11 Jul 2020


Death By Curiosity
ISBN 979-8606511921

Everyone knows that witches aren't real.

And yet when the sleepy village of Habely is rocked by a series of bizarre murders and James Pettyfer is arrested after being caught whilst disposing of the bodies, he claims that he was made to do it by Elodia Knight - a lady who's capable of magic and can get into other people's souls.

Whilst everyone else is sceptical of the claims, Police Typist Armitage Black is nothing but intrigued. Ignoring the reprimands of her best friend and the  Detectives investigating the case, Armitage delves into her own enquiries - but as she becomes more involved, she finds herself locked in a battle of wit and determination that Knight will do anything to win.
- Back Cover Blurb


Probably a controversial opinion, but I'm going to say it anyway.
- First Sentence Two Paragraphs

She stared at me for a smidge longer. Then she glanced at the staircase. Then she flicked her eyes back at me, looking slightly exasperated and slightly grim. 'Fine. But not a word of this, Tidge, I swear to God.'

We shuffled him forwards by a couple of steps, glancing around all the time for anyone walking in on us, and as soon as his feet were halfway over the top step, right when it was our last chance to back out and come up with a new plan ... we let go.

(If I'm being honest, Angie actually let go first. But you didn't hear that from me.)

Of course - because this is just the luck we have - the second we let go of Lyme, the second he started to pitch forward, the front door opened and Hadaway and Johnny stomped into the lobby at the foot of the stairs. 

We all froze in place, me and Angie staring at Lyme's fat wobbling as he bounced from step to step, and Hadaway and Johnny also staring at him, looking incredulous as they watched him heading towards them, his blanket getting left behind so that he was back to being full-frontal.
- Memorable Moment, Page unnumbered.

MY THOUGHTS ... OK, one of those books that's going to have many of you shaking your head at the disregard for police procedure (that Armitage is allowed to walk all over a crime scene and carry out investigations as she does, never mind implausible, is quite frankly laughable) but then Death By Curiosity really isn't that type of a crime story ... and it really doesn't matter as ...

As as a what, a thriller, a cosy mystery? Label it what you will, the plot involves what may or may not involve witchcraft (as if I'm going to tell you, you'll have to read the book and discover that for yourselves) what does matter is ... 

One of my favourite reads of the year; whilst I don't do star ratings here on Pen and Paper, for the sites requiring it, I rated it ★★★★★ which just goes to show how much I enjoyed it.

Its ... 

❃ Entertaining
❃ Different. Think Sherlock Holmes ... and yet not (it has far too much humour for that). I guess I'm thinking that like say The Hound Of The Baskervilles this too has a sinister undertone which may or may not be as it at first seems
❃ Funny
❃ Full of quirky, I'm guessing what Americans might call kooky, characters. Armitage is just the kind of character I love; larger than life, I adored her witty asides, she's curious (some would say nosy), determined, feisty, sassy, resourceful, she has nine lives ... and then some. Its secondary characters ... Hmm! Whilst not exactly awarded the star billing as that given to Armitage, its 'secondary' characters are actually far from secondary. Armitage's best friend Angie is kind of the sane one (relatively speaking) of the two friends (a restraining hand if you will though for the main part she may as well have saved her breath). The two detectives, Hadaway and Johnny (Angie's boyfriend) are likewise best friends and make great foils for Armitage. Not that this was their only purpose, they, Hadaway (who may or may not be Armitage's love interest) in particular, are great characters in their own right. And as for the villain of the piece; Elodia Knight, far from the pantomime like baddie I half expected (her crimes are, well, a tad too gory for that) actually made for a great villain who, right up until the end, kept us guessing as to both her motives and just how she was carrying out the evil deeds 
❃ A page turner, its certainly not without action ... or suspense for that matter
❃ Got a romantic element; thankfully not one of those so-called 'instalove' affairs but rather one of those in which the characters seemingly have a healthy dislike of each other and yet you just know that isn't the case.

This case may well be summed up nicely BUT, with a lady thinking she is being haunted, I have a strong inkling that this isn't the last we have heard of Armitage and co ... I'm certainly hoping not.

SUMMED UP IN A SENTENCE ... A memorable read and for all the right reasons; perfect if your looking for a mystery that doesn't take itself too seriously.

My thanks to the author, Lisa Matthews, for supplying me with a paper copy of her novel.

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8 Jul 2020


Today I'm delighted to be sharing my thoughts on Imprisoned By Love by C.S Brahms. Organised by Faye at Authoright, please feel free to stop by at the other participating blogs (at least one of which, Monday's host, features not only a review but an extract from the book  which might be of particular interest to you), links to which can be found further down.  

ISBN 1913340827
Deputy head teacher, Sophie Boswell, is back from Croatia and set to tackle the new academic year at her independent school in London. As the term unfolds, Sophie’s husband Michael’s increasingly erratic behaviour begins to take its toll on her. Everything is in a state of flux. Sophie’s world is no longer safe. How will she cope with Michael’s confusion and violence at home while maintaining authority and dignity at work?

Imprisoned by Love is a compelling story about living with dementia. The author's debut novel provides an arresting insight into the uncomfortable realities of balancing love and duty. With her many years in the teaching profession, C.S. Brahams is all too aware of the problems teachers face keeping up appearances in the classroom whilst compartmentalising their personal struggles. In the past, the author was deeply affected by a significant trauma which left her emotionally labile; it was this strain of maintaining authority on the surface whilst drowning beneath it that made her want to explore someone's mental health whilst dealing with a personal crisis at home.
- Summary

It is extraordinary how quickly a summer holiday can pass without incident or argument.
- First Sentence, Chapter 1 {The End of the Long Hot Summer}

I watch him fill up the kettle; I think, this is alright. He can do this. The procedure must be embedded in his long-term memory. But he has forgotten where we keep the mugs - even though they have always been in the same cupboard above the dishwasher - he takes out a tumbler instead. The kettle is boiled and the water is poured into the glass; I wonder if it will crack. He has forgotten about the teabag. I take a moment to decide whether to intervene. 
- Memorable Moment, Page 148/9

MY THOUGHTS ... A psychological thriller at the heart of which is the story of a family who are learning to live after the father, Michael, not quite fifty, is given the diagnosis of early onset frontal lobe dementia.

Imprisoned By Love is the poignant, compelling and, yes, at times disturbing story of living with a dementia. Sophie and Michael, their young adult twins and Sophie's parents characters I instantly became attuned to. 

That Sophie is both strong and yet vulnerable (both in her private and professional lives), selfless and yet not without her flaws makes her the kind of character I love. That she at times questions her love for her husband, that she finds herself constantly reminding herself that this isn't her husband saying/doing these things but the dementia something I found truly heartbreaking. 

The decisions she finds herself having to make decisions that no one wants to find themselves having to make; that one of them, the introduction of 'the interloper' into the family home, could see the man she loves in danger of being abused (hence the 'thriller' label) terrifying.

Harrowing at times (I found one particular incident especially so, that Sophie then went on to suffer a very similar indignity/assault at the hands of a fellow member of staff at the school where she works something that I personally felt an unnecessary addition to the story but then that is me) but what I felt was a great debate novel that hi-lighted many of the issues of living with dementia;  that the author did so both realistically and yet sensitively something to be commended. 

SUMMED UP IN A SENTENCE ... An emotional read with good, strong characters in a story that portrays the impact a diagnosis of dementia can have on a family; that it features something of a thriller is a bonus.

Title: Imprisoned By Love
Author: C.S. Brahams
Release Date: 7th July 2020
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Page Count: 282
Links: GoodReads ~ Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR ... Catherine Brahms read English, Russian studies and Linguistics at Durham University where she spent much of her time acting, producing or directing plays. She qualified as a teacher of English (secondary) a year later and spent over twenty years in the teaching profession. At the height of her profession, Catherine was the Vice Principle of a Sixth Form college in Kensignton and a head of Sixth Form in central London. She has also been a manager at both English Heritage and Bonhams Auctioneers, both of which gave her a wonderful insight into a world outside of teaching. Catherine has been a School Inspector for some years now and is also a Governor at a girl's school in London. She is married to Lawrence with whom she has a daughter called Alice. Find Catherine on Twitter.

Monday 6th July: Jera's Jamboree
Tuesday 7th July: Library Of Books and Tea
Wednesday 8th July : Pen and Paper
Thursdsy 9th July: Jazzy Book Reviews 
Friday 10th July: Donna's Book Blog
Saturday 11th July: JeanzBookReadnReview
Sunday 12th July: A Daydreamer's Thoughts

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6 Jul 2020


Purple Hibiscus
ISBN 978-0007189885

Fifteen year-old Kambili lives in fear of her father, a charismatic yet violent Catholic patriarch who, although, generous and well-respected in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home. Escape and the discovery of a new, liberated way of life come when Nigeria is shaken by a military coup, forcing Kambili and her brother to live in their aunt's home, a noisy place full of laughter. The visit will lift the silence from her world and, in time, unlock a terrible, bruising secret at the heart of her family life.

An extraordinary debut, Purple Hibiscus is a novel about the blurred lines between the old gods and the new, childhood and adulthood, love and hatred - the grey spaces in which truths are revealed and true living is begun.
- Back Cover Blurb

Things started to fall apart at home when my brother, Jaja, did not go to communion and Papa flung his heavy missal across the room and broke the figurines on the étagère.
- First Sentence, Breaking Gods; Palm Sunday

I did not, could not, look at Papa's face when he spoke. The boiled yam and peppery greens refused to go down my throat; they clung to my mouth like children clinging to their mothers' hand at a nursery school entrance.
- Memorable Moment, Page 41

MY THOUGHTS ... The atmosphere of living within an abusive household, your father a wealthy local manufacturer, a 'pillar of the community' and yet, behind closed doors, both physically and mentally abusive, palpable.

Fifteen year old Kambili came across as shy and oppressed and somewhat world weary (no doubt the result of never quite living up to the high expectations of her father) and yet, oddly enough, it was just that, a feeling. Incredibly frustrated by the character, alas (to me anyway) she was never really given a voice, she just came across as, well, 'beige'. That the author does not comment in any meaningful way upon Kambili's situation (that of a young woman whose very existence is cowed by a father who demands perfection of his family in every aspect of their lives) a lost opportunity. 

Excited that this is a Young Adult novel set in Nigeria at this time (off the top of my head I can't name that many), however ...

Difficult to get into, long winded and with what I felt were far too many unnecessary fillers (all of the lengthy descriptions of food interested me to begin with but I quickly grew bored of them). And as for the use of local vocabulary ... Hmm! I admit this did distract me in that I kept on having to make a note of it in order to Google it at a later time. Perhaps a glossary of the vocabulary might have been useful but then where to put it; as a foot note? In brackets immediately after the word? In a glossary at the beginning/end of the book? I guess its one of those things whereby you can't please everyone and ultimately a decision has to be made.

An interesting enough plot in that it hi-lights some of the tensions that arose as a result of the country being colonised by the British. What for me was far more interesting was that it explored some of the tensions between Christians and followers of the old religion; that one of the priests preferred a mix of Christian worship and Igbo worship, the other priest, traditional Catholic worship intriguing. 

SUMMED UP IN A SENTENCE ... An OK read though, the setting, the religious differences and the politics (which for most of the time came across as little more than background noise anyway) aside, essentially a story of Domestic Violence; yes, there were some powerful moments but nothing I haven't come across countless times before. 
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25 Jun 2020


ISBN 978-0571229284

'The sights I saw in Königsberg will haunt me for the remainder of my days on earth...'

At the dawn of Enlightenment, criminal justice was evolving into a science. In this brilliant historical detective work, one of the great philosophers, Immanuel Kant, guides Hanno Stiffeniis, a young magistrate, as he investigates a spate of murders that has reduced the Prussian city of Königsberg to a state of terror.

When the killer tries to murder him, Stiffeniis finds himself confronted by the demons of his own past. Therein lies the sinister source of those murders, and the true reason he has been enticed back to Königsberg.
- Back Cover Blurb

'Observe, Stiffeniis. It slid like a hot knife cutting lard.'
- First Sentence, 'A False Start'

'But what would be the charge, Sergeant? Witchcraft?' I interrupted him angrily. ' Because the woman claims to invoke the Devil? Not so very long ago, an accusation such as yours would have lit a raging bonfire beneath her. If I am going to accuse Anna Rostova of anything at all - even trafficking with the Devil - I need to be quite certain in my own mind what it is.'
- Memorable Moment' Page 218

MY THOUGHTS ... Though a fan of historical fiction I can't say my reading has ever taken me to the Prussia of the early nineteenth century.

Wonderfully atmospheric; dark and brooding. I know its a bit of a cliche but the sights, the smells, the sounds, all wonderfully captured. The fear that  paralyses the city palpable.

As for the characters? Hmm! What to say about the characters?

With a hypocritical, somewhat prudish protagonist at the helm (don't worry, if you are anything like me, come the end of the book Stiffeniis will have kind of grown on you), a lusty albino abortionist, a fur-clad cannibal, a paranoid general  and a woman (a witch?) who may or may not be in league with the very Devil himself (I'll leave that for you to discover for yourself) - oh and one of the world's foremost thinkers  (though to be fair Immanuel Kant doesn't feature in the book a lot) - I think it fair to say the characters are quirky.

As much as I enjoyed the 'murder mystery' and historical elements of the book, what really made the book for me was that, commonly solved by means of threats and torture, the reporting of any crime, lacking in logic at best and none existent at worst,  Critique Of Criminal Reason features the beginning of modern day crime techniques to solve the mystery of just who was committing these grisly killings.

The first book in the Hanno Stifeniis series, written by husband and wife team Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio under the pseudonym of Michael Gregorio which probably explains why at times I sensed a subtle difference in the tone and style of writing.

SUMMED UP IN A SENTENCE ... Not what I'd describe as your typical traditional mystery, if your looking for something that bit different in Critique Of Criminal Reason you may well have found it.

Read an extract here.

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