Category Archives: Book Reviews

Virgin to Victoria by Trisha Hughes – Review

Title – Virgin to Victoria
Author – Trisha Hughes
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 308 Pages
Publication – 25th April 2018
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Virgin to Victoria is a powerful retelling of the history of the British monarchy, beginning with Henry VIII’s daughter, Elizabeth I, as she comes to the throne. Charting Elizabeth’s incredible journey, Virgin to Victoria travels in time through the confusion of the Stuart dynasty, the devastation of a Civil War led by Oliver Cromwell, horrific battles for the throne and the turbulent Hanover dynasty with its intricate family squabbles. Despite her amazing legacy, Elizabeth failed England in one vital area. She never married, nor did she leave an heir to the Tudor family. In making this one fateful decision, the Virgin Queen left the path open for a take-over and life would never be the same. Victoria did not ask to be Queen. It was thrust upon her by a series of events that removed all others who stood in line for the throne. She assumed it reluctantly and, at first, incompetently. Parliament was sure that the 18-year-old could be relied upon to leave the job of running the country to the professionals. Couldn’t she?

Review

Virgin to Victoria is the follow-up to Vikings to Virgin: The Hazards of Being King by Trisha Hughes. You don’t need to have read the previous book to enjoy this one but I highly recommend it simply because it’s one hell of a read.

So Virgin to Victoria..another history book you might think.. no not just a history book. What the author gets spot on for me is the way she writes, it’s like she’s talking to you one on one..rather than just regurgitating information in a text-book style you get a fact filled educational ride that quite honestly makes history fun and interesting.

What I particularly like is the way the author keeps things clear for the reader..If I’ve learnt anything it’s that King’s and Queen’s have a habit of naming their children after themselves or relatives so the same names pop up time and time again so it would be easy to get confused.. Trisha Hughes manages to keep things on track well by reminding you of key facts as and when to jog your memory.

Something that really stuck me is the high death rate of not only commoners at the time due to disease but that fact the royals did not escape it. Disease wasn’t the only thing that royals had to worry about..the act of child-birth posed its own dangers to not only the mother but the child also and mortality rates were shockingly high. This really shows you how much of a business being a King or Queen is..as soon as they come to the throne they need to produce an heir and the pressure must have been immense to say the least and even after a miscarriage you’d be expected to continue and try again..I can’t even imagine what this must have felt like but it did help me connect with the characters from history and made them more real for me… you really feel for them at times.

Being a relative of a King or Queen wasn’t good either..everyone is a pawn in the big game and marriages were made to build connections rather than love and because of this overwhelming need to strengthen their hold on the throne it’s very apparent becuase there was a limtied nubmer of royal families inbreeding occurred leading to many life limiting medical conditions..it’s quite scary when you read it.

The book flows well and I loved that key events are repeated so you can easily put the book down and come back to it later to read about the next ruler and have your memory refreshed.

Some of the most interesting bits about this book have to be the theories around Queen Elizabeth I (I’ll not spoil that if you’ve never read about it) .. The fact 3rd September seemed to be a very important date in history and how a man named Buckingham seemed to have the worst luck ever!

Overall the book is well written and sets out the facts in a fun and easy to read way. I can’t recommend the book enough.

My thanks go to the author and The Book Guild for the chance to read and review the book! This is most certainly one book I’ll be buying my dad (if you follow my blog you’ll know that’s only something I do when the book is simply amazing) because he’s not getting my copy 🙂

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

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Windcatcher by A.J. Norfield – Review

Title – Windcatcher (Stone War Chronicles #1)
Author – A.J. Norfield
Genre – Fantasy
Length – 332 Pages
Publication –Oct 2015
My Rating – 5/5

Synopsis

Far away from home, under the command of his brother, Raylan and his squad must retrieve an ancient relic stolen from their kingdom’s trading partner—the Tiankong Empire.

Traveling deep into unknown enemy territory to complete their mission, Raylan learns that the ancient relic holds unexpected life; a creature buried in legends, one not seen in their world for more than two hundred years.

With their enemies closing in, Raylan and his friends search, desperately, for a safe way home. Danger lurks around every corner: Warriors larger than any man, predators stalking them through the night and soldiers determined to hunt them down. Leaving them all little choice, except to keep moving as they strategically plot and fight their way back to those awaiting their return.

Review

Windcatcher is Book I of the Stone War Chronicles.

I’m a big fan of epic fantasy novels and this one ticks all the boxes and more.

The story is written well with a decent page count and the perfect amount of detail when it’s needed. The pace of the book is perfect for all types of readers in my opinion..it’s slow enough for new readers to get immersed in Norfield’s world without be overwhelmed but for the more avid readers it moves fast enough to keep the story flowing well and has the build-up you’ll want to keep you engrossed.

So the story follows Raylan. Raylan is a member of an elite team headed by his brother Gavin tasked to take back a stolen relic after an attack on the Tiankong Empire by an unknown force.

From the outset of the book you are totally hooked in wondering who this evil force are and what their plans are.

The author packs a lot into this tale and it’s riveting..sorcery brings to life warriors stronger and taller than Raylan could ever imagine and at times it looks like our heroes will never find a way to win or even escape with their lives.

Hope appears in the form of Galirras…I try to keep my reviews spoiler free so I won’t give too much away but if you go back to the book blurb you’ll see this line “a creature buried in legends”.. that’s as much as I’ll say. 🙂

Something I enjoyed even more than the plot were the characters, each is given time to develop when possible as we go along instead of just feeling like they have been thrown in to make up the numbers and to provide cannon fodder for the author.

This book brings you everything you need in a fantasy book. It has a great plot developing and I’m looking forward to reading book 2 which I’ve already purchased.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon

 

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

Caligula (The Damned Emperors) by Simon Turney – Review

Title – Caligula (The Damned Emperors)
Author – Simon Turney
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 480 Pages
Publication – 8th March 2018
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Everyone knows his name. Everyone thinks they know his story.

Rome 37AD. The emperor is dying. No-one knows how long he has left. The power struggle has begun.

When the ailing Tiberius thrusts Caligula’s family into the imperial succession in a bid to restore order, he will change the fate of the empire and create one of history’s most infamous tyrants, Caligula.
But was he really a monster?

Forget everything you think you know. Let Livilla, Caligula’s youngest sister and confidante, tell you what really happened. How her quiet, caring brother became the most powerful man on earth. And how, with lies, murder and betrayal, Rome was changed for ever . . .

Review

Caligula is a very different book than I expected from Turney, it shows his true skill at storytelling to continually grow as an author and to keep churning out hit after hit even when moving away from his normal style of writing.

This story is told from the eyes of Livilla, Caligula’s sister. This gave the tale a real emotional feel and I easily formed a connection with her. This is the history I like.. not a text book..I need it to feel real.

The tale of Caligula is a dark one..he’s been watching is back for years..he’s learnt in that time how to play the great game but as we learn of the constant death and betrayal in his life we see him slowly loose his humanity and he becomes the tyrant we know.

What the author does well is building that connection with the characters, especially Caligula. You feel sorry for him..he just doesn’t know who he can trust so in the end he loses control and simply removes anyone who may be a threat..be it real or perceived.

It’s a real tale of how power can corrupt and warp even those with the best intentions and that when pushed to the limit what would you do to survive?

Truly a magnificent read, insightful¸ powerful, emotional and gripping from the start. This is unlike any book on Caligula you’ve read before..it challenges our preconceived views and the tale will certainly stick with you.

How much do I enjoy Turney’s work? Well I own a hardback copy and a kindle version of Caligula plus I bought a copy for my dads birthday..If me buying 3 copies can’t even convince you to buy one then I don’t know what will! 🙂

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

Blog Tour – Warrior of Woden by Matthew Harffy.

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Today is my stop on the blog tour for Warrior of Woden. Book 5 of The Bernicia Chronicles by Matthew Harffy.

Here’s the blurb

Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 596 Pages
Publication – 1st April
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Oswald has reigned over Northumbria for eight years and Beobrand has led the king to ever greater victories. Rewarded for his fealty and prowess in battle, Beobrand is now a wealthy warlord, with a sizable warband. Tales of Beobrand’s fearsome black-shielded warriors and the great treasure he has amassed are told throughout the halls of the land.

Many are the kings who bow to Oswald. And yet there are those who look upon his realm with a covetous eye. And there is one ruler who will never kneel before him.

When Penda of Mercia, the great killer of kings, invades Northumbria, Beobrand is once more called upon to stand in an epic battle where the blood of many will be shed in defence of the kingdom.

But in this climactic clash between the pagan Penda and the Christian Oswald there is much more at stake than sovereignty. This is a battle for the very souls of the people of Albion.

The tour has already started so you can check out the previous stops here :-

Historical Fiction Reviews

History… The Interesting Bits!

Review

I’m going to be honest from the start..this book killed me..my heart feels as shattered as Beobrand’s. So much happens in this book not only to excite you but also to crush you.

This series continues to go from strength to strength and it shows real skill by the author to keep the series going with such exciting plots.

So what is in store this time for Beo? Well war is fast approaching and Oswald must march to stop Penda’s advance.

Lets just say things don’t go the way Beo would like but he does get to show what he’s made of and he certainly makes sure the enemy remember his name.

What this tale really does well is show the growth of Beobrand. He’s older now.. his connection with men stronger but as the book goes on you can really see how events have taken a toll on Beo. He’s tired of this life but peace seems to be something he will never know.

I really enjoyed the addition was ÁstÍgend. I won’t spoil it for you but he stole the show for me, his character shining above others easily.

I also loved the development of Cynan the once thrall who really shows his worth to his lord and there’s a little side story with him that plays out that really give him some depth.

Ok so let’s get down to it..yeh this author holds no favourites and characters will die.. and you know it isn’t going to be pretty. It hit me hard this time..it was a death I didn’t see coming although I knew it could always happen to anyone. The great thing about Harffy is how he uses death to build on the emotional side of his characters which helps you form a  connection with them.

Another cracking tale that really knocks you for six. Brutal has always been my word of choice for The Bernicia Chronicles and I stand by that.

 

Follow to tour :- (Links will be added when posts go live)

What Cathy Read Next – 19th April

The Secret World of a Book Blogger – 20th April

Jemahl Evans – 21st April

Parmenion Books – 22nd April

Author bio

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Matthew grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

Links to buy

 

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2I4PeTA

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2Gf2V1P

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2umk5ZO

iBooks: https://apple.co/2G7vhyW

 

Follow Matthew Harffy

 

Website: http://www.matthewharffy.com/

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy

Facebook: @Matthew Harffy

 

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Twitter: @aria_fiction

Instagram: @ariafiction

NetGalley: http://bit.ly/2lkKB0e

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Blog Tour – Doomed Destroyer by Ron Cope

Today is my stop of the blog tour for Doomed Destroyer by author Ron Cope. Here’s the blurb ;-

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Genre – Military / Maritime Archaeology
Length – 560
Publication – 10 April 2018

Synopsis

On March 1st 1940, Adolf Hitler ordered Operation Weserubung: the invasion of Norway. Having swept across Europe, the Nazi assault on Scandinavia was designed to secure the valuable iron ore being delivered by rail from Sweden to the Norwegian port of Narvik. To complete the task, Hitler sent ten large destroyers, with 220 Alpine Troops on each. Five smaller British H Class destroyers were sent up the fjord in retaliation, with little knowledge of what to expect. On April 10th , the first British battle of Narvik began in earnest. Royal Naval Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee led his flotilla at midnight into the fjord; undetected, under darkness and in driving snow storms. The harbour erupted into a torpedo attack; back into the fjord, the destroyers Hardy, Hunter, Hotspur, Havock and Hostilewere confronted by five German destroyers. A ferocious sea battle ensued and Hardy and Hunter were lost.

In his first account of The Battle of Narvick, Attack at Dawn, Ron Cope focussed on the experience and the survival of the crew of HMS Hardy. After nine long years of research, he now reveals for the first time the untold story of HMS Hunter and her crew. Just forty-eight of the 159 servicemen on board survived in the cold waters of the fjord; picked up by German destroyers, they were eventually forced to march in freezing conditions over the mountains into internment in Sweden. Before the handover to the Swedish authorities, a German Army officer made the British servicemen sign a form: “On my being sent into Sweden I will not take up arms against Germany… Should I do so, and in the event of again being taken prisoner I shall be subject to such conditions as are provided under the Death Penalty Act”.

Doomed Destroyer follows the astounding stories of the Hunter sailors, who would spend the next five years plotting and attempting to escape their captivity. Cope provides an extensive account of the viciously fought events at sea and in the fjords, examining the Norwegian price paid at Narvik and the early impact of war on the local community’s simple way of life. A remarkable account delivered with care and respect for those lost and left behind, Doomed Destroyer shines a light on this important but previously little known event in British history.

“Without dedicated men like Ron Cope, the testimony and the stories of the men who were there – whether they were lost, wounded, or survived – what became of them, their families, might otherwise be lost to future generations.” Percy C. Danby, Lieutenant (E), C.D. RCN Retired. Ottawa. March 2017, survivor on HMS Hotspur.

Review

Doomed destroyer is a meaty read to say the least at 560 pages but it’s packed full first-person accounts that recount events that give a fascinating insight into the lives of the servicemen who signed up to protect their country.

For any fan of maritime history I’m sure they would love the detail in which the author goes..shining a light the not only events that impact a whole crew but also smaller events that might have otherwise been overlooked.

At times I felt a bit overwhelmed with the detail as it’s fired at you at such a pace it can be hard to take it all in but overall the book does exactly what you’d expected and gives the reader real insights into a life many of us could never imagine.

The author clearly researched the book well and that’s evident with the numerous first-hand accounts he draws on which helps the book as you feel it has a real connection with those who stories are being told rather than just a plain old history text-book.

Personally I would have liked the book broke down a bit more to give a layman more manageable chunks of info with  time to stop and reflect but overall at 560 pages it’s a fact filled book that really does help bring these brave individuals to life. History books often take away the human edge of a tale for me and its books like this that ensure that connection isn’t lost in time.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

About the author: Born in Salford, Ron Cope followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Royal Navy in 1964, working in electronics. After leaving the forces in 1986, he spent over twenty years working in the probation service, specifically with young offenders. Now a proud father and  grandfather, Cope is retired and living with his wife Alison in Telford, Shropshire. His first naval history book Attack at Dawn: Reliving the First Battle of Narvik in World War Two was published to acclaim back in 2015.

My thanks go to Authoright and the author for a chance to read/review the book in exchange for my honest review. 

Pendle Fire by Paul Southern (@psouthernauthor) – Blog Blitz

B L O G B L I T Z

Today I’m taking part in the blog blitz for the Pendle Fire the new release by Paul Southern, here’s the blurb –

Title – Pendle Fire
Author – Paul Southern
Genre – Thriller
Length – 256 Pages
Publication – 1st April 2018
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Social worker Johnny Malkin is battling a crippling workload and a hostile local community. That’s on a good day: things are about to get a whole lot worse.

Two fourteen-year-old girls are found wandering Aitken Wood on the slopes of Pendle Hill, claiming to have been raped by a gang of men. With no female social workers available, Johnny is assigned to their case. But what, at first, looks like yet another incident of child exploitation takes a sinister turn when the girls start speaking of a forthcoming apocalypse.

When Johnny interviews one of the girls, Jenna Dunham, her story starts to unravel. His investigation draws him into a tight-knit village community in the shadow of Pendle Hill, where whispers of witchcraft and child abuse go back to the Middle Ages.

One name recurs: The Hobbledy Man. Is he responsible for the outbreaks of violence sweeping across the country?

Is he more than just myth?

Review

Pendle Fire is a thriller with a supernatural edge and at every turn you are left wondering who or what is causing all the violence. Is this myth from the past real or is there somethings else afoot?

The book follows two main characters PC Shaf and Johnny Malkin. They are both caught up and a whirlwind of violence and mystery and the deeper they go the more confusing it gets for them to separate the truth from fiction.

I’ve reviewed for the author previously and knew from the off that the direction I as a reader would go would be turned on its head.

The story line is very engrossing and tackles some difficult subjects such as grooming with some very detailed accounts at times and while it’s a hard subject to read about it added to the mystery of the tale..for me I was left undecided as to the true culprit(s) of the of the events that played out and I feel the author wrote it this way to engage with the reader..you decide the ending you believe.

I’m all about the flow of a book and the alternating perspectives worked well and kept things fresh adding suspense as the tale progressed.

Overall a fast paced dark and disturbing tale, well written with a decent page count makes this an easy read to get stuck into.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.

My thanks go to the author and Bloodhound books for the chance to be part of the tour

Author Bio:

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Paul Southern was born in the 1960s to itinerant parents who moved from city to city. He lived in Liverpool, Belfast, London and Leeds, then escaped to university, where he nearly died of a brain haemorrhage. After an unexpected recovery, he co-formed an underground indie group (Sexus). Made immediate plans to become rich and famous, but ended up in Manchester. Shared a house with mice, cockroaches, and slugs; shared the street with criminals. Five years later, hit the big time with a Warners record deal. Concerts at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Melody Maker front cover, Smash Hits Single of the Week, Radio 1 and EastEnders. Mixed with the really rich and famous. Then mixed with lawyers. Ended up back in Manchester, broke. He got a PhD in English (he is the world’s leading authority on Tennyson’s stage plays!), then wrote his first novel, The Craze, based on his experiences of the Muslim community. He has three other published books and has written for ITV. He was shortlisted for a CWA Dagger award in 2002 and received positive reviews from national and international press, including The Guardian, Arena, Radio 4, Ladsmag, and Kirkus, amongst many others.

Links:

www.paulsouthern.org

https://www.facebook.com/paulsouthernauthor/

https://twitter.com/psouthernauthor

Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots: The Life of King Henry VIII’s Sister by Sarah-Beth Watkins – Review

Title – Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scots: The Life of King Henry VIII’s Sister
Author – Sarah-Beth Watkins
Genre – History, Biography
Length – 169 Pages
Publication – 8th December 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars

Synopsis

Margaret Tudor was Henry VIII’s older sister and became the Queen of Scotland after her marriage to James IV in 1503. Her life was troubled and fraught with tension. She was continually caught between her country of birth and the country she ruled. After James IV’s death, she made the disastrous decision to marry the Earl of Angus, threatening her regency and forcing the Scottish council to send for the Duke of Albany to rule in her stead. Over the years, Margaret’s allegiance swung between England and Scotland, making her brother Henry VIII both her ally and her enemy at times. Although Margaret wished for peace between the two countries, these were tumultuous years and she didn’t always make the wisest choices. Yet, all she did she did for her son James V, and her absolute conviction he would rule Scotland as its rightful king.

Review

Ever since I caught the reading bug I’ve always enjoyed historical fiction but while the tales are always exciting a fun for me once in a while I quite like learning some cold hard truths and that’s where Sarah-Beth Watkins fits in perfectly.

Watkins writes in a very clear manner, setting out the details as they are known in the life of Margaret Tudor. You might think a biography might be a little dry but I find Watkins’s books so refreshing and easy to read.

This book is packed full of detail and really shows you how a woman of royal birth was treated at the time. They are little more than bargaining chips.

It’s a short read but packed full of info so you feel you get your money’s worth.

The story itself is fascinating. Margaret Tudor suffers so much in her life and at times it’s rather emotional as the story comes to life and the relationship she had with her brother made this book a real page turner.

What Watkins does time and time again is she makes her books more than just a fact based text-book for history students..she gives it life and makes it rather more mainstream and interesting for the everyday reader.

Highly recommend for history fans.

My thanks go to the publishers and the author for the chance to read and review the book in exchange for an honest review.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon.