Shelf Control #36: Revelation by C.J Sansom

The final Wednesday of the month, and time again for Shelf Control. Shelf Control is a feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR pile. To participate, simply pick one of the books from your TBR and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page and also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to read about your choices.

February being my month for reading historical mysteries, I have also been featuring historical mysteries in Shelf Control all this month (my previous posts are here, here, and here). This time, my pick is a book from a series that I’m really enjoying reading, Revelation by C.J. Sansom.

The Series: The Matthew Shardlake series is set in Tudor England, a period about which I enjoy reading very much, and features Matthew Shardlake a lawyer who is a protege of sorts of Thomas Cromwell. When the series opens, Shardlake is charged by Cromwell with investigating a murder at a monastery in Scarnsea, amidst the unrest that the dissolution of monasteries by Henry the VIII has brought on. His service with Cromwell continues into the second book, but even after Cromwell’s death, he continues to investigate fairly complicated cases. The series has seven books so far, the first six in Henry VIII’s reign, while book 7 sees Shardlake in the service of Elizabeth, while Edward VI is on the throne.

Henry VIII, Joos van Cleve [Public domain] via wikimedia commons

The Book: It is Spring 1943 and Henry VIII is wooing Catherine Parr, while the protestant faction at court watches with bated breath as Lady Catherine is known for her reformist tendencies. Alongside, a teenage boy, a religious fanatic is placed in Bedlam. When an old friend of Matthew Shardlake is murdered, he finds himself led to both these threads, and also to the book of Revelation. There are a series of murders, witchcraft and possession to contend with on the way, in this once again complex mystery or should I say mysteries. Revelation is the fourth book in the series.

The Author: C.J Sansom is a Scottish-born writer of historical novels, who holds a BA and PhD in history. After holding different jobs, he retrained as a solicitor, and practiced for a while before taking to writing full time. Besides the seven Shardlake novels, he has also written two other historical novels, one set in 1940 Spain in the aftermath of the civil war, and one an alternative history in Britain after World War II.

The Author, from the goodreads page,

I’ve loved what I’ve read of this series so far, and am really looking forward to get to this one!

Have you read this one or any other books in this series? What did you think of them? Which is your favourite in the series. Looking forward to reading your thoughts!

Review: A Country Rivalry by Sasha Morgan

My thanks to NetGalley and Aria for a review copy of this one.

A Country Rivalry is set in Treweham village in the Cotswalds where we “meet” and follow the stories of numerous characters—the lord of the manor Tobias Cavendish-Blake, recently married to Megan; his younger brother Sebastian who is seeing success on the stage as Richard III but had seen unhappiness in his personal life; Dylan a jockey who is starting his own training yard with a girl he loves Flora but has to face his playboy past; Finula chef at the Templar, the local inn and also daughter of its proprietor, who is also dealing with heartbreak; and Gary and Tracy Belcher, lottery winners who have made Treweham their home after finding that their fortune means that their old friends only value them for their money, and while moving has meant getting away from this, they haven’t yet found a new “home” at Treweham. A documentary-film maker, Marcus Devlin (who has met Finula before) decides to make a film on the countryside and Treweham specifically (he has his reasons), and the arrival of the crew throws the lives of all its residents into disarray as the crew Marcus and Viola (his researcher, with an agenda of her own) are set on showing the worst side of village life, especially the aristocracy. On the other side, their arrival brings hope of love to some of the characters, Finula, and Sebastian, specifically.

This was a pleasant enough read for me (although it did turn out different from what I was expecting from the description (second time this month)—there was no cover at the time I requested the book). The characters are pretty straight-forward, though they each have their problems and secrets, loneliness, heartbreak, illness, revenge etc. among them, they aren’t complicated in themselves (but then, this is popular fiction). But that said, I did find myself getting interested in their stories, and wanting to know how things would turn out for each of them. From the beginning one does know that this is a feel-good sort of book, so things will turn out right certainly, but I still liked seeing how that would happen. The characters were also all fairly likeable except the one/s who aren’t supposed to be, but also they are more or less “perfect” as far as appearance goes even if not in their natures. I also liked that the resolution of everything was not too melodramatic (just a touch). But there were parts of this book that read like a cheesy romance which made me cringe a bit—these I felt could have been done much more subtly. Also there were some parts of the book (not very many, but still) that made me feel as if I’m reading a sequel where previous events are being recapped, which I don’t think is the case, so possibly these could have been written differently as well. Overall, this was a light-hearted read, pleasant, and one I would have enjoyed much more if it weren’t for some aspects (the cheesy bits specifically).  

  #Acountryrivalry #NetGalley #BookReview

Shelf Control #35: The Hanover Square Affair

Wednesday the 20th of February, and time for another Shelf Control post. Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and is all about celebrating the books that are waiting to be read on your TBR. To participate, all you do is to pick a book from your TBR pile and write about it. Don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave links to your posts below if you chose to participate as I’d love to read about your picks.

This week, still on my historical mysteries February reading theme, I’ve picked yet another book that I got on Kindle, The Hanover Square Affair by Ashley Gardner.

What it’s all about: This is once again a first in series, the Captain Lacey Mysteries, which has thirteen full books, and a few shorter stories. In this book, Captain Lacey, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars returns to Regency London, burned out, and fighting Melancholia. When back he learns of a missing woman, who may have been kidnapped by a member of parliament. His interest is piqued, leading him to look into the mystery. In his way are murder, corruption, and even a tryst with the underworld. Alongside, he struggles with transitioning from life as a soldier back to civilian life.

The Author: Ashley Gardner also writes as Jennifer Ashley and Allyson James and writes in the genres of mystery, romance, urban fantasy, and historical fiction. She has written over fifty novels. Among her books are the Captain Lacey Regency mysteries, and the Kat Holloway Victorian mysteries.

This book doesn’t have the most attractive covers (either of them) but the description sounds fairly interesting, and the historical setting, in Regency England, was something that drew me to it. The book is still available free on Kindle so, if you’re interested find it on Amazon India here and here. (I can’t post the links to the UK site since they don’t let me access their kindle store.)

Have you read this book or any other in this series before? How did you like it? Do you plan to read any/any more? Looking forward to reading your thoughts!

Shelf Control #34: Murder at Maypole Manor

Wednesday the 13th of February–Shelf Control day again! Shelf Control is a feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR pile. To participate, all you do is to pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments as I’d love to check out your picks!

This February my reading ‘theme’ or rather the genre I’ve picked to read is historical mysteries (February reading plans here) and in keeping with that, I also plan to focus my Shelf Control posts on the historical mysteries waiting to be read on my TBR as well. Last week, I featured Angela Marchmont (here)–this week another lady detective, Posie Parker in the same time period, and the book Murder at Maypole Manor by L.B. Hathaway.

The Story: Posy Parker is a lady detective, trying to make her way in 1920s London. In this book, she is asked to accompany Inspector Richard Lovelace on an undercover mission to Maypole Manor, the home of Lord Robin Glaysayer, where a New Year party is to be held. There are twelve guests including an Italian nobleman, a famous filmstar, a government spy, and a clairvoyant. As expected (it’s winter of course), there’s a blizzard outside and murder inside, which Posie must solve in this Golden Age style mystery, which is the third in the series.

Where I got it: This one I came across on offer on Kindle and picked it up since it was a mystery and in a setting that appeals to me as well. There’s always room for a cosy mystery!

The Author: L.B. Hathaway is a writer of historical fiction, who worked as a lawyer at Lincoln’s Inn for almost a decade before turning to writing full time. She describes herself as a fan of Golden Age crime fiction, and an ardent devote of Agatha Christie. Besides this series, she has also written/is writing a trilogy of thrillers in Tudor England.

The Author
Image Source:

This series has six books and a seventh on the way as I can see from the author’s website. I haven’t read any of the books before, but the cover was appealing (it looks like a fun cosy). While the plot (people stuck in a blizzard with a murderer targetting them) isn’t ‘new’, it will be interesting to see what spin the author puts on it! Some that I’ve enjoyed in similar settings (blizzard and murder) include The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie, and I’m Half Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley.

Do you enjoy cosy mysteries ?What are some of your favourite cosy mystery series/books? Have you read this one or any other book in this series? How did you find it? Looking forward to hearing about it!

Review: #ThePorpoise by Mark Haddon

My thanks to Penguin Random House UK and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.

Part of the description of this book on NetGalley was this:

“A newborn baby is the sole survivor of a terrifying plane crash.

She is raised in wealthy isolation by an overprotective father. She knows nothing of the rumours about a beautiful young woman, hidden from the world.

When a suitor visits, he understands far more than he should. Forced to run for his life, he escapes aboard The Porpoise, an assassin on his tail…”

Reading this, the book sounded pretty interesting, according to me, perhaps a retelling or modern version of the Tempest, but turns out I didn’t pay enough attention to the last part, and got the wrong Shakespeare play. This is a retelling or version of one, but the play in question is Pericles. But because of the wrong assumption I started with, my reading experience turned out to be a little strange (the book is a little strange actually), which started on an interesting note, then got to a point where I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue, and then ended with me actually pretty much enjoying the book quite a bit.

When the story starts, we meet Phillipe who loses his much beloved wife Maja in a plane accident, leaving behind their baby. Phillipe (who is very wealthy) is devastated and retreats from society with the child, but his affection for the baby, Angelique who reminds him of Maja takes a dark turn and he crosses all lines. [This was the point at which, despite my enjoying the writing, I was considering not continuing the story. But I am glad I did.] Then a young man, Darius, whose father was connected by business to Phillipe decides to visit them on the pretext of selling some art, but actually to catch a glimpse of Angelique whose beauty is much talked of in society. But when he realises that something is wrong in the household, he finds his own life in danger. Barely managing to escape he gets aboard a vessel, the Porpoise, suddenly Darius and the reader find that we’re transitioning into another story and another time, as we begin to follow Pericles as he lands at Tarsus, rescuing it, Dionyza, and Cleon from their troubles, only to be led on to Pentapolis where he meets (in this version) Chloe the daughter of Simonides, the king, their marriage, and child, how all three are separated and what befalls them then. Alongside we keep coming back to the present and to Angelique who finds her escape in books, and a third thread to the story is also introduced but I’ll leave you to find out what that is for yourself.

As I said, when I started the book, I was enjoying the writing but then when it got into aspects that were distasteful and disturbing for me to say the least, I was beginning to even consider giving up. But luckily I didn’t, and when it got on to Pericles’ tale, which really forms most part of the book, I began to enjoy the book quite a bit. Haddon has (as we can see from his sources at the end) gone into different versions of this story, a collaboration between George Wilkins and Shakespeare (in the Shakespeare version), and come up with his own. It was only when I got the Pericles connection and read up the basic plot of Pericles (I haven’t read the Shakespeare play), this began to make a little more sense to me (something like what happened with reading The Sisters of the Winter Wood last year, when I had the idea of Goblin Market in my mind, then the book began to make far more sense)—also I realised how the modern part of the story fits into the whole scheme (what it’s role was in the whole plot, even in the original, isn’t very clear). I also really liked the way Haddon ended the Pericles part of the story, very subtly done (and different from the Shakespeare version). The third thread, I am not very sure I understood the role of in the scheme of things, in a sense also is built around the aspect of justice, or having to face the Furies for the wrongs one has committed. I enjoyed the writing of the book for the most part, and the plot too kept me hooked because I wasn’t sure where the various threads would lead, and how the whole thing would shape up. So overall, it turned out to be a pretty interesting read, but it still loses a star from me one because of the disturbing plot aspects which made sense after I got the Pericles connection but didn’t become any the more acceptable (or less disturbing), and also because I really wasn’t able to make sense of the whole scheme of the plot (the third plot thread, and also another part of the story). But good reading if one can stick with it, or the subject matter doesn’t put you off too much (particularly since this is just a small part of the story).

#NetGalley #BookReview #Shakespeare #Retelling

Review: #Shelley by David Vandermeulen, Daniel Casanave, and Patrice Larcenet

My thanks to NetGalley and Europe Comics for a review copy of this one.

This graphic novel tells the story of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Opening in Oxford in 1811, when he gets expelled for his essay on Atheism (he was always in trouble there, pretty much), to his meeting with his first wife Harriet, and then his meeting and elopement with Mary Shelley, which is where this volume stops. The book does stay true to his story, more or less but tells it in a humorous way. The art too, is on the lines of caricature.

Source: After Amelia Curran [Public domain] via wikimedia commons

This was a cute way of getting to know about Shelley. I knew a little about him but not very much—that he was married to Harriet and then eloped with Mary, that he contributed to Frankenstein, that he died at a young age—but not much more. Also I’ve only read a few of his poems, but have a couple of his essays–on atheism, and in defence of poetry—on my TBR. The book touches upon these other writings I feel more than his poetry. We see him writing Queen Mab, of course, also a couple of other poems, but this volume mentions his essay “The Necessity of Atheism”, his adoption of vegetarianism, even the Declaration of Rights that he wrote. This also mentions Shelley sending out his declaration of rights in corked bottles in the sea (which is another thing I’d read about somewhere or other). Even though as a graphic novel, this doesn’t go into details of his works (there are quotes from his poetry, and letters etc on some of the pages aside from the main story), we can see him as someone who challenged popular views, and who certainly didn’t live his life conforming to the social norms of the day. But living his life on his own terms meant on the negative side that he didn’t seem to really think of who he would be hurting by his actions (like Harriet when his affection for her waned). His father and sisters, even his father-in-law disapprove as a consequence, and only his somewhat eccentric uncle (who came across as pretty likeable) seems to support him, even intercede with his father on his behalf when he runs out of money.

While the book gives one a bare glimpse into what must have been a rich, and certainly a very unusual life, it does so in a really enjoyable way. I hope there’s a second volume which picks up from where this left off. Though the numbering on NetGalley seems to suggest that the second might probably be from a different viewpoint, may be Mary Shelley? (Just checked the original French versions on goodreads, and it turns out this is right).

#NetGalley #GraphicNovel #HistoricalFiction

Review: #RenéeStone 1: Murder in Abyssinia #NetGalley #GraphicNovel #HistoricalFiction

My thanks to NetGalley and Europe Comics for a review copy of this book.

This is a graphic novel and first in series featuring Renée Stone, author of detective fiction, who arrives in Ethiopia (then, Abyssinia) along with a number of other “hand-picked Europeans” in October 1930 to witness the coronation of the last Emperor Haile Selassie I. As she is getting off the train after a twenty-hour journey, she meets archaeologist-epigraphist John Malowan, who is immediately smitten by her. She herself is interested in his friend/travelling companion, Theziger, a dashing explorer. Once there, she also bumps into a critic and author Graham Gray (obviously, a play on Graham Greene, even down to his book “No Reply from Istanbul”), who seems to enjoy bringing up the more painful aspects of her life. Meanwhile, John takes her to meet his family (who think she is his wife), and there she is given a Mesopotamian cylinder, belonging to John’s grandfather, Hormuzd Rassam, also an archaeologist. This is just the beginning of an adventure as it is soon clear that there are some sinister elements after John, to do with his family and especially his father, who seems to have been a smuggler/dealer in artefacts. This takes them to an elephant sanctuary and to Lalibela, where at 8,200 feet above sea level, a replica of Jerusalem had been built, and puts them in a situation where they do not know whom to trust. With John being quite a scatterbrain, it is up to Renée to take charge and get them to safety.

I chose to read this one since the description made it sound very much like the characters were based (loosely) on Agatha Christie and Max Mallowan, a successful detective novelist and an archaeologist coming together to solve a mystery. While I was expecting this to be somewhat of a whodunit, it didn’t turn out to be one, but was more on the lines of a thriller of sorts in an archaeological setting, with elements of mystery and murder. I liked that the book incorporates a real historical event, the coronation of Haile Selassie and historical characters—Hormuzd Rassam was real, and I also enjoyed learning about Lalibela, also a real location. The concept of the story was interesting, and I liked (as I usually do) the archaeology setting, and the fact that this turns into a quest for a lost treasure (which will continue in the next volume). Also, I liked how the book based its characters on Christie and her Husband and brings in Graham Greene (though I don’t think there’s more than a basic similarity).  While I found the story enjoyable, it (and the characters) somehow didn’t grab me as much as I had thought from the description that they would. Still, this was a quick read with a subject and setting that I enjoy, and the fact that the next leg of the adventure will take us to Mesopotamia, certainly makes me want to pick up the next volume.