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On My Bookshelf – A Rainbow of Books

On My Bookshelfv1

I decided to look at the rainbow in this occasional series of posts where I take a look at books that are sitting on my bookshelf – and yes I’ve made one!

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The eagle-eyed amongst you may notice that these aren’t the usual book-covers but fortunately for this post, proof copies don’t always look like the finished article!

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Death at the Priory by James Ruddick, read in June 2014.

This book takes a look at the unsolved Victorian murder of Charles Bravo, a man who died a painful death having ingested antimony in 1876. With three suspects, his wife, Florence, the housekeeper Mrs Fox and Dr Gully who had previously had a relationship with Florence, this book examines why the case wasn’t solved. An interesting well-written book which I thought took a fair and measured look at the evidence. For Agatha Christie lovers, this case was referred to in her novel Ordeal by Innocence

 

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The Secret Place by Tana French, read August 2014

If you haven’t read Tana French’s brilliant novels, you really should!
When a boy is found murdered in the grounds of an exclusive girl’s school the police need to penetrate the secretive world of teenage girls, not a task for the faint-hearted. Not only does this book have all the requisite ingredients for a great read; characters, plot and pace, it is also an enormously fun read, so much so I dubbed it ‘Mallory Towers for Grown Ups’
This book made my Top Ten of 2014 reads, it was in the parlance of some of the characters – amazeballs!

 

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Interlude by Rupert Smith, read November 2014

What book-lover can resist a book about a book? Not me that’s for sure.

In this wonderful novel we meet Helen, a bored wife and mother who decides to do something for herself, she joins an evening class in creative writing. Helen’s grandfather was a literary novelist and she decides to investigate his life – with excerpts from his book Interlude the truth in the past is unveiled. A perfect book for lovers of past and present connections that should have been more widely celebrated.
This book also made my Top Ten list for 2014.

 

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The Moon Field by Judith Allnatt, read November 2013

No list is complete in my view without a good war-time story, this one is set in World War I. A combination of coming of age and the true horrors of war Judith Allnatt spins a convincing and emotional tale which begins with George meets Violet, in the course of his rounds as a postman. At just eighteen, George heads off to war with his friends, on the front-line trying to stop the German advance into France. A great book that was out in time to mark the centenary of the start of WWI.

 

 

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The Hidden Legacy by G.J. Minett, read October 2015

This book starts with an absolutely riveting piece of writing about a boy who sets fire to two girls in a school playground – but, there is far more to this story than might appear. In a story that spans decades the themes of revenge are obvious but the undercurrent question of what is morally right, and what is wrong is a compelling one. It is a rare book that asks such big questions while still producing a tale full of action and surprises.

 

 

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The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, read December 2014

One of my favourite reads of last year, and one that has had me determined to re-read all this authors previous books, The Paying Guests is a sumptuous read. In the hands of this author I positively embrace the small details that may seem insignificant but all go towards building a picture of a household, events that culminate in a court case, no less. As well as being an enjoyable read the author is treated to what life was like for women from different classes in England in the 1920s.

 

 

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The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley, read December 2011

As you can see I had to go much further back to find an offering for violet, and this is another book with a historical bent, this one has the tale of Grania in modern day Ireland combined with a wartime romance in London. The Ryan family and the Lisles’s have been entangled for a century. With a cast of characters that are appealing including a foundling child, this is a book to get lost in and enjoy!

 

So that is my trip through the rainbow complete, I do hope you enjoyed it!

More posts from my bookshelf can be found here:
On My Bookshelf
On My Bookshelf – What’s in a Name?
On My Bookshelf – Women’s Lives

Posted in Books I have read

Cleopatra’s Top 10 Books published in 2014

2014 was a fantastic reading year for me although even I was shocked to see that I’d marked a whopping 42 books as 5 star reads this year!  Yes that’s quite a lot but to be honest I award stars on instinct when I review and (conceitedly) assume those who look at my reviews read the words, rather than depend on this arbitrary system.  One reason I enjoy choosing my Top 10 is because it is interesting to see whether on reflection this instinctive scoring holds true for me.  Surprisingly it does and I didn’t feel I had to downgrade any of my choices this year but for those of you who assume I ponder and deliberate and weigh up the merits of one five star read against another, I’m sorry, I don’t.

Fortunately as this post concentrates on books published in 2014, I’ve been able to remove a few of my choices, but as you can imagine it was quite a task to get the list whittled down to just 10.  As a compromise some books that I love were featured on my blog post Reading and Reviewing in 2014 !

As regular visitors are aware I read a lot about crime fiction although I dip my toes in other genres from time to time. To help with the decision making I have decided to pick the best from some other genres too starting with Historical Fiction. The winner this year is my most recent five star review

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

The Paying Guests

What can I say, beautiful engaging writing, three-dimensional characters, great period detail and…. a crime! This book has a slow start but don’t let that fool you, I had to slow down my reading towards the end as I didn’t want the story to end. Set in the early 1920’s Sarah Waters captures the herald of change with the classes and the genders having to adapt to a new way of life.

My Non-Fiction choice isn’t strictly a book that was published in 2014, that originally occurred back in 1974 but it was republished in 2014 (and this is my blog so my rules!)

Victorian Murderesses by Mary S. Hartman

Victorian Murderesses

This book looks at Middle Class Victorian Murderesses in the United Kingdom and France during the Victorian period. It is far more than a recap of the crimes as the author makes a link between the time, place and class of woman to commentate on women’s lives during this period. A fascinating and far more scholarly work than I anticipated.

My Surprise Find of the year:

Interlude by Rupert Smith

Interlude

I don’t know what made me choose this book, but I’m so glad I did. Told between past and present this has a book in a book, historical details and a cast of characters whose actions are at times reprehensible but who are entirely human made up of good points as well.

A Slow Burner of a novel award goes to:

That Dark Remembered Day by Tom Vowler

That Dark Remembered Day

This superbly written book invites the reader to absorb every word as it lays the groundwork for what happened on the day in question. The groundwork begins in 1983, the year I became a teenager and the details took me right back to that era. It’s no coincidence that Tom Vowler’s debut novel What Lies Within made my top ten listing for 2013 with this almost understated but perceptive writing.

Best Debut Novel:

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Unravelling Oliver

One of my favourite types of novel that concentrate on the why of a mystery rather than the who. Unravelling Oliver peels back the layers of the man who starts this book by saying ‘I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.’ The multitude of narrators that have interacted with Oliver through his life create a satisfactory background to the man and it isn’t as straightforward as you may imagine.

Favourite book from an established Crime Series. This was a tough one as all the latest books from series I follow, especially Sharon Bolton’s and Peter James’ produced great books this year, however my final choice for this category features Maeve Kerrigan

The Kill by Jane Casey

The Kill

DC Maeve Kerrigan is caught up in a spate of police killings in the fifth in this series. Once again Jane Casey gets the balance of the police investigation to the personal lives of the characters we know and love (I admit to a little crush on DI Josh Derwent) with a story that is told at the perfect pace. If you haven’t read this series I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Best Start to a New Crime Series goes to a series that features another woman, Detective Grace Fisher, a crime reporter and missing students.

Good Girls Don’t Die by Isabelle Grey

Good Girls Don't Die

There was so much to love in this book, a great plot multiple storylines, well-rounded characters all backed up by a decent plot, in fact there was so much going on in this book to enjoy I felt like I’d read a banquet of a book by the time I’d finished.

There were two New to me author’s whose books were so good I had to read more – and after tossing a coin between the winner and Colette McBeth I award this one to:

Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly

Keep Your Friends Close

This choice is another book peopled by well-rounded, if flawed characters. Natty’s husband Sean falls in love with her friend Eve but it appears that this isn’t the first time Eve has behaved in this way, the fallout is spectacular.. After reading this book I immediately bought a copy of Just What Kind of Mother Are You? which was equally as good.

My final two choices are simply two excellent books that I loved and have recommended far and wide ever since I read them.

The Secret Place by Tana French

The Secret Place

When a boy is found murdered in the grounds of an exclusive girl’s school the police need to penetrate the secretive world of teenage girls, not a task for the faint-hearted. Not only does this book have all the requisite ingredients for a great read; characters, plot and pace, it is also an enormously fun read, so much so I dubbed it ‘Mallory Towers for Grown Ups’

Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Little Lies

Another book set in a school, this time in a primary school and the action takes place at a fund-raiser. Liane Moriarty has created such wonderful characters, brilliant dialogue and the most bizarre murder scene ever. This is a book that packs a punch with much more lurking beneath the seemingly light exterior.  This author also made my 2013 top 10 list with The Husband’s Secret.

I hope you have enjoyed looking at my personal favourites of 2014 and I hope you all find books to love in 2015.

Posted in Weekly Posts

WWW Wednesday (November 12)

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 Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen an edgy psychological thriller.

Dying for Christmas

Blurb

I am missing. Held captive by a blue-eyed stranger. To mark the twelve days of Christmas, he gives me a gift every day, each more horrible than the last. The twelfth day is getting closer. After that, there’ll be no more Christmas cheer for me. No mince pies, no carols. No way out.
But I have a secret. No-one has guessed it. Will you?Goodreads

I have recently finished my surprise find for the year, Interlude by Rupert Smith
which is a book about a writer and his secrets. This was an enthralling read set partly in the present by Helen and then across the decades  from the 1930’s to the 1960’s by her Grandfather Edward Barton.
click on the book cover to read my review

Interlude

Next I am going to read The Perfect Mother by Nina Darnton which I imagine is going to bring out a lot of ‘What would I do?’ moments.
The Perfect Mother

Blurb

When an American exchange student is accused of murder, her mother will stop at nothing to save her.
A midnight phone call shatters Jennifer Lewis’s carefully orchestrated life. Her daughter, Emma, who’s studying abroad in Spain, has been arrested after the brutal murder of another student. Jennifer rushes to her side, certain the arrest is a terrible mistake and determined to do whatever is necessary to bring Emma home. But as she begins to investigate the crime, she starts to wonder whether she ever really knew her daughter. The police charge Emma, and the press leaps on the story, exaggerating every sordid detail. One by one, Emma’s defense team, her father, and finally even Jennifer begin to have doubts.
A novel of harrowing emotional suspense, The Perfect Mother probes the dark side of parenthood and the complicated bond between mothers and daughters. Goodreads

What are you reading this week? Please share!

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Interlude – Rupert Smith

Contemporary Fiction 5*'s
Contemporary Fiction
5*’s

This wonderful book opens with the voice of Helen, a somewhat bored mother of two, married to Richard who works away as a data analyst, a mother who has reached the point in her life when she wants to do something for her. Helen decides to join an evening class in writing and meets a tutor Henry Ross who sees something he likes, something he wants. Is it because she has inherited her talent from her Grandfather, the post-war writer Edward Barton? Could the literary genetics which meant that his book, Interlude was turned into a film be her inheritance?

Helen remembers Edward Barton from her early childhood but there was a family split in her early teens and she hasn’t seen him since. She embarks on a journey to find out more about him, and boy she certainly does that. Helen’s voice is perfectly pitched, you may not admire her actions, but they are certainly both recognisable and understandable from her narrative.

I was momentarily confused when the book switched from Helen to excerpts from Edward Barton’s most famous book, Interlude which tells the story of Derek who joins a theatre in the run up to World War II, historically intriguing with tales of illicit passions and a strong survival instinct to make enough money to keep a roof over his head and some morsels of food to keep him going. These are clues to Edward but the bulk of his narrative appears after his death, when Helen who was given his literary works in his will, discovers diaries and manuscripts which tell a story that twists and turns through lost and found love.

I loved this book, the tale told is fascinating, the time period as expertly described as the emotions and motives that assault the reader as each character’s lack of morals is raised from seediness by the affection Rupert Smith creates, this isn’t a book of black and white, there is always just enough room for doubt that like those sinned against I had an inkling of hope that the emotions were real and this time everything really would be ok for the whole cast of characters, well maybe not Henry Ross, but at the same time knowing that such was the tangled lives that were carefully hidden beneath layers of deception, that this was an impossible outcome.

I received my copy of this book from Amazon Vine, and if I’m honest it isn’t one I’d ever have chosen if it hadn’t appeared in my queue but am I glad it did! This is a truly fantastic find, a read quite unlike any other this year that marries my love of past actions having consequences on the present, family secrets, and these are explosive, and beautiful language that meant I knew I would enjoy the book for the writing alone from the very first page.

This book is one of those where I’ve closed the page but I know that Helen, Edward, Billy and Geraldine will linger on for a long time, in my mind they are real people and there is enough uncertainty that I can conjure up an ending for Helen.

Posted in Weekly Posts

WWW Wednesday (November 5)

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 Heart of Winter by Emma Hannigan chosen because I enjoyed her previous book The Summer Guest

The Heart of Winter

Blurb

Holly Craig’s family have lived happily in Huntersbrook for generations but when times grow hard, even she must admit defeat and sell off their once-successful stables.
The three Craig children, Lainey, Joey and Pippa find themselves locked in a fight to keep their beloved Huntersbrook; dare they transform it into one of Ireland’s most sought after countryside venues?
Renovation work is well underway when life rears its ugly head and everything stops in its tracks. The Craig family is forced to reassess what matters and although they no longer live at Huntersbrook, can the house work its magic even so … and lead them into the light once more? Bookbridgr

I have just finished Hello From The Gillespies by Monica McInerney the tale of Angela Gillespie who after sending thirty-three years worth of cheery Christmas missive is feeling downcast and writes an honest letter detailing all that is wrong with her life. When husband Nick sends it to the 100 recipients the fall-out is massive…

Click on the book cover to read my review

Hello from the Gillispies

Next I am going to read Interlude by Rupert Smith

Interlude

Blurb

A compelling examination of how secrets can tear one family apart and reverberate down the generations. Helen has always known her grandfather was a famous author, but her parents had severed connections with him whilst she was still young. After embarking on a whirlwind affair she decides to visit her reclusive grandfather and sets in motion a change that will have devastating consequences and reveal long hidden mysteries. A look at not just the treachery of family secrets but of how truth can be buried within a text and how society imposes limits on love. Amazon

What are you reading this week?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (October 17)

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

This week I have two novella’s by Lisa Unger, first up is The Whispers

The Whispers
Blurb

It’s a day like any other for Eloise Montgomery—until tragedy strikes. While she is recovering from a horrible accident that takes the lives of her husband and oldest daughter, and as she works to help her younger daughter move forward, Eloise experiences her first psychic vision. Though she struggles to understand her newfound gifts, Eloise finds a way use them to save lost women and girls—for whom her help may be the only way out…NetGalley

and the second being The Burning Girl

The Burning Girl

Blurb

Ten years after Eloise Montgomery discovers her psychic abilities, she is a full-fledged working psychic, with a partner and a business. Now, in The Burning Girl, she’s discovering some disturbing things: secrets about her genealogy that are, perhaps, best left in the past; that her granddaughter Finley has powers of her own; and that not all of Eloise’s visitors actually want to be helped. Some of them are just looking for trouble… NetGalley

I also have a copy of The Soul of Discretion by Susan Hill which is the eighth in the Simon Serrailler series, I think I read one and two some years ago! I know I swore I wouldn’t join series part-way in but I weakened…

The Soul of Discretion

I’ve also got a copy of The Heart of Winter by Emma Hannigan after enjoying the author’s previous book The Summer Guest which I read earlier this year.

 

The Heart of Winter

Blurb

Holly Craig’s family have lived happily in Huntersbrook for generations but when times grow hard, even she must admit defeat and sell off their once-successful stables.
The three Craig children, Lainey, Joey and Pippa find themselves locked in a fight to keep their beloved Huntersbrook; dare they transform it into one of Ireland’s most sought after countryside venues?
Renovation work is well underway when life rears its ugly head and everything stops in its tracks. The Craig family is forced to reassess what matters and although they no longer live at Huntersbrook, can the house work its magic even so … and lead them into the light once more? Goodreads

and lastly I have a copy of Interlude by Rupert Smith

Interlude

Blurb

A compelling examination of how secrets can tear one family apart; the tale moves from the repressed society of 1930s England where the consequences of two men s actions still reverberate through their families in the present day. Bored housewife and mother Helen has always known her grandfather Edward was a famous author, but her parents had severed connection with him whilst she was still young, refusing to discuss the matter. After embarking on a whirlwind affair with her writing tutor, Helen decides to visit her reclusive grandfather and discover more about the identity of the mysterious Rose in his most famous novel, Interlude, who has baffled critics for years. Their brief meeting reveals little but when her grandfather dies and makes Helen his executor, she discovers a stash of his diaries and an unpublished manuscript. They reveal a long hidden secret and a forbidden love affair with devastating consequences for her whole family. Helen s journey is interspersed with Edward’s works which slowly reveal the ambiguity of truth and the depth of deception that permeates the family.
A stirring look at not just the treachery of family secrets but of how truth can be buried within a text and how society imposes limits on love. Amazon

What have you found to read this week?