Book Review: The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter

The Long Earth Book Review

The Silence was very faint here. Almost drowned out by the sounds of the mundane world. Did people in this polished building understand how noisy it was? The roar of air conditioners and computer fans, the susurration of many voices heard but not decipherable…. This was the office of the transEarth Institute, an arm of the Black Corporation. The faceless office, all plasterboard and chrome, was dominated by a huge logo, a chesspiece knight. This wasn’t Joshua’s world. None of it was his world. In fact, when you got right down to it, he didn’t have a world; he had all of them.

ALL OF THE LONG EARTH.

This is a Terry Pratchett, who is/was one of the few authors I generally buy their books in hardback. It’s been a while since he did a collaboration, but it was around the time that this series was announced it was also announced that Pratchett had early onset Alzheimer’s, which he subsequently died from. There are 5 books in the series, and this is the first, where the whole thing gets started.

It turns out that the Earth we live on isn’t the only version of this world….it seems that there are many other versions, at various stages of development, that can be reached by “stepping” either east or west. Some can do this naturally, some can do it with the use of a little stepping device that is powered by a potato, and some can’t step at all. There is a certain level of resentment in the latter group, especially  rest of their family leave for what they see as a better life and Leave them behind.

We are introduced to a number of main characters through whose eyes we see this new world.

  • Labsong who is a Tibetan consciousness associated with the Black corporation, and it is his money, tools etc that set up finding out more about the non datum earths.
  • Joshua is a natural “stepper” and Labsong gives Joshua the tools to get away from Datum Earth and investigate the other possibilities.
  • In the latter part of the book we are joined by Sally, a natural stepper, who is the daughter of the man who invented the stepping device. Rumour has it that daddy is dead, but there is some foreshadowing that he might turn up in a following book.

This is a relatively slow book, where Labsong, Sally and Joshua are generally left alone to do their own thing. Occasionally they get to investigate new creatures, some benign, some not, and this allows the authors to muse on what earth may have looked like had evolution taken a little detour from what happened on our version of earth.

Finally they come across a massive beast that seems to be the source of Joshua’s unease and Labsong sacrifices his ambulatory unit, if not his consciousness, to be absorbed by the alien in order to find out more.

The focus on the Long Earth for the story made it a bit disconcerting when very late in the book they introduce the idea of the long Mars. Either I was not paying attention in the rest of the book….always a possibility….or this was a very late entry of the idea of alternate other worlds. The fact there is a whole novel dedicated to the long Mars makes me wonder…..

I actually read this book in late 2016, but it’s taken me this long to write a review. It wasnt *bad*, it’s just been really difficult to know what to say about it. In reading other reviews, it seems I’m not the only one. Whilst overall people like/love the book, there are a number of things said that I tend to agree with:

  • It seems more of a number of short stories on a theme, rather than a comprehensive joined up narrative.
  • Whilst there are some amusing scenes that bring a wry smile on occasion, it’s missing the sharp wit of Pratchett that brings up dodgy looks on the bus when you laugh out loud.
  • Labsong and Sally are reasonably well defined and memorable, but Joshua (as the character the human outsider should be able to relate to the most) is the least memorable – it took me ages to remember what his name was!

 

Book Review: Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay

 

Death on the Cherwell Book ReviewFor Miss Cordell, principal of Persephone College, there are two great evils in the world: unladylike behavior among her students and bad publicity for the college. So her prim and cosy world is turned upside down when a secret society of undergraduates meets by the river on a gloomy January afternoon, only to find the drowned body of the college bursar floating in her canoe.

The police assume that a student prank got out of hand, but the resourceful Persephone girls suspect foul play, and take the investigation into their own hands. Soon they uncover the tangled secrets that led to the bursar’s death – and the clues that point to a fellow student.

Received from Poisoned Pen Press, via Netgalley, in exchange for a review.

I’ve been in two minds as to whether to write a review right now about this book, but decided to give it a go. I read this in late 2016, at a time that I became a touch apathetic around reading in general, and this might well have soured enjoyment of any book I read during this time.

This should be exactly my type of book – set in a woman only college, with plucky gels suspecting foul play; their best men friends/brothers being pulled into the investigation (despite them being asked to do unspeakably bad things – like ask their friends questions!; a random Yugoslavian student who may be mad enough to kill; and several older, gentlemanly policemen who have to put up with women going where they shouldn’t.

In reading other reviews of this book to get some inspiration, it seems that other people are able to articulate my general mood – one calls it a “curate’s egg” (i.e. “good in parts”), whilst others say that the story “ebbs and flows”. This is generally what I was thinking, where the conversations between the girls for example are good, but there is far too much time spent working out possibilities in terms of alibis, motives and routes taken. The attitudes of some of the characters are quite old fashioned to modern day audiences, but are very much a product of the time the book was written – and should not be a surprise to consumers of Golden Age Crime.

In Summary: I might well read this book again in the future when I’m in a better frame of mind, and should my reaction change, you’ll find out about it!

 

Book Review: Christmas at the Rekindle Inn by Lori Waters

 

Christmas at the Reindle Inn #BookReviewMary Walker has a habit of giving in when it comes to her mother, but this time her mom went too far. At first glance, the gift seems innocent. Seven days at a lovely Vermont inn in mid-December is Mary’s idea of the perfect Christmas present—that is until she discovers her traveling companion’s identity.

The Rekindle Inn is the last place J.T. Walker wants to spend his Christmas vacation, much less in the company with the woman who’d recently ripped his heart to shreds. A challenge of wills, and the need to show Mary he no longer cares, has him on the plane to Santaville faster than the time it takes to unwrap a candy cane.

The Rekindle Inn specializes in mending relationships, but when the Walkers check in, it will take more than a little Christmas magic to bring these two broken hearts back together. More like a Christmas miracle.

Picked up from Netgalley in exchange for a review, this almost didn’t make it into the Christmas Reading pile, until I was checking my dashboard on the site for another book, and – eeep! It was there ready to read, and my chance of a themed romance was rapidly running out the door!

So: it’s a romance set at Christmas, so you have to suspend any Grinchy-ness if you’re going to survive this book. A week before Christmas, and a month before their divorce is finalised, Mary and JT (Joseph Tanner) (yes, there’s the first of them!), are sent to the Rekindle Inn by their mothers, in the hope they can recover what’s left of their marriage.

They have been separated for 6 months, ever since Mary organised a surprise vacation, only for JT to bail out at the last minute “for work purposes”. Both characters have issues that have contributed to their marriage breaking down – Mary hasn’t trusted anyone since her father walked out on her mother when Mary was 10, and she gives up at the first sign of trouble anywhere in her life. JT has always felt that whatever he did was never “good enough” for his father, so he strove to be the best at his job, whilst neglecting his marriage.  Both of them struggle with communication, with their spouse and family members. Neither have confronted their parents about the trip, or their issues.

Arriving at the Rekindle Inn, the couple realise there is something unusual about the people who make up the staff and the community, starting with the fact that their hosts are called Mr and Mrs Klaus, and virtually no-one is over 5 feet tall. There’s the occasional “slip up” where references are made to “el, I mean staff”.

This is told primarily from the point of Mary, with a little side view from JT.  Some of the secondary characters are more 3 dimensional than others but some are barely sketched.

Once at the Inn, the couple are told about the week’s schedule, which involves time spent apart as well as putting the two of them together as a couple.  Each day is themed, and allows the couple to reflect on what made them fall in love in the first place, and hopefully bring some spark back into their relationship. They do get together – briefly – during the week, but it is the end of the week when Mary’s new boyfriend turns up to pick her up, and JT’s  boss’ daughter continues to try and get her claws into him that almost ruins the reconciliation.  However, as per all good romances, especially one set at Christmas, things work out as wished for!

The Christmas tie-ins were laid on a little thick for my liking, but them’s the breaks. Some people love the book, some people hate it, I found it to be a nice, fast, post Christmas read over lunch one day.

Reading Challenge – Final Checkpoint

MY READER'S BLOCK_ 2016 Mount TBR Reading Challenge

As I mentioned at the end of last year, I was going to take part in one reading challenge in 2016 and I chose the Mt TBR challenge over at My Reader’s Block.  There’s was the chance to post details of your reviews each month, and every three months there’s a quarterly (personal) update as to how each participant is going against their challenge.

Needless to say, I didnt meet my overall Goodreads reading challenge of 60 books, and therefore didn’t meet the Reader’s Block challenge of reading 60 books that were on my TBR before 1/1/2016. I have done previous checkin posts (with my review links) Quarter 1, Quarter 2 and Quarter 3, but here are the remaining books that I read in the final quarter:

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (review still to come)

Red Chrysanthemum by Henry Mazel

 

These books were obtained after the 1/1/2016 and so dont qualify for the TBR Challenge unfortunately.

Christmas at the Cornish Cafe by Phillipa Ashley

A Cotswold Christmas by Kate Hewitt

A Proposal to Die For by Vivian Conroy

Wrong Brother, Right Match by Jennifer Shirk

Red-Handed in Romanee-Conti by Jean-Pierre Alaux

The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

Sonoma Rose by Jennifer Chiaverini

Lady of the Bridge by Laura Kitchell

The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas

Hunting Season by Andrea Camilleri

The Fire Child by S. K. Tremayne

As you can see, I didnt make for the Reading Challenge. However, I think I will do a variation of this in the new year, as I continue to need to clear off the backlog off my physical TBR shelf. Here’s hoping eh?

Did you take part in any reading challenges, even casually? How did you do? 

#BookReview: Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky (A Town Called Christmas #1) by Holly Martin

Christmas under a Cranberry Sky

This year spend a wonderful Christmas on Juniper Island, where love can melt even the iciest of hearts…

Piper Chesterfield lives a glamorous life travelling the world and reviewing the finest hotels. She calls nowhere home, she works alone and that’s how she likes it. For long ago Piper decided that to protect her heart she should lock it away.  So when Piper’s next assignment brings her to the newly opened Stardust Lake Hotel for the festive season, the last person she expects to face is Gabe Whitaker, the man who broke her heart so completely she could never love again.  But Piper isn’t the only one who has been frozen in time by heartbreak. Gabe hasn’t forgotten the golden-eyed girl who disappeared from his world without a trace.  Now fate has reunited them on Juniper island, can the magic of Christmas heal old wounds? And can this enchanting town be the one place Piper can finally call home?

From the publishers via netgalley in exchange for a review.  Piper is a professional hotel reviewer, and has spent the last 10 years travelling the world.  As her last review before taking a 6 month sabbatical, she goes to the Stardust Lake Hotel for the Christmas and New Year break. Little does she know that the man who owns the hotel and trying to get it ready is the man she’s been running from for the last 12 years, ever since her father’s death and Gabe unknowingly broke her heart.

Piper has turned up whilst they are still getting the hotel ready for the Christmas period, a fact that isn’t helped by the loss of general power to many of the cabins. That, plus some staff taking a final holiday before the season starts proper, means she ends up helping out with getting the cabins ready, whilst staying with Gabe in his set of rooms. Their connection comes back fairly quickly but it is clear that both of them have issues that need to work out – Pip is devastated that Gabe spent time in hospital after she disappeared, and she has to deal with the fact that apparently his family turned down money from her father to take her off his hands. Throw in the fact that she was in the car when he died, only adds to the fact she’s been running the last 12 years.

The Cranberry Sky is a reference to a Old Wives Tale that the usually green Northern Lights turn red when there is true love in the air. This is seen by Gabe and Pip when they spent a night alone in one of the cabins with a glass roof.

Meanwhile the hotel is concerned that Mr Black – a well known hotel reviewer capable of closing hotels on the back off a review – is expected over the holiday period with noone – including Pip – knowing that Mr Black is Pip. It is Pip’s reticence to declare her proper job as hotel reviewer that is the cause of the new breakdown between her and Gabe. Due in part to the remoteness of the hotel, it is impossible for Pip to do the traditional romance “running away until he follows” act, and they have to work it out with her staying put.

Meanwhile some of the secondary characters are being developed, including Gabe’s sister Neve, and it is the arrival of her ex boyfriend (the actor) that sets up the premise for the next book in the series.  There’s plenty of room for at least two more books in the series – perhaps more depending on who else gets added – whilst developing Pip and Glen into something a little more rounded.

Over all a cozy story for the Christmas season with plenty of potential to take further

Book Review: Christmas at the Cornish Café by Phillipa Ashley

christmas-at-the-cornish-cafeThe festive, feel-good follow-up to Summer at the Cornish Cafe.

Christmas will be slightly less turbulent than summer, won’t it? Demi certainly hopes so.

She and Cal are keeping their fledgling relationship under wraps for now. But then Kit Bannen, a hunky, blond – and somewhat mysterious – writer arrives at Kilhallon Resort, and not everyone is charmed. Cal is sure that Kit is hiding something. But is he the only one guarding a secret?

Demi is busy baking festive treats for the newly opened Demelza’s cafe, but when Cal’s ex Isla arrives to shoot scenes for her new drama, Demi can’t help but worry that things aren’t quite over between them. Kit flirts with both women, fuelling Cal’s suspicions that Kit has hidden motives for staying on at Kilhallon. Then Cal has to go to London, leaving Demi and Kit to decorate the cafe for Christmas . . . all by themselves.

A storm is brewing in more ways than one. As surprises unfold and truths are uncovered, can Demi and Cal finally open up to each other about their feelings?

This second novel in the bestselling Cornish Cafe series is the perfect book to curl up with this Christmas.

From the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for a review. This is the second in the Penwith Trilogy – I havent read the previous book, but I dont think I suffered not having done so – this book is fairly standalone (though I’m sure reading the previous book – Summer at the Cornish Cafesummerwouldnt do any harm!).

The story is told mainly by Demi, but sometimes by Cal – something that caught me out once or twice, but mainly because I wasn’t paying attention (it’s made clear at the top of each section what the day is, and who is “talking”).

Demi and Cal are still in the early stages of their relationship – they haven’t told the staff in the hotel about them as it’s still so new. Having spent so long on her own (the previous year she was homeless and living on the streets), she still needs her escape plan for when she believes things have fallen apart, and is therefore reticent to move in with Cal.

Cal has his own secrets to keep, specifically about what happened the previous year whilst he was working in Syria.

Both people are therefore slightly damaged, and there are people that each person reacts adversely to, for various reasons and sometimes with justification.

Anyway, the story starts with the opening of the hotel and the café. The first visitor is Kit, a secretive and occasionally moody character, who decides to stay until Christmas – he says it’s to allow him to complete writing his first novel.

The Café also opens, run by Demi and her staff, and it’s soon attracting hikers, tourists, and film crews – including Cal’s ex, Isla, and the two women continue working on making things better, especially where it comes to their mutual enemy Mawgan.

Because Demi has Mitch the dog, there’s plenty of opportunity for great descriptions of the weather and landscape of Cornwall – especially when Mitch goes missing one evening and the search parties are sent out.

Meanwhile it seems that there is good reason for Cal to not like Kit – Demi thinks it’s unfounded, but Kit shows his hand at the Harbour Lights celebration by letting Cal know he’s not there just to finish his book, but bring additional information out into the open, and that he doesn’t care who he hurts in the process.

Demi has her own issues to deal with at this point and she’s too overwhelmed to sort out what’s going on with Cal.

The last part of the book deals with the vagaries of the winter weather and living so close to the coast – something we are seeing more and more of in recent years. The community comes together to help locals and tourists out. It brings surprises for both Cal and Demi, which means the year finishes better than both could have hoped for.

There’s lots going on in this book – it’s certainly not one to breeze through in one sitting – in a good way of course!  Make sure you stay for the end of the book, as there are a number of recipes right at the end – wouldn’t want you to miss out on the mincemeat or Banana Bread! In checking out the genre listing whilst writing this review, I’m a little relieved that it’s not targetted in “romance” – whilst there are romantic parts of the story, it does tend to tie it to a specific format in people’s heads, which doesnt do it justice. If I ever work out what “Women’s Fiction” means, I’ll let you know if this fits in there!

About the AuthorAiden, Poldark

Phillipa Ashley studied English at Oxford before working as a copywriter and journalist. Her first novel, ‘Decent Exposure’ won the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Award and in 2009, it was filmed as a US TV movie called ’12 Men of Christmas’ starring Kristin Chenoweth and Josh Hopkins. ‘Miranda’s Mount’ won Best Ebook at the Festival of Romance Reader Awards 2012 and It Happened One Night was shortlisted in 2013.

As Pippa Croft, Phillipa also writes as the Oxford Blue series which is published by Penguin Books.  Photo of Aiden Turner as Poldark for no other reason than because!

Book Review: A Cotswold Christmas by Kate Hewitt

a cotswold christmasWelcome to Wychwood-on-Lea… a not-too-quaint village where frosty evenings, welcoming fires, and second chances will make this a Christmas you’ll never forget.

Anna Vere has escaped to the Cotswolds for Christmas to try to heal from her broken engagement and, far worse, her broken dreams. When her reserved room at a bed & breakfast is flooded, she takes up the offer of camping out in Willoughby Close, the converted stables of the nearby manor house… and is taken under the wing of sexy local carpenter Colin Heath.

What starts out as merely helping a neighbor in need turns into far more as Colin and Anna share a surprisingly intense and emotional connection, weaving their own Christmas magic as they spend the holiday together. But Anna has a secret she’s scared to reveal, something that could destroy the fragile bond they’ve just created, and Colin knows she’s only in England for a short time. Can these two sudden soul mates risk their hearts for a love that has yet to be tried and tested?

Get swept away by this poignant and heartwarming story, set in beautiful Wychwood-on-Lea, in the English Cotswolds. And look forward to four more books set in Willoughby Close, where everyday miracles and happily-ever-afters are guaranteed.

Received from Netgalley in exchange for a review.

After a 4 month stressful period in New York, only child Anna plans a quiet Christmas holiday in the Cotswolds. Unfortunately her room in the booked B&B is flooded, so there is literally no room at the inn. Through various tangled relationships she ends up using the spare bedroom of the local capenter Colin. despite her strained feelings, Anna and Colin have an instant connection and it’s nice to have narrative from both in the couple as to how the relationship is coming along.

The romance comes along fast – it’s a matter of days before they’re sleeping together and she’s meeting his family for Christmas – and some reviewers find this a bit unrealistic. I do find that it makes the book rather short and a little lacking on the character development, especially for the seconday characters. It seems theee are other books in the series, and I’m wondering if this story could have been combined with another one in the series.

This might imply that it was a bad story – it wasnt, just a little short on character development – e.g. the owner of the Willoughby Manor and her nephew are given short shrift and are made out to be rather unpleasant.  There’s an indication that she is lonely and bitter towards her nephew, but there’s no expansion on this and no indication that this will be covered in another book.

In short: a short book that can be read one afternoon, perhaps after a heavy lunch, and which will not offensive or too taxing.

About this author

Kate is the USA Today-bsetselling author of over 40 books of women’s fiction and romance. She is the author of the Hartley-by-the-Sea series, set in England’s Lake District and published by Penguin. She is also, under the name Katharine Swartz, the author of the Tales from Goswell books, a series of time-slip novels set in the village of Goswell. Other series include the Emigrants Trilogy, the Amherst Island Trilogy, and the Falling For The Freemans series.

She likes to read romance, mystery, the occasional straight historical and angsty women’s fiction; she particularly enjoys reading about well-drawn characters and avoids high-concept plots.

Having lived in both New York City and a tiny village on the windswept northwest coast of England, she now resides in the English Cotswolds with her husband, five children, and an overly affectionate Golden Retriever.