Saturday, August 11, 2012

Blood upon the Rose; Birdie Down; and Pig

Today I have an outstanding book by Tim Vicary called The Blood Upon the Rose. The title made me think of a song I have called Grace by the Dubliners (sung here by a young Irish girl -  Irish Song Grace - YouTube  ); an old Irish song about a man who is to be executed but marries his sweetheart just before his dawn execution. (Also  see Grace Irish ballad (Dubliners) cover - YouTube  or  The Dubliners - Grace-HQ - YouTube  for lyrics and music.)  I found it interesting at the end of the book that the title apparently did come from the words in the song.

The Blood Upon the Rose
By Tim Vicary
Publisher White Owl
Length about 350 pages

From Amazon:
Ireland in 1919 is seething with violence, tension and divided loyalties - and so is the heart of the beautiful, wilful heiress Catherine O'Connell-Gort. For Catherine, by heritage, is a glittering symbol of British rule and oppression - yet by inclination she is a traitor to her class. A fervent supporter of Sinn Fein, she is also the secret lover of Sean Brennan, an IRA volunteer who is being hunted by the police for terrorism and murder.
      When the British government decides to meet terror with terror, Catherine finds herself in a position of even greater conflict. Her father, a colonel in British Military Intelligence, recruits Major Andrew Butler, battle-scarred war hero and Irish landlord, to assassinate IRA leader Michael Collins. He also decides that the dashing major would make the perfect husband for his headstrong daughter ...
In a violent climax of passion, guilt and betrayal, while her country hurtles towards civil war, Catherine faces and a agonising choice as she makes her final, fateful decision.

About the Book: 
   Catherine is a wealthy, highborn heiress but during her medical training, she falls for a young man, Sean, of lesser breeding. Catherine is not hiding her moral support of Sinn Fein but Sean is hiding a dreadful secret, one Catherine discovers by accident when her life is put in danger by Sinn Fein rebels. However, that doesn't change the way Catherine feels about Sean. When she does give herself to him, she has no regrets. Only when Catherine comes face to face with the murder of a police commander does she start to question what is really necessary to win Irish freedom. 
   Meanwhile, her father, Sir Jonathan, has dark secrets of his own as he works to get control of the rebellion and find Michael Collins. Even as he makes a deal with the devil, he knows it is wrong and can only end badly.
He engages the services of Andrew and even as he is asking Andrew to commit the foul act of eliminating Collins, Sir Jonathan thinks Andrew might be a fine choice of a husband for Catherine. Although Catherine's heart is set for Sean she begins to see some good qualities in Andrew, as well up to a point.

My Take:
    This is an outstanding book and though most of the characters were pitted against each other, I took to each and every one of them.  It was hard to say what I wanted to happen in the book as I wanted each character to succeed which was impossible. The very main characters, Kee the policeman, Andrew the young man scarred in the war and who recently lost his house to arson, Sean freedom fighter, and Catherine the traitor to her class, were so complete that one minute I was angry with them and the next I was pulling for them to 'win'. I can't say enough about how good the writing is and how completely the story takes the reader in.
    The bit of history the book explores is just enough for me to wonder how much is historical fact and how much is simply excellent story telling. As I read the book, my appetite was whetted for more of the history of that time.  How did the Irish win, when did they win, and why do we have Ireland and Northern Ireland?
    A more absorbing book which engages the reader would be hard to find, though perhaps those reading other genres might differ. However, my special genre is Science Fiction, and yet this book had me from the very start. 

I most highly recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction, tragic love stories, or just plain good books. 


On another note, I have two pieces to introduce you to that normally wouldn't make the cut for this blog. I don't bring you anything less than a three star level book, as I am trying to introduce you to good to excellent work.  Sometimes, though, there are books that just have that something or authors who shine in some areas to the point you want to tell people about them.  These are books to be put on your 'watch list' since down the road either the book or the author will improve to be one of the best. Sometimes there are stories which have such a compelling undercurrent it is wise to let people know they exist, flaws and all.

Birdie Down
By Jim Graham
62,047 words

From Smash Words:
The third generation residents of the resource-rich New Worlds are seeking to throw off the yoke of corporate rule. Ex-Resource War veteran, Sebastian Scatkiewicz and his colleague, Andrew 'Birdie' Goosen, have dared to take on the biggest company of them all. Hot from attacking the Lynthax Corporation head offices on Trevon and then on G-eo they're planning to attack a third. But there's friction in the rebel camp. Scat's ignoring the advice of colleagues. His personal beef with Jack Petroff, Lynthax's head of security, is affecting his judgement; his friends and political masters are doubting his motives; and the loyalty of the newest recruits is far from certain...

About the Book:
The rebels have just taken a ship that gives them an edge in their cause. Trouble is, they bite off more than they can chew ending up stranding Birdie and his crew on the planet surface with no way to save them.  Will Birdie survive until the rebels figure out how to save him? Will trying to save Birdie doom the revolution? And how about those new recruits that can be bought; will they stay true to the cause or simply sell out again?

My Take:
     This is a great yarn, a gun blazing adventure, with just enough horror to give you a feel for the dangers lurking on the planet. Graham did a good job of creating first tier and second tier characters. The story had me turning pages as fast as I could and I was sad when it ended. This book is part of a larger work called Scat so it does sort of start in the middle of the action much like short stories do. The good news is there is more to the story.
    I really liked this book so why didn't Birdie Down make the cut to our blog (as a single entry)? Because it needed much more editing. In fact, I found many of the mistakes distracting which is unfortunate because the tale was quite good. 

Why am I bringing it to your attention?
 One, the story was strong and the characters interesting; two, I think Jim Graham is an author we will see more of if we encourage him a little; and three, Graham has done some more editing and the book is offered FREE so you can see if you enjoy Graham's writing style for only the investment of time. Please, if you do get a chance to read this one, let me know what you think of it. Feedback is always nice for both me and the author.

By SBR Martin
Published by Authors' Orchard
length 217 pages

About the book:
This book centers on Lily who is attending her abusive husband's viewing.  We learn about her life through a series of flashback (fairly well done) and some conversations. This is a haunting story, delving into the thoughts and emotions of a woman who sticks with a man who is so clearly different then herself and is abusive to boot! One thing that will put some readers off is the graphic nature of sex in the very beginning of the book. I almost put it down because it read so much like porn. This is a stern warning to anyone who does not like graphic sex or language.

Why I think you should know about this book:
The writing is decent, the editing is good but most of all many people seem to find the undercurrents in the book  fascinating. The book was a quarterfinalist in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Awards, so I believe it deserves mention here. Besides, Lily is an interesting character as is her friend Leo. It is a controversial book and the background as it gets revealed could be of real interest to some people.

Why it didn't make the cut:
Martin tends to write a wonderful description of a scene or action with beautifully crafted sentences with lovely words only to spoil it by telling you what she said just in case you missed her meaning. During the story it wasn't terrible, though I found it quite distracting, but to have the shoe drop at the end of the story only to have the author explain how the whole story went together was too much.  While I was reading I kept asking myself Why?; why did Lily stay, why did Lily not leave when she could have, and why does Martin think abused women think like this?  I only kept reading because I was wondering what Lily was holding in her hand so tight.


  1. It's not often that both Sunday and I read the same book, but in the case of "Pig" I asked her to take a look at it. I was having a tough time with the seaminess of it all, but was completely captured by the story. Lily is an unforgettable character, in spite of the fact that she's made some stupendously bad choices and has a life none of us would want. She tries very hard to be what she considers an honorable woman, but her definition is colored by her background, her bad choices, her lack of an education that would help her sort things out, and her inability to get away from a hopelessly bad situation.

    The situation is so graphically described that we recoil, yet I believe it's a depiction of a reality that is out there. Much like the movie "Mean Streets" where you are dropped into the lives of neer-do-well, hard-drinking, violent and often truly nasty people, you see their good points and bad, and that movie has, in spite of it's gritty awfulness, become a cult classic. I think that same awful reality in "pig" ma be why it's gained so many good reviews.

    I wouldn't take Lily's life on a platter, but her life makes me think, and while there were times I felt I needed a shower just reading it, there are lives like these, and people like Lily out there, and we find ourselves able to understand, to some degree, in spite of their tragedy.

  2. I was the head writer on the "Republibot" website for about five years ( HTTP:// - feel free to strip the link if you feel it's extraneous) and in that time a *LOT* of manuscripts and self-published novels came across my desk, most of which were pretty awful. In five years, I only gave two positive reviews for self-published SF, and Birdie Down was far and away the better of the two.

    Given all the dross out there, merely being 'not terrible' is enough to get you a decent review, but this one surprised me. It was a genuinely good book. All the more remarkable for being so rare.

    So: Thanks for pointing it out to your readers. I agree, the author's got some serious potential, and he seems serious about honing it.


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