The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell

Reviewed by Brittany Morgan

Uhtred is back with vengeance. Out of favor the Saxon monarchy, Uhtred sees no other option but to recapture his birthright territory, Bebbanburg, with a limited crew of fellow outcasts. After King Alfred’s death, his son Edward takes the throne as king of Wessex. Years of peace soon come to an end as the Danes, under Cnut Longsword’s leadership; plan to invade the Saxon territories. Uhterd learns of Cnut’s plans yet the Saxons are uneasy to trust him. Men live and die, loyalties are challenged but one thing remains constant in the Saxon Stories Series: fate is inexorable.

The Pagan Lord is the seventh installment in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories Series and is easily one of the best. The detail that readers have grown accustomed to of 10th century England is top notch and expertly researched. There is the perfect combination of war, love and treachery to keep the reader’s interest. A cornerstone of Conrwell’s writing in the series is the funny insults meaning to scorn the opposition. Some of my favorite include the words: fart, stench and one or two expletives.

I really enjoyed following Uhtred throughout his life to experience the various joys and heartbreaks – and unfortunately – defeats alongside him. Even in his hold old age Uhtred is as fierce as ever and still has a few tricks up his sleeve to help persuade the Saxons to believe his tale.

Some of the favorite parts of the novel were the battle scenes, especially towards the end. I find it interesting to see how militarily the world has evolved from shied walls and swords to tanks and automatic guns. The detail that Cornwell uses to describe these scenes is unparalleled. I truly feel as if I am standing with my shield next to Uhtred preparing for battle.

With a conclusion that leaves nothing to be desired, fans are eagerly awaiting the eight novel in the series set to be released in the United States in early 2015.

RATING: 4 Stars

The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

Reviewed by Brittany Morgan

 

Two star-crossed lovers are put to the ultimate test. In 1960 Jennifer Stirling awakes from a horrific car accident that left her without recollection of the accident or herself. Feeling like an outsider in her elite world of London’ wealthiest families, her husband, Laurence, tries to reintegrate Jennifer and start their marriage over again. His plan changes when Jennifer stumbles upon a love letter written by the mysterious and heartfelt ‘B’ and is determined to discover his identity and rekindle their passionate affair.

Nearly 40 years later, struggling journalist Ellie, stumbles upon Jennifer’s love letters from ‘B’ and promises to turn her career around with a knock out feature piece. The journey to write the story hits too close to home for Ellie as she risks her career, friends and married boyfriend in the name of Jennifer and ‘B’. This utterly romantic – yet gut wrenching – page-turner fully captures the reader and takes them along for the ride.

The Last Letter from Your Lover is the second novel by Jojo Moyes I have read and I am 100% a fan of her work. I love her writing style and the way she creates her characters to be either likeable or evil when necessary. Moyes’ plot line is well thought out and peppered with characters that are the perfect vehicle for the story and theme. Jennifer is neither annoying nor whiny, which is common in contemporary romance novels, when making hard and life changing decisions.

Predictability is the enemy is any author and is Moyes had one fault in the story that was it. The conclusion of the novel was more obvious with each passing page towards the end of the text. With that being said, it was an ending that left the reader wholeheartedly satisfied.

RATING: 4 Stars

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

Reviewed by: Brittany Morgan

The seeds of war have already been sowed by 1772 and the Fraser’s and Mackenzie’s find themselves right in the middle of the beginning of American history. Honor and duty calls upon Jamie as he is asked to represent the Crown and help unite the residents of the Ridge and Native Americans. Claire continues to push the medical envelope to help patients survive the hardships in 18th century North Carolina. Rodger and Brianna struggle to assimilate in a world that they never imagined they would be apart of. Tensions rise and loyalties are tested in the sixth installment of the New York Times best selling series Outlander in A Breath of Snow and Ashes. 

I have a love-hate relationship with the Outlander series. I have experienced highs and lows in the novels for the characters, in frustration of their choices, plot line missteps and much more. Since the fist installment in the series, this is hands down my favorite book. There was more action in this story, more decisions and more interesting secrets that come to light. Seeing the characters struggle and forced to make hard choices about their lives and the lives of those they love was an aspect that the other books were missing. 

My favorite part of the story was Gabaldon’s infusion of history into the text. This is something she has done in other books to great success as well. It’s always interesting – at least for me – to get history from a human voice, rather than in a textbook. The biggest logistical concern I have for the books in general is the character’s interpretation of time travel. After failed attempts for their “theories” on the subjects I do not understand why they do not see the errors in their logic and adopt a new theory or come to a different conclusion.

Overall this book is one of the better ones in the Outlander series. I gave up on the novels for over a year and jumped back into them to prepare for the new Starz series. I would have liked Gabaldon to add some subtle reminders of some plot details that could have gotten lost from book to book, especially if the themes carried over. 

Outlander is a Starz original television series that will appear on August 9, 2014. 

RATING: 4 Stars