c 2019 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) and Me

Favourite Books of 2019

I’ve read 70 books this year, far more than the 45 I had targeted to read. I started the year with the first book of The Discovery of Witches trilogy, though I still have the final book to read. I will be finishing the year reading The Hunting Party, a thriller set in a remote castle in the Scottish Highlands during the New Year. A special mention to a few book series I have read during the year, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and also The Queen of the Tearling.

Keep reading to find out my favourite ten books of the year

Goodreads Reading Challenge statistics
I have read some outstanding books during the year, I’m going to list my top ten, in no particular order.  Are you ready...

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Tidelands by Philipa Gregory
The Corset by Laura Purcell
Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
Blackberry & Wild Rose by Sonia Velton
The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
Waykenhurst by Michelle Paver
Monsters by Emerald Fennell
Cold Granite by Stuart MacBride
The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Eight of my ten favourite books were historical fiction. This answers a question I am often asked as to what is my favourite genre. If you are looking to keep track of the books you read during the year I recommend Goodreads

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

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More Book Reviews

Book Reviews Book Blogger What to read next

It's the beginning of August 2019 and 7 months into the year I have reached my Goodreads Reading Challenge. I've read or listened to 45 books! A target I thought I may just achieve when I set it at the beginning of the year. How wrong I was, clearly I'm going to need to stretch myself a little more on the reading front in 2020. 

I have a real mix of book reviews for you, a gothic thriller, a black comedy, an action thriller and a funny Birmingham based book written by the poet Laureate of Birmingham.
Book Review Monsters from Killing Eve Emerald Fennell

Monsters by Emerald Fennell
I scored this book 4/5 on Goodreads
Synopsis: A blackly comic tale about two children you would never want to meet. 
Set in the Cornish town of Fowey, all is not as idyllic as the beautiful seaside town might seem. The body of a young woman is discovered in the nets of a fishing boat. It is established that the woman was murdered. Most are shocked and horrified. But there is somebody who is not - a twelve-year-old girl. She is delighted; she loves murders. Soon she is questioning the inhabitants of the town in her own personal investigation. But it is a bit boring on her own. Then Miles Giffard, a similarly odd twelve-year-old boy, arrives in Fowey with his mother, and they start investigating together. Oh, and also playing games that re-enact the murders. Just for fun, you understand... 
A book about two twelve-year-olds that is definitely not for kids. 

Monsters by Emerald Fennell, is a well written black comedy, a dark and disturbing book ❤︎ ✒.
It features two children who meet on holiday in Cornish seaside town of Fowey, with a very unhealthy interest when a local woman is murdered.
Written in the style of a children's book that is very definitely for adults.

We meet the 12 year old narrator of this story, a troubled young orphaned girl with an unsettled upbringing. She worried me a great deal when I started this book and then she meets Miles, also 12. He is truly creepy. I did have some sympathies for the girl towards the end, but her pairing with Miles was never going to turn out well for the town.

Elements of it reminded me of the teen black comedy film Heathers, with a dash of Killing Eve, which incidentally the author wrote season 2.  

Book Review Book Series Jack Reacher
Never Go Back by Lee Child
I scored this book 5/5 on Goodreads

After an epic and interrupted journey all the way from the snows of South Dakota, Jack Reacher has finally made it to Virginia. His destination: a sturdy stone building a short bus ride from Washington D.C., the headquarters of his old unit, the 110th MP. It was the closest thing to a home he ever had.
Why? He wants to meet the new commanding officer, Major Susan Turner. He liked her voice on the phone. But the officer sitting behind Reacher’s old desk isn't a woman. Why is Susan Turner not there?
What Reacher doesn’t expect is what comes next. He himself is in big trouble, accused of a sixteen-year-old homicide. And he certainly doesn't expect to hear these words: ‘You’re back in the army, Major. And your ass is mine.’
Will he be sorry he went back? Or – will someone else?
My Review
It's been 7 months since I picked up my last Jack Reacher instalment and I was eager to meet up with him again. Yes I know he is not real! Yes I also know that Tom Cruise is no Jack Reacher. When I collected this book from my library I was more than a little 'erked that the man that is no Jack Reacher was pictured on the front, needless to say the book was facedown when not being read. There I think I have gotten that little issue off my chest.

As always with Lee Child its a formula that works well, I was hooked by the storyline from the very start. We have been previously introduced to the other lead character in this book Major Susan Turner, who Reacher has been speaking to and also keen to meet in a number of previous books. When he arrives at his old army base Major Turner is not there, she is under military arrest, there is no way Reacher is just going to walk away. It is not long before he also finds himself under arrest for two separate crimes that happened years previous when he was in the army. He finds himself for the sake of national security re-enlisted in the US Army! Major Reacher will stop at nothing to clear both himself and Major Turner of their crimes.

A cracking Jack Reacher instalment, do not make the mistake of watching the film version it is truly abysmal!  The book which lets face it is always better than the film is available from Amazon

Waykenhyrst Gothic thriller book recommendation

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver
I scored this book 5/5 on Goodreads
Synopsis: 1906: A large manor house, Wake's End, sits on the edge of a bleak Fen, just outside the town of Wakenhyrst. It is the home of Edmund Stearn and his family – a historian, scholar and land-owner, he's an upstanding member of the local community. But all is not well at Wake's End. Edmund dominates his family tyrannically, in particular daughter Maud. When Maud's mother dies in childbirth and she's left alone with her strict, disciplinarian father, Maud's isolation drives her to her father's study, where she happens upon his diary.
During a walk through the local church yard, Edmund spots an eye in the undergrowth. His terror is only briefly abated when he discovers its actually a painting, a 'doom', taken from the church. It's horrifying in its depiction of hell, and Edmund wants nothing more to do with it despite his historical significance. But the doom keeps returning to his mind. The stench of the Fen permeates the house, even with the windows closed. And when he lies awake at night, he hears a scratching sound – like claws on the wooden floor...

My Review
Wakenhyst has to be my favourite read in June. It is also my first ever gothic novel, I was worried it would be let's say a little scary. No, no, no it was the perfect balance of historical mystery. The Suffolk fens creates a dark and mysterious setting for a murder. From the start we know the killer is Edward but it's the why we start to unravel as we read.
I was so absorbed with the character Maud, I found her fascinating and beautifully written and felt real empathy for her.
If this is gothic thriller then give me more!

This book is available from to buy in paperback

Book recommendation Benches by Jan Watts Birmingham
Benches by Jan Watts
I scored this book 4/5 on Goodreads
Synopsis: Nancy Byrde tells us her version of the canal side goings on that spice up her retirement. Together with her dog, Steven, she gets close to her family, the good and the evil. She dices, with drugs, violence, a teenage runaway and being over exposed at a wedding she wasn't invited to. Will she find a new happiness? Benches is set in and around Birmingham in the UK. The names of places has been changed to protect the innocent. It grew out of an encounter with a bench that had been graffitied with a rude word. 

My Review
What a surprise and very enjoyable read. A book purchased when the author attended a local literary festival, and gave a talk about the book and her poetry, Jan Watts was the poet Laureate of Birmingham city in the UK between 2011-12.
The book follows Nancy, who is retired and lives near the canals of Birmingham with her dog Stephen. Along the canal towpath there are three benches which Nancy knows very well, which through her doorstep adventures we also get to know.

Who would of thought a book about what goes on at three benches along a canal would be so very entertaining. Along with her very eccentric family and the postcards from her friend who is off on a world tour, there was plenty of tittering going on - just wait until you get to the bit about her gatecrashing a wedding and the swimming pool!

A very enjoyable book, one I would not hesitate to recommend.

You may struggle to get a copy in a bookshop but I have found it available on the Bookshop.org website, a supporter of independent book shops. 

Another batch of my book reviews shared with you, I hope you find them useful. I am still reading on even though I hit my reading challenge. So there will certainly more reviews heading your way. 

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. 

Have you read any good books of late?

If you choose to buy any of the books I recommend from Amazon or Bookshop.org please choose to use my affiliate link, I want you to know how grateful I am. These extra pennies will help me bring you more book reviews.
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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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