The Silver Dark Sea by Susan Fletcher #amreading #bookreview

Silver Dark sea

“I heard that there is hope on a coastline, it was my own self, speaking – me, as my comfort, trying to keep myself afloat.”

“There were so many stories on that island that it felt like they came in on the tide.”

 “The Silver Dark Sea” is perhaps the most significant character in this novel. For the inhabitants of the island of Parla, the sea’s moods, sounds, harvest and destruction rule their lives. This is not an easy novel at first; written in the main as the stream of consciousness of the key protagonists, interspersed with folktales from Abigail’s book, it slips from third person to first person and only becomes comprehensible when the reader identifies that individual.

The location of Parla is unclear but the intermingled fates of the Bright family from the lighthouse and the Bundy family from the farm “Wind Rising” provide the background to this tale of love and loss. The roles of women and men in this simple old-fashioned community are separate and clearly defined and after a tragedy 4 years earlier many have lost their stability and focus. Maybe if the story of The Fishman of Sye comes true, they will be redeemed.

I want to give this beautiful atmospheric novel five stars, but the slow laborious plot development makes me award it 4.5 stars. I was unsure how the story should end but for me the conclusion was just right. Susan Fletcher is an author to seek out.

The Silver Dark Sea can be found on Amazon UK

Susan Fletcher

Susan Fletcher

Susan Fletcher was born in 1979 in Birmingham. She is the author of the bestselling ‘Eve Green’ winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, ‘Oystercatchers’ and ‘Witch Light’.

Advertisements

Letters from the Dead (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Book 7)

Letters from the Dead

Several years ago, I read the first three books in Steve Robinson’s mystery series about American genealogist Jefferson Tayte.  Now I have taken up the seventh story in which Jefferson travels to Scotland to help client, Damian Sinclair, break through the brick wall concealing the identity of his four times great grandfather.  But this is not just about family history, there is a legend of a valuable ruby stolen in India which the whole family hope to discover.  At first Jefferson is greatly impressed by the magnificent stately home where Sinclair lives with his elderly retainer, Murray, but within the walls he finds shabby rooms and unsafe floorboards.

The parts I most enjoyed were the letters of Jane Hardwick which began in 1822 as she returned to India, a widow and companion to a friend joining her husband in Jaipur.  Jane is a warm, caring woman who tries to look after teenage Arabella and her unhappy mother as their story gradually unfolds.  While Jefferson explores Sinclair’s bloodline, new letters from Jane appear mentioning the legendary gemstone. But he becomes increasingly aware of danger, as one by one, members of Sinclair’s family are murdered.

This book easily stands alone as a thrilling story of love, greed and treachery.  There are many red-herrings and I did not guess the outcome either in the 1820s or in the present-day denouement.  Highly recommended for anyone, not just those who love genealogy.

Letters from the Dead can be purchased on Amazon UK

Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson drew upon his own family history for inspiration when he imagined the life and quest of his genealogist-hero, Jefferson Tayte. The talented London-based crime writer, who was first published at age 16, always wondered about his own maternal grandfather–“He was an American GI billeted in England during the Second World War,” Robinson says. “A few years after the war ended he went back to America, leaving a young family behind and, to my knowledge, no further contact was made. I traced him to Los Angeles through his 1943 enlistment record and discovered that he was born in Arkansas . . .” Robinson cites crime writing and genealogy as ardent hobbies–a passion that is readily apparent in his work. He can be contacted via his website www.steve-robinson.me or his blog at www.ancestryauthor.blogspot.com.

Gaslight by Eloise Williams #MiddleGrade #VictorianHistory

Last year I was blown away by the beautifully written contemporary story of a 13 year old girl in Seaglass by Eloise Williams, so this year I have read her earlier historical novel, Gaslight.

gaslight

Gaslight is a short book which is difficult to put down. Set in late Victorian Cardiff, the heroine, Nansi, survives by working and thieving for Sid, owner of the Empire Theatre, who “took her in” after she was fished out of the sea. But he is not a kind guardian; Nansi is physically and mentally abused by him and yet she stays. Her strength comes from her determination to find her missing mother and she finds peace in night-time swimming. The story portrays all the social ills of the time but also friendship and comradeship. The environment of the theatre and its surroundings are clearly created, and the book includes several Dickensian characters. The title reflects the atmosphere of the theatre but also reminds us of the term “gaslighting”. If I was still teaching this would be the perfect book for my Year 6 book club.

Find Gaslight at Amazon UK

My review of Seaglass by Eloise Williams

eloise williams

Eloise Williams

Eloise Williams was born in Cardiff in 1972. Her second book GASLIGHT won the Wales Arts Review Young People’s Book of the Year Award 2017, the YBB Book Award 2018 and was shortlisted for the Tir na nOg awards 2018.
SEAGLASS was chosen in the Top 10 Books for Young People of 2018 by Wales Arts Review:
“The queen of children’s writing in Wales goes from strength to strength, and her third novel does not disappoint. A continuation of her unique brand of scary and page-turning story-telling skills, her latest book has already gone down a storm in classrooms…”

Eloise lives in a tiny cottage by the sea in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, with her artist husband, Guy Manning, and her cairn terrier, Watson Jones. She collects sea glass, sagely pretends to know about the tides and accidentally sings Welsh songs out loud on the beach.

Innocent Graves by Peter Robinson #BookReview #AmReading

Innocent Graves

 Innocent Graves is the eighth novel in Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series, following on from Dry Bones That Dream.

One foggy night, Deborah Harrison is found lying in the churchyard behind St Mary’s, Eastvale. She has been strangled with the strap of her own school satchel.

But Deborah was no typical sixteen-year old. Her father was a powerful financier who moved in the highest echelons of industry, defence and classified information. And Deborah, it seemed, enjoyed keeping secrets of her own . . .

With his colleague Detective Constable Susan Gay, Inspector Alan Banks moves along the many suspects, guilty of crimes large and small. And as he does so, plenty of sordid secrets and some deadly lies begin to emerge . . .

I chose to read Innocent Graves thanks to a recommendation from Amazon and it is only now that I have finished the book that I discover it is one of 24 Inspector Banks novels which have been on TV, starring Stephen Tomkinson. I dimly remember enjoying a few episodes but for me the book is more intense and compelling.

Inspector Banks is an empathetic character, even though, at times, he can be unpleasantly aggressive to the suspects he interviews. Despite the annoying bias his boss shows, in sucking up to rich influential locals, Banks is determined to find the murderer by methodical, thorough police work. The unusual feature of this novel is that we also see the case from the viewpoint of the man they arrest. Without knowing whether he is guilty or innocent we witness the way his life falls apart and he is forced to wait in a sordid, claustrophobic police cell for several months before going to court.

The book introduces a variety of characters who might have had a motive to kill Deborah but circumstantial evidence make it difficult for the police and the reader to select the culprit. I had my suspicions, but the denouement was well constructed. Towards the end I could not put the book down until all was revealed.

Innocent Graves is available on Amazon UK

Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson grew up in Yorkshire, and now divides his time between Richmond and Canada. Peter has written twenty-four books in the Number One Bestselling DCI Banks series as well as two collections of short stories and three standalone novels, the most recent of which is Number One bestseller BEFORE THE POISON. Peter’s critically acclaimed crime novels have won numerous awards in Britain, the United States, Canada and Europe, and are published in translation all over the world.

The Foundling’s Daughter by Ann Bennett #New Release #TuesdayBookBlog

Foundling

This is the story of three distinctive women from different generations. In 2010, Sarah Jennings, a successful restauranteur, is fleeing her husband of 15 years who has betrayed her trust, while back in the 1930s, through the words of her diary entries, we meet Anna Foster, a naïve bride of convenience in British India. Bridging these two characters is Connie Burroughs, an old lady in a nursing home who is concealing a terrible secret.

A mysterious tragedy is gradually revealed as a result of Sarah’s wish to buy Cedar Lodge which was part of the orphanage where her father started his life. Here Rev. Ezra Burrows, Connie’s father, commanded great respect from the local community and awe from the children, but he had left his previous career as a missionary in India, in disgrace. As Sarah copes with the rapid deterioration of her father’s death and the disintegration of her marriage, she becomes determined to discover more about her father’s early life. Helping out in a local restaurant she finds new happiness, but she is determined to help Connie who seems unable to escape the influence of Ezra Burrows, long after his death.

As Connie reads Anna’s diary entries, I found myself identifying with her plight and the impossible situation in which she found herself. All three women are vividly described, making this a compelling story to read. The suffocating colonial environment in which Anna suffers a loveless marriage contrasts clearly with the colour and vibrance of India and the threads of the plot are gradually drawn together in a very satisfying, believable conclusion which is both sad and fulfilling.

The Foundling’s Daughter is now available at Amazon UK

My interview with Ann Bennett about her Bamboo trilogy

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.

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