Book Reviews

The Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis

Rating: 3.5 out of 5



This book is unique in that it covers a period of history where 3 Renaissance Men came together; Cesare Borgia, Nicolo Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci. So writing about this period could not have been easy.
The book seems well researched and Machiavelli's character in particular struck me as very true to what he would have been in life. It is a mystery book with a romance element which I found dragging and extremely boring. In fact, it put me off the book. I would rather the author concentrated on the murders and making the book fast paced. Instead there are romantic scenes that drag and drag and really put me off.
I wasn't too happy about having Cesare portrayed as a serial killer but the author did present plausible reasoning ( I am very biased towards him!). However, it is conjecture and after all, fiction. a Vinci doesn't feature much in this book which is fine because I don't think the author would have been able to grasp his character.
Also seriously Machiavelli's The Prince was written as a trade off to Cesare so the world can't see what a monster he really is? I think the author was really taken in by anti-Borgia/della Rovere propaganda! No one can write such a fine piece of literature without believing in the content!
Overall, interesting story but really drags in places. Not sure I would recommend it.

Winter Siege by Ariana Franklin

Rating: 4 out of 5


This story takes place in the years during the war between Stephen and Matilda over the English throne. The main protagonists are Gwil the mercenary and a brutally raped girl child (Penda) he rescues from death and whom he trains as an archer. The pair are trying to survive the harsh years of the Anarchy while they run into Empress Matilda on the run and take her to a castle (fictional) whose mistress is Lady Maud and her crippled husband.

During the rape of the girl, a piece of parchment is left with the girl, which apparently threatens the story's villain (rapist) who is an influential monk. However, this piece of the story didn't quite work out for me and its importance wasn't made very clear.

The book certainly brings to life the Medieval age and along with it all the hardships people had to face during the Anarchy years. The characters are very compelling though the main villain (the monk) is a bit two dimensional and not thought out very well. The book is well researched (although the siege takes places in this fictional castle) and very gripping.

The Diamond Throne (The Elenium Trilogy, Book 1) by David Eddings

Rating: 4 out of 5



This is the first time I have read a book by David Eddings band I was quite impressed. I always stick to authors I know when it comes to fantasy novels so this was a nice surprise. The story is about a knight trying to save his Queen but it is far from predictable or boring.
I started reading a sample from Kindle and within a few pages, I was hooked. In fact, I finished the book in 3 days!
The characters are really well thought out and come alive as you read the book (despite the fact that you meet many characters in this book, you will remember each one individually). You get completely engrossed in their adventure, as if you are there with them - really very well written.

Highly recommend it to fantasy fans.

The Messenger of Athens (Mysteries of Greek Detective Book 1)  by Anne Zouroudi

Rating: 4 out of 5

This was a very unusual crime novel for me. The central figure is the detective Hermes Diaktoros, the " Greek Detective", who himself is a mystery (is he the Greek God Hermes? Read and find out!) I liked this little element of Greek Mythology in the book.

Diaktros, though has no official authority, investigates and solves the death of a local woman and brings her murderer to justice in a very Greek mythology fashion. The story of the woman who dies is quite melancholic and although the murderer is punished justly, you can't help feeling sad for her. Her character really speaks to the reader.
The book is a real page-turner and not just because you want to know who the murdered is. You get caught up in the lives of these people living on a tiny Greek island and you want to know what is happening to them. The author has made a whole community come alive in her book.
Highly recommend it

The Pegasus Colony by Phyllis Moore

Rating: 5 out of 5


This was a brilliant read, especially if you are a sci-fi fan. The story is based ~2444 AD and is based in another star system that has been colonised by human about 300 years ago. The colony have not had any contact with Earth since they landed due to a series of mishaps and now they refuse to be recognised as a colony. They want nothing to do with Earth. However, Earth dispatched a party to negotiate colony's demands and study the colony and the planet.
 The characters are all interesting and really come to life as you read the book. The story is very gripping - I was so disappointed when it ended only because I just wanted to continue reading! Can't wait to read the next book and highly recommend it. Brilliant plot, excellent story, good characters and not an implausible storyline!

The Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After by Jenny Colgan

Rating: 4.5 out of 5



This is a lovely feel-good book for curling up with. It's not really heavy reading and was perfect after my historical fiction marathon! The writer creates the perfect atmosphere for you to escape into and get lost in the highlands of Scotland.

I love the emphasis on book and their importance for the main protagonist, Nina- I was very drawn to that. She describes books as worlds we can escape to and treats them as if they are alive. How lovely is that! Nina is an ex-librarian who has to leave her job due to the cutbacks forced by the digital age and e-books. However, she rescues old books from her library and sells them out of a van in Scottish Highlands. She moves to Scotland partly because she is captured by its magical beauty and partly because she cannot start her book business in Birmingham, where she lives.

The author captured the beauty of Scotland perfectly in the book. I absolutely love Scotland and I love books so this book was a pleasure to read. She also adds in a dark brooding hero for Nina so that just made the book perfect!

In her new life in Scotland, she meets some interesting characters and we get to know them better as the story unfolds. The book is a truly heart-warming read for cosy nights-in and I would highly recommend it!



The Makioka Sisters (Vintage Classics)                              

Whiteout by Ken Follet

Rating: 3 out of 5


Ken Follett is one of may favourite writers - its always a page turner with him. And he didn't disappoint in this book - it keeps you hooked.
The book involves a plot to steal a top secret virus form a Scottish laboratory on Christmas Eve.  The book then focuses on the thieves getting away with a deadly virus during a blizzard whiteout.
Characters are very well thought out and its definitely a fast paced thriller.
So why the 3 rating? Its not as good as his other books. The story is very weak behind the action (basically attempted theft and recovery)
He chose a technical thriller genre but there is no technical research or science in the book - they could have really stolen anything
In summary, its a page turner with a superficial story

Enchantress (The Evermen Saga Book 1) by James Maxwell

Rating 2 out of 5


I was terribly disappointed. The characters are good but don't seem to develop at all during the book. There are long drawn out passages on runes and their use with no particular point. At places, the book just drags.
It really started off as an interesting tale about Ella and her brother Miro but became very boring and predictable soon after. Wouldn't recommend it.









So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish: 4/5 (Hitchhikers Guide 4)  by Douglas Adams

Rating: 4 out of 5


This is Book 4 of the Hitchhiker series but its very different to the first three. It features Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect and Marvin (briefly), I missed Trillian and Zaphod and obviously a whole lot more of Marvin. As always, it is a cleverly written book with typical Douglas Adams humour.
I was disappointed by the overt focus on romance in this copy (reminded me of cheapish 70s sci-fi movies with better dialogues). I would have preferred more space action to boring earthly love scenes.





Convicted Witch: Jagged Grove Book 1 by Willow Monroe

Rating: 3 out of 5



This is a good, albeit short, read for those interested in witchy novels. Characters are quite well developed for a short book (as per a previous review) but I was really disappointed at the loose threads and incomplete explanations left towards the end. It's like the author just wanted to end it. I know there are sequels but the ending could have been slightly polished.
Trinket is a witch who is training to be a lawyer. She has a fiancé (human) who is not aware of her witch powers and she herself suppresses them. Her mother is bit of a vagabond witch notorious for getting into trouble.  Both mother and daughter are banished to Jagged Grove, a realm of supernatural beings, for being naughty and using their powers in sight or mortals. However, Jagged Grove appears to be a far cry from a peaceful law-abiding community..
Interesting but disappointing in my opinion

First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough

Rating 5 out of 5


Another great historical novel from Colleen McCullough. She paints such a vivid picture of Ancient Rome. Great reading and educational.

Her research, as always, is impeccable and the story is gripping.

The story takes place in Republican Rome, starting in 110 BC, and takes you through the African wars with Jugurtha and German wars with Boiorix. On the backdrop of this, we meet Gaius Marius - a military genius and Lucius Sulla, a an ambitious patrician. The story goes on to show how an unlikely alliance was formed between the two. The book goes on to show how Marius became the first man in Rome and consul seven times despite his non-patrician birth. Marius and all the other characters who loved and hated him are painted in vivid detail by the author, engaging the reader on every page. The book also introduces
 Julius Caesars' family as well as newborn Caesar. Brilliant book and highly recommend it.


Piper (The Piper Trilogy Book 1) 

Helen McCabe

Rating 3 out of 5


Helen McCabe's Piper is a horror adaptation of the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. In her story, the Piper is an immortal who rapes and murders children (I always did think the original Pied Piper was a weirdo anyways!). The novel is a gripping book and a page-turner albeit a little predictable (of course nothing will happen to the happy family in New England because the disabled child will rescue all- very Hollywood!)
The novel is split in two locations; Romania and New England. The Romanian sections show was more interesting and less Hollywoodised but there were multiple loose ends which I assume will be tackled in her next novel. The whole atmosphere of the small town of Arva was captivating and her research seems very good on Romania.
The New England bit was too Hollywood and predictable for my taste and the characters were very two-dimensional. I could not empathise with any of them. Also the New England part is soooo slow - nothing happens for a long time and it got quite boring.
I would have liked more on the Romanian part, especially the psychiatric hospital stay and how the doctors manage the situation. Delving into the minds of the New England family was very dull. I would have preferred delving into the minds of the Romanian villagers or even the Piper himself. Alas, it was not so. It started off as a good book but became run of the mill horror very quickly.
I don't think I will read the sequel - I liked use of the myth of the Pied Piper for the setting but the overall treatment of the story was very disappointing

Life Probe by Michael McCollum

Rating 3.5 out of 5

The writing and research of the book is excellent and well thought out. It paints a very realistic picture of the dawn of the space age when we can finally colonise our solar system and start looking beyond the stars. The story provides a depiction of the reaction of humans to a visit from an alien spacecraft  (a life probe) and all the political intrigues involved.
I personally found the political tensions and the resulting space war rather boring. I would have preferred more emphasis on the Makers civilisation and the probe's journey.  The characters are quite 2-D and you never really associate with anyone in particular. In fact, character development was rather lacking in this book. There are goody two shoes and there are evil ones! Very flat.
I did enjoy reading the Alien Probe's view of humanity - very perceptive.  In addition, the scientific discussions are really interesting.  Overall, it is a good book though slow at times.

Life,The Universe and Everything by Douglas Adama

Rating; 5 out of 5

I have just finished reading the third book in the Hitchhikers Guide to the  Galaxy series and what can I say? It's brilliant. It really stretches your imagination but it's an enjoyable experience. I do feel for poor Arthur - you can feel he is on the edge of madness! I love Zaphod in the book too but I did miss little Marvin - I wish he had featured more in the book. 

My favourite part in the book is the scene where you find out the ultra lethal robots are depressed because the central computer is Marvin! And Zaphod doesn't rescue him again! 

To conclude, this is a great book and I can't wait to start the next one!

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

Rating 4.5 out of 5



Despite the general opinion about her, I have always admired the sheer determination and strength of Margaret Beaufort. I personally think she was an earlier version of the "kick-ass ambitious woman" - a trait admired in men but so often hated in women!
The story follows Margaret from childhood until Henry VII became King. Historical fiction writer and researcher Gregory is brilliant at capturing the atmosphere during the tumultuous cousins war followed by the York kings' brief time on the throne. However, I couldn't help thinking the author favours Elizabeth Woodville and doesn't seem to like Margaret Beaufort much. Despite this, you cannot help admiring the character.
I did not like the constant "complaints" from Margaret in the book. I think, the author could have focused more on her very central role in fighting for Henry's crown. However, to be fair, the historical details are quite accurate and the characters' complexity is captured really well.
I was very happy that she painted Richard III in a much better light than other writers (thanks to Shakespeare). He is another character I quite like and indeed sympathise with. I could never help thinking the Tudors made such a monster out of him to suit their needs. His character, historically speaking, was nothing like Shakespeare's Richard III. The poor Son of York!
Overall, Gregory is brilliant in keeping it true to historical events (down to little details) and whether you like or hate Margaret Beaufort, you will love this book!


Gail Carson Levine

Rating 3.5 out of 5


This was actually a good and easy read (I know I need substantial reading now!). It's a different take on Snow White but with  a more feisty heroine who (to me) was far more likeable than Snow White. It has centaurs, gnomes, ogres, a prince (not so likeable) and an evil queen. The only thing I didn't like about this book, was the "charming prince" - he had no depth to his character whatsoever! I wish she had spent some time on a substantial prince - all the other characters were well portrayed and had their good and bad side but the Prince is just a goody two shoes.  The book is centred on looks and beauty and how our heroine rises above all the shallowness!  They left a few loose ends I would have liked tied up but overall, easy and pleasant read. It has a good "atmosphere" to it.

Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by

Christopher Moore

Rating 3 out of 5

Like most of Moore’s books, this is an entertaining read. The funny parts made me laugh out loud in public! However, the overall plot is beyond fantasy for me – it was really silly actually. There is a whole section of war of memes and genes which was ridiculous (genes build vehicles for memes!!) but this is probably the least silly part of the book. He could have created an underwater intelligent life using a lot of facts we have now on dolphins, whales, etc. I feel like he never even read anything about these animals! I do hate criticizing Moore because I genuinely think he is a good writer but I was terribly disappointed.

The only good thing in the book was a call for conservation and to stop hunting the whales but the rationale behind it all was just a made-up fantasy. He didn’t need to do that – there are plenty of very good existing reasons for not hunting whales!!

Overall, disappointing from Moore but won’t stop me reading his other books


Mr Churchill's Secretary

Rating 3.5 out of 5

This novel is set in London 1940 at the beginning of London Blitz. Maggie Hope is a UK born American immigrant with a degree in maths, who works as Winston Churchill's secretary. She lived in old Victorian house she inherited with several other girls.
Maggie Hope gets involved in code breaking and espionage while trying to track down her father.
This is a very good and easy read, fast paced and informative (I never knew about code breaking centres or types of codes used so it was interesting to read this). However, it is not a historical novel so read it if you like a good World War mystery. Also some of the phrases are really not British but the author seemed to think they are.
In summary, this was an interesting and quick read but I wish it had more of a historical element to it and considering it was about Churchill's secretary, more on Churchill himself during the war would have been nice.

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