Welcome!

I love reading! Well, I suppose you worked that out from the title of this site, didn’t you?

I read flash fiction, short stories, novelettes, novels, full-length books, poetry books and am quite fond of book series too.

I also read most genres, though there are some I am more likely to read than others, but hey, I will give pretty much anything a go!  You never know when you are about to uncover a hidden gem.  Unless you read it, you don’t know if you will love it…and that is part of the magic of books.

I like to do what I can to support indie authors (I’m one myself), so if you would like me to review your book / story, just get in touch 🙂

If you have any suggestions, recommendations or review requests, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me.

Have a great day!

To learn more about me, read my about page.  To see what I’ve already reviewed, visit the A-Z review index.

Quick Review: Dangerous Justice by Terri Reed

Dangerous Justice is a story in the Capitol K-9 Unit series, from Love Inspired Suspense, A Harlequin line, the books of which are written by various authors .

Summary (from Goodreads)

A K-9 novella of danger and intrigue set in the nation’s capitol

Someone is after Capitol K-9 Unit tech guru Fiona Fargo, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep her from decoding the secrets of Washington, D.C.’s elite. She knows Officer Christopher Torrance and his canine partner Dutch will keep her safe, but he’s the last colleague she wants dogging her heels. Spending time with him might reveal her secret crush on him. But with killers determined to silence her forever, she’ll have to put aside her fears and accept his help. Chris has secrets of his own, and a failed engagement makes him leery of moving forward with any woman, even the beautiful Fiona. As they hunt for the killer, they’ll find that love can break any barrier.

Review

I read this book at the start of the year, while I was researching the different lines published by Harlequin. I found it to be an engaging, short read. The characters were interesting and smart, and the romance was nicely tempered by the action of the story.

Although the story is of novella-length, I didn’t find that the story was lacking, as can be the case with some novellas where it’s obvious that there isn’t enough storyline for a full-length book. Neither did I find that it needed to be longer. It was the right length for the pace and content of the story.

And my favourite character? Dutch the dog, of course!

Rating

3.5 / 5

Quick Review: Mrs Budley Falls from Grace by M.C. Beaton

Mrs Budley falls From Grace is the third book in The Poor Relation series by M.C. Beaton.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Another Poor Relation has to resort to genteel thievery to make end meet – but she gets much more than she bargains for!

Cut off by her own relations, pretty, dainty widow Eliza Budley must visit some other family manor to purloin expensive baubles. Happily, the rich Marquess of Peterhouse is in his dotage and wouldn’t know a relative from a bedpost, so Eliza is sent to play the imposter.

But things do not go as planned and Eliza is met by the new Marquess – wickedly handsome, and with all his wits about him. And somehow Eliza finds herself confessing her bluff to him and he in turn is much taken with her daring and charm – but can he fall in love with such a scheming widow from the world of trade? Time for the other Poor Relations to get involved and help these confused lovers!

Review

A wonderful light-hearted read. I always find that if I’m in a bit of a reading slump, I can rely on M.C. Beaton to cheer me up!

Entertaining and engaging, Mrs Budley Falls from Grace, like the other books I have read so far in the series, is an easy, quick read. It doesn’t require much brain power to follow along, and you know how the stories are going to end.

What I like about this series is that the romance isn’t too much. It isn’t the focus of the story, but there is enough there for it to be called a romance. I also like how the Regency period is brought to life – it’s not all balls and celebrating the season in town whilst in search of a husband. For those poor relations – as well as just the poor of society – it would have been a hard life. However, there is still enough of the charm we have come to expect of the Regency for stories to still have a happy ever after, no matter how unlikely.

All-in-all, this was a fun, undemanding read. The next book in the series is Sir Phillip’s Folly, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it!

Rating

Quick Review: Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories by Joyce Lankester Brisley

Summary

First published in 1928, this collection of stories for children centres around the adventures of Millicent Margaret Amanda, or Milly-Molly-Mandy for short. Over thirteen stories, Milly-Molly-Mandy and her friends in the village (and beyond), get up to all sorts of things including giving a party, going to a fete, and keeping shop.

Review

I thought this to be a sweet collection of stories which gave an interesting glimpse of how children of the 1920s saw the world. It was also a useful tool in documenting how English villages were back then, and how much they have changed over the hundred years since the book was published.

The adventures are very gentle and pretty much drama-free compared to modern storytelling, but I think sometimes such stories are just what’s needed in this fast-paced world.

Another aspect I liked was how the stories depicted society during that period. There is very much a focus on the home, and the extended family living together (Milly-Molly-Mandy lives with her mother and father, grandmother and grandfather, as well as her uncle and aunt). It also stresses that one shouldn’t be idle, so everyone is always doing something, even the young children in the village have what we might consider quite extensive chores to complete.

Life was very different in Milly-Molly-Mandy’s world, and from a historical point of view, I found it rather illuminating. I could have done without the repetitiveness of her name though…

A charming read, full of nostalgia for bygone days. It brought to life the world my grandmother would have grown up in, and to me, that makes these stories very special.

Rating

Quick Review: The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood

Summary (from back of book)

Set a guard upon your soul…

When Nathaniel Kerner takes up his new position as a mad-doctor at Crakethorne Manor, the proprietor, more interested in phrenology and his growing collection of skulls than his patients’ minds, hands over the care of his most interesting case.

Mrs Victoria Harleston’s husband accuses her of hysteria and says he will pay any price to see her well. But she accuses him of something far more terrible…

Nathaniel becomes increasingly obsessed with the beautiful Mrs Harleston – but is she truly delusional, or is she hiding secrets that should never be uncovered?

Review

I remember when I purchased this book. I instantly fell in love with the cover. It’s beautiful. I also fell in love with the title. There was something quite mysterious and atmospheric about it…So did the story live up to my initial impressions?

In places, but I’ll admit I wanted to like this book more than I did, hence the mixed review.

What did I like about the book?

The setting. It was atmospheric and Gothic. A perfect place to set a story about madness.

The characters. Especially the background characters, those residing in Crakethorne Manor, I found to be pertinent in evoking the atmosphere.

The storyline. Even now, as we try and break the stigma around mental health issues, there are still some people who fear that madness can be catching. Back in the 1850s, this fear was commonplace and had been for a long time. So a story about madness, focusing on the mad, and the doctors trying to treat them without becoming mad themselves is certainly an interesting subject, even if today we have a much better grasp of mental health issues.

The historical descriptions. The story was spot-on-perfect for historical detail, and helped bring the story to life. Nothing stood out to me as out of place.

What did I not like about the book?

I struggled to connect with the main characters, and though I was interested in the story, I didn’t really have any strong feelings as to what became of them. I found Nathaniel’s obsession grating for a while, which didn’t help.

I also found the middle part of the book slow and heavy going, and I actually stopped reading it for a time, before returning and finishing it (which I’m glad I did). The ending was good and even justified some of the points I hadn’t liked earlier in the story (for example, Nathaniel’s obsession).

So a bit of a mixed review, but I would read more from this author.

Rating

3.5 / 5

Book Review: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Quick Review (read on for full review)

I loved this book! A captivating, emotional read from start to finish, The Familiars is a gripping tale, masterfully written. Atmospheric, enchanting and haunting, it’s unputdownable! 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.

Is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence. As the two women’s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom. Time is running out; both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

Rich and compelling, set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, this novel explores the rights of 17th-century women and raises the question: Was witch-hunting really women-hunting? Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Alice Grey and the other characters are actual historical figures. King James I was obsessed with asserting power over the lawless countryside (even woodland creatures, or “familiars,” were suspected of dark magic) by capturing “witches”—in reality mostly poor and illiterate women.

Favourite Quote

‘I bet you are not afraid of anything,’ I said.

‘Of course I am,’ she said, and she pulled at a loose thread in her apron. ‘I am afraid of lies.’

(from The Familiars by Stacey Halls, page 192)

Review

Inspired by the Pendle witch trials, The Familiars is masterfully written. Captivating and emotional, I found that once I started reading, I couldn’t stop.

Fleetwood Shuttleworth should be happy. Married to a wealthy merchant and living in a country house, and with a husband she truly cares for, she has everything she wants. Except an heir for her husband. Plagued by miscarriages at 17 years of age, no doctor Richard can find seems to be able to help. With no friend amongst family or servants, Fleetwood is alone. Until one day a chance meeting in the woods brings to her Alice Grey…

It’s not hard to root for Fleetwood. For someone who appears to have everything, the cards are really stacked against her. But she won’t be cowed and is stronger than people think. Her story is an emotional one, yet it is also one of reason and sound judgement in the face of so much baseless accusation. It is this, the fact that she is a sensible woman, which could be the greatest thing she has to fear.

And as for Alice Grey, she is enchanting and elusive. A poor, peasant woman, afraid of the lies which might name her a witch, and see her sentenced as one, she encapsulates the fear of suspicion many a woman might have felt during this period. Yet her desire to help a stranger could be her undoing…

Stacey Halls’ writing truly captures the atmosphere, tension and even the hysteria of the period. As I read, I felt true concern for the characters involved, and a very great dislike of the ambitious Roger, who travelled about the place with Jennet Device, as if she was a pet to show off. Men like him made the world a very dangerous place for poor peasant women at this time – or indeed, anyone who tried to stand against them, such was people’s fear of witchcraft.

If you’ve an interest in the history of witchcraft, the craze of the witch trials, or are fascinated by the Pendle witches, I can’t recommend this book highly enough to you.

Rating

Quick Review: The Borrowers by Mary Norton

The Borrowers is the first book in the series of the same name by Mary Norton, first published in 1952.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Beneath the kitchen floor is the world of the Borrowers – Pod and Homily Clock and their daughter, Arrietty. In their tiny home, matchboxes double as roomy dressers and postage stamps hang on the walls like paintings. Whatever the Clocks need they simply “borrow” from the “human beans” who live above them. It’s a comfortable life, but boring if you’re a kid. Only Pod is allowed to venture into the house above, because the danger of being seen by a human is too great. Borrowers who are seen by humans are never seen again. Yet Arrietty won’t listen. There is a human boy up there, and Arrietty is desperate for a friend.

Review

This is another one of those children’s books that I never read as a child, even though I knew some of my friends had read it and enjoyed it. I do remember vaguely a TV series based on the books, which I think I did watch, and also a film, made later, which I don’t think I saw. So…I picked up this book with a bit of trepidation, as I’ve not liked a great many of the children’s books I’ve read as an adult (What Katy Did and some of the Narnia books, to name a couple). Yet, I must say, rather surprisingly, I enjoyed reading it much more than I thought I would.

There is something very honest and genuine about the characters. No-one is perfect, none of them have all the answers and it’s interesting to see how they are all trying to make life work in an ever-changing world. A world they have very little control over.

There is something very encouraging and endearing about the friendship that arises between the boy staying with his great aunt and Arriety and her parents, which lies at the heart of this story. A message of overcoming fear of others who we percieve as being different to us, but in reality we are not so different at all.

I greatly appreciated the imagination of the author who was able to look at ordinary things found in a house and envisage how someone a great deal smaller could utilise it.

The next book in the series is The Borrowers Afield, which I’m looking forward to starting soon.

Rating

Book Review: Miss Pinkerton by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Cosy mystery at its best – a good story, interesting setting and a cast of intriguing characters. Highly recommended! 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Miss Adams is a nurse, not a detective—at least, not technically speaking. But while working as a nurse, one does have the opportunity to see things police can’t see and an observant set of eyes can be quite an asset when crimes happen behind closed doors. Sometimes Detective Inspector Patton rings Miss Adams when he needs an agent on the inside. And when he does, he calls her “Miss Pinkerton” after the famous detective agency.

Everyone involved seems to agree that mild-mannered Herbert Wynne wasn’t the type to commit suicide but, after he is found shot dead, with the only other possible killer being his ailing, bedridden aunt, no other explanation makes sense. Now the elderly woman is left without a caretaker and Patton sees the perfect opportunity to employ Miss Pinkerton’s abilities. But when she arrives at the isolated country mansion to ply her trade, she soon finds more intrigue than anyone outside could have imagined and—when she realizes a killer is on the loose—more terror as well.

Reprinted for the first time in twenty years, Miss Pinkerton is a suspenseful tale of madness and murder. The book served as the basis for a 1932 film with the same title, and its titular character appeared in several others of Rinehart’s most popular novels.

Favourite Quote

I had to chuckle at this quote, Miss Adams scathing appraisal of Florence Lenz:

“I knew her sort the minute I saw her. They never forget that their employer is a man, and when he is, like Mr. Glenn, pretty much a man of the world and not married, that he may represent anything from a tidy flat to a marriage license.”

(From Miss Pinkerton by Mary Roberts Rinehart, page 79)

Review

I really enjoyed reading this story. For a book first published in 1932, it was easy to read with a good pace and flow. It was engaging and entertaining, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on who I thought had done it for most of the story.

I liked the interaction between Miss Adams and Detective Inspector Patton, the latter vacillated between concern for the danger he puts Miss Adams in and the belief that she can take care of herself – which she can. He’s never condescending to her, and they both know, regardless of the danger posed by the suspects in the case, her curiosity will outweigh all other arguments and she will see it through to the end.

The best thing about Miss Adams character is that, although she is placed in her position by Patton, she is guided by what she believes is right or wrong, not the police investigation. She doesn’t simply do as she’s told. If she doesn’t agree with him, she doesn’t pretend she does – although she might keep her cards close to her chest. Neither does she ignore her own instincts.

The old Mitchell house made for an interesting setting. The family have fallen on hard times and died off until only Miss Juliet remains and her nephew, Hebert Wynne. The house was once a grand mansion but there being so little money, they have had to shut up most of it, especially the grander rooms. Smaller collections of rooms have been turned into apartments: a set for Miss Juliet, one for Hebert, and another for the servants, elderly married couple Hugo and Mary. Knowing there were rooms off limit, added an extra layer of tension to the storytelling which I appreciated.

This is the first book I’ve read by the author, and having seen that she was a prolific writer (Goodreads says there are 277 distinct works by her), I will definitely be reading more of her stories in the future.

I have a feeling I am going to be collecting these American Mystery Classics the same way as I’m collecting the British Library Crime Classics – and I think that says everything about what I thought to this book.

Highly recommended to mystery fans and fans of Golden Age Crime stories.

Rating

Quick Review: Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs

Summary from Goodreads:

Utterly original, deeply moving and very funny, ETHEL & ERNEST is the story of Raymond Brigg’s parents from their first, chance encounter to their deaths, told in Brigg’s unique strip-cartoon format. Winner of the British Book Award for the Illustrated Book of the Year and acclaimed by the critics, ETHEL & ERNEST was a huge bestseller on first publication.

Review

I was unsure whether or not I wanted to read this book when I came across it in a bag of books I’d been given. The author is most well-known for his wordless story, The Snowman, which I enjoyed as a child but am ambivalent towards as an adult, if I’m being honest. However, I am very glad that I gave it a go!

This was such a sweet, moving read, and I found it unexpectedly enjoyable and unputdownable! I say that because I don’t often read graphic novels or comic strips, but I found the images really carried the story of Brigg’s parents so well.

Charmingly British, it covers the period of 1928 – 1971, and some of the major events they lived through, as well as some of the ordinary things most of our grandparents or great-grandparents experienced such as the sudden progression of technology in the home as well as the aspirations for their children.

It’s so beautifully executed and a poignant way of an artist honouring the memory of his parents. Definitely well worth a read!

Rating

Book Review: Roots of Rookeri by Crispina Kemp

Crispina Kemp, historical fantasy author of the five book series, The Spinner’s Game, and Learning to Fly, is about to release another fantastic story, this time, Roots of Rookeri, my review for which you can find below.  It’s set for release on 15th April 2022, so add the date to your diary, or follow the link to pre order: Roots of Rookeri eBook : Kemp, Crispina: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Highly imaginative, engaging and complex, Roots of Rookeri, is a rich, well-woven tale, set in an well-constructed world. With themes of astrology, political intrigue, history, mystery and romance, this story has so much to offer. Highly recommended to fans of wonderfully-intricate, creative fantasy. 5 / 5

Summary (from Amazon)

A Key, a Tree, a Prophecy

The Cast:
Booderas Rookeri-Sharmin – better known as Boody, playwright, poet, dancer and chorusmaster – orphaned nephew of the Elect of Raselstad, disciple of the Forty-First Avatar who brought the Founders to this new world.
“Worth is not measured in gold. To ban a word is not enough. To forbid the metals silver and gold will not lessen their attraction. The Guided Guilds give no protection against the Old-World demons.”
Eshe, daughter of Judge Madir, believes herself tough (she enjoys caving and climbing), unsuccessful in matters of the heart, fears her father will intervene and arrange a marriage.
Kalamite, head of the quasi-religious Runman Order, son of a queen no one has seen, for to ensure her safety he keeps her locked in the mysterious Wood Tower at the heart of Citadel Lecheni. He is her sworn protector.
Sifadis Lafdi, heiress of the wealthiest House in Lecheni. Owns every ship in the Luant; no one eats fish except by her catching. But marriage arrangements threaten, and a ruling husband would separate her from her passion – the study of the ancient documents stored in her library.

The Play:
A violation of Wood Tower has astrologer-priest Kalamite in fear for his mother, his queen. Planetary alignments foretell an invasion from the south. When Eshe arrives in Lecheni from southern Raselstad, Kalamite moves into action. He insists a spy is sent to Eshe’s hometown. Sifadis jumps at the opportunity to be that spy, to pursue a project of her own and to delay further marriage arrangements.
In Raselstad Sifadis meets her antithesis, Boody with his abhorrence of everything northern and Rothi. Yet they share a love for ancient books and Daabian plants. They also share an ancient connection which on meeting neither expects.

Favourite Quote

“What is time?” His hands spread in expansive gesture. “A commodity which cannot be bought and yet we spend.”

 (From Roots of Rookeri by Crispina Kemp, page 207)

Review

Firstly, it’s worth pointing out, Roots of Rookeri is not set in the same world as the author’s previous books, so you don’t have to have read them to read this one.  However, it is also worth pointing out that I do love those other books and never tire of recommending them here on Sammi Loves Books, and the world in which Roots of Rookeri is set is just as authentic and well-constructed as the other one.  So read them all! Now, on to my review proper…

Let’s begin with what we first encounter: that beautiful front cover.  Isn’t it gorgeous?  The colours and the text work so well together to catch the eye and the attention of the reader.  The talented designer behind this front cover (and all of Crispina’s releases so far) is Lauren Willmore. 

And my thoughts on the story…

Roots of Rookeri is a rich, complex tale, one that, with the imagination of the author, pulls the reader in and grabs their attention.  With themes of astrology, political intrigue, history, mystery and romance, this story has so much to offer.  I was lucky enough to be a beta reader for this story, and I fell in love with the world and the characters almost immediately.  On this, my second reading of the book, I am even more captivated by the places and people, and the storyline as a whole.

The world building is simply remarkable and covers every aspect of life in the two countries.  As I read the story I could clearly envisage all the locations visited, from the towered city of Lecheni in Rothi, to the sprawling, open Raselstad in Luban, (there are maps at the end of the story of both places) as well as being able to picture the locales in between. The invented language and slang is intricate and adds another layer of richness to the story. Then there are the two religions and their gods, stemming from one common source but interpreted in a vastly different way by each.  I found this so fascinating to read as it so clearly echoes reality.

The interconnectedness of the stories of the four main characters was so cleverly done and woven together. All four were engaging, and together it meant there were so many layers of story unfolding as we progressed through it. Sifadis and Eshe were both strong, intelligent, independent brave women, whose stories almost mirrored each other, yet they were not the same. Boody the poet and playwright was entertaining and smart, and the love of his art was clearly important to him, as was his loyalty to his friends. And as for Kalamite, his single-mindedness and strangeness as well as being head of the Runmen Order made for an intriguing character.

All in all, Roots of Rookeri captures the imagination and transports the reader to another world, and I found once I started reading, I struggled to stop.  If, like me, you enjoy wonderfully intricate, creative fantasy, I highly recommend this to you.

Rating

Book Review: Murder In Midwinter

Summary (from Goodreads):

Midwinter. As snow falls softly outside and frost sparkles on tree branches, it’s time to curl up before a roaring fire, wrap your hands around a steaming mug of mulled wine, and forget your worries for now.

But as the temperature drops outside, malice is sharpening its claws … and murder walks abroad. In these classic stories of mystery and mayhem, let ten of the great crime writers in history surprise and delight you with twists and turns as shocking as an icicle in the heart.

Featuring stories by Dorothy L. Sayers, Cyril Hare, Anthony Berkeley, Ruth Rendell, Margery Allingham, Ellis Peters … and more.

My Thoughts:

“Murder in Midwinter”, edited by Cecily Gayford, is the fifth anthology in the “Murderous Christmas Stories” series.

I enjoyed this collection of short stories. So much so that I bought another of the books in the series, “A Very Murderous Christmas” (Book 3).

My favourite of the stories had to be “The Man from Nowhere” by Edward D. Hoch, which I hadn’t read before and made reference to one of the most interesting (at least to my mind), historical mysteries. That of Kasper Hauser. Also, “A Present for Ivo” deserves a mention, written by one of my most favourite authors, Ellis Peters. Not only could she write wonderful historical fiction and mysteries, but her more modern stories and mysteries are enjoyably captivating too.

I had thought that all the stories would be set in the midst of the Christmas season (because of Midwinter in the title of the book), but one of them, at least, was set outside the festive period, in February.

Rating: