Thursday, 8 August 2019

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up.

In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note.

They’ve been dead for several days.

Who has been looking after the baby? 
And where did they go?
Two entangled families.
A house with the darkest of secrets.
A compulsive new thriller from Lisa Jewell.

Well what can I say about this book apart from, you won't want to put it down.

Libby has always known she was adopted but not the circumstances. On her 25 th birthday she inherits a house in Chelsea. When she goes to see it she finds out it has been empty for years and has fallen into disrepair.
A mystery begins as to why she has been left the house and who were her birth parents.

We find out the story of a fashionable house with rich parents who had two children, a boy and a girl. A life full of parties and plenty until the arrival of a man and a woman who come to stay in an upstairs room. This is where it all begins.

I can't say much more for fear of spoiling it.
Lisa Jewell is at her best in this book,mystery,suspense and all human emotions rolled into one. Don't miss it!

Ask Again Ask by Mary Beth Keane.

Gillam, upstate New York: a town of ordinary, big-lawned suburban houses. The Gleesons have recently moved there and soon welcome the Stanhopes as their new neighbours. Lonely Lena Gleeson wants a friend but Anne Stanhope - cold, elegant, unstable - wants to be left alone.
It's left to their children - Lena's youngest, Kate, and Anne's only child, Peter - to find their way to one another. To form a friendship whose resilience and love will be almost broken by the fault line dividing both families, and by the terrible tragedy that will engulf them all. A tragedy whose true origins only become clear many years later . . .
A story of love and redemption, faith and forgiveness, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood - villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so. A story of how, if we're lucky, the violence lurking beneath everyday life can be vanquished by the power of love. 

Francis and Brian both Irish immigrants and both working for NYPD move into neighbouring  houses with their wives and families. Francis has three girls and Brian one boy.
Francis's daughter Kate is best friends with Brian's son Peter but his mother,Anne doesn't approve of the friendship and does everything possible to keep them apart.

Anne is jealous,unpredictable and could be dangerous. Her husband has lived with this for years,has seen how she treats her son and ignores it,does nothing about it and that is the main reason everyone's lives fall apart.

After a catastrophic event we follow the lives of Kate and Peter and of their parents. We see how they come to terms with events and if there can ever be any kind of forgiveness.

This was such a good story. My feelings for Peter changed during the book. 
First, I liked him,felt sorry for him then I lost my patience with him. Kate was a strong girl who turned into a strong,loyal woman. 

The other events in the book, mental illness,alcoholism are dealt with sensitively. 
Are there some things we can't forgive? Do we just accept that and get on with our lives? Why do some people run away and begin new lives while others stay and face up to what they have left to deal with.
I asked myself all those questions at the end of the book. Some were answered.
Good story,good ending. 

Published today 8th Aug for kindle and hardback  I do think kindle download is expensive so I would wait for paperback. 

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

The Secret Hours by Santa Montefiore

Arethusa Clayton has always been formidable, used to getting her own way.   On her death, she leaves unexpected instructions.   Instead of being buried in America, on the wealthy East Coast where she and her late husband raised their two children, Arethusa has decreed that her ashes be scattered in a remote corner of Ireland, on the hills overlooking the sea.
All  Arethusa ever told Faye was that she grew up in a poor farming family and left Ireland, alone, to start a new life in America as did so many in those times of hardship and famine. But who were her family in Ireland and where are they now?  What was the real reason that she turned away from them?  And who is the mysterious benefactor of a significant share of Arethusa’s estate?  
Arethusa is gone. There is no one left to tell her story.  Faye feels bereft, as if her mother’s whole family has died with her.  Leaving her own husband and children behind, she travels to the picturesque village of Ballinakelly, determined to fulfil her mother’s last wish and to find out the reason for Arethusa’s insistence on being laid to rest in this faraway land.

I have read a few books by Santa Montefiore but I didn't know before I started this one that it was the fourth in a series of books about the Deverills. This didn't detract from the story as I had no idea there were other books but I now want to to back to book one and read them all. It seems a fifth one is to follow.

Faye is an American housewife with grown up children  staying in an unhappy marriage for their sake. When her mother dies she leaves a diary for Faye to read and wants her ashes scattered in Ireland where she was born. Faye and her brother know nothing about her mother's childhood in Ireland or why she came to America and while Faye is desperate to fulfill her mother's last wishes her brother and husband are violently against it.
Faye decides to go against their wishes for the first time in her life and much to everyone's surprise she travels to Ireland on her own.

A whole new world and new family opens up for Faye and she is distraught when she has to leave. Will she follow her heart or do what is expected of her?

I loved this story. It had a few twists and turns before the end. We learn what happened to Faye's mother and why she left her family to go to America and what the family were told. There is also a lovely present day romance which added to the whole ambience of the book.
Santa Montefiore never fails to deliver a cracking  good story and this is one of those.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Passionate Travellers by Trish Nicholson.

Accompanying these 21 passionate travellers on their personal quests, we discover what drove them, and share their incredible journeys through deserts, mountains, jungles and seas to every continent, spanning 2,000 years of history from 480 BCE to the 1930s. These are true stories of daring adventure, courage, cunning, even murder and, above everything, sheer determination against all odds.
Most of these eight women and thirteen men were ordinary people transformed by their journeys. They travelled from Africa, China, Persia, Russia, and the Mediterranean as well as from Europe and America. Their backgrounds were diverse, including: poet, artist, invalid, slave, pilgrim, doctor, missionary, scholar, diplomat, dilettante, storyteller, and anarchistic opera singer.
Not all survived. Many have been forgotten. Who now knows that Octavie Coudreau, stranded in a canoe on the Amazon in 1899 with her dead husband, continued to chart the river? That Thomas Stevens was the first person to cycle around the world on a penny-farthing? And why was an English parlour maid abandoned on the Trans-Siberian railway and arrested by Stalin’s secret police? 
With painstaking research and powerful storytelling, the author, herself a world-traveller, has created an intimate experience of each traveller’s journey and recaptured a vanished world. A compelling travel read and a treat for history lovers.

I like the feel of this book and the pages inside are bright white with print standing out,which is good for me as my eyes get sore reading.
I usually only read fiction books with the exception of travels memoirs and I have read all the previous travel memoirs by Trish Nicholson and they are worth reading.

I didn't read Passionate travellers from cover to cover, I dived into chapters that took my fancy.
I started with the women, then any name I thought I had heard of before and worked my way through the book.

 Each chapter tells the story of an explorer, ( who were not always called that when they set off)  mostly ordinary people doing extraordinary things. 

The stories go as far back as c.485-c.425 BCE and through the centuries to the 1900's.
The conditions, the adversity, the danger and of course the unknown that these intrepid adventurers faced make good enough stories but the fact that they are true makes the book even more astonishing. 

Back in the days when woman were wearing crinolines and fainting at the drop of a 
hat other women were setting sail sometimes without maps or minders, only with a great need  to explore the  world. You can do nothing more than admire them.

I love the way this book is set out. Stories are divided into continents and  within that  names and dates and a short synopsis to get you interested. Many people will read from cover to cover as it is meant to be read but I enjoyed picking and choosing my chapters.

My favourite story was of a young parlourmaid Gladys Aylward, what a woman! 
I particularly liked a quote from the story of Robert Louis Stevenson,

"It's better to lose health like a spendthrift than to waste it like a miser. 
It's better to live and be done with it than to die daily in the sickroom."

Definitely something to mull over.

When I read Trish Nicolson's travel memoirs I always felt she was walking alongside me telling me the story firsthand. I felt exactly like this reading this book. 
I failed history at school,it was so boring. This is why a copy of this book should be in every senior school library and every public library. History will come alive from between the pages and each and then  every one of the explorers in this book will not and should not be forgotten.
Out now in paperback or kindle format 

Dr Trish Nicholson
A social anthropologist, photographer, and writer of short stories and creative non-fiction, Trish survived careers in Europe as a regional government administrator, a management trainer and an Open University, and Open Business School, tutor, before spending fifteen years on aid and development projects in the Asia Pacific region. During five years working in the West Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea she was also Honorary Consul for the British High Commission. Further years were spent researching indigenous tourism in Vietnam, the Philippines and Australia – research partly funded by the UK Department for International Development.
To keep track of Trish's progress, follow her on Twitter @TrishaNicholson and on her website, Words in the Treehouse - where there really is a treehouse you can visit.
Trish Nicholson's earlier publications include works on human resource management, applied anthropology, popular science, responsible tourism, ethnographic travel, and creative writing.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

The Spanish Promise by Karen Swan

One of Spain’s richest men is dying. But as he prepares his estate, his family is shocked to discover he is making plans to give away his wealth to a young woman they have never even heard of. Who is she and what hold does she have over him?
Charlotte Fairfax is asked to travel to the troubled family’s home in Spain to get to the bottom of the mysterious bequest. It’s the week before her wedding but she is confident she has time – there’s only one reason an older man leaves his money to a beautiful woman, isn’t there?
But in Madrid, things don’t go to plan when the woman denies knowing anything about the gift. Is she lying? Looking for clues, Charlotte digs into the prominent family’s history and unearths a dark and shocking past in which two people were torn apart by conflict. But now, their long-buried secrets are starting to reach into the present and Charlotte starts to wonder whether love does not need to forgive or forget in order to endure – but just needs two hearts to keep beating.

Charlotte's job is helping people deal with suddenly acquiring a large sum of money.
When the richest man in Spain has made a will on his deathbed leaving nearly all his money to a woman no one has heard of Charlotte gets the job of finding her and getting her to accept less money.
When Charlotte finds Marina she denies knowing her benefactor, Arlo Mendoza. She then agrees to meet him and his son Mateo Mendoza at their ranch in Spain taking her grandmother with her.

The story goes back to the 1930's and the civil war in Spain. We learn about the Mendoz brothers and their sister.  The brothers and their authoritarian father refuse to help out the starving workers on their bull farm. The workers want pieces of unused land in which to grow food to feed their families. The Mendoz family refuses and are now at war with the people.

I didn't realize how much of the war was between rich and poor,those who have and those who have not. It strikes of unfairness,that people who were starving were still expected to do a days work for the richer classes.
To say the historical part of this book is traumatic would be an understatement. My nerves were on edge reading this part of the book not knowing what would happen next or who would survive.

The modern day part of the book was more lighthearted with a bit of romance thrown in, until the last few chapters. I wept at the ending of this book. It is actually one of the loveliest and yet saddest ending to any book I have read.
I have tried not to give any spoilers away which is why I have not mentioned many names. I loved this book.

Published today in paperback or kindle download Here

Monday, 1 July 2019

The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper

Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin.  
Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes.
If found, please return to Sophie Williams.
Before Sophie met Samuel she saw the world in grey.
Before Samuel met Sophie, he never believed in love at first sight.
When they first meet, something tells them they are meant to be.
But fate has other ideas. 
Now they have lost each other and can't see a way back.
But they've already changed each other's lives in more ways
than they ever expected.

Sophie from Wales and Samuel from Ireland are both in Washington DC for work.
Sophie,sophisticated and dressed to kill  has an accident right in front of Samuel  and both feel a connection with each other.
All goes well until each thinks they were betrayed by the other and they part company.

The story is told in chapters each from Samuel and Sophie's point of view. It was a good way of knowing what was happening to each of them in different places and what they each thought of the situation they found themselves in.
We journey through the year with them as they both miss opportunities to re-connect and both try to rebuild their shattered lives.

This would make a great film. Set in Washington, Ireland and Wales and with Samuel 's  wonderful caring Irish Family thrown in to the mix it would be a winner.
The main characters of Samuel and Sophie are very likeable and I was rooting for them both. Sophie's sister, Helen was lovely but had a tragic past to bear. Charlie's story was heartbreaking and I loved his friendship with Sophie.

It's not often a book makes you laugh out loud and then cry into your tea,or wine.
This story did both. Samuel's Irish parents were hilarious ( without meaning to be) and I could hear their Irish accent every time they spoke.
There is sadness in this story too. There is also acceptance and a sense of just having to get on with the hand you've been dealt.
I loved this story and the epilogue made me cry.
You will love this book too!
Kindle edition out 1st July paperback out in sept.

Friday, 28 June 2019

You'll Never See Me Again by Lesley Pearse

I have decided not to post the blurb about the story from Amazon as I usually do. I feel there is too much information and spoilers in it something which I try not to do. It's better just to read the book and find most of it out for yourself.

I always eagerly await the next book by Lesley Pearse. This one didn't let me down.
 Betty was happily married to Martin and living in her father's  house. Martin kept her safe from his mother who was a nasty piece of work and hated Betty.
Things changed for Betty when Martin came home from war so badly shell shocked that he didn't know who she was and was locked within his own mind.
His mother,Agnes insisted they move into her house and so her torment of Betty begins.
One night Betty sees the chance to escape from this hell and live a different life,so she takes it.
Changing her name and letting everyone think she is dead Betty now Mabel looks for work and someplace to stay and soon begins to make new friends and a new life.

This being a Lesley Pearse novel you just know that Mabel is not going to have a smooth ride in life and in quite a few chapters I feared she wouldn't survive.
Just as everything seems to go well for Mabel disaster after disaster happens to her.
At the back of her mind is always the guilt that she did wrong by leaving Martin even although he had no idea who she was.
I read this book in a day,I couldn't put it down. I just had to know what would happen to Mabel in the end.
Lesley Pearse is a wonderful writer she captures your attention on page one and holds it right through to the very last page. The reader can never trust her not to kill off someone they love from the story. She is never predictable. Loved it!

Out in hardback and for kindle. Paperback due out in March 2020 

It can be found Here
 Kindle download is £9.99 which I think is pricey. Would you pay that for a kindle fiction book? 

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for s...