Tag Archives: historical adventure

Teaser Tuesday – 4th July, 2017

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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 Fallen Kingdom – Book 3 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

p. 64 I turn, expecting to see the old crystal in the ruins of Derrick’s city, the crystal Lonnrach wanted so badly that he’d destroyed the pixie city to find it. What’s there instead makes me suck in a shocked breath.
Where the bloody hell did that come from?

BLURB: Aileana Kameron, resurrected by ancient fae magic, returns to the world she once knew with no memory of her past and with dangerous powers she struggles to control. Desperate to break the curse that pits two factions of the fae against each other in a struggle that will decide the fate of the human and fae worlds, her only hope is hidden in an ancient book guarded by the legendary Morrigan, a faery of immense power and cruelty. To save the world and the people she loves, Aileana must learn to harness her dark new powers even as they are slowly destroying her.

I loved the first two books in this gripping trilogy – see my review of The Falconer – and so have been waiting impatiently for this final slice of the adventure. And so far, it has started with a bang and continued building the tension. I have no idea where May is taking the story, but I’ve settled in for the ride…

Sunday Post – 9th April 2017

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

May you live in interesting times… It’s an old Chinese curse, apparently. Well, right now Life is waaay too interesting. We noticed a puddle of water in the paved area just outside out back door in a straight line to the outbuilding where we house our washing machine – and realised the mains water pipe under the ground must be leaking. It was. And when the specialist plumbers came to mend the leak, it took them three goes. As soon as they fixed one leak and turned the water back on, the pipe immediately gave way somewhere else… They said our 65-year-old pipes had essentially given up – confronting us with the scenario of the pipes running through the footings of the house starting to leak *shudders at the thought*. So yesterday, we had the firm back to run a completely new waterpipe network down the side of the house and around to the back where they connected it to the cold water system using an underground boring machine. There were 5 holes dug altogether where they fed in the new piping using a nifty underground mechanical mole and tomorrow they are returning to concrete over the holes and box in the new pipework where it goes into the outbuilding and the house. But as you can imagine, this hasn’t been cheap…

At least the weather was good while they were doing all this – in fact it’s been absolutely fantastic – just a shame we couldn’t get out in the garden…

This week I have read:

Winter Tide – Book 1 of The Innsmouth Legacy series by Ruthanna Emrys
After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. Government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future. The government that stole Aphra’s life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race. Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.
For those of you who don’t recognise the references, Winter Tide is set in the world of H.P. Lovecraft, the famous horror and dark fantasy short story writer and novelist.
I fell in love with this spare, gripping tale within a couple of pages – the character and premise immediately pulled me into the story where a paranoid and jittery US Government are seeing threats from anyone who looks different, back in 1949.

Magic in the City by Heather Dyer
Brothers Jake and Simon Grubb are not happy they have to leave their home in Canada to move in with their cousin Hannah and her family in England. But things get interesting for the boys when, on the way there, they encounter a retiring magician at a highway rest stop who presents them with three gifts he claims have magical properties: a carpet, a camera and a stopwatch. Unfortunately, the magician doesn’t provide them with any instructions. So when the boys and Hannah find themselves being swept away on a wild adventure fueled by the magic in these curious objects, they have to learn as they go. But who cares when it’s this exciting!
Dyer also serves up a fair dollop of humour along with the chaos and excitement. I love the depiction of the Queen – whether or not it’s correct, I thought it was a delight. Overall, this is a charming, enjoyable book that delivers an engrossing magical adventure with some hefty family issues wrapped up in the story that will speak to the many fatherless children out there. Recommended for independent readers between eight and eleven years old, depending on maturity.

The Forever Court – Book 2 of The Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden
Life is returning to normal for Denizen Hardwick. Well, the new normal, where he has to battle monsters in quiet Dublin bookshops and constantly struggle to contain the new powers he has been given by Mercy, the daughter of the Endless King. But Denizen may need those powers sooner than he thinks – not only are the Tenebrous stirring again but the Order of the Borrowed Dark face a new threat from much closer to home…
I had forgotten just how punchy and enjoyable Rudden’s writing is – while the world is tense and gothic with plenty of thrills and spills and some genuinely exciting action. I love Denizen as a character and am looking forward seeing where this one goes next. I will be reviewing this one tomorrow.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 2nd April 2017

Review of Blood Upon the Sand – Book 2 of The Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Forever Court – Book 2 of The Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of Magic in the City by Heather Dyer

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL Review of Winter Tide – Book 1 of The Innsmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys

Friday Face-off – Send in the clowns… featuring The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling my TBR – March Roundup

 

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

G is for Grief  https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/g-is-for-grief/ Viv is a wonderfully talented writer – but don’t take my word for it. Read her blog. This moving, thought provoking article is typical of her output…

Tales of 100 hearts  https://jeanleesworld.com/2017/04/06/tales-of-100-hearts/ A quirky, original slice of Jean’s life – this one left me with a lump in my throat as I still keep wondering who had already learnt that SAFETY matters so much…

Discoveries, Engineering Progress and Science Fiction  https://rosieoliver.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/discoveries-engineering-progress-and-science-fiction/#comment-2161 Rosie has a science background and she is very interested in exploring some of the more cutting-edge issues in her fiction. Meantime, once more, she has provided a great roundup of what is going on in the scientific community this week…

The Inconsistency of Truth  https://ginnibites.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/the-inconsistency-of-truth/ Ginni nails it, again… Insomniacs everywhere will recognise this scenario.

5 New Science Fiction Books to Watch Out For  https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/5-new-science-fiction-books-to-watch-out-for/ This award-winning library site does a cracking job in featuring books the staff think their reading public may enjoy – obviously this one appealed to me.

Thank you for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Friday Faceoff – Send in the clowns…

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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 week the theme is circus, so I’ve chosen The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman.

 

This is the offering produced by Scribner February 2014. It is eye-catching and disturbing – the luminous image of a mermaid bounces out of the black border and accurately captures the mood of the book. That said, I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up if it had been wearing this cover, as it looks too creepy.

 

This cover was produced by Scribner for the paperback edition in September 2014. The beautiful girl off-centre with the scarf around her head looks vulnerable and the muted colour palette gives it a sense of menace. This is a lovely cover and, again, does reflect the mood of the book.

 

I’m intrigued to see that this far more circus-oriented cover is also produced by Scribner in April 2014. I love this one – it is eye-catching and colourful. But with the reflections in the dark water, there is also a sense that there is something darker behind the bright, pretty lights. This is my favourite cover – I love the detail and in particular, the way the title has been threaded through the artwork.

 

This is the cover design, produced by Simon & Schuster in March 2015, that tempted me to pluck this book off the shelves and read it. I was attracted by the title and the carnival feel that nevertheless felt slightly off… and the fact I thought it was very pretty.

 

This Hungarian edition, produced in June 2015 by Maxim, has gone for the horror vibe. And I think it has done it very well. That said, while there are genuinely shocking elements in this book, it isn’t horror or particularly scary so while I think the cover is a lovely, disturbing piece of artwork, it isn’t an accurate reflection of the book. I’m guessing there were a number of really annoyed Hungarian readers who picked this offering up thinking they were in for a fear-fest they didn’t get.

What about you – which is your favourite cover?

Friday Faceoff – Nobody likes a clown at midnight…

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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 week the theme is clowns. To be honest I’ve found this one a bit of a nightmare, but have finally tracked down this Alexandre Dumas, offering – Chicot the Jester.

 

chicotThis is the cover produced by Boomer Books in July 2008 and is my favourite. It is apparently taken from a painting and I love the grin, the sense this young man has been around, knows the score and enjoys his life.

 

chicot1This Latvian cover produced by Vārniene in 1993 also appears to refer to a classical painting. My ignorance of classical art means that I cannot tell if this is a book cover artist’s effort or the reproduction of an actual picture, but the sheen on the silk dress is lovely and eye-catching.

 

chicot2This edition is presumably the cover of the free classical edition available on Kindle and accounts for the drab, generic effort featuring a likeness of Dumas instead of trying to tempt the reader to pick this one off the shelf.

 

chicot3This Spanish edition, produced in June 2013 by Createspace features a young woman, presumably the woman of Monsoreau of the title. It’s a lovely portrait and I look at it and wonder who she was. Which cover is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – Oranges and lemons…

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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 week’s theme is fruit, so I have selected Time’s Echo by Pamela Hartshorne.

 

 

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This is the cover produced by Pan Macmillan in August 2012. The apple sitting on top of the old manuscripts is both spot on in terms of relating back to the content and providing an intriguing cover. The italic styling on the title font also works well against the weathered wooden backdrop. There is a lot going on in this apparently simple cover which nevertheless conveys a sense of the historical content of this book. This is my favourite.

 

 

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This Dutch cover, published by Van Holkema & Warendorf, in October 2012 is also beautiful. The gold-etched detailing against the bright orange is beautiful and eye-catching. It certainly is an unusual design here and would have me reaching to examine it more closely – I don’t know if Dutch covers habitually use a single, bright colour in such a manner, but it is certainly effective.

 

 

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This Italian cover, produced in March 2013 is completely different to the others and refers more to the modern strand of the story, rather than the timeslip element. I’m not sure it works all that well. The story is set in York and the landscape with the wide starry sky and blurred lighted buildings as a backdrop doesn’t convey the city to me.

 

 

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However, this French cover is a far stronger offering. Again, apparently simple – the apple hidden behind the girl’s back gives a sense of secrecy and unease. It’s clever and arresting – my only grizzle is the uninspiring font with the jarring dark pink that looks as if its been just plonked there, which lets the cover down.
Which is your favourite?

Review of Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson

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I love Wilson’s books. They helped my granddaughter come to terms with her parents’ breakup as she was able to read about other children facing the same devastating issue. We also started the awesome Hetty Feather books, set in Victorian England, so when I saw this offering on Netgalley, I pounced on it with glee…

clovermoonClover Moon’s imagination is her best escape from a life of hardship in poverty-stricken Victorian London. When tragedy plunges her into a world of grief, Clover realizes that everything she loved about the place she called home is gone. Clover hears of a place she could run to, but where will she find the courage – and the chance – to break free? And could leaving her family be just what she needs to find a place that really feels like home?

I came to this book with high expectations and I wasn’t disappointed. Clover is a spirited, tough little girl living in a Victorian slum, spending her days looking after her younger brothers and sisters and cooking and cleaning alongside her abusive step-mother, Mildred. Her character pings off the page as we learn of her daily life, busy entertaining the smaller children and her spirits and vivid imagination often getting her into a great deal of trouble. Back in Victorian times, that meant beatings. And Clover gets more than her fair share of those.

However, Wilson has perfectly judged the tone. Clover could so easily have become a victimised, downtrodden little waif, undernourished, poorly dressed and dirty as she is. But she’s as tough as nails, not averse to scrapping for what she needs and in her own words, regularly lies to avoid getting into trouble.

I picked up this book, intending to read a couple of chapters before putting it back down and then getting on with my work. Only I didn’t. It simply would not be put down – the story gripped me and wouldn’t let go until the end. Wilson takes me right into the heart of Victorian England and having studied history as part of my teaching degree, I would have become quickly irritated if the facts and depiction had jarred. They didn’t. Like the companion books about Hetty Feather, Wilson has clearly immersed herself in this period and every character bounced off the page and into my imagination.

I’m not the target audience for this book, being too old by far too many decades – but if you are ever looking for a book to make the Victorian era fully spring to life for children between the ages of nine and twelve, then I recommend Clover Moon. And for fans of Hetty Feather, she also makes a brief appearance in this page-turner, too. A useful, informative addition – at the back of the book are some facts about how children lived in Queen Victoria’s reign, a potted history of how child protection gradually became law and details of how children today can contact Childline. This book is highly recommended and the fact this arc was provided by the publisher via NetGalley has not affected my honest opinion of Clover Moon.
9/10

Sunday Post – 24th July

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Sunday Post

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

Yippee! Summer finally blazed into being in our damp corner of the world… Finally I get to shed my winter weight clothes, wake up to sun streaming through the window and have the back door open while cooking.

I’m now timelining The Sunblinded trilogy and have got halfway through Dying for Space as the next stage of the editing process. It’s been a busy week with a writing group meeting on Wednesday evening; the last lesson of the year with my autistic student; my son coming down for a few days; out celebrating a birthday with a friend and my one-day Summer Surgery writing course at Northbrook on Friday.northbrookcollege

It was lovely to meet up with a number of my regular students and welcome a talented young writer. We had a great day, catching up with students’ writing during the summer break and working on writing exercises – the bonus being the promised spectacular thunderstorms decided to stay away.

While I’m fitter and feeling better than I have for a decade – despite not losing any weight, my clothes are all noticeably looser – I have struggled with eczema around my eyes for a month, which has been steadily getting worse. So this week, I turned to Debbie Watkins, one of my writing buddies, who also specialises in health screening. I’ve changed my diet so radically in the last few months, I knew it would take me ages to work out which food I’m eating was causing the problem. Debbie nailed it, giving me some necessary supplements and a detox programme and now the eczema is beginning to ease down – thankfully the culprit turned out to be chickpeas, something I can easily avoid.

Yesterday, my mate Mhairi Simpson came over for the day and we completed on our tax returns online  and submitted them as a team effort. What would have been a daunting, miserable business alone, became far more of a semi-hilarious adventure when working through the form together. And they’re now done for a whole year – yessss!

This week I’ve managed to read:
Shift – by Em Bailey
Olive Corbett is not crazy. Not anymore.
shiftShe obediently takes her meds and stays under the radar at school. After “the incident,” Olive just wants to avoid any more trouble, so she knows the smartest thing is to stay clear of the new girl who is rumored to have quite the creepy past. But there’s no avoiding Miranda Vaile. As mousy Miranda edges her way into the popular group, right up to the side of queen bee Katie – and pushes the others right out – only Olive seems to notice that something strange is going on.

This YA read has some interesting twists and turns, giving an eerie twist on the intense teen relationships, while Miranda grapples to come to terms with a family upheaval. I shall be reviewing it in due course.

 

 

 

Riddler’s Fayre: The First Matter by Steve Carroll and Jeff Anderson
Aeden is young man with no memory, adrift in a world of riddles. His only friend – a man hated for his Riddler's Fayrerace and creed, their only hope – a nun on the run for opposing the Holy Wars. Meanwhile a veteran of the Third Crusade is hunting Aeden, believing him to be the clue to discovering the greatest secret in alchemy – the identity of the First Matter.

Steve Carroll is a fellow tutor at Northbrook, a talented artist and a really great bloke – none of which would count if I didn’t also think his series of graphic novels set in the Middle Ages was something special. This first instalment has recently been re-released and I reviewed it during the week.

 

 

 

Solar Express by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
solarexpressYou can’t militarize space. This one rule has led to decades of peaceful development of space programs worldwide. However, increasing resource scarcity and a changing climate on Earth’s surface is causing some interested parties to militarize, namely India, the North American Union, and the Sinese Federation. The discovery of a strange artifact by Dr. Alayna Wong precipitates a crisis. What appears to be a hitherto undiscovered comet is soon revealed to be an alien structure on a cometary trajectory toward the sun. Now there is a race between countries to see who can study and control the artifact dubbed the “Solar Express” before it perhaps destroys itself.

This enjoyable sci fi adventure took me a while to get through, given it is reasonably densely written and littered with techie detail – all adding to the story, but meaning I couldn’t just burn through the prose at my normal reading speed. It was worth the effort, though – I thoroughly enjoyed this one and will be reviewing it here in due course.

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 17th July

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* – Review of Woman of the House – Book 1 of the StoryWorld series by Jane Lythell

Teaser Tuesday – Solar Express by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Review of Speak by Louisa Hall

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Inborn – Book 1 of The Birthright series by Amy Saunders

Friday Faceoff – Who’s at the Door? Featuring Overbite by Meg Cabot

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Riddler’s Fayre: The First Matter by Steve Carroll and Jeff Anderson

Other interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Adventures in Science Fiction Art: Haunting Landscapes and Cityscapes: The 1970s Italian SF Art of Allison aka Mariella Anderlini
https://sciencefictionruminations.wordpress.com/2016/07/23/adventures-in-science-fiction-art-haunting-landscapes-and-cityscapes-the-1970s-italian-sf-art-of-allison-a-k-a-mariella-anderlini/
This site is a goldmine if you enjoy perusing the extraordinary artwork that flowered during the ‘golden age’ of science fiction. Joachim Boaz also reviews a wide range of books written during that time. But this particular article features some really beautiful covers…

Another book cover feature – this week’s Friday Face-off was nailed by Lynn’s wonderful selection of covers for the children’s classic The Secret Garden
https://lynns-books.com/2016/07/22/i-am-the-keymaster-are-you-the-gatekeeper/
Check this out if you fancy a delightful stroll down memory lane.

Viv Tuffnell’s articles are some of the best written in the blogosphere – and this one is right up there – Lost books, libraries, L-space and the odour of bananas
https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/lost-books-l-space-libraries-and-the-odour-of-bananas/
She writes excellent books, too…

By contrast, this offering is short – The Meaning of Travel in 5 Quotes – https://memoirsonthemove.com/2016/07/17/the-meaning-of-travel-in-5-quotes/

The grandchildren will be arriving this coming week, so I have to get going and do some housework before they arrive. Let’s just hope the weather stays fine – this is a fabulous part of the world to spend a summer, so long as it isn’t wet and rainy! Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Graphic Novel Riddler’s Fayre: The First Matter By Steve Carroll and Jeff Anderson

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I need to declare an interest – Steve is a fellow tutor at Northbrook College and a thoroughly nice chap. That said, I wouldn’t have volunteered to spread the word about Riddler’s Fayre: The First Matter if I didn’t believe in the quality of the story. Steve and Jeff are delighted that Riddler’s Fayre is in the process of being re-released with a new publisher, with changes to more closely reflect the nuanced taleRiddler's Fayre they had originally envisaged.

Aeden is young man with no memory, adrift in a world of riddles. His only friend – a man hated for his race and creed, their only hope – a nun on the run for opposing the Holy Wars. Meanwhile a veteran of the Third Crusade is hunting Aeden, believing him to be the clue to discovering the greatest secret in alchemy – the identity of the First Matter.

As you may gather from the blurb, this is set in 1199 in the Middle Ages and there is a lovely map at the front of the book, along with a short prologue, giving us plenty of information about the period in order to appreciate the story. Aeden is a young man struggling to cope – and the only clue to his identity are a number of peculiar tattoos on his arm. Meanwhile, a returnee from the Crusades, Ludovic Parvell, is on a mission of his own. A mission that will ensure he will be on a collision course with Aeden and those looking out for him. The artwork is lovely – in graphic novels, the characterisation is achieved with the dialogue and the drawing. Facial expressions, gestures and their movements tell you as much about who they are and their role in the story as what is contained in the speech bubbles. In a good quality graphic novel, the drawings provide you with a rich seam of information, as each page adds another layer onto the story. Anderson has done a lovely job.

The mood in the castle is effectively portrayed as brooding and ominous by the dark colours and confined settings, with Parvell’s uncertain temper kicking off as he snaps out orders to his apprehensive underlings. I really like the story arc – if I have a grizzle, it was that I was just really getting into the story when it suddenly stopped to be continued in the next slice of the adventure.

But if you enjoy graphic novels, this beautifully drawn and engrossing tale of religious intolerance and growing distrust of strangers may be set in the distant past, but it also has something to say about our own turbulent times.
9/10

Review of The Captain’s Daughter by Leah Fleming

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The Titanic disaster has spawned a number of books, and this is one of them. But the difference is it takes that historic event, following a handful of characters snagged by the tragedy to see what happens next in their lives.

thecaptainsdaughterFor May Smith stepping aboard the Titanic marks the start of an incredible journey, destined to take her, along with her husband Joe and baby Ellen, from the back streets of Bolton to the land of opportunity: America. But when the unsinkable Titanic hits an iceberg, May’s dreams are shattered. Jumping from the sinking ship, May loses her grip on Joe’s hand. Distraught, she is pulled into a lifeboat and under the wing of first-class passenger Celeste Parkes. Minutes later, Captain Smith himself swims to the lifeboat and hands May her baby. Celeste does everything she can to keep the pair safe whilst in horror they watch the death throes of the mighty ship. As dawn arrives and the two women are rescued, a friendship is forged, one which is destined to transcend their social differences to last a lifetime.

This is a fascinating take on the most famous shipwreck in history. From that fateful night in 1912, we follow Celeste and May after their lives are changed forever by what happened to them. May, as a poor widow with a tiny daughter to care for, faces an uncertain future, while Celeste’s future is all too plainly laid out in front of her as she returns to a bullying husband. But against all the odds, these two women maintain their friendship and end up each helping the other during various crises during their lives.

However, there are other characters whose lives have been touched and altered by the loss of the Titanic without their even knowing it – and this book also charts their lives. Fleming’s characterisation is strong and her writing vivid and uncluttered. Historic novels need to depict a sense of the period without holding up the narrative pace. Fleming succeeds in doing this, while making the necessary jumps across her long narrative timeline without jarring or defusing the immediacy of her characters – which is far harder to pull off than she makes it look.

As she takes us down the years following the sinking of the Titanic, we are given a ringside seat through both World Wars, witnessing the subsequent tragic loss of life, while relationships are forged and broken. The events and the way they impact on the lives of Celeste, May and those close to them are entirely believable. I was pulled into the book, reading far later than I should have to discover what befalls the main characters.

I love Fleming’s perspective – she could have written something cosier and far less thought-provoking. As it is, this is an enjoyable and worthwhile read and if you have any weakness at all for historical novels, then track down this offering. It is so much more than yet another rehash of the sinking of a famous ship.
8/10

Review of Amy Snow by Tracy Rees

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While it isn’t my favourite genre, I do enjoy a well written historical novel and when I saw this had won the Richard and July ‘Search for a Bestseller’ competition, I was curious to see if I agreed with the Madleys.

Abandoned on a bank of snow as a baby, Amy is taken in at nearby Hatville Court. But the masters and servants of the grand estate prove cold and unwelcoming. Amy’s only friend and ally is the sparkling young heiress Aurelia Vennaway. So when Aurelia dies young, Amy is devastated. But Aurelia leaves Amy one last gift.

This is a really interesting book. Those of you who recall Cecelia Ahern’s book PS, I Love You will have a basic idea of the overarching plot. But there are some important differences. Amy is very dependent on Aurelia as everyone else at Hatville Court remains hostile towards her and once Aurelia dies, as well as being grief-stricken, Amy is vulnerable in a world where young women have very few opportunities for earning their own living.Amysnow

Because the book is in Amy’s viewpoint, apart from a couple of short interludes, the character at the centre of the book who drives the narrative action – Aurelia – is filtered through her eyes. So we get a fascinating portrait of a highly strung, vibrant and intelligent young woman facing an inevitable early death while also trying to break out of the confines of a society with rigid expectations of what she must do. It is a poignant glimpse at a life cut short. Rees could have allowed this to collapse into a sentimental mess whereby Aurelia is portrayed as a complete victim and everyone speaks of her with tears in their eyes. Which would have been okay, I suppose. But Amy is totally reliant on Aurelia for any crumb of affection in a household where she is otherwise barely tolerated, so when her benefactress disappears for an unexpectedly long time, leaving her stranded at Hatville Court as a young teenager, she feels angry and betrayed.

These feelings are inevitably complicated by the knowledge that Aurelia is dying, and once she has gone and Amy flees Hatville Court, she still has very mixed feelings about the lost year when Aurelia dropped out of her life. And when she finds herself following a trail of letters arranged by Aurelia for her before she died, Amy embarks on this quest still conflicted.

It makes for a fascinating read and while there is the inevitable romance accompanying her adventures, the boy-meets-girl isn’t the storyline that powers the novel. And once Amy’s story appears to be resolved, as far as it can go, there is an unexpected twist at the end, which I really enjoyed – as a reader it gave me answers I needed, as well as a sense of sadness that the person who really needed to know this information would never learn it. Nicely done.

If you like your historical heroines to be doing more than spending time fluttering their eyelashes at some eligible dandy over a fan, then track this down. It’s a memorable read for all the right reasons.
10/10