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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.

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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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Book Review: Styx and Stones by Carola Dunn

Styx and Stones is the seventh book in the Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A typical English village, gossip and poison pen letters…what fun!  An entertaining, easy read that kept me interested throughout.  4 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

The hot summer heat is enough to put anyone on edge but, to Daisy Dalrymple, it seems that her brother-in-law, Lord John Frobisher, is exceptionally tense – and with good reason.  Someone with an evil sense of humour is sending him a series of poison pen letters that threaten to reveal racy secrets which could ruin him completely.

Promising to protect Lord John from public scandal, Daisy travels to his village in Kent, only to discover it teeming with enough gossip, resentment and intrigue to make everyone a suspect…or victim.  Then a murder is committed, and Daisy finds herself in a race to reveal the killer before the ink dries on her own death warrant!

Favourite Quote

‘Ah yes, we read the announcement of your engagement in The Times.  Allow me to offer my felicitations.  A Mr Fletcher, I believe.  Would that be the Nottinghamshire Fletchers?’

‘Not exactly.’  Daisy threw a mischievous glance at Vi.  ‘The connection with Scotland is closer.’

Review

Is there a better premise than the typical English village and its gossip for a cosy murder mystery?  And poison pen letters too! In this instalment of The Daisy Dalrymple series, Daisy is set the task of unmasking a poison pen letter writer in the Kent village of Rotherden, at the behest of her brother-in-law.  Daisy, of course, agrees to try, and decides to take Alec’s daughter Belinda with her for the trip, to spend time with her nephew Derek.

The cast of characters was extensive, and it had to be if it was to include a village full of people.  Daisy’s sister Violet, has been mentioned briefly in previous books, but it was good to finally ‘meet’ her and her family at Lord John’s ancestral home, Oakhurst.  The vicar was an interesting character.  What he had witnessed during the war had subsequently shaped his faith, which is understandable.  Belinda and Derek and their escapades were a great addition to the story.

Daisy and Alec naturally steal the show, and this time we see their relationship hit its first rocky patch.  Their reactions to it made for tense reading.

My favourite quote (above) shows the humour of the book, and there are plenty of suspects to choose from, though I will say, it is possible to guess the culprit.  The story moves at the perfect pace for a cosy mystery, and the portrayal of an English village in the 1920s reads as authentic.

Another great instalment in this cosy mystery series, but it’s not able to knock Murder on the Flying Scotsman off my favourite-book-of-the-series-so-far perch.

Rating

Bookish Reflections – October & November 2018

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 had hoped to catch up with my backlog of book reviews but alas, no.  Even though last month was NaNoWriMo, and I was aware there was a slim chance of me reaching 50,000 words, I decided to participate as a “rebel”, opting to work on a medley of projects.  This included a series of organisational tasks, including catching up on book reviews.  While I made a dent in the pile of books awaiting reviewing, there are still four books from the original list, plus one new one and whatever books I decide to read as part of “Festive Reads Fortnight”, which begins on 11 December 2018.  I have come to terms with the fact I am unlikely to get all these reviews completed before the end of the year…

Books I’ve reviewed

Favourite read(s) of the month

  • The Amazing Test Match Crime by Adrian Alington
  • Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

So, epic fail…another 6 books have found their way into my home…The Ellis Peters books were bought to replace ones I can’t find (the problem with having so many books but no library to put them in!) and two more Phryne Fisher’s by Kerry Greenwood – another cosy murder mystery series I love!

  • The Sanctuary Sparrow by Ellis Peters
  • Dead Man’s Ransom by Ellis Peters
  • The Devil’s Novice by Ellis Peters
  • The Rose Rent by Ellis Peters
  • Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood
  • Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood
  • Orcs – The Omnibus Edition by Stan Nicholls

And just to compound the epic fail…December hasn’t seen my restraint return…I bought another four books yesterday! *Sigh*.  If you can’t wait to see what new volumes are responsible for this latest slip, check out my Facebook page (link in the sidebar) – I’ll be posting photos later today…

Books I’ve downloaded

  • None – Yay!

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • Hooked by KC Farrah
  • Epic by KC Farrah

September’s “Read and Review” Goals*

  • Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn 
  • The Other Me by Saskia Sarginson
  • The Amazing Test Match Crime by Adrian Alington 
  • Monks Hood by Ellis Peters 
  • Damsel in Distress by Carola Dunn 

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

What I’m reading and reviewing in December

  • Styx and Stones by Carola Dunn
  • Rattle His Bones by Carola Dunn
  • Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody
  • A Medal for Murder by Frances Brody
  • Death of an Airman by Christopher St John Sprigg

Festive Reads Fortnight begins on the 11 December, so there will also be some seasonal-specific reading and reviewing going on too…We’ll just have to see how much gets crossed off the list..

Goodreads Reading Challenge

My goal is 40.  I’ve read 38.  95% complete.  Currently 2 book ahead of schedule.

Other reads (books not on Goodreads): 2 (Outside the Law by Anthony Berkeley | Surfacing by Annest Gwilym)

Total books read so far this year: 41

Book Review: Dead in the Water by Carola Dunn

Dead in the Water is the sixth book in the Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A quick, easy and enjoyable read.  The Henley Regatta makes an interesting setting for a cosy murder mystery. Daisy and Alec make a wonderful team. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

May the best man die!

July, 1923, and Daisy has been invited by an American magazine to cover the Henley Regatta. But unknown to her, she steps right into a class war between two members of the Oxford rowing team. Cox Horace Bott – a shopkeeper’s son and scholar student – has always hated rower Basil DeLancy – younger son of an earl and all-round cad and bully. And after a particularly brutal public humiliation by DeLancy, Bott swears revenge – so when DeLancy keels over and dies mid-race, it would seem he’s made good on his promise.

Yet Daisy isn’t convinced, and with the help of her fiancé Detective Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, she dives into a tangled web of jealousies and secrets, where appearances are everything and good breeding may just be a cover for a killer intent on keeping Daisy mum forever…

Favourite Quote

“Don’t get technical on me.  My school’s idea of science education was “What you can’t see won’t hurt you.”

Review

In this book in the series we are once more shown the realties between those in different social classes.  This time it’s not in terms of romantic relationship though, but rather in the realms of academia.  Bullying is never nice and never ok, and so for a smart young man to be bullied because of his social class and background is difficult to read, even if the character himself doesn’t always come across as likeable – his reaction to how others treat him.

The Henley Regatta was an interesting setting for a murder mystery.  The 1920’s is shown in a realistic light, and the setting is wonderfully described.  The pace of this one is quicker than some from the series, and once the story gets going, there is a surprising amount of action for a cosy mystery.

As for the characters, I did think that a good number of them came across as unlikeable, and even Daisy seems to make a number of quick judgements, which is most unlike her.  The twist at the end was unexpected, which is unusual for the series and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  The highlight of these stories is always Daisy and Alec’s relationship, and the arrival of Alec’s team from Scotland Yard: the brightly dressed Tom Tring and Ernie Piper, who both add richness and humour to the stories.

I’ve yet to read a Daisy Dalrymple that can better my favourite from the series so far, Murder on The Flying Scotsman (read my review of it here), but Dead in the Water is another quick, easy, enjoyable read in this cosy mystery series.

Rating

Book Review: The Amazing Test Match Crime by Adrian Alington

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An absolutely wonderful story, perfect for fans of cricket and gentle crime fiction.  The characters are fantastic, the story is funny and I have no doubt, I will return to read this again and again. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

All England waited with passionate eagerness for the final match to be played at the Oval. For this was to be played to a finish and would decide the fate of the Ashes.

It is 1938 and England is brimming with excitement as the final Test Match against Imperia draws near. But no corner of the land has the fate of the Ashes closer to its heart than the village of Wattlecombe Ducis, Glebeshire.

It was here at the Manor House that Norman Blood, captain of England, spent his childhood playing cricket with the vicar’s radiant daughter, Monica. And it was she who presented young but poor Joe Prestwick with a belt on the occasion of his first game of cricket, saving his honour for as Sir Timothy Blood remarked, ‘I would rather see the whole village dead at my feet than a man bowling in braces.’

With a short – but sensational – career behind him, Joe just needs to be selected to play at the Oval to win Monica’s heart and her hand in marriage: everything depends on the Test.

But The Bad Men, Europe’s most wanted gang, have no intention of letting the best team win. Sawn-off Carlo, The Professor and Ralph the Disappointment (an Englishman who, knowing the rules of the Game, is eternally damned for not playing by them) plan to strike a blow at the very heart of proud Albion and her Empire.

The Amazing Test Match Crime, first published in 1939, is a wicked yet affectionate comedy of cricketing (and criminal) manners, proving – as if proof were needed – that a straight bat and nimble spinning finger will always win through.

Favourite Quote

The entire book is full of memorable quotes and funny snippets, so I had a really hard time choosing just the one…

The Murder of the French master was hushed up (modern languages were never considered of much account at Harborough), but the consumption of alcohol was too grave an offence to be over-looked.

*

“I would rather see the entire English eleven dead at my feet than see them with numbers on their backs.”

Review

I’ll start off by saying if you don’t like cricket you probably won’t enjoy this book or get some of the humour.  However, if you’re a cricket fan, especially a fan of test matches over the shorter form – you must read this.  It’s perfect for reading at the end of play if you’re not quite ready for the cricket to end of an evening…

This is the first book I’ve read by the author, and I found his writing style easy and pleasant to read.  Cricket, humour and fiction go so well together.  I loved everything about this book: all the characters were engaging and entertaining; the storyline was funny and kept my interest, and the settings were splendid.

One of my favourite characters was Ralph the Disappointment; his backstory is so amusing.  He’s seen as terrible for being so very English whilst doing so many un-English thing.  To use a phrase that is almost pun-like, given this book, his behaviour is just not cricket.  Another favourite was Sir Timothy Blood who would often come out with the most outrageous comments, which usually involved preferring to see a lot of dead people at his feet than something that is actually quite sensible happening.

The Amazing Test Match Crime is one of my favourites reads of 2018, and a book I’m sure I will return to read again and again.  And, so subsequently, it has to be a Five Star Read…Highly enjoyable, highly recommended…

Rating

Book Review: Damsel in Distress by Carola Dunn


Damsel in Distress is the fifth book in the Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn

Quick Review

Another entertaining read in this great cosy mystery series.  Daisy Dalrymple is one of my favourite women sleuths.  4 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

In spring a young man’s fancy will turn to love and the Honourable Phillip Petrie is no exception.  Daisy’s chum is totally smitten with Miss Gloria Arbuckle, daughter of a millionaire Yank.  But before the enthusiastic suitor can pop the question, his beloved is abducted by kidnappers.  As a distraught Mr Arbuckle begins assembling the ransom, Phillip enlists Daisy to help him recover his missing sweetheart.

Strictly forbidden to contact Scotland Yard, Daisy must resist the temptation to bring dashing Detective Inspector Alec Fletcher on to the case.  But as she closes in on the abductors’ rural hideaway, she begins to suspect that Gloria isn’t the only fair damsel whose life hangs in the balance…

Favourite Quote

To a request for a pot of China tea, the slatternly waitress responded that all they had was TyPhoo in the urn, milk and sugar already added.  Lucy shuddered.

Review

In this instalment, we get to spend more time with Daisy’s friends who until now have been minor characters in the stories.  Daisy’s housemate, Lucy Fotheringay, her boyfriend Lord Gerald, known as ‘Binkie’ and Madge and Tommy Pearson are all called down to Fairacres, under the pretence of Daisy holding a house party when in actual fact they are there to help Phillip locate his missing sweetheart.

I enjoyed the story being set in and around Fairacres, Daisy’s childhood home.  We get to meet Daisy’s mother, the Dowager Lady Dalrymple, who lives in the Dower House on the estate, as well as the new Lord and Lady Dalrymple, her cousin Edgar – who’s a hoot! – and his wife, Geraldine.

I mentioned in the last Daisy Dalrymple review for Murder on The Flying Scotsman, that social class and status is a theme that weaves its way through the series.  Prior to Damsel in Distress, we are made aware that Alec’s mother, Mrs Fletcher doesn’t agree with relationships that cross social boundaries, and so she isn’t particularly keen that her son is courting Daisy.  In this book, we get the flip side to this: the Dowager Lady Dalrymple is in agreement with Mrs Fletcher, and detests the idea of her daughter being with Alec.  And I think that’s one of the reasons that Daisy’s and Alec’s relationship is so special; it portrays a social change that was underway in the 1920’s which led to a blurring of lines between classes, that were so clear, distinct and rigid only a few years before.

It’s interesting that this time it isn’t a murder mystery Daisy’s caught up in – all four books before this one involved a dead body.  And it’s not hard to work out who is behind the kidnapping, but the drama doesn’t come from trying to unmask their identity, rather in the rescue attempt.  The tension builds nicely towards the end of the story.

On the one hand, this story is a little daft (a gang of posh Lords, Ladies and Honourables riding bicycles and driving motorcars around country villages in the hope of uncovering the secret hideout of a band of kidnappers sounds a little more “Famous Five” than a cosy mystery aimed at adults) but it is fun.  If you can look past this aspect of the story, which I can, quiet easily, you will find it is an enjoyable, entertaining read, but I’m aware not everyone will be able to.

This wasn’t my favourite book in the series, but it was still a great cosy mystery read and another enjoyable book in the Daisy Dalrymple series, which I adore.  Recommended to fans of historical cosy mysteries.

Rating

Book Review: The Turn of The Screw by Henry James

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A spooky gothic ghost story with a great atmosphere and much tension, but the writing style takes quite a bit of getting used to.  The ambiguity of the narrative ensures the story stays with you long after you’ve finished reading.  4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.

Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls…

But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.

For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.

Favourite Quote

I couldn’t chose between the two:

*

The apparition had reached the landing half-way up and was therefore on the spot nearest the window, where, at sight of me, it stopped short and fixed me exactly as it had fixed me from the tower and from the garden.

*

Dishonoured and tragic, she was all before me; but even as I fixed and, for memory, secured it, the awful image passed away.  Dark as midnight in her black dress, her haggard beauty and her unutterable woe, she had looked at me long enough to appear to say that her right to sit at my table was as good as mine to sit at hers.

Review

My review of The Turn of The Screw is a mixed one…

I read this as 2018’s Halloween Read, because I remembered a TV adaptation I saw as a teenager that nicely spooked me out.  I have been planning to read this for a number of years, but my copy had become lost amongst the numerous books on my shelves.  I stumbled across it whilst searching for a different book in the summer and rather sensibly set it aside…

I both enjoyed The Turn of The Screw and found it frustrating to read.  My thoughts on it run somewhat like the lines of a nursery rhyme: when it was good, it was very, very good but when it was hard to read, it was horrid.

Where the spooky events occurred, they were indeed perfect.  The tension during these passages is palpable and the atmosphere conjured, exquisitely gothic.  My heart rate increased as I read these pages and I could feel myself tense up, as if I, along with the governess, was witness to the occurrences.  If a writer wants to learn how to write an atmospheric, tense, spooky ghost story, I recommend this book to them for these scenes alone.

As for the style of writing, it takes quite a bit of getting used to and isn’t at all that easy to read.  The sentence construction is unusual, and sentences are heavy and overly long.  There is also quite a bit of interrupted dialogue.  This does, unfortunately, detract from the enjoyment of reading the story and slows the pace considerably.

Another issue I had with the story was the very abrupt ending.  I felt that it needed something else after the last chapter to bring the story to a proper conclusion.  As it was, I was left feeling adrift after the final scene and dissatisfied.

But, the triumph of the story is certainly in its ambiguity.  The psychological undertones manipulate what is and isn’t real until you can’t help but ask, what is really going on?  Does the governess really see what she thinks she sees, or is she mad?  Are there ghosts?  Are the children creepy or innocent?  In my opinion, there is nothing in the story that suggests these children are the angels the governess claims them to be…but, as for the rest I still can’t decide.

It’s so hard to rate this.  I read it at Halloween for it’s spookiness and in this respect, it delivered, and yet, reading it was hard-going and almost chore-like. 4 stars sounds high after this review, but 3.5 doesn’t sound high enough, methinks…

Rating

Book Review: Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn

Murder on the Flying Scotsman is the fourth book in the Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A fun and incredibly enjoyable, easy read, perfect for fans of cosy historical mysteries.  The setting is fabulous, the mystery solid and the characters engaging.  What’s not to love? 5 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

Daisy is embarking on a journey to Edinburgh and her biggest worry is that she has forgotten her book, so how will she pass the time? Her concern proves to be pointless, however, as once the journey begins Daisy finds a pint-sized stowaway on board – Belinda, the daughter of dreamy Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher, Daisy’s beau.

No sooner has this problem revealed itself than Daisy and Belinda run into a bickering Scottish clan en route to the deathbed of the head of the family.  But before the express reaches its first stop, one of the greedy McGowans has turned up dead.  Is it murder?  Daisy’s willing to bet her first-class ticket it is – after all, the victim was the heir-in-waiting and she’s sharing the carriage with an entire family of suspects who have everything to gain by his death…

Favourite Quote

At the end of a story about a temple monkey which stole his watch right out of his waistcoat pocket, Mr McGowan said firmly, ‘That’s enough now.  I don’t want you suffering from intellectual indigestion.  The pains of the real thing are bad enough.’

Review

I read a block of five books from this series, one after another, because I just love them so.  You’ve been warned: there are a number of Daisy Dalrymple book reviews coming to Sammi Loves Books in the next few weeks! 😉

Murder on the Flying Scotsman is another great instalment in this series.  Who doesn’t like a vintage cosy murder mystery set on a train?  The 1920’s is brought to life with ease, leaving me wishing for a trip on a heritage railway in the not-too-distant future.  Berwick-upon-Tweed was an interesting setting for the second half of the book, and the descriptions of the ancient town walls were especially evocative.

The story flows seamlessly and the mystery is solid.  A number of issues of the period are dealt with in the book, including social class / status (a theme that flows through the series as the 1920’s is a time of great change); the lingering after effects for some soldiers who fought in the First World War, shell shock, which is handled very sensitively; as well as issues of race.

The cast is interesting, varied and vast.  Some old favourites include Alec Fletcher’s team from Scotland Yard, Tom Tring and Ernie Piper.  As for the list of suspects, thankfully there is a family tree in the front of the book to help keep track of the murdered man’s relative’s, all of whom have something to gain from his death.  Another favourite character from this particular book is Dr Jagai, the heir to murdered Mr McGowan.  He is warm and charming and I really hope we might to get to see him pop up in another book later in the series.

I love the blossoming romance between Daisy and Alec; it’s subtle and sweet, and absolutely adorable.  Belinda’s addition to the main cast for this story was fantastic.  Sometimes I find children don’t work so well in books aimed at adults, but in this instance, the author pulled it off perfectly.

A fun and incredibly enjoyable, easy read, perfect for fans of cosy historical mysteries.  I can’t recommend this series highly enough.

Rating