BLURB: The legendary epics of King Arthur and Camelot don’t tell the whole story. Chroniclers say Arthur’s mother Ygraine married the man that killed her husband. They say that Arthur’s half-sister Morgana turned to dark magic to defy him and Merlin. They say that the enchantress Nimue challenged Merlin and used her magic to outwit him. And that Arthur’s marriage to Guinevere ended in adultery, rebellion and bloodshed. So why did these women chose such dangerous paths?
As warfare and rivalries constantly challenge the king, Arthur and Merlin believe these women are destined to serve Camelot by doing as they are told. But men forget that women talk. Ygraine, Nimue, Morgana and Guinevere become friends and allies while the decisions that shape their lives are taken out of their hands. This is their untold story. Now these women have a voice.
Juliet McKenna is an expert on medieval history and warfare and brings this expertise as well as her skills as a fantasy writer to this epic standalone novel.
REVIEW: I’ve been loving the Greek myth retellings by the likes of Pat Barker and Madelaine Miller – so when this offering caught my eye, I was really excited at the prospect of this one. After all, one of my favourite childhood books was King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table – I had a beautiful copy, complete with stunning pictures. But, as ever, the women in this story were simply there as ornamentation. Or those, like Morgana, were derided as evil and unnatural for taking a hand in their own destiny.
This version of Arthur’s story is told by Nimue, one of the Fair Folk, or fae. Unlike most of her kind, she has somehow ended up as part of Ygraine’s household, living alongside mortals and keeping her magical powers as small as she can. Where she encounters another of her kind, who isn’t remotely discrete – Merlin. Counsellor to the violent and ambitious Uther Pendragon, Merlin uses his powers to manoeuvre Pendragon into the position of High King, claiming that otherwise the country will be overwhelmed by wild magic of the worst sort. He’s seen it in a vision…
However, as Nimue already knows, actions have consequences – and Merlin’s meddling has a horrible outcome for poor Ygraine, who ends up bearing Uther a son. Nimue does the best she can to protect Ygraine and her youngest daughter, Morgana, from the fallout of Uther’s bid for power – and the beginnings of the legend of Arthur comes into being. What struck me this time around was the violence pervading the whole story. And just how much the women in it are utterly disregarded. McKenna’s vivid descriptions of the clothing, food and daily routine of high-born women of the time brings this medieval setting to life. I also loved her description of the battles. Her expertise in medieval weaponry shows in the brutal hand to hand fighting – and the terrible injuries sustained despite armour, and sometimes because of it.
I tore through this one, finding it difficult to put down. And if you enjoyed The Silence of the Girls or Circe – then grab a copy of this one. You’ll thank me if you do. While I obtained an arc of The Cleaving from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 10/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.
We’ve had a series of warm, sunny days this week – yippee! So it was a real shame that yesterday King Charles and Queen Camilla had such soggy weather for their Coronation. At the end of yesterday morning’s practice, Oscar returned to the car after sloshing around the football pitch, looking like he’d just emerged from a rather muddy lake. The coaches are heroes for giving up their Saturday mornings to assist youngsters in improving their skills – especially in such conditions. As for the Coronation – I was so impressed with the blending of old and new within the service at Westminster Abbey and how the whole event ran on rails. It made me proud to be British.
Another milestone – it was local Government elections earlier this week, and so Ethan voted for the first time. I recall so clearly walking down the same road with his mother and voting with her. Where does the time go??
Other than that, it’s been a quieter week – partly because I’ve been struggling with my energy levels after last weekend’s busyness. So I haven’t managed to get as much writing done as I’d wanted, although I’m still having huge fun writing my novella – Casta and the Giggling Knight. I did watch a bit more TV and finally got around to the Magpie Murders series, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It felt a tad like an Agatha Christie whodunit, but with a modern twist. The acting and production values were top notch and the plotting was witty and funny. It’s been a very long time since I enjoyed a murder mystery series so much.
Last week I read:-
AUDIOBOOK – Twin Crowns – Book 1 of the Twin Crowns series by Catherine Doyle & Katherine Webber Wren Greenrock has always known that one day she would steal her sister’s place in the palace. Trained from birth to return to the place of her parents’ murder and usurp the only survivor, she will do anything to rise to power and protect the community of witches she loves. Or she would, if only a certain palace guard wasn’t quite so distractingly attractive, and if her reckless magic didn’t have a habit of causing trouble…
Princess Rose Valhart knows that with power comes responsibility. Marriage into a brutal kingdom awaits, and she will not let a small matter like waking up in the middle of the desert in the company of an extremely impertinent (and handsome) kidnapper get in the way of her royal duty. But life outside the palace walls is wilder and more beautiful than she ever imagined, and the witches she has long feared might turn out to be the family she never knew she was missing.
Two sisters separated at birth and raised into entirely different worlds are about to get to know each other’s lives a whole lot better. But as coronation day looms closer and they each strive to claim their birthright, the sinister Kingsbreath, Willem Rathborne, becomes increasingly determined that neither will succeed. Who will ultimately rise to power and wear the crown? Aspects of this one worked really well. I liked the fact that both sisters really struggled to adapt in each other’s world and that the envisaged plan didn’t go remotely to plan. What I did find a bit frustrating was the hefty dose of romance that at times meant the girls – Wren in particular – was busy mooning over the man in her life, instead of focusing on keeping alive… But I’m aware I’m not the target audience for this book, so did make a few allowances for the YA genre conventions. Looking forward to reading the next book in the adventure. 8/10
Humanborn – Book 1 of the Shadows of Eireland series by Joanna Maciejewska Less than a decade ago, the Magiclysm, a tear between Earth and another place, brought magic to Ireland—and worse, it brought back the mythborn. The war that followed left Dublin scarred, and cursed Kaja Modrzewska with chaotic magic that will eventually claim her life.
Struggling with wartime nightmares, Kaja seeks normalcy amongst the volatile peace working as an information broker when a series of explosions across Dublin threatens to reignite the war. Both sides are eager to blame the other, so Kaja reluctantly agrees to investigate.
But finding the terrorists responsible means working alongside the mythborn’s elite killers, and uncomfortable wartime secrets coming to light. Kaja, who had saved a mythborn’s life during the war, finds out she has a life debt of her own, and as she juggles her allegiances and obligations, she’ll have to decide where her loyalties lie, with her old human allies or the mythborn. I enjoy Joanna’s writing – so was delighted when she asked me if I’d like a review copy of this new urban fantasy series. It’s a wonderful read. Kaja is a strong protagonist in a difficult place, but manages to give us a vivid insight into the full extent of her troubles without coming across as a victim, which is great deal harder to pull off than Joanna makes it look. Review to follow. 9/10
Gray Lady – Book 4 of the Madame Chalamet Ghost Mysteries by Bryd Nash The young Coralie Floquet desires to marry but the spectral appearance of a Gray Lady portends that her end might be soon. Called in to help by Tristan Fontain, the Duke de Archambeau, Elinor plans to chase spirits and rumors at a country estate in a seaside town.
But as soon as she arrives, ill-will seems to swirl around her, along with tittle-tattle about her relationship with Tristan that has gossips talking. Though Elinor doesn’t care much about stolen government documents, her heart might be lost when the duke finally reveals the truth about his past and why he took Elinor home when he first met her. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this engaging Gaslamp fantasy series – to the extent that I pre-ordered this one. Which didn’t disappoint – I loved the change of scene, Elinor’s struggles to recover after her last escapade and the deft plotting around this particular mystery. Review to follow. 9/10
AUDIOBOOK – Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds 2057. Humanity has raised exploiting the solar system to an art form. Bella Lind and the crew of her nuclear-powered ship, the Rockhopper, push ice. They mine comets. And they’re good at it.
The Rockhopper is nearing the end of its current mission cycle, and everyone is desperate for some much-needed R & R, when startling news arrives from Saturn: Janus, one of Saturn’s ice moons, has inexplicably left its natural orbit and is now heading out of the solar system at high speed. As layers of camouflage fall away, it becomes clear that Janus was never a moon in the first place. It’s some kind of machine – and it is now headed toward a fuzzily glimpsed artifact 260 light-years away. The Rockhopper is the only ship anywhere near Janus, and Bella Lind is ordered to shadow it for the few vital days before it falls forever out of reach. In accepting this mission, she sets her ship and her crew on a collision course with destiny – for Janus has more surprises in store, and not all of them are welcome. This audiobook version is a joy. I particularly liked the narration by John Lee, who did a masterful job in depicting the various voices and delivering this story full of unexpected twists. I never knew where the story was going to go next – and Reynolds’ fertile imagination provided some of the grossest aliens ever. Musk dogs – ewwww… Overall The Rockhopper’s mind-bending adventures took me on an amazing journey that would make a wonderful TV series. Highly recommended. 9/10
I was attracted by the intriguing title and the buzz about this book from respected fellow book bloggers, such as Tammy at Books, Bones and Buffy. Which is just as well, because the blurb made it sound like a fairly ordinary romance with a fairy adventure thrown into the mix.
BLURB: Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party–or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.
So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her. But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones–the most elusive of all faeries–lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all–her own heart.
REVIEW: This is an enchanting book with lots going on – but for me, the best part is Emily, herself. She is nearly always grumpy, self-absorbed, unquestionably paranoid about her academic colleagues and their willingness to steal her research, socially awkward, often arrogant and outright rude. And I loved her. Because as well as being all of the above, she is also courageous, tenacious, extremely good in a crisis – the more dangerous the better – and despite a lot of grumbling to the contrary, she also has a loathing of injustice and those who use their power to torment others just because they can. Which pretty much sums up a lot of the fairy aristocracy. Yet don’t go away with the idea that she’s on a mission to right any wrongs perpetrated by the fae against the hapless humans who happen to be in their way – as far as she’s concerned, she’s simply there to record what happens for her academic research.
Her voice pings off the page in the book that is mostly written in first person as her private journal, which powers and enlivens the narrative throughout. Of course, if there wasn’t also thumping good story with all sorts of twists, permeated by a wry humour, then I wouldn’t be gushing quite so embarrassingly about this tale. Because I also loved the villagers of Hrafnsvik who are living right on the edge of survival and clearly more than a bit flummoxed by Emily, especially when she first turns up.
In amongst an unspooling adventure about a truly dangerous power struggle within fairy society, there is a comedy of manners where a clash of cultures leads to several misunderstandings and a very slow-burn romance that manages to be amusing at the expense of both smitten and is perfectly paced so that it never gets in the way of the main narrative. I loved Emily’s academic attitude to magic and fairies – and the humour inherent in pulling apart the mystical and unexplainable. Though it cannot be denied that Emily’s expertise comes in handy on a number of occasions. All in all, this is a very clever book that put me in mind of the wonderful series, The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan – and I’m delighted to see that Fawcett plans to write more books featuring Emily – yay! While I obtained an audiobook arc of Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Fairies from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 10/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.
I really should know better… Last week I was celebrating the fact that I’d not had a Long Covid relapse since November – and from Wednesday through to Friday I was back in bed, again. The good news is that it wasn’t longer and although I felt a bit washed out yesterday, I wasn’t shaky and sick – which is a good result.
It’s been another tough week, what with one thing and another – but the light shining in amongst the dark is that my son and his girlfriend have just moved from L.A. to Germany, which is so much closer to us here in the UK. And the reason why is that Zoe, having had a fabulous season playing with the Texas Longhorn’s volleyball team that came top of their league, has now signed up with Munster and played her first professional match against Aachen last night. I don’t know how that went, as I’m writing this on Saturday morning – but my thoughts are with her.
We are just emerging from over a fortnight of freezing nights and bitterly cold days – though at least the rain finally stopped. It’s now slowly warming up – it’s been a treat not to have to thaw out the car before leaping in to ferry the grandsons to various places, as the taxicab of Gran and Papa is in great demand. If only we could charge them – that would set up our pensions into our old age!!
Last week, I got more reading done, particularly audiobooks as lying in bed and listening was all I was fit for. You’ll notice that apart from one Netgalley read, all the books I turned to were by trusted, favourite authors – I wanted the comfort of a solidly written, escapist read and they all delivered, bless them. Thank goodness for books – I’d have gone raving into the night years ago if it wasn’t for my love of reading!
Last week I read:-
Cast Adrift – Book 1 of the Cast Adrift series by Christopher G. Nuttall Five hundred years ago, the human race discovered it was not alone in the universe when Earth was invaded and forcibly integrated by the Alphan Empire. Over the years, humans have grown used to their position within the empire, serving as soldiers and spacers for alien masters as well as building a place in the universe for themselves. But now, in the aftermath of a violent interstellar war that shattered the power of the Alphans, humanity has rediscovered its pride. Humanity wants to be free.
Facing a war they will lose even if they win, the Alphans give humanity its independence once again. Humanity stands alone in a hostile universe, facing alien threats that regard humans as nothing more than servants – or weaklings, easy meat for armed conquest. And if the human race cannot learn to stand on its own two feet, without its masters, it will rapidly discover that it has traded one set of masters for another …
… And if they lose the coming war, all hope of independence will die with it. Nuttall is one of my favourite authors. I loved his School of Magic series, as he is clearly a history buff and likes to explore possibilities based on real historical incidents and the progression of the series is smart and inventive. This is a classic alien invasion story – with a bit of a twist. Thoroughly enjoyable and I’m looking forward to tucking into the next one. 8/10
AUDIOBOOK – Hidden Truth – Book 2 of the Truth series by Dawn Cook Alissa never believed in magic. But then she went to the Hold, a legendary fortress where human Keepers once learned magic from enigmatic Masters. Under the tutelage of the last surviving Master, Alissa discovered that she had inherited her father’s magical ability.
But the Hold is ruled by Bailic, the renegade Keeper who seized the First Truth, a book of magic he will use to harness the might of the city of the dead and wreak a war of total devastation. The book has thwarted Bailic’s every attempt to access it, while it continually calls to Alissa—who must summon all her will to resist it. For if she gives in to the First Truth’s ultimate power and knowledge, she will be utterly changed—and the man she loves could be lost to her forever. This is a series I discovered on Audible before I realised that Dawn Cook is also the pen name of urban fantasy author Kim Harrison – and it shows in the smart character progression and magnificently nasty villain. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this book, though I do find the simpering, ringleted female on the cover rather annoying, given it’s supposed to be Alissa, who isn’t remotely like that. That said, I’m looking forward to tucking into the next book in the series as I can’t wait to discover what happens next. 9/10
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Fairies – Book 1 of the Emily Wilde series by Heather Fawcett Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party–or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.
So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.
But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones–the most elusive of all faeries–lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all–her own heart. This book is essentially Emily’s journal as she undertakes a field trip in order to discover more about the mysterious Hidden Ones in order to complete her encyclopaedia. I love her ongoing grumpiness and her narrow focus on her studies – as well as her regular rants about Wendell. While aspects of this plot are entirely predictable, I wasn’t sure some of the major characters were actually going to survive. Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK – Diplomatic Immunity – Book 13 of the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold A rich Komarran merchant fleet has been impounded at Graf Station, in distant Quaddiespace, after a bloody incident on the station docks involving a security officer from the convoy’s Barrayaran military escort. Lord Miles Vorkosigan of Barrayar and his wife, Lady Ekaterin, have other things on their minds, such as getting home in time to attend the long-awaited births of their first children. But when duty calls in the voice of Barrayar’s Emperor Gregor, Miles, Gregor’s youngest Imperial Auditor (a special high-level troubleshooter) has no choice but to answer.
Waiting on Graf Station are diplomatic snarls, tangled loyalties, old friends, new enemies, racial tensions, lies and deceptions, mysterious disappearances, and a lethal secret with wider consequences than even Miles anticipates: a race with time for life against death in horrifying new forms. The downside of being a troubleshooter comes when trouble starts shooting back… I read the whole series longer ago than I care to recall – but do remember that while I always enjoyed Miles and his madcap adventures, it was the later books after his Admiral Naismith days that I particularly loved. So picked this one up on a bit of a whim – and found it utterly gripping. I’d forgotten enough of the twisting plot that I once more was engrossed – as well as being impressed all over again by the sheer quality of the writing. I’ll be listening to more of this series, which has certainly stood the test of time and reminds me why this author has won so many awards for her writing. 10/10
Range of Ghosts – Book 1 of the Eternal Sky series by Elizabeth Bear Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.
Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.
Bear is another favourite author – and this stunning first book in this epic fantasy series is a gem that deserves to be better known. I was immediately swept up in the savage aftermath of a terrible battle and couldn’t put this one down until the final scene, as the vivid writing and charismatic characters held me throughout. 9/10
AUDIOBOOK – The Princess Paradigm by Lindsay Buroker Then a fearsome warrior from the human empire arrives, a supposed diplomat. Mrothgar is tattooed, muscled, and looks like he’d rather slay elves than befriend them, but he takes an interest in Hysithea. He invites her to accompany him back to his land to visit its great libraries.
As an academic and a historian, Hysithea is tantalized by the offer, but she’s studied his language and overhears his true intent: Mrothgar is there to gather intelligence on the elves as his emperor prepares an invasion force to conquer them. Hysithea has no choice but to join him, hoping to spy and find a way to sabotage the invasion. Her people need her, and this is her chance to atone for the past.
But Mrothgar is smarter than she realized, and those muscles and tattoos are more intriguing than they should be. Against her wishes, Hysithea finds herself drawn to him. And that’s a problem. She can’t save her people if she falls in love with the man who wants to conquer them.
The Princess Paradigm is set after the events of The Elf Tangent, and brings in a few familiar characters, but it is a complete stand-alone fantasy romance novel (no cliffhangers!) and can be read on its own. I’ll be honest – if I had to judge this one by its blurb alone, then I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. But… it’s Lindsay Buroker, people! And besides, I’ve already listened to the wonderfully entertaining The Elf Tangent, so I knew how much romance versus fantasy adventure I was getting. And it didn’t disappoint. I love the world with its interesting backstory about the Elvish curse so recently lifted and how that is affecting the humans and their own complex politics. This was often funny, yet also poignant and I loved that Epilogue. I do hope Buroker revisits this beguiling world, as I want more. 9/10
I’ve been needing some series escapist charm in my life ever since I was first smitten with long COVID well over a year ago – and this one looked just the ticket. Indeed, the cover reminded me of the wonderful Stariel series by A.J. Lancaster. Would my expectations be fulfilled?
BLURB: Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.
If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.
REVIEW: To be honest, the blurb makes this quirky, enjoyable offering sound more ordinary than it actually is. Dora is an interesting heroine, given that she has sustained a terrible injury right at the beginning of the book and throughout, she is successfully portrayed as someone who is slightly at odds with social expectations. It’s technically a tricky characterisation to pull off – if she is too weird, then it just gets embarrassing and a tad annoying, yet if she isn’t odd enough, then the whole premise falls flat. I think Atwater does a really fine job in portraying someone who is constantly struggling to find the appropriate social persona without compromising the character, or silting up the pace.
I also enjoyed the anger against the yawning gulf between rich and poor that is expressed within the story. There were, indeed, well-born men and women of the day who felt outraged at suffering of those less fortunate than themselves and it’s refreshing to see a social reformer as a main protagonist in a Regency romance. It certainly gives the story a bit of heft, especially when we come to the fae and their reactions to the land of mortals. This became a real page-turner that I couldn’t put down until I reached the end – which tied up the story very satisfactorily. I’m delighted to note that there are other books available in this entertaining series, which I’ll certainly be tracking down. Highly recommended for fans of historical romance with a fantasy twist. While I obtained an arc of Half a Soul from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10
This is my update on how I’m coping with Long Covid now it’s been over sixteen months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.
I’ve always loved the heat and found the lack of light and warmth in English winters an ongoing challenge. But as with so many other things that have changed since I had covid last March, that apparently is no longer the case. I was a bit taken aback last winter when I kept having to turn down the heating – and now I’m finding the warm nights and hot days simply exhausting, whereas before, they used to fire me up and fill me full of energy. So I spent two days in bed last week, though I did manage to get up to see our boomerang boy off to school in the mornings without too much difficulty.
I never used to have any windows open at night, even in the warmest weather. And that was partly because I was never that hot, but also because the cooler weather would bring down the pollen and trigger my hay fever, which otherwise these days is very well behaved. We’ll have to go back to keeping those windows shut as I’m now in a position where I could take a role in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves as Sneezy. And I’m here to tell you that sneezing 20+ times in a row leaves you wrung out. Thank goodness I wasn’t trying to drive the car! Today is supposed to be the start of the hottest spell we’ve ever endured in the UK – and I’m dreading it. I don’t like to think of the poor souls living in big cities, as at least we get the benefit of the onshore sea breeze most afternoons which helps a bit. We also live in a brick-built house, so it tends to keep warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. In common with almost everyone else in the UK, we don’t have aircon although we do use fans throughout the night.
I have been watching a bit more TV in this heat – Boomerang Boy and I are enjoying Stranger Things together and I’ve just finished watching The Midwich Cuckoos, which I thought was brilliantly updated and adapted for a contemporary audience.
This week I’ve read:-
AUDIOBOOK – Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen – The Jane Austen Collection: an Audible original Pride and Prejudice – narrated by Claire Foy
Pride and Prejudice is centred around the Bennet family, their five unmarried daughters and their mother’s desperation for at least one of them to make a wealthy match to save the family from destitution. When Charles Bingley moves into Netherfield, a nearby estate, it seems that Jane, the eldest daughter, may have found her match, but it also introduces our heroine Elizabeth to Bingley’s friend, the aloof Mr Darcy.
Directed by Nicolette Chin. With Tarrick Benham, Nicole Davis, Barnaby Edwards, Billie Fulford-Brown, Rebecca Front, Emma Gregory, Ferdinand Kingsley, Chris Lew Kum Hoi, Tim McInnerny, Heather Nicol, Sarah Ovens, Janet Prince, Jenny Rainsford, Jennifer Saayeng, Sam Stafford, Katy Sobey, Homer Todiwala, Patience Tomlinson and Simon Yadoo. I’ve already had the pleasure of listening to Sense and Sensibility and this offering is the next one in this excellent collection of Jane Austen novels to listen to. It’s a solid favourite and has been dramatised very well. 9/10
AUDIOBOOK – A Free Man of Color – Book 1 of the Benjamin January series by Barbara Hambly It is 1833. In the midst of Mardi Gras, Benjamin January, a Creole physician and music teacher, is playing piano at the Salle d’Orleans when the evenings festivities are interrupted by murder.
Ravishing Angelique Crozat, a notorious octoroon who travels in the city’s finest company, has been strangled to death. With the authorities reluctant to become involved, Ben begins his own inquiry, which will take him through the seamy haunts of riverboatmen and into the huts of voodoo-worshipping slaves.
But soon the eyes of suspicion turn toward Ben for, black as the slave who fathered him, this free man of color is still the perfect scapegoat. . . . And this is why I’m such a huge fan of Netgalley. Not long ago, I read and thoroughly enjoyed Death and Hard Cider, which was the nineteenth book in the series. So I went hunting and discovered the audiobook of this, the first book. What an absolute treat! A cracking murder mystery in a decadent and luscious setting with a thoroughly likeable protagonist. I’m definitely going to be revisiting this series again. 10/10
Against All Gods – Book 1 of The Age of Bronze series by Miles Cameron The gods play their games, looking down on the mortal realm and moving men as pawns. Sacrificing lives, towns, even civilisations as they make moves against each other, oblivious to and uncaring of the suffering it causes.
They are above it all: worshipped, emulated and admired.
Yet there is one among them who exists to sow chaos, to challenge the way of things, and to stir up trouble. One who sees the gods growing indolent and contented and selfish . . . and who is ready to meddle in the world of men. Not as part of the immortal game, but because they believe it’s possible for men to challenge . . . and even topple . . . the gods themselves. I am a fan of Cameron’s writing – I thoroughly enjoyed The Traitor Son series and last year his space opera adventure Artifact Space was a reading highlight of the year. But this one was very bloody, despite being well written, which I found a tad difficult at times. I also would have liked at least one of the plotpoints to be tied up by the end, rather than the whole storyline left on a cliff-hanger. 8/10
Last Wish – Book 4 of the Highland Magic series by Helen Harper It’s not easy pretending to be dead – especially when it feels as if you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Between an unfulfilled prophecy, the demon-occupied Lowlands, the continuing power of murderous Aifric Moncrieffe – not to mention her constant yearnings for Byron – Integrity Adair has a lot to worry about.
Still, how hard can it really be to save Scotland, maintain her morals, get the guy and keep her sense of humour? This is the last book in this delightfully quirky fantasy series. I suppose it’s urban fantasy as it hits many of the genre tropes – a feisty heroine, lots of snark, a few steamy interludes. But it’s set in a Scotland where the Lowlands, including Edinburgh, have been occupied by demons for the past 300 years. Integrity Adair is huge fun and this was one of those reads where I was torn between wanting to know what happens next – and wanting the book to go on for a long, long time, as I didn’t want to part company with Integrity. Or Bob the genie. Or Tipsy. Or May the demon… It takes skill and technique to successfully bring an entertaining series to a satisfying close, but then Harper never disappoints. She has become one of my go-to authors when I want a fun-filled read full of action and humour. 10/10
Half a Soul – Book 1 of the Regency Faerie Tales series by Olivia Atwater Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.
If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul. This was another enjoyable escapist read full of fun and tension. Dora is beautifully written – compromised protagonists take a lot of skill to get right and Atwater nails it. I loved the unfolding romance and the social reform aspect, which was very well depicted within the narrative. Review to follow. 9/10
Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.
This is my update on how I’m doing while coping with Long Covid now it’s been 10 months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.
It’s been a week of two halves, but as I’m now able to write this Sunday Post just a week after my previous effort, you’ll be right in thinking that overall my energy levels are still reasonably good. So long as I don’t think of trying to do any housework! While I know it is definitely positive that my emotional and mental energy have improved so much – it’s very much a two-edged sword… The first half of the week was grim. I woke up on Monday feeling angry and miserable and while I can generally throw off those feelings – this time around, I couldn’t. It was the anger I found impossible to shift. And of course, given there is just the two of us – the person who bore the brunt of it is the one person in my life who is completely undeserving of my snarling criticisms on what he hadn’t managed to do around the house. It’s rather chastening to realise that I’m far less nice when I’m more like me, than when I was too ill and exhausted to care… And even that reflection didn’t manage to lift my black fury at how bloody helpless and useless I am.
However, thank goodness I had a reflexology appointment on Thursday afternoon. Laura listened sympathetically to my teary rant about how much I hated being so vilely furious – and how it was poisoning my life at a time when I really cannot afford the energy to be so negative. So she set to work, promising to concentrate on my emotional energies. At one point, while she was working on my hormonal energy, which she said was allll over the place, my leg was twitching uncontrollably. Whatever she did certainly worked. I always feel very tired after a consultation. But I woke up on Friday morning feeling reasonably happy again. I’m still sleeping badly, and the constant high-pitched screaming in my ears is still something of an ongoing struggle. But I’m back to believing I can get through this – that I haven’t finally run out of stamina and courage. And that there will come a time when I will regain sufficient energy to write my books again so that my grumpy black dragon, Castellan, will once again soar through my life.
This week I’ve read:-
Blood Politics – Book 4 of the Blood Destiny series by Helen Harper You’d think that life would finally be dealing Mack Smith a kind hand. Living in London, and with the opening of the new improved city version of Clava Books mere days away, things appear to be settling down. Other than the terrible nightmares about dragons, that is. Or the fact that she’s being constantly tailed by a string of mages, shifters and faeries, all of whom are constantly demanding her attention. And that’s without even bringing the temptation of Corrigan, Lord Alpha of the Brethren, into the equation.
Then, when a local dryad asks her for some help, things really start to fire up. There are some long hot summer days ahead… I thoroughly enjoy Harper’s gutsy, short-fused heroine. Mack is a shapeshifter with a difference and this urban fantasy is full of twists and turns that kept me reading throughout a wretched night and into the small hours. Be warned, Mack tends to get very sweary when she loses her rag, so there is a lot of bad language – but I’ll forgive that. And there is also a doozy of cliffhanger at the end that had me reaching for the next book in the series – which is something that I hardly ever do. 9/10
Blood Lust – Book 5 of the Blood Destiny series by Helen Harper Life’s no fun being a dragon, especially when you are forced into responsibilities that involve trying to keep the peace between an array of shifters, mages and faeries in order to bring down the scariest and deadliest foe the Otherworld has ever seen. And that’s not to mention the fact that your own soul mate hates your guts…
Mack Smith, a fiery Draco Wyr, is battling to come to terms with her emotions, her heritage and her true capabilities. All she has to do is defeat Endor, win back Corrigan and live happily ever after. From the streets of London and Russia, to the beaches of Cornwall, will she be able to ever win the day? Not only does this book deliver yet another engrossing adventure featuring short-tempered Mack, our foul-mouthed yet endearing heroine – it also has to produce a convincing and satisfactory conclusion to this series. I’ll be honest – given the narrative dynamic Harper had set up, I couldn’t see how she would pull this one off. And then she did… I completed this one with a lump in my throat and a smile on my face. Very highly recommended. 10/10
The Gathering – Book 1 of The Hundred series by Vanessa Nelson As one of the Hundred, Yvonne cannot ignore a plea for help, even if all she wants is a quiet life, somewhere safe for her adopted children to grow into adulthood. Safety is in short supply. Young people, some of them children, are going missing in large numbers, leaving bewildered and grieving families behind. It’s not something she can ignore.
She finds an unexpected ally in an arrogant goblin lord, who seems intent on following her from place to place. With her skills in magic, and his resources, can they track down the kidnappers and return the children home? I’ve been reading her Ageless Mysteries series and been very impressed, so when I saw this series I immediately tucked into the first one and was very glad I did. Nelson’s worldbuilding is superb – a layered realistic world that gradually is revealed through the eyes of a nuanced, three-dimensional character. The relationship between Guise and Yvonne is beautifully done and I look forward to reading the next one. 9/10
Witch Hunt – Book 3 of the Secondhand Magic series by Lori Drake Magic Crimes Consultant Emily Davenport’s prestigious family coven may have been disappointed in her lack of magical talent, but they never took issue with how she lived her life—until she registered as a witch. Now the gloves are off, and she’s under investigation by the Circle, a powerful alliance of ancient covens.
But with an important case three months in the making finally starting to bear fruit, she can’t just stop and walk away. The witches of Santa Fe need her. A mysterious, illicit drug that only affects witches is gaining more traction by the day, and every minute she spends worrying about her own future is an opportunity for another witch to die. Can Emily stop the flow of the deadly narcotic and prove herself before her clock runs out, or will she be carted off to face tribunal in chains? This urban fantasy whodunit has a strong heroine, who used to be an emergency nurse who is dismissed once she registers as a witch. Now she ekes out a living as a consultant on magical cases with the local police department. I really enjoyed Emily’s backstory – she is a strong, sympathetic protagonist who has been put in a convincingly difficult position. I’m delighted there are more books in this smart, well written series. 9/10
The Dragon and Mrs Muir by Connie Suttle The wedding was an outdoor affair, on a beach with the Gulf of Mexico in the background. In all, seventy-two were injured, and the body count rose to seventeen. Local hospitals were filled with bleeding attendees, and, at one point, the bride, her bloodied white wedding dress cut away and spilling onto the emergency room floor, went into cardiac arrest. Her groom died at the scene.
Philomena Muir became a widow on her wedding day. Three years later, she found herself bumping into the strangest man she’d ever met–except he wasn’t a man. More specifically, he wasn’t human. That brief meeting became the catalyst for a brewing war, pitting one human witch against the might of a supernatural race. The cards are stacked, and Philomena needs a winning hand… This is an unusual book and despite the slight unevenness of the story-telling and the ease with which some of the conflicts are overcome, I enjoyed the dynamic. The dramatic backstory is very well handled and I really liked Phil. Overall, an intriguing and memorable read. 8/10
Little Witches – Book 21 of Schooled in Magic series by Christopher G. Nuttall Laughter Academy is in trouble. The student witches are growing increasingly reckless, preying on the mundanes below the mountains as their tutors plot and scheme to take advantage of the chaos. And no one seems to know why.
Emily is in no condition to intervene. But she cannot refuse. Heading to Laughter, Emily finds herself dragged into a world of schoolgirl games, staffroom politics and a deadly plot aimed at the heart of the Allied Lands themselves… As I’ve been reading this entertaining and unpredictable fantasy series, I’ve often imagined Nuttall having a conversation in a bar with a couple of writing buddies. “So… what do you think would happen if a girl got transported from our world, back to a medieval society? And then triggers a major change by introducing some key inventions – what would happen then? I think I’m going to write it. Just to see where it goes.” Because that’s exactly the dynamic of this fascinating series story arc and Emily – the protagonist and catalyst of so much of the upheaval that occurs – has become a firm favourite of mine. There are three more books to go in this series and I’d intended to space them out – but I immediately got hold of the next one, because of that amazing cliffhanger ending. 8/10
The Right Side of History – Book 22 of Schooled in Magic series by Christopher G. Nuttall
A brutal uprising in the Kingdom of Alluvia has shaken the Allied Lands – and Emily finds herself accused of starting it. Desperate, all too aware the kingdom is on the verge of becoming a vortex of chaos, Emily travels to Alluvia in the hopes of calming both sides long enough to secure peace…
…Unaware that the uprising is merely the first step in a plan to shatter the Allied Lands beyond repair. I pretty much inhaled this one – the beginning is fraught and full of danger. And the tension doesn’t ease up. But the climactic final battle at the end left me reeling as we lose a major character – and Emily suffers a terrible betrayal that I didn’t see coming. Oh my goodness. I’m trying to be good and not immediately reach for the penultimate book in the series as I want to cling onto this world for just a bit longer… this series has seen me through so many wretched nights and difficult days during the worst of my illness. 9/10
AUDIOBOOK – Hard Time – Book 2 of The Time Police series by Jodi Taylor Team Weird are back causing havoc in the Time Police in this irresistible spin-off series by international bestseller Jodi Taylor, author of The Chronicles of St Mary’s. A time slip in Versailles, problems in the Ice Age and illegal time travellers in need of rescue. Must be a job for the Time Police.
Luke, Jane and Matthew are back and ready to cause havoc – inadvertently or otherwise – in their latest adventures. This time travelling adventure hasn’t quite the rollicking, no-holds-barred flavour of the St Mary’s books, but it is still full of humour. In typical Taylor style, there are also deeply moving and emotional moments, too. It was a joy to listen to. 9/10
Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m very aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.
BLURB: Irene is trying to learn the truth about Alberich-and the possibility that he’s her father. But when the Library orders her to kill him, and then Alberich himself offers to sign a truce, she has to discover why he originally betrayed the Library.
With her allies endangered and her strongest loyalties under threat, she’ll have to trace his past across multiple worlds and into the depths of mythology and folklore, to find the truth at the heart of the Library, and why the Library was first created.
REVIEW: Not only does this story have to deliver yet another interesting and twisty plot featuring Irene and her comrades in her ongoing task to carry out the Library’s wishes – it also has to successfully wrap up this series. Irene has intrigued me, as being admirably self possessed. And throughout all her entanglements with both fae and dragons, she has kept her head and dealt with life-threatening emergencies with a capable coolness. This sets her apart from those heroines, who flap around in a soup of self doubt and end up backing into situations they’re not prepared for.
However, the previous adventure in The Dark Archive finally punctured her confidence, as she was told a shocking fact that has her questioning all her core beliefs. This is the book where she has to deal with the fallout. So Irene sets out on an adventure, with the support of Kai, Vale and Catherine to discover the truth of what is going on. And yes – it’s a somewhat far-fetched story, but Cogman tells it with skill and conviction and I’m quite happy to suspend my disbelief. Partly because in amongst all the adventures and unexpected discoveries, Cogman looks at the human drive to tell stories and how it can affect the way the the world is formed. As I have always been fascinated by the way some small children start weaving imaginative narratives almost before they are able to talk, this theme really chimed with me.
Even more importantly, Cogman brings this series to a successful close. I was happy with the future stretching before Irene and Kai, which doesn’t prevent further adventures, if Cogman wants to revisit the Library again at some stage. Indeed, I hope she does. I’ve loved this series and I’ll particularly miss dashing between worlds alongside Irene, while she sorts out book-related problems. Or mediating between the Fae and dragons. In the meantime, I can always reread this delightful portal fantasy series and if you haven’t yet had the pleasure – it comes highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of The Untold Story from Netgalley via the publishers, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10
BLURB: A while back, Daniel Mackmain’s life took an unexpected turn. Now the Green Man expects him to resolve clashes between those dwelling unseen in wild places and the ordinary people who have no idea what’s out there. Dan’s father is human and his mother’s a dryad, so he sees what’s happening in both these worlds.
Once upon a time, giants walked this land. So says everyone from Geoffrey of Monmouth to William Blake. This ancient threat is stirring in the Wiltshire twilight, up on the chalk downs. Can Dan meet this new challenge when he can only find half-forgotten fairy tales to guide him? Will the other local supernatural inhabitants see him – or the giant – as friend or foe?
A modern fantasy rooted in the ancient myths and folklore of the British Isles.
REVIEW: I often omit the final strapline of blurbs that describe the book as frankly, a lot of them aren’t particularly helpful. But this time around – that final line exactly describes this series of books, which is why they are so very special. We’re up to our necks in a rich, varied folklore in Britain, with all sorts of stories about faery creatures. And many of these have disappeared because oral traditions waned as regions have become more accessible and people move around more. But in this instalment of Dan’s adventures, McKenna has brilliantly utilised the likes of the giant figures cut into chalk hillsides and some of the numerous folk stories around hares to add to her intriguing Brit rural fantasy tale.
I really like Dan – his somewhat blokey persona rings true. He’s rough around the edges, but his heart’s in the right place and I also enjoy his growing relationship with Fin. If you like fantasy stories, yet have got a bit fed up with a continual diet of werewolves and vampires, then give this series a spin. You can pick up this book without having read the previous ones and quickly get into the groove of the story. However, in order to fully appreciate the full awesomeness of McKenna’s world, I’d advise that you first go back to the first book – The Green Man’s Heir.
Any niggles? Well, I for one didn’t feel the extra story at the back was necessary and frankly, I wish I hadn’t read it. The shift in viewpoint was jarring and I felt the explanation of what happened within the main narrative was sufficient. But it certainly isn’t a dealbreaker – and surely it’s better to have too much information than too little. I very much hope that there are more books featuring Dan and this wonderful, layered world embedded within old British folklore, as there simply isn’t anything else quite like it. Very highly recommended. 9/10
Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Paper & Blood – Book 2 of The Ink & Sigil series by Kevin Hearne – release date 12th August, 2021
#urban fantasy #Iron Druid world #troubled hero #magic #monsters and fae #humour
BLURB: There’s only one Al MacBharrais: Though other Scotsmen may have dramatic mustaches and a taste for fancy cocktails, Al also has a unique talent. He’s a master of ink and sigil magic. In his gifted hands, paper and pen can work wondrous spells.
But Al isn’t quite alone: He is part of a global network of sigil agents who use their powers to protect the world from mischievous gods and strange monsters. So when a fellow agent disappears under sinister circumstances in Australia, Al leaves behind the cozy pubs and cafes of Glasgow and travels to the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria to solve the mystery.
The trail to his colleague begins to pile up with bodies at alarming speed, so Al is grateful his friends have come to help—especially Nadia, his accountant who moonlights as a pit fighter. Together with a whisky-loving hobgoblin known as Buck Foi and the ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, along with his dogs, Oberon and Starbuck, Al and Nadia will face down the wildest wonders Australia—and the supernatural world—can throw at them, and confront a legendary monster not seen in centuries.
I love The Iron Druid series – see my reviews of Hounded, Hammered, Shattered, Staked and Scourged. Atticus is a fabulous hero and his dogs are adorable and the steady humour they provide prevent the series from getting too dark as the enemies get angrier and more powerful. So I was delighted when Ink & Sigil, the first book in a spin-off series, appeared. I love dear old Al, who is the victim of two nasty curses, and find it refreshing to have a sixty-something-year-old protagonist, even if he can protect himself magically from the worst that the baddies can throw at him. I just started this one yesterday. But if you, too, are a fan of Hearne’s sparky, enjoyable style then you won’t have to wait long – this one is due out tomorrow😊.