ARC Book Review: I Let You Fall by Sara Downing

My thanks to Sara Downing (the author), TCK Publishing (the publisher) and Maria (Author Support Specialist at TCK Publishing) for sending me an ARC of I Let You Fall. Links to the author, publisher and the book can be found at the bottom of this post.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A thought-provoking, poignant paranormal love story, I Let You Fall takes you on an emotional rollercoaster of journey. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

On a summer night in London, art teacher Eve Chapman finds herself in a hospital emergency room. She watches surgeons desperately operate on a young woman with a terrible head injury. But when the bandages are removed, Eve is horrified to find her own body on the operating table.

Trapped in a coma, Eve struggles to cope with the fact that no matter how hard she tries, her family and friends cannot see or hear her. But then she meets Luca Diaz, a handsome and comatose lawyer who can see her. He takes Eve under his wing and teaches her how to use her new abilities to help the living.

As the weeks pass, Eve struggles to find a way back to her body and to Nathan, the man she loves. But the more time she spends with Luca, the more she wonders if her old life is worth going back to at all.

Favourite Quote

“Eve decided then and there that she would be very different if she got back into her body. She would be that person who looked up and smiled, that person who struck up conversation, just because.”

(From I Let You Fall by Sara Downing, page 143)

Review

I Let You Fall is a poignant paranormal love story.

Eve Chapman is an interesting character and her story is a fascinating one. She isn’t special, nor is she extraordinary. She’s just an ordinary woman, an art teacher in a school, who’s in a relationship with Nathan, and who thinks she has a full and meaningful life. But when a serious accident befalls her, something quite extraordinary happens.

Eve finds herself in the hospital to discover her conscious, spiritual self has been separated from her physical body – and that is in a coma. Unseen and unheard by all those around her, she has to cope with being invisible to everyone, which is made all the more difficult when she can see how her being in a coma places a great stress and worry on those she loves.

However, a meeting with Luca, a man who has also been separated from his physical body, changes her outlook, and the things he has to say will reveal some truly wonderful things. Thought-provoking and emotional, the journey Eve goes on is staggering as she explores a world in-between.

One of my favourite parts of how the story was told was it was done from both the viewpoint of Eve in her spirit form and Eve in the coma. I thought this was cleverly written and added an extra depth to the storytelling. The very heavy topics of death, loss and grief are sensitively handled and perfectly balanced with compassion, comfort and understanding.

At the same time as Eve’s story is unfolding, other stories are also playing out, weaving in and out of each other. This really is a heart-warming story of connection, interconnection and re-connection.

I Let You Fall is a quick read, but be warned, it’s an emotional rollercoaster of a story.

Rating

Links

Sara Downing’s website

TCK Publishing

I Let Your Fall on Amazon

Quick Review: Classic FM One Hundred Favourite Poems

Summary (from back of book)

Here are the works chosen by Classic FM listeners in the poll to discover their favourite poems. This is a rich and varied collection: here are not only the famous poems you would expect to find – and all the famous poets – but also some wonderful less well-known works, together with biographies of all poets by Mike Read.

Review

I really enjoyed reading this collection of poems, but perhaps more than the poems, I found the short biographies the highlight. Everyone one of them was interesting to read.

I was pleased to see some of my favourite poems made the list, and some of them ranked quite highly. Some of my favourites were “The Listeners” by Walter de la Mere, “The Lady of Shallot” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “If” by Rudyard Kipling, “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley, and “Remember Me” by Christina Rossetti.

There were also well-known poems that I know I should have read by now, but hadn’t all the way through. These included “Ode On A Grecian Urn” by Keats, “The Daffodils” by Wordsworth (though who doesn’t know the first two lines off by heart?) and “To A Skylark” by Shelley.

What I like about collections such as this is that there are always poets included that I’ve not yet come across. They serve as a great introduction to new poets whose style you like – or don’t like – or whose poems resonate – or not – with you, and guide you into searching out more of their work.

Rating

Book Review: The Red Pony by John Steinbeck

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A hard, emotional read, full of emotional complexities and the harsh reality of life on a ranch in the 1930s. Compelling, yet stark. 3 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Raised on a ranch in northern California, Jody is well-schooled in the hard work and demands of a rancher’s life. He is used to the way of horses, too; but nothing has prepared him for the special connection he will forge with Gabilan, a hot-tempered pony his father gives him. With Billy Buck, the hired hand, Jody tends and trains his horse, restlessly anticipating the moment he will sit high upon Gabilan’s saddle. But when Gabilan falls ill, Jody discovers there are still lessons he must learn about the ways of nature and, particularly, the ways of man.

Favourite Quote

I couldn’t decide between the two, so thought I would share both:

“He felt an uncertainty in the air, a feeling of change and of loss and of the gain of new and unfamiliar things.”

(from page 5)

“It was a strange time and a mysterious journey, to Jody – an extension of a dream.”

(from page 15)

Quotes from The Red Pony by John Steinbeck

Review

First up, I didn’t like this story, and I will not read it again, of that I’m certain. It was too sad and when it comes to animals in stories, I don’t like cruelty or abuse being shown to them, or horrible things happening to them whether it is reality or not. And so after reading this book, which I found difficult, I was left feeling sad and emotionally low.

That being said, I must have found the story compelling on some level because I read it in one sitting, though I did have to put the book down a couple of times to take a breather from the content.

The story is full of emotional complexities. Jody is growing up and trying to think and act like a man, but he’s not quite there yet. He has to deal with loss and grief, and finding out that an adult who had never been wrong before in his eyes is fallible. Billy struggles between trying to keep truths from Jody in order to preserve his childhood innocence, yet he knows that Jody is growing up. He will soon see the world for the harsh place it is.

Jody’s parents were interesting. There is softness and kindness there, but especially from the father it is hard to express, because being too gentle, too emotional is a weakness in his eyes. It’s a hard world and he wants his son prepared enough to be able to survive in it, so he comes off as cold and remote. His mother’s tough and loving, and finds the balance between the two. Yet she softens noticeably when she knows her son is struggling.

Steinbeck’s writing is economical and stark. He doesn’t shy away from, or sugar coat the darkness to be found in every day life. Neither is he concerned with giving the reader a happy ending.

From a social history perspective, we are given a good account of life on a ranch in the 1930s. It was first published in 1933 and is set in the Salinas Valley area of California, where Steinbeck himself grew up.

The setting is bleak and powerful; it stirs the imagination and expands the wistful horizons of Jody. What’s beyond the mountain ridge? Why don’t people live up there?

This is Jody’s coming-of-age story, where he is old enough to realise the harsh realities of the world, and they wound and shape him.

A well-written, yet ultimately sad and bleak story. Hence the rating.

Rating

Quick Review: Dangerous Justice by Terri Reed

Dangerous Justice is a story in the Capitol K-9 Unit series, from Love Inspired Suspense, A Harlequin line, the books of which are written by various authors .

Summary (from Goodreads)

A K-9 novella of danger and intrigue set in the nation’s capitol

Someone is after Capitol K-9 Unit tech guru Fiona Fargo, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep her from decoding the secrets of Washington, D.C.’s elite. She knows Officer Christopher Torrance and his canine partner Dutch will keep her safe, but he’s the last colleague she wants dogging her heels. Spending time with him might reveal her secret crush on him. But with killers determined to silence her forever, she’ll have to put aside her fears and accept his help. Chris has secrets of his own, and a failed engagement makes him leery of moving forward with any woman, even the beautiful Fiona. As they hunt for the killer, they’ll find that love can break any barrier.

Review

I read this book at the start of the year, while I was researching the different lines published by Harlequin. I found it to be an engaging, short read. The characters were interesting and smart, and the romance was nicely tempered by the action of the story.

Although the story is of novella-length, I didn’t find that the story was lacking, as can be the case with some novellas where it’s obvious that there isn’t enough storyline for a full-length book. Neither did I find that it needed to be longer. It was the right length for the pace and content of the story.

And my favourite character? Dutch the dog, of course!

Rating

3.5 / 5

Quick Review: Mrs Budley Falls from Grace by M.C. Beaton

Mrs Budley falls From Grace is the third book in The Poor Relation series by M.C. Beaton.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Another Poor Relation has to resort to genteel thievery to make end meet – but she gets much more than she bargains for!

Cut off by her own relations, pretty, dainty widow Eliza Budley must visit some other family manor to purloin expensive baubles. Happily, the rich Marquess of Peterhouse is in his dotage and wouldn’t know a relative from a bedpost, so Eliza is sent to play the imposter.

But things do not go as planned and Eliza is met by the new Marquess – wickedly handsome, and with all his wits about him. And somehow Eliza finds herself confessing her bluff to him and he in turn is much taken with her daring and charm – but can he fall in love with such a scheming widow from the world of trade? Time for the other Poor Relations to get involved and help these confused lovers!

Review

A wonderful light-hearted read. I always find that if I’m in a bit of a reading slump, I can rely on M.C. Beaton to cheer me up!

Entertaining and engaging, Mrs Budley Falls from Grace, like the other books I have read so far in the series, is an easy, quick read. It doesn’t require much brain power to follow along, and you know how the stories are going to end.

What I like about this series is that the romance isn’t too much. It isn’t the focus of the story, but there is enough there for it to be called a romance. I also like how the Regency period is brought to life – it’s not all balls and celebrating the season in town whilst in search of a husband. For those poor relations – as well as just the poor of society – it would have been a hard life. However, there is still enough of the charm we have come to expect of the Regency for stories to still have a happy ever after, no matter how unlikely.

All-in-all, this was a fun, undemanding read. The next book in the series is Sir Phillip’s Folly, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it!

Rating

Quick Review: Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories by Joyce Lankester Brisley

Summary

First published in 1928, this collection of stories for children centres around the adventures of Millicent Margaret Amanda, or Milly-Molly-Mandy for short. Over thirteen stories, Milly-Molly-Mandy and her friends in the village (and beyond), get up to all sorts of things including giving a party, going to a fete, and keeping shop.

Review

I thought this to be a sweet collection of stories which gave an interesting glimpse of how children of the 1920s saw the world. It was also a useful tool in documenting how English villages were back then, and how much they have changed over the hundred years since the book was published.

The adventures are very gentle and pretty much drama-free compared to modern storytelling, but I think sometimes such stories are just what’s needed in this fast-paced world.

Another aspect I liked was how the stories depicted society during that period. There is very much a focus on the home, and the extended family living together (Milly-Molly-Mandy lives with her mother and father, grandmother and grandfather, as well as her uncle and aunt). It also stresses that one shouldn’t be idle, so everyone is always doing something, even the young children in the village have what we might consider quite extensive chores to complete.

Life was very different in Milly-Molly-Mandy’s world, and from a historical point of view, I found it rather illuminating. I could have done without the repetitiveness of her name though…

A charming read, full of nostalgia for bygone days. It brought to life the world my grandmother would have grown up in, and to me, that makes these stories very special.

Rating

Quick Review: The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood

Summary (from back of book)

Set a guard upon your soul…

When Nathaniel Kerner takes up his new position as a mad-doctor at Crakethorne Manor, the proprietor, more interested in phrenology and his growing collection of skulls than his patients’ minds, hands over the care of his most interesting case.

Mrs Victoria Harleston’s husband accuses her of hysteria and says he will pay any price to see her well. But she accuses him of something far more terrible…

Nathaniel becomes increasingly obsessed with the beautiful Mrs Harleston – but is she truly delusional, or is she hiding secrets that should never be uncovered?

Review

I remember when I purchased this book. I instantly fell in love with the cover. It’s beautiful. I also fell in love with the title. There was something quite mysterious and atmospheric about it…So did the story live up to my initial impressions?

In places, but I’ll admit I wanted to like this book more than I did, hence the mixed review.

What did I like about the book?

The setting. It was atmospheric and Gothic. A perfect place to set a story about madness.

The characters. Especially the background characters, those residing in Crakethorne Manor, I found to be pertinent in evoking the atmosphere.

The storyline. Even now, as we try and break the stigma around mental health issues, there are still some people who fear that madness can be catching. Back in the 1850s, this fear was commonplace and had been for a long time. So a story about madness, focusing on the mad, and the doctors trying to treat them without becoming mad themselves is certainly an interesting subject, even if today we have a much better grasp of mental health issues.

The historical descriptions. The story was spot-on-perfect for historical detail, and helped bring the story to life. Nothing stood out to me as out of place.

What did I not like about the book?

I struggled to connect with the main characters, and though I was interested in the story, I didn’t really have any strong feelings as to what became of them. I found Nathaniel’s obsession grating for a while, which didn’t help.

I also found the middle part of the book slow and heavy going, and I actually stopped reading it for a time, before returning and finishing it (which I’m glad I did). The ending was good and even justified some of the points I hadn’t liked earlier in the story (for example, Nathaniel’s obsession).

So a bit of a mixed review, but I would read more from this author.

Rating

3.5 / 5

Quick Review: The Borrowers by Mary Norton

The Borrowers is the first book in the series of the same name by Mary Norton, first published in 1952.

Summary (from Goodreads)

Beneath the kitchen floor is the world of the Borrowers – Pod and Homily Clock and their daughter, Arrietty. In their tiny home, matchboxes double as roomy dressers and postage stamps hang on the walls like paintings. Whatever the Clocks need they simply “borrow” from the “human beans” who live above them. It’s a comfortable life, but boring if you’re a kid. Only Pod is allowed to venture into the house above, because the danger of being seen by a human is too great. Borrowers who are seen by humans are never seen again. Yet Arrietty won’t listen. There is a human boy up there, and Arrietty is desperate for a friend.

Review

This is another one of those children’s books that I never read as a child, even though I knew some of my friends had read it and enjoyed it. I do remember vaguely a TV series based on the books, which I think I did watch, and also a film, made later, which I don’t think I saw. So…I picked up this book with a bit of trepidation, as I’ve not liked a great many of the children’s books I’ve read as an adult (What Katy Did and some of the Narnia books, to name a couple). Yet, I must say, rather surprisingly, I enjoyed reading it much more than I thought I would.

There is something very honest and genuine about the characters. No-one is perfect, none of them have all the answers and it’s interesting to see how they are all trying to make life work in an ever-changing world. A world they have very little control over.

There is something very encouraging and endearing about the friendship that arises between the boy staying with his great aunt and Arriety and her parents, which lies at the heart of this story. A message of overcoming fear of others who we percieve as being different to us, but in reality we are not so different at all.

I greatly appreciated the imagination of the author who was able to look at ordinary things found in a house and envisage how someone a great deal smaller could utilise it.

The next book in the series is The Borrowers Afield, which I’m looking forward to starting soon.

Rating

Book Review: Miss Pinkerton by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Cosy mystery at its best – a good story, interesting setting and a cast of intriguing characters. Highly recommended! 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Miss Adams is a nurse, not a detective—at least, not technically speaking. But while working as a nurse, one does have the opportunity to see things police can’t see and an observant set of eyes can be quite an asset when crimes happen behind closed doors. Sometimes Detective Inspector Patton rings Miss Adams when he needs an agent on the inside. And when he does, he calls her “Miss Pinkerton” after the famous detective agency.

Everyone involved seems to agree that mild-mannered Herbert Wynne wasn’t the type to commit suicide but, after he is found shot dead, with the only other possible killer being his ailing, bedridden aunt, no other explanation makes sense. Now the elderly woman is left without a caretaker and Patton sees the perfect opportunity to employ Miss Pinkerton’s abilities. But when she arrives at the isolated country mansion to ply her trade, she soon finds more intrigue than anyone outside could have imagined and—when she realizes a killer is on the loose—more terror as well.

Reprinted for the first time in twenty years, Miss Pinkerton is a suspenseful tale of madness and murder. The book served as the basis for a 1932 film with the same title, and its titular character appeared in several others of Rinehart’s most popular novels.

Favourite Quote

I had to chuckle at this quote, Miss Adams scathing appraisal of Florence Lenz:

“I knew her sort the minute I saw her. They never forget that their employer is a man, and when he is, like Mr. Glenn, pretty much a man of the world and not married, that he may represent anything from a tidy flat to a marriage license.”

(From Miss Pinkerton by Mary Roberts Rinehart, page 79)

Review

I really enjoyed reading this story. For a book first published in 1932, it was easy to read with a good pace and flow. It was engaging and entertaining, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on who I thought had done it for most of the story.

I liked the interaction between Miss Adams and Detective Inspector Patton, the latter vacillated between concern for the danger he puts Miss Adams in and the belief that she can take care of herself – which she can. He’s never condescending to her, and they both know, regardless of the danger posed by the suspects in the case, her curiosity will outweigh all other arguments and she will see it through to the end.

The best thing about Miss Adams character is that, although she is placed in her position by Patton, she is guided by what she believes is right or wrong, not the police investigation. She doesn’t simply do as she’s told. If she doesn’t agree with him, she doesn’t pretend she does – although she might keep her cards close to her chest. Neither does she ignore her own instincts.

The old Mitchell house made for an interesting setting. The family have fallen on hard times and died off until only Miss Juliet remains and her nephew, Hebert Wynne. The house was once a grand mansion but there being so little money, they have had to shut up most of it, especially the grander rooms. Smaller collections of rooms have been turned into apartments: a set for Miss Juliet, one for Hebert, and another for the servants, elderly married couple Hugo and Mary. Knowing there were rooms off limit, added an extra layer of tension to the storytelling which I appreciated.

This is the first book I’ve read by the author, and having seen that she was a prolific writer (Goodreads says there are 277 distinct works by her), I will definitely be reading more of her stories in the future.

I have a feeling I am going to be collecting these American Mystery Classics the same way as I’m collecting the British Library Crime Classics – and I think that says everything about what I thought to this book.

Highly recommended to mystery fans and fans of Golden Age Crime stories.

Rating

Quick Review: Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs

Summary from Goodreads:

Utterly original, deeply moving and very funny, ETHEL & ERNEST is the story of Raymond Brigg’s parents from their first, chance encounter to their deaths, told in Brigg’s unique strip-cartoon format. Winner of the British Book Award for the Illustrated Book of the Year and acclaimed by the critics, ETHEL & ERNEST was a huge bestseller on first publication.

Review

I was unsure whether or not I wanted to read this book when I came across it in a bag of books I’d been given. The author is most well-known for his wordless story, The Snowman, which I enjoyed as a child but am ambivalent towards as an adult, if I’m being honest. However, I am very glad that I gave it a go!

This was such a sweet, moving read, and I found it unexpectedly enjoyable and unputdownable! I say that because I don’t often read graphic novels or comic strips, but I found the images really carried the story of Brigg’s parents so well.

Charmingly British, it covers the period of 1928 – 1971, and some of the major events they lived through, as well as some of the ordinary things most of our grandparents or great-grandparents experienced such as the sudden progression of technology in the home as well as the aspirations for their children.

It’s so beautifully executed and a poignant way of an artist honouring the memory of his parents. Definitely well worth a read!

Rating