Kate Morton The Lake House

The Lake House is a beautiful and intriguing novel by one of my favourites Kate Morton. I didn’t receive this book for review but decided to write a review of it anyway with it being a recent release.

The story spans across 2 time periods of 1933 and 2003 set in both urban London and beautiful Cornwall where the Edevane’s live in the house called Loeannath (The Lake House.)

What I loved most about this book was Kate Morton’s amazing skill of making a place come alive, the description of the lake house and Cornwall were beautiful and you could well imagine the place preparing for the Midsummer party. Another skill Kate Morton applies is that of weaving together both time periods and settings without making you lose the plot. She makes it seem effortless. The characters while not necessarily likeable as such are relatable and interesting and I found this book to be a real page turner!

One thing I will say is that intentionally or not this novel gave many tips for budding authors like myself as well not least because Kate is such a good writer herself but due to one of her characters being a budding author as well I found invaluable tips between the pages.

The Lake House is a story of love both unrequited and true. It has a mystery that will keep you guessing until the end which is what makes it such a fast read despite its size. It’s truly enjoyable with its beautiful descriptive passages and it’s tale across time. I’ve seen people complain that the ending is too tidy but I think that not only does it complete the story in a fascinating and unexpected way, it answers questions which you didn’t even realise you were asking!

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The Gingerbread Collection Review

I was contacted a little while ago by the author of this short story collection: The Gingerbread Collection’through my website asking if I’d mind doing a review piece on it. Of course I was absolutely delighted and agreed immediately. So first of all I’d like to say thank you to Victor A Davies for giving me the opportunity to read his stories in exchange for an honest review.

 

Now, I haven’t read many short story collections. I was introduced to them initially when I started reading Dubliners as part of my Literature module at university. I then tacked George RR Martin (editor)’s collection Rogues and went on to read a few more collections including a lot of short stories by Karin Slaughter and some by Cecelia Ahern and Milly Johnson. It’s definitely broadened my horizons in terms of what is expected of a short story which has helped me immensely with my creative writing modules of my degree.

 

Anyway back to The Gingerbread Collection. What is most evident in this collection is the authors ability to take any idea or genre and turn it into a story. From simple exchanges in everyday life which expose emotions and thoughts beyond the nature of the story and give you food for thought yourself to horror, suspense and science fiction he’s nailed it. There was not one story I didn’t enjoy. My particular favourites however were ‘The Night at the Lake’, ‘Shiva’ and ‘Gingerbread’. There are many references to mythology as well as literature particularly HG Wells in the science fiction story which I thought were great touches and showed some of the authors influences.

 

Not only did the stories engage the readers interest but they also explored places and old stories which one may not have thought about before. Each story left you with a thought about what might happen next allowing you to draw your own conclusions but also leaving you with a sense of loss at the end with no satisfaction gained on what might have happened. This is a talent shared with writers like James Joyce and really, for me, shows that this author has nailed the short story process completely.

 

I really look forward to hearing more from this author in the future. One to watch!!

Saturday Requiem by Nicci French

Hello lovely followers and readers alike. I’m back after a brief stint away in Crete I’m feeling refreshed and ready to review again. So a big welcome back with my first new review of the summer Saturday Requiem by Nicci French.

I accepted this book for review as it had an edgy, enticing synopsis and sounded right up my street in the crime-thriller genre. Lets just say it did not disapoint. Now the first thing I need to disclaim is that this is the first Nicci French book I’ve actually read and Saturday Requiem is the 6th book in the Frieda Klein series; something I hadn’t realised when I chose it. There were therefore elements of it which I didn’t quite ‘get’ because I didn’t know the history of the other novels (something I plan to rectify really soon!) so if you’re new to Ms French I would suggest reading the preceding novels first.

However, despite this minor issue it didn’t stop the book from being what it is: a damn good read! The story of Saturday Requiem follows the psychotherapist Frieda Klein and her mottley band of friends like her niece Chloe, a police detective Karlsson, Josef the Ukranian handyman and Chloe’s ex boyfriend Jack who has himself been trying out a job as a therapist. Frieda is enlisted by Levin a secretive man who saved her skin in the past and is now recalling the favour. He wants Frieda to investigate a case where he thinks someone might have been convicted of a mass murder which they didn’t commit.

The authors true skill here is creating the element of danger. Not only with the current case where evidence is going missing and you start to suspect everyone from the ex husband to the less obvious but also the ominous presence of a character from Frieda’s past. Despite not having read the previous novels I could sense the danger from this haunting character and it only intrigued me more.

The story was easy to follow and Klein’s interactions with her niece reminded me a lot of Kay Scarpetta and her niece Lucy in the Patricia Cornwall series. I would therefore say if you like the Scarpetta novels these are the English versions and definitely worth a read. The one let down for me is that there was not a lot of emotional response from characters which made some parts seem stiff and clinical. This is something I think also applies to the Scarpetta novels. Other than that it was a fantastic read and a highly recommended 4* from me. I’ll definitely be giving her other novels in this series a go.

What a Wuffly Day…

After a week of monsoon-like weather I had been worried that the RSPCA’s annual fun dog show event would be rained off or worse people wouldn’t come because of the downpour and thunderstorms. It was with some trepidation therefore that I opened my curtains this morning to check the weather. My worries had been for nothing however, despite it being overcast it was still warm and thankfully not too warm for the doggies who were going to be on parade.

Our Scottish Terrier Fergus was ready to go once we’d brushed his coat and sprayed him with his Pethead Doggie Deodrant and we set off on the two mile walk to Eastwood Park in Hasland. After a small detour (due to getting lost) we arrived at 1:30pm which gave us some time to look around before Fergus’ class of the day ‘Fabulous Fella.’

We picked our card up to show we had registered him for the day and then wandered off to have a look around the outdoor stalls, there were some really wonderful stalls offering everything from tombola’s to pet accessories like leads and collars and even a stand from Bounders Dog Photography where you could win your own doggie photoshoots (see http://www.bounders.co.uk for more info as they travel the length and breadth of the UK). Bounders were also a sponsor of one of the rings along with Dunston Lodge Dog Grooming and Boarding Kennels (www.dunstonlodge.com).

We’ve been after a new collar for Fergus for a while as his was getting old and tatty and our eye was caught by the lovely handmade collars at Simply Paracord Uk (www.simplyparacorduk.co.uk) and we picked up a snazzy handmade collar 14″ for just £13. Its not only bright enough to stand out on Fergus’ black coat but it is also made of wonderful durable material that I can already tell will last even our mucky pup a lifetime.

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Once his collar was on and us humans had grabbed a spot of lunch from the burger van we were ready to hit the ‘Fabulous Fella’ class. It was a really big class with over 20 dogs in the running and it was lovely to see so many examples of the different breeds. Next to us was a Shiba Inu and there were shelties, golden retrievers, a beautiful grey Shar Pei and many more. Some lovely cross breeds attended as well including the darling Alfie a lurcher with soft fluffy hair who won second prize. Fergus didn’t win a prize in the show but he still gets first prize from us!

Once the class was over we had a wander around inside the hal where there were even more stalls. I picked up a cute pen pot with a scottie design on it for only 50p!! Along with a copy of Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay for just £1 from the bookstall. There were many more items on offer including a Thorntons tombola and jewellery stands.

The class had taken a long time to judge due to the sheer amount of dogs who had entered and we were concious of the 2 mile walk home so after a final wander around we headed back. It was a delightful day and wonderful to see so many people with or without dogs attending (we even spoke to someone who got their Scottie from the same breeder as us) particularly as all proceeds from the event go to the rebuild appeal for the animal shelter. Don’t forget you can also donate on the Just Giving page https://www.justgiving.com/chesterfieldanimalcentrerebuildappeal and https://www.chesterfield-rspca.co.uk/makeadonation/. In addition to this the website http://www.chesterfield-rspca.co.uk also has a selection of the animals up for adoption as well as a ‘wish list’ of items the animals need which you can purchase and donate.

Review: Underground Airlines

Wow.
Just wow.

This is probably the hardest review I’ve ever had to write. Mainly because this is one of the best books I’ve ever read and believe it or believe it not; good books are harder to review than bad ones.

Why is that you might ask? Well it’s the same mental process as the way we complain about bad service in a restaurant but don’t often compliment. How we might review a clothing company badly because the top we bought had a hole in it but don’t really take the time to say ‘hey, good job that top had no holes and the colour really suited me’. There are of course exceptions but this is just an example of.

So anyway back to the book. It’s the first time I’ve come across this author but I was immediately intrigued by the subject matter. A world modern like present day but where slavery still exists. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting and I was right in my trepidation as Underground Airlines took me on a very bumpy ride and I wasn’t sure exactly what was going to happen from one moment to the next. Although I think that’s what makes the book so fantastic.

So the plot, it’s not exactly what you think. Yes slavery still exists but only in the South, the North is full of free states but the racism is up a couple of notches on the racism today. There are also ‘free’ black people as well who were not born into slavery or who escaped and managed to form a new identity; just like our protagonist Jim or is it Victor or is it something else?

Jim/Victor/Something else works for the federal marshals by tracking black people who have escaped from slavery and return them to their ‘masters.’ Funny job for an ex slave huh?

I won’t spoil the story as my regular readers know I don’t like spoilers. However what I will say is that this novel is everything it promises. It delivers everything it says it will and more. It answers all the questions you might have and wraps everything up in a neat little bow while still leaving the ending open to interpretation which I think for an author is an incredible skill. I have already recommended this book to several members of my family and friends because it is actually THAT good.

The plot stays focus on the protagonist but opens up other smaller stories which run alongside it and keep the readers interest. It is a contemporary novel of one of the finest styles I have ever read. I would definitely be keen to read more from this author if his other novels are even a fraction of the quality of this one.

Review: Dear Amy

Dear Amy is that rare thing; a British based novel with a more americanised style. The author Helen Callaghan writes like the Slaughter’s and Rose’s of the world and that happens to be a style I particularly like.

Dear Amy however is based in Cambridge, England. It focuses on the character Margot Lewis a classics teacher at a private school in Cambridge. Going through a divorce Margot is finding it hard to cope with her rising anxiety levels, as well as her teaching she also runs a small advice column in the local newspaper called ‘Dear Amy’. Around the time that a local teenager Katie, a previous student of Margot’s goes missing, Margot herself begins receiving letters to her column in a childish handwriting and signed ‘Bethany Avery’. The problem is that Bethan went missing back in 1998 so there’s no way she could be writing these letters now.

At first I found the plot a little unrealistic, I mean let’s face it if you’re a kidnap victim how exactly are you getting pen, paper and envelope and in particular stamps? Who is posting the letters for you? It just can’t be right? However it never crossed my mind that there may be another explanation and that is where the skill of this author really lies. She lulls you into a false sense of security where you believe you know what’s going on, only to find out that in fact you’d got it all wrong.

Dear Amy is written in the particularly nourishing style of English crime with all the minutiae of day to day life; drinking tea, boiling the kettle, cleaning teeth, getting keys from bag, the insignificant details such as shopping for a fellow teachers birthday present or storming round to your ex husband’s new girlfriend’s house to call her all manner of names. But all this is done with the skill of an American thriller. The answer is hiding in plain sight.

A solid 5* it’s really hard to believe that Dear Amy is a debut novel from this author and I look forward to seeing more from her.

The 9:45 to Bletchley

As my regular readers will know, The 9:45 to Bletchley isn’t my ‘usual’ read. Although I’ll read pretty much anything which is put in my hand I do have a tendency to lean more towards reading crime/thriller or fantasy/YA. So my reasons for requesting this ARC was a weird one. Basically I did what no reader should do and ‘judged a book by its cover.’ My reason for this is because The 9:45 to Bletchley has a photograph on the front cover which also resides in a frame in my dining room. It is a photo of a young woman in wartime style walking through a train station and turning slightly over her shoulder to look at a policeman stood on the station platform. This is of course the perfect cover for a story filled with wartime espionage, the official secrets act, code and suspicious train rides. It sparked my fancy though because when my mum first bought me the picture a few years ago she said that it had drawn her attention because it looked like the woman had a story. A story I could perhaps write. Although I’ve mulled over the woman many times and wondered about her, historical fiction just isn’t really my thing. So the woman’s story remained untold. Until now.

The story was a bit simple for my usual taste, think Sally Warboyes or Joan Jonker the minuite of other people’s lives from Ena (the main character)’s mother dishing up stew to Ena taking off each item of clothing and hanging them neatly to avoid creases. This is not a criticism however as I know it is particular to this genre and helps to character build. The story was intriguing and I did find myself racing towards the end to find out who the German Spies were. It was predicatable in parts and about halfway in i’d figured it out, however that just added to the general appeal of a simple, easy-read for a Friday afternoon. I found someparts of it a little unbelievable in terms of say how Ena acted towards the end, however I’ll not say anymore as to reveal spoilers!

Generally The 9:45 to Bletchley is a strong example of it’s genre and having found out that this was in fact book 4 in the series I wouldn’t mind reading the others about Ena’s sisters. I will say that it is a book which can be read as a standalone without trouble.

An easy 4* read.

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