The Magic Carpet by Jessica Norrie #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

magic

Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?

My Review

Coming to this book as a retired primary school teacher, I rejoiced to hear the voices of these 5 different children and to read the response of their families to the school’s fairy tale project; but this story has a wider context allowing us into the homes of families from varied cultures, structures and beliefs in the turbulent context of post-Referendum Britain.  Set in outer London at the beginning of a new school year, the protagonists all live within a few yards of each other, but initially have very little knowledge of their neighbours.

As the children bring home a letter about a future performance to involve all the pupils with perhaps the aid of friends or families, an incident occurs bringing two of the girls together.  Alka, a quiet beautiful Indian girl spends time with clumsy, self-centred Sky, whose kind, slightly insecure mother, Teresa, attempts to unite the girls.  Soon, Nathan, a bright Chinese boy will join them and their co-operation sparks great interest in the project. Nearby, Mandeep lives in a busy, happy household with his delightful grandma and in a small flat live Safiya and her daughter Xoriyo. Although Somalian, Xoriyo has grown up in England, but in this new school she has chosen to remain mute, concealing her intelligence and excellent English  Through the experiences of Safiya, we witness the increasing racism and her struggle to relate to Teresa, whose attempts at friendship are awkward and embarrassing.

This is a book of humour, pathos and relationships.   It is a story to give hope in our troubled times for understanding and education.  Jessica Norrie has great perception and knowledge about the lives of our diverse society and although life is not a fairy tale, the parallels of monsters and happy endings are a lesson for us all.

The Magic Carpet can be found on Amazon UK

Jessica N

Jessica Norrie

Jessica Norrie studied French literature at Sussex University, and trained as a teacher at Sheffield. Then she wandered into parenthood, told her now grown up children stories, and heard theirs. A qualified translator, she worked on an eclectic mix of material, from health reports on racehorses to harrowing refugee tales. She taught adults and children, co-authored a textbook and ran teacher training. In 2008 came the idea for “The Infinity Pool”, which appeared in 2015 (and in German in 2018). Her second novel “The Magic Carpet”, inspired by teaching creatively in multicultural schools, was published in July 2019, and she is working on a third. She divides her time between London and Malvern, blogging, singing soprano, and walking in the forest and hills.

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The Inheritance (The Guernsey Novels 7) by Anne Allen #BookReview

Inheritence

This is the second Guernsey novel I have read so I was pleased to recognise some familiar places and people, but previous knowledge is not needed to read this stand-alone story.  Heroine, Tessa is completing her training as a doctor in Exeter and hopes to move into general practice when she is surprised to hear that she has inherited a large house in Guernsey from her Great-Aunt Doris. Returning to the place where she grew up, fills Tess with pleasure but what she should she do with this crumbling old house?  Looking up an old friend gives her a contact which could lead to a new job, so Tess considers returning to Guernsey.

In parallel to the contemporary story, we read the diary of Eugénie written in the 1860s.  A recently widowed French woman, she is Tess’s ancestor.  More tragedy follows when she loses her baby, but she is taken care of by Madame Drouet who is the long-term mistress of Victor Hugo and her life becomes closely linked to the famous couple.

As Tess works out what she wants from life, she meets Jack who supervises the restoration of the house where Eugénie once lived.  Both women have to make decisions about their futures, but Tess has more freedom than her ancestor had in Victorian times.  It is fascinating to read of Victor Hugo’s long sojourn in Guernsey and his magnetic personality.  In contrast, the modern problems encountered by Tess, as a doctor and her growing awareness of her genealogy add great depth to this unusual novel.

The Inheritance is available at Amazon UK

My review of The Betrayal by Anne Allen

A Bittersweet Garden by Caren J Werlinger #FridayReads #RBRT

Bittersweet

A Bittersweet Garden is a mystery story set in Ireland, which also describes a romance between American Librarian, Nora McNeil and Briana Devlin, a groom and horse trainer in the village of Cong in County Mayo.  After a failed relationship and the death of her long-loved cat, Nora has come to see the home village of her grandparents. Intending to stay for several weeks she has rented Sióg cottage, a run-down property in the woods, reputed to be haunted.  After a disastrous first meeting with Briana, Nora begins to come closer to this reserved young woman and she enjoys helping her cousin, Sheila in her garden nursery.  She is even able to start writing a novel, but the subject matter is dark. Frequent dreams of a tragic family, who once lived in the cottage, begin to obsess her and she sleep walks into the woods in search of Rowan, a young girl who disappeared mysteriously in the 1840s.

Nora needs to value her own worth and a relationship with Briana might give her happiness, but she must return to Virginia.  The sad story of Móirin and Donell, who once lived in the cottage, needs resolution but this may endanger Nora’s life. The warm community in this picturesque Irish village rally round but only Nora and Brianna can solve the past in order to give themselves a future.

Caren J Werlinger has created two complex characters with whom the reader can identify and I was intrigued to discover what had happened to the little girl in the yellow dress over 170 years earlier.

Caren

Caren J Werlinger

Caren was raised in Ohio, the oldest of four children. Much of her childhood was spent reading every book she could get her hands on, and crafting her own stories. She was influenced by a diverse array of authors, including Rumer Godden, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula Le Guin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Willa Cather, and the Brontë sisters. She has lived in Virginia for over twenty years where she practices physical therapy, teaches anatomy and lives with her partner and their canine fur-children. She began writing creatively again several years ago. Her first novel, Looking Through Windows, won a Debut Author award from the Golden Crown Literary Society in 2009. Since then, she has published several more novels, winning multiple Rainbow Awards and a 2014 GCLS Award for In This Small Spot. She recently published her first fantasy novel. Rising From the Ashes: The Chronicles of Caymin, is the first volume in The Dragonmage Saga.

A Bittersweet Garden is available on Amazon UK

The Doll Maker (The Viper and the Urchin Book 4) by Celine Jeanjean #NewRelease #TuesdayBookBlog

Doll

Revolution in the streets.

A deadly weapon stolen.

A wardrobe too wide to fit up the stairs.

All is most definitely not well back in Damsport…

For Rory and her companion Longinus, this is an exciting time, a new beginning.  No longer is Rory a waif, a defiant pick-pocket given a place to sleep and guidance by the wise but eccentric assassin.   They are moving into a new home as equals. Rory believes she is paying her way, an independent young woman who helps the Marchioness when Damsport is under threat.  Longinus is in his element, decorating their new home stylishly and employing Tess, a maid, to take care of them.  But their happiness is soon disturbed when Rory discovers their friend Cruikshank, the skilled machinist, critically injured by brutes who have broken into her workshop.  A dangerous weapon containing a lethal explosive has been stolen and the whole city could be destroyed.

Rory must work with Varanguard, Raif, once more and this time she has come of age. She is prepared to recognise her feelings for the strong handsome young man. Together with Longinus they face terrifying events.  Rory participates in a thrilling duel on board Crazy Willy’s steamcoach and Longinus faces up to fears from his past when he enters the eerie rooms in Arthur’s Automaton Emporium.  He found,

“himself facing rows and rows of beady black eyes, all looking at him.  The eyes belonged to dolls. Rows and rows of dolls….

The doll’s eyes were as black and gleaming as beetle wings and so shiny they looked wet….

One had hair but no face so that its black eyes looked out from metal sockets above an articulated metal jaw, its joints held in place by vicious-looking screws.”

Will the Old Girl maintain her position as ruler of Damsport or will a popular rising, funded by bribery and lies, replace her with a corrupt, power-seeking aristocrat who only cares for himself?  Rory’s links to the underworld in the Rookery are essential if the city is to survive.

This is the best of all these exciting steampunk adventures.  The plot turns from one frightening situation to another problem which must be solved.  The characters the reader now knows so well, are courageous, loyal and enterprising and their personal development is believable and heartening.  A must read!

The Doll Maker on Amazon UK

 

#AtoZChallenge : K is for What Katy Did #FavouriteBookCharacters

Katy did Katy at school

Today’s fictional heroine, Katy Carr, is yet another character from the 19th century, but written in America in 1870 she seems so much more up-to-date. At 12, Katy is the eldest of 6 children, living with their father Dr Carr and his sister Aunt Izzie.  She leads her siblings in fun and adventure, always with good intentions but she is thoughtless and impulsive, leading to a life-changing accident. Suddenly her future is severely restricted, and Katy is marooned upstairs as an invalid.  She eventually decides to make her room and her company welcoming and irresistible so that her family seek her out.

You can’t help liking Katy and wishing the best for her.  In What Katy Did At School, which for me was the best of the trilogy, Katy and Clover go to a boarding school in New England and in What Katy Did Next she travels to Europe.  I am tempted to reread these three books by Susan Coolidge, set in a time when life was simpler.

Katy next

The Heart Whisperer by Ella Griffin #TuesdayBookBlog #amreading

Heart

Claire Dillon still lives in the shadow of the past. On her thirty-third birthday, she gives herself a present. One year to change her future.

Claire Dillon’s mother had everything to live for. A husband, two children, a successful medical practice. Then, at thirty-three, she died in a tragic accident. And it was Claire’s fault.

Now Claire is the same age. A floundering actress with a broken heart, a collection of draft snakes, and a talent for self-sabotage. She is frittering her life away with the help of her oldest friend, the gorgeous ex-rock star, Ray Devine.
On her 33rd birthday she gives herself one last year to be more like her mother. But you should be careful what you wish for …

Her estranged brother Nick is back from America and keeping his distance from his clingy sister and his pathetic father while he reinvents himself as a daytime TV relationship guru. But Dublin is full of memories and Nick is already dreaming of escape. While his wife Kelly, has dreams of her own. Ones she isn’t telling him about.
What will happen when another accident throws the dysfunctional Dillons together? And the secrets they have kept from themselves and one another finally begin to emerge?

My Review

I’ve returned to writer Ella Griffin for another thought provoking, gripping story. Claire is wallowing in sadness and lack of motivation. Her childhood was tragic, and she seems unable to grow up. Her friend and housemate, Ray is in the same predicament but at least he has a successful past. Meanwhile Claire’s brother Nick is concealing his damaged youth in a “perfect lifestyle” and a blossoming career as a relationship guide. But they are all forced to face up to their past, Claire by the severe accident which befalls her father, Nick by a crisis in his perfect marriage to Kelly, and Ray when his past sins catch up with him.

Interwoven amongst these dramas are amusing incidents on a film set, and others with an angelic little girl and an enormous clumsy dog. Claire discovers a wonderful family she wants to be part of, Nick and Kelly fall apart, and Dog pulls at our heartstrings. This is a plot which captures your imagination and explores the way we deal with emotional crises. It kept me reading long into the night.

The Heart Whisperer on Amazon UK

My review of The Memory Shop

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’.