April Reads

Stack of old, beautifully bound books in greens and creams standing on a white table with a vase of white flowers next to them.

As April is my birthday month I’ve mostly been reading the books I either received as gifts or pre-ordered and gifted to myself. However I’ve also been rather caught up in a rewatch of the entire nine seasons of the Endeavour TV series which came to an end in March and that has somewhat limited my reading time. Basically I’ve started a lot of books but haven’t finished very many, so this feels a rather scant update. Hopefully next month normal service will be resumed.

Reiterating (as always) that I’ve put a variety of links to the books where those links are available in order to ensure you have the biggest possible choice of where to get a copy if anything takes your fancy. Other than the Amazon link (which will be to the kindle version of the book unless the author is not publishing on kindle) the links are more beneficial to both the author and indie bookshops and Blackwells is included as they ship globally. If I listened to the audiobook version then there will also be link to Audible. 

Please also note that all the Bookshop UK links below are affiliated links, meaning that if you choose to purchase via that link then as well as all the indie bookshops signed up to Bookshop UK getting a cut of the sale, I will also get a (very) small amount of money to help keep me herding my words onto the page.

The Flames of Albiyon by Jean Menzies
3 stars

This is a lovely first novel in what I hope will be a long series. Dragons, magic, intrigue and sapphic love weave their wonderful way across the pages. Adrairia is a likeable and delightful main character and Isla, Calder, Tearleah and Fia are all wonderful too.

It’s very clear that this is the first novel the author has published as there was quite a lot of telling rather than showing and some sections were a little disconnected and a few plot points felt unexplored but despite that I wanted to read on because I loved the setting and the romance (one that is absolutely not a source of tension, which I found refreshing). If you don’t like explicit scenes in your books then this may not be for you, but otherwise it’s a very easy, gentle read.

I hope future books in this series will reflect the growth of the author as they gain more experience of their craft.

Author Website | Amazon UK | Blackwells

Love Will Tear Us Apart by C. K. McDonnell
4.5 stars

This is the third book in the Stranger Times series and the quality of writing, plot and characterisation remains as strong as ever.

As well as the stand alone story for this book, several of the long running story lines from the first two books are wrapped up in this one. That said there are still plenty of unanswered questions hanging tantalising around the edges, so I hope many more Stranger Times books go to press.

Author Website | Amazon UK | Blackwells | Bookshop UK

Ashes and Stones by Allyson Shaw
4 stars

A creative non-fiction book detailing Allyson’s investigation of the women hunted and killed during the Scottish witch trials that occurred during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Allyson provides a perfect description of what she has written:

Ashes and Stones is a moving and personal journey, along rugged coasts and through remote villages and modern cities, in search of the traces of those accused of witchcraft in seventeenth-century Scotland.

Allyson Shaw’s website

As someone who has taken the title of witch for myself this was alway a book I was going to read, as I am fully aware that none of those women would have chosen the title for themselves and this reclamation comes with a responsibility to acknowledge those who had the title and a terrible fate thrust upon them. Allyson does more than acknowledge them, she brings them back to life and offers them a living memorial built of words.

She writes with a fluid lucidity that at times belies the subject matter but often brings it into sharp contrast with the way the trials are currently represented in both popular culture and some of the modern histories that elide the truth into something palatable. This is not just a history but also a reanimation of these women who have no graves, and had little or no voice in their own time, and also a reimagining of the lives and deaths. Allyson makes it very clear when she is sharing historical record and when she is painting their portraits with words from conjecture and her deep understanding of the folklore and beliefs of the time. It is nothing short of magic, the best possible use of this sort of spell.

There were a few times where I felt almost battered by some of the points Allyson chose to repeat and reiterate but given the subject matter this also feels like a valid and brave choice. The women accused were subjected to brutal treatment that was meted out by men who themselves never had to answer for what they did as they were backed by the full force of the law, it’s not pleasant and it does bear repetition.

I also really enjoyed the way Allyson wove her own journey in creating the book into the text. It added a context and level of intimacy that felt both necessary and right. I sincerely recommend that anyone with even a passing interest in history, feminism or witchcraft read this book. I listened to it on audible and found Lucy Paterson to be an excellent and sympathetic narrator.

Author Website | Amazon UK | Blackwells | Bookshop UK | Audible

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