Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Trick to Time – Kit de Waal

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

Love and loss are the big questions that most of us have to deal with in life which on the one hand makes them universal but of course each love is different as is each loss. Kit de Waal has penned an almost understated story populated by seriously lovely characters devoted to the subject.

Mona sits in her flat in London staring at the day dawning when she notices a man in the block across the way from her. He is also awake and looking out, perhaps reaching out to those around him.

I wanted to both be friends with Mona and mother her, an odd combination particularly as she celebrates her sixtieth birthday during the course of this book. She’s a doll-maker, real old-fashioned dolls are made from wood by the carpenter and painstakingly painted and dressed by Mona and then sold, often to overseas buyers in Japan and America. Each doll is unique with a similarly unique wardrobe. Mona has a shop too and here she works day in day out with young Joley with her big boots and crop tops assisting her. Twice a year she meets her old friend Val from Birmingham, where Mona lived in the early 70s.

Mona also offers a personalised service for bereaved mothers and this is her side-line. Not one that is advertised or has a website like the dolls, but one where people are referred for help when a baby has died. In short Mona is a lovely lady with a big heart and whilst that had probably always been the case, we learn what led her to both professions by going back to the beginning when a young girl crossed the Irish Sea and made a life for herself in Birmingham. Living in a boarding house over time she meets William and so this becomes their story.

This is a gentle book which doesn’t mean boring, in fact far from it. The Trick to Time is fearsomely well-written and despite the subject matter it never descends into mawkishness, but rather I was impressed by Mona’s strength, although like her friend Val couldn’t help but feel that perhaps she should put herself first once in a while.

The book shifts backwards and forwards in time pulling in the details of Mona’s childhood, her mother’s illness, her father’s steadfastness and the ongoing sense of obligation to her distant relation Bridie. Ireland was too stifling for many youngsters at the time and so they moved to Birmingham where they stayed in boarding houses and missed their homes. Mona’s time in Birmingham is full of colour, of love and telephone calls across the water, but nothing stays the same, the trick to time is making the most of the good times.

Although this review mentions just a few characters, there are lots, all exquisitely detailed, and on the whole they are lovely people, unlike the majority that perhaps populate my normal reading matter. This is, like My Name is Leon, undoubtedly a character led novel with a message, but not one that the author feels she needs to force, her writing gives us all and I think that The Trick of Time will touch many people’s lives on a personal level, after all, most of us will love and lose throughout our lives.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Penguin Books UK who allowed me to read an advance copy of The Trick to Time ahead of publication in the UK on 29 March 2018. This unbiased review is thank you to them and the very talented Kit de Waal who bought Mona into my life.

First Published UK: 29 March 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books UK
No of Pages: 272
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (March 7)

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 am currently reading Come and Find Me by Sarah Hilary which will be published on 22 March 2018. This is the fifth in the DI Marnie Rome series.

Blurb

On the surface, Lara Chorley and Ruth Hull have nothing in common, other than their infatuation with Michael Vokey. Each is writing to a sadistic inmate, sharing her secrets, whispering her worst fears, craving his attention.
DI Marnie Rome understands obsession. She’s finding it hard to give up her own addiction to a dangerous man: her foster brother, Stephen Keele. She wasn’t able to save her parents from Stephen. She lives with that guilt every day.
As the hunt for Vokey gathers pace, Marnie fears one of the women may have found him – and is about to pay the ultimate price. Amazon

This fast paced mystery is very different to my last read The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal, who has produced another accomplished story that had me captivated.

Blurb

Mona is a young Irish girl in the big city, with the thrill of a new job and a room of her own in a busy boarding house. On her first night out in 1970s Birmingham, she meets William, a charming Irish boy with an easy smile and an open face. They embark upon a passionate affair, a whirlwind marriage – before a sudden tragedy tears them apart.

Decades later, Mona pieces together the memories of the years that separate them. But can she ever learn to love again? Amazon

Next up I’m changing genre again to a bit of historical fiction from an author whose latest time-slip novels have been on my must-read list for years: Last Letter Home by Rachel Hore.

Blurb

On holiday with friends, young historian Briony Wood becomes fascinated with a wartime story of a ruined villa in the hills behind Naples. There is a family connection: her grandfather had been a British soldier during the Italian campaign of 1943 in that very area. Handed a bundle of letters that were found after the war, Briony sets off to trace the fate of their sender, Sarah Bailey.

In 1939, Sarah returns with her mother and sister from India, in mourning, to take up residence in the Norfolk village of Westbury. There she forms a firm friendship with Paul Hartmann, a young German who has found sanctuary in the local manor house, Westbury Hall. With the outbreak of war, conflicts of loyalty in Westbury deepen.

When, 70 years later, Briony begins to uncover Sarah and Paul’s story, she encounters resentments and secrets still tightly guarded. What happened long ago in the villa in the shadow of Vesuvius, she suspects, still has the power to give terrible pain … Amazon

That’s my reading week. What does your week have in store for you? Do share in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (February 27)

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Vicky from I’d Rather Be At The Beach who posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

In 2016 I read a novel that stole a piece of my heart; My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal so imagine my excitement to hear that this talented author has a new book, The Trick To Time out on 22 March 2018.

Blurb

Mona is a young Irish girl in the big city, with the thrill of a new job and a room of her own in a busy boarding house. On her first night out in 1970s Birmingham, she meets William, a charming Irish boy with an easy smile and an open face. They embark upon a passionate affair, a whirlwind marriage – before a sudden tragedy tears them apart.

Decades later, Mona pieces together the memories of the years that separate them. But can she ever learn to love again? Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

1

Five o’clock, Monday morning, there’s a purple light far out to sea. When they pulled down the old wreck of a factory between Mona’s building and the next, they gave her the gift of a view, and because she’s three floors up, if she leans against the window at an angle, now she can just see over the chalets and beach huts to the dawn-bruised clouds and the rosy hue of early morning sun. She makes toast and a cup of tea. The third night of not sleeping.

I love the opening, I can see Mona at her window and I both long and dread to find out why she has not slept for three nights.

This opener comes from a proof copy

What do you think, would you like to read on?

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

My Name is Leon – Kit de Waal

Contemporary Fiction 4*s
Contemporary Fiction
4*s

In 1981 Prince Charles married Lady Diana, meanwhile nine year old Leon is a big brother to baby Jake. His mother is unhappy because Jake’s father doesn’t want to see Jake. Leon no longer sees his Jamaican father because he wasn’t too happy about Jake either. With Leon and Jake spending more and more time with a neighbour while their mother chases around after Jake’s father, Leon believes he is the only one who knows how to look after Jake. Soon Leon stops going to school regularly as he needs to tend to Jake and of course it is only a matter of time until the social workers are at the door, making plans for the two boys.

Leon and Jake go to stay with Maureen, a kindly woman who looks, to Leon, like Father Christmas. She is kind and gently lets Leon become the young boy he is again. With Jake being born to two white parents, and still a young baby, the Social workers decide that he has a chance for a ‘new’ family, the new family don’t want Leon too, and it isn’t long before the the two boys are separated. The rest of the book follows the fallout of these two major events in a young boy’s life; split apart from his family and desperately worried for his young brother.

Refreshingly the author hasn’t made Leon, who narrates his own tale, a precocious child. In fact on the whole he is often confused, unsurprisingly, by the chaos that surrounds him. He is a boy that listens at doors and misunderstands the things he hears. He is a boy who loves his bike but finds it difficult to make friends. He is boy who steals small items, one who wants to run away to find his mother and his baby brother Jake and put his family back together again. Family bonds are naturally the central theme of this book, which stops well short of becoming preachy about any subject, but whose meaning can’t be avoided when told through the crystal clear eyes of a youngster, one whose circumstances are totally out of his control.

This could have easily become a mawkish book but instead it cleverly walked the line that meant I felt enormous sympathy for Leon, who wouldn’t? But that didn’t mean I was wailing throughout the story which also encompasses wider race relations and the accompanying riots which 1980s Britain endured. Unsurprisingly Maureen finds it hard at times to help Leon not only face but learn to accept the hand fate has played and to find a way through, what she doesn’t know is that Leon is making his own way in the world down at the allotment. A coincidence perhaps but plants featured heavily in another book I read recently narrated by a child, The Museum of You, and of course their healing spirits are documented in one of my favourite children’s classics, The Secret Garden. The plants in this book open Leon’s eyes to the suffering of others, as well as giving the reader some entertainment with the various characters that spend their days tending their vegetables on the nearby allotment.

The characters make this book, not only Leon, who I couldn’t help but fall in love with, but those he describes around him. From the put upon neighbour to the myriad of social workers, to the loving Maureen and her feisty sister and the man at the allotment who reminds Leon of his father, are all conjured up in snatches, the individual scenes bringing these people to life.

My Name is Leon was a gentle yet powerful read and one that made me hope that in this day and age, decisions such as the fictional one to split the siblings because of their colour, are unlikely to happen. Although the book ends on a happy note, that isn’t a result of a magic wand which puts the world to rights, the best ending a book that tells such an important tale could have.

I’d like to thank the publishers Penguin Books UK for my copy of My Name is Leon. this review is my unbiased thanks to them.  I completely understand why this book has been shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards for 2016.

First Published UK: 2 June 2016
Publisher: Penguin/Viking
No of Pages: 272
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (November 30)

This Week In Books

Hosted by Lipsyy 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

At the moment I am reading The Silent Hours by Cesca Major, an epic tale set in wartime France. I’m loving this historical novel and having a chance to be completely involved with the wonderful characters.

The Silent Hours

You can read an excerpt and the synopsis in yesterday’s post.

I’ve gone a bit off-piste this week as I’ve just finished My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal, a touching story and compassionate tale about a nine year old boy separated from his mother and baby brother. Set in the UK in the 1980s, this book also provided a healthy dollop of nostalgia.

My Name is Leon

Blurb

A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you’d least expect to find one.
Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since Jake is white and Leon is not. As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.
Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a heart-breaking story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how – just when we least expect it – we manage to find our way home. NetGalley

Never fear though the dark side of life is never far from view, and next up I have Blood Wedding by Pierre Lemaitre

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 are you reading this week? Do share your links and thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (June 5)

Weekly Wrap Up

 

Last Week on the Blog

It was lovely to have the Bank Holiday Monday here and after a lively BBQ on the Sunday my week on the blog started with a blog tour for When The Killing Starts by R.C. Bridgestock. Boy do this pair work hard writing books and supporting charities and even consulting on the fabulous Happy Valley! From a blogger’s viewpoint this was one of the more successful tours, because not only did they provide interesting materials, but they also put the time in to help ensure it was promoted well on social media.

My post on Tuesday saw me provide an extract from My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor, the second ‘husband’ book I’ve read in a space of a couple of weeks. Perhaps this is going to replace the word girl in all psychological thrillers?

On Wednesday I shared my week’s reads which was made far harder as in June I am devoting myself to reading books off my own shelf – some for the 20 books of summer 2016 challenge but also some of those kindle reads that have been languishing for far longer than they should.  Normally I know what I’m reading quite some way into the future with my trusty spreadsheet but I finally made a choice which you can see here.

On Thursday I posted my review of the excellent Die of Shame by Mark Billingham, a great story with a perfect ending!

Friday’s review of My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor spawned a bit of humorous banter on Twitter.

Which brings us to yesterday when I excitedly posted my first review for the 20 Books of Summer Challenge; The Poison Principle by Gail Bell.

Flourish.jpg

News

Not an awful amount of personal news this week, a lot of work of the paid variety, in preparation for my holiday which starts later this week… although I was incredibly pleased to see this on a tweet by Viking Books for My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry

Tweet Pic for My Husband's Wife

In book news The Bookseller this week had a piece about how well the recommendation algorithms for books work on sites such as Amazon – interestingly, apparently they work better than the original method of using humans but, listen up, the algorithms are useful but ‘Book bloggers, tweeters and old-fashioned reviewers have all become increasingly influential’ I think we all deserve a round of applause!

And finally BBC Entertainment tell us that in November three books featuring the  Famous Five for Adults will be published – I’m honestly not too sure how I feel about this – what do you think? Will you partake?

Five Go Gluten Free

 

Flourish.jpg

Stacking the Shelves

I’ve been incredibly restrained having imposed a ban on buying any new books for the month of June – I was going to extend it to the entire summer but decided not to be totally ridiculous! Funnily enough I managed to obtain a couple in before Wednesday!

First up is from NetGalley that I was sorely tempted to request on reading a number of brilliant reviews by wonderful bloggers. My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal isn’t my normal type of read but the subject matter and time period appeals and I am now the proud owner of a copy thanks to Viking Penguin who published this one on 2 June 2016.

My Name is Leon

Blurb

A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you’d least expect to find one. Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas.
But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since Jake is white and Leon is not. As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum. Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a heart-breaking story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how – just when we least expect it – we manage to find our way home.

And I bought a copy of The Dead Hour by Denise Mina for my kindle. This is the second in the Paddy Mehan series which started with The Field of Blood which I adored, so it is a little holiday treat to help me sit nicely without complaining on the plane!

The Dead Hour

Blurb

When Paddy Meehan, Glasgow’s youngest aspiring journalist, is called to a domestic dispute at a house in a wealthy suburb in the north of the city, it seems like just another police call. The blonde bleeding from a head injury in the shadows doesn’t want any help; and the well dressed man at the front door assures Paddy that everything’s fine, and that she can leave.
And then he slips her a crisp £50 note to keep the story out of the paper.
By the next morning the woman’s dead. Paddy may have found the story she’s dreamed about, but she’ll lose all credibility if the word gets out about her bribe. The police who attended the call are twisting the evidence for reasons of their own.
Only Paddy cares enough to pursue a dark and brutal truth that could make her career – or kill her. Amazon

PicMonkey Collage TBR
TBR WATCH
We have progress!! Since last week I have read 3 books, and only gained 2 so the total this week is now standing at 180 books!
94 physical books
70 e-books
16 books on NetGalley

What have you found to read this week?