The Hawkling – A review #WyrdandWonder

Magic portal artwork by Tithi Luadthong

I always used to try and get all of my NetGalley books read and reviewed before their publication dates arrived. However, this year I have definitely fallen behind and so I’m using #WyrdandWonder month as a good opportunity to catch up with some of the fantasy books on my shelf.

The Collarbound was the first book in Rebecca Zahabi’s Tales of the Edge trilogy published last year. I loved the book but hated the way that it left on a such sudden cliffhanger so I was very excited to see that the next volume was being published and to be given an ARC .

The Hawkling by Rebecca Zahabi

The Hawkling is an engrossing continuation of the story begun in The Collarbound and builds up to another dramatic conclusion ready for the final volume.

Blurb: The rebels on the other side of the Shadowpass are massing, and refugees are flooding in to the city. Scared, penniless and not exactly welcome, they are desperate for the protection of the Nest, and the powerful mages who live there. But there is dissension in the Nest’s ranks, and there is always someone willing to make money from the fearful.

The mages believe they have a secret weapon – a captured lightborn, kept prisoner by a magical slave collar and forced to do their bidding. But Tatters and Isha, tentative friends despite their suspicion of each other’s motives, know something the mages do not.

The rebels are aware of the lightborn. They know how to deal with it. And they are ready for war…

The story begins at the point that the previous book ended and we see how the Nest deal with the rebellion. There is a lot more about the political infighting between the mages in this novel as well as the refugee crisis caused by the threatened invasion. Rebecca Zahabi’s world building and character development is excellent and although the pace is sometimes slow because of this, I enjoyed learning more about the world and its past.

As the title suggests, this book focuses more on Isha and I really enjoyed her character arc in this novel. She is no longer the scared apprentice but is a lot more confident and able to choose her path. I loved the relationship that she forges with the Kher and especially her deepening understanding of her tattoo. The point where she begins to see it as something to live up rather than be ashamed of is a real turning point for her.

Tatters is still a key character and his journey through this part of the story had some predictable elements and some that were actually shocking. I can’t wait to see how everything turns out for him.
I really enjoyed the parts of the book that focused on the Kher and especially enjoyed the development of Arushi’s character and how she struggles to fit into her life as a Kher as well as an employee of the Nest.

The novel built up to a real climax and while the ending wasn’t quite as sudden as in the previous book, it’s still left me desperate to find out how it all ends.

Huge thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, Orion, for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

The Hawkling was published on May 11 by Orion Publishing Group/Gollancz


The Sword Defiant – Book Review #WyrdandWonder


Many years ago, Sir Aelfric and his nine companions saved the world, seizing the Dark Lord’s cursed weapons, along with his dread city of Necrad. That was the easy part.

Now, when Aelfric – keeper of the cursed sword Spellbreaker – learns of a new and terrifying threat, he seeks the nine heroes once again. But they are wandering adventurers no longer. Yesterday’s eager heroes are today’s weary leaders – and some have turned to the darkness, becoming monsters themselves.

If there’s one thing Aelfric knows, it’s slaying monsters. Even if they used to be his friends.

I really enjoyed Gareth Hanrahan’s previous series and was very excited to be approved for an ARC of this latest book by him and it was definitely not a disappointment.

Years ago, nine heroes came together to defeat a dark power. After many battles, the heroes prevailed and the dark lord was over thrown. In LOTR, Aragorn rules happily for 100 years, Frodo sails off into the west and everyone else lives happily ever after. But would it have been as easy as that?

In The Sword Defiant, Gareth Hanrahan takes this as his starting point. The eight surviving companions are given the rule of the city of Nacrad and form its council. However, that was years go and now dark things are stirring.

Sir Aelfric, one time mercenary turned knight, receives a warning that something dark is beginning to threaten the land and so travels back to Nacrad to consult with his former companions. He carries the enchanted sword, Spellbreaker, that formerly belonged to the Dark lord. He finds that his companions are strangely distant, either absent completely or too involved with their own concerns to be worried about governing the city. To add to this, the body of Lord Bone has been removed from its tomb.

At the same time, Alf’s sister Olva is also on a journey to Nacrad. Her son Derwyn has left home to find his uncle and maybe adventure too and she is on a mission to fetch him back.

These two characters are the principal points of view for the story. Their plot lines unfold in parallel until they eventually converge towards the end of the novel. Alf is very much the more charismatic character of the two. He was a farm boy and tries not to think too much about things but just do what has to be done. He is good at slaying monsters and could have just ended up being a generic hero character but he comes across as more than that. Part of this is due to the sword which definitely has a mind of its own and there is humour in the exchanges between the two of them.

Olva’s character is less colourful but her story line is important and her journey takes us to other parts of the world which form a vivid contrast to the grim city of Necrad.

The book is full of everything that you would expect from an epic fantasy novel. The traditional races are present, the Elves are a bit aloof and full of themselves and the dwarves are as down to earth as they could be. There are twists though which keep the characters fresh and not just stock stereotypes. The elves have a worrying tendency to vampirism and there is a race of created beings called Vatlings who are born in huge vats under the city.

The world building is superb especially the city of Naclad which is almost a character in itself. I loved the description of how it looked when it rained and everything became a sickly green colour. I always love a novel involving political infighting and The Sword Defiant has plenty of that. Alf doesn’t really know who he can trust and neither does the reader.

Frequently, groups of companions on a quest become a sort of found family. Here, Alf finds that this family is becoming fragmented. However, actual family and especially children, are an important part of the story. A child runs away, a daughter is killed and an elf child is mortally wounded. All of these are key plot points for the story and the question of what someone would do to save their child is an important one throughout the book.

This is a long book and it’s difficult to write a review that really does it justice. There are sections where the narrative dragged but it soon picked up and mostly, I was completely carried away by the story.

Thank you to Net Galley and the publishers, Little Brown Book Group for my ARC in exchange for my honest review. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what happens next and hope that it isn’t too long.

No Life for a Lady – Book Review

No Life for a Lady by Hannah Dolby

This book was such a treat to read. It was heart-warming, romantic and funny in equal measure and a brilliant debut from author Hannah Dolby.

Violet Hamilton is an unmarried woman still living at home with her father in late Victorian Hastings. She seems surprisingly naïve for a twenty-eight woman and this jarred at first but as I read on, the reasons for this became apparent and I just fell in love with her character.

The only real role for a woman in her father’s eyes is to marry and he introduces Violet to possible suitors. However, she doesn’t want to marry although, she doesn’t actually know what she does want. Her mother mysteriously disappeared ten years ago and Violet decides that she needs to find out what happened so she engages a private detective. She doesn’t entirely trust him and so tries to engage another only to find that he has died and his son has absolutely no interest in carrying on his father’s profession.

Violet is nothing if not determined and won’t let Benjamin Blackthorn give up detecting so easily. She is also determined to find out more about life itself as well as her mother’s disappearance and this leads her into various situations, none of which end up as she expects them to.

I absolutely loved Violet. Her naivety is touching as well as amusing and her frustration with the social requirements of being ‘a lady’ feel very real. The author did a good job of showing Violet’s frustration with society’s rules for well brought up young women but without making her seen too anachronistic. Her frustration with the church gossips and awareness of the fact that by being alone with a man, she was breaking those rules were well portrayed. I loved the situations that she found herself in, many of which were hilarious and her character development is brilliant.

I loved Benjamin too as he gradually becomes involved with Violet’s mystery despite his misgivings. The supporting characters are also brilliantly written  especially Maria Monk who is a woman of wide experience. I also enjoyed the character of Violet’s father who is a typical Victorian man and comes across as completely unfeeling. However, he has depths which we begin to see as he pursues his new relationship with the vivacious Mrs Beeton.

The mystery is well thought out and I loved the ending. The mixture of Violet’s character, the mystery and humour combine to make this a fantastic read.

Thank you to Net Galley and the publishers, Aria and Aries for my ARC in exchange for my honest review.

No Life for a Lady is published in the UK on March 2nd, 2023.

Stacking the Shelves 81

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is marlene-stackingshelvesfinal-768x524-1.jpg

It’s Saturday and that means 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!

This week we aren’t at home as we are spending the weekend in the gorgeous city of Bath. We’ve spent the morning wandering around the city and had to visit the gorgeous bookshop Mr B’s Book Emporium

Obviously I can’t visit a bookshop without buying a book so I added these two to my shelves

As we’re in Bath, that means that I haven’t been able to make my usual visit to the library. Instead, this week’s STS post is mainly all about my latest additions to my NetGalley shelf.

One of my self challenges this year was to not request so many books on Net Galley. Last year, I found myself feeling pressured to get books read and reviewed before their publication date. I also felt that I was having to rush through some of the books.

I can confess that this is challenge that I am currently failing at. My Net Galley shelf currently has 3 more books on it than it had at the beginning of the year!!!!

It’s not my fault! There are so many amazing books coming out this year that it’s hard not to want to read them. Then Net Galley announced that they had a new publisher for Science Fiction and Fantasy and a couple of their books sounded really interesting. Finally yesterday I was thrilled to get an email from Sarah Morgan’s publishers inviting me to read her latest book and I definitely couldn’t say no to that could I?

So here are my latest additions to my Net Galley shelf.

Summer Wedding by Sarah Morgan
I just put this on my shelf without even looking to see what it’s about. I’ve never read a book by Sarah Morgan that I didn’t love.

The Detective by Ajay Chowdhury
I loved the author’s previous two books, The Waiter and The Cook featuring detective Kamil Rahman. He’s now actually working for the Met Police and has to prove himself to them.

The Square of Sevens by Laura Shepherd Robinson
I loved the cover of this book and the blurb sounds brilliant. It’s the story of a young fortune teller in Georgian Bath who is determined to solve the mystery of her mother’s death.

Over My Dead Body by Maz Evans
This is another one that I requested without even looking to see what it is about. I love Maz Evans’ books for middle grade readers and can’t wait to see how she writes for adults.

The BookBinder of Jericho by Pip Williams
The next book by the author of the Dictionary of Lost Words was another automatic request.

Rivers of Treason by K J Maitland
I could have ignored this one and waited for the library to get it but I couldn’t resist the chance to find out what happens next to Daniel Pursglove in this mystery series set in the reign of James 1

Hammer of Fate/The Fury of Kings
These are both new releases by the publisher Second Sky. They are both the first volume in new epic fantasy series which I am always interested to read.

Hammer of Fate by G N Gudgion
“No surrender. No retreat.” With twenty enemy swords at their backs and a broken bridge ahead, the last knights of an outlaw order turn to fight. A young woman with forbidden magic joins their final stand. And as blade meets blade, she starts to sing…

The Fury of Kings by R S Moule
In the shadow of Eryispek—a mountain said to have no summit—a dark power is stirring. Storms rage in the frozen heights. Unexplained disappearances shake the kingdom below. And old enemies are sharpening their swords…

I am really excited about all of these books and determined not to request any more until I have got my shelf down by a few books!!!!!!!!

What have you added to your bookshelf this week? Do any of these appeal to you?

Exiles by Jane Harper #BookReview

A new Jane Harper is always an exciting event and Exiles definitely lived up to my expectations. I have read all of her novels and loved each one of them. Her first book, The Dry, introduced the detective Aaron Falk and he makes his third appearance in this book.

In this latest book, I really enjoyed seeing him in totally new surroundings. This story takes place in a small Australian town in wine growing country and as always with Jane Harper, the sense of place is incredible. The landscape is vividly described and although it is very lush and green, we soon see how threats can lie hidden.

A year before the story begins, a young mother, Kim, had gone missing and she has never been traced. As Falk spends time with his friends who include Kim’s ex-partner and daughter, he gets drawn into the investigation of her disappearance and begins to realise that things are not necessarily as they seem.

I loved the gradual untangling of this mystery and the way we were drawn into the life of this small town where everyone knows one another. It’s quite a slow burn read and the sense of urgency in some mysteries is not present here as it’s effectively a cold case. Instead, the events of the past are slowly revealed through the different character’s viewpoints. As we get to know the characters and begin to see how their relationships are all tangled up together, we also get their memories of events of the previous year. Eventually that builds up to a complete picture although the final revelation still came as a shock to me.  

The cast of characters were all likeable which made the mystery even more puzzling as it was hard to see how any of them could have been involved.  I really liked the focus on the teenagers, especially Kim’s teenage daughter. Aaron Falk is one of my favourite detectives and I really enjoyed his story arc in this book. We see him at the beginning where he is finding that the pressures and workload of his job are getting in the way of any possible relationships and by the end of the novel, he has reached a decision that enables him to have a chance of finding happiness.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am really grateful to Net Galley and the publishers for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves mystery stories with a strong sense of place and atmosphere.

Exiles is published by Pan MacMillan on February 2nd 2023

The Darkness Manifesto – #bookreview

The Darkness Manifesto by Johan Eklof

The Darkness Manifesto is a well-researched book on the effects of our ever-increasing love of artificial light on our world. I was aware of the effect of light pollution on our night skies and have seen several studies on the need for humans to maintain their circadian rhythms but I had no idea about the implications for wildlife. Even basic information that bats and moths are important pollinators was new to me.

The author is a bat scientist and there is a heavy emphasis on bats during the book but also on birds and other creatures such as coral . I found the book to be extremely informative and it certainly made me aware of issues that I had not previously thought of. It was probably especially apt to read this over the Christmas and New Year period when our towns and homes are all illuminated even more than usual. I love seeing all the lights and enjoy seeing buildings such as old churches lit up without ever having thought of the wider implications before.

The facts and figures that he quotes are unbelievable. I had never really thought about moths as pollinators but they are as important as bees. The dangers of pesticides to bees and sudden colony deaths are quite widely known but this is the first time that I have read anything about the devastating effects of artificial light on moths and insects. The author tells us that the number of insect species is decreasing by 3% every year and so the disruptive effects of light on them becomes even more important.

He also looks at the effects on humans of the tendency to live in a world which is never dark and some of the figures that he quotes about hormone based cancers are quite scary.

The book is very research heavy and at times, I found it to be quite disjointed and lacking a strong narrative flow. There were several times when he cited a specific incident or piece of research and then just moved straight onto something else when I expected that he would discuss this further.

I did enjoy reading this and certainly learned a lot from it. It is obviously an important issue and  I especially liked the final part which is his Darkness Manifesto, a series of simple actions that anyone can do.

Thank you to Net Galley and the publishers for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review. The Darkness Manifesto was published by Random House UK in November 2022.

This is my first read for the Non Fiction Reader Challenge 2023

New Year NetGalley

Happy 2023 everyone!!

I thought I would use today, which is a public holiday here in the UK, to look at my NetGalley shelves. I joined NetGalley in June 2021 after seeing so many bloggers talk about books that they had received as ARCs and since then I’ve read and reviewed 192 books. It’s a brilliant way to discover new authors and I’ve read so many books that I never would have discovered otherwise.

It can be a bit dangerous though as it is basically a sweet shop for book lovers and it’s all too easy to request everything that takes your eye. Or in my case, all those books that I see mentioned on other blogs and I just go over to Net Galley to see if it’s available here. It is – brilliant – that’s another one added to my shelf. 😃

I have tried lately to reduce my requests so that my shelf stays manageable. I’ve currently got 20 books on my shelf waiting to be read and I would really like to get that down to single figures. That probably isn’t going to happen though.

This is what I currently have waiting to be read and I am really looking forward to reading all of them:

January Releases

February Releases

March Releases

April Releases

May Releases

Releases June and after

Non Fiction

I try to read my books more or less in publication order and to get them read and reviewed before they are actually published. At the moment it’s working out to about one a week which is perfectly manageable. That is of course, unless I spot unmissable books with a January or February publication date.

The odd one out is the non fiction book, The Darkness Manifesto, which was published in November 22. However, I wasn’t approved for it until after publication date so I don’t feel too badly about not having read it yet. I will start it this week.

My review rating is currently 89% and it would be nice to get it above 90. I’m at 192 books reviewed so I’m well on the way to getting to 200. Do I get a new badge? That would be quite nice😃

Do you read Net Galley ARCs? What is your current shelf looking like?

The Golden Oldies Book Club – A review

The Golden Oldies Book Club by Judy Leigh

I loved this story of a group of older women who come together in a book club. The main character is 72 year old Jeannie who runs her family’s cider business but is beginning to feel that life has passed her by. She lives with her 95 year old mother and two teenage grandchildren. She has lived in the village of Combe Pomeroy all her life but is beginning to wonder what she has left to look forward to.

The village book club of the title is run by the librarian Ruth and I enjoyed the discussions that they had about the books such as Wuthering Heights and Tess of the D’Ubervilles. There were some very spirited exchanges between Jeannie and her friends and Mark with his very dated attitudes.

Other members of the book club are also feeling unhappy with their lives and so after discussing The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Ruth decides to organise a trip to Brittany for herself and her friends. The five women set off to Normandy where they will stay on a local cider farm. The scenes in France were my favourite parts of the book especially the scene where they go sand yachting. The trip makes each of the women really think about what they want from life.

This was a lovely story about the fact that it is never too late to follow your dreams. I loved each of the five main female characters. As we got to know them we found that each of them had their own particular demons to deal with. We saw how the friendship between the five of them deepened during their stay in France and each of them had a satisfying story arc.

Jeannie’s family is the real backdrop of the story. Her mother Violet provides a lot of the humour in the story with a constant stream of jokes and puns. I think that living with her would be more than I could cope with but the relationship between her and Jeannie was full of affection. The two grandchildren also both have important roles to play as Jeannie begins to see that her future holds more than just more of the same day to day routine.

I really loved this story. It’s refreshing to have older characters as the main protagonists but I also enjoyed the real mix of ages in this novel. I haven’t read any of Judy Leigh’s previous books but I certainly will look out for them after reading this one.

Thank you to Net Galley and Boldwood Books for my ARC.

The Golden Oldies Book Club was published on December 6th 2022

Sundays in bed with ……… The Marriage Act

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 arm of my sofa) is The Marriage Act by John Marrs

Blurb from Net Galley:
What if marriage was the law? Dare you disobey?

Britain. The near-future. A right-wing government believes it has the answer to society’s ills – the Sanctity of Marriage Act, which actively encourages marriage as the norm, punishing those who choose to remain single.

But four couples are about to discover just how impossible relationships can be when the government is monitoring every aspect of our personal lives, monitoring every word, every minor disagreement . . . and will use every tool in its arsenal to ensure everyone will love, honour and obey.

This is definitely a contrast to the Christmassy haul of books that I got from the library yesterday. I love novels that look at how society might evolve in the near future even though they are often very bleak and this one is no exception.

Marriage is seen as the best way of living and those couples who agree to ‘upscale’ their relationships get social benefits such as better housing, jobs and education chances for their children. However, they also agree to have an ‘audite’ installed in their house which will listen randomly to conversations and if their relationship is deemed to be in difficulties, help will be given and maybe the couple will be allocated a ‘Relationship Responder’ who will live with them and steer them through the tricky patch. When the relationship responder in question is a predator more intent on finding a partner for themselves, this can lead to disaster.

This is a very dark book and very few of the characters are particularly likeable but I am extremely intrigued by the plots in the novel.

This is one of the books currently on my Net Galley shelf and will be released early next year

Cosy Crime – A trio of reviews

I love crime and mystery novels and have done ever since being brought up on the mystery and adventure stories of Enid Blyton as a child. I enjoy the whole range including authors such as M W Craven and Robert Bryndza but I also like a gentle cosy crime mystery sometimes. It’s nice to have a relaxing read after some of the grittier novels around. I seem to have a read quite a few lately so I thought I would do a post containing 3 shortish reviews of my recent reading.

All three books were provided to me as ARCs by Net Galley and the publishers but my opinions are entirely my own.

Death at the Auction by E C Bateman

Set in the historic town of Stamford, this murder set in the antiques trade is a brilliantly plotted mystery. Felicia Grant rushes to Stamford to run her father’s auction one Saturday after he fell over the cat and broke his leg. The auction is proceeding normally until things are disrupted by her ex-husband suddenly appearing on the scene and the discovery of a dead body in a wardrobe. After that inauspicious start, life gets even more complicated for poor Felicia who finds that she is not only a suspect in the investigation but also that there seem to be attempts being made on her life.

It’s less of an amateur sleuth mystery than some cosy crime novels as the local police are definitely in charge including the almost sinister Inspector who has the extremely inappropriate name of Heavenly. However, despite threats to her safety, Felicia is unable to keep out of the investigation and she is the one to find the key to everything that has gone on. 

I really enjoyed this crime story. The antique trade is a great set up for a murder mystery with plenty of eccentric characters to add local colour.  The characters of Felicia and her son and ex-husband are interesting and I enjoyed the family dynamics between them. There is a fair amount of humour interspersed with the drama and plenty of red herrings to keep the reader on their toes. I love novels when I can visualise the setting and the town of Stamford is vividly described which was a real plus for me.

I can definitely see this series being one that I need to look out for.

Death at the Auction is published by One More Chapter on 24th November 2022

Waste of a Life by Simon Brett

I love Simon Brett’s crime mysteries and this relatively new series is a great addition to his books. A Waste of a Life is the third in the Decluttering series but I think that you could easily read it as a stand alone.

Ellen’s job as a declutterer takes her into people’s houses and these people are often elderly or vulnerable so possibly easy victims. This time she goes and works at the house of Cedric who has become a recluse after the death of his wife. On one of her regular visits, she discovers him dead in bed. Ellen assumes that he has died of natural causes but the post mortem reveals traces of poison and the police become involved. Ellen is also working at the house of Mim, a retired school teacher who led a very active social life in the 1960’s. At first Mim and Cedric appear to have nothing in common but gradually a link appears between them.

I really enjoyed this mystery. There were a lot of twists and turns which kept me interested and I liked the host of secondary characters. This is a cosy crime novel but Simon Brett still keeps us in touch with reality. Mim increasingly suffers from dementia and there are several characters in the book with mental health problems including both of Ellen’s children. The book is set very firmly in the city of Chichester which is another thing that I love about it. I always enjoy it when I can visualise where characters are in a book.

Waste of a Life is published by Severn House on December 6th 2022

An Act of Foul Play by T E Kinsey

This is the ninth outing for Lady Emily Hardcastle and her maid Flo and the setting is now 1911. Lady Emily is at the theatre for a birthday treat with her maid and partner in crime solving Flo, when a murder occurs. As the curtain rises for the second act of a comedy, one of the actors is discovered on stage having been stabbed to death.

I have enjoyed the previous books in this series and this one felt like discovering old friends. The dialogue between Lady Hardcastle and Flo is still as sharp as ever and they are joined this time by Flo’s identical twin sister which adds to the fun.

The plot was an interesting one and I loved the theatrical theme. The usual characters were joined by the members of the theatrical company with lots of red herrings being scattered around as Emily and Flo try to discover who had a motive for the killing. As usual, a lot of time is spent on the details of their normal lives which I normally enjoy. However, I felt that this time, the murder mystery was almost secondary and there seemed to be little tension or impetus to find the identity of murderer.

It’s a fun read for lovers of this series but I don’t think that it is one of the author’s best.

An Act of Foul Play is published by Amazon Publishing on 29th November 2022

Do you enjoy cosy crime series or would you rather read the likes of M W Craven? Or maybe, like me, you enjoy both. Let me know 😃