Circling The Sun – Paula McLain

Published October 20, 2016 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.

Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.

What did I think?:

You may be familiar with the name Paula McLain from her wonderful novel The Paris Wife about the first wife of Ernest Hemingway i.e. Hadley Richardson. I was delighted to hear that she was bringing out a new work of fiction about another strong female individual based once more on a real person that I shamefully knew very little about. Again, as when I finished The Paris Wife, the author writes such a compelling story that it instantly makes me want to go and research everything I can about the real woman behind this narrative.

The person McLain chooses to explore is Beryl (Clutterbuck) Markham, who spends much of her childhood on her father’s farm in Kenya, learning the art of training racehorses from her father and running wild with her childhood friend, a native Kenyan from the nearby Kipsigis tribe. Life is quite carefree for Beryl and she enjoys the simple pleasures in life until her mother decides to return to England, effectively abandoning her. However, Beryl was never the conventional “lady,” and grows up fiercely independent and proud, fulfilling her dreams of becoming the first successful female horse trainer in Africa, having a few “interesting” relationships with men before she meets the love of her life, suffering various heart-breaks and eventually breaking a record attempt for flying solo across the Atlantic in 1936, something which she is most famous for today.

There was so much to like about this book and to be honest, I wasn’t sure at first. I’m not a particularly “horsey” kind of girl and obviously, a big part of this book is Beryl’s relationships with horses so I wasn’t sure how much that would interest me. I do love being proved wrong though – the story of her trials and tribulations with people who doubted her and her fierce attitude towards achieving her status as a world-class horse trainer totally won me over. Beryl is, in essence, a flawed character and a lot of times, I didn’t particularly agree with some of the decisions she made, especially concerning her love life (which at points, had me actually quite exasperated!). However, she was real, she made mistakes, she loved, learned and lost like everyone else has to and this made the story so much more believable and poignant in my eyes. Beryl Markham was obviously a remarkable woman and I’ll definitely be reading her memoir, West With The Night to view her life once again from her own point of view.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):



The Assassin’s Blade (Throne Of Glass 0.1-0.5) – Sarah J. Maas

Published October 19, 2016 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

Contains all five novellas.

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin’s Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas – together in one edition for the first time – Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn’s orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? Explore the dark underworld of this kick-ass heroine to find out.

What did I think?:

I’m holding my hands up to unashamedly admit that I am a die-hard Thrones Of Glass super fan! Seriously. This series is all kinds of awesome and when I heard that a prequel was coming out that would tell Celaena’s story before she becomes the King’s Assassin, I instantly knew that it was a must-read for me. Here’s the facts though. It’s not a prequel novel but five separate novellas: The Assassin And The Pirate Lord, The Assassin And The Healer, The Assassin And The Desert, The Assassin And The Underworld and The Assassin And The Empire. Some people may shy away from this idea but trust me, it brings a whole new dimension to the twisted (and so often heart-breaking) world of Celaena Sardothien and may make you look at her a whole lot differently.

So, I don’t want to give too much away for anyone who hasn’t started the Thrones Of Glass series yet, I do hate spoilers myself! I’m not even sure whether to recommend reading this book first or indeed after the first book in the series. I came to it later myself after I had read a couple of books in the series and I found it a brilliant introduction to a character I had already professed myself to love. But…I can see why reading this book FIRST could be very advantageous as there is a spoiler referred to in the first book about something that happens in Celaena’s past and The Assassin’s Blade explains how this incident came to pass.

During these five novellas, which seem to merge into each other almost like a complete novel with only very short gaps in time between stories, Celaena makes both enemies and allies, is trained to the highest standard with The Mute Assassin in the desert, encounters betrayal and friendship in the unlikeliest of places and experiences the first giddy throes of love. We learn what events (good and bad) transpired to make her the character she is today, a bit about her strengths and where she is potentially weakest and just why she ends up as a prisoner in the salt-mines of Endovier.

If you weren’t the biggest fan of Celaena before The Assassin’s Blade, dare I suggest that you might change your mind after this? Personally, I’ve always loved her kick-ass, kind of cold but also occasionally vulnerable attitude but you realise so much more about her as a person that explains a lot about her thoughts and actions that follow both during and post Throne Of Glass. As with all the books in the series that I’ve read so far, it’s just as action-packed, just as heart-breaking and always compelling and difficult to put down. I’m only sad that after six books, this series will come to an inevitable end. I know, I know, it has to end sometime, but with a story like this I just want it to run and run and run.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):




Short Stories Challenge – Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Published October 18, 2016 by bibliobeth


What’s Getting It Wrong all about?:

Getting It Wrong takes a radio quiz show and the actions of “phoning a friend,” to horrifying new extremes.

What did I think?:

Ramsey Campbell is a name I’ve often heard in various circles as a master of the horror genre who has been churning out his work for the past fifty years, influenced and compared to H.P. Lovecraft by many. Even though he seems to have woefully passed me by, I was really excited to read some of his work and I’m happy to announce that his short story, Getting It Wrong, did not disappoint. It is obvious to me that the fluidity of the writing and chilling finale of this story comes from years of experience and he’s certainly mastered his craft.

This short story follows a few days in the life of Eric Edgeworth, who lives solely for films and the joy they bring him. None of this new rubbish you understand, but the classics, like Hitchcock and great actors like James Dean and Cary Grant. He works at the local cinema complex but sadly, doesn’t seem to have many friends, perhaps due to the age difference between them (usually a few decades) but he also seems to be somewhat of a loner. That is, until one night at midnight when he gets a strange telephone call to ask if he will be the expert friend on a quiz show for a lady he barely speaks to at work but is aware of, Mary Barton.

At first, Eric believes this to be some sort of joke that his colleagues are playing on him although he notices that Mary is becoming increasingly more terrified as he answers a question about a particular film wrong three times – unfortunately the maximum amount that is allowed. When he sees Mary at work the next day, he notices she has a rather large, bandaged finger but thinks nothing of it until once again that night, he is called to answer another film-based question for Mary of which she is desperate for him to get right. This is a radio show, there’s reasons for that and we begin to understand why it cannot/should not be broadcast on television. When Mary doesn’t turn up for work the next day and Eric has one final chance to help her, the tables begin to turn – NOT in Eric’s favour and this turns out to be the most deadly quiz show in history.

I really loved the way the author set this short story out, his brilliance in ramping up the tension, ever so slowly is undeniable and certain little lines, placed perfectly at certain points in the narrative gave me chills:

“It’s not a show for children, Mr Edgeworth.”

I had so many unanswered questions about both the characters and the narrative. Just why was Mary Barton doing this quiz show in the first place? Why didn’t Eric grab a moment to speak to her when he saw her at work after the first phone call? However, if these questions were answered for me, I don’t think it would have made the story as thrilling as it ended up being. Although I didn’t feel the characters were developed very far, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story-telling and I appreciated it for what it was, an exciting read with an ending that I’m still thinking about and wondering… just what happens next??

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft.

YA Shot 2016 – why you NEED to go!

Published October 16, 2016 by bibliobeth


Hi everyone, I’m here today to talk about a fantastic young adult literature festival in partnership with Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstones Uxbridge that happens over just one day in Uxbridge (end of Metropolitan and Piccadilly Line just outside of London). Do you love young adult fiction? Are you free next Saturday 22nd October? Then you should definitely check out the YA Shot webpage HERE and see what delights they’re offering. I was lucky enough to attend YA Shot last year with my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads and we hosted a workshop called “Introduction To Blogging.” We were terribly nervous, especially as I’m not big on public speaking but we both ended up having a whale of a time and are so glad we did it.

For now, here are ten reasons why you should give YA Shot a try! (author links take you direct to the YA Shot webpage):

1.) It’s the brainchild of super-duper author and all round lovely person Alexia Casale whose novels The Bone Dragon and House of Windows you simply have to check out for their spellbinding content and beautiful, lyrical prose.

2.) Panel events? YA Shot has them in abundance! For example, Terms of Endearment: feminism and the portrayal of romance in YA – Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Rachel McIntyre, Holly Smale chaired by Holly Bourne sounds completely unmissable.

3.) Tough topics: To Have and Have Not: exploring poverty, privilege and class through YA – Michael Byrne, Patrice Lawrence, Steve Tasane, chaired by Polly Ho Yen, a talk which I’m sure will explore gritty issues and spark a great debate both during and afterwards.

4.) Feeling a bit emotional? The YA Shot team have got it covered with: The Hurt Locker: love, loss and coping – Sarah Alexander, Jenny Downham chaired by Clare Furniss.

5.) For the historical fiction lovers out there (like myself!) this looks incredibly tempting: Out of the Past: the age of the Tudors & Stuarts in YA with Jonathan WeilJane Hardstaff, Ally Sherrick, chaired by Andrew Prentice.

6.) Love the idea of “in conversation” author events? How about: It’s a Wonderful Life: exploring bullying and loss through magical realism with Mike Revell and Nikki Sheehan?

7.) Fancy being a writer yourself? How about an exclusive, small workshop (first come, first served) with a best-selling author where they can teach you all the tricks of the trade?: History is horrible (but great for writing fiction!) with Rhian Ivory.

8.) Do you have a favourite blogger/vlogger? Or maybe you’re just starting out? Come along to: The blogging system: all the things they don’t tell you with Vivienne Dacosta (Serendipity Reviews) and Laura Heath (SisterSpooky), also Blogging/Vlogging: the technical low-down with Stevie Finegan(SableCaught) and Virginie (Chouettblog).

9.) Don’t miss: Managing your reading and choosing what to review with Cora(TeaPartyPrincess) and Luna (Luna’s Little Library). (Hmm…maybe I need to go to this).

10.) There will be book signing sessions. Need I say more?

There are so many more wonderful author events and blogger/vlogger workshops than I’ve had space for in this post and I strongly urge you to visit the website to check out everything that’s going on. It’s a jam packed day that I’m certain will be a roaring success but you need to buy tickets if you want to go! Maybe I’ll see you there? Come and say hello if you see me, I’m sure to be lurking in some capacity!

Mini Pin-It Reviews #3 – Four Books From NetGalley

Published October 13, 2016 by bibliobeth


Hi everyone and welcome to my third edition of pin-it reviews where I’ll be focusing on four books that I got from the wonderful NetGalley.

1 – Divinity And The Python – Bonnie Randall


What’s it all about?:

Divinity – Where desire and deception both hide in the dark

The Cards Forecast Work
Shaynie Gavin is so much more than the sexy siren who mixes cocktails at The Python. A carpenter with a business plan, Shaynie is trying to amass enough funds to launch her own dream – Divinity, a place where up-cycled furniture from the past is sold alongside Tarot readings forecasting the future – and all in a setting that could not be more perfect: a former funeral parlor. Shaynie’s belief that Divinity is attuned with the passions, the loves, and even the lies of its departed souls, allow her to feel satisfied when the cards she draws there reveal Wands, the Tarot’s symbol for work. And yet…Shaynie would be so grateful if the Tarot would also, just once, illuminate a Hellnight from her past. A lost evening whose scars still slither over her skin, Hellnight haunts Shaynie. Yet when she calls the question of that chilling evening into her deck…

The Cards Forecast Love
…and love appears in the form of pro hockey star Cameron Weste. Weste is haunted by scars and superstitions of his own, and he wants Shaynie’s Tarot to answer far deeper questions than she first guesses this sexy lothario to be capable of. Who knew Weste was this intense? The Tarot, apparently. And yet…

The Cards Forecast The Devil
When Cameron Weste lands in her life, a stalker surfaces too, dropping clues to a connection between Shaynie, Cameron, and her lost, brutal Hellnight. Suddenly every card warns of deception, and nowhere feels safe. Shaynie and Cameron have to fight for their love – and their lives – as The Devil, their stalker, is determined to turn the Death Card for them both.


Would I recommend it?:


Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2- If You Could See What I See – Cathy Lamb


What’s it all about?:

In this moving, insightful new novel, acclaimed author Cathy Lamb delves into the heart of going home again, the challenge of facing loss—and the freedom of finally letting go…

For decades, the women in Meggie O’Rourke’s family have run Lace, Satin, and Baubles, a lingerie business that specialises in creations as exquisitely pretty as they are practical. The dynamic in Meggie’s family, however, is perpetually dysfunctional. In fact, if Meggie weren’t being summoned back to Portland, Oregon, by her grandmother, she’d be inclined to stay away all together.

Since her husband’s death a year ago, Meggie’s emotions have been in constant flux, and so has her career as a documentary film maker. Finding ways to keep the family business afloat—and dealing with her squabbling sister and cousin—will at least give her a temporary focus. To draw customers to their website, Meggie decides to interview relatives and employees about their first bras and favorite lingerie. She envisions something flip and funny, but the confessions that emerge are unexpectedly poignant. There are stories of first loves and aching regrets, passionate mistakes and surprising rendezvous. And as the revelations illuminate her family’s past, Meggie begins to find her own way forward.

With warmth and unflinching humour, If You Could See What I See explores the tender truths we keep close—and what can happen when we find the courage to bare them to the world.


Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


3 – Vatican Waltz – Roland Merullo


What’s it all about?:

This book is for those who want a journey of the soul. What were your feelings about God, the Divine, your own soul when you were growing up? Did you go to the church of your parents? Being in that building, where your family said their prayers, did it inspire you also?

This book is about a young girl growing up with the gift of being a mystic. Sometimes, no words are needed to reach the heart of Divine love. Silence is the fare for admission to the land where you encounter the God/Goddess.
This young girl grows up with the gift of contemplative prayer. She shares her prayer life with her parish priest, who sees before him a future saint in the making. She receives messages from the Divine voice & visions that the Catholic Church in America is dying. Little or no vocations to the Priesthood. Her visions tell Her its time for Women to become Priests, like in the times of the Apostles. This voice is so strong that Her parish priest writes to an archbishop, who is willing to see Her. This archbishop doesn’t share Her vision for the catholic Church, for Women have been banned for centuries. But he sees that this young Woman is special. He can’t put his finger on it though.
So, He asks someone higher up, in the holy city of Rome, the Vatican, to see Her.

And off goes this young, innocent Woman, on a plane for the 1st time. But before She lands in Rome, a group of people knows She coming, and why. Would you have the faith, the trust in your soul, to obey the Divine voice & visions? This is an unexpected journey, full of excitement, danger & perhaps a change in the wind. Take this trip of the spirit. It could one day be yours to make also.


Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

4- Beloved Strangers: A Memoir – Maria Chaudhuri


What’s it all about?:

On and on we dream, we wish, we love – no matter that the dreams come to an end, the wishes evolve or that love dissipates like dust in the wind. Perhaps, what matters only is that we have lived long enough to dream, hard enough to wish and indisputably enough to love. One of Maria’s early memories growing up in Dhaka is of planning to run away with her friend Nadia. Even then, Maria couldn’t quite figure out why she longed to escape. It is not that home is an unhappy place. It’s just that in her family, joy is ephemeral. With a mother who yearns for the mountains, the solitude and freedom to pursue her own dreams and career, and a charismatic but distant father who finds it difficult to expresses emotion, they are never able to hold on to happiness for very long. Maria studies the Holy Book, says her daily prayers and wonders if God is watching her. She dreams, like her mother, of unstitching the seam of her life.

It is her neighbour, Bablu, the Imitator of Frogs, who both excites and repulses Maria by showing her a yellowing pornographic magazine, but it is Mala, a girl her own age who comes to work in their house, whose wise eyes and wicked smile makes her dizzy with longing. When she moves to New England for university at eighteen Maria meets Yameen, a man who lives in a desperately squalid apartment in Jersey City, woos her with phone calls and a marathon night of drinking in New York bars, and is not what he seems… From Dhaka to New York, this is a candid and moving account of growing up and growing away, a meditation on why people leave their homes and why they sometimes find it difficult to return. “Beloved Strangers” is an unforgettable memoir marking the arrival of a brilliant new voice from Bangladesh.


Would I recommend it?:


Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP SOON ON MY PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Books That Fall Into My “Random” Category!

Talking About Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner with Chrissi Reads

Published October 12, 2016 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

Mid-December, and Cambridgeshire is blanketed with snow. Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw tries to sleep after yet another soul-destroying Internet date – the low murmuring of her police radio her only solace.

Over the airwaves come reports of a missing woman – door ajar, keys and phone left behind, a spatter of blood on the kitchen floor. Manon knows the first 72 hours are critical: you find her, or you look for a body. And as soon as she sees a picture of Edith Hind, a Cambridge post-graduate from a well-connected family, she knows this case will be big.

Is Edith alive or dead? Was her ‘complex love life’ at the heart of her disappearance, as a senior officer tells the increasingly hungry press? And when a body is found, is it the end or only the beginning?

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Discuss the choices that Manon makes – both professional and private.

BETH: When I first started this book I honestly wasn’t sure what to make of Manon but it wasn’t long before I was completely won over. I love how we really get to know her character through a much more thorough exploration of her private life than is usually found in crime novels. She has quite a colourful love life in her search to find “the one,” parts of which were really very funny and made me warm both to the character and the author. Later on in the novel, she also makes a hugely personal decision regarding a child to call her own and this made her much more relatable and “real” as an individual. Generally speaking, she is very professional in her workplace but there are a couple of wobbles…. which again, made her more human in my eyes.

BETH: There are strong female characters in this novel. Discuss whether crime novels feel different with female leads centre stage.

CHRISSI: I do think they feel different with female leads at the centre of the novels. Quite often, there are male leads in crime fiction and I think it feels really refreshing to have a female lead. Especially one as strong as Manon!

CHRISSI: Discuss how Susie Steiner structures the novel to create tension?

BETH: I think the author does this in a great way by using multiple narratives which I love in a novel and in this one, they are particularly effective. We get to hear from Manon, her colleague Davey and the missing girl’s mother Miriam, amongst others. At times, it almost felt like each perspective ended on a little cliffhanger before a different one started. This meant that I was always eager to read “just one more chapter,” so I could get back to the thrilling perspective that I had been reading beforehand, if that makes any sense!

BETH: Who was your favourite character in this novel and why?

CHRISSI:  I really liked the character Manon because she’s such a strong female lead. I liked how she was so independent and headstrong but she had a vulnerability about her at the same time. I also loved reading about her dating mishaps. It made her incredibly relatable.

CHRISSI: Did you find the book predictable in any way?

BETH: Maybe at times but it didn’t affect my enjoyment on any level at all. I think I always had an idea in my head about who was responsible (either directly or indirectly) for the disappearance of Edith but the way in which everything unravelled was excellent. Also, I didn’t guess the reasons behind why Edith went missing – that was all very complicated and quite extensive.

BETH: You’re not normally a crime fiction fan – did this book change your mind in any way?

CHRISSI: If I’m totally honest, no. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I did. I just don’t think crime fiction is my thing. It’s certainly not my go to genre.

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to other crime reads that you’ve read?

BETH: Very favourably! As I know you’re aware, I always worry that crime reads are going to be a bit “samey” for me and there was something about Missing, Presumed that made it stand out in the genre. Perhaps it was the humour running through it, which I really appreciated or perhaps it was the characters who I really enjoyed getting to know, especially Manon. Either way, it’s certainly a series that I would be interested in continuing.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I liked Susie Steiner’s writing style so I’d certainly consider it!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!


BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):


CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art



Short Stories Challenge – Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Published October 10, 2016 by bibliobeth


What’s Red Letter Day all about?:

Red Letter Day tells the story of a grief-stricken mother who decides to go on a special journey to try and find peace.

What did I think?:

There are a few things I am really enjoying about this short story collection by Kate Mosse. The first one is the author notes she pops in after each story which lets the reader know what inspired her to write it, where the idea for the story first came from and why she chose to set it where she did. Occasionally I do like my stories to have a bit of mystique and decide things about it for myself but for some reason with this collection, the author notes really work and didn’t spoil the magic by any means.

Red Letter Day is quite a sad little tale, focusing on a grieving young mother who lost her young son three years ago when he was a baby and has never recovered from the tragedy, despite the usual cliches she is being subjected to by well-meaning friends i.e. “time is a great healer.” She feels a great connection to a village near the Pyrenees in France which has a horrific history that involved a lot of violence and bloodshed in medieval times. The decision for her is an easy one. She resolves to go to the castle where many years ago, hundreds of men and women walked into a fire rather than renounce their faith. After considering it for a while, and coming upon the knowledge that she had an ancestor there at that particular time, she is certain that this is the only way she will find peace. I think we can perhaps guess what she is planning to do?

I quite enjoyed this story for the most part and although I felt terribly sorry for our lead female character, I didn’t feel like I connected with her as much as I would have liked. Perhaps finding out more of her back story would have helped but I felt a strange detachment to her and what she was planning to do. What about her family – parents, husband/partner, friends? Were they even a factor in her deciding to take this path? I did however love the historical fiction part of the story and it reminded me very much of the author’s novels Labyrinth and Citadel, told with as much passion and knowledge as I have come to expect from the writings of Kate Mosse. She is also a wonder at setting a scene and although this story isn’t super-creepy in any way, there is something vastly unsettling and tragic about it, especially when you consider the subject matter and I certainly wanted to know what was going to happen at the end, even if it was slightly predictable.

Would I recommend it?:


Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors