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.

Recent Book Acquisitions

I’ve been on a bit of mystery binge lately. New books which have been added to my shelves include:

  • Death Goes on Skis by Nancy Spain
  • A Spoonful of Murder by J. M. Hall
  • Inspector Singh Investigates by Shamini Flint
  • Strawberry Shortcake Murder by Joanne Fluke
  • The Bangalore Detectives Club by Harini Nagendra

I’ve already started reading Inspector Singh Investigates and I’m enjoying it so much. Review coming soon…

Book Review: Wildings: The Secret Garden of Eileen Soper by Duff Hart-Davis

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A delightful, beautiful book, capturing a snapshot of an unchanging, rural corner of England, whilst also making a wonderful record of the life and artistic talent of Eileen Soper, her father George, and to a lesser extent, her sister Eva. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

When Eileen Soper died in March 1990, the age of 84, executors found an astonishing treasure-trove at her home in Hertfordshire. Not only did the studio contain a great many paintings by her father George Soper, the celebrated horse artist, who had died in 1942. There were also more than 200 watercolours by Eileen herself, as well as a very large number of her drawings, sketchbooks and letters. Much of her work was done in the half-wild garden that surrounds Wildings, her home near Welwyn. Planted by her father, and designed as a sanctuary for birds and other creatures, the garden became the centre of Eileen’s life, when her father died, she and her sister Eva took it on, extended it, lived in it, worked in it, loved it and fought to protect it. In this magical haven birds would settle on Eileen’s head, and deer would come out to feed from her hand. This fabulous book details many of Eileen Soper’ nature artwork a must have for nature lovers as well as art lovers.

Favourite Quote

“For Eileen, the 1930s were and always remained a golden age, which her father’s engravings and paintings caught to perfection: his prints, she felt, reflected ‘the serenity that seemed then still to prevail on the land’.”

(From Wildings: The Secret Garden of Eileen Soper, by Duff Hart-Davis)

Review

I originally was given this book by my mother who thought I would love the illustrations for my junk journalling. However, on closer inspection of the book, we realised that the village in which Eileen Soper lived, the village where Wildings was built, was the next village up from where my own grandmother was born and spent the early years of her life.

Eileen Soper is perhaps best remembered for her illustrations and front cover art for many of Enid Blyton’s books, though her nature drawings and paintings, which I was unfamiliar with prior to reading this book, are beautiful.

The book is wonderfully illustrated with paintings, etchings, and sketches, by both Eileen and her father, George Soper. As well as the book being a biography of mainly Eileen, and contains snippets of the letters she wrote, there are also verses of her poetry too. A favourite read was on the subject of her dislike of modern art, which she conveyed in her own version of Rudyard Kipling’s If.

Making my way through the book, you can feel the sanctuary that was Wildings, especially in 1930s, for the family as a whole. There is art, there is creativity, there is collectiveness, and above all, you can feel the happiness. Also, although there is talk of many outings and holidays, there is a feeling of isolation and remoteness, which conjured a strange sadness in me as I read. I felt as if Wildings was set apart from the rest of the world, and those within its confines did all they could to keep everything inside it the same. But alas, the passing of time would not allow it.

Wildings: The Secret Garden of Eileen Soper is an interesting, engaging read, capturing a snapshot of an unchanging, rural corner of England as well as the essence and eccentricities of creative people in general, whilst also making a wonderful record of the life and artistic talent of Eileen Soper, her father George, and to a lesser extent, her sister Eva. I would highly recommend this book to those with an interest in the local area.

Rating

A Changing of Reading Habits

I’m not sure why, but this year I have completely ignored my own personal reading challenges. July came and went and so did Indie Only Month. Then August said hello, and then goodbye, as did Historical Fiction Month…

These little challenges have structured my reading year for the last ten years in some instances. And, each year, I have looked forward to them with relish and excitement, usually spending the preceding weeks and months putting together wish lists for books to be read and reviewed during the time set aside for the challenge.

Yet this year, things have been different. In part, I think it has been down to the fact that I am not reading as much as I have done in previous years. That’s not to say I’m not reading, I am, I just feel I am being more selective about what I read, as well as being a lot more critical of books I’m not enjoying or don’t live up to hype or expectations. In years past, I would have persevered with a book that felt a little slow or too bogged down in unnecessary detail. This year, if a book doesn’t grab my attention, I put it down and struggle to pick it back up – if I pick it back up at all.

It’s worth pointing out at this juncture, that if I have read a book this year, and gone on to review it, and that review has been positive, I really, really, meant what I said. It has taken a good book to get me through these past months, so if I said I liked it, I liked it a lot.

Another trend I’ve noticed with my reading habits this year, is that I have planned little of what I wanted to read. Instead, I am picking whatever takes my fancy, whether I’ve read it before, had it for years, or only bought it that morning. Usually, I have a pile which are my “next-to-read” books. That doesn’t seem to be working for me at the moment.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

I’m also finding that I am reading more than one book at a time, something I’ve not done since university. Now, I regularly have three books on the go. The first is The Lord of the Rings which I am reading as part of a read along over on my writing site – feel free to head on over there and join in. It’s low commitment at only half a chapter a week. Then I have a book by my bed, which admittedly I don’t read more than a handful of pages before I’m too sleepy to read. The third book sits on my coffee table, and I’m finding, this book sees the most progress.

Looking ahead, there are still two more challenges tentatively marked on the calendar: Halloween Reads and Festive Reads Fortnight. I am not planning on ruling them out at this moment in time, yet I do find myself wondering if I may have outgrown them.

So for now, the badges for the challenges will remain, as will their prominent links to the relevant pages on this site. Whether I will keep them up next year or look to restructure my book reading and reviewing system, remains to be seen, but will probably depend on how the last quarter of this year goes… However, I can’t ignore the fact that at the moment, I am posting twice a week with little difficulty, something I’ve struggled with. And that suggests to me very little planning seems to be working for me, for now, at least…

Book Review: Witch Bottle by Tom Fletcher

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An atmospheric, chilling read. Foreboding and dramatic, this horror story is perfectly balanced and blurs the lines between normal life and the supernatural. 3.5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

A deeply atmospheric literary horror novel about the nature of repressed guilt, grief and fear.

Daniel once had a baby brother, but he died, a long time ago now. And he had a wife and a daughter, but that didn’t work out, so now he’s alone. The easy monotony of his job as a milkman in the remote northwest of England demands nothing from him other than dealing with unreasonable customer demands and the vagaries of his enigmatic boss.

But things are changing. Daniel’s started having nightmares, seeing things that can’t possibly be there – like the naked, emaciated giant with a black bag over its head which is so real he swears he could touch it . . . if he dared.

It’s not just at night bad things are happening, either, or just to him. Shaken and unnerved, he opens up to a local witch. She can’t t discern the origins of his haunting, but she can provide him with a protective ward – a witch-bottle – if, in return, he will deliver her products on his rounds.

But not everyone’s happy to find people meddling with witch-bottles. Things are about to get very unpleasant . . .

Witch Bottle is literary horror at its finest, perfect for fans of Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney and Starve Acre.

Favourite Quote

I like to imagine that I live in one of the old farmhouses that dot the lonely moors, even though the thought of living in one of them makes me feel cold and afraid.

(From Witch Bottle by Tom Fletcher, page 12)

Review

Witch Bottle is a strange, sometimes weird, imaginative horror story. I think, if I’m honest, I wanted to enjoy this book more than I did. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy at all, I just expected to enjoy it more.

There were plenty of things about this book that I thought were done very well. The atmosphere steadily built up until it became chilling. The book was well-written, easy to read and flowed nicely. I could easily picture the setting and the people Daniel met over the course of his day. The bizarre goings-on were so well-written that it was easy for the line between normal life and the supernatural to become blurred. Characters talking of ghosts almost seemed ordinary. Almost. And this gave the story a haunting, menacing, sinister quality.

Isolation was definitely one of the words I kept coming back to when I thought about writing this review. The isolation and bleak desolation of the setting. Daniel’s isolation from loved ones and family, and having very few real friends, if any. The isolation and loneliness that comes with issues of mental health. There is a chilling bleakness to this story, both in the narrative as the tale unfolds but in the backstory too. There’s is very little cheer here.

The story just felt a little too elusive for me, and I was unsure about the ending. Where the book had done so well balancing the creepy supernatural with normal life, making these strange goings on appear part and parcel of local, rural life, the ending felt a little out of step with the preceding tone.

Rating

3.5 / 5

Book Review: The Whole Cat and Caboodle by Sophie Ryan

The Whole Cat and Caboodle is the first book in the Second Chance Cat Mystery series by Sophie Ryan.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

This book is a great first book in a cosy mystery series. The characters were well-developed, the setting evocatively described and the plot engaging and entertaining. I absolutely loved this book and can imagine returning to read it again and again and again. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Sarah Grayson is the happy proprietor of Second Chance, a charming shop in the oceanfront town of North Harbor, Maine. At the shop, she sells used items that she has lovingly refurbished and repurposed. But her favorite pet project so far has been adopting a stray cat she names Elvis.

Elvis has seen nine lives—and then some. The big black cat with a scar across his nose turned up at a local bar when the band was playing the King of Rock and Roll’s music and hopped in Sarah’s truck. Since then, he’s been her constant companion and the furry favorite of everyone who comes into the store.

But when Sarah’s elderly friend Maddie is found with the body of a dead man in her garden, the kindly old lady becomes the prime suspect in the murder. Even Sarah’s old high school flame, investigator Nick Elliot, seems convinced that Maddie was up to no good. So it’s up to Sarah and Elvis to clear her friend’s name and make sure the real murderer doesn’t get a second chance.

Favourite Quote

Like my grandmother, Charlotte thought tea fixed everything from a broken bracelet clasp to a broken heart.

(From The Whole Cat and Caboodle by Sophie Ryan, page 52)

Review

I absolutely loved this book and can imagine returning to read it again and again and again.

This book is a great first book in a cosy mystery series. The characters were well-developed, the setting evocatively described and the plot engaging and entertaining.

Elvis the Cat is fantastic and an interesting addition to the cast of characters. Animal characters can be really hard to write without making the story sound childish, but the author does a wonderful job here.

I also liked Sarah Grayson. She worked well as a main character. She is focused, determined, intelligent and strong, but she is also a little vulnerable meaning she is easy to connect with. She is surrounded by a wonderful selection of friends, some being her own friends from when she was younger, others being more like family.

I loved the setting, and if I wasn’t on the other side of the world, Maine is definitely a place I would like to visit, especially in the autumn. North Harbor sounded like a wonderfully touristy little town, and I would certainly have been happy to spend hours looking around Second Chance.

There is plenty of humour in the writing, making these mysteries a light, easy and enjoyable read. It was a gentle read, that pulls you into story, and I found it held my attention from beginning to end.

The only (very small) negative I had with the story was it felt a tiny bit repetitive in places. This was down to the cast of characters being so extensive and any time a development in the case was made, it had to be relayed to the characters that weren’t there. That’s not to say that great swathes of the book were repeated time and again, they weren’t, but rather the niggle came from variations of “so-and-so needed filling in / catching up”, etc.

The next book in the series is Buy A Whisker, and I’ve already bought it. I can’t wait to read it!

Rating

Book Cover Love #5

Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

I love all of Karen Maitland’s stories that I’ve read.  She is, I think one of the best historical writers writing today.  And, I love the covers of her books as well as the tales inside of them.  They always ooze medieval eeriness…

I’m planning on re-reading The Owl Killers and posting a review of it in the not-so-distant future (I hope!).  It was this book that first introduced me to Maitland’s wonderful storytelling abilities, but the focus of this post is perhaps the book she is most widely known for…Company of Liars.

The cover art is simply amazing.  The colour, size and style of the lettering quickly create a feeling of the historical but it is the wolf’s head with the crosses and skulls and the runes, etc. that truly evoke a medieval atmosphere as well as the fear that naturally accompanied the spread of the plague.  This is certainly one of my favourite book covers of all time.

You can read my review of Company of Liars, posted on this site in August 2014, here.  Or visit my A-Z Review Index to find links to other Karen Maitland books I’ve reviewed.

Book Review: Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon

Cross Stitch is the first book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. If I’m not mistaken, it was released in the UK with this title, but elsewhere it was just called “Outlander”, which makes a lot more sense to me, I have to say.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Not necessarily an easy read, but this is a well-written piece of historical fiction, with a cast of well-crafted characters but most of all, a stunning setting. Not for the faint-hearted. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

CLAIRE RANDALL IS LEADING A DOUBLE LIFE, SHE HAS A HUSBAND IN ONE CENTURY – AND A LOVER IN ANOTHER…

In 1945, Claire Randall is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon in Scotland. Innocently she walks through a stone circle in the Highlands and finds herself in a violent skirmish taking place in 1743. Suddenly she is a Sassenach, an outlander, in a country torn by war and by clan feuds.

A wartime nurse, Claire can deal with the bloody wounds that face her. But it is harder to deal with the knowledge that she is in Jacobite Scotland and the carnage of Culloden is looming. Marooned amid the passion and violence, the superstition , the shifting allegiances and the fervent loyalties, Claire is in danger from James Fraser, a gallant and courageous young Scots warrior. Jamie shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire, and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

Favourite Quote

‘I can bear pain, myself,’ he said softly, ‘but I couldna bear yours. That would take more strength than I have.’

(From Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon, page 671)

Review

This is a story of conflict. Of emotional conflict. Of Claire and her love for her husband, and of her greater love for Jamie Fraser. It is chaotic, powerful, and more than anything else, dangerous. It is also a story of physical conflict, of action, of armed conflict, where people often get hurt in horrible ways, and some of them end up dead. It’s quite brutal and tumultuous, really. Yet it is also a very good book.

This book is so well-written. A lot of thought has gone into the characters, especially Claire so that although she might be out of time, she isn’t necessarily out of place. Jamie Fraser is the perfect hero: a warrior, but understated; he’s not out for power or glory, he just wants a quiet life, yet he tries to speak out against injustice. Other characters I was fascinated by included Geillis Duncan who seemed to reveal in the idea that the local populace thought she was a witch, Murtagh who came across a little bit like a small wiry guardian angel, and I was also intrigued by the comparisons between Frank and Captain Randall.

There are some pretty unsavoury passages in Cross Stitch / Outlander and Captain Randall must be the cruellest creature I have ever come across in a book. There is also a lot of adult content (if you weren’t aware), including, sex, violence, what we would call domestic violence today, torture, and more besides. (Would the story read as well with this reduced or removed? I wonder…) It’s complex and gritty and harrowing, and the characters, mostly at the mercy of others (or lack thereof), are emotional, vulnerable, angry, desperate. This book is not an easy read in places. Yet there is also love, and kindness and compassion, to be found here too.

However, in terms of historical fiction, this book feels like it has gone the extra mile to make the time it is set in as realistic as possible. Life was dangerous, hard and often cruel, even more so for women. The author doesn’t believe in sparing the reader from the details of what her characters face, including their suffering.

What’s interesting in terms of the time travel aspect of this book compared to some that I’ve read, is that Claire has a very keen understanding of the history she is living through. She knows of the life changing historical events to come, and the stronger her connections with the past become, the more likely she is to interfere with the timeline, and this burden weighs on her.

The dialogue is well-crafted. I don’t often like dialogue written in dialect or accents because it can often pull me out of the story while I try and work out what is being said. However, here the dialogue, even written with a Scottish accent, is easy to read and understand, and adds to the reading experience, rather than detracts from it.

My favourite part of the whole story (perhaps even more than the love story aspect) is, unsurprisingly if you’ve read any of my reviews before, the setting. It is stunning, and the descriptions throughout the book bring eighteenth century Scotland to life. They are rich in flora, fauna, changes in the landscape and how people interact with their environment, and how mythology, folklore and superstition weaves through it. It’s mind-blowing in its richness and the level of detail.

My big problem with this book was with how long it was. It felt like I was reading it forever. That being said, I can’t call to mind where exactly I would have trimmed the book down. Everything felt relevant when I was reading and while I was reading it, I didn’t feel like I wasn’t enjoying it.

Following on from this, given how it is said readers tend to have a shorter attention span for reading today compared to thirty years ago when the book was first published, I wonder if the book was published today whether it would have been split into two, or even three volumes.

Will I be reading the next book in the series? Probably, but just not yet. It is a big time commitment to read such a vast volume, and I have a TBR list so long that it hurts just thinking about it. So for now, I am going to read some shorter, lighter stories…

Rating

4 / 5

Afternoon Tea with Karina Bartow

My latest author interview over afternoon tea is with Karina Bartow. Her new book, Wrong Line, Right Connection, was released this week, and you can read my review of it here. Having immensely enjoyed this book, I was excited to be able to put my ten reading and writing questions to her.

So grab a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit or slice of cake, then sit back and relax and read the interview…


Thanks so much for taking the time to join us for afternoon tea today, Karina. To begin with, for those who don’t know you or have yet to discover your writing, please introduce yourself.

I’m Karina Bartow, I’m from the States. For the past thirteen years, I’ve written eight novels, consisting of mysteries and love stories. Four of them have been published. My latest, Wrong Line, Right Connection, just came out this week.

•♦•

When did you first realise you wanted to become a writer?

When I was nine, my mom and sister took me to a meet-and-greet with a children’s book author at our local library. As I listened to her speak about her writing and her love for it, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

•♦•

Where do you find your inspiration?

All over the place, but mainly from the people I love. In the case of my latest release, Wrong Line, Right Connection, some very dear friends who were like grandparents to me inspired the story. Though most of it’s fictional, I used little nuggets of truth to sculpt the plot.

wrong-line-right-connection-front-cover

•♦•

Can you tell us about your writing process? What’s the first thing you do when you get a new idea?

I might make a note of it, but typically I just wait and let it simmer for a while. I don’t do much pre-writing, so once I get a chance to start it, I go for it.

•♦•

In your opinion, what’s the best and worst thing about being a writer?

The best thing is being able to create your own world without all the confines of reality weighing you down. The worst thing is trying to figure out what’s going to land well with a publisher or even a reader.

•♦•

What projects have you been working on recently? What plans do you have for the future?

While I’ve dipped my toes into love stories a bit, I primarily write mysteries. Earlier this year, my second installment of The Unde(a)feted Detective Series, Brother of Interest, came out, so I’ve been working on the follow-up to that. In the meantime, I’m writing a short story that’s a bridge between the two, which will be featured in a podcast.

•♦•

Many authors are also avid readers. Who are some of your favourite authors? Can you share with us some of your favourite books?

I love Nicholas Sparks, and his novel, A Walk to Remember, is my all-time favorite. I also have recently enjoyed some of Marie Benedict’s books.

•♦•

If you were only allowed to own three books, which three would you choose?

The Bible, A Walk to Remember, and The Secret Garden.

•♦•

We love quotes at Sammi Loves Books. Please share with us one of your favourite quotes from one of your own stories or poems, and explain why you chose it.

In Wrong Line, Right Connection, Roy tells Mabel, “Love comes from way down deep and never dies if it’s really there.” I’d like to take credit for the beautiful line, but in truth, it’s a line I took from an actual love letter between the friends who inspired the novel. It will always be special to me because I loved getting to use his own words in the book, and the sentiment resonated with me and the story in an ideal way.

•♦•

Another thing we love at Sammi Loves Books is afternoon tea. If you could have afternoon tea with any author or fictional character, who would you choose and why? Just so you know, the table can seat four, so feel free to fill all available seats, but don’t forget to leave one for yourself! 😉 Also, where might you have this afternoon tea and what is being served? You know, so we can all enjoy it…

I’m not much of a girly girl, so I’ll admit my tea party would be unconventional. I’d enjoy having Mark Twain, along with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. We’d probably have it in the woods somewhere, and in honor of Huck, we’d eat wild huckleberry jam on biscuits, huckleberry brownies, and huckleberry tea (or coffee). I’d just have fun seeing what the boys could get into and which one is most fashioned after Twain.

•♦•

Thank you so much for the interview, Karina.  I thoroughly enjoyed your answers. Your description of afternoon tea with Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn sounds like so much fun! And I love how words from the real-world inspiration behind your latest novel found their way into the story.  Wishing you every success with Wrong Line, Right Connection and all future projects!

And readers, don’t forget…As I mentioned in the introduction to the interview, you can read my review of Wrong Line, Right Connection right now, by following this link.

Connect with the Author

Press Release Karina Bartow

Karina Bartow grew up and still lives in Northern Ohio. Though born with Cerebral Palsy, she’s never allowed her disability to define her. Rather, she’s used her experiences to breathe life into characters who have physical limitations, but like her, are determined not to let them stand in the way of the life they want. Her works include Husband in Hiding, Brother of Interest, Forgetting My Way Back to You, and Wrong Line, Right Connection. She may only be able to type with one hand, but she writes with her whole heart!

Website | Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

Wrong Line, Right Connection is out now. You can find it on Amazon. Also Karina’s 2018 novel, Forgetting My Way Back to You, which also features Mabel, is available for $.99 on Kindle September 5-10.


If you would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books, check out this post.

ARC Book Review: Wrong Line, Right Connection by Karina Bartow

My thanks to the author, Karina Bartow, for sending me an ARC of her latest release to review. You can learn more about her books by visiting her website. She’s also my latest guest for Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books. You can find Wrong Line, Right Connection on Amazon. Also her 2018 novel, Forgetting My Way Back to You, which also features Mabel, is available for $.99 on Kindle September 5-10.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Wrong Line, Right Connection is a light, sweet, whirlwind of a romance read. I loved the characters and the setting, but most of all I loved how Mabel and Roy connected! Fresh and entertaining, I enjoyed it from start to finish. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Could a mortifying day on the job end up netting you true love?

When switchboard operator Mabel Jennings reports to work on a Monday in the summer of 1964, she doesn’t have any interest in finding love again. A visitor from Coatesville, Pennsylvania changes that. On a business trip, Roy Stentz calls her station, and his deep yet kind voice intrigues her. She tries to remain professional, but in her smitten state, she connects him to the wrong line…twice, in fact. Finally, Roy invites her out to dinner, saying he wants to see if she’s a better date than an operator.

The haphazard introduction sets an unexpected romance into motion. Going out every night while he’s in town, their bond deepens as they share the tragedies they’ve endured and observe each other’s beautiful qualities. Mabel’s past travails with love, however, hold her back from committing to anything permanent. Will she overcome her reluctance and open her heart to the love calling out to her? Or will she hang up on her chance for happiness?

Favourite Quote

“Like a wounded soldier, she didn’t yearn to take in the battlefield one last time.”

(From Wrong Line, Right Connection by Karina Bartow, page 2)

Review

This was such a sweet, enjoyable read. Full of emotion and sentimentality, Wrong Line, Right Connection is a story of love after loss and heartache.

Mabel is a genuine, likeable character, and as the tale unfolds, you can’t help but root for her. She is also strong, caring and independent. Roy is sweet, charming and determined, yet his perseverance isn’t overbearing. He is the perfect gentleman, and I just love how their paths cross.

For a story where the couple in question fall almost instantly in love, there is nothing artificial or unbelievable in this tale. Rather, their romance is not only convincing but perfectly plausible in the way it’s told. The writer does well in showing the reader that although the relationship appears fast-moving, the couple don’t ignore their sensible reservations either. The story is fresh and entertaining and I enjoyed it from start to finish.

My favourite character (besides Mabel, of course) was Mabel’s friend Evelyn. Their friendship was heart-warming to read, and the way she always knew what to say to Mabel to either pick her up when she was down or in an attempt to make her see the error of her way, was fantastic. Everyone needs a friend like Evelyn.

I know very little about 1960’s America, but the setting was brought wonderfully to life. I could easily envisage where Mabel worked, the truck Roy drove, the theme park they went to, as well as all the other locations visited. The flashbacks included in the narrative added another dimension to the story, helping not only to bring Mabel’s backstory to life but to illustrate the thinking behind some of her motivations.

If you’re looking for a quick, gentle, but above all sweet romance read, I can happily recommend this story to you.

Rating

Book Review: The 1066 from Normandy by Howard of Warwick

The 1066 from Normandy is the sixteenth book in The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage by Hugh of Warwick.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An engaging and entertaining medieval murder mystery, with a cast of wonderful characters and an interesting setting. A thoroughly enjoyable read. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Death and taxes… with extra death.

Yet more medieval detective-sort-of-thing from the best selling author…

Brother Hermitage, the King’s most medieval investigator, is about to discover the true meaning of the Norman Conquest; money.

It’s all very well Saxons fighting William on the battlefield and trying to kill him, but evading his taxes is simply beyond the pale. Something must be done about it. And who better to do something about things than his own investigator?

The first problem is that the King’s Investigator doesn’t understand what it is. But then not understanding things has never held him back in the past.

If tax evasion is a bad thing – which William assures him it is – then the people who do it are positively revolting. Hermitage has dealt with deceit, dishonesty and deception in the past, but he’s never met people who have made it their life’s work.

Needless to say, Wat and Cwen the weavers are dragged into this, quite literally, and Wat seems to know rather too much about dodging tax.

And then, of course, the bodies start piling up. Death and taxes, eh? Who’d have thought…

Favourite Quote

There were so many passages I could have quoted from this book, most of them by Cwen, but I thought this universal truth seems very relevant in today’s world:

“Rich people do tend to behave worse about their money than people who haven’t got any,” Cwen agreed.

(From The 1066 from Normandy by Howard of Warwick, pager 222)

Review

The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage have been on my “To read / To buy” list for ages, so when I stumbled across this one in a shop I couldn’t resist, even though it is the sixteenth book in the series. Now, I don’t usually start a series part way through, but my usual reservations about doing so were unfounded. I could follow along perfectly well, and am looking forward to reading many more volumes in this series.

I loved the characters. Brother Hermitage is hilarious and Wat the Weaver and Cwen are perfect sidekicks. Cwen, in fact, was my favourite. Together, these three characters make for an engaging, entertaining story, and their camaraderie is just perfect for a cosy mystery series. Le Pedvin was sinisterly scary as the right-hand man of King William (he also happens to think Brother Hermitage is an idiot!) and as for the conspirators the trio meet along the way, they are devious and deceitful and of course, cannot possibly be trusted.

I loved the setting. Exploring the Midlands of a thousand years ago really highlights the change in the landscape compared to the Midlands of today. What was green and forested then (except for some mines and a few hovels) is now heavily urbanised and built upon. I also loved how Chesterfield was such a disappointment to the travelling group when they arrived there, having expected at least a village where they could stay, rather than a hovel close by to some old Roman ruins of a fort.

I loved the story. Taxes are of course, boring and complicated, but when combined with a plot to withhold them from the king, they can also become deadly. I thought it wonderful how Brother Hermitage, as the King’s Investigator, is given a mission to uncover this plot when he simply doesn’t understand all this talk of tax. It baffles him and he can’t understand why anyone would get involved in it. Luckily for him, Wat and Cwen seemed to have a perfect understanding of tax-dodging, which although helpful to Brother Hermitage, also alarms him a great deal!

All-in-all, I loved this book and will be returning to read more from the series in the future. I recommend this to anyone who’s interested in reading a light-hearted murder mystery set in the years after the Norman conquest.

Rating