Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Review ~ The Sacred Combe by Thomas Maloney


29213246
Scribe
May 2016

Samuel Browne is a singularly good man, but is set adrift when his marriage to the mysterious Sarah falls apart, and so, with his life and career in banking at a crossroads, he answers an enigmatic advertisement to act as a volunteer archivist in a private library. With nothing to lose, Samuel undertakes the journey to meet with Arnold Comberbache, and therein starts seventeen weeks of an adventure which will change Samuel's perception of life forever. 

Deep in the British country side, in a wonderfully, atmospheric country house, Samuel is instructed to search for a lost letter, which could be hidden in any of the books in Arnold's magnificent library. Searching through shelves of books, which run into many thousands, in order to find this precious letter, Sam could be forgiven for skimping on the task, but as I have said, Sam is a good man and he throws himself into this unusual assignment with quiet reserve and excellent fortitude.

Steeped in mystery and alive with Gothic mysticism, I soon became joyously absorbed in the many faceted life of the Sacred Combe, and with great delight, I followed both Arnold and Samuel as they went about their daily business. Their quiet companionship, their delight in books and music, and Samuel’s tentative exploration into the hidden delights of the gardens around the house, are all so beautifully observed that it really feels like you tiptoe in their shadow.

The Sacred Combe is the story of a family, of its links with the past, and of the repercussions of family tragedies, which continue to reverberate down through time. It’s also a story about a profound love for books, of the glorious mysteries they contain and of the hopes and dreams which are to be found within their pages. 

There’s such a quiet observational style to the novel, that the subtlety of its narrative sort of creeps up on you, until you feel the words wash over you like a comforting blanket. Its lingering lyricism reminded me of the writing of Frances Hodgson Burnett in The Secret Garden and the delicate tracery of poetic description made the book a delight to read from start to finish.


.." A house does not need ghosts to be haunted...Memory is enough, if there's someone left to remember ..."


Best read with… A crystal glass of fine sherry and two wafer thin cuts of Mrs Synder’s Roast Pheasant..





About the Author

Thomas Maloney was born in Kent in 1979, grew up in London, and studied physics at university. He is a competent but unexceptional mountaineer and an astigmatic birdwatcher. He lives in Oxfordshire with his wife, daughter, and kayak.








My thanks to Sophie at Scribe for the chance to read and review this novel.




~***~

Monday, 30 May 2016

Review ~ Love's Long Road by G D Harper



29402237
Matador
April 2016





Bobbie Sinclair’s feeling of responsibility for her boyfriend's suicide is something she struggles to cope with, and her only way of dealing with it is to fight against everything she knows. She innocently assumes that her life can be blocked out by an unending progression of one night stands, but leading a promiscuous life, in her home town of Glasgow, brings her into contact with Michael Mitchell, an unscrupulous manipulator, who takes Bobbie by the hand and leads her, imperceptibly, into the dark and shady world of Glasgow’s criminal underclass.

The dark and gritty world which Bobbie finds herself part of, both in Glasgow and later in London, evokes a realistic edge to a story which moves along at a rollicking good pace. The late 1970s, a time I know very well, comes alive, and the author's descriptions of time and place are excellent, from the wearing of bright yellow jumpsuits, mine was blue, to drinking abundant amounts of Blue Nun and cruising around the edge of a Tiffany's nightclub dance floor, the detail was absolutely perfect.

Bobbie is a feisty protagonist, the sheer strength of her personality carries the story very well, but she also has a uniquely vulnerable edge which even though there are times when she is exasperating, you can’t help but form a deep emotional attachment to her. The other characters who flit into and out, add real depth to this dark and gritty story. Michael is such a dangerous charmer, and yet he exudes a sensuous attraction which hides just how dangerous a manipulator he is, and then there’s, Duncan, Bobbie’s friend who sticks with her throughout the whole sorry story.

The drama throughout Love's Long Road is utterly believable, the attention to detail is excellent and the ending, when it comes, is entirely appropriate. I really enjoyed it - it would make a great TV drama!!



Best Read with….chicken in a basket and of course, copious glasses of luke warm, Blue Nun…






My thanks to the author for sharing this book with me



~***~

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Sunday WW1 Remembered...







The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle fought in the North Sea between the 
British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet.

The battle was fought between the 31 May and 1 June  1916

Fourteen British and eleven German ships were sunk with tremendous loss of life. 
Over 6000 British and 2500 German lives were lost and this marked one of the
Royal Navy's darkest times.



It was the only major battle fought at sea and marked a turning point in WW1.






The Verdict

by 

Rudyard Kipling

Jutland , 1916




Not in the thick of the fight,

Not in the press of the odds,

Do the heroes come to their height,

Or we know the demi-gods.



That stands over till peace.

We can only perceive

Men returned from the seas,

Very grateful for leave.



They grant us sudden days

Snatched from their business of war;

But we are too close to appraise

What manner of men they are.



And, whether their names go down

With age-kept victories,

Or whether they battle and drown

Unreckoned, is hid from our eyes.



They are too near to be great,

But our children shall understand

When and how our fate

Was changed, and by whose hand.



Our children shall measure their worth.

We are content to be blind . . .

But we know that we walk on a new-born earth

With the saviours of mankind.




More information about the centenary commemorations can me found










~***~

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Review ~ Eden Gardens by Louise Brown



26034824
Headline Review
April 2016

A bit of blurb

Eden Gardens, Calcutta, the 1940s. In a ramshackle house, streets away from the grand colonial mansions of the British, live Maisy, her Mam and their ayah, Pushpa.

Whiskey-fuelled and poverty-stricken, Mam entertains officers in the night - a disgrace to British India. All hopes are on beautiful Maisy to restore their good fortune.

But Maisy's more at home in the city's forbidden alleyways, eating bazaar food and speaking Bengali with Pushpa, than dancing in glittering ballrooms with potential husbands.

Then one day Maisy's tutor falls ill. His son stands in. Poetic, handsome and ambitious for an independent India, Sunil Banerjee promises Maisy the world.

So begins a love affair that will cast her future, for better and for worse. Just as the Second World War strikes and the empire begins to crumble...

This is the other side of British India. A dizzying, scandalous, dangerous world, where race, class and gender divide and rule



My thoughts:


I was drawn to the book by its cover which I think has a great sense of place and which conjures the golden heat of a country in turmoil and that's exactly what this book is about; it's about a country at odds with itself, about women who are used, and who are bought and sold as commodities, with little regard for them as people, and it’s also about the sights, scents and sounds of India, which come alive in glorious technicolour. Don't be fooled by the cover as this is not a book for the fainthearted, as parts of the story are difficult to read without feeling a huge sense of hopelessness.

Initially, I thought that the book was rather hard going in places and it took me a little time to warm to Maisy, whose interesting and courageous story takes centre stage. But the writing is good, if a little jumpy, and once I had I settled into the story, probably about two thirds of the way in, I became engrossed in the way India was coming alive in my imagination.

The author writes with great passion about a subject she clearly feels passionate about and that comes across in the way she describes the minutiae of daily life and in her relationships with her characters who she describes in such intricate detail. Reading the notes about the inspiration for the novel at the end of the book goes a long way to explain just why the author has such a fascination for India and its people.

I think that this is difficult book to 'enjoy' as it's quite heart wrenching in places, and in a way the cover sort of suggests that the book will be a bit fluffy, which is a bit of a misnomer, as the book is anything but that.

Overall, it’s a good debut novel from an author who is worth watching to see what she comes up with next.



Best Read with....Bowls of Jhal Muri, spicy with chilli and coriander, and delicate cups of Masala Chai...




About the Author

Louise Brown has lived in Nepal and travelled extensively in India, sparking her enduring love of South Asia.

Eden Gardens is her debut novel although she has also written critically acclaimed non fiction books.








My thanks to Headline Review and Bookbridgr for my copy of this book.




~***~


Friday, 27 May 2016

Monkfish Maggie and the Bungalow Stairs....


**Out Today **



Monkfish Maggie and the Bungalow Stairs





Ilustrated by Berg Norcross








When Maggie returns home from the market one spectacularly normal day, two things in particular strike her as strange.
found…

• Firstly, a rather peculiar set of stairs have sprouted from her otherwise stairless bungalow.
• Secondly, and probably most concerning of all, her husband Nesbitt is nowhere to be found…

Where is Nesbitt? Why have these extraordinary stairs appeared - and more importantly, what lies beyond them? Evil? Good? Monsters? Head lice?!

Join Maggie as she searches low, high and even higher for Nesbitt, in an intriguing debut adventure that will captivate children and adults alike.

Love stairs? This story is for you!
Hate stairs? It’s for you as well!
Don’t care either way? Me neither - have yourself a read!




Amazon .co .uk



Written by CatchphraseDan and bursting with over 50 enchanting illustrations by the mystical Berg Norcross, Monkfish Maggie and the Bungalow Stairs will dunk you deep into a barrel of mystery and then wring you dry like a limp blue flannel. Sit yourself down and open your mind hole, because this story is coming at you…

…Now!




CatchphraseDan





~***~

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Review ~ Leopards of Normandy : Duke by David Churchill



25973401
Headline
APRIL 2016


The Leopards of Normandy #2
Duke




He came, he fought and he conquered and that's really all I knew about William the first of England, the King who built the Tower of London with stone from his native Normandy. I didn't know anything about his life before the conquest of England and what's been so fascinating about reading David Churchill's excellent trilogy, so far, is that it has started to flesh out William, to give him personality and purpose, and in this second book in the trilogy, which spans the years between 1039 to 1051, William starts to emerge as a strong and decisive character.

Of course, there are going to be gaps in history, and this is most definitely a fictional account of William’s early life but wherever possible the author has used available historical evidence to add motivation and gives a plausible suggestion of what might have happened. The one thing that is certain, however, is that the eleventh century was a time of great political and democratic uncertainty. Conflict between the ruling families of northern Europe was rife and political assassination was both endemic and accepted as commonplace.

There is no doubt that the author writes well around a subject about which he is passionate. Factual and fictional history blends really well and as time and place starts to come alive, before you know it, the creeping menace of the eleventh century starts to surface, and in your imagination you are moving surreptitiously in the cold, dark shadows watching as William's story continues to unfold.

This second book in the trilogy shows just how unpredictable life was in the eleventh century, and as families fought against families, the only certainty was that the victor would be the one with enough ambition and motivation to succeed. I look forward to seeing how the story finally plays out in the final part of the trilogy and although the outcome is known, it's going to be really interesting to see how William finally gets to becomes the conqueror we know from our history books.





Best read with … A haunch of venison and a flagon of ripe and fruity Normandy cider..




About the Author


David Churchill is the pseudonym of an award-winning journalist. He has investigated financial scandals on Wall Street, studio intrigues in Hollywood and corrupt sports stars in Britain, and lived in Moscow, Washington DC and Havana. He has edited four magazines, published seventeen books and been translated into some twenty languages. The Leopards of Normandy trilogy reflects his lifelong passion for history and his fascination for the extraordinary men and women of the past who shaped the world we live in today.




Amazon UK






My thanks to Caitlin Raynor at Headline for my copy of this book




~***~

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Review ~ City of Good Death by Chris Lloyd






25897153
Canelo
2015


The blurb..


A killer is targeting hate figures in the Catalan city of Girona – a loan shark, a corrupt priest, four thugs who have blighted the streets of the old quarter – leaving clues about his next victim through mysterious effigies left hung on a statue. Each corpse is posed in a way whose meaning no one can fathom. Which is precisely the point the murderer is trying to make.

Elisenda Domènech, the solitary and haunted head of the city’s newly-formed Serious Crime Unit, is determined to do all she can to stop the attacks. She believes the attacker is drawing on the city’s legends to choose his targets, but her colleagues aren’t convinced and her investigation is blocked at every turn.

Battling against the increasing sympathy towards the killer displayed by the press, the public and even some of the police, she finds herself forced to question her own values. But when the attacks start to include less deserving victims, the pressure is suddenly on Elisenda to stop him. The question is: how?



This is the first in a proposed trilogy of crime novels set in Spain and will appeal to those readers who enjoy Inspector Montalbano stories or similar crime fiction set in Europe.

It took me a little while to get into the story and to get used to the Catalonia names but once I had settled into the characters I found this to be a compelling and interesting crime novel. Intricately plotted with a fine eye for detail, the author clearly writes about what he knows and because of that knowledge, he is able to bring the sights and sounds of Girona alive. I've never visited this area in Spain but found myself able to clearly picture the place and its people.

The story is complex and there is much to take in, and as with any new series there is a certain amount of scene setting which will allow the books to flow during the follow up stories. I rather liked it and look forward to seeing what's coming next.



Best Read With ...some Spanish tapas and a glass or two of smooth and smoky Merlot





Chris Lloyd lived in Catalonia for over twenty years, besides brief spells in Bilbao, Madrid, Grenoble and a mill in Devon. He has written and contributed to several travel books about Spain for Rough Guides, travelling extensively around the country. Now back in South Wales, he works as a Catalan and Spanish translator. This is his first novel.


Chris   Lloyd





My thanks to Ana at Canelo for my e-copy of this book.



~***~

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Review ~ The Quiet Earth by Elizabeth Harris

Endeavour


I lost touch with this author when this excellent set of historical fiction went out of print. So, I was delighted to find that her books have been reissued in digital form and are accessible once more. Revisiting The Quiet Earth was a real treat, as not only did I devour it the first time around in the 1990s, but also I reread it just as avidly this time around.

Set in the Wye Valley in 1994, Nina is an ecologist working with archaeologists on a site which is about eight centuries old but Nina has some hidden secrets and when her life becomes intertwined with that of Roese and Mark in the thirteenth century you quickly realise that the past is about to encroach on the future.

I loved this story, it's atmospheric and edgy with a delicious creepiness which infuses the page with a real sense of history. The modern day elements, and yes, I realise that 1994 is no longer classed as modern, sits comfortably alongside the historical. For all that it was written twenty two years ago, it does feel, in places, remarkably contemporary, and could still have been written today.

Elizabeth Harris writes dual time narratives very competently and can blend past and present like no other author I know, so that reading her books is like stepping into a superior time travelling machine. Such is the power of her storytelling that you have to occasionally look up from reading to make sure that you are still in the here and now.

I am really thrilled to find that most of Elizabeth  Harris's back catalogue is being converted to digital by Endeavour Press, I can't wait to catch up with some old friends.





About the author

Elizabeth Harris was born in Cambridge and brought up in Kent, where she now lives. After graduation she hid a variety of jobs including driving a van, being a lifeguard and working in the Civil Service. She has travelled extensively in Europe and America, and lived for some years in the Far East. Elizabeth Harris was one of the finalists of the 1989 Ian St James Awards. She is an acclaimed writer with many novels to her name. In The Quiet Earth , she deftly weaves the challenges and questions of modern life into those of the distant past, to deliver a story brimming with intrigue, history and romance. 


**Elizabeth Harris also writes historical crime fiction as Alys Clare**






My thanks to Endeavour Press and NetGalley for my review copy of this book.



~***~

Monday, 23 May 2016

Review ~ Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton



27418655
Transworld
2 June 2016


Well, where do I begin to talk about Daisy in Chains without giving everything away? I've really no idea, which is why I'm not even going to try to explain away the plot, the counter plot, or the creepy edginess which has you on the edge of your seat...no really, all that you have to discover for yourself.

I'm not often bamboozled by a plot, but it took me a while to figure this one, and even then I hadn't sussed it all, not really, and that's what's so blooming good about Sharon Bolton's writing. She draws you in with a clever plot, with characters who behave like no-one you've ever known and yet, who squirm and worm their way into your subconscious until you almost find yourself applying for a visitor's pass to HMP Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight, just so you can meet Hamish Wolfe in the flesh. And believe me, Hamish Wolfe is a whole other story , fiercely intelligent, with matinee idol good looks and enough charm to whisk even the most jaded of readers out of their comfort zone. But it is Maggie Rose, a lawyer and writer of real life crime stories, who makes you look at the dark and twisted soul of a serial killer in a whole new light. Maggie, spends her waking moments trying to release killers who have no business being released back into society, but her pernickety delving into the murky depths of hidden truths doesn't usually sit well with a society who, quite rightly,  believe that their monsters should remain locked behind bars. 

I started Daisy in Chains on a fairly bright afternoon, on one of those days when you think that it would be more beneficial to be outside in the garden, but even after just the first chapter I knew that I wasn't going to tackle the weeds, indeed, I had little time for anything other than to brew another cup of comforting chamomile tea. I was simply unable to put the book down, so I read on and on, until I knew why Daisy was in chains, and even more importantly who had put her there.

If you've never read a Sharon Bolton novel before then this is a good place to start and I guarantee that if clever psychological crime is your forte, then you won't be able to put the book down and more importantly you will head off to your nearest high street book store, library, or on line book provider and you will start to gather her back catalogue, trust me, you won't be disappointed.



Best Read with .....A bowl of Maggie's lamb stew and a flask of coffee, heavily laced with rum...






S.J. Bolton


Find the author on Facebook

Follow on Twitter @AuthorSJBolton




My thanks to NetGalley and Transworld for my copy of this one to read in advance of it's publication on the 2nd June 2016




~***~

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Sunday WW1 Remembered ...


Celebrating the War Poets of World War One



Ewart Alan Mackintosh

1893- 1917



 Born in Brighton but with Scottish roots, Mackintosh was a War Poet and soldier in the Seaforth Highlanders.

He was killed in action on the second day of the Battle of Cambrai , 17 November 1917 and was buried in the Orival Wood Cemetery near Flesquières in northern France.



Creed


Out of the womb of time and dust of the years forgotten,
  Spirit and fire enclosed in mutable flesh and bone,
Came by a road unknown the thing that is me for ever,
  The lonely soul of a man that stands by itself alone.


This is the right of my race, the heritage won by my fathers.
  Theirs by the years of fighting, theirs by the price they paid,
Making a son like them, careless of hell or heaven,
  A man that can look in the face of the gods and be not afraid.


Poor and weak is my strength and I cannot war against heaven.
  Strong, too strong are the gods; but there is one thing that I can
Claim like a man unshamed, the full reward of my virtues,
  Pay like a man the price for the sins I sinned as a man.


Now is the time of trial, the end of the years of fighting,
  And the echoing gates roll back on the country I cannot see
If it be life that waits I shall live for ever unconquered.
  If death I shall die at last strong in my pride and free.



Vimy Ridge, 1916

E. Alan Mackintosh



The first two lines of this poem were used on the Scottish American War Memorial when it was constructed in 1927 and are written on a frieze on the back





~***~

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Review ~ Dear Dad by Giselle Green



29522094
Yule Press
March 2016


Heroes come in many guises, mostly they are ordinary people, who in exceptional circumstances step up to the bar and do something really extraordinary. Nate Hardman is one such person, except he has a big problem. As a roving reporter in some of the world's most conflicted areas, Nate is well accustomed to stress, but after a catastrophic incident , he returns home with extreme anxiety issues, so much so, that  the PTSD he suffers from means that he can’t even leave the shelter of his own home.

Adam Boxley lives with his aging Nan, and things aren’t too good at home, as his Nan is forgetful and has come to rely more on Adam as her carer, which is a huge responsibility for a nine year old. Desperate for a dad of his own, Adam, encouraged by his Nan, writes a letter to Nate, in the mistaken belief that somehow Nate is his long lost father, which, understandably, comes as a total surprise to Nate.

Jenna Tierney is a supply teacher with a heart of gold who takes both Adam and Nate under her wing, recognising in each of them the need to be loved and valued, but the problem is that Jenna had problems of her own to work through and her role as Adam’s teacher is really only temporary,

What then follows is a really lovely story about relationships and what happens when we let our guard down and start to trust in other people. There are some lovely interactive moments between Nate and Adam that tug away at your heartstrings and Nate’s burgeoning relationship with Jenna is handled in such a sensitive way, that you start to believe that the power of love can truly heal all things.

The author writes with confidence and controls quite a complicated story line in a subtle and delicate way. The problems experienced by all three main characters are all too real and this comes across in a lively and searching way. I really enjoyed getting to know all three characters and formed an emotional attachment to them, so that by the end of the story, of course, I hoped that everything would end well, but, as we all know, the course of love is never smooth and for Nate, Adam and Jenna, their journey is only the beginning.


Jaffa was also really thrilled with the rather grumpy ginger tom cat who graces the pages ...


Best Read with ...Pastel-coloured macarons and expensive and very tasty fizz..



 About the author




Find Giselle on Twitter @gisellegreenuk

Follow on Facebook

Read an interview with the author where she discusses Dear Dad

Amazon UK





My thanks to the author for sharing her book with me and Jaffa




~***~

Friday, 20 May 2016

Review ~ All Things Nice by Sheila Bugler




28768501
Brandon
O'Brien Books
April 2016

Never Forget. Never Forgive.



All Things Nice is the third book in the DI Ellen Kelly series of crime novels. This one sees DI Kelly in her first big case for months and those who have followed the series will know why this is, and for those new to the series I won't say more as all will be revealed when the author explains the back story and the personal issues which DI Kelly needs work through.

In this story, Charlotte Gleeson and her husband Nick seem to have everything, a nice home, a successful business and a life that is the envy of most people, but bubbling away under the surface is a hotchpotch of lies and deceit, which threaten, not just Charlotte and Nick but also the lives of those around them, with disastrous consequences. When a body is found in the aftermath of Charlotte's birthday party, the finger of suspicion wavers between those who were present at the party and those who could have had an agenda all of their own. 

The story takes a little while to get going, and some of the beginning scenes are rather slow and even though I have read the previous book in the series, it took me a while to get back into the psyche of the main characters, which sort of spoiled some of the effect of the current plot. I do find that some of the characters lack depth, and try as I might to like DI Kelly, I'm afraid that I don't, and therein lies the problem for me, as I don't really empathise with her problems and  that makes me lose focus on the rest of the story.

So, overall, this story is a fairly standard crime thriller with some interesting moments of police investigation which help to move the plot along but which, I'm afraid, failed to inspire me much.

As always, this is just my personal opinion and I'm sure that there are many readers who find this series fascinating, sadly, on this occasion,  I'm not able to enthuse.


Best Read With ....plenty of tea and a cheese sandwich...







My thanks to Real Readers and Brandon for my copy of this book.





Thursday, 19 May 2016

Review ~ Summer : Edited by Melissa Harrison





Happy Publication Day


28547714
Elliot & Thompson
May 19th


I'm really pleased to support this lovely anthology which is based around the idea of summer and which supports, at the same time, the work of The Wildlife Trusts.

I know we constantly criticise the state of our summers, it's usually that we don't have the right sort of weather, that we have too much rain, or not enough, or that the sun is too hot or in too short supply but what's obvious when you really start to look at summer is that, regardless of our unpredictable weather, it really is a season to be cherished.

In this anthology, editor, Melissa Harrison has put together an assortment of reminisces, short stories, observations and poems which capture the very essence of summer and which collectively show just how precious is the season. Some of the authors are well known to us, like Charles Dickens, Laurie Lee and George Elliott, there’s even a snippet from my favourite Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, other authors may be less well known, but together they all combine to form a well written collection, which is a real delight to read. There’s even a charming piece by Alan Wright,2016 about summer at one of my favourite places to visit, Brockholes in Lancashire.

It's a lovely jewel of a book that will sit quite comfortably on a book shelf and which can be opened at whim and quite simply ,wherever you land in the text, there will be something of interest and it won’t disappoint.

If you have ever walked through a wheat field in summer, well, this snippet, written by Nicola Chester, 2016, caught my eye “…and the wheat field crackles and pops like a bowl of cereal as it ripens in the sun...” ..

Beautifully observed and with such a delicious combination of short stories, this is a book to treasure and at the same time support a really good cause.


Summer is the second of four titles, known collectively as The Seasons to be released at quarterly intervals throughout the year, in February, May, August and November




 Spring: An Anthology for the Changing SeasonsSummer: An Anthology for the Changing Seasons28665185Winter: An Anthology for the Changing Seasons






Best Read with..... a glass of sparkling Prosecco and a bowl of sun warmed strawberries, freshly picked...





My thanks to Alison Menzies at Elliot & Thompson for my copy of this book



~***~


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Review ~ This Must Be The Place by Maggie O'Farrell



26128897
Tinder Press
17 May 2016


This is one of those books which sits quietly, but confidently, on your book shelf and even after you have read it, and believe me this one is a keeper, you would still be able to pick up the book, open it at random and read something which is just so beautifully contrived that it makes your heart sing. I've long been a fan of this talented author's writing and never once have I picked up one of her stories and been disappointed, my only low point, like all fans, is the wait between books.

Linguist specialist, Daniel Sullivan is a complex character, made up of a myriad of emotions and with enough emotional baggage to sink a battleship and yet, the story of his life and that of his relationships, both with past and present lovers, and a disparate assortment of children, forms the basis of an acutely observed and intelligent look at Dan's life. Also, flitting through the story is that of Claudette, a gifted and talented actress who turns her back on the glitz and glamour of fame and fortune, and hides away in rural Ireland. Chasing away her demons and a failed relationship take up much of her energy, that is until she meets Dan Sullivan, who brings a glimmer of light into the darker recesses of her life.

This Must Be The Place looks at the minutiae of family life, and not in an over-exaggerated way which would suggest that this family is made up of anything but ordinary people, but what is extraordinary about their story, is their connection to each other, and of the way their lives overlap and coalesce with effortless ease. There are some beautifully observed moments which can make you laugh out loud one minute and then fill with tears another, and such is the emotional pull of the characters that, even though at times you want to scream at them, well, at one in particular, to get his act together, you know that in the final analysis, everyone, flawed though they are, will tiptoe their way into your heart, until they are as familiar, and as dear to you as friends.

When first you start to read the book it will appear a little confusing and jumping as it does between, not just people, but also times frames, can take a little concentration, but do stick with it, as even before you realise you’ve stopped pondering over where you are in the time scale, you will have settled into the story, and then as you continue to read on, time, both literal and current, will cease to exist.

This Must Be The Place is an intelligent and sensitive portrayal of family life, there’s not a word wasted, not an emotion unexpressed and certainly no superfluous waffle. It’s just a truly excellent read from start to finish and unusually, I can’t think of anything else to say, except,  if you see this it displayed in a bookstore near you, then, please take a copy home and give this wonderful story a cherished place on your book shelf.




Best Read With… A sturdy sandwich , the bread, absolutely homemade, and a cup of Claudette’s hot chocolate, made with her special French chocolate beans. 





Maggie O'Farrell


Visit the author's website

Visit on Facebook





My thanks to BookBridgr and Georgina Moore at Headline for my review copy of this one.




~***~




Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Blog Tour ~ My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry ~ Giveaway








I am delighted to say that it's Jaffareadstoo's turn to host today's stop on the  




My Husband's Wife Blog Tour




Penguin
August 2016




First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes murder


When lawyer Lily marries Ed, she's determined to make a fresh start. To leave the secrets of her past behind. But when she takes on a new case, she starts to find herself strangely drawn to her client. A man who's been convicted of murder. A man she will soon be willing to risk everything for.


But is he really innocent? 


And who is she to judge?




Here are my thoughts about My Husband's Wife...


The story opens in 2000, when Lily and Ed are newly married, and,  even as they begin their new life together, tensions between them are running high. When Lily's job as a lawyer brings her into prison contact with Joe Thomas, a convicted killer, an undercurrent of menace very quickly starts to invade Lily’s personal life, much to the detriment of her relationship with Ed.  Running alongside Lily and Ed’s story is that of their neighbour, Carla, a young Italian girl who lives with her mother and whose troubled approach to life is frighteningly realistic. On the surface, these four people have nothing in common, and yet, flitting back and forth in time, we start to learn just what disturbing tendrils snake between them.

 The story is really well organised and the plot efficiently controlled. It’s, maybe, a little bit slow at the start but I think that works well as it gives the reader time to get to know the characters and to start to bond with them emotionally. There is much to take in, not just in the cloistered and frankly unnerving atmosphere that exists between Lily and Joe Thomas, but also in the multi-layered mélange of Lily and Ed’s married life which forms the core of the novel, and which is dissected in fine detail, and also of their troubled relationship with Carla.  I found Carla’s character quite disturbing, and I think that the author has done a really good job of making her so sly and secretive so that you are lulled into a false sense of security.  There is no doubt that tensions run high throughout the story, the twists and turns in the plot are surprising and unexpected, so much so that I really didn’t see where the book was headed, and I thought that the final dénouement when it came was entirely appropriate and nicely concluded the story.

Overall, My Husband’s Wife is a really good debut from an author who knows how to control a complicated narrative, who can crank the tension up to high without losing any focus, and whose assured storytelling will keep a reader entertained from start to finish.



Best Read with….A bowl of Carla’s mother’s Lasagne and a glass or two of deep red Chianti ...




About the Author

Jane Corry is a writer and journalist, and teaches creative writing all over the world. Recently she spent three years working as the writer-in-residence at a high-security prison for men. 

In her own words: 'I had always thought prisons were terrifying places for people who had done terrible things. But after my first marriage ended, I found myself working in one, and discovered a world I could not have imagined without actually being there. A world in which no one was quite who they seemed. A world that I found strangely addictive - so much so that it wormed its way into this book.'











Twitter@JaneCoryAuthor



Here's your chance to win copy of  My Husband's Wife in this fabulous giveaway

(UK only)



** Please note that this is an Uncorrected Advanced Proof Copy**
by kind permission of the publishers.




a Rafflecopter giveaway




Do visit the other stops on the blog tour which runs until the 5th June 2016








My thanks to Annie and Katy at Penguin Random House UK for their invitation to be part of this tour and for the generous giveaway.







~***~





Monday, 16 May 2016

My A - Z of Books





It's always interesting to be set a new reading challenge and thanks to 




I spotted this one on Book Connectors on Facebook.



My A-Z of Books



Author you've read the most books from...



Diana Gabaldon - I've been hooked on her Outlander series since 1991. I'm eagerly awaiting book number 9 in the series.

Book 8 - Written in My Own Heart's Blood was published in 2014 and as it's usually 4 or 5 years between books , I've got a while to wait !

My original 1991 copy is falling to pieces but I love it. But just to be safe, I have multiple copies of Outlander ,including a precious,  signed 20th anniversary edition.


















Best Sequel Ever...

Dragonfly in Amber - Book two in the Outlander series, after this I was well and truly hooked and began my long love affair with Jamie Fraser...






















Currently Reading...


This Must Be The Place is published on the 17th May


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Drink of Choice when reading...


Darjeeling tea, piping hot, milk, no sugar and usually in  cat mug. This cup and saucer is from Ikea...
























E-Reader or Physical book...


I'm a bit of both. Nothing will ever take the place of the look, feel and smell of a paper book but my kindle is enormously useful when my eyes are tired and I need bigger print.



Fictional character you probably would have dated in high school


Jon Snow from Game of Thrones - he is seriously cute !



Glad you gave this book a chance...

The Scottish religious reformer John Knox,  never figured highly on my list of historical figures to learn more about, but The First Blast of the Trumpet by Marie Macpherson absolutely captured my imagination. It ripples with rich Scottish vernacular...



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Hidden gem book...

The Flax Flower by Amanda Maclean - I reviewed this for the Historical Novel Society. It's an independently published book by a Scottish author, based on the old ballad Mill O Tifty's Annie. It's contents are a hidden gem...



The Flax Flower




Important moment in your reading life...

Reading my first Jean Plaidy historical novel in my early teens and realising that history didn't need to be stuffy and boring...






Kind of books you won't read...


I'm not a Sci Fi or Westerns reader and I'm easily bored by Erotica




Longest Book You've Read...


Voyager comes in at a  whopping 1059 pages 

Voyager (Outlander, #3)




Major book Hangover...

Realising just how many books.... and how many pages there are to get through in The Song Of Ice and Fire series



Number of book cases you own...

Six and desperately need more. So a major refurbishment of my study and the purchase of several Ikea 'Billy Bookcases' is planned for the summer...



One book you've read multiple times...

Jane Eyre is the one of the classics I love to re-read - I've lost count just how many times I've read it..

"Reader....I married him..." 

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Preferred place to read...



It's always lovely to read in the garden on a sunny afternoon
















Quote that inspires you/Gives you all the feels from a book you've read...

This says it all...

“For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary” 

Diana Gabaldon, Outlander



Reading Regret...

That I'll never have the time to read all the books I have on my book shelves...



Series you started and need to finish...


A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin - I'm still on Book One - Game of Thrones, so it's a work in progress...



Three of your all time favourite reads..

Popular fiction comes and goes but these classics are always in my top three...


  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • To Kill  Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
  • Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy



Unapologetic fan girl for...

The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon



Very excited for this release more than all others...


Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton is my next read on my Kindle from NetGalley  - I can't wait !!

Due to be published in June 2016

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Worst Bookish Habit...

Having several books on the go at once and being impatient to move on to the next read....



X marks the spot: Start on the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book...


The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer


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Your Latest Purchase...


The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney



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Zzzzz snatcher Book ( Last book that kept you up way too late)


In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings



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So that's it, folks, my A-Z of Books Choices


Would love to see yours, so do tag me if you do it so I can see your choices



Have fun !



~***~


Sunday, 15 May 2016

Sunday WW1 Remembered...



Sometimes references to WW1 pop up in the most surprising of places but the reference is all the more poignant because it is so unexpected.


So, yesterday I was food shopping in Booths supermarket in Burscough, Lancashire when I spotted a brand of my favourite Lancashire cheese made by the excellent 

Only this time instead of the usual branded logo I saw the poignant reference to the

Lancashire Pals Regiment


and was delighted to find that on purchasing this cheese a donation would be made to SSAFA









Featured on the cheese packet is Francis Brindle who enlisted on 15th September 1914, joining the Chorley Pals Company of the East Lancashire Regiment. He was killed, aged twenty, on the 1st July 1916, which was the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He has no known resting place, but is honoured, along with many others on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

The Thiepval Memorial has the names of 72,194 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South Africa and of these, over 90% died during the 1916 Battles of the Somme, between July and November. 

The Pals battalions of World War I were groups of men who had enlisted in local recruitment drives. The promise that they would all be ‘in it together’ was an incentive for communities to send whole groups of their young men to fight on the western front. Hence the term ‘pals ‘was created. However, as the war started to take its toil, all too poignantly whole communities lost many of their brightest stars.

The Battle of the Somme


On the morning of the 1st July, and in less than 20 minutes, 235 of the 720 men from the 11th East Lancashire Regiment were killed and many died were they fell in No Man’s Land. A further 350 were wounded, of which 17 would later die from their wounds. 

In total 31 men from The Chorley Pals (Y Company) were killed and three died within a month of their wounds received on that day.

21 of them have no known graves – Francis Brindle is one of these men.




Chorley Pals Memorial
Chorley, Lancashire





I see this memorial whenever I go to Chorley and I always stop and give a silent prayer of thanks for the sacrifices the Chorley Pals made so that we could have peace and now thanks to buying a packet of my favourite Lancashire cheese I now have a name...



Francis Brindle