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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Book are so much more than stories

I’ve finally made a breakthrough in understanding my personal psychology when it comes to book-hoarding…Books, to me, are so much more than stories.  They are memories, markers of events, reminders of friendships, notable birthdays…and that is why, I can’t get rid of them.  Even after I’ve read them and know it is unlikely that I’ll not do so again. Or, that I don’t think it possible that I’ll read them at all.

This thought struck me the other day when I was glancing at my bookshelves.  In my head, as I took in the titles and authors, I began thinking over the pertinent information I associated with the books.  That one was a present from my Nan and Grandad…I bought that one in that bookshop in Shrewsbury that’s no longer there…I remember picking that one out after a lecture in my first year at university in the Waterstones on campus…I was given that one after my Dad had read it and said he thought I would like it too…I was reading that one when we went on holiday to [insert destination here]…


Now I understand why I have so many books taking up so much space in my small home.  And with this dawning of understanding, I have realised that no matter how hard I try to whittle away at their numbers, I will always be fighting an uphill battle, because I’ll not only be rehoming my books, but my memories also.

Book Review: Master and God by Lindsey Davis


Quick Review (read on for full review)

An interesting story, full of historical detail and engaging characters.  An highly enjoyable read.  4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

From “New York Times” bestselling novelist Lindsey Davis comes an epic novel of first-century Rome and the Emperor Domitian, known to all of the Roman world as “Master and God”.  Set in the reign of the Emperor Domitian in first-century Rome, “Master and God” is Lindsey Davis’s meticulously researched epic novel of the life and times surrounding the last of the Flavian dynasty of emperors.

Gaius Vinius is a reluctant Praetorian Guard–the Emperor’s personal guard–and a man with a disastrous marriage history.  Flavia Lucilla is also in the imperial court and she is responsible not only for having created the ridiculous hairstyle worn by the imperial ladies but for also making toupees for the balding and increasingly paranoid emperor.

The two of them are brought together in an unlikely manner–a devastating fire in Rome–which then leads to a lifelong friendship. Together they watch Domitian’s once talented rule unravel into madness and cruelty, until the people closest to him conspire to delete him from history. As an imperial bodyguard, Vinius then faces a tough decision.

“Master and God” is a compelling novel of the Roman Empire–from the height of power to the depths of madness–told from the perspective of two courtiers and unlikely friends who together are the witnesses to history.

Favourite Quote

Patrician families in Rome, a select group of famous names who had multiple consuls and generals among their ancestors, believed what mattered was a pedigree that ran back to some moss-covered hutment next door to Romulus.  

(Master and God by Lindsey Davis, page 29)

Review

Before we begin, although this book is set in Rome during the reign of the Flavians, and is written by Lindsey Davis, this is not a book from the Falco series. I was aware of this before I started reading, though I have come across a handful of reviews where the reader seemed confused or unaware of this.  It’s worth pointing out, this is not the first standalone story the author has written set in the same place, during the same dynasty; the other book is, of course, Couse of Honour (which I have also read and enjoyed, though not yet reviewed).  However, with the Falco series being one of my absolute favourite book series, there was always going to be an element of comparison, even if it was unintentional.

The style of writing is strikingly different to the Falco books and it did take a little bit of getting used to.  That being said, some of the humour I associate with those books did make an appearance in this one, which I was very pleased about.

The relationship between Gaius Vinius and Lucilla Flavia is a complex one, and at times I found it frustrating, even if the circumstances were believable.  It is from their viewpoints that we are given insight into the reign of the emperor Domitian.  Being a Praetorian Guard and an imperial hairdresser, respectively, we are given almost front row seats to watch as his rule unravels. I did enjoy the portrayal of Domitian; his character came across as authentic and accurate, and very, very convincing.  On a lighter note, one of the surprise POVs, and perhaps even the most entertaining, was Musca the Housefly.

The story is set between 80 – 96 AD, so it does cover quite a prolonged length of time. Also, there is no getting away from the fact that there is a lot of historical detail in this story; this doesn’t bother me at all.  In fact I enjoy being immersed in descriptions and facts from the period.  If you don’t like Roman history especially that of the first century, I think you might struggle with this.  A number of important events are covered in the story including the fire of Rome in 80 AD and the war with Dacia.

All-in-all, I found Master and God to be an interesting story, full of historical detail and peopled with engaging characters.  I have no doubt I’ll be reading this again at some point in the future.

Rating


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #5 in the list: A book by a favourite author that you’ve not yet read.

5 Reviews for…Fiction Set During the Medieval Period

I haven’t posted one of these for a few years (gasp!), so it’s high time for another.  About thirty-five to forty percent of the historical fiction I read is set during the Medieval period (1066-1485).  All right, I’ve not done the maths, but it is an educated guess…

It is one of my favourite periods of history purely because so much of the architecture has survived to the present day.  Nearly every English village has a church that dates back this far, and most towns have more than one.  Then there are the castles and big houses, smaller houses and pubs…I just find it fascinating, so its no wonder I like to read stories set in this period.

Below you will find links to a number of books set during the Medieval period that I not only enjoyed, but also recommend:

  • Company of Liars by Karen Maitland – Set in 1348, a diverse group of people are brought together under extremely stressful and deadly circumstances: the plague has arrived in England. Absorbing, compelling reading, this is probably my favourite book by the author.
  • Inquisition by Alfredo Collito – Set in 1311.  A suspenseful read, full of action and drama, Inquisition is a compelling read centred on the early days of modern science, The Templars and of course, the Inquisition.
  • We Speak No Treason by Rosemary Hawley Jarman – This is actually a two books series: The Flowering of The Rose and The White Rose Turned to Blood – It tells the story of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who will become Richard III, told from the viewpoint of his mistress and his fool in the first book, and his sworn man and the mistress in the second book.  Set in the later decades of the fifteenth century, both books are fantastic pieces of historical fiction, and also, I found, quite emotional.
  • The Apothecary Rose by Candace Robb – Set in 1363, The Apothecary Rose is the first Owen Archer mystery.  Owen Archer, on losing an eye while fighting in France, needs a new occupation and quickly finds himself employed as a spy for the Lord Chancellor.  His first missions has him sent to York to investigate a series of mysterious deaths…
  • A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters – This list wouldn’t be complete without a Cadfael mystery, would it?  Not only have I chosen to list A Morbid Taste for Bones (set in 1137) here because it is The First Chronicle of Brother Cadfael, but also because it is my favourite.  Why?  Because it clearly shows how important relics were to religious houses during the period, and the lengths these religious houses would go to obtain them…

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think to them?  I would love to hear your thoughts…

Book Review: Pendulum by Adam Hamdy

Pendulum is the first book in the Pendulum trilogy by Adam Hamdy.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Action-packed and fast-paced, this thriller had plenty of twists and turns that kept me guessing until the very end.  4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

You wake. Confused. Disorientated. A noose is round your neck. You are bound, standing on a chair. All you can focus on is the man in the mask tightening the rope. You are about to die.

John Wallace has no idea why he has been targeted. No idea who his attacker is. No idea how he will prevent the inevitable.

Then the pendulum of fate swings in his favour. He has one chance to escape, find the truth and halt his destruction. The momentum is in his favour for now. But with a killer on his tail, everything can change with one swing of this deadly pendulum…

You have one chance. Run.

Favourite Quote

The old adage that good things happen to good folk was a lie people told themselves to feel better about life.  Good things happen to folk who can rob or cheat their way to them.

(Pendulum by Adam Hamdy, page 153)

Review

This is one of those reads which, if you say too much, you could spoil what makes this book so bloody good.  So, I will review this sparingly…

I’m not sure what I expected when I started to read Pendulum, for the book summary doesn’t give too much away, but what I found was an action-packed, fast-paced thriller that kept me guessing as to what was going to happen at every turn, all the way to the end of the book.

John Wallace must be the unluckiest yet luckiest person in the world, but that doesn’t mean that this story was unconvincing.  It was.  Perhaps even a little too convincing in its believability.  The premise of the story is dark and menacing.  The bad guy is terrifying and seemingly unstoppable.  And as for the other characters, they are engaging and intriguing, with interesting back stories, who make a satisfying impact on the story.

The author’s writing style pulls you right into the story.  It is so well-written, and probably one of the best thrillers I’ve read in recent years.  It also reads like a movie; I could see the storyline playing out before me with very little effort at all.

It wasn’t until I was writing this review and about to post (my summarised version of) it on Goodreads, that I realised that this is the first book of a trilogy.  Of course, the ending suggested something else might follow but it wasn’t clear, and it wasn’t explicit, and many books have been given such an ending to encourage speculation in the reader rather than setting the ground work for future books.  I’m quite pleased about this, and am looking forward to reading the next instalment in the trilogy, Freefall, at some point. For now, it’s been added to my ‘Books To Buy’ list.

Rating

Bookish Reflections – May 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

A so-so month all round.  Having five reviews written and posted is always good, especially when they were all on my read and review goal list set at the start of the month.  I did acquire another six books this month, without rehoming any.  On the upside, four out of the six are from series I’m already reading, and one was a present.  So although it looks bad, it’s not as bad as it could be…and I think that sums everything up, book wise.

It was lovely to post another Afternoon Tea author interview.  Olga Godim’s answers were really interesting to read, so I thank her once again for joining in.  If anyone else wants to be part of the interview series, check out this post.

Books I’ve reviewed

Other Book-Related Posts

Favourite read(s) of the month

  • Death at Bishop’s Keep by Robin Paige
  • Njal’s Saga, translated and edited by Robert Cook

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

  • Murder in the Afternoon by Frances Brody
  • Death in the Stars by Frances Brody
  • Death of a Busybody by Geogre Bellairs
  • The Lake District Murder by John Bude
  • A Brief History of Atlantis by Stephen P. Kershaw
  • 1588 A Calendar of Crime by Shirley McKay

Books I’ve downloaded

  • None – I suppose that makes up for the “real” books I bought… :-/

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • I’ve been absent from Wattpad for most of this month

May’s “Read and Review” Goals*

  • Warriors of the Tempest by Stan Nicholls
  • Death at Bishop’s Keep by Robin Paige
  • Njal’s Saga – traditional Icelandic story
  • The Taking by Stan Nicholls – short story
  • The Z Murders by J. Jefferson Farjeon

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

What I’m reading and reviewing in June

  • Death at Gallow’s Green by Robin Paige (currently reading)
  • Pendulum by Adam Hamdy (read, awaiting review)
  • Master and God by Lindsey Davis (currently reading)

Goodreads Reading Challenge

My goal is 40.  I’ve read 20.  50% complete.  4 books ahead of schedule. Yay!

Other reads (books not on Goodreads): 2

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

Total books read so far this year: 22

Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019

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

  • 8: A book you would class as an educational read – Njal’s Saga, translated and edited by Robert Cook

Total challenges complete: 6 / 20

You can find the complete list of challenges here.

A to Z Review Index Challenge

  • None this month – Still the letter “I” to go.

Challenge status: 1 / 2

Read, Review, Rehome

Goal: 20 | Total so far: 9 / 20

  • None this month.  Sigh…

Book Review: Death at Bishop’s Keep by Robin Paige

Death at Bishop’s Keep is the first book in The Victorian Mysteries staring Kate Ardleigh by Robin Paige.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Great characters, a wonderful setting and an interesting mystery…one of the most enjoyable cosy mysteries I’ve read in the last few years. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Kate Ardleigh is everything the Victorian English gentlewoman is not–outspoken, free-thinking, American…and a writer of the frowned upon “penny-dreadfuls.”

Soon after her arrival in Essex, England, a body is unearthed in a nearby archaeological dig–and Kate has the chance to not only research her latest story…but to begin her first case with amateur detective Sir Charles Sheridan.

Favourite Quote

“What did y’expect?” Sir Archibald asked pettishly.  “Bad mannered as bison, police.  Brainless.  Tramping about, never minding where they put their boots.  Almost as bad as women,” he added, “whisking along in their deuced skirts.  Shifty as a squadron of street sweepers.”

(Death at Bishop’s Keep by Robin Paige, page 104)

Review

As the first book in a series, I think this did remarkably well.  Sometimes there can be an excessive amount of background information slowing the pace of an opening book, but that wasn’t the case here.  I thoroughly loved everything about this cosy mystery.  Kate Ardleigh is wonderful as the main character and is supported by a fantastic cast.

Kate is headstrong, determined and independent but most importantly, she is curious.  It’s amusing that she is a secret author of sensational novels and that she is actively seeking material for her storylines.  Sir Charles Sheridan is highly intelligent, with an interest in all sorts of things.  From the sciences to photography, and pretty much everything else, he is a useful chap to have around.  He’s also sensible and inquisitive too.  The aunts were interesting characters, and polar opposites.  One was really nice whilst the other was the worst kind of horrible – to everyone.

The author – a husband and wife joint effort – captured the essence of the period.  From the (shockingly) rampant casual prejudice against Americans and the Irish, to the difficult position less well-off family members could find themselves in – part-servant-part family, and usually not accepted as “one of us” by either side, social and class divisions are not glossed over.  This adds an extra dimension to the story, making it utterly believable.

The possible development of a romantic interest was well-written and convincing.  But, most importantly, it doesn’t stifle Kate’s character.  Having an interest in Victorian occultism, it was interesting to see The Order of The Golden Dawn take a prominent role in the story, and to have a number of their famous members make an appearance.  Most notable inclusions were W.B. Yeats, Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde.

I have very quickly fallen in love with this series, and am already part way through book two, Death at Gallow’s Green.  So far I’m enjoying it, and have my fingers crossed that it will live up to the high expectations set by Death at Bishop’s Keep.  If you like historical cosy mysteries and have not yet read any of The Victorian Mysteries, I can’t recommend this book to you enough.

Rating

Short Story Review: The Taking by Stan Nicholls

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An interesting short story, offering further insight into the world of The Wolverines.  4 / 5

Summary

It’s Braetagg’s Day, a day of festivities for Orcs, but when the focal point of the celebrations goes missing, there’s only one place to turn if the day is to be rescued before word gets out regarding what’s happened: The Wolverines.  To make things even harder for the elite warband, they have a new member in the ranks, having only joined The Wolverines that very morning.  Will their inclusion help or hinder the mission?

Favourite Quote

‘Humans were eating the magic.’

(From The Taking by Stan Nicholls, pg 693)

Review

I’m reading the omnibus edition of the Orcs: First Blood trilogy, (Bodyguard of Lightning (see my review here), Legion of Thunder (see review here) and Warriors of the Tempest (review here)) which also included this short story, The Taking, and I have reviewed each of the stories separately.

This short story is set before the start of the Orcs: First Blood trilogy.  It’s Corporal Coilla’s first day in The Wolverines.  As the only female orc in the warband, I find her character intriguing.  She’s strong and intelligent and one of my favourite characters from the trilogy.  I was also pleased to find included in the story the other characters from the three novels I’d already read, especially Jup and Alfray, another two of my favourites.

This was a fantastic short story that showed another dimension to the Orcs, offering more cultural background to their race and the world they live in.  Once again, there was plenty of fast-paced action and the storyline did not disappoint.  It was engaging and entertaining and has only further ensured I continue on reading this series.

The Taking is perfect for those already familiar with the setting and the characters.  I found it to be an interesting, insightful read, which only added to my enjoyment of the series and the world in which it is set.  Sometimes short stories can fall flat if they follow on from high energy, full length novels which are full of adventure because there just isn’t the space within the word limit to emulate the bigger storylines and subplots.  That isn’t a problem here.

All-in-all, this was a great read and a wonderful addition to the Orcs series of stories.

Rating