The Scandalous Duchess by Anne O’Brien

The Scandalous DuchessThe Scandalous Duchess by Anne O’Brien

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An impoverished widow Lady Katherine Swynford seeks employment with the Duke of Lancaster John of Gaunt. She had been raised by his mother and served his first wife Blanche as a damsel until her death. She is shocked that instead of being offered a place as damsel to his new wife Constanza or in the ducal nurseries he wants her to be his mistress. This goes against all her beliefs so she flees back to son’s estates.

Dire need forces her to risk being compromised by finally accepting a place assisting the new Duchess as she prepares for the birth of her first child. Eventually she gives in to the duke’s advances and becomes his secret mistress. Then not long after the birth of the Duke and Duchess’ child she flees back to her old home. She has a shameful secret to hide. Eventually their affair is discovered and the Duke is forced to repudiate her during the Peasants’ Revolt.

She is forced to retreat to her own property taking their Beaufort children with her. How long will she be forced to stay in exile away from the man she loves?

A great historical drama which sows the seeds for the wars of the roses and the Tudor dynasty.

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The Song of the Gladiator by Paul Doherty

The Song of the Gladiator (Ancient Rome, #3)The Song of the Gladiator by Paul Doherty

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one was a slow starter for me and then I couldn’t put it down!

Set in the reign of Emperor Constantine when Christianity is no longer proscribed but not yet the official religion. Young Claudia agent of Empress Helena is summoned to the imperial summer residence to solve the mystery of a stolen holy relic. The villa is hosting a debate between rival Christian factions as to whether God is the Trinity or if Jesus is a lesser person. Then someone starts killing off the Christian debators in horrifying fashions… Claudia now has 2 things to solve…

Meanwhile back in Rome her gladiator boyfriend is having problems himself. His opponent in a big fights was poisoned but survived. It appears lots of money has been gambled on the outcome of the fight and the one to follow… So Claudia is also doing her best to help her man!

Plenty of action with twists and turns. Lots of historic details about Rome, early Christianity and gladiators.

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The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co., #1)The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My 10 year bought this book but after a while found it too scary to read to herself in bed so I stepped in to read it to her. Therefore I started part way through the story and had to wait to read the beginning later!

The book is set it what appears to be modern day England but a country with a Problem. The dead are coming back to haunt the living as Visitors (ghosts) and people are dying. Only children can see or sense the presence of the ghosts and are sent with adults to trace the Sources and destroy them. Their weapons are iron and fire which are the only way to defeat the dangerous creatures.

Lucy Carlyle has fled from her inept supervisor in the north of England to seek employment in London with one of the top agencies. Despite her uncanny ability to sense a ghosts emotions she is only accepted by Anthony Lockwood who is himself not an adult. Their first big assignment ends in disaster and the company are threatened with closure by DEPRAC (who license all agents) and they face financial ruin.

Their only hope appears to be solving a 50 year old murder mystery and gaining favourable publicity. Then they are made an offer too generous to resist: discovering and eliminating the source at England’s most haunted house Combe Carey. All they need to do is survive a night in the house with the “screaming staircase” and the ominous Red Room… Other agents have died trying..

A gripping combination of ghost story and murder mystery. My daughter and I both thoroughly enjoyed this book and it was hard to put down. Not one for the easily scared though as it could give nightmares…

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The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The Casual VacancyThe Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This took me a while to get into and at times it’s rather off putting due to its incredibly crude language! A clash of middle class versus working class with a dose of racism thrown in.

The unexpected death of a local councillor sets in motion a chain of events that reveals all sorts of secrets in this quiet little town. Some very tragic characters and some very nasty ones. Definitely not a book with a happy ending.

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Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

Equal Rites (Discworld, #3)Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having loved reading this myself its great to return to it as an audio book. Having a female narrator is perfect as the story is mostly about Esk and introduces Mistress Weatherwax the witch (one of my discworld favourites).

This was a perfect one to be listening to over International Women’s Day as it shows the fight for the rights of females to be accepted as wizards and attend Unseen University. Its also a great contrast between the rural back water of Badass and the metropolis of Ankh Morpok.

I would definitely recommend this one. It can stand on its own or as an introduction to Discworld for newbies.

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The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Revisiting this as a bed time story with my 7 year old. He loved the film so I thought it was time to read the books to him.

Perfect for fans of fantasy and an intriguing way to learn about Greek mythology. Fancy learning that your dad was really a Greek god?

Fighting monsters and solving a mystery against the clock to avert a major war in Olympus. It’s a baptism of fire for Percy. Good job he has friends in the shape of Grover the satyr and Annabeth daughter of Athena.

A good mix of action and intrigue.

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Infinity Drake: the Sons of Scarlatti by John McNally

Infinity Drake: the Sons of ScarlattiInfinity Drake: the Sons of Scarlatti by John McNally

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another children’s book that I couldn’t put down!

Infinity Drake aka Finn has been left in the care of his Uncle Al whilst his gran goes off on a knitting cruise around Norway. The plan is to secretly bunk off school and have a few days abroad. Unfortunately there is a secret part of Al’s life that Finn is about to get caught up in…

Turns out that Al works for a secret government agency and one of his inventions is needed in the face of a deadly genetically modified wasp which has been released somewhere in the south East of England. A crack military team is going to be miniaturised and sent to track down and kill the wasp before its nymphs mature. However Finn ends up being shrunk to 9mm as well and must join forces with them to save the day!

An adventure where even ants are a deadly foe makes for an exciting story. Throw in an evil genius with a team of genetically brain enhanced teenage side kicks and its hard to put down!

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