Posts Tagged With: Reviews

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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The Queen’s Vow by C W Gortner

the-queens-vow-by-c-w-gortnerTitle: The Queen’s Vow
Author: C W Gortner
ISBN: 978-1444720808
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
First Published: 12 June 2012 (hardback) / 3 January 2013 (paperback)
No .of pages: 400

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
“No one believed I was destined for greatness.”
 
So begins Isabella’s story, in this evocative, vividly imagined novel about one of history’s most famous and controversial queens—the warrior who united a fractured country, the champion of the faith whose reign gave rise to the Inquisition, and the visionary who sent Columbus to discover a New World. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner envisages the turbulent early years of a woman whose mythic rise to power would go on to transform a monarchy, a nation, and the world.

Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.

Review:
Fans of historical fiction, get ready to jump up and down, shouting with glee, because Gortner has given us a fascinating account of one of history’s strongest women.

In a world where women are largely marginalised and married off to advantage, while the politics are all left to the menfolk, Isabella bucked the trend by choosing her own husband and deciding to rule her country in her own right.

Isabella of Castile is quite possibly one of the most controversial female figures in history, ordering the conversion or exile of Muslims and Jews in Spain, and causing widespread destruction throughout her Reconquista, but she and her husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon, are also credited with creating stability and the unification of Spain, and Gortner’s novel portrays a very real and sympathetic character who faces not only the difficulties of ruling fairly, but also of doing so as a woman in what was still very much a man’s world.

Gortner has woven an exquisite tale, fraught with peril, where a woman who dares to go up against men (and beats them at their own game), is beset on all sides by traitors and untrustworthy advisors who would take control of her country for themselves. There is real edge-of-the-seat stuff here, and even if you are already familiar with this period of history and the major players in it, readers will be biting their nails in excited anticipation.

If you’re looking for a dramatic tale of politics, expertly interwoven with one of romance, then this is the novel you have been waiting for. The writing flows so beautifully you could almost believe you’re seeing it first hand and will be almost completely immersed in a world of deception, deceit, danger, love, passion, power and politics.

See my interview with CW Gortner HERE.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Miss Felicity Beadle’s The World of Poo by Terry Pratchett

World of PooTitle: Miss Felicity Beadle’s The World of Poo
Author: Terry Pratchett
ISBN: 978-0857521217
Publisher: Doubleday
First Published: June 2012 (hardback/Kindle/audio)
No .of pages: 128

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
From Snuff: ‘Vimes’ prompt arrival got a nod of approval from Sybil, who gingerly handed him a new book to read to Young Sam. Vimes looked at the cover. The title was The World of Poo. When his wife was out of eyeshot he carefully leafed through it. Well, okay, you had to accept that the world had moved on and these days fairy stories were probably not going to be about twinkly little things with wings. As he turned page after page, it dawned on him that whoever had written this book, they certainly knew what would make kids like Young Sam laugh until they were nearly sick. The bit about sailing down the river almost made him smile. But interspersed with the scatology was actually quite interesting stuff about septic tanks and dunnakin divers and gongfermors and how dog muck helped make the very best leather, and other things that you never thought you would need to know, but once heard somehow lodged in your mind.’

Review:
The books that are released to accompany the main Discworld novels are always fun, and this is no exception. This is a delightful little tale of a young boy named Geoffrey who, while visiting his Grand-mama in Ankh-Morpork, develops an interest in all kinds of poo – so much so that he creates a poo museum in the shed – and meets some very interesting people who work with waste of all kinds.

As would  be expected, it’s filled with interesting little footnotes of fascinating facts about faeces, other bodily waste, its uses, and the people who remove it, as well as the industries that flourish because of it.

Adult fans of the Discworld series will chuckle knowingly as they enjoy it, but those who are parents may also find they decide to read it to their young children who must surely appreciate a good story about poo, and will love the little black and white line drawings – just don’t be surprised if you open it one day to find your little darlings have coloured in all the pictures!!

A must-have addition to any Discworld fan’s collection!

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Replica by Lexi Revellian

Title: Replica
Author: Lexi Revellian
ISBN: 978-0956642240
Publisher: Hoxton Press
First Published: June 2011
No .of pages: 290

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
Beth Chandler, bright, attractive but unassertive, is accidentally replicated in a flawed experiment at the government research institute where she works. A second Beth comes into being, complete with all her memories. To Sir Peter Ellis, MI5 chief, the replica is an embarrassment that must be hushed up and disposed of. Overhearing him, Beth Two goes on the run. With no official existence, homeless, penniless and pursued by Sir Peter’s agents, she has to find the inner strength and aggression to survive on icy London streets. Meanwhile the original Beth, unaware of what has happened, becomes romantically involved with Nick Cavanagh, the spec op she believes is there to protect her. In fact, he’s hunting her double. Nick refuses to face his moral doubts about Beth Two – as far as he’s concerned, it’s not his problem. As events unfold, and the situation grows more complicated, he has to decide whose side he is on.

Review:
Two years ago, I read and reviewed an earlier novel by Lexi Revellian called Remix. I loved it, so when I was offered the chance to review a second novel, Replica, I jumped at it.

I wasn’t disappointed!

Plunging straight into the action seems to be something of a Revellian trait, as Replica doesn’t hang around. By page 8, major events have already occurred and we’re having to deal with the aftermath of some pretty earth-shattering revelations very soon afterwards. Suspension of disbelief can be a major hang-up of mine if the subject matter isn’t handled well, but Lexi is a real pro – with everyone aware of science’s progress with cloning the notion of replication is an unnervingly real prospect, and the lack of overly scientific jargon to explain everything away (which might have hampered proceedings, making them seem contrived and unrealistic while bogging the reader down in “facts” they do not need) adds to that sense of realism – we just accept it as a matter of fact and run with it.

The writing is ludicrously easy to read – honestly, I have very rarely come across a writer whose words seem so effortless to read and it’s a real joy to get into the story and characters so quickly it feels like one has known them for years. Even with two Beths who start out essentially the same person, but through their very different experiences after the replication, rapidly become completely separate and instantly recognisable, it never becomes even remotely confusing – one is always acutely aware of who is who.

In the hands of a lesser writer, this could have been a real mess, but Revellian takes a nifty idea and writes it so neatly that when we reach the shocking conclusion, there are aspects which one honestly didn’t see coming, but afterwards one realises it couldn’t have happened any other way.

On the back of enjoying this novel (and the previous one) so much, I can hardly wait to read Ice Diaries!

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Changeling by Philippa Gregory

Title: Changeling (Order of Darkness #1)
Author: Philippa Gregory
ISBN: 978-0857077301
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Childrens Books
First Published: May 2012 (hardback/audio/Kindle) / January 2013 (paperback)
No .of pages: 272

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
The year is 1453, and all signs point to it being the end of the world. Accused of heresy and expelled from his monastery, handsome seventeen-year-old, Luca Vero, is recruited by a mysterious stranger to record the end of times across Europe. Commanded by sealed orders, Luca is sent to map the fears of Christendom, and travel to the very frontier of good and evil. Seventeen-year-old Isolde, a Lady Abbess, is trapped in a nunnery to prevent her claiming her rich inheritance. As the nuns in her care are driven mad by strange visions, walking in their sleep, and showing bleeding wounds, Luca is sent to investigate and all the evidence points to Isolde’s criminal guilt. Outside in the yard they are building a pyre to burn her for witchcraft. Forced to face the greatest fears of the medieval world – dark magic, werewolves, madness – Luca and Isolde embark on a search for truth, their own destinies, and even love as they take the unknown ways to the real historical figure who defends the boundaries of Christendom and holds the secrets of the Order of Darkness.

Review:
I’ve been a huge fan of Philippa Gregory since I read The Other Boleyn Girl ten years ago, and she rarely disappoints. I’ve only ever read her historical fiction (yes, she writes contemporary novels too!), but her research is impeccable and her style unmistakable.

This is the first time Gregory has woven a tale with the young adult market in mind, and it shows a little, but I get the feeling that subsequent books in this series will showcase her talents as she gets used to writing for a slightly younger audience. This first novel in the new series feels  a little more like two connected short stories than one full-length novel, but that didn’t detract from the enjoyment.

There’s more happening more quickly than in her regular historical novels, in which Gregory usually takes the time to introduce her characters and let them develop fully, while weaving them into an intricately intriguing web of intersecting stories. Here we are presented with our young hero and heroine and they pretty much get straight to work. I get the feeling that the characters will become fuller as the series progresses and I will look forward to reading their adventures.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Huntress by Malinda Lo

Title: Huntress
Author: Malinda Lo
ISBN: 978-1907411090
Publisher: Atom
First Published: April 2011
No .of pages: 384

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.

To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.

Review:
Last year I read Ash and was pretty much blown away by the daring retelling of Cinderella. When I came to the end, I could hardly wait to get my hands on the prequel, but it took till now to get round to reading it. The action takes place in the same world as Ash but is set centuries earlier.

To be honest, although I enjoyed Huntress, I was still a little disappointed, because it fell short of living up to the previous novel. I’m not sure if it’s because Ash had a familiar story and this didn’t, but I just didn’t feel I engaged with the characters or plot quite as well this time round. It felt a bit drawn out and meandering, and didn’t seem to have any real purpose unless to set the scene for another novel. Nothing felt resolved.

That’s not to say Huntress is not an entertaining read – on the contrary, the concept is interesting and the characters neatly packaged – it’s just not as good as the novel that came before. to be fair, though, those were big shoes to fill.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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