Latest Book Acquisitions

Since I last posted an update on the latest books I’ve acquired (6 back in January, 1 read, 1 in the process of reading), I have added the following to the never-gets-smaller pile of books awaiting to be read:

  • The King Arthur Trilogy by Rosemary Sutcliff
  • The Cheltenham Square Murder by John Bude
  • Darien by C. F. Iggulden
  • Shiang by C. F. Iggulden
  • Henry VII and the Tudor Pretenders by Nathen Amin
  • Real Murders by Charlaine Harris
  • A Bone to Pick by Charlaine Harris
  • Three Bedrooms, One Corpse by Charlaine Harris

Have you read any of these? Any spoiler-free thoughts you wish to share?


Book Review: Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir was my April book for the From My Bookshelf Challenge 2023

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Historical fiction chock full of historical detail, real events and real people. A gripping page turner. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

I am now a condemned traitor . . . I am to die when I have hardly begun to live.

Historical expertise marries page-turning fiction in Alison Weir’s enthralling debut novel, breathing new life into one of the most significant and tumultuous periods of the English monarchy. It is the story of Lady Jane Grey–“the Nine Days’ Queen”–a fifteen-year-old girl who unwittingly finds herself at the center of the religious and civil unrest that nearly toppled the fabled House of Tudor during the sixteenth century.

The child of a scheming father and a ruthless mother, for whom she is merely a pawn in a dynastic game with the highest stakes, Jane Grey was born during the harrowingly turbulent period between Anne Boleyn’s beheading and the demise of Jane’s infamous great-uncle, King Henry VIII. With the premature passing of Jane’s adolescent cousin, and Henry’s successor, King Edward VI, comes a struggle for supremacy fueled by political machinations and lethal religious fervor.

Unabashedly honest and exceptionally intelligent, Jane possesses a sound strength of character beyond her years that equips her to weather the vicious storm. And though she has no ambitions to rule, preferring to immerse herself in books and religious studies, she is forced to accept the crown, and by so doing sets off a firestorm of intrigue, betrayal, and tragedy.

Alison Weir uses her unmatched skills as a historian to enliven the many dynamic characters of this majestic drama. Along with Lady Jane Grey, Weir vividly renders her devious parents; her much-loved nanny; the benevolent Queen Katherine Parr; Jane’s ambitious cousins; the Catholic “Bloody” Mary, who will stop at nothing to seize the throne; and the protestant and future queen Elizabeth. Readers venture inside royal drawing rooms and bedchambers to witness the power-grabbing that swirls around Lady Jane Grey from the day of her birth to her unbearably poignant death. Innocent Traitor paints a complete and compelling portrait of this captivating young woman, a faithful servant of God whose short reign and brief life would make her a legend.

Favourite Quote

A sentiment I think many of us will understand:

I’d prefer to be left alone with my books.

(From Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir, page 63)


I thoroughly enjoyed the book, in as much as one can enjoy a book that you know is going to end in the execution of a young woman. The period was brought to life very easily, though it took me a few pages to get into it in an immersive way. Yet as soon as I did, I struggled to put the book down.

The life of Lady Jane Grey is told through the eyes of some of the most well-known people from Tudor history, though some will seem a little obscure to those who do not know the era well. Chief amongst the notable names are Queen Katherine Parr and Lady Mary, as well as Lady Jane herself.

The one thing you cannot get away from in this story, as no doubt at the time, is the prevailing religious fervour. With a distance of centuries between now and then, it is impossible for us to really understand why some people would rather die than follow a different branch of the same religion, or even send someone to their death for believing something different to you. Yet this is the world these people inhabited; this is the world Jane had to live in. And it is dangerous, and it is deadly, especially when decisions are made for political advancement, and in attempts to manoeuvre closer and closer to the throne.

Naturally, given the author, there is much historical detail here and I appreciated how the religious struggles of the time were presented in a very fair manner. The Catholic Lady Mary (who would become queen after Jane’s short reign) brings balance in the narrative to Jane’s staunch Protestant faith. And where there is no historical record, I think the reader can rest assured that the author provides genuine historical possibilities to fill in the gaps.

Jane was well-known for her intelligence and love of learning, something that would have been available to precious few women at the time. In fact, it is worth noting that there is an interesting parallel between Lady Jane and Elizabeth in this regard.

My favourite character, probably because she is one of my favourite people from the time, is that of Katherine Parr. My least favourite characters, apart from the scheming Dudley, were Jane’s parents, Frances Brandon and Henry Grey. Were they as cold and as ambitious as this book would have us believe? You would like to think not, yet it is clear their daughter was not old enough nor influential enough to put herself in the position of vying for the throne. As for Lady Jane Grey herself, I’m not sure I can say I liked her (in the story), but I did pity her greatly. Her so short reign, and her eventually execution is perhaps one of the most tragic events in English royal history.

There is a lot going on in this story, and there has to be because we know of so much that was happening at the time, and it can’t be presented in a vacuum. So not only do we get the story of Lady Jane Grey, but also the story of Tudor England in the latter years of Henry VIII’s reign, as well as the legacy of the monumental events of his earlier marriages. Then, there is the reign of his son and heir, Edward VI, who is of roughly the same age as Jane…

It’s not perfect, (for example, Jane as a toddler sounds very much like Jane as an adolescent), yet I found it a gripping page turner all the same. Recommended to those who love historical fiction and those with an interest in Tudor history.


Book Cover Love #7

The Woman In Black by Susan Hill

There is something quite eerie about this book cover, the almost silhouette of a woman walking through a twilight landscape with the too-bright light of the moon behind her. Combine that with the patterning around three of the sides, a scrawling script and the barest hint of colour…this is a perfect book cover for a ghost story.

The Woman In Black was my chosen Halloween Read for 2016. In my review I wrote: “The Woman in Black is a psychological ghost story that spends its time building up to a very creepy atmosphere, one that is heightened by that which isn’t said rather than that which is… If you enjoy ghost stories or are looking for a fitting tale to read one cold, dark night, this would be a very good choice.”

You can read the review in full here.

From My Bookshelf – May 2023 Book Reveal

And May’s book is…

Don’t Look Now and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier.

And the treat to accompany the book for May, some incense. (Fragrance: Egyptian Musk, is anyone was wondering…)

You can find out everything you need to know about the From My Bookshelf challenge, including links to the books as they are revealed, and the reviews once they are written, here.

From My Bookshelf – April 2023 Book Reveal

And April’s book is…

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir.

And the treat to accompany the book for April, a bar of chocolate. Yum!

I’m a little late sharing last month’s book, but have no fear, I did read it (and eat the chocolate) in April. I’ll be sharing the review for Innocent Traitor later this month 🙂

You can find out everything you need to know about the From My Bookshelf challenge, including links to the books as they are revealed, and the reviews once they are written, here.

Book Review: Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch

Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch was my March book for the From My Bookshelf Challenge 2023.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Lovely cover, but I struggled to get into this book. DNF

Summary (from Goodreads)

A thrilling and powerful novel about a young boy lured to sea by the promise of adventure and reward, with echoes of Great Expectations, Moby-Dick, and The Voyage of the Narwhal.

Jamrach’s Menagerie tells the story of a nineteenth-century street urchin named Jaffy Brown. Following an incident with an escaped tiger, Jaffy goes to work for Mr. Charles Jamrach, the famed importer of exotic animals, alongside Tim, a good but sometimes spitefully competitive boy. Thus begins a long, close friendship fraught with ambiguity and rivalry.

Mr. Jamrach recruits the two boys to capture a fabled dragon during the course of a three-year whaling expedi­tion. Onboard, Jaffy and Tim enjoy the rough brotherhood of sailors and the brutal art of whale hunting. They even succeed in catching the reptilian beast.

But when the ship’s whaling venture falls short of expecta­tions, the crew begins to regard the dragon—seething with feral power in its cage—as bad luck, a feeling that is cruelly reinforced when a violent storm sinks the ship.

Drifting across an increasingly hallucinatory ocean, the sur­vivors, including Jaffy and Tim, are forced to confront their own place in the animal kingdom. Masterfully told, wildly atmospheric, and thundering with tension, Jamrach’s Mena­gerie is a truly haunting novel about friendship, sacrifice, and survival.

Favourite Quote

“This new labyrinth of narrow lanes teemed with the faces and voices of the whole world.”

(From Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch, page 8)


First: this book has a beautiful cover. It’s what attracted my attention and persuaded me to buy it. I didn’t even read what the book was about. Yes, I do that a lot!

Second: I did not finish it. It’s very rare for me not to finish a book, and even rarer for me to review it after not finishing. But having read 60 pages out of approximately 350 pages, I noticed a handful of things:

  1. I did not care about the characters at all. Not even a little.
  2. I wasn’t eager to pick up the book and continue reading it.
  3. I’ve mentioned elsewhere I’m not keen on reading about animals not being lovingly cared for, and the 60 pages I read was full of caged animals, some of them looking sad.

So, given things were not going great by page 60, I decided to call it a day.



From My Bookshelf – March 2023 Book Reveal

And March’s book is…

Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch.

And the treat to accompany the book for March, a hand-poured candle in the fragrance, Berry Blast, made for me by my sister ❤

You can find out everything you need to know about the From My Bookshelf challenge, including links to the books as they are revealed, and the reviews once they are written, here.

Book Review: The Prince and The Pilgrim by Mary Stewart

The Prince and The Pilgrim by Mary Stewart was my February book for the From My Bookshelf Challenge 2023.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A light, easy romance read that is a little predictable in places. 3 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

The bestselling author of the Merlin Trilogy returns to King Arthur & Camelot to tell of daring adventure & unexpected love.

ALEXANDER THE FATHERLESS: Alexander has come of age to take vengeance on the treacherous King of Cornwall who murdered his father. He sets off toward Camelot to seek Arthur’s justice & is diverted by the sensuously beautiful Morgan le Fay, Arthur’s sister. Using her enchanting wiles, Morgan persuades the him to attempt stealing the Holy Grail. He’s unaware her motives are of a dark nature.

ALICE THE PRETTY PILGRIM: Daughter of a widowed duke, Alice has experienced lively adventures, accompanying her father on yearly pilgrimages. Now, on her father’s final visit to Jerusalem, she comes under the protection of a young prince whose brothers were murdered, a prince possessing a silver cup believed to be the Grail. Thus the stage is set for two young seekers to meet–& to find not what they’re seeking for but, instead, the greatest treasure of all…love.

Favourite Quote

“Midnight meetings, and spells, and witches flying through the air when the moon’s down, and gathering in some spot to brew evil against their enemies.”

(From The Prince and The Pilgrim by Mary Stewart, page 114)


First published in 1995, it felt older than that when I reading it, like it was written a few decades before, though I’m not sure why I thought this.

It is the 5th book in Mary Stewart’s Arthurian Saga, though this is a standalone novel. Set in the same world, it is not set in Camelot, and from what I gather, there is very little crossover between the trilogy and this novel.

It is a light, easy and fairly quick read, but it is a little predictable in places. Charming in a way, if you’re looking for a sweet romantic read, but I’m not sure I was.

As for Alexander and Alice, I thought they were were interesting main characters, but a little stereotypical: she the pure, chaste woman, and he, not so pure and chaste, but that’s not his fault. It’s because of a evil witch who wants to sleep with him.

Well-written, it is easy to envisage the early medieval world in which it is set. There is politics, scheming, religion, action, drama, magic and murder, but it lacked something, that enchantment I feel when reading about the Arthurian world. Also, not a fan of Morgan le Fay always being the bad, evil, untrustworthy schemer.

I’ve only read one other book so far by Mary Stewart, Thornyhold, which I reviewed here back in 2020, and from what I said in that review, I marginally preferred it to this story. I would like to read the books in the series that come before this. From the reviews I’ve read, these hold all the magic and majesty I was hoping for in this.


Book Review: Manna From Hades by Carola Dunn

Manna from Hades is the first book in the Cronish Mysteries series by Carola Dunn.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Great setting and well thought out mystery, but I still prefer Daisy Darlymple! 3 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Eleanor Trewynn is a widow of some years living in Port Mabyn, a small fishing village in Cornwall, England. In her younger days, she traveled the exotic parts of the world with her husband. These days, she’s retired and founded the local charity shop. Her niece, Megan Pencarrow, transferred nearby, and was recently promoted to the rank of Detective Sargent. Perhaps the only downside is that she is now working for a DI who doesn’t approve of women on the police force and who really doesn’t much approve of Megan’s aunt Eleanor, as she is something of a thorn in his rather substantial side.

All of these factors collide when, the day after collecting donations, Eleanor and the vicar’s wife find the dead body of a longhaired, scruffy-looking youth hidden in the stockroom of the charity shop. Then they discover that some donated jewelry thought to be fake is actually very real, very expensive, and the haul from a violent robbery in London. Making matters more complex, the corpse found in the storeroom is apparently not one of the robbers. Carola Dunn’s Manna from Hades is a confounding Cornish case of daring theft, doublecross, and a wily older woman confronted by a case of murder most foul.

Favourite Quote

“Strangers tended to be alarmed when they saw a small woman with snow-white curls twisting and twirling and making strange gestures.”

(page 5, Manna from Hades by Carola Dunn)


I wanted to read this book for two reasons: I love another series written by Carola Dunn, the Daisy Dalrymple stories, and I love Cornwall and enjoyed holidaying there with my family and friends when I was younger.

However, the book didn’t live up to my expectations, if I’m being honest. I really wanted to not only enjoy this book, but love it, and I didn’t. I felt no connection to or any interest in any of the characters or their stories. The mystery didn’t really grab at me either, although it was well thought out and well-executed. The whole book just felt a little slow to me, until the final few chapters. I also prefer the author’s writing style in her Daisy Dalrymple series. It’s lighter, I think, and feels more cosy.

Eleanor Trewynn was a difficult main character. She is so forgetful, which I understand at her age and makes sense, and would have been endearing in a minor character, but it added to the slowness and impeded the flow of the story. It also felt at odds with her being a person of such importance and strength of mind, that she could stop a civil war.

The highlight of the story was the setting. Port Mabyn, although fictional, felt very real, and the geography and descriptions of the landscape came across as authentic.

Will I be reading the next book in this series, A Colourful Death? At the moment, I’m not sure…


Quick Book Reviews: Buy A Whisker and A Whisker of Trouble by Sophie Ryan

Quick Review (applies to both books)

I really do love this series, and this book is an excellent addition to it. A great cast of characters, interesting storylines, a wonderful setting and of course, it has Elvis the Cat. 5 / 5

Summaries (from Goodreads)

Buy a Whisker: Things have been quiet in the coastal town of North Harbor, Maine, since Sarah Grayson and her rescue cat, Elvis, solved their first murder. Sarah is happy running Second Chance, the shop where she sells lovingly refurbished and repurposed items. But then she gets dragged into a controversy over developing the waterfront. Most of the residents–including Sarah–are for it, but there is one holdout–baker Lily Carter. So when Lily is found murdered in her bakery, it looks like somebody wanted to remove the only obstacle to the development. But Sarah soon discovers that nothing is as simple as it seems. Now, with the help of her cat’s uncanny ability to detect a lie, Sarah is narrowing down the suspects. But can she collar the culprit before the ruthless killer pounces again?

A Whisker of Trouble: Spring has come to charming North Harbor, Maine, and with the new season comes a new haul for Second Chance, the shop where Sarah Grayson sells lovingly refurbished and repurposed items. Sarah is turning her keen eye to the estate of collector Edison Hall, hoping for fabulous finds for Second Chance—but when her rescue cat Elvis discovers a body in the kitchen, everything goes paws up.
The body belongs to an appraiser who had been hired to check out Edison’s wine collection. When Edison’s sister shows up at Second Chance, she hires Sarah’s friends—the kooky and charismatic trio of ladies who call themselves Charlotte’s Angels and work out of the shop—to solve the murder, Sarah knows she and Elvis are only going to get deeper into the case. But as it becomes a cat and mouse game of lies, cons, cheats, and family squabbles, can Elvis and Sarah claw their way to the truth before the killer slinks away forever?


Seeing as though I read these books one after the other, and my thoughts on them are the same, I thought a joint review would be better than two repetitive ones!

Buy a Whisker and A Whisker of Trouble are books 2 and 3 in the Second Chance Cat Mysteries by Sophie Ryan. I read the first book (The Whole Cat and Coboodle) last year and instantly fell in love with Elvis the cat, the Second Chance shop and the setting. So it was no surprise that as soon as I finished book 2, I started reading book 3.

Easy to read, and engaging, the series has great continuity and a fantastic set of characters of all ages. It’s a fun and entertaining story, and the dialogue is often funny, especially when the Angels are around. However, it’s the deep sense of family and friendship that really makes this a cosy and heartwarming series.

I love the book covers, as I mentioned back in this post from last April. And, it’s worth noting that these first three books in the series were bought, read, reviewed, and rehomed within a year, which almost never happens in my world. 🙂

It’s no surprise that I rated both books, 5 out of 5. I’m looking forward to not only reading more books from this series, but the author has another series, Magical Cats Mysteries, which sounds like it is definitely worth a look!

The Second Chance Cat Mysteries are very quickly becoming a favourite of mine, and the series is rivalling the Myrtle Clover Mysteries from Elizabeth Spann Craig for the top spot on my “cosy mystery fiction that has a cat as a prominent character” list.