Tag Archives: contemporary

Friday Faceoff – The night is dark and full of terrors… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffdarkandforebodingcovers

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this this week we are featuring DARK AND FOREBODING covers. I’ve selected Night Road by Kristin Hannah.

 

This edition was produced by St Martin’s Press in March 2011. The colours of this one are both beautiful and yet, there is a sense of wrongness. That cleverly angled head, along with the loose hair give a sense of someone in trouble. And yet, we cannot see enough to make sure. It’s very well done. I also like the lack of clutter. My one grizzle is that the title font is rather ordinary and doesn’t stand out sufficiently.

 

This edition, published in January 2012 by St. Martin’s Griffin, is a really dreary affair, I think. The wet road is boring, the title font is visually underpowered and the stripped back effect the designer was going for has been compromised by the chatter cluttering it up.

 

Published by Pan Books in June 2011, this offering is a definite improvement on the last effort. The running figure again denotes that something isn’t right, while the dark colouring and blurring gives a sense of menace. I really like the font on this one.

 

This Croatian edition, published by Znanje, Zagreb in February 2015, is more like it. The lonely road with the girl walking along it, lit by the moon looks both beautiful and threatening. I think I’d prefer it without the olden-style lamp in the foreground, but despite the rather measly title font, this is one of the better offerings.

 

This Romanian edition (I think! For some reason that escapes me, Goodreads has omitted that information) was published by LITERA. This is a beautiful cover, with that incredible night sky and the lurid red lighting picking out the road disappearing into the dark. While the font is still plain, it at least holds its own against the artwork and I’m pleased to see how uncluttered the cover is, allowing us to fully appreciate the design. Which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Festival Murders – Book 1 of the Francis Meadowes series by Mark McCrum #Brainfluffbookreview #TheFestivalMurdersbookreview

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I’ve been reading and reviewing a fairly intense diet of science fiction recently and wanted to ring the changes – then came across this author on Netgalley. Would I enjoy this classical-sounding cosy mystery set at a literary festival?

BLURB: At the start of one of the English summer’s highlights, the annual literary festival in the pretty little country town of Mold-on-Wold, famous critic Bryce Peabody is found dead in his bed at the White Hart Hotel. At first it seems as if fifty-something Bryce might have succumbed to a heart attack, but the forensics team soon uncover evidence of something more sinister. Bryce had made many enemies in the past, with his scandalous private life and scathing reviews. Could it be that one of the many writers he insulted in print has taken a bitter revenge? Or perhaps there’s a more personal reason? Unable to help himself, crime writer Francis Meadowes, who is also staying at the White Hart, is drawn into a role he knows only from his own fiction, that of amateur detective.

If you are looking for a foot-to-the-floor action-packed read, full of chases and gun battles, this isn’t it. This is one of those murder mysteries where there is a dead body which sparks our sympathetic protagonist into deciding to track down his killer…  I liked the steady parade of suspects, who all had reasons of their own to wish Bryce dead and the sudden shift in pace and urgency, when there is another death. McCrum is good at giving us a steady drip-feed of plausible, three-dimensional characters without breaking the rhythm of the writing. I always prefer to really like the main protagonist – if I’m going to invest time and energy in reading a book, I’m not all that thrilled if I’m constantly grinding my teeth at the stupidity or sheer nastiness of a lead character. Francis is a thoroughly nice chap, with his own emotional wounds, that somehow drives him on to want to sort out the tangled mess surrounding Bryce’s death.

Any niggles? One that stood out glaringly. A big problem for modern writers of this particular style of genre is the sheer professionalism of our modern police force. No perspiring DI is going to turn to our brilliant-but-quirky investigator to solve the case for her, these days. I think McCrum successfully navigated his way around that hurdle throughout the investigation… just about. And then blew all believability out of the water by staging the classic denouement, where he gathered together all the suspects and walked everyone through the whole thing, before dramatically announcing the murderer. It frankly graunched, yanking me right out of the story and I’ve knocked off a point for that stunt, alone.

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this classy, well plotted and enjoyable whodunit and I’ll definitely be reading more in this series. The ebook arc copy of The Festival Murders was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 3rd December, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

The Festival Murders – Book 1 of the Francis Meadowes series by Mark McCrum
5%: ‘I happen to know,’ Dan went on, looking straight at Bryce, ‘that the Sentinel’s reviewer wrote a couple of truly shocking novels a couple of decades ago. Which never even saw the light of day.’

This was a bit below the belt. Bryce hadn’t published his early fiction; to his knowledge, Dan had never seen it. As the heads of the audience turned towards him, Priya squeezed his arm and looked supportively up at him.

BLURB: At the start of one of the English summer’s highlights, the annual literary festival in the pretty little country town of Mold-on-Wold, famous critic Bryce Peabody is found dead in his bed at the White Hart Hotel. At first it seems as if fifty-something Bryce might have succumbed to a heart attack, but the forensics team soon uncover evidence of something more sinister.

Bryce had made many enemies in the past, with his scandalous private life and scathing reviews. Could it be that one of the many writers he insulted in print has taken a bitter revenge? Or perhaps there’s a more personal reason? Unable to help himself, crime writer Francis Meadowes, who is also staying at the White Hart, is drawn into a role he knows only from his own fiction, that of amateur detective.

As you can see, I haven’t got very far into this one, but so far, so good. I am hoping that the author will have a bit of fun with this premise, as it is very much ‘Midsomer Murder’ territory and I love the tongue-in-cheek approach to some of the murder mysteries.

Sunday Post – 14th July, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Annddd – it’s been yet another manic week. Last Sunday we had a small get-together at our house to celebrate my sister’s 60th birthday which occurred earlier in the year. The theory in having it during July would be that we would be more likely to be able to have the party in the garden, given that our house isn’t all that big. The weather during most of June and July has been amazingly sunny and warm – until last Sunday, when it rained until the early afternoon. And no – it hasn’t rained since. However the rain wasn’t sufficient to dampen the warmth of the gathering, which spent most of the time laughing…

On Monday and Thursday, Sally and I worked on her book – we are now on the last lap, which is exciting. On Tuesday I was asked to run two Creative Writing sessions at the annual College Conference, so that other staff members could get a taster for the subject. It was initially a bit nerve-racking delivering my presentation to my peers, but I soon got caught up in the subject and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. On Thursday evening, I made it to the West Sussex Writers’ meeting for the first time since April and found it really interesting to hear a number of members’ writing experiences.

We are still trying to get the house organised – the kitchen is now looking a lot better and I am still putting the finishing touches to the bathroom. However, we have had yet another blow – the concrete canopy over the back door is badly cracked and needs taking down and the back door replaced, which is going to cost thousands of pounds. Again… Given we are still reeling after having had the roof replaced, we would ideally like to be able to put this project in the Pending box – but we can’t. It’s dangerous, as if the cracking around the corner continues, a large chunk of concrete would break away and fall. So work is due to start on Monday week. Didn’t I pick a good time to resign from my job at Northbrook?

Last week I read:

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own. Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room – and opens it…
That’s as much of the chatty blurb I’m willing to reveal – but this Cinderella-type story set within the Mexican pantheon is a delight. No one else writes quite like Moreno-Garcia and I will be reviewing this book in due course.

 

The Garden Club Murder – Book 2 of the Tish Tarragon series by Amy Patricia Meade
Literary caterer Letitia ‘Tish’ Tarragon is preparing her English Secret Garden-themed luncheon for Coleton Creek’s annual garden club awards, but when she is taken on a tour of some of the top contenders with the garden club’s president, Jim Ainsley, Tish is surprised at how seriously the residents take the awards – and how desperate they are to win. Wealthy, retired businessman Sloane Shackleford has won the coveted best garden category five years in a row, but he and his Bichon Frise, Biscuit, are universally despised. When Sloane’s bludgeoned body is discovered in his pristine garden, Tish soon learns that he was disliked for reasons that go beyond his green fingers. Have the hotly contested awards brought out a competitive and murderous streak in one of the residents?
This was great fun with plenty of prospective suspects and enjoyable characters – but I’ll be honest, the denouement had me scratching my head. Unless justice works very differently on the other side of the Pond, I can’t see quite how the ending would work… I will be reviewing this one in due course.

 

Till Sudden Death Do Us Part – Book 7 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Greene
Although he hasn’t seen Robert Bergin for 40 years, Ishmael feels duty bound to respond when his old friend calls for help. Robert’s daughter Gillian is about to be married, and he is afraid she’ll fall prey to the ancient family curse. Arriving in rural Yorkshire, Ishmael and his partner Penny learn that the vicar who was to perform the ceremony has been found dead in the church, hanging from his own bell rope. With no clues, no evidence and no known motive, many locals believe the curse is responsible. Or is someone just using it as a smokescreen for murder? With the wedding due to take place the following day, Ishmael has just a few hours to uncover the truth. But his investigations are hampered by sudden flashes of memory: memories of the time before he was human. What is it Ishmael’s former self is trying to tell him … ?
Those of you who follow my blog will know that this series is a long-running favourite for me. I thoroughly enjoy Green’s tongue-in-cheek humour in this quirky science fiction whodunit. I particularly enjoyed this one as we learn quite a bit more about the non-human aspect of Jones… Review to follow.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd

Friday Faceoff featuring wraparound cover Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.R. Rowling

Review of INDIE Ebook Scavenger Blood – Book 2 of the Exodus series by Janet Edwards

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

Soundcloud interview with the cast from LOOT (including my son, Robbie Jarvis)
https://soundcloud.com/betterlemons/loot It’s lovely to hear Rob talking with such enthusiasm about his current project – I would have loved to go and see it, but it simply isn’t possible, given the distance involved and the cost of getting there…

The Best of Early Wyndham https://interestingliterature.com/2019/07/05/the-best-of-early-wyndham/ This marvellous site once more has come up trumps. I loved John Wyndham’s writing – and Oliver Tearle’s informative article discusses some of his early work before he became deservedly well known.

Monday Chuckles, reblogged from the Bluebird of Bitterness… https://blogging807.wordpress.com/2019/07/03/monday-chuckles-3/ We always need something to make us smile on Mondays…

Trying to Make Your Story “Unique”? Beware of These Common Pitfalls https://www.janefriedman.com/pitfalls-of-unique-stories/ This is required reading, not just for writers but also for readers, who will probably be nodding in frantic agreement at some of the points Jane makes.

Blog Maintenance https://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/2019/07/blog-maintenance.html One of the most effective and prolific book bloggers I know gives a series of tips on how to keep our blogs user friendly and looking spiffy.

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week…

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Janus Stone – Book 2 of the Ruth Galloway Mysteries by Elly Griffiths #Brainfluffbookreview #TheJanusStonebookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this classy series, The Crossing Places – see my review here. As you can see, this was far too long ago – and recently I recalled that this was a series I had intended to continue. I didn’t even have to track it down – we already have The Janus Stone… *blushes*.

It’s been only a few months since archaeologist Ruth Galloway found herself entangled in a missing persons case, barely escaping with her life. But when construction workers demolishing a large old house in Norwich uncover the bones of a child beneath a doorway—minus its skull—Ruth is once again called upon to investigate. Is it a Roman-era ritual sacrifice, or is the killer closer at hand?

I liked the fact that this book takes up the story only a few months after The Crossing Place and a particular plotline is a direct consequence of an encounter between Ruth and another of the main characters. And yes… for once, I’m going to produce a spoiler – during this book, Ruth discovers she is pregnant.

It wasn’t until Ruth is working through the decision whether to continue with her pregnancy and throughout this murder mystery, is coping with the various symptoms, both physical and emotional, that I realised we hardly ever read of pregnant women in crime novels – unless they are the victims. So I was on the edge of my seat throughout, hoping that the pregnancy wouldn’t be a device which would suddenly end midway through the book to provide more vulnerability for our feisty archaeologist.

A main strength of Griffiths’ writing is her characterisation. Ruth is a complex, three-dimensional protagonist, who feels vulnerable about her appearance – she struggles with her weight. And one of the joys of this novel was the collection of other characters, a number who first appeared in the previous book. While Ruth is the main character, there is another protagonist who also drives the action and that is Detective Harry Nelson, who is leading the investigation triggered by discovery of the disturbing skeleton. Though I think my favourite character is Cathbad, whose mysticism is regarded with scepticism by Ruth, although she is fond of him and his knack of turning up when she most needs him.

However, while I enjoyed the writing, the characterisation and the excellent scene setting, I was slightly underwhelmed by the melodramatic nature of the plot. I am definitely going to continue with this series, but while halfway through the book I was confidently expecting to give this book ten stars, I ended up giving it eight due to this aspect of the story.
8/10

Sunday Post – 23rd June, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I’ve been AWOL this week – which has been something of a roller-coaster… We have been embarking on a series of home improvements, given it’s far too long since we spruced up the house and duly got someone in to look at the guttering, which clearly needed replacing. Only it didn’t. Once the builders investigated, it rapidly became clear that we needed a new roof, instead. The roofing felt is like paper mache and the ends of the joists are rotten. The cowboys who replaced our soffits (Anglian Windows, in case anyone is interested…) must have been well aware of the situation when they fitted the soffits by screwing them straight into the rotten joists, but bodged the job and said nothing. Suddenly the house is swathed in scaffolding, the tiles are off, the rotten wood in the process of being replaced, along with the felt. Meanwhile we are frantically arranging finance… The sudden, sharp rainstorms hammering down throughout the week haven’t helped, either.

Other news – I have started my Poetry short course at Northbrook this week, which went well. My writing buddy Mhairi came down for a few days and while she was here, the proof copy of Netted arrived through the post with the awesome cover looking every bit a fabulous as we thought it would. And I spent yesterday with my sister who took me out shopping to celebrate my birthday. In the meantime, I keep waiting for my life to get more boring… please?

Last week I read:

The Killer in the Choir – Book 19 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett
Although she hadn’t known Leonard Mallett very well, nor liked him particularly, Carole Seddon feels duty bound to attend her fellow committee member’s funeral. As she suspected, the hymns, readings and sermon are all very predictable — not unlike Leonard himself. What she couldn’t have predicted was that the deceased’s daughter would use the occasion to publicly accuse her stepmother of murder. Did Heather Mallett really kill her husband, as many Fethering residents believe? Deciding to get to the heart of the matter, Carole’s neighbour Jude joins the new community choir – and discovers that amidst the clashing egos and petty resentments lurk some decidedly false notes. At least one chorister would appear to be hiding a deadly secret — and it’s up to Carole and Jude to unearth the truth.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Liar in the Library recently, so was delighted when given the opportunity to also read this offering. Once more Fethering is buzzing with yet another murder – and getting reacquainted with these characters was even more fun than I’d anticipated. I shall be reading more of these…

The Dark Lord of Derkholm AUDIOBOOK – Book 1 of the Derkholm series by Diana Wynne Jones
Everyone – wizards, soldiers, farmers, elves, dragons, kings and queens alike – is fed up with Mr Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties: groups of tourists from the world next door who descend en masse every year to take the Grand Tour. What they expect are all the trappings of a grand fantasy adventure, including the Evil Enchantress, Wizard Guides, the Dark Lord, Winged Minions, and all. And every year different people are chosen to play these parts. But now they’ve had enough: Mr Chesney may be backed by a very powerful demon, but the Oracles have spoken. Now it’s up to the Wizard Derk and his son Blade, this year’s Dark Lord and Wizard Guide, not to mention Blade’s griffin brothers and sisters, to save the world from Mr Chesney’s depredations.
This is billed as a children’s book – but it doesn’t feel like it. It seems far more like a clever exploration of what happens when people flock to a wonderful place to experience said wonder – all on their own terms, of course. And while parts are funny, other parts are quite dark. But all wonderfully gripping and well realised in this audiobook.

The Halfling – Book 1 of the Aria Fae series by H.D. Gordon
What do you get when you take a highly trained Halfling teenager and throw her into the concrete jungle of Grant City? One badass vigilante, of course! 17-year-old Aria Fae is no stranger to danger. She’s super fast, incredibly strong, and on her own for the first time ever.
Throw in a brand new best friend who’s a computer genius, a mysterious and super-fly older neighbor, and a drug that’s turning people into maniacs, and you’ve got the potion for trouble.
This YA superhero read was unexpectedly engrossing. Yes… Aria has it all – super-human strength and top-notch training. She also has enhanced hearing and sense of smell, as well as effective night vision. But, after a series of traumatic events that dumped her into Grant City, alone and friendless – she is also struggling with depression.

My posts last week:

Review of Broken Heart Attack – Book 2 of the Braxton Campus Mysteries by James J. Cudney

Friday Faceoff featuring The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Outside by Ada Hoffmann

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – and I apologise for not visiting or comment all that much. It’s been a tad full on. I hope you have a wonderful week.

Friday Faceoff – Ô, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is the SUMMER SOLSTICE, seeing as this is the longest day of the year in this hemisphere. I’ve selected The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.

 

This edition was produced by Random House Children’s Publishers UK in October 2016. This is the default cover for this YA best-seller and it’s easy to see why. I love the colours and the fabulous effect of the different embroidery threads. Somewhere online, I recall seeing the footage of the master being made – because, yes, the cover was actually stitched. It’s my favourite.

 

Published in June 2017 by Bonnier Carlsen, this Swedish edition has the potential to be successful, particularly with the contrast between the yellow and black, which always works well. However they then sabotaged the effectiveness of that strong colour selection, by insisting on including almost everything that occurs in the book in a series of line drawings, which makes the effect too busy and cluttered to be really effective.

 

This Romanian edition, published by Editura Young Art have overcome the issue that makes this something of a problem for foreign language editions – given the cover was initially stitched with the title in English – by stitching their own version. I very much like it, but the colours lack the vibrancy and impact of the original cover chiefly because the thread is finer.

 

This Indonesian edition, produced by Spring in April 2017, have taken a different approach to that stitched cover with a wonderful cover that is my second favourite. I love this one – so beautiful and striking. It also references some of the themes/subjects that feature in the book – because if there is an issue with that original cover, is that it isn’t immediately apparent that it is basically a YA romance.

 

This Vietnamese edition, published in May 2019 by Wings Books, has taken yet another approach. I really like the blocky bold depiction of the sun within that lovely rich blue background – it’s colourful and eye-catching and nicely references the title. My one grizzle is that the white title font is very boring and while I love the creative arrangement of the lettering amongst the ends of the sunrays, I feel there is a risk of the title getting lost amongst the design. Which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of The Fethering mysteries by Simon Brett #Brainfluffbookreview #TheLiarintheLibrarybookreview

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When an author event at the local library ends in murder, Jude finds herself a suspect in the waspishly witty Fethering mystery. Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death. More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbour Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.

Set in a small village literally a stone’s throw from where we live in Littlehampton, which is mentioned several times in the book, I’ll freely admit that one of the attractions with this entertaining whodunit is the fact that I recognise the towns they visit. It is rather fun to so clearly visualise the setting during the investigation, even if the village of Fethering is a construct. Of course, the book would be a downright trudge if that was the only thing going for it, so the fact that I really like Jude and her relationship with her rather prickly neighbour, Carole. It’s a bonus they are both retired and of a certain age – while I haven’t yet retired, I’m also well into middle age and it’s a solid pleasure to read a book with two female protagonists who reflect my own age-group. It doesn’t happen all that often…

Jude is a thoroughly likeable protagonist, who during the story becomes the chief suspect in the murder. These days, with our overloaded justice system, it’s all too believable to see a scenario where she could be imprisoned for perpetrating a crime she didn’t commit, so the stakes in this case are far higher than terminal boredom. What turns this readable adventure into pure delight, however, are the acidic observations Jude and Carole both have on the world and the characters around them. Brett doesn’t hold back from having a pop at the state of the publishing industry and the struggles rural libraries are having to keep going, amongst other aspects of life in modern England – as well as the protagonists’ observations about the other characters they come into contact while on the case. Several times I giggled aloud at a nicely pithy phrase.

I found the ending not only satisfying, but unexpectedly poignant. If you are looking for an entertaining cosy mystery with a thoroughly modern take on the genre, then go looking for this offering – it reminded me all over again why I enjoy Brett’s writing so much. While I obtained an arc of The Liar in the Library from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Rough Magic: Riding the world’s wildest horse race by Lara Prior-Palmer #Brainfluffbookreview #RoughMagicbookreview

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I have to come clean – I requested this book because I was under the impression that it was a fantasy adventure, due to the title. For once, my trick of not reading the blurb tripped me up…

The Mongol Derby is the world’s toughest horse race. An outrageous feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the army of Genghis Khan, the Derby sees competitors ride 25 horses across 1000km, and it’s rare that more than half of the riders make it to the finish line. In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer – nineteen, wildly underprepared and in search of the great unknown – decided to enter the race. Finding on the wild Mongolian steppe strength and self-knowledge she didn’t know she possessed, even whilst caught in biblical storms and lost in the mountains, Lara tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. She didn’t just complete the race: in one of the Derby’s most unexpected results, she won, becoming the youngest-ever competitor to conquer the course.

Lara makes an intriguing protagonist – in this painfully honest memoir of a tricky time in her life when she signed up for this most testing adventure on a fairly random whim, I get a sense of a very strong determined personality who is a work-in-progress. I liked the messiness of the characterisation. She is clearly someone not comfortable in her own skin – literally, as it happens. This gawky nineteen-year-old has been suffering with chronic stomach pains that no one has been able to successfully diagnose – and as the race wore on and many of the other competitors dropped away, it did occur to me that the reason why she managed to stick it out when so many others couldn’t, is simply that she’s used to being in constant physical discomfort and pain.

I say ‘simply’, but of course real life isn’t that simple. This book isn’t just about Lara’s gritted determination to complete – and ultimately win – a particularly gruelling horse race, it’s also about her take on the stunning scenery, the people in her life – and how comfortable she feels within herself. It’s striking that when in amongst other people, what falls out of her mouth is often crass and/or simply embarrassing. She mentions near the start of the book that she hasn’t many filters and at school she was in the habit of coming out with whatever was floating through her head at the time.

There’s a sense of her not really fitting in – not at home, or in her daily life and certainly not at the start of the race. By the end, however, it’s a different matter. The vets and race organisers begin to look upon her as a contender and there’s an implicit sense that there’s growing respect for her. Not that she mentions it – I’m not sure even now that she’s aware of how awed they were at her toughness and horsemanship. It’s striking that her main competitor pushed her horses really hard throughout, which eventually cost her the race. Mostly, Lara didn’t.

I’m conscious that I’ve written a great deal about the protagonist and not a whole lot about the race – it’s partly because I don’t want to stray into Spoiler territory, but also because I love the fact that while one thing is going on – the race – Lara is also busy growing up…

Her descriptions of her various horses, the varying weather and stunning scenery, along with her immediate reaction to it is masterfully done. This book pulled me in and held me throughout – I found it a fascinating, layered read that told me about so much more than a very challenging horse race. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys reading about true adventures.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Summertime and the living is easy… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is SUMMERTIME, so I’ve selected The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan.

 

This edition was produced by William Morrow in February 2017. I really love this cover. The attractive backdrop with the sprigs of the Tudor red and white rose gives a sense of permanence and old fashioned values – an impression rounded off by that solid-looking title font and the ornate key. I love this cover, which is my favourite, though this week it’s a close-run thing.

 

Published in February 2017 by William Morrow, this is the definitive cover for this book and is another lovely effort. In amongst the sprays of peonies are some of those lost things which feature in the story. The black background makes these images really pop. I also like the design of title and author fonts, but my chief niggle with this cover is the blurb crammed at the top of the cover, cluttering up and throwing off the symmetry of the whole design.

 

This edition, published by Two Roads in July 2017 demonstrates just much difference a colour change can make to the overall appearance of a cover. That lovely cheerful yellow background with the teal coloured font gives a delightfully sunny feel to this design. And just look how the lack of all that chatter gives a cleaner, more coherent feel to the whole design. I far prefer this strategy of putting a stripe down the side proclaiming the success of this book – especially with the clever use of the font colour and a slice of the flower. This is so very nearly my favourite…

 

Produced by HarperCollins Holland in March 2017, this is another attractive, well crafted design. Indeed, with the shelves holding a number of those lost things of the title, this is probably the most coherent cover in this selection. However, the title and author fonts are fading into the sprigged wallpaper due to a poor choice of colour and underwhelming font – what an odd choice…

 

This Ukrainian edition, published by Клуб сімейного дозвілля in August 2016, is a really charming, quirky effort that also accurately reflects the book. I love this cover, which is also a close contender for my favourite, but it was the expanse of white in the centre and the heavily italicised font that decided me against it. Which is your favourite?