WWW Wednesdays – 31st January ’18


Hosted by Taking on a World of Words, this meme is 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 too?  Leave a comment with your link at Taking on a World of Words and then go blog hopping!

Currently reading

The Mermaid & Mrs HancockThe Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (eARC, NetGalley)

This voyage is special. It will change everything…

One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.  As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost.

Where will their ambitions lead? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess?

TThe Renaissance Clubhe Renaissance Club by Rachel Dacus (ebook, review copy courtesy of Fiery Seas Publishing)

Would you give up everything, even the time in which you live, to be with your soul mate?

May Gold, a college adjunct teacher, often dreams about the subject of her master’s thesis – Gianlorenzo Bernini. In her fantasies, she’s in his arms, the wildly adored partner of the man who invented the Baroque.  But in reality, May has just landed in Rome with her teaching colleagues and older boyfriend. She considers herself a precocious failure and yearns to unleash her passion and creative spirit. Over the course of the tour, she realizes she has to choose: stay in a safe but stagnant existence or take a risk.

Will May’s adventure in time ruin her life or lead to a magical new one?

Recently finished (click on title for review)

TheCoffinPathThe Coffin Path by Katherine Clements (eARC, NetGalley)

Maybe you’ve heard tales about Scarcross Hall, the house on the old coffin path that winds from village to moor top. They say there’s something up here, something evil.

Mercy Booth isn’t afraid. The moors and Scarcross are her home and lifeblood. But, beneath her certainty, small things are beginning to trouble her. Three ancient coins missing from her father’s study, the shadowy figure out by the gatepost, an unshakeable sense that someone is watching.  When a stranger appears seeking work, Mercy reluctantly takes him in. As their stories entwine, this man will change everything. She just can’t see it yet.

The Power-House CoverThe Power-House by John Buchan (hardcover)

When his friend Charles Pitt-Heron vanishes mysteriously, Sir Edward Leithen is at first only mildly concerned. But a series of strange events that follow Pitt-Heron’s disappearance convinces Leithen that he is dealing with a sinister secret society. Their codename is ‘The Power-House’. The authorities are unable to act without evidence. As he gets deeper involved with the underworld, Leithen finds himself facing the enemy alone and in terrible danger.

Call Me By Your NameCall Me By Your Name by André Aciman (ebook)

During a restless summer on the Italian Riviera, a powerful romance blooms between seventeen-year-old Elio and his father’s house guest, Oliver. Unrelenting currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire threaten to overwhelm the lovers who at first feign indifference to the charge between them. What grows from the depths of their souls is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration, and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing they both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy. (Review to follow)

What Cathy (will) Read Next

TThe Wicked Comethhe Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin (eARC, NetGalley)

The year is 1831. Down the murky alleyways of London, acts of unspeakable wickedness are taking place and no one is willing to speak out on behalf of the city’s vulnerable poor as they disappear from the streets.  Out of these shadows comes Hester White, a bright young woman who is desperate to escape the slums by any means possible.

When Hester is thrust into the world of the aristocratic Brock family, she leaps at the chance to improve her station in life under the tutelage of the fiercely intelligent and mysterious Rebekah Brock. But whispers from her past slowly begin to poison her new life and both she and Rebekah are lured into the most sinister of investigations.  Hester and Rebekah find themselves crossing every boundary they’ve ever known in pursuit of truth, redemption and passion. But their trust in each other will be tested as a web of deceit begins to unspool, dragging them into the blackest heart of a city where something more depraved than either of them could ever imagine is lurking…

The Optickal IllusionThe Optickal Illusion by Rachel Halliburton (ARC, courtesy of Duckworth)

It is 1797 and in Georgian London, nothing is certain anymore: the future of the monarchy is in question, the city is aflame with conspiracies, and the French could invade any day. Amidst this feverish atmosphere, the American painter Benjamin West is visited by a dubious duo comprised of a blundering father and vibrant daughter, the Provises, who claim they have a secret that has obsessed painters for centuries: the Venetian techniques of master painter Titian.

West was once the most celebrated painter in London, but he hasn’t produced anything of note in years, so against his better judgment he agrees to let the intriguing Ann Jemima Provis visit his studio and demonstrate the techniques from the document. What unravels reveals more than West has ever understood – about himself, the treachery of the art world, and the seductive promise of greatness. Rich in period detail of a meticulously crafted Georgian society, The Optickal Illusion demonstrates the lengths women must go to make their mark on a society that seeks to underplay their abilities.


Buchan of the Month: The Power-House by John Buchan

Buchan of the Month

The Power-House 1stAbout the Book

When his friend Charles Pitt-Heron vanishes mysteriously, Sir Edward Leithen is at first only mildly concerned. But a series of strange events that follow Pitt-Heron’s disappearance convinces Leithen that he is dealing with a sinister secret society. Their codename is ‘The Power-House’. The authorities are unable to act without evidence. As he gets deeper involved with the underworld, Leithen finds himself facing the enemy alone and in terrible danger.

N.B. The details below are for the collected edition of the Leithen stories.  The Power-House is also widely available as a standalone book.

Format: ebook, paperback (348 pp.)  Publisher: Canongate Books
Published: 1st July 2010                        Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk ǀ  Amazon.com
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme


Find ‘The Power-House’ in The Leithen Stories on Goodreads

My Review

The Power-House is the first book in my Buchan of the Month reading project.  In this case, it is a reread as it’s a book I’ve read several times before.  For a spoiler-free introduction to The Power-House, click here.

Our narrator is Sir Edward Leithen, in his first appearance in a Buchan adventure.  A barrister and Member of Parliament, he describes himself as ‘a placid, sedentary soul’.  In fact, his friend Tommy Deloraine observes acutely, ‘Life goes roaring by and you only hear the echo in your stuffy rooms.’  This all changes when, by a series of seemingly unconnected events, Leithen is drawn into investigating the unexplained disappearance of Charles Pitt-Heron.   Like Leithen, the reader’s interest has by now been aroused: ‘…for every man at the bottom of his heart believes that he is a born detective.’

In his dedication to The Thirty-Nine Steps, Buchan said that his aim was to write ‘romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible.’  Well, it has to be said that the author pushes to the limits the boundaries of the possible in The Power-House.  As Leithen himself admits, ‘I had collected by accident a few odd, disjointed pieces of information, and here by the most amazing accident of all was the connecting link.’

That link resides in the person of a man, Mr Andrew Lumley. Lumley is an example of one of the characteristic features of a Buchan “shocker” (his term for his adventure stories); the concept of an immense intellect unconstrained by common notions of morality.  Similar, if you like, to Professor Moriarty in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Furthermore, the idea of an underground global organisation, subtly wielding the levers of power for malevolent ends but whose members possesses a cloak of respectability.

As events progress, Leithen comes to realise the perceived safety of the London he knows so well is a mere facade.  Not only is he being watched but his watchers likely have more sinister objectives.  In some of the most brilliant scenes in the book, Buchan describes how Leithen comes close to falling into the hands of the secret organisation known as the Power House even as he walks the crowded streets of the city.  He observes, ‘Now I saw how thin is the protection of civilisation.’  The fragility of civilisation is another frequent theme of Buchan’s adventure stories.  As Lumley warns Leithen: “You think that a wall as solid at the earth separates civilisation from barbarism.  I tell you the division is a thread, a sheet of glass.” Kate Macdonald, an acknowledged expert on Buchan, explores this idea in more detail in her article ‘Hunted Men in John Buchan’s London’.

The Power-House is an entertaining story that features many of the elements that would reappear a few years later in Buchan’s most well-known and successful book, The Thirty-Nine Steps.  A relatively short book, The Power-House is an easy read thanks to Buchan’s effortless prose.  It should probably be considered a rehearsal, a first attempt, to master the style of the type of adventure story that would later make his name.

My next Buchan book is completely different in tone – it’s John Macnab.  I’ll be posting an introduction to it shortly with my review due at the end of February.  Why not read along with me…

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In three words: Entertaining, well-paced, adventure

Try something similar…Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household

About the Author

John Buchan (1875 – 1940) was an author, poet, lawyer, publisher, journalist, war correspondent, Member of Parliament, University Chancellor, keen angler and family man.  He was ennobled and, as Lord Tweedsmuir, became Governor-General of Canada.  In this role, he signed Canada’s entry into the Second World War.   Nowadays he is probably best known – maybe only known – as the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps.  However, in his lifetime he published over 100 books: fiction, poetry, short stories, biographies, memoirs and history.

You can find out more about John Buchan, his life and literary output by visiting The John Buchan Society website.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Can’t Believe I Read


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.

The rules are simple:

  • Each Tuesday, Jana assigns a new topic. Create your own Top Ten list that fits that topic – putting your unique spin on it if you want.
  • Everyone is welcome to join but please link back to The Artsy Reader Girl in your own Top Ten Tuesday post.
  • Add your name to the Linky widget on that day’s post so that everyone can check out other bloggers’ lists.
  • Or if you don’t have a blog, just post your answers as a comment.

This week’s topic is Top Ten Books I Can’t Believe I Read.  My list is only going to include books I was surprised by in a good way as I don’t talk about books I disliked out of respect to the author and other readers whose opinions may be different.  Therefore, my list consists of books I enjoyed that were slightly out of my comfort zone in some way. Click on the title of each to find out more about the book and read my review.

AndTheBirdsKeptOnSingingThe Long Book – And The Birds Keep On Singing by Simon Bourke

I’ll admit it; I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to long books – by my definition, anything over 500 pages.   I’m not completely sure why I have this aversion to big books but it’s probably down to the time investment a long book involves.  What if I don’t like it?  I could have read one or two other books in that time.   Despite its size, I really enjoyed this book and it made me think I shouldn’t dismiss books purely on size in future.

TheSmallestThingThe YA Book – The Smallest Thing by Lisa Manterfield

I can’t deny it; I definitely no longer qualify as a young adult…by quite a long way.  Generally, I stay away from books that are categorised as YA thinking they won’t appeal to me.  However, this book was part of a blog tour being run by a tour organiser I enjoy working with and I liked the premise of the book: a modern day story set in the original plague village of Eyam.   I really enjoyed the book which just goes to show that a well-written book is a well-written book regardless of genre.

TheThirteenthGateThe Paranormal Book – The Thirteenth Gate by Kat Ross

Uh-oh, another genre Cathy ‘doesn’t do’?  Afraid so.  I guess I just like my stories to be grounded in reality although I do enjoy classic ghost stories so I suppose I’m less consistent than I think.  This was another blog tour book and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy taking part in blog tours because they encourage me to be a little more adventurous than I might otherwise be.  It helped this book had a historical setting – historical fiction being my favourite genre – and the 19th century atmosphere seemed to lend itself to the paranormal element so it felt like a natural part of the story.

DeathlessThe Fantasy Book – Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

You guessed it, another genre I generally steer well clear of.  Add in fairy tale, folklore and mythology and you’d usually find me running a mile.  I really can’t remember how it came about I read this book but I really enjoyed it.  Once more, it was probably the historical angle, the story being set partly around the siege of Leningrad.

TTheVanishingFuturisthe Off My Radar Book – The Vanishing Futurist by Charlotte Hobson

Before this book appeared on the shortlist for The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2017, I’d never heard of either the author or the book.  This surprised me as I’m a great fan of historical fiction.  To come across a book so completely off my radar that had ended up on the shortlist of a major literary prize was intriguing. I’m not sure the description would have particularly attracted me to the book either.  However, because I wanted to read everything on the shortlist, I finally managed to track down a copy.  I didn’t like it as much as some of the other shortlisted books, but I did enjoy it and could see how its originality had attracted the judging panel.

Spaceman of BohemiaThe Too Crazy Sounding To Be Ignored Book – Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar

A Czech astronaut launched into space to investigate a mysterious dust cloud covering Venus discovers he has a strange companion (with a liking for Nutella) who may be real or imaginary.    I really don’t know what motivated me to pick up this book.  I guess it was either going to be weird in a bad way or weird in a wonderful way.  Happily, it was the latter. Bold, imaginative and compelling.

FataMorganaThe Unlikely Mash-Up Book – Fata Morgana by Stephen R Boyett & Ken Mitchroney

Time travel, a World War II B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, a post-apocalyptic alien world and a touching romance.  It’s a curious combination that sounds like it shouldn’t really work but somehow it did. I described it as ‘a glorious mash-up of The Twilight Zone, The Flight of the Phoenix and The Time Machine (not so much the H G Wells book as the 1960 film starring Rod Taylor)’.

DanKnewThe Animal Narrator Book – Dan Knew by F. J. Curlew

Another admission coming…I’m not really a dog or a cat person. A book where the narrator is a dog is not going to naturally appeal to me.  However, when a fellow member of a Facebook group for bloggers and authors contacted me about participating in the blog tour for her book, I was happy to give it a try.  It turned out to be a fascinating story and a celebration of the rich, mutually-sustaining relationship that can form between humans and animals.

DanceoftheHappyShadesThe Second Time Around Book – Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro

I wasn’t a terrific fan of the first short story collection I read by Alice Munro (Runaway).  I found the stories rather too bleak and in fact preferred the film adapted from them, Julieta.  So, I was slightly apprehensive when selecting another Munro collection as my read for the #1968Club.   As it turned out, what I’d described as ‘bleak’ before I now felt was better characterised as ‘acutely observed’.  It just proves it’s always worth giving an author’s work a second chance.

TheSummerSpringsteen'sSongsSavedMeThe Summer Romance Book – The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me by Barbara Quinn

You know, I hadn’t realised quite how picky I can be when it comes to books before I started compiling this list. I would actually have said I have quite a wide taste in books. Hmm.  However, at least it does show I’m willing to experiment from time to time. Contemporary romance isn’t a genre of books I usually go for but this book was being promoted by a publisher I follow, Lakewater Press, so I thought I’d give it a go.  And, yes, I know – shock, horror – I liked it. In fact, I found at least twenty reasons to like it.

Next week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic: Books That Have Been On My TBR The Longest

Blog Tour: An Argument of Blood by Matthew Willis & J. A. Ironside

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I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for An Argument of Blood by Matthew Willis and J. A. Ironside.  An Argument of Blood is the first in the two book Oath and Crown series dramatizing the life and battles of the man who would come to be known as William the Conqueror. You can read all about the book below.

WinI’m pleased to say there’s a chance to win a signed copy of An Argument of Blood.  Visit the tour page here to view the giveaway rules and enter the giveaway.

Entries close at 11:59pm EST on February 7th 2018.

Via the tour page you can also visit the other great bloggers on the tour and read their reviews of An Argument of Blood.

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An Argument of BloodAbout the Book

William, the nineteen-year-old duke of Normandy, is enjoying the full fruits of his station. Life is a succession of hunts, feasts, and revels, with little attention paid to the welfare of his vassals. Tired of the young duke’s dissolute behaviour and ashamed of his illegitimate birth, a group of traitorous barons force their way into his castle. While William survives their assassination attempt, his days of leisure are over. He’ll need help from the king of France to secure his dukedom from the rebels.

On the other side of the English Channel lives ten-year-old Ælfgifa, the malformed and unwanted youngest sister to the Anglo-Saxon Jarl, Harold Godwinson. Ælfgifa discovers powerful rivalries in the heart of the state when her sister Ealdgyth is given in a political marriage to King Edward, and she finds herself caught up in intrigues and political manoeuvring as powerful men vie for influence. Her path will collide with William’s, and both must fight to shape the future.

Format: eBook, paperback (369 pp.) Publisher: Penmore Press
Published: 19th June 2017                    Genre: Historical Fiction

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Amazon.com  ǀ Barnes and Noble
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find An Argument of Blood on Goodreads

J A IronsideAbout the Author – J. A. Ironside

Jules grew up in rural Dorset, surrounded by books – which pretty much set he up for life as a complete bibliophile. She loves speculative fiction of all stripes, especially fantasy and science fiction, although when it comes to the written word, she’s not choosy and will read almost anything. Actually it would be fair to say she starts to go a bit peculiar if she doesn’t get through at least three books a week. She writes across various genres, both adult and YA fiction, and it’s a rare story if there isn’t a fantastical or speculative element in there somewhere.

Jules has had several short stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as recorded for literature podcasts. Books 1 and 2 of her popular Unveiled series are currently available with the 3rd and 4th books due for release Autumn/Winter 2017. She also co-authored the sweeping epic historical Oath and Crown Duology with Matthew Willis, released June 2017 from Penmore Press.

Jules now lives on the edge of the Cotswold way with her boyfriend creature and a small black and white cat, both of whom share a god-complex.

Connect with Jules

Website ǀ  Facebook  ǀ  Twitter  ǀ  Goodreads

Matthew WillisAbout the Author – Matthew Willis

Matthew Willis is an author of historical fiction, SF, fantasy and non-fiction. In June 2017 An Argument of Blood, the first of two historical novels about the Norman Conquest co-written with J.A. Ironside, was published. In 2015 his story ‘Energy’ was shortlisted for the Bridport short story award.  Matthew studied Literature and History of Science at the University of Kent, where he wrote an MA thesis on Joseph Conrad and sailed for the University in national competitions. He subsequently worked as a journalist for Autosport and F1 Racing magazines, before switching to a career with the National Health Service.

His first non-fiction book, a history of the Blackburn Skua WW2 naval dive bomber, was published in 2007. He now has four non-fiction books published with a fifth, a biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies, due later in 2017. He currently lives in Southampton and writes both fiction and non-fiction for a living.

Connect with Matthew

Website ǀ  Facebook  ǀ  Twitter ǀ  Goodreads



Book Blast: The Secret Life of Mrs. London by Rebecca Rosenberg

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I’m delighted to be joining the pre-launch celebrations for The Secret Life of Mrs. London by Rebecca Rosenberg, which is published tomorrow (30th January 2018).   The book tells the fascinating story of a woman who became close to two famous men: novelist, Jack London, and escape artist, Harry Houdini.

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The Secret Life of Mrs LondonAbout the Book

San Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape.

As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behaviour threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear.

Praise for The Secret Life of Mrs. London

The Secret Life of Mrs. London is a heart-wrenching portrait of a marriage between two people who utterly depend on one another, but ultimately aren’t enough for each other. With skilful precision of language, Rosenberg weaves a narrative that defines the complexities of love, passion, and art. This is a perceptive, deeply moving novel by a great new talent about a couple who has gone unnoticed in historical fiction until now. Anyone who has ever loved another person will want to read this book.” (Victoria Kelly, author of Mrs. Houdini: A Novel)

“One of Houdini’s best kept secrets was his affair with Charmian London in 1918. Now Rebecca Rosenberg tells the story using an elegant blend of fact and fiction, creating a Houdini book like no other. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is a true peek behind the curtain and a page-turner.” [John Cox, Wild about Harry]

Format: eBook, paperback (348 pp.) Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Published: 30th January 2018             Genre: Historical Fiction

Pre-Order/Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Amazon.com  ǀ Barnes and Noble ǀ Indiebound
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programm

Find The Secret Life of Mrs London on Goodreads

Rebecca RosenbergAbout the Author

California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel.

Rebecca and her husband, Gary, own the largest lavender product company in America, selling to 4000 resorts, spas and gift stores. The Rosenbergs believe in giving back to the Sonoma Community, supporting many causes through financial donations and board positions, including Worth Our Weight, an educational culinary program for at-risk children, YWCA shelter for abused women, Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center to provide performances for children, Sonoma Food Bank, Sonoma Boys and Girls Club, and the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.

Connect with Rebecca

Website  ǀ  Facebook ǀ  Goodreads

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