Gnomon – Nick Harkaway

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Hmmmm…..I loved this book when I first started reading it – it’s really the sort of thing I go for often and it sounded really good – and it is, sortof?

The book is set in a futuristic Britain, one that is under strict surveillance by ‘The Witness’ – nobody can commit a crime without it being seen – even committing a crime is impossible as the system can pick up on thoughts, and bring you in for ‘fixing. Any mental health issues are cured – everyone is perfect. A completely open and safe country. Almost…

Our opening character is an investigator, Mielikki Neith, who is tasked with finding out who from ‘The Witness’ killed Diana Hunter – a lady who has somehow managed to stay off grid, and whom ‘The Witness’ were trying to ‘fix’. Sounds good, and it was at this stage.

Meilikki dives into Diana’s memories and personality (the system can download it into her brain), and finds she has hidden herself into four different personalities – the task of trying to fix her whilst she hid in all of these caused Diana’s death.

The book is one big puzzle in which we hear the story of each of the personalities to try to find meaning – there is apparently a message left for Mielikki by Diana which she has to find and all will be revealed..

At least I think that’s the plot….I just lost it if i’m honest. I followed the stories, I enjoyed them, but then I just got confused when we went somewhere new, and I forgot who was who, and who connected to the other, etc. It’s just too complex for a pick up and read for a couple of hours a day. I think this book needs someone who will sit down all day with it, or over a weekend and just plough through it with no distractions, ie dinner to make in an hour, the other half watching ‘Endeavour’ in the background. Then again, for me, even if I’d sat down and ploughed through it I think I still would have really struggled.

So, if you like a good heavy complex book, then this is absolutely for you. Unfortunately, it was not for me.

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The Cottingley Secret – Hazel Gaynor

You’ve probably already heard, or you will have if you are about my age (*cough* 40) about the story of the two young girls back in 1917 who claim to have seen fairies and took photographs of them. There have been numerous tv programmes about it, and so many articles in the newspaper, so I have grown up knowing about this. If you google Cottingley Fairies you will find a huge amount of information on the story.

The two young girls who photographed the fairies are cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright. Frances left her home in Cape Town to return to  Cottingley in Yorkshire when her father is drafted into the army, and meets her elder cousin Elsie who first shows her the small beck at the bottom of the garden. Frances becomes enamoured with the beck and spends every moment she can there. One summer day she sees the fairies, but promises to herself not to tell anyone, however Elsie notices something is wrong with Frances and gets her secret out of her.

The girls then go on in search of the fairies, and what follows is the famous “is is true, did they fake it” tale which we all know well.

As this is a re-imagining of the story, there is another half to the tale. Enter Olivia Kavanagh – the granddaughter of one of the characters in the main story. Her life is not going particularly well and she brings a different dimension to the story when she finds newspaper cuttings, photographs, etc relating to the story.

I have to admit that I wasn’t overly keen on Olivia and I would have preferred just to stay with the two girls – but this is of course, a fictional book, which I did very much enjoy reading, and I did at times struggle to put down.

After reading this book I asked myself if I believe in the Cottingley Fairies? Yes, actually, I do.

My thanks to Netgalley & HarperCollins UK for this copy.

The Toymakers – Robert Dinsdale

“Do you remember when you believed in magic?”

If this tagline makes your heart warm, then read this book, it really won’t disappoint you.

You know when a book makes you warm and happy, and it goes straight into your heart and you know it’s never going to leave you, and every time you remember it it just makes you want to pick it all up and read it again. You want to be in the book, live it? Well, that very rarely happens to me, but this book does. I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to go back to real life.

The story is set in 1917, with Cathy, a teenager who finds herself pregnant and being forced to go along with her parents plans to deal with her ‘shame’. She decides to take matters into her own hands though when she spots a job article in a paper looking for staff and asking “are you lost, are you afraid, are you a child at heart?” –  well Cathy really is, and runs away to Papa Jack’s Emporium.

We then enter an absolutely magical, beautiful world – one of toy soldiers, paper trees, runnerless rocking horses, and oh the dog – who could every forget about the dog? The emporium opens every year on the day of the first frost and closes again when the first snowdrop is found. In the time between Papa Jack and his sons Kasper and Emil create the magical toys…..

I wanted this story just to stay happy and wonderful and heartwarming but it doesn’t. There is after all a war on, and not just between Kasper and Emil’s toy soldiers, this tale gets very dark, and we are torn apart with love and loyalty for each character.

I’m not going any further into the story, but it’s beautiful – it’s heartbreaking, it’s magical and just amazing. Robert Dinsdale writes so beautifully – I just can’t put into words how wonderful this book is – it will live with me forever, and if this is the last book I ever read then I can’t think of a better book to end on.

My thanks to Netgalley and Ebury Publishing

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

My word – what a book. This certainly isn’t a slow starter – the author throws you  straight into the action with a bang!

We enter the story in an age of lavish balls, household staff, dinner invites and dancing – which in my personal opinion is exactly the era that I want to be in for a good old murder mystery.

Our opening character is Dr Sebastian Bell – who has just escaped from the woods to Blackheath House after a terrifying ordeal. Arriving dirty, confused, and frightened, he realises that he has been here before, in fact, he is well known, and was invited here for “The Masquerade”, along with numerous other guests.

I’m not one for giving out spoilers, but this story really keeps you on your toes – twists, turns, you really never know what is going to hit you next – literally… A truly gripping thriller – quite honestly – nobody is who they seem. I found myself mouth open in shock at least twice.

This book was in my wish list, and I’m so pleased I got a copy of it early. It really is a spiffing fine book! I shall be purchasing numerous copies at Christmas for the family as it’s a no brainer. EVERYONE will love this book!!!!! I shall be keeping my eye on this author for his next book. I am a fan..

My thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

 

 

Wicked Cometh – Laura Carlin

If you enjoy a good old Victorian, high drama, mystery,  with a bit of romance thrown in, then this book is right up your street. Set in Victorian London, we meet Hester, a young girl who was brought up in a reasonably wealthy family, and well educated, but tragedy struck and she ended up in the slums of London, ‘adopted’ by their old gardener.

Strange things are afoot in the slums, people are going missing, posters appearing on walls, and people are never seen again….something is going on…

Without spoiling….events lead Hester to the Brock family, a wealthy family, who decide to ‘experiment’ on Hester and see if it is possible to educate this ‘slum girl’ – her upbringing is unknown to them but Hester sees this as a way to get back onto her feet and have a better life. Hester is tutored by Rebecca Brock, an unmarried member young female in the family.

Hester discovers that Rebecca is already looking into the disappearance of her maid, and together they start looking deeper into where people are disappearing to, drawing them deeper and deeper in…

I really enjoyed this book – I do love the Victorian era and this book takes you right into the back alleys and yards to the big houses with servants -it takes quite a few twists and turns – especially at the end, and I found myself constantly surprised and unable to put this book down in parts because I just had to know what was going to happen next! One of the final plot twists is a biggie, and I was left open mouthed in shock – if that’s what the author intended, then she got it from me…

It’s quite a short book as well, I managed it in just over a weekend, and I’m a slow reader (and have a problem sitting down for more than 10 minutes at  time!), so it’s one you could sit down and get through in a day if you put your mind to it.

#TheWickedCometh

My thanks to Netgalley & Hodder & Stoughton for this copy

On the Bright Side: The New Secret Diary of Hendrick Groen, 85 years old

This is the second diary by Hendrick Groen – I reviewed the first one a while ago and absolutely loved it. It’s an unashamed take on Adrian Mole, but the author is a octogenarian in a care home in Amsterdam.

Hendrick’s second diary is just as good as the first one, although now we already know the characters and the friendships, and the story develops further. The ‘Old but not dead club’ are still charging around on day trips and coming up with new ways to expand their lives – as well as causing as much havoc for the management as they can!

We are introduced to some new characters as inevitably there is a reasonably high turrnover, but thankfully the new arrivals do not replace our much loved friends.

However, death is inevitable when the residents are over 80, and the book deals with this in a caring yet amusing way. As with the first book there is heartbreak and love, lots of funny moments, and quite a few sad ones.

To sum it all up – if you haven’t read the first book – please do so – it’s hilarious and heartbreaking and genuinely warms your soul. While you’re doing that, make sure you pick up the second one as well because I guarantee you will be itching for more. If you liked Adrian Mole then you will love this. If you hated him (as I did as a child – i really should try again), then you’ll love it as well.

I am wondering if there will be a third – I don’t know if I want one to be honest. Hendrick is 85 after all. I’m not done with this diary yet – I  want more and I want to hear what else they are going to get up to…..but….what’s going to happen? I don’t want Hendrick to ‘sign off’…I don’t want it to end that way. This book has a piece of my heart – a warm fuzzy piece….

On a personal note, and maybe I shouldn’t say this, but my mum is elderly and was refusing to go into sheltered accommodation, and to be honest, I wasn’t all that up for it, but reading the first diary actually helped turn my mind around a little – she’s now in sheltered accommodation and absolutely loves it – and they are all a bit naughty sometimes….

My thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK

Sky – Sarah Driver

This is the second book in The Huntress Trilogy – the first being Sea (previously reviewed).

The book follows Mouse on her quest to find the scattered sea-opals and save Trianukka, and hopefully get her ship back.

As the title suggests, this adventure takes Mouse, her brother, and the companion she picked up in Sea, into the Sky, atop the beast she ‘acquired’ also in the previous book. Amongst Sky Fortresses, Mouse discovers a new friend in a library (this was always going to endear me to the book -who doesn’t want to discover a library in a book?!), and there the adventure truly begins.

Without spoiling, this is a great continuation of the first book, and follows seamlessly on. I really fell into this one, more than the first one, icebergs, things hid,den in the clouds, etc, it was right up my alley. Mouse’s character develops a lot more in this book as well – she’s still a tough nut, but she starts to show her kinder side a bit more in this book, and I look forward to seeing the Mouse at the end of this trilogy to see how she handles getting her ship back – I have no doubt of course, that she will….

All in all, a great second instalment. I look forward to the final!

 

 

A Spaceman of Bohemia – Jaroslav Kalfar

In a nutshell, this book tells the story of Jakub Prochazka, a simple man, chosen to be the first man Czech Republic send up into space to investigate a cloud (Chopra), left behind by a comet. Whilst travelling towards the dust cloud, Jakub meets/imagines a giant alien spider, who he names Hanus, and they go on to discuss the nature of humans, and Jakub’s life.

To be honest, I wasn’t overly keen on this book when it came through – I was worried it was going to get a little philosophical and deep, but it doesn’t. I have to say, I absolutely loved this book. Jakub always seems a little confused as to why he was chosen to be the hero – he’s certainly no Bruce Willis or action hero, and as we – with Hanus – delve into Jakub’s childhood, his relationships with his grandparents, father, and his wife, we come to understand why he is who he is, and why he is as he is.

The author also lets us see the other side of Jakub’s life – his wife, who he absolutely adores, and how she is feeling back on earth – how she felt whilst Jakub was training.

I didn’t expect to get drawn into this book so much, I also unexpectedly was given a short lesson on iron curtain, and the history of the Czech Republic through Jakub’s eyes. There are quite a few plot twists to keep you on your toes, none of which I saw coming.

I think this is a beautiful book, it is funny, sad, and thoughtful – the author draws you in, makes you love the characters – all of them – good, bad and maybe imaginary.  This book is not one let pass you by.

44 Scotland Street – Alexander McCall Smith

I’ve avoided Alexander McCall Smith for a long time.

The company I work for had an IT technician called Mike, and he used to come and fix IT issues every couple of months. He was a wonderful guy- caring, and always full of jokes – he used to be about 25 maybe 30 stone? – a big lad. Anyway, I hadn’t seen him for a few months and when he came back I didn’t recognise him. He’d dyed his hair red (for a laugh), and he’d dropped a huge amount of weight. He’d taken up running, and he’d started entering to be a contestant on TV quiz shows. He’d tell me when his next appearance was and what channel, and i’d get home, switch on, and there he would be! Apparently people do circuits on them and the TV companies ring up regulars and ask them to be on an upcoming quiz. He’d see people over and over again. I guess you’d have to watch a lot of them to ever notice….Anyway, one day I had an email from the IT boss saying Mike was leaving (I think it was voluntary redundancy), we then found out he had pancreatic cancer, but he’d passed out his linked-in account for people to contact him. I sent him a message telling him to be strong, and he could fight it – he replied a few days later saying he was trying but it was hard. He died not long after.

The whole point of this story was that Mike and I often didn’t get along book-wise. We both absolutely adored Terry Pratchett, but he loved Kate Mosse (I hated Labyrinth), and I hated Wicked (he loved it!). He went on and on at me about Alexender McCall Smith and how I MUST read his books, and I never did. I’ve been putting them off ever since Mike died as it was such a strong memory of him, and I didn’t want to hate the books he loved so much.

However, it popped up on Netgalley and decided it was time to read. I have to say Mike – you were right. What have I been missing….

44 Scotland Street is a big hug of a book accompanied by a hot mug of chocolate – the author takes you straight into Scotland, and straight into that house – the wonderful house of larger than life characters – all different, but all bound by the same walls, sharing noises and accidental encounters on the stairs. Of gossip, and nosing, of love and friendship, and warmth, and humour.

Pat is our main character, in her second gap year of university, who turns up for an interview with Bruce to see if she is suitable for a room he has to rent. She is (as you can probably guess), successful. With this as our setting, we find out about the other occupants of 44 Scotland Street – the hilarious (but frighteningly realistic) Irene and Bernie Pollock, the wonderful, kind Domenica MacDonald, and the intriguing Angus Lordie – not forgetting the housemate Bruce of course.

I loved this book so much – the author instantly transports you into the story, and you feel so much compassion and warmth for the characters – it feels like you know them almost instantly. In all honestly, I want to live in 44 Scotland Street – I’ve actually driven along the street before – but I really can’t afford to live there…..I mean, wow, they’re expensive! Beautiful street mind. I think I’ll let Mr McCall Smith let me live there via his books instead….

PS I can spy another book of his in the bookshelf which was given to my other half as a xmas present last year. I’m grabbing it next time we take a short break away!

My thanks to Netgalley and Abacus (and to of course, Mike)

 

Sea – Sarah Driver

From the very start this book plunges you straight into the action. We are at sea, on a ship named The Huntress amid an attack by Terrodyls. The first character we meet is Mouse -a young girl who’s grandma is the captain of the ship, and the heir to the ship. n From her first action we can see that Mouse is not afraid of danger and often foolishly gets herself into danger despite the crew and her Grandma trying their best to stop her.

You know I don’t do spoilers so i’m going to stop here with the plot! I have to admit that I didn’t like Mouse at all – I’m not sure why but I just didn’t like her – though I did start to warm towards her at the end However, I do like the book a lot, it is non-stop action packed story and I did look forward to picking it up every day – to the detriment of my other books I admit. Trust me when I say there are no boring bits in this tail (pun intended!!!)

So, if you want an action packed, truly non-stop adventure with some twists and turns in the tale, then pick this book up. I eagerly await the next two instalments, I look forward to reading what’s going to hit Mouse next!

Being an 80’s child, the cover of the book did massively appeal to me and I hope the next two books follow the same style – when I was a child then this is a book that if i spotted i would head straight for to see what it was about – it reminds me a little of an old copy of the Hobbit I have….

 

 

 

 

 

 

My thanks to Netgalley and Egmont UK ltd for this copy

Picture from Amazon