#BookReview STARVE ACRE by ANDREW MICHAEL HURLEY

ABOUT THE BOOK

The worst thing possible has happened. Richard and Juliette Willoughby’s son, Ewan, has died suddenly at the age of five. Starve Acre, their house by the moors, was to be full of life, but is now a haunted place.

Juliette, convinced Ewan still lives there in some form, seeks the help of the Beacons, a seemingly benevolent group of occultists. Richard, to try and keep the boy out of his mind, has turned his attention to the field opposite the house, where he patiently digs the barren dirt in search of a legendary oak tree.

Starve Acre is a devastating new novel by the author of the prize-winning bestseller The Loney. It is a novel about the way in which grief splits the world in two and how, in searching for hope, we can so easily unearth horror

published by John Murray

publication date – 31st October 2019

PRE-ORDER LINKS

Amazon UK  £9.35

whsmith  £9.35

hive.co.uk  £10.29

goldsboro books – signed first edition £12.99

MY REVIEW

This is a beautifully written story that looks at grief as we follow a mother and father dealing with the loss of their son in very different ways, and you can’t help but feel the pain and sorrow that they both are feeling.

The father, Richard, deals with the loss by finding a distraction. And that for him is digging up a nearby field to try and discover the roots of the legendary tree, Stythwaite Oak – apparently used for local hangings but there’s no real proof it existed other than that of woodblock prints that he uncovers amongst his fathers books. The soil in the field where it grew is dead – nothing has ever grown there, there’s no worms or signs of life, just bones. Richard uncovers the bones of a hare here and spends time lovingly cleaning them and putting them back together. Anything to avoid having to listen to his wife sobbing.

His wife has retreated to their home and spends all day crying. She sees no point in making an effort to leave the house as she feels the presence of her son at home and wants to be with him all the time. Her idea of contacting a spiritual group, The Beacons, to help her contact her son doesn’t go down well with Richard or her sister, but she’s convinced it will help her ease the pain.

So this once united couple are torn apart by grief and I found it quite harrowing at times spending time in their company, especially as there were flashbacks to times when their son was alive and well. The more of these look backs we get, the more we realise that their son Ewan had a dark personality and was involved in some unsavoury incidents at school and at home where the ‘dark talked to him’. It really added a creepy and chilling element to this story and the spooky goings on surrounding the house and tree were often unexpected and added a totally different feel to the way I thought the story was going to go!

I did find the second part of the book didn’t work quite as well for me as it did go a little too weird (and I normally embrace the weird and wonderful!) and there wasn’t enough time given to explore different elements that were revealed. I would have loved this book to go on a little longer as I think it would have been more pleasing for the whole reading experience, but I still found it to be a haunting and fascinating story

★★★★

My thanks to Readers First for the advanced reading copy in return for a fair and honest review.

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#BookReview The Woman Who Wanted More by Vicky Zimmerman

ABOUT THE BOOK

Two lonely women. An unlikely friendship. And one big life lesson: never be ashamed to ask for more . . .

 No woman dreams of being unceremoniously dumped and moving back in with her mother on the eve of her 40th birthday. Food technician Kate Parker’s first response? Denial, long days under her duvet and bucket loads of cheesy pasta. A reluctant Kate finds herself volunteering at the Lauderdale House For Exceptional Ladies. There she meets 96-year-old Cecily Finn – spiky and sharp as a pin, but the spark has gone out of her. She has resigned herself to the imminent End.Having no patience with Kate’s self-pity, Cecily prescribes her a self-help book with a difference – it’s a 1957 cookery manual, featuring menus for anything life can throw at ‘the easily dismayed’. It promises the answers to essential life questions: ‘what shall one give to one’s rich aunt Emma that will be palatable but not prodigal; to one’s husband’s managing director, at once memorable and modest; one’s old love’s new love; the man one hopes will stay on after dinner; the man one hopes will not …’

.Can Kate find a menu to help a broken-hearted woman let go? If Kate moves forward, might Cecily too?The cookbook holds the secrets of Cecily’s own remarkable and heartbreaking story, and the love of her life. It will certainly teach Kate a thing or two. So begins an unlikely friendship between two lonely and stubborn souls – one at the end of her life, and one stuck in the middle – who come to show each other that food is for feasting, life is for living and the way to a man’s heart is . . . irrelevant!

published by ZAFFRE

Publication Date – 30th May 2019

PRE-ORDER LINKS

Amazon UK  £7.74

hive.co.uk  £5.99

WHSmith  £5.75

MY REVIEW

What a charming and delightful book! I adored the characters – especially Cecily! – and found it to be one of those books that is heartwarming and inspiring, and even made me shed a tear or two!

Kate Parker is the main character and her life is seemingly all going swimmingly – she’s in a loving relationship with Nick who shares her passion for food and cooking (note – do NOT read this book on an empty stomach!!) and is settled in her work life, but that settled life is soon disrupted by Nick dropping a bombshell while they’re away on holiday together and it leaves her feeling very unsettled and very down on life. She moves back in with her mum who is a completely different character to her – very outgoing and free-spirited – who tries setting her up with friends’ sons and offering her the advice to stop being the victim and to move on with her life. Kate isn’t so sure she’s able to and still pines for her and Nick getting back together.

While she has some spare time, a friend gets her to volunteer at a local old people’s home – Lauderdale House for Exceptional Ladies – which is full of some of the most wonderful characters, the most entertaining being 97 year old Cecily! She takes no prisoners and doesn’t mince her words and seems to enjoy heckling Kate who takes on the role of cookery demonstrator! Despite their prickly start, they soon form such a wonderful friendship as Cecily takes on the role of life advisor, and lends her an amazing cookbook that combines recipes with great life advice and Kate starts taking the pages of the book to heart.

I loved the scenes between Kate and Cecily and think I need a Cecily in my life! She’s wise, witty and wonderful! She shares her own life story with Kate, but also gets Kate to question her own life plan and pushes her to explore different things in life and to stop sitting around waiting for Nick to change his mind and to find her own worth. 

What made this story even more touching was that the author based it on her own grandmother and it really added such a wonderful feel to the book, especially with the photos of her grandmother at the end. What a woman and what a story!!

★★★★

My thanks to Readers First  and Zaffre for the advanced reading copy in return for a fair and honest review.