Posted in Books I have read

The Secret By The Lake – Louise Douglas

Historical Fiction 4*s
Historical Fiction
4*s

I need to preface this review by stating that I am not a lover of ghostly matters and The Secret By The Lake has plenty of spookiness spread amongst its pages. But… somehow this didn’t feel quite as out of place as it might have done perhaps because the book was set in the 1960s with reference back as far as the 1930s and they were allowed to have ghosts back then!

Amy worked for the Laurent family in their beautiful home in Deusables, France ever since she had left home which consisted of her father and his beloved pigeons and her Grandmother; Amy’s mother left home when she was a small child never to return. With that background the Laurent family became her second family and when the time came for her to return home to care for her dying Grandmother Amy desperately missed her charge, ten year-old Vivienne. Soon after her Grandmother’s death a letter arrives from Julia Laurent. In a sudden change of circumstances Julia and Vivienne are living in a dilapidated cottage on the side of a reservoir in Somerset.

This book goes in for eeriness in spades, the locals are at best reserved and at worst, well, this isn’t a village where I’d like to visit much less live! If making the cottage fit for sale wasn’t hard enough Julia is filled with melancholy. To make matters worse her return to the family home has stopped her escaping the memory of her elder sister Caroline, who died aged just seventeen under somewhat of a cloud. If Julia was the sweet pretty younger daughter, history states that Caroline was the exact opposite. With no money and a cold winter to contend with things are bleak for them all.

Despite my misgivings I was keen to find out the truth of what happened all those years before, even if I couldn’t quite believe that the dead were determined to communicate quite so frequently with the living. There is as to be expected, an element of romance which should have provided some light relief but sadly the ghosts of the past seem to want to interfere with that too! One thing’s for sure, they are determined little ghoulies! I like books that can successfully carry some side-plots, and Louise Douglas uses this to add real depth to her characters although I didn’t really warm to Julia, who even giving credence for her despair, was far too content to allow the action to happen around her for my liking. Fortunately Amy’s tenacity made up for this and her depiction of a 1960s child, the hardest characters for a writer to successfully make feel authentic, worked well within this storyline. The tension rose because of the intense feeling that the ghosts must be appeased before history repeated itself in some terrible way, and as the dramatic dénouement died away I was left with a real sense of satisfaction.

I’d like to thank the publishers Black Swan for allowing me to read an advance proof copy of this book which is published today, 19 November 2015, in return for my honest opinion.

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week In Books (November 11)

This Week In Books

Hosted by 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

At the moment I am reading The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas a book that has plenty of secrets to be uncovered before they are repeated in the present.

The Secret by the Lake

You can read a taster and the description for this book in yesterday’s post

The last book I finished was As Good As Dead by Elizabeth Evans, a disquieting tale which is due to be published on 19 November 2015.

As Good As Dead

Blurb

Endearingly flawed and battered-around-the-edges, Charlotte has managed to fashion herself a life that balances marriage and a writing career, but now Esmé, the charming friend Charlotte betrayed at university, stands at Charlotte’s door: Surprise!
Charlotte yearns to make amends, but she’s wary. Esmé makes no mention of Charlotte’s old betrayal and the two resume their friendship, but soon enough a request from Esmé will upend Charlotte’s careful world.
Suspenseful, witty, with spot-on evocations of university life in the late 1980s, As Good as Dead performs an exquisite psychological high-wire act, exploring loves and friendships poisoned by secrets and fears. NetGalley

My review will follow shortly

Next on my list is The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley, a book I was inspired to buy after half-watching the TV adaption.

The Go-Betweeen

Blurb

When one long, hot summer, young Leo is staying with a school-friend at Brandham Hall, he begins to act as a messenger between Ted, the farmer, and Marian, the beautiful young woman up at the hall. He becomes drawn deeper and deeper into their dangerous game of deceit and desire, until his role brings him to a shocking and premature revelation. Goodreads

What are you reading this week? Please share!

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (November 10)

First Chapter

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea 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.

My opening this week comes from The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas

The Secret by the Lake

Blurb

A FAMILY TRAGEDY
Amy’s always felt like something’s been missing in her life. When a tragedy forces the family she works for as a nanny to retreat to a small lakeside cottage, she realises she cannot leave them now.
A SISTER’S SECRET
But Amy finds something unsettling about the cottage by the lake. This is where the children’s mother spent her childhood – and the place where her sister disappeared mysteriously at just seventeen.
A WEB OF LIES
Soon Amy becomes tangled in the missing sister’s story as dark truths begin rising to the surface. But can Amy unlock the secrets of the past before they repeat themselves? NetGalley

~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

PROLOGUE
Blackwater
July 1931

It was a beautiful thing, a slender chain with a heart-shaped pendant a ruby surrounded by tiny diamonds set ina gold clasp in the shape of two hands, joined together.
‘It’s more than a hundred years old,’ madam had explained some weeks earlier,’ and very precious. It’s been in my family for generations.’ Madam’s jewellery, normally kept locked in the safe, had been laid out on a velvet cloth spread over the table in dining room, along with her silver candlesticks, her Victorian tea-set and various other items of high value. They were making an inventory ‘for insurance purposes’, she had said, although that wasn’t the real reason. The real reason was because she wanted to remind her husband which side his bread was buttered.

CHAPTER ONE

Thirty Years Later
April 1961, Deusables, France

It had been a glorious spring, warm enough to swim in April and the day’s damp towels were pegged on the line stretched across the lawn behind the lovely old French farmhouse, the place where I’d spent my last ten summers with the Laurent family.

Please note that these excerpts are taken from a proof copy

Do you want to know more?

If you have an opening to share, please leave your link in the comments box below

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking the Shelves (November 1)

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.

A day late, but as (surprisingly) I have a few books that have been added to my shelves, I thought I’d share them with you.

To read in November, I have The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas. Last year I enjoyed Your Beautiful Lies by this author and have my fingers crossed that this one will be equally good.

The Secret by the Lake

Blurb

A FAMILY TRAGEDY
Amy’s always felt like something’s been missing in her life. When a tragedy forces the family she works for as a nanny to retreat to a small lakeside cottage, she realises she cannot leave them now.
A SISTER’S SECRET
But Amy finds something unsettling about the cottage by the lake. This is where the children’s mother spent her childhood – and the place where her sister disappeared mysteriously at just seventeen.
A WEB OF LIES
Soon Amy becomes tangled in the missing sister’s story as dark truths begin rising to the surface. But can Amy unlock the secrets of the past before they repeat themselves? NetGalley

December reading includes The Thirteenth Coffin by Nigel McCrery, the creator of Silent Witness. I haven’t read the earlier books in this series but I did enjoy Silent Witnesses his non-fiction book the history of forensic science.

The Thirteenth Coffin

Blurb

Stretching along the shelf, standing upright, were twelve wooden coffins. Nine were closed, and three open . . . with little dolls standing inside them . . .
It was supposed to be the most special day of her life – until the unthinkable happened. Leslie Petersen is shot dead on her wedding day. With the bride’s killer vanished without a trace, the investigation into the murder grinds to a halt before it’s even begun. But then, the decomposing body of an unidentified homeless man is found in an old Cold War bunker, and DCI Mark Lapslie makes a bizarre discovery. Hidden near the body is a shrine full of miniature wooden coffins. Each coffin contains a little doll, all dressed differently. One of the dolls is dressed as a bride – could this be a link to Leslie’s murder? And if so, who do the other dolls represent? Can Lapslie and his team stop the countdown of the ‘dying dolls’ before it’s too late? NetGalley

And for January I have a copy of Dead Pretty by David Mark, the fifth in the Aector McAvoy series.

Dead Pretty

Blurb

Hannah Kelly has been missing for nine months. Ava Delaney has been dead for five days.
One girl to find. One girl to avenge. And DS Aector McAvoy won’t let either of them go until justice can be done.
But some people have their own ideas of what justice means… NetGalley

I also have a copy of the Murder on the Common by Keith Pedder which my brother has been urging me to read for quite some time, this is the true story of the murder trial where the chief suspect Colin Stagg was found not guilty. Written before he was acquitted and the real murderer discovered, this is Keith Pedder’s justification of the methods used to put Colin Stagg on trial.

Murder on the Common

Blurb

No one could have imagined that when beautiful young Rachel Nickell went for a walk on Wimbledon Common with her little son, it would have resulted in a wicked, sickening crime that appalled a nation; or that the police investigation that followed would cost millions of dollars. This is the inside story of that operation by the police detective that headed it up. It reveals information that has hitherto been withheld, and spectacularly prints letters from the police involved in the operation to the chief suspect that will astonish the reader and bring the details of this terrible case right back into the public eye. Goodreads

I have a copy of The House of Memories by Monica McInerney, author of Hello from the Gillespies

The House of Memories

Blurb

Sometimes the hardest lessons to learn are those that matter most.
Following a tragic accident, Ella O’Hanlon flees to the other side of the world in an attempt to escape her grief, leaving behind the two people she blames for her loss: Aidan, the love of her life, and Jess, her spoilt half-sister.
In London Ella is taken in by her beloved uncle Lucas, whose extraordinary house holds many wonderful memories for her. Along with other members of the very colourful Fox family, Lucas helps Ella to see that she is not the only one still hurting, and that forgiveness can be the greatest healer in a family and in a marriage.
For anyone who has ever loved and lost, this is an exquisitely moving and life-affirming novel by the internationally bestselling author of Lola’s Secret. Goodreads

Lastly, my pre-order of The Lake House by Kate Morton finally arrived!

The Lake House

Blurb

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…
One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.
Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.
A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read. Goodreads

What have you found to read this week?

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Your Beautiful Lies – Louise Douglas

Contemporary Fiction 4*'s
Contemporary Fiction
4*’s

In South Yorkshire during 1984 the miners were striking and the squeeze on small mining towns was being felt by everyone, not just the miners but the shopkeepers too as police were drafted in from other areas to keep the peace. Tensions mounted within small towns where some miners continued to work while others stood on the picket line.

Annie Howarth lives in a secluded large house on the edge of the moors with her daughter Elizabeth and her husband William who is the Chief of Police and his elderly mother Ethel. One morning Annie’s brother Johnnie brings some dreaded news, Tom Greenway, who had been her boyfriend ten years ago, has been released from prison returned to live in the area. Tom had been convicted of manslaughter and at that time William had provided a strong pair of arms to comfort Annie along with all the trappings of a world unimagined as she lived amongst the other miners with her parents.

This books starts by feeling like it is a romance with an edge with what I consider to be a realistic look at the life of a young married woman in the 1980’s. At that time if a woman didn’t work outside the home, she was dependent on her husband and while William provided the material things in life he was not the most exciting of life partners, either out policing or in his study, a place where Annie wasn’t welcome. Annie’s relationship with her parents and her peers was badly damaged by Tom being convicted of manslaughter and in a small town memories linger her only companions now are the worthy and the good, wives of William’s colleagues and I had some sympathy with the dreariness of her days.

This soon turns into a much darker tale with everything changing when a woman is found murdered up on the moors and William has a murder to solve as well as the logistical headache of policing the pickets at the colliery. Tensions run high and William becomes increasingly concerned for Annie’s safety while she is torn by her feelings for the newly returned Tom.

The characters were well-drawn, I particularly liked Ethel who was not immune to the fact that all was not rosy between her son and daughter-in-law and unwittingly spills secrets that perhaps a woman not gripped by dementia would have been left unsaid. I was less fond of Marie, Annie’s mother but again this was an accurate portrayal of a woman determined to keep the status quo amongst a long-fractured relationship with her daughter.

Louise Douglas ratchets up the tension carefully while staying firmly in the time period. There are frequent mentions of phone calls made from phone boxes, bands from this era along with the quaint notion of letters arranging meetings. By the time I was half-way through the book, I was sure I knew not only whodunit but why; I was totally off-track as the shocking ending revealed.

I’d like to thank the publishers Random House UK for my copy of this book which was published on 14 August 2014.

Posted in Weekly Posts

WWW Wednesday (August 13)

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 The Winter Foundlings by Kate Rhodes the third in the Alice Quentin series, I read the second one A Killing of Angels .

The Winter Foundlings

Blurb

The girl was lying on the steps of the Foundling Museum, dressed all in white.
Four girls have disappeared in North London. Three are already dead.
Britain’s most prolific child killer, Louis Kinsella, has been locked up in Northwood high-security hospital for over a decade. Now more innocents are being slaughtered, and they all have a connection to his earlier crimes.
Psychologist Alice Quentin is doing research at Northwood. She was hoping for a break from her hectic London life, but she’ll do anything to help save a child – even if it means forming a relationship with a charismatic, ruthless murderer.
But Kinsella is slow to give away his secrets, and time is running out for the latest kidnap victim, who is simply trying to survive… Amazon

I have just finished a book written (in part) by my favourite author Erin Kelly. Broachurch was based on a British hit TV series written by Chris Chibnall.
Click on the book cover to read my review

Broadchurch

Next I am going to read Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas which has a beautiful cover and it’s set at the time of the strikes of the 1980’s which I remember well.
Your Beautiful Lies

Blurb

Annie Howarth is living a restless life in a restless town. It’s 1987 and for a mining community in South Yorkshire, the strikes mean tensions are running high. Then a murdered girl is found on the moors and the anxiety levels are pushed to a dangerous breaking point.
Married to the Chief of Police, Annie should feel safe – William can be secretive, though surely whatever he’s hiding is for her own good.
But Annie is keeping her own secrets. Ten years ago the man she loved was ripped from her life in a scandal that still haunts the both of them, and now his return will put her family, her marriage, even her life, at risk. NetGalley

What are you reading this week? Please share as I’m always on the look out for more new reads!

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (July 11)

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!

Well I was feeling smug having knocked 15 books off the TBR whilst on my holidays and the internet access was so poor that no new purchases were possible and then it all went wrong…

From NetGalley I have the following new finds:

I couldn’t resist Victorian Murderesses by Mary S. Hartman and published by Dover Publications on 14 June 2014.

Victorian Murderesses

Blurb

This riveting combination of true crime and social history examines a dozen cases from the 1800s involving thirteen French and English women charged with murder. Each incident was a cause célèbre, and this mixture of scandal and scholarship offers illuminating details of backgrounds, deeds, and trials.
“The real delight is that historian Mary S. Hartman does more than reconstruct twelve famous trials. She has written a piece on the social history of nineteenth-century women from an illuminating perspective: their favorite murders.” — Time Magazine. NetGalley

I’m also delighted to have a copy of Because She Loves Me by Mark Edwards having recommended his solo debut novel The Magpies to everyone I know.  This novel will be published by Thomas & Mercer on 2 September 2014.

Because She Loves Me

Blurb

When Andrew Sumner meets beautiful, edgy Charlie, he is certain his run of bad luck has finally come to an end.
But as the two of them embark on an intense affair, Andrew wonders if his grasp on reality is slipping. Items go missing in his apartment. Somebody appears to be following him. And as misfortune and tragedy strike his friends and loved ones, Andrew is forced to confront the frightening truth…
Is Charlie really the girl of his dreams – or the woman of his nightmares? NetGalley

I came across a review for The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson at The Book Musings and Orion Publishing Group were kind enough to let me have a copy ahead of the publication date of 28 August 2014.

The Sea Garden

Blurb

Present day. On a lush Mediterranean island off the French coast, Ellie has accepted a commission to restore an abandoned garden. It seems idyllic, but the longer Ellie spends at the house and garden, the more she senses darkness, and a lingering evil that seems to haunt her.
Second World War. Two very different women have their lives irrevocably changed: Iris, a junior intelligence officer in London and Marthe, a blind girl who works in the lavender fields of Provence and is slowly drawn into the heart of the Resistance. As secret messages are passed in scent and planes land by moonlight, danger comes ever closer…NetGalley

Lastly I have a copy of Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas from the Random House UK. This book is due to be published on 14 August 2014.

Your Beautiful Lies
Blurb

Annie Howarth is living a restless life in a restless town. It’s 1987 and for a mining community in South Yorkshire, the strikes mean tensions are running high. Then a murdered girl is found on the moors and the anxiety levels are pushed to a dangerous breaking point.
Married to the Chief of Police, Annie should feel safe – William can be secretive, though surely whatever he’s hiding is for her own good.
But Annie is keeping her own secrets. Ten years ago the man she loved was ripped from her life in a scandal that still haunts the both of them, and now his return will put her family, her marriage, even her life, at risk. NetGalley

I also had a birthday while I was on holiday and my lovely brother sent me two new books for my return. Rather meanly he also wrapped and posted a collection of scouring pads which I can’t even think about without pulling a face that looks like I’m sucking a lemon (I know a strange phobia but it does mean I can’t do any cleaning with this particular product!) Needless to say they were unwrapped and scattered as I shouted an impressive array of expletives.
Scouring Pads

So back to the books!
I have a copy of The Great Silence by Juliet Nicolson which details the period following the First World War from 1918 to 1920.

The Great Silence

Blurb

The euphoria of Armistice Day 1918 vaporizes to reveal the carnage that war has left in its wake. But from Britain’s despair emerges new life. For veterans with faces demolished in the trenches, surgeon Harold Gillies brings hope with his miraculous skin-grafting procedure. Women win the vote, skirt hems leap, and Brits forget their troubles at packed dance halls. The remains of a nameless soldier are laid to rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Westminster Abbey. “The Great Silence,” observed in memory of the countless dead, halts citizens in silent reverence.
Nicolson crafts her narrative using a lively cast of characters: from an aging butler to a pair of newlyweds, from the Prince of Wales to T.E. Lawrence, the real-life Lawrence of Arabia. The Great Silence depicts a nation fighting the forces that threaten to tear it apart and discovering the common bonds that hold it together. Goodreads

..and I have a copy of Stranger In The House by Julie Summers which explores the effects of the Second World War.

Stranger in the house
Blurb

‘It is as if I have been waiting for someone to ask me these questions for almost the whole of my life’
From 1945, more than four million British servicemen were demobbed and sent home after the most destructive war in history. Damaged by fighting, imprisonment or simply separation from their loved ones, these men returned to a Britain that had changed in their absence. In Stranger in the House, Julie Summers tells the women’s story, interviewing over a hundred women who were on the receiving end of demobilisation: the mothers, wives, sisters, who had to deal with an injured, emotionally-damaged relative; those who assumed their fiances had died only to find them reappearing after they had married another; women who had illegitimate children following a wartime affair as well as those whose steadfast optimism was rewarded with a delightful reunion. Many of the tales are moving, some are desperately sad, others are full of humour but all provide a fascinating account of how war altered ordinary women’s lives forever. Amazon

From Amazon Vine I have a copy of The Arsonist by Sue Miller based on the fact that I haven’t read any of her books for a few years. I don’t know why she dropped of my radar.

The Arsonist

Blurb

Troubled by the feeling that she belongs nowhere after working in East Africa for fifteen years, Frankie Rowley has come home—home to the small New Hampshire village of Pomeroy and the farmhouse where her family has always summered. On her first night back, a house up the road burns to the ground. Then another house burns, and another, always the houses of the summer people. In a town where people have never bothered to lock their doors, social fault lines are opened, and neighbors begin to regard one another with suspicion. Against this backdrop of menace and fear, Frankie begins a passionate, unexpected affair with the editor of the local paper, a romance that progresses with exquisite tenderness and heat toward its own remarkable risks and revelations. Amazon

Lastly I had a delivery of two more of Margaret Yorke’s books, fortunately I enjoyed A Small Deceit which I read on holiday (review will follow but I have something of a backlog now) and can’t wait to sample more from this author.

False Pretences by Margaret Yorke was originally published in 1998 but has been reissued in 2013.

False Pretences
Blurb

When Isabel’s god-daughter Emily turns up after years of no contact and in need of help she feels duty-bound to take her under her wing. To her surprise Emily is determined to be independent and takes a job as nanny. Emily’s charge turns out to be the illegitimate child of the naïve daughter of a well-to-do couple and a ne’er-do-well conman who disappeared before the baby was born. And now he is back intent on exploiting his parental status in return for cash.
Before she knows it Emily is caught up in his botched attempts at blackmail trying desperately to protect her charge from harm while also shielding Isabel from becoming entangled in the drama. But when events beyond her control force her to act instinctively with horrendous effect all their lives are put terribly at risk. Amazon

While my last find The Small Hours Of The Morning by Margaret Yorke was originally published nearly 40 years ago in 1975!

The Small Hours of the Morning

Blurb

Lorna couldn’t stop spying on Cecil Titmuss. His life was her idea of perfection – a loving family and spouse, and respect in the community. But when she finds out Mrs Titmuss’s secret – which threatens Cecil’s security – Lorna must do something to save the family. How far will she go? Amazon

So by my reckoning my impressive 15 book reduction has rapidly reduced to 6 in the space of a few days!

What have you found to read?