Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Tapestry of love by Rosy Thornton

The Tapestry of LoveThe Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quote from Goodreads:

A warm and uplifting story of how a woman falls in love with a place and its people: a landscape, a community and a fragile way of life.

A rural idyll: that's what Catherine is seeking when she sells her house in England and moves to a tiny hamlet in the CĂ©vennes mountains. With her divorce in the past and her children grown, she is free to make a new start, and her dream is to set up in business as a seamstress. But this is a harsh and lonely place when you're no longer just here on holiday. There is French bureaucracy to contend with, not to mention the mountain weather, and the reserve of her neighbours, including the intriguing Patrick Castagnol. And that's before the arrival of Catherine's sister, Bryony...


I enjoyed my "visit" to the Cevennes mountains in France with Catherine the 49 year old heroine of this book, despite never having been there, the authors genuine love for and in depth knowledge of this region is very apparent throughout the book, as is her knowledge of needlecraft when she describes Catherine establishing herself as a seamstress and tapestry stitcher.

It takes a wry and nostalgic look at how a middle aged divorcee, fresh from city life in Britain battles to adapt to life in rural France, running her own business, and struggling to come to terms with her ageing Mothers decline into Alzheimers, back at home in the UK.

We meet her new neighbours, including the enigmatic Patrick and share her frustration at the red tape of French rural beaurocracy.

Its a very easy read if in some parts a little gloomy, lightened by unexpcted touches of humour. I laughed aloud at the string of jobs for diverse and unlikely publications her journalist daughter ricochets between.

Characters who jump off the page and shake hands with you and a setting you can see and smell combine to make this a lovely cozy read to take you away from wintry Britain.

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Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Owl killers by Karen Maitland

The Owl KillersThe Owl Killers by Karen Maitland

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I'm so pleased I enjoyed this book as I was really looking forward to reading it. Enjoyed her first novel "company of liars" so much I thought it might be a hard act to follow.

Well, Ms Maitland does herself proud with this big, detailed epic which takes on the huge subject of superstition and legend wrapped in with religion.

Its set in a village in England in the early 1300s when a group of women living in a Beguinage arrive, not quite Nuns they nevertheless live in a women only, cloistered existence which causes a lot of prejudice and superstition amongst the superstitious villagers and the church.

It paints a vivid picture of life in the dark ages where poverty and superstition ruled peoples lives, the author must have done some very interesting and detailed reasearch to come up with so many ideas and legends which are based on real medieval myths.

The characters which have been created for this book are all fascinating and very well created.

You'd think a 550 page book where about half the main characters are called Martha would be difficult to follow but its not, each character is etched clearly and has their own unique personality and flaws.

Loved it.



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Thursday, 25 November 2010

These things hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

These Things HiddenThese Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I was fortunate enough to receive a pre publication copy of this book to review via NetGalley from whom I am giving the following quote ...



Quote: from the publishers "Allison Glenn tried to hide what happened that night...and failed.

The consequence? Five years in prison. Now she’s free. But secrets have a way of keeping you imprisoned.

When Allison Glenn is sent to prison for a heinous crime, she leaves behind her reputation as Linden Falls’s golden girl forever. Her parents deny the existence of their once-perfect child. Her former friends exult in her downfall. Her sister, Brynn, faces the whispered rumors every day in the hallways of their small Iowa high school. It’s Brynn—shy, quiet Brynn—who carries the burden of what really happened that night. All she wants is to forget Allison and the past that haunts her.

But then Allison is released to a halfway house, and is more determined than ever to speak with her sister.

Now their legacy of secrets is focused on one little boy. And if the truth is revealed, the consequences will be unimaginable for the adoptive mother who loves him, the girl who tried to protect him and the two sisters who hold the key to all that is hidden.

Heather Gudenkauf is the critically acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller The Weight of Silence. These Things Hidden is her second novel."




What a brilliant novel Heather Gudenkauf has written, even better than her great debut The Weight of Silence This book would fit the same title but the stories are very different.

These things hidden is the story of 4 women, Allison who at the beginning of the book is being released from prison to a halfway house, her sister Brynn, less confident as a youngster and having lived in Allisons shadow through their childhood, spends her time looking after abandoned animals.

These sisters relied heavily on one another throughout an upbringing with rather cold and harsh parents but are now estranged, though Allison is desperate to contact her sister now she has been freed from jail.

We also meet Claire, owner of a Bookstore and adoptive mother to 5 year old Joshua and Charm, training as a nurse and caring for her terminally ill stepfather.

The 4 womens' lives are intertwined by events in their pasts, things hidden and an innocent little boy. Events and coincidences conspire to force these women to examine the events in their pasts and culminate in a dreadful revelation.

The book is told by the 4 women and sometimes they are talking about the past and sometimes the present but its not difficult to follow and the beautifully written dialogue moves seamlessly from one viewpoint to another.

I found the story intense and gripping and I'd describe it as an emotional suspense story. I found myself muttering "Oh Nooo" in parts and shed more than a few tears too.

I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoyed The Ice Cream Girls or Sister but you'll have to hold your breath until February when it will be available in the shops.

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Saturday, 20 November 2010

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

SisterSister by Rosamund Lupton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I liked the story of this tense thriller and the characters were very well created.



Beatrice is living in the USA planning to marry her boyfriend and life is going well for her, when she recieves a phone call to tell her her younger sister Tess has gone missing.

Immersed into Tess's art student life, she moves into her rather seedy flat and begins her own investigations as to what might have happened to her beloved little sis.

But things have a way of sucking you in and she soon becomes embroiled in Tess's life suspecting various people of having been involved in her disappearance and as she discovers more, things take a nasty and more sinister turn.

I found parts of the story very harrowing and upsetting and it was a generally quite depressing and sad book.

My main gripe may not be a general one - my copy was very badly edited and there were lots of glaring grammatical errors which really didn't make for easy reading.

I liked it and it kept my interest going and there are a few real unpredictable twists.

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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Wilding - Maria McCann




Quote ..... 'An absorbing drama of revenge, inheritance and danger...packed with intrigue and historical detail.' --Kate Saunders, The Times

Based on my Amazon Review .....

What a lovely easy read and very well written.

The Wilding is written in the first person by a young man called Johnathan who resides in 17th century England and earns his living as a cider presser, travelling around hiring his services with his unique portable cider press lovingly made and given to him by his father.

When his fathers brother Robin dies Johnathan senses there is a mystery surrounding the circumstances of his death which is father is unwilling to discuss, so decides to visit his widowed Aunt the wealthy and nasty Harriet to try and unravel what has been going on.

This is where he meets the enigmatic Tamar, working as a servant for his aunt and abruptly dismissed, he is strangely drawn to her and she evoked sympathy in him when he finds her living with her infirm mother in a hovel of cave behind his Aunts house.

Circumstances carry Johnathan into events outside his normal sheltered existence and a story of betrayal, revenge and hatred is revealed.

Its a story of fairly ordinary folk with a family secret which swept me along and I found it a very satisfying read.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Cloven - Sally Spedding


From my review on Amazon


This is a dual time book with lots going on, its part historical drama, part ghost story and part modern day crime mystery and a bit of romance too and they all merge in together very well.

In the present day Ivan buys a rural cottage to live the dream of escaping city life and bad memories of a fatal accident in which he was involved, to launch his range of handmade pottery and teach evening classes in the same subject.

Back in 1830 young Sian, injured by trampling cattle and disabled as result sets off from Wales on horseback with her despicable brother who is a drover. He has been commanded to take her to London to seek treatment for her badly maimed leg and injuries which have left her mute, able only to communicate in whispers - whispers which travel across time and begin to haunt Ivan.

Ivan inadvertently gets on the wrong side of some local gangs, whole families who seem to rule the area involved in crime, mayhem and bloody murder. He becomes obsessed with the beautiful Jo but mystery surrounds her and Valerie the terse doctors wife with her tragic past seems to be the only person who sympathises with his increasing plight.

Meanwhile the story of Sians vile treatment at the hands of her brother and other evil characters goes from bad to worse I found I liked this part of the story set in the past best and became really immersed in the historical part of the book.

I found it pretty complicated as there are so many different storylines going on and lots of characters, especially in the present, several of whom by half way through I had no idea who they were or how they connected to the events.

Some of Ivans motives seem rather strange and there is a real undercurrent of evil nastiness that at times I found a little distasteful. Yet the book compelled me to keep reading and it was fast paced, spooky and scary.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for ElephantsWater for Elephants by Sara Gruen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


WOW, what can I say I loved this book once I got into it.

I must admit it took me 3 tries as I found the first few pages rather slow and a bit disjointed so I started it and put it down a couple of times but as so many people I know have waxed lyrical about this book I decided to stick with it.



I'm SO glad I persevered as when I eventually got into the writing style and connected with the characters the story began to flow deliciously and got better and better all the way through!



It begins with 93 year old Jacob (or am I 90?) sitting in an old peoples home reminiscing about his youth when he joined a travelling "train" circus.



Getting grumpier and more irascible as the frustrations of being stuck in an ageing body, cared for by strangers.



The book is a dual time period book (of which I have read so many recently, and enjoy) and the tales of circus life are well researched, frequently horrific, often amusing, never dull.



I fell totally in love with Rosie, the elephant and one or two of the human characters too, although there are more who are absolutely hateful.



By the time I finished the book all I could say was WOW, it sucks you in slowly and then tears along like a train with you clinging to the roof breathless and desperate to hang on and read just a few more pages.



If you've got this but not read it yet do give it a try I can heartily recommend it.



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The 199 steps by Michel Faber

The 199 StepsThe 199 Steps by Michel Faber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This super little novella is a great read.

Sian is a young woman with wounds to heal, taking time out in the historic Northern seaside town of Whitby, famous as the place where Dracula was created.

Short, fast and easy, yet it has many layers. Set in beautiful Whitby theres a hint of romance, a touch of spookiness and a gorgeous dog!





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The girl with glass feet by Ali Shaw

The Girl with Glass FeetThe Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I found this book haunting, unique and almost unbearably bleak.

It was less of a fairy story/fantasy than I expected, set almost in our world but where inexplicable and fantastic things happen for which there are no real explanation.

As unbelievable most of the creatures and things happening to characters are, I found it extremely easy to want to hold a tiny moth winged cow on my shoulder and shuddered at the thought of no longer feeling my feet if they turned to glass.

Special and thought provoking but with few explanations - I did expect more of a revelation at the end but perhaps some things are best left unsaid.



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Monday, 15 November 2010

The Outlander by Gil Adamson

The OutlanderThe Outlander by Gil Adamson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Loved, loved, LOVED this book - Best book I've read in a while without a doubt.



Strongly character driven novel, nevertheless descriptive and beautifully written, every single word counted and the story flowed like good wine I just wanted to keep on reading.

The story of a young woman widowed by her own hand fleeing from retribution after killing her husband. She sets off into the mountainous wilderness of Canada and comes across so many unusual, mostly likeable, all beleiveable characters.

She's a thief as well as a murderer and treats some of the people who help her pretty badly really but she's very human and theres just something about the book that really keeps you interested and fascinated.

Inevitable comparisons with The tenderness of wolves which I also loved prompted me to read this, however I'd compare the writing style to Water with Elephants, a sheer joy to read from start to conclusion.


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Crossed Bones - Jane Johnson


Heres the first of my book reviews I want to share - Originally written by me and posted on Goodreads.

I loved this book. Even better than I expected.

It has also been published under the title "The Tenth gift" so you may have read it as that.

Its basically a dual time romance (one of my favourite genres) but is so much more than a romance and in actual fact there's very little soppiness and no bodice ripping at all.

Julia Lovatt is in her 30s and begins the book by getting dumped by her lover, who also happened to be her best friends husband. So she's not perfect by any means. He gives her an antique embroidery book, not such a strange parting gift given that Julia makes a living doing fine hand embroidery.

As she begins to read the book she finds handwritten notes in the margins by the books original owner Catherine, working as a servant in Cornwall in 1625 and given the book as a gift from her cousin Rob to whom she becomes reluctantly betrothed.

Catherines love of and talent for embroidery gives her ideas above her station and she dreams of the impossible, travel, escape from her humdrum life and to become a master embroiderer (unheard of for a woman)

As Julias is drawn to Cornwall to visit a cousin, she continues to read Catherines story which becomes so unbelievable she at first thinks she has got her hands on a rare early work of fiction writing.

As she reads about the kidnap from a church of a large number of Cornish folk, including Catherine, by Barbary pirates she realises it is the truth and as her ex begins to hound her to return the book, she sets of on her own journey of discovery travelling to Morocco to see where Catherine ended up being transported to by slave ship and sold.

It's fast paced and exciting all the way through and I couldn't put it down. The descriptions of Cornwall, London and Morocco read more like good travel journalism than fiction. The Subjects of Piracy and white slavery were different and gripping combined with the detail about embroidery which is also an interest of mine.

All in all it was a sheer pleasure to read and I'd love to read some more by this author.