Author: fantasyst95

Shelf Control #76 – 29/03/2024

I break away from my recent deluge of non-fiction books in this series with today’s Shelf Control feature. The three posts I’ve shared so far this year have all featured non-fiction of various topics. Today, we get to explore a historical fiction novel that is unique for me in that it covers World War II from a German perspective.

Before we get into the detail, here’s a reminder of what my Shelf Control feature is all about!

Shelf Control is a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It’s a celebration of the unread books on our shelves! The idea is to pick a book you own but haven’t read and write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

If you want to read more about the Shelf Control feature, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

 

Playing with Matches – Lee Strauss

Genre: Historical fiction

Pages: 311

Audience: Young Adult

Publisher: ESB Publishing

Publication Date: 16 Nov 2012

 

 

Goodreads – Playing with Matches

Heinz Schultz’s word could send a man to prison. Though only a youth of fifteen, he was strong, tall, and blond. The boys in his Deutsches Jungvolk unit esteemed him and feared him.

And they wanted to be just like him.
Emil Radle wanted to be just like him.

A dedicated member of Hitler Youth, Emil was loyal to the Fuehrer before family, a champion for the cause and a fan of the famous Luftwaffe Air force.

Emil’s friends Moritz and Johann discover a shortwave radio and everything changes. Now they listen to the forbidden BBC broadcast of news reports that tell both sides. Now they know the truth.

The boys along with Johann’s sister Katharina, band together to write out the reports and covertly distribute flyers through their city. It’s an act of high treason that could have them arrested–or worse.

As the war progresses, so does Emil’s affection for Katharina. He’d do anything to have a normal life and to stay in Passau by her side. But when Germany’s losses become immense, even their greatest resistance can’t prevent the boys from being sent to the Eastern Front.
***

Enjoy reading this well-researched, dramatic story of what it was like to be a teenager in Hitler’s Germany. A slightly different perspective than many world war two novels.

 

My Thoughts

It’s not the first time I have read historical fiction from a German perspective. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak sounds similar to Playing with Matches in terms of setting, and it was a book I rated very highly! I love the sound of the synopsis and the danger these youth find themselves in. This book differs from The Book Thief in that is focuses on the oppressors rather than the oppressed Jews. That is a perspective I’ve not read before, so I am intrigued! 

If I’m honest, I am a little wary of representation given that the synopsis alludes to BBC broadcasting as the truth. I don’t know if this was the case, but it’s very likely it was propaganda in itself. The truth likely lay somewhere in the middle of the messages the allies and Germans were told. I’ll take that with a pinch of salt and otherwise see where the narrative takes us.

Whilst the characters in this book are fictional, the scenario in itself was very much real. Real people would have filled these character shoes and had to endure these experiences. That’s partly why I enjoy historical fiction around this topic so much. It’s harrowing, but it’s also an important reminder of what has happened to real people in the not-too-distant past.

Have you read Playing with Matches or any other World War II fiction set from a German perspective?

 

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Book Review: Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobb

Today, I review a book on my review backlist – Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb! I’ve published a few review for blog tours of late. It’s been fun, and I want to keep up momentum of reviews and recommendations. 

I first picked up the book on the recommendation of my friend Rachael. She loves Robin Hobb and I gave her a go based on that recommendation. I haven’t looked back since! Since reading Assassin’s Apprentice in 2022 I’ve gone on to read 5 further books in the Realm of the Elderlings series and loved every one. I’m also hoping to read Fool’s Errand soon and return to Fitz and his adventures.

But, I guess I need to introduce you to him first! So, let’s crack on!

 

Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobb

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 392

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: 01 April 1995

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

Goodreads –  Assassin’s Apprentice

In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.

Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as the Wit – gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.

So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.

 

My Thoughts

Plot

In Assassin‘s Apprentice, we follow a young boy who is known to us as Fitz. In the opening of the narrative, he is just a small child, dropped off at the home of his father who is absent. Instead, he is cared for by his loyal man and stable master Burrich.

Fitz is eventually brought into the royal household, but his duties are far from regular. He serves the crown by training and executing his duty as the royal assassin. Not only that, but he is an irregular boy. Fitz shows signs of a form of magic frowned upon. Having been a part of his identity all his life, he fails to see why the superstition of others should prevent him from bonding with animals. It’s a point of conflict throughout an I expect this to become even more prominent in the later series. 

If you enjoy fantasy with plenty of political intrigue, then this book is a great foundation for a series rife with it! I really enjoyed the depth and attention to detail even in this opening book. It is shorter than the sequels to this mini series within the Realm of the Elderlings universe. Even so, it really paves the way and draws the reader in. Honestly, this description of the book really doesn’t do it justice, but I doubt I ever could!

 

Setting

Western medieval fantasy fans will be in their element. The vast majority of this first book is set in the location of Buckkeep. Home to the Royal family, it is where Fitz is brought as a young boy and we watch him progress into adolescence and role in court.

It is a very typical setting on its own, but it is vastly complimented by the introduction to the wider landscape and universe that Robin Hobb writes so well. We start to see some of this landscape explored in this first book and it adds a great deal of contrast to the political landscape we otherwise spend our time exploring.

 

Characters

Fitz is a wonderful and complex protagonist, and his perspective is one that I have enjoyed the most out of the series so far. At first I was a little bit disappointed when the second mini series deviated from his character arc. However, I quickly got over that because that set of books follow a completely different (but equally impressive) character set. I am excited to be going back to his storyline in the next mini series though, I can’t lie.

Fitz it’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster in that his relationships with the people around him are constantly changing. Dynamics constantly ebb and flow, and it makes the events taking place in the book feel even more tangible and like real life.

In reality, Fitz is one of many in-depth characters in the series. There are many prominent characters in their own right, such as Verity, the Fool, Chade and Burrich. They all ultimately help shape and support the man Fitz becomes. Even beyond that, every character introduced has their part to play, however major or minor.

 

Narrative Style

Personally, I find Robin Hobb to be an author to take on the slower side. These books aren’t the quickest in terms of pace or readability. But, with the amount going on at any one time, that’s not a bad thing. There is a lot of depth and detail to take in and turn over.

Assassin’s Apprentice itself isn’t so bad, but this comes into play more as you get further into the series. I love these books, but I feel it’s only fair to advise this to potential future readers to manage expectations. There have been times I have wanted to read her books more quickly, but I’m not able to. You may have a completely different experience and find it easy to rattle through her narrative. If you do, that’s great! When it comes to Robin Hobb, I’m a “slow and steady wins the race” kind of girl.

In terms of the written style itself, I find there is a good balance of action, as well as world-building and general description. There is no lack of detail in these books, and especially so in this introduction. It’s the shortest of the series I’ve read so far, with the longest being near 900 pages. Even across these vastly different page ranges, the writing style is consistent throughout. Robin Hobb has a knack of lifting events off the page and portraying it vividly in the readers mind.

 

Summary

If you are looking for a new epic fantasy series to start, and aren’t intimidated by a large number of books (or page count), I strongly recommend Realm of the ElderIings. I only discovered Robin Hobb for the first time in 2022 and already she is one of my favourite authors!

I love this series and I am always looking forward to picking up the next book. I wanted to feature Assassin’s Apprentice in today’s review because I cannot scream loud enough from the rooftop that Robin Hobb is an author you need to try. Have I done her justice in the review? Who can say?

If you have read Assassin’s Apprentice or any other books by Robin Hobb and want to add to this sentiment, please let everyone know in the comments what you think! I’d love to persuade more people to start this series 😊

 

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Sunday Summary – 24th March 2024

Today’s Sunday Summary post comes to you from a very chilled out Rebecca. I have enjoyed this week off work and I really haven’t done that much at all. Unless you count making jobs of clearing out my wardrobe, taking said clothes to a donation bank and generally tidying up the house a bit. I honestly don’t know how I’ve managed to take the strain…

Jokes aside, it has been a great week for just switching off and taking time for hobbies. I’ve been working on my cross stitch project, reading, and in the latter half of the week, playing Horizon Forbidden West.

So, what have I been doing on the blog? Well, I started off the week sharing a book tag post that I saw initially on Misty‘s Book Space. Given upcoming content later in the week, I wanted to do something lighthearted. I had a great time sharing this post, and if you haven’t checked it out already, there is a link above.

Friday’s book review was for recent read Raven Lord by J.C. Duncan. This sequel to The Last Viking series is every bit is good as expected. If you want to check out my full thoughts on the book, there is a link to that review above. As I finished the book this week, there is a brief commentary below to give you a taster.

 

Books Read

 

Raven Lord

With my review for Raven Lord rapidly upcoming, my first priority this week was to finish the book. I left off last week’s Sunday Summary post having read 54%, so I still had nearly half to read. Oh what a shame that I had plenty of time to do so, eh?

I finished Raven Lord on Wednesday, and the book was every bit as good as I thought it was going to be! I enjoy how this series blends together action-heavy battle scenes with underlying political intrigue that drives this action. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter whether you are a reader who likes action lead narratives, or if you are someone who prefers the subtler side of things. There’s a bit of both in here!

I also really enjoyed the format in which the story is told. The present day narrative involves one of Harald’s key followers, Eric, retelling his story. It’s a format I love as it’s very light and conversational, making it approachable to read. It also offers a unique insight of feelings and impression rather than just pure fact.

I’m intrigued as to where this story will go. I believe this is a five part series, so there’s still plenty of scope for action and development! You can be sure I’ll be keeping up with it.

 

Empire of the Vampire

This week I have also started a re-read of one of my favourite books in 2022, Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff. I’m re-reading this book as the sequel has not long been released and I want to refresher of what’s happened so far. Granted, I could have looked up on the web so then I could dive straight into the sequel, but where is the fun in that? I’m also very lucky to have received a special edition copy of the book as a gift since my initial read. It would be rude not to appreciate that… right?

As of this Sunday Summary, I’m not too far into the book, but I’ve made a healthy start. I’m 12% into this approximately 720 page narrative. I’ve loved whatever I’ve read as much as I did the first time, so I’m hopeful for a fun reading experience with this book once again!

 

The Atlas Six

Whilst I’ve been working on my cross stitch this week, I have taken the opportunity to listen to more of The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake.

I doubled last week’s efforts as I’ve listened to 2hrs over the week so far. Had I not been spending time gaming that would’ve been higher. However, I don’t really get the opportunity to play Horizon Forbidden West unless I am on leave purely because it’s not a game you can pick up for half an hour.

Excuses aside, I’ve had a good time with The Atlas Six. I still have absolutely no idea how this book is going to conclude, but I’m excited to see how things play out. There is potential for a lot of character conflict and drama. If that doesn’t happen, I might end up a bit disappointed, but I think it will. All the set up and tension is there ready to exploit, but we’ll see!

 

Books Discovered

Another thing I have been making more time for in the last week or so is catching up with TV series. This week I finished watching Breathtaking which was on ITV recently. If you are unfamiliar, this drama was set based on insights from a book of the same name, written by Rachel Clarke.

It’s a very good series, so if you haven’t watched it, I would recommend doing so. Or, if you’re on the bookish side like me, why not pick up the book?

 

Coming Up…

I’ve shared a few reviews for blog tours lately, and I’m looking forward to sharing another off my backlist. I have a lot of reviews to write, so I want to keep up momentum sharing these. For this week’s feature, I intend to review one of my favourite authors. My journey with this author started with this book and at the recommendation of my friend Rachael. That book is Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb.

I’ll be back with a Friday feature after a few weeks break due to other obligations. This week it’s the turn of my Shelf Control feature. Stay tuned for that!

Lastly, I’ll share my next Sunday Summary wrap up in a week’s time. With some great reads, I’m hopeful for a lot to share with you! If nothing else, I have a busy blog schedule coming up to share with you in next week’s Sunday Summary update.

What are you reading right now? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Blog Tour Review: Raven Lord – J.C. Duncan

In today’s post, I’m excited to feature the sequel to Warrior Prince and share my thoughts on this second instalment of The Last Viking series! You may recall, I also read that book as part of the blog tour, and I’m back again and launching the tour for Raven Lord! No pressure…

Before I get into the book and my review, I always take the opportunity at the start of these posts to thank both the author, J.C. Duncan, and Rachel at Rachel‘s Random Resources for the opportunity to take part. It’s a pleasure to be able to read some fantastic books and share my honest thoughts with readers. With any luck, I’ll convince you to pick up this fantastic book!

So, let’s get to it, shall we?

 

Raven Lord – J.C Duncan

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 352

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Boldwood Books

Publication Date: 22 Mar 2024

Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

 

Goodreads – Raven Lord

 

Mercenary. Exile. Warlord.

At the edge of the world, the clouds of war are gathering…

1034AD

Cast out from the Kyivan Rus, Harald Sigurdsson’s quest for fame and fortune takes him to the far reaches of Europe; the lands of the Eastern Roman empire.

The empire is dying the slow death of decay and corruption. In desperation to fend off a myriad of foes, the emperor turns to the legendary Varangian guard for salvation. These deadly warriors from the far north, famed for their fearsome steel and battle skill, have become the empire’s greatest protectors.

From the golden gate of Constantinople to the holy waters of the river Jordan, Harald will march with the emperor’s finest. Joining their ranks promises him all the gold and glory he can desire, if only he can survive the desperate battles, the hostile land, and the ruthless ambition of a vengeful queen.

The fascinating next book in the extraordinary tale of Harald Hardrada.

Perfect for fans of Matthew Harffy, Peter Gibbons, Bernard Cornwell and Christian Cameron

 

Purchase Link – https://mybook.to/ravenlordsocial

 

My Thoughts

 

Plot

Raven Lord picks up after the events of Warrior Prince and spans Harald’s next three years of adventures.

With an intriguing, action-led plot with political motives underpinning the action, there is plenty for readers to dive into. Whether you enjoy detailed battle scenes or digging into the machinations of those in power, both are in abundance in this book. I enjoy both of these elements, and they were perfectly balanced in this narrative. Whether you are a fan of one, the other, or both, there is something for all readers.

Harald and the crew are out to make a name for themselves and secure a fortune to go and win the throne back from the usurpers back in the North. It’s a long, epic quest and not one without its hardships. With danger around every corner, we readers are kept on a blade’s edge wondering if those we have come to love in the narrative will see it through, or pay the ultimate price.

 

Characters

The series is made up of a handful of main protagonists, together with a fantastic supporting cast. Naturally, our narrator Eric, as well as Harald Sigurdsson (aka Harald Hardrada), feature heavily in the narrative. I enjoy both their character arcs and the development we see of both individuals in this second book of the series. That the tale concerns Harald and his journey to becoming a strong leader is undisputed; we see this growth throughout.

Admittedly, Harald wouldn’t be the man he was without his followers. There are characters we have come to know and love from the previous book, as well as new faces. The familiarity is comforting whilst new characters add a fresh flavour to the narrative and help build upon what has gone before.

 

Setting

Something I talked about in my review of Warrior Prince, and I will talk about again here, is the Eastern European setting. It’s quite common to find fiction of this time period and genre set in Britain. However, I really enjoyed this alternate setting. There is far more scope for travel, and it’s a pleasant break from reading the same narrative over again. Don’t get me wrong, I read a lot of the genre and I don’t get tired of it, but I do appreciate when something different like Raven Lord comes around.

This change gives us more of an idea of the people as well as the chance to look at some European history. There is some travel that takes place in the book, but it easy to follow what is going on when.

I especially enjoyed this as it gives us the chance to explore more of a multi-cultural narrative. In this second narrative, we build upon the characters and cultures already introduced and add Muslim representation as well. I really enjoyed how each of these cultures is featured and how they interact with each other. Naturally, some of the conflict in the book centres around this, and it was exciting to read!

 

Narrative Style

The narrative is told by Eric, who was Harald’s right hand man on campaign. This storyteller format is one I have read and loved time and again in books (I’m incidentally reading another one already). It lends a casual and conversational style to a narrative. It’s easy to read and imagine that you are sat around the fire and listening to the story for yourself.

What I also like about the style is that it lends some intimacy to the tale. We get hints about how characters are feel about events, not just the pure fact of what happens.

Naturally, the majority of the narrative is the retailing itself. However, I enjoy the brief flashbacks to present day that break up the narrative, and give Eric opportunities to look back in hindsight at what has happened in the course of his and Harald’s life. It is a unique perspective, and one I will not tire of!

 

Summary

If you enjoy Viking era historical fiction, and are looking for a slightly different premise and setting, The Last Viking series is one I would strongly recommend picking up. Full of both action and intrigue, this unique narrative has plenty to offer any historical fiction fan!

 

Author Bio

James has a 5 book historical fiction series ‘The Last Viking’ about the extraordinary life of Harald Hardrada being published with Boldwood books starting with ‘Warrior Prince’. When he isn’t writing or doing his full-time engineering job, James is happiest being an amateur bladesmith, forging knives in the shed he built in his garden.

Social Media Links –

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JCDuncanAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JCDuncanauthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/j.c.duncan/

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/JCDuncanNews

 

2024 Reading Firsts Book Tag

Given I’m sharing a review later this week, I wanted to post some light and fun content. When I saw Misty’s version of this tag on her blog, I knew I wanted to take part!

One book is repeated on this list, but overall there’s a good variety showcasing the different genres and styles I’ve picked up so far in 2024!

 

First Book Read In 2024

The first book I completed in 2024 was Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman. It’s the sequel to Illuminae and I started the book at the very end of 2023.

I knew I was going to love Gemina as the first book in the series bowled me over. It shouldn’t be too long before I conclude it, but I’m glad 2024 got off to such a good start!

 

First Review of 2024

The first review I shared this year was for a book called Leadership and Culture by John and Katie McCann. I picked this book up last year from NetGalley as a means of working on some personal development. With the review outstanding on the site, I wanted to box this off quite early in order to improve my rating and potential acceptance for further books on the site.

If you are an aspiring, first time manager or someone looking for a practical refresh on leadership tips, please check out my review as you may find that or the book useful.

 

First Debut Read in 2024

I loved listening to the audiobook of Unmasked by Ellie Middleton. This is the first book Ellie has published, but I’m excited to say it’s not looking like the last. I noticed on Goodreads there is a book due to publish later this year. Based on my experience of Unmasked, I will be picking this one up too.

Whilst the book is a somewhat useful means of exploring what it is to be neurodivergent, but it also has a lot of Ellie‘s own experiences. This personal angle, coupled with some of the facts around the subject, made for a really interesting read! Whilst in some senses I do relate to Ellie, I decided to read the book as a means of understanding what it is like so I can be more accommodating and understanding for any neurodivergent individuals in my life.

 

First “New to Me” Author of 2024

I first explored Diana Wilkinson’s writing in The Girl in Seat 2A.

If you like mysteries or thrillers, Diana has published several for you to choose from. I’ve only read the one of hers so far, but I really enjoyed it and I’ve liked the sound of others she has published too.

If you’re interested in my review of The Girl in Seat 2A, here’s a link.

 

First Book of 2024 That Slayed Me

Obviously it was highly likely that Gemina was the front runner for this as I loved the book so much! I had high hopes for it after really enjoying the first book, and it didn’t disappoint!

 

First Book of 2024 That I wish I Could Get Back the Time I Spent Reading It

This question was a difficult one to answer, because I haven’t read any books that weren’t for me this year. They have all gotten at least a three star rating.

However, for the purpose of providing an answer to this question, I have decided to pick the book that was rated one of the lowest and also didn’t suit me most as a target audience. With this in mind, I chose The Black Coats.

The only reason I’ve chosen is because it is written for a younger audience, and that reflects in the narrative. I enjoyed the feminist angle of the storyline, but felt it was a little bit more ‘teen’ than I expected for the subject matter.

 

First 5 Star Book of 2024

No prizes for guessing which book features once again here – Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman!

 

 

I’m not going to deliberately tag anyone in this post, as I don’t want to bombard people. However, if you have read this post, like the look of it and want to take part yourself, then consider yourself tagged.

If you do choose to take part in this tag, I would love to see what answers you give to these questions. Let me know by tagging me in that post and I’ll take a look!

Thanks for checking out this 2024 reading firsts post! Have you read any of the books on this list?

Until next time, happy reading!

 

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Sunday Summary – 17th March 2024

Good evening all and welcome back to another weekly update, a.k.a. Sunday Summary from me. Before I get into how my week has gone, I hope you’ve had a great one yourself! This week has been steady in terms of the blogging schedule and reading progress. Shall we take a look?

On Wednesday I shared a discussion post featuring recommendations for alternative books for fans of Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom series. I’ve read around the genre quite a bit and know of plenty of similar books to get stuck into if that’s your thing! If you’re interested in those, check out that post!

On Saturday I shared a review of At the Stroke of Midnight by Jenni Keer. I read this book last week ahead of the tour and there is plenty to like! At the Stroke of Midnight, at heart, is a cosy mystery that uses a Groundhog Day theme to play out its mystery. Fans of Stuart Turton’s The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle will enjoy this book as they are comparable but with their own uniqueness. At the Stroke of Midnight also includes a well developed female lead and a touch of romance for those of you that look for that in your fiction. I hope you can take a look at my review if you haven’t already!

 

Books Read

Raven Lord

As of last week’s Sunday Summary, I had only just started Raven Lord. I couldn’t say too much as I was only a chapter or two in. This week I’ve been prioritising the book and I have made enough progress to share more about it.

Raven Lord is as full of action as I expected it to be. Warrior Prince paved my expectations of this book, and this sequel does not disappoint! There are detailed battle scenes, as well as political intrigue driving the actions of the armies for us readers to get stuck into. Whilst the events of Raven Lord and the series are about the adventures and advancement of Harald Sigurdsson, we still see plenty of the story focusing on his companions and the band as a whole rather than just the individual. It’s a well rounded narrative so far and I’m still yet to see some of the conflict set out come to a head.

As of this post, I’m 54% into the book. I’m reviewing it next week for the blog tour, so I’m looking to finish it in the next day or two.

 

The Atlas Six

I’ve made a little more progress with The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake this week.

Whilst not groundbreaking, I have picked up the audio twice and listened to about an hour across those two sessions. I’m honestly just happy that I’m picking it up at all. I got out of the habit of audiobooks, but I’ve not kicked myself to listen this week so I’ll take that as progress on building the habit back.

I’m on annual leave from work next week and I imagine I’ll be working on a cross stitch project for some of that time. I can listen at the same time; it’s a great pair.

 

Books Discovered

No news is good news again. I’ve behaved and added nothing new to my reading list 😊

 

Coming Up…

My blog schedule is a little wacky once again as I have another review coming up toward the end of the week. If I post them in my own time, I generally do those earlier. However, it’s a blog tour post and a commitment is a commitment, so I’ll have to deal with it!

I’m sharing something fun to start the week – a book tag about my reading firsts of 2024. I saw this over on Misty’s Book Space and I want to have a go. I’ll share that in the next day or so.

Friday is the day I share my review of Raven Lord. Naturally, the immediate priority is to finish reading it. I already have positive things to share about the book and can only imagine the conclusion will add to that!

My final post of the week will be my usual Sunday Summary to wrap up reading progress and goings on throughout the week. Let’s hope for a week of reading and relaxation during my holiday 🤞🏻

Until next time, happy reading!

 

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Blog Tour Review: At the Stroke of Midnight – Jenni Keer

In today’s post I’m excited to share my views on a fun historical fiction novel. I found it very reminiscent of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. If you like cozy mysteries with a Groundhog Day theme, a rich array of characters and a touch of romance, please read on about At the Stroke of Midnight!

Before I share details of the book and then my review, firstly I’d like to thank Jenni, Boldwood Books and Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources. It’s always a pleasure to be able to to read and participate in these blog tours. A lot of hard work goes into organising them! I appreciate the opportunity to read these books around release and feature them here. I genuinely enjoy them as much as I do the chance to share them with you!

So, I suppose that takes me on to my final note before getting into the book. The opinions expressed in this review are, and always will be, entirely my own.

Now, let’s dive in!

 

At the Stroke of Midnight – Jenni Keer

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 357

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Boldwood Books

Publication Date: 12 Mar 2024

Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

 

Goodreads – At the Stroke of Midnight

 

It’s 1923 and in a decade that promises excitement and liberation, Pearl Glenham and her father are invited to a mysterious country house party on the Dorset coast, by a total stranger.

Her father claims not to have any prior association with Highcliffe House, but upon arrival, it is apparent that he has a shared history with several of the guests, although he won’t admit it. Belatedly discovering that her father was blackmailed into attending, Pearl’s worries are compounded when their host fails to arrive…

Intimidated by everyone at the party, she escapes to the nearby cove and stumbles upon a mysterious mercury clock hidden in a cave. This strange encounter sets in motion a series of events that will culminate in an horrific house fire, claiming the lives of all the guests, including Pearl herself.

But then Pearl wakes up back in the cave, seemingly destined never to live past midnight. She can repeat the day. But can she change its outcome?

 

Purchase Link – https://mybook.to/strokemidnightsocial

 

My Thoughts…

Plot

I am sure you are familiar with the concept of Groundhog Day. At the Stroke of Midnight unravels a mystery that results in just this occurrence. That is, until protagonist Pearl gets to the bottom of it!

What makes this an intriguing novel is that at the start of the book, we have no idea what historic events have brought these seemingly different and unrelated characters together. They all seem to have a past and secrets to hide. Pearl is seemingly the only guest with no agenda or understanding of what has happened before present day. She comes out of her shell as she finds the courage to start asking difficult questions, even of those she loves.

In At the Stroke of Midnight, we have a set of core events that take place once, some that occur if timeline isn’t altered too much, and then we have some variation where alterations do occur. If that sounds like a lot to take in, I promise you it’s not! We see enough loops in the timeline that we are able to identify what sits where and recognise patterns in actions versus consequences.

I really enjoyed the mystery element to this story, and the resolution of the same fitting nicely with expectation, even if I didn’t predict it. The revelations that occur in the story are intriguing once teased out. Nothing is quite as it seems and we readers are left guessing up until the end how everything ties together.

 

Characters

Pearl undergoes quite a bit of character development throughout the book. At the start of the story, she is a quiet, meek girl who has grown up running a household and taking care of her working father. Keeping house and waiting to be wed to a man so that she can run his household instead are her future prospects.

The events of this book change her life trajectory completely. Without the same constraints of modern day life, Pearl starts to reinvent herself. Free of the consequences of not being able to take back her actions, she becomes far bolder and explores what it is like to live in the shoes of others. The freedom this grants her gives a taste of what it is like to be more than a wallflower, and it suits her.

Whilst Pearl is the main character of this story, she cannot come to be without the supporting cast. The group also invited to the party come from a diverse background and they all have a unique flavour. Some personalities are stronger than others, but each are distinct and enjoyable in their own right!

If a touch of romance in your mysteries is something you enjoy, then the dynamic relationship that forms between Pearl and Ellery is one to look out for. Whilst I’m not especially one for romance, I found their relationship touching given Pearl’s background and encouragement he gives her to come out of her shell.

 

Setting

The vast majority of events in At the Stroke of Midnight take place in Highcliffe House. The books is set in an exclusive, well cared for location with elusive owners and a sketchy past. It definitely has us readers asking questions early on. What is this place, and who are the owners? What relationship do the characters of present day have to these people?

This setting and the tension created by the plot make for an intriguing setting. The Groundhog Day element of the story, coupled with this particular setting, cemented the comparison for me with The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. There are differences in these two books clearly, but it is reminiscent enough that fans of either book will enjoy the other.

There are some small deviations in setting which add some variety and opportunities for character development. However, I broadly enjoyed this exclusivity; I wanted to focus on the events taking place at this recurring party and the aftermath. This is the aspect of the book I enjoyed the most. In my opinion, the execution of this fit in perfectly with the period and setting set out at the beginning.

 

Narrative Style

The style of At the Stroke of Midnight is compulsively readable and easy to digest. I personally felt the chapter lengths were perfect to convey action without unnecessary detail. That said, there are hints of detail if you are keen enough to pick them up. Consequently, if you like to try and work out the mystery as you go along, then At the Stroke of Midnight will appeal.

I picked up this book in the evenings whilst sat cosy at home, and even in my lunch hour at work. As my experience shows, it is a perfect book to pick up and put down as and when time and opportunity suits.

 

Summary

If you enjoy cosy mysteries or books with a historical setting, At the Stroke of Midnight is a book I strongly recommend. With a compelling storyline and complex characters to unravel, together with a protagonist who finds in herself an inner strength she didn’t know she had, there was plenty here for readers to enjoy.

I thoroughly enjoyed picking up At the Stroke of Midnight. It is quite a quick read if you are invested in finding out what is going on in the storyline, as you’ll always be picking up just one more chapter.

I hope you have enjoyed today’s review, and if you go on to read and enjoy the book, I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

Author Bio

Jenni Keer is a history graduate who lives in the Suffolk countryside. Her lifelong passion for reading became a passion for writing and she had two contemporary romance novels published in 2019. She has now embraced her love of the past to write twisty, turny historicals, and The Legacy of Halesham Hall was shortlisted for the Romantic Historical Novel of the Year in 2023.

Social Media Links

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Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/JenniKeerNews

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jenni-keer

Discussion Post – Books to Read if You Like The Last Kingdom

I read a lot of historical fiction. I’ve got two books on my current reading list in the genre, and one I’m reading at the time of drafting this post. You’ll hear more on that later. They are the inspiration for today’s discussion post.

There are books, genres and themes that I go back to again and again. Vikings is one of those. If you’re a fan of the historical fiction genre and the conflict of this period, there are a number of series I can recommend. If you’ve been reading or watching The Last Kingdom series and want to try something new, you are in the right place!

 

Recommendations

 

Eagle of Mercia Chronicles

A series I’ve been reading for a couple of years now, and will be picking up again soon, is M.J. Porter’s Eagle of Mercia Chronicles.

Like The Last Kingdom, Eagle of Mercia has a unique protagonist driving the storyline. Instead of being split in terms of loyalties, Icel is unique in that he does not relish his role as a warrior. In fact, going back to the first book, it is hard to believe that Icel ever becomes a warrior at all. He is a healer and places far more value on life as opposed to death.

Broadly the backdrop of the series is very similar. Of all the books in this discussion post feature, I would say this is the closest to The Last Kingdom. Just like that series, we have a lot of conflict and political intrigue set in the backdrop of a divided England.

Reviews:

Son of Mercia   Wolf of Mercia   Warrior of Mercia

Eagle of Mercia   Protector of Mercia

 

The Saxon Warrior

I started the The Saxon Warrior series a bit over a year ago now. It’s a more recent one than Eagle of Mercia, but it is no less captivating.

I really enjoy this series as the protagonist, unlike Icel in Eagle of Mercia, is a very keen warrior. Beornoth has been to hell and back after Vikings invade his homeland. He lost everything. Now he is determined to fight back the horde and take revenge!

With a protagonist who naturally gravitates towards the front line, we get a lot of action and even a bit of graphic detail in this series. If that doesn’t disturb you then I strongly recommend picking this up! Whilst there are elements of politics in the underlying actions, Beornoth is a far more pragmatic and action-driven character. Naturally, more of this comes through in the narrative as a result.

Reviews:

Warrior and Protector    Brothers of the Sword

Sword of Vengeance

 

Warrior Prince / Raven Lord

I have enjoyed reading Warrior Prince, and I’m currently enjoying reading Raven Lord, for its variation in setting. The Last Kingdom and other books I have featured on this list so far are notable for their Viking influence on British soil. Warrior Prince and Raven Lord differ as events instead take place in Eastern Europe.

It’s a different historical context, but we have the same backdrop of Vikings beyond their borders and looking to make a name for themselves. The protagonist in these books is quite a character as well. There is plenty of action, drama and conflict, so fans of these elements throughout The Last Kingdom series will enjoy these elements in this series too!

Reviews:

Warrior Prince

 

Wolf of Wessex

Wolf of Wessex is the first book in a series written by Matthew Harffy. As of this post, I have only read the first book. However, I enjoyed this book and its slightly lighter tone compared to books like The Last Kingdom.

Wolf of Wessex was compulsively readable and focused on a limited set of characters so as not to convolute the overall story. I think this could be an approachable series for anyone looking to explore the genre for the first time, or to pick up something similar, but not quite so heavy. Not that I think the likes of The Last Kingdom is heavy, but there are a lot of elements that come together in the wider story. Wolf of Wessex feels simpler.

 

Dunstan

If you are looking for more of a standalone in order to read around the genre a bit, then Dunstan by Conn Iggulden is an option I’d recommend.

If you are interested in this book more specifically, you can find a link to my review below. This review goes way back on my blog to the first year I started. The style is quite different to reviews I publish nowadays. However, I hope it still proves useful to you. Dunstan may be an ideal book to read as it’s set in the general backdrop of this time period but has a little less focus on the Viking element and more on English/Saxon religion and politics.

Reviews:

Dunstan

 

Summary

Regardless of what you are looking for, in your Viking era fiction, I have shared a variety of books that should scratch that itch.

Also, I am sure that there are many more that I am yet to read for myself and so have been unable to recommend them in this post. That is where YOU come in!

Have you read any books in the genre/period you would like to recommend either to me or to fellow readers?

 

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Sunday Summary – 10th March 2024

Good evening reading gang! It’s that time of the week again; in today’s Sunday Summary I’ll catch you up on what I’ve been reading and talking about this week. Although it’s still Sunday, this post is going live a smidge later than usual as I have spent the day with my lovely Mum (and family). Happy Mother’s Day to all you fabulous women out there, but especially my mum. Biased? Absolutely. And unapologetically so!

My first blog post of the week was my reading list for March 2024. In the first couple months of 2024, I’ve set myself ambitious reading lists to spur myself on. I’m changing tack slightly this month by instead sharing the bare minimum I need to get through in March. Anything I read above and beyond that is as yet unchristened, although I do have some ideas as to what I want to pick up next.

On Friday, I featured a sequel I’m excited to read in my First Lines Friday post. It is also a rare book for me and that I pre-ordered this ahead of release, which is something I don’t do very often at all. Maybe you’ll recognise the book if you’re a regular reader. Otherwise, you’ll have to go and check out that post and see it for yourself.

 

Books Read

 

At the Stroke of Midnight

I left off in last week’s Sunday Summary update having made 15% worth of progress in At the Stroke of Midnight by Jenni Keer.

I continued to read and finished this book over the course of this week. I shared in my previous Sunday Summary that it reminded me of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, and the theme remained throughout. The book has some differences to that, but anyone who has enjoyed that book should enjoy this one too!

I’m not going to go too much into detail as to my thoughts on this book as I will be reviewing it next week in full. Just know that I enjoyed it (rated 4*), and that I’m looking forward to reviewing it on my blog next week.

 

Raven Lord

I only started Raven Lord last night, so as of this Sunday Summary, I don’t have too much to report. I appreciate that this book has a preface refresher of what has taken place in the first book, Warrior Prince. That came in very useful in bringing me back up to speed to pick up events in the current book.

I really like the structure of how the story is told. The daring and exploits of the protagonist, Harald Sigurdsson, are told via storyteller. It is a trope I have enjoyed time again, and it does not disappoint in these books either.

I’ll share more about my experience of this book as and when I make more progress. Given that I’m reviewing this later in the month, it’s my reading priority for the next few days. Therefore, I expect to share more about it in next week Sunday Summary.

 

The Atlas Six

In my reading list post shared on Tuesday, I expressed a desire to keep going with this audiobook. I have let listening to audiobooks slip by the wayside a little. With this in mind, I’ve made a conscious effort to start listening to The Atlas Six again.

This week, I have listened to 2 and three-quarter hours of this audio, bringing me to a total of 45% progress. The narrative is starting to feel a little more developed now, but I still have no idea where events are going to take us. I actually quite like this ambiguity as I will be surprised whatever happens! I’m also enjoying the politics going on between the protagonists and how the conflict is creating tension between them.

I still have a good way to go, so I will continue to make the effort to pick up this audio more frequently than I have been of late. Again, keep me accountable to that please!

 

Books Discovered

It’s been a quiet week in terms of the reading list. As I’ve been picking up blog tour reads and also adding nothing new, there is no change to the reading list count.

In this Sunday Summary anyway, I’ll never make any promises for future weeks!

 

Coming Up…

My first post of the week will be a discussion post. Although, as of this Sunday Summary, I haven’t christened the subject. My schedule is a bit off kilter given that I’ll be sharing a book review later in the week.

On Saturday I’m due to share my thoughts as part of the blog tour for At the Stroke of Midnight. I really enjoyed picking up this book and I’m looking forward to sharing my full review with you very soon. I hope you can check out that post!

You know what’s coming next! My final post of the week is a Sunday Summary post to catch you up on all my bookish goings on.

Until my next post, happy reading!

 

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First Lines Friday – 08/03/2024

Welcome to the next instalment of my First Lines Friday regular feature series.

As soon as I started planning today’s First Lines Friday post, I knew I wanted to feature today’s book. It’s a book I recently obtained a copy of, and it’s the one and only pre-order I have been waiting on for a good few months now.

It’s not very often I pre-order books I must admit, but this was an exceptional case! Let’s see if you can guess the book from the introduction.

 

The dead boy opened his eyes.

All was still and silent, he among it, and most of all. A statue he was, his only movement in the yawning of his pupils, the soft parting of his bloodless lips. There was no quickening of breath as waking claimed him, no deeping drumbeat beneath his porcelain skin. He lay there in darkness, angelic and bare, staring at the timeworn velvet canopy above, and wondering what had woke him.

 

 

 

Empire of the Damned – Jay Kristoff

Genre: Gothic Fantasy

Pages: 756

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: 29 Feb 2024

 

 

Goodreads – Empire of the Damned

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Nevernight Chronicle, Jay Kristoff, comes the much-anticipated sequel to the #1 international bestselling sensation EMPIRE OF THE VAMPIRE.

From holy cup comes holy light;
The faithful hands sets world aright.
And in the Seven Martyrs’ sight,
Mere man shall end this endless night.

Gabriel de León has saved the Holy Grail from death, but his chance to end the endless night is lost. Drawn into an uneasy alliance with the mysterious vampire Liathe, Gabriel must now deliver the Grail to ancients of the Blood Esani, and learn the truth of how Daysdeath might be finally undone.

But the Last Silversaint faces peril, within and without. Pursued by terrors of the Blood Voss, drawn into warfare between the Blood Dyvok and duskdancers of the frozen Highlands, and ravaged by his own rising bloodlust, Gabriel may not survive to see the Grail learn her truth.

And that truth may be too awful for any to imagine.

 

My Thoughts…

My original plan was to re-read Empire of the Vampire in February so that I was in a position to pick up Empire of The Damned this month. That’s not worked out, but Empire of the Vampire is high on my upcoming reading list. Technically it is not on my March reading list as I’ve changed the way I’m structuring those. However, it is very likely to be the next book I pick up after I complete March’s reading.

I am very excited to pick up this sequel, even if I wholly admit that I need to go back to the first book as a refresher. I read this book in 2022, but I also had covid at the time. I may have been on holiday, but the circumstances of reading this when I was ill has definitely impacted my recollection of events… if not how the book made me feel overall.

It would also be very rude of me not to pick up and read my special edition copy of Empire of the Vampire that my sister kindly gifted me…

Have you read Empire of the Vampire or any other books by Jay Kristoff? Do either of these books appeal to you for their dark and gritty nature? I would love to talk about these books, so let me know in the comments!

Thanks for checking out today’s First Lines Friday feature and I’ll see you again soon!

 

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