Saturday, 14 January 2017

The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick - An Ethereal, Wonderful Book about Love, Loss and, Comets

As I have said before, I love quirky books that step outside the normal confines of time and space. The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick is one such book. I saw the hardback version in Waterstone's, and I had to have it! I couldn't wait until August for the paperback version, so I put it on my Christmas list and was very happy to receive it on Christmas Day.
The story begins in 2017 at Halley VI, the British Antarctic Survey Research Station, where Róisín, a scientist, meets François, a chef. This unlikely couple feel drawn together: drawn to this desolate place of snow covered ice and rock, the very things comets are made of, and drawn to the comet which is due to pass at its closest to earth in three weeks on its way to the sun.
Helen Sedgwick then skilfully takes us back and forth in time, each time a comet appears from 1066 to the present day, to explain why they have met in such a place.
She focuses on the forbidden love between Róisín and her cousin, Liam, and how François copes with his mother, Severine, who talks to the ghosts of her family, and through whose lives the story is told over one thousand years. And she shows how Róisín's and François' lives tantalizingly almost touch several times until they meet on the Research Station.
There are so many themes to explore: the Bayeux Tapestry for one, sewn (in the same way the story goes back and forth in time) by Anglo-Saxon women in England.
Then there is the red tent that Róisín and her cousin, Liam, sleep out in to see Comet West in 1976, mirrored by the red tent that she uses in the Antarctic, and the tent that Severine and François use when they are comet-seeking too.
There is also the theme of loss reflecting the approach and passage of the comets with the events in the lives of Róisín, Liam, François and Severine.
I can recommend this ethereal, wonderful book about love, loss and, comets. There is so much to it, I think I might read it again!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Notes from the Northern Lights by Jo Thomas - the Perfect Wintery Novel

With Christmas over and all the decorations packed away until December, here's the perfect wintery book to read with deep snow guaranteed, even if it's raining outside: Notes from the Northern Lights by Jo Thomas.
Ruby Knightley is sent to Reykjavik, when her only experience of  Iceland is watching Rick Stein on one of his Long Weekends!
She on a mission to hunt down her opera company's star performer, Hilmar Snorrison, who has left everyone in the lurch after rehearsing for their new production which is to go on tour.
Iceland in January for wardrobe mistress, Ruby, is cold and dark with only a few hours of daylight. Luckily, she discovers that he's returned to the family sheep farm to help his brother who's broken his leg. She gets a taxi there and hopes to be able to get back to the airport in time for her return flight, but a snow storm blows in, trapping her at the farm.
How is she going to persuade Hilmar to come back with her, and how will they get back to England anyway, in this weather?
As with all Jo Thomas's books, there's always something interesting to learn about someone's way of life, such as oyster farming, olive or wine production. In this book, it's sheep farming, and the production of smoked lamb, hangikjöt, which gives the background to the story.
It's a wonderful book to read on a dark winter's weekend and get transported to the wintery world of Iceland.

I spent a wonderful few days there in 2011, and you can read the blog I wrote here: Yule Lads and Northern Lights in Iceland!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

A Merry Mistletoe Wedding by Judy Astley - The Perfect Book to go with the Last of Your Christmas Chocolates!

Happy New Year! But, if you've still got lots of Christmas chocolates to eat up, here's the perfect book to go with them - A Merry Mistletoe Wedding by Judy Astley.
It's the end of August, and Thea has just spent her summer holidays in Cornwall with Sean and is loathe to go back for the new term at her primary school in London, so he asks her to come back to Cornwall and marry him at Christmas.
Meanwhile, her parents, ageing hippies, Anna and Mike, are thinking of downsizing from the family home and releasing some cash so they can enjoy their retirement, and sister, Emily, gives birth to Ned. Add Charlotte and Alex from It Must Have Been the Mistletoe, Judy Astley's book which tells how they all got snowed in last Christmas at Cove Manor, and you have a great cast of characters.
A Merry Mistletoe Wedding is a really engrossing novel, and kept me enthralled finding out where Anna and Mike would move to, whether Emily would ever go to Cornwall again after last year's fiasco in the snow, and whether Sean and Thea would actually manage to tie the knot on Christmas Day, despite the return of her ex, Rich.
I adored it and would love to read another story to find out what happens to these wonderful people next!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Christmassy Books: Snow, Starry Nights and Christmas Trees

Don't you love those Christmassy books that appear in the shops at this time of year? Snow, starry nights, Christmas trees; what more could you want?  Here are the books that have caught my eye this Christmas:
Something from Tiffany's by Melissa Hill
I really enjoyed The Charm Bracelet by Melissa last year ( here is my revue), so I thought I'd try this. I've only just begun it, and already it's Christmas Eve in New York, Ethan has bought an extravagant diamond ring from Tiffany's to propose to Vanessa, and Gary has bought Rachel a silver charm bracelet. The identical iconic blue bags get switched, and I can't wait to find out what Vanessa says when she receives the charm bracelet, and what Rachel's reaction when she hits the jackpot and gets the ring! How is Ethan ever going to get it back. I can't wait to find out!
A Diamond from Tiffany's  Yes, it's again by Melissa Hill! This picks up the story of Ethan and Vanessa and Rachel and Gary two years later, on another snowy Christmas Eve in New York. I wonder what will happen this time?
A Merry Mistletoe Wedding   by Judy Astley.  This also takes up a story, this time of Sean And Thea, who I read about in It Must Have Been the Mistletoe last year. (Here's my revue.) From the title, you can see that they're getting married at Christmas and this book is about how their plans for a simple Christmas wedding begin to get out of hand. If it's anything like last year's book, I'm certainly going to enjoy it!
Lastly, every week before Christmas, I make sure that I leave time to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, because Dickens put together the Christmas we know today: the idea that giving is better than receiving, and the must have traditions of roast turkey and snow!
Happy Reading!!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

The Girl From The Savoy by Hazel Gaynor - A Rich Story of Ambition, Secrets and Love in 1920s London

I am a serial book reader: as soon as I've finished one book, I have to start another! It's like travelling in time and space.
No sooner have I left a cosy Oxfordshire Christmas Eve (in How to Find Love in a Book Shop by Veronica Henry) than I arrive on a cold, icy railway station in Lancashire one hundred years ago, where Dolly is saying goodbye to her sweetheart, Teddy, whom she may never see again as he goes off to war. Two pieces of paper are in her pockets: one represents the life she knows and the other, the life she dreams of.
This is from the wonderful prologue to The Girl From The Savoy by Hazel Gaynor. I have really loved and enjoyed her previous two books, The Girl Who Came Home, and A Memory of Violets (you  can read my reviews here and here) so I was excited to read this one at last.
Dolly's dream is to be on the West End stage like her idol, Loretta May, so she gets a job as a chambermaid at The Savoy to be in London so she can attend auditions and hopefully get a job in the chorus line and work her way up. One day she literally bumps into Perry, sending the pages of music he's written all over the pavement. He doesn't think his music is worth saving, and throws it in a bin, only for Dolly to rescue it and hide it under her pillow because she feels drawn to him in some way.
Loretta, the Darling of the West End, meets up with her brother, Perry, each Wednesday afternoon for tea at Claridges, but however much she enjoys seeing him, she can't quite get herself to tell him her intimate secret.
Meanwhile Teddy, has been so traumatised with the war in France, that he's lost his memory, and a nurse at the hospital helps him in an effort to get his memory back by reading Dolly's letters.
At the same time, Dolly has her own secret which she keeps close to her heart but which is always there in her thoughts and dreams.
Hazel has written such a wonderful book, rich in the lives of people in the 1920s: Dolly at The Savoy glimpsing the glittering guests; Loretta and her life on and off the stage; and Teddy struggling to  remember who he is and forget the horrors of war in a stark Lancashire hospital.
It is a book about ambition, secrets, love, and the Jazz Age. Another world, perhaps, but only less than a hundred years ago.
Hazel Gaynor's next book, set in 1920s Yorkshire, is about the Cottingley Fairies and the two young cousins, Elsie and Frances, who maintained that their photographs of the beautiful creatures were genuine. I've always been fascinated about this story which should be out in Spring 2017, and I can't wait!

Monday, 17 October 2016

How to Find Love in a Book Shop by Veronica Henry - the perfect book to curl up with on a chilly autumn evening.

Veronica Henry has done it again with How to Find Love in a Book Shop. It's the perfect book to curl up with by the fire on a chilly autumn evening.
Emilia returns to Peasebrook, a small Oxfordshire town, after her father, Julian's, death. She has happy memories of growing up in the flat above the book shop, and she has to decide whether to sell the business or keep on Nightingale Books in his memory.

The clever thing that Veronica Henry does is to weave together several stories all connected to the central theme, rather like Maeve Binchy used to do so well. So here, apart from Emilia's story, we have the stories of:
Jackson, a builder, who works for Ian Mendip, a local business man who wants to get his hands on Nightingale Books to make a car park for his new development. Ian wants Jackson to come on to Emilia in an effort to make her give in, but Jackson has his own problems with his soon to be ex-wife, Mia.
Marlowe, the cellist, who encourages Emilia to join their quartet and take her father's place, and his fiancée, Delphine.
June, Nightingale Books' best customer, who had a relationship in her youth with Mick Gillespie, the still attractive septuagenarian actor. Will he remember her after all these years?
Sarah Basildon who owns Peasemore Manor, a fifty something woman who has a secret which she can't share with anyone, least of all her husband, Ralph.
Dillon, her young gardener, who has always shone a light for Alice Basildon, their daughter.
Alice, herself, who is to marry Hugh, someone rich who can change the fortunes of Peasebrook Manor and the Basildon family, but has she made the right decision?
Bea who has moved with her husband and child to Peasebrook to live the perfect country life, but why has she stolen a book from the book shop?
And, quiet Thomasina, who is secretly in love with Jem at the cheese shop. How can their love grow?

It does what it says on the cover: it's a rich irresistible mix of people finding love in a book shop as  autumn leaves fall and Christmas twinkles on the horizon. I loved it!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin - Quirky, and Unputdownable!

I love books that are a bit quirky: those where time slips and two people meet in different times, like in The Time Traveller's Wife, or Tantalus: the sculptors story, but The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin is something else entirely. Noah can remember another life; another home and another mother. He is just one small boy who can remember living in a different time.

'Noah is four and wants to go home.
The only trouble is, he's already there.'

This is the totally absorbing story of Noah who is driving his mother, Janie, to distraction because of his fear of having a bath (she has to use wipes to keep him clean); his nightmares when he cries 'Mama! Mama!' (although his name for Janie is Mommy-Mom); and his overwhelming desperation to go home. After trying many doctors who cannot help, she finds Jerome Anderson on the internet.
Anderson, in his sixties, has aphasia and is losing his ability to use words to speak and write. He has been studying reincarnation in Asia and wants to publish his life's work on the subject before it's too late, but he needs one last American case, according to his publisher, to make his book relevant to the US market.
He helps Janie and Noah find the family of Tommy Crawford, who was murdered at the age of nine, and whose mother, Denise, and brother, Charlie, Noah recognises.
Sharon Guskin then skilfully examines the delicate relationship that develops between Noah and Charlie; the trust that Janie puts in Anderson; the still raw emotions of Denise who has lost her son, and her coming to terms with the fact that Noah might just be the reincarnation of Tommy; the relationships between Noah and Janie, and Noah and Denise; the fact that Noah is white and Tommy was black; and the story of how Tommy was killed.
This is a brilliant debut novel and was totally unputdownable: I had to keep sneaking back to it to find out what happened next.