A long awaited book review round up

It’s been a while since I told you all about the books I’ve been reading and what I thought of them. I have joined Netgalley too and have been catching up on reading books I have requested from the site. Apologies for a slightly longer book review blog post than usual.

The first book I’d like to talk about is The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart. An enthralling debut novel about a teenage girl who finds refuge–but perhaps not–in an 1840s Shaker community.

In this exquisite, transporting debut, 15-year-old Polly Kimball sets fire to the family farm, killing her abusive father. She and her young brother find shelter in a Massachusetts Shaker community called The City of Hope. It is the Era of Manifestations, when young girls in Shaker enclaves all across the Northeast are experiencing extraordinary mystical visions, earning them the honorific of “Visionist” and bringing renown to their settlements.

The City of Hope has not yet been blessed with a Visionist, but that changes when Polly arrives and is unexpectedly exalted. As she struggles to keep her dark secrets concealed in the face of increasing scrutiny, Polly finds herself in a life-changing friendship with a young Shaker sister named Charity, a girl who will stake everything–including her faith–on Polly’s honesty and purity.

Despite a slow start in the midst of much action I found this book built to a soaring crescendo at the end. The story was well written and I enjoyed it, I loved the paradox at the end and found reading about the Shaker community fascinating.

The book written from the points of view of three of the main characters alternating by chapter kept me glued and intrigued as the story developed.

I certainly would recommend this book to those who like literary fiction with a bit of finesse.

Next up is Windwalker by Rebecca Mostert. From the award-winning author of Season of the Witch, comes a highly original story of murder, redemption, eternal love and destiny. WINDWALKER will keep you on the edge of your seat. And break your heart.

When photographer, Justine Callaway, walks into the deserted English mansion, Paradine Park, she doesn’t suspect that she is opening the door to the greatest mystery–and magic–of her life.

Justine becomes obsessed by the family who used to live in the house, especially the oldest son, Adam Buchanan. But why is she so drawn to a man who had killed his brother nine years before? And why, as she photographs the house, does she discover ghostly images she knows she did not record?

Even more unsettling, she senses someone is stalking her, watching her…

Admittedly romance books are not my preferred genre when I’m asked but this hauntingly beautiful love story really was a joy to read. She’s a photojournalist struggling with the aftermath of her brothers death, he’s a fugitive from the UK hiding out in Namibia who dives for diamonds part time. Both very flawed characters who are drawn inexplicably together in various ways, and fate throws a few villains in their path just for kicks.

The book is not at all predictable and the ending is beautiful.

The Quick by Lauren Owen. An astonishing debut, a novel of epic scope and suspense that conjures up all the magic and menace of Victorian London

London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.

This gothic novel starts innocently enough and takes unexpected twists. I enjoyed reading it but I did find part 2 of the book a bit random and bewildering and at a different pace to the rest of the book. The introduction of the theme of vampires could have been better. Owen established a good story line with Hames and Christopher, which in my view was spoiled by the way Mould and the club were introduced in part 2.

This is a vampire novel but it is one done quite well overall. I became attached to the characters Shadwell and Adeline as well as Charlotte and Howland. I think good characterisation was key in keeping me engaged in the story. I really would like to know what happened to James.

Lingering Echoes by Erica Kiefer.

She’s broken with guilt.
He harbors a chilling past.
It’s safer if they keep their distance…
But, the echoes that linger connect them.

Returning to Hidden Pines is the last thing Allie Collins wants to do during her final summer before college. For her, the family cabin she spent her youthful summers in, now holds a dark memory that has haunted her every day for the last year.

While struggling to forget her past, Allie runs into Damien, a local rebel with secrets of his own. He’s dark, dangerous and he keeps showing up when Allie least expects him to. She has every reason not to trust him. So why does she find herself opening up to him in a way she hasn’t been able to with anyone?

As pieces of Damien’s identity emerge, answers to a rumored mystery begin to unfold. By the time Allie unearths the secrets of Damien’s past, she realizes just how intricately they are connected. Now she is caught in a dangerous battle that threatens her life and those she loves.

A YA romance about two teenagers who are hiding their own painful experiences. A simple clean story with entertaining characters and allure, the story has enough turns and suspense to make it interesting but it’s not the most exciting I have read in this genre.

Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips

From one of America’s most accomplished and acclaimed fiction writers, a chilling, spectacularly riveting novel based on a real life multiple murder by a con man who preyed on widows—a story that has haunted Jayne Anne Phillips for more than four decades.

Jayne Anne Phillips’s debut collection, Black Tickets, galvanized critics and readers when it was published in 1979 and announced her as one of the great new voices of her generation. Her four novels, prizewinners and reader favorites, have secured her place as one of America’s most celebrated storytellers. In Quiet Dell, Phillips re-imagines a gruesome crime in a tiny West Virginia community not far from where she grew up.

In Chicago in 1931, Asta Eicher, mother of three, is lonely and despairing, pressed for money after the sudden death of her husband. She begins to receive seductive letters from a chivalrous, elegant man named Harry Powers, who promises to cherish and protect her, ultimately to marry her and to care for her and her children. Weeks later, the family are dead.

Emily Thornhill, one of the few women in the Chicago press, covers the case and becomes deeply invested in understanding what happened to this beautiful family, particularly to the youngest child, Annabel, an enchanting girl with a precocious imagination and sense of magic. Bold and intrepid, Emily allies herself with the Chicago banker who funds the investigation and who is wracked by guilt for not saving Asta. Driven by secrets of their own, the heroic characters in this magnificent tale will stop at nothing to ensure that Powers is convicted. A mesmerizing retelling of a harrowing crime, Quiet Dell is a tour de force of obsession and imagination.

A thoroughly enjoyable crime novel based very closely on a true crime that took place in the early 1930s. With no CSI, investigating journalist Emily Thornhill pieces together the horrific mass murder of women and children by a killer who preyed on middle-aged women

The book starts from before the murders taking place and portrays the family as they were before Harry Powers met Anna and subsequently her children. All characterisations were interesting to read and the family dynamics explored in some depth to give in depth insight into what happened to the Eicher family.

A well written interesting true crime novel with suspenseful investigating and a compelling court room conclusion. Highly recommended.

Starfish by Jennie Orbell. When Livvy’s husband announces he is having an affair, the after effect is life-changing for all involved.

Persuaded by her brother, James, to spend Christmas with him at Brandon Hall, his friend Rory’s family home, she soon finds herself the centre of attention. Livvy would prefer to find a quiet place to hide away and think about what the future holds for her, but the other members of Rory’s family have very different ideas.

Whilst Rory’s mother, Molly, thinks of Livvy as the daughter she never had, Rory’s elder brother, Max, appears to consider it his duty to offer Livvy unsolicited advice on her sex life even though they’ve only just met. To Livvy’s horror, Max had the audacity to say that if she had just lain on her back like a dead starfish and thought of England then it was probably her husband’s fault and not Livvy’s.

Max’s, spiteful, but beautiful girlfriend, Reba, is determined that nothing and no one will stop her from one day becoming mistress of Brandon Hall. And, William, Livvy’s husband, hasn’t finished with her yet!

Livvy must learn to let go of the past before she has any chance of a happy future.

Starfish for me was a light hearted read about what happens to Olivia Mallen when she comes out of a bad marriage and is whisked away to the Norfolk Countryside by her brother to spend Christmas with friends of his. What I loved about this book is that it read like a romcom. The story is told from Olivia’s perspective and even though I may have made very different choices I did find Olivia likeable.

I found Max dark and mysterious and I absolutely loved the double act of Molly and Martha who made me laugh out loud during the book. Add in the dogs, Fen and Fidget and the bit about seals and I was well entertained. The conclusion doesn’t come as expected but the twists are interesting to keep you reading.

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