Review of Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson

The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover – The Lady of the Ravens-min

Genre: Fiction – Historical Fiction – London Tower – Romance

📖 So, I recently read the Ravenmaster by Chris Skaife (fabulous book, highly recommended) then whilst doing the weekly shop, I meandered down the book aisle and this beauty popped out at me. I must say, the cover is stunning, well done to the illustrator. I know, I know, never judge a book by its cover… but this one is very pretty. And luckily the book was enjoyable too! So, win-win.

✍️ This is such an intriguing little book. Joan is quite an interesting character a hard worker who adapts to most situations that come her way, she sees all that happens at court, yet rarely does she interfere. Joan’s mother enjoys the patronage of Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, so Joan becomes a lady in waiting to Elizabeth of York from an early age. Joan’s depiction of courting, motherhood and life at court is quite fascinating. Hickson captures the fear that unwanted courtship from a man in a superior position, very well and it gives a real insight into what court life must have been like for a woman in a position such as Joan’s.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘Think yourself honoured, young mistress. The ravens avoid us men because the archers use them for target practice. But there is a legend, which says that as long as they haunt the Tower, it and the kingdom will stand. Just lately they’ve been coming and going so perhaps there’s something in it.’ At the time I didn’t understand what he meant but so vividly had the raven’s image imprinted itself in my mind, that the incident and his words remained with me ever since.

👓 Joan’s escape from court appears to come in the form of caring for the Ravens. The birds are often tormented by the guards, yet they stay strong and resolute, and with the support and protection of Joan and her family, they even begin to thrive.

👫 I enjoyed the inclusion of Joan’s husband Richard who underneath everything was a lovely, kind man whose love and loyalty to his family shined through. I enjoyed reading about the couple and how their story developed across the pages. Her adopted role of a stepmother was a great inclusion in the story and again I enjoyed that the author did not take the path of a hated stepmother but a family trying to make their way together during a difficult period of history.

🗺 I quite enjoyed this different take on the Tudor period (an often-saturated market when it comes to historical fiction books). The Country is recovering from the War of the Roses and this story features the early reign of Henry VII. There is a continual threat of revolt and fear of false allegiances within the court (indeed, within Joan’s own family), all of which add drama to an already busy court life.

💔 Any Negatives: I really enjoyed this book but there were areas that, for me, dragged on a bit. It is very well researched, but I feel some of the action could have been a bit more centre stage.

💭 Overall View: An enjoyable book and a great new take on the Tudor period. I’m looking forward to reading more from this fabulous author.

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Wonka time!

Name that movie?

I adored this movie as a child. I watched it over and over. My gran used to always buy me a big galaxy bar for Christmas and I used to devour it, feeling like I was one of the kids from the movie.

I adored the book too. Actually I adored all of Roald Dhal’s childrens books (except James and the giant peach, never a fan of that one). I regularly had one book or another borrowed from the library, then Nestle did a wonderful thing, a free Roald Dahl book with every cereal box! It was a dream come true.

My OH is not a big reader per se but when I asked him who his favourite author was and you guessed it, he replied Roald Dhal (he’s actually read one of his adult novels too).

So when I was wandering around Largs last week, I popped into a traditional sweet shop and these little bars beamed back at me. Hubby was delighted when presented with the little treat.

Do you have a favourite childhood movie?

Take care.

KL 🍫

Review of Hurrah for Gin by Katie Kirby

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Non-fiction – Parenting – Real-life

Hurrah for Gin – Cover


📖 I am very late to the party discovering Katie Kirby’s brilliant book – Hurrah for Gin. Sadly, it had been sitting on my TBR shelf for quite some time and for some reason I’d just never been in the mood to pick it out. When I finally got round to it, I read most of it in one sitting, genuinely laughing out loud all the way through. In fact, as I was reading, I snapped a couple of pictures and sent them to mummy friends knowing that they would indeed relate.

✍️ The writing is short, sharp and incredibly straight to the point. It often includes swearing (with a warning upfront that this would be the case). However, it is the depictions of family life that really draw you in.


🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

There are two types of pregnant people in this world, I have illustrated the differences in the scientific diagram above. Depiction A denotes the irritatingly healthy-looking ones and Depiction B denotes those who look like they are about to keel over and die.
Me? I was a B (yay).

💔 Any Negatives: Disappointed I didn’t read it sooner; it made my night.

💭 Overall View: Smart, witty, sarcastic, honest, yet still with a positive message and full of love. I would recommend it as a gift for any toddler parents.

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Review of Gimson’s Prime Ministers

My rating: 5 Stars (easily)
Genre: Non-Fiction – British Politics – History

📖 I am going against my own rules writing this review. Normally, I like to wait until after I finish a book, sometimes even a few weeks after to see how the book stays with me. I don’t like to recommend something that is instantly forgettable. However, with this book I am on page 260 of 310 (excluding the afterword) and decided to go ahead and write the review as I have found this book that interesting, I know I don’t have to wait until the end to recommend it. In fact, my OH is probably sick of me saying “Oh, I read about such and such last night did you know….”.

✍️ Firstly, I fully understand politics isn’t for everyone. Yet, I think understanding a little about politics does us in good stead as it impacts almost every aspect of our daily lives (knowingly or unknowingly). It’s always handy to have a bit of history behind a subject too. This book does all this and more easily.

👫 The book, as mentioned, is only 310 pages long but captures a little about every prime minister from Sir Robert Walpole through to Boris Johnson. It often tells you a little about what led up to them becoming prime minister, what others thought of them (often party and public opinion would differ in that respect), what big events happened during their time in office (often the handling of this would decide their legacy), and finally what happened to them causing them to leave office/after leaving office.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

The prime minister requires, in fact, a bizarre combination of qualities. He or she must be at once ordinary and extraordinary, conventional and innovative, safe and audacious, banal and brilliant, a follower and a leader, sensitive to every change in the political weather but tough enough to endure terrible disasters, on the side of the people but able to build a cabinet from members of the elite.

👓 This book has so many interesting facts, I want to share so many snippets but here are a few of the more interesting ones:
• Earl Grey was a British Prime Minister (not just a type of tea) and brought about one of the most spectacular parliamentary legislative triumphs despite not becoming Prime Minister until the ripe old age of 66. He also had a secret affair with a duchess, when her husband found out Grey’s mother stepped in to raise the baby.
• The first time the term “Prime Minister” was used was in 1905 when the king asked Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (CB) to form a government.
• The term ‘squiffy’ is likely coined after Herbert Henry Asquith (PM 1908-1916) who was known to drink more than he could handle and was noticed to be worse for wear in the Dispatch Box.
• Winston Churchill has to take the entrance exam to join the army three times before passing.

🗺 Also enjoyable are the doodles of each PM which start each chapter.

💭 Overall View: A really interesting book with brilliant snippets that help capture the essence of each Prime Minister’s story. Well researched and easy to digest.

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Review of The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

The Man Who Died Twice is the second book in the Thursday Murder Club series written by Richard Osman

Christmas Book Bundle



📖 I thoroughly enjoyed The Thursday Murder Club, so much so that I popped this second book on my Christmas Wish List. Santa must have been listening as I opened a bright shiny book-shaped parcel on Christmas day and there it was. I dove straight into it as soon as I was able and I thoroughly enjoyed it all the way to the last page.

✍️ This book has a few strands of stories going on but the primary storyline is around Elizabeth’s ex-husband Douglas, who appeals to her to help protect him. It seems Douglas has gotten himself involved with some missing diamonds and now a lot of people are after him, not least of which is Mi5 who are supposed to be providing his protection. Trusting no one but Elizabeth, can she find the diamonds before more bodies appear? Once again, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim are called into action.

👫 Like the original TMC, this book does swivel from character-to-character viewpoint, with a lot of backstory provided by retired nurse Joyce through diary-style entries. Through her inner thoughts and observations, I think everyone will love the thought of having a Joyce in their lives. Ibrahim’s story is quite heartbreaking in this book but I am so pleased Richard Osman included it as it did highlight vulnerability, mental trauma and the importance of friendship.

🗺 One of the things I quite like in this book is all the little British quirks Richard Osman throws in (like mentioning that nice Carol Kirkwood who does the weather). It’s just that sweet, funny, quirky sense of humour that despite being a crime novel gives you a warm fuzzy feeling.

💔 Any Negatives: As others have said, as a direct police procedural, this doesn’t stand up. So many things that are incredibly unlikely to happen (or at least would get someone the sack if they did). However, as a light-hearted, Agatha Christie/People’s friend type crime mystery, it’s a good fun, light-hearted read that’s not too taxing.

💭 Overall View: A fun, easy read. If you don’t take it too seriously, you’ll find it enjoyable.

Review of The Visitors Book and other ghost stories by Sophie Hannah

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Paranormal

The Visitors Book – Cover


📖 This collection contains four short stories:
• The Visitors Book
• The Last Boy to Leave
• Justified True Belief
• All the dead mothers of my daughters friends

✍️ The Visitors Book is a story about Victoria and her strange partner Aaron who get into a huge row when she refuses to sign the visitors’ book at his London flat. Although from the short glance Victoria had at the book, there is something rather peculiar about the names in it, soon Victoria realises she could be in danger.

👫 The Last Boy to Leave is a heartbreaking short story and probably my favourite within the book. After relocating to a new area, Jen and Greg decide to throw their son Max a birthday party in their home. It soon descends into chaos with kids, running around everywhere, practically destroying the house and ignoring all Jen’s rules. Yet one young boy stops and helps Jen to clean and tidy, he’s polite and kind, yet something is not quite right about him.

👓 Justified True belief is such an interesting short story centred around medical health. The theory is pretty much those with an illness can detect others with the same illness. It’s very difficult to say more than that without spoiling it but it was a really good concept and I would have happily read this as a longer story/novel as it seems to have a lot of possibilities.

🗺 All the dead mothers of my daughters friends was probably my least favourite of the collection. It was probably quite accurate but it pretty much focused on snarky in-fighting between mothers at a school playground.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Aaron closes his eyes. ‘Will this argument ever end?’ he murmers.
‘Would you prefer me to back down and say, “You’re quite right, I’m so sorry”?’
‘Yes, I would. And then I’d like you to sign my visitors book.’
‘Jesus! Your obsession with getting me to sign that stupid book is bordering on the creepy, Aaron. Why does it matter so much to you?’

💭 Overall View: I enjoy a good ghost story and this was an enjoyable, short, sweet collection. I preferred The Last Boy to Leave and Justified True Belief to the other stories. They had just the right level of creepy and believable to them which I prefer. All in all, though an enjoyable collection and I look forward to reading more by this author.

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The Visitors Book – Extract

Review of Too Good to be True by Ann Cleeves

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fiction – Crime Thriller – Police Procedural

Cover – Too Good To Be True



📖 Ann Cleeves is an author who has been on my radar for a while now (several people have recommended her novels to me). This book appeared on the quickreads collection and thought it would be a great opportunity.

✍️ This book follows Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez to a small village in the Scottish Borders where his ex-wife has summoned him to help investigate a suspicious death of a local schoolteacher, Anna. The local gossips (which amounts to most of the town) suspect Sarah’s current husband of having an affair with Anna (and perhaps being involved in her death).

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘But you don’t really think he killed her?’ the first woman said. ‘Not Tom! He’s a doctor. A kind man. He looked after my mother when she had cancer and he couldn’t have been more caring.’
‘It’s just too much of a coincidence.’ It was Gail again. ‘Something weird was going on there. If the Kings didn’t kill her, they drove her to suicide.’
Jimmy Perez couldn’t stand any more of their unkindness. He drank his coffee in one go, paid the bill and went outside.

👓 This was an enjoyable book, and I particularly enjoyed the writing style. It was easy to read but maintained its believable elements. The characters were interesting, and the mystery was good (and not too easily guessable).

💔 Any Negatives? Well, this is part of a series. So, a lot of the character depth, particularly around Perez probably features elsewhere in the series. This is a standalone book and can be read as such, but I do wonder if it’s more enjoyable to those already familiar with the series.

💭 Overall View: Great pace, characters, and location. Good writing and the mystery certainly left me guessing.

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Review of Don’t Judge a Book by Rose Milburn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fiction – Uplifting – County Durham

Don’t Judge a Book by Rose Milburn – Cover

📖 This is an interesting book. I picked it up after noticing it was set in some of the areas around County Durham that I was familiar with. The story follows a gang of friends from a poverty-stricken ex-mining town, navigating their way through adulthood. Ellie, Mark, Darren, Michael, Rob, Jeff and Joe grew up together in difficult circumstances and with the help of an inspiring teacher, Mr Smith the gang stick together through difficult times. When Ellie receives an anonymous message from one of the group wishing to be more than friends, she has a puzzle on her hands to figure out who sent it. With the help of Mark and his wife Marsha, they try to figure out who it might be.

✍️ The book is mainly told from Ellie’s perspective, with flashbacks to other characters and important moments through their childhood that have impacted their friendships as adults.

👓 One of the things I quite liked about this book was that it tackled a lot of underlying themes, it did not shy away from those difficult subjects but instead highlighted the help of support and friendship to get through such difficult times. For example, disability/mobility issues, potential infertility, relationship age gaps, abusive parents, single parents, poverty, drug/alcohol addictions, vulnerable female walking home alone, and more.

💔 Any Negatives: So, why only 4 stars. Well, there are a couple of places the book needs some additional proofreading including a whole section of repeated text. Also, the format jarred me. I realise this is a personal thing, but most books have paragraph indentation for the first line and roll on. This had large returns between each line. It wasn’t an issue once you got used to it and of course, didn’t impact the story, but I do think it’s worth a mention.

💭 Overall View: An interesting little book with the primary focus on friendship in a poverty-stricken area.

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Review of Tempest in a Teapot by Kate Valent

Tempest in a Teapot by Kate Valent
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tempest in a Teapot – Cover

📖 Tempest in a teapot follows a young lady named Charlotte, a baker’s daughter she is both excited and nervous when she is invited to a party of the upcoming wealthy family the Steepe’s. However, everyone knows the Steepe’s are after a noble match to elevate their standing within society, so when Charlotte is selected by the (rather odd) heir to the Steepe family, Martin to be his fiancée, based purely on her favourite tea, Charlotte’s world turns on its axis.

✍️ This is such an intriguing little book. From the first page, I was quite drawn to it. Charlotte is a great character, a hard worker used to her family’s ways. She devours books (particularly penny bloods which are not the most suitable reading for the young ladies in society) and dreams of writing her own. After her surprise engagement, Charlotte crosses paths with the beautiful but frightening Bertram (Martin’s cousin) who is determined to break the engagement off and that Martin should be marrying someone within high society. Yet, the more time Charlotte spends with Martin and his intriguing, quirky ways, the more she actually starts to fall on him.

👓 This book is a fantasy book with much of the side story being around runes and their use (originally by the wealthy but with more and more making their way to the working class). The book is set in a somewhat historical Victorian setting (I suspect 1851 as there is a reference to Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition, but please don’t hold me to that!), with many of the traditions, mannerisms (and class systems) referenced from that time period.

👫 Great range of characters, both Martin and Charlotte were cute and sweet (and innocent enough to make the traditional love story elements of the book work. I enjoyed the side characters and storylines such as the spirited Hawke sisters (envious of being women in a man’s world), the straight-talking Laoise, and the misadventures of Oolong the dog.

🗺 Tempest in a teapot (American English), or storm in a teacup (British English), is an idiom meaning a small event that has been exaggerated out of proportion. One of the things I love about this book title is it is actually a direct quote from the book. There’s always a sense of satisfaction when the title makes sense.

💔 Any Negatives: I guess, perhaps the book is a little obvious. There is no great mystery about what is going to happen next. You know who the good guy is, who the bad guy is and that ultimately love will win. But I think that is endearing in itself and didn’t detract at all from the story. I can certainly see this tea-ing off (pun intended) a Bridgerton style series.

💭 Overall View: an enjoyable romp through a magical Victorian world (with tea and cakes!). What’s not to like?!

📣 Disclaimer: I received an advance reader copy of this book for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.


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Writing Extract:

Tempest in a TeaPot – Extract