Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Shadow Hour – Kate Riordan

Historical Fiction 4*s
Historical Fiction
4*s

I do like a good historical time-split novel and so when I saw Kate Riordan had written a tale set in both 1878 and 1922 telling the tale of two governesses both whose charges at Fenix House high on the hills of Cheltenham.
This story starts in an intriguing way, reminding us that:

It is not always as simple as beginnings, middles and ends Not all stories should be regarded as a straight line, with the past at a distance and the present close at hand. Some, like this one, are formed in a circle, with something terrible and secret at the core, and everything else radiating out, ripples from a raindrop on water.

And so begins a gothic tale, set as far as Grace in 1922 is concerned in a dilapidated house which is nothing like her grandmother, Harriet’s memories of the house, which were much grander when she was the governess back in 1878.

The gravel was thin and patchy, showing the earth beneath, like a balding carpet; weeds and grass had taken hold in patches.

I looked through the bars at Fenix House and then glanced quickly away, as one averts their gaze from a stranger with a damaged face.

You see Grace had grown up hearing about the wonders of Fenix House of her Grandmothers fondness for her charges Helen and Victoria, and her affinity with their elder brother Bertie, but she didn’t tell Grace anything, and what she failed to divulge reverberated through the years.

There is no doubt that Kate Riordan is a marvellous storyteller with a fantastically plotted book which indeed, as promised in the beginning works in a circle taking in a myriad of lives from the lowly servant Agnes to a man high up in the Great Western Railway, from a woman who was forced to take the job of a governess to have a living, to Louisa Pembridge whose life is spent swallowing strange and dangerous potions to hold onto her youthful beauty all perfectly drawn to create a cast of characters both rich and varied.

Although the author touches on some of the key historical elements this book is not really about what is going on in the wider world and has an almost claustrophobic feel where the action is shrunk to one house, one family and their servants with few outside distractions. A world where unless it was read in a newspaper the world outside the house and its grounds, complete with the ruins and ice house, may not even exist.

I really can’t say too much else about the book except to state that the secret is much darker than the normal type in this genre, the romances perhaps even more doomed and with at least one of the characters having premonitions about future events, more spooky too. I’m not usually a fan of supernatural devices but in this book, with the setting and the secrets that are uncovered piece by piece, it did work – I am perhaps more forgiving of these in historical novels where these types of ‘gifts’ were more commonly accepted.

This is a brilliant second novel from Kate Riordan who is the author of The Girl in the Photograph, will be published on 25 February 2016. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Penguin UK who kindly gave me a copy of this novel and in return I write this honest review.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking the Shelves (February 20)

Stacking the shelves

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you’re adding to your shelves, be it buying or borrowing. From ‘real’ books you’ve purchased, a book you’ve borrowed, a book you’ve been given or an e-book they can all be shared.

I am going to share the new additions to my bookshelves without any further ado!

From the wonderful Twenty7 Books whose imprint focusses on debut novelists I have The Last Thing I Remember by Deborah Bee which will be published in e-Book format on 3 March 2016.

The Last thing I remember

Blurb

Sarah is in a coma.
Her memory is gone – she doesn’t know how she got there. And she doesn’t know how she might get out.
But then she discovers that her injury wasn’t an accident. And that the assailant hasn’t been caught.
Unable to speak, see or move, Sarah must use every clue that she overhears to piece together her own past.And work out who it is that keeps coming into her room.
A novel that grips from the very beginning and that will live long in the memory, The Last Thing I Remember is Deborah Bee’s startling debut thriller. Goodreads

From NetGalley I have The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan which is graced by a particularly striking cover.

The Shadow Hour

Blurb

Nineteen twenty-two. Grace has been sent to the stately and crumbling Fenix House to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps as a governess. But when she meets the house’s inhabitants, people who she had only previously heard of in stories, the cracks in her grandmother’s tale begin to show. Secrets appear to live in the house’s very walls and everybody is resolutely protecting their own.
Why has she been sent here? Why did her grandmother leave after just one summer? And as the past collides with the present, can Grace unravel these secrets and discover who her grandmother, and who she, really is?

I also have a memoir, Castles in the Air by Alison Ripley Cubitt which was published in November 2015.

Castles in the Air

Blurb

An eight-year-old child witnesses her mother’s secret and knows that from that moment life will never be the same.
After Molly, her mother dies, Alison uses her legacy to make a film about Molly’s relationship with a man she had known since she was a teenager. What hold did this man have over her mother? And what other secrets was her mother hiding?
Castles in the Air follows the life of Molly Ripley through the eyes of her daughter Alison. From Molly’s childhood in colonial Hong Kong and Malaya; wartime adventures as a rookie office girl in the far east outpost of Bletchley Park then as a young nurse in the city; tangled romance and marriage… to her challenging middle-age when demons from the past seem set to overwhelm her.
The writer in Alison can’t stop until she reveals the story of Molly’s past. But as a daughter, does she have the courage to face up to the uncomfortable truths of Molly’s seemingly ordinary life?
As she unravels the private self that Molly kept secret, Alison realises that she is trying to find herself through her mother’s story. By trying to make sense of the past, can she move on with her future?
Honest yet unsentimental and told with abundant love and compassion, this is a profoundly moving portrait of a woman’s life, hopes and dreams. We learn not only about Molly, but about mothers and daughters, secrets and love. A story for readers struggling to come to terms with the trauma of losing loved ones. NetGalley

As well as another book about children exploring their parent’s lives in The People in the Photo by Hélène Gestern

The People in the Photo

Blurb

The three figures in the photograph are frozen forever, two men and a woman bathed in sunlight . . .
The chance discovery of a newspaper image from 1971 sets two people on the path to learning the disturbing truth about their parents’ pasts.
Parisian archivist Hélène takes out a newspaper advert calling for information about her mother, who died when she was three, and the two men pictured with her in a photograph taken at a tennis tournament at Interlaken in 1971. Stéphane, a Swiss biologist living in Kent, responds: his father is one of the people in the photo. Letters and more photos pass between them as they embark on a journey to uncover the truth their parents kept from them. But will the relics of the past fill the silences left by the players? NetGalley

And finally a bit of crime with The Innocent Killer by Michael Griesbach which is linked to the recent TV series Making a Murderer, which I didn’t watch.

The Innocent Killer

Blurb

The story of one of America’s most notorious wrongful convictions, that of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who spent eighteen years in prison for a crime he did not commit and now the subject of the hit series Making a Murderer. But two years after he was exonerated of that crime and poised to reap millions in his wrongful conviction lawsuit, Steven Avery was arrested for the exceptionally brutal murder of Teresa Halbach, a freelance photographer who had gone missing several days earlier. The “Innocent Man” had turned into a cold blooded killer. Or had he? This is narrative non-fiction at its finest and the perfect companion read for fans of Making a Murderer.

Lastly I was contacted by James Henry who wrote the three prequels to the much loved Frost series written by R.D. Wingfield who had promised to let me know when his first book not based on Frost was ready so I am the proud owner of Blackwater which I can’t wait to get stuck into. Blackwater is due to be published in July 2016.

Blackwater

Blurb

January 1983, Colchester CID
A new year brings new resolutions for Detective Inspector Nicholas Lowry. With one eye on his approaching fortieth birthday, he has given up his two greatest vices: smoking, and the police boxing team. As a result, the largest remaining threat to his health is now his junior colleague’s reckless driving.
If Detective Constable Daniel Kenton’s orange sports convertible is symbolic of his fast track through the ranks, then his accompanying swagger, foppish hairstyle and university education only augment his uniqueness in the department. Yet regardless of this, it is not DC Kenton who is turning station heads.
WPC Jane Gabriel is the newest police recruit in Britain’s oldest recorded town. Despite a familial tie to top brass, Gabriel’s striking beauty and profound youth have landed her with two obstacles: a young male colleague who gives her too much attention, and an older one who acts like she’s not there.
January 1983, Blackwater Estuary
A new year brings a new danger to the Essex shoreline. An illicit shipment, bound for Colchester – 50 kilograms of powder that will frantically accelerate tensions in the historic town, and leave its own murderous trace.
Lowry, Kenton and Gabriel must now develop a tolerance to one another, and show their own substance, to save Britain’s oldest settlement from a new, unsettling enemy. Amazon

PicMonkey Collage TBR

TBR WATCH
Since my last count I have read 8 books, and gained, 6, so the total has reduced by a massive 2  giving a tiny total of  172 books!
83 physical books
73 e-books
16 books on NetGally

 

What have you found to read this week?

Posted in Books I have read

The Girl In The Photograph – Kate Riordan

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

For someone who isn’t a fan of ghostly elements in books it is amazing how I have now read three books in quick succession that feature them in various degrees, although the ghosts in this book are in many ways ephemeral beings. For Alice Eveleigh newly resident at Fiercombe Manor the feeling that the house was host to those who’d lived before that made the former Lady of the Manor, Elizabeth Stanton’s life so intriguing and a welcome distraction for the exiled pregnant young woman who had been sent away in disgrace.

Told as a dual narrative between Alice in 1933 and Elizabeth in the last years of the nineteenth century in the beautiful setting of Gloucestershire. Although the story is set in the fictional village of Fiercombe it is nearby the actual village of Painswick and the descriptions of this village often cut off from the outside world by floods were certainly evocative, more so perhaps as this reader spent her formative years in Gloucestershire.

Bluebells glos wildlife trust
Picture of Bluebell woods courtesy of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust

With both women pregnant albeit under very different circumstances the reader is drawn into comparisons of the two women’s lives as their pregnancies prove to be a difficult time for both of them. Both Alice and Elizabeth’s characters are well-developed as are the secondary characters of Mrs Jelph the housekeeper and Ruck the groundsman at Fiercombe Manor. The beauty of the two narratives being less than forty years apart enables Kate Riordan to weave many of the characters into both stories which lends a feeling of continuity that can be lost or contrived during these dual time tales. The issues facing both women are well-researched which helps keep the story rooted in the time it’s set in although I think this was more successful for Elizabeth than Alice whose life was more isolated until the heir to the manor, Tom, returns to carry out some estate work, but Tom has his own burden and Alice is intrigued to have another Stanton mystery to uncover.

For once it was the more recent story that grabbed my attention and I wanted all to turn out well for Alice, a bright and inquisitive young lady who having left her busy London life with her job, her friends and her parents behind doesn’t dwell on her own misfortune but instead uses her banishment to learn more about Elizabeth aided by a diary and the local historian Hugh Morton she finds pictures of houses, gardens and finally a picture of Elizabeth.

This book has a melancholy feel to it and the author doesn’t try to make everything all better so if you decide to read this one prepare to have a lump in your throat as you realise how much easier women’s lives are today than the times depicted in this novel.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Real Readers who sent me this book in the hope that I would enjoy it and write a review. How could I not enjoy a well-researched historical novel that deals with the issues it tells in a realistic but not overly sensational manner.

Posted in Weekly Posts

WWW Wednesday (December 3)

WWW Wednesday green

Hosted by Miz B at Should be Reading

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading Dead Souls by Elsebeth Egholm which is billed for fans of Jussi Adler-Olsen and Camilla Lackberg.

Dead Souls

Blurb

On All Hallows’ Eve, ex-convict Peter Boutrup is visiting his best friend’s grave when her estranged mother appears. Her son, Magnus, has disappeared, and she begs Peter to look for him.
The next day a young nun is pulled out of the moat at the convent in Djursland. She has been garrotted and Peter, who works there as a carpenter, was the last person to see her alive. Meanwhile, diver Kir Røjel finds an old box resting on the seabed. Inside are human bones. They are sixty years old, but the victim had also been garrotted.
While Peter is looking for Magnus, Detective Mark Bille Hansen is assigned to the case. He is determined to link the bones in the box with the girl in the moat – but the hunt for the truth leads both he and Peter down a path so dark, they fear they may never return. Bookbridgr

I recently finished reading The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan a historical novel set in a manor house with one strand at the very end of the nineteenth century and another in the early thirties.

My review will follow shortly

The Girl in the Photograph

Next I plan to read The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

The Last Anniversary

Sophie Honeywell always wondered if Thomas Gordon was the one she let get away. He was the perfect boyfriend, but on the day he was to propose, she broke his heart. A year later he married his travel agent, while Sophie has been mortifyingly single ever since. Now Thomas is back in her life because Sophie has unexpectedly inherited his aunt Connie’s house on Scribbly Gum Island — home of the famously unsolved Munro Baby mystery.
Sophie moves onto the island and begins a new life as part of an unconventional family where it seems everyone has a secret. Grace, a beautiful young mother, is feverishly planning a shocking escape from her perfect life. Margie, a frumpy housewife, has made a pact with a stranger, while dreamy Aunt Rose wonders if maybe it’s about time she started making her own decisions.
As Sophie’s life becomes increasingly complicated, she discovers that sometimes you have to stop waiting around — and come up with your own fairy-tale ending. Goodreads

What are you reading this week? Please share in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

WWW Wednesday (November 26)

WWW Wednesday green

Hosted by Miz B at Should be Reading

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading Sweet Damage by Rebecca James

Sweet Damage

Blurb

‘In my dreams the house itself has sinister intentions.
In reality, the people who lived there did the damage…’
Tim Ellison is lucky to find a cheap room in the city’s best location. There’s a hitch, though – he must run errands for the reclusive owner, beautiful Anna London.
Anna is secretive, but it’s obvious something is haunting her…
When terrifying things start happening in the house, Tim is forced to think about leaving. But he’s fallen for Anna, and when her past comes back with a vengeance Tim is caught right in the middle. Amazon

I have recently finished The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth a book that comes I highly recommend by your truly. Find out why when I post my review.

The Life I Left Behind

Next I am going to read The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan

The Girl in the Photograph

Blurb

When Alice Eveleigh arrives at Fiercombe Manor during the long, languid summer of 1933, she finds a house steeped in mystery and brimming with secrets. Sadness permeates its empty rooms and the isolated valley seems crowded with ghosts, none more alluring than Elizabeth Stanton whose only traces remain in a few tantalisingly blurred photographs. Why will no one speak of her? What happened a generation ago to make her vanish?
As the sun beats down relentlessly, Alice becomes ever more determined to unearth the truth about the girl in the photograph – and stop her own life from becoming an eerie echo of Elizabeth’s . . . Amazon

What are you reading this week? Please share in the comments below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (September 19)

Friday Finds Hosted by Should be Reading

FRIDAY 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

From NetGalley I am now the proud owner of The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan

The Girl in the Photograph

Blurb

In the summer of 1933, Alice Eveleigh has arrived at Fiercombe Manor in disgrace. The beautiful house becomes her sanctuary, a place to hide her shame from society in the care of the housekeeper, Mrs Jelphs. But the manor also becomes a place of suspicion, one of secrecy.
Something isn’t right.
Someone is watching.
There are secrets that the manor house seems determined to keep. Tragedy haunts the empty rooms and foreboding hangs heavy in the stifling heat. Traces of the previous occupant, Elizabeth Stanton, are everywhere and soon Alice discovers Elizabeth’s life eerily mirrors the path she herself is on.
The past is set to repeat its sorrows, with devastating consequences. NetGalley

I also have a copy of Stolen Child by Laura Elliot

Stolen Child

Blurb

It’s every mother’s worst nightmare.
Carla Kelly wakes to find her two-day-old baby daughter’s cot empty.
Isobel has been taken.
Susanne Dowling has been keeping a terrible secret following her fifth agonising miscarriage. But when at last she welcomes her new baby daughter into her life nothing else matters. They will both be safe as long as Susanne keeps her daughter close and confesses her lie to no one. Ever.
Carla, a top model, launches a fierce national campaign to find her child – but the trail is cold. She receives threats and recriminations from strangers – she flaunted her pregnancy in the media, she cashed in on it, she deserves everything she gets – and, encouraged by well-meaning loved ones to move on, she begins to fall apart.
But one letter Carla receives stands out from the rest. It offers support from a surprising quarter. And it sets in to motion a chain of events that opens wounds and exposes shocking secrets from Carla’s past that suggest what happened to her daughter was revenge a long time planned.
And it will bring Carla unknowingly close to the stolen daughter she has sworn she will do anything to get back … NetGalley

From Amazon Vine I have a copy of Deutschland by Martin Wagner, II have to admit I’ve seen more attractive covers than this one!

Deutchland

Blurb

Spending their summer holidays at their grandparents’ house by the sea, Sam and her two brothers play a series of dangerous games, pitted against each other yet united in their secrecy from the grown-ups. But when they discover a fierce dog mysteriously trapped in an electrical substation, they face their first real challenge, one from which they cannot walk away.
Meanwhile, on a long weekend in Germany, their aunt, Kate, and her new lover find themselves playing games of their own. In the red-light district of Munich, will Kate’s surprising challenge for her boyfriend strengthen or destroy their relationship?
Many years ago, Sam’s grandfather, Richard, also played an unusual game, encouraged by a stranger, as part of a scientific experiment. The choices he made then have haunted him ever since. As Sam delves into her grandfather’s secret she discovers that where free will turns to blind obedience, true horror lies. Amazon

And lastly I am delighted to be the proud owner of The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth whose book Precious Thing wowed me earlier this year.

The Life I Left Behind

Blurb

She’s dead but she’s the only one who knows what really happened;
What your friends have said.
What the police missed.
Who attacked you.
So if you want the truth who else are you going to turn to?
You think you know people: Colette McBeth tells you what you don’t know… Amazon

Please share your finds for the week in the comments below.