Book Review: A Testament to Murder by Vivian Conroy

Suspenseful from the first page to the last, A Testament to Murder is perfect for fans of And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, and Crooked House

A dying billionaire. Nine would-be heirs. But only one will take the prize…

At the lush Villa Calypso on the French Riviera, a dying billionaire launches a devious plan: at midnight each day he appoints a new heir to his vast fortune. If he dies within 24 hours, that person takes it all. If not, their chance is gone forever.

Yet these are no ordinary beneficiaries, these men who crossed him, women who deceived him, and distant relations intent on reclaiming the family fortune. All are determined to lend death a hand and outwit their rivals in pursuit of the prize.

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Book Review: One Night of Passion by Erica Ridley

Meet the unforgettable men of London’s most notorious tavern, The Wicked Duke. Seductively handsome, with charm and wit to spare, one night with these rakes and rogues will never be enough…

Lifelong romantic Thaddeus Middleton is on the hunt for a wife. He hopes to find a woman more attracted to him than to money. Instead, he finds himself drawn to a spitfire who isn’t interested in him at all! At least, that’s what she says when she’s not kissing him beneath the stars…

Miss Priscilla Weatherby will inherit a fortune… provided she remains unwed and scandal-free. Easy enough, until she meets a man more dangerous than haughty lords and heartless rakes. Thad is a sweet, sexy delight, whose passionate embrace will ruin everything—including her! She’ll sacrifice anything for independence. Even love…

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Book Review: The First Village by Ian M Evans

Wales AD 383 is the most remote province of Roman-occupied Britain, colonised for over 300 years. Magnus Maximus, known to the Celts as Macsen Wledig, has grown restless with his role as general of the Roman army in Britannia. His nights are broken by dreams of an impossibly beautiful Welsh maiden. He sets his sights on moving his legions out of Britannia to challenge Gratianus – the emperor of the Western Roman Empire.

Flavius Arcadius is less than enamoured by his general’s plans. The army’s withdrawal will leave his family, neighbours and all of Britannia unprotected and at the mercy of internecine conflict between the local tribes and the even greater threat of pagan invaders from the east. He does, however, have a vision for the future – a fortified villa surrounded by a self-sufficient community – if only he could find a way to stay behind when the legions move.



Being a fan of authors like Lindsey Davies, Robert Harris, etc. I do have a thing for ancient (e.g. Roman) History. Therefore I had high hopes for this book. Woe!

I got to Chapter 9 – where they were *still* talking about, maybe, perhaps, going to their boss in regard to looking for the tottie he’s been dreaming about. I stopped there. Can I have a little more action please, and less as to why he’s not shagged the local freed, rich, woman who may or may not be giving him the run around?

It can/could have been good – other reviews imply it’s great later on in the story. However, I really couldn’t wait.   Too much talking, too much dry exposition, too little stuff happening….Unfortunately, too little to keep me engaged….





Book Review: Watch the Wall, Miss Seeton by Hamilton Crane

Have the smugglers made a grave mistake?

Customs & Excise are tracking a gang of cigar-smugglers who operate on the quiet Kent coast near Plummergen, home to retired art teacher Miss Emily Seeton. Their attempt at a midnight ambush goes wrong, and a man is found dead.

As Miss Seeton sketches the most notorious tomb in Plummergen churchyard – the one built for 19th-century smuggler Abraham Voller – she meets a young American tourist. He claims to be a descendant of the Voller family, but is he a truly innocent ancestor-hunter, or do smugglers inherit their trade?

When the school concert includes a performance of Kipling’s “A Smuggler’s Song” it begins to seem that everyone is at it … but we can rely on Miss Seeton to ensure that the police will get their man, and the smugglers’ dreams will go up in smoke!

Serene amidst every kind of skulduggery, this eccentric English spinster steps in where Scotland Yard stumbles, armed with nothing more than her sketchpad and umbrella.

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Sometimes the simplest tools are the best

A variation of the below first appeared as a comment on the following blog post, Where Abby Glassenberg responds to a follower’s email.


Why I Run My Business on a Yellow Legal Pad


Work TO Do lists

Once in a while I go looking for electronic tools to help me out on things like “to do lists”. I have tried things like Evernote etc., but have never managed to settle on any one piece of software in particular.

I’ve got out of the habit for various reason, but one of the things I did (back before we used Portable Computers with wifi at work, haha), was have a notebook to take notes of meetings, and I would also have multiple post it notes somewhere….During meetings, generally when I was bored, or my mind was skittish with too much to do, I’d write my to-do list on the post-its. Easily movable, ditch-able, etc. Great for working!

At work I now use the “check flag” option on emails, which creates an annoying pop up, or create a specific task, again for the annoyance factor. Surprisingly effective, at least for me, in order to get work stuff done one way or another.

suzy hazelwood to do list

Personal To Do Lists

I have yet to find an equivalent for home, though I am currently looking at the hardback diary sitting on my table, barely used. My handbag is already heavy – for some unknown reason, and I don’t want to add more stuff in to make it even heavier.  My iPad already comes with me.

I use the “notes” app on my ipad to start writing anything up to a blog post.  I never get a full blog post on the notes app – there are things like spelling and formatting that get to be done on a computer with a writing app before the post ever gets published.

What do other people use to do things like to do lists? The thing that put me off with Evernote is that it seemed to need a permanent connection to the internet in order to work properly.  There didn’t seem to be a “off line” version, where you could store your info locally and have it sync the next time you were on the wifi.  Am I wrong in this?

Blog Posts and Media Content Packs

When I had more blog posts to schedule, I made use of an excel spreadsheet, with a sheet per month, and I added in posts (either complete or ideas).  It allowed me to get into some kind of predictability – a book review post on alternate days, a book related essay alternate Sundays, a craft related post alternate Fridays.  Having used up my stock of posts, I have no more post to schedule that far in advance. Posts now come out within a few days of me writing them.  There is currently no formal schedule (sorry).

However………I do have a version of a media content pack, to help me with content.   It provides me with several things:

  • a list of post titles and links.
  • Each post should be marked against at least one category. e.g. Romance. Historical. Textiles.  Therefore if I want to tweet about a specific subject (e.g. May holding Free Comic Book Day, so lets talk about comics), I can find my posts about Comics and focus on them……
  • A sheet per month (similar to the above) which reminds me of anything specific, such as a specific day or month. e.g. June 2019 will be dedicated to a friend talking about Persephone Books; 13th May is Daphne Du Maurier’s birthday, so should I be reading or writing about her books during that week or month?; etc.


Bullet Journals

In looking for images for this post, I was reminded of one thing I’ve never really gotten into – Bullet Journals.  What do you know? Love em? Hate em? Cant do without?

bich tran Bullet Journal

So you, Constant Reader

What tools to YOU use to keep things on track?


What I Learned from Keeping a List of Every Book I Read

This post was written as a reaction to this post over on LitHub:


What I Learned from Keeping a List of Every Book I Read


I started logging the books I read a number of years ago. For some time, I had suspected I read *a lot* but didn’t know what “a lot” meant or anything. In starting to gather some reviews together in order to start publishing my book reviews on my blog, I realised that

a) some of my posts were *appalling*

b) there was a good percentage of the books I had no memory of reading, what the plot was about or whether I liked the book beyond knowing that it was a “good read”.

So, in 2011, I started to use Goodreads and their “Reading Challenge” function (as well as optional year-read shelves), to keep a track of the books I read during a year. The first few years I challenged myself to read around the 100 book mark, but after a few years I became aware that in at least 6 weeks of the year (generally from mid-November through to New Year), I was reading short or unchallenging books in order to get my numbers up.

In trying to think back to the books I had read when I was younger (pre teen essentially) I was surprised at the books I could remember having read (and sad about the books I must have read, but don’t remember). I do remember going to the library and being “upped” to the adult lending rates early, as the librarian realised that not only was I reading the maximum child rates each week but I was understanding them (I wasn’t exactly given an exam, but I’m sure I was certainly questioned each week about what I brought back).

When it came to setting my Reading Challenge numbers in 2016, I decided that I would read what I wanted. If it meant that I only read 20 books a year (down from the 100+) then so be it.

This year (2019) I’ve not set a specific number of books, but I’ve decided to use two Reading Challenges, in part to get rid of the books in my house that have spilled out onto sofas and coffee tables. The challenges (Paper Only and Historical Fiction) are designed to get rid of a good percentage of the books that fulfill these criteria.

In realising the number of short and/or easy books I’ve been reading over several years, I’ve come to realise that I’ve lost a certain amount of critical thinking. Books I would have considered easy when I was younger I now consider “hard”….I have to do things, like remember character names, relationships etc. Gasp! This is certainly one of the reasons I’m reading a lot slower than I was before. That’s not to say the books I’ve read in previous years were *bad* (although I’ve discarded my fair share of those that were BAAAAADDDD), they were just like Krispy Kreme doughnuts  – lovely in the moment, tasty, yummy, but minutes or days later, you have to ask yourself if it was truly worth it in the long terms (yes? hahahahha).

There is the facility in Goodreads, as well as Librarything, to export your books into a huge spreadsheet, that will allow for much greater data mining. I know some people do this – I’m not there (yet).

I know that my reading over the last few years consists mainly of

  • White Western women authors
  • Writing usually about Women, presumably also white (few state otherwise)
  • With the historical books, the stories are usually about members of the *ton*, which therefore implies a certain level of education an money, even if the overarching story s about women overturning the patriarchy.

I know that my paper books are much more diverse, so by switching away from e-books, I am already expanding my reading material.  I’ve read male authors writing about male characters (ok, still white, but please bear with me); male scifi writers producing the most appalling misogynistic/sexist material (wow, I forgot that was still a trope in the 1970s); non white writers of either sex, writing about whatever.

I do expect my book reading to become more diverse n the next few years, however, I am restricted by budget and the fact that my current TBR is HUGE – I’d rather read the books that I already have (even if the selection is still relatively narrow) than pick up the current trends, only for them to be lost in all the other books I have. I will read a book because I want to read it, not because it’s fashionable or someone tells me I should.


So, Constant Reader, what about you – do you know what you’re reading/have been reading?

Book Review: Master and God by Lindsey Davies

From “New York Times” bestselling novelist Lindsey Davis comes an epic novel of first-century Rome and the Emperor Domitian, known to all of the Roman world as “Master and God”
Set in the reign of the Emperor Domitian in first-century Rome, “Master and God” is Lindsey Davis’s meticulously researched epic novel of the life and times surrounding the last of the Flavian dynasty of emperors. Gaius Vinius is a reluctant Praetorian Guard the Emperor’s personal guard and a man with a disastrous marriage history. Flavia Lucilla is also in the imperial court and she is responsible not only for having created the ridiculous hairstyle worn by the imperial ladies but for also making toupees for the balding and increasingly paranoid emperor. The two of them are brought together in an unlikely manner a devastating fire in Rome which then leads to a lifelong friendship.Together they watch Domitian’s once talented rule unravel into madness and cruelty, until the people closest to him conspire to delete him from history. As an imperial bodyguard, Vinius then faces a tough decision. “Master and God” is a compelling novel of the Roman Empire from the height of power to the depths of madness told from the perspective of two courtiers and unlikely friends who together are the witnesses to history.”


Via my bookgroup, this is the next book to be added to both my #HistoricalFictionReadingChallenge and #PaperOnlyReadingChallenge

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