Netgalley, review

Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo Del Toro & Cornelia Funke

I had a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for a review. I couldn’t resist, it’d been a while since I’d seen the film which I loved so I couldn’t remember the entire plot. With the names: Guillermo Del Toro and Cornelia Funke on the cover, it’s a promise of something wonderful. (Inkheart books by Cornelia Funke are wonderful and of course Guillermo Del Toro is an amazing director, one of my favourites).

Synopsis from Netgalley:

“You shouldn’t come in here. You could get lost. It has happened before. I’ll tell you the story one day, if you want to hear it.

In fairy tales, there are men and there are wolves, there are beasts and dead parents, there are girls and forests.

Ofelia knows all this, like any young woman with a head full of stories. And she sees right away what the Capitán is, in his immaculate uniform, boots and gloves, smiling: a wolf.

But nothing can prepare her for the fevered reality of the Capitán’s eerie house, in the midst of a dense forest which conceals many things: half-remembered stories of lost babies; renegade resistance fighters hiding from the army; a labyrinth; beasts and fairies.

There is no one to keep Ofelia safe as the labyrinth beckons her into her own story, where the monstrous and the human are inextricable, where myths pulse with living blood …”

My thoughts

When I started reading this book reality fell away, I was right there with Orfelia standing at the beginning of the labyrinth. I could see her world so clearly and found myself following her. She had to perform tasks reminicent of myths but far creepier.

There’s dark fairy tales throughout the novel, explaining backstory and adding depth and atmosphere to the story. But this is no Disney story with a happily ever after, this is more like a Grimm fairy tale or some sort of creepy fable. Reading these fairy stories was a surreal experience for me, I could hear a voice in my head telling me these weird but wonderful stories.

The character of Vidal is a horrific psychopath and one of the many well wrought terrifying characters in this book, though not the scariest!

I can’t fault this amazing, wonderfully dark and perfect book.It’s an engaging fantastical story and the words of the ending recall childhood memories of reading lovely fantasy books. Nostalgic but also beautifully dark. If you like horror and dark tales you’ll love this.

If you’ve seen the film: the plot is the same but there is more depth to the book and after watching the film again I think both are perfect!

 

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Netgalley, review

The Girl At The Window By Rowan Coleman

I recieved this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I love reading books that dip from past to present to solve mysteries and the synopsis caught my attention. Especially the “centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors” which had a gothic vibe.

Synopsis from Netgalley:

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…”

My thoughts

In the first few chapters we’re introduced to Trudy and her son Will.  Trudy takes her son back to her childhood home to heal after the loss of her husband. Will keeps saying that his father isn’t dead. And they didn’t find a body.

I loved this book.When I started reading I didn’t want to stop. Straight away I liked and cared about Trudy and her son and I loved Ponden Hall. The house had a gothic presence but it wasn’t a malignant one, at least not to the Heaton’s who had lived there for generations. I couldn’t stop reading to follow Trudy’s search as she unravelled the mystery of Agnes who many years ago lived in Ponden Hall. 

I loved that Emily Bronte visited there in the past and the box bed in one of the rooms was the inspiration for Cathy’s in Wuthering Heights. I’m a lover of classic books and of course Wuthering Heights and this book feels like a homage to the Brontes and especially Wuthering Heights. The story is not the same but it has a similar gothic atmosphere. I feel like this book was written especially for me and for readers like me.

If you love gothic, literary fiction with a historical mystery like I do this book is perfect. I only regret reading it so quickly because it was so good. I wish I could’ve savoured it, but it was hard to stop reading. 

I don’t think the synopsis does this book justice and I don’t know if I can express how much I enjoyed it.

Have I found another favourite author?

 

Netgalley

My Netgalley Shelf

Don’t you just love Netgalley? The pleasure and opportunity of reading pre-release books in exchange for a review. There’s not a huge amount of pressure as a reviewer/blogger either as you can pick what you like and if you don’t enjoy it you can now just click the option not to leave feedback.

I always think I’m going to catch-up with all my Netgalley books, that I’ll read them and review them all before I request new ones. I did have an 80% badge but it’s gone 😦 It doesn’t help that you have that shelf of books and they send you an email about another book, and another, and another and another……. 

They want us to finish reading the books we already have, right?

I started looking on Netgalley for some summer reads and thinking how I’m almost caught up I decided to request other books…. And now I’m tumbling down that rabbit hole…. It starts by looking for books for the summer, then thinking that sounds good, then you see books you have to have!

These are the books waiting on my to-be-read Netgalley shelf:

 

I was looking for a lovely summer read and this has been added to my list of summer books which you may have seen in my last post. Just realised it’s a series, whoops. Might end up adding more to the tbr in future then 

“The first in a gorgeous new series from the author of Summer at the Cornish Cafe.

Summer is on the horizon, and the people of Porthmellow are eagerly awaiting the annual food festival. At least, most of them are…

For Sam Lovell, organising the summer festival in her hometown is one of the highlights of her year. It’s not always smooth sailing, but she loves to see Porthmellow’s harbour packed with happy visitors, and being on the committee has provided a much-needed distraction from the drama in her family life (and the distinct lack of it in her love life).

When their star guest pulls out with only a few weeks to go, everyone’s delighted when a London chef who grew up locally steps in at the last minute. But Gabe Matthias is the last person Sam was expecting to see, and his return to Porthmellow will change her quiet coastal life for ever.

Curl up with this gorgeous novel and savour the world of Porthmellow Harbour.”

I think I had an email about this next book and I had to, just had to request, I love Guillermo del toro films ( and Cornelia Funke the author of the Inkheart books!)and of course the Pan’s Labyrinth film which I’m going to rewatch soon. I might end up buying a physical copy of this beauty.

“You shouldn’t come in here. You could get lost. It has happened before. I’ll tell you the story one day, if you want to hear it.

In fairy tales, there are men and there are wolves, there are beasts and dead parents, there are girls and forests.

Ofelia knows all this, like any young woman with a head full of stories. And she sees right away what the Capitán is, in his immaculate uniform, boots and gloves, smiling: a wolf.

But nothing can prepare her for the fevered reality of the Capitán’s eerie house, in the midst of a dense forest which conceals many things: half-remembered stories of lost babies; renegade resistance fighters hiding from the army; a labyrinth; beasts and fairies.

There is no one to keep Ofelia safe as the labyrinth beckons her into her own story, where the monstrous and the human are inextricable, where myths pulse with living blood”

This next book is a sequel I requested as the first book is on my tbr and adding this will actually encourage me to read it sooner, I’ve heard great things about these funny books

“The hilarious second novel, and Sunday Times No 1 Bestseller, from author of the smash hit Why Mummy Drinks.

Monday, 25 July
The first day of the holidays. I suppose it could’ve been worse. I brightly announced that perhaps it might be a lovely idea to go to a stately home and learn about some history. As soon as we got there I remembered why I don’t use the flipping National Trust membership – because National Trust properties are full of very precious and breakable items, and very precious and breakable items don’t really mix with children, especially not small boys. 
Where I had envisaged childish faces glowing with wonder as they took in the treasures of our nation’s illustrious past, we instead had me shouting ‘Don’t touch, DON’T TOUCH, FFS DON’T TOUCH!” while stoutly shod pensioners tutted disapprovingly and drafted angry letters to the Daily Mail in their heads.
How many more days of the holiday are there?

Welcome to Mummy’s world…
The Boy Child Peter is connected to his iPad by an umbilical cord, The Girl Child Jane is desperate to make her fortune as an Instagram lifestyle influencer, while Daddy is constantly off on exotic business trips…
Mummy’s marriage is feeling the strain, her kids are running wild and the house is steadily developing a forest of mould. Only Judgy, the Proud and Noble Terrier, remains loyal as always.
Mummy has also found herself a new challenge, working for a hot new tech start-up. But not only is she worrying if, at forty-two, she could actually get up off a bean bag with dignity, she’s also somehow (accidentally) rebranded herself as a single party girl who works hard, plays hard and doesn’t have to run out when the nanny calls in sick.
Can Mummy keep up the facade while keeping her family afloat? Can she really get away with wearing ‘comfy trousers’ to work? And, more importantly, can she find the time to pour herself a large G+T?
Probably effing not.”

I loved the synopsis of this book, “a centuries old house on the Yorkshire moors”  I read a similar book recently so this won’t be read straight away.

“A house full of history is bound to have secrets…

‘It’s a beautiful story and written with such wisdom and kindness, and it also happens to be set my most favourite part of the world! It’s incredibly smart, because like all good Gothic novels, it weaves together the past and the present and makes you realise just how much one relies on the other.’ JOANNA CANNON

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…”

Another book that intrigued me by the synopsis:

** THE DEBUT NOVEL FROM THE WINNER OF THE COSTA SHORT STORY AWARD **‘A timely and powerfully told tale of a working class community in crisis…a new and exciting voice in fiction’ Mike Gayle

On an ordinary Saturday morning in 1996, the residents of Nightingale Point wake up to their normal lives and worries.

Mary has a secret life that no one knows about, not even Malachi and Tristan, the brothers she vowed to look after.
Malachi had to grow up too quickly. Between looking after Tristan and nursing a broken heart, he feels older than his twenty-one years.
Tristan wishes Malachi would stop pining for Pamela. No wonder he’s falling in with the wrong crowd, without Malachi to keep him straight.
Elvis is trying hard to remember to the instructions his care worker gave him, but sometimes he gets confused and forgets things.
Pamela wants to run back to Malachi but her overprotective father has locked her in and there’s no way out.

It’s a day like any other, until something extraordinary happens. When the sun sets, Nightingale Point is irrevocably changed and somehow, through the darkness, the residents must find a way back to lightness, and back to each other.”

*

I do sometimes request books and forget, I didn’t realise I have three pending requests….

I will definitely be reading the first two this summer, what started off as a summer themed reading challenge has changed. The other two later. I’m going to avoid looking on Netgalley again until I have finished… Or  halfway. I want to get a 100% badge. Keeep an eye out for my upcoming reviews

How’s your Netgalley tbr looking? Do you forget you requested them too?

 

Netgalley, review

When All Is Said by Anne Griffin

I requested this book on impulse from Netgalley, I actually forgot I’d requested it at the end of last year- it was a crazy time! And I was getting emails reminding me about it, that’s never happened before. The idea and the cover caught my attention, it’s evocative and made me wonder what it was all about. I shouldn’t have waited so long to read it…

This book is due to be released on January 24th

Description from Netgalley:

Five toasts. Five people. One lifetime.

I’m here to remember – all that I have been and all that I will never be again.

At the bar of a grand hotel in a small Irish town sits 84-year-old Maurice Hannigan. He’s alone, as usual – though tonight is anything but. Pull up a stool and charge your glass, because Maurice is finally ready to tell his story.

Over the course of this evening, he will raise five toasts to the five people who have meant the most to him. Through these stories – of unspoken joy and regret, a secret tragedy kept hidden, a fierce love that never found its voice – the life of one man will be powerfully and poignantly laid bare.

Heart-breaking and heart-warming all at once, the voice of Maurice Hannigan will stay with you long after all is said.

My thoughts

All Is Said is a story about an Irish man called Maurice. It’s told in his own words in the form of a long letter to his son. It doesn’t read like a letter though. His tale weaves in and out of the past as he makes his toasts to the five important people. My thoughts in reading these stories where there’s a transition in viewpoint or time frame is sometimes: when will this get to the point? But I was drawn into Maurice’s story and quickly came to like this honest man who doesn’t hold back. I was riveted, eager to find out where this would all lead and why he was telling his story right now? The reasons are slowly unravelled in the end.

I really loved this novel, I loved the characters and the way that the story was told. It’s as though you’re sitting down listening to a real person tell you their life story, something that I’ve always enjoyed. (I don’t know if many people sit around and tell each other their life stories anymore.) This novel is never slow and there are no boring bits. 

This is a sweet, sad and very human story. I would recommend it to anyone. It feels so real. It’s so perfect. 

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.

 

 

Netgalley, review

The Stranger by Kate Riordan

Publication date: 22 March 2018

Description from Net Galley

One of Red Magazine’s top ten books . . . ———- Cornwall, 1940. In the hushed hours of the night a woman is taken by the sea. Was it a tragic accident? Or should the residents of Penhallow have been more careful about whom they invited in? In the midst of war three women arrive seeking safety at Penhallow Hall. Each is looking to escape her past. But one of them is not there by choice. As the threat of invasion mounts and the nightly blackouts feel longer and longer, tensions between the close-knit residents rise until dark secrets start to surface. And no one can predict what their neighbour is capable of . . . In a house full of strangers, who do you trust? ———- ‘A beautiful and intriguing page-turner, where the secrets of the past cast long shadows. Cornwall springs to life in vivid colour’ Dinah Jefferies

*

I had an email from the publisher telling me about the availability of this on Netgalley and I jumped at the chance to read it! I love Kate Riordan’s books, she is one of the authors I’ve discovered thanks to reviewing ARCs! I have reviewed her two previous released The Shadow Hour (Netgalley) and The Girl In The Photograph (loverreading review panel) and loved them.

My Review of The Stranger by Kate Riordan

I can’t really explain how I felt on reading the first few pages of this book, I was so happy to be reading another breathtaking Kate Riordan novel.

The Stranger is engaging from the start, it’s a tense and suspenseful story. The story begins the night Diana Devlin goes missing and then jumps to six weeks before, the mystery unfolding as the day of her disappearance dawns closer and closer.

It’s told in the form of Diana’s diary and the third person viewpoints of other characters in the novel. It’s not just about the mystery of Diana’s disappearance: as the story unfolds we learn about the secrets of Penhallow where Diana is staying and the lives of the characters that live there. You can’t help but get drawn into their lives and want to know more about them, even when you get to the final page you wonder what happened next?

I love the impact of the countdown to Diana’s disappearance and how the author gets into the characters heads and we learn so much about them. I love the setting and atmosphere: a Cornish village. I loved this book!

 

Netgalley, review

The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan

I was given this book in e-book format from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. It’s expected release date is: 19th April 2018.

Description from Netgalley:

The best lives leave a mark.

Mara’s island is one of stories and magic, but every story ends in the same way. She will finish her days on the cliff, turned to stone and gazing out at the horizon like all the islanders before her.

Mara’s parents – a boxer and a ballerina – chose this enchanted place as a refuge from the turbulence of their previous lives; they wanted to bring up their children somewhere special and safe. But the island and the sea don’t care what people want, and when they claim a price from her family, Mara’s world unravels.

It takes the arrival of Pearl, mysterious and irresistible, to light a spark in Mara again, and allow her to consider a different story for herself.

The Gloaming is a gorgeous tale of love and grief, and the gap between fairy tales and real life.

My Review

The Gloaming is the story of the Ross family: Sidhe, Peter, Islay, Mara and Bee. It’s also about the island where they live which often feels like a character and not just an amazing setting. It has the feeling of a mythical story with a hint of magic always there.

The story is mesmerising and kept me riveted- eager to discover what happens next. The story begins when the girls are in their late teens and the events unfold as they get older. Sometimes we’re taken back into the past, back when Signe and Peter met and other times to the first time that they came to the island, these little snapshots of the past flow seamlessly into the story and allow us to know everything about the family.

The Gloaming is one of those immersive stories, a world that you fall into, like a dream and just like a dream it leaves you wondering. I enjoyed everything about this novel, the characters and their story, the island, the magic and the way the story is told, flowing along with dips into the past. With one exception: the very end chapter entitled: ‘After’ for me this chapter or afterthought spoilt the ending. It presents us with a few ideas of what would happen next, after the story ended. I feel it is unnecessary because with any end we always wonder what happens next. I think the story ends perfectly without this chapter and it feels like an intrusion into the story.

However I’d still recommend this book as I enjoyed every moment of it.