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January, February, And March 2023 Reading Round Up

Given that my start back into reading and blogging only happened mid-March and I chose to start with a 1053-page book, I shouldn’t be surprised I only finished one book, and that a different one entirely. Having not accounted for the reads from this quarter at all, however, it seems less damning; I finish this quarter with two books. Let’s go.

Both books are works of fiction.

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Amita Parikh: The Circus Train (2022) – Following the travels through WWII Europe of an international circus, this book looks closely at the lives of Lena (who has Polio), her illusionist father, and a stowaway Jewish boy, as they try to remain out of the Nazis’ interests, and continue their trade, whilst growing as people. There’s an interesting controversy here where Parikh looks at a Polio-free life for Lena that is in fact supported by mid-1900s medical treatment.

Lisa See: Lady Tan’s Circle Of Women (2023) – A fictionalisation of the life of a woman doctor in 1400s China (fictional because we know so little of her apart from the medicine). Absolutely superb.

This past half of a month (March) has been about getting back into reading properly. I currently have two books on the go and working on finishing at least one of them quickly (simply because it’s not over a thousand pages like the other). And for the first time in ages, I have a basic reading list to follow for the next few weeks.

What have you read recently?

More Musings On My ‘Starting Books Problem’ (This Is A Bit Of A Practise Post)

Two years ago I said this:

“I want to try and work past an issue I have where the feeling of being daunted by starting a new book (all those pages ahead of me…) means that it takes me time to get into the book. I need to get better not only at just starting and getting past the first pages – after which the issue disappears and I’m away – but also a (potentially) related issue, which I’ve spoken of before, where I never really take in the first page or so. Yes, this, despite my interest and focus on first lines.”1

I didn’t really think about anything much to do with books beyond trying to keep my podcast going in the last two years but what I do know is that the above topic is very relevant right now because a couple of days ago I sat down to read Voyager, struggled, and got annoyed with myself that I have this problem. So I’d like to try again.

When I think about it more, this problem extends; I have trouble getting past the first few pages in one sitting. I’ve the issue of the first page (usually), and then the issue of the extra daunting nature of the first few pages as a whole, up to 20 pages in fact. It’s one thing to think about reading, to blog, to write, to create social media posts and podcasts, and another entirely to actually read. Reading is, in its way, lonely and isolating (though I would say in general not2 – it’s just that act of sitting down and reading when you’re not reading aloud). I don’t know why 20 pages (every so often 30) is the boundary which, once crossed, I’m away, but it is.

Trying to get back to the book world and, particularly, right now, into what readers are thinking and feeling about books, I’ve noticed that more and more people are citing the problem of a dwindling attention span. And that attention span seems shorter every several months I read about it, no matter who from. Critical reading seems more in jeopardy, too. Social media is great, and I’m enjoying the difference of TikTok, but it’s certainly making its mark. However, I think just as much to ‘blame’ is the increased connectively in terms of connecting to other readers, which I know sounds awful of me to say because it’s so much easier now to find other readers than it was and I’ve benefited from making friends online who read; I had friends who read before, but we never spoke about books (I tried!) But that connection, wonderful as it is, ironically means we spend more time talking about it (or watching it) than doing, because, as said, to watch and talk is to interact, and to read, whether beside another reader or not, is still a bit of a solo bubble.

I think I need to suggest to my friend another read-a-long…

And that’s going to have to be my conclusion because this has to be the most ‘musings’ musing post I’ve ever written and I think it’ll take a bit of time before I’m my old self at this whole thing again!


1 2021 Goals and 2020 Data
2 I’ve written about it on Andrew Blackman’s blog, with a follow up on my own blog.

Second Half Of 2021 And Both Halves Of 2022 Film Round Up

I didn’t actually watch any films in the first half of 2022, which is just as well in a way because this list is long enough and took ages to compile… and there’s me worrying last year about the fact I had gone six months without a film. I’m sill watching Cary Grant, I’m still watching cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies. And I’m finding that the last few years have been stellar for superhero-in-some-way-or-form stories. (Shazam! will be on the next list I create and I loved the heck out of it.)

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The Bachelor And The Bobby-Soxer / Bachelor Knight [UK title] (USA, 1947) – Pretty fun throughout but there are a couple of absolutely hilarious scenes about three quarters of the way in that make it a winner.

Big Hero 6 (USA, 2014) – A genius scientist child, Hiro, takes over the creation of a medical care robot his equally-genius brother had been making before he died; Hiro keeps at it, animating the robot and later teaming up with others to fight a bad guy. Pretty darn entertaining with a lot of heart.

Bill (UK, 2015) – A fictionalised comedic film about the younger years of Shakespeare created by the people who made the Horrible Histories TV series and Ghosts. Ergo it’s bonkers, makes little sense, and is hilarious.

Charming (USA, 2019) – Prince Charming bewitches every women and this will only end on his 21st birthday, but then he meets the thief, Leonore, who isn’t bewitched by him at all and that means the spell may be broken. The only problem is she isn’t interested in him. Great premise, fell to stereotypical stuff too quickly.

Crazy Rich Asians (USA, 2018) – Nick takes his girlfriend Rachel to Singapore for the wedding of his friend; this is when she learns her boyfriend is incredibly, incredibly wealthy and when his mother finds out he’s dating someone without money… One of the best films I’ve ever seen – great cinematography, soundtrack, acting, and so on; I now get the hype about the book and hope to read it at some point.

Free Guy (USA, 2021) – An NPC in the world’s biggest MMORPG goes rogue when he meets a kick-arse female character who, it turns out, is a human player’s character. No longer is his repeated daily routine enough – he wants to be with the cool guys. Loved every moment, and it was wonderful to have a woman front and centre in both the game itself and in the gamer’s chair.

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GoldenEye (UK, 1995) – James Bond, enough said. I’m not the biggest fan of the films, too predictable for me, but it was interesting from a film history perspective.

Happiness Season (USA, 2020) – Harper invites her girlfriend Abby to spend Christmas with her family; it’s only once they’re on their way that Harper tells Abby she hasn’t told her family she’s gay. The premise and general atmosphere had a lot of promise, but it always seemed very possible that the family were going to be fine with Harper’s sexuality and the reality of her ‘friendship’, which made it go a bit too slowly. That said, the end was great, and Dan Levy was hilarious.

Kindergarten Cop (USA, 1990) – A cop goes undercover as a teacher to catch a drug dealer and discovers he loves teaching a heck of a lot. Fun!

Late Night (USA, 2019) – A woman whose late night show is dropping in the ratings hires a new member of staff based on their gender and race in order to hopefully freshen up her programme; Molly is her new Indian-American hire but Katherine isn’t sure it’ll work. Not particularly funny, no real effort given to showing why Molly is perfect for the job (she’s in theory a great writer), not very good.

Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House (USA, 1948) – The family lives in too small a home; Mr Blandings buys a home that supposedly needs a bit of fixing only to find the place is falling apart and they must work on it. Pretty unique and enjoyable; the house in the film was created by the production company to market the film and they in fact made many all over America. The buildings mostly still exist today, some are homes, others offices.

My Favourite Wife (USA, 1940) – Ellen’s ship is lost so, years later, Nick marries again, only Ellen’s not dead and she’s on her way back home. Pretty good, and the second wife is a nice person which makes it better.

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The Personal History Of David Copperfield (UK, 2019) – Young David goes to stay with the Peggotty family and when he gets back and his mother is married again he ultimately ends up having to leave due to his step-father and aunt; this starts him on a course of moving between and through various situations whilst he grows up. I haven’t read the book yet so I can’t comment on that aspect but the film was okay; sometimes funny, and the actors were all brilliant, particularly Dev Patel who made a perfect Dickens hero, but overall it just missed the mark a bit.

The Secret Life Of Pets (USA, 2016) – An owner gets a second dog and the two don’t get on, but they are forced to reassess when, away from their owner, a cat takes their collars and they loose that identification. I struggled with the personification of the rabbit but other than that it was good.

The Secret Life Of Pets 2 (USA, 2019) – This time the dogs are with their owner but they’ve got to keep an eye on her new little guy and his well-being. This was much more fun.

Sense And Sensibility (UK/USA, 1995) – The Dashwoods have to change their lifestyle when their house is given to their father’s son from a previous relationship, with the daughters looking to marry to help their three-person family carry on. Not so strangely, I felt similarly about this as I did the book, which is to say I quite liked it but not overly much. It’s still the Bennets for me.

Spies In Disguise (USA, 2019) – A top spy makes some mistakes and in order to try and get himself back in the game agrees to team up with a young inventor. He’s not sure about this inventor and he is right to be so – the young man accidentally turns him into a pigeon. Deterred yet not deterred, the spy wants to continue working even if he can no longer do anything human. The trailer was hilarious, and the whole film provides; brilliant fun.

The Thomas Crown Affair (USA, 1999) – A woman joins the case of a missing artwork, not caring that the men already working on it aren’t sure about her, and goes on a date with the main suspect, a billionaire who knows all, whilst working to bring him down. Saying anything more risks spoiling it – fab film.

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The Christmas Chalet (USA, 2019) – A chalet is double-booked by a single man and, then, a single mother and her daughter. They each can’t go anywhere else so they’ll have to get along. Doesn’t require all your focus.

Christmas In Evergreen (USA, 2017) – A woman wishes for a great Christmas, using what turns out to be a magic snow globe, but instead of it helping her long-distance relationship she finds love elsewhere when the daughter of a single father, both making a short stopover in the town, makes a wish with the snow globe too. Not great chemistry, but it ‘did’.

Christmas Wishes And Mistletoe Kisses (USA, 2019) – Abby helps decorate a regular Christmas tree and the owner of the business sees it as reason to suggest Abby tries for the job of decorating for a businessman’s party. Nick isn’t sure she’s right for the job… and I agree with him as very little effort is put into showing that she’s a good decorator, both in terms of the tree and the party. Which completely spoils the whole thing.

I’ve said enough here, I’ll leave it there. Let me know any recent films you’ve watched that you’d recommend.

Reading Life: 20th March 2023

A macro photograph of the side of a blossom

In posting this (writing it, too) the next day on my former schedule I’m not going to say I’m back to how I was before just yet – this is far too early to say – but I am going to try. The rabbits have a diagnosis and daily medications, and one of them has developed a way of telling me when she starts to feel ill so it is far easier to stop it getting to the level of a vet appointment; so whilst it’ll be lifelong for them, the daily stress has mostly gone away and with it the fog that was a constant in my head. Mental space is entirely underrated.

I’ve taken baby steps towards getting back into reading, if it can be called baby steps when you make your first ‘official’ read of the new practise a 1053 page book. It was accidental, in a way – in looks it is about 700 pages – but given it’s Outlander book three, Voyager, and I find the series a pretty easy read, I’m not too daunted. And not surprised the publisher opted for very thin paper to keep the heft down.

I unintentionally (well, accidentally but not quite on purpose while being conscious enough of it… I think I know why the US has created ‘on accident’) spoiled a bit of this book for myself by reading about Claire and Frank’s relationship on the Outlander subreddit and finding out something about Jamie which I wrongly assumed would happen in later books… it ended up happening within about 10 pages during my next period of reading. But it’s given me something to think about.

Absolute credit for my reading and general ‘getting back into this habit’ consistency the past week has to go to my friend who is a keen reader herself. She also gave me a wonderfully detailed introduction to TikTok, in particular BookTok, and I’ve created an account. Only one post so far but I have ideas. I’ve realised that TikTok may be the answer to those ideas I’ve had that were never enough for a blog post unless I wanted to bore everyone, but were too much for social media in years gone by unless I wanted to try and subvert the instantaneous, scrolling nature of it. If you are on there, do let me know. I for some reason can’t follow people properly yet – I’ve been able to follow 3 and that’s it – but this appears to be a bug that’ll hopefully be fixed. Unsurprisingly I’m @carnelianvalley

And on the note of TikTok, I decided to get Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights. Gong is one of the biggest, if not the biggest author on the platform and I badly need to get back into knowing what is going on in the book world at the time it happens. I’m looking forward to it – Romeo and Juliet in 1920s China, yes please!

Let me know what you have read recently that you would recommend, particularly newly published books!

2022 Year Of Reading Round Up

I didn’t read too much last year but did very much enjoy what I read. I didn’t do a round up in October to December – that’s not turned out to be a bad thing because I only finished two books, Kerstin Gier’s Emerald Green (book 3 of The Ruby Red Trilogy) and Emma Cowell’s One Last Letter From Greece.

There were some absolutely wonderful books published last year that I had the pleasure of reading, including Amanda Geard’s The Midnight House, Chloe Timms’ The Seawomen (possibly my favourite of the whole year), Grace D Li’s Portrait Of A Thief (I also understand where criticism of it comes from but found my own reading very different), and Imogen Clark’s Impossible To Forget.

I’ve just written my favourite there, and it’d be closely followed by Melissa Fu’s Peach Blossom Spring and Sylvia Mercedes’ entire The Venatrix Chronicles series, even if I haven’t read the last book in that series yet. I’ll be following my decision for last year’s year round up and listing books in alphabetical order by author first name rather than by ratings. The two non-fictions I read have been mixed into the list.

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Amanda Geard: The Midnight House (2022) – After a break-up and problems with her career, Ellie moves back home from Dublin to Kerry; one of the secondhand books she receives from her mum’s friend has an old letter in it that seems related to the mystery of the woman who appeared to have died in the lake at the big house. Great story – a good use of narrative, a good use of the concept of predictability (and unpredictability) and clues, and a hugely satisfying epilogue.

Cecelia Tichi: A Fatal Gilded High Note (2022) – Val thought they were done with solving murder mysteries but when she and her husband, Roddy, find the occupier of the next door opera box dead, they are pulled into the detective work. Set in 1890s US, this is a cosy mystery (the third in a series) with people of different classes, looks into the beginning of worker’s rights for women, and is steeped in the culture of the Gilded Age.

Chloe Timms: The Seawomen (2022) – On the isle of Eden, women are married off and must produce a child within a year if they are not to be cast into the sea. As Esta draws nearer to her own adulthood, she starts to question everything she’s been told about the evils of the sea and the mermaids therein, and when she runs away from a gang of young men and runs into the water to escape, she meets a man from the sea who offers her a different story to the one she’s always been told. An absolutely fantastic dystopian tale that has become one of my most favourite books.

E C Fremantle: The Honey And The Sting (2020) – The Duke of Buckingham wants his illegitimate son and Hester wants to be far away from him. She, her son, and her sisters flee to a secret house in the forest. But Buckingham won’t let it go and hires a ex-lover and military friend to get the boy back. A fictionalised story of what might have led to John Felton’s killing of George Villiers in the 1600s, this is an incredibly well written and drafted pacey Stuart thriller.

Elizabeth Von Arnim: Elizabeth And Her German Garden (1898) – A woman spends as much time as possible in the garden she has created (if not often planted herself, given the time period) and recounts various tales of those she is compelled to socialise with (because it’s apparent she won’t socialise if she could help it, it takes time away from the garden). A book that could easily be mistaken for a memoir, this is an okay book, ‘okay’ mainly due to the main character who could stand to be a little kinder, but there isn’t much going on, nor is there any sort of plot. This is one for a fan of Von Arnim.

Emma Cowell: One Last Letter From Greece (2022) – Sophie’s mum has died; lost in her grief, and looking for a lost painting her mother created, Sophie takes time out to visit Greece, finding more love and life than she’d thought possible. A lovely, sunny, heartfelt story encompassing loss, the subject of fertility, and romance.

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Frances Burney: Evelina (1778) – A young woman enters society, with some good people and some not so, to various effects, suitors, and lessons. Okay, and better than some books of the same time period (Emmeline, with its similarities) but definitely a first novel.

Grace D Li: Portrait Of A Thief (2022) – When Will witnesses the theft of Chinese art from the Sackler Museum, he can’t tell the police much, but what he does leave out is that the thieves slipped him a business card. Do Will and his friends want $10 million in return for 5 heists? The art taken during the looting of the Summer Palace is wanted back and unsuspected students may be the answer. A great story questioning the ownership of looted work, Chinese American identity, which is frankly very fun and completely worth suspending a bit of belief for.

Imogen Clark: Impossible To Forget (2022) – After Angie’s death, four of her closest friends are brought together to find out her written request that they each pitch in to help her daughter as she becomes a young adult; it’s an odd idea, but they agree to do it, it’s just no one really knows why Hope, a younger friend, is there with them. An easy read of the best sort – quick, short chapters, with a story and characters that keep you reading and wanting it to continue.

Jennifer Saint: Elektra (2022) – So as not to ruin the author’s retelling, I will say that this is Saint’s story of the Trojan War and Elektra’s decisions from the perspective of Elektra, Clytemnestra, and Cassandra. Helen features a fair amount too. Very, very, good – Saint has created a compelling tale whilst sticking to the over all concept of the original myths, keeping all the tragedies and so on.

John Bevis: An English Library Journal (2022) – Bevis sets out to get a library card from every library authority in England, and some from Wales and Northern Ireland where work-related travel permits. An interesting concept with a certain structure – where a repeat of each interaction would have become, well, repetitive, Bevis interweaves the more interesting anecdotes with slices of library history, both specific to the one he’s visiting and in general.

Kaia Alderson: Sisters In Arms (2021) – Americans Eliza and Grace sign up to the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps during WW2; as black women it will be a difficult road to travel but together with their unit they show how important they are and achieve results no other units had been able to. Based on the real life all-black women 6888th postal battalion, this is a compelling story of triumph in the face of many adversities.

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Kate Glanville: The Peacock House (2021) – Bethan’s going to Wales to interview her grandmother’s friend, Evelyn, in a bid to jump-start her journalism career; Evelyn is a famous author with a massive backlist. In Wales, in her ninetieth decade, Evelyn’s fallen over and is waiting for someone, anyone, to find her. Bethan may end up staying longer than she thought, learning war stories she knew nothing of, and not going on the holiday with her boyfriend they’d planned. A great dual-narrative story of returning romance, old houses, and community.

Kate Quinn: The Rose Code (2021) – A socialite (whose boyfriend is Prince Philip), a shop girl, and a young woman abused by her parents end up sharing their lives when they join the teams at Bletchley Park to help decode the messages from the Enigma machine. A part factual, part fictional, tale about the code-breaking efforts as well as the war lives of three different women and the Park in general.

Kerstin Gier: Ruby Red (2009) – For the last few centuries, certain people from Gwen’s family have been born with a time-travelling gene. This generation cousin Charlotte was set to be the traveller and had been preparing for it all her life but as it turns out, the traveller is Gwen. When she tells her mother about the minutes she’s been spending in the past for the last couple of days she’s swept into a society she never knew about and a secret that no one, not even the society, knows the details of. Great plot, otherwise problematic.

Kerstin Gier: Sapphire Blue (2010) – The continuing story of Gwenyth as she is inducted into the secret society of time travellers and travels back in time for their missions. Only, this time, she is starting to consider everything she’s hearing. So long as you can put the completely un-British dialogue and descriptions aside, this one is better than the first, although we’ve still the problematic romance.

Kerstin Gier: Emerald Green (2010) – Gwenyth and Gideon are on the last path to discovering the truth of the time travellers’ quest for the Count. The pacing is good but the problems remain; the ending is a bit lacklustre.

Kristin Harmel: The Forest Of Vanishing Stars (2021) – Yona was stolen from her parents by a mystic who believed the parents were bad people. Yona grows up in the forest and knows how to survive; when Jeruscha dies in the first years of WW2 and Yona comes across an injured child in the forest she has a choice to make – help survivors of the Nazi ghettos survive or stay away as she has always been taught? A brilliant novel in all ways.

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Megan Nolan: Acts Of Desperation (2021) – Our unnamed young narrator is addicted to love and relationships and whilst everyone around her looks askance at her becoming the girlfriend of older Ciaran, our narrator doesn’t care. He’s perfect in his darkness, and it’s worth the hurt, the tears, the drunkenness and cigarettes. We hear from her looking back at the relationship a couple of years into the future from where she has the hindsight to assess the time with a more critical eye. This is a very focused book with a narrator that’s incredibly difficult to like and due to the focus it doesn’t really ‘go’ anywhere in terms of plot or location – this is one to read for it’s literary value and I say that because in that context it is fantastic. Just prepare for moodiness!

Melissa Fu: Peach Blossom Spring (2022) – When Changsha is hit during the Second Sino-Japanese War, by friend or foe (it’s not known), Meilin takes her son with the family to safety; this will entail fleeing and becoming refugees in a different land, and we follow Meilin, then Renshu, and then, in turn, daughter Lily. A fantastic if often difficult story, written beautifully, epic in nature.

Natalie Jenner: Bloomsbury Girls (2022) – 1950s London, and the years following the war have been difficult for women who’ve gone from being needed in the workplace to being pushed aside. Vivian definitely feels this as a member of staff at Bloomsbury Books (shop), and Grace in the back offices. But now there’s a new girl, Evie, starting in the rare books section upstairs and it gives Vivian in particular the push she needed to start making changes at the shop. Their days will include breaking the 51 rules the management has in place, sharing a table with some of the biggest literary stars of the day, and Evie’s secret plan to make up for her not receiving a job in academia she was the best candidate but wrong gender for. A lot of fun, Jenner’s inclusion of Daphne du Maurier as well as her inclusion of book auctions and little-known writers is a joy to behold.

Natasha Miller, Jamie Blaine (ed.): Relentless (2022) – Miller’s teenage years were marked by abuse, and when she gains emancipation early, she starts to chart a course that will lead her to a fantastic career in music and wonderful position as founder of a huge events company. Incredibly compelling and inspiring, a true life story to root for.

Oliver Goldsmith: The Vicar Of Wakefield (1766) – A well-enough-off vicar’s money is lost and he must take his family to a poorer parish and home resulting in mishaps and, before long, rather Dickensian silly situations well before Dickens’ time. I think there’s a reason it did well in its day. There’s also a reason it’s not so well known now.

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan: Starling Days (2019) – Mina throws her shoe over the railings on the bridge but tells the ambulance staff the police she wasn’t looking to jump. Oscar is not convinced and when the opportunity arises for them to work on his father’s flats in England, the couple go there to have a break. Mina’s given up work for a break, and she takes it, but soon Oscar has to return to the US and Mina is left alone, with Oscar’s friend’s sister. It’s difficult to sum this book up but suffice to say it’s brilliant.

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Sally Page: The Keeper Of Stories (2022) – Janice ‘collects’ the stories of her clients, homeowners who she cleans for. She doesn’t have a story herself. Or does she? When she begins working for elderly Mrs B, Janice meets her match – another person who likes collecting stories and who doesn’t believe that Janice does not have her own. An excellent page turner with a wonderful slow build-up of character development, a great personified dog, and a very satisfying ending.

Sara Nisha Adams: The Reading List (2021) – When Naina dies, Mukesh finds her library copy of The Time Traveller’s Wife, reads it, and starts to wonder if he can improve his relationship with his bookish granddaughter through his new interest in books; meanwhile Aleisha, who Mukesh meets at the library, is struggling at home with a brother who is often out and a mother with a mental illness; the two form an unlikely friendship through the discovery and usage of a reading list no one knows the author of. Perfect book about books, this story uses as its structure the list of books, moving the plot forward as characters and reader alike continue through it.

Susanna Kearsley: The Winter Sea (2008) – Author Carrie travels to Scotland for inspiration and research for her latest book, and once at her destination begins to receive memories of sorts from the Jacobite ancestors she wanted to write about, in particular a young woman whose fate Carrie must find out. A character-driven book with a simple plot in two narratives, the reading ‘journey’ is absolutely wonderful and Kearsley’s writing of the narratives well-balanced – both narratives are just as good.

Sylvia Mercedes: Daughter Of Shades (2019) – Ayleth has been training to become a shade hunter for years (shades take mortal host bodies) and works with Hollis as a team in their local borough, but she wants more. When a call is put out for candidates to work in the most dangerous borough, Ayleth goes against Hollis to travel to the palace and pitch for herself, but of course she’s not the only one after the job and the others have a lot more experience. The first in a seven book series, this novel gives small hints as to the wider theme but concentrates on the basics of an introduction, to create a whole that is incredibly fun and full of promise in terms of concepts of fantastical religions.

Sylvia Mercedes: Visions Of Fate (2019) – Ayleth starts work with Terryn in her bid to become the next Evanderian in Wodechran Borough. Not quite as good as book one, but the promise is there for book three.

Sylvia Mercedes: Paths Of Malice (2019) – As Terryn and Ayleth continue to investigate the problems of the Witchwood and Terryn continues to avoid calling his shade by its name, the second attempt at a marriage for Prince Gerald begins with Fayline’s convent novice younger sister. Will a marriage happen this time or will Celine suffer a similar fate to her sister and be taken over by a witch? Much better than book two, this is where the series starts to get incredibly good and is, I can say with hindsight, the last book before the pace goes at a rate of knots.

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Sylvia Mercedes: Dance Of Souls (2020) – The wedding is happening, they hope. Ayleth is commanded to attend the celebrations and it’s just as well because the Phantomwitch probably isn’t just going to let the sister of the woman she took marry the Prince either. A brilliant book for the series – the pacing is swift, the time covered is short and thus full of detail, and nothing lets up even for a minute.

Sylvia Mercedes: Tears Of Dust (2020) – Continuing the story of the events after the marriage. The pace continues to be swift.

Sylvia Mercedes: Queen Of Poisons (2020) – Continuing the story some more. The pace slows slightly but the story remains a page-turner.

Yvonne Bailey-Smith: The Day I Fell Off My Island (2021) – Erna lives with her grandparents and siblings in Jamaica; one day her siblings are taken by their father to England and Erna will follow in due course. This is giving a fair amount of the book away – half is set in Jamaica, half in England – but it’s necessary to give you an idea of what happens; it’s set in the 1960s.

Well, the numbers aren’t great in the context of how much I’ve read in previous years but I’m happy with them. I managed a few classics, just got to work on better gender division.


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