review

Jezebel’s Daughter by Wilkie Collins

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I was encouraged to read this book by the read-along-a-classic on readitswapit book forum. I’d just finished watching the recent tv adaption of A Woman In White by Wilkie Collins so I was intrigued to start reading this book.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

“‘The power that I have dreamed of all my life is mine at last!’ 

How far is a mother prepared to go to secure her daughter’s future? Madame Fontaine, widow of an eminent chemist, has both the determination and the cunning to bring young Minna’s marriage plans to fruition, with dangerous consequences for anyone who dares to stand in her way. But has she met her match in Jack Straw, one-time inmate of Bedlam lunatic asylum? It will take a visit to the morgue to find out who triumphs—and who comes out alive. 

Reminiscent of Collins’s blockbusters The Woman in White and Armadale, this suspenseful case study in villainy is set against the financial world of 1820s Frankfurt and tells the story of two widows, one of them devoted to realizing her husband’s social reforms, the other equally devoted to the pursuit of her daughter’s happiness”

My thoughts

This book was compelling from the start: Wilkie Collins has a brilliant way of drawing you into the story, taking you to various places and introducing you to various characters, all adding to a suspenseful mystery that unfolds as the story progesses.

It’s unusual to read a classic book that features a character devoted to encouraging women to work during this time, but this one does.

I enjoyed reading about the character of Madame Fontaine and trying to figure out her mind. Wilkie Collins does not hold anything back, there are no loose ends and in doing so you get an accurate picture of the characters and an interesting read. Although there is so much going on and insight into various ideas: the treatment of the patients in the asylum, the idea of women working and the story of a couple in love with impediments to their marriage, it is a book that is always interesting and riveting.

There in one chilling well-wrought scene towards the end of the novel! I’d never heard about Wilkie Collins until recently but I’m going to be reading more soon.

 

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Netgalley, review

Review: A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

A Secret History of Witches

Synopsis from Goodreads:

An ancient and dangerous power is being handed down from mother to daughter through some of the most consequential historic events of the last two centuries.

After Grandmére Ursule gives her life to save her tribe, her magic seems to die with her. Even so, her family keeps the Old Faith, practicing the spells and rites that have been handed from mother to daughter for generations. Until one day, Ursule’s young granddaughter steps into the circle, and magic flows anew.

From early 19th century Brittany to London during the Second World War, five generations of witches fight the battles of their time, deciding how far they are willing to go to protect their family, their heritage, and ultimately, all of our futures. 

My Thoughts

A compelling tale of the woman of the Orchiére line, I quickly became intrigued by the story.  A Secret History of Witches has a different take on magic, it’s a pagan magic and not everyone has the ability and some have the gift stronger than others. I enjoyed the way the story started with Nanette and then told the story of each new generation of women going through history and telling us about the time period so that it was like reading an historical novel as well as a family saga.

The story is told from the viewpoint of these women: Nanette, Ursule, Irene, Morwen, and Veronica. I did not like Irene, she is self-serving and  didn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities. However where Irene was selfish and had no care for anyone else Veronica cared enough to be involved with helping people during the war. Each woman’s story did seem very similar and writing this review it’s hard to remember who is who because of this.

I liked the different take on magic, however I felt that they were only really doing magic for personal gain and that each generation seemed to make the same mistakes, they never learnt. I would’ve thought that magic would’ve been a prominent part of this tale but it was more about the people and how they discovered they were witches and about the problems it brought them.

I hoped that something would happen with the magic, or that they’d go back to where their ancestors came from. Right at the start of the novel we’re told about Grandmére Ursule and how she gives her life to save her tribe, they bury her there with her staff. I thought it would’ve been great if one of her descendants went back  and retrieved it and then maybe revived magic. But that didn’t happen. I suppose that’s what makes this story realistic, the characters not being perfect and making mistakes, that the world always prevents them from being who they truly are. It’s magic in a realistic world, not magic in a fantasy world. It’s a shame because I’ve read a lot of books about witches lately that seem to be too realistic, like they’re too afraid to be fantastical. But the author wasn’t afraid to be fantastical about historical facts:

I almost stopped reading this book when the fiction strayed a bit too far into history, sorry to give a spoiler here, but I did not like it when the author brought the Royal Family into the story and decided that the Queen Mother had been a witch. I like historical fiction and don’t mind when people from the past are made into Daemons etc (Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness) but this is modern history and I couldn’t really accept it. I ‘woke up’ from the story and read on only because I was so close to the end and wanted to find out what happened next.

Sometimes I felt that more could’ve been told, that it could’ve been a longer saga but then nothing of note really happens, like I said they never seem to learn and the magic is not as prominent as I’d have liked.

Although I have been negative about this novel I did enjoy it. But felt something was missing, hence the critical comments. I would recommend this novel, I was engaged with the story and characters but after a short time of finishing the book I’m already struggling to recall some of the characters because of how similar their stories are.

 

 

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Guest Post Series: My Favourite Literary Character by Sara Lester

This is the first in a series of guest posts featuring favourite literary characters.  Thank you Sara Lester from thepaperbackpilgrim.com for sharing your favourite literary character:

Atticus Finch

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It took me all but two seconds to pin down my favourite literary character. Yes, I did have a brief moment of reservation given that this character is commonplace in discussions such as these, but because he is one of the most iconic champions of social justice to ever grace the page I gladly settled on Atticus Finch.

Featured in Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, played by the incomparable Gregory Peck in a 1962 movie of the same name, and revisited in the contested 2015 literary sequel, Go Set a Watchman, Finch is the much beloved lawyer who willingly defended an African American man accused of appalling crimes in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, between the years of 1933-35.

As with many students, I was introduced to the story of Atticus, his children – Jean Louise Finch (Scout) and Jeremy (Jem) – and the eye opening time that was the Great Depression, around the time I first entered high school. It was the first time I fell in love with a literary character that didn’t transpire from the fantastical genre, and I will never forget the way I felt when I read Tom’s conviction, realizing that racial injustice was, and may well still be, the norm at the time of Mockingbird’s publication.

Of course, like many who put a person on an untouchable pedestal, I was emotionally distraught upon completing Go Set a Watchman.  While I now understand that this controversial novel was more than likely a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird it was nevertheless troubling to see my once heroic icon reduced to nothing more than a decrepit, racist old man. In those moments I was Scout, having everything I once believed to be fact presented to me as nothing more than a father trying to spare me the ugly truths of the world.

And yet, even faced with the fact that my favourite character was imperfect, Atticus continues to teach readers, including myself, that courage is ‘when you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.’  That, ‘the one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience. That, ‘you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.’ And finally, ‘the highest tribute you can pay a man… is to trust him to do right, it’s that simple.’

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girl.jpgAbout Sara

My name is Sara Lester and I am  avery proud book blogging Canadian. I am a recent print and online journalism graduate with a previously earned B.A. in English, minor in History. I tend to introduce myself as a caffeine addicted, professional sleeping beauty who, when not reading, is quite the (self-proclaimed) Netflix connoisseur. I tend to stick in the YA fantasy and adult historical fiction genres when I read, but am trying to broaden my horizons in the form of middle grade, science fiction, and adult fantasy. You can catch me on Instagram and twitter as @Thepbkpilgrim, Goodreads as Sara L-V, and on my blog thepaperbackpilgrim.com.

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Come back next Monday for the next guest post 🙂

 

 

 

 

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My Favourite literary character

For the next few weeks I will be featuring a guest post series called ‘My Favourite Literary Character’ I have really enjoyed reading about other peoples favourites and I hope that you do too starting from Monday 14th May. Thank you to all who have been involved.

To introduce this Favourite Literary Character series I’d like to introduce you to my favourite character:

Lestat de Lioncourt

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I was introduced to Lestat in the movie Interview With The Vampire starring Tom Cruise (who I thought was a great Lestat) after watching that film (early teens possibly I was in secondary school) I had to read the book. Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice was the start of a series of books called The Vampire Chronicles. The first book was really Louis’s story and we learn much more about Lestat in the second book: The Vampire Lestat.The Vampire Lestat, is written in his viewpoint and you really get into his head.

I like Lestat because is charming and funny and despite his flaws you know deep down that he is a caring person and as good a person as a vampire can be. He is entertaining and I can’t help but like him. (Or maybe love is blind?) A loveable rogue, a “brat prince”.

Not all The Vampire Chronicles books feature Lestat and I didn’t realise there’s actually two I haven’t read: Blackwood Farm and Blood Canticle (I have a copy of Blackwood Farm so it’s all good).

The Vampire Chronicles Books by Anne Rice:

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE
THE VAMPIRE LESTAT
QUEEN OF THE DAMNED
THE TALE OF THE BODY THIEF
MEMNOCH THE DEVIL
THE VAMPIRE ARMAND
MERRICK
BLOOD AND GOLD
BLACKWOOD FARM
BLOOD CANTICLE

PRINCE LESTAT

PRINCE LESTAT AND THE REALMS OF ATLANTIS

To be released in October: BLOOD COMMUNION A TALE OF PRINCE LESTAT

What does he look like?

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In his words from’ The Vampire Lestat’

Best moment

That has to be when he becomes Prince Lestat in the book of that name!

Worst moment

He didn’t really behave very well in The Tale Of The Body Thief, thanks to Kirsten for reminding me of this recently, you can see her thoughts in her blog post here: http://blog.kristenburns.com/why-readers-like-characters-who-have-done-awful-things/)

The Films

Besides the film Interview With The Vampire there was also the film: Queen Of The Damned. Lestat was played by Stuart Townsend who was also great at playing Lestat (not blond!) The film was good, the music great, sadly it wasn’t faithful to the book but they rarely are. They are going to be making a tv series soon and I can’t wait to see who they pick to play Lestat, I hope he’s perfect!!!

Quotes

I haven’t read the books in a while, except for the latest ones so I’ve had to have a search for my favourite quotes:

“Very few beings really seek knowledge in this world. Mortal or immortal, few really ask. On the contrary, they try to wring from the unknown the answers they have already shaped in their own minds — justifications, confirmations, forms of consolation without which they can’t go on. To really ask is to open the door to the whirlwind. The answer may annihilate the question and the questioner.”
Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat

“I’m Gentleman Death in silk and lace, come to put out the candles. The canker in the heart of the rose.”
Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat

“Come on, say it again. I’m a perfect devil. Tell me how bad I am. It makes me feel so good!”
Anne Rice, The Queen of the Damned

“Evil is a point of view. We are immortal. And what we have before us are the rich feasts that conscience cannot appreciate and mortal men cannot know without regret. God kills, and so shall we; indiscriminately He takes the richest and the poorest, and so shall we; for no creatures under God are as we are, none so like Him as ourselves, dark angels not confined to the stinking limits of hell but wandering His earth and all its kingdoms.”
Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire

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Lestat has his own fan club http://www.arvlfc.com/ they meet every year in New Orleans in a vampire ball!!! Envious!

I’ve read a lot of books and there’s many characters I could choose but I can never ever change my mind, Lestat is always the best! Thank you Anne Rice!!! Come back on Monday to see the first post in my guest series.

Who is your favourite character?

review

Dead Of Winter by Gerri Brightwell

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I got this book from Ninja Book Box, it’s an indie read but probably not something I would’ve thought to read only because I don’t usually read crime but I do try to read a wide range of books these days. The synopsis is interesting:

“A fast-paced, darkly funny crime novel set in Interior Alaska that follows down-on-his-luck cabbie, Mike Fisher, as he searches for his daughter. Her step-father has been shot in her bathroom, and Fisher thinks she killed him and fled. In a panic he tries to hide the body, but that’s not easy when it’s fifty-below outside. Things get dangerously complicated when it turns out step-dad was part of a local militia, and now they’re on Fisher’s tail. Dead of Winter evokes the harshness of winter in the ­­­sub-arctic and the intrigue fostered in a bored, trapped and socially circumscribed small-town community” – from GoodReads

My thoughts

Dead Of Winter is set in Alaska, it follows cab driver Fisher who gets a voicemail from his daughter, she’s in trouble and needs his help. The best thing about this novel is the atmosphere- how the cold of Alaska is written, you can almost feeling it creeping into your bones as you read.

The character of Fisher is an everyday man, he’s just trying to do his best, to make a living and help his daughter but life knocks you down. He’s not a super hero or some military man with amazing skills, he’s just Fisher and he does try, that makes him more likeable, the fact that he’s a normal man and he does worry that this will all end badly, that he won’t be able to help his daughter.

The story is riveting, we’re pulled in by the realistic characters and the chilling (literally) atmosphere, and the mystery of what’s happened to his daughter and what’s been going on. Along the way learning about Fisher and discovering more about the people in his life.

It’s described as “A fast-paced, darkly funny crime novel” it is definitely fast-paced, there were some moments of humour but the events were serious so I don’t think I’d consider it a funny book. Classing it as a crime novel does not really do this book justice, there’s more to it than that.   It’s a gem of a novel and I’d recommend it to anyone who isn’t overly squirmish or sensitive.

My favourite things about this book: the realism of the characters and the intense atmopshere of the setting. And amazing writing!!!

 

challenge

Beat The Backlist: challenge update

I signed up for this challenge a while ago and as expected I haven’t really been reading my to- be- read- books from my Backlist. These are the books I’ve read so far that can count towards the Backlist challenge:

  1. Uncommon type by Tom Hanks( ninja book swap)
  2. Thin Air by Michelle Paver ( recent/first book fairy)
  3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (reread, readalong)
  4. Affinity by Sarah Waters (actual tbr book!)
  5. Good Wives by Sarah Waters (reread, readalong)
  6. Raven Black by Anne Cleeves tbr
  7. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs tbr
  8. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (felt like it)
  9. Dead Of Winter by Geri Brightwell (Ninjabookbox)
  10. Anne of Green Gables (not a tbr but a read along)

The challenge was to help me to widdle down my to -be- read list and then possibly make space for more books. But of the 14 books I have finished this year, only 5 are actually from my tbr list, these are the ones I’ve marked in red. The other 5 in this list are those books I’ve acquired this year or the classic read-a-long I joined in with on readitswapit forum.

Here I got a bit baffled with my Goodreads saying I had read 15 books, it counted The Two Towers which I’d started reading last year and finished in January. And then there’s Sarah Millican’s book which I started reading in December I think so haven’t counted it either.

I could not stop myself from requesting ARCs from Netgalley and for joining a blog tour:

  1. The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan (review here)
  2. The Stranger by Kate Riordan (review here)
  3. Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind by Elizabeth McGiven (upcoming blog tour)riginally on writing this post and lately I have felt so disapointed in myself for not actually reading from my to-be-read list

Lately I have felt so disapointed in myself for not actually reading from my to-be-read list yeah, I do that but after looking over the books I’ve read for this year to write this post I realised how much I’d achieved.

I have read about 3 books every month since Febuary and I’ve read 5 backlist books, so it works out about 1 a month. I should be happy with how many books I’ve managed to read. I am 🙂

But now I have to get back to my Backlist! I have an ARC I am almost finished (The Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan) and another to start reading on Netgalley (but since the review is not until August I might leave it for the moment).

So once I have finished this book-hopefully today- I will start another backlist book. And get back on track, trying not to request anymore ARCs at least for the moment.

You maybe be thinking, why are you making yourself read all the books, they will still be there when you want to read them it’s because I have this habit of buying books and never getting around to read them and I want to! I want to be able to get to a point where I need to buy books because I’ve read them all (I‘m laughing at myself because this may never happen) and have the joy of buying a book again because I want to and need to.

I don’t want to be continually impulse buying books and not reading them, or saying yes, that’s on my bookshelf waiting to be read. So I am going to widdle my list down so at the end of this year I can be happy that I have read a lot of books I actually meant and needed to read.

You can join the Backlist anytime this year, so if you’re interested here’s the link

What book from my Backlist do you think I should read next? Poll on twitter ending this afternoon (7th May) https://twitter.com/Jen_wales/status/993234101988741120  you can find my backlist here  on my original Beat The Backlist post/page 🙂

If you are already doing the challenge, how you’ve been doing? Apologies to my fellow Dewey Dragons, I will be getting back to it and joining the chat again 🙂 It feels good to be getting back to it 🙂

 

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

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Blog Tour: The Accidental Recluse by Tom McCulloch

I am so happy to be part of the blog tour for The Accidental Recluse by Tom McCulloch! First of all let me tell you all about the book before I get on to the interview with the author.

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Synopsis:

Johnny Jackson used to be a famous film director, but his brother Duke was a hero. Just turned 75, JJ is heading home from exile in Japan for one last blockbuster and a civic honouring. But home is where the ghosts of his past reside, some darker than his dead brother’s shadow. His sins may be about to come to light.

About the author

Tom McCulloch has published poetry and short stories in various journals including Other Poetry, Northwords, Northwords Now, Eildon Tree, Markings, Buzzwords, and Wilderness magazine (New Zealand), and was long-listed for the Herald/Imagining Scotland short story competition 2011. With his first novel, The Stillman, he became an Amazon Rising Star.

Tom is from the Highlands of Scotland, and currently lives in Oxford with his family.

Interview

I am so grateful for the opportunity to interview Tom McCulloch, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

1-What inspired you to write The Accidental Recluse?

Like an ornery old man in a Jim Dodge novel my Grampa Bert sat me down and
told me this strange tale of a cargo boat sunk off Oban by the Luftwaffe,
the Aga Khan’s favourite horse and a rescued monkey. From such facts,
half-truths and whisky-tinged fabrications are new ones made.

2-What authors have inspired you and what books do you recommend?

So many lean in and out but I keep coming back to James Kelman (‘A
Disaffection’ is a masterpiece- where’s that man’s Nobel, I’d love to hear
that address to the academy…), Céline (‘Journey to the End of the Night’ – I
read it again and again for the self-hate of wondering why I bother to
write…), Michel Houellebecq (a reprobate and provocateur, but I think he’s
laughing at himself more than anyone), António Lobo Antunes (‘The Return of
the Caravels’ is just the most beautifully hallucinatory novel) and Malcolm
Lowry (the heat and madness pours out from ‘Under the Volcano’).

3-The most common piece of advice you see given to writers is to write everyday. Do you write every day? Do you have a writing routine?

9.30 am every day JG Ballard poured a big Scotch and sat down at his
typewriter. When he ran out of words he would do the hovering until he found
some more. I am only permitted the hoovering. My routine is a tad more
banal. I start early and write no more than a thousand words. Sometimes it’s
like laboriously building a wall brick by brick. Sometimes I glance up and
500 words have passed. Sometimes I get sick of myself and just stop.

4-Do you plan your novels/short stories or do you discover the plot and characters through writing?

I start out planning things very tightly and slowly loosen my grip. Good
writing is letting go, especially when it comes to character. Plot-wise I
try and retain a general sense of where I’m heading. Otherwise, I just end
up wandering all over the place. I enjoy the re-write and editing process, I
could tinker for Scotland. It’s the only time I listen to music when I
write. I’m clearly enjoying myself far too much…

5-We often look back and think if only I’d known this then, for example I wish I would go back and tell myself never to stop writing even if I think my writing is terrible. What do you wish you’d known before you became published? What advice would you give your past self?

Dear Tom. You may be called Tom but that doesn’t make you Thomas Pynchon.
You will be your own Tom. In time. Just keep laying the words down before
your mind like rocks. Damn, Gary Snyder wrote that, I told you just to be
Tom…

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Thank you so much for your time.

You can buy a copy of The Accidental Recluse now. Do follow the blog tour on twitter to hear more about this amazing book!