review

Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin

Although I’m Welsh I don’t seem to read many books set in Wales and published in Wales so lately I’ve been making note of them when I see them. I bought this online after reading the synopsis and I wasn’t disappointed.

My thoughts

There was so much to enjoy and love about this book. The secrets that Violet is keeping from her daughter Cadi make this novel deliciously dark. Add to that the ghosts and the fact that Lili is a witch makes this story riveting.

It’s a haunting and poetic story tangled with myth, memory and hints of magic. Simply put it’s beautiful. It’s not only set in Wales, with Welsh characters but there’s also snatches of the Welsh language. I loved how accurate the characters dialogue is, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book which so accurately portrays Welsh people speaking (in English), I could recognise the way myself and others I know speak. It’s definitely a first for me!

This is book is perfect for those who love magic and amazing stories with wonderful depth. Ghostbird is all about the characters and caring about them makes you want to keep reading. You can see each person’s side of the story as you try to work out the mystery behind the secrets.  It’s a story which is achingly sad but held such words of wisdom within its pages:

“If you have to start living a new life half way through the one you thought you had, the only thing to do was look upon it as an adventure.” p.267

“A weed’s only a flower in the wrong place.” p 264 

It feels like an authentic story even with it’s supernatural elements. The beauty of the setting and the witch’s garden is lovely. I find myself running out of words to explain how good this book is. Mae’n Bendigedig!

*

If you’re looking for a Halloween read I’d definitely recommend this book, it’s got enough darkness and ghostly moments, to enthral gothic fiction lovers but not too much to scary you silly. It’s perfect for everyone, a lovely story.

pile of pumpkin
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

This is the first book I’ve read for this Halloween season, I’ve also finished We have always lived in the castle by Shirley Jackson (tense) and now I’m reading Haverscroft by S.A.Harris and that’s definitely worth a read! More soon!

N.B. I really love Carol Lovekin’s dialogue it’s definitely a lesson for writers.

 

 

review

Some Sex and A Hill by Aran Jones

It’s not what you think! I read this book after seeing it on the Say Something In Welsh website/forum/newsletter. I borrowed it from Amazon Prime to feel less guilty about buying more books.

Synopsis from Amazon:

Aran Jones wrote the course for the popular online Welsh learning system SaySomethinginWelsh.com, and with his close friend Iestyn ap Dafydd he co-founded SaySomethingin.com Ltd.

Tens of thousands of Welsh learners have used SaySomethinginWelsh as part of their journey towards speaking Welsh.

This irreverent (and often downright impolite) book is the story of how Aran himself learnt Welsh.

It involves parties, bad jokes about sex, broken hearts, alcohol, tactical mistakes, moments of joy, tattoos and all the raw humiliation of embarrassing yourself in public – not just once, but over and over again. Some of the painful moments here will be immediately recognisable to all Welsh learners – others might strike them as unnecessary and self-inflicted.

If you’re looking for a calm and thoughtful analysis of different ways to learn Welsh, this is very much NOT the right book for you.

If, on the other hand, you want evidence that Aran has suffered as much as you have at the hands of the Welsh language, and possibly humiliated himself even more (drunken charades, anyone?) then you’re in exactly the right place.

My review

I read the sample of this book and I couldn’t stop reading!

It’s such a funny story about learning a language, the pain and the pleasure. I was laughing out loud to myself. One anecdote that stands out is when Aran was at the Eisteddfod and wanted to buy a jacket potato, he had to ask in Welsh and he was so nervous about it in case the person said something that he hadn’t learnt in his course. Then it turned out they were speaking in English!

This books shows the author’s love for the Welsh language and the aching sadness of a people who have lost their language through the ruling of the English monarchy who outlawed the speaking of the Welsh language as a way of claiming control over Cymru/Wales. If you don’t understand this you will after reading this book.

I read a book once about learning Welsh that put me off! It told me all the horror stories about Welsh speakers not wanting to speak Welsh with learners. I’ve discovered since that this was not completely right!

This book is honest and motivating, a great read for those who want to learn or are thinking of learning. It’s so funny!

I’m looking forward to reading the follow on book once it’s done.

*

If your curious about Say Something In Welsh then take a look at  the website here.

This book is available to buy here from Amazon, ebook or phyiscal copy.

 

review

Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

This is one of the books I read this summer as part of my challenge. First I must thank the website Books2doors for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a review. Their prices are very reasonable and have a wide selection.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (Book 1) (Percy Jackson And The Olympians) by [Riordan, Rick]

Synopsis from GoodReads:

“Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse – Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena – Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.”

My Thoughts

It was easy to like Percy Jackson, he gets into a few messes during school trips and he’s not a perfect student. They tell him he has ADHD and he’s been kicked out of various schools. He’s funny and honest and straight away I was hooked to his story.

It’s written in his voice like he’s talking to you and I can see why this book is so popular and why I have to recommend it to any child/young adult especially those who may relate to Percy’s problems at school.

Though of course Percy doesn’t have ADHD or anything like that he’s the son of a God. Reading his story was a lot like reading a classic Greek myth, except of course in a first person narrative. I am so glad that I decided to start reading these books because they are fun. I’ve seen the films (two of them anyway) and I found the books packed in more intrigue and story.

There is no way I can relate to Percy Jackson (I’m a lot older) but his story was full of adventure and very entertaining. I enjoyed it a lot and will definitely be reading the next books in this series.

Recommend to all who love a good story!

*

I’m one review away- I think- on catching up with my reviews but so many books to read as usual. Haha. I’m feeling a bit of an impostor calling myself a blogger these days but it’s difficult to find the time to do everything: yoga, writing, reading etc etc Sometimes I think I’d have more to write about if this was a lifestyle blog but never mind Halloween is coming and I’m hoping to have more posts then 🙂

I’m going to be reading some good books by Welsh writers over the next month or so, watch this space.

review

The Magpie Tree by Katherine Sansfield

Wow, it’s been nearly a fortnight since I wrote this post but forgot to post it. :/

Synopsis from Amazon:

“Jamaica Inn, 1844: the talk is of witches. A boy has vanished in the woods of Trethevy on the North Cornish coast, and a reward is offered for his return. Shilly has had enough of such dark doings, but her new companion, the woman who calls herself Anna Drake, insists they investigate. Anna wants to open a detective agency, and the reward would fund it. They soon learn of a mysterious pair of strangers who have likely taken the boy, and of Saint Nectan who, legend has it, kept safe the people of the woods. As Shilly and Anna seek the missing child, the case takes another turn – murder. Something is stirring in the woods and old sins have come home to roost.”

*

I picked this book up inspired by the mention of witches and of course the location of Cornwall and I had a lovely surprise. I’ve been reading books set in different places as I haven’t gone on holiday this year and was surprised when the setting of this book became very familiar and then there was a mention of Boscastle 🙂

I have actually visited the setting inspired and adapted into this book and it was a very unusual experience reading about somewhere I’d been. I think I’d like to read more.

My Review

This is the second book featuring the characters of Anna and Shilly but I didn’t feel lost having not read the first book.

This book has got to have one of the best opening lines: ‘The day I went to the Jamaica Inn was the day I saw a man hanged’ it definitely caught my attention and it didn’t waver. I enjoyed the story, an unusual whodunnit set in old Cornwall where people are still holding onto their superstitions. I loved the dark atmsophere of the woods and the eeriness of the mention of magics which leave you wondering if it’s a real person  who committed the crime or something else entirely.

I didn’t really like Anna, there was a moment where I started to feel a little bit of sympathy towards her but I still didn’t like her. Although I did find the characters intriguing and I’d probably read more.

The best thing about this was the location and the atmosphere at the start which was quite dark and the supernatural ideas/elements were interesting and added to the mystery. However I often felt that it was more ‘crime’ novel than the quotes on the cover liked to emphasis, I didn’t feel that it was ‘macabre’ but then I’ve read a lot of horror so maybe it would be to someone who doesn’t.  I think it’s hard to have a macabre ‘whodunnit’ as the tension of a gothic/darker novel would have slowed the pace necessary for a good mystery? Just my opinion.

I enjoyed the story and the mystery a lot it was definitely a good mix of weird and ‘whodunnit’ which I haven’t really read before. A good idea and worth a read.

review

Cornish Short Stories: A Collection

I bought this book from the National Trust Gift Shop at Tintagel Castle last year. This was a perfect summer read for me.

Cornish Short Stories: A Collection of Contemporary Cornish Writing

Synopsis from GoodReads

“Ghosts walk in the open and infidelities are conducted in plain sight. Two teenagers walk along a perfect beach in the anticipation of a first kiss. Time stops for nothing – not even for death. Sometimes time cracks, disrupting a fragile equilibrium. The stories are peopled with locals and incomers, sailors and land dwellers; a diver searches the deep for what she has lost, and forbidden lovers meet in secret places. Throughout, the writers’ words reveal a love of the incomparable Cornish landscape.

This bold and striking new anthology showcases Cornwall’s finest contemporary writers, combining established and new voices”

My Thoughts

I enjoyed this collection it really captures the essence of Cornwall. I’d love to talk about all these stories but to keep this post to a decent length I thought I’d highlight some of my favourites,  ones that stood out for me:

An Arrangement by Tom Vowler this story about a husband and wife tugs at the heart.

The Siren Of Treen by Emma Staughton I loved this story with the atsmophere of the farm and the sea, athough one part was a bit disconcerting I wanted to read more.

Too Hot Too Bright by S.Reid  A Beautiful story of loss and love.

The Haunting Of Bodmin Jail by Anastasia Gammon was one of the best ghost stories I’ve ever read. A great clever story.

There’s a beautiful poem at the start Talk Of Her by Katherine Stansfield, I had no idea when I bought the book I’m reviewing next The Magpie Tree that is was by the same author, the poem is about a lady-Dorothy Pentreath- who gained the reputation of being the last native Cornish speaker.

This really is a lovely evocative collection interspersed with wonderful woodcut illustrations by a Cornish artist Angela Annesley this is perfect for lovers of Cornwall and those who love a good short story.

*

The Next Review is another Cornish inspired tale: The Magpie Tree by Katherine Stansfield…..

review

Outrun by Amy Liptrot

I am sorry I can’t remember where I got this book from. It must’ve been a prize or something to do with the Ninja Book Box I feel so guilty. This is how out of control my books are! I was drawn to the idea of this story  it seemed an inspiring read reminiscent of Wild or The Salt Path.

 

The Outrun

Synopsis from GoodReads

When Amy Liptrot returns to Orkney after more than a decade away, she is drawn back to the Outrun on the sheep farm where she grew up. Approaching the land that was once home, memories of her childhood merge with the recent events that have set her on this journey.

Amy was shaped by the cycle of the seasons, birth and death on the farm, and her father’s mental illness, which were as much a part of her childhood as the wild, carefree existence on Orkney. But as she grew up, she longed to leave this remote life. She moved to London and found herself in a hedonistic cycle. Unable to control her drinking, alcohol gradually took over. Now thirty, she finds herself washed up back home on Orkney, standing unstable at the cliff edge, trying to come to terms with what happened to her in London.

Spending early mornings swimming in the bracingly cold sea, the days tracking Orkney’s wildlife – puffins nesting on sea stacks, arctic terns swooping close enough to feel their wings – and nights searching the sky for the Merry Dancers, Amy slowly makes the journey towards recovery from addiction.

The Outrun is a beautiful, inspiring book about living on the edge, about the pull between island and city, and about the ability of the sea, the land, the wind and the moon to restore life and renew hope.”

My Thoughts

At the beginning of the story, Amy tells us of her problem with alcohol and the mistakes she made. It’s a frank and honest account that appears to hold nothing back and she tells us how she finally got on a recovery program. I felt sympathetic towards her and I did enjoy reading this part of the book.

In the second part of the book she goes home to the Orkneys to find her way again and continue to beat her addiction. I loved the setting and atmosphere but it was here that the book started to get dull. And it pretty much ended up swaying my opinion of the book. There were a lot of facts which can be interesting but it changed the tone of the story. It started to feel more like a guide book or a report, I wondered if she’d copied and pasted from a text book sometimes but I doubt she did. It was just too much and the narrative timeline became confusing.

In the start of the book she mentions working on an oil rig and feeling so bad that she knew she had to leave, the story goes back to explain her alcohol addiction but never returns to that moment. And in the second part of the book when she’s back in Scotland she is still telling old anecdotes from the times she was in the recovery program or from her days when she was still drinking, which made the timeline very confusing and repetitive.

The style started off very lyrical in the beginning but became very report like in the second part,  with sentences starting with “one morning” “one Sunday” or “on a Monday morning” and “On a windy day” it felt like the narrative wasn’t going anywhere and this was just filler.

I was disappointed.  It wasn’t the book I expected. It was interesting at times but it felt like it could’ve been shorter and I’m wondering if the facts and info were just padding. These are just my opinions and maybe some one who can relate to her situation might get more from this book? But I don’t feel that it was inspirational to me. We can’t all go live on an island and what happened next? You never find out what happened next, the story just ends.  I wanted to know if the feeling she had was just a holiday feeling and how she managed later, when she went back to her normal life.
The critical reviews on the cover say  how good the book is and but it is repetitive and dull. You expect a memoir to be all about her but it got very repetitive and self indulgent. Nothing really happens. I got nothing from this book. I mention The Salt Path and Wild, I loved those books, I couldn’t relate exactly to the situations those people were in but I felt every moment and enjoyed their journey. This book isn’t so much a journey but a memoir about alcoholism and mostly a report. Very disapointing, especially because the other reviews on GoodReads were great.

Have you read this book?

 

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!