Book Review

The Ghost of Ivy Barn – Mark Stay

Hot on the heels of The Crow Folk and Babes in the Wood comes the third book in Mark Stay’s wonderful Witches of Woodville series, The Ghost of Ivy Barn, and I am delighted to be joining the blog tour to celebrate its publication today. Many thanks to Mark and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

August, 1940.

As the Battle of Britain rages overhead, a warlock leader from the Council of High Witches comes to Woodville with a ritual to repel the imminent Nazi invasion. The only catch is it involves full-frontal nudity on the White Cliffs of Dover. The Witches of Woodville are having none of it, but when more witches arrive they realise they might have a spy in their midst, and it’s up to Faye Bright to uncover the traitor. But she’s got enough on her plate already with the ghost of a Polish Hurricane pilot who may hold the key to the truth.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Waterstones

REVIEW:

Well, this is a series that just keep getting better and better. Whilst not as dark as Babes in the Wood, The Ghost of Ivy Barn is packed full of emotion and magical hijinks, making it an absolute joy to visit Woodville once again. Miss Charlotte and Mrs Teach are in fine fettle as the witchy double act return to continue Faye’s magical education, and it was a delight to witness the continuing romance between Faye and Bertie.

All my favourite characters from the previous books were present and correct, but this time they were joined by a few new faces – some of whom were more keen than others to complete their Nazi repelling ritual skyclad!

Whether it is down to the already delicate state I was in while reading, I can’t say, but there was more than one point towards the end of this book that brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye, so you might want to keep the tissues close by.

If you are new to Mr Stay’s work, please check out his unboxing videos on his Facebook page and sign up for his newsletter – you are in for a treat with both!

The Witches of Woodville is a series that never fails to put a smile on my face, and I look forward to future books!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Stay co-wrote the screenplay for Robot Overlords which became a movie with Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson, and premiered at the 58th London Film Festival. He is co-presenter of the Bestseller Experiment podcast and has worked in bookselling and publishing for over twenty-five years. He lives in Kent, England, with his family and a trio of retired chickens. He blogs and humblebrags over at markstaywrites.com

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Make sure you visit the other blogs taking part in the tour for this magical book.

Book Review

Fantasy Short Stories – Suzanne Rogerson

I am delighted to be welcoming Suzanne Rogerson back to my blog today with a collection of short stories. If you aren’t familiar with Suzanne’s previous books, you can read all about them here and here.

BLURB:

A collection of short stories featuring favourite characters from Visions of Zarua and the Silent Sea Chronicles, plus a glimpse into the new series, Starlight Prophecy.

The Guardian

With an assassin picking off wizards one-by-one, Kalesh visits Cassima, a former student, hoping to persuade her to re-join the Royal Wizards and use their protection to keep her family safe.

Kalesh’s newest charge, Paddren, has strange visions which link to a past event known only to a select few. The knowledge hidden in Paddren’s visions is invaluable so Kalesh must guard the boy at any cost.

Can Kalesh keep his students off the assassin’s radar long enough for his order to stop the killer?

Garrick the Protector

Fifteen-year-old Garrick is helping at his uncle’s farm when his cousin’s illegal use of magic threatens the family’s safety.

Mara is in immediate danger from the Assembly who deem all magic as a threat. The only safe place for her is the Turrak Mountains where exiled mystics have found sanctuary alongside the island’s Sentinel.

Can Garrick get Mara to safety before the Assembly catch up with them?

War Wounds

Conscripted to fight off raiders, Calder finds the months of bloody battle unleash a sixth sense buried inside him.

Finally released from duty, he travels home and encounters a mysterious woman who insists his life is destined to serve a higher purpose. Calder rejects her claims, wanting only yo return to a simple existence with his wife.

But can Calder pick up his old life when the powers within him have been stirred? And why does he feel such misgivings about his return?

All three stories give readers a tantalising glimpse into the fantasy worlds created by Suzanne Rogerson.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Purchase Link

REVIEW:

It has been a while since I first discovered Suzanne’s books, and honestly, I had forgotten just how great they are. Suzanne is a master world builder, and this collection of short stories featuring fascinating insights into much loved characters made me want to go back and read her entire back catalogue again.

Each story in this collection is just enough to whet your appetite for Suzanne’s full length novels. They are perfectly crafted stories in their own right, but I am sure you won’t be able to resist looking for more.

Consisting of short stories and excerpts from Visions of Zarua and the Lost Sentinel (plus an exciting sneaky peak at her new series), this book is the perfect introduction to Suzanne’s writing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Suzanne lives in Middlesex, England with her husband, two children and a crazy cocker spaniel.

Her writing journey began at the age of twelve when she completed her first novel. She discovered the fantasy genre in her late teens and has never looked back. Giving up work to raise a family gave Suzanne the impetus to take her attempts at novel writing beyond the first draft, and she is lucky enough to have a husband who supports her dream – even if he does occasionally hint that she might think about getting a proper job one day.

Now an author of four novels including the Silent Sea Chronicles trilogy and her debut, Visions of Zarua, Suzanne hopes the dreaded ‘W’ word will never rear its ugly head again!

She loves gardening and has a Hebe (shrub) fetish. She enjoys cooking with ingredients from the garden and regularly feeds unsuspecting guests vegetable-based cakes.

Suzanne collects books, is interested in history and enjoys wandering around castles and old ruins whilst being immersed in the past. She likes to combine her love of nature and photography on family walks, but most of all she loves to escape with a great film, binge watch TV shows, or soak in a hot bubble bath with an ice cream and a book.

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Top Ten Tuesday – 12th April 2022

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday question comes from  Deanna at A Novel Glimpse who has requested a list of the authors I haven’t read, but want to. I found this a lot harder than I thought because there are so many wonderful authors out there that I just haven’t got round to trying yet. I decided to split my list between some authors whose books I own, but still need to read, and some authors who come highly recommended, but whose books I am yet to purchase.

  1. Victoria/V.E. Schwab – I own The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and I have watched numerous online chats that Victoria has given and her books all sound right up my street, but for some reason I have never got round to reading any of them.
  2. Jay Kristoff – I have owned the Nevernight series for a while, but even though I haven’t read a single page, I was totally won over by Jay in an online interview he gave, and went dashing out to buy the hardback edition of Empire of the Vampire from my nearest bookshop. It is a beast of a book though, and so far I just haven’t managed to squeeze it in between review commitments. I love Jay though – if you don’t already follow him on social media, I highly recommend it.
  3. Katherine Arden – In Katherine’s case, I have purchased the entire Winternight trilogy before even reading the first book, purely off the back of an interview that I read with her about the first book. It just sounded so wonderful and exactly the kind of book I love. In my head, they are books to be read curled up under a blanket in the middle of winter, so I think I will be setting aside some time this winter to really immerse myself in them.
  4. Stuart James – now, this is a tricky one. I know Stuart through a Facebook book group and have even met him (lovely guy), and I really want to support his writing. I have heard amazing things about his books, but quite frankly, I am a big fat chicken and I worry that they will freak me out! Just as soon as I can work up the courage though, I will be reading them!
  5. Holly Bourne – I have picked up various book by Holly Bourne, but something has always stolen my attention away from them for a variety of reasons. I am determined that 2022 will finally be the year that I will check her out!
  6. Colleen Hoover – I have added Colleen Hoover simply because her books seem to be everywhere I turn right now. I know very little about her writing, but with so many people talking about them, I feel a little bit like I am missing out.
  7. Meredith Russo – Meredith is an author who was recommended to me by a friend, and whose work I am interested to discover more about.
  8. Shea Ernshaw
  9. Elizabeth Acevedo
  10. Lara Avery

These last three entries on my list were recommended by my oldest, dearest friend, the one person in this world who knows me better than I know myself. I can guarantee, without a shadow of a doubt, that if she thinks I should read a particular author, then I will absolutely love them. As such, all three of these authors have made it onto my “Must Read in 2022” list.

Have you read any of the authors on my list? If you were to recommend one of their books as the best one to start discovering the writing through, which would it be? Which authors would make your Top Ten of authors you haven’t read yet, but want to?

As always, thanks to Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl for hosting!

Book Review

Reading Challenge Update – March

After getting all caught up in the culinary delights of yesterday’s review, I am a little late with my end of month round up for March! It was a much slower month for me this time, especially in terms of ticking books off my challenge lists, so I only managed a small number of ticks!

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl

This is a powerful, raw book about the ability of the human mind to cope with whatever horrors come its way. This does mean that it is a book that needs to be read slowly, and also that I will be carrying it over again into April’s books.

We Were Liars by E Lockhart

For some reason I do particularly like books about absurdly rich Americans, and so this was the basis of choosing this as my book with a friendship theme. The Sinclair family appears to have it all but scratch the surface and there are a whole lot of brave faces being put on, all in the name of keeping up appearances. Summers on the family island seem idyllic but a dark undercurrent runs throughout this book, leading to a climax that I would never in a million years have seen coming.

The Custard Tart Cafe By The Sea by Isabella May

This was a late edition to my reading challenge. In fact, I was already reading before I realised it was the perfect fit for my “book by an author who uses a pseudonym. You can read my full review of this foodie delight HERE.

I did also start a book for my “book with a map in the front” but having abandoned that particular book, I now need to choose another one!

OTHER BOOKS READ THIS MONTH:

The Paris Apartment – Lucy Foley (Review coming soon)

The Summer We Forgot – Caroline George (Review coming soon)

Die Again – Tess Gerritsen

Dead Run – P.J. Tracy

The Cactus Surgeon: Using Nature to Fix a Faulty Brain – Hannah Powell (Read my review HERE)

I Know a Secret – Tess Gerritsen

Bard of the Borrows Volume II – Emma Miles (Review coming soon)

Nothing Burns As Bright As You – Ashley Woodfolk (Review coming soon)

The Vacation – John Marrs

In case you would like a reminder, here are the two challenges that I am following this year:

Book Review

Sparks and Shadows – Ceara Nobles

BLURB:

Seattle is full of monsters, and I’m the only one who can see them.

I’ve spent the last 17 years (AKA my whole life) pretending I can’t see the monsters who disguise themselves as humans. I may not have a place to live and my best friend may be moments away from getting in too deep with the city’s most dangerous drug lord, but I’m rolling with the status quo.

That is, until I save my arch enemy’s stupid life and find myself in a warehouse full of monsters.

Next thing I know, I’m in Monster Land (AKA not Seattle) and up to my ears in monsters, magic, and inevitable mayhem. If I want to get home, I have to join a band of revolutionaries and stay alive long enough to get back through the portal before war breaks out.

This’ll be a cinch.

Sparks and Shadow is a modern, action-packed YA portal fantasy featuring Fae mythology, magic, and slow-burn romance. This is the first book in the Rising Elements series.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

REVIEW:

When I first read the blurb for this book, I was instantly curious about the monsters hiding in plain sight in Seattle, only visible in their true form to one teenage girl. I wasn’t too sure what to expect but I wanted to know what they were doing there, and why they had left the strange “Monster Land” that Everly finds herself sucked into, but I definitely wasn’t expecting what I got.

Everly is a feisty, strong-willed heroine, but it was the inhabitants of “Monster Land” that really got under my skin. I loved gentle souled Mina, and I quickly fell for the mysterious Shadow. I am looking forward to finding out more about him in future books in this series.

The strange land that Ceara Nobles has crafted was vividly clear to me as I read, and I was as caught up in the wonder of it as Everly was herself.

Sparks and Shadow is a bit of a slow burn, with not a lot of action until right at the end of the book. There is, however, a lot of scene setting and relationship building for what is to come in the next book of the series, and from what I have seen so far, I am excited to discover what is going to happen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ceara Nobles is a Utah-based author of romantic suspense and fantasy novels. She graduated from the University of Utah in 2016 with a B.A. in Computer Animation, then realized she hated it. Now she spends her days juggling her side hustle as a line editor and her true love of authorship. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her chasing her toddler, road tripping with her hubby, or hiding in bed with a chai and a good book.

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Don’t forget to check out the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Book Review

Reading Challenge Update – February

I can’t believe that’s another month gone already! I just ticked a couple more books of my challenges this month – it was more a month of catching up on reviews and reading for relaxation than picking challenge books this month. The books I did read for the challenges this month though are all firm favourites of mine.

The Island – Victoria Hislop

This was my choice for the “read a book inspired by a place in a movie you’ve watched and enjoyed.” I am pushing things a bit here because I chose the setting of Crete taken from the “In-Betweeners” film, which I didn’t love, but the location was beautiful and I have been meaning to reread The Island for a while to refresh my memory before reading One August Night.

The Embroidered Book – Kate Heartfield

This little beauty is my selection for “a book with a magical element.” To be honest, I could have chosen any number of books off my shelf for this prompt as magical books are my “go to,” but I was lucky enough to be gifted a copy of this gorgeous book by the publisher as part of the blog tour, so I just had to include it. You can read my full review HERE.

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

I choose this as my “book that makes me happy.” I read this during a power cut in aftermath of Storm Eunice when I really needed a comfort read. I first read this book years ago, and have been meaning to re-read it for ages to jog my memory before diving into the rest of the trilogy, and honestly, I had forgotten how much I loved it.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E Frankl

This was my “book that is a memoir” selection, and is a book that was recommended to me years ago, but that for some reason I had never got round to reading. I am only halfway through, so I will share more in next month’s round-up, but for now I can just say that it is a very powerful book.

OTHER BOOKS READ THIS MONTH:

The Millionaire Murders by Rachel McLean

The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn (read review HERE)

The Stone Monkey by Jeffrey Deaver

Rock Paper Killers by Alexia Mason (review coming soon)

The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee (review coming soon)

Last to Die by Tess Gerritsen

The Butterfly Garden – Dot Hutchinson

Sparks and Shadow – Ceara Nobles (review coming soon)

In case you would like a reminder, here are the challenges that I am following.

Book Review

The Embroidered Book – Kate Heartfield

I am joining the blog tour for the exquisite historical fantasy novel The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield today. Many thanks to Kate and to Harper Voyager for my copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

“Power is not something you are given. Power is something you take. When you are a woman, it is a little more difficult, that’s all.”

1768. Charlotte, daughter of the Habsburg Empress, arrives in Naples to marry a man she has never met. Her sister Antoine is sent to France, and in the mirrored corridors of Versailles they rename her Marie Antoinette.

The sisters are alone, but they are not powerless. When they were only children, they discovered a book of spells – spells that work, with dark and unpredictable consequences.

In a time of vicious court politics, of discovery and dizzying change, they use the book to take control of their lives.

But every spell requires a sacrifice. And as love between the sisters turn to rivalry, they will send Europe spiralling into revolution.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

REVIEW:

The Embroidered Book is a beast of a book, but despite its size, I found I read it quite quickly as I was captivated by the story. Part historical fiction, part fantasy, The Embroidered Book is full of magic and intrigue, all based around one of the most interesting and turbulent periods of European history.

Kate Heartfield’s attention to detail and the level of research that must have gone into this project is incredible. It must have been a real labour of love, and I felt that this comes through in the writing.

I think Charlotte and Antoine’s stories would have been fascinating enough on their own, given their place in history, but the addition of magic and a secret society made this all the more appealing to me. Kate Heartfield weaves magic and history together so artfully that it seems more than plausible that these two astonishing women had access to hidden skills. It would certainly explain a lot of what went on throughout the period!

Despite knowing how this story must end, I still found myself on the edge of my seat, willing the sisters on to a different ending to their tempestuous relationship. I was totally under their spell from start to finish. Kate Heartfield is, quite simply, a genius.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kate Heartfield is the author of The Embroidered Book, a historical fantasy novel out in February 2022. Her debut novel won Canada’s Aurora Award, and her novellas, stories and games have been shortlisted for the Nebula, Locus, Crawford, Sunburst and Aurora awards. A former journalist, Kate lives near Ottawa, Canada.

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Book Review

Blue Lilies – Lucy Holden

Happy publication day Lucy Holden! Blue Lilies, book six in the fabulous Nightgarden Saga is released today. Many thanks also Lucy for entrusting me with an advanced copy of this book

BLURB:

Time. Truth. Tears.

Everything has led to this moment. Harper thought she was ready. But now everything is different. Everything she fought to protect is lost in time. Her greatest enemy is her only friend. And Harper is no longer the girl she once was.

REVIEW:

Blue Lilies is the penultimate book in the Nightgarden Saga, and as happy as I always am to have a new book in the series to read, each book also makes me a little sad as the end of the series draws ever nearer.

There is a lot of information to take in at the start of this book, before the story really gets going, but it was so interesting that it didn’t just feel like an information dump. In fact, I found it so fascinating that it left me wanting more. Aside from the characters, who I think you all already know I adore, one of my favourite things about this series is the way Lucy Holden has included so much from cultures that I knew next to nothing about, and how she has managed to intertwine different mythologies so beautifully.

Where Dusky Dahlia is my favourite book in terms of the depths of emotion, Blue Lilies is perhaps the most exciting. I was completely gripped as the story built and built to the dramatic events that were coming and I devoured this book in a matter of hours. I don’t think I have ever been more glad that I already had a book’s sequel ready to read as I was when I finished Blue Lilies! Watch this space for more on that book coming soon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lucy Holden is a pseudonym for Paula Constant, Random House published author of Sahara and Slow Journey South and indie author of the Visigoths of Spain historical fiction series. The Nightgarden Saga is Paula’s first foray into YA/NA paranormal romance.

Lucy Holden is Paula’s alter ego. She is a romantic tragic and has a deep fascination for all things supernatural. Starting with Anne Rice as a teenager, Paula has read her way through the vampire panoply. Her passion for the supernatural is so ingrained, she can recite whole scenes from The Vampire Diaries.

Her favourite thing in the world to do is sit on Cable Beach at midnight under a full moon with a glass of wine, something she gets to do almost every month not that she lives in the tropical North West town of Broome, Australia.

While off work with a broken leg, Paula wrote the entire Nightgarden Saga and now has plans for two related series set in the same world.

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Book Review

Time’s Convert – Deborah Harkness

For today’s review, I have a book by one of my favourite authors in the form of Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness. Many thanks to Headline for my copy of the book, which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

On the battlefields of the American Revolution, Matthew de Clermont meets Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon from Massachusetts, during a moment of political awakening when it seems that the world is on the brink of a brighter future. When Matthew offers him a chance at immortality and a new life free from the restraints of his puritanical upbringing, Marcus seizes the opportunity to become a vampire. But his transformation is not an easy one and the ancient traditions and responsibilities of the de Clermont family clash with Marcus’s deeply held beliefs in liberty, equality, and brotherhood.

Fast-forward to contemporary Paris, where Phoebe Taylor–the young employee at Sotheby’s whom Marcus has fallen for–is about to embark on her own journey to immortality. Though the modernized version of the process at first seems uncomplicated, the couple discovers that the challenges facing a human who wishes to be a vampire are no less formidable than they were in the eighteenth century. The shadows that Marcus believed he’d escaped centuries ago may return to haunt them both–forever.

A passionate love story and a fascinating exploration of the power of tradition and the possibilities not just for change but for revolution, Time’s Convert channels the supernatural world-building and slow-burning romance that made the All Souls Trilogy instant bestsellers to illuminate a new and vital moment in history, and a love affair that will bridge centuries.

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REVIEW:

As I write this review, I am deep in the middle of watching the third and final season of A Discovery of Witches – a TV series I love almost as much as the books it is based on, which is a rare occurrence. 

Marcus is one of my favourite characters from the All Souls trilogy and I was keen to uncover his story, to see what had made him into who he is. I loved all the touches linking him to Diana for hundreds of years before their paths actually crossed. The balance between the historical fiction of Marcus’s story, and the contemporary beginnings of Phoebe’s journey is beautifully done, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Phoebe evolve.

I adore Deborah Harkness’s writing style. Her world building is completely absorbing, and I always find it incredibly hard to stop reading her books to do real world things like eat or sleep! I live in hope that one day she is inspired to write further based in the world of the All Souls Trilogy, so that I can learn more about my favourite characters (I’m looking at you Gallowglass and Miriam).

Oh, and if the TV folks are reading this, I would love to see this book as a spin off series from A Discovery of Witches.

 

Book Review

Sisters of Shadow – Katherine Livesey

Today’s review in the great NetGalley review catch up is for fantasy adventure Sisters of Shadow by Katherine Livesey. Many thanks to One More Chapter for my copy of the book.

BLURB:

All she knew was vengeance…
Alice has lived in the forest on the fringes of Alder Vale ever since her parents abandoned her. Alone, exiled, feared by all. All except Lily.

But something is stirring beyond the mountains, whispers of spectres stalking the moors, women of unfathomable power luring children into a cult that has haunted local lore for a generation.

Then, in the dead of night, Alice receives a letter promising answers to the questions that have always tormented her. And so she meets Grace. The red-cloaked cultist pledged to protect her, a scarred warrior born of storm and sea, the girl who will steal her heart.

Anne of Green Gables meets His Dark Materials in this whimsical fantasy adventure following the unlikely alliance between an apothecary, a witch, a warrior, and a witch-hunter. Perfect for fans of Garth Nix, Natasha Ngan, and Diana Wynne Jones.

REVIEW:

Sisters of Shadow is a lovely fantasy adventure story which reads like a centuries old fairy tale. The world of the Shadowlands was intriguing, completely cut off from the modern world, stuck in the past while everywhere else seems to embrace modern technology.

Alice and Lily make unlikely friends. They are complete polar opposites, Lily all sunshine and warmth, Alice dark and distant.  As I got to know them, they reminded me a little of Glinda and Elphaba from Wicked.

I loved getting to know the supporting cast of characters, and quickly fell for Grace and the gentle care she took of Alice.

The end of the book felt quite sudden and easy but I loved the hints of what was to come. At times, the pace felt a little slow, but I could tell it was building to a sequel, and this is a book that I am looking forward to reading.