The Ballroom by Anna Hope published September 2016

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1911 on the Yorkshire Moors lies Sharston Asylum.  Ella Fay finds her self a new patient after breaking a window at the mill where she worked.  In the asylum the women and men are segregated except on a Friday night where they meet in the large ballroom to dance.  Ella meets John, admitted to the asylum with melancholia, and they begin a relationship that transcends the walls of the asylum and breaks all the rules.  A love develops that will change their lives, and the lives of others forever.

This is a beautifully written, poignant love story set in the beautiful landscape of Yorkshire.  The setting of the asylum gives a lot of scope for a cast of interesting characters, and Anna Hope does not disappoint.  Ella and John are very different in character but are boht a product of their upbringing.  Ella broke a window so she could see the sky as she worked all day in a mill, she only remembers having the love of her mother. John lost his daughter which  set him on a path of grief that ended in his incarceration.  Unlike Ella he was brought up in Ireland on a farm, and is educated but there is much of his past he finds hard to recall.  their reasons for being admitted, like many others seems strange to us today but in historical context this was a time where books were thought to corrupt women, and enjoyment of sex could also put you in an asylum.  I think the most complex character was Dr Charles Fuller.  He is the doctor who admitted Ella and at first seems to want to help the patients and hopefully enable them to be released back to society. However, after an illness we see a mania, he becomes mad himself, and his ideals change.  There is a great supporting cast of characters; Clem who starved herself to stop her marriage, the ‘German’ with her ravings, the old lady with her imaginary baby and an old sailor, all add colour and context to the plot.

The plot deals with controversial concept of Euthagenics that was a popular thought in the early twentieth century.  The Eugenics society believed in sterilising the poor an lower classes in an aim to eradicate those who were a drain on society.  This bill as discussed in parliament but never passed.

 

This is a compelling read, if at times emotionally difficult at times.  It is a beautiful and tender love story told with insight and sensitivity.

 

 

The Girl Before by J P Delaney published 26 January 2017

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Number One Folgate Street seems the perfect place to live, cheap to rent and in a good location, however it is no ordinary house.  Designed by an award winning architect, and run by technology to live there is to be part of an experience; to live a minimalist lifestyle and live by hundreds of rules.  For Jane it seems the perfect place to start again after loosing her baby, a chance to de clutter her life.  After moving in she looks into the life of the previous tenant, Emma who died a mysterious death in the property.  The more she delves into the past the more she sees the similarity between Emma and herself;  is she going to meet the same end as the girl before.

 

This is a well written original read.  The narrative goes between Emma’s story in the past and Jane’s in the present from when they move into One Folgate Street.  I was fascinated by the idea of a house run by technology that adapts to the current tenant and in turn adapts the tenant to the house.  Delaney is clever with his plot in that the house is a character in its own right and one that is a suspect in the death of Emma, a place not to be trusted with its technology.  There is a verisimilitude to the characters, they are flawed, vulnerable and face difficulties in life that many can relate to. I found they gained my empathy to the situations they found themselves in.

The plot itself is original, and compelling; each chapter is left just at that point an important piece of the puzzle is to be revealed, so it is a hard book to put down.  It is full of twists and turns to keep the reader engaged up until the last page.  A real creepy, spine tingling read in parts with thrills a plenty. I think this is going to be one of the best reads this year, I highly recommend it.

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller published 26 January 2017

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Gil’s wife has been missing for twelve years. believed drowned.  One day as he looks out of a bookshop window he sees a woman standing in the rain, as she pushes her hair out of her way Gil recognises her, its his wife Ingrid.  Her chases after her but an accident stops his pursuit.  Gil’s accident and believed sighting brings his two daughters, Nan and Flora home where they begin to confront past events and the mystery of their mothers drowning.

This is a beautifully written, lyrical novel that deals with love, family, forgiveness and hope.  The story moves between present day and the year 1992 when Ingrid disappeared.  In the present Nana and Flora have to deal with looking after their father which initiates them contemplating their relationships with their father, mother and each other.  In June 1992, just before her disappearance Ingrid writes a series of letters to Gil chronicling their relationship with all its up and downs.  These letters are never sent but placed in books for Gil to find.  The letters open up Ingrid’s psyche and her journey from an independent young women, full of hope and love, to the role of mother and eventually to the disappointment of betrayal. I had sympathy for character, falling in love with an older man who promises the earth but doesn’t deliver.  As a reader we are never really sure what happened to her, there was never a body found only the clothes she was wearing on the beach. Flora and Gil both believe that she could be alive but Nan doesn’t.  Nan is the sensible, grounded character unlike Gil and Flora who are both have artistic temperaments  and flights of fancy. She takes on the role of mother to Flora and carer to Gil, at the expense of her own life; she is the only one willing to take responsibility in the family unit.

With a title like Swimming Lessons is is not surprising that water plays an important part in the narrative.  For both Ingrid and Flora the sea is a place where they can go when life gets difficult, it is a place that helps wash away their anguish and gives them a sense of freedom, of being themselves.

This is a charming and erudite novel that will delight and engage the reader.

Sealskin by Su Bristow published 15 Febuary 2017

 

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Donald is a fisherman on the West Coast of Scotland, in a village where fishing is at the heart of the community.  One night whilst out on the sea Donald witnesses a magical event; the Selkies coming ashore, and he does the unthinkable.  The repurcussions of his actions not only effect him but also the residents of the village.  Can something good come out of an act of violence and can Donald put things right again?

 

This book is the reworking of the classic Selkie legend.  It has all the magical and etherial quality of a folk tale mixed with the reality of life in a small, isolated fishing village.  There is no given time in which this story is set which adds to the magic of the tale;  this story could be past, present or future and it would deal with the same issues of prejudice, violence, rape and distrust of anything new.  These issues give a stark contrast to the otherworldly brought to the village by Maihri.

It is a beautifully written book with a cast of characters that cover all the traits of humanity that you would expect in a close knit community; the large family, the loner, the single elderly aunt, the priest, the damaged family, the gossiping matriarch.  My only complaint is that the chapters are very short which stopped the flow of the prose in places.  Apart from that I loved this book, it is a fairytale for adults and a story I was sad to finish.  It gives a real sense of hope, that the unfamiliar can become familiar, and places emphasis on the sense of community,  and the importance of forgiveness and family.

This is a truly beautiful book that will enchant and captivate you.

 

 

 

 

 

Blogger Recognition Award(February ’17)

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I would like to say a huge thank you to Jacqueline Leech at https://kittyprydeisshadowcat.wordpress.com and Lauren Watkins at https://laurensbookaddiction.wordpress.com for nominating me for this award.  Please check out their blogs.  I am so excited to have been nominated especially as you all know I am fairly new to the blogging scene.

 

I started this blog last May to give me a purpose in life.  I have had Spondylosis for over ten years which has left me unable to work and near enough housebound.  Books have been my saviour  during this time, I can escape from the pain for a while,  I can’t read everyday but  try to read was often as I can.  The blog was the next progression and I have loved sharing my book reviews with everyone.  I never started out to get a lot of followers or recognition, I just did it for me, to give me a bit of structure. I love peoples passion for books and that they share this with others.  Thank you to all who have followed me and become my Facebook friends.

It feels strange giving advice to new bloggers when I still feel I am still a beginner but the one thing I have learned is that it is Ok to say no.  At first I said yes to every blog tour and found that I was getting swamped.  It is the same with NetGalley, don’t request too many books at once.  Most of all enjoy it, and join Facebook groups for bloggers and readers as you will meet a lot of likeminded people and get a lot of help and support.

Here are the fifteen bloggers that I nominate for this award.

1.  Jacqueline Leech http://kittyprydeisshadowcat.wordpress.com

2. Lauren Watkins http://laurensbookaddicton.wordpress.com

3. Kelley Lacey www.lovebooksgroup.co.uk

4.  Janet Lambert http://beadyjansbooks.blogspot.co.uk

5. Mairead O Driscoll Hearne www.swirlandthead.com

6. Joanne Robertson http://mychestnutreadingtree.wordpress.com

7.  Tracy Fenton www.compulsivereaders.com

8.  Jill Stratton http://jilllovestoread.blogspot.co.uk

9.  Jessica Page Johnson www.jessicasreadingroom.com

10. Chelsea Humphrey www.thesuspenseisthrillingme.com

11.  Linda Hill www.lindasbookbag.com

12.  Emma Welton www.damppebbles.com

13.  Anne Carter http://randomthingsthroughmyletterbox

14.  Karen Cocking www.myreadingcorner.co.uk

15. Sue Hampson http://booksfromdusktildawn.wordpress.com

 

Being nominated means I have to oblige to certain rules.

1.  Thank the blogger who nominated me

2.  Write a post to show your award

3.  Give a brief story of how you started your blog

4.  Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers

5.  Select 15 bloggers you want to give this award to

6.  Let your 15 bloggers know you have nominated them with a link to the post you have created.

The Book of Mirrors by E.O Chirovici published 26 January 2017

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Literary agent, Peter Katz receives a partial manuscript from Richard Flynn.  The plot revolves around the true life murder of a professor at Princeton University twenty seven years earlier.  Not sure if this is a fictional account and not being in receipt of the full manuscript Katz decides to take a closer look at the murder of Professor Joseph Weider and the main suspects.  In doing so he is drawn into a tale of jealousy, friendships and research into the human memory and how it functions after trauma.  Can we trust our own memories and those of others, or are they false memories to protect us from traumatic events?

The book is narrated in the first person and by three different narrators; Peter Katz, the literary agent, John Keller a journalist enlisted by Katz to look into those involved at the time, and Roy Freeman a retired cop who worked the original case in 1987.  All there provide us with different facets of the characters involved and in the timeline of events that led up to Professor Weider’s murder.  The first person narrative gives the impression of them giving evidence directly to us the reader, rather like a witness/lawyer in a trial.  This is not only about the events that led up to the murder but also about how complex  our memories can be.  In this we have several different people all with completely different memories of the same evening which leads us to question if we have false memories of a situation and can we trust the memories of others.

There has been much written about this book so I had high expectations.  Unfortunately it did not live up to all the hype but it is still a really good read.  I do think it is more of a who dunnit than a thriller, but an intelligent and engaging read all the same.  I do wonder how much of the original concept, suspense and details were lost in the translation of this book from Romanian to English.  I did find the characters intriguing and it was very interesting to see how the three different narrators interacted with them and what views the formed of their personality and their perceived part in the murder.

In conclusion, this is a well written literary thriller that plays games with your mind, a good read.

 

 

 

Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch published 26 January 2017

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Louisa has lost everything after her husband smashes into her car to stop her leaving.  Her children are gone and so is her husband, Louisa has to build a new life after the accident that has left her mentally and physically scarred.

Sophie was having an affair with Louisa’s husband Sam.  She wants revenge and to make Louisa pay for what she stole from her; the life she would have lived with Sam. She will go to any lengths to destroy Louisa and her new life.

This is a well written, compelling read.  The story is told by Louisa and Sophie with flashbacks to Louisa and Sam’s marriage.  As narrators both Louisa and Sophie are unreliable;  their characters are very emotional and they project this into their narration blurring the lines between fact and fiction. They both have their demons from their childhood that have a large influence on their lives now.  Louisa and Sam’s marriage is revealed bit by bit, as is their history  before they got together.  There is no doubt that the car crash at the beginning is more than just a terrifying event, it is a metaphor for the relationships between Louisa, Sam and Sophie who were all on a road to self destruction.

This is a very dark and suspenseful book, that will shock and thrill all the way through.   Don’t come to this book with preconceived ideas as it is one of those books that just when you think you know where it is going it turns itself on its head.  It is simply brilliant, a book that will chill you to the bone.