Wednesday 20 December 2023

The Finery - Rachel Grosvenor

Tyranny is in the air in the city of Finer Bay, and Professor Wendowleen Cripcot would like to be left alone, thank you very much. The memories of the last one hundred years are quite enough to be getting on with, if only these young upstarts from the government body, The Finery, would stop trying to control her every move. 

With the eyes of a dictator upon her, there are not many places to hide...but Wendowleen has never been one to back down from a fight (just ask her pet wolf), and insurrection is brewing underground.

What did I think?

It's always a little daunting when I start a book in an unfamiliar genre but I knew from the very first page that I was going to love The Finery.  So, if you say you don't read fantasy then definitely make an exception for Rachel Grosvenor's fantastic debut novel.

Professor Wendoleen Cripcot is almost 101 years old but she still has her wits about her and she refuses to be told what to do, especially by that young whippersnapper, the Dictator.  Wendoleen is such a feisty character and I absolutely loved her and her pet wolf.  The character of Wolf is easily one of my favourite fictional animal characters and I loved his voracious appetite that added a wonderful sprinkly of humour throughout the novel.

As Finer Bay is a dictatorship, there's more than a hint of revolution bubbling beneath the surface and when The Finery captures Wendoleen in their crosshairs she has no alternative but to join the revolution.  I absolutely loved this part of the story and I could almost 'hear the people sing' as they rose up and made their voices heard.

Incredibly entertaining and so vividly written, it's very easy to forget that The Finery is a fantasy novel as I was so completely immersed in the story from start to finish.  The Finery isn't just a magnificent debut, it's a groundbreaking novel that has put fantasy firmly on my list of genres.  Put Rachel Grosvenor on your bookshelf and your watch list, readers!

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from:

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Oscar's Tale - Chris Bishop

'For is it not the wish of every man that his son will achieve more in life than he did?'

OSCAR'S TALE is the story of a Saxon boy who sets out to find and rescue his father who has been taken by Viking slavers. 

Set in 877 as the people of Wessex are forced to fight not just for their very lives, but for their freedom, their religion and for their right to live as Saxons, Oscar relates all that which befalls him on his all but impossible quest. This is set against the backdrop of King Alfred's desperate attempt to regain his kingdom which culminates in a victory at the Battle of Edington which is very much against the odds. 

But this is not just a story about bloody battles and fearsome warriors, it's about a boy struggling to live up to his father's reputation as a warrior and trying to find his place in a turbulent and uncertain world. For that, Oscar is forced to confront many dangers, earn the respect of others far above his station and even find love - albeit the cost to him is far higher than most men would have been willing to pay. 

What did I think?

I am a huge fan of Chris Bishop's Shadow of the Raven series so I was delighted to read an advance copy of his new standalone novel, Oscar's Tale.  This wonderful novel is a virtual walk in the footsteps of the Anglo Saxons and I absolutely loved it.

It's a difficult time in 9th century Wessex with the constant threat of Viking invasion and families trying to survive by living off the land.  Teenager Oscar witnesses a Viking invasion on his home and as if that wasn't bad enough, he sees his father captured and taken prisoner.  Oscar struggles with his guilt of not rushing to defend his father but with a wise head on such young shoulders instead makes his way to the Ealdorman's Vill to plead for help.

Oscar is such a plucky young lad and I really enjoyed reading about his adventures that takes him on a journey that brings him to the attention of King Alfred himself.  I love Oscar's whole commitment to defend his family and his king and he has to do a lot of both as the Battle of Edington draws near.

After reading Oscar's Tale it's almost like other books are written in monochrome as Chris Bishop writes historical fiction in glorious technicolor, magically bringing history to life in front of my eyes.  Vivid, immersive and compelling; it feels like stepping back in time when you read Oscar's Tale and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Many thanks to Chris Bishop for sending me a digital ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Saturday 9 December 2023

Stable (A Tyler Zahn Novel Book 1) - Cam Torrens

A kidnapper hiding in plain sight.

A rural town with tons of suspects.

From debut author Cam Torrens comes a gut-wrenching suspense novel based on an actual missing person case.

A 911 call sends Search & Rescue on a search for a missing girl in the Collegiate Peaks. They find a child…but not the one they seek.

Air Force pilot Tyler Zahn's life disintegrated when he lost his son. He discarded his family, his career, and his dignity, finding solace in apathy and beer. Eight years later, armed with new confidence, he invites his estranged daughter, Daria, to visit his Rocky Mountain home. Zahn tries too hard to mend their relationship, and as the tension between father and daughter increases, forgiveness seems out of reach. Especially when his Search & Rescue work pulls him away from Daria and she finds romance at the church camp next door.

But Zahn can't get the missing girl he found—and the one he can't find—out of his mind. Someone in this mountain valley is collecting children, and Zahn is gradually drawn into the case while still trying to break through to his daughter.

Then she disappears too.

What did I think?

Wow!  This book is absolutely fantastic!  It's outstanding books like Stable that make me feel very grateful to be a book blogger as I might never have discovered it otherwise.  I'm not sure how debut author Cam Torrens found me but I am delighted that he did.

I have to say that for a debut novel, the quality of writing is exceptional.  I was drawn straight into the story and it felt so realistic, probably because it is inspired by a real missing person case.  It always pulls at my heartstrings when children go missing as there is a lot of evil in the world so although it's distressing that the girls have been abducted, there is no gratuitous violence or graphic abuse in Stable.

Tyler Zahn is one heck of an interesting character and it was heartbreaking to see him try so hard to rebuild his relationship with his daughter, Daria.  Tyler missed so much of Daria's life when he was stuck in his own spiral of grief after his son died, but Daria lost her brother too.  Tyler wasn't there for Daria back then but when she is next to go missing, god help the person who has taken her as Tyler Zahn is coming for them.

Sublimely plotted and incredibly gripping with a blisteringly fast pace, Stable is one of the best thrillers I have read this year, and even more astonishing is the fact that it's a debut novel too.  Getting hooked on the storyline is one thing but getting hooked by a character is another and it doesn't happen often but I am doubly hooked.  I can't wait to read more Tyler Zahn novels and I can't recommend Stable highly enough.  Don't miss this one, thriller fans!

Many thanks to Cam Torrens for sending me a digital ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Thursday 7 December 2023

The Mystery Guest (A Molly the Maid mystery) - Nita Prose

A new mess.
A new mystery.
Molly the maid returns . . .

Molly Gray wears her Head Maid badge proudly for every shift at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows, sweeping up the guests’ secrets, silently restoring rooms to a state of perfection.

But when a renowned guest – a famous mystery writer – drops very dead in the grand tea room, Molly has an unusual clean-up on her hands.

As rumours and suspicion swirl in the hotel corridors, it’s clear there’s grime lurking beneath the gilt. And Molly knows that she alone holds the key to the mystery. But unlocking it means thinking about the past, about Gran, and everything else she’s kept tidied away in her memory for so long.

Because Molly knew the dead guest once upon a time – and he knew her . . .

What did I think?

After the success of The Maid, I'm absolutely delighted that Nita Prose decided to write another book starring my favourite maid, Molly Gray.  The Mystery Guest is one of my most eagerly anticipated books of 2023 and I loved it.  Whilst The Mystery Guest can be read as a standalone, I would advise reading The Maid first as there are some returning characters and we also find out more about Molly's childhood.

We return to the Regency Grand Hotel in The Mystery Guest where Molly is now Head Maid and she's preparing for a big event as a bestselling author is hosting a press conference in the hotel.  This isn't the first time that Molly has met author J.D. Grimthorpe and this leads on to the wonderful flashbacks of Molly's past.

I adore the relationship between Molly and her Gran and even when Gran isn't with her, Molly  hears Gran's wise words in her head.  There are so many brilliant Gran quotes but my favourite is: "A tissue for your issue."  I'm definitely adopting that and using it whenever I can.  

Molly is such a delightfully quirky character and I feel that she has really grown up since I last encountered her in The Maid.  She's in a sweet relationship with Juan Manuel (who disappointingly doesn't make an appearance as he is away visiting his family) and she has been promoted at work.  Even this new encounter with Detective Stark sees Molly eventually being treated with more respect.

Cosy mysteries don't get much cosier than The Mystery Guest and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Once you have met Molly Gray you will never forget her; The Mystery Guest will delight fans of The Maid and introduce Molly into the lives of many more readers.  

I received an ARC to read and review for the Tandem Collective readalong and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from:

Monday 4 December 2023

The Semi-Detached Women - Alex Quaid

For a young woman in 1960s England, falling in love can be a crime—and could cost her everything . . .

In 1963 Manchester, England, a pregnancy is enough to get eighteen-year-old Janine thrown out by her mother—regardless of whether the baby’s father is Janine’s much older married boss, who’s taken advantage of her. Having spent her lonely childhood immersed in romantic books, Janine gets practical and rents out one-half of a stone cottage to wait for childbirth.

She isn’t alone long though. Laura, a newly divorced with an eight-year-old boy and a difficult past of her own, moves into the other half of the house. The two women become friends, and their relationship grows. But after Janine’s daughter is born, a social worker starts hovering, strongly suggesting that Janine allow the Catholic unwed mother’s home to put her child up for adoption.

To hold on to the happiness she’s found, Janine will have to stay strong against malicious forces—and accept help from some unexpected friends—in this richly emotional novel about finding out who you can truly depend on and who you really are.

What did I think?

The rainbow and the two women on the beautiful cover of The Semi-Detached Women tells the reader that this is a romance with a difference.  Not only is this a romance set in the sixties, but it's also the heartwarming relationship between two women.

I loved both the main characters of Janine and Laura.  Janine is a young pregnant unwed woman and what a scandal this is in the 1960s.  Forced out of her home she travels to Manchester where nobody knows her to make a new start with her baby.  Laura finds it hard to trust anyone after divorcing her cheating husband and she sets up home with her son next door to Janine.  

It's delightful to watch Janine and Laura's friendship develop and, although both women are confused by their feelings at first, it's lovely to see their relationship grow into something deeper.  It's quite thought-provoking for me (as a child of the seventies) to explore homosexuality in the sixties.  I thought it was illegal back then, and it was, but what I didn't realise is that it was only illegal for men.  It's quite sad really, considering the sixties had the whole free love ethos.  Clearly, free love wasn't free for all.

Alex Quaid uses words as building blocks to reconstruct the 1960s word by word and I felt as if I had stepped back in time.  I was so mad when the church tried to take Janine's perfectly healthy and much loved baby from her.  I  think perhaps people of the sixties found unwed mothers as shocking as homosexuals.  There's a hippy in a campervan in the story and something Ianto said really stayed with me, so much so that I wanted to share a quote from the book:
"You think in labels, man, but she doesn't.  She's just a woman in love."
Be more Ianto and stop thinking in labels!  The world will be a much better place for it.

So beautifully written, sensitive, thought-provoking and quietly affecting, The Semi-Detached Women is an outstanding and unforgettable novel.  

I chose to read a digital ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating: