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Monday 30 August 2010

The Bone Mill

By Nicholas Corder

According to the blurb, ‘The Bone Mill’ is a novel for teenagers with a robust constitution. I would have to agree that it’s not for the faint-hearted, but as an adult reader I found it compelling.

Set in the potteries in the 1820s, ‘The Bone Mill’ follows the story of young Joseph Ryder who struggles to stay one step ahead of the workhouse. His world is reduced to a struggle to stay warm and fight off hunger. The novel joins him just as he is trying to make a way for himself in the world. Little does he know how complicated life is about to get.

Nicholas Corder paints Joseph’s world convincingly. Life in the Bone Mill is harsh, revolting and sometimes terrifying; and this account of it is unflinching and very real. The freezing weather during which the tale is set adds another layer of bleakness and the cold becomes another enemy for Joseph to overcome.

This novel draws you into Joseph’s world from the start. Will he ever get enough money together to buy a warm coat? Will his landlady Gerda be able to use her skills as a medium to contact his dead mother? And who is the man with the healing hands and why is he so important to Joseph?

I found this a gripping read which carried me through the story at a brisk pace towards the ending which brings a gut wrenching surprise with it.

Although aimed at young adults, I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the historical setting, and to anyone who appreciates a well-plotted and fast moving story. This was an excellent read.

Reviewed by Helen M Hunt

Monday 23 August 2010

The Tapestry Of Love

By Rosy Thornton

I really enjoyed Rosy Thornton’s previous novel, ‘Crossed Wires’, so I was delighted when she offered to send me a copy of ‘The Tapestry Of Love’. If anything, this novel is even better.

Everything about ‘The Tapestry Of Love’ hits exactly the right note. From the beautiful evocation of the French setting to the skilfully drawn characters, it all works together to make a whole that kept me turning the pages until well after midnight.

All the characters are real, rounded and sympathetic. The main story is Catherine’s as she moves from England to a new home in the Ćevennes mountains, but the people she meets there and the people she leaves behind are all equally well-drawn.

Patrick Castagnol, Catherine’s neighbour, is the perfect male lead character. From the moment he steps onto the page, the reader can picture him and can totally empathise with Catherine’s changing feelings towards him.

As well as Patrick, I also really liked Catherine’s daughter Lexie and her French neighbours the Bouschet’s. Rosy Thornton has convincingly portrayed the initially awkward, but increasingly warm, encounters between Catherine and the new community she finds herself living among in France whilst also mapping the changing sands of her relationships with those she has left at home.

Another layer is added to the story by the exploration of Catherine’s relationship with the needlework and tapestry from which she is endeavouring to make her living. This is central to everything else that happens and enriches the narrative, as does the sensual description of food and meals which pervades the book.

I recommend this book highly. I loved it.

You can read my review of 'Crossed Wires' here.

Reviewed by Helen M Hunt

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Without Alice

By D J Kirkby

‘Without Alice’ is a story filled with real emotion. As you follow the main characters you get to experience with them love, hate and everything in between.

Stephen has a secret. A very big one, and as you read ‘Without Alice’ you will become aware of the nature of his secret and its deep repercussions. As the plot unfolds, you discover how his life with his wife Jennie and son Marcel is only part of his story. Slowly the reader discovers how his life means nothing without Alice.

This novel explores some important and timeless themes. It covers childbirth, motherhood, family, fatherhood and friendship. It highlights how all of these can come under strain from the pressure of lies and secrets.

The story of ‘Without Alice’ is fast-moving and gripping. I found myself wanting to read ‘just one more chapter’ before I could put it down.

The reader is finally rewarded with an ending which brings all the strands of the complex plot together in a satisfying conclusion.

‘Without Alice’ is published by new publisher Punked Books and you can buy a copy here.

Reviewed by Helen M Hunt

Thursday 5 August 2010

Dance Your Way To Psychic Sex

By Alice Turing

This novel is deliciously different. It is ambitious in its storytelling and poignantly beautiful in its writing.

As I read it, I found the story incredible and intensely believable at the same time. The narrative requires the reader to take huge leaps into a world where very strange things happen, but because the main character, Henrietta, is so real the reader believes so strongly in her that everything that happens makes sense just because it’s happening to her.

In ‘Dance Your Way To Psychic Sex’ Alice Turing has created an intricate and satisfying story. On one level the novel is about the New Age sensation of Psychic Dancing and as such raises questions about truth, reality and illusion. But on another level it is about raw human emotion and the ways in which people can harm and heal each other. Both these strands make for compelling reading.

The story is carried by a strong cast of characters. All are complex and flawed, but equally, all are appealing. From the crooked-toothed Denzel to the persistent Tawny, the characters are engaging and three-dimensionally tangible.

The setting of the novel in Hebden Bridge is inspired. Light touches of description like, ‘The houses clamber above one another like turtles leaving a pond’ set the scene beautifully and if Psychic Dancing is going to happen anywhere, then Hebden Bridge is the place.

The writing sparkles with vivid imagery and clever choice of words. This description of Henrietta eating a biscuit shows the marvellous use of language. ‘She imagines clouds of sugar swirling inside her mouth, little eddies and sweet spots circulating and surrounding her teeth.’ The novel is full of similar wonderful nuggets of description.

If you want to read a novel that will entertain you and make you think, this one is for you. There is refreshing originality in the writing and the subject matter is gloriously unusual.

Reviewed by Helen M Hunt

This book is being launched in a very different way. If you are interested in reading it – and I do recommend it – go and check out the website here.