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When I picked this up I was a little sceptical, as it had a sticker on it saying, "As good as Lovely Bones or your money back."
Am a little wary of claims like that. However, it looked interesting, so I bought it.
Caroline Winters lives in New Orleans, her mother and sister live in New York, not far from where they lived as children.
The story starts with Caroline in New Orleans, she's trying to think how she can turn down the Christmas invitation to New York. However, she goes. An event in Caroline and her family's past comes up for discussion. There was a younger sister, but she disappeared some years previously, aged 5, and there is speculation that she might have been murdered by someone just about to stand trial for another murder, same sort of circumstances. For the man to be charged with Ellie, the missing sister's murder, she has to be declared dead. Both Caroline and her mother can not bring themselves to do this, the other sister Madeline is quite annoyed, and tells them she can declare Ellie dead herself, but she doesn't.
Caroline and her mother discuss Ellie, and her mother shows Caroline a picture that looks as if it could be Ellie. Caroline promises her mother she will look for Ellie. By New Year Caroline has lost her job and her mother. After the funeral she's determined to find Ellie, and goes to where the picture was taken.
Alongside this narrative is the story of how Ellie came to disappear, and how the family coped with it, then there are letters to an Alaskan called Johan, from Agnes.
I won't spoil the end, but it does end well, yet Amanda Eyre Ward leaves a lot for the reader to surmise, she doesn't give you the bare facts.
It was a very interesting book, and I don't want my money back.

On the front of this book there's a quote from author Manda Scott.

"enticing, inspiring...marries the immediacy of THE DA VINCI CODE with the intellectual rigour of THE RULE OF FOUR"
I haven't read either of those books, but there was definitely something about this one that just hooked me.
Like quite a few books I have read lately it has narratives in different times.
Paul Tomm, the main character has the makings of an investigative reporter, when asked to write an obituary about recently deceased history professor Jaan Puhapaev, he finds mystery surrounds him, and the further he he looks for facts, the more mysterious Jaan Puhapaev appears. Paul Tomm does have a naivety that makes you sometimes want to yell at him in pantomime fashion, "behind you", as he gets himself into some very difficult situations, that it seems to the reader could have been avoided. Yet this is part of his charm as a character. The narrative about Paul Tomm researching is interspersed with the histories of fifteen arcane objects, and the collecting together of them. In this narrative there is a "master of disguises", who at one point is called Abulfaz Akhundov, yet at another has an entirely different name, this man is instrumental in collecting together the objects, and is very ruthless in his methods.
All in all the book is fascinating, and I ended up just sitting reading to finish it, as I was so engrossed.
Then again I knew I was in for a good book when I picked it up, as it is published by Penguin, a publisher that seems to host many good authors.

For further information about Jon Fasman click here. There are more deatils about The Geographer's Library, and his newer book , The Unpossessed City, along with a biography.

Set in the 13th Century, Here Be Dragons is the story of King John and his England. A paradoxical man, he was charming, generous, clever -- and he was unstable and brutal. He was capable of great kindnesses, but he butchered child hostages. He was the youngest son and favorite of Henry Plantagenet, but he would betray his father in order to seize the throne of England. For centuries, history recorded him as a bad king, upon whom the Magna Carta was forced. Yet history also tells us he was intent on bringing a measure of justice to his realm in the face of his greedy barons' refusal to accept the law.

But Here Be Dragons is also the story of Llewelyn the Great of Wales. At 14, he began a civil war; by 21, he held all North Wales. He was John's vassal -- and most bitter enemy. His dream of a free and united Wales, unencumbered by English laws or lords, was to spur a lifelong crusade that left little time for peace or pleasure.

And, at its heart, Here Be Dragons is the story of Joanna: daughter to one, wife to the other. Bastard-born, hidden from her father until her embittered mother's death, then brought, a bewildered five-year-old, to John's court. He would cherish her, cosset her, and yet use her as a political pawn, marrying her off at fifteen to a wild Welsh prince She was terrified, but he was the father she adored and obeyed. Wife to Llewelyn, whom she came to love, daughter to John, whom she worshipped, Joanna was trapped in the crossfire of their implacable enmity.

After reading another of Penman's books - Time and Chance - I knew that I wanted to know more about the Welsh people. Prior to reading T&C, my knowledge of the Welsh was vague at best. Through members of the historical fiction forum I am a member of, I discovered Penman had written a Welsh trilogy. So I managed to buy the three books over the last 7 months and have finally gotten around to reading them.

Overall the book was a good read. Penman does well in her presentation, though I know of at least one other author who might say she portrayed Joanna in too good a light. I cannot argue the point as I'm not well versed in that era of English history, but I do not feel that misinterpreted portrayal takes away from the story. The core of the story is Joanna's struggle between loyalty to her father - who gave her a loving home when she lost her mother at five - and loyalty to her husband.

The only thing negative I can say about the book is something probably most would argue about. I was hoping for a story more focused on Wales. I realise that the history of Wales is inescapably tied to England, I feel that Penman is more than capable of pulling off a more Welsh-centric story than she has. I know she is capable of it because there are chunks of Time and Chance where one of her characters lives in Wales and though related to the monarch, knows little of what is going on outside of Wales.

Still, I would recommend this book to any Penman fan.

Two women are killed in the same horrific, ritualistic manner. The murderer taunts the police with e-mails. It seems clear that a serial killer is at work, selecting victims at random and living out some twisted fantasy.

But, as Jan Fabel and his murder team investigate further, nothing is at it first seems. They are drawn into a dark half-world of Viking myth and legend, of obscure religious cults, of political intrigue and of a violent struggle to seize control of the city.

And as Fabel desperately races to track down the killer before more killings take place, he and his team come face-to-face with a cold, brutal menace they could never have predicted.

A greater evil than they could ever have imagined.

This is a very well written book, the only difficulty I had was the various rank in the German police hierarchy, but these are explained before the story begins. It definitely was one of those books I have difficulty putting down, and found myself reading in preference to watching TV.
The end was conclusive, but inconclusive, leaving it wide open for another story about Jan Fabel and his team. I will give one word of warning however, there are parts of the story where there are some very blunt descriptions, so it isn't for you if you tend to be squeamish.

This was a difficult book to get my teeth into at first. I kept putting it down, then all of a sudden the plot opened up and swallowed me in. I think the fact the narrative is set in two time frames, Bruno, the main character's present, and his time at boarding school. As a narrator he seems to be brutally frank about himself, but as the narration is first person, there is always a shadow of a doubt as to whether the narrator is reliable or not, I think in this case Bruno is, due to his very frank statements about himself.
The title of the book "Serious Things" seems an odd choice at first, until you realise that Bruno has "Serious Things" on his mind, whilst his old school friend seems to have left one institution for another, [boarding school- university- marriage,] letting other people think for him, despite his apparent confidence with life. Anthony is only as self-important as his "audience" allows him to be, and he chooses carefully.
Anyway, those are just my thoughts on finishing it about the two main characters.

At boarding school, in the early nineties, shy and lonely Bruno is desperate for friendship; egotistical Anthony needs an admirer. Their unlikely alliance is strengthened further when they are singled out by a young, idealistic teacher. But when he drops them, the outcome is more destructive than any of them could have imagined.
Years later, Bruno thinks he has buried the past until a chance encounter with Anthony forces him to confront it. He must decide how far he is prepared to go to assuage his guilt - and how far Anthony will let him.

Why this book has sat unread on my bookcase for so long I really don't know.
On the front cover of my says "Three secrets, two women, one grail"
I really don't know if that encompasses the novel enough
Throughout the narrative is split between Alice in the 20th Century, and Alais in the late 13th century, the novel is not confusing in the slightest.
I found that I really couldn't put the book down, staying up late into the night to finish it.
I know Blue has also read this novel, pre-blog set up. I also know she enjoyed it as well, as she loves "grail" novels.

I will say that I am looking forward to reading Sepulchre soon.

I'm just going to muscle my way into Sea's post to add my own bit about this book. I read it several months ago, possibly even a year ago now, but never got around to blogging about it. *rolls eyes* I have enjoyed all of the various books I've read involving the Knights Templar and any of the related topics - such as this - and Labyrinth was no exception. I know others from HFO have wall-slammed the book for whatever reason, but I am one of the few who have truly enjoyed it.

As Sea stated above, it was not difficult to follow jumping back and forth between centuries because it was mostly broken up along chapter lines. This is one of those books which shed light more on the Cathars and how they came to be related with the Knights Templar. It's a very moving book about people who stood strong in their faith, which I think anyone should respect.

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