Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The September Garden – Catherine Law

Historical Fiction 4*'s
Historical Fiction
4*’s

I won a signed copy of this book from a Goodreads Giveaway which was an excellent Christmas present as I rarely win anything.  Even better despite early misgivings about the depth of the characters this turned out to be a really good read.

Blurb

Set in London during the Blitz, in occupied France, and among the rolling Chiltern hills, this is the story of two cousins thrown together by the outbreak of war. Nell and Sylvie grow up quickly during the early days of rationing, blackouts, and the arrival of RAF planes in the skies. But even as the war rages on around them, the competition and jealousy between the cousins battles on – especially in romance.
When the girls fall in love with the same man, he is spared having to choose between them as the war pulls them all apart and changes the course of their lives, with devastating consequences. For Nell, the only place she can ever find solace is inside the September Garden, her father’s walled sanctuary. It is here that she decides to hide her most dreadful secret . . .

The September Garden is the patch of ground that Nell’s father has turned into a beautiful autumn haven, full of wonderful blooming flowers. Nell’s father fought, but never really recovered from the First World War and it is at the advent of the second is where this book begins.

The story centres around Nell and her cousin Sylvie who lives in France, the two cousins a year apart in age but a mile apart in attitude share an uneasy relationship which only intensifies when Sylvie has to stay in England when the war breaks out.

At first I was unsure about this book. I thought the characters were simply outlines at the beginning but as the book commences and the two girls face up to life in wartime Buckinghamshire they soon become filled in. Alongside the cousin’s story we have the tale of life in France, shown to us through the eyes of Sylvie’s maid, Adele. What looks from the cover to be a fluffy romantic book, is anything so although there is a romance, Catherine Law does not spare us the details of life in either country with some truly horrifying events befalling each of the young characters. The young Nell doesn’t simply shrug off an air-raid with the insouciance of so many books, no stiff upper lip and her feeling of sheer terror leaps off the page and the details of life in France as the Germans began their occupation in France were often brutal but never left me feeling they were anything but true.

A well-researched novel that makes me truly grateful that I didn’t have to live through those terrible times. Published by Allison & Busby on 15 November 2013 I’d recommend this anyone who is interested in a realistic
interpretation of life in England & France during the Second World War.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Musing Mondays (October 21)

musingmondays51

Hosted by Should Be Reading
Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…• Describe one of your reading habits.

• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).

• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!

• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.

• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!

• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

This weeks musing is about book review sites and more pertinently why have a five star system if you can’t use the whole range?

Each of us rates in a slightly different way, after all by its very nature, a review is a personal opinion.

I write reviews on Amazon.co.uk and have done for a number of years now. I struggle with the rating system, mainly because I believe in following the rules and being honest. I generally stick to:
5*’s I love it
4*’s I like it
3*’s It’s OK
2*’s I don’t like it
1* I hate it

but even this has problems as what is the difference between I hate it and I don’t like it? For me I give one star reviews to those books I haven’t finished. There are further caveats to this, if I have chosen a book that simply isn’t for me subject wise I wouldn’t leave a review as I believe that it is my fault, I have picked something I was never going to like.

A couple of times I have received less than complimentary feedback from the author when I have given a book one star (which I might add is very rare), one was quite abusive and left me wondering what sort of impression the author thought that would give of him to potential readers? After all mine is one amongst many reviews.

At the other end of the scale I sometimes find it hard to choose between four and five stars. Yes I know loving something should be easy to discern but I find myself questioning how much do I love it? This year has been an outstanding book year for me so I have given many more five star reviews. This has made me wonder am I getting better at picking good books, more easily pleased (I somehow doubt this) or more open to different types of books thereby enjoying fresh ideas ? Who knows? (can someone tell me whether rhetorical questions should have a question mark or not, I’ve been debating for ages and gone with the ?)

Anyway what prompted this post was an attack on Goodreads for giving a one star review for a book I didn’t finish.  I didn’t read to the end mainly due to the plot holes, and what I felt was less than perfect research. The commenter stated that I had been spiteful, lacked the concentration to finish the book(?) then accused me of being a rival author and/or knowing the author of the book. I admit my comments were a little throw-away but I hid them as spoiler alerts so that they weren’t visible unless someone really wanted to read them. This made me think about the whole rival author thing that everyone seems to get worked up about. If I were an author (which I am not) then how would giving another author a one star review help me? Surely this would only work if there were only a few books available and it was a simple choice between one or the other… this clearly isn’t the case so?? Comments on a postcard please (or at the bottom of this post if you prefer)

The commenter made another point that it is hard to write a book and therefore I shouldn’t be spiteful… I agree writing a book isn’t an easy task and I do have admiration for anyone who does this but it doesn’t mean that I am going to like it however much an author sweated over its birth, To me it seems a little like school sports days; everyone doesn’t deserve a prize for trying this is the real world! I didn’t go and criticise all those people who gave five star reviews and caused me to spend my hard-earned cash on this book! I accept that what I felt made the book unreadable wouldn’t matter to someone who didn’t necessarily know the subject. I have been told a book I like has an overlong sentence structure. Apart from a brief, oh dear I didn’t even notice the sentence structure I must seem so uneducated moment, I accepted that the other reader wanted something different from the book to what is important to me.

This isn’t a post about a particular site although from what I understand is Goodreads has caused some controversy lately with its deletion of accounts but more about how fans react when a book they love isn’t appreciated by others. What happened to live and let live?…. a book with loads of higher ratings will surely not really be damaged by my dislike of the book? Can’t it?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (September 13)

Friday FindsFRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

So, come on — share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!

The first book on my list is Inconvenient People by Sarah Wise which was recommended by Amazon and was an instant must have.  Some of you may have read my Monday Musings where I talk about my love of social history, this fits right in with that.  It is due to be published in paperback (for some reason although I love my kindle I prefer my non-fiction books to be ‘real books’)

Inconvenient People

My next Friday Find is appealing for the title Don’t Cry Over Killed Milk by Stephen Kaminski. I read an interview and review on Kate Eileen Shannon’s Blog http://kateeileenshannon.com/2013/09/10/dont-cry-over-killed-milk-a-damon-lassard-dabbling-detective-mystery/ and added it to my TBR. As it is currently under £2 on Amazon I think this may be a purchase very soon.

Don't Cry Over Killed Milk

Having just finished one excellent psychological thriller (Until You’re Mine) another one has caught my eye
Precious Thing by Colette McBeth

Some friendships fizzle out. Rachel and Clara promised theirs would last for ever. They met when Rachel was the new girl in class and Clara was the friend everyone wanted. Instantly, they fell under one another’s spell and nothing would be the same again. Now in their late twenties Rachel has the TV career, the flat and the boyfriend, while Clara’s life is spiralling further out of control. Yet despite everything, they remain inextricably bound. Then Clara vanishes. Is it abduction, suicide or something else altogether?
Amazon

Precious Thing
Review from http://ireadnovels.wordpress.com

I came across my last book for this week’s Friday Finds on Goodreads – I have never read any Beryl Bainbridge so I will start with her first novel Harriet Says…

Pretty, malevolent Harriet finally arrives – and over the course of the long holidays draws her friend into a scheme to beguile then humiliate the Tsar, with disastrous, shocking consequences. A gripping portrayal of adolescent transgression, Beryl Bainbridge’s classic first novel remains as subversive today as when it was written.

Harriet Said