Tag Archives: Book

Jemm Frances Reads… The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.

 This isn’t a new book but one I’ve recently re-read after previously reading it about 12 times! I’ve read this particular book so many times in fact, that with this latest reading I’ve had to perform some emergency book surgery and sellotape loose pages back into place. It’s probably time to buy a new one but I’m a bit sentimental like that.

Kate Morton has to be one of my favourite storytellers with her often haunting, beautifully written tales; so I was surprised to find that I’ve only ever reviewed one of her books (The Secret Keeper, read it here) on the blog before.

Therefore it’s long overdue that I pop up a review of another of her brilliant novels. To date, Kate has four books to her name and having read them all it’s so hard to pick a favourite. I usually pick whichever one I’ve most recently read, so The Forgotten Garden it is.

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 In 1913, at a London dock, on board a ship about to set sail to Australia, The Authoress explains the rules of the game. She tells the little girl to be patient, to wait and that together they will search out a new life together.

On the other side of the ocean, the same child is found with amnesia and a small white suitcase. The Authoress has disappeared, nowhere to be found.

In 1975, Nell Andrews is an old lady. She is on a journey of self-discovery after learning a family secret at the age of twenty-one. Her search for truth takes her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast of England, home of the Mountrachet family; where, once upon a time, there lived a celebrated painter and a writer of fairytales.

In Australia, on the event of Nell’s death in 2005, her granddaughter Cassandra not only inherits her grandmother’s unsolved mystery, but also Cliff Cottage in the grounds of a grand estate half the world away. On a quest for answers Cassandra heads to Cornwall and the cottage on the cliff, infamous among locals for its dark secrets. There she discovers a forgotten garden but will it give up all Blackhurst’s secrets?

Will the riddle of the lost little girl and her grandmother Nell finally be solved?

And exactly what was the fate of The Authoress?

 Wonderfully descriptive and atmospheric this dual time narrative spans three generations with its rich, beautifully written, multi layered plot. In true Kate Morton fashion it is masterfully woven with more magic, twists and truths than a fairytale, Elisa Makepeace (read the book) would be proud!

Kate’s books never fail to captivate and keep you there right to the very last page.

Even after reading it so many times I’m sure I will be visiting The Forgotten Garden again.

Bookworm Business: What are you reading right now? Are you a fan of Kate Morton’s books? Do you think you’ll be giving The Forgotten Garden a try?

Jemm xoxo

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Jemm Frances Reads… The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley

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With a booklovers excitement I had been anticipating reading the latest offering from Lucinda Riley for quite a while. Having read and (thoroughly) enjoyed all of her previous novels (especially The Light Behind The Window) I couldn’t wait to delve into Riley’s latest family drama.

Readers familiar with my Jemm Frances Reads posts know that I’m a huge fan of historical stories, those which hark back to era’s past, but The Midnight Rose, spanning decades, generations and continents can only be described as an extraordinary saga.

India, 2000: In Darjeeling, Anahita Chavan’s family gathers to celebrate her 100th birthday. Anahita has lived a remarkable life and she knows that time is running out to tell her story. She hands over her self penned memoirs to great-grandson Ari Malik, entrusting that he will, in his own time, follow the quest to discover the truth behind hidden family secrets and solve the mysteries of a forgotten era. 

India 1911: At the height of the British Raj eleven year old Anahita Chavan derives from noble but impoverished parents so when she meets and befriends Indira, a royal princess, she gets to live a life she’s only dreamed of. Becoming the official companion of Princess Indira Anahita lives inside the colourful palace of Cooch Behar and travels with the royal family across the sea to England where she attends a prestigious boarding school alongside the Princess. It is here, on the cusp of the Great War, that their bond is tested to its very limits and where Anahita meets her destiny; a young Donald Astbury, heir to Astbury Hall, and her undoing; his devious mother. 

England, present day: Decades later, American movie star Rebecca Bradley is brought to Dartmoor after being cast as a 1920s debutante in a film set at Astbury Hall. In a bid to offer her solace from the media spotlight the current Lord of the manor gives Miss Bradley hospitality in the house, but despite its beauty Rebecca soon finds that the Hall and its master hide a darkness even she couldn’t imagine. It is only with the arrival of Ari Malik, brought to Astbury by his great-grandmothers memoirs, that the halls haunting secrets start to unravel and Anahita Chavan’s connection to the estate and its past is finally brought out into the light. 

The Midnight Rose is both beautifully written and brilliantly atmospheric, seamlessly moving you between decades and continents. The dual time narrative spans over 688 pages making it a truly colossal novel, which is really a good thing as when you’re reading it you don’t want it to end.

As ever Lucinda Riley is wonderfully descriptive as she perfectly conjures up life in Indian palaces, aristocratic English boarding schools and stately homes and the bustling London hospitals at the time of WW1. Her skill for creating characters that her readers can empathise with and feel close to is second to none, from first meeting Anahita at age eleven to when she passes aged 100 you are routing for her to find the peace she deserves.

The Midnight Rose is a captivating read from the first page to its last, it certainly doesn’t disappoint, and I’ve come to expect nothing less from Lucinda Riley, a true storyteller if ever there was one.

Bookworm Business: Are you a fan of Lucinda Riley and her previous work? Already read The Midnight Rose? Let me know your thoughts!

Jemm xoxo

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Jemm Frances Reads… The Gift by Cecelia Ahern

With Christmas just a matter of days away its about time I delivered a festive themed Jemm Frances Reads review.

At this time of year I always return to Charles Dickens’ Christmas Books to get me in the spirit of the season, A Christmas Carol has to be one of my favourite ever stories and reading my (almost) 120 year old copy of the book by the light of the Christmas tree has to be one of my favourite reading experiences. However, we all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, but do you know the story of Lou Suffern?

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Meet Lou Suffern, a successful businessman. Working in the city, driving a flash car and living in an affluent area of Dublin with his wife and two young children. Christmas is coming. What has Lou got to complain about, apart from the fact that there’s just never enough time?

24 hours in a day and still not enough time to impress the boss, make the deals, secure that promotion, socialise with colleagues and then go home and be a family man. Christmas is coming and Lou Suffern wishes he could be in two places at once.

Meet Gabe, the homeless man who sits below notice outside Lou’s office watching people’s shoes as they pass by. Thanks to an uncharacteristic act of kindness from Lou, Gabe gets a hot cup of coffee and a job in the mailroom. Christmas is coming and Gabe will return Lou’s favour by giving him a gift.

Surprised and irritated by Gabe’s intelligence and efficiency in the office Lou begins to regret his act of kindness, especially when it seems there’s something not quite right about Gabe, like the how he can appear to be in two places at the same time. So when Gabe offers Lou some pills to take is he trying to wreck Lou’s career and take his place? Or are they the gift that will finally make Lou appreciate the importance of time before it’s too late? 

Christmas is coming, and it’s about time.

I’ve read a handful of Cecelia Ahern’s books and have to admit to enjoying some more than others. The Gift is thankfully one of the stories that I feel well worth the read. The festive theme woven through this story makes it a perfect ‘curl up by the Christmas tree’ book and it makes a change from the usual xmas favourites. It would be easy to roll your eyes and cast this books off as just another adaptation of other seasonal stories such as ‘A Christmas Carol’ or ‘ It’s a Wonderful Life’ but really it’s quite different. To cast this offering aside would be to miss out. The Gift is a thoroughly modern tale and the only similarity to classic Christmas stories is the presence of a moral lesson to be learnt. 

Although at first it’s hard to like the leading character Lou Suffern by the end of the tale you find that you’re rooting for him.

I really liked the structure of this book, as it’s actually a story within a story. To begin with you meet a young boy who throws a frozen turkey through his fathers window on Christmas day. Sergeant Raphie takes the boy to the station and tries to make him see sense while waiting for his mother to arrive by telling him the story of Lou Suffern.

The Gift is a lovely easy read for over the festive period, filled with all the things you’d expect from a Christmas story. A sentimental page turner that once I’d started reading I couldn’t stop until I’d finished. 

Bookworm Business: Have you read The Gift? What’s your favourite Cecelia Ahern novel? What books do you like to read at Christmas?

Jemm xoxo

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Jemm Frances Reads…Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

I’ve been meaning to get this review up for a few weeks but one thing then another kept getting in the way. Here it is.

If you loved Setterfield’s first novel The Thirteenth Tale then her second, Bellman and Black, will have been one of the most anticipated book releases of the past few years. Seven years to be exact, and the wait is finally over.

If you enter into reading this second novel expecting to find another Thirteenth Tale then you will be sorely disappointed simply for the fact that they are so different in story and style. Where The Thirteenth Tale was a twisting literary mystery, Bellman & Black is marketed as a Victorian ghost story.

It is a definitely a dark Victorian fable, but whether I’d personally describe it as a ghost story I’m not sure. The protagonist is certainly a haunted man, but more so by his own actions and the choices he makes rather than by any spectral beings. 

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Ten-year-old William Bellman fires his catapult at a rook all in the name of boyish fun; he is surprised when the stone finds its target, killing the bird. This unintentional act of cruelty, while gaining him the respect of his friends leaves William feeling uneasy. He returns home as the rooks gather to mourn their loss and forgets all about it. But rooks don’t forget. 

Despite his childhood indiscretion William goes on to live a seemingly fortunate life. A kind and likeable young man, he is blessed with good looks, intelligence and a cast iron work ethic which sees him transform the family business, his uncle’s textiles mill, into a thriving enterprise. One lucky turn follows another promotion, marriage and the birth of several healthy children. Is there anyone more blessed than William Bellman?

Even so, all actions have consequences and soon Bellman’s life takes an unlucky turn. One by one all those Bellman love begin to die and William is stalked and haunted by a mysterious man in black who is always silently present at their funerals. After the death of his wife and three of his children William goes to the graveyard to beg for the life of his eldest daughter. It is here that he encounters the man beside an open grave and Black makes him a bargain he can’t refuse. Amidst all that death a partnership is born…

Bellman and Black’s Mourning Emporium is Regent Streets most successful business but what did you expect with William at the helm? 

What will become of William Bellman? And exactly who is Mr Black?

I found this story little slow starting and confusing at first but not one to abandon a book I persisted with it. Once I reconciled myself to the difference in writing style compared to The Thirteenth Tale I found it easier to get along with and the story began to flow. While not exactly a ghost story as far as I’m concerned Bellman & Black is certainly an atmospheric tale with themes befitting of its Victorian nature; Business, hardship, loss, grief and a decent into insanity (ok, this one probably isn’t for you if you’re looking for a rainbows & unicorns kinda book) and where else would you find a Mourning Emporium if not in a Victorian novel?

As always Diane Setterfield’s research into the subject matter is meticulous. Her descriptions of the era, of the mill, of business transactions and of rooks are detailed and vivid. Perhaps too much so. At times I felt there was more description than there was story and on occasion the lengthy detail became tedious. I also wished that the wider cast of characters had been explored more. We are almost exclusively with William throughout the whole book and while the scene is conjured up brilliantly the people are left screaming for attention.

Despite these little niggles I cannot deny that this book is beautifully written and hits the mark of macabre and gothic perfectly. Overall, though slow in parts, I enjoyed reading Bellman & Black and the mysteries of the story kept me guessing till the end. 

I think my initial disappointment stems from the fact that I expected something similar to Diane’s first works. If you have yet to read this book I’d advise you expect nothing of the sort and approach it with an open mind. 

Bookworm Business: Have you read Bellman & Black yet? Thoughts? Have you read The Thirteenth Tale?

Click to read my review of Diane Setterfield’s first novel The Thirteenth Tale.

Jemm xoxo

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Instagram Diary…

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1. First attempt at Red Velvet Cupcakes…

2. They turned out pretty good! With a few subtle changes they will be even better next time.

3. Thanks to everyone that recommended Seche Vite top coat over on Twitter. The one that I had been using previously was rubbish!

4. Cheeky selfie on a Ruby Woo day.

5. This week on the blog I reviewed M L Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans. If you’re looking for a new book to read now the nights are drawing in read all about it here

6. Home baked scones fresh for a friends visit.

7. Glittered snowflakes over Big Ben. London inside a snowglobe.

8. Decided to give this Rimmel brow pencil a go in Dark Brown. Such a bargain compared to the Eylure one I usually use.

9. Hi pretty autumnal nails. Its been too long. So pleased I can finally paint my nails again. 

Find/Follow me on Instagram: JemmFrances.

Jemm xoxo 

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Jemm Frances Reads… The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman

 I was asked to give my opinion on this book by a friend who was considering reading it. I told her to purchase it without hesitation, as I knew, having read it myself, that it would be thoroughly enjoyed. Hence the review post.

The Light Between Oceans is M L Stedman’s debut novel but you would never guess so.  The story is so beautifully crafted that you would expect Stedman to have a string of novels to her name. I will certainly be keeping my readers eye out for future books from this Australian author. 

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Having survived the trenches of WW1 Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia physically well but mentally scarred by the horrors of his experience. 

Securing a job as a lighthouse keeper on the remote Janus Rock, Tom immerses himself in the occupations isolation.

Whilst on a trip to Point Partageuse, the nearest community back on the mainland, Tom meets and falls in love with local girl Isabel Graysmark. They marry and return together to Janus Rock where they long to start a family but tragically suffer a series of miscarriages.

So when a boat washes up on the rocks containing the body of a man, and a screaming baby girl, the Sherbourne’s make a decision that will ultimately break their hearts.

Choosing to bury the body and take the child as their own will be a decision that causes unimaginable guilt and haunting consequences, not only for their family, but also for an entire community.

Stedman richly describes her characters and settings and covers a range of emotions from the view points of different individuals, while managing to attach the same levels of importance to each. Isabel’s loss and sense of doing what’s best, Tom’s sense of duty and guilt. The shock and hurt of family and friends after discovering the Sherbourne’s secret, the biological mothers sense of grief and longing for justice and a young child’s sense of confusion and loyalty. Love, sacrifice, truth and morality are all given room to play out in the book.

The story is convincingly told and illustrates how easily the lines between right and wrong can sometimes become blurred. 

Tom and Isabel’s actions speak of their loss and desperation and while half of you sympathises with their predicament the other longs for them to be discovered and the child returned to her rightful parents. The Sherbourne’s truly believe they are acting in the girls best interest and raise her in love, so does this make their actions right or wrong? And although they acted out of kindness does this make their decision acceptable? 

This is a tale that makes you question your own sense of morality and how you would act in a similar circumstance. 

Through the writing the characters come alive in your mind to such an extent that you pray for a solution that will please everyone although deep down you know this just isn’t possible.

This book is a lovely, heartfelt read. While both moving and enjoyable it will also chill to the bone as it brings home the realisation that one decision can have a lifetimes worth of consequences. 

Bookworm Business: Have you read The Light Between Oceans? Think you might give it a go? Comment, Tweet or Facebook your thoughts.

Jemm xoxo

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Instagram Diary…

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1. Les Mis tickets arrived, now too excited for next March. #London

2. Lemon Cake. The jury’s out. Bit too lemony for my liking.

3. Topshop tassels.

4. Might be a bit early but where advent calendars are concerned you snooze you loose. Now giddy for Christmas festivities. 

5. Old school sweets. I didn’t eat them. Those violet things are poison I tell ya, POISON.

6. I can see a rainbow, see a rainbow, see a rainbow too…

7. Can’t beat a chocolate muffin.

8. Wrapping up warm in this horrid weather. Definitely jumper and coat weather.

9. Costa love.

10. Waited so long for this. New Diane Setterfield Bellman & Black. Will more than likely see this up asa Jemm Frances Reads post in the near future. 

Find/follow me on Instagram @JemmFrances 

Jemm xoxo

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