Category Archives: Format

The Late Mrs. Willoughby – Claudia Gray

The Late Mrs Willoughby – Claudia Gray

I was given this book for mothers day. I have already read the first novel The Murder of Mr. Wickham. I was keen to read this one and I see there is also a third one.

Here’s the blurb …

The suspenseful sequel to The Murder of Mr. Wickham, which sees Jonathan Darcy and Juliet Tilney reunited, and with another mystery to solve: the dreadful poisoning of the scoundrel Willoughby’s new wife.

“An absolute page-turner full of well-plotted mystery and hints of simmering romance. . . . More of the Jane Austen characters we love (as well as those we love to hate).” —Mia P. Manansala, author of Arsenic and Adobo

Catherine and Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey are not entirely pleased to be sending their eligible young daughter Juliet out into the world again: the last house party she attended, at the home of the Knightleys, involved a murder—which Juliet helped solve. Particularly concerning is that she intends to visit her new friend Marianne Brandon, who’s returned home to Devonshire shrouded in fresh scandal—made more potent by the news that her former suitor, the rakish Mr. Willoughby, intends to take up residence at his local estate with his new bride.

Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley are thrilled that their eldest son, Jonathan—who, like his father, has not always been the most socially adept—has been invited to stay with his former schoolmate, John Willoughby. Jonathan himself is decidedly less taken with the notion of having to spend extended time under the roof of his old bully, but that all changes when he finds himself reunited with his fellow amateur sleuth, the radiant Miss Tilney. And when shortly thereafter, Willoughby’s new wife—whom he married for her fortune—dies horribly at the party meant to welcome her to town.

With rumors flying and Marianne—known to be both unstable and previously jilted by the dead woman’s newly made widower—under increased suspicion, Jonathan and Juliet must team up once more to uncover the murderer. But as they collect clues and close in on suspects, eerie incidents suggest that the killer may strike again, and that the pair are in far graver danger than they or their families could imagine.

This is a fun crime novel set amongst the characters of Jane Austen novels with a bit of Jane Austen style in the writing. I think if you’re a fan of Jane Austen and/or crime, then you will enjoy this novel.

Willoughby was suitably caddish, Mrs. Jennings enthusiastic, but kind, Colonel Brandon thoughtful, and Lady Middleton thoughtless. The characters are how you think they should be.

A review.

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Soldier Sailor – Claire Kilroy

Soldier Sailor – Claire Kilroy

This one was recommended by a friend and I managed to get a library copy on my Kobo.

Here’s the blurb …

In her first novel in over a decade, Claire Kilroy takes readers deep into the early days of motherhood. Exploring the clash of fierce love with a seismic shift in identity, Kilroy conjures the raw, tumultuous emotions of a new mother, as her marriage strains and she struggles with questions of equality, autonomy, and creativity.

Soldier Sailor is a tale of boundless love and relentless battle, a mother’s bedtime story to her son, Sailor, recounting their early years together. Caught in the grip of her toddler’s seemingly endless terrible twos, Soldier doesn’t know who she is anymore. She spends her days in baby groups, playgrounds, and supermarkets. She hardly sees her husband, who has taken to working late most nights. A chance encounter with a former colleague feels like a lifeline to the person she used to be.

Tender and harrowing, Kilroy’s modern masterpiece portrays parenthood in all its agony and ardent joy.

This is all told from the perspective of the mother (Soldier) as if she is speaking to her son (Sailor). If you’re in the midst of those early years this might be a bit too much. I remember the rage, and the lost identity and the crushing fatigue. It’s very well-written and captures all of those feelings, the despair and the joy, how hard it is to get out of the house, the lack of support, etc.

A review.

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Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens

Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens

After having successfully listened to A Tale of Two Cities, I decided to continue with the Dickens theme and listen to Our Mutual Friend. All 34 hours of it (I did listen to it at 1.2 speed).

Years ago I watched the BBC adaptation, which I really enjoyed and I always intended on reading it. But it is enormous and I was a bit daunted. However, the audio version (this one) was great.

Here’s the blurb …

Following his father’s death John Harmon returns to London to claim his inheritance, but he finds he is eligible only if he marries Bella Wilfur. To observe her character he assumes another identity and secures work with his father’s foreman, Mr Boffin, who is also Bella’s guardian.

Disguise and concealment play an important role in the novel and individual identity is examined within the wider setting of London life: in the 1860s the city was aflame with spiralling financial speculation while thousands of homeless scratched a living from the detritus of the more fortunate-indeed John Harmon’s father has amassed his wealth by recycling waste.

I really enjoyed listening to this. There are lots of stories intertwined, but at the core it is about identity and how we present ourselves to the world. There is fabulous dialogue, beautiful willful women, self-sacrificing women, greedy people and lovely people.

Here’s a beautiful review (about why you should read Dickens and Our Mutual Friend)

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The Library of Borrowed Hearts – Lucy Gilmour

The Library of Borrowed Hearts – Lucy Gilmour

I can’t remember where I first heard of this novel (I follow a lot of different blogs). Anyway, it was one of the first books I bought on my new Kobo.

Here’s the blurb …

A.J. Fikry meets The Bookish Life of Nina Hill in this charming, hilarious, and moving novel about the way books bring lonely souls together.

Two young lovers. Sixty long years. One bookish mystery worth solving.

Librarian Chloe Sampson has been struggling: to take care of her three younger siblings, to find herself, to make ends meet. She’s just about at the end of her rope when she stumbles across a rare edition of a book from the 1960s at the local flea market. Deciding it’s a sign of her luck turning, she takes it home with her—only to be shocked when her cranky hermit of a neighbor swoops in and offers to buy it for an exorbitant price. Intrigued, Chloe takes a closer look at the book only to find notes scribbled in the margins between two young lovers back when the book was new…one of whom is almost definitely Jasper Holmes, the curmudgeon next door.

When she begins following the clues left behind, she discovers this isn’t the only old book in town filled with romantic marginalia. This kickstarts a literary scavenger hunt that Chloe is determined to see through to the end. What happened to the two tragic lovers who corresponded in the margins of so many different library books? And what does it have to do with the old, sad man next door—who only now has begun to open his home and heart to Chloe and her siblings?

In a romantic tale that spans the decades, Chloe discovers that there’s much more to her grouchy old neighbor than meets the eye. And in allowing herself to accept the unexpected friendship he offers, she learns that some love stories begin in the unlikeliest of places.

This novel was lovely and charming. Full of bookish detail and sympathetic characters.

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My Name is Red – Orhan Pamuk

My Name is Red – Orhan Pamuk

My book club’s theme of the month is red, and I have wanted to red this for a long time, so it was the perfect pairing.

Here’s the blurb …

At once a fiendishly devious mystery, a beguiling love story, and a brilliant symposium on the power of art, My Name Is Red is a transporting tale set amid the splendor and religious intrigue of sixteenth-century Istanbul, from one of the most prominent contemporary Turkish writers.

The Sultan has commissioned a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land to create a great book celebrating the glories of his realm. Their task: to illuminate the work in the European style. But because figurative art can be deemed an affront to Islam, this commission is a dangerous proposition indeed. The ruling elite therefore mustn’t know the full scope or nature of the project, and panic erupts when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears. The only clue to the mystery–or crime? –lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves. Part fantasy and part philosophical puzzle, My Name is Red is a kaleidoscopic journey to the intersection of art, religion, love, sex and power.

I enjoyed the Istanbul setting, the cultural and social history, and I found some of the stories told by non-human characters (the colour red, picture of a dog) to be funny and interesting. It has an interesting structure, chapters from different perspectives, a dead man, the murderer, etc. However, I found this to be very long and often very repetitive (I suspect there were subtle details in the retelling which would have revealed more, but they passed my by).

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Filed under 3, Crime, Digital, Historical Fiction

The Postcard – Anne Berest

The Postcard – Anne Berest

I managed to borrow this from the library using my Kobo – it was very easy. I have known about this book for a while and was keen to read it, but it took some time to get to it.

Here’s the blurb …

Winner of the Choix Goncourt Prize, Anne Berest’s The Postcard is a vivid portrait of twentieth-century Parisian intellectual and artistic life, an enthralling investigation into family secrets, and poignant tale of a Jewish family devastated by the Holocaust and partly restored through the power of storytelling.

January, 2003. Together with the usual holiday cards, an anonymous postcard is delivered to the Berest family home. On the front, a photo of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. On the back, the names of Anne Berest’s maternal great-grandparents, Ephraïm and Emma, and their children, Noémie and Jacques—all killed at Auschwitz.

Fifteen years after the postcard is delivered, Anne, the heroine of this novel, is moved to discover who sent it and why. Aided by her chain-smoking mother, family members, friends, associates, a private detective, a graphologist, and many others, she embarks on a journey to discover the fate of the Rabinovitch family: their flight from Russia following the revolution, their journey to Latvia, Palestine, and Paris. What emerges is a moving saga that shatters long-held certainties about Anne’s family, her country, and herself.

This was a very interesting story, and I am very impressed at how Anne and her mother found all of the information. It’s a sad story and you have to wonder how much past trauma effects the next generation. Knowing what happens in WW2, I wanted them to stay in Palestine, and then leave France, sadly they just kept trying to do the right thing, assuming everyone would be decent people.

A review.

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Filed under 3, Biography, Digital, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Memoir

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

I have read a few other Dickens novels; Little Dorrit, Bleak House and Great Expectations. When a friend mentioned she was listening to Hardy’s novels, I decided I should try to read (listen) this one and Our Mutual Friend (I am listening to this one now – 34 hours!).

Who hasn’t heard of Madame Defarge and her infamous knitting?

Here’s the blurb …

A Tale of Two Cities is Charles Dickens’s great historical novel, set against the violent upheaval of the French Revolution. The most famous and perhaps the most popular of his works, it compresses an event of immense complexity to the scale of a family history, with a cast of characters that includes a bloodthirsty ogress and an antihero as believably flawed as any in modern fiction. Though the least typical of the author’s novels, A Tale of Two Cities still underscores many of his enduring themes—imprisonment, injustice, social anarchy, resurrection, and the renunciation that fosters renewal.

The narrator was excellent (I think it was Martin Jarvis). His narration brought the story to life and I feel that Dicken’s novels are meant to be listened to. Towards the end, there were a lot of convenient coincidences (very Dickensian), but the characters were fabulous particularly Jerry Cruncher and Miss Pross. I love they way they talk – Jerry about his wife ‘flopping all over the place’. The story is full of action and has a bit of foreshadowing of how it’s all going to end. There’s a too good to be true heroine, handsome hero, a dedicated hand-maiden, two people who look alike (a very important plot point), a lovely older business man, and the blood-thirsty Madame Defarge. It all makes for an enjoyable (if occasionally tense) romp through the French Revolution.

A review.

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The Murder Rule – Dervla McTiernan

The Murder Rule – Dervla McTiernan

I listened to a short story by Dervla McTiernan while driving to a holiday spot. So when this one popped up on Borrowbox I thought why not?

Here’s the blurb …

For fans of the compulsive psychological suspense of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a mother daughter story—one running from a horrible truth, and the other fighting to reveal it—that twists and turns in shocking ways, from the internationally bestselling author of The Scholar and The Ruin.

First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

They’re wrong. I’m going to bury him.

I listened to this one as well. It was good and unexpected (which is what I want in a crime novel). The characters were well-rounded and sympathetic (the ones that should be sympathetic). It had a nice structure with diary entries from Laura (from the past) and chapters from Hannah’s perspective.

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French Braid – Anne Tyler

French Braid – Anne Tyler

I have read a number of Anne Tyler novels. I like the domesticness and ordinariness of them.

The blurb …

When the kids are grown and Mercy Garrett gradually moves herself out of the family home, everyone determines not to notice.

Over at her studio, she wants space and silence. She won’t allow any family clutter. Not even their cat, Desmond.

Yet it is a clutter of untidy moments that forms the Garretts’ family life over the decades, whether that’s a painstaking Easter lunch or giving a child a ride, a fateful train journey or an unexpected homecoming.

And it all begins in 1959, with a family holiday to a cabin by a lake. It’s the only one the Garretts will ever take, but its effects will ripple through the generations.

This is a family saga, but it has an interesting structure. At the start there is a couple and one of them finds it strange that the other one thinks she sees her cousin at the train station but can’t be sure. How is it possible to not recognize your cousin? We then get the life of the Garretts from different time periods and different perspectives.

I find it difficult to separate my thoughts about the novel from my thoughts about the characters. And I didn’t really like Mercy (and when she took the cat, Desmond, to the animal shelter and then threw out all of his belongings I wanted to cry). I wasn’t a fan of Robin either, although, to be fair, I did warm to them both by the end.

This is a novel about an American family – with all of the rivalries and every day pettiness, but also the connections.

A review.

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Funny Story – Emily Henry

Funny Story – Emily Henry

I have read all of Emily Henry’s novels – and I was very keen to get my hands on this one.

Here’s the blurb …

Daphne always loved the way her fiancé Peter told their story. How they met (on a blustery day), fell in love (over an errant hat), and moved back to his lakeside hometown to begin their life together. He really was good at telling it…right up until the moment he realized he was actually in love with his childhood best friend Petra.

Which is how Daphne begins her new story: Stranded in beautiful Waning Bay, Michigan, without friends or family but with a dream job as a children’s librarian (that barely pays the bills), and proposing to be roommates with the only person who could possibly understand her predicament: Petra’s ex, Miles Nowak.

Scruffy and chaotic—with a penchant for taking solace in the sounds of heart break love ballads—Miles is exactly the opposite of practical, buttoned up Daphne, whose coworkers know so little about her they have a running bet that she’s either FBI or in witness protection. The roommates mainly avoid one another, until one day, while drowning their sorrows, they form a tenuous friendship and a plan. If said plan also involves posting deliberately misleading photos of their summer adventures together, well, who could blame them?

But it’s all just for show, of course, because there’s no way Daphne would actually start her new chapter by falling in love with her ex-fiancé’s new fiancée’s ex…right?

Emily Henry’s novels have heft – the characters have depth and the situations they find themselves in are reasonable. Plus the novels are witty, and the characters are articulate.

A review.

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