Blog Talk: Temptations of a Book Blogger


A few weeks ago, I wrote about some of the temptations I’ve encountered as a novice book blogger. You can read my original post here.   Confession time: I’ve been better at warning others of temptations than I have at resisting them.

In particular, the temptation I referred to as The Author’s Best Friend Temptation – that seemingly irresistible urge (for me, anyway) to say ‘Yes’ to review requests from authors when you really should glance at your TBR pile and say ‘No’.  As a consequence, I’ve amassed quite a stack of books from indie authors needing review, some going back several months.

In an effort to make amends, I’ve decided to devote July to reading and reviewing as many of these books as I possibly can.  In order to do that, I’ve made a deliberate effort to limit my other commitments next month and read ahead as much as possible for blog tours or publication dates in July.

And what about some of the other temptations I identified, like The NetGalley Frenzy Temptation? Ah well, best draw a veil over that one for the time being. One confession is enough for now.


Blog Tour/Giveaway: Dark Dawn over Steep House by M.R.C. Kasasian


I’m thrilled to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Dark Dawn over Steep House by M. R. C. Kasasian, the fifth instalment in the bestselling The Gower Street Detective series. You can find my review of this fantastic read below.

WinI’m also delighted to give readers in UK & Ireland the chance to win one of two hardback copies of Dark Dawn over Steep House. Click on the link below to enter the giveaway which runs until 7th July 2017.

Enter the giveaway


DarkDawnoverSteepHouseAbout the Book

London, 1884. Sidney Grice – London’s foremost personal detective – is restless. Having filed his latest case under “S” for “Still to Be Solved”, he has returned to his book, A Brief History of Doorstep Whitening in Preston, to await further inspiration. His ward, March Middleton, remains determined to uncover the truth. Geraldine Hockaday, the daughter of a respected naval captain, was outraged on the murky streets of Limehouse. Yet her attacker is still on the loose. But then a chance encounter in an overcrowded cafe brings a new victim to light, and it seems clear March and Grice are on the trail of a serial offender. A trail that will lead them to the dining room of a Prussian Prince, the dingy hangout of an Armenian gangster, and the shadowy ruin of a once-loved family home, Steep House….

Format: Hardcover Publisher: Head of Zeus Pages: 473
Publication: 1st June 2017 Genre: Historical Mystery

Purchase Links* ǀ
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Dark Dawn over Steep House on Goodreads

My Review

I’ve been aware of this series for some time (especially their gorgeous covers) but never got around to reading one although I’m a great fan of historical mysteries. Therefore, I was delighted to be given the opportunity by Clare at Head of Zeus to read the latest in the series, Dark Dawn over Steep House. Having done so, I’ve now added all four of the previous books in the series to my wishlist!

The story is narrated by March Middleton, goddaughter of Sidney Grice. March also acts as chronicler of Grice’s cases in the manner of Dr John Watson for Sherlock Holmes. In fact, Grice holds a similarly low opinion of March’s literary efforts as does Holmes of Watson’s. Grice has the peculiar mannerisms, pedantic mode of speech and keen powers of observation and deduction worthy of his fictional counterpart. He is also socially inept, rude, possesses odd phobias and is apt to pounce on any lazy use of figurative speech. However, he is also the man to have in a crisis not least of which because of his superior hearing and sense of smell and seemingly endless range of canes adapted for use as weapons, mechanical devices and goodness knows what else.

I found some of Grice’s bon mots laugh out loud funny. When a client describes having fallen into an opium-fuelled stupor during an assault as being ‘almost asleep but still aware of what was going on’, he quips, ‘Like an evening at the opera.’

March acts as the yin to Grice’s yang being equipped with the normal social graces. She is plucky, resourceful and independent and being a woman, she can gain access to people and situations that Grice cannot (she has no aversion to the colour green). Furthermore, unlike her illustrious godfather, she can hold a conversation with someone without being rude to them but she has a sharp tongue when needed. Marsh has experienced tragedy in her life and has survived some perilous encounters in previous cases.

There are intriguing and enticing references to these cases scattered throughout the book but, sadly, no further information on the Great Frog Disaster of 1878 mentioned in the Goodreads blurb. I fear that, like the Giant Rat of Sumatra in the Sherlock Holmes tale ‘The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire’, this is ‘a story for which the world is not yet prepared’.

I loved the esoteric literary jokes such as the chapter entitled ‘The Empty House’ which, as Sherlock Holmes aficionados will know, is the title of one of his adventures. There is a brilliant scene where Sidney and March visit the office of solicitor, Silas Spry, and find his underemployed clerk whiling away his time by writing a novel.  Glancing at the manuscript, they are unimpressed by it and advise him to write about something he knows instead.

‘I only know about being a clerk and not a very good one at that,’ he snuffled. ‘Who would be interested in the diary of a nobody?’*

[Finally, this last example is for those already lucky enough to own a copy of the book. Out of curiosity, March reads the first page of the clerk’s manuscript: ‘There was a message engraved in the locket,’ I read aloud. ‘That is not a very exciting beginning.’ Now turn back to Chapter 1 of your copy of the book. ]

The writing captures the atmosphere of the period and provided me with some new words to add to my vocabulary: ‘eldritch’ meaning weird, sinister or ghostly; and ‘sough’ meaning a whispering sound.

So by now you’re probably thinking this book is rather light-hearted, a bit too clever for its own good and a not very compelling murder mystery. Well, you’re wrong because as the book progresses it gets much darker, in fact fairly gruesome in places.  The reader is transported to the seamy, squalid underbelly of 19th century London – its rat-infested slums, maze-like alleys, murky side streets and seedy opium dens ruled by gangs and criminals prepared to stop at nothing to protect their patch. And treachery, immorality and double-dealing reside behind the gentile facades of well-to-do London houses as well.

Dark Dawn over Steep House will bring you face to face with murder, kidnap, suicide, disfigurement and depravity. You’ll soon be immersed in the twists and turns of an intricately plotted mystery where nothing and no-one should be taken at face value.   Grice and Marsh are not infallible and as they close in on the perpetrator there are mistakes whose consequences must be lived with for ever.

I found the mixture of quirky humour, eccentric characters and compelling plot really entertaining and I hope there will be another outing for Sidney Grice and March Middleton soon. In the meantime, I shall be catching up with the earlier books in the series.

I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Head of Zeus, in return for an honest review.

*The Diary of a Nobody by George & Weedon Grossmith

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In three words: Clever, suspenseful, mystery

Try something similar…The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh (click here to read my review)



MRCKasasianAbout the Author

Martin Kasasian was raised in Lancashire. He has had careers as varied as a factory hand, wine waiter, veterinary assistant, fairground worker and dentist. He lives with his wife, in Suffolk in the summer and in Malta in the winter

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Book Review: City of Masks by S. D. Sykes

Engaging historical mystery set in 14th century Venice

CityofMasksAbout the Book

Description (courtesy of Goodreads): It’s 1358, and young Oswald de Lacy, Lord Somershill, is delayed in Venice as he awaits a pilgrim ship to the Holy Land. While the city is besieged by the King of Hungary, Oswald stays at the house of an English merchant, and soon comes under the spell of this decadent and dazzling island state that sits on the edge of Europe—where East meets West.

But Oswald has secrets. He is running away from something in England—a shadow that still haunts him, no matter how much he consoles himself with the delights of Venice. When he finds a dead man at the carnival, he is dragged into a murder investigation that draws him deep into the intrigues of this paranoid, mysterious city.

From the dungeons of the Doge’s Palace to the convent-brothel of Santa Lucia, Oswald must search for a murderer in this bewildering maze of alleys and canals. When he comes up against the feared Signori di Notte, the secret police, Oswald learns that he is not the only one with something to hide. Everyone is watching (or trailing) someone else; and nobody in Venice is who they appear to be. Masks, it seems, are not only for the carnival…

Book Facts

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
  • No. of pages: 336
  • Publication date: 13th July 2017
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery

To pre-order/purchase City of Masks from click here (link provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme)

Find it on Goodreads


My Review

This is the third book in S. D. Sykes’ Somershill Manor series. I felt it worked fine as a standalone book and I didn’t consider not having read the earlier books affected my enjoyment. If anything, it made me curious to read the previous books in the series.

In fact, the reader is given some insights into the past of our hero, Oswald de Lacy, Lord Somershill, which may or may not be part of previous books.   In a very inventive way, the author gives us clues about the reason for Oswald’s tendency to lapse into periods of troubled melancholy.  However, most of the time, he is a sprightly hero with an eye for a beautiful lady, a love of wine and not averse to a spree at the gambling tables.

Alongside Oswald is a cast of colourful characters who may or may not be involved in the murder he sets out to investigate. You will probably suspect just about everyone before the true culprit is revealed.  My favourite character was Oswald’s domineering mother (who I suspect in reality would have been dead for many years, life expectancy then being much less). Fourteenth century Venice makes the ideal setting for a mystery with its narrow streets, spies, canals, political intrigue, masks and its situation as a melting pot of different nationalities on the pilgrimage trail to Jerusalem. There are plenty of twists and unexpected reveals that make City of Masks a thoroughly entertaining read for fans of historical mysteries.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers, Hodder & Stoughton, in return for an honest review.

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In three words: Lively, engaging, mystery

Try something similar…The Venetian Contract by Marina Fiorato

SDSykesAbout the Author

S. D. (Sarah) Sykes lives in Kent, but grew up in Somerset and then South London. She is a graduate from Manchester University and was inspired to finish her first novel, Plague Land, after attending the novel writing course at literary agents, Curtis Brown. She has also written for radio and has developed screenplays with Arts Council funding. She has a passion for medieval history, and her books in the Somershill Manor series, are set in 14th Century England.

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WWW Wednesdays – 28th June 2017


Hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words, WWW Wednesdays is a fantastic meme all about the three Ws:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Why not join in? Leave a comment with your link on the WWW Wednesdays post at Taking on a World of Words and then go blog hopping!

Currently reading

DarkDawnoverSteepHouseDark Dawn over Steep House by M R C Kasasian (review copy courtesy of Head of Zeus)

London, 1884: 125 Gower Street, the residence of Sidney Grice, London’s foremost personal detective, and his ward March Middleton, is at peace. Midnight discussions between the great man and his charge have led to a harmony unseen in these hallowed halls since the great frog disaster of 1878. But harmony cannot last for long. A knock on the door brings mystery and murder once more to their home. A mystery that involves a Prussian Count, two damsels in distress, a Chinaman from Wales, a gangster looking for love and the shadowy ruin of a once-loved family home, Steep House…

DidYouWhisperBackDid You Whisper Back? by Kate Rigby (review courtesy of the author & Neverland Book Tours)

Set in the nineteen-seventies, Did You Whisper Back? begins with Amanda Court’s longing to be reunited with her estranged twin sister Jo. Following a false lead, Amanda leaves her Merseyside home and family and goes to Devon to work as a chambermaid where she believes Jo now lives. Gradually it emerges that Jo is, seemingly, just a figment of Amanda’s imagination arising from distorted childhood truths. Did You Whisper Back? is a psychological novel about family secrets and a disturbing portrayal of the fragility of the mind.

Recently finished

Wake Me When I'm GoneWake Me When I’m Gone by Odafe Atogun (eARC, courtesy of NetGalley & Canongate Books)

Everyone says that Ese is the most beautiful woman in the region, but a fool. A young widow, she lives in a village, where the crops grow tall and the people are ruled over by a Chief on a white horse. She married for love, but now her husband is dead, leaving her with nothing but a market stall and a young son to feed. When the Chief knocks on Ese’s door demanding that she marry again, as the laws of the land dictate she must, Ese is a fool once more. There is a high price for breaking the law, and an even greater cost for breaking the heart of a Chief. Ese will face the wrath of gods and men in the fight to preserve her heart, to keep her son and to right centuries of wrongs. She will change the lives of many on the road to freedom, and she will face the greatest pain a mother ever can.

HouseofNamesHouse of Names by Colm Toibin (review copy courtesy of NetGalley & Viking)

On the day of his daughter’s wedding, Agamemnon orders her sacrifice. His daughter is led to her death, and Agamemnon leads his army into battle, where he is rewarded with glorious victory.  Three years later, he returns home and his murderous action has set the entire family – mother, brother, sister – on a path of intimate violence, as they enter a world of hushed commands and soundless journeys through the palace’s dungeons and bedchambers. As his wife seeks his death, his daughter, Electra, is the silent observer to the family’s game of innocence while his son, Orestes, is sent into bewildering, frightening exile where survival is far from certain. Out of their desolating loss, Electra and Orestes must find a way to right these wrongs of the past even if it means committing themselves to a terrible, barbarous act.

What Cathy (will) Read Next

AReluctantWarriorA Reluctant Warrior by Kelly Brooke Nicholls (review copy courtesy of the author & Xpresso Book Tours)

When Luzma’s brother, Jair, unwittingly uncovers the plan by Colombia’s most notorious drug cartel to smuggle an unprecedented cocaine shipment into the US, it puts their family in grave danger. Jair’s kidnapping by the cartel forces Luzma to go face to face with vicious paramilitary leader, El Cubano, and General Ordonez, ruthless head of the military – men who will stop at nothing to protect their empires. But for Luzma, nothing is more important than saving her family – not even her own life.

CitizenKillCitizen Kill by Stephen Clark (review copy courtesy of the author)

When a devastating explosion kills the new President’s young son, her administration seeks to finally end the war on terror. CIA black-ops agent Justin Raines is among the recruits in a new program that targets for assassination U.S. citizens suspected of radicalizing Muslims. Haunted by a botched assignment overseas, Justin is determined to redeem himself through the program. But when he is assigned to kill a mysterious Muslim educator that he believes is innocent, he grows disillusioned. Now he must find a way to prove her innocence and derail the program before they both are assassinated.


Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I’ve Read So Far in 2017


I’d been intending to do a half-year wrap-up but then this topic turned up for Top Ten Tuesday from the lovely ladies at The Broke and The Bookish so I thought I’d join in. If you take part too, remember to add a link to your post on their blog page and then go blog hopping!

I’ve been lucky enough to read so many wonderful books in the past six months that it’s been difficult to choose. However, after much reflection, here is my list with some hints at the reason for my choice. Click on the title to read my review.


Best Second Novel – The Good People by Hannah Kent

Best Literature in Translation – The Executioner Weeps by Frederic Dard

Best Unconventional Love Story – Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik

Best Tearjerker – A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Best Action Thriller – Ares Road by James L Weaver


Best Debut – These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper

Best Short Novel Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

Best New Historical Fiction Series – Vindolanda by Adrian Goldsworthy

Best Non-Fiction – A Countess in Limbo by Olga Hendrikoff & Sue Carscallen

Best Literary Prize-winner – Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

Are any of these amongst your own Top Ten?  What have you read so far this year that would make your list?