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Beautifully and deliciously foreboding, this is an eloquent, thrilling treat of a read. Iris and Silas meet as construction begins for the Great Exhibition in 1850, for one it is an experience soon forgotten, for the other the beginning of a dangerous obsession. Members of the Pre-Raphelite Brotherhood gather, their ideals and connection to the Arts and Crafts movement fascinating to observe, particularly when compared to the logic and occupation of Silas. The Doll Factory won the Caledonia Novel Award 2018, and it is easy to see why it was immediately snapped up, the storyline while disturbing is enthralling and the descriptive detailing exquisite. Elizabeth MacNeal allows us intimate access to the thoughts and feelings of both Iris and Silas, opening a doorway to the potential and possible future of the story which succeeds in increasing the tension to almost unbearable levels. I felt a duty of care to both parties, wanting to warn, to ease, to prevent harm. As the story gathered me in and opened my eyes, I felt a shiver of chills gathering, forcing goosebumps down my arms. There is a darkness of the gothic variety to be found with The Doll Factory, it is also the most incredibly rewarding read and comes with a highly recommended stamp from me.
Has appeal as a rags to riches story but also will act as an inspiration for anyone dreaming of starting their own business. Showing that you don't need qualifications and good school results to get ahead Jo Malone has a passion for business and for encouraging others to reach their potential. Her own poignant story frames her business life - facing cancer and the loss of her business she came through and is now back with her new fragrance house Jo Loves– you can smell one of her first successes, Pomelo, due to the perfumed page tipped in at the front of the book. ~ Sue Baker
What an addictive and powerful book this is, I gobbled it up in one heady sitting and then sat and had a good ponder as certain aspects of this read knocked at the door to my consciousness. Two people have spent the last twenty-two years trying to forget, but someone is determined, no matter what, that they will remember. The first few pages really set the scene in a simple yet clever way, then I was hit by a wallop of an opening. Each chapter is headed by a character and a date, two main time frames are explored, time is sliced, spliced, offering a doorway to answers. As I read my mind explored possibilities, evaluated decisions, examined each character, their thoughts, their feelings. C. J. Cook balances the plot beautifully, keeping it taut, yet encouraging exploration in the moment. ‘The Blame Game’ (which is an absolutely perfect title) is a dramatic, enthralling and ultimately very satisfying read.
20th Anniversary Edition When Griet’s father, a notable tile-maker, is blinded she goes to work for artist Vermeer to support her destitute family. She’s an outsider from the start, a poor Protestant in a well-to-do Catholic household who’s regarded with suspicion by her fellow staff, especially when she alone is entrusted to venture into the master’s studio. Soon enough Griet experiences the magic of artistic creation, of seeing colour anew, of seeing everything anew. But, as her passion for art is aroused so too is an ache of guilt as she grows ever distant from her family. Then there’s the attention and lusts of the handsome butcher’s son who seeks her hand in marriage, and the lascivious approaches of her master’s wealthy patron. The intrigue and tension of the Vermeer household, and the ebb and flow of life in a 17th century Dutch market town are described in painterly detail through Griet’s keenly observant eyes as a swelling scandal spills to the outside world from within the duplicitous household. At once a compelling page-turner and a tour de force of tension and coming-of-age turmoil, this novel remains a must-read for historical fiction fans some twenty years after publication.
This is the first of a trilogy and therefore must, of course, set the scene for those to come. It is about a cult that uses a beautiful old house on a Swedish island as its centre. The leader is Oswald, naturally unbelievably charismatic. Our heroine is Sofia, a sad lost girl suffering from a broken relationship and looking for a purpose in life. An obvious recruit. Oswald asks her to set up his library, an enticing offer. All goes well until winter sets in and brings the fog of the title. It also makes prisoners of those on the island. Then things get spooky. This is a long, slow read with little action but if you are interested in cults then you will find it fascinating.
A sweeping saga set between 1884 and 1889 packed-full of the trials, endeavours, and love interests of five families. This is the start of a new series, and Barbara Taylor Bradford has introduced the different characters quite beautifully. The story glides from London, to Kent, Hull and Paris creating a fascinating full background in which it sits. From the up and coming Falconers to the Trevalians who head a private bank, fine threads connect the characters together, slowly creating a rich tapestry. This isn’t a book to rush through, it’s one to savour, to sink into and become at one with the story. Take time to introduce yourself to each individual, to understand them and where they sit in the story. Allow the highs and lows to fill your thoughts, to lift your heart, and be ready to console your feelings. Master of his Fate is a rather lovely and enjoyable opening to what promises to be a compelling new series.
Oh my word! How to describe this wonderfully clever, deeply dark and immensely satisfying read… every now and then a book comes along that surprises you, in the best possible way, and this is one of them. Five people, connected, somehow, with three murders, how on earth does everything link together? The first paragraphs slipped straight from the page and into my consciousness before awareness hit and I sat bolt upright. Will Carver creates an almost conversational tone which sits at odds with the content, creating a greater intimacy with the words and they land with hammer hard precision. The short intense chapters highlight one of the characters at a time, there is no explanation as to who is the focus, none is needed. A slight jolt of awareness as understanding settled after the first few sentences of each chapter kept me on constant alert. I can genuinely say that I had absolutely no idea where this was going, I stayed in each moment, sucked in the words, and feel as the story has tattooed itself on my mind. Good Samaritans is a provocative, heady, unique, challenging read and it is absolutely blimmin wonderful! Do I recommend it? With my heart and soul, yes I most certainly do!
A thrilling, chilling, shocking tale, perfect if you take delight in an icy shiver scuttling down your spine. A couple leaves their life behind them to join a commune in a former psychiatric hospital, events soon start to spin terrifyingly out of control. The prologue pounced on my imagination, I was immediately hooked and remained so until the very last page was turned. Several different characters take their turn in the spotlight in the present day, while a journal from the past casts a further shadow over proceedings. S.J.I Holliday weaves the different strands of the story together beautifully, each settling over the other while twisting thoughts and feelings. As I read my reasoning teetered one way and then the other. A supernatural presence heightens the tension further and my mind and heart fairly skittered in anticipation at what was to come. The Lingering is an exquisitely eerie tale, and I loved every single word of it.
Thirty very different pieces about extraordinary women, keenly observed and astute. They cover the spectrum from triumphant to pathetic, sad to humerous, surprising to surreal. There is the woman who unravels, another who grows wings, one who secretly paints her grass green, one talks to ducks, one slips through a timeless crack and another is put on a shelf. Some will irritate, others make you laugh or cry. Do not read too many together else you will lose the flavour. I would believe it to be a good bedside book, read two or three a night and take the next day pondering and digesting them before the next batch. I also believe it would make an excellent Christmas present for any woman any age.
Sharpen your thoughts, and pay close attention as this is a fascinating, intricate and complex case. Top Dog follows on from Stockholm Delete, and can I suggest that you do start at the beginning of these two books, otherwise you will be playing major catchup as you are introduced to the many layers of characters. Set in Stockholm, an unlikely pairing continue to investigate a set of horrific crimes exploiting young girls. Author Jens Lapidus is a criminal defence lawyer, the authenticity of his world fully connects with the page. I slowly sank into the story, which as well as flinging heart in mouth moments in my path, was also capable of great subtlety. The translation is beautifully done by Alice Menzies, I felt entirely at home and yet fully aware of the fact that I was in a different country. I was wired and vigilant to changes as I read Top Dog, it really is a hard hitting, absolute wow of a read, I simply loved it.
Bitingly fierce and wonderfully different, Into The Night is a provocative powerful read. Senior Detective Gemma Woodstock investigates a hugely complex case, the murder of a movie star on a film set surrounded by hundreds of people. Although you could easily read this as a standalone, I really do feel that The Dark Lake is a fabulous introduction to Gemma, so if you haven’t read it yet, do buy yourself a copy of both books. Gemma Woodstock is prickly and feisty, her job means everything to her, however she isn’t quite sure where she sits in the world. Sarah Bailey creates a raw, plausible background for Gemma to reside in, and I found myself slowly becoming a part of it. Real human emotions are not only visible, they can be felt, including the unbearably grim and darkly amusing. Unexpected jolts and shocks lie in wait, while everything still feels incredibly authentic, and the rolling ending suited me down to the ground. Into The Night crept up on me, I didn’t realise how actively involved I was in the storyline until I came up for air at the end, highly recommended.
When Levi and Charlotte McAllister’s mother dies, she suffers the post-death fate experienced by many a McAllister woman. After cremation, she re-appears and bursts into flame on the lawn. Fearing his sister is headed for the same end, Levi swears to “bury her whole and still and cold”, which prompts Charlotte to flee southward “towards the bottom of the earth”. What follows is a cleverly twisting story that crackles with intrigue and invention as the lives of an assortment of compelling characters collide. There’s the wildly eccentric coffin maker Levi commissions to make Charlotte’s casket, and the hard-drinking female detective he employs to track her down. There’s the wombat-farmer slipping into insanity, and the young woman who works for him and changes Charlotte’s life. Raw and real, yet also suffused in otherworldly magic, the author has conjured an elemental mythological landscape alongside the true-world Tasmanian setting. I raced through these blistering pages, but this is a book I shall undoubtedly return to.
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