Reading Group Review : Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell #Review


Synopsis of the story:

Shadow on the Crown is a fictionalised account of the court of King Ethelred II of England. In 1002 fifteen year-old Emma of Normandy crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older King, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Thrust into an unfamiliar and treacherous court, with a husband who mistrusts her, stepsons who resent her and a bewitching rival who covets her crown, Emma must defend herself against her enemies and secure her status as queen by bearing a son…



Botwell Green Library Reading Group met at the Tovertafel (aka Magic Table) on Friday afternoon to discuss Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell; in-between playing snap, bursting bubbles, paint balls and balloons, completing jigsaw puzzles, sweeping leaves and tickling fish!! This new interactive installation at Botwell Green Library was a big hit with the Library Reading Group and just as well because we were so much in agreement of how enjoyable the book was, there was no difference of opinion and not much to say.

This book was a surprisingly easy read and a popular choice with the group. Several of us were concerned with having to read over 500 pages of an 11th century-set novel but there was positive feedback through the month from different group members visiting or contacting the library.

One member said it was “the best book choice for the group yet.”

Another, rather fortuitously, booked a holiday to Devon which coincided with reading the novel, bringing the narrative to life:  “I brought ‘Shadow on the Crown’ away with me – what a good read it is. Today we went, by boat, from Exmouth along to Topsham – which is almost part of Exeter now.  Along the river I thought about the Danish dragon ships which came that way hundreds of years ago to attack Exeter. A lady on the coach party asked me for the details of the book because she said it sounds just her kind of story so I have given them to her.”


Unanimously all 8 of us enjoyed this book from cover to cover. Overall we rated this story as “good” (the rating of “excellent” was reduced by 1 member rating it as “OK”). Very high praise indeed.

As a group, we would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good read and would definitely read more books by this author when they become available in the library catalogue.

Other individual comments include:

“It was a little difficult initially to keep tabs on very similar names but once the initial hurdle was overcome it was enjoyable. A nice light read. Thanks Ben, enjoyed it.”


“I really enjoyed this book and it was good to learn about British history more than 1000 years ago. This book deals with the first years of marriage until the birth of her son Edward. The story is quite fast paced, spread over 5 years with romance, espionage, war, jealousy and action. A page-turner and every day I looked forward to the next evening’s read”.

About the Author


Patricia Bracewell is a native of California where she taught literature and composition before embarking upon her writing career. A lifelong fascination with British history and a chance, on-line reference to an unfamiliar English queen led to years of research, a summer history course at Downing College, Cambridge, and the penning of her debut novel SHADOW ON THE CROWN. Set in 11th century England, SHADOW is the first book of a trilogy about Emma of Normandy who was a queen in England and a power behind the throne for nearly four decades. Patricia is working on the two follow-up novels in the series, but takes time out for tennis, gardening and travel. She is the mother of two grown sons and lives with her husband in Northern California.

Visit her website at


Next Month!

eim-pb-jacketDuring the Dementia Awareness Month of May we will be reading Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, a well-received debut award-winning novel about Maud, an ageing grandmother who is convinced her friend Elizabeth is missing and in terrible danger…

Please ask at the counter at Botwell Green Library if you would like to read the book and join in the June discussion Friday 1 June at 2pm.


Written by Ben Caduff

Botwell Green Library


Polish Heritage Festival: Cake and Craft Coffee Morning


Uxbridge Library hosted a special Cake and Craft Coffee Morning on Friday 4th May as part of their Polish Heritage Festival.

The coffee morning celebrated Polish cuisine and craft with a chance to try delicious Polish cakes, including cheesecake and apple cake, and the traditional art of paper flower making with Uxbridge Library Assistant Roksana.

In attendance were Jan and Barbara Zak, Polish residents with an incredible story. Jan Zak was captured by the USSR and sent to a gulag. Jan survived the experience, finally being freed in 1941 as a result of the Nazi invasion. Jan travelled through Russia to Palestine and then made his way to Britain to serve in the Royal Air Force as a radar technician. This is just one example of the incredible contributions made by Polish men and women during World War II.

The Polish Heritage Festival continues with events on Friday 4th May and Saturday 5th May including a temporary exhibition on the 303 Squadron.


By Mark Ulrich – Uxbridge Library 

Hillingdon Secondary Book of the Year 2018 Shortlist

Every year the Hillingdon Schools’ Library Service shortlists six new fiction titles that are sent into local schools with an aim to improve literacy and promote reading for pleasure. This award is funded by the Hillingdon Public Libraries and benefits numerous infant, primary and secondary schools in the borough.

This year is no different with an ambitious (and accidentally colour-coded) shortlist full of diverse fiction to appeal to all. Thirteen Secondary schools have signed up for the award in 2018 and received multiple copies of the following:

Being Miss Nobody1. Being Miss Nobody by Tamsin Winter

When Rosalind starts her new secondary school, her selective mutism makes it difficult to fit in. Her classmates soon begin to bully her and dub her the ‘Mute-Ant.’ With her parents focused on her seriously ill younger brother, she finds she doesn’t have anyone to turn to. Determined to discover a way to make her voice heard, Rosalind starts her own blog called ‘Miss Nobody’ where she takes a stand against school bullies. As things soon spiral out of control, Miss Nobody could quickly find herself becoming a bully herself.

The Ravenmaster's Boy

2. The Ravenmaster’s Boy by Mary Hoffman

Kit, a survivor of the plague in 16th century England finds himself taken in by the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London after the death of his parents. While there, he discovers he can speak with ravens, a handy skill when you become caught up in the plots of a Tudor court filled with treason and spies. With the famous Queen Anne imprisoned in the Tower, Kit decides to ferry her private messages and stop an assassination attempt with the help of his talking magical raven friends before it’s too late.

The Nearest Far Away Place3. The Nearest Far Away Place by Hayley Long

Dylan and Griff’s lives are forever changed when they suddenly lose their parents in a devastating car accident in New York. Taken in briefly by their Headteacher and then by a distant aunt/uncle in Wales, the boys quickly have to adjust to constant new surroundings. Dylan worries his 13 year old brother Griff isn’t dealing with his grief and is becoming isolated from all around them but Dylan finds that he himself has some issues to face up to of his own.

Running on the Roof of the world4. Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth

12 year old Tash lives in Tibet and has to follow lots of rules to survive there but after a man sets himself on fire in an act of protest, the Chinese soldiers occupying her country seize her parents as well in the aftermath. Tash decides to set out with her friend Sam and two yaks to escape Tibet and seek out the help of the Dalai Lama in India in the hopes of saving her family in this fast paced adventure.


The Adventures of John Blake5. The Adventures of John Blake by Phillip Pullman (Art by Fred Fordham)

Our first nominated graphic novel for the secondary award follows a teenage boy on a time-travelling ship after he rescues a girl thrown overboard from a family yacht in a storm. He endeavours to return her to her own time – the present. But he and his crew are being hunted by a villain desperate to secure a piece of their time-travelling relic for his own evil and dangerous ends.

Where the World Ends 6. Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean

It’s 1727 and a small group of men and boys are ferried out to a remote sea stac off St Kilda in Scotland for their annual harvest of bird meat, oil and feathers that pays the rent for their small poor village. When no one from their home returns to collect them, the group become convinced that the ill-fated Judgement Day has arrived, but theorise that heaven’s angels have forgotten them and left them as the sole survivors of humanity upon Earth. They must now survive on the stac for as long as they can, but when infighting occurs and superstition takes over – how long can they really make it? 

Schools have had a few months to read through the shortlist and they’ll attend a finale event on 22nd May 2018 to vote and crown a winner for Hillingdon Secondary Book of the Year 2018!

by Kirsty (Schools’ Library Service)




Fantasy YA Recommendations

Amy, a student undertaking her work experience with Hillingdon Libraries has written a second post for the Hillingdon Libraries blog, this time sharing her favourite fantasy reads:

‘Looking for some magical, action-packed, brilliant YA reads? Well, you’re in the right place! I’m back with a list of my top 5 favourite YA books!

  1. Wild Magic by Cat Weatherill

wild magic

Alright, this might be a bit of a cheat one, since I’m not entirely sure what age category Wild Magic would fit into, but I’m going to recommend it nonetheless because it’s an amazing book that deserves more recognition. I first discovered this book at the library, where I borrowed it on playaway (which is basically a portable audiobook.) The audiobook was so incredibly good, and I found myself utterly absorbed by Cat’s masterful storytelling. Every time I see it in the library I always pick it up and give it a listen, and you should too! After falling in love with the audiobook, I picked up a copy of the actual book from amazon and I can now proudly claim that Wild Magic is my favourite stand-alone book. I have heard/read it countless times. Without giving anything  major away, Wild Magic retells the tale of the Pied Piper but in a refreshing and lively new way you would have never heard before. The world is so magical and wonderful and completely immersive. Beautiful writing and a beautiful story. I love it!

  1. A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab

Meet Kell, an Antari, meaning someone who can jump between alternate worlds. The Darker Shade of Magic trilogy is set in four versions of London: ordinary Grey London, magical Red London, corrupted White London and the destroyed world which was once known as Black London. With a believable magic system, epic plot, magical fight scenes and instantly lovable characters, this trilogy is strong and action-packed from beginning to end, with the third and final book being my favourite of the three. When Kell finds his world under threat from a new dark power, he must team up with Lila Bard, a thief from grey London, to save Red London from chaos and ruin. I would recommend this trilogy to anyone who loves fantasy, magic and excitement… and, let’s face it, who doesn’t?

  1. The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo is my favourite author and this trilogy also contains my favourite book character of all time: the privateer prince, Nikolai Lantsov. This trilogy plunges you headfirst into the rich, magical and totally believable Grisha universe, with stunningly vivid characters, an gripping plot and a fantastically crafted villain. Alina lives in Ravka, a country where the Grisha (humans with magical abilities) train for The Darkling, the most powerful Grisha ever known. I love everything about Leigh Bardugo’s writing, from her characters to her world building and the Grisha trilogy deserves a read from everyone.

  1. Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo

Yes, it’s Leigh Bardugo again. The queen of characters herself brings us two more books from her stunning Grisha universe, except this time, the story is set in Ketterdam: the bustling trade-capital of Kerch, based off of the real life Amsterdam. With complex, lovable, intriguing and entirely believable characters, Six of Crows tells the story of six dangerous outcasts and one impossible heist. Kaz Brekker and his crew must break into the Ice Court, retrieve a hostage, and live long enough to claim their reward. I cannot stress how much I adore this duology and every one of the characters, and the story itself is woven masterfully. I would not change a thing about it, and if you haven’t read anything by Leigh Bardugo before, you better go out and give her books a read.

  1. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children trilogy by Ransom Riggs

The countdown is up! Here is my number one favourite book of all time: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Where do I start? This book is incredible. I went into it for the first time knowing absolutely nothing about it, but the cover had caught my eye in a bookshop and from the moment I saw it I knew I had to read it. The story unfolds through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman as he travels to an island to unravel the mystery of his Grandfather’s death. Packed with creepy photos, a mysterious plot, wonderfully lovable characters and peculiarness, this book had me hooked from beginning to end. In my opinion, it is a masterpiece and the trilogy just keeps getting better and better. Riggs’ world feels so real yet magical, and his writing style is entirely immersive. Once I picked this book up I could not put it down, so you can imagine my delight when he announced that a second trilogy would be coming soon! I love this book so much and I recommend it to the moon and back.’ 

Written by Amy Child (Student work experience)

Many of these fabulous young adult reads can be borrowed from your local Hillingdon library, please speak to a member of staff in branch or reserve online.