Top 5 Tuesday – Top 5 Books of 2022 (so far)

Welcome to this week’s Top 5 Tuesday post. Top 5 Tuesday was created by Shanah at Bionic Book Worm, and it is now being hosted at Meeghan reads!! For details of all of the prompts for April to June see Meeghans page here.

AAAAAAAAAGH!!!! How can I be expected to choose my top 5 books? I’ve read some amazing books this year and picking 5 is just going to be hard.

To narrow it down, I’m going for my top 5 fantasy books that I’ve read this year so far.

Each one of these was a 5 star read for me and they were all by authors that I hadn’t read before this year.

Have you read any of these? What would be in your top 5 so far this year?

WWW Wednesday June 29

Welcome to Wednesday. Unusually, this post is coming to you from a completely different continent as we’ve swapped the Midlands of England for Mid USA. We are currently in Chicago where we are spending a short time before travelling on to Kansas City tomorrow to visit my Daughter. I haven’t seen her since she left for the States at the start of February so I’m soooooo looking forward to seeing her again.

View from our hotel in Chicago

Wednesday means that it’s time for WWW Wednesday. This is one of my favourite memes and I love taking part in it and reading everybody else’s posts. It’s currently hosted by Sam and it can be found on her blog Taking on a world of words which can be found here.

The idea of WWW Wednesday is just to answer three simple questions about what you are reading, have just finished and are about to read so here goes for this week. As we’ve had a long haul flight, I’ve had plenty of time to read in the past couple of days.

What I’m currently reading

The Rising Tide by Ann CLeeves
Vera Stanhope is probably my favourite fictional detective and I’ve been looking forward to reading this for ages. I’m really enjoying meeting her and her colleagues again. This is a Net Galley ARC and won’t actually be released until September.

What I have recently finished reading

The Dead of Winter by Nicola Upson
I love this series set in the 1930’s and featuring author Josephine Tey. The historical detail, the characters and the mysteries themselves are all brilliantly done. It’s one of my favourite series.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens
This was a brilliant book. It was very long and there were bits that I skipped over although I had to be careful as a couple of times, the bits that I had skimmed over ended up being really important to the plot and I had to go back to them. It’s probably not the best book to start reading Dickens but certainly worth reading all this time after it was written

The Darkening by Sunya Mara
This was a good first novel in a new fantasy series. It’s a YA but the world building was really good and I liked the plot.

A Death in Mayfair by Mark Ellis
I loved the previous books about Inspector Merlin and set in London during WWII. I hadn’t realised that there were a couple of newer books that I hadn’t read and was very excited to add them to my kindle. I loved this one and still have another one to read.

The Telephone Box Library by Rachael Lucas
This was a cute romance set in a village on the edge of the Cotswolds. The main character was a young teacher suffering from stress so there was definitely a strong sense of empathy there. The sub plot about her researching the local history and finding out about some of the less well known work of Bletchley Park was really interesting too.

What I am intending to read next

I left this at home so it will probably the first book I read when I get back.

That’s the current state of my reading this week. What does your WWW Wednesday look like?

Sundays in bed with …..The Dead of Winter

Sundays in bed with is a meme hosted by Midnight Book Girl but I came across it recently on Jill’s Book Blog. It is simply a chance to share the book that is by your bed at the moment (or that you wish was by your bed). This week the book by my bed (or on the sofa) is The Dead of Winter by Nicola Upson.

Blurb from the book:
Writer Josephine Tey and Detective Chief Inspector Archie Penrose gather with their friends for a Cornish Christmas but two strange and brutal deaths on St Michael’s Mount – and the unexpected arrival of a world-famous film star in need of sanctuary – interrupt the festivities. Cut off by the sea and the relentless blizzard, can Josephine and Archie prevent the murderer from striking again?

This is probably the least appropriate book to be reading just as we celebrate Midsummer as it takes place at Christmas 1938 with violent snow storms forming part of the plot. I do love this series by Nicola Upson though and so far, this is just as good as the books I have read previously.

I do sometimes wonder if Blurb writers have actually read the book. The arrival of the film star isn’t unexpected at all but is the whole reason why Penrose is on St Michael’s Mount for Christmas. It’s only a small detail but it is important and I really feel that blurbs should be accurate.

What are you reading this Sunday?

Stacking the Shelves 48

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It’s Saturday again and the Summer Solstice has been and gone. This year seems to just be racing away so quickly. There are just 6 months until Christmas!!!!!! Scary or what?

Saturday means that it’s time for my weekly Stacking the Shelves post. Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Marlene at Reading Reality and details are on her blog. The gorgeous graphic is also used courtesy of the site.

Stacking the Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

My STS posts are generally my library books. The library is where I get most of my books and I hope that maybe I can inspire other people to use their local library. Our libraries are constantly under threat of closure but the more people that use them, the less likely that is. My library is also how I manage to read a lot of newly released hardbacks as I can order them. Sometimes they can take quite a while to arrive if a title is really popular though.

This week I didn’t have any reserved books waiting for me so all my choices are ones that I found on the shelves. I could have picked four crime novels but decided to try and broaden my choices a bit.

The Forgotten Sister – Nicola Cornick
A historical mystery involving Amy Robsart and the favourite courtier of Elizabeth 1, Robert Dudley combined with a present day story involving a musician who causes a scandal at a wedding. I quite like dual time line stories and I’ve heard good things about Nicola Cornick although I haven’t read anything by her before so this seemed like an interesting book to choose.

Dark in Death by J D Robb
Another book in the In Death series. Lovely escapism into futuristic crime solving in New York twenty years from now.

The Dead of Winter by Nicola Upson
Maybe I should have hunted down more books by authors called Nicola? This is another in the historical crime series featuring author Josephine Tey. I’ve loved all the others and this one sounds just as good.

The Telephone Box Library by Rachel Lucas
This week’s feel good read concerns a local community trying to set up a volunteer library in a disused telephone box. I’m a sucker for any books with Library in the title and this promises to be a nice light read.

I’ve also still got half of Bleak House and my non fiction book I belong here to read from last week’s library visit so I have plenty to keep me occupied over the next seven days.

What have you added to your bookshelf this week?

Book Blogger Hop June 24

 The Book Blogger Hop was originally created by Jennifer @ Crazy-For-Books in March 2010 and ended on December 31, 2012. With Jennifer’s permission, it was relaunched on February 15, 2013 by Billy @ the Ramblings of a coffee addict. . Each week the hop will start on a Friday and end the following Thursday. There will be a weekly prompt featuring a book related question. The hop’s purpose is to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, befriend other bloggers, and receive new followers to your own blog. 

This week ‘s question is:

This weeks question is:  What is your reading preference – fiction or nonfiction? (submitted by Billy @ Coffee Addicted Writer

My reading preference is definitely fiction. I love the way authors transport you to different places and introduce you to characters and situations you would never otherwise meet.

I do enjoy non fiction though. When I was teaching full time, I spent hours reading books about teaching but before I became a teacher I used to read a wider range of non fiction regularly. I’ve tried to pick up the habit again this year and I’ve joined the Nonfiction Reader Challenge hosted by Shelleyrae at Bookd out to help keep my resolution. So far this year, I’ve read 6 non fiction and I’ve just picked up another one from the library so I feel I’m achieving challenge.

What’s your reading preference?

Half a Soul – a review

Genre – Romance, Regency romance, Fantasy
Net Galley ARC
Publication Date – June 30th
Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is a  gorgeous Regency romance with a healthy dose of magic and a sprinkling of satire.

I wasn’t sure whether I would enjoy Half a Soul or not. I love historical fiction and all things Regency but I’m not a convert to stories about the fae and so I didn’t know how I would feel about a book that combined the two. I didn’t need to worry though, Olivia Atwood put the two worlds together and it worked brilliantly.

We first meet Dora as a nine year old when she encounters the fae lord in the local wood. He steals half her soul and she grows up never quite feeling any of the emotions that she is supposed to. The story really begins when Dora accompanies her cousin Violet to London for the season. In London she meets the sorcerer, Lord Sorcier who Violet hopes can free Dora from the fae curse.

I really loved the character of Dora. Her matter of fact manner and bluntness made her an interesting heroine. I enjoyed the way the author really tried to convey how her emotions were blocked by the lack of her soul. She was perfectly matched by the very bad-tempered Lord Sorcier who hated society and the need to be polite. As the story progresses, we find out more about Elias and begin to understand his manner. The book is full of brilliant characters from the master of the workhouse to the Fae lords but one of my favourite characters was Albert, the third son of an earl who Dora’s aunt tries to pair her off with. Their friendship was one of the many strong points of the novel.

The novel did a brilliant job of looking at the unfairness of society too. This is often an issue not covered by Regency romances but Olivia Atwood really showed us the dreadful conditions in the workhouses and how this compared with the opulence of the lives lived by the aristocracy. It was good to see a portrayal of those people who worked to improve the lives of the poor and I loved Albert’s mother who did what she could to help. I was a bit puzzled by Dora’s anger towards Violet when Violet didn’t feel the outrage that Dora expected. It felt a bit illogical because Dora hadn’t understood until she actually saw the workhouse but also her anger seemed a bit out of place with her character and general lack of emotion.

There was so much that I enjoyed about this novel that it is difficult to put it all in one review. One element that I did enjoy was the satirical view of London society. The Fae ball was a great example of this when the author poked fun at the conventions of polite balls through the eyes of the fae.

There were a couple of occasions when the author’s choice of language jarred and didn’t feel appropriate to the period. However, the thing that really spoilt the novel for me was the epilogue. Without giving anything away, it seemed unnecessary and I felt that it actually reduced what had gone before.

Apart from that awkward epilogue, this was a brilliant read for any lover of Regency Romance with a bit of added magic.

Half a Soul is published by Little Brown Book Group on June 30th.

WWW Wednesday June 22

Welcome to Wednesday. The Summer Solstice has been and gone and now the days are already getting shorter even if only by a few seconds each day!! This might be really good news for anyone reading this in Australia. Here, we have clear blue skies and gorgeous sunshine at the moment so Summer really seems to have arrived.

Wednesday means that it’s time for WWW Wednesday. This is one of my favourite memes and I love taking part in it and reading everybody else’s posts. It’s currently hosted by Sam and it can be found on her blog Taking on a world of words which can be found here.

The idea of WWW Wednesday is just to answer three simple questions about what you are reading, have just finished and are about to read so here goes for this week.

What I’m currently reading

Bleak House by Charles Dickens
I’ve never read much Dickens so I’m working my through his books one a year. Last year I read Great Expectations and this year it’s Bleak House.

The Darkening by Sunya Mara
This is a YA Fantasy novel that I am reading from my Net Galley shelf. I am really enjoying it. Like The Final Strife, it’s about a society dealing with unsolvable problems. Here, the sunlight is disappearing and more and more of the city is being plunged into darkness. Obviously, all the rich people live in the sunlight while the workers suffer the darkness. The characters are interesting and the world building is excellent.

What I have recently finished reading

The City between Two Bridges by Niklas natt och Dag
I didn’t finish this one as it was far too grim. Set in Stockholm in 1794, this was unrelenting in its description of the poverty, despair and cruelty of the people he wrote about. It was really well written and I was interested in the mystery but it was just too much darkness for me.

Two Women in Rome by Elizabeth Buchan
This was an interesting novel with dual time line of 1977 and the present day. Lottie Archer, a newly arrived archivist becomes fascinated by the previous owner of a 15th cent painting. Who was Nina and what happened to her? It was an enjoyable read but not gripping.

The Murders at Fleat House by Lucinda Riley
I loved this one. It had echoes of the Malbry books by Joanne Harris with its school setting but was very much a detective based murder mystery. I really liked the character of detective Jazz Harper and the mystery was intriguing. I loved all of the family revelations and relationships that became apparent through the book.

What I am intending to read next

Exit will probably be my next read as a bit of light relief will be very welcome.

That’s the current state of my reading this week. What does your WWW Wednesday look like?

Top 5 Tuesday – Books for a Rainy Day

Welcome to this week’s Top 5 Tuesday post. Top 5 Tuesday was created by Shanah at Bionic Book Worm, and it is now being hosted at Meeghan reads!! For details of all of the prompts for April to June see Meeghans page here.

The sun is shining down out of a clear blue sky but today’s topic is books that you would love to curl up with on a rainy day. If it’s a grey wet day, then there is nothing better than curling up in a comfy chair with a good book so here are my top 5 choices.

I love fantasy and for me, being able to curl up with a really good stand alone fantasy novel is bliss. The Goblin Emperor is one of my absolute favourites. I love this story of Maia who goes from being the despised half goblin son of the Elven Emperor to being placed on the throne and having to deal with all the elvish politics. No great battles or quests, just great characters and an absorbing look at how a society might function

If it’s wet and grey outside, then a book that makes you feel good is what’s needed. I love all of Beth O’Leary’s books but I think that this is my favourite. Leon needs money and Tiffy needs a cheap place to stay. The result, they share the flat but never meet and communicate by post it notes. It’s a brilliant, funny romance and I love it. Definitely a great read for a rainy day.

Another great way to spend a rainy day would be to read the final part of a series. I’ve really enjoyed Jade City and Jade War and I’m really looking forward to sitting down and finding out how the series concludes.

Settling down with a new novel from one of my favourite crime writers would be another great way to spend a rainy. I have always loved the Vera Stanhope series and also the TV series as I think Brenda Blethyn is just brilliant as Vera. The next book in the series is due out in September but I have it sitting on my Net Galley shelf and I’m saving for next week’s long flight to Chicago which is fairly similar to having a rainy day I think .

Another lovely way to spend a rainy day is with an old favourite to have an undemanding couple of hours. Georgette Heyer is my go to author for a cosy read that I know I love. The unknown Ajax is one of my favourites. Hugo returns from the peninsula wars to find that he is unexpectedly heir to his grandfather’s estate. He is one of my favourite of Heyer’s heroes and this like all of them, is a lovely warm hearted story.

What would be your top picks to read on a rainy day?

The Final Strife – a review

The Final Strife
Saara El-Arifi
Adult Fantasy

Harper Collins UK

Once this book hooks you in, you can’t let go. I had to stay up until way past midnight to finish it and it’s a long while since I’ve had to do that. It’s a slow starter and I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy it at first but once I got into the story I was completely hooked.

There are three classes of people in the empire, red blooded, blue blooded and clear. The red bloods or Embers are the ruling class and they rule their empire without mercy. The blue bloods are the Dusters who do all of the work and the clear or translucent bloods are simply invisible and known as Ghostings. 

Four Wardens control every aspect of life and their disciples learn from them. Every ten years, the disciples become the new wardens and the Aktibar Games are held to choose new disciples from the ranks of the Embers. These games and the opportunity that they bring for change are the focus of the novel. This is a familiar scenario but there is nothing familiar about the story that the author creates here.

We read the story through the eyes of three different women, an ember, a duster and a ghosting. Each of the women has her own agenda and through each of the view points we gradually learn more about the world they live in. Sylah was trained from birth to win the games but six years before, her entire family was murdered in front of her. Now she is a drug addict who survives by fighting for money in the ring. Anoor is the spoilt daughter of the Warden of Strength. Her only interest appears to be creating more and more extravagant outfits to wear. Hassa is a ghosting and also a friend of Sylah’s. As a ghosting, she has no worth in society but she is far more than at first appears. These women’s lives become intertwined and their interests coincide but nothing is quite as it seems.

The three women are very different and at first two of them at least, don’t seem very likeable. However, as the story develops and we learn more about each of them, you find yourself caring for all three. The relationships cover love, anger, hatred and betrayal and right up until the end, you aren’t quite sure how things are going to turn out.

Interspersed with the story are brief extracts from the wardens’ journals which show us more about the way they govern their empire and the horrific way the Dusters and Ghostings are treated. We also get extracts from the story tellers or griots which add more to our understanding of the world.

I found the world building amazing. Bit by bit, we learn about the society, its history and the magic system. I loved the way that the characters themselves don’t know their history and it gets gradually revealed to them and the reader.  The magic system is really logical and based on blood which makes sense as blood is such an integral part of this story.  It’s a dark world and there are some distressing descriptions of punishments meted out to the Dusters and Ghostings but for me, this book was unputdownable.

The book is definitely part of a series but doesn’t end on a cliff hanger. This part of the story concludes in a way that ends satisfactorily but leaves plenty of questions for the next books. I loved this debut novel and can’t wait to see how the story develops next.

The Final Strife is published by Harper Collins UK on 23rd June 2022

Thank you to Net Galley and the publishers, Harper Collins UK, for my ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Sundays in bed with …….. The Murders at Fleat House

Sundays in bed with is a meme hosted by Midnight Book Girl but I came across it recently on Jill’s Book Blog. It is simply a chance to share the book that is by your bed at the moment (or that you wish was by your bed). This week the book by my bed (or on the sofa) is The Murders at Fleat House by Lucinda Riley.

Blurb from the book:
When a young student is found dead at a private boarding school, its elite reputation is at risk. The headmaster is determined to write the death off as a tragic accident – but Detective Jazz Hunter will soon suspect that a murder has been committed.

Escaping her own problems in London, the beautiful and isolated landscape of rural Norfolk had felt like the ideal place for Jazz to hide. But when it becomes clear the victim was tangled in a web of loyalties and old vendettas that go far beyond just one student and as the body count begins to grow, Jazz knows that she is running out of time.

All roads lead back to the closed world of the school. But Fleat House and its residents refuse to give up their secrets so easily – and as her investigation gathers pace, Jazz realises that that they are even more sinister than she could possibly have imagined.

This is Lucinda Riley’s last published novel after her death last year although she actually wrote it over a decade ago in 2006. It is her only crime novel and so is very different to her more famous Seven Sisters series. I am really enjoying it and can see that the character of Jazz Hunter could easily have become the focus of a new crime series. However, if the author had gone down the route of writing crime fiction, we might never have had the Seven Sisters books and that would have been a real loss.

What are you reading this Sunday?