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Showing posts from August, 2012

Booker Longlist 2: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge Book 3: The Bleeding Land by Giles Kristian

The English Civil War really makes my blood boil. So much violence and bloodshed, so many families torn apart, whole communities devastated, the cultural landscape permanently altered. The 1640s are pretty far down my list of decades I wish I could visit. They do make an awesome setting for a historical novel however and Giles Kristian has captured the chaos and uncertainty of the period really well.

Set in 1642 the story follows the Rivers family, landed gentry from Lancashire. Sir Francis is loyal to the King, and expects his family to follow suit. An unexpected but avoidable tragedy sends his younger son Tom on a self-destructive journey during which he signs up with the rebel army. He is not fighting for any cause except personal revenge. This is one of the aspects of the book I enjoyed immensely. Whilst there was much genuine ideology on either side of the conflict, the civil wars were also an opportunity for settling private scores. Rivalries amongst the aristocracy could be play…

Part of the Spell by Rachel Heath

I don't know exactly how to categorise this book, but I certainly enjoyed it. At its heart is the mystery of a missing woman. Sheila, widowed mum of two grown-up daughters, is reliable and steady. She's always there for her children, especially Stella, a young mum of two herself who still lives nearby. One day Sheila is no longer where everyone expects her to be, her house is empty, her bed unmade. There are no signs of violence or abduction; is it possible that she has just walked away from everyone and everything?

From this one particular and peculiar event Rachel Heath spins out into examining the lives of some of the residents of the small town. In this instance the place is Saffron Walden. It is both unique and universal; the story is rooted in the landscape and architecture of the place but the experiences are not so specific. For Stella it is everything she knows and wants, its familiarity is what makes it home. For her sister Marie that familiarity is suffocating and s…

Historical Reading Challenge Book 2 - Hereward: The Devil's Army by James Wilde

I am enjoying this reading challenge, set by Transworld Publishers, enormously.  I read my first one just before I started this blog.  It was Victoria Lamb's The Queen's Secret, a rollicking good Tudor story that I reviewed on the Waterstones website as my bookseller reviewer alter ego Jane Sharp. (

For my second choice I went back five centuries more to the late eleventh century.  William the Conqueror has conquered, and any resistance put up by the English is dealt with brutally and cruelly.  William means to have this land regardless of how much earth he must scorch or blood spill.  There is some hope however.  Hereward refuses to admit defeat, no matter the odds stacked against him.  Now, this is a sequel so I was a little concerned that I may struggle to keep up with the characters and action, but it was not a problem at all.  The first chapter puts us right where we need to be; i…

Booker Longlist 1: Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

Judging by the reaction to the Longlist announcement I am one amongst many delighted to see some smaller publishers represented on the list.  Swimming Home by Deborah Levy is published by And Other Stories.  They offer a subscription to their list that allows them to be highly selective about what they publish.  This has quickly borne fruit, both in the quality of their books and having a title on a major prize list.  Congratulations are well deserved, I think.
And so to the book.  Swimming Home is a deceptively simple tale of a summer holiday.  A dysfunctional family rent a villa in France.  Famous poet father, war correspondent mother and teenage daughter are joined by family friends Mitchell and Laura.  Their uneasy relationship is utterly destroyed by a body floating in the pool.  The body belongs to Kitty Finch, botanist and ardent fan of Joe's poetry.  Her still, naked body brings to the surface all the tensions between husband and wife, parent and child, friend and acquainta…

Damn His Blood by Peter Moore

Damn His Blood, what a great title.  I wanted to read the book before I’d seen it or even knew what it was about on the strength of the title alone.  Fortunately, once I did have it in my hands the subject matter was just my thing too.  What’s not to like about an early nineteenth-century true murder mystery featuring a vicar, a retired military man and a cast of rural village folk.  Except perhaps the brutal murder part, obviously.
Picture the scene.Oddingley, a village near Worcester that the Reverend George Parker called home.His tenure was not without controversy, and his relationships with the villagers were not entirely peaceful.Still, he cannot have imagined it coming to an abrupt and violent end one fine midsummer evening in his own glebe meadows.Parker was shot and brutally beaten, murdered at close range.Who would want the Vicar dead?  Well, who wouldn't, as it turns out.
Oddingley had become horribly split, with the residents forced to choose between Parker and Captain Ev…

The Beach Holiday by Anita Hughes

In amongst all the Olympic-watching I have managed to sneak in a little reading here and there.  As, technically, I am on holiday at the moment I chose this 'topical' debut from Anita Hughes.  The Beach Holiday is an unusual read for me, I don't read many books that fall into the chick-lit category.  But I was in the mood for something light and fun, that I could read on the way to Olympic venues and in the odd moments between the events.

The story, in a nutshell, is this: Amanda's privileged Californian upbringing is shattered once when her father is diagnosed with cancer.  She puts her fashion college plans on hold to stay near him during his illness and final days.  As she emerges from grieving for him she meets Andre, a sexy French chef.  After a whirlwind courtship they marry, and shortly after they have a son, Max.  Ten years later, her life is shattered for the second time when Amanda walks in on her husband in flagrante with his sous-chef.  Time for Amanda to r…