Friday, 31 August 2018

Monday Blog Tour - THE WOMAN IN THE SHADOWS by Carol McGrath

Monday will be my stop on the Blog Tour for The Woman in the Shadows by Carol McGrath. 

I will be reviewing this book and sharing my thoughts with you so keep an eye open for my blog posting on Monday. 

Have a great weekend everybody.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - Book Review

Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.

Told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. This is the story of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in post-colonial Africa.

A modern classic, The Poisonwood Bible has been read and adored by millions worldwide.

I have never read a novel by Barbara Kingsolver that I did not think was brilliant. Her novels are all beautifully written and this book was no exceptions. This is another outstanding work that I loved from the very first page.

There are five very distinct voices in this novel and each one sang with individuality. Four daughters and a mother - as different as chalk and cheese and Ms. Kingsolver allows the reader to develop a close acquaintance with each of them.

I cannot remember reading a book set in the Belgian Congo before so there was much new information for me to glean here. The author captured the atmosphere, as felt by the individual characters, extremely well. She depicted the severity of their living conditions superbly. I was utterly convinced by their surroundings and circumstances.

My one small criticism of this book is that it was slightly too long and I felt it could have been wrapped up quite neatly at an earlier point. Have you read this? Do you agree?

ISBN:  978 0571298846

Publisher: Faber and Faber

About the Author:

Barbara Kingsolver's work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned a devoted readership. In 2010 she won the Orange Prize for The Lacuna, and her 2012 novel Flight Behaviour was shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction. Before she made her living as a writer, Kingsolver earned degrees in biology and worked as a scientist. She now lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Library Lowdown

I had a great trip to the library and came away with four exciting titles; two of which are in the longlist for this years Man Booker Prize Award. 

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

Words have always mattered to Gretel. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language that was just their own. She hasn't seen her mother since the age of sixteen though - almost a lifetime ago - and those memories have faded. Now Gretel works as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary nature.

A phone call from the hospital interrupts Gretel's isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood. She remembers other things too: the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water - a canal thief? - swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but go back.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize Award 2018, Daisy Johnson's debut novel turns classical myth on its head and takes readers to a modern-day England unfamiliar to most. As daring as it is moving, Everything Under is a story of family and identity, of fate, language, love and belonging that leaves you unsettled and unstrung.

Milkman by Anna Burns

In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is buy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her trouble and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes 'interesting'. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize Award 2018, Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.

The Hoarder by Jess Kidd

Maud Drennan - an underpaid carer and unintentional psychic - is the latest in a long line of dogsbodies for the ancient, belligerent Cathal Flood. Yet despite her best efforts, Maud finds herself drawn into the mysteries concealed in his filthy, once-grand home. She realises that something is changing: Cathal, and the junk-filled rooms, are opening up to her.

With only her agoraphobic landlandy and a troop of sarcastic ghostly saints to help, Maud must uncover what lies beneath Cathal's decades-old hostility, and the strange activities of the house itself. And if someone has hidden a secret there, how far will they go to ensure it remains buried?

Our House by Louise Candlish

When Fi Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house, she is plunged into terror and confusion. She and her husband, Bram, have owned their home on Trinity Avenue for years and have no intention of selling. How can this other family possibly think the house is theirs? And why has Bram disappeard when she needs him most?

Bram has made a catastrophic mistake and now he is paying. Unable to see his wife, his children or his home, he has nothing left but to settle scores. As the nightmare takes grip, both Bram and Fi try to make sense of the events that led to a devastating crime. What has he hidden from her - and what has she hidden from him? And will either survive the chilling truth - that there are far worse things you can lost than your house?

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Shavlan by Eunice E. Blecker - Tuesday Teaser

Welcome to the first of my regular Tuesday Teaser slot where I will be providing you with some basic information and the first page of a book that I think you might like to know more about. 

Todays book is Shavlan by Eunice E. Blecker. Does this book appeal to you based on the first page? Has it whet your appetite to read more? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

From the Blurb 

Shavlan - A Woman's Journey to Independence

Sarah Taube cowers in the bakery cellar clutching her three children, listening to the sounds of shooting and shouting by the White Cossacks during a pogrom. In order to survive, she enters into a bargain with the ruthless Commissar, Dimitri, an orthodox Jew transformed by tragedy into a high-ranking Bolshevik. Will Dimitri be able to protect Sarah Taube and her family? Will Sarah Taube be reunited with her wanderlust husband who leaves for South Africa to seek his fortune and find himself, and will she realize her life long dream to go to America?

Little does Sarah Taube realize as she stands at the train tracks with her children, how much her life is going to change.

This family saga is based on true events in the life of the author's maternal grandmother spanning three continents and five decades. It tells of a woman's journey to independence while living through World War I, deportation from her village in Lithuania, the Russian Revolution, the Civil War and Lithuanian Independence.

First Page

Chapter 1 - Cossacks

May 1919 - Ekaterinoslav, Ukraine, Soviet Russia

Sarah Taube lay frightened in the dimly lit cellar surrounded by her three precious children. Thank goodness they were asleep, she thought. Her daughter Chaya was well aware of what was happening, but the two younger children were still so very innocent and untouched by the cruel realities of war.

The sound of galloping horses, troops marching, the firing of rifles, and the piercing cries of men, women and children could be heard nearby.

"How could this be happening?" she asked herself.

Where was Dimitri who promised to be there for her and the children if she ever needed him? She was again isolated and alone, with only her wits to help her think calmly and clearly.

It seemed to her as if a curse had been placed upon nearly all of the males in her life.

It first began with her father who was killed during a pogrom, attempting to save the life of a woman he did not even know. Then there was her husband, stuck in a faraway land unable to rescue her in her time of need. Losing her sweet, innocent young son Avram so tragically still overpowered her with sorrow. And the thought of not knowing whether her eldest son Yankel was alive or dead overwhelmed her with grief. So why shouldn't she think a curse had been placed on those males so closely connected to her? Why indeed.

She was determined to be strong for her children's sake, though there were times when she felt the strain of it was too much for her to bear. But somehow she would always find the strength to carry on, regardless of all the obstacles she had to face.

ISBN: 978 1546966166

Publisher: Newbridge Press

Friday, 17 August 2018

Some Exciting News!

I love writing my blog and sharing all the books that I read with you. Amazingly, I have been doing this since 2013 and the time has flown by but then we all know the old adage about how time flies when we are having fun. 

And it really has been fun to do. I love the interaction I have with you all via social media, email and comments and I listen to your  feedback very carefully. So, with that in mind, I am going to be making some exciting changes to the blog. Overall,the format will remain the same with the majority of posts being my reviews along with the occasional guest post.  However, I am also introducing some regular postings beginning with Tuesday Teaser next week which will go live next ........well on Tuesday - I'm sure you had already worked that out :)

The Tuesday Teaser slot will introduce the first page of a book that I think you all might like, along with some details about the book and the author. I hope that you will enjoy reading it as much as I am having fun selecting suitable books.

I have some other ideas in development too and please feel free to make any further suggestions regarding what you would like to see on the blog.

Thank you all for reading my blog. Words cannot express how much I enjoy sharing my reading with you and I am grateful to you all for being there.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Bone Deep by Sandra Ireland - Guest Post - Blog Tour

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Bone Deep by Sandra Ireland. Sandra is a guest on the blog today and is talking about her novel and what inspired her to write it.

The Cruel Sister, a Border Ballad
Around the fire in the not-so distant past, you might have settled down to listen to a song of love and heartache, of sibling rivalry, betrayal and murder. All the ingredients, you might think, for a first- class soap, a Hollywood blockbuster or even a page-turning novel. This is the ballad of The Cruel Sister, often known as the Twa Sisters, which has inspired not only my second novel Bone Deep, but also work by countless other writers and artists from Alfred Lord Tennyson to Bob Dylan.

The ballad was first formally documented by Sir Walter Scott in his 1802 collection, The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, but this macabre tale has crossed borders, oceans, and cultures, with more than 531 versions of the ballad currently recorded in countries all around the world, according to the Roud Folk Song Index, which catalogues traditional songs.

The challenge for me was how to incorporate this fascinating tale into a contemporary thriller. After all, I’m not an historical novelist and I like creating modern characters in very 21st century situations. However, the past is never far away. In Bone Deep, my protagonist Lucie is helping Mac, a rather eccentric academic, to organise her work. Mac is collecting old folktales and ballads, and I wondered what would happen if Lucie began to see herself in the tale of the Two Sisters…

The premise of the ancient ballad is simple but deadly. Two sisters go down to a body of water, sometimes a river, or the sea, but often, as in BoneDeep, a mill pond. The older sister pushes the younger one into the water and refuses to pull her out. At the last minute she realises what she’s done and tries to grasp her hand, but mostly it’s a case of murder most foul…

The motive is always jealousy. In some variants, the sisters are being two-timed by a suitor; in others, the elder sister's affections are not returned by the young man, and he proposes marriage to the younger girl. Invariably, the suitor arranges to marry the surviving sibling.

The body of the younger girl is recovered downstream by a very dodgy miller. If you want to know more, pick up a copy of Bone Deep!

ISBN:  978 1846974183

Publisher: Polygon Books

Monday, 13 August 2018

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah - Book Review

"A woman has to be tough as steel up here. You can't count on anyone to save you and your children. You have to be willing to save yourselves. And you have to learn fast. In Alaska you can make one mistake. One. The second one will kill you."

Alaska, 1974. Untamed. Unpredictable. A story of a family in crisis struggling to survive at the edge of the world. It is also a story of young and enduring love.

Cora Allbright and her husband, Ernt - a recently returned Vietnam veteran scarred by the war - uproot their thirteen-year-old daughter, Leni, to start a new life in Alaska. Utterly unprepared for the weather and the isolation, but welcomed by the close-knit community, they fight to build a home in this harsh, beautiful wilderness.

At once an epic story of human survival and love, and an intimate portrait of a family tested beyond endurance, The Great Alone offers a glimpse into a vanishing way of life in America. With her trademark combination of elegant prose and deeply drawn characters, Kristin Hannah has delivered an enormously powerful story that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the remarkable and enduring strength of women. It is the finest example of Hannah's ability to weave together the deeply personal with the universal.

This novel is about the setting as much as plot or character. The cold and hardships of living in Alaska are excellently portrayed in this book. The author has brought the environment completely alive, from the long dark winters to the long days of spring and summer. Despite my reading this during a heatwave here in England (very rare) there were times I reached for my wrap such was her ability to draw the reader into the book. Her research has come from her own experience of her fathers love for adventure and their own residence in the location in which the book is set.

The characters are carefully drawn and easy to become involved with. There are some truly wonderful characters in this book. I found myself rooting for Leni, Cora and Matthew throughout and I would challenge anyone not to love Large Marge. Ms. Hannah is extremely skilled at developing her characters and bringing them vividly to life.

Combined with a plot which is advanced in an easy to read narrative, these three factors all come together to form a totally gripping novel.

My only small criticism was that some of the story was a little too sugary and ultimately predictable for my taste, but that is entirely personal. I continue to love this author's writing and I have read and reviewed The Nightingale (in fact I have read this twice and was one of my top ten favourite books of 2016) and Night Road - you can read my reviews by clicking on the title. One thing that makes me very happy is that the author has a long back list which I am looking forward to reading in the future.

Do you have a favourite book written by Kristin Hannah? I would love to hear about it.

ISBN: 978 1250193773

Publisher: Macmillan USA

About the Author:

Kristin Hannah is a New York Times bestselling author. She is a lawyer-turned-writer and is the mother of one son. She and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest near Seattle and Hawaii. Her first novel published in the UK, Night Road, was one of eight books selected for the 2011 TV Book Club Summer Read and The Nightingale was a New York Times number one bestseller, selling almost three million copies worldwide.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

"A bottle of wine. A family-sized packet of Nacho Cheese Flavoured Tortilla Chips and a jar of hot salsa dip. A packet of cigarettes on the side (I know, I know). The rain hammering against the windows. And a book. What could have been lovelier?"

Crime writer Alan Conway has been a bestselling author for years. Readers love his detective, Atticus Pund, a celebrated solver of crimes in the sleepy English villages of the 1950s.

But Conway's latest tale of murder at Pye Hall is not quite what it seems. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but hidden in the pages of the manuscript lies another story: a tale written between the very words on the page, telling of a real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition and murder.

There is nothing that I enjoy more than a book about a book. Within this novel we get to read the fictional manuscript of a murder mystery whilst the publishing editor reads it and forms the suspicion that there is a real life mystery going on around her. This dual aspect is highly effective and lifted this novel into something rather special.

I was completely gripped by both stories and Mr Horowitz has created a novel which is both clever and entertaining. It was a joy to read and anyone who likes murder mysteries will thoroughly enjoy this novel.

The author moved seamlessly between the period of the manuscript, which was set during the heyday of British crime fiction, to the modern day editorial and captured both eloquently. His writing style is easy to read and he set the pace of this book appropriately to the two time periods depicted in the book.

I have never read an adult book by Mr Horowitz but used to read his books for children with my sons when they were younger. Indeed, we were lucky enough to meet him when he did a book signing and reading in a children's book shop in Lewes several years ago. My son's were big fans of his and the opportunity to meet him was the icing on the cake for them.

He is clearly as skilled at writing for adults as he is for children but as he is such an established and accomplished screen-writer that should come as no surprise. I would certainly read more by this author and hope that you will enjoy this book as much as I have.

ISBN:  978 1409158387

Publisher: Orion

About the Author:

Anthony Horowitz is one of the UK's most prolific and successful writers. His novels The House of Silk and Moriarty were Sunday Times Top 10 Bestsellers and sold in more than thirty-five countries around the world. He is also the author of a James Bond novel, Trigger Mortis. His bestselling Alex Rider series for children has sold more than nineteen million copies worldwide.

As a TV screenwriter he created both Midsomer Murders and the BAFTA-winning Foyle's War; other TV work includes Poirot and the widely acclaimed mini-series Collision and Injustice, and most recently New Blood for the BBC. Anthony sits on the board of the Old Vic and regularly contributes to a wide variety of national newspapers and magazines. In January 2014 he was awarded an OBE for services to literature.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

The Second Footman by Jasper Barry

"Just as a pretty parlour maid may be considered a perquisite by the master of the house, so some of our ladies are not immune to the charms of a handsome footman."

A glorious novel full of complex and beguiling characters. It is a tale of ambition, unexpected passion and the frailty of human nature.

Nineteen year old Max is the duchess de Claireville's second footman, but he doesn't intend to endure the indignities of service for long. He has a plan - to find an aristocratic patron to become his unwitting accomplice in an audacious fraud.

Packed with rich period detail, the lavish 19th century French setting reflects the grand but suffocating restrictions of aristocratic society - contrasting the lives of the rich and of those who must serve them.

Recommended by the Historical Novel Society, this book is the first in a trilogy.

ISBN: 978 1780883656

Publisher: Matador