Tag: historical fiction

Sunday Summary

Sunday Summary – 2nd September 2018

I look forward to writing my Sunday Summary every week. It’s a time to sit down and review what I’ve been doing and gauge how everything is. It’s my organisation time, if you like.

Some weeks are better than others. There are times when I manage to make progress on three or four books. Other times it’s only one, or hardly at all. Last week wasn’t such a great week for reading. Family was visiting, which took out some of my time, but I was in a bit of a slump.

I am hoping that the progress I have made this week is enough to break me out of it. I don’t really have time to be in a slump, with so many blog tours coming up in the next couple of months! I’ve come to think that maybe the belief that I have overstretched myself was one of the causes of my slump. I’m feeling better about it now though – I know when I am due to be reviewing the books on my list and I am confident I can do it!

 

Looking back to what has happened this week, I posted another Down the TBR Hole post on Wednesday. I managed to take three books off the list, so it was time well spent! It is getting to the point where the books on the list were added not too long ago, so I anticipate that going forward, I’ll be taking fewer books off the list than I have historically.

Yesterday, I published my reading list for September; if you want to see which books I am reading for upcoming blog tours, check out that post!

 

Books Read

 

When I lamented to you about my lack of progress last week, I told you that I had only read the first few chapters of Three Bloody Pieces. I’m pleased to say that I have made a lot more progress this week. I have so nearly finished it; I am going to call it done. There is one chapter left, and I am going to read it tonight. It’s so near as damn it!

I am also back on the audiobooks, after a couple of weeks break. I’ve started a bit of an arty project (again) and listening to these at the same time is perfect! I am picking up where I left off with Nevernight, by listening to Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff. I’ve listened to about 15% of the book in the last couple of days, which is good progress!

 

Books Discovered

 

I have been VERY good this week. There is literally nothing to report here. I haven’t added a single book to the list or even bought any…

*faints*

 

 

Coming Up…

toptentuesdayI enjoy writing Top Ten Tuesday posts… and I’ve been having a think about what topic I could feature next. Rather than focussing on books themselves, I’ve decided that this week, I’ll share my Top Ten favourite, go-to authors. I think I might struggle to narrow this down to ten…

 

I’ll be continuing my throwback mini-series on Thursday, with a review of another book or series I have read and am yet to review. I hope you can spare a few moments to join me for that!

 

Sunday Summary

Sunday Summary – 29th July 2018

I look forward to writing my Sunday Summary post every week. I know it’s hard to believe, but the art of committing my week to paper a blog post JUST pips the prospect of looking forward to a 6:40am start the following day.

I’m weird, right?!

This week I have been back to the early starts and long days. I already wish I have another holiday to look forward to. Getting back into the blogging routine has been both joyously familiar and hard work. It’s easy to get out the habit, I think. Not only that, I don’t exactly do things by halves. This will be my fourth blog post this week, which is a rarity.

I posted my first Top Ten Tuesday for a while, and this time I focussed on the books I am looking forward to re-reading at some point. Most of them are either books read in my childhood/teenage years, or influential books that cover difficult topics.

On Friday, I was a part of the cover reveal for book four of the Gemeta Stone series by Donna Migliaccio, Ragis. As a part of that cover reveal, there is currently a giveaway for a chance to win a necklace just like the Gemeta Stone itself. Don’t leave it too late to get your entry in!

Then, yesterday, (slightly later than billed, sorry) I shared my review for A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. I originally intended to read this book earlier on in the year, but as usual, things get in the way. Anyway, I finally got there!

 

Books Read

Children of Blood & Bone

Not only have I been busy at work and generally getting back into the daily grind – ahem… routine, I’ve also been catching up with friends and family since coming back from my trip. The yarn I am setting up here is that I didn’t get to read as much as I had hoped. This week, I have made progress with reading Children of Blood & Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, but that’s all. Usually I have at least two books listed here – but, as I said, I’ve been busy. I’ll be better I promise!!

 

Books Discovered

I added one book to the list this week, which is pretty restrained for me. I have enjoyed reading a couple of historical fiction novels based around Ancient Egypt. With that in mind, I’ve added The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt to the list!

Whilst not strictly an addition to the list (because it’s already on there), I purchased a copy of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak this week. I originally added The Book Thief to my TBR in June last year, but as the opportunity came up to get hold of a copy – I did!

 

Coming Up…

I feel like I say this EVERY SINGLE TIME, but its August next week. I’m just going to let that sink in. AUGUST!!! It barely feels like two minutes ago since I was saying that about March. Anyone who says time doesn’t run away from you faster the older you get is a liar.

A new month means a new reading list! Tuesday’s are a great day for me to post, so if you want to check out which books I’ll be reading (and maaaaayybe carrying over from this month – oops!), stay tuned. I am determined to get the first book on the list read because I have been trying to read it for ages and ages! I’ll be so disappointed if I don’t enjoy it now! Mind you, it is a recommendation from a friend and I think she has read the whole series. I trust her taste in books. I’m sure I’ll like it.

 

For my post on Friday, I want to write something a little different. My plan is still subject to change – maybe the feature topic in itself will change, but I want to write a discussion post. Once published, I would love some feedback if you can spare a moment or two.

 

 

Lastly, as ever, I’ll be rounding up the week in the usual manner.

 I hope you have a great week and I look forward to seeing you around! 

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Book Review: The Toymakers – Robert Dinsdale

*** I received a free copy of The Toymakers from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own***

The Toymakers

Goodreads – The Toymakers

Do you remember when you believed in magic?

The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open!

It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.

For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical…

 

My Thoughts…

I finished reading this book at the end of May, but due to other blogging commitments, I have been unable to find the time to write my review. Usually, leaving a review for so long can make it difficult to remember the impression the book made on you at the time. However, there are a few stand out points that make this book quite unforgettable.

I cannot put into words how well Robert Dinsdale captures the spirit, imagination and the magic of being a child. I may be twenty-three years old, but there were times I wished I was transported to the age of childhood innocence. It may sound daft – hey, you’re an adult! Magic isn’t real! That is where you are wrong.

In stark contrast to the joy and wonder of youth and fun of the Toy Emporium, sixteen-year-old Cathy is due to become a mother. Shunned by her parents for the impropriety of being with child out of wedlock, she flees to the Emporium to start afresh. There, she raises her child and the two of them become part of the Emporium family.

As Emil and Kaspar wage their boyhood wars, the true horrors of real war come to haunt many families. Boys are sent to the trenches. Those that come back are not the same as the boys who left to fight for Queen and country.

I was fascinated at how Papa Jack came to be a toymaker. His back-story is rich and inspiring in equal measure. The life of the Toymaker has not been easy, and it is from the darkest shadows that the brightest light shines. Beauty, love, awe, and inspiration go hand in hand with the horror and brutality, trials and hardship of the world – this inseparable combination captures the essence of life.

 

In Summary…

I don’t think I can successfully put into words just how much I loved this book! Each character is unique and has their part to play. It is a wonderful blend of historical fiction and fantasy – lovers of either genre would enjoy reading The Toymakers for themselves. As an avid reader of BOTH genres… perhaps then you can see why I enjoyed the book so much! I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in these genres. I don’t think you will regret it.

Reading List - July 2018

Reading List – July 2018

By the beginning of July last year, I had read 30 books – which is an amazing achievement! This year, I’m a little bit slower on 25, but I am still more than happy with that! Bearing in mind that I am now self-hosted and trying to write better quality posts, I think the tradeoff is worth it!

Reading fewer books this year has definitely given me that opportunity to put more of the necessary time into my blog. It does mean, however, that some of the books I planned to read this year weren’t even touched. Therefore, I am dedicating July to tying off some of the loose ends and reading books I should have gotten around to sooner:-

Death in Dulwich and The Girl in the Gallery (London Murder Mysteries #1-2)

Goodreads – Death in Dulwich

Goodreads – The Girl in the Gallery

I’m starting July exactly where I left off last month because I have a blog tour coming up for this series. On the 14th July, I’ll be reviewing both Death in Dulwich and The Girl in the Gallery. I’ve run over on these because I had a wonderful opportunity to read and review Ravencry by Ed McDonald for Gollancz. However, with a shorter deadline than these two books, I had to put them aside temporarily to fulfill all of my obligations.

I’m currently over half way through Death in Dulwich, so I did manage to get a fair amount of this read last month. The narrative is reasonably easy to follow and Beth is a well-developed character. I am yet to decide if she is a particularly reliable narrator, or just an overzealous woman desperate for the truth. All will pan out in due course, I am sure.

A Darker Shade of Magic

Goodreads – A Darker Shade of Magic

Back in February this year I vowed to pick up A Darker Shade of Magic and experience the writing of V.E. Schwab for myself – only, never got to. This is a series I feel I could really get into, so I need to take the plunge and get reading. I am not putting this off any longer.

The premise of magic and the idea of multiple realities, without really being science-fiction is really interesting. If the ratings on Goodreads are anything to go by, I don’t think I’ll regret reading this book. We’ll just have to see if it lives up to expectation!

Children of Blood & Bone

Children of Blood & Bone

Children of Blood & Bone

Children of Blood and Bone is one of my April cast-offs. Conversations are still being had about this book on the likes of Twitter and other social media platforms, and I am intrigued by the magic in the narrative. I have waited too long to pick up this book, and can only hope I enjoy reading it as much as I want to.

There has been a lot of buzz about the book highlighting issues experienced by ethnic minorities. In an interview on Mashable with Toni Adeyemi, she explains that there are references to police brutality and racism within. I’m also really looking forward to seeing a different culture. Reading Children of Blood & Bone will be an entirely new experience for me.

The Mansions of Murder

Mansions of Murder

Goodreads – The Mansions of Murder

March of the ARC’s (aka, my March reading list) was a reasonably long list, and I didn’t get around to picking up this one. This is my last Netgalley read, so once I have reviewed the book I am going to close my account.

This is not the only reason I want to read the book though. I am enjoying a few mystery reads at the moment. Combine this with its historical theme and there you have a book with promise. In my eyes anyway… and that’s what counts, right?

The Eye of the World

the eye of the world

Goodreads – The Eye of the World

This poor book has been on my TBR since 2014 and I STILL haven’t gotten around to it! I’ve re-read the first chapter sample several times. The writing really interests me, but I just can’t seem to commit to picking up the book. I have sampled the audiobook book before to get around this subconscious aversion I have. Unfortunately, I don’t like the narration. I will prefer reading myself for sure. I am now on a mission to read this (at least this year) because my friend Rachael devoured the series herself and recommended it to me.

I’ve already given myself a back-out clause for this month though. I know, I know. Call me awful, whatever, but I have a busy month coming up personally. I have over a week booked off work, but I am visiting family for some of that time. As a result, I can’t promise I’ll spend that time reading.

Obviously, I am going to try to read as much as I can though. Pinky promise.

What is good is that I already have most of these books (I think I only need to buy The Eye of The World), and I am pretty much on a spending ban until then. I’ve already bought myself a few books to make myself feel better about the prospect…

Which books are you picking up this July?

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Book Review: A Conversation with a Cat – Stephen Spotte

 ***I was kindly provided with a free copy of this book by OpenBooks in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***

A Conversation with a Cat is a great introduction to the lives of Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony, especially for those without the opportunity to learn about these remarkably powerful historical figures.

 

A Conversation With A Cat

Goodreads – A Conversation with a Cat

 

Synopsis

Stephen Spotte’s imaginative novel recounts the tales of a scroungy former alley cat named Jinx, whose memories aren’t just his own but those of other cats who existed before him, one of which was Annipe, Cleopatra’s pampered pet. Through Annipe’s eyes the ancient Mediterranean world of Cleopatra and her legendary lovers, Caesar and Antony, spread before us in all its glory, pathos, and absurdity. Jinx reveals these stories telepathically one night to his stoned and inebriated owner just home after gall bladder surgery. Annipe’s memories are bookended by Jinx’s own that detail his early scavenging days in bleak urban alleys.

“Could not stop reading this unique and curious account of a major period in history. Viewing events that shook the ancient world through the eye of a feline makes one want to view today’s news stories through the same lens. Never read a book with such a unique perspective. And it was fun.”—Edward R. Ricciuti, author of Bears in the Backyard

 

My Thoughts

Prior to reading the book, my knowledge of Cleopatra came from Shakespeare. To be honest, my understanding of Shakespeare is sketchy. It always has been. Studying Antony & Cleopatra without a consistent teacher – I had no chance really. Sigh.

I was as good as a complete newbie to this topic. Did I find it interesting? Absolutely! The details don’t bog the story down at all, but a lot of research has gone into the novel. The historical superpowers use their brains and brawn (amongst other things) to vie for power. The kind of things that cause salacious gossip and disgruntled wives. The lavishness and decadence of the ruling class are both enticing and beautifully described; Stephen ensures each scene is deliberately picturesque.

The book is cleverly written to pull off its conversational tone.

A commentary is given by Jinx, (in addition to narrating Cleopatra’s life from Annipe’s memory) which is interesting and charismatically witty. Jinx is a feline with “cattitude” and it definitely shows in the narrative! Naturally, the concept of a cat striking up a conversation with you telepathically is far-fetched. However, the story and circumstances are set up humorously so that it pushes boundaries, but isn’t unbelievable.

 

The perspective offered in this book is truly a unique one. Jinx reminisces about Ancient Egypt, as cats historically were held in higher esteem there. They were worshipped like Gods – unlike him, who finds his freedom and virility catnapped in one fell swoop, as we learn later. You can imagine his tail twitching in agitation even now. The balance between the present day and recounting Cleopatra’s reign is perfect. I would even go so far as to say that even somebody who doesn’t love historical fiction as much as I do could get on with it.

A Conversation with a Cat is funny and approachable to read. I personally really enjoyed the book – the fact that I read it in only two days speaks volumes.

Guest Post Stephen Spotte

Guest Post – Stephen Spotte

I was delighted when Kelly from OpenBooks advised me that Stephen Spotte wanted to contribute a guest post to my blog. I recently read A Conversation with a Cat, his new novel – for which I am writing a review very soon!

Today, the spotlight is on Stephen himself. In his post, Stephen gives us an enjoyable introduction to the novel by telling us about the paws behind the cause. I hope you enjoy reading this post as much as I did!

 


Stephen Spotte

My wife Lucia and I occupy a beach house on a barrier island off Florida’s southwest coast where we share space with a large black cat named Jinx, a selfish creature who alternately ignores us and demands our attention. Cats are world-renowned sack-out artists. The average domestic cat is fully awake about four hours of every twenty-four, and Jinx is no exception. A cat can fall asleep almost anywhere, but most have preferred napping sites, one of Jinx’s being my desk beside the computer. There heat from the desk lamp puts him into a soporific state aptly described as cat-atonic. Having zonked out, Jinx stretches and twitches as I struggle to write, maybe dreaming of plump, slow-footed mice or one-night stands after an evening of dumpster-diving during his former life as a virile tom, king of the urban alleys.

Jinx the cat - Stephen SpotteOccasionally he creates sentences of his own when an errant paw paw comes to rest inadvertently on the keyboard. These usually appear on the screen as zzzzzzzzzz or eeeeeeeeee. Interesting, although not exactly literary keepers. Such episodes of somnolent creativity are disrupted by intermittent arousal when he sits up to blink away the sleep and gives me a raspberry. Once I was prepared and snapped his picture.

We know nothing of Jinx’s kittenhood and early adolescence, having obtained him several years ago at a local animal shelter. No other visitors had shown interest because black cats are considered bad luck, another of those inane superstitions like belief in ghosts that persist no matter the sophistication of our cultural development.

No one working at the shelter could recall exactly how long Jinx had resided there among the dozens of unwanted cats. On the day we visited the record stated only that Animal Control trapped him in an alley. Soon after arriving he was de-balled, de-wormed, de-ticked, de-loused, vaccinated, and put up for “adoption,” an ambiguous term where cats are concerned. Dogs in their slavering servitude look forward eagerly to being “owned,” a concept universally disdained by cats. As solitary and basically anti-social creatures cats accept human companionship only if the arrangement is personally beneficial and doesn’t trample on their self-respect.

At one time in at least one place that respect was returned with astonishing reverence. Egyptians from the first century BCE (before current era) given a glimpse of contemporary American society would be alarmed and confused by how far domestic cats have fallen in the esteem of ordinary citizens. Sure, you can log into social media and see thousands of cute cat pictures, but cats no longer possess the lofty status they enjoyed in Cleopatra’s day.

 

A Conversation with a Cat

A Conversation With A CatMy new novel titled A Conversation with a Cat features and juxtaposes the lives of Jinx and an imaginary pet cat of Cleopatra’s I call Annipe (daughter of the Nile). Jinx gives us his memoir in chapters that bookend Annipe’s tales. As she reports, “Cats were sacred in ancient Egypt, represented by the cat goddess Bastet and worshipped at temples dedicated in her honor. . . . Even when an ordinary household cat died all human members of the family were required to shave their eyebrows as a sign of mourning, and when the head of a household passed away and was mummified his cat was killed and mummified too. Tradition also called for embalming a few mice so the cat would have snacks in the netherworld.” Although cats have become the most popular pets in the U. S. (dogs trail a distant second), they don’t receive universal respect in any modern country, and certainly nobody today worships them. Don’t take this on my word, just ask any cat you meet.

To hear Annipe tell it, “That cats were worshipped and temples dedicated to [Bastet] is certainly no less than we deserve. And the citizens protected us with a fervor to make Bastet proud. I’ll give an example. When Mistress [Cleopatra] was still a young girl a Roman official visiting Alexandria killed a cat accidently, whereupon a mob of enraged citizens attacked him and ripped him apart. Even earlier, in 525 BCE, the Persians led by the general Cambyses III invaded Egypt only to be stopped at the city of Pelusium. Cambyses ordered images of Bastet painted on the shields of his soldiers, at which point Egyptian resistance collapsed. Think of it: the Egyptians surrendered their country rather than see their cats disrespected. How many times has that happened in human history?

“It should come as no surprise that we cats have always considered ancient Egypt the apex of human development and agree unanimously that after Egypt fell to Roman hands your species underwent a steady regression, a reverse cultural evolution. Romans were arrogant. They thought that anyone who didn’t speak Latin was a barbarian, but to Alexandrians they were the barbarians. And through the centuries others followed. Want proof? Look around at the state of the world and don’t blame us cats for what you see.”

Just as Jason sought the golden fleece, perhaps every cat’s ultimate dream is to capture a rodent with gold-colored fur. I say this despite knowing that cats have bi-chromatic vision and therefore are color-blind. Nonetheless Jinx seems to come alert when he sees President Trump pontificate on television, and I must admit that as the president climbs the stairs to board Air Force One the back of his head does resemble the south end of a golden hamster heading north.

 


About the author

Stephen SpotteStephen Spotte, a marine scientist, was born and raised in West Virginia. He has been a field biologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station (Vicksburg, Mississippi); curator and later director of Aquarium of Niagara Falls (New York); curator of the New York Aquarium and Osborn Laboratories of Marine Science (Brooklyn, New York); director of Mystic Aquarium (Mystic, Connecticut); executive director of Sea Research Foundation and research scientist at the Marine Sciences and Technology Center, University of Connecticut (Groton, Connecticut); principal investigator, Coral Reef Ecology Program (Turks and Caicos Islands, B.W.I.), and adjunct scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory (Sarasota, Florida).

Dr. Spotte has a B.S. degree from Marshall University, a Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi, and is author or coauthor of more than 80 scientific papers on marine biology, ocean chemistry and engineering, and aquaculture. Field research has encompassed much of the coastal U.S., Canadian Arctic, Bering Sea, West Indies, Indo-West Pacific, Central America, and the Amazon basin of Ecuador and Brazil. His popular articles about the sea have appeared in National Wildlife, On the Sound, Animal Kingdom, Explorers Journal, and Science Digest.

Dr. Spotte has also published 18 books, including three volumes of fiction, a memoir, and a work of cultural theory. He is a Certified Wildlife Biologist of The Wildlife Society and also holds a U.S. Merchant Marine officer’s license.

Dr. Spotte now lives and writes from his home in Longboat Key, Florida

 

Purchase links: OpenBooks     Amazon

Sunday Summary June 2018

Sunday Summary – 24th June 2018

Good evening folks! Another week draws to a close and it’s time to share my weekly progress (aka Sunday Summary) with you. I anticipated that this week was going to be less productive than my previous week, because:-

  • Last week was a good week for me, by any standards
  • I have had a redecoration project planned

 

I had a couple of days of work this week (yay!), but due to redecorating, they were FAR from relaxing!. As a result, I can’t say I managed to read as much as I hoped to. I’ve also been doing my fair share of writing blog posts, so I suppose I can claw that time back in the next day or two instead.

 

Books Read

My week began with finishing Blackwing by Ed McDonald – and what a way to start a week. I devoured this book in about two days, which speaks volumes about how much I enjoyed it! With a page count of approximately 380 pages, I am actually pretty impressed with myself on this one!

I swiftly moved on to Death in Dulwich by Alice Castle, first of two books in the London Murder Mysteries series I am reviewing next month. So far I am 28% through the book, which isn’t horrendous progress, but I would have liked to have read a little more on this one. Perhaps next week will be more fruitful.

My review copy of Ravencry arrived this week and I haven’t been more excited for a book in a little while. As I am due to be reviewing this early next month rather than mid next month, I started reading this as well. Admittedly, this is why Death in Dulwich was put on the back-burner – a girl has to prioritise somehow! I’ve acquainted myself with the first 45 pages or so, but after this, I had to prioritise redecorating, so I’m no further than that.

All in all, this isn’t the worst week I’ve had reading – actually taking the time to look at it properly; it doesn’t seem as bad as I thought it was. Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

 

Books Discovered

I’ve added Bard – The Odyssey of the Irish by Morgan Llewellyn to the TBR on the recommendation from a friend. We were discussing our mutual interest in historical fiction books when he told me about it. Since Ireland is close to home, it’s only fair to learn how and by whom the country became inhabited.

I read a fantastic review of The Court of Broken Knives by The Tattooed Book Geek today; such a good review that it makes me want to read it for myself. I want to try and read more from the Dark Fantasy sub-genre and this seems like a good place to start!

 

 

Coming Up…

Three Things Noone tells you about going self hostedI already have tomorrow’s post prepared for you – which is a rarity on my part! It’s a topic I decided to write about a couple of weeks ago. You may know that I recently transferred my blog from wordpress.com to wordpress.org. After researching and completing the process, I felt there wasn’t much information out there about what to expect after going self-hosted. Hopefully, my post tomorrow will give you a few pointers about what to expect.

 

I’m really looking forward to sharing Wednesday’s post as it was kindly contributed by the author of A Conversation with A Cat, Stephen Spotte. I was recently provided with a copy by OpenBooks in exchange for a review. Stephen has prepared a humorous insight into his book and the top cat that inspired his work, Jinx.

Naturally, my review of A Conversation with A Cat will follow on Thursday. I hope you can take a minute or two out of your day to check out my thoughts.

 

Sunday Summary June 2018My Sunday Summary will take usual pride of place – and I hope to be sharing news of a more productive week.

 

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Book Review: The Irrationalist – Andrew Pessin

***I was kindly provided with a free copy of this book by the author and OpenBooks in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions stated below are my own ***

The Irrationalist

Goodreads – The Irrationalist

Who would want to murder the world’s most famous philosopher?

Turns out: nearly everyone.

In 1649, Descartes was invited by the Queen of Sweden to become her Court Philosopher. Though he was the world’s leading philosopher, his life had by this point fallen apart. He was 53, penniless, living in exile in Amsterdam, alone. With much trepidation but not much choice, he arrived in Stockholm in mid-October.

Shortly thereafter he was dead.

Pneumonia, they said. But who could believe that? There were just too many persons of interest who wanted to see Descartes dead, and for too many reasons. That so many of these persons were in Stockholm—thanks to the Gala the Queen was throwing to celebrate the end of the terrible Thirty Years’ War—made the official story all the less plausible. Death by poisoning was the unofficial word on the cobblestone.

Enter Adrien Baillet. A likeable misfit with a mysterious backstory, he arrives just as the French Ambassador desperately needs an impartial Frenchman to prove that Descartes died of natural causes—lest the “murder” in Lutheran Sweden of France’s great Catholic philosopher trigger colicky French boy-King Louis XIV to reignite that awful War. Baillet hesitatingly agrees to investigate Descartes’s death, knowing that if—or when—he screws up, he could be personally responsible for the War’s Thirty-First Year.

But solving the mystery of Descartes’s death (Baillet soon learns) requires first solving the mystery of Descartes’s life, with all its dangerous secrets … None of it is easy, as nearly everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted. Nor does it help that he must do it all under the menacing gaze of Carolus Zolindius, the terrifying Swedish Chancellor with the strangely intimidating limp.

But Baillet somehow perseveres, surprising everyone as he figures it all out—all the way to the explosive end.

 

Introduction

The Irrationalist is perfect for fans of historical fiction, particularly if you like the dish detailed and with a side of pretty gruesome violence.

Adrien Baillet, an impartial Frenchman, investigates the death of Rene Descartes on the orders of Zolindus, second in command to the Queen of Sweden. So long as his findings report death by natural causes, he will be spared a prickly fate himself. With nowhere to turn, he begins his investigation… but the evidence points to anything but a natural demise. With nearly everyone a suspect, Baillet can trust no one. Piece by piece, he unravels the mystery.

 

My Thoughts

I feel sorry for Adrien Baillet. Finding himself stuck between a rock and a hard place, he has to “investigate” Descartes death. He cannot afford to refuse if he wants to keep his head, but without the funds to return home, he can’t escape Sweden either. Young and lacking experience in the ways of court, he is the perfect puppet for Zolindus to manipulate.

I like how flawed Baillet is as a character. Despite having noble intentions, he is weak – cowardly even. What he lacks in strength he makes up for in intelligence. In that, Zolindus underestimates him. A lot of books paint protagonists to be the best of the best, but this is unrealistic. These characters are human and by nature, are not perfect. Baillet’s fear and inability to stand up for himself helps raise the tension of the narrative. With murder and subterfuge lurking around every corner, it is easy to understand his paranoia.

The plot is well developed, which is necessary given the complexity of the murder investigation. Baillet considers the potential motive of every character, but the conclusions drawn aren’t forced in order to make everyone a suspect. Every motive is well explained and backed-up, which I imagine is a very difficult thing to achieve. It would take a lot of knowledge and research to make this novel work so well, which Andrew Pessin has accomplished effortlessly.

Within the narrative of the investigation are chapters that look back into the past life of Rene Descartes, before he makes it to Sweden. Not only do these provide a lot of insight into his relations with other characters, (usually outlining why there was bad blood), but they change the pace of the book to make a refreshing break from the heat of the moment in Sweden.

 

Conclusion

Honestly, I didn’t anticipate the ending at all – which is a measure of a good mystery to my mind. We come to our own conclusions about the murder; but there is nothing like a good 11th-hour plot twist to keep us on our toes.

Sunday Summary June 2018

Sunday Summary – 17th June 2018

Since today is Father’s Day, it won’t be a surprise that I have been spending the day with my Dad. I do every weekend. Not only is Sunday a family day (at least it is here) – it’s also an opportunity to look back and reflect. So firstly, happy Father’s Day Dad! I wouldn’t be half the person I am without you!

(literally)

Whitney Houston not funny

ANYWAY… shall I just get on with what I’ve been reading this week? Yes. Alright. Good.

 

Books Read

Many books have been read this week, my friends.

I’ve been reading The Irrationalist by Andrew Pessin for the past couple of weeks or so and it was great to see this wonderfully detailed novel through to its unexpected conclusion! It took little longer to read because it requires full concentration. As a historical fiction fan, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and its twists and turns.

The next book I picked up was A Conversation with A Cat by Stephen Spotte. I kid you not, I think I read it in two sittings within 24hrs… or near as dammit. Sticking with the historical fiction genre, this book looks back at the life of Cleopatra from a unique perspective. As a period of history I haven’t really had the opportunity to study, I devoured the content of this book. My experience of Cleopatra comes from reading “Antony and Cleopatra” in GCSE English. An essay was garbled together. Somehow. Sorcery must have been performed, because to this day, I have very little recollection of what happened. I can’t read Shakespeare for love nor money – I keep threatening to teach myself.

Anyone regularly reading my updates may notice that this week, I haven’t included Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. It’s more by chance than conscious decision I haven’t listened to the audiobook at all this week. Instead, I ended up picking up a book not on my list at all! Since I have been making great progress in reading the books on my TBR this month, I felt a little break from the routine was required as a reward. Having recently obtained a copy of Blackwing to review by Gollancz, and with Ravencry due to release shortly… I couldn’t resist picking this up! I have only been reading it this weekend (well, yesterday really) and I am already just over 200 pages in. Who knows how much longer it will last until I’m done? I give it a day, at this rate.

 

Books Discovered

 

This week I’ve been pretty good, and by that I mean I’ve added the books to my list without actually dipping my hand into my pocket. Yet.

Payday is eagerly awaited this month, so I am trying to avoid spending where possible for the next week or so. I’ve got a bit of a redecorating project next week, which turned out to be a little pricier than I anticipated… but oh well. If a job is worth doing and all that.

I have enjoyed reading Brandon Sanderson so far; after spotting The Rithmatist as a suggestion on Amazon, I had to add it to the list.

Eve of Man seems to be doing a few rounds of social media lately, which coincidentally began after I saw the book in a local store. I love the idea of the dystopian type theme, but I’ll admit I have a reservation over the implied love-interest/conflict, which I probably won’t like. I’m a hard-hearted soul! For the moment I am adding this to the list and keeping an eye out for reviews before I get myself a copy. It may not be my cup of tea after all.

I pre-ordered a copy of Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor this week and I was reminiscing over my love of Strange the Dreamer. I decided there and then that I COULDN’T POSSIBLY wait until October for Muse of Nightmares to be released, so I am going to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone this summer. I’ve also heard nothing by praise for this, so I am looking forward to it already!

 

Coming Up…

I refuse to eff this up this week.

down the tbr holeIt’s been a while since I looked at my ever-growing TBR pile, and I really feel I need to tame that monster.  Whittling the list down is hard work, but someone has to do it. I began using a meme, originally hosted by Lia at Lost in a Story and I’ve had moderate success so far. So, I’ll be writing another Down the TBR hole post on Tuesday.

 

The Irrationalist

I want to go ahead and review The Irrationalist whilst the book is fresh in my mind. I am awful in the sense that I don’t really make notes when I read (a bad habit I am trying to remedy). Since there are a few things I really want to cover in my review, it’s best that I write it sooner rather than later. With that in mind, I’m looking to publish my review on Friday this week.

 

 

 

So that’s all from me for now folks! Enjoy the rest of your weekend and I hope to see you all around very soon!

Top Summer Reads

Rebecca’s Top Summer Reads

How do you even go about choosing your top summer reads when there are just SO MANY books out there?! It’s a tough one to call! In order to tackle the problem, I’ve decided to split this column into two main sections, with a final section including the books I hope to read during the sunny season.

Everyone has different tastes as well, so the books I choose are probably different from yours. I hope to cover as many genres as I can so that something appeals to you, dear reader – so without further adieu, let’s get started!

Light / Humorous Books

The Queen & I – Sue TownsendThe Queen & I - Sue Townsend

My mum recommended this book to me years and years ago – and I actually have it downloaded on my kindle. I started reading the first few chapters all those aeons ago, but I haven’t finished the book. I used to be very selective about the books I read, (once upon a time) and I found it difficult to read anything that wasn’t Fantasy. Were I to re-visit this now, I think I would appreciate it a lot more! There’s just something about the idea of the Queen being forced to live on a council estate that spells humorous disaster!

 

 

 

The Rag Nymph - Catherine CooksonThe Rag Nymph – Catherine Cookson

I have included this book here because the narrative is easy to read. I have Yorkshire influence in my family too, so “Raggie Aggie” reminds me of mum when I was growing up. The fond memories I have and the familiarity of her character must play its part in my choosing this book. Set in 1854, this book will appeal to fans of historical fiction. This novel does have mature themes, however; if you are looking for something lighthearted I would point you in another direction.

 

 

 

I Don’t Know How She Does It – Allison PearsonI Don't Know How She Does It - Allison Pearson

Please don’t think I am discriminating here guys – but in this section, I’m giving a nod to a book categorised as “chick lit”. That’s not to say you can’t read this book – for the most part, I wouldn’t describe this as my genre either.

This entry is another in which I have read part of the book, but not finished. Again, it was years ago I first found myself laughing at Allison’s take on the trials and tribulations of “the working mum”. Whilst the expectations of a mother may be a little out of date now, the book is laugh-out-loud funny. Allison made a rip-roaring return to the series by publishing How Hard Can It Be? last year, proving that there is still the demand to laugh at (and relate to) Kate Reddy’s parenthood troubles.

 

 

Epic/Long Reads

 

 

The Last Kingdom - Bernard CornwellThe Last Kingdom – Bernard Cornwell

Maybe you prefer to sit down with a heavier book – perhaps you want to be transported to another world/universe entirely. Let the sun, sea and sand melt away and the riotous clash of swords fade in. Going abroad was never a peaceful affair in times past. If you’d like to reminisce on those English shores many moons ago, then The Last Kingdom (aka The Saxon Chronicles) may be your cup of tea.

 

 

 

IT – Stephen KingIT - Stephen King

Looking for a challenge? Are you happy to dedicate your soul to one book? Do you like horror? Then I challenge you to read IT by Stephen King. I read this book back in October last year – in time for Halloween (or Hop Tu Naa locally). The book was unnerving rather than scary, in my opinion, so I wouldn’t say it was unapproachable for anyone. That is, unless you are intimidated by clowns or the page count. At approximately 1,370 pages, it will keep you occupied for some time… or hiding under the covers.

 

 

The Way of Kings - Brandon SandersonThe Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson

If a series based with its own established Universe, complete with a unique magic system appeals to you, then The Way of Kings is my recommendation for you.

The depth of history and world-building in this epic series will have you in awe, my friends. If it weren’t for the fact that Brandon Sanderson has only published the third book of the series just recently, I would have binge-read the entire thing by now! I am forcibly restraining myself – trust me.

 

 

Empire of Silence – Christopher RuocchioEmpire of Silence - Christopher Ruocchio

Here is one for fans of science-fiction.

I was floored by this when I read it… and soon you can too! With a publishing date of the 5th July, I have high hopes that this book will soar in popularity this summer. Whether you are a veteran sci-fi fan or a relative newbie, this can be enjoyed by all.

If you want to decide if this is for you or not, you can find my recent review of the book here.

 

 

 

My Summer Reads

So, which books am I planning on reading this summer? There are lots to choose from and an inevitably never-ending TBR list! It’s taken some time to narrow it down, but here are three of my much-anticipated summer reads:-

 

Daughter of Smoke & Bone – Laini TaylorDaughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor

I loved Strange the Dreamer… and I cannot wait until October until the release of Muse of Nightmares!

I’m serious – I cannot wait… and so this is why I have decided to pick up the first book of this series! I love Laini Taylor’s writing style – so much so that genres or themes I would normally not show a preference for can basically get away with murder.

 

 

 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeThe Curious Incidenct of the Dog in the Night-time

I have wanted to read this book for such a long time… and now it is well overdue.

Not long ago I read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and really enjoyed reading a narrative written from a child’s perspective. The added bonus with this is hopefully learning how people on the autistic spectrum perceive the world (or at least one interpretation of, anyway).

 

 

 

A Darker Shade of Magic - V E SchwabA Darker Shade of Magic – V.E Schwab

Considering I was supposed to read this in February this year… I have absolutely no excuse to put off A Darker Shade of Magic anymore. This is a hugely popular book and I have yet to see whether I love it as much as the hype would indicate I should.

I’ll admit I always take things like that with a pinch of salt, becuase we all have different opinions and tastes in books. I would be lying though if I said I wasn’t curious.

 

 

 

So – have any of the above books made your list? Perhaps you have read them already! Either way, I would love if you could drop me a like or a comment about what you are doing this summer.

Your devoted blogger,