The Convenient Marriage

Georgette Heyer is one of those authors that I’ve been meaning to try for a while; her historical novels seem to have an enduring popularity and receive a lot of positive reviews.

The Comvenient Marriage follows Horatia, who makes an unusual suggestion when her sister is forced to choose between marrying for love and for money. Horatia goes on to become the wife of the wealthy Earl of Rule herself, a marriage purely of convenience. However a rival for Rule’s attentions mean that he is forced to make a stand for his wife, and in doing so perhaps uncover that it is more than just a marriage of convenience.

I have to be honest, I didn’t really enjoy this book. I didn’t particularly warm to Horry as the protagonist and her brother’s exploits, whilst meant to be a light interlude, were just a bit ridiculous. Rule also, was not a particularly likeable hero. All in all, reading this story felt like a bit of a chore and I finished it with no real desire to try reading any of Heyer’s other novels.

I think maybe in this case through it was a matter of me and the book being a poor match; others seem largely postive about Heyer’s books. Personally I’d rather turn back to Jane Austen for regency romance.

‘The Witness’ Nora Roberts

I’ve never read any books by Nora Roberts before and if I’m honest, my reaction to this novel was mixed.

Abigail Lowery has a secret that she guards very carefully. Aged just 16, a moment of teenage rebellion ended disastrously when she witnessed a murder by the Russian mafia. Ever since then she has been in hiding, carefully guarding herself from outsiders and continually putting up barriers. Police chief Brooks Gleeson may be about to change that, but can Abigail let her guard down enough to let someone in? And can she ever be free from the past?

I really enjoyed the first 100 or so pages of this book. It was fast-paced, dramatic, and appeared to set up a scenario that would make for an exciting page-turner. However, after that the pace slowed and the rest of the storyline felt like a bit of a let-down. It focused more on the romance than on the mafia storyline, which seemed to lead absolutely nowhere. Also, when I say romance, I actually found the main male character Brooks to be pushy, controlling and annoying; it felt more like harrassment than romance. 

Overall, a great start but a disappointing ending and a middle section that lacked pace. It wouldn’t put me off reading anything else by Roberts (other reviews I’ve read suggest maybe this isn’t her best) but I wouldn’t read this particular book again.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

I downloaded Caraval onto my kindle a while ago now, but had passed it over several times in favour of reading other books. I’m so glad I finally got round to reading it as once I started, I didn’t want to put it down.

Scarlett Dragna and her sister Donatella live on the island of Trisda with their cruel and controlling father. Donatella is passionate and impulsive, whereas Scarlett always thinks of others (mostly her sister) before herself and is willing to undergo an arranged marriage to a man whose name she doesn’t even know if it will ensure safety and security for both her and Tella. The sisters have long been intrigued by the stories they have been told of the mysterious Master Legend and Caraval, the game he runs where magic is reality and wishes can be granted. Scarlett has received tickets for Caraval but as always, duty wins out over desire and her wedding must come first.

Scarlett finds herself tricked by Tella and the mysterious Julian, and is kidnapped and taken off Trisda to another island to become a participant in Caraval. It’s only a game, yet Scarlett finds herself drawn into an increasingly frightening series of events, especially when Tella’s life is placed under threat. It’s impossible to know who to trust in this constantly shifting world, and whilst searching for her sister, Scarlett also finds herself increasingly drawn towards Julian, who has secrets of his own to keep.

 I thoroughly enjoyed this story; it was packed full of adventure, romance and magic. Scarlett was a convincing character; she was strong and capable, yet also full of self-doubt, particularly at the start of the story. As readers we see her grow and develop as the story goes on. The romance between Scarlett and Julian was also well-written and convincing.

The plot contained plenty of twists and turns, and the line between reality and fantasy was often blurred within the story, leaving me guessing and questioning what was ‘real’ and what was part of the game.

A really fun, enjoyable book, I would most definitely recommend Caraval.

After Me Comes The Flood

Earlier this year, I read and enjoyed Sarah Perry’s fantastic historical novel The Essex Serpent. Perry’s debut novel After Me Comes The Flood was recommended to me, as very different, but also an interesting book, so I decided to give it a try.

The story follows John, who ends up through a simple mistake, staying in a house full of unusual strangers. John quickly passes the point where the mistake could be corrected, and finds himself in a tangled situation full of drama and misunderstandings. Tension runs high as a heatwave drags on, and secrets are uncovered within the house, as John is drawn towards several of the occupants through curiosity, friendship and desire. One occupant, Alex, is increasingly convinced that the dam of the neighbouring reservoir will break, and there will be a disastrous flood, and this is heightened by the anonymous letters he receives with their focus on drownings from the news. An inevitable storm is coming.

This story is hard to describe, the narrative is dream-like, shifting between first and third person perspectives, revealing lots and yet nothing all at the same time. Characters are difficult to get a handle on; what is each person’s motivation? Why does John stay in such a highly fraught situation when he could so easily leave? And yet, the characters are also all so very real and believable. Selfishness, desire, deceit, belief and fear motivate each of them in different ways.

I really enjoyed this book, but I imagine it might not be to everyone’s taste. It creates more questions than it answers and is one of those stories that leaves you thinking about it well after it has finished. It is atmospheric, dream-like and thought-provoking.

The Birds and the Bees

I lovw Milly Johnson’s books for a bit of light-hearted romance and this was perfect for a quick summer read.

Stevie is shocked when she discovers that her fiance Matthew has disappeared on a holiday with his beautiful friend Jo. Even more so as it’s Jo’s angry husband Adam who delivers the news. Both Adam and Stevie blame each other for the affair at first, believing the various stories Jo has fed them about how the other behaves. Adam and Stevie soon decide that the best plan for getting their respective partners back involves teaming up to work together. 

Sweet, romantic and funny; I read this book in two evenings and thoroughly enjoyed it. There were no particular surprises, the book followed a pattern that has long been established by the author, and yet that is part of its charm – you know things will work out in the end. Definitely one for chilling out and forgetting the world for a few hours.

Eligible

I’m a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Eligible is a modern retelling of the story and it has been widely praised as witty and entertaining.

The story has been brought to the modern day, set in Cincinnati, LA and New York. Liz is a journalist, Jane a yoga-instructor, Darcy a brain surgeon, and Mrs Bennet a member of the Country Club.

So was it witty and entertaining? Personally, I didn’t think so. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I found the book a real chore to read. The attempts at humour fell flat, the modern setting detracted from the nuances of the original story, and Liz and Darcy’s love story just didn’t ring true.

Overall, disappointing. I’d suggest that if you’re looking for an entertaining and funny modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice you instead choose Bridget Jones’s Diary.

I am Malala

For a while now I’ve been inspired by Malala Yousafzai, who stood up to the Taliban at a young age, to fight for her right to an education.

This non-fiction book tells her story, focusing on her life and the challenges that she faced as a schoolgirl in Pakistan, when the Taliban tried to restrict her right to an education. With the support of her family, Malala refused to accept the limitations that the Taliban tried to place on young women in her town. She shared her experiences through blogs and interviews, until one day the Taliban stopped her school bus and shot her. Malala barely survived and was flown to the UK to receive life-saving surgery. Despite this she remained positive and went on to speak to world leaders and the UN about the importance of education for girls around the world.

Her story is powerful and moving and Malala really is an inspiration to everyone facing oppression and a powerful advocate for education. A thought-provoking and inspirational non-fiction book.