Book Review: The Last Piece (4.5 *)

Sorry, readers. I’m offering you another book review, because as well as being a Twenty-five Reviews or More reviewer on Net Galley…

 

… I’m also a Top Reviewer, which means 3 or more of my reviews have been added to any NetGalley title details page by a publisher (I bet it wasn’t for any of my 1 star reviews!!) I’m also posting it straight after another review, just to make sure I have discharged my duties to Net Galley!

So, in return for a free e-copy of the book, I write my honest review of…

The Net Galley blurb reads:

A sudden departure. A story decades in the making.

The chaotic but happy equilibrium of the Nightingale family is thrown into disarray when Cecily—whose children can’t remember her ever being remotely spontaneous—disappears to a Greek island with no warning or explanation.

Her reasons for doing something so out of character are a total mystery to her three daughters, high-powered executive Felicity, unfulfilled GP Julia and organised mother-of-five Lily. What connection could she possibly have with Kefalonia?

But Cecily has gone to continue a story she thought ended decades ago—one that could have a huge impact on her family. And when she returns, she’ll have to tell them the truth.

Will Cecily be able to hold her family together once she reveals her big secret? And might she discover that she’s not the only one with a story to tell?

Pub Date

I enjoyed other books by Imogen Clark, so had no hesitation in requesting this one. And yes, I enjoyed it – it was a read-over-breakfast-and-take-into-the-garden book, rather than one that I just read at bedtime, which is a good recommendation.

However, I found the three sisters and the other characters to be a little bit too “formulaic” – the words in the blurb high-powered executive Felicity, unfulfilled GP Julia and organised mother-of-five Lily  rather sum them up. There was, I felt, very little light and shade. Other characters too were predictable: the willowy yoga teacher, for example, the slightly awkward lesbian who is rather prickly. For me, the most believable character was the husband Norman, who I really rather liked, for his support of his wife, but also for his misgivings and his flaws.

The story itself was interesting enough – although I guessed part of Cecily’s reasons for her sudden trip I didn’t work it all out…but equally I don’t think that it was a believable reason to fly out to Greece. Especially the idea of having everything paid for and so mysteriously organised. I think the saving grace was that the ending was not the sugar-coated end that I expected to be served; it left more of a “tang”, if you like.

Rating this book is difficult: there were no grammatical or editing errors (huzzah!), it was well written, it was engaging, but I just didn’t quite love it like I hoped I would! It’s certainly better than 3 stars…Looking back over other reviews I’ve written (yes, I do try to be consistent!) I’ve given books I enjoyed less than this 4 stars, so it had better be 4.5 (but rounded down for NetGalley, not up!)

Book Review: “The House at Mermaid’s Cove” (*****)

I come to another book review, as being not only a Twenty-five Reviews or More reviewer on Net Galley…

 

… I’m also a Top Reviewer, which means 3 or more of my reviews have been added to any NetGalley title details page by a publisher (I bet it wasn’t for any of my 1 star reviews!!)

So, in return for a free e-copy of the book, I write my honest review of…

 

The Net Galley blurb reads:

As World War II rages, love, mystery, and secrets collide on the English coast in a riveting novel by the bestselling author of The Snow Gypsy.

In April 1943 a young woman washes ashore on a deserted beach in Cornwall, England. With shorn hair and a number stitched on her tattered chemise, Alice is the survivor of a ship torpedoed by a German U-boat. She’s found by the mysterious Viscount Jack Trewella, who suspects that she’s a prisoner of war or a spy. But the secret Alice asks Jack to keep is one he could never have guessed, and it creates an intimate bond he never expected.

With her true identity hidden beneath the waves, Alice grasps the chance to reinvent herself. But as she begins to fall for Jack, she discovers he has secrets too—ones echoing the legend of a mermaid said to lure men into the dark depths of the sea.

For two strangers in the shadow of war, lost love, and haunting memories, is it time to let go of the past? Or to finally face it—whatever the risks?

Pub Date

I must admit I ummed and ahed (hummed and ha’ed?) about requesting this one. It sounded a bit “twee” – the mysterious Viscount Jack Trewella….the shadow of war, lost love, and haunting memories… – I also feared that the eponymous mermaid might make an appearance but I decided to give it a go. I’m so glad I did! I loved it!

I’ve enjoyed many novels about WW2, about different women facing dangers in different ways, and very few have been as involving as this one. It was believable and, instead of making it all high drama,the author somehow downplayed the drama, making it all matter of fact, while also keeping it as a vital part of the story.

I found both Jack and Alice to be sympathetic characters, and all of Alice’s motivations were eminently believable. Her religious faith was underlined, but the point wasn’t forced; her doubts and questions were natural, and credible. Jack too was a believable character. The only jarring note slightly was the part set in Geurnsey (I don’t want to say more) which didn’t quite ring true; but I’m willing to overlook this point.

Some reviewers complain that Alice’s experiences in the Congo were glossed over, or that the book was too short, not giving enough detail. I never felt this – the time in the Congo was mentioned  (I felt!) in enough detail to sketch out Alice’s reactions…and the book was about her after this time, not during it. Yes, it was important to understand where she had come from and how this shaped her reactions and life afterwards, but I think I might have got a bit frustrated if there had  been too many flashbacks incorporated in the story. I didn’t feel it was too short, and I felt the ending, and why Alice did not continue her wartime work elegantly explained. I have read another book where the heroine just stopped doing what she was doing (trying to avoid spoilers!) with no real explanation.

Although it was noted to be an uncorrected edition, there were no grammatical or layout errors (Thank you!) The language used by the author was not overly flowery, while at the same time didn’t feel too sparse. The descriptions of the Cornish beach, the African landscapes, the wooded valleys were all well put together.

This is the first time I’ve given a NetGalley book five stars! But I feel it deserved them.

Book Review: The Carpet Cipher (**)

Straight on to another book review. (Don’t worry, if you’re not a book review kind of person: I haven’t got any more Net Galley reviews up my sleeve. I’m re-reading a few old favourites at the moment, which I probably won’t review.)

But it behoves me to review this book, as being not only a Twenty-five Reviews or More reviewer on Net Galley…

 

… I’m also a Top Reviewer, which means 3 or more of my reviews have been added to any NetGalley title details page by a publisher (I bet it wasn’t for any of my 1 star reviews!!) (I suspect it won’t be for this one either!!!)

So, in return for a free e-copy of the book, I write my honest review of…

The Carpet Cipher

The Agency of the Ancient Lost and Found (A Phoebe McCabe Mystery Thriller Book 1)

by Jane Thornley

PUBLISHING DATE: 12 MARCH 2020

The Net Galley blurb reads: Can a painting hold a secret safe in plain sight across seven centuries? The murder of the last member of an old Venetian family peels back the rug on a shocking truth that draws art historian and textile expert Phoebe McCabe into the fray.

Book Review: The Day She Came Back (****)

Sorry to those of you who are not really interested in books, or book reviews. I have two, one today and one (maybe) on Monday. But as I am a Net Galley reviewer, I have a duty to review the books wot I read. So that’s what I’m doing.

Lovely, lovely Net Galley sent me a free e-copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review. Here folows my honest review of…

THE DAY SHE CAME BACK

by Amanda Prowse

Publishing date: 7th July 2020

The Net Galley blurb reads:

From the bestselling author of The Girl in the Corner comes a story that asks: how do you forgive the family that lied to you, and love the mum you never had?

When her loving, free-spirited grandmother Primrose passes away, Victoria is bereft, yet resilient—she has survived tragedy before. But even her strength is tested when a mysterious woman attends Prim’s funeral and claims to be the mother Victoria thought was dead.

As the two women get to know each other and Victoria begins to learn more about her past, it becomes clear that her beloved grandmother had been keeping life-changing secrets from her. Desperate for answers, she still struggles to trust anyone to tell her the truth.

To live a full and happy life, Victoria knows she must not only uncover the truth, but find a way to forgive her family. But after so many years, is trusting them even possible?

For most of the reviewers this was obviously a 5-star book – the praise was glowing and people had really enjoyed reading it. I think I have read other books by the author which I enjoyed, so I was drawn to this one. Ms Prowse is clearly a professional writer (something which cannot be said for all the books I read from Net Galley!) and the prose was well constructed with good editing, punctuation & none of the things that irritate me! There were some beautiful passages, which created the atmosphere perfectly:

“…..she lay still taking in the sounds that to most, would have seemed quite unremarkable..…. For Victoria they were like music, a composition just for her. She listened to Sarah open and close cupboard doors, click switches, clatter crockery and the metallic rattle of items ferreted from the dishwasher. She heard her hum and laugh softly, cough twice and chat in both English and Norwegian.”

I thought Ms Prowse wrote with a sense of place too: the descriptions of parts of Oslo made me want to visit a city that seems to be important to the author.

It was a believable, heart warming story with well delineated characters, and yet…

While I believed in Victoria’s sorrow, and shock at the revelations, I didn’t particularly warm to her, and so some of her actions made me think “Don’t be so stupid/ pathetic/ wet/ irritating…” (delete as applicable to the action) BUT I tended to forget that she was only 18, and so – as is the fact with many teenagers – her stupidity/ patheticness/ wetness/ irritating behaviour (delete as applicable etc) was entirely reasonable in the circumstances! Perhaps this was the author’s intention; as I found the other, more adult characters reasonable and likeable, then maybe Victoria was so well written as to evoke those emotions in me!!

Yes, I’d happily give the book 4 stars – mostly because I rarely give 5 stars unless I’ve been blown away by a book. I’d recommend it to those looking for a relatively easy read, but something with a bit of bite to it.

Book Review: The Geometry of Holding Hands (4.5 *)

 

AND I’m a Top Reviewer, which means 3 or more of my reviews have been added to any NetGalley title details page by a publisher (I bet it wasn’t for any of my 1 star reviews!!)

Having devoured one book from NetGalley – see the post-before-last – I then raced through another! This one by a well known author, who, I wouldn’t have thought, needs much introduction from me, nor who has need of glowing reviews, due to his well loved books. But it was on the choices, and I got to read an Alexander McCall Smith book for free…in return for an honest review, of course!

The Net Galley blurb reads: One of the author’s most beloved characters is back–and once again she will have to call upon her powers of deduction and her unflappable moral code to unravel a new philosophical mystery.

In Edinburgh, rumors and gossip abound. But Isabel well knows that such things can’t be taken at face value. Still, the latest whispers hint at mysterious goings-on, and who but Isabel can be trusted to get to the bottom of them? At the same time, she must deal with the demands of her two small children, her husband, and her rather tempestuous niece, Cat, whose latest romantic entanglement comes–to no one’s surprise–with complications. Still, even with so much going on, Isabel, through the application of good sense, logic, and ethics, will, as ever, triumph.  

Publishing date: 28th July 2020

I like the Corduroy Mansions and the Isabel Dalhousie books more than the First Ladies’ Detective Agency ones – I’m not sure why, perhaps because the setting is more familiar, perhaps because I feel the author writes well about Scotland (but I don’t think this is the reason!!!) Whatever it is, I really enjoyed this book. I haven’t read all the books in the series, but by way of short asides which never felt laboured, and which I can’t imagine would annoy those who have read all the books, I was brought up to date with the situation.

All characters were well delineated and engaging, and even the shortish asides into philosophy (a subject which I struggle with) were interesting. I felt for Isabel’s dilemmas, and was very fond of Jamie, who seemed to be an exceptionally thoughtful young man! Their relationship was eminently believable.

Apart from the lack of chapter titles, indicated by a mysterious “E”, there were no editing errors to annoy me!

For a book in which not much seemed to happen, I found the  story romped along, well told and described, with gentle humour and skilled wordsmithery. I would definitely recommend this, giving it a well deserved (in my opinion) 4.5 stars – rounded UP – which doesn’t happen very often! – to five stars for Net Galley.

 

 

Book Review: The Traitor’s Child (****)

 

AND I’m a Top Reviewer, which means 3 or more of my reviews have been added to any NetGalley title details page by a publisher (I bet it wasn’t for any of my 1 star reviews!!)

However, I haven’t downloaded any books from the site for quite a long time, as I’ve been reading the recent Phillip Pullmans – both very good – and rereading a Val McDiarmid, and buying (yes, buying!) a new one of hers to read. But having finished the last book, I was going to buy (yes, buy!) a new book when I remembered NetGalley, so I went onto the site to find a couple of new books to read.

Now, NetGalley is a bit hit-and-miss: sometimes the descriptions sound gripping, but the book is tedious; sometimes the books are much better than expected, sometimes they are “meh”But I’m always willing to give it a go. So I went onto Net Galley for browse, and found this

PUBLISHING DATE: June 26th, 2020

I was sent this e-book, free-of-charge (yay!) by NetGalley, in return for an honest review. So here it is:

The Net Galley blurb reads:

The Traitor’s Child is a haunting and heartbreaking novel of betrayal and conspiracy, in which the roots of one family’s sordid secret burrow so deep beneath the pillars of the Church, they threaten to bring it crashing down. Gripping and thought-provoking to the end. 

I will admit I guessed this was going to be another of those books that were so popular a few years back – Dan Brown etc – where there’s going to be a search for yet another secret about Jesus being married, not dying on the cross, fathering children… whatever etc.  Which were all a bit tedious, and not as “shocking” as they were perhaps meant to be.

Well, I was right, and I wasn’t. Yes, there was a revelation (I won’t say what it was), and – as always – it was the Catholic Church which was seeking to keep this under wraps, by dark and dastardly deeds. (Aside: why is it always the Roman Catholic church, and never the Anglicans? Are we too liberal to be shocked?) However, it was a better story than that, with family ties and betrayals making it more than just your ordinary Catholic Church versus Plucky Searcher of the Truth story. It was a quick read – started on Friday, finished Monday morning, but my measure of how interesting I find a book is is “Do I sit and read it over lunch”? And yes, I did – on Saturday and Sunday!

I very much liked the portrayal of what Jesus was like, and what he taught, and why he died: I liked the way Jesus’s teaching was encapsulated, the characters from the time were well rounded and sympathetically described – even in a sketchy form. I really loved the phrase that Jesus “challenged the comfortable and comforted the challenged” – and this is going to become a sentence I get into as many sermons as possible!

On the whole the story was believable (to a point) and well told.

BUT it was let down, for me, on a couple of points.

1) EDITING – there were chapter headings in odd places, which shouldn’t have been there. There were line breaks in strange places too which

cut the narrative a little and didn’t

help the reader.

2) WRITING a) the author was a little too fond of the line “And then something happened” Which is pointless, as we are immediately told what happened. I noticed this, with irritation, at least twice, but who knows how many times it occured

b) (Maybe this is editing) It really annoyed me (Yes, I know I’m petty) that he wrote that it was something verses something else. VERSUS with a U please! It’s not poetry!!

c) I didn’t get on with the phonetic spelling of some of one character’s speech. It wasn’t consistent, and I wasn’t sure what region she was supposed to have come from.

d) This was the big one for me. I fully understand that we needed to see how our heroine was interested in the disciples of Jesus (I’m trying not to give away any plot spoilers here) and what happened to them. I understand that the Roman Catholic church needs to be the “villains” of the piece. I understand that cruelty was meted out to unmarried mothers and orphans by nuns and monks. But I felt that the nuns who controlled the orphanage were just too awful to be really believable. There were no redeeming features (except Sister Simon) to any of them, and then the fact that the church were conspiring against everyone and the web of influence spread across the world in the way described was just a bit too fanciful for me. It may be true, of course, and I’m just naive, but I couldn’t quite get invested in that.

Sadly although it was a good book, and the conspiracy was certainly more “possible” than others I’ve read, I ended up with a feeling that the author has a real chip on his shoulder about the Roman Catholic church, and its perceived rigidity and beliefs.

Despite this though, I would happily give it 4 stars. Not five. A book has to be really good to get five stars!

 

(Very late) Book Review: The Body in the Dales (3.5*)

I am proud to be  a Twenty-five Reviews or More reviewer on Net Galley.

 

AND I’m a Top Reviewer, which means 3 or more of my reviews have been added to any NetGalley title details page by a publisher (I bet it wasn’t for any of my 1 star reviews!!)

So I was sent this e-book, free-of-charge (yay!) by NetGalley, in return for an honest review. However it was yonks ago and I completely forgot to review it. Although it’s so long ago I can hardly remember it, I still feel I should do my duty and write a review. So here it is

The Net Galley blurb reads:

Book Review: Darkness on the Fens (*** and a half)

I am proud to be  a Twenty-five Reviews or More reviewer on Net Galley.

 

AND I’m a Top Reviewer, which means 3 or more of my reviews have been added to any NetGalley title details page by a publisher (I bet it wasn’t for any of my 1 star reviews!!)

So I was sent this e-book, free-of-charge (yay!) by NetGalley, in return for an honest review.So here it is

DARKNESS ON THE FENS

by Joy Ellis

The Net Galley blurb reads:

Do you love addictive detective mysteries? Then try this book by a multiple #1 best-selling author now. You won’t be able to put it down. It’s a totally enthralling read.

A SERIAL KILLER ON A POISONOUS MISSION PUSHES NIKKI AND HER TEAM TO BREAKING POINT

Revellers are flocking into Greenborough for the yearly Dark Greenborough Festival, a three-day event celebrating local folklore, superstition and the darker side of life.What the public doesn’t know is that there has been a warning sent to the police, saying that Greenborough will be a very dangerous place this year. The anonymous letter ends with the Latin phrase, Mors certa, hora incerta: Death is certain, the hour uncertain.

DI Nikki Galena and her team soon discover this is no hoax, as people start dying from what appears to be alcoholic poisoning. Things rapidly escalate, and as the deaths get more horrific, Nikki realises they have a serial killer in their midst.

A NIGHTMARE HUNT FOR A KILLER DURING THEIR BUSIEST TIME OF THE YEAR.Full of twists and turns, this is a crime thriller that will keep you turning the pages until the heart-stopping ending. This is book ten of the international best-selling books featuring Nikki Galena.

(That’s part of the blurb…it goes on a bit!)

I hadn’t read the other books in the series, so there were a few references to past events that made little sense to me, but they weren’t vital to the story. I found the main characters engaging enough, and the story was fairly gripping. I did find it a little hard to believe that an investigating officer would allow her mum and three friends to take part in the investigation in the way they did – and actually I’m not sure that this added much to the story. Most of what they seemed to do could have been done by any other character.

The motivation behind the murders was a little weak – I could understand why the first murder could be as a result of the motivation (sorry, trying not to give spoilers) but the continued murders…I’m not sure. The start was a bit slow – I was tempted to give up, but am glad I didn’t – and there were places where I felt it was a bit baggy, and could have done with some editing, to speed the action along a little.

I’ll give this 3.5 stars (rounded down, I’m afraid, for Net Galley) but I’m not sure I’ll be rushing to read any others in the series.

Book Review: The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square ****

NetGalley did not send me this free of charge. I paid good folding-cash-money for it (well, click-and-buy on Amazon, actually. Which is a very dangerous thing, and needs to be used with caution!!)

The blurb reads:

They want him to save the world. But, first, he must save himself.

Kirkwood Scott is having a bad day. Languishing in a dead end job and recently dumped by his girlfriend he struggles with a crippling form of OCD which manifests itself in the form of Colonel Augustus Skelly, a phantom voice from Kirkwood’s childhood who controls his every waking moment via a series of tortuous routines, ‘The 49’.

Kirkwood has little to look forward to, bar a weekend of drunken oblivion in Belfast with his equally deadbeat friends. All that changes when he meets Meredith Starc, a young homeless woman struggling to survive on the streets and come to terms with her own troubled past. Kirkwood realises Meredith may hold the answer to him finally being free of his mental demons.

But what if Skelly is more than just a voice? Kirkwood and Meredith join forces to unearth a supernatural battle raging on the city’s back streets between ancient forces of good or evil, the outcome of which will decide the fate of the planet. Between them, they hold the key to saving mankind from a new Dark Age but can they survive long enough to do so as Skelly unleashes a legion of vicious ghost soldiers upon the unsuspecting city?

‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square’ is a fast paced and darkly humorous supernatural fantasy guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

My review on Amazon reads: I found the book engaging and well written, giving me a “just one more” feeling when I reached the end of a chapter. The story is enthralling – in the sense that I was enthralled, I wanted to know what happened next, how the characters fitted together, what the outcome would be. While certain descriptive passages jarred a little, and some of the scene setting went on a tad too long (in my opinion) I felt “secure” in the hands of the author. I look forward to the next instalment.

To add a bit more to the review, I did find the first third of the book dragged in places: the description of Kirkwood’s banal life became a little too tedious. I got that he went to seedy pubs, drank a lot, and had hangovers, and then went out drinking again: I know that the author was trying to emphasise the change in his life, when Meredith entered the scene, but I felt the point was a bit too laboured.

I didn’t always get on with the humour, or understand the cultural references either. While this didn’t exactly spoil my enjoyment of the book, I did get a bit irritated. In fact I emailed Stephen, (I read his blog) to ask about something that I thought was a typo, but which was, in fact, a reference to a song lyric. Should it matter if your readers don’t understand your cultural references? I don’t know – but from time to time something jarred with me, and I had to pause and “get over myself” before continuing.

HOWEVER I loved the actual story, and warmed to the characters I was supposed to warm to; the descriptions of OCD and mental health issues were sensitively handled. Despite it being a fantasy, I found it eminently believable, and I await the next in the series with interest and anticipation.

I gave it four stars, because of the problems with the humour/cultural references, but don’t let this put you off. It’s a great read!

Book Review: The Forgetting Flower(****)

I am proud to be  a Twenty-five Reviews or More reviewer on Net Galley.

 

AND I’m a Top Reviewer, which means 3 or more of my reviews have been added to any NetGalley title details page by a publisher (I bet it wasn’t for any of my 1 star reviews!!)

So I was sent this e-book, free-of-charge (yay!) by NetGalley, in return for an honest review.So here it is

THE FORGETTING FLOWER

by Karen Hugg

Publish date: 18th June 2019

The Net Galley blurb reads:

Secrets and half-truths. These litter Renia Baranczka’s past, but the city of Paris has offered an escape and the refuge of a dream job. The specialty plant shop buzzes with activity and has brought her to a new friend, Alain. His presence buffers the guilt that keeps her up at night, dwelling on the endless replays of what happened to her sister.

All too suddenly, the City of Light seems more sinister when Alain turns up dead. His demise threatens every secret Renia holds dear, including the rare plant hidden in the shop’s tiny nook. It emits a special fragrance that can erase a person’s memory—and perhaps much more than that.

As Renia races to figure out the extent of the plant’s powers, she’s confronted by figures from her past who offer a proposal she can’t outright refuse. Bit by bit, she descends into a menacing underworld of blackmarket mobsters, navigating threats and fending off abuse to protect the safe peaceful life she’s worked so hard for. Desperate to outwit her enemies, Renia maneuvers carefully, knowing one wrong move will destroy not only the plant, but the lives of her sister and herself.

I enjoyed this book very much: it had a slowish start, but built up gradually to a satisfying close. An intruiging premise: a flower that makes you forget things if you smell its perfume – and, of course, what people will do to get their hands on such a thing, and what they will do once they have it. What would you do? What would you want to forget?

The characters were well described, and sympathetic. I understood Renia’s motives and actions, and was rooting for her throughout the story. Descriptions were good, and  flashbacks were handled reasonably well to tell the story, although at times I would have preferred them to be a little more “highlighted” as I was occasionally confused as to the timing of events.

There were none of the pesky typos, poor punctuation/grammar or bad layouts that sometimes plague Net Galley books, which added to the enjoyment of the book.

The author is a horticulturist, and this comes through in her writing. She is obviously knowledgable about plants, but the way she describes them is beautiful. In one scene, where plants are damaged beyond repair, there is a real sense of loss and desolation in the descriptions. There is a love of plants and flowers that shines through Karen Hugg’s words. That for me is what elevates this book to a solid four star, rather than a 3.5 star book.