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BOOK REVIEW: The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland

Monday, August 10, 2015



The Vanishing Witch - Karen Maitland 


Blurb (from GoodReads)

The reign of Richard II is troubled, the poor are about to become poorer still and landowners are lining their pockets. It's a case of every man for himself, whatever his status or wealth. But in a world where nothing can be taken at face value, who can you trust? The dour wool merchant? His impulsive son? The stepdaughter with the hypnotic eyes? Or the raven-haired widow clutching her necklace of bloodstones? 


And when people start dying unnatural deaths and the peasants decide it's time to fight back, it's all too easy to spy witchcraft at every turn. 


What I Thought:

I’ve really loved Karen Maitland’s earlier books, which are probably best described as medieval supernatural thrillers, and so I was keen to read her latest book. The Vanishing Witch is set during the troubled reign of Richard II, and features a number of scenes set during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. One of the most striking aspects of Karen’s writing is the way she brings the 14th century world so vividly to life, with all its stench and dirt and fear.  These are superstitious times, rammed home by small quotations of the time at the beginning of each chapter. Some are quite amusing, but others are truly chilling in their advice on how to identify witches or cure illnesses. 


The story follows the entwining fortunes of two families. The first is that of Robert of Bassingham, a wealthy wool merchant, and his wife and two sons. The other is a mysterious widow with one grown-up son and a younger daughter. 


Then Robert’s wife dies in mysterious circumstances and he finds himself entranced with the beautiful young widow and her family. Death follows death, with as Robert and his sons find themselves drawn deeper into intrigue and witchcraft.


Vivid and suspenseful, The Vanishing Witch also has a wry-voiced ghost who watches and waits and plots …



Source of the book: I bought it.

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT - I LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK

BOOK LIST: Best books of 2013

Saturday, January 04, 2014

I have read so many brilliant books this year that I had great trouble narrowing it down to only a few. However, at last I have managed it – here are the best books I read in 2013, divided by genre. 

Because I love historical fiction, and stories that move between a historical and a contemporary setting, most of my favourite books are in these genres. However, there are a few utterly brilliant contemporary novels and fantasy novels as well. As always, my list is entirely and unashamedly subjective – many of these writers are my friends and colleagues, and one is my sister! 

However, all I can say is I am incredibly lucky to know so many über-talented writers. 

Best Historical Novel for Adults



Chasing the Light – Jesse Blackadder
A beautiful, haunting novel about the first women in Antarctica.


The Crimson Ribbon – Katherine Clements
Set in England in 1646, in the midst of the English Civil War, this is a utterly riveting tale of passion, intrigue, witchcraft, and treason. 


Longbourne – Jo Baker
A beautiful, intense, heart-wrenching tale about the lives of the servants at Longbourne, the home of the Bennets from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. 


A Spear of Summer Grass – Deanna Raybourn
Set during the Roaring 20s, this is the story of debutante Delilah Drummond who has caused one scandal too many and so is banished to Kenya .. where she finds intrigue, murder and romance. 


Letters from Skye – Jessica Brockmole 
This charming epistolary novel moves between the First World War and the Second World War, and tells the story of the blossoming romance between a young Scottish poet and an American university student. 


Best Historical Mystery


The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy - James Anderson
As one can probably tell from the title, this book is a gentle spoof of the Golden Age type of mysteries written by authors such as Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh – utterly clever and charming!


Bellfield Hall, or The Deductions of Miss Dido Kent – Anna Dean
Imagine a novel where Miss Marple meets Jane Austen, and you will begin to have a sense of this delightful Regency murder mystery. Miss Dido Kent, the heroine and amateur sleuth, is clever, witty, and astute … and finds a touch of romance in her search to uncover the murderer. 


Best Historical Thrillers



The Falcons of Fire & Ice - Karen Maitland
An utterly compelling historical novel which moves between Portugal and Iceland as a young woman searches for two rare white falcons in a desperate attempt to save her father's life. Her journey is fraught with danger, betrayal, murder and horror, with the strangest set of seers ever to appear in fiction.


The Tudor Conspiracy – C.W. Gortner
A fast-paced, action-packed historical thriller, filled with suspense and switchback reversals, that also manages to bring the corrupt and claustrophobic atmosphere of the Tudor court thrillingly to life.


Ratcatcher – James McGee
A ratcatcher is a Bow Street Runner, an early policeman in Regency times. A great historical adventure book, filled with spies, and intrigue, and romance, and murder. 


Best Historical Romance



The Autumn Bride - Anne Gracie
Anne Gracie never disappoints. This is beautiful, old-fashioned romance, driven by character and situation and dialogue, and, as always, is filled with wit and charm and pathos. 


A Tryst with Trouble – Alyssa Everett
Lady Barbara Jeffords is certain her little sister didn't murder the footman, no matter how it looks … and no matter what the Marquess of Beningbrough might say ... A fresh, funny and delightful Regency romance. 


I bought this book solely on the cover – a Regency romance set in Venice? Sounds right up my alley … I mean, canal … It proved to be a very enjoyable romantic romp, with musical interludes. 


Best Fantasy/Fairy Tale Retellings for Adults



The Year of Ancient Ghosts – Kim Wilkins
'The Year of Ancient Ghosts' is a collection of novellas and short stories - brave, surprising, beautiful, frightening and tragic all at once


Beauty’s Sister – James Bradley
Beauty’s Sister is an exquisite retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale, reimagined from the point of view of Rapunzel’s darker, wilder sister. 


Best Parallel Contemporary/Historical



Ember Island – Kimberley Freeman
A real page-turning delight, with a delicious mix of mystery, romance, history and family drama. One of my all-time favourite authors, Kimberley Freeman can be counted on to deliver an utterly compelling story. 


Secrets of the Sea House - Elisabeth Gifford
An intriguing and atmospheric novel set in the Hebrides Islands of Scotland, its narrative moves between the contemporary story of troubled Ruth and her husband Michael, and the islands in the 1860s when crofters are being forced to emigrate and science and religion are in conflict.


The Shadow Year – Hannah Richell
A perfectly structured and beautifully written novel which uses parallel narratives to stunning effect. A compelling and suspenseful novel about family, love, and loss.


The Perfume Garden - Kate Lord Brown
A young woman inherits an old house in Spain, discovers clues to buried family secrets, meets a gorgeous Spaniard, and finds her true path in life ... interposed with flashbacks to her grandmother's experiences during the bloody and turbulent Spanish Civil War  ... 


The Ashford Affair – Lauren Willlig
I absolutely loved this book which moves between contemporary New York, and 1920s England and Africa. It's a historical mystery, a family drama, and a romance, all stirred together to create a compulsively readable novel.



Best Contemporary Novel



The Midnight Dress – Karen Foxlee
A beautiful, haunting, tragic tale of love and loss and yearning. 


The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
A feel-good romantic comedy, with wit and charm. 



Best Contemporary Suspense Novels


Sister – Rosamund Lupton
Utterly compulsive, suspenseful, clever, surprising, this is one of the best murder mysteries I have ever read. 


Shatter – Michael Robotham
Chilling, powerful and superbly written. Highly recommended for the brave.   


Best YA Fantasy/Fairytale Retellings



Thornspell – Helen Lowe
Helen Lowe reimagines the Sleeping Beauty story from the point of view of the prince in this beautiful, romantic fantasy for young adults. 


Raven Flight – Juliet Marillier
A classic old-fashioned high fantasy with a quest at its heart. The writing is beautiful and limpid, the setting is an otherworldy Scotland, and the story mixes danger, magic and romance - sigh! I loved it. This is YA fantasy at its absolute best.  


Pureheart – Cassandra Golds
Pureheart is the darkest of all fairy tales, it is the oldest of all quest tales, it is an eerie and enchanting story about the power of love and forgiveness. It is, quite simply, extraordinary. 


Scarlet in the Snow – Sophie Masson 
I just loved this retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, told with flair, dash, and panache, by one of my favourite Australian women writers. This is YA fantasy at its best - filled with magic, adventure and just a touch of romance. Loved it!




Best Historical Novel for Young Adults



The River Charm – Belinda Murrell
This beautiful, heart-wrenching novel is inspired by the true life story of the famous Atkinsons of Oldbury, earlier settlers in colonial Australia. It moves between the life of modern-day Millie, and her ancestor Charlotte Atkinson, the daughter of the woman who wrote the first children’s book published in Australia (who was, by the way, my great-great-great-great-grandmother. So, yes, that means Belinda is my sister.) 


Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein
One of the best YA historical novels I have ever read, it is set in France and England during the Second World war and is the confession of a captured English spy. 


Witch Child – Celia Rees
Set in 1659, during the tumultuous months after Cromwell’s death and before the return of Charles II, this is a simple yet powerful tale that explores the nature of magic and superstition, faith and cruelty.


Act of Faith - Kelly Gardiner
A heart-breaking and thought-provoking historical novel for young adults, set during the rule of the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. 


Best Children’s Books



A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness
What can I say? It's brilliant, surprising, harrowing, humbling. I found it hard to breathe after I finished reading it – such an emotional wallop!


Fire Spell – Laura Amy Schiltz
I absolutely adored this book! Laura Amy Schlitz reminds me of one of my all-time favourite authors, Joan Aiken, which is very high praise indeed. This is a rather creepy story about children and witches and a puppet-master in London a century or so ago. Brilliant. 


Wonderstruck – Brian Selznick
A perfect title for a book that is, indeed, struck with wonder. 


Best Non-Fiction




Hanns & Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz – Thomas Harding
The author of this utterly riveting and chilling book found out, at his great-uncle’s funeral, that the mild-mannered old man he had known had once been a Nazi hunter. And not just any Nazi. His Great Uncle Hanns had been the man who had hunted down and caught Rudolf Hoss, the Kommandant of Auschwitz. 



84 Charing Cross Road – Helen Hanff
84 Charing Cross Road is not a novel, but rather a collection of letters between an American writer and an English bookseller over the course of many years. That description does not really give any indication of just how funny, heart-wrenching and beautiful this book is – you really do have to read it yourself.


The Bolter: The Story of Idina Sackville – Frances Osborne
The Bolter is the non-fiction account of the life of Idina Sackville, the author's great-grandmother, who had inspired the key character in Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate. She married and divorced numerous times, and was part of a very fast set in 1930s Kenya that led to scandal and murder - I loved it. 

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT - I LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!

INTERVIEW: Karen Maitland, author of 'Falcons of Fire and Ice'

Wednesday, February 20, 2013




Are you a daydreamer too?
I was always in trouble for day-dreaming at home and school when I was child. They said that I’d grow out of it, but I never did. I all too easily fade out of what going on around me disappear into another world. The great thing about being a writer is that daydreaming becomes a virtue if you can turn those daydreams into stories on a page.


Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always told myself stories ever since I was a small child. I loved going to bed so that I could lie in the dark and tell myself the next instalment. I played with toys in the same way. Each of my marbles was individual person who had adventures in the caves beneath the chest of drawers or on the mountains of the bed.
I wrote in secret as a child. I’d spend hours in class and at home writing stories and poems instead of doing my schoolwork.  But I never told anyone I wanted to become an author, I was sure they’d laugh and say ‘What you – you can’t even spell the word author!’


Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do?
I spent my early childhood on the Mediterranean island of Malta. Watching the colourful processions as they carried the garlanded statues of the saints from the churches into the sea to bless the fishing boats and the torchlight processions of the three magi on horseback, really fired my imagination. 

I’ve worked in many places around the world including Africa and finally settled in the town of Lincoln in England which has a wonderfully preserved castle and medieval buildings including some of the most haunted streets in England.

 I love travelling, especially to wild places such as Greenland, Iceland and Albania and I have a certificate to say I spent the night in Vlad the Impaler's castle in Transylvanian, where I got hopeless lost in the shadowy candle-lit corridors. I nearly had a heart attack when a cloaked-figure clapped his hand on my shoulder. But it turned out he was an opera singer who kindly helped me find my way back to my room.


How did you get the first flash of inspiration for 'Falcons of Fire & Ice'?
Some years ago, I was in Iceland and was taken down into a cave. At the bottom was a hot water lake where in Viking times women came to give birth and elderly people were brought to keep warm over winter. The entrance was so well concealed in the mountains that for centuries people had used the cave to hide in times of persecution.  

About twenty years before I went into the cave, a group of bathers had been swimming in there. They had just got out of the lake when the water started to shoot out great jets of steam and the temperature rose in seconds to over 200O C. They would have been boiled alive if they’d still been in the water. It was such a strange atmospheric place, that I could almost see the ghosts of the people, who for centuries had taken refuge in the cave, circling around me in the steam and the shadows. I knew had to write a novel about that cave and its dark secrets.


How extensively do you plan your novels?
I have to write a brief synopsis for my publishers before I start, so I know how the novel will begin and end, some of the main characters and a few of the ‘firework’ scenes in the middle. 

I usually write the novel from the synopsis until I get about half way through the first draft of the book. By then subplots have developed which weren’t in the synopsis and some minor characters have become major players, so at that point, I stop and take a week off from writing. I spend that week just plotting in the form of brief bullet points, using three or four bullet points per chapter, so I can see how all the strands are going to weave together, then I carry on writing from this plan. The writing of second half of the novel usually goes much faster than the first half.


Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?
I dream vividly and often wake with a scene or image in my head which sometimes find their way into my novels.  Years ago I dreamed I was in a room at night and everyone else had fallen asleep. I heard a tapping on the window and couldn’t wake anyone else, so I opened the curtains and three men were standing there with cudgels in their hands wearing terrifying owl masks. This later became one of the inspirations for my medieval thriller The Owl Killers.


Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?
When I was researching The Falcons of Fire and Ice I discovered that the nightstalker or draugr which is a creature written about in the Icelandic sagas was also recorded in a book written by an English medieval clergyman only about ten miles from where I am now living and that right up to the 19th century people claimed to have encountered one of these creatures.

Before I began writing I knew something of the terrible suffering of the Icelandic people in the 15th and 16th centuries, but I didn’t realise that at one period a man could be flogged and have everything he owned confiscated just for selling a fish to a neighbour or for giving a foreign sailor a piece of his wife’s knitting in exchange for a fishing line.
 
Where do you write, and when?
Most of the time I write on an old marble washstand in my bedroom, but if I really need a few days to plot intensively I hire a little one-roomed cottage on the saltmarsh in Norfolk where there is no phone or internet and no street lights, just the sounds of marsh, the wind and the distant sea. 

I try to keep office hours when I write, working 9.30am to 6pm. It’s the only way to meet the deadlines. In the evenings I sit with a pile of books and look up the answers to questions which have arisen as I’ve been writing that day. Questions like –
Which spices would have been most commonly used in meat dishes in France around 1224? 
What did 14th century priests wear under their robes? 
What poison would they use on the spike of caltrop?

Keeping a list of questions to look up later means I don’t have to interrupt the flow of a scene while I’m writing to find a name or a word.


 What is your favourite part of writing?
Once I’ve written a complete first draft to end of the novel, I can then start to flesh out the scenes and the characters, polish the language and descriptions. That, for me, is the best part as it’s far easier to play around with words already written down than a blank page. 

I also love unearthing the pieces of folklore, historical snippets and myths which I use to start each chapter in my novels. That’s great fun especially when I come across something like this which I discovered in a 13th century grimoire –

‘If a woman does not desire you and you would arouse her and make her lust after you, take the genitals of a wolf together with the hair on its cheeks and eyebrows and burn them together. Then give the ashes to the woman to drink in such a manner that she does not suspect. Then she will desire you and no other man.’


What do you do when you get blocked?
If I’m in Norfolk, I go for a walk across the saltmarsh to the sea, just looking at the birds, water and sky without consciously thinking about the problem. By the time I get back, the resolution has popped into my head. If I’m at home in Lincoln then I usually go out into the garden to re-pot some plants or cut the lawn, again not thinking about anything. Doing something physical seems to unblock my mind. Talking a hot bath often works too.


How do you keep your well of inspiration full?
By reading all kinds of genres of fiction. I love audio books and always have one on in the kitchen when I’m doing domestic chores like cooking or ironing.  Visiting museums or reading the potted history of an old country church often gives me a little snippet which eventually becomes an idea for a story, as do old folktales and local myths. Going to visit places such as lakes and old buildings are also a great source of inspiration. Just walking through a wood or standing in a ruin can make me see characters acting out scenes just as if I am watching a film. Places tell stories.


Do you have any rituals that help you to write?
Regular cups of tea are a must, but I’m also one of those writers who need silence around me when I write. Any noise when I writing really disturbs me, except natural sounds like wind and birds, as because it pulls me out of the scene I’m both picturing and hearing in my head.


Who are ten of your favourite writers?
Only ten? That’s hard. Angela Carter, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Margaret Atwood, Graham Greene, Patrick Süskind, Ruth Dudley Edwards, C.J.Samson, J.K.Rowling, Minette Walters, Alan Bennet


I love C.J. Sansom's books too!


What do you consider to be good writing? 
Writing which produces an image, scene or character that lives on in my mind after long I’ve closed the book.  But I believe that any novel or poem is a dialogue between the author and the reader. Only half the book is written by the author, the reader writes the rest by bringing their own imagination, personality and experience to the pages. So both reader and writer have to work to together to achieve a ‘good’ book. 


What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?
Don’t put pressure on yourself by thinking your first piece has to be published or imagine you’re a failure, if it isn’t. You wouldn’t expect to go on stage and perform a play for the public or play an instrument at a concert without a lot of rehearsals.  

Write until the end of your daily session without editing your work or correcting the spelling/punctuation or tidying it at all. Put it away without reading it. Then start your next writing session by reading over what you’ve written the day before and editing it. That will get you back in the ‘voice’ of the piece and by the time you’ve finished editing you’ll find you’ve automatically started writing on. This means that, after day one, you will never have to face a blank page, because your first task will always be working with what’s already there. 
Warning! Only ever edit each section once in the first draft, otherwise you’ll get stuck, like a hamster in wheel, going over and over the first few pages and never moving on. After that first edit, if you think of some change or addition that needs to be made to an earlier section, note it down in a list of changes and make the changes only when you have finished the first draft of the whole story or novel. 


What are you working on now?
Three things – I’m writing what I hope will be the final draft of a full-length historical thriller novel The Vanishing Witch set in the 14th century and based on a true story. I’m also beginning another full-length history novel called The Raven’s Head, which was inspired by a rather sinister-looking ruined monastery I visited. 

But as well as writing my own novels, I also write a joint novel every year with five other medieval crime writers – Philip Gooden, Susanna Gregory, Michael Jecks, Bernard Knight and Ian Morson, together known as the Medieval Murderers. So we are trying to devise a plot for our tenth Medieval Murderers’ novel. We’ve just been put the finishing touches to our ninth novel, The False Virgin, and are getting very excited about seeing what the cover design for that will be.

Thank you so much for interviewing me. It’s been great fun!

Karen Maitland's website

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT, I LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!

BOOK REVIEW: 'Falcons of Fire & Ice'by Karen Maitland

Monday, February 18, 2013



Title
: Falcons of Fire and Ice 
Author: Karen Maitland
Publisher: Penguin
Age Group & Genre:  Historical supernatural thriller for adults


The Blurb:
The year is 1539 and the Portuguese Inquisition ushers in an era of torture and murder. When the Royal Falconer is imprisoned on false charges to remove him from the inner circle of the boy King, the Inquisitors strike an impossible deal with his daughter, Isabela. Bring back two rare white falcons from Iceland within the year or her father dies.

Meanwhile in Iceland, a menacing stranger appears to have possessed the soul of a woman chained up in a volcanic cave and is threatening to destroy the community. The woman's twin sister, Eydis, is desperate to intervene but vivid dreams suggest the twins' only salvation lies with a young girl from afar, travelling in search of white feathers ...

Isabela's quest might hold a more crucial purpose then she could ever imagine and there are those among her travel companions who have an interest in doing her harm. But in order to fulfil her destiny, first she must reach Iceland's shores. Alive


What I Thought: 
Karen Maitland has not written many books, but each one of them has been an absolute winner – thrilling, chilling, and utterly compelling . She is so good that as soon as I finished the first book I read of her – ‘Company of Liars’- I rushed out to buy her next one.  ‘The Owl Killers’ was just as good – if not better – and so, utterly hooked, I have since pre-ordered her books to make sure I got them as soon as they  hit the bookshops. 
Her latest book, ‘Falcons of Fire and Ice’, begins with the burning of a man in an auto-da-fe in Portugal in 1539. It’s a hideous scene, yet utterly compelling. The action then moves to the story of Isabela, daughter of the Royal Falconer. When somebody kills the royal falcons – two rare white birds – Isabela’s father is arrested. She is given a year and a day to capture some more, but the man behind the falcons’s death will do anything to ensure she does not succeed.


On a journey fraught with danger and betrayal, Isabela sets off for Iceland, not knowing that among her fellow passengers is the one she thought she has left behind. 
This book was so good I couldn’t bear to put it down. On three nights in a row I read long past bedtime, desperate to know what happened. Karen has an uncanny way of bringing the world of the 16th century vividly to life, while never allowing the suspense to flag. Brilliant!

BOOK LIST: Books read in January 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

I've been meaning to keep a better track of all the books I read so here is, a little late, a list of all the books I read in January 

1. The Falcons of Fire & Ice - Karen Maitland

An utterly compelling historical novel which moves between Portugal and Iceland as a young woman searches for two rare white falcons in a desperate attempt to save her father's life. Her journey is fraught with danger, betrayal, murder and horror, with the strangest set of seers ever to appear in fiction. Highly recommended.

2. Jewels of Paradise – Donna Leon
Donna Leon is best known for her murder mysteries set in Venice, which I really enjoy. This one was a disappointment - it was rather slow and the characters were unappealing. Stick to her Guido Brunetti series instead. 


3. Fire Spell – Laura Amy Schiltz

I absolutely adored this book! Laura Amy Schlitz reminds me of one of my all-time favourite authors, Joan Aiken, which is very high praise indeed. This is a rather creepy story about children and witches and a puppet-master in London a century or so ago. Brilliant. 

4. Madonna of the Almonds – Marina Fiorato

I've been slowly reading my way through Marnia Fiorato's books since enjoying her debut The Glassblower of Murano a few years ago. This one is set in Renaissance Italy, and tells the story of the love affair between a painter and a young woman who invents a liquor made from almonds in order to save her beloved house. I really enjoyed this and will be interviewing the author later this month. 

5. The Mystery of Rilloby Fair  - Enid Blyton

An old childhood favourite.

6. Shatter – Michael Robotham

Warning: this book must be read with all the lights on and a man or a large dog in the house. I have not been so freaked out by a book in a long time. Seriously scary, this book is possibly the most brilliant psychological thriller I have ever read. I still shudder from time to time thinking about it ... wondering what I'd do if I was faced with such a situation ... and determined to keep my children closer than ever ... Chilling, powerful and utterly superbly written. Highly recommended for the brave.   


7. Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake – Sarah McLean

I really enjoyed this Regency romance novel - it was funny, sexy, and had a really appealing hero and heroine. Great fun.  

8. Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dea
I've had a vague plan to read all the Newbery Medal winners, and slowly I'm getting through them. This one is very restrained, almost cold, yet its a compelling story of a young Indian girl left alone on an island and her struggle to survive. It won the Newbery in 1961, and so its older than I am. One of those short, yet very strong books that leave a lingering impression.  

9. Chasing the Light – Jesse Blackadder
This is the most beautiful, haunting novel about the first women in Antarctica - I'd really recommend it to anyone who loves books about forgotten women in history (in fact, I'd recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction.) Here's my review of 'Chasing the Light' and here's my interview with Jesse Blackadder

10. Bury Your Dead – Louise Penny
I really enjoy Louise Penny's contemporary murder mysteries set in Quebec - she's very good on character and dialogue, and her mysteries are always clever and puzzling, the way mysteries should be. 



11. The Lavender Keeper - Fiona McIntosh
Loved this book! Loved it! Its the story of French resistance fighters in the Second World War, and their loves and fears and betrayals. I believe there's a sequel coming out - I can't wait. 




12. White Truffles in Winter – N.M. Kelby
This is a slow moving but beautifully written account of the famous French chef Escoffier and his life and loves. It desperately made me want to eat the amazing food described in the  book - larks cooked with truffles and such things and brought to life that period of history for me most vividly. 

13. Ratcatcher – James McGee
A ratcatcher is a Bow Street Runner, which was like an early policeman in Regency times. This was a great historical adventure book, filled with spies, and intrigue, and romance, and murder. I'm looking forward to reading the next one. 

14. The Last Runaway – Tracy Chevalier
I love Tracy Chevalier so much. She's what I'd like to be. Each book is very different from what has come before, each is beautifully written - walking that fine line between the high style of the literary novel and the accessiblity of the popular - and she is interested in the subjects that interest me. I've always been intrigued by the Quakers and I've always wanted to know more about the Underground Railway that helped runaway slaves escape. I've even thought I might one day write a book about it. Once again, Tracy has beaten me to it - this book brings to life both the inner world of a Quaker woman and her struggle with the narrow strictures of a Quaker life, and the drama of the Underground Railway, and the bounty hunters that seek to drag back the runway slaves. 'The Last Runaway' is rather a quiet book, yet its utterly readable and compelling. I really loved it - I just wish Tracy wrote faster!



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