Book Review: The Shakespeare Secret by J.L. Carrell

The Shakespeare Secret is the first book by J.L Carrell to feature Kate Stanley.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A complex, fast-paced adventure through the world of Shakespeare, both past and present, which kept me entertained. 3.5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

A modern serial killer – hunting an ancient secret.

A woman is left to die as the rebuilt Globe theatre burns. Another woman is drowned like Ophelia, skirts swirling in the water. A professor has his throat slashed open on the steps of Washington’s Capitol building.

A deadly serial killer is on the loose, modelling his murders on Shakespeare’s plays. But why is he killing? And how can he be stopped?

Favourite Quote

The book that had rolled from the presses at last was a beautiful thing – a blatant bid to shift the author from the rowdy, disreputable world of the theatre to the eternal truths of poetry.

(From The Shakespeare Secret by J. L. Carrell, page 55)

Review

For the most part, I enjoyed this story.  It was an entertaining tale, full of action and adventure, and with plenty of twists and turns, reminding me in no small way of the writing of Dan Brown, especially the Da Vinci Code.  I had an idea of how the story was going to end, but I couldn’t quiet guess how it would get there, so it certainly kept me interested.

The story is presented as a Shakespeare play, with the modern story taking place during the “Acts” and the historical flashbacks / contexts taking place in the “Interludes” between. I understand the reason behind doing this, but I wonder if the book might have read better without the historical scenes.  The Acts were far longer than the interludes and the modern story complicated enough without stepping back in time to another cast of characters, whose own storylines themselves were convoluted.  Political and religious intrigues of the Elizabethan era, not to mention family trees, are complex, and when there is more than one character called “Will”, or the person in question is being referred to by their family name or title…yeah, it can be hard to keep up.

If you don’t like Shakespeare, or have no interest in his plays and sonnets, you probably won’t enjoy this book. Neither will you appreciate the references to his writing and life, made throughout the story, which were cleverly woven into the plot. Also, if you take Shakespeare and everything about him quite seriously, again you might not enjoy this book, especially if you have a firm view on whether Shakespeare was really the man behind the works attributed to him. But if you can separate the fictional entertainment from the scholarly aspects of the subject, I do think you will enjoy it.

I loved all the locations the story meanders through, some of which I’ve visited myself – Stratford-upon-Avon, and some you wouldn’t necessarily think of – Valladolid, Spain. The author clearly knows a lot about the subject, and this knowledge filters down through the storytelling.

It wasn’t until I was writing the review for The Shakespeare Secret that I realised the author has penned another book featuring Kate Stanley, Haunt Me Still, inspired by Macbeth.  Having been well-entertained with the first book, I would gladly give this second book a read.

Rating

3.5 / 5

Bookish Reflections – September and October 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

I’m super late in posting this, and did wonder if it might not just be better holding off for another couple of weeks and then include my November bookish content with it…The problem with that idea was that I’ve been neglecting the blog and so there isn’t any.  Sigh…

I was pretty good at reading and catching up with my reviews in September and early October, and the majority of books I worked my way through were ones that were heading for my “Read, Review, Rehome” pile, so I’ve made a small (read: barely perceptible 😉 ) dent in my To Read List.

November’s review list is slowly growing, thanks to the three spooky short stories by M.R. James which I read for this year’s Halloweens Read.  And next month, with the arrival of the festive season, we have Festive Reads Fortnight. If any there are any authors with Christmas-themes stories out there who would like to see their books reviewed as part of Festive Reads Fortnight, please do get in touch.  You can find all the information regarding Review Requests here. Ignore the “Currently Closed To Review Requests” status; I’m closed to general requests at this time but not Christmas-themed reads.

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

Favourite read(s) of the month

  • The Hound of The Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

Now here’s the thing…*cough*… a great big bag full of books found their way into my house in September, the result of a combination of going on holiday for a few days (and while I’m on holiday I have to buy books as I just can’t seem to resist them), and seeing family that we hadn’t seen since March.  I’ll not list them all here because I’d quickly run out of space, but here are a few highlights from the newly acquired volumes:

  • When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
  • The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells
  • The BFG by Roald Dahl
  • The Man in the Green Coat by Carola Dunn

Books I’ve downloaded

  • None

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • My reading time has been limited to physical books recently rather than ebooks / digital books to help reduce my screen time…

August’s “Read and Review” Goals*

  • The Hound of The Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Forever by Maggie Stiefvatar

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

What I’m reading and reviewing in November

  • A handful of M.R. James short stories (Halloween Reads 2020)
  • The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
  • The Shakespeare Secret by J.L Carrell

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: 33 / 52

Month finished at: 39 / 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:

  • No new challenges have been completed since August 😦

Total challenges completed in 2019: 8 / 20

Total challenges completed in 2020: 7 / 12

Total: 15 / 20

You can find the complete list of challenges here.

A to Z Review Index Challenge

  • Complete! Woohoo! With a review posted of “Dunstan” by Conn Iggulden, I now have an author listed under each category of my A to Z Index! Yay!

Challenge status: 2 / 2

Read, Review, Rehome

Goal: 20 | Total so far: 14 / 20

  • Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Lights, Camera by Carolyn Keene
  • Death at The Priory by James Ruddock
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • Dunstan by Conn Iggulden

Book Review: Dunstan by Conn Iggulden

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Very readable, this fictionalised account of Dunstan is interesting and entertaining.  A very good read! 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

In the year 937, King Æthelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, readies himself to throw a great spear into the north. His dream of a kingdom of all England will stand or fall on one field and the passage of a single day.

At his side is Dunstan of Glastonbury, full of ambition and wit, perhaps enough to damn his soul. His talents will take him from the villages of Wessex to the royal court, to the hills of Rome – from exile to exaltation.

Through Dunstan’s vision, by his guiding hand, England may come together as one great country – or fall back into anarchy and misrule . . .

From one of our finest historical writers, Dunstan is an intimate portrait of a priest and performer, a visionary, a traitor and confessor to kings – the man who changed the fate of England.

Favourite Quote

All the philosophers of Greece and Rome had long sunny days to stroll and think.  In England, we had to build roofs or freeze.

(From Dunstan by Conn Iggulden, page 276)

Review

It has been many years since I read Conn Iggulden’s Emperor series, charting the life of Julius Caesar.  Since then, I have acquired a number of his books, including those of The War of the Roses series and The Conqueror series.  Yet, with a very full and extensive “To Be Read” list, those books remain hidden on shelves, unread.  However, a chance find in a bookshop last month, saw me stumbling across Dunstan, and thus I returned to the stories of one of my favourite historical fiction authors.

Conn Iggulden writes believable, authentic historical fiction.  His prose, descriptions and character portrayals ensure the reader is fully immersed in the period the story is set.  The Anglo-Saxon world felt very real as I read Dunstan’s story.  I had heard of Dunstan prior to reading this, but this depiction brought him to life and made him relatable, even across the span of over a thousand years…

So, Dunstan…who was he?  A popular saint in England in the centuries after his death, he is mostly remembered for building Glastonbury Abbey and for monastic reform in England. He witnessed the fight for and the cementing of a nation, under seven different kings, with all the political intrigue and bloody fighting that went with it, as well as travelling to and from Rome, and at one time fleeing from the kingdom because he had insulted the king!

I enjoyed the descriptions of a number of the settings: Glastonbury Abbey and Tor, the main settlement of Anglo-Saxon territory, Winchester, and the bustling town of London, now growing in importance. I also liked reading about Dunstan’s ability as a master craftsman.  It is clear that he was a very talented man, and though he was made a saint, he arguably didn’t act very much like one. He could be bullying, manipulative, vengeful…how close this portrayal is to the truth, I cannot attest, but can people climb so high without getting their hands dirty, even a little? I would like to think so, but… Regardless, this made for a very good, very interesting, very believable story.

Highly recommended to those who enjoy historical fiction and / or tenth century history.

Rating

Bookish Reflections – August 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

August was Historical Fiction Month at Sammi Loves Books, one of my most favourite times of the year.  I read and reviewed five books and all bar one I really enjoyed.  I’m pleased with what I did read, as part way through the month I hit a bit of reading slump, but that was quickly overcome when I picked up the Phryne Fisher Mystery – I do love Phryne. 🙂

September will be a little quiet round here as I have planned a bit of a blogging break, just so I can rest the brain for a bit and blow out the cobwebs.  This will be the only post for (at least) the first two weeks in September…or that is what I am hoping.  I have a terrible habit of making claims like these and then completely ignoring them, so we will have to see what happens…

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

Favourite read(s) of the month

  • Tough question this month…four out of the five got five stars from me, so it could be any or all of the following: Speaking Among The Bones and The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches, both by Alan Bradley, Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood and Death at Daisy’s Folly by Robin Paige.

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

  • Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood…I could not resist!

Books I’ve downloaded

  • None

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • Not been on Wattpad for a while now… 😦

August’s “Read and Review” Goals*

  • Speaking From Among The Bones by Alan Bradley
  • The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley (read, review awaiting posting)
  • The Railway Detective by Edward Marston

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

What I’m reading and reviewing in September

  • The Hound of The Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Forever by Maggie Stiefvatar

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: 28 / 52

Month finished at: 33 / 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:

  • #6: a book with a girl’s name in the title

Total challenges completed in 2019: 8 / 20

Total challenges completed in 2020: 7 / 12

Total: 15 / 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: 14 / 20

  • The Railway Detective by Edward Marston
  • The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
  • Speaking From Amongst The Bones by Alan Bradley

Book Review: Death at Daisy’s Folly by Robin Paige

Death at Daisy’s Folly is the third book in The Victorian Mystery Series by Robin Paige.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

This series can always be relied upon for an entertaining and engaging read.  I like Kate and Charles, enjoyed the setting and was intrigued to see how the mystery unravelled.  5 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

Kate and Sir Charles gather with a host of memorable guests at the Warwicks’ Eaton Lodge for an English country-house weekend.  Meet Albert Edward, Prince of Wales; his ‘darling Daisy’, the countess of Warwick; their friends – and their enemies.

Someone has murdered a stableboy and the Prince, smarting over a recent gambling expose and seeking to avoid scandal, directs Sir Charles to find the killer. But the stakes go up when a guest is shot with the Countess’ gun.

Favourite Quote

They had made the ten-mile run from Braintree to the Lodge in one hour and fifteen minutes, at almost twice the legal maximum speed of four miles an hour and sans the obligatory man with a red flag that – ridiculously – was still supposed to precede them by twenty yards.

(From Death at Daisy’s Folly by Robin Paige, page 34)

Review

This series can always be relied upon for an entertaining and engaging read.  Quick and easy to get in to, this is a cosy mystery series at its most comfy, by which I mean, it is enjoyable, immersive but doesn’t require much effort to follow along.  I can get lost in the storytelling, which for me, is what I want when I’m reading.  I don’t need a mental workout.

Although I’m only on to the third book in the series, I feel like I’ve been reading about these characters for a lot longer. I like that level of familiarity, and feel invested in what happens to them.  I love both main characters: the fiery, flame-haired, Irish-American Kate Ardleigh, and the not-your-usual-kind of posh English gentleman, Sir Charles Sheridan.  Kate’s background ensures that the rules of the British aristocracy only apply to her sometimes, whilst Charles’ penchant for science and deduction ensure that it is to him, and thus her, that those in a pickle turn to.  The romance subplot works well between the characters, and comes across as authentic.

As for the other characters…Most of the characters in this book are not likeable.  For the most part, it’s rich people doing all they can to stay rich, even when confronted with the abject poverty of the workhouse poor.  Daisy Warwick is the one exception here; she does her best to bring about change, and from reading about her in this work of fiction, I’ve been inspired to learn more about the real person.

One of the highlights of this tale is being able to see the early years of the motor car on the British roads.  Cars today are symbols of freedom and the ability to get to far away places in a fairly short amount of time.  Back when this book was set, cars were forbidden, by law, to go faster than work horses, for fear of startling the animals and causing accidents.  To think a man with a red flag had to walk in front of the car as it “motored” along, seems ridiculous to the point of redundancy. For if you could walk at the same speed as the car was allowed to go, why bother with the car?  It’s quite remarkable to think how easy it might have been for the car to have fallen by the wayside, like other inventions…How different would our world look today if it had?

The next book in the series is, Death at Devil’s Bridge, and my copy is sitting happily in my TBR pile.  Hopefully it won’t take me too long to get to it…

Rating


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #6 in the list: a book with a girl’s name in the title.

Book Review: The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches is the sixth book in the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

I loved everything about this book.  Flavia is fantastic, the storyline engaging and the setting captivating.  A wonderful read.  Highly recommended.  5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

On a spring morning in 1951, eleven-year-old chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce gathers with her family at the railway station, awaiting the return of her long-lost mother, Harriet. Yet upon the train’s arrival in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia is approached by a tall stranger who whispers a cryptic message into her ear. Moments later, he is dead, mysteriously pushed under the train by someone in the crowd. Who was this man, what did his words mean, and why were they intended for Flavia? Back home at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ crumbling estate, Flavia puts her sleuthing skills to the test. Following a trail of clues sparked by the discovery of a reel of film stashed away in the attic, she unravels the deepest secrets of the de Luce clan, involving none other than Winston Churchill himself. Surrounded by family, friends, and a famous pathologist from the Home Office—and making spectacular use of Harriet’s beloved Gipsy Moth plane, Blithe Spirit—Flavia will do anything, even take to the skies, to land a killer

Favourite Quote

“…But ‘kill’, as you will have observed, like ‘spy’ and ‘stop’, is really just one more of those short but exceedingly troublesome words.”

(From The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley, page 220)

Review

I’m going to keep this review fairly short, for fear of sounding repetitive, seeing as though it was only a few weeks ago that I reviewed my first Flavia de Luce book and my thoughts haven’t changed.  (You can read that review here.)  Honestly, they’ve not changed at all.  Quite simply, I love this book, love Flavia, love the storylines, love the setting, and like how science is intertwined with the narrative.  

The level of poignancy is heightened in this instalment, given the subject: the body of Flavia’s mother is returned to Buckshaw, a decade after she went missing and was presumed dead after a wartime mission.  The dichotomy between who Flavia thinks she is (a very clever small person) and what she is (an eleven year old motherless girl) really comes to fore.  With clever storytelling we get to see how Flavia processes this turn of events, as she tries to figure out her place in the world and in her family.

The family dynamics, again, are worth commenting on.  Flavia isn’t close to anyone in her family, or outside it really, apart from Dogger, her father’s valet.  There is a coldness from her father, and a distance between her and her sisters that she struggles to overcome and understand, and I can’t help but feel for her.  For such a young person, she is certainly quite isolated, but I wonder if much of this stems from the fact she comes across as unusual and strange to others. They don’t know how to be around her or how to speak to her because she is smarter than they are because they’ve never met a child quite like her.

And this leads to one of the highlights of the storytelling: witnessing how Flavia interacts with everyone she comes across.  She is indulged, told off and warned away at various points by various people, and her reaction to most of these is, ‘What is their motive?’  I like that level of analysis.  Flavia does not take the world at face value.  Yes, she does appear a little lofty at times, but she is never annoying.

I am completely hooked on this series, and can’t recommend it highly enough.  The question now, is whether to continue on with the series where I am at with it, or to go back to the beginning and start the first book…Hmm…

Rating

Book Review: Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood

Murder on the Ballarat Train is the third book in the Phryne Fisher Mysteries by Kerry Greenwood.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Addictive and entertaining storytelling, with a wonderful cast of characters and an excellent setting.  Phryne Fisher is fantastic as the bold and sassy private detective. Highly recommended!  5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

When the 1920s’ most glamorous lady detective, the Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, arranges to go to Ballarat for the week, she eschews the excitement of her red Hispano-Suiza racing car for the sedate safety of the train. The last thing she expects is to have to use her trusty Beretta .32 to save lives. As the passengers sleep, they are poisoned with chloroform.
Phryne is left to piece together the clues after this restful country sojourn turns into the stuff of nightmares: a young girl who can’t remember anything, rumors of white slavery and black magic, and the body of an old woman missing her emerald rings. Then there is the rowing team and the choristers, all deliciously engaging young men. At first they seem like a pleasant diversion….

Favourite Quote

Blake really was an excellent poet, Phryne reflected, lighting a cigarette and leaning back on the leather upholstery, though regrettably mad, as poets so often are.

(From Murder on The Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood, page 157)

Review

Recently, I’ve hit a bit of reading slump, due I’m sure, to the fact that I’ve spent nearly all of my free time writing and editing, which sometimes has the unfortunate side effect of making me too tired to read of an evening.  I had picked out one book after another from a far too big pile of volumes waiting to be read, only for them to added to a different stack – books I thought I was about to begin reading but didn’t – not long after.  Yet have no fear, Phryne Fisher saved the day!

As soon as I started this third book in the Phryne Fisher Mysteries my reading slump disappeared.  I simply could not stop reading.  I found Murder on the Ballarat Train to be addictive and unputdownable, and I did not stop until I reached the final page.  This was just the book I needed to read.

I love Phryne. She is strong-minded, determined, intelligent, independent and compassionate towards though less fortunate than herself.  She doesn’t take rubbish from anyone, nor is she afraid to go after what she wants, whether or not it is seen as acceptable by wider society, for which she doesn’t really give a fig.  The company she keeps is varied…policemen, college boys, whores…which makes for refreshing, unpredictable plotlines.

The book is set in 1928, and the attention to detail for the period setting, is as always, spot on.  From the clothing Phryne wears to the room furnishings, from the food and drink to the scent the women wear…it surely is decadent, indulgent storytelling.  To offset all the loveliness of the story, there has to be a few darker themes too as it is a murder mystery, but these plot lines were handled sensitively by the author.

This was such a joy to read.  A quick and easy to digest cosy mystery, with an intriguing plot and a wonderfully entertaining cast of characters.  I can’t recommend these books highly enough.  The next book in the series is Death at Victoria Dock…and yes, I’ve already ordered it 😉

Rating

Book Review: The Railway Detective by Edward Marston

The Railway Detective is the first book in the series of the same name by Edward Marston.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An interesting and well-described setting.  A promising first book in a series. 3 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

London 1851. With the opening of the Great Exhibition at hand, interest is mounting in the engineering triumphs of the railways, but not everyone feels like celebrating… In an audacious attack, the London to Birmingham mail train is robbed and derailed, causing many casualties. Planned with military precision, this crime proves a challenge to Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck who fights to untangle a web of murder, blackmail and destruction. As Colbeck closes in on the criminal masterminds, events take an unexpected turn when the beautiful Madeleine, daughter of the injured train driver, becomes a pawn in the criminals’ game. With time running out, good and evil, new and old, battle against each other. But will the long arm of the law have speed on its side? The Railway Detective is an action-packed dip into murky 1850s London. Full of historical detail, unexpected twists and memorable characters, this is a mystery that will surprise you at every turn.

Favourite Quote

My favourite quote from this book was a description of the slum area of London known as Devil’s Acre:

Colbeck knew the area only too well. It was a favoured haunt of the criminal fraternity and notorious for its brothels and gambling dens…No decent or sensible man would even dare to venture into such a hazardous district.

(From The Railway Detective by Edward Marston, page 57)

Review

Having already read the first few instalments in Edward Marston’s Elizabethan Bracewell Mysteries, which I love, I thought I would give another one of his popular historical series a try.  With an interest in the Victorian period and having already enjoyed a number of stories based on or around trains (Agatha Christie’s 4.50 from Paddington and Carola Dunn’s Murder on The Flying Scotsman), I had high hopes for The Railway Detective

I enjoyed the setting of this story, but unfortunately I didn’t really connect with the characters.  Most of them came across as excessively aggressive and antagonistic, which I accept, given the areas these characters worked in and came from, is probably historically accurate, but it didn’t make for particularly enjoyable reading.  And then there were the characters who had particular personality traits which were continually stressed, in very clear and basic terms. I’m not sure the points needed to be laboured as hard as they were.  A reader can often work out which of the characters are bad and which are good.

The setting on the other hand, was well-described, vivid, and most importantly of all authentic.  I could see the slums of Devil’s Acre, the orderliness of the police headquarters, the grand country estate, the trains, and perhaps my favourite of the settings, the Crystal Palace…

Was The Railway Detective really a mystery book though?  I didn’t find it particularly mysterious as we are told pretty early on in the story who is behind the crime.  Instead the narrative focuses on watching the case unfold.  The reader gets to witness the detectives chase down the criminals, with the only questions being whether they will get away and what cost they might inflict upon the other characters before the book ends.

One of my favourite passages of the story was when Detective Inspector Colbeck’s copy of Bradshaw’s got a mention.

So, this was a bit of mixed review, and if I’m being honest, I was expecting a bit more from The Railway Detective.  I’ve not yet warmed to the characters but the series does hold some promise that it will improve the further we get into it, I think.  I will give the series another book or two to convince me whether I should stick with it or put it aside for good.

Rating

Book Review: Speaking From Among The Bones by Alan Bradley

Speaking From Among The Bones is the fifth book in the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley

Quick review (read on for full review)

I absolutely loved this book – and Flavia too!  Beautifully written with a captivating cast of characters and an engaging plot, this is one of my favourite reads of the year so far. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Eleven-year-old amateur detective and ardent chemist Flavia de Luce is used to digging up clues, whether they’re found among the potions in her laboratory or between the pages of her insufferable sisters’ diaries. What she is not accustomed to is digging up bodies. Upon the five-hundredth anniversary of St. Tancred’s death, the English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey is busily preparing to open its patron saint’s tomb. Nobody is more excited to peek inside the crypt than Flavia, yet what she finds will halt the proceedings dead in their tracks: the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist, his face grotesquely and inexplicably masked. Who held a vendetta against Mr. Collicutt, and why would they hide him in such a sacred resting place? The irrepressible Flavia decides to find out. And what she unearths will prove there’s never such thing as an open-and-shut case.

Favourite Quote

“I’ve mentioned before my passion for poisons and my special fondness for cyanide. But, to be perfectly fair, I must admit that I also have something of a soft spot for strychnine, not just for what it is, but for what it’s capable of becoming. Brought into the presence of nascent oxygen, for instance, these rather ordinary white crystals become at first rich blue in colour, then pass in succession through purple, violet, crimson, orange and yellow.

A perfect rainbow of ruin!

(From Speaking From Among The Bones by Alan Bradley, page 63)

Review

I absolutely loved this book – and Flavia too!  Beautifully written and heart-warming in its way, Flavia de Luce is wonderful as the younger-than-average sleuth, who no doubt possesses more brains than most. Although only a child herself, she is more than capable of working her way through the evidence, most of which she has collected herself, to locate the culprit.

First, a few thoughts on book covers and titles.  As regular readers of these reviews will have already worked out, I cannot resist beautiful book cover art, and it was the cover of the next book in the series which first alerted me to these books.  As for the cover of this book, I love the subtle colours, the tree branches, the headless stone carving and the bats.  And the titles of the books are dramatic and evocative.  Of the books in the series that I’ve so far read, I’ve learned these titles are inspired by Thomas Parnell’s poem, A Night-Piece on Death from 1721.  On to the review…

Although I jumped into the series with book 5 (and as soon as I finished it, I devoured book 6), I don’t feel that I needed to have read the preceding four books to understand what was going on in this one.  However, I will of course, be returning to book one because after enjoying them so far I. Must. Read. Them. All.

The series is set during the 1950s, a time which sees much change in England.  With the scars of the second world war still visible for many, this aspect of the setting isn’t down-played or glossed over – thanks very much to the character of Dogger. The book is full of quotable passages, and although it stars a child – Flavia is eleven at the time of “Speaking From Among The Bones” – this isn’t a story for children, and never does it once come across as childish.

I love the fact that Flavia loves poisons.  And that she has her own fully functional, fully stocked, science laboratory, where she carries out the analysis on the evidence – or else plans and prepares for any other weird and wonderful experiment she has dreamed up.  The world around her is at once both wonderfully simple and tremendously complex, given her age and her abilities.  She is a child, but she doesn’t act like one, yet when something arises for which she isn’t prepared or isn’t necessarily old enough to comprehend, her prism shifts and we see the eleven year old beneath the older, wiser exterior she projects and others take for granted.

The most trying thing of all for Flavia is her home-life.  Her relationship with her sisters is complicated, and the one with her father non-existent.  There is a distance between her and nearly everyone else in Bishop’s Lacey, even the people she is related to, except for one person.  The one person who seems to understand her best is Dogger, and in him she has an ally and a confidante. 

The mystery is a good one, the setting perfectly captivating and the humour, often laugh-out-loud funny. I have nothing but good things to say about this book, and I have added a new name to my list of favourite authors.  The next book in the series is, The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches, my review for which you will be able to read soon…

Rating

Bookish Reflections – July 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

July felt like a quiet month book-wise, even though I got four reviews posted.  Most of the month was taken up with writing as I’m juggling a number of projects at the moment that I want to make decent headway on over the coming months…and the concentration feels like it’s paying off.  Woohoo!  The only downside is that when I write a lot, I read a lot less…For once I might be happy to be behind with my book reviews so I can keep Sammi Loves Books ticking over, as well as keeping on track with this year’s reading goals.

August is Historical Fiction Month at Sammi Loves Books, and I’m ahead of myself as I’ve already read three historical fiction books and have one of the reviews written and ready to post.  I’ve decided not to reopen to review requests at this time, simply because I don’t have the time to dedicate it.  However, I will respond to everyone who has contacted me so far, though it may take me a short while to do so.

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…

Favourite read(s) of the month

  • We All Die In The End by Elizabeth Merry & Lake of Dreams by Crispina Kemp

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

  • The Railway Viaduct by Edward Marston
  • A Decline in Prophets by Sulari Gentill
  • A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

Books I’ve downloaded

  • Review copy of Lake of Dreams from Crispina Kemp

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • Only “The Medium” by C. J. Archer…

July’s “Read and Review” Goals*

  • We All Die In The End by Elizabeth Merry
  • One of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries by Elizabeth Spann Craig, though I’ve not yet decided which one
  • The Medium by C.J. Archer

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

What I’m reading and reviewing in August

  • The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley (read, awaiting review)
  • Speaking From Amongst The Bones by Alan Bradley (review awaiting posting)
  • The Railway Detective by Edward Marston (currently reading)

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: 24 / 52

Month finished at: 28 / 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:

  • Oops…I didn’t complete a single one…there’s till 6 to go! Sigh…

Total challenges completed in 2019: 8 / 20

Total challenges completed in 2020: 6 / 12

Total: 14 / 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: 11 / 20

  • None this month as all the books were digital copies