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Posted: Mon October 1st, 2012, 9:13 am
by Vanessa
Here's my list for September:

Penmarric by Susan Howatch 5
A fabulous family saga spanning about 50 years from 1890 to the Second World War. It's about all the trials and tribulations of the Castallack family and these mirror in some way the lives of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and their family. It's a beautifullly written book and I found it very gripping. I'm now wondering why it has taken me so long to get round to reading it!

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes 5
Set in 1916 and the present day, I loved this tale which centres around a painting entitled 'The Girl You Left Behind'. This painting has a sad and dark past and becomes the subject of a court battle. One of my favourite genres is a dual time frame story and this one did not fail to deliver. I thought the two inter-linking stories were put together very well and were told seamlessly. I also thought it was an altogether beautifully written book as well as being an easy read. I would highly recommend this poignant and gripping tale of love, happiness and the choices we make, which is full of plenty and twists and turns. It was a winner for me!

Friends & Rivals by Tilly Bagshawe 3.5
Chicklit set in the music business world, this is a glitzy, glamorous and fast paced, sexy romp about betrayal and revenge. It is full of people you love to hate, most of whom are perfectly beautiful and successful! Although, on the whole, I did find this book quite shallow and superficial, I also found it an entertaining and compelling read. I was certainly racing through the pages to see what happened. It's nicely written and keeps your attention. This is the first novel I have read by Tilly Bagshawe and in spite of the fact I am not a big chicklit fan, I did enjoy it. I think it would be a great book to relax on the beach with, whilst sipping a cocktail!

Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd 2
Strange dual timeframe story set in the 18thC and the present day centring around murders occurring in several churches in London, the deaths in the present day mirroring those in the 18thC. I found the 18thC chapters very challenging to read due to the 'olde English' style of writing. Some of it just went over my head and some of it I glossed over, for example the parts where it's written like a play. The whole story was quite weird and the ending very inconclusive. Disappointing.

Now You See Me by S J Bolton 5
Fast paced thriller with a 'Jack the Ripper' theme running through it, the first in the Detective Lacey Flint series. I really enjoyed this - I thought it was gripping and well plotted. At times I found it quite scary, it definitely gave me the eebie jeebies once or twice! Highly recommended.

The Confidant by Helen Gremillon 4
Dual timeframe story set in the 1940s and 1970s about a young woman who, after the death of her mother, receives some mysterious letters in the form of journal entries about a young girl called Annie who decides to become a surrogate mother for a woman who she has befriended. I found this an intriguing and oddly enjoyable read. It was a compellingly written story and a page turner in its way. It was unusually but quite nicely written, although I think the translation was a little clunky at times. It's a thought provoking book and one which will stay with me for a while.

Daughters of Fire by Barbara Erskine 4
Set in the present day Scotland and in 30AD Britannia. In the present historian Viv Lloyd Rees writes a book about a Celtic queen and is involved in a radio dramatisation with the help of actress and script writer Pat Hebden. As she finds herself getting more and more obsessed, she comes into possession of an ancient brooch upon which there is a curse. The past and the future combine as Viv and Pat, along with Viv's boss Hugh Graham, find themselves having visions of Cartimandua, Venutios and Madb (Maeve), ancient Celts, and living their lives. This is historical fantasy and as such you definitely have to suspend disbelief. I enjoyed Cartimandua's story but did find the present day parts difficult to go along with at times. It's not the best Barbara Erskine I've read, but entertaining enough for me to want to turn the pages!


Posted: Thu November 1st, 2012, 11:04 am
by Vanessa
Here's my list for October:

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg 4.5
This is a black comedy about Maggie, Miss Alabama turned estate agent, who is now in her 60s and decides that life hasn't any more to offer her. As she plans to end her life with every consideration taken care of, she realises that every cloud has a silver lining and that life is perhaps worth living after all. It's a story about being grateful for what you have rather than dwelling on what you haven't. It's quite whimsical, as Fannie Flagg usually is, but it's also amusing and very enjoyable.

The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert 3
When Eve and Gabe Caleigh, along with their daughters Loren and Cally, move into Crickley Hall in Hollow Bay, Devon, they soon realise that the house is haunted by a malevolent spirit as well as ghosts of some evacuee children from during WWII. The cellar door keeps unlocking itself, there are puddles found on the floor and the sound of running feet is frequently heard. This starts off as a classic haunted house story but as the story progresses, it does start to get quite nasty and perverse. I can imagine that it will translate to TV very well with the usual creepy music giving an air of suspense! I didn't find it particularly scary but did find it quite chilling!

Quentins by Maeve Binchy 4
Character based story set mainly in a restaurant in Dublin. When an affair with a married man goes disastrously wrong, Ella Brady finds herself taking part in a documentary about the people who frequent Quentins. This is a heart-warming, light-hearted and enjoyable tale with believable characters, some of whom I have met before in previous books. It's just very sad that this author is no longer with us.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters 5
Set in the late 1940s just after WWII in rural Warwickshire. A doctor is called to Hundreds Hall to look at a maid who isn't feeling very well. There he meets the Ayres family and falls for the daughter, Caroline. As the doctor is drawn into their world, spooky goings on occur and everything is not what it seems. This is a creepy, beautifully written and atmospheric tale. The ending is quite ambiguous and the reader has to make their own mind up. Was it a ghost or were the family just mad?

The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry 4
The first in the Charlotte and Inspector Thomas Pitt murder mysteries set in Victorian London. Girls are being garotted and the female population is afraid to walk the streets alone. This first book is where Inspector Pitt first meets Charlotte and between them they solve the mystery. A good start to a long series!

Dolly by Susan Hill 3.5
A young boy is sent to stay with his aunt at Iyot Lock in an unnamed hamlet in the English Fens. There he meets his cousin for the first time, who seems a little disturbed. When she gets a doll for her birthday, this unleashes all sorts of terrors. I would class this tale as more of a horror story than a ghostly one. It is quite sinister and it's told in Susan Hill's fantastic and well-written way with some lovely creepy descriptions. However, I was a little disappointed by it as I was expecting a ghost story and it didn't live up to it's expectations. Be careful what you wish for, I think, is the moral of this tale.


Posted: Sat December 1st, 2012, 3:33 pm
by Vanessa
Here's my list for November:

Shadow of the Night by Deborah Harkness 5
Second in the 'All Souls' trilogy about a witch called Diana and a vampire called Matthew. In this adventure Diana and Matthew have time-travelled to Elizabethan London to further investigate the mystery of a manuscript known as Ashmole 782. The also meet up with Matthew's friends otherwise known as the 'School of Night' and who include Sir Walter Raleigh and Christopher Marlowe among others. An excellent and entertaining sequel to A Discovery of Witches. I can't wait for the final instalment!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 4.5
A fantasy, dual timeframe adventure story set in the present day and 1940. When Jacob's grandfather is killed in horrific circumstances, he travels to a mysterious island just off the coast of Wales with his father. There he discovers the ruins of an old house - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As the past and present merge, Jacob finds himself in danger. I thought this was a very imaginative, intriguing and quirky story taking its inspiration from some vintage photographs. I look forward reading the sequel!

Taken at the Flood by Agatha Christie 3.5
When a young woman becomes a widow after her husband is killed in a bombing attack, she finds herself an heiress much to the rest of the family's indignation. Hercule Poirot receives a visit from her sister-in-law who informs him that according to the spirit world her brother is still alive. This leads to blackmail and murder. Quite an enjoyable mystery with a few twists and turns.

The Armada Boy by Kate Ellis 4
Second in the Wesley Peterson murder mystery series set in Devon, all of which have a historical link. In this one an American veteran of the D-Day landings is found murdered in a chapel. Meanwhile archaeologist Neil Watson is investigating the graves of some Spanish sailors who were shipwrecked during the an invasion in 1588. He discovers a murder occurred and this murder has a link to the one in the present. An intriguing and enjoyable mystery.

The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eva Rice 5
A delightful coming of age tale set in the rock 'n' roll 50s and swinging 60s
about the life and times of Tara Jupp, a budding singing star. I loved the easy style of writing and that it was told in the first person in a very believable voice. The characters were well drawn and the era vividly depicted. I was hooked from the first page and I couldn't put the book down. I found it an engrossing, entertaining and absorbing read. If you enjoyed The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by the same author, you'll love this one, too.


Posted: Tue January 1st, 2013, 5:19 pm
by Vanessa
Here's my list for December:

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens 4
Semi-autobiographical, set in Marshalsea Debtors' Prison in London. Amy 'Little' Dorrit is born in Marshalsea Prison and lives there along with her father and the rest of her family. In the daytime she works as a seamstress for Mrs Clennam whose son, Arthur, has just returned home from many years abroad. He becomes intrigued by Little Dorrit and her family and her connection with his family. I do love Dickens' characters and really enjoyed the story - there's a bit of everything from murder to romance!

The Food of Love by Anthony Capella 4
A love triangle themed story about an American exchange student in Rome, Laura, who meets two men - Tomasso and Bruno. She is invited to dinner by Tomasso, who tells her he's a chef when he's really a waiter. Bruno is the real chef and suffers from unrequited love for Laura. He agrees to secretly cook, on Tomasso's behalf, gastronomic delights to woo Laura only showing that the path of true love never runs smoothly! This is an enjoyable tale very much based on the power of food on the senses. The story did get a little silly where the love triangle was concerned in my opinion. It seemed somewhat farcical at times but I think it is supposed to be a humorous tale. If you enjoy holidaying to Italy and love your food, I can recommend this book! Bruno even gives out some recipes at the end.

The Cat Who Came for Christmas by Cleveland Amory 4
This is the true story of how the author rescued his cat, Polar Bear, from the backstreets of New York on Christmas Eve, how they develop a special bond and about their first year together. This a lovely little tale and would appeal to cat fans.

The Christmas Visitor by Anne Perry 3.5
Mystery novella set in the Lake District. When Henry Rathbone arrives in Ullswater to spend Christmas with friends, he finds his friend has drowned in mysterious circumstances and then becomes involved in an investigation into forged deeds. Easy read but not much depth.

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo 3
Set in Oslo and the seventh in the Inspector Harry Hole thrillers. Every time new snow falls, a snowman is sighted and someone dies gruesomely, mostly women. There are many twists and turns and it is a very fast paced thriller. However, I thought some of it was a little ridiculous and the plot full of holes (no pun intended!) - I guessed who the murderer was, too. I also found it a little disturbing and it made for quite unpleasant reading. Having said that, I think it would adapt well to the big screen and make a great action film! It has lots of rave reviews on Amazon but it wasn't my cup of tea. I much preferred Steig Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen 5
Set in the late 1970s/80s during the Cold War, when an English diplomat dies in Bonn, his wife and children return to the Outer Hebrides to cope with their grief. Each member of the family comes to term with their loss in a different way. I thought this was a delightful story about grief, growing up and family life after a bereavement. The setting was very atmospheric. I thought the characters were well drawn and I loved the chapters about the imaginary days of an escaped bear (based on a true life event), which added a little sprinkling of fairy dust. I was gripped from the start and found it a page turner.