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Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

Title: The Keeper of Lost Things
Author: Ruth Hogan
Publisher: 31 February 2017 by Hachette Australia - Two Roads
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: fiction, contemporary, adult
My Rating: 5 crowns


A charming, clever, and quietly moving debut novel of of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us.

Lime green plastic flower-shaped hair bobbles—Found, on the playing field, Derrywood Park, 2nd September.

Bone china cup and saucer-Found, on a bench in Riveria Public Gardens, 31st October.

Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancĂ©e, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidentally left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.

Recovering from a bad divorce, Laura, in some ways, is one of Anthony’s lost things. But when the lonely woman moves into his mansion, her life begins to change. She finds a new friend in the neighbor’s quirky daughter, Sunshine, and a welcome distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As the dark cloud engulfing her lifts, Laura, accompanied by her new companions, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish: reuniting his cherished lost objects with their owners.

Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.

As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?

Full of character, wit, and wisdom, The Keeper of Lost Things is a heartwarming tale that will enchant fans of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Garden Spells, Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

My Thoughts

When he had started gathering lost things all those years ago, he hadn’t really had a plan. He just wanted to keep them safe in case one day they could be reunited with the people who had lost them.

Sometimes a rare book comes along that moves you in so many ways. This is one such book - it is absolutely delightful. The imagination and creativity that, right from the outset, lures you in and will not let you go until you turn the final page. You will laugh, you will cry, you will pause and ponder and you will walk away richer from reading this book. I adored it.

Laura could see that these were so much more than things; much more than random artefacts arranged on shelves for decoration. They were important. They really mattered.

This is a book with many tales (something I usually don’t go for) but Hogan does it so well. The expertise with which she weaves not only the two stories running parallel to each other (you will impatiently await for when the paths will cross), but also interweaves the most amazing array  of back stories to the ‘lost things’, is awe inspiring. Gosh this book has it all! Romance, magic, ghosts, family, relationships, heartbreak, illness and loss. That’s quite a lineup, yet the respect with which each is given, creates such a genuine understanding for just about every character presented.

A hush is a dangerous thing. Silence is solid and dependable, but a hush is expectant, like a pregnant pause; it invites mischief, like a loose thread begging to be pulled.

This book is full of charm and spilling over with wisdom. It is beautifully written and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I know it is likely that most of the things are worthless, and no one will want them back. But if you can make just one person happy, mend one broken heart by restoring to them what they have lost, then it will have all been worthwhile.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Friday, February 17, 2017

In the Shadow of Lakecrest by Elizabeth Blackwell

Publisher: Lake Union
Source: Publisher
Rating 3.5
The year is 1928. Kate Moore is looking for a way out of the poverty and violence of her childhood. When a chance encounter on a transatlantic ocean liner brings her face-to-face with the handsome heir to a Chicago fortune, she thinks she may have found her escape—as long as she can keep her past concealed.
After exchanging wedding vows, Kate quickly discovers that something isn’t quite right with her husband—or her new family. As Mrs. Matthew Lemont, she must contend with her husband’s disturbing past, his domineering mother, and his overly close sister. Isolated at Lakecrest, the sprawling, secluded Lemont estate, she searches desperately for clues to Matthew’s terrors, which she suspects stem from the mysterious disappearance of his aunt years before. As Kate stumbles deeper into a maze of family secrets, she begins to question everyone’s sanity—especially her own. But just how far will she go to break free of this family’s twisted past?
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing| Source: Publisher| Rating: 3.5 Cups
Last night, I dreamed Lakecrest was on fire. I watched, indifferent, as flames devoured the brocade curtains and wood paneling, ashes coating my tongue and face. The windows shattered in a violent blast of heat, and turrets and walls and paintings crumbled around me. Lakecrest was dying and I was content to see it burn.
After reading the opening of the prologue, I knew I was in for a treat and I wasn’t wrong. The majority of the book had me riveted as the story of the ‘strange Lemont family’ unraveled yet the last two chapters let me down.
Here’s what’s going on. Kate Moore had one ambition in life: marry into money. Things seem to be going swimmingly when she catches the eye of rich and handsome Matthew Lemont. Marrying him was the easy part, but living in Lakecrest, his mysterious childhood home, is much harder then she imagined, especially when she learns of his aunt’s mysterious disappearance and the skeleton’s hiding in the Lemont’s closets.  Will Kate be able to survive Lakecrest and the Lemonts?
At times, I found it very hard to like Kate. She’s very selfish and sort of manipulative. Lies just seem to spout from her lips and I’m never quite sure if she actually means anything she says or if she’s just saying things to further her quest to secure herself a financially sound future. As the book progressed, she sort of grew on me, although I still found myself questioning some of her actions.
I found myself feeling sorry for Matthew. He has PTSD, or ‘shell-shock’ as they called it then, from being a medic during the war but he’s also dealing with things he witnessed as a child, plus, I’m sure, the odd ‘treatment’ he received from his mother compounded to the problems he’s dealing with. The mysterious disappearance of his Aunt Cecily also plays with his mind. He’s a tortured, troubled man but he irritated me because he has no backbone; he’s content to simply sit back and allow his mother to take over every aspect of his life. I was waiting for him to put his foot down and tell his mother enough is enough but, sadly, it never happened.
Hannah, Matthew’s mother, is a control freak. I could not stand her. She’s definitely the puppet master of the Lemont family and Lakecrest. Everyone does her bidding and it’s going to be her way or no way. Marjorie, Matthew’s twin sister, is even more messed up than Matthew is. She’s definitely a wild-child who needs to grow up.
The mystery aspect was interesting. Fifteen years ago, Cecily Lemont walked into the Labyrinth she had built on the grounds of Lakecrest and simply disappeared.  No one knows what happened to her and no one in the family is talking about it. Although Kate discovers that there was a bit more to Cecily than what the Lemonts want to people to know. She was the leader of this odd little cult of sorts and rumors of orgies and human sacrifices have been flying around since before Cecily disappeared. 
As Kate uncovers more about Cecily and her strange behavior, she starts learning more about just how strange the family she married into really is and starts questioning Hannah’s motives. She stumbles upon an interesting scene that makes her wonder about incest in the Lemont family.
There is a gothic tone to this book and some parts of it are atmospheric. Yet I was slightly disappointed by the fact the author never followed through with any of the gothic elements. Why was Kate constantly hearing water dripping? Yes, it was a brilliant way to add that gothic touch, but, seriously, why was the dripping following her around?
While I enjoyed the majority of the book, the last few chapters let me down and I was left scratching my head saying, ‘really? That’s it? That was how you’re going to play it?’. The explanation didn’t meet the facts presented or add up for the way Kate was being treated. Seriously, what was the point in drugging Kate’s milk if that’s how you were going to play it out?
Then there was the ending. It was another head-scratcher for me. After everything Kate was put through why would a simple argument, that nowhere matched the scope of arguments or even events that happened before this, provoke Kate to do what she did? Especially given that they had been living in accord for several years. It just didn’t mesh with me. If Kate was going to do it, I just felt like it would have happened years before.
Overall, as a whole, I enjoyed this one. I wish a few things had been developed a bit more and the ending could have been different, yet it still piqued and held my interest.
Review also featured on Simply Angela