Rosie Reviews: Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson by Richard Patterson

Jack the Ripper

Title: Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson

Author: Richard Patterson

Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Goodreads First Reads

Review

Most of us have heard of Jack the Ripper – the almost demonic presence which haunted London in 1888. Jack the Ripper was someone who was never caught, but speculation over their identity remains to this day, capturing the attention of countless, some even devoting their lives to the mystery. In this book, Richard Patterson introduces a new suspect into the fold, building on an article published by Dr. Rupp who first suggested this person in an article on the centenary of the murders in 1988.

Francis Thompson was born into a Catholic family, the son of a doctor, who failed to get into priesthood and went through Medical school 3 times, but failed to be become a doctor himself. Before long, he was addicted to laudanum and living on the streets of London. He was destitute, living with a prostitute. That is, until he came to the attention of the Meynells, publishers to whom he had submitted some essays and poetry. Mid-1888, on discovering Francis’ work published by them, the prostitute ended their relationship and disappeared. In the period of the Jack the Ripper murders, Francis is living in Whitechapel, searching for this prostitute. A few days after the final murder, he is admitted to hospital before being sent to an all-male hospice.

In Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson, the author examines each piece of evidence, from aspects of Francis Thompson’s life to the words in his poetry. The case he presents is commendable and compelling, although relies heavily on circumstantial evidence. While the who and the opportunity is heavily explored and fairly convincing, where the book falls flat is the motive. Patterson does try to explore why Thompson might have become the Ripper, but none of the possible motives felt particularly convincing to me.

That being said, the book is thorough in what it contains, examining different facets of the theory and backing up hypotheses with evidence, albeit that evidence mostly coming in the form of poetry. Regular summaries are provided, so you gradually get a build-up of the various layers in the tale that Patterson is trying to get across. It is an interesting read and, while I was note entirely convinced, it is certainly a book for anyone interested in the mystery that is Jack the Ripper.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34385855-jack-the-ripper-the-works-of-francis-thompson

The Book Depository (I receive a small commission when this link is used): https://www.bookdepository.com/Jack-the-Ripper-the-Works-of-Francis-Thompson-Richard–Patterson/9781786934499?a_aid=rosienreads

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Rosie Reviews: Dunstan by Conn Iggulden

Dunstan

Title: Dunstan

Author: Conn Iggulden

Publisher: Michael Joseph

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: NetGalley

Review

Summary

Dunstan is a historical novel which demonstrates Conn Iggulden’s mastery of words. It takes a saint and makes him human and weaves an intriguing tale from the threads of history.

Plot

This novel follows Dunstan from childhood all the way to being an old man who had seen seven kings on the throne in his lifetime. As records from the time period are sparse, the novel does take some artistic license in what it describes; each addition or change really helps build the character of Dunstan that Iggulden wants to portray as well as moving the story along.

While it does take a while for the story to get going at the start, as we’re still being introduced to the characters, getting used to the world through the pages and watching Dunstan grow into adulthood, it is once Dunstan gets his first taste of power that this novel really takes off. The second half is so full of political intrigue, scheming and changes in kings that it made for quite gripping reading.

Characters

The strangest part of this book for me was that I both enjoyed reading about the main character, Dunstan, while also disliking him as a person. He is extremely misogynistic, manipulative and arrogant, caring mostly for his own personal advancement. Yet, there are glimpses of kindness in him, of guilt and sorrow that take the edge off of that hatred; it also helps that those he surrounds himself with are really likable. How Conn Iggulden has written Dunstan here is a lesson in writing complex characters and it helped make me see this figurehead as simply human.

Dunstan is the only character which remains throughout the novel; even his brother Wulfric dips in and out, so we only see glimpses of him from time to time. The other characters are there for such fleeting moments, yet each one stands solid and present in my mind’s eye. Despite their short presence in the novel, you really get the sense of how each one impacted Dunstan and of their own characters as well.

World/Setting

The world-building also added an extra layer of depth to the novel. By the end of the novel I was convinced that I could simply step back through history and understand what awaited me there. The only times where I struggled were at the abbey when Dunstan was a child and whenever the novel moved around the country. I really could have done with a map during those latter sections as I found it really difficult to picture how far or how close these places were. That being said, I was reading on my kindle so I’m not entirely sure a map would have been much help at all.

Final Thoughts

The more I think about it, the more I enjoyed Dunstan. I will admit, I was worried in the first half – I found Dunstan dislikable and there was little else for me to grab onto then; everything else was still setting up and I had not got to know the other characters yet. But, after having read the rest, that first section is really important for making sure future events make sense and it all takes on a lot more meaning. Conn Iggulden’s writing is beautiful; it’s a novel which I think would be a delight to listen to as an audiobook, if simply just from the writing. In all fairness, I would probably buy this book just for the writing ability, but the story within the pages really helps make it shine.

Dunstan is out now.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32510568-dunstan

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Dunstan-Conn-Iggulden/9780718181444/?aid=rosienreads

 

 

Rosie Reviews: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

Wayfarer

Title: Wayfarer

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Publisher: Quercus

Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Summary

As the second book in a duology, Wayfarer continues to explore the world of time travel initially established in Passenger. It expands on what we discovered in the first book, escalating the conflict and putting the characters through all sorts of difficulties, and then wraps up the duology perfectly.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and thought the series as a whole was brilliant as a whole, especially given how difficult time travel is to get right. As this is a sequel, there will be spoilers for the first book, however I shall try to keep them to a minimum.

Plot

The majority of this book follows two threads. On one side, Nicholas searches for Etta, who has been forced through the timelines. On the other, Etta finds herself mixed up with the mysterious Thorns on their quest for the astrolabe. Ironwood is hot on the heels of both, but another enemy emerges from the shadows and things get a lot more dangerous.

If I’m honest, I really wasn’t sure how Alexandra Bracken was going to build on the previous book, but the introduction of a new party really gave Wayfarer an added depth and threat. It also allowed for further exploration of the world’s lore, something which I particularly loved. The addition of a few extra side-plots on top of the original story-line from the first book kept the story enjoyable and the plot was fascinating in itself.

I did find the story did feel a bit slow-paced in times and the book was, perhaps, a little too long. I found myself enjoying Etta’s story a lot more than Nicholas’ and a lot of that was due to the fact that Nicholas’ did come across as repetitive in places and was often where the slow parts occurred. That being said, the book is regularly punctuated by conflict and confrontation, character development and the odd twist to really keep your interest throughout.

Characters

For me, it was the secondary characters that really made this book. Thinking back on it, it felt a lot like Nicholas and Etta were there to keep the story moving, but it was the other characters that really got the most development and focus. This made the book come alive for me. Having strong side characters allowed the world to feel rooted and allowed me to get fully invested in the story.

That’s not to say that Nicholas and Etta felt flat or unrealistic in any way; Etta, in particular, found her feet in this book. My only problem was that I found Nicholas boring. I really enjoyed his character in Passenger but very little of that substance seemed to have made its way into Wayfarer. On a plus side though, Wayfarer does include two LGBT characters whose relationship received the most focus and development throughout the novel.

World/Setting

As I’ve said, Wayfarer goes deeper into expanding the world we see in Passenger. Not only do we get more time travel, but we also meet more of the families and central players in their feud and discover more about how the whole time travel works. This was probably one of my more favourite parts of this book as it really made the more fantastical elements feel tangible and an integral feature to the story. Exploring the effects of timeline changes was particularly interesting, especially if you enjoy history as I do, and once it crossed into questions of ethics and morality, it really got me thinking.

Final thoughts

I thought Wayfarer was a brilliant conclusion to the Passenger duology. It did a good job of rounding up the story to a conclusion that felt right while also building on the story in the previous book and making it an entertaining read. My main gripe with the novel was that it probably could have done with being a tad shorter, not to mention that Nicholas did not really work as a character for me in this book. Really, though, I would recommend this duology to anyone who likes a good bit of time travel and feuding families.

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken is out now.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20983366-wayfarer

The Book Depository (I get a small commission when this link is used): https://www.bookdepository.com/Wayfarer–Book-2/9781786540027/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

 

Rosie Reviews: The Ill-Kept Oath by C.C. Aune

the-ill-kept-oath

Title: The Ill-Kept Oath

Author: C.C. Aune

Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Source: NetGalley Ebook

Review

Summary

Historical fiction at its finest, The Ill-Kept Oath blends an Austen-esque story with magic and mystery in a beautiful story about love and family.

Set in 1819, it follows two girls, cousins and best friends as one moves away from the country to start her Season in London. Even though they are miles apart, the girls remain in close contact through letters and it is these letters which connect their two stories as romance, adventure and a touch of magic befalls the both of them.

Plot

There is no one plot to this book. While the description given on Goodreads implies that the girls’ magical legacy is going to be the central focus of the book, it is actually their romantic endeavours which gets centre-stage. Each of the girls’ confusion over their feelings and the feelings of the men they’re interested in is explored in interesting ways and this meshes perfectly with the more supernatural elements of the story, with the magical side of things playing a driving force in those relationships. While the novel itself does feel slow-moving in places, particularly towards the middle, the beginning and ending are perfect, with the final quarter of the book being a pay-off of all the different threads in the novel.

Characters

Aune has created incredibly well-structured characters in this novel, each one fitting perfectly into the setting and the role given them. Josephine was an instant favourite of mine – her personality was lively, entertaining and translated well into her story line. Prudence, on the other hand, was very different and it was difficult to relate to her at times. Her irrational behaviour in certain parts of the books is explained later on. She strikes a perfect balance with Josephine and, if she had been any different, I don’t think it would have worked quite as well.

World/Setting

This is probably the area I was least convinced by in the novel. I loved the era The Ill-Kept Oath was set in and I thought both the story and characters fit in beautifully with the setting. However, I had a lot of trouble, especially towards the beginning of the novel, trying to understand the Inheritance – what is was, what the history of it was and why it could not be revealed to the heirs. While it was explained a little better towards the end of the novel, it was a long wait to get that explanation and I found that wait a bit frustrating and confusing.

Final thoughts

While there were a couple of minor things which did not quite work for me in The Ill-Kept Oath, I can’t deny that it is a fabulous book. The amount of work that must have gone into it is evident and the writing is reminiscent of Austen’s novels, but brought up-to-date for modern readers. I thoroughly loved the letters between Josephine and Prudence – they brought the story together and really solidified the relationship between the two girls, which quickly became one of my favourites in the novel, despite them rarely being in the same scene together. Aune had created a brilliant novel and I cannot wait for the sequel.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31394845-the-ill-kept-oath

The Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/The-Ill-Kept-Oath-C-C-Aune/9781945769023/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Inspirational Places: Hay-on-Wye and Raglan Castle

Last weekend, I had a rather lovely mini-break in Wales. It was the first time I had been to the country and it is unlikely to be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and, while it was mostly a walking and relaxing break, there were two places which really got the inspiration going.

Hay-On-Wye

The first is, of course, Hay-On-Wye – the bookshop town. There was no way I was going to go to Wales and not go to the bookshop town. Yet, amazingly enough, I managed to survive the entire visit with only buying one book, and that book was a first edition of Intervention by Julian May (which I got for £5!), so I couldn’t really say no.

There weren’t actually as many bookshops as I thought there were in the town, but the ones which I did find where pretty incredible. The most impressive was probably Richard Booths’ bookshop which had an incredible selection of second-hand and new books. The shop dedicated to crime novels was another favourite.

Really though, Hay-on-Wye is a book-lovers’ heaven. Being surrounded by books and never more than a short walk away from a book shop really gets you in both the reading, and writing, kind of mood. There is nothing quite like the seeing so many books on a shelf that can bring up the excitement at the thought of seeing your own book there and so inspiring you to write. That is, of course, if you can resist buying all the books in the shop and reading those instead.

 

Raglan Castle

You can’t really go to Wales and not visit a castle – there are so many of them! There were a number we could have visited from where we were staying, but in the end we decided to visit Raglan Castle which was on the way back and, more importantly, was also the filming location of the Isle of the Bless for Le Morte D’Arthur episode of Merlin. Whatever our reasoning was, though, the castle was incredible.

About twice as large as I had thought it to be, there was so much to see. It was in ruins, but the ruins were complete enough and stable enough for us to have a good old explore. We climbed to the top of a tower, looked into every nook and cranny and took a vast number of photographs. It was very easy to imagine what life could have been like living there, something which was made easier by the Living History even going on at the same time. With people wandering around in historic clothing, it felt like we had stepped back in time.

All in all, while it was only a short holiday, it was a really enjoyable one and I would certainly love to return to both bookshop town and castle. I would also quite like to explore a bit more of Wales itself and see what else there is to discover.

 

Inspirational Places – Rhodes

The muse is a wily creature, often disappearing for days on end and returning in the dead of night or when there is no notebook to hand. There are ways to summon it back, from taking a simple shower, taking a walk, or going on a holiday.

I have just returned from two weeks in Rhodes – an island rich with ancient history, blazing sunlight and a valley filled with butterflies.

In the time leading up to the holiday, I was focused on one task: editing my novel, which I finished just before we set out. As a result, my imagination was feeling a bit desolate on the way out. Now though, my brain is teaming with ideas for future books and conjuring up scenes for me. A holiday was really what I needed to bring the muse back into the fold and here are a few of the places I found the most inspirational while in Rhodes.

Lindos – Acropolis and City

Lindos.JPG

Lindos is beautiful. This was the first place we visited and was the first to spring the inspiration out of hiding. The white-washed buildings, cobbled streets between closely built buildings and canopy overhead lent itself well to a story setting and the characters only spilled in from there. It’s location in the shadow of the large Acropolis only give it an added sense of mystery and power.

The Acropolis itself is a masterpiece of architecture. From the sea, it is an impressive, yet foreboding sight. From within, even the ruins tell a story and it’s easy to imagine what it would have been like in its hey-day. The views are impressive and there is plenty of the building left to explore.

Rhodes Old Town – Grand Master’s Palace

Palace.JPG

Entering into Rhodes Old Town, you are instantly swept back in time, into another world. But it was the Grand Master’s Palace which really caught my imagination. The building itself is massive and in good repair. It contains museums, mosaics and restored rooms. In some places you can practically hear the footsteps of the knights who once walked the corridors or see a flash of fabric as a figment of the past darts around a corner. This trip transported me, not only into the past, but also into another world, of a story that had been working its way around my head for a while. Upon returning to the hotel, I just had to sit back and scribble out my ideas.

The Sea

Sea.JPG

Okay, this one is not quite a place, and there are plenty of other locations in Rhodes that could have taken this third spot, but it was while sitting on a boat, bobbing about on the waves that I could really feel my imagination whirring. Taking a boat tour might not sound the most exciting thing in the world, but you can have as many magical encounters on the sea as you can on the shore. From secret coves to rocky sea passages to incredible views on monuments on land, the is much the sea can offer. With the fresh air and gentle rocking, your mind is also given space to ponder and churn out ideas.

The sea around Rhodes is a stunning blue and incredibly clear. A number of steep cliffs, often scaled by mountain goats, plunge into it creating a daring face out to the horizon. There was even a rock which, from a certain angle, looked disconcertingly like a lion’s face. It is easy to picture characters travelling the waves and the mighty buildings, such as the acropolis, really give that picture depth.

Other Inspirational Places in Rhodes

There are a number of other places that really capture the imagination in Rhodes. A couple which were in close contention for a larger mention was the ancient city of Kamiros – ruined twice by earthquake and now an incredible layout of ruins looking out to the sea – and the Valley of Butterflies – a place swarming with moths and butterflies that also resembled a fairy wonderland.

KamirosValley

 

 

 

 

 

Holidays allow for the brain to switch off and the imagination to kick itself up a notch. Visiting a wide range of places can provide plenty of areas of inspiration to strike, and that was certainly the case with my trip to Rhodes. I now have plenty of ideas for the stories I am working on and the worlds they are set in now look like the camera has got into focus.

Have you been to any inspirational places recently? If so, let me know in the comments below, I may just be inspired to pay it a visit.

Rosie Reviews: Toru: Wayfarer Returns

Toru Wayfarer Returns

Title: Toru: Wayfarer Returns

Author: Stephanie R. Sorensen

Publisher: Palantir Press

Genre: Alternate History, Steampunk

Source: Netgalley Ebook

Review

Summary

Toru: Wayfarer Returns is a ‘what if’ novel, the first in a series which retells Japan’s history from 1850 with a steampunk twist. The main character is a mysterious fisherman called Toru who returns to isolationist Japan with news and developments from America. His arrival sets in motion a time of scheming, building and preparation which culminates with the arrival of Commodore Perry to their shores.

Plot

The plot of this book is an interesting one. With only the potential threat of an American invasion as the driving force for the main characters, the risk that they are facing seems quite large. While there are slow parts of it, the book really shines where the risk and conflict takes a head, and where the focus hones in on a couple of characters.

Characters

With the way that this book is written, it is difficult to get inside the characters’ heads and understand them fully.  For much of the book, I found myself feeling like I was looking at events through a window, or as a bystander. That being said, the characters are distinct and you do start to appreciate their existence in the book. Jiro was a personal favourite, but Toru also made for a very interesting figure (although I did find this mystery of his parentage drag on a bit – the reader knows who it is for a long time before Toru actually says it out loud).

World/Setting

Reading a novel where America is the enemy and Japan takes centre-stage makes for a delightful read. The novel gives an insight into Japanese history (albeit retold to take a different route, but you do get an idea of the reality), it also gives an insight into Japanese culture which made me really quite aware of how disappointingly little I know of Japan.

I’m not completely sure how I feel about how quickly the technology was accepted and built, but seeing how it meshed with traditional routes of transport and how it was not completely perfect was fun to see.

Final thoughts

I enjoyed this book. It was a fascinating read and I really liked seeing how the plot developed and how the author mixed steampunk into actual history. However, it did feel like it was missing something, which I think mostly stemmed from the fact I could not really get to know the characters, so what stakes there were did not have quite as much impact. However, I do think this is a good start to a series and I am interested to see where it is headed now that the world has been set up. The hint of fantasy also makes me wonder if that will play a bigger part of later books and how that will mix with the steampunk side of it.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28605284-toru

The Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Toru-Stephanie-R-Sorensen/9780996932318/?a_aid=rosienreads