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Excerpt: The Pagan Lord, Bernard Cornwell

the pagan lordIn anticipation of the UK release of The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell, the seventh in the Warrior Chronicles, I’ve got an early excerpt to tempt you for publication date on Thursday! Come back tomorrow for my review.

“None of us knew the country, or which way we should go, so I simply followed the Roman road until it joined another that ran north and south. ‘We keep going west,’ I told Finan.

‘Just west?’

‘We’ll find somewhere we know.’

‘Or ride to the world’s end,’ he said happily.

The fog was lifting and the land rose slowly until we reached a rolling upland where there were fat farms and big halls half hidden by groves of good trees, and though I was sure folk saw us, no one came to enquire what brought us to their land. We were armed men, best left alone. I sent scouts ahead as I always did in hostile country, and this land was certainly hostile. We were either in Cnut’s land or Sigurd’s territory and all the halls would be Danish. The scouts rode either side of the road, using woods or hedgerows for cover and always looking for any sign of an enemy, but we met none. Once, on the second day, five horsemen came towards us from the north, but they saw our numbers and veered away.

We were among higher hills by then. The villages were smaller and more scattered, the halls less wealthy. I sent my Danes to purchase ale and food from the halls and the Saxons to buy provisions from the villages, but there was scarce any spare food because so many armed bands had been this way before us. I went to one hall where an old man greeted me. ‘I am Orlyg Orlygson,’ he said proudly.

‘Wulf Ranulfson,’ I responded.

‘I have not heard of you,’ he said, ‘but you’re welcome.’ He limped because of an old wound in his left leg. ‘And where does Wulf Ranulfson ride?’

‘To join Jarl Cnut.’

‘You’re late,’ he said, ‘the summons was for the moon’s death. She’s growing again.’

‘We’ll find him.’

‘I wish I could go,’ Orlyg patted his injured leg, ‘but what use is an old man?’ He looked at my companions. ‘Just seven of you?’

I gestured vaguely northwards. ‘I’ve got three crews on the road.’

‘Three! I can’t feed that many. But I’ll have my steward find you something. Come inside, come inside!’ He wanted to talk. Like all of us, he welcomed travellers if they brought news, and so I sat in his hall and petted his hounds and invented tales about Frisia. I said the harvest there would be poor.
‘Here too!’ Orlyg said gloomily.

‘But there is good news,’ I went on, ‘I heard that Uhtred Uhtredson attacked Bebbanburg and failed.’

‘Not just failed,’ Orlyg said, ‘he was killed there!’ I just stared at him and he grinned at the surprise on my face. ‘You hadn’t heard?’ he asked.

‘Uhtred Uhtredson was killed?’ I could not keep the astonishment from my voice. ‘I heard that he failed,’ I went on, ‘but he survived.’

‘Oh no,’ Orlyg said confidently, ‘he died. The man who told me was a witness to the fight.’ He pushed his fingers into his tangled white beard to touch the hammer at his neck. ‘He was cut down by the Lord Ælfric. Or maybe it was Ælfric’s son. The man wasn’t sure, but it was one of them.’

‘I heard Ælfric died,’ I said.

‘Then it must have been the son who dealt the blow,’ Orlyg said, ‘but it’s true! Uhtred Uhtredson is dead.’

‘That will make Jarl Cnut’s life easier,’ I said.

They all feared Uhtred,’ Orlyg said, ‘and no wonder. He was a warrior!’ He looked wistful for a moment. ‘I saw him once.’

‘You did?’

‘A big man, tall. He carried an iron shield.’

‘I heard that,’ I said. I had never carried an iron shield in my life.

‘He was fearsome, right enough,’ Orlyg said, ‘but a warrior.’

‘He belongs to the Corpse-Ripper now.’

‘Someone should go to the Lord Ælfric,’ Orlyg suggested, ‘and buy the fiend’s corpse.’

‘Why?’

‘To make the skull into a drinking cup, of course! It would make a fine gift for Jarl Cnut.’

‘The jarl will have drinking cups enough,’ I said, ‘when he’s beaten Æthelred and Edward.’

‘And he will,’ Orlyg said enthusiastically. He smiled. ‘At Yule, my friend, we shall all drink from Edward’s skull and dine in Edward’s hall and use Edward’s wife for pleasure!’

‘I heard Jarl Cnut’s wife was captured by Uhtred,’ I said.

‘A rumour, my friend, a rumour. You can’t believe everything you hear. I’ve learned that much over the years. Men come here and give me news and we celebrate it and then discover it isn’t true at all!’ He chuckled.

‘So perhaps Uhtred lives,’ I suggested mischievously.

‘Oh no! That is true, my friend. He was chopped down in battle, and he still lived, so they tied him to a post and loosed the dogs on him. They tore him to bits!’ He shook his head. ‘I’m glad he’s dead, but that’s no way for a warrior to die.’

I watched as servants carried ale, bread and smoked meat to my men waiting in the orchard. ‘To find the jarl,’ I asked Orlyg, ‘we keep going west?’
‘Cross the hills,’ he said, ‘and just follow the road. The jarl won’t be in any of his halls, he’ll have sailed south by now.’

‘To Wessex?’

‘To wherever he wants!’ Orlyg said. ‘But if you follow the road west you’ll come to Cesterfelda and you can ask there.’ He frowned. ‘I think you go from there to Buchestanes and the jarl has a hall there, a fine hall! One of his favourite halls, and there’ll be men in the hall who’ll tell you where to find him.’ “

Review: Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer

imagine

Unfortunately, in the course of writing this review, I discovered that the author falsified some quotes in the book, and it was withdrawn from sale from both the US and the UK in August 2012. I’m not sure if I can review it now. I actually felt quite betrayed by this, because I’d never have picked up on the false quotes from Bob Dylan myself. I’d still recommend The Decisive Momenta book about how exactly people go about making decisions, and what impact those decisions might have on others, but I’m afraid this review can no longer stand. This is a shame, because I thought Imagine could have been a fascinating look into human creativity, but unfortunately, it is mainly a poster story for the wrong kind of creativity entirely.

How do you feel when a non-fiction author essentially makes up details to support his thesis? How does this escape the attention of everyone in the publication process?

Classics Month: March 2010

classicsbuttonClassics Month starts in just over a week!  A while back, Tasha at Heidenkind’s Hideaway and I decided we just didn’t read enough classics, so we chose March as the month to read more.  We’re aiming to read four each, challenging each other to read one classic from our own areas of expertise and reading a classic that’s new to us together.

I have quite an overwhelming list of classics to choose from.  At the moment, I’m thinking about:

The Vicar of Wakefield, Oliver Goldsmith
Lorna Doone, R.D. Blackmore
The Warden, Anthony Trollope
Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
Shirley, Villette, and/or The Professor, Charlotte Bronte
The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch
East of Eden, John Steinbeck (which I meant to read this month, but I don’t think it’s going to happen!)
Possibly something by D.H. Lawrence, as I have a collection of his books
And Tasha has challenged me to read Nadja by André Breton.

I think it’s going to be great!  If you love classics too, I’d love to feature you for a guest post or guest review.  Just leave a comment about it and I’ll be in touch.  And of course I’d love more recommendations for reading this month.  If it’s not too obscure, my library will probably have it, and I know I need to read more non-Western classics in particular.

Review: Legend of the White Wolf, Terry Spear

Faith heads to Canada in an attempt to find her ex-boyfriend, Hilson, who stole her father’s research paper, and to figure out what has her father so excited.  Cameron is there looking for two missing partners.  Thanks to a mix-up in their hotel, Faith ends up in his room after he’s just taken a shower.  Nothing happens, but they realize they’re heading in the same direction.  Almost immediately, they’re thrown into a confusing world of werewolves and people intent on eliminating them.  As their lives change drastically, Faith and Cameron find themselves falling in love.

I really enjoyed Terry Spear’s last offering in this series, so I was really looking forward to this one.  I read very few romances set in the present, but the werewolf elements liven these books up.  I love Spear’s lupus garou universe, even though the characters were new to me in this one.  Both Faith and Cameron are bitten and their first transformations are really interesting.  Cameron for one doesn’t even realize he’s a werewolf at first; he thinks he’s just dreaming but is confused by the fact that everything is the same when he supposedly wakes up. I’m sure it would be difficult to realize that you’re a werewolf when you don’t even believe that they exist!

The romance was sweet, too.  I thought Cameron and Faith were a little too hasty when it came to jumping into bed, but they definitely bonded over their shared predicament.  I liked Cameron in particular; he was an extremely compelling character and I could believe in his feelings for Faith.  I felt for her, especially given her ex-boyfriend’s bad behavior, but he was just that much more appealing.  The secondary characters were not too detailed, but I was given enough that I wouldn’t mind reading their stories, too.

Legend of the White Wolf and all of Terry Spear’s books would be great choices for paranormal romance fans, especially those who are tired of always reading about vampires!

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free from the publisher for review.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!  I’m probably not taking a blogging break over this holiday season, but I doubt I’ll be around much today – and that’s how it should be.  I hope you’re all having a fantastic time with family and friends.  If you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a fantastic weekend anyway and a wonderful start to 2010 next week.

November 2009 Reading Wrap-up

I’ve had very little on my plate in November, aside from NaNoWriMo.  So I managed to read quite a few books, which has been nice.  I suspect December will be equally as empty; I still don’t have any job leads despite a huge number of applications.  Here’s the breakdown of what I read by genre:

Fantasy/Science Fiction

  • Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier
  • Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
  • Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris
  • Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
  • A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
  • Touch the Dark by Karen Chance
  • All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris
  • From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris

Literary Fiction

  • Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (also historical fiction)
  • Angels of Destruction by Keith Donohue

Non-fiction

YA/MG

Historical Fiction

Humor

Women’s Fiction

  • Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

That makes 24 books this month, not bad at all!  I’m actually up to 272 for the entire year.  Part of me is curious as to whether I can read almost a book a day in December and hit 300, but most of me is not really planning to do that.  My hubby will end up taking off work for something like two weeks this month between the days off we were saving to visit my parents for Christmas (which now sadly we cannot do) and regular Christmas holiday.  Overall I think I’d rather spend time with him while I can than try and read fiendishly!  In terms of quality, this month was decent.  I read a lot of good reads, but had a few that I struggled through, like Wolf Hall and A Scanner Darkly.

How was your reading in November?

Read-a-Thon Update: Hour 22

deweys-readathonbuttonYay!  I managed to finish The Queen of Attolia!  And I can totally see what everyone loves about it.  Somehow, even though some of its events defy logic, it has that simple touch that makes it just perfect and I can’t wait to read the next one.  Saying that, I don’t know if it’s next.  I actually don’t know what I’m going to read next – I still have 11 books to choose from.  Since I slept for 7 hours or so, I have a feeling I’m going to carry on after the official Read-a-Thon is over.  Keith is still sleeping, so it’s all peaceful and early, and I can get a lot read.

Here’s how it’s gone so far:

Number of Books 5 Books Read
Pages Read 1598 Hunting Ground The Queen of Attolia
Time Spent Reading 11:47 The Lightning Thief
Time Spent Blogging 2:43 Dead as a Doornail
The Thief

My mini-challenge participation and checking up on other bloggers has been terrible this time around, I have to say. I think next time I will shoot for less books read and sign up to be a cheerleader for a while for a change of pace.

Read-a-Thon Update: Hour 20

deweys-readathonbuttonBig surprise, I crashed shortly after my last post!  Keith even managed to finish his game while I was turning into a zombie.  I’m awake now, though.  I’m annoyed I’m not going to meet any of my goals, but it’s 7:30 and there are still 4 1/2 hours left, so let’s see what I can read.

Here’s how far I got:

Number of Books 5 Books Read
Pages Read 1362 Hunting Ground
Time Spent Reading 10:23 The Lightning Thief
Time Spent Blogging 2:39 Dead as a Doornail
The Thief

I hope everyone else managed to stay up later than I did!

Read-a-Thon Hour 12 Update

deweys-readathonbuttonProgress:

Number of Books 4 Books Read
Pages Read 1236 Hunting Ground
Time Spent Reading 8:59 The Lightning Thief
Time Spent Blogging 1:53 Dead as a Doornail
The Thief

I just sped through The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner in less than two hours.  If that’s the worst book in the series, as I’ve heard, than I am incredibly excited for the next two, which are conveniently right here beside me.  It’s after midnight now but I’m going to start The Queen of Attolia anyway.  It’s a little longer, but we’ll see how it goes.  That one is possibly my favorite so far, it’s between that and Dead as a Doornail.

I haven’t been participating in too many mini-challenges this time around, but now that I’m making solid progress on my little pile I hope to do so in the next few hours if I can stay awake.  I’m beginning to feel a little more alert now, who knows why.  Keith is also plugging away at his Tomb Raider game, although we’re not sure what level he’s on.  Maybe 13.

Anyway, I also wanted to quickly thank everyone for their kind comments about my great-uncle and for cheering in general.  You are all awesome. =)

Read-a-Thon Hour 10

deweys-readathonbuttonMy progress so far:

Number of Books 3 Books Read
Pages Read 956 Hunting Ground
Time Spent Reading 7:10 The Lightning Thief
Time Spent Blogging ######### Dead as a Doornail

And Keith has hit level 12 of 15 in Tomb Raider.

Of the 3 books I’ve read, I definitely preferred the two urban fantasies.  The Lightning Thief was good and fast, but it felt a little empty, if that makes sense.  It was humorous, but perhaps too childish for me.  Haven’t eaten anything since my last update, either.  It’s now a little after 10 pm for us and we’re both getting tired; we normally head to bed around now, so it’s just a matter of pushing through until we get a second wind.

I had an unhappy phone call this hour; my great-uncle passed away today.  I didn’t know him very well – in fact I hadn’t seen him since I was a little girl – and his death was not unexpected as he had terminal cancer, but it has definitely put a damper on the evening.  I’m hoping to read something fun and start feeling better about life.