British Books Challenge 2017

All posts in the British Books Challenge 2017 category

The Immortals – S.E. Lister

Published September 19, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Rosa Hyde is the daughter of a time-traveller, stuck in the year 1945. Forced to live through it again, and again, and again. All she ever wanted was to be free from that year, and from the family who keep her there.

She breaks out at last and falls through time, slipping from one century to another, unable to choose where she goes. And she is not alone. Wandering with her is Tommy Rust, time-gypsy and daredevil, certain in his heart of hearts that he will live forever.

Their journeys take them from the ancient shores of forming continents to the bright lights of future cities. They tell themselves that they need no kind of home. That they are anything but lost.

But then comes Harding, the soldier who has fought for a thousand years, and everything changes. Could Harding hold the key to staying in one place, one time? Or will the centuries continue to slip through Rosa’s fingers, as the tides take her further and further away from everything she has grown to love?

What did I think?:

First of all, can I just talk about this gorgeous cover? I posted a photo of it on my Instagram as I was reading it and it seriously does not do justice to how stunning the cover art actually is. I was recommended this book on a reading spa I went to with my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath. If you haven’t been there before, I highly highly recommend it. Not just for the reading spa which was amazing (and the second one that we’ve actually had there!) but the bookshop itself is just beautiful and the staff so knowledgeable and friendly. Check out their website HERE and my post about our first reading spa HERE. Anyway, back to the book! I was so sure this was going to be a five star read for me, purely from the synopsis. It came ever so close in the end but didn’t quite make it. However, I urge you with every fibre of my being to read this book as everything from the writing, setting and characters is all kinds of fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment I spent reading it – it’s truly a story to be savoured.

In a similar manner to The Time Traveller’s Wife (another of my all time favourite reads) The Immortals follows a young woman called Rosa who is forced to travel forwards and backwards in time without much control. Her father was a time traveller himself although he became stuck in one particular year, 1945 which he is obliged to re-live again and again every New Years’s Eve when he travels right back to the beginning of the year with his wife, Rosa and her younger sister. Rosa is aware that her father is re-living this nightmare year because of a traumatic event in his past that he refuses to come to terms with but she is getting fed up of it so decides to run away and live her own life, flitting from decade to decade and embarking on crazy, wonderful and in some cases, not so wonderful adventures. She meets a host of interesting people, including Tommy Rust who becomes her time-travelling buddy for many years but it isn’t until she meets a distressed soldier called Harding that she begins to realise the nature of time and the effect it could be having on her body.

Can I just say – what an imagination this author has to be able to write a fantastical time-travel novel such as this? It’s beautifully layered, complex yet easy to read at the same time and filled with some brilliant, wonderfully drawn characters that instantly pull you into their lives and make you care about them, even if you might question some of their actions at times. I had an especially hard time with Rosa. Some of her motives and decisions are incredibly selfish and questionable as she jumps backward and forward in time yet still she seems to learn from her experiences and I felt a strange sort of affection for her as the novel progressed. The only thing I’m in a bit of a muddle about is the character of Harding. He appears relatively late on in the narrative and, on reflection, I think it would have been a slightly stronger story if he had appeared earlier and we had learned more about him as a character as I was infinitely more interested in his past than I was in Tommy Rust’s. That’s probably the only reason I haven’t given this novel a higher rating. Otherwise, this is everything I could ever want from a novel – captivating writing, magical elements, amazing world-building….go and read it!!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):




The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

Published September 17, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The “volcanically sexy” (USA Today) bestseller about a widow and her daughter who take a young couple into their home in 1920s London.

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize three times, Sarah Waters has earned a reputation as one of our greatest writers of historical fiction.

What did I think?:

I first came across the wonderful Sarah Waters in her novel Fingersmith that I read in my pre-blogging days and remains on my bookshelves as one of my favourite books. Goodness knows why it took me so long to get around to another one of her novels, I’ve had them on my TBR for ages! However, when The Paying Guests was short-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for fiction in 2015 and I had heard nothing but rave reviews for it, I knew it was time to pick it up. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’ve come across a book for a long time that is so incredibly close to that five star, perfect read. The Paying Guests was a heady mixture of gorgeous writing, tantalising characters and a plot that shook me to my core with the unexpected nature of it all.

I’ll just briefly describe what the book is about and I’ll try to be as vague as possible as frustratingly, there’s a lot about this novel that I simply can’t tell you and I do very much hate spoilers in a review. It is the 1920’s, post war in Britain and Mrs Wray and her daughter Frances have realised that times have changed. They have lost all the men in their family – three sons to the war (their deaths having a daily, ruinous effect on the household) and Frances’ father who recently passed away and left the family in terrible debt. As a result, they are forced to take in lodgers or “paying guests” hence the title of the novel. The arrival of married couple, Lilian and Leonard Barber makes an enormous impact on both Frances and her mother and has dire consequences for the rest of their lives.

I simply can’t say anymore than that, I really want you to discover it all for yourself. There are twists and turns in the narrative that I have to say, I did not see coming and was absolutely delighted to discover a story with so much convoluted detail, both in plot and with Sarah Waters’ endlessly fascinating characters. Frances at first comes across incredibly prickly, bitter and difficult but as we get to know her better she becomes so intriguing and she still plays on my mind long after finishing the novel. Lilian too is beautifully drawn and just as captivating to read about, especially in the second half of the story where certain incidents precipitate a thrilling and tense situation where I had no idea how on earth Sarah Waters was going to wrap it up. The sheer allure of the writing, the atmosphere of post war London which the author captures to perfection, and these amazing characters means Sarah Waters is instantly pushed onto my list of favourite authors and I’ll certainly be getting to another one of her novels as soon as I can.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The House On The Hill by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales.

Published September 16, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The House On The Hill all about?:

Set in the 1920’s, this is the story of a young woman who goes to visit her cousin in the countryside and her experiences with a house on the estate that has a strange light burning in one of its windows.

What did I think?:

When I first got my hands on this short story collection I was quite excited. Kate Mosse is a great British author and I have enjoyed her novels in the past but what I love most about her writing is when she turns things a little bit darker, eerie and Gothic. The name of this collection perfectly describes the stories within: “haunting tales,” that are all a little mysterious and unsettling in their execution. I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve read so far but haven’t been overly blown away – until now. The House On The Hill was a wonderful short story and a perfect example of Kate Mosse’s writing at its absolute finest. It reminded me a lot of Daphne du Maurier and was the ideal story to curl up with when the weather is turning a little bit colder as we head into Autumn.

Our female protagonist is actually called Daphne (strange coincidence?) and when it begins, she is staying for a weekend with her cousin Teddy, at a house he has leased for a party called Dean Hall. We get the sense that Daphne is a little fragile, she mentions a husband called Douglas who has recently left her but we don’t learn too much about the circumstances of this until much later on in the narrative. Daphne is instantly attracted both to a large dolls house in the property that is exquisite in its detail, down to the intricate furniture and folded letter in the study and to another much larger actual house on the estate. She notices the house on her first night when she seems to see a light in one of the windows which is extinguished almost as soon as she begins watching. It is not until after the party that night when she is woken up suddenly by a strange light in the sky and when she looks outside, the house on the hill appears to be burning. It is now that the story really ramps up a gear and we learn much more about the mysterious house, its connection with the dolls house in Dean Hall and about Daphne herself and what she has had to suffer in her past.

Kate Mosse has really outdone herself with this story. I love being pleasantly surprised, especially by a short story as there really isn’t that much time to engage with the reader in comparison with a longer novel. The author has pulled it off flawlessly and the unexpected nature of what happens in the second half of the tale was not only delightful to read but utterly compelling and brilliant. I always appreciate a darker, more ghostly edge to a story and the atmosphere that was created in The House On The Hill was almost magical and definitely transported me to a different time and place. This is easily my favourite story in the collection so far and I’m now highly anticipating the ones to come – although they’ve got quite a lot to live up to now!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: The Man In The Ditch by Lisa Tuttle from the collection A Book Of Horrors.

Blog Tour – Prisoner Of Ice And Snow – Ruth Lauren

Published September 15, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In a thrilling fantasy that’s equal parts Prison Break and Frozen, Valor attempts the impossible—breaking her sister out of prison.

When Valor is arrested, she couldn’t be happier. Demidova’s prison for criminal children is exactly where she wants to be. Valor’s sister Sasha is already serving a life sentence for stealing from the royal family and Valor is going to help her escape . . . from the inside.

Never mind that no one has escaped in three hundred years. Valor has a plan and resources most could only dream about. But she didn’t count on having to outsmart both the guards and her fellow prisoners. If Valor’s plan is to succeed, she’ll need to make unlikely allies. And if the plan fails, she and Sasha could end up with fates worse than prison.

This fresh and exciting middle-grade debut effortlessly melds an unforgettable protagonist, a breathless plot, and stunning world-building—and is impossible to put down. An unforgettable story of sisterhood, valour and rebellion, Prisoner of Ice and Snow will fire you up and melt your heart all at once. Perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell, Piers Torday and Cathryn Constable.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Faye who invited me to be part of this blog tour and to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for providing me with a free copy of Prisoner Of Ice And Snow in exchange for an honest review. As soon as Faye emailed with the synopsis of this book, of course I knew I had to have it straight away. This middle grade fiction and epic fantasy/adventure story was a joy to read with strong characterisation, a compelling plot and a beautiful message of sisterhood that I really appreciated. Basically, anything that is compared to “a cross between Prison Break and Frozen,” is bound to make me want to read it!

Prisoner Of Ice And Snow is set in the cold and wintry climate of Demidova (a land comparable perhaps to Russia) and when we meet our heroine Valor she is attempting to shoot a member of the royal family with her crossbow. However, there is method to her madness. Her twin sister Sasha was recently accused of stealing a precious and hugely important music box that was meant form part of a peace treaty with the neighbouring land, Magadanskya. Sasha has been given a life sentence in the notorious prison, Tyur’ma and now, after her attempt on Prince Anatol’s life, Valor will now join her, which of course was her grand plan all along. You see, Valor has a brilliant plan for them both to escape (even though nobody has actually managed to escape in three hundred years) and she is so determined and devoted to her sister that she might just pull it off.

There was so much in this book to love, I’m not quite sure where to start. The nods to Russia were wonderful and was one of the things that attracted me to the book in the first place but the best thing about the novel for me personally would have to be the character of Valor and her relationship with her sister, Sasha. Valor is one of the bravest fictional females I’ve come across in recent times and I had nothing but admiration and excitement for her tenacity, sheer ruthlessness and self belief that she would manage to free both herself and Sasha. There are a lot of terrible things that happen to the children in Tyur’ma and what amazed me about Valor is that even though she had some hideous and horrific experiences, not once did she think about giving up. Her love and protectiveness for Sasha never wavered, even at the toughest of times and it occasionally brought tears to my eyes as I was reminded of my close relationship with my own sister. Not only do we have Valor and Sasha but we have a multitude of other fascinating characters that I instantly adored, including street urchin Felixs, Valor’s cellmate Katia and the intriguing Prince Anatol. Combined with an action-packed plot that leaves you scarce able to draw breath I am incredibly excited to see where Valor and Sasha’s story will take them next – especially after THAT ending.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):



Ruth Lauren lives in the West Midlands in England with her family and a lot of cats. She likes chocolate, walking in the woods, cheese, orchids, going to the movies, and reading as many books as she can. She’s been a teacher and worked in lots of different offices, but she likes writing best. Prisoner of Ice and Snow is her debut novel.




Thank you once again to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a great time doing it. Prisoner Of Ice And Snow was published on 7th September 2017 and is available from all good book retailers now. Why not check out some of the other stops on the tour?

Goodreads Link:

Amazon Link:

The Last Letter From Your Lover – Jojo Moyes

Published September 12, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A sophisticated, page-turning double love story spanning forty years-an unforgettable Brief Encounter for our times. 

It is 1960. When Jennifer Stirling wakes up in the hospital, she can remember nothing-not the tragic car accident that put her there, not her husband, not even who she is. She feels like a stranger in her own life until she stumbles upon an impassioned letter, signed simply “B”, asking her to leave her husband.

Years later, in 2003, a journalist named Ellie discovers the same enigmatic letter in a forgotten file in her newspaper’s archives. She becomes obsessed by the story and hopeful that it can resurrect her faltering career. Perhaps if these lovers had a happy ending she will find one to her own complicated love life, too. Ellie’s search will rewrite history and help her see the truth about her own modern romance.

A spellbinding, intoxicating love story with a knockout ending, The Last Letter from Your Lover will appeal to the readers who have made One Day and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society bestsellers.

What did I think?:

In my quest to read everything on one of my favourite authors back-list of works, The Last Letter From Your Lover was next on my agenda and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I had heard that this novel was slightly more romance based than her previous novels and I’ve got to admit, I do tend to be a bit cynical of these kind of books. The romance aspect has to be done “just right,” for me and I find that it’s often a fine line between melting this cold heart of mine or just making me feel slightly sick. Jojo Moyes is one of those magical authors that gets it right every single time and I find her characters so warm and easy to relate to whilst managing to tug a little on my heart-strings, the latter of which is quite difficult to do, believe me!

Like many of her previous novels, the author uses two different time-lines to form a compelling and beautiful narrative. The first (and my favourite) is set in the early sixties and follows our protagonist, Jennifer Stirling who wakes up in hospital after a car accident with amnesia. She can’t even recollect her husband, friends or household staff at first and finds it very difficult to adjust when so many of her memories have completely disappeared. Then she finds a letter addressed to her which begs her to leave her husband, signed only with the letter B. We follow her story as she desperately attempts to recover her memory and piece together the puzzle of firstly, who B is and why it is imperative that she should break up her marriage. The second story is set in the present day and follows another young woman, Ellie who finds the old letters from B in a library and sets on her own mission to learn the story behind the doomed lovers, hoping that it will bring happiness into her own life as a result.

I adore how effective Jojo Moyes is in using dual perspectives and time-lines to tell a story. I have to be honest and say I wasn’t as keen on Ellie’s story although I appreciated why it was important to the novel. However, Jennifer’s story completely grabbed my attention and it was almost with bated breath I would wait for her section to roll around again, just so I could find out what was happening in her life. The love story between Jennifer and B is so touching and I was incredibly moved by her plight, the situation she found herself in post accident and how she managed to build herself up and start demanding answers from her to be frank, poor excuse for a husband. If I had to compare it with some of the authors previous books, I think it stands perfectly as one of her most poignant narratives and by the end, I was just rooting for Jennifer, for B and for everyone to get that wonderful happy ending. As for my rating, the only reason I’ve taken half a star off is that Ellie’s story didn’t compel me as much as I would have hoped – for Jennifer’s story alone, this novel is a solid four stars.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT JOJO MOYES READ: Me Before You – coming soon!

The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street – Natasha Pulley

Published September 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something. When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a sweeping, atmospheric narrative that takes the reader on an unexpected journey through Victorian London, Japan as its civil war crumbles long-standing traditions, and beyond. Blending historical events with dazzling flights of fancy, it opens doors to a strange and magical past.

What did I think?:

I think this book has to win a prize based on that beautiful cover art alone, right? It’s absolutely stunning and has been staring at me from my shelves for the longest time. You know when you have a book on your TBR that you keep looking at but is almost too beautiful to read even though you’re eagerly anticipating it? (Maybe that’s just me then?!) Well, that’s what The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street was to me. My boyfriend had already listened to it on audio book and kept telling me that I needed to read this novel, I would love it but for some reason I kept hesitating. Thank goodness I’ve finally given in to my own hype and cracked it open because what I found within was truly wonderful and I’m still thinking about it now, weeks after finishing it, it made that big of an impression on me.

It’s approaching the end of the nineteenth century and our main character, Thaniel Steepleton is working at the Home Office in London as a telegraph operator. He is living in dangerous times where a rebel group of Irish terrorists, the Fenian Brotherhood are setting off bombs all across London. In fact, he almost loses his life to one of these bombs if it were not for a mysterious gold pocket watch that he finds in his bedroom one night that begins alarming just before the bomb explodes giving him time to leave the building and cheat certain death. Fascinated by the watch and how it came to be in his possession, he tracks down the watch-maker, one Keita Mori, a Japanese immigrant who has an intriguing back story all of his own and is wonderfully talented in the making of clockwork mechanisms, including Katsu, a rather annoying (but incredibly endearing) sock stealing, mechanical octopus. This is the story of the relationship between Thaniel and Keita but also of Thaniel’s relationship with Grace Carrow, a young scientist who tests his loyalty and bond with Keita in numerous ways.

The Watchmaker Of Filigree Street has such a convoluted plot that I’m very wary of going into too much detail. The beauty with a story like this is definitely discovering all the magical twists and turns and divine mixture of fact and fantasy for yourself. At times, it really is a slow burner of a novel – don’t expect much action or thrills if you decide to read this but this is more a story to be savoured, to understand and enjoy the delicious characters that Natasha Pulley has created and to marvel at all the small details you could easily miss if you weren’t fully invested in the story. Believe me, I was fully invested and at times completely overwhelmed with how gorgeous both the plot and the characters were. It gets complicated at times, that’s for sure but I thoroughly enjoyed the directions the author chose to take her characters in (which were wholly unexpected at points!). I fell head over heels in love with the writing, with Thaniel, Keita and Grace and in particular, with a certain clockwork octopus called Katsu where I fully believe that I desperately need one for myself! I’m so excited to find out that this is going to be a series, the next book is called Pepperharrow and is due for release by Bloomsbury at some point in 2018. I honestly can’t wait – I need it like right now.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


Talking About Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land with Chrissi Reads

Published September 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: I started this book a bit before you and told you how disturbing it was. Did you agree with my initial impression? What were your first impressions?

BETH: It was quite funny in a way. You started reading it and then texted me just two words – “Woah dude.” Then I got to the exact same point in the book that you did and texted you exactly the same thing! I know we usually hate comparisons and like that a book should stand on its own but as you said to me, this was one of the most disturbing things I’ve read since Gone Girl, I think. Obviously I don’t want to go into too many details for fear of spoilers but this novel is a lot darker, a lot twistier and more warped than I could have ever expected. You would think I might be expecting this if you read the synopsis? No, I wasn’t prepared for how “wrong,” it was going to get.

BETH: What did you think of the character of Phoebe? Could you sympathise with her at all?

CHRISSI: It’s an interesting question as Phoebe is such a complex character. I felt sorry for her because her home life was pretty horrific. Her mother didn’t have a great bond with her and she was feeling left out when Milly was getting a lot of attention from Phoebe’s parents. That can’t be nice. Especially when Phoebe’s mum gave Milly a gift that Phoebe thought was a precious thing between Phoebe and her mother. However, I didn’t feel comfortable with the bullying that Phoebe and her friends were inflicting upon Milly. Bullying should never be excused in my eyes!

CHRISSI: Ali Land is a Child and Adolescent Mental Health nurse – how do you think this affects the way she has written this novel?

BETH: I think it’s given her a perfect insight into mental illness in children, to be honest. She’s probably seen and experienced some things in her career and understands how a child may view a certain situation, what they might do and what kinds of emotions they might be experiencing as a result. Because of this, the novel came across as very authentic to me and as I mentioned before, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the directions the author took with the story.

BETH: Milly has to give evidence in a court in front of her mother – how do you think this was handled in the novel?

CHRISSI: I thought this was dealt with really well in the novel. Milly wanted to be there in court and this wasn’t disregarded because it was too tough for her. The adults around Milly seemed to listen to her. I also enjoyed how the court scenes were written. I loved how Milly’s mother’s presence was so strong in the novel. It was almost creepy. She felt like an incredibly evil character (what she did was awful!) and her little movements mentioned in the court scene made my skin crawl. I loved how the author made us feel her presence in court (despite Milly not physically seeing her) and how much Milly was aware of it.

CHRISSI: What does this story tell us about the question of nature vs nurture?

BETH: As a scientist (by day!) I probably could have a very scientific answer for you… 😝 but to be honest, I think the book explores both aspects. Is it the genes within us that programme us to be what we are and how we react to certain situations? Or is it the environment outside i.e. how we are brought up, who we interact with that determines our behaviour and actions. If I’m fair, poor Milly didn’t have much of a choice either way considering she was brought up with a serial killer for a mother. It’s how she responds when taken out of that situation however that gets very interesting.

BETH: How would you describe the relationship between Milly and her mother?

CHRISSI: In two words… incredibly unhealthy! I felt like Milly constantly struggled with the feelings towards her mother. It says it all really in the title ‘Good Me, Bad Me.’ Milly was so aware of what was right and wrong. She knew what her mother had done was wrong, yet she still felt a strong pull towards her, despite all of the awful things that had happened to her. Milly really was messed up by her mother and understandably so. Their relationship was toxic. Milly’s mother ‘training’ her daughter for such awful things…

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in its heavily populated genre?

BETH: I was a huge fan of this book. I think it stands heads and shoulders above quite a few books in the genre. I don’t know if it’s the writing style, the subject matter or the fact that the author isn’t afraid to go to incredibly dark places but I loved what she did with the story and even though it made me feel intensely uncomfortable and disgusted it was an unforgettable reading experience.

BETH: Would you read another novel by this author?

CHRISSI: I really would! This is such a promising debut novel. I loved how Ali Land didn’t shy away from such an uncomfortable topic.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):


CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):