Thursday, 24 January 2019

Review: The Stone Circle (Ruth Galloway #11) by Elly Griffiths

Elly Griffiths is my favourite crime writer and I love her Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries. These feature Ruth (a forensic archaeologist) and Nelson (a Detective Chief Inspector) investigating a series of murders, usually with some historical/archaeology connection. There are also other reoccurring characters, such as the druid Cathbad (I adore Cathbad!) and Nelson's police colleagues.

The Stone Circle is the eleventh book in this series and references the first one, The Crossing Places. You don't need to have read all the books in the series to enjoy this book, but you would get more enjoyment out of this story if you have.

DCI Harry Nelson has been receiving anonymous letters telling him to 'Go to the Stone Circle and rescue the innocent buried there'. They remind him of an earlier case (The Crossing Places), but the author of those letters is long dead. Or are they? Meanwhile, Ruth is working on an archaeological dig known as 'the stone circle' and discovers a skeleton...

I love these books because of the characters and the humour, especially the way Nelson deals with the modern world - he's a bit of a dinosaur! I also admire the way Ruth is comfortable with her life and happy to go it alone, not needing a man. There are lots of historical details and stuff about archaeology, and although I always feel very smug when I guess the villain's identity, with this book I only worked out one of the plot twists.

The Stone Circle is the perfect read, especially if you love traditional murder mysteries with brilliant characters and a clever puzzle to solve. I do wish someone would hurry up and make a TV series out of it!

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book, which will be published on 7th February 2019.

Thank you to Elly Griffiths and Quercus for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Friday, 18 January 2019

Review: Not the Duke's Darling (Greycourt #1) by Elizabeth Hoyt

I usually pre-order Elizabeth Hoyt's books months in advance but somehow I missed realising this one was out. When I did get to read it there were already mixed reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, so I felt a bit apprehensive as to whether I was going to enjoy it! But this is another of those times where, if you know you enjoy a particular style of book and have a favourite author, you should trust yourself, ignore the reviews and make your own decision!

Freya de Moray is the daughter and sister of a duke but is working incognito as a companion. She's also a spy for an organisation called the Wise Women, who help other women in trouble. During one of her assignments she unexpectedly meets the Duke of Harlowe, the man she blames for destroying her brother's life, and she is determined to have her revenge.

There are a lot of characters in this book and a lot of plot. The heroine has a couple of near-death experiences, which don't have anything to do with the villain, and the Duke is being blackmailed, also a plot strand that could have been done away with. I can understand the amount of characters: this is the first in a new series, so I suspect some of them will have their own books later on. It was fun trying to work out which ones these will be, but it was hard to keep track of them all!

Having said that, there is never a dull moment and I did love the main characters, particularly Freya, who was very independent and strong-minded, yet happy to admit when she'd made a wrong decision. I also enjoyed the snippets of the fairy tale that started each chapter. Conclusion? I loved Not the Duke's Darling and I'm happy to give it five stars!

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Review: Once Upon a Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Hoyt

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Review: The Mistletoe Bride (and other haunting tales) by Kate Mosse

I bought this short story collection back in August last year, with the idea I would dip in and out of it, and it spent the next four months on my desk. So much for that idea! But I picked it up again this Christmas and read each story, one after the other, and really enjoyed them!

This is a collection of seventeen ghost stories, set in different places and in different time periods. Some are traditional in style, others are based on folk stories. Some had a positive ending, others were really sad. Most have been previously published in magazines or other anthologies.

My favourites were The Yellow Scarf, about a woman who visits the ruin of an old manor house and is transported back to the time of the Civil War, and The House on the Hill, about a dolls house and a woman coming to terms with an event in her past. I didn't understand La Fille de Melisande, but that's probably because it's based on a an opera I've never heard of, and Syrinx left me cold, purely because I hate reading stories in script format!

But overall I really loved this collection and will probably read it again next Christmas! I particularly liked the way the author took the time to explain the inspiration behind each story at the end. Five stars!

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Monday, 7 January 2019

Review: Red Snow (Tuva Moodyson #2) by Will Dean

I read the first book in this series last summer and absolutely loved it, so I was thrilled to receive an early copy of Red Snow.

Tuva Moodyson is a city girl who hates nature but lives in the tiny, rural Swedish village of Gavrik. She works as a reporter for the local newspaper but is desperate to move back to civilisation. Covering the 'Ferryman' series of murders is her last story before she starts her longed-for new job. The murders centre around the local liquorice factory and the wealthy family that own it. But as Tuva investigates, she soon finds out that everything is not as it seems, and that trusting the wrong people is about to put her in real danger.

This is fast becoming my new favourite series. Slightly darker than the usual murder mystery, I love the eccentric characters and the detailed description of life in rural Sweden, where the temperature can drop to minus 20 degrees in the winter. Tuva is a great character, thoroughly engaging; stoic, with a dry wit. Her fellow inhabitants of Gavrik are completely eccentric - and not in a lovable way! I especially liked the way the characters from the first book appeared again but I also fell in love with the gloriously mad Grimberg family, living a half-life in their apartment above the liquorice factory, ruled by wacky superstition and desperate to keep up appearances. I didn't guess the identity of the murderer either, which is always a plus for me!

Red Snow can be read as a standalone, but you'll enjoy the series more if you start with the first one, Dark Pines. It's well-written, not too violent, and I'd recommend it to anyone who loves cleverly-plotted murder mysteries, particularly the kind where you have to solve a puzzle.

Thank you to Will Dean and Point Blank (Oneworld) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Sunday, 6 January 2019

Review: Evermore (Everless #2) by Sara Holland

I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book because I read the first one in the series, Everless, last year and absolutely loved it. However, while I was completely gripped by the sequel, and read it very fast, it wasn't quite a five-star read for me.

Evermore is very much a sequel to Everless and won't make sense to anyone who hasn't read the first book. I did worry that I might have forgotten the story, as I have a memory like a sieve and I read a lot of books, but there is a recap in the first chapter.

Many centuries ago, the people of Sempera learned to turn their blood into 'blood iron' coins that can be dissolved and drunk to extend life. Now the poor work and pawn their valuables for blood iron, and die young, and the rich live forever. And the reclusive Queen, a kind of sinister Countess Bathory figure, rules over them all. Now the Queen is dead and Jules finally discovers the truth about her own past, and how she is connected with the centuries-old legend of the Alchemist and the Sorceress.

Evermore is a very fast read, with Jules constantly on the run for her life while at the same time trying to find a way to finish off the villain. I loved the first book, and the idea of turning the remaining years of your life into 'blood coins'. As I enjoy history, I also liked the way the legend of the Alchemist and the Sorceress was woven into the story. But Evermore didn't have the twists of its predecessor and it didn't quite hit the spot for me.

I think the problem is that there is not enough depth to the story, as though it was written very quickly. The perils Jules faces are skimmed over (we never really feel she is in danger) and we never get to know any of the other characters, even the love interest; they are just names on the page. There is a high price on Jules's head, yet she trusts everyone she meets (with no adverse consequences!), even to the point where she just blithely hands over her most treasured possession to someone she's just met. And while I found the first story highly original, there were moments in this book that reminded me of Harry Potter and Frozen

This all sounds negative but I did enjoy the story and I'm happy to give it four stars.

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