The Garden of Lost And Found by Harriet Evans – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Nightingale House, 1919. Liddy Horner discovers her husband, the world-famous artist Sir Edward Horner, burning his best-known painting The Garden of Lost and Found days before his sudden death. 

Nightingale House was the Horner family’s beloved home – a gem of design created to inspire happiness – and it was here Ned painted TheGarden of Lost and Found, capturing his children on a perfect day, playing in the rambling Eden he and Liddy made for them.

One magical moment. Before it all came tumbling down…

When Ned and Liddy’s great-granddaughter Juliet is sent the key to Nightingale House, she opens the door onto a forgotten world. The house holds its mysteries close but she is in search of answers. For who would choose to destroy what they love most? Whether Ned’s masterpiece – or, in Juliet’s case, her own children’s happiness.

Something shattered this corner of paradise. But what?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I had only read one book by Harriet Evans before, that book was published over a few months. I am so pleased that I didn’t read this the same way. For no other reason than each time the book switched from modern day to Liddy’s life around the beginning of the 20th century, or vice versa, I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. 

The characters are mesmerising, the way that the children in each part differed so much. The children who answered their mother back in modern day wouldn’t have dared do the same to their tyrant of a nurse in the 1890s. The friendships and love affairs, the secrets, the hopes and disappointments. And the way that attitudes change, how the unacceptable became understood. 

For much of the novel I preferred Juliet’s story. Her determination to leave her obnoxious husband and move to the house she visited as a child. Her frustration at not being able to keep her children happy and her wonderful relationship with Frederic and George. 

But as the story progressed I wanted to know more about Liddy. How she lived her life, in fear of the past and her devotion to Ned and her children. Pertwee, her brother, badly damaged, but still wanting to help in the end, and Mary, her sister who only ever wanted to protect her. Mary was my favourite character in the novel. Brave, devoted, and a suffragist

When this type of fiction is done well it is a favourite for me. This book doesn’t disappoint, it is remarkable and it was one I struggled to put down.

The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Marginalised by previous antics, Sam Shephard, is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin, and her boss makes sure she knows it. She gets involved in her first homicide investigation, when a university student is murdered in the Botanic Gardens, and Sam soon discovers this is not an isolated incident. There is a chilling prospect of a predator loose in Dunedin, and a very strong possibility that the deaths are linked to a visiting circus…

Determined to find out who’s running the show, and to prove herself, Sam throws herself into an investigation that can have only one ending…

Rich with atmosphere, humour and a dark, shocking plot, The Ringmaster marks the return of passionate, headstrong police officer, Sam Shephard, in the next instalment of Vanda Symon’s bestselling series.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. This is the second book in the Sam Shepard series, the previous being the wonderful OverKill. I enjoyed that book a lot but liked this one much more. Sam has moved with her friend to Dunedin and is a detective with the local force. She had a run in with her new boss before she started and he is determined to make her suffer. But, she has the backing from others in the team, he is one of those people who always needs someone to bully.

Sam is such a likeable character, I think one of the reasons I like her so much is because she is completely normal. She drinks, sometimes heavily, eats the wrong food, makes mistakes, has amusing dreams and she wears her heart on her sleeve. She has a great relationship with her father but a difficult one with her mother. Every time her mother featured with her ‘frosty nostril’ it made me smile. I could picture the scene so clearly.

Even though the main investigation concerns the murder of a university student, there is also a very sad investigation that involves a circus and a series of threats to Sam. But none of them dominate the story. It is Sam’s personality, the way she approaches each of the cases and her new position that the novel focuses on. And it works brilliantly. I hope that the rest of the series will be published by Orenda, I’m hooked. 


Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Stirring up secrets can be deadly … especially if they’re yours…
Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.
Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.

Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after fourteen years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …

What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.
Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…

With echoes of the Play Misty for MeCall Me Star Girl is a taut, emotive and all-consuming psychological thriller that plays on our deepest fears, providing a stark reminder that stirring up dark secrets from the past can be deadly…

My Review

Louise Beech has been my favourite author who doesn’t write crime fiction for a few years and with this novel she has made a successful transition into my favourite genre. But whilst this is a crime novel, with a huge amount of tension, she still managed to tug at my heart strings.

Stella is the star of local radio, but she decided to quit the job she loves. Before she leaves she wants to know the secrets that her listeners have. And in return she will reveal hers. 

Well, where to begin… The three people who feature in the novel all have a connection to the murdered woman and her unborn child who tragically died with her. The connection is revealed throughout the novel, but mainly during one chapter when secrets are revealed and this part of the novel broke my heart a little.

It’s dual narrative and dual time frame. At first it was difficult to have any sympathy for Elizabeth. I found her selfish and struggled with the way that she neglected Stella. But as I read, I realised that she was the one who suffered more. Stella had Sandra, the woman who raised her, Tom and her friends through work. She had her listeners who she felt she a had connection with. She was also somebody you wouldn’t mess with, I was cheering when she dealt with the school bully. Elizabeth had nobody.

I had never considered what it must be like for somebody who works in the radio. To talk to people but have no contact. To be surrounded by people but be alone. To pick a playlist. I found this fascinating, wondering how the playlist was picked. Were they favourite songs that had some meaning or were they just songs that were played as the book was being written? Whichever, the playlist that is playing throughout this book is a good one.

There is the crime in this novel, but not in the conventional way with a police investigation. This is all from the people who knew the victim or in the latter part of the novel from Bob Fracklehurst who regular readers of Louise’s books will know very well. 

There was more than one victim, most of Stella’s story  left me feeling sad. How she could touch so many people and not realise how much she had an impact on them. This became more evident when Bob appeared and you could see how she affected people. Even the ones she never really knew. 

In this novel there is a lot of tension, there isn’t as much violence as in other crime novels but it is gripping. It is about a crime but mainly it is  about the small group of people who are connected to it. Louise Beech has written another stunning novel, she has proved that she can write in different genres and is an author who has never failed to deliver. 

The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Birmingham, 1885.

Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her.

Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the house of scientist Thomas Jerwood. Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment. But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…?

With the power and intrigue of Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions and Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done, Carolyn Kirby’s stunning debut takes the reader on a heart-breaking journey through Victorian Birmingham and questions where we first learn violence: from our scars or from our hearts.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have read a lot of historical fiction but I don’t think I’ve ever read one where the lead character affected me quite like Cora did. She was a character who I wasn’t sure about at the beginning, I had a combination of dislike and fear but gradually that changed and I wanted her to be accepted, find happiness and some answers and I adored her.

She was a character who despite her very hard life thought of others. Her loyalty to a few of the characters in this novel wouldn’t have been entertained by many in her situation. One of them, much older than the other was somebody whose life story I would have loved to know.

It’s not only the characters, it’s also the setting. I had no idea there was a bullring in Birmingham in the 1880s. I googled it whilst reading and was very surprised by the results. It felt different to read an English historical novel that wasn’t set in and around London and given more time I would like to know which, if any of the other locations were real. 

The more scientific sides of the novel were also interesting, how people who were mentally ill were treated and that there were some who worked in the profession who were more understanding than others. How experiments were carried out to try and find answers to human behaviour, regardless of whether their methods were immoral. The photography storyline was another that I spent time looking at. Composite photography was something that I had heard of but didn’t know much about.

Thank you Carolyn Kirby to opening my eyes to a lot of things, this book was a reminder that you can learn a lot by reading. 

The Oceans Between Us by Gill Thompson – Extract

About The Book

A woman is found wandering injured in London after an air raid. She remembers nothing of who she is. Only that she has lost something very precious.

As the little boy waits in the orphanage, he hopes his mother will return. But then he finds himself on board a ship bound for Australia, the promise of a golden life ahead, and wonders: how will she find him in a land across the oceans?

In Perth, a lonely wife takes in the orphaned child. But then she discovers the secret of his past. Should she keep quiet? Or tell the truth and risk losing the boy who has become her life? 

This magnificent, moving novel, set in London and Australia, is testament to the strength of the human spirit and the enduring power of love.

Extract

Even after all these years he still dreads plane journeys. The take off is the worst: the rush of tyres on concrete, the scream of engines, a crescendo of pressure in his ears. 

There’s a light touch on his hand. He looks down. Her fingers on his white knuckles.

‘All right?’ she says.

He nods, then looks out of the window. The plane is climbing steeply, the runway already a biscuit-coloured blur. The landing gear folds itself in with a distant thump and the engine steadies to a low throb. 

He wipes his forehead with the back of his sleeve and leans his head against the rest. 

She squeezes his hand. ‘Well done. You’ll be fine now.’

Yes, he will be fine. He always is. But this time there is another anxiety. Not the journey but the destination. 

He pats his jacket pocket and feels the firmness of the expensive cardboard against the warm wool. No need to take the invitation out again. He knows the words off by heart. 

And suddenly he’s a young boy once more, excited to be going on a long journey to a land full of hope and opportunity. How was his eager twelve-year-old self to know what was really waiting for him? 

He glances at his companion. They are deep into a long marriage; her face as familiar to him now as his own, her hair shorter than when they’d first met. His breath still catches at the sight of her. He reaches out to stroke her cheek. ‘I’m glad you’re here with me.’

‘Wouldn’t have missed it. It’s been a long time coming.’

He’s suddenly too choked to speak. He swallows and runs a finger round his shirt collar. ‘Forty years’ he says. His voice sounds hoarse.

‘Half a lifetime. But you got there in the end. Just as you said you would.’ 

The seat belt signs have gone off. She reaches under the seat, pulls a leather bag onto her lap, and reaches into it for her bottle of water. She passes it across to him.

He takes a long sip. She always knows the right thing to do. 

‘I just wish I’d got there sooner. It’s too late for some people.’

‘Those who can will come. And remember who you’re doing this for.’

He nods, then turns to the window again. The horizon is striped with brilliant colours: turquoise, orange, green – all radiating from a fiery, sinking sun. They’ll soon be hurtling through a dark sky in their metal tube, for miles and miles until they reach Canberra. And the ceremony they will attend.

This day is the one he’s fought for. He closes his eyes and the faces of the past appear before him. 

No one had listened to them then. 

They would listen now.