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Vanessa's 2017 Reads

What have you read this year? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Eleventh Floor by Shani Struthers
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Vanessa's 2017 Reads

Postby Vanessa » Thu February 2nd, 2017, 4:58 pm

Here's my list for January:

The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood 3
When his cousin dies a mysterious death, Albie Mirrals travels to Halfoak in Yorkshire to investigate. Here he finds superstition and ignorance in abundance with tales of fairies and changelings. I was a little disappointed with this one. It's beautifully written but somehow the story didn't engage me fully.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 4.5
Set during WWII in France, quite a harrowing tale about two sisters. One sister joins the resistance whilst the other remains at home helping Jewish children to become 'invisible'. Both are brave in their own way. I really enjoyed this book, if enjoyed is the correct word as it's not a happy story. I found it a page turner - I wanted to keep picking it up to read a bit more! It has an easy and readable style of writing. There were some little grey areas where events seemed somewhat contrived to push the story forward but apart from that, I thought it was excellent. It was fast paced and kept my attention throughout, on the edge of my seat almost! A worthwhile read.

Tiger in a Cage by Allie Cresswell 5
Wouldn't it be nice to get on with your neighbours? This is what I would call a slice-of-life story. It's set on a very small housing development where everyone lives in one another's pockets and there lies the moral! One of the residents, Molly, is the narrator who is quite a lonely woman. She is a bit of an interfering busy body but, really, only has other people's best interests at heart. She is building up her own personal dream world, but all is not what it seems and she soon becomes aware of what lies beneath all that camaraderie. Each neighbour has their own 'tiger in a cage', even Molly has her secret. This is a beautifully written tale. The author has a certain style of writing which some would say is a little flowery at times. It does hark back to an earlier era but I liked it. There isn't much of a plot as such, just a gradual build up of tension and understanding - a realisation of just what is going on in a person's own back yard. The characters are realistically portrayed and very believable. I'm sure we all have similar individuals living in our own streets. The author has made great use of her fantastic observational skills. An engaging and absorbing story which I very much enjoyed and can highly recommend. A word of warning, though, remember it is wise to keep yourself to yourself.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles 5
This captivating and philosophical story begins in 1922, spans over 30 odd years and is set, as the title suggests, in Moscow. Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov has been tried and sentenced to remain indefinitely in the Hotel Metropol, not in his luxurious bedroom suite there but in an attic room, for the heinous crime of being an aristocrat. A character driven tale, I found it a slow burner at first as it took me a little time to become immersed in the story. There are moments of hilarity and amusement, but also times of sadness and poignancy. It's beautifully written, quirky and thought provoking, almost fairytale like in style. It has something to tell us about life, ourselves and the planet we live on. I loved it!

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella (audio) 4
When a lawyer Samantha Sweeting thinks that she has made a huge mistake at work, she just runs away and ends up at a house in the middle of nowhere. She gets mistaken for someone coming for an interview for the position of housekeeper. Samantha has no idea about housework or cooking, but ends up with the job and bungles her way through it. She ends up enjoying herself but, of course, the past has a habit of catching up with you. I enjoyed listening to this one, I found it easy to concentrate. It's quite a humorous story - it made me chuckle! I much preferred it to Confessions of a Shopaholic - I just found the main character so irritating and stupid.

Grave Misconception by Felicity Snowden 3.5
The first in the McBride Murder Mysteries, this is an enjoyable timeslip story set in the early part of the 20thC and the present day and takes place in Whitby, one of my favourite places. I loved the setting and it was great to see the historic 199 steps, the Abbey, St Mary's Church and the Magpie Cafe mentioned! It was very easy to visualise. It was quite an intriguing tale, although I did find it a little disjointed and confusing at times. This could be because it's an Ebook. There were no pauses within the chapters to indicate there was a change of scene. Otherwise it was nicely written and easy to follow. There were a few connections between the timelines including a ghostly element, some of the characters from the past reaching out to the present. It had a decent plot line, although I did not think the motives behind the mysteries were fully explained. I would have liked a little more depth and detail in this respect. All in all, an easy and entertaining read with some interesting characters. I would happily read the next one in the series.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Eleventh Floor by Shani Struthers
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

February

Postby Vanessa » Thu March 2nd, 2017, 7:16 pm

Here's my list for February:

Larkswood by Valerie Mendes 4
Set at the end of the 19thC and just before WWII, the story of three generations of the Hamilton family who live at Larkswood House. It's a tale of dark secrets. I found this book quite compelling, easy to read and a bit of a page turner. Some of it was a little unbelievable and there were too many coincidences. It also had a fairytale like feel to me. The ending was very twee, it was quite sugar coated. Nevertheless, I though it was an entertaining and enjoyable read.

The Liberation by Kate Furnivall 5
Gripping and compelling historical fiction set in Sorrento and Naples during 1945, just after WWII. Allied soldiers are in the process of rebuilding and restoring a bombed and ravaged Italy, as well as investigating the disappearance of valuable artefacts and paintings. Meanwhile, Caterina Lombardi is trying to protect her family and preserve their honour when her deceased father comes under suspicion for being involved in the looting. She finds her life increasingly in danger and ends up in a fight against time. I found The Liberation very much a page turner. It's fast paced and such a roller coaster of a read with some edge of your seat moments. It's beautifully written and researched. It's easy to visualise, the imagery is fantastic. I felt I was there amidst the action! It gives an excellent sense of time and place. There are some great, well developed characters, especially Caterina who comes across as such a brave (if at times foolhardy!), passionate, loyal and resilient young woman. It's a fabulous read - I couldn't put it down! Highly recommended.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson 5
The story of the dysfunctional Lennox family, as narrated by Ruby Lennox from her conception. It's interestingly told with footnotes which relate to the history of certain family members via certain articles in Ruby's story. This is quite a dark tale about family secrets but it's told with a sense of humour. Another fabulous read for me. I love Kate Atkinson's style of writing.

Behind Closed Doors by Susan Lewis (audio) 4
When 14 year old Sophie Monroe goes missing, Detective Sergeant Andrea Lawrence investigates, drumming up painful memories of her own sister's disappearance. Lots of twists and turns making for a good mystery. I've always been a bit of a Susan Lewis fan and this one didn't disappoint. I enjoyed it.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Eleventh Floor by Shani Struthers
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

March

Postby Vanessa » Sat April 1st, 2017, 4:15 pm

Here's my list for March:

The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey 3
Set in Amsterdam, the first in the Henk van de Pol mysteries. A woman's body is found in the harbour. Henk gets warned off the case but his investigations reveal government corruption and human trafficking. I found this book very confusing and was left not knowing what it was really all about. A disappointing read for me.

The Wedding Girls by Kate Thompson 4
A nostalgic and heartwarming story set in the East End of London in 1936, revolving around a photographic studio and a wedding dress shop/makers. I thought this was a lovely escapist read, although there are some quite serious moments. It's well researched and nicely written. There are interesting historical references to Oswald Mosley, his fascist movement the 'Blackshirts'' and the Battle of Cable Street. It's very evocative of the era and gives a good sense of time and place. The characters are well rounded and believable, likeable and unlikeable. I especially liked Stella, photographer entrepreneur - she seemed a determined young lady and kept everyone in line! I found the interviews (at the back if the book) with real-life East Enders fascinating, as I did the notes on wedding traditions. I thought they were a great addition. I enjoyed this saga and feel-good tale. It's typical of its genre, quite sentimental and a little predictable at times but it has a good story line at its heart. I would read another book by this author.

The Lauras by Sara Taylor 2.5
A road trip tale about a mother and her teenage child, gender unknown, who set off on a journey across America after an argument with the father. I would describe it as a coming of age story with a twist! This is a well written tale, but sadly it didn't really engage me. I found it quite tedious to read - I wasn't in a rush to pick it up again after putting it down and I often forgot what I'd already read! It also contains some themes which I'm not always comfortable reading about. To me the journey just seemed never ending and, at times, a little unrealistic. However, the tale does improve towards the finish when the action racks up a notch. The ending is quite ambiguous and left very much to the imagination. I notice that The Lauras has been given some positive reviews by other readers. On this basis I've decided I must not be a fan of road trip style stories and this one is just not my cup of tea!

To Catch a Rabbit by Helen Cadbury 4
The firstin the PSCO Sean Denton, mysteries set in Yorkshire. A woman's body, a prostitute, is found on the steps of a trailer. Sean decides to take matters into his own hands and investigate. Meanwhile another woman's brother goes missing which leads to some surprising revelations. I enjoyed this mystery. There are some interesting characters and I liked Sean. There are a few twists and turns and it's well plotted. An engaging read!

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult 5
Thirteen year old Jenna Metcalfe lives with her grandmother. Ten years ago her mother, Alice, disappeared after a tragic incident at the elephant sanctuary which she ran alongside her husband (who is now in a mental institution). Not knowing whether her mother was dead or alive, Jenna has been trying to discover her whereabouts. She decides to enlist the help of psychic, Serenity Jones and ex detective, Virgil Stanhope, with interesting results. I loved this book but it may not be everyone's cup of tea. There is quite a lot of information about elephants and their habits and it also has a supernatural theme. The ending is such a surprise! I didn't guess it at all. It was quite the page turner for me.

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick 4.5
Dual timeframe story with a difference! Alison Bannister spots a painting in a gallery window purporting to be Anne Boleyn. She knows for a fact that it's actually Mary Seymour, daughter of Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour. Mary disappeared from history as a girl. With the help of historian Adam and a mysterious box and its contents, Alison delves into the past. And this is where the plot twists so I can say no more without spoilers! I really enjoyed this book. It has everything I enjoy in a story including dual timeframe, a mystery and a bit of supernatural. I thought it was very imaginatively plotted out and it kept me entertained throughout.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Eleventh Floor by Shani Struthers
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

April

Postby Vanessa » Tue May 2nd, 2017, 1:00 pm

Here's my list for April:

Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallett 5
This is a wonderfully quirky and clever novel. The main character is the house and grounds of Wychwood in Oxfordshire and the central theme is walls. The story begins in 1663 when a wall is built around the house to keep those inside 'safe'. The tale then leaps forward in time to 1961 when the Berlin Wall suddenly appears almost over night, and then time hops again to 1973 and again to 1989 when big changes are occurring in the world and walls are breached. It's beautifully and vividly written. Some of it is told almost like a fable. The grounds of Wychwood are so easy to imagine. It has a magical and otherworldly feel, a peculiar ground indeed. What a fabulous place to live or visit! There is a map at the front of the book which really helps with visualising where everything is. There are some brilliant characters and, as in a lot of country estates, the families seem to stay through the generations, the same names recurring. I found this story so captivating. I absolutely loved it! I was very sorry to turn the last page. Wychwood and its peculiar ground is well worth a visit!

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes 4
This is a 'Downton Abbey' type tale about a big family secret set in the early to mid 1800s. It begins with the legendary Duchess of Richmond's Ball in 1815 on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. (Funnily enough, this particular ball is mentioned in Jodi Taylor's 'The Very First Damned Thing', which I also read in April.) Merchant family, James and Anne Trenchard with their daughter Sophia, go to the ball via Viscount Bellasis, the Duchess' nephew who has more than a passing interest in Sophia. Something happens at the ball which affects two families for ever. I enjoyed this book, although it's not a fast paced read. There are some interesting characters, some of whom are very stereotypical. The ending is a little sugary but sometimes it's nice to have a happy conclusion!

Old Cross Cottage by Shani Struthers 5
This is the fourth book in the Psychic Surveys series. I have not read the first three, but this tale worked well as a standalone. The new residents of Old Cross Cottage, which is located in a small village in Dorset, have been experiencing some spooky and sinister occurrences and have resorted to asking the Psychic Surveys team to investigate. It does not help that the property stands on a crossroads, a place 'between worlds'! I love a good ghost story (although I have to admit I'm very sceptical about the whole phenomenon) and this one did not disappoint. It had me on the edge of my seat and avidly turning the pages. It is quite a dark, eerie tale, very atmospheric and chilling. It is well written, full of unearthly intrigue and suspense, just what you would expect from a haunted house mystery. A fabulous, spine tingling tale which will have you hiding behind a cushion - read it if you dare! One to read with all the lights on, I think. I now look forward to reading this series from the beginning, the first book being The Haunting of Highdown Hall.

Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory 4.5
A fascinating tale set in the 1600s about John Tradescant, gardener to Sir Robert Cecil, the Duke of Buckingham and King Charles I. When King James decides he prefers Robert Cecil's home, Theobald Palace, John ends up designing a whole new garden at Hatfield House where Sir Robert takes up residence. John scours the world for new and exciting plants, including the first horse chestnut to be cultivated in Britain. On Sir Robert's death, eventually John ends up as the vibrant and rakish Duke of Buckingham's gardener and then it begins to get a little like Lady Chatterley's Lover! The story also touches on the growing division between king and parliament. I would think the next book, Virgin Earth, about John Tradescant the Younger will involve the English Civil War as Earthly Joys was leading up to this era in time. I really enjoyed this book and I thought it was well researched, although whether George Villiers (Buckingham) had a liaison with his gardener is debatable.

The Very First Damned Thing by Jodi Taylor 4
This is a short story about how it all began at St Mary's. Not much I can say about it really other than it's how Dr Bairstow assembles his team and sets up St Mary's. An enjoyable start to the series
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Eleventh Floor by Shani Struthers
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

May

Postby Vanessa » Tue June 6th, 2017, 2:42 pm

Here's my list for May:

The Girl and the Sunbird by Rebecca Stonehill 5
What a fabulous story about forbidden love! It's mostly set in East Africa (Kenya as it is now) and spans approximately 60 years, beginning in 1903 when 18 year old Iris Johnson travels to Nairobi to marry a man she has never met in order to avoid an arranged marriage in England. This man turns out to be not the nicest of people. An 'out of the frying pan and into the fire' situation! I loved the voices of the various narrators, especially that of Iris. It's beautifully written and vividly told. I loved the descriptions of early 20thC Africa, I almost felt I was there I was so immersed in the tale. It was something of a page turner for me. It's quite a tragic and poignant story - it did bring some tears to my eyes. I have to admit to looking up what a sunbird looked like. Such an amazing and colourful creature! A captivating, engaging and absorbing book which I can highly recommend.

Where the Trees Were by Inga Simpson 3
Dual timeframe story set in New South Wales in Australia set in the 1980s and 2004. The earlier story is about a girl called Jayne and her friends, who all happen to be boys, and how they spend their days down by the river where they come across some arborglyphs. The other story is set 17 years later. Jayne is now an adult and is an art historian at a museum in Canberra. She begins to get herself involved in the stealing of an arborglyph. I quite enjoyed this book but it didn't altogether grab me if that makes sense! I liked the parts about the younger Jayne. I found them quite engaging and I loved all the descriptions of the river and the trees, etc. I found the grove and burial ground intriguing. However, the older Jayne's story I found a little tedious. There was too much emphasis put on cycling and decoration for my tastes. Overall I did find it a little long winded and dreary and the ending was an odd one.

The Advice Bucket by Heather Hill 4
This is an unusual tale about a dying woman, a half man-half goose and a 350 year old immortal woman, who are all set on course to travel or meet up on the island of Scarba in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland due to one reason or another (not to give any spoilers away!). I think it could be classed as a type of fable as it is has something to tell us about ourselves. It's quite whimsical in its telling with some poignant and touching moments. There is also a hint of humour so it is not depressing in any way. The descriptions of the islands are vivid and atmospheric - it is very easy to visualise the setting. There are some interesting and fantastical characters. I particularly like Gladys, the immortal woman, who has a penchant for Labradors! It's nicely written, easy to read with an intriguing and creative plot even if it is a little surreal. An imaginative and insightful story about life, love and especially hope, which I very much enjoyed.

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie 4
The first book in the Grantchester mystery series. It's a collection of short stories which are all connected. There are two or three murders, a jewel theft and a missing painting. An easy and gentle read with some lovely characters. Not much more I can say about it.

The Black Moon by Winston Graham 5
The fifth in the Poldark books. Elizabeth and George Warleggan welcome their new son and brother for Geoffrey Charles, Valentine. Morwenna Chynoweth becomes governess to Geoffrey Charles and falls for Demelza Poldark's brother, Drake Carne, enforcing the rift between the two families. All fun and games and there is an amusing part in the formm of some noisy toads! Fantastic series and can't wait for the show to start again. Just need to read book six, The Four Swans, before watching!
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Eleventh Floor by Shani Struthers
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

June

Postby Vanessa » Sun July 2nd, 2017, 9:27 am

Here's my list for June:


The Modigliani Girl by Jacqui Lofthouse 3.5
This is an unusual, quirky and also quite a compelling little tale. It wasn't what I was expecting, though! When would-be author Anna Bright receives an art book as a gift, she decides to write her first novel based on the life of the tragic Jeanne Hébuterne, mistress of the painter and sculptor Armedeo Modigliani. Anna travels to one of the Greek islands to take part in a creative writing class to help her with her project and when she returns to London, she takes part in the 'Lit Factor' competition in the hope of winning a publishing contract. I thought that there would be more story about Jeanne and her life with Modigliani. Instead it focused on Anna and her doomed relationships, leading to a sort of paranoia. However, having said that, I did enjoy it. It's well written and there is some humour. I liked Anna, I thought she was an interesting character. I thought the author quotes at the beginning of each chapter were a nice touch and a good introduction to what lay ahead. Even though it wasn't what I was anticipating, I found it an intriguing and engaging tale and it had me happily turning the pages. Overall an enjoyable and easy read.

At First Light by Vanessa Lafaye 5
Well, this is quite the page turner! It's set in Key West in Florida and is inspired by true events. The story begins in 1993 when an elderly lady is arrested for shooting a member of the Ku Klux Klan during a rally. The tale is then taken back in time to 1919 where a forbidden love affair develops between a white man and a mixed race woman with disastrous consequences. This is a fabulous book. It's beautifully written and vividly told with some interesting and fascinating characters. The imagery is just fantastic and the thread of fear which runs through it is just spine tingling. It had me on the edge of my seat at times. I found it so absorbing and I was eagerly turning the pages to find out what happened next. I hadn't realised just how much like the Nazis the Ku Klux Klan were or are. If it wasn't such a serious subject, I would find the titles they gave themselves quite comical. I feel I have gained some knowledge and it brings home the fact that, sadly, there have always been and always will be extremists. A captivating, exciting, poignant and thoroughly enjoyable read which I can highly recommend.

Under an Amber Sky by Rose Alexander 4
A poignant and heart-warming story set in Montenegro about the loss of a loved one, the many stages of grief and new beginnings. This is an enjoyable and pleasant tale, although I did find the plot a little contrived at times. I wasn't too sure about how the five main characters came to meet up and live in the same house together. It seemed a little too good to be true! I did like all the individual personalities, however, especially Sophie and Ton and am glad there was a sense of light at the end of the tunnel for them. It's well written and the imagery is beautifully vivid. The descriptions of Montenegro are very colourful and evocative. It sounds such a picturesque place and just from reading this book, it gives me a clear impression of what it would be like to visit. I could visualise the landscape easily in my mind. It's a gentle tale with a touch of sadness threaded through it. The process of grief with its aftermath is excellently portrayed and is very realistic. I would recommend Under an Amber Sky to those who enjoy a touching 'slice of life' drama set on sunny and scenic shores. An easy and engaging read.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (audio) 3
This one is about a man called Rob who owns a music store and has just been dumped by his girlfriend, Laura. Rob loves making lists of his top five of everything, including his previous girlfriends, but he just can't get Laura out of his head. I thought was was an okay book, it wasn't really my cup of tea, I read somewhere that someone described it as 'dick lit' as opposed to 'chick lit' and that phrase sums it up for me. It has it's amusing moments but Rob is such an irritating, self-absorbed, self-centred character! If I'd been Laura, wherever she went, I'd have gone twice as far! Rob did grow up a little towards the end but even so......



I'm going to add Anne Boleyn, A King's Obsession by Alison Weir to July's list. I had to put it down to read Under An Amber Sky as it required a review by today! I don't think the Anne Boleyn book is going to end well! ;) :o :)
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Eleventh Floor by Shani Struthers
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

July

Postby Vanessa » Tue August 1st, 2017, 7:28 am

Here's my list for July. I seem to have done quite well this month!

Anne Boleyn, A King's Obsession by Alison Weir 5
The second in the Six Tudor Queens series, this one is about Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's doomed second wife. This is a well researched and beautifully written book. I had to hold off reading the last chapter until daylight as anything like that freaks me out! Excellent!

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan 4
This is a gripping psychological thriller with quite a few twists and turns. Margot Lewis is a teacher and also an agony aunt for a local paper in Cambridge. When a young girl goes missing, Margot starts to receive letters, cries for help, from another young girl who went missing 20 years ago. Margot soon finds herself on a cat and mouse trail. This story had me on the edge of my seat at times, although I did think it a little far fetched. The narrator was quite 'chatty' but I liked her. I thought the plot was an interesting concept and there was rather a large twist which I did work out. However, it didn't ruin the story for me as I wanted to read on to find out if my surmising was correct. It's a roller coaster of a read and I found it very difficult to put down. An engrossing, exciting and intriguing mystery which held my attention to the last page. Recommended.

The Penny Heart by Martine Bailey 5
Confidence trickster Mary Jebb has her death sentence commuted to seven years in the penal colony of Botany Bay. Determined to get her revenge she sends two pennies engraved with a message to the two men responsible for her fate. Five years later she escapes and returns to England....... This is a very atmospheric gothic style tale, beautifully written with plenty of twists and turns. I loved it!

Concrete Island by J G Ballard 2
A man crashes into a large central reservation in the middle of a motorway circuit and whatever he does, he can't seem to escape. He meets a couple of odd other residents of this 'island' who aren't very helpful, either. I didn't particularly enjoy this book, I found it quite boring. I couldn't understand why the main character couldn't escape from the 'island'! Mystifying! It was a good job it was short otherwise I don't think I would've finished it. Not my bag at all. Odd tale.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho 4
Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer to the Crown, travels to the borders of Fairyland to try to establish why England's magic is drying up. Zacharias is not very popular as for one thing he is a freed slave and for another, he doesn't have a 'familiar'. On his adventures he meets Prunella Gentlewoman, a woman with a special gift which must be kept secret because, well, she's a woman! As it happens, someone has put a cork in the border, thus not allowing the magic to flow so Zach has to find out why. It took me a little while to get into it due to its writing style. It read a little like a children's or YA book with long words to me! However, I found it quite fun and entertaining once I got into it. It's a sort of Jane Austen meets Susanna Clark, Philip Pullman and Lewis Carroll!! I could see nods to all of those and I kept expecting the white rabbit to pop up with a magic wand!!. I would call it a satire or spoof. It's humorous and it did make me laugh which can only be a good thing! An enjoyable read.

An Orphan of India by Sharon Maas 3.5
This is a quite an interesting and evocative tale about a childless couple who, whilst travelling to India to set up a charitable organisation, decide to adopt a little girl called Jyothi who they find on the streets of Bombay. Jyothi has a special musical talent and this propels the story forward, music I would say being the main character of the novel. It's a thought provoking book, but I did find the plot somewhat predictable and, at times, contrived. It's beautifully written and vividly told. Personally, however, I thought it was a little long winded. There was far too much emphasis on Jyothi's inner feelings and it got quite tedious. Jyothi's tale is a sad one, a story of rags to riches. It's also about grief, its repercussions and how music can provide a salve to the soul - I thought this was very sensitively done. I liked how the tale came full circle at the end and made sense of the prologue. Overall, an enjoyable read but it did seem to dwell enormously on Jyothi's relationship with her violin, her feelings towards a certain young man and how it affected her violin playing. I found her irritating towards the end and I wanted to bang my (and Jyothi's!) head on the table with regard to some of her thoughts and actions!! As an aside, It makes me want to visit Rishikesh - it sounds very relaxing. :-)

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler 3.5
A retelling of the Taming of the Shrew with the action taking place in modern day America. Kate, a teaching assistant, lives with her scientist father and younger sister, Bunny. Her father's assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported and the only way for him to be allowed to stay is if he marries a native, namely Kate. This is quite a sweet, light-hearted and amusing tale, different to the author's usual books. An easy and entertaining read.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Eleventh Floor by Shani Struthers
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

August

Postby Vanessa » Mon September 4th, 2017, 8:09 pm

Here's my list for August:

The Jeweller's Wife by Judith Lennox 5
Nineteen year old Juliet marries jeweller Henry Winterton after her mother dies and moves from Egypt to Marsh Court in Malden in Essex. Henry is not the best of husbands and Juliet begins an affair with family friend, Gillis Sinclair. This leads to tragic consequences and a dark secret which is kept under wraps for years. I thought this was an excellent family saga spanning 30 years from the 1930s to the 1960s. Just my sort of book!

The Hoarder's Widow by Allie Cresswell 5
After Maisie's husband, Clifford, dies in a tragic accident at home, she decides to clear out his clutter, his hoarding obsession, 'things which maybe useful when fixed'. As she wades through all the junk which has taken over her house, she comes across some boxes, the contents of which Clifford kept secret although Maisie has always been aware of them. Just what is in these boxes and is it the key to Clifford's past and why he was as he was. This is an intriguing story and gives a good insight into the mind of a compulsive hoarder. It's told mainly from the point of view of Maisie but is interspersed with Clifford's eloquent and sometimes touching thoughts. A well written tale and, at times, quite witty, it made me laugh and it also made me a little sad. The narrative is very vivid and descriptive. There are some interesting and realistic characters, some of whom can be compared to those we know in our own lives. Maisie is my favourite and I love that she starts to come out of her shell and enjoy life. The tale flows beautifully and it kept my attention throughout. By the end of the book I had guessed what one of secrets was. Nevertheless there are a few twists and turns and it keeps you wondering just who Clifford was and what led him to obsess so. An absorbing, thought-provoking and poignant story which I very much enjoyed. I look forward to reading more about Maisie's adventures in the future!

Strange Magic by Syd Moore 4
When Rosie Strange's grandfather dies, she inherits the Essex Witch Museum. As she decides what exactly she is going to do with it, Rosie and the museum's curator, Sam Stone, are approached by a professor who has an odd request - to discover the whereabouts of the remains of a convicted witch from the 16thC, the bones of whom will help with the exorcism of a young boy who has been possessed. It's a tale loosely inspired by Ursula Kemp, a woman who was executed for witchcraft in 1582. It took me a little while to get into the story as I didn't really take to the style of writing. It's told in a spoof-like way, somewhat 'tongue-in-cheek', which was at odds with the subject matter. Nonetheless, as I persevered I found that I was thoroughly enjoying the mystery and it ended up being quite a page turner! It's fast paced and very intriguing. It's a race against time type of plot. I loved all the little bits of interesting information, too. I did find Rosie a little irritating, though, and the 'will they, won't they' scenario between her and Sam grated. However, I got used to the banter between them by the end of the book. A weirdly fun read which, after a rocky start, I had great trouble putting down! I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Strange Sight.

Plague Land by S D Sykes 5
First in the Somershill murder mystery series with Oswald de Lacey as the detective. Set during the aftermath of the plague and in 1350 when superstitions abound. When Oswald's father and brothers die, he has to return home from the monastery and take up responsibility for his family's estate. Then a girl is found murdered and shortly afterwards another one goes missing. The village priest insists that some dogheaded creatures are to blame but is it something more human? Excellent engrossing, nicely paced mystery.

My Summer of You by Tammy Robinson 3.5
Jess Gilbert, along with her family, gather together at caravan park where they have spent many a holiday over the years, to scatter her brother's ashes. The park holds bittersweet memories for Jess as it's where she met her first love which didn't end as she would've liked. I thought this was an easy and gentle read. At first I thought it was a YA novel due to the writing style - it didn't really work for me. Nothing much happens and it is a little predictable. I also thought the ending was quite sugary. There is some humour which made me smile. And it did bring to mind holidays in Whitby as a child - it's nice to go down memory lane. A pleasant but not particularly memorable read.

Our Summer Together by Fanny Blake 4
This is a heart-warming story about a woman in her sixties who finds love with a younger man from Bosnia, after her husband leaves her for another much younger woman. I thought this was a lovely, uplifting tale of hope with some very realistic characters. I really liked Caro and was glad that she found herself after years of self-doubt and feelings of insignificance. One can only imagine how hard life must have been for her, having to fend for herself after so many years of marriage and devoting herself to looking after her family. The selfishness of her daughter, Lauren, and her husband, Chris, were well portrayed. Caro was well rid of him in my opinion! Damir was also a great character, and his own personal survival story during the war in Bosnia and its aftermath was very moving. Such a gentle and heroic man! I loved the writing style and thought it was beautifully and vividly written. An inspiring, gladdening and very enjoyable read about living for the moment. You're never too old to tango! :D
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Eleventh Floor by Shani Struthers
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

September

Postby Vanessa » Thu October 5th, 2017, 9:55 am

Here’s my list for September:

The Traveller's Daughter by Michelle Vernal 4
When Kitty Sorensen's mother, Rosa, dies, she receives an invitation from a famous photographer in France to take part in recreating a well known photo entitled 'Midsummer Lovers', the original just happening to be of Rosa as a teenager looking up into the eyes of a handsome young man. This sets off a series of events and the discovery of a journal which is the key to the life Rosa had kept secret for 50 years. I thought this was a very enjoyable story with some fascinating characters. I liked the way it was written, it had a lovely, vivid writing style. The different parts and times of the tale were drawn together seamlessly. I thought the Irish proverbs at the beginning of each chapter were a nice touch! I found the insight into the travelling way of life interesting but did think it was a little romanticised at times. A couple of niggles, although they don't detract from the rest of the story! I thought some parts of the book, for example a wasp sting situation, were superfluous to the plot. I think they were supposed to be amusing asides. I like to think I have a good sense of humour but these didn't really work for me. I thought they were at odds to the rest of the tale and weren't really needed. I also thought the ending was a little too neatly tied up but that could just be me! At the end of the day, I thought The Traveller's Daughter was an engaging, absorbing and compelling read, just right to accompany a glass of wine and a cupcake!

The Soprano by Sarah England 5
What a great read! It's a slow burner with a gradual build up of tension and a gallop towards the end. It's set mainly in 1951 during a snowstorm when a small village is cut off from the rest of the world for a few weeks. A woman goes missing and there are some odd happenings. Eerily atmospheric with a few twists and turns, it had me gripped to the last page. The writing style creates a fantastic feeling of moodiness and unease throughout the story. It's quite dark and disturbing. It's not a scary tale as such, more menacing in its ambience! There is an array of wonderfully depicted characters, some quite sinister, each with their own axe to grind in more ways than one. The descriptions of the blizzard and snow are very evocative and realistic, I almost felt I was there. I nearly shivered with the cold! I won't be walking through any woods or looking at a doll in the same way for some time. If you enjoy a book about witchcraft and superstitions with a hint of creepiness, then this is one for you. I loved it. A fabulous tale of the macabre!

The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory 5
The story of the three Grey sisters, Jane, Katherine and Mary, all of whom died young. Jane was beheaded for treason, Katherine was kept prisoner for most of her adult life for following her heart and marrying without the Queen's permission, and Mary was also kept prisoner for a while due to the same reason, marrying without consent. It’s told in their three individual voices. Whilst I know quite a bit about Lady Jane Grey - she is the most famous - I knew virtually nothing about the other two sisters or how close Lady Katherine came to ascending the throne. I found this extra information very interesting. It’s an entertaining read mixing historical fact with fiction.

The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown 5
Dual timeframe story set in 1924 and 1999. Madeleine escapes to her hometown of Magnolia to stay with her disapproving mother when her marriage begins to crumble. There she comes across her grandmother, Margie's journal which tells the tale of her visit to Paris during the jazz age. Madeleine is fascinated by what she reads in the diary and the secrets it contains. She is also inspired by her grandmother's life as it somewhat mirrors hers and she sets about changing her own. I really enjoyed this story. I liked the writing style and I thought it was very evocative of Paris, a city I love.

What Was Rescued by Jane Bailey 3.5
The story begins in 1940 when four children are evacuated from England to Canada by sea. Tragedy strikes mid Atlantic and the boat sinks and a big secret which will have repercussions later is kept. The story jumps forward to the 1950s when the children are adults but they are still haunted by events from the past. I quite enjoyed this, but I thought it was a little long winded and sometimes far fetched. I think there was a good story at its heart but perhaps too padded out. The phraseology was a little repetitive - there was always something a little 'odd' happening. Apart from that it was easy to read and follow and strangely compelling in its way.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind


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