review

The Mermaid’s Call by Katherine Stansfield

This is book 14 of the 20 Books Of Summer Challenge, there’s only a week left and I can’t see me reaching 20. Last year I read 14 so I’ll definitely beat that. I’ve been a bit slow reading lately and also blogging, so I’ll update at the beginning of September my final figure. 

I picked this book because I read The Magpie Tree which is the second book in this series last year. This book got my attention from the beginning, mainly because it’s set in Boscastle which is a place I love and miss visiting. 

Cornwall, 1845. Shilly has always felt a connection to happenings that are not of this world, a talent that has proved invaluable when investigating dark deeds with master of disguise, Anna Drake. The women opened a detective agency with help from their newest member and investor, Mathilda, but six long months have passed without a single case to solve and tensions are growing.

It is almost a relief when a man is found dead along the Morwenstow coast and the agency is sought out to investigate. There are suspicions that wreckers plague the shores, luring ships to their ruin with false lights – though nothing has ever been proved. Yet with the local talk of sirens calling victims to the sea to meet their end, could something other-worldly be responsible for the man’s death?

-from Goodreads

My Review

The Mermaid’s Call is book three, you can read it as a stand along but you will always benefit from reading them in order. 

I enjoyed this historical mystery, it was lovely to be back with Anna and Shilly again. Anna and Shilly have recently set up their detective business in Boscastle, they are approached with a strange case. A man has a dream that his brother has been killed, Shilly also has a strange dream and feels this pull of the siren. They go to Morwenstow to investigate. 

I don’t want to give too much away. I like the characters of Anna and Shilly, they are still mysteries themselves, or at least Anna is. The Parson was also an intriguing character and I learnt at the end in the author’s note that he was a real person.

I love the dark, coastal atmosphere of this book.  The mystery was interesting and there was a lot of reference to things from that era, the religion, the story of the wreckers. 

Although I did enjoy this book, SPOILER? it didn’t really follow through with the supernatural element like the previous book did. Unless my expectations were too high? 

However it was  interesting and a lovely dark read and I am definitely going to read the next to find out what happens next for Shilly and Anna. 

review

The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn

It’s been two years since I read and loved Raynor Winn’s first book The Salt Path and I was going to buy the follow up The Wild Silence this year. The publication date had to be changed later in the year, but then I seen it on Netgalley. So thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The Wild Silence

Nature holds the answers for Raynor and her husband Moth. After walking 630 homeless miles along The Salt Path, living on the windswept and wild English coastline; the cliffs, the sky and the chalky earth now feel like their home.

Moth has a terminal diagnosis, but against all medical odds, he seems revitalized in nature. Together on the wild coastal path, with their feet firmly rooted outdoors, they discover that anything is possible.

Now, life beyond The Salt Path awaits and they come back to four walls, but the sense of home is illusive and returning to normality is proving difficult – until an incredible gesture by someone who reads their story changes everything.

A chance to breathe life back into a beautiful farmhouse nestled deep in the Cornish hills; rewilding the land and returning nature to its hedgerows becomes their saving grace and their new path to follow.

The Wild Silence is a story of hope triumphing over despair, of lifelong love prevailing over everything. It is a luminous account of the human spirit’s instinctive connection to nature, and how vital it is for us all.”- GoodReads

My Review

This book starts by telling us what happened after Mo and Ray left the coast path, Moth is doing a degree and Ray’s mother is ill. She’s not doing too great being back in the normal world and things are starting to go back to the way they were before they went: Mo’s health is deteriorating and Ray feels she’s lost what she gained on the path.

Ray starts to think about her childhood and then we’re right there with her as she remembers how she’s always felt this tie to the land, this longing to be outside and to be connected to everything. The style is as exquisite as the first book. Her story is heart-breakingly sad and it’s hard to find the right words when it’s someone’s life. 

 I found some of Ray’s feelings about nature and her reticence towards people striking a chord within me. Feeling raw from the sad events in her life it all cut me to the quick. Things are difficult for them, Ray trying to get a job and then she realises Moth has forgotten their time on the coast path. So she has an idea to start writing a book about their experiences to help Moth remember and starts telling us how The Salt Path came to be written. 

The Salt Path is a beautiful book that was written especially for Moth so he wouldn’t forget, a way of keeping that time frozen for them. The story was so wonderful it had to be published. 

 I enjoyed this book but I read it too quickly. I should’ve waited to read it when the hardback became released, some books are enjoyed better when their actually in your hands. It was good to read what happened next and also read about how The Salt Path came to be. 

 

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This book is expected to be published 3rd September 2020 but you can get The Salt Path now, I recommend it. 

Netgalley, review

Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang

I haven’t read a vampire book for a long time, there’s just so many that are the same these days. But  I seen this on Netgalley and I had to read it. 

Opium and Absinthe

Synopsis from GoodReads:

“New York City, 1899. Tillie Pembroke’s sister lies dead, her body drained of blood and with two puncture wounds on her neck. Bram Stoker’s new novel, Dracula, has just been published, and Tillie’s imagination leaps to the impossible: the murderer is a vampire. But it can’t be—can it?

A ravenous reader and researcher, Tillie has something of an addiction to truth, and she won’t rest until she unravels the mystery of her sister’s death. Unfortunately, Tillie’s addicted to more than just truth; to ease the pain from a recent injury, she’s taking more and more laudanum…and some in her immediate circle are happy to keep her well supplied.”

Review

The first few pages of this novel drew me in and wouldn’t let go. I liked Tillie, she lives in a world where women are meant to go to parties, socialise and marry. But she spends the party in the host’s library. She has a passion for knowledge and enjoys reading the dictionary.

I had a brilliant first impression of this book, I loved the unique similes that the author used “her heart was quivering like a cold chicken jelly” and I was intrigued by the mystery. Tillie’s sister is murdered by what looks like a vampire and she’s determined to find out what happened, since nobody else seems to be bothered. Oddly.

Tillie’s  grandmother is a formidable lady, she is very harsh on Tillie and at one point refuses her to leave the house for her safety. Tillie feels trapped but not just in the house, in this life all planned out for her. Since her sister’s death they want her to  fit neatly into her sisters role. She tries to figure out what happened to her sister, meeting people who can help along the way.

The authors love of Dracula is shown by the quotes at the beginning of each chapter and the novel features in the story. So if you haven’t read it, expect spoilers. This was perfect: Tillie is reading the novel and asking questions, she researches the science behind vampires and tries to figure out if the killer is really a vampire. I don’t think I’ve ever read a vampire book or seen a film/series that looks at the science, that looks at how their teeth would have to be or how they could drink blood from two tiny holes, leaving only small puncture wounds. Very interesting and a refreshing change. 

All the while I wonder if it’s really a vampire, or if someone she knows is to blame. I couldn’t figure it out, as the story progresses and Tillie tries to unravel the mystery, putting herself in danger and risking the anger of her family, I was riveted. And I didn’t guess the culprit in the end. But I enjoyed every moment of it. 

 It was interesting to read Tillie’s story, showing the attitudes to women during this time. And how she easily became addicted to opiates after an injury. Also her enthusiasm for writing made me remember myself when I getting into writing for the first time.

There is one glaring error in this book where the author keeps referring to the millennium being in 1900. Strange how this wasn’t corrected, not sure if it has been in the final proof as I read an ARC. But it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story.

I loved everything about this book: the facts, the story, the characters. It’s a riveting, historical mystery that you won’t be able to put down. 

*

I’ve counted this in my 20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge, an update will be posted soon…. 🙂

review

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read an ARC of this book. This is the first book I’ve ever read about racism, I was one of those people that didn’t think that racism was predominate in my country. Wales, U.K.  I’ve never been told otherwise until after recent events made me really look and want to educate myself. This book taught me a lot.

Synopsis from Netgalley:

Not being racist is not enough. We have to be antiracist.

In this rousing and deeply empathetic book, Ibram X. Kendi, founding director of the Antiracism Research and Policy Center, shows that when it comes to racism, neutrality is not an option: until we become part of the solution, we can only be part of the problem.

Using his extraordinary gifts as a teacher and story-teller, Kendi helps us recognise that everyone is, at times, complicit in racism whether they realise it or not, and by describing with moving humility his own journey from racism to antiracism, he shows us how instead to be a force for good. Along the way, Kendi punctures all the myths and taboos that so often cloud our understanding, from arguments about what race is and whether racial differences exist to the complications that arise when race intersects with ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality.

In the process he demolishes the myth of the post-racial society and builds from the ground up a vital new understanding of racism – what it is, where it is hidden, how to identify it and what to do about it.

My Review

This book is a mix of biography, history and essays about being racist or anti-racist. It gives a very in depth and well researched look at racism and it really is eye opening. 

This books suggests the idea that you may be racist because of the racist ideas that are in our society but we don’t become racist and we can change through “persistent self awareness, constant self criticism and regular self examination.” People may not realise they’re racist because it’s how the world is, it’s the norm but they can change. “Racist ideas define society.”

Each chapter presents a different aspect of racism and how it can be divided by things like gender and class. The personal story is interesting and engaging, exploring how the writer himself considered himself racist and wants to be anti racist.

This book made me look at things differently. It helped me to understand “privilege”  privilege means that you are not judged by the colour of your skin.  Another thing that made me think was his explanation about black living spaces that they are not full of crime, racism has built up this image of fear in these communities and you see it on tv and films often. 

Although this book taught me a lot I did find it hard to follow at times, so many quotes and facts. It could be very wordy and the narrative went off on tangents. It’s about America and I don’t know enough about American history and past events to be able to understand some of this book. 

Sometimes the repetition  was off putting, just the repetition of a word or a certain sentence structure. I think that the author was trying to get his point across using repetition but I am of the opinion that less is more. I think that this book might not be accessible to everyone because the ideas are in a round about way. I think it would be a lot more influential if it was presented plainly.  However this is the author’s style and helps shows his enthusiasm and main messages do get across. 

I think the ideas are very important and it’s an educational book that is well worth taking the time to read if you’re looking for a book to learn more about racism. 

*

Coming Soon…. Update on My Summer Reading Challenge, this book is included. 

 

 

review

Wild Spinning Girls by Carol Lovekin

This is a belated review, sometimes you just can’t find the words and need to be in the right headspace to really do a book justice in a review. So I’ve tried. 

Wild Spinning Girls

“If it wasn’t haunted before she came to live there, after she died, Ty’r Cwmwl made room for her ghost. She brought magic with her.

And the house, having held its breath for years, knew it. Ida Llewellyn loses her job and her parents in the space of a few weeks and, thrown completely off course, she sets out for the Welsh house her father has left her. Ty’r Cwmwl is not at all welcoming despite the fact it looks inhabited, as if someone just left..

It is being cared for as a shrine by the daughter of the last tenant. Determined to scare off her old home’s new landlord, Heather Esyllt Morgan sides with the birds who terrify Ida and plots to evict her. The two girls battle with suspicion and fear before discovering that the secrets harboured by their thoughtless parents have grown rotten with time. Their broken hearts will only mend once they cast off the house and its history, and let go of the keepsakes that they treasure like childhood dreams.” – from GoodReads

My Review 

“I’m a bit Welsh myself as it happens.”

Ida inherits a house and goes to Wales, after losing her job and her parents, intending to take a look and get it ready to be sold. I am always looking for books set in Wales and this is another such book by Carol Lovekin.

It’s not just the place it’s set in that attracts my interest but the atmosphere of the book. Reminiscent of folklore with superstition and magic, nothing I write can really do justice, this book seems to mirror that mystical image of Wales/Welsh folklore. I don’t know if that was intended, or whether the magic and superstition is just part of describing the magic of the characters’ worlds.

This same atmosphere was prevalent in GhostBird and I just can’t get enough of it. The house with it’s haunting feeling, the wildness of the land it sits on, the poetical writing style…Everything just ties together to create this wonderful place and story. 

The plot of the novel is intriguing and I felt bad for Ida, I thought that the characters were brilliant personalities (Roni’s a fun character), all different.

“What was it with all the tea?” 

(Loved this quote, it’s so accurate, a lot of Welsh people drink a lot of tea)

The book is never dull, the story always moving on at an addictive pace. I liked Heather (the girl who Ida can’t get rid of) and I found the relationship between her and Ida interesting. At times I wanted to scream at her which I guess it how most people feel about teenagers. I was eager for them to find a solution to their problems but like in reality problems take time to solve sometimes. I enjoyed the story and Ida’s journey to solve her problems, the way it ended was perfect. 

Sometimes when you’re reviewing a book, it’s hard to really explain what makes it special. I hope I’ve managed to. What always stands out about Carol Lovekin’s books is the beautiful sense of place that stays with you, the realistic characters and that poetic style that is just so hard to describe and do justice to. 

*

If you’d like to know more about Carol Lovekin’s books you can find out more here and also discover more books by Welsh authors from indie publisher Honno. 

My next post will be about this years Summer Reading Challenge.

Happy Reading 🙂 Hwyl am nawr. 

 

review

Am Ddiwrnod! Gan Margaret Johnson

Am Ddiwrnod! is one book in a series called Cyfres Amdani that’s been written especially for Welsh learners, if you’d like more information about this series click the link here

This book has been written for anyone who is doing entry level (Mynediad) it’s written specifically to reflect what’s been taught at that level.

This is my first review for a book in Welsh, if you’d like to see more please comment so I know to continue with this idea. (I’m writing in English though).

Am Ddiwrnod: Nofel i Ddysgwyr Lefel Mynediad

This book is about 32 pages long. There are a few pictures and there’s some information about the characters and where the story is set at the beginning. There are definitions of some words at the bottom of the page. It’s a very short story and I finished it rather quickly.

I enjoyed the story, it had drama and humour and kept my interest. I’d definitely recommend it, I found it fairly easy to follow. I looked up the odd word that I wasn’t sure of and did refer to the definitions at the bottom of the page. I found it really helpful that some of the words were repeated, you might forget the meaning of a word if you only see it once or twice but the repetition helped me to remember the word.

This is the first time I’ve read a book from this Cyfres Amdani series, and so far I am happy with it. It’s very short which is great because I could read in one sitting. I’m not learning Welsh in a classroom so I’m unsure what my level is, probably close to intermediate (Say Something In Welsh level 3?).

I’d definitely recommend this book if you want to start reading books in cymraeg, it’s a good start, learn a few new words and build your confidence.

*

I’ve tried reading a few other books which I didn’t finish due to finding them difficult and being frustrated at having to look up every other word. So I am so happy to finally finish something in cymraeg!

If you found this review useful and would like me to review more books yn gymraeg (or any other Welsh language related posts) please drop me a line in the comments so I know to keep reviewing books in Welsh.

Don’t be shy, say shw mae 🙂

Pob lwc a dal ati!

 

review

Confessions by Helen Laycock

I asked on Twitter recently for some funny books to cheer me up during lockdown and author Helen Laycock replied with two short story collections, I bought them both. This book is available to buy onAmazon 

Let’s face it. Things go wrong. And we’re not always proud of what we do. Between these covers is a veritable confession box of revelations. Some might well be fictional. Others possibly… maybe… probably have a nugget of truth in them. But for legal reasons, let’s just call them stories, shall we? Wink, wink.

 

Review

I love reading short stories, they’re something you can fit in when you don’t have the time to read something longer, (or an excuse to start a new book when you have many of the go). This collection features stories that could be true, at the end of each story there’s a little rating of how true they are. They are fun, perfect stories that will definitely lighten your mood. 

I couldn’t pick a favourite really but not being a cat fan I enjoyed the story ‘Letting The Cat  Out Of The Bag’ and the story about making a courgette pie when you don’t have the right ingredients, A Recipe For Disaster.‘ There’s a story about a lady who grows a tail as part of an experiment, ‘Lab Work Needed.’ And one about a lady desperate to go to the toilet during a dinner party, ‘That Sinking Feeling’.

 They are so funny! If you need a pick me up get this book. I enjoyed all of the stories and I was quite sad to get to the end of the book. But it’s OK I have another collection by Helen Laycock to read. 

 

review

Leave Nothing But Footprints by Patsy Collins

 

Leave Nothing But Footprints by [Patsy Collins]

Synopsis from Amazon

“Jessica Borlase always gets what she wants. From cocktails in the exact shade of her manicure, holiday on Capri with friends, to a spacious apartment, her father’s money makes it possible. She enjoys the luxurious lifestyle and is grateful for his support, but frustrated to always be treated as Daddy’s pampered little girl. She tries to break free, by leaving Borlase Enterprises and studying photography.

Now what Jess wants is the utterly gorgeous Eliot Beatty; a world famous photographer who often uses his talents to benefit conservation projects. Her father attempts to bribe Eliot into taking Jess on an assignment in order to teach her the skills she’ll need to develop a career. Although annoyed at the interference, she’s delighted to discover this means two weeks with Eliot in the beautiful countryside of South Wales and close confines of a campervan. Trouble is, the man can’t be bought.

Jess eventually manages to persuade Eliot to take her. She believes she can earn his respect and that she’s ready for the hard work, long hours and living conditions far short of those she’s used to. She’s wrong on all counts. Can Jess learn to cope with the realities of the trip, and is Eliot really worth the effort?”

Review

I thought this book would be the perfect read at the moment, something sweet set in beautiful countryside. Although I don’t have much in common with Jess I did like her and enjoyed her story.  She wants to do something with her life, specifically she wants to be a photographer. And she’s prepared to put in the hard work and not take handouts from her rich father and his contacts. Although he tries to help her, she really wants to do it on her own. She thinks people are jealous and they don’t understand why she isn’t happy with her life. But she wants to be independent and she tries in this story. I do feel like we learn some wise advice in this story: too not be too hasty to judge people based on your own opinions, Jess does and she realises that she is in the wrong. 

The story is riveting. And just like the other book I read by Patsy Collins you feel like you’re learning something, in this novel it’s photography and the environment. I’ve learnt a bit more about the importance of the environment e.g. I would never have thought to pick up someone else’s litter.

I really enjoyed this story my own qualm is that I wished there was more. I finished it too quickly, I turned the page and was surprised that it was the end. It’s a lovely story well worth a read and a perfect feel-good, summer, escapism story. I would happily read another story with these characters, Patsy has a way of making you care about them and making you want to read more. 🙂

*

You can get this book on Kindle (including part of Kindle unlimited) or buy the paperback from Amazon here. I’ve also reviewed these two books by Patsy on my blog, also good reads, a novel:Paint Me A Picture and a short story collection.  

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It’s important now more than ever to support our independent authors and booksellers. You can find a list of shops that are still open for orders on the website here. I’ve also bought from Hive.co.uk which send a commission to a bookshop of your choice.

For recommendations check out twitter. Take a look at my previous posts for a review of a good horror (if you’re in the mood) Haverscroft by S.A.Harris and also Ghost Bird by Carol Lovekin.

I’ve just bought Wild Spinning Sisters by Carol Lovekin and two collections by another indie author Helen Laycock, always a pleasure to read her fun books. 

review

Haverscroft by S.A. Harris

Hello. It’s been a while, right? What happened at the end of last year? I stopped recording books I read and pretty much lost my blogging groove. I started learning Welsh.

If anyone knows how to get the balance of meeting goals and relaxing please let me know

I have a confession to make, I read this book for Halloween and loved it, but I didn’t make notes and when I tried to review it later I was stuck. But it’s come to my attention that the last review on GoodReads was a bad one so I’d like to end the year on a high note. And feel less guilty for not reviewing this book when I said I would. Sorry…

Review: Haverscroft by S.A.Harris

Haverscroft

“Kate Keeling leaves all she knows and moves to Haverscroft House in an attempt to salvage her marriage. Little does she realise, Haverscroft’s dark secrets will drive her to question her sanity, her husband and fatally engulf her family unless she can stop the past repeating itself. Can Kate keep her children safe and escape Haverscroft in time, even if it will end her marriage?

Haverscroft is a gripping and chilling dark tale, a modern ghost story that will keep you turning its pages late into the night.” – from GoodReads

My thoughts

This book was so good that I didn’t even remember to make notes as I was reading, I was so absorbed. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.

I loved Haverscroft, what drew me to this book was the gothic horror, and I enjoyed the descriptions of the house was. The tension and atmosphere throughout draws you in and the enigma about what happened at the house, what secrets are haunting the place?

Kate Keeling is a character I came to love and to feel sympathy for, she’s just trying to recover from a breakdown and start anew again but the problems she faces do not help. All the characters are a delight to read about.

The gothic tension in this novel is perfect and continues throughout the book. If you love gothic horror novels this is for you. Such a good book I wish I could find words to express how much I loved it.

Looking forward to more from this author.

*

 

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.