Category Archives: Fiction

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.

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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.

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The Signature Of All Things.

The Signature Of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I think the first I need to say about this book is that it is very well written, which is not too surprising given Elizabeth Gilbert is the author.  I expected something along the lines of Eat, Pray, Love,  but got something entirely different.  I suppose I assumed that this author was typecast and I never really thought of her writing anything remotely different to that book.  But this book, The Signature Of All Things is so different and I believe different in a very good way.

The book follows the life of Alma Whittaker and it is very heavy on botanical terminology.  When I first realised this I did wonder if I would see the book through, it is very long and not particularly gripping.  I do believe, however, that the author’s creativity draws us in and we cannot help but read on, wanting to know what happens next.

I would not go as far as to say this is a riveting read, although it is an enjoyable tale nevertheless.  It certainly is no hearts-and-flowers-love-story, which is very much my cup of tea, but it is an enjoyable read that you will want to see through to the end.  I don’t think it is big on drama, although there are fascinating tales within this book that I found enjoyable – tales from other characters that Alma encounters.

If you enjoy the work of this author then you absolutely have to read this book.  If you are looking for something similar to Gilbert’s best-selling novel you certainly won’t find it here in this book.  The book is very different form her most popular book and that in itself is a good thing.

Recommended.

**** 4 stars.

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Review Of The Guardian

This lovely story is a Christian fiction novel – I was a bit dubious at first, being a Pagan I was uncertain to how much religion was going to be in the book.  I think it is fair to worry about such things when one does not follow the religion in a book, or is not religious at all.  After all, there are books in this genre that all but shove the religious aspect down the throat of the reader.

I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this story.  The author does not overwhelm the reader with religion, which made me want to keep reading.

The Guardian is about Jodi Winfield’s struggle with her belief in God.  The story begins with an Amish family returning home from a day out; the family – mother Maryanna, who is a widower, and her young children are travelling in a horse and cart when  the youngest child accidentally falls out of the cart.

The next morning whilst out for her morning run, Jodi stumbles across the child.  She fails to find out her identity as the child speaks no English at all.  Jodi imagines all sorts of scenarios that have led to a child as young as the one she found wandering about the open countryside in her under garments.

She rings her cousin, a local police officer who she is house sitting for and after telling him a few facts about the child he suggests she goes along to the nearby Amish community.  He is certain the child must have come from there, he explains that the Amish community are always reluctant to involve outsiders in their business so it is unlikely they will have alerted the police about her disappearance.

When Jodi returns the small girl, who she discovers is called Sarah, to her family in Hickory Hollow, a friendship begins between herself and the child and her family.  Maryanna, Sarah’s mother feels eternally grateful for Jodi bringing Sarah home, but is not sure she should be so friendly with an Englischer – the name the Amish community gives to non Amish people.  They soon become good friends when Jodi is invited to be the temporary teacher at the Amish school.

The book deals a lot with Jodi’s lapse in faith.  She lost her faith in God after her beloved sister died.  She has even vowed not to have children of her own, much to the dismay of her fiance, Trent.   Jodi just feels as though she is in a bad place; her sister died and she is struggling with her grief.  Her fiance is about to go to Japan for a year to teach English.  Then she loses her teaching job in Vermont.

Before I read this book I had noticed some of the reviews really slating this book because of the religious theme to it.  I do agree with one, in a way you are misled into believing that the story is a mystery, rather than a Christian themed happy-ever-after affair.  But if you can push your feelings about the religion aside you will find that you can empathise with Jodi as she struggles with her grief, her loss of faith and her place in the world.

I found the story to be more believable with the plot it has, rather than having the character go off on some wild, crazy adventure in order to find herself.  That Jodi was thrust amidst such a devout group of people made perfect sense.  She witnessed Maryanna’s struggles, bringing up four young children after the death of her husband and battling with her conscience with regards to her near neighbour – and deceased husband’s best friend, a widower – who is clearly smitten with her.

Having Jodi go off and be wild, crazy and spontaneous may have made for a better read for some people, but the fact that she was always going to rediscover her faith would have felt really out of place; this plot made much more sense.  All of the religious references were necessary to the plot and certainly were not over the top at all.

I would give this book 4 stars **** and can certainly recommend it for lovers of this genre, or for anyone looking for a pleasant read.

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Review of One Step Too Far.

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

This is the story of Emily who has everything – a lovely, safe life in Manchester, husband, child, security.  Suddenly it is all ripped away from her – the author leaves us guessing right the way through the book as to what exactly has happened to cause Emily to ac as she did – and Emily ceases to be.  She runs away to London and becomes Cat, where she embarks on quite a seedy life for a while, desperately trying to escape the pain and torment that her past has caused.

She almost succeeds too, she gets a good job, has a life of sorts and finally begins to feel she has outrun her past.  But her new life comes crashing down around her on the anniversary of the day her life had previously fallen apart.

At the very beginning of this book one senses they will be rather perplexed by the plot.  The plot has more twists and turns in it than I was really comfortable with, it launches back and forth from past to present and from the main protagonist to less important characters, then back to the protagonist again.  This gives the story a rather disjointed feel, at times it feels very confusing and frustrating.

My biggest grumble, however, is at the very end of the story where we jump so far into the future.  This did not really work for me, the end of the present day story felt as though it had been unresolved and the lack of use of characters names in the narrative was very frustrating.

I am not sure how I felt about Emily/Cat.  Emily was a character I could believe in, but Cat seemed as disjointed as the story.  I guess that was the point, given all she was running away from and all she had endured.  I just felt unable to warm to her though and many times wondered how she had managed to let her life slip so out of control.  Again, the effects of grief and suffering can do many a strange thing to a person who was once of sound mind.

The big sting in the tale is Charlie.  It bugged me so much I read several reviews – whilst still only half way through the book – until I learnt the truth about Charlie.  This did not make me feel any better, it left me angrier at Emily/Cat, although I am pleased I had read up on that particular plot twist rather than having it thrust upon me in the natural way.

I have to give this book four stars.  It is a gripping tale of love and loss and makes the reader feel like they are enduring the roller coaster of emotions that the characters are experiencing.  The ending stops me from giving it full marks – sorry, I felt so dissatisfied with it all.

**** 4 stars

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Review of The Lavender Garden

Set in both modern day – well, the late 90’s – and the Second World War this novel tells the story of Emilie de la Martineres and her whirlwind romance with Sebastian Carruthers.

It emerges that Emilie’s father and Seb’s grandmother were close friends during the Second World War.
As Emilie unravels the past her future certainly isn’t as rosy as she had hoped.

For me the best part of this novel was the reliving the dramas of the Second World War. I found this part of the story very intriguing and just as I thought I had parts of the plot dissed out, the author would throw in a plot twist to keep me on my toes.

At one point, towards the middle of the book – during a modern day section – I really grew fed up with Emelie’s character and considered not reading on until the end. But I persevered and bit was I glad I did!
The gripping tale took a whole new twist and I ended up staying up until the wee, small hours just to find out how everything turned out.

The story is quite strong and the characters from the past are too. Emelie was a bit hit and miss for me, and Sebastian made my skin crawl right from the word go.

I would definitely recommend this book and rate it as 4 star ****

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Review of Me Before You.

Photo: Currently reading this.  Very thought provoking.

The story centres on a Quadriplegic, Will Traynor, and a woman employed to keep an eye on him for six months, Louisa Clark. Will is difficult to get along with at first but Louisa doesn’t let that deter her. She does her best to make their days interesting. Then she learns the terrible truth behind her employment and spends all of her time trying to prove to Will that life is worth living, even if it isn’t very much of a life.

Louisa is determined to change Will’s mind, without letting on she actually knows what he plans to do.  She sets about organising days out, hoping to ignite a spark of renewed interest in his own life, hoping to prove to him that life in a wheelchair is not the bleak, desolate place he is perceiving it to be.  She finds an online forum for disabled people and feels that she can turn Will’s thinking around.  If these people – people from all over the world – can manage to find interest in life then surely Will can.

Louisa is on a mission and this plays havoc with her love life.  She also must remain tight-lipped about what Will has planned, nobody must know.  She finds this hard at first because her instincts are screaming that this is so wrong.  She confides in her sister, who helps her with the daunting task of finding things that a Quadriplegic can actually do.  Before Will’s accident, he was a successful lawyer, an adrenalin junkie and had a healthy interest in the opposite sex.  In short, his life was filled to the brim with work and play.  It is because of this that Will has given up on life and Louisa knows it must be extremely difficult for him to have gone from one extreme to another, in terms of quality of life.

Undeterred she continues with her plans, consulting Will’s carer and parents along the way.  She devises an action packed holiday for him in the States.  A holiday where he can bungee jump and go white water rafting.  A holiday package that a former stunt man, now also a Quad, has created so that fellow disabled people can have as good a quality of life as possible. A package that shows that life doesn’t have to be all about remaining at home, whiling the years away.

But tragedy strikes just before the holiday, Will is rushed to hospital with Pneumonia.  Once he is out of the woods he and Louisa decide not to cancel the holiday altogether, they just won’t be going to the States, instead they will be going to a place where they can relax and Will can recuperate.

Throughout the book I found myself thinking he was never going to change his mind, only to find I actually thought Louisa had cracked it.  The book is very thought provoking and insightful.  It is quite an emotional read, I gained an insight to why severely disabled and terminally ill people choose to take their own lives.  I still do not think assisted suicide should be legalised, life is precious, even a life that is so very limited. But at least now I understand what drives people to such a point.

A very thought provoking read and I strongly recommend everyone reads it. ***** 5 stars.

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Review of the Trouble With Charlie.

 

 

The Trouble With Charlie had me gripped right from the start. I began reading this book quite late one night, reluctantly fell asleep half way through, and just had to finish it the next morning!

 

The book tells the tale of Elle, who finds her soon-to-be-divorced husband dead in her house. Elle has no recollection of what she was doing for a couple of hours the afternoon Charlie was murdered and she almost convinces herself that she must be the killer.

With the support of her three friends and a shrink Elle begins to piece together the story of that fateful afternoon. I found myself trying to work out who the murderer was, and have to confess that I even believed it might be Elle at one point.

A well written, gripping novel that you just won’t be able to put down. A must read!!!

Highly Recommended.

***** 5 stars

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Review of The Black Stiletto: Stars And Stripes.

 

 

It was only after I had requested this book from netgalley that I realised it was part of a series. I was worried that I would not be able to follow the plot and that the story would make no sense to me.

I was wrong.

The Black Stiletto series is about Martin Cooper and how he deals with the revelation his mother was the Black Stiletto – a female vigilante in the 1950’s/1960’s.
This installment sees Martin wrestle with his conscience as he debates whether to tell his girlfriend Maggie about his mother’s secret identity.

The story is exciting, the characters realistic – although I am not entirely sure Judy as the Black Stiletto is all that convincing, but if you suspend your disbelief you can enjoy the tales.

My biggest regret in regards to this book is that I have yet to read the first and second installment; again, it is easy enough to read this book without getting too lost, should you not have read the first two. However, there are characters in this book that felt quite secondary to me, but I knew little about them having not read the earlier books.

I would highly recommend reading the first two books and then moving onto this one. The series seems gripping and quite the page turner. Definitely worth your time.

Recommended.

5 stars *****

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A Review Of The First Book Of Calamity Leek

 

The First Book Of Calamity Leek

 

When I read the blurb for this book on net galley I was really intrigued. I thought it sounded like a pretty cool book and couldn’t wait to get stuck into it.

My enthusiasm ends there.

This book is odd. I cannot think of another term to describe it, other than odd. I spent the first hour or so of reading thinking it was a book about a parallel universe. Then I thought it was about girls being trained as terrorists. I finally discovered what it was really about when I was maybe half way through.

I have to say it isn’t really a pleasurable read. I felt I could have given up at anytime, although I did see it through. When you begin to realise what the book is actually about you feel compelled to find out what actually happens at the end.

In the beginning the book seems peculiar, quirky and even fun. then it shifts a gear and you start to squirm a little as you read on, but not enough to put you off. Then you find yourself feeling pity for the girls in the story and you feel committed to finding out what their fate is.
Finally you just want to get the book finished and hope everything has turned out alright for them. It is that disturbing and you do find yourself pitying the girls for the abuse they have suffered.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying the book is gritty, but I would say it is quite a disturbing read once you realise what it is all about.

*** 3 stars.

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