Review: I Let You Go by Clare MacKintosh

I let you go

I Let You Go by  Clare Mackintosh

On a rainy afternoon, a mother’s life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street . . .

I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.

At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them. Elizabeth Haynes, author of Into the Darkest Corner, says, “I read I Let You Go in two sittings; it made me cry (at least twice), made me gasp out loud (once), and above all made me wish I’d written it . . . a stellar achievement.”

My thoughts:

This story has so many twist and turns in the plot it’s hard to know where to begin. However, I think I will start with the character development. I have to say that I found Jenna Gray’s character to be better written in the story than the two Bristol Police Investigators.  The personal intersection between the two fell flat. I felt absolutely no chemistry between them and I felt it did not add to the story. I was disappointed in that.

Also, Ray one of the investigators, has a troubled son and I was wondering where the author was going with that in the story. It could have been a good back ground story if it played in the main plot some but it didn’t. So I felt that could have been left out.

Jenna Gray is a complex character that a reader can sympathize with. She has faced many hardships-to put it lightly and as you read through the story, it unfolds what those hardships are. Truly suspenseful and gripping.

Though in the beginning I wasn’t sure about the pacing and I wanted things to become clearer a little sooner than later. I know there is some build up to the suspense but I felt it could have happened a little sooner than later.

As for a psychological thriller, this makes a truly good one and for that I am wanting to read more stories by the author.

I have rated this book three stars.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie H. Hopkins

Side note: I had the pleasure of buddy reading this book with a fellow book blogger and we had great fun with it. It was also refreshing to see that we were eye to eye about a lot of aspects of the story.

Characters in Motion with Wendy J. Dunn

Often times the best inspiration comes within us. How do you flesh out your characters to drive the plot?

How do I flesh out my characters to drive my plots?  I could answer this very simply, by saying inspiration, of course, is the key to all my writing, but to answer this truthfully, I must talk about the real key unlocking this inspiration, a story beginning on the day of my tenth birthday. That day, a school friend gave me a child’s book of English history and changed my life forever. At ten, I desperately needed a hero, a guiding light to help me navigate through those difficult growing up years. Because of a chapter in this book, Elizabeth I became my first hero; my search to know more about her introduced me to my second hero, her mother, Anne Boleyn. They both gave me examples of strong and determined women – women who claimed their voices and true identities in a time when women were told to be silent and remember their inferiority.

Dear Heart How Like You This

As a child and teenager, I was also told to be silent and that my worth did not equal that of the males in my world. I was told it was a waste of time to educate girls. Learning about Anne and Elizabeth taught me otherwise. Their stories were the beginning of my understanding that I was not the one at fault, but my world – a world where I learned not only to navigate my ‘woman’s life’ but also one mapped out by patriarchy.

My interest in Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn soon grew to embrace the whole Tudor period, and grew into a passion turning me into a writer. I not only hold Elizabeth and Anne responsible for my two Anne Boleyn novels (Dear Heart, How Like You This? and The Light in the Labyrinth), Falling Pomegranate Seeds: Duty of Daughters, the first book my Katherine of Aragon trilogy, a novel I hope to see published this year, but also my doctorate.

While my novels are shaped through vast research, I am first and foremost a writer of fiction. My stories are initially ignited by research and then imagined, or dreamed, onto the page. This ‘dreaming’ draws from the compost of my own life experience, which makes me empathise with my characters, especially that of my female characters; this empathy helps me flesh them out. My human experience, faced as a woman, is one common to all humanity: I have experienced rejection, sorrow, love. I have also known what is to hate, but if there is one thing my life has taught me, it is hate gets us nowhere. Writing has been a wonderful tool to help me let go of hate. I don’t even hate Henry VIII. One of the reasons I revisited Anne Boleyn’s story in The Light in the Labyrinth was because I wanted to be more fair to him. I don’t like him, but I don’t hate him; writing Kate Carey’s story helped me to pity him.

I once heard the very lovely and talented Australian author Sophie Masson say, ‘A writer is a lifelong learner’. How true that is; writers learn from observing and thinking about their world. When we write, our thinking goes to another, far, far deeper level. This deep place is where magic happens, through the writer’s engagement with imagination – a magic that builds a bridge between the writer and the reader. But it is more than this. Every time I embark on a new, novel writing adventure, I rediscover the truth of Kundera’s claim that creating a novel ignites a catalyst for change (2006).

The Light in the Labyrinth

For me, this catalyst of change not only happens through the practice of writing, but also through engagement with stories of women from long ago. It is by telling these stories, I realize, yet again, what being a feminist is all about – and how all my writing comes from my standpoint as a woman. Reclaiming the voices of women of the past illuminates for me that the battle for gender equality is one not won – and that women (and men) must keep fighting to achieve it. Women of the first world must fight not only for ourselves, but also for our sisters who live in oppressive cultures where women and female babies are killed because they are regarded as worthless and replaceable. This fight is not one to be won through violence – but through the education of both girls and boys. It is my hope that by giving voice to Tudor women through the construction of fiction, young adult women will engage with my stories and reflect about the possibilities for their own lives.

It goes without saying, despite the passing of hundreds of years since the last Tudor monarch drew her final breath, patriarchy still rules our world. I feel deeply about my historical women. It breaks my heart to think of how Anne and Katherine of Aragon ended their lives – simply because the man they loved had the power to destroy them. It breaks my heart that this still happens in 2016. Last year, in Australia, two women a week were murdered by someone who once professed to love them. The majority of the murderers were men. It is one of the greatest tragedies of our time that there are men who see their female partners and children as possessions – possessions they have the right to destroy.

I flesh out my characters through passion. I’m passionate about giving my historical women voices – not only because they were too often silenced and refused justice during their lives, but because giving them voices also gives me a voice.

I live in hope if enough women speak up about their lives then we might yet discover the truth of Muriel Rukeyser’s words: ‘What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open’ (Cited by Gandolfo  2008, p 142).

 Smile, I hear again my imagined Anne Boleyn speaking in my mind, telling me she would like the final word:

Defiled is my name full sore

Through cruel spite and false report,

That I may say for evermore,

Farewell, my joy! Adieu comfort!

For wrongfully ye judge of me

Unto my fame a mortal wound,

Say what ye list, it will not be,

Ye seek for that can not be found.”

REFERENCES:

Gandolfo, E  2008, ‘Feminist Fictionmaking’, New Writing, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 140-149.

Kundera, M  2003, The Art of the Novel, Reprint Edition, Harper, Perennial Modern Classics, New York.

Wendy Dunn

Wendy J. Dunn is an Australian writer who has been obsessed by Anne Boleyn and Tudor History since she was ten-years-old. She is the author of two Tudor novels: Dear HeartHow Like You This?, the winner of the 2003 Glyph Fiction Award and 2004 runner up in the Eric Hoffer Award for Commercial Fiction, and The Light in the Labyrinth, her first young adult novel. Her third Tudor novel, Falling Pomegranate Seeds, will be published with Madeglobal sometime in 2016.

While she continues to have a very close and spooky relationship with Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder (Tom told the story of Anne Boleyn in Dear HeartHow Like You This?), serendipity of life now leaves her no longer wondering if she has been channeling Anne Boleyn and Sir Tom for years in her writing, but considering the possibility of ancestral memory. Her own family tree reveals the intriguing fact that her ancestors – possibly over three generations – had purchased land from both the Boleyn and Wyatt families to build up their own holdings. It seems very likely Wendy’s ancestors knew the Wyatts and Boleyns personally.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Wendy is married and the mother of three sons and one daughter—named after a certain Tudor queen, surprisingly, not Anne.

After successfully completing her MA (Writing) at Swinburne University Wendy became a tutor for the same course. She gained her PhD (Human Society) in 2014.

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*All reviews, interviews, guest posts and promotions are original works of the people involved. In order to use any part of the material from this site, please ask for permission from Stephanie M. Hopkins-Layered Pages. *

Review: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

Back in 2014 I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynn Cullen and reviewing her book Mrs. Poe for a book tour. I thought I would re-visit my review and wonderful interview with her and share with you all. I hope you enjoy reading about our chat and please be sure to read Mrs. Poe if you haven’t. I highly recommend it!

Mrs. Poe

A vivid and compelling novel about a woman who becomes entangled in an affair with Edgar Allan Poe—at the same time she becomes the unwilling confidante of his much-younger wife.

It is 1845, and Frances Osgood is desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York; not an easy task for a woman—especially one with two children and a philandering portrait painter as her husband. As Frances tries to sell her work, she finds that editors are only interested in writing similar to that of the new renegade literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem, “The Raven” has struck a public nerve.

She meets the handsome and mysterious Poe at a literary party, and the two have an immediate connection. Poe wants Frances to meet with his wife since she claims to be an admirer of her poems, and Frances is curious to see the woman whom Edgar married.

As Frances spends more and more time with the intriguing couple, her intense attraction for Edgar brings her into dangerous territory. And Mrs. Poe, who acts like an innocent child, is actually more manipulative and threatening than she appears. As Frances and Edgar’s passionate affair escalates, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it’s too late…

Set amidst the fascinating world of New York’s literati, this smart and sexy novel offers a unique view into the life of one of history’s most unforgettable literary figures.

Book description from goodreads.

My thoughts: 

I have always wondered about Poe’s personal life and what drove him to write such stories. I didn’t know anything about his wife or his literary circles. I too had so many misconceptions about him before reading this novel. When I first discovered this book, I was completely intrigued with the book cover first off and when I discovered the premise of the story, I knew I HAD to read this book as soon as I could.

I have discovered Frances Osgood through this intriguing story and I enjoyed the interaction between Poe and Osgood. I felt Cullen did a splendid job developing her character and has left me wanting to know more about her.

When Mrs. Poe was introduced in the story, I could literally sense a troubled soul coming through the pages! What a complex, dark, frightening- yet-pitiful person she is. Fascinating and thrilling in a bizarre sort-of way.

I loved all the characters in this book and most of all, the interaction between Poe’s and Frances’s literary circles and their followers. And I have to say that Cullen brilliantly set the tone of the nineteenth century and an era of Victorian lifestyle and mindsets. I really cannot say enough about this book. You just have to read the story for yourself and be swept up into Poe’s world.

Check out my interview with the author here

*All reviews, interviews, guest posts and promotions are originals. In order to use any part of the material from this site, please ask for permission from Stephanie M. Hopkins-Layered Pages. *

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Cover Crush: In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

Cover Crush banner

I have said this before and I will say again. I am not a cover designer but I do have an artist’s eye and can agree that cover design plays an important role in the overall presentation of the book and gladly admit I judge a book by its cover. Overall presentation is important to pull a reader in. When I read a story I want to be completely immersed. A grand cover helps that along. Imagery and all-if you will. Check out this book description below and then be sure to read what I have to say about the cover and the premise!

In the time of the butterflies

Book Description:

It is November 25, 1960, and three beautiful sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The official state newspaper reports their deaths as accidental. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It doesn’t have to. Everybody knows of Las Mariposas—“The Butterflies.”

In this extraordinary novel, the voices of all four sisters—Minerva, Patria, María Teresa, and the survivor, Dedé—speak across the decades to tell their own stories, from hair ribbons and secret crushes to gunrunning and prison torture, and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule. Through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez’s imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again in this novel of courage and love, and the human cost of political oppression.

My thoughts:

I have to admit; I’ve never cared for the authors name to be larger than the title on book covers. I’ve heard all the arguments on the other side of that opinion and it still does not change my thoughts on this. Having said that, In the Time of the Butterflies caught my attention immediately. I was the in the bookstore with my daughter and saw this book sitting beautifully displayed. I believe it was the use of colors and the glass jar. To me it sets the tone for a sultry summer read.  As I looked closer, I saw the butterflies. The one captured in the jar really drew me in and the title had me intrigued. I thought to myself, “How does the title of the book blend with the elements to the story? What is the story about?” As I read the blurb on the back of the book, my fascination grew. I am really looking forward to reading this story in the near future and I will be sure to share my thoughts with you!

My friend Holly’s cover crush at  2 Kids and Tired Books: Cover Crush..The Cake Therapist

Stephanie M. Hopkins

 

indieBRAG Event-Whale and Dolphin Conservation

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Learn about dolphins, read great books, and support 2 worthy organizations that work tirelessly to protect Dolphins around the world.

For more information, click here

Hello New Books!

I acquired these through NetGalley. I am looking forward to reading/reviewing these in the near future! -Stephanie M. Hopkins

Ghost Hampton

Ghost Hampton by Ken McGorry

Pub Date 26 Mar 2016

Lyle Hall, the most resented man in town, was also Bridgehampton’s most successful real estate lawyer. But his catastrophic car accident last year changed all that and forced his retirement. And it allowed him to see and hear things no one else could. That’s how Lyle met Jewel, the beautiful Victorian girl who appeared to him outside the long-ago brothel the Town of Southampton is about to tear down. The Victorian girl who’s been dead 100 years. And who told Lyle exactly when his own daughter, a local police detective, will die. She’s shown him Georgie’s headstone. Georgie has four days to live. Unless this is some kind of hoax. But the hordes of paranormal enthusiasts descending on Bridgehampton believe Lyle. And so does his new nemesis — a scheming TV reporter in high heels.

So close to home

So Close to Home by Michael J. Tougias, Alison O’Leary

Pub Date 02 May 2016 

A true story of men and women pitted against the sea during World War II—and an unforgettable portrait of the determination of the human spirit.

On May 19, 1942 a U-boat in the Gulf of Mexico stalked its prey fifty miles away from New Orleans. Captained by 29-year-old Iron Cross and King’s Cross recipient Erich Wurdemann, the submarine set its sights on the freighter Heredia with fifty-nine souls on board. Most of the crew were merchant seamen, but there were also a handful of civilians, including the Downs family, consisting of the parents, Ray Sr. and Ina, along with their two children, eight-year-old Ray Jr., nick-named “Sonny,” and eleven-year-old Lucille. Fast asleep in their berths, the Downs family had no notice that two torpedoes were heading their way. When the ship exploded, Ina and Lucille became separated from Ray Sr. and Sonny.

An inspiring historical narrative, So Close to Home tells the story of the Downs family as they struggle against sharks, hypothermia, drowning, and dehydration in their effort to survive the aftermath of this deadly attack off the American coast.

Michael Tougias is the author and co-author of twenty-three non-fiction books, including several true survival-at-sea adventures, such as Rescue of the Bounty, Fatal Forecast, Overboard!, A Storm Too Soon, and The Finest Hours (soon to be a major motion picture by Disney). Ten Hours Until Dawnwas selected as one of the American Library Association’s “Best Books of the Year.”

Alison O’Leary is a former reporter for the Boston Globe, a magazine editor, and a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country.

The Memory of us

The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio

Pub Date 31 May 2016

Julianne Westcott was living the kind of life that other Protestant girls in prewar Liverpool could only dream about: old money, silk ball gowns, and prominent young men lining up to escort her. But when she learns of a blind-and-deaf brother, institutionalized since birth, the illusion of her perfect life and family shatters around her.

While visiting her brother in secret, Julianne meets and befriends Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic groundskeeper studying to become a priest. Caught between her family’s expectations, Kyle’s devotion to the Church, and the intense new feelings that the forbidden courtship has awakened in her, Julianne must make a choice: uphold the life she’s always known or follow the difficult path toward love.

But as war ripples through the world and the Blitz decimates England, a tragic accident forces Julianne to leave everything behind and forge a new life built on lies she’s told to protect the ones she loves. Now, after twenty years of hiding from her past, the truth finds her—will she be brave enough to face it?

 

Wish-List Five: Sherlock Holmes

As an avid read and my love for searching for a good read, I have a list several miles long of books I want to get my hands on. A few of my fellow bloggers and I decided to share with our audience those books every month. This month for the five I have chosen on my wish-list are themed. I have always been a big Sherlock fan and I came across some books this week that I can’t believe I have not read! I love that writers have continued to publish stories about Sherlock. His relationships and the people he involves himself with to solve crimes is extraordinary! Let’s get started!

Dust and shadow

From the gritty streets of 19th century London, the loyal and courageous Dr. Watson offers a tale unearthed after generations of lore: the harrowing story of Sherlock Holmes’s attempt to hunt down Jack the Ripper.

As England’s greatest specialist in criminal detection, Sherlock Holmes is unwavering in his quest to capture the killer responsible for terrifying London’s East End. He hires an “unfortunate” known as Mary Ann Monk, the friend of a fellow streetwalker who was one of the Ripper’s earliest victims; and he relies heavily on the steadfast and devoted Dr. John H. Watson. When Holmes himself is wounded in Whitechapel during an attempt to catch the savage monster, the popular press launches an investigation of its own, questioning the great detective’s role in the very crimes he is so fervently struggling to prevent. Stripped of his credibility, Holmes is left with no choice but to break every rule in the desperate race to find the madman known as “the Knife” before it is too late.

A study in silks

 

In a Victorian era ruled by a council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch and sorcery the demon enemy of the Empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines — something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty’s secret laboratories. What’s a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she’s never found out?

But then there’s that murder. As Sherlock Holmes’s niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask.

 

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

In December 1893, Sherlock Holmes-adoring Londoners eagerly opened their Strand magazines, anticipating the detective’s next adventure, only to find the unthinkable: his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, had killed their hero off. London spiraled into mourning — crowds sported black armbands in grief — and railed against Conan Doyle as his assassin.

Then in 1901, just as abruptly as Conan Doyle had “murdered” Holmes in “The Final Problem,” he resurrected him. Though the writer kept detailed diaries of his days and work, Conan Doyle never explained this sudden change of heart. After his death, one of his journals from the interim period was discovered to be missing, and in the decades since, has never been found. Or has it?

When literary researcher Harold White is inducted into the preeminent Sherlock Holmes enthusiast society, The Baker Street Irregulars, he never imagines he’s about to be thrust onto the hunt for the holy grail of Holmes-ophiles: the missing diary. But when the world’s leading Doylean scholar is found murdered in his hotel room, it is Harold — using wisdom and methods gleaned from countless detective stories — who takes up the search, both for the diary and for the killer.

Secret Letters by Leah Scheier

Inquisitive and observant, Dora dreams of escaping her aristocratic country life to solve mysteries alongside Sherlock Holmes. So when she learns that the legendary detective might be her biological father, Dora jumps on the opportunity to travel to London and enlist his help in solving the mystery of her cousin’s ransomed love letters. But Dora arrives in London to devastating news: Sherlock Holmes is dead. Her dreams dashed, Dora is left to rely on her wits — and the assistance of an attractive yet enigmatic young detective — to save her cousin’s reputation and help rescue a kidnapped heiress along the way.

Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this gripping novel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice in young adult literature.

The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer

When Enola Holmes, sister to the detective Sherlock Holmes, discovers her mother has disappeared, she quickly embarks on a journey to London in search of her. But nothing can prepare her for what awaits. Because when she arrives, she finds herself involved in the kidnapping of a young marquess, fleeing murderous villains, and trying to elude her shrewd older brothers — all while attempting to piece together clues to her mother’s strange disappearance. Amid all the mayhem, will Enola be able to decode the necessary clues and find her mother?

There are so many more I discovered so I might have to do another wish list five in the near future of Sherlock reads! -Stephanie M. Hopkins

 

Check out The Maiden’s Court Wish-List 5: Spies in World War II

A Bookaholic Swede’s April Wish List: Sherlock Holmes

Flashlight Commentary’s Wishlist Reads: April 2016

A Literary Vacation’s Wish List-The Below Stairs Life

2 Kids and Tired Books’ Wish-list…Celebrities