Review of The Order of the White Boar

Genre: Youth Adult Fiction – Historical Fiction

The Order of the White Boar by Alex Marchant

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Order of the White Boar – Cover


📖 I purchased this book having met this author at Middleham Castle. The author came across as very passionate about history and indeed, Richard III, I was intrigued to find out more so purchased this book, the first in the series. Needless to say, I was very impressed.

✍️ This book primarily follows the story of young Matthew Wansford (Matt), who starts as a young page in training at Middleham Castle, home of King Edward IV’s brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. He quickly encounters both a foe and friendships at the Castle and embarks on a journey that will change him from a young boy into a man. When asked to accompany the Duke on a journey south to London, Matt’s life changes beyond his wildest expectations, but in a world where loyalties can be costly, has Matt taken the right path in support of the Duke? Only time will tell.

👫 The book covers many issues, including estrangement from family, bullying, friendship, romance and more. The subjects are all handled delicately, making this book suitable for young teens but also not shied away from, which I loved. Life back then was hard, for young and adults alike, and the author captures this well.

👓 One of the great things about this book is the pace. A lot happens quickly in young Matt’s life. Historical fiction can be slow, lofty and full of excessive detail, but this book isn’t, whilst there is enough detail to give you a feel for the period, it isn’t bogged down with descriptions.

🗺 The setting of this book is primarily Middleham Castle, a location I love. The author does a great job of really capturing the hustle and bustle of castle life, the way it would have been. The hunts are also well-described and full of detail.

💔 Any Negatives: This story definitely feels like it is leading up to more. So although enjoyable as a story on its own, I think the others in the series will likely better it. No shock there, especially knowing in real-life the troubles awaiting the future of the Kingdom, but I just thought it was worth a mention that really towards the end of the book, the adventure is really just beginning.

💭 Overall View: A really brilliant start to what I’m sure will be a fantastic series. This book shows Richard and his family in a new more gentle light than the way his story is often told. I loved the youthful aspect of it and the sense of adventure, and the loyalty and friendship featured in the book.

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Review of Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Daisy Jones & The Six



Genre: Fiction – Music – Romance – Life

📖 I originally saw this book as part of Reeses Book Club picks and added it to my to-read pile but never got around to it until recently. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.

✍️ The first thing you will notice about this book is the style of writing. The full book is written as a series of interviews with the crew of Daisy Jones and The Six (plus a few significant others). No set-up, scenery, description, or any of that, just pure dialogue. Whilst it can take a little to get used to, it works very well.

👫 The story really is around the band named The Six and their journey. Their lead singer, Billie, gets pulled into the struggle of managing drink, drugs, the rock n roll lifecycle plus bringing up a young family. The band’s fame is soaring and when Daisy Jones joins it flies higher than all predictions expected, but as is often the case, fly too close to the sun and you might get burnt. The method of using the interview style and dialogue really taps into this, whilst Billie thinks one thing is going on, his band are often thinking something else entirely.

👓 Add Daisy Jones to the mix and the pot of instability is ready to boil over. Daisy’s parents are famous, and she has grown up in a celebrity-based environment. She has natural talent but also an air of spoiltness to her, Daisy is used to getting what Daisy wants. Yet, underneath the bravo is a girl that wants to be understood and loved for who she is. Daisy is a brilliant character; sometimes you like her, others you don’t.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract from 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:

Daisy: I was seeing a couple of guys back then, including Wyatt Stone of the Breeze. And I didn’t feel the same way about him that he felt about me.
This one night we were smoking a joint up on the roof of this apartment over on Santa Monica and Wyatt said, “I love you so much and I don’t understand why you don’t love me.”
I said, “I love you as much as I’m willing to love anybody.” Which was true. I wasn’t really willing to be vulnerable with anybody at that point. I had felt too much vulnerability too young. I didn’t want to do it anymore.
So that night after Wyatt goes to bed, I can’t sleep. And I see this piece of paper with this song he’s writing and it’s clearly about me. It says something about a redhead and mentioned the hoop earrings that I was wearing at the time.
And then he had this chorus about me having a big heart but no love in it. I kept looking at the words, thinking, This isn’t right. He didn’t understand me at all. So I thought about it for a little while and got out a pen and paper. I wrote some things down.
When he woke up, I said, “Your chorus should be more like, ‘Big Eyes, big soul/big heart, no control/but all she got to give is tiny love.”
Wyatt grabbed a pen and paper and he said, “Say that again?”
I said, “It was just an example. Write your own goddam song.”

Simone: “Tiny love” was the Breeze’s biggest hit. And Wyatt pretended he wrote the whole thing.
¨C27C

💔 Any Negatives: This book doesn’t really end the way you expect it to and I really liked the ending, not everyone gets the happily-ever-after and sometimes people do just want different things – but I imagine some people will not enjoy this ending so much (it’s difficult to say more without giving too much away).

💭 Overall View: A very different book, with an unusual writing style that I think once you get used to it, works extremely well. I’ll certainly read more works by this author.

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Review of The Stranger in the Lifeboat

The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Stranger in a lifeboat – cover



📖 I loved this book. I had previously read The Five People you meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom and really enjoyed it, so when I saw this new book, I thought I would give it a go. I wasn’t disappointed. Despite the fact, I started reading this late at night, I found myself still sitting up at one in the morning reading this, and completely finished the book within two days.

✍️ These books are unlike any other books I have read. I don’t normally go in for anything religious, which these books feature, but this has such an intriguing puzzling storyline to it that you start thinking “are they really innocent?” or “what would I do in that situation?”. Just when you think you have something sussed out, Albom throws in a plot twist or two to keep you guessing too.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract from 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:

“The distance between death and life is not as great as you imagine.”
“Really,?” Yannis turned his way. “Then why don’t people come back to Earth after they die?”
The stranger smiled. “Why would they want to?”

👓 This story is told across three main perspectives, Benji, who is on a lifeboat with a group of strangers, Le Fleur a detective called to investigate an abandoned lifeboat and various media reports.

👫 Benji records his journey through a journal, transcribing the events of the stranded survivors on the lifeboat, and questioning what really happened to cause the ship to sink. When they come across a stranger adrift at sea who claims he can save them all, the group soon become divided, questioning everything they know, they trust, and even their beliefs.

🗺 Le Fleur is a troubled detective. After suffering the loss of his young daughter, he finds his marriage is struggling, he drinks a lot and is struggling with life. When he is called to investigate the strange lifeboat, he becomes consumed by the pages of the journal and the puzzle of what happened to the survivors of the shipwreck.

💭 Overall View: A fantastically strange story and an enjoyable mystery. I would definitely recommend and I look forward to reading other works from this author.

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Review of The Last Reunion by Kayte Nunn

The Last Reunion by Kayte Nunn

The Last Reunion – Cover



Genre: Historical Fiction – WWII – Burma – Strong Females
📖 I loved this book. I love historical fiction anyway but it’s not often that I read fiction set in the 20th century. The blurb on this book had me immediately intrigued. The story is set over two timelines. In the modern timeline, Olivia, an apprentice art dealer is sent to the country to try to convince an elderly widow (Beatrix) to sell her most prized possession, a Japanese netsuke. However, gaining the provenance needed to sell the netsuke could prove tricky as Beatrix has a rather interesting past, one which will need to be brought to light if the sale is to go ahead.

✍️ The second timeline is set in Burma in 1945 and tells the story of Beatrix (then known as Bea) and her friends as they sign up for the Wasbies, the Women’s Auxiliary Service. The girls soon find themselves shipped all over and facing long days serving men on the frontline in very difficult circumstances. They learn how to take care of themselves, each other and the hundreds of men to whom they provide food, services and a friendly smile each day.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract from 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 can sleep when you’re dead,’ said Plum, throwing a towel at Bea’s head.
Bea groaned and shaded her face with her arm. ‘I didn’t get a wink last night,’ she complained as Plum and Bubbles got ready to go out. ‘Not the one before that.’
‘You heard what Mrs St John said about morale,’ said Bubbles as she shimmied her hips into a tight-fitting silk dress. ‘It’s expected that we’ll go to dances; help cheer up the troops. I hope Charles won’t mind too much; of course, I wish it were his arms around me.’
So, dancing skills were in fact required. Bea sighed. ‘I’m sure that’s half the reason you signed up,’ she said dismissively.
‘Course it was,’ laughed Plum, oblivious to Bea’s sarcasm.

👫 I think most who read this book will fall in love with Bea. Her character arc is very interesting. In the historic timeline, she is introduced as polite, and straight-talking but rather shy (noting others amongst her friendship group are the life of the party). Yet by the modern timeline, she is an old woman, bolshy, brave and strong-willed. The war has changed her, she knows she is strong, adaptable and not afraid to get her hands dirty.

🗺 As mentioned, this book has two storylines, the second taking place in Burma. Burma is often called the Forgotten war because its operations were often overlooked by the contemporary press and remained more obscure than those of the corresponding formations in Europe for long after the war. Although I have read a few books about the war and watched a few war documentaries, I knew little about this time period and location, this book did such a marvellous job of bringing it alive. The author included so much detail, even the changes in the weather and the hardship that could bring.

💭 Overall View: A great historical fiction adventure from the frontline.

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MEET THE AUTHOR – ANN CLEEVES

Most Wednesdays are a bit dull. Normally, referred to as hump day. Normally I make a bit of tea, perhaps do a bit at the allotment if the weather is dry, then it’s persuading the toddler that it’s bath and bedtime. Not this week!
This week I had the joy of spending my Wednesday afternoon attending a local author event at Cockerton Library in Darlington to meet crime novelist Ann Cleeves.

Ann was there to promote her recently published book – The Rising Tide.

MEET THE AUTHOR – Ann Cleeves

Ann’s talk was very inspiring she happily covered everything from her private life, writing career, publishing journey, and aspirations for future books. I took some notes and thought I would share them here (any errors I do apologise, I was trying to do this both subtly and hastily so that I could keep up).

How did you get started?

I first started writing whilst living with my husband as the only inhabitants of Hilbre Island (Wirral). In the winter, the island was a desolate place with only the occasional bird watcher seeking it out. The Bird in the Hand was written here. It’s no coincidence that I killed off a bird watcher in that book.

How did you first gain success?

For the best part of twenty years, I wasn’t overly successful, just successful enough that the publishers kept me going. If you want to know the secret to my success, it comes down to one thing, luck.

How did Vera come about?

I was writing a novel at the request of the publishers, they didn’t want a traditional detective novel, they wanted something different. I was about a third of the way in and didn’t have a clue where the book was going. I was completely stuck. There is a Raymond Chandler quote that says: “When in Doubt Have a Man Come Through a Door with a Gun.” Well, that’s what I did, only instead of a gun, in walked Vera, with a Morrison’s shopping bag. The rest as they say is history.

How did Vera become a tv sensation?

Luck. A woman was browsing a second-hand shop in Crouch End, London, looking for a book to take on holiday. She picked up the first Vera novel. That woman’s name was Elaine Collins. When she returned from holiday, she optioned the Vera Stanhope novels to the ITV team, who were looking for something to replace the Frost slot. Vera was selected and Elaine Collins then developed and produced as Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn.

Do you plot your novels?

No, never. I never have yet. I never know how it’s going to happen or how it’s going to end. There’s no fun in writing a book if you know how it’s going to end. I enjoy the thrill of a blank screen; you can believe at that point you are going to write a really good book.

Do you ever get stuck on a plotline?

I do. Everyone does. I find a long train journey often helps me work through it.

Will you write another Shetland novel?

Probably not. There are around 23,000 people across all of the Shetland Islands and I’ve killed a fair few of them off in my books and the BBC has added to that toll!

What is your favourite book?

Small things like these. I was given it and wasn’t convinced it was my kind of book, but I got really into it and it’s a book that every word counts. Highly recommend it.


Big thank you to Ann Cleeves for a wonderful afternoon’s entertainment (and to Cockerton Libraries, the fantastic hosts). I have my signed copy added to my to-read pile and can’t wait to crack on with it.

Ann is a wonderful supporter of local libraries, most of whom will stock her books. Check them out for a copy.


Socials:

https://www.facebook.com/anncleeves


Would you like to be featured?

If any New2writing followers have an upcoming book and would like to be featured, please drop me an email at kl.caley@yahoo.co.uk.

author-spotlight

Review of A Very Distant Shore by Jenny Colgan

A Very Distant Shore by Jenny Colgan

My rating:  3.5/4 Stars

Genre: Fiction – QuickReads

A very distant shore by Jenny Colgan – Cover


My rating: 3.5/4 Stars
Genre: Fiction – QuickReads
📖 I’ve only read Jenny Colgan’s work before in The Anniversary edited by Veronica Henry quick reads collection, which was a very enjoyable read. So, I picked up this book with high hopes. Known as a writer of romantic comedy fiction a light-hearted up-lifting book was what I was after, between reading some more serious pieces. However, that’s not exactly what I got with this book.
✍️ A Very Distant Shore is a tale about a remote Scottish Island of Mure which is in desperate need of a doctor. When Saif, a refugee doctor turns up, it captures the attention of the whole Island. Local schoolteacher Lorna has her own problems with an elderly ailing widowed father to look after. Perhaps the two of them are just what each other needs?
🗺 The setting was interesting, the writing was great, and I really did begin to care for the characters, especially Lorna. I really geared myself up to love this book. However…
💔 Negatives: Spoiler Alert So, I was expecting a rom-com with a happily ever after. Instead, I got a heartbreak and a death. The book finished and I was left feeling fairly flat and a bit cheated.
💭 Overall View: Brilliant little book. The refugee storyline was very interesting (possibly more so with what is happening in the world with Ukraine right now). The ending was a bit more down than I would like but still an interesting little book.




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Review of Read The Leaves – 5 Stars

Another perfect little Halloween read with a difference…

Read the Leaves by Kate Valent
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fiction – Magical – Fantasy – Historical

Read the Leaves – Cover


📖 This is the second book in the Serendipi-tea series by author Kate Valent and it’s a great addition. This novel primarily follows Mary, a young writer who writes under a pseudonym so that no one knows who she is (and that she is female). When her father’s publishing company, which publishes her works, runs into financial troubles, Mary with the help of her sister Margaret, and her friend Charlotte try to do all they can to save it.

✍️ Also woven throughout this novel is a blossoming romance. Mary meets the dashing Lord Holiday, an odd fellow, who only appears to spend time out in the evening. Even more strange, is how closely Lord Holiday resembles Lord Hallow, the vampire from the serial that Mary writes. Can Mary trust this handsome stranger, or is he more alike Lord Hallow than she would like to believe? In this magical world, it feels like anything is possible.

🗣 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:

She was certain she had never seen him before. But to be at this party he must be someone, either a magician, lord, or businessman. She couldn’t fathom who or what he was or get the thoughts of the villainous vampire out of her head.

👓 This book is a fantasy book with much of the side story being around runes and their use (originally by the wealthy but with more and more making their way to the working class). The book is set in a somewhat historical Victorian setting, with many traditions, and mannerisms (and class systems) referenced from that time period.

👫 Great range of characters, both Mary and her sister Margaret are fun and intriguing characters. Mary trying to make her way in what has up until recently been a male-dominated world is handled delicately and a great nod to the time period that is being captured.

🗺 One of the things I really liked about this story is that although it is a continuation of a series, it was not a continuation of Charlotte’s story (although she does feature) but is a new story focusing on a completely different character.

💔 Any Negatives: I wish Mary and Margaret had perhaps been given slightly different names. As the names are quite similar, I sometimes got a little lost and misread them (thinking it was one or the other). If it had been something different from each other but still historical sounding, Mary and Emily, or something else it would have made it a little easier to read on the eyes. But that is quite picky and probably more of a personal preference.

💭 Overall View: An enjoyable romp through a magical Victorian world (with writers, books, tea and cakes!). An excellent addition to the series.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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Review of Derecho Rising

Derecho Rising by David Phillips
My rating: 3.5 Stars
Genre: Horror – Short Stories

Derecho Rising – Cover


📖 I first came across this author on his WordPress blog. Featured on there are many examples of short stories, often with dark twists. His writing is fast-paced and dives straight into the heart of the story, with no messing around (which I enjoy).

✍️ This book is mostly made up of a collection of short stories, with 2 slightly longer tales within. It’s not a book for the faint-hearted and regularly involves death, violence or horror. There are quite a few paranormal and futuristic type short stories thrown into the mix, which makes a change of pace to the usual horror stories but I preferred the more classic, gothic, creepy style horror story.

💔 Any Negatives: This book could probably do with another proofread as there were quite a few typo’s in this book that can be distracting, such as “Phil had lighted the fire”, “Grandad had been much quitter and no bother.” Improve those and the book will be so much more enjoyable to read.

As there are so many short stories in this book, I’m sure there is something for everyone. There were a few that I wasn’t as keen on but I think that is always the way with such a large collection.

💭 Overall View: Definitely a collection with a difference and it’s the perfect time of year to read something with a creep factor. At the time of writing, this was free on Kindle Unlimited, so if you have a kindle unlimited membership it would definitely be worth giving this collection a try.




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Review of A Botanists Guide to Parties and Poisons

Something a little bit different and more light-hearted for this October read!

A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Crime Fiction – Historical Fiction – Cosy Crime

A botanist guide to parties and poisons

📖 This story follows Saffron (fabulous name), a young female botanist trying to establish herself as an assistant at the University College of London. Saffron attends a well-to-do party with some sponsors of the University when a wife of a senior lecturer is poisoned. When her boss, Dr Maxwell is arrested for the crime, Saffron is certain he is not guilty. When she finds his notes on the supposed flower which the police suspect to be the source of the poison she is even more convinced. With the help of a colleague Alexander, Saffron sets out to prove Dr Maxwell’s innocence and unmask the real poisoner.

✍️ This is a cosy-crime type thriller, nothing too gory, in this case only the one murder suspect. Think Agatha Christie, one poisoner and a room full of suspects.

🗣 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:

What?” Alexander stared at her. “Numbness in your extremities?” She nodded. “I suppose you didn’t get that far in the journal, then. I can’t move my hands, feet, or ankles. I assume it’ll be my legs, next.”
The admission was made with shocking detachment, as if she really did think this was just an experiment. He stared down at her, noticing for the first time that she wasn’t wearing stockings. Why, he couldn’t fathom. He’d absently noted her shoes were on the floor next to the glass.
“Damn it all, Saffron, you could be in serious danger. I’m calling for a doctor.” He moved toward the door.
“And what exactly will you say?”
Alexander stopped and matched her glare. “You’re not at all concerned that you can’t move?”
“Of course I’m concerned!”

👫 The author includes a few underlying themes in this cosy crime story, such as how the women of the period are expected to behave and act, including those from more well-to-do families, she also touches on the sexism within institutions such as universities that someone in Saffron’s position would likely face.

🗺 Set in the 1920s, so shortly after the first world war, this story includes a very gentle nod to Alexander suffering from PTSD. This makes him very endearing as a character.

💭 Overall View: A fun little story, for those looking for a lighter Halloween read, a touch of poison and parties could be the way to go. The ending’s not a total shock (but I find that’s often the case with these type of stories), all in all an enjoyable read.

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Review of The Grown Up

For me, October is always about books that are a little bit odd, spooky or creepy. My first book review of the month certainly fits the bill.

The Grown Up by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fiction – horror – thriller – psychics

Cover – The Grownup

📖 I feel like this book should come with a certificate warning – lol. As should any book that’s brave enough to start with the opening lines:

“I didn’t stop giving hand jobs because I wasn’t good at it. I stopped giving hand jobs because I was the best at it.”

✍️ From that line alone it is so difficult to not be intrigued and rightly so, this little story certainly packs a bunch. From recollection, I don’t think we ever find the name of the girl narrating the story, but she reveals a lot about herself through the book, how from a young age her mother taught her how to con people, the paths which lead her to her present role as a psychic.
When a wealthy client, Susan approaches our leading lady with a problem in her renovated mansion and also her difficult stepson, our protagonist sees pound signs and is soon signed up to check out the house and stepson to cleanse its aura but as is always the case with a good, creepy, thriller, all is not as it seems and soon, the things that seemed obvious aren’t.

“An angry stepson and a husband who was always away, no wonder she let her mind go to dark places.”

👓 It’s such a strange book, and even though you know the girl is initially intending to con Susan and her family, there is something about this bad-good character that draws you in.

💔 Any Negatives: I struggled with whether to write this or not as I loved the book. Despite its short length, it has a lot going on and I really enjoyed how the author had written the complex main character. But I’m a traditionalist, I like my stories complete with a big bow wrapping up the ending. This ending is not like that, and I can’t decide if that’s a good or a bad thing, it certainly leaves you wondering.

💭 Overall View: A great short story especially for those that enjoy the gothic horror scene (particularly when things go just a tad weird).

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