Friday 30 January 2015

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: January 2015

 It is the end of the month and time for readers to share a good book that they have read during the past few weeks.  hosted by the Armchair Squid we can find many different and varied genres of books to pique our interest.
Join in the fun and share.

The Secret World of Christoval Alvarez
(The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez Book 1)

Ann Swinfen

This is the book I have chosen to share this month.  I gave it a rating of 5* which is rare for me and a book has to be outstanding (in my opinion) to achieve that.  There was one other book I read that was also deserving of a 5* rating but Ann Swinfen just had that little bit more of 'je ne sais quoi' - it was that indefinable quality that made  you invest your thoughts outside of the book into the characters portrayed.  

It is approximately 293 pages  and the first in a series of four books and the next three are available. 

Product Description from Amazon
It is the year 1586. England is awash with traitors, plotting to assassinate the Queen and bring about a foreign invasion. The young physician Christoval Alvarez, a refugee from the horrors of the Portuguese Inquisition, is coerced into becoming a code-breaker and spy in Sir Francis Walsingham’s espionage service. In the race to thwart the plot, who will triumph – the ruthless conspirators or the equally ruthless State?

The year is 1586, Queen Elizabeth I is on the throne and there are plots afoot to replace her with Queen Mary, her sister.   The Alvarez family came to London four years ago as refugees from Portugal. Christoval is working as a trainee physician with his father in a London hospital, living in a house supplied by the hospital.  The story starts in the winter and the author describes the poor living conditions, even sitting in my centrally heated living room I was shivering the description was that good. 

A love of helping people medically combined with a love of mathematics and music leads this brainy youngster in to a position of secrecy after being brought to Marshalsea prison, when his father is not available, to help someone who is sick. The prisoner is a privileged person but even so it is a harrowing experience for Christoval who is so thankful not to be incarcerated himself. 

“The cold London fog, tainted with the smoke of many fires and the sewer scent of the river, seemed pure after the smell of human misery that filled Marshalsea.  I realised that all the while we had been inside the prison; my heart had been struggling like a pigeon trapped in a chimney.  Only now did it steady and slow.”

Now he finds he is helping break codes and his adventures are only just beginning.  

The author brings in great historical detail of the time, political and social aspects of the time are well described, including the theatrical profession which is a nice diversion.  Every page turned or every click of the Kindle is worth reading, there is no page that you want to skip. 
This is the first in a series.  

I look forward to reading the rest of the books.

I would just like to mention a short story I read at the beginning of the month and worthy of a 4* rating - it is only 31 pages and well worth a read as a prequel to his End of Days

The Soul Flies Free
Roland Yeomans

Product Description from Amazon
Doomsday has come … and gone. What can the Spirit of the Earth do when all hope is gone?
Create Hope … or rather a clone of the last Sidhe. But when you’re a small fae girl just awakened to find you are the only hope for the world, the chances for a happy ending seem … hopeless.
The eternal night beckons. Doom is on the horizon. The odds are against her.
But in Faerie, it is wiser to bet against a cornered dragon than a Sidhe.

This is a short story to give us a taste for the novel End of Days but that doesn’t distract from the lyrical writing.  This is not a read to skim and skimp on, you can’t speed read this short story as every word counts, every sentence sets you thinking, every phrase is carefully constructed, every chapter takes us a little further into the journey and the supernatural, alien worlds come to mean something even when you are just young and immature and not worldly wise.  

Illustrated beautifully by Leonora Roy.