Sunday, January 16, 2022

Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan

 

This story will be enjoyed by those who loved C.S. Lewis' books about Narnia and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.  As someone who hasn't read those books in decades I realized you didn't need the background to be entertained by this narrative.

The story begins in 1950, location Worcester and Oxford England. Young George Devonshire is a frail little boy with a heart condition.  He is completely besotted with Lewis' book The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and wants desperately to know if Narnia is real.  He will occassionaly climb into the wardrobe in his room and sit, imaging the world outside and a life he'll never have chance to know.

His older sister Megs is a mathmatics and physics student in Oxford and doesn't think beyond mathmatical probabilities - it's either right or wrong. Fantasy and imagination never cross her mind with any serious thought.  

One thing for sure, Megs loves her little brother very much and rushes home from college to be with him each weekend and break. As she is reading to him one day George asks if she will approach Mr. Lewis and ask where the stories about Narnia came from.  Is it real? Where did the inspiration come from? Megs has been to a lecture of Mr. Lewis but is reluctant to approach him with this request.  Loving George so much she risks it as it's his dying wish.  From there - what a wonderful story this becomes.  

Megs is invited into the home called The Kilns, the residence of Warnie and Jack Lewis. (Jack is C.S. Lewis) and the story unfolds from there.  It's a nesting doll of stories

There is saddness in this story but it's also wonderfully rich with details aout Lewis' life from boyhood to present. Adventure seen through a child's eyes and some very imaginative adults.

I want to thank Katherine at I Wish I Lived in a Library for recommending this book.  It was one her favorites from 2021

Sharing with:
Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday
The Intrepid Reader for the 2022 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge




Monday, January 10, 2022

Stonehenge: The Story of a Sacred Landscape by Francis Pryor

This book about Stonehenge caught my attention at the library and it's been an interesting narrative overall. I won't lie, there are some dry parts to this book but the stories I found interesting are the discoveries of grave sites, historical excavations and carbon dating.

Stonehenge has been a fascination of mine since I was a teen.  My husband, son and I were fortunate enough to take a vacation over a decade ago and visited Stonehenge twice. Highlight of the trip!



The fact that the stones come from Wales and other areas in England show that the stone was not constructed for practical purposes with straightforward business motives. If that were the case, stones would have been sourced as locally as possible. It was far more complex and a place of gatherings for many "tribes" and communities from all over England.

Near Stonehenge at Amesbury Archer a discovery of  three males, apparently related, were buried in nearby graves. Human teeth do most of the growing during childhood,  therefore the composition of the enamel will reflect the water a child drinks. Experts were able to find where they came from through their teeth.  The oldest male came from Germany but a younger male's teeth revealed he grew up in Southern England - his teeth showed he drank water from the chalklands.

In 1978 during an excavation they came upon burial mounds. They found the body of a man with his legs bent and one arm across the chest. The time period could be estimated because of the distinctively shaped arrowheads found. These arrows entered his chest from three different sides of his body. This would seem to imply someone protecting Stonehenge and shooting at the intruder.  I think it’s also amazing they can do radiocarbon dates and therefore knew this body was buried somewhere between 2400 and 2140 BC.

These are just a few interesting facts I read in this book by Francis Pryor. If Mike Biles,  who writes at A Bit About Britain, wrote a book about Stonehenge I would be very interested to read that book.  Historical narratives can be very engaging depending on the author and style.

Sharing with
Category: Geography





Thursday, January 6, 2022

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

 

Mr. and Mrs. Wright have a problem with their marriage. They also have secrets from each other that, I'm certain, doesn't help the issues they face in their failed relationship.

Adam and Amelia Wright have been married ten years.  Amelia works at a dog rescue organization at Battersea.  Adam is a writer and adapts books to movie scripts.  He wrote a script called Rock Paper Scissors which he hoped would be a successful screenplay but it's never made into a movie. He spends his days adapting other authors' work into films.

Adam also suffers from a condition called Prosopagosia which is also called face blindness. When I read that bit I was certain the author had made up that medical condition but sure enough, it's quite real.  Those who suffer from this condition can not recognize faces at all - their loved ones or anyone.  They cope by learning a scent, perfume or the way someone walks. This is important in developments of this thriller.

Amelia, unbeknownst to Adam, writes a letter to him every year on their anniversary where she pours her heart out about her love, her hopes and her frustrations with him being a workaholic.  She never gives him the letters but through this you get the core of their failings with one another.

Then Amelia wins a trip to a remote getaway in the wilds of Scotland.  Blackwater Chapel is so remote the phones do not work and there is absolutely nothing near them. No stores, petrol stations or homes.  It's a windy, snowy stormy night when they finally arrive, bickering most of the way.  It's the last chance to save the marriage by getting away and having time together. 

So, here is where I looked up the genre of the book because I do not like horror, at all.  It isn't.  They arrive and the chapel door is locked.  They walk around the building and when they come back, the door is open.  Creepy.  Inside there is a dust coating on the bench in the foyer. Adam gets the lights on and Amelia sees a smiley face traced in the dust on the bench.  Amelia asks Adam is he did it but he claims he did not. The lights go out after Amelia is in a wine cellar, a face appears in the frosted  stained glass window, their very clean guestroom has the exact furniture and decoration as they have in their London home.  

This is a suspenseful story which reveals the big twist very close to the end.  The chapters are titled Amelia, Adam and eventully a third perspective is introduced called Robin.  You won't know who Robin is until much later.  Again - thriller, suspenseful and you'll immerse yourself into the very cold Scottish countryside and wish you could pull that blanket a bit tighter around you as you read.

Sharing with Joy at Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.



Tuesday, December 28, 2021

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

 

This isn't labeled as a fantasy genre but there is an element of  unintentional time travel in the plot.  Sounds weird, right? What attracted me to this story was a chance to go back in time and meet your mother again when she was young.

Katy is very devoted to her mother Carol and the feeling is mutual.  They are like best friends and so very close.  The story begins with Carol's death and Katy grieving. At the same time Katy was questioning if her marriage to Eric was over so there is a lot of emotional turmoil in her life.

Katy and Carol were meant to take a trip to Italy, the tickets had been purchased months before.  When the tickets arrive Katy decides to go on the trip alone and think about her marriage as well as deal with the grief of losing her mother.  

Something strange happens once she arrives at the hotel. After awakening from a nap, she comes upon her mother in the hotel lobby.  Carol is 30 years younger and Katy thinks she's lost her mind.  Well, wouldn't you?

They strike up a friendship and Katy learns more about her mother and her past, making her evaluate her life a bit differently. 

This is the second book I have read by this author and I liked In Five Years a bit more than this one. I would read more by Rebecca Serle.

Publication date March 1, 2022 by Atria Books.  Genre: Women's Fiction.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Playing Nice by J.P. Delaney

 

What a crazy scenario. In this London based  psychological fiction Peter Riley is a  father who works from home, taking care of his 2 year old son Theo and dropping him at a daycare center for a few hours a week.  One day on his way to drop Theo at the nursery he notices two men and a woman across the street from his home, staring at his house. Upon return the two men ring his doorbell, get invited in and drop a shocking bomb on him.   Theo is not his son.

Miles Lambert tells Pete they did a DNA check and Theo is his natural born son.  Immediately Pete thinks his wife Maddie cheated with good looking Miles until he learns the babies were switched at a neonatal unit at the hospital.  

Miles and Lucy Lambert have Pete and Maddie's son named David and have been taking care of him as their own for 2 years. So what do you do in this situtation?  Swap your kids so the biological parents have their own kid?  There are so many "what if" questions you'll have as you learn about the children, how they ended up being born too early and thus sent to a special care facility.

This is a bit of a thriller actually as you read the nice accomodating Miles Lambert is really a manipulative psycho depite being so accomodating about sharing time with the children. Lawsuits are filed and secrets are revealed about both couples. 

J.P. Delaney is a British author of psychological suspense.  My first book by this author but I shall look for more for my reading list next year.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.




Monday, December 20, 2021

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge for 2022
( and a roundup of the 2021 books)

 I will be signing up for the 2022 Historical Fiction Reader Challenge hosted by Marg at Intrepid Reader

Last year I opted for the Medieval level but this year I am going to bump it up to Ancient History for 25 books.  I did come close this year so I'll shoot for more historical fiction next year.

Want to join in?  Check out the signup link HERE at The Intrepid Reader




Here is my roundup for the 2021 Historical Reading Challenge.  


Thank you to Marg for hosting such a fun reading group.  There are lots of good book suggestions in the monthly linkups.

My personal favorites this year were The Rose Code by Kate Quinn, The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline and Under the Golden Sun by Jenny Ashcroft. 


  1. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
  2. In Times of Rain and War by Camron Wright
  3. The Letter by Ruth Saberton
  4. The Vines by Shelley Nolden
  5. The Kew Garden Girls by Posey Lovell
  6. The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline
  7. News of the World by Paulette Jiles
  8. Wunderland by Jennifer Epstein
  9. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  10. The Green Road by Ann Enright
  11. Beyond the Olive Grove by Kate Hewitt
  12. The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein
  13. The French Gift by Kirsty Manning
  14. Northern Spy by Flynn Berry
  15. The Storyteller of Casablanca by Fiona Valpy
  16. Under the Golden Sun by Jenny Ashcroft
  17. Her Secret War by Pam Lecky
  18. Little Bird by Wendy James
  19. The Midwife's Secret by Emily Gunnis



Friday, December 17, 2021

A Bit About Britain's High Days and Holidays by Mike Biles

 

This is a book any history buff and Anglophile in your family would love to receive.  As the title states this is a short narrative about the holidays celebrated in Britain.  The history behind each is explained and with some chapters a recipe is included.  

Shove Tuesday includes a recipe for pancakes from a 1920's cookbook.  The large and well written section on Christmas includes a simnel cake recipe which is on my list to try. A very interesting background about the Scottish poet Robert Burns includes current and past traditions and a menu for a Burns Day feast. 

If you'd enjoy learning about the backgrounds for St. Andrews day, St David's day, halloween and St George's day then this is the book. The Christmas section is very well detailed and I loved those chapters.  Also, the fact that the author hates Brussels sprouts being included in a Christmas feast, or any meal for that matter, makes him a kindred spirit.  Vile sprouts, ugh.

I enjoyed this book almost as much as the well written A Bit about Britain's History. Both  would make a lovely gift.

If you're interested, check out my review of Mr. Biles' historical book here.


Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.



Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins

 

Recently I read The Wife Upstairs and I thought that was a good domestic thriller. As I liked the style of writing I thought I'd love Reckless Girls. I did not. The premise sounded good but I honestly didn't like any of the characters well enough to get invested.

Lux and Nico are two of our main characters and I didn't dislike them but couldn't warm to them. Lux is the narrator of the story.  She meets Nico in San Diego shortly after her mother died.  She's ready for a fresh start and Nico is a charming goodlooking fellow who she decides to follow to Hawaii.

They plan to sail around the world but financial setbacks means they get stuck with menial jobs in Hawaii for a while.  Then Nico gets an offer of big money to sail two young women, Amma and Brittany, to a remote island called Meroe. Lux is invited along by the women and they all get along like a house on fire. The young ladies have big secrets which will be revealed near the end. Anyway, when they get to this remote island there is another couple there. This rich couple who also get along with Lux, Nico, Amma and Brittany.

It had it's twists but I found it anticlimatic. Prepare for some mystery and murder.  If this were my first novel by Hawkins I wouldn't seek out more as I did after reading The Wife Upstairs. Obviously this my opinion as there are planty of 4 and 5 star ratings for this book.  Just didn't do it for me.

Publication date January 4, 2022 by St. Martin's Press.  Genre: General Fiction, Mysteries and Thrillers

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

One for Sorrow by Helen Fields
{DI Luc Callenach series, book 7}

 

I have found a new crime thriller series to follow - Helen Fields' series DI Luc Callenach. The description of One for Sorrow attracted me as did the setting in Scotland. What I didn't pay attention to was the fact that this is book 7 in the series. Arrgh!  I do this all the time, start with the wrong book.

The good news is I am completely captivated by the characters DI Luc Callenach and DCI Ava Turner and plan to purchase all six previous books. The writing style is spot on, grabbed my attention and I read every time I had a chance to open my Kindle.

The plot involves a bomber in Edinburgh leaving a trail of bodies with every crime.  Revenge drives the bomber and you'll slowly see the pattern and worry about favorite characters with every threat. Ms. Fields' doesn't play it safe with the elimination of a few favored cops so you won't be able to guess who may suffer with the next target. The crimes are brilliantly described.

There is side story about a young woman named Quinn MacTavish which slowly blends into the plot line.  All of her chapters are titled Before.  Love the police procedural genre and there is a thriller element here, mental illness is certainly a factor in the plot as well.  Did I guess the identity of the bomber?  No, I did not. The ending leaves you ready for the next book but I will satisfy myself with catching up through books 1 -6 for now.

Publication date is February 17, 2022 by Avon Books U.K.  Genre: General Fiction, Mystery, Thrillers.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine. Loved the book.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British isles Friday.



Sunday, December 5, 2021

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge

 I am going to shamelessly copy and paste what Shelleyrae posted on her blog about the 2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge.  This is a challenge I enjoyed last year and learned new things as well.  I was going to sign up for the Nonfiction Nibbler category but I see a new category called Grazer. Personally I know I won't read economics and not sure about social history so....Grazer it is.

Want to join in?  Check out the information below and see signup details at the end of my post.

Nonfiction Nipper: Read & review 3 books, from any 3 listed categories

Nonfiction Nibbler: Read & review 6 books, from any 6 listed categories

Nonfiction Nosher: Read & review 12 books, one for each category

OR

Nonfiction Grazer: Read & review any nonfiction book. Set your own goal

Categories:

1. Social History

2. Popular Science

3. Language

4. Medical Memoir

5. Climate/Weather

6. Celebrity

7. Reference

8. Geography

9. Linked to a podcast

10. Wild Animals

11. Economics

12. Published in 2022


* You can choose your books as you go or create a list in advance. You may combine this challenge with others if you wish. Use your best good faith judgement as to whether a book fits the category or not.


The 2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Info and signup link is HERE. Check it out!




Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Blood Tide by Neil Lancaster

 

The Blood Tide is a wonderful followup to Dead Man's Grave where we are introduced to DS Max Craigie. After reading the first book I hoped our author would continue to add to this arresting series (pun intended).

Characters from the first book appear again here so it's recommended to start with Dead Man's Grave for character development.  I'm loving the team and Max's partner Janie Calder.  There is tension, police corruption, drug deals, organzied crime and murder packed into this novel. 

Author Neil Lancaster worked with the Metropolitan Police so the plot and scenarios are very believable about how investigations work. Write about what you know, right? There is also humor in some of the banter between officers which comes across as very believable.

If you enjoy police procedurals and good mystery with thrills, this will be a series you'll enjoy.  Additonally, fans of books set in Scotland will enjoy the beauty and isolation described in the plot.

Publication date is February 23, 2022 by HQ Digital.  Genre: General Fiction, Mystery and Thriller.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for Britsh Isles Friday.




Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan

  This story will be enjoyed by those who loved C.S. Lewis' books about Narnia and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.  As someone who...