As November was National Novel In a Month and I was participating, my reading time was limited, I have managed to catch up a little in December and my reading choices were quite varied.
A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne Harris illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins
Beautifully presented and illustrated this is a retelling of one of the Child Ballads, number 295.
It is a familiar tale of love, betrayal, disillusionment and revenge. The story spans a year in the life of the relationship between the wild half-child woman, a woodland creature who is nameless and William, the son of the Lord of the Manor. When he gives her a name she loses power and her fight to become free again is at the heart of the book.
While there are some wonderful imagery and prose it is actually a slight tale. Joanne Harris uses her expressive style to good effect implying magical elements as the story draws to its inevitable end. This is not a fairytale for children.
My Sweet Revenge By Jane Fallon
TV star Robert has been having an affair and his wife, Paula has just found out about it. She resolves to fight back and make him fall in love with her all over again. Then, and only then, can she tell him to go to hell? Can her plan work?
Especially when her rival is Saskia, his glamorous co-star, who is married to the producer of the show. Will Paula’s crazy work? Does she really want it to?Plenty of unexpected plot twists and turns keep the reader guessing. An enjoyable read.
The Lie of The Land by Amanda Craig
Before you ‘Escape to the Country’, read this book. It goes behind the scenes of an idyllic landscape and explores the other side of the equation. At times it is lyrical about the beauty of the countryside. While it does not shrink from revealing the darker side to country life, isolation, poverty, exploitation of foreign workers and drug growing and drug use.
The story concerns a married couple whose move to the country is prompted by the need to have enough money to divorce. They are forced to face their own problems, as well as new ones created by their ‘incomer’ status and isolation.
The hint of ‘something nasty in the woodshed’, in this case, the garden of the house they are renting, adds a certain piquancy to the tale.It is suitably eerie. The backbone of the story is the relationship between the couple, Lottie and Quentin, their two young daughters and her mixed-race son Xan. Believable.
Catch of the Day by Carla Caruso
An easy and fun holiday read.Winnie has been ‘banished’ as she sees it to a South Australian coastal town far away from Sydney.While the male executive she was involved with remains in Sydney. On the plus side, she is given the task of creating a new magazine Beachside Living and pretty much a free hand as to what she does. She has two months to pull it all together and hopefully prove her worth, so she can be allowed to return to Sydney.
Winnie is an appealing character who makes an effort to integrate into her new community at times with hilarious results. Fisherman and part-time photographer Alex isn’t her usual type, so why does she feel that spark of attraction? And why does he blow hot and cold?
There enough complications to keep the story fresh and interesting. My only criticism is a personal one, I found it difficult to relate to the name Winnie for a young character. Winnie turns out to be a nickname for Edwina. Apologies to you if you are called Winnie.As I said it was just a personal quirk. That minor gripe aside, this is an enjoyable and easy to read romance.
The witch-finder’s Sister by Beth Underdown
Tells the story of Alice, the widowed sister of Matthew Hopkins ‘The Witch Finder’ when she is forced to return to live with her brother. The date is 1645, the Parliamentarians are in the ascendant and the talk of witchcraft is in the air.
I found this book both absorbing and quite terrifying. I had a knot in my stomach as I turned the pages.Each chapter adds to the tension and apprehension.
It also includes extracts for the witchcraft trials, making it easier to imagine the terror and hysteria that gripped the towns and villages. It is clear that spite and malice played a part in many of the accusations.As Matthews’ sister, Alice is unwillingly close to events, first as an observer and then as a reluctant participant.
Matthew Hopkins disappeared from historical records and no one knows what happened him. Beth Underwood creates a believable ending for him and for Alice.There is irony in the last lines and also the possibility of a sequel. I really enjoyed this book and it will stay with me for a long time.