Debutantes – Cora Harrison

It is the mid twenties and four girls have desires on what they want to happen to them. It is a time of change.

Violent the eldest is desperate to be presented at her season. However family finances mean that it is looking even less likely.

Daisy has ambitions to be something in films and spends a lot of time filming her family and bringing all these shots together to make the film that will mean she is discovered.

Poppy (Daisy’s non-identical twin)  is embracing the Jazz Age and being a débutante is the furthest thing from her mind. Making music on her clarinet with a group of friends at the family’s chauffeur cottage is where you are most likely to find her.

Rose is the youngest and looks up to all her sisters and involves them all in her fictious stories and short pithy newspaper headlines which punctuate their life.

The family is living in a house which is starting to fail just like their family finances, their mother is dead and they only have their father, an aunt and a few family retainers to keep up some sort of society appearance.

They make their own entertainment, and when the house throws up secrets, in the shape of a letter hidden in a wooden box and then a trunk full of clothes in the attic, belonging to an Elaine Carruthers a name the four girls are not familiar with. It falls to Daisy to start digging around to see if she can find anything out – it could always make a film. But she wants to direct not to be the star. All the while young Rose, punctuates it with wonderful eye grabbing headlines which was one of my favourite parts of the book.

This book is pitched as a young adult book but it is not particularly ‘young’ in its topics or language so it should not deter adults from picking it up and reading it. Ideal for those who are fans of such programmes as Downton Abbey, historical fiction, the differences in those ‘upstairs’ , the servants and the ilk. It has everything that you would expect and want in such a book; a strict aunt, a family bereavement, a big house with secrets, sibling rivalry, references to society of the time but also how women were changing at the time and not everyone wanted to be a débutante. Changing times.

This is the first in a new series by Cora Harrison, and I enjoyed it that I will want to see what happens to the sisters and the direction that Harrison will take.

Thank you to Amazon Vine for giving me the opportunity to read this book. 

I have read one of Cora Harrison’s previous novels I was Jane Austen’s Best Friend but not the second which I must rectify. 

I suppose I should say something about the fact that they are children’s books, but to be honest I don’t know what there is to say. Other than perhaps as I directed in my review (see link above) if you want to start children on preparation for something more substantial then this a good book to start with.  


A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar – Suzanne Joinson

It is 1923 and we are in Kashgar which is in the western extremity of China. This book is already going to take you on a journey which you have probably never had before, it did me.  

Eva is out there with her sister, Lizzie under the pretence of wanting to help her set up a Christian Mission with the rather forceful and arrogant Millicent who seems to me to have brainwashed Lizzie into a completely different life from the one perhaps would have taken. Millicent immediately comes across and throughout the book as someone who pray’s on a persons weakness and uses that method to be able to gain trust, loyalty and ultimate respect for her Christian beliefs. In fact as the book goes on you can see this in clearer detail with horrifying consequences.

But for Eva, she is somewhat lost when her original plan of surreptitiously writing a guide to cycling and the area is over taken by an event which sees her literally being left to hold the baby as the British idiom goes. Eva suddenly discovers something else in her; a belief in her that she has to protect.

All around them there is strong cultural differences and Eva, Lizzie and Millicent are as much learning about new ways as they are trying to teach or force their message across. Self preservation only seems to function in Eva, and when it is time to escape she has to carry on a very different journey.

Interspersed with chapters about Eva, is the story in the present day of Frieda who is also trying to escape. But Frieda does not know what she is trying to escape from; her married lover, her persistent travelling abroad for work; unstructured upbringing which resulted in an estrangement from her wanderlust mother.

Two things happen to Frieda which make her stop, reassess and find a new path; a  chance meeting with Tayeb, a refugee, needing shelter. And an actual key to the past that hints at perhaps why Frieda’s mother was like she was and then there are the clues which point to a time back travelling in the Nineteen Twenties.

And so the links and ties are complete and both narratives have a purpose and meaning. For me Eva’s story is all the stronger brought to life by the extreme cultural differences, the food, the sights and sounds of the journey which leapt off the page. I could feel the intense heat, I could feel the worry for an ill sister, the sheer arrogance of Millicent as she peddled her beliefs not taking into account that anyone could possible view things differently. This was a journey like no other, made all the more interesting by the location, the environment and the challenges it brought. Out on this journey you could understand the culture and how it fitted in to the place. How Eva was never going to fit in.

But the modern day story had its cultural differences, ones that seemed completely at odds within an English seaside town or a capital city. To me it was a very jarring part of the story, it did not flow as it should. I never felt for Frieda and was always just reading the pages to get to the next part of Eva’s story. There were flashes of interest here and when towards the end of the book, Frieda finds some closure, it showed another culture, not in its original environment. Nonetheless I can actually see upon reflection that it actually did have a role within the book but it was perhaps not as strong as it could have been.

I did not think I would find such a book so fascinating, travel fiction is not necessarily something I would choose to read but historical fiction and this books fits into many genres. I had heard good things about this book and wanted to find out more. I am so glad I did. This is a book which as a début novel will probably be a slow starter but suddenly then thrust into everyone’s view as a book to read.

I admit to being slightly confused to start off with this book, I think it was the names of the places that threw me. It was an area of the world which I have never thought of and know little if nothing about. This book became an education and I had to brush up on my geography once I had finished it. 

I was irritated by the character of Millicent who with her beliefs got right under my skin. A sign of good writing in my opinion and when you can see others that are influenced so strongly it made me realise how religion can be spread so quickly and widely. 

What also was a surprise to me was the mention of Southsea, where Eva and Lizzie have to move to from Geneva because of their father’s failing health. 

Mother, quite a name in Geneva, with her red hair and committees and pamphlets, was as unprepared as Lizzie and I for our first sight of the desolate Southsea tea-houses closed for the winter, and the pier asserting its futile defiance against the interminable unfriendliness of the grey, spitting sea. 

South Parade Pier (2008)

Southsea is a mere mile or so from where I live, and has two piers I think perhaps it is this pier above that Suzanne Joinson was perhaps referring to in her book.

Thank you to Amazon Vine for the opportunity to read this book.

What to see another point of view – visit Jane’s Blog or Sam’s Blog. Both blogs which I follow and actually it was them that sparked my original interest in this book. Thanks ladies! 


August Roundup

Emperor Augustus

I feel like I should be an Emperor for the amount of reading I have done in August. But it was my main holiday time and I have had a tough few weeks from mid July and so there has been a lot of therapeutic reading. Oh what a joy reading can be.

Comfort reading comes in many forms – a familiar author, a family saga and a great author with a new book. All three of them were provided for me. The familiar author came in the shape of Trisha Ashley – Wedding Tiers* I do like her writing, it is like getting onto a comfy sofa, a blanket, hot chocolate and biscuits and losing yourself for a couple of hours or days!

The family saga, of which I am quite partial to came with a new author to me in the shape of Sherryl Woods – The Inn at Eagle Point. It was again great escapism but I really cannot involved with another family saga, I have too many series on the go which I have been neglecting of late. But at least I know there is another author to pick up soon and by the time I get there, there will be lots of books to catch up on!

A great author with a new book has to be Lucinda Riley – The Light Behind the Window. This is her third novel and is a cracking good read, it took me away in terms of historical fiction to something which I had not previously read anything about and that was the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E) during the Second World War. Fascinating stuff!

Historical fiction came in many guises in August. More Second World War related reading in the true life book from John E Forbat – Evacuee Boys: Letters of a Family Separated by War*. Then back to the so-called ‘Roaring’ Twenties with Cora Harrison – Debutantes*. The beginning of a new series books (aimed at older children) in which it is the mid twenties and being presented at court as a debutante was about as good as it was going to get. But for women times were changing and this book covers many of these aspects as well as having that favourite character of mine in a book – a big house!

Sticking with the Nineteen Twenties but travelling to the other side of the world was Suzanne Joinson – A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar*. This book is a début novel and one which covered, religion and politics as well as a travel tale and life changing all between the covers and so you did not even know that you were reading about such subjects.

As for début novels, that continued with Emylia Hall – The Book of Summers. This was a book that surprised me, it took me to another place in the world I would never have considered to be one to visit within the pages of a novel – Hungary. The author has drawn on her own personal experiences of summers abroad to make a tale with a twist.

Now when you want twists in the tale who better to turn to than the best crime writers ever Agatha Christie and in this case the Three Act Tragedy*. Another Poirot novel, one where he is perhaps just an audience to the play which is being played out before him, but nonetheless his input is imperative and vital to the conclusion. Someone who is not always vital to the conclusion and sometimes gets in the way is Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death by M.C. Beaton.* but you know Agatha, she manages to turn it all round and we are ready to see what she gets up to next!

It is all about the conclusion in crime novels and in Niamh O’Connor – Taken we also get something more, the hint that the series will be carried on and that perhaps are protagonist DI Jo Birmingham has unfinished business she needs to solve with someone close to her. The hint is take, as I have the next one waiting to be read! Thank you publishers.

And a thank you must also got to Authors. I was contacted recently by someone who has previously only written two novels before, both I have read and reviewed. She spotted this and offered to send me her latest novel, currently only available on kindle. Would I mind reading it and writing about it, no pressure. Well thank you very much Emma Burstall for The Darling Girls. It was a novel again, with a difference to the previous two, the only similarities being how a group of women cope with the circumstances and situations they find themselves and their emotions in.

Well you know what women can be like when they are together and especially in pursuit over men. It is not a new concept which is why I read Jane Austen and Northanger Abbey this stemmed from me reading a short story of There Must be Murder a couple of months ago, where the characters feature from the said Austen novel. Language and society may have changed over the last 200 years, but there is something very recognisable in the characters of Catherine and Isabella.

Over periods of time, it has often been said “hell hath no fury than a woman scorned”. That is certainly the case with Tamar Cohen and The Mistress’s Revenge*. Plenty of ideas if you were ever lacking in here!

And so there goes August, there goes my last holiday until Christmas, with only a few random days off in between. A substantial amount of books read which will tail off in September. But what will I be reading? Do please pop back when you can and find out.

* Book review yet to appear on this blog.


The Book of Summers – Emylia Hall

An afternoon in the park, everyone is going about their lives. People are sat chatting, catching the sunshine, groups of boys playing football.  But one lady sat in that park is absorbed in the past, not in the present.

That lady is Beth Lowe.

A parcel had arrived via her father in person to London her now home. Something he never does. The parcel was important.

It told of seven summers that Beth experienced in Hungary. It told us through Beth’s memories of the summers what Beth experienced. The angst of the age between nine and sixteen.

The angst of warring parents who were not actually fighting.

The angst of first love.

The angst of the truth – “…anyone could learn the truth. It was what you did with it that mattered.”

This debut novel is subtly written that you have to absorb every moment that is beautifully described. The richness of Hungary, the landscape, the colours, the smells all brough to life on the page. The author’s own experiences of the country come through strong and clear,making it richer and more evocative. You can see Beth, running through the hills, tasting the food, eating what she wants when she wants, trying new ideas, meeting new people in fact everything.

All in complete contrast to Beth’s life in Devon. Regimented, organised. Bland and boring. Ordinary.

The book brings a conclusion. But can Beth reach her own conclusion to enable her to move on with her life. Can she reconcile herself with ordinary days and those not so ordinary?

“Little did we know how happy we were then. If only we could learn to celebrate the ordinary days; the ones that begin unremarkably, and continue in un-noteworthy fashion.”

This book cleverly weaves the adult perspective as well as the child, interestingly enough both perspectives from the same person. Does time change memories? Or does knowledge as an adult make us reflect differently. It is all done so gently and feels like you have peaked inside someone else memory and had the huge privilege of being allowed in; to see life so differently.

A book for the summer in many ways. It evokes memories of childhood summers gone. It will be a book which lasts in your memory having finished it into the dark winter nights that follow summer.

Thank you to Amazon Vine for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. 

I first spotted this book on another blog and coveted it for a while, but did not select it to read from Vine. Then I did, then I spotted that it was one of the Richard and Judy Summer Read choices and I knew I was going to be on to a winner. I was. In fact this book was voted the favourite. 

This is Emylia Hall’s first novel. I will be interested to see what her second novel (due out in 2013) has between the pages. 


Between a Mother and her Child – Elizabeth Noble

Maggie and Bill have the perfect life if such a thing exists. Falling deeply in love with each other at a tender age, married, and relocating to the other side of the world, well off financially and materially, with three children Jake, Aly and Ben.

But this perfect life is shattered by the Tsunami on Boxing Day.

Jake their eldest is there at the time with two of his friends and only they come back alive.

The perfect life is no longer, the bond between a mother and her child, is broken utterly and completely. With it the family is slowly starting to shatter and Elizabeth Noble’s novel takes us through the grief stricken aftermath of those left behind. It is not just a novel of bonds between mother and child but all relationships; husband and wife, brother and sister, sisters and strangers

Maggie and Bill are no longer together. Bill is actively dealing with his grief. Maggie is not; her only outlet is cleaning to combat the insomnia that has struck her. A build up of resentment has broken this bond. The bond with Maggie’s other two children has also been broken and at a point it looks like it will never be reformed. Aly feels she can never live up to the pedestal that Jake was put on being the first born. Ben on the other hand has special needs and his behaviour being blunt he seems to have dealt with the death of his brother and is dealing with life as he sees it. Ben has moved on.

Suddenly there are two saviours to the family. Olivia, Maggie’s sister realises that she cannot continue to support her sister when they are on opposite sides of the globe especially when she is now moving on with her own life. By chance an advertisement in a newspaper leads her to Kate and Kate to Maggie and her family as everyone’s lives move on.

Noble’s novel was moving and a couple of times the tears did flow. She somehow has managed to create a story which could have been quite perfunctory but deals with the many of emotions of grief and importantly love. The only niggle and the reason for four stars and not five was the role of the character Kate, the “Mary Poppins” figure that drops into their lives and rescues them and interestingly her own family breakdown at the same time. More could have been made of Kate and she came rather late into the story for me and her background was rather a rushed affair to bring the relevance of her into the story.

However, this is a good novel from Elizabeth Noble and one of her stronger ones in my opinion.

I last read an Elizabeth Noble novel in January 2011, and looking back at the review here, I commented two things – that I have given all her previous novels 3 stars out of 5 (on Amazon) and that perhaps I have gone as far as I am going to go with this particular author. It shows you how time and moods change. I have given the novel this time 4 stars but despite this book being a much better read than her others. She is an author that I can take or leave.


The Last Summer – Judith Kinghorn

This is simply a love story. It is a story of a love between two people Clarissa and Tom, one a lady with all the privileges, the other a young man with ideas but no standing and no money. Their love others will frown upon. But not only is a class divided, there is something else which will divide them all – War. A division across the world.

And so through Clarissa’s recollections we will follow everything about this tender love affair. War exacerbates some situations, love and grief become muddled. War changes everything; people, relationships and even homes. War also ends some things. Through it all the love between Clarissa and Tom never falters but love is sometimes never easy.

This is a beautifully written gentle story and one where you really do not know where it is going to take you. There are surprises along the way and although it is set nearly 100 years ago,  topics resonate in today’s society. Whilst modern day readers might find it frustrating at the problems the two main protagonists face, it is a reminder of how much society has changed. This novel evokes much about the feelings of those of left behind in war, as well as the following years.

I immediately fell in love with Clarissa and Tom’s romance, and although I hoped and probably knew that the inevitable was going to happen, how we got there was actually rather surprising and made the story that much deeper and stronger. The excerpts of letters throughout the novel, built on the story and added to the mystery only by reaching the end do all the pieces come together.

So much could actually be said about this novel and I would want to share, but to do so would simply ruin it for others. An excellent debut novel and an author I shall certainly be looking out for again.

How can you explain in words how a book which was slow but wanted to keep you turning the pages as you had to find out how it all ended. If I would say to anyone that this book is slow I think their immediate reaction would be “not for me then” but it is not slow in a bad way. It is slow in a marvellous romantic way which adds to the relationship between the two main characters. I thought at many points, this is where it will turn, everything will come together and then we will see the future. Sadly that was not the case, and moments lost to the heart eat away until the next time there is a meeting of lost loves. 

Many reviews have said this is an ideal book if you are a fan of Downton Abbey (of which I am) but I feel this is a completely unnecessary connotation and to be honest I am getting rather tired of using this as a selling point. If you love history, social change, social and class divides, romance and good strong characters you can believe in then – this is a book I think you would enjoy. 

Please note that the image I have used for this book, is the cover of the proof copy that I received for review (via Amazon Vine) and I actually prefer this to the copy that is currently on display in bookshops. 



May Roundup

Well what a difference a month makes – after the showers in April we had the May Flowers and the heat, although as the month ends and we go to a bumper bank holiday bonanza the weather has cooled somewhat. The reading perhaps has not.

Crime is the major theme, mainly because the Crime Fiction Alphabet started towards the end of May. Each week, taking a letter of the alphabet in turn, post something – crime and book related obviously! I knew what B was going to be, as I read that book last month, but the review has only just appeared which is why I am highlighting it to you again – Barry Lyga and I Hunt Killers.  So for A I could have concentrated on Agatha Christie and some ways I did, but I actually picked the wonderful Ariadne Oliver for this one and the book Third Girl. Two ticks – one for the Crime Fiction Alphabet and one for reading AC’s books! Crime for the alphabet continued rather unexpectedly with Ann Cleeves and Silent Voices*. This came up as a Kindle Daily Deal for 99p and because the television adaptation had just been on (cynically probably why the offer was on as well!) I thought I would give it a go. Excellent read and C was done so one step ahead of June. I am trying not to get in a pickle about this challenge, so if I post late well I post late but I will try my best to keep to the schedule.

Crime took a very different turn with Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body by M.C. Beaton which was a review copy for newbooks magazine, hopefully my review will appear in the next issue. I had jumped a number of books to read this, and I know I need to go back and read some more, as there was plenty that had happen to Agatha that I knew nothing about. Anyway, it is another tick for one of my personal challenges for this year so that is good.

A new book and author to me in the crime variety was James Runcie – Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death.  This has been mentioned on many blogs over the past few months and now the book has arrived it is simply wonderful and I cannot believe I am going to have to wait so long for the next one. It was a netgalley review, but I actually want to go out and buy this book so it can live happily in my home waiting for the next instalment. Wonderful short stories that all interconnect about Sidney Chambers, a Canon, young for his age in the Fifties who seems to have a nose for crime.

I went for some authors I knew in the month of May. A rather boring month at work where I am really quite fed up, I wanted some comfort in reading. This came in two forms – Katie Fforde and Going Dutch and Trisha Ashley and Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues. The former is an author I have only discovered this year, which I have wittered on about before now. I am so enjoying her work and delighting in all those I have not read.  The latter is actually Trisha’s new novel, and returns to Sticklepond where a previous book Chocolate Wishes was set. I do not think I have perhaps given the book enough coverage considering it is the most recently published but please if you have time pop and see my review. I so want to live in Sticklepond and be part of a community with some fantastic people and be able to bake cakes and savouries and eat chocolate! Trisha also has released a short story for the Jubilee do go and have a look here.

Familiar authors continued with P.G.Wodehouse but an unfamiliar tale – Leave it to Psmith. This is in fact a double whammy of Wodehouse I discovered. Psmith is a character that features in his own set of stories. In this particular one he is at Blandings. I have read nothing of either, sticking in the past to Jeeves and Wooster. However, to learn of Blandings coming to the BBC. I wanted to have a go. What I got was a priceless piece of witty literature and I am so grateful that I actually discovered Wodehouse in my late teens and early twenties and can continue to enjoy him.

My final book does not fit into any of the themes, genres or categories above and it is a return to novels which looking back I have not read for a while. The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn* is a debut novel and what a debut. Set during and after the First World War, this romantic tale pulls you right in, weaving some sort of spell over me as I had to keep reading it.

So that was May, and I finished it reading Room by Emma Donoghue which is my book club’s choice and that review will appear and count in June!

So on with June then!

* Book review yet to appear on this blog.


Pictures at an Exhibition – Camilla Macpherson

Claire and Rob’s marriage is strained to almost breaking point. The tragedy that occurred is causing Claire to drive them apart. Everything and everyone else has stepped quietly away from the couple, the only thing that Claire can now focus on is the letters that are left to her husband Rob by his grandmother, Elizabeth.

Some sixty years earlier, Elizabeth is sitting out the war in Canada because her husband is Canadian, away from the bombing, the destruction, the shortages; her only link to life back home is through the letters that her cousin Daisy sends her. Daisy embarks on a project to get her through days working in some war ministry as a typist. She decides to go the National Gallery once a month and see the painting that is displayed. As all paintings had been removed because of war, the one picture a month becomes an event. Daisy describes these in detail to Elizabeth as if she was there to see them, but also about how her life is changing. Everything is shared in the letters and it is these letters that come into the hands of Claire.

Claire uses the same focus as a project to get her through the tragedy. As Claire views the pictures monthly as Daisy has described them, she becomes all consumed in Daisy’s story as she tries to fill in the gaps with what she wants to happen. It becomes this which is the focus for Claire and she embarks on a rather dangerous encounter when her head and heart are working in opposing directions. Life cannot be directed to happen in the way Claire wants, and most of all she should know that. I am not sure whether Claire actually understands this by the end of the book?

An interesting novel which in places is rather slow, although I think this may be the intention to appreciate the plot and the paintings? The author moves between Claire and Daisy well, and I actually like Daisy more as a character, she had her flaws but was ultimately trying to survive the choices she had made as well as a war. Claire on the other hand I disliked, there was something so grating about her, as if she was the only person tragedy had ever touched and relentless blame on everyone else (she was not to blame either) was rather wearing by the end. I sensed that it would always be some sort of ulcer eating away at her for the rest of her marriage to Rob. That left me feeling rather sad.

A part epistolary novel with the letters that Daisy writes, I found this part of it interesting, as I like such novels, but felt rather cheated that I was only getting one side, I would have liked to have read the replies by Elizabeth, much more than I enjoyed Claire’s role in the book.

The clever use of technology to be able to scan a QR code to reach the paintings which are referred to at each chapter beginning was somewhat of a distraction, should I be looking at the painting as it is being described in the novel or not? In the end I looked them up at the end and I recommend the author’s website and see all the paintings there so you have an idea.

This is an interesting debut novel which perhaps does not follow a normal path, in terms of conclusion but it seemingly takes a long time to get there as well. For me the novel had simply too much going on, as if the author wanted to pack in many ideas. I would have preferred more the story set in the Second World War, the letters between the two women, and the art that was being displayed in the National Gallery after having been removed to a more secure setting. To me that has plenty of potential.

Nonetheless an interesting book and I would not rule out reading more from this author in the future.

Thank you to Amazon Vine for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. The book is published on 26 April 2012. 

I struggled with the review for this book, because it is was difficult to know where to start and finish with the review without actually giving anything away. A struggle for most book reviewers I am sure. I feel that it is woolly because that was how the book came across to me. 

As I have covered in my review, it had so much potential but it was not taken up and some parts glossed over. It certainly worked more in the 1940s, Second World War setting than it did in the present day. I think this was down to the characters and also my love of history. I found the removal of the paintings fascinating, why was more not made of that? 

That said the book did educate me in reference to art, which is an area I would say I was lacking greatly. If you follow this link you will see the paintings that are discussed in the letters.  Can you have a favourite? I like the Renoir the best, something to do with the rain and the umbrellas. The Rokeby Venus is a close second, I think because of the colours. The back drop, the blue silk she is sitting on. It draws the eye. No doubt at the time and now, the naked form also draws the eye as well. The others seem very dark and dismal in contrast. 

This is Camilla Macpherson’s first published novel. Her website can be found here. 

Books · Witterings

March Roundup

March, approaching Easter with unseasonably warm weather and a plethora of books read and lots to look forward to. I hope I kept some variety on my blog in April, not just with book reviews but other jottings as well.

Variety I think is the key word to sum up March’s reading as well and there was plenty of it.

In this Jubilee year of 2012, it seemed fitting to be reading something Royal and when Sally Bedell-Smith – Elizabeth The Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch came up for grabs on Netgalley I thought I would give it a go, despite the poor write up in the Daily Mail, but I tend not to pay much attention to that paper. A good ‘Royal’ book to start with if you have never read anything about them before, but I feel there may be better ones out there on the market.

By accident, and keeping in the Royal theme, I was transported back to 1953 and the Coronation with Jack and Sadie Rosenblum in Natasha Solomons – Mr. Rosenblum’s List: Or Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Englishman. The golf course Jack wants to build will have its inaugural match on the day of the Coronation. I really liked this gentle book and my review will appear in coming days.

Whilst we are still in the 2012 theme and anniversaries, here I can mention the wonderful book Last Known Address by James Darcy (no relation). Which is a novel based on the Titanic, a very emotional book and certainly not what I was expecting. I also got to chat to the author when he was signing books in my local Waterstones. A nice chat about the book and I look forward to what else he may write in the future.

So where to move onto next, with familiar authors I think. In this case it came with Debbie Macomber and 8 Sandpiper Way, back with the Cedar Cove residents, as soon as I have finished I am coveting to read the next one. This book was also one of my challenge reads for the year. (See link to page at the top of this blog). Another familiar author but one I have not read any of for a very long time was Marcia Willet and The Summer House. How nice it is to rediscover an author and wonder why you have not read any of their books for such a long time.

An author I had read recently earlier this year was Sue Welfare and when her latest book One Night Only arrived on my kindle I had to of course read it. Much enjoyed and a bit more meaty than your average ‘chick-lit’ say, made you think.

Reading latest books was a bit of a theme for March upon reflection. I had read lots about The Soldier’s Wife by Joanna Trollope and so when I was kindly given a copy for review, it was read pretty quickly. A book very relevant of its time and one which I can perhaps relate to working in a military environment. Again, Joanna Trollope is an author who I have not read any of her books for a while and wondering why?

Another latest book was Sadie Jones – The Uninvited Guests, my last review before this post on my blog. It is always good to see how diverse and author can be, all her books so far have been vastly different and this one is no exception. Rather a quirky book with a big house party and a family of oddballs. So much was going to happen to them.

Sticking with authors I have read before, I come on to Alan Bennett and Smut. I picked this up because I loved The Uncommon Reader which I read last year, and having seen some Talking Heads in the past. However this was a disappoint, rather sad little short stories and if you have never read any Bennett before I would not start with this one.

Where do you start when you venture into a new author that has written many books. Some could say at the beginning, but when I came across Katie Fforde’s Paradise Fields (review to follow) in a charity shop I thought this would be a good place to start. (Besides it was the only one on the shelf) Oh how wonderful to discover an author and ask yourself why have I never read any of her books before? The answer to that is I really do not know, as these books certainly are my cup of tea.

I am not always one for impulse buys but I do know that when I have made my mind up about something I want to get it. That came with Gideon Defoe’s book Pirates! An Adventure with Scientists, (review to follow) I had no idea it was a book before the film and therefore before I see the film, something I hope to do, I wanted to read the book and I wanted to read it now. A bus trip to Waterstones and a search in the shop I came away with the first book, delighted with the tale, the fact that there are more to read, and the Bloomsbury covers are the ones I am coveting despite the film tie in which I had to get as it was the only one in the shop. A great book for all ages but actually a children’s book which was a surprise to me, but I know if I had these when I was growing up I would have loved them.

Eleven books in total for March. However I think this is the first month where I have not read any crime, well actually I started a book on the last day of the month, but that does not count for March. I read as I wish, on a whim and a wonder it is rather exciting what I will pick up in April.


The Uninvited Guests – Sadie Jones

It is Emerald’s birthday and she has invited a few select guests to her gathering at Sterne, the family home. Her brother Clovis, irritating and rather self centred, her younger much over looked sister Imogen known to all as ‘Smudge’ and their mother Charlotte. A woman caught up in the grief of something in the past, and although she has seemingly got over the death of her first husband and the children’s father Horace Torrington which enabled them to live in Sterne, she soon married Edward Swift who actually within the first pages of the book makes a swift departure out of Sterne – he is off to save it.

So the party will go on without him.

But the family do not envisage having to become a rescue centre for a great many more people who rather taint Emeralds birthday.

When Emerald’s other guests arrive, the rather vacuous Patience Sutton and her brother Ernest, they tell of a train crash and within minutes a huddled group are walking towards Sterne to seek refuge. Directed by someone at the railway.

So the planned dinner takes on a new twist, as the food prepared is distributed rather differently that imagined by Florence Trieves, family cook and retainer. Guests are moved from room to room, filling spaces physically and becoming part of the atmosphere.

One of the guests breaks away and infiltrates the family dinner, which with all the Britishness of a Country House Dinner carries on, unfazed by the goings on in the rest of the house. This man turns out to know something about everyone and a dangerous game is played.

Meanwhile, Smudge rather forgotten in parts has her own game in fact this is her ‘Great Undertaking’ and not something I guessed at all.

And so the night draws to a close, the uninvited guests are restless; wanting to sleep. The invited guests are restless from their game and suddenly look charitably upon those uninvited and do everything to help. Whilst the guest that was not planned to turn at Sterne, (only Smudge knew) brings a diversion and then a conclusion.

And so a rather eccentric book ends. Neatly tying everything up.

This book for me has resonant of Wodehouse, with the language and the quirky behaviour of people when forced into situations. Although I recognise this setting is some ten years earlier of Bertie Wooster. If you have ever read An Inspector Calls then you will recognise something familiar. The wonderful Smudge to me was familiar, she could have been the delightful Flavia de Luce some forty years earlier and the ‘Great Undertaking’ was rather an unexpected twist of events.

The book takes a while to get going, and you have to stick with it, it has some rather funny witty moments, some rather sad pathos within the writing, and an atmosphere all of its own.  Some of the characters could do with more development and background would have perhaps made it a more rounded novel. It is not a bad book just a very different book from what you were probably expecting.

If you have read Sadie Jones previous novels then this will surprise you no end. It is nothing like them at all.

If you have never read her novels before then start with this one, because when you read her previous two they will surprise you as well.

Thank you to Amazon Vine for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. 

It must be a great risk for any author to completely change direction with style and subject matter. I went back and looked at my review of her last book, Small Wars and noticed that I comment how different that book is from her debut novel The Outcast which was an excellent book. Sadie Jones has done it again with this book. I wonder does an author have all these ideas of books and wants to write them without becoming well known for one particular genre?  Or do they try hard to stick to what their publishers want? 

Linda Gillard comments on such authors writing castly different novels and has personal experience of not sticking to one particular genre. I am not predicting Sadie Jones to suddenly be dropped by anyone but I think it is interesting when an author writes such vastly different books. 

Have you any suggestions where authors have changed the type of novel they have written and been surprised?