Fireside Gothic by Andrew Taylor (Review)

Fireside Gothic by Andrew Taylor

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About the author

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Andrew Taylor was born in 1951 and is a British author best known for his crime novels. He has won the Diamond Dagger which is Britain’s top crime-writing award.

Blurb

BROKEN VOICES

It’s Christmas before the Great War and two lonely schoolboys have been forced into companionship. Left in the care of an elderly teacher, there is little to do but listen to his eerie tales about the nearby Cathedral. The boys concoct a plan to discover if the stories are true. But the Cathedral is filled with hidden dangers, and curiosity can prove fatal.

THE LEPER HOUSE

One stormy night in Suffolk, a man’s car breaks down following his sister’s funeral. The only source of light comes from a remote cottage by the sea. The mysterious woman who lives there begs him to leave, yet he can’t shake the sense that she somehow needs him. He attempts to return the next day but she is nowhere to be seen. And neither is the cottage.

THE SCRATCH

Clare and Gerald live a perfect life in the Forest of Dean with their cat, Cannop. Then Gerald’s young nephew comes to stay. Jack is from another world – active service in Afghanistan. The experience has left him outwardly untouched, but for a scratch that won’t heal. Jack and Cannop don’t like each other. Clare and Jack like each other too much. The scratch begins to fester.

Review

This book is not on my summer reading challenge and to be honest I read it by accident. I did not want to take my Kindle to the beach so I borrowed one of the books my husband had brought on holiday with him. My husband has read a lot of Andrew Taylor’s books but this one is a first for me and will not be the last.

This book has three stories is in it, so I will review them separately.

Broken Voices

Out of the three, this is my favourite story and feels the most Gothic to me. The story is based around two schoolboys who cannot go home for Christmas so must spend the season with an elderly teacher. They hear an old legend about the Cathedral and so decide to see for themselves whether it is true and they attempt this in the middle of night, adding to the mystery and drama. I must admit the two boys are braver than I, as I could never go in to a Cathedral in the middle of the night, too many ghosts for my liking.

Taylor sets the scene perfectly, it is just like a gothic novel from the Victorian period. He describes how the building looks different in the night, how the shadows flicker in the candlelight and how they might not be alone. At the end of the tale I was not entirely sure if it was all real it felt like a dream that one of the boys had when they were young. The story left me pondering somewhat.

The Leper House

This story was my least favourite and to be honest rather forgettable, I had to remind myself what happened in it before writing the review. I enjoyed the story but wouldn’t read it again as it did not really have anything special about it.

The story is about a man who meets a mysterious woman in a cottage which has no power and no comforts. This woman is a complete mystery to the man and he has to see her again, even when she tries to push him away. However, the next day he goes to find the cottage again and nothing is there, just some ruins.

This story was rather a confusing read and just felt more complicated than it needed to be. The characters were also rather unremarkable and nothing really stood out for me. The one thing I was really happy with at the end was that in my opinion he made the right choice.

The Scratch

This was a creepy read, especially for a cat owner and one of those cats is black. I was not entirely sure what to make of this story but really enjoyed reading it. There were a lot of What Ifs in the story and it left me pondering again.

I also enjoyed how Taylor included one of the main characters as a PTSD sufferer who has come back from being in the army and is struggling with getting back into the world again. I must admit I have not read many books tackling this issue and it was good to see Taylor including it in this story.

I did not really like Clare, I’m not sure why but she just got on my nerves. Gerald is obviously a hard working man who has always worked hard for his family and is a caring man who is happy to try and help his nephew where he can.

The story was really good and kept me hooked and I liked the ending and especially Cannop the cat, although I felt sorry for him for his name. I would have liked a bit more Gothic though.

Overall, I enjoyed the three stories and it has lit the spark for me wanting to read more of Taylor’s books. The only reason the book did not get the full 5 Dragons and only got 4 was because I wanted more Gothic from the last two stories. A very good beach read.

Purchase Links

Waterstones

Book Depository

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (Review)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

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About the author

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Capote was born in New Orleans in 1924 and was raised in various parts of the South. He left school at the age of fifteen and worked at the New Yorker which provided his first and last regular job. Capote wrote many novels in his lifetime and died in August in 1984.

Blurb

It’s New York in the 1940’s where the martinis flow from cocktail hour till breakfast at Tiffany’s. And nice girls don’t, except of course, Holly Golightly. Pursued by Mafia gangsters and playboy millionaires, Holly is a fragile eyeful of tawny hair and turned-up nose, a heart-breaker, a perplexed, a traveller, a tease. She is irrepressibly ‘top banana in the shock department’, and one of the shining flowers of American fiction.

Review

This is a book that I have been meaning to read for a very long time but have never got around to it. I only wanted a thin book to read and when I went mooching through my many book piles I found it. I did not realise that this book also has three extra short stories, so that was an added bonus.

I enjoyed the book but I also found it rather annoying at times and frustrating. Holly is making the best of things and trying to improve her life till she gets her dream life and she really does not care who she steps on to get there, that also includes her friends.

Holly has many men falling over themselves to be with her and she uses them to her own ends. Her neighbour, who is also the narrator, she names Fred although that is not his real name but we never find out his real name. Fred is rather strange in my opinion and at times a little creepy. He is obsessed with Holly, to the extent he goes through her rubbish to see what type of person she is, that in my opinion is stalker behaviour.

I found Holly to be really selfish and uncaring and I really did not like how she treated people, she didn’t even bother to learn Fred’s real name and tended to treat him like dirt. However, at times she did suddenly show a caring and considerate side that showed you she wasn’t all bad.

I have not seen the film but really want to, especially after reading the book, I imagine the movie to be very glamorous possibly more than the book. Audrey Hepburn makes anything look glamorous and the character Holly does nothing but smoke and drink which will be interesting to see on screen.

I enjoyed the story but it did annoy me at times and for that reason I only gave it 3 out of 5 Dragons. I recommend it to everyone as a must read as Capote is an excellent author.

The three extra short stories were lovely little stories, especially the last one which brought a tear to my eye.

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Purchase from:-

The Book Depository

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Charity Begins at Home by Jeffrey Archer (Review)

Charity Begins at Home by Jeffrey Archer

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About the author

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Jeffrey Archer was born in England in 1940, he is a former politician and author. Archer was a member of parliament from 1969-1974 but did not seek re-election due to a financial scandal that almost bankrupt him. Facing bankruptcy Archer began to write and in so doing revived his fortunes. Archer’s political career has been filled with scandal and in 2001 he was sent to jail for perjury and perverting the course of justice, in 2003 he was released. All his life experiences influence his writing and make for interesting reading.

Blurb

By all estimates Henry Preston lives an uneventful existence – an accountant with no prospect of making partner and single with a sedate home life. That is until he meets Angela Forster, a fundraiser who specializes in charity events. As he begins overseeing Angela’s accounts, Henry spots an opportunity to live a life he previously thought impossible. With everything at stake, does Henry have the nerve to gamble with their futures for the chance of a better life . . .

Review

Another little short story that I read last week during a gap I had between teaching piano. People who read my blog will know by now that I am a massive fan of Jeffrey Archer’s short stories.

This short story was a nice little read but not spectacular, it just filled some time and kept me amused for twenty minutes, but I could have easily not bothered with the story as well. Basically it did not have me riveted to the story.

I really liked the character of Henry and felt rather sorry for him, he has always been Mr Average and does not expect anything spectacular with his life. However, he may have finally found an opportunity to correct his life from average to good. The problem is can he get away with it?

The character of Angela Forster is of a hard working woman who has not had the best of lives so far, her husband leaving her and she having to start her own business to make ends meet. Otherwise she comes across as a hard working average woman with a good business. Not Archer’s usual striking women who turn all men’s heads.

I’m not sure I entirely agree with this story line as it does seem to push the line of crime pays and if you want a better life crime is the way forward.  Overall I could take it or leave it as a story and so have only given the story 3 out of 5 Dragons. A good little read to fill a spare twenty minutes.

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Under the Garden by Graham Greene (Review)

Under the Garden by Graham Greene

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About the author

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Graham Greene (1904-1991) wrote over twenty novels, including the masterpieces The Power and the Glory and The Heart of the Matter, as well as three volumes of autobiography, four travel books and essays, short stories, plays and numerous book and film reviews.

Blurb

Strange characters and mysterious threats will keep readers enraptured in this tale of a man who revisits his childhood home and recalls a youthful adventure “under the garden”.

Review

This short story first appeared in A Sense of Reality, I have read it as a Penguin 60 but it is available in the Graham Greene Twenty-One Stories.

So this is my first read of the Penguin 60’s that I bought whilst on holiday, at 87 pages long it did not take me long to read.

The story is based on Wilditch, a man who has health problems, returning to his childhood home and reliving an adventure he had in the garden as a child. The question is did it really happen or is it a young boy’s imagination running wild?

Wilditch is clearly a man of the world, he has been in WWII and has traveled almost everywhere but now he is back in England at his childhood home trying to decide what to do next with his health. Wilditch is clearly very different from his brother and was obviously different to his mother who sounds like a real awkward character who hates mistakes, fantasy and rejoices in cold hard facts, not an ideal mother when you are a child with a wild imagination. It is no wonder that Wilditch spent all his time as a child in the garden and when he was old enough left home as soon as he could.

Wilditch’s memory of his childhood adventure is amazingly vivd and made me wonder how a child could make up such an adventure and all the details of the conversations he had. The story left me wanting to know more and desperately wanting Wilditch to go back to the garden and check the story and although he does it still doesn’t answer all my questions.

I enjoyed the story but just felt dissatisfied at the end and wanting more which is the reason I only gave the story 3 out of 5 Dragons. A good little read and I think I will get the complete short stories and have a read of those as well.

To Purchase the Twenty-One Stories

Waterstones

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The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy by Tim Burton (Review)

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories by Tim Burton

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About the author

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Tim Burton was born in August 1958 and is an American filmmaker, artist, writer and animator. He is famous for his dark, gothic and eccentric horror and fantasy films. He often works with Johnny Depp and Danny Elfman.

Blurb

Twenty-three illustrated gothic tales from the dark corridors of the imagination of Tim Burton. Burton – the creative genius behind Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and Nightmare Before Christmas, among others – now gives birth to a cast of gruesomely sympathetic children: misunderstood outcasts who struggle to find love and belonging in their cruel, cruel worlds. His lovingly lurid illustrations evoke both the sweetness and tragedy of these hopeful, yet hapless beings.

Review

When I saw this book in the bookshop a few days ago I grabbed it and immediately had to buy it. I love all the work of Tim Burton but I did not know he had done a book. I was so happy to find this book and very excited to read it. Yesterday I finally had time to sit down with a mug of tea and read it.

This book is a collection of short tales illustrated by Tim Burton himself, what is not to like? All the tales feel like children’s stories with the short little paragraphs and illustrations, however this is far too gothic and gruesome in places for children so Young Adults and upwards is a must.

The book is depressing, gruesome, gothic but most of all hilarious but naughty hilarious because you feel like you should not be laughing at these tales. I found The Melancholy Death of the Oyster Boy to be very depressing, I felt very sad about the fate of the Oyster Boy and I was rather shocked about how he died.

Another element that surprised me was how many tales contained parents who hate their children. It made me wonder what Burton feels about his own children to be honest. I am not complaining though as it made for good reading.

Nearly all the tales are my favourites but a few are my absolute favourites. Stain Boy is one because this reminds me of some of my nephews who no matter what get dirt everywhere and clean clothes do not stay clean for long. Sue was another favourite, the idea of someone walking around with a tissue attached to their face made me giggle.

I loved everything about this book, the illustrations, the stories everything is just brilliant. The book took less than half an hour to read, I found I wanted it to last longer. I definitely plan on re-reading this on halloween. This book has a massive 5 out 5 Dragons.

Purchase this book from Waterstones

 

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