Book Review: ‘No Stone Unturned ‘ by Pam Lecky

This is a most enjoyable historical mystery, set in Victorian London and Yorkshire during the 1880s.

Lucy Lawrence  is an engaging and likeable character, at times impulsive and quick to speak her mind, but always a woman of honesty and integrity. As the story plays out, she faces some interesting and mysterious opponents and endures more than one reversal of fortune, leaving her questioning who can or cannot be trusted. This gives the reader a strong sense of empathy and loyalty that connects them to Lucy and heightens their interest in her fate.

The story is well-constructed and very well-written. The twists and turns in the story keep the reader — and Lucy — guessing right up to the last page.

Audiobook Review: ‘The Lady Of The Tower’ by Elizabeth St John

A work of historical fiction, although based on the life story of one of the author’s forebears, this is an interesting story that is probably quite realistic about the prospects of a younger daughter of a prominent family during the early years of the reign of James I. 

I confess I almost stopped listening as early as the prologue, in which a man speaking as though he were present when the young Princess Elizabeth was taken into the Tower of London was still alive as its Keeper in 1617. I returned to the beginning and listened again, decided the way in which that section was phrased was ambiguous, and continued with the story. 

The main character, Lucy, seems at times to be almost too virtuous to be quite believable, although she does have her moments where her flaws and human nature are revealed, in which she seems more relatable. For some readers, her tale will evoke deep sympathy, while others may feel she spends too much time engaging in self-pity and decrying her lot in life as the victim of the selfishness and vanity of various other people.

The most believable characters are the hateful ones: Lucy’s sister Barbara, Aunt Joan, and Frances Howard. These characters exemplify the worst of human nature, along with a certain young man who is fickle at best and heartless at worst. It is in disliking these characters that the reader feels the most empathy with Lucy. 

The narration is most enjoyable, with lively expression and very good use of tone, voice and accent to bring the characters to life. 

Overall, it is a fairly good story, expertly narrated. 

Also available as a novel and an ebook.

Book Review: ‘The Brotherhood of the Black Flag’ by Ian Nathaniel Cohen

Adventure, danger, intrigue and new horizons all await Michael McNamara as he begins a new phase of his life. 

The story travels from Bristol to Jamaica, Lisbon, and back again as McNamara takes to the high seas, sword in hand and ready to meet whatever challenges life holds in store for him. 

This is an action-packed and highly engaging story full of turns and twists that surprise Michael as much as they do the reader. The author makes great use of suspense, both at key moments where the reader finds their heart in their throat and their breath being held, and in the development of the storyline as a whole. 

The characters are lifelike and vividly drawn, presenting fascinating contrasts in human nature and reminding the reader that it is impossible either to determine integrity by appearances or to truly know what is concealed in a person’s heart. 

‘The Brotherhood Of The Black Flag’ is a most enjoyable read. 

Book Review: ‘The Orange Lilies: A Morton Farrier Novella’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

The third book in Goodwin’s The Forensic Genealogist series, ‘The Orange Lilies’ is a shorter story that focuses on Morton’s own history and the family secrets that have obscured it for so long. 

Equally interesting and intriguing as the first two books in the series, this story is different in that it is far more intensely personal for Morton, and does not involve an exterior case that Morton is called upon to investigate. This story brings some well-crafted resolution to the questions Morton has harboured as a sub-plot that runs throughout books one and two, and returns him to a position of strength and resolve, from which he can approach the future and future investigations more confidently. 

Morton’s exploration of his family history takes the story back to the opening months of World War I and his great-grandfather’s service as a soldier. While the discoveries he makes are fascinating, some questions regarding his great-grandfather and extended family still remain, giving a satisfying sense of continuity to the overall narrative of the series, and providing healthy anticipation for the next book. 

This is an excellent read, and the series as a whole is brilliant. If you enjoy historical fiction and mystery, do not overlook this book and its companions in The Forensic Genealogist series. 

International Talk Like A Pirate Day Book Recommendations

In honour of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, here are three great pirate tales for your reading pleasure. 

Fallen Into Bad CompaNy’ by Kayla Jindrich

Matthew wants nothing more than to escape from his past, but that hardly seems possible with his new apprentice. While William might be Matthew’s chance at redemption, an opportunity to pay for his mistakes, William also has a reckless streak that could ruin the new life that Matthew has built for himself. Either Matthew will pull William from piracy, or William will drag Matthew back into the dangerous world that they both come from.

Read my book review of ‘Fallen Into Bad Company’ here.

Ghosts of the Sea Moon’ by A.F. Stewart

In the Outer Islands, gods and magic rule the ocean. Under the command of Captain Rafe Morrow, the crew of the Celestial Jewel ferry souls to the After World and defend the seas from monsters. Rafe has dedicated his life to protecting the lost, but the tides have shifted and times have changed. 

His sister, the Goddess of the Moon, is on a rampage and her creatures are terrorizing the islands. The survival of the living and dead hinge on the courage and cunning of a beleaguered captain and his motley crew of men and ghosts. 

What he doesn’t know is that her threat is part of a larger game. That an ancient, black-winged malevolence is using them all as pawns… 

Come set sail with ghosts, gods and sea monsters.

Brotherhood of the Black Flag’ by Ian Nathaniel Cohen

“Cohen delivers a solid, compelling, and briskly paced story that blends adventure and romance within a rich historical setting.” — The BookLife Prize

Thrills, romance, and high-seas swashbuckling adventure await in the Golden Age of Piracy’s final reckoning!

His once-promising naval career in tatters, Michael McNamara leaves the newly-United Kingdom behind in search of a new life. With no other skills but the sword, he joins forces with a pirate turned pirate hunter, determined to rid the Caribbean of the Brotherhood of the Black Flag once and for all.

Eager for a worthy cause to fight for, McNamara pits himself against treacherous seas and battle-hardened buccaneers… and uncovers an international conspiracy that threatens the lives of thousands.

I’m currently reading this book, and really enjoying it. Look out for my review, coming soon!

Book Review: ‘The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap’ by Paulette Mahurin

This is a really thought-provoking story about the consequences of prejudice, hatred and gossip in the lives of those who suffer the judgement and contempt of others. It is well-written and easy to read, although the nature of the story is both serious and discomforting. 

Set in 1895 in a small rural community in Nevada, ’The Persecution of Midlred Dunlap’ is one of those stories that takes a slice of time, brings it to life, and makes one thankful that things have changed since then. On reflection, though, the reader is confronted by the fact that some things haven’t changed that much at all. People still discriminate against and make fun of those who are different, or who live in ways of which they do not approve. We may have laws to deal with those issues now, and legal means of both protection and redress, but those can not actually change human nature or the tendency of some people toward the behaviours that made those laws necessary in the first place.  

Through clever crafting of characters and story, the author demonstrates that there are all sorts of hatred and prejudice that people suffer, ranging between racism, religious persecution, discrimination on the basis of looks, sexuality or lifestyle, to peer pressure and bullying. The treatment of those who are different in various ways by those with the position and power to persecute them is abhorrent, emphasising the narrow-mindedness and hatred that motivates such abuse. The fact that. even though we live 120+ years later, one does not have to travel far or look too hard to see that some things never change, is an indictment that can be neither escaped nor explained away. 

In contrast, Mildred is a character who demonstrates kindness, resilience, thoughtfulness and generosity. Like her, Edra, Charley and Gus are positive characters who stand against the horrid behaviour of their neighbours. Those characters who show kindness, acceptance, and respect bring light and relief to the darker undertones of the story and return balance to the portrait of humanity that is painted in these pages. Through them, the story reminds us that love does indeed drive out both fear and hate, and that a true friend is a gift of immeasurable worth. 

There is so much power and weight in this story, and also much that is hopeful and encouraging. It is a work of historical fiction well worth reading, 

Audiobook Review: ‘The First Queen of England, Part 2’ by M.J. Porter

Elfrida, or Ælfryth, was the first anointed and crowned queen of England, ruling alongside her husband, Edgar, in the 10th century.

‘The First Queen Of England’ Part 2 is the second instalment of Elfrida’s story, and shows just how strong and resilient  she was in a world dominated by patriarchy, politics and warfare. 

Just like the first book in the series, this book is very well written and is entirely consistent with the historical context of the story, even though it is undoubtedly fiction. 

It is a significant achievement on the author’s part to reanimate characters from the long-distant past in such a way that the reader feels as though they know them and can understand their concerns, cares and motivations. It is pleasing to witness the dynamics of the characters as they mature, and intriguing to observe the intricacies of the machinations and politics at court and the personal impact on the queen and king as individuals as well as rulers. 

The narration by Sheila Daly Payson is most enjoyable. Her voice is pleasant and her reading is fluent. Her characterisation of the different roles is effective, and really brings the various characters to life. 

As richly detailed and intriguing as part 1, ‘The First Queen Of England, Part 2’ is a most enjoyable story. This is in every aspect a very pleasurable audiobook experience, and is also available as an ebook or paperback.