Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Story Keeper – Anna Mazzola

Historical Fiction
3*s

The year is 1857 and a shy girl Audrey travels from her home in London to the Isle of Skye to work for the aged Miss Buchanan, a folklorist who is trying to capture the traditional tales before they disappear from the fabric of life.

The journey needless to say is arduous and we soon learn that Audrey is as much running away from something as she is running towards a new opportunity. On the boat over to the island she meets another young girl who is ill unnerving Audrey further still.

This is a beautifully written story but despite that the subject matter was not as appealing to me as the author’s previous book The Unseeing which I adored. I struggle with books featuring the supernatural and this book has confirmed that the stories passed from person to person in the oral form, however interesting simply lose their power because I couldn’t quite transport myself to a time and place where the superstitions they generated were seriously believed.

Once she was in her place of work, both physically and ordered about by those who she had to live and work for, Audrey got caught up in the local stories, when they were revealed to her. Storytelling being stamped out by the clergy who thought it interfered with their fire and brimstone sermons. And then a girl is killed and a strange spirit is blamed for her death. Audrey is understandably spooked the girl having washed up on the beach under her window.

In a separate strand of the story we find out that Audrey knows her mother spent time on the island as a young woman, it was from her that Audrey learned to speak Gallic and to love the folktales, although I’m not sure who would think it necessary to tell the brutal stories to innocent ears, these were different times! But Audrey’s mother died on one of the Scottish Isles and her father has refused to discuss the details with her.

In short we have superstitions, folklore and secrets and it seems as though everyone is determined to hide things from Audrey; the crofters don’t trust her with their stories, the woman who employed her and her nephew are oblique in their dealings with her and her father point-blank shuts her out of his life. With so few people talking the book frustrated me in the lack of forward movement which I’m afraid to say contributed to the disconnect I felt between the mysteries on the pages.

The author’s beautiful way with words came to the fore when describing the islands and recounting the history of the clearances of the crofters. These elements provided me with a deeper understanding of the life the men and women who lived on the Isles at this time lived. It was a poor life, the harshness heaped onto the challenges of the weather and the poverty by heartless landowners. The clergy and the gentry seeming to join forces to decimate a way of life that had been followed for years. We often forget that we can go back far further than recent history to find examples of careless disregard for other’s way of life.

I’d like to thank the publisher Headline for allowing me to read a copy of The Story Keeper ahead of publication on Thursday 26 July 2018.

First Published UK: 26 July 2018
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (July 4)

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 have just started No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister, one of my latest favourite authors. This book was published on Monday 2 July.

Blurb

he police say she’s guilty.
She insists she’s innocent.
She’s your sister.
You loved her.
You trusted her.
But they say she killed your child.
Who do you believe?
Original, devilishly clever and impossible to forget, this is a thriller with a difference. You won’t be able to tear yourself away from the trial that will determine both sisters’ fates. NetGalley

The last book I read was In the Dark by Cara Hunter the second in the Adam Fawley series set in Oxford which will be published on 12 July 2018.



Blurb

A woman and child are found locked in a basement room, barely alive. No one knows who they are – the woman can’t speak, and there are no missing persons reports that match their profile.

The elderly man who owns the house claims he has never seen them before. The inhabitants of the quiet Oxford street are in shock. How could this happen right under their noses?

But DI Adam Fawley knows that nothing is impossible. And that no one is as innocent as they seem . . NetGalley

Next on my list is The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola which will be published on 26 July 2018. I loved this author’s debut novel The Unseeing and so I’m hoping for great things from this one too.

Blurb

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857 and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.

Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.

Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother, many years before. NetGalley

What do you think? Do any of these take your fancy?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (March 25)

I’m pleased to report I’ve had a lovely week off work which started with a visit to what turned out to be a snowy Gloucester to see my friend for the weekend. Due to the snow we took a snow day where we cooked and I taught her how to knit – we really know how to party! Don’t worry though, we did manage a couple of lovely meals and a few gins to help stave off the cold. I returned to Jersey with my brother so all round a great week catching up on all the news and eating and drinking way too much.

This Week on the Blog

My week belatedly started with my review of Last Letter Home by Rachel Hore, a historical dual time-line story featuring a German man in England at the time of World War II.

This Week in Books featured the authors Edmund Crispin, A.J. Pearce and Louise Candlish.

Next I reviewed The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth which was published on 22 March 2018. This book was set on a close of houses in Melbourne, and looked at the secrets each household was concealing, some were bigger than others.

I love a good ‘sliding doors’ type story which was exactly what And the Birds Kept on Singing by Simon Bourke delivered. The tale of an adoption, or not. This powerful debut novel which was set in the 1980s illustrating the different lives that Seán and/or Jonathan grew up in.

My final review of the week was my non-fiction read for March; Common People by Alison Light is a wide-ranging look at the lives, jobs and neighbourhoods that her family lived in based on the historical and family history research she carried out. A fascinating read.

 

This Time Last Year…

I was reading A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup, a non-fiction read of the highest standard. Kathryn Harkup looks at the role poison played in Agatha Christie’s life during World War I when she worked in the dispensary in her local Torquay hospital and her training to become as an apothecary’s assistant. No wonder then that she put that knowledge to such good use in many of her crime fiction. Each poison’s appearance is explained along with the symptoms any victim can expect which shows us just how much the Queen of Crime spared her readers in her books. Where there is a link to a famous case, this is also included with details of the crime, how it was discovered and the verdict if applicable. If all that wasn’t enough at the back there is a handy table listing Agatha Christie’s books and the murder method. An absolute gem of a book for lovers of poison and Agatha Christie.

You can read my full review here or click on the book cover

Fourteen novels. Fourteen poisons. Just because it’s fiction doesn’t mean it’s all made-up …

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

Stacking the Shelves

I have had some great new books from NetGalley since my last post…

The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola chosen because I loved her book The Unseeing a historical crime book. The Story Keeper will be published on 26 July 2018.

Blurb

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the word-of-mouth folk tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857, the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and the crofters are suspicious and hostile, claiming they no longer know their stories.

Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters tell her that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl has disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the spirits of the unforgiven dead. Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but then she is reminded of her own mother, a Skye woman who disappeared in mysterious circumstances.

It seems there is a link to be explored, and Audrey may uncover just what her family have been hiding from her all these years. NetGalley

I was also lucky enough to be approved for the next book in David Jackson‘s D.S. Nathan Cody series, Don’t Make a Sound. Since I voted the first in this series, A Tapping At My Door one of my top ten reads for 2016 and thoroughly enjoying Hope to Die which was published last year, this is one I’m keen to read before it is published on 3 May 2018.

Blurb


You can’t choose your family. Or can you?

Meet the Bensons. They’re an ordinary couple. They wash their car, mow their lawn and pass the time of day with their neighbours. And they have a beautiful little girl called Daisy.

There’s just one problem.

SHE’S NOT THEIRS.

D. S. Nathan Cody is about to face his darkest and most terrifying case yet . . . NetGalley

My last book that I’m sharing this week also comes from a crime fiction series – I keep saying I ought to cut down on the ones I follow but they are just so good! Isabelle Grey is publishing the fourth in her crime fiction series featuring DI Grace Fisher on 17 May 2018 with Wrong Way Home.

Blurb

A cold case leads DI Grace Fisher on the hunt for the most dangerous killer of her career – but after twenty-five years, can she really be sure she will get to the truth?

The same night a local hero saved two people from the burning Marineland resort in Southend, a young woman was raped and murdered minutes from the scene of the fire, the culmination of a series of brutal rapes in the town. The killer was never found.

Twenty-five years on, new DNA techniques have blown the cold case open. DI Grace Fisher relishes the prospect of finally catching the culprit, but when the evidence doesn’t point to one clear suspect, she must reconstruct the original investigation. Any suggestion that the Essex force was less than thorough at the time could alienate her colleagues and destroy her chances of reaching the truth.

Grace finds her investigation shadowed by a young true-crime podcaster backed by veteran crime reporter Ivo Sweatman. As pressure mounts she cannot afford to be distracted. She knows that a cold-blooded killer is slowly being backed into a corner, and a cornered predator is often the most dangerous of all… NetGalley

If you want to catch up on this series they before this one is published here’s the list in order…

Good Girls Don’t Die
Shot Through the Heart
The Special Girls

What have you found to read this week?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I have read 5 books and since I have gained a few so my TBR has stayed the same and the total is therefore 187
Physical Books – 110
Kindle Books – 54
NetGalley Books –23

I have banked two thirds of a book token this week so technically 3 1/3 books in credit but… well I’ve had to use the special 15% discount voucher that World of Books provided to me and my readers – if you haven’t used the code yet, make sure you do so before it expires on 31 March 2018! But as the books haven’t arrived yet…