New Read: Resthaven

At the end of September, I decided to continue my Autumn themed reading for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII event with the young adult thriller Resthaven by Erik Therme; which had been on my Kindle for too long!

As the new kid in town, Kaylee feels isolated and awkward, so the last thing she wants to do is go to a sleepover with girls she barely knows, let alone likes. Things only get worse when it turns out the queen bee Jamie has arranged a scavenger hunt inside the old abandoned retirement home, Resthaven, which sits right on the edge of town. After an explosive argument the girls all split off separately around the dark empty building…but Kaylee soon discovers that they’re not alone and to top it off the front doors have been mysterious padlocked from the outside! Now Kaylee must find everyone and try to find another way out before it’s too late.

Our narrator Kaylee is joined on this disastrous scavenger hunt by the sensitive Anna, who invited her, the silent Wren, the ditzy Sidney and the bullying Jamie. The problem was I didn’t really like any of them! As stereotypical teenage girls they were all hormonal and seemed to take it in turns to be selfish, thoughtless, insensitive and downright hurtful to each other, including our heroine Kaylee. So sadly I can’t say I found myself rooting for any of them!

Fortunately, Therme has written a tight story with pacey action scenes, twists and turns, and an element of surprise or two. Therefore I certainly wasn’t left bored and I was drawn to keep reading to find out more. As we read on we also learn more of the back stories of each girl, which does help to explain their current behaviour and attitudes, even if it doesn’t completely justify them. Plus of course there is the other person/s in the locked building with them that adds tension, mystery and a real sense of danger.

So overall, shame about the characters but otherwise I thought Resthaven was an easy-to-read, fast paced, young adult thriller which I just zipped through. It was also a very good fit for the R.I.P event. Okay read.

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

Have you read this? Or anything else for the R.I.P event?

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII – 2/4

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New Books: September & October 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, as I didn’t manage to squeeze in a post last month, here are the goodies I added to my bookshelf and Kindle in September and October:

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

First in September, I finally managed to get my hands on a lovely Headline Review copy of this, which completes my beautiful pastel Austen set.

Queen of Love by Christopher Nicole

Seven Sovereign Queens by Geoffrey Trease

Then I was happy to snap up a free copy of Queen of Love, the second Eleanor of Aquitaine novel, and a bargain copy of Seven Sovereign Queens, which I am particularly excited about after loving Seven Stages, both from Endeavour Press’ e-newsletters.

Aaru by David Meredith

River Rising by John A. Heldt

Finally, in September, I was contacted and received review copies of David Meredith’s new young adult novel Aaru and John A. Heldt’s new time-travel novel River Rising, the first in Heldt’s new Carson Chronicles. Previously I have enjoyed both these authors, so I am looking forward to trying more.

The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart

Thunder on the Right by Mary Stewart

Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart

Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

The Prince and the Pilgrim by Mary Stewart

Moving on to this month, I could barely contain my excitement when I found five of Mary Stewart’s suspense novels and one of her Arthurian Saga novels all in the Kindle 99p sale on Amazon (UK)! So I had to get them all … right?!

Crazy Busy by Kevin Deyoung

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi

Finally, this month, I bought these two Christian non-fictions in anticipation of the long-awaited return of my church’s book club. Up first is Crazy Busy for the November meeting.

Do you fancy any of these? What new books have you got recently?

New Read: Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage

After enjoying four comforting re-reads, I was excited to read new-to-me Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M C Beaton, the fifth book in Beaton’s long-running, cosy-crime series. (If you are unfamiliar with this author and series you may instead want to read my thoughts on the first book: Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death).

Our smart dressing, retired-PR executive Agatha Raisin believes all her dreams are about to come true, as the morning of her marriage to James Lacey dawns bright and clear. However before the service can be completed, Agatha’s presumed dead husband, Jimmy Raisin, turns up very much alive and kicking! In embarrassment James storms off and Agatha is left mortified. Things are only to get worse though, when Jimmy is discovered dead the next morning, Agatha and James are the prime suspects. So they will have to reluctantly work together again to catch the real murderer to clear their names.

Our formerly sharp, bossy and cajoling Agatha has reached her lowest point ever. Now embarrassed and heart sore she cares little for maintaining her usual immaculate appearance and strong outer persona, which in fact only makes her more endearing to the reader, her friends and secretly even James Lacey too. Personally not being a huge fan of the distant James, I wasn’t all that bothered when the marriage was stopped, but I was upset when the young Detective Sergeant Wong’s head is turned by the ambitious Detective Constable Maddie Hurd; who he believes is the one?! Fortunately, Mrs Bloxby is as steadfast and lovely as ever!

As with my re-reads, it was an absolute pleasure to return to the charming village of Carsely, but this time for an all new crime and a more personal although still rather eccentric and bumbling investigation with Agatha. I love a good murder mystery, however I don’t always want all that gore and gritty realism, which is when a cosy-crime like this is perfect. These aren’t ground breaking books, instead they are grab a mug of tea, curl up and simply enjoy kind of books. They are rapidly becoming my go-to-books for comfort.

Overall, I thought Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage was another quick, fun and comforting read. Next up is Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist. Good read.

Have you read this? Have you read any other cosy-crime recently?

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII – 1/4

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?

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?

Re-Read: Northern Lights

Back in July, I re-read Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, after deciding this would be the year I would finally re-read Pullman’s ever popular trilogy: His Dark Materials. Scarily I believe it has to be more than ten years since I first read this wonderful series!

Among the scholars of Oxford’s Jordan College, the young orphan Lyra Belacqua has grown up wild and spirited. With her daemon Pan and best friend Roger, Lyra explores Jordan’s ancient buildings, scampers across the roofs, battles Gyptian kids and generally causes havoc around town; while all the time dodging lessons and wash time! However Lyra’s small world is to be blown apart by the imprisonment of her enigmatic Uncle Asriel, the kidnap of Roger by the feared “Gobblers” and the arrival of the beautiful Mrs Coulter. To rescue her uncle and friend, Lyra sets forth for the dangerous far North, with a rare truth-telling instrument, an alethiometer, as her guide.

It was a sheer joy to re-immerse myself back into this magical adventure with the headstrong Lyra; who is much braver than I would have been at her age! While at first this world may seem very similar to our own there are some significant differences. The most significant being that each human is joined with a sentient spirit, known as a daemon, which takes the form of an animal. As Lyra is still a child her daemon Pan can change form – at different times offering comfort as a snow ermine, lookout as a brown moth and protection as a wildcat. Also as we journey north, more fantastical elements emerge, including: witches and panserbjørne (armoured bears)!

The over-arching baddie to the piece is not a singular person but instead an institution: The Magisterium (more commonly known as ‘the Church’). The Magisterium is a zealously religious institution that wields immense power and influence over the land. Who can and will move swiftly to squash any person or idea that they deem to be heretical. This is the element of these books that shows Pullman’s Atheist views. I am a Christian but thankfully in this first instalment, I don’t find Pullman’s views in any way offensive or too overbearing. In fact, I can slightly sympathise with the negativity against an organised religion which is more interested in human-made rules rather than God.

Having now refreshed my memory with this re-read, the weaknesses of the 2007 film adaptation, The Golden Compass, are now more apparent to me. Which is a shame because after I got over my annoyance that they changed the title (it’s not a compass!!) I actually rather enjoyed the film. I thought it beautifully visualised the world and creatures, with great casting of Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra and Ian McKellan as the voice of Iorek Byrnison. Sadly though I was disappointed by the ending and now I can see even more clearly how the mystifying decision to stop a chapter short of the book’s ending took so much of the surprise, drama and power out of it. Such a shame.

In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed my re-read of Northern Lights and I look forward to re-reading the rest of the trilogy. Next up: The Subtle Knife. Great read.

Have you read this? Or watched the film adaptation?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 8/10