Perfect by Rachel Joyce #BookReview

Only when the clock stops does time come to life

Perfect

Summer, 1972: In the claustrophobic heat, eleven-year-old Byron and his friend begin ‘Operation Perfect’, a hapless mission to rescue Byron’s mother from impending crisis.

Winter, present day: As frost creeps across the moor, Jim cleans tables in the local café, a solitary figure struggling with OCD. His job is a relief from the rituals that govern his nights.

Little would seem to connect them except that two seconds can change everything.

And if your world can be shattered in an instant, can time also put it right?

This is a story of details; of the few seconds which can alter life and the routines which keep us sane.  The hot summer of 1972 is vividly recreated at Cranham House, a desirable Georgian home standing alone on the moor.  In a house where, “the air was thick with Vim and Pledge polish,” Diana maintains an immaculate life for Byron & his young sister while her husband works away from home all week.  Each morning after a healthy breakfast they get into the new Jaguar driving Byron to Winston House private school in his smart, neatly pressed uniform, but on the day when two seconds are removed from time, everything changes.

Byron’s friend James is full of clever ideas and he also has a crush on Diana. “Her eyes were bright, her skirt pressed, her hair blow-dried,” and she was naturally kind.  When her world starts to fall apart the 2 boys do their best to help her.

In parallel chapters we meet Jim in the present day, living in a campervan on the edge of a new housing estate and working in a supermarket café.  As a result of his stay in Besley Hill, “where the mad people lived,” he has a stammer and has difficulty interacting with people. But he is finding it difficult to ignore the new cook Eileen, a large lady with titian hair and her laugh has, “something so chaotic about the noise, so joyous and unequivocal.”

And it is chaos which causes the major events in this novel.  It is a fascinating tale of appearances, mistakes and human relationships.  There is mystery as to who Jim is and what has happened to him and what Diana’s background was before she met her husband.  Despite the slow pace I found it compulsive reading.

Perfect on Amazon UK

Rachel Joyce

Rachel Joyce

Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, and a collection of interlinked short stories, A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Her work has been translated into thirty-six languages.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Rachel was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards ‘New Writer of the Year’ in December 2012 and shortlisted for the ‘UK Author of the Year’ 2014.

Rachel has also written over twenty original afternoon plays and adaptations of the classics for BBC Radio 4, including all the Bronte novels. She moved to writing after a long career as an actor, performing leading roles for the RSC, the National Theatre and Cheek by Jowl.

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The White Hornet: Sword and Steampunk (The Viper and the Urchin Book 5) by Celine Jeanjean #NewRelease

White h

A city of snow and wind.
A logistical nightmare when running a mission…
…or an opportunity to explore new sartorial delights?

Rory has faced many challenges in her time, but none quite so frustrating as mastering the art of walking in a corset and bustle.

She has to pass herself off as a wealthy heiress to infiltrate the House of Bel, a mysterious and highly exclusive club for Airnian high society, and of course her true identity must remain hidden at all costs.

Luckily, Longinus is on hand to advise—that is, when he’s not busy discovering the giddy delights of winter outerwear and investigating the mystery of what happened to his family.

But they soon become aware of a mysterious presence—someone paying disturbingly close attention to their every move.

Who or what is the White Hornet? What is the link to Longinus’s family?

And will Rory and the gang be able to infiltrate the House of Bel before the White Hornet uncovers their true identities?

My Review

Once again, Longinus and Rory are part of a team engaged in espionage on behalf of the Marchioness of Damsport.  Leaving the warmth of their home, Cruikshank, the clever engineer, Adelma, the strong, hard-drinking smuggler and Rafe, a handsome Varanguard, have travelled north with them to Arnia, fearing the Emperor intends to reconquer Damsport.

The fledgling romance between Rafe and Rory is beginning to blossom as they act out their parts of a noble but poor aristocrat and his rich but unsophisticated fiancé.  Soon the need for Rory to act independently and Rafe’s shame in admitting a weakness from his past, cause misunderstanding and distance between them.  Meanwhile Longinus creeps through the frozen city at night in search of information about his lost father and missing mother.

Increasingly Rory’s efforts lead her into greater danger as she puts her trust in the dissipated Airian, Simeon.  While she and Rafe escape the authorities over the rooftops, Adelma, Cruikshank and Longinus attempt a daring diversion which nearly kills them all. But the greatest peril is the cold and ice of the unwelcoming city.

There are two parts to this story. First, during Rory’s visits to the House of Bel, we read fascinating descriptions of room after room of indulgence and desire where she finds no-one will help her, until she learns the importance of gossip. The second and most exciting part describes the dangers and heroism of the five vivid characters, as they fight, flee and help each other against weapons, soldiers and hostile weather.  Another rollicking adventure of this likeable, if eccentric group.

The White Hornet on Amazon Uk

My review of  The Slave City by Celine Jeanjean

Loving Vengeance (The Ross Duology Book 2) by Georgia Rose #NewRelease #FridayReads

Loving Vengeance

Book Blurb

A woman with a troubled past. A new love hanging in the balance. Will an unexpected visitor strengthen her resolve or destroy the life she’s trying to build?

Madeleine’s world, once so organised, is a mess. Suffering the fallout from the mistakes she made with Tag, she has no idea where she stands with Daniel. Are they only friends or is there still a chance for something more?

Enter James – cool, calm and calculated. A stranger, she thinks. But he knows her, and he comes with an opportunity she can’t refuse, involving an enemy she’d tried to forget. At first keen to return to her past, Madeleine soon realises it’s not only the gang that’s changed, and battles her own demons as well as an unpredictable villain.

Can Daniel step up when he’s needed? Or will it be James who rides in to the rescue? Because when things go badly for Madeleine, and all hope seems lost, there is only one who can save the day. And only one who can bring more to the task than merely himself.

Loving Vengeance is the second book in this fast-paced duology. If you like strong heroines, character-driven action and powerful emotions, then you’ll love Georgia Rose’s exciting novel.

My Review

Loving Vengeance is the long awaited follow up to Parallel Lines where we left Maddy (or Scarlet in her former life) injured in body and reputation.  It is a great relief to find that Dan, with whom she had only recently started a relationship has not given up on Maddy, but can they overcome the secrets they kept and rekindle their feelings for each other?

The great thing about Maddy is her independent spirit and bravery. In this book she has antagonised Mayoral candidate, Ben Pritchard, by supporting his materialistic wife, Letitia and in turn he threatens Maddy’s friends, Kourtney and Diane. In a complex plot this situation becomes entangled in Maddy’s former life of crime.  A handsome policeman, James, has turned up, saying he knows her, and she must help him, back in her rough London neighbourhood, to catch one of her old contacts.

What makes the books of Georgia Rose so different is the way she takes us into the mind of her heroines.  Speaking in the first person, Maddy tells us all her feelings, her strengths and her weaknesses. Few of us would walk into such dangerous situations or be so pro-active in helping others but this makes for a thrilling, eventful story.  Dan, who occasionally speaks to us, in the second person, is an active participant, striving to keep Maddy safe, without compromising her plan.

Parallel Lines is still my favourite book of the two but in Loving Vengeance it is good to see how Maddy’s life continues and the positive effect she has on the village community.  There is definitely an opening for her to continue crime fighting and problem solving in further novels!

Loving Vengeance on Amazon UK

My review of Parallel Lines

To celebrate the launch of Loving Vengeance Georgia Rose is running a mega give away here

The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans #BookReview #SundayBlogShare

Garden

“The future is yet unwritten; the past is burnt and gone”

This is a story across four generations of the happiness and suffering of the women who came to live in Nightingale House.  Initially we meet Liddy and her artist husband Ned Horner living in the house she had inherited from her mother.  They seem to have lived an idyllic married life in the house and garden but now in 1918 tragedy has touched them. But the story moves back in time to describe the time when Liddy lived in London and she and her sister Mary met penniless Ned and his generous friend Dalbeattie, an architect. Their interactions are the basis for an incredible saga and the repercussions continue into the next two generations.  Reading of Liddy’s cruel treatment at home, where she is subject to gaslighting, is hard, but her inner strength carries her through to a future with Ned.

In contrast, we suddenly move forward to a typical 21st century family, meeting Liddy’s great grand-daughter, Juliet an art historian, struggling to bring up 3 children in a troubled marriage.  The descriptions of a teenager, small girl and a toddler are hilarious and realistic, and I could feel for Juliet as she tried to maintain her professionalism at work with so little support from her husband.  Discovering she has inherited Nightingale House changes her life dramatically and is not welcomed by her children.  In many ways I preferred reading about Juliet to the story of Liddy and of Stella, Juliet’s grandmother, but they are essential to the person Juliet is, to her love for the house and garden and her intense interest in art.

The descriptions of the garden, the Doll’s House and the Dovecote, used as Ned’s studio, are vivid and pleasurable and the context of Edwardian art, fascinating to read. A book which should appeal to those who like contemporary or historical novels with an enticing mystery to keep you interested to the very end.

The Garden of Lost and Found on Amazon UK

Harriet Evans

Harriet Evans

Big Sky (Jackson Brodie #5) by Kate Atkinson #TuesdayBookBlog

The Unicorn in the Room

Big Sky

Chaos and coincidence; this is the essence of “Big Sky” in which my favourite detective, Jackson Brodie, returns.  Now living in a quiet coastal area in Yorkshire, his working life is mainly following errant husbands while he intermittently takes care of the teenage son he shares with Julia.  This would be a difficult book to read if you are not already a follower of the Case Studies series even though Kate Atkinson fills in the back stories of several familiar characters, but for an aficionado, it is a delight.

The plot switches from one new context to another; two Polish girls eager to travel to London, Jackson, his son and his dog watching the re-enactment of the Battle of the River Plate on a boating pond, a group of unattractive men on the golf course and seedy, old entertainers backstage at a summer seaside show. It is difficult for the reader to keep all the threads in mind or to guess the connections.  But for me the best qualities of this book are brilliant characterisation and Atkinson’s witty, dry humour.  My favourite characters are Crystal, sparkling wife of the unpleasant Tommy Holroyd, and her thoughtful stepson, Harry.  Crystal has hidden depths and her courage in escaping from an horrific early life is impressive.  Now bringing up Candace in sugar and spice, she is determined to save her daughter from the abuse she suffered.  Her intellectual stepson, Harry, respects Crystal for her kindness and they are mutually protective.

Most of these strands relate to a re-investigation of an old case about child abuse, but contemporary events prove even more harrowing.  After the first few chapters the novel becomes a thrilling tale in Kate’s expressive, thought-provoking prose.  There are quotes from popular music interspersed among Jackson’s thoughts, observations about family relationships and essential comments hidden in parentheses. And the chapter headings are priceless!

This is not the best Jackson Brodie book, as at times it seems to wallow and the structure seems to lose its way towards the end but I still thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Jackson, his friends and his enemies and really hope that he will be back again soon.

 

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair #BookReview #RBRT #NewRelease

The Mermaid

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and The Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

My Review

Scotland in 1597 was not a place to be a woman, especially a woman of faith, opinions or healing gifts.  But Isobell has fled from her London home to avoid marriage to a cruel Englishman and has found kindness and friendship in a Scottish castle.  Hiding her wealthy background, she starts work as a kitchen maid but her clumsy mistakes reveal her lack of experience.  While Bessie, the housekeeper guards her secrets, Isobell must be more cautious with Agnes, the spiteful governess and Christen, the aristocratic lady of the house.

Soon Isobell is captivated by the impressive castle and its fairy tale setting and she finds meeting the Laird is an overwhelming experience. It is a pleasure to read of their growing romance despite misunderstandings but as they grow closer, others gather to cause pain and suffering.

This carefully researched story is based on true events in Aberdeen when cruel men gained power over innocent women by accusing them of witchcraft.  It is a horrifying story from our history, mirrored in other parts of the United Kingdom.  Thankfully in The Mermaid and the Bear the sadness is tempered by love and kinship in a believable and satisfying conclusion.  An enchanting novel.

The Mermaid and the Bear can be pre-ordered for release on Oct. 18th at Amazon UK

Ailish

Ailish Sinclair

Ailish Sinclair trained as a dancer and taught dance for many years, before working in schools to help children with special needs. A short stint as a housekeeper in a castle fired her already keen interest in untold stories of the past and she sat down to research and write.

She now lives beside a loch with her husband and two children where she still dances and writes and eats rather a lot of chocolate.

To learn more about the beautiful Scottish countryside, castles and the Standing Stones please go to  Ailishsinclair.com

The Paperboy: A rural detective mystery (Peter Hatherall Mystery Book 6) by Diana J Febry #RBRT #BookReview

Paper Boy

A stand-alone murder mystery featuring DCI Peter Hatherall.
A young mother brutally stabbed in a busy park in front of her son.
A paperboy shot in an isolated farmhouse twenty-four years previously.
DI Fiona Williams is baffled when her senior officer, DCI Peter Hatherall makes a connection between the two cases.
As details of Hatherall’s involvement in the old case emerge, her loyalty is tested to breaking point and she starts to question his decisions.
When the murdered woman’s son goes missing the time for hesitating is over.

My Review

This standalone detective story begins with a tragic event but already we know that cause of this sudden stabbing is another murder 24 years earlier.  Readers of the previous Peter Hatherall mysteries will enjoy seeing Peter as a young inexperienced copper and as we read of the mismanaged case in 1994, we begin to see the connection to this new investigation.  DI Fiona Williams, who is first on the scene, cannot understand why her boss DCI Hatherall is linking an old case solved in the past, to this event, when there are other leads to follow.

As we read about the movements of the culprit, we also observe the careful detective process.  Handicapped by accusations that he is using old resentments to cloud his judgement, Peter tries to convince his friend, Fiona, that the answer lies in a blurred photo kept by the recent victim.  Before they can solve the case there are two abductions, while Fiona and Peter deal with major problems in their home lives.  The characters of the detectives and the victims are strongly drawn and I became involved in their believable predicaments.

Although a good read on its own I am now tempted to read earlier books from the series to learn more about this likeable detective.

The Paper Boy can be purchased from Amazon UK