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.

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When you have too many books…

I never thought it was possible to have too many books. If I’m being honest, I still think that. However, you can suffer from having not enough space to keep your books. This is an ailment I suffer with greatly, and have done for a good long while…

That’s why, for the past few years, I’ve been trying my hardest to downsize my book collection, because apparently it’s not safe to have them in piles going up the stairs – a solution I resorted to a few years ago, and almost regretted. I say almost because it did look amazing! Anyway, it’s a battle I’m not winning. In truth, I have more books than I can possibly read (ever), and there are many I won’t even consider giving away until I’ve read (or re-read) and reviewed them…

And so, I find myself returning to a question I’ve asked myself on numerous occasions. Why can’t I replace at least some of them with an ebook version? In my current predicament, it would make sense. But…there’s always a but…

The problem is, I love physical books. I like to hold them, I like the smell of them. There is just something special about a real book.  And when I spend so much time looking at my computer screen or my phone, do I really want to be looking at a screen when it comes to reading books too?

And then there is the financial aspect.  I have already paid for a copy of these books.  Do I really want to pay again just so I can give away what I already possess?  It does sound a little daft.

Then I had a little idea. Ebook versions of classics are available at relatively low prices, and some copies you can pick up for free.  Perhaps I could test this swap out on this genre and see how I feel about it…hmm…even as I’m typing, there is still this niggling voice at the back of my mind whispering, “Surely you don’t want to do this?  The classics always look so nice, with their old lived in covers, or faux leather-bound volumes?”

I can’t argue.  It’s true.  So instead I’ve made a promise with myself.  I don’t have to give away the classics I already own, but any new ones I want have to be in ebook form.  It won’t help with my book storage problem, but at least it shouldn’t get any worse…

Book Review: The Misbegotten by Katherine Webb


Quick Review (read on for full review)

Captivating and compelling.  Once I had picked this up, I struggled to put it down.  A book full of engaging characters, mysteries and dark secrets.  Beautifully written. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Dark truths. Beautiful lies.

Bath, England, 1821. Rachel Crofton escapes the binds of her unhappy employment as a governess by marrying a charming self-made businessman. She sees a chance to create the family and home she has so long been without, but her new life soon takes an unexpected turn.

Through her new husband’s connections, Rachel is invited to become the companion of the reclusive Jonathan Alleyn, a man tortured by memories of the Peninsula War, and tormented by the disappearance of his childhood sweetheart, Alice.
Starling, foundling servant to the Alleyn family, is convinced that Alice, the woman she loved as a sister, was stolen from her. Did Alice run away? Or did something altogether more sinister occur? Starling is determined to uncover the truth. Others want only to forget, and will go to extreme lengths to do so.

Rachel’s arrival has an unsettling effect on the whole Alleyn household, and suddenly it seems that the dark deeds of the past will no longer stay contained. Shattering truths lurk behind Bath’s immaculate facades, but the courage Rachel and Starling need to bring these truths to light will come at a very high price.

Favourite Quote

‘…You have no knowledge of what man can do to his fellow man.  I tell you, if there is a soul then there is also a beast in all men, which would take over all thought and deed if it could, and wreak havoc.’

(The Misbegottem by Katherine Webb, pg 187-188)

Review

I was drawn to the book by the title, for “misbegotten” is not a word used regularly in modern parlance.  So I was immediately intrigued by this.

Captivating and compelling, The Misbegotten is an intricate web of dark secrets.  This story is cleverly told, beautifully written and full of engaging characters.

The early eighteenth century is brought to life in all its glory, and all its ugliness.  We get to see the beauty of Bath: it’s famous architecture and landmarks as well as the dirt and grime of where the poorer and l well-to-do inhabitants live and work.

Our main characters are cast from a different mould of character usually found in stories set in this time period, especially the women. One, Starling, is a lowly hedge-rat, with no family, no background, no anything – she doesn’t even know her name.  The other, Rachel, is a woman fallen down the social class ladder and forced to work as a governess.  Also penniless, and without power in her own right, she decides to marry a handsome, charming man.  Both women are strong and independent in their way, though limited by the conventions of the day.  And finally, there is Jonathon Alleyn, a man tortured in his mind by what he’s seen and what he doesn’t know.  But there is one person that brings them and their stories together: the missing Alice Beckwith.

The author does not turn away from the gritty reality of life for the lower classes of the eighteenth century.  For many, it is dark, and it is short, and there is little hope.  The majority have no power or say, and for women (at all levels of society), they are classed in law as the possessions of men, first their father’s and then their husband’s.  They live at the mercy of others, and that is a truly terrifying thought.  Neither does the author hold back when describing scenes of the war in Spain; many of the passages are hard to read.

This was one of those books that I was disappointed to reach the end of.  I enjoyed reading it, and devoured it as I needed to find out what wouId happen next, but once I was finished, I was sad.  I missed the characters.

All-in-all, I thought The Misbegotten was a fantastic book. I liked the author’s style, and although it is a long book (around 500 pages), I found it very readable and not at all heavy.  As such, I would certainly like to read more by Katherine Webb.

Rating


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #4 in the list: A book set in a place you would like to visit.

Book Cover Love #2

Last Act In Palmyra (Falco #6) by Lindsey Davis

I love all the book covers (in this particular style) from the Falco series by Lindsey Davis.  I could hardly chose between them which one to insert in this post, so in the end I went with my favourite book in the series.  The frescoes really ensure the reader is fully grounded in the Roman world as soon as they pick up the books.  I think this is really important because sometimes what is on the outside of a book has nothing to do with what is found inside it.  That sort of misrepresentation is annoying…

Anyway, I love frescoes.  They provide a window into the past, capturing what otherwise must be left to the imagination.  And, perhaps most importantly of all, they make the people of the past appear more real when we are separated from them by such a great spanof time.

I’ve yet to get around to re-reading and thus reviewing Last Act in Palmyra, but you can find my review from earlier books in the series by following the links below:

Book 1 – The Silver Pigs

Book 2 – Shadows in Bronze

Book 3 – Venus in Copper

Book 4 – The Iron Hand of Mars

Book 5 – Poseidon’s Gold

Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Gripping and compelling, this psychological thriller with an almost creepy undertone, asks the question, How well do we really know anyone else?  4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

Favourite Quote

Life is not a paragraph and death is no parenthesis.

(from The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, pg17.  The quote is referencing a poem by E.E. Cummings)

Review

I might appear to be behind with this one, but just let me just say, I can’t read super popular books when they are in the middle of their super-crazy-popular phase.  I have to wait until things calm down a bit before I can read them.  Why? I’m not sure really.  Perhaps it has something to do with wanting to find my own opinion and judgement on the book, and not be swayed by anyone else’s…As I said, I’m not sure really.  I’m pleased to say that I managed to keep far enough away from the buzz of this one, that, when I did finally pick it up, I had no idea what the book was about, apart from what the book title and description alluded to.

The pace is fast and the style of writing makes for fast and easy reading.  I had trouble putting the book down once I really got into the story, thanks to the creepy undertone of this psychological thriller; I needed to find out what happened next.

There are three women at the heart of this story – Rachel, Anna and Megan – and to be honest, none of them are particularly likeable.  And that doesn’t just go for these three woman; I would be hard pressed to name a character I actually liked in the book.

I felt very sorry for Rachel for what she had been through, and pitied her tremendously regarding her present situation.  On more than one occasion I had to put book the down as I found myself cringing so badly in reaction to what she was saying and doing; I just had to stop reading, pause and take a breather, before I could continue on.  My reaction to it reminded me of that scene from Friends when the book has to go into the freezer.  I spent most of the book not liking Anna at all.  I didn’t feel sorry for her and found her somewhat annoying, in a whiny, I want things my own way, sort of way.  And as for Megan and her destructive personality – gosh.  Then there was Scott and Tom…

What makes this book work and work well, is that the reader knows the characters can’t be trusted; they are unreliable narrators, as they admit to themselves they have blackouts and can’t remember things or hide things they don’t want to see from themselves as well as those around them.  So the story we are presented with is seen through a distorted prism and the reader is waiting for the picture to clear.  I did see the twist coming, but that in no way diminished my enjoyment of the book.  In fact, I think it heightened the tension.

This books asks the question: how well do we really know anyone else, even those we are close to, those we love, those we share our lives with?  What secrets might be lurking just below the surface, and what will happen when they finally come out?

This was definitely a gripping and compelling read, but I’ve only rated it four stars because it was filled, in my opinion, with wholly unlikeable characters whom, for the most part, I could not really connect to.  There are a number of emotional scenes in the story, which certainly ramped up the empathy factor but if you need to like the characters in the book you’re reading to enable you to enjoy it, this might not be for you.  But if love your fiction tense, psychological and full of secrets, where the mystery takes centre stage, then you might very well enjoy it.

Rating

Afternoon Tea with Leland Olson

The second of my author interviews over afternoon tea is with Leland Olson.  Having read and enjoyed his responses to some of the Weekend Writing Prompts, I was excited to be able to put my ten questions to him.

So grab a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit or slice of cake, then sit back and relax and read the interview…


Thanks so much for taking the time to join us for afternoon tea today, Leland. To begin with, for those who don’t know you or have yet to discover your writing, please introduce yourself.

My name is Leland Olson. I am 78 years old and live at Arlington South Dakota, USA. I have been married for 48 years, have four step-daughters and many grandchildren. My wife and I have become each other’s caregivers.

•♦•

When did you first realise you wanted to become a writer?

I wrote letters to editors of newspapers and magazines at a young age. I began writing more after a back injury continued to rob me of my mobility about five years ago.

•♦•

Where do you find your inspiration?

The majority of my writing has been about life experiences. Writing my blog, “My Mixed Blog” at WordPress, had a word prompt, as Sammi is doing with the weekend writing challenges. It’s a big help to get the juices flowing.

•♦•

Can you tell us about your writing process? What’s the first thing you do when you get a new idea?

At one time I wrote everything on scraps of paper but then I usually couldn’t read what it was after it got cold. I have learned to use the computer, keeping thoughts and ideas in different directories, where I can add to or take away from what is there.

•♦•

In your opinion, what’s the best and worst thing about being a writer?

The best thing is the feeling that you are creating something. The worst thing is the people you are the closest to do not consider you a writer.

•♦•

What projects have you been working on recently? What plans do you have for the future?

At the present time I’m not working on any project. I hope my future includes writing, but each new day is a challenge to stay out of a final Care Facility.

 

Many authors are also avid readers. Who are some of your favourite authors? Can you share with us some of your favourite books?

A few authors that come to mind: Jack London, Anne Frank, Emmet Fox, Irving Wallace, Bob Woodward. Pierre Van Paassen.

Book titles: Educated, Fear, All the Presidents Men, Days of Our Years, Sermon on the Mount, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Black Hawk Down, The Book of Joy, 100 Missions North.

•♦•

If you were only allowed to own three books, which three would you choose?

The Bible, The Book of Joy, the Farmers Almanac.

•♦•

We love quotes at Sammi Loves Books. Please share with us one of your favourite quotes from one of your own stories or poems, and explain why you chose it.

Old Age Indicators

“Laughter is one prescription we can all afford.”

Laughter is a very low cost treatment, tonic or day brightener for people of any age.

•♦•

Another thing we love at Sammi Loves Books is afternoon tea. If you could have afternoon tea with any author or fictional character, who would you choose and why? Just so you know, the table can seat four, so feel free to fill all available seats, but don’t forget to leave one for yourself! 😉 Also, where might you have this afternoon tea and what is being served? You know, so we can all enjoy it…

I would love to have tea with Bob Woodward. We would meet at the White House. Vladimir Putin and President Trump would be sitting face-to-face and I would be sitting across from Bob Woodward. I would serve green tea and very sweet sugar cookies to go with their syrupy supplications. Then I would proceed to ask them. What is really going on with them? Bob Woodward will take notes.

•♦•

Thank you so much, Leland, for the inspiring interview.  I’ve had the same problem with making notes on scraps of paper when I get an idea, only for time to pass and when I next come across it, I have no clue what it’s referring to!  And I think a number of writers will echo your answers to what are the best and worst things about being a writer.  I wish you every success with your book, The Bay Area Bad Guys (I think that’s a great title, by the way!), which can be found by following the link below to Amazon.

Connect with the Author

I have reached the age of 78 years, after a spinal fracture at 23. I started as a farm kid and school dropout who enlisted in the US Air Force from 1958 thru 1962. My job was to become a jet aircraft mechanic. I became the crew chief on RF-101-C 56-080. I drove every type of truck for most of my civilian life, a lot of single thinking time to share with the world today. I have had experiences that included numerous jobs and types of work. Printing press operator, insurance sales, plumber, asphalt highway equipment operator, a good tinker. I have a wife, four step-daughters, numerous grand and great-grandchildren.

I know my physical condition will continue to degenerate until the wheelchair beckons to me, “come and sit down.” I prepared for wheelchair life by writing for the past several years. Writing about a wide variety of topics, based on my colorful life experiences. Truth is stranger than fiction. I can still walk with a walker writing gives me a purpose of pressing on with life.

Blog: https://lelandolson.com/
Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B078X4QNT8


If you would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books, check out this post.

Book Review: The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves

The Crow Trap is the first book in the Vera Stanhope series by Ann Cleeves

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A moody and atmospheric landscape combined with rich and compelling storytelling.  A great mystery read with an unconventional yet interesting and engaging main character.  I will be reading more of the Vera Stanhope books.  4.5 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

At the isolated Baikie’s Cottage in the North Pennines, three very different women come together to complete an environmental study.  Three women who each know the meaning of betrayal.

For team leader Rachel, the project is the perfect opportunity to rebuild her confidence after a double betrayal by Peter Kemp, her lover and boss.  Anne, on the other hand, sees it as a chance to indulge in a little deception of her own.  And then there is Grace, a strange, uncommunicative young woman with plenty to hide.

When Rachael arrives at the cottage, she is horrified to discover the body of her friend, Bella Furness.  It appears Bella has committed suicide – something Rachael finds impossible to accept.

It is only after the next death occurs that a fourth woman enters the picture – the unconventional Detective Vera Stanhope…

Favourite Quote

‘You’re not frightened of going on your own, are you?  It’s only a baby.  It’ll not bite.’

(from The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves, pg 463)

Review

I’ve only seen a couple of the TV episodes of “Vera” which are based on these books, but the ones I have seen I found compelling and engaging.  So when I came across The Crow Trap by chance, (of course, I was not shopping for books 😉 ) I was more than happy to give it a read.

As I read, I clearly envisaged / could hear the actors from the show (Brenda Blethyn playing Vera; David Leon playing Joe Ashworth) playing their parts in the book.  I like it when that happens; I think it illustrates good casting choices and character continuity between book and screen.

The writing and storytelling is very moody and atmospheric, mirroring the landscape the story is set in perfectly.  Although the book is a long one – it’s around 530 pages – the story flows well and doesn’t drag.  As a main character, Vera Stanhope is different.  She is brash and speaks plain.  Her appearance immediately puts people at a disadvantage because she is not the person they think she is.  She is clever, intelligent, calculating, abrupt and has a no-nonsense way about her.  I thought she was fantastic.

I enjoyed how the story was set out.  We are given the stories of Rachael, Anne and Grace separately, allowing us to get to know the characters themselves, rather than just seeing what they chose to project outwards.  The ending was very good; I had my suspicions about the culprit, but I was nowhere near certain.  Of course, there are clues; the author doesn’t hide all the pertinent information until the denouement, you just have to sift through the information.

My only grumble is that we didn’t get to meet Vera herself (unless you consider one brief, strange appearance at a funeral) until 200 plus pages into the story.  However, it didn’t not detract from my overall enjoyment of the story as I’ve already mentioned I appreciated the set up.  That’s why I deducted half a star from my rating.

Not only do I plan to continue reading this series (the second book is Telling Tales), but having watched every episode of Shetland, which is also based on books by Ann Cleeves, I hope to get around to reading that series too (the first book in that series is Raven Black).  I also plan to catch up with the TV adaptations of Vera as well.

Highly recommended to fans of British mysteries, and those who have seen the TV show but have yet to delve into the books.

Rating

4.5 / 5

Bookish Reflections – February 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 still managing to keep to my schedule for the blog, more-or-less; the only deviation being when I was away on holiday in the middle of the month. Four books read and reviewed in February means I’m still on target.  Again, three out of the four were Five Star Reads so definitely a good month for book choices, and next month’s book choices look good too.  I’ve had another terrible cold this last week in February and start of March, and that means I’ve not been able to do much but read, so I’ve already got a few book reviews to write for this month.

I’ve enjoyed getting the Afternoon Tea author interviews started – you can find the link to the first one with McKenzie Richardson below.  I’m looking forward to sharing more in the coming weeks.

I’ve collected another 6 books since my last book confession, bringing 2019’s total up to 10.  Sigh.  I’m hoping to make March my first no-book-purchase month of the year, the only exception being for books I need to complete a series I’m already reading.  We shall have to see how successful I am…I don’t hold out much hope… 😉

Finally I’ve got round to signing up to Instagram, though I’ve done nothing more than change my profile pic yet.  Hopefully over the next few days I will get to grips with it, if my cold clears up, that is…Anyone else on Instagram?  Any tips?  How do you use it / get the most out of it?

Books I’ve reviewed

Other Book-Related Posts

Favourite read(s) of the month

  • The Magician’s Apprentice by Trudi Canavan

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

  • Death at Bishop’s Keep by Robin Paige
  • A Snapshot of Murder by Francis Brody
  • The Lightkeeper’s Daughter by Jean Pendziwol
  • The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliffe
  • The Misbegotten by Katherine Webb
  • The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkin
  • Hygge Knits by Nicki Trench

Books I’ve downloaded

  • None – yay!

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • Quite a bit – there’s an ongoing novella writing contest and I’ve been reading some wonderful stories.  Check out my Wattpad profile (link in the sidebar) and explore my Open Novella Contest 2019 reading list for interesting suggestions
  • Epic by KC Farrah – she’s such a great writer and this story is engaging, entertaining and compelling

February’s “Read and Review” Goals*

  • St Peter’s Fair by Ellis Peters
  • The Magician’s Apprentice by Trudi Canavan

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

What I’m reading and reviewing in March

  • The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves (read, awaiting reviewing)
  • Njal’s Saga – traditional Icelandic story (currently reading)
  • The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins (almost finished reading)

Goodreads Reading Challenge

My goal is 40.  I’ve read 8.  20% complete.

Other reads (books not on Goodreads): 0

Total books read so far this year: 8

Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019

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

  • 1 – A book you read as a child / young adult – The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (Hieroglyph Edition)
  • 7 – A book you would class as a classic – The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith

Total challenges complete: 3 / 20

You can find the complete list of challenges here.

A to Z Review Index Challenge

None completed this month. 0 / 2

Read, Review, Rehome

Goal: 20 | Total so far: 1 / 20

  • None to add this month 😦