Archives for books

#BookReview ‘Moonlight & the Pearler’s Daughter’ by @LizziePook

Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter, the debut historical mystery by Lizzie Pook, is a surprise, full of twists and turns with a determined female lead character who defies 19th century conventions to find the murderer of her father. The gritty, sometimes disgusting descriptions of the pearler’s living conditions are vivid and not for the faint-hearted. Set in an 1896 at Bannin Bay, a poor Australian pearl fishing settlement on the edge of the coast, the settlers are surrounded by indigenous people and their lands. When her father’s pearling lugger, the White Starling, returns from a long sea trip without him, Eliza Brightwell is told her father Charles disappeared from his boat overnight and is assumed drowned. Her brother Thomas, under pressure to keep the family business out debt, departs immediately to the nearby town of Cossack to sell his catch to traders. Alone, Eliza refuses to accept her father is dead but when she asks questions, is advised to accept the inevitable.This is a raw town of crime, racism, jealousy, blackmail and abuse. A detailed examination of the available facts, and a mysterious note she finds in her father’s diary, lead Eliza to places she cannot go. Fettered by conventions
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Jumping the Queue’ by Mary Wesley #contemporary

Jumping the Queue is a must-read for fans of Mary Wesley’s writing. It is a slim volume about a deadly serious topic. Widow Matilda Poliport prepares to commit suicide. She cleans the house, organises her papers, destroys anything incriminating and gives away her pets. On the day she judges the tide to be favourable, she makes a picnic and takes a bottle of wine to the beach. She plans to wade into the sea and drown. What happens changes the course of Matilda’s death, and life. This is a quirky mixture of a book with heavy topics which, as you get older, become more familiar and understandable, with dark humour and a touch of forbidden romance. There is also betrayal, all kinds of betrayal actually – between husband and wife, between parents and children, between friends. As Matilda contemplates suicide, she thinks, ‘I am the great betrayer… That is my sin. I am not a sticker. I betray from laziness, fear and lack of interest.’ The story is told from Matilda’s point of view, at times despairing, at times wickedly funny and lusty. It’s hard to believe Jumping the Queue was Mary Wesley’s first adult novel, published in 1983 when
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Categories: Book Love.

#Books ‘This is the Night They Come for You’ by Robert Goddard

Robert Goddard is a thriller writer with a particular skill at writing mysteries where the past remains entangled with today. This is the Night They Come for You features Algerian police Superintendent Mouloud Taleb; believable, likeable, he’s the type of character you instantly root for. The story starts today in Algiers as Taleb, sweating in his dingy un-air-conditioned office, considers approaching retirement. But when Wassim Zarbi, a former agent convicted of corruption, is released from prison and then disappears, it is feared he is reuniting with old colleague Nadir Laloul. Events in Paris in 1961 come alive again and Taleb is pulled into the dangerous search for Laloul, Zarbi and the truth of a cold case murder. The history and peoples of Algeria and France are entwined and Goddard puts at the heart of his story a shadowy organisation in Algeria named ‘hizb franca’, the ‘party of France’, dedicated to undermining the success of the fledgling Algerian republic. A small practical note, it would have been helpful to have the Glossary at the front of the Kindle edition rather than at the back. And, for a novice at Algerian politics as I am, a short historical context would also be
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Paris Apartment’ by @lucyfoleytweets #thriller

I read The Paris Apartment, the latest thriller by Lucy Foley, in two sittings. It kept me guessing nearly to the end, with some unexpected twists along the way. When penniless Jess arrives in Paris to spend some time with her half-brother, he has disappeared. What follows is a page-turning story of the apartment block where Ben has been living, its inhabitants and the confusing discoveries Jess makes as she tries to find him. It makes her question if she really knows her brother and why he has been so distant from her. This is a book about secrets, small ones, shameful ones, old and new secrets. And one huge one. Jess, at times vulnerable at times recklessly brave, attempts to be pleasant to Ben’s neighbours in this surprisingly elegant old Parisian apartment block. The snobbish couple in the penthouse, the two young women sharing on the fourth floor, a thug and his wife, the silent concierge plus Ben’s old university friend, Nick. The viewpoint swaps quickly between Jess and the other residents as Foley pushes the action quickly from event to event. The chapters are short and snappy and this makes it easy to read just one more, and
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Love in a Time of War’ by @adriennechinn #WW1

Love in a Time of War by Adrienne Chinn is the story of three sisters during wartime, how the inconveniences of war can shatter dreams and promises, disguise lies, hide secrets and offer opportunities previously unimagined. In 1913, Cecilia Fry, eldest of the three Fry sisters, is nineteen when this story starts. She has fallen in love with her young German teacher and must decide whether to spend the summer with Max in Germany or in London working for the suffragist movement. Eighteen-year old Jessie is studying at nursing school and has been offered an amazing opportunity of which her mother disapproves. Jessie’s twin Etta visits the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts where she meets an Italian artist. All three sisters have dreams for the future, but those dreams are to be thrown into disarray by the Great War. Love in a Time of War starts with a Prologue set in Italy in 1891. A young Englishwoman called Christina, visiting her Italian family on the island of Capri, falls in love with a young tourist. What happens during this Italian summer reaches through every page of this novel with its themes of the life of women at
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Leviathan’ by @rosieandrews22 #historical 

Soldier Thomas Treadwater returns home on leave from the army, summoned to Norfolk by a pleading letter from his sister Esther. ‘Our home is under attack by a great and ungodly evil’, she writes. The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews is a tale of religious extremism and intolerance, fear of witches, superstition and the power of evil. The atmosphere at all times is full of foreboding. As Thomas approaches his father’s farm at dawn, he sees dead animals in the field. This is 17th century Norfolk when England is riven by civil war. The story of Thomas and Esther, narrated by Thomas in two timelines – 1643 and 1703 – is ultimately a slow one. The beginning is excellent, ‘She is awake,’ and moves quickly as Thomas investigates the strange goings-on. When this moves from witchcraft to theology and the meaning of evil, the pace slows. The explanation of the title is remarkably late in arriving and I was distracted by trying to fit ‘the leviathan’ into the domestic story of the Treadwater family. According to Esther, their religious father has been corrupted by their servant Chrissa Moore who is with child. Richard Treadwater is now insensible after suffering a stroke
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Spook Street’ by Mick Herron #spy #thriller

Read in entirety on a train journey, Spook Street by Mick Herron is an absorbing tale of 21st century spies and terrorists combined with old-school tactics of indoctrination. The story, fourth in Herron’s ‘Slough House’ spy series, opens straight into the action with a flash mob bomb attack unsuspected by the security services. When the ‘OB’ – the elderly former-spy grandfather of slow horse employee River Cartwright – says stoats are on his trail, his claims are dismissed as advancing senility. Until a man is shot at the OB’s house and the old man disappears. This a story with a tight timeline, everything takes place within a couple of days of the first page. This brings an urgency to the danger and also makes the pages turn quickly. For Slough House fans, there are a couple of new characters to adjust to – Moira Tregorian has taken over the administrator’s desk previously occupied by Catherine Standish, and River now shares an office with the silent, hoody-wearing JK Coe. No one is sure why the latter is there, ie what he has done wrong to deserve being sent to Slough House, or the nature of his particular skill. Jackson Lamb may
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Darling Blue’ by @AuthorTracyRees #historical

The Blue of the title is Ishbel Camberwell but Darling Blue by Tracy Rees is not the story of one woman but three. Although the main voice is that of Blue’s, this is really an ensemble piece about a year in the life of a wealthy family living in Richmond-upon-Thames in the 1920s. At her 21st birthday party, Blue’s father makes a startling announcement. Suitors interested in marrying Blue must woo her by letter within the next twelve months. Blue, who wants to be a writer and has no pressing desire to marry, is horrified by her father’s challenge. She’s even more appalled when she receives three letters. Determined to make her own decisions, she gets a temporary job as a reporter on the local newspaper. Delphine Foley is trapped in a violent marriage. Desperate to escape and determined to protect her mother and sister from potential threats from her husband, she forges a secret plan. When her plan takes an unexpected turn, she finds herself in Richmond-upon-Thames, a beautiful place only miles from where she lived but somewhere she didn’t know existed. When an accident throws her into the path of the Camberwell family, she senses a chance of
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Silver Wolf’ by @JCollissHarvey #historical

The Silver Wolf by JC Harvey is first in the Fiskardo’s War series set in 17th century Europe during the Thirty Years War. If, like me, your history is a little hazy, the author’s note at the beginning is helpful. This was a time of sprawling wars and disputes, religious, political and national plus local personal grudges being settled. Into this soup of battle, Harvey has inserted the story of Jack Fiskardo. And what a story this is. Young Jack is an orphan, surviving on his wits in the Amsterdam docklands. Around his neck he wears a silver token of a wolf. He knows neither its provenance nor its meaning. People who meet him and recognise it, look at him askance. Jack is a brilliant hero. Feisty, brave yet considered, he has a fondness for the bullied and those weaker than himself. And he is also something of a horse whisperer. This is a long book – 560 pages, though not as long as Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth – and slowly we pick up hints about the relevance of Jack’s wolf necklace. There is a huge cast of characters, but a limited number in each place that
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Pod’ by @LalinePaull #contemporary

Pod by Laline Paull is an environmental allegory for the ocean today, for the state of the world, the climate and for humanity. The topics are huge. Man’s misuse of the ocean and its creatures. Migration and our treatment of refugees who are different from us. Violence against women. Drug addiction. Selfishness and the betrayal of trust and respect for others. The connections of family and the meaning of home. It reminded me of Watership Down, not read since childhood but which made a lasting impression on me.There are several narratives. The main voice is Ea, a spinner longi dolphin whose inability to hear the music of the ocean prevents her from spinning beautifully. Unable to take part in the annual Exodus ritual, she feels a failure. When tragedy happens in her small pod, she flees and finds herself alone in the ‘vast’. When she joins a huge pod of bigger bottlenose tursiops dolphins, Ea finds a society completely alien to the world she knows. The First Alliance is ruled by lord Ku who, with his second in command lord Split, maintains a strict structure of order using the vira military officers. Devi, first wife and head of Ku’s harem,
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘A Woman Made of Snow’ by Elisabeth Gifford #historical

A Woman Made of Snow by Elisabeth Gifford is a historical mystery moving between post-World War Two Scotland and the Arctic in the nineteenth century. This is an ambitious, well-researched dual timeline story encompassing exploitation of the Inuit people, the whaling industry, racial prejudice, the maintenance of sprawling country estates and the iron will of a mother for her son to marry the woman she prefers rather than the woman he loves. In 1949, Caro moves to Kelly Castle near Dundee with husband Alasdair and new baby Felicity, to live with his mother Martha. As the two women scratch along together, Martha asks Caro to organise the family records which have fallen into confusion. Sorting the piles of documents, Caro finds an intriguing photograph of Oliver Gillan, Alasdair’s great-grandfather, and two unknown young women. As she sets out to identify the strangers, workmen on the estate uncover bones of a woman in an unmarked grave. Caro jumps to the assumption that the bones might belong to one of the women in the photograph. This 1949 storyline is alternated with that a century earlier of Oliver, a medical student, who grew up at Kelly Castle. Gifford lays clues for the reader
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Sacrilege’ by SJ Parris @thestephmerritt #historical #crime

Everywhere he goes in the England of Queen Elizabeth I, Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno runs into trouble. In Sacrilege, third in this quickly-becoming-addictive series by SJ Parris, Bruno is in Canterbury to help an old friend prove her innocence of murder. And to spy for his master, Sir Francis Walsingham. When the woman he loved in the first book of the series asks for his help, Bruno risks the wrath of Walsingham and heads to Canterbury. Set in turbulent political times, the various historical plots are twisted and complicated. Weary at Bruno’s determination to pursue what he believes is a lost cause, Walsingham charges him with identifying a traitor in the cathedral administration in Canterbury. Parris weaves a fictional plan by Catholics in Britain and France to use the ‘discovered’ bones of Thomas Becket to anoint a new Catholic king when France should invade England. The labyrinthine politics and geography of the inner sanctums of Canterbury cathedral add to the tension. The scenes in the crypt are thrilling as Bruno again and again takes huge risks to discover the truth. When he is charged with murder and a fabricated charge of theft, he realises his contacts at the royal court
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Broken Faith’ by Toby Clements #historical

Broken Faith, second in the Kingmaker series by Toby Clements, takes place in the lull after the 1461 battle of Towton and 1464 when Edward IV marries Elizabeth Woodville. The history of these intervening years is subject to much confusion, guesswork and mystery, wonderful territory for an imaginative novelist. Clements gives Katherine and Thomas, who we first met in Winter Pilgrims, a secret which if revealed will change the succession to the throne of England. Exactly what the Yorkists and Lancastrians are fighting about. The battles are bloodthirsty, the battlefield surgery by Kit [aka Katherine in disguise] is gruesome but surprisingly modernistic, the betrayals of self-seeking lords are countless and amongst it all shine the people of genuine morals, driven by belief in what is right, with humble and generous natures. That brave and endearing pair Thomas and Kit are separated, not sure if the other is alive, and forced to do what is necessary to survive. Life in the 15th century was tough enough without living through war, Clements describes the life of a common soldier, the weapons, the methods of fighting, the battle tactics, the food, the smells. Although the detail is fascinating, Clements doesn’t leave the story
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘This Rough Magic’ by Mary Stewart #romance #suspense

Until re-visiting Mary Stewart again I’d forgotten the exoticism of her settings and so, inspired by The Gabriel Hounds which is set in Lebanon, I quickly moved onto This Rough Magic. I remember being enchanted by this book when I read it as a teenager. The magic of Corfu, the beating heat, the warm dust, the blue sky. My memories didn’t let me down. Set in Greece, this is another fantastic romantic suspense novel from Mary Stewart which to be honest is more adventure story than romance. Difficult to believe it was first published in 1964 [here’s the cover of the Hodder & Stoughton first edition]. More moody and atmospheric than the disappointingly generic front cover of the current edition. When young actress Lucy Waring goes to stay with her sister Phyl in Corfu, she meets the neighbour living at the adjacent mysterious Castello dei Fiori. None other than Shakespearean master Sir Julian Gale. Although Sir Julian is flattering, sharing his theory that Shakespeare based The Tempest on Corfu and that Prospero’s cave is nearby, his son Max is cool and unwelcoming. So later, when Lucy is on the nearby beach where she meets a tame local dolphin, shots ring
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Real Tigers’ by Mick Herron #spy #thriller

When recovering alcoholic and slow horse Catherine Standish goes missing, alarm bells ring at Slough House. Real Tigers by Mick Herron is third in his series about the unfashionable not-quite-up-to-it spies who have been sent to MI5’s version of Coventry. After an intriguing start, I found myself immersed in the tortuous twists and turns of Regents Park v politicians, all playing I-can-betray-you-better-than-you-can-betray-me, when I wanted more Standish. Standish, who has been kidnapped, seems the most unlikely target for attack. But this is Herron’s take on London’s spy-stitching-up-another-spy-for-promotion world where power and accountability don’t go together. Add in slimy Home Secretary Peter Judd and I lost track of the double-crossing. Thankfully Jackson Lamb who, despite disgusting personal habits and an apparent ‘don’t care’ attitude, was an operative during the Cold War and so can still cut through the lies. When Slough House is the focus of a surprise assessment, and it becomes clear that Standish is not coming back, Lamb’s Cold War trickery comes in handy. After a soggy middle, the pace picks up in the final third. The real tigers of the title are of course the slow horses who find their claws at last. The action scene in the
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Categories: Uncategorized.

#BookReview ‘Devotion’ by @HannahFKent #historical #emigration

In Prussia, 1836, fourteen-year-old Hanne lives in a world-within-a-world, a strict religious group where worship must be kept secret and hidden from the sight of neighbours. Devotion by Hannah Kent is the story of Hanne’s persecuted community. They live in fear of expulsion or worse. But when a new family arrives Hanne meets another outsider, Thea, and her life is changed forever. Kent takes her time with the first half. This is a slow start, a painstaking building of the relationship between Hanne and Thea, drawing the world in which neither fits. As Hanne reaches womanhood, her life is changing in small ways. Her mother increasingly separates her from twin brother Matthias as they are prepared for different adult lives. Hanne simply longs to be free to be in the woods, to listen to the sounds of nature alive. But in times of fear or uncertainty, when she bristles against the strict confines set by her mother, the unshakeable belief of her father, she cleaves to her twin. The glimpse of a different world offered by Thea’s family, the more open way they behave with each other, makes Hanne’s mild dissatisfaction with her life become an acute fear of being
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘A Fatal Crossing’ by @TomHindle3 #crime

‘When amateurs are involved… mistakes are made,’ says the detective. It is 1924 when a suspicious death occurs on board a transatlantic liner bound for New York with 2000 passengers.  A Fatal Crossing by Tom Hindle is set up as a classic closed room murder mystery. The detective has four days to find the murderer before the ship docks in New York. Key elements are mixed together. An elderly gentleman travelling under a false name is found dead, a key witness disappears, a painting is stolen, the captain wants an easy final voyage before retirement, while a Scotland Yard detective James Temple won’t say why he’s travelling to America. The captain, who is desperate to believe the death was accidental, permits Temple to investigate the crime only if accompanied by ship’s officer Timothy Birch. They are a mis-matched pair. Grumpy Temple is irritated by Birch’s interference. Birch, whose unspecified grief makes him an outsider amongst the crew, is intimidated by Temple. They begin to interview witnesses. Soon, Birch receives a death threat. The story is told through the first-person narrative of Birch which is limiting and repetitive. It is a feature of crime novels to use more telling – not
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Key in the Lock’ by @bethunderdown #historical

Two unrelated deaths, thirty years apart, set in motion a chain of cause and effect. Decades later, so many answers remain unspoken. The Key in the Lock by Beth Underdown is an unusual multiple timeline historical mystery set in Cornwall, rather like Mary Stewart mysteries but darker. Ivy Boscowen has known two deaths in her life. In 1918 she is mourning the death in the Great War of her son, Tim. The exact circumstances of his death cannot be confirmed and this haunts her, she becomes afraid that her reluctance for him to enlist actually forced him to go and so feels responsible for his death. At night she dreams of Tim when he was a child, hiding beneath a bed. This dream morphs into the memory of another young death; when Ivy was nineteen, young William Tremain died in a house fire at the nearby Polneath. He was found asphyxiated beneath a bed. The two deaths are unconnected in terms of circumstances and cause, but are forever connected in Ivy’s mind because of decisions taken. When she was a teenager, Ivy was sweet on Edward Tremain, son of ‘Old’ Tremain, owner of Polneath and the gunpowder works. Appropriately, at
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Tea for Two at the Little Cornish Kitchen’ by @janelinfoot 

I’m not a great reader of novels described as ‘heartwarming’, particularly with cheerful pastel-coloured covers. But as an impulse read for a winter day when I was feeling under the weather and in need of comfort, Tea for Two at the Little Cornish Kitchen by Jane Linfoot proved to be a bit of a surprise. Second in the Little Cornish Kitchen series, I hesitate to call this a ‘cosy romance’ but it is fun, flirty and funny. Novels set in Cornwall are almost a genre of their own and the fictional seaside village of St Aidan with its pastel-coloured houses set on steep windy streets leading to the beach is ideal for a ‘community’ novel with a strong list of characters. There are lots of alliterations, hashtags and cute names starting with Cressida Cupcake, the social media name for hit online baker Cressy Hobson. Dog and apartment-sitting for her brother Charlie [owner of the Little Cornish Kitchen Cafe and star of the first book in Linfoot’s series, one of a collection set in St Aidan] Cressy will be at Seaspray Cottage for six weeks. She’s glad to escape London and the embarrassing fallout after an online baking disaster. She’s trending
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Tempted by the Runes’ by @PiaCCourtenay #romance #timetravel

Having visited Iceland and loved the wild beauty, I was pleased to discover Tempted by the Runes by Christina Courtenay. A time-travelling Viking romance combining Sweden, Iceland and Ireland in the 21st and 9th centuries, this is a light romance which skips along nicely. Geir Eskilsson is a Viking adventurer who sets sail from Sviariki [Sweden] in AD875 in a ship bound for Iceland, loaded with fellow travellers, livestock and tools. During a stopover in the port of Dyflin [Dublin, Ireland] to buy thralls [slaves] to work the land, he sees a strangely dressed woman being attacked. In 2021 a nineteen-year-old Swede, Maddie, is visiting Dublin with her parents and brother to attend the Clonarf Viking Festival. Maddie’s father is an archaeologist, her mother a conservator, so she and her siblings have attended Viking re-enactments since they were small and have learned the practical skills of Viking life at workshops. When Maddie explores Dublin on her own, she finds steps down to the shore of the River Liffey where she sees a knife half-buried in the mud. From the beginning it’s necessary to ignore the large number of conveniences and coincidences that occur; just abandon the questioning voice in your
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Categories: Book Love.