WWW Wednesdays – 14th November ‘18

WWWWednesdays

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 Monastery MurdersThe Monastery Murders (Stanton & Barling #2) by E. M. Powell (ebook, courtesy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours)

Their lives are ones of quiet contemplation—and brutal murder.

Christmas Eve, 1176 – Brother Maurice, monk of Fairmore Abbey, awaits the night prayer bell. But there is only silence. Cursing his fellow brother Cuthbert’s idleness, he seeks him out – and in the darkness, finds him brutally murdered.

Summoned from London to the isolated monastery on the Yorkshire Moors, Aelred Barling, clerk to the King’s justices, and his messenger, Hugo Stanton, set about investigating the horrific crime. They quickly discover that this is far from a quiet monastic house. Instead, it seethes with bitter feuds, rivalries and resentments. But no sooner do they arrive than the killer strikes again – and again.

When Barling discovers a pattern to these atrocities, it becomes apparent that the murderer’s rampage is far from over. With everyone, including the investigators, now fearing for their lives, can Barling and Stanton unmask the culprit before more blood is spilled?

none-so-blindNone So Blind (The Teifi Valley Coroner) by Alis Hawkins (ARC, courtesy of The Dome Press)

West Wales, 1850 – When an old tree root is dug up, the remains of a young woman are found. Harry Probert-Lloyd, a young barrister forced home from London by encroaching blindness, has been dreading this discovery.

He knows exactly whose bones they are.

Working with his clerk, John Davies, Harry is determined to expose the guilty, but the investigation turns up more questions than answers.

The search for the truth will prove costly. Will Harry and John be the ones to pay the highest price?

Pre-order None So Blind from Amazon UK


Recently finished (click on title for review)

The Magick of Mister LillyThe Magick of Master Lilly by Tobsha Learner (ebook, NetGalley)

In 1641, the country of England stands divided. London has become a wasps’ nest of spies, and under the eyes of the Roundheads those who practice magic are routinely sent to hang.

Living in exile in the Surrey countryside is the Master Astrologer and learned magician William Lilly. Since rumours of occult practice lost him the favour of Parliament, he has not returned to the city. But his talents are well-known, and soon he is called up to London once more, to read the fate of His Majesty the King.

What he sees in the stars will change the course of history.

Only Lilly and a circle of learned astrologers – Cunning Folk – know that London is destined to suffer plague and fire before the decade is through, and must summon angel and demon to sway the political powers from the war the country is heading toward. In doing so, Lilly will influence far greater destinies than his own and encounter great danger. But there will be worse to come . . .

An epic telling of the role of magic in the English Civil War, The Magick of Master Lilly is the story of the most influential astrologer in English history.

The Price of CompassionThe Price of Compassion (The Golden City #4) by A. B. Michaels (ebook, courtesy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours)

The Golden City is in Peril ….and so is Tom Justice.

April 18, 1906 – San Francisco has just been shattered by a massive earthquake and is in the throes of an even more deadly fire. During the chaos, gifted surgeon Tom Justice makes a life-changing decision that wreaks havoc on his body, mind, and spirit. Leaving the woman he loves, he embarks on a quest to regain his sanity and self-worth. Yet just when he finds some answers, he’s arrested for murder—a crime he may very well be guilty of. The facts of the case are troubling; they’ll have you asking the question: “What would I have done?”

Christmas at WarChristmas at War by Caroline Taggart (proof copy, courtesy of John Blake and Readers First)

No turkey. No fruit to make a decent pudding. No money for presents. Your children away from home to keep them safe from bombing; your husband, father and brothers off fighting goodness knows where. How in the world does one celebrate Christmas?

That was the situation facing the people of Britain for six long years during the Second World War. For some of them, Christmas was an ordinary day: they couldn’t afford merrymaking – and had little to be merry about. Others, particularly those with children, did what little they could.

These first-hand reminiscences tell of making crackers with no crack in them and shouting ‘Bang!’ when they were pulled; of carol-singing in the blackout, torches carefully covered so that no passing bombers could see the light, and of the excitement of receiving a comic, a few nuts and an apple in your Christmas stocking. They recount the resourcefulness that went into makeshift dinners and hand-made presents, and the generosity of spirit that made having a happy Christmas possible in appalling conditions.

From the family whose dog ate the entire Christmas roast, leaving them to enjoy ‘Spam with all the trimmings’, to the exhibition of hand-made toys for children in a Singapore prison camp, the stories are by turns tragic, poignant and funny. Between them, they paint an intriguing picture of a world that was in many ways kinder, less self-centered, more stoical than ours. Even if – or perhaps because – there was a war on. (Review to follow)

Pre-order Christmas at War from Amazon UK

Bells of AvalonBells of Avalon by Libbet Bradstreet (ebook, review copy courtesy of the author)

Thrust into a limelight she never chose, Katie’s been paired with Danny for as long as she can remember.

Films, roadshow tours, and drugstore appearances…post-war Hollywood can’t seem to get enough of the sweetheart team. They’ll even fall in love one day.

But young love seldom survives the fog wake of Los Angeles – a place of dreams and nightmares. (Review to follow)


What Cathy (will) Read Next

So Much Life Left OverSo Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernières (hardcover)

A sweeping, heartbreaking novel following Daniel in his troubled marriage with Rosie as they navigate the unsettled time between the World Wars.

Rosie and Daniel have moved to Ceylon with their little daughter to start a new life at the dawn of the 1920s, attempting to put the trauma of the First World War behind them, and to rekindle a marriage that gets colder every day. However, even in the lush plantation hills it is hard for them to escape the ties of home and the yearning for fulfilment that threatens their marriage.

Back in England, Rosie’s three sisters are dealing with different challenges in their searches for family, purpose and happiness. These are precarious times, and they find themselves using unconventional means to achieve their desires. Around them the world is changing, and when Daniel finds himself in Germany he witnesses events taking a dark and forbidding turn.

By turns humorous and tragic, gripping and touching, So Much Life Left Over follows a cast of unique and captivating characters as they navigate the extraordinary interwar years both in England and abroad.

Sugar in the Blood HBSugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire by Andrea Stuart (hardcover)

In the late 1630s, lured by the promise of the New World, Andrea Stuart’s earliest known maternal ancestor, George Ashby, set sail from England to settle in Barbados. He fell into the life of a sugar plantation owner by mere chance, but by the time he harvested his first crop, a revolution was fully under way: the farming of sugar cane, and the swiftly increasing demands for sugar worldwide, would not only lift George Ashby from abject poverty and shape the lives of his descendants, but it would also bind together ambitious white entrepreneurs and enslaved black workers in a strangling embrace. Stuart uses her own family story—from the seventeenth century through the present—as the pivot for this epic tale of migration, settlement, survival, slavery and the making of the Americas.

As it grew, the sugar trade enriched Europe as never before, financing the Industrial Revolution and fueling the Enlightenment. And, as well, it became the basis of many economies in South America, played an important part in the evolution of the United States as a world power and transformed the Caribbean into an archipelago of riches. But this sweet and hugely profitable trade – “white gold,” as it was known – had profoundly less palatable consequences in its precipitation of the enslavement of Africans to work the fields on the islands and, ultimately, throughout the American continents.

Interspersing the tectonic shifts of colonial history with her family’s experience, Stuart explores the interconnected themes of settlement, sugar and slavery with extraordinary subtlety and sensitivity. In examining how these forces shaped her own family – its genealogy, intimate relationships, circumstances of birth, varying hues of skin – she illuminates how her family, among millions of others like it, in turn transformed the society in which they lived, and how that interchange continues to this day. Shifting between personal and global history, Stuart gives us a deepened understanding of the connections between continents, between black and white, between men and women, between the free and the enslaved. It is a story brought to life with riveting and unparalleled immediacy, a story of fundamental importance to the making of our world.

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Blog Tour/Book Review: The Price of Compassion (The Golden City #4) by A. B. Michaels

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I’m delighted to be hosting the final stop on the blog tour for The Price of Compassion (The Golden City #4) by A. B. Michaels.  Thank you to Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour.  (If you’re a book blogger who loves historical fiction, I can recommend signing up as one of Amy’s tour hosts.  She tours some great books!)

You can read my review of The Price of Compassion below.  You can also read an excerpt from the book here.  See the other great book bloggers who have taken part in the tour by visiting the tour page where you’ll find links to their reviews of the book, extracts and other content.

If you’re a US resident, the tour page is also where you can enter the giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.  However, don’t hang about as entries close TODAY (12th November 2018) at 11:59pm EST.  Please read the terms and conditions for the giveaway.


The Price of CompassionAbout the Book

April 18, 1906 – San Francisco has just been shattered by a massive earthquake and is in the throes of an even more deadly fire.  During the chaos, gifted surgeon Tom Justice makes a life-changing decision that wreaks havoc on his body, mind, and spirit.

Leaving the woman he loves, he embarks on a quest to regain his sanity and self-worth. Yet just when he finds some answers, he’s arrested for murder – a crime he may very well be guilty of.

The facts of the case are troubling; they’ll have you asking the question: “Is he guilty?” Or even worse…”What would I have done?”

Format: ebook (296 pp.)    Publisher: Red Trumpet Press
Published: 27th August 2018         Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

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

Find The Price of Compassion on Goodreads


My Review

The reader first meets Dr. Tom Justice in his prison cell, arrested on a charge of murder.  Jonathan Perris, the legal counsel employed to defend him by (friend or maybe more?) Katherine Firestone, is frustrated at Tom‘s unwillingness to talk about what happened.  He sets out to investigate, seeking out witnesses, talking to people who knew Tom and constructing a timeline of the events leading up to the crime with which Tom is charged.

Jonathan’s investigations, conducted with the help of his legal assistants, are interspersed with extended flashbacks, starting with Tom’s childhood on a farm in Nebraska, his teenage years, his medical studies and his move to San Francisco’s Chinatown.  In a neat touch, each chapter of the flashback sections starts with a quotation from someone who knew Tom.  The reader gets an insight into Tom’s early interest in medicine and healing courtesy of his grandmother, his eagerness to learn about not just what remedies work but how and why they work, and his questioning approach to the received wisdom (I use the term loosely) of the time about what is in a patient’s interest.

This is a very skilfully constructed book.  The changes in timeline and location are handled in such a way that the reader never feels lost.  Instead, a picture of Tom’s character gradually emerges that, looking back having finished the book, seems completely consistent with his actions when they are finally revealed.   Details about the murder are gradually introduced.  As well as the mystery element of the story line, the book includes the dramatic events of the San Francisco earthquake, its terrible aftermath and the darker ( or perhaps ‘tarnished’ would be more appropriate) side of the so-called ‘Golden City’.  I also learned some fascinating facts along the way, such as the existence of ‘railway surgeons’.  Yes, who knew there was such a thing?

The suspense is expertly maintained throughout, keeping the reader as perplexed as Jonathan about the the truth of what happened and why Tom acted as he did.  Only at the end is the full truth revealed leaving the reader, as the book description suggests, to ponder the question “What would I have done?”.

The author creates an interesting dynamic between Tom, Katherine and Jonathan, all of whom at some point face a moral dilemma between staying true to their principles and sense of duty, or following their hearts.   The dramatic and emotional ending to the book provides an intensely satisfying conclusion, for this reader at least.

Not having read any of the earlier books in ‘The Golden City’ series (The Art of Love, The Depth of Beauty and The Promise), I was worried about how The Price of Compassion would work as a standalone read. I needn’t have worried.   Using turn of the century San Francisco as the stage and scenery, as it were, the author has created a cast of characters who have ‘walk-on’ parts in some books in the series and starring roles in others. It’s very cleverly and skilfully done, making the series accessible at any point although I would clearly now recommend reading the series from the beginning.

I loved The Price of Compassion and I’ve added all the previous books in the series to my wishlist as well as Josephine’s Daughter, the next book in the series due out in 2019.  I’ve also signed up to join A. B. Michaels’ Readers Group via her website (details below) and received a thank you gift as a result – a free copy of The Art of Love, the first book in ‘The Golden City’ series.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

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In three words: Suspenseful, engaging, authentic

Try something similar…The Devil’s Half Mile by Paddy Hirsch (read my review here)


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About the Author

A native of northern California, A.B. Michaels earned masters’ degrees in history and broadcasting, and worked for many years in public relations and marketing. Now that she’s an empty nester, she has time to write the kinds of stories she loves to read. Her historical series, ‘The Golden City’, follows characters who make their way in turn of the twentieth century San Francisco. She says: “I love creating flawed characters I can relate to, who have to make difficult choices, and who long for happiness like the rest of us. So much was happening in the early 1900’s that help shape my novels. Once I tear myself away from the underlying research, they are fascinating stories to write.”

Currently Ms. Michaels lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband and two furry creatures who are unclear on the concept that they are just dogs. In addition to writing, she loves to read and travel. A dabbler in fabric art, she also plays bocce in a summer league. Her latest stand-alone novel, The Price of Compassion, is Book Four of the ‘Golden City’ series. It will be followed by Book Five, Josephine’s Daughter.

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