Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street - Natasha Pulley - magical



The blurb

1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something. When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a sweeping, atmospheric narrative that takes the reader on an unexpected journey through Victorian London, Japan as its civil war crumbles long-standing traditions, and beyond. Blending historical events with dazzling flights of fancy, it opens doors to a strange and magical past.

My thoughts ...

I want a clockwork octopus! Now that's not a phrase I ever thought I'd hear myself utter but I fell head over heels for Katsu the clockwork octopus in this beguiling and totally charming story.

My beautiful hardback copy of this book was a prize I won in a blog competition. I sort of had mixed feelings about it before I read it, especially when a couple of reviews describe it as steampunk - me and steampunk haven't got a very good history so far. However I wouldn't really categorise this as steampunk. It's really hard to put in any kind of genre-box - it's completely original, totally unique and absolutely. mind blowingly, beautiful. It reads like the bizarre love child of The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters and The Time Traveller's Wife

When we meet Thaniel it's London in the late 1880's, he's working as a telegraphist for the Home office and the story just sweeps you into this gossamery historical setting which is ever so slightly skewed from reality. It's magical and enchanting with amazing characters, several of whom are Japanese. On one hand there is Kaito Mori the eponymous watchmaker, delicate, quiet and determined who is a genius at manufacturing delicate clockwork machinery and has the uncanny ability of being able to "remember" the future, on the other there is Matsumoto a dapper young man about town with a penchant for designer clothing who is the unlikely companion of Grace Carrow a bluestocking who studies science, conducts experiments and cross dresses to avoid the female discrimination which is rife in Victorian Oxford.

Thaniel comes into possession of a watch created by Mori and this is the first in a long series of events which change his life beyond recognition, beginning with a bomb blast and the search for the perpetrators of the explosion, seemingly pointing to the gentle and unassuming Watchmaker Mori for whom Thaniel develops a fondness as the 2 share humour and kindness, both qualities which have been lacking in Thaniels pretty mundane existence.

The whole book has a magical dream like quality, EVERYTHING about it is completely original and captivating, from Thaniels ability to hear sound in colour and his penchant for drinking real loose tea, to the Japanese village in Hyde Park, not to mention Gilbert and Sullivan playing supporting roles? It's painted with the most delicate of touches and delectable etherealness yet is also very down to earth. 

The cover is beautiful too with a die cut clockwork front and gold leaf on a velvety black background adding to the complete reading experience I'd have nissed if I'd read the ebook.

I finished reading it late last night and immediately wanted to turn back to the very first page and read it again. I loved it and am left almost bereft by its absence now I've reached the astute and inventive ending.

Finally a huge thanks to Pam Reader http://www.pamreader.blogspot.co.uk/ for hosting the giveaway which allowed me to win this delightful book.

Monday, 20 July 2015

The Mistake I made - Paula Daly - irresistably readable



The Publishers Description:

We all think we know who we are.
What we’re capable of.

Roz is a single mother, a physiotherapist, a sister, a friend. She’s also desperate.

Her business has gone under, she’s crippled by debt and she’s just had to explain to her son why someone’s taken all their furniture away.

But now a stranger has made her an offer. For one night with her, he’ll pay enough to bring her back from the edge.

Roz has a choice to make
.


MY review

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this latest twisty psychological thriller by Paula Daly whose previous 2 novels I've also enjoyed. This takes us back to her favourite setting of the Lake district to watch the main character - Roz's already crumbling life fall even further apart.

Roz is a single parent, struggling to bring up her 9 year old son George who is the centre of her world, she works hard as a physiotherapist but every penny she earns still isn't enough to clear the huge amount of debt she has ended up with since her doomed marriage floundered and she begins clutching at some very dodgy straws to extricate herself. It's difficult to tell exactly which "mistake she made" is the one in the title as this is one lady who seems unable to make the right decision at any point in her life and it really makes you count your own blessings.

I did get a little exasperated with the hapless Roz at several points, she is pretty amoral and incredibly naive for an educated women, but it was easy to get swept along with the way one bad decision leads to another and I'm reading it and shouting "NO - for Gods sake woman, just say NO"

However it's so engaging and irresistibly readable I could forgive her and found myself rooting for her most of the time. I also enjoyed meeting up with DC Joanne Aspinall again although this time she plays very much a supporting role rather than a starring role as she does in the previous books, and I really missed her Aunt Jackie.

Paula Daly's real strength lies in her ability to create very believable quirky characters and place them in dark situations which she serves up with a wry sense of humour - brilliant.

My thanks go to Netgalley for allowing me yet again the privilege of reading a great book before publication date.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Precocious - Joanna Barnard - compelling and readable



The Description

There are some lessons you shouldn’t learn in school…

Fiona Palmer is (un)happily married when a chance meeting with her former teacher plunges her headlong into an affair.
Intercut with the realities of their adult relationship, Fiona remembers first meeting the enigmatic Henry Morgan as a precocious and lonely fourteen-year-old. Her schoolgirl crush developed into an intense relationship, but it was always one which she controlled.
Or did she?

A controversial, compelling debut novel from an award-winning writer

My review

Precocious is a well written compelling debut novel which is really quite difficult to categorise, I thought there was going to be more of a twist to it expected a psychological thriller and it really isn't this at all. It's sort of a mix of coming of age/ love story and domestic drama.

It's quite probably a tale many of us can relate to, focussing on that teenage crush on a teacher which could so easily get out of hand. The narrator is Fiona who is now 30, married and has never really got over her teenage crush, because for her it was different - she was different and what happened in her past wasn't a mere crush it was love - (wasn't it?)

Even though she is happy with her oh so gentle and tolerant husband, she is missing excitement in her life and when she bumps into her ex English teacher Mr Morgan, she finds the flame which has been on a back burner all these years flares back into life and she rushes without heed into an ill advised and self destructive affair which threatens to consume her.

The story zips back and forth to when she was a schoolgirl, recording her growing pains in a secret diary and feeling every ounce of angst and passion that a handsome attentive teacher can inspire. We watch her fall in love and as the relationship between the 15 year old Fee and her 28 year old teacher develops, it's easy to be swept along and think, as does she, there's nothing wrong with this, they have found each other, kindred spirits despite the age difference and the innate wrongness of any kind of intimacy between the Mentor and the pupil.

Back in the present day we watch her careering along an obvious collision course and begin to see what she has failed to recognise, this man has well concealed flaws - Is Fee going to allow herself to be totally destroyed by them?

It's really very believable and a gripping read, however I was really expecting some sort of OMG moment that never happened and the ending was a little too gentle with several things unresolved, for me to give this very readable and competent debut novel a perfect 10.

My thanks to the publisher Randomhouse for my copy via Netgalley in exchange for sharing my thoughts publicly.