The Turn of Midnight, Minette Walters
Genre: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (adult)
I adored The Last Hours, such a realistic read, I felt I was there with the characters. I’ve been looking froward to this. Its a very detail dense read, and I did put it aside a couple of time to fully absorb what had been written and think about what transpired.
In this next book we can see how some of the characters have changed, matured in the case of certain younger ones, some of the older ones having the reservations about Lady Anne and what she was doing reassured with her successes.
Develish has come through the plague thanks to Lady Anne’s early closing them off to the rest of the country. A hard decision, as was the exclusion period for those that had been out to see what was happening in the rest of the country. One too, of which the priest was certainly not in favour of, the line of the day from Pope Clement was that constant prayers and repentance for sins would stave off the disease. Those who died were not devout enough, full of wickedness, the plague was God’s punishment.
Once more Thaddeus is the hero of the hour, and the lads that went out with him in book one returned as men, banding together and seeing Thaddeus as their leader, honouring and respecting his decisions. He listens to them first though before deciding a course of action and they feel as if they’ve had some input. Its clear to see Lady Anne’s influence on him here, its similar to the way she rolls up her sleeves and gets on with jobs alongside her people, not just sits lazily, expecting them t do the work.
Thaddeus and the lads find out just how badly the rest of the country has suffered, especially among the labouring classes, and its clear there is going to be a huge shortfall in those with the knowledge to grow food, look after livestock, all the day to day jobs so essential in life. He and Lady Anne come up with a plan to secure independence for her folk, but its fraught with danger, and their worst fears come true.
They’ve changed some opinions by their example, Bourne has taken to heart what he learned in Develish, and with Thaddeus advice intends to implement much of it on his own estates. He can see their ideas for the future ring true, that workers more than scribes are needed now, that more profits produced when workers are treated with respect and fairly rather than the whip and fear. I feel much of his changing ideals come from the profit angle but that works and everyone benefits so….
Sadly when Thaddeus and the lads seek to bring about the plan he and Lady Anne have come up with to set their people free, they find they’ve been nurturing a viper.
Some have come round with kind words and deeds, and seen the example of what can be achieved that way, Bourne and Lady Eleanor for example, but someone else treated with the same kindness is still harbouring thoughts of vengeance, and it brings them into a very dangerous position.
Its a great read, transporting me back in time once more. The characters feel so vivid, and I feel I’ve got to know Thaddeus and the lads really well. Joshua’s dogs play a great part here, hard to think of what might have happened if Thaddeus had his way and they’d been killed. They’ve proved their worth and loyalty time and again. There were times when I struggled to see how Minette would brings these characters through, how would they slide through the murky waters of the deception they planned.
I’m sure much of the UK did look like this after the plague, it decimated the countryside, leaving orphans, ruined homes, fallow fields and a dearth of workers to rebuild. The few who survived in Blandeford were probably very typical of the time, they were so busy deciding who had more rights to what, to ensuring that everyone received a fair share that they didn’t actually achieve anything, didn’t work together, didn’t do what was needed, just struggled on day to day until Thaddeus and Lady Anne explained what happened at Develish, and set them to forming their own leaders and teams. Its pretty typical of what happens in any disaster, there are a few that get on with things while the majority bicker and decide they aren’t being treated equally. Its human nature I guess, but once Thaddeus spoke to them about leadership and what could be done they did seem as if they’d move forward. I’m sure there were many Lords though that didn’t share Lady Anne’s views who insisted their serfs still pay the full tithes even though there were few people to work the fields, mill the flour, spin the wool, butcher the livestock etc.
For those like the workers of Devilish its a time of opportunity, and I’m really keen to see how book three come about, how the events play out.
Stars: Five, another rich, enticing read, that had me fully absorbed in life after the plague.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.
The Last Relicuin, Hargus Montgomery
Genre: General Fiction, Sci-fi and Fantasy
I was really intrigued by this book, a mix of future worlds and past one but sadly gave up at 30%. I found it too confusing and just wasn’t gelling with the story.
We’re in the 22nd century, where life for the vast majority of the population is lived in a secure and safe environment, behind glass, where everything is germ free. No touching another person, life is lived in a very solitary way so obsessed are they with germs and sterility. Its a strange existence but for them its the norm, the living museums, where they get glimpses of the past, seem an abhorrent way of life to them. Eating foods that’s been grown in dirt? Talking directly to, touching, standing near another person? Risking germs by breathing in unsterile air? Life for them is very safe, very regulated and they can’t imagine a world where people touch each other, breath ordinary air, grow food, gather in groups, and as for sex, horrible thought that, messy and unsanitary…..
Alex though, son of a prominent senator, isn’t so sure about this life, rebels in small ways and then decides he wants to be one of those studying the past, museum dwellers living life as it was in certain periods of history.
I was really intrigued by the idea of this story but in practice I found it confusing, and sadly it was just going over my head. I didn’t understand What was happening and Why, never mind the Who and How….
It soon became a story focused on a mystery, secrets and lies, a struggle for power where the protagonists are determined to keep the past hidden.
It’s a story with strong minded and power hungry characters, set against those who think we have a duty to keep the past alive. There were so many characters I found it difficult sorting out who was who, and how they fitted in. I did like the section dealing with the practicalities of the past, loved for example the bit where Alex smells spring for the first time, his puzzling over what it is, and where he and other students are entranced by falling leaves. I felt sorry for those doomed to live the “safe” life, but I wasn’t pulled into the story enough to continue with it.
Stars: Two, I’m sure for others its a terrific read, but the content just didn’t gel with my taste. One of those stories where its book v reader and we just don’t match.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
Hunting Danger, Redemption Harbor Series, Katie Reus
I’d only read book three in this series, each are advertised as stand alone and that one I loved, didn’t feel I’d missed anything by not reading first two books.
I haven’t read book four but when I saw this I expected to feel the same as I did with book three, that it would be complete on its own. It is….and yet I think I’d have got far more from it if I understood more about the whole group of characters, their dynamics and interaction. As it was, apart from Brooks and Darcy they were just names and I didn’t feel the connection between the characters that I know would be there.
Its billed as romance, and it is but for me the romance fell second place to the suspense. Its a tightly written novel, well paced, well set out, but the romance side takes a while to warm up – its very much each likes the other but hides it, and seems as though that’s been going on a long time. Now they’re thrown together, in danger, and emotions run hot at a time like this. Its a question of what happens once that cools down, when they’re thinking with clear heads once more.
Its an interesting story but I felt a bit disconnected from it, as I said I think even though its a stand alone it would work better if I’d read all of the others.
I do occasionally get tired of the “quick computer hack” that takes care of everything, tells where folk are, what they’re doing, spies on them remotely – even when there hasn’t been time to set up cameras…and of course knocks out those cameras who see what we don’t want them to.
Its not just in this book, but a growing trend in many suspense reads. PCs can do lots, are a huge asset but they are machines, not miracle cures and I felt here that it was something a little over-used.
Stars: Three, a good read but would have been a great one if perhaps I’d read all the earlier books.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
I Invited Her In, Adele Parks
Genre:Mystery & Thrillers
I enjoy books like this, they challenge me to think “what would I do?” At first I was interested but I did get tired of the way the story was told, via inner thoughts, when for me dialogue based works better, where we have a slip back in time to see events as they happen. Well, see from that persons POV anyway 😉 Later in the story we do get some of these but the start nearly made me give up. Works for some readers that way though, but like me, not all.
I could see where Mel wanted to give a good impression to Abi, everyone is proud of their homes and family and want others to see them at their best, but couldn’t see why she didn’t simply ask her how long, set a time limit in the visit especially as Ben isn’t happy about an open ended stay. Its not like they’ve been close for the past 17 years, even if they were Bfs at uni. It seemed a bit strange, and then of course I started to put things together, though I wasn’t certain.
Its a fun read, very real characters, events that I could see easily working like that in real life. I didn’t like Abi, not one bit, but even so hadn’t guessed exactly what her angle was. I was shocked by events, thought I liked the ending and then, those last couple of pages….Nope, I didn’t want that even though they are not real characters. They felt real to me and I cared about them as if they were real.
Stars:three, I guessed a chunk of the plot, enjoyed the story and was surprised by other parts but I did get tired of some daily trivia that didn’t add to the story, felt repetitive.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
River of Shame, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 3), Susan Clayton-Goldner
Genre:, suspense, General fiction (adult)
My third book from Susan, and its as fabulous as the other two. I missed the first Radhauser mystery, but feel as if I know him now. He’s the kind of policeman all should aspire to be, won’t give up, seeks the truth, not the convenient answer and is such a genuine caring man.
When we meet him at the start of this book I understood why his wife was angry, and yet like her I understood that he’s the kind of man he Had to go in to work, couldn’t just leave justice when he knew he was needed to help pursue it. Yet his wife has just given birth to their son, and is also undergoing chemotherapy. Such a hard decision, and he’s trying to do both, do what’s right for Grace and their family and also try to stop more crime and hatred being spread.
I love Radhauser, he’s a great man. He’s been through such a lot with the death of his first wife and son in a tragic accident, and been given another chance at happiness, which is is so pleased about, but Grace knows he wouldn’t be the man she loves if he just ignored something when he could help.
Of course what seems a simple case expands to include others, to include murder and to show up an evil thread of bigotry running through the locality.
Its at times a harrowing read, not because its overly graphic but because its so real. Sadly I could imagine this happening, not just in US but here in UK too. We too have our share of bigots and hatred 😦 I had to put it aside a couple of times because the characters feel so real that I was really upset when certain things happened. That’s a testament to good writing, not a book I put aside because I’d lost interest, I just needed to take time to read something lighter, give my mind a break.
Its a gripping, suspensful story, and so easy to believe in the reality of it. I so felt for the characters, was so angry at the bigots, felt for the kids, brought up by such narrow minded folk, they’re almost bound to follow their thinking and actions. It takes a brave child to break away from such strong minded parents.
Radhauser is his usual thorough self, and I love the way Susan explains his thinking, why he takes certain actions, that allowed me to come to my own conclusions. The ending though – that came as a shock, really didn’t expect that and yet looking back I can see how the threads were seeded out, but so carefully that I missed them.
Stars: five, a scarily real novel, written with very genuine feeling characters. Its a story I could very well see played out in real life.
ARC supplied by author
Home to McCarron’s Corner, Lily’s Story, Sharon K. Middleton
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
I love this kind of novel, one which has day to day minutiae of life in times long past and was eager to get started.
I found a number of things that bothered me though. Lily takes going back in time in her stride, to the point where she acts as if its perfectly normal, and those back in the past act as if her appearance is an everyday thing. I know they’ve the advantage of superstition and a prophecy but it felt kind of wrong somehow that everyone was so open and accepting. Then there’s the stuff she just happens to ave on her that play such an important part in the story. Does she really always carry stuff like that around with her. The blood cards in particular, just how many of them did she have? The way people in the past just happily let her test them in a time when anything out of the ordinary was viewed with suspicion was a little weird too for me.
Then there are the many parallels with the Diana Gabaldon Outlander stories. Having read those books several times over I noticed a number of themes that crop up in both…..nothing in fiction is every really unique, but sometimes there were parts that for me felt a little too close. The language and idioms used, I accept Lily would use 21st century speech but the way so often no one queried it? And even used expressions themselves felt a bit wrong.
The story itself was interesting, but I wished there was more from the McCarron’s Corner and the prophecy in it. The first part of the story is there but it seemed to move on to town very quickly.
If you can get past these barriers then its a story you may love, there are some inviting parts but for me the quirks were more than just a minor irritation and the story fell short because of it.
Stars: Two and a half, a story with great potential but which was let down for me by the things I’ve mentioned.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp, Sarra Manning
I hadn’t read Vanity Fair, but I’m a sucker for romance and this sounded a fun read – plus I’ve loved some of Sarra’s past stories.
I’d not class it as romance though…there is some romance via secondary characters but that’s just a tiny fraction of the story, and for me sitting it in the romance genre was wrong, and I was disappointed at that part of the story.
I struggled at first, maybe if I’d read Vanity Fair I’d have found the start easier. I almost gave up at one point, the characters all seemed irredeemably dislike-able, but persevered and once into the story found myself hooked on Becky’s actions.
Was she right in what she did? Was she fair? Was she treated fairly by others? So many questions this book threw up and its easy to judge Becky as amoral and avaricious, but with a past that gave her nothing was she just making her way in the world as best she knew? Would be have felt better about her if she accepted her lot and lived on the street begging? Pretty much sure that’s a No from what gets said in current news. Or maybe if she took a zero hours contract and lived day to day on min wage sharing a room with someone else. Why should she just accept that as the best she can hope for though?
Some of the other characters didn’t act any better but their actions – as happens so often in the real world – get excused under work pressures, family issues, social obligations etc. Its only accident of birth that placed George, Amelia, Dobbin etc where they were and not where Becky was in life.
I didn’t like Becky but in way by the end I did admire her. She was tough, grabbed life’s opportunities when they came and worked the to her best advantage. Its would be easy to say she took advantage of others and yet weren’t they doing that to her? Did Amelia and her family treat Becky fairly? What about the Pitts? What about George’s actions, the way he treated Amelia? I think the only person I liked was Dobbin…and Amelia by the end. The section with the news magnate had me thinking “News of the World anyone? Murdoch and the scandals there…”
Its easy to sit in judgment if you’ve never known homelessness, never gone hungry, never had to shop in jumble sales and charity shops. I have. Would I act like Becky if the chance arose? I’d really, really like to think my moral compass points in a different direction but until it happens who knows what we’d do.
Marie Antoinette’s apocryphal “quote” of “Let them eat cake” when told the peasants had no bread sums up so many governing figures attitude to those in need now. They genuinely have no idea of the issues facing so many people, and yet sit in positions making judgments that affect the lives of those people.
Stars: Four, a slow start for me, that may have been better had I read VF, an annoyance that its not what I’d call romance, but a story that was a fun read.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.
The Artisan Heart, Dean Mayes
Genre:Woman’s fiction, romance
First a quick rant – why “women’s” fiction? Why exclude 50% or readers….this categorisation makes me so cross. Who’s to say sex determines what we enjoy reading?
Its a great story, written so intelligently, not dumbed down as so many are now. No grunting heroes here, no page after page of repetitive sex, but a romance in the truest sense for me, where the characters really spend time getting to know each other. Having said all that there were times when I floundered a bit within the story, where I got a bit bored with the pacing – but that’s my issue, my problem not the book.
There are some terrific characters here, Hayden and Isabelle, and Isabelle’s little daughter whose a real star. Max and Annette, friends of Hayden’s parents, Chas, one of those characters that makes a village, eccentric,at times careless but so full of life, so joyful he brightens others day. I had hoped for a bit more unpleasantness from Bernadette, she’s pretty ambitious and will stop at nothing to get ahead, and her plans and Hayden’s don’t necessarily match. All the things I love from a “nasty” character but she really wasn’t in the story that much, enough to throw a few spanners but nothing more.
Its an interesting read, Hayden’s initial issues really felt so genuine, its something I could see playing out all too easily and as he says, that could end his career. All that hard work, years of study, gone in a moment. I loved Isabelle and her determination, adored little Genie, so irrepressible and entertaining, loved the way the village rallied round its inhabitants. I really wanted to give this book five stars and yet…I kept putting it aside, losing interest and I’m really not sure why. It had everything I love, intelligent writing, real characters, excellent plots, not just a sweet, simple romance but a more involved one but for whatever reason it didn’t pull me in to a cant-stop-reading mood.
Stars: Four, a good story, well written with terrific characters, but not quite the magic five for me.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
Mira’s Path, William Schlegel
Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction
*Sigh…Women’s fiction again? Why troy to exclude a section of possible readers, men write fiction, this book proves it, they read it too…..
Anyway, sadly this book didn’t really work for me. It was well written, well paced but somehow the characters and events never really caught on for me.
I think part of that is I started off disliking Mira, she was a real bitch to Bowie. I had a hard time getting past the role reversal too, where her wealthy family lost everything and yet despite allegedly being close she knows nothing about it. Then Bowie, Lawn Boy, is now a multi millionaire? How’d that happen? I didn’t see any real reason for either of these massive changes and it rankled me.
As I said I disliked Mira, she seems to have changed but I couldn’t help feeling is all hadn’t gone wrong in the City for her, if she hadn’t effectively been chased out of her life would she be back? Or would she still be posing among the richest, living their life, rubbing shoulders the the people at the Top of society.
Bowie was perfect. A little too perfect maybe? He seems to have lived the live of a saint, just waiting for Mira’s return and is that real? Would he do that, and take her back without any kind of discussion about how much she hurt him?
I dunno, it was all a bit too cute and sweet for me.
Even the suspense didn’t really work for me, I wasn’t sure of the reasoning, a man doesn’t up and do something like that out of the blue, with no one having a clue. He’d not seemed like that kind of man, what made him flip? It wasn’t as if he was desperately in love with her….hands on action seemed out of character for him, hiring someone to do the dirty work I could understand but do it himself?
Stars: two and a half. There were parts I liked but overall it wasn’t one for me. As ever I can see others love it, maybe I’m in just too picky a mood and if I come back to it another time I may like it better. Who knows?
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher.
The Lost Letters, Sarah Mitchell
Genre: historical fiction, Women’s fiction
*..sigh…* women’s fiction again, I so hate that category. Why rule out men, why decide they won’t like this story. Its so short sighted.
Anyway, the story…well, I expected to love it, it sounded perfect but somehow it didn’t quite sparkle, didn’t have the magic that I anticipated.
I found myself putting it aside and reading something else several times when with a book that really interests me I’m glued from start to finish.
I’m not really sure what the issue is/was. The characters were great, the time lines felt very real but I did feel the book was very slow to start.
I enjoyed the past sections more than present day, somehow I was so gripped in the story of Connie and Sylvia. Reading about the wartime experiences too, seems so unreal and yet it was life for so many. Houses and workplaces bombed, nights in air-raid shelters, kids evacuated. An awful time, so desperate in many ways. Could I evacuate my kids? I don’t know, all loving parents want their kids safe but would they be?
My mum was evacuated from Norfolk to Wales for a year, her mum went with her, they stayed with the family of someone granddad met in Army. Imagine just packing up for a year or more with total strangers, must have been hard but at least she had her mum, so many kids didn’t.
That harsh time spun the beginnings of some huge and complex secrets that spilled forward to the present day, and when they came out I had to do quite a bit of mental back tracking working out who was who and how they connected.
It was well done, and I could see just how that could have worked out, everything was so muddled and chaotic back then. Tough choices, and how heartbreaking for the people involved.
I did enjoy this story, but wouldn’t re-read it, and its one of those hard to rate books. Its perfect for those who like slowly unfolding stories but at times the pacing was just too slow for me.
Stars: three. A good read but a little flat in parts for me. I enjoyed the past more than the present which surprised me.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.