The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs

The Apple Orchard by Susan WiggsBlurb

Tess Delaney makes a living restoring stolen treasures to their rightful owners. People like Annelise Winther, who refuses to sell her long-gone mother’s beloved necklace — despite Tess’s advice. To Annelise, the jewel’s value is in its memories.

But Tess’s own history is filled with gaps: a father she never met and a mother who spent more time travelling than with her daughter. So Tess is shocked when she discovers the grandfather she never knew is in a coma. And that she has been named in his will to inherit half of Bella Vista, a hundred-acre apple orchard in the magical Sonoma town of Archangel.

The rest is willed to Isabel Johansen. A half-sister she’s never heard of.

Against the rich landscape of Bella Vista, Tess begins to discover a world filled with the simple pleasures of food and family, of the warm earth beneath her bare feet. A world where family comes first and the roots of history run deep.

My Perspective

This is the ninth book I read from my post Credit Where Credit’s Due. I read about The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs from Ionia at Readful Things Blog. You can read her thoughts on the book here.

The Apple Orchard is about Tess, a treasure hunter who’s life solely revolves around work and the occasional catch up with friends. However her world is ripped apart when one day a man turns up at her office telling her she’s inheriting half an estate from the grandfather she didn’t even know – the other half being inherited by the half sister she never knew about either.

I had mixed feelings about this book. I really enjoyed it however it was a bit too unbelievable.

At first I found Tess hard to relate to however the more she opened up about herself, the more I liked her. Dominic was extremely likeable however thinking back he was pretty much perfect, which is way too unrealistic. Everyone else had equal measures of strengths and weaknesses except for him.

The story was written well with a steady pace. It was a mix of family saga, romance, and mystery. The story wasn’t entirely predictable however the essence of it was, which is what I found so unrealistic about it.

One thing about this book is the cooking and baking, which makes you drool. I also really enjoyed the added recipes throughout.

Overall this was a pleasant and interesting read however it was a bit too escapist for me. I would definitely recommend it if you like a light family saga and romance that really takes you out of the believability realm.

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.

The Black Eagle Inn (The Three Nations Triology) (Volume 3) by Christoph Fischer

The Black Eagle Inn by Christoph FischerBlurb

The Black Eagle Inn is an old established Restaurant and Farm business in the sleepy Bavarian countryside outside of Heimkirchen.  Childless Anna Hinterberger has fought hard to make it her own and keep it running through WWII. Religion and rivalry divide her family as one of her nephews, Markus has got her heart and another nephew, Lukas got her ear. Her husband Herbert is still missing and for the wider family life in post-war Germany also has some unexpected challenges in store.

Once again Fischer tells a family saga with war in the far background and weaves the political and religious into the personal. Being the third in the Three Nations Trilogy this book offers another perspective on war, its impact on people and the themes of nations and identity.

***TO BE RELEASED 15 OCTOBER 2013***

My Perspective

This is the third book in The Three Nations Trilogy. The story is about the Hinterberger family who own and run a farm and restaurant, named The Black Eagle Inn. Anna has been running it with an iron fist for most of her life however not having been blessed with children, she is constantly weighing up her nephews and nieces as potential heirs. It soon is clear that the choice lies between two of her nephews, Markus and Lukas. Unfortunately her best laid plans are ruined by the one she loves most.

I actually found this book quite sad. It wasn’t sad in that it made me cry – it didn’t. It was more in that you were sad that so many of the characters were blinded by their greed and that when things fell apart they were too proud to forgive.

The story was well written and there was a lot of development in the characters. My attention was caught from the beginning and the outcome of the story was quite unknown to me until the very end – i didn’t find it predictable at all.

I found the tone to be a little different compared to the first two books, The Luck of the Weissensteiners and Sebastian. They were more historical fiction whereas this was more of a family saga simply set in the past. There was a lot more actual politics in this book as well compared to the other two. The other two were political in the sense that they involved the war and all the politics surrounding that however this book had a lot of politics to do with area of Germany where the story was based. I actually found in a section towards the end of the book that it was a bit too political – i felt like i was being too heavily persuaded in certain views and opinions.

I also just wanted to say that i really appreciated one of Christoph’s notes at the end. The book had a lot of negative religious content and this is what he wrote – “Equally, the book is by no means intended to offend religiously devoted readers. Religion is not at all meant to be criticised, only misuse of it for other purposes.”

I would definitely recommend this book to those who like family saga and also historical fiction although it’s not technically in that genre.

This review is based on a digital ARC provided by the author.

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.

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.