Book Review: The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal

‘There’s a trick to time. You can make it expand or you can make it contract. Make it shorter or make it longer . . .’

Some moments you want to last forever. Some moments shape a life.

For Mona, it’s the joy of playing on a Wexford beach as a young girl, next to her family’s cottage overlooking the Irish sea. The thrill of moving to Birmingham with a new job and a room of her own in a busy boarding-house. Meeting the love of her life; a whirlwind marriage; a sudden, tragic loss.

But now, decades later, Mona is determined to find happiness before it’s too late. She knows that every moment is precious. But can we ever let go of the past that shaped us?

What I Thought:

I’ve struggled for quite a while with how to review The Trick to Time, it seems to be much harder to articulate reviews for books that have made a deeper impact on you – or so I find in any case!

Throughout the book we go back and forth in the life of Mona, from her upbringing in Ireland, her excitement at moving to the UK, falling in love and then personal tragedy. Present day Mona makes dolls and sells them all over the world and, while each doll is special, it’s the commissions that come from a select group of women who are referred to her that seem to mean the most.

Mona’s feeling her age on the approach to her 60th birthday and she begins to take out and examine the parts of her life that have led her to where she is. Some of her personal tragedies coincide with huge, national events and she’s left with the question – what if? What if she had done something different, or gone somewhere else? What would her life look like at 60 if these other things had been done?

What made the greatest impression on me was Mona’s work with the woment that are referred to her. You have to admire people who are willing to use their own personal losses to help other people, and it was easy to feel Mona’s warmth and the weight of her experience in these sections.

There’s little more I can say without completely spoiling this special book, so I won’t give away any more now – I just absolutely recommend it, as it’s a beautifully-written look at how grief affects us in its many and varied ways.

About the Author:

Kit de Waal was born in Birmingham to an Irish mother, who was a childminder and foster carer and a Caribbean father.

She worked for fifteen years in criminal and family law, was a magistrate for several years and sits on adoption panels. She used to advise Social Services on the care of foster children, and has written training manuals on adoption, foster care and judgecraft for members of the judiciary.

Her writing has received numerous awards including the Bridport Flash Fiction Prize 2014 and 2015 and the SI Leeds Literary Reader’s Choice Prize 2014 and the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year.

MY NAME IS LEON, her first novel was published in 2016 and shortlisted for the Costa Book Award. She has two children and lives in the West Midlands.

You can find out more about Kit de Waal at www.kitdewaal.com.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: The Forbidden Promise by Lorna Cook

Can one promise change the fate of two women decades apart?

Scotland, 1940
War rages across Europe, but Invermoray House is at peace – until the night of Constance’s 21st birthday, when she’s the only person to see a Spitfire crash into the loch. Rescuing the pilot and vowing to keep him hidden, Constance finds herself torn between duty to her family and keeping a promise that could cost her everything.

2020
Kate arrives in the Highlands to turn Invermoray into a luxury B&B, only to find that the estate is more troubled than she’d imagined. But when Kate discovers the house has a dark history, with Constance’s name struck from its records, she knows she can’t leave until the mystery is solved…

What I Thought:

Having read and loved Lorna Cook’s first book, The Forgotten Village, I was pleased to pick up The Forbidden Promise, where her formula of interweaving the present day with an early 20th Century time period moves from Dorset to rural Scotland.

I think the ‘timeslip’ format is really clever, as it equally fulfils a liking for both historical and contemporary fiction plus, as we read the historical fiction parts, we can see almost in ‘real time’ the effects that has on the later time period.

Part of what makes this formula work is how well these two time periods are put together – too much of one and it can drain the tension away, but Lorna Cook hits exactly the right note in bringing the old and new Invermoray House alive.

Although foremost a romance novel – in which the romantic storyline completely ticks all the boxes – there is also an excellent mystery plot, which modern-day Kate learns about alongside the reader. You definitely don’t get out of the book without some excellent twists!

The period detail in the historical sections is excellent, and the historical and contemporary descriptions of Invermoray House make it sound very much like somewhere I would like to see.

Very much one to recommend – I’ve also got Lorna Cook’s third book, The Girl from the Island, on my TBR, so watch out for a review of that soon…

You can find out more about Lorna Cook on her website at www.lornacookauthor.com.

Please note: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Fortune Favours the Dead by Stephen Spotswood

It’s 1945 and Lillian Pentecost is the most successful private detective in New York City, but she needs help. Enter Willowjean Parker, a circus runaway – and the perfect assistant. Quick-witted and street-smart, she’s a jack-of-all-trades with a unique skill-set. She can pick locks blindfolded, wrestle men twice her size, and throw knives with deadly precision – all of which come in handy working for Ms P.

When wealthy young widow Abigail Collins is murdered Pentecost and Parker are hired by the family to track down the culprit. On Halloween night, there was a costume party at the Collins’ mansion, where a fortune teller performed a seance which greatly disturbed Abigail. Several hours later her body was discovered bludgeoned to death in her late husband’s office. Problem is, the door to the office was locked from the inside. There was no-one else in the room, and the murder weapon was beside the victim; the fortune teller’s crystal ball.

It looks like an impossible crime, but Pentecost and Parker know there is no such thing…

What I Thought:

Thanks to Netgalley November and my quest to get up to that fabled 80%, I’ve read some pretty darn good books recently! Fortune Favours the Dead was so much this, that I immediately got hold of the second book in the series, which was released this week.

What a fantastic debut this is! It ticks all the right boxes for me, being historical crime fiction, set in 1940s New York and I was completely riveted from the first few pages. The murder mystery plot was very well done too – I just didn’t see it, which makes me really happy.

A lot of what made me like this book is that the plot is carried by strong women. Lillian Pentecost is an unapologetic genius at solving crime while her apprentice, Willowjean Parker is equally brilliant, but hot-headed and eager to go about things her own way.

There was plenty of well-used period detail that really pulls you into the novel, but there is also a modernity to some of the attitudes – especially within the resolution that I can’t elaborate on due to spoilers. Overall a really solid and readable beginning to a series – I’ll review the second book later in the week.

About the Author:

STEPHEN SPOTSWOOD (he/him) is an award-winning playwright, journalist, and educator. As a journalist, he has spent much of the last two decades writing about the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the struggles of wounded veterans. His dramatic work has been widely produced across the United States. He makes his home in Washington, D.C. with his wife, young adult author Jessica Spotswood.

You can find Stephen Spotswood online at www.stephenspotswood.com.

Please note: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

Parker Grant doesn’t need perfect vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances.

When Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart, suddenly reappears at school, Parker knows there’s only one way to react – shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough to deal with already, like trying out for the track team, handing out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened – both with Scott, and her dad – the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem.

What I Thought:

I was pleasantly surprised by Not If I See You First – hands up, I downloaded it so long ago that I’d forgotten quite what it was about, so when it turned out to be a unique YA book, I was pretty happy!

Having read quite a bit of YA, it was great to read something that deals with the heavy topics that are such a feature of YA but – great news – more reliance on the power of female friendships than romantic relationships.

Parker is not really a likeable character at first – I’ve seen many reviews saying that this is a bad thing – she is blind and assumes she is ok with it, but the signs are there that she’s kidding herself about that and about her ability to deal with the sudden death of her father. Her father’s death has led to some huge changes in her life, but it’s really interesting to see Parker navigate her life after that point with no consideration that the lives of others have also been rocked – seeing her come to this realisation throughout the course of the book is rewarding, as the book ends on a hopeful note for everyone.

The female friendships in this book are really powerful – even at Parker’s lowest point, her friends are there for her. She doesn’t have to put on a show for them and can be her worst self around them. Maybe that’s ‘being an asshole’ to some, but it seems to me more like a part of learning to be a grown up and knowing who has your back.

Overall, I thought this was a great book. I would be interested to hear about the research that went in to creating a disabled main character, but it was definitely a winner for me…

About the Author:

Eric Lindstrom enjoys writing Young Adult novels, including his debut novel Not If I See You First in 2015 followed by A Tragic Kind of Wonderful.

English publication of both in the USA is by the Poppy imprint of Little, Brown for Young Readers, and in the UK and the rest of the world by HarperCollins Children’s Books.

He has worked in the interactive entertainment industry for years as a creative director, game designer, writer, and combinations of all three. As Editor and Co-Writer for Tomb Raider: Legend he received a 2006 BAFTA nomination for Best Video Game Screenplay. As Creative Director and writer for Tomb Raider: Underworld he received a 2009 BAFTA nomination for Best Action Adventure Video Game and a 2009 Writers Guild of America (WGA) nomination for Best Writing in a Video Game.

He also raised children, which led to becoming first a school volunteer, then a substitute teacher, then a part time kindergarten teacher, then getting a credential to teach elementary school, and most importantly the discovery that Young Adult books are awesome. It’s pretty much all he ever reads, and now writes, in his house near the beach on the west coast, with his wife and, yes, cats.

You can find Eric Lindstrom online at www.ericlindstrombooks.com.

Please note: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

What’s the worst thing your best friend could do to you?

Admittedly, it wasn’t murder. A moment’s carelessness, a tragic accident – and two children are dead. Yours.

Living in a small island community, you can’t escape the woman who destroyed your life. Each chance encounter is an agonizing reminder of what you’ve lost – your family, your future, your sanity.

How long before revenge becomes irresistible?

With no reason to go on living, why shouldn’t you turn your darkest thoughts into deeds?

So now, what’s the worst thing you can do to your best friend?

What I Thought:

I’m cursing myself that I’m so far behind on Sharon Bolton’s books that I have only just now read Little Black Lies.

After falling in love with Sharon’s storytelling after reading the Lacey Flint novels (all a MUST read) I’ve gradually added her novels to my TBR and am slowly checking them off – why, oh why does reading-by-osmosis not work!?

Little Black Lies is a tense mystery novel that perfectly illustrates the claustrophobia of living in a small community – particularly when a horrific past event can never be forgotten by the participants and the community. Despite the awful incident that led to the death of her sons, Catrin Quinn can’t escape her former best friend Rachel, so her grief turns to dark thoughts of revenge.

But just as Catrin’s plans are due to come to fruition, the Falklands community is rocked by news of a missing child – and he’s not the first child to go missing. We then see events as they play out from the points of view of Catrin, Rachel and Falklands Veteran Callum, all of whom are hiding things from the community and themselves…

I think part of the reason it’s taken me a while to get to this book is that I get a bit funny about plots involving missing kids – I used to be able to deal with them, but I don’t seem to like them as I get older – but as it turns out, the missing children in this book act like more of a catalyst which sets off events surrounding Catrin, Rachel and Callum, which brings the story to a dramatic head in the final pages of the book.

The novel is awash with suspense – particularly when the narrative voices switch over to tell their side of the story, but it is all beautifully drawn together at the end, with a satisfying but twisty epilogue.

I always say with Sharon Bolton’s books, you go along reading, thinking you know what’s going on but there comes a point where she completely blows what you know out of the water! Even though I assume now with her work that the twist is coming, I never see it until it’s right there. So clever and brilliantly talented – I tend to recommend Sharon’s books to everyone…

About the Author:

Sharon (formerly SJ) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer.

Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark award. In 2014, Lost, (UK title, Like This, For Ever) was named RT Magazine’s Best Contemporary Thriller in the US, and in France, Now You See Me won the Plume de Bronze. That same year, Sharon was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library, for her entire body of work.

Find out more about Sharon at www.sharonbolton.com.

Please note: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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