Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year



I just wanted to take a moment to wish you all a Happy New Year and to say thank you for following my blog. It means alot to me to know that you read and enjoy some of the books that I share with you all.

And as a whole New Year of reading approaches I've been looking back on the books I have read and enjoyed throughout 2015 (see  my Top 10 books) with an eye to how that might shape my reading for 2016.

I am keen to read more by those authors who have really caught my eye this year. In addition to those in my top ten there are many other authors who I was really impressed by this year.

I am really enjoying the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths and the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear and am looking forward to reading more in these two series. I would also like to read more by Laura Lippman having really enjoyed After I'm Gone.

Rowan Coleman was an author who stood out for me this year. I read The Memory Book as well as Lessons in Laughing Out Loud so am keen to read more of her work. I also loved Perfect Daughter by Amanda Prowse. 

I also loved Mariana by Susanna Kearsley , I am China by Xiaolu Guo and Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.

Each year I always intend to read more classics as I really enjoy them but I tend to get distracted by shiny new publications that hit the bookshop shelves. Maybe this year I will be more self disciplined with myself and not get waylaid by other books that catch my eye (yeah right..... like that's really going to happen!)

Making a list of books I would like to read could probably take me to half way through 2016 so I will leave it there. However, if you have read anything during 2015 that you think I would enjoy then please let me know.

HAPPY NEW YEAR. SEE YOU IN 2016.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2015

TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2015

I can hardly believe that another year has flown by already. As we approach the end of 2015 I have been looking back at all the books that I have read and enjoyed this year and whittling it down to my favourite ten has not been an easy task. I have read some really excellent books this year and I hope that you have too, So, in no particular order, here are my ten favourite reads of 2015 (along with links to those which I reviewed)

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Bees by Laline Paull
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueling Winspear
ThePaying Guests by Sarah Waters
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Hanns and Rudolf by Thomas Harding
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Did you read any of these? What were your favourite reads of 2015? I would love to hear your thoughts.



.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

Peggy Hillcoat is eight years old when her survivalist father, James, takes her from their home in London to a remote hut in the woods and tells her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. Deep in the wilderness, Peggy and James make a life for themselves. They repair the hut, bathe in water from the river, hunt and gather food in the summers and almost starve in the harsh winters. They mark their days only by the sun and the seasons.

When Peggy finds a pair of boots in the forest and begins a search for their owner, she unwittingly begins to unravel the series of events that brought her to the woods and, in doing so, discovers the strength she needs to go back to the home and mother she thought she’d lost.

After Peggy's return to civilization, her mother learns the truth of her escape, of what happened to James on the last night out in the woods, and of the secret that Peggy has carried with her ever since.

This is one of the most original pieces of fiction I have come across in a very long time and I enjoyed every page.

I am finding it hard to place this book in any genre. It is part thriller and part fairy tale with a dark and spellbinding quality I have rarely come across in a novel. There is a tension throughout  that kept me completely gripped to the final page.

Ms Fuller's use of language is enchanting and I was completely involved with the characters. She cleverly allows the reader to see the world through Peggy's eyes and I almost felt I was part of the story, such was the compelling and entralling nature of her description.

I highly recommend this book to all readers due to it's multi layered story which escapes the boundary of genre.  I am stunned that this is a debut novel and I eagerly await more from this talented author.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The Pearl That Broke It's Shell by Nadia Hashimi


In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.

But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. A century earlier, her great-aunt, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.

Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl the Broke Its Shell interweaves the tales of these two women separated by a century who share similar destinies. But what will happen once Rahima is of marriageable age? Will Shekiba always live as a man? And if Rahima cannot adapt to life as a bride, how will she survive?


This book is a fantastic read and I loved it from start to finish. 

Part of the reason for this is the authors clever use of moving backwards and forwards in telling the two stories of Rahima and Shekiba illustrating the similarities of these two women even though they are separated by three generations.

I had to keep reminding myself that Rahima's story is set fairly recently ( 2007) as the culture for these two women had not progressed from one to the other. It is a shocking story of abuse and oppression experienced by women in a society which is dictated by men, tradition and superstition.

The prose in this book is beautifully constructed and Ms Hashmini is an intelligent writer who can bring her book alive with her placement of words. She writes sensitively and allows the reader to understand for themselves the society in which these women live.

There are very few books that make me cry but I would challenge anyone who reads this book not to feel deeply moved by the plight of Rahima and Shekiba. It is a heartbreaking read but ultimately is inspiring and edifying.

This book is definitely one of the best I have read this year and look forward to reading more from this author in 2016.

ISBN:  978-0062244765

Publisher:  William Morrow

Price (today at Amazon): Papaerback £8.99 - Kindle £5.99

About the Author:

Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. Her mother, granddaughter of a notable Afghan poet, traveled to Europe to obtain a Master’s degree in civil engineering and her father came to the United States, where he worked hard to fulfill his American dream and build a new, brighter life for his immediate and extended family. Nadia was fortunate to be surrounded by a large family of aunts, uncles and cousins, keeping the Afghan culture an integral part of their daily lives.
The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is her debut novel and was released  in 2014. Her second novel, When The Moon Is Low, followed in 2015 and chronicled the perilous journey of an Afghan family as they fled Taliban-controlled Kabul and fell into the dark world of Europe's undocumented.
She and her husband are the beaming parents of four curious, rock star children, two goldfish and a territorial African Grey parrot.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Ruth's First Christmas Tree by Elly Griffiths

It is three days before Christmas and a bitter wind is blowing across Norfolk.

Until her daughter was born, forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway didn’t do Christmas, but now that Kate is a year old, she wants it to be special.

She must get a tree, shop for food, clean the house, buy presents, including one for her new boyfriend—who she isn’t even sure is her boyfriend—and remember to get the turkey out of the freezer.

But time is rushing by and the best-laid plans don’t always work out …


This book is number four and a half in the Ruth Galloway series of books. I am really enjoying this series and very recently read The House at Sea's End and A Room Full of Bones. I also reviewed The Janus Stone just a few months back, all of which I have really enjoyed.

So, it was perfect timing that I had recently read A Room Full of Bones, which was number four in this series as I then came across this little gem of a short story which picks up exactly at the point where the previous book leaves off. What's more, how perfectly seasonal is the timing for this book to fit in so precisely with my reading of this series.

If you want to read something quick and seasonal do give this delightful short story a go. In all honesty, it won't really matter if you haven't read the previous books as this short story is fairly stand alone and I read it in about an hour. Furthermore, it is available as a fee kindle download on Amazon so what's not to like?

I love this series of books and am planning on reading the next in the series very soon. If you haven't previously read any of this series and enjoyed getting to know archaeologist Ruth Galloway, DCI Nelson and their co-hort then I strongly urge you to treat yourself  this Christmas. I know I will be.

Publisher: Quercus

Price: Free


About the author:

Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly's husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece's head with the myths and legends of that area.

She has two children and lives near Brighton.


Monday, 7 December 2015

Silent Run (Sanders Brothers #1) by Barbara Freethy

A woman wakes in a hospital bed with no idea of who she is. Her memory is gone, her baby missing. All she has is the gripping certainty that she is in mortal danger. Then a handsome, angry stranger barges in and makes a terrible accusation. He was her lover--and her child's father--until she disappeared seven months ago.
Jake Sanders swore he'd never forgive Sarah Tucker, but he isn't about to let her get away again--especially not with his daughter still missing. If he has any chance of recovering his baby, he must help the woman who betrayed him retrieve the pieces of her shattered memory--without letting his feelings get in the way.
Haunted by troubling flashes of memory, Sarah begins to realize she's lived a life of lies. But what is the truth? And where is her baby?
I have written previously about the subjectivity of reading and consequently, if I intend to read a book with a view to reviewing it I always stay well clear of other reviews in order that I am not influenced by other readers opinions. However, for some reason I strayed from my self imposed rule and read a couple of reviews for this book, one of which was fairly positive and another which was extremely negative.
So, when I began this book I had mixed feelings about what to expect. After all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion particularly when it comes to books.
However, I was completely gripped by this book right from the prologue. This book really did hit the ground running. There was no scene setting; rather the author jumps straight on with the story from the first page.
It was a fast paced read and it is one of the few books that I found myself being irritated by 'life' getting in the way of my reading time.
Okay, so it's fair to say that this book is never going to be considered classic literature and it's never going to be considered as part of a school syllabus but I feel fairly certain in saying that this is not what the author intended. What Ms. Freethy has done is written a book that is exciting and entertaining and which I enjoyed reading very much. This is the first book in a two part series and I am looking forward to reading the next book sometime soon.
ISBN:  978-1478350026
Publisher:  Create Space Independent Publishing Platform
Price (based on today's prices on Amazon.co.uk:)  Paperback £8.95 Kindle £3.99

About the Author:
Barbara Freethy is a number 1 New York Times  best selling author. Her 34 novels range from contemporary romance to romantic suspense and women's fiction.
Known for her emotional and compelling stories of love, family, mystery and romance, Barbara enjoys writing about ordinary people caught up in extraordinary adventures.
She has lived all over the state of California where she draws much of her inspiration from the beautiful Bay Area.


Thursday, 3 December 2015

After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman

When Felix Brewer meets nineteen-year-old Bernadette 'Bambi' Gottschalk at a dance in 1959, he charms her with wild promises. But on the Fourth of July, 1976, Bambi's world implodes when Felix, newly convicted and facing prison, mysteriously vanishes.
Though Bambi has no idea where her husband - or his money - might be, she suspects one woman does: his devoted young mistress, Julie. When Julie herself disappears ten years to the day that Felix disappeared, everyone assumes she's left to join her ­old lover - until her remains are found in a secluded wooded park.
Now, twenty-six years after Julie went missing, Roberto 'Sandy' Sanchez, a retired Baltimore detective working cold cases for some extra cash, is investigating her murder. What he discovers is a tangled web of bitterness, jealously, resentment and greed stretching over the three decades and three generations that connect these five very different women. And at the center of every woman's story is the man who, though long gone, has never been forgotten: the enigmatic Felix Brewer.

This was an excellent read and I enjoyed it very much. Although I am a fan of the mystery and suspense genre this is the first book that I have read by Laura Lippman even though she has many novels to her name.

This particular novel  was gripping because of it's gradual development and disclosure of the secrets concerning the people affected by the disappearance of Felix.

What  I really liked was how the story was told from the viewpoints of the different characters and I think this was an interesting technique employed by the author to ensure the reader understood the effect that Felix's disappearance had on each of them.

The characters are an interesting bunch. I found it hard to like Felix as I thought him selfish to leave his family and friends to deal with the fallout following his disappearance. At times I wanted to give Bambi a shake but admired here at the same time. I like a novel that has the ability to challenge and possibly change my opinion of characters as the story develops and that was certainly the case with this book.

The novel is loosely based on a true story and I found it to be a very satisfying read. Ms Lipmann leaves no loose ends and tidies everything up very nicely - something that I particularly like in a mystery novel. 

It always excites me when I discover a new to me author who already has a significant number of novels to their name as I can luxuriate in the thought that I have many more pleasurable reads to come.

ISBN:  978-0571299683

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Price (today on Amazon.co.uk): Paperback £7.99 - Kindle £2.39

Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working full time and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity. She was the first-ever recipient of the Mayor’s Prize for Literary Excellence and the first genre writer recognized as Author of the Year by the Maryland Library Association.

About the Author


Friday, 27 November 2015

Pardonable Lies (#3 Maisie Dobbs) by Jacqueline Winspear





London, 1930. Maisie Dobbs, the renowned psychologist and investigator, receives a most unusual request. She must prove that Sir Cecil Lawton's son Ralph really is dead.

This is a case that will challenge Maisie in unexpected ways, for Ralph Lawton was an aviator shot down by enemy fire in 1917. To get to the bottom of the mystery, Maisie must travel to the former battlefields of norther France, where she  served as a nurse in the Great War and where ghosts of her past still linger. As her investigation moves closer to the truth, Maisie soon uncovers the secrets and lies that some people would prefer remain buried.

I am really enjoying this series of books. I read and reviewed the first in the series, Maisie Dobbs, back in July and then recently read, Birds of a Feather too. In Pardonable Lies, Jacqueline continues her tale of the exquisite Maisie Dobbs.

Maisie is one of the most likable characters I have ever come across in fiction. She is privileged yet well grounded, methodical yet slightly chaotic and determined yet compassionate and it is this juxtaposition of characteristics that make her so easy to identify with.

Set in the 1930's, I have to constantly remind myself that this is a modern book such is Ms. Winspear's skill in bringing the period to life.

If I had to categorize this series I would say they are a cross between Agatha Christie and Alexander McCall Smith and if you enjoy either of those authors you will love the Maisie Dobbs series. I highly recommend this book and am sure you will enjoy it too.

ISBN:  978-0719567360

 Publisher: John Murray

Price (based on Amazon.co.uk): Paperback £8.99 - Kindle £1.79


About the author:

Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in the county of Kent, England. Following higher education at the University of London’s Institute of Education, Jacqueline worked in academic publishing, in higher education and in marketing communications in the UK.

She emigrated to the United States in 1990, and while working in business and as a personal / professional coach, Jacqueline embarked upon a life-long dream to be a writer.

A regular contributor to journals covering international education, Jacqueline has published articles in women's magazines and has also recorded her essays for KQED radio in San Francisco. She currently divides her time between Ojai and the San Francisco Bay Area and is a regular visitor to the United Kingdom and Europe.

Jacqueline is the author of the New York Times bestsellers A Lesson in Secrets, The Mapping of Love and Death, Among the Mad, and An Incomplete Revenge, and other nationally bestselling Maisie Dobbs novels. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha, Alex,and Macavity awards for the first book in the series, Maisie Dobbs, which was also nominated for the Edgar Award for best novel and was a New York TimesNotable Book.


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin

At fifteen, Diana Dodsworth took the opportunity to radically alter the trajectory of her life and escape the constraints of her small-town existence. Thirty years on, she can’t help scratching at her teenage decision like a scabbed wound. 

To safeguard her secret, she’s kept other people at a distance ... until Simon Jenkins sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, and he expects Di to fly out for a visit. She daren’t return to the city that changed her life; nor can she tell Simon the reason why. 
Sugar and Snails takes the reader on a poignant journey from Diana’s misfit childhood, through tortured adolescence to a triumphant mid-life coming-of-age that challenges preconceptions about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.
Visit her website and blog at http://annegoodwin.weebly.com



As promised, this is the first review from the list of books in my previous blog posting. 

This book is actually quite difficult to review without giving the plot away so forgive me if I sound a little vague at times. Suffice to say that the plot is original and surprising and Ms Goodwin confronts the issues which face her protagonist with sensitivity and insight. 

She is also an excellent storyteller and the plot unfolds deftly in her hands. She has  diligently done her research in putting together this fine novel. 

Diana is a strong and complex character and it was not obvious to me as a reader what her secret is.  Her story is gripping and I loved the way I came to a gradual realisation concerning her refusal to return to Cairo.  In many novels I can second guess what is coming but with this novel the author unravels for us the issues and concerns that Diana confronts in a way that kept me reading in order to discover what was going on.

Ultiimately, this is a story of self discovery which challenges the reader to consider issues of equality and the way in which individuals are conventionalised by the society in which they live. It also deals with the enormity of dealing with decisions that we make when we are young and the impact that has on the rest of our lives.

Well done to Anne Goodwin for producing such a readable and challenging book. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this book when you have read it.

ISBN:  978-1908600479

Publisher:  Inspired Quill

Price (today on Amazon.co.uk) Paperback: £8.99   Kindle: £3.49

About the Author:

Anne Goodwin loves fiction for the freedom to contradict herself and has been scribbling stories ever since she could hold a pencil. During her career as an NHS clinical psychologist her focus was on helping other people tell their neglected stories to themselves. Now that her short fiction publication count has overtaken her age, her ambition is to write and publish enough novels to match her shoe size. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was published in July 2015 by Inspired Quill.


Saturday, 21 November 2015

Books, books and more books





I have been out of the blogging loop for a little while. Recently, life has got in the way of my blogging as I've had some health issues going on followed by some very successful surgery which means that I am now feeling great and looking forward to getting back to blogging about my reading.

I won't bore you all with the details of recent weeks. However, one of the good things to have come from all this convalescing is that it's given me plenty of time to read and I have managed to get through quite a few books. I have been immeasurably grateful for my kindle and for my husband who has made many library trips to keep me in reading material.

What’s happened to all the lovely books I have adorning my shelves, I hear you ask. Well, in addition to everything that's been going on we are also moving house and so all my precious books have been packed into boxes ready for moving and rather than partially unpacking again I have relied on my local library and my kindle books to sate my reading appetite (as tempting as it was to sneak a few back out of the boxes.)


Well, that’s more than enough about me. Let me tell you about what I have been reading in the past few weeks.  I will be coming back to review my favourites from this selection sometime soon but in the meantime, I thought you might like to see what I have been reading.

Snowdrops by A.D. Miller
Perfect Daughter by Amanda Prowse
Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
Reunion with Death by Sheila Connelly
Coastliners by Joanne Harris
I am China by Xiaolu Guo
The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
Lessons in Laughing Out Loud by Rowan Coleman
The House at Sea's End and A Room Full of Bones - both by Elly Griffiths
Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healy
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats by Hesh Kestin
Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The Ritual Bath by Faye Kellerman

These are not in any order of preference so I shall keep you guessing for the moment as to which are my favourites. However, you all know my reading tastes by now. Can you guess which are the ones I really enjoyed reading?




Friday, 7 August 2015

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Marie-Laure LeBlanc, the daughter of a locksmith, has been blind since the age of six. Her father builds a perfect miniature of their Paris neighbourhood so she can learn to navigate her way home. But when the Nazis invade, father and daughter flee carrying a dangerous secret.

Werner Pfennig is a German orphan, destined to labour in the same mine where his father died. But then he finds and repairs a broken radio and suddenly life blazes with possibility. His talents win him a place at an elite military academy, but can he pursue his dream whatever the cost?

Hundreds of miles away in a walled city by the sea, an old man listens to a long-lost voice and discovers new worlds without ever setting foot outside his home. And yet impending danger will not allow him to remain shut in for ever.

This book is set in Europe during a time when war dominated everything. It is a wonderful demonstration of how lives can coincide in the most unexpected of ways.

I was completely gripped by this very excellent novel from start to finish. The prose was beautiful and not a word was wasted. Every sentence had real meaning and I frequently found myself re-reading sentences and paragraphs simply for the beauty of how they were constructed on the page.

The atmosphere was tangible and I felt as though I was actually there, living the lives of these two young people who were forced to grow up in war torn Europe. Consequently, I felt very in touch with Marie-Laure and Werner and writing this book so that the reader could identify with both the German and French point of view lifts this book well out of the ordinary.

There is something very special about this novel and I highly recommend it. This is the first book that I have read by Anthony Doerr and I guarantee that it will not be the last. I only wonder why I have not read anything by this excellent author before.

About the Author:

Anthony Doerr is the best-selling and prize winning author of The Shell Collector, About Grace, Four Seasons in Rome and Memory Wall.

In 2007 Granta named him as one of their 21 Best Young American Novelists and in 2011 he won the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Prize. Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho, with his wife and two sons.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

Forensics Expert Ruth Galloway is called in to investigate when builders, demolishing a large old house in Norwich, uncover the skeleton of a child - minus the skull - beneath a doorway. Is it some ritual sacrifice or just plain straightforward murder?

The house was once a children's home. DCI Harry Nelson meets the Catholic priest who used to run it. He tells him that two children did go missing forty years before - a girl and a boy. They were never found.

When carbon dating proves that the child's bones predate the children's home, Ruth is drawn more deeply into the case. But as spring turns to summer it becomes clear that someone is trying very hard to put her off the scent by frightening her half to death.

Having previously read the first in this series, The Crossing Places, which I enjoyed enormously, I was very keen to read The Janus Stone and continue with the story of Ruth Galloway. This was equally enjoyable and I loved that the book picks up pretty much straight after the first book and this provided a marvelous continuity to the story.

Ruth is a wonderful character. Her personal concerns are easy to identify with. She is a cat loving, overweight single woman and thinks about life in the same way that you or I might. The other characters are also realistically drawn - DCI Nelson is as down to earth a character as you could ever hope to read about and I loved the descriptions of Ruth's born-again Christian parents and her Druid friend, Cathbad. Every one of Elly Griffiths characters were well drawn and I felt like I understood each one of them.

I also loved the plot and read the whole book in a couple of sittings which is something I rarely do. It moves along at a good pace but I would not call it a page turner. Rather it was a book to be read and enjoyed without the frenzied pace that many crime thrillers have.

I have already ordered the next book in this series, The House at Sea's End, and am looking forward to reading it and getting to know the characters even better. I highly recommend this series to readers who enjoy crime fiction or archaeology.

ISBN: 978  1849162296

Publisher: Quercus Books

Price (based on today price for the paperback at Amazon.co.uk): £6.39


About the author:

Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly's husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece's head with the myths and legends of that area.

She has two children and lives near Brighton.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee


Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty six year old Jean Louise Finch (Scout) returns home from New York City to visit her ageing father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were  transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt.

Since this book was published earlier this week there have been thousands of reviews written. I have deliberately avoided reading any of them so as not to affect my own judgement of this book but short of locking myself in a darkened room without any form of communication from the outside world it has been impossible not to have got the gist of the fact that the vast majority of these reviews have been negative.

Perhaps it is my contrary personality but I really wanted to like this book. Like many others I am a huge fan of To Kill a Mockingbird which I first read aged about thirteen and have reread many times since.

Harper Lee is a great writer as evidenced in To Kill a Mockingbird so it was hard for me to even begin to equate this sequel with the skill she showed in her first and only other book. My biggest disappointment was in the way she portrayed Jean Louise (aka Scout). Gone is the fiery young Scout who we all know and love and in walks Jean Louise who I think the author intended to portray as an opinionated and angry young woman. However, rather than possess the associated attributes of this persona Jean Louise comes over more as a moaning Minnie and quite frankly, I found her character rather tedious.

What I did like in this book were the flashbacks to Jean Louise's childhood. Here I glimpsed the characters and writer who exerted so much influence over me when I was in my teens.

Written in the 1950's and not published until 2016 does this book alter the way I have felt about To Kill a Mockingbird? Not one bit. It is vastly superior to this sequel and I have been a little in love with Atticus Finch for too many decades for that to change now.

ISBN:  9781785150289

Publisher: William Heinemann

Price: £18.99

About the Author: 

Harper Lee ws born in 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. She is the author of the acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbirdand has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and numerous other literary awards and honours.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

London, 1929. Having set herself up as a private investigator, Maisie Dobbs is relieved when her first client arrives. Christopher Davenham suspects that his wife is conducting an affair. But Maisie's investigations confound her expectations at every turn and she if forced by her findings to revisit her own turbulent experience of the Great War. For Maisie, the boundary between her private and professional life is suddenly blurred.

This is a world still reeling in the aftermath of war, a world in which many secrets lie buried. But Maisie is determined to hunt down the truth, however painful it might be.

Maisie is one of the most likable characters I have encountered in some time and I am very excited that this book is the first in a series. Sweet and heartwarming but feisty at the same time, it was impossible not to be rooting for her all through the book.

What I particularly liked was the way Ms Winspear initially drew me into the story through the plot. However, the narrative then shifts for about a third of the book and we are presented with Maisie's backstory and therefore, everything we may have assumed about her during the first part of the book is challenged.

Although simply written I did not guess the outcome of the story and there were still some surprises at the end. Wonderful writing and I can certainly envisage myself reading the twelve books in the series and I do not make a commitment like that very often. I already have the second book, Birds of a Feather, ordered from the library.

About the author:

Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in Kent, England and now lives in California. The Maisie Dobbs mysteries have won great acclaim and have been nominated for several awards including the Edgar Award.

Friday, 3 July 2015

TOP TEN FOR SUMMER


I don't know about you but at this time of year when the sun is shining and I can look forward to lazy weekends sitting with a book in the sunshine, I don't want anything too heavy going to read. This isn't the time of year that I want to get stuck into War and Peace. I can more envisage myself reading that snuggled up in an armchair on a cold winters day.

No, what I want are books to reflect my mood so here are a list of my ten favourite summer reads with links to my review if I have done one..

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Evening Class by Maeve Binchy
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I would love to hear what your favourite summer reads are. Do you think the seasons influence what we read? 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

After Before by Jemma Wayne

During a cold, British winter, three women reach crises point. Emily, an immigrant survivor of the Rwandan genocide is existing but not living. Vera, a newly Christian Londoner is striving to live a moral life, her happiness constantly undermined by secrets from her past. Lynn, battling with untimely disease, is consumed by bitterness and resentment of what she hasn't achieved and what has been snatched from her. Each suffering their own demons, their lives have been torn open by betrayal, by other people, by themselves, by life itself.  But as their paths interweave, they begin to unravel their beleagured pasts, and inadvertently change each others futures.


I actually finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago and I have been haunted by it ever since. Usually I write a review almost immediately after reading a book but this is one that I wanted to allow to sit in my mind while I worked out how I felt about it and I really have not been able to stop thinking about the three women in this book.

Emily, Vera and Lynn are all women that I could identify with to one degree or another and I was captivated by the realism of their lives and the interconnections between them. Ms. Wayne has made them each fully rounded characters whom I really came to care about throughout my reading of this gripping novel.

I liked the way the narrative is told from the point of view of the different characters and which carries the plot along harmoniously. 

Although dealing with some difficult themes the author deals with them sensitively but without sentimentality. Intelligently written and powerful meant this is one book that kept me up reading well past my bedtime.  Simultaneously painful and uplifting this debut novel ensures that Jemma Wayne is one to watch as if her future writing is of this quality then she is on the cusp of a long and successful novel writing career.

ISBN:  978 1909878846

Publisher:  Legend Press

Price: £6.39


About the Author:  Jemma Wayne is a writer and journalist with a special interest in multi-cultural issues. Having graduated from Cambridge University in 2002 with an academic scholarship for her achievements in Social and Political Sciences, she went on to gain a Distinction in a Postgraduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism at the University of Westminster, before working as a reporter for The Jewish Chronicle.

In 2004 she left the JC to pursue her own projects and six months later saw the publication of her first full-length work, Bare Necessities, published by Piatkus Books.


Jemma has since turned her attention to fiction. Her short stories have appeared in a variety of publications including Ether Books, 33 West by Limehouse Books, and Kerouac’s Dog Magazine. 
As a freelance journalist Jemma continues to contribute to various publications. In particular she has written for The Evening Standard and The Independent on Sunday, She writes a political column for the The Jewish News and is a featured blogger for The Huffington Post.


Jemma has also written for the screen, and more recently the stage. Her first play Negative Space ran at The New End Theatre, Hampstead, in September 2009 to critical acclaim. Jemma and her co-writer Rachel Sternberg are currently at work on a second stage drama.


Jemma lives in North London.


After Before, is her first novel.

You can learn more about Jemma on her website:  http://www.jemmawayne.com/

Friday, 26 June 2015

Songs for the Butcher's Daughter by Peter Manseau

Itsik Malpesh was born the son of a goose-plucking factory manager during the Russian pogroms; his life saved on the very night it began by the young daughter of a kosher slaughterer. Or so he believes .....

Exiled during the war, Itsik eventually finds himself in New York, working as a typesetter and writing poetry to his muse, the butcher's daughter, whom he is sure he will never see again. But it is here in New York that Itsik is unexpectedly reunited with his greatest love - and, later, his greatest enemy - with results both serendipitous and tragic.

Itsik's story is recounted in his memoirs that to the most unlikely of translators - a twenty-one-year-old Boston college student who, in meeting Itsik, has embarked upon a lie that will define his future and the most extraordinary friendship he'll ever know.

Spanning decades and continents, this book is an immigrant's epic saga filled with adventure, humour, retribution and romance; a love letter to Jewish history that almost inadvertently tells a tale of the entire 20th century. Stories this passionate, surprising and enthralling are both hard to find and hard to forget.

I enjoyed this book very much. It has a dual narration. Each chapter begins with the translator telling his story followed by a portion of Itsik's memoirs. I enjoyed reading the translators story every bit as much as the memoir.

Without doubt Mr. Manseau is a good storyteller and I was very caught up in both the stories being told. My only criticism of this book is that at one point I felt coincidence went a little too far. However, it did  not detract from my enjoyment of the book as it is well written, the characters are engaging and the way in which the two stories come together was excellent

This is a good read for those who like reading about books, for those who are interested in history and for those who like a little romance in their reading.

ISBN:  978 1847393388

Publisher: Pocket Books

Price (based on today's price at Amazon.co.uk): £7.99



About the Author:  Peter Manseau has been a carpenter, journalist and typesetter in his time, and is the author of two works of non-fiction, including the memoir Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun and their Son. He is 34 and lives with his wife and two children in Washington. Songs for the Butcher's Daughter is his first novel.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

It is 1922 and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out of work and the hungry are demanding change. And in the south of the city, on genteel Champion Hill, in a hushed Camberwell villa still recovering from the devastating losses of the First World War, life is about to be transformed.

Widowed Mrs. Wray and her daughter, Frances, an unmarried woman with an interesting past, now on her way to becoming a spinster find themselves obliged to take in lodgers.

The arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the 'clerk class' brings unsettling things with it: gramophone music, colour, fun. Open doors offer Frances glimpses of the newcomers' habits, Sounds travel from their rooms to hers and the staircase and landing have never seemed so busy.

As she and Lilian are drawn into an unexpected friendship, loyalties begin to shift. Secrets are confessed, dangerous desires admitted; the most ordinary of lives, it seems, can explode into passion and drama. And in the house on Champion Hill, no one can forsee just how far the disturbances will reach.

This is the best book I have read in a while. I am a big fan of Sarah Waters and I trust her to turn out quality writing with each new book. Whilst my favourite of her novels remains to be Affinity she has in no way disappointed me with this excellent book.

This book deals with relationships and the myriad of ways that people interact with one another. It also considers the ripple effect that the friendship between two people has on the others around us.

However, this book is about much more than relationships. It is an excellent thriller with the intensity of a courtroom drama to boot. With this being a vital part of the narrative there is so much to hold the readers attention. I found myself thinking about this book alot between reading sessions and I couldn't get back to it quickly enough.

It is no surprise to me that this book  is on the Shortlist for the Baileys Prize for Fiction for 2015 and I would be equally unsurprised if it wins the title. This is another excellent novel from the pen of the brilliant Sarah Waters and I highly recommend this to everyone.

Due for release in paperback on 4th June this book can be pre-ordered from Amazon.co.uk for a mere £3.85 which is a bargain for this brilliant book. However, don't forget your local library and bookshop will be carrying copies too.

ISBN:  978 0349004365

Publisher:  Virago

Price (based on today at Amazon.co.uk): £10.00



About the Author:

She is best known for her first novel, Tipping the Velvet, as well the novels that followed, including AffinityFingersmith, and The Night Watch.

Sarah Waters is a British novelist. She was born in Wales in 1966. She has a Ph.D in English Literature and has been an associate lecturer with the Open University.  Before writing novels Waters worked as an academic, earning a doctorate and teaching. Waters went directly from her doctoral thesis to her first novel. It was during the process of writing her thesis that she thought she would write a novel; she began as soon as the thesis was complete.






Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Outline by Rachel Cusk

A woman arrives in Athens in the height of summer to teach a writing course. Once there, she becomes the audience to a chain of narratives as the people she meets tell her one after another the stories of their lives.
Beginning with the neighbouring passenger on the flight out and his tales of fast boats and failed marriages, the storytellers talk of their loves and ambitions and pains, their anxieties, their perceptions and daily lives. In the stifling heat and noise of the city the sequence of voices begins to weave a complex human tapestry: the experience of loss, the nature of family life, the difficulty of intimacy and the mystery of creativity itself.

This was an interesting novel to read as the main character actually plays a very small part in the story although is the linchpin which holds the narrative of the stories told to her by other people together.

Rachel Cusk is a very skilled writer which she demonstrates on every page. In a lesser writers hands this book could have been presented as a collection of short stories but Ms Cusk elevates her book by the fascinating way she has structured the story. 

This works so well because it enables the reader to listen to the stories that are being told to her without her interpretation and thus made me listen for myself. This enabled me to form my own judgments and to become part of the story. I suspect that every reader of this book will come away with a different view of the people and the stories told.

I do not remember reading anything quite like this book before so cannot compare it to others. It completely defies the boundaries of genre and therefore will appeal to many.

Having said that, I think this novel might well divide readers as I am not sure that this book would be to everybody’s taste (although that is true of most books.) What I am certain about is that the author has structured this novel uniquely and skillfully that it is no surprise to me that it has made it onto the 2015 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist.

I would encourage you to give this one a read. Please do let me know what you think of it.

ISBN:  978 1784702441

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Price: (paperback released tomorrow 7th May): £8.99

About the Author:  

Rachel Cusk was born in 1967 and is the author of eight novels: Saving Agnes, which won the Whitbread First Novel Award, The Temporary, The Country Life, which won a Somerset Maugham Award,The Lucky Ones, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award, In the Fold, Arlington Park, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, The Bradshaw Variations and Outline. Her non-fiction books are A Life's Work, The Last Supper and Aftermath. In 2003 she was chosen as one of Granta's Best of Young Novelists.