Posts Tagged With: Reviews

Revenge and Retribution (The Graham Saga #6) by Anna Belfrage

02_Revenge-RetributionTitle: Revenge and Retribution (Graham Saga #6)
Author: Anna Belfrage
ISBN: 978-1781321751
Publisher: Silverwood Books
First Published: 29th June 2014 (Kindle) / 1st Jul 2014 (paperback)

Rating: Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven

Synopsis (from Amazon):
‘Revenge & Retribution’ is the sixth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

Life in the Colony of Maryland is no sinecure – as Alex and Matthew Graham well know. But nothing in their previous life has prepared them for the mayhem that is about to be unleashed upon them.

Being labelled a witch is not a good thing in 1684, so it is no wonder Alex Graham is aghast at having such insinuations thrown at her. Even worse, it’s Matthew’s brother-in-law, Simon Melville, who points finger at her.

Not that the ensuing hearing is her main concern, because nowadays Alex’s entire life is tainted by the fear of what Philip Burley will do to them once he gets hold of them. On a sunny May afternoon, Philip finally achieves his aim and over the course of the coming days Alex sees her whole life unravelling, leaving her family permanently maimed.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Alex also has to cope with the loss of one of her sons. Forcibly adopted by the former Susquehannock, Samuel is dragged from Alex’s arms to begin a new life in the wilderness.

How is Alex to survive all this? And will she be able to put her damaged family back together?

Review:
Just when you think Anna Belfrage’s Graham Saga can’t get any better, she releases a sixth title in the series and knocks your socks off all over again!

I came to the series at the fourth book, and was instantly hooked. Ever since then, I’ve been champing at the bit to get at the next book, and the next book, and the next book. This sixth installment definitely satisfied my seemingly insatiable appetite for continuance of this family’s story. The characters we already know and love, as well as those we love to hate, are all here, but as ever, nobody is safe – as with any good author, we live in constant dread of losing one of our favourites, so that my fingernails were continually bitten down to the quick as I turned the pages.

There’s always the risk, with an ongoing series, that things will go a little stale, that readers will become bored with the constant drama thrown at the characters, but that is not the case here – I honestly feel that Belfrage is incapable of disappointing with this series as it just seems to keep on giving in terms of plot, character and writing. The witchcraft accusation, coming at a time when to be found guilty of being a witch was to be put to death, is a natural progression and adds some incredibly tense moments, which, when coupled with everything else that is going on at Graham’s Garden, make for a life that is still fraught with danger from all angles, even in a land of opportunity.

This is an unmissable chapter in the saga which will please the fans no end. It’s rare that I give top marks to a book, but in this case, I couldn’t give it anything less.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

kingfisher clubTitle: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
Author: Genevieve Valentine
ASIN: B00GEEYWEG
ISBN: 978-1476739083
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
First Published: 3 June 2014 (Kindle) / 24 June 2014 (audio) / 3 July 2014 (hardback)
No .of pages: 289

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Jo, the firstborn, “The General” to her eleven sisters, is the only thing the Hamilton girls have in place of a mother. She is the one who taught them how to dance, the one who gives the signal each night, as they slip out of the confines of their father’s townhouse to await the cabs that will take them to the speakeasy. Together they elude their distant and controlling father, until the day he decides to marry them all off.

The girls, meanwhile, continue to dance, from Salon Renaud to the Swan and, finally, the Kingfisher, the club they come to call home. They dance until one night when they are caught in a raid, separated, and Jo is thrust face-to-face with someone from her past: a bootlegger named Tom whom she hasn’t seen in almost ten years. Suddenly Jo must weigh in the balance not only the demands of her father and eleven sisters, but those she must make of herself.

Review:
This slick reimagining of the fairytale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses plunges the enigmatic sisters into the heady world of flappers, jazz music, and prohibition era New York City, and it couldn’t have worked better.

The captive heroines are each given their own distinct character, and their story is interwoven with illegal booze, shady dames, even shadier men, and the smoky, mysterious atmosphere of underground clubs. The desperation of the girls drips from every page, and their plight of being held virtual prisoners by a domineering father they never see, makes their precarious little freedoms all the more frenetic.

It retains the fairytale qualities of beautiful damsels in distress (even if the damsels in question are more than capable of taking care of themselves), and help from the most unlikely of quarters. It’s an interesting update on a classic tale, and it doesn’t drag on too long before hitting you with a payoff worthy of The Brothers Grimm – I think they would have approved with how Valentine has handled their original story.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James

cover44728-mediumTitle: Jane Austen’s First Love
Author: Syrie James
ISBN: 978-0425271353
ASIN: B00G3L7VES
Publisher: Berkley
First Published: 5 August 2014 (Paperback/Kindle)
No .of pages: 400

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Inspired by actual events. Fifteen-year-old Jane Austen dreams of three things: doing something useful, writing something worthy, and falling madly in love. When she visits her brother in Kent to celebrate his engagement, she meets wealthy, devilishly handsome Edward Taylor—a fascinating young man who is truly worthy of her affections. Jane knows a match between her and Edward is unlikely, but every moment she spends with him makes her heart race—and he seems to return her interest. Much to her displeasure, however, there is another seeking his attention

Unsure of her budding relationship, Jane seeks distraction by attempting to correct the pairings of three other prospective couples. But when her matchmaking aspirations do not all turn out as anticipated, Jane discovers the danger of relying on first impressions. The human heart cannot be easily deciphered, nor can it be directed or managed. And if others must be left to their own devices in matters of love and matrimony, can Jane even hope to satisfy her own heart?

Review:
As a big, fat Austenite, I love reading novels written by the well-loved English novelist, but in recent years, I have also begun enjoying all the spin-offs, mash-ups, sequels, and semi-autobiographical material that has been released. This novel is inspired by actual events in Jane Austen’s teen years, and offers up plausible sources of inspiration for her wonderful writing which continues to delight readers to this day.

It’s an interesting look at a headstrong young woman, finding love for the first time, as well as the push to concentrate more on her writing, offering it up to a wider audience than just her immediate family to enjoy. I found this representation of her to be entirely believable and this little glimpse into her formative years is both fun and fascinating. At a time when women were entirely dependent on the men in their family for any kind of social standing, or a living of any kind, Austen struck out and earned a living with her wit and her winning way with words.

Many of the characters from Jane Austen’s established novels, as well as the plots for some of them, can be seen as having their seeds sown in this summer of social engagements surrounding the engagement of her elder brother. It’s a nice, knowing little nod for those of us who are familiar with these works, but is unobtrusive and as subtle as her own subplots.

This is a must-have addition to any Austenite’s collection, and will provide several sublime hours of entertainment in the reading, which will linger long after the last page has been turned.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Serpents in the Garden by Anna Belfrage (The Graham Saga #5)

Serpents-in-the-GardenTitle: Serpents in the Garden (The Graham Saga #5)
Author: Anna Belfrage
ISBN: 978-1781321737
Publisher: SilverWood
First Published: 27 February 2014 (Kindle) / 1 March 2014 (Paperback)
No .of pages: 396

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
‘Serpents in the Garden’ is the fifth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham. After years of hard work, Matthew and Alex Graham have created a thriving home in the Colony of Maryland. About time, in Alex’s opinion, after far too many adventures she is really looking forward to some well-deserved peace and quiet. A futile hope, as it turns out. Things start to heat up when Jacob, the third Graham son, absconds from his apprenticeship to see the world – especially as Jacob leaves behind a girl whom he has wed in a most irregular fashion. Then there’s the infected matter of the fellow time traveller Alex feels obliged to help – no matter the risk. Worst of all, one day Philip Burley and his brothers resurface after years of absence. As determined as ever to make Matthew pay for every perceived wrong – starting with the death of their youngest brother – the Burleys play out a complicated cat and mouse game, and Alex is thrown back into an existence where her heart is constantly in her mouth, convinced as she is that one day the Burleys will achieve their purpose. Will the Burleys succeed? And if they do, will the Graham family survive the exacted price?

Review:
I only came to this series of books at the fourth novel (see my review HERE) but found it surprisingly easy to pick them up from this point and not be lost to what went before (indeed, it has made me resolve to go back and read the others on account of the story and writing being so good!).

This is the fifth book in The Graham Saga and it is every bit as good as the previous installment – I suspect the whole series is of the same level, as Belfrage’s writing has thus far been of a consistently high calibre that should be the envy of many other authors: She achieves, seemingly with ease, what all writers strive to reach, but is often out of their grasp.

Our favourite characters return; Alex and Matthew Graham continue to carve a life for themselves and their ever increasing family in The New World, but their past is catching up with them and old feuds are resurrected by the return of the Burleys (ooh, how much would I like to get my hands on those guys and wring their necks myself?!); their third son runs off to sea, but not before creating complications with the girl he loves; and other family trials are threatening to tear the family apart. Is there anything life won’t throw at these good people? It makes for gripping reading and I found myself often on the edge of my seat, never wanting to put down the book, even when other things in life demanded my immediate attention – that’s exactly what a good book should do to readers!

I find myself wondering if Belfrage can put a foot wrong with this series? It would seem not, and I, for one, am incredibly glad we have another three books of the saga still to be published – I can hardly wait to get my hands on them! Till then, I shall content myself by going back to the beginning and reading the series from the very start…

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

See my interview with Anna Belfrage HERE.

See Anna Belfrage’s guest post HERE.

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A Newfound Land by Anna Belfrage

a-newfound-landTitle: A Newfound Land (The Graham Saga #4)
Author: Anna Belfrage
ISBN: 978-1781321355
Publisher: SilverWood
First Published: 30 October 2013 (Kindle) / 1 November 2013 (Paperback)
No .of pages: 398

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
It’s 1672, and Matthew Graham and his family have left Scotland. Having taken the drastic decision to leave their homeland due to religious conflicts, Alexandra and Matthew hope for a simpler, if harsher, life in the wilds of the Colony of Maryland. Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out as you want them to, and the past has a nasty tendency to resurface at the most inappropriate moments. Both Matthew and Alex are forced to cope with the unexpected reappearance of people they had never thought to meet again, and the screw is turned that much tighter when the four rogue Burley brothers enter their lives. Matters are further complicated by the strained relations between colonists and the Susquehannock Indians. When Matthew intercedes to stop the Burleys from abducting Indian women into slavery he makes lifelong – and deadly – enemies of them all. Once again Alex is plunged into an existence where death seems to threaten her man wherever he goes. Will Matthew see himself – and his family – safe in these new circumstances? And will the past finally be laid to rest? ‘A Newfound Land’ is the fourth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

Review:
Although this is the fourth novel in The Graham Saga, I was surprised at how well it copes as a stand-alone story. Of course, there is a progressive story arc that obviously stretches over the whole series, but it’s incredibly easy to slip into the action, even at this stage in the story, and pick up where the previous novel left off without being intimately acquainted with the events that have already occurred. The aforementioned events are alluded to in such a way that there is a seamless enjoyment to be had here.

The female lead, Alexandra Lind, is a feisty, modern woman, very much of her time, so there are always going to be problems for her blending in entirely with the 17th century, when women didn’t really have a voice or any rights. By this point in the saga, she has carved her niche in her new world, but there are still elements that rankle her, usually to do with equality issues. This makes for a wonderful friction between Alex and her husband of now some fourteen years, as he is very firmly of his own time, some 400 years behind hers. This often serves to highlight elements of an earlier time that still have relevance today, and means the reader has cause to think about their own feelings on the subject, asking themselves how they would cope under similar circumstances.

There are definitely parallels to be made to another popular time-travel romance series (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon), and this will definitely appeal to fans of that series, but it doesn’t feel like a carbon copy or something that is trying to be like another book. Instead it freely pays homage to it while very definitely being its own thing.

The writing is both tight and evocative, plunging the reader into the past and forcing one to consider the harsh realities of frontier living, whilst also feeling very grateful for the modern conveniences now absent from the heroine’s life. The characters jump off the page, almost living and breathing in front of one’s eyes, ensuring total immersion on Belfrage’s time travel drama, leaving one breathless when one reaches the conclusion.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite at the request of the publisher

See my interview with Anna Belfrage
at Kincavel Korner

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The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

WILD GIRLTitle: The Wild Girl
Author: Kate Forsyth
ISBN: 978-0749013288
Publisher: Allison & Busby
First Published: 29 July 2012 (hardback / Kindle) / 24 February 2014 (paperback)
No .of pages: 496

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
Once there were six sisters. The pretty one, the musical one, the clever one, the helpful one, the young one…And then there was the wild one. Dortchen Wild has loved Wilhelm Grimm since she was a young girl. Under the forbidding shadow of her father, the pair meet secretly to piece together a magical fairy tale collection. The story behind the stories of the Brothers Grimm.

Review:
Once in a while you come across an author who manages to capture the whimsy of fairytales and blend it seamlessly with the harsh realities of life. Such an author is Kate Forsyth: What she started in Bitter Greens with the story of Rapunzel made real, she has continued to compelling effect with The Wild Girl, which, although not a sequel, bears similarities in that it involves both the fiction of folk and fairy tales, and the fact of real historical figures.

The horror of the Napoleonic wars are brought starkly to the fore, as the fortunes of two families, from different socio-economic backgrounds, suffer – sometimes together, sometimes apart – through the crises brought by invading forces as well as dealing with the day-to-day struggle to survive in a country that is irrevocably changed by battle and politics. There are also the prejudices of a father who jealously guards his daughters from marrying beneath themselves pitted against the love of one of his daughters for one such suiter – a relationship with develops and continues against all odds not just for years, but for decades.

And then there are the parallels drawn between the heroes and heroines of the stories told by Dortchen Wild to Wilhelm Grimm, stories which inspired him to continue writing whilst also revealing secrets from her own life; secrets so dire she dare not speak of them directly.

It’s a heartbreakingly beautiful story that draws in the reader, inviting one to share in their pain and sorrow, their joy and triumph, all the while hoping that they will eventually, in the end, get their happily ever after…

Check Kincavel Korner soon for
an exclusive interview with Kate Forsyth,
author of The Wild Girl

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The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

Title:  The Last Letter From Your LoverImage
Author:  Jojo Moyes
ISBN: 978-0340961643
Publisher:  Hodder

First Published:  February 2011 (Paperback)
No .of pages:  512

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
When journalist Ellie looks through her newspaper’s archives for a story, she doesn’t think she’ll find anything of interest. Instead she discovers a letter from 1960, written by a man asking his lover to leave her husband – and Ellie is caught up in the intrigue of a past love affair. Despite, or perhaps because of her own romantic entanglements with a married man.
In 1960, Jennifer wakes up in hospital after a car accident. She can’t remember anything – her husband, her friends, who she used to be. And then, when she returns home, she uncovers a hidden letter, and begins to remember the lover she was willing to risk everything for.
Ellie and Jennifer’s stories of passion, adultery and loss are wound together in this richly emotive novel – interspersed with real ‘last letters’.

Review:
Last year I read what I thought was the debut novel of Jojo Moyes, Me Before You, and I was surprised to find out that not only was this not her first book, but she had written several other books too!  Don’t ask me how I had managed to come this far without noticing her books, however, I am very pleased that she is now on my radar and she is currently 2 out of 2 in the enjoyment stakes.

The Last Letter From Your Lover is set between current time and 1960 and is focussed on a love letter found in the archives of a local newspaper.  We travel back in time and see how and why the letter came about.  Then we jump forward to current day and see what effects this old correspondence is having on Ellie, who stumbled upon it. 

Whilst this is a love story, it’s not your typical love story.  Each chapter has its own real life ‘last letter’, many of which are strange and wonderful, break up and make up letters.  It’s not all sunshine and roses but it’s certainly a love story which kept me gripped right up to the last page.

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The Life by Martina Cole

Title:  The LifeImage
Author:  Martina Cole
ISBN: 978-0755375578
Publisher:  Headline

First Published:  September 2012 (Hardback)
No .of pages:  512

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
The most authentic novel of gangster family life ever written, from the No. 1 bestselling author.
The Bailey brothers are gangsters determined to make their mark in the world. Peter and Daniel are chalk and cheese in many ways – Peter’s calm exterior belies his ruthless nature, while Daniel’s penchant for spectacular violence is legendary – but together they are unstoppable. From the late seventies they rule London’s East End and, when their sons join the business, it seems that no one can touch the powerful Baileys. Although it’s never easy at the top; there is always someone waiting to take you down – sometimes even those closest to you… Lena Bailey is determined to shield her youngest child Tania from the Life. But when a terrible tragedy occurs, Tania’s eyes are opened to their world in a way that forces her to make an irrevocable choice that will determine her future.
Martina Cole’s gritty and gripping new novel is an unflinching portrait of a family torn apart by violence and betrayal, but ultimately bound by loyalty, by blood, and by a burning desire for revenge… It is a story of the Life, told as only Martina Cole can.

Review:
Martina Cole never fails to disappoint me with her books.  I love her tales of the criminal underbelly and the way she brings generation after generation of families to life.  You really get invested in them.  These books are not to everyone’s taste as they can be quite graphic and violent but I find that this is balanced out completely in the way Cole creates her characters and sets the scene.

The Life has a very dominant and sinister undertone running through it due to the character of Daniel.  His unpredictable bouts of violence are a constant threat through the story and you never know quite when he is going to lose his cool or what the consequences would be for his family.  On the flip side is Peter, the calm and calculating side of the family.  He spends a lot of his time running around fixing the trouble his brother has caused whilst trying to keep their family businesses running.

We follow both Daniel and Peter through their life, along with their wives, their children and the ever increasing family that they belong too.  We grow with them; We love with them; We hate with them.  But as things come to a head, with tragic consequences, we learn that blood will always be thicker than water.

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Blink of an Eye by Cath Staincliffe

512MAHEYaZLTitle: Blink of an Eye
Author: Cath Staincliffe
ISBN: 978-1780335681
Publisher:  C & R Crime

First Published:  July 2013(paperback)
No .of pages:  272

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
In a heartbeat, life changes.  A sunny, Sunday afternoon, a family barbecue, and Naomi Baxter and her boyfriend Alex celebrate good news.  Driving home, Naomi’s recklessness causes a fatal accident, leaving nine-year-old Lily Vasey dead, Naomi fighting for her life, Alex bruised and bloody and the lives of three families torn apart.  Traumatised, Naomi has no clear memory of the crash and her mother Carmel is forced to break the shocking truth of the child’s death to her.  Naomi may well be prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving.  If convicted she will face a jail term of up to 14 years, especially if her sister’s claim that Naomi was drink-driving is proven.  In the months before the trial, Carmel strives to help a haunted and remorseful Naomi cope with the consequences of her actions.  Blink of an Eye is a novel about the nightmare that could be just around the next bend for any one of us.

 

Review:
This is my second Cath Staincliffe book.  After reading “Split Second” last year, I immediately went on the hunt for more of her books.  She writes about difficult scenarios that make you question your own opinions and own reactions if you were in a similar position.

“Blink of an Eye” is about a fatal car crash and the consequences it has on those involved and their families.  The story is told from the point of view of Naomi, who was in the crash and her mother Carmel, and it begins before the accident, at a family gathering.  Once the scene has been set, the readers already know what events are around the corner, although it isn’t built up as a big dramatic event.  I expected more to be made of the accident itself, however, once I had read the book to the end, it made sense to me that the accident was not the focal point of the story, it was more the catalyst for the events that followed.

And this is where the book gets really interesting.  I devoured the rest of it in two sittings, and only because I was forced to put it down the first time.  Naomi can remember nothing of the accident and is devastated at the news that she had caused the death of a child.  Her mother is torn between her sympathy for the little girl’s family and her concern for her seriously ill daughter.  As we shift between the two points of view, we begin to understand the devastating effect that the events of that day have had on everyone involved and as we move towards a trial, it all starts to unravel.

My only criticism of this book is a couple of plot points that, to me, would not have happened in real life; however, I understand why they had to happen in this book to continue the flow.  They don’t detract from the book at all and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I just feel it was a slightly less realistic situation than her previous book.

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A Cottage by the Sea by Carole Matthews

a cottage by the sea by carole matthewsTitle: A Cottage by the Sea
Author: Carole Matthews
ISBN: 978-1847444615
Publisher: Sphere
First Published: 3 January 2013 (hardback / Kindle) / 28 March 2013 (paperback) / J1 March 2013 (audio)
No .of pages: 448

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):Grace has been best friends with Ella and Flick forever. The late-night chats, shared heartaches and good times have created a bond that has stood the test of time.

When Ella invites them to stay for a week in her cottage in South Wales, Grace jumps at the chance to see her old friends. She also hopes that the change of scenery will help her reconnect with her distant husband.

Then Flick arrives; loveable, bubbly, incorrigible Flick, accompanied by the handsome and charming Noah.

This is going to be one week which will change all their lives forever…

Join Grace, Ella and Flick for a week of love, laughter, tears and friendship in A Cottage by the Sea

Review:
I do not usually read chick-lit or romance, but a few years back I came across The Chocolate Lovers’ Club and its sequel, The Chocolate Lovers’ Diet, and thoroughly enjoyed them. So when Carole Matthews’ publishing team asked for volunteers to read and review her latest novel, A Cottage by the Sea, I jumped at the chance.

If I ever read another chick-lit novel, it will be one by Carole Matthews!

I love her fresh, easy style of writing – it seems to flow so effortlessly from one page to the next, so that it barely feels like one is reading at all, more one is absorbing the story by osmosis or some similar biological process. The story seeps into the reader with ease and in a manner that feels wholly organic and natural.

As with most chick-lit, it’s entirely predictable – there wasn’t a single move I didn’t see coming a mile off, but I found I didn’t care – I wanted things to happen the way they did – it felt right and I enjoyed the ride so much that I didn’t really want it to end. It really made me hanker after a holiday in a little cottage in Pembrokeshire, despite the fact that I know my own hubby would hate being away from technology as much as some of the characters here did – I know I’m more of a Grace or Ella when it comes to being somewhere peaceful and undisturbed. And I really did like the characters – I felt like I’d known Grace, Ella and Flick for years, and like an old friend, sometimes I wanted to slap Flick and tell her to grow up. Similarly I wanted to shake Harry and Art, and I completely fell for the lovely Noah – but then, who wouldn’t?

Reading a light novel like this feels like a holiday for my brain and it was exactly what I needed while I recovered from flu. Highly enjoyable, fun, just a joy to read – Carole Matthews gets my vote any day of the week for holiday reading!

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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