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

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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