a limit and it is a great one to Uhtred: once he gives his word, he is bound to it at the cost of his freedom, his happiness and his own life.
I’ve never been so entertained and amused while reading stuff meant predominantly for a male audience. But battles, violence, killings, beheadings, military strategies are part of such a fast – paced, deeply involving , highly entertaining and well-written story that you forget and forgive any bloody detail.

Quoting myself from my review of the TV series inspired to this saga:

“What makes Uhtred so intriguing is his being a complex character in search for his identity. He trusts his instinct and his sword, he doesn't believe in the God the Saxons so blindly worship. He believes that "destiny is all". He keeps his sense of freedom refusing to bow down to conventions. He knows how to deal with the Saxon order. He admires the fact that Saxons are more educated, but he also loves the freedom and craziness of the Danes. The blend between his Anglo-Saxon origins and his Viking upbringing is what makes Uhtred such an interesting character”

Non-stop action, brutality and brilliant twists and turns, intrigue and betrayal, love and war, great characters and thrilling moments are what "The Lords of the North" is made up of.
(read my complete review at[...]


The Stylist
The Stylist
by Rosie Nixon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Can being in the wrong place at the wrong time make your life unexpectedly wonderful? Wonder is what Amber Green feels when she, 18 Feb. 2016
This review is from: The Stylist (Hardcover)
Rosie Nixon's debut novel is out!

Enjoyable, glittering, glamorous.

Can being in the wrong place at the wrong time make your life unexpectedly wonderful? Wonder is what Amber Green feels when she is mistakenly offered a job and she’s asked to work with infamous jet-setting stylist to the stars, Mona Armstrong. She finds herself in the high-heeled shoes of a stylist without the right competence but with surprising improvised talent - or unbelievable luck? Amber hits the ground running, helping to style some of Hollywood’s hottest stars during the award season: the Golden Globes, the Oscars … a world she had only seen on TV or in magazines.

"In less than five minutes I'd gone from shop girl to "window dresser extraordinaire" to temporary employee of Mona Armstrong: Stylist to the Staaars!"

From London’s fashion boutiques to Hollywood’s boulevards crowded with fashionable, trendy people Amber’s journey brings her to know more of herself and of her qualities, which she has never realized she has till that moment. Being trusted makes her believe she can mak it. Isn't she cheating, you wonder? Mmm… probably she’s just doing her best in what she does best: helping and understanding people in a ... creative way.

Jet-set comedy and red carpet drama studded with whims, crushes and crazy surprises ensue.

If you love “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Confessions of a Shopaholic”, you can’t miss “The Stylist”!

(read my review at [...]


Tobias (The Triptych Chronicle)
Tobias (The Triptych Chronicle)
by Prue Batten
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.50

5.0 out of 5 stars A unique medieval tale, 27 Jan. 2016
Prue Batten never ceases to amaze me with her embroidered prose, her unique characters and her meticulous research. Her new novel, Tobias, book 1 in the Triptych Chronicle, offers a gallery of unforgettable characters and so many delicious moments of beauty to her readers. With Prue Batten you can count on high quality prose.

The unusual hero of this new medieval tale is a dwarf minstrel, Tobias, with a sharp mind, a sharp wit, a beautiful singing voice, a love for books and a good story, who can as well handle a dagger, when the occasion occurs. The experience of seeing the world from Tobias ‘s singular perspective, the enchantment of his music, the gift of his sensitivity and the uniqueness of his persona make the narration of his adventures peculiar, gripping and also moving..

Minstrels were first and foremost entertainers. They have lived on in our imagination with their figure wearing bright parti-colored costumes riding on a costumed horse from castle to castle, singing as they went with a lutes thrown across their back. Tobias and his twin brother, Tomas, are not only minstrels, though, they are also spies at the service of Sir Guy of Gisborne and his wife, Lady Isabel.

Like any good medieval hero, Tobias, loyal to his Lord, has his own quest to fulfil and it is a risky top-secret one: he and his mates set out from Venice to find the mythical Tyrian purple, which makes their voyage at sea to Crete, Instanbul and Constantinople exotic, thrilling, epic. The Byzantine Empire and the golden Orient are at the same time so different from and yet so close to our modern world: an ancient reality characterized by a blend of races, cultures and languages, a greedy society focused on material welfare and unscrupulous ambition that so much reminds us of our own time's globised world.
Quick paced and packed with great twists and turns, Tobias will take you on an exciting ride which will fill your senses and your imagination of rewarding emotions till the unexpected lyrical finale

Read my complete review at http://flyhigh-by-learnonline.blogspot.it/2016/01/tobias-by-prue-batten-book-review.html


The Memory of Midnight
The Memory of Midnight
by Pamela Hartshorne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great, gripping mystery story, 16 Aug. 2014
This review is from: The Memory of Midnight (Paperback)
This is a great, gripping mystery story. I loved reading it for two main reasons: it is set in an English town I love for its beauty and history, and it conveys with vivid realism the stories of two extraordinary ordinary women.

The supernatural element, a constant travelling through time, is the device Pamela Hartshorne chooses to connect the two story-lines. The narration quickly shifts from Elizabethan York and Nell's hard, tragic life enlightened only by her passionate love for Tom, to present-day York, where Tess struggles to overcome the wreckage of her marriage and to protect her son and herself from the rage of Martin, the man she is hiding from, her husband.

The rich descriptive pattern and the care for the details let the readers live in their minds the changes of landscape Tess herself experiences, comparing and contrasting the charms of present and past York. Tess finds herself distressed and displaced, when she realizes that what is happening to her is not simply "dreaming" another person's life, Nell's life in the 16th century.

In York, her shelter while trying to escape from her abusing husband, Tess finds the reassuring presence of Luke, a man she deeply loved in the past, and the disquieting reality of frightening, mysterious sounds coming from walls of the old house she moves in. Haunting and demanding, Nell enters Tess’s life that way and won't leave it before she gets what she wants.

The Shambles - York, England
The two women, despite their differences and the barrier of hundreds of years between them, share a tragic destiny: both married to abusive husbands: Nell was forced to marry sadistic Ralph Maskewe and to forget her dream of marrying his younger brother, Tom, instead; Tess was deceived into an un happy marriage by charming, handsome, but pathologically narcissistic, Martin. The violence Nell experiences is physical and brutal, in Tess’s case, it is more subtle and psychological. However, in both cases, the two women are alone and prisoners of their fears as well as of their husbands' powerful and unsimpathetic grip. The worst is that nobody seems to actually see or understands what really happens to them.

Incredibly enough, Tess and Nell, prisoners of the past, bound by love and fear, will help each other. Nell needs Tess to reveal the world what happened to her and to be finally re-united with her daughter, somehow. Tess will grow up and find the strength to choose what is right for her and her son Oskar, she will decide to stand up and to react to Martin, and all that thanks to Nell.

It's an intense story which takes the reader on a thrilling, dramatic journey, blending romance and brutal domestic violence, supernatural and accurate historical fiction, psychological insight and action.

I gave this book 5 well deserved stars out of 5 on goodreads. (see my post about the book at FLY HIGH! http://flyhigh-by-learnonline.blogspot.it/2014/08/the-memory-of-midnight-by-pamela.html)


The Little Deli by the Lake
The Little Deli by the Lake
Price: £2.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ROMANCE, THE LAKE DISTRICT & PERIOD DRAMA, 18 Jun. 2013
If they are not star-crossed lovers Sophie and Adam have their lives complicated by the animosity between their families. Hate coming from the past and from unkown reasonsm unknown to Sophie and Adam, that is.
This hate has also led to the terrible, unexpected event that brought about a painful split-up.
When the books opens, Sophie and Adam were teenage sweethearts then. Ten years later they have moved wounded, yet apparently healed, they are on separate distant paths and suddenly meet again in Langmere, the same tiny village in the Lake District where their passionate affair had lived its glorious moments and abruptly ended.
Adam is back in the village as the successful BAFTA-nominated young director of a period drama starring the dashing Harry Lennox, whose fame as an actor is due to his performance as Austen's cult hero, Mr Darcy, in the latest version of Pride and Prejudice.
Sophie MacBride and her best friend Lily are going to launch their new Village Deli after they have invested their savings in enlarging the business and making the shop wider and grander. Imagine their astonishment when the latest gorgeous Mr Darcy makes his appearance to buy some cakes! Sophie is totally freaked out when she finds out Harry Lennox is being directed by and is a guest of Adam Templar, her first love. They are shooting in a period TV series, a historical drama, telling the real story of William Trevelyan, a poet who lived there in the 19th century.
Sophie is both surprised and extremely worried. What if her brother Nathan and her own mother find out that the man, who they consider responsible for their own father's and husband's death, has come back to his family home, Bracken House?

Phillipa Ashley has her own captivating way to lead her readers through dreamy imaginary tours in wonderful romantic areas. This time she has chosen the beauty of the Lake District in England as the setting of her new tale of forbidden love and second chances.
To add charm to an already fascinating environment, she has made her characters interact on the set of a period drama. Who can resist the mesmerizing world of costume movies in addition to a classic romance full of emotions , passionate moments, sexy pages and surprising turns?
Fast -paced , with handsome heroes and strong-willed heroines, and last but not least with thrilling love scenes, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, is perfect read for a hot summer!

My complete review is at http://flyhigh-by-learnonline.blogspot.it/2013/06/it-happened-one-night-by-phillipa.html


Me and Mrs Jones [DVD]
Me and Mrs Jones [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sarah Alexander
Price: £7.00

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars COMEDY AND COMEDIANS, TRYING TO MAKE LIFE LIGHTER, 14 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Me and Mrs Jones [DVD] (DVD)
I giggled a lot watching this BBC comedy series. "Silly me" was totally caught in the story and now longs for a series 2. (FINGERS CROSSED!)

Gemma Jones is a divorced mother of three whose life has become a juggling act. She lives with her two daughters, Charlotte and Jess aged ten from her marriage to ex-husband Jason. She also has an older son, Alfie who has just returned from travelling around the world. After being single for years, Gemma suddenly has the attention of two gorgeous men with a 20-year age difference, whom she struggles to choose between: Tom and Billy.

Tom is the reason why I started watching this series, that is Nathaniel Parker. But I can honestly understand how irresistible sweet, ironic, handsome YOUNG Billy (Robert Sheehan) can be for Gemma. If only he wasn't her son's best friend! She hides her feelings, tries to avoid him, to convince herself Tom is the right man for her. He is divorced and middle-aged, he likes her very much and is the kindest man on earth. Why can't she fall for him, instead? However, Billy goes on pursuing her and is not afraid of showing his feelings. He is also the most grounded of all the characters in the story who are pretty much older than him: all the others are quite over the top, bizzarre, surreal. Gemma included. Will she be able to resist him? She's done quite well so far. Will we see the rest of the story, BBC?

I tend to be a bit of a romantic dreamer that is why I especially liked the Gemma/Billy moments, but more than the romantic twists and turns in Me & Mrs Jones, I liked the funny characters: Gemma's ex husband, Jason (Neil Morrissey) and his young beautiful Swedish girlfriend, Inca (Vera Filatova). She studies to become a beautician and they live together. They definitely are the most hilarious characters in the series . I also liked Alfie, Gemma's twenty-something son, very much. His scenes made me laugh a lot! "No fear, Alfie is here!"


Christmas with Mr Darcy (Austen Addicts Book 4)
Christmas with Mr Darcy (Austen Addicts Book 4)
Price: £2.49

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ROMANCE, MYSTERY AND JANE AUSTEN AT CHRISTMAS TIME, 2 Nov. 2012
"Christmas with Mr Darcy" is a light-hearted, delightful novella, Victoria Connelly has recenlty published as a sequel to her "A Weekend with Mr Darcy", "The Perfect Hero" (or "Dreaming of Mr Darcy" in the US version) and "Mr Darcy Forever" . I read the three of them with the same foolish grin mentioned above, it means I simply loved them all. They are all brilliant Austen-inpired modern romances full of references to Austen beloved works and all the dreamy places connected to her life and novels. Delightfully written with a light touch on reality, irony, and skillful characterization, they find a proper sequel in "Christmas with Mr Darcy" .

In Victoria Connelly's latest indie publication all the heroes and heroines of her Austen Addicts' Trilogy gather together to celebrate Christmas as well as their favourite author, Jane Austen. The great reunion takes place at Purley Hall in Hampshire because renowned actress, Dame Pamela Harcourt, is holding a special Jane Austen Conference.
Christmas is being celebrated in style and everybody's there: Katherine and Warwick, Robyn and Dan, Kay, Adam and Gemma, and Sarah and Mia. But, when the rare first edition of Pride and Prejudice Dame Pamela has recently bought goes missing, the guests have to forget the fun and games and turn detective...

The fun and games? Team contests, meetings with the cast of recent adaptations, watching Austen movies or series and discussing them among others. Those discussions were great fun to me: to read what Austen fans have to say after watching the movies or series scheduled at the Conference was like watching me and my Janeite friends in a mirror. The lady guests start talking animatedly about who the perfect new Mr Knightley , Mr Darcy or Captain Wentworth may be: Richard Armitage? Henry Cavill? Well, it was as if Victoria had turned us members of the enthusiastic community of Austenites into characters of her book (me included!) and our chatterings about Austen movies and favourite actors were tranferred from the online forums or from our sitting rooms to the guests of the splendid country mansion.

I also appreciated the addition of a bit of mystery in the style of the best whodunnit novels. There is no Poirot, no Miss Marple, but the puzzling situation is brilliantly solved by the lovely guests . Who's guilty of all the thefts taking place at the Conference?
Being snowed in is not a very pleasant situation in my personal experience , instead the snowy landscape adds a touch of fairy powder to the story. Would you mind being caught in in a wonderful mansion in Hampshire with all the comfort you need and in the best company you can wish? I'm sure you wouldn't complain. Especially after winning your own Mr Darcy and sharing the experience with him , as Katherine, Robyn or Kay do.

Grab your copy of Christmas with Mr Darcy and get ready to read it near the fire and under the Christmas tree. I bet you'll love it.

(READ MY POST ABOUT THE BOOK , INCLUDING THIS REVIEW, AT MY JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB
[...]


Time's Echo
Time's Echo
by Pamela Hartshorne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes the past refuses to let go ..., 8 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Time's Echo (Paperback)
The novel opens with a nightmare, so vivid and gripping that your are inexorably drawn into the story and can't stop wondering what happened to poor Hawise in 1577. So you go on , page after page, eagerly wishing for the mystery to be solved. Then you start doubting with the protagonist, Grace Trewe: was it only a dream?

Water haunted Grace's memories after being caught in the tragic experience of the Boxing Day tsunami, water mysteriously swallowed her godmother's life as had done more than four centuries before with Hawise Aske's life. They drowned. The three women's destiny seem tightly connected. Grace arrives in York in her post - traumatic attempt to remove the negative experience, in order to sell her godmother's house and settle a number of pecuniary legacies she had made before dying.

Grace has always been matter-of-fact, independent and rational but her life and her certainties are shaken, turned upside down during her stay in Lucy's house in York: she begins seeing and hearing odd things and, moreover, she finds herself living the life of unfortunate Hawise Aske, physically and mentally experiencing all the dramatic events which lead the 16th century girl to her tragic destiny. Is Grace becoming mad? How can she slip between past and present like that?

Reading Time's Echo has been an incredibly thrilling adventure. Pamela Hartshorne passionately and brilliantly conveys the stories of two distant, different women interweaving them with a quick pace, never skimping on twists and turns . Suspence, mystery, tension characterize her narration in this unforgettable story.
The idea for the novel grew out of Pamela Hartshorne's research on the wardmote-court returns of early modern York. In the Elizabethan Age those courts dealt primarily with nuisances - petty offences that affected the quality of life of a neighbourhood. That permitted the author, who trained as a historian in her past, to get a privileged glimpse to the ordinary lives of ordinary people living in those years. The talent of the story-teller matched with the fondness of the historian create an astonishing haunting atmosphere and a never dull tale.

The characters are all convincing, the descriptive moments are effective and well- balanced with the narrative level.
Last but not least, York is an evocative, atmospheric, very special setting for this moving , spine-chilling story I won't easily forget.

Sometimes the past refuses to let go ...

Read the complete presentation of this book at my blog [...]


Searching For Captain Wentworth
Searching For Captain Wentworth
by Jane Odiwe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars AUSTEN ADVENTURES BETWEEN PAST AND PRESENT, 24 Aug. 2012
"Searching for Captain Wentworth" is different from Jane Odiwe's previous Austen-inspired novels, Willoughby's Return: A Tale of Almost Irresistible Temptation and Mr Darcy's Secret. Not only because it deals mainly with characters and events connected with Austen's last novel, Persuasion - while the others continued the stories of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice respectively - but especially because the author adds a spicy ingredient to her narrative to avoid writing the usual sequel. She adds time travelling and creates two parallel narrative levels between which the protagonist, Sophie Elliot, unexpectedly and inexplicably moves. She gets involved in a series of different adventures and is torn between two men. Is it possible to fall in love with two differently handsome, kind, extraordinary gentlemen , one living in Jane Austen's time and one in the modern world? Make your acquaintance with Charles and Josh in Jane Odiwe's new book and you will find yourself sympathizing with the heroine.
The story takes place mostly in Bath but an exciting trip to Dorset will take the protagonists and the readers to Lyme Regis, too. Jane Odiwe seems at home in both places and leads us all around the beloved landmarks and sites as an expert Austen tour guide would do. The historical details are accurately researched with special attention to clothing, accessories and furniture.
Using my favourite metaphor of writing/cooking, I couldn't recognize any new original ingredient but I greatly appreciated the very creative recipe in which Jane Odiwe blends adventure and romance, modern and regency characters, facts and fiction. Gifted writing makes the blend a successful, entertaining whole. You'll find yourself smiling in recognition at this lovely tale with lots of familiar quotes and characters, events from Jane Austen's life and hints to her letters. "Searching for Captain Wentworth" is a new delightful, unmissable read for anybody loving Austen-inspired fiction.


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