New Read: A Reaper of Stone

Reaper of Stone

I had heard good things, from a fellow book blogger, about novella A Reaper of Stone by Mark Gelineau and Joe King. So much so that I downloaded the first and second book from this new fantasy series, and then returned for two more books based in the same fantasy world.

Lady Lliane of Last Dawn has died and with this death her noble line ends. Now across the marches comes the King’s Reaper with a host of knights and engineers to claim the late Lady’s land for a new lord and to pull down the ancient keep; an unwanted reminder of the old world. The King’s Reaper, Elinor, is clear about her duty – the old must full to herald in the new. However in this land, out on the fringes of the kingdom of Aedaron, the old magic and tradition is still alive and Elinor finds herself dangerously drawn to it.

Elinor is a strong, brave and very likeable character. We first meet her in the prologue to this tale, when she is just a young orphan, where she faces a deadly monster to prove herself in a world full of privileged and brutal nobility. In that battle and this new one Elinor is aided by Conbert; a young noble who is brave, fair and goes on to become the Royal Engineer. Elinor has worked hard against danger and prejudice to become the King’s Reaper in this new world, however it is the magic, tales and traditions of the old world which inspired her. I found I backed Elinor in her rebellion and it wasn’t hard when the new lord and his head henchmen are so very horrid.

Mark Gelineau and Joe King are both new authors for me however I found their style comfortable, engaging and highly readable that I sped through this novella as if I’d always been reading them. I love how Gelineau and King say they came together to write this set of series in homage to all the classic, epic fantasy tales and great heroes of their childhood. For such a short book I was pleasantly surprised by how they managed to give the story that epic fantasy feel. With a well built world and magic system that had a sense of age to it and good character description and development. My only criticism would be that I wanted more! Luckily for me I have three more books from the kingdom of Aedaron waiting on my Kindle for me.

A Reaper of Stone was a quick and engaging fantasy read for me and I look forward to reading Broken Banners next – I doubt I’ll wait too long to pick it up. Good read.

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

Have you read this? Any other fantasy novellas you’ve enjoyed?

New Read: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

The Beekeeper's Apprentice

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R King, the first Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery, has been on my to-be-read pile for far too long! I picked it up a few years ago after starting to read/love Doyle’s classic Holmes stories. Finally taking part in the What’s in a Name event 2016 has encouraged me to read it.

One cool, sunny day in 1915 Mary Russell is taking a walk over the Sussex Downs with her nose firmly planted in a book – where she almost tramples an eccentric gentlemen who is out on the Downs counting bees. This eccentric gentlemen is none other than Sherlock Holmes, the renowned private detective, who in his retirement has moved to the country and taken up bee keeping. They immediately strike up an unlikely friendship. Under Holmes’ tutelage Mary begins to grows in knowledge, strength and confidence until she is able to solve some dastardly crimes herself.

When we first meet Mary Russell that sunny day in 1915 she is only 15 years old. Tragically her parents and brother were killed in a car crash leaving her a wealthy orphan. As she is not of age though she must suffer her unpleasant aunt living with her as her guardian. Her friendship with Holmes gives her an escape from her loneliness and boredom. While the age gap is a little creepy when you think about it I didn’t mind because their personalities suited each other so well. I enjoyed watching Mary grow physically and as a character – until she is 19 years old, studying at Oxford University and ready to start helping Holmes fight crime; because Holmes wouldn’t know how to completely retire even if he wanted too.

One of the first crimes Mary and Holmes tackle is the kidnapping of an American Senator’s young daughter while holidaying in Wales. This crime had everything I could have hoped for: an isolated setting, secrets, danger and Mary and Holmes go incognito as Romany travellers; brilliant! Mary and Holmes learn a lot from this first crime together which will stand them in better stead for when they face real danger to themselves and their friends later in the novel. The first half of this book was slower but once we hit the real danger and mystery I had trouble putting this down!

Since I bought this book I have really fallen in love with Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes novels and short-stories. While I don’t feel Holmes was the main protagonist of this book, I do think Laurie R King has drawn him well – he is older, in a new situation and solving new crimes but I always felt what King had him do and say was believable. I think I will always prefer Doyle’s classic stories however I did thoroughly enjoy getting to join Holmes in more adventures through King in this book. I would definitely be interested in reading more from this series and King.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice was a comforting, nostalgic and thrilling adventure for me, which helped me to escape the dreary weather of January. Good read.

Have you read this? Can you recommend any other spin-off Sherlock Holmes books?

What’s in a Name 2016 – a profession 1/6

New Read: Named of the Dragon

Named of the Dragon

Last year I enjoyed Mariana and The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley; and I couldn’t wait to read more. In mid-January I found myself reaching for Named of the Dragon which was waiting on my Kindle for me.

Literary agent Lyn Ravenshaw travels to the beautiful, ancient coastal town of Angle, Pembrokeshire to spend Christmas with client and friend, Bridget Cooper. Lyn agrees to go to please Bridget but she is also tempted by the chance to meet Bridget’s new flame; successful author James Swift. They are to stay at Castle Farm, a large historic home resplendent with roaring fires, sea views and its own tower. Lyn is soon to find herself drawn into the mystery and legend surrounding the hysterical ravings of their young, widowed neighbour Elen; who believes the ‘dragons’ are trying to take her infant son. Lyn seems to be the only one who fears there may be some truth hiding behind the fantastical details though.

Our protagonist Lyn Ravenshaw is a practical, independent and kind woman who lives and works in bustling London. The complete opposite to the glamorous and self-absorbed children’s writer Bridget, whom she represents, however they do genuinely seem to have formed a sweet and unlikely friendship. While Bridget finds it all annoying Lyn is drawn to protect Elen and her son. It heightens Lyn’s own fears and nightmares about the loss of her own son Justin five years earlier. I couldn’t help but feel for Lyn. She is also joined in this mystery by the dashing James and his roguish brother Christopher, handyman Owen and his busybody wife Dilys, and the elusive playwright Gareth Gwyn Morgan.

This is the 5th novel I have read by Susanna Kearsley; who is now one of my comfort read favourites. I love how Kearsley’s writing style is so comforting and familiar, like a favourite jumper. Only a chapter in and I was swept off into this wonderful mystery which is full of history, Arthurian legend, stunning settings, and a touch of romance, magic and the paranormal. I grew up going on holiday to North Wales, and I still fondly remember the glorious countryside and wild coastline. I have also always been fascinated by tales of King Arthur and Merlin, so this book played right into my hands. I have only once been to South Wales where this is set – it has really made me want to go back.

Named of the Dragon was an immersive and gripping mystery for me. I highly recommend! I can’t wait to read more by Susanna Kearsley – I have Season of Storms on my to-be-read pile. 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? Have you read any of Susanna Kearsley’s other novels?

New Read: Out of Darkness

Out of Darkness

As a practicing Christian I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and to hear what other Christians have to say. My first faith read for 2016 is Stormie Omartian’s memoir Out of Darkness: My Story of Finding True Light and Liberation.

I first discovered Stormie Omartian in 2014 and I have read pretty much everything by her I have been able to get my hands on since. This has included The Power of a Praying Woman, Choose Love, The Praying Woman’s Devotional and a short study guide addition of Prayer Warrior. I have found everything I have read by Omartian beautiful and inspiring, so when I saw this memoir I was intrigued to find out what had inspired her to write these wonderful books; which have become best sellers all over the world and have touched the lives of so many women from so many different backgrounds.

The truth is a lot of hardship and prayer has inspired her to write these books. Omartian became a Christian later in life after suffering child abuse, debilitating anxiety, a traumatising abortion, a failed marriage, and after dabbling in drugs and the occult. Her new-found faith and prayer brought her love, peace and forgiveness, however she soon learnt that you should never stop praying. Once remarried and starting a family Omartian found it very important to pray for her pregnancy complications, for her husband’s anger issues, to protect her family from drive by shootings, earthquakes, storms, and later in life her husband’s and her own terrible illnesses. It was after experiencing so much that she felt the calling to write and share.

While this was another well-written, beautiful and inspiring read – it was also a sad, hard and often heart-breaking read too. I was impressed with how candid Omartian was in this memoir; I think writing this was very brave of her. I am so glad she did because it really answered many questions I had about how she became a Christian and why she started writing. And on reflection Omartian had to really open up to fully share why prayer is so important. Just because you’re a Christian it doesn’t mean life will be rosy and perfect; we all face loss, trouble and challenges. Being a Christian doesn’t stop these from happening but does give us the relief of the love, peace, support and guidance from an all-loving and all-forgiving God. What I am taking away from this is how crucial it is to continue to pray, through the bad and the good.

Out of Darkness is a powerful and inspiring memoir, that allows you to experience the life of a Christian woman, wife, mother and writer. I really hope to read more by Omartian in the future. 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 anything by Stormie Omartian? Any recommendations for other Christian memoirs?

New Read: Shadow of Night

Shadow of Night

Back in March 2015 I finally read A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness; the first book in Harkness’ All Souls trilogy. I was hoping to get round to the second book sooner, however I picked up Shadow of Night in December 2015 and it was a long read.

Diana Bishop has some powerful enemies and is no longer safe in our time. Fearing kidnap, torture and death Diana makes the drastic decision to leave her home and family to time walk back to a safer time; where she can learn to control her new powers. Based on Matthew’s past experience they travel together back to Elizabethan England. Here Diana must learn the etiquette and dress of a noble lady, step carefully through the politics of court, and avoid the witch hunts that are rife across Europe. While all the time on the hunt for the bewitched manuscript, Ashmole 782.

I particularly enjoyed the setting and the history of this book. In this time period Matthew steps back into the role of poet and spy for Elizabeth I; and a leading member of the creative group known as the School of Night; an eclectic mix of vampires, daemons and humans. Other members include Christopher Marlowe, Walter Raleigh and Thomas Harriot. It was fascinating to meet these famous faces and on reading the author’s notes I discovered that many of the other characters were based on real historical figures too; again I was really impressed with Harkness’ research and eye for detail.

In the past love between a vampire and a witch is still forbidden so Diana and Matthew’s marriage is looked upon as in name only, and it needs to remain that way if they wish to stay safe. I enjoyed how Diana flowered in her powers and confidence in the past but in a male dominated world I found Matthew’s more dislikeable vampire traits came to the fore; such as possessive-ness and paranoia. Which meant I still found Diana and Matthew’s relationship my least favourite aspect of these books. Fortunately I still loved the detailed and immersive style and world Harkness conjures; and all the historical, alchemical, literary and art references and details that were included kept me hooked!

Shadow of Night is another detailed and well written paranormal romance in a historical setting. I look forward to completing the trilogy with The Book of Life which is waiting on my Kindle for me. Good read.

Have you read this? Have you enjoyed other paranormal romances?

New Read: Kingmaker: Broken Faith

Broken Faith

In September 2014 I read Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims by Toby Clements; the first book in this War of the Roses trilogy. A gripping read which left our protagonists on a real cliff-hanger so I simply had to find out what happened next in the second book, Kingmaker: Broken Faith.

We return to our apostates Katherine and Thomas two years after the bloody slaughter at Towton. King Edward is now upon the throne but England is still not at peace, as King Henry and his beleaguered Lancastrian supporters are hold up in the northern reaches of the land. After much death and loss, and the promotion of their enemy Katherine and Thomas find their faith in Edward dwindling. So bent on revenge they head north to the mighty castle of Bamburgh; one of the last great strongholds of King Henry. They carry with them a powerful secret and the hope of finding justice at last.

This is not a story about the rich, powerful lords and kings. What I love is that this story is about the terrible effect this bloody, civil war has on the common man; told through the eyes of Katherine and Thomas. Katherine was once a nun which has made her strong, practical and clever. Since then she has become a capable surgeon and goes about disguised as a boy called Kit. Thomas was also once a monk and unlike Katherine he has often pined for his old, quiet life back. Since then though he has become a strong archer and shed much blood, for which he has received little thanks. Now they are both bent on revenge against the man who caused them so much pain and suffering. I like Katherine and Thomas, for me them and their growing relationship is what makes this book so readable.

I am pleased I read this second book by Toby Clements; I think I may have even liked it a little more than the first and I will certainly want to read the third book now too. I have read many historical novels full of detail and drama however this is one of the few authors that has really immersed me into the action of the time. Clements describes intimately how Katherine and Thomas feel, what they see and all the gritty detail of what they do in the heat of battle; fighting or operating. This detail might not be for everyone and isn’t what I usually go for but Clements has done it very well and clearly knows what he is writing about.

Kingmaker: Broken Faith is a bloody, gripping and detailed historical adventure – an emotional rollercoaster which is not for the faint hearted. I hope to read more from Clements and this trilogy in the future. 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? What books have you read set during the War of the Roses?

The Classics Club: The Railway Children

The Railway Children

Early in 2015 I read the charming, childhood classic The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and it felt only fitting to end the year with another trip down memory lane with The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit. I had previously read neither but I had enjoyed the films.

This was a perfect read for the lead up to Christmas as it swept me back to Edwardian London. Where middle-class siblings Roberta, Phyllis and Peter have had their world turned upside down; as their father is mysteriously taken from them. They are forced to say goodbye to their devoted servants, comfortable villa, and move with their mother to fend for themselves in a small cottage in the country. Here they are to learn to appreciate the simple joys of life, make friends, help strangers, and have many adventures; mostly revolving around the railway at the bottom of the field.

Our three young protagonists are sweet and naïve children, and the younger two could be accused of being a little spoilt. During this novel they are all transformed in some way. Peter needs to learn to think of others and how to go without. Phyllis is often away in the clouds and needs to learn to be more practical. It is only Roberta (Bobby), the eldest, who is already kind, caring and practical; perhaps because of her age. I particularly loved how strong she was for her mother and her younger siblings. They are joined by a colourful mixture of characters who they befriend and who help them along the way; including the eccentric, well-loved station porter Perks and the kind, old gentlemen – both of whom they met during their adventures with the railway.

This is the first time I have read The Railway Children or anything by Edith Nesbit. This felt more like a comforting re-read though as I am no stranger to the story. I have fond memories of watching the 1970 film, which I often settled down to watch with my mother during the Christmas holidays. Happily I found the book as equally charming – it was nice to get to know the characters a little deeper and to find out some extra adventures and details. While nothing particularly thrilling happens I whipped through this book. It was a perfect read to snuggle down in bed with on the long, dark winter nights of December.

The Railway Children is a charming Edwardian children’s classic which was a comforting winter read. After reading this I am keen to read more by Edith Nesbit – I still have Five Children and It on my Classics Club list. Great read.

Have you read this or watched any of the films?

The Classics Club – 37/50