Review of The Order of the White Boar

Genre: Youth Adult Fiction – Historical Fiction

The Order of the White Boar by Alex Marchant

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Order of the White Boar – Cover


📖 I purchased this book having met this author at Middleham Castle. The author came across as very passionate about history and indeed, Richard III, I was intrigued to find out more so purchased this book, the first in the series. Needless to say, I was very impressed.

✍️ This book primarily follows the story of young Matthew Wansford (Matt), who starts as a young page in training at Middleham Castle, home of King Edward IV’s brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. He quickly encounters both a foe and friendships at the Castle and embarks on a journey that will change him from a young boy into a man. When asked to accompany the Duke on a journey south to London, Matt’s life changes beyond his wildest expectations, but in a world where loyalties can be costly, has Matt taken the right path in support of the Duke? Only time will tell.

👫 The book covers many issues, including estrangement from family, bullying, friendship, romance and more. The subjects are all handled delicately, making this book suitable for young teens but also not shied away from, which I loved. Life back then was hard, for young and adults alike, and the author captures this well.

👓 One of the great things about this book is the pace. A lot happens quickly in young Matt’s life. Historical fiction can be slow, lofty and full of excessive detail, but this book isn’t, whilst there is enough detail to give you a feel for the period, it isn’t bogged down with descriptions.

🗺 The setting of this book is primarily Middleham Castle, a location I love. The author does a great job of really capturing the hustle and bustle of castle life, the way it would have been. The hunts are also well-described and full of detail.

💔 Any Negatives: This story definitely feels like it is leading up to more. So although enjoyable as a story on its own, I think the others in the series will likely better it. No shock there, especially knowing in real-life the troubles awaiting the future of the Kingdom, but I just thought it was worth a mention that really towards the end of the book, the adventure is really just beginning.

💭 Overall View: A really brilliant start to what I’m sure will be a fantastic series. This book shows Richard and his family in a new more gentle light than the way his story is often told. I loved the youthful aspect of it and the sense of adventure, and the loyalty and friendship featured in the book.

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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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Review of Wish You Were Dead by Peter James

Wish You Were Dead by Peter James

Genre: Crime – Thriller – Police Procedural

Cover – Wish You Were Dead

📖 This is a great holiday read for those wanting a crime twist to their holiday reading. Roy Grace is a detective superintendent who packs up his family for a luxury holiday at a small boutique type hotel in France. Arriving late, things go wrong very quickly, with an unhelpful host, and a member of their party not yet arrived, the holiday is stalled before it has even begun. Yet, things take a more sinister turn which leaves Roy fighting to protect his family from an old adversary he had hoped never to meet again.

✍️ As other reviewers have pointed out, this story does not involve the traditional police procedural detective novels some might expect if they are familiar with the Roy Grace novels. It instead focuses on his family and his need to protect them. I have never previously read the Roy Grace series but didn’t feel this detracted from the story.

🗣 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:

As Cleo dialled yet again, Bruno announced, reading from his iPad, ‘Papa, Mama, Listen!’
‘Yes, Bruno?’ Cleo said.
‘It says that next to being in a car, this is where you are most likely to die. Guess where?’
‘In an aeroplane?’ said Cleo, who did not like flying.
‘Wrong!’
‘Your kitchen,’ Roy Grace said.
‘Wrong, this is the third most likely place! It says here the next most likely place to dis is on holiday. We’re in a car and we are on holiday. Doesn’t that make it probable we are all going to die?’
Roy frowned. Bruno often came up with weird stuff. ‘So it’s lucky we’re not in a camper van, then, Bruno?’
‘Why?’
‘Because they have kitchens. So we would be in a car, on holiday and in a kitchen!’
They all laughed.¨C22C

👓 The story itself was fast-paced (which is how I like my crime novels) with the whole thing taking place in around 24 hours. I hadn’t read any of the previous Roy Grace novels but felt it gave more than enough backstory to those books to figure out who was whom and why they were important.

💔 Any Negatives: I enjoyed this story. I wouldn’t say it was as good as some of the other quick reads mostly because it is clearly an extension to or even an excerpt of a much larger series. Therefore, it is probably not the best place to start within a series. As a member of the quick-reads collection, it is often the aim to encourage the users to pick up a book and read which they wouldn’t normally. Something with so much backstory is probably not the best place to start. If a new reader now wanted to continue the series they need to decide whether to go back to the beginning of the Roy Grace series or try to pick up where this book sits and continue from there. I think that could be off-putting.

💭 Overall View: I enjoyed this book and it was great to see a lighter crime novel in amongst the quick-reads series. I enjoyed the story, the characters and the setting. I would certainly look out for other works by this author.

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At the time of reviewing this book it is on sale for £1.00 at Amazon (affiliate link):

https://amzn.to/35l41KF

📣 Disclaimer: This book review contains an affiliate link. This means I earn a small commission if you use the links on my book reviews to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, but you will help support my reading habit and keep me supplied in books to review. Thank you. 😘

AVID READERS HAVE AN ESCAPE HATCH FROM THE WORLD

I was having discourse with fellow blogger M.C.Tuggle today about a fantastic quote he had captured on his blog (which can be seen here).

During which he came out with a fantastic quote of his own, which resonated with me so much that I decided to capture it as an image. I hope you enjoy it too.

We avid readers have an escape hatch from the world.

Feeling Festive

I’ve always loved Christmas.

The last few years have been devoted to giving my small son the most magical Christmas memories. Not showering with gifts but filling every magical moment spare with memories that will last us (if not him) a lifetime. From visiting friends and family, attending the town centre light switch-ons, spotting sparkly ice sculptures on a trail, a visit to a volunteer-run railway and being amazed at an awe-inspiring castle. This year has been packed, already! Phew. 

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. – Charles Dickens

But this year….

This year, we also included a special day out for me. 

We included a trip to one of my most favourite places in the world. 

Barter Books!

With a book for every genre, and an impressive converted train station to walk around, I reckon this place could convert anyone into becoming a book lover.

Me at Barter Books
Barter Books – Tree – Image by KL Caley
Barter Books – Roof – Image by KL Caley
Barter Books – Train – Image by KL Caley
My Alnwick Haul

After such a magical time, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more festive.

Or more thankful to have gotten to spend this time with my wonderful little family.

The most joyful sight of the day, watching these two cuties sitting in the Book Lorry reading together.

Book Lorry – Image by KL Caley

Hope you are all having a wonderful December!

KL ❤

Review of Talking with Psychopaths and Savages

Talking with Psychopaths and Savages: A Journey into the Evil Mind by Christopher Berry-Dee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cover – Talking with Psychopaths and Savages


📖 Talking with Psychopaths and Savages: A Journey into the Evil Mind. It’s pretty easy to guess what this book is about. The title is straight to the point, unfortunately for me, the book was less so.

✍️Christopher Berry-Dee is quite an interesting author, he is (according to the intro) a direct descendent of Dr John Dee, astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I. He no doubt has a great legacy in interviewing the worlds most notorious serial killers and murderers. The book has an interesting premise, cool cover and showed a lot of promise. It also did have plenty of detailed content about a small number of murderers which fit a definition of ‘psychopath’.

When CBD actually gets into the content, he takes us through some really interesting cases such as JR Robinson, Kenneth Allen McDuff, Arthur Shawcross, Kenneth Bianchi and more. However, he doesn’t start reviewing the cases until page 73 in a 292-page book (that’s 25% of the book that doesn’t really include talking with psychopaths and savages)! That’s a lot of pre-reading before the reader gets what they came for.

🗣 CBD also has this habit of referring to his other works throughout the book. I found it incredibly frustrating and distracting from the current story. I lost count of the number of times he wrote something along the lines of:

‘I fully documented Ross in Dead Men Talking: The World’s Worst Killers in Their Own Words, first published in hardback by John Blake, 2009, but the book you are reading now is not so much about his life and crimes…

👓 These types of self-promotion are a regular occurrence throughout the book distracting from the actual topic. In my opinion, these should have been a footnote (or a bibliography) to allow the reader to look up later if they felt the desire.

I think part of the reason I found all the waffle and self-promotion frustrating is that the author also mentions (repeatedly throughout the book) how he has a tight word count by his publisher so cannot go into details he would like to.

💭 Overall View: I hate to give a negative review and I realise the content of this review is mostly negative. However, I truly appreciate there is a lot of work and research put into writing any book. This subject matter is not a pleasant one and I think kudos has to be given to anyone who managers to spend time with these individuals and trying to understand their mental state. Even more kudos in the instances the author has managed to convince the killers to reveal details of the crimes which has given the families some comfort they would likely not have had otherwise. In these areas the book is really good. Another reviewer wrote a quote that cannot be beaten when summarising this book:

You know those really annoying blokes down the pub who keep bragging about what they’ve done, and you so want to just tell them to piss off but you’re a little transfixed, so you buy them another pint then instantly regret it as they ramble on some more with just enough interesting stuff to keep you going? This book is like that. (Credit: Alyssa Cowell).

I’ve read Jon Ronson’s The psychopath test recently (my full review of that can be seen following the links below) and in my opinion, it’s a better read than this, although this one does contain many more individual cases. Ronson’s book is easier to digest and a bit more well-rounded.

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Review of BEDLAM: LONDON AND ITS MAD – 5 STARS

Bedlam: London and its Mad by Catharine Arnold

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Genre: NON-FICTION – HISTORY – MEDICAL – SCIENCE – MENTAL HEALTH – HORROR

This book is well worth 5 stars. Sometimes it can be quite dry reading and of course a lot of the extracts quoted in it are centuries old with a rather more difficult take on the English language but it really is worth persevering to get a real overview of the history and to get to the best parts (in my opinion) a real sense of the people involved.

Premise: This book captures everything from barbaric treatments, human zoos, manic doctors who were worse than the insane they treated (that is when they actually did the job of treating patients, not something they always did), beautiful buildings, advances through medical history, and even some fascinating insights into the first world war.

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:

As to those wild, wanton women drinkers, their tipple of choice, regarded as the source of all evil by many commentators, was tea. In his Observations on Maniacal Disorders (1792), William Pargeter condemned the frequent and immoderate use of tea.

I think this is possibly one of my favourite quotes for life now.

I found this book captivating and found myself regularly telling friends of its contents. I also stuck various post-it’s in it of interesting quotes (one of my favourites being about woman and tea as shown above) and of people or stories I want to follow-up and read more about.

Any Negatives: As mentioned earlier sometimes the historic language is difficult but I think once you settle into the book even that gets easier to read as you go along.

Excellently researched, a book that spans the years and gives so many different insights.

Overall View: So, a book that makes me want to read more books will always be worth 5 stars in my opinion. Great job by this author. I am intrigued to research their writing career and see if they have published any further works.

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Extract from BEDLAM: LONDON AND ITS MAD

12 signs you have a book addiction and why it matters #mondayblogs

So true! I’m not even ashamed!! Great Post By Sue over at Daily Echo…
A Good Book + Tea = A Happy Me

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

There is a strange urge to turn into that scruffy looking shop… a calling that drags at your gut until you succumb.Dust and grime covers everything; there is nothing in there that you would touch without a hazmet suit and yet… there in the corner is a rusting metal basket full of foxed and battered paper. You spot a title you have been searching for since your youth. Suddenly the world is a beautiful place.

You may have a problem…and there are other signs…

  1. Waiting in queues becomes quality time with your mobile phone. The Kindle app is a godsend…
  2. You hope the appointments are running at least two chapters late.
  3. Flu is welcomed as a six-book-a-day event.
  4. Decluttering means throwing out the TV to add another bookshelf.
  5. Getting an early night means a few extra hours reading and even less sleep. (Well, you only had another couple of chapters…

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Time to begin READING again?..

If you’re in a rut of any sort, the BBC Culture website has a novel (no pun intended) approach to solving life’s problems. Their Textual Healing site is a literary twist on the agony aunt column. People are writing in with their problems and getting a reading list to help them with their woes. Books are suggested to help with loneliness, unhappy families and lovesickness. Harry Potter_some_stories_stay_foreverThere are some good tips in there so it’s worth a look even if you’re feeling great.

In 2013, psychologists at the New School for Social Research found that literary fiction enhanced people’s ability to register and read others’ emotions.

As the site says “They may not promise transformation in seven easy steps, but gripping novels can inform and motivate, short stories can console and trigger self-reflection, and poetry has been shown to engage parts of the brain linked to memory. Sometimes an author helps by simply taking your mind off a problem, immersing you so fully in another’s world and outlook that you transcend yourself, returning recharged and determined.”Books wash away everyday life

So is it time to give yourself a fresh start or make a decision? A good book might help. At the very least, you’ll discover some great new titles. A great new approach, read yourself happy, read to cure lovesickness or even read to help you commit (I hope that’s not the crime genre!).

Know Your History – 8th September – UNESCO International Literacy Day & EU Literacy week

UNESCO International Literacy DayOn this day… 8th September – UNESCO International Literacy Day & EU Literacyweek

For todays’ KYH blog I hand over to this special cause:

Approximately 775 million people- 64% of whom are women- are functionally illiterate. In other words, they lack the basic reading and writing skills to manage daily living and employment tasks.

In 1965, UNESCO declared September 8 as International Literacy Day. Since this proclamation, schools, organizations and communities around the world have united to promote awareness with the hope to one day eradicate this on-going human rights violation.

The cost of illiteracy to the global economy is estimated at USD $1.19 trillion. The effects of illiteracy are very similar in both developing and developed nations. This means that the impact of illiteracy – limited opportunities for employment or income generation, higher chances of poor health, propensity towards crime or dependence on social welfare or charity (if available) – can be found wherever illiteracy is found.

Educating girls and women, in particular, has unmatched transformative power. It is estimated that if all women completed primary education, there would be 66% fewer maternal deaths.

Find out more at http://internationalliteracyday.org/

In the EU the 8th September marks the start of Literacy week.

http://www.literacyweek.eu/

Reading and writing is fundamental to function in today’s society. Not being able, for example, to understand the instructions on a medicine bottle is a scary thought.

Did you know that on average:

1 in 5 adolescents and 1 in 5 adults in Europe lack the literacy skills to understand the instructions on a medicine bottle?

11 persons in every European street can not read or write well?

4 children in every European school class have literacy problems?

Our dream is that every European adult can read and write well enough to fully and independently participate in society.