The Twilight Hour by Nicci Gerrard

 

Description: Eleanor Lee is fiercely independent. She has lived alone well into her nineties, despite her now near-total blindness. Now, finally, she has been persuaded by her children to move into a home.

She employs Peter, a recent graduate nursing a broken heart, to spend the summer sorting through her attic – papers, photographs, books and letters – ahead of the move.

These fragments of her own history unleash in Eleanor a long-concealed story of forbidden love, betrayal, passion, grief and self-sacrifice; and in their unlikely friendship, something is unlocked in Peter’s heart, too.

Fell in love with this from the very start and knew unless something drastic happened to radically alter the feeling, this would be a five star encounter. I was getting the same the same buzz that I had when reading The Thirteenth Tale.

The Twilight Hour is not a mystery. This standalone from one half of the successful Nicci French authorship has given a throughly intriguing story here, a life-sized slice of skeletons in the family cupboard, so the fizzled-out ending was really hard to take. There were no ends left untied, no threads hanging but no big finale either, and this screamed for a grandiose gesture.

Three and a half memory-burning bonfires.

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Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered

 

bookshelves: art-forms, summer-2014, published-2014, nonfiction, italy, radio-4

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from August 11 to 15, 2014

 

BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04d1c48

Description: A genius immortalised her. A French king paid a fortune for her. An emperor coveted her. Every year more than 9 million visitors trek to view her portrait in the Louvre. Yet while everyone recognizes her smile, hardly anyone knows her story.

Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered – a blend of biography, history, and memoir – truly is a book of discovery about the world’s most recognised face, most revered artist, and most praised and parodied painting.

Who was she, this ordinary woman who rose to such extraordinary fame? Why did the most renowned painter of her time choose her as his model? What became of her? And why does her smile enchant us still?

The author, Dianne Hales, is a prize-winning, widely published journalist and author. The President of Italy awarded her an honorary knighthood in recognition of her internationally bestselling book, La Bella Lingua.

Abridged by Eileen Horne
Reader: Nancy Crane
Producer: Clive Brill
A Brill production for BBC Radio 4.

1/5 Who was the real Mona Lisa? And why did Leonardo paint her? Dianne Hales investigates.

2/5 Dianne Hales delves into the history of Mona Lisa’s ancestors to understand her character.

3/5 Mona Lisa is born into a turbulent era, just as an artistic star from Vinci is on the rise

4/5 As Leonardo delights the court of Milan, Florence is changing beyond all recognition

5/5 Leonardo returns to Florence and Francesco del Giocondo commissions a portrait of his wife

Nothing new to the table yet adequate as a primer.

A Song for Issy Bradley

 

BABT

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04d8dvt

Description: This is the story of what happens when Issy Bradley dies.

It is the story of Ian – husband, father, maths teacher and Mormon bishop – and his unshakeable belief that everything will turn out all right if he can only endure to the end, like the pioneers did. It is the story of his wife Claire’s lonely wait for a sign from God and her desperate need for life to pause while she comes to terms with what’s happened.

It is the story of the agony and hope of Zippy Bradley’s first love, the story of Alma Bradley’s cynicism and reluctant bravery, and it is the story of seven-year-old Jacob. But mostly it’s the story of a family trying to work out how to carry on when their world has fallen apart.

Incredibly moving, unexpectedly funny and sharply observed, A Song for Issy Bradley, explores the outer reaches of doubt and faith. Author Carys Bray was brought up in a devout Mormon family. In her early thirties she left the church and replaced religion with writing. She was awarded the Scott prize for her debut short story collection Sweet Home. A Song for Issy Bradley is her first novel.

1/10 It is little Jacob’s birthday, and he wants all the family to have breakfast together.

2/10 Claire is trying to keep control of Jacob’s birthday party, and Issy says she feels unwell

3/10 Issy has been rushed to hospital suffering from meningitis. She is in critical condition.

4/10 It is Issy’s funeral, but little Jacob is hatching a plan to make everything better.

It wouldn’t be the first time that my reticence would be proven unfounded and it was that reasoning that I embarked upon this Book at Bedtime insert. Unfortunately it was as dismal as the description makes out, a real playing on the heart-strings. It is fair to say I am not the target audience here. Abandoned at 40%

NEXT!

Don’t Look Back by Gregg Hurwitz

bookshelves: published-2014, summer-2014, adventure, mexico, net-galley, e-book, newtome-author, rape

Read from August 02 to 11, 2014

 

Description: After the breakup of her marriage, Evie takes the holiday of a lifetime. A few weeks of hiking, rafting and jungle adventure at an eco-lodge in Mexico sound ideal. But what should have been the perfect pick-me-up soon turns into a nightmare.

Nothing is quite what it seems. There are secrets hidden that can’t be allowed to leave their jungle hiding place. And which their keeper will kill to protect.

If she is ever to see her son again, Evie will be forced to find reserves of strength, courage and ingenuity she never dreamt existed. Or die trying.

It’s a jungle out there!

Left feeling completely indifferent to both characters and plot. Maybe the rape in the opening jungle scenes had something to do with my apathy, or maybe it was the writing that never once made me stop to admire a turn of phrase or marvel at a description. There are many who enjoy Hurwitz judging the ratings on his previous books so I’m not sure he will mind too much if he loses out on my conversion.

Two and a half machete swipes and a hand wobble is all I can muster.

Gregg Hurwitz is the internationally bestselling author of You’re Next, Or She Dies, We Know and I See You. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford Universities, he lives with his family in California, where he writes screenplays, television and comics including Batman and Wolverine.

The Cold Cold Sea by Linda Huber

bookshelves: summer-2014, britain-england, cornwall, mystery-thriller, net-galley, e-book, psychology, published-2014

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Maxine (Booklover Catlady)
Read from August 05 to 09, 2014

 

Legend Press

Description: When three-year-old Olivia disappears, her parents are overwhelmed with grief. Weeks go by and Olivia’s mother refuses to leave the cottage, staring out at the turbulent sea and praying it didn’t claim her precious daughter’s life.

Not far away, another mother watches proudly as her daughter starts school. Jennifer has loved Hailey for five years, but the child is suddenly moody and difficult, and there’s a niggling worry of doubt that Jennifer cannot shake off. As she struggles to maintain control there are gaps in her story that even she can’t explain.

Time is running out for Maggie at the cottage, and also for Jennifer and Hailey. No-one can underestimate a mother’s love for her child, and no-one can predict the lengths one will go to, to protect her family.

Ms Huber spent ten years working with neurological patients and learnt that people have different ways of dealing with stressful events in their lives. Such knowledge has carved a taut, eye-scorching tale, however the cognitive failure of a feckless husband, which acts as a major plot-enhancer, failed to lasoo my credibility.

This is a gripping, page-turning novel that would make parents think twice about taking the kiddies down to play in the sand. Three and a half sandals left abandoned in the sand.

Dead Men’s Bones by James Oswald

Dead Men's Bones (Inspector McLean, #4)

bookshelves: summer-2014, published-2014, mystery-thriller, series, newtome-author, e-book, fife, britain-scotland, ipad, casual-violence, contemporary, cults-societies-brotherhoods, execution, eye-scorcher, games-people-play, gangsters, gorefest, lifestyles-deathstyles, mental-health, net-galley, ouch, recreational-homicide, revenge, sleazy, superstitions, suicide, twist-on-a-theme

Read from August 02 to 03, 2014

 

Description: Dead Men’s Bones is the fourth novel in James Oswald’s phenomenal Inspector Mclean series set in Edinburgh.

The body of a prominent Scottish MP is discovered outside his home, a remote house in North East Fife. In a horrifying attack, Andrew Weatherly has killed his wife and two young daughters, before turning his gun on himself.

The question on everyone’s lips is why would this successful and wealthy man commit such a gruesome crime?

Inspector Tony McLean is surprised to find himself at the centre of this high profile investigation. The deeper he digs, the more McLean realizes he is being used in a game between shadowy factions from the world of power and privilege.

Pressure is on to wrap up the case. That would go against everything McLean believes in . . . but to carry on will threaten the lives of his closest friends and colleagues.

Opening: The pain is everywhere.
It pulses through his head is if there’s a hole in his skull and someone is squeezing his brain in time to his heart beat.

Several pals have reported that series is incredibly good and given this, my only foray so far, proves them right. It is the marvellous tone of the proceedings that makes this book stand out: the backdrop of Scotland in referendum year, the police coming to terms with Police Scotland and all the insecurities roiling in the wake of these issues. A lot of space is given over to ex-soldiers being unable to connect or settle down to civvy life after the horrors of Afghanistan and Iraq, so they become foot soldiers in the army of the homeless; a stark look at how Community Care fails in the bigger picture.

Inspector McLean is a man with recent injuries and who has to attend physiotherapy and counselling sessions and I mean to backtrack to the previous books to find out the answers to some of my questions, however this works well enough as a standalone.

The middle section of this story was eye-scorching, nevertheless, slight cracks started appearing towards the end; a supernatural element was alluded to on several occasions that seemed at odds with the story that had gone before. It could be posited that this was excellent police procedural for a good three quarters and then it seemed to change genre and leave some unresolved issues. For these issues Dead Man’s Bones loses glister where more patience in the fine-tuning would have made all the difference.

Would I recommend it? Oh yes, but with the above caveats. Three and a half bowls from Bobby’s soup kitchen.

‘The Bull’ Roslin Glen

Roslin Glen, cup and ring marks

————————————————————

James Oswald is the author of the Detective Inspector McLean series of crime novels. The first three, Natural Causes, The Book of Souls and The Hangman’s Song are also available as Penguin paperbacks and ebooks. He has written an epic fantasy series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro, which is published by Penguin, as well as comic scripts and short stories.

In his spare time he runs a 350-acre livestock farm in North East Fife, where he raises pedigree Highland Cattle and New Zealand Romney Sheep.

The Miniaturist

bookshelves: summer-2014, published-2014, historical-fiction, dutch, art-forms, fradio, glbt, arch, overwrought, empty, next

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from June 11 to August 02, 2014

 

Lookedinto-decidedagainst: ‘This has to be one over the most over-hyped debut novels I have ever read’: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…

Well, the above was written before Laura gave the heads up that it is BABT next week so I will give it a whirl. Will my initial verdict be the correct one? Emilia Fox narrating is one enormous plus point!

BABT

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04b3tyw

Description: On a cold autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of the Dutch East India Company’s most successful merchant trader : Johannes Brandt. But her lavishly furnished new home is not welcoming, and its inhabitants seem preoccupied with their own secrets. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office which leaves Nella isolated in the grand house on the canal with his sister, the sharp-tongued Marin and Otto and Cornelia their servants as company.

Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist, an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny and intricate creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways.

But as she starts to receive unexpected and unasked for items for her ‘toy house’ Nella becomes aware that the Brandt household contains unusual secrets and she begins to understand – and fear- the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society conformity is all. Neighbours are encouraged to spy on each other, excavating ‘the canker’ of sin. The packages from the mysterious miniaturist begin to reveal chillingly prophetic objects but Nella remains at a loss as to what they all mean.

Dutch dollhouse from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

1/10 Amsterdam, 1686: Nella is welcomed into married life with a strange and lavish present.

2/10 Nella continues to wonder when her husband is going to consummate their marriage.

3/10 The unlooked for package from the miniaturist has unnerved Nella, but she can’t help but be seduced by the intricate craftsmanship.

4/10 Rejected by her husband, Nella continues to feel alone in the city.

5/10 Nella decides to pay a visit to her husband at the offices of the Dutch East India Company

6/10 While Johannes is in Venice, an unwelcome visitor arrives at the Brandt household.

7/10 Nella discovers Marin’s secret, but does she fully understand its implications?

8/10 With Johannes under arrest, Nella must do what she can to sell the sugar before it rots.

9/10 The burgomasters of Amsterdam are determined to uphold their city’s god-fearing reputation

10/10 Nella bids her husband farewell and welcomes the new arrival.

my musical interpretation

Couldn’t for one minute buy into this, however it made pleasant listening and I’m sure that is not how Ms Burton wanted it. C’est la vie, cher sucre!

Ooo – only the two doll’s houses and both of those are for this production and narrator.