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Book Reviews Catch Up February and March 2019

book recommendations reviews for 2019

It is time I caught up with sharing reviews of books I read during February and March, yes I know it's already May! You'll find a mixture of historical fiction and thrillers reviewed below including a book that is due to be published 11 July 2019.
  • A Nearly Normal Family
  • The Missing Girl 
  • Blackberry and Wild Rose 
  • I See You
  • Last Letter Home
I am going to pick out Blackberry and Wild Rose as my favourite historical read, set in London during 1700's and A Nearly Normal Family as a super thriller set in present day Sweden. But do read on to find out more about all of the books including the one I least enjoyed - though you may very well have a different view ☺.

I will never giveaway any spoilers in my reviews, just my honest opinion on how I found the book. So you can read my review with the confidence it will not ruin the story for you.
book recommendations review A Nearly Normal Family
A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A Nearly Normal Family is a gripping psychological thriller that forces the reader to consider: how far would you go to protect the ones you love? In this twisted narrative of love and murder, a horrific crime makes a seemingly normal family question everything they thought they knew about their life—and each other.
Nineteen-year-old Stella stands accused of the brutal murder of a man almost fifteen years her senior. She is an ordinary teenager from an upstanding local family. What reason could she have to know a shady businessman, let alone to kill him?
Stella’s father, a pastor, and mother, a criminal defence attorney, find their moral compasses tested as they defend their daughter, while struggling to understand why she is a suspect. Told in an unusual three-part structure, A Nearly Normal Family asks the questions: How well do you know your own children? How far would you go to protect them? 

My Review

I so enjoyed how the telling of the story developed by hearing it told from each member of the family. First we hear from Stella's father, I was obviously heavily influenced by his opinions of Stella and how he interacted with the families circle of friends. At the end of this section I had clear ideas of who I thought Stella was and the possibilities of what may have happened. Little did I know! 

But then we hear from Stella and everything I thought gets turned on its head. So now I had combined both perspectives as to who, what, where and how Stella had found herself accused of murder. The story has many layers.

Then, we hear from Stella's mother, a criminal defence attorney. Adding more complex twists to the story. As I read the fathers story I felt sure we would hear next from the mothers side but no we moved straight to Stella, the accused. This did throw me, I thought Stella's story would come at the end of the book as part of the big reveal. As you can imagine with any good thriller things are never quite what you expect.

Towards the end of the book I had 4 characters in the mix for the murder, there is nothing obvious about how you expect this book to end. Read the book within four days. 

I've not previously read any books based in Sweden, and found it a fascinating insight into the  Swedish police and judicial system, which is very different to the UK. 

A great psychological thriller with a complex family dynamic, one to add to your to be read pile. 

Published by Pan Macmillan and due out 11 July 2019, thanks to the publishers for sending me a copy to review.

book recommendations review The Missing Girl
The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
'A gripping debut from a serious new talent . . .' Erin Kelly on Jenny Quintana’s The Missing Girl when Anna Flores' adored older sister goes missing as a teenager, Anna copes by disappearing too, just as soon as she can: running as far away from her family as possible, and eventually building a life for herself abroad. Thirty years later, the death of her mother finally forces Anna to return home. Tasked with sorting through her mother's possessions, she begins to confront not just her mother's death, but also the huge hole Gabriella's disappearance left in her life – and finds herself asking a question she's not allowed herself to ask for years: what really happened to her sister? With that question comes the revelation that her biggest fear isn't discovering the worst; it's never knowing the answer. But is it too late for Anna to uncover the truth about Gabriella's disappearance?

My Review
Drawn to this book by the cover, as it stood out amongst the stacks of books in Waterstones.

The story of a teenage girl Gabriella that goes missing, told through her younger sister Anna’s eyes. Years later Anna returns to the village where she lived with her family. The story flips between present time and 1982 the time of Gabriella’s disappearance. Can Anna face the past, can she uncover what happened to her sister all those years ago, will the secrets in the village be told.

A great story, but I found the pace of the first two thirds of the book slow, to the point I nearly put it down for good. But I’m glad I didn’t, the final third of the book picks up the pace and really draws the reader in.

book recommendations review Blackberry Wild Rose Sonia Velton
Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When Esther Thorel, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.
Inside the Thorels’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.
It is silk that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she strikes up a relationship with one of the journeyman weavers in her attic who teaches her to weave and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household.

My Review
A great historical read, set in London during the late 1700's and the Huguenot silk weavers. Right from the start of the book you feel immersed into Sara's world, and the harsh choices that life presents her. With a defiant character Sara will not allow herself to settle for a life of being a maid. This is where we see her go to work for Esther a good christian wife to a master silk weaver. Esther is kind and creative and much admires the beautiful patterns and creations of the silk weaver. 

Her focus however should be the running of the house and having a family, but still Esther is drawn to the silks. When a silk weaver journeyman comes to use one of the looms, she is enthralled by his skill at creating beautiful patterns. 

The relationship between Esther and Sara is not just that of maid and mistress, we see this develop into so much more. Will Sara's past ruin her hopes of becoming a ladies maid, and how can Esther push the boundaries of what a lady is limited to do during this time in history. Can they both find a way to support each other to accomplish their dreams, yet still survive the harshness of reality. A beautifully written book, with great characters of all classes. I enjoyed it so much I read it within a day!

Trust me once you have finished this book and you have much admired the beautiful book cover you will soon be googling to find out more about the silk weavers. 

Thank you to Quercus who sent me a review copy of this book.

book recommendations review I Found You Lisa Jewell
I See You by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'How long have you been sitting out here?''I got here yesterday.''Where did you come from?''I have no idea.'
East Yorkshire: Single mum Alice Lake finds a man on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, no idea what he is doing there. Against her better judgement she invites him in to her home.Surrey: Twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.
Two women, twenty years of secrets and a man who can't remember.

My Review
Another good read by Lisa Jewell, the second book I have read by this author. A suspense thriller set over 2 time periods, present day and 1993. 

I found all the characters interesting, I liked Alice who's life seems to be filled constantly with chaos. I particularly enjoyed the steady paced reveal of Frank, a man how finds himself sitting on the beach in the rain outside Alice's house with no idea of his past or present. 

Poor Lily a newly wed waiting for her husband Carl who wasn't returned home from work. A new husband, new country with no family and friends to turn to except the police. I felt her confusion and annoyance, trying to master our British ways whilst getting answers and finding Carl. But what is she to do when she finds out everything she knows about her new life is a lie.

But how does all this connect back to a quite seaside town in northern England in 1993. 

There was only one part of the story I partly anticipated, but you can never trust it will happen as Lisa Jewell does not disappoint, she is not afraid of an unhappy ending.

book recommendations review Last Letter Home
Last Letter Home by Rachel Hore
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

On holiday with friends, young historian Briony Andrews becomes fascinated with a wartime story of a ruined villa in the hills behind Naples. There is a family connection: her grandfather had been a British soldier during the Italian campaign of 1943 in that very area. Handed a bundle of letters that were found after the war, Briony sets off to trace the fate of their sender, Sarah Bailey.
In 1939, Sarah returns with her mother and sister from India, in mourning, to take up residence in the Norfolk village of Westbury. There she forms a firm friendship with Paul Franklin, a young German who has found sanctuary in the local manor house, Westbury Hall. With the outbreak of war, conflicts of loyalty in Westbury deepen.
When, 70 years later, Briony begins to uncover Sarah and Paul’s story, she encounters resentments and secrets still tightly guarded. What happened long ago in the villa in the shadow of Vesuvius, she suspects, still has the power to give terrible pain. 

My Review
I really did enjoy this book, for some silly reason I'd discounted it before I'd started it which is probably why it had sat on my bookshelf for the past year untouched.  

Young historian Briony discovers some old letters, then whilst on a holiday in Italy she stumbles upon a connection to her family from events that happened in an Italian village during World War II. 

On her return to England she delves deeper into the letters belonging to Sarah to find out how she is connected to Sarah and Paul mentioned in them. The chapters flip between Briony in present day and Sarah and Paul in the 1940's which is set in Norfolk.  As I was reading the parts set in 1940's Norfolk I found I could really place myself within the village setting and the walled garden on the large estate. It certainly helped draw on some memories I had of visiting the area a few years ago. 

Loved all the characters even the not so nice ones! 

A good book and for those of you who also do family history research I think you will get additional enjoyment from the story.

 ~ Leave me a comment if you have any book recommendations, I am particularly looking for good audio books ~

You can keep up to date with my past and present reads by visiting my Goodreads page, see the link in the sidebar on the right hand side of your screen. 

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Audio Book Reviews Discovering A New To Me Crime Thriller Series

audio book reviews

This is second of my book reviews focusing on audio books, and three very different books they are.

The majority of audio books I listen too have a duration of around 12 hours. During the last few weeks I have listen to
  • House of Spies by Daniel Silva (part of a series of books)
  • Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M C Beaton
  • Cold Granite by Stuart MacBride (the first of a series)

All these audio books have been download for free from my local library using the Libby app, which allows you to listen to the book via either a mobile phone or tablet device. The app remembers to sync where you are in the book regardless of the device used, so you can swap between the two. Also the book is download to the app so if you are out and about you are not streaming it and using up your mobile data. Find out more in my Free Library Audio Books Using the Libby App blog post.

My latest Audio Book Reviews 
I will never giveaway any spoilers in my reviews, just my honest opinion on how I found the book. So you can read my review with the confidence it will not ruin the story for you.

Book Review Daniel Silva

House of Spies by Daniel Silva
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book falls into the the spy thriller genre, a complicated twist of international terrorists and security services from across the world.  
Legendary spy, assassin, and art restorer Gabriel Allon is back and out for revenge determined to hunt down the world's most dangerous terrorist, a shadowy ISIS mastermind known only as Saladin. Four months after the deadliest attack on the American homeland since 9/11, terrorists leave a trail of carnage through London's West End. The attack is a brilliant feat of planning and secrecy, but with one loose thread: the French-Moroccan street criminal and ISIS operative who supplied the combat assault rifles. The thread leads Gabriel Allon and his team to the south of France and to the doorstep of Jean-Luc Martel and Olivia Watson. A beautiful former fashion model, Olivia pretends not to know that the true source of Martel's enormous wealth is drugs. And Martel, likewise, turns a blind eye to the fact he is doing business with a man whose objective is the very destruction of the West. Together, under Gabriel's skilled hand, they will become an unlikely pair of heroes in the global war on terror.

My Review
This book is number 17 of the Gabriel Allon series. I should add that I have not read any of the other books in this series, though I don't feel it compromised my understanding. I thought the book read well as a standalone novel, something I am sure is down to the writing skill of the author Daniel Silva. 

Gabriel Allon is a secret agent and art restorer working for the Israeli secret intelligence service. Coordinating across borders and agencies to bring down ISIS terrorist Saladin, who has wreaked havoc with multiply terrorist attacks in capital cities in Europe. 

This is a novel that immerses the reader into the complicated world of international spies, the underhand tactics and colossal amounts of money involved in penetrating the underground world of international terrorists.

Travelling across the globe from apartments in London to glitzy millionaire villas in San Tropez. The scale of the terrorist attacks is frighteningly real. Fast paced and gripping its a novel that requires all your attention from start to finish.

I will at some point I am sure pick up another book in this series, though I am quite sure I can hear some of you tutting that I have not started with the first book but jumped straight in at number 17!

Want to keep up to date with the books I am reading or maybe watch my mini book review videos. Check my Instagram Stories titled Reading Challenge on my GardenTeaCakesandMe Instagram account.

audio book review Agatha Raisin

Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by MC Beaton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Book 5 of 30 

Almost bigamy and absolute murder—Agatha's life is never dull... The morning of Agatha's longed-for marriage to James Lacey dawns bright and clear. But her luck runs out in the church when Jimmy, the husband she had believed long dead, turns up large as life and twice as ugly. Agatha has a go at strangling him. It's all too much for James, who breaks off the engagement. So when Jimmy is found murdered the next day. Agatha and James are both suspects. And they'll have to work together in order to clear their names..

My Review
This audio book is shorter than many at only 6 hours in duration,  and narrated by Penelope Keith. I have watched a few of the Agatha Raisin tv programmes, and enjoyed them, so thought it a safe bet to listen to one of the audio books. I am already familiar with the main characters Agatha Raisin and James her fiancee, along with a few of other occupants of the Cotswold village where they live. 

It's the eve of Agatha and James wedding when Agatha's first husband Jimmy who is not as dead as she thought, turns up. As usual with the Agatha Raisin books the story is told in a humorous manner, though after time I found it also silly and annoying. Not something I had strong feelings about when watching the show. I found after a few hours of listening it was rather irritating. The story moves along keeping the theme of farce and utter ridiculousness.  I also did not enjoy the story being narrated by Penelope Keith, though I do wonder if this was due to the grating story line more than her story telling. 

I gave this audio book 2 stars, and will not be reading or listening to anymore of the 30 odd Agatha Raisin books. I will enjoy just as much watching the tv series.

Cold Granite by Stuart MacBride 
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book 1 of 11 in the Logan McRae series

DS Logan McRae and the police in Aberdeen hunt a child killer who stalks the frozen streets. Winter in Aberdeen: murder, mayhem and terrible weather!

It's DS Logan McRae's first day back on the job after a year off on the sick, and it couldn't get much worse. Four-year-old David Reid's body is discovered in a ditch, strangled, mutilated and a long time dead. And he's only the first. There's a serial killer stalking the Granite City and the local media are baying for blood.

Soon the dead are piling up in the morgue almost as fast as the snow on the streets, and Logan knows time is running out. More children are going missing. More are going to die. And if Logan isn't careful, he could end up joining them!

My Review
A gritty and brutal crime thriller set in Aberdeen, Scotland. I found the story telling by the narrator bound the reader to the investigation and search for a brutal serial child killer. I would be interested to know from anyone who has read the book if they felt the same. This audio book runs for 12 hours, and right from the start you are gripped by the investigation. 

This is a hard hitting story line, involving the kidnapping and murder of children. You feel the urgency and the need of the police to find the killer and the children as soon as possible. These books are not for the weak, it will test your resolve at the description of some of the crime scenes.  You will feel as though you are sitting next to  DS Logan McRae as he interrogates suspects and witnesses.  Thought it is not a case of a straight forward murder investigation, additional crimes and suspects are discovered along the way. It is only as the story progresses it becomes apparent that there are many overlapping suspects and crimes that come about from the initial investigation. 

The police investigation is hindered by newspaper reporter Colin Miller, who is publishing key information about the investigation. Millers character I initial disliked, but through the story I actual grew to enjoy the antagonism between Logan and Miller.

There are great characters to discover in this book my highlights were WPC 'Ball Breaker' Watson, pathologist  Dr Isobel MacAlister also Logan's ex and of course DS Logan McRae. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Steve Worsley's narrating of the audio book, his Scottish accent made it all so real, adding real depth of character to Logan Mcrae. 

One thing for sure I will be reserving more books at the library by Stuart MacBride and exploring the career of DS Logan McRae. 

What's next on my bookshelf

It's Harry Potter all the way at the moment as part of our family book club. I am currently part way through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, so just two more books to go. Then I can hopefully refocus on my reading challenge bookshelf. Though a visit to Harry Potter studios is beckoning!

 ~ Leave me a comment if you have any book recommendations, I am particularly looking for good audio books ~

You can keep up to date with my past and present reads by visiting my Goodreads page, see the link in the sidebar on the right hand side of your screen. 

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Library Audio Books Using the Libby App and Audio Book Reviews

free audio book Libby App library
This blog post is all about free audio books, along with a few reviews of the latest audio books I have listened to during the last few month. 

You can choose to buy audio books via iTunes, Amazon or an audible subscription. I do not buy my audio books, I borrow my audio books from my local library using the Libby App. The Libby App is free to download and has a wide selection of both ebooks and audio books to loan. Check the library section of your local councils website, the app is available for both Android and Apple phones and tablets. You will need to be a member of your library as you need a library card to register the app. 

It operates just like your normal lending library  
free audio books ebooks Libby App library Telford

My favourite Libby features:
  • If a book is already on loan, one click and you are added to the reserve list. You can also see how many are in the queue for the book. You receive an email to notify you when the book is free and it is automatically checked out to you.
  • Add books of interest to a virtual reading shelf, here they are not checked out to you but as a reminder.
  • For ebooks, you can see statistics on how fast you are reading, and an estimate of when you will finish etc.
  • Audio books you can even adjust the speed of the narrator.
  • You can browse by genre, audio/ebooks, latest additions or author etc.
  • You can use the app to request your library to buy new e/audio books for the app. My local library add new books at the beginning of each the month.
  • If you have the app downloaded on a tablet device, and also on your mobile phone it will automatically sync any books you are reading or listening too. So if you start listening to a book on your tablet at home, but decide to go for a walk as long as you have download the book to you phone app if will start at the place you last listened too. 

At certain times to celebrate the wonderful world of books! Libby have a book that has no limit on the number of people who can read it at one time, so as part of a read along everyone can download it if they wish, no waiting in a queue. 

There are plenty of other features on the app these are those I use the most. They are also open to feedback (use the form in the app) and welcome any new suggests for new features. 

If we want to keep our local libraries and access to free books, then we must keep using them. Libraries now offer so much more that just books, please make the effort and visit yours. 

Onto my Latest Audio Book Reviews 

I will never giveaway any spoilers in my reviews, just my honest opinion on how I found the book. So you can read my review with the confidence it will not ruin the story for you. Both books fall under the historical fiction genre, though they are separated not just by continents but many centuries too.

free audio book Libby App The Last Runaway Tracy ChevalierThe Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Synopsis                         The stunning new novel from the bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Honor Bright is a sheltered Quaker who has rarely ventured out of 1850s Dorset when she impulsively emigrates to America. Opposed to the slavery that defines and divides the country, she finds her principles tested to the limit when a runaway slave appears at the farm of her new family. In this tough, unsentimental place, where whisky bottles sit alongside quilts, Honor befriends two spirited women who will teach her how to turn ideas into actions.

My Review
I've read a number of Tracy Chevalier novels and have enjoyed them immensely. I was particularly drawn to The Last Runaway as it involves the main character that enjoys sewing quilts, in fact its a theme that dominates many of the female characters free time. I enjoy crafting sewing and knitting are just a few, and I listened to this book whilst I was doing just that.

The story follows Honor Bright a young English Quaker who leaves Dorset, England with her sister to start a new life in Ohio during 1850. On arrival she is reliant on the help of strangers, and finds it difficult to adjust to both America and Americans. All so very different from her life in in England.

Chevalier writing immerses the reader into the sounds and smells of the burgeoning town where Honor lives. After a very difficult sea journey, Honor finds the help, shelter and employment from Belle and her milliners store, a character that features throughout the book. Honor finds and settles with a family of American Quakers the Haymakers, where she suddenly finds herself helping and supporting the runaway slave network in Ohio.

Donovan is a slave hunter and brother to Belle, who are as different as chalk and cheese. Donovan encounters Honor earlier in her arrival to Ohio and there paths cross regularly. I was expecting there to be more to their encounters, I can't help but think the author missed an opportunity here.

An interesting insight into the lives of the Quakers, I enjoyed the comparisons between British and American customs, food, buildings and even sewing. Not my favourite of Chevalier books but that maybe because I was so very fond of Girl with a Pearl Earring and Lady and the Unicorn, both set in Europe during one of my favourite times of history.

free audio book Libby App The Pagan Lord Bernard CornwellTitle:  The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell 
(book 7 of The Saxon Stories Trilogy)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Synopsis                                From Bernard Cornwell, the New York Times bestselling author whom the Washington Post calls "perhaps the greatest writer of historical adventure novels today,"At the onset of the tenth century, England is in turmoil. Alfred the Great is dead and Edward his son reigns as king. Wessex survives but peace cannot hold: the Danes in the north, led by Viking Cnut Longsword, stand ready to invade and will never rest until the emerald crown is theirs.
Uhtred, once Alfred's great warrior but now out of favor with the new king, must lead a band of outcasts north to recapture his old family home, that great Northumbrian fortress, Bebbanburg.
Loyalties will be divided and men will fall, as every Saxon kingdom is drawn into the bloodiest battle yet with the Danes; a war which will decide the fate of every king, and the entire English nation.

My Review
Browsing the Libby app looking for an audio book that was available immediately, I was drawn to this book for two reasons. Bernard Cornwell an author I have never read but knew was popular and guaranteed a good book. The Last Kingdom and Uhtred I was familiar with, having watched the tv series on the BBC previously. This book is set after this series, and is in fact a novel in a series by Bernard Cornwall, you would need to be familiar with Uhtred to truly appreciate this book.

Cornwall really does immerse you into Uhtred's world, the basic language, the descriptions of the land and battles he finds himself in. You really can smell the stench of death, dirt and decay. 

For such a beast of a man you can not but like Uhtred. Though life should have been so much simpler in those days, if you got the most basic of tasks wrong or just be at the wrong place at the wrong time you would end up dead. A brutal read at times, but absolutely fascinating. 'I am Uhtred, son of Uhtred', yes get used to this for Uhtred says this an awful lot through the story.  

A 12 hour audio book, which half way through I did increase the speed of the reader to 1.25, something I've not done with other books. I felt the story was becoming a little repetitive.

What's next on my bookshelf...

I am currently listening to House of Spies by Daniel Silva a spy thriller. I have also just received notification that Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M. C. Beaton and read by Penelope Keith has been checked out to me. I have been in the queue for this book for sometime, after a friend had recommended this as an audio read. 

Oh and I nearly forgot I am off on a Reading Retreat for a few days, when I will have my nose permanently in a book stopping only for food, drink and the odd natter to my other fellow bibliophiles.

~ Leave me a comment if you have any audio book recommendations ~

You can keep up to date with my past and present reads by visiting my Goodreads page, see the link in the sidebar on the right hand side of your screen. Find out more about my Reading Challenge for 2019, I am making great progress.

What do you think to the text size of this article? I have increased the font size, something I am considering changing on all my posts, as I think the font is too small. Would love some feedback please. 

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2019 Reading Challenge and Plenty of Book Reviews

2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and Me

My 2019 Reading Challenge is off with a gallop. This year I am doing something a little different, it is time I read the books that have been sitting on my bookshelf unread for a number of years. I have written each title on a piece of paper and put them all into a jar, I will pick my next book lucky dip style. The only exceptions being when my niece is ready to read the next Harry Potter book for our family book club or if I have been sent a book by an author or publisher to review. 

Want to keep up to date with which book I am reading or maybe watch my mini videos as I lucky dip for my next read, please check my Instagram Stories titled Reading Challenge on my GardenTeaCakesandMe  Instagram account.

Books read and reviewed so far this year... 

  • A Discovery of Witches 
  • The Queen of the Tearling 
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 
  • The People's Queen
  • The Last Secrets of the Deverills
My latest Book Reviews 
I will never giveaway any spoilers in my reviews, just my honest opinion on how I found the book. So you can read my review with the confidence it will not ruin the story for you.
Book Review A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book 1 of 3 in the All Souls Trilogy
Synopsis Fall under the spell of Diana and Matthew in the stunning first volume of the No.1 internationally bestsellling ALL SOULS trilogy.
A world of witches, daemons and vampires. A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future. Diana and Matthew - the forbidden love at the heart of it.
When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it's an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she's kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana's discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire genticist. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels...
My Review
This is the first time I have read a fantasy supernatural book, so I started it with trepidation and excitement. A Discovery of Witches is set in the present in Oxford, England - a story featuring witches, daemons and vampires living amongst the human race. It was very helpful throughout the story that the author explains the differences between these sub species.

I wanted to be instantly hooked by the book, but the first 90 pages were certainly setting the scene and took me sometime to settle into the writing style and understand the characters. That aside I enjoyed following Diana as she learns to except and discover more of her abilities as a witch, try as she might to ignore she is from a long line of witches.

There is much to explore within the story including the elements of how witches interact with other witches, or vampire and daemons and visa versa. One thing is for sure that witches and vampires should not be attracted to one another. They are enemies, aren't they?

I enjoyed reading more and more about the relationship between Diana and Vampire Matthew, witch vs vampire. The fact that a vampires life can last for hundreds of years, means their take on history is very present and not historical. As the story progresses we are introduced to Matthews 'family' in France and Diana's family in America. Leading to more fascinating knowledge about witches, vampires and daemons.

There are two main themes to the book. An enchanted manuscript that Diana discovers whilst researching for her work at Oxford University, and the implications of this on all sub species. The other being the relationship that builds as a result of this discovery between Diana and Matthew and the challenges of vampire and witch being together, along with the wrath this creates between all witches and vampires.

I am not quite sure I would of picked up this book myself, as I say it is not my normal genre, and yes the whole Twilight thing passed me by. We all know it's always good when a friend buys you a book, particularly when its the introduction to a) a new genre and b) its a trilogy. So this was one great Christmas present from a friend.

I very much enjoyed the story, the characters and in particular the historical elements of the story. This is a long book 650+ pages, but I read it in a week normally I am a late evening reader, but this had me reaching for it during the day. A sure sign I enjoyed it.

No spoilers, but I am very much looking forward to reading the second book...I do love history (that maybe a sneaky clue).

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Book Review The Queen of the Tearling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is book 1 of a trilogy.
Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret by foster parents after her mother – Queen Elyssa, as vain as she was stupid – was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea’s uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea’s 19th birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother’s guard - each pledged to defend the queen to the death - arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding...
And so begins her journey back to her kingdom’s heart, to claim the throne, earn the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother’s legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea's story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance - it's about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive...

My Review
This book is set in a land called The Tearling, it has somewhat familiar names eg New London and as the story develops the history of its people talk of a sea crossing to a new land to escape what sounds like modern day problems. So think future but no tech with a sprinkle of Game of Thrones. Clearly something happened to drive them out to their new land forcing them to take 'The Crossing' as the story develops over this trilogy of books I am expecting all this will be explained.

As the synopsis explains Kelsea Glynn has reached her 18th birthday and can now leave her adoptive aunt and uncle that raised her to claim her throne as eligible heir to the Tearling. The moment she comes out of hiding she is a target for assassins, sent by her uncle Thomas, regent of the throne and puppet of the neighbouring kingdom. With the protection of the Queens Guard we follow Kelsea as she makes the journey to the capital of her land, as she battles to survive long enough to be crowned queen.

One of my favourite characters were the leader of the queens guard 'The Mace' who was also protector of Queen Elyssa, Kelsea's mother. Throughout the story we see the relationship develop between Kelsea and The Mace, she gains his confidence and trust to show she has the skills and strength to become a queen fit to lead her people and country. Though the reader is still left not quite knowing all about The Mace, I am sure there is more to come. I mentioned magic earlier we see this from Kelsea as she settles into her throne, and learn more about the magical jewel she was given to her from her adoptive aunt.

Then there is the Fetch a character that roams the land for the good of the people, think Robin Hood. There are also a number of characters that do not share the same interests as the new queen, and do what they can to thwart her reign. We also find out more about the the Red Queen, the sorceress of neighbouring country of Mortmesme.

I found this an enjoyable read particularly with the focus on a strong female lead, completing the book in 4 days. I usually read at night before I go to sleep, one evening the following week I thought I'm looking forward to reading a bit more of this book - then I remembered I'd finished it. Surely that's sign of just how much I enjoyed it. This was a secondhand bookshop find, so now I'm on the lookout for the next one in this trilogy.

Book Review Harry Potter Chamber of SecretsHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Synopsis  Harry Potter is a wizard. He is in his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Little does he know that this year will be just as eventful as the last...

My Review
Another enjoyable adventure of Harry Potter as he starts his second year at Hogwarts. Some new characters are introduced including young Ginny Weasley, Ron's sister as she starts her first year at school. New teacher for the subject Defense Against the Dark Arts, Gilderoy Lockhart is just fabulous, he made me laugh many a time.

We also discover more of the history of Hogwarts and its creators. It forms an important part of the storyline in The Chamber of Secrets.

The only parts in the book that do not really grab me is more or less anything to do with Quiditch, though there were times in this books that it made me feel a little squeamish.

I will stop my review here as I don't want to spoil it for anyone who is like me new to the books.
Book Review The People's Queen Vanora Bennett

The People's Queen by Vanora Bennett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Synopsis Set in late fourteenth century England, Vanora Bennett's rich, dramatic new novel presents an England uncannily like our own. The country is in turmoil, The King is in debt to the City, and the old order had broken down - a time of opportunity indeed, for those who can seize the moment.

The king's mistress, Alice Perrers, becomes the virtual ruler of the country from his sickbed. Disliked and despised by the Black Prince and his cronies, her strong connections to the merchants make her a natural ally for the king's ambitious second son, John of Gaunt. Together they create a powerful position in the city for one of his henchmen, Geoffrey Chaucer.

In this moment of opportunity, Alice throws herself into her new role and the riches that lay before her, but Chaucer, even though her lover and friend, is uneasy over what he can foresee of the conspiracies around them.

At the centre of these troubled times and political unrest stands the remarkable figure of a woman who, having escaped the plague which killed her whole family, is certain she is untouchable, and a man who learns that cleverness and ambition may for him sit too uneasily with decency and honesty.

My Review
Set during the 14th century after the plague, this story revolves around Alice Perrers mistress to the ageing King Edward III. How does a girl with no money and no status find herself a place as a lady in the royal court. Other major characters include John of Gaunt and Geoffrey Chaucer and how Alice tries to influence both men to gain status and money. Can she hide her past from those who would use it against her.

A theme of the book looks at how a common symbol of the time, the 'wheel of fortune' is used to dictate the ups and downs of peoples power and success. The book is split into sections of the wheel, rising to the top, to back down to the bottom.

This was a fascinating read, with much detail about the royal court, merchants of London and parliament of the time. The book is 533 pages, I enjoyed the beginning and end but 300 pages in it bored me a smidge one of the reasons I gave the book 3 stars.

The Last Secret of the Deverills (Deverill Chronicles, #3)The Last Secret of the Deverills by Santa Montefiore
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The big news about this book is that I did not finish reading it! I just didn't connect with the characters. However I will leave you with the synopsis to allow you to make your own decision on if the book takes your fancy.

SynopsisIt is 1939 and peace has flourished since the Great War ended. But much has changed for the Deverill family and now a new generation is waiting in the wings.Martha Wallace came to Dublin from her home in America to find her birth mother. But instead she has lost her heart to the impossibly charming JP Deverill. Then she discovers that her mother comes from the same place as JP, and her fate seems sealed.
Bridie Doyle, now Countess di Marcantonio and mistress of Castle Deverill, is determined to make the castle she used to work in her home. But her flamboyant husband Cesare has other ideas. And as his eye strays away from his wife, those close to the couple start to wonder if he really is who he says he is.
Kitty Deverill has come to terms with her life with her husband Robert, and their two children. But then Jack O’Leary, the love of her life, returns to Ballinakelly. And this time his heart belongs elsewhere…
Other books read during the month of January
I have listened to a number of audio books, and will post details of these very soon. 

What's next on my bookshelf

You can see just some of the books I have in my luck dip jar waiting to be read in the photo below. Currently I have just picked out Cross and Burn by Val McDermid.
2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge Garden Tea Cakes and Me

 ~ Leave me a comment if you have any book recommendations, I am particularly looking for good audio books ~

You can keep up to date with my past and present reads by visiting my Goodreads page, see the link in the sidebar on the right hand side of your screen. 

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