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Posted: Fri December 2nd, 2016, 11:17 am
by Vanessa
Here's my list for December:

The Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne 3.5
Second in the Nell West and Michael Flint haunted house mysteries. This one is set in London and centres around a creepy old chess set and some mysterious deaths. I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first one but am still looking forward to reading the third!

Tudor Hugger Mugger by Mela Ells 3.5
A fun historical murder mystery set in Tudor England with a spot of espionage thrown in. I thought this was quite an entertaining and light-hearted story. It's something of a romp, almost a comedy of errors! It's well researched and there are some interesting historical references throughout the tale. The characters are mostly likeable and amusing, even madcap, apart from the villains, of course, who all tended to be slightly exaggerated. There are a couple of issues which niggled me. The plot seemed a little contrived at times so I didn't always find it or the unfolding events realistic. The writing style made me wonder whether it's supposed to be a satire or parody. It has a certain sort of feel to it which would suggest it is. An easy read.

Blakemore by Shani Struthers 5
Haunted house story. This was a great introduction to the author's Psychic Surveys stories. It can also be read as a standalone and and it makes a very good Christmas ghost story. It's eerie and has all the elements of what you would expect in a haunted house mystery. I loved the writing style and I enjoyed the build up of tension. The house and its many 'inhabitants' were really spooky and I could easily picture it all in my mind! I really liked Corinna, the narrator, and look forward to reading more about her in other books. A spine tingling and hair raising tale.

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende 4
A young Polish girl, Alma, is evacuated to San Francisco to stay with relatives during the war. She makes friends with the gardener's son, a Japanese boy. Their relationship is to last 55 years. In the present day a care worker with secrets of her own meets Alma in a nursing home and becomes intrigued by her past. I thought this was quite a sad tale in many ways. Some of it was very interesting, especially when the Japanese were evacuated to the camps. I found it a compelling, easy and enjoyable read.

The White Pearl by Kate Furnivall 4.5
Set in Malaya in the 1940s, Connie is married the owner of a rubber plantation and is bored with her life and her loveless marriage. When the Japanese invade, Connie and her family set sail for Singapore, along with the mysterious and enigmatic Mr Fitzpayne who is a friend of a friend, picking up the odd passenger on the way. They find out that Singapore is under siege so they then journey from island to island in search of safety. I really enjoyed this, it had plenty of twists and turns and some interesting characters. However, during the final pages it started to get a little far fetched and it could've given James Bond a run for his money! An entertaining read, though.

Christmas at the Cat Cafe by Melissa Daley 5
Another heartwarming episode in the life of the Cat Cafe in the Cotswolds. Like the first book, Molly and the Cat Cafe, the story is told via the delightful voice of Molly the cat, who has just the right amount of superciliousness and superiority in her manner as that of all our feline friends. It is a lovely and humorous little tale with a message for us all. There is darkness amongst the Christmas cheer and celebrations, as it covers such subjects as estrangement, homelessness, misunderstandings and greed. However, as with all such touching and heartfelt stories, the ending is quite upbeat and is left on a note of optimism. A gentle and captivating read, perfect for the festive season and for cat lovers everywhere! Hopefully, there will be a further book as I love reading about Molly's adventures.


Posted: Mon January 2nd, 2017, 2:22 pm
by Vanessa
Here's my list for December:

Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan 3
Set some years into the future in an almost dystopian world, this tells the story of Carys and Max who have been cast adrift from their space shuttle. They only have 90 minutes of air left. How they met and how they find themselves in this predicament is told through a series of flashbacks. At first I found this book weirdly compelling. It's beautifully and imaginatively written. The world the author has drawn is interesting and gives food for thought. The ending is a clever and creative one, quite brilliant really! However, personally, I did not totally engage with the story, it was not one I was desperate to keep picking up just to read a few more pages. Even though there is a definite storyline and a strong love interest, it is too futuristic for me. An easy read which should appeal to those who enjoy a sprinkling of fairy (or should I say space!) dust mixed in with their sci fi.

Whispering Shadows by Jan- Philipp Sendker 4
Set in Hong King, after his son tragically dies Paul Leibovitz becomes something of a hermit and is unable to let go of his past. He comes into contact with an American woman who asks him to look into the disappearance of her son. Events take a turn for the worse when the son is found dead. Paul sets out to investigate this mysterious death along with his detective friend, Zhang, revealing dark secrets in China's underworld. This started well, flagged a bit in the middle but ultimately became quite exciting! I found the writing style a little odd at first but then became used to it. There were some interesting cultural references and I thought the setting was different. The characters were well thought out and quite realistic. An enjoyable book.

The Green Ribbons by Clare Flynn 3.5
This is a well written piece of historical fiction set in the early 1900s in a village in Berkshire. A tale of love, hatred, betrayal and revenge, it's quite fast paced with a few twists and turns. The plot, in my opinion, does become a little contrived and predictable towards the end, maybe even a tad bizarre, and not always particularly believable. Some things just did not add up for me which I cannot dwell on here as it would spoil it for other readers. There are some interesting characters. I particularly liked Hephzibah and was eager for her story to have a favourable outcome. I was rewarded with a happy (if a little rushed) ending. Hurrah! An easy, enjoyable and entertaining read which I would recommend to those who like a good romantic saga set in a bygone era.

Letters from Father Christmas by J R R Tolkien 3
This is a series of letters written by Tolkien under the pseudonym of 'Father Christmas' to his grandchildren. It contains tales of life at the North Pole in Tolkien's usual imaginative way. There are some wonderful illustrations. I think these letters must have been fantastic and magical to receive each Christmas and a wonderful tradition. However, I didn't really engage with it, possibly because it's directed at children and I find it difficult to read children's books these days. Been there and done that, read them to my daughter and am now doing it all over again with my grandchildren!

Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley 4.5
Holly Brown is a widow, who housesits and caters for a living. This particular Christmas her housesitting assignment is a remote house in Lancashire, home to Jude Martland, his pet lurcher, Merlin, horse, Lady and goat, Billy. Holly is looking forward to Christmas on her own as it is a sad time for her, but fate has a different idea, and Holly soon finds herself surrounded by festive cheer. This is a lovely, gentle read just right for the time of year. It's all very cosy, unrealistic and predictable, but I really enjoyed it.

A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer 4
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a good family get together and house party with a juicy murder thrown in! The Herriard family converge on Lexham Manor for Christmas and as luck would have it, the head honcho who is also a bit if a Scrooge is found dead in his room. But just how did the murderer get in and out through a locked door? Inspector Hemingway investigates. A fun and enjoyable whodunnit.