Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Shadow Hour – Kate Riordan

Historical Fiction 4*s
Historical Fiction
4*s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking the Shelves (February 20)

Stacking the shelves

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

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

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

The Last thing I remember

Blurb

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

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

The Shadow Hour

Blurb

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

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

Castles in the Air

Blurb

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

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

The People in the Photo

Blurb

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

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

The Innocent Killer

Blurb

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

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

Blackwater

Blurb

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

PicMonkey Collage TBR

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

 

What have you found to read this week?

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (February 17)

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

I currently reading a non-fiction read, Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington

Last Woman Hanged

You can read a synopsis and an extract from this book in yesterday’s post

I have just finished The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett an interesting book about how a missed moment can change the course of lives!

The Versions of Us

Blurb

What if you had said yes . . . ?
Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog. What happens next will determine the rest of their lives. We follow three different versions of their future – together, and apart – as their love story takes on different incarnations and twists and turns to the conclusion in the present day.
The Versions of Us is an outstanding debut novel about the choices we make and the different paths that our lives might follow. What if one small decision could change the rest of your life? Amazon

Next I’m planning on reading The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan, the author of The Girl in the Photograph

The Shadow Hour

Blurb

Two generations of women, and one house that holds the terrible secrets of their pasts
1922. Grace has been sent to the stately and crumbling Fenix House to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps as a governess. But when she meets the house’s inhabitants, people who she had only previously heard of in stories, the cracks in her grandmother’s tale begin to show. Secrets appear to live in the house’s very walls and everybody is resolutely protecting their own.
Why has she been sent here? Why did her grandmother leave after just one summer? And as the past collides with the present, can Grace unravel these secrets and discover who her grandmother, and who she, really is? NetGalley

So that’s my books sorted for the week – What have you chosen?