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.

Book Review: The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid

Quick Review (read on for full review)

The Grave Tattoo is a complex, intelligent mystery with a great setting and engaging cast of characters. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

From bestselling author Val McDermid comes a modern thriller about an ancient murder set on the high seas…

After summer rains uncover a corpse bearing tattoos like those of eighteenth-century seafarers, many residents of the English Lake District can’t help but wonder whether it’s the body of one of the town’s most legendary fugitives.

Scholar and native Lakelander Jane Gresham feels compelled to finally discover the truth about the myths and buried secrets rooted in her hometown. What she never expected was to find herself at the heart of a 200-year-old mystery that still has the power to put lives on the line. And with each new lead she pursues, death follows hard on her heels….

Favourite Quote

“Jane couldn’t remember a time when Langmere Force hadn’t mesmerised her, taking her out of what ever ailed her and making her feel healed.”

(From The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid, page, 363)

[Note: Langmere Force is a waterfall]

Review

I’ve had a few Val McDermid novels on my bookshelf for a while but The Grave Tattoo is the first one I’ve read, and I must say, I wish I had got to this one sooner.

The Grave Tattoo is a complex, intelligent mystery with a great setting and engaging cast of characters.

I really enjoyed how the two mysteries, the one from 200 years ago and the one unfolding as we read, played out. All the characters were expertly crafted and their personalities and motivations came across as authentic. I also enjoyed the setting. The majority of the story was set in the Lake District and descriptions of waterfalls and hills and lakes, as always, appealed to the geography geek in me.

I found how the older tale was divulged to the reader to be clever, fun and imaginative. Snippets of a manuscript are provided at the end of the chapters, so we can get to hear the story as it was told to the one who recorded it. This way the reader doesn’t have to navigate what can sometimes be difficult changes in POV, time and setting, whilst at the same time the primary modern narrative isn’t interrupted. I thought this worked so well.

The cast of characters is extensive but necessary to the story, and is handled well by the author. I liked the unlikely friendship between Dr Jane Gresham and 13 year old Tenille, who had been written off because of her background. And with my interest in history and archaeology, I found the passages regarding the bog body, affectionately nicknamed “Pirate Peat” in the book by the forensic pathologist studying him, fascinating.

I will certainly be reading more of the author’s books because I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Rating

Quick Review: Morrigan’s Cross by Nora Roberts

Morrigan’s Cross is the first book in The Circle Trilogy by Nora Roberts.

Summary (from back of book):

Standing on the cliffs of 12th century Ireland following the disappearance of his twin, Hoyt Mac Cionaoith is visited by the goddess Morrigan and is charged with the ultimate of tasks: saving his and all future worlds. His enemy – the beautiful but deadly vampire queen Lilith – has had over two thousand years’ experience in cruelly killing and changing humans into her own kind – including Hoyt’s brother, Cian. Now, Hoyt, a sorcerer, must travel across the world and through time to find and train the five others Morrigan has foretold will join him as a circle and do battle against Lilith’s army of vampires.

Fate brings him first to Glenna Ward – a modern witch who can make her own kind of magic. Hoyt and Glenna find themselves drawn together, but is their love strong enough to survive not just the battle ahead but the centuries that separate them?

My Thoughts:

First off, I did enjoy this book. It was engaging, entertaining and interesting enough to keep my attention to the end, although I will say that I didn’t feel the need to race through this one. I thought the change in the timeline was handled well and Hoyt’s reactions to the modern world authentic.

I liked most of the characters most of the time, but sometimes I felt like stereotypes crept in. Cian was my favourite character by a country mile – who isn’t fond of a complex, moody vampire?

However, there is a lot going on in this story, and at certain points it felt there was a little too much. I’m not going to go into detail about this for fear of spoilers, but I think there were too many fantasy elements at play.

Needless to say, a book by Nora Roberts is going to be well-written and it was. I found the writing easy to read, but the pacing was perhaps a little too slow for my personal preference.

Do I intend to read the other two books of The Circle Trilogy? I do. I would like to see how the story ends but with my shelves burdening under the weight of the many books I have crammed on them, I fear it won’t be any time soon.

Rating:

3.5 / 5

Book Review: Prophecy by S. J. Parris

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An epic cast of historical characters are brought together at one of the most turbulent points in history to create this gripping, compelling mystery. 4 / 5

Summary from Goodreads

The second book in S. J. Parris’s bestselling, critically acclaimed series following Giordano Bruno, set at the time of Queen Elizabeth I Autumn, 1583. Under Elizabeth’s rule, loyalty is bought with blood…

An astrological phenomenon heralds the dawn of a new age and Queen Elizabeth’s throne is in peril. As Mary Stuart’s supporters scheme to usurp the rightful monarch, a young maid of honour is murdered, occult symbols carved into her flesh.

The Queen’s spymaster, Francis Walsingham, calls on maverick agent Giordano Bruno to infiltrate the plotters and secure the evidence that will condemn them to death.

Bruno is cunning, but so are his enemies. His identity could be exposed at any moment. The proof he seeks is within his grasp. But the young woman’s murder could point to an even more sinister truth…

Favourite Quote

“We work at the very edge of knowledge, and that frightens many people.”

(From Prophecy by S. J. Parris, page 121)

Review

Having re-read the first book in this series this past summer (you can find my brief thoughts on Heresy here), I was eager to read the next book in the series, and was not disappointed.

With an epic cast of characters from history – there is Bruno himself, but also Francis Walsingham, and my favourite, Dr John Dee – and set during a turbulent time in history, we are given a gripping mystery.

Bruno is a very compelling protagonist. Being unpopular with many, though not all, Catholics and Protestants alike, it is science and knowledge where his passion and loyalty lies, though he has great respect for those who are willing to believe in him and trust in him.

At 400+ pages, Prophesy is a long book, yet it doesn’t feel like it when reading. The author has a talent for imparting information without it becoming burdensome to the reader, and there is much to share on a variety of topics. Politics, foreign policy, religion, science, magic, superstition, royal lines and noble houses, conspiracies, affairs, murders, mysteries and treason, this story has it all and more besides.

There are plenty of plot twists and turns, and if you know this period of history well, you might very well guess how some of them will play out. I did, but it did nothing to distract from my enjoyment of the story. In fact, I found it remarkable that so many story threads could be woven together seamlessly without altering the final fabric of history.

The descriptions of both place and people offer a rich and vivid narrative that I enjoyed immensely. As I read, I felt the right atmosphere was conjured for this period in history, and coupled with the crimes and Bruno’s spying, there was enough tension in the story to keep me engaged in it until the very end.

I am excited to read where the story goes from here. The next book in the series is Sacrilege, and I’ve added it to my “Want to Read” list.

Rating

Quick Review: The Art of the Maze by Adrian Fisher & Georg Gersher

Summary from Goodreads:

One of the world’s leading maze designers displays his most spectacular and complex mazes, and reveals their powerful psychological secrets, mathematical structures, and how to solve them quickly. Over 150 illustrations, including 100 color photos, cover Greek minotaurs, Roman mosaic labyrinths, medieval Christian pavement mazes, Amazon Indian myths, remote island tribal mazes, aerial shots of modern mazes, and hedge mazes you can build. “Explains the mystery of mazes, from the simplest to the most complex.”–Publisher’s Weekly.

My Thoughts:

This is a very beautiful book, full of beautiful photography. The history of the maze, as well as that of the labyrinth, makes for interesting reading.

However, I found this book more suitable for picking up and flicking through rather than sitting down to read it from cover to cover, making it a perfect coffee table tome. Indeed, I’ve had a copy in my reading nook for a few years, and the brightly covered cover alone is often enough to catch the eye and persuade me to pick it up.

If you like mazes and / or labyrinths, you’ll like this book.

Rating:

Quick Review: The House of the Eagle by Duncan Sprott

The House of the Eagle is the first book in the Ptolemies Quartet by Duncan Sprott

Summary ( from book cover):

The House of the Eagle begins Duncan Sprott’s Ptolemies Quartet, an epic restoration of the dark and glittering story of ancient Alexandria and the Greek Pharaohs of Egypt, whose extraordinary dynasty spans twelve generations from the death of Alexander the Great to the fall of Cleopatra.

Narrated by Thoth, the ibis-headed Egyptian god of writing and wisdom, this book details the rise of the shrewd Ptolemy I from ordinary soldier of Macedon to Satrap of Egypt, and his coronation as Pharaoh and a god in his own lifetime. We follow then the astonishing history of Ptolemy’s twelve turbulent children in unending wars, domestic murders and incestuous marriages, all set against the exotic backdrop of Egypt.

With it’s cast of powerful characters – King Ptolemy himself, the violent Ptolemy Keraunos, the famous Thunderbolt, the luxury-loving Ptolemy Mikros, and their poisonous sister, Arsinoe Beta – this is a triumph of historical salvage that brings vividly to life the most bizarre family that ever existed.

My Thoughts:

This is another re-read. I’ve been clearing my bookshelves, going through them volume-by-volume, and stumbled across this one I read, probably close to when it first came out in 2004, but its story and the author’s storytelling have stayed with me. So, when I found this one again, I knew I wanted to re-read it…

I really enjoyed this book. I liked the story, the characters…pretty much everything about it. It’s a vast book, running to 445 pages, but it doesn’t feel overly long. In fact, it is engaging, engrossing, and full of drama. My favourite line comes right at the end:

“As for any man who speaks ill of this book, Thoth will fight him.”

Simply epic. I really liked Thoth as narrator. I’ve always had a soft spot for the ibis-headed god and have a small figurine of him standing on my writing desk. However, having read a couple of reviews on Goodreads, not all readers enjoyed it.

There is something quite disappointing about this four book series though. The second book, Daughter of the Crocodile, was published in 2006, but here it seems the quartet ends. However, I will certainly read the next book (at some point), and imagine I will love it just as much as this one.

Rating:

Book Review: Elinor & Marianne by Emma Tennant

Elinor & Marianne is Emma Tennant’s sequel to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Charming and witty, yet also terribly sad. Emma Tennant’s voice is convincingly that of Jane Austen. A beautiful read. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

A sequel to Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”, this is the correspondence between the married Dashwood sisters – Mrs Brandon and Mrs Edward Ferrars. Passion, in the shape of the charming seducer Willoughby, makes an appearance, together with perennial themes of money and social embarrassment.

Favourite Quote

This work, which is so necessary, is combined with the erection of the Grecian Temple on the hill where the old walnut trees once stood. I do not ask you to consider the expense of such an enterprise, dear Sister – it would not be in your competence to do so.

(from Elinor & Marianne by Emma Tennant, page 36)

Review

I often steer clear of modern sequels to classics, especially classics which I love. Sense and Sensibility has always been a favourite of mine, and is probably my favourite Jane Austen novel. Yet this one had been languishing on my shelf for years and suddenly I felt compelled to read it. And I’m so glad I did!

Although the summary says this book is the correspondence between the Dashwood sisters, it is in fact, the correspondence between many of the characters introduced to us in Sense and Sensibility, not just Elinor and Marianne. In it, we get to read the thoughts of Colonel Brandon, Willoughby, Margaret Dashwood and her mother, Mrs Jennings and her daughter Charlotte, as well as John Dashwood, Edward Ferrers and the former Lucy Steele. This serves to give us a rounded, multi-dimensional view of the society the two young women move in and the events which befall them.

I liked the fact that the author chose to use the form of letters to write her sequel, especially after learning Jane Austen originally started writing Sense and Sensibility as a series of letters between Elinor and Marianne. This gave an added authenticity to the book.

I found the book charming, addictive reading, and had finished it easily within 24 hours as I couldn’t put it down. The author nailed the characters, managing to transfer their personalities as shown in Sense and Sensibility into letter form. Mrs Jennings I especially thought good as the great-hearted woman with a terrible need to gossip.

There is no getting away from the social hardships of the time, especially for women, and some of the themes encountered, like the loss of one’s home and fortune (in fact, the loss of any means to support yourself at all) make for sad and difficult reading. Yet there is levity enough to ensure the reader is not left miserable.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a beautiful read, one which has inspired me to search out more of the author’s books.

Rating

Quick Review: Heresy by S. J. Parris

Heresy is the first book in the Giordano Bruno series by S. J. Parris.

Summary (from back of book):

Oxford, 1583. A Place of learning. And muderous schemes.

England is rife with plots to assassinate Queen Elizabeth and return the country to the Catholic faith. Defending the realm through his network of agents, the Queen’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham works tirelessly to hunt down all traitors.

His latest recruit is Giordano Bruno, a radical thinker fleeing the Inquisition, who is sent undercover to Oxford to expose a Catholic conspiracy. But he has his own secret mission at the University – one that must remain hidden at all costs.

When a series of hideous murders ruptures close-knit college life, Bruno is compelled to investigate. And what he finds makes it brutally clear that the Tudor throne itself is at sake.

My Thoughts:

This is a re-read, and when I did originally read it, it must have been during a break from Sammi Loves Book because I have yet to review it.

Being interested in science, history and religion, the name Giordano Bruno was not new to me. Immediately I knew he would make for a good historical detective, and coupled with his backstory, a really interesting one too.

This is an engaging historical mystery and a great first book in a series. There is a lot going on, and a lot of historical detail to get across to the reader, but I found I could easily envisage the settings and the people. I did feel that the book was a little long and heavy in places, but overall, I am excited by this series. It is set during a period I love to read about, and focuses on subjects I find interesting.

The next book in this series is Prophecy, a book I have yet to read, which I am very much looking forward to.

Rating:

3.5 / 5

Book Review: Progressive Dinner Deadly by Elizabeth Spann Craig

Progressive Dinner Deadly is the second book in the Myrtle Clover Mysteries by Elizabeth Spann Craig.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Myrtle Clover is always such fun and is one of my favourite sleuths. I heartily recommend this series! 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Who wants chips and dip when they can have Dickens and Twain?

To the residents of the sleepy town of Bradley, North Carolina, hardworking Jill Caulfield seemed beyond reproach. She volunteered at the women’s shelter, worked at the church preschool, cleaned houses for extra money, and actually enjoyed yard work. And she was nothing less than a saint to cheerfully put up with her unemployed, skirt-chasing, boozer of a husband.

When intrepid octogenarian sleuth Myrtle Clover caught Jill, her new housekeeper, peering into her medicine cabinet, she should have been upset. But discovering that Jill wasn’t such a squeaky-clean goody-goody made her vastly more interesting in Myrtle’s eyes.

Myrtle would have happily continued figuring out what made Jill Caulfield tick. If Jill hadn’t foolishly gone and gotten herself murdered, that is.

Favourite Quote

“Social media is the new frontier.” Myrtle wasn’t exactly sure what social media was but she loved the complete bewilderment on Red’s face.

(From Progressive Dinner Deadly by Elizabeth Spann Craig, Chapter 18)

Review

I had been going through a bit of a reading slump before picking up this book to read. Yet, Myrtle Clover can always be relied on to remedy the situation. Although this one isn’t my favourite title in the series, it was entertaining and had me laughing out loud on a few occasions.

Until reading this book, I had no idea what a progressive dinner was, but now I know, I can say it was the perfect backdrop for a cosy murder mystery. The pace is nicely balanced to ensure it moved along nicely, though perhaps not as quickly as some of the later books.

I love the characters in this series. I’ve mentioned before that my favourite, apart from Myrtle of course, is Wanda the psychic and I was so glad she made an appearance in this one.

Also, I love the covers for these books. They are so bright and vibrant and eye-catching.

Side note: I love the Myrtle Clover books. So. Much. And it’s great to know that the series keeps getting longer. Book 18 of the Myrtle Clover books, “Death of a Suitor”, was released at the end of July (2021). Woohoo!

Rating

Book Review: Wolf’s Bane by Julie Midnight

Wolf’s Bane is the second book in the Monstrous Hearts series by Julie Midnight

Quick Review:

This series isn’t the usual type of werewolf story, making it a refreshing read, and the prose is almost lyrical in places, making it a beautiful read as well. 4 / 5

Summary from Goodreads:

In the months since escaping an abusive relationship, Alice has sought peace living in the wilderness with Colton, her mysterious lover who shifts from man to wolf at will. There in the shadows of the woods, she hopes to lick her wounds and rebuild her life. But ghosts have a way of stirring from their graves, and Alice is about to learn that one can never hide from the past for long. Sometimes, the past can come back to life, and when it does, it has teeth sharper than any wolf’s…

Favourite Quote:

“Far above them hangs the moon, returned to its usual ivory glow that brings to mind wedding lace dulled with dust and bones bared of their flesh.”

(From Wolf’s Bane by Julie Midnight, chapter 15)

Review:

I read the first book in this series, Wolf’s Wife, back in 2018 (see my review for that here). Before I go any further with my review, it might be worthwhile sharing the opening of my review for the first book:

“…this isn’t the usual type of paranormal book I read.  There is a lot of mature content to be found in the story – so should you go off and read it yourself, you’ve been warned…  Neither is it full of the usual werewolf fare.”

All three points remain true this time round. One: this isn’t the usual type of paranormal book I read. Two: there is a lot of mature content to be found in the story – a lot more than I recall for the first book. Three: this story isn’t full of the usual werewolf fare.

It’s the characters which again make the story. Alice is growing, transitioning from the breakable woman we meet in Wolf’s Wife into a stronger, empowered woman who owns who she is. We also get to see a different side to Colton in this instalment as he helps Alice navigate an existence between the remnants of her old life and the unusual path they have ahead of them.

The story was well-written and the dark horror and fantastical elements blend seamlessly with the more realistic passages. And the author’s writing style gives a poetical, lyrical feel to the prose. Some of the sentences and paragraphs (like my favourite quote above) are simply beautiful.

I read Wolf’s Bane for free via Wattpad. I’m hoping to get around to reading the third and final book in the series, Wolf’s Kin soon, maybe even by the end of the month, so I can include my review with this year’s Indie Only reads…

Rating:

Bookish Reflections – May and June 2021

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…


the last battle front cover sign-of-the-cross-front-cover the-last-of-the-mohicans-front-cover half-of-a-yellow-sun-front-cover The Silver Chair front cover when-hitler-stole-pink-rabbit-front-cover

In a nutshell

I feel like I’m pretty behind with all my self-set reading goals this year. Sigh. Yet, I am making good progress on catching up, with six reviews posted over the past two months. The problem I’m having is that I don’t seem to have as much time to read as I once had, yet where it’s gone I couldn’t tell you. This does not help me read, review and rehome the far-too-many books I have in my house, so this is something I am going to have to work on. I’ve also managed to give individual posts for the handful of titles I reviewed as part of my failed attempt at speed reviewing…

July is Indie Only Month at Sammi Loves Books, so if there are any indie authors, be they fiction writers or poets, who would like to see their work reviewed on this site, please feel free to reach out to me.  You can find out about my review policy and FAQs here.  Just ignore the bit that says closed to reviews, as I am only open to Indie Authors at this time.

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. And, if you have previously been interviewed as part of this series, there is now a second set of questions, if you fancy being interviewed again! If you’ve any questions, please do get in touch at: sammicoxbooks@gmail.com

To keep up-to-date with what I’m reading and reviewing, find me on Facebook and Goodreads.

Books I’ve Read and Reviewed

Other Book-Related Posts

This month, I’ve been back through my reading round-up posts, to post Quick Reviews of individual title, which seems to be a better format for my shorter book thoughts:

Favourite Read(s) of The Month

  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

Books I’ve Bought or Been Given

  • Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear
  • The Illustrated Odyssey by E. V. Rieu

Books I’ve Downloaded

  • None – woohoo!

What I’ve Been Reading on Wattpad

  • Progressive Dinner Deadly by Elizabeth Spann Craig

May and June’s “Read and Review” Goals

  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Death in Captivity by Michael Gilbert (read, awaiting review)
  • The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
  • The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
  • Sign of The Cross by Chris Kuzneski

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

What I’m reading and reviewing in July

  • Progressive Dinner Deadly by Elizabeth Spann Craig (currently reading)
  • And that’s all I’ve decided so far…

The Very Informal Classic Reads Book Club Challenge 2021

  • January’s Book – The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells – Read and reviewed!
  • February’s Book – Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon – Read and reviewed!
  • March’s Book – Last of The Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper – Read and reviewed!
  • April’s Book – Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – Currently Reading
  • May’s book – David Copperfield by Charles Dickens – Not started yet
  • June’s book – Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – Not started yet
  • Next month’s book – The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas – Not started yet

Basic Book Review Challenge 2021

To read (at least) one book a week, to reach a target of 60 over the course of the year, with the aim of posting a review for some of them.

  • Month started at: 7 / 60
  • Month finished at: 13 / 60

Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019

I’m revisiting this challenge I started in 2019, to complete the challenges I missed. I’ve completed the following challenges from the list this month:

  • none
  • Total challenges completed in 2019: 8 / 20
  • Total challenges completed in 2020: 9 / 12
  • Total challenges completed in 2021: 0 / 3
  • Total: 16 / 20
  • You can find the complete list of challenges here.

Read, Rate, Review, Rehome

Goal: 35 | Total so far: 9 / 35

  • The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
  • The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
  • Sign of the Cross by Chris Kuzneski
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

Note: I’ve actually far-exceeded my goal as I’ve been having a sort out of my books, with two big bags set aside for donating to charity. So this tally will focus on books I’ve Read, Rated, and Reviewed in 2021, with an aim to also being Rehomed in 2021 😉