Children of the Wise Oak by Oliver J Tooley

Children of the Wise Oak by Oliver J Tooley

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Children of the Wise Oak

by Oliver J Tooley

“Children of the Wise Oak” is an epic journey written in a magical world where the Celtic-Roman era meets magic and mythology. It reminds me of Assaf Mehr’s Felix the Fox’s world only slightly more suitable for younger readers (led philosophical if you may).

Blyth and his younger brothers live in a remote Celtic village, in a lifestyle and surrounding of harsh survival where the tribe is put above all. When his father returns from distant lands, with apocalyptic prophecies that involves the newly formed Roman Republic – they are forced to flee from home. Guided by Gwenn, a powerful mage who knew their father, their journey leads them across the continent straight to the heart of the Roman Republic. They learn magic and shapeshifting, they come across new people and cultures and they learn to admire the amazing Roman architecture which is a million light years advance from anything they ever knew.

This book is the first in the “Wise Oak” series, the second being published soon, which has excited me a lot. I don’t tend to read fantasy, but the historical accuracy is so refined that I almost forget about the magical elements in the novel. In a sense – it can get teenagers to relate to historical event and would be appealing to mature readers with Tooley’s great figurative language and carrying imagery.
Looking forward to the next one!

 
A Twist in Time (Kendra Donovan, #2)  by Julie McElwain 

A Twist in Time (Kendra Donovan, #2)  by Julie McElwain 

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A Twist in Time (Kendra Donovan, #2) 

by Julie McElwain

Let me first start by saying that it’s been long over-due for me to read an Historical Fiction Novel. The last time, was about three years ago, finishing an excellent fictional series of novels about Churchill, written by the uncanny Michael Dobbs.
I was a bit worried about Julie McElwain’s “A Twist in Time” which I was approved to review by Netgalley – time travel? Georgian England? can these mix?
Well they certainly do!
Kendra (a very untypical name to 19th Century England, to emphasize her alien-ness) Donovon is stuck in the past. She is a capable FBI agent, and a very much free woman of the 21st Century. So, when her benefactor and protector (the Duke of Aldridge) needs her help proving his nephew Alec is innocent from murder allegations of the promiscuous Lady Dover – she immediately accepts the challenge.
It is fortunate that the Duke is a is an all-powerful figure in the classes society of PRE-Victorian England, but it is also an inconvenience to Kendra, who finds herself bound by Victorian gowns, the need for a chaperon outdoors, and the underestimation of people. She is resentful to a society that thinks less of women, especially those who do not find a good husband, and do more than to raise children and stay at home… the novel takes place in filthy 19th Century London, but is Kendra up for the challenge?
I found the book a fresh breath of air. There aren’t too many temporal mambo-jambo, and the differences between our society to Georgian England’s sticks out through Kendra inaptness to the strict rules enforced on the women of the era.
in a Poirot fashion, she will slowly cross off suspects from her blackboard, while employing modern day form of investigation, on an almost lawless society. She is aided by bow street runner Sam Kelly, who’s authority is weak at best, and is torn between her attraction to Alec, to the need of getting back home.
I found the novel is not over-sophisticated, it is a fun murder-she-wrote, that tics all the boxes for me. I will most definitely read the first book at some point (which says it all), Thumbs up!

(not to be confused with “Cinderella A Twist in Time” the 3rd sequel to Cinderella who left me and my little girl traumatised…!)

Goodread page for A Twist in Time (Kendra Donovan, #2) 
Amazon Link 

 
The Promise (DC Gary Goodhew Mystery #6) by Alison Bruce

The Promise (DC Gary Goodhew Mystery #6) by Alison Bruce

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The Promise (DC Gary Goodhew Mystery #6) 

by Alison Bruce

I was given the opportunity to Review the Promise, the newest Goodhew Novel by Alison Bruce. This being my first Goodhew novel, I must first say that I did not feel left out or disoriented by the fact that I did not read any other of Goodhew novels, so this will do perfectly as a standalone novel as well.

I enjoyed “the Promise” – it is a good thriller, and Bruce’s writing is flowing and interesting.
First the plot: DC Gary Goodhew returns to Cambridge police force after a body of a homeless person that acted as his informant for years, had been found on market hill. Aided by Sue Gully, Gary feels that this murder is part of a larger, more sinister work, and being the station’s “trouble maker” pursues this line of inquiry in spite of his superior’s instructions.
Meanwhile we meet Kyle, an injured ex GI, who came back from Afghanistan only to have his life shuttered: he split with his girlfriend, he can’t see his son, and something have made him lay low and keep clear from his Mom and sister. It appears that Kyle has come across something as well, and without telling the police, manages to get his family tangled right in the middle of this mess…
As I said I enjoyed the book, and was actually holding my breath to find the details of the crime mystery as they turn out in the end. Having said that the book does not lack its problems: Bruce takes her time to set the scene, the introduction is messy at best, and I actually needed to go back and reread the first 3 chapters to fit them in the story. Not what you would want from a detective mystery in which the introduction needs to draw you into the entrails of the plot.

I was also a bit disappointed from the climax of the story, without revealing any details, I had the notion that things got “wrapped up” a bit too fast, and since at some point the story was so gripping I expected a bit more. I am aware that Bruce is not your typical boom-bang-shots kind of author, still there was room to make the ending a bit longer, I felt, with slightly more suspense…
At the end of the day, the Promise is a very thrilling novel. The story itself is well placed, and makes you wonder how the author came out with such a plot! I enjoyed the book profoundly, though as I said the beginning and the end could have used some brushing up. 4.5 stars.

 
the Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne

the Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne

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The Ice Twins

by S.K. Tremayne

The Ice Twins is a book that I did not intend to read… I have received it for free from The Times Plus+ book of the month, and since I didn’t have anything to read I went along with the choice. As a father of two the plot summery was enough to unnerve me: Angus and Sarah Moorcraft are mourning the death of their daughter Lydia, an identical twin to their living daughter of 7, Kirsty. To try and recover from this tragedy and due to a financial ordeal, they decide to live on a remote Scottish Island, Which Angus inherited. The twist starts when Kirstie asks “why do you keep calling me Kirstie mummy? I’m Lydia…”
The plot then becomes heavier, as we discover that the relationship between the couple is hardly ideal and that life on the remote Scottish isle is contributing to Kirsty/Lydia’s identity confusion.

The book is written by Sean Thomas, aka Tom Knox, who I guess decided he wanted a new kind of fan base for this triller, otherwise I do not know why use a third pseudonyms… He sets the scene superbly and I especially liked the twist where we hear the story from alternating narrators: Sarah, the mother, who accounts for the story from her own view, whilst when we see things from Angus’ side, it is told by a third omniscient narrator. This little twist is only understood at the end as essential for keeping us readers in the dark.
For me, the novel plunges into disarray when the second half of the story begins. On one side, it’s good that the writer started wrapping thing up on a faster pace because there’s not much more to say, any new fact would have just contributed to the readers perplexity. On the other hand, the story did have a certain pace which is broken when they reach Scotland – it also feels that also the language/writing is inferior to the start of the book.

As a thriller, the Ice Twins does the trick. It’s hard to conceive of the truth and only when we read the (too short) conclusion does things start to make sense. I Did enjoy the book profoundly and finished it within a few days, as the story as a whole is very good. Highly recommended to creepy mysteries lovers, maybe less for stormy nights 🙂

 
The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne

The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne

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The Fire Child

by S.K. Tremayne

The Fire Child is the second book of Sean Thomas (Tom Knox) writing as S K Tremayne. This, I guess, is to distinguish his new thrillers series, all so far revolving around children that suffered a personal trauma, from his earlier works.

In The Fire Child we meet a similar desolated surrounding as we did in the ICE TWINS; this time a mansion house in Cornwall called Carnhallow, home of David Kerthen a successful Lawyer and a descendant of a long line of English aristocrats, who used to own mines in gloomy Cornwall back in the days when mining there was profitable.
David and his son Jamie had suffered a major tragedy when the wife and mother, Nina, had fallen down a mine shaft on Christmas two years before our story takes place, and died – her body never to be found.
To that scenario enters Rachel Daley – David’s new wife, who is forced to juggle between her new status as the lady of Carnhallow, her loneliness in Cornwall and an impossible grieving step-son who is convinced that his mummy is still alive. Is he right? Is there a ghost dwelling in Carnhallow? or is Rachel, who has a dark past as well, growing slowly insane?

The book is gripping, the writing is flawing and superb as always. The setting is just what a thriller needs, although not much different than the isolated Scottish isle of the ICE TWINS story… The reason this novel got only 3.5 stars for me is the fact that the climax was less than i expected. The answer to the twists and clues in the plot was well.. disappointing, especially after the ICE TWINS’ ending which was so surprising in my opinion. The truth about Rachel (don’t worry no spoiler here) could have been deeper, and even the process of her alleged insanity, was too flat and one dimensional. As if the writer wanted to “wrap things up”.
Still this is a decent read and I’d recommend it. The author is extremely talented, and the desolated England imagery – makes you want to pack up and visit the place he is writing on.

 
Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

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Here I Am

by Jonathan Safran Foer

I have been given the opportunity to preview & review Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest critically acclaimed book “Here I am”.
I have never read Safran Foer’s previous book so have thus faced this novel with a “tabula rasa” – blank page.There is an old Israeli song in Hebrew by Haim Hefer, performed by Yehuram Gaon which is also called “Here I Am”, in which the singer exclaims his longing to a woman. He is confident and sure of himself: “I am here like a rock, like a well … I am the man who always comes back, Back!”.
In Safran’s book, the (anti)hero is Jacob Bloch, an American Jew, whose self-confidence is far from Hefer’s protagonist a million light years.
Bloch, a father to three boys, struggles through his own midlife crisis; his deteriorating relationship with his wife “Jewish mama does all” Julia; his eldest son Sam’s Bar Mitzvah ceremony which is in jeopardy due to a hateful note he had written in school; his old grandfather holocaust survivor Isaac who lost the will to live as well as his old dog who is dying and suffering. This all amplifies by Jacob’s own insecurity and the feeling of lack of any real achievement in life.The other plot-line which is important (and used to reflect on Jacob’s own selfishness) is Israel’s destruction. Israel is facing a humanitarian crisis and a war to end all wars in the Middle East, while his cousin (and long friend and instigator) Tamir is “stuck” in Washington with his young son, visiting for the Bar Mitzvah. Tamir’s other son, Noam, is a soldier in the Israeli army when hell breaks loose, and while Jacob’s struggles with his own oh so Jewish triviality – the macho Tamir has to struggle with his home and universe crumbling down, and being helpless to help.
In an interview I have read with Safran in the British Times, he had said something like the book was a journey, a struggle to write hence took him so long. Well, it was the same to read… While I expected something new, I found on more than one occasion an attempt to be a new-age Philip Roth which did not succeed in my opinion, due to overly crowded pages in Jewish schmaltz: Wailing Wall included, Jacob is handling every Jewish stereotypical problem available. It was just too much.
However, on the occasions where Safran let himself run loose of the Jewish author shackles – the novel was a joy to read.In a sense, Jacob’s Via Dolorosa is the reader’s too: Some parts are too long, some chapters are extended beyond what is needed, but always the redemption (the conclusion) is in sight.
“The destruction of Israel” comes in the middle of the book, giving it a needed “kick in the shin” and to Jacob as well – stirring the plot line faster. A much needed event.

I did not suffer as much as Jacob does, reading this book. I thought the Safran’s characters are intriguing and deep (albeit the overly exaggerated Israeli cartoon-like cousin). I think better editing was in order. Brave editing would have gotten Safran to omit a large part of the final act which does not provide any life changing conclusions, not to Jacob – nor to the reader. This fact has kept this a 3 stars book for me, though a recommended read to any Jew in the diaspora or to anyone who wants to understand one.

 
The Painted Ocean by Gabriel Packard

The Painted Ocean by Gabriel Packard

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The Painted Ocean

by Gabriel Packard

The book tells the story of a young Indian-English girl called Shruti. The most miserable girl in the world, left by her father, given up to foster care by her mother and truly has no one in the world to care for her. Her so called saviour – a horrible Indo-English girl called Meena, is the queen of the class, a spoiled brat that though comes through at times for Shruti, takes her on a bogus adventure in India during college years. That’s as much plot as I can give without ruining it.
I am very ambiguous about this book: on one hand I was reading it to keep seeing how it concludes and to hope for a good ending… on the other, the story line is so implausible that it angers me. The only reason this has earned 3 stars from me is the fact that it brought out emotions out of me and that I was curious to see it through. Otherwise, I would have given it a much lower score and I’ll explain why:
– The narrative is set out to be juvenile, since the story teller is a young girl, but at some point it started getting on my nerve. Grammatically it’s terrible reading sentences that keep starting with “And” and I just about had it at one point.
– The story line is terrible… It first looked like some kind of a cross-over between “the Beach” and “Slumdog Millionaire”, so I was thinking to myself – okay this had been done in the past, but that could be a fun read. Then the other half of the book is takes a turn to the worst. I cannot even place this in a genre, it goes over memoir,. Thriller, general fiction? young adult? (I hope not!) … where do I place this book? I am still struggling with understanding the wrapped up fast ending, and placing it in real-life context – spoiler alert: if anyone can explain to me how to travel from Asia to the UK with a fishermen’s boat, a GPS and no sailing experience – please send me an email.
– Last, the characters are hollow, the only thing with a sort of dimension is Shruti and her cynical take on things (driven from her bad experience in life), which just makes you want to pity the human race. There is not a single complex, elaborated character that is not scheming or basically is a horrible person.
In conclusion, I suffered through this book. It provoked feelings from me of irritation and sadness, and that is the only reason I gave it a relatively average plus score. I was not impressed with the story nor from the writing, I’m genuinely sorry to say.

 
Women Like Us by Jason Pomerance

Women Like Us by Jason Pomerance

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Women Like Us

by Jason Pomerance

Women Like us is the debut novel by Jason Pomerance. It tells the story of Susan, a chef in her late 30s, whose life’s course had been somewhat re-routed by an unexpected pregnancy and marriage at college age, to Andrew, a privileged law student from a Pasadena “aristocratic” family.
Having divorced, and carried on with their respected lives, Henry their son had been practically brought up by the all mighty Grandma, Edith (Edie) Vale, a control freak, old fashioned Pasadena strong woman, who run her house and family like a tight ship.
When Susan has a midlife crisis and decides to take a road trip with Henry, that’s where our story truly begins… or has it actually begun years and years ago?

Anyone who knows me, knows that this is not my particular go-to genre. Having disclaimed that, I must confess that I could not leave this book alone. The story is intriguing, the characters are deep and complex (you simply want to know more of all the little stories the writer so eloquently throws your way here and there); the rapports between the characters are intriguing (i.e. Susan still being artificially entwined into the family); and the dialogues are witty and full of subtle humour which reminded me a lot of Howard Jacobson‘s writing style.

Give this awesome tale a chance – you won’t regret!

Goodreads Book Page

Buy now on Amazon

 
Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore

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Birdcage Walk

by Helen Dunmore

I have never read Helen Dunmore books prior to Birdcage Walk and I wanted to thank Netgalley and the publisher on the opportunity to review this amazing masterpiece.

The novel starts with a discovery of a long-lost headstone for Julia Elizabeth Fawkes. Research had resulted with few if any details, save that Julia was an author read by many, and the wife of Augustus Gleeson, a noticeable pamphlet writer of the late 18th century, a time when the French revolution was in its height and the reports of the bloody streets of Paris inflamed the anti-Monarchy British intellectuals such as himself.

When it was apparent that none of Julia’s Writings have survived, Dunmore took it upon herself to revive the old pioneer English woman writer, maybe seeing much of herself in her imaginary character. The story takes place in late 18th century Bristol, when amidst the speculation about war with France, the real-estate market has collapsed – sending the economy, the entrepreneurs and many workers to chaotic desperation.
The story (in Brief) is cleverly told by Lizzie Fawkes, now Mrs Tredevant, Julia’s sole daughter. Having brought up in a liberal house, encouraged to act and think for herself, to be opinionated and never timid, Julia has broken from that suffocating shelter that her family provided to marry a speculate called John Diner, a widower who has made a small fortune by building houses and has now undertook a grandiose project of building the houses overlooking the Bristol Avon Gorge.
As Lizzie discovers that not everything is as perfect as she had convinced herself, we learn about her husband’s jealous character, his endeavours which are slowly but surely going bust, and Lizzy’s warm relationship with her mother and Hannah (their servant and close friend from when she was an infant). The subplot is that of the French revolution, as perceived by random reports that make it in, whether by post or by newspapers, and how differently they are perceived by John Diner and by Augustus and his milieu.

This is an historical fiction, but branding it as such does it little justice. Dunmore has managed to bring life into characters that existed (or some have) in real life, with such intensity that makes you forget yourself, all set into motion from a small script on a headstone!
The shadow of Dunmore’s disease must have entwined this novel in grimness that is leaping out of the pages – but give this novel the true colour of life in England and Europe in the 18-1900s. It is a masterpiece, and I dare say – Dunmore will be missed.

 

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