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Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – JULY READ – The Dreamsnatcher (Dreamsnatcher #1) – Abi Elphinstone

Published August 12, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Twelve-year-old Molly Pecksniff wakes one night in the middle of the forest, lured there by a recurring nightmare – the one with the drums and the rattles and the masks. The Dreamsnatcher is waiting. He has already taken her dreams and now he wants her life.

Because Moll is more important than she knows… The Oracle Bones foretold that she and Gryff, a wildcat that has always been by her side, are the only ones who can fight back against the Dreamsnatcher’s dark magic. Suddenly everything is at stake, and Moll is drawn into a world full of secrets, magic and adventure.

What did I think?:

Life has been so crazy recently that this post which should have gone up the end of July is finally being published in (almost) mid-August – oops! The Dreamsnatcher is our seventh book in the Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge for 2019 and I was particularly excited to dive into this one after hearing great things about both the author and the series in general. I adore the front cover, it’s quirky, cute and magical and the fantastical premise gave me high hopes that I was going to thoroughly enjoy the story.

Abi Elphinstone, author of The Dreamsnatcher

Generally, this is a lovely opening novel to what looks to be an intriguing, imaginative and dangerous world. I can certainly see why the series has legions of fans and so many positive reviews on Goodreads with an impressive average rating of 4.15 stars. As an adult reading The Dreamsnatcher, I can clearly understand why it appeals to children, boasting strong character development, beautiful magical elements, an incredible animal companion, mystery and adventure and the trepidation and terror of never knowing what’s going to happen next. Our female lead, Molly Pecksniff in particular is fantastically memorable and her bravery and attitude leads to her becoming someone that younger readers will be able to both look up to and relate to. I had a particular fondness for her wildcat sidekick, Gryff who captured my heart from the very first opening pages and becomes even more endearing as the story continues.

Without giving anything away, the pace of this story is ridiculously fast whilst still retaining that air of mystery and confusion that the first book in a series should always possess. The action doesn’t let up for a minute and Moll and her friends/family always seem to be finding themselves in precarious situations with little time for rest or relaxation. As a result, it makes for a brilliantly exciting narrative where it becomes impossible to predict the author’s next move. As a work of children’s fiction, this is absolutely perfect and as a younger reader, I can imagine tearing through the pages unable to put the book down. As an adult reader, I seem to live for the quieter moments in my fiction and as a personal preference, I would have loved to see deeper moments where we get to know the other characters a bit better. However, this IS just the first book in the series and I’m sure there is plenty of time for all that in the books that follow!

With an intricate, well thought out plot, frightening villains and our determined, adventurous protagonist, I’m sure that this series will continue to capture the imaginations of children for years to come. It had echoes of Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials series but stands completely on its own as a unique and interesting work. Although I may not be the target audience for the story, I can appreciate why readers fall in love with the characters, the world and the writing.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP IN AUGUST ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Royal Rabbits Of London by Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore

 

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – JUNE READ – What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge

Published July 10, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Stubborn and reckless, twelve-year-old Katy Carr really wants to do so many wonderful things in her life. (becoming a graceful young lady is just one of them!). But her quick temper and mischievous nature are making it extremely difficult, and a serious accident that leaves her paralyzed temporarily puts everything on hold.
During a long period of recovery, Katy learns gentle lessons in behavior from her invalid cousin, Helen, who inspires Katy with her kindness, beauty, and generosity. Determined to become more like Helen, Katy endures physical and emotional pain while learning some difficult lessons in the school of life.
Fans of Little Women and Anne of Green Gables will enjoy reading this unforgettable tale of a spunky heroine who learns patience and responsibility as a teenager growing up in nineteenth-century America.

What did I think?:

First of all, apologies for this review being up so late if you happen to have been waiting for it. Chrissi and I read What Katy Did for our Kid-Lit challenge with full intentions to post it at the end of June but unfortunately our busy lives got in the way and we had to delay it slightly. Luckily, I could wax lyrical about this book to anyone who will listen to me as it remains a firm favourite of mine, so I was in no fear of forgetting what it was all about. I’ve read What Katy Did more times that I can possibly imagine as both a child and an adult and whilst parts of the writing are very much “of that time,” and appear slightly dated, it still holds every bit of its original charm as when I first read it many years ago.

Sarah Chauncey Woolsey who wrote under the pen name Susan Coolidge.

There are a few different classics that will always have a special place in my heart and What Katy Did, originally published all the way back in 1872 is one of those rare treats that feels so comforting and familiar every time I pick it up. What makes it so delightful? Mainly Katy herself! As a child, I think Katy Carr was one of the very few female leads I came across that I identified with and admired so fervently. As the eldest child, she has a lot of responsibility for her younger siblings but can’t help but find herself in the most awkward of situations, led by her determination, independence and occasional clumsiness. The wonderful thing about Katy is that she feels things ever so deeply, especially when she knows she’s made a mistake or let someone down and she tries so hard to be a better person and learn from her transgressions.

The Carr children lost their mother when Katy was very young and have been raised primarily by their Aunt Izzy with more distant (yet still loving) support from their father. Aunt Izzy can be seen as quite a prickly, particular character and has very specific ideas about how children should behave. Our poor female lead Katy has quite a difficult relationship with her at the beginning of the novel as although she tries to take a motherly role for the other children, she keeps unwittingly getting things wrong or disappointing her aunt. It’s only when Katy goes through a devastating incident herself and meets up with her Cousin Helen who is sadly, in a similar situation that Katy’s real journey as a person begins and she learns the true meaning of being “good.”

This book warms my heart every time I have the pleasure of reading it. As I’ve become an adult and perhaps more cynical, I have to admit, I don’t see it through the same rose-tinted glasses that I used to. Occasionally, it can get quite preachy (which I’m not sure is completely necessary). However, I wouldn’t say that affects my enjoyment of the story in any way. The brilliance of Katy as a character, the messes she gets into, the things she does that she regrets and the little lessons she learns along the way are all entertaining to read about. Furthermore, the familiarity of the narrative is always welcome – I always finish What Katy Did feeling uplifted, hopeful and content.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN JULY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone.

Blog Tour – The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw

Published June 16, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini appears to be the luckiest girl in the world. She’s the daughter of a beautiful and loving mother, and her father is one of the most famous film actors of his generation. She’s also the granddaughter of a rather eccentric and obscure Italian astrophysicist.

But as her seemingly charmed life begins to unravel, and Emma experiences love and tragedy, she ultimately finds solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe.

The Space Between Time is humorous and poignant and offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

What did I think?:

Firstly, thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and Accent Press for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of The Space Between Time in exchange for an honest review. I very much enjoyed reading Charlie’s previous novel, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead and jumped at the chance to read something else by him. I have a personal interest in the settings of Charlie’s books, being a Scottish lass myself and so each foray into his writing becomes almost like a nostalgic experience, taking me back to my own adolescence and childhood. The author also has a real talent and intuition for writing believable female characters and for myself as a reader, I have great admiration for any author who makes their female leads authentic and refreshingly non-stereotypical.

Charlie Laidlaw, author of The Space Between Time. 

In similarity to his previous novel, the author chooses to focus on a female protagonist, Emma Rossini. From the very beginning, we delve into her interesting upbringing with a famous Hollywood actor for her father and a (celebrated in certain circles) Italian astrophysicist for a grandfather – with his own infamous theorem and book in addition to his highly intelligent and enquiring mind. We follow Emma from a young girl as she sees her father for the first time in film at the local cinema, to her relationship with both her parents, the effect on her life when tragedy strikes and how the fractured moments of her past affect the decisions she makes in her present and potentially, her future.

Aside from our female lead Emma, I think one of my favourite things about The Space Between Time was the perceptive way in which Charlie Laidlaw explored the intricacies of relationships. It evidenced the cold, hard fact that no family or friendship is perfect and we all have our little quirks and foibles that we must muddle through to become a well-rounded person in our adult life. I enjoyed that it didn’t shy away from the darker side of life – it’s challenging, it’s unpredictable and it’s vital that we all have some kind of support network around us, whether that’s family or friends so that we can make it out the other side.

Image from: https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/780101/Dark-matter-mystery-deepens-DROUGHT-universe

The author presents the murkier depths of Emma’s coming of age beautifully, with sensitivity and a light-hearted touch of humour that never feels forced or unnecessary. I thought it portrayed some difficult subjects in a sensible, thoughtful way that certainly had me thinking about the characters and their situations long after I had finished the final page. Furthermore (and very strangely), for someone who had to give up Physics at Standard Grade level (GCSE in England), I really connected with the more mathematical parts of the novel where black holes and the secrets of the universe are discussed. Anyone who knows me well might have their eyes popping out of their head right now as Maths and I do NOT get on. Somehow in this book, it worked for me and I found the ideas presented incredibly interesting and insightful.

The Space Between Time is a fascinating contemporary novel for anyone interested in family dynamics, the universe and female protagonists you can’t help but root for.

Would I recommend it?: 

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Charlie Laidlaw was born in Paisley and is a graduate of the
University of Edinburgh. He has been a national newspaper journalist
and worked in defence intelligence. He now runs his own marketing
consultancy in East Lothian. He is married with two grown-up
children.

Find Charlie on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16124556.Charlie_Laidlaw

on his website at: https://www.charlielaidlawauthor.com/

on Twitter at: @claidlawauthor

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater and Accent Press for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Space Between Time is due to be published on 20th June 2019 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to The Space Between Time on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45448136-the-space-between-time

Link to The Space Between Time on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Space-Between-Time-Charlie-Laidlaw/dp/1786156946/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+space+between+time&qid=1560702038&s=gateway&sr=8-1

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – MAY READ – The Enchanted Wood (The Faraway Tree #1) – Enid Blyton

Published May 31, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Jo, Bessie and Fanny move to the country and find an Enchanted Wood right on their doorstep. In the magic Faraway Tree live the magical characters that soon become their new friends – Moon-Face, Silky the fairy, and Saucepan Man. Together they visit the strange lands (the Roundabout Land, the Land of Ice and Snow, Toyland and the Land of Take What You Want) atop the tree and have the most exciting adventures – and narrow escapes.

What did I think?:

The Faraway Tree series will always have a very special place in my heart. I remember it fondly from childhood (and I think it was probably one of the books I read to my sister Chrissi on a regular basis) yet I was almost petrified to read it again, just in case it didn’t live up to those delicious memories and expectations. Luckily, when reading it again I could definitely confirm why I rated Enid Blyton so highly as an author. Reading it as an adult is an interesting experience as parts of it do feel very much “of the time,” however I truly believe that the fantasy and adventure aspects of the story will still continue to delight and appeal to younger children today.

Enid Blyton, author of The Enchanted Wood, the first book in The Faraway Tree series. 

In a nutshell, The Enchanted Wood is the first book in which we meet three siblings (who strangely enough, seem to have had their names changed from the last time I read this book). Their original names in the story I read were Jo, Fanny and Bessie and in this edition it’s Joe, Frannie and Beth. On reading up a bit on it, it’s not the first time Enid Blyton has been censored and altered to protect the delicate minds of future generations of children. However, I’ll try not to get on my soap box (too much) about it and just accept that this has happened. Even if I don’t agree with it!  If you’re interested in reading about this further, there’s a fantastic article HERE. Our three children have just moved house and discover the magical Enchanted Wood, filled with talking animals, elves, goblins and helpful red squirrels. Best of all, there is an enormous tree that they can climb up, reaching other lands through the clouds at the top of the tree and meeting new friends that live within its branches.

Enid Blyton never fails to write an exciting adventure story filled with imaginative worlds and unforgettable magical events. Although her characters don’t seem to vary too much between her different series i.e. none of them have outstanding or memorable features, I don’t think it’s really necessary. As a child reading this, it was much more about the adventures that the children had and the amazing lands that they visited at the top of The Faraway Tree compared with how complex or interesting their personalities were! I loved the sense of tension that Blyton builds up when the children enter a precarious situation and equally appreciated the more joyous moments when they visited worlds like The Land Of Birthdays or The Land of Take-What-You-Want. I remember clearly as a younger reader feeling desperate to visit such lands myself and having such a cosy, warm feeling at Blyton’s descriptive narrative which brought everything alive for me in full, colourful detail. To be honest, I felt exactly the same as an adult and that’s why I can’t give it any less than the full five stars – both for the nostalgia and for how the author seems to know what children want so perfectly.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN JUNE ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge

Banned Books 2019 – MAY READ – Crazy Lady by Jane Leslie Conly

Published May 29, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Increasingly alienated from his widowed father, Vernon joins his friends in ridiculing the neighborhood outcasts’Maxine, an alcoholic prone to outrageous behavior, and Ronald, her retarded son. But when a social service agency tries to put Ronald into a special home, Vernon fights against the move.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the fifth banned book in our series for 2019! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

JUNE: Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture– Michael A. Bellesiles

JULY: In The Night Kitchen- Maurice Sendak

AUGUST: Whale Talk– Chris Crutcher

SEPTEMBER: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

Crazy Lady by Jane Leslie Conly

First published: 1993

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2005 (source)

Reasons: offensive language.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I don’t know why I put myself through this each month – as soon as I see the reasons for books being challenged/banned, I get cross! Haha. This book was originally published in 1993 which feels occasionally like a million light years ago but strangely enough, at the same time, it feels not long ago at all for me, it’s a year I remember quite well. Attitudes have changed quite dramatically from the nineties, especially regarding children with special needs (thank goodness!) but as for the reason this book was challenged? I just don’t get it. It states offensive language and well, there are many moments in this book where the characters “cuss,” but no mention is ever made of the particular words they use. All that is said is the word “cuss,” which isn’t offensive by itself – not to me, anyway. So I’m left feeling slightly confused as to where the offensive language was?!

CHRISSI: We never agree with the reasons for things being challenged and I really don’t see the problem with any language in this book. As I’ve said before, children and young adults hear and see much worse in their family home. Even in the 90s! I don’t think offensive language is reason enough to challenge a book. I really don’t!

How about now?

BETH: Nowadays I would hope that the mere mention of the word “cuss” or “swear,” wouldn’t send people running for the hills but sadly, that still appears to be the case. Well, when it was challenged in 2005 that is! Fair enough, not everybody appreciates bad language, I personally don’t use it in my reviews because I don’t want to offend anyone but I understand and enjoy the fact that everyone is different. However, I don’t understand why when the “bad words,” aren’t even mentioned that some people still have an issue with this book? Perhaps I’m being incredibly naive.

CHRISSI: I can’t believe that this book was challenged in 2005, especially when TV and the media have much worse language occurring. I mean, seriously?! If the language was more explicit, then I could probably get why it was challenged, but it’s really not that bad at all. I’ve read worse and I’m sure teenagers/young adults have heard worse too. I think we can censor our children/young people too much and it makes them curious to seek out what is being challenged.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Crazy Lady was a quick and easy read for me but nothing I really want to shout from the rooftops about. It was interesting to see the depiction of a special needs child written in the nineties (but set in the eighties) and how far we’ve come as a society since then in our attitudes and treatment. I thought the alcoholic character of Maxine was an interesting addition but I have to admit, she frustrated me slightly especially as it seemed like she wasn’t making any effort to really help herself or her son Ronald.

CHRISSI: It has an interesting story-line and one I’m pleased is represented in children’s literature. It wasn’t a book that I’d rave about. I found the ending to be a bit of a let down. Mainly, like Beth, it made me appreciate how our treatment with people with special needs has progressed. We still have a way to go, but we’re definitely taking steps in the right direction. I liked how it didn’t try and talk down or be condescending.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP IN JUNE ON BANNED BOOKS: Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture by Michael A. Bellesiles

Blog Tour – Never Be Broken (DI Marnie Rome #6) – Sarah Hilary

Published May 22, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Children are dying on London’s streets. Frankie Reece, stabbed through the heart, outside a corner shop. Others recruited from care homes, picked up and exploited; passed like gifts between gangs. They are London’s lost.

Then Raphaela Belsham is killed. She’s thirteen years old, her father is a man of influence, from a smart part of town. And she’s white. Suddenly, the establishment is taking notice.

DS Noah Jake is determined to handle Raphaela’s case and Frankie’s too. But he’s facing his own turmoil, and it’s becoming an obsession. DI Marnie Rome is worried, and she needs Noah on side. Because more children are disappearing, more are being killed by the day and the swelling tide of violence needs to be stemmed before it’s too late.

NEVER BE BROKEN is a stunning, intelligent and gripping novel which explores how the act of witness alters us, and reveals what lies beneath the veneer of a glittering city.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Headline Books for providing me with a complimentary hardback in exchange for an honest review. I have to admit, when the email first came through from Anne, I practically bit her hand off for the chance to be involved in this tour. The DI Marnie Rome series remains one of my absolute favourites in crime fiction and unlike series from different authors in the past (where I’ve sadly lost interest as the series continued) in my opinion, these books just keep getting stronger and stronger. Like my other favourite crime author Cara Hunter, Sarah Hilary dives into the heart and soul of her fascinating characters and as each book continues, you really start to believe not only that these characters exist but that you understand and care about them on a much more intimate level.

Sarah Hilary, author of Never Be Broken, the sixth novel in the DI Marnie Rome series. 

I would urge anyone reading this review with an interest in contemporary UK crime fiction to seek out and devour these novels right from the beginning. Although each book could theoretically be read as a stand-alone, you will understand much more about our protagonists’ pasts, hopes, dreams and fears from enjoying it from the start. There are a few particular threads I’m thinking of involving Marnie and her colleague Noah, specifically their individual family situations that just HAVE to be experienced from Someone Else’s Skin onwards. Although it may feel overwhelming to catch up on seven books in a series, I can confidently confirm that it will be worth every single page you read. Sarah Hilary manages to capture not only the authenticity of her characters as I’ve mentioned previously, but the current situation in London today. I found this particularly poignant in Never Be Broken as topics explored included Brexit, the tragedy of Grenfell Tower and violent crime amongst young people.

The devastation of the fire at Grenfell Tower, mentioned in Never Be Broken.

DI Marnie Rome and her sidekick, DS Noah Jake are our two main protagonists in the series and the author has chosen to explore their lives intricately through previous books in the series. In Never Be Broken, the main focus is on Noah which I was delighted by as I have a particular soft spot for him as a character. Well – I wasn’t expecting joy and happiness in a novel that mentions “broken” within the very title but I seriously wasn’t prepared for how much drama, heart-break and havoc I would be facing as a reader. Sarah Hilary expertly merges the exploration of her characters personalities with tense, gut-wrenching moments of action. The result is that you get a story with slower, beautiful and more thought-provoking passages combined with parts that literally kept me on the edge of my seat as I continued to read. As I alluded to before, because the author spends so much time letting us get to know the characters on a personal level, you champion and root for them even more so because you feel that special connection.

I’m thrilled to confirm another stellar outing from Sarah Hilary with Never Be Broken but I never expected any less, to be honest. She is truly becoming a “must read” author in the crime fiction genre that everyone should be aware of if they aren’t already familiar with her. I’m so excited to see where she’s going to take our characters next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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AUTHOR INFORMATION

Sarah Hilary’s debut, Someone Else’s Skin, won Theakstons Crime Novel of the
Year 2015 and was a World Book Night selection for 2016. The Observer’s
Book of the Month (‘superbly disturbing’) and a Richard & Judy Book Club
bestseller, it has been published worldwide. No Other Darkness, the second in the
series was shortlisted for a Barry Award in the US. Her DI Marnie Rome series
continued with Tastes Like Fear, Quieter Than Killing and Come And Find Me.

Find Sarah on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3418841.Sarah_Hilary

on her website at: http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.co.uk/

on Twitter at: @sarah_hilary

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater and Headline Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Never Be Broken was published on 16th May 2019 and will be available as a hardback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to Never Be Broken on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43527422-never-be-broken

Link to Never Be Broken on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Never-Broken-D-I-Marnie-Rome/dp/1472249003/ref=sr_1_1?crid=GIZKJVZ5ODE9&keywords=never+be+broken&qid=1558464618&s=gateway&sprefix=never+be+broken%2Caps%2C135&sr=8-1

Bitter Orange – Claire Fuller

Published May 8, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘A compulsive page-turner. Fuller creates an atmosphere of simmering menace with all the assurance of a latter-day Daphne du Maurier’ The Times

Frances Jellico is dying. A man who calls himself the vicar visits, hoping to extract a deathbed confession. He wants to know what really happened that fateful summer of 1969, when Frances – tasked with surveying a dilapidated country house – first set eyes on the glamorous bohemian couple, Cara and Peter. She recalls the relationship they forged through sweltering days, lavish dinners and elaborate lies, and the Judas hole through which she would spy on the couple.

Were the signs there right from the beginning?

Or was it impossible to avoid the crime that split their lives open like rotten fruit?

What did I think?:

I first came across Claire Fuller’s remarkable writing in Our Endless Numbered Days which remains one of my favourite books of all time and a signed copy sits with pride of place on my favourites shelf. After being quite frankly astounded by her debut novel, it was a very easy decision to read her second novel, Swimming Lessons which I also thoroughly enjoyed and hence to make sure I got my hands on the beautiful hardback copy of her third offering, Bitter Orange. Shamefully, it has been sat on my shelves for months now as I just haven’t been able to get my act together and prioritise it before now. Thank you so much to Jane Gentle from Penguin UK for letting me know that the paperback had been recently released and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to finally settle down with my copy and disappear into the author’s delicious writing style once more.

If I had to describe this novel in three words I’d probably choose the phrases sumptuous, evocative and captivating which I have now realised appears to be a pattern whenever I lose myself in a Claire Fuller story. She has a beautiful way of capturing characters, atmosphere and settings which pull the reader in immediately and makes them feel instantly part of the world that they are reading about. In Bitter Orange, we follow three characters staying in the same country house for research purposes. They are Peter and Cara, who are romantically involved with each other and Frances who arrives on her own after the death of her mother to survey some historical aspects of the building.

When the novel first opens, we encounter Frances close to death and the local vicar is trying to unlock the secrets of what really happened back in 1969 between the three main protagonists. We are immediately thrust into a world of secrets, mistrust, unreliable characters and a compelling mystery as the reader slowly begins to unravel not only what happened to Cara, Peter and Frances in the end, but what particular events unfolded to lead them there in the first place.

Bitter Orange is a incredibly rich and compelling narrative, gloriously packed with quiet moments with our characters, slow teasers and tasters of the personality of each one of our protagonists and the constant intrigue throughout that makes you want to keep turning the pages. Cara, Peter and Frances are all unique and fascinating in their own right and I adored the fact that they all oozed imperfection. At no point did I find any one of these individuals reliable but oh my goodness, that just made for an even more bewitching reading experience! It’s the sort of book I can’t tell you anymore about for fear of spoilers but it’s also the sort of book that once you finish it, you immediately want to go back to the beginning and read it again, fresh with the knowledge you possess by the end.

Everything is gorgeous in Bitter Orange, from the intricate characterisation to the way the orange was used to represent particular parts of the relationships and the way the setting felt so alive and vibrant that you could almost imagine yourself there. Through Claire Fuller, I walked through a building where parts of it were dilapidated and crumbling and other parts were filled with magnificence, I spied with Frances on Peter and Cara in the bathroom, I listened (or read!) with rapt attention when Cara told us some of her tragic back story and I wondered at Peter’s intentions. It’s very easy to become enraptured with a story like this if you allow yourself to sink in and enjoy it and I’ll certainly be remaining an avid fan of Claire Fuller’s work.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0