We are excited to be participating in a blog tour for Doug Johnstone’s The Jump, a contemporary thriller with an unlikely heroine. Join us this Saturday for the blog tour when Doug will share his writing process with a focus on how he created a character of place within this novel. You will also be able to enter to win a copy of The Jump. Our contributor, Andrew, read the book. Here is his review… Read more
The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
Published: March 1, 2016
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Jen
Find it here:The Madwoman Upstairs: A Novel
Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley and Simon and Shuster in exchange for an honest review.
The Madwoman Upstairs is Catherine Lowell’s debut novel and was released on March 1st by Simon and Shuster. It has been described as “a modern-day literary scavenger hunt” and centers on clues related to the Bröntes.
When Samantha Whipple’s father dies, she becomes the sole living relation of the Bröntes. Rumors surround Samantha about a mysterious Bronte estate. Many scholars speculated that her father had hidden away a vast fortune of unpublished works and Bronte memorabilia. Five years after her father’s death, Samantha travels to Oxford to study literature. She is housed in an old tower and when copies of her father’s old books (books she had presumed destroyed in the fire that killed her father) start appearing in her room, she starts to wonder if there is any truth to rumors of vast estate. What ensues is a sort of literary scavenger hunt where Samantha uncovers clues to her father’s life and a potential literary treasure. Read more
The Bird Artist by Howard Norman
Published in: 1994
Literary Awards: Finalist for the 1994 National Book Award
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Find it here: The Bird Artist: A Novel
Set in Witless Bay in Newfoundland, a remote community, this is the story of how love and passion can end in murder.
Fabian Vas is a bird artist: He draws and paints the birds of Witless Bay, his remote Newfoundland coastal village home. In the first sentence of the novel Fabian confesses to having killed the lighthouse keeper, Botho August. The rest of the narrative works backwards showing what events lead to the murder and how Fabian escaped hanging to tell his story.
The book is studded with detailed descriptions of the bird life in Witless bay and indeed the bay itself is a character, with its isolation allowing certain events to take place and for community justice to take the place of the law.
I gave this book 3 stars because I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. They were all unlikeable in some way and I really find it hard to like a book where you can’t connect with a single character. What I did enjoy were the descriptions of nature, of the bird species, and of the harsh landscape of the island — landscape that made the inhabitants the kind of remote, cold people they were.
After finishing this book I discovered it was the first in a trilogy which seems rather strange to me since this book seemed to provide the complete story of Fabian, albeit it possibly a slightly surface view. This was not a book that ended on a cliffhanger or that left me with any burning unanswered questions. Instead, everything was all tied up nicely and in such a way that I don’t feel compelled to read the next 2 books — which probably says it all.
Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: The Bird Artist: A Novel
We want to hear from you. Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you want to read it?
Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
First published: 1985
Format: Audiobook narrated by Derek Jacobi
Reviewed by: Jen
In the 18th century Nicholas Dyer, an architect, and secret devil worshiper, is commissioned to build seven London churches. In the 1980s, detective Nicholas Hawksmoor is investigating a series of gruesome murders that took place in the sites of those same seven churches. Hawksmoor alternates between the two time periods and Ackroyd uses different styles to reflect “modern” day language and 18th century language. As the story progresses, readers begin to piece recognize patterns and connections between the two periods.
Nicholas Dyer is loosely based on real life architect Nicholas Hawksmoor (I wish I had known this prior to reading the book – notice the overlapping names of characters) who worked with Sir Christopher Wren (also mentioned in Ackroyd’s book). The real Nicholas Hawksmoor was a free mason who incorporated pagan symbols into his churches and did in fact build the 7 churches mentioned in the book. The Guardian published an interesting piece on Hawksmoor and his churches. Scroll down the bottom of this review to see images of the 7 churches.
Let me begin by saying that audio is the wrong format with which to tackle this book. The book is confusing, the author jumps around between time periods, some names are similar across time periods, and the narrator does not do a good job of distinguishing between voices.
Now on to my review… Read more