The Story Collector is set in an Irish village in two time zones, a hundred years apart. On a last-minute whim, Sarah Harper has boarded a plane from America to Ireland rather than face her family after the break up of her marriage. Arriving with no place to stay she soon finds the kindness of strangers providing her with accommodation and companionship. And then she finds a diary written by Anna in 1910. Between sketching and drowning her sorrows in drink, Sarah follows the young woman’s life story page by page.
Anna works hard helping her parents on their small farm while admiring from afar the wealthy Anglo-Irish twins in Thornwood House. Her everyday life becomes more interesting when Harold Griffin-Krauss, an American academic, arrives in the district. Investigating Irish folklore for his book. Anna is employed to translate the tales told to him, from Irish into English. They soon become good companions, but she is unsure whether to admit her deepest secret to him.
Sarah is also intrigued by the stories of fairies and the beautiful setting. As an artist she appreciates the countryside, so well described by Evie Gaughan. There is a touch of magic but also a feeling of sadness and menace. Both Sarah and Anna have suffered loss, but both will finally have to make new beginnings. This lovely novel is a great pleasure to read and definitely a page-turner.
The Story Collector is available on Amazon UK
I am a sucker for any book about the Victorians or Edwardians so when I spotted Max Arthur’s book in a charity shop I immediately bought it. It is a compilation of testimony from people who grew up or lived during the Edwardian era, 1901-1910. The memories of mostly ordinary people have been transcribed as small snippets in chapter themes such as childhood, work, suffragettes and military. There is an index at the back if you wish to look up subjects such as The House of Commons or chicken pox.
One young lady describes how she was approached by a pleasant lady asking for guidance in reaching Waterloo station. She was then persuaded to accompany the woman to her home in Gray’s Inn Road. Being joined along the road by two men, the younger one took the young lady aside to say, “Little girl, she’s no fit companion for you, come along, here’s your bus,” and he hailed one. She never forgot her saviour!
I was also intrigued by the school stories, of shoeless children being caned and other children proud of the thorough education they had been given by strict but fair teachers. A good book to keep by the bedside for reading at odd moments. And there are others; Lost Voices of the Royal Air Force and Forgotten Voices of the Great War.
You can find the books of Max Arthur at Amazon
“He smiled at Bradamant dazzlingly. Irene felt a little of the overspill of it, the burning surge of slavish desire and passionate adoration, and felt the brand across her back burn like raw ice in reaction. She also felt a quick burst of relief that apparently Silver hadn’t recognised her as a Library agent. She was still incognito for the moment.”
My current read is tremendous fun, a steampunk romp through an alternative world with Irene, a strong-minded, intelligent Librarian solving a crime while on a mission to take a precious Fairy Tale book back to the Invisible Library. While mentoring a handsome, but troubling assistant she finds she also has to deal with her bitterest personal enemy and a dangerous foe who is trying to kill her. It is a fascinating novel, filled with humour, danger, adventure and mystery -all the right ingredients. And there are three more books to follow!
Genevieve Cogman got started on Tolkien and Sherlock Holmes at an early age, and has never looked back. But on a perhaps more prosaic note, she has an MSC in Statistics with Medical Applications and has wielded this in an assortment of jobs: clinical coder, data analyst and classifications specialist. Although The Invisible Library is her debut novel, she has also previously worked as a freelance roleplaying game writer. Genevieve Cogman’s hobbies include patchwork, beading, knitting and gaming, and she lives in the north of England.
I bought this large sumptuous book at Christmas as a present for my husband but really it was for me. Written as a response to the removal of words such as acorn and willow from a children’s dictionary, it laments the loss of these words to our children’s vocabulary and is a book of spells to help the words return accompanied by gorgeous pictures in medieval gold. The spells are acrostics, filled with kennings like, “colour-giver,” and “ripple-calmer,” to describe the kingfisher and delightful alliteration. You can guess the next spell poem by seeking out the name from the golden letters or gaze in awe at the wonderful pictures.
Can you guess what is being described in these words?
This shape-shifter’s a sheer breath-taker, a sure heart-stopper but you’ll only ever spot a shadow-flutter, bubble skein.
This swift-swimmer’s a silver-miner. With trout its ore it bores each black pool deep.
If you can find space for this impressive book, search in the children’s section and take it home to share and treasure.
The Lost Words on Amazon UK
I recently discovered the books of Emily Organ via Twitter. As Emily says,
“Writing historical mysteries combines my love of history and mystery and also another love: writing. I hope you enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoy writing them.”
As a taster I can recommend the short mystery novella “The Teacher” currently free on Amazon UK even without Prime. It introduces Penny Green, a Fleet Street journalist during the reign of Queen Victoria. In this story she investigates the tragic death of teacher, Miss Jane, at a girls’ school in Dulwich. A brave, forthright young woman, she suspects foul play and does her best to solve the mystery.
For lovers of Agatha Christie or period drama this is a good read and has tempted me towards other longer stories about Penny Green.
When a U boat is spotted floating on the surface of the Atlantic in 1940 by a British destroyer, the remaining German crew accuse one of their shipmates of being a Jonah. Why then, in the Pacific in 1945, do the same events seem to be recurring on US Navy destroyer Brownlee?
The protagonist of this novel, “Lucky” Mitch Kirkham is introduced to us as he and his crewmates are involved in a terrifying battle with a continuous attack by Japanese Kamikaze pilots. For the second time in his naval career, Mitch survives while others are killed. He finds himself an outcast, distrusted, disliked and mistreated by his immediate superior. When his life is threatened he is befriended by Father McGready, who gives him some hope that he will return home safely, but soon many of the crew are showing symptoms of hysteria, seeing ghosts and talking of a sea-monster. Mitch is a naturally curious individual, an interesting character to follow, but this leads him into more trouble. He no longer knows whom he can trust or who will be acting strangely, next.
The author gradually reveals the back stories of Mitch and the other characters so that we understand their demons. Battle scenes are vividly described and full of tension. It is evident that Carl Rackman has thoroughly researched wartime life in the US navy and we can imagine ourselves on board the Brownlee. As the plot develops, the reader feels an increasing fear of imminent disaster leading to an eventful, surprising conclusion.
Jonah is available at Amazon UK and Amazon US
Today I am borrowing the idea of Lipsyy Lost and Found to share my current reading.
I recently finished Away for Christmas by Jan Ruth which you can pre-order for delivery in a week’s time.
I will be reviewing this seasonal book very soon.
I have just started to read an unusual, inviting book by David Bridger called The Honesty of Tigers which is really intriguing.
And next week I will start reading one of the Kate Redman Mysteries by Celina Grace which are always enjoyable reads. This is Book 3 of the series of 9 and is called Imago
You might also like to read what books Margaret at Books Please is reading this week.