Secrets and the inability to share them create a tense and wonderful mystery story set in the English countryside during World War II. Farleigh is the ancestral home of the Sutton family. One morning a soldier dressed in Royal West Kent uniform is found dead in the fields of the grand home. His parachute failed. When examined more closely, the soldier is deemed a spy. The question is, why would a spy even attempt to land at this remote and rural location? What was his objective?
The author provides a lovely little bit of history with the inclusion of the seven rules for the civilian population of Great Britain during the war. This was circulated throughout Great Britain in 1939. One of the most important: Keep All Information to Yourself. Within the story the question then becomes, how will anyone solve the case in an era of secrecy so severe that you could not even tell your family the nature of your job?
While solving the delightful mystery this story simultaneously highlights the tireless, important and sometimes overlooked work of women during World War II. I think anyone with a basic knowledge of history remembers that women played an essential role in the war effort. But even with a background in history (American though I must admit), the book reveals to me more of the countless ways women were vital to the war efforts. For example, there are a number of references to Land Girls. I had to look this one up and I was fascinated to learn that by 1941 women were conscripted into the Women’s Land Army to provide agricultural support. These women had a non-compulsory uniform and were referred to as Land Girls. And, please, pay attention to how they determined that the soldier was a spy.
Bowen focuses her story on the Sutton family since Lord Westerham, his wife Esme and their five daughters call Farleigh home. I genuinely appreciated that these five women were a diverse group. All of the women’s personalities and responses to the needs of the times were vastly different. I must admit, there was one daughter I adored and one I would pay good money to slap. Amazon put together this adorable little infographic but pay attention to the author’s cast of characters as well.
Rhys Bowen is a prolific writer and this stand alone novel is my first experience with her mysteries. This, to me, is truly a gift. I read an exceptional story and found a new author to obsess over.
I read the first of this series by accident. I picked it up years and years ago intending to read the wonderful Half Magic by Edward Eager but I got flustered at the library and couldn’t remember the name of the book. This was 2005 or 2006 and long before I had a smartphone so I couldn’t just Google it. So, I grabbed Magyk by Angie Sage because I didn’t want to walk away empty handed. When I got home and read it I became totally absorbed in the story and immediately purchased my own copy and then I had to wait while she wrote more books!
And write she did. This seven book series features the family Heap. The father of this brood is Silas and he is the seventh son. As Magyk begins his wife Sarah is busy delivering their seventh child after six boys. If anyone has read any magical books then you know that the seventh son of a seventh son is foretold to be deeply magical.
I don’t really feel that I can tell you much more about the plot without spoiling some delightful moments. I can say that the series features both strong male and female characters. Some characters are brave, some are intelligent and many are just pure of heart.
Cover of green locked book titled Flyte with Gold of Embelishments
The cover of a brown book with symbols titled Physik.
A red book with hand stitched binding titled Queste. There are stones and a blue ribbon closure.
An ocean blue book with a potion bottle on the front titled Syren
A dull brown book with a metal box on the cover titled Darke.
A bright red book with a dragon boat on the front and a golden pyramid titled Fyre
I recommended these books to a friend and she was completely thrown off by one detail. Throughout the books there are words in bold (like magyk or flyte). I assume the author intended this to have a dual purpose. First, these are magical words. Second, (and I am assuming here) it is to be clear to a younger reader that these magical words are purposely spelled incorrectly. My friend did not care for this at all but it did not bother me one bit.
There are two other books by Angie Sage that are related to the series but not quite included in the timeline of the “Septimus Heap” stories. The first is The Darke Toad which tells a seperate story of the eldest Heap child. The The Magykal Papers is an additional fun book that includes maps, journals, and a variety of tidbits about the Castle.
A dark purple book cover with a frog shaped door knocker on the cover. Title is Darke Toad.
A golden book cover with a city set in an oval on the front cover. Title Magical Papers.
If, after you have read all nine of these books you still want more, you can find a glorious treasure trove of information on Septimus Heap’s website. There you can use the magykal name generator, play magykal anagrams or look up some spells and tips. You can also see the book trailer for new books by Angie Sage which are all set in Septimus’s world, The Todhunter Moon trilogy.
Angie Sage has created such a complete world for Septimus that when I re-read the books, which I often do, I feel like I am visiting old friends. I hope you take a chance and check out this series (on purpose). If you forget the name of the series, just remember, I think they are Magykal.
This morning I wrote a long blog post about how much I loved reading this book. I waxed poetically about my love for Drag Queens, my need for better self confidence in a bathing suit and how all around impressed I was with the main character Willowdean. I posted it.
Then I worried about my use of the word “fat” to describe the main character. I know this is how Willowdean describes herself but I thought that maybe I should add a little caveat acknowledging that fact and that it is not my favorite word to use. I went in to edit and I deleted the whole darn thing.
I’m going to try and find the old post. But this book and this character deserve to be written about and read right now. So, while we all wait to see if I can work the technology here are the big points:
(1) Willowdean is confident in a way that is totally enviable. From page 1 she is completely comfortable in her own (self-described) fat self.
(2) Willowdean has a crisis of confidence. It happens to the best of us. Hers doesn’t come from people mocking her or leaving her out. It comes from the amorous attention of a boy she likes.
(3) She gets her confidence back by her own damn self. Big props to Julie Murphy here.
I do not naturally excel at audible learning. So, for me, a book on tape or audible story needs to be amazing. It has to have all the markings of an incredible story and be read to me in a way that keeps me focused enough to follow along. It is a high bar. My two favorite types of audibles are: (1) when the narrator does all different voices and accents or (2) when the author is also the narrator.
Recently, I requested Talk to the hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door by Lynne Truss from my local library.
Apparently, I requested the book on tape instead of the good ‘ol printed version. (This happens to me often when I pair requesting things with a glass of wine. Don’t judge. My library system is amazing but it has a lot of boxes to check). Usually, I curse my ineptitude and stick it right back in the return slot. But, since this is narrated by the author I gave it a go.
I think I have already established my penchant for all things British and Lynne Truss is capital-B British. Delightful dry British is peppered throughout the book along frequent British slang. Now, the New York Times review saw the addition of “buffed, posh, tosser and lolly” as baffling to some readers but for me it made it all the more enjoyable. Honestly, if the inclusion of the word “bloody” in the title doesn’t tip you off then that is probably your fault.
Similarly, you will see reviews for this book by people who consider themselves “younger” and thought that Ms. Truss was an “older” person picking on their generation. To them I say, “Bugger off.” She clearly states in the very beginning that if you straighten your arm and you have a little excess skin around the elbow, you are probably old enough to enjoy the book. However, if your elbow skin springs into a flat plain (I’m paraphrasing here because, you know, listening to the book on tape means I cannot look it up) you are probably too young to understand her perspective.
Really though, I only had one small problems with my experience with this particular book on tape. I wanted to go back and re-read certain parts. She makes some really excellent points in this book about the turn modern society has taken in its regards to what is polite and what is rude. I want to be able to quote her. I also want to research some of the people she references in explaining the history of manners. Unfortunately, those names are difficult for me to remember without looking at them in print. This is an easy fix. I’ll just buy my own copy of the printed book.
This delightful second Kopp sisters novel gives us another peek into the historically rooted adventures of Constance, Norma and Fluerette Kopp. In Girl Waits With a Gun, the women took their first steps outside of their country home and into the adventure, and danger, of a changing world. Now, in The Lady Cop Makes Trouble, the women are determined to more fully engage in their chosen journey and each of them finds challenges great and small.
Constance, the main Kopp sister, has been accepted by the Sheriff of Bergen County as equal to the task of law enforcement and he has appointed her as one of the nation’s first female deputies. Constance finds herself a useful (and paid!) member of the sheriff’s department. Unfortunately, no adventure is ever smooth. Soon, an inmate escapes and Constance is blamed. Her dream of being a policewomen are placed in peril.
I love this character. Demoted and ashamed she could have just accepted a new position or gone back to the farm. Does she? Hell no. She has had a taste of the job she is destined to have and she is determined to win it back.
Constance is described in a variety of ways though the first and second book. Since she is a real person there are even photographs of her. But, for me, her actions paint the best picture of all. She kicks down doors, wrestles men to the ground and shoots her gun. She is smart and thorough. Constance stands quietly in the face of men and women who do not think she belongs on the force. She all but goes door to door righting wrongs. I love Constance.
Norma is a hard to crack and her obsession with carrier pigeons is…unusual. Fluerette is determined to build her life on a stage. These two sisters take a backseat in this installment but, and I say this with great hope, we will hear more from them very soon.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. Sometimes an author creates a whole fictional world around a single fact, a unique person or one event. What Amy Stewart does that I absolutely adore is transport the reader into the past through intricate details like fabric samples, changes in transportation, social and economic shifts and some fabulous ladies. She freely admits which things she invents for the sake of the story and which are absolutely true. This book, like the last, almost feels like listening to a very old person tell a story they have told 100 times before. You know that things are embellished or perhaps not entirely historically accurate. But you also know that Constance, Norma and Fluerette are real. That is what makes the Kopp Sisters stories so very enjoyable.