Book Review · Books

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex [BOOK REVIEW]

There were two things that ultimately drew me to read the Lamplighters by Emma Stonex. Firstly, it was the part about the lighthouse. There is something about lighthouses that always draws me in and intrigues me. And secondly, the fact that this story is based on an actual true story, where men did go missing and we still don’t know how.

About The Book:


Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Pages: 368

Format I read it in: Hardcover

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK | Amazon US

★★★★

Synopsis:

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.

What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?

Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface…

My Thoughts:

The Lamplighters is a mix between a mystery thriller and historical fiction. We follow a story about three men that guard a lighthouse, who go missing. At the same time, we follow the lives of three women, twenty years later.

Emma Stonex has the ability to make a mundane daily routine seem interesting. Her writing in this book is truly spectacular, and I really enjoyed it. I especially loved that she chose to give these three women a voice that they wouldn’t have before, and let them tell their stories. There was slight flaws with the characters themselves, as they were all written in a similar tone, so it was hard to tell to them apart. But aside from that, the idea was very well executed.

I enjoyed the men’s story as well – although, sometimes, it would get too repetitive for my taste. What I did enjoy though, was the slow psychological games between them. It was very cleverly written, and even I at times was confused on what some people’s intentions were.

In regards to the mystery itself, I found it quite interesting, although somewhat predictable. There wasn’t a big twist, more like a slow wave coming toward you. You wait for it to come, and when it does, you still end up surprised a little, even though you were expecting it.

In summary, the Lamplighters was a delightful read. Never dull and always intriguing. If you love the sea, lighthouses, mysteries and lovely storytelling – definitely check this one out!

Favourite Quotes:

“People will believe anything, and given the choice they prefer lies to the truth because lies are usually more interesting.”

“Neither of us came from a happy background and that’s what bonded us in the first place.”

“If we all had a tower to be on and a couple of people to be with, just to be, without expectation or interference, to put in the light at night and extinguish it at dawn, to sleep and be awake, talk and be silent, live and die, all on our islands, couldn’t we avoid the rest?”

About The Author:

Emma Stonex is a novelist who has written several books under a pseudonym. THE LAMPLIGHTERS is her debut under her own name and has been translated into more than twenty languages. Before becoming a writer, she worked as an editor at a major publishing house. She lives in the Southwest with her family.

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Book Review · Books

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead [BOOK REVIEW]

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to participate on the readalong for the Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead. Huge thank you to the team at Tandem as well as the publisher DoubleDay for sending me a copy of the book to read and review!

About The Book:


Publisher: DoubleDay

Pages: 602

Format I read it in: Hardcover

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK | Amazon US

Synopsis:

I was born to be a wanderer. I was shaped to the earth like a seabird to a wave

In 1920s Montana, wild-hearted Marian Graves spends her days roaming the rugged forests and mountains of her home. When she witnesses the roll, loop and dive of two barnstorming pilots, she is determined that one day, she too will take to the skies.

In 1940s London, after a series of reckless romances and a spell flying to aid the war effort, Marian embarks on a treacherous, epic flight in search of the freedom she has always craved. She is never seen again.

More than half a century later, Hadley Baxter, a troubled Hollywood starlet beset by scandal, is irresistibly drawn to play Marian Graves in her biopic, a role that will lead her to probe the deepest mysteries of the vanished pilot’s life.

My Thoughts:

I thought I would struggle reading this book because of its size. But it was so easy to read. Descriptive, but full with action. Amazing stories of multiple characters, through many years – summed up in compact chapters.

It took me a while to get started at the beginning. I wasn’t sure what exactly was happening, and I felt like a school girl meeting my school friends for the first time. Overwhelmed with many characters, struggling to remember their names. Very soon though, things started to make more sense, and I started enjoying this book so much, that I was unable to put it down.

My favourite character was Marian.

I loved her ambition, bravery and determination to do whatever it takes to achieve her dream of flying. Her competitiveness was also an attribute that I shared with her, and it was so easy to put myself in her shoes. Her longing for freedom and independence is amazingly shown throughout the whole book.

“I was born to be a wanderer. I was shaped to the earth like a seabird to a wave. Some birds fly until they die.”

I also liked James’s point of view. It was nice to see the world from his eyes, as a twin, growing up beside Marian.

“Jamie found he liked how the people he drew gave him permission to look closely and without hurry at their faces. He liked how people became vulnerable when they were about to be drawn, revealed more than they intended with their little adjustments.”

The character I liked the least was Hadley. I simply couldn’t connect with her, although I did enjoy when her character would connect to Marian’s story. Especially when we would get a hint of history through a letter, or a person she meets. However, as a character, she didn’t impress. And the way her story ended led me to believe her character served one purpose only – to help Marian’s story.

I loved the diversity in characters, and how vividly they were all described.

When you met a side character, you felt like you really knew them, even though they wouldn’t be too present in the grand scheme of things. This is something now many authors can manage to successfully accomplish. I admire Maggie Shipstead for being able to do it.

Great Circle is also full of so many amazing facts about history, aviation, historical figures… You can notice how much research has put into this book. So many times while I was reading I would forget Marian was a historical figure. I would have to keep reminding myself that she is a fictional character.

The ending was underwhelming for me, but I think it was because I expected some big twists to happen. The ending just serves as a reminder that not all endings end with a big BOOM. Some go quietly, unnoticed, tiptoeing their way out.

Great Circle is one of the most exciting and emotional historical fiction books I’ve read in a very long time.

Rating:

★★★★

About The Author:

Maggie Shipstead is the New York Times-bestselling author of the novels Seating Arrangements, Astonish Me, and Great Circle, and the winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, and the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Book Review · Books

The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore [BOOK REVIEW]

The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore [BOOK REVIEW]

I had the amazing opportunity to participate in another instagram readalong – this time reading the Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore with some amazing bookstagrammers. We even had a wonderful Q&A chat with the author once we finished the book. Huge thank you to the team at Tandem as well as the publisher, Granta Books, for sending me a copy of the book to read and review!

About The Book:

The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore [BOOK REVIEW]


Publisher: Granta Books

Pages: 304

Format I read it in: Hardcover

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK | Amazon US

Synopsis:

England, 1643. Parliament is battling the King; the war between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers rages. Puritanical fervour has gripped the nation, and the hot terror of damnation burns black in every shadow.

In Manningtree, depleted of men since the wars began, the women are left to their own devices. At the margins of this diminished community are those who are barely tolerated by the affluent villagers – the old, the poor, the unmarried, the sharp-tongued. Rebecca West, daughter of the formidable Beldam West, fatherless and husbandless, chafes against the drudgery of her days, livened only by her infatuation with the clerk John Edes. But then newcomer Matthew Hopkins, a mysterious, pious figure dressed from head to toe in black, takes over The Thorn Inn and begins to ask questions about the women of the margins. When a child falls ill with a fever and starts to rave about covens and pacts, the questions take on a bladed edge.

My Thoughts:

As soon as I laid eyes on the cover and the synopsis, I knew I had to read it. And it didn’t disappoint at all. I just had to shift my expectations a little bit.

The Manningtree Witches is a book set in England in 1643, where witch hunters were quite popular and many women were killed after being accused of witchcraft. This book is actually inspired by true events that happened in history. The focus was more on the historical aspect and bringing life to the characters, rather than the supernatural elements.

We never get a full clarification whether Beldam West, her daughter Rebecca and the other women were actually witches, and we get a glimpse of their lives and their imprisonment. We get a front row seat of their feelings, and how this impacts them as well as the community. It was so interesting to also get a point of view from the perspective of the witch hunter. As the villain that he is, I loved getting to know his opinion on the situation and his reasoning.

“But if a witch can be in two places at once, as you say, then I cannot prove my innocence by those same means. Nor, it seems to me, by any other. I can say again and again, a thousand times, sir, that I am not a witch, and have no traffic with the Devil nor his spirits, and it will account for nothing. But if I say once that I am, then it will account for everything.”

The writing is very lyrical and also captures the old-style English.

I had to refer to my dictionary a few times, which has now become a rare occasion. And I really enjoyed learning some new words. I’m looking at you – lucre, extemporise, gaol, interlocutor and bray! You can immediately notice the love the author has for poetry. It took me a while to get into it, but after 80 pages I started loving it.

There were times when I was confused about whose point of view I am currently reading about. This slightly interrupted my concentration, but the story was wonderful in terms of timeline and storytelling.

The only reason of my rating is because my expectations were different going into the book. My need for paranormal elements and a bit of witchcraft weren’t satisfied. However, putting my expectations aside, this book beautifully represents the reality of witch hunting and the struggles so many women had to endure during these times.

If you want to read a book about the witch hunting in history, The Manningtree Witches is a wonderful lyrical take on the events that happened in Manningtree. However, if you want a book that has more “witchy” elements – I would suggest you skip this one.

Rating:

★★★

About The Author:

A. K. Blakemore is the author of two full-length collections of poetry: Humbert Summer (Eyewear, 2015) and Fondue (Offord Road Books, 2018), which was awarded the 2019 Ledbury Forte Prize for Best Second Collection. She has also translated the work of Sichuanese poet Yu Yoyo (My Tenantless Body, Poetry Translation Centre, 2019). Her poetry and prose writing has been widely published and anthologised, appearing in the the London Review of BooksPOETRYPoetry Review and The White Review, among others. 

Her debut novel, The Manningtree Witches, will be published in 2021 by Granta in the UK and Catapult in the US.

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Book Review · Books

Emma by Jane Austen [BOOK REVIEW]

★★★

“Emma” by Jane Austen is one of those books that is both old and new at the same time. When reading it, you can clearly see time has passed. From the society, to fashion and language. However, certain situations still remain true even today, especially people’s characters and their reactions, and Jane Austen managed to include this all packaged in a wonderful story.

Matchmaking

The books starts as we hear that Emma Woodhouse’s friend and former governess, Miss Taylor, has married Mr. Weston. And because Emma introduced them to each other, she takes credit for her matchmaking, and decides that she will try and make another match. She attempts to match her new friend Harriet to Mr. Elton, but things don’t go exactly to plan. Harriet is interested in the farmer, Robert Martin, who even proposes to her. But Emma makes Harriet refuse the proposal and continue to seek Mr. Elton’s attention.

“And have you never known the pleasure and triumph of a lucky guess? I pity you. I thought you cleverer; for, depend upon it, a lucky guess is never merely luck. There is always some talent in it.”

When it comes to Emma, I have so many conflicting thoughts and opinions. I really adore how gentle of a soul she is. And how much she cares about the people around her. But I also didn’t like how nosey she is, and her fascination to be a matchmaker. She needs to learn to mind her own business. However, considering this is a book written in a certain time, I have to remember that it wasn’t just Emma, but the whole female society behaves in the same way, as annoying as that thought may be. Through the book, however, we do see a change in Emma, and a slight development in her personality, especially around her relationship with Harriet.

A Classic

To be able to truly appreciate “Emma” for the classic trait it is, you firstly have to be ready to adjust to a time in history where society is simply different. I have seen way too many people criticize this book for this sole reason. But people, you have to understand, that’s how things used to work back then. That is how it was, and if Jane Austin wrote anything different, she wouldn’t have been telling the truth.

I have realised that I read classic books much slower than contemporary ones. In fact, “Emma” took me a month. I couldn’t read it in one day, or binge 100 pages in a sitting. I could only manage a few chapters at a time. But I really enjoyed it! I devoured the writing, the difference in how people walked, talked, dressed. The difference in mannerisms, the difference in how parties used to be like. Even the difference in how certain situations were handled. The gossip especially. It was always there, as it is today, but it felt to me as if the gossip in the past was a bit more thoughtful. People talked about other people, because they cared. Today we all tend to gossip about people we don’t even know.

“A man would always wish to give a woman a better home than the one he takes her from; and he who can do it, where there is no doubt of her regard, must, I think, be the happiest of mortals.

I loved Knightley and his ability to tell Emma off. There is something really charming about him, that kept intriguing me throughout the whole book. And I also really liked Harriet, even though she couldn’t form her own opinion to save her life. I should have drank a shot every time I thought: “Dear girl, don’t you have your own brain to think with?”

I found Mr. Woodhouse very soppy and annoying. Quite selfish too. And quite franckly, he was lucky to have a daughter like Emma, that was always running around him, to attend to his needs. I could even see the book ending with Emma never being married, only to attend to her father. Even her actual marriage in the end had a certain compromise around her father’s happiness.

“That is the case with us all, papa. One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”

My favorite part of the book was Emma’s rant about Mrs. Elton. And not because of the rant itself. In fact, I think that Emma’s outburst was probably a bit over the top. I just loved how different it looks from today’s language, and that intrigues me. If you ever wish to enjoy that part, just head to the end of Chapter 32. It starts with “Insufferable woman.”

I really enjoyed “Emma” and I will now have to read the rest of Jane Austen’s work! I think it’s a true masterpiece that perfectly portrays a certain society in a certain moment of time. And even though written so many years ago, it still touches on points that affect us in the current world we live on. We are still matchmakers, we still gossip and party, we are greedy and we all long for happiness and love, and friends alongside us.

Purchase Links:
 Amazon UK | Amazon US

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Blog Tour · Book Review · Books

A Beautiful Spy by Rachel Hore [BOOK REVIEW]

★★★

A Beautiful Spy is a wonderful story about Minnie, a girl who becomes a spy for the British Government. Refusing to just settle down and marry, as she is expected to, Minnie wants excitement. Little does she know, with excitement, comes danger…

About The Author:

Rachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she taught publishing and creative writing at the University of East Anglia before becoming a full-time writer. She is married to the writer D. J. Taylor and they have three sons. Her last novel, The Love Child, was a Sunday Times bestseller.

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Synopsis:

The year is 1928, and Minnie is supposed to find a nice man, get married and have children. The problem is it doesn’t appeal to her at all. She is working as a secretary, but longs to make a difference.
 
Then, one day, she gets her chance. She is recruited by the British government as a spy. Under strict instructions not to tell anyone, not even her family, she moves to London and begins her mission – to infiltrate the Communist movement.
 
She soon gains the trust of important leaders. But as she grows more and more entangled in the workings of the movement, her job becomes increasingly dangerous. Leading a double life is starting to take its toll on her relationships and, feeling more isolated than ever, she starts to wonder how this is all going to end. The Russians are notorious for ruthlessly disposing of people given the slightest suspicion.

My Thoughts:

I have always loved stories about women that were spies in the time before and around the Second World War. There is something I always admire about these women. Their determination to make a difference, their bravery and their dedication, despite the big risks. The willingness to serve a cause, knowing well what the repercussions are.

Through Minnie’s life, we got to see the highs and lows of being a spy in a much emotional environment. It was refreshing to see all the emotions Minnie was going through. Being a spy and living a double life impacted her greatly, and we could see her struggling to keep up. This closeness to the character made Minnie much more loveable and relatable person to me as a reader.

I felt that at times, the story would go into one direction for a few pages, but with no apparent goal. Sometimes, this would keep me off track and confuse me. Most of the chapters told a story that achieved a certain goal by the end of a chapter, and in times when this didn’t happen, it really threw me off. It was as if I was waiting for something to happen, and when it didn’t, it left a bitter-sweet taste in my mouth.

However, I truly enjoyed the story, and I devoured it incredibly fast. I only received it a few days ago, and I was wondering if I’ll made it in time to finish it for my book tour stop, but reading it was not an issue. I am so glad that I saw a part of Minnie and her life story, and the fact that this book is inspired by an actual true story is even more fascinating to me.

If you love historical fiction, especially books about women spies, please pick up “A Beautiful Spy” by Rachel Hore. It’s a powerful and emotional adventure about a woman living two lives and wanting to make a difference in the world.

Purchase Links:
 Amazon UK | Amazon US

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