#BookReview OWL SENSE by MIRIAM DARLINGTON #20BooksOfSummer20


‘Her softness took my breath away. Deadly beauty. She turned her face towards me. The owl’s massive facial disc produces a funnel for sound that is the most effective in the animal kingdom’

Owls have captivated the human imagination for millennia. We have fixated on this night hunter as predator, messenger, emblem of wisdom, something pretty to print on a tote bag or portent of doom. Darlington sets out to tell a new story. Her fieldwork begins with wild encounters in the British Isles and takes her to the frosted borders of the Arctic. In her watching and deep listening to the natural world, she cleaves myth from reality and will change the way you think of this magnificent creature



This is Book 14 of my 20 Books of Summer 2020.

Another book with a stunning cover and I found this to be a truly fascinating read. The author writes passionately about the subject of owls, whilst also sharing stories of her own family struggles with a child with a mystery illness.

It’s fair to say this family are obsessed with owls, and this book allows them to share their experiences as they look further into different species, travelling across the country and further afield, learning more about owls from their hunting habits, where they live and also meeting a number of equally owl obsessed and knowledgeable people who are only too happy to share all they know about these amazing creatures.

Each chapter centres around a different owl species so that really does let you get to know so much more and focus solely on each owl allowing you to soak up more information and see the struggles that each species are facing in the modern world, as well as looking at their role in mythology, literature and history.

I learnt so much from this book and was also touched by how the illness to her son drove the family to despair at times as they just wanted to make him better and would go to any lengths to find ways to help him out. I also loved the striking pen illustrations to introduce each species.



#BookReview WITCHBORN by NICHOLAS BOWLING #20BooksOfSummer20


It’s 1577. Queen Elizabeth I has imprisoned scheming Mary Queen of Scots, and Alyce’s mother is burned at the stake for witchcraft. Alyce kills the witchfinder and flees to London – but the chase isn’t over yet. As she discovers her own dark magic, powerful political forces are on her trail. She can’t help but wonder: why is she so important? Soon she finds herself deep in a secret battle between rival queens, the fate of England resting on her shoulders…



This is Book 13 of my 20 Books of Summer 2020.

Seduced by the beautiful cover, and the promise of a mix of history and witches I was itching to read this book, but found myself feeling a little underwhelmed by the storyline as it never, for me, seemed to get going.

I really enjoyed the start with the story of Alyce finding herself in Bedlam after escaping home, when her mother was accused of witchcraft and Alyce was told to run far away. I’m fascinated by the period of history this was set in so was excited to see various historical figures of the time featuring in the storyline but it just didn’t seem to sit quite right. Alyce seemed to find herself being captured or escaping which seemed to be a little overdone and it was only right towards the end that the truth about her mother and more of the witchcraft element which I wish had been more prominent during the rest of the book.

It was an easy read and entertaining in patches as you tried to work out what was so special about Alyce to have all these people hunting her down!


My Bookish Weekly Wrap Up – 8th August 2020

Hello!! Happy Saturday! Summer has arrived with a vengeance here in Essex and many parts of the UK, and it is way too hot for me!! I’m staying hidden indoors and in the shady spots and surviving on a diet of ice lollies!! There are positives to the heat!!On to the books, and it has been another really good reading week as I’ve managed to finish another 5 books!! And I’ve stayed well clear of Netgalley again but have done my bit to help out some small publishers who have been struggling and posted pleas on Twitter for people to place an order with them. I don’t need asking twice to buy a book or two so now have 4 newbies to add to my shelves!So here is my look back at the past 7 days….



Any excuse to buy books eh!! So I did my bit to help some publishers who were having a tough time, along with many other bookish folk, so this is what has arrived!

From Salt Publishing….


On the surface, his move to the isolated village on the coast makes perfect sense. But the experience is an increasingly unsettling one for Timothy Bucchanan. A dead man no one will discuss. Wasted fish hauled from a contaminated sea. The dream of faceless men. Questions that lead to further questions. What truth are the villagers withholding? What fuels their interest and animosity towards him? And what pushes Timothy to dig deeper?


Beautiful Place is a novel about leaving and losing home and making family. It is about being oppressed and angry and wanting a better life – but how is a better life to be defined?

The Villa Hibiscus is a house by the sea on the exquisite southern coast of Sri Lanka, home to Padma, a young Sri Lankan woman. The owner of the villa, Gerhardt, is an elderly Austrian architect to whom Padma was taken when young by her scheming father, Sunny, who had hoped to seduce the wealthy new foreigner in the area with his attractive child. Gerhardt adopts Padma and pays Sunny to stay away until she’s grown up – when Gerhardt expects to have sent Padma to university, far away.

But Padma fails her exams and is lonely in the city, gladly returning to her beloved old home by the sea. With Gerhardt’s help she creates a guesthouse at the villa and soon guests start to arrive, opening new vistas for Padma through their friendship and love.

Then Sunny appears, ready to reclaim his daughter… 



How would it be if four lunatics went on a tremendous adventure, reshaping their pasts and futures as they went, including killing Mussolini? What if one of those people were a fascinating, forgotten aristocratic assassin and the others a fellow life co-patient, James Joyce’s daughter Lucia, another the first psychoanalysis patient, known to history simply as ‘Anna O,’ and finally 19th Century Paris’s Queen of the Hysterics, Blanche Wittmann?

That would be extraordinary, wouldn’t it? How would it all be possible? Because, as the assassin Lady Violet Gibson would tell you, those who are confined have the very best imaginations.


Tamara is going to kill her mother, but she isn’t the villain. Tamara just has to finish what began at her birth and put an end to the damage encoded in her blood. Leaving her job in Communications, Tamara dresses carefully and hires a car, making the trip from London to her hometown in Kent, to visit her mother for the last time. Accompanied by a chorus of ancestors, Tamara is harried by voices from the past and the future that reveal the struggles, joys and secrets of these women’s lives that continue to echo through and impact her own.

The Sound Mirror spans three familial generations from British Occupied India to Southern England, through intimately rendered characters, Heidi James has crafted a haunting and moving examination of class, war, violence, family and shame from the rich details of ordinary lives.


#BookReview THE REVOLT by CLARA DUPONT-MONOD @QuercusBooks #historical #TheRevolt


It is with a soft voice, full of menace, that our mother commands us to overthrow our father . . .

Richard Lionheart tells the story of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. In 1173, she and three of her sons instigate a rebellion to overthrow the English king, her husband Henry Plantagenet. What prompts this revolt? How does a great queen persuade her children to rise up against their father? And how does a son cope with this crushing conflict of loyalties?

Replete with poetry and cruelty, this story takes us to the heart of the relationship between a mother and her favourite son – two individuals sustained by literature, unspoken love, honour and terrible violence







Royals sure know how to do family feuds well don’t they!? And what a story Richard Lionheart has to share in this book as he tells the story of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitane. I’m ashamed to say I knew very little of her story, only the very basics, but this book has made me want to research this remarkable and resilient woman even more as what an amazing character she was.

I wasn’t sure how it would work with her son telling her story, but I found it to be an intriguing viewpoint as he watches his family torn apart by power and greed, and having to pick sides when your mother and father are so headstrong wasn’t the easiest for them all. What did make it easy was the way their father seemed to despise them all which is why so many took their mothers side and helped her fight the battles ahead.

And Eleanor herself was such a powerful woman, even before she married Henry, as she was Queen of France for 15 years. No wife had ever left a King before so when she left King Louis she made people sit up and take notice – she was pretty ruthless and suffered no fools gladly! 2 months after she left Louis, she married Henry who was set to be King of England!! She was a woman who knew what she wanted, and got it!!

Even at her lowest points she seemed to have the belief that all would work out in her favour in the end and I loved that about her and the journey that she went on. She went through some emotional times as a mother, but refused to wallow and always seemed ready to bounce back.

I really enjoyed how this book made history more accessible. It’s not just a list of names and dates but brilliantly tells the pulsating story of a family divided – the ultimate dysfunctional family!! With so many strong characters, it’s inevitable there was going to be trouble and I found it to be a really enjoyable read! Highly recommended for all historical fans!!

My thanks to Elise at Quercus for the advanced reader copy in return for a fair and honest review.



Yay for Music Monday! A weekly chance to share a song or video that means something to you, hosted by Drew over at THE TATTOOED BOOK GEEK.

And there is only one song I have on repeat at the moment! New songs from Hurts are being released and this is just epic!!

I’ve never felt this far from God
I almost feel like giving up again
In my bones, in my blood
There’s a sickness I’d change if I could
But the fire that rages inside me
Erased all the good

Father, help me, do you understand?
All my life, I’ve been a wicked man
Show me mercy and comfort me
I need to find redemption
(I’m just trying to find some)
(I’m just trying to find some)

I’ve never been this far from peace
I’m disappearing out of reach again
In my head, in my heart
There’s a hollow that’s starting to show
It’s the poison that fills up the void
And it’s taking a hold

Father help me, do you understand
All my life I’ve been a wicked man
Show me mercy and comfort me
I need to find redemption
(I’m just trying to find some)
(I’m just trying to find some)

(I’m just trying to find some)
(I’m just trying to find some)
(I’m just trying to find some)
(I’m just trying to find some)



Victoria Whitworth began swimming in the cold waters of Orkney as a means of temporary escape from a failing marriage, a stifling religious environment and a series of health problems. Over four years, her encounters with the sea and all its weathers, the friendships she made, the wild creatures she encountered, combined to transform her life. This book is a love letter, to the beach where she swims regularly and its microcosmic world, to the ever-changing cold waters where the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet, and to the seals, her constant companions.



This was Book 12 of my 20 Books of Summer 2020.

\This was a fascinating read as the author shares her thoughts on her love for wild swimming along with a considerable amount of background to the history, folklore and wildlife in Orkney.  It also features her family and the background to the state she finds herself in now and how that the sea seems to call to her and helps her find a way to escape her problems with a dip in the sea,and her various encounters with the wildlife along the way.

I found her writing about the swimming and the wildlife the most incisive and illuminating so would have loved more. It connected more with me as  a reader, even though the passages about the history of Orkney and folklore were interesting but it just felt like they overshadowed her own personal battles at time.  It talks about the mental and physical benefits of swimming and delves into the psychology of her compulsion to go swimming when times are tough, even when it may be putting herself in danger.  

The language she uses was beautiful and it is one of those books that you totally immerse yourself in and I found myself looking at online pictures of Orkney to really get more of out this book – it really seems as beautiful as she describes it! 


#BookReview SNOWBLIND by RAGNAR JONASSON #20BooksOfSummer20


Siglufjörður: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind. When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by snow, and with a killer on the loose.



Book 11 of my 20 Books of Summer 2020.

I find myself reading this series out of order, and it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment one bit!! It is one of those series that I find myself drawn to at odd times, and I find the darkness and twists and turns so compelling each time I start a new adventure!

The story flits between the past and present so we get little glimpses from the victim and their perspective of ‘that night’, alongside the aftermath where Ari is set to work on trying to solve a crime with no witnesses in a community that are very close and reluctant to share anything with this newcomer.

Ari has moved to the area alone, leaving his girlfriend behind and wondering if he has made the right decision. He seems to live permanently in a state of not believing in himself and never seeing things through. But there’s something about this case that irks him and he seems more reluctant to persue the crime than others around him. Maybe as a newcomer he doesn’t have that link with the locals so he can see them all a little clearer than those who have lived there a long time, and he starts to notice oddities in this case.

It’s not only the setting that is chilling, but the way the story is written. Ari is a complex character who doesn’t really let you connect with him personally, but the way he works is meticulous and compelling!


My August 2020 TBR #bookblogger

Already??! Well done to all of us for making it this far!!  The rest of the year has got to better, hasn’t it???!!

But hopefully August will bring long sunny days, and that will hopefully help me on my quest to reduce the book mountain TBR that has spiralled out of control again! There’s a couple of Blog Tour reads for me this month, along with wanting to get my 20 Books of Summer challenge done and dusted – I’m halfway through so need to pick up the pace!.  Plus there’s always the Netgalley shelf that needs serious action so August needs to be a very busy reading month for me!! 

Here’s some of the titles I’m hoping to get to!


They dug up his bones. They didn’t know he had a mind of his own…

Under tennis courts in the ruins of a great abbey, archaeologists find the remains of St Edmund, once venerated as England’s patron saint, but lost for half a millennium.

Culture Secretary Marina Spencer, adored by those who have never met her, scents an opportunity. She promotes Edmund as a new patron saint for the United Kingdom, playing up his Scottish, Welsh and Irish credentials. Unfortunately these are pure fiction, invented by Mark Price, her downtrodden aide, in a moment of panic.

The only person who can see through the deception is Mark’s cousin Hannah, a member of the dig team. Will she blow the whistle or help him out? And what of St Edmund himself, watching through the prism of a very different age?

Splicing ancient and modern as he did in The Hopkins Conundrum and A Right Royal Face-Off, Simon Edge pokes fun at Westminster culture and celebrates the cult of a medieval saint in another beguiling and utterly original comedy.


Blog Tour

When war imprisons them, only kindness will free them…

China, 1941. Elspeth Kent has fled an unhappy life in England for a teaching post at a missionary school in northern China. But when Japan declares war on the Allies and occupies the school, security and home comforts are replaced by privation, uncertainty and fear.
For ten-year-old Nancy Plummer and her school friends, now separated from their parents indefinitely, Miss Kent’s new Girl Guide patrol provides a precious reminder of home in a land where they are now the enemy.

Elspeth and her fellow teachers, and Nancy and her friends, need courage, friendship and fortitude as they pray for liberation. But worse is to come. Removed from the school, they face even greater uncertainty and danger at a Japanese internment camp, where cruelty and punishment reign. 

Inspired by true events, this is an unforgettable read about a remarkable community faced with unimaginable hardship, and the life-changing bonds formed in a distant corner of a terrible war.



From internationally bestselling author Santa Montefiore—a touching and bittersweet intergenerational story about family and the power of memory.

Meet Marigold and Dennis, two happily married empty-nesters in their late sixties. They should be enjoying their golden years in the idyllic English village where they live. But when their two grown daughters, Daisy and Suze, move back into the family home, both mother and father must learn how to deal with the upheaval.

Meanwhile, as Daisy and Suze soak in the familiar comforts of home, they soon discover that their mother isn’t quite the same woman she was a few years ago. Sure, she is still kind-hearted and always willing to help, but something about their mom is different, and it’s becoming harder and harder for the family to ignore. For the first time in their lives, Dennis and his daughters find themselves caring for Marigold rather than the other way around.

Here and Now is a gorgeously evocative novel brimming with characters who are so recognizable they’ll walk right off the page and into your heart. This is a novel about what it means to grow up and to grow wise, and how the new generation learns to carry family memories and hope into the future.



The electrifying new novel from the Man Booker-shortlisted author of Everything Under

After a serious case of school bullying becomes too much to bear, sisters July and September move across the country with their mother to a long-abandoned family home.

In their new and unsettling surroundings, July finds that the deep bond she has always had with September – a closeness that not even their mother is allowed to penetrate – is starting to change in ways she cannot entirely understand.

Inside the house the tension among the three women builds, while outside the sisters meet a boy who tests the limits of their shared experiences.

With its roots in psychological horror, Sisters is a taut, powerful and deeply moving account of sibling love that cements Daisy Johnson’s place as one of the most inventive and exciting young writers at work today.


review copy

The Trials of Koli is the second novel in M R. Carey’s breathtakingly original Rampart trilogy, set in a strange and deadly world of our own making.

Beyond the walls of Koli’s small village lies a fearsome landscape filled with choker trees, vicious beasts and shunned men. As an exile, Koli’s been forced to journey out into this mysterious, hostile world. But he heard a story, once. A story about lost London, and the mysterious tech of the Old Times that may still be there. If Koli can find it, there may still be a way for him to redeem himself – by saving what’s left of humankind.


Wishing you all a happy August!!