Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson

Hardback:  384 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton 2014
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentences: They came for him at midnight. there was no warning, no time to reach for the dagger hidden beneath his pillow.

Favourite Quote: “I had an appointment with a ghost. It seemed impolite not to attend.” 
Favourite Quote: I opened my mouth to reply, but could not think what to say. How could I sit at supper and describe what I had witnessed to a pair of innocent young ladies? A boy of thirteen beaten to death: rotten corpses teeming with rats; waking to find my friend with his throat cut, the life stolen from his bright black eyes.
(The second quote is not exactly a 'favourite' but this quote was to me the heart of this story, not for the faint hearted.)

Literary AwardsCrime Writers Association - Historical Dagger Award

My Opinion: I enjoy reading historical fiction but that combined with a murder mystery, meant that this is a book I would never have picked up to read had it not been a Bookclub choice. Now having finished it, I have to admit that it was better than I anticipated. The period details and setting are meticulously described and I shuddered more than once as I was transported inside the debtors prison of the C18. The novel is set over just a period of a few days that the protagonist Tom Hawkins spends in this infamous jail. Based on actual events, with characters drawn from real people, everything described is based on first hand accounts from publications of the era. Certainly not for the faint hearted, some of the descriptions are particularly savage. If you have the stomach for such graphic detail and enjoy a mystery then this is one for you.  

'The Devil in the Marshalsea' Précis Courtesy of Goodreads

London, 1727 - and Tom Hawkins is about to fall from his heaven of card games, brothels and coffee-houses to the hell of a debtors' prison.

The Marshalsea is a savage world of its own, with simple rules: those with family or friends who can lend them a little money may survive in relative comfort. Those with none will starve in squalor and disease. And those who try to escape will suffer a gruesome fate at the hands of the gaol's ruthless governor and his cronies.

The trouble is, Tom Hawkins has never been good at following rules - even simple ones. And the recent grisly murder of a debtor, Captain Roberts, has brought further terror to the gaol. While the Captain's beautiful widow cries for justice, the finger of suspicion points only one way: to the sly, enigmatic figure of Samuel Fleet.

Some call Fleet a devil, a man to avoid at all costs. But Tom Hawkins is sharing his cell. Soon, Tom's choice is clear: get to the truth of the murder - or be the next to die.

A twisting mystery, a dazzling evocation of early 18th Century London, THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA is a thrilling debut novel full of intrigue and suspense.

Author Profile

Antonia Hodgson was born in Derby in 1971. She attended Littleover Community School where she first studied the time of the early Georgians in A-level History. She graduated with a degree in English Literature from Leeds University in 1994 and she went to work for Harcourt, Brace.

Hodgson had spent nearly twenty years in the publishing business rising to editor-in-chief at Little, Brown before she published her own first novel. As an editor she had worked with Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne and the American novelists Nora Roberts and Elizabeth Kostova. Hodgson's first novel, A Devil in the Marshalsea, was set in the time of the early Georgians, William Hogarth and the Southwark prison the Marshalsea. Hodgson believes that the Georgian period was more intriguing than the Victorian era which is usually considered to be more culturally important. The book was submitted anonymously to the publishers, Hodder & Stoughton, because she was known in the publishing industry. Her first book won the Crime Writers Association's Historical Dagger award as well as being long listed for a first novel award
 The Devil in the Marshalsea her debut novel, is  the first in a series to include the protagonist Tom Hawkes. The second in the series The Last Confession of Tom Hawkins was published earlier this year.  The author  lives in London.

Photograph and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads - Author Profile  Wikipedia - Antonia Hodgson   Twitter Profile 

Facebook - Antonia Hodgson Author     Official Author Website - Antonia Hodgson

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

Paperback: 535pages.                                                                                                 

Genre: Historical Romantic Fiction
Publisher: Quercus, June 2016
Source: Lovereading Reader Review Panel
First Sentence: The Damn pony had bolted again.
Favourite Quote: Love is a strange and mystical force. It leads you down avenues you would never otherwise tread. It is always-always -about so much more than the coming together of two people.
Review Quote: Florence is such a strong, intriguing character and the plot is so clever, real and truthful.  The whole book feels so very wise, as if it contains half the answers to life (Joanna Courtney, author of the The Chosen Queen).
My Opinion: When I was recently offered the opportunity to read and review this title, despite never having read the authors previous novel, it sounded interesting so I jumped at the opportunity. So I have now discovered another writer of historical romantic fiction that I can turn to when I am in the mood for this genre.  
The heroine of the novel is a spirited young Cornish girl who one day finds herself unexpectedly part of a wealthy London family and she is thrown into a complete change of lifestyle. Not an easy or happy transition for her, but true to character Florence survives, to find out how you will just have to read for yourself. 
An enjoyable relaxing read that left me feeling contented, just what I needed. Recommended to anyone that enjoys finding a story to loose themselves in away from the stresses of the modern world. 

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Florrie Buckley is an orphan, living on the wind-blasted moors of Cornwall. It's a hard existence but Florrie is content; she runs wild in the mysterious landscape. She thinks her destiny is set in stone.

But when Florrie is fourteen, she inherits a never-imagined secret. She is related to a wealthy and notorious London family, the Graces. Overnight, Florrie's life changes and she moves from country to city, from poverty to wealth.

Cut off from everyone she has ever known, Florrie struggles to learn the rules of this strange new world. And then she must try to fathom her destructive pull towards the enigmatic and troubled Turlington Grace, a man with many dark secrets of his own.

Author Profile

Tracy Rees was the winner of the Richard and Judy 'Search for a Bestseller' Competition and her first book, Amy Snow, was a Richard and Judy and Kindle bestseller. A Cambridge graduate, she had a successful eight-year career in nonfiction publishing and a second career practising and teaching humanistic counselling before becoming a writer. She lives in Wales.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Amazon Author Profile      Tracy Rees - Twitter Profile    

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dear Dad by Giselle Green

Ebook:  4314kb Print 383pages                                                                                                
Genre:   Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Yule Press March 2016
Source: The author in return for an honest and unbiased review. 
First Sentence:  "You're...what do you mean you're not coming?"
My Opinion:   A very emotional story line evolving around three protagonists, Nate, Adam and Jenna.  As in her previous novels the author's writing flows as she narrates the story first person via the characters of Nate and Jenna. A thoughtful novel with young Adam, a troubled little boy, looking for happiness in his life, the character that causes Nate and Jenna to examine their own past lives, current situations and to wonder about their futures.  If you enjoy contemporary fiction this should not disappoint, as you will laugh, cry and feel involved with all the characters by the time you finish reading.   

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Three people longing to find love. Connected by one big lie.
Handsome, 28-year old, Nate Hardman is a frontline reporter with a big problem. Suffering from shell-shock and unable to leave his house, he’s already lost his social life and his girlfriend. Now his career prospects are sinking fast.
9 year-old Adam Boxley who lives alone with his ageing nan, also has big problems. Neglected at home and bullied at school, he’s desperate to reach out to his dad – and that’s when he sends his first letter to Nate. Only Nate’s not who he thinks he is. Will he help? More importantly – can he?
Across town meanwhile, caring but impulsive teacher Jenna Tierney really wants to help Adam - except the feisty redhead has already had enough of teaching. Recently hurt by yet another cheating boyfriend, Jenna’s now set her sights on pursuing a dream career abroad ... only she’s about to meet Nate - her dream man who’ll make her re-think everything.
The big question is; can three people desperate to find love, ever find happiness when they’re only connected by one big lie?

Links to my earlier reviews   

 Pandora's Box  Falling For You   Little Miracles   and  Finding You

Author Profile

Born in Chiswick, London, UK.  Giselle Green was brought up in Gibraltar from the age of seven to eighteen when she returned to the UK to study Biology at King's College London, followed by an MSc in Information Science at the City University. She is also a qualified Astrologer, with a particular interest in medieval astrology.
Giselle now lives in Kent with her husband and their six sons.

A fuller biography appears on her website here        

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads Author Profile       Amazon Author Profile     Giselle Green - Twitter

Author's Official Website - Giselle Green   Facebook Profile - Giselle Green Author

Thursday, April 28, 2016

We Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Hardback: 294 pages
Genre:Contemporary Fiction 
Publisher: Mantle 2015
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: It wasn't too late to turn back.
Review Quote: I was hooked from the first breathtaking pages of We Never Asked for Wings, caring about this exquisitely vulnerable family, hoping right along with them on every page that each heart-rending, impossible choice would lead them somewhere better together -- Lisa Genova, New York Times best selling author of Still Alice
My Opinion: This has been one of my favourite reads this year, with its forceful theme of family life in difficult circumstances and how a young girl learns how to become a Mother to her children. The protagonist Letty at first did not seem to me to be a very likeable young lady, but I soon found myself beginning to care for her. As the story progresses Letty realises that she can change despite the mistakes she has made in her life. The parallels made between human behaviour and the flight pattern of birds, which I found absolutely fascinating.

A very moving and compelling read, which I cannot recommend highly enough, definitely a good choice for book club discussion. 

' We Never Asked For Wings' Précis Courtesy of Goodreads

For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.

Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.

YouTube Trailer

Author Profile

VANESSA DIFFENBAUGH was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California. After graduating from Stanford University, she worked in the non-profit sector, teaching art and technology to youth in low-income communities. Following the success of her début novel, The Language of Flowers, she co-founded Camellia Network, a non-profit whose mission is to connect every youth coming out of foster care to the critical resources, opportunities, and support they need to thrive in adulthood. She currently lives in Monterey, CA, with her husband and four children.

Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh on Twitter    Vanessa Diffenbaugh Author - Facebook 

Instagram - Vanessa Diffenbaugh     Amazon Author Profile    Goodreads Author Profile