Hamnet by Maggie O’ Farrell – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.

On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home? 

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have been interested in reading this book for a few months so was thrilled to be asked to support its publication. I am aware of the play, Hamlet, but don’t know what it is about or that it was named after his son who died when he was a child. I have however, visited Stratford Upon Avon a few times and know the streets and the houses that are connected to Shakespeare.

Although the book concerns William Shakespeare and his family he isn’t named. He is known throughout as his son, her husband or their father. All of the other characters are named, even though his wife is known as Agnes not Anne. I liked the way this was done, showing that whilst he was living in London writing, there was another equally important life back in Stratford. And it was because of this life that he was able to do it instead of teaching Latin and selling gloves. And more importantly keeping him away from his father.

I adored Agnes. Her spirit, her strangely modern approach to life and her way of reading people. It is implied that she could see the future but she could also accurately see a person’s true character. Especially concerning her father in law and her stepmother, and I liked how she used that knowledge to help her family. And most of all I liked the way she ignored all who tried to ridicule or insult her. I also liked her brother Bartholomew, large and protective and wise.

I have never read anything like this before. It made me want to find out more about the plays and when I go back to Stratford I will be looking with new eyes.

Black River by Will Dean – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Black River is an electrifying return for relentless reporter Tuva Moodyson, from the author of DarkPinesand RedSnow.

FEAR 

Tuva’s been living clean in southern Sweden for four months when she receives horrifying news. Her best friend Tammy Yamnim is missing.

SECRETS

Racing back to Gavrik at the height of Midsommar, Tuva fears for Tammy’s life. Who has taken her, and why? And who is sabotaging the small-town search efforts?

LIES

Surrounded by dark pine forest, the sinister residents of Snake River are suspicious of outsiders. Unfortunately, they also hold all the answers. On the shortest night of the year, Tuva must fight to save her friend. The only question is who will be there to save Tuva?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Black River is book three in the series, if you are a reader who appreciates getting to know recurring characters I do recommend you read these books in order. Many are a little bizarre! 

Tuva has returned to Gavrik to try and help find her closest friend Tammy. She doesn’t want to be there, has settled into her new life in Malmo and anybody who has read these novels would admit that Gavrik is a little strange. But Tammy is all she has and she is determined to help. However,  she doesn’t have the support of everybody  and is upset that there is more interest in the disappearance of another local woman, one who is Swedish.

Gavrik with it’s inhabitants isn’t somewhere I would like to visit, Tuva does mention a few times that the best thing to do is avoid it. Especially during Midsommer where alcohol and the customs associated with the festival takeover the community. I had to look on YouTube at this festival because the description intrigued me so much. Think May Day with a slightly spooky feel to it. And combined with some extremely creepy locals it isn’t something I would like to attend.

This isn’t a novel where I could work out what had happened to Tammy or who was responsible. It is a novel where I was I intrigued by the intensity, the suspicion and the unfriendliness of the town, and forest. And of course, the mosquitoes and the snakes.

A great addition to the series,I’m interested to see what will happen next. 

The Lost Lights Of St Kilda by Elisabeth Gifford – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

1927: When Fred Lawson takes a summer job on St Kilda, little does he realise that he has joined the last community to ever live on that beautiful, isolated island. Only three years later, St Kilda will be evacuated, the islanders near-dead from starvation. But for Fred, that summer – and the island woman, Chrissie, whom he falls in love with – becomes the very thing that sustains him in the years ahead.

1940: Fred has been captured behind enemy lines in France and finds himself in a prisoner-of-war camp. Beaten and exhausted, his thoughts return to the island of his youth and the woman he loved and lost. When Fred makes his daring escape, prompting a desperate journey across occupied territory, he is sustained by one thought only: finding his way back to Chrissie.

The Lost Lights of St Kilda is a sweeping love story that will cross oceans and decades. It is a moving and deeply vivid portrait of two lovers, a desolate island, and the extraordinary power of hope in the face of darkness.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I am going to struggle to find the words to review this wonderful book but I will try. I hadn’t really known what to expect, I wasn’t familiar with the author and I never knew anything about St Kilda. Almost immediately after starting to read it I realised that the novel was based on actual events with regards to the island and I was reading about them on the internet at the same time as reading this novel. The very realistic account of what life must have been like on St Kilda was fascinating. And even though I loved the story of Fred and Chrissie it was the story around the island that will be on mind for some time.

I can’t even imagine a world where you have to scale a cliff to get food to survive. A world where for months every year you have no contact at all with the mainland, no news, no letters, no provisions. The characters were fascinating, brave, independent and proud. They didn’t let anybody portray them as someone to be ridiculed. I enjoyed reading about the ceilidh, the folk stories and the Gaelic traditions. All that was missing was a soundtrack. It’s hard to think that the events that concerned this island happened less than 100 years ago. 

I adored Chrissie, her blossoming friendship with Fred who had visited from the mainland along with Archie, her strength, loyalty, humour and devotion to St Kilda was astonishing. She had great spirit and had a determination to do the best for her daughter despite everything. Even though I liked both, I enjoyed reading her account more than Fred’s, it was from her that you learned more about their relationship and island life. Even though Fred’s experience in the war isn’t mentioned much there was enough for me to experience the danger that he was in. And like St Kilda, his war was something I knew nothing about.

A wonderful read that had me gazing into the distance on finishing. 

The Snakes by Sadie Jones – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Bea and Dan, recently married, rent out their tiny flat to escape London for a few precious months. Driving through France they visit Bea’s dropout brother Alex at the hotel he runs in Burgundy. Disturbingly, they find him all alone and the ramshackle hotel deserted, apart from the nest of snakes in the attic.

When Alex and Bea’s parents make a surprise visit, Dan can’t understand why Bea is so appalled, or why she’s never wanted him to know them; Liv and Griff Adamson are charming, and rich. They are the richest people he has ever met. Maybe Bea’s ashamed of him, or maybe she regrets the secrets she’s been keeping. 

Tragedy strikes suddenly, brutally, and in its aftermath the family is stripped back to its rotten core, and now neither Bea nor Alex can escape…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Snakes was one of those books where I was mesmerised but also horrified by the characters. There wasn’t that many, the five members of the family, the police and the lawyers were the main ones but there was only one who I had any empathy for. That character was Alex, broken and struggling with events from his childhood and addiction. Bea was one I had mixed feelings about. I had sympathy for her but I think she could have done a lot more. She let Alex down and she wasn’t honest about her family life with Dan, her husband. Most of the others made me cringe.

I found this novel difficult to put down but strangely a long time to read. I think it was because the characters were so horrible and I felt I had to absorb every description of them. I struggle to pick out one phrase but every time Griff ‘spoke’ I felt sickened. Rude, a critic and a bully doesn’t even begin to describe him.

I loved the descriptions of the setting, the dilapidated hotel in a remote French village. The peace and quiet that was tarred by the arrival of a family that could only be described as venomous as the snakes in the title. I could understand why Alex would choose to live there rather in the huge mansion with his parents. 

The ending wasn’t what I expected and I have read differing opinions on it. It is one that I will be thinking about for a few days.

Bury Them Deep by James Oswald – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

When a member of the Police Scotland team fails to clock-in for work, concern for her whereabouts is immediate… and the discovery of her burnt-out car in remote woodland to the south of Edinburgh sets off a desperate search for the missing woman.

Meanwhile, DCI Tony McLean and the team are preparing for a major anti-corruption operation – one which may raise the ire of more than a few powerful people in the city. Is Anya Renfrew’s disappearance a co-incidence or related to the case?

McLean’s investigations suggest that perhaps that Anya isn’t the first woman to have mysteriously vanished in these ancient hills. Once again, McLean can’t shake the feeling that there is a far greater evil at work here… 

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The DCI McLean series is one of my favourites so I was looking forward to reading this new one, book ten. I was lucky enough to read the first chapter some months ago that left me wondering what the young woman was doing. I was totally wrong with my theory. What she was doing was something I had never even thought of.

McLean has little interest in the anti corruption operation but he does want to find his missing colleague. Not just because of his fears for her safety, he wants to clear her name. And it as a way of avoiding the teetering pile of paperwork in his office even though it frustrates his senior officers. I read many crime novels and I have yet to find one where a senior officer prefers dealing with paperwork rather than getting involved in an investigation.

There are many reasons I enjoy this series. All the investigations you would expect are there, but there is always a slightly sinister slant to them. In this novel it is Scottish folklore. The legend concerned is one I was unfamiliar with and I was reading more about it as I read this novel. I would be one who would believe every word!

Another reason is all of the characters. Who would not look forward to the returning ones like Grumpy Bob and the reporter Dalgleish? I always enjoy reading about them. But there are many others, especially the female characters and in particular Grace Ramsey. Still a tyrant years after retirement.

I am now looking forward to what happens next, meanwhile I can try and improve my Scottish pronunciation by reading the books I have missed.