Review: Thores-Cross: A Yorkshire Ghost Story (Yorkshire Ghost Series, #1) ~ Karen Perkins

Thores CrossISBN ~ 978-1481928175
Publisher ~ LionheART Publishing house
No. Of Pages ~ 266 pages
Links ~ Amazon

Emma Moorcroft is still grieving after a late miscarriage and moves to her dream house at Thruscross Reservoir with her husband, Dave. Both Emma and Dave hope that moving into their new home signifies a fresh start, but life is not that simple. Emma has nightmares about the reservoir and the drowned village that lies beneath the water, and is further disturbed by the sound of church bells – from a church that no longer exists.

Jennet is fifteen and lives in the isolated community of Thores-Cross, where life revolves about the sheep on which they depend. Following the sudden loss of both her parents, she is seduced by the local wool merchant, Richard Ramsgill. She becomes pregnant and is shunned not only by Ramsgill, but by the entire village. Lonely and embittered, Jennet’s problems escalate, leading to tragic consequences which continue to have an effect through the centuries.

Emma becomes fixated on Jennet, neglecting herself, her beloved dogs and her husband, to the point where her marriage may not survive. As Jennet and Emma’s lives become further entwined, Emma’s obsession deepens and she realises that the curse Jennet inflicted on the Ramsgill family over two hundred years ago is still claiming lives. Emma is the only one who can stop Jennet killing again, but will her efforts be enough?

This is the kind of book that you can pick up and read in a day, there’s nothing too technical or complex in the storyline that would make a reader want to take their time reading this and this in itself presented me with a problem; I really wasn’t sure what kind of a rating this particular short story should have.

The story is actually, in my opinion, two stories set in the same area of England; one of them being current times and the other being the late 1700’s.  As much as I really wanted to see a comparison made between the lot of women in these two eras, I just failed to be invested in the modern day plot and found myself skimming over these parts to find out what was happening in the past; in my mind the main protagonist of the book was the woman grounded in the past, and the way the Author grew her from being a grieving teenager to a vindictive woman was extremely realistic and convincing.  By comparison the modern day equivalent came across as being less credible and if anything hinted that the reader may not be bothered too much by the gaps in her personality.  The Author did do their historical research though and, I did enjoy the way the Yorkshire dialect was included in the speech patterns.

As a whole the story itself was interesting and well written, but could have done with more polishing to make parts of it more credible.  I would classify this book as more of a haunting short than a horror short.  If I am ever on the lookout for another quick light read to fill a couple of hours, I will probably look at something else written by this Author.

This book was read as part of my 2016 Reading Challenge; a book you can finish in a day.

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Review: My Own Story ~ Emmeline Pankhurst

my own storyISBN ~ 978-1784870409
Publisher ~ Vintage Classics
No. Of Pages ~352 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Project Gutenberg

The great leader of the women’s suffrage movement, tells the story of her struggles in her own words.

Emmeline Pankhurst grew up all too aware of the prevailing attitude of her day: that men were considered superior to women. When she was just fourteen she attended her first suffrage meeting, and returned home a confirmed suffragist. Throughout the course of her career she endured humiliation, prison, hunger strikes and the repeated frustration of her aims by men in power, but she rose to become a guiding light of the Suffragette movement. This is the story, in Pankhurst’s own words, of her struggle for equality.

3 Thumbs-UpLet me first explain my reasoning behind the three thumb review; I found this book to be a strangely impersonal account of Mrs. Pankhurst’s life.  It read more like a diary of the main events of the WSPU (Suffrage movement) in the lead up to the outbreak of World War I.  This made it extremely difficult for me, as a reader, to get a handle on what she was really like as a person, or the opinions of others of the movement of which she and her sister, Christabel, were such a big part of in England; this in turn had me doing further research at the library and on the internet to fill in the gaps.

Giving an explanation of what propelled her out of the normal role of women in her time, into a political arena is an interesting and eye-opening journey into what it was like to be female in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s, and this was one of things that kept me reading this book.  This book is a snapshot into a turbulent time in British history, and may be an eye opener for those who read it and are not acquainted with the nuances of that time.

One thing I became aware of whilst reading this was the tremendous hardships and deprivations these women went through to secure the vote for women.  They were humiliated, beaten, force-fed and denigrated in a way that not even the worst of criminals were at the time, all because they wanted more control over their lives and things that ultimately affected the way they lived.  This in turn led me to consider the women’s movements today and how they regard the role of women in the twenty-first century; there really is no comparison and it made me grateful for the freedoms I do have as a woman today.

I was disappointed that this book ended with the advent of World War I as I would have felt it would have added to the account if there had been an endnote saying what happened to the WSPU and their campaign for Women’s Rights after the end of the war; this was one part of where my extra research came in.

Despite its short comings this is a good read, and I would highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in learning about the origins of feminism and treatment of women in the United Kingdom.

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Review: The Queen of Subtleties: A Novel of Anne Boleyn ~ Suzannah Dunn

queen of subtletiesISBN ~ 978-0060591588
Publisher ~ William Morrow Paperbacks
No. Of Pages ~ 320 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Anne Boleyn and Lucy Cornwallis: queen and confectioner, fatefully linked in a court rife with intrigue and treachery.   She was the dark-eyed English beauty who captivated King Henry VIII, only to die at his behest three years after they were married. She was both manipulator and pawn, a complex, misunderstood mélange of subtlety and fire. Her name was Anne Boleyn.

In The Queen of Subtleties, Suzannah Dunn reimagines the rise and fall of the tragic queen through two alternating voices: that of Anne herself, who is penning a letter to her young daughter on the eve of her execution, and Lucy Cornwallis, the king’s confectioner. An employee of the highest status, Lucy is responsible for creating the sculpted sugar centerpieces that adorn each of the feasts marking Anne’s ascent in the king’s favour. They also share another link of which neither woman is aware: the lovely Mark Smeaton, wunderkind musician—the innocent on whom, ultimately, Anne’s downfall hinges.

1 Thumbs-UpI picked this up in the local thrift store, and it will be heading back there just as quickly as it came home.  After my seemingly bad run of luck with books recently, I was hoping that a historical piece of fiction might help break the dam; it was not going to happen with this book and, to be honest I didn’t finish it either.

I had many issues with the book as far as I read.  The character of Anne Boleyn was rather insulting when compared to what is known of her from historical documents.  In this interpretation of her character she is portrayed as being the innocent pawn of her Families’ ambitions to rise higher within the Tudor Court, rather than the driven and confident woman who readers are used to.  As one of the narrators of the book, the language she uses is far too modern for the time period in which it is set, and this was the reason for my not finishing the book.  The language used by both Anne and the other narrator was extremely distracting and, I can’t help but feel the Author wrote this book in this manner to make her work more accessible to the modern reader.

I wish I could say something good about the contents of this book, but the only saving grace about it for me was the cover image, which I kept returning to look at time and again and this was the reason for my 1 thumb review.  I will not be reading anything else by this Author, and find it a hard book to recommend to anyone who enjoys a good historical novel.

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Review: Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson ~ Lyndsay Faye

Dust and ShadowISBN ~ 978-1416583301
Publisher ~Simon & Schuster
No. Of Pages ~325 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster

From the gritty streets of nineteenth century London, the loyal and courageous Dr. Watson offers a tale unearthed after generations of lore: the harrowing story of Sherlock Holmes’s attempt to hunt down Jack the Ripper.

As England’s greatest specialist in criminal detection, Sherlock Holmes is unwavering in his quest to capture the killer responsible for terrifying London’s East End. He hires an “unfortunate” known as Mary Ann Monk, the friend of a fellow streetwalker who was one of the Ripper’s earliest victims; and he relies heavily on the steadfast and devoted Dr. John H. Watson. When Holmes himself is wounded in Whitechapel during an attempt to catch the savage monster, the popular press launches an investigation of its own, questioning the great detective’s role in the very crimes he is so fervently struggling to prevent. Stripped of his credibility, Holmes is left with no choice but to break every rule in the desperate race to find the madman known as “the Knife” before it is too late.

2 Thumbs-UpFor a debut novel, this book was OK.  Yes, I said OK as I had a love hate relationship with this book from the very first chapter.

For anyone to take on writing about the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson takes guts, but if it is pulled off well as in the case of the House of Silk (reviewed here) it can be a glorious thing, that was not the case here.  Despite a valiant effort, this Author was unable to capture all the character nuances that combine to make the detective readers of other Holmes missives have come to know and expect.  By writing the book from the perspective of Dr. Watson a lot of the internal debates and musings Holmes has with himself are lost along with a lot of his eccentric qualities.  In this book Holmes comes across as an arrogant, pretentious ass that has no lovable qualities to his name at all.  Unfortunately, Dr. Watson does not come out of this novel unscathed; as a character I’ve always seen as being the stable and steadying force behind Holmes, here he is depicted as bumbling fool who would be well pressed to dress himself in the morning.  The portrayal of Jack the Ripper was also flimsy, and would have benefitted greatly with a lot more fleshing out and back story.

The novel is extremely dry, the language at times definitely at odds with the era in which it is set.  The Author does a good job of portraying Whitechapel at the time of the murders but apart from that there was very little to keep me interested, and this was definitely not the page turner that had been promised.  For me there was not enough tension, and the discovery of who the Ripper was became obvious about partway through the book; surely not a mystery worthy of calling in Holmes to solve.

If you like Sherlock Holmes, you may enjoy this book; as for me I don’t think I will be reading anymore by this Author despite their valiant attempts to recreate the works of Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Review: Piano from a 4th Storey Window ~ Jenny Morton

PianoASIN ~ B00OHML3C6
Publisher ~ Grafton Way Fiction
No. Of Pages ~ 389 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Jenny Morton Potts

Lawrence Fyre and Marin Strang aren’t like other people.

He is the eccentric owner of failing Sargasso Books in the Brighton Lanes. She is an ex-Jehovah’s Witness and isolated Spanish teacher. If they live together in his illegal, beautiful, rope laddered lock-up; can their love overcome their losses?

4 Thumbs-UpI have to be honest and say I found it really hard to get into this book, and the first chapter for me was confusing in that I wasn’t sure as who was saying what to whom.  Once past this chapter though that all changed.

This Author writes her characters in a way that makes them real, as in the kind of person you probably meet during your everyday lives.  The characters lives are laid open to the reader and then reconstructed to show how lives, and the events of those lives come together to join and eventually result in a relationship.  The emotions and consequences of actions are beautifully and skilfully placed on the page that the reader cannot help but be pulled totally into the journey and complexities of human relationships.  These characters are not the usual one-dimensional figures that can be found in a book on this topic, they are deep, well-developed and, as I said at the beginning of this paragraph wholly believable.

This Author has a talent for descriptive writing that I have not seen in a long while.  They way in which they describe the most mundane of objects are incredible and leaves the reader looking at these items in a different way.  Location descriptions do not suffer either; set in Brighton the Author is able to transport the reader to the town, have them at the train station and actually walking the streets as they read.  Very well done, and such a treat to read on a cold winter evening.  I found the title most intriguing as well, it had me visualising pianos falling from windows, or music floating out of windows on a quiet Sunday depending my mood when I picked this up to read.

I would highly recommend this book, especially to those readers who like a deeply descriptive novel, and look forward to reading other works by this Author in the future.

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Review: The Turn of the Screw ~ Henry James

turn of the screwISBN ~ 978-0140620610
Publisher ~ Penguin Books
No. Of Pages ~ 120 pages
Links ~ Penguin, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.

Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls…

But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.

For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.

4 Thumbs-UpNo one seems to do gothic horror and be able to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up as well as Authors from this era; whether they are hinting at insanity or embracing it and giving it coffee, this novella has to rank up there with The Yellow Wallpaper.  When the reader first embarks into this tale it would seem the perfect accompaniment to a cold winter night and a cosy fire-place, after all it’s short in length and reads fairly quickly if you can come to grips with the style in which it is written, but don’t make any assumptions about this book.

The main character is also the narrator for the tale, and the reader sees the whole sequence of event unfold through her eyes.  In the main lead, the reader is introduced to a character who definitely does not know herself and shows no signs of getting to know herself as the tale progresses.  As we view the world through her eyes the reader is her companion as she descends into madness; or does she, and this is where one of the many twists enter the tale and have the reader wondering.  At times I felt sorry for this character, at others she just grated on me to no end, this I put down to the time period in which the book is set and not the fact the fact that the character was badly written.  In fact none of the characters in this novella are badly written, and each brings their own flaws and traits to play as the storyline unfolds.

This book is definitely ‘old school’ horror genre, rather than being in your face gory and ghastly, an atmosphere is created in this novella that is suggestive and lends itself perfectly to being able to scare the stripes off a zebra.  Eerie and creepy descriptions are used to full effect in this tale and, although only a mere 120 pages long, I found myself getting up and turning a light on part way through.  All the requirements of a truly good ghost story are included in the covers of this novella, and the fact that the reader’s imagination is able to hold full sway over the way in which they react to the occurrences.  I have to say this is one of the better pieces of writing by this Author that I have read, and if it had been a few pages longer it would have received a full 5 thumbs review.

If you are looking for a truly good ghost story to fill your holiday season, but not overtake it completely then I would highly recommend you read this novella.

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Review: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place ~ Julie Berry

PrickwillowISBN ~ 978-1596439566
Publisher ~ Roaring Brook Press
No. Of Pages ~ 351 Pages
Links ~ Barnes & Noble, Amazon

3 Thumbs-UpIf you like farce you will love this middle grade book; yes, it is aimed at children, but adult readers would get a chuckle out of reading it too.

The character descriptions are very basic and, as in most children’s books not full of the in-depth backstories that readers have to cope with as they get older.  To make the characters more memorable to the age group this book is aimed at, the Author associates traits to them and then uses these traits in the naming protocol for the characters throughout the book.  As fun as this was, and a middle grader would probably enjoy it immensely, this was the weakest link in this book for me, and the reason it only gained a three thumbs review.  All the characters are nicely stereotyped though, and as with all things farcical this fits the overall tone of the novel very well indeed although it did bring up the problem for me that, as I read through the book, all the schoolgirls tended to ‘speak’ with the same voice.  Again I couldn’t see this been a big issue with the audience the book was aimed at, and put it down to my ancient age.  As the book progresses though, despite the Authors attempts to keep the main characters tied to their adjective laden names, their true characters begin to leak through and the reader gains a small insight into the backgrounds and home lives these girls have.  One thing that comes through loud and clear, and ties all these girls together  is that none of them want to return home, and this is major driving force behind the book.

Although this is a complete farce, with murder, mystery and a few thrills thrown in, it is also a cleverly written historical novel which brings to light the societal perception of women in the nineteenth century.  Not only does the reader subtly learn of how society perceived women, but it also gives them a look at what it meant to be a young woman/girl in this time, and how the ‘rules’ affected the way they not only saw themselves but the world around them.  The book itself is a very effective period mystery that has been well researched and then had the facts woven together with fiction in a clever way.  However I do feel that this may receive a better reception if aimed at the high school age group rather than middle school, as they would be more attuned to picking up on some of the nuances than a younger reader may be.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, apart from naming protocol, and read through it in a weekend.  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys farce, and also those who are looking to introduce younger readers in their circle to something new.

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