Sunday Book Highlight: The Serpent Sword by Matthew Harffy

The Serpent Sword Cover

BRITAIN 633 A.D.

Certain that his brother’s death is murder, young farmhand Beobrand embarks on a quest for revenge in war-torn Northumbria. When he witnesses barbaric acts at the hands of warriors he considers his friends, Beobrand questions his chosen path and vows to bring the men to justice.

Relentless in pursuit of his enemies, Beobrand faces challenges that change him irrevocably. Just as a great sword is forged by beating together rods of iron, so his adversities transform him from a farm boy to a man who stands strong in the clamour and gore of the shieldwall.

As he closes in on his kin’s slayer and the bodies begin to pile up, can Beobrand mete out the vengeance he craves without sacrificing his own honour…or even his soul?

The Serpent Sword is the first novel of the Bernicia Chronicles.

Book Excerpt:

THE MAN STOOD IN THE SHADOWS preparing for murder. He pulled his cloak about him, stretching muscles that had grown stiff from inactivity. It was cold and his breath steamed in the autumn night air. It was uncomfortable, but he would wait. His mind was made up. His suspicions had been aroused before, but now he knew the truth of it. He had followed them here, had seen them go inside together. Soft sounds of a woman’s laughter drifted from the stable. His jaw clenched. His hand gripped the antler hilt of his seax. Holding the knife reassured him. But he would not use it tonight. No. There would be no fight. No clash of metal. No battle glory.

No deeds for the scops to sing of.

Warriors’ acts were recounted by the bards in the flickering light of mead hall fires. There was no light here. It would be a secret death. In the darkness.

What he must do was clear. But none could ever know of what happened here tonight. His life would be forfeit should he be discovered.

Somewhere, off to the land-facing, westward side of the fortress, a dog barked, then all was still again. From the east, he could hear the distant rumble of waves hitting rocks far below.

On the palisade, some distance away, he could just make out the silhouette of a guard.

A cloud scudded in front of the moon. The all-seeing eye of Woden, father of the gods, was closed. On such a night the gods slept and a man’s actions could bend his wyrd to his own ends. A great man could seize what was rightfully his. His mother had once told him he would be a man to dethrone kings and topple kingdoms. Great men were not governed by common laws.

Clinging to that thought, he girded himself for what he was about to do.

He shivered and convinced himself it was because of the chill. He moved further into the shadows.

From the building came a new sound. The rhythmic gasps and cries of coupling. He recognised the sound of Elda in those guttural moans.

How could she be so fickle? He had offered her everything. By Woden, he would have made her his wife! To think she had spurned him and then opened her legs to that young upstart. The anger he felt at her rejection bubbled up inside him like bile.

And him! Octa. The man Elda was rutting with inside the stable. Octa had all a warrior could want. A ring-giving lord who looked upon him with favour. He had land and treasures. And of course, the sword. The sword that should never have been his. The blade was named Hrunting and had been a gift from their lord, King Edwin. He had bestowed it on the man he thought had saved his life in battle. But he had given it to the wrong man. The battle had been confused, the shieldwall had broken and the king had been surrounded by enemies. It appeared all was lost until one of the king’s warriors, one of his thegns, had rallied the men and turned the tide of the battle.

Afterwards, Edwin had given Hrunting to Octa. It was a sword fit for a king. The blade forged from twisted rods of iron. The metal shone with the pattern of rippling water, or the slick skin of a snake. The hilt was inlaid with fine bone and intricate carvings. All who had seen the weapon coveted it.

But the man who waited in the shadows knew it should have been his. It was he who had smitten the leader of their enemies. He who had led the men in the charge that brought victory.

He who was destined for greatness…

MatthewHarffy

Matthew Harffy lived in Northumberland as a child and the area had a great impact on him. The rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline made it easy to imagine the past. Decades later, a documentary about Northumbria’s Golden Age sowed the kernel of an idea for a series of historical fiction novels. The first of them is the action-packed tale of vengeance and coming of age, THE SERPENT SWORD.

Matthew has worked in the IT industry, where he spent all day writing and editing, just not the words that most interested him. Prior to that he worked in Spain as an English teacher and translator. He has co-authored seven published academic articles, ranging in topic from the ecological impact of mining to the construction of a marble pipe organ.

Matthew lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

When not writing, or spending time with his family, Matthew sings in a band called Rock Dog.

Author Links:

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A Song of Sixpence: The Story of Elizabeth of York and Perkin Warbeck by Judith Arnopp

A Song of Sixpence

In the years after Bosworth, a small boy is ripped from his rightful place as future king of England. Years later when he reappears to take back his throne, his sister Elizabeth, now Queen to the invading King, Henry Tudor, is torn between family loyalty and duty. As the final struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster is played out, Elizabeth is torn by conflicting loyalty, terror and unexpected love. Will Elizabeth support the man claiming to be her brother, or will she choose the king? Set at the court of Henry VII A Song of Sixpence offers a new perspective on the early years of Tudor rule. Elizabeth of York, often viewed as a meek and uninspiring queen, emerges as a resilient woman whose strengths lay in endurance rather than resistance.

London – Autumn 1483

Ink black water slaps against the Tower wharf where deep impenetrable dark stinks of bleak, dank death. Strong arms constrict him and the rough blanket covering his head clings to his nose and mouth. The boy struggles, kicks, and wrenches his face free to suck in a lung full of life saving breath. The blanket smothers him again. He fights against it, twisting his head, jerking his arms, trying to kick but the hands that hold him, tighten. His head is clamped hard against his attacker’s body. He frees one hand, gropes with his fingers until he discovers chain mail, and an unshaven chin. Clenching his fingers into a fist, he lunges out with a wild inaccurate punch.

With a muffled curse the man throws back his head but, keeping hold of his prisoner, he hurries onward, down narrow, dark steps, turning one corner, then another, before halting abruptly. The boy hears his assailant’s breath coming short and sharp and knows he too is afraid.

The aroma of brackish water is stronger now. The boy strains to hear mumbled voices, low and rough over scuffling footsteps. The ground seems to dip and his stomach lurches as suddenly they are weightless, floating, and he senses they have boarded a river craft. The invisible world dips and sways sickeningly as they push out from the stability of the wharf for the dangers of the river.

The only sound is the gentle splash of oars as they glide across the water, far off the clang of a bell and the cry of a boatman. He squirms, opens his mouth to scream but the hand clamps down hard again. The men draw in their breath and freeze, waiting anxiously. A long moment, a motionless pause before the oars are taken up again and the small craft begins to move silently across the surface.

River mist billows around them; he can smell it, feels it seeping through his clothes. He shivers but more from fear than cold.

He knows when they draw close to the bridge. He can feel the tug of the river; hear the increasing rush of the current, the dangerous turbulence beneath. Surely they will not shoot the bridge, especially after dark. Only a fool would risk it.

The boy wriggles, shakes his head, and tries to work his mouth free of the smothering hand. He strains to see through the blinding darkness but all is inky black. The boat gathers pace and, as the noise of the surging river becomes deafening, the man increases his hold, a hurried prayer rumbling in his chest.

The whole world is consumed in chaos, rushing water, clamouring thunder, biting cold. In the fight for survival, the boy continues to battle fruitlessly for breath, struggle for his freedom. The body that holds him hostage tenses like a board and beneath the boy’s ear beats the dull thud of his assailant’s heart. The blanket is suffocating hot, his stomach turning as the boat is taken, surging forward, spinning upward before it is hurled down again, between the starlings, shooting uncontrollably beneath the bridge.

Then suddenly, the world is calmer. Somehow the boat remains upright on the water. It spins. He hears the men scrabble for the oars, regain control and his captor relaxes, breathes normally again. Exhausted and helpless, the boy slumps in the soldier’s arms, his fight defeated.

All is still now; all is quiet. The oars splash, the boat glides down river, and soon the aroma of the countryside replaces the stench of the city.

His clothes are soaked with river water; his stomach is empty, his body bruised and aching. Defeated and afraid, the man releases his hold and the boy lies still in the bottom of the boat.

He sleeps.

The world moves on.

Much later, waking with a start, the boy hears low, dark whisperings; a thick Portuguese accent is answered by another, lighter and less certain. This time when he blinks into the darkness, he notices a faint glimmer of light through the coarse weave of the blanket. He forces himself to lie still, knows his life could depend upon not moving but his limbs are so cramped he can resist no longer. He shifts, just a little, but it is too much. His kidnapper hauls him unceremoniously from the wet wooden planks.

The boy’s legs are like string. He stumbles as they snatch off his hood and daylight rushes in, blinding bright. He blinks, screwing up his face, blinking at the swimming features before him, fighting for focus. He sees dark hair; a heavy beard; the glint of a golden earring, and recognition and relief floods through him.

“Brampton!” he exclaims, his voice squeaking, his throat parched. “What the devil are you doing? Take me back at once.”

Brampton tugs at the boy’s tethered arms, drawing him more gently now to the bench beside him.

“I cannot. It is unsafe.”

“Why?” As his hands are untied the boy rubs at each wrist in turn, frowning at the red wheals his bonds have left behind. His Plantagenet-bright hair glints in the early morning sun, his chin juts forward in outrage. “If my father were here…”

“Well, he is not.”

Brampton’s words lack respect, but the boy knows him for a brusque, uncourtly man.

“But where are you taking me? What is happening?”

“To safety, England is no longer the place for you.”

The boy swallows, his shadowed eyes threatening tears. Switching his gaze from one man to the other, he moistens his lips, bites his tongue before trusting his breaking voice. “Where is my brother? Where is Edward?”

Brampton narrows his eyes and looks across the misty river. He runs a huge, rough hand across his beard, grimaces before he replies and his words, when they come, spell out the lost cause of York.

“Dead. As would you be had I left you there.”

JA Picture

Judith Arnopp is from Wales in the UK, is the author of seven historical fiction novels. Her early novels, Peaceweaver, The Forest Dwellers and The Song of Heledd, are set in the Anglo-Saxon/Medieval period but her later work, The Winchester Goose, The Kiss of the Concubine, Intractable Heart and A Song of Sixpence, concentrate on the Tudor period. She is currently researching for her eighth novel about Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII. Judith is also a regular blogger and author of historical articles.

Buy the book:

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Author links:

Amazon Author Page

Author Website

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Book Review: Alaina Claiborne by MK McClintock

01_Alaina Claiborne

How far would you go to avenge your family and save the one you love?

In nineteenth-century England, Alaina Claiborne had a loving family, a cherished friend, and devoted servants. She spent her days riding across the grassy hills of the English countryside, joyful and at peace. Then tragedy strikes and her world is forever changed. Searching for those responsible is her only focus… until she meets Tristan. Tristan Sheffield, a man of many talents, searches out those who don’t want to be found. His past is filled with secrets and deeds he would rather leave deeply buried. However, when his life unexpectedly entwines with Alaina’s, he soon discovers they share more than a mutual desire to catch a murderer. On their hunt for a man driven by greed, Tristan and Alaina find that love is the greatest weapon against evil, and they’ll stop at nothing to survive.

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I was really torn with writing this review because I normally don’t read in this genre and I do not consider this story historical fiction. More like a period romance and as a rule, I generally do not read/review romance for various reasons. However, when I read the premise and saw the layout of the book, my attention was captured.

When I began to read this story I was blown away by the beginning! A girl witnessing her parent’s murder. What a way to start a story. Powerful. I give the author a high five for that. A strong beginning are important to the story. Readers need to be grabbed from the beginning. The tricky part is to hold the reader’s attention throughout the story. Did the author do this for me? I would have to say yes but there were a few things that I felt could have be worked on a bit. The overall mystery fell a little flat for me. I felt that could have been stronger. I’m not saying it wasn’t a good mystery by any means….there was some things that just need to be worked out better. The setting and the period of the story wasn’t portrayed as convincible and true to the time in my opinion and I would have liked for it to be a bit more atmospheric. I will say there is a twist to the ‘who done it’ part I did not see coming….however I felt that character needed to be introduced much sooner in the plot. The character seemed to just appear out of nowhere but maybe that was the author’s intention? Not sure.

Despite some of the things I feel that need to be worked on I enjoyed this story and I’m looking forward to seeing more from this author. Fun read. Sweet romance. Lots of potential.

I’ve rated this book three stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Alaina Claborne Available At

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Nook | Kobo

 

British Agent Series Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, May 18 Review at Flashlight Commentary (Alaina Claiborne)

Tuesday, May 19 Spotlight at View From the Birdhouse

Wednesday, May 20 Review at Flashlight Commentary (Blackwood Crossing) Review at Book Nerd (Blackwood Crossing) Review at Dreams Come True Through Reading (Alaina Claiborne & Blackwood Crossing)

Thursday, May 21 Review at Layered Pages (Alaina Claiborne)

Friday, May 22 Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story (Alaina Claiborne)

Monday, May 25 Review at A Chick Who Reads (Alaina Claiborne & Blackwood Crossing) Excerpt at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, May 26 Review at Quirky Book Reviews (Alaina Claiborne & Blackwood Crossing)

Wednesday, May 27 Review at The Lit Bitch (Alaina Claiborne)

Thursday, May 28 Blog Tour Wrap-Up at Passages to the Past

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Confessions of a Book Blogger

Annette Hart K blogger

I’d like to welcome fellow book blogger and good friend Annette Hart Kristynik to Layered Pages today to chat with me about her blog and her experiences being a book blogger. She is one of the hardest book reviewers out there I know and she does amazing work.

Annette, what is your blog’s name and address?

I have two blogs where I write reviews: A Well-Watered Garden & Impressions in Ink

When did you start a book blog and why?

I was a member of Shelfari back in 2006 and heard people talking about blogs. After researching a bit on blogging, I decided to give it a try. In January of 2007, I created my first blog at WordPress. In the spring of 2007, I relocated to Blogger. At the time, Blogger was more user friendly.

I’ve had as many as three blogs at one time.

My first blog A Garden of Books is open but not active. This blog has book reviews of adult, children, and young adult books.

A Well-Watered Garden is a book review blog devoted to Christian nonfiction and fiction. I review more nonfiction.

Impressions In Ink is a book review blog devoted to all other types of books.

I began a book review blog as a way of expressing how I felt about the books I’d read and to catalog them. At the time, I had no idea authors and publishers contacted book bloggers to write reviews. But as my readership and audience grew, so did people contacting me to review their work.

Books

What kind of posts do you feature?

Most blog posts at both blogs are book reviews. On occasion, I post YouTube videos of new books, interviews of authors, and book blasts. At A Well-Watered Garden, I also post Bible reading updates.

How often do you blog?

My goal is to post at least twice weekly on both blogs, but this year I’ve cut back in reading and reviewing.

What is some of the positive feedback you have received?

Over the years, I’ve often heard positive feedback from authors. A few of the comments were more than a brief thank you, they were lengthy letters of kindness and gratitude.

I have a large audience of readers from the Ukraine that visit my blog at A Well-Watered Garden. At first, I thought it was a fluke or spam, but it is actual readers from the Ukraine. My reading audience grew after becoming a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid.

Annettes books 2

On average, how many books do you review a year?

I’ve averaged between 160 and 180 books a year. My goal this year is 100.

What is your favorite genre?

This question is a difficult question as I love several types of books.

I love nonfiction. I especially love: World War II, World War I, Holocaust, biographies, British history, American history, Russian history, German history, French history, ecclesiastical history, and the American West.

I also love historical fiction. I love to learn about history and the lives of people who lived long before me, especially in storyform.

Other types of books I love are: Southern literature, mystery, classic literature, poetry, theology, detective, and spy novels.

What is your least favorite genre?

I do not enjoy reading science fiction. However, I have enjoyed reading dystopian stories, for example, The Handmaid’s Tale.

Books

How do you feel about negative reviews?

A reviewer will at some point (no matter how good they are at choosing a book) come across a book that is going to be a negative review.

How to write the negative review is the hard part. My rules in writing a negative review are: don’t try to be clever, explain why I did not like the book, and be tactful.

On occasion, I have reviewed non-fiction books that have wrong information. I believe this is the most tedious to bring up in a review, but if I have found an error, I must write this in the review. When writing about the error, I hyperlink the source of where I found the correct information. And it’s good to double check sources.

When considering a book to review what do you look for?

I look for two things: a book that is of interest, or a book where I will gain knowledge of its subject.

List three book covers you love.

I am Abraham Chaucer's Tale All the light we can see

How do you feel about authors using social media to speak out badly of reviewers who did not give the author’s book a glowing review?

I ignore them. I think they have too much time on their hands and should get over themselves. Go write another book. Be gracious for goodness sake.

Have you had any negative experience with blogging?

Of course! Gosh yes. I’ve had odd comments on blog posts that want to have an argument. They are trolls. This is their hobby of sorts, to hide anonymously in Cyberville and pounce on unsuspecting people. I don’t engage in conversation with them and the comment is deleted.

Do you read more than one book at a time?

Yes. Something about my brain gets bored if I read only one book. I prefer several at one time.

Do you read self-published books? If so which ones have you read this year so far?

I do read self-published books. This year I’ve read: Ingrid by Lynnette Kraft, and The Lusitania Conspiracy by Ronald J. Walters, and Behind the Forgotten Front: A WWII Novel by Barbara Hawkins.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting a blog?

I’ve thought of several points of advice.

  • Firstly, blogging and book reviewing is not a “fly-by-night” hobby. It requires work. It requires perseverance. It is a daily education. It requires humility, because in loosing humility you stop learning.
  • Be prepared to spend time researching what you’ve read. If the book you are reviewing is nonfiction or historical fiction, it is necessary to read at least a bit more online about the subject. You cannot write a favorable review if the book has incorrect information. Further, I have even contacted authors in the past to ask follow-up questions about their book.
  • Work on the blogs eye-appealing look.
  • Study other blogs, not to compare and feel sorry for one self, but to learn.
  • Speaking of comparing don’t go there. We all can’t be the same that would be boring. Each of us have our own unique talents and gifts. Work with what you have, learn, build, don’t try to be someone you’re not.
  • Don’t expect people to understand exactly what you do and why. In my case, I blog and write book reviews because I love books and reading. It is a free service provided to authors and publishers. Most people don’t understand why I’m not paid. I have explained over and over again, but they still think I’m crazy. I am crazy. I love books. Book reviewing is a pleasure.
  • Lastly, book reviewing and blogging is a craft. It is an artform itself. Art may be an inborn talent, but it still needs to be practiced and nutured.

Review: Godwine Kingmaker by Mercedes Rochelle

Godwine Kingmaker

Harold Godwineson, the Last Anglo-Saxon King, owed everything to his father. Who was this Godwine, first Earl of Wessex and known as the Kingmaker? Was he an unscrupulous schemer, using King and Witan to gain power? Or was he the greatest of all Saxon Earls, protector of the English against the hated Normans? The answer depends on who you ask. He was befriended by the Danes, raised up by Canute the Great, given an Earldom and a wife from the highest Danish ranks. He sired nine children, among them four Earls, a Queen and a future King. Along with his power came a struggle to keep his enemies at bay, and Godwine’s best efforts were brought down by the misdeeds of his eldest son Swegn. Although he became father-in-law to a reluctant Edward the Confessor, his fortunes dwindled as the Normans gained prominence at court. Driven into exile, Godwine regathered his forces and came back even stronger, only to discover that his second son Harold was destined to surpass him in renown and glory.

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I’d like to first say that this period in English history is probably without a doubt my favorite. I am quite the critic when it comes to reading historical fiction during this extraordinary time…when I saw this book tour available for this book, I knew that I had to read this story. I wanted to know how seriously Rochelle takes her history and how she will portray this period and the people. I’d have to say I was thoroughly fascinated with her look into this time. She gives you a really good sense of it if you will. That’s what I want in a story. To be transported back.

This story centers on Harold Godwineson’s Father, Godwine. He became Earl of Wessex under King Canute. For those of you who don’t know, Canute is Danish by birth. He and his father conquered England. I highly recommend you read up on King Canute.

Anyhow, I really have never had an opinion about Godwine. I knew he was powerful and how he got his power. I have always been more interested in his son Harold-the last king of the Saxon rule. They were both two powerful men in their own right. Although what Godwine built for his families power was amazing! It really is extraordinary how he rose from his commoner status and how his family rose even further with Harold. This story shows Godwine’s power and intelligence-I think-perfectly. The story begins with him as a young boy who was befriended by the Danes. By chance really and was befriended by King Canute. This is that story and more. A brilliant story at that. Gosh there is so much to this story and I could go on and on about it. But instead of me doing that, I really encourage you to read the book.

I will caution those who are critical of authors for taking liberties regarding the historical aspects of a story. I will say this with a firm voice, “This is Historical Fiction!” I did spot some of that in this story and even asked the author about one particular scene via social media. How she explained it to me worked perfectly in her story. Matter of fact there is a part of history about a piece of land that Canute and Godwine was viewing and where Canute was telling Godwine about it is where she took some liberty. Still she kept it believable and I actually want to do further study on it. So thank you, Rochelle for including the scene in your story. Readers, I can’t tell you what it is because I don’t want to give spoilers….so go read it and find out!

I adore the authors writing style, premise, how she brought it all together. She knows how to write historical fiction and I can’t WAIT for the second book to come out. I hope it will be soon! I’m rating this book five stars. Thank you, Rochelle for a fine story. We readers of history do appreciate it.

Oh, and one last thing….I pretty much agree with Rochelle’s portrayal of the Normans! Ha! 🙂

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Available at

Amazon US

Amazon UK

About the Author

03_Mercedes-Rochelle-Author-265x300

Born in St. Louis MO with a degree from University of Missouri, Mercedes Rochelle learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they built themselves.

For more information please visit Mercedes Rochelle’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Godwine Kingmaker Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, April 20 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views Spotlight at Genre Queen

Tuesday, April 21 Review at Book Nerd Spotlight at Unshelfish

Wednesday, April 22 Review at Flashlight Commentary Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, April 23 Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Saturday, April 25 Spotlight at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Tuesday, April 28 Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, April 29 Review at Broken Teepee

Thursday, April 30 Guest Post & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More Spotlight at The Writing Desk

Monday, May 4 Review at Impressions in Ink Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Tuesday, May 5 Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Thursday, May 7 Review at Bookramblings Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Friday, May 8 Review at Layered Pages

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