Goodbye September, Hello October 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? Autumn, my favourite season, has well and truly arrived here in the UK. It is a little sad how quickly the weather has cooled but I have still enjoyed getting my comfy boots, woolly tights and my extensive scarf collection back out! So as I squeezed in a trip to London, started back at work and got acclimatised to the weather, this is what I read:

Fiction: 3          Non-Fiction: 1

Only two days into the month, on my flight home from Rome, I finished reading the light historical mystery The Mistress of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon, that was a real, easy page turner for my holiday.

I returned to the UK to find that the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII event had started! So I threw myself straight into the event with a comforting read of the new-to-me Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M C Beaton, the fifth book in Beaton’s long-running, cosy-crime series. Which I swiftly followed with the young adult thriller Resthaven by Erik Therme, another quick, easy read – the types of reads I’ve needed as I’ve settled into a new year at work.

Alongside these fictions, I also read non-fiction Watling Street by John Higgs, an eccentric and meandering look into the people, history and culture that has grown up along this ancient road.

Sadly I am still a little behind on my posts as I had so many books from August to catch up with first, which leaves three reviews from this month for you to look forward to in October.

Pick of the Month: The Mistress of Blackstairs

Altogether that is four books completed in August. Through out the month, I also continued to dip in and out of the classic North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Whilst at the end of the month, I started a comforting re-read of The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman and I am already halfway through Queens of Conquest by Alison Weir, a fascinating history of England’s Medieval queens.

In October, I have no big plans so I am just looking forward to catching up with my reviews and continuing my R.I.P reading.

What did you do and read in September? What are your plans for October?

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Adaptations: September 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms and adaptation lovers, here are the adaptations I have been watching during this month:

Game of Thrones (Series 7)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

The long-anticipated seventh series of this epic fantasy drama, based on George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books, is the most ambition, so far! With the political intrigue, family rivalry and the bloody fight for the Iron Throne of previous series paling into insignificance now Winter has come and Death is on the march. How can I possible wait a year (maybe longer!) for the final outcome?! Great watch.


The Leftovers (Series 3)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

Earlier this year, this drama with a supernatural twist, based on Tom Perrotta’s novel, returned for its third and final series. As the auspicious 7 year anniversary of the “Sudden Departure” approaches we see how those left behind finally come to terms with it. An interesting end to the series but I think as many new questions were raised as old were answered! Good watch.


Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling & The Silkworm (2017)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

BBC’s new crime drama, based on the novels of Robert Galbraith aka J K Rowling, we meet private detective Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke) and his capable new assistant Robin (Holliday Grainger) as they tackle two cases. First, the apparent suicide of a young model and second, the disappearance of a controversial writer. I thoroughly enjoyed both these dark, complex mysteries and the brilliant chemistry between Strike and Robin. Great watch.


Altogether that’s four new-to-me adaptations, and with no re-watches, this is my lowest amount in months if not the year; probably because of all the time I have spent away recently. However I have also continued enjoying new series Midnight, Texas (2017) this month too – only the finale to go now!

Have you watched any of these? What have you been watching recently?

New Read: The Mistress of Blackstairs

Midway through my glorious holiday to Rome, and having finished Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor, I found the historical mystery The Mistress of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon calling to me – I dived in hoping for another light and fun read to enjoy in the sun.

Back in 18th century Covent Garden, we meet Madam Moineau, the mysterious and alluring, masked mistress of Blackstairs, an establishment offering a good time and beautiful companions for some of the finest clients in London. Beneath the fine dresses, make up and masks though, Moineau hides a dark past that she wishes to remain hidden. This is all to be threatened in the winter of 1785 by the appearance of two men: first, the charming rogue artist Anthony Lake and second, the cold Viscount Edmund Polmear. Finding themselves both up against the fearsome Polmear, Lake and Moineau’s lives are to become inextricably entwined for good or ill.

Moineau, or Georgie as we learn her true identity is, has been through a terrible ordeal after which she has worked hard to build a new, safe life at Blackstairs. Now ferociously protective and independent, she finds it hard to let anyone close and with the return of Polmear, the instigator of her ordeal, she raises her defences even higher – when she first sees him again the fear was palpable. But could her heart also be under threat from the handsome Anthony Lake? Anthony has recently returned from Europe on a mission to find his daughter and revenge the murder of her mother. Feckless in the past, he is now determined to put things right. I really liked Georgie and Anthony, and I was totally invested in them and their struggles.

Catherine Curzon is a new author for me and my request of this book was a bit of a whim, purely based on the sound of the premise – boy am I pleased I followed my whim. I thought Curzon did a wonderful job of bringing alive 18th century London, with well rounded characters, a dark, twisting mystery and a will they/won’t they romance. While the romance was a larger part of the book than I had expected, I was enjoying the mystery and the characters so much I was happy to go with it. In the future, I would be interested in reading more by Catherine Curzon.

Overall, The Mistress of Blackstairs was exactly what I hoped it would be: a light historical mystery that was a real, easy page turner for my holiday and flight home. Good read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Catherine Curzon?

New Read: Just One Damned Thing After Another

In the last week of August, as I jetted off for Rome, I decided to finally give Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor, the first book in the Chronicles of St Mary’s, a go – hoping for something light and fun to enjoy on the flight; and I was not to be disappointed!

It all begins, when Madeleine Maxwell (known as Maxwell) is urged, by her mentor, to apply for the seemingly innocuous role of Historian at the rather eccentric St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research. However, Maxwell is to discover this is not your usual, dull desk job, but instead an opportunity of a lifetime. St Mary’s actually has a way for the Historians to physically travel back in time to observe, document, and to try to find the answers to many of History’s unanswered questions … whilst trying not to tamper with the timeline or to die in the process, as one wrong move and History will fight back – to the death – and it is soon made clear that it’s not just History they’re fighting.

I thought it was an absolute hoot travelling with Maxwell and her fellow Historians from 11th century London to a field hospital in World War I, and from dinosaur watching in the Cretaceous Period to the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria. But nothing is to be straightforward as wherever Historians go, chaos seems to follow! While we don’t spend a large amount of time in each period, I felt Taylor described them adequately and made them feel real and distinct for me.

I also loved the little, time travel ‘pods’ the Historians used to transport back in. They are pretty much portable offices/homes, which are well stocked with equipment, food, clothes, beds, showers and a kettle; because there is no problem that can’t be figured out over a good cup of tea! If you are a science-fiction buff, I warn you there is no real scientific explanation of how the ‘pods’ worked, however for me that was absolutely fine as scientific detail would go straight over my head – I was perfectly happy to accept they worked and to hop on board for the ride.

Our narrator for all this, Maxwell, is a clever, stubborn, resourceful and strong woman, who is also a chaos magnet! She is joined in her adventures by many other characters – some friends and some enemies – as St Mary’s is like one big eccentric family. Made up of not just Historians but also scientists, engineers, technicians, trainers, medical staff, librarians and kitchen staff (you can get food anytime at St Mary’s). On top of all this, there is also a love interest for Maxwell, while I generally enjoyed this relationship, I could have done with less bedroom gymnastics details.

All in all though, I thought Just One Damned Thing After Another was a fantastical, time-travelling romp and a perfect quick, easy read for my holiday. I would very happily go back to St Mary’s … actually I would like to work there, perhaps I could make the tea?! No? Oh well, maybe I will just have to read the other books instead. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any other time travel adventures?

New Read: The Girl in the Glass Tower

In 2014, I read the fascinating The Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle, about the ill-fated Grey sisters, after which I was eager to read more of her work. It was earlier this year I got that chance when I received a copy of this, The Girl in the Glass Tower, Fremantle’s novel about the less well known Arbella Stuart, which was published just last year.

The Lady Arbella was the only child of Charles Stuart which made her, along with the Grey sisters, a possible contender for the English throne. Having been orphaned at a young age, Arbella is raised in comfort and privilege, with the very best education to prepare her to be queen, by her domineering maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Cavendish (better known as ‘Bess of Hardwick’). However her royal blood is more a curse than a gift for Arbella, as she is forced to live cloistered away from the world behind the towering glass windows of Hardwick Hall. If she ever wishes to break free she must learn to navigate a treacherous game of power, intrigue and danger.

History has largely forgotten poor Arbella and it would seem her contemporaries also wrote her off as cold, aloof and mad! So I think it is wonderful that Fremantle chose to showcase her in this book. Fremantle paints Arbella as a clever, strong-willed, but naïve woman, who actually has a lot of passion and love just no one to share it with. And there is little wonder she may have grown to be cold, aloof and mentally unstable, when she had no family or true friends to speak of other than her grandmother. Now while her grandmother may have cared for and protected Arbella, heartbreakingly it was more as an investment rather than she had any true love for her.

Again Fremantle has delivered a well-written and believable glimpse into the intrigue and danger of the Elizabethan and early Stuart period in English history. Through Arbella we see a life within a gilded cage – in fact, Fremantle brings it to life so well I was often left feeling claustrophobic and hopeless; as I’m sure poor Arbella did too. Cleverly Fremantle has balanced this feeling by having a second narrator Ami (based on a court poet and mistress), who looks back on her old friend Arbella’s life by lovingly reading through her papers; which were thoughtlessly discarded after her death. While Ami does have her own troubles and is racked with guilt over her friend’s sad end, I felt she does offer a more hopeful and healthier perspective.

Overall, I thought The Girl in the Glass Tower was another fascinating read, that really grabbed at my heartstrings and had me truly invested in the lives of Arbella and Ami. I can’t wait to read more by Elizabeth Fremantle and it just so happens I have her 2014 novel Queen’s Gambit, about Katherine Parr, on my bookshelf! Great read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Elizabeth Fremantle?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 9/10

New Read: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (A Very Brief History)

Unintentionally this year, I have had a bit of an US president theme going on in my reading through Mark Black’s A Very Brief History series. Having read about Richard NixonJohn F Kennedy and The Cuban Missile Crisis, it seemed only appropriate to read the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis instalment next.

Before reading this, I knew that Jacqueline was a fashion icon, affectionately known as Jackie O, who had first been married to the young, handsome and sadly doomed president John F Kennedy, and was heartbreakingly by his side in the car when he was assassinated on the 22nd November 1963. But I knew very little else. From reading this, I was interested to learn how Jackie was the one to redefine the role of First Lady into the form we know it as today, as well as redesigning and restoring The White House to its current glory. After JFK’s death, she also played a key role in building a positive legacy for him and his short term in office. Clearly this woman was more than just a very pretty face.

In hindsight, I think I am very lucky to have managed to collect so many of Black’s short histories, as I doubt I would have ever read about US presidents, politics or about Jackie for that matter otherwise. Which would be a great shame because I found her really interesting. This was another clear and concise history that is broken down into bite-size chapters on: Jackie’s early life; her Kennedy marriage; her time as First Lady; JFK’s assassination; her later Onassis marriage and life; her death and the release of sealed tapes she recorded just after JFK’s death. I warn you now though, this really is a short history so if you know or have read about Jackie before, than I doubt you will learn anything new from this. I recommend to those, like me, who know little to nothing.

Overall, I thought Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: A Very Brief History was another quick and interesting read. I have seven more editions from this series still to go – it seems appropriate to read either the instalment on the Vietnam War or Ronald Reagan next. Okay read.

Have you read this? Or anything else about Jackie Kennedy?

Top Ten Tuesday: My Autumn TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR List

There are many wonderful books awaiting me on my bookshelf and Kindle, however here are ten books I am particularly looking forward to reading this Autumn (ordered alphabetically by title):

~1~

Assassination at Bayou Sauvage by D J Donaldson

After loving Blood on the Bayou last year, I am excited to read another mystery with medical examiner Andy Broussard and criminal psychologist Kit Franklyn.

~2~

Cauldstane by Linda Gillard

Gillard is one of my favourite authors and last year, I was thrilled to top up my Kindle with three of her novels. Of those three I fancy reading this first.

~3~

Headline Murder by Peter Bartram

This Crampton of the Chronicle mystery has sat on my Kindle for too long and there doesn’t seem a better time of year to finally get round to it.

~4~

The Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland

Maitland’s historical fiction tends to be on the dark side with a touch of the supernatural, so I’ve been saving this for when the night’s start to draw in.

~5~

The Quarry by Iain Banks

This mystery from the late, great Banks has sat on my bookshelf for too long and this seems like the season to finally give it a go.

~6~

Queens of Conquest by Alison Weir

I am super excited about this: the latest history from Weir about medieval queens.

~7~

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

After loving The White Queen earlier this year, I am looking forward to continuing Gregory’s popular Cousins’ War series.

~8~

Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

I don’t think Autumn would be Autumn without a sweeping historical mystery from, one of my favourite authors, Kearsley.

~9~

The Shadow Queen by Anne O’Brien

O’Brien is pretty much my go-to-author when I want to be lost in a good historical fiction, so I am excited to read her latest novel.

~10~

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman [re-read]

I am looking forward to continuing my comforting re-read of Pullman’s young adult trilogy, His Dark Materials.

What are you looking forward to reading this Autumn? Also, please link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.