Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by BermudaOnion and is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.  

I'm highlighting words that are new to me/that I really like/that struck me for some reason..!

These came from the novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which I read recently (and which I loved by the way).

1. upbraid (verb)

1. to reprove or reproach angrily
2. to find fault with

2. palmate (adjective)

1. (Zoology) shaped like an open hand: palmate antlers.
2. (Botany) botany having more than three lobes or segments that spread out from a common point: palmate leaves.
3. (Zoology) (of the feet of most water birds) having three toes connected by a web

3. embrasure (noun)

1. (Fortifications) fortifications an opening or indentation, as in a battlement, for shooting through
2. (Architecture) an opening forming a door or window, having splayed sides that increase the width of the opening in the interior

Friday, 12 September 2014

The Killer Next Door - Alex Marwood - Guest Book Review

Published by Sphere

Guest book review by Janice Lazell-Wood


No. 23 has a secret. In this bedsit-riddled south London wreck, lorded over by a lecherous landlord, something waits to be discovered. Yet all six residents have something to hide.
In the dead of night, a terrible accident pushes the neighbours into an uneasy alliance. But one of them is a killer, expertly hiding their pastime, all the while closing in on their next victim...


No.23 Beulah Grove is a rotten old house divided into bedsits, and it’s owned by the most revolting of landlords, Roy Preece, a vile and obese creature with no morals or hygiene.  He’s desperate for the sitting tenant of the house to die, so he can sell up, move away and live comfortably on the rent proceeds, but she’s not dying nearly quickly enough, so he hatches a plan to help her on her way, a plan that goes horribly wrong.  A plan that leaves the residents unable to go to the police, for fear of their own secrets being discovered, for they have many secrets amongst them…

Cher is an underage care home runaway, living a dangerous day to day existence, Thomas is lonely, boring and just wants some friends, Hossein is an Iranian asylum seeker, Collette is on the run from some very nasty men after doing a bunk with lots of their money, there’s a mysterious man who keeps himself hidden away, playing his music at all hours and interacting with no-one, and finally, there’s sitting tenant Vesta, the matriarch of the group, a woman approaching 70, who’s lived in the house all her life, with nothing to show for it but dusty ornaments and a tea set that once belonged to her parents.

One of these residents is a murderer and we are given full access to their modus operandi in all its graphic and gory detail.  If you can stomach the novels of Mo Hayder and Val McDermid, you’ll be ok reading this, if not, then be warned, it’s not for the fainthearted.  There are shades of how real life killer Dennis Nilsen disposed of his victims here, as well as great detail on how the Egyptians took care of their dead…  The fact that the novel is set during a heatwave, just cranks up the rancid atmosphere of the house!

For me, this was a page turning psychological thriller, one that was devoured in a day.  I have just one gripe, the ending.  It left a question unanswered, however, don’t let this put you off.  Read, enjoy, and treat yourself to a restorative G&T afterwards, you might just need it!

Thanks to Lindsay for the chance to read and review this novel.  I look forward to reading more by the author, Alex Marwood.

Many thanks to Janice for reading and reviewing this novel for The Little Reader Library!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by BermudaOnion and is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.  

I'm highlighting words that are new to me/that I really like/that struck me for some reason..!

These came from The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, which I read recently.

1. equerry (noun)

1. A personal attendant to the British royal household.
2. An officer charged with supervision of the horses belonging to a royal or noble household

2. divagations (verb)

1. To wander or drift about.
2. To ramble; digress.

3. amanuensis (noun)

One who is employed to take dictation or to copy manuscript.

4. adumbrate (verb)

1. To give a sketchy outline of.
2. To prefigure indistinctly; foreshadow.
3. To disclose partially or guardedly.
4. To overshadow; shadow or obscure.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Sacred River - Wendy Wallace - Guest Book Review

Published by Simon & Schuster

Guest book review by Josie Barton

Harriet Heron is the cosseted daughter of an upper class Victorian family. Her severe asthma, in smog ridden London, necessitates her staying indoors, where her fascination for Egypt and the Egyptian Book of the Dead carries her through the worst of her illness. Tentatively, on the advice of her doctor, Harriet embarks on a journey to Egypt with her mother, Louisa and her eccentric Aunt Yael. On the boat to Alexandria they are befriended by an enigmatic artist, Eyre Soane, whose interest in Harriet and her family can only be regarded as suspicious and whose association with them continues throughout the novel.

Their arrival in Alexandria is filled with the sights, sounds and scents of a city so foreign that Harriet’s senses seem to come alive and she is enchanted by what she sees around her. Her health improves, and she is able to immerse herself in the history and culture of a country which has long fascinated her. However, for Louisa and Yael, Egypt is not just a land of contrasts, but is also a place where they must try to find some sort of inner peace. 

From the start of the novel, the author cleverly intertwines the story of three very different women and shows just what it was like to live within the closeted world of Victorian sensibility. They each have their own secrets, aspirations and hidden yearnings, and as the languid torpor of Egypt starts to influence them, their hopes, dreams and fears of the past are laid open to scrutiny in a fascinating journey of self discovery. Egypt is so beautifully described that it becomes vibrantly alive, from the contrast of valleys tinged with the gold of its ancient tombs, through to the poverty and turmoil of a land at odds with itself.  The whole character and nature of the novel revolves around the effect that this beautiful country has on Harriet, Louisa and Yael.

Overall, I thought that there was much to enjoy within the novel. The slow and languorous nature of the narrative is entirely in keeping with the unhurried atmosphere of nineteenth century Egypt, and I am sure that this book will appeal to fans of well written historical fiction.

Many thanks to Josie for reading and reviewing this novel for The Little Reader Library. Please do also visit Josie's fab book blog JaffaReadsToo!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Judas Scar - Amanda Jennings - Guest Book Review

Published by Cutting Edge Press 

Guest review by Leah Moyse

About the novel:

Will and Harmony's seemingly idyllic marriage is left shattered after she loses a baby she didn't realise she wanted. While at a friend's party, she raises the subject of trying again, and Will's reaction leaves her hurt and confused.

Removing herself from the crowd, she encounters an enigmatic stranger whose advances she rejects, only to later discover that the handsome man is Will's childhood friend from boarding school, Luke.

When Will, struggling to confront the culture of bullying that marred his childhood, reveals a secret too painful for her to bear, Harmony is left caught between the husband she loves and the promises made by an obsessive stranger...

Leah's thoughts:

I would like to start by saying I am a huge fan of the publisher Cutting Edge Press. They really push the boundaries and provide engrossing fiction that can be gritty, dark and intelligent.

This is a story of a marriage and difficult childhoods. An interesting look at how the events of our childhood can shape our futures, sometimes for the better but sometimes leaving us damaged and permanently scarred. In addition how emotional damage can actually affect our future relationships, decisions we make or don't make and how really some things can haunt us forever.

I must admit to not particularly warming to the characters, but for me this added to the feeling of wondering what they are really capable of and how far they would go. I really loathed Luke with a passion, such a seemingly unfeeling man who would stop at nothing to get what he wants. What really happened all those years ago at boarding school, to make him this way?

In places shocking, I was thinking to myself did that really just happen. Equally however I found it to be an ultimately sad story in that we can never have our childhood back and have a different start in life.

I thought this book was dark, brooding and the tension amongst the pages was palpable. I feel as if I have been on a roller coaster of emotions and didn't know until the final pages where the destination was. A relatively short novel at under 300 pages, but so much happens and so many issues are tackled. Amanda Jennings is a very good writer indeed, one not to miss and I will certainly be getting a copy of her first book, Sworn Secret.

About the Author:

Amanda Jennings studied at Cambridge and has worked at the BBC. She is married with three children and lives in Berkshire. Her website is:

Many thanks to Leah for reading and reviewing this novel for The Little Reader Library! Leah blogs at Reflections of a Reader, do visit and read her fab blog too!

Vivien's Heavenly Ice Cream Shop - Abby Clements - Guest Book Review

Published by Quercus

Guest book review by Tracy Terry

About the novel:

When Imogen and Anna unexpectedly inherit their grandmother Vivien's ice cream parlour, it turns both their lives upside down. The Brighton shop is a seafront institution, but though it's big on retro charm it's critically low on customers. If the sisters don't turn things around quickly, their grandmother's legacy will disappear forever.

With summer fast approaching, Imogen and Anna devise a plan. Rather than sell up, they will train up, and make the parlour the newest destination on the South Coast foodie map.

While Imogen watches the shop and conjures new marketing ideas, her sister flies to Italy to attend a gourmet ice cream-making course. But can their best-laid plans survive their warring family, tempestuous love lives - and the great British Weather? One thing is for certain - this summer will be like no other . . .

Tracy's thoughts:

What a wonderful cover, perfect for the book. What you can't see looking at the image is how the blue is actually embossed with the prettiest blue foil effect. 

Light and fluffy and ultimately just about as sweet as ice cream itself, whoever coined the phrase 'holiday read' may well have had this in mind.

And yet, with memories of a certain retro ice cream parlour I've visited since I was a child in mind, as much as I really wanted to like this book it somehow didn't quite hit the mark.

OK, so its Chick-lit and everyone knows that part of the appeal of Chick-lit is that the reader is guaranteed their happy-ever-after ending. Nothing wrong with that per se but in this instance there were just so many incidents which got the happy-ever ending treatment that there was no mystery whatsoever as to how the plots, for there were several threads to the story, might play out.

Still, on the plus side, there were some rather scrumptious sounding ice cream recipes at the end of the book which should keep fans of the foodie novel happy.

Many thanks to Tracy for reading and reviewing this novel for The Little Reader Library! Tracy blogs at Pen and Paper - do pay a visit there and read her fab book blog!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Vanishing Witch - Karen Maitland - Guest Book Review

Published by Headline

Guest book review by Lisa Weir

Wow!  Just....WOW!!

A riveting, page-turning whopper of a book that had me captivated – in fact, positively bewitched – from the start.  Blending history, superstition, folklore, murder, mystery and witchcraft sublimely, this book is an absolute must-read for fans of historical fiction.

Set in Lincolnshire in 1380, we are swept away to the time of King Richard II, when, led by his advisor John of Gaunt, he raises taxes to an all time high; a price that the majority of peasants cannot pay leading to the infamous peasant’s revolt.

One such peasant is river boatman Gunter, struggling to pay not just the new taxes but the rents owed by him to rich landowner and wool merchant Robert of Bassingham.

Robert has his own problems with his cargoes going missing, losing him money but fortunately he has the friendship of a new widow to appease him; Mistress Catlin is as divine a specimen of womankind as ever there was and Robert becomes enchanted with the young widow, a welcome change from his scold of a wife but when his wife passes away and he takes Catlin to be his new bride, things don’t go as well as he would have wished in his new little family as jealousy and suspicion between servants and sons abound.

And who is the mysterious friar seen following the players of this novel?  What part has he to play in the bad luck and woes that befall Robert one after the other?

As the peasants struggle and eventually lead a rebellion that has seen no precedent and as Robert gradually loses control of all he holds dear, the reader becomes enmeshed in a world that comes alive in with the medieval superstition, the fear of witchcraft and the plain cruelty and greed that renders the rich richer and the poor poorer in these squalid and fearful times. 

I was utterly lost in this medieval world; each chapter is headed by a spell, charm or ancient lore which fascinated me; the author’s knowledge of the true facts of the Peasant’s Revolt and of ancient folklore are woven together so brilliantly they lend a magical and mysterious element to the story as the reader is tantalized by the puzzling events surrounding the characters and tries to work out whether witchcraft is indeed at work or if it is just the exaggerated workings of our brains throwing us off the real scent.....It might be a big read but it’s a read that will have you spellbound and leave you 100 per cent satisfied. 

Huge thanks to Lisa for reading and reviewing this novel for The Little Reader Library! Lisa blogs at The Book Addicted Housewife, do visit her fab book blog too!

Read an interview with the author on JaffaReadsToo blog.