“Hy Brasil” by Margaret Elphinstone

Hy Brasil by Margaret Elphinstone is the last fiction book on my TBR challenge. After winning a writing competition, Sidony Redruth finds herself on Hy Brasil to write the first ever travel book about a remote archipelago of islands situated in the north Atlantic. What develops is something like a swashbuckling adventure story for adults, there’s even some modern day pirates thrown in!
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“Emotional Geology” by Linda Gillard

Back to my Kindle again with Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard. Rose has moved to island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides to try and make a new start in life and immerse herself in her work as a textile artist. She makes friends with her neighbours and is attracted to the neighbours brother, Calum. She must then decide whether she can come to terms with her previously tumultuous relationships and her own enforced estrangement from her daughter enough to be able to move on with her life and the promise of love in the future.

I really enjoy reading Linda’s books. There is always more to the love story than meets the eye, Continue reading

“The Library of Shadows” by Mikkel Birkegaard

The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard starts with the strange death of bookshop owner Luca Campelli. His son, Jon, who hasn’t seen his father since he was fostered after the suicide of his mother twenty years ago, inherits the shop, but is immediately drawn into the secret society of people who can affect your thoughts and feelings when you read or when they read to you, and somebody is trying to destroy them, his father having been their latest victim, and is soon in a fight for his own life.

When I bought this book a few years ago, it was purely based Continue reading

“The Hungry Tide” by Amitav Ghosh

The Hungry Tide follows Piyali, an American woman cetologist (someone who studies whales, dolphins and porpoises), and Kanai, an Indian businessman who meet on the train on route to a remote area of India called the Sundarbans which is a collection of many tiny islands in the Bay of Bengal. The American is on her way to study two rare species of river dolphins who are native to this area, and the businessman is going to visit his widowed aunt, and to collect the book his late uncle has left to him. The tide of the title moves miles inland every day, partially submerging islands and mangrove forests. There are also man-eating tigers, crocodiles, snakes and sharks to be wary of, making Piya’s expedition even more dangerous. Alongside the story of the present day, we also learn of the social and political history, mythology and more modern social issues, such as trafficking of women.

I feel like I’ve had The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh on my TBR for donkeys years, Continue reading

“Ordinary Thunderstorms” by William Boyd

Can one chance meeting ruin your life? In Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd, academic Adam Kindred finds himself the prime suspect in a murder and decides to go into hiding by not using his mobile phone, credit cards, etc., and living rough in order to avoid the police, while trying to find out why the man he’s accused of killing, was murdered in the first place.

Each chapter follows a different character in the story, Continue reading

“Artichoke Hearts” by Sita Brahmachari

Date finished: 31st May 2012

Artichoke Hearts has been on my radar since it won the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize last year. It takes the form of a journal following one month in twelve-year-old Mira’s life. Her beloved Nana Josie is ill and her health is deteriorating. For her birthday, Nana Josie gives Mira an artichoke charm, and explains how it symbolises the heart and how as we grow older we grow hardened layers around our hearts to prevent us from getting hurt. The books shows how Mira and her family deal with Josie’s last days, while trying to keep a balance with Mira’s everyday life of growing up.

This book is wonderful. I’m welling up just thinking about it again now, and it will stay with me for a long time. I was fortunate in that I didn’t have to deal with the grief of losing anyone until I was in my thirties, and I can only imagine how difficult it is for a teenager, as well as for a parent who has to explain death to a child. This book does that with humour, warmth, honesty and emotion, and is very, very touching. The idea of using a journal which covers the most important month of Mira’s life to date works so well, and allows enough time to develop the characters and the experience, while giving a sense of closure at the end with the promise of the next stage of Mira’s life to come as well.

A whole-hearted recommendation for teenagers and adults alike, and one I won’t forget easily.

“666 Charing Cross Road” by Paul Magrs

An author I discovered through Doctor Who is Paul Magrs. I read a couple of his Brenda and Effie books last year, and thoroughly enjoyed them, and have had him on my wishlist ever since. When choosing my recent new book purchases, I couldn’t resist trying his latest novel 666 Charing Cross Road. Shelley works in an obscure Manhattan art gallery, and for her first exhibition as a curator, Women and Madness she finds the oddly strange sculpture, The Scottish Bride, in storage in the basement of the museum and it proves a crowd attracting exhibit. Meanwhile, her aunt Liza (who reads books for a living!) loves supernatural and paranormal fantasy books, but bored with all the specialist shops only selling new authors, she is delighted when her new friend Jack stumbles upon an advert for the antiquarian bookshop at 666 Charing Cross Road. When they send her an unusual tome she never ordered, Liza finds it unsettling and repellent, and Shelley’s boyfriend Daniel takes it off her hands, and sets in motion a chain of horrifying events, which will change all their lives.

An absolutely cracking book! Magrs British humour mixed in to a pan Atlantic story of supernatural powers and creatures, with believable characters who you want to spend time with, and generally a fantastic romp of a story. By far my favourite character has to be Aunt Liza, not only because she has the perfect job – reading books! – but she’s delightfully eccentric, quick witted and with a wicked tongue, she also has an unknown past which reveals itself gradually as the story progresses.

There is a small amount of sexual content and occasional violent scenes, but none are too graphic, and are essential to the story with nothing gratuitous.

Although I think this is intended to be a stand alone novel, I wonder if we’ll see some of the characters in different stories or even appear in some of his other series of books in the future. I, for one, would definitely love to read more with Liza in the future.