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Vanessa’s Reading Log 2018

What have you read in 2018? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
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Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4168
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

November

Post by Vanessa » Mon December 3rd, 2018, 12:40 pm

Here’s my list for November:

Jessamine by Shani Struthers. 4
When Jessamine’s husband is killed in a car accident, she decides to leave Brighton and live in the highlands of Scotland where her grandfather came from. There are hints of the supernatural, especially when events from the past come back to haunt her. This is a lovely read set in a beautiful backdrop, which adds hugely to the story. I enjoyed it so much that I was very pleased to be able to read and review Comraich, the second book in the series.

A Storm at Keizer Manor by Ramcy Diek. 3
This is a time travel story where a young woman called Annet, who works at a museum in the present day, virtually gets blown into the 19th century after an argument with her boyfriend, Forrest. Quite a Wizard of Oz moment! It’s an easy and light hearted tale, although it did miss something for me. I didn’t particularly take to Annet at first. However, she did grow on me. For a supposedly intelligent woman she was rather stupid, I thought. She was very loud and opinionated. She seemed to belittle people, too, particularly her own sex. Attitudes were different in the 1800s and I’m sure she would’ve been aware of that. I liked Forrest, though, and I enjoyed the parts of the story which featured him more. He came over as a kind and caring individual. I liked the ending and thought it had a good little twist which rounded things off nicely. At the end of the day it’s an undemanding and fun read written with a sense of humour.l

Comraich by Shani Struthers. 4
Comraich is a very enjoyable and fitting sequel to Jessamine by the same author. It’s a story about love, friendship and regrets set in the Scottish Highlands and it also contains a hint of the supernatural. Although both books can be read as stand alones, I am glad that I took the time to read Jessamine first as it gives a good backstory and is excellent in its own right. Comraich is a beautifully written and touching tale. I love the setting which is vividly and evocatively described - I almost felt I was there inside the book, like a fly on the wall, standing on the shores of a loch. I enjoy a story about secrets and this one really drew me in, partly because I felt like I was visiting old friends and I was pleased to be spending time with them again. The characters are likeable and well rounded. I enjoyed reading about their individual histories. It’s quite a sad tale in places, full of misunderstandings and guilt, but the ending is an apt and mostly happy one. An engaging and easy read which I can recommend.

Heads You Win by Jeffrey Archer. 4
This story begins in Leningrad in 1968 when 12 year old Alexander Karpenko’s father is assassinated by the KGB after he stands in opposition to them. Alexander decides to escape Russia with his mother, Elena, and leaves their fate to the toss of a coin. Will they go to England or America? Now there’s the twist! I found Heads You Win entertaining and fun, even if it’s a little predictable at times. It’s a ‘sliding doors’ scenario where the story takes the reader on two journeys, one set in London and the other set in New York, a ‘what if’ situation. It’s an interesting concept. I did get a little confused at times, trying to keep up with which country I was in and who was who in each alternating chapter, but I found it very readable nevertheless. It’s fast paced and engaging. There’s some humour running through it, as well, which is always welcome. It’s something of a page turner, too, as I was intrigued to find out how it was all going to turn out. The ending is unusual, a bit different, and I was left thinking about it for a while afterwards. In fact, I’m still thinking about it! An enjoyable and worthwhile read.

Domini Mortum by Paul Holbrook. 5
A dark and twisted tale of the macabre kind! Samuel Weaver is a crime illustrator for a police newspaper in London. He is obsessed with deceased but infamous evil killer, Sibilius Darke, and after several grisly murders which appear linked, he decides to carry out a bit of investigating himself which leads him on a terrifying journey. This is an amazing read. It’s full of twists and turns and it had me on the edge of my seat at times. I read this via the Pigeonhole app and was eager each day to read the next stave. It’s definitely a page turner, fast paced and well written, too, with a sense of humour running through it to keep things in perspective. Samuel Weaver makes a strange sort of anti-hero, being not quite on the straight and narrow himself to say the least, but in the end I couldn’t help but like him! ��. I do hope I hear more from him and that he will be featuring in a sequel. A fantastical, gripping and fabulous tale with elements of the supernatural. If you were ever or are a Dennis Wheatley fan, I’m sure you’d love this one!

The Lingering by S J I Holliday 2.5
When a married couple decide to move to a commune in the Fens to get away from it all, a place known for its history of witches, all is not as it seems. This book has glowing reviews but I’m afraid I was disappointed by it. I love a good ghost story but sadly this one didn’t engage me and I didn’t really care for any of the characters, the main two being fairly unlikeable. I think it’s beautifully written and it is definitely a sinister tale. However, I found it quite drawn out and too much of a slow burner. It certainly lives up to its title - ‘lingering’. I didn’t find it scary, it was more disturbing and weird than creepy. I so wanted to enjoy it but, sadly, it’s just not my cup of tea.

A Ration Book Christmas by Jean Fullerton. 4
This is a lovely, heartwarming and nostalgic story set during war time in the East End of London about two families. It’s a vividly told tale, so much so I felt transported back in time. There is a real sense of time and place. The courage and tenacity of people during such a tough and tumultuous era are very well depicted. There is a strong feeling of community spirit, something which is sometimes lacking in today’s world, I think. There are some great and likeable characters - I felt I knew them by the end of the book. The research which has gone into writing A Ration Book Christmas is praiseworthy, I was totally immersed in the story and invested in the lives of the families involved. It is a little predictable, the reason for 4* not 5*, but even so it was such an enjoyable, pleasure to 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

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Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 2440
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
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Re: Vanessa’s Reading Log 2018

Post by Margaret » Thu December 6th, 2018, 5:15 am

The Lingering
Sigh. I love a good ghost story, too, but the really good ones don't come along too often. The last truly memorable one I read was Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, maybe a year or two ago, with a book group. I'm not sure it actually qualifies as a ghost story - but it certainly satisfied the same part of me that a ghost story satisfies.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4168
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

December

Post by Vanessa » Thu January 3rd, 2019, 1:48 am

Here’s my list for December:


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. 3
When a mysterious young woman called Helen Graham moves into Wildfell Hall, Gilbert Markham becomes intrigued and then infatuated with her. The gossip about Helen increases, Gilbert begins to question his feelings and Helen gives him her diary to read revealing all. I found this rather slow and waffly, although it did pick up a little as it progressed and got more interesting. I think it could have been edited down to half it’s size.

The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau. 4.5
This is a brilliantly vivid and vibrant story all about the colour blue set in the 18th century. Genevieve Planché, a Huguenot, is living in London and desperately wants to be an artist, a career not thought seemly for young ladies during this era. After meeting up with Sir Gabriel Courtney, a man of dubious reputation, and at her grandfather’s behest, she finds herself travelling to Derby to take up a position as a porcelain painter. She becomes involved in spying to discover the secret of a certain colour blue. And what an adventure this takes her on! This is such a fabulous read and so evocatively and beautifully written! There are some colourful characters, excuse the pun, by name and by nature. It’s a really interesting story and I was fascinated by the history of the colour ‘blue’. A great amount of research has gone into this gripping tale of espionage. It’s definitely a page turner! I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a captivating and exciting historical thriller combined with some romance and a little bit of fact. The only niggle I have is that the ending seemed a tad flat, for want of a better word, so I’m hoping there will be a sequel!

The Girl in the Green Dress by Cath Staincliffe. 3.5
A transgender teenager is murdered by two young boys. As their identities become more recognizable and the clues mount up, two parents have dilemmas. I quite enjoyed this one, although there are some grey areas. The story was easy to follow, though, and drew me in so I was interested in the outcome and I thought the ending was quite touching. I listened to this book and i thought it was a great recording. The narrator was really good, very clear. I didn’t have many lapses of concentration which is what normally happens if I don’t like the narrator’s voice! An easy and thought provoking listen.

Jack, Just An Ordinary Dog in the Doghouse by Susan Tarr. 4
A touching short story about Jack, a diabetic dog, who is staying at a boarding kennels whilst his owners travel the world. It’s told in the first person, ie Jack, in the format of a diary. This is a lovely little tale. It’s entertaining and funny. Jack is such an endearing mutt and his adventures are a hoot. It’s cleverly written, too. I like the epistolary style, it makes it feel very real. The escapades of the variety of furry friends staying at the kennels came to life beautifully. The author has successfully managed to get inside the head of Jack and tell his story so insightfully and wittily. Dogs are truly man’s best friend.

Nici’s Christmas Tale by Jean Gill. 4
It’s Aquitaine in 1157 on a snowy Christmas Eve. This lovely short story, a companion to the Troubadours series by Jean Gill, is set at midnight in a sheepfold and the main character is Nici, a Pyrenean Mountain Dog or Shepherd’s Dog. Nici has his own puppies gathered around him, along with a flock of sheep, and in enters Musca, son of his master and mistress. As the blizzard continues, they all settle in to listen to Nici as he recounts tales of his life. I haven’t read any of the other books in the Troubadours series so Nici’s Christmas Tale was a good introduction for me to the writing style and era. It’s a beautifully written little novella and is atmospherically told with a very believable voice. I felt transported to the 12th century - there is such a good sense of time and place. There is also a hint of mystery which adds some suspense. I will definitely be picking up the rest of the Troubadours series to read! An enjoyable and entertaining tale just right for a cosy hour or so’s reading in front of the fire.

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee 4
Set in Calcutta during the British Raj. Captain Sam Wyndham has newly arrived in India to take up a post in the police force. He gains a sidekick, Sergeant Banerjee, also known as Surrender-not. A Government official is murdered with a note stuffed in his mouth asking the British to leave India. This is Sam and Surrender-not’s first case. I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was well researched and gave a good sense of time and place. There was some subtle humour, too. An interesting and entertaining mystery.

Odette by Jessica Duchen. 4
An enjoyable and bewitching retelling of Swan Lake set in the present day in the fictional town of Cyngford. I read this via the Pigeonhole app over the festive season and it definitely added some magic and sparkle to my Christmas! It’s a lovely, enchanting read which I can highly recommend to those who enjoy fairytales and legends retold from a modern perspective. It’s not a particularly long story but it packs quite a punch and has a great little twist at the end. Perfect for reading in front of the fire on a frosty day whilst drinking a lime blossom tea! To understand the connection, you will just have to read the book!

Argemourt by Corinna Edwards Colledge. 4
A captivating story combining the past and present set mainly in a village in France. In the present day Michelle, an army widow, inherits her aunt’s house in Argemourt where a terrible massacre occurred in 1944, conducted by Nazi soldiers. Her life becomes interlaced with a student from Paris who is researching for his PhD. I enjoyed this tale. I found it at the same time interesting, thought provoking and moving. The village of Argemourt is fictional but the horrific incident in this book is inspired by real life events. Even in wartime, how anyone can carry out such atrocities beggars belief! I liked the characters, they seemed well rounded and realistic. There is something to appeal to most readers - drama, a love interest, intrigue and even a ghostly element. I thought the story itself was well plotted and written. I had a couple of niggles - there seemed to be a little repetition of some phrases but I think this is possibly down to me being pedantic! An engaging and absorbing read which makes you realise just how lucky we are that the Nazis were not victorious. Sadly, though, there will always be some power mad individuals wishing to rule the world.
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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