The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty published 23 February 2017

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Joni, Eden, Trina and Deb have been best friends since high school, but for the last couple of years children, husbands, and work means they haven’t had as much time together as they would have liked.  Joni decides to book a short holiday, like they had in their younger days, and to reconnect they decide on the first night to write an anonymous letter each telling the others a secret which they do not know.  On reading the letters and the secrets and confessions within the girls start to question their friendships and how well they really know one another.  When Joni finds a fifth letter its contents could threaten and destroy their friendship for good.  What started out as a bonding exercise turns into something that could tear them apart rather than bring them closer, and Joni must find out who wrote that fifth letter.

The Fifth Letter is a fast paced mystery that is  full of secrets, lies and deceit.  The story is told from Joni’s point of view; in the present Joni is reflecting  on what happened in confession, hoping the priest can help her understand the events on the holiday and in the aftermath.  The flash backs to the holiday are also told from Joni’s part of view.   My only complaint of the book is that there wasn’t a clear distinction between the past and present in the narration so it was a bit confusing at times.

The characters are well developed and believable in their relationships with each other and others.  Joni, Eden, Trina and Deb are all vey different in personality and background, it makes for interesting interaction between the as they all have something different to bring to their friendship and thus the plot.  The characters display a vast range of emotions, you will find yourself laughing and crying along with them.  Nicola Moriarty has a good understanding  of how people interact and relate to each other, she writes as if she knows whose these people are; there is an empathy to her writing.

The Fifth Letter is well written with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing;  which one wrote the anonymous letters and more importantly the fifth letter?  It is an engaging read full of suspense, intrigue, scandal and its fair share of dark humour.

A Life in Books with Alison Pearson

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Today I welcome fellow book reviewer Alison Pearson to talk about A Life in Books.

 

What was you favourite book from childhood?

Any Enid Blyton book and Jane Eyre.61eAxajSFeL

 

 

What type of books did you read as a teenager?

Virginia Andrews books, I thought I was a grown up!

 

 

When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

To Kill a Mocking Bird

 

 

What is your favourite classic book?

51QM2swRzOLJane Eyre it is also one of my mum’s favourites too!

 

 

 

 

What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years

Anything by Karen Kingsbury her Baxter series mainly.

 

What book to you think you should read but never get round to?

Jane Austin Classics.

 

 

What do you consider to be your favourite book ?

An Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. Loved the book and the film.5181iyAdwJL

 

 

Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?

Atonement by Ian McEwan soooo boring!

 

If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you?

An Interview with the Vampire
Divine by Karen Kingsbury

Kindle or Book?

Both!!!! Love the feel of a book but love my kindle for ease and it can make the font bigger!

The House on Bellevue Gardens by Rachel Hore published 2016

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Number 11 Bellevue Gardens, is in an Edwardian Terrace in a quiet square in London.  It may look like the other houses, if a little more shabby and in need of paint, but to its residents it is a safe haven, a place to call home.  Leonie came to the house nearly forty years ago when she needed a place to stay after the breakdown of her marriage, and now lets out rooms to others who need a place to stay and sort out their lives.  Rick, works in a supermarket but really wants to write his Graphic Novel.  Rosa comes to London from Poland in search of her brother who came to London a few months previously.  Steph, who ups and leaves her boyfriend and needs somewhere to feel safe an decide what she wants to do with her life.

When the house comes under threat, Leonie and the other residents have to look at what the future may hold for them all outside Number 11 Bellevue Gardens.

Rachel Hore is one of my favourite authors, her books are always well written with a good plot and characters.  I find she excels in her understanding of people and their traits and relationships with each other.  The characters in this book are very diverse and all come from very different backgrounds but they all share the love for the house and the safety it offers them.

The book follows Leonie’s story from her teenage years working in her parents shop, to her becoming a model then her marriage and its subsequent demise and her coming to Bellevue Gardens.  The plot also includes the story of Rick, Steph and Rosa as their lives intertwine and overcome hurdles in their lives.  The book deals with issues such as the slave labour of immigrants, emotional and physical abuse, all dealt with great understanding and knowledge.  The book written from the perspective of the main characters so each section is told from a different perspective.  I found that this kept my interest, and attention.

I read this as part of bookclub’s March choice and really enjoyed it.  I found it a compelling and interesting read that had the message that everyone should should feel safe in their home, no matter what ‘home’ means to them.  It is a beautifully written book full of characters you will love.

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole published 23 February

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A body is found hanging from the ceiling in an empty apartment.  What makes this body different is that it is an amalgamation of six different body parts stitched together.  Detective William Fawkes, known as Wolf, and Detective Baxter are assigned to catch the ‘Ragdoll’ killer.  The killer taunts the police by releasing the names of six other victims and the dates he intends to kill them.  The detectives need to identify the six people already killed as well as catch the killer and protect those on the list, where the last victim will be Fawkes himself.

I have read a lot about this book in the past few months and it lived up to my expectations.  The plot is brilliant in its concept and originality.  The story proceeds at a fast pace that never relents so you are compelled to keep reading. Like a jigsaw, just when you think you have all the pieces in the correct place you realise that they don’t actually fit.

The characters come across as very familiar and comfortable drawing you in to their story. The office politics in the police and in the news room is portrayed with verisimilitude; the characters interaction is very natural, which helps the plot move along with ease.   Fawkes and Baxter, have history, like a lot of detective partnerships in books,  which adds a frisson to their relationship.  Their longtime friendship enables them to bounce off each other and even adds occasional  humour to the proceedings.

The ‘Ragdoll’ killer is dark and calculating, always seeming to avoid being seen whilst taunting the police for their ineptitude.  His crimes are gruesome and planned expertly and he is able to get to the victims wherever they are.  We never really get a description of the killer, he is like a phantom who can be anywhere at any time.  I felt this lack of physical detail added to the suspense and fear of the character, and thus the book. I do wonder where authors get their ideas for books like this, the crimes are terrifying and the killer twisted.

This is a stunning debut novel from Daniel Cole, and shows great promise for future books.     It is a disturbing and exciting read, that will keep you in a grip of anticipation.

A Life In Books with Kimberly Livingston

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Today I am joined by Kimberly Livingston whose book In the Eyes of an Angel reviewed this morning so take a look if you haven’t already.

 

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’m an American living in Colorado, which (for my UK followers) is the middle to western half of the United States right next to the Rocky Mountains. I am a Disney fanatic – Disneyland to be specific. I spend as much time there as I absolutely can. I currently am immersed in studying American Sign Language (ASL) and am trying to work that into a novel at some point in time. I am married (to my own Prince Charming) and have 3 grandchildren. I’m liking the point I am at in my life. There is something about aging that is rather a relief. Much of the drama of younger years begins to fade. Of course, it gets replaced with other things, such as wrinkles.

 

1. What was your favourite book from childhood?

IMG_0939I remember reading From the Mixed of Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I recall it being about a girl who runs away and lives in a museum. That is all I remember of the plot but I always imagined living in a museum or a mall (or Disneyland) after that.

 

2. What type of books did you read as a teenager?

Probably not what people might expect. I never did get into YA books as a kid. I read Shakespeare, poetry and Broadway plays. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-forties that I started to love teenage fiction!

 

3. When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

Funny you should ask because I just reread it for the first time since High School. We read Heart of Darkness in my Junior year and I remembered loving it. I had no idea why so I picked it up the other day. I still loved it. The writing style was poetic and the story, in my mind, had a strangely happy ending.

 

4. What is your favourite classic book?IMG_0940

 

Is it fair to say Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? Timeless.

 

5. What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?

This one is easy. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I was hooked on it from the very beginning, closed the book at the end, turned it over, opened it to the first page re-read it. Twice. I have read that book probably a half a dozen times in the past couple of years.

 

6. What book do you think you should read but never get round to?

I am squeamish about a lot of misery and violence in books, so realize that there are many “great books” that I am missing out on. Therefore, I never read many of the books that so many others are discussing, but it is more of a conscious decision versus “not getting around to it.” I would suppose more of the classics are the ones I feel that I “should” read, but never do.

 

7. What do you consider to be your favourite book ?

Again, The Night Circus. But I have other books that I will read over and over again. Gone with the Wind happens to be one.

 

8. Is there a book that you have started but were unable to finish?

Oh, often. I just picked up Wicked by Gregory Maguire and I couldn’t get past the third chapter. Ick. I know that people have raved about it and that it was the impetus for the Broadway hit, but to me it took “TMI” to a whole new level. Too bad, because the concept behind it intrigues me.

 

IMG_09419. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you?

The Night Circus (if that isn’t obvious by now) and honestly, a blank book (a really thick blank book) so I could daydream and write to my heart’s content. Hmmmm sounds like a perfect life!

 

10. Kindle or Book?

Generally speaking, Book. However, I have to say there is a convenience about a Kindle….. “Ack, I need something to read RIGHT NOW, hmmmm, let me download that.” But if I love a book, it has to be in my hands or on my shelf.

 

In the Eyes of an Angel by Kimberley Livingston.

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Camille Ryan is in her last year of an accountancy degree at Southern State University.  To pay her bills she works as a bartender in bar, where she meets businessman Rick Pantallini.  Seventeen years her senior Rick is a man who is used to getting what he wants and doesn’t have serious relationships but when he sees Camille he begins to question his life choices.  The chemistry is unmistakeable but can Rick change his lifestyle and take care of Camille.

In the Eyes of an Angel is one of those books that you pick up when you want a nice easy read and at just over two hundred pages you can read it in one sitting.

At the beginning of the book Camille is fairly naive, she doesn’t realise how beautiful she is, and doesn’t have much self confidence, due to a troubled childhood.  As the story unfolds and her romance blossoms with Rick, Camille transforms into a confident, self assured young woman.  Rick’s character is the opposite to Camille’s in that he is rich, confident and aware of his effect on women.  However, he didn’t come across as arrogant, his heart is in the right place and while he has a couple of women he sleeps with he treats them with respecting really care what happens to them.

The characters and plot may seem a bit stereo typical; pretty girl meets rich older man and they fall in love, but there is another element to this story and the end wasn’t what I thought it would be.  The conclusion stopped this book from being too cliche and set the story up for the sequel that Kimberley Davis is currently writing.

If you like a romance novel that is well written with an uncomplicated plot then this book is for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mad Richard by Lesley Kreuger published 14 March 2017

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Mad Richard is a fictional account of the life of artist Richard Dadd (1817-1886) known for his depiction of faeries and other supernatural figures;  some from Shakespeare i.e. Titania and Oberon from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The book follows Dadd through his childhood in Kent, to London and his admission to The Royal Academy, to his Grand Tour the took him to France, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Syria and Jordan two his eventual descent into madness and murder.

The book starts in 1853 where Dadd is being visited by author Charlotte Bronte, researching ideas for her third book.  To look at they couldn’t be more different, Dadd was well built and attractive whereas Charlotte Bronte was very small, plain and the daughter of a churchman and the obvious difference in their gender which was important in nineteenth century England.  However, in Dadd, Charlotte sees a fellow artists with many of the same desires and problems.  Both were concerned with there place in society, class, and their aspirations for their art and both had to deal with expectations put on them by their families and friends.  Krueger gives voice to their dreams, their hopes and their feelings of apprehension in regard to their art.  Looked at together we see the similarity in their feelings towards their art and their situation even though there endings were so very different.

Krueger gives an erudite cultural and social history of nineteenth century Britain to put Dadd and Bronte and their work in context.  The reader is taken from the theatres  and Royal Academy in London, to the factories of Manchester and the social differences between those who run them and those who work in the and live in squalor.  She also looks at the political issues of the day with reference to the political reform movement of the Chartists,  the riots about the Corn Law, which increased the cost of grain which resulted in wide spread starvation for the lower classes and the problems brought in by the industrial revolution.

The cast of characters in this book is huge, many are well know i.e. J M W Turner, Charles Dickens, Mrs Gaskill and Augustus Egg.  Characters from all sections of society are well drawn, believable and paint a colourful picture of the diversity in Victorian Britain.

This is the perfect book for me as it contains two of my favourite interests; Art History and Classic Literature ( Jane Eyre is my favourite book).  I found it well written and well researched.  The writing flows easily making the book easy and enjoyable to read, a book full of detail;  Historical Fiction at its best.

 

 

 

 

A Life in books with author Faith Mortimer

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Today I welcome author Faith Mortimer to discuss A Life in Books.  Faith writes in three genre: psychological thrillers, murder mystery and for a little light relief, women’s fiction with romance!

 

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I was born in Manchester, England. My childhood was spent on Royal Air Force camps around the Globe, kindling my lifelong enthusiasm for seeing new places and meeting new people. After returning home from boarding school (Kinloss House) in Singapore, I attended Purbrook Grammar School in Hampshire but there was never enough time for study; life was for reading, writing, painting, amateur dramatics and sport! I left school with a handful of ‘O’ levels but a wealth of interests.  

My love with books began at age 4. Early favourites were those by Enid Blyton and found myself joining the Famous Five and Secret Seven on their many adventures. This love for books remains. The mysteries and secrets of novels dance around the edges of my mind often keeping me awake into the long hours of the night.
Writing now takes pride of place in a very full lifestyle which includes, walking, hashing, drama, reading and of course sailing and skiing whenever time permits. A 19th book has already been started!

What was your favourite book from childhood?

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I didn’t have just one favourite book – I loved Enid Blyton; the Famous Five and Secret Seven series. I also enjoyed the Mallory Towers books which was all about life away from home at boarding school. I enjoyed the adventure and found myself lost in them – school work suffered as a result!

 

 

What type of books did you read as a teenager?

I enjoyed historical romance and straight historical stories. I enjoyed delving back in time and different periods captured my imagination. I suppose anything which was adventurous and exciting!

 

When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

Difficult one. I remembered being interested in Shakespeare and some of the classics. For some reason, Macbeth was a favourite! I loved the long speeches and drama in the history.

 

What is your favourite classic book?

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, written in 1908. Maybe not as ‘classic’ asIMG_0934 the Bronte’s but alternately slow moving and fast paced, focusing on four animals in a gentle pastoral version of early Edwardian England. The novel is notable for its mixture of mysticism, adventure, morality and camaraderie, and celebrated for its evocation of the nature of the then beautiful Thames Valley. If you read carefully you’ll find it covers all aspects of life.

 

What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years

The Far Pavilion by M M Kaye…I’ve read this at least four times and still love it. To quote The Times, ‘Rip-roaring, heart-tugging, flag-flying, hair-raising, hoof-beating … the very presence of India’. I liken it to a Gone with the Wind’ only set in India. It is also brilliantly written and conjures up vivid scenes from India.

What book to you think you should read but never get around to?

Far more Charles Dickens. I’ve read a few when I was a teenager but at the time considered them to be very dull and gloomy. Now I’m ‘grown up’ I can appreciate them more! It’s just finding the time to indulge in a good read….

 

What do you consider to be your favourite book?

IMG_0935I can’t answer that as I have a few…as I’ve already mentioned The Far Pavilions, The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, the early Wilbur Smith novels, especially those set-in Africa. The Poldark series by Winston Graham, Shogun by James Michener, also Chesapeake and Hawaii by the same author. All good stuff!

Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?

Quite a few lately. I wonder if more books coming out are not being edited properly…I mean both for product and grammar.

If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you

Hm. They would have to be great tombs…probably time to read more Dickens and The Far Pavilions once again.
Kindle or Book?

Both have their unique uses. The kindle for ease of use and brilliant for holidays, but there’s still nothing like getting your hands on a new paperback.

 

Me at To HaniYou can find me on:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FaithMortimer.Author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FaithMortimer
Website/blog: http://www.faithmortimerauthor.com/
Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2967303.Faith_Mortimer
Amazon US Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Mortimer/e/B002EQ8HH6/ref
Amazon UK Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Faith-Mortimer/e/B002EQ8HH6/ref

 

 

The Escape by C L Taylor published 23 March 2017

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One evening as Jo Blackmore is leaving work to collect her daughter, Elise, from nursery when she is approached by a woman she doesn’t know who asks her for a lift.  Jo may not know Paula but Paula knows a lot about Jo and her journalist husband Max.  Paula wants something from Max and threatens Jo and her family in an attempt to get it, putting Jo in a living nightmare.  The problem is Max doesn’t believe her, says he doesn’t know Paula and the Jo is being paranoid,  a feeling held by the police and social services after they become involved due to Jo’s erratic behaviour.  Jo has nowhere to turn and wants to protect her daughter at all costs, the only option is to run,  flight rather tan fight.

The Escape is one of those book that you can’t escape; it hooks you from the first page and doesn’t let go until until the last full stop.  The plot is very clever as it centres around a situation that could occur to everyone in life, there is a real sense of reality to this book.  The characters are all ordinary people, with ordinary lives and everyday issues; it deals with post natal depression, agoraphobia, miscarriage, terminal illness, separation, and pressures at work.  These situations are not over dramatised but just included as part of life, pressures we deal with on a daily basis.  The fact that the events that occur in this book happen to people we can identify with adds to the tension of the plot.

For the most part the book is in the third  person and follows Jo and Max as they deal with the threat to their family and the events that occur to add to Jo’s paranoia.  Every now and then there is a chapter that is told in the first person, presumably from Paula’s point of view, why she is targeting Jo and playing on her insecurities and almost goading her into making a mistake.

This book is fast paced from the start and doesn’t let up.  The character’s secrets, lies, deceit, fear, and paranoia enable the plot to keep changing direction as the truth is slowly revealed.  Tension heightens throughout as the book hurtles towards its shocking climax, that won’t disappoint.

As with her previous novels, C L Taylor has achieved a story that is dark, suspenseful and addictive. Be prepared to be consumed by The Escape you will want to read it in one sitting; just brilliant.

 

 

Finding Secrets by Lauren Westwood published 1st March 2017

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Alex Hart has worked as the manager of Mallow Court, an Elizabethan House, for three years.  She took the job after leaving her Phd in Medieval History after the relationship she was in fell apart.  Mallow House has become her place of safety where she can hide herself away.  Whilst curating a Costume Exhibition, Alex discovers a jewelled  mechanical locket in the pocket of an old jacket, and as she tries to discover its provenance  her own life begins to turn around.  After being single for three years she finds a chocolate eyed, dark haired barrister and a mesmerising clock maker come into her life.  As pages of a diary from the London Blitz of 1940 appear, and strange occurrences begin to happen at Mallow Court, Alex digs deeper  into the mystery of the locket and finds that the past could also change her future.

I do love a book that has a dual plot line, history and contemporary, that collide in a mystery.  This is a well written book with a detailed and knowledgeable look at ambulance drivers in London during the bombings of 1940.  The descriptions are evocative of the time and I have to admit I had never really thought of the looting that took place in the bombed buildings.

In the present the plot follows Alex’s discovery of the history of the locket and of her own personal history.  The characters, past and present, are well developed and are very eclectic; Alex’s Yoga teacher father, Tim, a London Barrister, a female vicar, an old man who still lives the days through the blitz and many more to keep the readers interest.

The cover of this book is very twee and pretty and doesn’t really represent the story within.  We all know the saying ‘You should never judge a book by its cover‘ and in this case its true.  If I had seen this cover in a shop I probably wouldn’t have paid it much attention which would be a shame as it is a good book.

I found this an engaging and interesting read and I felt invested in the characters lives.  There is a lot of mystery along the way with the plot shifting in direction several times. It is a perfect mix of history, romance and mystery.