Tag Archives: Novel

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

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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:

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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.

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After the Fire by Jane Casey

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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:

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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.

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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?
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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,
then.’
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.’

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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:

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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

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Blurb

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

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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.

The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull – Blog Tour!

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I am delighted to feature Rebecca Mascull’s excellent novel, “The Wild Air” here today , as part of the blog tour.

My review:

Rebecca Mascull’s novel “The Wild Air” is set in the early years of the 20th century, a time of change in more ways than one. The major event of the time was the First World War, which saw enormous loss of life and changed people’s view of warfare forever. The years before the war were a time of daring and inventive changes in the history of flight, which was to impact on the coming years of war.

It is against this backdrop that we meet the characters of this interesting and captivating novel. The main protagonist is a young girl from Cleethorpes. Della Dobbs is the third daughter in her family; she is a plain, quiet girl, who is a disappointment to her embittered father. Mr Dobbs had been an actor, but an accident prevented him from continuing in this profession; undoubtedly, his attitude towards life changed. His two older daughters were leading successful lives and his only son – and the youngest in the family – was his pride and joy. Poor Della was just a disappointment!

Della’s life was rather dull, except when she was cycling as fast as she could around the town. The arrival of Aunt Betty, who had lived for much of her life in the American town of Kitty Hawk, opened Della’s eyes to the possibility of living a different life. Aunt Betty and Della found great satisfaction in discussing flight and developing and flying kites on the beach at Cleethorpes and it is here that Dudley Willow enters Della’s life. Although he is five years younger than her, they have a shared interest in aviation. It is through magazines that he sends her that Della learns about aviatrix – women who fly!

We follow Della’s life through the following years – her exciting career as an aviatrix, unfortunately interrupted by the war. We have horrifying glimpses into trench warfare, and we see the damage that this does to soldiers’ minds and bodies. We follow the changing relationships within Della’s family and also the development of her own relationship with Dudley Willow.

I enjoyed this novel very much. The characters were well-rounded and believable. I like to read books with strong female characters; it was especially refreshing to have a character, like Della, who was considered to be too quiet, a nonentity, who discovered her passion and followed it. I found that I really cared about the characters and how their lives unfolded.

“The Wild Air” is well written and meticulously researched. I was interested to read that the author used much of the expertise to be found at the Shuttleworth Collection. My family and I have visited the Collection many times in the past forty years and have seen many of the vintage planes mentioned in the novel. This certainly increased my involvement with Della’s flying exploits, which had a feeling of real authenticity.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical novels set in the more recent past. As well as good story, with romance, excitement and all the dynamics of family life, this is an informative work – one which could be the starting point for further factual study into early flight, the First World War and its devastating effects. I love novels that provide these sorts of “jumping off” points and will certainly be looking for more Rebecca Mascull novels.

I would like to thank NetGalley for enabling me to read and review “The Wild Air” and Hodder and Stoughton for enabling me to take part in the blog tour.

About the Author:

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Rebecca Mascull lives by the sea in the east of England with her partner Simon and their daughter Poppy. She has previously worked in education and has a Masters in Writing. Her previous novels are “The Visitors” and “Song of the Sea Maid”.

Find out more about her books by following this link:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1?ie=UTF8&text=Rebecca+Mascull&search-alias=books-uk&field-author=Rebecca+Mascull&sort=relevancerank%5Bgallery ids=”1474,1475″ t<img

Malignant Memory by Barbara L. Paterson

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“Malignant Memory” by  Barbara L.Paterson is a novel that is based on true events, many of which the author learned about in the course of her career. As such, I found this to be an interesting insight into the lives of young people who were unfortunate to be brought up in orphanages or who had to attend residential schools because of their ethnicity in the first part of the 20th century. Many of the stories told by characters in the novel were horrifying to say the least.

 

The novel is told through the eyes of Elizabeth, who is a “secret keeper”. Over her lifetime, she has been told many secrets, which she has kept, but there was one that had caused her anguish. This is the malignant memory which she hopes to expunge by telling it to us, her readers.

 

In order for us to understand this secret and why it has had such an effect on her, she feels the need to tell us of her life. Her early days were spent on a farm with her parents and brothers, but she was sent to live with her little known grandmother, Andy. This was to enable her to have a good education. Life was not easy for Elizabeth. Her grandmother, who was highly thought of in          the town, was subject to uncontrollable rages – “the furies”- in which she would physically and verbally abuse her granddaughter. Eventually, with the help of some of the people who lived nearby and knew of Andy’s history growing up in an orphanage, Elizabeth and Andy worked at overcoming the traumatic experiences that they had and were suffering.

 

Towards the end of the book, after meeting several others who played significant roles in Elizabeth’s life, we are told what the malignant memory is and what she has learned about herself and others by disclosing the memory to her readers.

 

Although written in the form of a fictional memoir, with little dialogue, I did not become bored. As well as revealing some of the abuse suffered by the vulnerable, it also provided food for thought about grief, acceptance and being judgemental. All in all, an interesting novel that I am glad I have read.

I would like to thank NetGalley for the opportunity to read and   review “Malignant Memory”.

About the author:

Dr. Barbara Paterson was an adult before she discovered that her dearly beloved grandmother had grown up in an orphanage. This information helped her to make sense of the uncontrollable rages that her grandmother often experienced. Later, in her work as a nurse with residential school survivors and people who experience devastating illnesses, she recognized that the ravages of extreme grief are often revealed in behaviors that are harmful to the suffering person and to those around him or her.

Dr. Paterson has an interdisciplinary doctorate in nursing, psychology and education, as well as a master’s degree in post-secondary education. She served as a professor at the University of Manitoba, the University of British Columbia, the University of New Brunswick, and Thompson River University until her retirement in 2013.

Dr. Paterson is the recipient of several prestigious awards, such as the 3M Teaching Excellence Award, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal and Canada’s Most Powerful Women Award for her work as a university educator and her research on chronic illness. Dr. Paterson speaks frequently on topics of education, health and Canada’s aboriginal people, and has been featured on top media outlets like CBC Radio and in more than one hundred scholarly journals. She lives outside Winnipeg, Manitoba.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Malignant-Memory-Barbara-L-Paterson-x/dp/0995332703/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1490895354&sr=1-1&keywords