Review of A Year Of New Adventures by Maddy Please.

A Year Of New Adventures is a light-hearted read and thoroughly enjoyable. Billie Summers, the main character, runs writing retreats with her best friend. On their latest retreat a grouchy writer called Oliver Forest, who tests Billie’s patience to the limit. He tells her that she hasn’t had much adventure in her life and this hits a raw nerve. Once the retreat is over Billie returns home determined to experience adventure. She starts a writer’s retreat at her home, which proves to be popular. But Oliver seems to be everywhere; he recommended her to her first client and soon he’s offering her a job. She accepts the job, mostly because she has an attraction to him. The job involves a stint in the USA, where she learns more about Oliver. Throughout the book Billie wrestles with her growing attraction to Oliver and this results in them sleeping together. Oliver seems to regret this immediately and Billie is mortified.

This book is cleverly written and a good read. The storyline was a little slow in the beginning but soon gathers pace and allows the reader to engage with the characters. Billie is funny and endearing, whereas Oliver is quite infuriating. Overall I think this book is worth a read and would recommend it.

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Review of Coming Home by Fern Britton.

Coming Home follows the story of three generations of women from the Cornish town of Pendruggan. Ella – who returns to Cornwall following the death of her beloved Grandmother, Adela.  Sennen – who ran away from Cornwall twenty years earlier, leaving her mother Adela and her father, Bill, to care for her two young children  – Henry and Ella.  And Adela – the mother and grandmother who must deal with the emotional fallout that her daughter’s disappearance has on her husband and their grandchildren.

As the story unfolded I felt a mixture of emotions, anger towards Sennen for leaving her children behind, sympathy for Adela and Bill, who have to deal with their own emotions that their daughter running away has evoked, all the while caring for the two children Senna left behind. Dislike for the grown-up Henry, how different he is to his sister! Ella is instantly likeable, she is such an easy character to root for.

We met Ella in Fern Britton’s earlier novel, The Postcard, where she had just arrived in Pendruggan.  Coming Home delves much deeper into Ella’s early life and the reason behind her return to Cornwall. It explores her relationship with Henry, who really comes across as a spoilt brat, and her relationship with Kit goes from strength to strength.

In the book, we are introduced to Sennen, the mother of Ella and Henry.  We learn about her reasons for running away and discover where she has been for the past twenty years. As much as she angered me with her selfish actions, I did feel for her when she discovers that both of her parents are dead.

The book is quite thought-provoking, exploring teenage pregnancy and the gamut of emotions that many young mothers face. It is beautifully written and the characters and story are captivating. It’s very easy to get involved with the storyline and you find yourself rooting for at least one character.

With regards to Sennen, I felt that there are many loose ends with her character, which makes me wonder if Fern is planning to write Sennen’s story. Henry wasn’t as developed a character as I had thought he would be, but again, I wonder if we will get to read his story at a later date. I was particularly happy with the happy-ever-after that Ella and Kit got. Ella is such a lovely character and I really had hoped she would get everything that she had wished for.

Overall I found Coming Home to be a pleasant read with a strong storyline and believable characters. The book is very well written and grabs your attention right from the off.

Definitely recommended.

Review of Fools And Mortals by Bernard Cornwell.

This story is set in the heart of Elizabethan London and centres around Richard Shakespeare, the brother of William Shakespeare. Both Richard and his older brother, William, are players – performers in the playhouses of London. The tale is told from the narrative of Richard, who has had a fairly bleak life up until he meets Silvia.

As the brother of William, who is a sharer in a playhouse in London, and a good play writer, you would be forgiven for thinking Richard leads a charmed life, getting all of the best parts in the plays his brother writes. That’s not the case, William treats Richard very shoddily and the parts that he offers him in his plays are menial.

The portrait that the author paints for us is one of a very bleak existence indeed. As I was reading this book I could feel the despair that Richard often felt, and hoped he would leave his brother’s playhouse for the new one being built across the river.

William is asked to,write a play for a wedding being held in the home of a Lord, who is rumoured to be the secret half-brother of Queen Elizabeth. The play that William writes is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Richard has begged William for a man’s part in the play. To his surprise William gives him such a part, but when they begin rehearsals Richard soon realises he has been cast as a man who plays a woman.

It is at this grand home that he discovers Silvia lives, the lovely young woman he noticed at an earlier date when she had accompanied the bride-to-be when she had called in at the playhouse with her mother and her ladies-in-waiting. This helps to cheer Richard up and he decides to stick around.

The play is stolen by one of the other young men, who has been lured away to the rival playhouse by the promise of more money. William believes all is lost, it Richard assures him he will return with the stolen script. Richard figures out where Simon Willoughby would have taken the script to and devises a plan to get it back. Much to his surprise his plan pays off, but as he is escaping one of the villains who masterminded the theft catches up with him. In a blind panic Richard fires a gun and manages to wound de Valle. He makes his escape and upon his return to the grand house he presents his brother with the stolen script. William is extremely grateful, but this still does not get Richard a coveted part in the play. Deciding he is happy anyway because of his blossoming friendship and budding romance with Silvia, he decides to stick it out with his part.

But Richard is captured by de Valle’s contacts a day or so later and is forced to say he will set his own brother up, declaring that he is a practising catholic. But he devises a plan and upon his escape and the conclusion is the performance of the play at the wedding.

The book is very well written, but the story is quite bleak. I guess this was how life was during the reign of Elizabeth I. The characters are either rascals and people we can root for, or evil doers who are not very pleasant at all. This is probably true of the time, so it makes for fairly grim reading at times.

Definitely not a hearts and flowers type of book, despite the happy ending. The author has clearly researched this era well and this is evident in the book. I think this book would appeal to those who enjoy reading books from this era, or the gritty and realistic story this book tells.

Review of The Postcard by Fern Britton.

Set in the Cornish Village of Pendruggan this story follows the life of Penny Leighton who is struggling to be what she perceives as the perfect wife, mother, and TV producer. Her career has hit a rough patch and she’s feeling the pressure.

Penny is a forty-something married mother of one, who is used to a glamorous life as a television producer. Whilst on location in Pendruggan, where the Mr Tibbs Mysteries were filmed Penny met her husband, the local vicar. Penny had been shocked to find herself falling in love and getting married, followed closely by her getting pregnant. We meet Penny when her daughter Jenna is around a year old, and Penny is struggling with motherhood’s demands. She also finds herself plunged into a crisis in her career when the author of the Mr. Tibbs Mysteries refuses to write another volume of the highly acclaimed stories. Penny’s boss, Jack Bradbury, is putting pressure onto her to get Mavis Crewe to agree to produce another book so that the television company can produce another series of the show. It is at this time that Penny receives the news that her mother has died, and despite being estranged from her mum and sister, the news rocks Penny to the core. With all of this going on in her life Penny crumbles under the pressure and the new GP, also Penny’s new neighbour, diagnoses her with Post-Natal Depression.

This book was a wonderful escapist read, a book to while away the hours whenever you pick it up. The characters were lovable, mostly, and the pace of the story was just right for the genre. Having never read anything by Fern Britton before I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the book quite as much as I did.

Penny’s struggles were relatable, the new neighbours, Kit and Adam, and their two dogs, were a lovely addition to the story, and even Simon the vicar, Penny’s husband, was a likeable character. I particularly loved Queenie who runs the Village shop, although she wasn’t in the book as often as I’d hoped. However, Penny’s sister Suzie, I found an awful,character and didn’t like her at all, although she is crucial to the storyline. She was spoiled, vindictive and manipulative, and I secretly hoped Penny would send her packing.

There are a couple of other characters whose narrative we follow in this book, and the author has threaded them together in a clever way. The ending didn’t, for me, tie up as many loose ends as I would have hoped, but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story.

Review of Thinking Out Loud: Love, Grief and Being Mum and Dad.

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When we think of footballers we think of arrogant men who believe the world revolves around them. As a Manchester United fan I knew that Rio Ferdinand was a very private person, so I knew that he was not your typical, big-headed, self-obsessed  sports celebrity.  When I heard that his wife had died I felt a wave of sympathy wash over me for him and their three children, and for their families, but then I didn’t really give it much thought after that.  Reviewing his book brought me back to that time in his life and I tried to recall what I’d read about Rebecca’s death at the time. All I could recall was that she was in her early thirties, and that she’d lost her fight with breast cancer.

This account of how Rio struggled to come to terms with the death of his wife and how he felt like he was failing his children gives an insight into a very private time in his life.  Some people may not appreciate that he talks so candidly about his grief, his inability to cope, but his message is a powerful one; what support is out there for grieving widowers?

Rio Ferdinand is a self-confessed unemotional person. As a professional footballer he  lived a very sheltered life in terms of how a household runs, and how to bring children up – in other words, he had no clue. Both of those tasks had been the domain of his wife Rebecca, but in the wake of her death he felt useless and unable to cope.

The book gives a little background information on Rio and Rebecca’s private lives, which I think is crucial in gaining the perspective that was intended when this book was written.  The picture that is painted by Rio is one of a dedicated wife and mother  who proudly keeps her home and children’s lives running like clockwork so that Rio can concentrate on his footballing career. He talks about how they had bought a property out in Portugal, a property that they had planned to spend many years enjoying once Rio had retired from professional football.  Rebecca never got to enjoy that holiday home, her life was cut short before Rio had retired, leaving him crippled by his grief and having no clue where to turn to.

Asking for help was not in Rio’s nature, but this was something he had to learn to do for the sake of his children.  All that Rio knew was how to be a professional footballer, The tools he had learnt to be at the top of his game were useless when it came to caring for his children, and this added to the struggle he was facing.

Talking about his grief, how he was almost consumed by it, how he eventually sought the help he needed, and how he began to move forward without Rebecca makes this a raw and often emotional read. This is not a feel good book, nor is it a self help book, it is one man’s account of how he struggled through the sea of grief that losing his wife caused. The important message within this book is that noting will ever prepare you for losing a loved one, grief is very personal, no two people grieve the same and this is important to remember. The book also offers information on where you can find help if you need to.

I don’t think this is the type of book you can say you have enjoyed, reading how one man almost drowned under the sea of grief that had engulfed him does not make for pleasant reading. The emotions are raw, the struggles are real, Rio’s experience is heartbreaking, but the aim of the book is to highlight all of the above and try to point other grief stricken people, particularly me,  in the right direction. The book was written after a television documentary had been broadcast about the exact same subject. It is a very honest account of how Rio sunk into the abyss after Rebecca died.

 

Book Review of Goddess 2.0 by Rev. Dr. Karen Tate.

Goddess 2.0 is an anthology of Goddess teachings and thoughts on the Goddess by Rev. Dr. Karen Tate and over 20 other writers. In this anthology, each author shares with the reader their thoughts on life following Goddess worship, as well as how allowing the Goddess into their lives not only enriches lives but also how a life following the Goddess allows us to be more compassionate to ourselves, other people, and the world in general. What this book offers is hope to all of those people who are looking for an alternative way of life and worship to what the current patriarchal way of thinking offers.

Many subjects are covered in this book, they are as follows:

The Resurgence of the Feminine and the Awakening of the Soul by Anne Baring.

Power by Barbara Walker.

The Dark Goddess in the 21st Century: Facing Our Final Destination by Cristina Biaggi.

Feminist Theology as a New Religion by Shirley Ann Ranck.

Goddess Based Morality of Women’s Health; Abortion and Healthcare by Starhawk.

Goddess at the Center, Goddess Everywhere by Nancy Vedder-Shults.

One Small Step by Linda Iles.

Becoming the Priestess or Priest of Isis by M. Isodora Forrest.

21st Century Ministry by Rev. Dr. Patricia Iolana.

The GoddessAwaits by Bob Gratix.

Reviving The Serpent; Symbol of Regeneration by Amy Peck aka Amalya.

On Building Bridges, Not Walls: A Goddessian – Christian – Muslim Perspective by Trista Hendren.

The Mother of All the Living and Societies of Peace by Carol P. Christ.

What’s Good for Women is Good for the World: Foundations for a Caring Economy by Riane Eisler.

Reawakening Our Earliest Sacred Stories by Karen Tate.

Columbia: America’s Forgotten Goddess by Andrew Gurevich

Veganism: The Most Powerful Antidote To The Dominator Paradigm by Charlotte L. Cressey.

Activism and the Dark Aphrodite: Battling Oppression and Fascism in Greece by Harita Meenee.

Lillith Meets The Green Man by Elizabeth Fisher.

Goddess Ethics in Action by Bob Fisher.

Economics of Goddess Spirituality; Interconnection and Social Justice by Starhawk.

Women and Politics by Delphine DeMore.

What Does The Goddess Have To Do With Politics? by Tabby Biddle.

In this book, you will not get your usual fare of lists of Goddess names with explanations of which pantheon they belong to etc. This book talks about the Goddess in a generic sense, rather than an individual Goddess, except for a couple of articles where the authors have specified a particular Goddess by name. This book helps us to understand that Goddess worship, and following the path of the Goddess can be extremely fulfilling and integrate perfectly with every aspect of our lives.

For instance, Starhawk argues that healthcare is a moral issue and that it must be given universally, not just to those who can afford it. This is a topic that affects many people worldwide and the author’s argument can teach us that by following the Goddess we too can feel passionately about such important issues as health care and its availability to all.

Riane Eisler proposes that recognising the critical importance of “women’s issues” is essential for everyone, women and men, young and old, and that “caring societies” are not only more compassionate but also more economically successful.

Within this book, you will find a broad spectrum of ideas and causes that not only affect women and the poor but affect everyone, everywhere in the world. The book teaches us that it is OK to be passionate about causes that affect us all, that we can have an interest in politics and still be compassionate and caring. This book offers us a new way to worship deity in a compassionate and caring way, as opposed to what the patriarchal teachings have drummed into us for centuries.

The book is very well written, the topics are both thought provoking and enlightening. Each of the authors care very deeply about the issues that they have covered and their offerings are well researched and interesting, and very relevant to the book itself.

If you are looking for a light read or a comprehensive guide to Goddess names and pantheons then this is not the book for you. Admittedly, the book is a little heavy going, but that is to be expected given the topics that are covered. This book is for anyone who cares passionately about the world around them and is looking for an alternative form of worship and way of life.

Review Of Shelby’s Way.

Shelby’s Way reads very much like a melodrama and keeps the reader guessing all the way throughout the book.

Set in Los Angeles, Shelby’s Way follows the trials and tribulations of Shelby Carpenter, a beautiful young woman who is married to a Hollywood stuntman, Boyd.

Right at the beginning of the book Boyd disappears after a party, he was last seen with a divorcee named Nancy and he leaves Shelby for her.  His deceitful actions leave Shelby feeling shocked and betrayed.  Shelby and Boyd have an 8 year old daughter, Pamela, and to make ends meet Shelby must get a job.

As Shelby learns to stand on her own two feet three men come into her life and their lives are intertwined because of her.  The first man, Sidney, is a married author who is famous and a lot older than Shelby.  She leans heavily on Sidney for emotional support in the days, weeks and months after Boyd leaves her.

The second man, Jeremy, is another married man, a lawyer, who is smitten with her from the moment he meets her.  The third man, Marc, is a family friend, recently divorced and a successful screenwriter.

Shelby reminded me a lot of Scarlett O’ Hara, whether that was intended or not, that’s who I envisaged as I read this book.  Like Scarlett, Shelby has a good heart and uses her femininity to get on in life.  Shelby isn’t malicious, nor is she a loose woman, she is very attractive and men seem to fall over themselves to help her.

The story seems a little confusing at times, there are a lot of different threads being weaved and it isn’t until they all come together at the end that everything makes sense.  

Shelby’s Way is a lighthearted read that centres around the lifestyle of lesser known people in Hollywood and the surrounding area.  It has scandal and heartache and despite her ditziness, you can’t help rooting for Shelby.

Anyone looking for a lighthearted read will love this book.

4 stars.  **** 
*A link to buy this book is included at the bottom of this post.*

  http://www.amazon.com/Shelbys-Way-Maybe-Listen-Heart-ebook/dp/B01ARVDOMM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459959609&sr=8-1&keywords=Shelbys+way

Review of How Forever Feels.

 

 

How Forever Feels (Friends First, #4)

 

How Forever Feels is the fourth installment in the Friends First series.  Prior to reading this book I had not read the other three books in this series, but I found that How Forever Feels could be read as a stand alone book anyway.  Much of the history pertaining to the other characters who crop up repeatedly in this book gets explained, making it easy for the reader to grasp their relevance and understand their stories.

Maya McKay was married to Jack Rhodes’s best friend, Will, but they are now divorced after Will cheated on her.  Jack and Maya were always good friends but Maya hasn’t seen him since her divorce.  That all changes one evening when she is in a bar with her friends and she sees Jack standing at the bar.  They exchange pleasantries and Maya finds his return has invoked certain feelings for Jack within her.

Jack has always had feelings for Maya but he didn’t act on them years earlier because his friend Will had his eye on her.  Jack owes Will and his family a huge debt, they rescued him from terrible circumstances when he was a teenager and now he feels he could never betray them.  The trouble is, the chemistry between Maya and him is smoking hot and it’s only a matter of time before they give in to it.

Can Maya and Jack overcome the feelings of guilt that they have about their attraction to one another?

A book that lovers of this genre will want to read.  The characters are strong and often feisty, which I think makes for an excellent story.  The writer weaves the story in such a way that the reader cannot help but be invested in what happens to Maya and Jack.

Lovely read.  Recommended.  5 stars *****

Review of When Everyone Shines But You.

 

When Everyone Shines But You - Saying Goodbye To I'm Not Good Enough

 

When Everyone Shines But You by Kelly Martin is a book unlike any other you will read.  I guess the genre that this book is categorised as would be self-help.  Usually, when you read a self-help book the author encourages you to be positive, bury your anger and never be jealous of anyone.

All good and well in theory, but putting all of that into practice is another matter entirely.  If your life has been one catastrophe after another or one big mess after another then it is really difficult to just swallow all of that anger, bitterness, the disappointment, then you will understand just how difficult it is to be the best version of yourself.

This book encourages the reader to be fully present in the moment and if that means you have to work on why you are feeling angry about something, then that is what you have to do.  The author tells us that it is healthier to vent in private – she suggests using a journal or even a trusted person whom you can vent away to.  Self-help books have a tendency just to focus on the positive but Kelly wants us to work on all of our feelings.  This is very different to the usual love and light that most self-help books preach and I found it wonderfully refreshing.

Am I angry that some people use me?  You bet I am.  Kelly writes that it is OK for me to feel that anger.  She encourages me to get personal with it and work with it, and I have found that this is a lot more healthy than suppressing it and expecting it to just go away.  That’s the thing with negative emotions though, ignoring them will not just make them go away and left to their own devices they have the potential to fester and grow into something rather unpleasant.  Dealing with the negative stuff releases those feelings that we have about the situation that is getting us all bent out of shape and that in turn leads to a much healthy version of ourselves.

Kelly also encourages us to let go of our ego centred way of thinking.  This, for me, is where the real work on ourselves is.  How many times have we thought that we need something only to feel disappointment once we have actually got it?  That is the ego urging us on, telling us we must have the thing we desire.  Be it the latest gadget or a few more friends on social media, chances are we don’t actually need it, we just want it.  Kelly has a trusted method she suggests we use whenever we are faced with making choices.  She suggests we ask ourselves these three questions:

Do I need this?  Why do I really want this?  Is there anything beneath this want that may be messing with my judgment here?

By asking ourselves these three questions when faced with making decisions we can, the author assures us, be sure we are not just letting the ego lead.

This book is a revelation when it comes to getting rid of the negativity in your life.  Positivity is encouraged but dealing with the negative is also encouraged and this is usually where we get into trouble when we do this kind of work.  Kelly doesn’t promise that we are going to suddenly become forever shiny, happy people, that just isn’t real.  What she does encourage is to deal with all of the negative emotions as and when they arise in order to release them so that they have no power over us.  For me that is a winning formula, it is down to earth and very practical.  Not everyone buys into positive thinking anyway so this book is just what you need if you fall into that category.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to take their life in their own hands and steer it towards the best version of themselves.  This book gets right into the heart of why we so often fail at becoming better versions of ourselves.  If you are looking for a no-nonsense book that will help you improve your life, then this is the book for you.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  FIVE STARS *****