Books

The Mill Girl – Rosie Goodwin

The Mill Girl can only be described as a book which is a historical family saga. If you like books in that genre then you are going to love this from Rosie Goodwin. It resonates Catherine Cookson. You can quickly envisage thanks to the writing the places that the characters live and work in. The characters that Rosie Goodwin creates just reinforces it all.

Maryann works at the local cotton mill with her father. Her brother, Benny is down the coal mine. Their sister Violet wants out of what she thinks the squalor of where she is living. She gets an opportunity to break free from this 1850s community in Warwickshire to seek fame and fortune elsewhere. When Benny gets a new job up at the big house, owned by Wesley Marshall, owner of the cotton mill where Maryann works the family breaks apart even further.

Maryann is determined and having lost a lot of people she loves in some tragic circumstances she can see no harm in speaking her mind especially when she believes that what she is saying is true. This leads to further complications and Maryann suddenly finds herself in a very different role.

As we follow this family and its young members as their lives progress we are faced with prejudice, disability, prostitution, scandal, murder, suicide, cruelty, poverty, power, loneliness and love. A whole gambit of issues and emotions is packed into these pages and these characters.

As with all these ‘period’ novels, love and romance are at its core and that you actually don’t have to be very rich to be happy and in love. Having nothing but love makes your world much richer than those of your peers in the case of Maryann and her family.

This book has a lovely feel and shows how the workings of a big house can be made so much easier and harder depending on who is in residence. I wanted to be able to sit with Nellie in the kitchen and share a cup of tea as Ted, Benny, Cissie and the gorgeous Fleur wandered in and out. I wanted to shake some of the residents upstairs for their behaviour and cruelty to others.

It is the kind of book that gets you hooked in and whilst there is plenty going on and a number of subplots, everything is tied up in the end and the ending is going to be a happy and one with justice as well.

It doesn’t matter that you know this, it is how the author takes you to the point of the book which is important and Rosie Goodwin does it so well and skillfully.

Thank you to netgalley for a copy of this book for review. 

The Mill Girl is out now in all formats. 

I am looking forward to reading more Rosie Goodwin. Historical Family Sagas were my books of choice going from teenager to adult and through my university days. It was the easy reading that kept me going I think and also the sense of community and love with ran through a number of these books. 

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Books

Second Life – SJ Watson

This is the second novel from SJ Watson following on from the success of Before I Go to Sleep and like all second novels this is going to come in for some close scrutiny.

Julia discovers that her sister, Kate has been killed in Paris. Julia is in London with her husband Hugh and her son Connor.

Julia is in fact Connor’s aunt and whilst she is devastated about losing her, she is relieved as custody over Connor was beginning to start to affect them all before Kate’s death.

Julia cannot understand why her sister would have been murdered? The only way for her to come to terms with her grief is to do something to help find the killer.

Julia steps into Kate’s world. A world which has been full of online activity, where meeting men was a frequent occurrence to living out fantasies without anyone getting hurt. What if one of Kate’s fantasies turned into a nasty reality?

“There’s a point when an online dalliance becomes dangerous, but who can really say when it is?”

Struggling to keep two lives going, Julia stumbles across something.

Nothing more can be said without giving away plot twists and turns.

It is a book which keeps you reading, the writing is superb and Watson does a very good job of inhabiting a woman’s mind. Some say that perhaps Julia was not as likeable as she could have been. But I think that is the point of her. She had already has her second life with Hugh, as we learn throughout the book as she is not perhaps as perfect as we are initially given to first think.

I wanted to watch through my hands at certain points as this life slowly starts to fall apart. She is very much dealing with her own demons and is trying to find a path that is right, and whilst some may criticise the decisions she makes in the book (remembering they are at the mercy of the writer) she does them because those are the choices available to her. Who knows what any of us would have done in that position? A position I would never want to be in.

Whilst it did not have the thrill of Before I Go to Sleep it had something different, I cannot put my finger just what that something is. It was a story and a plotline that was very much of the twenty-first century and it fulfills the thriller category nicely.

As it is a second novel then it is always going to be much maligned. Ignore the critics, read it for yourself and see what you think.

I just hope we don’t have to wait so long for the next book.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy.

The title intrigued me – second life. Was it an ironic dig at this being SJ Watson’s second novel? Was it something to do with Julia and her second life she was intent on destroying? Is it the Second Life that everyone lives ‘online’? 

Second Life is out now in Hardback and ebook.

 

Books

Every Woman for Herself – Trisha Ashley

Love normally strikes when you least expect it. For Charlie Rymer, divorced, no job, no money, nearly 40 and with one action which is going to stay with her for the rest of her life she moves back up to her childhood home on the Yorkshire moors. Charlie is certainly not looking for love.

Back in the bosom of the family home, Upvale Parsonage, everything it seems is all of a mess. Em, Charlie’s sister is trying to run the family home and keep everyone fed but she is having to deal with her father’s latest mistress actually moving in with two young children and upsetting  the equilibrium that has always existed. Charlie might have sworn off love, Em it seems is desperate for it. Anne her other sister, a correspondent in far-flung war-torn countries has landed back home whilst she battles illness. And the eccentricity of their brother Bran is worrying all the family.

Add into the mix, the dark rather bad-tempered man Mace North who lives close by and this a typical Trisha Ashley novel. The undertones of the Bronte’s is obvious, just take the character’s names and where they live added to some interest and humour to the book, but it was rather fleetingly without much depth.

While I say it is typical Trisha Ashley novel, for me it does not have the flesh that her subsequent books have. I really did not get in to the story (for a long time) perhaps it was because trying to link all the characters together took too much time that I lost focus on the story? I wanted more background family stuff, that was sort of thrown in to give us some sort of focus but missed the point for me.

An eccentric story line and plot that perhaps didn’t live up to expectations. Her later work is much better.

What do you do when you read a book by an author who you enjoy and find the book is not up to much? 

I was actually scared of writing this review. How silly I suppose. But when you let authors into your lives through their books you don’t want to let them down by not enjoying their work. Silly again. Not all books, plots, characters, settings are going to work for me as a reader all the time and I think perhaps this is one of those books. 

 

 

 

Books

Vacancy not filled

There seems something rather obtuse in reviewing a book that you have not even finished. On the other hand there is something so refreshing, so liberating about putting a book down that is just not working for you.

The book in question

I bought the book when it was first published – I fell for the hype. It was back in 2012. It sat on my shelf for 2013 and all of 2014. I moved it and dusted it. But as I do when I buy the ‘hype’ book of the moment I did not read it.

So why now in 2015? Easy – it has been made into a television programme. Perhaps I should see what the fuss was about and whether actually I was going to be watching the programme.

They say the book is always better. And as I have yet to watch the programme I can’t compare.

The book though will remain unfinished.

I got past my 50 page rule. I kept going. I had to write a list of who all the characters were and how they were related to see if it helped me.

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I got past the 100 page rule and still something was not right with this book.

I felt I was missing the point of it. A man had died. Clearly liked by some in the community clearly disliked by many others. That was it. Nothing interesting was happening, it was about the bitchiness, the petty mindless disputes of local families, businessmen and women, councils and all the warring that goes between areas. The rough and the not rough. Them and us.

I understand that this is what the book is meant to be about. I get that. But frankly I was bored with it.

I got to about 150 pages and still kept going. Why?

I think I was still missing that ‘thing’ that the book seemed to lack. I flicked from characters to characters, still rather lost about the way they related to each other and had to reread passages and some pages to just refresh my memory.

It was not good, I had to put it down. But this is a piece of work, the first since Rowling had ended the Harry Potter series, surely I could keep reading to the end.

No – I got to around page 228, just under halfway. And I closed the book. I picked it up the next day, I flicked through to the last chapter or so and skim read. I got the gist of what happened. Actually the story of Krystal Weedon and her family was about the only thing that stood out in the book – rightly so it made the middle class snobbery pale into insignificance. This was real, gritty and grotty life – that is what the people of Pagford seem to be ignoring and sadly is an indication of probably what is going on in every city, town and village today.

The other thing that stood out for me was the language – the bad language. Oddly enough it does not bother me, I am not a great blasphemer but I think it has a time and a place. The constant swearing seemed to have been thrown in at random will as if having been constrained by writing for children, the chance to let rip was too good an opportunity to miss.

I think this book is J.K.Rowling’s book, it is not a book for me. For me The Cuckoo’s Calling is a much better read and Rowling I think is an author that has to write series of books, not one offs.

Therefore this book is the first in a long time that I have put down and moved onto something new. I can see me doing this again if a book is just not working for me.

Have you read The Casual Vacancy? What are your thoughts? How far do you go before giving up on a book?

 

Books

A Vintage Wedding – Katie Fforde

Single mum Lindy is living in a Cotswold village near her parents and grandmother trying to bring up her two young sons the best that she can.

Beth is staying in an empty holiday let for the winter. Having dropped out of university, she really has not much to keep her there the only thing she is doing is avoiding her mother.

Rachel was a “weekender”, using her cottage in the village as a second home. Divorce has meant she can now live here permanently but can she find happiness when everything in her world is so white?

These three women are thrown together in an unlikely way through a community project, to renovate the local village hall so a wedding can be held there – for Beth’s sister. They pool their resources and skills and start to create a perfect day.

They did not bargain on a trial run of someone else’s wedding first. It will test their skills and the strength of this new friendship.

None of them bargained for love.

It seems that organising weddings can all lead to romance of your own.

Angus is renovating his own property and has returned to the area, maybe he can now forge some sort of relationship with his nephews as his brother clearly has other ideas on fatherhood.

Raff is the local ladies man, it seems. A bit of rough and always knows someone, who knows someone who can help. Will he be able to rescue a damsel in distress, when she does not even realise she was distressed in the first place?

Charlie seems the perfect man to be able to love, a real local. When Finn arrives, he is well-known and even he can sweep ladies off their feet as well. Can he pick them back up though?

This is a busy book, because the characters are so richly drawn they have plenty to occupy their time and do plenty for readers to enjoy. It is all believable, a friendship forged between three women so different that it just works so well.

I thought Beth had found her true love and I felt for her when it went wrong. I wanted to be amongst the mess of Lindy and her house to show you that anywhere can be home. Rachel found the right person to make her see the edges of life are not pristine and perfect and everyone can coexist quite well together. You became part of the village, the community, I wanted to drink tea out of the vintage china and eat cakes in the village hall. I wanted to stand at the church and watch brides enter. I wanted to go and spend an evening in the local pub, sat by the crackling fire enjoy the company. I was drawn right into this book. The plot did not go where I thought it would go, which was great, it meant that I had to keep reading.

This is a lovely romantic book without being full of unnecessary fluff and is such a concept that it could even beg a sequel.

Thank you to netgalley for providing me a copy to review. A Vintage Wedding is out in hardback and ebook today!

Books

A Place to Call Home – Carole Matthews

Ayesha is trapped and she has been biding her time so she can slip away with her daughter, Sabina. She ends up in London and thinks that this is the fresh start she is going to need.

Ending up in a house belonging to a former pop star, Hayden who has turned into a recluse, with ultimate security all around. Ayesha starts to feel different. Along with the houses other residents, waifs and strays that Hayden has picked up along the way, Crystal a professional dancer, trapped in another world with so much love to give and Joy, a grumpy retired lady whose passion is the garden and making up excuses about not going to see her children and grandchildren in the Far East.

This unlikely group of people seem to all bring out the best in each other. Ayesha discovers what life can really be like with laughter, security and love for both herself as well as her daughter Sabina. What Ayesha does is somehow turn around and influence Crystal, Joy and Hayden who have appeared in her life and get them to look to the future as well.

However, Ayesha knows she is going to have to look over her shoulder because of the past she has escaped. It has affected her daughter so much that she is now mute and she cannot let her witness anything so traumatic as seeing her own mother subjected to violence. Will Ayesha ever get rid of her past?

The subject matter of this book does not make for easy reading, and so it should not. What it does give is hope. Carole Matthews shows you that you can turn your life around in only small actions as well as large ones and that it all has a positive effect.

This is what I have come to love about Carole Matthews novels, they are emotional in more than one way and they draw you in and are so heartwarming that they can always have a place in my home.

I think I am fast becoming a fan of Carole Matthews writing. I look forward to reading more of her work in the coming months. 

Books

England Expects – Sara Sheridan

Mirabelle Bevan has recovered from her investigating with Vesta in London (London Calling – Book Two) and has returned to Brighton.

It is 1953.

The Coronation has happened, and England is getting used to having a young Queen to rule over them. Whilst this might be a major change for some, others are used to the rituals they have developed over periods of time and that none of these can be broken and certainly not infiltrated. But then they may have never met Mirabelle Bevan.

There is a heat wave.

A journalist from London has his throat cut in a Brighton Barber’s. His body is taken away speedily by the police.

Superintendent MacGregor never saw the body in situ. He questions the actions of his colleagues?

A cleaner from Brighton is seemingly poisoned and dies an agonising death in the local Freemasons Lodge. In fact Mirabelle sees her die.

Brighton Pavillion is being left to crumble but a television aerial is protruding from the side of it.

All these seemingly random murders and observations cannot possibly be connected, of course they must be. But how and why?

Mirabelle and her assistant Vesta, ably assisted by Bill Turpin and probably with some reluctance Superintendent MacGregor stumble into a world of the secrets and the unknown, of corruption and cover ups.

I have described the two previous books in this series as crime novels with a huge dollop of social history. We have Vesta living in sin with her boyfriend Charlie, who wants more than anything to marry Vesta. All rather radical perhaps for the Nineteen Fifties, especially knowing that Vesta is black and if anything stands out in the world she has involved herself in. I love the fact that we can see people being challenged by Vesta’s presence and how her skin colour means nothing to me when I am reading the story, it means so much more to some of the characters. It was a developing and changing time the Nineteen Fifties and reading books like this, you can see how much has changed and moved forward over time. Sadly you can also see how much has not changed. What is important to note, that this book is not dealing solely with race as an issue, or women in differing roles after the war, it is dealing with all of them in a broad social setting as the background of what these books really are – crime fiction.

A great read, without being to edgy or graphic but enough to keep you wanting to find out the truth, despite the possible options given along the way. I look forward to reading the next one.

There is no doubt that Sara Sheridan researches when writing these books, and for those who perhaps criticise the wrong use of language for the time, or perhaps the odd anomaly are obviously expecting to read history books not historical crime fiction books. Fiction being the clue here.

Many of these ‘howlers’ as someone has described them has passed me by. Does that make me wrong to enjoy these books? Or is it simply I can forgive more easily and enjoy a story? 

I love the historical elements to them and was most interested in this one, as I have a little knowledge of freemasonry and having been allowed inside a lodge on more than one occasion, it has never felt like something secret or mysterious. I suppose this is the way to debunk some of these myths. I don’t think this would have worked in the Nineteen Fifties though! 

I look forward to seeing where we go in the next book. I have my preorder in for the hardback already – as I want to collect all of these in hardback version. Pray they don’t change their minds with design halfway through the series.