Month April 2017
The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve
I give this a 4*
This is a story within a story. Firstly there is the murders that occurred in 1873. Then there is the story of the photographer who was given an assignment to photo-journalist to investigate the murders more than one hundred years later.
The murders of two women occurred on the bleak and remote island of Smuttynose, just off the New Hampshire coast, they are Norwegian woman who have emigrated. Maren and John left Norway first to start their new life, to then be followed by Maren’s sister Karen. Then by their brother Evan and his new wife Anethe. Maren is the only survivor, spending most of the night until sunrise, hiding in a sea cave.
Jean and her husband Thomas and their daughter Billie are on Rich’s boat. Rich is Thomas’s brother and along with them is Rich’s girlfriend, Adaline. They visit the Isles of Shoals, of which Smuttynose is one. Jean researches memoirs, guidebooks, court documents to fulfil her assignment.
We are gradually told of the relationships and child hoods of the family group on Smuttynose. How they came to be there and how they adapted to their new lives. The same for the group on the boat a hundred years later. As we discover more, there is a feeling that somethings are not quite right, an underlying tension peeps its ugly head through the story occasionally. It could be the mention of something that results in a look or a glare, a sarcastic comment that is a little sarcastic. By the end of the book you soon discover that both groups have gone through a loss that will change their lives for ever.
I really enjoyed this book. It is full of interesting historical content, as well as how hard life could be for those who chose to emigrate for a better life in America. There has been a lot of research that has gone into this book, this is evident from the list of titles used at the end of the book. I liked the way the book flitted backwards and forwards through time, as well as in each groups own time as well.
I would recommend this book for readers who like a solid read. Not hugely dramatic book, but a good story and content to keep a reader interested.
When a photographer researches a legendary crime that took place a century earlier, she immerses herself in the details of the case–and finds herself caught in the grip of an uncontrollable emotion.
The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner in Six Days by Juliet Conlin
This book I give a 5* review for.
This is an unusual story. It follows the life of Alfred Warner, nee Werner he was born in Germany. He has been witness to the persecution of Jews and the rise of the Nazi party. He was a POW in a camp in Scotland and has lived in the UK up until 6 days before his death when he arrives back in Germany. The journey is for the purpose of meeting his granddaughter Brynja, the two have never met. The narrator of the story is Julia, she comes across Alfred while he is a little confused and lonely. She helps him in a way she could never have imagined. She is the teller of his story and,will be the one who shares his family’s secret.
It’s a story that relates Alfred’s’ time in this world from his childhood through and up to his death. It leads from the just before Julia meets Brynja back to Brynja’s childhood. Also the six days that Julia will know both of them. this story has a good balance of several emotions, good and bad ones, as well as some of regret, it is heartwarming as well as heartbreaking. It is all the things that a person would go through in life, with the exception that Alfred has a little something extra in his life.
This is a beautifully written book, the author is a great storyteller. The style of writing has a good flow as it passes backwards and forwards through the characters histories. It gripped me almost instantly, and easily held my attention, and when I found myself nearly a the end of the book i didn’t want it to end. I knew what the end was for Alfred, but he had become such a likeable person I didn’t want to say goodbye to him. But is was wonderfully written with a sympathetic and touching feeling to it.
This is a book I would have no issues recommending to other readers. Look forward to reading more by this author.
Approaching 80, frail and alone, a remarkable man makes the journey from his sheltered home in England to Berlin to meet his granddaughter. He has six days left to live and must relate his life story before he dies…
His life has been rich and full. He has witnessed firsthand the rise of the Nazis, experienced heartrending family tragedy, fought in the German army, been interred in a POW camp in Scotland and faced violent persecution in peacetime Britain. But he has also touched many lives, fallen deeply in love, raised a family and survived triumphantly at the limits of human endurance. He carries within him an astonishing family secret that he must share before he dies… a story that will mean someone else’s salvation.
Welcome to the moving, heart-warming and uncommon life of Alfred Warner.
Alex by Pierre Lemaitre, translated from French by Frank Wynne
This is a definite 5* review.
Alex has been kidnapped, seemingly at random. Her abductor has stripped her, beaten and tortured her and put her in a cage in an abandoned warehouse. He is a brutal man, set on revenge, he has plans to simply watch her die. Will he succeed or will fate have a hand to play ?
Who will save her when no-one knows that she is missing. Her time is running out. She is an unknown person, who never seems to stay anywhere very long. Those that are aware of her have conflicting details about her.
As the story unfolds we are introduced to several memorable characters. Each one unique and very memorable, they have expertly crafted and as you read about them, you can easily visualise each one. This book is gripping from the start, it is brutal, gritty, unpredictable and at times not for the faint hearted. Lemaitre has not held back on his descriptions. AS the plot unfolds it becomes obvious that there is more to this story than you first think.
There is a phrase that comes up a lot about, not judging a book by its cover, I chose this book because the cover was eye-catching, and the blurb was very simple and brief. When you enter the book it takes you into a world of pain, suffering, bitterness, hate, intrigue and suspense. People are not who they first appear to be.
This is a must read for people who like dark, tough gritty murder / crime books.
No surprise that this book won the CWA International Dagger award. It is part of the “Brigade Criminelle Trilogy” and is the second in the series. Reading order is Irene, Alex, Camille. I will be buying the other two books and reading them very soon.
In kidnapping cases, the first few hours are crucial. After that, the chances of being found alive go from slim to nearly none. Alex Prevost – beautiful, resourceful, tough – may be no ordinary victim, but her time is running out. Commandant Camille Verhoven and his detectives have nothing to go on: no suspect, no lead, rapidly diminishing hope. All they know is that a girl was snatched off the streets of Paris and bundled into a white van. The enigma that is the fate of Alex will keep Verh/ven guessing until the bitter, bitter end. And before long, saving her life will be the least of his worries. The bestselling second book in the Brigade Criminelle Trilogy and the winner of the CWA International Dagger Award 2013.
I’ve Loved These Days by Bethany Turner
I read this book via Readers Review Room. This is my honest review.
Abigail Phelps is a delusional woman. She is encouraged by her psychologist to write down her delusions so that they can be discussed in their sessions. Abigail goes one better and actually writes her memoirs, as she see’s them, and has a book deal. Her psychologist reads the book and adds some comments of his own.
Abigail is a beautiful young woman, she knows up and coming film stars, travels the world, meets politicians, sports personalities and becomes famous. WHat is real and what is a fantasy becomes a blur as you read this book. It is an original concept that has been executed very well. While reading you have to remind yourself that you are reading an account of a very delusional, imaginative and clever mind. That the events that have occurred are not true, but in Abigail’s mind, they are.
It is quite an odd scenario to read about characters in a book, that are actually real people who are known worldwide. In Abigail’s world she is a skater, author, screen writer, friend of film stars, politicians and sportsmen. But when we get down to the basics she is an author with a psychological disorder.
This is a book that will appeal to readers of chick-lit and romance. An original and as far as I am aware, a unique twist on this type of genre. Well worth reading and is one that i would recommend.
“The very first time you met me you knew that he would never be the same again, didn’t you? For the record, I was never the same again either. And while times have changed and opportunities have been lost, I still know in my heart of hearts that I never will be. But we can’t go back, and we can’t undo. What’s more, I don’t really want to. While my life is not perfect, it is uniquely, ridiculously mine, and I would not trade it.”
Abigail Phelps has written her memoirs, but the world has never heard of her. So why should anyone care? Perhaps no one would, if the letter in which Abigail reflects on changing times and lost opportunities weren’t addressed to Jacqueline Onassis, and the man who would never be the same weren’t John F. Kennedy Jr.
Put aside all you think you know and jump into the greatest love story the world has never known.
The Gift Maker by Mark Mayes
Mark Mayes is a genius. This is one of those books you occasionally come across that is mind-blowing. I know that before I even start this review, I am not going to be able to do it justice.
I give this 5*
Firstly, this book is beautiful, from the outer cover to the inner pages, to the story inside. It is beautifully and artistically written. It is a masterpiece, this becomes obvious when you start to read it. You know you are experiencing something wonderful, there are very few books that have left me with this “It was an honour and a privilege to read” feeling.
This is the story of Thomas, Liselotte and Jo short for Johann, though there are many more very important and memorable characters. Thomas and Liselotte are given a box each, their reactions to this mysterious package are completely different. Thomas is very wary and wants to ignore and forget about his. Whereas Liselotte embraces her box, opens it and is mesmerised by the contents. The boxes will lead them on a journey of discovery, of horror and hope, of innocence and mixed paths. They will travel dark paths where time looses all meaning, and will question life and their own existence and beliefs.
This book is so deep with so many intertwining stories, characters and ideologies, it is amazing that it all fits into 320 pages. This is not a quick read book, it a book that you will think about. The characters are wonderfully written and the scenes that Mark has created are astounding. This book has left me awestruck. There will be people who read and understand philosophical texts, who will take a lot more from this story than I have. But this lack of philosophical understanding that I have does not for a moment take anything away from the story. It makes me aware that there is something deeper and profound sat in these pages.
There is one quote that I loved from this story that for me jumped out, though there are a lot i could choose, and that was
“We are cursed with free choice.”
This is not a quick read book, it is a book to be savoured and enjoyed. It is a work of genius.
‘Gifts ought to be free, but they never are. They tie you to the wishes of others. To your own sad expectations. To the penitentiary of your dreams.’
Late one night, Thomas Ruder receives a strange package: a small blue box. Another such item is delivered to his friend Liselotte Hauptmann. These ‘gifts’ will change their lives forever. In the far-off border town of Grenze, a play is to be performed at the Sheol Theatre. Reynard the impresario expects a very special audience. Thomas and Liselotte, together with their friend Johann, are drawn into Reynard’s seductive web, as Daumen, the gift maker, must decide who his master really is.
The Gift Maker is a story about identity, about fulfilling your dreams and becoming the person you always were … at whatever cost.
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
I would like to thank Netgalley and Atlantic Monthly Press for my ARC of this book for my honest review.
MY REVIEW: There are not spoilers as such, but I have included a couple of small story details that may take the edge of the story. So please be aware before reading the whole review.
This is a retelling of the Lizzie Borden story. Most people are aware of her. I knew that she had murdered people with an axe, but that was due to my remembering the poem.
This story starts with Lizzie stating “Someone’s killed father.” A good start to then be followed by a scene of characters in confusion as to what to do next, as well as the who was where at the time. The story tells of Lizzie and Emma, her sister, childhood and their upbringing. Loosing their mother and their father remarrying. It soon becomes clear that Lizzie is not to be trusted, she is a liar, thief, attention seeker and drama queen. Her sister Emma is desperate to leave the house and the family, she is not the only one. The house is almost a prison, capturing it’s dwellers and not wanting to let them go.
Though I did enjoy this book, the choppiness of the timeline made it a little confusing on occasions. The flicking between past and present, as well as between characters caused me to backtrack on my reading. I am used to this style of writing and it is a great tool for creating perspectives from different angles, this one was a bit too much. If i had read it over several sittings , my brain may have been able to process it more.
I would recommend to general crime readers.
In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.
On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.
As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.
The House by Simon Lelic
I would like to thank Netgalley and Penguin Books UK for my ARC for my honest opinion.
What if you manage to get your dream house, well more like a house you like, in London that you can just afford ?
What if against all odds your bid is chosen as the one.
This is precisely what happened to Jack and Sydney. They went to a house viewing, looking around at the other potential buyers, they thought that their bid would not be accepted. They are shocked and delighted to discover the owner of the house has chosen their bid as the one he will accept. The owner just took a few personal belongings and emigrated.
Then one evening a body is discovered in an alley that runs behind their house. The police are watching them. Things start to happen, things are discovered, secrets revealed and some secrets kept. Their relationship will suffer, work will suffer and old feelings and issues will arise unexpectedly. Life will take a change in direction.
This is a great thriller / suspense novel. It keeps the reader turning the pages from start to finish, with several twists. During the story more is learnt about Jack and Sydney’s childhood. How they were brought up and the reasons behind the various issues they have.
I really liked the way the chapters alternate between Jack and Sydney. At first i was a little confused, but once you start getting into the story it all makes sense. I liked the use of going back in time to their childhood, especially Sydney’s , it was like a regression therapy as she remembered and started to make sense of what had happened, as well as what she went through. I would like to have known more about Jack’s childhood, but realise that the story is more about Sydney, than Jack.
The beginning of the book captures the reader straightaway, it describes Jack rubbernecking from his bedroom window. OUtside the police are there, and they are watching.
I would definitely recommend this book to fellow thriller / suspense readers who like stories with twists, this has many.
Every House has a past….
Every couple has their secrets……
What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?
Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it. So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake. Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door. And now the police are watching them…
A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall
MY REVIEW: 3*
I would like to thank Netgalley for my ARC copy of this book for an honest review.
Audrey is the link that holds this story together, she is the linchpin. One problem though, she died in a mysterious car crash, leaving behind her husband and what seems to be other random strangers.
It is set in Kew Gardens, London, and spans a year. During that year we discover and meet Jonah, who is Audrey’s husband, Milly a little girl who seems to wander round Kew by herself, Harry the botanist and Chloe the art student and maker of origami birds. They are all linked in their own way to Audrey.
I really wanted to enjoy this story, the characters are well written, the general feel of the book was only okay for me though. It would be a lazy afternoon read, if I was asked my opinion of it. It rather feels like i was merely meandering through it, rather than wanting to keep turning the pages to find out what happened next.
I have marked this book as a 3*, but with an addition on my personal notes , to come back to this book and try it again, as I didn’t dislike it.
An intimate portrait of five inextricably linked lives, spanning one calendar year at Kew Gardens in London.
Nothing is set in stone. A bird can be refolded into a boat, a fish, a kimono, or any other extravagant vision. At other times it aches to return to its original folds. The paper begins to fray. It tires, rebels.
After the sudden death of his wife, Audrey, Jonah sits on a bench in Kew Gardens, trying to reassemble the shattered pieces of his life.
Chloe, shaven-headed and abrasive, finds solace in the origami she meticulously folds. But when she meets Jonah, her carefully constructed defenses threaten to fall.
Milly, a child quick to laugh, freely roams Kew, finding beauty everywhere she goes. But where is her mother and where does she go when the gardens are closed?
Harry’s purpose is to save plants from extinction. Quiet and enigmatic, he longs for something–or someone–who will root him more firmly to the earth.
Audrey links these strangers together. As the mystery of her death unravels, the characters journey through the seasons to learn that stories, like paper, can be refolded and reformed. Haunted by songs and origami birds, this novel is a love letter to a garden and a hymn to lost things.
If The Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss
I would like to thank Netgalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for my copy of this ARC for my honest review.
The story focuses on a handful of locals in the small mountain community of Baines Creek, Appalachia, North Carolina. It is a hash and hard life there. A poor community with a core of people who are willing to help those deserving of it.
Preacher Eli Perkins travels through the community swapping jokes and sharing food. He is the polar opposite of his spinster sister Prudence, who doesn’t seem to have a kind bone in her body. She is a bitter and resentful woman. Then there is Marris Jones, who is eternally good-hearted, charitable, helpful, understanding and willing to go out of her way to be understanding. The local healing woman Birdie Rocas, some are scared of her and think she is a witch. Probably something to do with Samuel the crow who hitches a ride in her hair, but she has a vast knowledge of plant, herbs and medicines as well as poisons. She keeps a journal of things that happen on the mountains, she is a keeper of folklore and natural wonders. The newly appointed teacher Kate Shaw, who on arrival learns more from the locals than she teaches. But as the mountain has accepted her, so do the people. But she has found a place where she feels she can settle and manages to find a place for herself.
Then there is the grumbling Gladys Hicks. She is the Grandmother of Sadie Blue. Gladys took Sadie in after her father had died, and left parentless. She thinks she is world wise but is very naive. Her world comes crashing down around her when her husband Roy Tupkin starts beating her after they have been married on ly fifteen days. Gladys know Roy is trouble, but Sadie will not listen to her.
This story is very well written, with some very unique characters and their histories. The way the people live, or I should say the way some people just exist gives a great depth to this story. It shows how poor and destitute family’s are, children with no shoes and wearing burlap sacks. If you think this is going to be a sad and depressing story, you will be wrong. It shows how people with a simple existence have a rich community spirit for those deserving of it. I know that would never feed them, but the goodwill and grace of others will.
It gets straight in at the beginning, with Sadie being beaten up by Roy, but that is just the hook, after that the story almost strolls along, but it still maintains its grip on the reader. I would definitely recommend this book to readers.
A strikingly sincere portrait of a town and its buried secrets from an outstanding new voice in southern fiction.
In a North Carolina mountain town filled with moonshine and rotten husbands, Sadie Blue is only the latest girl to face a dead-end future at the mercy of a dangerous drunk. She’s been married to Roy Tupkin for fifteen days, and she knows now that she should have listened to the folks who said he was trouble. But when a stranger sweeps in and knocks the world off-kilter for everyone in town, Sadie begins to think there might be more to life than being Roy’s wife.
As stark and magnificent as Appalachia itself, If the Creek Don’t Rise is a bold and beautifully layered debut about a dusty, desperate town finding the inner strength it needs to outrun its demons. The folks of Baines Creek will take you deep into the mountains with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.