- Non Fiction
Reviews by Debra Found
When Eleanor Harper becomes the director of a renowned artists’ retreat, she knows nothing of Cliffside Manor’s dark past as a tuberculosis sanatorium, a “waiting room for death.” After years of covering murder and violence as a crime reporter, Eleanor hopes that being around artists and writers in this new job will be a peaceful retreat for her as much as for them. But from her first fog-filled moments on the manor’s grounds, Eleanor is seized by a sense of impending doom and realizes there’s more to the institution than its reputation of being a haven for creativity. After the arrival of the new fellows―including the intriguing, handsome photographer Richard Banks―she begins to suspect that her predecessor chose the group with a dangerous purpose in mind. As the chilling mysteries of Cliffside Manor unravel and the eerie sins of the past are exposed, Eleanor must fight to save the fellows—and herself—from sinister forces.
Started Well with a Poor Ending
Eleanor Harper is heading for her first day as the new director of the Cliffside Arts Foundation. The previous director, Penelope Dare, was the last of the family who set up the retreat for people to work for a set period on a particular arts project be it writing, painting, photography or anything similar. As Eleanor settles into Cliffside House she becomes aware of a few strange goings on - noises in the night, time that goes without her realising it, a spooky dolls house and so on. Once the six fellows arrive it all becomes a little more heated and events take quite a sinister turn. Who are the children running in the attics and who is wreaking destruction - is it someone mortal or a ghost?
I very much enjoyed the first two thirds of this book. The book seemed to be reasonably well written with a good structure to the plot. I was interested in the characters and how they were reacting though became quite aware that Eleanor wasn't the sharpest spark in the bonfire and she didn't pick up on some early, obvious clues. As the action started to hot up I felt that the book started to disintegrate. There was a terrible demonic exorcism which just wasn't credible. I didn't find it believeable that a demon being exorcised would calmly sit in a chair without screaming or fighting. At least they could have tied her down for effect! Up until this point the information had been unravelling nicely as the story progressed and I was happily fitting everything together. However, during this rather odd exorcism scene there were several pages of information given as a speech by one person, Nate Davidson. Where is the fun in having the rest of the puzzle spoon fed in a hurry?
The last third of this book piled in a vast amount of information in a great rush. I did start to wonder if the author had an impending deadline! It really spoiled the tension for me. I don't like being spoon fed large amounts of information especially when it got more and more inplausible as the story progressed. The author really did not do themselves or the book justice with this ending.
This had the makings of a good, solid four star book. Not exceptional & a little predictable & obvious in places. However the last section just didn't live up to this and was a disappointment.
I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley.
Packed full of magical code-breaking skills, wisecracking robots and a young hero who might just be too clever for his own good, this tech-savvy adventure is perfect for fans of Percy Jackson and Alex Rider. Twelve year-old code breaking genius William Wenton, is trying to make sense of his family's dramatic escape from their home in London. But when his extraordinary talent for cracking codes is suddenly revealed, William must face the danger that has been lurking around him for years.
Great Fun - Plenty of Action
William Wenton is a clever lad who can break codes. He and his parents are living quietly in Norway in hiding from what or whom William doesn't know. Then one day William breaks a code & they are discovered! What follows is a fast action story rather akin to a young Alex Rider or a very young James Bond. There are amazing robots, talking doors, carnivorous plants.......William's world is turned upside down!
I really enjoyed this book despite being somewhat older than the target audience! Even when there wasn't a lot of action there was plenty to hold the reader's attention - stroppy doors, a vacuum cleaner that wanted to watch "Terminator" and strange creatures. There are light hearted moments making the book just great fun to read.
I would say that this book is probably for a younger readership than the Alex Rider series. They would make a good feeder book. It is great to have a clever hero who solves things by brains & learns things by reading books whilst at the same time is not stuffy and boring. William has his female sidekick, Iscia, making this a book to appeal to both genders of reader. Also involved is William's Grandfather who has been a real action Grandpa & not a pipe & slippers guy yet! I loved the fact that there are no swear words, adults do apologise as required and although there is violence there are no lurid descriptions of blood, guts and gore. The descriptive language in the book is good with a wide range of vocabulary.
I think this is a great book & would happily read the next in the series. I do hope that there is a whole series planned so children can really get involved with William in the future.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Professor Olivia Sweetman has worked hard to achieve the life she loves, with a high-flying career as a TV presenter and historian, three children and a talented husband. But as she stands before a crowd at the launch of her new bestseller she can barely pretend to smile. Her life has spiralled into deceit and if the truth comes out, she will lose everything. Only one person knows what Olivia has done. Vivian Tester is the socially awkward sixty-year-old housekeeper of a Sussex manor who found the Victorian diary on which Olivia's book is based. She has now become Olivia's unofficial research assistant. And Vivian has secrets of her own. As events move between London, Sussex and the idyllic South of France, the relationship between these two women grows more entangled and complex. Then a bizarre act of violence changes everything. The Night Visitor is a compelling exploration of ambition, morality and deception that asks the question: how far would you go to save your reputation?
Struggled to Put it Down
Professor Olivia Sweetman has far too many balls in the air - an achademic career, the imminent release of her first book, a fledgeling TV career, three children one of whom is a teenage boy rapidly heading off the rails and a husband who is never there. Throw into the mix an au pair that she doesn't like much but is relying on and Olivia is barely holding onto her life. Then there is Vivian. A socially inept, very clever woman approaching retirement age. She does the research for Olivia's book but stays in the background. She is, however, keen to collaborate on a new book about the chocolate cream poisoner. Olivia is not.
Olivia is not that unusual a woman. Many women juggle demanding careers as well as family life. However, for Olivia it is all starting to fall apart. Olivia seems to be a reasonably ordinary woman that you'd meet at a party and think she seemed very nice. Vivian is odd. She is very socially awkward and likes to lead quite a solitary and routine life. She is also highly intelligent. Eccentric is an ideal word for Vivian. Whether she is on the high functioning end of the autistic spectrum or struggling from a childhood trauma is anyone's guess.
This book is primarily about these two women but there are other bit parts who play significant roles. The characterisation is excellent and there is no doubt in my mind that there are lots of women just like Olivia in the world - maybe not so many like Vivian!
The plot is well structured. The story twists and turns until it reaches an inevitable climax. I have to say that the ending was brilliant and was a crowning glory to a book that I struggled to put down. The ending has left me wondering what happened next...........
I loved this book and found it quick and easy to read.
I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley.
The Raven's Head by Karen Maitland, author of the bestselling and much-loved Company of Liars, will delight fans of Kate Mosse or Deborah Harkness seeking a new, dark fix. 'A compelling blend of historical grit and supernatural twists' Daily Mail on The Falcons of Fire and Ice Vincent is an apprentice librarian who stumbles upon a secret powerful enough to destroy his master. With the foolish arrogance of youth, he attempts blackmail but the attempt fails and Vincent finds himself on the run and in possession of an intricately carved silver raven's head. Any attempt to sell the head fails ...until Vincent tries to palm it off on the intimidating Lord Sylvain - unbeknown to Vincent, a powerful Alchemist with an all-consuming quest. Once more Vincent's life is in danger because Sylvain and his neighbours, the menacing White Canons, consider him a predestined sacrifice in their shocking experiment. Chilling and with compelling hints of the supernatural, The Raven's Head is a triumph for Karen Maitland, Queen of the Dark Ages.
A Gothic Mix of Dark History & Fantasy
I have read a couple of Karen Maitland's books in the past and was keen to give this a try when I spotted it in the library. Unlike the previous books I have read, this story includes tales of alchemy and an element of fantasy as well as the basic history.
There are three main threads in this book which you will be glad to hear do join up and make sense in the latter part of the book. Each chapter takes on a different thread with no sub-heading to indicate which story it is following. We have Vincent who starts in France as the apprentice to a scribe. He obtains a Silver Raven's Head and heads off to England a wanted man. We also have Gisa, the niece of an apothecary who ends up working for the Lord of the Manor who uses dark arts. Then we have little Regulus who is a five year old boy who lives in a monastry with a group of other boys. The boys are all used for a variety of experiments into the dark alchemic arts.
This is a dark story but, to be fair, this is a dark period of history. This is certainly verging on the gothic with strange magical events. This did add an extra dimension to this story making it much more of a mix of history and fantasy.
I was impressed, as I always am, with the quality of historical research that is clear throughout the story. This is an author who does do her research and brings this period of history alive with her descriptions. I wonder if this book was just a little too long? At times I did feel that we were marking time a bit.
This is a well written book but it is essential that the reader enjoys plenty of historical fact. I enjoy the depth of history in this book but it does make it on the slower side which isn't to everyone's taste.
Although I don't consider this to be the best work by this author (Try a Company of Liars) I did enjoy it and shall be looking out for more. In fact I ahve just downleaded The Plague Charmer to my ereader.
The town of Rotherweird stands alone - there are no guidebooks, despite the fascinating and diverse architectural styles cramming the narrow streets, the avant garde science and offbeat customs. Cast adrift from the rest of England by Elizabeth I, Rotherweird's independence is subject to one disturbing condition: nobody, but nobody, studies the town or its history. For beneath the enchanting surface lurks a secret so dark that it must never be rediscovered, still less reused. But secrets have a way of leaking out. Two inquisitive outsiders have arrived: Jonah Oblong, to teach modern history at Rotherweird School (nothing local and nothing before 1800), and the sinister billionaire Sir Veronal Slickstone, who has somehow got permission to renovate the town's long-derelict Manor House. Slickstone and Oblong, though driven by conflicting motives, both strive to connect past and present, until they and their allies are drawn into a race against time - and each other. The consequences will be lethal and apocalyptic.
A Marmite Book
Well - Rotherweird by name & Rather Weird by nature. This is definitely an unusual book.
Rotherweird is a small town in England which is isolated from the rest of the country. The residents are not allowed to research their past and don't employ modern technology such as petrol vehicles, computers or even telephones. It is attached to a fantasy land via a series of magic tiles. I won't attempt to further precis the plot as it is actually rather convoluted & I'd loose you in seconds. Suffice to say there are a great number of unusual characters & a lot of strange goings on.
Although I did enjoy this book I wouldn't call it a light read or even an easy read. You do need to keep your wits about you all all times. There are flashbacks to the Elizabethan period which often make no sense at the time but will mostly become clear as you progress. I regret not taking the time to write a full cast list for myself which would have made things easier particularly when people had more than one name or when names were similar.
I struggled a bit with the ending of this book. It was all going well and we had arrived at a clear climax, had a brief summary and I expected the book to end. It didn't and just got rather tedious. The last few chapters were unnecessary in my opinion and could have been better adapted to the beginning of the next installment.
I have called this a marmite book because it is so obviously going to be a book you either love or hate. I enjoyed it and if weren't for the extra chapters on the end I would have loved the book. I can see, however, that many people are just not going to want to stick with this and will find it like wading through treacle.
I loved Rotherweird and its residents as well as the whole concept of the attached extra place, Lost Acre. I was quite happy to read through the intricacies and deal with the convoluted twists. There is some wonderful writing and some great characters - a fantastic coracle race and details of the Polk Brothers inventions spring instantly to mind. There is something very Heath Robinson about them!
I can see that this book is designed to lead to another. There are definitely things to be resolved. I shall be looking out for the next installment of Rotherweird!
Meet Joshua. This story is about a small boy named Joshua, and how he spends his day. Follow Joshi as he plays, tidies, and goes to the park. A lovely book to read with your child while you discuss your daily routines; are they similar to Joshua's?
Great for Showing Routine
This is a day in the life of Joshua - getting up, eating, playing, listening to stories, tidying up and so on. Nothing special goes on and I am sure it is a routine day that many under fives can relate to.
The pictures are bright and eye catching without being garish. There is enough in the picture to make them interesting without them being too busy and taking a child's attention away from the text that is being read to them.
My big bug bear with this book is the americanisms - the parents are called Mama, Papa and Mommy at varying points which aren't in common use in the UK. The more usual phrases would be Mum, Dad or Mummy. Joshua sleeps in a crib which in the UK is usually what a very young baby sleeps in. As child gets older they sleep in a cot which, judging by the picture is what Joshua sleeps in. I was quite surprised that Joshua was sleeping in a cot at all as he can form the sentence "I love you too my Princess Mommy!" meaning he must be at least almost three which is also shown by the types of toys he is playing with.
I found the text slightly sickly sweet in places but I am speaking from an adults point of view. I don't suppose it would bother a young child.
As stories go this isn't the most interesting. However, I can see that it would be very useful if you were trying to establish routines. I do like the fact that Joshua is read to at several points during the day and that he is expected to play by himself for some of the time & to tidy up afterwards. Joshua couldn't go to the park without tidying up - a great rule to show to children.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter dares to hope that she finally has it all:....
Light Reading - I Didn't Get Involved
This is the story of Lucy, a high flying executive who has a great marriage to Jonah, a great house and a job she loves. There is a little bit of tension with her mother but otherwise Lucy seems to have it all....except for a baby. Into this mix is thrown Camille, Jonah's 16 year old daughter from a previous marriage who comes to stay.
I did enjoy this book despite it all getting a little sicky sweet in some places. Lucy is desperate for a baby & suffers several miscarriages. This, naturally enough, causes a great deal of stress and tension. There is lots of second guessing what people think - Lucy thinks Jonah doesn't really want a baby as he has Camille whereas Jonah doesn't want Lucy to keep having to go through miscarriages.
Camille is a fairly typical teen. Lucy quite unrealistically wants to be her best friend and feels pushed out & excluded. I don't think this is unusual but Lucy doesn't handle it well. Poor old Jonah keeps getting stuck in the middle of the situation.
I enjoyed this book on a fairly superficial level. I didn't get that involved with the story & certainly didn't find myself moved to tears or great compassion for Lucy. It wasn't that I didn't sympathise, she just didn't get under my skin greatly. Perhaps it is because I am fortunate enough not to have been in her situation? or perhaps it was because her feelings were explained to a great extent in the book as opposed to the writing drawing me into her mindset? I don't know which it was but suspect it was a combination of the two.
There are a few twists in this book but I must confess to having seen them all coming. It was a bit predictable.
I did enjoy this book but it was very much a light and superficial read. I expect it spoke to other women much more than it did to me.
I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley.
Descended from the mythical harpies, Petra Celaeno is content living a solitary life in the Colorado Territory until she meets dairy farmer, James Lloyd. As her relationship with James grows, Petra fights against her harpy instincts and questions the traditions of her ancestors. James Lloyd came to Colorado looking for a fresh start, but he can not shake his obsession with a favorite myth from childhood. Something sinister is lurking beneath the earth of the Rockies and it is calling to James. Life in the small town of Turning Creek is about to change. A terrible prophecy will be fulfilled and Petra will have to choose between protecting her home and saving the man she has come to love.
Had Potential but Rather a Let Down
Petra is descended from one of the original harpies of Greek mythology. There are many "remnants" living in society who are descended from the gods or mythological creatures. This is a concept that I liked very much - a sort of adult "Percy Jackson"!
Petra and her harpy sisters live close to the town of Turning Creek. We aren't told exactly when this book is set but it seems to be sometime during the American gold rush period. This is a small town with various humans and remnants living amicably side by side. However, something is drawing remnants to the town and made farmer James Lloyd turn his back on his farm and start digging.
The idea is great. Admittedly the harpy sisters are a little more likeable than their ancestors but on the whole the concept was sound. Unfortunately the actual structure of the book wasn't developed enough to give this idea the book that it deserved.
We do meet various characters as well as the harpies - Iris, Reed the Sherrif, James Lloyd the farmer, Henry the blacksmith and so on. However, they are really very shallow characters who aren't developed throughout the book. I see that this book is designed as the beginning of a series. Perhaps the author plans to develop the characters more fully during the subsequent books. However, a reader needs to get under the skin of the characters in the first book of a series in order for them to care enough to read further. I didn't feel that the characters were well developed and by the end of the book I really wasn't bothered about what happened next.
The setting of this book did present a few problems. Description is not this author's strongest point. I was never able to imagine the town or the countryside around it. Petra rides into town but I learn nothing about her route - how difficult the terrain is, how hot the weather is and so on. The town itself has little character with place just not being described enough. A skilled writer can enable a reader to imagine a place in a matter of just a few words. This author has yet to acquire this skill.
Having said all of this I was prepared to read to the end and had hopes for further development in future books. Unfortunately the ending let this book down plunging it from a almost a four star down to a three star. Again description was a failing. Petra & her sisters are at a feast which appears to be half way up a mountain. The food, tables and even log cabins have all arrived and been constructed in a matter of two days? Really. The big climax was also a let down. The sisters needed to obtain something to be destroyed (I won't elaborate further!) which they seemed to achieve in a matter of under two minutes. There was no battle, no taking sides, no intrigue just a bit of a scuffle & it was all over. I did feel let down.
This is a book which had potential but was a long way from living up to it. It is such a shame as I really liked the idea behind the book but the book itself was weak. I won't be looking out the further books in this series.
Tired and hungry after a long journey, three dwarves knock on the door of a big, spooky house. They soon discover it belongs to a giant! Join them as they figure out how to outwit him and escape!
Perhaps a Little Long
This is a fairly traditional style folk tale. Three dwarves (Hop, Skip
& Jump) arrive at a giant's house and need to outwit him so that he
won't eat them. So all through the night Skip stays awake asking the
giant for ever more difficult items which will supposedly enable him to
sleep. The giant tries to find these items in the hope that Skip will go
to sleep and then the giant can eat the three dwarves. Obviously, as
with all good folk tales, the giant is outwitted and the dwarves escape.
an adult we know that the giant could easily have eaten the three
dwarves or tied them up at any point in the preceedings. However, this
just never seems to happen! The author is Turkish so I presume that this
is a traditional turkish folk tale. It would have been nice if a little
bit about the originas of the story were included in an appendix for
the adult to explain to the child. There are similar stories in many
I enjoyed reading this book. It is just a little long for
younger children but certainly suitable to be read to four or five year
olds. Each double page has a picture spread across them with the writing
printed over the picture on one of the two pages. This gives plenty of
pictures for the younger reader/listener. The language is simple but
with a good variety of adjectives and verbs which help to expand a
child's vocabulary. For example instead of the giant being angry all the
time he is fuming, flabbergasted and cross as well as grumbling and
I like this book very much but think it could have
done with being just a little shorter. Children do struggle with poor
attention spans and I think the more reluctant story listener may be put
off by the amount of text.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
TJ cannot walk or talk, but he still loves to listen and play with his friends. Join him as he shows that disabilities are no barrier to a happy and fulfilling life...
Good Talking Points
This will be an ideal book to use to have a discussion with children
about people with disabilities. It shows that TJ is just an ordinary
person who wants to join in and be included with everyone else. He likes
to play and laugh with his friends just like everyone else.
which seeks to break down the barriers between able-bodied and disabled
children has to be a good thing. This is an ideal book to be shared
with a class of children hopefully leading to discussions about
including disabled people.
This is a bright and colourful book with
quite simple and childlike drawings. It is easy to see what is going on
in the pictures which relate well to the text.
I gave this book to an
adult family member who uses a wheelchair and asked their opinion. They
were very pleased that the book had been written and that it showed a
disabled boy very much the same as everyone else. He did, however, point
out that not all disabled people appreciate people coming over and
asking questions or, as shown in the first picture, sitting on them!
This is definitely a section which requires discussion as opposed to
just blanket acceptance.
As a children's book this worked well. I did
find that some of the text didn't scan very well and was a little
clunky to read. Just when I thought I was in a rhythmn there was
suddenly a longer line which didn't quite fit. To be fair, though, this
isn't the first book I have read with this problem and people who are
used to reading aloud, such as teachers, soon get over it.
This is a
good book to have available to parents and teachers. It isn't always
easy to explain these differences to children so it is good to have this
book to form a starting point.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.