Tag: Book Review

Book Review: Fire and Blood – George R.R. Martin

I’m really looking forward to sharing today’s book review with you all for Fire and Blood. It is well documented that I am a huge fan of George R.R. Martin, and with the current airing of the prequel show, House of the Dragon, I wanted to share my thoughts on the book that inspired the series!

If you are unfamiliar with the book, Fire and Blood is the first of a two-part history of the Targaryen family line. The book begins with Aegon the Conqueror’s conquest of Westeros, and from there, history only gets, well… bloodier.

 

Fire and Blood – George R.R. Martin

Genre: Epic fantasy

Pages: 706

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: 20 Nov 2018

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

Goodreads – Fire and Blood

From the masterly imagination behind A Game of Thrones – one of the greatest fantasy epics of all time and an unmissable HBO hit series – comes a definitive history of Westeros’s past as told by Archmaester Gyldayn.

Unravelling events that led to A Song of Ice and Fire, Fire and Blood is the first volume of the definitive two-part history of the Targaryens in Westeros. Revealing long-buried secrets and untold lasting enmity, it sets the scene for the heart-stopping series conclusion, The Winds of Winter.

300 years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire, long before the schism that set the houses of Westeros at each other’s throats, one house ruled supreme and indomitable. House Targaryen, the house of the last remaining dragonlords.

After surviving the Doom of Valyria the Targaryen’s established themselves on Dragonstone. This volume traces their legendary lineage from Aegon the Conqueror to the bloody Dance of Dragons; a civil war that pitted Aegon II and his half-sister Rhaenyra in a bitter conflict for the throne of their father, nearly wiping out the Targaryen dynasty forever.

What really happened during the Dance of the Dragons? Why did it become so deadly to visit Valyria after the Doom? What is the origin of Daenerys’s three dragon eggs? These are but a few of the questions answered in this essential chronicle, as related by a learned maester of the Citadel.

With all the scope and grandeur of Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Fire and Blood is the ultimate guide to Westeros’s past. Featuring more than eighty all-new black-and-white illustrations by artist Doug Wheatley this is an essential volume for any Game of Thrones fan’s library. For the first time the full tapestry of Targaryen history is revealed.

 

My Thoughts…

If you are watching House of the Dragon and wonder how it compares to Fire and Blood, you may be interested to learn that the events of the TV show don’t start until approximately 340 pages into the book. Those events are the passing over of Rhaenys as heir in favour of Viserys I (because God forbid a woman sits on the Iron Throne!). It was touched upon very briefly in the first few minutes of the TV show, and from there the rest unfolds.

Naturally, that means there is a good deal of history that the prequel show doesn’t even touch upon. Granted, I can see why that is the case. A significant portion of the book prior to these events covers the reign of Jaehaerys I Targaryen. By all accounts, Jaehaerys was a well-suited ruler and lived to a ripe old age. If you are unfamiliar, that’s about as rare as hen’s teeth in the Targaryen bloodline! Whilst good Kings are good for the realm, they don’t make the most interesting of stories!

My copy of this book is the illustrated hardback edition, illustrated by Doug Wheatley. The pictures are interspersed throughout the narrative and really bring the characters to life. Some of my favourite illustrations in the book are of Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters Rhaenys and Visenya, the portrait of Maegor the Cruel, as well as a number of the action scenes and dragon fights within.

I would be lying to you if I said that this first instalment of the Targaryen histories wasn’t dense. There are a lot of characters in this book. As a result, I benefited from taking a break and splitting reading the book into two. It gave me the opportunity to digest what I had read so far. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I absolutely did! George R.R. Martin went to a great deal of trouble to incorporate the histories of both Westeros and Essos throughout the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I am glad that it made it into its own book(s), as the depth of detail deserves its moment in the limelight.

As I thoroughly enjoyed this first book so much, I cannot wait for the second half of this history. If it is anything like the first then there will be plenty of tension, drama, and conflict to look forward to. As we can only expect from George R.R. Martin, I am sure it will not be a short book either. There is nothing superficial about the world or characters he creates. For fans of epic fantasy like me, that leaves us a lot to dive into. These are the sorts of books to find some new detail in with every re-read.

If I had one wish about Fire and Blood, it is that it went further back in history. The book begins with the conquest of Aegon the Conqueror, which happens approximately 100 years after an event referred to in this book and the main series as the ‘Doom of Valyria’. Personally, I would like to finally understand what this mysterious event is. We don’t know what happened, other than Valyria is destroyed as a result. It is written into the lore of the world as to why we don’t know about what happened, but it’s an itch I would love to scratch one day. Surely he can come up with a loophole to finally leak the story somehow?!

Have you read Fire and Blood? Are you a fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire series? I would love it if you let me know and we could have a chat in the comments!

 

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Book Review: The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

In today’s book review post, I am featuring my review for the first non-fiction book I read this year – A Diary of a Young Girl. I have been making more of an effort to read non-fiction of late, and so I felt it fitting that I also feature this on my blog. It reflects my current reading, and this book naturally led to some very strong emotions.

A Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

Genre: Non-fiction/classic

Pages: 283

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Fingerprint Classics

Publication Date: 1947

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

Goodreads – The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank’s extraordinary diary, written in the Amsterdam attic where she and her family hid from the Nazis for two years, has become a world classic and a timeless testament to the human spirit. Now, in a new edition enriched by many passages originally withheld by her father, we meet an Anne more real, more human, and more vital than ever. Here she is first and foremost a teenage girl—stubbornly honest, touchingly vulnerable, in love with life. She imparts her deeply secret world of soul-searching and hungering for affection, rebellious clashes with her mother, romance and newly discovered sexuality, and wry, candid observations of her companions. Facing hunger, fear of discovery and death, and the petty frustrations of such confined quarters, Anne writes with adult wisdom and views beyond her years. Her story is that of every teenager, lived out in conditions few teenagers have ever known.

 

My Thoughts…

Having read so much historical fiction, particularly around World War II as I’m interested in the subject, I’m surprised I hadn’t read this book before now. Most of the narratives are about the overarching movements on the war, but it’s personal stories that really make it hit home. But this isn’t fiction. Anne Frank was a real young lady, who went into hiding because a regime did not like her faith. All the devastation that took place is disgusting.

Up until the family go into hiding, Anne lives a reasonably normal life. She has a school and classmates… A family who love her. All the things a child should have. Fear and doubt are not things that a child her age should know, but they come soon enough. There is a stark difference between the schoolgirl gifted a diary for her birthday, and the young woman confined into the Annex.

Throughout her diary we watch Anne struggle to come to terms with her new life, her relationships and living in a small space with very few provisions. Through the various chapters, we experience Anne’s day-to-day struggles, angst and moods, as well as her extended periods of melancholy. Anne becomes a teenager in The Annex; she has to battle with herself to come into her own, deal with her hormones and the like with no help or privacy.

The knowledge that this is a real girl’s diary makes the content all the more stark. That I concluded this read on the day Russia invaded Ukraine brought this to the forefront of my mind once again.

It is an educational read that helps those of us who have never known such hardship to really understand the atrocities experienced by the Franks, amongst others, had to live through. But, it also has a glimmer of hope – as it highlights those who risked themselves to hide and protect Jews. It is a pity it was in vain for too many people.

I don’t know what I expected, but the abrupt ending of the diary left me at a loss. Naturally, Anne had no inkling of their discovery and so there was no lead-up to that in her narrative. To mentally conclude the book, I researched what happened to the family after the events in her diary, and I was saddened by the reality. It is sad that anyone should go through this, but the truth is, so many lives ended in similar, or worse ways.

The Diary of a Young Girl wasn’t light reading by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it is important. It gives insight into the horrors that oppressed Jews had to live in, and only through wearing their shoes can we understand how they lived, suffered and fought for their lives.

Have you read The Diary of a Young Girl? What are your thoughts on this book? As always, let me know in the comments or on social media.

 

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Book Review: The First Binding – R.R. Virdi

Hello everybody and welcome to today’s review of the most epic of epic fantasy novels, The First Binding by R.R. Virdi. Advertised as The Name of the Wind meets City of Brass, this book appealed to me instantly and I added it to my TBR back at the beginning of the year. As a huge fan of Patrick Rothfuss and his The Name of the Wind series as a teenager, this book was full of promise… and a little touch of nostalgia.

And I got that from this book. The narrative style is just what I was looking for, and there’s even the odd little Easter egg that relates to the series if you can spot it.

I’m excited to share today’s review with you, which is just ahead of the publication of the book (18th August if you’d like to get yourself a copy). Before I get into sharing my thoughts on this book, I like to say a massive thank you to Gollancz for providing me with a copy of the book so I could read it and tell you all about it today. All the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own, and shared voluntarily. 

 

The First Binding

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Pages: 832

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Gollancz

Publication Date: 18 Aug 2022

Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

 

Goodreads – The First Binding

All legends are born of truths. And just as much lies. These are mine. Judge me for what you will. But you will hear my story first.

I buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow. Then I killed their god. I’ve stolen old magics and been cursed for it. I started a war with those that walked before mankind and lost the princess I loved, and wanted to save. I’ve called lightning and bound fire. I am legend. And I am a monster.

My name is Ari. And this is the story of how I let loose the first evil.

 

My Thoughts

Ari, known as The Storyteller, recounts his youth and introduction to the ten bindings all men must know. Written in the same vein as The Name of the Wind, fans of the series by Patrick Rothfuss will recognise and enjoy the narrative style. This is one of the primary reasons that I wanted to pick up this book for myself, and in every aspect, it didn’t disappoint!

Ari, aka ‘The Storyteller’ does not shy away from the dramatic. An expert narrator, he teases his audience and dabbles in anticipation to his audience. Slowly, his stories unravel in a way that steadily builds to a grand crescendo – it appeals to the audience. And with the very same craft and skill does R.R. Virdi tease Ari’s narrative across 800+ pages.

Capturing our attention from the opening lines, we go back to the very beginnings of Ari’s life as an abandoned child. From there we watch Ari advance in years and in his desire to learn about where he came from. Along the way, he encounters a vast array of characters. Not all of them are good. Not all of them are kind to him. Through sheer grit and determination, and with a few friendly faces to help him along, Ari struggles to find himself and his place in the world. He has no foundations from which to build, and so he is determined to make his own.

Epic in scope, and full of adventure, magic, and misdeeds, we reminisce on Ari’s early years. And the best thing is that this is just the beginning of the story. Of his story.

The First Binding is very well written. Full of in-depth and detailed world-building, with its own history and myths/legends, The First Binding is every bit as well developed as other popular and well-known fantasy series. In particular, I really enjoyed how the last chapter plays out, as we are almost taken back to the beginning. Almost. We have enjoyed this expansive journey with Ari, and yet the setting reminds us of where we humbly began. Consequently, it also inevitably leaves us wondering, what happens next?

Another point that really sold this book for me is how I enjoy magic systems in fantasy that have rules relating to the physical world. Authors such as Brandon Sanderson are favourites of mine because he also does the same thing.

This is also true to an extent in The First Binding. When magic takes place, things don’t just appear and disappear at will. The magic alters them in such a way that it changes their state, or where something is, for example. It is these same rules, rooted in science, that make the magic seem more plausible. They have limitations, meaning that any inconvenient plot point cannot just be made ‘right’ with magic. It must be a lot more difficult to employ a magic system that has such constraints, so I have a lot of respect for authors who are able to incorporate this, and well, and make the magic all the more believable!

Every good storyteller knows how to construct a cliffhanger, and R.R Virdi has done just that in The First Binding! I cannot wait for the sequel to see what happens next. Inevitably, there are still unresolved plot points that have not yet been explored in full detail (such as the ten bindings themselves – we only know eight of them). Some of these I expect to span over multiple books. As a huge fantasy fan, I really enjoy this depth and the promise of what is yet to come! 

Undeniably, The Fist Binding is one of my favourite reads of 2022, and I hope I have convinced you to pick this book up for yourself!

 

Author Bio

http://rrvirdi.com/about/

Book Review: A Feast of Phantoms – Kat Ross

Hello everyone and welcome to today’s book review of A Feast of Phantoms by Kat Ross. If you like books that are an eclectic range of genres, then this book is for you! With an underpinning western theme and elements of steampunk, this fantasy has a lot going on in a nice, concise page count that is approachable to read.

Full disclosure, I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. All of the opinions shared in this post are my own.

 

A Feast of Phantoms – Kat Ross

Book cover of A Feast of PhantomsGenre: Fantasy

Pages: 270

Audience: New Adult

Publisher: Acorn

Publication Date: 17 Mar 2020

Rating: ***

 

Goodreads – A Feast of Phantoms

THE JOB

It was supposed to be simple.

Help Marshal Sebastian Hardin escort his prisoner one stop on the railway to Charter Oak.

Just one stop.

But when that prisoner is a savant who talks to ghosts, even the simplest plans have a way of falling apart.

THE LAW

Sheriff’s Deputy Ruth Cortez always does the right thing. Lucky Boy is a company town, dependent on the rich and powerful Carnarvon family. Besides which, the charismatic Sebastian Hardin isn’t an easy man to say no to. When his transport derails in the middle of the prairie, Ruth begins a relentless manhunt that leads straight into the dark heart of the Carnarvon empire.

THE FUGITIVE

Lee Merriweather favors sharp suits and fast trains – especially when he’s stealing them. At the ripe old age of 18, he’s managed to become the most wanted criminal in three territories. Lee can’t resist playing cat and mouse with a small-town deputy, but what starts as a game becomes deadly serious.

THE FIXER

Sebastian Hardin is the Carnarvons’ right hand, loyal to the death and willing to keep any secret to protect the family. They want Lee alive, but with the young savant’s disturbing abilities it won’t be an easy proposition. Whoever catches Lee gets the keys to the kingdom and the Carnarvons aren’t the only ones hunting him down. Sebastian has enough problems without falling for Deputy Cortez – but you can’t always choose who you love.

THE PHANTOMS

They terrorized the settlers until Calindra Carnarvon learned to speak their language. Her empire relies on controlling their telekinetic powers, but Lee Merriweather could destroy it all. And not even Lee suspects the shocking truth of the phantoms’ real nature.

 

My Thoughts…

If you like the crossover of genres in the likes of Stephen king’s The Dark Tower or Brandon Sanderson‘s second Mistborn trilogy, A Feast of Phantoms has a similar vibe. It is also set in a western type setting. The incorporation of steampunk elements reminded me of the technological advancements we see between the first and second Mistborn trilogy, which is why I have likened this book to that.

Ruth is a small-town girl happy with her quiet life as a deputy in the town of Lucky Boy. Life is fairly rudimentary, but it’s all she’s ever known. When she is conscripted to help the secret services transport a prisoner for trial, she doesn’t have much choice but to accept. From here on, Ruth world opens up to magic, intrigue, and danger that she couldn’t foresee.

I really liked Ruth as a character. I love that she has very strong, good morals. In a world that is clearly corrupt, Ruth is a breath of fresh air. She is also very headstrong, and despite her youth, she is able to make a decision and act upon it. Quite often characters of this age can be a bit wishy-washy or uncertain. A lot of the plot conflict derives around that issue.

That’s not the case in A Feast of Phantoms, however. Instead, Ruth is decisive and more often than not, it is this that gets her into more trouble… Despite her good intentions.

A Feast of Phantoms has a fast pace plot. Once the story has been set up, we are whisked upon the mission to escort Lee Merriweather to his fate, and all the drama and turmoil that unfolds thereafter., In true fashion, all is not as it seems. Hardly to be expected, given that the secret services are involved. Instead, Ruth finds herself dragged into a conflict she could never have imagined and is far away from her hometown.

A Feast of Phantoms is also a short read, and very easy to pick up. I managed to read this book in just a couple of days. The narrative style is easy to follow and get lost in. Reading this book was effortless, and the story keeps you hanging on to read just one more chapter… over and over again.

The good news for fans of this book is that it is the first of a trilogy. This first instalment leaves us on a cliffhanger that will have us picking up the next one to know what happens next!

What are your thoughts on this book? As always, let me know in the comments or on social media. Get in touch with me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, or of my new blog posts as and when they go live!

Until next time,

 

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Book Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne – C. J. Tudor

In today’s post, I am sharing my book review for The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor. I read this book just over a year ago, so it’s well due its five minutes of fame on my blog.

I really enjoyed The Taking of Annie Thorne. Previously, I had read and loved The Chalk Man, also by the same author. It’s for this reason that I wanted to pick this latest book up, and I’m glad I did. This time last year I wasn’t reading anywhere near as much as usual. However, I read this book a lot quicker than I had been managing other books of similar length.

I think that speaks volumes for itself, but in today’s post, I share plenty more reasons why you should read this book for yourself!

 

The Taking of Annie Thorne – C. J. Tudor

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Pages: 346

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Penguin

Publication Date: 21 Feb 2019

Rating: *****

 

Goodreads – The Taking of Annie Thorne

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her. Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie. I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

 

My Thoughts…

With any mystery or thriller, one of the greatest aspects of this kind of narrative is the characters and their backstory. The Taking of Annie Thorne is told in a dual timeline; we learn the history of the characters and what happened in the past, and we see some of those same characters back as adults. If you like this kind of idea, and in particular, if you liked the timeline in the likes of Stephen King’s book, IT, this is very similar.

Given that we are juggling two timelines interspersed within each other, the pacing of the book works really well. Nothing is revealed too early, keeping us on our toes as to what happens – in both timelines! If you are concerned that juggling both at the same time is confusing, I can assure you, I didn’t find this to be the case at all. Each is clearly set out at the beginning of the chapter as to which timeline we are in. The chapters are also not too long, so nothing too chunky happens all at once and we then forget the events of the other timeline.

I particularly liked the characters of Annie and Joe. The story is told from Joe‘s perspective. As Annie’s brother, he is close to the event when she goes missing, and in the subsequent action. I liked both of these characters for different reasons. Annie, after she comes back, is creepy. She definitely has a sinister vibe that defines this mystery novel for me, but adds elements of horror. She is characterised perfectly.

I like Joe for different reasons. He turns out to be a very complex character with very distinct character development between these two timelines. Also, I enjoyed how this was kept consistent throughout the book; at no point did his personalities or perspective merge. It made the reading of each timeline easier to follow, and was very interesting to observe how he has changed outside of the book. Joe turns out to be a character with varying shades of grey when it comes to morality. I really enjoy this element of a book. I like reading a narrative and having to consider whether whatever has happened is true, or whether the perspective is biased or not. Having Joe as a morally grey character really added to the mystery that was already here and present in the book, and I’m all for it!

As I said in my introduction above, I read this book a lot quicker than I was reading other books of a similar length. I was deliberately not taking on anything too ambitious last year, as I experienced a little bit of burnout. Yet, I managed to devour this book in a handful of days at a time when that wasn’t really the norm for me. At about 350 pages, I think this is a book that anybody could pick up at any given time. It’s not too heavy (and I don’t just mean in the literal sense) – it’s a very easy narrative to consume. It is engaging with its interesting mystery with a creepy twist, so this can appeal to a lot of readers.

As a fan of The Chalk Man, I wasn’t disappointed by The Taking of Annie Thorne. I got the narrative style and characterisation of a calibre I was expecting, with a plot twist that I couldn’t anticipate; this was one of my better reads of last year when you consider the five-star rating I gave it, and how quickly I read it!

What are your thoughts on The Taking of Annie Thorne? As always, I would love to hear from you!

 

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Blog Tour Review and GIVEAWAY: Twelve Nights – Penny Ingham

Hello everybody and welcome to today’s blog tour review of Twelve Nights by Penny Ingham. As a fan of historical fiction, I was keen to dive into this particular book! I was intrigued by the mystery alluded to in the synopsis, but I also was interested in its literary ties as it features William Shakespeare and the theatre in general. I loved performing arts in school, so the culmination of all these elements excited me!

not only am I sharing my review with you today, but for UK-based readers, there is a link below to a giveaway in which you could win a paperback copy of the book for yourself! Read on to find out more!

As always, before I jump into sharing my thoughts on the book, I like to say a massive thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, and the author Penny for providing me with a review copy. All of the opinions stated in this post are honest and my own!

 

Twelve Nights

Genre: historical-fiction

Pages: 380

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Nerthus

Publication Date: 1 Jun 2022

Rating: ***

 

The Theatre – London, 1592

When a player is murdered, suspicion falls on the wardrobe mistress, Magdalen Bisset, because everyone knows poison is a woman’s weapon. The scandal-pamphlets vilify her. The coroner is convinced of her guilt.

Magdalen is innocent, although few are willing to help her prove it. Her much-loved grandmother is too old and sick. Will Shakespeare is benignly detached, and her friend Christopher Marlowe is wholly unreliable. Only one man offers his assistance, but dare she trust him when nothing about him rings true?

With just two weeks until the inquest, Magdalen ignores anonymous threats to ‘leave it be’, and delves into the dangerous underworld of a city seething with religious and racial tension. As time runs out, she must risk everything in her search for the true killer – for all other roads lead to the gallows.

Purchase Links: –   Amazon UK     Amazon US

 

My Thoughts…

Twelve Nights brings together a lot of elements I enjoy; a mystery, an influence of literature, and the theatre. Whilst I confess that I have never had much love or understanding of William Shakespeare’s literary works (sorry, the language is just gibberish to me), I am interested in his history. I have studied a few bits and pieces in school, but I have only had a very perfunctory education about him.

From the author’s note at the end of the book, this may be in part because very little is known of him. This book gave a nice introduction to who he was as a person, professionally and personally, in an interesting fictional story. The book also touches on other interesting elements of the history of the period. Religion plays a significant role in the society protagonist Magdalen lives in, and this shines through throughout the book. I don’t have much prior knowledge of religious history, and the religious views that were prominent in the period. However, this wasn’t necessary. It was incorporated into the narrative and explained within the story. It made an interesting backdrop to an already intriguing storyline.

The setting of this book is also interesting from the perspective of Magdalen and her position in society. Frankly, women in this period are treated horribly. You are the property of your father until you are married and you are expected to have children. That is it. Even attempting to have a life of your own or support yourself earns you disapproval from men and constant accusations of lewd behaviour.

I knew this was something that I would have strong feelings about… but it was something I wanted to have strong feelings about if you know what I mean? I wanted to rage at the treatment of this poor woman, and many other women in this story, and I did. Twelve Nights has been a great eye-opener into how much times have (thankfully) changed. This story is also a gateway to understanding what it is like to be a woman in the 16th century. It is one thing to know, but quite another to experience the vitriol and harassment unjustly through the eyes of our protagonist.

I enjoyed Magdalen as a character. She is brave and perhaps a little foolhardy, but she stands up to prejudice and discrimination where she sees it and takes a stand when it counts – for herself. She has grown up a very independent woman, and she is a rarity in this society. I constantly admired her for her ability to fight against society’s expectations of her.

I enjoyed the characterisation of more than just the protagonist in this book. In particular, I think the author did very well to portray the struggles of caring for somebody with Alzheimer’s and dementia. There are a couple of characters in this book that deals with these conditions, and the representation that they are given in the book is fantastic. Having had a family member suffer from the condition, I think the portrayal was very well done.

I enjoyed the mystery that plays out across the pages of Twelve Nights. We are taken through a variety of twists and turns as Magdalen tries to get to the bottom of a murder she is accused of, but did not commit, all before her ‘inquest’ and inevitable conviction for the crime. The mystery took a turn I was not expecting, and I enjoyed this element of surprise at the 11th hour!

One small thing to add, but I recommend reading the author’s note at the end. Within that note, we learned that a lot of the characters in this book are based on real people, which I found interesting. It proves that the author really knows her stuff on the subject and has researched it thoroughly before incorporating the story into a fun fictional narrative.

 

Author Bio

I was born and raised in Yorkshire where my father inspired my love of history from an early age. He is a born story teller and would take us to the top of Iron Age hillforts, often as dusk was falling, and regale us with stirring tales of battles lost and won. Not surprisingly, I went on to study Classics at university, and still love spending my summers on archaeological digs. For me, there is nothing more thrilling than finding an artefact that has not seen the light of day for thousands of years. I find so much inspiration for my novels from archaeology.

I have had a variety of jobs over the years, including working for the British Forces newspaper in Germany, and at the BBC. When our family was little, the only available space for me to write was a small walk-in wardrobe. The children used to say, ‘oh, mum’s in the cupboard again’.

I have written four historical novels: The King’s Daughter explores the story of Aethelflaed, the Lady of the Mercians. The Saxon Wolves and the Saxon Plague are both set in fifth century AD, a time of enormous upheaval and uncertainty in Britain as the Romans departed and the Saxon era began. My latest is something a bit different. Twelve Nights is a crime thriller set in sixteenth century London, and features William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.

I now live with my husband in the Hampshire countryside. Like many others during the pandemic, we decided to try growing our own fruit and vegetables – with mixed results! We can only get better!

 

Social Media Links –

Facebook: Penny Ingham Author Page | Facebook

Instagram: Penny Ingham (@penny.ingham)

Twitter: Penny Ingham (@pennyingham) / Twitter

Website: Penny Ingham (wordpress.com)

 

Giveaway to Win a PB copy of Twelve Nights (Open to UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions -Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/ or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494511/?

Book Review: Dune – Frank Herbert

Today’s book review is slightly later than scheduled as I had an exam on Wednesday that I was preparing for. I’m pleased to say that all my efforts were worth it and I passed!

I’m looking forward to sharing today’s review of Dune by Frank Herbert. It is a book I really enjoyed reading earlier this year and is the introduction to a grand science-fiction series but I’m looking forward to exploring in more detail!

 

Dune – Frank Herbert

Genre: Science-fiction

Pages: 577

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Hodder

Publication Date: 16/07/2015

Rating: ****

 

Goodreads – Dune

Melange, or ‘spice’, is the most valuable – and rarest – element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person’s life-span to making intersteller travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world Arrakis.

Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.

When the Emperor transfers stewardship of Arrakis from the noble House Harkonnen to House Atreides, the Harkonnens fight back, murdering Duke Leto Atreides. Paul, his son, and Lady Jessica, his concubine, flee into the desert. On the point of death, they are rescued by a band for Fremen, the native people of Arrakis, who control Arrakis’ second great resource: the giant worms that burrow beneath the burning desert sands.

In order to avenge his father and retake Arrakis from the Harkonnens, Paul must earn the trust of the Fremen and lead a tiny army against the innumerable forces aligned against them.

And his journey will change the universe.

 

My Thoughts…

Having just read a science-fiction novel before reading Dune, I was excited to immediately pick up another. It’s a genre I am reading a lot more of. But where my prior read, The Feedback Loop, was light and palatable, Dune offered me a fantasy-esque epicness I love! I had sampled of the first few pages of the book casually before, so I had an idea of what I was committing to reading. And yet, it became so much more! Dune was plenty I hoped for, and then some more.

This book is a science-fiction on a grand scale. There is a vast amount of history in world-building that is incorporated even as the opening chapters unfold. It is clear that a lot of investment was put into the characters backstory, and it is entertaining to uncover as the main story begins. There is a lot of familial conflict and resentment that drive the plot. Think of Game of Thrones, but in space! It’s a complex web of alliances and forces, but without being too difficult to follow.

The events that take place are consistent within the universe created and the flow of the narrative is impressive. There are also elements of mystical powers and magic to the story, which I really enjoyed. As a huge fantasy fan, this really appealed to me, although unfortunately the book employed some fantasy tropes I am less than enthusiastic for.

Our protagonist Paul is his mother’s son, and much more besides. Jessica is Bene Gesserit, part of an exclusive sisterhood who have trained themselves to acquire and hone magical abilities. We discover very early on that Paul has inherited these abilities, and Jessica has been training him to control them. What I really didn’t like, however, is that boys are not supposed to have the magical power that Paul does. But of course, Paul having this ability makes him *much better* than women who have it.

Obviously… Why is this gender difference a thing?

There is another character for whom I think the author did injustice, and that is our villain, Baron Harkonnen. Described as so grossly fat that he cannot support his own weight every time he appears in the narrative, Frank Herbert shows an obvious prejudice that he employs to paint this already immoral character in an even worse light. This isn’t the worst though. Around 200 pages in, I feel like the author challenges to make Baron Harkonnen even more of a villain, and decided to do so by making him gay. Bear in mind the book was originally published in 1965, and in this sense it definitely shows its age. Society has a very different attitude now to that which was present when the book was published – and certainly for the better!

Whilst I didn’t love every aspect of the book, overall I enjoyed it very much and added the sequel to my TBR immediately after finishing it (which I have since gone and read). No book is ever perfect, and the great elements outweigh the few gripes I have. It’s an entertaining science-fiction read all the same, and a bit of a classic, so I hope that you will give it a chance for yourself!

Have you read Dune, or any other books in the series? Have you watched the recent film that was released? I’d love to hear in the comments!

 

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Blog Tour Review: Wolf of Mercia – MJ Porter

Happy Friday and welcome to my blog tour review of Wolf of Mercia by MJ Porter!

It has been a little while since I last took part in a blog tour and provided a review as part of that. I’m really excited to jump back in and share my thoughts on Wolf of Mercia with you today. As always, before I get into my thoughts on the book, I like to take the opportunity to say thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour… and thank you to MJ Porter as well!

Wolf of Mercia isn’t the first book I have read by this author. I took part in a blog tour and provided a review of the first book, Son of Mercia, earlier this year. If you want to get up to speed with that first book before jumping into today’s review, you can find a link here!

And now, onto today’s review!

 

Wolf of Mercia – MJ Porter

Goodreads – Son of Mercia

As a lone wolf inside a Wessex stronghold, Icel must ensure his own and Mercia’s triumph.

Icel is becoming a warrior of Mercia, but King Ecgberht of Wessex still holds the Mercian settlement  of Londonia and its valuable mint.

King Wiglaf of Mercia is determined that the last bulwark be reclaimed from his sworn enemy to complete his rehabilitation as Mercia’s rightful ruler.

In the heart of the shield wall, Icel suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of the battle and thrust into the retreating enemy stronghold where he must take on the pretence of a Wessex warrior to survive and exact a cunning plan to bring down the Wessex force cowering behind the ancient walls.

His allegiances are tested and the temptation to make new allies is overwhelming but Icel must succeed if he’s ever to see Tamworth again and bring about King Wiglaf’s victory, or will he be forced to join the enemy?

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3tNhWTG

 

My Thoughts…

One of my favourite things about this series is the unique perspective of our protagonist. Icel is a young man in a world full of strife. Thrust into a war he has no desire to take part in, we get to see Icel battle with his own internal conflict and his loyalties in this book. In this kind of time period it’s typical for men like Icel to become warriors. It is the expectation.

However, Icel is a man who likes to heal. Having spent his childhood learning how to mend hurts and treat wounds… he does not enjoy inflicting such on others. This is particularly prevalent in the first book, and I really enjoyed his perspective. What I have also enjoyed through reading Wolf of Mercia is that we get to see a lot of character development that has taken place. Icel still does not relish hurting people, however he has stepped up in his duty to defend his country and he will do what is necessary, even if he doesn’t enjoy it. He has grown up from the cowardly boy he used to be.

Even though he can step up and do his part as a warrior, Icel maintains his authenticity in not wanting to do what he has to do. Although we’ve seen a marked change in him, his core principles have stayed the same. It is a challenging angle to take with a character, but MJ Porter has done this very well. She has enabled this development whilst keeping the character fundamentally the same in terms of his root beliefs and values. As one of the biggest selling points for me for this book and series, I’m really glad this has been done so well!

There is a lot more action in Wolf of Mercia than the first book of the series, and through the perspective of Icel, we are quite literally thrown into the middle of it. From the first battle in a shield wall in the opening chapters to the subterfuge of hiding amongst the enemy, there is never a dull moment. It took our main character completely out of the context we have seen him previously and gave him the opportunity to grow. I feel like events like these can either make or break a character… And it certainly made Icel. he is one of my favourite book characters.

I flew through this book in just a handful of days. The narrative and storyline are so immersive that it is easy to get lost in. It is the kind of book you can lose track of time in. The chapters are just the right length to convey what is going on, without being too lengthy either. It is just the perfect balance to justify telling yourself that it’s okay to read just one more chapter… Just one. But it never is!

On the whole, Wolf of Mercia, compared to the first book of the series Son of Mercia, exceeded my expectations and it is a very easy five star rating from me. This is a fantastic sequel to the series and personally I can’t wait to see what happens next!

 

Author Bio

MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, and in Viking Age Denmark. They were raised in the shadow of a building that they believed housed the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia – so their writing destiny was set. The first novel in their new Anglo-Saxon series for Boldwood Son of Mercia was published in February 2022.

Social Media Links –

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

Twitter https://twitter.com/coloursofunison

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/m_j_porter/

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

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/mj-porter

Book Review: Keep You Safe – Rona Halsall

In today’s book review post I’m sharing my thoughts on a book written by local author, Rona Halsall. Keep You Safe appealed to me in its own right, but when I found out that Rona also lives on the Isle of Man, and that the book is also set here, I knew I had to give it a go!

I’m a huge fan of thriller novels anyway, and I was not disappointed by this book at all! I read this over the course of a week, and as with all thrillers, I could not put this down at the end. I binge read the last 130 odd pages in one sitting, late on a Sunday night because I didn’t want to leave it… I couldn’t!

Before I jump into my full review, here are details of the book below: –

 

Keep You Safe – Rona Halsall

Goodreads- Keep You Safe

What if trying to protect your child only put them in danger?

Natalie is desperate to find her little boy. It has been more than three years since she saw Harry. Three long years in prison for a crime she knows she didn’t commit.

But her husband believed the police, and took their son.

Who has gone to such great lengths to destroy Natalie’s life? Everyone she once trusted – friends, family, everyone close to her – what secrets do they hide?

If Natalie finds the truth, will she get Harry back, or lose him forever?

A totally gripping psychological thriller– perfect for fans of Big Little Lies, The Girl on the Train and C.L Taylor.

 

My Thoughts…

It is a surreal experience to read a book set in the place where you live and work. Streets I have walked countless times – some I see every day nearly – set the scene of this novel… and I will be honest and say it was a tad strange! But at the same time, it was brilliant! I could picture exactly where events were happening in vivid detail and it was really easy to follow. Even without the local knowledge, I think anybody could follow the events in this book. I just have the added advantage that I know the local geography.

Keep You Safe is the kind of novel that keeps you guessing. Natalie has been betrayed in the past by someone she loves, and her distrust and paranoia is deep-rooted. She is a protagonist who can be sympathised with to the extent that she has been separated from a child. However, in other respects, she is a very morally grey character. I wasn’t rooting for her 100% of the time; her decision-making is far from rational or logical. But in the same vein, it is these flaws that make her undoubtedly human. She is a well rounded character – and as a key component to the story… this shines through.

At the heart of this tragic story is a little boy that just wants to be loved. In amidst the lies, deceit, and far more besides, there is an innocent child stuck in the middle. I really enjoyed the ending of this book, as evidenced by my binge reading of it! Perfect elements of mystery come together with a darker, more thrilling ending that I really enjoyed! The pieces slotted together very nicely and we are kept in suspense up until that very last moment. I was lining everybody up as a potential suspect. It’s the kind of book that you think about even when you’re not reading it.

My one, small wish this book is that the island was not referred to as a tax haven. The island has that reputation enough, when in reality most residents as normal, working people just like everyone else. Just like most of the characters portrayed in this book. The only difference is that we have to pay over the odds for a pint of local milk. It may not be all sunshine and roses here on the Island, and yes it has some very wealthy corporations and individuals, but I feel it isn’t an accurate representation and the Island could have been painted in a better light if this was not mentioned. That’s a personal thing though. I’m very passionate about living here and naturally, I want people to see the best of it! 

 

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Book Review: Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo

In today’s book review I’m sharing my thoughts on the first book of the Shadow and Bone series. I picked up this book having watched the related Netflix series. This book was already on my radar because I had read and loved the Six of Crows duology, also written by Leigh Bardugo. I had already said then that I wanted to read this series, and I’m glad I have started at last.

If you are unfamiliar with the book, here’s a little bit about it below: –

 

Shadow & Bone – Leigh Bardugo

Goodreads – Shadow and Bone

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

 

My Thoughts…

Based on the Netflix series, this book lived up to my expectations. When I went into it, I knew that I wasn’t necessarily going to love every single aspect of it. There is an element of romance to the story which I didn’t particularly like in the Netflix series either, and inevitably I was going to come across it again in the book. That said, it didn’t detract from the rest of the story in the slightest.

But I am just going to take a minute to talk about that romance, because if I can’t have a whinge on my own little space on the Internet then where can I? Why do men wielding dark and mysterious powers have to ALWAYS be drop-dead gorgeous? Can fantasy writers please have a little bit more imagination and a perspective a little more true to reality for a minute? I know it’s a fantasy book, but there’s a difference between fantastical and delusional.

People are attracted to power. I can’t deny that. But every single fantasy villain is somehow both more powerful than anybody else in the world and just as beautiful… apparently. And that annoys me. Not only is it unrealistic, but the only real way that would actually be true is if they’re also narcissistic. There are a lot of narcissistic people in the world, but does it have to be every single fantasy villain?

I love the fantasy genre, but not all of the tropes that you see time and again. It gets boring. Even reading the tropes I like again and again it gets boring. Ones that I’m not keen on in the first place can definitely go in the bin. Like this one. Anyway, disparaging comments aside, that’s not to say that my grievance with this particular element of the book took away from the rest of the story. It definitely didn’t! On the contrary, I rated this book 4 stars out of five on Goodreads. It’s still a great book!

One of my favourite things about the Six of Crows duology what was the magic system and the lore behind the Grisha. I knew straightaway that it was an element I wanted to explore in more detail, and I’m really glad I did. There is still much to be learned about these people and their magic, and so I want to pick up the rest of the series to pursue this further.

Equally, the world building and the dynamic between those of different regions in the world adds a lot to the storyline. As someone who is very uninterested in politics in real life, I like to see it play out in books. If you follow my blog you know I’m a huge fan of the likes of Game of Thrones etc, in which politics is a huge element. It definitely comes to into play in Shadow and Bone as well. Both the dynamics between characters and those of other regions are attributable to how well this is portrayed within the narrative, and it makes for an interesting division that will no doubt come to the fore in future books.

The one thing I didn’t like about the Netflix series is that it merged the story lines of Six of Crows with this book. Both are fantastic stories – but in their own right! I’m glad the author has chosen to explore these separately, because there are so much of scope and I’m looking forward to see where the rest of the series leads.

 

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