Monday, 31 August 2015

The silvered heart - Katherine Clements - a gallop through the past



The blurb....

The legendary figure of Kate Ferrars, the infamous highwaywoman, is brought gloriously to life in this gripping tale of infatuation, betrayal and survival.

'The distant thrum of galloping hooves conjures nothing but doubt and fear these days.'

1648: Civil war is devastating England. The privileged world Katherine Ferrars knows is crumbling under Cromwell's army, and as an orphaned heiress, she has no choice but to do her duty and marry for the sake of family.

But as her marriage turns into a prison, and her fortune is decimated by the war, Kate becomes increasingly desperate. So when she meets the enigmatic Ralph Chaplin, she seizes the chance he offers. Their plan is daring and brutal, but it's an escape from poverty and the shackles of convention. They both know if they're caught, there's only one way it can end...

My thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed this second historical novel based on true characters by Katherine Clements It's a breathtaking gallop throughout history peppered with people and places so real you feel you're there.

I was a little confused at first as I became sure I'd read it before but knew it was brand new, then I reaised that Ive read another book based on the life of Kate Ferrars the highwaywoman which was by Deborah Swift called Shadow on the Highway which was more of a young adult story based on the same character. Both books are well researched with great historical detail so I felt as though I was revisiting an old friend.

Set in the mid 17th century Kate Ferrars has led a rather privileged life brought up in a grand home Markyate Cell, when the book begins she is a young woman on the brink of marriage to a man she barely knows as was so often the case in that era the choices for a woman were remarkably limited, marry or be penniless even though she is minor aristocracy she has no status as a single woman.

Just before her wedding a horrible event taints her life and way of thinking and, in her belief, triggers a thread of wickedness in her which is about to haunt her. Although I could quite easily comprehend what led her to make many of the decisions she does in later life and I don't condemn her for her life on the fringe of respectability, what I found more wicked in some ways than her actions was her selfishness.

Locked in a loveless marriage her relationship with her maid Rachel is a closer friendship than one would expect between mistress and maid. Rachel is really her only friend and she doesn't always treat her well. That Kate looks outside her marriage for love and excitement isn't unexpected and makes for an exciting story. She grasps at the chance of independence and thrills when she joins a highwayman in his adventures and that they end up in a passionate relationship is hardly a surprise, neither is her descent to ruin.

There are a couple of characters I'd really like to know more about, e.g. the story behind Martha Coppin who is an influential secondary character I was fascinated by.

The story flows beautifully and creates a tense and compelling atmosphere you can't help but be drawn deeply into putting Katherine Clements firmly on the map and an author I will eagerly watch for again in future.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The Summer of Secrets - Sarah Jasmon - atmospheric and nostalgic



The Blurb.....

One day she was there . . .

and the next day, the day after the fire, she was gone.

In the summer of 1983, when Helen is sixteen, Victoria Dover and her eccentric family move in next door, at once making her lonely world a more thrilling place. But the summer ends with a terrible tragedy, and everyone involved – her father and the entire Dover family – simply disappears.

Then one day, thirty years later, Victoria comes back.

A suspenseful, spell-binding coming-of-age story about young friendship, damaged families and how one simple action on a long, sultry summer can echo through the years.

My thoughts

Sarah Jasmon has written a stunning debut novel evocative of youth, the long hot days we all insist lasted all summer long, the search for friendship and acceptance and the ache of loneliness. It's almost a coming of age novel but it has a small part set now and a much greater part set in the 1970s.

The main character Helen really resonated with me, I am almost embarrassed to admit how much of her I could see myself in.

The part which begins in the present day sees Helen as an adult, she seems to have a pretty nice life, working in a bookshop with her own flat above it, it's only later in the book that the cracks begin to reveal themselves. She sees an advert for a photography exhibition which open the floodgates of memory and take her back to the time she was a teenager and one particular summer when everything began to change.

An only child with few friends living in a rather isolated old house (this was when the recognition began to ring bells with me) she is delighted to find a new family have moved in to one of the canalside cottages at the top of her road and when the first tentative inroads of friendship are made she grasps the chance to become involved with anothe family where live although hectic and erratic seems far more interesting than living at home largely ignored by her depressed father, following the departure of her Mother.

As summer passes she becomes embroiled in this rather hippy dippy families secrets and foibles and we can feel all is not going to end as well as we would hope for everyone concerned.

The writing is fabulously descriptive and amazingly atmospheric with a hazy dreamlike qaulity at times which nevertheless makes it all seem more like real memories which are never that clear but blur more as time passes. I love the nostalgic feel of the past and the languid pace which nevertheless kept me turning the pages. Reading this book is effortless and compelling. I loved this book, was really saddened how Helens life actually turns out especially as it seemed in so many ways her past emulated my childhood and had a huge lump in my throat by the final chapter as the past it creates is so authentic.

My huge thanks to the author Sarah Jasmon for providing me with a copy to read and review, via #bookconnectors.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Daughter's secret - Eva Holland - an excellent debut



The Publishers Blurb:

When Rosalind's fifteen-year-old daughter, Stephanie, ran away with her teacher, this ordinary family became something it had never asked to be. Their lives held up to scrutiny in the centre of a major police investigation, the Simms were headline news while Stephanie was missing with a man who was risking everything.

Now, six years on, Ros takes a call that will change their lives all over again. He's going to be released from prison. Years too early. In eleven days' time.

As Temperley's release creeps ever closer, Ros is forced to confront the events that led them here, back to a place she thought she'd left behind, to questions she didn't want to answer. Why did she do it? Where does the blame lie? What happens next?

My thoughts - an excellent debut novel

Recently I've read rather a lot of Domestic Noir dramas/ psychological chillers, which is where I'd place this excellent debut novel. Some have been greatly applauded by others yet I haven't warmed to them at all, some have deserved and lived up to the hype, while others have been stunning in their twisty simplicity and sheer cunningness feeling like a real discovery, and I've loved them.

I'm pleased to announce that this falls firmly into the "LOVED it" category for the sheer readability, strong characters and easy to follow yet gripping storyline. It's full of "there but for the grace of God go I" situations, where you try and work out how you'd feel and react in that position and even though I rather disliked the main protagonist Ros I'm sure if I had a teenage daughter who'd been abducted by her teacher I too would be a neurotic wreck ....(will the person who knows me and said I AM, please keep quiet.)

Rosalind has a privileged life, a beautiful home in the wealthiest part of town, plenty of disposable income and the perfect sub nuclear family - a husband and two grown children one girl, one boy. But her life went sour 6 years ago when her, then just 15 year old daughter Stephanie, went missing and her carefully constructed world began to fall apart. 6 years have passed and we know Steph has returned to the family fold, but the unexpected discovery that the schoolteacher who lured her away, having served his sentence for child abduction is due to be released from prison early, bringing to the surface thoughts, worries and secrets which have remained buried until now.

Rosalind is a complex character with some wonderfully written neuroses and character quirks and flaws. I love the way she faces every event by pre-empting every possible disaster and unlikely scenario which might go wrong to the point of creating totally ridiculous catastrophes and allowing her obsession to overtake her life. Even more than this I loved the slightly tongue in cheek recipes for revenge she conjures up and imagines, knowing she is never likely to act on them just allows her to be even more creative and original in dreaming up imaginary punishmnent for those who have harmed her and her family, I found some of them pretty amusing. Steph is a rather selfish mess, having inherited some of her mothers phobias and faults and grown a whole new load of her own in addition.

The intricate story jumps back and forth between then and now but this never makes it a difficult book to follow. I really enjoyed the look inside this fractured families life and breathed a sigh of relief that I'm not living it. It's cleverly and beautifully written and I thoroughly appreciated reading it. My thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for my thoughts.

It's published today 13th August 2015 and can be purchased now. 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Devastation Road - Jason Hewitt - hauntingly bleak




The Blurb......

A deeply compelling and poignant story that, like the novels of Pat Barker or Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong, dramatises the tragic lessons of war, the significance of belonging and of memory - without which we become lost, even to ourselves.

Spring, 1945: A man wakes in a field in a country he does not know. Injured and confused, he pulls himself to his feet and starts to walk, and so sets out on an extraordinary journey in search of his home, his past and himself.

His name is Owen. A war he has only a vague memory of joining is in its dying days, and as he tries to get back to England he becomes caught up in the flood of refugees pouring through Europe. Among them is a teenage boy, Janek, and together they form an unlikely alliance as they cross battle-worn Germany. When they meet a troubled young woman, tempers flare and scars are revealed as Owen gathers up the shattered pieces of his life. No one is as he remembers, not even himself - how can he truly return home when he hardly recalls what home is?


My Thoughts

What a haunting and thought provoking read this is. Like the cover, the whole book is atmospheric and seems written in monochrome, overlaid with a layer of gery dust which obscures memories this makes for a beautiful ethereal quality.

The main protagonist, Owen finds himself in a field near a river. Confused and injured he struggles to his feet and begins walking, to where, he doesn't know, any more than where he has come from or how he got there. His memories are clouded and distant he's not even sure of his own name. It's clear war has ravaged this country but he doesn't even know what country he is in. Did he take part in the war, was he wounded in battle?

His journey brings him in contact with more devastation, fleeing refugees, one of whom, a boy named Janek, joins him despite neither speaking the same language they rub along together, company for each other in this drab and dangerous grey landscape. As he walks memories begin to surface like pieces of shrapnel beneath the skin, but as soon as he tries to grasp them they are gone and he starts to make notes to aid his memory. It's clear he is suffering from some form of amnesia but what horrors is his mind blocking that can be worse then the sights he sees on the road? When a young girl with a baby cross paths with them the dynamics of this pairs journey change.

The writing is poetic, the descriptions bleak, with an impending sense of apocalyptic doom. It's so easy to get swept up in the dreariness of the scene unfolding, yet the characters are compelling and engaging and you just long to know Owens past, what will happen to Janek and Irini and the little man with no name.

When the secrets from the past begin to unfold they're not quite what I expected nor wanted for the hapless group of travellers, some of the scenes are mind numbing and past events unpredictable.

This is a world war 2 novel that reads like a scene from a horrifying future, it's timeless but contains memories you want to leave firmly in the past, yet there are glimmers of hope and redemption and right at the end one large tear rolled down my cheek and I let out a sigh of satisfaction which only follows a damn good read.

My thanks to the author Jason Hewitt for kindly providing me with a copy of his super new book via #BookConnectors in exchange for sharing my review. It's been a pleasure and I really enjoyed reading it.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Quick paperback cover reveal - We are all made of stars - Rowan Coleman

Just wanted to give you a quick advance peek at the cover reveal of the upcoming paperback version of We are all made of stars by Rowan Coleman.



The Mountain story - Lori Lansens - thrilling



The Blurb

Five days. Four hikers. Three survivors. From Lori Lansens, author of the national bestsellers Rush Home Road, The Girls and The Wife's Talecomes a gripping tale of adventure, sacrifice and survival in the unforgiving wilderness of a legendary mountain.

On his 18th birthday, Wolf Truly takes the tramway to the top of the mountain that looms over Palm Springs, intending to jump to his death. Instead he encounters strangers wandering in the mountain wilderness, three women who will change the course of his life. Through a series of missteps he and the women wind up stranded, in view of the city below, but without a way down. They endure five days in freezing temperatures without food or water or shelter, and somehow find the courage to carry on.

Wolf, now a grown man, has never told his son, or anyone, what happened on the mountain during those five days, but he can't put it off any longer. And in telling the story to his only child, Daniel, he at last explores the nature of the ties that bind and the sacrifices people will make for love. The mountain still has a hold on Wolf, composed of equal parts beauty and terror.


My thoughts

I've read and enjoyed all the previous books by Lori Lansens starting with The Girls and was delighted when I recieved this, her latest novel to review.

As well as being aware she is an amazingly accomplished author, I liked the idea of the book, I love the outdoors and survival in the wild stories always enthrall me. This is the story, told by a father to his son, of a day out in the mountains gone badly wrong. It's also a story of friendship and family, decisions and sacrifice. Wolf is a brilliant character, his upbringing sadly lacking but he learns loyalty and finds a deep and abiding friendship until something goes badly wrong, leaving him broken and racked with feelings of guilt and loss.

When Wilfred aka Wolf sets out at the age of 18 on what he plans to be his last pilgrimage to the mountain area he loves and respects, he doesn't consider that he might become responsible for anyones survival apart from his own. Joining him in the cable car ascent are three women whose lives are about to become inextricably entwined with his. They all end up stranded on the mountain together with practically NO supplies or appropriate clothing making for a tense and exciting story of survival against the odds which kept me turnig the pages until late in the night.

I was pleased when the 3 women were introduced to the story as I like a book with some female characters I can relate to. BUT I failed to relate to any of these 3 women, who annoyed me almost as soon as they were introduced and instead of growing more likeable in adversity they continued to rattle me.

As a lover of the outdoors I'm afraid I hold the greatest contempt for people who travel with disrespect for the elements. I've clambered uphill, wearing my specialist, all weather survival gear, carrying emergency rations, only to meet women in flimsy summer sandals and thin cotton dresses stumbling down past me and I could shake them I really could, because it's not just their own lives they are putting at risk its the other people with them, the mountain rescue teams who have to risk their lives to come and rescue them if they get into difficulty.

Well these foolish women were like that, one of them is wearing flip flops for Gods sake! And almost everything they do, each decision they make is the wrong one, they are only out there for 5 days and the mishaps and accidents which befall them almost defy belief - but sadly it is believable. It all goes to show what a caring person Wolf is as he takes on responsibility for these hapless souls.

This doesn't detract from the great writing and what turns out a tense and ultimately uplifting story, the womens frailties make it all the more believable and I'm a firm believer that you don't have to like all the main characters in a book to love the book and there are some amazingly strong and realistic suporting characters in here too. It's a super book, one I'd highy recommend to anyone who already loves Lori Lansens and anyone who's new to her writing and likes gritty adventures peopled with real characters with very human strengths and failings.

My thanks to http://www.simonandschuster.com/ for my copy, provided in exchange for an honest review.