Spooky tale

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In The Dead Summer by Helen Moorhouse we meet Martha who divorced her cheating husband, sold the house in London they shared, quit the advertising job she despised, packed her own and her six moth old daughter’s bags and moved to start a new life in an isolated cottage in the countryside. She was hoping to finally write a book she always wanted to. She came across the picturesque Hawthorn Cottage when while browsing rental properties on the Internet. The farmer’s cottage was abandoned for years and only recently renovated by its new owner Rob Mountford. She fell in love with the place and booked it for the next six months.

After the first night in the new place Martha already questioned her decision. She wondered if they would be alright in such a remote location. She was getting an uneasy feeling about the house. The lights on the baby monitor spiked all the way to red and she heard a loud noise, but found her daughter Ruby peacefully asleep. It left her puzzled. With the first light of the sunny morning, all her fears of the previous night disappeared. She felt a bit silly that she let her imagination carry her away.

Still there were things that bugged her. Why, she wondered, did the postman refuse to drop her mail to the cottage and kept leaving it all the way down the road? Why did the local crazy old lady keep referring to the cottage as the Eyrie Farm? Was there something about the place that she didn’t know? It seemed perfect during the day. Her new friend Mary convinced her she shouldn’t be listening to the made up spooky tales.

Another story plot runs parallel in the book. Back in the 50’s two young Irish women were sent to the Eyrie Farm, which was owned by the girls’ father’s friend at the time. Their parents planned for them to stay there till the older of the two sisters, Marion gave birth to her child. The baby was then meant to be put into adoption and they could return home with their secret unraveled.

Marion made the stay a real hardship for her younger sibling Lily. Lily was eager to make Marion as comfortable as possible in her condition, but the pregnant young woman hated the place and the fact that she was pregnant. She didn’t seem to care much about anything and anybody, not even her unborn child.

It was a spooky tale that gripped right from the start and kept you glued to the pages till the very end. Full of interesting characters. Pragmatic Will and sensitive Gabriel introduced to Martha’s by her old friend Sue, who send them to her rescue. Why? Find out for yourself. I don’t think I have come across such a ghostly kind of a thriller before, but I enjoyed reading it. If you like scary stories, you will not be disappointed. 3 PlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxpumpkins, broom sticks or candle wicks.

Pumpkins, broom sticks or candle wicks rating

PlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300px– one of the best books I read

PlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300px– charmed

PlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300px– good read

PlainPumpkin-300pxPlainPumpkin-300px– disappointed, I thought it was going to be better

PlainPumpkin-300px– don’t waste your time

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Knock on my door

the-people-next-door-from-the-number-one-bestselling-author

As readers of The People Next Door by Roisin Meaney we enter three townhouses to watch their occupants lifes. Yvonne from number seven is living with her young adult daughter Clara. Yvonne is a widowed whose husband died tragically shortly after they got married. Right before the accident, Yvonne has informed him that she wanted a divorce. He didn’t take it well and asked her to reconsider. She feels horrible knowing that he has died unhappy and that she felt a slight relief. She wanders if her son has confided in his mother, as her mother in law seems to be full of resentment towards her. Clara hides a dark and painful secret she is yet unwilling to share with anyone, including her mother.

Her next door neighbour Dan has been dumped by his wife Ali two years after they got married. She left him for his uncle Brendan. Dan was now living on canned beans, sausages and frozen pizzas. He decided to take in a tenant to help him pay the bills. A middle aged man has moved into the spare bedroom who luckily turned out to love cooking delicious meals. He is an eccentric and insists on wearing an old funny hat whenever he goes out. But something seems to be bothering Kieran that prevents him from sleeping, so he keeps pacing around the house at night. Dan realises that he doesn’t really know anything about the man he let into his home.

Kathryn from number nine loves her husband Jason, but is worried that the age difference may cause him to loose interest in her. She is ten years or so older than him and desperate to have a baby, but after two miscarriages and a stillborn child she has given up hope. Her mother in law Grainne moved into their house when she fell and broke her hip, she keeps reminding Jason about Kathryn’s age and shows no signs of planning to move back to her house again, complaining of reacuring headaches.

The neighbours mingle and their lives get entwined at times, but each house bears their own weight of drama. A book full of vigour and a bit of romance. A light read, good for the long autumnal evenings. Three old hats nicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300px, scones or forks.

Old hats, scones or forks rating

nicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300px – one of the best books I read

nicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300px – charmed

nicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300px – good read

nicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300pxnicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300px – disappointed, I thought it was going to be better

nicubunu-Adventurer-hat-300px – don’t waste your time

Getting through

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When I was picking the book ”The Life you left” by Carmel Harrington, the synopsis on the back cover sounded intriguing. Sarah’s husband leaves the house one day and doesn’t return. She is left with three kids, struggling with everyday life. A childhood friend comes to her rescue but she is the only one who can see him…

I was expecting intrigue as to why her husband has disappeared, while it turned out he has left her for another woman. I found the characters in the book quite stereotypical and one dimensional, to start with the cheating and inconsiderate husband, through the bitchy and young mistress to Sarah’s womanising but charming brother.

The mysterious friend turned out to be Sarah’s guardian angel, which was an interesting surprise, but the book did not deliver what I was expecting. Frankly, I struggled through most of it, as I didn’t find the story plot gripping, it seemed a bit random; things were just happening out of the blue. I did not like the style the book was written in, nor did I enjoy the all-knowing narrator, who felt the need to state things that the reader was more than capable of deciphering from the context; it was rather annoying and added pieces of text that did not bring anything to the book, but were boring to get through. There was also too much eye-gazing type of romance for my liking.

The last few chapter brought the book more to life, as a lot more was happening. Perhaps more research should have been done for the book. I am not an expert in the matter, but I don’t think that having a witness who saw the suspect near the crime seen with an item that could have been the murder weapon, would have been enough to get him convicted; without any evidence, it would have made him a suspect at best. Similarly, finding out that the man in question saw the victim last, wouldn’t have made him a suspect just for that sole reason, but a person of interest, I suppose.

Overall, unfortunately just two Vanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300px Vanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300pxcupcakes, pancakes or raspberry trifles.

Cupcakes, pancakes or raspberry trifles rating

Vanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300pxVanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300pxVanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300pxVanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300pxVanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300px– one of the best books I read

Vanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300pxVanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300pxVanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300pxVanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300px– charmed

Vanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300pxVanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300pxVanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300px– good read

Vanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300pxVanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300px– disappointed, I thought it was going to be better

Vanilla-Pink-Cupcake-300px– don’t waste your time

The World around me

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”Room” by Emma Donoghue is one of of those books that are hard to put down. ”Jack is five. He lives in a single, locked room with his Ma.”– this is all the synopsis on the back cover says. Their world is so confined that the everyday items have much more significance for little Jack than they would have for any other child his age, it is shown by the author in a simple but ingenious way of using capital letters for the ”Lamp, Bed, Duvet” etc. Nothing much changes in their everyday routine.

What Jack doesn’t realise is that they are being held captive by Old Nick, who comes at night and rapes his mother and that she has been missing for around seven years. In fact Jack doesn’t know that the world outside the Room exists. Room is all he has ever known since his birth and Ma explained that nothing outside it is real, just like pictures on the telly they sometimes watch. Out of love and desperation, she tries to make his live as normal as possible in the surreal and horrendous situation. She hides him in the closet for the night, where he sleeps and where he is out of sight of Old Jack, who visits them at night time. She makes sure her son eats healthily and teaches him hygiene, using the sparse and basic supplies that Old Jack brings. She is growing more and more anxious, her son has turned five and she knows that the older he gets the harder it will be for her to shield him from the sick reality they have been forced into, as he will start to understand more. Furthermore Old Nick has lost his job and he might loose his house. She fears the worst, she knows that when he is forced to leave, he won’t be able to keep them, but that he won’t definitely let them go free.

She plots an escape plan but she has to tell her son first that they will be going outside, that there is a world out there. At the age of five, will Jack be able to completely change his understanding of what’s real and what’s made up, if the Room is all he knows? If so, will they escape and how? And even if they do, will she and Jack especially, be able to find themselves in the real world? Very imaginative, insightful, heartbreaking. A definite page turner, 4 1275417416-300px 1275417416-300px 1275417416-300px 1275417416-300pxkeys, locks or clouds from me.

Keys, locks or clouds rating

1275417416-300px 1275417416-300px 1275417416-300px 1275417416-300px 1275417416-300px – one of the best books I read

1275417416-300px 1275417416-300px 1275417416-300px 1275417416-300px – charmed

1275417416-300px 1275417416-300px 1275417416-300px – good read

1275417416-300px 1275417416-300px – disappointed, I thought it was going to be better

1275417416-300px – don’t waste your time

What happened tomorrow

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”Time Present and Time Past” by Deirdre Madden is a book of small volume yet powerful. Reading it was like slicing through a rich multilayered cake. We are invited to see just a piece of Fintan’s and his immediate family’s life, with no particular event starting or ending the story, just a slice of their lives. It was a philosophical insight into time and our relationship with it.

It was a reflection on the past generations, how they influenced us and how close or distant we feel from them, as well as a reflection on how we think about the future. I recall one description that I particularly liked: ”To engage too much with the future, in all its fragility and uncertainty, can make us feel dizzy with unease.” I don’t know about you, but this is exactly how I feel when I concentrate too much on thinking about the future. I personally also did some digging into the past when I was gathering information for my family tree, and I know how fascinating it can be to be able to see how people used to live, especially when they were your relatives. You are acutely aware that whatever happened to them has probably influenced your life in some way. They might have never known you, might have not ever met you or imagined your existence, yet you feel so close to them. You may be looking at their pictures, if you are lucky to have them, and see the resemblance to yourself, your mother or your father.

Fintan experiences moments when he feels detached from his reality. He takes interest in old photographs and through them tries to glimpse into the past. He has discussions with one of his sons, Niall, on whether or not the pictures show a truthful image of the past times. In the background, other members of his family are trying to come to terms with their past. His aunt Beth grieving after her husband’s passing and his sister Marina helping her but herself carrying a heavy secret.

Fintan also thinks about the future, as every parent probably does, he wonders about the choices his adolescent sons are making and what future they are going to make for themselves. The economic times of the early XXI century in Ireland are also shown as having a strong impact in shaping their future lives, as they have had for many other families. All the reflections that you come across while reading about the Buckley family are quite universal. 

Yes, I enjoyed this book and I am gladly awarding it 3 long-arrow-up-right-300pxlong-arrow-up-right-300pxlong-arrow-up-right-300px arrows, sparrows or binoculars. Did I mention I paid 3 euro for it?

Arrows, sparrows or binoculars rating

long-arrow-up-right-300pxlong-arrow-up-right-300pxlong-arrow-up-right-300pxlong-arrow-up-right-300pxlong-arrow-up-right-300pxone of the best books I read

long-arrow-up-right-300pxlong-arrow-up-right-300pxlong-arrow-up-right-300pxlong-arrow-up-right-300pxcharmed

long-arrow-up-right-300pxlong-arrow-up-right-300pxlong-arrow-up-right-300pxgood read

long-arrow-up-right-300pxlong-arrow-up-right-300pxdisappointed, I thought it was going to be better

long-arrow-up-right-300pxdon’t waste your time

Not for the faint-hearted

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How do you pick you books? I skim through the synopsis on the back cover (though I can never concentrate on reading those for some reason, my mind just wonders off whenever I try…) I also check the first couple of sentences and maybe a few randomly picked lines from further along the book, just to get a feel for it – but never the ending, wouldn’t want to spoil the read. After the not so elaborate decision process, with the price of under four euro sped up a lot, I knew I was getting a crime novel with an FBI agent. To my surprise I later found out later that the book has been written by an Irish author who did some necessary research in the United States.

The Killing Ways’’ by Alex Barclay wasn’t the type of thriller that I am used to reading. It was like watching ”Criminal Minds’’, shocking, intense, dark with a sadistic serial killer and a rapist running loose. A joung agent Ren Bryce is in charge of the investigation into the brutal murders he is commiting. Ren, a good hearted but not without personal issues, is more of a lone wolf when it comes to her work rather than a team player. She is on good terms with her work colleagues socially but so determined in her search for the psycho that she takes risks, jumps into dengerous situations often without any backup. As the list of victims grows Ren becomes more anxious. Her boss is pressing her to continue the therapy sessions she attends and insists that she takes the medicines the doctor is prescribing, the drugs that she is avoiding, afraid they would cloud her mind. Has the killer got her on his radar or is she getting paranoid? Are the people she cares about in danger? Is the monster on a mission to get them in order to hurt her?

If you feel like turning the TV off when the news is on, not wanting to hear about the dark side of the human nature, the book won’t bring you an escape as it shows humanity at its worst. It shows how lack of love and mercy can damage an innocent and turn them into a monster. Almost graphically describes an underworld of abusers and sadists. A dangerous word that agent Bryce steps into in order to do her job and doesn’t come out undamaged. She drinks too much and parties till the wee hours almost every night – to forget? Every new victim shakes her up even more. Will she catch the killer or will she become one of his many victims?

How do I grade the book? 3 fountain pens pluma-300px pluma-300px pluma-300px, dots or badges.

 

Fountain pens, dots or badges rating

pluma-300px pluma-300px pluma-300px pluma-300px pluma-300px – one of the best books I read

pluma-300px pluma-300px pluma-300px pluma-300px– charmed

pluma-300px pluma-300px pluma-300px – good read

pluma-300px pluma-300px – disappointed, I thought it was going to be better

pluma-300px – don’t waste your time

Another one I have picked

the-daisy-picker-best-selling-novel

“The Daisy Picker” by Roisin Meaney kicks off with good pace and humour. It is a lightly written book about finding yourself, if I was to summarise it in one sentence.

Characters in R. Meaney’s books often have a strong inner drive to be who they want to be, rather than what is expected of them. It is a pleasure to see how much happiness this brings them when they succeed. It never seems to be too late, neither for the forty something year old Lizzy in the “The Daisy Picker” nor for Sarah, the busy young mother with a full time job, in “Something in Common”.

One day Lizzy decided she wasn’t happy. Maybe it was the fact that she was already in her forties or the article that she read in the dentist’s office – most likely both. Whatever it was, it made her realise how quickly the time was passing. She knew that if she wanted what she was so passionate about, she needed to act quickly. She too had a talent that had been left untouched, waiting for her to gain some courage and make use of it. She was finally eager to give it a chance. In order to do that she had to abandon her old life.

Once she leaves the nest, she doesn’t look back until the old life catches up with her. Just when all the pieces seemed to be falling into place, Lizzy is once more reminded how fast indeed the time flows. Are people able to just pack up, find their dream place and settle there for their happily ever after, or do they, just like after a nice long holiday, need to eventually get back to their old routine and settings? Is the unexpected crash with hard reality a realisation that every chance she took lately was a mistake or just a little setback that life is full of? Was she right in abandoning her old life without looking back? Does she have regrets? Can her new idyllic life be saved?

Lizzy’s character is quite beliveable. She isn’t flawless but she is likeable and fun to read about. I enjoyed the inner monologue, the smirky replies she was having in her head – which she stops, and rightly so, as she grows happier in herself. I enjoyed the other characters too. Her warm, welcoming and merry, though brokenhearted friend Angela, amongst others. There was a bit more romance that I would normally welcome in a book but it was nicely written, not overly sweet and romantic, set in as a part of life events more than a point of focus in itself.

Has the book earned my usual 3  waterdrop-300px waterdrop-300px waterdrop-300px rain drops, pots of gold or rainbows? Yes, I think it has.

3 rain drops, pots of gold or rainbows rating:

waterdrop-300pxwaterdrop-300pxwaterdrop-300pxwaterdrop-300pxwaterdrop-300px – one of the best books I read

waterdrop-300pxwaterdrop-300pxwaterdrop-300pxwaterdrop-300px – charmed

waterdrop-300pxwaterdrop-300pxwaterdrop-300px – good read

waterdrop-300pxwaterdrop-300px – disappointed, I thought it was going to be better

waterdrop-300px – don’t waste your time

Happy New Year’s read

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“Hi Aneta
Many thanks for your very candid reviews of the books, glad you’re enjoying them and thank you for spreading the word. 
Best
Roisin”

As promised, here is about another book by Roisin Meaney. I just finished reading “Something in Common”.

At the start I was a bit disappointed. Not because I was expecting some magical sparkle, it wasn’t a Christmas read any more, but it seemed to have been missing something… I wanted to know more about the two main characters, Helen and Sarah, but as I was turning the pages I was getting an impression that their stories run separately to the rest of the word, hanging in some sort of a limbo. I wanted to see them interacting more with the outside world.

Yes, there was Alice, Helen’s daughter, unfortunately not bringing the book more to live until she reached her teenage years; There were the residents of the nursing home where Sarah got a job as a cook, and a handful of more people but still Helen-Sarah-Helen-Sarah… The two women were sending letters the each other and perhaps if it was just the letters for just that part of the book then the two sole dimensions wouldn’t bother me.

I could see how Sarah’s and Helen’s personalities were purposely drawn to be strikingly different for contrast (I much more prefer when such crafts are put in place by the writer in a much subtler way) but I agreed to let it go and kept on reading. I don’t like giving up and I liked the ease the text was written with. It doesn’t necessarily has to be a quick read for me, I am up for challenges, but nowadays with my little baba pulling at my hair, banging his wooden blocks, having a concentration span of five minutes on average and constantly looking for more stimuli, I do not mind an easy read.

Progressively it got better though. The individuals grew on me, I started liking them more and more, and that’s also how a story gets you, isn’t it? I remember being a young reader and getting used to the characters so much that I actually missed them each time I put the book down… It was interesting to see how the time was passing by, Ireland changing in the background, Helen, Sarah, Alice and the others all growing older and maturing.

R. Meaney shows how life’s events change people. I think that’s her strength as a writer. Helen in this book, and Laura in one that I read previously by the author “I’ll be home for Christmas”, are the prime examples. Whether they turned out for better or worse is for you to judge but certainly neither Helen nor Laura would have been who they had become if their lives took different paths or if they encountered different people.

When the ending was approaching I was afraid that, as it happens so often, it will be rushed and therefore out of proportion, not in pace with the rest of the text – it was beginning to seem that way, but the plot took a twist which has enriched it. I don’t want to give away too much, I don’t want to spoil it for you.

What did Helen and Sarah have in common then, if anything, one may ask? I believe it was their honesty that connected them. Although Helen’s words were sharp as a blade while Sarah wouldn’t dream of offending anyone, both women were pretty straight forward with the people around them and refused to live a lie. Why don’t you meet them for yourself and see if they will leave a mark on your life. Even fictional books can teach us something.

 3snoflake-300px.png snoflake-300px.pngsnoflake-300px.pngsnowflakes, stars or blobs… it deserved, I believe.

snowflakes, stars or blobs rating

 snoflake-300px.pngsnoflake-300px.pngsnoflake-300px.pngsnoflake-300px.pngsnoflake-300px.png– one of the best books I read

snoflake-300px.pngsnoflake-300px.pngsnoflake-300px.pngsnoflake-300px.png– charmed

snoflake-300px.pngsnoflake-300px.pngsnoflake-300px.png– good read

snoflake-300px.pngsnoflake-300px.png– disappointed, I thought it was going to be better

snoflake-300px.png – don’t waste your time

What was my Christmas read last year?

imag1382         illbehomeforchristmas

What are you looking for in a Christmas time read? For me it’s warmth. The kind of warmth that the twinkling lights on a tree and a child’s smile can give. I don’t expect much in the sense of a literary craftsmanship for the occasion, although a badly written book can put me off even around that time.

Reading “I’ll be home for Christmas” by Roisin Meaney was like being wrapped in a warm blanket and sat in front of a roaring fire with a cup of hot chocolate in my hands. Funny enough, it wasn’t a cosy read, no decorating the tree or baking cakes for the main character. To the contrary, what can be more unsettling than being stranded in the airport hundreds of miles from home just before Christmas? What brings the comforting feeling into the book are the amazing characters. Not sugar coated but each with a set of their own problems and yet still eager to help others and bring them joy. Yes, this is the time of the year when you do want and need to believe in the goodness in people. Might be a bit unbelievable but Christmas is a magical time and so is the little island off the Irish coast where the book is set. I did enjoy the Irish scenery – the raw countryside, untamed sea, the piercing wind. Despite its harsh weather conditions the remoteness and isolation of the welcoming island made an attractive place to escape to in your imagination.

Overall a good Christmas read for people who are willing to let a little bit of magic in, but I suppose if you are looking for a Christmas holiday read you must be open to it. Yes, you might be a cynic on a bad day, and may not believe in so much kindness in the word but I hope you do, at least when it’s Christmas time, when we all want to be kids again and believe in Santa and forget our everyday worries, for a little while at least.

I know it’s not Christmas anymore and I don’t particularly enjoy being reminded that it’s already gone and that the next one is far away but I needed the introduction. The book encouraged me to buy another of R. Meaney’s books, two even (found them at a good price as e-books, just a click away, couldn’t resist. Me, who used to overthink every purchase, now so hasty… Not enough time on my hands now – having a baby can be exhilarating in that way. Then again, how wrong can you get when purchasing two books for under a tenner, especially when you already read something by the author and enjoyed it, eh?).

I would give the book 3 baubles  RGB-Christmas-Ornaments-300px.pngor stars or hearts…

I shall return with a review of another R. Meaney’s book, as soon as I finish reading it.

baubles, stars or hearts rating

patternedbauble6b-300px patternedbauble6b-300px patternedbauble6b-300px patternedbauble6b-300px patternedbauble6b-300px – one of the best books I read

patternedbauble6b-300px patternedbauble6b-300px patternedbauble6b-300px patternedbauble6b-300px– charmed

patternedbauble6b-300px patternedbauble6b-300px patternedbauble6b-300px   – good read

patternedbauble6b-300px patternedbauble6b-300px  – disappointed, thought it was going to be better

patternedbauble6b-300px – don’t waste your time