The Mistresses of Cliveden & Other Great Historic Reads

I have always felt drawn to those strong women in history deemed scandalous but merely trailblazing the way for others to follow. I don’t know what that says about me or my upbringing but I have just always been fascinated by them. Maybe it’s the feminist within me that finds reading about these women empowering for the rest of us or maybe their stories are just interesting in of themselves. Either way, I thought I’d share with you a few thoughts on some of my recents reads about a few books and the awe-inspiring women they revolve around.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman

Often dubbed the ‘it’ girl of the eighteenth century, this beautiful book revolves around Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Born Lady Georgiana Spencer (yes, she is an ancestor of Lady Diana Spencer), she married the fifth Duke of Devonshire in 1774. Not only was she considered the queen of the fashionable elite and aristocratic society, but she constantly exuded an aura of glamour which drew the press and public to her. She was also best buds with the Prince of Wales, closely acquainted with Marie Antoinette and an important supporter of the Whig party. For all the adoration she received in her public life, it didn’t mirror that of her life behind closed doors. The book takes you through the hardship experienced in her marriage as well as her obsession with gambling leading her into an overwhelming amount of debt and disgrace. It also details her quest for love along with the difficulties and exile that came with that.

‘Mesmirising’, as Antonia Frazer describes this gorgeous book, it takes you through Georgiana’s opulent and glamorous public life as well as her private life full of suffering. It follows the Duchesses life while also touching on society at the time such as civil unrest and royalty of the time. I have the illustrated edition which is full of beautiful pictures of the people she knew and socialised with, the places she lived or visited and objects such as the remnants of her fashionable outfits, accessories, etc. Quite apart from this, the wiring itself is informative and incredibly detailed whilst remaining readable and easy to understand. All too often I pick up historical reads that lose me within the first few pages due to their confusing lingo and stern, scholarly tone. Foreman’s writing couldn’t be further than this. It is appealing with a warm tone, illustrating her intrigue and passion to display Georgiana’s life with the attention that it deserves.

What would Boudicca do?: Everyday Problems Solved by History’s Most Remarkable Women by Elizabeth Foley & Beth Coates

As the back cover states, this book ‘will make you fired-up and ready for anything’. Showcasing fifty women from all eras and areas in the world, this book shows some fiercely, trailblazing women and the incredibly inspiring things they achieved. It includes women such as Elizabeth I, Frida Kahlo, Hypatia, Ada Lovelace, Marie Stopes, Josephine Baker and Catherine the Great. Accompanied by illustrations by Bijou Karman, it provides bitesize chunks about each woman. I wouldn’t say its the read for you if you want an in-depth, detailed account of each woman, as they only give a short, stream-lined account for each woman. Having said that, it is still a great and easy read.

The Mistresses of Cliveden: Three Centuries of Scandal, Power and Intrigue , Natalie Livingstone

I have wanted to read this book for the longest time but never actually took the plunge until now. As a total bookworm, the majority of my Christmas and birthday presents are books -this being one of them. After reading Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman and Marie Antionette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser, I have been intrigued by all the historical scandal that rooted from such ladies. The Mistresses of Cliveden was the perfect read to cater to my curiosity on the subject.

The book is sectioned into five parts -a part dedicated to each of the mistresses at the forefront of Cliveden’s history. Those women are Anna Maria Brudnell, Elizabeth Villiers, Augusta Princess of Wales, Harriet Duchess of Sutherland, and Nancy Astor. While all of the sections are fascinating, I personally found the first two women to be the most interesting, intriguing, and scandalous. I think what is most interesting is how simple gatherings and parties held at Cliveden played such a role in British politics and society at the time. Throughout it’s history, each mistress of the stately home held such an influence in her society: whether it be through her beauty and charm, personality or politics, each woman contributed to the English society in one way or another. It adds praise to the age old saying of its not what you know but who you know.

I love the fact that the narrative revolves around the women of a place. It gives the illusion that we are privy to information and events that Cliveden’s walls would have been too. The idea that those walls have stood the test of time and witnessed all these events and people in English history.

While it is a chunky book, I think the structure of it being sectioned into five parts (which also have their own smaller chapters within) make it easier to digest. I would definitely recommend to anyone with an interest in history. It is also one hell of a read if you’re a feminist -these women really paved a way for us. Even if you’re not into history, I’d say it’s an easy entry into the more heavier historical non-fiction.

If you love historic reads or even want to try something new then I’d definitely recommend all three of these reads. I have so many more I want to recommend too but I think I’ll hold off and keep this post at those three for now.

Stay safe – Cheerio for now!

Book Review: Rapture (Bioshock)

Rapture (Bioshock), John Shirley

Where to begin.

So, this book is a prequel to the first two Bioshock games. It gives you a wealth of knowledge about the characters and what led them to Rapture which, once you have read these things, gives you a whole new depth of backstory and layer to enrich the games.

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who has played the games however, I think even people who haven’t or have no knowledge of the games plot would also really enjoy this book.

Would you kindly?

In a post-war world, everyone seeks to rebuild a life they once had – one man has a vision, Andrew Ryan. He manifests an underwater utopian society free from government, censorship and moral restrictions on science; for both men and women to build a better life away from the corruption above the surface. Using his wealth, he creates this shinning city beneath the sea; a world of autonomy and liberty . But of course, as all worlds and civilisations have, there are rules and a manner of conduct that Andrew expects to be followed – what could go wrong?

The plot slowly turns sour with an idyllic world slowly transforming into a living nightmare. With autonomy and liberty, as well as the lack of government and restrictions on science, people begin to do as they like. Hidden dreams and fantasies start to take shape and with the natural greed of mankind, everyone wants it for themselves.

The structure of flits from dates and places, following numerous characters and showing their opinions of, and paths to, Rapture. The story ends just as the Bioshock game begins, making sure not to overlap and become boring or repetitive.

I found that the text posed a lot more philosophical questions for me than the game, specifically the idea of ‘one bad apple’ and the corruption of mankind being inevitable wherever peace tries to prevail.

Although I say that anyone would enjoy this book, even those who haven’t played the games, I will say that while it is true to the games, I do also think it flushes out a lot of the world and story that isn’t explored in the games. I also wonder how I would have felt reading it without knowledge, or experience, of the games. Would I be able to picture the splicers? Would I be able to keep up with the multiple characters or envisage Rapture in all its’ glory? I’m not so sure.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and I’d recommend it.

Cheerio for now.

things I’ve found solace in | isolation edition

I started self-isolating mid March due to pre-existing health conditions and while I am used to spending a lot of time at home because of my health, I think there’s something very different about not being able to leave your home because of an epidemic than just simply from chronic health conditions. Because of just how much time I spend at home already, I have a variety of go-to’s which always work however, this obviously isn’t the usual circumstances. Since being in isolation I have found some new features that I’ve come to rely on through this time and wanted to outline a few of the specifics below incase they can help you.

First of all, how can I not mention Emma Hills isolation vlogs. When it comes to hauls and content such as that on YouTube I’m not interested, but certain peoples vlogs I eat up so quick! Emma Hill is one of these people. I love her vlogs as it is but there is something so raw and interesting about vlogs at the moment, when we’re all in the same boat and struggling to pass the time away. In this sort of situation people true colours come out and I think there’s something really refreshing about connecting that way. Not with sponsorships or plugging social media handles but just connecting with one another in a way that encourages and helps people through these days… the 5B’s help a hell of a lot too!

Another person who’s youtube content I have really been loving right now is Kate La Vie. Her weekly vlog vids are always welcome with open arms in my subscription box; and miraculously, she’s someone I can handle hauls with. Her home is an endless source of inspiration and she just radiates such a positivity about her, even on those days when you can tell she’s maybe having not so great a time, she still seems to have an upbeat energy to her. I also love the content on her blog too.

I always love seeing Orion Carloto’s instagram content. Her sartorial aesthetic is so satisfyingly pleasing that it makes my heart flutter a little bit (is that sad to say?). Her Youtube content is great too, although few and far between. But what has really helped lately is her book Flux. Flux is a short book of poetry in a variety of approaches including hand-written notes and diary entries too. It’s so alluringly deep that you can’t help but keep turning the page. It also is a great starting point if you’re only just getting into poetry.

I think poetry in general is something that I have found myself feeling quite drawn to right now. I have been spending my evenings curling up with a book of poetry to try and divert my mind for the current state of the world. I find it so soothing to unwind with it and a tea before I go to bed, and if truth be told I don’t think I would be able to have an evening without it now. While I love reading in general, poetry has a lightness to it. The experience depends entirely on the reader. You can either analyse each stanza, reading between the lines for hidden meanings, or you can simply enjoy the musicality of the words chosen by the writer. My evening reading usually falls into the latter, deciding to enjoy the words, imagery and emotion that it gives me; which I find so helpful when trying to unwind.

And of course, in the state of affairs the world is facing right now, I found Alice Catherine’s post incredibly grounding for my anxious thoughts. I have always found solace in her posts, naturally gravitating to her words and advice but I found this post in particular extremely helpful.

I think that’s enough to mention for today, but no doubt a ton of other things will come to my mind later on so stay tuned for another post of this kind coming your way. Stay safe.

Cheerio for now!

Book Review: The Loch of the Dead

The Loch of the Dead, Oscar de Muriel

**I just wanted to add a little note here. This is one of the many posts I have had in my draft section since before my hiatus but with the fifth Frey and McGray book, The Darker Arts, being released today, I figured now is the perfect time to get this baby out. Enjoy.

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If you are a long time follower, then you will have already seen my reviews of the previous three books in the series of cases for Frey & McGray, by Oscar de Muriel. If you haven’t read them or even heard of these book, I’d encourage you to head on over here, and give the reviews a read to get the gist of these characters and the genre these books fall into. Now onto the book itself…The Loch of Dead starts with a death threat against an unknowing heir, which leads the inspectors to the remote Loch Maree. Isle Maree, one of the islands perched in the middle of the loch, is known for its ancient burial ground although that is not the only thing the Inspectors should be aware of. The highland area is cut off from the rest of the world, and the few souls who do reside there are strange – causing many questions that need answering. On arrival, and with little time to find a stable footing, the heir’s guardian is brutally murdered which makes everyone a suspect; especially that of the Koloman’s, a mysterious family whom the young heir and detectives must stay with.

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I have to admit it was incredibly difficult to type the above section without giving away major spoilers and divulging some of the many plot twists. I must also say that, out of the collection of Frey & McGray books, this one included -this has without a doubt been my favourite. The previous elements of the grim Victorian era of the 1800s mixed with the surreal crimes and the hint of humour this duo creates, alongside the folklore element of this book makes for a terrific read. The plot lines are so cleverly interwoven with one another that even though they are there, with so many clues as to who the culprits are, you can never truly pin it on anyone.

As previously mentioned, there are three books in the series preceding this. I think this book could standalone however, I don’t think the reader would experience every part of the book at it’s best. Especially that of Frey & McGray’s relationship, which has evolved leaps and bounds, or that of McGray’s never-ending guest to cure his sister so I would recommend reading the three previous books before this one.

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All-in-all this was an amazing read and I throughly enjoyed every second of it. I would highly recommend it to anyone and if me rambling about it doesn’t make you pick it up, maybe the 100% and five-star reviews on Amazon will.

Have you read this new addition to the series yet?

Cheerio for now!

The Silent Companions

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You know those little recommended reads based on books you’ve bought on Amazon? Sometimes they really are amazing. This was one of them. This was an impulse buy and to be honest it was money well spent. 

 Elsie, newly married and newly widowed, finds herself sent to her husbands estate, The Bridge, to see out her pregnancy. She finds the servants of the estate indignant and the locals suspicious and unwelcoming. Elsie’s only company to see her through the dismal days ahead of her at the estate is Sarah, her late-husbands cousin. Within her first few days in residence, she discovers a locked room with beyond it holds a two-hundred year old diary and a wooden figure (a Silent Companion), resembling Elsie. What follows is a string of unnerving and terrifying events, including peculiar events and horrific deaths which is so vividly written it will give you chills. 

I can’t recommend this novel enough, especially for those who love plots revolving around the Gothic genre. It plays around with the supernatural and black magic, which set against the nineteenth century adds a darker and more sinister effect to it. 

*Spoilers Appear Beyond This Point – Proceed With Caution* 
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This gothic read was a quick read, not only because of its’ plot but also its’ writing and setting. Framed by a narration from an asylum, it drew you in to the story and made you crave the knowledge of events and what happened to Elsie. Another element I really loved was the sections throughout the book rewinding back two-hundred years to the first ancestors of Bainbridges’ at The Bridge. This essentially represents the information and events within the two-hundred year old journal which illuminates what is happening with the Silent Companions in such a vivid way. It honestly sends chills through you, and adds to the pace of the novel and events. 

 
Have you ever read The Silent Companions? What did you think? 
Cheerio for now!

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Make Your Bed

Make Your Bed: Small things that can change your life… and maybe the world, William H. McRaven 


Have you ever read a book and had to just sit and take a moment for its powerful words to sink in? Have you ever thought to yourself that you’ll just read another chapter? And another? And before you know it, it’s gone 1am and you only have two chapters left to complete it. You realise it will end soon and you suddenly feel sad -that’s what this book did to me. Part of me wanted to soak up every ounce of his inspiring words and part of me didn’t want it to ever end.

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In this book, McRaven shares 10 lessons he learned during the 37 years of his life as a Navy SEAL. These lessons, as he shows, aren’t just applicable to a life in military but to life in general. They really are simple yet life-changing. His words have an authenticity to them which I have never experienced in anyones writing before. It provides timeless advice, that is so simple however it’s told with such encouragement and optimism that you can’t help but feel moved and motivated. Each chapter states its lesson, goes onto to give you a bit of background about how he came about this lesson, an example of this lesson being practised and then finishes off with a strong summary: that quite honestly sets your soul on fire. -I know, I sound corny, but it really does happen like that. You feel pumped and like you could kickass! A quick snippet…

Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if you take some risks, step up when times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden, and never, ever give up-if you do these things, then you can change your life for the better… and maybe the world! 


Now, to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I ordered this. I’d came across it in Liv’s, from what olivia did, youtube video about the books she wanted to crack open this year. This was one of them and I just felt drawn to it. With a little summary from her and a few days later an Amazon package in hand, I was set to go!
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My personal favourite is Chapter 5: failure can make you stronger (don’t be afraid of the circus). This chapter had me overwhelmed with emotion (and let me tell you, I can be a real cold b*tch -so thats saying something people!). This chapter told us how McRaven and his swim partner kept falling short on their swims in their SEAL training, and when you were letting the rest of your team down you were slung in the circus -essentially extra training in the evening, but the most badass, and hardcore training sessions ever! McRaven states that most people end up quitting from the circus because the next day your not only exhausted from your normal training but the extra circus sessions too. It becomes an endless cycle of exhaustion and the weak fall off from this routine. However, he and his swim partner were determined not to give up and they didn’t. Instead they pushed through the pain and the exhaustion and something better happened. They became better, stronger, and faster than the rest of the team. So much better than they’re team mates that they would finish first in their swimming training with the second pair not even in sight! (I probably didn’t do that story justice, and McRaven would probably throw me into the circus for how poorly I described that -but I just love that chapter!).

Overall, I loved this book. The chapters are short and easy to read and because of that, I know i’ll be flipping back through certain chapters when I’m in need a boost. I would recommend this to anyone, regardless of where they are in their lives. I truly believe theres something everyone can take from this incredible book of wisdom.

Cheerio for now! 
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Book Vs. Film: The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton 
This idea, of comparing book and film adaptations, came about when I was watching The Miniaturist over Christmas on the BBC. Having read, and loved The Miniaturist (you can read my review of the book here),  I found myself, as I watched,  mentally preparing a list of similarities and differences between the book and film adaptations. I say film, it was actually spread across a two-part series, with each part being an hour and a half long. 
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Now there were many things I liked about this adaptation but there were also things I really could not tolerate. For instance: 
  • The Miniaturists interactions: in the book the lady sending Nella the miniature items is a passing ship. She’s someone who reappears every so often and then disappears without a trace however, in the programme she has far more of a prominent role within Nella’s life. When Nella finally manages to get a response at The miniaturists shop, in the book, it is an elderly fellow who turns out to be the lady’s father. Between Nella and him they piece together the mystery and Nella gets to hear a bit about this mysterious lady sending her these spine-tingling figures. In the programme, Nella actually explores and finds her way into the living area above the miniaturist’s shop and once she realises the miniaturist lady is there, they have a conversation. I wish I could say that I liked this part of the programme, but to be honest I much prefer the end note to the book -that the miniaturist who has plagued Nella is simply a mystery: and just like throughout the book, she disappears. 
  • Marins Love Life: as with many things about books, I feel as though the book revealed a little more, or maybe even implied more, when it came to Marins love life and even just her personality. Although she definitely opens up more to Nella in the programme, once her secret is revealed, I do think that the book revealed more about her character: which I personally preferred. This is also the case for the character of Otto but you can obviously reveal far more with hundreds of thousands of words in a book than two hour and a half programmes. 

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Having said this, there were also things that I really liked about the adaptation and even a few things I preferred about the programme compared to the book.

  • I loved the setting. It was just dark and cold enough to embody the eerie-ness of the story without coming across too gothic. I also really loved how well they portrayed Amsterdam as a religious setting with the characters devoted to religious ways. I think they covered this element of the story really well which only helped to contrast Johannes lifestyle and the surrealness of the miniaturist and her figures. In a setting like this the miniaturist would no doubt be deemed as practising witchcraft. 
  • The character of Nella came across much stronger in the programme versus the actual book. I can’t put my finger on why or how but even before she finds out about Johannes lifestyle and Marins secret, she appears a strong young woman; even in the strange home environment she’s landed in. 
  • The casting was perfect. I think every cast member involved really relished in their characters role and I think that really brought the characters to life from the book. I also loved the bond the characters had with one another. The friendship between Nella and Cornelia, the respect between Nella and Marin, the thoughtful teamwork between Johannes and Nella: everything just seemed seamless when it came to the casting. 

I could ramble on comparing the book and programme all day long but I think I’ll draw a line there. Like with any adaptation, there is a lot of ground that producers and writers’ neglect to cover simply because they deem it irrelevant or don’t have the time to cover it. Ultimately, I really enjoyed the programme and the way they brought the book to life. 

If you didn’t catch The Miniaturist over the festive season then you can watch it here, on BBC iplayer. It’s not available for much longer so catch it while you can! 

 
Did you watch The Miniaturist? What did you think? 
Cheerio for now! 

Book Review: A Mask of Shadows

A Mask of Shadows, Oscar De Muriel  
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First of all, I’d like to say that if you are not familiar with any of the previous Frey & McGray cases then you can read my reviews for them here; where I have reviewed both The Strings of Murder and A Fever of the Blood
 
A Mask of Shadows starts in London 1889, before moving onto the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland. A bout of terror haunts the acclaimed production of Macbeth, as well as their beloved celebrities, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, along with other actors, seamstresses, and stage hands. In the opening chapter, set in London, the first chilling event happens. As the actors’ soak in their final applause, hell ensues with the screeching cry of a Banshee and a gruesome message, smeared across the stage sets, prophesizing someone’s death. The tale takes place a short time after A Fever of the Blood and so, our narrator brings up his superstitions once more as he and McGray are assigned this case, shortly after the Macbeth cast and production arrive in the City. What follows are numerous plot twists, along with a long list of suspects within the play, behind the scenes and even onlookers and relatives who could all have a motive to kill or even reasons to be killed themselves.

As I stated in my review of A Fever of the Blood, you never know what to expect when you have already read and loved the original book. For me, I loved both the previous books, the first being my favourite, so before reading this book I wondered if maybe the author had peaked (like some do) or whether the characters were starting the die out. Having read it, I can say neither of those points is true. The storyline and characters were very well thought out, although I did think that there were a little too many names and characters involved at times which got a little overwhelming for me reading it. I also think that the end was left a little open which usually I wouldn’t mind but in this case, there were so many questions that were unanswered which left it all rather loose and deflating for me. 

My favourite thing about this edition to the casebooks were the characters we already know from the previous editions i.e. Frey & McGray, Elgie, the family of Freys, Madam Katrina, etc. I always love seeing the progression of Frey & McGrays’ relationship and so, reading this book I loved watching them become more and more so friends rather than colleagues who just put up with one another. I must say, I also adore the Victorian era these books are set in. It gives the books a grimmer vibe to them which I really enjoy. 
 
The next edition of the Frey & McGray cases is The Loch of the Dead, which will be released next year on the 5th April. You can pre-order it here.

Have you read A Mask of Shadows or any of the accompanying books? What did you think? 
Cheerio for now! 
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My Thoughts of the Hunger Games

I finally read the Hunger Games series…
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…and so, I feel it’s only right that I let you lovely lot know what I thought of it just as I would any other books. 
 
First, let me start by explaining why it has taken me this long to read the books and become engulfed within Panem and its’ Districts. Honestly, it never appealed to me all that much. I know many would gasp in shock at me saying that (including my boyfriends mum) but it never did. I was in my early/mid teens when the Twilight saga was being adapted to movies and so, that was the jam for me, my friends and really my generation as a whole. Up until the movie adaption of The Hunger Games was released, I had never heard of the books and because the books had never worked their way onto my recommended reads on Amazon, I didn’t think it was the right read for me. 
 
Right about now you’re probably wondering what or why I suddenly wanted to read it. Over time many people and fellow students have recommended me reading it having heard that the majority of books I read are fictional series’, generally around the genres of sci-fi or fantasy. I don’t know why that is, maybe I just love committing to a series and truly experiencing a fictional world over the course of a few books. But regardless of it being recommended many a time, I never seriously thought about it until my boyfriend told me that it’s his mother’s favourite series. He lent me his copies of the first two books, The Hunger Games, and Catching Fire, and then a few weekends later we came across a copy of Mockingjay at a boot fair which we picked up for £1. I quickly had the trilogy and was free to read away. 
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What did I think of the books? 
The Hunger Games: was, in my opinion, very good. I feel like there were plenty of plot twists for me to keep reading and I constantly wanted to know more, however, I did get a little confused and, because of that, distracted by all the names of the tributes involved. That was the only negative thing I found with the book. 
 
Catching Fire: was my favourite out the three books. I felt like I had got to grips with the world of Panem, the Capitol, and the Districts, but I had also come to picture certain characters in my mind and felt more familiar with them by this book. 
 
Mockingjay: this was my least favourite out of the trilogy. I felt like there were too many plot twists with this book and far too many characters to keep track of. However, *Spoiler -I did like how it ended with Alma Coin being shot instead of President Snow. I also really loved how Katniss and Haymitch became more like companions than fellow victors by this third book. 
 
If you haven’t heard, let alone read, The Hunger Games books then I can only assume that you’ve been living under a rock for the past 5-10 years; and so, I’ll leave the Amazon link right here for you to read up on the book descriptions and what goes down. Just so you know, there are three books in the series. 
 
Have you read the trilogy? What did you think? 
Cheerio for now! 

 

Book Review: A Fever of the Blood

A Fever of the Blood, Oscar de Muriel 
 In this second case of Frey and McGrays, what starts as a simple inquest into a patient escape and a nurses death at an asylum ensues into a manhunt far beyond their jurisdiction of Edinburgh and down to Pendle Hill, home of the Lancashire Witches. The pair becomes intwined in the dangerous world of black magic which makes for an avalanche of plot twists and adrenaline-packed scenes which keep you turning the pages.

A Fever of the Blood was an amazing read. I was apprehensive before reading this because I loved The Strings of Murder so much however, it pulled through and made for a great read. I will always love the contrast between Frey and McGray, and in my opinion, their relationship is really what gives the story that extra ‘something-something‘ for me.

The next book in this series is A Mask of Shadows, which I already have on my window ledge waiting to crack open. If you haven’t already read my review of the first book, The Strings of Murder, then you can do so here. Stay tuned for what I think of the next book. 

Have you ever read any of these books, what did you think? 
Cheerio for now! 
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