Layered Pages Wednesday Reviews

Vivaldi’s Muse by Sarah Grace Kelly

Vivaldi’s Muse is an eloquently told story of a young woman named Annina Giro who lives in the early eighteenth century, and who has aspirations of becoming an opera singer. A wealthy count becomes her sponsor and she travels to Vienna to study music. She quickly falls in love with Antonio Vivaldi, a priest who is a composer for the opera, and soon she becomes his protegee. They are inseparable and form a special bond that is so rare in this world–you will be captivated.

I am impressed with what can only be described as impeccable detail in this story. Sarah takes you back to the Renaissance period and gives you an enchanting picture. Her portrayal of the characters was so masterfully done that I felt a strong emotional tie to each of them. I was quickly drawn in and immersed in the opera life of that time and the relationship between Annina and Antonio. I was disappointed when the story came to an end.

Sarah truly is a talented author and she writes with such grace and style. I will continue to follow her work and I look forward to finding out what her next book project is. I highly recommend this story to all of those who are avid readers of historical fiction. This novel will not let you down.

Layered Pages

Sons of the Wolf by Paula Lofting

Sons of the Wolf tells the story of Wulfhere, a Sussex thegn, living during the reign of Edward the Great, in the years leading up to the Norman conquest. A landholder whose land holdings come directly from the King, Wulfhere also owes service go Harold Godwinson, the powerful Earl of Wessex. Wulfhere is a fierce warrior who is also devoted to his growing family, and when the book opens we meet him returning home from battle with the Scots in the year 1054.
After surviving the horrible battle at Dunsinane Hill, Wulfhere only wants to settle at home, tend to his lands and enjoy his family. Of course fate has other plans. Wulfhere and his family’s lives soon get quite complicated and Wulfhere is put in the position of trying to keep his family safe while also not compromising his honor or loyalty to Earl Harold or the King.
The author based Wulfhere on real person, recorded in the Domsday Book, as she did with Helghi, Wulfhere’s neighbor and sworn enemy whose fate seems to be tied to Wulfhere’s. Unfortunately, only the sketchiest details were recorded about Wulfhere and Helghi, so Paula Lofting used her imagination and her knowledge of history to fill in the blanks – creating a vivid, detailed and realistic world full of complex and interesting characters. I liked her characters – both the fictional ones and the non-fictional. I really liked the more personal scope of the story and its focus on Wulfhere and his family and their struggles to love each other amidst conflict and misunderstandings. Wulfhere also participates in major historical events, owing fyrd service to the King, but overall the story doesn’t have the sweeping feel of many historical novels set in Anglo Saxon England. And I find that a welcome change. Paula’s characters feel like real people, with complex human emotions, motivations and, sometimes, failings.

The book itself is beautifully packaged, with rich and colorful cover art, and drawings at the beginning of each section. The author also includes pronunciation and place names guides, as well as a glossary of unfamiliar terms, all of which was very helpful. I would have liked a map to reference as well.

Sons of the Wolf is the first in a series of novels about the Norman conquest of England, and I am very excited to read more about Wulfhere and his family – and their place in history. I enjoyed this novel very much and found it a quick and easy read, one that I will undoubtedly want to read again.

(Four and one-half stars)

Sarah Giacalone

Amber Treasure by Richard Denning

Right off, I was impressed with the extensive research done in preparing for this writing in order to remain true to the time period. The story takes you on a journey of the tumultuous travels of a great sword. While this story does indeed feature several great swords, it is the story within, of a boy growing into a man, which grips your heart. The characters of the villa and their allies are well developed and endearing. Descriptions of the countryside, towns, people and battles are detailed enough to transport the reader into battle, and inspire sympathy for the boys, without being overly gruesome. While at times the storyline was slow, Denning succeeds in attaching the reader’s curiosity to the character’s quest and fates in order to carry you through these slow spots.

I would recommend this book to those interested in the dark ages, important battles in history, and war stories in general. The ending makes clear that this is not intended to be a stand-alone volume and as such those looking for a new series to read will be satisfied as well.

Brandy Strake

Once A Priest by Ed Griffin-Cover unavailable

This book is a biography of a man brought up in a Catholic household. He goes on to become a priest with the goal of helping people, but with time, gets disillusioned with the practices and rituals of the Catholic Church. How he deals with leaving the priesthood, and finds a worthier way to help people is the premise of this book.

The beginning is choppy as the author chooses to give small snippets of information from his background. Instead of flowing smoothly, the text jars on you for a couple of chapters, but it gets much smoother after that. This is basically an autobiography of one man which runs through different themes, but in the end showcases a life well lived. The narrative is catchy and retains interest in spite of the choppy beginning, and has enough twists and turns to retain the reader’s interest.

The author describes in personal detail how the rules of the Catholic Church affected him, effectively showing all the problems of the Church. What really struck me about this book is that there is neither any venom directed towards the church nor is the church absolved of its many crimes. It is a very balanced account of the struggle of one man to see the light.
Another aspect discussed is the kind of brainwashing that takes place in religious societies. One of the strongest points made by this book is that right or wrong is relative. Religions have black and white rules, but the author realized that nothing was so simple. This gave him strength to make the right decision for himself.

There were some really poignant moments described beautifully, and a detailed look is taken at the civil rights movement in USA from the eyes of one man. But the ending chapters get a little less focused with discussion of his youth and going back and forth in time, which starts grating a little.

Overall, a good book and I give 3 out of 5 stars for this. It is really readable, and an excellent and inspirational book.


The Bond by Karen Magill- Cover unavailable

The Bond by Karen Magill is a paranormal love story that is neat, compact, and condensed into 88 fast paced pages. The Bond follows the story of two characters, Laura Neill and Julian Rule, who are both almost simultaneously struck by cars while crossing the street. Being far away from each other when tragedy strikes thy both experience out of body experiences, connecting their souls together. But, when danger enter Laura’s life it will be up to Julian to try to save her, will he be able too?

I enjoyed the way that The Bond was written. Karen Magill’s writing style in this short story is condensed and fast paced. The chapters are short and the plot is moved along with no nonsense. However, I do wish Magill would have expanded the story more to include more description and detail. Magill introduces us to some interesting characters in this story and I found myself wanting to know more about the characters and their backgrounds. I wanted the story to evolve slower than it did but I found myself still turning pages wanting to know what would happen to Laura, Julian, and their families.

I would give The Bond by Karen Magill 3 stars

Rachel Massaro

Layered Pages Review Team:

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