Category Archives: Historical

The Lake House- Kate Morton


Synopsis

Whilst on enforced holiday police officer Sadie Sparrow stumbles across an abandoned house that holds a secret. 70 years ago a young child went missing and was never found. Sadie decides to revisit the case and see if she can solve it.

Reveiw

I really enjoy Kate Morton’s books, I like the combinations of mystery, history and relationships. The Lake House is a little bit different, it has more of a ‘standard’ mystery story about it, mainly because it involves an unsolved crime and the actual police where her others are generally more about the people who are involved in the mystery. It still definitely had her personal element, looking at the way the past had affected people now. From how Sadie’s own past had an effect on her to how the child’s own family had been affected by his disappearance.

There were a lot of theories banded about, at first I thought that maybe ‘The Lake House’ was an earlier book by Morton which had been republished because I always felt I was one step ahead of Sadie. Thinking about it a bit more closely though I think that made me be more closely entangled with what Sadie was thinking, and I had more information than Sadie as the book would shift between times, and included sections where you saw into the minds of different people involved.  This gave not just a good look into the mystery, but also a look at the lives and minds of those involved.

There were a couple of things I disliked I thought that (highlight for spoiler) Constance’s killing of Mr LLewellyn just didn’t seem like it was really needed for the story and I found that (highlight for spoiler)Bertie actually being Theo was just a bit too convenient, it fact it slightly spoiled the end of the book for me, maybe I just like a few loose ends.  It didn’t quite hold my attention as well as other Morton books either.

3.5/5

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The Tiger’s Wife- Téa Obreht


Synopsis (from amazon)

Natalia is on a quest: to discover the truth about her beloved grandfather. He has died far from home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery.

Recalling stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia suspects he may have died trying to unravel two mysteries. One was the fate of a tiger which escaped during German bombing raids in 1941; the other a man who claimed to be immortal. But, as Natalia learns, there are no simple truths or easy answers in this landscape echoing with myths but still scarred by war.

Review

I read the first chapter of this book back in 2011 when it was in the first Waterstone’s Eleven. It went on my wishlist then, but it’s was only towards the end of last year that I actually read it.

There are four stories in this novel. That of Natalia as a child and her relationship with her Grandfather. The story of Natalia now. And the two stranger stories, those of the tiger’s wife, and the deathless man. All the stories are meant to be true, the stranger stories being stories which Natalia’s grandfather told her about his life.

The stranger stories are what make the book really. They have an almost fairytale like quality. I especially liked the tale of the deathless man because it had elements which seemed more real than that of the tiger’s wife, but they were contrasted in the idea of this man who couldn’t die. The idea of a woman falling in love with a tiger was less supernatural I suppose, it’s more how much it was believed I think that was unusual.

I did enjoy the writing in this book, however I’d find I got interested in one story only for it to stop and give way to one of the others, and then I’d stop reading because I didn’t want to read that other story. Even though I liked each story on it’s own I wasn’t ready to leave one for another, and that meant it took me a surprisingly long time to read for such a short book.

(Isn’t the new cover awesome?)

3/5

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Other reviews:

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Look Who’s Back- Timur Vermes


Synopsis (from amazon)

Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.

People certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable happens, and the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show, and people begin to listen. But the Führer has another programme with even greater ambition – to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.

Review

This book has had some controversy. Mainly focusing about is it right to write a humorous book about Hitler? I think the main problem people see in it is that it sort of makes light of Hitler and in doing so somehow makes light of what he did.

I think the people who say this miss the point somewhat however. It’s a book about Hitler in the basics, but really it’s more about the media and how life now views Hitler. He’s seen as a sort of spectacle. Think of all the tourist destinations which wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Hitler. Is this about the point of not forgetting so it can’t happen again? Or is it more of a morbid curiosity or some sort of extended rubbernecking?

I think it shows how something similar could happen again. Hitler in this book became known and famous. Maybe he would never have been taken seriously as a politician, but the start of it was there. It does make me think somewhat of the popularity of people like Trump, many people are against him, but he also has a certain amount of support- and that could be dangerous.

On the surface this is a humorous book, and it did make me laugh. You could probably read it just as an entertaining read if you wanted to. If you didn’t feel the need to justify it.

It won’t be for everyone. I know it’s something that could offend. I understand why. But I liked it.

4/5

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The Winter Guest- Pam Jenoff


Synopsis (from amazon)

Helena and Ruth Nowak are like chalk and cheese: one staunchly outspoken and independent, the other gentle and caring. Caught up in the struggle of Nazi occupied Poland, the sisters have bound together and created an enviable bond that can’t be broken. Or so they thought…

When Helena discovers a Jewish Allied paratrooper, wounded but alive, she risks the safety of herself and her family to hide him. As her feelings for the solider grow deeper, she finds her loyalties torn.

Review

Why yes I have been reading a lot of Pam Jenoff recently (and I have ‘A Hidden Affair’ still to review too). There are things I like about her writing. It’s often set during world war two. It’s exciting. It’s easy to read without feeling ‘fluffy’. This one. Well, I liked it, but it didn’t have quite the same excitement as the others by her that I’ve read.

Don’t get me wrong there was excitement there, but it was a long time coming, and whilst there was always some promise of it most of the time it was unfulfilled.

Actually I would say that this story is less an excitement based story, or even a war based story as a story about people. It’s a story of the relationships between Helena and Ruth, between Helena and Sam, and the girl’s family. It’s also a story of self-discovery. Both girls learn more about themselves.

Both become stronger in their own ways.

It didn’t hook me in the same way as some of Pam Jenoff’s other books have, but I think it showed a more sophisticated writing style and plot than her others have.

The others may have been more enjoyable at the time of reading, but The Winter Guest is more likely to stay with me.

4/5

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The Girls at the Kingfisher Club- Genevieve Valentine


Synopsis (adapted from amazon)

Jo, the firstborn, “The General” to her eleven sisters, is the only thing the Hamilton girls have in place of a mother. She is the one who taught them how to dance, the one who gives the signal each night, as they slip out of the confines of their father’s townhouse to await the cabs that will take them to the speakeasy. Together they elude their distant and controlling father, until the day he decides to marry them all off. The girls, meanwhile, continue to dance, from Salon Renaud to the Swan and, finally, the Kingfisher, the club they come to call home. They dance until one night when they are caught in a raid.

Review

Girls at the Kingfisher Club is based on the fairytale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and set in the prohibition era in the US. I read about it on somebody’s blog and really can’t remember whose it was (if it was you, sorry! Let me know), and I really liked the premise.

I can’t really say that it was much like the fairytale. Sure there were 12 sisters. And a rather domineering father. That was where the comparison ended though.

Having said that I did like it as a story in itself. I liked Jo (who was actually rather Jo March-esque). She was clever, and obviously cared a lot for her sisters. I would have liked to know more about the other sisters (the story was shown from Jo’s perspective), and I would have been interested to know more about her parent’s lives too.

The speakeasies (is that the right plural?) were written with a good atmosphere, and I’d actually quite like to visit The Kingfisher. (Although how they afford it without actually prostituting themselves I don’t know)

I found the story carried along nicely and got better towards the end.

4/5

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The Diplomat’s Wife- Pam Jenoff


The Diplomat’s Wife is a follow up to The Kommandant’s Girl. However you do not need to read The Kommandant’s Girl to understand The Diplomat’s Wife.

Synopsis

1945. Surviving the brutality of a Nazi prison camp, Marta Nederman is lucky to have escaped with her life. Recovering from the horror, she meets Paul, an American soldier who gives her hope of a happier future. But their plans to meet in London are dashed when Paul’s plane crashes.

Devastated and pregnant, Marta marries Simon, a caring British diplomat, and glimpses the joy that home and family can bring. But her happiness is threatened when she learns of a Communist spy in British intelligence, and that the one person who can expose the traitor is connected to her past.

Review

I really wanted to read this after finishing The Kommandant’s Girl. I’m fairly certain I didn’t even read the blurb (which I always do) before I read it. When I found out that it was about Martha I was a bit disappointed, I wanted to know what happened to Emma next. It’s not that I hadn’t liked Martha in The Kommandant’s Girl, I was just satisfied with how her story had been left, I would rather have known what happened to Emma when she left for the mountains.

I would still like to know what happened to Emma, but it didn’t take me long to get dragged into Martha’s story, and then I mainly forgot that she was even connected to Emma. Her past was important, so in that sense it was good to have the knowledge from The Kommandant’s Girl, but it wasn’t crucial.

The Diplomat’s Wife is less of an overtly political novel than The Kommandant’s Girl, and a lot of the time it felt more…normal. I wasn’t really expecting anything exciting, and the best bits of the story were at the beginning and the end, with the story carrying on well enough in the middle to keep me going.

I liked Martha more by the end of The Diplomat’s Wife than I had at the end of The Kommandant’s Girl. I admired her at the end of The Kommandant’s Girl, but she felt more real by the end of her own story.

3.5/5

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The Kommandant’s Girl- Pam Jenoff


Synopsis (from amazon)

Nineteen-year-old Emma Bau has been married only three weeks when Nazi tanks thunder into her native Poland. Within days Emma’s husband, Jacob, is forced to disappear underground, leaving her imprisoned within the city’s decrepit, moldering Jewish ghetto. But then, in the dead of night, the resistance smuggles her out. Taken to Krakow to live with Jacob’s Catholic cousin, Krysia, Emma takes on a new identity as Anna Lipowski, a gentile.

Emma’s already precarious situation is complicated by her introduction to Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official who hires her to work as his assistant. Urged by the resistance to use her position to access details of the Nazi occupation, Emma must compromise her safety–and her marriage vows–in order to help Jacob’s cause. As the atrocities of war intensify, so does Emma’s relationship with the Kommandant, building to a climax that will risk not only her double life, but also the lives of those she loves.

Review

Since reading The Officer’s Lover I’d really wanted to read another book by Pam Jenoff. The Kommandant’s Girl seemed perfect, set in the war (and we all know about my penchant for war stories), with Jews, and Nazis, and the resistance, and love.

I really liked The Kommandant’s Girl. I liked Emma, she started off a bit naive, but love made her strong, and made her take risks. A heroine in the end anyway.

There was even a little bit of me that liked the Kommandant. Not the Jew killing bit (obviously) but the bit where he was genuinely caring towards Emma.

It was dramatic, and emotional, really kept me turning the pages (or pressing the buttons I suppose as I read it on kindle).

4/5

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The Forgotten Sister- Jennifer Paynter


Synopsis (from amazon)

As a middle child flanked by two pairs of closely bonded sisters, marginalized by her mother, and ridiculed by her father, Mary Bennet feels isolated within her own family. She retreats to her room to read and play the pianoforte and, when obliged to mix in society, finds it safer to quote platitudes from books rather than express her real opinions. She also finds it safer to befriend those who are socially “beneath” her. When wealthy Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley glide into her sisters’ lives, Mary becomes infatuated with an impoverished young musician, the son of her old wet-nurse, who plays the fiddle at the Meryton assemblies.

It is only after her sisters tease her about her “beau with the bow” that Mary is forced to examine her real feelings and confront her own brand of pride and prejudice.

Review

I liked the idea of The Forgotten Sister. Mary Bennet is a pretty marginalised character in Pride and Prejudice (so is Kitty, she is basically Lydia’s shadow), but I wonder what makes her so much different from her sisters.

Paynter tries to address this problem, and she does, to a point. However she makes the other sisters (especially Elizabeth) seem pretty horrible in turn, and that just doesn’t seem canon to me. Surely if Elizabeth really disliked Mary that would come up in Pride and Prejudice itself?

For a long time I didn’t really like Mary, although by the end I did. Actually it sort of reminded me of Little Women, but with just one main character. The end didn’t seem quite to fit with the rest of the story either. Mary didn’t seem so much like Mary from it, or at least the Mary of the rest of the story. However I did get more into the story by the end, so I was enjoying it, despite inconsistency.

I think a problem with writing sequels to books by other authors is that it’s hard to get the tone right, and (especially with well known books like Pride and Prejudice) everybody already has their own ideas, and their own like and dislikes about the original book- which are hard not to hit on when another person writes about a book.

3/5

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The Pre-Raphaelite Seamstress- Amita Murray


Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge, by the author, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from amazon)

It is the 1860s, and Rachel Faraday is trying to follow in the footsteps of the Pre-Raphaelite artists. Struggling to make a living, in a world that looks down on female traders, she paints her fabrics in the colours and styles of the artists and sells them to wealthy women who daydream about clasping the men of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood between their thighs. One night, she meets a man, who, after the coldness of her cottage and the loneliness of her existence, shows her the possibility of a different life. The next day, he is arrested on suspicion of cold-blooded murder. As Rachel sets out to prove his innocence, she realizes that she must come to terms not only with the evidence in front of her, the vagaries of her trade, the hot-blooded attentions of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, but her own erotic longings and the secrets of her past.

Review

I’m trying to remember anything of note about The Pre-Raphaelite Seamstress. There isn’t a hell of a lot to be honest. In fact the main thing of note I can think of is that as a historical novel it seemed loose. I wouldn’t really say historically inaccurate, but it had little real history except for the setting.

As a crime novel it was better, but a little sketchy. Not as much detail as I would have liked, but enough to keep me wondering and reading.

The sections with Rossetti were…strange. It seemed almost as if Murray wanted to write the story about  Rossetti but couldn’t find a whole story there so decided to find a place in another story for it. It fit in with the rest of the story, but only slightly, it seemed an unnecessary plot line.

There was a romantic element too. Which was a driving force but a minor element to the story, according to amazon this book is the first in a series which is yet to be finished, I can see the romantic element being a larger plot line than in this first book.

3.5/5

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The Temporary Gentleman- Sebastian Barry


Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from the publisher (via netgalley) in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

Jack McNulty is a ‘temporary gentleman’, an Irishman whose commission in the British army in the Second World War was never permanent. In 1957, sitting in his lodgings in Accra, he urgently sets out to write his story. He feels he cannot take one step further, or even hardly a breath, without looking back at all that has befallen him.

He is an ordinary man, both petty and heroic, but he has seen extraordinary things. He has worked

and wandered around the world – as a soldier, an engineer, a UN observer – trying to follow his childhood ambition to better himself. And he has had a strange and tumultuous marriage. Mai Kirwan was a great beauty of Sligo in the 1920s, a vivid mind, but an elusive and mysterious figure too. Jack married her, and shared his life with her, but in time she slipped from his grasp.

Review

Every time I read a Sebastian Barry novel I hope that it will be as good as The Secret Scripture. So far I have been disappointed. Although I have still generally enjoyed and had an appreciation for his work it just hasn’t met up.

I’ve put a little note on my goodreads review of this (where I sometimes make a note before I write a full review) which says simply “That was rather… anti climatic…“. Which is true. The whole way through it seemed that something dramatic was promised in the future, in fact it was part of what made me keep wanting to read- to find out what it was. Something happened (in a way) but it was more of a consistent event rather than one dramatic thing, and it was only a the end that I realised that it was what Jack was referring to.

The book had two parts. A story of what was happening now, and a story of Jack looking back at what had happened before. The looking back bit was what made up the bulk of the story, and the most interesting bit, although at times it was rather too brief about events. In a way that was because we only saw things through Jack’s eyes, so when things were happening at home when he was not there we only saw what Jack was told or the snippets of what Jack saw. We didn’t see what was really going on. In a way that was rather frustrating, because some of the most interesting things seemed to come about when Jack wasn’t there, but at the same time it gave us a good insight into what Jack was feeling.

Mai was undoubtedly the most interesting character. It might have been better to see things through her eyes. Jack seemed to have very little real understanding of her. He saw her as a beauty, and as somewhat untouchable- or out of his league. There was a certain disappointment with the way she went from being when he met her as a young woman to being who she was when she was his wife. The two people seemed completely different. It was almost as if she gave up on her dreams in order to be his wife, although I am not sure if it was that so much as the effects that certain events had on her. I would really like to know. That’s one thing which was rather unsatisfying, we could never get any answers when it came to Mai…maybe that will come in a later book- after all there are a lot of books related to the McNaultys already.

3.5/5

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The Storyteller- Jodi Picoult


Synopsis (from amazon)

For seventy years, Josef Weber has been hiding in plain sight.

He is a pillar of his local community.

He is also a murderer.

When Josef decides to confess, it is to Sage Singer, a young woman who trusts him as her friend. What she hears shatters everything she thought she knew and believed.

As Sage uncovers the truth from the darkest horrors of war, she must follow a twisting trail between terror and mercy, betrayal and forgiveness, love – and revenge.

Review

The Storyteller is a little bit different when it comes to Jodi Picoult. Her books tend to follow a formula, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because the subject matter changes, and it works for the type of books she is writing. Her basic outline though is there’s an issue- you see different character’s point of views, and it’s not always clear who you should be backing- at least at first. Usually there’s a twist somewhere along the line which makes you question your own judgement of the situation. Basically they get you thinking- sometimes even after you’ve finished the book.

So you can understand why when I heard Picoult’s new book was centred around a former concentration camp worker I couldn’t work out how her formula would fit. You can make someone feel sympathy for someone like that but you can never make someone understand that there might be a good reason why they did what they did, so how was Picoult going to make that work.

There was a lot more in the past of this book, Franz’s past, the past of one of the women in the concentration camp, and her fictional story, which started before she was in the concentration camp and finished whilst she was there. Then there was the area now. With Sage finding out the truth about Franz. There is an element of should Franz have to suffer for something he had done so long ago, especially if he is remorseful (which at times he seems to be, but at times doesn’t seem genuine), if he is old and might well die before he even gets charged? Can he be forgiven?

It wouldn’t be much of a book if that was the only challenge, so yes there are more, and the history b its are interesting. There is little I can say without giving away some pretty major plot points (and I’m all for spoiler free reviews).

I’m still not sure I would say this is a favourite Picoult, but it’s a little too different to compare. In terms of others which are different it probably is the best, although even the different ones are hard to compare to one another.

4.5/5

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Other reviews:

So Many Books, So Little Time

Sam Still Reading

Book Journey

Between the Pages

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The Book Thief- Markus Zusak



Synopsis (from amazon)

HERE IS A SMALL FACT – YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION – THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH

It’s a small story, about:

a girl

an accordionist

some fanatical Germans

a Jewish fist fighter

and quite a lot of thievery.

ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW – DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES

Review

Oh wow! Someone asked me if they should bother reading this (whilst I was still reading it) because they’d heard that the ending was horrible. Which is a bit of a silly thing to ask about really. A story narrated by death, in Nazi Germany, pretty much guaranteed to to have some not very happy bits. Yes, by the way, the end is pretty horrible but inevitable, and not unexpected. With death being the narrator it means that you do get some sort of inkling of some of the things which will happen. Not the complete situation, but enough not to be too surprised.

You would think that with knowing what would happen would make you stop yourself from getting too attached to the characters involved, or stop you from being too sad when things happen to them. Somehow it didn’t however. Maybe it was where the hints were placed, that we got to know the characters enough to be a little attached already.  Maybe it was that you can’t really stop yourself from becoming attached to characters even when you really, really don’t want to be attached to them.

Either way I did feel attached. At times that made things heart wrenchingly sad. At times it brought tears to my eyes.

But I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

4.5/5

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Other Reviews:

Lit and Life

So Long and Thanks For All The Fish

Writer, Reader, Dreamer

Words for Worms

Book Journey

Knitting and Sundries

Earphoria

Keep Watching the Words

HeavenAli

Reading is The Ultimate Aphrodisiac

The Perpetual Page-Turner

My Devotional Thoughts

Yeah, pretty much everyone has read this!

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That Liverpool Girl- Ruth Hamilton


ruth hamilton, that liverpool girl, book, book cover
Synopsis (from amazon)

NOT EVEN THE BOMBS THAT DESTROYED THEIR CITY COULD BREAK THEIR SPIRIT … Three generations of strong, determined women and the war that threatened to tear them apart. In the backstreets of Liverpool, Eileen Watson lives with her mother, Nellie, daughter Mel and her three tear-away sons. Life isn’t great, but they have each other, and family can get you through anything. Or…can it? Then, on the third day in September 1939, Britain declares war on Germany and their lives change forever. The children have to be evacuated, but daughter Mel refuses to go, and so Eileen says goodbye to het mother and sons, moves away from the street they love and faces a future without most of the people in her precious family. Thus begins a journey for them all. A journey filled with forbidden love, tragedy and the terrifying sounds of a city they love crumbling into craters left by the Luftwaffe. Their lives will never be the same again …
Review
I bought this book (on kindle daily deal) because I like books set during the world wars. As a war book, this was pretty war lacking, and that was disappointing, especially after writing a post about my top 10 books set during war time. Really it was more a story about Eileen, with a bit thrown in about Mel, her daughter, and even less about the rest of her family- and the place they were evacuated to. Then there was a bit of a story about Tom and his family.
It was all over the place really, the stories were interlinked, but it was like Hamilton couldn’t write a complete story for any storyline so decided to put a few together- and only Eileen’s story really had enough detail to be a story of its own- at a stretch. Occasionally there were war moments, but most of the time the war felt more like a strategy to split the family apart. When the war parts of the story came they sort of came in one big lump rather than the story constantly feeling like a story happening during the war.
However the bits where there was war were rather well done. Moving. Especially towards the end where the war section actually became the story.
3/5
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The Almond Tree- Michelle Cohen Corasanti


The Almond Tree, book, book cover, Michelle Cohen Corasanti
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me free of charge (from the publisher) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from the publisher)

Gifted with a mind that continues to impress the elders in his village, Ichmad Hamid struggles with the knowledge that he can do nothing to save his friends and family. Living on occupied land, his entire village operates in constant fear of losing their homes, jobs, and belongings. But more importantly, they fear losing each other.

On Ichmad’s twelfth birthday, that fear becomes reality. With his father imprisoned, his family’s home and possessions confiscated, and his siblings quickly succumbing to hatred in the face of conflict, Ichmad begins an inspiring journey using his intellect to save his poor and dying family. In doing so he reclaims a love for others that was lost through a childhood rife with violence, and discovers a new hope for the future.

Review

Shortly after accepting a request to review The Almond Tree I got given it as a suggestion by amazon, I think that shows how well suited to my tastes it was.

I had planned to start it as soon as I had finished by kindle read at the time, Painter of Silence, but decided on finishing that something lighter would be more suitable, and I’m glad I decided on that. Both books were rather emotionally difficult and, whilst I like books you can get emotional about, I think I would have found two on the trot a bit much. I might not have got so much out of The Almond Tree had I read it straight away.

What can I say? It was beautiful. Tragic, sad, emotional, yet hopeful. I felt angry, I felt disgusted. Something with fiction is that it can effect you emotionally in a way that non-fiction can’t. You can read as much as you want about the Middle-East Conflict, but, even if there are personal profiles, you can’t get right into a person’s head. You can’t live their life, you can see and feel what they see and feel.

But with The Almond Tree I felt like I really knew Ichmad. I emphasised with him. I could imagine what it might be like to live in an area on constant tension and conflict. To live in fear for yourself and your family. To have little or no freedom, and to know that any one little thing could bring your life crashing down.

Even though Ichmad was only 12 when his father was arrested he showed great resilience and maturity. He knew that he had to look after his family, and did everything he could to achieve that. He never gave up, even when voices were against him he did what he thought was right- with the advice of his father.

The challenges changed as Ichmad got older, but he always had his family at the forefront of his mind, and I respected him for that.

You can currently win The Almond Tree on Goodreads.

5/5

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It Never Was You- William E. Thomas


INWY-tour-180

I read this book as part of the It Never Was You blog tour. Shorty after this post I will be posting a giveaway of It Never Was You, and tomorrow Mike Harris, publisher and editor of The Cyprus Branches will post a guest post.

It Never Was You is the second book in The Cyprus Branches trilogy. You can read my review of the first book, Pegasus Falling.


Synopsis (from amazon)
Harry Williamson is an ex-merchant seaman, a successful businessman and a loving family man. When he disappears from a ferry in the middle of the Irish Sea, his grieving family are left with more questions than answers.

Who on earth is Mary Robinson?
Why did Harry leave her a small fortune in his will?
Had he been unfaithful to his beloved late wife, Lesley?

As they delve into his past, they discover he’s been harbouring a secret which threatens to tear apart the very fabric of their family history.
What unfolds is the heartbreaking story of a quiet, middle class merchant seaman and his unexpected, tragic relationship with a beautiful and exuberant waitress from the Liverpool docks as they struggle to reconcile their feelings for each other with the ever changing attitudes of post-war Britain.
The follow up to the acclaimed Pegasus Falling, It Never Was You continues Thomas’s epic and panoramic saga of how ordinary people coped with some of the most extraordinary and devastating events of the 20th century.

Review

I listed the previous book in this series, Pegasus Falling, as one of my top ten indie books a few months ago, so I was looking forward to finding out what happened next.

At first I found it rather difficult to make links between Pegasus Falling and It Never Was You. Part of that I think was that there was quite a gap between my reading of the two books. It’s not something which really effected my reading of It Never Was You. At the time when it really mattered that there was a link it was explained. In some ways it was better that I didn’t remember, because it made things more of a surprise. Maybe it says something about the way I read, I didn’t even make some connections which were within the book, but that just made things much more emotional when they were revealed. It might not be me, one link which turned out to be quite important was related to something earlier on that you may not find significant.

I must admit I felt more attached to Pegasus Falling. It had a bit more historical drama which I enjoyed. However It Never Was You struck me as being more emotional, and I think it will stick with me for longer.

I don’t think it’s really essential to read Pegasus Falling before It Never Was You, but it does lend something extra to the story.

4/5

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The Lifeboat- Charlotte Rogan


The Lifeboat, book, books, book review, Charlotte Rogan

This book was read as part of the wishlist challenge

Synopsis (from amazon)

I was to stand trial for my life. I was twenty-two years old. I had been married for ten weeks and a widow for six.

It is 1914 and Europe is on the brink of war. When a magnificent ocean liner suffers a mysterious explosion en route to New York City, Henry Winter manages to secure a place in a lifeboat for his new wife Grace. But the survivors quickly realize the boat is over capacity and could sink at any moment. For any to live, some must die.

Over the course of three perilous weeks, the passengers on the lifeboat plot, scheme, gossip and console one another while sitting inches apart. Their deepest beliefs are tested to the limit as they begin to discover what they will do in order to survive.

Review

There was a lot of talk going on around The Lifeboat. It was one of the Waterstone’s 11 last year, and there were a hell of a lot of reviews around. It was on my wishlist for a long time, but once I actually got it it took me three months to actually get around to reading it. Partly because of my requested reviews backlog. I had actually been excited about reading it.

I had expected to like the part of the story focused in the lifeboat itself to be the most interesting (it was split between a tale of what happened on the lifeboat, and Grace’s impending trial), but actually I found that rather slow moving, and you didn’t get the moral debate I had expected. In fact the idea of people being sent from the lifeboat, or jumping was barely discussed at all. It was more a story of what extreme situations can bring out in people.

There was also a vague mystery aspect which was interesting, except we never really got any answers. It was almost as if Rogan had started another storyline but forgotten or been unable to finish it.

The sea scenes were rather well done, and you could imagine very easily what it might be like to be on a little lifeboat in the middle of the ocean.

4/5

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City of Women- David Gillham


City of Women, David Gillham, fiction, book, books

Disclaimer: This book was provided for me free of charge, by the publisher (via netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from amazon)
It is 1943 – the height of the Second World War. With the men taken by the army, Berlin has become a city of women. And while her husband fights on the Eastern Front, Sigrid Schroder is, for all intents and purposes, the model soldier’s wife: she goes to work every day, does as much with her rations as she can, and dutifully cares for her meddling mother-in-law. But behind this facade is an entirely different Sigrid, a woman who dreams of her former Jewish lover, who is now lost in the chaos of the war. Sigrid’s tedious existence is turned upside-down when she finds herself hiding a mother and her two young daughters: could they be her lover’s family? Now she must make terrifying choices that could cost her everything.

Review

I read Lisa’s review of this book a month or two ago  which made me immediately search for and request it on netgalley. I’m  big reader of World War fiction and this one sounded a little more unique, plus the review made me think it would be well done.

It was an interesting subject. I think we should really admire Germans who harboured Jews during Hitler’s reign. It would be so easy just to ignore what was going on around you and stay safe (or at least relatively safe).

I quite liked how Sigrid battled with wanting to be a ‘good German’ and not being able to ignore what was going on around her. It showed that she wasn’t some sort of saint, but that this was the way she reacted to the situation. In that sense it makes the idea rather hopeful, that anyone could do something amazing for a fellow human-being, given the right circumstances.

In many ways she was just trying to get through the days, waiting for the war to end. And I can imagine it was that way for a lot of people.

The story was very sad, but also hopeful. I really felt for Sigrid, even if I didn’t always like her. Again it just showed that she was human.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me. – Martin Niemöller

4/5

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Last Train From Liguria- Christine Dwyer Hickey


Last Train from Liguria, book, war novel, novel, literature, Christine Dwyer Hickey, book review

Synopsis (from amazon)

In 1933, Bella Stuart leaves her quiet London life to move to Italy to tutor the child of a beautiful Jewish heiress and an elderly Italian aristocrat. Living at the family’s summer home, Bella’s reserve softens as she comes to love her young charge, and find friendship with Maestro Edward, his enigmatic music teacher. But as the decade draws to an end and fascism tightens its grip on Europe, the fact that Alec is Jewish places his life in grave danger. Bella and Edward take the boy on a terrifying train journey out of Italy – one they have no reason to believe any of them will survive…

Review

I was surprised to find that this book had three storylines running through it, as only one appears in the synopsis. The first (and probably main) story is the story of Bella. A spinster essentially (considering her age and the time she was living in) who is sent to Italy in the reign of Mussolini by her father to care for a young boy- Alec.

The second story, which takes place in modern times,  is that of a woman who watches as her Grandmother slowly dies in front of her eyes and finds out that, despite being brought up by the woman, she barely knew her at all.

The third is the story of a man who flees his home after killing his sister in a drunken rage- also set during the run up to the second world war.

Somehow all the storylines were a little too much. We enter the story with the last storyline, which put me off a little as it was not at all what I expected. In some ways this story added a flavour to the story- and maybe explanations for later on, but it wasn’t really needed.

The second storyline just frustrated me because it took me away from the story I was interested in, and it definitely wasn’t needed. I’m not even sure why Dwyer Hickey decided to include it.

The main story itself did take sometime to get going. But it did mean that I felt like I was building a relationship with Bella, and although at times it did feel a little like it was dragging ultimately it made me care about her, enough that her story ended too abruptly for me.

I loved the way atmosphere was built in this story. The beauty of Italy contrasting with the increasingly tense atmosphere. It was like some sort of reverse pathetic fallacy (is there actually a term for that? I’m sure there is but really cannot think of it).

As a war story, Last Train From Liguria is different, maybe it is more realistic in its way. Bella seems very naive but maybe she was just in denial? I’m sure there were plenty of people like that.

3/5
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The Show- John A. Heldt


Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

Seattle, 1941. Grace Vandenberg, 21, is having a bad day. Minutes after Pearl Harbor is attacked, she learns that her boyfriend is a time traveler from 2000 who has abandoned her for a future he insists they cannot share. Determined to save their love, she follows him into the new century. But just when happiness is within her grasp, she accidentally enters a second time portal and exits in 1918. Distraught and heartbroken, Grace starts a new life in the age of Woodrow Wilson, silent movies, and the Spanish flu. She meets her parents as young, single adults and befriends a handsome, wounded Army captain just back from the war. In THE SHOW, the sequel to THE MINE, Grace finds love and friendship in the ashes of tragedy as she endures the trial of her life.

Review

Sorry if this review is a little all over the place, I’ve had a migraine this weekend and my head is still a little fuzzy.

The Show is the third book in the Northwest Passage series. It continues where the first book in the series, The Mine, left off. I have not read the second book in the series, The Journey, but it follows a different storyline so it isn’t needed (in fact I’m not really sure why Heldt put a random non-joining story in the middle). You could probably even read The Show as an independent story, but I would recommend reading The Mine first.

When I first got the e-mail about a sequel to The Mine I was interested to see what happened with Grace and Joel next, and to see how Grace settled into modern life. However when I read the synopsis I was a little less sure. It seemed that Heldt was trying, unnecessarily to stretch the sci-fi element by making Grace time travel again. In a sense this was true, and I think I would have preferred a book which showed how Grace got used to the new millennium. Having said that there was a certain element of this too the story, and once I got into the story after she had time travelled it didn’t really matter to me whether it was too much of a stretch or not.

When reading The Mine I had preferred Grace to Joel and it was nice to have a story which was more from her perspective. Also because I already knew Grace from reading The Mine I cared a bit more about her. Her emotions once she lost Joel again were quite well built, and I could imagine myself acting in a similar way, however I think she got over the loss and moved on a little too quickly. It was again a sense of Heldt pushing a story in a direction which didn’t seem quite natural. Whilst I did enjoy the plot in terms of a story in it’s own right, I didn’t really like it as it related to The Mine.

There was one this in particular that bugged me about this book. It was only a little moment, not even an important one, but it really bugged me. Especially as it’s partly billed as a historical novel. In the book two girls move from England to America. They talk about how happy they are to move to the US because it’s so much more liberated than England. As a Briton that grated at me, but I was ready to overlook it. But then they started talking about how women could vote here, but not in England. Which made me think, wait a sec…didn’t votes for women exist in the UK before the US? Which yes they did, in fact at the time that the book is based women couldn’t vote in most of America.

2.5/5

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DNF: The Museum of Abandoned Secrets


The Museum of abandoned secrets, book, book review, Oksana Zabuzhko, literature, fictionSynopsis (from amazon)

Spanning sixty tumultuous years of Ukrainian history, this multigenerational saga weaves a dramatic and intricate web of love, sex, friendship, and death. At its center: three women linked by the abandoned secrets of the past—secrets that refuse to remain hidden.

While researching a story, journalist Daryna unearths a worn photograph of Olena Dovgan, a member of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army killed in 1947 by Stalin’s secret police. Intrigued, Daryna sets out to make a documentary about the extraordinary woman—and unwittingly opens a door to the past that will change the course of the future. For even as she delves into the secrets of Olena’s life, Daryna grapples with the suspicious death of a painter who just may be the latest victim of a corrupt political power play.

From the dim days of World War II to the eve of Orange Revolution, The Museum of Abandoned Secrets is an “epic of enlightening force” that explores the enduring power of the dead over the living.

Thoughts

It’s really a shame that I could not get along with this book as it was the first picked from my Book Jar. The plot wasn’t really there. It was all very over the place, and everything that did happened seemed kind of sluggish. I get the impression that it could be a thoughtful book which isn’t plot driven (after all plot isn’t everything), but the language was rather clunky. I don’t know if this was because of the translation or just the quality of the original writing.

I gave up about 20% in.

DNF

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The Specimen- Martha Lea


Disclaimer:  book was given to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from amazon)

The year is 1859. Edward Scales is a businessman, a butterfly collector, a respectable man. He is the man Gwen Carrick fell in love with.

Gwen Carrick first meets Edward Scales on a windswept beach in Cornwall. The spark is instant and the couple begin to forge a future together. Seven years on, Gwen’s world has fallen apart and she finds herself in the docks at the Old Bailey, charged with Edward’s murder.

Could Gwen Carrick really murder the man she loved? From country house drawing rooms to the rainforests of Brazil, The Specimen explores the price one independent young woman might pay for wanting an unorthodox life.

Set in a Victorian world battling between the forces of spiritualism and Darwinism, polite society and the call of clandestine love, Gwen and Edward’s tale is a gripping melodrama, a romance and a murder mystery that will compel readers to its final thrilling page.

Review

I cannot remember the last time it took me this long to get through a book. It’s taken me a while to write this review too, mainly because my overriding reaction was ‘YAY I managed to finish!’

I had fairly good hopes for The Specimen, a bit of a mystery, a bit sciencey, a bit romantic, maybe a little feminist. Sadly I was disappointed. It did have all the elements I expected but not to a satisfying level. To try and order my thoughts I’m going to go through each expectation at a time then add anything I haven’t covered.

Mystery, well, I never really wondered who killed Edward. It was basically old from the beginning as if Gwen was guilty. I wondered why she might have done it, and I think I eventually got an answer, which was, to be honest a bit of a cop out of an answer considering other things which had gone on and could have been built to a motive. I had expected Gwen to be married to Edward at the time as well which took away a large chunk of the drama for me.

The science was probably the best in terms of detail, but it was also the bit I was anticipating the least. I thought the Darwinism issue would be interesting to read about, but there was less of a debate as a general feeling that everyone wanted to prove Darwin right, and even that was brief. I dud however like how involved Gwen was in her biologist role and how interested she was in the creatures.

At first there was a fair bit of romance in the way Edward and Gwen interacted but this seemed to very suddenly just disappear for no reason, and I was waiting for a moment that showed they loved one another. There was a sort of intensity to the times when the ‘love’ was there which made me unsure of how genuine it really was, and how but Gwen and Edward really knew each other.

Actually the only thing I really did like was that Gwen was quite a feminist. She wasn’t to be able to explore the world in the same way that a male scientist would, and she- most of the time- expected to be listened to the same as a man would be. I respected her for that although I didn’t exactly like her the whole time. She was certainly an improvement over Edward, even before they went away I started to loose any reasoning as why she liked him, and it just got worse.

There was a certain element to the book which was hard to follow. The time kept switching and I was often confused as to how the events fitted together. Plus there were a few sections which didn’t seem to fit in with everything at all.

2/5

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Life After Life- Kate Atkinson


Disclaimer: I was given an advance copy of Life After Life free of charge by the publisher (via netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from amazon)

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Review.

I really did not want this book to end, it was, just, wow, there’s no words! I’m sad that it ended when it did. I have that sort of melancholy feeling you get from finishing a book that’s really special. I can’t remember the last time I felt that, maybe as far back as The Elegance of the Hedgehog (and that was back in 2010)? In some way it’s greater because the story didn’t have to end there. The nature of the story means it never really had to end, although I suppose if it didn’t end Atkinson would still be writing it and I wouldn’t have got to read it at all!

How can I describe this book? It’s a sort of epic Groundhog Day. It’s strange how everything seems sort of inevitable, even though Ursula has lived it before, has knowledge from that former life, even though you know she should fix it you’re scared that the same thing will just happen again, and again, and again. You’re shouting at her. You know what’s going to happen and there’s a sadness, and a dread, somehow you don’t think she’ll fix it.

I think that shows something of Atkinson’s writing talent, and ability to get you into a story, that your emotions trump your logic, every, single, time.

I loved Ursula, when everything changed, however she decided to live that life, she was still, undeniably Ursula, and that’s probably a hard thing to achieve. I enjoyed the whole family dynamic too, and that was something which barely changed.

A lot of the story focused around the second world war, which is a period of time I like to read fiction about. It was interesting though because Ursula’s different lives meant you could see the war from different angles, and with a sort of hindsight which was built into the novel, rather than from the reader living in a different time.

I’ve never read any Atkinson before, she’s known for crime stories, which aren’t generally my thing, but I may read more of her now.

5/5

Life After Life is released on 14th March, you can pre-order it now:

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Garden of Stones- Sophie Littleford


Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge by the publishers (via netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

In the dark days of war, a mother makes the ultimate sacrifice Lucy Takeda is just fourteen years old, living in Los Angeles, when the bombs rain down on Pearl Harbor. Within weeks, she and her mother, Miyako, are ripped from their home, rounded up—along with thousands of other innocent Japanese-Americans—and taken to the Manzanar prison camp. Buffeted by blistering heat and choking dust, Lucy and Miyako must endure the harsh living conditions of the camp. Corruption and abuse creep into every corner of Manzanar, eventually ensnaring beautiful, vulnerable Miyako. Ruined and unwilling to surrender her daughter to the same fate, Miyako soon breaks.

 

Review.

 

It’s taken me quite a while to get around to reviewing this book.

 

It’s the first I’ve read about Japanese living in allied countries during World War Two, I read a lot of WW2 fiction but most of it is based in the UK or Germany. Part of what I liked about it was how it seemed to show that it wasn’t just the Nazis who discriminated. Not that the prison camps were anything compared to German concentration camps, but that people were treated as enemies just because they were of Japanese heritage.

 

Some of the story was interesting. The atmosphere of the camps was well written, and you could imagine what horrible places they were to live in. The actual events that happened in the camp seemed a bit much though. I am not debating whether or not those types of things may or may not have happened but it seems a lot for one person to be involved in. I almost got the sense that Littleford couldn’t make enough of one story so decided to knit a few together.

 

If that was indeed what she did the stories were linked fairly well, but made the ‘secret’ somewhat predictable. My only doubts when it came to what I thought the secret was came from having been told early on that something else was the answer to what had happened.

 

At the time I rather enjoyed this book, but having waited to write my review, and starting Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet since have slowly worn down my opinion. I am glad I read it because I wouldn’t have known to read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet without it, and it opened my eyes to less told stories.

 

However I didn’t really get that strong a sense of how it felt to be Japanese at that time. This novel started off being historical, but became a mystery somewhere along the line and I would rather have just had a historical novel.

 

Oh and the whole way through I did not like the cover, the girl on the front is just too young looking. It’s not something that would have stopped me picking it up however.

 

3.5/5

 

This book is released in paperback on 19th February and on Kindle on 1st March. You can pre-order now from amazon:
Paperback (£8.28)
Kindle (£5.59)

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A Possible Life- Sebastian Faulks.


Disclaimer: This book was given to me free of charge by the publishers in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

Terrified, a young prisoner in the Second World War closes his eyes and pictures himself going out to bat on a sunlit cricket ground in Hampshire.

Across the courtyard in a Victorian workhouse, a father too ashamed to acknowledge his son.

A skinny girl steps out of a Chevy with a guitar; her voice sends shivers through the skull.

Soldiers and lovers, parents and children, scientists and musicians risk their bodies and hearts in search of connection – some key to understanding what makes us the people we become.

Provocative and profound, Sebastian Faulks’s dazzling novel journeys across continents and time to explore the chaos created by love, separation and missed opportunities. From the pain and drama of these highly particular lives emerges a mysterious consolation: the chance to feel your heart beat in someone else’s life.

Review

Despite being rather disappointed with the last book I read from Sebastian Faulks I would still happily describe myself as a fan. Birdsong is one of my favourite books, although Engleby shows a greater writing skill. So when I was contacted about reviewing A Possible Life I was very eager. A small part of me worried that it would be in a similar vein to A Week in December, but you can’t expect to love every book by an author so I tried to approach A Possible Life without any reference to Faulks’ back-catalogue.

There was something strange about this novel in that it wasn’t really one. It was actually a collection of short stories. It was advertised as being a novel made up of stories with a link. Well there maybe was a link, if you insisted on finding it, but only because of something which featured in the last story, it wasn’t a link you would see if you weren’t looking for it, and I’m not really happy with calling it a list.

In some ways I think A Possible Life might be a good place to start with Faulks. It’s almost like a showcase. Different styles of writing, different themes. I think everyone is bound to enjoy one of the stories, however it might be a fight to get to the story you like.

For me the best stories were the first and the last.

The first had certain echoes of Birdsong, not just because it was a story of war but also because it had a certain level of insight to that experience. My problem with this story however was that it felt like it was stripped down. All the stories ran over a period of decades, which was good in a way because it showed the progress of a character, but also meant you didn’t feel you were getting enough detail.

The last story was the story of a gifted music artist. It’s the story which has stuck with me the most. Faulks’ descriptions of Anya’s music make me want to hear her sing- but seeing as she isn’t real I can’t do that! There was also an almost beautiful fragility to Anya which made me really care about her- or maybe that’s just what the narrator felt for her. Even if it is the second then it shows that Faulks’ first person narrative is realistic and evocative. I could have read a whole book about Anya, and it may have been able to make into a whole book, but only if it was either told by Anya herself, or without using the first person narrative, either of which I feel would have taken something away from the story.

Thinking about it all of the stories did have an element I liked, but (except for the possible exception of the last story) those moments seemed to be over all too quickly and were surrounded by moments which I didn’t care so much about.

I’m not really sure how I want to rate this book. The stand out parts are close to 5 stars, but other bits only really deserve 3. So (for now at least) I’m going to skip the rating on this one.

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Hotel on The Corner of Bitter and Sweet- Jamie Ford



Synopsis (from amazon)

1986, The Panama Hotel The old Seattle landmark has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made a startling discovery in the basement: personal belongings stored away by Japanese families sent to interment camps during the Second World War. Among the fascinated crowd gathering outside the hotel, stands Henry Lee, and, as the owner unfurls a distinctive parasol, he is flooded by memories of his childhood. He wonders if by some miracle, in amongst the boxes of dusty treasures, lies a link to the Okabe family, and the girl he lost his young heart to, so many years ago.

Review

When Judith @ Leeswammes Blog saw that I was reading Garden of Stones (the review of which is scheduled for February) she suggested that if I was interested in the topic I should read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

Unfortunately for Garden of Stones I was reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet when I got around to writing a review. At the time of reading Garden of Stones I had really enjoyed it, but it pales in comparison to Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

I found Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet felt rather authentic, especially during the war years. In some sense the  story seemed not so much a war novel as a romance.

A beautiful romance novel too. There was the level of uncertainty of first love, a sort of is this love feeling. At the same time Henry really had great conviction, even when everything was against his love he still held on, he never really let Keiko go. In a way this makes the end of the war a bit of an anti-climax. (highlight for spoiler) It seemed at odds that Henry wouldn’t wait longer for Keiko. If his letter was returned especially she still might come to find him, but instead he gives up on her

Henry was the perfect character to explore the war element from because he could see lots of different sides as a Chinese-American in love with a Japanese-American. He wasn’t completely embedded in any of these perspectives but you could gain a sort of empathy for conflicting views which you wouldn’t have gained from seeing one perspective in detail. I would have liked to see the interment camps in a little more detail but from seeing the changes the Japanese citizens would return to meant that as a reader you can imagine longer-term effects.

In shot I’m glad I started my year on this book. Here’s to hoping 2013 brings lots more great reads.

4.5/5

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Ignorance- Michèle Roberts


strong>Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge by the publishers (via netgalley) in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Jeanne and Marie-Angèle grow up, side by side yet apart, in the Catholic village of Ste Madeleine. Marie-Angèle is the daughter of the grocer, inflated with ideas of her rightful place in society; Jeanne’s mother washes clothes for a living and used to be a Jew. When war arrives, the village must play its part in a game for which no one knows the rules – not the dubious hero who embroils Marie-Angele in the black market, nor the artist living alone with his red canvases. In these uncertain times, the enemy may be hiding in your garden shed and the truth can be buried under a pyramid of recriminations. A mesmerising exploration of guilt, faith, desire and judgement, Ignorance brings to life a people at war.

Review.

The synopsis above is rather different to the one which I read on netgalley, and I feel it represents the book much better. I went into the story expecting a story which looked back on war times, and something which had been hidden within that time, some great secret. What I got was the story of two women, childhood friends who had started on a similar path but ended up going in completely different directions.

The war was somewhat of an important factor in the story, however it was only significant in that a major storyline would not have happened outside of the war- there was never any real sense that it was war-time.

Marie-Angèle ended up going to an (arguably) better place, she still seemed to have some care for her old friend, however it came across as charity, or a duty. Marie-Angèle didn’t seem to actually care for Jeanne so much as to want to be seen to be caring for her. Jeanne in her turn actually seemed to dislike Marie-Angèle, and I didn’t blame her.

You see I didn’t like Marie-Angèle the whole way through this book, and that made her chapters a little difficult to read. I found her snobby, fake, and rather conniving. The nearest I can say I came to liking her was that I understood sometimes why she might think what she was doing was right, although she seemed to value her own opinion as being much above others.

Jeanne I ended up liking. We never really know what became of Jeanne, but I hope her life got better.

There were some elements to the story which I didn’t really understand the inclusion of. They added little to the plot, apart from fulfilling the promised secret which was not significant to the rest of the story.

3.5/5

Buy it:

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I haven’t seen any other reviews of Ignorance. If you have written one please leave me a link in comments and I will add it here.

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The Crimson Petal and the White- Michel Faber


This book was read as part of The Rory List

Synopsis (from amazon)

Sugar, an alluring, nineteen-year-old whore in the brothel of the terrifying Mrs Castaway, yearns for a better life and her ascent through the strata of 1870’s London society offers us intimacy with a host of loveable, maddening and superbly realised characters. Gripping from the first page, this immense novel is an intoxicating and deeply satisfying read, not only a wonderful story but the creation of an entire, extraordinary world.
Review.
I do not rate amazon’s synopsis of this novel at all, it is far to basic, however I do not feel I could write an adequate synopsis myself so I am going to stick with it.
I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with this book. There were times near the beginning where everything was very slow and I thought I might just give up. Towards the middle I kept expecting it to end, although by this point I was much more interested and didn’t really want it to end, there was just something about parts of the middle which felt like the end was coming, even though I knew I’d only read around about half the book. Towards the end I wanted to do nothing but read it. I started a new paperback but only read a few pages because I wanted to read this one. I had to force myself to stop when reading on my lunch break so I wouldn’t be late back to work.
I can’t really tell you what happened towards the middle which made it more interesting. Technically there was really no more plot, and the plot didn’t drastically change, I think maybe I just began to feel more about the characters, and that made me anticipate things which I saw as being inevitable- which in itself made me want to find out what would happen next. I wasn’t always 100% correct in my assumptions however which stopped the novel from becoming predictable.
There was a point in the middle where I became rather confused actually, and a point at the end, but to say more would only serve to spoil.
Certainly an atmosphere of Victorian London is built up very well, you can almost see it, smell it, touch it, taste it. In terms of showing a place, and building at atmosphere it’s got to be one of the best novels I’ve read. Don’t go expecting something sanitized, everything is described in great detail.
My main problem actually is that the ending felt rather abrupt, which really doesn’t seem to fit for a novel which is almost 1000 pages long, surely a few extra pages would be no problem?
Had anyone watched the TV series of this book? Is it worth trying?
4/5
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The Report- Jessica Francis Kane


Synopsis (from Amazon)

It is an early spring evening in 1943 when the air-raid sirens wail out over the East End of London. From every corner of Bethnal Green, people emerge from pubs, cinemas and houses and set off for the shelter of the tube station. But at the entrance steps, something goes badly wrong, the crowd panics, and 173 people are crushed to death. When an enquiry is called for, it falls to the local magistrate, Laurence Dunne, to find out what happened during those few, fatally confused minutes. But as Dunne gathers testimony from the guilt-stricken warden of the shelter, the priest struggling to bring comfort to his congregation, and the grieving mother who has lost her youngest daughter, the picture grows ever murkier. The more questions Dunne asks, the more difficult it becomes to disentangle truth from rumour – and to decide just how much truth the damaged community can actually bear. It is only decades later, when the case is reopened by one of the children who survived, that the facts can finally be brought to light …

Review
The Report is based on a real life incident where almost 200 people were crushed to death as they entered the tube station at Bethnal Green to shelter from an air raid during the second world war. Although only one character is based on a real person (the writer of the report into the disaster) most of the factors which contributed to the disaster are based on facts.

The factor which was fictional is written well to fit into the real events which surround it. As a reader you can see how it might have been true.

There is little I can really say without giving away the secrets included in this book but it does keep you guessing almost right up to the end. It is possible to work things out by yourself although as a reader you cannot work out exactly how events would pan out.

There is a certain sense that Kane could have made more out of what she turns into a major contributing factor, most of what is interesting about it is waiting for the ‘facts’ to be revealed. Why that factor came about however stays somewhat of a mystery and I would have been interested to find out more about it.

Having said that the text is rather emotive and it made me want to find out more about the disaster.

4/5

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The Time Keeper- Mitch Alborn


Disclaimer: This book was provided to me free of charge via netgally in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

In this stunning new novel, the inventor of the world’s first clock is punished for trying to measure time. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more years for themselves. At last, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.

He returns to our world – now dominated by the obsession with time he so innocently began – and commences a journey with two unlikely partners: one a teenage girl who is about to give up on life, the other a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever. To save himself, he must save them both. And stop the world to do so.

Gripping, simply told and filled with deep human truth, this unforgettable story will inspire readers everywhere to reconsider their own notions of time, how they spend it and how precious it truly is.

Review

The Time Keeper has everything you would expect from Mitch Alborn, a bit of sadness, a bit of thoughtfulness, a feel good ending and the ability to move.

At first I wasn’t that keen. It wasn’t bad. I just felt that more could have been made of how ‘Father Time’ invented time. In fact I barely even saw it as him inventing time.

One the more modern side of the story got going however my interest increased. I had a bit of a love hate relationship with the teenage girl. She was naive, and a bit of a drama queen, but I understood her. She seemed like a real teenager (and not the ‘popular’ type girls you so often get in books and films.

I didn’t like the old man at all though. He was so self-centred, even when it came to the ones he supposedly loved.

I think maybe it was good to have a hate element to those two characters however, it made the feel good element better.

What was best however was when Father Time came to our modern world. It was interesting to see the world through his eyes, and it was when the book really got going.

If you’re a fan of Alborn you should enjoy this one, and you may be interested if you are a fan of historical fiction too. If you’re not sure at first it is worth the perseverance.

3.5/5

The Time Keeper is released on 4th September in Hardback and on the Kindle. You can pre-order it on Amazon now:

Hardback (£7.40)

Kindle (£5.99)

Paperback (£6.99)- Date to be announced

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The Mine- John A. Heldt


Image from Amazon

Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from Amazon)

In 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can’t use, money he can’t spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of Whirlaway, swing dancing, and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever. THE MINE follows a humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come.

Review.

I must admit when I approached this book I was a little sceptical. I was interested in the history element, and I liked the idea of seeing history being lived through modern eyes. However I was a little worried about the sci-fi element. Sure it was needed for the story to really work, but I’m not really a reader of sci-fi (the closest I’ve got I think is The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and I was worried that there would be to much focus on the mine itself and not enough on the history.

Luckily I didn’t need to be worried. The sci-fi element was quite intriguing in its way, although I couldn’t wait for the ‘real’ story to start. Using Joel’s voice to tell the story was quite clever because it meant we could imagine how we might react in a similar situation (should one ever arise!). It worked well for the history element as well because it meant we could know what would happen through Joel reflecting on what he knew, but we could also see events unfolding.

I did end up liking Joel quite a lot. I think his experiences really changed him. At first he was rather cocky, and maybe a little selfish, but by the end he seemed much more thoughtful and empathic. I liked how he used his knowledge of the future without it having any giant impact on the past while still having an effect on those he met.

I was actually surprised about how emotional the book made me when certain events started to unfold.

There were a few things I disliked however. I found it took a little to long for the story to get going, and I didn’t really like the end (although to say why may be a little spoilerish). The cover isn’t great either, it gives a kind of boring representation of the book.

4/5

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Teena in Toronto

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Pegasus Falling- William E. Thomas


Image from Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was given to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Arnhem, 1944. Captain Stanley Adam Malcolm Parker – Sammy to his friends – and his platoon have fought bravely, but it was always a losing battle – the bridge was unwinnable. When his men are taken away to spend the rest of the war as POWs, Sammy finds himself incarcerated somewhere all the more terrifying – a concentration camp. Spared an immediate death, he discovers firsthand the full horror of the final solution.

In a place of utmost fear and desperation, beyond all hope and salvation, Sammy makes another entirely unforeseen discovery – the beautiful and mysterious Naomi.

Sammy’s battle is now to stay alive, sane and keep hold of the woman he loves.

Pegasus Falling is the first part of the Cypress Branches Trilogy to be released in paperback. A truly heartbreaking and courageous work, it follows the emotional story of Sammy and his struggle to survive the terrors of World War II and its aftermath.

Review

To call Pegasus Falling a war novel is, I think, not really doing it justice. Certainly there is an element of war in the novel, and the main character is a solider, but it is more really about the effects of the second world war than about the war itself. And it’s a story about love, of all different types. It was certainly an emotional book, especially when Sammy was in the concentration camp, and towards the end, in fact in some ways I didn’t like the end because it was so emotional- although it did leave me wanted to read on.

I’m not really sure what else to say. I really liked all the characters. I found the love element quite interesting actually. It seemed that none of the love in the novel really was without agenda. That made me wonder if people do love just because, I mean even at a basic level you could say people love because they want to be loved, right?

4/5

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The Last 100 Days- Patrick McGuinness


Image from Amazon

I received this book free from Net Galley in return for an honest review

Synopsis (from Amazon)

The socialist state is in crisis, the shops are empty and old Bucharest vanishes daily under the onslaught of Ceaucescu’s demolition gangs. Paranoia is pervasive and secret service men lurk in the shadows. In The Last 100 Days, Patrick McGuinness creates an absorbing sense of time and place as the city struggles to survive this intense moment in history. He evokes a world of extremity and ravaged beauty from the viewpoint of an outsider uncomfortably, and often dangerously, close to the eye of the storm as the regime of 1980s Romania crumbles to a bloody end.

Review

I know pretty much nothing about Romania, and even less about Communism in Romania. I was only 2 when Ceaucescu was overthrown so I certainly cannot claim to remember it, and seeing as it is not a widely covered topic in ‘popular’ history I would really have had to look into it to find out much about it. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have been interested just that it never entered my knowledge far enough to become interested as it were. I can’t decide if this lack of knowledge is good for my reading of McGuinness’ book or not. On one hand it makes it feel more true I suppose, because I don’t have any historical knowledge to compare it to, but then it becomes my historical knowledge which is not so great- because it is, ultimately, fiction. Having said that knowing nothing also helped me to understand the narrator, who seemed to know almost as little as I do about Romania- and I suppose in a way it showed me how little the world was really bothered- at least when it came to the fictional world. Oh I am getting myself in a muddle now!

Anyway it certainly succeeded in getting me interested in that part of history, although I’m having a little more trouble finding out how truthful the book is- I expected just to be able to find an interview or even a wikipedia post on The Last 100 Days, but apparently it is not that easy.
I do enjoy historical fiction and this one was written well. I loved the reality of it- it wasn’t all drama and intregue, but there was enough of it to keep me interested in the book as a story. The atmosphere was built really well, and I loved some of the characters.

In case you were wondering McGuinness did spend a year in Communist Romania as a student (although he wasn’t there for the revolution) so at least something of the atmosphere is probably fairly reliable.

4.5/5

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CymLowell

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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan- Lisa See


Image from Amazon

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Lily is the daughter of a humble farmer, and to her family she is just another expensive mouth to feed. Then the local matchmaker delivers startling news: if Lily’s feet are bound properly, they will be flawless. In nineteenth-century China, where a woman’s eligibility is judged by the shape and size of her feet, this is extraordinary good luck. Lily now has the power to make a good marriage and change the fortunes of her family. To prepare for her new life, she must undergo the agonies of footbinding, learn nu shu, the famed secret women’s writing, and make a very special friend, Snow Flower. But a bitter reversal of fortune is about to change everything.
Review
Initially I read this book because I have a certain interest in novels set in the middle-east and I knew there was a film coming out of this one which I was vaguely interested in seeing. Plus it was the daily Kindle deal on Amazon so I had little excuse not to buy it.
I expected a bit more of a novel about China, or was it was like to be a woman in China in the nineteenth century,but, while this was an element of the story, especially early on, ultimately it was a story of friendship. Would I go as far as buying two copies so I could give one to my friend as The Times suggested? Probably not. I admired the strength of Lily and Snow Flower’s friendship but actually I didn’t feel like they knew each other that well. It’s a little strange because they did spend a fair bit of time together on the page, and Lily (who narrates the story) frequently talks about Snow Flower, but you don’t get that much of a sense of what they talk about to each other. Plus when they are both married I get the sense that actually their relationship isn’t that close despite what it has battled through. I feel more like it is held up by some sort of sense of duty at least on Lily’s part whereas I felt Snow Flower was more of a real friend. Despite the fact that they both fought for their friendship I saw their reasons for fighting under different lights.
I found the elements about life for Chinese women quite interesting although they were maybe a little difficult to get into a novel format without seeming a little slow. While I was interested from a historical and cultural stand point they really didn’t have the markings of a great novel, and in he end I think that’s what let the novel down a bit. Lots of the different elements were interesting but they weren’t something that could really be made into an event for a story, except maybe the footbinding. Certainly the footbinding was one part of the novel that really got to me. The descriptions actually made me feel a little sick and it did give a sense of what it was really like in a way that the rest of the novel didn’t seem to get to. There was only one other point that had a real impact on me (highlight for spoiler) (the death of Beautiful Moon) and that seemed to be added simply to add a bit of…action I suppose, to the story. It didn’t really feel like it had to happen.
4/5
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A Long, Long Way- Sebastian Barry


Image from Amazon

Sorry about the delay in this post. I intended to finish it last night but came home with a stinking cold which made me want to do nothing more energetic than sitting on the sofa staring blindly at the TV.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

One of the most vivid and realised characters of recent fiction, Willie Dunne is the innocent hero of Sebastian Barry’s highly acclaimed novel. Leaving Dublin to fight for the Allied cause as a member of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, he finds himself caught between the war playing out on foreign fields and that festering at home, waiting to erupt with the Easter Rising. Profoundly moving, intimate and epic, A Long Long Way charts and evokes a terrible coming of age, one too often written out of history.

Review

Note: I finished this book the day before I went on holiday, and have read 4 other books since so this review may be a little sketchy.

As far as first world war stories go this one was fairly typical. Guy goes to war, people die, you know the drift. There was the added element of the hero coming from Ireland, but to be honest that element wasn’t very well explored. Willie was rather politically unaware which meant he had little to debate when it came to joining up, or being in the army in general. There were a couple of points where he seemed to have some sort of moral dilemma but they weren’t very well explored and given little page time.
As far as a war story you could do worse, but there are also plenty you should read first. As far as Sebastian Barry goes he has written better (my favourite of what I have read being The Secret Scripture). If you want a war novel with an Irish outlook however I imagine there could well be a better one out there.

3/5

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Hardback (£12.74)

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The Piano Teacher- Janice Y.K. Lee


Image from Amazon

 Synopsis (from Amazon)

In 1942, Will Truesdale, an Englishman newly arrived in Hong Kong, falls headlong into a passionate relationship with  Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But their love affair is soon threatened by the invasion of the Japanese, with terrible consequences for both of them, and for members of their fragile community who will betray each other in the darkest days of the war. Ten years later, Claire Pendleton lands in Hong Kong and is hired by the wealthy Chen family as their daughter’s piano teacher. A provincial English newlywed, Claire is seduced by the colony’s heady social life. She soon begins an affair!only to discover that her lover’s enigmatic demeanour hides a devastating past. As the threads of this compelling and engrossing novel intertwine and converge, a landscape of impossible choices emerges — between love and safety, courage and survival, the present and above all, the past.

Review

I did quite like this book but I was only ever interested in one side of the story at a time. Initially I quite liked Claire’s story and seeing how she approached the culture in Hong-Kong as a British woman. From the way some of the other British living in Hong-Kong were described I thought that bit could have gone quite wrong, with Claire just being a bit of a socialite and not seeing the ‘real’ Hong-Kong. In some ways I did feel like there was a very British feel to the novel, it was almost as if the bits of Hong-Kong culture were added in order to remind the reader that The Piano Teacher wasn’t actually set in the U.K. However in other cases it was interesting to read about how Hong-Kong nationals had actually joined their own culture with the British culture.

In the early points I didn’t like Trudy and Will’s story at all. I wasn’t interested in the life of a socialite at all, and to be honest I really didn’t like Trudy, mainly she annoyed me. As the story progressed I started preferring this story to Claire’s however. I am a frequent reader of stories set in war time, and as war approached I found the book much more interesting, especially as I had known next to nothing about Hong-Kong during the second world war. I still didn’t like Trudy though.

To be honest I think I just would have preferred this book if it was a book about Hong-Kong during war time, and I think there was enough material to make that possible.

3/5

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American Wife- Curtis Sittenfeld


Image from The Book Depository

Synopsis (from Amazon)

In the year 2000, in the closest election in American history, Alice Blackwell’s husband becomes president of the United States. Their time in the White House proves to be heady, tumultuous, and controversial. But it is Alice’s own story – that of a kind, bookish, only child born in the 1940s Midwest who comes to inhabit a life of dizzying wealth and power – that is itself remarkable. Alice candidly describes her small-town upbringing, and the tragedy that shaped her identity; she recalls her early adulthood as a librarian, and her surprising courtship with the man who swept her off her feet; she tells of the crisis that almost ended their marriage; and she confides the privileges and difficulties of being first lady, a role that is uniquely cloistered and public, secretive and exposed.

Review.

I read a fair few positive reviews of this book around about a year ago and added it to my wishlist. It’s not the sort of book I would have bought, although I may have been a little interested if I picked it up in-store, but the reviews convinced me somewhat. (I can’t remember where I read the reviews now, but if it was on your blog, thank you). In the end I got it off Bookmooch (which is a great site by the way, I get lots of books that way).

When I logged the book on Goodreads I had a quick flick through the reviews and a few readers were saying that knowing that Alice was loosely based on Laura Bush made them view the book differently and less like fiction. Luckily I know next to nothing about Laura Bush so it didn’t really affect my reading of it. The only way it did affect my reading was that I wondered if some things were true. I wouldn’t recommenned researching Laura Bush before reading American Wife, however, if you know little about her as I do. In some ways I don’t think it was a good idea for Sittenfeld to pronounce the similarity between Laura Bush and Alice, at least at the beggining of the novel. I think if you already knew a lot about Laura Bush you would probably work it out, and knowing before reading the book could impact your reading of it. I considered not mentioning it here but as it is stated at the start of the book I don’t think it really matters where the knowledge comes from.

I did really enjoy this book. I got more engrossed in it than I expected too, and it sort of had more plot that I expected. I suppose I thought that a lot of it would be about being a President’s Wife, or at least a political wife, but for the most part Alice could have been almost any person from a middle-class background who married into money. It is more a book about class, about marriage, and just about life in general than it is about being a President’s Wife. That still does not make it sound so intriguing but I did find it a rather more emotional book than I had expected. Oh and there was more sex than I was expecting! I tried not to picture George Bush *shudder*. I don’t think I can really say more without giving away important plot points.

I do wonder if Laura Bush knows the contents of this book? I can imagine some things she may not be happy about.

4.5/5

Laura Bush on Wikipedia

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The Distant Hours- Kate Morton


Image from Goodreads

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long lost letter arrives with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret.

Evacuated from London as a thirteen year old girl, Edie’s mother is chosen by the mysterious Juniper Blythe, and taken to live at Millderhurst Castle with the Blythe family.

Fifty years later, Edie too is drawn to Milderhurst and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiancé in 1941 plunged her into madness.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find it . . .

Review

Well I must say this kept me on the edge of my seat right to the very end. At one point when I thought we would never find out all the secrets I was actually shouting at the book “But what happened?!” It may have been better if one of the secrets wasn’t revealed (highlight for spoiler) If one wasn’t I would have chosen Juniper’s secret about the blood on her clothes simply because what I thought it would be it wasn’t and it was the one that had me shouting at the book. It would have added a bit of a puzzle for the reader to try to work out if not all the secrets were revealed, but seeing as I was getting frustrated when I just thought a secret wouldn’t be revealed maybe it is a good thing there was nothing left to wonder about.

I found the way Kate Morton wove the different secrets into the story was really clever. A number of times I was convinced I had worked out a secret only to find that everything I thought had been evidence really wasn’t. It was clever the way Morton walked the reader down  one path only to suddenly veer off in another direction, which I at least never expected.

I found the characters quite engaging. Only real problem was that there seemed to be to many similarities between Saffy, young Meredith and Edie. I could understand with Edie and Meredith, I imagine that some of Meredith would have rubbed off on Edie, even though Meredith had changed by then.

I can’t say I really liked Percy, although there was something about her strength and her loyalty that I admired, and I certainly found her an interesting character to read. In some ways Percy was the hardest character to figure out. Immediately she seemed quite straight forward but as more secrets were revealed the reader is made to challenge their perceptions. . She seemed very controlling, but her intentions, at least, were good.

I found Juniper’s character very interesting too, although I found her more likeable than Percy. I’m still not entirely sure I have her figured out.

Only real problem I had with The Distant Hours is that it took a while to get going. Despite the fact that I had been really looking forward to reading it I had started planning a disappointed review by the end of the first chapter. I’m glad everything changed.

4.5/5

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Half Blood Blues- Esi Edugyan


Image from Goodreads

I won this book from the publisher Serpentstail. It is also on the longlist for The Man Booker Prize.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymous Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a cafe and never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black. Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero’s bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there’s more to the journey than he thought when Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero’s fate was settled. Half Blood Blues weaves the horror of betrayal, the burden of loyalty and the possibility that, if you don’t tell your story, someone else might tell it for you. And they just might tell it wrong …

Review.

Can’t say that Half Blood Blues was really what I expected. I expected it to primarily be about the second world war and what it was like to be a black person living in a Nazi occupied country. The book of course did have an element of this in, and the setting of the war was important for the story, but really it was a book about a group of friends, and about music. At first I found the voice of  Sid (the narrator) really annoying but as I got used to it, and started getting into the story, it ceased to be a factor that really mattered to me. I did come to enjoy the book, mainly because I wanted to know what Sid did, but once I knew I was still interested in continuing to read.

I can’t say I really connected with the characters. I wanted everything to turn out right for Sid but only because I felt sorry for him.

I found the ending was a little abrupt too, especially as they rest of the novel looked to that pont, I just felt it could be expanded upon.

Would I recommend it? Yes I suppose so but I don’t think it’s really award winning material, just a decent read.

3/5

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Flesh and Grass- Libby Cone


I was sent a free copy of this book in return for an honest review

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Seventeenth-century Holland was a major power with a large, wealthy middle class built on spices and slavery. Dutch schemes to colonize the New World brought few interested parties, but Pieter Cornelissoon Boom, an early Mennonite with a dream of communal living, brings a few families to Delaware Bay in 1663. Their “Little Common-wealth” is just getting started when the bloody economic rivalry between Holland and England unleashes violence on the coast of Delaware. The Nieuw Netherland colonies swing between Dutch and English ownership in a series of Anglo-Dutch wars. Cornelis, Boom’s blind son, tells the story of the community (based loosely on the ill-fated Delaware settlement of Pieter Plockhoy) in its various forms of existence, relying on his exquisite memory of scent.Seventeenth-century Holland was a major power with a large, wealthy middle class built on spices and slavery. Dutch schemes to colonize the New World brought few interested parties, but Pieter Cornelissoon Boom, an early Mennonite with a dream of communal living, brings a few families to Delaware Bay in 1663. Their “Little Common-wealth” is just getting started when the bloody economic rivalry between Holland and England unleashes violence on the coast of Delaware. The Nieuw Netherland colonies swing between Dutch and English ownership in a series of Anglo-Dutch wars. Cornelis, Boom’s blind son, tells the story of the community (based loosely on the ill-fated Delaware settlement of Pieter Plockhoy) in its various forms of existence, relying on his exquisite memory of scent.

Review

I quite enjoyed Libby Cone’s first book War on the Margins, and when she e-mailed me about reviewing her new book Flesh and Grass I was immediately interested. Generally when I read historical fiction I read fiction based around the two world wars but I thought why not get out of my comfort zone a little.

Unfortunately I didn’t find Flesh and Grass as good as War on the Margins. I found it a little slower, and I didn’t really feel like I ever got into it. There were elements I liked, I thought the emotions were done really well, and you could really understand how smells were attached to emotions for Cornelis. Historically it was interesting too, but I didn’t really get much from it about what it was like to be in completely new place. While events which would bring strong emotions were well described the general day-to-day feelings brought on by moving to a new place were barely touched upon.

I must admit that Libby Cone does have the tendency to write like a historian rather than an author. The topics are interesting but turning them into a story adds little, and it seemed to add less here than in War on the Margins.

3/5

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The Piano Tuner- Daniel Mason


Cover of "The Piano Tuner: A Novel"

Cover of The Piano Tuner: A Novel

Synopsis (from Amazon)

On a misty London afternoon in 1886, piano tuner Edgar Drake receives a strange request from the War Office: he must leave his wife, and his quiet life in London, to travel to the jungles of Burma to tune a rare Erhard grand piano. The piano belongs to Surgeon-Major Anthony Carroll, an enigmatic British officer, whose success at making peace in the war-torn Shan States is legendary, but whose unorthodox methods have begun to attract suspicion.

 

So begins the journey of the soft-spoken Edgar across Europe, the Red Sea, India, Burma, and at last into the remote highlands of the Shan States. En route he is entranced by the Doctor’s letters and by the shifting cast of tale-spinners, soldiers and thieves who cross his path.

 

As his captivation grows, however, so do his questions: about the Doctor’s true motives, about an enchanting and elusive woman who travels with him into the jungle, about why he came. And, ultimately, whether he will ever be able to return home unchanged to the woman who awaits him there . . .

 

Sensuous and lyrical, rich with passion and adventure, THE PIANO TUNER is an unforgettable and haunting novel.

Review

I wrote about the trouble I was having with this book in my very waffley post earlier this week. It’s not that it was a bad book by any means, it was well written, and enough happened for me not to give up but the going was very slow, I was almost halfway through the book before Edgar even reached Burma and really for a book that supposedly is about him visiting Burma that really is something which takes a long time to arrive. I must admit that I found that the pace did quicken as I got further into the novel, and that meant I found the last few chapters actually went comparatively quickly, but two weeks for a book is a long time for me (especially as I had already read six others the same month) and that spoiled my enjoyment a little.

There were lots of sections which got me intrigued and wanting to know more, but often nothing more was said about them which made me a little annoyed as they were part of what kept me reading. In fact the most interesting portion for me was the man with one story, and I think I would have actually prefered a book about him to the book that was actually written! (I checked, it doesn’t seem Amazon has a book by Mason about the man with one story, although his second novel, A Distant Country sounds interesting) By the end I did want to know what was going to happen next but the end was a bit of a let down for me, there were lots of unanswered questions which I don’t even really have any theories about. I actually got the impression Mason didn’t know the answers either.

I had high hopes for this book as it was recommended by the same person who introduced me to Marukami but I didn’t get on with it half as well as Norwegian Wood

3/5

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The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty- Sebastian Barry


Synopsis (from Amazon)

Following the end of the First World War, Eneas McNulty joins the British-led Royal Irish Constabulary. With all those around him becoming soldiers of a different kind, however, it proves to be the defining decision of his life when, having witnessed the murder of a fellow RIC policeman, he is wrongly accused of identifying the executioners. With a sentence of death passed over him he is forced to flee Sligo, his friends, family and beloved girl, Viv. What follows is the story of this flight, his subsequent wanderings, and the haunting pull of home that always afflicts him. Tender, witty, troubling and tragic, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty tells the secret history of a lost man.
Review
I really enjoyed The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry and the small mentions of Eneas McNulty within that story had me intregued. When I found out that there was a book about Eneas I was quite excited to read it. Unfortunately I found The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty didn’t meet up to my expectations. It didn’t have half the draw of The Secret Scripture and even the parts that I did find interesting were far too brief. There were enough interesting bits to keep me going right to the end of the book but by the end I was mainly just waiting to finish the story. There were many elements that could have been exciting or moving but they just didn’t quite meet up. I did find some sections moving but they were over all too briefly.
I found the writing a little inconsistent, at the beginning it was written as if Eneas himself was speaking- although it was written in the third person, it was a pretty stereotypical Irish voice, but after a while it became less Irish and it seemed less like it was Eneas speaking.
I still found the bits about Roseanne (the protagonist of The Secret Scripture) intriguing, so I might have been somewhat interested in reading The Secret Scripture if I had read The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty first but I think based on my enjoyment of this book I wouldn’t have actually read it.
2/5

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Sarah’s Key- Tatiana de Rosnay


Cover of "Sarah's Key"

Cover of Sarahs Key

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old Jewish girl, is arrested by the French police in the middle of the night, along with her mother and father. Desperate to protect her younger brother, she locks him in a cupboard and promises to come back for him as soon as she can.

Paris, May 2002: Julia Jarmond, an American journalist, is asked to write about the 60th anniversary of the Vel’ d’Hiv–the infamous day in 1942 when French police rounded up thousands of Jewish men, women and children, in order to send them to concentration camps. Sarah’s Key is the poignant story of two families, forever linked and haunted by one of the darkest days in France’s past. In this emotionally intense, page-turning novel, Tatiana de Rosnay reveals the guilt brought on by long-buried secrets and the damage that the truth can inflict when they finally come unravelled.

Review

It is very true that little is told about the German occupation of France during the second world war, until I read Sarah’s Key I had never heard of the Vel’ d’Hiv and knew next to nothing about the German occupation of France (in fact it is sad to say that most of what I knew came from watching ‘Allo ‘Allo, which I am sure is very historically accurate!). I have read a lot of  novels set around the world wars but I haven’t come across one set in France in the second world war before. I’m not sure if this is because they are rare or just that I happen not to have come across them. Sarah’s Key has certainly piqued my interest to read more about France during this time, it’s been a long time since I’ve read a work of historical fiction that has done that, and I would love some recommendations if any of you guys can think of another book like Sarah’s Key.

I feel I am going off on a tangent a little. Sarah’s Key was beautiful, heart wrenching, at times it was so sad I did not want to keep reading, but I did, I had to, and I’m glad I did. I loved Sarah. I loved her strength and determination. Seeing how she changed was so sad, no child should have to grow up that fast, but I think it was done well, I felt it shouldn’t have happened but in a way it gave a sense of hope. I didn’t like Julia’s side of the story so much but it was good to see how people looked back at that period of time and it broke up the sadness a little which made the book easier to read. Some parts of Julia’s story I found unnecessary (highlight for spoiler)such as the whole pregnancy and the problems that caused, it felt almost like adding a chunk of chick-lit into a serious book. Other bits I found unbelievable, (highlight for spoiler) I could see her going to America to chase down Sarah, especially as she had family there anyway, but her going to Italy to find Sarah’s son seemed a little far-fetched. The ending kind of spoiled the book for me too, it made it kind of clichéd, (highlight for spoiler) with Julia naming her child after Sarah (which was not only clichéd but also kind of predictable). I was at least glad that she didn’t end up with Sarah’s son but the suggestion was there.

4.5/5

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The Siege- Helen Dunmore


This book was read as my book recommended by another blogger for the Take A Chance Challenge

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Leningrad, September 1941. German tanks surround the city, imprisoning those who live there. The besieged people of Leningrad face shells, starvation, and the Russian winter. Interweaving two love affairs in two generations, THE SIEGE draws us deep into the Levin’s family struggle to stay alive during this terrible winter. It is a story about war and the wounds it inflicts on people’s lives. It is also a lyrical and deeply moving celebration of love, life and survival.

Review

It’s been quite a long time since I last read a story based around the second world war, seeing as it’s the nearest I get to reading a particular genre it is something I read fairly frequently. I don’t think I’ve read anything set in Russia during this time before (or at least not wholly based in Russia) so I was glad to expand my horizons a little. I must admit just recently I’ve not had much luck with these types of books, often finding myself disappointed, and I was hoping The Siege would be different. However I can’t say I really felt that engaged most of the time. Undoubtedly the writing is good- there is a certain poetry to it, but it does not really feel as though you get under the character’s skin. A lot of the time I found the writing kind of detached. The descriptions of what was going on were very good, I could see what was happening in my mind quite clearly, and at times that made it difficult to read. However I never really got a sense of how the characters felt about what was going on- even when there was a sense of feeling it was described in such a detached way that it felt as much like fact as like feeling. If it was purposeful then I suppose it showed the detachment the characters may crave very clearly but for me it felt like that characters were pretty one dementional. As far as being a war novel it didn’t really feel like a war novel, there was some speak of the enemy but it felt almost as if it could be set anywhere in Soviet Russia during food shortages.

I found the end was very rushed, almost as if Dunmore wasn’t sure how to get to the end so decided just to skip a great chunk of time. Similarly I found that anticipated events, while could have really added emotion were skipped over only to be mentioned later so you know they had happened. I found when it ended a little confusing to, but maybe if I had some prior knowledge of the events of the Leningrad siege I would have known what happened next anyway.

The ending however was kind of poignant and probably the best section emotionally, it sort of made me want to visit St. Petersberg

3.5/5

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The Help- Kathryn Stockett


Synopsis (from Amazon)

Enter a vanished and unjust world:  Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver… There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from College, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared. Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in a search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell…

Review

I first heard about The Help on Channel 4’s TV Book Club, I was intregued enough at the time to add it to my wishlist but it wasn’t until reading a number of positive reviews from other bloggers that I really wanted to read it. All the same it could still be just sitting on my wishlist if it wasn’t for the fact that my sister leant me a copy.

It’s been quite a long time since I last read a book that I wanted to read above other things that I wanted to do, but The Help was definitely one of these. I really did not want to put it down, but despite that it still took my a while to read.

At first I was unsure of Aibileen’s voice, it seemed like the way a white person would write a black person’s speech, and kind of fake. After a while it either toned down or I got enough into the story for it to cease to matter, I’m not entirely sure which it was.

I grew to love the characters. I think Aibileen was my favourite, she wanted to change things, but not so much for herself as for the people she loved. She did it in small ways, like her stories to Mae Mobley but I really respected her for it. I thought Minny was really strong. I respected her for not taking any rubbish, I found it difficult to understand why she stuck with her husband, but I guess there’s a realism there that love just isn’t that simple.

There’s obviously some autobiographical element at play. I could see bits of Stockett’s own maid (from her childhood, who she speaks about at the end) in Minny, Aibileen and Constantine. Does that make the book a ‘cheat’ as fiction? No I don’t think so, and a certain realism gives more strength to the topic. Skeeter is very undoubtedly based on Stockett herself, I mean even the names are similar! I’m interested to see if she comes outwith anything else as there was so little real fiction in The Help.

5/5

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War on the Margins- Libby Cone


Disclaimer: War on the Margins was given to me free in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from Amazon)

France has just fallen to the Nazis. Britain is under siege. As BBC bulletins grow more and more bleak, residents of Jersey abandon their homes in their thousands. When the Germans take over, Marlene Zimmer, a shy clerk at the Aliens Office, must register her friends and neighbours as Jews while concealing her own heritage, until eventually she is forced to flee. Layers of extraordinary history unfold as we chart Marlene’s transformation from unassuming office worker to active Resistance member under the protection of Surrealist artists Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, who manage to find poetry in the midst of hardship and unimaginable danger. Drawn from authentic World War II documents, broadcasts and private letters, ‘War on the Margins’ tells the unforgettable story of the deepening horror of the Nazi regime in Jersey and the extraordinary bravery of those who sought to subvert it.
Review
Well it certainly has taken me a long time to read this book considering it has less than 250 pages. Part of this is because I’ve been ill and have had no concentration for any reading at all (even facebook was taxing at times!), and partly because I had real trouble getting into it. I was really hoping to like this one. I enjoy historical fiction focused around this time and started reading it when I was in primary school. This one sounded like it would have a good balance of historical fact and story, plus I hadn’t read anything set in Jersey before so was interested to see what the UK was like during occupation. I must say on the second point I did get my wish and the book gave me a good sense of what it was like to be in an occupied country. However I felt the novel read more like a history book than a story, you could really tell that it started off as Cone’s masters dissertation. I didn’t feel particularly connected to the characters, I didn’t care much about what happened to them, although I was (highlight for spoiler) happy when Lucy and Susanne’s sentence was lowered.
I didn’t really like Lucy and Susanne, I found them kind of fake. Like they were purposely trying to be ‘different’. Although I did admire their action.
I did however like the authentic documents included in this novel. It backed up what Cole was writing and gave a security with what to take as fact that isn’t given in most other historical fiction.
Overall there are probably better history books, and there is better historical fiction, but you wouldn’t do badly with this.
3/5

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Double Vision- Pat Barker


Cover of "Double Vision"

Cover of Double Vision

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Insomnia, exhaustion, recurring nightmares – Stephen Sharkey is suffering the aftereffects of his career as a war reporter, most recently in Afghanistan, where Ben Frobisher, war photographer and friend, has been shot dead on assignment. Hanging up his flak jacket and turning his back on the everyday reality of war, Stephen moves into a quiet and peaceful cottage in the north of England. It seems the perfect environment in which to write his book on the representations of war – one that will be based largely on Ben Frobisher’s work. But Stephen’s supposed isolation offers no protection from other people’s suffering or the shattering effects of human brutality . . .

Review

Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy was a favourite of mine while in college, and I always have high hopes when I come across other novels by her. I thought I may have found it on reading ‘Winner of the 1995 Booker Prize’ on the front cover of Double Vision. As I into the novel though I began to think this couldn’t be true. For one thing the book spoke of 9/11 which of course hadn’t happened in 1995. On further research I found that Barker did win the 1995 Booker award, but for The Ghost Road, not Double Vision. I did think the cover was very misleading however and it probably effected somewhat how I approached the book.

The book started off quite well. I liked Kate and found her interesting. I think a whole story focussing on her would have been interesting, and I ended the book wanting to know more about what had happened to her, and about the mystery to do with her sculpture. Steven I liked well enough but was more interested in him as a vehicle for Ben’s story. In fact I had the impression that most of the story would be about him and Ben and felt let down that Ben’s story was only really given a mention a few times. I think in this sense the blurb was very misleading. I thought Peter was a really interesting character and I would have loved to see his view point, and found out what his motivations were, although there is something I like about the mystery there and I am happy to imagine.

I got the feeling that Barker started this story with one idea in mind, but gradually got distracted by different story lines, meaning that none were ever really completed to my satisfaction. Although I generally enjoyed the progression of the storys I was disappointed with the conclusion of them. The actual ending that was there I found pretty pointless, in fact it felt like Barker believed she needed some action and added the end of the story simply to give that. (highlight for spoiler)The whole robbery idea seemed completely out of sorts with the rest of the story and I didn’t really care enough about Justine for it to be acceptable as another storyline. I also didn’t understand that suddenly Stephen was in love with Justine. It was never about love before, they both knew it wasn’t going to last, they didn’t really want it too. It felt misogynist that Stephen suddenly loved her when she was venerable. It felt like he loved her because she was venerable and liked the idea of being the big strong man. The Stephen/Justine storyline was never one of romance for me, and I was happy with that until the end when Barker seemed to was to make it into a romance.

I do think a lot of what I disliked was to do with the way the book was presented. From the synopsis I expected more of a ‘war’ book (which in general I enjoy). From the cover I expected an award winner.

If you’re not a reader of Barker please don’t start with this one. Start with Regeneration. Please. The series is fantastic. Life Class isn’t bad, but not a patch on Regeneration. This one feel free to read, but don’t expect too much, I think half my dislike was caused by my expectations.

3/5

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society- Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Image by Timothy Valentine via Flickr

This review was written 13/06/09

Synopsis(from Amazon)

It’s 1946 and author Juliet Ashton can’t think what to write next. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – by chance, he’s acquired a book that once belonged to her – and, spurred on by their mutual love of reading, they begin a correspondence. When Dawsey reveals that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, her curiosity is piqued and it’s not long before she begins to hear from other members. As letters fly back and forth with stories of life in Guernsey under the German Occupation, Juliet soon realizes that the society is every bit as extraordinary as its name.

Review

Hmm what to say. This book wasn’t what I expected, I expected it to be more about the war but that was only part of the plot. I did enjoy it but I expected to enjoy it more. I don’t really have anything of great interest to say about it… I don’t really like it when books are written in letters as this one was, but when it comes to that style this was a good one. I became more attached than I usually do to the characters, although even at the end I was a bit confused as to who was who.

(highlight for spoiler) I could really imagine how Juliet’s friends felt about her love life though, and that was one of my favourite elements

3/5

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The 19th Wife- David Ebershoff


Synopsis (from Amazon)

Jordan returns from California to Utah to visit his mother in jail. As a teenager he was expelled from his family and religious community, a secretive Mormon offshoot sect. Now his father has been found shot dead in front of his computer, and one of his many wives – Jordan’s mother – is accused of the crime. Over a century earlier, Ann Eliza Young, the nineteenth wife of Brigham Young, Prophet and Leader of the Mormon Church, tells the sensational story of how her own parents were drawn into plural marriage, and how she herself battled for her freedom and escaped her powerful husband, to lead a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. Bold, shocking and gripping, The 19th Wife expertly weaves together these two narratives: a pageturning literary mystery and an enthralling epic of love and faith.

Review

Well first of this book wasn’t what I really expected from the blurb, although I knew it would have some ‘historical’ content I expected it to be outweighed by the modern story, which was really the bit that I was most interested in (although I enjoy historical fiction if this had been suggested as such I probably wouldn’t have been interested in it). However the historical side of the story outweighed the modern day story- in a way I felt like half of it was added just to bulk out the story. I can’t say I was particully rivetted by either side of the story. The story of the modern day 19th Wife had promise but wasn’t really explored very well. The background of The 19th Wife herself could have been explored more to give insight into the actions- and in itself could have made a decent story. As for the ‘historicall’ story, I found the period of the story about the founding of the Mormon church to be quite interesting because I know next to nothing about the Latter Day Saints but in other parts I found the story really dragged, and from about halfway through I felt like Ebershoff was pushing his own agenda into the book. The story of Ann Eliza Young was fairly interesting but I don’t think it was very well told, and I would rather read her own autobiography (Wife No. 19)  than what Ebershoff claimed was an edited version.

I can’t say I wish I hadn’t wasted the time it took me to read The 19th Wife, because I did find some bits interesting, however I do feel I could have found the interesting bits in a quicker way or through a better written source.

2.5/5

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The Swan Thieves- Elizabeth Kostova


Synopsis (from Amazon)

Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe has a perfectly ordered life ? solitary, perhaps, but full of devotion to his profession and the painting hobby he loves. This order is destroyed when renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient. Desperate to understand the secret that torments this genius, Marlowe embarks on a journey that leads him into the lives of the women closest to Oliver and a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism. Kostova’s masterful new novel travels from American cities to the coast of Normandy; from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth, from young love to last love. The Swan Thieves is a story of obsession, history’s losses, and the power of art to preserve hope.

Review.

Having read and loved The Historian I was eager to read this one, but trying not to get my hopes up too high. I was not disappointed. Although it doesn’t have the same pace and urgency of The Historian it had just as much mystery, and in some places the mystery in the Swan Thieves was, maybe not better, but cleverer. There were so many time when something which had previously seemed to be a throwaway comment of little importance became a great clue, and it wasn’t until a mystery was solved that you realised how vital that comment was. At some points you had even forgotten about what was said until it was put into a new context.

The Swan Thieves was slower than The Historian, and stuck with me less between reading, (However I didn’t miss the funny dreams that The Historian gave me…or the having to get up in the middle of the night to check there was nobody in my cupboards!). At the end though I felt much more satisfied, and kind of thoughtful. I suppose maybe because The Swan Thieves is more realistic, or just because the overwhelming feeling from finishing The Historian was one of safety. I can’t say this one hooked me in the same way- most of the way through I had little trouble putting down the book (it was only in the last 100 or so pages that I really felt I couldn’t not read The Swan Thieves) whereas I often staying up reading The Historian late into the night.

If you’ve not read an Elizabeth Kostova before I would recommend The Historian over The Swan Thieves but this was still an extremely enjoyable, and very clever book.

4.5/5

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A Girl Made of Dust- Nathalie Abi-Ezzi


Synopsis (from Amazon)

A rich and beautiful novel set during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980s, and based on the author’s personal experiences of the conflict. Ten-year-old Ruba lives in a village outside Beirut. From her family home, she can see the buildings shimmering on the horizon and the sea stretched out beside them. She can also hear the rumble of the shelling — this is Lebanon in the 1980s and civil war is tearing the country apart. Ruba, however, has her own worries. Her father hardly ever speaks and spends most of his days sitting in his armchair, avoiding work and family. Her mother looks so sad that Ruba thinks her heart might have withered in the heat like a fig. Her elder brother, Naji, has started to spend his time with older boys — and some of them have guns. When Ruba decides she has to save her father, and uncovers his secret, she begins a journey which takes her from childhood to the beginnings of adulthood. As Israeli troops invade and danger comes ever closer, she realises that she may not be able to keep her family safe. This is a first novel with tremendous heart, which captures both a country and a childhood in turmoil.

Review.

I was rather disappointed by this book, there was little sense of what it felt like for a child living during a war, and while there was some impression of her ideas around why the war was happening there was litte about how she felt about that it actually was happening, in fact there was only really one point where I got a good sense of this. I don’t feel the blurb represented the book very well really. Yes Ruba grew up but I saw little connection with her Father’s secret, and while the secret was something important for understanding her Father I felt it had little to do with her growing up, or at least less that the impression given by the blurb. [Highlight for spoiler]As for The Girl made of Dust herself we never found out who she was which was a bit disappointing. The problem caused by her death seemed to suddenly disappear with the appearance of Amal in Ruba’s father’s life but I really don’t understand why, she can’t have been the girl because the girl was dead! I did quite like the voice of the book though, it seemed to fit a girl of Ruba’d age quite well and was engaging. It reminded me somewhat of the tone of The Cure for Death by Lightening which was one of my favourite books last year.

3.5/5

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