Friday, 29 May 2009

The Cradle will fall- Mary Higgins Clark

County prosecutor Katie DeMaio lands in hospital after a minor car accident. During the night, she sleepily watches through the window as a man loads a woman's body into the boot of a car. Is it just a medicated nightmare, or is the scene horrifyingly real? Back at work, a suspicious suicide investigation leads Katie into acquaintance with Dr Richard Carroll, a medical examiner whose concerns about brilliant fertility specialist Dr Edgar Highley begin to entwine with her own findings. Dr Highley's pioneering work 'curing' infertile women is controversial and potentially dangerous - and Dr Carroll is determined to prove it. But Katie's treatment for the car crash has already begun, and to Dr Carroll's horror he finds she is under the care of the man he is investigating. Soon enough, as his own discoveries and the scene she witnessed cross paths, Katie's life is placed in terrible danger...

This book has a lot of short chapters, but you can't help yourself from reading on and on. This is my favourite of MHC books that I've read so far. A thrilling read

No Way Out- Lynda Page

Stephanie Mortimer feels trapped. Her alcoholic mother and domineering father have never loved each other, let alone their only child, and her upbringing has been one of violence, repression and neglect. In an attempt to escape, Steph agrees to marry a man she doesnt even love but a tragic accident means their marriage never takes place. Then her father dies and the terms of his will reveal that he still has a hold on Steph even beyond the grave. Reeling from the news, the last person Steph expects to meet is the man of her dreams. Jason Connor could change her life for ever, but will their whirlwind romance be the answer to Stephs prayers or the beginning of a nightmare?

This book had me gripped from the begining, you immediately feel so sorry for Steph, and feel angry towards her parents for treating her the way they did. When she marries she hopes that her life will change for the better but unfortunately it's only the start of another nightmare. There's a twist at the end that I never guessed.
I have really liked the 2 books that I've read of Lynda's, so I have requested another couple from the Library, I really like the easy reading of her stories.
Thanks for introducing a great Author to me Julie

Time for a change- Lynda Page

Alexandra Morton has a reputation round the close-knit Leicester backstreets where she lives for being a bit of a matchmaker, as there’s nothing she enjoys more than offering useful advice to courting couples. But when her beloved husband Gil is sacked from work, having been wrongly accused of molesting a female member of staff, her whole world is suddenly turned upside down. For the first time in twenty-five years, Lex needs to get a job in order to make ends meet, so she goes to work in a marriage bureau and puts her skill to good use.

I really enjoyed this book, the main characters are so likeable you feel you've knew them for ages, you see how one wrong accusation can make a whole family's world turn upside down. At least in the end thing's change for the better

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Serpent in the Garden ~ Janet Gleeson

Summer, 1765. The renowned portrait painter Joshua Pope is eager to escape London and his unhappy past and accepts a commission to paint a wedding portrait for Herbert Bentnick and his bride-to-be, Sabine Mercier. Joshua learns that the couple are avid horticulturalists. Bentnick's country house, Astley, in Richmond, is famous for its verdant gardens, designed by the master landscape artist Capability Brown. Sabine Mercier, who has lived most of her life in the Indies, is an expert in growing pineapples, the fruit of choice at the grandest dinner parties and an inspiration to artists and craftsmen. But soon after Sabine begins to cultivate pineapples in the vast conservatory at Astley, she discovers a body among her plants. Why, wonders Joshua Pope, is so little attention paid to this bizarre death? Why do Bentnick's children regard their future stepmother with suspicion and fear? And what connection does Sabine's daughter Violet have with the dead man? Outraged that any life can be valued so lightly, Joshua begins to investigate the death. But then Sabine's valuable emerald necklace disappears, and he is implicated. His need to discover what has happened at Astley.

A very enjoyable book, there are lots of twists and turns and i didn't guess who the culprit was. Janet Gleeson was recommended to me and this is the first book i have read by her after spotting it in the library. She also wrote The Thief Taker and The Grenadillo box which you might have read and which i will be looking out for.

Happy reading

The Warrior's Princess - Barbara Erskine

You can read Julie's synopsis and comments here.

Well, Julie thought I'd enjoy this one and she was right....... though the way it started did make me wonder, at first, if I would as I can't abide anything like those attacks.

BE does seem to have a propensity for making her main characters into victims of one kind or another and this definitely started out with taking it to an extreme with the attacks. The current day character occasionally became one of her irritatingly irrational wimp types...... though she did redeem herself as the story progressed and it wasn't ever annoying enough to make me wonder why I was reading it. However I liked and felt much more sympathy for the historical character of Eigon. It also gladdened my heart to see that the depiction of the tarot, crystals and Druidry aspects, in the main, were positive and used to the good (yes, the storyline in Hiding from the Light still niggles! LOL). The culminations to the storylines were good with only the one slight disappointment: the final meeting between Eigon and Titus..... it was a bit of a damp squib after the build up to it - I felt it deserved something a little more spectacular, though that's probably just me. :0)

The stories of the current and historical characters interwove nicely through the book and were never confusing, as some can become. It also had that page turning "I want to know what happens next" thrill that has you reaching for the book in any spare moment or keeps you reading into the early hours - BE at her best. :0)

Will be registering this with Book Crossing and then posting it on to Rachael, as promised. :0)

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

When will there be good news? - Kate Atkinson

On a hot summer day, Joanna Mason's family slowly wanders home along a country lane. A moment later, Joanna's life is changed forever... On a dark night thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a train that is both crowded and late. Lost in his thoughts, he suddenly hears a shocking sound... At the end of a long day, 16-year-old Reggie is looking forward to watching a little TV. Then a terrifying noise shatters her peaceful evening. Luckily, Reggie makes it a point to be prepared for an emergency...

This is the third in Kate Atkinson's series of books (but the first I have read) featuring the former private detective Jackson Brodie, among an array of unusual characters. It is crime fiction, but of a very inventive sort.
Although there are quite a few coincidences that bring the main players together, it nevertheless manages to avoid being ridiculous.
I did enjoy reading this book as it had a satisfying plot, mainly believable characters and plenty of reflections on mortality thrown in for good measure. There were a few places where I did think that the title was just what I was thinking at that time, but despite that, a good read!

A Step in the Dark - Judith Lennox

It’s 1915 when young Bess Ravenhart, recently widowed, leaves her baby son Frazer with her mother-in-law, Cora, while she sails from India to Britain to set up a home. But Cora has no intention of returning Frazer to his mother's care. Though Bess makes a new life in Edinburgh and knows the joy – and pain – of motherhood with further children, her heart always aches for the little boy she left behind. When Frazer travels to Scotland twenty years later, it seems Bess's dreams of a reconciliation will come true. But Frazer trails danger in his wake, and it's possible that not only he but also Bess and her whole family will live to rue the day of his return…

The novel is very much in the family saga style of Barbara Taylor Bradford/Catherine Cookson but notwithstanding this was a relatively easy read. Whilst I was not that enamoured with the "heroine" - I thought that she could have shown a bit more fight! - I thought that the book was thoroughly enjoyable and I did not anticipate all of the twists.

The Outcast - Sadie Parker

Set in post WWII suburban London, this superb debut novel charts the downward spiral and tortured redemption of a young man shattered by loss. The war is over and Lewis Aldridge is getting used to having his father, Gilbert, back in the house. Things hum along splendidly until Lewis’s mother drowns, casting the 10-year-old into deep isolation. It is an everyday tale of drunkenness, violence and a fair amount of sex, set amongst the well-brought-up professional classes. It is also a love story.

Whilst the subject was very dark, it was handled in a moving way and I could not help but feel sorry for Lewis. You could see the story unfolding and the mistakes that were being made and yet you understood why this was happening.

I really enjoyed this book and believed in all of the characters, but this is not really a book for reading by the pool

Monday, 25 May 2009

Where are the children? - Mary Higgins Clark

Nancy Harmon has a new home, a loving husband and two beautiful children. The thing is, she's had all this before ...Seven years ago she escaped from a volatile marriage and the devastating deaths of her first two children. Now, she's trying to start afresh. The accusations. The newspaper stories. The blame. That's all behind her. Or so she thinks. For someone has not forgotten. Somebody who is determined to bring the terror and the pain hurtling back. One cold morning, Nancy leaves her children to play outside - but when she returns, they have disappeared. With growing terror, she realises it has begun again ...

Nancy was the prime suspect when her first 2 children died years ago, so when her other 2 children also go missing, Nancy is first to be accused. The story centres on trying to trace what has happened to the kids, and to prove her innocence in both cases. It was a thrilling read, I couldn't put it down. This was my 4th MHC book that I've read and it won't be my last

Any Body Out There

How do people choose books? Is it the cover, the blurb, recommendation or a literary review? I have in the past used one or more of those reasons but I chose Marian Keyes ‘Anybody Out There’ because when on holiday I saw so many women reading one of hers and what struck me was that they were thick ! The books I mean not the women!
This book isn’t my usual choice of books but I really did enjoy it once I got into the way it was written.
It starts with Anna in Ireland, far away from her wonderful life in New York, her perfect husband seems to have disappeared and she has been horribly scarred. As to why she is scarred or how she has ended up back in her home in Ireland is a mystery which is revealed slowly and intriguingly throughout the book. As Anna recuperates in Ireland we are introduced to the Walsh family,. Readers get to know Helen, the youngest of the Walsh Clan, she is a private detective and spends most of her time hiding in bushes trying to catch cheating spouses with her long range camera lens. Also Mother Walsh, whose concern for all her daughters is sometimes only fuelled by what other people may think of them. A typical Irish mother!
When Anna returns to New York, in search of her missing husband and against her mother's wishes, we meet a whole host of other characters, including Nicholas, a conspiracy theory nut, who believes everything from Alien Abductions to the fact that Elvis is alive and working in Taco Bell! All of these characters bring the book alive and help you to laugh through what is at times a heart breaking story.
`Anybody Out There?' is a good read, with elements of humour, tragedy and indeed mystery. It has a few short comings, when the great mystery is revealed to the reader it seems to lose pace and any story about young single women set in New York might be compared to Sex and the City. And when doing a straight comparison `Anybody Out there?' falls a little bit short. As a light summer read it is perfect, definitely a must if you need to read something while sitting beside the pool, sipping a glass of wine in Spain.
I would advise anyone who likes this sort of fiction to certainly read it. I would not say it has converted me to become a fan of `Chick Lit' fiction but it certainly has made me consider, after I have read few more juicy murder stories, to try another one of these types of stories.


Monday, 18 May 2009

Delicious - Nicky Pellegrino

Italy, 1964. Maria is the eldest daughter inthe Carrozza family from the tiny southern village of San Giulio. At sixteen, her life is limited to the confines of her mother's kitchen (where she bakes bread every morning, the way the Carrozza women always have), and the Caffe Angeli, a place of friendship and strong espresso.Her parents have high hopes for their beautiful firstborn, but she has other plans.

Many years later, a young woman is drawn to San Giulio. But she soon discovers that the peaceful Italian life she seeks is not as simple as it seems - particularly where the past is concerned.

Written with all the warmth of a Carrozza family recipe, Delicious is about three very different generations of women, and the old Italian kitchen which unites them.

"Full-bodies as a rich Italian red, it's a page-turner combining the missed chances of Captain Corelli's Mandolin withthe foodie pleasures of Chocolat" Eve

I saw this book in the charity shop in Tywyn and because it is in some ways simillar to Chocolat I thought I'd give it a go. It's fab - I just couldn't put it down, so much so that today I carried on ready after lunch into my prep time at school - naughty.

No nasty surprises just an adorable love story that unfolds over the years within the family and with outsiders. I'll keep a look out for any others by this author as I really didi enjoy it.

Holy Fools - Joanne Harris

It is set in France, at the beginning of the 17th century, a time of political and social upheaval following the murder of the king, Henri IV. It is the story of Juliette, a onetime acrobat and rope-dancer, now retired and living under an assumed identity as a nun (of all things), with her daughter, Fleur, in a tiny island convent off the Brittany coast.

Juliette - or Soeur Auguste, as she is now known - has had a troubled and eventful life. Raised by gypsies, persecuted by the Church, separated from her adopted family, driven to begging and prostitution to make ends meet, she manages to find a kind of stability as a performer in a dance troupe led by Guy LeMerle, known as The Blackbird; an actor, playwright and petty criminal with whom the young Juliette becomes infatuated.

After some years on the road and some popular success, the troupe is scattered, following a disastrous brush with the law. Juliette, now pregnant and thoroughly disillusioned with the itinerant life, finds refuge in the abbey of Sainte Marie-de-la-mer, under the protection of the kindly Abbess. However, the death of the Abbess, a few months after the murder of the king in Paris, plunges the convent into disarray. The old regime is at an end; a new Abbess has been appointed (for political reasons), a young woman of noble birth who intends to introduce reform on a grand scale. Juliette's dismay is compounded when the new Abbess reveals herself to be a child of only eleven years of age, raised in Paris and quite unable to appreciate the needs and feelings of a group of country nuns. Worse still, she has brought her confessor with her, and Juliette recognizes him at once.

Now masquerading as a priest, Guy LeMerle, Juliette's old associate, clearly intends mischief. Unable to unmask him without betraying herself and putting her daughter in jeopardy, Juliette is drawn unwillingly into his plans. But as LeMerle leads the nuns gradually into confusion, hysteria and finally, chaos, Juliette realizes that he has more than simple extortion in mind. And as the story builds up to a confrontation from which only one of them can escape with their life, Juliette is cruelly torn between her loyalty to her convent friends, her instinct as a mother and her enduring love for a man who has betrayed her once before, and who will not hesitate to do so again…

Having read Chocolate and Five Quarters of the Orange when i saw this one on the library shelf in our Community Centre i thought i was in for another great read. I have to say i was disappointed, and when i took a friend to the hospital on Friday and sat in the waiting room reading and 2 different nurses asked what i was reading and both commented on it being 'not a patch on her others' and 'not one i would read again' i have to say i totally agree with them.

Has anyone else read this? did you enjoy it?

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Mistress Peachum's Pleasure - Lisa Hilton

Mistress Peachum was Lavinia Fenton, an eighteenth-century actress who was the original Polly Peachum in John Gay's smash-hit play The Beggar's Opera and became the Duchess of Bolton.

Raised in a Charing Cross coffee house, Lavinia nearly fell victim to the ambition of her mother, who plotted the sale of her virginity to an elderly gentleman for £200, but Lavinia was determined to live her life on her own terms. She became an actress, and though she was a newcomer to the stage when she was chosen to star as Polly, her combination of a sweet voice, a pretty face and a knowledge of the seamier side of London life made the role her own.

Both Lavinia and the play were overnight sensations, but she enjoyed only a few months of fame before she caught the eye of the Duke of Bolton, a married, indolent and childless aristocrat. The Duke was determined to make her his mistress, and she agreed to elope with him, exchanging the rackety glamour of life as London's most celebrated actress for twenty years of retirement. Lavinia gave the Duke three sons, but when she was left a widow she chose her own way once more, and scandalously threw away their fortunes on her younger lover.

Lisa Hilton's ebullient portrait of Lavinia Fenton's aspirational life is also a scintillating depiction of the age. With a cast of politicians and pickpockets, highwaymen and whores, it illuminates the relationship between the theatre and the social and political climate of eighteenth-century London.

I was expecting to read mostly about the famed Lavinia but, as the author points out, there is actually very little that is known acknowledged fact about Lavinia herself so what little is known about her was bulked out with the history of the times she lived in. Thus, the book was a disappointment when it came to what I expected but it made up for it in the interesting accounts of the times she lived in and the characters who abounded in London at that time.

It was also interesting to make comparisons between then and now: how attitudes to acting have changed completely, so what was once considered on the same level as prostitution is now something that many aspire to; today's politicians expenses revelations are nothing new and actually it's just following on a long tradition of corruption and sleeze within Parliament; today's binge drinkers are nothing new when compared to the gin-swilling population back then etc etc etc It certainly brings home the cyclical nature of Life, and all it encompasses, and how successive generations seem drawn to repeat the same-old-same-old by following in the footsteps of the ancestors. Makes me wonder: will we ever learn and thus develop our full potential?

Normally I would add the book to my personal collection but Life seems to be giving me lessons to encourage me to "let go" at the moment, so it's been registered with Book Crossing and is up for re-homing instead........ just shout if you'd like it. :0)

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Where are you now- Mary Higgins Clark

How far would you go to keep a secret? It has been ten years since 21-year-old Mack went missing. A Columbia University senior, he walked out of his room and has not been seen since. Every year he calls his mother on her birthday, on his birthday, and on Mother's Day. He assures her he is fine, refuses to answer her frenzied questions, then hangs up. Even the death of his father on 9/11 does not bring him home. Mack's sister, Caroline, has now endured two family tragedies. Determined to solve the mystery surrounding her brother's disappearance, she sets out to discover the truth. But with it comes a secret that someone will do anything to protect, leading her to a deadly confrontation with an unexpected enemy...

I have been getting through a good few of Mary Higgins Clark books this month, and I really enjoyed this one, they're not books that last you for a while, 1 or 2 nights it will take you to get through it as it makes you want to read on. If anyone fancies a read of it let me know, i have a few others of M.H.C's too.

The Girls- Lori Lansens

I have never looked into my sister's eyes. I have never bathed alone. I have never stood in the grass at night and raised my arms to a beguiling moon. I've never used an aeroplane bathroom. Or worn a hat. Or been kissed like that...So many things I've never done, but oh, how I've been loved. And, if such things were to be, I'd live a thousand times as me, to be loved so exponentially' The girls, Rose and Ruby Darlen, were both joined at the head (craniopagus twins) in a rural farming community in 1974 Abandoned by their frightened teenage mother, they are adopted by the eccentric nurse who attended their birth, and her husband, a gentle immigrant butcher. The sisters attempt to lead a normal life, but can't help being extraordinary. Now almost thirty, Rose and Ruby are on the verge of becoming the oldest living craniopagus twins in history. Rose has a passion for writing, and The Girls is her version of life as a conjoined twin. Rose and Ruby are attached at the head, but their struggles and triumphs remind us that connection is central to us all

I borrowed this book from the library, it's written by Rose who is trying to write her biography before her life ends, Ruby adds her thoughts and memories to it. it was an interesting read, I enjoyed how the girls adapted there disability into everyday life. a few pages of the book was a little slow, but I did enjoy it

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Keep Me Close - Clare Francis

A terrific suspense novel from an author who can tantalize the reader with tension. This is a story of greed, manipulation, deception and blackmail.

Catherine, a talented garden-designer, is surrounded by men all of whom appear devoted to her but none of whom she can entirely trust. After a series of silent phone calls she is attacked in her home and left confined to a wheelchair.
But who was the brutal assailant? Could any of the three men - all so close and apparently committed to her welfare - have planned her near murder? A slow, enticing build-up leads to an increasingly gripping and dexterous climax.

I have always admired Clare Francis - I remember her being on the news when I was younger after completing her round the world sailing. Part of me is drawn to her because my name is also Clare Frances - with our Clares being spelt the same.

Her books are always intriguing and this is no exception - a few times I thought I had guessed the answer but then something happened to change my mind and I was still wrong at the end LOL

This will be one of my giveaway books - details are on my blog.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Wives and Lovers

Wives and Lovers: synopsis

Victoria Stratford's birthday party for her husband David is a resounding success. It shows off their beautiful Wimbledon house, their wonderful children, their perfect lives, and it conceals the tensions and ambitions that infest their marriage. Victoria graciously welcomes her guests, and the only person missing is David himself.

Victoria's sister, Clara, and her husband, Tom, are there. Unworldly and idealistic, Tom scorns David's quest for wealth. While Clara is content with her job as a university lecturer, she is yearning for something more and Tom cannot see the growing need for happiness that may take Clara away from him.

In the garden the youngest sister, Annie, talks to her husband Hugo. They are ideally suited and very content with each other. The only blight on their lives is Hugo's mother, Barbara, whose jealousy and possessiveness have turned into a poisonous hatred of Annie. Then one evening begins a train of events that will lead each sister down a different path - towards love, sex, grief, betrayal and happiness.

Each of them will learn what it is to be a sister, a wife and a lover.


Jane Varley

Monday, 4 May 2009

The Keys to the Garden - Susan Sallis

Widowed Martha Moreton was a devoted mother to her only child, Lucy, and when Lucy married Len on a golden July day, Martha tried hard to make the best of things. Len was a good man who would make Lucy happy. They wouldn't be living too far away. And when the arrival of grandchildren was something she anticipated eagerly.

Unexpectedly, Len's job took the newly married couple overseas, where their first child was born. But sorrow, not joy, came with Dominic's birth. On their return, Lucy's best friend, Jennifer, as flighty as Lucy was conventional, was anxious to provide her own kind of consolidation ...

Martha, who was experiencing unlooked-for and at first unwelcomed changes in her own life, clung too fast to the material-bond that meant so much to herself and Lucy. Everything she had come to depend on was overturned, however, before Martha was able to find her own kind of happiness in a very different existence.

I enjoyed reading this although it was quite involved and I did have to keep checking who was who. It wove quite a web between the characters, something I am not sure would actually happen so intently in real life but seemed realistic in the novel.

A light read which was perfect for a weekend away.

The Warriors Princess - Barbara Erskine

The fate of a young woman becomes entwined with the extraordinary history of a Celtic princess. Jess, a young teacher in London, is attacked by someone she fears knows her well. Fleeing to her sister's house in the Welsh borders to recuperate, she is disturbed by the cries of a mysterious child. Two thousand years before, the same valley is the site of a great battle between Caratacus, king of the mighty Catuvellauni tribe, and the invading Romans. The proud king is captured and taken as a prisoner to Rome with his wife and daughter, the princess Eigon. Jess is inexorably drawn to investigate Eigon's story, and as the Welsh cottage is no longer a peaceful sanctuary she determines to visit Rome. There lie the connections that will reveal Eigon's astonishing life - and which threaten to reawaken Jess's own tormentor. Barbara Erskine's ability to weave together the past and the present, shedding light on a real but little-known figure, makes this a tremendous novel of Roman and Celtic history, passion and intrigue.

Yet another brilliant BE book that grabs the interest. Although i think maybe i should have read Daughters of Fire first as i understand the characters from that book follow on in this one. A great read for those who are interested in the ways of the spirit world, tarot and crystal reading as that side of things plays a big part in this one.