Review of The Last Dance by Victoria Heslop – 3.5 Stars.

The Last Dance: And Other StoriesThe Last Dance: And Other Stories by Victoria Hislop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a quirky little book which I picked up after a visit to Athens hoping it would capture some of the pretty Greek city between its pages.

Some of the stories have a bit of a moral to them particularly the Kafenion which tells the story of twin brothers who get an equal share in their fathers café but are forever jealous of the other and find it difficult to share.

The Periptero is another little story that holds a bit of moral within the tale, telling the story of a young flashy man who flaunts his money and wealth in front of an elderly newspaper kiosk owner who has learned the value of the little things. Will the young man get his comeuppance for his greed and vanity?

The writing in this book is often very beautiful and very evocative of Greek settings. For example:

“Manos worked through the night and with a giant can of white emulsion and a roller he swiftly covered the stained anaglypta. Soon the place was transformed. He repainted the bar in a bright blue and resolved to paint the frames of two chairs each night until they were all in matching azure. The effect was dramatic.”

All the stories are quite slow burning which is fine for a holiday read but just something people looking for a fast action page-turner should be aware.

Despite the book containing ten short stories all the characters were quite unique and a joy to read about. Of these, one of my favourites was Kyria Kakanidis from the story “The Lesson”. Her character was smart, humble, and overall very likeable. Well-portrayed by the author. The Last Dance - internal image

 

As I said this is a quirky little book.

 

I think it’s probably a 3.5 stars. It is slow and despite being short stories the author spends a long time on description rather than getting to the plot. Also, the stories have limited conversations so sometimes you get page after page of words without dialogue to break it up. This can be a little off-putting. However, the stories themselves are joyful. There is a well-thought out range of tales and I enjoyed the authors not with photos and inspirations behind the pieces.

 

Please leave a like if you think my review/feedback of the item was helpful to you. Alternatively, please contact me if you want me to clarify something in my review.

View all my reviews

Advertisements

Review of The Mesmerist by Barbara Erskine – 5 Stars

The Mesmerist (The Mesmerist, #1)The Mesmerist by Barbara Ewing

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has several stories concealed within its pages all delicately woven together to make the reader turn the pages.

The origins of the story begin with two sisters, Hester and Kitty Preston, who run away from home at a young age. Hester and Kitty soon find work as actresses but an accident occurs and Hester damages her knee. They hear of a mesmerist in town and on visiting him Hester is soon walking much better. Hester begs him to teach her his skills and in time she soon becomes more famous than he is.

The story then follows Cordelia (Kitty’s daughter/ Hester’s niece) through unfortunate circumstances becomes poor and desperate, so decides to try her hand at her aunt’s old profession. With her best friend Rillie by her side, they soon start to pull it off. As is usually the case, the past can’t stay buried and secrets and lies soon come back to haunt Cordelia and the new life she has created.

I must say this is the first Barbara Ewing 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 overly descriptive like some historical fiction novels are (although it captures plenty of historical contexts) and it keeps the story moving at a great pace. Even the historic speech is quick-flowing and direct. Here is an example extract:

“’Lord Ellis regrets, Miss Preston…’
She looked at him in surprise. ‘Please do not address me as Miss Preston. I am Lady Ellis.’
‘I am afraid you are not, Miss Preston. The-ah-marriage ceremony in the chapel all those years past was conducted by-a friend. It was a jest.’
‘A jest?’
‘Ah – no – perhaps that is not the word. But it was not legal or binding.’ He sniffed. ‘You are not, and never have been, Lady Ellis.’

Whilst initially I wasn’t over-enamoured with the character Cordelia, through her hardship and her plight I really did grow to adore her and root for her. Her best friend Rillie was a wonderful character who brought such a human element to the story. Everyone would want a best friend like her. Cordelia’s strong spirit is truly backed by Rillie’s motivation and belief in her to do well.

The settings in this book tended mostly to be various squares and theatres around Victorian London and I think the author does a great job of capturing these (particularly the hardships of being female in these settings) without overly labouring the descriptions.

This novel took so many twists and turns I did not know what way it would turn out. As a reader, I love this feeling and nothing makes me turn the page more.

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

Please leave a like if you think my review/feedback of the item was helpful to you. Alternatively, please contact me if you want me to clarify something in my review.

View all my reviews

Review of What lies beneath by Sarah Rayne – 3.5 Stars

What Lies BeneathWhat Lies Beneath by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book contains the usual mysterious historical fiction and modern day interlinked storylines that Rayne seems to do brilliantly, it isn’t quite as dark and unnerving as some of her other standalone novels (such as House of the Lost), but certainly darker than her Nell West series.

In the modern storyline, we go with Ella Haywood who finds out the town from her childhood is to be re-opened for a short while prior to being cleared for new motorway bypass. This is the talk of the town and soon Ella gets very jittery and no-one including her granddaughter knows why. Ella’s behaviour becomes more and more obscure and no-one around her knows why.

The historical storyline was very interesting. The story switches back to 1912 where we meet the Cadence family of Cadence Manor in the village of Priors Bramley, mostly through a series of journals – author initially unknown. We also flashback to Ella’s childhood and an incident on the day the village closed.

Other reviewers have complained about Rayne’s writing style in this and I do agree with some of the comments (e.g. it is quite slow in places). There are four storylines in this book and it is quite complicated how it is held together. Normally Sarah Rayne’s writing style is much sharper, darker and more dramatic. However, I did enjoy the storyline non-the-less. Also, the main character in this book Ella is not very nice, normally Rayne has a really strong protagonist who you champion throughout the book whereas this character isn’t. I did enjoy Rayne’s experimentation with this technique but I think having a main character that you dislike isn’t always an easy sell to other readers.

Overall, I still really enjoyed this book, not as good as others she has written but still very clever, particularly the historical storylines. For those that haven’t discovered the Sarah Rayne’s writing, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to Phil Rickman’s work; old story exposed, great characters and slightly eerie. Although the dark dividing (standalone novel) is my favourite out of her books. The Nell West series she writes is also very good. This is more of a 3.5 from me but as that option isn’t available and a 3 felt very mean I gave it a 4.

Please leave a like if you think my review/feedback of the item was helpful to you. Alternatively, please contact me if you want me to clarify something in my review.

View all my reviews

Review of The Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne – 5 stars

The Sin EaterThe Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second of the Nell West series by Sarah Rayne (Property of a Lady being the first) and whilst they still have the historical fiction and modern day interlinked storylines that Rayne seems to do brilliantly, they aren’t quite as dark and unnerving as her standalone novels (such as House of the Lost). I did make the mistake of not reading the stories in the correct order and whilst this doesn’t detract too much from the story as it’s quite strong on its own, I do wish I had read them in the correct order as I think the character development of Nell and Michael is such a good minor storyline and would have been better to have read it in the correct order.

In the modern storyline we go with antiques dealer Nell to a Large London house. We meet troubled Benedict Doyle who has inherited the house from his great-grandfather. Benedict finds the house the house disturbing and soon finds himself having troubled dreams featuring the previous occupant, but the events he is dreaming about seem so real. When these dream events are revealed to Michael Flint (Oxford Don who featured in the first novel), his interest is piqued and he starts to research the historical facts behind Benedict’s dreams.

The second storyline for me, made this novel and is why I’ve given it five stars. The story follows Declan and Colm whom move from their Irish home to London city and get caught up in a situation and a world that they never expected to find themselves in.

Other reviewers have complained that Rayne’s writing style has changed with the Nell West series and whilst I agree she has reduced a lot of the darker elements of her writing, I think if anything she has increased the mystery elements of these novels. The storylines are very sharp, intricate and clever, this one surrounds a chess piece yet it is so well written you cannot help but get swept up in the storyline.

I also think Rayne’s characters are evolving, in this novel you really feel sorry for Benedict; his mental condition and how he is suffering as he tries to split what is real from what is imaginary. I actually finished this book a little while ago but the story and characters still feel very vivid and I think that is a sign of how well the story has been told.

For those that haven’t discovered the Nell West collection, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to Phil Rickman’s work; old story exposed, great characters and slightly eerie.

Please leave a like if you think my review/feedback of the item was helpful to you. Alternatively, please contact me if you want me to clarify something in my review.

View all my reviews

Review of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – 5 Stars

The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book starts off with high drama, a small baby stumbling from his house where his entire family are murdered into the local graveyard, where he is found by the local ghosts. After a meeting, it is agreed that a married ghostly couple who never had children can adopt him, along with a guardian (who can leave the graveyard). The story then follows Bod and his new graveyard “family & friends” through adolescence with a few bumps along the way, including meeting a girl, attending school and of course finding out what happened to his real family.
This book is so quirky, it had me laughing from the first page even though it was about a baby evading a murderer! Bod is such a happy go lucky little chap too you can’t help but champion him on his journey, even the seemingly little things like learning to read using names on the gravestones and other funny little touches make the story really feel alive. Spoiler-ish alert – the last chapter is a little bit heart-breaking but also perfect.

This is almost like jungle book but instead of a child growing up in the jungle being brought up by the animals, it’s a child growing up in a graveyard being *raised (questionable word) by ghosts! It’s the only story that is similar to this, although I love the darkness of this book.

A really great read that I completely fell in love with from the first page and has long stayed with me since I finished the last! Very sweet and charming tale that I think people young and old will love. Not often I give a book five stars but I had to with this – one not to be missed!

View all my reviews

I can’t take full credit for discovering this book it was recommended to me by the lovely Elena over at Home that we built and I must say what a great recommendation it was! KL ❤

The Liebster Award Challenge

The Challenge

Thank the blogger who nominated you!

Answer the 11 questions that the blogger gives you!

Nominate 11 blogs that you think are deserving of the award!

Let the bloggers know you nominated them!

Give them 11 questions to answer!

First of all I would like to say thanks to Book Owly for the nomination – a great blog and I loved her answers to the challenge.


So, diving right in!

  1. What was your favourite book when you were a child? How do you feel about the book now?
    Just the one? Too difficult, when I was little I loved the Animal ark collection of books, Hamster in a Hamper, that sort of thing. My two favourite books in High School were “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.

    I am and always have been a bit of an eclectic reader, I used to love the “new in” shelf at the library and would go through everything from fantasy to crime. I adored John Grisham and had read most of his books by the age of 13 but I had also read every Anne Rice novel!
  2. Are you going to library for books? Do you ask for suggestions? How did you find your current library, if you have one?
    If I am completely honest, I don’t use my local library often, or at least as often as I should. I have sadly converted to the convenience of ebooks and discovered a site called Bookbub where amazing authors come up really cheaply. I also follow quite a few authors on WordPress such as Sue Vincent and Alienora Taylor, which has lead me to read their amazing e-books too (highly recommended).
    I do intend to start using the library more with a recent discovery of the world of audiobooks. I have a fairly long drive to and from work and realised I could be enjoying an extra book a week and most libraries have a reasonable stock of CDs to borrow.
  3. Old and used book smell or new and freshly printed book smell?
    Both? Nah, that’s probably cheating. I would lean towards new book smell, only because this is a double pleasure with both new books and also new blank notebooks.
  4. Do you use bookmarks when reading? What kind of bookmarks (paper, fabric, magnetic) do you use and how do they look? I currently have a Hay Festival cardboard book mark. My bookmarks are almost always paper usually from something adhoc; such as a flight ticket, cinema ticket or a post-it with a note on.
  5. Name your favourite fictional character and tell why (s)he has earned your infine love!
    Hmm…. I kinda need to cheat on this one too. One of my favorites’ is Matilda Lady of Hay from Barbara Erskine’s stunning novel of the same name. However she actually existed in real life. This novel itself is now 25 years old and I think it should be considered a modern classic.
  6. If an author gave you the chance to rewrite or to change the fate of a book character, who would you chose and why?
    I’m not sure I would change the fate of a character in a book, however there are some characters I would love to see in a sequel. A recent example of this is the character Tomasso who I adored in the novel “The Witch of Napoli” by Michael Schmicker.
  7. Have you ever borrowed a book and not given it back?
    Shamefully, yes. I borrowed “No Mean City” by H. Kingsley Long and Alexander McArthur. A novel written in 1935 that chronicles the difficult life for working class city dwellers in Glasgow. I did mean to give it back but my grandfather had replaced it as I had had it so long so let me keep it.
  8. Do you read books while you eat? While you bathe? While you watch movies or TV? While you listen to music? While you’re on the computer? How do you do it?
    Yes, all of the above. Although the main one is in bed I find it incredibly difficult to sleep without reading at least a few pages of a book. I have also recently discovered the world of audiobooks in the car now too. I’m a book addict.
  9. What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down (or just wanted to know what will happen)?
    I get this feeling a lot, but one of the latest was 1929: Book 1 by M.L. Gardner, review coming soon. 🙂
  10. Name a book that you have read and reread at least three times! Why so? Is that your favourite book?
    Barbara Erskine is one of my latest favourite authors and I have re-read several of those books. There are so many I will re-read at somepoint, Phil Rickman, Elly Griffiths, James Herbert, Kate Ellis, too many. I also really enjoy re-reading classics; at the moment on my bookshelf to read I have Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle.
  11. Kindle or a real book? What do you choose now? What will you choose after five years?
    Both. For different reasons.

    Hard copy is amazing, particularly for classics, research and I also receive these as gifts from friends. I am also a big fan of keeping local bookstores going so when visiting a town, if it has an independent bookstore I will buy something from it. Two recent discoveries are the Hedgehog bookstore in Penrith and Cogito Books in Hexham.
    However, I am now a big fan of e-books and have found many new and interesting writers this way; such as
    Sue Vincent, Alienora Taylor,, Michael Schmicker, M.L Gardner and Micheal Siemsen.


It’s Over To You….

The Questions are:

  1. What was your favourite book when you were a child? How do you feel about the book now?
  2. Are you going to library for books? Do you ask for suggestions? How did you find your current library, if you have one?
  3. Old and used book smell or new and freshly printed book smell?
  4. Do you use bookmarks when reading? What kind of bookmarks (paper, fabric, magnetic) do you use and how do they look?
  5. Name your favourite fictional character and tell why (s)he has earned your infine love!
  6. If an author gave you the chance to rewrite or to change the fate of a book character, who would you chose and why?
  7. Have you ever borrowed a book and not given it back?
  8. Do you read books while you eat? While you bathe? While you watch movies or TV? While you listen to music? While you’re on the computer? How do you do it?
  9. What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down (or just wanted to know what will happen)?
  10. Name a book that you have read and reread at least three times! Why so? Is that your favourite book?
  11. Kindle or a real book? What do you choose now? What will you choose after five years?

 My Nominees are…

Chronicles of an Orange-Haired Woman

Tea is for Tina

Imperfectioninanutshell/Bookworm with opinions

E-TInkerbell

Sara Letourneau Writer

Venturesincreativity

Mojowritin

Kateloveton

Avalon-media

Rarehorror

The Library Lady and Rosie Bear

Good Luck Everyone and Enjoy 🙂

Book Awards 2015 – My Nominations

Book Awards

My Nominations are:

Best Standalone – Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine
Best Book Series – Ruth Galloway Series by Elly Griffiths Elly Griffiths - Outcast Dead
Best Duology – Witch Child/Sorceress by Celia Rees
Best Trilogy – David Ash Series by James Herbert
Best Book of 2014 – The Darkest Hour by Barbara Erskine

Genres

Best (Auto)Biography – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Best Classic – To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by Harper Lee
Best Dystopian – The 100 by Kass Morgan
Best Fantasy – Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
Best Historical – Kingdom of Shadows by Barbara Erskine
Best Horror – The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert
Best Humor – Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams dont panic
Best Mystery – The Merchants House by Kate Ellis
Best Retelling – Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
Best Romance – The Darkest Hour by Barbara Erskine
Best Science Fiction – Divergent by Veronica Roth
Best Thriller – The Blackhouse by Peter May (The Lewis Trilogy)

Authors

Best Female Author – Barbara Erskine
Best Male Author – Phil Rickman
Best Middle Grade Author – J.K Rowling
Best Young Adult Author
– Celia Rees
Best Adult Author
– Peter May
Favourite Newcomer 2014 – Elisabeth Gifford (Secrets of the Sea House)

Characters

Favourite Female Protagonist – Merrily Watkins (Merrily Watkins series by Phil Rickman)
Favourite Male Protagonist – Wesley Peterson (Wesley Peterson series by Kate Ellis) Best Villain – The Queen of Hearts by Lewis Carroll

Scenes

Funniest Scene – Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – The Supreme Utility of the Towel This Scene Broke My Heart – Black Beauty by Anna Sewell when Ginger dies
Best Kiss – Divergent by Veronica Roth – “We kiss again, and this time, dancingit feels familiar. I know exactly how we fit together, his arm around my waist, my hands on his chest, the pressure of his lips on mine. We have each other memorized.”
Did Not See That Coming – Best Plot Twist – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling – Snape isn’t the baddie, Quirrell is.

Congratulations to all of these amazing authors who enter our lives and leave an imprint.

clap