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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