Vikings of Mann – Ancient History or Modern Enigma?

Hello readers and welcome to today’s Norsevember post! I’m excited to be taking part in this event this year, and talking about a subject and place I love.

In case you are unfamiliar, Norsevember is a yearly reading event organised and hosted by Alex at Spells and Spaceships. If you want to check out other Norse themed posts already shared and keep up with upcoming content during the rest of the month, then you can check out his blog or X account with these links.

As a fan of history, I have often mumbled about how local school syllabus rarely covers local history. In my case, I’d have happily settled for British history, as a syllabus dedicated to the Isle of Man would be a little niche. It’s not something I know a lot of beyond local knowledge, so preparing for today’s insightful post was the perfect opportunity to brush up!

 

What we Know of Vikings of Man

The vast majority of evidence we have for Viking presence in the Isle of Man stems from archaeological finds. These largely warlike bands weren’t exactly great at chronicling their movements. Even when Viking presence is alluded to on the Isle of Man in literature, it is only done hundreds of years after first landing on our shores. This sparse and posthumous literature hardly makes for reliable evidence to historians.

Instead, they have turned to physical evidence: burial mounds containing graves or hoards, the foundations of settlements left behind, and most distinctly here on the Isle of Man – memorial stones. Based on the number of stones you can find all over the island, I had formed the impression that they are a common relic of the Viking era. Not so. The Isle of Man has a significantly higher concentration of them, which I’ll talk about a little later.

 

Archaeological Evidence:-

Graves and Burial Mounds

Two things can be found in abundance when talking about marauding land-takers – booty and death. Some early and other more ‘elite’ Viking graves have uncovered a number of items that the dead were buried with. Such graves tell us more than you would expect. Not only do they indicate the types of items that men and women would use in the period (as it is believed that such items were buried with them to be carried through the afterlife), but they also give us an idea of when they started to settle on the Island.

Comparing such troves to those found in Ireland, what was the Danelaw and Scotland, it’s believed that Vikings settled on the island later than their counterparts along the Irish Sea. It has been speculated that this is because the island was more difficult to get to. As anyone who attempts to travel to or from the island between the months of October and March can testify, sea voyages are frequently rocky… or in stormy weather, non-existent. It’s a small thing, but it’s one of many clues we can glean from the traces left behind.

From basic and unadorned lintel graves to elaborate burials involving small boats and presumed slave sacrifice, there is a wealth of knowledge that can be explored in the remains. The locations of these sites, and apparent shifts in burial styles, are indicative of less tangible but no less probable changes. For example, it’s believed based on changes to burial rites that within a few generations from leaving Scandinavia, settled Vikings adopted a new religion – Christianity.

 

Settlements and Structures

Being a small island, there is less in the way of structural evidence compared to Dublin, Ireland and other locations across the Irish Sea. However, notable sites include Braaid and St Patrick’s Isle… a fortified islet I used to walk around regularly.

As would be expected for this seafaring peoples, a lot of these locations are based around coasts of the island. That is not to say settlements were exclusive to these regions, but there appears to be a preference for living near the water.

 

Memorial/Commemorative Stones

As I mentioned in the introduction, I had formed the impression that memorial stones were a common Viking relic. Whilst some are clearly identifiable as one of four distinct styles in the period, there are many later works that are less clear.

We’ve already established that that existing settlors and Vikings mingled within a matter of generations. This is also broadly supported through these memorial stones via inscriptions and runes. There are several examples of Gaelic and Viking names together on these memorial or commemorative stones. Some are partners, others reference children, but it’s clear that these individuals are related… highly suggestive of intermarriage. 

The inscriptions and the language also indicate assimilation over time. Stones identified from the period are initially inscribed with distinct Norse runes. However, throughout the tenth and eleventh century, inscriptions lose their iconic Scandinavian form… presumably to blend with local language.

 

Other Evidence:-

Place Names

Place names tell us a lot about the prominence of Viking settlers. Whilst it’s believed that the Viking invaders and local inhabitants commingled and intermarried reasonably quickly, it is commonly held that locals were very likely to have been enslaved when raids occurred. Vikings were therefore the dominant peoples and would have the influence and power of decision making.

Many place names today, despite reintroduction of Gaelic language in later years by the Scots, doff their cap to Scandinavian convention. Key sites like Jurby, Colby and Sulby all have a common denominator… one that is strongly linked to Danish language. These are also key sites where archaeological evidence of Viking presence has been found.

 

Local Government

The Isle of Man is governed by its own local government. Although a crown dependency, we have the ability to make an enact our own laws. This is celebrated on the 5th of July every year, locally known as Tynwald day. But where does Tynwald come from?

The annual event is an open air ceremony, which is believed to have strong ties to similar proceedings in the Viking age. Things, Scandinavian assemblies, settled local disputes and generally presiding over how the community was run. Many of these traditions stand today… and the hill on which the event is held is believed to be a key site, if not the one site, such events were held on based on its central location.

The name Tynwald is highly indicative of Viking influence. Similar presiding and locations have been identified with very similar names across both English Shores and Scandinavian. Names like Thingwall (the Wirral, UK), Thingmount (Dublin), have phonetic similarities. When you take into consideration that these are all known meeting places, and in fact, the word “Thing” means a Scandinavian meeting or assembly, then you can see commonality clear as day.

 

Summary

Although there is sufficient evidence of Viking influence on the Isle of Man, there is far more intangible influence we are unable to quantify.

There are only a limited number of sites that are available for excavation and the island is a very small location. Even then, not all sites have been excavated, or will have been done so in the early 20th century at a time where standards were far lower than they are now. Recordkeeping is therefore not as diligent and the finds of these digs are either missing, or inaccurately recorded.

The evidence is also largely centred around archaeological finds. The Isle of Man and key political figures don’t come into literature until the 13th or 14th century… which cannot be relied on for giving us unbiased information.

Even so, it is undeniable that Scandinavian settlers coming to the island have made their mark. What evidence there is on island is often cooperated with other Irish sea locations known to be inhabited by Vikings in the same period. Not all of their influences have clung on into this modern era. But, when you consider these events over a thousand years ago and how their influence still shapes today’s Manx landscapes, and societal structure… it’s clear that they have made a permanent impact on the island. 

 

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Sunday Summary – 5th November 2023

Happy Sunday folks and welcome to today’s Sunday Summary! Before we get into my reads for the week, let’s take a look at the posts I’ve shared so far.

Firstly, I shared my book review for Cinderella’s Crimes on Tuesday. That was the deadline for this review, and I was excited to finally get my thoughts together for you to read. Cinderella’s Crimes is a re-publication of a book initially published in the name of Pretty Deadly. As a dark fairytale reimagining, I feel this new title is more apt.

Secondly, I published my review of October’s reading in my monthly wrap-up post. October was a good month overall. I had quite a few review obligations, but I managed to make my way through those and pick up all my mood reads before the end of the month. I carried over my last two ongoing books to finish in November.

The final post on the agenda for this week (aside from this Sunday Summary) was my November Monthly TBR. It’s quite the list when you look at it at face value. However, it’s made to look more onerous than it is by the number of titles. When you compare page count to other months, it’s not far off!

 

Books Read

 

Killing For Company: The Case of Dennis Nilsen

As of my last Sunday Summary update, I had just 15% of this ebook to finish. I was hoping to get it all read by the end of Sunday night, but I ended up finishing it on Monday.

If you want a more comprehensive summary of the book, check out last week’s post. I’m not going to go too much into detail here given that this update constitutes about 45 minutes of reading time this week. In short, it is an interesting and intimate biography of one of the most notorious serial killers of modern times. It’s brutally honest in its capture of events and the state of mind of Dennis.

 

Vikings of the Irish Sea

I didn’t mention Vikings of the Irish Sea as a current read last week, as I was keeping it up my sleeve for an upcoming post. As of drafting my Sunday Summary last week, I was approaching halfway through the book.

I finished the book this week as it is forming the foundation for a post I will be sharing for Norsevember. Additionally, I’m reading a second book that focuses on Vikings in the Isle of Man (see below). However, for a more rounded research approach, I wanted to pick up Vikings of the Irish Sea to compare findings on the island versus the likes of Dublin, England and Wales as a comparison.

Vikings of the Irish Sea isn’t a particularly long book, but it provided good insight for my post and taught me quite a few things about Vikings that I didn’t know from local knowledge.

 

The Vikings in the Isle of Man

Here is that second book I mentioned above! In addition to Vikings of the Irish Sea, I’ve read the first 20 pages of The Vikings in the Isle of Man.

I appreciate that doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider, the book is only 140 odd pages in total in its entirety, it’s enough of a dent to have made a solid start. As I will be sharing my November post in just a few days, I am going to look to make considerably more progress in this book in the next day or two.

 

The Shining

The main book I have been reading over the course of the week is The Shining by Stephen King. After years of owning my copy and not picking it up during spooky season, I decided 2023 was the year. And, it’s been a little while since I picked up a horror novel.

I confess, for such an iconic story, I didn’t know much about The Shining before going into this book. I think that has worked well for me though. I’ve not had any preconceptions or been spoiled for the story, and I am enjoying watching it unravel.

Unsurprisingly, I am really enjoying the book. As of this Sunday Summary, I am 250 pages in, which is approximately 50%. I will be reading this in tandem with The Vikings in the Isle of Man, and I hope to finish the book very soon.

 

Books Discovered

Since adding Unmasked last week, there have been no new additions to the reading list!

 

Coming Up…

My first post of next week will be my contribution to Norsevember… a reading event hosted by Alex at Blogs and Spells for several years now. It’s the first time I’ve taken part in contributing a themed post. I contacted Alex as I wanted to write a post about Viking influence and history in the Isle of Man. This will be going live on Wednesday, and I’m really excited to be writing a different style of post.

This week would normally be the turn of my Well, I Didn’t Know That! feature post. However, as these are a little bit more involved and I don’t want preparation for this to clash with my Norsevember feature, I’m going to skip this one and instead share a Shelf Control. In my Shelf Control posts, I feature an upcoming read on my TBR and why I’m looking forward to picking it up. They’re a lot easier to prepare and post and given my commitment for earlier in the week, I think this is the better option! I’ll do a Well, I Didn’t Know That! feature next time.

Last, but not least, I will be back with another Sunday Summary post to round off the week. Fingers crossed I’ll have plenty of reading updates to share.

What have you read recently?

 

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Monthly TBR – November 2023

Good evening readers – I hope you are having a lovely weekend? I’m looking forward to sharing all my upcoming reads for the month, and today is the day I share my monthly TBR!

The list looks larger than usual, as it is inflated by a couple of carryover reads from October, together with the fact that the average book length for this month is slightly lower.

I have around 2400 pages to read over the course of the month, which is about average. This doesn’t include my audiobooks for this month, of which I have about 16.5 hours listening time. That averages to just over half an hour a day, which is more than achievable!

Shall we get into my monthly TBR and discuss specifics of the books I’m reading in November?

 

Fixed Reads

 

October Carryover – The Shining

I picked up The Shining, the last book on my October TBR, on Halloween. I was hoping to be a little bit further into the book by that point, but still reading it for the spooky season. As it happens, I only read about 40 pages… But it is a start and I’ll take it.

As of this monthly TBR I am a more modest 180 pages, or roughly 40%, through the book. There was never really any doubt, but I am enjoying this story and the setting so far. Although I’ve been making my way through The Dark Tower series, it’s been a little while since I picked up a pure horror by Stephen King.

I’m looking forward to making further progress in the book and seeing how events unfold. There has been a lot of set up for what may happen later in the book; I’m keen to see if they play out as I hope they do!

 

October TBR Jar Carryover – The Flood

Throughout the latter half of October I started listening to The Flood by Rachel Bennett. Rachel is, I believe, resident on the island, and so I picked up this book to support a local author.

As I mentioned in my monthly wrap-up post for October, I am getting on well with this audiobook. I’m curious as to the history of some of the characters and how future events will unravel. There is definitely far more going on from the ‘historic’ timeline than we readers are aware of yet. I’m interested to see what bearing this has on the modern day aspect of the narrative.

 

Norsevember – Vikings in the Isle of Man

Norsevember is a reading event hosted by Blogs and Spells. Over the course of November, he and other creators feature all things Norse, from books to mythology. I have the pleasure of taking part this year and sharing a feature post on how the Norse touched the little island I live on.

I have already read one book that will contribute to my feature post next week, but I am going to be reading Vikings in the Isle of Man to supplement my knowledge ahead of this post. It’s also another great way to be able to support the event.

It’s only a short non-fiction at 140 pages, but I’m looking forward to picking it up!

 

Ashes of Guilt

I found Ashes of Guilt on Discovery as available to read and to provide a review for. I really like the sound of the premise for this book, so I’ve decided to give it a go! It’s a small-town mystery/thriller novel in which the main character has a shady childhood past; only, it may be that not all is as it seemed back then…

Ashes of Guilt is my only review obligation for November, which makes a nice change from the three I had to do last month! I shouldn’t complain, I sign myself up for these things. So, if there’s anyone to blame, I should just go look in the mirror…

 

November TBR Jar – The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz

Every month, I randomly pick a book out of my TBR Jar. November is no exception. Yesterday, I shared my pick on Instagram. If you’ve seen that already, then you know I drew out The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz.

I’m actually glad this book made it to November’s monthly TBR. I really love books around World War II and in particular Auschwitz. You can call me morbid if you want. I just find it a really interesting subject. What makes the pick even better is that it is a non-fiction novel. With the end of the year fast approaching, I am trying my best to meet my target of picking up more than 15 non-fiction books by the end of the year.

As of this post, I have read 12. Incidentally, I have three non-fiction books on this reading list (last one below), meaning that I have every chance of hitting that goal! Considering I was behind in my mid-year review post, that’s quite a turnaround. 

The fact that this book came out makes it even easier for me. I should, in theory, only have to read one in December to exceed my >15 goal. 

 

November Instagram Poll Pick – The Minders

In addition to the TBR Jar, I’ve taken to posting a poll on Instagram and getting my followers to vote between two books, the winner being the one I read next.

For the poll just gone, the books my followers had to choose from were My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, or The Minders by John Marrs. The Minders won by quite the majority, and I’m glad it did! I have a few books by John Marrs on the reading list at this point, so I’m excited to be getting around to one of his at least! It’s also more fitting for the season. The Minders is a mystery/thriller novel with hints at government conspiracy in the synopsis. I hope you are as intrigued as I am, because I’m looking forward to telling you about it.

I have obtained a copy of The Minders via audiobook. I quite enjoyed the sample and honestly, I already had quite a lot of books on this reading list in either physical or e-book format. I needed another audio!

 

Mood Reads

The Witches – Salem, 1692: A History

The first of my mood reads in today’s monthly TBR is also the third non-fiction I mentioned above. I have had my copy of The Witches for about a year now. I have gone to pick it up before, but I was a little bit intimidated by the page count and the text size – it’s tiny!

This normally doesn’t bother me, but I looked at it before experimentally when I was looking for a change in read, and ideally something quite quick. That wouldn’t have been the case, so I didn’t pick up.

I am interested in the subject matter though, so I’m looking forward to getting around to it at last!

 

Lost Solace

A relatively quick read, and a change up in genre, is Lost Solace by Karl Drinkwater. I have had a copy of this book for the longest time to read. It’s also supposed to have been on the last three or four months TBR’s, but I just couldn’t fit it in.

Karl’s Lost Solace series in itself will be new to me, but I have read several short stories set in the same universe. I have really enjoyed those stories, so I’m looking forward to giving this mean series for dry.

It’s also been a little while since I read a science fiction novel. What do you believe, the last time I picked up the genre was when I read Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson back at the end of July! I certainly never intended to leave it that long. Then again, picking up Lost Solace has moved to or three times.

 

Incendium

The last book I would like to pick up in November is Incendium. It feels like the perfect month to pick this book up, as the plot sounds like it is very reminiscent of the gunpowder plot… which was foiled in November 1605.

I would’ve liked to pick up the book a little earlier in the month to coincide with bonfire night. However, it’s more important that I focus on my obligations, and so I will have to settle for reading it in the same month!

 

Summary

That’s a lot of books that I’m hoping to pick up in November, but honestly, I think it’s doable. Given that I am prone to reading 600-900 page books, and all of these on my list fall under that, there is absolutely no reason this is unachievable!

Thanks for reading today’s Monthly TBR post!

Have you read any of the books on my November reading list? Do you like the sound of them?

 

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Monthly Wrap-Up – October 2023

Good evening readers and welcome to this monthly wrap-up post for October! I had a pretty good month with reading progress, and I have plenty to share with you in today’s post.

In October, I had a few reading commitments towards the end of the month. That gave me plenty of time to read those books first and then make it to my chosen mood reads later on.

Shall we dive into my recap for October in earnest?

 

Books Read

 

Priest of Bones

My first read I feature in today’s monthly wrap-up post is actually a carryover from September. I started Priest of Bones at the very end of September, and ended up reading all but the first three chapters in October!

I had high hopes for Priest of Bones. I feel like it is one of those books that got a lot of hype. Do I feel it lived up to expectation though? Not particularly. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the book. It was a decent read and I ultimately rated it three stars. I may continue on with the series, but I’m undecided as of right now.

 

The Puppet Maker

After reading Priest of Bones, I started making headway into my ‘fixed reads’ on October’s TBR. The Puppet Maker is the first of the blog tours I was taking part in during October, with my review due on the 20th.

The Puppet Maker was an opportunity to read a genre I haven’t picked up in a while. I have read mysteries, but not so much with a police procedural element. I enjoyed this change of scenery, so to speak. The book is also uniquely enjoyable for its representation of life as a new wheelchair user. Alana is the protagonist to this story, and she has to navigate multiple complex cases whilst personally coming to terms with her own personal tragedies.

If you want to check out my full review of the book you can find that here.

 

Warrior Prince

My next read, also for a blog tour, had me reading something new again. I’ve enjoyed multiple historical fiction novels featuring Vikings, but not outside modern-day England.

In Warrior Prince, we adventure along with exiled Harald Sigurdsson and his men throughout modern Eastern Europe. This new setting and political landscape made for a complete change to what I’m used to, and I loved that. There is a lot of conflict (not to be unexpected really) and complex character arcs/relations that drive the plot well.

Again, if you like the sound of this book and want to read my full thoughts, I’ll pop a link to my review here.

 

Cinderella’s Crimes

The last of my obligations for the month was to provide a review for Cinderella’s Crimes by the 31st October. Cinderella’s Crimes is a fairytale retelling with a lot darker nature than the traditional and well known version of the story.

Instead of sitting at home and hoping to attend the ball, Cinna takes matters into her own hands. In competition with her best friend Johann, she conducts a heist and aims to come out the better off of the two. She’s ruthless and cunning in pursuit of her revenge.

Cinderella’s Crimes is a fast paced tale and I liked how the events unfolded. As I’ve reviewed the book, you can check out my thoughts using this link.

 

TBR Jar – The Flood

My final ‘fixed read’ of October was my TBR Jar pick for the month. I have picked up The Flood by listening to the audiobook version. The narrator’s style is really lending itself to the book and genre. The story is compelling and the characters are clearly hiding things from us at the moment. I’m enjoying the dual timeline and I’m curious to see how this will come together at the end.

I’m carrying The Flood over into November to complete it. As of this monthly wrap-up post, I am coming up halfway through the book.

 

Surrounded by Idiots

Whilst reading the physical/ebook fixed reading list above, I also listened to Surrounded by Idiots.

I wanted to pick up the book as the content closely correlated to a work course I took recently. The two ended up complementing each other well, and now I feel I have some practical tips to take away. Taking the time to progress with the audiobook has also meant that it’s a subject I’ve gotten used to paying attention to and actively thinking about… which you have to if you want to make the most of the content!

Surrounded by Idiots was really informative and I’m glad I took the initiative to follow up on the content of the course through that audiobook when I did.

 

September’s Instagram poll runner up – Killing for Company

The last book I completed pretty much in full in October is Killing for Company: The Case of Dennis Nilsen by Brian Masters.

I added the book to my reading list three years ago, and it came up as the contender against Priest of Bones in my Instagram poll pick in September. It was always my plan to read the winner in September and the runner up in October; it’s ironic that I ended up reading both in October, but there we go!

Killing for Company is a grisly non-fiction about the life of Dennis Nilsen, who in adult life went on to murder 15 men and attempt taking the lives of several others. It’s not a book for those sensitive to grisly detail. It’s an intimate account of what happened for each of the men, as well as exploring the life and psychology of the man who fully admitted to and provided full accounts to the police about perpetrating the crimes upon capture.

 

The Shining

It was my intention to pick up and read The Shining late on in the month for Halloween (or Hop Tu Naa here). As it happens, I picked up the book to read the first 30 pages or so after visiting family that night.

Naturally, I’m currently continuing with my read of the book and I’ll be in a position to tell you more in my next monthly wrap-up!

 

Summary

Whilst I have carried a couple of reads over to November, I have managed to pick up everything on my October TBR, and a little more besides. I haven’t included that in this post, but you’ll see the fruit of that labour on my blog soon!

I’m looking forward to an equally productive November! Stay tuned for November’s Monthly TBR going live on Saturday.

Thanks for checking out today’s monthly wrap-up and until then, happy reading!

 

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Book Review: Cinderella’s Crimes – Kelsey Josund

In today’s review post, I have the pleasure to share my thoughts on a unique fairytale retelling that held my attention throughout. Cinderella’s Crimes is loosely based on the classic fairytale, but quickly deviates and develops a world of its own.

What’s more exciting is that I have the privilege of sharing my thoughts on the book’s re-publication day; it was originally released under the title Pretty Deadly. I hope you are as excited for this book as I am to tell you about it. Let’s check out the details of the book and then dive into my review!

 

Cinderella’s Crimes – Kelsey Josund

Genre: Fairytale Retelling

Pages: 230

Audience: Young Adult

Publisher: Kelsey Josund

Publication Date: 31 Oct 2023

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

Goodreads – Cinderella’s Crimes

 

Cinna would quite literally kill for the throne.

For years, Cinna has been forced to serve her wealthy cousins rather than attend society events alongside them. She has waited for the chance to prove herself and exact revenge. When a ball at the castle is announced, promising to bring many powerful people to town, she seizes the opportunity to strike.

She bets her best friend, Johann, a small-time thief and con-man, that she can land a greater score the night of the ball than he can, and they embark on parallel heists. But as their plots unfold, things begin to unravel: by the end of the night, the castle’s on lock down, a duchess is dead, a mansion has burnt to the ground—and Cinna hasn’t even stolen anything.

Or has she captured something far more valuable than gold and jewels?

 

My Thoughts

 

Plot

A complex heist is the feature of this retelling, and it far surpassed my expectation in details and intrigue. There is no way I had anticipated the events that unfold in the book; it is a real page-turner! If you are a follower of my blog and keep up with my weekly Sunday Summary updates, you will know that I read Cinderella’s Crimes in just a handful of days earlier this month. If that doesn’t prove my point, then I don’t know what does!

Regardless of the intricacies, the plot is easy to follow and engaging to the reader. The narrative is also full of plot twists, with us not knowing what will happen next at any given moment.

Who scores the greatest haul on the night? Well, I’m not going to tell you that! You’ll just have to read the book for yourself!

 

Characters

Cinna, unlike her fairytale counterpart, is a cold and calculating individual. Subjected to a fall of grace in her family as a result of mistreatment by her stepmother and step-siblings, she plots her revenge every day. In order to break out of her desperate circumstances, she plans the most daring of heists, and sets herself against her friend Johann in scoring the greatest haul on the night. Cinna is a complex character and a fun perspective to enjoy this story from.

Johann is also an interesting counterpart to Cinna. Like Cinna, he is far from altruistic, and this isn’t his first criminal venture. It’s by far the biggest yet, however, and he rises to the challenge! With little time to prepare, Johann is incredibly resourceful and determined to best Cinna, even though he suspects deep down she’ll trump him. He’s determined pull it off anyway.

The dynamic between the two adds intrigue to an already high stakes story. I enjoyed their complicated relationship at every stage of the book.

 

Narrative Style

The short and concise chapters make this already compulsively readable story even easier to read.

The chapters intertwine between Johann and Cinna’s perspective, combining two different angles of the heist into one comprehensive story. As these two seemingly separate parts come together into the full picture, we’re surprised by how their daring endeavours unravel in tandem.

 

Summary

Cinderella’s Crimes is a dark twist to a classic fairytale with high stakes, daring adventure, and a shot at revenge that is best served cold!

Are you intrigued by Cinderella’s Crimes? Would you like to read it for yourself?

 

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Sunday Summary – 29th October 2023

Good evening from a rainy and dreary island! But that’s okay – as I’m inside, cosy with a cup of coffee and ready to dive into publishing this week’s Sunday Summary! As always, let’s take a look at the posts I published earlier in the week.

My first post this week was a Top Ten Tuesday feature. This week’s theme was ‘atmospheric reads’, and I had several different genres and bookish vibes to share as part of the post. If you haven’t checked it out already and are looking for reading inspiration, look no further.

On Thursday, I shared my review as part of the recent blog tour for Warrior Prince. I enjoyed this historical fiction novel which features Vikings in an Eastern European setting, as opposed to the English variants. It’s a fun, action-filled adventure, and if you want to find out more, my review is here.

 

Books Read

 

Killing For Company: The Case of Dennis Nilsen

I left off last week’s Sunday Summary post having concluded my ‘current reads’ at that time (I mentioned in that post that I had about 20 minutes of Surrounded by Idiots left to finish, which I did. I didn’t feel like that warranted a section in this Sunday Summary post.)

So, I picked up my next read on the TBR, Killing For Company by Brian Masters. You would like to think that based on the title and subject matter, it would be obvious that this book isn’t for the fainthearted or those with a sensitive stomach. However, in case that’s not clear, let me emphasise that now. This book isn’t for the fainthearted or those with a sensitive stomach. 

In this book, we explore the life, history and grisly murders Nilsen fully admits to committing between 1978 and his arrest in 1983. In the latter stages of the book, we start to address some of the psychological elements and potential diagnosis for Dennis as a means of explaining his actions… both the murders he did commit and for those he failed and/or chose not to go through with.

It has been a really interesting book, although I am sure it is not for everybody. As of this post, I have read 85% of the book and I have an estimated reading time of one hour to complete it. I’m hoping to get that done tonight!

 

The Flood

I have been off work this week – something I haven’t mentioned before now I don’t think. I have been busy though. In addition to catching up with jobs in the house, I have been out and tidying up the garden ready for winter. Whilst I’ve been doing these jobs, I have taken the opportunity to make progress with my second audiobook of the month.

The Flood is actually written by a local author, and it is for this reason I added it to my reading list. It is also the book I pulled out of my TBR jar this month, and I’m enjoying the story so far. There’s definitely a lot more going on under the surface of this narrative that I am yet to discover, and I’m looking forward to unravelling it all. The audio is also very good, so I can recommend the format!

As of this Sunday Summary update, I am coming up to 50% of the way through this audiobook. I may be back at work from next week, but I will be finding any opportunity I can to continue listening. 

 

Books Discovered

I have added a book called Unmasked by Ellie Middleton to my reading list this week. One of my LinkedIn connections has liked content by Ellie on a few occasions, and as a result, I have seen it too.

I’m interested in picking up Unmasked as it looks at ADHD and other forms of neurodivergence. I have a friend who was diagnosed with autism only when she was an adult (not surprising for girls given the ‘official’ symptoms or flags are those typically exhibited in boys and take no account of girls learning to mask them). As somebody who is interested to understand more about neurodivergence in general, I’d like to take a look at this book.

 

Coming Up…

With the end of October and the beginning of November falling into next week, you can expect my usual busy schedule.

My first post of the week though will be a review for Cinderella’s Crimes by Kelsey Josund. I have a deadline to share my review on Tuesday, so that’s when you can expect my thoughts on this fairytale reimagining that I read last week.

After that post has gone live, I will be kicking into gear with my usual monthly wrap-up post, and then my monthly TBR for November. mMy intention is for the wrap-up to go live on Thursday and my TBR on Saturday. I hope you can join me for both of those!

And, as always, I will be back at the same time next week with another Sunday Summary update post.

Now, I don’t know about you, but my plan is to take a cup of tea to bed and finish my current read.

What are your plans for this evening?

 

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Blog Tour Review: Warrior Prince – J.C. Duncan

It’s time for another book review and I’m excited to share it as part of the blog tour for Warrior Prince. I personally chose to pick up the book as I wanted to read something with a Viking theme. At the same time, I wanted something a little different from other books on the market focussing them in a Saxon setting.

Warrior Prince does just that, and more besides! Before I get into the nitty-gritty, I will firstly say thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, and to the author, J.C. Duncan. I appreciate the opportunity to review the book as part of the tour.

Now, let’s get to the bit you are here for – the book!

 

Warrior Prince – J.C. Duncan

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 355

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Boldwood Books

Publication Date: 23 Oct 2023

Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

 

Goodreads – Warrior Prince

Prince. Mercenary. Exile.

The lost throne of Norway must be won in foreign lands.

1030 AD

Some men are gifted a crown. Others have to fight to claim it.

Exiled from Norway, Harald Sigurdsson, brother to murdered King Olaf, must battle mercilessly for survival in the lands of the Kievan Rus.

His brother’s legacy gifts him a warband of hardened warriors and entry to the court of Prince Yaroslav the Wise. By his wits, sword and skill in battle, Harald must learn not just to survive but to triumph.

He fights for glory, for fame, and to regain his family’s battle-stolen throne. But his greatest

challenge may not come from battlefield foes but from those who stand by his side.

The first instalment in a remarkable story of an exiled boy’s incredible journey to become Harald

Hardrada; The Hard Ruler and The Last Viking.

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

 

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

 

My Thoughts…

 

Plot

Warrior Prince is full action and daring. Harald Sigurdsson is exiled from his homeland. In order to build reputation to one day claim the throne, he sets out with a warband of battle-hardened men loyal to him. His travels take him to Prince Yaroslav the Wise, and from there, across territories contested and hard fought for by many… including Harald and his men.

The battle scenes and conflict are the main drivers of the plot, and they are the scenes I most enjoyed in Warrior Prince. They are the essence of life as a Viking warrior. To emphasise their importance, they are very well written to immerse us in each battle as they play out. The danger of every moment is apparent, and has us questioning whether our favourite characters are safe throughout.

However, there is more to the book than endless battles. Harald, in the service of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, has to deal with court politics – something he is not used to or adept at. In his quest to make a name for himself and become a leader, he has to learn when words serve better than swords, and who to watch to avoid a knife in the back…

  

Characters

Harald is already established at the beginning of the book as a capable man with a weapon. What becomes apparent quite quickly is that he has very little knowledge or experience when it comes to diplomacy; if he can’t use his sword to get his way, he’s lost.

It’s a character arc we see develop over the course of the narrative. It doesn’t seem to come naturally to him. But, Harald proves his determination to become a leader by learning from his shortcomings as they present themselves. He and his warband are tested repeatedly, and by individuals out to discredit or outright kill them. As a result, we see this repeatedly over the course of the book!

 

Setting

It was for the book’s unique setting that I wanted to pick it up in the first place! I have read a lot of Viking fiction based around conflict for and within English land. And I have enjoyed those books very much. However, I was excited for the promise of something a little different. Warrior Prince is set across Eastern Europe and the Nordic countries. It’s not a setting I have read before, and consequently, it provided a unique and compelling narrative.

Naturally, there is far greater scope for travel and new scenery… and of that we see plenty. Harald and his band travel extensively over the course of the book, and we get to see and experience more variety in characters, setting and culture.

Each location, and even the narrative whilst traveling, is finely balanced between description and action. There is plenty of detail to paint a vivid description in a reader’s mind whilst not bogging down the action within the plot.

 

Narrative Style

Warrior Prince is told in the form of a recollection of one of Harald‘s right-hand men. When I realised this was the format of the book, I got really excited. It is a style I have loved in fantasy books such as Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, R. R. Virdi’s The First Binding and Jay Kristoff’s Empire of the Vampire. All of these books got a five star rating from me. Consequently, I went in to this book with high expectations. Warrior Prince met them! 

It is an interesting narrative style, because it makes us question the perception we get. Is the story being told from a wiser and more rounded individual than that same person in their youth? Or, are their perceptions of events coloured through time and/or outcomes? For example, would battles in this book be considered foolhardy in circumstances of defeat, where they are painted as phenomenal feats when recalled after victory? I suppose we will never know. But, if you enjoy thinking about that sort of thing, then it adds a layer of complexity to the narrative. Do we believe all we are told?

 

Summary

Full of action and intrigue, Warrior Prince gives us everything we’d expect from a Viking novel, but in a new setting and with new challenges to face. Unable to know what is immediately around the corner for Harald and his men, the book keeps us readers on the edge of our seat throughout!

Firstly, having read books in the genre by Bernard Cornwell, Matthew Harffy and Peter Gibbons, fans will enjoy Warrior Prince. Secondly, the book has its own unique spin on the genre and deviates from these authors in a way that makes it readable and standalone in its own right. So do it – you won’t regret it!

 

Author Bio

J. C. Duncan is a well-reviewed historical fiction author and amateur bladesmith, with a passion for Vikings.

Social Media Links –

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JCDuncanauthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/j.c.duncan/?hl=enn

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/j-c-duncan

Top Ten Tuesday – Atmospheric Reads

In today’s Top Ten Tuesday post, I’ll feature a variety of atmospheric books that I’ve read and would recommend to readers. The books vary in genre and the type of atmosphere they foster; a good number are spooky reads that would be ideal to pick up this month. However, I wanted to broaden the scope from that so there is something here for all readerships… so fantasy, historical and cozy readers… there are books here for you too!

Let’s check out the books that made it to today’s Top Ten Tuesday list!

 

Spooky Reads

 

The Trail

The Trail is a book I read recently and it has been released at the perfect time to catch on to readers who like to pick up something spooky in October!

If you would like to read my review of this book, then I’ll provide a link to it here. In summary, it’s a small-town and sinister read involving an old disappearance case. When Jess goes back to where her mother disappeared she finds resistance at every turn. Long buried secrets try to stay buried…

 

Pet Sematary

When a family move to an idyllic house on the edge of a wood, they get far more than they bargained for.

Pet Sematary is a great read for fans of horror. I read this book when I was relatively new to the genre and fell in love with it very quickly! It fits the ‘spooky read’ aesthetic perfectly with its dabblings in topics like life and death… or… something else.

 

Imaginary Friend

Most parents dismiss the ramblings of children and their imaginary friends… but sometimes you shouldn’t. Imaginary Friend is a chunky read, yet over its page count it slowly weaves a darker tale into what begins a seemly innocuous child’s life.

I’d especially recommend this to fans of Stephen King as well. I found the method and pace of storytelling quite similar.

 

The Taking of Annie Thorne

The Taking of Annie Thorne gave me chills at the end, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. The Taking of Annie Thorne is my second C.J. Tudor read. I thought The Chalk Man would be a tough act to follow, but apparently not! Both were candidates for this Top Ten Tuesday post and I would honestly recommend either.

This horror/thriller also involves children, and features the titular Annie Thorne, who goes missing for 48 hours. However, when she returns, her brother swears she isn’t the same girl who disappeared that short time ago…

This book is very cleverly written to keep readers guessing at every revelation. It’s a dark, sinister narrative… and I loved it!

 

Fantasy/Dystopian Reads

 

The Hunger Games

All my fantasy reads in this section of my Top Ten Tuesday post have dystopian themes. I confess that The Hunger Games came to mind quite quickly as I’ve watched the first two films on Sky in the last week or so. They happened to be on and I enjoy them. I now want to revisit the books though!

The oppression and stark discrimination, paired with brief glimmers of hope are integral to the setting, characters and plot of this series. That’s why I’m featuring them in this post. They are so well done that the reader cannot help but route for those oppressed to thrive!

 

Red Rising

Red Rising is actually quite similar to The Hunger Games… so if you’d like to read the premise of that book in a sci-fi setting, then Red Rising is perfect for you.

Darrow and his kin risk their lives every day to mine a precious resource that will one day help colonise the planet. However, he learns that he and his people are being lied to and kept in effective slavery to those of higher caste.

In order to exact revenge, he infiltrates his oppressors and plots to take them apart from the inside.

 

Crowfall

This final book in The Raven’s Mark series is fraught with desperation, and the setting, plot and characters all come together in a last ditch attempt to save humanity. Even the Gods are losing power to a mightier force than they. What hope does Ryhalt have of stopping the incoming tide of minions of the Deep Kings?

That’s the premise of this dystopian and war torn setting… and the atmosphere of danger and desperation is palpable throughout.

 

Historical fiction

 

As Long As the Lemon Trees Grow

In As Long As the Lemon Trees Grow, there is stark contrast between the love a woman has for her home country as it was growing up versus the war ravaged landscape she struggles to live in every day.

It’s easy to fall into a trap of indifference with foreign news, but it is books like As Long As the Lemon Trees Grow that make us open our eyes to the devastation. Salama works in a hospital, stitching up the countless innocent victims caught up in the war. She is far from safe. Hospitals are targets.

In this harrowing tale of a fight for survival, the stress of the war and the choices Salama has had to make in her duties literally haunt her.

 

Historical – Non-Fiction

 

The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank and her family go into hiding in World War II to escape the anti-Semitic treatment her people are exposed to. They are ultimately discovered in their annex and their fate is sealed. However, until such time, we relive the frustrations of living in a restricted lifestyle and confined space with multiple people. The underlying fear punctuates each entry, highlighting how it became a part of Anne’s (and her family’s) everyday life.

What makes the atmosphere most stark is that the words in Anne Frank’s diary spell out this young woman’s experience of real life events.

 

Cozy Reads

 

The House in the Cerulean Sea

Finally, I’ve chosen a completely different tone to round off this Top Ten Tuesday post.

The House in the Cerulean Sea, in summary, is about a man who doesn’t really belong in his world. As a special social worker, it is his duty to ensure the safekeeping of magical children. In his line of duty, he is sent to assess the most top secret orphanage. He expects to find chaos and danger – not the meaning of family and belonging.

Those are my atmospheric reads in today’s Top Ten Tuesday post. Have you read any of the books I featured today?

 

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Sunday Summary – 22nd October 2023

I’m back with another Sunday Summary update for you all, and I have plenty of reading progress to catch you up on! Have you had as good a week as I have?

Before we get into my reading updates for the week, let’s do our usual quick catch up on what posts I’ve shared in the week. If you’ve missed any, now is your opportunity to catch up.

My first post of the week was a discussion post outlining my favourite and least favourite fantasy tropes. Since I shared a detailed look at my favourites recently, I included them on this post only as a comparison to my least favourite… as some are linked.

On Friday, I detoured from my usual feature posts to share my review of The Puppet Maker. If you are partial to a police procedural or mystery/crime novel, I strongly recommend checking this out!

 

Books Read

 

Warrior Prince

I left off in last week’s Sunday Summary update having read the first 10% of Warrior Prince. A decent start, but it was just that. I’d only picked up the book for the first time that morning! This week, I dived into the book in earnest as it is the next book due a review here on my blog.

I’m a big fan of historical fiction, and I’ve been reading a lot of Viking based fiction set in modern day England. Warrior Prince differs from that format – it is instead set across Nordic and Eastern European backdrops. I’ve enjoyed the change of focus, as it isn’t an element of Viking history that I’ve considered before. Of course I know that they would have set out to other countries other than the UK; in fact, my own little island is one of such places. It’s not something I’ve seen very much of in terms of availability to read though.

The book is full of action, and is an interesting insight into the history of what we now know as Eastern Europe. The scope of locations throughout the narrative are quite varied, going to show that things like borders and restriction of movement were completely different. The one constant since time began is war… and that is something we see a lot of in this book. The conflict and the politics, together with the action, made for an interesting read. If you want to read my full thoughts on the book, you don’t have long to wait!

 

Cinderella’s Crimes

The next book I picked up this week was Cinderella’s Crimes by Kelsey Josund. The tale is a reimagining of the traditional fairytale, only Cinna is not your average step child turned housemaid. She’s a bitter woman. Cold and calculating, she’s devised a way to turn her life around and get what she thinks she deserves – and it begins with a heist.

The plot is very well thought out and paced throughout the book. Not everything is revealed to us readers straight away either, keeping us guessing. Although Cinderella’s Crimes is one of the shorter books I have read this year, it doesn’t lack for detail. As you can only expect with two individuals running parallel heists, there is a lot of action and moving parts to juggle. The said, the plot was very easy to follow and was, overall, engaging.

I’ll be publishing my review of this book at the end of the month, so I hope you can check this out too!

 

Surrounded by Idiots

With just 20% left of Surrounded by Idiots, I left this until last. In fact, as of writing this paragraph, I’m listening to the last 26 minutes of the audio. I’ll have it finished by the end of the night edit: finished whilst editing this post.

The book has been really interesting in both understanding various personality types. More specifically, my personality type has proved interesting, and how I am perceived by others. I’m very strongly yellow, meaning I’m quite a social person and am prone to talk a lot. The funny part is that yellows tend to talk about themselves… which I can’t really argue about in this Sunday Summary now, can I?

This has built upon some knowledge I already had from a work course, and it’s helped me consider with more time and detail how to understand and work with different people.

 

Books Discovered

Dominion

I added one book to my reading list earlier today, having had a chat with Chris this afternoon about current reads. He is currently reading Dominion, and I like the sound of this alternative fiction.

The book explores what British life could be like had the country surrendered to the Germans in WW2. Chris is really enjoying the book, and I like historical fiction, so I definitely want to take a look!

 

Coming Up…

My first post of the week will be shared on Tuesday next week. With a review going live later in the week, I want to keep this post quite light in topic. With this in mind, I plan to share a Top Ten Tuesday post and share my top atmospheric books with you!

On Thursday, I’m taking part in the blog tour for Warrior Prince. If you like the sound of the book above, I’d love for you to take a look at that post when it goes live!

As always, I’ll be back this time next week with a Sunday Summary post. Until then, have a great week; I’ll see you in my Top Ten Tuesday post.

 

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Blog Tour Review: The Puppet Maker – Jenny O’Brien

Happy Friday friends and welcome to a highly anticipated review. I’ve been looking forward to sharing my thoughts on The Puppet Maker since I finished the book about a week ago.

Before I jump into my thoughts on this fantastic book, I always like to take the chance to thank both Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources and the author Jenny O’Brien, for giving me the chance to read this book and share my thoughts today.

I really enjoyed The Puppet Maker. It’s been a little while since I picked up a book of this genre and it was a great re-introduction!

 

The Puppet Maker – Jenny O’Brien

Genre: Police Procedural

Pages: 298

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Storm Publishing

Publication Date: 17 Oct 2023

Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

 

Goodreads – The Puppet Maker

The scrap of paper looked as if it had been torn from a diary. The words written in faint pencil. The letters rounded, almost childlike: Please look after her. Her life and mine depend on you not trying to find me.

When Detective Alana Mack arrives at Clonabee police station, in a small Irish seaside town on the outskirts of Dublin, she doesn’t expect to find a distressed two-year-old girl sobbing on the floor.

Abandoned in a local supermarket, the child tells them her name is Casey. All Alana and her team have to go on is a crumpled note begging for someone to look after her little girl. This mother doesn’t want to be found.

Still recovering from a terrible accident that has left Alana navigating a new life as a wheelchair user, Alana finds herself suddenly responsible for Casey while trying to track down the missing mother and solve another missing person’s case… a retired newsagent who has seemingly vanished from his home.

Forced to ask her ex-husband and child psychiatrist Colm for help, through Forensic Art Therapy, Alana discovers that whatever darkness lies behind the black windows in Casey’s crayon drawing, the little girl was terrified of the house she lived in.

Then a bag of human remains is found in a bin, and a chilling link is made – the DNA matches Casey’s.

Alana and her team must find the body and make the connection with the missing newsagent fast if she is to prevent another life from being taken. But with someone in her department leaking confidential details of the investigation to the media, can Alana set aside her emotional involvement in this case and find Casey’s mother and the killer before it’s too late?

Heart-pounding and totally addictive, The Puppet Maker is the first in the Detective Alana Mack series that will have fans of Ann Cleeves, Angela Marsons and LJ Ross racing through the pages late into the night.

 

Purchase Links

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0C9JJ5XYB/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0C9JJ5XYB/

 

My Thoughts…

 

Plot

The Puppet Maker has a lot of dark and difficult themes. That shouldn’t come as a surprise in a narrative whose synopsis involves body parts. There’s a lot more to it than that, however. Poverty, abuse, illness and disability also have their place this book. It colours what could be a beautiful setting (and I’m sure it is when painted in a more natural light) into a city with an underbelly… and that’s perfect for this type of book. It’s gritty and highlights the less savoury side of life – something we are perhaps too keen to look away and ignore otherwise.

The plot unravels at a perfect pace to keep us readers on our toes and guessing what could possibly come next. Every chapter has a purpose, from setting the scene to sharing pivotal information. Overall, I enjoyed the balance in establishing the setting and characters with the action within. I enjoy both aspects, so taking time  to make the most of both appealed to me as a reader.

 

Characters

I enjoyed the representation in our protagonist Alana. It isn’t very often we find ourselves with a detective with a disability. Alana’s disability is physical and the book does a fantastic job of illustrating difficulties wheelchair users suffer… even down to being able to perform such basic and mundane tasks by themselves. Taking the time to explore such detail within this complex narrative adds to the overall setting and makes for an immersive experience.

That said, Alana isn’t defined by her disability either. She is a complex character with a strength of spirit even before you consider her recent history. Alana has suffered more misery than the loss of her legs. It’s abundantly clear to us readers that this has a profound effect on her, but she’s doesn’t let it drag her down into the darkest depths either.

Alana is just one character amongst a complex cast. Whilst she unravels the mystery of a young girl and a missing parent, there are lots of other characters that add to this interesting narrative. Casey’s mother is also a really exciting character to read the perspective of. Could you imagine leaving your daughter in a supermarket in the hopes that someone will take her in and care for her? A lot of people might consider that unthinkable, but believe me, she has her reasons and those come to light as the book unfolds.

 

Narrative Style

The Puppet Maker is multi perspective, which really worked for me. This writing style is my preference, and with this type of book and narrative it works really well to unveil plot twists and secrets to the reader in a timely fashion and maintain suspense until all the pieces come together.

The chapters are a great length. Each voice has plenty of page-time to explore their own stories within the wider narrative. At the same time, they are concise enough to get the message across and have us compulsively reading the next chapter for a further revelation. This balance, in my opinion, was perfect for the genre and subject of the book!

Each character and perspective has a distinct voice and narrative style, so we know whose perspective we are reading at any given time. With a decent number of characters to pull off, this is well managed throughout.

 

Summary

The Puppet Maker is a compulsive page-turner with an intricate and twisty plot line to keep readers engaged. It’s a wonder I managed to put the book down from time to time and actually function as an adult. Well, I suppose that’s a matter of opinion, eh?

 

Author Bio

Born in Dublin, Jenny O’Brien moved to Wales and then Guernsey, where she tries to

find time to write in between working as a nurse and ferrying around 3 teenagers.

In her spare time she can be found frowning at her wonky cakes and even wonkier breads. You’ll be pleased to note she won’t be entering Bake-Off. She’s also an all-year-round sea swimmer.

Jenny is represented by Nicola Barr of The Bent Agency and published by Storm Publishing and HQ Digital (Harper Collins).

Social Media Links

Twitter – https://twitter.com/ScribblerJB
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/scribblerjb/