Review of Queen of Subtleties by Suzannah Dunn – 5 Stars

The Queen of Subtleties: A Novel of Anne BoleynThe Queen of Subtleties: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Suzannah Dunn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction

I am very surprised by the number of low ratings this book received. Can an author provide a fresh approach to a part of history known by everyone and told to death? Actually yes, I think Dunn made a really good job of it. This book has several stories concealed within its pages all delicately woven together to make the reader turn the pages.

This story as you will probably already have gathered is a story of two halves. Strong-willed, stubborn Anne Boleyn prior to her imminent execution tells her story of her time at the court in the format of a letter to her daughter. The format of the story is quite fun and fiery and I think the author does a good job of getting the reader on Anne’s side. The author then turns the reader’s attention to the second storyline of that of the subtle subdued Lucy Cornwallis, confectionary chef to the king. Polar opposite of Anne, Lucy is quiet, humble and dedicated to her crafts.

The women’s stories are very loosely connected by their involvement with the lovely Mark Smeaton, wunderkind musician—the innocent on whom, ultimately, Anne’s downfall hinges.

I must say this is the first Suzannah Dunn book I have read and it pulled me in hook, line and sinker. Her writing style is superb, it’s easy to read, not boringly over-descriptive like some historical fiction novels are (although it captures plenty of historical contexts) and it keeps the story moving at a great pace. Obviously, Anne’s story is the most exciting (which I think is to be expected).

The main reason others seem to be upset with this novel is the modern tone of language used. Granted there are probably some better wording or phrasing that the author could have used here (Henry telling courtiers to skedaddle) and there but overall I found the tone very readable and if it had been told in the language of the Tudor times this would ultimately have made it far less enjoyable for me. So, I guess it is something to be aware of but don’t let it put you off.

Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

“My uncle never read a book, and he’s proud of the fact. Ruthlessness and efficiency; that’s what matters. He’ll clap you on the back, one day; stab you in it, the next. No hard feelings, just business as usual. Never trust a Howard, Elizabeth, not even if you are one. Look where it got me, sent here to the Tower by my own uncle.”

I think Dunn has done a great job of capturing the period, the courts, all the moving and touring, and of course the feasts. Fun and interesting concepts that make this book a delight to read.

A fantastic novelist! Cannot wait to read many more of her works.

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Review of The Guardians by Andrew Pyper – 4 Stars

The GuardiansThe Guardians by Andrew Pyper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Trevor, Randy and Carl return to the small town they grew up in for the funeral of their friend Ben. They are surprised to find that Ben had become a recluse after they left town and spent most of his time watching over “Thurman House”. The house brings back tortured memories for the boys and they find themselves struggling over whether to confront their past or not, but after another friend goes missing the past can no longer stay hidden.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Trevor and his Dictaphone diary entries with occasional flashbacks to the boys’ childhood. This captures the story really well and Andrew manages to weave a lot of subtler subplots into the story, which really kept the suspense on top form. Trevor is a very likeable character. His journey to discover whether the house is haunted or if it’s all just his imagination brings out the strengths and flaws in his personality, but underlying throughout the difficult situation is his brotherhood “in-it-together-no-matter-what-happens” attitude.

Other reviewers have suggested this is similar to Stephen Kings writing and while at some of the more suspense-driven parts I can see this, for me it wasn’t scary. It wasn’t really a horror, the plot certainly had darker elements but there was very little fear factor. However, I enjoyed the mystery of the novel, and the friendships and relationships throughout.

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I would have preferred this book to be a little scarier (to be put in the same category as a Stephen King/James Herbert style horror) but it was an enjoyable read and I will look out for more works by Andrew Pyper.

Review of Two Strangers by Beryl Matthews – 4 Stars

Two Strangers: An Historical Saga Set in 1920s LondonTwo Strangers: An Historical Saga Set in 1920s London by Beryl Matthews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is set in London after the First World War. Vicki is a troubled teenager who has had a very poor upbringing with a mean father who never wanted a daughter and a continuously pregnant mother who keeps desperately trying to provide the much sought after son. When her father tries to send Vicki to work for an untrustworthy man, Vicki refuses. Her father responds by throwing her out on the streets. Vicki struggles for survival but at the two points when she is lowest she meets two strangers who offer her the much-needed help she needs. These fortunes turn Vicki’s life around and she soon starts to have a life that is better than she ever dreamed possible. Her heart never forgets the kind gestures of the strangers and she sets on a mission to find them.

This book is a really easy read, at quite a slow pace. It’s not a fast-paced high drama kind of book but enough to keep you interested. The story grows and develops along at a steady pace, almost like a diary.

The descriptions of the City in this book are superb. The author really takes you back in time, and captures big city hustle and bustle, with the markets, abandoned warehouses and the traditional barbers all incredibly vivid.

Vicki is a very likeable character, smart but vulnerable, headstrong but humble. She easily pulls you into her world and her quest to find her two strangers. Some of the other characters such as Flo and Alfie are also very heart-warming and you do find yourself hoping everything turns out okay for them all.

This book is very easy to read and is very slow paced. It would suit those that like Linda Page, Jessica Blair, M.L. Gardner or similar.

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Review of AMBER WAKE: Gabriel Falling by P.S. Bartlett & Ronovan Hester – 5 Stars

AMBER WAKE - Gabriel FallingAMBER WAKE – Gabriel Falling by P.S. Bartlett & Ronovan Hester

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recently finished reading Amber Wake by PS Bartlett & Ronovan Hester and I must say it is such a catching and intriguing storyline. It is set around the classic storyline of a hero trying to right a wrong done to him but it is so much more than that. When Royal Navy Captain Gabriel Wallace finds himself unknowingly tricked into a situation the ruins his career and risks his family he makes the decision to leave England. With the help of his friends and crewmates, they make an escape and become regarded as Pirates. As a reader, you truly get caught up in the need for Captain Wallace to take down Admiral Chambers and all that he corrupts. With drama leaping off the first page, it gets its hook into you straight away. A page-turner from start to finish.

 

I adore historical fiction novels anyway, but I must say Amber Wake’s storyline is excellent and unlike anything I have read before. I don’t know much about the British Royal navy (and maybe that made it all the more intriguing to me), but felt I could easily have lived through each setting from the British courtroom, the American Colonies, Caribbean ports, and, of course, the ships themselves.

 

The characters throughout the book were superb. As a reader, you could feel the strength of Captain Wallace, the loyalty of his crew, the difficulties with trust and friendship. All the emotions leapt straight from the page. Of course, there is also moments of strong comradery and humorous touches too. One of my favourite quotes being:

“His face was puffed-up and as red as a drunken Irishman with an empty wages packet.”

For me, the book was totally unpredictable and a real gem of a discovery. The authors writing style, the plot twists, the locations and most importantly the strong storyline all kept me turning each page eager for more. Highly recommended.

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For those that haven’t yet discovered it. Ronovan has a great blog right here on wordpress with loads of hints and tips for writing featured, a hiaku prompt, and a weekly flash fiction prompt – Visit for more info. https://ronovanwrites.wordpress.com/

Review of The Viking by Marti Talbott – 5 Stars

The Viking (Viking Series, #1)The Viking by Marti Talbott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With a recent obsession with the Vikings tv series, when this book came up I thought the story blurb sounded interesting. This is novel tells the story of Stefan, a young Viking on his first raid with his father. When the raid goes wrong Stefan finds himself stranded in Scotland and at the mercy of a young female, Kannak, who has hidden him from her clan. Kannak has a lot going on too, her father has deserted her and her mother and clan tradition is that one of them must marry, but her mother has a secret that Kannak can never know that could threaten their way of life. With Kannak alone knowing the truth about Stefan, can she protect him from the clan at risk as a suspect of betrayal? Will her refusal to marriage endanger her and her mother’s way of life?
The story had an interesting premise, and it gripped me very quickly. The author seems to have researched a lot of details making it very realistic. The split between Kannak and Stefan worked very well and the blossoming relationship between was lovely! Suspense, drama, passion, history, and innocence all add to this dramatic story.
The settings are well written and you can feel the isolated village come to life, I really enjoyed the opening scenes on the boat too, an exciting start to the story which was brilliantly described. These are wonderful details that certainly added to the story and plot.
This book captures your interest in a beautiful historic setting, giving a fairly well known story a refreshing view. These books will appeal to most historical fiction fans especially those of Philippa Gregory. I will certainly keep an eye out for more from this author. This novel is part of a series so I look forward to reading more in the future.

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Review of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, I should have probably tried to get this review published in December when I read this book but time has a way of running away from me at times. So happy belated Christmas first of all! Now, obviously Dickens A Christmas Carol is a classic and doesn’t need my two-penny worth to be so but I just wanted to put this review on here anyway to encourage all those who haven’t read it to do so.

So many people have this image of classics being long-winded, with lengthy wording that is cumbersome to read (– I’m looking at you Thomas Hardy!), but this book truly isn’t. At a length of 112 pages this book can actually be read in a sitting or two. As to the cumbersome, here is a little extract I highlighted, this is as fanciful as the wording gets:

“They were a gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses, and forgotten the way out again.”

Although you may not read “one could” in many novels nowadays analysing the rest of the sentence you have got to love that it is a little cheeky and a little sarcastic.

I probably don’t need to tell you a summary of the plot as Disney has managed that very well but I will say that the book is better; more magical, a little darker in places, and there is quite a few scenes not included in the modern adaptions. I think everyone should read this book, at least once, you may even be surprised by the happy boost it will give you.

At the time of writing it is even free on amazon for kindle – what more incentive do you need than free. 🙂

KL ❤

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Review of The Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dibdin – 3 Stars

The Last Sherlock Holmes StoryThe Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dibdin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmmm… I am not sure what to make of this book – I have read other reviews and well they are very mixed and that is my opinion of this book – mixed.

There was parts I thought were great. Holmes as narrator was particularly well written and I actually enjoyed the locations and the time period. I actually really liked the concept of this book with Sherlock on the hunt for Jack the Ripper and trying to decipher if Jack was actually arch-nemesis Moriarty.

Onto the bad, I did feel the detective’s classic sleuthing was glanced over. I missed the dry sarcasm that is associated with Holmes, apart from one paragraph criticising Doyle’s interpretation of a Holmes case at the beginning this wit was missing during the book. Towards the end I must admit I did stop enjoying the plot of the novel to some extent, it’s difficult to go into details without giving away the plot but I was a little disappointed.

It was a short-novel and quite easy to read in one or two sittings. The writing was good, the characters were mostly kept true to form, the time-period was really well adhered to and the concept was excellent. A good attempt at a classic. Good for a short quick read, not the book for a die-hard Holmes fan.

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