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Review of The Beach Wedding by Dorothy Koomson – 4 Stars

The Beach Wedding by Dorothy Koomson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Tessa Dannall is excited when her daughter arrives at their family beach resort. Her daughter has planned a joyful wedding on the beach at the family holiday resort but the plans bring back painful memories for Tessa who suffered a tragedy at her own beach wedding many years before. When the in-laws arrive tensions are heightened when Tessa realises they are connected with her past.

This is another novel from the “quick reads” collection which I have begun looking through lately. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than normal book by world leading authors. One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast paced with a lot happening in less time. I’m proud of authors who take on the challenge of writing these books so that they can be enjoyed by all even those who aren’t keen reader. I love to read these books after I finish a long novel or quite a serious non-fiction book, I find it refreshes my reading cycle a little.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Eventually, Jake moved away from me and sat back to pull and do up his trousers. I straightened myself out as Jake climbed off the sofa and returned to sitting on the floor beside me, staring at the television. Nothing was said for long minutes and I wondered if we’d ever speak of this. Or if we would pretend it hadn’t happened.
‘I shouldn’t have told you,’ Jake finally said.
‘You still miss Drew so much. I still miss him so much. He was my brother, you know? We grew up together. Double trouble, everyone called us. We looked alike, we were alike. My mum was always saying it was like she’d had twins, because she spent as much time telling him off as she did me. His mum said the same about me before she died. It makes sense we both wanted the same woman.’

Viewpoint: This story is told by Tessa although it switches from the present day timeline and the flashbacks to the time of her own wedding. The author does a really good job of slowly revealing bit by bit Tessa’s past which is really the more intriguing part of this storyline in my opinion.
Setting: This book primarily has a lovely beach setting which does give it a lovely holiday read type feel to it.

Any Negatives: I think parts of the story could move a bit quicker at times and as other reviewers have stated it is a bit predictable in places but I enjoyed it.

Overall View: I found this review quite difficult to write without giving too much away but hopefully I managed to share enough to give you the gist of the storyline. It was an enjoyable read, it very much felt like a holiday read (in fact you’d easily finish it on a short flight, not that there is too much flying going on these days). It’s not high drama, more of bubble-gum soap opera type book but light reading with a bit of escapism isn’t a bad thing every now and then. You get a great chunk of story in less than 100 pages, what more could you ask for.

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Extract from The Beach Wedding
I LOVE BOOKS

Review of The Familiars

The Familiars by Stacey Halls



My rating: 3 ½ Stars
Genre: Fantasy mixed with Historical Fiction

Premise: This is partially based on the true story of the Lancashire (Pendle Hill) Witch Trials told from the perspective of the young Fleetwood, a relatively newly appointed mistress of Gawthorpe Hall. When Fleetwood discovers a letter, hidden by her husband, stating that her life would be in peril if she became pregnant again, she feels she has no-one to turn to. Then almost out of the blue, she hires an intriguing young lady named Alice to become her midwife.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘You are young for a midwife,’ I said instead.
‘I learnt from my mother. She was a midwife. The best, actually.’
I felt the doctor’s words tighten once again around my neck, and with my good hand I adjusted my dirt-spattered collar.
‘When you say you know it to look at a woman with child?’ I asked. ‘Are you ever wrong?’
‘Sometimes,’ Alice replied, but I sensed she was lying.

Viewpoint: The novel is written from the viewpoint of Fleetwood and I think the author does a great job of conveying Fleetwood’s desperation and naivety in her male-dominated world. She often feels frustrated and powerless, yet instinctively protective of her unborn child and as the novel progresses Alice.

Character(s): The main characters are Fleetwood, Alice, Fleetwood’s husband Richard and a local lord named Roger.
The growing friendship between Alice and Fleetwood is lovely and develops nicely as the story progresses. The growing animosity between Fleetwood and Roger is also captured very well. The most frustrating relationship for me was between Fleetwood and her husband Richard. I cannot say too much more without giving away some of the endings but I felt this needed to be explored more.

Setting: A lot of the settings in this book are brilliantly described and really capture the imagination. It is this aspect of the historical storyline that I loved, the description of the house, the nearby woodland, her mother’s smaller household, Alice’s childhood home and various inn’s. These were often filled with rich detailed descriptions which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, as a few other reviewers of this book have commented, the storyline regularly includes large journeys on horseback that seem to have taken place in unreasonable time-frames (and questionable in Fleetwood’s pregnant state). I understand the need for these visits as they do drive the story along but are somewhat distracting.

Any Negatives: The immediate trust in Alice by Fleetwood is questionable. She goes from being a complete stranger to her confident and midwife. However, after this happens the book begins to get going.
I also felt the book could have done with a little more about the shapeshifters/familiars from which it takes its title. It was briefly mentioned with little nods to it but overall this seemed lacking.

Overall View: I’ll be honest I was initially lured into this book by the pretty cover (I know, I know, the shame!). Overall I am glad I did, I did enjoy this book and I will look for more of this author’s work in future, but I just wanted a little bit more from this book. It was a little slow to start (but often historical fiction novels are). The time-period was captured brilliantly. I particularly enjoyed all the little ties and hints about the witch trial and would have liked to have more of that detail included. I enjoyed the way the two main characters developed together and the protectiveness of Fleetwood of her friend was really felt. An enjoyable, pleasant read.

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Kind Regards,

KL ❤

Un-block Challenges

The Watcher – #writephoto

The crow sat upon the branch, looking down at the man.

Each day this week, the man had appeared. Each day he stopped at the entranceway then paced back and forth, sometimes muttering, sometimes silent. The gates were open, yet, each day he did not enter. What was beyond the gates that stopped the man.

The crow followed the man’s gaze beyond the entrance. All he could see were the grey stones, the occasional bench, and a smattering of yew trees. Nothing to prevent the man from stepping through.

The crow shook his head and let out a caw, surprisingly, it brought the man’s attention to him. The man looked at the bird, it’s piercing black eyes stared back. The man gave a nod, a silent acknowledgement, then stepped through the gateway.


Appointed – image by Sue Vincent

Written in response to Sue Vincent’s prompt – #writephoto. You can join in this weeks image or have a gander through the many interesting posts inspired by this wonderful photo by clicking here.

It’s been a long time since I took part in these challenges but I enjoyed flexing those writing muscles and having a go.

This post was inspired by something of James Herbert’s Dark Places book, which I highly recommend anyone who is interested on how places inspire writing should read.

Keep Safe and Well.
KL ❤

Un-block Challenges

Eight Simple Steps

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight.

It was a habit, like a nervous tick or a form of OCD.

She counted the steps. Leaving… just eight simple steps to a new day, a new hope, a new dream.

Eight Worn Steps

One. I will not let what happened yesterday overrule today.

Two. I will embrace new opportunities.

Three. I will try to smile at everyone.

Four. Drat. I forgot my travel cup with my coffee. Forget it, I’m not going back. Four! I will not go backwards!

Five. I am in control.

Six. I feel empowered.

Seven. My life is my own.

Eight. Time to get a shimmy on!

As the sun sets she approaches her steps and begins the climb.

One. I am weary but not defeated.

Two. I tried my best.

Three. Tomorrow is a new day.

Four. I am starving… No wait. I am thankful for a roof over my head, a job to pay my bills and put food on my table.

Five. I will de-stress.

Six. I am leaving work baggage at the door.

Seven. I am thankful to see my family.

Eight. Aaah… I am so glad to be home.


Written in response to Sue Vincent’s prompt – #writephoto. You can join in this weeks image or have a gander through the many interesting posts inspired by this wonderful photo by clicking here.  

It’s been a long time since I took part in these challenges (or indeed have done any writing) and I am certainly feeling rusty but I enjoyed flexing those writing muscles and having a go.

I wish I could be as methodical following eight steps at the start and end of my day. Which steps would you add/change?

KL ❤

Un-block Challenges

Dance your last dance… – #writephoto

The firelight dancers singing their songs, chanting their chants, waiting, waiting, waiting.

Nothing.

The music starts up again, this time louder, the calling more frantic, more desperate… waiting, waiting, waiting.

Nothing. He still would not appear.

The head of the great circle walked to the centre. All eyes were on him. He nodded to the drummers. They lifted their arms and with a great bang, the rhythm started. He indicated to those on other instruments to join in. The music filled the air and indistinctively the others joined in the great chant, singing and wailing, the noises filling their very soul. The head indicated it all to stop. Stunned the music around him dropped out.

He gave a great scream out into the night, they waited and watched. Masked Figues - Eve image by Sue Vincent

From behind him, a great roar, a shadow appeared and then the figure with the glowing eyes stepped forward. The head fell to his knees and crawled to the edge of the great circle once again. The drummers started drumming, the singers started singing and a great cheer broke through the crowd.

He had arrived.

No-one noticed the head collapse onto the floor. His body now a shell, his soul sacrificed to the great one.


Written in response to Sue Vincent’s prompt – #writephoto. You can join in this weeks image or have a gander through the many interesting posts inspired by this wonderful photo by clicking here.

It’s been a long time since I took part in these challenges (or indeed have done any writing) and I am certainly feeling rusty but I enjoyed flexing those writing muscles and having a go.

KL ❤

I LOVE BOOKS

Review of A Dreadful Murder by Minette Walters – 5 Stars

A Dreadful Murder: The Mysterious Death of Caroline LuardA Dreadful Murder: The Mysterious Death of Caroline Luard by Minette Walters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction

Introduction: I really enjoyed this little book it is part of the quick-reads collection. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than normal book by world leading authors. One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast paced with a lot happening in less time. This seems to be what has jarred other readers (the use of simpler language) but I didn’t find it detracted from the novel at all. I’m proud of authors who take on the challenge of writing these books so that they can be enjoyed by all even those who aren’t keen readers.

Premise: Based on the true story of the shocking murder of Mrs Caroline Luard, which took place in Kent in August 1908. Caroline Luard is shot dead in broad daylight in the grounds of a large country estate. With few clues available, her husband soon becomes the suspect…But is he guilty?
Minette Walters tells the story of Caroline and her husband’s stroll through the grounds of the estate on the morning of the murder and then branches out to the story of Superintendent Albert Taylor. Albert Taylor follows the clues but is shocked to see how quickly the town turns on Caroline’s husband Charles as the prime suspect. Soon Charles is receiving threatening notes from an anonymous writer. Yet, Taylor is becoming more and more convinced that Charles is innocent. Will proving his innocence matter if the entire town has turned against him?

Reason for the 5 Stars:

Minette Walters writes this book very cleverly. You follow the steps of the inspector but whilst you are keeping track of one thing another happens (e.g. a note arrives). You do find yourself trying to figure out the truth and coming to your own conclusions. Would Charles have had time to kill his wife and sprint back to the house (with the dog)?

I thought it was interesting that this was based on a true story and I really enjoyed the author’s foreword giving the facts of the actual case.

I am a big fan of these quick reads collections and think they are great for giving you a taster of an author’s writing style without the invested time of much larger books. I had heard really good things about Minette Walters, it was nice to enjoy a shorter snapshot of her writing in this novella before going on to read one of her larger thicker novels (which I most certainly will be doing now).

I often think it is useful for readers to see a brief extract as they would in a bookshop so here is a little passage from the novel:

‘It’s a public event. Anyone has the right to attend.’
‘Not if it’s to revel in a lady’s death, the don’t. I wouldn’t mind so much if they’d listened to what was said instead of making up so-called evidence afterwards. A man can’t be in two places at the same time…though you wouldn’t think it to hear the nonsense that’s being talked in the village.’
‘What sort of nonsense?’
‘Every sort,’ she said crossly. ‘It makes me so mad. They whisper behind their hands when they see me coming. But not one of them has ever asked me what I think.’
‘And what’s that, Jane?’
She glanced towards the drawing-room door. ‘The Major-General’s lost without his wife. He’d have died in her place if he could.’

I would have liked it more if the foreword had been an afterword instead. Although I really enjoyed reading this, it would have been nicer to have read the fictional account finished with the factual account. It being a foreword it almost felt like a spoiler to the actual story. I fully acknowledge this is a personal preference but my advice to readers would be to skip this and then go back to it.

Summary: A brilliant little book. Highly recommended and a great taster to get you started with this author if you have not read her works before. I will definitely be picking up more of her books in the near future.

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Review of The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore – 3.5 Stars

The GreatcoatThe Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Set in 1954, newlywed Isabel Carey arrives in a Yorkshire town with her husband Philip. As a GP he spends much of his time working, while Isabel tries hard to adjust to the realities of married life. Life is not easy: she feels out-of-place and constantly judged by the people around her, so she spends much of her time alone.

One cold winter night, Isabel finds an old RAF greatcoat in the back of a cupboard that she uses to help keep warm. Once wrapped in the coat she is beset by dreams. Soon after Isabel is startled to hear a knock at her window by a young Air Force pilot, named Alec. His haunting presence both disturbs and excites Isabel. Her initial alarm soon fades, and they begin a delicious affair. As she learns more about Alec (and herself in the process) she seems to be uncovering a past secret that has lain dormant for many years.

I didn’t hate this book but I didn’t love it either. I think that is partly due to all the reviews and hype around it “A terrifyingly atmospheric ghost story by the Orange-prize-winning Helen Dunmore”, “A perfect ghost story”, “The most elegant flesh-creeper since The Woman in Black” was what I had heard/read about this book. For me it just didn’t really live up to the hype.

So, trying to figure out why I didn’t love this story, I think there were a couple of reasons:
• The novel was full of melancholy and there were very few areas of light to be found in the pages. I understand that the job of a novel in this genre is to make it dark and brooding but there is very little contrast.
• There was no wow factor. I kept waiting for something unpredictable, some kind of plot twist, something I’d overlooked to come back to light, but it never arrived. That very thing that keeps you reading just never happened so it left me feeling a little deflated and unrewarded as I had ploughed my way through the book to the end.
• Isabel the main character is really uninteresting. It felt like she spent most of her time wallowing in self-pity, then we are supposed to turn a blind eye as she willingly starts an affair with a stranger whilst her (kind, sweet, hard-working) husband is out at work.

I didn’t give this a 1 star, so here is what I liked about the book.
• I like the concept of this book. Not only the storyline of the RAF and how the next generation grew up in the shadow of the war. There was a definite interest there for me and I am disappointed that I did not enjoy it more.
• The location and setting of the Yorkshire villages and lanes are very easy to visualise (possibly more so as I lived in Yorkshire for a number of years). I think the author captured this very well.
• I actually enjoyed how the dual-timelines met. In some novels that have multiple timelines, the protagonist often has to fall asleep or read diaries etc to discover the events of the past. However, the overlap in these two stories is handled very smoothly.

 

Overall, not great but not bad either. I don’t know, maybe I missed something? Others seem to love this book but it just didn’t live up to what I was hoping for from the description.

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Review of A Cruel Fate by Lindsay Davis – 5 Stars

A Cruel FateA Cruel Fate by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction

Premise: Martin Watt’s is a bookseller who has never stepped foot out of line, is captured for being on the wrong side of a war he didn’t care much about. This short novel follows his story as a prisoner of war and the treatment and brutality received. The novel also contains the story of Jan Afton whose brother has also been captured during the turmoil. Jane being regarded as a spinster to her family is sent to find out what has happened to her brother and retrieve him.

I really enjoyed this short story and was pleased to find a historical fiction novel within the quick reads series. the “quick reads” collection which I have begun looking through lately. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than normal book by world leading authors. One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast paced with a lot happening in less time. This seems to be what has jarred other readers (the use of simpler language) but I didn’t find it detracted from the novel at all. I’m proud of authors who take on the challenge of writing these books so that they can be enjoyed by all even those who aren’t keen readers.

Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Men of humble birth will sometimes become officers, but Nat Afton will never be a captain. He will not aspire to it. He wants to lie low. It is a great surprise to Jane that he has even been taken prisoner.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed about this novel was that multiple viewpoints were captured in its short number of pages and all the characters were really engaging (you liked who you were supposed to like and hated who you were supposed to hate). Not an easy task I imagine with so few words. I particularly liked the ending.

This novel is set during the second English Civil War when Royalist and Roundhead butted heads, pikes, cavalry and cannon across the Country for supremacy. Mostly describing the situation inside Oxford Castle Prison. I think the author did a really good job of describing both this time period and the setting. The descriptions of the treatment of the Royalist prisoners (I suppose any prisoners from the time), has actually intrigued me and I would be interested in reading more about the period.

A fantastic novelist! Cannot wait to read many more of her works.

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Review of Queen of Subtleties by Suzannah Dunn – 5 Stars

The Queen of Subtleties: A Novel of Anne BoleynThe Queen of Subtleties: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Suzannah Dunn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction

I am very surprised by the number of low ratings this book received. Can an author provide a fresh approach to a part of history known by everyone and told to death? Actually yes, I think Dunn made a really good job of it. This book has several stories concealed within its pages all delicately woven together to make the reader turn the pages.

This story as you will probably already have gathered is a story of two halves. Strong-willed, stubborn Anne Boleyn prior to her imminent execution tells her story of her time at the court in the format of a letter to her daughter. The format of the story is quite fun and fiery and I think the author does a good job of getting the reader on Anne’s side. The author then turns the reader’s attention to the second storyline of that of the subtle subdued Lucy Cornwallis, confectionary chef to the king. Polar opposite of Anne, Lucy is quiet, humble and dedicated to her crafts.

The women’s stories are very loosely connected by their involvement with the lovely Mark Smeaton, wunderkind musician—the innocent on whom, ultimately, Anne’s downfall hinges.

I must say this is the first Suzannah Dunn book I have read and it pulled me in hook, line and sinker. Her writing style is superb, it’s easy to read, not boringly over-descriptive like some historical fiction novels are (although it captures plenty of historical contexts) and it keeps the story moving at a great pace. Obviously, Anne’s story is the most exciting (which I think is to be expected).

The main reason others seem to be upset with this novel is the modern tone of language used. Granted there are probably some better wording or phrasing that the author could have used here (Henry telling courtiers to skedaddle) and there but overall I found the tone very readable and if it had been told in the language of the Tudor times this would ultimately have made it far less enjoyable for me. So, I guess it is something to be aware of but don’t let it put you off.

Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

“My uncle never read a book, and he’s proud of the fact. Ruthlessness and efficiency; that’s what matters. He’ll clap you on the back, one day; stab you in it, the next. No hard feelings, just business as usual. Never trust a Howard, Elizabeth, not even if you are one. Look where it got me, sent here to the Tower by my own uncle.”

I think Dunn has done a great job of capturing the period, the courts, all the moving and touring, and of course the feasts. Fun and interesting concepts that make this book a delight to read.

A fantastic novelist! Cannot wait to read many more of her works.

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Review of Blackout by Emily Barr – 5 Stars

BlackoutBlackout by Emily Barr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Crime Thriller

Premise: Sophie should have a perfect life. she has the perfect man, Rob, a hard-working school teacher, and now a new-born baby son called Arthur. When she wakes up in Paris, in a strange house, on her own and recognising no-one she panics. No passport, no money, she needs to get back to London back to her family and figure out what on earth has happened to her.

I liked this book. It is part of the “quick reads” collection which I have begun looking through lately. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than normal book by world leading authors. One of the things I quite like about these books are that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast paced with a lot happening in less time. Blackout is no exception, with a clear-cut and fast-paced plot it meets the quick read criteria perfectly.

I always think it is useful to see an extract of an author’s writing and in this book, there are quite a few action-focussed parts to choose from but I thought this one is quite interesting as its intriguing without giving too much plot away:

“It is Thursday. The day that should be Monday is actually Thursday. Even at my worst I never lost three whole days. Nobody loses three days. It is not possible. Days come one after the other, from the day you’re born until the day you die. If you stay in bed for a day, the day still happens. If you black out in a coma or something, you wake up in hospital. You do not wake up in a mysterious room in Paris.

I went back and forth on whether to give this book 4 or 5 stars but I settled on 5 as despite the books small size it captured quite a few themes; relationships, trusts, childhood memories, post-partum depression, estrangement (to name a few), and I think that is an amazement achievement for an author.

I also liked the character Sophie, she was an interesting mix of vulnerable and strong and I think she came across as very likeable.

I had never read any of Emily Barr’s work before, but I will certainly look forward to reading more of her works.

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