Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Story Keeper – Anna Mazzola

Historical Fiction
3*s

The year is 1857 and a shy girl Audrey travels from her home in London to the Isle of Skye to work for the aged Miss Buchanan, a folklorist who is trying to capture the traditional tales before they disappear from the fabric of life.

The journey needless to say is arduous and we soon learn that Audrey is as much running away from something as she is running towards a new opportunity. On the boat over to the island she meets another young girl who is ill unnerving Audrey further still.

This is a beautifully written story but despite that the subject matter was not as appealing to me as the author’s previous book The Unseeing which I adored. I struggle with books featuring the supernatural and this book has confirmed that the stories passed from person to person in the oral form, however interesting simply lose their power because I couldn’t quite transport myself to a time and place where the superstitions they generated were seriously believed.

Once she was in her place of work, both physically and ordered about by those who she had to live and work for, Audrey got caught up in the local stories, when they were revealed to her. Storytelling being stamped out by the clergy who thought it interfered with their fire and brimstone sermons. And then a girl is killed and a strange spirit is blamed for her death. Audrey is understandably spooked the girl having washed up on the beach under her window.

In a separate strand of the story we find out that Audrey knows her mother spent time on the island as a young woman, it was from her that Audrey learned to speak Gallic and to love the folktales, although I’m not sure who would think it necessary to tell the brutal stories to innocent ears, these were different times! But Audrey’s mother died on one of the Scottish Isles and her father has refused to discuss the details with her.

In short we have superstitions, folklore and secrets and it seems as though everyone is determined to hide things from Audrey; the crofters don’t trust her with their stories, the woman who employed her and her nephew are oblique in their dealings with her and her father point-blank shuts her out of his life. With so few people talking the book frustrated me in the lack of forward movement which I’m afraid to say contributed to the disconnect I felt between the mysteries on the pages.

The author’s beautiful way with words came to the fore when describing the islands and recounting the history of the clearances of the crofters. These elements provided me with a deeper understanding of the life the men and women who lived on the Isles at this time lived. It was a poor life, the harshness heaped onto the challenges of the weather and the poverty by heartless landowners. The clergy and the gentry seeming to join forces to decimate a way of life that had been followed for years. We often forget that we can go back far further than recent history to find examples of careless disregard for other’s way of life.

I’d like to thank the publisher Headline for allowing me to read a copy of The Story Keeper ahead of publication on Thursday 26 July 2018.

First Published UK: 26 July 2018
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (July 4)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I have just started No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister, one of my latest favourite authors. This book was published on Monday 2 July.

Blurb

he police say she’s guilty.
She insists she’s innocent.
She’s your sister.
You loved her.
You trusted her.
But they say she killed your child.
Who do you believe?
Original, devilishly clever and impossible to forget, this is a thriller with a difference. You won’t be able to tear yourself away from the trial that will determine both sisters’ fates. NetGalley

The last book I read was In the Dark by Cara Hunter the second in the Adam Fawley series set in Oxford which will be published on 12 July 2018.



Blurb

A woman and child are found locked in a basement room, barely alive. No one knows who they are – the woman can’t speak, and there are no missing persons reports that match their profile.

The elderly man who owns the house claims he has never seen them before. The inhabitants of the quiet Oxford street are in shock. How could this happen right under their noses?

But DI Adam Fawley knows that nothing is impossible. And that no one is as innocent as they seem . . NetGalley

Next on my list is The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola which will be published on 26 July 2018. I loved this author’s debut novel The Unseeing and so I’m hoping for great things from this one too.

Blurb

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857 and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.

Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.

Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother, many years before. NetGalley

What do you think? Do any of these take your fancy?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (March 25)

I’m pleased to report I’ve had a lovely week off work which started with a visit to what turned out to be a snowy Gloucester to see my friend for the weekend. Due to the snow we took a snow day where we cooked and I taught her how to knit – we really know how to party! Don’t worry though, we did manage a couple of lovely meals and a few gins to help stave off the cold. I returned to Jersey with my brother so all round a great week catching up on all the news and eating and drinking way too much.

This Week on the Blog

My week belatedly started with my review of Last Letter Home by Rachel Hore, a historical dual time-line story featuring a German man in England at the time of World War II.

This Week in Books featured the authors Edmund Crispin, A.J. Pearce and Louise Candlish.

Next I reviewed The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth which was published on 22 March 2018. This book was set on a close of houses in Melbourne, and looked at the secrets each household was concealing, some were bigger than others.

I love a good ‘sliding doors’ type story which was exactly what And the Birds Kept on Singing by Simon Bourke delivered. The tale of an adoption, or not. This powerful debut novel which was set in the 1980s illustrating the different lives that Seán and/or Jonathan grew up in.

My final review of the week was my non-fiction read for March; Common People by Alison Light is a wide-ranging look at the lives, jobs and neighbourhoods that her family lived in based on the historical and family history research she carried out. A fascinating read.

 

This Time Last Year…

I was reading A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup, a non-fiction read of the highest standard. Kathryn Harkup looks at the role poison played in Agatha Christie’s life during World War I when she worked in the dispensary in her local Torquay hospital and her training to become as an apothecary’s assistant. No wonder then that she put that knowledge to such good use in many of her crime fiction. Each poison’s appearance is explained along with the symptoms any victim can expect which shows us just how much the Queen of Crime spared her readers in her books. Where there is a link to a famous case, this is also included with details of the crime, how it was discovered and the verdict if applicable. If all that wasn’t enough at the back there is a handy table listing Agatha Christie’s books and the murder method. An absolute gem of a book for lovers of poison and Agatha Christie.

You can read my full review here or click on the book cover

Fourteen novels. Fourteen poisons. Just because it’s fiction doesn’t mean it’s all made-up …

Blurb

Agatha Christie revelled in the use of poison to kill off unfortunate victims in her books; indeed, she employed it more than any other murder method, with the poison itself often being a central part of the novel. Her choice of deadly substances was far from random – the characteristics of each often provide vital clues to the discovery of the murderer. With gunshots or stabbings the cause of death is obvious, but this is not the case with poisons. How is it that some compounds prove so deadly, and in such tiny amounts?

Christie’s extensive chemical knowledge provides the backdrop for A is for Arsenic, in which Kathryn Harkup investigates the poisons used by the murderer in fourteen classic Agatha Christie mysteries. It looks at why certain chemicals kill, how they interact with the body, the cases that may have inspired Christie, and the feasibility of obtaining, administering and detecting these poisons, both at the time the novel was written and today. A is for Arsenic is a celebration of the use of science by the undisputed Queen of Crime. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

I have had some great new books from NetGalley since my last post…

The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola chosen because I loved her book The Unseeing a historical crime book. The Story Keeper will be published on 26 July 2018.

Blurb

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the word-of-mouth folk tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857, the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and the crofters are suspicious and hostile, claiming they no longer know their stories.

Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters tell her that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl has disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the spirits of the unforgiven dead. Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but then she is reminded of her own mother, a Skye woman who disappeared in mysterious circumstances.

It seems there is a link to be explored, and Audrey may uncover just what her family have been hiding from her all these years. NetGalley

I was also lucky enough to be approved for the next book in David Jackson‘s D.S. Nathan Cody series, Don’t Make a Sound. Since I voted the first in this series, A Tapping At My Door one of my top ten reads for 2016 and thoroughly enjoying Hope to Die which was published last year, this is one I’m keen to read before it is published on 3 May 2018.

Blurb


You can’t choose your family. Or can you?

Meet the Bensons. They’re an ordinary couple. They wash their car, mow their lawn and pass the time of day with their neighbours. And they have a beautiful little girl called Daisy.

There’s just one problem.

SHE’S NOT THEIRS.

D. S. Nathan Cody is about to face his darkest and most terrifying case yet . . . NetGalley

My last book that I’m sharing this week also comes from a crime fiction series – I keep saying I ought to cut down on the ones I follow but they are just so good! Isabelle Grey is publishing the fourth in her crime fiction series featuring DI Grace Fisher on 17 May 2018 with Wrong Way Home.

Blurb

A cold case leads DI Grace Fisher on the hunt for the most dangerous killer of her career – but after twenty-five years, can she really be sure she will get to the truth?

The same night a local hero saved two people from the burning Marineland resort in Southend, a young woman was raped and murdered minutes from the scene of the fire, the culmination of a series of brutal rapes in the town. The killer was never found.

Twenty-five years on, new DNA techniques have blown the cold case open. DI Grace Fisher relishes the prospect of finally catching the culprit, but when the evidence doesn’t point to one clear suspect, she must reconstruct the original investigation. Any suggestion that the Essex force was less than thorough at the time could alienate her colleagues and destroy her chances of reaching the truth.

Grace finds her investigation shadowed by a young true-crime podcaster backed by veteran crime reporter Ivo Sweatman. As pressure mounts she cannot afford to be distracted. She knows that a cold-blooded killer is slowly being backed into a corner, and a cornered predator is often the most dangerous of all… NetGalley

If you want to catch up on this series they before this one is published here’s the list in order…

Good Girls Don’t Die
Shot Through the Heart
The Special Girls

What have you found to read this week?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I have read 5 books and since I have gained a few so my TBR has stayed the same and the total is therefore 187
Physical Books – 110
Kindle Books – 54
NetGalley Books –23

I have banked two thirds of a book token this week so technically 3 1/3 books in credit but… well I’ve had to use the special 15% discount voucher that World of Books provided to me and my readers – if you haven’t used the code yet, make sure you do so before it expires on 31 March 2018! But as the books haven’t arrived yet…

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Unseeing – Anna Mazzola

Historical Crime Fiction 5*s
Historical Crime Fiction
5*s

Using the bare bones of a real historical crime, Anna Mazzola has filled in the gaps to present a gripping story, one that feels entirely authentic.

The year is 1837 and Queen Victoria is on the throne, London is a bustling array of work while a woman’s life is dependent on class and money and being married. Meet Sarah Gale who has been sentenced to hang for being an accomplice to the murder of Hannah Brown, a woman cut down on the eve of her wedding. Sarah sits in an impeccably described cell in Newgate awaiting her fate. With the public clamouring for her sentence to be reduced, a lawyer young Edmund Fleetwood is asked by the attorney general to review the evidence and produce a report for him. Edmund goes about his task diligently, but it’s not easy, Sarah has given no real defence and with her former lover about to be hung for murder Edmund has his work cut out for him.

Sarah was a seamstress in London at the time the murder took place with a young son in tow she was ripe for being taken advantage of so when her lover James Greenacre takes up with someone else, that someone being the future victim, Hannah Brown, Sarah shuffles off to a local boarding house wondering how she was going to keep herself and her son out of the ever looming fear of the workhouse.

Anna Mazzola really conjures up the time period for us in this pitch-perfect historical thriller with the details of the time period delicately placed so that never once did it feel like that her obviously meticulous research had been indiscriminately scattered across the pages. And then there is the plot, the most obvious and troubling question being why won’t Sarah defend herself? Edmund is fearful that if he can’t get her to talk she will hang for a crime she has not committed. But this talented debut author doesn’t just follow that question around bends, there are other side-plots to explore with a whole cast of characters that may be not all they first appear to be. Put simply, this is a book which has undertone of dark and disturbing matters, some of which have stayed hidden for quite some time. It is these undertones which add the real feeling of layering to the story this is far from a bit of imagination being added to the real story of The Edgeware Road Murders, with a complex tale that the author has spiced up with additional characters and these are delivered with a real emotional context given to their actions. With these multiple layers so pleasingly presented I was completely immersed in the tale as it unfolded; I could imagine Sarah sat in her small cell, the lawyer beside her coaxing a defence from her tight lips and despite her reluctance we learn a little bit more and this kept me turning those pages until the fitting finale.

If you haven’t already guessed, I loved this book, there was nothing that felt the tiniest bit out of place and the author subtlety manipulates the reader’s emotions by the drip-feed of bits of information. I also rarely mention titles in my reviews but this is a good one in part it relates to Hannah Brown who had an eye removed in the course of the murder but it also applies to other characters too which pleases my love of continuity between a title and a novel. This really is an exceptional debut, and I’m looking forward to finding out what else this talented author will produce for my enjoyment.

I was exceptionally grateful to be provided this book by the publisher Tinder Press and this honest review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 14 July 2016
Publisher: Tinder Press
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (September 28)

This Week In Books

Lypsyy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I have just finished The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett which is a good old fashioned police procedural, the only caution being is not to read the early chapters of this if you suffer from queasiness!

The Chemistry Of Death

Blurb

Finding refuge in a quiet rural backwater, Dr David Hunter hoped he might at last have put the past behind him. But then they found what was left of Sally Palmer…
It isn’t just that she was a friend that disturbs him. Once he’d been a high-profile forensic anthropologist and all too familiar with the many faces of death, before tragedy made him abandon this previous life. Now the police want his help. But to become involved will stir up memories he’s long tried to forget. Then a second woman disappears, plunging the close-knit community into a maelstrom of fear and paranoia. And no one, not even Hunter, is exempt from suspicion. Amazon

I am now reading The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola which I’ve seen stunning reviews for so I’m delighted it has finally reached the top of my pile. This book seems to have it all, a historical crime for fans of Sarah Waters and a book full of secrets and hidden desires!

The unseeing

Blurb

Set in London in 1837, Anna Mazzola’s THE UNSEEING is the story of Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding. Perfect for any reader of Sarah Waters or Antonia Hodgson.

After Sarah petitions for mercy, Edmund Fleetwood is appointed to investigate and consider whether justice has been done. Idealistic, but struggling with his own demons, Edmund is determined to seek out the truth. Yet Sarah refuses to help him, neither lying nor adding anything to the evidence gathered in court. Edmund knows she’s hiding something, but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone would willingly go to their own death? Amazon

Next up I plan to read Pariah by David Jackson, regular followers of this blog will know how impressed I was with the first in a new series by this author; A Tapping at my Door, and so now I’m starting with book one of The Detective Callum Doyle Series.

Pariah

Blurb

Where can you turn when your very presence brings death to those around you?

That’s the question Detective Callum Doyle is about to face. It begins with the calculated murder of his partner on a vacant lot. But more death is to follow, and when the chilling anonymous messages arrive, Doyle is left in no doubt that this is about him.

You cannot go near your friends, your colleagues, or even your family. Because if you do… they will be killed.

To save others, Doyle is forced to cut himself off from society. But with the investigation getting nowhere and his isolation becoming unbearable, Doyle has to ask himself how much he’s willing to sacrifice to get his life back. Amazon

Have you read any of these? Do you want to?

Let me know what you are reading this week by adding your comments or leaving your link below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (July 31)

Weekly Wrap Up

Well there was no wrap up post last week because I was in Copenhagen meeting Hans Christian Anderson as part of a trip with my daughter and her two bridesmaids.

Cleo Beth and Hans

We chose a very hot weekend, with the temperature tipping 30 degrees centigrade, not the best weather for a bride-to-be whose mission was to see as many of the sights of Copenhagen as possible including of course The Little Mermaid! The commentator on our boat tour informed us she was disappointingly small and insignificant!! We all had a fantastic trip, this is one city I definitely want to revisit and especially as unsurprisingly they make the most fantastic Danish pastries!!

It’s been a sad week too with us marking the first anniversary of Owen’s passing which we spent together remembering happier times of a darling son and brother.Multi-coloured house

 

 

 

Last Week on the Blog

In amongst the highs and lows I managed to post a bumper crop of five reviews on the blog this week:

Monday I posted my review of the true Victorian crime book featuring the murder of a young maid-of-all work in Greenwich, London in Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane by Paul Thomas Murphy.

This was followed by my review of Blind Side which was part of Jennie Ensor’s blog tour. This book takes in the terrorist activities in London in 2005 as well as examining the effects of war on soldiers in a well-written and engaging style.
In my weekly mid-week post I highlighted my current and upcoming reads including Claire Mackintosh’s, I See You which I am sad to be separated from having been called on to socialise with real people (again!)

My review of The Beauty at the End by Debbie Howells was posted on Thursday swiftly followed by my eighth read in the 20 Books of Summer on Thursday, the classic The Shrimp and the Anemone by L.P. Hartley.

Yesterday had me posting my fifth review of a book by Liane Moriarty, her latest offering Truly Madly Guilty.

I’m now completely up to date with my reviews for what seems like the first time in an age!

Stacking the Shelves

I’ve got five NetGalley finds since my last post starting with another Victorian True Crime with a poisoner to boot!

Mary Ann Cotton – Dark Angel by Michael Connolly will be published by Pen and Sword on 1 September 2016. There is a note that states that this book will tie in with a ITV drama Dark Angel which is due for airing in the autumn.

Mary Ann Cotton

Blurb

A female thief, with four husbands, a lover and, reportedly, over twelve children, is arrested and tried for the murder of her step-son in 1872, turning the small village of West Auckland in County Durham upside down. Other bodies are exhumed and when they are found to contain arsenic, she is suspected of their murder as well.
The perpetrator, Mary Ann Cotton, was tried and found guilty and later hanged on 24 March 1873 in Durham Goal. It is claimed she murdered over twenty people and was the first female serial killer in England.
With location photographs and a blow by blow account of the trial, this book challenges the claim that Mary Ann Cotton was the ‘The West Auckland Borgia’, a title given to her at the time. It sets out her life, trial, death and the aftermath and also questions the legal system used to convict her by looking at contemporary evidence from the time and offering another explanation for the deaths. The book also covers the lives of those left behind, including the daughter born to Mary Ann Cotton in Durham Goal. NetGalley

I’m absolutely delighted to have received a copy of The Trespasser by Tana French, the sixth in the Dublin Murder Squad series, books that are loosely connected with each other but that are also readable as stand-alones. The Trespasser will be published on 22 September 2016.

The Trespasser

Blurb

Antoinette Conway, the tough, abrasive detective from The Secret Place, is still on the Murder squad, but only just. She’s partnered up with Stephen Moran now, and that’s going well – but the rest of her working life isn’t. Antoinette doesn’t play well with others, and there’s a vicious running campaign in the squad to get rid of her. She and Stephen pull a case that at first looks like a slam-dunk lovers’ tiff, but gradually they realise there’s more going on: someone on their own squad is trying to push them towards the obvious solution, away from nagging questions. They have to work out whether this is just an escalation in the drive to get rid of her – or whether there’s something deeper and darker going on. NetGalley

Lastly I have a copy of Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult which promises a look at prejudice. It’s a while since I binge read everything this author had published and now feel that it is time to pick up another.
Small Great Things

Blurb

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.
What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.
Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.
It is about opening your eyes. NetGalley

Small Great Things is to be published on 22 November 2016

I also have a copy of The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola which was published on 14 July 2016.

The unseeing

Blurb

It is 1837 and the city streets teem with life, atmosphere and the stench of London. Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, has been sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding.
Edmund Fleetwood, an idealistic lawyer, is appointed to investigate Sarah’s petition for mercy and consider whether justice has been done. Struggling with his own demons, he is determined to seek out the truth, yet Sarah refuses to help him. Edmund knows she’s hiding something, but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone with a child would go willingly to their own death?
THE UNSEEING is a vividly written novel of human frailty, fear and manipulation, and of the terrible consequences of jealousy and misunderstanding. NetGalley

Lastly I have a copy of Pierre Lemaitre’s Blood Wedding which was chosen because of all the fabulous reviews floating around the blogosphere. Blood Wedding was published on 7 July 2016.

Blood Wedding

Blurb

A gripping standalone psychological thriller about marriage, manipulation and murder by the internationally bestselling author of Alex
Sophie is haunted by the things she can’t remember – and visions from the past she will never forget.
One morning, she wakes to find that the little boy in her care is dead. She has no memory of what happened. And whatever the truth, her side of the story is no match for the evidence piled against her.
Her only hiding place is in a new identity. A new life, with a man she has met online.
But Sophie is not the only one keeping secrets . . . NetGalley

What have you found to read this week?

PicMonkey Collage TBR

TBR WATCH
Since my last post I have read just 4 books and gained 5 so the total this week is now standing at 176 books!
89 physical books
67 e-books
20 books on NetGalley