The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

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The Cottingley Secret
By Hazel Gaynor
Publisher: William Marrow
ISBN13: 9780062499844
Pages: 383
Genre: Historical Fiction/Magical Realism

Synopsis:

The author of The Girl Who Came Home turns the clock back one hundred years to a time when two young girls from Cottingley, Yorkshire, convinced the world that they had done the impossible and photographed fairies in their garden. Now, in her newest novel, international bestseller Hazel Gaynor reimagines their story.

1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?


(New) Thoughts

The Cottingley Secret is an exceptional sort of story that will easily attract an expansive audience with its lyrical prose and hints of warm and whimsical elements of magic.

Told over the course of two alternating timelines, Hazel Gaynor constructs the story of two young girls (Frances and Elsie) from 1917 Cottingley, England who produce photographs of fairies from a nearby beck hoping to convince their parents. In doing so, they inadvertently capture the attention of the one and only, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and create an unexpected sensation during a time of war and hardship. But Frances is succumbing to the mounting pressures of their new-found attention and longs to free herself with the truth.

100 years later, that truth is delivered to Olivia Kavanagh in the form of a manuscript received upon the passing of her grandfather. She also learns she has inherited his bookstore Something Old. As Olivia works to manage the newly acquired shop and reads through Frances’ story, she uncovers a past that is deeply connected to her own. With a little help from an old manuscript, a few new friends and the bookshop, Olivia just might learn something more about herself and what she truly desires in life.

The Cottingley fairies are a subject that I am familiar with to a small extent. I have always been charmed by the story of two young girls convincing a country at war that there was something magical in existence. I am also aware of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s interest as a spiritualist. It is a story that while in hindsight may not supply the same air of magic, at the time managed to deliver a breath of hope and much-needed promise. In that alone, there is something of beauty, and Hazel Gaynor delivers nothing less in The Cottingley Secret.

“There is more to every photograph than what we see-more to the story than the one the camera captures on the plate. You have to look behind the picture to discover the truth.”

 

                                 Elsie with a gnome.                       Frances with the fairies.

The real splendor that is The Cottingley Secret can be found within Gaynor’s ability to maintain an air of genuine enchantment while examining the truth. She may uncover the reality behind the photographs and how they came into existence, but she utilizes this to explore hope, love, and the promise of something greater. This is where the magic lies.

Character development unfolds slowly through a series of manuscript readings and Olivia’s own personal struggles. This approach feels intimate, encouraging the reader to further explore Olivia and Frances. Gaynor invites the reader into the heart of her characters, immediately establishing a solid bond. Each character is familiar, each encounter emotional.

Seamless transitions in narration and timeline construct a world that is enveloping and engages the senses to the fullest. For a few hours each evening, I was transported to Something Old or the beck in Cottingley. Knowledgable and atmospheric writing carries the reader back in time with incredible ease, allowing a rare glimpse into history that feels almost surreal at moments as we find ourselves wanting to believe. Needing to believe. This is elegantly balanced by the time spent with Olivia as she pieces together the past and finds herself in the process.

We are the sum of those who have touched our lives in one way or another.”

The Cottingley Secret is a book for those who believe in spite of the odds. For those who are young and the young at heart. It is a tale of a magic we each hold within through our own love and hope. Between the pages lies a journey of imagination and heart that will captivate and linger long after the story ends.

*I would like to thank BookSparks and the publisher for this copy. The above review is my own honest, opinion.

Untitled designEnjoyed with a nice cup of English Breakfast and a splash of milk.

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The Infinite Now by Mindy Tarquini ~ Available 10/24/17

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The Infinite Now
By Mindy Tarquini
Publisher: Sparkpress
ISBN13: 9781943006342
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fiction
Pages: 280

Synopsis: In flu-ravaged 1918 Philadelphia, Fiora Vicente, the freshly orphaned and forward-thinking daughter of the local fortune teller, has goals. She has ambitions. But when faced with a future she hasn’t planned, she has second thoughts–and casts her community into a stagnant bubble of time.

Inside the bubble, life among Fiora’s superstitious neighbors continues, but nothing progresses, swamped by a steady stream of unspent seconds. As the pressure builds Fiora realizes she must find the courage to collapse the bubble–or risk trapping her dreams in an unbearable, unyielding, and infinite Now.(less)


(New) Thoughts

This book, this book... Every once in a while I pick up something completely original and truly unexpected. The Infinite Now was and is exactly that. A rare and beautifully welcomed surprise that held my interest and captivated me on all fronts.

In the heart of a small Italian immigrant community in Philadelphia the influenza is sweeping through at an unforgiving rate, leaving many orphans and deaths in its wake. Among them is young Fiora Vicente, the modern thinking, strong-willed daughter of a fortune-teller claimed by the illness. But when she finds uncertainty and fear within her future, her own trepidation places a protective bubble around the city,  guarding against time and what is to come.  But as time refuses to move forward, Fiora soon learns it is not without consequence. The lack of advancement is creating an insurmountable pressure that may have the most dire results. But can she face the unknown and will herself to accept the life that will come without this bubble?

Classifying The Infinite Now as historical fiction might actually be inaccurate. If I am completely honest, I am unsure as to what genre I would label this as. This dynamic story manages to cover a wide ranges of topics all tucked within a magical experience that offers a rich historical background and setting that is ripe with elements of fantasy. The result is something quite spectacular that will manage to appeal to wide range of readers.

Fiora Vincente is energetic, determined and stubborn. Viewed by many of the locals with a scrutinous eye, she has developed a bit of a shell and an attitude. I loved her for it. Her modern ideals play wonderfully with the dated setting, animating her and providing spirit that can only be appreciated. A sundry of supporting characters compliment the story and add incredible depth. I enjoyed each for a variety of reasons. Their growth felt rewarding and viable.

Tarquini establishes a world that seems almost tangible. Each detail is a testament the amount of time and care that has went into crafting this small community. Her approach to life and the influenza epidemic feel accurate and researched, yet she manages to successfully incorporate surreal moments into the fold, delivering something new and refreshing.

Swathed in layers of the unexpected, the seamless narration and multidimensional story delivers an endearing and powerful look at life and the choices we make.  The only downside might be found within the ending, but this will be left to each reader to interpret on a personal level. For myself, I feel I understand what that author was trying to convey, but it would be impossible to explore that further without revealing too much.

Fans of well-developed historical setting and magical realism alike are likely to find something of great worth within The Infinite Now.

*I would like to thank SparkPress and Booksparks for this copy. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Untitled designEnjoyed with a hot cup of  Green Jasmine Oolong.

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Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

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Emma in the Night
By Wendy Walker
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
ISBN13: 9781250141439
Pages: 320
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.


(New) Thoughts

Emma and Cass Tanner disappear one night without a trace. Three years later, Cass arrives at her mother’s doorstep, alone. Desperate to find her sister Emma, she shares her incredible story of the events leading up to her return. What ensues is a tale that much darker and twisted than even forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter has imagined, and she has a few theories of her own since she original began the case three years ago. Just how deep can family secrets run?

Mysteries are always hard to review for me. Those worth reading are cherished for that elusive truth that one must work to uncover. Revealing too little or too much can be detrimental. And that is where Emma in the Night shines. Wendy Walker has established an unnaturally rewarding balance between the known and unknown. The reader is supplied with just enough ammunition to formulate several working theories, but left to ponder endless possibilities. The end result is an experience that is hard to walk away from and draws the reader further in with each page.

Told through the alternating points of view of Cass Tanner and Dr. Abby Winter, we are slowly exposed to both sides of this mysterious case. Cass is brilliant in terms of a protagonist. To label her as strong feels unjust. While she is not without insecurities and flaws that build her up as a credible character, she is a survivor. Her ability to acknowledge her own weaknesses and her family’s dysfunction with raw truth and play on these facts, weaves a fantastic tale full of questions that beg to be answered.

I found Abby to be less desirable as a main character, but not without merit. At times she felt too open and almost desperate. But her own history with a narcissistic parent played well into her role and provided some insight, albeit limited. I feel like saying she was without value is not warranted. But make no mistake, this is Cass’s story.

The world building is confined to an island and the Tanner’s home, but felt much larger in the grand scheme. The narration establishes an environment that is a familiar as it is foreign. Cleverly implementing elements of the known and uncertain, the likable and unlikable, Walker plays on the reader’s many emotions, engaging them on multiple levels.

The writing is perceptive and sharp. This is a prime example of a well-developed plot that has been executed flawlessly. It reads with an incredible ease and delivers a suspenseful tale that will leave readers thinking and rethinking with each new development.

Emma in the Night is for anyone who loves a dark story full of twists. If you enjoy a good dysfunctional family and mystery, this will be a welcomed and necessary addition to your shelves.

Untitled design Enjoyed with a warm cup of Earl Grey and a splash of milk.

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