Outcast Child by Kitty Neale

Outcast Child by Kitty NealeBlurb

It’s the 1950s, in South London, and when Daisy loses her mother, she retreats into a world of silence. To make matters worse, her once-happy home soon becomes a prison when her father remarries. It is only Daisy’s cousin, the naive and vulnerable Lizzie, who brings a little sunshine back into Daisy’s life.

Then things begin to change when Daisy’s father discovers a shocking secret about his new wife – and Daisy finds unexpected happiness in a way she could never have anticipated . . .

My Perspective

This is the first book i chose to read from my post Third Lot – And It’s A Lot

Outcast Child is about Daisy, a young teenage girl who has just lost her mother. Her father remarries soon after and she finds herself being treated from bad to worse by her new stepmother. Only a stay in the country with her aunt and Down Syndrome cousin Daisy, brings her out of her shell. However when she is summoned back home, will she have the courage to stand up for herself or will the situation continue to spiral out of control until she has nothing left?

This story was actually quite depressing.

I don’t know if I liked Daisy but I felt mighty sorry for her. Vera was a hard one because she couldn’t like her for what she was doing except that you knew the exact reasons why she was doing it.

The story was well written and flowed well however like I said, it was depressing and seemed to be just one disaster after another. It wasn’t a very uplifting book. The plot was interesting and it did keep me turning the pages though, wanting to find out how everything turns out.

I think I would recommend this book if you like drama. Definitely not a lighthearted book.

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The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

The Distant Hours by Kate MortonBlurb

It started with a letter. A letter that had been lost a long time, waiting out half a century, in a forgotten postal bag in the dim attic of a nondescript house in Bermondsey . . .

Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long-lost letter arrives one Sunday afternoon with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret.

Evacuated from London as a thirteen-year-old girl, Edie’s mother is chosen by the mysterious Juniper Blythe and taken to live at Milderhurst Castle with the Blythe family: Juniper, her twin sisters and their father, Raymond, author of a 1918 children’s classic, The True History of the Mud Man. In the grand and glorious Milderhurst Castle, a new world opens up for Edie’s mother. She discovers the joys of books and fantasy and writing, but also, ultimately, the dangers.

Fifty years later, as Edie chases the answers to her mother’s riddle, she, too, is drawn to Milderhurst Castle and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiancé in 1941 plunged her into madness.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.

For it is said, you know, that a letter will always seek a reader; that sooner or later, like it or not, words have a way of finding the light, of making their secrets known.

My Perspective

I bought the The Distant Hours at a garage sale for $2 I think. Such a bargain!

The book is about Edith Burchill, a young lady who works in publishing and has never really connected with her mother. One day a letter turns up for her mother, and from that moment the secrets and puzzles of the past start to unravel.

The story was cleverly written alternating between the present and the past and from a few different perspectives. It also changed from being first person for Edith and third person for everyone else. At first I found this a little challenging to read however it made a lot of sense to do it that way and I soon became used to the switching styles.

Edith or Edie as she’s mainly known, was a likeable character that I was able to connect with fairly well. Her mother frustrated me at the beginning however as the book went on and what she’d carried for so many years was revealed, I was able to understand where she had been coming from. I also appreciated how her character grew and was able to move on. I liked Edie’s Dad and Herbert, her boss. The Blythe sisters left me with many different emotions, all which kept changing as the book went on.

The story was very interesting and there was a lot of mystery throughout and different threads intertwined together. It was definitely hard to put down.

The book is quite sad and even though it didn’t make me cry as such, it certainly leaves a bit of a depressing mark on you.

There was a lot of vivid description throughout and it is written in a very abstract way. At first I found it a bit bewildering however I soon adjusted. If you like straightforward writing then you might struggle with enjoying this. I think it melds well with the rest of the story.

I enjoyed reading this book, I enjoyed the mystery and secrets. I did find it sad and without spoiling the ending, I was a bit like, “Why?! Why?!”

I would definitely recommend this book for those who like family saga, drama, and mystery. Although this was superbly written, The Forgotten Garden is still my favourite Kate Morton book.

Gone South – A Novel by Meg Moseley

Gone South - A Novel by Meg MoseleyBlurb

The charm of the South drew her back to her family’s roots. But when the town’s old resentments turn the sweet tea bitter, can Tish find a welcome anywhere?

Leaving frosty Michigan for the Deep South was never a blip in the simple plans Tish McComb imagined for her life, dreams of marriage and family that were dashed five years earlier in a tragic accident. Now an opportunity to buy her great-great-great-grandparents’ Civil War era home beckons Tish to Noble, Alabama, a Southern town in every sense of the word. She wonders if God has given her a new dream— the old house filled with friends, her vintage percolator bubbling on the sideboard.

When Tish discovers that McCombs aren’t welcome in town, she feels like a Yankee behind enemy lines. Only local antiques dealer George Zorbas seems willing to give her a chance. What’s a lonely outcast to do but take in Noble’s resident prodigal, Melanie Hamilton, and hope that the two can find some much needed acceptance in each other.

Problem is, old habits die hard, and Mel is quite set in her destructive ways. With Melanie blocked from going home, Tish must try to manage her incorrigible houseguest as she attempts to prove her own worth in a town that seems to have forgotten that every sinner needs God-given mercy, love and forgiveness.

My Perspective

This is the fourth book I read from my post Credit Where Credit’s Due. I read about Gone South – A Novel by Meg Moseley from Ionia at Readful Things Blog. You can read her thoughts on the book here.

Gone South is the story of Letitia “Tish” McComb. Proud of her McComb heritage, she moves back to the house of her ancestors. However much to her surprise she isn’t welcomed by the locals and no one will tell her why.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Not everything went how I wanted it to and some of the characters were terribly frustrating however the way it was written and the general storyline was interesting and enjoyable to read.

I liked Tish however I did find her a little bit slow on the uptake. I was really rooting for her though and I admired her resolve. Mel was very frustrating and she did get on my nerves a little bit. She grew a lot throughout the book though and I enjoyed seeing her mature. I really liked George. He was a great romantic love interest. Daisy made me laugh a lot and I appreciated the detail in which the author went.

I enjoyed the mystery aspect in the book however I found that it kind of fell flat. It wasn’t properly resolved in my mind and I was hoping that there would be more.

The book was considered Christian fiction however it wasn’t preachy at all. I didn’t think there was enough “Christian” content to consider it in that genre (apart from the blurb) however it is what it is.

Overall I really enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it to those who like lighthearted romance/drama with a little bit of mystery thrown in.

Family Baggage by Monica McInerney

Family Baggage by Monica McInerneyBlurb

Harriet Turner knows all about journeys. After all, she’s arranged hundreds of them for the travel agency her family runs in the Australian coastal town of Merryn Bay. But when her colleague and foster sister Lara disappears on the eve of a big overseas trip, Harriet finds herself in uncharted territory.

Left alone in England with a coachload of eccentric tourists, Harriet has her hands full. But as the bus trundles through the picturesque Cornwall countryside, the tour becomes another kind of journey for her. She finds herself facing big questions about her family and her childhood, about her feelings for Patrick Shawcross – and the biggest puzzle of all: what has happened to Lara?

My Perspective

It was my birthday on September 4. My husband spoiled me rotten. I had my own private high tea in our garden whilst reading a book in the sun. It was wonderful.

Family Baggage is about the Turners, a family who own and run a travel agency in a small Australian town. A small accident leaves Harriet, the youngest daughter, having to take over a tour to England from her brother James. However when Harriet and her tour group arrive, Lara, Harriet’s foster sister is not there to meet them as planned. Harriet must face up to her demons and guide the group by herself all the while trying to find out where Lara has gone.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It had comedy, romance, mystery and some drama. It was lighthearted without being shallow.

The characters were likable and realistic, although not without their flaws! I struggled a little bit with Molly, however i made silly decisions as a teenager so as a said even though it was at times frustrating, the characters were realistic. The relationships were also really well developed.

The story certainly was a page-turner and even though some parts were probably a tad predictable, the twists kept some of the mystery.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially if you like lighthearted chick lit. I would probably read it again.

The Shifting Fog/The House At Riverton by Kate Morton

The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton

Blurb

Summer 1924:
On the eve of a glittering society party, by the lake of a grand English country house, a young poet takes his life. The only witnesses, sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, will never speak to each other again.

Winter 1999:
Grace Bradley, 98, one-time housemaid of Riverton Manor, is visited by a young director making a film about the poet’s suicide. Ghosts awaken and memories, long-consigned to the dark reaches of Grace’s mind, begin to sneak back through the cracks. A shocking secret threatens to emerge; something history has forgotten but Grace never could.

 Set as the war-shattered Edwardian summer surrenders to the decadent twenties, The Shifting Fog is a thrilling mystery and a compelling love story.

My Perspective

I read this book under the name ‘The Shifting Fog’ however it was originally published as ‘The House At Riverton’.

A few years ago i was perusing the bookshelves at my local library when i found The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. I was captured by the story, spread over three generations, of the rich history of a family and the secrets they held.

About a year ago whilst browsing at a garage sale with my husband and my mother-in-law, i found another of her books, The Shifting Fog. It was $2 so i bought it. I’ve only gotten around to reading it now.

Have you ever read a story and have been left feeling like all of your emotions have been sucked right out of you and all that is left is a deep, dark void of bleakness, even despair? You constantly relive the moments in the book, all the turning points, trying to find resolution? This is what this book made me feel.

The story is told by Grace, now an old woman reflecting on her time as a housemaid for the family at Riverton Manor, and her involvement in their lives and the secrets they held. A young film producer sparks the long repressed memories by coming to her about a film she is to produce based on the tragedy that the two sisters, Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, were witness to. History has it’s own way of retelling the past, but only Grace knows the truth.

The story was really well written, weaving such intricate webs, continually adding bits and pieces making the puzzle seem so much larger than you originally thought.

I really liked Grace as a young housemaid. The way the author wrote her character was excellent – with the mindset of a servant , which was so realistic for that time, that it was a privilege to serve in one of the manor houses. I have found that this can be easily overlooked by a lot of authors. They give them a 21st century attitude. I can’t say though that i liked her the same as an old woman. I didn’t understand why it could feel so disjointed because they are the same person however i understand now.

The book starts off fairly lighthearted and full of hope however as the story goes on it starts to take on a dark undertone and soon hope is giving way to despair. Even though i feel a bit like an emotional wreck, i think it was really clever how Kate matched and reflected the story with the evolving of her characters.

I enjoyed the premise of this story and the detail to which Kate went into, however i do feel that it dragged a bit – however mostly the bits of Grace as an older woman. I also found that the ‘script’ scenes caused me to come out of the story, which in turn made it a bit disjointed.

One that also niggled me was that towards the end of the book, because of the bleakness of the situation, there is a small snippet of a possible ‘happy ever after’ however i think the book would have been better without it. The book was so rich and colourful, so emotional and raw and this little bit was like the dash of Hollywood that had to get put in. I don’t think it’s a fault of the author, rather a personal opinion that i would have preferred it didn’t have.

I really, really hate spoilers however i need to let it out otherwise i will go crazy. I am actually quite upset about the outcome of the book. How the relationship between Hannah and Grace finished. It’s so heart-wrenching. The whole story was! It was filled with so much tragedy.

I don’t know if i could read this book again. When i read books like these, i don’t read shallowly, i read deeply – meaning that all my emotions are vulnerable to the text, laid bare for the book to touch. It was a great story but it’s too much for me. It’s probably not healthy and i need to stop doing it but it’s like when a truly great actor becomes the characters they play, they open themselves up to be able to be someone else – like Heath Ledger and The Joker (and no, i’m not comparing myself to Heath Ledger, i’m merely trying to make a point). I want to read books like that because i want to experience them however in cases like this, it’s not always worth it.

If you like deep, emotional dramas or family sagas, i would recommend this book to you. This was her debut novel and i think she did a good job however i enjoyed her second book, The Forgotten Garden a lot more.

As for me, tonight dreams will haunt my sleep while my mind works, storing the pages of this book deep into the recesses of my memory. I will wake, emotions in check, as if nothing ever happened, ready for the next story.

At Home With The Templetons By Monica McInerney

Blurb

When the Templeton family from England takes up residence in a stately home in country Australia, they set the locals talking – and with good reason. From the outside, the seven Templetons seem so bohemian, unusual… peculiar even.

No one is more intrigued by the family than their neighbours, single mother Nina Donovan and her young son Tom. Before long, the two families’ lives become entwined in unexpected ways, to the delight of Gracie, the sweetest of the Templeton children.

In the years that follow, the relationships between the Templetons and the two Donovans twist and turn in unpredictable and life-changing directions, until a tragedy tears them all apart. What will it take to bring them together again?

From Australia’s top-selling female novelist comes her best book yet – a wonderfully entertaining and touching story about the perils and pleasures of love, friendship and family.

My Perspective

It actually took me awhile to really get into this book. I still read it just as fast as any other book but to be honest it just wasn’t grabbing me. And then about half way through i realised that i found it quite depressing. Not so much the storyline, just the general feel of the book and the characters. I remember putting the book down for the night and turning to my husband saying ‘I feel quite depressed from reading this book. I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly, just the mood of the book or something’.

I think another reason why i found this book harder to get into was because i didn’t feel any attachment to any of the characters so frankly i didn’t care what happened to them. I’m not sure why, maybe it was because i found most of them quite selfish and shallow. This however, did change. At the twist. I started really caring about some of the characters then.

The twist happened just at the right moment when i was wondering what could tie everything together to end the book. OH MY GOSH. I wanted to stab that woman. Rip her eyeballs out for the rest of her life. I can’t believe she did that! Who does that? I won’t give away who because i HATE spoilers (every time something happens now you’re going to think it was that but believe me you will know what i am talking about when you read it). Far out. I was SO MAD. I wanted to rip the book in half. I don’t think i have ever hated a character more! Not even an evil, evil villain.

I enjoyed the ending although it was more a relief that it was over (not because it was terrible but because my nerves were worse than Mrs Bennet’s from Pride and Prejudice by the end). I even had to go for an hour walk with my iPod to release all the emotion when I’d finished reading it.

I’m not sure what genre to put this book in. I thought at first it was a family saga but I’m not so sure because it only follows the same generation. I guess though it is a family and boy is it a dramatic saga!

I’m not sure how Monica was feeling when she wrote this book but i don’t think I’ve ever been on such an emotional roller coaster from a book before. So if that is what you like to read, then this book is definitely for you! I don’t think i would read it again though.

Those Faraday Girls by Monica McInerney

Blurb

As a child, Maggie Faraday grew up in a lively, unconventional household in Tasmania, with her young mother, four very different aunts and eccentric grandfather. With her mother often away, all four aunts took turns looking after her – until, just weeks before Maggie’s sixth birthday, a shocking event changed everything.

Twenty years on, Maggie is living alone in New York City when a surprise visit from her grandfather brings a revelation and a proposition to reunite the family. As the Faradays gather in Ireland, Maggie begins to realise that the women she thought she knew so intimately have something to hide.

Those Faraday Girls is a rich and complex story full of warmth, humour and unforgettable women. Spanning several countries and thirty years, it is a deeply moving novel about family secrets and lies – and how the memories that bind us together can also keep us apart.

My Perspective

I borrowed this book from the library last Monday. I can’t remember if i started reading it on Monday night or Tuesday sometime but i finished it at lunch on Thursday. I couldn’t put it down (and just a side note, the book is two inches thick). I was disciplined enough to stop reading at midnight so i could actually get up for work (i still was late) but every spare waking moment i was reading it. In my two and a half hour lunch break i allowed myself to read it if i made lunch and did the wash-up. Screw the rest of the housework (and that’s big coming from Dame Wash-A-Lot).

If you like family saga, this is your book. It has a great plot, with plenty of drama and secrets. There is enough information given to be satisfied and enough unknown to keep you on your toes (as you can see from how fast i read it). I was a little disappointed in the ending, not because it was bad, it was just on the more realistic side. I suppose i was hoping for a fairytale ending, which if it was i probably would have said ‘The ending was quite unrealistic, after all the family went through, the fact it ended like a fairytale made it boring and predictable’. Haha. Can’t win. I would definitely read this again.