28 November 2010

Review: THE DISTANT HOURS by Kate Morton *****

Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long lost letter arrives with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret.

Evacuated from London as a thirteen year old girl, Edie’s mother is chosen by the mysterious Juniper Blythe, and taken to live at Millderhurst Castle with the Blythe family.

Fifty years later, Edie too is drawn to Milderhurst and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiancé in 1941 plunged her into madness.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find it . . .

I've been raving about this book for months and I was SO excited when I finally got my copy! Reading it was such a treat and it was pretty much everything I've hoped for, having really really enjoyed her previous two books, The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden.

Unlike the first two books, which mostly alternate between the early 1900s and the present days, the historical part of this novel takes place during World War II and the present day narration is set in 1992, which is when our heroine Edie's mother receives a letter (from 1941) that changes everything. The letter itself is nothing special, but with its arrival Edie learns that her mother Meredith was evacuated during WWII and spent a short period of time living at the Milderhurst Castle ...

Soon after that, Edie finds herself in the Milderhurst village and books a tour of the castle, where she meets the three Blythe sisters that her mother used to know and who still live there: the twins Persephone and Seraphina and their younger sister Juniper (also knows as Percy, Saffy and June respecitvely). Neither of them ever married and the twins are now caring for Juniper, who has supposedly lost her mind on 29 October 1941 when her fiancé never showed up for dinner and she's still stuck in a time loop, convinced he will arrive after all.

At the centre of the novel is the now crumbling but once magnificent Milderhurst Castle and its residents, the Blythe family, who have had their fair share of tragedy. The father of the Blythe Sisters, Raymond Blythe, has tragically lost both his wives so he mostly had to take care of his daughters himself. He was also the famous author of The True History of the Mud Man, a children's classic novel, which plays a very important role in the novel as well; as one of the characters says, this story begins and ends with the Mud Man - and oh yes, does it ever ... Gosh, I so wish that story actually existed because I really want to read the whole thing now, not just the prologue that's featured at the beginning of the book.

Although Edie was the narrator, I felt she was more the side character and that the Sisters Blythe took over the central stage, which I quite liked actually. I enjoyed reading about their growing up in the castle and it made me sad how none of them ever realized their ambitions and how they remained tied to the castle. The book is divided into five parts and there are several cliffhangers. I raced through it to see what actually happened on that fateful stormy night of 29 October 1941 - and whoa, talk about twists and turns!

The novel is masterfully crafted, but that should come as no surprise if you've read Morton's previous two books, and her latest accomplishment just proves what an outstanding storyteller she is! Granted that this book is massive (nearly 700 pages!) and a bit slow at times, BUT Ms Morton's amazing writing style makes every single page an absolute delight to read. She creates a world that is so detailed and so well presented that it completely sucks you in and I loved getting lost in it.

If you love a good and well written story with secrets and a fair bit of mystery (including a literary one) and a fantastic set of characters, then this is the book for you. If you've read Ms Morton's books before, then I can assure you that you will not be disappointed by her latest offering. And if you're not familiar with this author yet, then I urge you to give her books a try. This book was well worth the wait and I'm really excited about Morton's future's novel - I do hope she's working on one already!

overall rating:
plot: 5/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 4/5

ps: Watch the video below to learn more about the book.

14 November 2010

In My Mailbox #63

Whoooa, another crazy week! Where does the time go?! The week just went by SO fast, but wahey at least I got some great books!

  • THE REDHEAD REVEALED by Alice Clayton - Squee! I got an e-ARC of this book a while ago, but Alice kindly arranged for me to have a finished copy too, yay! Thanks so much, Alice! I loved the previous instllment, The Unidentified Redhead and I cannot WAIT to read more about THE BRIT and his sexy adventures, hehe!
  • HOLD STILL by Nina LaCour - The new cover and the trailer totally sealed the deal for me and I just had to get this book!
  • DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver - WOOHOOO! What an amazing surprise! I got this for review from Hodder so thank you to whoever who thought of me! I was amazed by Before I Fall and I've heard nothing but praise for Delirium so far! Really looking forward to this one and in case you didn't know, it comes out in February 2011.
  • I DON'T WANT TO BE CRAZY by Samantha Schutz - This one was recommeded to me by Chelsea @ The Page Flipper. We were sort of discussing books about anxiety and the lack of them so she recommeded this one. It's written in verse and it looks very interesting.

That's it from me. What did YOU get? :)

Have a great Sunday, everyone!

8 November 2010

Review: HELLO, HEARTBREAK by Amy Huberman *****

You'd think 27 years would be enough time to wise up to the rules of love and loss, especially Rule Number 1: Do not, at any time, let him see how much he has hurt you. But no, Izzy Keegan was probably off doing sambuca shots when that lesson was taught. So, starting with public humiliation (that infamous blow-up with her Ex and his new woman...huge mistake), and taking in temporary insanity, rebound sex, and a night in a police cell along the way, Izzy has to make up her own rules for coping with heartbreak.
Luckily she has friends who are there for her through thick and thin (even if 'doing an Izzy' is their new shorthand for completely losing it). And she's got her foot in the door of the film business (though dogsbody wasn't exactly the job she dreamt of doing). Now, all she has to do is put the dirty cheating love-rat behind her. You'd think 27 years would be enough time to wise up to the rules of love and loss. Make that 27 and a bit...
Oh my goodness, this book was SO GOOD!
I still chuckle and grin and giggle just thinking about this brilliant little thing, but I have to be honest with you, I wasn't expecting that much to begin with. I'm not into books about girls coping with breaking up and waaah, plus I read that Ms Huberman is an actress so I sort of figured she's just another girl who got a publishing deal just because she's famous. But boy oh boy was I *wrong*, this girl was BORN to write chick lit!

The story itself is quite simple - our occassionally ditzy yet absolutely adorable heroine Izzy has been dumped by the love of her life and now she has to cope with all the humiliation she's gotten herself into trying to win him back. She tries to get over him with the help of her amazing friends and housemates and some yummy boys, and gets herself into about a million hilarious situations along the way. Please excuse me for simplying the story to the max, there is SO much more to it, but it's not the plot itself that takes the cake - it's the writing and the humour that make this book absolutely GOLDEN, just like the cover!

The author is Irish and as I've said before, Irish chick lit is simply the best! I love Irish humour and this book just made me laugh SO hard, I was honestly laughing my arse off and I couldn't read normally because I was crying from laughing so much (no joke!). I read one scene or sentence, burst out laughing, then tried to read more and cracked up again. I was reading it at the hotel lobby while waiting to be picked up by the agency (the holiday was over, boo) and people must've thought I was completely manic because I was literally laughing like crazy, LOL. Maybe I was just in a good mood or relaxed, but seriously, this book made me laugh so much it literally hurt and I'm not even joking! :D

Yes yes, this book is 100 % fluff and occassionally a bit silly and super light and blah blah, but SO WHAT? Its only purpuse is to entertain and I personally have to say it excels at it! I loved everything about it - Izzy, her friends Susie and Keelin, their rabbit Dermont, all the hilarious scenes involving Cian and 'Edna McClodmutton', Aidan and his gang, Izzy's workmates (espesh Eve & Geraldine) and thieir project Snog Me Now, You Dublin Whore and Gavin and ooh and aah! I loved it all! The only tiny complaint I might have is the cover, which is not really my favourite and I think it could be much better, but I suppose it's not that bad ... However, in this case what's inside really does count! ;)

The blurbs on the back cover describe this book as 'Jane Austen on ecstay' or 'Bridget Jones on viagra' and I have to say I agree, I don't know what the author was smoking or popping while working on this book, but it totally worked and reading the book really is like inhaling laughing gas or something! Other blurbs say the novel is 'fun, bubbly, gutsy and lively' as well as 'sharp and sassy' - all true!
In more awesome news, this cute little brain candy is also nominated in several categories at this year's Irish Book Awards and I'm totally keeping my fingers crossed that it wins Best Irish Newcomer of the Year and Irish Popular Book of the Year - I've already voted!

Right, well, this review was a bit hyper, but I blame it all on this book - I've read it more than a month ago and it still has this crazy happy effect on me. I want to re-read it and I just might do that the next time I'm feeling down - this awesome piece of Wit Lit is bound to do the trick!

In conclusion, all I can say is that this book was downright hilarious and brilliant and a must-read for everyone who doesn't mind a light read with lots of comedy. It's one of the best books I've read this year and I sure hope there's more where this came from, but I can't find anything on Amazon ... Nonetheless, if Ms Huberman writes any more books in the future, you best believe I'll be the first in line to read them!

overall rating:
plot: 5/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 4/5

7 November 2010

In My Mailbox #62

Whew, another busy week finally ended and I can't believe it's Sunday already! I only got two books in the past weeks and here they are:

IMMORTAL BELOVED by Cate Tiernan - I got this ARC for review from Hodder and it arrived in this awesome blue envelope, I really liked the packaging! The story sounds really interesting too and my review should hopefully up by January 2011 when this book comes out!
DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET? by Claudia Carroll - I loooooved Carroll's latest book called Personally, I Blame My Fairy Godmothwer so I decided to get her back list too, starting with this one because it sounds like the most fun!

That's it from me, what did YOU get? :)

1 November 2010

Review: A PLACE OF SECRETS by Rachel Hore ****

The night before it all begins, Jude has the dream again ...
Can dreams be passed down through families? As a child Jude suffered a recurrent nightmare: running through a dark forest, crying for her mother. Now her six-year-old niece, Summer, is having the same dream, and Jude is frightened for her.
A successful auctioneer, Jude is struggling to come to terms with the death of her husband. When she's asked to value a collection of scientific instruments and manuscripts belonging to Anthony Wickham, a lonely 18th century astronomer, she leaps at the chance to escape London for the untamed beauty of Norfolk, where she grew up.
As Jude untangles Wickham's tragic story, she discovers threatening links to the present. What have Summer's nightmares to do with Starbrough folly, the eerie crumbling tower in the forest from which Wickham and his adopted daughter Esther once viewed the night sky?
With the help of Euan, a local naturalist, Jude searches for answers in the wild, haunting splendour of the Norfolk woods. Dare she leave behind the sadness in her own life, and learn to love again?
I've come across Ms Hore's books before and I always thought they sounded interesting, but I haven't read any, although I've always wanted to! Then I got the chance to review this and I figured it was the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with this author's work. I expected this book to be good and I certainly wasn't disappointed - but not really blown away either. Nonetheless, it turned out to be a very enjoyable read!

I like a good mystery and enjoy stories with the past and present narrative so this book was just my cup of tea! It's the story of a young widow Jude, who works for an auction house and travels to the countryside to value the collection of books from the 18th century at Starbrough Hall. The job couldn't be more perfect: the owners of the house are lovely, the work is fascinating, she gets to spend more time with her beloved niece and she also meets the charming naturalist Euan.
The collection she is valuing belongs to an astronomer from the 18th century, Antony Wickham. While inspecting the collection, Jude also comes across a diary, which apparently belongs to Esther, Wickham's adopted daughter. The strange thing is that there is no record of her anywhere - no clues about where she came from and what happened to her. It appears like she never existed - if it wasn't for the diary entries, which eventually uncover a rather fascinating story about her astronomical discoveries with her father and her own life story ...

The main story takes place now, but it's interspersed with Esther's diary entries from the late 18th century. I quite liked this format - thus the mystery was gradually revealed and I found myself eager to know more about Esther's life, work and her strange disappearance into history. The ending didn't disappoint and I thought her story came to a marvelous conclusion! The only complaint I have is that perhaps there were perhaps just a tad too many coincidences and everything connected maybe just a bit too easily, in my opinion. But hey, this is fiction so that is to be expected! Other than that, the book proved to be a rather absorbing read with a lovely main story and an interesting mystery at heart.

I can't fault the writing or the characters either. I thought the book was well written and the characters were believable and warm (well, most of them) and they felt real. The novel itself is nice too, but I think a picture of the folly and perhaps a starry sky would be far more fitting. I suppose the publishers choose this look to bring the book to the attention of Kate Morton fans? The covers *are* rather similar in design, after all ...

Which bring me to my last point - the Kate Morton comparisons. The author must be fed up of them, but they just can't be avoided as there seem to be quite a few similarities between the books by these two authors. Personally, I've only read one Rachel Hore book as opposed to three Kate Morton books (all of which I *adored*), and thus I'm not the most fair judge. Well, in my opinion, Kate Morton is the absolute Queen of this sort of historical fiction, but Rachel Hore seems to be a good replacement for when you're waiting for the next Kate Morton book, hehe! So if you're a Ms Morton fan, definitely give Ms Hore a chance - or pick up the book if you're just looking for a good story, you won't be disappointed!

overall rating:
plot: 4/5 | writing: 4/5 | characters: 4/5 | cover: 4/5