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 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: Venus in Copper by Lindsey Davis

Venus in Copper Front CoverVenus in Copper is the third book in the Falco series by Lindsey Davis.

Falco’s third case is nothing if not complex.  Having distanced himself from working with the Palace – the Flavians like to keep a hold of their money, making it hard for any honest investigator to get paid – he finds himself employed by a close-knit bunch of freedmen.  The case: stop a gold-digger black widow from marrying and then murdering the only unmarried one amongst them.

The gold digger is one Severina Zotica.  She has a shady past: three dead husbands who died in mysterious circumstances leaving their fortunes to her.  Naturally anyone would be worried about their friend – a rich friend – who wanted to get involved with such a woman.

But are these freedmen as concerned as they make out to be?  When Falco goes to meet them in their sprawling villa on the Pincian Hill, what he finds is that the freedmen have much more money than taste (which they are happy to show off in any way they can).  However, they are very, very canny when it comes to business.  The question is, is it their friend or his money they are thinking about?

And what does this case have to do with a foul-mouthed parrot named Chloe and a circus snake-dancer?  Falco will need all his wits about him if he’s to uncover the truth…

I have been reading this series over and over again for over ten years and I have yet to tire of it.  In fact, I love these books so much, that as soon as I pick one up, I have to read it all before I can put it down again.  So it comes as no surprise that I finished Venus in Copper in a day.

Lindsey Davis explains the complexities of Roman life very easily.  From the proper naming conventions of freedmen to the insurance fraud that was rife throughout the city, Rome in its many shades is brought to colourful life with historical accuracy.

One of the things I love about these books is the humour that is woven through the story.  These really are some of the most entertaining historical reads I have come across.  Falco’s personality shines through and he is surrounded with a wonderful supporting cast: his long-suffering mother, Petronius Longus of the Aventine Watch, his classy girlfriend Helena Justina…to name but a few.

The story itself is gripping.  As Falco tries to work his through the case and the upheavals in his private life, you cannot help but get drawn into the tale, rooting for the man at every turn.

I would recommend this book (and the whole series) to anyone who loves historical and / or detective fiction.  Falco is one of the most original and interesting private investigators I have come across and these books really do stand apart from others in the genre.

Book Review: The Raven’s Head by Karen Maitland

the raven's head front coverThe year is 1224.  In northern France, Vincent, an ambitious young man apprenticed to the librarian of Comte Phillipe finds himself in possession of a great treasure: a finely worked jewelled raven’s head.  Fleeing, he returns to the land of his birth, England, surviving by creating fantastical tales to sell to those in need of them.

In Norfolk, Lord Sylvain, a mysterious man who is feared in the neighbouring town of Langley, has been practising alchemy for years, in search of the philosopher’s stone.  Nearby, in Langley Abbey, the White Canons are also hoping to get their hands on that which can give man immortality.  Neither shy from the shedding of blood in pursuit of their goal, though their reasons for doing so differ. However, each have something the other needs, and so the White Canons and Lord Sylvain must work together if they are to find that which they seek…but they cannot have both have it.

Caught in the middle is a young boy named Regulus, on whose shoulders their success sits.  But what purpose does he serve?  And what of the young apothecary’s assistant, Gisa?  Why is Lord Sylvain so insistent that she must work with him, alone, in his tower in Langley Manor?  And how does Vincent tie into this intricate web of the dark arts?

Those of you who are regular visitors to Sammi Loves Books will know that I am a big fan of Karen Maitland, and, having loved all of the books I have read of hers so far, I knew I would love this one too.

The Raven’s Head is a dark tale of superstition and alchemy, richly woven together with finely created characters and vivid historical detail.  Maitland doesn’t shy away from the darker side of medieval alchemy and magic and is able to bring to life a medieval world in which supernatural stories were used to cover up secrets from one’s past and were actually believed.

The cast of characters was diverse.  Each had their own story to tell and their own well-crafted personality with which to do it.  The places visited throughout the book are described in detail, so that very quickly not only can you envision the scene but also smell what the characters smell and hear what the characters hear.

The aspects of magic, alchemy and superstition were engaging and hooked me from the start.  The historical notes and glossary in the back of the book were as interesting as the story that preceded. I liked how each chapter began with quotes taken from historical sources on alchemy, adding an extra layer of depth and realism to the novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Raven’s Head  and cannot recommend it highly enough, to those who enjoy historical fiction but also those who are intrigued by medieval superstition and the supernatural.

Book Review: Cleopatra’s Heir by Gillian Bradshaw

cleopatra's heir front coverCleopatra’s Heir is a “what if” tale, an alternative history documenting what might have happened to King Ptolemy Caesar, or Caesarion, if he had escaped being murdered by the victorious Romans after the conquest of Egypt.  A conquest that saw both his mother, Queen Cleopatra, and his step-father, Mark Antony, commit suicide.

The son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, Caesarion would never have been allowed to live by the Romans, whether or not he held any political motives to recapture his lost crown.  He would have been seen as a potential figurehead, a rallying point for dissent and rebellion.  And the Romans were very good at stamping out such characters (as were many dynasties, empires and kingdoms in the ancient world and later), long before they had the chance to act.

So, Cleopatra’s Heir tells the story of Caesarion, beginning with the boy waking up on his own funeral pyre.  What follows is an interesting possibility of what might have happened to the young man in the days and weeks after.

We witness his reaction to certain historical events and see through his eyes how he might have perceived his mother as well as other notable figures.  But it is perhaps his interactions with the poor peasants that he comes across where his greatest lessons lie.

I found Cleopatra’s Heir to be a riveting read.  I especially liked the portrayal of Caesarion’s conflicting character and emotions: on the one hand he is a king and above everyone and everything, with the weight of dynasty on his shoulder, on the other he is mourning the loss of his life, family and is trying to understand what real kindness means.

The historical detail found throughout the book portrays an accurate and well-researched reconstruction of Egypt at the time of the Roman conquest.  And, I do not doubt that those who enjoy alternate history or their fiction set in the ancient world, would enjoy this also.  It’s worth it for the tour of ancient Egypt alone!🙂

Book Review: The Devil’s Chalice by D.K. Wilson

The Devil's Chalice by D.K. Wilson front cover

First my thanks go to Catherine from MadeGlobal Publishing and Derek Wilson for sending me a copy of this book to review…

The Devil’s Chalice is third book in the Thomas Treviot series by DK Wilson.  What sets this series apart from other historical fiction novels is that the puzzle around which the story is set is not fictional at all but a real Tudor mystery.

The year is 1549 and Thomas Treviot, a London goldsmith, is asked by Archbishop Cranmer to go and speak to someone being held in the Tower of London.  The man in question is William West who is currently under suspicion of the attempted murder of his uncle.  It sounds so simple.  All Thomas must do is speak with the man to see if he thinks he is guilty – the Archbishop trusts his judgement.

But what Thomas uncovers is not simple at all but a slowly unfolding complex web that will draw him and those close to him into perilous danger.  Politics, religion and societal problems all play their part and muddy the waters, but it is perhaps an elusive magus and his practice of the black arts where the most menace arises.

To complicate poor Thomas’s life even further, his headstrong fourteen year old son, Raphael, has got himself mixed up in the trouble brewing in Norwich, where a rebellion led by Robert Kett is in full swing.  The goldsmith is going to have to navigate these waters very carefully if he is to successfully achieve what Cranmer has asked of him whilst keeping those he cares about out of harms way.

I really enjoyed reading The Devil’s Chalice.  Whilst the story itself captures the imagination due to it being based upon a real Tudor mystery, the thread of superstition and black magic that is woven through it and how such things were perceived by Tudor society, had me hooked from the beginning.

The characters we meet as the story progresses are lifelike and easy to imagine as real (both the real ones and the fictional ones).  Thomas Treviot makes for a very interesting main character and those around him, an engaging supporting cast.  To make the story seem even more life-like, no part of Master Treviot’s life is ignored: he goes to work in his jewellery shop, goes to his guild, goes to church and spends time with his friends and family, all of which helps to move the story forward.

One of the strengths of D K Wilson’s writing is knowing how much historical detail to add to the story.  Although the book is full of facts, it never once feels overbearing or that it is obscuring the story he is trying to tell.  The pace of the story is perfectly balanced and the vivid descriptions of the places we are taken to are brought to life with ease, whether it is a wherry ride down the Thames or a walk through a Tudor fair.

I can’t recommend this book (nor the series) highly enough, not only for its accurate portrayal of such a turbulent period in English history (the author is an historian) but also because the premise of basing it on real Tudor crime records is fresh and engaging.  Such a combination makes you feel as if you are there experiencing it yourself rather than reading about it in a book.  If you enjoy historical fiction or enjoy reading about the Tudor period, you will love the latest instalment in this series.

The Devil’s Chalice will be released on 30th September 2016 and is now available for pre-order.

Book Review: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

fingersmith front coverLondon, 1862.  Sue Trinder is a young fingersmith or thief.  Orphaned at birth when her mother was hanged for murder, she was raised by Mrs Sucksby, a baby farmer.  All her life she has lived with Mrs Sucksby and Mr Ibbs in a house in Lant Street, a house full of other rough and ready thieves.  One night, a man known to them as Gentleman, who also goes by the name of Richard Rivers, comes to see them.  He has a proposition to make; an opportunity for Sue to make their fortune. All she has to do is pretend to be a lady’s maid and persuade her new mistress to marry a rogue.

It sounds simple enough.  But this plan is elaborate and complex.  It has to be if they are to get their hands on Maud Lilly’s fortune and keep it…

And what of Maud Lilly?  Another orphan, she was raised in the madhouse where her mother died and left their by her uncle until he could find a use for her.  He is a reclusive man, who remains at Briar cataloguing his vast library of erotic books.  Maud’s job, when she is old enough, is to help him, and, when he has guests, to read passages to them for their enjoyment.

Maud Lilly knows nothing of the world beyond what she saw in the madhouse as a child and what she has since encountered at Briar.  Is it any wonder that she craves freedom, and is willing to marry Richard Rivers to obtain it.  Only, as secrets are revealed, it seems there is much more at stake than money…

This is the first book by Sarah Waters that I have read, though I will say that I had watched the TV adaptation of the book before reading it.

The atmosphere that the author manages to create around the story is intense and mesmerising, especially in the second half of the book.  The plot is complex and full of twists and turns, and as we are given both Sue and Maud’s perspective of what is going on, offered tantalising glimpses of the truth behind the lies.

The pace of the first quarter of the book was slow as all the foundations for what was to come needed to be laid, but when it started gathering speed, it never relented until the end.  The characters were well-crafted and the use of language was employed cleverly to help set the tone in each of the locations visited.  The descriptions – of thoughts, feelings, smells, sounds, and places – are rich and bring Victorian England colourfully to life, perhaps too colourfully, I would imagine, for those of a sensitive nature.  But, in my opinion, this only added to a realistic portrayal of the people and the times.

Fingersmith has everything a Victorian suspense story requires: a madhouse, a prison, orphans, thieves and pickpockets, not to mention a view of the seedier side of life in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  The grim, rough streets of inner city London are juxtaposed with that of the rich and well-to-do, as we are taken from Lant Street to Briar, a grey and gloomy mansion set in its own estate in the country.  And yet, though these places are worlds apart, misery and villainy are to be found in both.

After reading this, I will certainly be adding the other novels by Sarah Waters to my “must buy” book list.

Reading Challenges Update

So, it’s the last day of July, meaning here at Sammi Loves Books, it is the last day of Indie Only Month.  I read and reviewed six stories this month, a few less than I was expecting / hoping, meaning I didn’t get around to a few books that were recommended to me.  However, they have been added to my “To be bought” or “To be read” lists and hopefully I will get around to them later this year. (To see what books I did get manage to read and review, see Indie Only Month 2016)

But we (yes, the royal “we”) are not glum to be leaving Indie Only Month behind us.  Why?  Because August is Historical Fiction Month.  Hurrah!

Historical Fiction Month

The first Historical Fiction Month was held in 2014 and this year I already have a gem or two reviews that I am planning to share.

So, if you have any requests or recommendations, please get in touch!  For more information, check out the Historical Fiction Month page or Review Requests.

Book Review: Shattered Promises by Jessica Sorensen

For as long as Gemma Lucas can remember, she has felt nothing but emptiness.  It doesn’t help that she was raised by grandparents who never showed her any affection.  Things change when she starts having dreams which somehow begin to unlock her emotions.

A few weeks later, she meets a stranger on the college campus; a guy she has been dreaming about.  When they touch, electricity shoots up her arm.  It just so happens that this guy, Alex, and his sister, Aislin, are new in town and are in Gemma’s astrology class.  When the three have to work on a project together, Gemma can’t help but feel drawn to Alex, but she gets extremely conflicting messages from him.  When the monsters from her dreams start appearing in her waking life, she can’t help wonder if she’s mad.

But something isn’t right with Alex and Aislin and Gemma doesn’t know what it is.  However, as her emotions begin to get stronger, long-buried secrets are revealed.  Can she trust her new friends?  She might not have a choice…

What intrigued me about this story was that it is a re-imagining of one of the author’s other books, The Fallen Star, which I reviewed here, as part of Indie Only 2014.  And this made me curious.  The original was a YA paranormal story, whilst this re-imagining is an adult paranormal romance. I have read books where the stories remain the same but are told from a different characters viewpoint but this I had never come across.

I enjoyed this world the author created, one full of witches, vampires, monsters, demons and many other paranormal creatures beside.  And as for the characters, I thought they were well-developed and engaging.  My favourite was probably Laylen, but I thought the conflicted relationship between Gemma and Alex was gripping.  It isn’t hard to feel for Gemma as the story progresses; for her to go from feeling nothing, to feeling everything and then wondering if she will lose her emotions again is a gruelling thing to suffer.

The only problem I had with reading Shattered Promises was that I could recall too much of The Fallen Star and the stories kept conflicting in my head.  But that really doesn’t have anything to do with the book nor the author’s efforts.  After all, the books are aimed at different audiences and probably not intended to be read by both.  That being said, I did enjoy this re-imagined story, possibly more than the original.  And, if you are a fan of paranormal romance, I would recommend you give this a read or if YA is your thing, The Fallen Star.

I downloaded Shattered Promises by Jessica Sorensen for free from Smashwords.