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 Review: KAEROU Time To Go Home by B. Jeanne Shibahara


My thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Sweet, charming and powerful, and at times, extraordinarily moving.  Rich, vivid descriptions and a varied cast of characters come together to create a beautiful story.  5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

“In Japan…everywhere…red strings tie all people we meet together. Some strings are weak. Some have tangles. Some strong.”

Meryl—Vietnam War widow—misses her grown son, feels left out after her father’s recent marriage. A WWII Japanese flag falls into her hands. The gentle push of a love-struck professor starts her adventure—take the flag home. From the neon of Osaka, to the ancient capital Nara, to the forests of Akita, the trail follows a newspaper reporter, factory manager, ikebana teacher, a Matagi hunter and winds through Japanese culture, past and present. A story of shared humanity and love “in the simplest things.”

Favourite Quote

The story is full of the most beautiful writing and I had a hard time picking just one favourite quote…so I picked two instead:

*

“I would, you know.  Love again.” Her voice was kind…as heartbreaking as a whisper of leaves in a frosty wind.

*

The flag was much more than a piece of cloth to Mr. Ono. The flag was the soldier.  The soldier had come back the only way he could – in the words written for him, in his bloodstains, in the memories of those who knew about the flags.

*

Review

I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book quite like this one.  It’s sweet, charming and powerful, and at times, extraordinarily moving.

Set in the 1990’s, this story is about people; what they went through, how they survived and how the past shaped who they became.  What I loved about the story was that every character we met had a story to tell – and we got to hear it, which is unusual, for these side characters are often pushed aside in order to make room for the story.

The main character was Meryl, though she was not always centre stage.  It was wonderful to see Meryl grow as the story unfolded.  By the time we reached the end, she was a new person with a different outlook on life, and perhaps most importantly, hope for the future in her heart.  My favourite character was probably Fiona; her frank and outspoken nature appealed to me.

I liked the presentation of the story.  Each chapter started with a quote, many I had never encountered before.  The accompanying artwork is stunning – just look at that cover! – and compliments the text perfectly.

The writing style was poetic and rich, and the descriptions of Japan, especially the ones of rural areas, were beautiful.  Mountains, streams, trees, flowers, birds, deer…I could picture them all.  Yet the beauty in the story is in stark contrast to some of the characters’ memories of war.

Reading this story was an enriching, emotional experience.  There is so much history and culture woven into the narrative that not only did I enjoy reading Kaerou, but I learned a lot as I read it.  I would happily read this book again, and recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction set in the twentieth century and romance.

And of course, I now want to visit Japan…

Rating

Book Review: Lady Fortescue Steps Out by M. C. Beaton

Lady Fortescue Steps Out is the first book in The Poor Relation series by M.C. Beaton.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Addictive, light-hearted reading with a humorous cast and funny storyline.  A charming first book in a series.  Will be reading more!  3.5 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

What do you do if you are of noble stock but impoverished, living in London and with a certain style to maintain?

One has to work…but one’s relatives will be appalled when one turns one’s hand to trade.  This is precisely what Lady Fortescue decides upon and, together with friend Colonel Sandhurst, transforms her decrepit Bond Street home into The Poor Relation: a posh hotel offering employment to other down-and-out aristocrats, and to guests the pleasure of being waited upon by the nobility.

Thus London’s newest – and most fashionable! – hotel is born…much to the dismay of the Duke of Rowcester, Lady Fortescue’s nephew, who is convinced his aunt’s foray into trade will denigrate the illustrious family name!

Favourite Quote

“Do you mean that we should stoop to being in trade, that we should become hotel servants?” demanded Lady Fortescue.

(Lady Fortescue Steps Out by M. C. Beaton, page 30)

Review

Lady Fortescue Steps Out is an enjoyable, quick, fun-filled regency read that sets out to answer what is a genteel lady – or gentleman – to do when their wealth starts to dry up?  Not go into trade, that’s for certain…or is it?

I really enjoyed how the characters came together; the cast is fun and the setting exquisite.  Regency London and period country estates are brought to life with ease. The pacing of the story was quick and the tone and writing style, entertaining and engaging.

The storyline is a tad predictable in places – irate family members from the (very) more wealthy branches of the family tree, a hopeless romance across the social divide – but this did not detract from my enjoyment of the story.  After all, the main premise of the story is so unusual for regency era fiction.

Although there is humour and light-heartedness to be found in the story, the author also cleverly weaves some of the more darker aspects of life in the period into the narrative.  The status – or lack of if it – of women.  Living standards for the poor – and for poor relations. However, this is done in such a way as to not become too heavy or overwhelming.  The historical detail was handled the same way; no longwinded passages overloaded with information, but rather, snippets nicely intertwined through the story.  In such a way we get to learn about regency levels of hygiene and false teeth, amongst other things.

A delightful tale in what I hope is delightful series.  It was an easy, effortless read and I am eager to read book two, Miss Tonks Turns To Crime, to see how things progress.

Rating

3.5 / 5

 

Book Review: The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland


Quick Review (read on for full review)

A fast-paced, chilling story of fear and superstition, set in fourteenth century rural England. A fantastic read.  Well-researched and wonderfully written.  Historical fiction at its best.  Unputdownable! 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

England, 1321. The tiny village of Ulewic teeters between survival and destruction, faith and doubt, God and demons. For shadowing the villagers’ lives are men cloaked in masks and secrecy, ruling with violence, intimidation, and terrifying fiery rites: the Owl Masters.

But another force is touching Ulewic—a newly formed community built and served only by women. Called a beguinage, it is a safe harbor of service and faith in defiance of the all-powerful Church.

Behind the walls of this sanctuary, women have gathered from all walks of life: a skilled physician, a towering former prostitute, a cook, a local convert. But life in Ulewic is growing more dangerous with each passing day. The women are the subject of rumors, envy, scorn, and fury…until the daughter of Ulewic’s most powerful man is cast out of her home and accepted into the beguinage—and battle lines are drawn.

Into this drama are swept innocents and conspirators: a parish priest trying to save himself from his own sins…a village teenager, pregnant and terrified…a woman once on the verge of sainthood, now cast out of the Church.…With Ulewic ravaged by flood and disease, and with villagers driven by fear, a secret inside the beguinage will draw the desperate and the depraved—until masks are dropped, faith is tested…and every lie is exposed.

Favourite Quote

I could have included so many, but I have whittled it down to two, the first, I think is certainly still relevant today…

*

Even when she was in a good mood Merchant Martha hated to be stuck behind anything, and fury did not improve her driving.

(The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland, pg 145)

*

‘…will you not make peace with God?’

‘What’s there to make peace about?  I’ve not spoken to God, nor He to me, so we’ve never had cause to quarrel.’

(The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland, pg 286)

Review

This was the first of Karen Maitland’s books I read, and I have been hooked on her writing ever since.  I first read this book sometime before 2014 (which was the year I shelved it on Goodreads) so it’s been a good long while since I last read it.  In my opinion, The Owl Killers is just as good as Company of Liars, if not better (it’s hard for me tell, because I love them both).

The Owl Killers is a story about myth, legend and folklore, new beliefs versus old ones, but most of all, it is a story about strong women at a time when being strong and confident in your womanhood went against contemporary opinions of how a woman should be:

‘…you mustn’t be afeared, you’ve got the strength of a woman.’

Servant Martha, Healing Martha, Pega, Gwenith, Agnes…they (and more of the characters beside) are inspiring and strong, even when they’re not certain of it themselves.  And, they are not all strong in the same way or face the same problems.  Each character faces some sort of hardship that would have been faced by the women of the Dark Ages.  And not only do they have their own personal issues to deal with, but as a collective, they have much to face also.  The common people fear them for they cannot understand them.  The Church is against them because they cannot control them, and this, at a time when the Church held the power of life and death in their hands.

A beguinage – a sanctuary for women who did not wish to marry or become a nun – sounds to me, the perfect refuge for a woman who seeks only to be herself, who seeks freedom from the dominance of others.  Of course, these communities were not without rules, the paramount one being that one must remain celibate as long as they were part of the community, but you also had to serve the community you were part of in some way; in the fields, in the infirmaries, etc.  These women were also educated and taught to read, and could be elected to the council of Martha’s who together ensured these establishments were run as well as they possibly could be.

The location of the story was perfect; an isolated, fictitious village in Norfolk serves as the cauldron where all things meet.  And the darker elements of folklore and superstition were spooky enough, scary enough, to ensure the reader understands why the local population behave as they do.  And the lengths some of them go to because of fear and superstition is chilling.

I enjoyed how the story was set out: the timeline reflects that of the day: saints days, feasts and festivals, and the months are given to indicate where in the year we are, and alongside each, there is a snippet or two of background information regarding the day.  All very interesting and very educational.

There is so much I could say about this book – I’ve yet to mention changing climates and catastrophes such as poor harvests – but, for fear of writing an essay, I had better bring this review to an end.  If you enjoy well-researched historical fiction combined with the gothic and supernatural, and a story well-grounded in the time it is set, I can’t recommend this book enough.  Unputdownable!

Rating

Book Review: Death At Gallows Green by Robin Paige

Death at Gallow’s Green is book two in The Victorian Mystery series by Robin Paige.

Quick Summary

A charming, entertaining, cosy mystery read, set in a wonderful location, with a fantastic cast of characters. It was fun to have Beatrix Potter – not to mention, some of the characters from her own stories – make an appearance.  5/5

Summary (from back of book)

In Death at Bishop’s Keep, Kathryn Ardleigh captured the interest of detective Sir Charles Sheridan as they solved their first case together.  Now the demise of a local constable and the disappearance of a child have the sleuthing couple on the trail of deadly greed and criminal mischief once again.  And with the help of a shy woman who calls herself Beatrix Potter, Kate intends to uncover the sinister secrets of Gallows Green…

Favourite Quote

Kate wondered who Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle was and why she might be confined.  Was she some incompetent relative, some mad person, perhaps?

(Death at Gallows Green by Robin Paige, pg 18)

Review

In the first book in this series, Death at Bishop’s Keep, not only were we introduced to the main character, Kate Ardleigh, and the regular cast of characters (including Sir Charles Sheridan, Bradford and Ellie Marsden) but thanks to the story’s connection to The Order of The Golden Dawn, a number of famous people from history too: Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle and W.B. Yeats.  And so, when I picked up book two in the series I wondered if this theme of using real people would continue.  I was not disappointed…

I’m a big fan of Beatrix Potter’s books, and when I first found out that Beatrix was a character in this book, I wasn’t sure what to think.  It would have been very easy for her inclusion to have come across as cringeworthy or childish even, but I’m pleased to say that this wasn’t the case at all.  She – along with her wonderful creations – were a wonderful addition to the story, and I truly hope to see her again in later books, even if it is only briefly.

This book was so cleverly written.  Many of Beatrix Potter’s characters from her stories made an appearance – a particular favourite being that “foolish duck”, Jemima Puddle-Duck, and of course, Peter Rabbit – whilst other characters in the book were made out to be possible inspiration for others. Such examples were the shady Mr McGregor and his wife, Mrs McGregor, and Mr Tod.

The mystery was engaging and held my attention throughout, and the budding possible romance was sweet, and in places, delightfully comical.  I liked how each chapter began with a quote that in some way relates to that particular chapter.  All-in-all, another entertaining cosy mystery read.

I’m really enjoying this series, so much so that I’ve already started collecting the other books from it – out of sequence, I might add, though I am determined to read them in order.  So far I have Death at Devil’s Bridge, Death on Epsom Downs and Death in Hyde Park…I’ve not yet got the third book, Death at Daisy’s Folly, yet.

Rating

 

Bookish Reflections – July 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

Indie Only is over for another year.  Four books read and reviewed this month, and all of them belonging to series that I hope to continue reading in the future.

This month has been a terrible one for acquiring books.  17 books – yes, 17!!! – have made their way into my house, while only one has been earmarked for rehoming.  Although it looks like I have no control when it comes to buying books (which I don’t…sigh), most of these are part of series I’m already reading, while a number of them were gifts.

I’ve also realised that my digital bookshelves are just as bad as my real ones; they are full of books I’ve not yet got around to reading. Indie Only Month has helped a bit as a couple of this month’s reads had been on my shelves for a while.  But I have work to do here too to get these numbers down to a manageable level.

August is Historical Fiction Month at Sammi Loves Books.  As always, any recommendations or review requests for historical fiction are always welcome (in this instance, please ignore the “Currently Closed to Review Requests” message on the sidebar / on the review requests page) and if you’re a historical fiction writer who would like to be interviewed  or share your book / book cover, please do get in touch at: sammicoxbooks@gmail.com

Books I’ve reviewed

Other Book-Related Posts

Favourite read(s) of the month

  • Pretty Is As Pretty Dies by Elizabeth Spann Craig

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

Are you ready for the list?

  • The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick
  • The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
  • Death at the Priory by James Ruddick
  • The Romantic Poets – an anthology from The Great Writers Library
  • The War Poets – an anthology from The Great Writers Library
  • Anthology of Fear – The Great Writers Library
  • The Piper on the Mountain by Ellis Peters
  • Death to the Landlords by Ellis Peters
  • Death of a Dustman by M.C. Beaton
  • Lady Fortescue Steps Out by M.C. Beaton
  • Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay
  • Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon
  • Moon Magic by Dion Fortune
  • Death at Epsom Downs by Robin Paige
  • Death in Hyde Park by Robin Paige
  • The Green Knight by Iris Murdoch
  • The Templar Legion by Paul Christopher

Books I’ve downloaded

  • None – I suppose that makes up for the “real” books I bought… again…or does it? :-/

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • Pretty Is As Pretty Dies by Elizabeth Spann Craig
  • Diamonds and Cole by Michael Maxwell
  • Deadly Secrets by Terry Odell

July’s “Read and Review” Goals*

  • A Myrtle Clover Mystery by Elizabeth Spann Craig, but didn’t specify which one

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

What I’m reading and reviewing in August

August is Historical Fiction Month, so I will only be reading and reviewing books by historical fiction authors.  I’ve picked half of the books I’m going to read and review (one them has already been read) but as for the others I’m still pondering.  One thing I’m not short of is historical fiction books waiting to be read.  No doubt there will be a review of a Lindsey Davis or Ellis Peters book at some point next month… 🙂

  • Death at Gallows Green by Robin Paige (read, awaiting review)
  • The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland (currently reading)

Goodreads Reading Challenge

My goal is 40.  I’ve read 27.  68% complete.  5 books ahead of schedule. Woohoo!

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: 29

Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019

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

  • 19: A book by an indie author – The Watchmaker’s Daughter by C. J. Archer

Total challenges complete: 8 / 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: 12 / 20

  • The Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton – duplicate copy

Book Review: Deadly Secrets by Terry Odell

Deadly Secrets is the first book in the Mapleton Mystery series by Terry Odell.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An enjoyable, quick read mystery with an added handful of romance.  An interesting setting with an engaging cast of characters, I look forward to reading book two in the series.  4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Mapleton, Colorado’s police chief, Gordon Hepler, would rather be on the streets than behind a desk, but he promised his late mentor he’d accept the position. And to Gordon, a promise is a promise, even if the person you made it to isn’t around anymore. However, doubts creep in, and he wonders if he was shoved into the job because his mentor thought he couldn’t cut it on the streets.

Everything changes when a fatal traffic accident well outside Mapleton seems connected to the elderly Rose and Sam Kretzer, two of Mapleton’s most beloved citizens. When Gordon ties the car accident to a grisly murder in Mapleton—the first anyone in town can remember—he’s afraid he’s into more than he bargained for.

The arrival of Megan, the Kretzers grown godchild, and Justin, their grandson, add to Gordon’s troubles when Megan is mugged and someone breaks in and ransacks the Kretzers’ home. Gordon’s fears that he’s in over his head are realized when his investigation seems to link the Kretzers to a Nazi war criminal. Can he work with the big-city detective brought in to assist? Will he be able to solve the crime without revealing the secrets of his citizens?

Favourite Quote

Things happen for a reason.  As a cop, it’s your job to find it.  Don’t worry about whether it makes sense.  People are nuts.

(Deadly Secrets by Terry Odell, Chapter 25)

Review

I really enjoyed the first of the Mapleton Mysteries, Deadly Secrets.  A cosy mystery with a handful of romance, it reminded me of a TV movie, the type you can easily get lost in for a couple of hours and not realise how much time has passed.

The mystery was good, even if it did get a little complicated towards the end. There are plenty of twists and turns and red herrings for an amateur sleuth to wade through, which did a fantastic job of holding my interest.

As for the characters, they were all engaging and entertaining, but I did struggle a little bit to connect with Megan.  For some reason, I just didn’t quite like her, but neither did I dislike her.  Perhaps as I read more in the series, I will warm to her…

I thought the pace was good overall, and that the story moved forward at just the right speed.  I liked how the story was told from multiple viewpoints.  When something happened in the plot we were given the best POV to show us what was going on.  This had a great effect of heightening the tension and suspense throughout.

I loved the setting. The small town of Mapleton came to life as I read, and so did the characters.  All the details a reader needed was cleverly woven into the narrative.

Deadly Secrets is a well-written and well-crafted story, and I am looking forward to a return trip to Mapleton for book two, Deadly Bones.  Recommended to fans of (cosy) mysteries, but unlike most cosy mysteries, this book does have one adult scene which are not typical of the genre.

Rating

Book Review: Diamonds and Cole by Michael Maxwell

Diamonds and Cole is the first book in the Cole Sage series by Michael Maxwell.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Interesting and entertaining, I really like Cole Sage and am looking forward to reading more from this series. 4 / 5

Summary (from Wattpad)

Beaten, bloody but determined, Cole Sage conquers greed and hatred with a strength that only love and a will as hard as diamond can achieve.  He is blocked at every turn by the husband who has abandoned Cole’s great love, his shady real estate deals, violent con men, street thugs and the lure of a fortune in diamonds that bring them all together.  How far would you go for the one that got away?

Favourite Quote

“Any day above ground is a good day, I guess.” Cole replied.

(Diamonds and Cole by Michael Maxwell, Chapter 2)

Review

This story was not what I expected.  In a good way.  I was expecting a straight up mystery, but what I found instead was much deeper than that.  Highly emotional, tender and heart-breaking in places, Diamonds and Cole grabbed my attention from the very beginning and held on to it until the very end.

I love how Cole is described on the series page on Goodreads:

The Cole Sage series brings to life a new kind of hero. Short on vices, long on compassion and dedication to a strong sense of making things right. As a journalist he writes with conviction and purpose. As a friend he is not afraid to bend the law a bit to help and protect those he loves.

As the story unfolds, we get to learn almost everything about Cole Sage from the memories that are stirred by events along the way.  And there are a lot of them.  If you don’t like this particular way of introducing background information, you might have a hard time with this book.  I actually enjoyed them.  I thought they were both interesting and entertaining and provided varied insights into Cole’s character and history.

Cole is a fascinating character.  He is a product of his past mistakes and choices; it is these, rather than his successes and triumphs that have shaped him into the man we see in the story.  Ellie’s character was sensitively – and beautifully – written.

I find it quite difficult to place this story on my bookshelf.  More of a thriller or suspense read, maybe, than a mystery, ultimately, Diamonds and Cole is a story of redemption, and of righting mistakes.  But it has other elements too; romance, drama, danger, crime, characters from all sorts of backgrounds, with all sorts of motives for their action and behaviour.

This was a great first book in a series.  It was well-written and well-thought-out.  The characters and locations all came across as realistic.  Some of the plot twists you can guess before they happen, but it was still a very good read, and I like Cole very much.

I really enjoyed this story, and am interested in seeing where the next book, Cellar Full Of Cole, leads.  It has been added to my TBR list.

Rating