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Vanessa’s 2019 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
Posts: 4190
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

Vanessa’s 2019 Reads

Post by Vanessa » Fri February 1st, 2019, 11:28 am

Here’s my list for January:

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak. 5
This is set during Christmas at the home of the Birch family. When the eldest daughter returns home from Liberia where she has been treating patients with a contagious disease, she has to go into quarantine for a week. Her family decide to spend the time with her and they all have their own secrets. I loved this book! The family dynamics are brilliantly portrayed and I think being cooped up would send anyone mad!

Melmoth by Sarah Perry 3
This is rather an odd book. It’s about a woman called Helen who did something which she can’t forgive herself for 20 years ago. Into her possession comes a manuscript about sightings of a strange being all dressed in black with staring eyes and bleeding feet who roams the earth looking for the lonely and the guilty. It’s beautifully written with some great descriptions but I found it a little disappointing, it didn’t really grip me for some reason. I loved The Essex Serpent but sadly Melmoth didn’t live up to it for me.

The Flower Girls by Alice Clark Platts 5
A gripping tale of suspense with a spine tingling ending! Twenty years ago a two year old girl was found dead after being abducted by two young girls. Ten year old Laurel Bowman was found guilty of her murder, whilst her six year old sister, Primrose, due to her age, wasn’t considered criminally responsible and was allowed to go free. These girls became known as ‘the Flower Girls’ Now another young child goes missing at a hotel in Devon on New Year’s Eve where one of the Flower Girls is staying under a new identity. Is she responsible? I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I read it via the Pigeonhole app in staves and found I was eagerly awaiting each stave to arrive every day. It’s very much a page turner where the question of ‘is it nature or nurture’ springs to mind, as well as how do we actually know if someone is telling the truth. To me this tale read quite like a horror story at times, or even an episode from ‘Tales of the Unexpected’, especially as I began to realise that all was not as it seemed. This is a cracking read which held my attention throughout, right until the chilling end. I look forward to reading more by this author.

An Abiding Fire by M L Logue 4
This is the first in the Thomazine and Thankful Russell historical thrillers set in Restoration London. In this enjoyable mystery Thankful finds himself under suspicion of murder and treason and the race is on to clear his name. An exciting and entertaining romp set during, in my opinion, a hugely interesting time in history. I love the characters of the spirited Thomazine and her stoic and lovable husband, Thankful The - they are a delight and very memorable! The style of writing is lively, engaging and amusing. There is also a good sense of time and place. This is a good introduction to what promises to be, I’m sure, a dynamic new detective duo and I look forward to reading more of the Russells’ fascinating adventures.

Hidden Company by S E England 5
A sinister but captivating dual timeframe horror story set in Wales. In 1893 a 19 year old girl is admitted into an asylum which has some dark, dark secrets, whilst in the present day a 41 year old woman takes up residence in the gatehouse to the same asylum to recover from psychic attacks only to be haunted by some disturbing visions. This is quite a scary, unsettling and creepy tale with ghostly elements. It’s also a story of superstitions, myths and the fae people. The writing is very atmospheric and it’s so easy to visualise the setting. There is an underlying air of menace throughout which kept me on my toes. What a horrific place this asylum is! If you weren’t mad when you went in, you surely would be by the end of your stay if you managed to survive! With some fantastic characters and a great twist at the end, this is another gripping, spine-chilling and nerve-racking read from Sarah England. Not for the faint-hearted or those of a nervous disposition!

You, Me & Mr Blue Sky by Elisa Lorene & Craig Lancaster 5
What a great little read! This is a lovely, heartwarming and gentle story about two confused and vulnerable people and their quirky guardian angel. Although it is in many ways quite lighthearted, there is a serious thread running through it and it has something to tell the reader about relationships and life. It’s beautifully and perceptively written with realistic and likeable characters. I found it quite the page turner. An entertaining and amusing but meaningful and insightful tale which I thoroughly enjoyed and can highly recommend.

The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent. 4
This is about a man who works in a book pulping factory and every day, on his train journey to work, he reads aloud those extracts he has rescued from the pulping machine to the passengers on his train. One day he finds a diary belong to a young woman and from then on he becomes obsessed with finding her. This is certainly a different and quirky story, but I enjoyed it. It’s an easy and amusing 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
Posts: 4190
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

February

Post by Vanessa » Sat March 2nd, 2019, 10:51 am

Here’s my list for February:

The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie 5
This is a multiple timeline and a multi-generational type of story, beginning in 1911 in the Singer Sewing Machine factory in Clydebank. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought it was well researched. It’s a great story and I liked reading about some of the history behind the Singer factory. I thought it was quite cleverly written and a little sad in places. I can recommend it as a very enjoyable little read, especially if you enjoy social history.

The Song of the Shuttle by Christine Evans. 4
This is an interesting family saga set mainly in a Lancashire mill town during the 1860s and partly in the American South, Washington and New York. It touches on the American Civil War, its impact on cotton production in Britain and how it affected the lives of the mill workers and drove them into poverty due to the British government’s opposition to slavery. Song of the Shuttle is written in quite a straightforward, ‘no frills’ way which made for easy and enjoyable reading. I found it an engaging tale and it held my attention throughout. The story deals with a part of history which I know little about and I feel as if I have learnt something! I liked the characters, especially Jessie, one of the mill girls, and Honora, a relation of a mill owner. Two spirited and forward thinking young women. If you like a saga which contains a hint of adventure, a splash of romance and a good smattering of historical fact, you’ll enjoy this debut, the first in a trilogy!

Gallowstree Lane by Kate London. 3
I read Gallowstree Lane via the Pigeonhole app in ten daily staves. I didn’t realise it was the third in a series so don’t know whether this fact affected my enjoyment as I haven’t read the first two books. I think this is an intelligent and interesting police procedural thriller about gang crime, but overall I can’t say it grabbed me. It’s written in a very realistic and gritty way, but I found it a little tedious in places. My attention kept wandering. I also didn’t particularly care for most of the characters. This book has some great 4 and 5 star reviews so I think, basically, it’s just not my personal cup of tea.

Murder in Park Lane by Karen Charlton. 4
This is the fifth in the delightful Detective Lavender and Constable Woods series set in Regency London. A man is found murdered in his lodgings, a locked door conundrum, and this leads our dynamic duo on quite a trail. I very much enjoyed this entertaining tale of suspense which has all the required ingredients for a great read. It has a clever plot, it’s fast paced, full of twists and turns, and has the odd red herring. There’s a great sense of time and place and the characters are well rounded. It’s not without its humour, either. An easy, engaging and intriguing historical mystery which will keep you guessing - I look forward to the sixth instalment!

Where the Dead Walk by John Bowen. 4
A creepy story about a supernatural TV show and the strange house the presenters are asked to investigate which appears to have a spirit contained within its walls. When I first started this book I thought it was going to be just a haunted house story. It ended up being a tale of the unexpected and entering into the realms of a Dennis Wheatley novel. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, I did! It’s imaginatively written and quite the page turner in its way. It’s mostly fast paced although some of it seemed a little repetitive. I liked the characters of the TV presenters, Kate and Henry - I thought they were well drawn and realistic. The house’s enigmatic owner, Sebastian Dahl, was suitably menacing and charming all at the same time. All in all I found it a compelling, atmospheric and unearthly, if a little fantastical, tale. It is sure to appeal to those who enjoy a little black magic mixed in with the odd ghostly element in their reading material. Beware! Some people are not always who they seem. 😱

One Minute Later by Susan Lewis. 5
Everything can change in a moment. Whilst celebrating her 27th birthday Vivienne Shager collapses from heart failure at a popular restaurant in London and this alters the course of her life. This is a beautiful and moving story written by one of my favourite authors. It takes the reader on quite an emotional journey which is both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. It combines fact with fiction and highlights the need for more people to get themselves on the organ donor list. It’s well written and researched with some realistic and likeable characters. It’s also a tearjerker so don’t forget your tissues! A compelling and gripping read which I thoroughly enjoyed and can recommend.

The Firemaker by Peter May. 4
The first in the Li Yan and Margaret Campbell thrillers set in China. It’s about genetic engineering and what could happen if scientists got it wrong. I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this one but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. I found it interesting and I loved the setting, I could picture it quite easily in my mind’s eye. I thought it was well written and researched. There’s an interesting plot line and I liked the characters. It’s quite a gripping thriller - it had me turning the pages anyway. I didn’t want to put it down at times.

The Girl Next Door by Phoebe Morgan. 4.5
A gripping psychological thriller set in a close knit community. When Clare Edwards is found dead in a ‘buttercup’ field, the gossips come out of the woodwork and rumours run rife. It’s all about keeping up appearances in this book. The Girl Next Door is a very good read, it’s full of twists and turns, a few red herrings and a surprise ending. There’s even a hint of creepiness. No-one is whom they seem and no-one can be trusted. The characters are mostly unlikeable but well drawn, so the reader can have a great love to hate relationship with them! It’s definitely a page turner and had me eagerly turning the pages, even though I had guessed who the killer was before the big reveal. Just don’t be lulled into a false sense of security! Captivating, enthralling and highly recommended - if you like a mystery with a bit of divergence, this is for you.
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
Posts: 4190
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

March

Post by Vanessa » Mon April 1st, 2019, 9:21 pm

Here’s my list for March:

Love, Honour & Obey by Valerie Holmes 3.5
The first book in the Yorkshire saga series. Despite its obscure title, it’s an entertaining tale of spies, smuggling and adventure during the French Revolution set in York and Whitby. It’s quick, easy and fast paced. There are some interesting characters and quite a good plot at its heart. As a Yorkshire lass myself, I quite liked the idea of reading a book set in areas I know so well. I enjoyed this aspect of the novel very much and also the historical side. However, I did feel the story itself could’ve been fleshed out a little more and I thought it somewhat disjointed at times. Nevertheless, I found it a fun and amusing romp of a read.

Sunshine by Kim Kelly. 4
An engaging story set just after WWI in Australia in a small outback town called Sunshine on the banks of a river called Darling. Under the Soldier’s Settlement Plan, returning servicemen could apply for tracts of land to farm on. This tale is about two such soldiers, a soldier’s wife and an aborigine. Sunshine is an enjoyable and well written story. There’s a good sense of time and place and the descriptions are very vivid - I could easily picture the setting in my mind. The characters are well drawn and interesting. Some of the events which happen to them are quite heartbreaking. It’s a short novel and a lot is crammed into it - I wish it had been a little longer. I read it via the Pigeonhole app and I looked forward to reading the staves every day. I was quite sad when it had finished, a sign of a good book!

For Richer for Poorer by Valerie Holmes. 3.5
The second instalment in the Yorkshire saga series. An inheritance, a stolen purse and a race against time sets the scene in this story. This is an easy, enjoyable and amusing tale with some interesting characters and an intriguing and fast paced plot. It kept me entertained throughout. It’s not a long read so I’d finished it before I’d even had chance to draw breath! If you fancy a quick, romantic adventure story to brighten up a few hours on a rainy day, this one’s for you.

Rosamund by Shani Struthers 5
The third novella in the Psychic Surveys companion series. This one gives the reader the background behind Rosamund Davis, Ruby’s great-grandmother. It’s a beautifully written, atmospheric and creepy tale where the house which is featured is also very much a character. The style of writing is very apt - there is a great sense of the era it is set in, the early 20th century. I was quite gripped by Rosamund’s story and I thought it was a fantastic addition to this fascinating series.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield 5
This is such a wonderfully engaging story. A girl is found drowned in the River Thames but magically comes alive again or so it would seem. She is very much an enigma to the rest of the people who live along the river. There is no date in time mentioned but my instincts tell me it is set in the Victorian era. Once Upon a River is written very much like a fairytale. It flows along beautifully, meandering its way through each of the many characters’ interlinking personal stories. The river is very much the main character and I could almost feel the water as I was reading! It trickled, ebbed and flowed through my mind just like the tale itself. It has a great sense of time and place. There’s an air of mystery and at times it becomes quite the detective story and at others quite mythical in nature . An atmospheric and enchanting read which had me totally absorbed right up until the last page. I loved The Thirteenth Tale by the same author and Once Upon a River easily lives up to it in my opinion. Just brilliant.

Crow’s Cottage by John Bowen 4
The second book in the enjoyable ‘Where the Dead Walk’ series, supernatural tales about a ghost hunting TV show. A haunted cottage, containing a mysterious secret which has been hidden for 30 years, is the subject for one of the episodes of the show. I was a little disappointed that a couple of the original ghost hunting team were absent. However, by the end of the story, I found myself liking the new presenter, Chloe, and thought she was a wonderful addition to the fantastic and diverse crew. There’s an intriguing plot which had me eagerly turning the pages, the right amount of spookiness to keep me entertained (but not too much to have me running for the hills!) and a great little twist at the end. All in all an engaging and spellbinding tale! I just hope there will be another sequel?!

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh. 5
Book one of a new trilogy, this is a gripping conspiracy style, dual timeline thriller set in the present day and in the 16thC. Archaeologist Dr Perdita Rivers inherits Marquess House in Pembrokeshire, a stately home with a mysterious past connected to Henry VIII’s fifth ill-fated wife. As skeletons in the closet are discovered, it becomes a matter of life and death to unearth the truth. I thought this was a well researched and written tale. I liked the writing style, it’s easy to read. It’s very exciting in places, so much so that I found it difficult to put down. I was eagerly turning the pages to find out what happened next. A lot of thought, imagination and effort has gone into this story. It skilfully combines historical fact with fiction. I did have to suspend belief at times as it does stray into the ‘Da Vinci Code’ arena but, nevertheless, I found it very entertaining. It’s a fabulous and impressive debut which I thoroughly enjoyed. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the trilogy, The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy.



Audio

A Keeper by Graham Norton. 4
I’ve recently joined a local book club which meets up in a local pub every six weeks on a Monday evening. I’ve been to two meetings now. The first book was The Tattooist of Auschwitz and the one we’re discussing next is A Keeper. There was a huge reserved queue at the library for it and the ebook and hardback are quite pricey at the moment. I had a spare Audible credit so I decided to listen to it. It’s actually narrated by Graham Norton so at times I was getting vibes from Father Ted! If I had to describe the listen in a short sentence it would be Father Ted meets Misery by Stephen King! It’s a dual timeframe story about a woman who is clearing out her mother’s house and comes across some letters which give clues to the past. It’s quite a dark tale, it’s also quite sad in places. It’s the first book I’ve read by Graham Norton and I was quite impressed. He can certainly tell a story and also narrate one! 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
Posts: 4190
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

April

Post by Vanessa » Wed May 1st, 2019, 9:21 pm

Here’s my list for April:

The Autobiography of Mrs Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin. 5
This is the story of Mercy Lavinia Bump, known as Vinnie, who was only 2ft8in tall. She married General Tom Thumb and joined the world of P T Barnum becoming very much a celebrity during the Gilded Age. It’s well written and researched, imaginatively filling in the unknown gaps. I loved it.

A Good Enough Mother by Bev Thomas. 4
A beautifully written and emotional story about a mother who is a mental health therapist with a son who disappeared two years previously, leaving her wondering why and what she did so wrong. Not a good mindset for her to have when a new patient reminds of her son. As their sessions progress, her sense of disquiet magnifies and things start to take a turn for the worse. I enjoyed this family drama, very much a tale of suspense. It’s quite dark in places and the characters are well drawn. It’s not the most cheerful of stories! It does, however, give a great insight into the world of the therapist and their patients. It’s a slow burner and fairly intense in its telling with a gradual build up of foreboding and uneasiness. I read it via the Pigeonhole app and it had me on tenterhooks at the end of each stave, looking forward to what the next day’s instalment would reveal. A thought provoking, engaging, and moving read which I would recommend to those who prefer something a little different to your usual chiller thriller.

The Lion Tamer who Lost by Louise Beech. 4
Set in England and Zimbabwe, a moving story about love in all its forms, loss, forgiveness and lions! It’s a well written book and I loved the bits set in Africa. The characters are well drawn and convincing. I did think there were one too many coincidences and I’m not too sure at how realistic it would be to have three gay members in one family. Apart from that, I enjoyed it. I thought it was a quick and easy read.

The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan. 5
This is a lovely, heartwarming dual timeframe story set in Cornwall during WWII and the present day. It’s a family saga, a tale of secrets and regrets. It fits all the bills for me with the two timelines, a skeleton in the cupboard and a fabulous setting. I love that it’s set in Cornwall. The descriptions are wonderfully written and easy to visualise. The story itself flows well and the two timeframes are woven together beautifully. The characters are well drawn and likeable. It’s a moving love story, but it also touches on the harsh realities of living on a farm, especially during a war. It doesn’t always hold back from the grimmer aspects of life but it does point out that there can be light at the end of the tunnel if one is only patient. There is a little surprise at the end which I wasn’t expecting! A captivating, engaging and uplifting story which I thoroughly enjoyed and can recommend wholeheartedly.

Blood on the Stone by Jake Lynch. 5
A gripping historical thriller set in Restoration England amidst political and religious unrest in the city of Oxford. Chief Officer of the Bailiffs, Luke Sandys, and his deputy, Robshaw, are tasked with the job of investigating the murder of an MP, a member of the ‘Green Ribbons’, an anti-Catholic activist group. I read this book via the Pigeonhole app and looked forward each day to the next stave. It did take me a little while to get into the story, but once I did I ended up loving it. It’s very much the page turner. There’s a great plot and some interesting, well drawn characters. I thought the sights and sounds of 17thC Oxford were wonderfully and vividly depicted. I was quite transported! The historical detail is excellent. A skilfully written, well paced and exciting mystery set during a fascinating time in British history. Highly recommended.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. 4
According to Mexican family tradition the youngest daughter is forbidden to marry and has to look after parents. In the De La Garza family Tita is the youngest of for daughters and she falls for Pedro, a family friend, and as she is not allowed to marry him, he marries her sister, Rosaura instead so that he can be close to Tita. This is a story which combines food, magic and family. It’s quirky and unusual.

The Girl Puzzle by Kate Braithwaite 5
Based on a true story about a pioneering female journalist, told in the format of a dual timeline set in 1887 and 1921. Elizabeth Cochrane, aka Nellie Bly, desperate for a job on a newspaper, impersonates an insane woman in order to infiltrate Blackwell Island’s Asylum in New York and report back on care and conditions. Some thirty years later she is living in a hotel, running an adoption agency, with Beatrice Alexander as her secretary. Beatrice is given a manuscript to type up which revisits Nellie’s experiences in the asylum and this gives Beatrice a great insight into Nellie’s psyche. I’d heard of Nellie Bly but didn’t really know anything about her, so I found this book extremely interesting and also fascinating and compelling. It seems very well researched and conveys a realistic and shocking interpretation of life in an asylum during the Victorian era. It’s horrifying to think that some people were committed to such places just because they were a little confused or had fallen on hard times, they weren’t insane at all. It’s beautifully and vividly written. I think the author has done a fantastic job of filling in the gaps and elaborating on grey areas. The story isn’t always dark - Beatrice gives the tale a little lightness with her budding romance with Ernest Coulter, an employee of the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children, fictional though it may be! If you enjoy fiction based on lesser known characters in history, you couldn’t do better than read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can highly recommend it.

The Montgomery Murder by Cora Harrison. 4
This is the first in the London Murder Mystery YA series set in the Victorian era. Alfie and his four friends, including the dog, are orphans turned amateur sleuths. In this mystery they are investigating the murder of a wealthy man. It’s an entertaining tale with just the right amount of suspense, gore and action to appeal to younger readers, whilst adults should find it a quick, easy and engaging read. The main characters are instantly likeable and reminded me a little of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five! The sights and sounds of London are well described and give a good sense of time and place. It has an interesting plot which kept me turning the pages to find out ‘whodunnit’. An enjoyable and fun read.



Audio
The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle
I very much enjoyed this book about two young men with issues who become friends and support each other through as times. I listened to it and I thought the narrators were excellent. The two separate voices were brilliantl and portrayed each personality wonderfully. I thought it was both a funny and moving tale of friendship and I thought it showed that although life can seem very dark at times, there is light and hope at the end of the tunnel.
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
Posts: 4190
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

May

Post by Vanessa » Wed June 5th, 2019, 8:36 pm

Here’s my list for May:

The Deadly Fire by Cora Harrison. 4
The second in the London Murder Mysteries YA series starring the famous Victorian five! In this one, as the title suggests, there has been a fire in the Ragged School and a schoolteacher has died. Was it murder, though? I thought this was a good addition to this entertaining series and it should appeal to both children and adults alike. It’s a fun and easy read, whilst at the same time giving a good description of what life would’ve been like in the 19thC. There is a slight Dickensian feel to the story. It’s fast paced with interesting characters and contains plenty of cliffhangers to keep the reader turning the pages. I enjoyed it.

The Forgotten Sister by Caroline Bond. 5
Another great read via the Pigeonhole app! The Forgotten Sister begins with a call from the hospital to a mother about her daughter who has been hurt in an accident. The reader is then taken back in time to four months previously where Cassie, who was adopted as a toddler, finds out she has an older sister. This leads her on quite a journey, some of it disturbing. This is quite an emotional read. It brought a tear to my eye! It emphasises that blood is not always thicker than water and parenting is about more than biology. It also points out that keeping secrets is not usually a good idea as it can lead to bigger problems later. I liked the writing style, it’s very easy to read. The characters are realistic and believable. The story flows well and kept me engaged. At times it had me on the edge of my seat, keeping me on tenterhooks for the next stave to arrive. I liked that it ends on a note of hope. The Forgotten Sister is an excellent family drama. It’s thought provoking and compelling. I was thinking about it for quite a while after I turned the last page. Remember, love is all you need!

The Anarchists’ Club by Alex Reeves 5
This is the second in the Leo Stanhope series set in Victorian London. I’ve read the first book, The House on Half Moon Street, and absolutely loved it. The Anarchists’ Club is an excellent sequel. Leo makes an interesting and wonderful amateur detective with a difference and has a fantastic and determined sidekick in Rosie Flowers. In this tale a woman is found murdered in a club where anarchists congregate and this leads Leo and Rosie on a cat and mouse chase. All I can say, really, is that it’s another fabulous story which I read via the Pigeonhole app. It contains all the right ingredients for an intriguing and fast paced thriller - plenty of twists and turns and the odd red herring, along with bags of atmosphere. It’s well written and entertaining. In short, a gripping murder mystery which kept me engaged throughout.

The House I Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell. 5
This is the story of the dysfunctional Bird family, each with their own foibles. Each Easter they have a get together but one year a tragedy happens and it tears the family apart. But then they are forced back together again and return to the house they grew up in. It touches on the subjects of hoarding and OCD. I loved this book. I enjoy family dramas and this one hit the spot for me. I’ve never read a book by Lisa Jewell before, either, so will definitely be reading more. “You are all pebbles from the same beach. Look after each other.” Good advice!

The Disappeared by Amy Lord. 4
A thought provoking and disturbing tale set in near future Britain, a country governed by the Authorisation Bureau under the leadership of the First General. And it’s not good at all! Certain books are banned, previous histories are deleted and any rebels are removed, ‘disappeared’ as it were! This is quite a gripping and exciting story. It’s action packed and well paced, but be warned there is some violence and it also contains torture scenes, not usually something I particularly like in my reading. It did have me on the edge of my seat at times, definitely on tenterhooks to say the least. There are some interesting characters, one or two of whom are really quite scary. You would not want to be in a locked room with them! Say no more. Dystopian fiction is not my favourite genre but I did find this one very compelling and absorbing. I read it via the Pigeonhole app and I was eagerly awaiting each instalment in trepidation at what would happen next! A great read if you enjoy futuristic and gritty stories.

The Ghost of Hollow House by Linda Stratman. 4
This is the fourth in the Mina Scarletti Mystery series. I haven’t read the previous three books but The Ghost of Hollow House works very well as a stand alone. It’s a haunted house story and has all the ingredients you would expect - things that go bump in the night, ghostly apparitions, objects which move by themselves and even a hidden skeleton! . It’s a quirky, fun and entertaining book. Mina Scarletti is an unusual and determined lady, an author and amateur detective who investigates fraudulent mediums and spiritualists. I liked her! There is also a whole host of other fascinating characters. I liked the writing style, I thought it was atmospheric and in keeping with the Victorian era in which the story is set. It has a slightly madcap plot which kept me engaged and amused. There’s a nice little touch at the end with Mina’s version of the preceding tale being rewritten and refashioned under her pseudonym of Robert Neil. An enjoyable read which is sure to appeal to those cosy mystery lovers who also like a little spookiness in their reading material.

Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop 5
A compelling and moving story set mostly in Athens, centring around the Greek civil war. Elderly Themis is celebrating her birthday by gathering her family together and then telling them a story of her life from being a little girl caught up in an earthquake, to fighting for the communists, to being a prisoner of war and then to becoming a wife and mother. I know very little about Greek history so I found this tale enormously interesting. It’s really engrossing. Themis is a great character, she has such resilence. What she goes through is mind boggling. This is a wonderful story combining historical fact with fiction. It’s well paced and kept me eager to read more, quite the page turner in fact. The writing is vivid and gives a good sense of time and place. I almost felt I was there. Easy to read, gripping and captivating, I can highly recommend it. “Those who are loved, they shall not die.”

One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan. 4
An uplifting and enjoyable story about two troubled women, both running away from a family issue, who meet up accidentally in Paris and form an unusual friendship whilst staying above a bookshop. Paris and a bookshop! What is there not to like? Although it’s lighthearted, there is also quite a serious thread flowing through it. It covers such subjects as alcoholism, adultery, dyslexia, dysfunctional families and the odd secret! I thought it was a lovely, heartwarming tale. The characters are well rounded but also flawed as we all are, maybe a little stereotypical if I’m picky. There are some quite convenient and predictable moments in the story, but all in all it’s just a darn good, entertaining read. I can just imagine reading this book on the Champs Élysées whilst sipping a glass of wine.

Audio:

Our House by Louise Candlish
When a wife and mother returns home one day, she finds a removal van outside her house and someone moving in. As she delves further into this nightmare, she discovers her husband has been hiding quite a few secrets and has been digging a bigger and bigger hole for himself. I thought this was a rollercoaster of a book! I really enjoyed it even though it’s completely mad and quite incredible. I was very eager to listen to more to find out how the story unfolded and what the outcome would be. I liked how it was written, in the form of a blog and a word document in the two different voices. An easy listen!
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
Posts: 4190
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

June

Post by Vanessa » Tue July 2nd, 2019, 2:31 pm

Here’s my list for July:

Strange Tombs by Syd Moore 4
The fourth book in the Essex Witch Musem series. In this one our dynamic and intrepid duo are called to investigate the demise of the curator at a writers’ retreat, who appears to have been frightened to death. This series is imaginatively and humorously written, and this particular episode definitely has things which bump in the night! It reminded me of an Agatha Christie mystery meeting a game of Cluedo with a bit of hocus pocus thrown in. There is still the ‘will they, won’t they’ scenario with the main characters but I’m forever hopeful for them.😊. If I’m to be picky, I thought it did get a little long winded at times. Even so, it’s still an entertaining story. All in all a fun and quirky read and a great addition to this enchanting series.

Not Speaking by Norma Clarke 4
When I chose to read ‘Not Speaking’ via the Pigeonhole app I hadn’t realised who it was about or, in fact, that it was a memoir. I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of memoirs. However, I did actually enjoy this one. It’s about celebrity hairdresser Nicky Clarke and his family. It turned out to be a captivating and engaging read, combining some Greek history and classical literature with details of a working class upbringing in London and a rise to fame! It’s a beautifully written book and a fascinating insight into one particular family. Rena, Nicky Clarke’s Greek mother, is very much the backbone and would appear to be a force to be reckoned with. My opinion of her changed a few times during the course of this memoir but I think by the end, I did actually like and admire her. I found the historical aspect about Greece during the war and civil war interesting, but the parts concerning classical literature did lose me a little. I’m sure those who enjoy non-fiction and memoirs would love this one as there is much to be learnt through reading it. “All families are the same and each family is unique” - I think that says it all!

The Brief by Simon Michael 5
I was very pleasantly surprised by The Brief. Set during the 1960s in London, up and coming barrister Charles Holborne finds himself on the run after being set up and then arrested for his wife’s murder. I thought this was was quite the page turner. It’s fast paced and action packed. It touches on the seedy side of criminal life and the Kray twins even have a cameo role. It gives a realistic and great insight into the British judicial system of the time which I found fascinating. I loved Charles as a character and was rooting for him throughout the story. It’s well plotted, so much so that I was on the edge of my seat most of the time. A gripping, well written and exciting thriller which I found hard to put down. I look forward to reading more by this author.


The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester 3
Set on the Cornwall/Devon Atlantic coast, a father falls to his death from the cliffs which leads to a mystery involving his twin children. I usually enjoy books set in this part of the world and featuring a house but this one disappointed me. It seemed a little surreal and it dragged. I don’t think I engaged with it.

The Silent Woman by Terry Lynn Thomas 5
I thoroughly enjoyed this story about espionage and murder set in London just before WWII. It’s fast paced and well plotted. I liked the writing style, it flows beautifully and is easy to read. There is a whole cast of interesting and likeable characters, my favourites being the leading lady, Cat Carlisle, and her trusty maid, Annie. Of course, there is the odd villain to add a bit of spice! I had fun trying to unravel the plot to find out just who the miscreant was. I believe this is the first in a series so I look forward to reading more of Cat’s adventures! A gripping and engaging mystery which I can highly recommend. It’s quite the page turner.

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon 5
An elderly lady has fallen in her flat and as she waits for someone to rescue her, she wanders back through her memories whilst wondering who the new male resident really is and if he could reveal a terrible secret from her past. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I thought it was a lovely story and that it had something to say, to tell us. It was a little sad in places but there were some laugh out loud moments, too. It had me chuckling. I love this author’s style of writing, it’s very different - she has brilliant way with words. It’s a story about life, getting older (we do tend to ‘disappear’ or fade away into the background as we age), love, loss and forgiveness. I found it quite inspiring, too, in a way. Loved it. “No matter how long or how short a time you are here, the world is ever so slightly different because you existed.” Love all the words of wisdom!

Tell Me Your Secret by Dorothy Koomson 4
Tell Me Your Secret is a dark and chilling thriller Which will have you on the edge of your seat. A serial killer nicknamed ‘The Blindfolder’ who has been terrorising London for many years has turned his sights on Brighton, bringing a detective and a victim together to help bring him to justice. I thought this story was gripping, very much a page turner. I read it via the Pigeonhole app and I was on tenterhooks waiting for the next stave to arrive. It takes you on a tense, white knuckle rollercoaster of a journey with plenty of twists and turns, the odd red herring and featuring one or two cliffhangers. The shock ending could be considered quite ambiguous in certain respects, maybe leaving it open for a sequel. An engaging, fast paced and exiting thriller which I very much enjoyed and would recommend.

Tudor Dawn by David Field 3.5
Tudor Dawn is the first in a new series, the Tudor Saga, beginning with the story of the life and times of King Henry VII. It recounts all the trials and tribulations of his adventures as an exile in France, his rise to power and his place on the throne through winning the Battle of Bosworth against King Richard III in 1485, his transformation of England and ending with his death in 1509. I thought this was a well written and researched book. It gives the nuts and bolts of the era, so I think anyone who has an interest in this period of time in history and/or who would like more knowledge of it, would find this novel very interesting. It did, at times, read a little like a biography with dialogue but even so, I enjoyed it. I feel I’ve gained a little more insight into the personality and mind of this important historical figure.

Audio

La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith
When LA’s marriage fails at the beginning of WWI, she moves to the country hoping that she will find peace and quiet so that she can move on with her life. In tune with the community spirit, she starts up an orchestra and meets Polish refugee Feliks with whom she begins a special relationship. It’s a story about the healing power of music. There not much more I can say other than it was a pleasant and gentle read/listen. 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
Posts: 4190
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

July

Post by Vanessa » Mon August 5th, 2019, 2:15 pm

Here’s my list for July:

Another You by Jane Cable. 5
This is a lovely story set in Studland Bay on the Dorset coast in southwest England. Marie Johnson helps run the Smugglers pub alongside her husband, Stephen, from whom she has separated, and son, Jude. Celebrations are being planned for the 60th anniversary of D-Day and as Marie helps with the preparations, she meets a young American soldier called Corbin and begins suffering from disturbing migraines. However, not all is what it seems. I very much enjoyed this book. It touches on post traumatic stress and domestic abuse and the effects of both on others. I thought both factors were sympathetically and convincingly portrayed. I liked the characters, even the not-so-good ones. I thought they were well rounded and realistic. I found myself totally invested in their lives and was most interested to find out what became of them. There are some wonderful and vivid descriptions of Dorset. I could almost feel and smell the sea and I could picture it in my mind so well. There is something for most readers to enjoy, there’s a mystery, a romance and even a ghostly element! I can highly recommend this captivating, absorbing and evocative tale of love, loss and self discovery. I look forward to reading more by Jane Cable.

The Family Secret by Terry Lynn Thomas. 5
The second in the entertaining Cat Carlisle mysteries set during WWII. Cat has moved back to her childhood home in Cumberland in the North of England and soon finds herself embroiled in helping to solve a murder case involving an old friend. This is another easy, fast paced read. The plot has plenty of twists and turns and kept me eagerly turning the pages. The characters are very believable and realistic, although they did seem to imbibe quite a bit of brandy! The local off licence must have been doing a roaring trade. Cheers! 😁 There’s a good sense of time and place and this, along with the love interest, creates a great atmosphere. The Family Secret is a captivating and absorbing murder mystery, an excellent follow up to The Silent Woman. I look forward to reading Cat’s next adventure.

Secret of the Home Front Girls by Kate Thompson. 5
This is a wonderfully evocative tale set during WWII in the East End of London, revolving around the Yardley girls who worked on the lipstick line in the factory and whose ‘duty’ it was to look glamorous, putting their best face forward in dark times. It’s a beautifully written and well researched book. I was totally immersed in all the characters’ lives - I loved each and every one! The author has done a brilliant job in creating and bringing them to life. There is humour as well as sadness and the British fighting spirit really comes to the fore. The story touches on a variety of issues which kept me engaged and entertained throughout. It brought to mind memories of my mother telling me how she did her bit for the war effort, working part time for the fire service and also helping out in the forces’ canteen alongside her sister. Where would this country have been without women like these? I thoroughly enjoyed this book, a tale which shows our determination to survive, to stand up for what is right and to put one foot in front of the other with a brave smile on our faces in the darkest of times. I can highly recommend it to social history fans. Don’t forget to read the author’s notes at the end - so interesting - and the wartime beauty tips make essential reading!

Testament by Alis Hawkins. 4
An engaging dual timeframe story set in the present day and the late 14thC revolving around a college and the discovery of an unusual wall painting. It took me a little while to get into the flow of this book, but once I did I enjoyed it. It’s definitely worth persevering with. Timeslip novels are my favourite genre and I thought this one was a well written and constructed tale. Both inter-connecting stories are interestingly told and linked. I liked the characters, they were realistic and well rounded. The historical aspects were fascinating and the descriptions of the college being built, the political intrigue it caused and the religious beliefs it offended were very vividly depicted. All in all a cleverly woven and researched tale which should appeal to those historical fiction fans who enjoy something a little different to the norm.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager. 5
Another gripping and very enjoyable read via the Pigeonhole app. Jules Larson applies for the job of apartment sitter in the Batholomew, a creepy old building in New York complete with gargoyles and a dumb waiter. There are several strange and strict rules to be adhered to as per the contract but the pay is excellent. However, unsurprisingly, all is not what it seems at the Bartholomew - residents are going missing..... This is such an entertaining and fast paced mystery with a little bit of horror thrown in. It gives a few nods to certain films and books, but I won’t mention their titles as it might give the game away. Suffice it to say I was riveted from the first stave, eagerly awaiting for the next one each day. It had me on the edge of my seat at times. I never knew quite what was going on as the plot twisted and turned. It’s menacing, full of tension and the sense of imperilment is very real. If you enjoy suspenseful and spellbinding reads with a hint of gothic, you’ll love this one.

The Bastille Spy by C S Quinn. 5
A gripping, fast paced espionage thriller set during the French Revolution. Attica Morgan is a female English spy affiliated to The Sealed Knot Society and she has a date with the notorious Bastille to discover the whereabouts of her cousin, Grace, and also the location of a costly diamond necklace which belonged to Marie Antoinette. Along the way she meets charismatic pirate, Captain Jemmy Avery, (who did put me in mind of Captain Jack Sparrow) and a host of other fictional and real characters including the infamous Maximilien Robespierre and Georges Danton. This is a fun and entertaining read, a real rollercoaster of a ride. It gathers pace and never lets go until the end. I loved the mix of fact and fiction. There’s a great sense of time and place and ‘The Terror’ is vividly described. It’s very well written with some humour thrown in, easy to read and kept me captivated from the first page. The Bastille Spy is the first in the Revolutionary Spy series and I look forward to reading the sequel. There is more than a hint of James Bond in this story, it’s action packed and full of ‘Q’ worthy gadgets. If you enjoy swashbuckling historical thrillers with a difference, this one’s for you.


Audio

The Snakes by Sadie Jones. 3
A young couple decide to rent their flat out and then go travelling. On the way they visit Bea’s brother Alex in his ramshackle hotel in France. Their very wealthy parents make a surprise visit. Then tragedy strikes. I started off enjoying this story and then I lost interest. It was very repetitive and I didn’t like any of the characters. I didn’t like the ending, it made the whole tale seem a bit pointless. Not my bag, I guess!
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
Posts: 4190
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

August

Post by Vanessa » Tue September 3rd, 2019, 1:01 pm

Here’s my list for August:

Circe by Madeline Miller. 4
This is about Circe, a Greek goddess, born to the house of Helios who was god of the sun, one of the Titans. Circe is rejected by her family due to her dark powers, that of witchcraft, and is banished to the island of Aiaia. She is not alone for long, casting her spells and dabbling with the occult, as she receives a few unexpected guests, one of whom is the mortal, Odysseus, who changes her life. For an average sized book, Circe makes epic reading! I found it very interesting but confusing at the same time, trying to remember who all the various gods/mortals were. I’m so glad I read it my Kindle as I could look up information easily regarding the various gods. It took me quite a time to read it but very enjoyable at the same time.

Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware. 5
A fabulous read via the Pigeonhole app! I was on tenterhooks every day waiting for for each stave. I’ve only read one other book by Ruth Ware and I can honestly say neither have disappointed me. Rowan Caine sees an advert for a nanny looking after four children in Scotland, in a house with all the gadgets and hi-tech you could ask for. The terms of employment are excellent, so much so they seem too good to be true and in this case they certainly are as a child is found dead and Rowan finds herself on trial for murder. This is such a creepy and spine chilling read! There are nods to Henry James and Daphne du Maurier as the tension and sense of foreboding build up. It certainly had me on the edge of my seat at times. It’s beautifully and atmospherically written. I loved the setting, it worked so well within the confines of this story. The descriptions of the Scottish mountains and countryside are vividly depicted. And I loved how I was never quite sure what the characters were going to come across as they walked around the grounds of this very strange house! I think this book would suit those who enjoy a story full of mystery and suspense with a ghostly element and a hint of gothic. Superb and eerie stuff!

House of Secrets by Terry Lynn Thomas. 3.5
The House of Secrets is the second in the Sarah Bennett Mysteries set during WWII in San Francisco . I haven’t read the first book, The Spirit of Grace, so it did take me a little time to get round the storyline. Sarah takes a job with with psychiatrist and occult aficionado, Dr Geisler, and finds herself haunted by his dead sister and investigating an attempted murder. I definitely had to suspend my belief at times as things very much go bump in the night and there are ghostly apparitions. It’s a fun, entertaining and easy read. It has more than a hint of gothic and I liked the writing style. I found the the historical aspect with regard to food rationing and wartime lifestyle etc interesting and this seems well researched. I did find the ending quite predictable but overall I enjoyed it. If you like mysteries with a paranormal theme and a touch of romance thrown in, this one is for you.

A Shadowed Livery by Charlie Garrett. 5
I very much enjoyed this entertaining and engaging country house mystery. It’s set just before WWII, three murders have been committed and there is a list of suspects as long as your arm! There is a plot within a plot - both are cleverly written and combine to make an interesting and intriguing read. The historical aspect is well researched and draws the reader’s attention to the terrible treatment of the Jewish population during this particular era. I loved trying to work out ‘whodunnit’; there are so many twists and turns it was difficult to know quite what was going on. If you enjoy a thriller which harks back to the golden age - there are nods to Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers - you could do no better than read this one.

Tapestry of Treason by Anne O’Brien. 5
This is such a fabulous read! If you enjoy historical fiction about lesser known characters, you’ll love Tapestry of Treason. I hadn’t heard of Constance of York, Lady Despenser, before reading this book, so found myself quite captivated by her story. I think the author has done a brilliant job of bringing Constance to life, really getting inside her head by way of a first person type of narrative. What a feisty, determined and ambitious lady she was. Plotting against King Henry IV being just part of Constance’s life’s rich tapestry. She’s a great advert for the old adage ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again’! It’s beautifully written and cleverly woven. Superbly researched, Constance’s story is interesting, gripping and fascinating, as well as being educational. I can thoroughly recommend it.

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn. 5
I really enjoyed this fun and entertaining mystery. It’s a first book in a series featuring a lepidopterist and a natural historian as amateur sleuths. In this one a big secret leads to an exciting cat and mouse chase involving murder and abduction, a secret which could change the course of history. It’s humorous with some great characters and kept me turning the pages. I’ve already downloaded the next book.

Platform Seven by Louise Doughty. 5
A gripping supernatural psychological thriller which begins in a railway station where two people have met their deaths on the tracks. They may or may not be connected and the spirit of the first death looks back at her life to try to remember how she came to be dead. This is such a wonderfully well written and poignant read. It’s a slow burning story which draws you in gradually and then keeps you hooked until the very end. It describes perfectly the seemingly charming but manipulative and possessive partner in an abusive relationship, the way they insinuate themselves into the life of their victim and make them feel special but inadequate. There are some great observations about life, our foibles and our failings throughout the book which are so thought provoking. I have to admit to shedding a few tears as the tale travelled towards its emotional conclusion. Don’t forget your tissues! A dark, compelling and moving drama with a unique narrator. It’s an unusual ghost story, not scary in the normal sense but definitely unsettling and a little disturbing.

The God Jar by Phil Featherstone 4
An intriguing dual timeframe mystery set in the present day and the 16thC, involving a mysterious and much desired jar, a newly married couple and real life Elizabethan mystic, Dr John Dee. This is a nicely paced adventure story which kept me engaged from beginning to end. If I had to choose, I think I preferred the historical timeline to the modern. It seemed well researched. Both stories are entertaining and fit well together (although I think the modern one could have been fleshed out a little more). Dr John Dee is realistically depicted and the rest of the characters seem convincing and well rounded. The ending is a little ambiguous so don’t expect things to be neatly tied off. Instead it gives food for thought. I read this book via the Pigeonhole app, reading one stave a day for ten days, interacting with other readers, which all added to the enjoyment of this engaging mystery.
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
Posts: 4190
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

September

Post by Vanessa » Wed October 2nd, 2019, 11:45 am

Here’s my list for September:

Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin
A lighthearted read about a young woman who, for six months, exchanges working in her own bookshop in Ashford in Connecticut for the ‘Once Upon a Time’ bookshop situated near the River Seine in Paris. She finds that she has taken on more than she bargained for, plus her long time journalist boyfriend seems to be very Illusive and can barely spend any time to chat to her on the phone. This story was just a little too fluffy for me, although that doesn’t mean to say I didn’t enjoy it. I enjoyed reading about the bookshop itself. The title initially drew me to the book. I loved the descriptions of the shop itself, the different floors and the literary references. I also enjoyed reading about Paris and taking a tour along the many streets surrounding the shop. It’s nicely written and the imagery was excellent. Paris is one of my favourite cities, it definitely has its own aura. However, I found the characters a little two dimensional, somewhat cliched. The plot was quite predictable and the ending was too neatly tied up for me, too convenient. I think this book would make a great beach read, accompanied by a cocktail of course! Mine’s a Mojito - cheers! It’s a pleasant, well paced and easy to absorb story, just right for a bit of escapism.

Museum of Broken Promises by Elizabeth Buchan
This is such a moving story combining present day Paris with 1980s Prague during the Cold War and 1990s Berlin after the removal of the Berlin Wall. It follows the life of Laure Carlyle from being an au pair in Prague, to being a British Embassy employee in Berlin and then to being the curator of the Museum of Broken Promises in Paris. I thought this was a wonderfully written book. It’s quite powerful in its telling as well as being interesting and thought provoking. It’s also well researched. Life behind the Iron Curtain is so very vividly described and depicted, I was easily transported. What a fearful time it must’ve been to be constantly looking over your shoulder! The sense of oppression would’ve been so strong. The characters are well drawn and realistic. I was totally immersed in their stories. I loved the idea of the museum. It seemed a brilliant concept, exhibiting objects which symbolised a terrible grief or betrayal. It was a type of therapy or ‘letting go’ for those who donated. It’s a story of love, treachery, faith, survival and forgiveness - very much a page turner. It did bring a tear to my eye at the end as it’s quite an emotional tale. It’s the first book I’ve read by Elizabeth Buchan and it won’t be my last. Highly recommended.

The Drowned Woman by Terry Lynn Thomas
The third in the Sarah Bennett supernatural mystery series. Sarah and Zeke’s sister-in-law is found dead and her emerald necklace has gone missing. Five years on one of the emeralds has reappeared and at the same time a cat burglar is making their presence felt. This is what I would describe as a cosy crime drama. It has a mystery within a mystery and although I had worked out quite early on who one of the culprits was, I didn’t cotton on nearly as fast to the other! It’s an easy, quick and engaging read. The supernatural element isn’t a scary one, so no need to hide behind any cushions! I liked the writing style and the historical aspect - there’s a good sense of time and place and it seems well researched. An enjoyable, gentle, entertaining and well paced tale of suspense with a hint of the paranormal.

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier
Tracy Chevalier is one of my favourite authors, therefore I was very much looking forward to reading A Single Thread. Who knew that a story about broderers and bell ringers would be so captivating! It’s 1932 and Violet Speedwell moves to Winchester from Southampton, escaping an overbearing mother, to work in an insurance office. She becomes involved and enrols in a group, all with their own secrets, who embroider kneelers and cushions for the cathedral. She also meets married Arthur Knight, a bell ringer, and develops feelings for him. I thought this was a delightful and thoughtfully written tale of friendship, family and unrequited love. Tracy Chevalier has woven a brilliant story touching on social history during the inter-war years. It’s well researched and beautifully combines historical fact with fiction, giving a great sense of time and place. The writing style is wonderful, the author has her own reflective and engaging approach - it easily transported me to the era. This is a fabulous read, a story to savour, it’s gentle and moving but also contains a hint of something darker and menacing. If you enjoy character based stories, then you can do no better than read this one. I loved it and was sad to turn the last page.

Becoming by Michelle Obama
My face to face reading group chose this to read over the summer. I don’t normally read celebrity memoirs so this one definitely took me out of my comfort zone. However, there aren’t a lot of politics in it, it’s more about Michelle Obama’s life as a child, gaining entry to Princeton University, becoming a lawyer, meeting Barack Obama and then her role as First Lady. It has an easy style of writing, making it very readable. Overall I found it an interesting and enjoyable read.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Sci fi novella. Binti, a young Himba girl, is offered at place at Oomza University. On her way there, the spaceship is taken over by the Meduse, an alien race very much like octopi, and Binti finds herself in her own and fighting for her life. I don’t like sci fi as a rule and this short story didn’t convert me, either. I don’t know whether it’s a YA novella but the writing came over as a little childish. I didn’t really engage with the story, either. It’s been done before. I gave it a go but not my cup of tea at all.

Bone China by Laura Purcell
A dual timeline Victorian gothic horror story set in Cornwall. Underneath the cliffs near his home, Dr Pinecroft is experimenting on a group of prisoners who have consumption, in the hope of discovering a cure. Forty years later, escaping her past, Hester Why takes up the position of nurse to Louise Pinecroft, the strange and ill daughter of the aforementioned doctor. Odd things start to happen and superstitions regarding folklore abound. Hester doesn’t know what to believe! This is a dark, atmospheric and wonderfully creepy tale set in a stunningly picturesque part of Britain. The descriptions are so vivid I could almost believe I was there. The two timelines are woven together brilliantly and there is a great sense of foreboding and eeriness throughout the story. It’s a slow burner with a gradual build up of tension, drawing the reader in and making you wonder if there are in fact ‘little folk’ and ‘changelings’! Not the Tinkerbell type of fairy either. The ending is a surprising and quite shocking one - it made me gasp. This is definitely a tale of the unexpected. Beautifully written and well plotted, I really enjoyed this sinister, disturbing and other-worldly read. I’m still thinking about it now and will continue to for a while.

The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy
A wonderful dual timeline story set in Paris during WWII and the present day. In 2017, after discovering a photograph of her grandmother as a young woman, Harriet travels to Paris to explore her family’s history. In the 1940s three seamstresses become members of the French Resistance and find themselves in grave danger. The Dressmaker’s Gift is a moving tale of friendship, courage, resilience, love, loss and hope. I found it gripping, suspenseful and somewhat harrowing. It kept my attention throughout - I was eagerly turning the pages to find out what happened next. I thought the two interlinked stories were sewn together quite seamlessly, a little like the lovely blue dress which one of the characters wore, and I very much enjoyed both timelines. I liked the way it was told and thought it had a lovely, easy style. Having read The Beekeeper’s Promise by the same author, it was great to recognise the name of Mereille, one of the seamstresses, and read her personal story. Well researched, beautifully written and nicely plotted with some captivating characters, it gives a fantastic insight into the life of the resistance fighter and how the French coped with life during German occupation in such perilous and disturbing times. Well worth the read. I loved it!

A Deceitful Subtlety by M J Logue
The second in the delightful Thomazine and Major Thankful Russell mystery series set just after the English Civil War. This one sees our intrepid duo travelling to Bruges on the hunt for a missing person. I very much enjoyed the first book, An Abiding Fire, so was looking forward to reading this one and I can honestly say it didn’t disappoint. It’s entertaining and fun! Historical fact is cleverly combined with fiction to tell an intriguing and engaging story and it’s written in the author’s individual, amusing and quirky style. Thomazine and Thankful are fantastic characters and I am becoming quite invested in their lives. I can’t wait to find out what life throws at them next! If you enjoy tales set during the Restoration/King Charles II era, why not give this series a try! You’ll be glad that you did.


Audio:

Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce
Quite a gripping psychological thriller about a lawyer who is having an affair with a colleague and she is receiving mysterious texts saying that the sender knows her secret. She has also taken in a murder case where the wife has stabbed her husband numerous times. I enjoyed this one, it’s quite the page turner in it’s way. Very dark and seedy. I didn’t like any of the characters, none of them had any redeeming qualities. But it kept my attention throughout, not always easy for me when I’m listening to a story!
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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Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4190
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

October

Post by Vanessa » Sat November 2nd, 2019, 8:43 am

Here’s my list for October:

The Angel Monument by Kath Middleton
An enjoyable period drama set in 1824 concerning two sisters, their maid and a supposed gentleman who is not as he seems! This is a gentle and melancholic story with sinister overtones and a hint of the supernatural. It’s nicely written and I liked the characters. There is also a good sense of the era. I did feel, however, that some of the situations and conversations were a little unrealistic at times. They jarred a little with me. Just my thoughts! It kept me turning the pages nevertheless. Overall, I think this tale is a moving, engaging and easy read. I think if historical romantic suspense is your genre, you’ll enjoy this one.

Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
The Fountains of Silence quite a cracker! I read it via the Pigeonhole app where I received a stave a day for twelve days. I looked forward to receiving each instalment every day, I was so immersed in the story and the characters’ lives. It’s set in 1957 in Madrid during its communist era under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Tourist Daniel Matheson, son of a Texas oil tycoon father and a Spanish mother, is visiting with his parents. Daniel is a keen photographer, even so far as wanting to make a career of it against the wishes of his father. He meets a local girl, Ana, who is a maid in the hotel where he is staying and, through her, various members of her family, including Rafa and his friend, Fuga who have dreams of bullfighting fame. As Daniel takes his photos, he becomes gradually aware of the darkness running beneath the surface during this turbulent and tyrannical period of time in Spanish history, a history I knew little about but now know a lot more! I found this a fascinating and highly interesting read. It’s beautifully written and well researched, combining historical fact with fiction to make an absorbing and captivating tale with some believable and likeable characters. And the ending just ties it all up wonderfully! This is the first book I’ve read by Ruta Sepetys and it won’t be my last. Highly recommended.

Violet by SJI Holliday
This is quite a creepy psychological thriller about two girls, Violet and Carrie, who end up travelling together for one reason or another on the Trans Siberian Railway. All is not as it seems as they never are in this type of story! It’s a tale of obsession and deception. Well, it certainly had me on the edge of my seat at times. It took me on a rollercoaster of a journey and I was never sure where it would end up. There was a definite sense of growing unease and edginess as I progressed through the book. It became quite sinister, in fact. The two girls were both sociopathic in their own way, I wouldn’t have trusted either of them and I certainly wouldn’t have travelled with them. Violet was particularly unhinged. It’s a fast paced page turner which had me fervently turning the pages to find out who was who and what was what! “Do not speak to strangers” is probably some of the best advice your mother could ever tell you.

The Forest by Edward Rutherfurd
Fictional history of the New Forest from 1066 to 2000. It does contain some fact and real life characters. It’s about five inter-connecting families and how they and the Forest evolve over the eras. It’s beautifully and evocatively written with a great sense of time and place. I was totally immersed in the families’ lives and I was so sad when it ended. I loved it. I also feel I have gained some more knowledge about deer and trees. My aunt used to live in Burley in the New Forest and it did make me smile when it mentioned Burley had a witchcraft connection. It’s a beautiful place to visit.

Snatched by Gillian Jackson
A fast paced psychological thriller about Danny, a young boy, who is kidnapped, indeed ‘snatched’, as he is walking home from school and is kept held for ransom. This story is told from the parents’, the child’s and the police’s points of view. I thought it showed the horror, shock and tension of all concerned very well, how feelings resonate at a time such as this. Danny is the star of the show, he copes admirably. It’s quite a rollercoaster of a ride and I flew through it fairly quickly. There are some grey areas and some unconvincing moments. However, I was eager to turn the pages to find out what happened next and overall I enjoyed it.

The Christmas Party by Karen Swan
A castle belonging to the last knight in Ireland, three disparate daughters and an inheritance are the basis for this heartwarming story about family secrets. The perfect fairytale! I loved this one. I read it via the Pigeonhole app and really enjoyed reading each stave every day. It takes you on a ‘feel good’ and, at times, emotional journey through the ups and downs and twists and turns of family life. It fair warms the cockles of your heart. I thought it dealt with the more serious threads of the tale very well, whilst at the same time retaining its humour and lightheartedness. It’s well written with a fantastic cast of engaging and appealing characters. Parts of the story can tug at the heartstrings, so keep a tissue ready, but it’s just right for the festive season! The Christmas Party is the first book I’ve read by this author and it certainly won’t be my last. I can recommend it to those who are looking for a tale that combines some meaningfulness with a little fairy dust and sparkle.

A Pretty Folly by Charlie Garratt
The second in the Inspector James Given crime series. It’s 1939 and a body of a young woman has been discovered laid out on a mattress in the crypt of a chapel belonging to a charity school. How did she get there and is it a case of foul play? I was looking forward to A Pretty Folly as I’d enjoyed A Shadowed Livery and I’m pleased to report it didn’t disappoint. Although it can be read as a stand alone, personally I think it would be advantageous to read the previous book first due to the backstories of some of the characters. There is a story within a story, too, ie the attacks against the Jewish community, which connects both books. The style of writing is engaging and the character of James Given seems realistic, likeable and believable. Cleverly plotted, there are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader entertained. I also like that there is a little bit of fact mixed in with the fiction. This is proving to be an excellent mystery series and one I can recommend.

Audio

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
This was chosen by my face to face reading group. It’s a children’s book, hence why I listened to it. It’s about a boy who wakes up on Midwinter Day, also his eleventh birthday, and finds the world has changed. He is the last of the ‘old ones’ and it’s his task the get rid of the evil magic of the ‘dark’. It’s a very imaginative story and should appeal to those children around 12 years of age. It didn’t really grab me because it did read like a children’s book to me. It might be because it was an audiobook and the narrator accentuated the voices too much.
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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