Friday, 27 November 2015

The Well

The Well by Catherine Chanter
Published by Cannongate
3rd September 2015
Paperback Edition

When Ruth Ardingly and her family first drive up from London in their grime-encrusted car and view The Well, they are enchanted by a jewel of a place, a farm that appears to offer everything the family are searching for. An opportunity for Ruth. An escape for Mark. A home for their grandson Lucien.

But The Well's unique glory comes at a terrible price. The locals suspect foul play in its verdant fields and drooping fruit trees, and Ruth becomes increasingly isolated as she struggles to explain why her land flourishes whilst her neighbours' produce withers and dies. Fearful of envious locals and suspicious of those who seem to be offering help, Ruth is less and less sure who she can trust.

As The Well envelops them, Ruth's paradise becomes a prison, Mark's dream a recurring nightmare, and Lucien's playground a grave.


I haven't come across any publicity for The Well, it just happened to be an off the shelf purchase a few weeks ago.  It's kind of a dystopian novel set in the present day, about what seems an idyllic place where it almost always seems to rain.  And I don't mean rain as in persistent, leaves you soaking rain, but that sense of freshness and growth that water brings to the plants and air around it.

Ruth and Mark Ardingly escape their London home for a new beginning.  The Well seems to offer them everything they have ever dreamed of, and could hope for, and initially they are the envy of their friends.  They soon discover that their initial joy is to be thwarted by their neighbour's increasing hostility to their apparent succcess in everything they do, whilst all around them, businesses and farms struggle and cease to exist due to a drought that no one can explain.  Whilst at The Well, the water continues to fall.

Alongside this part of the story-line runs the mystery of who killed Lucien, Ruth and Mark's grandson.  No one knows who is to blame, in fact, Ruth isn't sure if she did it, or if it was Mark, or even one of the Sisters who have come to The Well in the form of a religious cult.  As the story progresses, we move back and forth in time, to when Ruth and Mark were first starting out, and all was well, and again to the present day, when Ruth, still under house arrest, is trying to get to the bottom of what happened on that fateful day.

I did find the book's pace quite slow and plodding which meant it actually took me longer to finish that it normally does when I read something I enjoy but that sort of fitted in with the theme somewhat.  It's been selected as one of the current Richard & Judy titles, so is bound to do well.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Landfalls by Naomi J Williams
Published by Little, Brown
22nd October 2015
Hardback Edition

An epic voyage, undertaken with the grandest of ambitions.

When Lapérouse leaves France in the Spring of 1785 with two ships under his command, he knows that he sails with the full backing of the French government. This is to be a voyage of scientific and geographical discovery - but every person on board has their own hopes, ambitions and dreams.

As the ships move across vast distances in their journey of nearly four years, the different characters step forward and invite us into their world. From the remote Alaskan bay where a dreadful tragedy unfolds, to the wild journey Barthélemy de Lessups undertakes from the far east of Russia to St Petersburg, the reader sees the emotional, physical and mental toll exacted by such an endeavour.

I'm a sucker for a book with an aesthetically pleasing cover, and it was the front of Landfalls that led me to read it.  I loved the design so much that it didn't matter what the content was, I was going to read it.  What I experienced was a journey into the history books of the late 1700s on board two French ships.

Jean_Francois de Galaup, comte de La Perouse is the captain of the ill-fated La Boussole and alongside her sister ship Astrolabe, set sail in 1785 to circumnaivigate the globe and bring back new scientific and geographical knowledge that will bring fame and fortune to all on board.  In this fictional re-telling of this quest for French glory, we follow the narrative of those on board both ships and of the experiences they endure.  The journey was ill-fated in that both ships fail to return to France, yet Naomi J Williams has brought their tale to life in what is a very enjoyable read.

This isn't a dry historical novel but an engrossing story that is filled with sadness as we travel alongside our sailors, knowing, unlike them, that they will never return home to the shores of France.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Reading list 2016

Yes, it may only be November, but the titles for next year are rolling in thick and fast.  I'd thought I'd share a preview of what will be coming up next year:

This title is published by Tinder Press, and I've started it already.  I love the originality of the cover design.  It should be published at the end of February.

I love a good psychological thriller, and I've a couple lined up already.  One is from a debut author, Fiona Barton, and is released in January, and the other is by one of my favourites, Alex Marwood and comes out on New Year's Day in e-book format.

I've also got the new Lyndsay Faye book, Jane Steele to read.  It's based around the novel Jane Eyre, so I'm interested to see how this pans out.  It comes out in March.

And finally, for now, I've got the latest Menna van Praag book.  I love her magical realism so I know I am going to love this too - due out in February.

Which titles are you looking forward to reading in 2016, or is it too early to ask?
Happy Reading
Miss Chapter x

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Web of Darkness

Web of Darkness by Bali Rai
Published by Corgi Childrens
5th June 2014
Paperback Edition


When the incredibly attractive Benedict befriends Lily online, she is thrilled. He is so much more mature than boys her age and he seems to know exactly how she's feeling. She finds herself opening up to him, telling him things she wouldn't tell anybody else.

And she needs someone to confide in more than ever before as a spate of apparent suicides rocks her school - and her group of friends.

But is Benedict the kind, charming person that he seemed to be initially? Lily soon realises that now, with half our lives spent online, you can be found - even if you try to hide . . .

After interviewing Bali for my blog, I just had to get my hands on his latest book Web of Darkness and I was incredibly lucky as he sent me a signed copy to say thank you.  The other week I couldn't choose which book to read, and a twitter friend suggested this title, and I'm so glad that she did, as I couldn't put it down.

We all know about hackers and stalkers etc on the internet, and Web of Darkness explores just that issue.  A group of teenagers are all innocently hacked by two men known only as the Spider and the Other whose sole aims are to destroy their lives.  Facebook is so easily a focal point for this story; a gorgeous American teenager called Benedict sends Lily a friend request and soon they are 'chatting' online all the time.  Benedict is totally hot and though Lily initially questions how he actually 'found' her, soon she has fallen for his charms.

She is not the only one to have a secret online friend however, and it is the fact that these relationships are kept secret that is the key here.  As our hackers are able to manipulate and control these teenagers, they are able to infiltrate their lives and their minds, to devastating effect.

As the book progresses, Lily starts to question Benedict's motives, but it is too late for her to regain control of the situation, or will more lives be lost as the hackers move in for the ultimate kill?

This was a gripping read, and certainly not just for the YA market.  Having read it, and as a teacher myself,  I think it would be fantastic if this book was actually taught as part of the secondary curriculum so that more teenagers could become aware of the dangers of life on the internet if someone sets out to target you.  Web of Darkness is both an exhilarating read, and a worrying realism of our cyber world today.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Friday, 6 November 2015

The Ice Twins

The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne
Published by Harper
3rd September 2015
Paperback Edition


A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past – what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

I wanted to read this book from the blurb itself, it sounded such an original idea for a book, the premise that, if you had totally identical twins, and one died, or went missing etc, then how could you ever be totally sure which one it was.  This is the whole basis behind S. K. Tremayne's gripping novel The Ice Twins when one tragic afternoon, one child, an identical twin, tumbles to her death.  Mother Sarah Moorcroft is quite sure at the time which of her twins has died, but as the months progress, and her remaining daughter's behaviour starts to echo that of her twin sister, she begins to have doubts as to what actually did happen that day, and worse of all, did they actually bury the 'wrong' twin.

Completely identical twins are a rare phenomenon but it does occur and I really enjoyed the whole 'dilemma' that Sarah and her husband Angus are faced with, as to which twin is still alive.  They acually only have Kirstie's word that she is who she says she is, and when they move to an isolated island off the coast of Scotland, then her behaviour begins to be questioned not only by the family, but by outsiders too.

This is a ghost story but it's also that of a family in turmoil, the guilt of losing one's child and the anguish that Sarah and Angus go through as they try to rebuild their lives.  The book has had mixed reviews, but I really enjoyed it, and though some parts may seem a little far-fetched, I think that the genre of the book allows for that in every respect, and it didn't stop me turning the pages to reach what I felt was a satisfactory conclusion to this story.  It's a great read for curling up with on a winter's night!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x