Sunday, January 14, 2024

Stacking the Shelves #23


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Reality. It's a place to showcase any books I have purchased, borrowed, or been lucky enough to have been given an advance copy of. Hope you find something that looks interesting to you or that makes you remember a favorite book you need to finish. Enjoy your reading this week :)

The cover of this mystery drew my eye. Then I started reading about the series and I was interested enough to buy book one. Set in Scotland in 1802 and written by a Scottish historian who lives in the highlands it looks like it would be a good one to try. The premise involves a University student who is drawn into a murder mystery when a fellow student is killed. The series is called Murray of Letho, after the main character, Charles Murray. There are thirteen books in the series and they all seem very unique. 

This was on sale and is book one of Tomlin's Archibald the Grim series. It is a sequel to her Black Douglas trilogy which I own but haven't read yet. I recently read and reviewed book one of her Stewart series but that is the only one of her books I've read so far. These seem to be very popular and seem to be well researched. Set in Scotland in the year 1338, it tells the story of Archibald, the Black Douglas's son, who as a young boy, fights for the Scottish throne. 

I just can't seem to stop browsing cozy mysteries. The beautiful covers, exotic locations, and escape from the world make them so enjoyable. This book was free in Kindle Unlimited but was only 99 cents to buy and is book one in the series. It takes place in 1900 on the maiden voyage of the ship S.S. Minneapolis. It is part of the series Flora Maguire and is set in Edwardian England. The vast majority of cozy mysteries these days are set in the 1920's so I thought this one would be different from a lot I've read lately. This author has another series, Miss Merrill and Aunt Violet, set in the WWI era. 

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Noteworthy News #2: My Favorite History Podcasts


This has been a very busy week and I haven't had a lot of time to read. I returned to school and teaching after two relaxing weeks off and it's been a whirlwind of activity. So needless to say my posts this week have been lacking. But that doesn't mean I'm not still going through searches for new books and new content. I'm currently reading about four different books and really need to narrow my focus for my next review. 

In thinking about adding to this idea of "noteworthy news" in the book/history world, I want to post about things I enjoy that might be of value to others who share my same interests. This week I kept coming back to podcasts. When I'm short on time and energy podcasts are my go to thing that keep me informed while not requiring too much of my time. I wrote a post on audiobooks and how they aren't my favorite way to read but sometimes I do cave and listen to them. But podcasts are short and very focused in content and if you listen to one episode it doesn't commit you to hours and hours of time like a book would. Also, I just love to read rather than listen to a book.

While I do listen to a lot of political podcasts, that isn't what my blog is ever going to be geared toward....but I wanted to list my favorite history podcasts and promote them because I would be lost without them and they are a huge guilty pleasure! I have so much admiration for the people who host them and all the work they put into informing me. 

So in no particular order here are my absolute favorite history podcasts and I hope you find something useful if you try one of them out. I have linked the host website with the pictures of the podcast. These are also ones that have lots of content and seem to be solid with factual information. 

1.THE HISTORY OF ENGLAND hosted by David Crowther

This was the first podcast I ever listened to and I learned so much in chronological order about England. Running from Ancient Roman times to present day, Crowther is still going strong and is currently in the 1600's time period. His website is fantastic with so many resources. Also, he is really funny, sometimes adding his adult children to the mix and having them act out certain moments in Shakespeare or reading historical documents. He can be sarcastic and keeps me laughing.

2.GONE MEDIEVAL hosted by Matt Lewis, Cat Jarman, and Eleanor Janega

This podcast is not chronological but rather topical. It is fun to scroll through the offerings and just pick a moment in history or a person I want to hear about. Each episode runs about 45 minutes on average and they pack a lot into that time. Each host has their own unique style and I have found some are more to my liking than others but all have spoken about some very interesting topics. For those of us that love history of the Medieval period, this show is amazing!

3.HISTORY OF THE CRUSADES  hosted by Sharyn Eastbaugh

I started listening to this podcast because I wanted to try a topic I knew absolutely nothing about. Eastbaugh does a fabulous job of starting with that idea in mind. She gives you a backstory and slowly fills in the relevant details so you understand how the Crusades began and why. I have listened to many episodes twice now and after finishing the whole show's content I have a wonderful grasp of the timeline of it all. It led me to so many great books and historical fiction about topics within the Crusader period. It is a fantastic show. 

4. REVOLUTIONS  hosted by Mike Duncan

This podcast is a little more serious and requires some concentration. Some background knowledge going in helps too. Duncan does assume you know nothing and fills in the gaps, but his style is more detailed and involves some deep thinking. So if you are looking to just zone out this isn't the one for you. However, if you really want to get to the root causes of how revolutions begin and develop you can't find a better place. Each episode is related to an overall country's revolution so it's like a mini-series on one particular area of the world before ending and moving on to another topic. I haven't listened to them all but picked the ones that I thought would be to my interest. They are arranged by seasons and topics too which helps to narrow things down and find what you want. Sadly, he posted his last episode on December 25, 2022. After nine years he is signing off to do new things. I'm glad we can still access them. He also hosted another podcast first,
The History of Rome which I haven't tried yet. 

5. HISTORY HIT hosted by Dan Snow

Unfortunately, this podcast is not entirely free so I haven't been able to listen to everything I would like to. It is similar to Gone Medieval, which is connected with them.  But History Hit charges for some of their episodes. They have really great content though and I listen to the free stuff and the option is always there to pay for the things you'd really be interested in. It's a great show. There's also a free trial you can take advantage of and their website is chock full of great things to experience as well. 

6. THE CIVIL WAR  hosted by Rich and Tracy Youngdahl

This podcast is run by husband and wife team Rich and Tracy who live in Colorado. They are adorable and you can tell they love sharing their knowledge with the world together. I haven't listened in a long time but when I did I learned so much and really need to check back in and see if they've added anything recently. Tracy is from Arkansas and Rich is from Pennsylvania so they each bring their unique perspectives about the North and the South into the show. They also try to give the facts fairly and neutrally. Of course the topic of slavery is not glossed over, but they do a good job of trying to explain the thinking of the time and the causes of the war in detail so you come away with a solid understanding of the era. Highly recommended if you need to start from scratch learning about the Civil War. It covers the many years leading up to the war and each battle and all the political and social ramifications through Reconstruction. 

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Secret of the Scarab by Isabella Bassett (Lady Caroline Murder Mysteries Book 5)

Publication Date: 
July 12, 2023

292 pages

In this latest installment, Lady Caroline goes to Egypt with her Uncle Albert. Her role is more than niece, she is his companion and assistant as well. Along with members of the Royal Society for Natural Appreciation, they are planning a luxurious boat trip down the Nile to the city of Luxor where they will join in an exciting archaeological dig. Albert is a good natured, quirky sort who is obsessed with carved, stone beetles, as are all the members of the Royal Society, due to their revered status in Ancient Egyptian culture. Scarabs, or stone beetles, are plentiful and exciting finds to the men who are engaged in a contest of sorts to see who can obtain the most. 

As they ready for their adventure, Uncle Albert, who loves to wear fez hats, is anxious to meet the Egyptian maker of said hats in the marketplace of Cairo. When he and Caroline set out to find the hat maker, they are met with a bizarre encounter that holds danger and a mysterious note. All is tucked away in their minds as they embark on their journey and soon they forget about it as they make their way down the Nile.

On the boat ride they are joined by not only the Royal Society members but their assistants, other archaeologists, and an eccentric woman who dabbles in the supernatural realm. When one of the guests is attacked and killed by a crocodile on the banks of the river, everyone wants to believe it isn't a bad omen, but rather an unfortunate run of bad luck. As they move on to the site, strange events continue to confuse and plague the travelers and they begin to feel there is something more sinister going on. Exciting finds await them as they work to unveil the treasures of the dig area but it soon becomes clear that what has been uncovered is more than what anyone expected. When another "accidental death" occurs, Lady Caroline, Albert, and her love interest, James, try to find out what they are witnessing and put the puzzle together before anyone else is harmed. 

My Thoughts:
This was one of the better cozy mysteries. I find that the ones I stick with tend to feel more authentic, with plenty of details of the period. This book was wonderfully researched and I truly felt as though I'd been dropped in Luxor, Egypt in the 1920's. The author consistently stayed true to form throughout the book and didn't just give a little color in the first chapter and leave it at that. So many "historical" mysteries tend to do that. I learned a lot about scarabs, Egyptian culture, and the history of the story behind the treasure they uncover at the dig site. With some cozies I find myself wanting to skip through pages to get to the end because the period details, history, and mystery are wearing off and I can feel that there isn't much else to know. I read every page of this book and enjoyed it, not wanting to skip to the end. 

Lady Caroline occasionally spends a chapter musing through questions about the case and this was a good way to recap things because there really is a lot going on. I thought the author did a good job of keeping me guessing and even after one thing was resolved, the true ending hadn't been revealed yet. It had two endings to work through and the murderer was well hidden. I will be reading another by this author and am sorry I missed that her latest was a Christmas mystery that came out in November. I'm hoping she writes another one soon in another exotic location. 

Her website is very interesting with explanations of her research. I had a fun time reading her notes about how she studies for her books. If you are interested it is

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Can't Wait Wednesday: Wolves of Winter by Dan Jones (Book Two Essex Dogs Trilogy)


For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, I'm featuring Wolves of Winter by Dan Jones. This is book two in his Essex Dogs Trilogy. I am looking for good historical fiction about the Hundred Years War between England and France and finding it difficult to come across. I am not a huge fan of books that are based solely on the battles of a certain time period but with this subject that is to be expected. Dan Jones is the author of many great books and his research is always solid and reliable. This might be one to try. I hope you have found a book you can't wait to read this week!

January 30, 2024

Medieval Historical Fiction/War Fiction

Description courtesy of Amazon books

The epic sequel to Essex Dogs, continuing the New York Times bestselling historian's trilogy of novels following the fortunes of ten ordinary soldiers during the Hundred Years' War.

1347. Bruised and bloodied by an epic battle at Crécy, six soldiers known as the Essex Dogs pick through the wreckage of the fighting—and their own lives.
Now a new siege is beginning, and the Dogs are sent to attack the soaring walls of Calais. King Edward has vowed no Englishman will leave France ‘til this city falls. To get home, they must survive a merciless winter in a lawless camp deadlier than any battlefield.
Obsessed with tracking down the vanished Captain, Loveday struggles to control his own men. Romford is haunted by the reappearance of a horrific figure from his past. And Scotsman is spiraling into a pit of drink, violence, and self-pity.
The Dogs are being torn apart—but this war is far from over. It won't be long before they lose more of their own.
From a vast siege camp built outside Calais' walls, to the pirate ships patrolling the harbor, and into the dark corners of oligarchs' houses, where the deals that shape—and end—lives are made, this captivating and darkly comic story brings the fourteenth century vividly to life.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Happy New Year 2024!


My blog is two years old today. I am excited that it is still going and that I still am excited enough to want to post each week. The book blog community has been so warm and supportive and I feel like I have gained wonderful, new online friends. My love of books has only grown even more and I have discovered amazing new authors and blogs to explore. 

I have a habit of wanting to change up my looks and colors and style on my blog every six months or so, but no time or desire to redo every previous post to match. So if things look a bit different starting today, well, it's just me trying something new and fun. 

I hope everyone has success in this new year and finds lots of great books to read. I plan on detailing my goals for my blog in the Top Ten Tuesday post for January 16 "Bookish Goals for 2024." For now, I will just say Happy New Year.....may all your dreams come true and may you be as blessed as I feel today :) 

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Death On a Winter's Day by Verity Bright (A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery Book 8)


Happy New Year's Eve 2023!

Publication Date: 
November 19, 2021

Length: 286 pages


Lady Eleanor and the gang go to Scotland! I have enjoyed this series so much and love that I'm ending the year with this review. 

I had intended to do so much more on my blog in December but man it has been a heck of a month! Between teaching at an elementary school (where Christmas is intense!), to being sick twice with colds and sinus infections, to all the family obligations and celebrations I just haven't had much time to blog or read. But that's okay. I read when I could and read what I loved. And that's the point, right? So I'm happy to share my thoughts on this delightful cozy mystery. 

Lady Eleanor and her butler Clifford travel to Castle Ranburgh in the Scottish highlands to celebrate Christmas with friends, Baron and Baroness Ashley. And when extra staff is needed, the whole group gets to tag along: Mrs. Trotman, the cook, Mrs. Butters, the housekeeper, and Polly, the kitchen maid. Even Gladstone the bulldog gets to go as another guest of honor. Though the castle is a bit primitive and the festivities a bit hampered by infighting among the guests, Eleanor is determined to enjoy herself. When an obnoxious American, Eugene Randall ends up murdered during a party game, she realizes she is smack in the middle of another crime to solve. Everyone has motive, including the footman and the hosts.

When Baron Ashley is arrested for the murder, Eleanor knows she must try to help clear his name. But is she absolutely sure he's innocent? His wife seems to be adamant that he is and just for good measure she enlists her love interest, Inspector Hugh Seldon to help her with some of the evidence. She will have to work fast to find the real killer and all while trying not to be too distracted by her feelings for Seldon and her desire to honor his request that she stay safe and quit putting herself in harm's way.

My Thoughts:

Being partial to all things Scottish this was one of my favorites of the series so far. I loved everything about it. From the location, to the colorful characters, to the incorporation of Christmas traditions, and the new hints into Eleanor's background and her mysterious absent parents. 

The murder mystery was well done too and I only figured out half of the answer. The last couple of chapters with an intense chase scene were fun and exciting and I learned some things about sailing and the topography of the area they are in. 

The next in the series looks fun as it centers around the murder of a visiting member of the royal family. Looking forward to more adventures in 2024 with Eleanor, Clifford, and Gladstone.

Friday, December 29, 2023

The Road To Runnymede by David Field (The Medieval Saga Series Book 6)


Publication Date: 
January 16, 2023


215 pages

This is the second David Field book I've read this year and he is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. His books have that perfect balance I love between straight, dry history facts and overly romantic fiction in too many modern historical fiction books today. And while I am happy his books are so inexpensive to buy and free to read with Kindle Unlimited, I'm starting to think he is selling himself short and needs to charge more! 


This is the sixth book in his seven part series about the Norman conquest through the reign of Henry III and his son Prince Edward, who eventually becomes Edward I. I reviewed book seven last month, The Conscience of a King, which was about Simon de Montfort. I decided to back up and read about King John, who I honestly know little about, having run across very few historical fiction books devoted to just him and his reign. The book incorporates a fictional character, Hugh, Earl of Flint, to guide the narrative and shows his service to John along with the real person of Ranulf, Earl of Chester. The two cousins endure many hardships and abuse as they try to carry out King John's demands and also care for their much neglected families, who suffer loneliness and worry for their men who are usually far away from home and involved in the next brutal battle. 

When the story begins, Richard the Lionheart is still alive and ruling as well as taking advice from his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine and it seems as if there is no reason to believe this world of strong leadership will not go on for some time. Hugh, having been on crusade with Richard, is happy and content serving his King who he respects deeply and holds in much esteem. When Richard dies young and unexpectedly, Hugh's world drastically changes with the ascension of his younger brother John to the throne of England. 

John and Richard are as different as is possible and Hugh learns quickly that taking advice and self-restraint are not qualities the new leader possesses. Seeing everyone as a possible threat, John seems to work overtime to alienate even his most loyal supporters of which Hugh and Ranulf try to be. As the barons of the day are overtaxed, over committed to endless wars across the channel in France, and treated with disdain at every turn, things become perilous for Hugh as he tries to support John, while seeing the writing on the wall of a coming showdown between the King and his subjects. 

My Thoughts:

Throughout the story of the facts of John's reign, the attempts to restore his lands in France, and his interaction with the Welsh and Scots, is the side story of Hugh and his wife Edwina and their children. Geoffrey, Hugh's son, who will also factor in the next book, is anxious to prove himself and learn the art of being a squire, then a knight in the King's service. He is sent at the age of fifteen to train on the Earl of Chester's estate and bears witness to the brutality of the day in situations beyond his control. The personal stories of Hugh's family members serve to keep the story from becoming too dry and give the reader someone to root for. 

As I read this book I realized that it is a great place to start if you have very little knowledge of the time period. But it is also a great recap of events that are easily forgotten. I found myself wishing I'd read it before tackling some of Sharon Kay Penman's work because Field's books are much shorter and to the point, at only 250-300 pages each. You will not get the detailed, intricate backgrounds of each character or the exhaustive research in Penman's novels, but you will definitely come away with sound information and understand the why, who, and what behind the chosen subject. 

Field has done his homework and he even adds some things I hadn't read about before. His description of the storm which led to the loss of the crown jewels at the end of story was superb and he explains things so effortlessly that even the Great Charter (Magna Carta) was made interesting, something I'd always been a bit bored by. He did a wonderful job of making me understand how John went from being totally in control to being forced to agree, albeit with his fingers crossed, to demands from barons who dared to defy him. 

I love that Field didn't start writing and publishing until he retired from his work as a lawyer. I think to become an author in your 70's is amazing! I am pretty sure I read he'd written a lot before then but hadn't published his work until later. He is doing a great service by giving us these books about English and Australian history, written in an entertaining, readable style for all. I will definitely be reading more. I'd like to start the new year with his book about Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, The King's Commoner, because I don't know much about that story. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Can't Wait Wednesday: Murder In Masquerade by Mary Winters (A Lady of Letters Mystery Book 2)


For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, I'm featuring Murder In Masquerade by Mary Winters. This is a new cozy mystery series begun this year starring female sleuth Amelia Amesbury. Something about the synopsis intrigued me, especially the part about her being a Victorian countess who writes a secret advice column for a London paper. I thought that sounded like fun. She hobnobs with royalty while falling into solving murder mysteries. 

I'm always happy to promote new authors too and although this author has written two other series under a different name, this is her first series under her name, Mary Winters. I hope you found something you can't wait to read this week!

February 20, 2024

Historical Mystery/Cozy Mystery

Description courtesy of Amazon books

Extra, extra, read all about it! Countess turned advice columnist Amelia Amesbury finds herself playing the role of sleuth when a night at the theatre turns deadly.

Victorian Countess Amelia Amesbury’s secret hobby, writing an advice column for a London penny paper, has gotten her into hot water before. After all, Amelia will do whatever it takes to help a reader in need. But now, handsome marquis Simon Bainbridge desperately requires her assistance. His beloved younger sister, Marielle, has written Amelia's Lady Agony column seeking advice on her plans to elope with a man her family does not approve of. Determined to save his sister from a scoundrel and the family from scandal, Simon asks Amelia to dissuade Marielle from the ill-advised gambit.

But when the scoundrel makes an untimely exit after a performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto, Amelia realizes there’s much more at stake than saving a young woman’s reputation from ruin. It’s going to take more than her letter-writing skills to help the dashing marquis, mend the familial bond, and find the murderer. Luckily, solving problems is her specialty!

Friday, December 22, 2023

A Christmas Legacy by Anne Perry (The Christmas Stories Book 19)


Publication Date: November 9, 2021

Length: 192 pages

I now have only one more Anne Perry Christmas book to read. I plan on reading and reviewing it this summer for Christmas in July. And that will be it. Perry passed away earlier this year so there will be no more being published. I've been reading these every holiday season for a long time and they are always a nice way to spend a weekend. This book was unusually short, I'd call it more of a novella actually. But it was heartwarming, and a cozy read.

It is the year 1900 and Gracie Tellman is content and happy with her family of five: police husband Samuel and their children, Charlotte (called Charlie), Tommy and Victor. Former maid and co-sleuth to her revered employers Charlotte and Thomas Pitt, Gracie has made a good life for herself, much owed to the love and kindness of the Pitts who treated her as one of their own.

Unexpectedly, a former friend's daughter, Millie visits Gracie and shares a disturbing story of happenings in the household she is employed in as a kitchen maid. Various items are disappearing and Millie is afraid she will be suspected and dismissed. With only her job and good name standing in the way of homelessness and maybe prostitution on the streets of London, Millie is desperate to make sure the crimes are solved before she or any of her fellow workers are destitute. 

Having worked on many cases with the Pitts, Gracie readily agrees to help. She takes on Millie's position, temporarily with her husband Samuel watching the children for her. Gracie pretends to be a fill in for Millie who is "sick," and works to gain the trust of the staff. As she secretly surveys and investigates, she begins to realize there is something sinister going on upstairs in the hidden part of the house. The matriarch of the family is ill and dying but is being neglected, Gracie suspects, in the hope that she will die quickly and leave the heirs with her money and home they covet for themselves. How will Gracie bring this wickedness into the light while not risking Millie's position and maybe even the lives of those who know what is happening?

I thought this book was excellent with character development. As things unfolded, I found myself rooting for the staff and the sick grandmother and feeling connected to their stories. Perry paints a great picture of compassion on the part of the workers who want to protect the old lady but also know they have to tread lightly lest they be thrown out. Gracie is her usual bright, inquisitive self, while also showing a more grown up side as wife and mother now. As usual, Perry creates the Victorian world well, adding those touches we expect from her about the goings on in a large household of the time. Being Christmas time, there is always that extra layer of holiday festiveness in the book.

My only real complaint was that I wish the story itself would have been a bit longer and detailed. The book is less than 200 pages, a perfect quick read for Christmas, but as I was enjoying it I hated to see it end so quickly. There is an unexpected twist that makes it fun though and you really do have to read carefully and all the way to the end to fully appreciate the resolution. This was one of her better Christmas stories I thought as some are dark and depressing all the way through with just a quick lift at the end. A Christmas Legacy works well with the mystery, suspense, and happy ending we all expect from these holiday books. 

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie (Miss Marple Book Twelve) Read Christie 2023 December Selection


Publication Date: October 1976

Length: 224 pages

Well I can hardly believe it but this is my last review for Read Christie 2023. I am feeling quite accomplished as it was my goal to participate and blog about at least one Agatha Christie book each month, preferably the one for the challenge, and I did this. I only had two books that I didn't get to and for those I read alternates

Gwenda Reed, newly married and looking for a place to settle down with her husband Giles, is thrilled to have found a house on the coast of England that seems to fit their life. It is called Hillside and as they settle in, Gwenda oddly discovers that she has lived there as a child. The strange coincidence is even more bizarre when she realizes she may have witnessed a murder committed in front of her as a small child. Because both her parents are dead, she has precious few people to consult as to where these memories come from and why. Giles, loving husband that he is, agrees to help her unravel the mystery, along with Miss Marple, who has been drawn into the story after meeting the couple earlier and is now visiting nearby and staying with friends. 

The murder centers around a woman named Helen. At first, Gwenda doesn't know exactly who she is. But she has a violent memory of a "Helen" being strangled and her witnessing it. The more they dig, Gwenda and Giles find out that Helen was Gwenda's stepmother and they begin to fear it was Gwenda's father who murdered her. Giles puts out an ad seeking knowledge from anyone who might know Helen's whereabouts and it is answered by her brother, a Dr. Kennedy who lives nearby. After meeting with him and others they find involved in Helen's life story, Gwenda and Giles are more confused than ever. They and Miss Marple have a lot of detective work to do to find out if Helen was indeed murdered at all or whether it was just the overactive imagination of a young Gwenda.

I really enjoyed this one. Normally I haven't been a big fan of the Miss Marple stories as I find they are a little slower paced and sometimes the detailed storyline just isn't there as much. But this one really had me guessing and I definitely did not figure out the resolution ahead of time. Even at the last second before the big reveal I was sure I knew and was completely wrong. That made  for a great ending. Miss Marple had quite a bit of involvement here and she has some great discussions about her thoughts and the why behind the crime. There were some psychological elements that made it interesting also, and family dynamics that were meant to be disturbing and shocking. It is the last novel for Christie, published after her death, and I think so far it is my favorite of the Miss Marple series.

It was a great way to end my year of reading Agatha Christie for 2023!