Tag Archives: Novel

The Keys to Mageia by Julie Elizabeth Powell

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The blurb:

Mageia is a magical realm, discovered in madness, perhaps, but is it real?

Jorja knows only too well that what she sees could just be an imaginary world of an insane mind, where she lingers to escape the cruelties that surround her. Except for her frail mother, she has nobody to love her. But she did have these strange powers. Are they valid or part of her folly in thinking she is different? She has been locked up, after all.

Maisie is blind; had been since she’d appeared. Though an orphan, found on a doorstep of a Home, there is something special about her that, at the age of seven, begins to change her perception of what could be the enigma of truth.

What is the connection between Jorja and Maisie?

The Keys To Mageia reveals their secrets and will possibly make you believe it’s all real.

Two tales of adventure, mystery and surprises, one story of fantasy, where your wishes may or may not come true.

My review:

“The Keys of Mageia” consists of two novels by Julie Elizabeth Powell, now combined as one. The first part of the book was previously published as “Of Sound Mind”; the second is entitled “Maisie”. The link between the two stories is the magical land of Mageia.

In the first part of the book, we are introduced to the character of Jorja, a young girl who is aware that she is different, but is reassured by the love of her frail mother. However, on her mother’s death, Jorja is exposed to the hatred fo her aunt and she is eventually considered to be mentally unstable and placed in an institution. She suffers at the hands of an unscrupulous doctor, but eventually escapes.

Jorja discovers that she is able to enter a different world, a world known as Mageia. Here, she discovers that her difference is not considered as such and that she has a role to play in the future of this magical place.

Maisie is a seven year blind girl – an orphan whose difference causes her some problems. She is a bright, intelligent child, but sometimes needs the relief afforded by her dreams. The dreams are amazing, because she is able to see and while in the land of her dreams, she meets a woman and boy. She feels a connection to them and both have major parts to play in her story. It may be no surprise to learn that the land of Maisie’s dreams is Mageia and the woman’s name is Jorja.

Maisie has a huge part to play in overcoming the evil which threatens to overcome the magical land of Mageia, but to say more might spoil the story for others!

I thoroughly enjoyed the stories of Jorja and Maisie. Julie Elizabeth Powell is so good at creating fantasy worlds and I was entralled by Mageia and the wonderful characters brought to life by the author. Well worth reading!


Brooklyn by Colm Toibin


The blurb:

Colm Tóibín‘s sixth novel, “Brooklyn”, is set in Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s, when one young woman crosses the ocean to make a new life for herself.

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America — to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood “just like Ireland” — she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.

Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.

My review:

It seems to me that “Brooklyn” by Colm Toibin is a novel that you either think is very good or quite unimpressive. Looking at reviews, opinion seems to swing from one extreme to the other with regularity.

Personally, I think that this is a wonderful novel! Why is this my opinion? To begin with, Colm Toibin’s writing style suits me completely. He is able to paint pictures with his words, which feed my imagination. His writing flows in a way which made me want to read on and on. His characters seemed very real to me and they evoked a variety of emotions.

I liked the simplicity of the plot, which tells the story of young Eilis Lacey and her emigration to America from a small town in Ireland. This had not been part for her future until her sister, Rose and a priest, Father Flood, came up with a fully-fledged plan for Eilis to seek a better future in New York. Eilis settles in Brooklyn and then her story unfolds. I will not say more about the plot, as I don’t like spoilers, but she learns a lot about life in a very short time.

I was moved by several episodes in the novel, as they touched on experiences in my own life. The emotions described by the author were so authentic – homesickness, extreme grief, falling in love.

This is not a showy, sensational novel; it is just a very good one that I shall remember for a long time.

The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time by Mark Haddon


The Blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Christopher has a photographic memory. He understands maths. He understands science. What he can’t understand are other human beings. When he finds his neighbour’s dog lying dead on the lawn, he decides to track down the killer and write a murder mystery about it. But what other mysteries will he end up uncovering.

My Review:

This is another book that I’ve had on my book shelf for years – just like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “In Cold Blood.” When I eventually thought I should read them, I was delighted to have unearthed such amazing books from my rather large collection of un-read books. I have to admit that I feel much the same about “The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time”!

The narrator of this well-known tale is Christopher Boone, a fifteen year old, who is on the autistic spectrum. He has Asperger’s Syndrome. His mathematical skills are way ahead of his chronological age and in many spheres of learning, he succeeds despite his disability. As with many people who fall within the spectrum, Christopher has enormous difficulties with social interaction and has developed strategies to help him to cope with overwhelming situations. These include covering his ears and groaning, working out complicated mathematical problems and looking for patterns.

Christopher is also keen on the truth and when a neighbour’s dog is murdered, he is determined to find out the truth behind Wellington’s death. Unfortunately, Christopher’s pursuit of the truth uncovers more than he imagined and leads to all sorts of problems for the boy, his family and neighbours.

This book gives an interesting insight into the mind of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome. We feel his pain when his brain overloads with information and the confusion of his meltdowns. I have taught children with this condition and also have an autistic granddaughter, so I can say that Mark Haddon has done an amazing job in his portrayal of Christopher.

The book is funny, but also tragic. A whole range of emotions are to be found within the pages, but it is such a worthwhile read. I would recommend it to anyone who wants something a little different – I think it is a book that one will remember for a long time.

Meet the Author:


Mark Haddon is a British novelist and poet, best known for his 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. He was educated at Uppingham School and Merton College, Oxford, where he studied English.

In 2003, Haddon won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and in 2004, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Overall Best First Book for his novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, a book which is written from the perspective of a boy with Aspergers syndrome. Haddon’s knowledge of Aspergers syndrome, a type of autism, comes from his work with autistic people as a young man. In an interview at Powells.com, Haddon claimed that this was the first book that he wrote intentionally for an adult audience; he was surprised when his publisher suggested marketing it to both adult and child audiences. His second adult-novel, A Spot of Bother, was published in September 2006.

Mark Haddon is also known for his series of Agent Z books, one of which, Agent Z and the Penguin from Mars, was made into a 1996 Children’s BBC sitcom. He also wrote the screenplay for the BBC television adaptation of Raymond Briggs’s story Fungus the Bogeyman, screened on BBC1 in 2004. He also wrote the 2007 BBC television drama Coming Down the Mountain.

Haddon is a vegetarian, and enjoys vegetarian cookery. He describes himself as a ‘hard-line atheist’. In an interview with The Observer, Haddon said “I am atheist in a very religious mould”. His atheism might be inferred from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in which the main character declares that those who believe in God are stupid.

Mark Haddon lives in Oxford with his wife Dr. Sos Eltis, a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, and their two young sons.

After the Fire by Jane Casey


The Blurb:

After a fire rips through a North London tower block, two bodies are found locked in an 11th floor flat. But is the third victim that ensures the presence of detective Maeve Kerrigan and the murder squad. It appears that controversial MP Geoff Armstrong, trapped by the fire, chose to jump to his death rather than wait for rescue. But what was such a right wing politician doing in the deprived, culturally diverse Maudling Estate?

As Maeve and her senior colleague, Derwent, pick through the wreckage, they uncover the secret world of the 11th floor, where everyone seems to have something to hide…

My review:

“After the Fire” is the fourth Jane Casey novel, featuring D.C Maeve Kerrigan, that I have read and I enjoyed this one as much as the others. Unfortunately, I haven’t read them in order, but that has not detracted from my enjoyment in the least.

This book, the 6th in the series, is sadly topical. It deals with the aftermath of a fire in a tower block of flats, but unlike the awful reality of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, the death toll is less and the novel deals with the distinct possibility of arson and murder.

The police are quickly involved in the aftermath of the fire, when it is discovered that a politician has died, seemingly by throwing himself out of a window to escape the flames and two more bodies are found in a locked room. There are enough pointers here that police involvement is needed and the ensuing tale unfolds many secrets. One of the early surprises is that the politician, Geoff Armstrong, was strangled before being thrown out of the window. The painstaking murder investigation, alongside the search for an arsonist, kept my interest throughout.

As before, one of the reasons I liked this book so much is the relationship between the characters, especially Maeve Kerrigan and her boss, Josh Derwent. These are not two dimensional; there is real depth to their characters which adds so much to this crime fiction. Jane Casey writes in a style which flows, holding interest. For me, this was a real page turner!

Meet the author:


Jane Casey is an Irish author of crime fiction novels. She writes the Maeve Kerrigan series. Jane is married to a criminal barrister, which gives her insight into the criminal underworld. Her novels have been shortlisted for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award and the Mary Higgins Clark Award and longlisted for the CWA Dagger in the Library Award. She lives in London with her husband, James Norman, and their son.

Jane Casey made her debut as a published novelist in 2010 with the standalone novel The Missing. She followed it up later that very same year with the novel The Burning, which began her Maeve Kerrigan series. Below is a list of Jane Casey’s books in order of when they were originally released:

One Quiet Woman by Anna Jacobs – Blog Tour!

Today, I’m delighted to be hosting Anna Jacobs’ book “One Quiet Woman” as part of a blog tour.


The Blurb

1930, Lancashire:
Leah Turner’s father has been killed in an accident at the laundry, and since her mother died years ago it falls to her to become sole provider for her little sister. But women’s wages are half those of men and pawning the few belongings she has left will only keep their vicious rent collector at bay for a few weeks, so even if she finds a job, they’ll lose their home.

Out of the blue Charlie Willcox, the local pawnbroker, offers her a deal. His brother Jonah, an invalid since being gassed in the Great War, needs a wife. Charlie thinks Leah would be perfect for the job.
The idea of a marriage of convenience doesn’t please Leah, but she finds Jonah agreeable enough and moving with him to the pretty hamlet of Ellindale may be the only chance of a better life for her sister.

But other people have plans for the remote Pennine valley, and the two sisters find themselves facing danger in their new life with Jonah. Can the three of them ever look to a brighter future?

An Extract from the Book:

There were two pawnshops in Birch End now, two! That was a sign of the hard times that had hit Lancashire since the Great War.
‘No need to look at me like that. People need pawnshops in times like these, Miss Turner, and some need them at other times too.’
She shrugged.
‘Can we go somewhere private to talk?’
That surprised her. ‘Why?’
‘You need a job. I might be able to help you.’
It wouldn’t hurt to find out what he was offering. Working in a pawnshop wouldn’t be any worse than working in the laundry, especially if it paid more. She set the bucket to one side and gestured to the front door. ‘Come inside,
He gestured to her to go first. He was polite, at least. She had to give him that. She led the way down the corridor, hearing his steps behind her.It was strange. Some men made you feel uncomfortable walking behind you, but he didn’t. He might have looked her up and down, but it hadn’t been in that rude way Sam
Griggs had with women.
‘Please sit down, Mr Willcox.’
He took the chair she indicated at the kitchen table and she said it again, ‘I can’t offer you a cup of tea, I’m afraid, because I’ve none in the house.’
For the second time that day a man said, ‘That bad, eh?’in a sympathetic tone of voice, which surprised her. Pawnshop owners weren’t usually known for being sympathetic towards people in trouble. That was how they made their money, after all.
He was studying the room now. ‘You keep the place clean.’
‘Of course I do. Now tell me what you want. I’m sure you’re a busy man.’For the first time he looked less confident.
‘Um, you’ll have heard that I have a brother who got gassed in the war?’
‘I don’t know much about you and your family because I don’t waste my time gossiping. All I know is that you’ve got an invalid brother.’
‘His name’s Jonah. He used to be a big, strong fellow, but he doesn’t breathe very well these days so he isn’t able to work full-time, especially not physical work. He helps out in the shop, though, does the accounts for me. He’s really good with figures.”
He paused, seemed to be fumbling for words.
‘Jonah’s been living with me, but I’m about to get married and my fiancée doesn’t want him sharing the house. So I’m looking for a wife for Jonah as well. I’m told you’re a good housewife and I can see for myself how clean you keep this place, even now.’
She looked at him in puzzlement. Had she misheard him? Surely he didn’t mean that he wanted her to marry his brother? He ran his fingertip round his collar as if it had suddenly become too tight.
‘I um, think you might make a good wife for Jonah.’
He had meant it! ‘Why me?’
‘Women gossip in the shop and when your father was killed, I heard about you being left to bring up your little sister. I’m sorry about your father, by the way. Everyone seemed to think well of you, and it made me think. So I checked out a few things. You did really well at school.’
‘Why does it matter how well I did at school?’
Mr Willcox grinned at her. ‘Our Jonah always has his head in a book. He’d not be happy married to someone who didn’t read and take an interest in the world.’


My Review:

I have to admit, I haven’t read a family saga novel for a long time; many years ago, they were my staple diet, alongside historical novels. So, when I was asked if I would like to review “One Quiet Woman” by Anna Jacobs for a blog tour, I wondered if I would enjoy this genre again.

This novel, the first in a new saga by this author, is set in the 1930s in Lancashire, so I suppose it would fall into the historical genre as well. Anna Jacobs had obviously researched this between the wars era thoroughly and the poverty and despair that were prevalent in many parts of the country, especially the north, are well depicted. Many families had to make do with very little food and men, unable to find work locally, would “go on the tramp”.

This is the back drop to the story of Leah Turner, the “Quiet Woman” of the title and her arranged marriage to Jonah Willcox. These two likeable characters make many plans for their life together in the small village of Ellindale and I look forward to finding out how many come to fruition in future installments of the saga.

I have to say that I did enjoy this book. The opening chapter drew me in at once and there were enough twists and turns in the plot to keep me interested. All in all, a pleasant, undemanding way to spend several hours of reading time.

Meet the Author:


Anna Jacobs has 57 novels published as of April 2012. She writes historical sagas and modern novels alternately, and in the past has written historical romances and fantasy novels (the latter as Shannah Jay).

She’s addicted to story-telling and writes three novels a year.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness



Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

My Review:

I was intrigued with the idea of Noise in both men and animals – the ability or disability – to be able to hear what creatures are thinking. This plays a huge part in the development of the plot of “The Knife of Never Letting Go” by Patrick Ness.

The world that has been home to Todd Hewitt is a strange one. Not only is Noise prevalent, but there are no women in the town where Todd grew up. His thirteenth birthday is approaching – the date when he will become a man – when Todd encounters a girl in the nearby swamp. He is totally amazed by this being and also, by her silence. However, this unexpected meeting has enormous consequences for Todd and he is forced to flee from all he knows.

The story centres around Todd and Viola’s attempts to reach the town of Haven, where they are assured they will be safe and learn the answers to their many questions.

I was drawn in by the plot lines, but found that I didn’t like Todd very much; maybe I will warm to him in the next two books in the trilogy. I also found the constant running rather monotonous! However, despite these feelings, I’ve moved on to the next book, “The Ask and the Answer” straight away!

About the Author:370361

Patrick Ness, an award-winning novelist, has written for England’s Radio 4 and Sunday Telegraph and is a literary critic for The Guardian. He has written many books, including the Chaos Walking Trilogy, The Crash of Hennington, Topics About Which I Know Nothing, and A Monster Calls.

He has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Costa Children’s Book Award. Born in Virginia, he currently lives in London.

The Other Hoffmann Sister by Ben Fergusson


The Hoffmann sisters, Ingrid and her older sibling, Margarete, are taken to German Southwest Africa in 1902, to live on land bought by their father from Baron von Ketz. The Baron, his wife and son, Emil live nearby and “give” their servants Nora and Hans to the Hoffmanns, to help them settle and to make their life more comfortable. It soon becomes clear that Margarete is not emotionally stable and that the hot, arid country does not suit her particularly well.

In some ways, Ingrid settles better. She has her books to read and is given language lessons by Hans. He is well educated and speaks German and French. Time is taken away from these lessons when he has to escort Margarete over to the von Ketz home every week. It is not totally clear to Ingrid why these trips are occurring.

The Hoffmanns eventually leave Africa in a hurried manner, after Baron von Ketz is murdered at the start of a Herero uprising. Hans and Nora are missing, and this is a source of anguish for Ingrid. This younger Hoffmann sister is full of questions about what has happened and what is to come. She loves her sister deeply and cares for her well-being and these feeling for her sister continue on their return to Germany. When Margarete becomes engaged to the young Baron von Ketz, Ingrid has some misgivings. On the wedding night, Margarete disappears and it is presumed that she is dead – drowned in the lake. The rest of the novel is about Ingrid’s search for knowledge of her sister’s disappearance and her reawakened desire to discover what happened to Hans.

A considerable amount of the story takes place in Berlin after the First World War, where Ingrid becomes tentatively involved with the revolution in the city. At times, her searches for the missing are set aside so that she can follow her passion for translating poetry from English and French into German. However, on return to the von Ketz country estate, the anguish of her loss re-emerges, along with her determination to discover the truth.

This was not a particularly easy novel to read, as the pace is variable. At times, the plot seems to come to a standstill, but then, with a new piece of information, or change of scene, it moves along again. Thinking about this, however, I feel now that this is a mirror of Ingrid’s feelings and actions. She was surrounded by unanswered questions and deception; at times, the confusion seemed to overwhelm her and she, herself, came to a standstill. Then, something was revealed to her and she could move on with her quests.

I am glad that I read this book. It gave much food for thought and I was interested in the sections on post war Berlin and the revolution. Much is written about the post war world, but I hadn’t read anything that looked at it through German eyes.

Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read “The Other Hoffmann Sister” in return for my honest review.

Meet the Author:8153785

Ben Fergusson is an award-winning novelist. He was born in Southampton in 1980 and grew up near Didcot in Oxfordshire. He studied English Literature at Warwick University and Modern Languages at Bristol University. Since leaving university he has worked as an editor, translator and publisher in London and Berlin and currently teaches at the University of Potsdam.

​Ben’s debut novel, The Spring of Kasper Meier, was selected for the Waterstone’s Book Club, WHSmith Fresh Talent and the BBC Radio 2 Book Club. It was longlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and shortlisted for The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. It won the 2015 Betty Trask Prize for an outstanding debut novel by a writer under 35 and the HWA Debut Crown 2015 for the best historical fiction debut of the year. His second novel, The Other Hoffmann Sister, will be published by Little, Brown in 2017.