Review of “Pirates” by Celia Rees – 5 Stars

Pirates!Pirates! by Celia Rees

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I know technically Celia Rees is classed as a YA author and after jumping over that thirty hurdle I probably don’t fit that bracket anymore *sigh*. However, that doesn’t stop me enjoying a good book. And Celia Rees certainly knows how to write those, regardless of your age group! Her writing style is just so-damn-readable, she keeps you turning page after page long after you have told yourself a dozen times “just one more page and then I will put it down”.

So, what is ‘Pirates’ all about (apart from Pirates of course)? For me, this book was about determination to decide your own destiny, no matter the obstacles. The story is told by Nancy Kington, a Georgian heiress to her father’s fortune (much aggrieved by her brothers). When her brothers plot against her to marry her off and keep their father’s business and fortune for themselves Nancy has to find a way out. When she finds Minerva, her friend and slave, being assaulted Nancy accidentally kills the attacker. So with many reasons to go and few to stay the girls make their way into the worlds of piracy.Pirates Cover

The easily forgettable and incredible thing about this tale is it is actually based on a true story. Minerva Sharpe and Nancy Kington were real people. I think the author portrays a real homage to them in this book and it is clear that they spent a lot of time learning and researching both the pirate’s lives and the time period.

As mentioned above, I really enjoyed the authors writing style. It is very clear, yet very emotive. I quite like the extract below:

 

“I’d be the one to decide what was, and was not, to do with me. I felt anger growing inside me, fuelled by all the things I’d seen since I came to this beautiful blighted country. I felt it bloom into fury as I brought the candle round to see what he had done. The scars on her back were not new. Fresh stripes glistened in long streaking criss-cross patterns across a back where the flesh was ruched into sharp ridged peaks so rucked and buckled that it no longer resembled flesh at all.”

This moment is one of my favourites in the book, it is an empowering moment for Nancy to find her inner strength and confront those that do her wrong. Although Nancy has peaks and troughs of confidence throughout the book, when she finds her moments of strength as the reader you think “Yes, go on girl, show them what you are made of!”

Pirates - internal image

Internal Pages from the book: Pirates

I really enjoyed this book and will certainly look out for more of this authors work. Empowering, engaging and entertaining story with swashbuckling thrown into the mix – what more could you want?!

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Review of The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez – 4 stars.

The Oxford MurdersThe Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martínez

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Firstly, I am surprised this book I only 3 stars on Goodreads. There is very little to dislike about this book. It is a strange mix of mystery and mathematics which may seem a little heavy going at first (but stick with it people), you soon get loads of twists and turns that will keep you guessing all the way through which for me is the best bit about a mystery novel.

This story follows a young mathematician who having won a scholarship has relocated to Oxford. Soon after his arrival, his landlady ends up dead from a suspicious death. When he meets Arthur Seldom a mathematical hero who was a close family friend of the deceased he is immediately in awe and the two start to work out the murder as if it were a mathematical puzzle. When more murders happen close to Seldom it appears the killer may be targeting him, testing just how clever he is and testing if he can solve the murders before someone else dies.

sherlock

I do agree at times this book is a little maths heavy with multiple theories flying around. I didn’t dislike this and found it quite similar to Sherlock Holmes logic puzzle with Moriarty always one step ahead. Smart, questioning, quick-paced writing which makes this book irresistible to put down.

For what it is worth I absolutely loved the hospital Buzzati theory about the floors circling down to death. I have no idea if this is a real thing or made up for the book but it was very clever. If you go on to read the book I am sure this bit will stand out to you. The book is written with a rather formal writing style (possibly to exaggerate that the narrator is not English-born?), but the writing is still quick flowing.

 

 

“Now that the police have been informed? I don’t know. I suppose he’ll try to be more careful next time.’
‘You mean, another murder that no-one will see as a murder?’
‘That’s right,’ said Seldom, almost to himself. ‘Exactly. Murders that no one sees as murders. I think I’m starting to see now: imperceptible murders.’
We were silent for a moment.”

Overall this book is an intellectual thriller that will appeal to those who like logic puzzles. Fast-paced, clever narrative, interesting characters, all with the beautiful Oxford backdrop.
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The Tunnels of Tad-Dlam – Part 1

Sara had only ever heard of snippets about the caves. The area around them was called Tad-Dlam but it wasn’t until her teens that she had found out that meant “Of The Dark”. Of course, the locals told stories, secrets and whispers about the dark underground hollows that ran below their feet and the spirits that thrived in them. Not being considered an “authentic local” despite her parents arriving before she was born, so Sara was never included in these conversations. Whenever she enquired regardless of if it was at school, shops, post office the people of the town hushed up. She was not one of them.

“Sara…” The voice started when her mother passed away.

“Sara…” It was quiet to begin with, more of a whisper than a voice but increasingly it was more and more insistent.

“Sara. Find me”, it hissed at her in the darkness late at night when no one was around. Grief, Sara told herself. The voice would leave her when she had stopped grieving but did a daughter ever really stop grieving for her mother? She didn’t think so.

Time passed and the whispering, hissing voice became part of normality. It whispered in the darkness until she fell asleep and then it invaded her dreams. As winter approached and the days contained more dark than light, the voice spent more and more time inside her head. “Find me. Sara. Find me.”

pexels-photo-89517.jpeg

Winter came and went and spring began its inviting chorus. Each day Sara walked down the little path that led through the garden to the gate. The garden had been her mother’s pride and joy she had spent hours pottering around, clipping, trimming and planting. They had often joked the Greenhouse was her second home.

As the anniversary of her mother’s passing approached Sara took to the garden. At first, it was little bits trimming the trees, and hedges and cutting the grass. Sara had never been green fingered. As the little garden responded to her attentions Sara’s confidence grew and soon she decided it was time to take the next step in tackling the Greenhouse. At first, the sight of her mother’s apron and gardening gloves caused a lump to rise in Sara’s throat and she had just grabbed the first tools she needed and headed back to the garden. Steeling herself she decided it was time to evict the cobwebs that now consumed all the equipment her mother had treasured so much.

The Greenhouse seemed to encourage the voices. “Find me, find me Sara”, they whispered into the enclosed space. Ignoring them Sara began to pull each item out into the garden. Giving some things a clean and wipe down others stacking in a ‘to be discarded’ pile. The work was hard and the light began to fade but it had taken so much strength to get to this stage so Sara was determined to continue. As she heaved and lifted and cleaned and sorted the voice spoke to her continuously almost like a rhythm to the tasks.

“Sara. Find me, Sara…

Sara. Find me, Sara. ..”

As Sara emptied the bottom racks of the shelves her eye was caught by a crack extending out under them. She pulled the cabinet out and saw it extended under the wall to outside. Climbing from her knees she walked outside to the greenhouse. This side of the garden hadn’t yet been touched. Nettles and bramble bushes grew far and wide. Sara thought and scratched her way through until surprisingly she came to a large opening. The earth had fallen in just outside her greenhouse. Yet the way the ground opened appeared to slope downwards.

Sara’s curiosity got the better of her and she found herself ignoring the cuts and the scrapes of the gnarled bushes snagging at her skin as she pushed her way back to the greenhouse to go in search of a torch. Dusk provided a warning red glow in the sky but she was oblivious. She had to get a torch. The voice no longer whispered it championed her. “Find me, Sara. Find me.”

Relieved she found the tool she needed and returned to the opening, enticing her in like a venus fly trap to a spider.  Flicking on the torch she began to descend.

Waiting - Tunnel - cavern - 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. KL ❤

 

 

Review of The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse – 3 Stars

The Winter GhostsThe Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Most people will like Kate Mosse from her novel Labyrinth and whilst I loved that novel I must admit this one didn’t wow me. For a start the majority of people that see ghost in a book title and the tagline “Do you believe in ghosts?” will possibly feel a little cheated. So, this is your warning, the ghost element of this book is pretty lacking. There is certainly no fear factor and limited ‘ghostly’ atmosphere (in my opinion).

However, the story isn’t bad. Young guy, grieving, previous mental breakdown, crashes in a snowstorm in the Pyrenees mountains. Gets rescued and taken to an isolated village where everything is not quite as it seems. Not to mention mysterious caves in the mountains that haven’t been accessed for a number of years. Sounds good right?

The Winter Ghosts - cover

The cover from my copy

So, trying to figure out why I didn’t love this story, I think there were a couple of reasons:

  • The writing was very slow. It felt like the reader had to wade through several pages to mine a nugget of story out. In fact, the book could probably have been a fair bit shorter and would have been much better for it.
  • The novel was full of melancholy and there were very few areas of light to be found in the pages.
  • 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.

I didn’t give this a 1 star, so here is what I liked about the book.

  • The time hop between 14th century period with Cathars/fear and the 20th century with the after-effects of the world war/grief storyline was nicely handled between the two periods.

 

  • The location was brilliantly described and intriguing. Isolated villages, snow-covered mountain and unexplored caves. It’s really made me want to visit the region.
  • The story behind The Winter Ghosts is really insightful and describes what inspired Mosse. I am quite intrigued by a couple of un-reads on her suggested reading list.The Winter Ghosts - suggested reading

Overall, not great but not bad either.
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The Winter Ghosts behind the scenes

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Tell me a story!

Roll up! Roll up… Sue is offering everyone the chance to share a story on her blog, why not pop along and have a look? KL ❤

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

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Day of the Dead

She covered her arms, her face and her chest in the luminescent paint.

 

Day of the Dead Image - Google

Day of the Dead image courtesy of Google Images

 

Quiet and unassuming, normally no-one noticed her. Today was different. Today was the day of the dead. Her heart beat fast at the thoughts of the festivities that would unfold over the next two days in an explosion of colour and life-affirming joy.

More importantly, she would see him again. Each year she made the offering to the dead and each year he had stayed a little longer. This year she was finally prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. Herself. He would be hers for eternity.


Written in response to Daily Posts daily prompt. You can join in this challenge or have a gander through the many interesting posts by clicking here.

I hope you enjoyed my 100-word story.

If you want to find out a bit more about Day of the dead – this National Geographic article is really interesting – http://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/travel-and-adventure/top-10-things-know-about-day-dead

Review of Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman – 5 stars.

Orange Is the New BlackOrange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like everyone else that comes across this book these days, the main reason I was attracted to it is that I love the TV series. However, it is important to note this book is not like the show. The TV series primary function is entertainment mainly in the form of humour. This book is a memoir, therefore like life, there is some humour but a fair whack of heartbreak and struggle too.

I really wish I had read the book before I watched the series as I did find little bits distracting, my mind drifting off on its own wondering such things as I wonder if Pop is the character Red in the tv series (I am pretty sure the answer is yes btw, feel free to let me know otherwise XD). This being said – the book is brilliant.

So, what’s it about. Piper Kerman, at twenty-something, gets bored of her plain white life ends up shacking up with a woman who works as a drug runner. Naively she underestimates the seriousness of this until a time she is asked to carry cash for the drugs trade. Not long after Piper gets out of the relationship (and the business) but as is usually the case her past catches up with her many years later when she is living a quiet comfortable life with her devoted boyfriend Larry. When she ends up with a custodial sentence her world becomes a very different place and Kerman recalls the stories of the women who help her see her prison time through.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Even more important for a memoir as you are committing to read someone’s life and if it’s droll you will soon lose interest. Kerman’s voice is very readable, here is a brief section which I think is a beauty:

“I never understood why laundry soup was the one free thing provided to us (other than toilet paper rations, which were passed out once a week, and the sanitary napkins and tampons stocked in the bathroom). Laundry soap was sold on commissary; some women would buy Tide and give away their eight free soap packets to others who had nothing. Why not soap to clean your body? Why not toothpaste? Somewhere within the monstrous bureaucracy of the Bureau of Prisons, this all made sense to someone.”

I learned a lot reading this book. For example; Kerman was sentenced on a US drug conspiracy charge so her sentence was based on the total amount of drugs involved in the operation, not her small role in it. A stark warning for anyone in the trade.

So, all in this is a pretty great book. Really it’s a story about staying strong and about appreciating the inner strengths of others too. Everyone has their own battles, strengths, weaknesses, secrets and successes. Kerman captures such a variety of those beautifully and writes about them with both empathy and respect.

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