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The Silence of Herondale by Joan Aiken - Review

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

I bought this book for Lee a couple of years ago because he likes gothic novels and I thought he'd enjoy this short book. He read it ages ago and did like it, and then I forgot about it until we were sorting out some books and he said I should read it, so I did. It took me longer than I thought because it's quite dense. But I did like it.

I read Joan Aiken when I was little and absolutely loved her, but I didn't know she had written any books for adults. I had a book of short stories by her called The Last Slice of Rainbow that I read over and over again, and in fact I've just bought it on eBay because I'd love to read it again as an adult. I must have seen this on my travels somewhere online and bought it for Lee. It's nice to revisit her as an author!

So, the book's main character is Deborah Lindsay. She's in her twenties and is an orphan after her parents were killed in a car accident. She is Canadian but living in Britain and in desperate need of a job. She applies to be the governess for a thirteen year old, Carreen Gilmartin. Carreen's aunt, Mrs Morne, is looking for a governess for her, but Carreen is no ordinary thirteen year old. Instead she is an illustrated playwright and is a prodigy, and has made quite a lot of money. Mrs Morne gives Deborah the job, and then gets to go shopping for Carreen. Deborah is then accused of shoplifting, but Mrs Morne saves her, something which comes back to bite Deborah later. 

Then Carreen goes missing, before Deborah can even meet her. It is thought that she has gone to the ancestral family home in Herondale in Yorkshire, to see her uncle John, Mrs Morne's brother. He lives in a huge hall on the edge of Herondale village but he is in ailing health and about to die. Deborah leaves immediately, hoping to find Carreen there. 

In the village she finds mostly silence and suspicion. The caretaker type person, Mr Bridie, and the housekeeper, Mrs Lewthwaite, have both left the house as John has been taken into hospital. Deborah opens up the house and finds that John's bedroom is wet, a window having been left open. She finds his gun and keeps it close. She notices a few other odd things. Carreen does indeed arrive, alongside her new found cousin, Jeremy, who belongs to another of Mrs Morne's brothers. Deborah is immediately suspicious of him, especially when the gun goes missing and a heavy weight on the pump is cut and could have injured someone.

All this is exacerbated by the breaking out of prison of a murderer known as the Slipper Killer. Jock Nash comes from Herondale and is expected to make his way back there. He murdered a man for digging up a rare orchid on the moors nearby. Police turn up in the village to search for him, but there is still a veil of silence. 

In all I did like the book and found it a good story, but I didn't think it quite hit the mark of being truly creepy or frightening. The setting - remote Yorkshire village, lots of snow etc - is brilliant, but it wasn't quite used to its full potential. I liked Deborah a lot and wanted her to succeed. I did like some of the twists towards the end. In all I'm giving this four out of five. 

The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid-Banks - Review

Saturday, January 27, 2024


I got this book for Christmas from a book swap I did based on Twitter. My partner and I sent each other some information about the type of book we like, and I mentioned that I'm a fan of kitchen sink drama. I think that's why Jon chose this book, and I have to say, he did brilliantly because that's exactly what this is. I hadn't heard of the book before, or even the author, so I am really glad to read her for the first time and have another author opened up to me.

The book was published in 1960 and first of all I have to say it is very reflective of its time in terms of attitudes and bigotry. That is my main caveat in this review, because I really enjoyed the book but clearly didn't like the discriminatory language used. I'll get to that...

So, Jane Graham is the heroine of this book. At the very beginning she moves into an L-shaped room at the top of a dingy boarding house in Fulham. I didn't fully understand the layout but she's got two arms to the room because another room has been carved out of the space. This room doesn't have a window, so Jane is surprised on nearly her first night when a face appears at the window on the partition between their rooms. The face belongs to John, a black jazz musician. Below Jane are Mavis, whose room is full of knickknacks, and Toby, a writer. There's also the owner, Doris, and her chap, Charlie. In the basement are two sex workers. 

Jane has had to move out of her nice family home because she is pregnant. Her own mother died giving birth to her so it's always just been her and her dad, with some family who visited at Christmas. Jane is twenty-seven and until the sexual encounter that got her pregnant, was a virgin. She had toured as an actor with a troupe in her early twenties, and there met the man she refers to only as The Actor. She had to leave and then got a job in a hotel in the west end. She has carved a niche for herself there and really respects her boss, James, but she knows that she will have to give up her job when the baby is born. When she told her father the news, he told her to leave his house, hence why she has ended up in the boarding house. 

She meets the other inhabitants of the house, and starts a relationship with Toby. She brightens up the room even though Doris isn't happy about this, with the help of John and Toby. The book encompasses nearly the whole of her pregnancy, but it has a lot of other stuff too, going backwards in Jane's life to give a complete picture of her life. I really liked Jane and I liked her aunt Addy. I liked Toby and John and the sex workers in the basement. I could imagine the house perfectly and thought it was really true to life. I would definitely give the book five out of five for its story and its perfect kitchen sink drama. 

However, the racism and homophobia really put me off. John is black and I think he suffers most from Jane's racism. She really 'others' him. It's not like she dislikes him, but she's fascinated by his blackness and his skin and the way he speaks. There is more outward racism towards him from other characters, including Jane's dad. Then Toby is Jewish, and the K slur is used towards him and other Jews many times in the book although, again, not from Jane's point of view. I don't think SHE minds Jewish people as much as she minds black people, but she doesn't really call other people out. She is however disdainful towards a queer ex colleague of hers. So just be aware of these attitudes and words in the book if you read it.

I do think this is really representative of its time, when people really did look down on people who were different to them. Jane's attitudes don't seem like anything out of the ordinary - for the time. But does that mean I have to like it? No. 

There Is (Still) Love Here by Dean Atta - Review

Wednesday, January 24, 2024


My sister in law bought me this for Christmas, it was on my wishlist because as you'll know, I really like Dean Atta's books and I didn't realise he had released a new one. Someone mentioned it on Twitter so I added it to my wishlist. I read it really quickly because it's a small collection of poetry, but I really enjoyed it and am so glad I got it.

This collection of poetry isn't completely a collection in that there's just one theme or anything, but it fits together really well and feels really cohesive. There are poems about love, about loss, about ethnicity, about heritage, including Dean's Greek Cypriot background, about Covid lockdown, about his partner, and more. There's some really beautiful turns of phrase in the poems, including a gorgeous line about radiators, of all things. I really felt like I got to know Dean as a person as well as as a writer through this collection. 

I'm lending this to my friend, and I am giving it five out of five. I am so glad I read it. Sorry this isn't as long a review as usual, but I would definitely recommend this collection if you're already a fan of Dean's, and also, if you're not. 

The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh - Review

Sunday, January 21, 2024


This book was one of my Christmas swap gifts, and I was intrigued by it as I hadn't heard of the author before and I like crime fiction, as you know. I picked this up on the 10th of January because I'm trying really hard to read all my Christmas books. This book took me about a hundred pages to get into, but after that, I really got into it and read it really quickly. I desperately wanted to unravel the mystery and learn whodunnit. My Santa sender also sent me the next in this series, so I will look forward to that. 

So, the book is set in 1892. Sarah Gilchrist is in her late twenties and she is at Edinburgh University training to become a doctor. She is one of the first female cohorts of students. There are just twelve female medical students, and they are accompanied everywhere by suitable chaperones. Their very presence at the university is contentious - the male students don't like them and even the professors aren't very keen. Sarah desperately wants to become a doctor. She had been studying in London, but then something happened which derailed her reputation, and instead, she's been exiled to her aunt and uncle's house in Edinburgh.

You see, Sarah is a lady, she's aristocracy, and not too long ago she was at a party and went into an empty library where she was rapedby a man called Paul. The word rape is never used, and the narrative is not graphic about it, but it's obvious that's what happened. However, it was spun that Sarah was a willing participant and so she has been derided as a slut. She spent some time in hospital but her parents have abandoned her and she isn't allowed to contact her sister. She is living with her Aunt Emily and Uncle Hugh. Emily is harsh with her, treating her like both a small child and a wanton whore. Sarah is allowed to go to lectures and that's basically it.

Except, she is also allowed to do some work in a clinic, in the slums of Edinburgh, which looks after women and children. Fiona Leadbetter set up the clinic and Sarah thinks she's marvellous. They look after many, many women, many of whom are prostitutes. They help a girl called Lucy; she asks for an abortion but Fiona sends her away, saying she can't do that. 

But then, very soon afterwards, Lucy turns up on the slab at the medical school. Sarah is obviously scared and upset that the body is of someone she knows. She is convinced there are defensive injuries on Lucy, and that Lucy did not die of a self administered overdose of laudunum, but was murdered. She starts to look into who may have known Lucy, and finds that one of her professors, Gregory Merchiston, is a punter in the brothel where Lucy worked. Investigating, though, will lead her into dangerous areas and will get her education and even her life threatened. 

I liked the mystery a lot, and I liked the red herrings that were dropped and who the murderer was. I liked the feminist nature of Sarah's education and her being at university in the first place. I likesd her character and how she just wouldn't give up. I liked the feminist commentary around poverty and women's rights and so on (which just about stopped Sarah from being a bit of a White Saviour). I'm giving this four out of five as I really enjoyed it!

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan - Review

Thursday, January 18, 2024

I can't remember who told me to check out Claire Keegan but I noticed a few people reading her stuff last year so when my cousin asked me what to get me for Christmas I said this. I picked it up and read it very quickly as it's a novella, only about 120 pages. I really liked it and am glad I read it! I'll definitely read something else by the author because I liked the sparseness of her prose. 

The book is set in 1985 and it was honestly quite nice to be transported back to that time and to a Christmas in that time especially. The main character of the book is Bill Furlong. He is married to Eileen and they have five children, all girls, the eldest of whom is about fifteen I think. Bill owns a company that sells coal, anthracite, kindling etc. The book is set in Ireland and as I said it's set just before Christmas. Bill is getting ready to wind down for a break, stuff like that. At the beginning of December he and the family visit the switching on of the local lights and make the Christmas cake together, and the girls write their Christmas letters. Bill seems a little bit bored with life, a little bit fed up of the status quo, but nothing too serious. 

However, he visits the convent in the town, which also operates a Magdalene laundry. I'm quite familiar with their stories and the scandal surrounding them and the abhorrent things the Catholic church did in them, but I liked the way this went. It was really understated. I wasn't sure what I was expecting to happen, but I was pleasantly surprised. 

Bill himself grew up in the large house belonging to a Protestant woman. His mother was a servant there and was a single mother; in other words Bill knows that if his mother hadn't been given a break by the woman who owns the house, she may have ended up in a laundry herself. This experience massively impacts Bill still and it shows in what happens in the book. 

I'm giving this five out of five and will definitely read something else by Claire. I'm excited to see what else she has to offer!

War of The Wind by Victoria Williamson - Review and Blog Tour

Monday, January 15, 2024

Hello and welcome to my blog for my stop on the blog tour for War of the Wind by Victoria Williamson! It is so nice to welcome you to my blog today - please do have a click round and read some of my other reviews.

It is a pleasure to be back reviewing Victoria Williamson! She was one of my favourite author discoveries last year; everything I've read by her has been so good and I really enjoy what she is doing with fiction and with middle grade in particular. Her middle grade is really engaging and perfect for the age group. I also love her settings, especially as she often sets books in Scotland where she grew up. I am excited to see what else she writes in the future and I'm really glad to be on this tour!

The book is set on a remote Scottish island called Scragness. Max is fourteen and lives on the bay there with his mum, dad, and baby sister Sally. A couple of years ago Max had an accident off his dad's boat and nearly drowned. He ended up losing his hearing. He is now in a special class at school and hates it. He has lost touch with all his old friends, including his best friend Calum. His mum struggles with sign language and his dad hasn't learnt any and refuses to write things down for Max. He wants Max to wear his hearing aid, but Max hates it as it doesn't really help him. Max really resents Sally because he thinks that his parents prefer her, and think that they just had her to replace their 'broken' son. Max's only friend is his Uncle Stuart's dog Twister who the family looks after when Stuart works away. 

Max is taught by Mrs Brody, who taught him most of the sign language he knows. Her daughter, Erin, is also in his special class - she was born deaf and is really clever. She is friends with Beanie, who has Down Syndrome and who lives with her grandma. Beanie is horribly bullied by Max's old gang, and Max feels like he has to stand up for her even though he doesn't really want to. Beanie knows a lot of sign language thanks to Erin, but she also speaks slowly enough for Max to mostly catch what she's saying to him. She gets easily upset by disruptions in her routine. Also in the class is David, who has a high level of special needs - he uses a wheelchair and can't speak. Max basically hates them all and just thinks of himself as better, I think. 

The island has never had any smart phones or internet because of its remoteness, but there are new wind turbines coming and there is a deal for them to also have mobile masts and for each of the islanders to be provided with a smart phone. Max is really excited about this because he knows there's a voice to text app that his dad and friends can use to communicate with him. There are a few islanders who are protesting the turbines, but Max knows they won't win. The turbines go up, but very quickly it is obvious that they're making animals behave strangely. Then all the humans start acting strangely too - can all the hearing people on the island hear something that Max and Erin can't? 

Then the mysterious scientist turns up, defended by three soldiers. Max knows something dodgy is going on, but how can he make people believe him?

I loved this book; it's pacy and fun and I loved Max and his friends and wanted them to succeed. I would actually really like it if there was a sequel to this book! I did think Max skewed a tiny bit younger than fourteen, but I can forgive that. I liked the setting and I liked the way it drew on classic sci fi literature. I'm giving this four out of five, and many thanks to Victoria! 

Book Round Up of 2023

Thursday, January 11, 2024

How many books read in 2022?

98. I would have liked to get to a hundred, but didn't quite. Then I would quite like to have finished the 99th book, but I was really busy over Christmas and New Year, as we all are, so I didn't get it finished until the 2nd of January. Oh well! 

How many were on paper and how many electronic?

I read about 45 paperbacks, about 15 hardbacks, and about 37 ebooks. I've obviously counted wrong but I utterly can't be bothered going back over it because I've been trying to write this post for like a week and it's doing my head in, so I would like it to just be finished! And one audiobook. I had a couple of months when I mostly read ebooks because I was on holiday and find it easier to take my tablets on holiday than a bunch of paper books. I am hoping to listen to more audiobooks in 2024!

Fiction/Non-Fiction ratio?

I think I read nine non fiction books, including an autobiography and a biography. I actually really enjoyed the non fiction I read in 2023 even though I don't often choose it. Two of the non fiction books were for book club

Male/Female authors?

As far as I can see, I read twenty two books by men solely. I read a couple by non binary authors and a few men were included in books of short stories too, I think. 

Most books by a single author?

It's probably still Elly Griffiths. Oh no, I only read two by her. I also read two by Stacy Halls and two by Janice Hallett, I think. 

Favourite book(s) read?

One of my favourites had to be Silas Marner by George Eliot. I also really liked The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell. My mum liked it too so I'll lend her other things by Maggie for sure as I love her. 

Least favourite?

I think Only for the Holidays which I reviewed recently, it just didn't live up to my expectations. 

Oldest book read?

Silas Marner, for sure. It was published in 1861!!! My goodness. 


A couple of the last books I read aren't published until 2024, so either Where the Heart Should Be by Sarah Crossan, or The Winter Visitor by James Henry. 

Longest book title?

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels I think, by Janice Hallett 

Shortest title?

Rizzio by Denise Mina, I think 

How many re-reads?

I am honestly not sure that I reread any books. It's not something I generally do as there are always new books to get to! I have so many!

Any in translation?

Heatwave by Victor Jestin was I think the only one. It was originally in French. 

How many of this year's books were from the library?

Fourteen, I think. But believe me when I say I already have a LOT of books!

One Good Lie by Jane Isaac - Review

Saturday, January 6, 2024

I can't remember where I got this book but it was hanging out by the side of the bed so I picked it up. I wanted to like it but sort of didn't, really. The story and mystery are quite interesting, but the denouement didn't quite work for me which sort of ruined the whole thing. I did see quite a lot of the twists coming and some of the red herrings, too, and I had worked out who the murderer was by like two thirds of the way through. This wouldn't make me want to read something else by Jane Isaac, for sure!

The story centres on two sisters and it opens on their mother's birthday, when the family is having a memorial for her. Aileen, the mother, was murdered ten months previously, in the kitchen of her shop in a small Leicestershire town called Market Deeton. Her partner Colin was found guilty and is now serving a sentence for it. He maintained his innocence and said he was with a girl called Charlotte at the time. However, Charlotte went missing and Colin got found guilty. Her daughters are Ruby and Sophie.

Ruby is the older one and she's a kitchen designer working for a small company. She has recently bought a house with her boyfriend Tom, but they're kind of on a break because Ruby isn't sure what she wants, and of course she's still grieving for her mum. Most of the book centres on Ruby and I did like her as a character. 

Sophie is the younger sister and she's got two children, Daisy and Alfie. She's a single mum since the kids' dad Greg left. She had a breakdown then and Colin was her therapist, so Sophie feels tremendously guilty for introduing him to her mother. Sophie started seeing Ewan just a couple of months before Aileen's death. He's really good with her kids but hasn't yet introduced her to his family.

On the day of Aileen's memorial, Ruby walks home from Sophie's house through the town centre. She is harassed by some teenagers outside the shop, and then she runs into Ewan. The two talk and then have a drunken kiss before being interrupted by someone at the top of an alley. Ruby feels awful and runs home. The next morning, however, the police family liaison office is at her door to tell her that Charlotte was killed the night before in the town. She had recently returned to the area and now she's dead. The police don't think the case is linked to Aileen's death, but obviously Charlotte was linkedto the case. And of course, Colin can't be the perpetrator as he's now in prison. 

Ruby knows that Ewan was in the area at the time, of course, and she has her suspicions about him. They talk, and agree to not mention that they ran into each other. But Ruby starts to get suspicious about her whole life and starts to wonder - what do they really know about Ewan? What is his past? Maybe Colin's conviction isn't as strong as Ruby thought. 

Meanwhile, Sophie is hiding things from Ruby. She is still fragile after her breakdown and Ruby knows she has to tread carefully. 

I did like the mystery and I liked how most of it unfolded, but the end really let it down for me and I was glad to see the back of the book by the end. The ending just seemed to come out of nowhere; I didn't feel like the author had done a good enough job of sowing the seeds there. I also felt like the book needed a better edit - there were loads of mistakes like people's names used wrongly (eg Ruby goes to visit Sophie's friend Louise, and instead of saying 'Louise' it says 'Sophie', where she isn't there) and some times are all out. Ruby has a meeting with someone at 3pm but turns up to the cafe at 11.30? Come on now. I feel like a closer edit would have helped a lot!

In all I'm giving this three out of five, I didn't like it a lot. 

The Last Word by Elly Griffiths - Review

Wednesday, January 3, 2024


So this book is the second one to star characters who first appeared in The Postscript Murders which I read back in 2020. In that book Harbinder Kaur was the investigating detective, but she met Edwin and Benedict and Natalka in the course of the investigation into the death of Peggy, who lived in Edwin's sheltered housing and who Natalka was a carer for, and those three are the main characters in this book. Harbinder does feature, but not very much, but still, it was nice to read her cameo!

So Edwin and Natalka are now running a private detective agency. Natalka is still doing care work and her mum Valentyna has moved over from Ukraine to live with her and Benedict. Edwin is eighty something but very sprightly and very sharp. He likes the agency but wishes they had something more interesting to investigate than cheating husbands and such as the like. Benedict still runs the coffee shack on Shoreham sea front but he still does help the agency out if needed. 

Natalka is contacted by a woman called Minnie who thinks that her mother has been killed by her current husband, Alan. Alan is a pharmacist but the death seemed natural enough, but Minnie and her sister Harmony think Alan has killed their mother in order to inherit her house. Melody was a writer. Edwin notices the obituary of a man he vaguely knew, too, who was also a writer. A couple more mysterious deaths come in, and it turns out that all the victims were writers and that some of them had been on a writer's course nearby. Edwin and Benedict go undercover at the retreat and meet some people who may have been involved in the deaths. 

Then one of the other participants on the course is found dead. Basically everyone there, including the tutors, are suspects. Two detectives - one of whom has Harbinder has a bit of a hero of hers - arrive and the detective agency basically get under their feet, but Harbinder encourages them to give Edwin and co some leeway. 

I really liked Edwin in this book, he's sweet and sharp and I liked the way he was thinking throughout. I liked Benedict but was a bit over the whole 'used to be a monk' thing. Natalka was an odder one but I would give her another go. She's struggling as her brother is at war in Ukraine and she's worried for her safety. I did think the ending of the book was a bit too nice, a bit too happy ever after. That does make me think that we won't see these characters again, but honestly I don't know, maybe we will. But in all I liked this book and am giving it four out of five. 

I was provided with an electronic copy of this book for review purposes but was not otherwise compensated for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Quercus Books for providing me with this ebook!


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