The Architect’s Apprentice by Colin Garrow (The Maps of Time Book 1) #BookReview

Old Books and time travel – what more could you want?

Architects Apprentice

 London, 1630. A boy searching for his father. A villain stealing books.

Forced to work for the dubious Savidge, eleven-year-old Tom Fennel is desperate to find his missing father. Distrustful of what he’s heard, he’s sure Savidge is involved. Meanwhile, books are vanishing from architect Martin Deacon’s library – books from the future. Enticed into the mysterious world of updrafts and secrets, Tom learns that finding his father is the least of his worries.

Tom is an intelligent, courageous hero, determined to find the truth even though that requires taking dangerous doors and updraughts into the near future.  Despite these time slips, the novel is grounded in the mire, deception and poverty of 17th century London. Aided by Emily, a confident young companion, and by his sister, Sarah, mute since the disappearance of their father, Tom must decide which adults can be trusted.

The plot is hectic and, at times, confusing but the reader is carried along by the amazing idea and the tension of Tom’s predicament. No-one is safe and some scenes are distressing but good can triumph.  A conclusion is reached but many threads remain to be followed into the next book in “The Maps of Time” series. A lively read for anyone aged 11 to 60 plus.

The Architect’s Apprentice is available at Amazon UK

Garrow

Colin Garrow

Colin Garrow grew up in a former mining town in Northumberland. He has worked in a plethora of professions including: taxi driver, antiques dealer, drama facilitator, theatre director and fish processor, and has occasionally masqueraded as a pirate. All Colin’s books are available as eBooks and most are also out in paperback, too.

His short stories have appeared in several literary mags, including: SN Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Word Bohemia, Every Day Fiction, The Grind, A3 Review, 1,000 Words, Inkapture and Scribble Magazine. He currently lives in a humble cottage in North East Scotland where he writes novels, stories, poems and the occasional song.

He also makes rather nice cakes.

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Transcription by Kate Atkinson #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

transcription

 Transcription opens in 1981 when Juliet Armstrong is involved in an accident. As she lies on the ground, injured, her mind goes back to 1940 when she started work in the offices of MI5 and then to 1950 when she was a BBC schools programmes producer. A witty but unemotional protagonist she seems to be recounting events as they happened, but there are omissions, and can we really trust her testimony?

I loved this book, much preferring it to Life After Life. The story of how MI5 monitored Nazi sympathisers and the account of  the amoral social life of 1940 are fascinating. Juliet’s observations on a woman’s role, always making the tea but also sent out to risk her life on potentially dangerous missions without any training, reflect reality. At times, this novel made me laugh out loud, at others, it is tense and thrilling and always slightly puzzling. There are so many intriguing characters, from Peregrine Gibbons, so dapper but resisting her charms (Juliet’s naivety is believable) to Godfrey Talbot, the likeable double agent, via delightful Cyril, her hard-working companion in Dolphin Square and the tactless Daisy who is supposed to assist Juliet at the BBC.

As Juliet listens in to meetings between Godfrey and a group of fascist sympathisers her transcriptions are sketchy. Words are missing when the dog barks and we don’t have a complete picture of what is happening. This reflects Juliet’s story. She has the ability to lie easily, making her an effective spy and yet she cares deeply about the fate of a young maid who briefly helps her and who, like Juliet, is an orphan.

This is a deep novel with a light tone. It is interesting to read from the context of today’s politics and society. And if you are wondering, the flamingo on the cover is explained towards the end of the story. There has been criticism by some reviewers of the denouement in which we are told in a rapid summary how threads in the story linked and we learn more about Juliet’s motivation, but I am on the fence on this. It satisfied my queries but possibly could have been revealed more subtly. However, the texture and quality of the writing is so delightful I could happily read it all over again next week.

 Transcription is available atAmazon UK

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

Kate Morton’s Researched many houses while writing The Clockmaker’s Daughter

Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery by Jennifer S Alderson #NewRelease

Adventures of Zelda Richardson Book 3

Rituals

Zelda Richardson is an adventurous heroine who loves to solve mysteries.  She needs to succeed in her placement as an intern at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam but the work involves Asmat Bis poles from Papua New Guinea, totems made for the spirits of the dead, whose evil looking faces seem to be leading her into danger.

 

Seven crates have been discovered unopened for 50 years in the archive depot of Rotterdam’s Wereldmuseum.  As Zelda and the more important staff from the museums observe, the crates are unpacked, revealing not just Bis poles, but also human remains of the head-hunting Asmat culture of what was then Dutch New Guinea.  But the most intriguing discovery is the leather-bound journal of Nicholas Mayfield, a wealthy American anthropologist who went missing in 1962.

 

Interspersed with Zelda’s transcription of the journal and her investigations, are passages from 1962, where we discover the frustrations and difficulties Nicholas had experienced while trading in Dutch New Guinea, hindered rather than helped by experienced Dutch anthropologist, Albert Schenk.  Albert is now Director of the Wereldmuseum and he seems to be a thoroughly unpleasant, arrogant individual.

 

Soon, Zelda is alarmed when two people close to her are murdered.  She continues with her task of transcribing the journal and researching the background of the Bis poles for an imminent exhibition, but she keeps information close to her chest and, at times, is unwise in those she chooses to trust.

 

This exciting story is also an education about a culture of which I knew very little.  The actions of colonial powers, the church and collectors of artifacts is called into questions but there is also our moral dilemma of whether to exhibit treasures from the past or return them to their source.  But don’t let this put you off; you will be on the edge of your seat wondering if Zelda will take one risk too many as well as wishing to discover what actually happened to Nicholas Mayfield.  A thoroughly good read.

An amazing picture of a Bis pole

Rituals of the Dead on Amazon UK and Amazon US

My review of Zelda’s first adventure Down and Out in Kathmandu

An interview with Colt McCall from “An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy”

My heart is pounding with excitement at the chance to interview the irresistible Colt McCall from June Kearn’s book.

Cowboy

What were your first impressions of Miss Annie Haddon?

First off? As if a scruffy dog had suddenly appeared and attached itself to me. Yeah, someone’s stray, a pampered pet – one that wasn’t particularly biddable, either. For such a small fry though, she seemed to have a pretty big mouth. A talker, too – mite too fond of her own opinions to my mind, at the time. No idea what she’d landed herself into, either. Not … a … single, solitary clue.

Annie called you intimidating and you certainly don’t suffer fools readily.  Would your life be easier if you were more diplomatic?

Let’s face it, shall we? Annie was white, English, opinionated. Not a hope in hell of understanding someone like me. As for diplomacy! Well, the West belongs to the meat-eaters, always has, always will. The meek don’t inherit much west of Chicago. Anyway, a man needs to show he can defend himself. If people think he can’t, he’s in trouble.

You seem to have a very bad opinion of the English.  What have they ever done to you?

Ha, tried to wipe out all rotten traces of Indian for starters. At Mission School, I was taught by an Englishwoman. She thought I was barely house-trained and had the idea that a daily dose of British poets and Shakespeare was the best way to civilise little hell-raisers like me. Along with not letting me speak my mother’s language, of course – shaving my head and beating manners and the Bible into me.

Yeah, one thing I’ve learned about the English: You don’t tell them, they tell you.

You don’t seem to be a typical Texan and yet you seem to have some good friends.  What do these friends have in common?

I guess they’re all … outsiders? Yeah, every damn one, when I come to think about it. The displaced, the hunted, the ignored. Mostly fighters for their own rights, of course, their own land. For years, we’ve been killing off their food, stealing their hunting grounds, robbing them blind.

Are the divisions of the Civil War still causing problems in Texas?

Well, what do you think? Draw a line down the middle of any country – you’re asking for trouble. Somehow, it makes some folk feel more entitled to boss others around. Take Southerners, for example. Robert E. Lee still adorns many a parlour wall round here. Oh, yeah. Plenty haven’t been too keen on freeing their slaves, either.

You seem to find Miss Haddon just a little too talkative, but do you think she has changed her feelings about Texas since you first met her?

Well, I guess when we first met, Annie was just trying to make sense of everything – questions, questions, questions. Her main concern, first off – if you’d care to believe it – was about losing those bound copies of Dickens in her trunk! While I was just hell-bent on getting us as far away as possible from the Comanche.

Even from her first arrival though, she seemed to love the landscape. Nothing had prepared her, she once told me – for that vast open space, the wide, wide vista. Fluted rock on the horizon soaring to meet limitless blue sky. The throat-catching beauty, the loneliness.
You can’t just pass through this landscape, y’know. It reaches out and draws you in, every time.

And now? Guess Annie knows that she belongs here.

And have you changed your opinion of her?

Oh, yeah. My opinion probably started to shift when she teamed up with two outlaws, swallowed a quart and a half of whisky and started a bar-room brawl – after trying to stare down that Comanche brave, of course.

It was her first ever time away from the protection of her relatives. I’d expected fear, silence, trepidation. Instead, she showed intelligence and courage, plus a real delight at being able to truly be herself.

Thank you, Colt, it’s been a privilege to hear your view of Texas both from your own opinions and those of  “the Englishwoman.”

You can read my review of June Kearn’s book here

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig #BookReview

How to stop Time

Who wants to live forever? Well, not Tom Hazard, but he has been alive for over 400 years so far. Appearing to be 41 years old, as a young man in Elizabethan England, he had discovered that he aged extremely slowly. In an era when people believed in witchcraft, this caused suspicion and soon Tom began a lifetime of constantly moving on, frequently changing his name.

Like Dr Who, he found the transitory nature of relationships with others caused sadness and grief, so he is now determined to avoid involvement. Discovering that he was not the only human being with this unusual genetic condition, was partly a relief, but also caused him more complications. After half a lifetime as a sailor, jazz pianist, roofer and wandering lute player he is now a History teacher in 21st century London. Now that would be the perfect History teacher. He is not a mere Time Traveller; he has lived through so many events personally.

After losing his first love so many years before, Tom has firmly avoided falling for anyone again. He does have a mission to find one person from his past, but he also has to carry out onerous tasks for a Machiavellian fellow long-lifer. As the narrator of the story, Tom is an empathetic, believable hero. Just like everyone else he is still trying to work out what life is all about and what really matters to him.

This is a captivating story about a likeable man. The possibilities of his lifetime experiences are boundless, so it must have been difficult choosing the people and places for the storyline. A recommended read.

Matt Haig

Matt Haig is a British author for children and adults. His memoir Reasons to Stay Alive was a number one bestseller, staying in the British top ten for 46 weeks. His children’s book A Boy Called Christmas was a runaway hit and is translated in over 25 languages. It is being made into a film by Studio Canal and The Guardian called it an ‘instant classic’. His novels for adults include the award-winning The Radleys and The Humans.

He won the TV Book Club ‘book of the series’, and has been shortlisted for a Specsavers National Book Award. The Humans was chosen as a World Book Night title. His children’s novels have won the Smarties Gold Medal, the Blue Peter Book of the Year, been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and nominated for the Carnegie Medal three times.

His books have received praise from Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry, Jeanette Winterson, Joanne Harris, Patrick Ness, Ian Rankin and SJ Watson, among others. The Guardian summed up his writing as ‘funny, clever and quite, quite lovely’ by The Times and the New York Times called him ‘a writer of great talent’.

How to Stop Time on Amazon UK

and Amazon US

http://www.matthaig.com/

The Teacher by Emily Organ #BookReview

Emily Organ

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.

The Teacher