A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor

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A Memory of Violets, by Hazel Gaynor, is definitely making it onto my top 10 books for 2015. Anyone who knows me is aware that I have a penchant for long, descriptive stories full of mystery and family secrets. Kate Morton and Katherine Webb are my favorite authors of all time. Who didn’t love The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough? I was surprised when Hazel Gaynor’s latest novel sucked me in, right away, and I had a feeling right from the beginning that I was in for a ride.

A Memory of Violets is about two girls born into poverty in the 1800s, into a life of selling flowers on street corners. Flora and Rosie barely have food to live on, but they have one another. One horrific day they are separated in a crowd and the never see one another again. Flora spends the rest of her days looking for her baby sister-and Rosie, too young to know how to get back home, must adapt to a new life.  Years later, Tilly Harper finds the journal of Flora when she starts a job at Mr. Shaw’s Training Homes for Watercress and Flower Girls-and she feels compelled to find out just what happened to Flora, and what happened to her lost baby sister Rosie.

If you read The Painted Girls, by Cathy Marie Buchanan, or , or you have a taste for novels that tear brutally at your heartstrings but come together in the end with perfect closure and new beginnings for much-loved characters, you won’t want to miss A Memory of Violets, by Hazel Gaynor. This reviewer couldn’t put it down.

The Taste of Appleseeds by Katharina Hagena

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Originally entitled “Der Gerschmack von Apfelkernen”, this novel has been translated into English from German, and has already been a literary success in Europe, translated into numerous languages and made into a German film (which I’m dying to get my hands on).

The story revolves around Iris, a woman who inherits her grandmother’s home upon her death and is forced to face some of the secrets of her family and her past. Her grandparents both had deep, dark secrets hidden in the walls that don’t tell tales. Tragedy struck more than once in the little home, more than one daughter was lost. Iris decides to speak with the man who has been tending the home, and with the lawyer representing the property (who is conveniently handsome) and see if she can put together the pieces left behind for her.

The Taste of Appleseeds, by Katharina Hagena, is a must-read for readers who love Kate Morton (The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours, The Secret Keeper, the House at Riverton) , Katherine Webb (The Unseen, The Half-Forgotten Song) , or Kimberley Freeman  (Wildflower Hill, Lighthouse Bay, Ember Island). What makes the novel original is that it has a touch of magical realism, faint but there nonetheless, which gives the story something special that you magical realism readers will love too.

Anyone who knows me well enough to judge can tell you that these types of novels are my very favorite. Long, delving back through generations, deep and dark family secrets, beautiful description and an almost magical feel, and a heroine who is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery at any cost…LOVE them. They aren’t for readers who want instant gratification or a short weekend read, but for patient readers who like to take a more languid path once in a while. If this sounds like you, then don’t hesitate to read The Taste of Appleseeds…And if any of you can figure out how to get any version of the movie available here in the states be sure to let me know!

Miss Me When I’m Gone by Emily Arsenault

Jamie is shocked to learn that her best friend, Gretchen Waters, has died in a fall, but she is even more shocked to learn that Gretchen’s family would like her to put together the pieces of the dead girl’s manuscript so that the book that she was working on when she died could be published post-humously.

When Jamie learns that foul play is suspected in her friend’s death, and she finds out that her best friend was not researching old time country singers, but that she was actually trying to find out the truth about what happened to her mother, who was murdered when she was seven years old, and she may have even discovered who her father might have been…And somewhere in that search, she had likely tipped off someone who wanted very badly for those secrets to stay buried forever.

Strange things start happening around Jamie, making her think that someone wants the manuscript from Jamie  VERY BADLY. Despite the threat to her life and that of her unborn baby, Jamie decides to push forward and get Gretchen the justice that she deserved…But can she discover the truth before something terrible happens?

Emily Arsenault is one of the very best mystery authors I’ve ever written. I was introduced to her when I reviewed “In Search of the Rose Notes“, and “Miss Me When I’m Gone” is just as riveting, in fact, I stayed up deep into the night because I just couldn’t put the book down. You are addicted to the books from the beginning and after you finish the book, you sit there in awe and relay the entire book in your head one more time to see how the pieces fit together.

You will like Emily Arsenault if you liked Katherine Webb’s “The Unseen” or Brunonia Barry’s “The Lace Reader”. They are suspense/mysteries that you won’t want to put down, even to sleep. So don’t miss “Miss Me When I’m Gone” if you love mysteries. It’s a must-read.

‘The Unseen’ by Katherine Webb will keep you reading deep into the night

A house maid with a dark past, a marriage with a painful secret, and a conniving houseguest make for a twisted tale that keeps you guessing until the bitter and shocking end. Cat Morley is recruited to live with the vicar and his wife and serve them as an employee, and the goings-on of the house from the moment she arrives are enough to make a person dizzy. Albert, the vicar, spends most of his spare time wandering alone in the woods looking for “spirits”, the housekeeper seems to want her fired, and the halls of the house seem to whisper secrets that are just out of hearing.

When reknowned “theosopher” Robin Durrant comes to stay in the house as a very long-term houseguest, tensions begin to rise for everyone under the roof, including the staff. Who is this man and what are his intentions? Can he really be serious about the “spiritual beings” he claims to see in the woods? Can Albert, a holy man, really be taken in by Robin’s ridiculous philosophy and “scientific” ideals? Hester, Albert’s wife, can see the water rising, but can’t seem to open her husband’s eyes to the swamp of deceit that is welling up around them.

Almost a hundred years later, Leah is a journalist who sets out to identify remains discovered on an old World War I battle site. Letters from a woman to the soldier are all that she has to go by as she begins her search for the truth. What is the secret of the Rectory that has been buried for so many decades? Who is the dead soldier, and what are his connections to the woman in the letter? Was there a scandal covered up all those years ago? As the truth is slowly unearthed, Leah finds herself growing closer and closer to the great-great-grandson of Hester and Albert Canning. But what happens when her ex shows up and wants her back in his life?

This tale skips between the past and the present with a gloomy, intense style very similar to Kate Morton (The Distant Hours, The Forgotten Garden, The House at Riverton) and Kimberley Freeman (Wildflower Hill)-full of mystery and deep, dark family secrets. If you enjoy this type of literature,  you will not want to miss Katherine Webb’s The Unseen“, and you may find that her other works tickle your fancy, as well.