What a wonderful and charming book this is. Written in 1932, Greenbanks tells the story of the Ashton family spanning from around 1910 to 1925. It is...moreWhat a wonderful and charming book this is. Written in 1932, Greenbanks tells the story of the Ashton family spanning from around 1910 to 1925. It is centered around the house, Greenbanks, in the Lancashire village of Elton, and revolves mainly around Louisa Ashton, Mother and Grandmother. Louisa has five (very different) children who have all started to make their own way in the world too and so Louisa dotes on her 4 year old Granddaughter, Rachel. Greenbanks may be a lovely, beautifully written book about a family in a grand old house but there is plenty of room for sibling rivalry, illegitimate births, divorce, tyranical fathers and heartache. In fact all these are done so well that I was in awe of how well Whipple understood human emotion such as depression, jealousy, shame and love.
The book is set at during the early part of the last century when ideas and ideals are shifting and in particular Whipple explores the changing roles of women at this time. Louisa is the gentle, kind head of Greenbanks (after her philandering husband dies) but her daughters are exploring new territories that are still thought of as a huge embarassment to the gossiping folks of Elton. Daughters Letty and Laura both carving out new paths for themselves and lodger Kate Barlow still lives the shame and stigma of having an illegitimate child all those years ago. Granddaughter Rachel, much to her Father Ambrose’s profound disappointment, is intelligent and is desperate to continue her studies at University when she grows up, but Ambrose wants a dutiful daughter who will greet him at the door and “take his hat”.
The character of Ambrose Harding is actually one of my favourite characters despite his prigishness and I found him (unintentionally on his part) very amusing: he is so old-fashioned and is constantly baffled as to why people don’t behave the way he expects and wants them to.
“And he did not believe in all this education for women; in fact, he considered knowledge definitely unbecoming to them. It destroyed their charm; they did not listen so well if they knew too much.”
“That’s what this modern education did for them. These modern girls, smoking, riding motor-bicycles, flying airplanes, breaking speed records; they would do anything for notice. What else could it be for? Men did these things for the love of them, to try them out, or to advance knowledge, experience, but women did them for notice, just to get into the papers, to be made a fuss of.”
The quotes made me laugh, especially when I think of how times have changed now. But even with Ambroses sexist rants I could still sympathise with him to a degree as he was born in an age where men were head of the house and no one (especially a wife or daughter) would ever question him. His three other children (all boys) were a huge disappointment to him also as they didn’t follow the direction he wanted them to follow and went their own way; Ambrose felt unloved and and couldn’t understand why. Such a brilliantly drawn character.
A final quote that made me laugh (because it could have been me saying it) Iwas when Letty who in frustration cries:
“”Is there something wrong with me?” she asked in alarm. “This is no more than other women have to put up with. Why don’t I like housekeeping?”"
Verdict: I highly recommend this gorgeous book. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea (or in the bath, or in the postoffice queue….pretty much anywhere really). Loved it!
These books aren't on sales in the UK shops (not that I have seen anyway). The first time I came across a Donna van Liere book was on a visit to the U...moreThese books aren't on sales in the UK shops (not that I have seen anyway). The first time I came across a Donna van Liere book was on a visit to the USA a few years ago in December; we were at a little village in New Jersey with my American family and browsing in a Christmas shop when I saw a pile of these little books on a table and I just had to have them - they looked so welcoming and delicious. I read the first three while in NYC over the next 2 days and I have read them several times since. I ordered this latest book online and read it this weekend and it still had the exact same magic of all the others.
Gretchen has moved to Grandon (the setting of all her books) with her two small children to be closer to her Mum. While unpacking she meets the very odd and reclusive Melissa, her new next-door-neighbour, who is determined to be unwelcoming and succeeds. Melissa had a horrible childhood with a drunk, uncaring mother and when she finds out that her mother has died, Melissa doesn't feel anything except relief and rebuffs Gretchens offer of help to clean out her mothers appartment. Once she gives in though, she finds a half fisnished note from her mother to herself that opens up a whole new world to her...
These books wouldn't be for everyone, I accept that. They are very sweet and some may find them too sweet. I just adore them though; they are full of hope and kindness and salvation and magic and they have the most gorgeous covers ever. I have loved every one of Donna van Liere's Christmas books and reading this latest one has made me want to go back to my shelf and read the others all over again.
Verdict: If you are feeling bah humbug at Christmas, these books cannot fail to cheer you up. Just lovely. (less)
What a wonderful book to read in the run up to Christmas. I have just been swept away on a tide of vintage clothes, soaps and old-school glamour.
Mirac...moreWhat a wonderful book to read in the run up to Christmas. I have just been swept away on a tide of vintage clothes, soaps and old-school glamour.
Miracle on Regent Street is about Evie Taylor, the stockroom girl at Hardy’s – a 100 year old department store in London – and despite feeling that her talents should lie on the shop floor, she is completely invisible to anyone else who works there (OK, she’s not exactly invisble as oposed to blending into the background so much that the entire staff still call her Sarah which is the name of her predecessor of two years before). One day, right at the beginning of December, Evie overhears a conversation between the owner of Hardy’s and her manager, and it horrified to realise that if Hardy’s fortunes don’t turn around before Boxing Day they will all be out of jobs. What follows is Evie’s secret attempt to turn the shop around before Christmas, with a little help from some rather unexpected corners – Sam the delivery boy, Lily from the tea-shop who still dresses as though she’s going to a tea dance from the good old days, Felix the security guard and a couple of eastern european cleaners. I loved the whole cast of characters in this book, and despite wanting to shout at Evie for not standing up for herself (I’m not one for keeping my mouth shut if something bugs me at work ), I still found her engaging and routed for her and her friends throughout.
One of the things I loved about this book was the wonderful nostalgic trip through a long-ago age where shop assistants spent time with customers, women were made to feel like women and a trip to the department store was a special treat. The transformation of the store through Evie and her secret elves made me long to be part of that world and I could see this wonderful place so clearly in my mind that I wanted to wander round the stalls and browse through the gold compacts, crystal perfume bottles and vintage peep-toe shoes (and this from someone who is not remotely a girly girl!); I wanted to glide down the huge wooden staircase and pick up the handbags, trilbys and corsets and then pop into the tearoom for tea and cake, red lipstick and stockings firmly in place.
I do love a chicklit book now and then, but I have to say that this is one of the most sophisticated that I have read; it didn’t have the cheesiness or sickliness of some and instead it had old fashioned glamour, romance, wit and warmth and it was a delight to read.
Verdict: If you are looking for a christmassy feel-good read then please, please look no further than this book. It is a real treat.
My Queen of Comfort Reads has done it again - I can always rely on Mrs Higgins Clark to whisk me away to somewhere on the US east coast (NYC in this c...moreMy Queen of Comfort Reads has done it again - I can always rely on Mrs Higgins Clark to whisk me away to somewhere on the US east coast (NYC in this case) and allow me to escape for a few hours with plots to solve and baddies to catch.
Alexandra (Zan) Moreland is in turmoil on what would have been the 5th birthday of her son Matthew who was kidnapped two years ago in broad daylight while out with his babysitter in Central Park. Despite no trace of Matthew ever being found, Zan has still not been able to give up hope that he is still alive somewhere. But just when she thinks things can't get any worse, a photo appears in the paper that appears to show her scatching her own child from his pushchair in the park. Not only that but purchases are being made from Zan's personal and business account for things she knows she didn't order.....or did she? As Zan starts to doubt her own sanity, someone is clearly at work attempting to destroy her. But why?
Although I thoroughly enjoyed this book (as always) I didn't find it one of her best. I think more could have been made of putting Zan in some danger as it was really all done remotely and even though Zan sometimes doubts her own sanity, we the reader are left in no doubt that it is not her who is doing this but someone else. I also had an inkling early on as to who the perp might be and I was right but to be honest I couldn't quite fathom out why they would go to such extreme lengths to destroy Zan (by taking her child): the reason didn't seem quite right to me.
Verdict: Another pacey thriller and fans of Higgins Clark will love this. If you haven't read any of her other books yet then I demand that you do! Recommended.
Imagine you log on to a house-for-sale website in the middle of the night and while perusing the virtual tour of a lounge, there infront of her appear...moreImagine you log on to a house-for-sale website in the middle of the night and while perusing the virtual tour of a lounge, there infront of her appears a woman lying face down in a huge pool of her own blood. What would you do? Especially if by the time you have woken your sleeping husband and dragged him to the computer screen the image has disappeared and your husband doesn’t believe you. Are you going mad or is there something more sinister at work?
I was hooked on this book within 5 minutes of picking it up. In fact I have to credit this book as being the one that officially got me out of my reading drought that has plagued me since Christmas. Lasting Damage is the 6th in a series of books set in the Culver Valley and with the same department of Police, including Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer, although they can be read as stand-alones too (I certainly haven’t read them in order; in fact I still haven’t read all of them which is great for me as I have them to look forward to!)
The great thing about Lasting Damange, as in the others in the series, is the page-turningness (is that even a word?) of them. Once you start, you can’t stop. Every chapter ends at a place where you just can’t put it down. From the opening pages, when Connie Bowskill makes her fateful discovery, through to the final chapter, the reader is taken on a nail-biting ride, where at every corner there is something new thrown into the mix to make you doubt your own theories and re-assess everything you think you know so far.
If you haven’t read any of Sophie’s books yet, what are you waiting for? If you have then you’ll know you’re in for a treat with this latest offering and you won’t be disappointed.
I have posted my interview with Sophie Hannah on my blog now too. How does she come up with her plots? Who are her favourtie authors? And some exciting news about a TV series too…
I absolutely adored this book. What a fun, heart-warming tale to warm the cockles at Christmas. I thought the cover was gorgeous too – snow and twinkl...moreI absolutely adored this book. What a fun, heart-warming tale to warm the cockles at Christmas. I thought the cover was gorgeous too – snow and twinkly lights and a cosy deli called The Honey Pot – I just wanted to step straight into the cover of the book.
All I Want for Christmas is about three women in their 30′s: Bea who owns The Honey Pot which is renowned for it’s scrumptious Italian food (she bought it with her Italian husband Mario, who is no longer on the scene) and she lives there with her toddler son, Luca, and is trying to rebuild her life. Olivia is a journalist and newly engaged to Kieran and appears to be getting cold feet about marriage, and Chloe is a high-flying lawyer who is having an affair with a married man and is very lonely on account of her rather sharp tongue. The three women fall into each others company accidentally and find theirselves involved in each others lives without realising it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book; so much that I wanted to go on reading it when it was over. It was the perfect book for this time of year and has certainly helped get my December off to a festive start (less)
Elly Griffiths books are like my guilty pleasure without the guilt; I devour them and am always left wanting more.
The House at Sea’s End is the third...moreElly Griffiths books are like my guilty pleasure without the guilt; I devour them and am always left wanting more.
The House at Sea’s End is the third book in the Ruth Galloway series. Ruth is a Forensic Archaeologist who lives on the Norfolk coast and examines bones for a living, sometimes having to help the police in their serious crimes unit to establish what may have happened to bones that can’t be immediately identified by the police. Ruth Galloway is one of my favourite crime heroines: she lives in a tiny cottage on a remote part of Norfolk by the salt marshes, she is slightly overweight, she has a cat, she reads lots of books and enjoys her own company – I heart Ruth! In this book, however, she has something other than serious crimes to concentrate on and that is motherhood. After a one-night stand with Detective Harry Nelson in the first book, Ruth has now given birth to Kate, whom turns out to be a whole mystery of her own. Of course, Nelson is back in this latest book too and I must admit to having a little crush on him.
The House at Sea’s End brings us the mystery of six skeletons that are found by a team of Archaeologists in the cliff’s on the Norfolk coast. Nelson and Ruth are amazed to discover that the bones are from Germany and could very well belong to German soldiers from WW2 – but how and why did they get there and who is trying to put them off the trail?
What I love about this series is that not only are these books great reading with a simplicity that makes me think of them as comfort reading (as opposed to hard-boiled crime fic) but the characters and so well drawn and developed throughout the books that I could read them for this alone; I just love following Ruth and Nelson’s story and meeting back up with characters such as Cathbad; it’s like meeting up with old friends. What I also love is the bleakness of the setting (and who can resist the covers for the books in this series?) (less)
So what do you do when you’re busy, busy, busy and you’re brain is crying out for a book that will allow you to slip inbetween the pages from one life...moreSo what do you do when you’re busy, busy, busy and you’re brain is crying out for a book that will allow you to slip inbetween the pages from one life into another with complete ease? This is exactly how I felt last week – with my brain all over the place with work stuff, and not one, not two but three abandoned books by my bedside I knew that I needed to turn to a trusty author. In this case, I went for the second in the series of books by Elly Griffiths: having only read one of her books this may have been a gamble but I knew that it was the perfect book as when I closed the pages of the first in the series a few months ago, I was already in love with the characters and the setting. I was right to trust my instinct. This book and me went together like peaches and cream.
Ruth Galloway is an (almost) 40 year old, single, slightly overweight, cat-loving, book-loving forensic archaeologist from Norfolk. In other words she analyses bones for a living, so when a local building firm dig up an old childrens home to make way for luxury apartments and a childs skeleton is found, Ruth is called in to look for clues. Ruth is joined agian by the fabulous Nelson from Norfolk Police as well as Cathbad, the purple-cloak-wearing-historian.
What I love about the first two books that I have now read is that the characters are like you and me. Urbanisation is replaced with small towns (the sort you and I live in), cops on the edge with drinking problems are replaced with a family man (OK, Nelson has been a naughty boy but I still love him – mainly ‘cos he’s northern and doesn’t suffer fools gladly), sexy protagonists are replaced with a down-to-earth, doesn’t-care-what-she-looks-like woman who likes books and cats (go Ruth!). How refreshing!
So in summary – a tonic for my weary soul. If you haven’t read The Crossing Places (the first book in the series) yet then I would strongly recommend that you do as it is a fantastic book to introduce you to the characters, but to be honest it doesn’t need to be read in order to read The Janus Stone.
I have also interviewed Elly Griffiths on my blog if you want to read more.(less)