Friday, July 8, 2011

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

Review of The Homecoming of Samuel Lake
By Jenny Wingfield


The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is an outstanding debut which swept me away to 1950s Arkansas. At times gut wrenching and heart rending it is an ultimately uplifting tale of faith and hope. Wingfield introduces a cast of such memorable characters that they will live in your head long after the last page.
The writing is pitch perfect, capturing the voices, thoughts and dreams of young Swan as clearly as those of her extended clan and the blackened heart of the villain Ras Ballenger. This story will enchant you but it will also make you angry as it builds to a terrifying climax. Jenny Wingfield is a powerful storyteller and I find it hard to compare this book with anything other than “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I only hope that Jenny Wingfield unlike Harper Lee will follow this debut with another book that breaks my heart once again. This is a book not to be missed.

By Lisa Doyle-Redmond

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Review of The Weird Sisters
By Eleanor Brown


Eleanor Brown’s debut is a wonderfully rich and poignant story of the three Andreas sisters; named by their father; an authority on Shakespeare for some of the bard’s more memorable characters. Rose for Rosalind, Bean for Bianca and Cordy for Cordelia.
The sisters are not weird in the modern sense but wyrd as Shakespeare would have known it, meaning fated. Each seems to carry the traits of their namesake and a feeling that they cannot escape their destinies, in fact they feel like failures. Rose the sensible homebody fears adventure and the unknown; Bean is caught stealing to maintain her dream Manhattan lifestyle and Cordy the bohemian drifter knows it’s time to settle down when she finds herself single and pregnant.
When their mother falls ill the girls return home and discover that they must create their own futures.
The narrative device of the third person narrator unites the sisters, though each has a distinctive voice in the book; it’s a device which works well. The writing is fluid and poignant. The Shakespeare quotes are dotted throughout but are never heavy handed. This is an accomplished and well written debut. Eleanor Brown knows her Shakespeare but she wears her learning lightly. The book is an ideal summer read with a similar feel to Rebecca Miller or Alice Hoffman. I recommend it to mothers, daughters and sisters everywhere and it is ideal for book clubs.

By Lisa Doyle-Redmond

Daughter of Fire and Ice by Marie-Louise Jensen

I absolutely adored this book. Once again Marie-Louise has recreated history in a way which transports the reader. This is the kind of book which you will be unable to put down. The inclusion of shape-shifters and psychic abilities fits perfectly with the pagan setting and the characters are so entirely believable, not perfect but easy to empathize with and absolutely of their era. If you have enjoyed her books before you won't be disappointed, if not start now. This book will appeal to any reader aged 10 and upwards who enjoys historical drama and romance. Try this if you like Mary Hooper, Celia Rees, Mary Hoffman, Meg Rosoff or Eva Ibbotson.

Firebrand By Gillian Philip

This is the first Gillian Philip book I have read and I know it won't be the last because I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

It is set in sixteenth century Scotland and tells the story of Seth and his brother Conal who are sons of a Sithe nobleman, they live behind the veil in the land of the Sithe where their world has been at peace for many hundreds of years but all that is about to change when the brothers are banished into the mortal world. 

What makes this book so special is that the characters are so alive, so real, you will feel their pain as though you are inside them. Unlike many other books about fairies, pixies, vampires etc., aimed at teenagers these characters despite being magical and otherworldly feel like real flesh and blood. 

I also adore the Scottish accented speech and the banter between the brothers and I couldn't help being reminded of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books. 

This is a fantastic novel which anyone of any age could enjoy and it may appeal especially to fans of Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking trilogy. 

It is the first in a trilogy which is great because yey! more to come but annoying because boo! I have to wait. 

Outstanding read it!

A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore


This is Rachel Hore's fourth novel. It recounts the story of auctioneer Jude who is bereft after the loss of her husband and travels to her home county of Norfolk to value a collection of books and scientific instruments at Starborough Hall. Through Jude's research we learn the story of astronomer Anthony Wickham and his adopted daughter Esther and we also see Jude try to heal the rifts in her family and discover more about her own ancestors and their connection to the wonderful Starborough and it's atmospheric woods and folly. 

This is a fantastically written book with wonderful insight into the characters. It has the page-turning quality of a thriller but yet it is a romantic tale of family and relationships. Mystery and the idea of fate and destiny pervade the story. The motif of the star is a comforting constant and I felt the loving but at times bickering and jealous relationship between the sisters was particularly well drawn. The sense of place was inherent to the story and just as Rachel has previously captured the beauty and wild atmosphere of Cornwall in "The Memory Garden" here she has described the beauty of the North Norfolk countryside vividly. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good quality contemporary women's fiction with the an emphasis on mystery, secrets and the past, especially if you are a fan of Kate Morton, Barbara Erskine, Diana Gabaldon, Joanne Harris, Audrey Niffenegger or Kate Mosse.

Between Two Seas by Marie-Louise Jensen


Between Two Seas
By Marie-Louise Jensen
Reviewed by Lisa Doyle-Redmond


***** 5 stars



Between Two Seas is the first novel from author Marie-Louise Jensen. The novel takes place mostly in Denmark in the late 19th Century and Jensen’s lyrical writing style will sweep readers away into a different time and place from the first paragraph. The novel tells the story of Marianne Shaw who has been brought up almost penniless in the North of England by her mother. She has been bullied and stigmatised because of her illegitimacy so when her mother dies she has no-where to turn. She has made a promise to her mother that she will seek out her father and a better life and so she sets off for Denmark to find the fisherman her mother had fallen in love with when she was just a young girl. The journey is long and difficult and for a young woman travelling alone it is not without peril. At last she arrives in the fishing community of Skagen and she determines to make a new life for herself in this strange but beautiful place.

The novel was nominated for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2008. It will appeal to readers aged ten or over especially those who enjoy historical fiction.


A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray


A Great and Terrible Beauty
By Libba Bray
Reviewed by Lisa Doyle-Redmond



A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first book in a fantastic trilogy by Libba Bray. The books are an intriguing mix of history, fantasy and magic. The story begins in India in 1895 when a horrific event changes the course of 16-year-old Gemma Doyle’s life and she is sent to the very prim and proper Spence Academy in England. She must learn to become a young lady just as her world has been shattered and she has developed a strange and uncontrollable ability to glimpse visions of past and future. She must navigate the rigid social hierarchy of Victorian England as well as discovering her own destiny. Why is she being followed by a handsome young Indian man?  How will she ever make friends with the cold and unwelcoming young ladies of Spence? How is her mother connected to an ancient magical group called the Order? Featuring a witty and feisty heroine and a magical spellbinding plot which unfolds through all three books this is a tale for those who like to curl up and enter a fantasy realm that is dark thrilling and gothic.

5 stars