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2017 – WHOLE year without buying books

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Historical fiction

Too familiar?

BOOK FEELINGS: If you are an avid (or even occasional) reader you’ll know that last year I reviewed ‘The Witch’s Daughter’ by Paula Brackston and  I LOVED IT. There was so much to like and enjoy, so when the opportunity to read another story full of witch trials that is also based on a true story I jumped at the chance.

1bd8426d-1a4d-44e9-8c6c-1b9c087d6778._CR0,0,3455,3455_PT0_SX220__ ‘The Familiars’ by Stacey Halls starts well, we meet Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a nineteen-year-old pregnant for the fourth time yet still childless. She is under pressure from her much older husband for a son and all Fleetwood wants is for this child to survive.

She’s only been married 4 years when she finds herself horrified that her husband is keeping secrets and a mistress. There is only so much obedience she can take and then on a day she takes a rebellious ride through the woods she meets Alice who might just be the answer to her problems.

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Fleetwood knows she is isolated and needs someone on her side and as her relationship with Alice builds in respect and trust, she feels further and further away from Richard. Finding a Doctors note that changes her life is the turning point in the book. Is her midwife actually a witch? Can they both survive so she can bring this pregnancy to term? Will Richard forgive her?

I try and be honest with you Dear Reader, so I’m going to call a spade a spade. This book starts with such promise and intrigue but as it goes on, there isn’t enough tension, the sub-plots don’t add to the narrative and I struggled to finish it. Some people might love it, others will hate it but I am a bit indifferent. I’ve read better, I’ve definitely read worse.

The rugby is on and after that, I’m going to finish the final book in the Dr. Ruth Galloway series. Happy Reading

 

I couldn’t wait for the next series

BOOK FEELINGS: Last year (feels very weird writing that) Sky made an adaptation of Deborah Harkness’s ‘A Discovery of Witches’, now if you ignore the fact I love supernatural stories, the first part of the story is set in Oxford. The beautiful city I choose to call home, its the place that I am constantly drawn back to after turning up here in 2007 a little lost and full of expectations. My life has significantly changed since then, including Oxford but I couldn’t resist watching it full of supernatural stories on my TV.

The first episode flew by and I knew I needed to read the books. Don’t worry this isn’t a review of the show, even if I wanted to branch out into TV/Film reviews I barely have time for all the books I read so I’m not going to bore you with the details of the casting and my views of the romantic shots of the city.  This brings us to 2 weeks before Christmas, the series had finished and I was having another shitty day at work so during a very wet, cold and miserable lunchtime, I braved the weather and headed to the Waterstones at Leadenhall Market and treated myself to the first book…’A Discovery of Witches’ and went back to work with a huge smile on my face. I started reading it straight away and fell straight into the world I’d seen come alive on screen.  Fast forward to Christmas and under the tree was the box set of all 3 books, once again I had bought myself something too close to Christmas and managed to annoy Carol in the process…however it meant I had books 2 and 3 to read in the funny bit between Christmas and New Year. I was super happy!!

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REVIEW: If you haven’t seen the Sky adaptation I am going to do my best not to ruin it but equally if you have I want to tell you about some of the differences… Harkness’s view of Oxford manages to convey the bustle of students and tourists (the truth) with the romantic idealized version that attracts us all to the historical city in the first place.  We meet Dr. Diana Bishop, a determined accomplished historian who withdraws a book from the world famous Bodleian and her life changes forever.

Okay, so I made that sound super dramatic but really that is the truth. During her research of alchemy, she looks at the converted ‘Ashmole 782’ and suddenly her life is full of vampires, daemons, and even more witches. Despite spending her life refusing to use the magic she inherited from her parents, the witchcraft she has buried within for so long cannot wait to the surface, exposing her to the dangerous vampire, Professor Matthew De Clermont.

‘A Discovery of Witches’ follows these two as Diana learns more about the world she wanted to leave behind and Matthew helps her understand the importance of Ashmole 782. We meet Diana’s aunts Sarah and Em, Matthews Mother Ysabeau and son, Marcus and many creatures that want to harm and control Diana. The common enemy in this first book is the Congregation, 3 witches, 3 daemons and 3 vampires who stop the supernatural world impacting on humans (too much at least).

‘Shadow of Light’ follows Diana as escapes the Congregation’s consequences and finds herself a witch (or 10) to help her understand and control her talents. The people she surrounds herself with as family in the book are familiar in terms of name but different to how we might know them. We see the maternal side of her as she helps a street urchin and a young witch, we see her protective side and how strong she really is. More De Clermont’s show themselves and we start to see why Matthews relationship with his Mothers husband is so complicated.

In ‘The Book of Light’ Diana comes “home” and we catch up with the family and see what happened while she was away. Nathaniel and Sophie have had their baby and this seems to have taken some of the heat off Diana with the Congregation but not for long. Matthew is seeking revenge and Gallowglass tells of how he has always been around. Has Marcus stepped up enough and who will come out of this alive?

I don’t think I need to tell you how much I loved this series before I had even finished the second book I bought myself ‘Time’s Convert’ a stand-alone book that follows Marcus’s life before and after meeting Matthew. I found the narrative flowed so beautifully and there was so much attention to detail. The imagery was amazing and the humour balanced out the darkness within this. It’s easy to read and very very addictive.

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I’m off to carry on with this wonder and i’ll catch up with again soon Dear Reader.

Happy Reading

Monastery, murder and madness with Matthew

 

BOOK FEELINGS: Hello Dear Reader, I know it has been a while but rest assured I am still reading. I have been reading new and wonderful things, since we last conversed I have had fun with witches, investigated a murderer’s son and with this book totally got lost in Tudor England. Close friends of mine recommended this series as ‘Sherlock Holmes type investigating set under the command of Henry VIII’ and although I like historical stories (see ‘The Chronicles of St Mary’s’ by Jodi Taylor) I wasn’t sure. Therefor it is time to admit I WAS WRONG!!

I downloaded the first 3 books as they were on offer on Audible (other audio books providers are available) and got started the next day. I had a 3 hr journey back to Oxford which was the perfect was to get started on this series.

REVIEW:

51p04gFS4IL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Matthew Shardlake is a hunchbacked lawyer working under the rule of Thomas Cromwell in Henry VIII’s new England. Ties to Catholic Rome and the guidance of the Pope have been severed and Cromwell wants the monasteries to surrender their land.

Shardlake has been sent to the monastery at Scarnsea on the south coast to investigate the death of a fellow commissioner. What he finds is the deepest deception, mad men and truth behind his own feelings.

There are many subplots in this to keep the story flowing, including a buddy romance, racism and the hidden fantasies of the monks, both sexual and financial. The Snow, Alice and Brother Guy ‘the Dark faced monk’ keep Shardlake in Scarnsea much longer than anticipated and as the bodies rack up, is he actually safe within the walls of the Monastery?

This book is captivating even if you know nothing about Tudor England. the drama, the adventure and the surprises keep you guessing right until the end.

I have started Book 2 so I’m off to listen. Happy Reading

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