Book Review · Books

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden [BOOK REVIEW]

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden [BOOK REVIEW]

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden captured my attention from the very beginning. The errieness of the forbidden part of the house made for a spooky atmosphere. It’s the perfect read for Halloween!

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden [BOOK REVIEW]

Pages: 388

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

Format I read it in: Uncorrected Paperback

Rating: ★★★★

My Thoughts:

Margaret Lennox is a young widow and she’s offered a position as governess at Hartwood Hall. She is eager to start, hoping that this new place and work will bring her a healthy distraction from her reality. It’s 1852 and references are extremely important to secure a job. Although Margaret is afraid her hearing loss will prevent her from getting this job, she is soon proven wrong. Mrs. Eversham gives her the job to teach her son, Louis.

Despite Louis being a great pupil, Margaret feels quite uneasy in the house. There are strange figures in the dark and a forbidden east wing of the house. Also, the servants keep whispering and Margaret feels like they are keeping things from her. The town doesn’t trust Mrs. Eversham and they think the house is haunted and cursed. Margaret also starts a forbidden affair with Paul, the gardener, and inevitably starts to tangle herself in a lot of situations. As her past is trying to catch up with her, she now has current secrets also to try and keep.

I quite enjoyed reading this book!

It was so easy to keep the pages turning and dive into Margaret’s life. As we learn more about her, I admired her search for freedom, despite the curveballs that life has thrown at her. Her marriage was not one from love and she was being owned by a man who claimed to know what’s best for her. Imagine not being allowed to work if you wished so, to not be allowed to read your preferred genre, to engage with your friends. When Margaret becomes a widow, she’s rightfully excited to start teaching again.

On the other side of the story, we have Hartwood Hall and its residents.

Mrs. Eversham is a lady that keeps to herself and often travels away. Louis is a boy that doesn’t say much, but is hiding a big pain in his heart. Everyone is hiding something in this house, even the servants, especially the servants. The house screams of secrets and eeriness. On top of this, spooky things do happen, especially during the night. Food missing from the cupboards, footsteps that keep erasing themselves, candles placed in odd places and being moved… The servants don’t seem to know how to mind their own business, and Margaret ends up getting herself in the middle of a blackmail situationship.

“Of course I did not believe the house was cursed – but when people feared a place, there was usually a reason.”

The ending was somewhat unexpected, but not as exciting.

It explained everything and tied up the story very neatly, leaving nothing unresolved. I just didn’t feel that wow factor when closing the book in the end. However, despite that, this book really impressed me. It was the battle for freedom, in a time when it wasn’t socially acceptable to do so that did it for me in the end. In the search for true happiness and standing up for love, for friendship, for loyalty. When a loss can cause us heartbreak, even though we know it’s the best thing for us. And when a loss can also ultimately secure our freedom and give us the relief we needed to be happy again.

The Secret of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden is coming out in March 2023 and I strongly recommend you give it a chance.

About The Author:

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden [BOOK REVIEW]

Katie Lumsden is a twenty-eight-year-old novelist and short story writer from London. She has been reading Victorian literature avidly since she was thirteen years old, and it is her love of literature and history that inspires her to write. After a degree in English literature and history, she studied for an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University, before embarking on a career in the publishing industry. Her short stories have been shortlisted for the London Short Story Prize and the Bridport Prize, and have been published in various literary magazines, including Litro and Brittle Star.

Katie has a Youtube channel, Books and Things, where she reviews and recommends books, focusing on classics and historical fiction.

Her first novel, The Secrets of Hartwood Hall, will be published by Michael Joseph in March 2023.

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Book Review · Books

Death in the Dojo by Sue Leather [BOOK REVIEW]

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I remember reading The Death in the Dojo a few years ago. I still remember the story and the feelings it brought me. This is a story about a mystery, about karate and the love between a daughter and her dad. I need to just say that this book has and always will have a special place in my heart. 

I have been in a dojo since I remember myself. And the sensei is no one else, but my dad. From the very first kata and my first wins and losses, till the days when I started becoming a national champion and travelling across countries, my dad was always the person beside me. The one to guide me and show me the right way. The one to pick me when I fall, and the one who believed in me, when everyone else didn’t. 

“I went over to the Asano dojo for the last half hour of training and saw a good fight among six black belts. I stood and watched the white gi’s moving quickly round the wooden floor, black belts flying. There was something beautiful about this, more like a dance rather than a fight. It made me feel sad, not to be there doing it. “

Even though this book is not the best mystery you will ever read, I doubt that was its real purpose.

I believe that the purpose of this book was to show us a glimpse of what karate really means, to show us the honour, the respect, the persistence we all share in unison. 

“It was true that the great masters seemed to have an unusual sense of peace around them.”

Death in the Dojo starts off when Kate, a journalist, is tasked to investigate the recent murder of the famous karateka Kawaguchi. It is a complete mystery how he would be killed with just one punch called gyaku zuki and die. The mystery is not behind whether it’s possible for him to die from one punch, but the mystery is why he allowed for this to happen. As a master, he is very well able to defend himself against just one punch. 

On this note, I have to mention that in the book, the punch is spelled as “yaku-zuki”, which is incorrect.   

When this mystery is connected to another mystery that happened many years ago, Kate is determined to find the full truth once and for all. 

Even though it is quite a short book, it contains a lot of information and a couple of unexpected plot twists. It captures perfectly the cultural differences between England and Japan, which is shown through the love and relationships between daughters and their dads.

“It was my Dad who taught me how to fight. He never treated me any differently than my brother. He showed me how to fight with my fists up when I was five and to get up quickly if I fell down. I was never allowed to give up. … It was a lesson that would be useful to me many times over the years. Whenever something bad happens in my life and I feel like giving up, I hear dad’s voice in my ears, telling me to get up off the floor.”

I truly loved this book. It will always stay in my heart. I will keep coming to it when I miss my karate days. I recommend it if you like mysteries and martial arts. Also if you are a fan of the Japanese culture. The ending wasn’t the best mystery ending ever, as the story went sort of unfinished, and we didn’t truly solve one of the mysteries, but it was still a lovely read for me.

This blog post is dedicated to my amazing and one and only dad! I love you! 

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