Category > Fiction Books

I Stopped Time

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Jane Davis, I Stopped Time, book reviewWhen Lottie Pye died at the age of 108 she left her whole collection of thousands of photographs to her son James, who she hadn’t seen in almost 80 years. When James happens upon Jenny Jones, a University student studying photography, he decides to let her go through them and catalog them, never realizing that this could finally be a way to get to know both his mother, and himself. This is Jane Davis’ novel I Stopped Time.

I just adore strong female characters, especially those who find their own paths, even if that causes them problems. Lottie Pye is just that type of character – a woman ahead of her time, unwilling to be confined by the dictates of society, even if that causes problems for her or others.


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The Crimson Ribbon

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The Crimson Ribbon by Katherine Clements, book reviewThe opening chapter of Katherine Clements’ debut novel, The Crimson Ribbon, packs a powerful punch. Opening in the Fenland town of Ely on May Day 1646, we meet two women desperately battling to help a third in childbirth. The child is born severely malformed, and the mother’s instinctive reaction is to accuse the two midwives – Annie Flowers and her teenage daughter Ruth – of witchcraft and devilry. She runs to get her husband from the inn; Annie and Ruth follow to try and stem the accusations. Another woman overhears what has happened and takes her opportunity to support the claim of witchcraft against Annie, as Annie’s remedies and charms failed to revive her seriously ill husband the year before. An angry mob is soon formed, fuelled by the drinking the holiday has encouraged.


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Ragtime in Simla

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Ragtime in Simla Barbara Cleverly, book reviewRagtime in Simla by Barbara Cleverly is the second of her four novels featuring Comander Joe Sandilands of the Metropolitan Police on secondment to India in the 1920s. It’s the third I’ve read and fits neatly between The Last Kashmiri Rose and The Damascened Blade. Of the three it’s the one I enjoyed the most.

The book doesn’t start in India; instead we kick off with a train accident in France several years earlier in 1919. The train is travelling to the French south coast where Englishwoman Alice Conyers plans to catch a boat to India.


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Kindred

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Kindred, Octavia E. Butler, book reviewDana’s 26th birthday turns out to be the most memorable one of her life. As she and her husband Kevin move into their new apartment, she starts to feel dizzy. Initially thinking it is just due to moving heavy boxes in the heat of a Los Angeles summer, she is soon proved wrong when she falls to her knees…and vanishes in front of Kevin’s eyes. Dana reappears a few seconds later on the other side of the room with a very strange explanation of what happened. She tells of finding herself on a riverbank, with a screaming woman and a young red haired boy drowning in the water in front of her. She pulled the boy out and gave him CPR, but as he started to breathe again, a man with an old-fashioned rifle pointed at her appeared and she found herself back home – with the wet clothes and muddy shoes that seemed to back up her story.


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Junglezen Sheru

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Junglezen Sheru, Samarpan, book reviewFables are few and far between these days unless you count Paolo Coelho and his are tales of mystical human experiences. After Aesop and the Panchatantra, George Orwell’s was the most definite and that was more in cautionery satire territory.

Samarpan’s third book after Tiya and Param, Junglezen Sheru is a story that sets out sounding like The Lion King and then takes quite a different turn, in total contradiction to the Panchatantra tradition which was created to teach princes the principles of kingship through fables featuring animals.


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Campari for Breakfast

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Campari for Breakfast, Sara Crowe, book reviewSue Bowl has been through a lot more in life than most 17 year olds. Her mother, Buddleia, committed suicide, and not long after that, her father took up with another woman. Buddleia’s sister, Aunt Coral, was still mourning the loss of their father when Buddleia took her life. Looking for comfort, and knowing Sue needed some comforting herself, Coral invites her to Egham to spend her gap year in her mother’s ancestral home. Of course, Sue can’t out of Titford fast enough, mostly because she’s sure that Green Place will be the perfect setting to start writing her novel. And while she’s there, perhaps she can find some answers about her mother, with a dash of romance on the side. This is Sara Crowe’s debut novel Campari for Breakfast.

One of the first things readers will find in this book is that it has heap-loads of charm, part of which is due to it taking place in the late 1980s in a semi-rural village outside London.


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That Dark Remembered Day

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That Dark Remembered Day , Tom Vowler, book reviewAround six months ago, I read Tom Vowler’s debut novel What Lies Within and was underwhelmed to say the least. While it showed great promise in the writing, the story itself failed to deliver what was promised and it fizzled out before reaching the satisfying conclusion that the quality of the prose deserved. It was therefore with a sense of disappointment that I saw I had been sent a review copy of Vowler’s second book, That Dark Remembered Day – what if this was another damp squib sent to frustrate me? Fortunately, in the intervening months Vowler seems to have developed quite remarkably as a writer, and this novel is in an altogether higher league that his first offering.

Stephen is a middle-aged son returning to the small town he grew up in to visit his ailing mother, Mary.


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Light Shining in the Forest

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Light Shining in the Forest Paul Torday, book reviewNorman Stokoe is the new “Children’s Czar” of England’s Northumberland, and he has fallen between bureaucratic cracks with the newly formed government. He has a brand new position but no green-light to do anything. Still, with a good salary, his secretary Pippa and an office with a budget, things could be worse. Then Willie, a small-time reporter from a local newspaper, comes to him with a theory about some children who have gone missing. Everyone has labeled them as runaways, but Willie doesn’t believe it. Soon both Pippa and Norman agree, but now they’re on their own to find out the truth.

If one had to choose a tagline for Light Shining in the Forest, Paul Torday’s last novel, it would have to be “Every five minutes a child goes missing in the UK”.


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The Shattered Crown

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The Shattered Crown by Richard Ford, book reviewIt is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a publisher in possession of free review copies will be in want of a book reviewer to read them. This, for the reviewer, means lots of lovely free books, many of which being ones that they would otherwise likely never have read. Unfortunately, in amongst this pile will occasionally creep the odd book that is part of an ongoing series or (worse) the mid-point in a trilogy. I have had several such books in the past and have generally struggled to understand what is going on, given that much of the story, scene-setting and character development has taken place before the book in my hands has even started. The second book in a trilogy in particularly difficult, as it is often the weak link, a mere bridging stage between an intriguing introduction and an explosive finale.


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The Dead Ground

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The Dead Ground by Claire McGowan, book reviewOne of the most memorable review books that I was sent last year was Claire McGowan’s novel The Lost, a book that stood out amongst other crime fiction I read both for its distinctive setting (post-Troubles Northern Ireland) and unusual perspective (missing persons). Having enjoyed it, I finished my review by saying that I looked forward to the inevitable second outing of the story’s protagonist, psychologist Paula Maguire. This return has come pleasingly soon, with The Dead Ground scheduled for general release in April – the lovely people at Headline, however, have sent me an advanced copy that I demolished this weekend with relish.

We return to Paula’s life shortly before Christmas, with snow thick on the ground and the repercussions of her previous case hanging heavily over her head.


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Mirror City

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Mirror City Chitrita Banerji, book reviewThis is the story of an uneasy marriage between a girl from this side of the river and a boy from that side; the this and that depending on which side of the river you are on. Uma is a Bengali Hindu and her husband Iqbal is a Bangladeshi Muslim. They met in the neutral terrain of America, fell in love and married. As a result of that marriage, Uma has been disowned by her family in Calcutta. Iqbal however has brought his wife back to post 1971 Dhaka where he takes up a university posting and for some inexplicable reason, the marriage gradually begins to fall apart.

The story is told through Uma’s eyes, the growing discomfort of a woman who begins to realise that in Calcutta’s ‘mirror city’ of Dhaka, situations can be quite easily reversed.


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The Pure Gold Baby

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The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret DrabbleAnna seemed like a normal baby when she was born to her unwed mother Jess. As she grew, she seemed ultimately happy. She was the type of child who glowed from within. So when Jess realized that Anna wasn’t normal, that she’d never learn to read or do math, she decided to do everything she could to protect and care for her. But her mostly abandoned career in anthropology continued to hover in her periphery. This is The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble.

Drabble’s style is elegantly simple with a contemplative quality to it, which weaves between being squarely based in reality and the more esoteric and philosophical passages.


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