Tag Archives: book

The Ghost Writer by Alessandra Torre. Review. 

Sometimes, despite my best intentions to stick purely to my TBR I get drawn in and tempted by other books when browsing Netgalley, most of the time I end up with something either decent, or mediocre. But occasionally I end up with a book that’s so good it will give me the book hangover from hell. The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre is one of these books. 

I find reviews where I loved a book so much despite its maudlin content, really difficult to write. So be patient with me reader, please. 

The Ghostwriter’s main character is Helena Ross, a published author of romance novels who pulls in 6 figure advances (I know right, a budding writer’s dream), she is a snarky, self absorbed, grumpy, old woman in a 32 year old’s body. Then she finds out she is terminally ill. The diagnosis and her short prognosis convinces her that it’s time to write a novel about her own life. Her confession. The reason her behaviour has become even more erratic, the reason she lied to the police and the reason that her husband and child are no longer with her. 

This book had so many emotions. I was tearing through it at a rate I rarely do these days, so absorbed did I become in Helena’s story. A character who is so flawed, so desperately unlikeable and yet one we can all relate to. The solitary life of a reader and writer who cares for nothing else but. 

The distress she feels and the anticipation at finally discovering what had happened. The writer leads us along the path of the ghost writer themselves, learning everything about Helena before the final secrets are revealed. Causing us to live, moment by moment with her, desperate to know, making our own assumptions until wham! It hits you like a dumbbell in the face. 

This novel walks away with an easy 5* rating. This is One that will leave me reeling for a while. 


Beren and Lúthien by JRR Tolkien. Review. 

I’m finding this review quite hard to write and had originally decided not to even do one. You see, like most people who love reading and particularly those who love high or epic fantasy, I have an admiration for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. But when a well meaning family member bought me The Simarillion I found that I just couldn’t get into it. The same for The Lost Tales etc. Basically when it comes to Tolkien I love only stories with Hobbits in them. 

Trying to read anything else about the history of Middle Earth, for me, is like forcing my way through Beowulf or Ivanhoe. It just becomes tedious, boring and I struggle to get into it. I don’t profess myself to be a reader of grand texts. I like a story I can get into it. And that’s why this review is hard. While I fully respect the work of art that is Beren and Lúthien I just didn’t really enjoy it. 

The beginning part of the novel is mostly a preface and notes from the editor; Christopher Tolkien. One thing I certainly did like was this section and the other explanations, extracts from letters etc which are spotted around in the different chapters. I also enjoyed the actual story of Beren and Lúthien because it was fairly short and easy to understand. But for the most part the book is mainly very long and boring poetry. That part I didn’t like so much. It was worth a read all in all but I can’t say I’ll be rushing to pick it back up again! 

The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood. Review 

The Crow Garden is the first novel I have read from author Alison Littlewood and it was a rare treat! I love the idea of novels about madness but it is rare that I find one so well written, most I have found dance around with innuendo and mystery and I find that quite frustrating. Not so with The Crow Garden with echoes of Shutter Island Alison Littlewood builds tension with a novel where everything is evident to the reader and not to the characters themselves! 

Nathaniel Kerner is determined to become an Alienist or ‘mad-doctor’ treating patients in an asylum to atone for his father’s suicide, for which he blames himself. Soon he finds himself in his first position at Crakethorn, an old Manor House and now asylum where he meets the beautiful yet damaged Mrs Harleston. But as tension builds between the characters the lines between madness and sanity become blurred. 

Spotted with the poetry of Browning and Byron, the story tells of a terrible love story woven with insanity, in a time when it really was unclear who was mad and who was not. A time when Doctors were allowed free will to carry out barbarous treatments and patients could be admitted purely for being epileptic. The setting on the Yorkshire Moors and the time which is perceived to be Victorian times only add to the dark and cryptic storyline. 

Alison Littlewood’s writing reminds me a lot of the writing of Daphne Du Maurier and I feel that is the biggest complement I can afford the author of The Crow Garden a fantastic novel and highly recommended! 

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. Review. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like being scared. Despite this, a few years ago I watched The Woman in Black because I figured something with a 12 rating couldn’t scare a 20+ year old woman. Wrong. But despite being scared witless I really wanted to try the book. Which I have now finally done! 

I really enjoyed The Woman in Black it’s a fairly short novel only 200 pages long but it’s 200 pages of white knuckle fear, or at least it was for the biggest scaredy cat in the world (me). 

Arthur Kipps is a young solicitor, sent to out into the countryside to a small town surrounded by marshes, to attend the funeral of an old client’s death. The town is shrouded in mystery and nobody seems to want to talk about the deceased Mrs Drablow or her weird old house only accessed at low tide. And when Arthur spots a curious looking woman dressed in black at the funeral he finds the townsfolk shutter up even more. Cue weird experiences and ghostly goings on when he goes over Mrs Drablow’s house; Eel Marsh House. 

I found the book to be both interesting and scary. Which I think is the best kind of horror. I have no interest in gore, aliens, etc. But I do like a ghost story which troubles you and causes a psychological reaction, The Woman in Black successfully achieves this, with a mystery at the centre of the hauntings. Susan Hill’s description of her narrator’s terror, told in a first person narrative is utterly believeable because it is exactly the kind of fear we have all experienced. 

Spine tingley good, I just hope I can sleep tonight! 

I Know a Secret by Tess Gerritsen. Review. 

Tess Gerritsen is an author who I already respect and admire as an amazing crime thriller author. Her Rizzoli & Isles series about detective Jane Rizzoli and Medical Examiner Maura Isles have already taken the world by storm with a 12 book series plus short stories and a TV adaptation. 

I Know a Secret is the 12th and most recent novel in this series and I am pleased to say that it was as gripping and engaging as it’s predecessors. I loved getting back into the world of the two friends who couldn’t be more different and yet connect with each so well. 

I Know a Secret find the duo investigating a series of weird murders which the two Know are connected but cannot prove. As the plot thickens they have a suspect in mind but is he just that little bit too obvious? Meanwhile a mysterious girl haunts the funeral, she knows all the victims and she knows what their connection is, but there’s no way she’s ever going to tell her Secret. 

I can’t really say much more about the plot without giving anything away but I will say that there is more to it than meets the eye and secrets never stay buried! 

An excellent crime thriller, fast paced, intriguing and keeps you guessing until the end. 

How to Read Classics 

The classics, we think of Dickens, Brontë, Austen, Wilkie Collins, Miguel De Cervantes and Alexander Dumas and most of the time we think of great big, dusty tomes with tiny writing across hundreds of pages in a language long forgotten and difficult to read or sometimes awkward notations to explain humour in a work translated from another language. Mostly we think boredom. 

But despite that, many of us whether avid readers or not, are determined that we need to read the classics, to broaden our minds, to enjoy books which are supposed to be like works of art. So how to do we do it without becoming incredibly bored? Here are some helpful tips on how I read classics. 

According to my Goodreads shelves, I’ve read 188 classic books and I still have a fair few on my tbr as well. Some, like Wuthering Heights and Sense and Sensibility I’ve loved, while others like Hard Times I have despised. So my first piece of advice would be that if you are finding it incredibly boring, don’t understand it or are really not getting any enjoyment out of it. Put it down and don’t bother. There’s absolutely no point in reading something which feels like a chore or which you are not deriving pleasure from. Life is far too short after all. 

My second piece of advice would be to look to films and tv adaptations. Firstly because watching them gives you a greater and simpler understanding of them and secondly because usually if they’ve been adapted it means they’ve been enjoyed. Look at books by Charles Dickens for example. Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Great Expectations have all be adapted several times with great success and are very enjoyable reads. Meanwhile Hard Times and Bleak House have not seen the same the same level of success and are much less enjoyable books. Bleak House in particular is as miserable as it sounds. 

Start with some short ones. If you’re brand new to reading the classics there’s absolutely no point in starting with a novel which is 1000+ pages long and putting yourself off for life. Try something lighter first and in the same sense, try something a bit more ‘modern’. I can really recommend any of Oscar Wilde’s novels and plays which are funny and short, any of the Sherlock Holmes stories and The Turning of the Screw by Henry James.

Finally, my best piece of advice when tackling a large Classic is to read something else alongside it. For example at the moment I’m reading Miguel De Cervantes classic comedy novel Don Quixote it’s just shy of 1,000 pages long and although funny, it is tiresome when read for long periods of time, so I’m limiting myself to 100 pages a day. I read 50 pages in a morning and 50 pages at night and in between I read something lighter and more modern. That way I don’t get bored of the long descriptive passages and the old fashioned language. 

I hope my few tips on reading classics will help you, please share in the comments any methods you may have! 

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. Review 

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry seems to have been the most talked about book of the year, people who I know are not regular readers have even read and raved about it. As usual I am a little late to the party thanks to my enormous reading pile, but I’ve finally read it. 

In all honesty I found it a little slow paced, while the writing is beautiful I often find that beautiful writing makes you read much slower. When I first started my own studies in writing I remember scoffing at the idea that people prefer to read speech, conversations etc. Rather than description and the narrator telling the story. Show don’t tell. It’s the first rule of writing school isn’t it? And this book I felt, does a lot more telling than showing which I guess is why I found it slow paced. 

There’s no denying that Sarah Perry is a great writer, her prose is beautiful and the story is interesting as it looks to a time when scientific discovery begins to battle not only religious piety but myth and legend as well. Not only this, the novel explores the human psyche, emotions and relationships in minute detail, and the way that as humans we blunder on breaking relationships and not knowing or even perhaps caring how we effect other people. In particular the character of Cora Seaborne who sees herself so much as a woman empowered, taking back her identity that she fails to see how her actions and words effect others. 

I thought that this book explored the concept of feminism very well, in believing in herself and her own rights to do as she pleased, Cora destroyed friendships and relationships completely unaware of the fact and somewhat resentful when she became so. 

It was weird in places but as I say, well explored and what are people if not a little on the strange side?