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.

Bookish Reflections – October 2019

A monthly round up of all things bookish at Sammi Loves Books…It’s my attempt at becoming more accountable in my reading and reviewing habits…


In a nutshell

I’m a little late in posting this, thanks to a combination of having a dreadful cold and attempting to do NaNoWriMo.

October was a month of posting reviews for books I’d read the previous month, which I managed to do.  However, what I didn’t get around to doing was posting the reviews for the books I had read in October.  That is now November’s task.

The end of October was focused on “Halloween Reads”.  This year, I read three stories for this: one was light-hearted (Agatha Raisin and The Haunted House by M. C. Beaton), while the other two were from my favourite type of Halloween Read: gothic, Victorian ghost stories (two short stories by Mary Braddon: The Cold Embrace and Eveline’s Visitant).  Keep an eye out for those reviews soon!

In terms of this blog, I’ve decided there are too many pages for me to keep track of – and keep updated! – especially in terms of my themes and challenges.  And so, I’m planning on condensing these down; each year’s challenge for any given theme etc, does not require its own page.  Over the next few months, I’m hoping to work through this site systematically, updating / changing / deleting as I go in a sort of blog housekeeping activity, so if things look different, that’s why!  I’ve already started with the Halloween Reads page…

If any writers / poets / authors / etc, would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books check out this page for more information, FAQs and an index of all the previous interviews.  If you’ve any questions, please do get in touch at: sammicoxbooks@gmail.com

Books I’ve reviewed

Other Book-Related Posts

  •  None

Favourite read(s) of the month

  •  Murder in the Afternoon by Frances Brody

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

  • Death at Glamis Castle by Robin Paige
  • The Big Four by Agatha Christie
  • The Mystery of The Blue Train by Agatha Christie
  • The Leper of St Giles by Ellis Peters
  • The Pilgrim of Hate by Ellis Peters
  • London by Edward Rutherford
  • Thornyhold by Mary Stewart
  • The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland by Steve Roud

Books I’ve downloaded

  •  None

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  •  Circle Wright by KC Farrar
  • Other NaNoWriMo projects by various authors.  You can check out my dedicated reading list for this over on my Wattpad profile – the link can be found in the sidebar

September’s “Read and Review” Goals*

  • Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M. C. Beaton
  • Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate by M. C. Beaton
  • Miss Tonks Turns to Crime by M. C. Beaton
  • Murder in The Afternoon by Frances Brody
  • A Woman Unknown by Francis Brody
  • Dawnthief by James Barclay

* Light blue = review posted | Blue = review not posted | Black = did not read / review

What I’m reading and reviewing in October

  • A Woman Unknown by Francis Brody (currently reading)
  • Dawnthief by James Barclay (currently reading)
  • Crossing Places by Ellie Griffiths (currently reading)
  • Eveline’s Visitant by Mary Braddon (read, awaiting review)
  • The Cold Embrace by Mary Braddon (read, awaiting review)
  • Agatha Raisin and The Haunted House by M.C. Beaton (read, awaiting review)

Goodreads Reading Challenge

My goal is 40.  I’ve read 37.  93% complete.  3 books ahead of schedule. Woohoo!

Other reads (books not on Goodreads): 2

  • They Never Get Caught by Margery Allingham
  • The Taking by Stan Nicholls

Total books read so far this year: 39

Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019

I’ve completed the following challenges from the list this month:

  • None – eek! 😮

Total challenges complete: 8 / 20

You can find the complete list of challenges here.

A to Z Review Index Challenge

  • No change here – Still the letter “I” to go.

Challenge status: 1 / 2

Read, Review, Rehome

Goal: 20 | Total so far: 21 / 20 – Woohoo! I hit my goal!!!

  • Agatha Raisin and The Murderous Marriage by M. C. Beaton
  • Agatha Raisin and The Curious Curate by M. C. Beaton
  • Miss Tonks Turns To Crime by M. C. Beaton

Book Review: Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate by M. C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate is the thirteenth book in the Agatha Raisin series by M. C. Beaton.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Entertaining and fun, another engaging instalment in this wonderful and not-too-demanding series. 4/5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Agatha is going through a man-hating phase and so is unmoved by news of the captivating new curate. But when she meets the golden-haired, blue eyed Tristan Delon, she is swept off her feet … along with every other female in the village. She is positively ecstatic when he invites her to dine with him but the next day Agatha is left with a hangover from hell and his cold corpse suggests that once again, she’s in the frame for murder!

Favourite Quote(s)

Agatha thought unkindly that she looked like a rabbit with myxomatosis.

(Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate by M. C. Beaton, page 8)

*

Men investigated.  Women were regarded as interfering.  Had women’s lib all been a myth?  All that seemed to have been achieved was that women were expected to work as well as raise families.  Respect for women had gone.

(Agatha raisin and the Curious Curate by M. C. Beaton, page 120)

Review

As I mentioned in my last Agatha Raisin review (Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage – see review here), I have decided to read these books out of order – you can find the explanation in that post.  In this instalment especially, I have found that perhaps wasn’t the best of ideas.  With the last review I only skipped one book, but this time I had skipped quite a few more.  Although it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the book – it was still very good – I will say that there were times when I wished I had read them in order due to spoilers. However, I’m more-or-less certain I will continue to read them out of order…

Agatha Raisin and The Curious Curate was another entertaining read in the Agatha Raisin series.  It’s no mystery who is going to turn up dead in these books, but the whodunnit is often unexpected or guessed at only late on in the story.  With plenty of twists and turns to keep you wondering, as well as the drama that follows Agatha’s social life, the plots are engaging and often hilarious.  I guessed who the murder was before the reveal – always good! – and on more than one occasion I found myself laughing at loud.

My favourite scene of the book had to be the fundraising duck race.  It started out so well but descended into utter chaos.  Fabulous!

I really love the characters and the locations in these stories; the murder and its subsequent solving are just an added bonus.  Carsely and The Cotswolds are picture perfect but beneath the pretty façade secrets are hidden and murder is plotted.  And as for the characters, Agatha is fantastic in her almost sympathetic – sometimes – often sharp and mean way (see first quote above!).  But, she is clever and strong, and manages to succeed through sheer force of personality and a will of iron.  Bill Wong is always a favourite, as is Mrs Bloxby, the vicar’s wife.  Bill usually has his hands full as he does his best to prevent Agatha interfering in the latest murder investigation, while Mrs Bloxby always has a kind thing to say and hates to see Agatha selling herself short.  Both are great friends: loyal and dependable.

These books are enjoyable and entertaining, and don’t require much on the part of the reader.  Quick and easy to read, they are pure escapism, perfect, as I’ve mentioned before, for reading at the end of a busy day.

The next M.C. Beaton book on my list is…Agatha Raisin and The Haunted House, which I’ve earmarked as one of my Halloween reads…

Rating

Book Review: Miss Tonks Turns to Crime by M. C. Beaton

Miss Tonks Turns to Crime is the second book in The Poor Relation series by M. C. Beaton.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A delightful, quick and easy read, that kept me entertained from beginning to end. 3.5 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

One cannot live off dignity alone!

The poor relations banded together some time ago to run The Poor Relation Hotel in the hope their embarrassed relatives would buy them out, but as the hotel prospered, so they began to enjoy the fruit of their labour.

But once again they need money to go on and so poor, faded Miss Tonks is dispatched to her rich sister to steal something valuable.  All the other poor relations have their doubts about Miss Tonks’s chances for success, but the shy spinster has more than a few surprises up her sleeve!

Favourite Quote

“Lord Eston eyed him narrowly.  Aubrey Davenport was dressed like a fop, had the manners of a fop, and appeared to have the intelligence of a potato. Still…”

(Miss Tonks Turns to Crime by M. C. Beaton, page 148)

Review

I seem to be on a bit of an M. C. Beaton binge at present.  Not only am I making my way through The Poor Relation series, but a number of Agatha Raisin’s and Hamish Macbeth’s have been read, or will be read in the near the future.  You’ve been warned 😉

As I mentioned in my review for the first book in this series, Lady Fortescue Steps Out (you can find that review here), these books are “enjoyable, quick, fun-filled regency” reads.  The storylines are undemanding and yet highly entertaining, so are perfect for reading at the end of a long day…

The characters are fabulous, especially the almost evil Sir Phillip Sommerville, who with a sharp wit and even sharper tongue, does on occasion reveal an inner warmth and compassion.  The characters are of course, quirky, but that’s what makes the story work.  Miss Tonks served as a wonderful focal point of this instalment; her desire and determination to show her friends at The Poor Relation that she really can succeed as a criminal mastermind were amusing and led to some…interesting choices on her part.

The setting felt authentic as I read, which is always a good sign when reading historical fiction, even when it’s light and almost farcical.  The romance doesn’t takeover the storytelling; like other aspects of the book, it is not overdone or distracting from the main plot which is the survival of the hotel.  The writing is humorous, the pace is fast, and overall I found the story to be enjoyable and engaging.

Once more, I’m left eager to read the next book in the series, Mrs Budley Falls From Grace, to see how things progress.

Rating

3.5 / 5

Book Review: Murder in the Afternoon by Frances Brody

Murder in the Afternoon is the third book in the Kate Shackleton Mysteries by Frances Brody.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An engaging cosy mystery, set in a richly described location, with an interesting cast of characters.  Kate Shackleton is one of my favourite women sleuths, and this is my favourite of the series so far.  A fantastic read! 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Dead one minute …

Young Harriet and her brother Austin have always been scared of the quarry where their stonemason father works. So when they find him dead on the cold ground, they scarper quick smart and look for some help.

Alive the next …

When help arrives, the quarry is deserted and there is no sign of the body. Were the children mistaken? Is their father not dead? Did he simply get up and run away?

A sinister disappearing act …

It seem like another unusual case requiring the expertise of Kate Shackleton. But for Kate this is one case where surprising family ties makes it her most dangerous yet – and delicate – yet …

Favourite Quote

The voice was cultured, with rounded vowels and carefully enunciated word endings; too careful, perhaps.  It was the voice of someone who had just filed her nails.

(Murder in the Afternoon by Frances Brody, page 350)

Review

I absolutely loved this book.  I really enjoyed the first two books in this series (Dying in the Woolsee my review here – and A Medal For Murdersee my review here) but this one surpasses them both.  As I read Murder in the Afternoon I really felt that the author hit her stride with the character of Kate Shackleton.  I just couldn’t get enough of the story or the characters.

In this book we are given our greatest glimpse yet into Kate’s background.  We know from the previous two books that Kate is adopted, and we have met her titled mother and her father who is Superintendent of the West Riding Constabulary.  This time around, we get to see where she came from, the place she would have grown up in if she’d not been adopted and the people she was related to by birth.  I thought this part of the storyline was handled very sensitively.

Kate Shackleton is a marvellous character.  She is strong and independent, intuitive yet sensible, sophisticated and intelligent.  Her relationship with Scotland Yard inspector, Marcus Charles, is an interesting one, but I like him a lot less in this book than the last one.  Jim Sykes, Kate’s assistant, is likeable and dependable, as always.  His character contrasts nicely with Kate, which leads to a difference of opinion on many occasions.

A number of the characters were children: Mary Jane and Ethan’s daughter and son, Harriet and Austin, and the almost wild maid, Millie.  All three were exceptionally well drawn – something I always make a point of noting, as having younger characters in a story aimed at adults doesn’t always work. Here, it does work, and works well.  I liked the three of them, especially Millie.

There are plenty of twists and turns in the storyline to keep you guessing, and a number of suspects who could have committed the murder.  It was interesting to read how trade unions, communism and socialism were viewed during the 20’s; how believing that workers deserved fair working conditions could set you apart as a dangerous troublemaker.  The ending, once the case was solved, was poignant and moving as we get to learn more about Gerald, Kate’s husband who was missing presumed dead / missing in action during WWI.

Kate Shackleton, along with Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple, is one of my favourite women sleuth’s operating in the period. I enjoyed Murder in the Afternoon so much, as soon as I finished reading it, I started on the next book in the series, A Woman Unknown.  Recommended for fans of the 1920, cosy mysteries and stories set in the north of England.

Rating

Book Review: Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and The Murderous Marriage is the fifth book in the Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

My favourite from the series so far.  Fast-paced, easy to read and, of course, very entertaining. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Two husbands and a funeral!

The morning of Agatha’s marriage to James Lacey dawns bright and clear. But the storm clouds of the day before would have been more appropriate when Agatha’s first husband, Jimmy Raisin, turns up at the church just in time to keep her from committing bigamy. The ensuing uproar – Agatha tries to strangle Jimmy, whom she had thought long-dead anyway – embarrasses James, who breaks the engagement.

When Jimmy is found murdered the next morning, Agatha is the perfect suspect. Since the easiest way to clear her name is to find the real murderer, Agatha convinces James to help her investigate. But will their subsequent close proximity – which has them, ironically, pretending to be man and wife – be enough to win James second time around?

Favourite Quote

The rendering of ‘Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina’ was, Agatha reflected sourly, music to stun pigs by.

(Agatha Raisin and The Murderous Marriage by M. C. Beaton, page 92)

Review

Just a note: I have done something I don’t very often do: read books from a series out of order.  The reason is that I have so many books and they need reading and reviewing and then rehoming before their numbers reach critical levels 😉  So, I made the decision for some of the series I’m currently reading to read the volumes I have rather than waiting to buy the missing ones.  As someone who prefers to read actual books over digital ones, and purchase books from actual shops rather than online (I know, I like to make life difficult), it makes finding missing volumes harder…

The last book from this series that I read was book three, Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener (see my review here), meaning I have skipped book four, Agatha Raisin and The Walkers of Dembley.  Of course, there is some information I have missed in doing this, however, I was surprised at how well this, the fifth book in the series, read.  I would say you could read it as a standalone and still understand all that is going on.

I love these books.  They are easy to read, don’t require much concentration and are just so funny.  This one might be my favourite yet.

The past and the present clash horribly in this instalment, with disastrous consequences for Agatha’s future.  There is a lesson here in never assuming anything – especially that your first husband, who you haven’t heard from in years, must have died.  Even if you hadn’t read the book summary, you would have guessed what was going to happen.  Poor Agatha!  You might guess who the culprit is early on – I did – but reading the unfolding story is fun and entertaining.

In this book we are given a glimpse into what made Agatha the woman she is, the answer being her childhood / young adulthood.  She has come through a lot to get where she is, and it is easy to understand how she comes across as abrasive and driven.

The pace of the story is quick, and as always, I love the setting.  The Cotswolds and its picture perfect image is a wonderful setting for a cosy mystery series. But it is the characters that make the story.  Bill Wong is always a favourite but Agatha is the star of the show.  Flawed and often the cause of her own trouble, you can’t help cheering her on.  She is definitely one of my favourite women sleuths!

Rating

 

Bookish Reflections – September 2019

A monthly round up of all things bookish at Sammi Loves Books…It’s my attempt at becoming more accountable in my reading and reviewing habits…


In a nutshell

September was a very slow month, book review-wise.  Only one book review posted. :-/  However, I have been reading – and, unsurprisingly, been buying books too.  So October will be a month of catching up.  And, towards the end of the month, it will be time to look towards one or two Halloween reads for my reading challenge.  I have an idea of one or two books / stories to read, but if you have any spooky recommendations, please leave them in the comments 🙂

I need to spend some time this month organising my reading challenges.  I’m on target for my Goodreads challenge but the Sammi Loves Books 2019 Reading Challenge is not looking good…  November is NaNoWriMo, and I need to think carefully if I’m going to take part this year – if I am, I usually cut back on the blogging, so I need to get Sammi Loves Books in order before I can make my decision…

If any writers / poets / authors / etc, would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books check out this page for more information, FAQs and an index of all the previous interviews.  If you’ve any questions, please do get in touch at: sammicoxbooks@gmail.com

Books I’ve reviewed

Other Book-Related Posts

  •  None

Favourite read(s) of the month

  •  N / A

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

Are you ready for the list?

  • Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie
  • Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie
  •  The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
  •  Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen
  • Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear
  • Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
  • Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear
  • A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear
  • Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear
  • In The Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear
  •  German Myths and Legends
  • The Falcons of Fire and Ice by Karen Maitland
  • Spartacus The Gladiator by Ben Kane
  •  A Woman Unknown by Frances Brody
  • Forever by Maggie Stiefvatar
  • Death at Whitechapel by Robin Paige
  • A Death in the Dales by Frances Brody

And these are only the ones I can remember!

Books I’ve downloaded

  •  None

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  •  Circle Wright by KC Farrar

September’s “Read and Review” Goals*

  • Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
  • Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M. C. Beaton
  • Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate by M. C. Beaton
  • Miss Tonks Turns To Crimes by M. C. Beaton
  • Murder In The Afternoon by Frances Brody

* Light blue = review posted | Blue = review not posted | Black = did not read / review

What I’m reading and reviewing in October

  • Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M. C. Beaton
  • Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate by M. C. Beaton
  • Miss Tonks Turns to Crime by M. C. Beaton
  • Murder in The Afternoon by Frances Brody
  • A Woman Unknown by Francis Brody (currently reading)
  • Dawnthief by James Barclay

Goodreads Reading Challenge

My goal is 40.  I’ve read 33.  83% complete.  3 books ahead of schedule. Woohoo!

Other reads (books not on Goodreads): 2

  • They Never Get Caught by Margery Allingham
  • The Taking by Stan Nicholls

Total books read so far this year: 35

Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019

I’ve completed the following challenges from the list this month:

  • None – eek! 😮

Total challenges complete: 8 / 20

You can find the complete list of challenges here.

A to Z Review Index Challenge

  • No change here – Still the letter “I” to go.

Challenge status: 1 / 2

Read, Review, Rehome

Goal: 20 | Total so far: 18 / 20

  • Dying in The Wool by Frances Brody
  • A Medal for Murder by Frances Brody

Book Review: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs is the first book in the series of the same name by Jacqueline Winspear.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A well-researched story, peopled with interesting characters.  A solid first book in a series.  3.5 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

Fiercely independent Maisie Dobbs has recently set herself up as a private detective.  Such a move may not seem especially startling.  But this is 1929, and Maisie is exceptional in many ways.

Having started as a maid to the London aristocracy, studied her way to Cambridge and served as a nurse in the Great War, Maisie has wisdom, experience and understanding beyond her years.  Little does she realise the extent to which this strength of character is soon to be tested.  For her first case forces her to uncover secrets long buried, and to confront ghosts from her own past…

Favourite Quote

There was something healing in this ritual of making a comfortable place for the dead.  Her thoughts took her back to France, to the dead and dying, to the devastating wounds that were so often beyond her skill, beyond everyone’s.  But it was the wounds of the mind that touched her, those who still fought their battles again and again each day, though the country was at peace.

(Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, page 28)

Review

Hmm…a bit of a mixed review for this one…

First, what I did like:

The setting: The 1920’s is one of my favourite time periods for historical fiction, especially crime stories and cosy mysteries.  The author did a great job of bringing the period to life.  It’s easy to see how much research went into the book.

The characters:  I liked how Maisie came from small beginnings to reach so high in a society where social class is still important.  Although it’s nowhere near as solid and structured as it was prior to the First World War, Maisie, thanks to the opportunities she has been granted, can mix with more of the well-to-do than she would otherwise have been able.  My favourite character was probably Bill Beale – I liked his attitude.

The storyline: focusing on the mental scars soldiers who survived the First World War had to live with made the story very poignant and emotional.  Just because the fighting ended in 1918 didn’t mean that the trauma associated with it immediately ended with it, rather it lingered, greatly effecting the quality of life for many who witnessed the brutality of war.  This I thought was handled sensitively and compassionately.

Now for what I didn’t like:

The investigation was interrupted by a lengthy break to accommodate Maisie’s backstory.  Lasting over one hundred pages (if I recall correctly), I felt it disturbed the flow of the story, to the extent that I had trouble bringing the case details to mind when we finally returned to it.  These pages read as a separate story, and although there was a link between both narratives, it was just…jarring.

And, I know Maurice Blanche was Maisie’s mentor, but I thought it repetitive how she kept saying, “Maurice said…” as she set about illustrating all the things she had learnt under his tuition.

So that is why I rated this book 3.5.  It’s not that I didn’t like the story or the characters – I did.  So much so that I’ve already bought nearly the rest of the series, so I will be reading more.  However, at this moment, there are other books, which are a little similar in setting – England in the 1920s – that I am enjoying more (Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple books and Frances Brody’s Kate Shackleton series).  That being said, with Maisie’s backstory out of the way in book one, I anticipate having an easier, and hopefully more enjoyable time with book two, Birds of a Feather.

Have you read Maisie Dobbs?  Did you have the same difficulty with it as me?  Have you read book two in the series?  Am I right in thinking I’ll get on better with it?

Rating

3.5 / 5