Monday, 25 August 2014

Blessings by Anna Quindlen

When a young couple abandon their newborn child and leave her by the garage of the Blessings Estate they have no way of foreseeing the profound impact this will have on the lives of those who live there. The baby is discovered by Skip, the caretaker, who secretes the infant away and cares for her. However, when the estate matriarch, Lydia Blessings, discovers that Skip is caring for the newborn infant her reaction is surprising - most of all to herself.

This is another of those books that has been gathering dust on my shelves for years waiting to be read. Now that I have read it I have put it straight back on my shelf as there is no way I want to part with it and am certain I shall be re-reading it.

This is one of the most exquisitely touching novels I have ever read and by that I do not mean it is sentimental. What I do mean is that the prose is so beautifully and sensitively written that it was impossible to read this and not be stirred emotionally. It maintains a lovely tenderness throughout that meant I meandered through the beautiful prose. This is not a fast paced novel but a gentle stroll along the narrative and which made this a joy to read.

The book's main theme is love; not of the romantic variety but of the platonic love that grows between individuals or the love between parents and children. It also looks at how love has the ability to change a person and can be ultimately redemptive.

This is one of those few books which moved me to the point that I was afraid to read on because, as a reader, I firmly suspected that this situation was not going to end well. I was so engaged by the two main characters and the complicity that develops between them, along with the intelligent way in which the author bridges the social divide between them.  She has an exceptional ability to take an unlikely situation and make it completely convincing through such believable characterization.

This is an utterly compelling novel and if you haven’t already read this then I highly recommend that you do. For me, this book is a real treasure that I shall be keeping safe for the next time I want to read it.

ISBN:  978 0099558354

Publisher: Windmill Books

Price (based on today’s price at  £6.39

Total saving so far:  £346.02

Monday, 11 August 2014

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

This is the second book in the All Soul’s trilogy. There are no spoilers for this book in my review but if you have not yet read the first book A Discovery of Witches I highly recommend that you do and you can find my review for it here. Also, you may wish to not read this review any further as, by necessity, there are spoilers for the first book in this review.

At the end of the first book we left Diana, who is an historian and descended from a long line of witches, and Matthew, a long lived vampire time travelling to Elizabethan England. They have broken the laws which divides their two species and Diana has discovered a lost alchemical manuscript which has provoked an uprising between witches, vampires and daemons.

This book picks up at the point where the previous one leaves off and continues the story of their foray into the past to seek refuge from those who mean them harm, to search for the elusive Elizabethan manuscript that Diana has uncovered in the present day library at Oxford University and to seek out a witch who can help her to control her powers.

I liked the way the book picks up exactly where the previous one ended as it provided an instant transition into the next part of the story.

However, I did find the plot a little repetitive and felt that the book would have been improved had it been tighter and a little less waffly. There were times I felt it meandered about rather than getting on with the story and would have benefited from being less lengthy. The narrative moves from place the place but the plot didn’t seem to progress along with the book. I did not find myself wanting to rush back to read more.

Whereas, I had really liked the characters in the first book and found them fully formed, they became a bit two dimensional in this book and I was disappointed with that.

That said, I did read right through to the end and I still intend to read the final book in the trilogy and I hope I will find the conclusion a tad more satisfactory than I found this one. However, the middle book in a trilogy often stagnates a little and just seems to provide the launching pad for the finale. So, I do not want to be too hard on the author for this book but look forward to being able to assess the story as a whole when I have read the final one.

All that said, my husband read this book straight after the first and virtually gobbled it down in one as he found it completely gripping. He then rushed on to read the final book and thought the entire work was excellent. So, I am glad to say that we find our old friend subjectivity rearing his head again and telling us that what appeals to one does not necessarily appeal to another. I would love to hear your thoughts if you have read any of this trilogy.

ISBN:  978 0755384754

Publisher: Headline

Price (based on today’s price at £8.27

Total saving so far:  £339.63

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland

King Richard II’s reign was troubled. It was a time when the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.

Respected cloth merchant Robert of Bassingham has acquired his wealth over many years through much hard work. Married to Edith and with two sons to whom he can teach and hand over his business to in the course of time he has little to worry about.

When wealthy widow, Caitlin, seeks him out to ask business advice Robert is only too happy to help. However, others can see that Caitlin is slowly worming her way into his affections but Robert refuses to see this. Will Robert’s good sense prevail before it is too late or can the mysterious Caitlin weave some kind of spell over him that he will not be able to extricate himself from?

Set during the Peasants Revolt in 1381 the narrative of this medieval thriller concentrates on the lives of Robert and his family. Although most of the characters were extremely well portrayed in this book I found Robert himself to be a little naïve considering the position he holds in society and which made his character a little unrealistic for me. However, throughout the book the author is suggesting that he is being induced by witchcraft into this gullible state and the plot proceeds along these lines throughout.

A time of myth and superstition, the plot is dark and rich in atmosphere and the breakdown of this one family is clearly designed to reflect the similarity of the destruction occurring within the wider society of the time.

What I really liked about this book is the way the author took a well known period of history and concentrated on the ordinary day to day lives of both the poor along with insight into the response of the merchant class. There is much written in history which focuses on the effect that history has on society with a concentration on nobility but here, the focus is on those trying to live through outrageous circumstances whilst being part of the lower echelons of society. It is this concentration that made this an engaging read and encouraged an empathy with the characters.

The author has clearly researched her topic with thoroughness and has thus made this period of history accessible to a modern audience. She is an intelligent writer and it was a pleasure to read this book.

I also loved the way each chapter opens with a superstition and introduces the idea of the significance that these beliefs had upon the actions of the characters.

Anyone, who enjoys historical novels with a mystery running through it and a hint of the supernatural will enjoy this book very much. This is the first novel I have read by Karen Maitland and I will be reading more by this author in the future.

ISBN:  9781472215017

Publisher:  Headline Review

Price:  £9.09

Total saving so far:  £331.36

Friday, 1 August 2014

**GIVEAWAY** of The Undesirables by Dave Boling

While the vastly outnumbered Boer commandos fight in the field, half a million British soldiers torch a flaming path across the South African veld. As they go, the British imprison thousands of displaced Boer families, including Aletta Venter's, and cast them into newly devised 'concentration camps'.

In a crowded tent with her mother and sibling, Aletta finds ways to cope with the confinement, privation and loss, but searches for the rarest of comforts - a bit of adolescent normalcy, perhaps even the spark of forbidden romance. Her weapon of choice in this personal battle; a young girl's powerful sense of hope

I have been wanting to host a giveaway for a while but have been waiting for the right book to come along and this looks like just the book.

If you want to be in with a chance of winning this book then there are a few ways in which you can enter:

1) Leave a comment on this blog telling me what your favourite book is.
2) Follow me on Twitter using the button on this page and RT the tweet about this giveaway.
3) Give me a like on facebook and share the giveaway posting

You will get extra entries for each one of those that you do e.g. if you leave a comment here and then follow on Twitter and RT or 'like' me on Facebook and share then you will get 3 entries.

I will run the giveaway for two weeks and I will use a random number generator at midday (BST) on 14th August 2014 to decide on a winner.

The giveaway is open worldwide.