Tag Archives: New York

Book review: The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman

8 Jul

impossibleHow far would you go to save the person you love?
Luna is about to do everything she can to save her mother’s life.
Even if it means sacrificing her own.

The Summer of Impossible Things is the book that I’ve been waiting for! It’s a wonderful, magical, hopeful dream of a book and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’ve been a fan of Rowan Coleman’s novels for a long time now but my favourite parts of her writing are the ones that show us the magic in life and I’m so pleased that she’s taken this theme and really explored it in her latest novel.

Set mainly in Brooklyn in 1977 and 2007, the story follows Luna and her sister Pia as they return to the place where their mother was born and grew up. For Luna it’s a literal return to the time and place as she finds that she is able to visit the summer of 1977 and comes face to face with her mum as a young woman.

The Brooklyn of 1977 that Rowan creates is brilliant; it’s atmospheric and detailed and I could see the scenes Rowan describes like film scenes playing out as I read. This is the summer that the movies came to Bay Ridge with the filming of Saturday Night Fever and the era is so evocative – it’s also the year I was born so for me it’s always held a special fascination!

For Luna’s mum, it’s a summer of love and something darker – the summer that she left New York for England because of the events that played out. Past and present are inextricably linked through the book which plays out over just seven days in July. Luna’s visit to New York isn’t just a case of settling her mother’s estate; the events of that summer thirty years ago have affected her mother every day since, ultimately leading to her death. Rowan creates a strong sense of mystery in this novel and that makes it a compelling page turner as well as a beautiful and exciting read. I wanted to race through the book to find out what had happened to Marissa thirty years ago but I also wanted to savour and enjoy every word!

Luna is a brilliant character; clever, brave and wise, she’s a physicist and I loved how Rowan used her scientific mind to question what was happening to her and to give perspective on the events of the book. Rowan creates ‘real’ characters who have demons to fight and the other women in the book are all strong in their own ways. The Summer of Impossible Things is a love story on so many levels which captures beautifully the complex and unconditional love between parents and children, siblings and partners and it made my heart sing!

I loved the principles and philosophies that Rowan examines in this story; how we as humans experience time, how we understand our place in the universe and just how much is yet to be understood or uncovered! I said in a recent interview for the RNA blog that I think we all need a bit of magic in our lives and that I hoped to see more of this sort of novel in future; The Summer of Impossible Things is a perfect example of what I meant. Rowan’s books just keep getting better I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

5/5

The Summer of Impossible Things is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Rowan and her writing at: http://rowancoleman.co.uk/

Book review: Seven Days in May by Kim Izzo

13 Jun

kim izzoAs the First World War rages in continental Europe, two New York heiresses, Sydney and Brooke Sinclair, are due to set sail for England. Brooke is engaged to marry impoverished aristocrat Edward Thorpe-Tracey, the future Lord Northbrook, in the wedding of the social calendar. Sydney has other adventures in mind; she is drawn to the burgeoning suffragette movement, which is a constant source of embarrassment to her proper sister. As international tempers flare, the German embassy releases a warning that any ships making the Atlantic crossing are at risk.

Undaunted, Sydney and Brooke board the Lusitania for the seven-day voyage with Edward, not knowing that disaster lies ahead. In London, Isabel Nelson, a young woman grateful to have escaped her blemished reputation in Oxford, has found employment at the British Admiralty in the mysterious Room 40. While she begins as a secretary, it isn t long before her skills in codes and cyphers are called on, and she learns a devastating truth and the true cost of war. As the days of the voyage pass, these four lives collide in a struggle for survival as the Lusitania meets its deadly fate.

I love reading novels that shed light on events and periods of history that I know little about. The sinking of the Lusitania is one such event – I knew very little about the circumstances and theories surrounding the tragedy when I started this novel and I learned a lot from reading it. Kim has certainly done her research and evocatively brings to life both the ship itself and the activities of the British Admiralty in Room 40, some of which are still shrouded in mystery today.

Kim has created three excellent and very different female characters to lead Seven Days In May; Sydney and Brooke are rich American heiresses but as different as two sisters could possibly be. Sydney’s belief and active participation in the suffrage movement contrast sharply with her sister’s desire to be the leading light of New York society and Izzo sets up an excellent friction between the two which plays out throughout the story.

We also meet Isabel Nelson as she takes up a new post, working for the Admiralty in London. Izzo uses Isabel to give us a tantalising glance at the inner workings of the war effort. I’d never heard of Room 40 but have always been fascinated by the code breakers of World War Two and was surprised to learn of this predecessor. Isabel is also hiding her own secret past and this added another layer to the intrigue of the story.

Key issues of the time, particularly women’s rights, are brought to life through Isobel, Sydney and Brooke and this makes Seven Days in May a very readable and even relatable novel. I’ve enjoyed both of Kim’s previous novels but the combination of mystery, social history and the tension of an impending disaster make this my new favourite of her books.

Starting in January 1915, the story moves chronologically, charting the days to that fateful day in May and then following the aftermath of the sinking. Chapters are narrated in turn from  the viewpoints of Sydney, Isabel and Edward – the man Brooke is engaged to and the reason that the sisters are crossing to England. Edward is also an interesting character  who didn’t appeal to me much at first but I warmed to him as the novel progressed.

Building on rich historical detail, Izzo also packs plenty of drama and romance into this story which took me through the full range of emotions. The scenes from the sinking were just heartbreaking and I read with my heart in my mouth waiting to see which of the passengers survived. Seven Days in May is a gripping historical fiction read from Kim Izzo, perfect for fans of Gill Paul and Hazel Gaynor.

4/5

Seven Days in May is released on 15th June in paperback and ebook formats from Harper Collins.

Find out more about Kim and her writing at: http://kimizzo.com/wdp/

I’d like to thank Emma Dowson for providing a review copy of this book.

Book review: I’ll Eat When I’m Dead by Barbara Bourland

20 May

eat when imRAGE Fashion Book is the world’s most dynamic, ambitious magazine.
Its editors ­- like Cat Ono – have the power to change minds and the market.
They’re savvy, sisterly and polished to perfection. Even the one found dead in her office.

Everyone thinks Hillary starved to death – but Cat knows her friend’s dieting wasn’t a capital P problem. If beauty kills, it’d take more than that. Hot-headed and fiercely feminist, Cat’s sure she can match the investigating skills of Detective Mark Hutton, solve the case, and achieve sartorial fulfillment.

But going undercover, Cat’s in over her head, and soon becomes snared in a very stylish web of drugs, sex, lies and moisturizer that will change her look – and outlook – forever.

Cat’s about to find out what it really means to be a fashion victim.

I’ll Eat When I’m Dead is Barbara Bourland’s debut novel; a no-holds barred satirical look at the fashion and magazine industry, set in New York. The book has been described as “The Devil Wears Prada meets American Psyco” and I was so intrigued I went against my normal tendency to steer away from anything involving crime or murder to give this book a try.

I’m pleased I did because although this book does have a deadly murder mystery within, it is so much more and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although it did remind me of The Devil Wears Prada and there were parts that made me think of Candace Bushnell’s novels, I’ll Eat When I’m Dead put me most in mind of the classic Valley of the Dolls which I read for the first time last year. Fans of all of these should give this book a try – it’s one of those books that doesn’t easily fit into a single genre and I liked it all the more for that.

The novel opens with the death of thirty-seven year old Hillary Whitney. Hillary was a fashion editor at fashion magazine RAGE – a publication with worldwide domination in the fashion magazine industry. The employees of RAGE are the most fashionable women in New York and Hillary’s cause of death -cardiac arrest due to persistent starvation – is both surprising and not to the occupants of an industry where the pressure to look perfect is constant. But as we soon find out, thanks to the interest on Detective Mark Hutton, there may be more to Hillary’s death than the NYPD intiially thought.

And so the mystery part of the novel is set. As Mark investigates the increasingly crazy world of RAGE and its staff, we are introduced to Hillary’s friends and colleagues, associate editor, Bess Bonner and Editor Catherine “Cat” Ono. Bess and Cat are very different characters and I enjoyed getting to know them both and following as their stories developed. I also liked that Bourland gave Mark an interesting back story and I thought the sub-plot involving him and his on/off girlfriend Callie added and interesting mix.

Set over three months, the story moves swiftly and is packed with insider detail of the fashion industry with commentary on everything from digital start ups, 24/7 social media, the cult of celebrity, eating disorders, drug addiction and ethical production and of course the unbelievable lengths people will go to to remain young and beautiful. This book really does give a whole new meaning to the phrase “fashion victim” and it makes for addictive reading.

Bourland clearly knows her stuff and digs deep into the contradictory world of fashion using Cat to show the other side of the story. The scenarios created are in places so far-fetched that they could only be true and I found myself switching between envy and shock frequently as I read. I’ll Eat When I’m Dead is both darkly humorous and deadly disparaging whilst paying homage to the industry that its author loves. A gripping debut!

4/5

I’ll Eat When I’m Dead is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Riverrun.

Find out more about Barbara and her writing at: http://www.barbarabourland.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Book review: The Real Liddy James by Anne-Marie Casey

3 May

9781848548343Liddy James is forty-four, fit, and fabulous. A top divorce attorney, a bestselling author, and a mother of two, she glides effortlessly through the courtrooms and salons of Manhattan. Despite her own devastating divorce from her first love Peter, Liddy has formed a modern family with him and his new partner, Rose, to raise a truculent teen and Liddy’s adorable, if fatherless, six-year-old. With her impoverished childhood far behind her, to the outside world Liddy’s life is perfect.

Until it isn’t.

When a series of domestic and professional glitches send her carefully-tended world spinning towards meltdown, Liddy decides it’s time she and the boys retrace her family’s history and take some time off in Ireland. But marooned in the Celtic countryside things still aren’t what they seem, and Liddy will have to negotiate some surprising turns in the road before she’s willing to admit that even she might have forgotten just how to be The Real Liddy James.

The Real Liddy James is such a good read! As regular readers of my reviews will know, I love New York and I’m always fascinated and intrigued by the lifestyles of rich New Yorkers. The Real Liddy James gives us a fly on the wall look at Liddy and her life. If you’re a fan of Lauren Weisberger, Candace Bushnell and Allison Pearson’s  I Don’t Know How She Does It then you’ll love this book!

Liddy is a top divorce lawyer; a partner in a boutique firm specializing in making sure marriages and their break ups are legally sound. This is a world of muliti-million dollar deals, second and third houses and Liddy is a celebrity in her own right with a ‘ superwoman’ brand, a book and television appearances.

I found Liddy as a character fascinating and was surprised how my feelings for her changed as the book went on. Liddy is divorced and mother to two sons; the teen Matty and six year old Cal. Liddy’s is a complex life and the charm of this book is that we get to delve into all of her secrets and thoughts. As she tries to maintain her perfect façade there are many poignant and reflective moments as well as a lot that are just funny – I loved the dark humour in this story and the fact that Liddy isn’t afraid to laugh at herself.

Liddy maintains her life with an impressive list of lifestyle coaches, town cars, personal shoppers, housekeepers, a Manny and on top of this manages to maintain a good relationship with her ex husband and his new partner Rose. I thought Rose was a great character too, initially showing a much softer and nurturing side in stark contract to Liddy but as the story progressed, like Liddy, developing into a much fuller and complex character. I enjoyed both characters because there was a lot that I could empathise with in their experiences of relationships and motherhood despite our very different lifestyles!

As a series of events conspires to tip the balance of Liddy’s existence into the not quite so calm and controlled zone, Liddy begins to take a long look at herself and who she has become. Told in sections that take a past, present and into the future look at Liddy’s life, we begin to get an insight into what makes her tick and how she came to be the women she is today. What I found interesting was that my initial assumptions about all of the characters were challenged as the story played out and it wasn’t only Liddy who got to review who she really was.

Between Rose and Liddy, Anne- Marie Casey makes observations that felt spot on and perceptive about love, motherhood, relationships and work and how to juggle them all. A thought provoking, funny and entertaining read.

4/5

The Real Liddy James is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Hodder.

Find out more about Anne-Marie Casey at: http://www.annemariecasey.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Book review: All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

12 Apr

all grown upAndrea is a single, childless 39-year-old woman who tries to navigate family, sexuality, friendships and a career she never wanted, but battles with thoughts and desires that few people would want to face up to.

Told in gut-wrenchingly honest language that shimmers with rage and intimacy, All Grown Up poses such questions as:
- What if I don’t want to hold your baby?
- Can I date you without ever hearing about your divorce?
- What can I demand of my mother now that I am an adult?
- Is therapy pointless?
- At what point does drinking a lot become a drinking problem?
- Why does everyone keep asking me why I am not married?

Powerfully intelligent and wickedly funny, All Grown Up delves into the psyche of a flawed but mesmerising character. Readers will recognise themselves in Jami Attenberg’s truthful account of what it means to be a 21st century woman, though they might not always want to admit it.

All Grown Up is an interesting and thought provoking read. For me, it wasn’t the most comfortable of reads at times but I did enjoy it. The novel tells the story of Andrea – a complex character if ever there was one. I felt like I’d been through the wringer after spending time in Andrea’s head and, a week after finishing reading, I’m still not sure what my feelings are for her! The readers reaction to Andrea is a key premise of the book. There are scenes that might shock, her language and narration of events is no holds barred blunt and she presents a version of the truth that begs for discussion and analysis.

My feelings for Angela veered from admiration to dislike and from empathy to pity. Andrea is happy on her own but through her narrative in All Grown Up  shows how she feels that society conspires to tell her that she’s taken a wrong path, that her choices aren’t right and that she should feel bad about them. For a large part of the story, Andrea does feel bad; about her relationships, her art, her family and friends. Even her apartment conspires against her! 

My initial reaction to Andrea was to be sympathetic – I could understand the pressures and frustrations that come with parents and friends thinking that you should be doing particular things with your life at certain points and I have strong feelings that a woman should be able to be single and childless if she wants. I found myself getting a little annoyed with Andrea because she didn’t seem to know what she wanted really and her choices seemed to be making her so unhappy.

The story is put together in chapters that jump around in time to slowly reveal the big picture of Andrea and those close to her. Two threads in this picture really interested me; Andrea’s relationship with her Mother and with her friend Imogen. Andrea’s mum was actually my favourite character – I thought she was strong, independent and willing to stand by her choices and fight for her family. 

But it was the relationship between Andrea and Imogen that intrigued me most. Not so long ago, I was on the Imogen side of this relationship having just had my first son and trying very hard to maintain a friendship with a friend who actively disliked children and had a very physical revulsion to motherhood in general. Andrea’s reaction to Imogen helped me to take another perspective on this particular friendship dilemma – I love how books can do that!

At the heart of All Grown Up is the big question ‘what makes us adults?’ and I think Andrea represents a lot of the questions that we ask ourselves as we try to be grown ups. Andrea doesn’t necessarily have the answers but in reading this book I’m sure many will recognise situations and mindsets that are familiar – a great novel to debate with friends.

4/5

All Grown Up is out now in hardback and ebook formats from Sepent’s Tail.

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book.

Author interview: Victoria Blake

31 Jan

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Victoria Blake to One More Page on the final stop of her Titan’s Boatman blog tour. Victoria was brought up in The Queen’s College, Oxford and went to university in the same city, studying history at Lady Margaret Hall. She has worked in law, publishing and book selling and is also the author of the Sam Falconer crime series. Welcome Victoria!

victoria blakeYour historical fiction novel, Titan’s Boatman has just been released; please could you tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it?

The trigger for the book was my love of Titian’s painting The Man with the Blue Sleeve. When I’m between books I tend to get a bit restless and I went for a wander in The National Gallery and stood in front of him for a long time and realized I always ended up in front of him when I was in a certain restless frame of mind. He’s such a sexy, sardonic rogue. Then I noticed how young Titian was when he painted him – about twenty. That was the start of the book for me.

What drew you to Renaissance Venice and Titian and how did you go about the historical parts of the research?

It was the painting really that began it all. To be perfectly honest although I could have named Titian I knew next to nothing about him before beginning the book but our family had a strong emotional connection to Italy. My father, the historian Robert Blake had a great love of Italy. He had been a POW during the second world war in the south of Italy, had escaped and then been looked after by Italians before making his way through the mountains and back to the allied troops. I don’t think he ever forgot being looked after in that way. It was a very dangerous thing for Italians to do at the time. So when I was child we went to Italy for holidays and Venice was one of the first places I went abroad. It made an indelible impression on me. So there was this combination of factors that came together. For the research I read everything I could get my hands on. Particularly useful were the letters of Pietro Aretino. He was a poet, pornographer, blackmailer and great friends with Titian. He was absolutely clear that Titian was a genius and told everyone. His letters are hugely entertaining. He writes to friends thanking them for sending him salad. He writes to his gondolier advising him not to marry. He even writes letters on the dangers of eating mushrooms. He adored Venice and I loved his letters. I also read Sheila Hale’s fantastic biography of Titian. For research on courtesans I read Margaret Rosenthal’s book The Honest Courtesan about Veronica Franco and I also read Franco’s poetry.

During your research for the book what was the most surprising fact you uncovered?

I think that there was an actual term ‘muneghini’ that was used to describe those young male patricians who visited nuns for sex. The term means ‘frequenters of nuns.’ According to the Renaissance diaries of Marin Sanudo at any rate! That was extremely surprising. And also that there was an episode in 1514 when the nuns of the Convent of San Zacaria got together and stoned the authorities who wanted to interfere with the way their nunnery was run. I loved the idea of mutinous nuns!

Who was your favourite character to write?

I had a real fondness for Tullia, the courtesan. I loved her courage, her sense of humour and her essential good heartedness. I wanted her to not just survive but thrive as well. Apart from her the character I was most involved with was the boatman, Sebastiano. I heard his voice incredibly vividly in my head from the very beginning. I had a very strong visceral impression of him and he tops and tails the book.

If you could travel to any time or place in history where would you go and why?

Ask me that tomorrow and I’d come out with a different answer but today …  I’ve got a stone age axe head that my grandfather, who was a Norfolk farmer, picked up in his fields. I’d like to go back to the moment when the axe head had just been created and take a look at the man who had carved it and was holding it in his hands.

Do you have a favourite Titian painting and for those interested in learning more about him, which books would you titanrecommend?

Apart from The Man with the Blue Sleeve, I love the portrait he did of Aretino. It’s in Florence in the Galleria Palatina. Aretino wears this very splendid orange, velvet gown and has a magnificent beard. He looks like he’s going to jump out of the canvas at you and demand the most recent gossip. You get a real sense of his physical strength as well as his strength of character. For anyone wanting to read about Titian I recommend Sheila Hale’s biography and also Titian: The Last Days by Mark Hudson – that’s a fantastic, highly readable, fascinating book.

And finally … what can we expect next from Victoria Blake?

My next book is a novel about one of the first female war correspondents who goes and reports from the Spanish Civil War. I find female war correspondents fascinating and have watched with a huge amount of respect and admiration over the years fantastic women like Kate Adie, Lyse Doucet, Lindsay Hilsum and Orla Guerin. How do they go into those incredibly dangerous places, hold it all together, report back coherently and then come home without being destroyed by it all? I think they are remarkable people. It’s been interesting reading the obituaries of the war correspondent Clare Hollingworth who has just died at the age of 105. She reported the ‘scoop of the century’ –  that the Second World War had started.

Thank you Victoria.

Titan’s Boatman is out now in Hardback and ebook formats from Black and White Publishing.

Find out more about Victoria and her writing at: https://victoriablakewriter.wordpress.com/

 

Book review: Mistletoe on 34th Street by Lisa Dickenson

7 Nov

mistletoeOlivia has never experienced a snow-covered, ‘traditional’ Christmas before. Having grown up in a family that chose winter sun over decking the halls, she’s not sure what all the fuss is about. So when she and her colleagues are stranded in New York after a work trip, Olivia is perfectly happy spending the holiday season in the Big Apple.

Jon, Olivia’s friend, on the other hand is desperate to get home in time for his big family get-together. Nevertheless, determined to make the best out of the situation, he sets out to show Olivia how enchanting Christmas in New York can be. And when handsome New Yorker Elijah is added to the mix, could the magic of the season finally be working its charm on Olivia? As 25 December draws closer, Olivia suddenly finds herself with a decision to make: who does she really want to kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas?

If Mistletoe on 34th Street doesn’t put you in the mood for Christmas, I don’t know what will. Set between wintry New York and snowy London, Lisa Dickensen’s latest Christmas novel is a tinsel bright story filled with so much Christmas spirit you’ll be tipsy after reading it! The combination of my favourite city with my favourite time of the year is enough to have me swooning already but throw in one smart and sassy heroine, a little romance interests and a some truly cringeworthy but hilarious moments and you have the perfect recipe for a Christmas read that will leave you smiling.

Olivia is an up and coming member of the team at Girls of the World. When her boss has an accident, Olivia gets the opportunity to lead the team at the annual winter conference in New York City. When I wasn’t envying Olivia’s very cool job, I was marvelling at Lisa’s comic timing and ability to create humour out of almost any situation. I’ve read all of Lisa’s books to date and I’m consistently impressed by the way that her characters are relatable, funny and likeable but also able to get a lot of very important messages across to readers. I think Mistletoe on 34thStreet is her best book yet and I love how Lisa has given her unique take on the Christmas novel with an uplifting and empowering dose of feminism!

Olivia’s family don’t really do the traditional Christmas; they usually head for the sun so she hasn’t grown up with the British family Christmas traditions that many of us know and love. I liked that Liv wasn’t a scrooge character but just wasn’t really that into Christmas – it made a nice change and I really enjoyed reading as New York and Chrostmas got under Olivia’s skin!

In three parts and following a diary-style format, the novel counts down to the big day from 5th December as we follow Olivia and the team before during  and after the big conference. Olivia’s colleagues are a lovely mixed bunch of characters and I liked that Lisa gave them each their own little quirks and that they all had their own little surprises to bring to the story.

This novel feels very current with lots of references to Christmassy songs and films and to tv and films set in New York. I enjoyed picking out the little mentions and now have a nice little list of ‘must watch’ films. I also have another little list of places I must visit if I ever get to go to New York at Christmas!

As events conspire to keep Olivia and her team in the city that never sleeps, Lisa Dickenson turns up the wow factor and creates a winter wonderland full of perfect New York moments that had me longing to visit again. Grab a box of quality street and a cup of eggnog, sit back and enjoy the magic!

5/5

Mistletoe on 34th Street is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Lisa and her writing at: http://www.lisadickenson.com/

Book review: The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

31 Oct

witches of new yorkThe year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (Moth from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it’s finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and gardien de sorts(keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan’s high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions–and in guarding the secrets of their clients. All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment.

Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor’s apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind? Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches’ tug-of-war over what’s best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.

As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they’re confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?

It’s no secret that I love books about witches so when I saw The Witches of New York I jumped at the chance to review it. I’d heard very good things about Ami McKay’s earlier novels (bestsellers The Birth House and The Virgin Cure) so between that and the intriguing cover with its wonderful tagline, ‘Those averse to magic need not apply’, I couldn’t wait to get reading!

At over five hundred pages The Witches of New York is a weighty novel but I flew through it and unusually for a book of this length, my attention didn’t wander at all – I was absolutely gripped by Ami’s descriptions of New York in 1880 and the beautifully described story of three very different women finding their place in a rapidly changing society had me captivated.

The UK paperback edition from Orion I is just wonderful and I loved the illustrations, stories and ephemera included in it. Adelaide, Eleanor and Beatrice’s story is accompanied by news articles, advertisements, letters, extracts from Eleanor’s Grimoire and more. The inclusion of snippets from the time made the story feel very real and I also enjoyed the stories within the story that are included – especially the legends and fairytale The Princess Who Wished to Be a Witch.

I’m publishing this review on Halloween because what better day to be talking about witches? But I want to stress that this book is not just for Halloween! McKay cleverly weaves social history, medicine, religion, folklore and mystery to create a story that is as much about women’s rights and the prejudices of society as it is about magic and ghosts. By setting her story against the backdrop of the erection of Cleopatra’s Needle in Central Park, Ami highlights the fascination of society at the time with magic and the occult. Through her characters she shows the many variations on the theme and highlights the often shocking treatment of women just because of their gender.

From a Gentleman’s society taking a philosophical and scientific approach to communicating with the spirit world to the female inmates of the local asylum via disabled veterans and prostitutes, urchins, suffragists and church preachers; Ami McKay centers her characters in a vivid and complex world. My favourite parts of the book were those set at the wonderfully named teashop that Eleanor and Adelaide run – Tea and Sympathy and I enjoyed reading about the different types of ‘magic’ worked there be it comfort to the heartbroken, courage or hope or just good company.

With history, mysteries, murder, love, romance and magic; this book has something to offer so many readers and I cannot recommend it highly enough as the perfect read to curl up with this autumn.

5/5

The Witches of New York is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Orion.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Find out more about Ami Mckay and her writing at: http://amimckay.com/

 

Book news: The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

3 Oct

You might notice a bit of a theme developing in my posts this month – for me October is all about magic and mystery. I plan to share many magical books with you this month so when I saw this book earlier today I added it straight to my wish list. It covers two of my favourite reading subjects (witches and New York) just in the title so it’s got to be a winner right?!

Ami McKay is the bestselling author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure. I absolutely love the sound of this novel and isn’t the cover fab? The Witches of New York is released on October 27th by Orion.

witches of new york

The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (Moth from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it’s finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student andgardien de sorts (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan’s high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions–and in guarding the secrets of their clients. All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment.

Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor’s apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind? Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches’ tug-of-war over what’s best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.

As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they’re confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?

Find out more about Ami McKay and her writing at: http://amimckay.com/

Book review: Family Tree by Susan Wiggs

2 Aug

family treeAnnie Rush seems to have it all, a handsome husband and their fabulous life in Manhattan. But all of that is snatched away when she is involved is a life-changing accident. Awakening from a coma a year later, Annie finds that the life she knew has crumbled away.

In the throes of grief, Annie grasps her new reality – she has to start over from scratch, which means heading home. Annie couldn’t wait to escape the small town where she grew up, but now she finds herself warming to the close-knit community and its homespun values.

There’s also a face from the distant past − Fletcher Wyndham − and all the reasons she’s never quite forgotten him come flooding back. Annie expects to pull herself together and return to the city, but fate has other plans …

A few years ago I started reading Susan Wiggs’ Lakeshore Chronicles series and really enjoyed it so when the chance to review her new novel came up I couldn’t resist. Family Tree is such a lovely an addictive story; I couldn’t put it down once I started reading and I know it will be one of my favourite books of the year. I enjoyed it so much that I’m planning to read many more from Susan’s extensive back catalogue as soon as possible!

FamilyTree is the story of Annie Rush. As we meet her she’s a very successful cooking show producer, working with her husband on a hit show The Key Ingredient. I was drawn to Annie as a character straight away; she’s bright, intelligent and successful. She came across as a happy person – the type of woman I’d like to have as a friend and I thought Susan told her initial back story in a very clever way. I was already gripped by the story but as Annie makes a series of discoveries and then falls victim to a shocking accident, I was completely hooked. Tantalisingly, the story flashes back to Annie’s past at this point and left me desperate to know what had happened to her!

The book is broken into sections set ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ and this makes the story a real page turner as Susan leaves each narrative on a cliff-hanger more than once to switch to the past or present. I often find in dual time narratives that I have a preference for one part or the other but in this story I was just as involved with and wanted to know what happened next with both parts of the story. As the picture of Annie’s teenage years and home and school life in Switchback, Vermont built, it all added up to make me feel like I knew her in depth.

Ironically, as Annie begins to recover from her accident, the reader is in a position to know more about her past than she does and this was a very intriguing premise to the book. And then there’s the wonderful romance angle to the story. From her past books I remembered that this is something Susan does well but the feeling and emotions in Family Tree really got me!

Susan captures the excitement of first love just perfectly and the story of Annie and Fletcher is so bittersweet as life and choices get in the way. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to Annie as she returned to Switchback to recover at her family home. As well as the romance aspect of the story Wiggs creates a wonderful feeling of family and Annie’s relationship with her beloved Gran is magical, again making this feel like a very well rounded novel.

There are two other themes that deserve mention; food and locations. Annie’s home town is just picture perfect. In fact I could easily see this book as a movie. The food descriptions are mouth-wateringly delicious and it’s clear that Susan did her research on cooking, TV production and maple syrup farming for this book. I also liked the way that she drew in very current aspects like social media whilst giving the story a timeless romantic feeling.

Family Tree considers the conundrum of doing what you love versus being with the person you love and I thoroughly enjoyed following the ups and downs of Annie’s and her family’s lives. This is a story that will leave you with a wonderful warm glow and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

5/5

Family Tree is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats.