Review of Read The Leaves – 5 Stars

Another perfect little Halloween read with a difference…

Read the Leaves by Kate Valent
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fiction – Magical – Fantasy – Historical

Read the Leaves – Cover

📖 This is the second book in the Serendipi-tea series by author Kate Valent and it’s a great addition. This novel primarily follows Mary, a young writer who writes under a pseudonym so that no one knows who she is (and that she is female). When her father’s publishing company, which publishes her works, runs into financial troubles, Mary with the help of her sister Margaret, and her friend Charlotte try to do all they can to save it.

✍️ Also woven throughout this novel is a blossoming romance. Mary meets the dashing Lord Holiday, an odd fellow, who only appears to spend time out in the evening. Even more strange, is how closely Lord Holiday resembles Lord Hallow, the vampire from the serial that Mary writes. Can Mary trust this handsome stranger, or is he more alike Lord Hallow than she would like to believe? In this magical world, it feels like anything is possible.

🗣 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:

She was certain she had never seen him before. But to be at this party he must be someone, either a magician, lord, or businessman. She couldn’t fathom who or what he was or get the thoughts of the villainous vampire out of her head.

👓 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, with many traditions, and mannerisms (and class systems) referenced from that time period.

👫 Great range of characters, both Mary and her sister Margaret are fun and intriguing characters. Mary trying to make her way in what has up until recently been a male-dominated world is handled delicately and a great nod to the time period that is being captured.

🗺 One of the things I really liked about this story is that although it is a continuation of a series, it was not a continuation of Charlotte’s story (although she does feature) but is a new story focusing on a completely different character.

💔 Any Negatives: I wish Mary and Margaret had perhaps been given slightly different names. As the names are quite similar, I sometimes got a little lost and misread them (thinking it was one or the other). If it had been something different from each other but still historical sounding, Mary and Emily, or something else it would have made it a little easier to read on the eyes. But that is quite picky and probably more of a personal preference.

💭 Overall View: An enjoyable romp through a magical Victorian world (with writers, books, tea and cakes!). An excellent addition to the series.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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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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Tempest in a TeaPot – Extract

Review of Servants by Lucy Lethbridge

Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern TimesServants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is made up from a wide range of sources showing the history of servants and those that have spent life in service. The book includes not only those in service and their memories but also their employers. The book also includes various size households showing a vast array of living throughout the classes and ages.
One of the things I liked most about this book was the author’s writing style, incredibly interesting, informative but not patronising. All the source data provided was very clear but did not read like a PhD textbook!
This thing about this book is, it is really thought-provoking. You start to think that these roles in so many cases are still taken for granted: – cooking, cleaning, childcare, gardening, caretaking, nursing etc. Yet they are so critical. Obviously, there are some things in place now to help these roles (couldn’t live without my Dyson!). The book also does give you an appreciation for society and how it has evolved in the past 100 years or so.
Overall this is a very insightful and informative book and I would recommend to anyone that has an interest in social classes, Victorian history or even just a big Downton Abbey fan .

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Review of The Kings & Queens of Anglo Saxon England by Timothy Venning – Factual Book

The Kings and Queens of Anglo-Saxon EnglandThe Kings and Queens of Anglo-Saxon England by Timothy Venning
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After having my attention captured by the recent Vikings tv series I wanted to discover more about the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and those who ran them. I came across this book in a local book store and it seemed to cover a good deal.
My only complaints/improvements are it would have been nice for this book to have an index so that when someone is mentioned you could find them rather than needing to know the dates they ruled first. I would also have liked to have seen some family tree or hierarchical diagrams as sometimes with similar names being involved it became a bit confusing how each person was related.
However, those two little things aside, this book is a really great resource. Very well researched with a lot of information available.

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Review of Disgraceful Archaeology by Paul Bahn & Bill Tidy – 5 Stars

Disgraceful Archaeology: Or Things You Shouldn't Know About the History of Mankind!Disgraceful Archaeology: Or Things You Shouldn’t Know About the History of Mankind! by Paul G. Bahn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is like reading an adult version of Horrible Histories. It explores all the horrid, lurid and funny bits of history that the Victorians hoped to hide from the history books.
The authors’ writing styles are fun but still informative, not at all like a history textbook but something that can be read anytime or anywhere (although I will warn you, some parts really do make you laugh out loud). A few of the stories will have the male readers squirming uncomfortably too!
It’s a shame a lot of the material mentioned is locked away and un-visit-able. All in all a good fun read, for those not afraid to learn the real history of humankind in all its glory! Haha.

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Review of The Ghost House by Helen Phifer

The Ghost House (Annie Graham, #1)The Ghost House by Helen Phifer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fantastic story full of complicated and intriguing characters that entice you in from the first page and capture the readers’ imagination quickly. Annie, the main protagonist is a female police officer, so she is determined to present a tough exterior to the other officers, however as the story unfolds viewers are given little glimpses to her vulnerabilities which make her very readable.
Annie discovers a diary while house-sitting which leads the reader to the second storyline set in the past. Both stories weave together superbly and the author captures the era very well. The small town setting of the stories ties everything together, giving the author a real chance to show off her writing style by describing these well early on so that she can use them to build suspense and drama later in the story. A great start to what looks to be an intriguing series.
An excellent combo of “who-dunnit”, tragic timelines and haunted houses.

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Review of “The Forgotten Manuscript and the Unknown Crime” by Sarah Rayne

The Forgotten Manuscript and The Unknown Crime. Two short stories.The Forgotten Manuscript and The Unknown Crime. Two short stories. by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I originally finished this novella I was unimpressed. A long-time fan of Sarah Rayne I prefer her darker more sinister novels such as “A Dark Dividing” and would normally rank her as an equivalent novelist to the likes of James Herbert for her skill in manipulating horror. Her writing style is very heavy, atmospheric and brooding and her use of protagonists which are flawed but very human and sincere keep the reader… well… reading; turning that page and feeling the characters emotional journey. This novella was different.
However a few days after reading this book I was describing it to a friend and realised if I hadn’t been expecting a “classic” Sarah Rayne novel, this was actually pretty good. The storyline merged past and present easily, and although we didn’t learn a lot about the main character as a novella we probably didn’t need to, and the double-deception based storyline did keep me guessing.
So if you are looking for a traditional Sarah Rayne horror – this isn’t it, but if you are looking for an intriguing novella with a duplicitous storyline, this is a good read.

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Review of “The Armada Boy” (Wesley Peterson Series book 2) by Kate Ellis

The Armada Boy (Wesley Peterson, #2)The Armada Boy by Kate Ellis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The second novel in the Wesley Peterson series really showcases the authors writing ability. The storyline is intriguing and fast paced particularly in the opening chapters hooking the reader and the level of mystery is maintained throughout.
The story combines multiple storylines and multiple character viewpoints effortlessly. The modern mystery of a pensioner (and was survivor) death provides the whole rural police team the opportunity to investigate their own theories of the murder. This allows Ellis to subtly weave in each characters strengths and weaknesses.
The locations are very descriptive and these play a focal point in the story; small town syndrome mixed with British coastal town and the characters that appear in these areas.
This book is excellent as a standalone, although as part of the series it is excellent to be able to see how the characters are growing and changing. As this novel is based on the second world war, and this year is the 70th Anniversary of the end of the war, this would make a great year to read this novel and relate to the characters brought to life.
Definitely worth five stars.

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Review of “The Merchants House” (Wesley Peterson Series -book 1) by Kate Ellis

The Merchants HouseThe Merchants House by Kate Ellis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the opening novel of the Wesley Peterson series, about a police sergeant and his wife moving from London to the West Country. Wesley’s interest in archaeology brings the story of the merchant house to the reader’s attention quickly while the diary extract of the “merchant” are excellently placed adding to the drama. The modern mystery is handled excellently for a missing child subject, something that should be handled sensitively and the author achieves this while also weaving in the story of Wesley and his wife trying to conceive their first child, bringing a tender touch to the storyline.
The locations are well described and very visual, although perhaps a few too many places covered for the first novel in the series. The sense of everyone having something to hide came across very well in this book, leaving the suspect list wide open.
The fact that this is a series could be picked up while reading this book, but I don’t think it detracted from the story line, just a sense of waiting for the characters to grow a little more on the reader. I would say as a standalone novel this book was very good, but as a series I am hoping for it to be excellent.

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Review – The Secrets of Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford

This novel entices the reader into the storyline from the first few pages. The plot-line is very strong and the high standard of story-telling remains throughout. The main character Ruth leads the story, telling us of her fresh start with her husband Michael in their new house in an isolated area of a Scottish Island. Ruth is also re-living a childhood trauma she suffered with the move causing her to have flashbacks. The move to the house quickly invokes its own dilemma for Ruth and Michael when they find a body buried inside the house. This provokes a third historical timeline, the story where a young curate takes over the house on the remote island. This timeline vividly explores religious righteousness, forbidden lusts, tyrant landlords, myths and scientific discoveries.

The place settings within this novel were pivotal to the storyline and the description of these helped keep the storyline moving. Gifford truly brought to life the loneliness and isolation of Island life, however she also managed to represent the sense of community gained from isolated island living, not an easy combination to represent.

A superbly crafted story, I look forward to the next one.

Amazon Reviews for The Secrets of Sea House