View Full Version : Vanessa's Reads
09-03-2008, 09:53 AM
A Step in the Dark by Judith Lennox 4.5
A family saga story covering a span of about 50 years. The tale begins in 1915, with Bess Ravenheart leaving India for England and then Scotland after the tragic death of her husband in a riding accident. She also leaves behind her young son, who she believes she will be reunited with as soon as she has found them a place to settle in. Of course, she didn't account for the cantankerous grandmother and consequently lost touch with her son for 20 years, after which he pays a visit having inherited the family castle in Perthshire, Scotland. This is the first book I've read by this author and it won't be the last - I really enjoyed it.
Fallen Idols by Neil White 4
Debut thriller which looks like it's the beginning of a series with a reporter and a female detective solving the crimes. Someone is bumping off premier football players, the killings apparently linking to a murder committed 10 years ago. There are quite a lot of twists and turns as well as plenty of suspense, however it was a little unbelievable and gory in one part. Nevertheless, I thought the author wrote a very good story.
The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy by James Anderson 4.5
Old fashioned British mystery 'whodunnit' set in the 1930s. The action takes place in a stately home, in the country, at a weekend house party. Amongst the guests are foreign spies, a 'Raffles' style jewel thief, a baroness and an American millionaire. There's the obligatory dead body or two plus the excitement of a secret passage. And, of course, there's the usual pan-faced butler. I found it a highly entertaining read.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman 4.5
Shrek meets Zorro in this spoof fairy tale about a girl who falls in love with a farm boy but is whisked away to be married to an evil prince who is planning to murder her on their wedding night. The story also involves kidnapping, pirates, monsters and giants plus the usual good guys and bad guys! I found it a clever and entertaining read, certainly different!
The Devil's Horse by Cynthia Harrod Eagles 5
Sixteenth of the Morland Dynasty series set in the first half of the 19thC. It's the age of the beginning of the steam locomotive and Stephenson's Rocket. It's also the start of better roads being built connecting towns and cities. Manchester puts itself on the map with it's cotton mills, the start of the industrial revolution. Highly enjoyable.
09-30-2008, 06:22 PM
A Stain on the Silence by Andrew Taylor 4
A clever, psychological thriller, the central theme being lost children. Married, middle aged James finds out he has a 24 year old daughter, who believes she is wanted for murder. Her mother seeks out James' help, but James has a dark secret of his own. A slow burning mystery, with information being fed a little at a time in the form of flashbacks. The ending is fairly ambiguous and you are left to make your own conclusions. However, I did find it a compelling story and one which I enjoyed.
London Dust by Lee Jackson 3.5
Quite a dark murder mystery set in 1950s London. A boatman rescues a girl from the Thames, who has jumped from Blackfriars Bridge after witnessing the death of her friend. She decides to investigate herself and uncovers all sorts of seedy goings-on, leading to further murders. A promising debut novel, interesting written in the present tense, sometimes in the first person and at others in the third. Fairly enjoyable.
Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie 4
A 'locked room' mystery, only set on a plane. A moneylender has been killed with a poisoned dart, but how did the murderer carry it out without being seen is one of the questions! Enjoyable.
The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran 5
The story of Princess Nefertari who was an outcast at court and then went on to marry Ramesses II, Pharaoh of Egypt, and become Queen. This is the first book I have ever read set in Egypt, so I did approach it with trepidation as it's not an era I've thought of reading about before. However, I was very pleasantly suprised and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it! I liked the way it was written, it was so very readable. I thought it was fast paced and very entertaining. I loved all the different elements to it - mystery, war and romance, an adventure story. It gave me a good insight into the Egyptian way of live, about which I knew very little (apart from watching films like The Mummy!) - I found it all very interesting. There was a family tree, map and glossary in the book, they helped me immensely. An excellent book.
Precious Bane by Mary Webb 5
The story of a girl with a harelip, who lives in Shropshire with her mother and brother. She falls in love with a weaver and her brother promises to marry the local wizard's daughter after he has made enough money to buy her a grand house, but tragedy strikes. This is a lovely little tale and has something to tell us about how we shouldn't judge someone by the way they look. I wasn't sure whether I was going to enjoy it at first, as it was written in a dialect not known to me and was full of colloquialisms. But once, I'd got used to the style, I loved it. The ending brought a tear to my eye.
The Scandal of the Season by Sophie Gee 3.5
Set in 1711, a story inspired by real-life events and including real-life characters. It's set in the time of Jacobite plots and tells the tale of the love affair between Arabella Fermor and a nobleman, Robert Petre, which was covered up in it's day. At the same time poet Alexander Pope arrives in London to make his fortune and who ends up writing a poem based on the affair, The Rape of the Lock. Overall I enjoyed the book, it was a little different but I found it did drag slightly in places. A good debut novel.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 4.5
Classic story, narrated by and 8 year old girl, in the 1930s in Alabama. Scout's lawyer father defends a black man who has been accused of rape which has repercussions in the neighbourhood. I liked the voice of Scout and enjoyed the way the tale was told through her eyes. A thought provoking and poignant tale.
The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel 5
Set in pre-historic Europe, some 35,000-25,0000 years before the present time. This is the story of Ayla who is orphaned at the age of 5 in an earthquake and is consequently adopted by a clan of Neanderthals. As she looks quite different to them and is also more advanced, she finds herself a little alienated at times and one of the clan takes a distinct dislike to her. I found it a very interesting and gripping tale. The author must have spent quite a bit of time on research which I was quite impressed with. It's a very different book and one which I thoroughly enjoyed.
10-30-2008, 09:18 PM
Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick 5
Set in England in 1148. A 10 year old boy is sent to be fostered by the Lord of Ludlow and to be educated in the knightly arts. He strikes up a friendship with the youngest daughter and a marriage is eventually arranged between them. I loved this book, it's a coming of age story. I found it unputdownable, it held my attention right to the last page. The characters are well drawn and I was very sorry to have left them when I finally finished it. I'm looking forward to reading Lords of the White Castle.
Hang A Thousand Trees with Ribbons by Ann Rinaldi 4
Young adult fiction, based on a true story, about a young black girl, Phillis Wheatley, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in America. Luckily she ends up with a kind family who treat her well and they set about having her poetry published at which she is very good at writing. It's told in the first person, written in such a way that you obtain a good sense of Phillis's personality. An enjoyable and interesting tale.
A Likeness by Sonia Overall 3.5
Set in Elizabethan England, an artist is prepared to do virtually anything to get his work noticed. He lives with a courtesan, who seems to have a fetish for having her body painted. At the same time, the artisan spies on her with her lovers through a hole in an arras and paints their 'souls'! It's all very bizarre and I didn't know quite what to make of it all. It did drag a little in places for me, but I did have to keep on reading. I found it an unusual book to say the least. Enough said.
The Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag 2.5
Set in the late 18thC, the story of the menage a trois between Sir William Hamilton, Lady Emma Hamilton and Lord Nelson. It starts off with Sir William taking up his position as British Ambassador to Naples where he takes a great interest in the volcano, Vesuvius. His wife dies and some time afterwards his nephew sends Emma to keep him company, having decided that he requires rich wife. Sir Williams becomes besotted with Emma and eventually marries her. Enter Lord Nelson, who also becomes besotted. I found this a challenging book to read, it's very slow and drags along in places. However, I did find some of it interesting and learnt certain facts which I wasn't aware of before. Some of it I didn't understand, there was a lot of philosophising and not enough story.
The Evil Seed by Joanne Harris 4.5
A re-issue of this author's debut novel, a vampire and a ghost story. It's set in two time frames, one just after WWII and the second in the present day. In the present day Alice's ex boyfriend's new girlfriend, Ginny, is not what she seems! Alice finds an old diary in Ginny's bedroom and reads about a young man, his friend and a mysterious ethereal beauty. Both stories merge and intertwine. I like the way this book was written, it did give me the eebie jeebies slightly and it definitely has a gothic feel. I very much enjoyed it.
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie 4
A murder occurs in a dentist's surgery, a little too much painkiller! A couple of further murders are carried out. Hercule Poirot is the sleuth and is on the killer's trail. Usual Agatha Christie mystery.
Daphne by Justine Picardie 5
I loved this book. It is based on a true story centring around Daphne du Maurier's biography about Branwell Bronte. It is told from three viewpoints by way of alternating chapters, that of Daphne du Maurier, an ex-curator of the Bronte Museum, J A Symington, and a young girl working on a thesis of Daphne du Maurier. I got a good sense of the three personalities and a very good sense indeed of how young and naive the girl narrator was. There are quite a few references to Daphne's novels, especially 'Rebecca' which seemed to haunt the author. There are also quite a few similarities between the girl narrator, who is unnamed for most of the book right up until the end, and the unnamed narrator in 'Rebecca'. The whole story is very well put together, well written, insightful and easy to follow. I found it a fascinating book, probably a tale which would appeal mostly to du Maurier and Bronte fans. It is a poignant tale, too, and I did shed a few tears at the end
12-01-2008, 01:13 PM
Here's my list for November:
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent 4.5
This is the tale of a very brave lady, Martha Carrier, who was accused, convicted and eventually executed for witchcraft in the late 17th century in Massachusetts. It's a story of love, secrets and standing up for what you believe in. It is vividly narrated, with a rich use of similes, by her daughter, Sarah. The descriptions took me straight to the time and place depicted in the book. I liked the voice of Sarah and found her a very convincing story teller. I found it a dark, poignant and fascinating story.
Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham by M C Beaton 4
The eighth book in this series. The chaotic amateur detective is on the trail of a blackmailing hairdresser who then ends up being murdered, as all good blackmailers are!! Fun stuff.
The Man of Property by John Galsworthy 5
The first book in the Forsyte Saga series. Set in the late 1800s in London, the drama begins with a party to celebrate the engagement between June Forsyte and an architect, Philip Bossiney. The story basically centres around the scandal caused when Bossiney starts an affair with the wife of June's cousin, Soames. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although it did take a bit of reading due to it's old fashioned tone.
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote 3.5
I didn't realise that this was such a short story, especially when compared to the film, and have to admit that I kept seeing Audrey Hepburn in my mind's eye whilst reading it! This novella is told in the first person by the tenant who lives above flighty Holly Golightly, who is such a bohemian character and lives life on the edge. The tenant has quite an obsession with Holly and we follow her life for the short space of time that he knows her through his eyes. I thought it was quite a sad little tale of unrequited love. Easy to read, however I do prefer a 'meatier' sort of book.
What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn 4
The story starts in 1984 with a young girl playing detective with her monkey as her accomplice, who mysteriously disappears. We then travel to 2003 and have a very insightful look into the life of a shopping mall centring around two main characters, the deputy manager of a music store and a security guard. The two stories are connected and everything is gradually revealed by the end of the book. I enjoyed this book and found it a different and quirky read.
Back Trouble by Clare Chambers 4
An enjoyable little tale about a man approaching his 40th birthday, who is being hounded by the bailiffs and whose girlfriend has left him. He slips on a chip and ends up recovering from a back injury. He then decides to write a book about his life so far. Quite an amusing and insightful story into a slice of life.
The Poison Tree by Cynthia Harrod Eagles 5
Seventeeth in the fabulous Morland Dynasty series. Set in the reign of William IV, the drama continues both in York and Manchester with suspicious deaths and jealousy. It features the Reform Act and the beginning of the railway system throughout England.
By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie 4
A Tommy and Tuppence mystery. The story starts in a care home where an elderly lady mentions a child being hidden behind a fireplace. Tuppence gets a bee in her bonnet and decides to investigate. It's quite a creepy mystery and I enjoyed it.
Rosetta by Barbara Ewing 4.5
Set during the Napoleonic wars, the story of a girl, Rosetta, who has a fascination for all things Egyptian and heiroglyphics. "Words are the olden days talking to us." She marries a man who ends up dead in a brawl over an Arabic woman, the woman giving birth to a child. Rosetta sets off to find the child, however her husband's family are not too keen on her search due to the scandal it will cause. I very much enjoyed this book. I liked the jaunty, if a little old fashioned, style of writing, it was nicely paced and kept my interest throughout. Quite an adventure story.
12-31-2008, 03:12 PM
Here's my list for December:
Lords of the White Castle by Elizabeth Chadwick 5
Excellent sequel to Shadows and Strongholds by the same author. Starting in 1184, this is the story of Fulke Fitzwarin, son of Fulke Lebrun whom I met in Shadows and Strongholds. Having gained a place in Prince John's retinue, Fulke is accused of cheating at chess and ends up becoming an outlaw and trying win back his Whittington home. There is definitely a ring of Robin Hood about this story which makes for a good adventure and there is a love interest in the form of Maude le Vavasour. I found the ending quite moving, so don't forget your hankies if you read this one!
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen 3.5
A young lady pursues an eligible man in early 19thC Bath and finds herself invited to his family home, which just happens to be an abbey. This young lady has a very vivid imagination and fantasizes about all sorts of evil whilst staying in Northanger Abbey. This is Jane Austen's debut novel although it wasn't published for some years after she wrote it. The story is supposed to have a 'gothic' theme, but personally I prefer the Brontes' idea of 'gothic' or even, in more recent years, Victoria Holt's.
The Rabbit Factory by Marshall Karp 4
A good fun, debut thriller set in and around a theme park called Familyland in LA. The first victim is a character called 'Rambunctious Rabbit' and this is closely followed by various other murders all connected with the theme park. We are introduced to two detectives, Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs, who are assigned the duty of solving the murders. Easy to read.
Mr Timothy by Louis Bayard 5
A clever, dark and atmospheric thriller set in 1860s sleazy London with Timothy Cratchit, Tiny Tim from Dickens' A Christmas Carol, as the central character. Young girls are found dead branded with the letter 'G' and Timothy Cratchit finds himself obsessed by a girl who seems to be mixed up with the crimes. The speech pattern took me a little while to get used to but once I did, I was hooked! The only thing I would quibble is that some of the words used were American English - Victorian London would not have had sidewalks, they would be pavements. The overall story and feel of the book, however, is excellent.
The Cat Who Saw Red by Lilian Jackson Braun 4
Fourth in 'The Cat Who.....' series starring the amateur detective team of Jim Qwilleran and his two clever Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum. A fun little mystery set in the house of a restaurateur where Qwill is on a food tasting mission, and consequently strange things start to happen!
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