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 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.

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.

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.

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