Thursday, 25 June 2015

Long Lankin

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough
Published by Corgi Childrens
5th January 2012
Paperback Edition

Beware of Long Lankin . . .

When Cora and her little sister Mimi are sent to stay with their great-aunt in the isolated village of Bryers Guerdon, they sense immediately that they're not welcome. What they don't know is that the last time two young girls were at Guerdon Hall, their visit ended in a mysterious, violent tragedy.

Something dark and evil has haunted the village for centuries. Now it has set eyes on its next victim, and it will stop at nothing to lay claim to her. With the help of local schoolboys Roger and Peter, Cora must uncover the horrifying secrets buried deep within Bryers Guerdon - before it is too late for Mimi.

This is the debut novel by Lindsey Barraclough and I was very pleased to get my hands on a copy.  I was, however, warned not to read it at bedtime, which as it is my main reading time meant I didn't finish it as quickly as I would have liked.  However, there probably was good reason for this advice!  Based on the ballad Long Lankin, this is definitely a creepy tale.

Cora and Mimi are from the East End of London and have been sent by their father to live with their great-aunt Ida miles away from home to the village of Bryers Guerdon.  Set in the 1950s this is a great period for setting a children's book, especially when most entertainment was based around outside play.  Cora and Mimi soon settle in to the village, though their aunt clearly doesn't want them around, and they make friends with local brothers Roger and Peter.  Despite being warned not to go down to the church to play, they soon break this rule and head on down there.  Why aren't they meant to be there, and why won't Ida tell them what is going on?

Cora and Roger are inquisitive children and soon try to find out what the grown-ups have kept quiet for so long.  They soon discover that children are not always welcome in Bryers Guerdon, for the village has a habit of losing it's youngsters.  Can this be why the windows and doors of Guerdon Hall are always securely fastenened?  Then Cora starts to hear and see things that she can't explain, and suddenly protecting Mimi from an unknown force becomes her main concern.

I really enjoyed this book, and yes, it is spooky.  It's rather long, being almost 500 pages in length, so does take some time to read but I liked the fact that the story is told in first person narratives by each of the characters which helps to maintain the pace.  The story is very visual too which I loved, and it certainly helps to add to the atmosphere that Lindsey Barraclough has created.  The sequel The Mark of Cain is out now, and I think it'll have to be added to my tbr pile!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Friday, 19 June 2015

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
Published by Chatto & Windus
18th June 2015
Hardback Edition

Sara is 28 and has never been outside Sweden – except in the (many) books she reads. When her elderly penfriend Amy invites her to come and visit her in Broken Wheel, Iowa, Sara decides it’s time. But when she arrives, there’s a twist waiting for her – Amy has died. Finding herself utterly alone in a dead woman’s house in the middle of nowhere was not the holiday Sara had in mind.

But Sara discovers she is not exactly alone. For here in this town so broken it’s almost beyond repair are all the people she’s come to know through Amy’s letters: poor George, fierce Grace, buttoned-up Caroline and Amy’s guarded nephew Tom.

Sara quickly realises that Broken Wheel is in desperate need of some adventure, a dose of self-help and perhaps a little romance, too. In short, this is a town in need of a bookshop.

Sometimes it's perfectly nice and acceptable to just read a book that doesn't tax your brain or make you think too hard, especially where there are lots of characters involved, and this is precisely what The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is like in my opinion.  Now, don't get me wrong, this is not a negative connotation in any way whatsoever, because I really enjoyed this book, a lot.

Sara arrives in America, from Sweden to meet and stay with her elderly penpal Amy.  They don't have very much in common except for their love of books, and it is that which has pulled Sara away from her native home to travel half way across the world to spend some time in the small town of Broken Wheel.  However when Sara arrives, Amy isn't there to greet her, and it is only when she finally gets a lift into Broken Wheel that she discovers that since she left home, Amy has died.  However, the townsfolk have decided that Amy would still want Sara to experience her hospitality and they invite Sara to stay in Amy's house and continue her holiday as if she were still alive.

Sara already knows much about Broken Wheel  and it's inhabitants from Amy's letters, but she's not planning on telling them that, and the town soon decide that what Sara needs most is company, or more specifically, male company, in the shape of Amy's nephew Tom.  Tom, however, doesn't appear to be so keen on this plan!

Whilst Sara is kicking up her heels as best as she can, she decides that what the town of Broken Wheel actually needs, is a book shop, and using Amy's collection, plus purchased items of her own, she sets one up in an empty store in the centre of town.  Can she turn the non-readers of Broken Wheel, plus it's neighbouring town of Hope, into the book lovers that she and Amy were?  And whilst she's whiling away the hours, will love finally bloom in Broken Wheel for any of it's inhabitants?

This book is full of quirky characters plus the small minded gossip of those who inhabit a small town.  I really enjoyed the book and was drawn into Broken Wheel completely.  It's also a book about books, and there are many to discover amongst it's pages.  The ultimate question is, are books better than people, and that's certainly debatable! Were parts of the story totally far-fetched at times?  Yes they were, but then if a book can't do that, then what is the point?  I'd certainly visit Broken Wheel, and of course, Amy's bookstore anytime.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Saturday, 13 June 2015

The Crane Wife

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
Published by Canongate Books
6th February 2014
Paperback Edition


One night, George Duncan is woken by a noise in his garden. Impossibly, a great white crane has tumbled to earth, shot through its wing by an arrow. Unexpectedly moved, George helps the bird, and from the moment he watches it fly away, his life is transformed. The next day, a beautiful woman called Kumiko walks into his shop and begins to tell him the most extraordinary story.

I've had The Crane Wife on my kindle to read for ages now, since another blogger said how much they had enjoyed it.  And, as is usually the case with someone with too many books, and not enough hours to read them all, there it stayed.  However, a chance online conversation via twitter with Maia, of Maia Moore Reads prompted us to agree to read this book at the same time at the end of March.  Do-able for me because it was most definitely the half term holidays, and because Maia spends a rather large proportion of time on board a bus!

So what is The Crane Wife about?  I'm not overly sure that I still know the answer to this question.  George Duncan, the perfect mister nice guy, who women adore but can't commit to be with, wakes one night having heard a strange noise coming from his garden.  He ventures outside (as people always do in both books and films when they hear something strange outside) and is there surprised to find an injured crane.  The bird seems to understand George, and is perfectly calm whilst he attempts to free it's damaged wing from the arrow trapped within it.

The following day, George meets Kumiko, a Japanese woman who enters his shop to ask him about helping her with her paper cutting.  The two immediately form a bond, principally because for some unexplainable reason, George has spent that morning making a crane out of paper.  The two quickly combine their images and their work sells for indescribable amounts of money.  They also begin to fall in love.  However, no matter how much George wants to know Kumiko, much of her life remains a mystery to him.

Accompanying this story, is a Japanese tale of a relationship between a lady and a volcano, which I guess could muddle the text somewhat, but actually doesn't.  Their relationship sort of echoes that of George and Kumiko and of the paper cuttings that they produce. 

I did enjoy The Crane Wife.  It's an unusual tale but for all it's quirkiness it does work. 

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North
Published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson
19th May 2015
Hardback Edition

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is the story of an enigmatic film director, told by the six people who loved her most. Brilliant, infuriating, all-seeing and unknowable, Sophie Stark makes films said to be 'more like life than life itself'. But her genius comes at a terrible cost: to her husband, to the brother she left behind, and to the actress she can't quite forget.

This read came about via my Twitter feed - it's amazing how books take hold over on there and I requested it immediately.  It's an interesting story, in some ways similar to that of Night Film by Marrish Pessl but not quite as dark.

It tells the story of film director Sophie Stark (not her real name).  We follow her through high school, of her unrequited crush on the football star, and the subsequent film she makes about him - Daniel.  She continues making films that are not of the norm, but avant garde in genre, and of their popularity and intrigue within society.  But does anyone actually know Sophie and what has led her to make her films in this way?  Anna North takes six different points of view, from people that all know Sophie, and her work, and retells her life and, of course, her death.  (By the way this is not a spoiler - the clue is in the title)!

This isn't a huge book and it didn't take me long to finish it.  By the end I felt like Sophie was a real person though, and that I'd just been on the journey of her life.  A remarkable book that I'm sure will call for much discussion - a great book group read I think.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Hitler's Last Day: Minute by Minute

Hitler's Last Day: Minute by Minute by Jonathan Mayo and Emma Craigie
Published by Short Books
9th April 2015
Hardback Edition

On 30th April 1945 Germany is in chaos...

Russian troops have reached Berlin. All over the country, people are on the move - concentration camp survivors, Allied PoWs, escaping Nazis - and the civilian population is fast running out of food. The man who orchestrated this nightmare is in his bunker beneath the capital, saying his farewells.

Hitler's Last Day: Minute by Minute is pure chronological narrative, as seen through the eyes of those who were with Hitler in those last tumultuous hours; those fighting in the streets of Germany; and those pacing the corridors of power in Washington, London and Moscow. It was a day of endings and beginnings when ordinary people were placed in extraordinary situations.

Take Sisi Wilczek, fleeing the advancing Russians with her family's vast fortune in a shoebox; President Truman, weighing up whether to use the atomic bomb that his Secretary of War calls 'the most terrible weapon ever known in human history'; German officer Claus Sellier, on a last mission across the country to deliver vital documents; or Allied aircrews dropping food parcels to feed the starving Dutch population.

30th April 1945 was a day that millions had dreamed of, and millions had died for.

I have to admit, the publication of this book passed me by, and it was only a conversation with my father, who had read some of it in his newspaper, that brought it to my attention.  As a former teacher of Nazi Germany, I'm certainly interested in this subject matter, and have read many a book on the subject itself - could this offer me anything new?

The answer simply is yes.  Whilst I don't think it actually tells 'minute by minute' of the last two days of Hitler's life, it certainly does 'hour by hour'.  The book cleverly follows characters (in this case, real people) through their movements of the 29th and 30th April 1945 and it was fascinating to read of them.  Using diary extracts and letters as well as film footage this book is a fascinating account of not just what was occurring in Germany on the final two days of the war, but also in Japan, America and England.

It also incorporates the lives of some now well-known people, such as Noel Coward, Richard Dimbleby, Alan Whicker and the man who inspired Ian Fleming to write the James Bond novels Captain Sigismund Payne-Best.  There was lots of content that I did already know, but much of what I did not; particularly of Hitler and Eva Braun's last moments and that of the Goebbels family - very distressing.

I have to say, this is a great read, and if you like history and Nazi Germany in particular, this is a winner.  I'm after the JFK book next!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x