Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

A Life Between Us – Louise Walters

Historical Fiction
4*s

If you like a book that explores family relationships, a family saga if you like updated to include a mystery, then you need to pick up A Life Between Us. Within its pages you will meet a whole range of characters, some that you will undoubtedly take to more than others and the truths and lies that underpin the way they behave.

The prologue to A Life Between Us is set in 2014 with Lucia Thornton leaving the family home for the last time, shutting the door on the dark secrets that have shaped the next generation. The rest of the book uncovers those secrets and the toll they’ve taken.

In 2013 Tina is encouraged by her patient husband Keaton to join a book club as a way of getting her out of the house and meeting other people. A fantastic idea, I’m sure you’ll agree and one that provides some contrast to the often dark narrative that underpins this novel. Tina’s twin Meg had died aged just eight and for the best part of four decades has accompanied Tina through life, as a chiding voice that does nothing to assuage Tina’s guilt for what happened on the day her twin died. A product of the time, Tina was just left to deal with the aftermath and sadly, Meg’s death has shaped her life, leaving her one with little room for one of her own.

Louise Walters’ book takes us back to 1954 travels through the sixties up to the year of the drought in the UK, 1976. The latter told in part between the pen-pal letters between Tina and her cousin Elizabeth who lives in America. This was a particularly lovely touch and provides a change of writing style. It also provided me with memories of my own letters to my pen-pal full of news! I loved the fact that Tina, keen to find another book-lover, is quite insistent that Elisabeth needs to read her favourite book, Ballet Shoes! Tina’s twin was far more into tree-climbing than reading, so her delight at being able to talk about the Fossil girls is warming, not least as this book played a part in my own childhood of roughly the same era. Further back in the past we learn more about Tina’s Aunt Lucia, one of five children born and bought up Lane’s End House in a time which was very different to those her nieces are born into. I am always impressed when writers of these types of novels provide strong links between the past and the present stories, and in this one it becomes apparent that both aunt and niece have something in their past that they simply are unable to escape.

This book contained everything I hoped for; from period details to complicated relationships the inevitable worn out patience of a man who had lived in the shadow of the death of a child he never met and the mystery which can only be resolved by delving deep into the past. With each page packed full of drama yet cleverly avoiding the feeling that the issues explored are in any way contrived or there to move the story along. One of the biggest problems of a dual time-line book is that it can be tricky to keep both strands interesting while not confusing the reader with the hopping backwards and forwards. I’m delighted to confirm that both these pitfalls have been adroitly avoided by the author and she has written a book that is utterly compelling.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance review copy of A Life Between Us from the author and I have a feeling that this story will haunt me the way that her debut novel, Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase has done. This unbiased review is my thanks to Louise Walters for such a dark yet delightful read.

First Published UK: 28 March 2017
Publisher: Matador
No of Pages:  304
Genre: Historical Fiction – Family Saga
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (March 15)

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

I am currently reading another book for my Mount TBR Challenge which I’m pleased to say is still on track! I purchased A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup on 8 September 2016 and I’m working my way through all the poisons with delight!

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

Before that I finished Boundary by Andrée A. Michaud which will be published on 23 March 2017.

Blurb

It’s the Summer of 1967. The sun shines brightly over Boundary lake, a holiday haven on the US-Canadian border. Families relax in the heat, happy and carefree. Hours tick away to the sound of radios playing ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ and ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’. Children run along the beach as the heady smell of barbecues fills the air. Zaza Mulligan and Sissy Morgan, with their long, tanned legs and silky hair, relish their growing reputation as the red and blond Lolitas. Life seems idyllic.

But then Zaza disappears, and the skies begin to cloud over… Amazon

Next up is A Life Between Us by Louise Walters whose debut novel Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase wowed me.

Blurb

Tina Thornton’s twin sister Meg died in a childhood accident, but for almost forty years Tina has secretly blamed herself for her sister’s death. During a visit to her aging Uncle Edward and his sister Lucia, who both harbour dark secrets of their own, Tina makes a discovery that forces her to finally question her memories of the day her sister died. Who, if anyone, did kill Meg?

As Tina finds the courage to face the past, she unravels the tangled family mysteries of her estranged parents, her beautiful French Aunt Simone, the fading, compassionate Uncle Edward, and above all, the cold, bitter Aunt Lucia, whose spectral presence casts a long shadow over them all.
A Life Between Us is a beautifully evocative story of a family torn apart at the seams, which will appeal to readers who enjoy family sagas and modern-day mysteries. Amazon

What are you reading? Do share!

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (November 7)

Weekly Wrap Up

Well the wind and rain has started here so all the more excuse to tuck myself up and enjoy some good books.

This Week on the Blog

My week started with a five star review of My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood which reflected my pleasant surprise at how the author’s decision to feature the main protagonist as a war reporter was used in such an intelligent way. This book was just full of surprises.

Tuesday had me featuring the opening paragraph from While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft, her latest psychological thriller where we meet a married woman who wakes up naked in bed next to her neighbour, only to realise he’s been murdered. I’ve finished this read now, and my review will follow shortly.

My weekly This Week in Books post indicted that my next read would be Great Small Things by Jodi Picoult which I’m currently immersed in.

Another review on Thursday, this time for Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan which featured the world of vloggers amongst many other things, in this exciting, high action thriller.

On Friday I reviewed For All Our Sins by T.M.E. Walsh, the first in a series featuring DCI Claire Winters. There was a lot to enjoy in this debut and enough to ensure that the next book has made it to the wishlist…

Which brings me neatly to my re-visit of the TBR Book Tag in which I first counted and confronted my TBR on 6 November 2015 – see how my TBR fared over the year here.

This Time Last Year

I read one of the books that made it to my Top Ten list for 2015 – The Hidden Legacy by G.J. Minett which absolutely wowed me. On the surface this is a book with a truly shocking opening and a woman who inherits a house and doesn’t understand why. On a deeper level the reader is challenged to question whether right and wrong is as black and white as we would like it to be.  See my review here

The Hidden Legacy Cover Reveal

Ellen has received a life-changing inheritance. If only she knew who had left it to her . . .

1966. A horrifying crime at a secondary school, with devastating consequences for all involved.

2008. A life-changing gift, if only the recipient can work out why . . .

Recently divorced and with two young children, Ellen Sutherland is up to her elbows in professional and personal stress. When she’s invited to travel all the way to Cheltenham to hear the content of an old woman’s will, she’s far from convinced the journey will be worthwhile.

But when she arrives, the news is astounding. Eudora Nash has left Ellen a beautiful cottage worth an amount of money that could turn her life around. There’s just one problem – Ellen has never even heard of Eudora Nash.

Her curiosity piqued, Ellen and her friend Kate travel to the West Country in search of answers. But they are not the only ones interested in the cottage, and Ellen little imagines how much she has to learn about her past . . . Amazon


Stacking the Shelves

As anyone who read yesterday’s post will know, I need to seriously cut down on the number of books I acquire so be warned, this may be the last bumper post for a while…

From NetGalley I have been lucky enough to receive a copy of Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land, I just can’t resist the early hype for this psychological thriller which will be published on 12 January 2017.

good-me-bad-me

Blurb

‘NEW N A M E . NEW F A M I LY. S H I N Y. NEW. ME .
‘ Annie’s mother is a serial killer. The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police. But out of sight is not out of mind. As her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of her past won’t let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name – Milly. A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be. But Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water.
Good me, bad me. She is, after all, her mother’s daughter…

I saw a wonderful review for The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy on The Quiet Knitter’s Blog and was delighted to be approved a copy too. The House of Birds was published on 3 November 2016.

house-of-birds

Blurb

Oliver has spent years trying to convince himself that he’s suited to a life of money making in the city, and that he doesn’t miss a childhood spent in pursuit of mystery, when he cycled around the cobbled lanes of Oxford, exploring its most intriguing corners.
When his girlfriend Kate inherits a derelict house – and a fierce family feud – she’s determined to strip it, sell it and move on. For Oliver though, the house has an allure, and amongst the shelves of discarded, leather bound and gilded volumes, he discovers one that conceals a hidden diary from the 1920s.
So begins a quest: to discover the identity of the author, Sophia Louis. It is a portrait of war and marriage, isolation and longing and a story that will shape the future of the abandoned house – and of Oliver – forever. NetGalley

My pre-ordered copy of fellow blogger, Margot Kinberg’s book Past Tense dutifully arrived on my kindle on publication day 1 November 2016. If you haven’t visited Margot, I can’t recommend her blog highly enough, here is her publication day post

past-tense

Blurb

A long-buried set of remains…a decades-old mystery

Past and present meet on the quiet campus of Tilton University when construction workers unearth a set of unidentified bones.
For former police detective-turned-professor Joel Williams, it’s a typical Final Exams week – until a set of bones is discovered on a construction site…

When the remains are linked to a missing person case from 1974, Williams and the Tilton, Pennsylvania police go back to the past. And they uncover some truths that have been kept hidden for a long time.

How much do people really need to know?

It’s 1974, and twenty-year-old Bryan Roades is swept up in the excitement of the decade. He’s a reporter for the Tilton University newspaper, The Real Story, and is determined to have a career as an investigative journalist, just like his idols, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. He plans to start with an exposé article about life on the campus of Tilton University. But does everything need to be exposed? And what are the consequences for people whose lives could be turned upside down if their stories are printed? As it turns out, Bryan’s ambition carries a very high price. And someone is determined not to let the truth out. Amazon

I have also been lucky enough to receive a proof copy of A Life Between Us by Louise Walters which came with a lovely handwritten note from this author who delighted me with her earlier novel Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase. A Life Between Us will be published on 28 March 2017.

a-life-between-us

Blurb

Tina’s sister Meg died in a childhood accident, but for almost forty years Tina has secretly blamed herself for her twin’s death. During a visit to her Uncle Edward and his sister Lucia, who both harbour dark secrets of their own, Tina makes a discovery that forces her to question her memories of the day Meg died.

As Tina finds the courage to face the past, she unravels the mysteries of her estranged parents, her beautiful Aunt Simone, the fading, compassionate Uncle Edward, and above all, the cold, bitter Aunt Lucia, whose spectral presence casts a long shadow over them all.

The second novel from the author of MRS SINCLAIR’S SUITCASE is a gripping tale of a family’s disintegration and eventual redemption. Goodreads

I also was posted a copy of A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys, again with a lovely message which made my day. A Dangerous Crossing will be published in April 2017.

dangerous-crossing

Blurb

It was a first class deception that would change her life forever
1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.
But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.
By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again. Goodreads

PicMonkey Collage TBR

TBR WATCH

Since my last post I have read 3 books, discarded two part-read books that I’m not going to pick up again, and managed to gain 5 and so my TBR is standing at 181 books!

95 physical books
68 e-books
18 books on NetGalley

What have you found to read this week?

Posted in Books I have read

Four Fantastic Books Published Today (February 27)

Well today is a great day for new books!

To read my reviews click on the book covers

First up is The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

The One Plus One

Blurb

One single mum
With two jobs and two children, Jess Thomas does her best day after day. But it’s hard on your own. And sometimes you take risks you shouldn’t. Because you have to . . .
One chaotic family
Jess’s gifted, quirky daughter Tanzie is brilliant with numbers, but without a helping hand she’ll never get the chance to shine. And Nicky, Jess’s teenage stepson, can’t fight the bullies alone.
Sometimes Jess feels like they’re sinking . . .
One handsome stranger
Into their lives comes Ed Nicholls, a man whose life is in chaos, and who is running from a deeply uncertain future. But he has time on his hands. He knows what it’s like to be lonely. And he wants to help . . .
One unexpected love story
The One Plus One is a captivating and unconventional romance from Jojo Moyes about two lost souls meeting in the most unlikely circumstances. Goodreads

This is one emotional read but utterly satisfying. Jojo Moyes is one of those writers that has the power to make you really care about the characters she has created so much so they become your friends. A publisher’s dream for Penguin Books.

Next up is Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase by Louise Walters

Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase

Blurb

Forgive me, Dorothea, for I cannot forgive you. What you do, to this child, to this child’s mother, it is wrong…
Roberta likes to collect the letters and postcards she finds in second-hand books. When her father gives her some of her grandmother’s belongings, she finds a baffling letter from the grandfather she never knew – dated after he supposedly died in the war.
Dorothy is unhappily married to Albert, who is away at war. When an aeroplane crashes in the field behind her house she meets Squadron Leader Jan Pietrykowski, and as their bond deepens she dares to hope she might find happiness. But fate has other plans for them both, and soon she is hiding a secret so momentous that its shockwaves will touch her granddaughter many years later…Goodreads

A fantastic dual time-line novel with the modern day Roberta finding out about Dorothy’s life at the time of World War II. Who couldn’t forgive Dorothea and why is the big question at the heart of this novel published by Hodder & Stoughton.

Next up is the debut novel by Sarah Hilary, Someone Else’s Skin one of my favourite crime novels written this year, published by Headline.

Someone Else's Skin

Blurb

Detective Inspector Marnie Rome. Dependable; fierce; brilliant at her job; a rising star in the ranks. Everyone knows how Marnie fought to come back from the murder of her parents, but very few know what is going on below the surface. Because Marnie has secrets she won’t share with anyone.
But then so does everyone. Certainly those in the women’s shelter Marnie and Detective Sergeant Noah Jake visit on that fateful day. The day when they arrive to interview a resident, only to find one of the women’s husbands, who shouldn’t have been there, lying stabbed on the floor.
As Marnie and Noah investigate the crime further, events begin to spiral and the violence escalates. Everyone is keeping secrets, some for survival and some, they suspect, to disguise who they really are under their skin.
Now, if Marnie is going to find the truth she will have to face her own demons head on. Because the time has come for secrets to be revealed…

This is just my sort of crime fiction, one where there are a myriad of storylines, expertly handled and with likeable characters to compensate for the baddies! This book was so much more than I had expected!

And lastly out of the fab four is the superbly creepy A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan published by Doubleday

A Pleasure and a Calling

Blurb

You won’t remember Mr Heming. He showed you round your comfortable home, suggested a sustainable financial package, negotiated a price with the owner and called you with the good news. The less good news is that, all these years later, he still has the key.
That’s absurd, you laugh. Of all the many hundreds of houses he has sold, why would he still have the key to mine?
The answer to that is, he has the keys to them all.
William Heming’s every pleasure is in his leafy community. He loves and knows every inch of it, feels nurtured by it, and would defend it – perhaps not with his life but if it came to it, with yours… Goodreads

This book has haunted me since the day I read it and I know I am going to have to pick it up again to experience the sheer cleverness of the tale of a boy who started by hiding in wardrobes and finished up living amongst unsuspecting families.

Posted in Books I have read

Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase – Louise Walters

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

A book with a dual timeline containing letters from the past set against the background of a second-hand bookshop was always going to appeal to me so I was especially delighted when this ARC dropped through my letterbox.

The book starts with a letter to Dorothea dated February 1941, the very letter that Roberta finds amongst her Grandmother’s possessions, written by her Grandfather after he died.

At the beginning of World War II Dorothy is hanging out washing when an aeroplane crashes into a field behind her house. Alone and aloof Dorothy opens her heart to the possibility of happiness when Jan Pietrykowski, the Polish Squadron Leader comes to visit her following the crash, but how does this link to the letter found amongst her grandmother’s belongings? Roberta is keen to unravel the mystery but who can she ask? Her elderly Grandmother or her desperately ill father?

I have to admit although I was really looking forward to reading this book, I didn’t warm to either Dorothy or Roberta at first. Roberta in particular seemed a strange young woman, who in this day and age fears they are past it in their early thirties? I was irritated by her comparing herself female colleagues in the second-hand bookshop who after all were only a few years younger and I feared that this book was going to be a disappointment. Dorothy’s misery was more easily understood, living in a little cottage in Lincoln, estranged from her mother, abandoned by her husband and mourning her childlessness. However it didn’t take long for their stories to worm their way under my skin and I fell in love with both stories, past and present, willing the two women on to find happiness.

There is much to enjoy in this debut novel particularly the letters whose inclusion made me mourn the fact that it is less and less likely that a bookseller will find such missives in the future! The settings are described to perfection, I could easily picture the little cottage, the bookshop which I ached to visit, as well as clearly understanding why Dorothy stood apart from her fellow villagers thereby becoming a main source of their gossip. A book with a lot of charm to sweeten a tale of love and loss.

I have a feeling that this book is one that will linger in my mind, there is such a lot of emotion, mainly supressed contained within the pages.

I received my copy of this book from Lovereading as I am a member of their review panel and as such is my honest opinion of this debut novel due to be published 27 February 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton.

Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase – Amazon UK

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (December 20)

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 am still adding to that great big TBR

First up I actually won a book in a Goodreads Giveaway, and since I rarely win anything, I am especially delighted to have a signed copy of The September Garden by Catherine Law

The September Garden
Blurb

Set in London during the Blitz, in occupied France and amid the rolling Chiltern hills of Buckinghamshire, this is the story of two cousins who, as squabbling rivals, are thrown together by the outbreak of war. Nell and Sylvie grow up quickly during the early days of rationing, black-outs, and the arrival of RAF planes in the skies over the Chilterns. Sylvie, marooned in England, is desperately worried for her parents who she left behind in Nazi-occupied Normandy, and puts up a barrier of bitterness to hide her distress. Nell, meanwhile, witnesses the crumbling of her parents’ marriage. 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, the brave and unassuming RAF officer Alex Hammond, he is spared having to choose between them. The machinations of war change the course of all their lives, with devastating consequences. Sylvie continues to hurt those who love her and to hide her pain behind her tough facade. And for Nell, the only place she can ever find solace is inside the September Garden, the walled garden that her father tended so lovingly before he left. This is the only place she feels safe in, to where she is always drawn, and where she decides to hide her most dreadful secret…Amazon

Hodder & Stoughton have kindly sent me a copy of the fabulous looking Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase by Louise Walters which will be published in February 2014
Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase

Blurb

Roberta likes to collect the letters and postcards she finds in second-hand books. When her father gives her some of her grandmother’s belongings, she finds a baffling letter from the grandfather she never knew – dated after he supposedly died in the war.
Dorothy is unhappily married to Albert, who is away at war. When an aeroplane crashes in the field behind her house she meets Squadron Leader Jan Pietrykowski, and as their bond deepens she dares to hope she might find happiness. But fate has other plans for them both, and soon she is hiding a secret so momentous that its shockwaves will touch her granddaughter many years later…Goodreads

I have also been given a copy of Watching Over You by Mel Sherratt which is due to be published on 14 January 2014 by Amazon publishing

Watching Over You

Blurb

Following the death of her husband and unborn child, Charley Belington sells the family home and bravely starts life over again. On moving into a new flat, she is befriended by her landlady, Ella, who seems like the perfect friend and confidante.
But, unbeknown to Charley, Ella is fighting her own dark and dirty demons as the fallout from a horrific childhood sends her spiralling down into madness—and unspeakable obsessions.
As Ella’s mind splinters, her increasingly bizarre attentions make Charley uneasy. But with every step Charley tries to take to distance herself, Ella moves in a tightening lockstep with her, closer and closer and closer…Netgalley

I really want a copy of A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley but have so far resisted the urge to purchase this myself… maybe once I see what Santa brings me!

A Very British Murder

Blurb

Murder – a dark, shameful deed, the last resort of the desperate or a vile tool of the greedy. And a very strange, very British obsession. But where did this fixation develop? And what does it tell us about ourselves?
In A Very British Murder, Lucy Worsley explores this phenomenon in forensic detail, revisiting notorious crimes like the Ratcliff Highway Murders, which caused a nation-wide panic in the early nineteenth century, and the case of Frederick and Maria Manning, the suburban couple who were hanged after killing Maria’s lover and burying him under their kitchen floor. Our fascination with crimes like these became a form of national entertainment, inspiring novels and plays, puppet shows and paintings, poetry and true-crime journalism. At a point during the birth of modern Britain, murder entered our national psyche, and it’s been a part of us ever since.