Review of The Not So Perfect Plan To Save Friendship House: An Uplifting Romantic Comedy.

This is a story of friendship. Of mistrust. Of coming together to celebrate friendship and work out differences.

Phoebe Stockton is the chef at the all female senior living home, her friend June is the manager, and they love their residents and cherish the friendships that they have with the ladies. But the owner, Max, drops a bombshell on them all; he is bringing his father Terence to the home. Technically speaking Terence owns the house, but his rude behaviour and appaling manner send Phoebe, June, and the female residents into a spin.

Then there’s Nick. Nick is “one of the girls” but when Terence comes to live with them he tries to smooth things over, which gets Phoebe’s back up. In her mind Nick can do no wrong, shes had a crush on him ever since he came to work at the home. He’s gorgeous, he’s charming, he’s funny, and he’s a hit with the ladies in the home.

Max then delivers another blow, he’s bringing his daughter into the fold. Tamsyn is brought in to replace one of the helpers who left suddenly after Terence pinched her bottom! Tamsyn is not at all interested in doing any work, instead she hangs around Nick, cosying up to him and getting on Phoebe’s nerves.

At the very beginning of the story we are introduced to Phoebe as she attends her mother’s funeral. Despite the sadness of the occasion the storyline is heart-warming and inviting.

This is a wonderfully uplifting story that immediately draws the reader in. Phoebe is a lovely character and very witty too. I felt for Nick because I had guessed what was really going on with him, but obvioulsy the reader doesn’t find this out until much later in the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I loved the characters, apart from Tamsyn, she irritated me but I expect that was the author’s intention. I would definnitely recommend this book.

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Review of The Sapphire Widow.

 

Louisa Reeve appears to have the perfect life, the daughter of a successful British gem trader and the wife of Elliot, a charming businessman, who she has been married to for twelve years. Appearances can be deceptive though, and Louisa and Elliot’s life is not as perfect as it appears on the surface.

Despite having everything they could possibly want to make a comfortable life for themselves, there is one thing that they do not have, a child. There had been several miscarriages and then the tragic loss of their daughter, stillborn, eight years earlier. Louisa was often lonely.

Elliot was always on business, leaving Louisa to her own thoughts. She never doubted his loyalty to her. He’d had some trouble a year or so ago and this worried Louisa more than anything. Then one day her perfect world came crashing down around her. Elliot was late home, they were having guests for dinner and he had vowed he would be back before they arrived. But tragedy arrived at her door instead; the local police officer brought the news that Elliot had been killed in a driving accident earlier that day.

Elliot’s death opens up a huge can of worms that leaves Louisa desperate for answers but giving her only more questions. Beautifully written and with plenty of action this book will entertain from start to finish. As you read through you become engrossed in Louisa’s story, her emotions envelop you as the depth of Elliot’s betrayal is uncovered and the danger he has put his young widow in. This is a book I would definitely recommend.

 

Review of The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan.

What an absolute joy this book was!

This book will hold you in thrall right from the first page.  Narrated from the point of view of Masha and also Alice, you sense really early that Alice plays a pivotal role in Masha’s life.

Masha lost her son many years ago. She believes he drowned. She is a wonderfully complex character who I loved instantly. She frequents her local cemetery and tends to the graves of many people. She encounters a wonderfully eccentric woman, whom she dubs Sally, and this character adds a lovely layer of depth to the unfolding story.

Masha life is shrouded in grief. The loss of her young son has left a void in her life and the lives of those closest to her. The love that Masha had for her son has been transferred to her beloved Wolfhound, Haizum. The dog’s character is every bit as lovable as Masha.

The book deals with grief and how it engulfs people. It also deals with cancer. We discover Alice has cancer and her life seems to unravel because of this illness. The secret that Alice has been keeping for many years spills out towards the end of the book. The author draws us into Alice’s world by writing about how cancer is sucking the life out of her and exposing her secrets.

The characters in this book are colourful and they invite you into the story. Kitty Muriel is adorable. Elvis comes alive, having first being presented as just another eccentric. Masha’s friendship with both Sally and Kitty Muriel feels so vibrant and exciting. These two ladies offer Masha so much love and hope and those feelings jump out of the book and envelope the reader with the warmth that is being evoked within the story.

I am not writing anything about the plot because I want you to go and read this book and allow yourself to be drawn into the story. Every aspect of the story has such a colourful depth to it and to disclose any details would distract from the enjoyment you will feel once you read this book for yourself.

I loved everything about this book, from start to finish. I highly recommend it and give it a resounding five plus stars!!!

 

Review of The Colors Of Blue by Lance McCulloch.

Sara Field has a unique gift, she sees colours. How I understood the colours that Sara saw was like an aura around the people and objects she saw them around.

Sara starts off the story living with Greg, who is a successful business executive. Despite feeling the loss of her parents and all but losing her ability to see the colours, Sara feels she has a happy life working as a teacher and living with Greg. But Greg betrays her by cheating on her, and she loses her beloved job.

Just as she’s starting to put her life back together an invite to the Tres Piedras Ranch in Colorado arrives. Her sister’s future father-in-law has invited the bridal party to the ranch for a get together before the wedding. Sara finds out that Greg is also going to be at the ranch as he is very close to the groom’s father. She decides to stay for the sake of her sister, determined not to let Greg ruin anymore of her life.

At the ranch Sara meets Rick. The two share a connection that is beautiful and heart-warming, but Rick has his own grief to deal with. Can the two of them move past their issues and find happiness? Will Greg or the manipulative Kelly get in their way?

The story is heart-warming and captivating. Sara is a gentle woman and I warmed to her immediately. Greg irritated me beyond belief, as did a couple of the other characters. Rick’s pain and grief were obvious as soon as we were introduced to him. I found that this made me want everything to go their way and also drew me into the story all the more.

The writer describes the ranch and the surrounding area in such detail that the reader is left with captivating images in their mind. Each sentence entices you into the story and you find yourself lost in the world of the author’s making.

A gentle love story that has the right combination of sweet moments and angst to keep you captivated until the end.

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.

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.