I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone else, but September has flown by this year. I took a short break from blog tours and other obligations because we had so much going on at home. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to read what I want and although there are still three blog tour books, every single one of these I enjoyed immensely. Autumn always feels very celebratory to me because I have my birthday, Halloween, Bonfire Night then into December. I always have an MS relapse in September as the change of seasons begins. The fluctuation of temperature from one day to the next seems to irritate my central nervous system so I’m currently struggling with vertigo, blurred vision and nerve pain. I’ve shared my reading couch with my followers on Instagram and I’ve popped a pic at the bottom of this round-up so you can imagine me reclining with my dog and reading some of next months promising new releases. Happy Autumn everyone 🎃 🍁
The Shadowing by Rhiannon Ward.
In Southwell, just up the road from where I live, is a restored workhouse owned by the National Trust. I have been meaning to visit for a long time and I think this book will be the thing that pushes me into making the time. This is a delicious slice of Gothic/Historical fiction with an interesting female heroine. Hester is from a Quaker family in Bristol, with a tyrannical father who is rather extreme in his beliefs. He doesn’t allow colour or music in his home, and despite having a stroke he can still catch Hester with a slap here and there. Her mother Ruth receives a letter from Southwell Union Workhouse informing the family of the death of Hester’s sister Mercy. Mercy disappeared with the youngest boy’s tutor a short while ago, despite being engaged to the son of family friends. It was a scandal and their father has forbidden them to talk about Mercy ever since. It seems Hester was abandoned by her suitor and now her parents would like Hester to travel to Southwell, to find out what happened to Mercy and where she is buried. This is the furthest Hester has travelled alone and she anxiously wonders what she will find. Her quest is complicated by a gift she can’t control. Hester has a ‘shadowing’, meaning she can see and feel spirits. This gift may prove useful especially as she can feel Mercy by her side already. This is a fabulous book, with a Gothic atmosphere, a plucky and likeable heroine and that hint of the supernatural.
The Spirit Engineer by A.J.West.
This is my current read. I’m halfway through and I’m enjoying it so much it has already become a favourite . Set in Belfast, just two years after the Titanic sank, this is a society with a growing interest in spiritualism and seances to contact their lost loved ones. Professor William Crawford has always been a man of science and reason, but when he finds his wife has secretly been sitting in a circle he follows her one evening. However, instead of exposing the medium as a sham he hears voices – possibly from the other side? This intrigues him, but would spirits really make contact through him or is this a parlour trick? This is actually based on a true story and features real people in William Crawford and medium Kathleen Goligher. It also involves Arthur Conan Doyle who was fascinated with mesmerism and other supernatural happenings, and Harry Houdini, famous escapologist and magician. I was pulled into William’s world immediately, and I’m really enjoying the humour as well as the spooky goings on. A fantastic read so far and my review will follow in a couple of days.
The Lighthouse Witches by C. J. Cooke.
This is a fascinating tale from the writer of last year’s The Nesting. Set on a remote Scottish Island, with a hint of The Wicker Man about it, Liv and her three daughters arrive at a lighthouse named The Longing. We’re not sure what they’re driving away from but Liv jumped at an opportunity to paint a mural in the lighthouse for an eccentric millionaire who wants to use it as a writing retreat. The girls set up home in the bothy next door, but then some unusual happenings leave them wondering exactly what’s going on in this lonely place. There are some really unsettling scares for the family: a baby floating in flood water that turns out to be a doll; a child’s skinny arm creeping out from behind Liv’s paint supplies; a near naked and very dirty little boy appearing at the bothy, with no one on the island interested when he disappears again. Liv wonders why the lighthouse is named The Longing and finds a whole history involving the island’s women and the 16th – 17th Century witch hunts sanctioned by King James IV. This is a brilliant combination of the supernatural and the historical. I enjoyed it immensely.
Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith.
Despite it’s incredible size, there wasn’t a second of this fifth book in the Cormoran Strike series that I didn’t enjoy. From the moment Strike meets his new client I was engrossed in the story. I must admit to being a little in love with the tall, dark, private investigator. I love the author’s slightly shabby descriptions of him with his unkempt curly hair, awkward gait from his prosthetic leg and his broken nose. However. I’m also incredibly fond of his business partner Robin and the obvious love that flows between them, despite both of them denying it, even to themselves. We meet the pair with Strike’s agency in a good place – there’s a waiting list for clients, three new members of staff and Robin is now a full partner in the business. Some things stay the same though -Robin still drives the Land Rover, Strike is still smoking and living in the attic above the office, and there is still that unresolved tension around how Robin and Strike really feel about each other. Strike is in Cornwall, visiting his aunt and uncle, the closest people he has to parents. Strike’s father is Johnny Rokeby, rock musician and tabloid fodder. Strike’s mother was a beautiful, bohemian groupie who never had an idea of how to be a mum and abandoned Strike to his Aunt Joan in his primary school years. Joan is possibly, after Robin, the most important person in his world and she’s had a diagnosis of terminal cancer. While drinking with best mate Davey at the local pub, Strike is approached by two women. Anna tells Strike the story of her mother’s disappearance over forty years ago. She was working as a GP in London and saw a last minute patient, before leaving to meet a friend in a nearby pub. She never arrived. Despite extensive investigations she appears to have vanished into thin air. They make an agreement with Strike that he will look into it for a year. With several investigations ongoing and a long waiting list, this looks like the busiest the agency has ever been, but how will Strike manage his workload and spend time with Joan when he needs to? The case is a labyrinth of twists and turns, and the GP sounds like a fascinating woman. There are a few side cases that create extra interest and even humour. This is the most personal of the Strike novels as we watch him deal with losing the woman who has been a mother to him. The personal and the private investigations are balanced well and I was drawn in by both.
Freckles by Cecilia Aherne
This book by Cecilia Aherne was a complete surprise, considering I’ve never enjoyed her books before. Something about the blurb on NetGalley caught my eye and before I knew it I’d succumbed to her latest character. Allegra Bird’s arms are scattered with freckles, a gift from her beloved father. But despite her nickname, Freckles has never been able to join all the dots. So when a stranger tells her that everyone is the average of the five people they spend the most time with, it opens up something deep inside. The trouble is, Freckles doesn’t know if she has five people. And if not, what does that say about her? She’s left her unconventional father and her friends behind for a bold new life in Dublin, but she’s still an outsider. Now, in a quest to understand, she must find not one but five people who shape her – and who will determine her future. I truly fell in love with Allegra’s view of the world and how she copes within the confusing levels of human emotion she encounters. I found nearly all the characters in the novel endearing, Allegra’s daily routine was set in stone, but people seem hellbent on disrupting that! This wouldn’t be a Cecilia Ahern book without being heartwarming and full of humour, but this story is more complex than that. There are darker characters, parts that are more painful or remain unresolved, that show a real maturity and development. It’s about being proud of where you’re from, but also finding your authentic self – a journey that sometimes needs some distance from where we grew up. I loved the contrast between the city streets of Dublin and the wild Atlantic island Allegra calls home. In a way this is the decision she has to make. Where is home? Which place truly suits the person she is instead of the woman she thought she had to be in order to be accepted. Does she know that when we are our authentic selves, we attract people to us anyway. Our true five perhaps? All through the novel I found myself responding emotionally to the story, but Allegra’s character simply made me smile and perspective on her world made me smile inside. Not that she needs it, because I know millions love her writing, but if Ahern keeps writing characters like Freckles, she has found herself a brand new fan.
Blasted Things by Lesley Glaister
This is the first novel I’ve ever read by Lesley Glaister and when I finished, I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of her before. Set in one of my favourite historical periods, during and after WW1, this novel was evocative and moving. The author clearly has a deep understanding of the period and the rapidly shifting society her characters are living in. Her characters are fully rounded, with depths to get lost in and the effects of trauma to unravel and understand. This is an exploration of the effects of war and loss on our two main characters, Vincent and Clementine. The scars are both physical and mental, halting their progress as they try to move forward and making it very difficult to be who they truly are. When they, quite literally, bump into each other a strange relationship emerges that will have a haunting resolution. I could see these two people in my mind’s eye and I found myself thinking about them, even when the book was closed. Clem is working as a nurse at the front when she meets Powell, a doctor in the Red Cross hospital but also her soulmate. However, he died in a freak accident and Clem is seriously injured. When she recovers she has to cope with her grief and the matter of her fiancé from before she ‘ran away to war’. Her reaction is to opt for safety, so married to a GP and a mum, we meet Clem again. She is a shadow of the woman she was. So when she’s in an accident with a man who reminds her of Powell what will she do? Haunting, historical tale that will make you think about the consequences of war.
The Hidden Child by Louise Fein.
Set pre- WW2 like her previous novel People Like Us this is set in England instead of Germany and looks at the eugenics movement through the experiences of one family. We meet sisters, Eleanor and Rose, whose parents died young, and as a result of supporting each other from then on, have been inseparable. The book opens as Eleanor and her daughter Mabel set off on their pony and cart to meet Rose at the railway station. She is returning from a period of time in Paris, to live with Eleanor and her husband Edward. However, before Rose arrives something very strange happens to Mabel, as she sits quietly on the grass outside the station. One of the train guards notices first and alerts Eleanor, who rushes over to sit by her daughter. Mabel is making repetitive jerky movements, her eyes have rolled back and she is oblivious to Eleanor’s attempts to rouse her. Once it’s passed, Mabel seems exhausted and she travels back to the house, wrapped in a blanket and looking very sleepy. Eleanor’s concern is twofold: firstly, will Mabel be ok? Secondly, how will husband Edward respond if it happens again, considering he’s one of the leading lights of the eugenicist movement? I felt so much for Mabel in this story, unable to control her own body or what happens to her as her parents disagree over the best way to keep her safe. I felt the story was also about Eleanor’s journey, from obedient and traditional wife to realising she must change her relationship with Edward if she’s to save her daughter. This is a fascinating insight into eugenics and it’s effect on the lives of those deemed ‘undesirables’ in society. I loved its focus on the English and American atrocities committed in it’s name, showing it wasn’t solely the Nazis who believed in a master race. A brilliant piece of historical fiction.
Next month is so exciting. Here are just some of the books on my tbr for October
And the return of one of my all-time favourite heroines Tuva Moodyson in Will Dean’s Bad Apples.