Ignoring Gravity by Sandra Danby #FridayReads #BookReview

Ignoring Gravity

I came to this book having already read Connectedness, the second book in the Identity Detective series, but each book stands alone. This is the story of two sisters, Rose, an ambitious journalist and her younger sister, Lily, “happily” married and longing for a baby. Although written in the third person, Rose and Lily take it in turns to be the focus of a chapter and their uneasy relationship becomes further strained when they are clearing their mother’s belongings after her death. They discover a pile of old diaries and one seems to imply that Rose may have been adopted. This shocking revelation affects Rose’s ability to cope with everyday life as she is obsessed with finding the truth.

There are several strands to this novel. We are given a clear factual account of how to investigate your own adoption, there is a gradual romantic development and the whole book is centred on family relationships and women’s problems of fertility and unplanned pregnancy. The social health topics which Rose has to research for her articles, often mirror events in her life and she is a well-rounded likeable character. Lily, however is extremely annoying; her obsessive behaviour is driving her husband away but some of her actions are very entertaining.

Sandra Danby is an excellent writer who reveals her characters feelings and foibles effectively so that you are anxious to continue reading the interesting mystery of Rose’s birth and adoption.

Ignoring Gravity can be purchased at Amazon UK

My Review of the second book in this series Connectedness

Sandra Danby

Sandra

Author Sandra Danby lives in England and Spain. She turned her childhood love of stories into an English degree and became a journalist. She now writes fiction full-time. Her short stories and flash fiction have been published online and in anthologies. Her two novels – Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness – explore the themes of identity, family secrets and adoption reunion. Sandra is now writing Sweet Joy, third in the series, set in London during The Blitz.

As well as writing fiction, Sandra Danby is an avid reader. At her blog, she reviews the novels she reads plus non-fiction read for research purposes.  She is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, ‘Ignoring Gravity’ and ‘Connectedness’, Sandra is not adopted.

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The Lost Letters by Sarah Mitchell #BookReview #RBRT

Lost

 What if keeping your loved ones safe meant never seeing them again?

Norfolk, 1940: Sylvia’s husband Howard has gone off to war, and she is struggling to raise her two children alone. Her only solace is her beach hut in Wells-Next-The-Sea, and her friendship with Connie, a woman she meets on the beach. The two women form a bond that will last a lifetime, and Sylvia tells Connie something that no-one else knows: about a secret lover… and a child.

Canada, present day: When Martha’s beloved father dies, he leaves her two things: a mysterious stash of letters to an English woman called ‘Catkins’ and directions to a beach hut in the English seaside town of Wells. Martha is at a painful crossroads in her own life, and seizes this chance for a trip to England – to discover more about her family’s past, and the identity of her father’s secret correspondent.

The tragedy of war brought heartbreaking choices for Sylvia. And a promise made between her and Connie has echoed down the years. For Martha, if she uncovers the truth, it could change everything…

My Review

Martha, overcomes her terror of flying in order to discover more about her father’s past. Having written about his life in Canada, he was about to return to his roots in East Anglia when he suddenly died. Martha also wants to see her estranged daughter, Janey, who is studying at Cambridge, but first she must solve the mystery of the beach hut he father had rented and the file of letters on his computer to someone called Catkins.

The novel takes us back to World War Two and a friendship between two young women, Sylvie and Connie.  Each is hiding a secret and their unexpected friendship gives them courage to take a bold decision.  We are shown a vivid picture of life in wartime Britain, where women had important roles doing their best for their country in the Women’s Voluntary Service, against a background of bombing and fear.  Relationships between men sent off to fight and their worried wives at home are severely strained and they can easily grow apart.

Martha is an engaging character, whose story, written in the present tense, involves us actively in her compelling adventure, while Sylvie, distanced by the past tense, makes us fear for her future happiness.  Threads are gradually gathered, connecting the women together and enabling Martha to forge a more positive future where she is reunited with her daughter and finally understands her father’s past.

The Lost Letters can be purchased at Amazon UK

S Mitchell

Sarah Mitchell

THE LOST LETTERS in my first novel, inspired by a visit to Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk, where there is a row of iconic beach huts. Some of them looked very old to me, and it made me wonder for how many generations they might have been in the same family and handed down over the years…

I didn’t become a writer until I was in my forties. I studied law and after that practised as a barrister in London for nearly 20 years. For a long while I wanted to write a novel – inspired by my mother who used to write children’s stories for a radio programme called ‘Listen with Mother’ – but it took me a long while to take the plunge and actually make the dream happen. As well as the beach huts, THE LOST LETTERS draws on the decision my grandparents almost made to evacuate my mother to Canada at the start of the Second World War. So much has changed since then, and yet so much – the bonds within a family – are the same. I wanted to explore that in my writing.

I now live back in Norfolk, where I grew up, with my husband and three almost-grown-up children. Norfolk is an extraordinary county and I feel incredibly lucky to live here. I hope THE LOST LETTERS captures a little bit of the beauty of Norfolk, as well as the horror and hardship of war.

You can follow Sarah Mitchell on Twitter at @SarahM_writer

The Bridge of Dead Things by Michael Gallagher #FridayReads #BookReview

Bridge

This Young Adult book is the first story about 13 year-old Lizzie Blaylock, the involuntary Medium. Set in late Victorian London, Lizzie has been fortunate in receiving an education despite the poverty of her family. But this ceases, when a strange fit in the classroom causes teacher, Miss Smutts to expel her. Miss Smutts’ motives are suspect since she arranges employment for Lizzie as a maidservant in a rather odd household. Lizzie’s fit has revealed her special power to allow ghostly manifestations to return from the dead. Soon this gothic novel becomes darker as Lizzie is taken under the wing of Simeon de Florence, who purports to expose false mediums. There is relief from the weird experiences in the humorous characters we meet, such as Miss Otis, the kindly clairvoyant and the obsession with seances by many wealthy Victorians provides an exciting setting. I feel that Lizzie is more like a 20th century heroine in her speech and actions but the Victorian context is vividly described.

You can purchase The Bridge of Dead Things at Amazon UK

Gallagher

Michael Gallagher

Michael Gallagher is the author of two series of novels set in Victorian times. “Send for Octavius Guy” chronicles the attempts of fourteen-year-old Gooseberry—reformed master pickpocket—to become a detective, aided and abetted by his ragtag bunch of friends. “The Involuntary Medium” follows the fortunes of young Lizzie Blaylock, a girl who can materialize the spirits of the dead, as she strives to come to terms with her unique gift.

For twenty-five years Michael taught adults with learning disabilities at Bede, a London-based charity that works with the local community. He now writes full time.

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse (La Cour des Roses Book 3) by Helen Pollard #TuesdayBookBlog

Summer at

 Summer sun, chilled, white wine, and a gorgeous fiancé. Nothing could upset pure bliss … Right?

Emmy Jamieson loves her new life in the gentle hills and sunflowers of the lush French countryside, managing La Cour des Roses, a beautiful, white stone guesthouse. With marriage to caramel-eyed Alain just round the corner, things couldn’t be more perfect.

The odd glass (gallon) of wine dulls the sound of Emmy’s mum in full motherzilla-of-the-bride mode, and the faint tinkling of alarm bells coming from Alain’s ex are definitely nothing to worry about. Guesthouse owner Rupert and a whole host of old and new friends are there to make sure nothing gets in the way of Emmy’s happiness.

But as Emmy gets close to the big day, a secret from the past throws everything decidedly off track. Will her idyllic French wedding go ahead as planned, or will Emmy run back home to England with a broken heart?

It was lovely to catch up with Emmy still working hard at Rupert’s idyllic guest house in the Loire valley while developing her own business.  Her marriage to gorgeous accountant Alain is fast approaching, but Emmy’s mother is driving her mad, phoning from England at all hours, to nag her about wedding preparations.

There are amusing escapades amongst the guests and Emmy’s friends, Sophie and Ellie, also appear to have found love, but Alain’s family worries and Emmy’s frustration with her mother cause friction between them.  Then disaster strikes; will Emmy’s happy life in France fall apart?

This third story of the little French guesthouse contains so many fascinating characters, French and English and an unexpected twist in the plot to keep you turning the pages. This is a feel-good novel which restores your faith in humanity and makes you wish you could book a holiday at this wonderful location.

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse can be purchased at Amazon UK

My review of the first book about La Cour des Roses

Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Telling Tales

Ten years after Jeanie Long was charged with the murder of fifteen-year-old Abigail Mantel, disturbing new evidence proving her innocence emerges in the East Yorkshire village of Elvet. Abigail’s killer is still at large.

For Emma Bennett, the revelation brings back haunting memories of her vibrant best friend – and of the fearful winter’s day when she had discovered her body lying cold in a ditch.

Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope makes fresh inquiries, and the villagers are hauled back to a time they would rather forget. Tensions begin to mount, but are people afraid of the killer, or of their own guilty pasts?

Telling Tales is one of the “Vera” series by Ann Cleeves which I know so well from the TV series. In this novel, Inspector Vera Stanhope has been called away from her home county of Northumberland to reopen a murder case in a small Yorkshire village by the sea, east of Hull. But first the author takes us into the mind of Emma Bennett, who was 15 years old when she found her best friend, Abigail, lying dead. Now Emma is a dissatisfied mother with a baby, apparently happily married to James. But James has a secret and we are able to read his point of view too.

Vera is, as she is on TV, slightly annoying, but easy to talk to. She is not welcomed by the local police even though the two officers in charge of the original murder investigation have since left the force. Vera is persistent; she discovers that both officers still live locally and are involved with members of Emma and Abigail’s family. Michael Long, father of Jeanie, who was wrongly imprisoned for the murder, is determined to seek out the real killer, while Emma’s father, Robert Winter, who was Jeanie’s probation officer earns our suspicions.

This is a fascinating study of village gossip and hidden secrets, of powerful men and unhappy families. The brooding atmosphere of suspicion and boredom is effectively conveyed, and descriptions of the countryside clearly paint the bleak landscape. The mystery is full of false leads and I didn’t guess who was responsible ahead of the denouement. The TV programmes didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this book and I will certainly seek out more books from this series.

Telling Tales can be purchased on Amazon UK

Gift Horse by Jan Ruth #NewRelease #BookReview

Gift Horse Cover MEDIUM WEB

 A time-slip novel about the choices women make, the healing power of horses, and the devastating consequences of human error.

Imagine living eighteen years of your life around a mistake…

Caroline Walker’s daughter suffers a horrific riding accident. Her distraught parents wonder if she’ll ever walk again, let alone ride. And when Mollie’s blood group is discovered as rare, her husband offers to donate blood. Except Ian is not a match. In fact, it’s unlikely he’s Mollie’s father.

Eighteen years previously, Caroline had a one-night stand with Irish rock star, Rory O’Connor. Caroline fell pregnant. Deeply flawed boyfriend, Ian, was overjoyed. And Caroline’s parents were simply grateful that their daughter was to marry into the rich, influential Walker family. Never look a gift horse in the mouth.

Caroline turns to Rory’s friend Connor; and although his almost spiritual connection with his horses appears to be the balm she needs, Caroline cannot forget Rory, or her youth – both lost to a man she never loved. Eighteen years on and after surviving cancer Rory lives as a virtual recluse in the Welsh mountains. Through his well-meaning but interfering sister, he is shocked to discover he has a teenage daughter. Or does he? As the truth begins to unravel, Caroline finds herself faced with a complex trail of moral dilemma.

Someone has made a terrible mistake… someone is going to get hurt…

My Review

Caroline has it all, a rich successful husband, a large beautiful home and a daughter they both love.  But Mollie’s terrible accident while competing on her horse, Sahara Sun, exposes cracks in their apparently happy life and Caroline’s past catches up with her.  Can she take Mollie from Ian, the father she loves so much, and will Mollie ever forgive her secrecy?

Travelling back to the millennium we join Caroline and her flat-mate Niamh at a party in the Welsh hills.  Already in a relationship with Ian, she realises that the life she will have with him will be very different from that lived by Niamh and her charismatic pop-star brother, Rory.  Will one night of happiness change her path or be a last fling?

However, this tale is more complex. More mistakes are made in 2017.  As Mollie struggles to come to terms with her injuries, Caroline hopes that she will agree to try horse therapy with Connor, an unusual man who helps people to cope with pain and confusion through their interaction with horses.  Meeting Niamh and Rory again, adds further complications as she strives for independence, developing her illustration business and facing up to her own weaknesses.

Gift Horse is an unusual novel which shows the shallowness of material wealth and respectability, but it also deals with crises of injury and betrayal. I was expecting more details of the horse therapy, which I would have enjoyed but perhaps that might have loosened the taut plot and surprising conclusion.  A remarkable story of a woman discovering her destiny.

Gift Horse can be purchased at Amazon UK

And my review of Midnight Sky by Jan Ruth

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton #FridayReads #BookReview

Clockmaker

My real name, no one remembers.
The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor in rural Berkshire. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.
Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing a drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.
Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?
Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a story of murder, mystery and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river, is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker’s daughter.

When Elodie, an exhibition curator, investigates an old satchel in 2017, she finds echoes of a childhood story she had been told, in the sketchbook contained within. It causes her to ask more about the life of her mother, a talented musician, who had died when Elodie was a child and she is desperate to find the house seen in the sketchbook.

But Elodie is only one of many men and women whose lives have involved this house by the river and one young woman has never left. It began with the Magenta Brotherhood, a group of artists sharing their creativity in 1862, but what should have been the peak of achievement for Edward Radcliffe turns sour. A precious diamond pendant disappears which others seek for generations and there are tragic consequences. Yet so many are drawn to Birchwood Manor and feel safe there. As Edward said,

“The land does not forget. Place is a doorway through which one steps across time.”

This confusing tale gradually untangles. The mystery is solved and those who have lost someone experience haunting feelings of hiraeth or saudade. The characters threading through this novel back and forth through time are linked by their experiences at Birchwood Manor, but there are so many characters that at times it is difficult to keep hold of the plot. This is Kate Morton’s most ambitious novel, peppered with expression, symbolism and delightful description but it is not my favourite. The reader has to work hard and with so many characters, only Birdy, the clockmaker’s daughter, has a strong identity to earn our loyalty.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter can be purchased at Amazon UK

My Review of The Lake House by Kate Morton