The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

Enthralling and haunting, Kate Morton’s latest novel tells a gothic story of betrayal, dark secrets, madness and love. Meredith and her daughter Edie have never been close, but when a letter arrives fifty years after it’s been posted and Meredith refuses to reveal its contents, Edie is determined to find out if her mother’s emotional distance could be related to her secret past. Thus, Edie sets off to unravel Meredith’s past, but she is about to learn more than she expected. Evacuated from London during the Blitz, Edie’s mother was chosen by Juniper Blythe and taken to live at Milderhurst Castle with her literary family. The Blythes were eccentric people, whose lives revolved around the decaying castle and the dreadful tales that enveloped it and the more Edie investigates, the more skeletons come out of the closet. And what eventually comes to the surface is a tragic and disturbing truth that altered lives and destroyed hopes.

The Distant Hours will satisfy readers as they will stray into a labyrinth of deceit, family intrigue and mystery. Kate Morton has managed to capture a gloomy atmosphere throughout the novel by using various gothic elements, creating a dark and compelling tale full of suspense, romance and fascinating characters that will linger with you for a long time.

Needless to say, I very much enjoyed Kate Morton’s third novel and I hope that her next books will be just as wonderful, as I am savoring her writing style, her memorable characters and her captivating plots to the fullest.

The Distant Hours was very entertaining and informative and I found its themes very interesting. I liked to learn about the Blitz and its consequences for the protagonists and I loved to read about the Blythes and their fascination with writing and storytelling. But what I liked most was to learn about Milderhurst Castle, as I found its vivid descriptions fascinating and absorbing; the eerie tales revolving around the Blythe family were also very engaging.

Also, as I was reading this novel, I was reminded of another book that I’ve read in the past, namely, I Capture the Castle. There are certain similarities between these two books – of course there’s the setting and then both novels centre on a literary family. But The Distant Hours has more to offer; there are more stories to tell (modern and old) and I must admit that I liked it more than Dodie Smith’s novel. Kate Morton’s story has more twists and turns and it allows the reader a glimpse into a forgotten world where nothing is as it seems and after you’ve unveiled Milderhurst’s hidden secrets, you will sympathize with the characters and will be able to understand them better.

All in all, The Distant Hours was the perfect read for me and I would give it five stars out of five, as I loved everything about it. I can’t say anything negative about this novel except that I was sad that I finished it so soon. I think I can safely add Kate Morton to the list of my favorite authors!

What about you? Have you read any of Kate Morton’s novels? If so, did you like them as much as I did?

Note: I would like to thank Panmacmillan for sending me this great novel!

Andreea

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The Queen Must Die by K.A.S. Quinn

Katie is a lonely N.Y.C. girl who doesn’t have any friends since nobody seems to be interested in her, not even her mother Mimi. Katie can’t confide in her mother as Mimi is too preoccupied with getting married – every time she meets a new man, Katie’s mother feels the need to marry him. Thus, having no one to talk to, Katie likes to spend her time reading books. However, one day, when the young girl reads a book about Queen Victoria’s daughters, a peculiar thing happens – she finds herself lying under a sofa in Buckingham Palace, at the height of Queen Victoria’s reign.

Together with her new friends – Princess Alice, the young daughter of Queen Victoria, and James O’Reilly, the son of the royal doctor – Katie tries to find out why she has been sent back in time. However, there are other mysteries that need to be solved as well. For example, there are Katie’s strange visions and the frightening creatures that keep following her everywhere. As the young girl tries to discover the truth behind these strange happenings, she finds out something even more disturbing – dark forces have constructed a plot to assassinate the Queen. Thus, Katie and her friends must find a way to stop this unthinkable thing from happening. However, the young heroine must pay heed, as these supernatural creatures are out to get her. Will Katie be able to save the Queen and save herself? And will she be able to return to N.Y.C.?

The Queen Must Die is the first of The Chronicles of the Tempus trilogy and it’s an engaging children’s book packed with suspense, mysteries, secrets and many adventures. Filled with both fact and fiction, this novel narrates the exciting story of a young girl who feels alone and who is looking for distraction. Katie takes comfort in books; reading is her passion since she can embark on journeys and travel all over the world while sitting in her N.Y.C. bedroom. Books transport her into new worlds and she can meet new and interesting people that way. However, Katie didn’t expect that one day, she would literally be transported to another time and place. The young girl starts the most intriguing adventure of her life, but in the end, she gains more than just a thrilling experience – she learns so many things about life and furthermore, she gains new friends that appreciate and support her.

The Queen Must Die is a wonderful book about family, friendship and courage. It was a delight to read this book, as I love the Victorian Period, and thus I really enjoyed reading about Queen Victoria, the Royal Family and Buckingham Palace. I liked to read about Katie’s adventures in London and I especially liked the theme of time travel and the supernatural elements in this novel. As I mentioned before, I normally don’t read series, but I will read this one since it’s refreshing, captivating and fascinating. I am looking forward to reading the second instalment, The Queen At War, which will be published in 2011.

I recommend this book to everyone who is interested in the Victorian Period and to everyone who likes to read books about time travel.

Note: I would like to thank Atlantic Books for sending me a copy of this great book!

Andreea

The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber

Some of you may remember that I reviewed The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber last year. And you may remember that I loved this book very much because it was beautiful and haunting. I know that I was sad when I finished reading it because I longed for more. Luckily, Percy Parker’s story continues now, as the author has written a sequel, The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker. The second book in the Strangely Beautiful saga is just as wonderful as the first one and I loved everything about it! But now let’s have a closer look at this lovely sequel:

In The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker, we find Percy Parker united with her true love, Professor Alexi Rychman. After many trials and dangers, Percy has now found someone who appreciates her for who she really is and the mysterious girl finally feels accepted and loved. Furthermore, the heroine has also made new friends, the members of The Guard. Percy’s friends stand by her side no matter what nightmares might come and together, they are ready to face the forces of evil that want to overrun Victorian London. However, Percy needs to pay heed, as she will soon have to deal with betrayals, jealousy and revenge. Therefore, our heroine will need to keep faith in order to fulfill her duty and her destiny. Will The Guard be able to protect the young girl with snow-white skin and hair from the dangers that await her? And what about Alexi? Is their love strong enough to overcome any obstacle? Torn between duty and love, Percy realizes that she needs to be brave and strong in order to withstand the great storm that will approach. Furthermore, she needs to trust her instincts as well as her beloved Alexi, because she can only succeed and win the battle against evil if he is by her side!

I wish I could tell you more about this book, but I am afraid that I would spoil the story. Thus, I hope that you’ll pick up these novels and read them, as they are both engaging and intriguing. Just as the first book in the Strangely Beautiful saga, The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker will draw the reader in from page one and he/she will sympathize with the protagonists and care deeply about them. Leanna Renee Hieber has again created a fascinating tale full of myth and spiritualism with a touch of gothic and mystery and the author has managed to draft a satisfying and believable sequel that will entrance readers once again. This wonderful second novel is packed with suspense, romance, fantasy and the paranormal and readers will delight in Percy’s story, as there are some twists and turns, as well as other surprises to be discovered!

I must say that I loved this book as much as I loved the first one and I was again very sad when I finished reading it. Also, it occurred to me that I normally don’t read series because I haven’t found one that I actually liked. Thus, the Strangely Beautiful saga is the first one that piqued my interest and I was really excited about this sequel. I wanted to find out more about Percy Parker and her destiny and I must say that I am very pleased with The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker because I liked everything about it – the lyrical language, the beautiful descriptions, the supernatural elements, the Victorian setting and of course the romance between Percy and Alexi. Everything in this book is depicted so vividly and beautifully and the author has created such a special atmosphere, which is full of charm and magic. I can’t really explain it, but while reading these two books, I felt transported to Victorian London and I could imagine being there, together with Percy and The Guard, witnessing all those mythic creatures and ethereal beings.

The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker is an imaginative tale that will appeal to fantasy fans and to everyone who likes to read a fascinating love story set against the backdrop of a dark and mythical Victorian London. For those who want to find out more about the Strangely Beautiful saga (trailers, excerpts and more), please visit the author’s website here.

Note: The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker is scheduled for release on the 27th of April.

I would like to thank the author for sending me a signed copy of her wonderful book!

So what about you? Do you read series? What is your favorite one?

Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen

During the summer of 1968, Shenny’s mother disappeared, leaving her and her twin sister Woody with their once-loving father who now drowns his sorrows in alcohol while trying to copy with the whole situation. Since then, twelve-year-old Shenny (who was named for the Shenandoah Valley), is trying to take care of herself and Woody, who stopped speaking the day their mother vanished. As her father threatens to send Woody away, Shenny is determined to find her mother before it’s too late. The young girl senses that Woody might know something about their mother’s disappearance, but since her twin sister doesn’t speak anymore, Shenny can’t seem to solve this mystery. However, when a series of events takes place, the young protagonist is ultimately forced to face the heart-breaking truth about her family and about what really happened to her mother.

When I first read the synopsis of Tomorrow River, I was intrigued by the sound of this book, mainly because I liked that the story is told from a child’s point of view. I find that whenever I read a story narrated by a young protagonist, it makes the book so much more interesting and special. I think that it has to do with the fact that a child has such a different view of the world and everything that surrounds us. Children often tend to see things that adults are likely to ignore and neglect, mainly because adults are too preoccupied with other things. Therefore, children are perfect for telling a story, because they are good at uncovering secrets and other mysteries. With their curiosity and honesty, children can find out so much and it’s their witty and ingenious questions that often make them perfect sleuths. That’s why I liked Tomorrow River so much! I must admit that I didn’t really care much about the plot, as it was Shenny who really stood out. You can’t help but feel sympathy for her and you long to help Shenny find her mother. I also deeply cared about Woody, since she seemed so fragile and even though she didn’t speak, she still communicated with Shenny in her own way. We see Woody through Shenny’s eyes and what we see is a wounded girl who will never be the same again, because of what she had witnessed the day her mother vanished.

Overall, I was really pleased with this novel and I really liked the fact that it had such a surprising ending. Like me, you have all probably read books with endings that did not really surprise you, as you already knew how they would end. Tomorrow River is different as the story evolves in an unexpected way and you will find that nothing is what it seems when it comes to this book. And I really like novels that take you by surprise and sweep you away!

I recommend Tomorrow River to everyone who likes to read an emotional and heart-breaking story about a girl who has to cope with the painful truth about her dysfunctional family. Lesley Kagen has created a coming-of-age story and a haunting tale about a brave and brokenhearted young girl whose courage and intelligence lead her to finally discover a dark and disturbing truth that will change her family and her life forever!

Here are some of my favorite lines that perfectly describe this wonderful book:

“During the course of all our lives, there comes a time when something or someone very dear to us will break beyond repair. Growing older teaches us we have no choice but to humbly accept that no matter how hard we try or how many tears we shed we’re powerless to glue those precious pieces back together again. But during the summer I went searching for our missing mother, I was just a girl. I hadn’t learned that lesson yet. No. It wasn’t until the damage was done that I truly understood the meaning of “Pride goeth before a fall”.”

Note: I would like to thank Tala Oszkay from Penguin Group for giving me the opportunity to read and review such a remarkable book!

So what about you? Do you like stories that are told from a child’s point of view? What books have you read that were told by a young protagonist like Shenny? I would like to read more books like Tomorrow River and I would be happy if you shared some reading suggestions with me.

A Moment of Silence by Anna Dean

When I discovered A Moment of Silence a few months ago, I immediately added this book to my wish list since it was described as a mystery novel with a touch of Jane Austen and Agatha Christie. I don’t think I need to tell you how much I love Jane Austen and Agatha Christie, because if you follow my blog, then I suppose you are already familiar with this fact. Thus, I was eager to read this book because I knew that I would love it. And I must say that I really did love this charming novel and I am looking forward to reading more works by Anna Dean in order to find out more about her main character Miss Dido Kent.

But now let’s have a look at the plot:

In 1805, Miss Dido Kent arrives at Belsfield Hall, the country estate of the Montague family, in order to help her niece, Catherine, deal with the fact that her finacé, Richard Montague, has suddenly broken their engagement and disappeared. Miss Dido learns that at Catherine’s engagement ball, a peculiar thing had taken place: a stranger had appeared at Richard’s shoulder and had looked at him without saying a word. Afterwards, Richard had immediately broken off his engagement to Catherine and left Belsfield Hall, never to be seen again. Therefore, heartbroken Catherine seeks the help of her spinster aunt Dido in order to discover the motive for Richard’s strange behavior and disappearance. But it seems that Miss Dido will have to solve yet another mystery, since after her arrival at Belsfield Hall, the discovery of a body in the shrubbery is made. However, Catherine’s aunt enjoys solving mysteries, thus she is eager to shed light on the strange and shocking events that have taken place at Belsfield Hall. Nevertheless, she must pay heed, as everyone seems to have something to hide and people are willing to do everything in order to keep their dark secrets safe. The Montague family seems to have a few skeletons in the closet, and Dido must be careful not to put herself in danger while trying to uncover the mysteries of the past.

A Moment of Silence was a delightful book and it was a real joy to read such an entertaining novel! As I was reading this book, I often caught myself smiling because the main character is so amusing with her interrogations, assumptions and observations. Miss Dido Kent is such a likeable character; she is very clever and she reminded me of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, with her witty way of questioning everybody and with her many enchanting thoughts. What I really loved about A Moment of Silence was the fact that Anna Dean has given the reader a glimpse into Miss Dido’s mind by allowing the protagonist to reveal her thoughts through letters. That way, we can witness what is really on Miss Dido’s mind and furthermore, we can conclude many things by knowing how she feels about a certain matter. In my opinion, this was very cleverly done by the author and I found it very refreshing to read Miss Dido’s letters.

A Moment of Silence was the perfect book for me, as I love a good mystery novel. Moreover, the book’s ingredients were very appealing to me, since the novel deals with dark secrets, intrigues, lies, murder and deception. The murder case was not that important to me (although I was eager to find out Whodunit); I was more interested in Miss Dido and I loved how she tried to solve the mysteries with her nagging questions and her desire to know about everything and everyone. She doesn’t spare anyone and she always observes even the smallest things, and we all know how important that it, when it comes to solving a murder case! All in all, I must say that I really enjoyed this book and I couldn’t get enough of Miss Dido Kent! I recommend A Moment of Silence to everyone who likes to read mystery novels and crime fiction and I think that this book will appeal to all Agatha Christie fans!

Note: I would like to thank Chiara Priorelli from Allison & Busby for sending me a copy of this great book. You can find out more about A Moment of Silence here.

Also, make sure to check out Aarti’s review of A Moment of Silence (the U.S. title is Bellfield Hall) at Booklust.

The Ghosts of Kerfol by Deborah Noyes

The Ghosts of Kerfol is a wonderful collection of five interlocking ghost stories inspired by Edith Wharton’s ghost story Kerfol. In her classic tale of thrill and suspense, Edith Wharton narrates the story of Anne de Barrigan, who married Yves de Cornault, the lord of the Kerfol estate. As Yves de Cornault is found dead, seemingly attacked by a pack of dogs, Anne de Barrigan is sentenced of murdering her husband. But here’s the peculiar thing: there were no dogs at Kerfol the day the lord was murdered – at least no living dogs!

I must admit that I have not read Edith Wharton’s ghost story yet, but now that I’ve read and enjoyed The Ghosts of Kerfol, I want to learn more about the original Kerfol. I really absorbed every page of Deborah Noyes’s remarkable collection and I have been haunted by the characters in my sleep (I am serious – after reading some of the ghost stories, I went to sleep and dreamed of Kerfol and its dark secrets). But now let’s have a look at these powerful tales of revenge:

Hunger Moon (set in 1613) is the first ghost story and it’s my favorite one as it revolves around Anne de Barrigan and her husband Yves de Cornault. The story pays tribute to Edith Wharton’s Kerfol and it is told from Perrette’s perspective. Perrette is Anne’s new chambermaid and she witnesses all the strange and frightening events that take place at Kerfol. The young girl is a very likeable character who carefully observes the relationship between Anne and her husband Yves. Perrette immediately perceives that Anne seems very unhappy and lonely at Kerfol and that she doesn’t have any freedom, as her husband is a very ruthless and dominant man. Although he overwhelms her with the most expensive and exquisite gifts, Yves can’t fill Anne’s emptiness and make her happy. But one day, he manages to at least bring some joy to Anne by giving her a little dog. Perrette is glad to see her Milady smile and rejoice for once. However, her happiness is short-lived, as one day, her precious dog is found dead on her pillow, killed with a sapphire and diamond necklace, one of Yves’s gifts to Anne. Everyone at Kerfol supposes that Anne’s jealous husband is behind this dreadful deed. He must have learned that Anne has befriended a young nobleman named Hervé de Lanrivain and as an act of revenge, he killed Anne’s little dog. Other dogs follow, since Anne brings in a new dog every time the previous one is found dead on her pillow, killed exactly as the first dog. A year after the first dog was brought to Kerfol, Yves de Cornault is found dead on the stairs, apparently killed by a brutal pack of dogs. Anne is immediately convicted of murdering her husband, but since the judges disagree with each other, Anne is released into the care of Yves’s relatives, who imprison her in the tower of Kerfol where she dies years later. The judges failed to understand how it was possible that some savage dogs attacked the elderly lord, when there were no living dogs at Kerfol that day. Only Anne’s dead dogs were there, her beloved dogs that were strangled and buried one by one by her violent husband.

The following ghost stories These Heads Would Speak (set in 1802), The Figure Under the Sheet (set in 1926), When I Love You Best (set in 1982) and The Red of Berries (set in 2006) slip forward in time, giving the reader a glimpse into the lives of troubled characters. The stories feature a young and confused artist, a party girl who drowns her sorrows in alcohol, an unhappy young American couple and a deaf gardener who cares for the Kerfol estate. All these people have something in common, as they are plagued and haunted by the ghosts of Kerfol. Anne’s dead dogs torment and rip apart each of these souls and they don’t spare anyone, as they have come to take revenge!

The Ghosts of Kerfol is an absorbing collection of ghost stories that will make your flesh creep and that will leave you hungry for more. The talented Deborah Noyes does a great job creating a dark and sinister atmosphere by using gothic elements and she skilfully portrays a sombre world full of secrets, intrigues and mysteries. I truly loved this book and I highly recommend it to everyone who loves ghost stories and who is a fan of Gothic Literature. These haunting tales will linger in your mind for a long time and you will want to read other works by Deborah Noyes. I just wished that these ghost stories were longer and not so short because I longed for more! Luckily, the author has a promising upcoming novel, Captivity, and you can find out more about it here.

Note: The author kindly sent me a copy of her fascinating book and I would like to thank her for that!

Ruby’s Spoon by Anna Lawrence Pietroni

When Jackie at Farm Lane Books mentioned Ruby’s Spoon, it immediately aroused my interest and I absolutely wanted to read this book. Therefore, I was very happy when Kristina Miller from Spiegel & Grau sent me a copy of this great book!  

Ruby’s Spoon is a suspenseful novel revolving around Cradle Cross, a small town in England in the 1930’s. The industrial town is dominated by a declining button factory that has a scary reputation. With its close-knit community, its old-fashioned villagers and their unwritten rules, Cradle Cross is a town where time seems to have stood still. So when a stranger named Isa Fly arrives into town in order to track down her half-sister, everyone is sceptical. From the start, she seems to attract people like a magnet. There’s just something mysterious about Isa, and she seems to cast a spell on everyone she meets. She seems to have bewitched Ruby, a thirteen-year-old girl who is immediately willing to help Isa find her half-sister. Ruby is drawn to Isa and she constantly feels the need to be around her. The young girl seems to long for Isa’s attention and her approval and she wants to help Isa at all cost. But Ruby hopes that she will get something in return – namely that Isa will take her to the sea, if they find Isa’s missing person. Although she senses that there is more to it than meets the eye when it comes to Isa’s arrival in Cradle Cross, Ruby still wants to help this secretive stranger, because she hopes to go away with her. Ruby wants to get away from Cradle Cross because she feels alone there. Her mother has died when she was younger and she has no real relationship with her father. Ruby lives with her grandmother Annie, who is too overprotective and who doesn’t show Ruby any affection. Annie has to deal with a lot of grief as she tries to fight the demons of her past, and she doesn’t really know how to handle Ruby. As a result, the young girl feels neglected and that’s why she feels drawn to Isa. The fascinating woman gives Ruby the attention she needs and takes her seriously. Thus, the curious girl is determined to ask the villagers many questions in order to assist Isa with her search. But the narrow-minded villagers don’t like the fact that Ruby wants to help a complete stranger and they think that Isa’s arrival in town has nothing to do with a missing relative. They think that Isa has to hide something and they begin to be very suspicious of her. The village residents begin to be afraid of Isa and they think that she’s responsible for the misfortunes that have happened lately in Cradle Cross. Moreover, they think that she’s a witch and therefore, the prejudiced villagers won’t leave Isa alone until they have found out why she has really come to Cradle Cross. When many rumours emerge and acts of violence occur, Ruby doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything and she bravely defends Isa against all those cruel accusations. However, what Ruby doesn’t know is the fact that she puts herself in great danger while trying to support Isa. How far will Ruby go to help her friend? And will she be able to unravel Isa’s dark secrets?  

Well, you’ll have to read this engaging book if you want to find out. All I can say is that Ruby’s spoon is the key to everything.  

With Ruby’s Spoon, Anna Lawrence Pietroni has created a fascinating fairy tale with a dark and mystic atmosphere. Cradle Cross is a place where people still believe in witches and mermaids; it’s a town where people hold on to their talismans for protection and perform rituals in order to deal with their grief. The residents of Cradle Cross are hostile to outsiders and they easily find a black sheep when something goes wrong. So when Isa arrives in town, they see that she is different, that she does not belong there, and hence, she is held responsible for all the mishaps. Moreover, they don’t like the fact that she can easily attract so many people with her unique charm. Therefore, they spread rumours about her and even act violently just to take revenge.  

I really found it interesting to read about Cradle Cross and its residents. It made me think about such places and I am sure that even in today’s society, there are still small towns out there, where people are prejudiced and hostile to outsiders.  

Ruby’s Spoon is a magical tale about loss, prejudice, abandonment, revenge and dark family secrets. The novel’s characters are very appealing and the plot is very captivating. As soon as you start reading this book, you will be eager to find out what happens to the protagonists. I really liked this novel and I highly recommend it to everyone out there! 

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