A short story which follows in from The Nothing Girl. Apart from a glitch in timing according to something right at the end of The Nothing Girl whichA short story which follows in from The Nothing Girl. Apart from a glitch in timing according to something right at the end of The Nothing Girl which doesn’t tie into the timeline of Little Donkey, this is a fun read. The vicar wants to borrow Marilyn the Donkey for the church nativity play but anyone who knows what kind of chaos the Checkland household lives in could predict the results. More about Jenny and Russell post wedding together with the excellent peripheral characters and even a visit from Thomas the invisible (to most people) horse....more
I’ve burned through all Jodi Taylor’s back catalogue this year – her Chronicles of St Marys’ books and her historical fiction under the name of IsabelI’ve burned through all Jodi Taylor’s back catalogue this year – her Chronicles of St Marys’ books and her historical fiction under the name of Isabella Barclay– but since I mostly read SF and historicals I hadn’t considered reading The Nothing Girl. At first glance it looked like chick-lit, which I’m not fond of, however, I’ve loved all of Ms Taylor’s writing so thought I should give it a try. I’m not disappointed. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m not actually sure how to categorise it. Chick-lit crossed with fantasy? Possibly. Mystery – yes, there’s a bit of that, too. Romance? Ditto. Or maybe it’s just mainstream fiction. It all depends on whether you think the giant golden horse that only Jenny can see is real or imaginary. The fact is that Jenny thinks he’s real, so that’s good enough for me.
Jenny is an introverted young woman with a dreadful stammer not helped by her aunt and uncle’s overprotectiveness. Her parents died and left her well provided for, but traumatised. She lives quietly in an attic room, fully equipped with bookshelves, computer, and a giant golden horse called Thomas who arrived on the day she tried to commit suicide as a thirteen-year-old. Thomas is still with her – and will remain with her until she doesn’t need him any more.
It’s a complicated family worthy of Jilly Cooper. The daughter of the house, Jenny’s glamorous cousin, has had (or maybe is still having) an abusive on-off relationship with Russell Checkland (currently off) whom Jenny has known since school (where he was one of the few who treated her kindly). Russell, a talented artist, lost his muse and his will to paint when Jenny’s cousin left him. Jenny’s cousin has a new man but doesn’t want anyone else to have Russell – which is a pity because Russell has just asked Jenny to marry him. What? Where did that come from? Well, it’s simple enough. Russell has a fabulous old farmhouse but no money to repair it. Jenny has an inheritance but no life outside of her bedroom. Jenny gets a home, Russell gets to keep his home together. It’s a simple arrangement that’s about to get a whole lot more complicated, especially since Jenny keeps having ‘accidents’. Who’s to blame or is she just very clumsy?
As ever I loved Jodi Taylor's 'voice'. There were definite giggle moments in this book. It's light and entertaining while telling an interesting story of genuine depth.
BTW, I don't think the cover does this book any favours and is probably what originally contributed to me dismissing this book as 'chick lit'. without examining it too closely...more
I’ve had Joe Hill recommended to me a number of times, but this is my first foray into his writing. The Fireman picked me up and wouldn’t let me stopI’ve had Joe Hill recommended to me a number of times, but this is my first foray into his writing. The Fireman picked me up and wouldn’t let me stop until the very last page. It’s a long book and doesn’t always move at a fast pace, but there’s always something to hold interest. The cultural referencing is a neat trick that keeps the reader grounded in the increasingly horrific world.
There’s a plague – not a virus but a spore. It has a fancy name but everyone calls it dragonscale. First you get the marks on your skin then you burst into flame and burn to death. Understandably the world is trying to keep this in check, but no one really understands how it’s spread, so it’s spreading rapidly – and huge swathes of America are burning.
Harper is a school nurse, but when the schools are closed she volunteers at the local hospital, fully covered in a protective suit. That’s where she meets The Fireman for the first time. He brings in a child for emergency treatment (appendicitis) and Harper helps him to get medical attention in time to save the boy’s life, thus putting him in her debt. When Harper herself gets the first signs of scale the Fireman is there to save her (and her unborn child) from the husband, Jakob, who wants them to both die in a suicide pact. He takes Harper to a summer camp, a secret refuge for the scale-infected, and there she learns that there’s an alternative to going up in flames.
But the camp is not the ultimate answer. Duelling paranoias cause problems and Harper’s troubles are only just beginning. Her husband has become one of the anti-scale vigilantes and no one is safe. Harper has to protect herself and her baby while at the same time unravelling secrets of the Fireman’s past and his extraordinary talents.
Gripping and involving. Highly recommended.
I had this as a galley proof from netgalley in exchange for a review. ...more
When sixteen year old Anna's father is dying in Naples he arranges for her to be married off to a sea captain in Nelson's navy. Henry Duncannon is a pWhen sixteen year old Anna's father is dying in Naples he arranges for her to be married off to a sea captain in Nelson's navy. Henry Duncannon is a penniless officer estranged from his good family, who is more or less forced into the marriage of convenience. Within half a day the two are separated as Henry heads back to sea, leaving Anna under the protection of Lady Hamilton. But war is flowing through Europe in the shape of Napoleon's armies and soon Anna is left alone - with her faithful maid - and determines to make her way using her only skill, music. She takes up singing in an opera company. It's six turbulent years in war-torn Europe before Anna and Henry are reunited and a love story begins.
This is a book in two halves - the opera years and the regency romance and both have theitr appeal. Ms Smith says that the novel came about because she originally intended to novelise the journals of Betsey Wynne, and, indeed, there's lots of rich detail in here and an underpinning of authenticity. The story is a slow-burn romance despite the early marriage of convenience. Anna survives post-revolutionary France, a theatre fire, touring with the opera company which at times is nore hazardous than the Battle of Trafalgar. Possibly more terrifying still is Anna's introduction to Henry's English family and the woman who spurned him for his older brother.
Packed full of ideas, but not falling into the trap of unlikely melodrama this is an engaging read. Highly recommended....more
I'm a big fan of Pratchett's discworld and although this book is set in London in the early years of Victoria's reign, the feeling is very Ankh-MorporI'm a big fan of Pratchett's discworld and although this book is set in London in the early years of Victoria's reign, the feeling is very Ankh-Morporkian, or maybe that should be that Ankh Morpork is very much based on London. Dodger lives in the Seven Dials and makes his living as a tosher, i.e. trawling through the city's sewers, true Roman relics, for valuables that have been washed away down the city's drains (at this stage more for rain water and detritus than personal waste). He's a geezer, known by and knowing all the likely coves in his orbit and he's not above finding the odd item that the owner didn't know was lost, however, Solomon, his landlord, friend and mentor, far from being a Fagin character, strives to keep the lad on the straight and narrow.
And indeed, Dodger's not a bad lad, though he's no soft touch, except perhaps where the vulnerable are concerned. Emerging from his sewer one night he sees a scuffle, an attempted murder maybe, and rescues a young lady who has been severely beaten up, possibly a young lady of quality by the ring on her finger (which amazingly Dodger leaves there). Close by, a certain journalist named Charlie Dickens grows interested in the happening and thus begins an adventure to rival anything the Discworld has to offer. The stews of London, the Peelers, nobby gentry, Solomon's wisdom, Onan the (very) smelly dog, a lethal assassin, Benjamin Disraeli and even Queen Victoria herself are all in the mix, plus Dodger's attempts to find out who is trying to harm the young lady that he's rapidly falling for, and a plan - which doesn't go entirely... err... to plan. Dodger's wry voice is appealing and his view of his surroundings and the people who inhabit them is amusing if not laugh out loud funny. A lively read. Highly recommended. ...more
The story of Etta, put-upon widow and grandmother, whose generosity of spirit was abused by her domineering (wealthy) husband who left her at the mercThe story of Etta, put-upon widow and grandmother, whose generosity of spirit was abused by her domineering (wealthy) husband who left her at the mercy of her uncaring, grasping children due to the terms of his will. When Etta's home is sold out from under her and she's installed in a cramped little house close to her son and daughter-in-law, she's expected to be cook and full-time nanny for her spoiled brattish grandchildren, but the village into which she's propelled, Willowwood, has a cast of interesting characters and--because this is, after all, a Jilly Cooper novel--romance eventually blossoms, and not only for Etta. On the way Etta rescues Mrs Wilkinson, a battered, half-starved thoroughbred filly, who turns out to be a courageous little National Hunt racer. Etta and Mrs Wilkinson save each other, and the filly is a catalyst redeeming or condemning (each according to their worth) a whole cast of characters. Or maybe that should be cariacatures--because this is, after all, a Jilly Cooper novel. It's long, complex and tremendous fun featuring a few recurring favourites such as Rupert Campbell-Black.
Cooper's immersion in the world of jump racing is complete and very believable and I absolutely trust that she has the details of the sport accurately depicted. It's well researched, but not laboured.
Jilly Cooper is not a subtle novellist--her plots are twisty, her characters larger than life--but she delivers page-turning, emotion-packed stories, perfect for a bit of self-indulgent reading when you really should be getting on with something else, but, oh, never mind. Just one more chapter....more