Book of the Week, Fantasy, historical

Book of the Week: Sorcerer to the Crown

After that run of (excellent) murder mysteries a few weeks back, I’m trying to make sure there’s a bit of variety in the BotW posts – obviously reading material permitting – and this week we have some magical historical fiction action for a change, with Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, which you may have spotted on the Week in Books lists just a few times.  This was mostly because I started reading it and then it got buried in a pile and a bit forgotten about because I didn’t want to make it all battered by putting it in my work bag.  But as you can see, in the end I found a way of dealing with it and it made it to work and back a couple of times while I read it and is still in fairly pristine nick…

Copy of Sorcerer to the Crown
It’s been a while since we had a Reading-on-the-Train photo…

Sorcerer to the Crown is the story of Zacharias, the new Sorcerer to the British king and his new apprentice, Prunella.  Now women are only allowed to be witches, and grudgingly at that, but Prunella seems to have more magic at her untrained fingertips than she knows what to do with and Zacharias thinks she might be able to help him work out what has happened to England’s supply of magic, and at the same time help him reform English Magick in general.  Prunella has other plans though.  She’s trying to find out where she came from and what the mysterious gift is that her father seems to have left her.  On top of all that, Zacharias is a freed slave and despite the fact that he was the adopted son of the previous Sorcerer to the Crown, his skin colour means that the other magicians are disinclined to follow his lead – especially given the rumours surrounding the circumstances of the death of his predecessor.  That plus an impulsive and impetuous young girl makes for a fairly explosive combination.

I found the story is a little slow to get going, but once it does there is plenty of adventure and action.  I wanted to know a more about the world that we were and how it worked sooner, but a lot of information is held back from the reader for a long time.  This makes it very hard for you to get a sense of where you are and to get your bearings early on.  Prunella is a great character, full of derring-do and get up and go, but I didn’t find her very likeable.  Zacharias is more promising, but because he’s so caught up in rules and problems and on top of that is a bit wet, so I found it a bit hard to find some one to like and root for.  But he was definitely on the side of right, and Prunella probably was, so that helped!

I had heard a lot of talk about Sorcerer to the Crown and lots of recommendations from bookish people, but in the end I liked rather that loved it.  A sequel is coming I believe and I’ll probably look for that at the library rather than buying it outright.  That said, this was still the best book that I read last week, and so for that reason it’s a merited BotW.  It’s also inspired me to write a post about magical worlds, so you can expect to see that at some point in the near future, once I’ve done a little bit more reading!

My copy of Sorcerer to the Crown came from Big Green Bookshop, but you should be able get from any good bookshop with a reasonable fiction section.  Or you can get it online from Amazon or in Kindle and Kobo.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: March 19 – March 25

Some progress on the long-runners, but over all not as much progress this week as I would have liked.  Roll on next week.

Read:

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Emily Windsnap and the Falls of Forgotten Island by Liz Kessler

The Unfinished Palazzo by Judith Mackrell

Devil’s Breath by GM Malliet

Uneasy Prey by Annette Dashovy

Started:

The Girls of Dancey Dene by MB Manwell

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Still reading:

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson

The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

The Long Weekend by Adrian Tinniswood

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green

Blame it on the Duke by Leonora Bell

And I bought a couple of books – well three – this week as well, but one of them was the paperback version of something I already have read (to complete the set on my bookshelves) so that doesn’t count!

Book of the Week, new releases, romance

Book of the Week: A Princess in Theory

Normal service is nearly resumed here this week – real life is still super busy, but I read some really good stuff last week and I have an excellent BotW pick in Alyssa Cole’s latest book, A Princess in Theory.  After a few weeks of crime picks, I’m back on a romance reading spree, and this one is one of the best that I’ve read in a long time.  And it’s on offer at the moment as an ebook in the UK – so I’m all about enabling your book-buying habit as well!

Cover of A Princess in Theory

A Princess in Theory’s heroine is Ledi, a smart, fiercely independent orphan who’s come through the foster care system and built her own life.  She’s an epidemiologist – aka someone who studies diseeases – and is really fed up with getting taken advantage of at work.  She just doesn’t have time to deal with these weird scam emails claiming that she’s betrothed to an African prince. Prince Thabiso is one of Africa’s most eligible bachelors, sole heir to the kingdom of Thesolo, so why is he so hung up on the idea that the girl he was betrothed to when he was a child is the one for him? When he tracks her down, she ends up thinking he’s just another normal guy – could this be the best way to find out if they could be the real thing? Ledi really likes this clueless new guy who’s moved in across the hall, but what will happen when she finds out who he really is?

This is full of some of my favourite tropes – secret identities, fake relationships and most of all: a Super Competent Heroine. Ledi is such an engaging character – you really feel like you understand who she is, and what she wants and what her hopes are. She’s so used to being let down – describing herself as “defective Velcro” that people just don’t stick around to – that she’s put up big walls to keep people out and stop her from being hurt any more. She’s clever and driven, but she’s used to not being taken seriously and to people not treating her fairly – as a black woman in a male-dominated STEM field, she’s used to trying to get what she’s due whilst trying to avoid being labelled troublesome. One of the things I liked most about the resolution to this was that it didn’t diminish Ledi’s own accomplishments and skills in her finding her happy ever after. She and Thabiso are going to be a team, and he’s on her side.

I usually have a limited tolerance for princes as heroes, but actually Thabiso is kinda charming in his clueless way. Of course he should have told Ledi who he was straight away (although the book wouldn’t be the same at all if he had!) but he knows that and if he starts to look like forgetting that, he has his super efficient, super sarcastic assistant Likotsi to remind him. And Likotsi is a lot of fun too – she’s not going to let Thabiso get away with taking away Ledi’s decision making power and she’s firmly on Ledi’s side later in the book. I really liked that for once in this sort of book, the prince’s advisor/friend who was trying to sabotage his relationship.

I had a few concerns at the midpoint about whether this was all going to be resolved in a totally satisfactory manner, but I shouldn’t have been worrying. This is a fun, smart contemporary romance, with a great voice and that’s diverse and inclusive and bringing something different to the genre. This is my first Alyssa Cole – but it definitely won’t be the last, because I’ve already got the next book in this series preordered! I’ve heard Alyssa interviewed a couple of times on The Smart Bitches, Trashy Books podcast and not only does she seem like great fun and someone you’d really like to go out for a meal with, but she’s a great advocate for her genre and for the need for more books representing people other than white women. Oh and she lives in the Caribbean and it all sounds super exciting.

Anyway, I think I’ve gone on about how much I enjoyed this enough – so here are the links: I bought my copy on Kindle (it’s only £1.99!), but it’s also available on Kobo. There is a paperback edition, but I suspect if you want it, you’re going to have to order it in, either from Amazon or Foyles or Big Green Bookshop.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: March 12 – March 18

Ok, so it might not look like the long-runners shelf has improved much this week, it really has – I’ve done some serious time on the non-fiction entries and I’m hoping to get some more done this week coming.  I will sort this out!

Read:

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

A Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferris

Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon

Grave Mistake by Ngaio Marsh

The Town in Bloom by Dodie Smith

Full Speed by Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes

Started:

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green

Blame it on the Duke by Leonora Bell

Still reading:

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson

The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

The Unfinished Palazzo by Judith Mackrell

The Long Weekend by Adrian Tinniswood

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

If I didn’t get many long-runners finished, I didn’t buy any books either.  Small victories!

Book of the Week

Book of the Week…

So, there’s no BotW this week.  I know, I’m sorry.  But after a very strange week last week, I finally figured out that there wasn’t anything that I had finished by Sunday night that I could whole-heartedly recommend that wasn’t going to be a big old repeat or somewhat less than sincere.

The best thing that I read last week was the Peter Grant novella, The Furthest Station, which came out in paperback on the 8th.  But it’s not that long since I wrote about my love of the Rivers of London series, and as we’re now 7 books in, and I don’t like doing spoilers, I didn’t think there was much new to add to my previous posts about them. You’d be better off reading my BotW post about the first book or my mutterings about The Hanging Tree.  I’m also a big fan of the graphic novel series – I read the latest installment (part 4 of Cry Fox) last week too – and the first novel from one of the writers on that, Andrew Cartmel, was BotW too, if you fancy reading something a bit similar to Peter’s adventures.

And apart from that, there was an OK romance, a not so OK romance, a cozy crime where I’ve liked others in the series better, and a novella that’s a teaser for a novel that I want to read.  I sat down and tried to write about a couple of them, but it all felt very feeble.  So instead, you get an apology from me, a promise to do better next week* and some more links to other good books I’ve read that you might have missed if you’re new to my blog, like The Rest of Us Just Live Here, The Roanoke Girls, Nancy Parker’s Diary of Detection and Black Roses.

Happy Reading!

*And I’ve already finished one book with BotW potential, so that’s a good omen.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: March 5 – March 11

It’s been a bit of a week.  And the Still Reading list grows ever longer.  I really must do better, but weekend working doesn’t lend itself to reading time.

Read:

Hopjoy was Here by Colin Watson

First Kiss of Spring by Emily March

Rivers of London: Cry Fox 4 by Ben Aaronovitch et al

Stiff Competition by Micah Persell

Where There’s Smoke by Peter Murphy

The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch

Started:

Grave Mistake by Ngaio Marsh

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

Still reading:

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson

The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

The Unfinished Palazzo by Judith Mackrell

The Long Weekend by Adrian Tinniswood

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon

The Town in Bloom by Dodie Smith

A couple of ebooks bought – there were some good deals and I was at work at the weekend, it leads to book buying…

Authors I love, Book of the Week, new releases, women's fiction

Book of the Week: The House of Hopes and Dreams

In a change from recent form, it’s not a crime pick this week – but perhaps the pick won’t be a surprise to regular readers with an eye on the new release lists. I’m a long-time Trisha Ashley fan, and she has a new novel out this week and I was lucky enough to have an advance copy sent to me by the publishers. If you follow me on Litsy (I’m @Verity there) you’ll have seen me get excited about this when it arrived and it’s taken a lot of willpower to save it until close to release to read it.

Proof copy of The House of Hopes and Dreams

The House of Hope and Dreams follows Carey and Angel, who’ve been friends since art college, although life has taken them in slightly different directions. At the start of the novel TV interior designer Carey is in hospital recovering after nearly losing his leg after being knocked off his bike. He’s been dumped from his show, but when a lawyer arrives to tell him that he’s inherited a minor historic house in Lancashire it looks like he may have a new project. Angel’s life had been turned upside down after the death of her partner – who she’d been working with at his stained glass company for more than a decade. She’s lost her job and her home, but luckily her skills are exactly what her old friend is looking for and there’s space for her at Mossby. Soon Angel is setting up a workshop so she can repair Mossby’s unique windows and Carey is working on a new TV series about the renovation of the house and the secrets that it’s hiding. But how long will it take the two of them to work out that there’s more to their relationship than just friendship?

If you were to ask me about my book catnip, high on the list are old houses, competency porn (aka heroines who are really good at what they do) and friends to lovers stories, so straight away this ticks a lot of boxes for me. And this is back in a corner of Lancashire that has a lot of old friends from previous visits to TrishaWorld – Carey’s house is just up the road from Middlemoss so you get a few glimpses at old friends from novels gone by. This is a little sadder in the backstory and less funny than some of her other books, but I relaxed happily back into it and although I always had a very fair idea where everything was going, it was an enjoyable ride to get there.

If you’re very familiar with Ashley’s books (and I speak as someone who has read everything she’s published except her historical novel) then this may feel a bit like a Greatest Hits album – which I found a bit of a mixed blessing. But I think there’s a lot here for newer fans to love, especially people who’ve only started reading her in her last couple of novels and haven’t come across this part of her imaginary corner of England before. And they’ll be able to go away and discover more of it with the side characters in this, which in turn may lead them to my absolute favour of Ashley’s novels, A Winter’s Tale (another story about an old house with secrets) .

The House of Hopes and Dreams is out on Thursday – you should be able to find it in supermarkets (that’s where I picked up my first Trisha) and bookshops, or if you can’t wait here are the preorder links for Amazon and Kindle. I’ll be buying one too – because my preview copy doesn’t have the recipes in the back!

if you want to go and read some of my previous ramblings about Trisha’s world, try here, here and here.

Happy reading!