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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Melanie's Month in Review - November 2019


Melanie's Month in Review - November 2019


Happy belated Thanksgiving to any and all American readers who celebrate. I hope you had a great time and there was lots of pumpkin pie on hand. I miss pumpkin pie. The Brits don't really eat it and so hard to get good pumpkin. Ho hum....although there are lots of British desserts that I can scoff instead 😋


November was a busy reading month for me as I am one of the Qwillery's agents for SPFBO5. It was the month where we read each other's choice for semi-finalist. Despite thinking I had loads of time to get them all read at a leisurely pace I ended up struggling with one of them and that seemed to eat my reading time. However, despite that the Qwillery's reviewing team made its selection to go forward to the finals. Check out the blog to find out which book we picked.  But the big question I am sure you are asking ....is what else did I read?


Melanie's Month in Review - November 2019
For those of you who follow this series you will remember that in October I was listening to the audio version of the Sally Lockhart series by Philip Pullman. I have the two final books to tell you about starting with The Tiger in the Well. This instalment is set 3-4 years after The Tin Princess and Sally is now a mother, successful business woman and enjoying life surrounded by her friends. When she receives a summons to appear in court charged with abandoning the husband she knows she never married and to hand over custody of her most beloved daughter Harriett, Sally couldn't possibly imagine the chaos that her life would become. Someone was working behind the scenes to dismantle the life that Sally has so carefully made for herself. On the run with her daughter Sally has to figure out who is pulling the strings and why they want to take everything and everyone she loves away from her.

I listened to these books back to back and I rather spoiled it for myself.  I had to take a bit of a break after the first few chapters as I felt a bit like too much of a Sally at once wasn't a good thing. I needed to savour the plotline so gave it a rest of a week or so and then tucked back in. This story is very suspenseful as Sally is nearly thwarted every other page.  I did think she was a bit dim in not guessing who was behind her downfall and I found myself wanting to give Sally a bit of a shake. It's a great end to Sally's story though and Anton Lesser does another stellar job bring her and all the east end characters to life.


Melanie's Month in Review - November 2019
The Tin Princess is not about Sally. This story is about Sally's best friend Jim and his adventure with with Adelaide, the little girl he helped rescue in book 1. Adelaide has been missing for many years but she is back and out to become a princess of the made up country of Razkavia. Jim is hired as Adelaide's bodyguard and he will need every trick up his cockney sleeve to protect the princess.

The big mystery in The Tin Princess is not who is trying to harm the Princess or how Jim is going to save the day. The mystery is why Pullman chose to write this story in the first place. Other than Sally having a very minor part at the both ends of the book it isn't a book about her despite it being the 4th instalment in the Sally Lockhart series. The story is OK but definitely the weakest of the four. The aspect that I have liked about the other books is that there was a historical element to the story which gave it a hint of realism. Much of the The Tin Princess was set in a fictional country and Adelaide with her strong east end London accent and lack of education would not have been a top pick to marry into the royal family. I found this aspect of the plot to be a combo of Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries. Another minor downside in the audio version is the change in narrator. This time the story is told by Nigel Anthony and the change in 'voice' was a bit jarring after spending 3 books with Anton Lesser's version of Jim.


Melanie's Month in Review - November 2019
The other book I listened to was I, Partridge: We need to talk by Alan Partridge and narrated by Alan Partridge. Alan Partridge is the brain child of Steve Coogan, a famous British Comedian. I won't go into too much detail because Alan Partridge is a bit marmite (you either love him or hate him). If you are a fan then get the audio version because quite simply 'its hilarious!'.







Check out the review of the other book I read in November - Kitty Peck and the Parliament of Shadows.


Well that's it for me and November. I hope you have found some great books to tuck into along with some pumpkin pie! Until next time Happy Reading!

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019


Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019


Apologies dear readers. I had so wanted to get my October Month in Review posted in October. I could have done it and was pretty close to having it written. Alas, the lurgy hit with probably the worst case of sinusitus I have had in at least a decade. I could barely think let alone write a review. There was almost tears folks especially when my GP told me she didn't want to give me any antibiotics because of the growing resistance to them.  Boooo. I am not quite 100% but thought I better get my review out to you before it turned into an October & November months in review. So what did I read?


Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
I am going to start with what I listened to rather than the first book I devoured in October. All hail the fantastic combination of Philip Pullman and Michael Sheen with The Secret Commonwealth the second in the Book of Dust series. If you read my September post you will know that I thoroughly enjoyed book 1 La Belle Sauvage (the audio version) and this instalment is even better. Set 20 years later and Lyra is now a young woman, studying at university while Malcolm in a professor and agent of Oakley street. When Lyra's daemon Pantalaimon witnesses the murder of a botanist no one would have ever guessed the epic journey he and Lyra would find themselves on. Across Europe and to Asia Lyra, Pan and separately, Malcolm find themselves on the search for  a city haunted by daemons and to uncover the secret of Dust. All with the Ministerium's agents in hot pursuit. The race is on!

I thoroughly enjoyed The Secret Commonwealth even though I found the adult Lyra a bit obnoxious in parts. Michael Sheen's performance narrating this tale is a masterpiece. He had me on the edge of my seat throughout. There is one scene in a train station and he does so many different voices it was like you are watching a play or a movie. Pullman successfully advances the plot line, in fact, several different plot threads and slowly develops Lyra and Pan. He has been quite ambitious and I think he is going to struggle to wrap everything up in the final book. I am not sure how he is going to do it without leaving a few teasers. Just a note to parents and guardians. This isn't a suitable book for a younger reader due to one of the scenes is quite disturbing and adult in nature. I don't want to say any more and give anything away.  For anyone who isn't a young reader and fans of this series this is a must read and for added tension go for the audio version.



Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
Next up is Mark Lawrence's One Word Kill which is the first in the series Impossible Times. Set in the mid 80's Nick is a pretty normal Dungeon and Dragons loving teen. He has friends and doing OK in school and things start to look up when the new girl  in school decides to join his group of friends and D&D games. Everything changes when he finds out he is dying...dying from cancer. The diagnosis is only the start of big changes that are about to take hold of his life.  A strange, yet very familiar man enters his life with a cryptic message and an uncanny knowledge of Nick's life. He has to save the girl. What can this mean and why? Nick is soon to discover that something or someone else might end his life before the cancer does and its game on.

I enjoyed One Word Kill. While the plot isn't that challenging (I always guessed what would happen next) it was quick and enjoyable read. It wasn't as harrowing as some of Lawrence's other novels which was a bit of a change for me. I thought Nick was a believable D&D fan who had a 'Stranger Things' like group of friends that all had their own part to play in the story. The plot was well paced but while Nick was well developed, not all of the characters were. Certain characters, especially the main villain were a bit one dimensional. However, Nick's experiences with chemo and the people he met while having it were very believable and true to life. I don't know if Lawrence has personal experience with childhood cancer/cancer treatment but this was very well done. I have book number 2 - Limited Wish all ready to go. Stay tuned to find out what happens next.


Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
Back to my audio selection - I went back in time but still on a Pullman theme and listened to his Sally Lockhart series. In this post I am going to tell you about the first 2 novels The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North. I read these novels around the same time as His Dark Materials but Pullman first published them in the late 80s. The Ruby in the Smoke is set in the late 19th century and the teenage Sally believes her father has died in a tragic accident on sailing back from Singapore. When she receives a cryptic message from her father she couldn't possible imagine the dangerous mystery she would be embroiled in. Lucky for Sally she meets people who would soon become her family and they would do anything to keep her out of harms way.  It's a mystery of a different kind on The Shadow in the North. Sally is now in her early 20s and a financial consultant. When one of her clients loses all their life savings in an failed investment Sally is determined to uncover what has gone wrong and to get the money back. This mystery takes Sally and her friends all over London and England following the money trail with rather tragic results.

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
The audio version is narrated by Anton Lesser (think Game of Thrones) which was quite interesting to have a male narrator when the majority of the book is told from one of the female characters POV. He is excellent. While maybe Lesser doesn't generate quite as much excitement as Michael Sheen he is a very, very gifted actor and is very believable with both female and male voices. Both books are very enjoyable with a great mysteries to solve and a great set of characters to join Sally. I especially loved Jim, Sally's friend. He has all the best lines and would do anything to protect Sally and all their friends. Whether you chose to read the traditional book version or the audio version these are a great series of books that give you a glimpse into life in late 19th century England.


Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
Last up is Bec McMaster's newest Promise of Darkness which is book 1 of the Dark Court Rising series. Princess Iskvien is caught in the middle of the war between the Queen of Thorns and the Prince of Evernight. As part of an ancient treaty the Princess is forced to become a political hostage for three months. Her mother expects her kill the Prince when she is in his court but one look into his handsome face she knows she can't end his life. The longer Vi is around the Prince the more something doesn't seem right. He doesn't seem to be as evil as her mother has portrayed. Who is telling the truth? Who is the real enemy? Vi has only three months to find out.

This book is described as a twisted fairy tale and that is a an apt description. The story is full of the fairy courts, demons and mythology the romance between Vi and Thiago is almost secondary to that back story. I thought this book was a teeny tiny departure for McMaster in the hot and heavy didn't start between our lovebirds until nearly the end of the book. I really felt that McMaster was telling a story rather than than just bringing two characters together in an romantic entanglement. I will definitely will continue with this series.


Well folks that is it for me and October...or October in November. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I get rid of this cold and feeling fit as a fiddle so that I can share with you my November reads before mid December. Until next time Happy Reading.





The Secret Commonwealth
The Book of Dust 2
Audible Audiobook, October 3, 2019

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
The #1 New York Times Bestseller!

Return to the world of His Dark Materials—soon to be an HBO original series starring Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, and Lin-Manuel Miranda—in the second volume of Philip Pullman’s new bestselling masterwork The Book of Dust.


The windows between the many worlds have been sealed and the momentous adventures of Lyra Silvertongue’s youth are long behind her—or so she thought. Lyra is now a twenty-year-old undergraduate at St. Sophia’s College and intrigue is swirling around her once more. Her daemon Pantalaimon is witness to a brutal murder, and the dying man entrusts them with secrets that carry echoes from their past.

The more Lyra is drawn into these mysteries, the less she is sure of. Even the events of her own past come into question when she learns of Malcolm Polstead’s role in bringing her to Jordan College.

Now Lyra and Malcolm will travel far beyond the confines of Oxford, across Europe and into the Levant, searching for a city haunted by daemons, and a desert said to hold the truth of Dust. The dangers they face will challenge everything they thought they knew about the world, and about themselves.





One Word Kill
Impossible Times 1
47North, May 1, 2019
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 204 pages

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
Ready Player One meets Stranger Things in this new novel by the bestselling author whom George RR Martin describes as “an excellent writer.”

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted.





The Ruby in the Smoke
Sally Lockhart 1
Audible, June 16, 2004

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
In search of clues to the mystery of her father's death, 16-year-old Sally Lockhart ventures into the shadowy underworld of Victorian London. Pursued by villains at every turn, the intrepid Sally finally uncovers two dark mysteries, and realizes that she herself is the key to both.


The Shadow in the North
Sally Lockhart 2
Audible, November 17, 2004

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
An elderly lady loses her money on an investment; a conjuror is pursued by thugs; and a clairvoyant mentions the name of the richest man in Europe and his mysterious company. Seemingly unconnected events set Sally Lockhart on the trail of an evil far more awful than she could ever imagine.

This thriller, by the author of The Ruby in the Smoke, evokes its 19th century setting and at the same time remains remarkably contemporary in the originality of its plot and larger-than-life characters. An unabridged reading of Philip Pullman's nerve-shattering thriller.





Promise of Darkness
Dark Court Rising 1
Lochaber Press Pty Ltd, September 17, 2019
eBook, 430 pages

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
Princess. Tribute. Sacrifice. Is she the one prophesied to unite two warring Fae courts? Or the one bound to destroy them?

In a realm ruled by magic, the ruthless Queen of Thorns is determined to destroy her nemesis, the cursed Prince of Evernight.

With war brewing between the bitter enemies, the prince forces Queen Adaia to uphold an ancient treaty: she will send one of her daughters to his court as a political hostage for three months.

The queen insists it’s the perfect opportunity for Princess Iskvien to end the war before it begins. But one look into Thiago’s smoldering eyes and Vi knows she’s no assassin.

The more secrets she uncovers about the prince and his court, the more she begins to question her mother’s motives.

Who is the true enemy? The dark prince who threatens her heart? Or the ruthless queen who will stop at nothing to destroy him?

And when the curse threatens to shatter both courts, is her heart strong enough to break it?

Join USA Today bestselling author, Bec McMaster, on a seductive journey through a mythic land, with a wicked prince who holds a thousand secrets, a princess determined to uncover the truth, and an evil queen who threatens to tear them apart. Download this epic fantasy filled with magic and breathtaking romance today!
Melanie's Month in Review - November 2019Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019

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