Tag Archives: Headline Review

A Bookish Couple of Days…

First off before I start to rabbit on about what have been wonderfully bookish times over the past few days I wanted to say a big thank you to you all for your very kind birthday wishes yesterday. In fact one of you has a surprise further down, there is also a competition today too, so do keep reading on after my waffle for that. This could have been the next bookish bits as it’s quite a jam packed post.

Tuesday night saw me venturing out for a night at To Hell With Publishing’s shop to hear David Vann talk about, and read from, his wonderful book ‘Legends of a Suicide’ which the lovely Joe from Penguin invited me to. Now I don’t like going to events on my own and certainly not walking into them by myself. Luckily the lovely Kimbofo and Lynne from Dovegreyreader and I all met for a coffee/chai latte first and had a delightful bookish natter before we arrived, we were most sorry Kirsty wasn’t there as then the whole NTTVBG would have been together. Oh a quick aside – Lynne has started Skin Lane and says so far so very good!

Once at the shop we were made very welcome given a bear had a natter with The Writers Pet and listened to David read us a new short story which had us all laughing. It was during this that I noticed we were in some rather wonderful company. There was Florence from Florence and the Machine, Julie Myerson and then Kim and I spotted Evie Wyld whose ‘After the Fire, A Still Small Voice’ I adored last year. Well after me wobbling about speaking to her Kim just tapped her on the shoulder as she passed and we were nattering (well maybe gushing) away at her for a good ten minutes. She was utterly lovely; I am now an even bigger fan (I didn’t get a piccie because I thought that might be stalkerish). It was particularly weird when she knew my blog and who I was and had even read my review; you always forget the author might see it so we had a bit of a love in between us all really it was a delightful way to end my 27th year.

Then yesterday Headline had decided to throw a bookish bloggers party at their head office that happened to fall on my birthday, what could be better? Thankfully no one had bought me a birthday cake yesterday because the spread was fabulous and the girls from Headline had made some marvellous homemade cakes. There was a presentation, a chance to meet the lovely people you email but don’t see, meet some of the authors (who included Paul Magrs whose series I really enjoy of and who was a good laugh) and get some books with a lovely goodie bag. I was very restrained, I hope you will be impressed…

I will talk more about ‘birthday books’ tomorrow. It was a lovely event and I got to meet lots of bloggers I had never seen before and have lots of new lovely sites to go in search of. It was lovely couple of days and yesterday it was really nice to be getting all of your messages through the day. So I thought as a surprise thank you I would put everyone who left one in a secret raffle for a copy of the marvellous ‘A Life Apart’ to show my appreciation, and the winner is… Nadia! So do email me your address and a copy will be out to you!

So for another competition… I have raved about Agatha Raisin on and off for ages and have told you all how you should read them, in fact I was having a natter about her yesterday with Paul Magrs and a few others in the pub. Well it seems in honour of my birthday (ok maybe not quite) she has had a makeover and I thought you should have the oppourtunity to get your mitts on a set of the first four revamped books in the series. Which look like this…

   

I am quite jealous as I want these! Thanks to the very kind Constable publishing there are two sets to be given away worldwide all I want to know, after my Evie experience, is which author you would most like to meet and what would you love to ask them? Simple as that. The deadline is the end of Friday the 26th – good luck!

Advertisements

61 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Give Away

Conjugal Rites – Paul Magrs

I decided in the lead up to Halloween that rather than read a ‘chilling tale’, I would wait for that on the actual night and instead in the lead up to All Hallows Eve I would read something with a supernatural rather than spooky theme to it instead. Now if you mix a good helping of the supernatural, a few scares, two old ladies, the town of Whitby, lots of mystery and some camp adventure what do you get? Why, the Brenda & Effie mysteries of course.

Conjugal Rites is the third in the Brenda and Effie series though author Paul Magrs manages to make all the books intertwine and yet they can be stand alone books so you could read them in any order. Brenda and Effie live in the seaside town of Whitby, which of course is famous for its supernatural tales such as Dracula. Magrs captures the town wonderfully with all its cobbled streets and touristy hot spots. Amongst all this though lie tales of the supernatural which B&B owning Brenda and Antiquities Shop owner Effie are the unlikely heroines who have been given the task of protecting Whitby from the perils that lurk in the night, and indeed the day.

In this instalment both our elderly heroines have to face their pasts which come back to haunt them (excuse the pun) as it were. One of Brenda’s ex’s Frank turns up making her face her past and literally drags her through hell, whiles Effie faces up to her family past in order to save Brenda along with their delightful sidekick Robert. Though there is a main plot what I also love about this series is every book does actually have several small sub-plots running through them that all accumulates in the end. With wonderful, though evil, characters such as Mrs Claus who owns the Christmas Hotel where every night is Christmas eve and every day is Christmas) I don’t know who could failed to be won over by this series its just marvellous.

Being the third in the series though I am trying not to give too much away even though they are stand alone if you do want to start from the very first one and then go onto the second one before this there are a few secrets I could giveaway that might lessen the fun as you start from the beginning. Was that me slightly over complicating things then? If you love a good plot, or even a few of them, quirky characters including two brilliant leading ladies, lots of laughter and something a bit dark then I think these books would be right up your alley.

I have noticed Paul has started a blog so if you want to find out even more you can go there. There is also one of his other non-supernatural books I have looming on my TBR that this has reminded me I simply must read. It’s called Exchange and it’s about a young man called Simon who along with his Gran has a voracious appetite for books and reading which leads them onto adventures and mysteries. Does that remind you of anyone? Ha!    

For actual Halloween I will be reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson which I will share my thoughts with when am back from Manchester. What are you going to be reading by candlelight/torchlight/on the sofa with all the lights on this Halloween?

4 Comments

Filed under Brenda & Effie, Headline Review, Paul Magrs, Review

The Taste of Sorrow – Jude Morgan

I wrote a while back about how this had pleasantly landed upon my doorstep from the lovely people at Headline and though only having read one Bronte novel (which I didn’t really like very much – Wuthering Heights) I loved the premise of a book all about one of the most famous families in English Literature, if not the most famous. Having stayed in Haworth, drunk at The Black Bull and most importantly getting to walk round the parsonage I can totally understand people’s fascinations with the Bronte’s. Reading ‘Daphne’ earlier this year and seeing that Daphne Du Maurier was also intrigued only made me intrigued further, though I have still as yet never read another Bronte book. That, thanks in the main to Jude Morgan, is definitely something that I am going to rectify. 

‘The Taste of Sorrow’ starts in some ways as it means to go on, this is no fairy story. Those of you who have read up on the sisters or been to the parsonage will know they struggled through life until they finally published there books, which actually happens very close to the end of the book. In fact Morgan concentrates very much on the times before they became household names. The opening chapter and scene is that of the Bronte children’s mother, Maria Branwell on her deathbed and is told mainly from the eyes of their father Patrick Bronte, originally Patrick Prunty, as he watches his wife die not knowing what to do about or for his children.

Growing up motherless though they have their mother’s sister in the house Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Emily (Anne being too young and Branwell being a boy) are all sent to Cowan Bridge and The Clergy Daughter’s School to train to become governesses. The family not being rich the girls will need to make money for themselves “a pittance” as securing them husbands is not going to be easy. This part of the book is very dark and leads you through grim corridors, itchy uniforms and the evil watching eye of Miss Andrews who see’s all children as ‘hoydens’ which I think is a wonderful word (one of my cats, sadly no longer with us, was in fact called Hoyden) and its this sort of language that Morgan uses, along with some profanity I didn’t think people would have known back in those days. In many ways its Morgan’s very real language and dialogue, which never sounds modern, always grounded and readable and added to the pleasure of reading the novel. 

Anyway I digress. From the poor school, as Patrick cannot afford better, great woe comes as the eldest two daughters, who I always forget about, Maria and Elizabeth become ‘consumptive’ and like many of the girls in the school of the time sadly pass away. The girls in actual fact died just over a month apart, something which shocks and partially destroys the Bronte family unit. It also adds to the pressure of all the remaining children that they must become great successes however the fantasy world of ‘Angria’ is much more interesting and they throw themselves into it to escape the real world, only the real world can never quite be escaped. We then follow them as they struggle to leave ‘Angria’ behind in their childhood as they grown up and try to make a success of their lives, which isn’t for a very long time writing as ‘girls don’t write books’ and won’t get published. Some of you will know what happens in that time other’s will not and I refuse to spoil it.

I will say it is absolutely wonderfully written. I found it hard to tear myself away from the book and in fact spent a whole day in bed with it (well I did have swine flu too, had it been the weekend I would have made some excuse). Morgan brings to life the three famous sisters and their different character traits. Charlotte who is strong minded, yet fearful, independent yet nervous. Emily is quite cunning and dark and often compared to a cat. Anne the baby of the family who is quite quiet and meek and yet has a lot going on in her head and once you get to know her is much wiser than her years. Branwell and his downfall are of course there but at the heart of it this is very much a book about Emily, Anne and Charlotte… and now I want to run off and read all of their books.

Well I have read Emily’s but after reading ‘The Taste of Sorrow’ I might have to give it another whirl as I think it would have more resonance with me now, strange how a fictional account of her has made me want to re-evaluate my thoughts on her work. I think that shows the power of Morgan’s writing, whose back catalogue of works I will be adding to the TBR along with everything Bronte. A truly wonderful book that anyone who loves books, let alone anyone intrigued by the Bronte’s, should read. I am gutted it didn’t make it onto the Man Booker Long List, I think its safe to say it will make it onto my favourite reads list at the end of the year. Have you read any Jude Morgan which one should I read next? Where should I start with the Bronte’s?

15 Comments

Filed under Books of 2009, Headline Review, Jude Morgan, Review

Something Borrowed – Paul Magrs

One of my favourite books as a youth was The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis and indeed the rest of the Whitby series; it was always The Whitby Witches that I returned to again and again however. It was a book that I could get totally lost in, a book set in the here and now (well back then the early nineties) that just happened to be full of magic and mysteries all before the Harry Potter phenomenon. Now about fifteen years later in my adult hood I have found a series that as an adult makes me want to turn off the rest of the world and revel in the magic and mysteries of Whitby alongside some wonderful ‘investigative’ old ladies.

Something Borrowed is Paul Magrs second foray into the world of Brenda and Effie who are two of the most delightful characters to go on a journey of almost 400 pages with. Brenda, not quite considered an outsider by the town but by no means a local yet, runs a B&B in Whitby next door to Effie and her Antique’s Shop. These two unlikely friends like nothing more than morning tea’s, gossiping and investigating all the mysteries of Whitby and its locals; also known as sticking their noses into other peoples business. It’s ironic in some ways that both of them love to find out all the secret going on in everyone else’s lives when they go to great lengths to hide their less than normal and mysterious pasts.

We follow the duo not long after all the going on in their debut outing ‘Never The Bride’ the following spring. It appears that all the mysterious and magical things in Whitby have gone to rest until someone starts sending people poison pen letters, and this person seems to know everything about the villagers with the most secrets to hide including Brenda. There is also the matter of Jessie who, until she became the living dead, was one of Effie’s very few friends and now seems to be intent on striking terror into those in Whitby she doesn’t try and eat. Plus there is a blast from Brenda’s past as Henry a professor of Icelandic history turns up to add more mayhem to the mixture.

I do have two teeny tiny niggles with this book and they would be that the chapters are very long, each on in a way is like a short story that all comes together near the end which is wonderful I am just a short chapter person. I still raced through this though you simply cannot help yourself it’s just so readable and so well paced. The other thing would be that while I absolutely loved reading more of Brenda’s back story there was less of Robert and his high drama and also less of Effie and her slightly prickly awkwardness that I had come to love so much in the previous book. These are two very, very minor niggles though and only come because I love Magrs’ characters so much. Mind you there is a third instalment ‘Conjugal Rites’ already out with the fourth following in the autumn so I cant complain as I will be getting my fix of these wonderful characters and all the delightful and dark goings on in Whitby twice more this year.

As you can probably tell I absolutely loved this and in a world where books such as Twilight (which after reading the first is a series I am avoiding like the plague) doing so well, I think people should be reading wonderful supernatural mystery romps like this instead. Books that are both plot and character led and that make you laugh along the way whilst being taken into the macabre. I do need to add that two separate scenes in this book actually properly scared me as I was reading in bed of a night, seriously. Now if any f you are sat there thinking ‘I don’t like sci-fi, supernatural or fantasy’ neither do I normally, well bar the supernatural stuff as a complete Most Haunted addict, but this book is also comical and looks at villagers and their secrets with a splash of the bizarre and I promise thats a concoction that can’t go wrong! If you haven’t started this series of wonderful books then I advise you to do so pronto.

5 Comments

Filed under Brenda & Effie, Headline Review, Paul Magrs, Review

Never The Bride – Paul Magrs

After my difficult times through Twilight earlier in the month I hadn’t planned on reading any fiction that had any spooky goings on for a while. However I will be doing an interview in February with Paul Magrs and so the people at Headline sent me the ‘Brenda and Effie’ series as it stands so far as the latest ‘Conjugal Rites’ is out in Paperback in March and me being me I cant read things if its not in order so I decided after ‘The Spare Room’ I would give this a go as the reviews seemed to all be calling t a black comedy, just my humour and just needed after the subject of the last stupendous book. This was the perfect read and I have to say as this year comes to a close I am finding it harder to choose my favourite books of the year as right now I am reading so much (on the whole) that I completely love.

Brenda runs a B&B in Whitby, she has chosen the location for its peace and quiet and also as somewhere to finally settle along with her best friend Effie she spends various afternoons having tea or having a nice night out together. They also love a gossip and they also love a good nosey into mysterious happenings which seem to be happening a lot more often in Whitby.

Why does everyone come from ‘The Deadly Boutique’ looking several years younger but also growing oddly smaller? Who are the strange Green Family who come and stay with Brenda and have an odd look about them? Who is the new mysterious Mr Alucard? What is really going on at The Christmas Hotel with its scarily sweet owner? In what could be a collection of short stories you are taken on an adventure each time with Brenda and Effie as they bumble along like two slightly warped Miss Marple’s, a character I adore.

Having read some other reviews which said the book was ‘like living in parallel Whitby where demons and vampires live with the locals’ or ‘totally for Goths’ or ‘surreal sci-fi’ my thoughts are ‘no, no, no’. Do not let these reviews put you off as they might have done me. This book shouldn’t be pigeonholed into genres its simply fantastical story telling where spooky goings on happen in a sleepy sea side tourist trap. I wanted to move their instantly and be having afternoon teas with Brenda and Effie straight away.

Magrs has created two brilliant heroines. Brenda is nosey and investigative but kind and thoughtful which balances out Effie’s slightly cynical and misunderstanding nature. Both of them, though Brenda far more so, also have very dark pasts and as the book develops you slowly find out more and more about the two women and the skeletons in their cupboards.

I absolutely loved this as you can probably tell. I didn’t think it was like Buffy the Vampire Slayer in book for I thought it was a wonderful tale about two nosey women, their friendship and what happens when things start to go bump in the night. If you loved Willis Hall, Robin Jarvis or even The Brothers Grim as a youngster then you will love this book as someone older. Or if like me you love Most Haunted, there is a brilliant similar show in the book with hilarious outcomes or anything of a spooky nature. This book has thrills, spills, spooks and a good sprinkling of laughter thrown in. Perfect!

4 Comments

Filed under Books of 2008, Brenda & Effie, Headline Review, Paul Magrs, Review

Son Of A Witch – Gregory Maguire

I never really believed in the phrase over egging the pudding, I now feel that I can apply this to Son of a Witch the latest Gregory Maguire novel. One of my favourite books is ‘Wicked’ now also a successful award winning musical. What I loved about Wicked was its originality. It added such a clever twist to a very well known tale of Elphaba the wicked witch of the west before Dorothy lands in Oz and questions how wicked she really was.

Wicked was rare in the fact that, for someone who doesn’t generally like peoples sequels or prequels to novels, I got totally re-emerged into the wonderful world of Oz that I loved so much from The Wizard of Oz. So when this novel came out on import (even though it’s coming out in paperback in the UK very soon) I had to grab a copy, the US covers are so much better anyway.

So would I love Oz as much as I did the last time? Not really. This is the tale of Liir who could or could not be the son of Elphaba. It tells of how he is found in the desert and the journey that leads him there which includes a few faces from the past. I like Maguire’s writing style. Wicked had so much imagination and involved some wonderful story telling, everything I loved in Wicked seemed completely lacking in this novel. I wasn’t interested in the characters, sub plots or references to the tales of Oz that we know and love. I felt cheated. I do not claim to think I could have written this novel better, I am just saying that the magic of Oz seems to have worn off.

I have also read ‘Mirror, Mirror’ a retold version of Snow White and have to admit I find that a lacklustre retelling of the original fairytale, so maybe Wicked just ticked all my boxes. It has mystery, witches, talking animals and a real gothic and epic feel to it, sadly its ‘son’ falls flat on its face whilst learning to crawl. A disappointment, maybe I had too high expectations. Is this something a reader can be guilty of? That sounds like the next blog to me…

Leave a comment

Filed under Gregory Maguire, Headline Review, Review