Book Review & Blog Tour – The Butcher’s Daughter by Victoria Glendinning

Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Books

It is 1535 and Agnes Peppin, daughter of a West-country butcher, has been banished, leaving her family home in disgrace to live out the rest of her life cloistered behind the walls of Shaftesbury Abbey. While Agnes grapples with the complex rules and hierarchies of the sisterhood, King Henry VIII has proclaimed himself Head of the Church of England. Religious houses are being formally subjugated, monasteries dissolved, and the great Abbey is no exception to the purge. Cast out with her sisters, Agnes is at last free to be the master of her own fate. But freedom comes at a price as she descends into a world she knows little about, using her wits and testing her moral convictions against her need to survive – by any means necessary…(Synopsis taken from official press release by the publisher)


‘You must know that the life of the Abbey is shot through with dreams, fantasies and denial. And betrayal.’ (The Butcher’s Daughter by Victoria Glendinning)

Narrated as something of a memoir, The Butcher’s Daughter follows the title character herself – Agnes Peppin – during one of the most turbulent and uncertain times in English history. To begin with, I wasn’t entirely sold on her character becoming this strong, resilient woman the synopsis portrays her to be. She enters this tale as a mere teenager, forced to leave her life behind due to having an illegitimate baby and during these chapters I found her to be overly passive, innocent and childlike – as you would expect a girl of her era to act, I suppose. However, upon reaching the conclusion of this book, she’s turned into a completely new woman. The amount of stress and upheaval she is forced to endure throughout this novel is incredible, and I urge anyone who is into feminism and strong female characters to take a look at her gripping story – as long as you’re open to historical fiction of course.

The descriptions of the settings were beautifully written, and as with books based on real life places and events, you can gain an even bigger understanding of where the story follows by going online and looking for yourself – something I did regularly. Not only that, but there’s only so much information an author can give you during the course of a novel without it feeling too much like a textbook and less like a work of fiction, so being able to do your own research about certain events weaved into The Butcher’s Daughter was a lot of fun. Although, it must be said that Glendinning definitely did a fantastic job of making sure the reader was informed enough to not get lost along the way.

Overall, I found the plot to be incredibly immersive and as someone who doesn’t read a lot of historical fiction, I do occasionally find it hard to grasp the language, especially combined with the real historical events. I didn’t have that problem here aside from maybe the first couple of chapters but I can easily put that down to a a bit of a literary culture shock, if you will.

Whilst I do think my enjoyment of this novel would have been higher if I read historical fiction regularly, I don’t think you need to be a lover of the genre to like this. Perhaps the only thing you will need is a willingness to branch out and do a bit of research and have at least a mild interest in the Tudor period. I genuinely thought this was a fantastic novel and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Not only that, but my head feels wonderfully full of newfound knowledge and any book that makes me feel like I’ve learnt something valuable is one I think people need to pick up!

Authority belongs to men. Their authority cannot be denied because it is not an idea. It is fact. Yet I do not wish I were a man. So many men are like children, they cannot think beyond their own concerns and desires, and they tailor their opinions and allegiances to serve the same.’ (The Butcher’s Daughter by Victoria Glendinning)


Review written by Tilly.

Disclaimer – We received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts given are entirely our own.

Buy a copy from your preferred retailer here. Please be aware when ordering from Wordery, I am affiliate and do receive a small commission when you use my link to purchase the book. WorderyAmazon UKAmazon US Book DepositoryBlackwell’s Waterstones

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Victoria Glendinning is a British biographer, critic, broadcaster and novelist. Born in Sheffield and educated at Oxford where she studied modern languages, she later worked for The TLS. She is an Honorary Vice-President of English PEN, winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, was appointed a CBE in 1998, is the twice winner of the Whitbread Biography award and Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature. A regular contributor of articles and reviews to various UK newspapers and magazines, she is also the author of three widely acclaimed novels: The Grown-Ups, Electricity, and Flight. (Author bio provided by Duckworth)

This blog post has been written as part of a blog tour. We are the fourth stop, but we’ll provide links to other reviewers posts as they go live. Many thanks to Duckworth Books for allowing us to participate.

Day One – She Reads Novels and The Average Reader, Day Two – On The Shelf Books, Day Four – Paperback Piano

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Book Review – The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Book Reviews, Books

The Kingdom is an illustrious theme park designed to make your wildest dreams come true. Complete with their very own branded Fantasists – bioengineered princesses who get voted up based on their popularity on the My Kingdom app – and animal enclosures, attractions and shows, it’s a pretty popular place to escape reality. Unfortunately, this life is the reality of Ana, one of the parks most highly esteemed Fantasists. When she starts feeling emotions beyond her programming, things in The Kingdom begin to take a dark descent and she’s left blamed for a murder. But what really happened that night? Take a step back in time to unravel the mystery, complete with court transcripts, newspaper articles and the memories of the alleged murderer herself.


‘The monorail hums with a delicate power, like the beating of a bird’s heart, as it speeds along the beam-way. For a brief moment, too brief even for a security camera to catch it, I close my eyes, release my grip on the cool aluminum hand-rail, and dare myself to wonder if this is what it feels like to fly.’ (The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg)

You take a step off of the train, suitcase in hand, surrounded by the warm, smiling faces of your family. It’s finally here, the moment you’ve been excited about all year. Your baggage gets taken away to your hotel and you run to the entrance. Next thing you know, you’re walking down Main Street USA, rushing to see the parade heading your way. You can smell the popcorn, and cookies, can practically taste the excitement in the air. You’ve made it. The happiest place on earth. Disney.

This is the exact same feeling I was given upon delving into The Kingdom. Jess Rothenberg has crafted an intricately detailed escape that even Walt, the king of escapism himself, would be proud of. From the enclosures for the beautiful bioengineered animals, to the ‘Fantasists’ themselves, there is so much imagination contained within the first few chapters of this novel. Wandering around this high-tech theme park with our protagonist, Ana, and mentally picturing all of the little details made such a difference to how this fantastic setting leapt off the page. It’s been a while since I’ve read such a beautifully crafted and complete backdrop for a sci-fi/fantasy novel and this was definitely the shining star of the book.

Another dazzling element, was the way Rothenberg weaved in such serious social discussions such as sexual abuse, misogyny, animal abuse and animal welfare within our real life entertainment corporations. What I found particularly impressive about this, was the clever ways she found to disguise these allegories so that the magic and surrealism of the story was never lost. Personally, a lot of these issues are very close to my heart and animal welfare within places like Seaworld and zoos, is a big thing for me so I was delighted to have these topics raised. However,if you’re not that into social commentaries within your literature, I also don’t think this was at the forefront enough for you to warrant not enjoying it.

As humans, our treatment of robotics and artificial intelligence is often up for debate. Are we raising our children to say ‘thank you‘ to Alexa and Siri? Should we be? This was probably the biggest real world analysis in The Kingdom and unfortunately, it was the only one that I think was poorly done. Ana, our main character, is far too under-developed for this to ever be a touching parallel between this fictional world and our reality. I understand, she’s a product of mechanics – she’s designed to be kind and beautiful and not much else – but that isn’t enough to warrant following her perspective for an entire novel. Don’t get me wrong here, I’ve read plenty of books where I’ve despised the main character, but at least I cared enough to see whether or not they were going to get their comeuppance at the end. Here, with Ana? I didn’t care what happened. Her experience with human emotions was so underdone and with each new feeling, her personality didn’t evolve when it really needed to.

I also think that despite the amazing world-building inside the park itself, the outside world was kept too much of a mystery. If Rothenberg had never mentioned anything to do with what was beyond the entrance, it wouldn’t have been such an issue for me, but every now and again it was alluded to and every single time it was, it felt contradictory to the previous piece of information we’d been given. If a sequel is being written however, this will be easily rectified.

Unfortunately, I also felt that the ending was too abrupt and there were some things I didn’t think fit with some of the characters personality traits. I definitely blame this on the book being too short however. Either this needs a follow up or two, or quite simply, this needed to be two hundred pages longer.

If you’re still keen to read this, and I really urge you to give it a try regardless of the negatives, you’ll be sucked into an eerie, Utopian theme park. Enter the gates, take a selfie with a Fantasist, play make-believe in your favourite story, if you dare. Just remember, all good things must come to an end. But the question is….could it be yours?

Now smile, and say ‘Happily Ever After’.

Like Wendy, John, and Michael Darling on the night Peter Pan taught them how to fly – I think one happy thought. In my pocket, I have a knife.’ (The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg)


Review written by Tilly.

This was a buddy read with my friend Kate over at Book Lover Kate and she’s also written an amazing review so go check it out!

Buy a copy from your preferred retailer here. Please be aware when ordering from Wordery, I am affiliate and do receive a small commission when you use my link to purchase the book. WorderyAmazon UKAmazon USBook DepositoryBlackwell’sWaterstones

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JESS ROTHENBERG is a writer and freelance editor who grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. A former editor of books for young readers, including the #1 International Bestselling Vampire Academy series, Jess lives in New York City with her husband, son, and cat-who-thinks-he’s-a-dog, Charlie. Her debut novel for teens, The Catastrophic History of You & Me, has been translated into more than a dozen languages. (Author bio and photo taken from Goodreads)

Book Review – The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Book Reviews, Books

Henry ‘Monty’ Montague was bred to be a gentleman. Born into the arms of aristocratic parents in 18th century England hasn’t been easy on him, but I suppose despite being kicked out of a world famous boys school, harbouring romantic, and lots of sexual feelings for his male best friend, and having to put up with a brand new ‘goblin’ sibling, he’s still got it pretty good. Upon embarking on his Grand Tour, the historical version of a gap year, in which he intends to spend a lot of time screwing around with a considerable amount of beautiful women, and finally, maybe getting closer to his best friend Percy, things begin to go awry fairly quickly when he steals something he really shouldn’t have. Along with Percy, and his highly intelligent sister, he embarks on a perilous journey across Europe, in a sass filled, whirlwind adventure. It’s not exactly the Grand Tour he expected, but it might just end up being the Grand Tour of his dreams.


“We’re not courting trouble,” I say. “Flirting with it, at most.” (Henry Montague – The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee)

Henry Montague, or Monty as he’s known throughout the novel is a sassy, sleazy and downright selfish excuse for a man. He also just so happens to be incredibly charming, funny and lovable. I don’t quite know how Mackenzi Lee managed to craft him into such a multi-layered gent but she did, and he’s one of my favourite fictional characters of the year. At the beginning of the book, we’re led to believe that he doesn’t have much time for anything bar enjoying sex, drinking and gambling, all the typical pursuits of a young man just about to embark on his Grand Tour but the novel actually takes a pretty dark turn, and we begin to establish just why he is the way he is, and why he doesn’t think himself better than the lifestyle he lives.

Percy, Monty’s best friend and love interest, thankfully brings a more respectable atmosphere to the duo. He’s gentle, kind-hearted and unfortunately battling his own inner demons, which again get revealed as the plot furthers. In my personal opinion, his character arc was a lot more interesting in terms of the 18th century setting. Not only is he biracial -which in those days pretty much condemned you to a very isolated life at best, and slavery at worst – but he’s also harbouring a pretty big secret, one that once again, was a very controversial thing to have connected to you in that time period. Given the extensive research Lee did prior to writing Gentleman’s Guide, I found it fascinating further discovering just how badly certain minorities were treated and it’s something I think I’m going to delve into myself in the future.

Amongst the main trio, we also have Monty’s little sister, Felicity who is essentially Hermione Granger except hundreds of years in the past. She’s got way too many obvious brain cells for a lady of her century, and for that reason, she shies away from traditional feminine values, instead filling her head with alchemy and medicine. Felicity was a breath of fresh air from the plentiful amount of men in this story, and she’s a great role model for the teenage girls reading this. Feisty, brainy and all around kick-ass, she’s a woman who knows her own worth and she was my favourite character by far.

Unfortunately with this novel, I expected it to take an entirely different direction to where it ended up going. I wanted a story about a summer of debauchery and vulgarity from the mindset of the upper class, whereas it ended up veering more towards the slightly fantastical side with a quest regarding alchemy. The mid-section set in Barcelona was well described and provided a beautiful backdrop, but I became bored and wanted to go back to the fun I was having prior to the events that took place there. It picked up speed again on the high seas, but that segment had already diminished my overall enjoyment too much to recapture the fun spirit I’d started with.

I actually listened to this via audiobook whilst reading along with my physical copy and I don’t believe I would have liked this nearly as much without the wonderful narrator Christian Coulson. He provided such a humorous approach to Monty, and didn’t hold back in doing any of the European accents he was obliged to do. It was a truly spectacular listen.

The heavy topics it dealt with such as abuse, homophobia, racism and sexism, were handled carefully and I commend Mackenzi Lee for successfully entwining a fluffy, queer romance novel with such tricky subject matters. I also applaud her for going near a time period that Young Adult authors don’t tend to touch upon very often and it was a welcome respite from the ever-growing community of World War ll novelists. As far as I’m concerned, whilst historical fiction is far from being my favourite, it’s an important one to try and explore further, and the more variations we have within YA, the better.

I’ll definitely take a look at the second book, primarily because it’s from Felicity’s perspective next time round. However, I’m certainly in no rush to pick it up. Overall, The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue was a humorous take on 18th century Europe, complete with a lot of heart and an unfortunate change in direction halfway through the novel. I’d still urge anyone who enjoys a gay romance, historical elements and sassy men to give this a try because it’s definitely an unexpected reading experience.

“Against the sky, the stars crown him, marking the edges of his silhouette like he is a constellation of himself.”  (The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee)


Review written by Tilly.

Buy a copy from your preferred retailer here. Please be aware when ordering from Wordery, I am affiliate and do receive a small commission when you use my link to purchase the book. WorderyAmazon UK Amazon USBook DepositoryBlackwell’sWaterstones

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Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Simmons College. She is the New York Times bestselling author of multiple novels. She is also the author of BYGONE BADASS BROADS (Abrams, 2018), a collection of short biographies of amazing women from history you probably don’t know about but definitely should, based on her popular twitter series of the same name.  When not writing, she works as an independent bookseller, drinks too much Diet Coke, and romps with her St. Bernard, Queenie. (Author bio and photo taken from Goodreads)

Book Review & Blog Tour – The Killing Gene by E.M. Davey

Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Books

When a young archaeologist goes missing in the Congo basin, Professor Randolph Harkness and troubled tearaway Ross McCartney go in search of her, only to stumble upon a conspiracy to conceal ancient horrors lost to the passage of time. Evading spies and trained killers, can they expose this cover-up in time or will they be buried with it? An unputdownable thriller, The Killing Gene reveals the story of our species, the paradox of the modern mind and our innate predilection for murder… (Synopsis taken from official press release by the publisher)


‘Mother and daughter lay motionless, furled around each other like a fox with her cub. The infant was naked, the woman wore a loincloth; a spear skewered them together. This was a murder scene, five thousand years old. The parent had gripped the spear’s haft as it entered her child’s potbelly, and where it exited her back it had birthed petals of ashen flesh, a lifeless rose on deadened skin.’ (The Killing Gene by E.M. Davey)

Not your traditional mindless investigative thriller, The Killing Gene is a fast-paced, intelligent and thought provoking read, spiralling into the very depths of what makes us human. E.M. Davey has taken everything that I thought I knew about the world and completely turned it on it’s head. Quite simply, I loved it.

Our main character is Randolph Harkness, a prehistorian and professor at The University of Bristol. He’s about to embark on the journey of a lifetime – a journey to unearth humanity’s best kept secrets. Not only that, but he’s dealing with his own personal demons in the process. Despite Randolph’s grief, Davey has created a multi-layered character that is both witty, charming, and obviously rather intelligent, whilst also being incredibly easy to empathise with and care for. This, coupled with his intriguing backstory that we slowly discover over the course of the book, sets a solid foundation for the novel itself. We also have Ross McCartney – a young man who has been slowly going down the wrong track. However, he’s just received devastating news regarding his health and wants to finally do something worthwhile with his life. So, when invited by Harkness to go along with him on his bid to find out what has happened to a young archaeologist named Sakiko, he naturally accepts. Ross’ character arc is one of self-discovery and ultimately, revelations. I really felt for the guy, and his personal battles were gripping to read about. Alongside our main two protagonists are a whole host of other varied roles – a controversial MP, an anthropologist from Edinburgh, assassins, special operatives… The list goes on! What Davey has accomplished with all of these characters, is that no-one gets lost amid this whirlwind of a story. Nobody is forgettable in any way, and everyone is a joy to read about – right down to Harkness’ faithful Basset Hound, Percy.

E.M. Davey is someone who has clearly done their research and has been to all of the places visited in this novel – something that is pretty evident by his incredible ability to describe the backdrops of his scenes. From Africa, to Poland, to Central Asia, right back to good old Britain, I feel like I’ve been on the same journey as our characters, which is testament to the imagery that Davey has been able to evoke. The only slight downside to this is that I now want to actually visit these places in reality – and let’s just say there are somewhat safer tourist destinations to choose from!

My favourite thing about this book though, is without a doubt how much I have learned. It has been truly eye-opening, and it took turns that I wasn’t expecting at all. The origin of our species, how we evolved into what we are today – I only really knew the basics of many of these things before going into The Killing Gene, and it made for one of the most interesting stories that I have ever had the pleasure of delving into. It also provided an astonishing insight into the world of politics and just how far countries will go to keep their secrets. In our current political climate, which is unstable at best, The Killing Gene gives a poignant and uncanny portrayal of what is possibly going on behind the scenes.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this novel. It has everything you could want from a thriller, and so much more, and I was gripped from the get go. There is so much wit, creativity and adventure packed into this book, and you cannot help but end up caring deeply for every character, no matter how small their part is. I have journeyed through time with our ancient ancestors, I have travelled across continents with The Killing Gene’s heroes and I’ve even spent time in the House of Commons witnessing the struggles of a rather controversial MP. Never have I read such an enlightening tale of what is truly is to be human.

‘In an age of Starbucks and Subway, of globalisation and homogenisation, the Charing Cross Road retains an essence of early twentieth-century London. The northern end is lined with antiquarian bookshops where one still has a sense that a valuable folio may be discovered for a song.’ (The Killing Gene by E.M. Davey)


Review written by John.

Disclaimer – We received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts given are entirely our own.

Buy a copy from your preferred retailer here. Please be aware when ordering from Wordery, I am affiliate and do receive a small commission when you use my link to purchase the book. Wordery Amazon UKAmazon USBook DepositoryBlackwell’sWaterstones

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E.M. Davey is a journalist at Global Witness specialising in undercover investigative journalism into international corruption and environmental crime, which gives him the opportunity to travel to far-flung and unusual places. His novels incorporate real-world experiences and meticulous research, blurring the lines between reality and fiction. He has taught creative writing with the Wilbur & Niso Smith foundation and is the author of three novels. He grew up in Bristol and now lives in Kent. (Author bio provided by Duckworth)

This blog post has been written as part of a blog tour. We are the first stop, but we’ll provide links to other reviewers posts as they go live. Many thanks to Duckworth Books for allowing us to participate.

Day Two – Varietats, Day Three – Alex J Books, Day Four – JDL Reads & Story-eyed Reviews, Day Five – Rambling Mads & Rhonda Blogs About Books, Day Six – Orchard Book Club & Elysa the Biblioblogger, Day Seven – Phoenix Faie & Jessica Belmont

Book Review – Whisper To Me by Nick Lake

Book Reviews, Books

Cassie is writing a letter to the boy whose heart she broke. She’s trying to explain why. Why she pushed him away. Why her father got so angry when he saw them together. Why she disappears some nights. Why she won’t let herself remember what happened that long-ago night on the boardwalk. Why she fell apart so completely. Desperate for his forgiveness, she’s telling the whole story of the summer she nearly lost herself. She’s hoping he’ll understand, as well as she now does, how love—love for your family, love for that person who makes your heart beat faster, and love for yourself—can save you after all. (synopsis from Goodreads)


I have learned that some people come into our lives, and then are gone. And that part of the thing, part of life, is to accept that fact, to accept that they’re gone. But there’s something else too: and that’s realising that a part of them will never be gone. We think of lives as stopping, suddenly. But they don’t. They are like waves, like ripples, like echoes that continue to resonate from their point of origin, out into the world‘ – (Whisper To Me by Nick Lake)

Whisper To Me takes the form of a letter, being written by our main character, Cassie. What immediately makes this interesting is her ability to break the fourth wall using this medium – something that is done regularly throughout the book. For me, this created an even stronger connection with her narrative, which helped make me care about her as a character very quickly. That’s not to say that this is the only reason though! Cassie is relatable, quirky and has a wicked sense of humour. As someone who is definitely an introvert and copes (just about) with anxiety on a daily basis, I just got her. Some of the scenarios that she faces are so real to me, making it easy to empathise with her character.

This is my first Nick Lake novel, and it’s clear to see that he knows how mental health issues affect us. Cassie hears voices – something that I’ve never experienced myself, but also something that I’ve never really given a lot of thought into how it would affect others – and I now feel like I know exactly how debilitating and terrifying that would be. However, I also now know how it can be treated, and that there are different methods of treatment, and how to cope with it. Whisper To Me took me on a rollercoaster ride of overcoming everything that life can throw at you, and finding yourself, letting go of everything bad that can drag you down. The book dealt with mental health in a very good way, in fact I’d go as far as to say that I think it’s one of the best out there in that regard.

But hold up! Entwined with the contemporary setting and style is a thriller too. Parts of this novel are very fast-paced and exciting where Paris’ plot line is concerned, although I have to say it did the contemporary side of things a lot better. But then without that, Whisper To Me wouldn’t have been quite the twisting journey that it was. As a character, Paris is unfortunately a bit of a manic pixie dream girl in my opinion, although I don’t feel that detracted from the story in any way. It’s just how she is! Cassie’s past and her relationship with her father were very well done, and very believable. Her Dad was maybe one of the most interesting characters in the whole book actually – I felt so desperately sad and caring towards him, yet he was also a massive arsehole at the same time. His development was some of the best I’ve seen in a while. My least favourite character was, oddly, our love interest. A very typical surfer/beach type guy, he should’ve had a bit more personality to him I think. If he was better written, this could’ve been more than just a good read.

Overall then? I thoroughly enjoyed Whisper To Me. It had it’s issues, yes, but it was relatable, poignant in places, laugh out loud funny, and dealt with the mental health aspects in a way that is more realistic than your average book. The setting was beautiful in a very human way, and even more beautifully described, and the imagery that Lake managed to evoke was incredible. I’ve already bought his latest novel as a result of giving this a go, and I can’t wait to read it!

It’s so hard, when you fall for someone – the temptation is to look back on the past and rewrite things so they seem more significant. There’s a part of me going: Did I know? Did I know the first time we met that you would change everything? That you would change me?’ – (Whisper To Me by Nick Lake)


Review written by John.

Buy a copy from your preferred retailer here. Please be aware if ordering from Wordery, I am an affiliate and do receive a small commission when you use my link to purchase the book. WorderyAmazon UKAmazon USBook DepositoryBlackwell’sBarnes & NobleWaterstones


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Nick Lake lives with his wife, daughter and son in a 16th century house near Oxford, England, with nearly 19th century amenities. Sometimes the heating even works. His first YA novel, In Darkness, was published by Bloomsbury in 2012 and won the Michael L Printz award for Excellence in YA Literature. (Author bio adapted from Goodreads)