Archive for the ‘Quercus’ Category

Review: The Crossing Places – Elly Griffiths

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

Title: The Crossing Places
Author: Elly Griffiths
Publication date: 6 August 2009
Publisher: Quercus
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781847249586
Length: 288 pages
Genre: Mystery
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Dr Ruth Galloway is in her late 30s. When she’s not digging up bones or other ancient objects, she lectures at a university in Norfolk. She lives, alone but happily so, in a bleak, marshy area called Saltmarsh overlooking the sea and Norfolk’s vast skies with her cats and Radio 4 for company. She’s a salty character – quirky.

When a child’s bones are found in the marshes, near a dig that Ruth and her former boyfriend Peter worked on ten years before, Ruth is called upon to date them. They turn out to be bronze-age bones and DCI Harry Nelson, who called on Ruth for help, is disappointed. He had hoped they would be the bones of a child called Lucy who’s been missing, presumed dead, for ten years. He has been getting letters about her ever since – odd letters with references to ritual and sacrifice, and including quotes from the Bible and Shakespeare.

Then a second girl goes missing and Nelson gets another letter – like the ones about Lucy. Is it the same killer? Is it a ritual murder, linked in some way to the site near Ruth’s remote home? Then one of Ruth’s cats is killed and clearly she’s in danger from a killer who knows that her expert knowledge is being used to help the police with their enquiries…

My thoughts

Elly Griffith’s books have been on my wishlist for a while but, as much as it pains me to say this, after reading The Crossing Places I’m not sure if I will read them after all. The book sounded great but, even though there were some elements in the story which I really liked, I was quite disappointed with it by the end.

Firstly, it is written in third person singular and the present tense which really bothered me. There are books where this combination works but here it didn’t – or at least it didn’t work for me. It probably wouldn’t have vexed me as much as it did if the writing itself was better, but it’s not. Which brings me to the second thing on my list, which is that Griffiths’ writing is nothing special. In fact, it’s mediocre at best. Which, again, wouldn’t have bothered me as much as it did if at least the plot was great and something that made me want to keep on reading, but it wasn’t.

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Review: A Life Apart – Mariapia Veladiano

A Life Apart - Mariapia Veladiano

Title: A Life Apart
Author: Mariapia Veladiano
Publication date: 16 May 2013
Publisher: Maclehose Press (Quercus)
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-85705-233-9
Length: 186 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Rebecca’s parents were born to very different families. One wealthy, one all but destitute, they were united only by their striking mutual beauty. But the sole child to bless their great romantic fairy tale is a daughter of startling ugliness.

The shock of having given birth to such a monster leads the mother to withdraw both herself and her daughter from the world. Only by keeping her child indoors, away from strangers’ eyes, can she protect her from their disgust.

But against all odds, with a little help from some remarkable friends, Rebecca discovers a talent for music that proves that inner beauty can outshine any other.

My thoughts

I haven’t really had the chance to read a great amount of translated fiction before so A Life Apart was definitely unique in this respect, and a bit different from the books I normally read. But since there was something in the synopsis which really intrigued me and because I tend to like emotional stories in which the main character tries to overcome some traumatic incident in his or her life (and because the cover is so breathtakingly gorgeous), I decided to pick it up and give it a try. And while in hindsight I wasn’t particularly keen on the language and narration itself, Rebecca’s personality and her story, her journey towards accepting her looks and living a relatively normal life definitely made up for it.

What surprised me the most is the fact that the novel has quite a few magical elements in it and despite my initial expectations, it’s not an everyday story. As it turns out, Rebecca’s mother’s family has carried a taint for several generations. A minor taint which is supposed to leave your mind, your beauty and your life untouched, but a taint all the same. Now and again an unfortunate child would be born with six or seven fingers on each hand, leaving the family with no other options but to hide them from the prying eyes of their neighbours and everyone else. Hoping to escape this misfortune, Rebecca’s mother marries a handsome young man whose entire generation has been untouched by it. However, when Rebecca is born, they immediately realise that something is very wrong… for despite the father’s impeccable past and the two parents’ beauty, the baby turns out to be a freak of nature. After Rebecca is born, a heavy silence falls on the family home. Literally. She is hidden away from the outside world, is not allowed to attend nursery school or leave the house before sundown and her mother stops talking to them altogether. Not only does she refuse talking to her own husband, she never once sets eyes on her daughter. And this is where Rebecca’s journey starts: in a place devoid of any kind of parental love or affection, where she’s a prisoner in her own home.

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Review: Tangled Lives – Hilary Boyd

Cover of Tangled Lives by Hilary Boyd

Title: Tangled Lives
Author: Hilary Boyd
Publication date: February 28, 2013
Publisher: Quercus
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780857385192
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Annie Delancey is happily married with three grown children. But she guards a secret. Aged eighteen she had a baby boy, and gave him up for adoption.

Out of the blue, she receives an official-looking letter from Social Services. Her son wants to make contact.

As the son she has never known comes back into her life, his presence begins to expose the cracks in the family that Annie now has to try, desperately, to hold together.

My thoughts

Tangled Lives was a pleasant surprise in every sense of the word. While I wasn’t familiar with Hilary Boyd’s work before I started reading this book, I’ll certainly pick up whatever she comes up with next.

The book tells the story of Annie – a middle-aged mother of three living in London – whose life suddenly turns upside down when her son she had given up for adoption at the age of 18 turns up out of the blue and wants to get in touch with her. It doesn’t seem like a big deal at first, however, it turns out that Annie’s children don’t know about her adopted son Daniel. And chances that they are going to take it badly are quite high. When she finally plucks up the courage to tell them a small family drama ensues, with her son storming out of the house and her two daughters staring at her in utter disbelief. While her husband and her younger daughter Lucy are quite supportive, her son and elder daughter can’t seem to forgive her and, if you ask me, act in a slightly childish and selfish way. Throw in an ex-boyfriend who not only happens to be Daniel’s father but who has absolutely no idea about his son, a pinch of emotion and a great deal of jealousy and you get an unputdownable tale of love, family, past secrets and forgiveness.

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Review: The Last Time I Saw You – Eleanor Moran

Cover of The Last Time I Saw You by Eleanor Moran

Title: The Last Time I Saw You
Author: Eleanor Moran
Publication date: February 7, 2013
Publisher: Quercus
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781780876320
Length: 504 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

When Olivia Berrington gets the call to tell her that her best friend from university has been killed in a car crash in New York, her life is turned upside down. Her relationship with Sally was an exhilarating roller coaster, until a shocking betrayal drove them apart. But if Sally really had turned her back, why is her little girl named after Olivia?

As questions mount about the fatal accident, Olivia is forced to go back and unravel their tangled history. But as Sally’s secrets start to spill out, Olivia’s left asking herself if the past is best kept buried.

My thoughts

Even though I’ve heard great things about the author’s previous books and I even got as far as downloading her Christmas short story onto my Kindle, I haven’t managed to read any of these books yet, so I didn’t really know what to expect from The Last Time I Saw You. I have to say, though – I’m very impressed. It was definitely a pleasant surprise and I fell in love with the writing right away.

Apart from the fact that Moran’s writing style is just spot on and it got me hooked within a few pages, the other thing that made me even more intrigued by the two girls’ story is that I’ve had a friend just like Sally. While I was reading Olivia’s version of events I knew from personal experience exactly what they had gone through because I’ve been that friend and I could relate to literally everything she said. Even though Sally was quite a powerful character – a lively girl who always wanted to be the centre of attention and someone who was used to getting what she wanted – and her behaviour towards Olivia really started to irritate me at times, I couldn’t help wondering: what went wrong? They seemingly had such a great relationship… so what happened? What made their friendship end in such a dramatic way? And whose fault was it? And more importantly, how and why did Sally die so young when she’s always been the bright and energetic one? And this is exactly what Olivia herself is trying to figure out in The Last Time I Saw You – while she tells her and Sally’s story through an episode of flashbacks and tries to come to terms with Sally’s death, she herself is looking for answers.

The only thing I wasn’t really keen on is the last few chapters but especially the very last one. It seemed to have ended so suddenly and even though I loved the story and I don’t mind happy endings at all, it just seemed so out of character and so unlike the first 450 pages. It might have something to do with the fact that I didn’t like William (I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who haven’t read it so that’s all I’m saying) or his relationship with Olivia, I don’t know. Love triangles usually don’t work for me because I always prefer the ‘other guy’ but apart from this aspect and the fact that the ending was a bit of a let-down, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it to anyone.

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Review: The Library of Unrequited Love – Sophie Divry

Cover of The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry

Title: The Library of Unrequited Love
Author: Sophie Divry
Publication date: February 14, 2013
Publisher: Maclehose Press (Quercus)
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-85705-141-7
Length: 91 pages
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

One morning a librarian finds a reader who has been locked in overnight. She begins to talk to him, a one-way conversation full of sharp insight and quiet outrage.

As she rails against snobbish senior colleagues, an ungrateful and ignorant public, the strictures of the Dewey Decimal System and the sinister expansionist conspiracies of the books themselves, two things shine through: her unrequited passion for a researcher named Martin, and an ardent and absolute love for the arts.

A delightful divertissement for the discerning bookworm…

My thoughts

Sophie Divry’s The Library of Unrequited Love is very a short story you can easily devour, from cover to cover, in one sitting. I’ll be totally honest here: it’s been a while since I finished reading it and I still don’t know what to make of this book. What I know for certain is that it’s unlike anything I’ve read before.

Firstly, the book doesn’t have any chapters or any kind of divisions at all. None. Nada. I know it’s a short book but if you don’t have enough time to read it in one sitting and you also happen to have a weird habit of reading to the end of a chapter before setting your book aside (like me), it might make you feel a bit uneasy. Another thing that was completely new for me is narration. It’s basically a one-way conversation between the librarian and a reader who has been locked in the library’s basement overnight.  We know nothing about the reader – not even his or her name or whether s/he’s a man or a woman. Everything we know comes from the librarian’s monologue, which is definitely one of the things that make this book unique and unlike any other. But again, I still wasn’t a hundred percent sure what to make of it. I love how we gradually get to know our narrator and what type of person she is and I found myself smirking (or occasionally nodding) at some of her remarks. Perhaps one of the things I loved the most about this book is how the narrator talks about reading and how she describes what it means to her. She says, “I prefer the company of books. When I’m reading, I’m never alone, I have a conversation with the book. It can be very intimate. Perhaps you know this feeling yourself? [...] When I’m reading, I can forget everything, sometimes I don’t even hear the phone.” And I’m sure it’s something all of us bookworms can agree with, something we all go through on a daily basis. At the same time, I would’ve liked to know a bit more about the reader and see what s/he makes of all this or how s/he reacts to some of our librarian’s observations.

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Review: Once More With Feeling – Megan Crane

Cover of Once More With Feeling by Megan Crane

Title: Once More With Feeling
Author: Megan Crane
Publication date: December 6, 2012
Publisher: Quercus
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-85738-000-5
Length: 357 pages
Genre: Women’s fiction
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Sarah’s suffered the very worst of betrayals. But now with a new year around the corner, what better time to re-evaluate her life?

As she reconsiders every choice she’s made, she starts to wonder if her life was so perfect after all, and if this might be the moment that her world changes forever…

My thoughts

I absolutely loved this book and I’m fairly sure I would have devoured it in one sitting if I had more free time to actually sit down and read. I had no idea what to expect from this story because the synopsis doesn’t really give away too much. I glanced at the cover (which is gorgeous, by the way) and I thought it would be a nice, atmospheric Christmas read. Something light you can curl up with under a warm blanket, a mug of hot chocolate in hand. And it just shows why we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.  Once More With Feeling is a great Christmas read but at the same time, it’s so much more than that.

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Review: Start Your Day With Katie – Katie Piper

Cover of Start Your Day With Katie by Katie Piper

Title: Start Your Day With Katie
Author: Katie Piper
Publication date: September 27, 2012
Publisher: Quercus
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781780876597
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Self Help / Motivational
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

‘Positive affirmations helped me in my darkest times to focus on my health and happiness, and to remember I was not alone. I know how well they worked for me in regaining my life, and now I want to share them with you.’ – Katie Piper.

Start Your Day with Katie is a page-a-day book of Katie Piper’s most powerful inspirational thoughts, plus quotes and mantras that helped give her courage and hope after her rape and acid attack. With Katie’s guiding messages, you can begin every day on the right track. Let these affirmations help you find happiness and inner strength. They are one of the tools that Katie Piper used to rebuild her life. Keep this book with you or by your bedside table to turn to any time you need a little help in finding peace or inspiration.

My thoughts

I love, love, love Katie. I’m pretty sure everyone’s aware of her story but just in case someone’s not, well… this is what happened in a nutshell. Back in 2008 Katie, who was working in the media at the time and was hoping to become a TV presenter, was attacked by her boyfriend. First she was raped and then a few days later the guy got another man to throw sulphuric acid in her face as she was leaving her home. Katie was blinded in her left eye, her face, nose, neck, eyelids and ears were burned and even though she was rushed into hospital immediately after the attack, her injuries were so severe she was expected to die. But she survived. After years and years of hospital treatment and several operations to rebuild her face, Katie decided to share her story on TV in the hope of helping other survivors of domestic violence. Katie became one of the UK’s most influential (and most inspiring, I have to add) people and the founder of the Katie Piper foundation.

I cannot even begin to imagine what she and her family must have gone through but I admire and respect her for her courage and her determination. I absolutely love what she’s doing with her foundation and I think she’s a huge inspiration to all of us.

As for Start Your Day With Katie, it’s one of those books that everyone needs to have. It’s basically a collection of inspirational quotes that helped her through these difficult times, quotes that inspired her and helped her go on. It’s an incredibly optimistic book which is guaranteed to lift your spirits and give you a boost. It would also make a lovely Christmas present for anyone who you think needs some cheering up. After all, we all need a little bit of inspiration and positive thinking sometimes. :)

Teaser

“Life is 10 per cent what happens to you and 90 per cent how you react to it.”


Rating:
5 star rating
*Many thanks to Quercus for sending me a copy of this book*