Book Review – Once Upon a River

My book club’s choice for our last meeting was Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield.  It was not a book I would have necessarily chosen for myself but several of the other members were raving about it so I was certainly intrigued and looking forward to reading it.

Publisher’s Blurb

On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames, the regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open and in steps an injured stranger.  In his arms is the drowned corpse of a child.
Hours later, the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

And who does the little girl belong to?

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I found that I was somewhat ambivalent about this book.  I did enjoy it and I think it is well written.  I really liked the characters (especially Rita and Mr Daunt) and I was rooting for them to have a happy ending.  The mixture of science and folklore was interesting too and I spent some time trying to figure out how fantastical the story was – the author’s note at the end explained a lot!

However, it wasn’t a book which made me really want to pick it up each time.  I can’t really articulate why either – as I said, I did enjoy the story.  I think I was letting it flow over me instead of being really invested in it.

The other members of my book club loved it though.  So much so that I thought we were going to have a very short meeting indeed – we don’t tend to have a lot to say when everybody likes a book!  Luckily though we did find tthings to talk about and it was a great meeting.

I would still recommend Once Upon a River to others – it is a good book, I just wasn’t in quite the right frame of mind to really love it.  That was just me though and shouldn’t be held against the book. The weather, however, was perfect – absolutely pouring rain which really added to the atmosphere of the book!

Book Details

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Publisher: Transworld

ISBN: 9781784163631

RRP: £8.99

Book Review – A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is a book which has been intriguing me ever since I first saw it.  It has sat in the young adult section of the bookshop for months, looking at me and clearly needing me to read it.  Eventually the right time came along and I treated myself to a copy.

Publisher’s Blurb

The case is closed.  Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh.  The police know he did it.  Everyone in town knows he did it.

But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the crime, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure.  When she chooses the case as the topic for her final project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden.  And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth . . . ?

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This book was everything I had hoped it would be.  I was completely gripped by the story and read it long into the night – well past my bedtime!  I just had to know what happened next and I have to confess that the solution did take me by surprise.

I thought the book was very well written and I particularly appreciated the low levels of teenage angst.  No longer being a teenager myself, I do often find myself infuriated by the behaviour of teenagers in books.  That was most definitely not the case here and I have recommended this book to several ‘proper’ grown-ups who have also loved it.

I have also just heard about the sequel which is due out next year and I cannot wait!

Book Details

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Publisher: Egmont Publishing

ISBN: 9781405293181

RRP: £7.99

Book Review – Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales

I read Anna James’ first Pages & Co book – Tilly and the Bookwanderers – as soon as I could get my hands on a copy last year and since then I have been waiting impatiently for book two. I was therefore very excited when Harper Collins sent me a review copy of Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales last week.

Publisher’s Blurb

Tilly Pages is a bookwanderer; she can travel inside books, and even talk to the characters she meets there. But Tilly’s powers are put to the test when fairytales start leaking book magic and causing havoc . . .

On a wintery visit to Paris, Tilly and her best friend Oskar bravely bookwander into the land of fairytales to find that characters are getting lost, stories are all mixed-up, and mysterious plot holes are opening without warning. Can Tilly work out who, or what, is behind the chaos so everyone gets their happily-ever-after?

The parcel happened to arrive just as I was about to start a new book. I put that aside and immediately started this one instead.

It’s been a year or so since I read the first book so it took me a little time to remind myself of the more detailed aspacts of the plot. I was also a little hazy to start with on the actual mechanics of bookwandering and I did wonder if I should have re-read book one first. However, I soon settled back into the story and I loved it.

Bookwandering – the ability to read yourself into a book – is obviously a reader’s dream. Added to that, this series is such a cosy read and it is the perfect companion for curling up in front of the fire with a mug of hot chocolate. I so much enjoyed this book and now I cannot wait for book three. Which is a shame as I don’t have much choice!

I also have to share how lovely the cover is under the jacket. I had what I thought was the perfect bookmark too!

Book Details

Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales by Anna James

ISBN: 9780008229900

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books

RRP: £12.99

Book Review – The Paper and Hearts Society

When I was at school I didn’t know anyone who loved books as much as me.  In fact, I can’t remember seeing many people reading for pleasure at all, although I’m sure they must have done so.  I felt that I was very different.

Once when we went on a sixth form college open day we passed two girls who were discussing the various merits of the Brontës.  My friends thought they were weird – I thought them wonderful (I can’t remember which Brontë those girls preferred but for me Anne is easily the best Brontë sister).

All of which means that when I read the blurb of Lucy Powrie’s debut book The Paper & Hearts Society I knew I had to read it and I could not have been more delighted when Hachette sent me a reading copy.

Publisher’s Blurb

A brand new series from Booktuber Lucy Powrie – about what happens when you give up on trying to fit in in and let your weird out!  It’s time to join The Paper & Hearts Society …

Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in.  She doesn’t want to go to parties – in fact, she would much rather snuggle up on the sofa with her favourite book.

It’s like she hasn’t found her people …

Then Tabby joins a club that promises to celebrate books.  What could go wrong? EVERYTHING – especially when making new friends brings out an AWKWARD BUZZING feeling all over her body.

But Olivia, Cassie, Henry and Ed have something that makes Tabby come back.  Maybe it’s the Austen-themed fancy-dress parties, or Ed’s fluffy cat Mrs Simpkins, or could it be Henry himself …

Can Tabby let her weird out AND live THE BEST BOOKISH LIFE POSSIBLE?

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As soon as Tabby found the flier for the book club I was hooked.  They sounded like just my kind of people and I really wanted to join.  I was whisked away on the story and I loved it.

Lucy has managed to create a diverse range of characters without being heavy handed about it.  She treats people’s differences in a very matter of fact way without making a big deal out of them.  I have read books where it seems as if the diversity is included just for the sake of it.  That was absolutely not the case here – this is primarily a book about people who love books.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I could see a lot of myself in Tabby and I would recommend it to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider or who just loves books.  Books are a key part of The Paper & Hearts Society and it is glorious.

Book Details

The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie

ISBN: 9781444949230

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group

RRP: £7.99

Book Review – The Princess and the Fangirl

If you have not yet read Ashley Poston’s Geekerella I would highly recommend going and finding a copy. It is the most lovely book about fandoms and I adored it.  The sequel – The Princess and the Fangirl – has just been published and I was so excited to receive a reading copy from Quirk Books.

Publisher’s Blurb

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: to save her favorite Starfield character, Princess Amara, from being killed off.  On the other hand, the actress who plays Amara wouldn’t mind being axed.  Jessica Stone doesn’t even like being part of the Starfield franchise—and she’s desperate to leave the intense scrutiny of fandom behind.

Though Imogen and Jess have nothing in common, they do look strangely similar to one another—and a case of mistaken identity at ExcelsiCon sets off a chain of events that will change both of their lives.  When the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, with all signs pointing to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible.  The deal: Imogen will play Jess at her signings and panels, and Jess will help Imogen’s best friend run their booth.

But as these “princesses” race to find the script leaker—in each other’s shoes—they’re up against more than they bargained for.  From the darker side of fandom to unexpected crushes, Imogen and Jess must find a way to rescue themselves from their own expectations…and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.

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This books continues the story of Geekerella but follows different characters through the story.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about that at first – I wanted to know more about what happened to Elle and Darien!  I needn’t have worried though – Imogen and Jess had a brand new story and I was very quickly immersed in it.

The book is set at ExcelsiCon and is written in a way which made me very keen to find a convention to visit.  I’ve discovered that I love books about people who are passionate about something, be that a book, and film or a television show.  Stories really.  All of which means that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The thing I took most from it though was something Imogen’s friend Harper says.  She talks about how she doesn’t believe that, ‘…the only meaningful stories are the ones that are deep and pondering and boring… I think sometimes the stories we need are the ones about taking the hobbits to Isengard.’  I am often guilty of picking up books because I think I should read them.  If they don’t enthrall me I struggle through them but my reading slows right down and I get distracted much more easily.  The Princess and the Fangirl has reminded me that it’s okay to read ‘easier’, frivolous books if I enjoy them because that is the point.  As Ashley Poston says in her acknowledgements, we should ‘keep reading what makes you happy, and keep celebrating the content that makes you feel most alive, and carve out your spot in the universe.’

Book Details

The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

ISBN: 9781683691105

Publisher: Quirk Books

RRP: £8.99

 

Book Review – We Won an Island

I was very lucky to be sent a reading copy of Charlotte Lo’s book We Won an Island by Nosy Crow Books.  I was very excited – the blurb made it sound like exactly the sort of book I would have loved as a child and as you may have noticed I am still very fond of children’s books!

Publisher’s Blurb

When Luna’s family win an island, Luna thinks it will solve everything AND she can finally get a donkey!  But things don’t go entirely to plan – no one expects Luna’s younger brother to win a Sheep Pageant, for example – and the secret festival they hold soon spirals out of control.  But the island is beautiful, and the family are happy, and maybe Luna will get her donkey after all…

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I read this book last Sunday sat in the shade by the stream and it was the perfect setting for it.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I loved the book.  The idea of escaping to an island is obviously wonderful and I thought it was very well written.  The childrren knew exactly what they wanted and just worked for it – no matter how unlikely success might seem.

Of course, they had their setbacks – not least their Father’s depression.  I thought the author portrayed this really well and in a way young children could understand, without becoming too overwhelming or scary.

As a child this book would have sat very nicely on my shelf with Enid Blyton and I have no doubt I would have re-read it many times.  This is a wonderful escapist read and perfect for the summer holidays.

Book Details

We Won and Island by Charlotte Lo

Publisher: Nosy Crow

ISBN: 9781788000413

RRP: £6.99

Apple Blossom Time

The apple blossom is out in full force here and it is this time of year more than any other which makes me want to revisit the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace.

I read these for the first time only two years ago as part of a readalong on Instagram.  I had never even heard of the books before but was told that they were perfect for fans of L M Montgomery and I am definitely one of those!  The readalong only covered the later books in the series – those set in high school or after – although I did go back and read the earlier books afterwards.

I adored the books so much. For me they are the perfect blend of sweetness and sorrow and reading them sucks me into Betsy-Tacy’s world.  There are ten books in the series which follows Betsy and Tacy from the age of five until they are married.  Three more books are set in the same town and feature a great many of the same characters including Besty.  I gobbled them up in no time (I wish there were more!) and they are definitely right up there with Anne of Green Gables for me.

These books are perfect for anyone who loves L M Montgomery or the Little House on the Prairie series and I would thoroughly recommend hunting them out.  Now I just need to find something similar – recommendations are always welcome!

Book Review – Old Baggage

I always used to be scared of joining a book club because I would have to read books I didn’t like.  At the same time, I really really wanted to join a book club!  As it turned out, the book club is wonderful and I love the discussions we have.  Whilst there have been a few books I really did not enjoy I have liked most of them and in fact the ones which have stayed with me the most have often been the ones I have not been keen on reading.

Old Baggage was our latest read and while I wasn’t especially drawn to it I didn’t have any strong disinclination to read it either.  My colleague loved it so I was quite intrigued by it and I definitely liked the cover!

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Publisher’s Blurb

Mattie is a woman with a thrilling past and a chafingly uneventful present.  During the Women’s Suffrage Campaign she was a militant.  Jailed five times, she marched, sang, gave speeches, smashed windows and heckled Winston Churchill, and nothing – nothing – since then has had the same depth, the same excitement.

Now in middle age, she is still looking for a fresh mould into which to pour her energies. Giving the wooden club a thoughtful twirl, she is struck by an idea – but what starts as a brilliantly idealistic plan is derailed by a connection with Mattie’s militant past, one which begins to threaten every principle that she stands for.

I found this to be a much gentler book than I expected – I think I thought suffragettes meant lots of very militant action!  I did at first think I was not going to like Mattie at all but by the end I was very firmly on her side, despite her faults.  I thought the book was beautifully written and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The only problem I had was with the very last chapter – It felt disconnected from the rest and seemed almost to have been tacked on in order to link Old Baggage to the author’s previous book, Crooked Heart.  I will have to read it to see how they actually connect – the extract at the end of my copy is intriguing and I will certainly be reading more from this author.

Book Details

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

ISBN 9781784161217

Publisher: Black Swan

RRP: £8.99

Book Review – Jane Austen at Home

Last year I went to see Lucy Worsley’s talk about her book Jane Austen at Home. Obviously I am a Jane Austen fan but I also love watching Lucy’s television programmes so I was very much looking forward to it.

I wasn’t disappointed either – Lucy gave a fantastic talk and if you ever get a chance to see her I would thoroughly recommend going. Of course, I had to buy the book and get it signed!

Publisher’s Blurb

On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, historian Lucy Worsley leads us into the rooms from which our best-loved novelist quietly changed the world.

This new telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a painful struggle. Jane famously lived a ‘life without incident’, but with new research and insights Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster in fact had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.

It took me a while to get around to reading it but it was always hovering at the back of my mind and when I booked to go to the Jane Austen Society study day I knew it would be the perfect companion for me. I was so excited to finally be reading it.

I sometimes struggle to get into non-fiction but I was immediately gripped by this one and I resented having to put it down to do something else. It was just as well as I had a four hour train journey so I needed something that kept me wanting to read!

This was a really interesting way to look at the life of Jane Austen and I did learn some things I hadn’t previously known. I loved Lucy Worsley’s style of writing and I will definitely be reading more of her books in the future.

Book Details

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

ISBN: 9781473632202

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

RRP: £9.99

Book Review – The Skylarks’ War

My colleague has been raving about Hilary McKay’s new book The Skylarks’ War for months now so when Macmillan Children’s Books sent me a review copy I was rather excited. Not least because I loved reading her Casson Family series as a child.

Publisher’s Blurb

Clarry and her older brother Peter live for their summers in Cornwall, staying with their grandparents and running free with their charismatic cousin, Rupert. But normal life resumes each September – boarding school for Peter and Rupert, and a boring life for Clarry at home with her absent father, as the shadow of a terrible war looms ever closer.

When Rupert goes off to fight at the front, Clarry feels their skylark summers are finally slipping away from them. Can their family survive this fearful war?

I have to admit that when people repeatedly tell me how much I will love something I do start to be a little prejudiced against it. However, I really wanted to like this book so I tried to have an open mind.

It was definitely worth it – the book is beautifully written and I was completely absorbed in the plot. I stayed up far too late reading it! Although this is classed as a children’s book there there are some nuances which feel very adult and grown ups will certainly enjoy it just as much as the children.

Did I love it as much as I was promised? As I was reading it I didn’t think so but now I’ve finished and have had time to absorb it I’m not so sure. I was definitely very moved by it and I found it to be thought provoking. Either way, I didn’t want to stop reading and it has certainly stuck with me. I will definitely be recommending it to many people.

Book Details

The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay

ISBN: 9781509894963

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

RRP: £6.99