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.

Book Review: Birds of A Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Birds of a Feather is book 2 in the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An interesting mystery and an interesting setting, but not my favourite cosy mystery series…at least not yet.  The series has potential and I’m hoping I’ll warm to Maisie the more I read. 2.5 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

London, 1929. Joseph Waite is a man who knows what he wants. With his Havana cigars and Savile Row suits, he is one of Britain’s wealthiest men. And the last thing he needs is a scandal. When his unmarried daughter runs away from home, he is determined to keep the case away from the police and the newspapers. So he turns to a woman renowned for her discretion and investigative powers – the extraordinary Maisie Dobbs.

Maisie soon discovers that there are many reasons why Charlotte Waite might have left home, and instinctively feels the woman is in safe hands. Yet the investigator suddenly finds herself confronting a murder scene.

Favourite Quote

“Simply and only, simply and only. Everything and nothing are simple, as you know.”

(From Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear, page 128)

Review

I read the first book in this series last year and was, quite disappointedly, underwhelmed by it.  I had seen so many great reviews of the series, and the main character, Maisie Dobbs, seems to be a fairly popular heroine, and I hoped the stories would pick up.

So how did I find this next book in the series?  On the one hand, it was better than the first, the major point in its favour being it lacked the huge info dump in the middle.  And my favourite character has to be Billy Beale – I think he’s great, genuine, authentic; a character that comes across as real and believable.

But…I don’t like Maisie.  She comes across as cold, judgemental, interfering and sometimes a little manipulative, even though we are repeatedly told she is lonely, kind, intelligent and compassionate. It also didn’t help that she all of a sudden appears to possess psychic and clairsentient abilities, something I did not remember at all from the first book.  I recalled there was a bit about eastern mysticism and meditation, but that’s all.  And I’m still not a fan of Maurice Blanche – he’s too wonderful and perfect as a mentor. A Know It All, who Maisie relies upon too much.

The storyline itself was good and interesting, though I deduced the culprit pretty early on but it was entertaining to see how they might be apprehended.  Also the narrative contained enough historical description to bring the period and the setting to life, which was one of the highlights of the book.

The big question is, will I read anymore from this series? My answer would probably be no if I hadn’t already purchased a good number of books in the series.  My philosophy at present is, I’ve already bought them so I might as well read them, whilst living in hope of being able to find what so many others seem to enjoy in them.  And I really do want to enjoy them.  They are set in a period I enjoy reading about, with a main character whose adventures I would usually find entertaining.  Fingers crossed, things get better with book 3…

This was such a hard book to rate.  I gave Maisie Dobbs 3.5 stars (you can find my review here), which is more than I thought, and not being able to decide whether it would be 2 or 3 this time round, I opted for half way.  It seemed fair.

Rating

2.5 / 5

Book Review: The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Quick review (read on for full review)

The War of The Worlds is an important book, given its publication at the start of the science fiction genre. For that reason alone it is worth a read. But there are other reasons to read this book: to get a glimpse into how different people react in a crisis, for its criticism of colonialism and because it raises questions of humanity and morality. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

‘For countless centuries Mars has been the star of war’

The night after a shooting star is seen streaking through the sky from Mars, a cylinder is discovered on Horsell Common near London. At first, naive locals approach the cylinder armed just with a white flag – only to be quickly killed by an all-destroying heat-ray as terrifying tentacled invaders emerge. Soon the whole of human civilization is under threat, as powerful Martians build gigantic killing machines, destroy all in their path with black gas and burning rays, and feast on the warm blood of trapped, still-living human prey. The forces of the Earth, however, may prove harder to beat than they at first appear.

The first modern tale of alien invasion, The War of the Worlds remains one of the most influential of all science-fiction works. Part of a brand-new Penguin series of H.G. Wells’s works, this edition includes a newly established text, a full biographical essay on Wells, a further reading list and detailed notes. The introduction, by Brian Aldiss, considers the novel’s view of religion and society.

Favourite Quote

‘It’s a pity they make themselves so unapproachable,’ he said. ‘It would be curious to know how they live on another planet; we might learn a thing or two.’

(From The War of The Worlds by H.G. Wells, page 38)

Review

After watching the recent BBC adaptation of this story, I thought it was high time I got around to actually reading it as I had yet to.  And I wasn’t disappointed…not at all.  And I must say, that although seeing the TV dramatization was the driving force behind me picking up the book, the book was so much better.  Not necessarily because I didn’t enjoy the adaptation – I didn’t think it was that bad – but the original story was fantastic.

Part of the reason it came across as fantastic is, I think, due to the context in which it was written.  First published in 1898, many things we consider “science” and “technology” had not been invented yet, or if it had, was still in its infancy.  So to read descriptions of alien spaceships and weapons where the author had little-to-no point of reference illustrates the power of the imagination.

If this book was written today, I think it would look quite different.  The story would be told from the POV of a reluctant hero who would some how manage to beat the aliens and save Earth. It would be a battle and we would win.  It would be a triumph of good over evil.  But this isn’t the story H.G. Wells wrote.  Rather it is, for the most part, a first-hand account of an alien invasion and how ordinary people react to this sudden and terrible event.  And, against a technologically superior foe, this response is limited.

This allows us to see what the main character sees: the aliens, the landing craft, their weapons, the desolation of settlements turned to ruins (a foreshadowing of the horrors of modern warfare, less than two decades away…), the panic-filled people not knowing what to do or where to go…

As the main character meets other people on his journey, we get to see how different personalities respond to this immense stress.  An artilleryman searching for order in the chaos, a curate who struggles with his faith, an astronomer whose curiosity is piqued, but there are others too.  The disbelief of those who had not seen first-hand what had happened clinging on to normality. The abject terror and then hope of those on a paddle-steamer heading for the continent, when a navy ironclad decides to attack three Martians that are following them.

A number of references are made throughout the book that almost suggest that mankind, at least the colonial powers, do not have a justified right to complain at being on the sharp end of things for once.  And, it’s hard not to see where the author is coming from with these remarks, given species extinction through human activity and the decimation – or worse – of native populations through expansion and colonialism, both of which the author mentions, before posing the question:

Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?

(The War of The Worlds by H.G. Wells, page 9)

The War of The Worlds is an important book, given its publication at the start of the science fiction genre.  For that reason alone it is worth a read.  But there are other reasons to read this book: to get a glimpse into how different people react in a crisis, for its criticism of colonialism and because it raises questions of humanity and morality.

Rating

 

Bookish Reflections – March 2020

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

March was a good month for books at Sammi Loves Books.  Six reviews posted, two of which were for books that had been waiting to be reviewed for quite a while!  Not only that, I’ve been reading quite a bit too though I am trying to do it in a measured way (ha!) so that I don’t get completely swamped by a backlog of reviews – that list is long enough as it is! So far so good…

I’ve also started to review the audiobooks I’ve been listening to, which is something I’ve not done before.  I don’t listen to audiobooks all that much as I find I need to be actively reading, especially over a prolonged period, in order to not drift away and give my attention to something else.  What I have found though is that a chapter here and there, when doing easy household tasks or as a break from computer-based work, works very well for me, at least for the moment…

If any writers / poets / authors / etc, would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books check out this page for more information, FAQs and an index of all the previous interviews.  If you’ve any questions, please do get in touch at: sammicoxbooks@gmail.com

To keep up-to-date with what I’m reading and reviewing, find me on Facebook and Goodreads.

Books I’ve reviewed

Other Book-Related Posts

  •  None this month

Favourite read(s) of the month

  •  The Spinner’s Child by Crispina Kemp

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

  •  None – woohoo! This makes a change!

Books I’ve downloaded

  •  The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (audio book)

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • Not very much recently unfortunately…I hope that changes soon…

March’s “Read and Review” Goals*

  • The Spinner’s Child by Crispina Kemp
  • Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen
  • Blood Queen by Joanna Courtney
  • Dawnthief by James Barclay
  • The War of The Worlds by H.G. Wells

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

What I’m reading and reviewing in April

  • The War of The Worlds by H.G. Wells (read, review awaiting posting)
  • The Leper of St Giles by Ellis Peters (read, awaiting review)
  • Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear (currently reading)
  • What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge (currently listening to)

Basic Book Review Challenge 2020

To post (at least) one book review a week, to reach a target of 52 over the course of the year.

Month started at: 5 / 52

Month finished at: 11 / 52

Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019

I’m revisiting this challenge I started last year, to complete the challenges I missed. I’ve completed the following challenges from the list this month:

  • #13: a book you’ve read before
  • #16: a book you didn’t finish on your previous attempt to read it

Total challenges completed in 2019: 8 / 20

Total challenges completed in 2020: 3 / 12

Total: 11 / 20

You can find the complete list of challenges here.

A to Z Review Index Challenge

  • No change here – Still the letter “I” to go.

Challenge status: 1 / 2

Read, Review, Rehome

Goal: 20 | Total so far: 4 / 20

  • Dawnthief by James Barclay
  • Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen
  • Blood Queen by Joanna Courtney

Short Story Review: Eveline’s Visitant by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

I found the short story Eveline’s Visitant by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, in Anthology of Fear: 20 Haunting Stories for Winter Nights (Marshall Cavendish Ltd.)

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An enjoyable, atmospheric quick read with an unexpected ending. Highly recommended for reading on a cold, dark winter’s night. 4 / 5

Summary

Two cousins, Hector and André de Brissac, quarrel over a woman.  André is the cousin favoured by Fortune; women love him and the family money and lands have gone to him.  By contrast, Hector is considered “a rough soldier” and “mannerless boor”.  The quarrel escalates and a challenge to duel is issued, with fatal consequences for André.

But, with his dying breath, André does his best to ensure that Hector does not enjoy his victory nor his inheritance…He claims their quarrel is not yet over.  Hector, however, does not believe in such things…

Favourite Quote

I will come to you when your life seems brightest. I will come between you and all that you hold fairest and dearest. My ghostly hand shall drop a poison in your cup of joy.

(From Eveline’s Visitant by Mary Elizabeth Braddon)

Review

I’m a little late completing and posting this review, seeing as though I read the story as one of my Halloween Reads for 2019!

As part of the same reading challenge, I read The Cold Embrace, another short story by the Mary Elizabeth Braddon (you can find that review here).  I noted then that I really liked the author’s writing style and ability to create the most atmospheric and unexpected twists in the story.  So I went into reading Eveline’s Visitant with high expectations and was not disappointed.  Once again the story was atmospheric and the unusual plot twists came as a surprise. Although I would like to go into detail about what was so special about these twists, I won’t for fear of giving too much away.  But I will say this: the ending came as a complete surprise.

My copy was no more than twelve pages long, so it’s a quick read, but for all that, there is no lack of story.  The setting is richly described, both Paris and the inherited estate, and there are enough details of the main characters to make them appear whole and believable.

If you enjoy reading ghost stories on dark nights by candlelight, I recommend you give this a read.  There’s a creepiness to it, a pervading sense of the sinister…

I plan to read more by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and have added her first novel, published in 1862 – a sensational melodrama – Lady Audley’s Secret, to my TBR list.

Rating

 

 

Interview with Lauren Willmore, Writer and Book Cover Designer

Sammi Cox

For the last three Fridays I have been posting instalments of an interview with author Crispina Kemp.  This week, we get to chat with Lauren Willmore, writer and book cover designer.  You will have already seen her beautiful work gracing the front covers of Crispina’s The Spinner’s Game series and I think we can all agree, they are stunning…

Let’s get to the interview and meet Lauren.

Interview with Lauren Willmore, Writer and Book Cover Designer

To begin with, for those who have yet to discover your book cover designs and writing, please introduce yourself.

I’ve been writing and designing as long as I can remember. While in writing I stick to fantasy novels, design I vary. I design book covers, but also greeting cards, brochures, wedding stationery, I paint, and bake elaborate cakes (as featured on my blog).

What made you decide to become a book cover designer and…

View original post 1,434 more words

Book Review: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I listened to the audiobook of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden by Librivox.  You can find it here.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A wonderfully charming story and an interesting, engaging dramatization, combined to make this an enchanting audiobook. I thoroughly enjoyed it.  As for the story itself, it serves to remind us of the healing power of nature and of friendships. 4 / 5

Summary (from Amazon)

‘Where, you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.’

After the sudden death of her wealthy parents, spoilt Mary Lennox is sent from India to live with her uncle in the austere Misselthwaite Manor on the Yorkshire Moors. Neglected and uncherished, she is horribly lonely, until one day she discovers a walled garden in the grounds that has been kept locked for years. When Mary finds the key to the garden and shares it with two unlikely companions, she opens up a world of hope, and as the garden blooms, Mary and her friends begin to find a new joy in life.

Serialised in 1910 and first published in its entirety in 1911, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s enchanting novel of friendship and rejuvenation is one of the greatest classics of children’s literature.

Favourite Quote

“Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing.”

(From The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett)

Review

By chance, when I was looking for something to listen to whilst doing some housework, I stumbled upon the LibriVox audiobook of The Secret Garden

At 7 hours and 38 minutes long, I listened to the story over the course of a handful of days, and I found it captivating.  As a dramatization of the story, there was a cast of readers involved rather than a single narrator, which I enjoyed immensely.  It wasn’t perfect, but sometimes, perfection doesn’t matter as much as enjoyment…

I read The Secret Garden as a child, a number of times (and still have my copy somewhere…) but over time, I seemed to have forgotten almost everything about it.  I did remember that I loved it though and was keen to be reminded why.  Sometimes it can be an extraordinarily rewarding experience to revisit books, and on this occasion I found it to be so: I was reminded why, as a young girl, I fell in love with reading and with books, something that has only increased with time.

The Secret Garden is a story about love and healing but also reminds us that we are a product of our surroundings.  If we are surrounded by negative things we often project negativity, and vice versa.  The healing power of nature is given a prominent role in the tale, whether it is the moors, or the animals or in the garden itself.

It is wonderful to hear how the friendships are struck up between Mary, Dickon and Colin.  It is striking to see how it takes Mary and Colin, coming from a background full of privilege though equally, one filled with loss and emotional neglect, to meet Dickon, from a family of 12 children, where things are tight, to understand the joys to be found in life.

Dickon and his way with animals is just so charming.  I loved hearing about the fox, the squirrels, the lamb and the crow, not to mention the robin that was friends with everyone.

Another character I liked was Ben Weatherstaff. His abrupt, plain-speaking attitude, tempered with kindness, helps Mary see her why she behaves as she does, and in turn, why people behave the way they do towards her in response.

Mary’s early years were spent in India.  So there are, given the age of the story (it was first published in 1910), some uncomfortable references reminding the reader of Britain’s colonial past.

The only problem I’ve found so far with reviewing an audiobook is that I like to include my favourite quote(s) in the review, and that can be a little difficult without having the text in front me to bookmark.  So, for The Secret Garden, I cheated a little and looked through the quotes on Goodreads. I was surprised that I remembered so many of the ones that were listed.

Rating


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #13 in the list: a book you’ve read before

Book Review: Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen

Murphy’s Law is the first book in the Molly Murphy series by Rhys Bowen.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An enjoyable first book in a cosy mystery series.  Molly Murphy is a likeable and intelligent heroine, and I can’t wait to read more of her life in New York! 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Murphy’s Law is the captivating first entry of Rhys Bowen’s New York Times bestselling Molly Murphy series.

Molly Murphy always knew she’d end up in trouble, just as her mother predicted. So, when she commits murder in self-defense, she flees her cherished Ireland, under cover of a false identity, for the anonymous shores of late nineteenth-century America. When she arrives in New York and sees the welcoming promise of freedom in the Statue of Liberty, Molly begins to breathe easier. But when a man is murdered on Ellis Island, a man Molly was seen arguing with, she becomes a prime suspect in the crime.

If she can’t clear her name, Molly will be sent back to Ireland where the gallows await, so using her Irish charm and sharp wit, she escapes Ellis Island and sets out to find the wily killer on her own. Pounding the notorious streets of Hell’s Kitchen and the Lower East Side, Molly undertakes a desperate mission to clear her name before her deadly past comes back to haunt her new future.

Favourite Quote

‘Ellis Island.’ The word went around the ferry and everyone jostled to try to get the first glimpse. It was imposing enough with its big brick arches and its shining copper turrets.

(From Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen, page 45)

Review

An enjoyable first book in a cosy mystery series.  Murphy’s Law is set at the turn of the twentieth century and tells of one woman’s – Molly Murphy’s – move from Ireland to America, and it was not an easy one. 

I liked Molly.  She has a great big heart but won’t stand for any nonsense, which is how she finds herself in the trouble she’s in.  However, relying on her sharp wits and intelligence – surprising almost everyone she meets with the level of education she possesses – can get her into difficulties as well as out of them, as we soon discover.

Yet, for an intelligent young woman, Molly could be a little naïve at times.  And luck and coincidence do play a fairly sizeable roll in the story, so if that’s the sort of thing that annoys you, you might not enjoy the book as much as I did.

The settings read as vivid and authentic.  Whether it is rural Ireland, the bustling city of Liverpool or the sometimes dark and mean, sometimes colourful and enticing, streets of New York, there was enough detail and description to visualise clearly where Molly was and what she was seeing.

The passages set on Ellis Island, and on the ship crossing the Atlantic, were very well-written.  They were sensitive and emotional and they show quite starkly the journey people were making to gamble on a better life in America.  The immigration process once they reached Ellis Island was lengthy and must have been nerve-wracking for anyone who went through it, and as we see in the story, these people are vulnerable and easy to take advantage of.

As Molly tries to find her feet in New York, we are introduced to a number of characters, all of them coming across as believable. The budding romance between Molly and Captain Daniel Sullivan was interesting and awkward, given her story, and the attraction between them could be felt as the story unfolded. Michael Larkin was another interesting character.  Although Molly described him as “young looking” the first time they met, I did wonder if he was to be the love interest of the book.

The mystery doesn’t always take centre stage in the story and at some points, it perhaps felt more of a historical fiction novel rather than a historical cosy mystery, but I’m not complaining as I enjoy both.

Murder, corruption, lies and half-truths, political intrigue and a dose of romance, Murphy’s Law has it all.  An easy, entertaining read, and I’m looking forward to reading book two in the series, Death of Riley.

Rating