Saturday, July 14, 2012

Master of Verona by David Blixt

Master of Verona. David Blixt. St. Martin's Griffin. September 2008. 592 pages pbk. ISBN #: 9780312361440 .

Pietro Alaghieri (Palio) is 17 years old at the opening of this novel and definitely a boy constantly being corrected by his father, the famous poet Dante who wrote "The Inferno." But Palio will soon prove himself as a man as he inadvertently becomes involved in a battle led by "Cangrande" or Francesco della Scalla.  Palio is wounded and remains lame in one leg.  That, however, does not daunt Palio as he continues to repeatedly prove his fierce bravery and loyalty.

Sounds like a simple plot, right?  Not at all.  Words can hardly convey the depth of plot, characterization, battle scenes, political intrigue, et al contained in these amazing pages!  To begin with, Palio's father has been exiled from his native Florence and his writings are considered brilliant by many but also heretical by many others, who make the sign of the evil eye when he passes.   Then there is Cangrande's sister, an enigmatic woman who seems to have a very strong affect on her brother, who will later bring up a mysterious child predicted to have a formidable role in Italian politics, and who knows her brother and his secrets like no other friend or foe!  

Feuding between the Northern medieval cities is a constant, with agreements and betrayals interspersed with battles described in realistic detail.  Astrology is a foremost aspect in the lives of all characters, laced with the warnings of a church divided within itself.  The quest for power fuels all!

Poetry and prose are aptly included, with a fascinating look at the publishing (or copying in reality) process described through the character of Palio's sister.  A strong allusion to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is present in the war between two of Palio's friends over a woman, with a fierce battle not ending the debacle.

Finally, there's a plot conceived by two main characters that does not become clear until the end but is masterfully carried out.  Who, out of the mysterious prophecy, will be the "wolf" leader bound to unite Italy and create a new destiny for this war-besieged country?

Master of Verona cannot be simply described but MUST be experienced.  David Blixt is a brilliant, talented writer whose novels will be relished by all lovers of historical fiction and those who love a great story full of intelligence, wit, humor, adventure, romance, and so much more!  So, well-done, David Blixt!

Patriots by David Frum

Patriots. David Frum. CreateSpace Publication. May 2012. 484 pages, pbk. ISBN #: 9781475141962.

Well-known and vague commentators state that the political system in Washington is rotten to the core and needs to be scrapped and reshaped.  David Frum, former economic speechwriter for President George W. Bush, has given the reader a look at the inner machinations and nefarious actions of America's most powerful Senators, lobbyists, assistants, radio commentators, bloggers and anyone else therein.

Walter Schotzke, rich playboy son of the famous "mustard" family name, is mandated to employment by his grandmother who has had enough of his free-wheeling, uneducated, partying lifestyle.  Initially, he is assigned to work as an assistant to an eminent Senator who supposedly is a fierce supporter of the "Constitutionalist" (Republican?) Party.  But things begin to run amok when the newly elected President states he will be working to cross party-lines in all decisions, and the ire of the Constitutionalist Party awakens to become a destructive monster determined to destroy the President.

There's a war in Mexico and a horrific attack occurs in which it is believed that traitors within were responsible for the death and kidnapping of American soldiers.  Add to that an economy that is about to tank, with a plan to rescue the looming crisis by taxing new homeowners, and the picture becomes clear.  Other similar nightmarish scenarios follow.

What is specifically horrific is the political blurring of fact and fiction used by behind-the-scenes, well-paid agents of change who shape the news and thereby shape public policy enacted by our local and national politicians.  Is this news?  Not really to any intelligent, news-savvy, aware citizen but the blatant way Frum depicts the opulence and vicious nature behind the attacks is, as obviously intended by the author, quite revolting. The reader spends an inordinate amount of time working out who the "real" people behind this account are and the party affiliations, a process not very hard to decipher.

For those who eat up the Washington scene and the big players there, Patriots is a must read. It's satirical qualities reek off every page.  Walter Schotzke starts off as an ignorant "yes" man but evolves into a man wanting to know all the facts and fiction and believing that the "truth" (which is very hard to figure out) must be allowed to rule the day rather than the "rotten in Denmark" conditions.  

The reader is left to decide what the solution is, if one exists!  After all, this is fiction, isn't it?

A bit overdone but all in all, a clever account of political fiction, David Frum!

The Trouble With Pilots by Kristi Ahlers

The Trouble With Pilots. Kristi Ahlers. Tirgearr Publishing. April 2012. 45 pp. or 126 KB - print or e-book format.  

Sarah Harper is off to Paris to design her best friend's wedding dress.  The problem is she is absolutely petrified of flying.  She's beside herself as she sits down for the flight.  How surprised is she to find an ex-pilot, Trey Chasen, is sitting next to her.  The combo of her medication to relax her and the scent and relaxed manner of her seatmate wind up bringing out an outrageous, totally unplanned reaction before they land!  While she's embarrassed, he's fascinated and wants to spend more time with this funny but intriguing, sexy gal!

Now Sarah has previously dated a pilot and thinks they all have egos bigger than the skies in which they regularly fly!  But Trey Chasen is blowing that image out of the skies, and Sarah is starting to like the new thoughts electrifying her body and mind!

Where will this hot romance lead?

The second novelette in The Troubles series, this story again is short but oh so satisfying and  passionate! Again, very nicely done, Ms. Ahlers!

The Trouble With French Kisses by Kristi Ahlers

The Trouble with French Kisses. (Book 1 of The Trouble Series).  Kristi Ahlers. Tirgearr Publishing. February 2012. 43 pp. or 118 KB - print or e-book. 

Hannah Walsh hardly expects to fall so fast to a French aristocrat, Damien Jacques, descended from a French King and owner of a successful wine vineyard.  

Hannah's last romance had severely injured her self-image, but she's managed to restore some of it with her job with Louis Vuitton and the breathtaking view in Paris. After a first date at the lively Moulin Rouge, she finds herself more and more interested in Damien but is still hesitant, having learned that men with large egos are more self-centered than interested in caring and loving a woman.

However, Damien shows signs of intelligence, wit, and humility as he takes her through the more famous Parisian sites such as Versailles and even his own home, where the lights truly begin to turn on - and not from the regal surroundings!  

So how is it that they are arrested for kissing? Find out about a law rarely enforced except this one time!

This is a very short but lovely novelette that all lovers of the romance fiction genre will eat up quickly and want more!  Terrific story, Ms. Ahlers!