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Vanessa’s 2020 Reads

What have you read this year? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
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Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4226
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 2020 Reads

Post by Vanessa » Sun January 5th, 2020, 10:20 pm

Here’s my list for January:

The Assistant by S K Tremayne
Firstly, if you’re thinking of buying yourself a virtual assistant, you might think twice after reading this book! It’s scary stuff, I can tell you! After her divorce Jo Ferguson moves into her friend’s flat in Camden which is managed by a home assistant called Electra. One night Electra starts talking to her as if it knows her personally and taunts her with a big secret only Jo and a couple of other friends should know about. From here on in things only get worse. Well, this is very much a page turner. It gripped me from beginning to end. It’s described as a psychological thriller - it’s more like a horror story! If I had a virtual assistant (which I don’t, I’m not that lazy. I don’t use Siri, either.), it would be taken to the electrical recycling centre immediately. Having said all that, although it’s an enthralling read, it is a little far fetched at times and I wasn’t totally convinced about the ending. Even so, it’s thought provoking and makes you wonder at all this quite invasive technology. Big Brother is definitely watching you. The Assistant is an edge of your seat and disturbing nail biter of a story. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can recommend it. It will haunt your dreams.

The Foundling by Stacey Halls
I loved this story! Set in London during the 18th century and told by two voices, that of a young mother and shrimp seller, Bess Bright, and a widow, Alexandra Callard, who lives with her daughter, Charlotte. Six years after leaving her baby, Clara, at the Foundling Hospital, Bess discovers Clara has already been reclaimed by someone professing to be her. Bess’ investigations lead her to the position of nursemaid. I was looking forward to reading this book so was very pleased when it became available by way of a competition on Pigeonhole. Having won my place, I eagerly awaited each stave every day and was sad when I received the last one, I didn’t want it to finish. It’s beautifully and atmospherically written with some wonderful and realistic characters. The Foundling is such an immersing read, so much so I was easily transported to Georgian London and I became totally absorbed into Bess’ and Alexandra’s individual stories. I was gripped from beginning to end. Historical fiction fans are going to love this one! I haven’t read The Familiars, Stacey Halls’ first book, but it’s on my ‘to be read’ pile and I’m impatient to start it!

Hitler’s Secret by Rory Clements
This is the fourth in the Professor Thomas Wilde espionage thriller series set during WWII. I haven’t read the first three but I thought Hitler’s Secret worked well as a stand alone. Tom is enlisted to smuggle a mysterious package out of Germany which leads to a cat and mouse situation. I found it gripping and well researched. It’s an exciting and action packed story where the pace doesn’t let up. The plot is intriguing and there are plenty of twists and turns, it’s quite a journey. I was eager to pick my Kindle up to read on. I loved the character of Tom Wilde and, therefore, look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau
It’s 1911 and rebellious heiress Peggy Battenberg is summoned to spend the summer with her family at the Oriental Hotel on Coney Island, not far from the the amusement parks. Wishing for her freedom, she soon comes into contact with Stefan, who is a Serbian artist, and starts to meet him in secret. Then the bodies of three young women are found and, as the temperature rises, the tension mounts. This is a tale of class division, family, forbidden love and murder. I loved Dreamland! It’s a fabulous read. I enjoyed the setting and era, the descriptions are very vivid. It’s beautifully written with just the right amount of suspense. I read this book via the Pigeonhole app and I was always eager to begin each stave every day. I definitely found it a page turner. An entertaining and magical historical murder mystery with some fascinating characters and an intriguing plot which I can highly recommend. Nancy Bilyeau is fast becoming one of my favourite authors.

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
This is a lovely story set in London, Cornwall and New York about a brother and a sister and a rabbit named God spanning about 30 years. It’s a heartwarming drama about love in all its forms. It is a little dark in places and includes such themes as child abuse, kidnapping, family secrets and illness. However, there is plenty of humour to lighten the atmosphere. Just a great read.

The 24 Hour Cafe by Libby Page
A heartwarming story set in a cafe which never sleeps near Liverpool Street Station in London. It’s told by way of ittle glimpses into the lives of various people, those of the waitresses and customers who frequent the cafe, a little like a ‘fly on the wall’ documentary. I thought this was cleverly written with the relatable snapshots gelling together beautifully. The observations were spot on. It’s a tale about relationships, particularly the importance of friends, with themes such as loneliness, homelessness, mental abuse and post natal depression. The cafe sounded fantastic - I’d love to drop in and treat myself to a slice of cake and a café latte whilst discreetly tuning into the assorted conversations around me, the ‘ships that pass in the night’. It’s all very realistic. An absorbing and hugely enjoyable story. If you like people watching, you’ll love The 24 Hour Cafe! I shall miss the fun, even Ernest the Bear!
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: 4226
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 » Sun March 1st, 2020, 3:51 pm

Here’s my list for February:

The Willow Marsh Murder by Karen Charlton
The sixth book in the Detective Stephen Lavender mystery series, this one set on the Fens in Ely. Detective Lavender receives a letter summoning him to Willow Marsh House to investigate a murder. When he and his trusty sidekick, Constable Ned Woods, arrive there they find no such occurrence. But, the next day events overtake themselves..... I do enjoy country house murder mysteries and this is an excellent example of one. It has all the right elements - secret passages, strange noises, the odd dead body and a murky atmosphere with plenty of suspects. This story links to the novella, The Death of Irish Nell. Whilst there’s no need to have read this to enjoy The Willow Marsh Murder, it does give a good insight into the background of the case. I found it quite the page turner. This is a fantastic murder mystery series and Lavender and Woods make a great duo. They are cleverly written, fast paced and entertaining. I can’t recommend them enough.

The Sisters Grimm by MennaVan Praag
This magical tale is about four sisters and they are not just ordinary sisters, they are Grimm sisters. They have the same father but different mothers. One sister is earth, one is fire, one is air and one is water and each one relates to a certain fairytale, all of which are fun to work out. They met each other in Everwhere, a mystical land, when they were eight. They were separated at 13 and now at nearly 18, they need to find each other again to prepare for a battle to fight for their lives. I thoroughly enjoyed The Sisters Grimm. I wasn’t sure I was going to at first but the more I dwelled in this fantastical land, the more I loved it. It’s a little different, quite original and very imaginative. Beautifully written with some fascinating characters, both good and evil, it had me eagerly turning the pages for more. I enjoy stories which link to fairytales and The Sisters Grimm is an excellent example of that with all the usual mythical and bewitching elements. I’d love to visit the enchanted world of Everwhere...... who knows, perhaps I have in my dreams! If you enjoy magical realism stories, you’ll love this one!

The Familiars by Stacey Halls
Set during the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612, A young woman called Fleetwood Shuttleworth discovers she is pregnant and at the same time finds a letter written to her husband by a doctor warning that her life is in danger. Fleetwood comes across a local midwife, Alice Gray, who promises to deliver her baby safely. But all is not as it seems and both Fleetwood and Alice are drawn into the hunt for witches which is sweeping across the country. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I loved that it included real life characters as well as fictional and that it contained aspects of truth. The tormented lives of these women who were accused of witchcraft are superbly portrayed and it’s so sad to think that we were so ignorant as a people to believe in such hocus pocus. This is a beautifully written and crafted tale, I was immersed and invested into Fleetwood’s life from beginning to end. It’s very much a page turner.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Groundhog Day meets Cluedo in this fascinating mystery. Aiden Bishop has to discover who killed Evelyn Hardcastle in order to escape Blackheath House. He is given eight days to solve the mystery. Each day he finds himself in the body of a different character and as the different character he relives the same day. It gave me quite the headache placing all of the pieces of the puzzle together but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s very original and different. So very clever, too.

The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue
An enjoyable, dark and moody dual timeframe story, taking place 25 years apart, set in a girls’ boarding school told via the voices of Louisa, a scholarship pupil, and an unnamed journalist. It’s a tale of love and obsession. The Temple House Vanishing has a real gothic feel about it. It’s The Secret History meets Picnic at Hanging Rock. It’s a haunting, sad and quite disturbing tale, beautifully written and atmospherically told. The angst of and rivalries between teenage girls is wonderfully observed and astutely portrayed. It’s a slow burner of a page turner but it did have me gripped until the end. A very clever novel and an excellent debut. I look forward to reading more by this author.

House of Lies by Terry Lynn Thomas
The third in the Cat Carlisle series set during WWII. Cat has set up a women’s refuge in the village of Rivenby whilst her fiancé, Thomas, is working with the local police. Thomas is hiding a jewel studded golden chalice at his house, trying keep it out of the hands of the Nazis, and one of the women from the refuge is found murdered. Having read the first two books in the series, I was looking forward to House of Lies. It didn’t disappoint. It’s nicely written and well paced with an intriguing plot. There are a few twists and turns which kept me turning the pages. I like the characters of Cat and Thomas and love revisiting their lives. These books are quite gentle reads but well worth taking the plunge. An enjoyable and entertaining historical mystery, a great addition to the series.

A Shadow on the Lens by Sam Hurcom
A gothic style thriller set in 1904. Forensic photographer Thomas Bexley is called to the small village of Dinas Powys in Wales to investigate the horrific murder of a young girl. There he comes across suspicious minds and silent villagers who are not anything away, plus there appears to be some sort of presence. This story did take me quite a while to get into the swing of things, but I enjoyed it once I did. It’s a slow burner and the style of writing is very pertinent to the era it’s set in. It’s atmospheric and creepy with a hint of the supernatural. Thomas Bexley is an interesting narrator and I thought he really grew into his character by the end of the tale. I liked him! There’s an intriguing plot with a few twists and turns which kept me turning the pages. It did have me wondering what on earth was going on at times, but it all came together quite nicely by the conclusion of the book. All in all an absorbing and gripping historical mystery and debut. I look forward to reading further work by Sam Hurcom.
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: 4226
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 » Tue March 31st, 2020, 8:21 pm

Here’s my list for March:

In Honour Bound by Elizabeth Bailey
An enjoyable Regency romance where a young girl who has recently lost her soldier father has travelled to England to be placed in the care of a guardian who has never heard of her. Add an obnoxious and vengeful sister and the fireworks start. This is a well written story. It’s fast paced with an entertaining plot. The leading lady is a feisty individual who isn’t scared to ‘stick you with the pointy end’ and the leading man is very much the hero, just as you would expect with this sort of tale. It didn’t take very long to read but it passed a pleasurable two or three hours. A fun and gentle story which very much put me in mind of Georgette Heyer’s books of the same nature.

You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce
Author Cassandra Tipp has disappeared, leaving a letter/manuscript behind for her niece and nephew. The manuscript tells the story of Cassandra’s strange life and asking her relatives to discover the password in order to claim their inheritance. This is a dark and disturbing story which is definitely away with the faeries! It contains a fair amount of the ‘hidden people’ and myth so there’s a definite element of the supernatural. I’m not sure how I feel about it, really. It’s beautifully written and the descriptions are very vivid, I could picture it all quite well in my mind’s eye. There are some interesting characters, fascinating in fact. I read this unusual tale via the Pigeonhole app and although I wasn’t totally eager to read the daily stave, something compelled me to do so! Who knows, perhaps the fae actually do exist. Don’t expect Tinkerbell, though. These faeries are not to be messed with. An imaginatively written story in which the reader has to decide for themselves what is the real truth.

Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce
Set during WWII, Emmeline Lake dreams of being a war correspondent but ends up being a typist for the magazine ‘Women’s Friend’, primarily for Agony Aunt Mrs Bird. Mrs Bird is a little fussy which letters she replies to and won’t answer those she deems immoral, so Emmeline decides to write back herself. This is a lovely, delightful read. It’s gentle and nostalgic. It’s about ‘doing the right thing’ and ‘cracking on’. It definitely exudes a great sense of the British fighting spirit. Keep calm and carry on!

I Am Dust by Louise Beech
A ghostly dual timeline psychological thriller set in a theatre, where 20 years previously a famous actress was murdered. In 2005 three teenagers play a dangerous game and in the present day a theatre usher is haunted by her past. It’s a story about ambition, obsession, jealousy and betrayal. I found this book quite gripping, I was eager to turn the pages to find out what happened next. However, I did have to suspend my belief at times as I am a bit of a sceptic when it comes to ouija boards, etc. Hollywood has something to answer for in that respect! The two timelines were cleverly and seamlessly woven together. It’s well written with some realistic and believable characters. It’s also entertaining and eerie. It’s possibly not one to read with the lights off, though, if you’re of a nervous disposition or a believer of the supernatural! I have to say it wasn’t what I was expecting, more a tale of the unexpected. Even so, I found it an enjoyable, engrossing and atmospheric read. If you like a good ghost story with a mystery at its heart, you’ll love this one.

A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry
Set just after the American Civil War in Tennessee, most of this story takes place on a farm where two former soldiers live with a young Lakota girl whom they have adopted. An unusual but happy family they are, but a traumatic event occurs which affects their harmony. This is an interesting and worthwhile read. It is actually a sequel to Days Without End which I haven’t read. However, I was able to read it as a stand alone quite easily, although I would’ve liked to have known more of the background story. The characters are well defined and the writing is very vivid with some fabulous imagery. It’s not a period in time I’ve read much about so I feel I have gained some knowledge. The prejudice and discrimination against certain cultures was terrible and I don’t think much has changed as time has gone by. An absorbing and enjoyable tale which readers should find quite thought provoking.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Kya Clark, also known as the ‘Marsh Girl’, has been surviving on her own since she was six years old when her mother walked out, leaving her with her father who eventually also disappears. As the years pass, she becomes attracted to two young men, one of whom leaves to go to college and the other who ends up dead. Kya is suspected of his murder. I really enjoyed this book. There is some beautiful imagery and the descriptions were very vivid. I could easily imagine it all in my mind’s eye. I just loved reading about the marshes and the wildlife, feeding the gulls etc. It had a good sense of time and place. I thought it was very evocative. An all round fabulous read and very thought provoking.

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver
This is a moving story about surviving grief. On Lydia Bird’s birthday her fiancé, Freddie, is killed in a car accident. As she is working her way through her anguish Lydia finds herself in a ‘sliding doors’ situation where she gets another chance to live her life with Freddie. I thought it was perceptively and beautifully written. It gave an excellent insight into the heartbreak of losing a loved one and the aftermath. It sounds a little miserable and morbid, but it really isn’t! Just a lovely tale.
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: 4226
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 » Fri May 1st, 2020, 11:06 am

Here’s my list for April:

Buried by Lynda La Plante
The first in a gripping new series featuring DC Jack Warr, a policeman with a hidden past. A dead body, a stash of stolen cash and a burnt out cottage is at the heart of this mystery, a mystery which has links to an event which happened 30 years ago. I found this a very enjoyable and exciting story. It has plenty of twists and turns with an intriguing plot. I like the character of Jack, he seems very realistic. His background is an enigma in itself. The peripheral characters are well defined, too. I read this tale via the Pigeonhole app and I eagerly awaited each stave every day. It’s quite the page turner! It’s just a great all round, fast paced thriller which will have you on the edge of your seat to find out what happens next. I look forward to reading the next in the series.

4 Riverside Close by Diane Wilkinson
A gripping psychological thriller set in a cul-de-sac in North London. Some of the residents are secretly members of an online social group called ‘Join Me’ and are playing a dangerous game which, in turn, leads to murder. With neighbours like these who’d need enemies was my first reaction! Another great read via the Pigeonhole app. I really enjoyed it. It’s intricately plotted with plenty of twists and turns. There are some crazy, dysfunctional characters, most of whom I disliked. It took me some time to remember them all and which house they lived in on the Close. It’s well written and has a fantastic air of menace. The tension and unease is built up beautifully. All is definitely not as it seems and neither is anyone as they seem. The ending is quite neatly tied up, but also leaves it open to the reader’s imagination or perhaps a sequel? An absorbing, compelling and intriguing mystery which I can wholeheartedly recommend.


The Black and White by Alis Hawkins
Set in England during 1349 when the Black Death was making its stealthy way throughout the country leaving tragedy in its wake. When Martin Collyer discovers his father dead one day, apparently from the plague, and half sewn into his shroud, he sets off on a sort of pilgrimage to Salster. On his way he comes across a man called Hob Cleve, they become allies, but Hob seems to have an agenda and secrets of his own. I thought this was a well written and researched story. It explores the effects of the plague on the land and its people splendidly. The descriptions are very vivid, so it was all very easy to visualise. The characters are intriguing and seemed realistic. However, the pacing of the story was a little slow for me. It seemed never ending at times. There didn’t seem to be much plot and the ending didn’t really work for me. I was looking forward to reading this book as I’d enjoyed Testament by the same author, but even though it is thought provoking and historically interesting, I did find it a little long winded.


The Pardoner’s Crime by Keith Moray
The first in the Sandal Castle medieval murder mysteries. It’s 1322 and Sir Richard Lee, Sergeant-at-Law, has been newly appointed Circuit Judge. He is on his way to Wakefield to preside over the courts, along with his assistant, Hubert of Loxley. Soon they run into Robin Hood, one of a band of outlaws living in the forest, and consequently they all become embroiled in a series of crimes. This is an entertaining and intriguing mystery with a host of interesting characters. I liked the setting, being a Yorkshire lass myself, but then again I’m biased! 😊 It seems well researched and I enjoyed the historical references which made it all very easy to visualise. I enjoyed the style of writing and thought the story flowed beautifully. Gratifyingly, I didn’t work out ‘whodunnit’ so the big reveal was quite the surprise! An enjoyable and engaging historical thriller which I can hugely recommend and I look forward to reading more in the series.

My Lies, Your Lies by Susan Lewis
Ghostwriter Joely Foster, recently separated from her husband, has taken up an assignment to pen a memoir for the enigmatic and strange Freda Donohoe who lives in a secluded house in Devon. Basically the memoir is about an affair between a pupil and a teacher and the repercussions. I very much enjoyed this story about secrets which can come back to haunt a person and the chaos they leave in their path. I loved the setting , it’s very appropriate to the premise of the tale. It’s beautifully written, as all Susan Lewis’ books are, with some great characters. I was delighted when My Lies, Your Lies became available on the Pigeonhole app and looked forward to each stave every day. I found it gripping and entertaining, and I was eager to find out how it was all going to pan out. It does go off at a tangent at one point but one has to remember it’s fiction where anything can happen! It’s quite the page turner nevertheless. Perhaps not my favourite book by this author, but definitely well worth the read. I always know I’m in for a treat when I pick up a Susan Lewis novel - she knows how to tell a story!

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
A group of old ‘friends’ travel to the Scottish Highlands to spend the New Year together at a lodge. Tension builds, resentment grows and tempers fray. Then one friend is found dead. Which ‘friend’ is the killer? I enjoyed this compelling mystery. It’s intriguing with some very unlikeable characters. I had fun trying to work out both the victim and the murderer. It’s one of those mysteries where any of the characters could be the culprit. I loved the setting, too. A gripping read.


The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies
This is a delightful story set in Ceylon during the 1920s/30s. A recently married young English girl is looking forward to starting a new life with her husband on a tea plantation. However, as time goes on she realises that being the wife of a plantation owner is not all she thought it would be. She discovers clashes of different cultures and social classes, dissident employees, a wayward and resentful sister-in-law and a big family secret which has heartbreaking consequences. I thoroughly enjoyed The Tea Planter’s Wife. It’s atmospheric and evocative. There’s a great sense of time and place. The descriptions are very vivid and colourful. It’s so easy to visualise, I almost felt I was there experiencing the sights and sounds. There are some fantastic, realistic and likeable characters, as well as the odd unlikeable one! It’s beautifully written and plotted, and although I did guess the truth behind the secret, I was totally absorbed and captivated. An engaging, compelling and poignant read which brought a tear to my eye. Highly recommended.

The Strange Book of Jacob Boyce by Tom Gillespie
An unusual contemporary psychological thriller with hints of the supernatural and even some horror set in the art world, the action taking place in Glasgow, Barcelona and Madrid. This is a strange book indeed! I didn’t know quite what to make of it and I’m still trying to make sense of it now. There were too many mathematical and scientific equations for me. Maths is not my strong point so a lot of it went over my head. It also went off at a tangent at times and I ended up a little confused. There were some Sliding Doors meets Shutter Island moments. However, it is well written and although it it peaked and troughed for me, I think it was very imaginative and visionary. Just not my cup of tea at the end of the day.
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: 4226
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 » Sun May 31st, 2020, 4:32 pm

Here’s my list for May:

Death in Delft by Graham Brack
The first in the Master Mercurius murder mysteries set in the 17thC. Master Mercurius is a cleric from Leiden University and he is asked to travel to Delft to investigate the murder of a young girl and also the abduction of two others. I enjoyed this entertaining mystery. I liked the setting, it’s well described and easy to visualise. There’s a good sense of time and place. I also liked the combination of fact with fiction and the inclusion of real life characters. It’s nicely written with an interesting plot line. Master Mercurius himself is likeable and has a great sense of humour! He makes a credible and original detective. An engaging and fun whodunnit which is sure to delight historical fiction fans. I look forward to the second book in the series.

The First Lady by James Patterson
The President is having an affair and the First Lady disappears. Has she just run away or is there something more sinister at play? This was my local book club choice as our theme was ‘politics’. I did groan a little at the word ‘politics’ as it’s not my favourite subject! Luckily I found this a fast paced, easy read. It’s a typical thriller and a bit of a page turner in its way, although I thought the ending a little weak. I think some characters should’ve got their come uppance more strongly. It’s what I would describe as a ‘beach read’.

The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman
This is a fabulous story. It centres around a hostage situation in a cafe in London. A young man storms in all guns blazing, kills the owner and then keeps the customers captive. All is not as it seems, though. It’s very much a character based tale and we get to know the histories behind each person. It’s certainly a moving story and I did shed a tear at the end. It’s beautifully and sensitively written. It’s such an emotional rollercoaster! I was so invested in the lives of the characters, they almost felt like family. It was quite a heartbreaking scenario and I think the author did a brilliant job of portraying the tension, the angst, the frustration and eventually the calmness of all concerned. The title says ‘secrets’ but ultimately it’s about the kindness of strangers. I read this book via the Pigeonhole app and thoroughly every stave. I was eager to know the conclusion but, at the same time, I was sad to turn the final page and leave these wonderful characters behind. Highly recommended.

Saving Missy by Beth Morrey
Missy finds herself on her own, rattling around her house, drinking sherry and avoiding people. Then, after, a walk in the park, she meets a couple of strangers and a dog and her life changes. I thought this was a moving and humorous story of loneliness in older age. I liked Missy, she was an endearing character. And I loved Bob or Bobby the dog, what a life safer she was. There was a surprising little twist in the tale which I didn’t expect at all. All in all, I thought it was a wonderfully written and told story about loss, loneliness and friendship. Loved it!

Death at the Frost Fair by Karen Charlton
This is the second short story I’ve read featuring Detective Stephen Lavender and his trusty sidekick, Constable Ned Woods. A missing husband, a distraught wife and some stolen jewels are at the heart of this mystery. If you are looking for a couple of hours’ distraction from the stresses of everyday life, look no further than this entertaining little read. There are some great, well rounded and likeable characters. The plot itself is intriguing, you will find yourself eagerly turning the pages. The historical elements are interesting and fascinating - I particularly liked the descriptions of the River Thames frost fair. This novella is a great addition to a very enjoyable series of full size mysteries.

The Viscount Besieged by Elizabeth Bailey
This is a charming Regency romance. When Isadora’s father dies, her family finds themselves beholden to the impoverished Lord Roborough. As Isadora attempts to retain her home and ambition to be an actress, sparks fly between the errant heir and herself. It took me a little while to immerse myself into this story as it gets off to a slow start. However, eventually the pace racks up and I found it a delightful little romp! Isadora and Roborough are great characters - Isadora is such a feisty heroine and Roborough a magnetic and beguiling hero. The style of writing is in keeping with the spirit of this particular genre - gentle and humorous. All in all an entertaining and easy read. If you enjoy Georgette Heyer’s books, why not give Elizabeth Bailey a go!

The Babysitter by Phoebe Morgan
Another fabulous read from Pigeonhole! A babysitter is found dead and a baby has gone missing. Throw in a couple of distraught parents, an adulterous husband, a long suffering wife, a confirmed bachelor girl sister and a sulky teenage daughter and the stage is set. I found this book a page turner. I was gripped throughout even though the characters were all very unlikeable. It’s one of those thrillers where everyone is a suspect and the reader is led on a cat and mouse chase to discover ‘whodunnit’. It took me on quite the journey and definitely kept me guessing. However, I did have my own theory and my assumption turned out to be correct. 😊 Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

The Split by Sharon Bolton
Wow, what an exhilarating read! Set in Cambridge and South Georgia, a British overseas territory in the Antarctic, troubled glaciologist Felicity Lloyd is being stalked and is living in fear for her life. As her therapist Joe Grant delves into life, he discovers that there is more to Felicity than meets the eye. This is a gripping, rollercoaster of a read. It’s full of twists and turns. I have to admit I was completely confused at one point and my head was in a spin! I really didn’t know what to believe. It took me on such an mystifying journey. The descriptions of South Georgia are wonderful, I could almost feel the freezing temperatures and the ice crunching beneath my feet. I read this via the Pigeonhole app and was eagerly awaiting each stave every day. The tension and suspense was excruciating. A disturbing, exciting and dramatic psychological thriller which I can highly recommend. I loved it!

The Fool’s Folly by Keith Moray
The second in the Sandal Castle medieval murder mystery series. This one is set in 1485 in the reign of King Richard III. The Earl of Lincoln, John de la Pole, is the king’s heir and presides over Sandal Castle. When a spate of killings, including his jester, occur, he asks Sir Giles Beeston, judge for the Manor Court, to investigate the matter. I enjoyed the first book in the series, The Pardoner’s Crime, so was looking forward to reading The Fool’s Folly. It didn’t disappoint. It’s another intriguing mystery with some great characters. I like that these tales are set in Yorkshire being of that ilk myself. I know Wakefield quite well so it was easy to visualise the area. I also like that they feature real life people and events. They’re well researched and written and very entertaining. Well worth the 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: 4226
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 » Sun July 5th, 2020, 2:14 pm

Here’s my list for June:

The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh
The second in the Marquess House conspiracy thriller trilogy set in the present day and the medieval era. This series presents an alternative view on what may or may not have happened during that time. What if Elizabeth I wasn’t the last Tudor princess? What if there were two further heirs to the crown? This is a wonderfully imaginative story giving a very different perspective on historic events. It combines fact with fiction and is well researched and beautifully written. I did have to suspend belief but it’s such fun doing so! It has an exciting plot which kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. It also gives a fantastic insight into the Tudor court. A great sequel to the first book, The Catherine Howard Conspiracy, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the last of the trilogy, The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy.


Daughters of Cornwall by Fern Britton
This is a wonderful tale from beginning to end. It tells the story of four generations of women living in Cornwall beginning at the start of WWI and ending in the present day. Daughters of Cornwall is the first book I have read by Fern Britton and it certainly won’t be my last. It’s beautifully written with a fantastic cast of charming, likeable characters and strong female leads. It’s such a heartwarming and uplifting tale, just right for these unprecedented and surreal times. It easily transported me to a stunning landscape and different eras in time. Just captivating and a delight to read. An engaging, evocative and enthralling story. Looking forward to reading more of Fern Britton’s work.


Mr Golightly’s Holiday by Salley Vickers
This is about a man who decides to take a holiday in a small village and his affect on its inhabitants. It turns out he’s no ordinary man. Well, this one won’t be in my top 2020 reads! I’m not sure how I feel about it really. I found it tedious at times, enjoyable at others and also humorous in parts. To be honest I found it quite waffly and a little too deep. This is the third book I’ve read by Salley Vickers and I’ve come to the conclusion that although I enjoy the basis of her books, her style of writing isn’t really for me


A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet
An unusual and imaginative story about the generational divide, parental irresponsibility, the breaking down of communication, climate change and the devastation it all causes. It’s a tale of of survival and self discovery. I would describe this book as a type of fable or parable. It mirrors certain bible stories and there’s a hint of other worldliness about it. It also almost reminds me of a computer game in The some ways! The writing style is in keeping with the storyline. It’s succinct and portrays very well the horror of what is happening with some great imagery. There are a host of interesting characters, the parents being horrifying and the children scarily self sufficient. I wasn’t at all surprised by the turn of events. A dark and thought provoking apocalyptical read which, although I thought it a little weird, I enjoyed. It’s a story with a warning for our times but it is left on a ray of hope, thankfully.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
This one was chosen for my f2f (at the moment via Zoom) book club read. The story of the fall of Troy as told by Briseis who becomes the slave and concubine of Achilles. I enjoyed this one. I thought it was well reimagined and the characters of the women were brought to life beautifully. It does have a modern slant on it but this makes it easier to digest.


The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton
When Marie’s best friend dies, she is entrusted with taking care of her family which she does to the extreme! However, before long, secrets come to light and events involving Marie’s past start to unravel. This is quite a slow burning but gripping psychological thriller about how the grass is greener on the other side of the hedge...... or not as this tale points out. The suspense escalates slowly and the story gradually draws the reader in, building up to an interesting conclusion. The narrator, Marie, is not particularly likeable and, in my opinion, is as mad as a box of frogs, quite the manipulator in fact. I was on tenterhooks wondering what she was going to do next most of the time. It all adds to the tension, though! There are quite a few twists and turns to keep readers on their toes and to keep them turning the pages. If you like dark family dramas with quirky characters, you’ll enjoy this one!


The Perfect Life by Valerie Keogh
To all appearances Molly has the perfect life, she’s happily married to Jack, has two children just starting university, has a good job and is comfortably off. When she decides to have a weekend away with friends without Jack, it all starts to turn disastrously wrong, leading eventually to murder. One morning whilst out for a run, she meets a mysterious man who will have a big impact on her so called perfect life. I found this story a little slow to start with. It gradually picked up pace and became more intriguing, but mostly it peaked and ‘troughed’ for me. The plot was a little implausible and Molly was quite unbelievably stupid at times. I just wanted to shake her! However, although some of it was predictable, there was a good twist at the end which was what I was hoping for and made it ultimately a worthwhile 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: 4226
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 » Tue August 4th, 2020, 9:18 pm

Here’s my list for July:

Biloxi by Mary Miller
Set in Biloxi, Mississippi, 63 year old Louis McDonald accidentally becomes the owner of a dog called Layla after his wife leaves him. And therein lies the plot. It’s quite a quirky tale. The main character is somewhat eccentric and grumpy, but luckily for the reader, the dog is lovable and happy. It’s primarily about ageing and the feeling of becoming gradually invisible. It’s also about loneliness and how a dog can make all the difference to a person’s life. Layla saves Louis’ life in a way, I think. It’s told as a ‘slice of life’ story so not for those who enjoy action packed novels. It’s an easy, humorous and gentle read where there isn’t much of a story so to speak, but there is definitely food (or paws!) for thought.

Murder at the Races by Carmen Radtke
The second in the ‘Jack & Frances’ mysteries set in Australia in the 1930s. When a blacksmith at a racecourse is murdered, Frances’ veterinarian brother, Rob, is accused of the crime. It’s up to Jack and Frances to investigate the case and reveal the real killer to save Rob’s life. The race is on! This is a fun and fast paced cosy little mystery. It has an interesting and exciting plot which takes place in a fascinating setting. Having read the first book in the series, A Matter of Love & Death, I had met the main characters before so it was lovely to catch up with them and find out what they’d been getting up to! My favourite is still Uncle Sal, a larger than life personality. The historical aspects of these mysteries are very well depicted. The wonderful golden era setting particularly seems realistically described, thereby making it so easy to visualise. If I had a bone to pick, it wouldn’t be with the story but with the editing. It needs a little more attention to detail. An enjoyable and entertaining addition to the series. These mysteries appear to be getting better as they go along. Look forward to reading the next one! Bonzer!

Execution by S J Parris
The sixth book in the Giordano Bruno thrillers set in the Elizabethan era. Bruno has been asked by Sir Francis Walsingham to impersonate a Spanish priest, in order to infiltrate a gang of spies who are plotting to kill Elizabeth I and place Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne - the so called Babington Plot. Considering that I haven’t read the previous books in this series, I thought this one worked excellently as a stand alone. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the earlier novels. It’s beautifully written and well researched. There’s a good sense of time and place. The sights and sounds are vividly depicted and it delivers a great insight into this fascinating period in history. I like Bruno as a character, he could give James Bond a run for his money! There’s even a ‘Q’ like segment. I read this via the Pigeonhole app and eagerly devoured each stave every day. Such a gripping, entertaining and fun thriller. If you enjoy historical fiction combined with a bit of fact, you’ll love this one.

Baba Lenka by S E England
This is the stuff nightmares are made of! Dennis Wheatley eat your heart out. A tale of witchcraft and sorcery set in Bavaria and Yorkshire, revolving around a legacy which is passed on between the female members of a family. Poppets, demonic symbols and satanic rituals set the scene! This is such a dark and disturbing story. It’s Sarah England’s scariest book yet. It’s definitely one to read with the light on or, even better, during daylight hours! Some of the characters frightened the life out of me. It’s well written with a macabre but gripping plot line. I have to admit that at times I found it a little too unsettling as some of the scenes are quite disquieting and intense. But, all in all, a chilling and blood curdling page turner which fans of this genre should love. A word of warning, though, it’s certainly not for the faint hearted. It will have you quaking in your boots! 😈

The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh
The third and final instalment in the Marquess House conspiracy thriller series. It’s an alternative history trilogy, this one featuring Arbella Stuart, a contender for the English throne. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole trilogy, they’re fun, imaginative and entertaining. You definitely have to suspend belief, though, and let a lot of it go over your head. But don’t let that that put you off, they are well worth the read. They are extensively researched and beautifully written. Quite the page turners! There are quite a few characters, some with the same first name, and it did get a little confusing at times. I think a list/glossary at the front or at the back of the story would be invaluable. I had to keep retracing my steps to remind myself who was who! If you enjoy historical fiction with a dual timeline and a bit of a twist, you’ll love these. Hope and mermaids!

Below the Big Blue Sky by Anna McPartlin
Below the Big Blue Sky is a wonderful family drama. It’s the sequel to The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes which I have to admit I haven’t read. However, I can vouch for the fact that it can be read as a stand alone. It’s a tale of grief, forgiveness and hope. It’s beautifully written and although the main thread running through it is a sad one, there are some incredibly humorous moments. I laughed out loud. The author has created some fantastic characters and they really come to life on the page, they are so realistic. I read this book via the Pigeonhole app and looked forward each day to immersing myself in the next stave. It’s very much the page turner. A moving, heartwarming, weirdly amusing and uplifting story which I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Her Last Words by Kim Kelly
Set on Bondi Beach in Sydney, this is a moving story revolving around the circumstances behind the murder of a budding young author and the theft of her manuscript. Her Last Words is a fabulous read. It’s beautifully written with some realistic and likeable characters. I was totally immersed in their lives, their trials and tribulations. I liked the engaging chapter headings which give little clues or hints to the content. This wonderful tale had me captivated from beginning to end. It’s an emotional rollercoaster of a story with a very touching ending. I loved every moment!

Interviewing the Dead by David Field
The first in the Carlyle and West Victorian mysteries. In 1665 a mass grave was dug to accommodate hundreds of Black Death victims. Over two hundred years later Aldergate Underground is being extended, bones are discovered, strange things start happening and people are dying. Have the dead risen from their burial place to frighten the living as an act of revenge? This is a fun, entertaining and easy read. Carlyle and West are like chalk and cheese, one a man of science and the other a preacher, but they complement each other splendidly. The plot itself is intriguing and I wanted to read on to find out what was behind the weird and bizarre phenomenon which had been occurring. I liked that it combined historical fact with fiction, it was an added bonus! All in all an enjoyable mystery with a likeable amateur detective duo. It kept me turning the pages and I look forward to the next book in the series.

Audio

Queenie by Candice Carty Williams
This book was chosen by my f2f book group. The theme was chick lit. It’s basically about a Jamaican British young woman who, after a relationship breakdown, begins a spate of unsuitable liaisons. It also deals with mental health issues and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign. It’s not really a fluffy sort of book at all, it goes to some very dark places. There are some humorous moments to lighten the atmosphere, though. Queenie is quite an infuriating character as she does some very silly things whilst trying to ‘find herself’. There’s no romance and it’s what I would call a family drama. It’s not what was expecting when I started it but I mostly enjoyed it. Our next book group meet up is a week on Monday, probably via Zoom again, and I’m looking forward to hearing what other group members thought of 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: 4226
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 » Wed September 9th, 2020, 9:33 pm

Here’s my list for August:

Keep Her Quiet by Emma Curtis
A gripping psychological thriller revolving around the abduction of a baby and then 16 years later, the kidnap of a young girl. I really enjoyed Keep Her Quiet. It’s a rollercoaster of a story, full of twists and turns with some events I didn’t see coming at all. It has a well thought out plot, even if at first it seems slightly implausible. It had me on the edge of my seat! The characters are mostly unlikeable and at times I did wonder what was going through their heads. I read this tale via the Pigeonhole app and eagerly awaited each stave - a sign of a good book for me! If you enjoy fast paced reads, you’ll love this one.

Secrets of the Lavender Girls by Kate Thompson
The second in the Homefront Girls series, it picks up the story in 1943 in Stratford in the East End of London with Esther’s wedding to Walter, two characters from the first book, Secrets of the Homefront Girls. This is such a wonderful tale, a pleasure to read. I was totally immersed in the lives of these brave women who were known as the Lavender Girls as they worked in the Yardley factory. Some of the characters I’d met before in the previous book and others were new to me, all of them colourful and vibrant. The author really brought them to life for me. The descriptions of the sights and sounds of this particular part of the East End are very vivid and easy to visualise. I was easily transported into the Lavender Girls’ world. It’s well researched and beautifully written, an immensely enjoyable insight into a bygone era. I found the author’s notes at the back of the book so very interesting and moving, they are well worth the read. Put your best face forward. A delightfully entertaining and heartwarming social drama which I can unequivocally recommend."

Found Her by N J Mackay
Belle Moriarty was abducted on her way home from school. Ten years later her sister, Eve, who blames herself for Belle’s disappearance, receives a telephone call to say Belle has been found but she’s in a bad way. Who took Belle, is she still in danger and who is threatening Eve? This is quite a gripping thriller with a few grey areas. Some of the actions of certain characters are questionable. However, I didn’t let this affect my enjoyment. I found it a bit of a slow burner, but there is a fair amount of suspense and it did have me on the edge of my seat at times. The tension builds up nicely and there are plenty of twists and turns . It ended up rather the page turner! The characters are not always likeable and the villain of the piece is particularly evil. 😱. They are the stuff of nightmares.

Haverscroft by S A Harris
Kate and Mark Keeling, along with their two children, move to Haverscroft House in a small village in East Anglia to try to resolve their difficulties. However, as in most ghost stories of this type, things are definitely not as they seem, in fact things start ‘going bump in the night’. This story has all the elements of an old fashioned tale of the supernatural - a creepy old house, doors which open on their own, a haunted room, a locked room in the attic, mysterious voices and a ghostly presence. Personally, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have run for the hills at the first sign of anything out of the ordinary! Whilst I liked the writing style (although I sometimes found it slightly disjointed) and the spooky atmosphere, I felt there were a few loopholes and gaps which weren’t explained fully enough. I don’t mind a little ambiguity in my reading matter, I’m quite happy to fill in the gaps myself, but this one had gaping canyons! Having said all that, I quite enjoyed it and loved some of the descriptions. The setting was easy to visualise and I could picture the house vividly in my mind’s eye. I read this book via Pigeonhole and looked forward to receiving each stave every day to find out what was going to happen next and how it was all going to end. It was a good premise but, ultimately, the lack of explanation and the inconclusive ending let it down somewhat for me.

Knife Edge by Simon Mayo
Knife Edge is a fast moving thriller set in the journalists’ world. Seven co-ordinated attacks have occurred across the city and another reporter is in danger, culminating in a game of cat and mouse. Although I did think this was a well written, edge of your seat type of story and it definitely takes you on a rollercoaster of a ride, it didn’t really hit the mark for me. I’m not a fan of political thrillers, especially ones featuring terrorists. I read this via the Pigeonhole app and when I saw it was available, I thought I’d give it a go. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! However, I couldn’t really engage with it - it started off well but I began to lose interest towards the middle of the book. Nevertheless, I think it would make a fantastic film. Most other Pigeonhole members loved it, so I’m in the minority with my feelings here. I’m more of a psychological mystery type of girl. If you enjoy action packed, plot driven thrillers, you’ll love this one.

The Scarlet Code by C S Quinn
The second In the Revolutionary Spy series. Attica Morgan is an English spy living temporarily in Paris, helping nobles to escape. At the same time a killer is at large and his victims are female aristocracy. His next casualty is one of those who Attica is trying to assist. Attica enlists the help of her old friend and pirate, Jemmy Avery. It’s not going to be easy with a mob on its way to storm Versailles! I loved the first book in the series, The Bastille Spy, so I was looking forward very much to reading The Scarlet Code. I’m pleased to announce It didn’t disappoint! It’s another fabulous adventure story and took me on another rollercoaster of a ride. It’s fast paced and action packed and I just love the characters of Attica and Jemmy. They make a great intrepid duo. Historical fact is combined with fiction making it a well researched piece of writing. It’s beautifully written with a smattering of humour. There is a good sense of time and place as there was in the first book, I almost felt I was there. The mob’s anger as they stormed Versailles was palpable. Scary times! A fun and entertaining read which had me gripped until the end. Highly recommended for all those swashbuckling thriller fans out there!

Athena’s Child by Hannah Lynn
A captivating retelling of the story of Medusa. I knew a small amount about Medusa’s life but not the full details surrounding her downfall. I enjoy Greek mythology so I was looking forward to reading this one. It didn’t disappoint. It’s very readable, easy to follow and easy to understand. Medusa’s sad story is wonderfully and imaginatively told, making it a gripping read. It gives a great insight into the life of such an interesting and fascinating mythical character. I loved it! Hurry up and write the next one, Hannah Lynn!


Audio:

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
This is a murder story within a murder story. Susan Ryland, book editor, is reading through a murder mystery by Alan Conway featuring detective Atticus Pund. She realises that the last three chapters are missing. And then Alan Conway is found dead or has he been murdered? Susan finds herself with two mysteries to solve, the whereabouts of the missing chapters and discovering what happened to Alan Conway. I really enjoyed this book. It definitely harks back to the golden age of murder mysteries. It’s very entertaining. The narrators are wonderful and kept my attention throughout. I’m very interested in reading the second book in the series.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

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

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