The Book Whisperer’s Month in Review: April 2017

month 2

April has been a real mixed month for me. I have been spoiled with some utterly fantastic books and started some I couldn’t even finish. I completed 7 books and out of that seven, I adored 5 of them so much that I am going to struggle to put them in order.

So, I am starting with a joint first purely for the fact that I loved these 2 books so much but they were completely different from one antoher and I loved them for totally different reasons:

 

Joint 1st

 

Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher

This book was a joy to read from start to finish. Susan Fletcher can write. I mean, REALLY write. If you love beautiful storytelling and pitch-perfect prose, you need to read this book. I cannot recommend highly enough.

 

Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker 

Such a great book – mystery, humour, humanity, the whole works. And included one of my favourite ever characters in a book – 17-year-old-wannabe-gangster Manny. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!!

 

Honestly, I do not know why either of these books is not being more widely read. They are both fantastic and highly, highly recommended.

 

3rd

sweetpea

 

Sweetpea by C J Skuse

This book is dark, it’s crude, it’s shameless, it’s but it’s utterly and absolutely freaking hilarious! Sweetpea is a serial killer but I guarantee you’ll fall in love with her. A riot of a read and highly recommended.

 

Joint 4th

In any other month, either of these books could have romped home in first place. I’ve just been so spoiled this month and it’s actually a travesty that two fantastic books look like they’re so far down my list.

 

The Last Piece of my Heart by Paige Toon

Set in Cornwall and Thailand, this feel-good, romantic book is pure escapism. Big thumbs up.

Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

Review to follow but utterly gripping as always. If you’re already a Bolton fan, this is up to her usual high standards, if you’ve never read any of her books, what are you waiting for?

 

6th 

bricks

The Bricks That Built The Houses by Kate Tempest

So here’s the thing: while I hated parts of it, and early on could quite happily have put it to one side for later (or never), I ended up racing through this book and really quite enjoying it. I was invested, I wanted to know what was coming next, and I started to look forward to picking it up. Whatever your view on the topics in the book, it’s certainly a good one to read in a book group!

 

7th

quicksand

 

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito

Quicksand, for me, lacked suspense or tension: there were no surprises, twists, red herrings and no reason to keep reading on. And yet I did. Because surely an award-winning book must redeem itself, right? Wrong. I read all the way to the end and wasn’t even rewarded for my slog. That said, it is getting lots of rave reviews so definitely one to make your own mind up about.

 

Verdict:

An outstanding month for books (which makes me slightly worried that I will have a run of duff ones now).

I could honestly recommend any of the books on my list for this month. The first 5 because they were all brilliant, and the latter two because I’m curious to hear what others think about them and despite them not necessarily being my cup of tea, I can certainly see why others would love them. Something for everyone.

Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know what you think.

 

Review: Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher

man i knewWhat I Thought:

This weekend I sat in the garden, the sun shining, and read the most beautiful, lyrical and vividly written book – Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew. This isn’t the first book I have read by this author (more on that later) so I knew that I was in for a treat and I wasn’t let down in the slightest.

This book is a feast for the senses. From the very first sentence, I was whisked immediately away to the Provencial countryside as a new spring is dawning and I was immersed in colours and fragrances and sensations that can only be brought about by the most talented author. I was there under the lime tree, I felt the breeze lift the hem of my skirt, and heard the parched earth drink the water from the upturned pail.

The man of the book title is, in fact, Vincent van Gogh, however, he isn’t the protagonist; that is Jeanne Trabuc. Van Gogh is more of a supporting character to enable Jeanne to evolve and blossom, and the story is really hers. The year is 1889 and set in the Saint-Paul Asylum, Saint-Rémy, where Van Gogh admitted himself and was a patient for a year, painting some of his most loved paintings during that time before he became more well known. Jeanne lives with her husband Charles in a little white cottage next to the asylum in the French countryside as Charles is the Manager there. Jeanne, whose three grown up sons have all left home, lives by the rules she has become accustomed to over the years and is forbidden to enter the asylum grounds but she finds a way to meet with Vincent often and through their conversations while he paints, she learns to remember the woman (and child) she was; the playful, independent girl who grew up with just her belovèd Father and wore yellow silk dresses, wore  her hair unpinned, and who did handstands in the square. It’s an incredibly moving story as Jeanne considers her life and contemplates her future. Van Gogh’s paintings awaken something in her; a desire and a longing for something more than the life of conformity and routine.

The paperback version due out in June 2017

Seven years ago, I interviewed this author about her book Corrag (which is now re-published as Witch Light and is still one of the most perfect books I’ve ever read) and in this interview, she explained about spending half-an-hour of watching a bumble bee visit foxgloves, writing down how it looked and sounded, and I can completely see this. The scenes of nature in both books are exquisite; full of vibrancy and sentiment. Just stunning.

When I read a book I want to believe I’m right there in the pages. Few authors make me feel this as well as Susan Fletcher. Others that have had a similar impact are Joanne Harris (particularly the Chocolat series) and more recently Sealskin by Su Bristow. 

Verdict:

This book was a joy to read from start to finish. Susan Fletcher can write. I mean, REALLY write. If you love beautiful storytelling and pitch-perfect prose, you need to read this book. I cannot recommend highly enough.

blog-30

Have you read this book or anything else by Susan Fletcher? I’d love to know what you think.

Day 27 – A book I love that deserves to be better known

 Bewitching…

Although I can think of lots of books that I wish more people would read, this challenge was quite an easy one for me as I can’t understand why more people don’t read this book. When I read it in January 2010 it instantly became a favourite and I passed it on to my mum who read it, fell in love with it and has read it again since: in fact it is now her all-time favourite book (and she is as much as a reader and book-lover as I am).

The book I am referring to is called Witch Light, although when I read it in hardback it was called Corrag. Here is my review from back then:

“Rarely does a book bewitch (pardon the pun) and mesmorise me quite so much as this one. It is truly one of the most beautiful and lyrical books I have ever read.

The story is narrated by Corrag, a 16 year old girl who is awaiting being burned at the stake for being a witch in 17th century Scotland. Corrag is visited in jail by Charles Leslie, an Irish Jacobite who wants to prove that the recent massacre in Glencoe was the work of the soldiers under William of Orange. Corrag is English and has run away “north and west” at the command of her mother who is about to be hung for also being a witch. Corrag takes the old and beaten horse of a cruel neighbour, a grey mare who becomes her best and only friend, and spends the next year living off the land and making her way north-west where she arrives in Glencoe. At first the clan is wary of her, but over time they welcome her into the fold although she still lives in her self-made little hut on the moor.

What is magical about this book is Corrage’s voice. She lives, breathes and dreams nature and the land around her. Every tiny thing is spoken of with such love and passion and she notices everything – a dew drop on a leaf, the changing colours of the rocks through the day, the silver sand as the grey mare gallops over beaches in the moonlight. The way she narrates is lyrical and equistite and the world she inhabits makes you feel like you can breathe again. Despite her life so far and her hardships, she has such a capacity for love and kindness for eveyone she meets.

Through her visits from Charles Leslie, Corrag tells her life story from her birth through to the night her friends were slain in a Scottish valley during a blizzard. Each person is wary of the other at the beginning – Leslie returns daily as he is waiting for details on who was behind the massacre (believing it to be the new King) and Corrag is determined that her life will not be forgotten. After several weeks they find a strange comfort in each other and a friendship is born. Corrag has found companionship in her final days and Leslie learns to see whe world through fresh eyes.

I honestly just loved this book. It has now become a firm favourite and I am sorry it has ended. I have never read any of Susan Fletchers other two books but I will now be seeking them out.

Highly, highly recommended!”

I really, really hope that I have persuaded you to read this book – I can’t rave about it enough.

 

  What book do you think we should all be reading?

 

My favourite books of 2010

 

This was so difficult to narrow down – SOOOOO difficult! But narrow it down I have and here are the top 10 books I read in 2010:

 

East Lynne by Ellen Wood

“For about three weeks I felt like I was living in the middle of a Victorian soap-opera. There was murder, betrayal, divorce, disguises and death and all this set among a backdrop of stately homes and horse-and-carriages. What’s not to love?”

 

 

Corrag by Susan Fletcher

“It is truly one of the most beautiful and lyrical books I have ever read.”

 

 

Dog Boy by Eva Hornung

“The story is alternately shocking, pitiful, heartbreaking, tender, joyful and fascinating. I fell in love, smiled, cried and hoped. To live with this group of animals for a few days was a privelidge and one I won’t forget easily.”

 

 

Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa

“Although this book is only 330 pages long, it felt like an epic to me. I have spent 60 years with this family, watching them love, loose, fight, cry. I’m going to miss them. I cried at the end – not just because of their story but because of all the other thousands of peoples story – real people.”

 

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

“This book has it all: class conflict, politics, religion, women’s rights and passion! It makes you think, it makes you reflect on what was and it makes you ponder how we got from there to where we are now. We smile with them, we cry with them.”

 

The Likeness by Tana French

“I just loved this book, I found that I couldn’t and put it down, nor did I want to. Despite the size of the book, I never once felt like it was too long; on the contrary I could have gone on reading for several hundred more.”

 

 

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

“The whole book, for me, pacey and gritty and just not wanting to put the damn thing down. If you enjoy crime / thrillers / whodunnits then you will LOVE this!”

 

 

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

“I feel like I have lost friends now I have finished this book.”

 

 

 

Room by Emma Donoghue

“Room is both brilliantly written but also gripping: it took hold of me from the first page and never let me go until the end.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crossing Places  & The Janus Stone  by Elly Griffiths

“So what do you do when you’re busy, busy, busy and you’re brain is crying out for a book that will allow you to slip inbetween the pages from one life into another with complete ease?”

(OK, so I’m cheating here but I had to include them both as I read the first two books in a new series this year and fell in love with it – roll on the next books!)

 

Have you read any of these? What do you think to my 2010 favourites?

 

  

 

Half Year Review

Instead of the normal end of month review I have decided to do a half year review this time as I have now been blogging for 6 months so this is a bit of a milestone for me.

  January
1) Invisible I (The Amanda Project) by Stella Larson
2) The Diaries of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain
3) The Cradle Will Fall by Mary Higgins Clark
4) Soulless by Gail Carriger
5) Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
6) Corrag by Susan Fletcher
7) Shakespeare’s Truth by Rex Richards
 

February
8) Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa
9) The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
10) All Pets Go To Heaven by Sylvia Browne
 
March
11) The Hanging Valley by Peter Robinson
12) Far From The Land by Thomas J Rice
13) You Belong to Me by Mary Higgins Clark
14) In a Dry Season by Peter Robinson
15) East Lynne by Ellen Wood
16) The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
17) The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marhganita Laski
18) Let me Call You Sweetheart by Mary Higgins Clark
 
April
19)Blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris
20) A Woman’s Life by Guy de Maupassant
21) Moonlight Becomes You by Mary Higgins Clark
22) Retribution by Jilliane Hoffman
23) Fever of the Bone by Val McDermid
24) Part of the Furniture by Mary Wesley
25) Say Goodbye by Lisa Gardner
 
May
26) The Little Boy Lost by Marghanisa Laski
27) Sunlight on Cold Water by Francoise Sagan
28) North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
29) The Second Time Around by Mary Higgins Clark
30) The Shadow of Your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark
31) The Land of the Living by Nicci French
32) The Japanese Lover by Rani Manicka
33) Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
34) The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesely
 
June 
35) Day and Night by Anita Diamant
36) Caedmon’s Song by Peter Robinson
37) The Help by Kathryn Stockett
38) Caught by Harlan Coben
39) The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
40) The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
41) True Things About Me by Deborah Kay Davies
42) The Weight of Water by Penelope Evans
 

Most looked at book reviews

Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa

Blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris

The Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella

 

The most looked at Author Interviews  

Gail Carriger (author of Souless, Changeless & Blameless)

Becca Fitzpatrick (author of Hush Hush and Crescendo)

Kathryn Stockett (author of The Help)

 

The most looked at general posts

The Best Book Club Reads EVER!!!

Guilty as charged, Mi’ Lord!

Can you spot the difference?

 

My favourite books in the last 6 months

This was so hard to do! I have read quite a lot of great books so far this year and I have loved them for different reasons. After much deliberation and trying to pick 3 from different genres (literary, classics, crime/thriller) I have come up with the following. All three were amazing and I can highly recommend them all:

Corrag - Susan Fletcher

Corrag by Susan Fletcher

East Lynne - Ellen Wood

East Lynne by Ellen Wood

The Snowman - Jo Nesbo

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

 

What have beenyour favourite books so far this year?

 

Author Interview: Susan Fletcher

 Susan Fletcher – author of Corrag, Eve Green and Oystercatchers

I have been so excited about doing this interview since I read Susan’s latest book, Corrag. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy back in January and I honestly haven’t been able to stop raving about it ever since. It is truly one of the most beautiful books that I have ever read. My review for the book Corrag is here.

So what’s Corrag about?

Here is what Amazon says about it: “The Massacre of Glencoe happened at 5am on 13th February 1692 when thirty-eight members of the Macdonald clan were killed by soldiers who had enjoyed the clan’s hospitality for the previous ten days. Many more died from exposure in the mountains. Fifty miles to the south Corrag is condemned for her involvement in the Massacre. She is imprisoned, accused of witchcraft and murder, and awaits her death. The era of witch-hunts is coming to an end – but Charles Leslie, an Irish propagandist and Jacobite, hears of the Massacre and, keen to publicise it, comes to the tollbooth to question her on the events of that night, and the weeks preceding it. Leslie seeks any information that will condemn the Protestant King William, rumoured to be involved in the massacre, and reinstate the Catholic James. Corrag agrees to talk to him so that the truth may be known about her involvement, and so that she may be less alone, in her final days. As she tells her story, Leslie questions his own beliefs and purpose – and a friendship develops between them that alters both their lives. In Corrag, Susan Fletcher tells us the story of an epic historic event, of the difference a single heart can make – and how deep and lasting relationships that can come from the most unlikely places.”

 

On to the interview with Susan 

How did you come up with the idea for the book? 

  I had always had a strong pull towards the Scottish Highlands, and to Glencoe in particular. Towards the end of my second novel, ‘Oystercatchers’, I finally made my way up to the glen for a few days. The mountains were more dramatic and beautiful than I could have imagined, so much so that I felt emotional to be amongst them. Then, on my second afternoon there, I visited a local museum. I saw Corrag’s name on the wall, read her story, and I instinctively knew that she was to be the narrator of my third book. It was a surge, an absolute conviction – I’ve never had that feeling before. And that night, in my hotel room, I began to write the book.

Describe Corrag in 3 words

 Spiritual, loving, brave. 

The way Corrag notices every little detail of nature, embraces it and describes it is so breathtaking that from reading the book I can only assume that you are a nature lover. Is this correct and if so, where are your favourite places?

 Thank you for saying that! And yes, I adore nature. I’ve always felt calmer and happier outside. In general, I love woods and mountains. More specifically, nowhere comes close to Glencoe. There is a rock high up in the glen which I would take my notebook and a flask of coffee up to, and I’d sit there and just look. I’ve seen deer from there, and eagles, and there is so much sky! Several scenes in the book were written up there, and far more of it was conceived in that spot, or near it. Of all the beautiful places, I think that’s the best of all.

 

Did your opinion of what happened in Glencoe in 1692 change at all while researching and writing the book? 

I knew very little about the Massacre before researching it. I only knew – wrongly – that it was Campbells murdering MacDonalds, and not much more. But the reality is far more complicated than that. Many people were involved or implicated, and whilst the murders were dreadful, the truth is that day-to-day clan warfare brought about far more deaths than those that happened in Glencoe that night. We know about the Massacre because of its deceit (it was ‘Murder Under Trust’) and its political ramifications, more than anything else. It fuelled Jacobitism, and changed allegiances.

 What were the easiest and the hardest thing about writing Corrag?

  All the research was tricky! I wanted to portray the Massacre as accurately and fairly as I could – for there are many misconceptions about what happened, even to this day. I also felt nervous writing about real people, as there’s an element of responsibility there: I didn’t want to paint a person in a dubious light unless there was evidence to support it. The easiest part about writing the book was writing about nature – about my character’s love of it. It meant I had no choice but to sit in beautiful places, to watch the minutiae of the natural world for hours in the name of ‘research.’ I had half-an-hour of watching a bumble bee visit foxgloves, writing down how it looked and sounded, and knowing that Corrag would have loved such a thing. I remember thinking how blessed I was, to have such a job!!

 Where is your favourite place to write? 

That rock above the glen is my favourite, by far – but not in the rain! If I’m using a notepad, then I love being in coffee shops, making notes. If I’m typing, then it’s at home – sometimes even in bed! (The Massacre scene was mostly written in bed – it was a sad and challenging scene to write, and I somehow felt safer there.)

 Are you working on anything else now and can you give us any little tidbits?

 It’s very early days and I am always reluctant to give too much away – as things change so quickly, at this stage. But I’ve always had a novel in me that starts off in Africa. I’m researching around that, just now.

 You’re about to be stranded on a dessert island and can only take 3 books with you. What do you take? 

It would have to be books of hope and reassurance – nothing gloomy! Mary Oliver’s poetry is full of both these things – so I would take her Selected Poems. Then, perhaps, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. I’ve read it many times over, but it’s still humorous, beautiful and profound. And I’d finish with Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes – neither a novel nor poetry, but rather a book that celebrates womanhood, nature, instinct, and which I always turn to when I’m feeling in need of guidance. It would keep me happy and strong until the boat arrived!

 Have you ever read a book and thought “Damn! I wish I’d written that”? 

All the time! Most recently I wished I’d written Philip Hoare’s Leviathan – an incredible study of man’s relationship with the whale. It’s both mournful and beautiful, and my head was full of whales for weeks afterwards…!

If you could travel back in time for one year anywhere in the world, what year would you choose and where would it be? 

It would have to be the Scottish Highlands in 1691 – I’d want to meet all these people I’ve spent the past two years imagining. 

Finally the quick fire round: 

         Favourite colour: All of them – honestly. Couldn’t pick one.
         Favourite animal: Too many! Ducks, owls, hedgehogs…
         Favourite holiday destination: Scotland (I’m in love with it), and I hear Bali’s pretty nice.
         Favourite aurthor: Don’t have one. Sorry…
         Favourite song: There’s a lovely combination of Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World, sung by a man with a banjo (I can’t remember his name!). It’s joyous and bouncy and sweet. It’s what I’d like to have played at my funeral so that people could walk out with a smile.
         Favourite movie: Amelie and The Thin Red Line.
         Favourite childhood memory: Crab-fishing with my brother near Christchurch, Dorset, and tipping up the bucket onto the pier when the boat came in. All those people squealing as the crabs ran over their feet! Naughty but brilliant.

 

Want to know more?

 Here is a link to a podcast that Susan did over at Fifth Estate – it’s a short interview but really interesting and definitely worth listening to.

I also came across this on Love Reading yesterday – Susan is the Guest Editor for March and disucsses her favourite authors and books.

You can check out more reviews etc on Amazon too.

 

And finally… 

Thank you so much to Susan Fletcher for joining me for this interveiw, and to Fifth Estate for organising it. I truly adored this book and highly recommend it as one you pick up soon. If you enjoy historical fiction, lyrical fiction, feel-good books then you will love this. For anyone who appreciates beauty in the written word then this is for you.

 

Book Review: Corrag by Susan Fletcher

The Blurb

 “The Massacre of Glencoe happened at 5am on 13th February 1692 when thirty-eight members of the Macdonald clan were killed by soldiers who had enjoyed the clan’s hospitality for the previous ten days. Many more died from exposure in the mountains. Fifty miles to the south Corrag is condemned for her involvement in the Massacre. She is imprisoned, accused of witchcraft and murder, and awaits her death. The era of witch-hunts is coming to an end – but Charles Leslie, an Irish propagandist and Jacobite, hears of the Massacre and, keen to publicise it, comes to the tollbooth to question her on the events of that night, and the weeks preceding it. Leslie seeks any information that will condemn the Protestant King William, rumoured to be involved in the massacre, and reinstate the Catholic James. Corrag agrees to talk to him so that the truth may be known about her involvement, and so that she may be less alone, in her final days. As she tells her story, Leslie questions his own beliefs and purpose – and a friendship develops between them that alters both their lives. In Corrag, Susan Fletcher tells us the story of an epic historic event, of the difference a single heart can make – and how deep and lasting relationships that can come from the most unlikely places.”

(source: Amazon.com)

 

 What I thought

Rarely does a book bewitch (pardon the pun) and mesmorise me quite so much as this one. It is truly one of the most beautiful and lyrical books I have ever read.

The story is narrated by Corrag, a 16 year old girl who is awaiting being burned at the stake for being a witch in 17th century Scotland. Corrag is visited in jail by Charles Leslie, an Irish Jacobite who wants to prove that the recent massacre in Glencoe was the work of the soldiers under William of Orange. Corrag is English and has run away “north and west” at the command of her mother who is about to be hung for also being a witch. Corrag takes the old and beaten horse of a cruel neighbour, a grey mare who becomes her best and only friend, and spends the next year living off the land and making her way north-west where she arrives in Glencoe. At first the clan is wary of her, but over time they welcome her into the fold although she still lives in her self-made little hut on the moor.

What is magical about this book is Corrage’s voice. She lives, breathes and dreams nature and the land around her. Every tiny thing is spoken of with such love and passion and she notices everything – a dew drop on a leaf, the changing colours of the rocks through the day, the silver sand as the grey mare gallops over beaches in the moonlight. The way she narrates is lyrical and equistite and the world she inhabits makes you feel like you can breathe again. Despite her life so far and her hardships, she has such a capacity for love and kindness for eveyone she meets.

Through her visits from Charles Leslie, Corrag tells her life story from her birth through to the night her friends were slain in a Scottish valley during a blizzard. Each person is wary of the other at the beginning – Leslie returns daily as he is waiting for details on who was behind the massacre (believing it to be the new King) and Corrag is determined that her life will not be forgotten. After several weeks they find a strange comfort in each other and a friendship is born. Corrag has found companionship in her final days and Leslie learns to see whe world through fresh eyes.

I honestly just loved this book. It has now become a firm favourite and I am sorry it has ended. I have never read any of Susan Fletchers other two books but I will now be seeking them out.

Highly, highly recommended!

You can also read my interview with the author, Susan Fletcher, here.

 

Other books by Susan Fletcher are: Eve Green  and Oystercatchers.