Thursday, 6 December 2018

November Reviews | Winter Cottage, The Light Between Worlds + We Are All Made of Stars

- SHARING MY THOUGHTS ON BOOKS I'VE READ IN THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER -

BOOKS MENTIONED

- source: for review -
BLURB
Still grieving the loss of her wandering, free-spirited mother, Lucy Kincaid leaves Nashville for the faded town of Cape Hudson, Virginia. She goes to see the house she's inherited - one she never knew existed, bequeathed to her by a woman she's never met. At the heart of this mystery is the hope that maybe - just maybe - this 'Winter Cottage' will answer to the endless questions about her mother's past... including the identity of her birth father.

Rather than the quaint Virginian bungalow Lucy expected, Winter Cottage is a grand old estate of many shadows - big enough to hold a century of secrets, passions, and betrayals. It also comes with a handsome and enigmatic stranger, a man next in line to claim Lucy's inheritance.

Now, as Lucy sifts through the past, uncovering the legacy of secrets that Winter Cottage holds, she'll come to discover as much about her family history as she does about herself. In searching, she could finally find the one thing she's never really had: a home.

THOUGHTS
The story begins with us meeting Mrs Buchanan, a wealthy elderly lady from a small Southern town - being 100 years of age, she has been a resident for a long time and has seen it all. Which is why high school student, Beth Jessup is focusing on Mrs Buchanan for a high school project looking at living history. As the opening chapter continues, Mrs Buchanan shares that she would like her story heard, and for a price Beth agrees to continue videoing her and her story. 

In the next chapter, after a timespan of thirty years, we are introduced to Lucy Kincaid - the daughter of high schooler Beth we met in the previous chapter. After the passing of her mother, some family secrets are uncovered and Lucy finds herself back in Beth's hometown - not only to scatter her ashes, but also to receive some inheritance she knew absolutely nothing about. That inheritance being Winter Cottage.

With the story set, we then continue alternating between past and present with many characters being met and stories unfolding. Winter Cottage is definitely one of those books that needs your sole focus and good concentration - keeping up with the characters, the plot, noticing the ties between people - but it is also the kind of story you find yourself falling into very easily. 

Unravelling long held secrets, in a town that keeps them so well, isn't easy - but through the pages of Winter Cottage we come to learn Lucy Kincaid's family history and about the power, strength and courage that comes with loving another.

- source: my bookshelf -
BLURB
Five years ago, Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell cowered from air strikes in a London bomb shelter. But that night took a turn when the sisters were transported to another realm called the Woodlands. In a forest kingdom populated by creatures out of myth and legend, they found temporary refuge. 

When they finally returned to London, nothing had changed at all - nothing, except themselves.

Now, Ev spends her days sneaking into the woods outside her boarding school, wishing for the Woodlands. Overcome with longing, she is desperate to return no matter what it takes.

Philippa, on the other hand, is determined to find a place in this world. She shields herself behind a flawless exterior and countless friends, and moves to America to escape the memory of what was.

But when Evelyn goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister's despair and the painful truths they've been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.

THOUGHTS
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't initially drawn to The Light Between Worlds because of the cover - have you seen it?! Its a beauty! However, I soon read the synopsis and knew it was a book I wanted to read.

Having spent a number of years in the fantasy land of the Woodlands, the Hapwell siblings find themselves back in London during the WW2; the exact time and place in which they had left. It was as if nothing had happened at all... And yet so much had.

We meet Evelyn Hapwell at a turning point in her life - she has tried to settle back into life at home, but her home isn't post war London or her boarding school or even being surrounding by her family, Evelyn's home is the Woodlands. Having been supported & protected by her elder sister, Philippa, for so long, Evelyn struggles even more when Philippa heads off to America in search of her own life.

The concept of seeing an individual return to the regular world after having experienced a fantasy one is what intrigued me about the plot of The Light Between Worlds. Although we see small snippets of the Woodlands, I would personally categorise this book as YA historical fiction, as opposed to YA fantasy... Although of course it is a little mix of both.

The Light Between Worlds is an incredibly sad book, and hard to read at times, with depression and self harm being deep rooted to the plot. Having said that, it is also an incredibly beautiful story - the author has a very poetic/lyrical writing style, telling the story in a way that you easily get wrapped up in it.

I really liked the way in which all three main characters (the Hapwell siblings) were written, and the sibling dynamic between them. I also enjoyed the supporting characters of Tom & Jack - I guess you'd call these two young men Evelyn & Philippa's love interests, but I feel like they were so much more than that. In particular, Tom (& his family) have lingered with me long after finishing this book.

Laura Weymouth has weaved a wonderfully compelling read in the form of The Light Between Worlds - she has delicately & authentically tackled plot points darker in nature, crafted a story in which themes such as identity can be relatable to readers, created characters you care for, and written in the most beautiful tone... This is Laura Weymouth's debut novel, and I look forward to reading future work of hers.

- source: library borrow -
BLURB
Stella Carey exists in a world of night. Married to an ex-soldier, she leaves the house every evening as Vincent locks himself away, along with the scars and the secrets he carries.

During her nursing shifts, Stella writes letters for her patients to their loved ones - full of humour, love, and practical advice, others steeped in regret - and promises to post these messages after their deaths. 

Until one night Stella writes the letter that could give her patient one last chance of redemption, if she delivers it in time...

THOUGHTS
Okay, I'm putting a statement out there: Rowan Coleman has fast become a new favourite author of mine. I've read just two of her books now - with plans to steadily work through some more of her backlist - and I've totally fallen in love with her writing style, but especially the way in which she writes her characters; the depth of them, the actions they undertake, the emotions they feel. Rowan Coleman writes characters with such love, care and attention - you can feel that when reading.

In We Are All Made of Stars we meet Stella, a nurse who works the night shift at the Marie Francis hospice, a woman who ploughs her love and attention into those around her whilst almost neglecting herself. There are three quite different plotlines and protagonists in this book, with Stella's story being tied up in Hope & Hugh's also. I don't want to say too much about the plot itself, as it is one that hits you the most when reading for the first time with little to no impression.

What I will say though is that at the core of We Are All Made of Stars you'll find grief and kindness - two contrasting themes, but a pair that go hand in hand, as this story perfectly highlights.

As the story unfolds, with each passing chapter being in the voice of one of three protagonists I've mentioned above, you'll find interspersed letters that Stella has been writing for patients - last words to loved ones - and they are one of my favourite things about this book, making it in so many ways. Each letter is distinct and diverse, whilst being thought provoking and life affirming.

I'm going to wrap up this review by sharing two quotes that I noted down from We Are All Made of Stars - one is in reference to letter writing, and the other to the theme of kindness that runs through this book.

'I learned that what people say has a thousand times more meaning when it's written down. On the page, the words become immortal, beautiful, personal, heartfelt and special. They are words that will always be there, to be read again and again, and again. A letter is a memory that will never be lost, will never fade, or be forgotten.'

'"Kindness changes everything,' Grace said. 'You can't worry about the rest of the world, never mind the rest of the universe. All you can do is look to your left and your right and try to be kind to whoever is there. When I stopped thinking only about myself, and started to see all the people in the world who didn't have anyone to make sure they mattered, that's when life started to mean something."'
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4 comments

  1. I must admit, I’ve mostly been skimming (or skipping!) book reviews lately because I REALLY don’t need anything more on my TBR but that last quote really caught my eye and now I really want to read We Are All Made of Stars! Sounds right up my alley :)

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    1. Oh, I totally know that feeling regarding reading reviews Christine.

      We Are All Made of Stars is a wonderful read - I discovered Rowan Coleman's writing last year, and have just fallen in love with it. I hope you enjoy, if and when, you do get round to read this one.

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  2. Replies
    1. Her writing is just wonderful, especially the way in which she creates her characters.

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