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Archive for July, 2016

Florence Grace

Author: Tracy Rees
Published: 30 June 2016
Reviewed: 16 July 2016
Copy supplied by Quercus Books in return for an honest review as part of Quercus Summer Reading Book Club
4 out of 5 stars
Description:

Florrie Buckley is an orphan, living on the wind-blasted moors of Cornwall. It’s a hard existence but Florrie is content; she runs wild in the mysterious landscape. She thinks her destiny is set in stone. 

But when Florrie is fourteen, she inherits a never-imagined secret. She is related to a wealthy and notorious London family, the Graces. Overnight, Florrie’s life changes and she moves from country to city, from poverty to wealth. 

Cut off from everyone she has ever known, Florrie struggles to learn the rules of this strange new world. And then she must try to fathom her destructive pull towards the enigmatic and troubled Turlington Grace, a man with many dark secrets of his own.

My Thoughts & Review:

As the second offering in the Quercus Summer Reads, I was intrigued to see where this book would take me, and having enjoyed Last Dance in Havana I was hoping for another engrossing and enjoyable read.
From the very first pages you are introduced to a strong and determined character in the haunting setting of the misty moors of Cornwall.  A young Florrie Buckley making her way back from Truro is catapulted from her horse and instead of lamenting her fate, she continues on foot towards home, knowing every inch of the moors through an affinity with nature and the surrounding landscapes.  Her irritation towards the horse and it’s reaction to a pigeon gives the reader a glimpse at the wit and attitude of this feisty character early on.  
What then develops is a tale of coming of age for Florrie, her transformation from teenager to young woman, the discovery of a secret that will change her life and the realisation that she needs to be strong and have courage to overcome what faces her.  Learning to be a member of the London Society in the Victorian era does not come easy for Florrie/Florence, her lessons are strict, punishments are harsh but she shows determination and sheer stubbornness to achieve what is expected of her (eventually).  
The juxtaposed images of Florrie/Florence in Cornwall and London are incredibly well written.  The almost feral Florrie running free on the moors, embracing open space and exhilaration at fresh air jars so fiercely with the Florence in London.  Here she fights for space, she is confined in all senses, a prisoner of the Grace family.  Even a walk in the garden must be done with decorum and decency.  
Initially a bit of a slow read, however, the author does gently create a story that becomes addictive reading.  With wonderful descriptions of scenery, the reader is transported from the atmospheric brooding Cornish moors to the desolate yet claustrophobic home of the Grace family.   
There are some interesting specimens of characters, some incredibly hard to bear any liking towards – manipulative, scheming and utterly abhorrent.  There are also ones that the reader can’t help but take an instant liking towards, feel sympathy for and generally want a good outcome for.  But all characters are meticulously detailed, multilayered and very well thought out.  
Tracy Rees writes superbly,atmospheric and fitting for the time setting.  Her descriptions of fashions and etiquette at the time are well researched and show attention to detail matters.  The story does flow well after the inital heavy start.  Having not realised this was Tracy Rees second book, I was impressed by her writing skills, and will be downloading a copy of her debut novel Amy Snow. 

You can buy a copy of Florence Grace here.   


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The Virgin of the Wind Rose 

Author: Glen Craney
Published: 27 October 2013
Reviewed: 11 July 2016
Copy kindly supplied by the author in return for an honest review

4 out of 5 stars

Description:

While investigating the murder of an American missionary in Ethiopia, rookie State Department lawyer Jaqueline Quartermane becomes obsessed with a magical word square found inside an underground church guarding the tomb of the biblical Adam.

Drawn into a web of esoteric intrigue, she and a roguish antiquities thief named Elymas must race an elusive and taunting mastermind to find the one relic needed to resurrect Solomon’s Temple. A trail of cabalistic clues leads them to the catacombs of Rome, the crypt below Chartres Cathedral, a Masonic shaft in Nova Scotia, a Portuguese shipwreck off Sumatra, and the caverns under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Intertwined with this modern mystery-thriller, a parallel duel is waged:

The year is 1452. One of the most secretive societies in history, Portugal’s Order of Christ, is led by a reclusive visionary, Prince Henry the Navigator. He and his medieval version of NASA merged with the CIA scheme to foil their archenemies, the Inquisitor Torquemada and Queen Isabella of Castile, who plan to bring back Christ for the Last Judgment by ridding the world of Jews, heretics, and unbelievers.

Separated by half a millennium, two conspiracies to usher in the Tribulations promised by the Book of Revelation dovetail in this fast-paced thriller to expose the world’s most explosive secret: The true identity of Christopher Columbus and the explorer’s connection to those now trying to spark the End of Days.

My Thoughts & Review:

I have to admit, this is not a book I would typically pick up, but after reading the book description and a brief preview I was very intrigued and wanted to find out more. 

Weaving back and forth between present day and the 1400s, the author takes us on a journey of discovery around the globe, teaches us mysteries and the history of the countries visited.  The historical aspect of the book is almost an entire story in itself, both fascinating and enjoyable.  Clearly a lot of research has been done for this book and I found myself keen to learn more about Columbus and related histories. 

The present day story is fraught with mystery and danger, the author takes great care to ensure the reader is caught up in the fear and adrenaline surrounding Jaqueline (Jaq).   

A fast paced read, cleverly weaving back and forth between the past and the present whilst maintaining a strong plot packed with secrets, lies and conspiracies all the way to the end.   

I enjoyed Craney’s style of writing, his crafting of a watertight plot was enjoyable to read and I would have no hesitation in recommending it.  
  
You can buy a copy of The Virgin of the Wind Rose here.

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Crime on the Pages is a montly book box subscription service thought up by a fan of crime ficiton who wanted to share the love of this genre, books and bookish wonders.  

What’s so great about a monthly book box?  The surprise of the wonders within of course!  July 2016 saw the first boxes sent out to subscribers, and as an extra thank you to the recipients there were two books instead of one.  

With a dedicated Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram it’s possible to get a sneak preview of the wonderous items the lucky subscribers received.  They also have a website where you can make your purchase of a subscription or a one off purchase – and an added bonus just now if you use the voucher code CRIMEBOX5 at the checkout you will receive a 5% discount on your first order.  Unfortunately at the moment, this service is only available in the UK. 

   
The innocent white box filled with wonders
Listing of contents

Impressively, for your subscription fee of £19.99 you are throughly spoiled.  

Even if you remove one of the books from the list (as one was a one off special gift for the first box), this is a fantastic selection of items.  The notebook, the candle and the confetti are lovely little extras and all have been sourced from wonderful websites that I could quite easily spend a fortune on – friends and family should expect book related gifts for the coming years.  
With the candle being made especially for the boxes, you should get some idea about the work and thought that has gone into this.  Each item was carefully wrapped to ensure it arrived safely at its destination which also made it like lots of birthday presents, so many things to unwrap and marvel at. 

Top it off with the ultimate personal touch, a hand written note thanking each person for their support.  You really do feel like your contribution to this matters, you feel as though your subscription is appreciated and you’re more than just a number on a list. 

The only thing missing from this image is the candle

I cannot wait to see what comes in next month’s box, what books will be picked and what wonderful bookish things will be hidden in the box. 


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Mablethorpe

Author: W.S. Barton
Published: 2 July 2016
Reviewed: 1 July 2016
Copy kindly supplied by author in return for an honest review
5 out of 5 stars
 
Description:
Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire. 
Halloween 1983. 
When eight year old local boy Aidan Truscott goes missing, without a trace, a search for him begins.  As it continues, the once tight-knit community begins to reveal its suspicions and point fingers, unravelling hurtful secrets and accusations.  The truth, however, is far worse than anyone could have imagined…..
My Thoughts and Review:  
I unexpectedly stumbled upon this book the other night, I can’t quite remember what made me look it up, but once I’d read the synopsis something about it screamed to find out more.  
Set in the small seaside town of Mablethorpe in Lincolnshire (East England), the reader is gently eased into the who’s who of the local holiday parks, how life in the small coastal town relies heavily on tourism – the toy shop only opens when holiday season starts, and given the impression that despite small personal niggles all is well in the town, there is a strong community feel and everyone does what they can to help the townsfolk. 
That is until Halloween, with the discovery of a dead body in the town, the locals are wary about allowing the kids to go out trick or treating but agreement is reached, and soon the kids are on their merry way to high jinks and a sugar rush. 
When eight year old Aidan Truscott fails to return home the close knit community goes into overdrive.  Everyone that can help search for young Aidan is out looking, the police investigation soon picks up speed and every caravan park is searched, any likely place that Aidan could be is in the town is identified and searched but no trace of him can be found.  Believing that someone must know something, Chief Constable Doyle interviews all of the children, hoping one of them holds the vital piece of information that could solve this case.  
And that folks is about all I can say about the plot without giving anything away.  
A superbly written thriller, the plot is well thought out and captivating.  Well developed characters make this both interesting and riveting to read, with narration from multiple viewpoints it gives important insight of the situation, but also allows for great character development.  The inner struggles of Doyle with this case, with his suspicions about the culprit and his torment about doing the right thing are compelling reading.  Mark Smith’s tale is one that leaves you with mixed feelings, does his past reflect on who he has become?  These characters are very well written and you genuinely feel an element of sympathy for them at times.  
Wonderfully descriptive and atmospheric, you can almost envision the town, the beach and the camp sites etc, attention to detail is clear in the writing, ensuring that the reader gets a glimpse into the mind of Barton, seeing what he wants them to see.
The suspense of the story is well paced throughout the book, it draws the reader in through slowly revealing details through the narrative, almost forcing you to continue reading to find out what happens next.  It’s definitely one of those books what will keep you snared way past your bedtime!
W.S. Barton’s début novel Coal House is available to purchase via Amazon, and I will definitely be snagging a copy – this is an author I will be looking out for in the future, his style of writing challenges and intrigues me, I would almost award the title of a wordsmith, but I think for that he would need to pen a third novel just to be sure!  

Gripping, thrilling, full of suspense and suspicion – I would thoroughly recommend this book!  I also believe that W.S. Barton has pledged to donate a percentage of the sales to The Boatshed Charity.
You can pre order a copy of Mablethorpe here. 

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