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Sarah Carrier has always been at odds with her mother, Martha, who is as tough as Sarah is wilful. A gifted herbalist, Martha spends her days plucking grasses and plants in the fields, ready to cure whatever ills come her way. The fearful villagers of Andover, near Salem, have already been infected with smallpox and now another, equally devastating plague is ready to strike: that of malicious gossip and tongue-wagging, as poisonous as any disease.
As tales of magic are spun by a group of hysterical young girls, Martha soon finds herself accused of witchcraft. Neither Sarah, nor her brothers, are prepared to see their mother die and are cast into prison themselves. And it is there that Sarah commits a fateful heresy of her own.
The story of the Salem witch trials from the viewpoint of the daughter of one of those condemmed to die.

It seems to have been sometime since I took part in A bookcrossing “bookring” this copy has been passed from bookcrosser to bookcrosser, starting out in Milton Keynes in March 2010, it has since travelled to Austrailia, Tasmania, Canada, France and the USA before coming back to the UK.

The author of this novel is a direct descendant of Martha Carrier and her novel is based on true family history.
I found “The Heretic’s daughter” an enjoyable and highly readable novel, about a distressing yet fascinating period in American history. The key part of the story – that of the arrest and imprisonment of members of Carrier family comes a long way into the novel and I see why some readers have thought it slow to get going. Although this first part of the book goes a long way to establish fully the relationships between various members of the extended family. It is in the sense of suspicion and terror at this time, reproduced so faithfully that the reader can feel the tension for themselves. The poignant severing of families, the impotence of a strong husband and father who can do nothing but watch his wife and children suffer the most appalling prison conditons, often falling sick, his wife finally being hanged for a witch.

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Once a fortnight, the nomadic settlement of Madidima, set deep in the dusty Kenyan desert, awaits the arrival of three camels laden down with panniers of books. This is the Camel Bookmobile, a scheme set up to bring books to scattered tribes whose daily life is dominated by drought, famine and disease. Into their world comes an unexpected wealth of literature – from the adventures of Tom Sawyer to strange vegetarian cookbooks and Dr Seuss. Kanika, a young girl who lives with her grandmother, devours every book she can lay her hands on. Her best friend is Scar Boy, a child who was mauled at the age of three by a hyena. They are joined by Matani the village teacher, his alluring wife Jwahir and the drummaker Abayomi, as well as Mr Abasi, the camel driver, who is convinced that one of the camels is possessed by the spirit of his dead mother-in-law. The only condition of The Camel Bookmobile is that every book must be returned or else the visits will cease. Then one day a book is stolen..

I enjoyed this more than I expected given that Liz (who read it before me) wasn’t keen. It’s an undemanding diverting read, with nice characters discovering books, and learning a bit about one another’s cultures.

Fi travels from America to Kenya and some very remote communities to bring library books by way of camel to people who are barely literate – and many of course are not at all. Fi suffers from typical American arrogance in thinking that by bringing books to such people she was helping them, that some how their lives had needed her and her books in order to be enriched. she has to learn that the people have a rich culture themselves that stories and songs are passed on by word of mouth, or made up on the spot and that people who have survived millenia without paper and words are naturally going to be suspicious of them. I was never convinced that Fi totally learned this lesson.
I did think some relationships were a bit contrived and unrealistic – and without these "getting in the way" the author could have developed further the clash between cultures and modernity and traditional ways which was one of the most intresting aspects of the book.

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Brenda has had a long and eventful life, and she has come to Whitby to run a B&B and enjoy some peace and quiet. She and her best friend Effie like nothing better than going out for tea and keeping their eyes open for mysterious goings on in town.

And what with satanic beauty salons, roving psychic investigators and the frankly terrifying owner of the Christmas Hotel there’s plenty to watch. But the oddest thing in Whitby may well be Brenda herself. With her terrible scars, her strange lack of a surname and the fact that she takes two different shoe sizes, Brenda should know that people as, well, unique as she is just aren’t destined for a quiet life.


I don’t usually "do" fantasy type novels at all, but I thought I’d give this a go, it’s sometimes good to step outside your comfort zone. This first installment to the series, is very episodic, but that doesn’t detract from it’s charm. Brenda and Effie are lovely characters. I also loved Whitby as a setting, the novel really brings the gothic side of Whitby to life, and as I haven’t been there for a while I really wanted to go up there and explore the town again – with new eyes.
Brenda and Effie get themselves involved in several very peculair and fantastical mysteries, and meet some very odd people. It is obvious to the reader almost straight away who Brenda is – although her true identity is not known to many – and is only fully revealed to her friend Effie in the second half of the novel. This is a very readable novel, and now that we have been introduced to the marvelous Brenda and Effie and their world we are poised for more adventures in the next installment of the series.

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From its cover:
Returning from a visit to her daughter in Iraq, Joan Scudamore finds herself unexpectedly alone and stranded in an isolated rest house by flooding of the railway tracks. This sudden solitude compels Joan to assess her life for the first time ever and face up to many of the truths about herself. Looking back over the years, Joan painfully re-examines her attitudes, relationships and actions and becomes increasingly uneasy about the person who is revealed to her

A bookring book.

Having read so many Agatha Christie novels – I have not (untill now) read any of the Mary Westmacott books. I know from a biography I read recently that they are quite different, not featuring detectives and murders. Her Mary Westmacott novels (of which I believe there are 6) are about crimes of the heart. This one Absent in the spring, I found really good indeed. Middle aged Joan Scudamore is totally isolated, while stranded in a rest house in Iraq, her lonlieness playing on her mind, allows her to look back over key points in her life with a clear eye. Through this process Joan faces some difficult truths. The ending has a slight twist – which is not totally unexpected. The writing is really good, and the way in which the author has slowly revealed – by going back and forth over certain events in Joan’s her husband’s and children’s lives – the hold Joan has had over the lives of her family, the decisions she has had them make beacuse of how she treats them. I can’t wait to read more Mary Westmacott novels now.

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Amazon Editorial Review:

Bookstore owner Tricia Miles has put up—and put up with—her uninvited college roommate for weeks. In return, Pammy has stolen $100. But the day she’s kicked out, Pammy’s found dead in a Dumpster, leaving loads of questions unanswered.


This will be sent out to everyone on the booktown spiral I am currently running.

This the third in the booktown cosy mystery series is another charming slice of Stoneham life. A friend of Tricia’s from college has outstayed her welcome at Tricia’s place, and the day she leaves is the day she is later found murdered. There is also someone wandering around Stoneham smashing pumpkins. There is also the possibility of a new romantic interest for Tricia Miles. I have to say that this is another typical cosy mystery by numbers, small town, cat, a local social issue, a murder of someone whose not very nice – etc etc. So as long as you like cosy mysteries and don’t mind thst they are all nearly the same – then you will enjoy this one too.

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"There were so many ways of being and expressing myself that I had to leave behind, and so many I had to relearn…Maya has not been back to India where she was born for three years. At fifteen, she would rather spend the summer with her friends, rather than cross the world to be with her Indian family. Soon, though, she is immersed in this other life, and it becomes a summer filled with love, friendship and secrets. But it’s also a time when terrorists are on the loose, and her beloved grandmother is dying. Maya must decide between this world and the one she has known. It’s about exploring the other side of her heart."

I really enjoyed this novel of family and culture. A fairly light read, but with some very thought provoking messages, about family, and the ties which connect people to their families, traditions and homeland. During the summer that 15 year old Maya spends with her extended family in a tea growing mountainous region of India, she comes to learn a lot about her family, and examine what things are important to her. Set against a backdrop of the recent assassination of Rajiv Ghandi and talk of terroism, this is an engaging and charming novel.

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Beyond the Narrow Gate is the brave and moving story of four Chinese girls–Dolores, Suzanne, Margaret, and Mary–from their ultimate passage through the "narrow gate" in Communist China to America and their decades-long friendship. Leslie Chang, an American-born journalist and the daughter of Mary, lifts the veils of secrecy, shame, and loss that have for so long hung over the "bamboo generation." What Chang discovers is that the passage from one culture to another came at a great price, both to the women who had undergone it and to the children who were born into its legacy. Beyond the Narrow Gate weaves sagas of friendship and love, sacrifice and success, marriage and loss, as it illuminates one of America’s least-documented immigrant experiences. At the same time, this is a deeply personal book: a daughter’s discovery of her own history in her mother’s past.

The four women that we meet in Beyond the Narrow Gate, were all born in mainland China, later living, and attending high school together, in Taiwan. For many years Leslie Chang’s mother didn’t see these girls again – but eventually they met up and friendships developed. It is quite startling how alike these women and their expierences were. Leslie Chang describes Chinese people like her mother and her school friends as being like bamboo – strong on the outside but hallow inside. The place that these women had come from had a very real effect on how they lived their lives in America. Overall I enjoyed this book and found that I did become interested in and involved with the women whose lives in America Chang has faithfully researched and written about. I admit that I found the book a little hard to get into at first, and there were times when I felt things were a bit disjointed and I got irritated by long sections of he said she said repeated conversations that were really just family anecdotes. But it is a very readable biography, and I suddenly realised at some point that I had become really interested in Mary, Suzanne, Dolores and Margaret and their families. Leslie Chang has written this book with a lot of affection and it become apparent that in researching the lives of her mother and her fiends she learns a good deal too.


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