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

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 ****

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.

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

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 *****

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.

A Review Of A French Affair

 

A French Affair by Katie Fforde

 

Having never read anything by this author before I expected the story to be your typical chick-lit affair. It was, but it wasn’t. OK, that is a contradiction in terms, so maybe I should say it is chick lit but it isn’t as frothy as most other books from this genre.

The story follows Gina and Sally, two sisters, who inherit an antiques stall, along with Matthew, the owner of the house where the antiques business is located.

Gina has just come out of a long term relationship and isn’t looking for love, but throughout the story you find yourself rooting for her and Matthew.
It is an easy read, thoroughly enjoyable and most of us will find we can relate to the sisters.

There were times when I wanted to shake the living daylights out of Matthew, he has an ex wife who is trying to get him to sell the house where the antiques business is, but everything comes good in the end. 

I have to admit I didn’t think I would enjoy this story, it had a theme I was unfamiliar with – the antiques business – and I imagined the story and characters to be quite stuffy. I was quite wrong and pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.

**** 4 stars.

Review of The Forbidden Queen

 

The Forbidden Queen is a story about Katherine of Valois.  Katherine’s early life was pretty dismal, despite being the daughter of the King and queen of France.  She grows up in a convent with her sister, Michelle, after their father loses his mind and their mother abandons them.

Michelle, upon becoming of age, is married off to a nobleman and Katherine longs for her own Knight in shining armor to come and rescue her from the life she has had to endure at the convent.

It seems all of her dreams have come true when her mother arrives one day to break the news to her that Henry V, King of England, wants to marry her.  After a few negotiations Katherine is taken to meet Henry, whom she falls for immediately.

After they marry Katherine believes he will fall in love with her when she is able to produce an heir for him.  Their marriage is far from the romantic idyll Katherine had imagined it to be, instead Henry spends his time preoccupied with the war he is waging in France.  She hopes things will improve between them when she learns she is pregnant, hopefully carrying the son Henry has longed for. 

Katherine soon learns that Henry married her so that he could lay claim to France, but she is determined to make the best of her marriage.  Her plans don’t go quite to plan as Henry becomes ill and subsequently dies, before ever having the chance to meet his son.

Katherine mourns the loss of her husband, sinking into a despair, mourning for the life they would never have, mourning for the love she would never have and mourning for the father her son would never know.

Katherine is dragged from her despair by Edmund Beaufort, brother of one of her damsels. He cleverly pulls her from the depths of her despair, making her fall in love with him.  Edmund eventually asks her to marry him, but makes her promise to keep the proposal a secret.  But their is talk at court about what Edmund has planned and a close confidant of Katherine’s warns her that he is just using her to further his own interests.  Katherine refuses to believe this, until she discovers that her brother-in-law has managed to pass a law that any man who marries her will lose all of his wealth and lands and status.  Edmund Beaufort turns his back on Katherine, much to her dismay.

After sliding into despair again she wonders if she is destined to be alone.  A chance encounter with a member of her staff changes the course of her future.  She embarks on an affair with her servant, Owen Tudor, and they eventually marry.  But Katherine’s brother-in-law again interferes and they pair face a lengthy battle to win the right to live the life they choose.

All in all this story was wonderfully compelling.  Having little knowledge of this particular Queen of England I had no idea where the story would lead.  I thoroughly enjoyed the tale and highly recommend it, giving it five stars *****

 

Review Of One Sunday

One Sunday by Carrie Gerlach Cecil.

 

It was only after I had requested to read this book for review did I realise it was about one woman’s troubled that lead her to rediscover her faith in God.  I am not a Christian, I do not believe in God at all.  I really didn’t think I would enjoy any part of this book, but I challenged myself to read it and expected it to be just awful.

However, the main bulk of the book is very enjoyable – if you believe in god etc you will probably enjoy all of this book – it is fun, witty, entertaining and well written.  It jumps back and forth telling us the story of the life of Alice Ferguson.  It is pretty gripping in quite a few parts and you do forget that it is leading up to the grand finale of the main character being born again.

I, as a non believer, have a huge problem accepting what is being said about Jesus and God.  I do not accept that as the truth, but I do accept that people who believe in Jesus and God will accept this as the truth and for me that is what makes the story more believable.  I believe that people do experience situations like that when they rediscover their faith and that is their personal choice.

Overall I enjoyed the book, reading about Alice’s struggles with herself after the death of her mother and then her father.  It is easy to see why her life spirals out of control and it is easy to see why she feels she needs salvation.  The very end of the book, the bit where there is so much God preaching going on, spoiled my overall enjoyment of the book.  It did feel totally over the top, but perhaps for a believer it may feel just right.

3 star rating *** but I will say only read it if you can swallow the intense religious message that overtakes the story right at the end.

Review of The Five Acts Of Diego Leon

 

At the very beginning of this book there was a lot of village superstition from the young Diego’s great Aunt, and I expected the book to go with that kind of theme.  Much to my surprise it did not.  Instead the book delves into the personal life of the main character, Diego.  How he struggles in his impoverished life in a village in Mexico during the Mexican revolution.

The book is divided up into five acts – five main parts of Diego’s life – with the first part dealing with his early life in the village.  then he goes to live with his Mother’s parents – Grandparents he never knew – from the age of 12 and they make him lie about who his father is, as they are ashamed to let their well to do friends know that their daughter married a peasant.

It is during his time with his grandparents that he discovers he has a talent for singing, dancing and acting.  A friend of his Grandmother schools him in the art of singing and dancing and she becomes a confidant of his.

His life seems to be set in stone, especially when he leaves school and starts working in his Grandfather’s law firm.  He is paired up with the daughter of one of his Grandfather’s business associates and they become engaged.  But Diego has had feelings for his male friend for quite some time and he is not entirely sure he wants to get married.  On the morning of the wedding he leaves the security of his well to do life in Mexico and heads for America.

Once he arrives in america he sets about trying to establish himself as a movie star in the new talking movies.  He struggles for a long while until one day he cheats his way into a role and from then on he begins to establish himself with the powers that be in the studio he has signed up to.

The story moves along at really steady and progressive stage.  It is beautifully written and interesting characters leave you wanting to know what is going to happen next.  My only disappointment in the story is at the very end, I thought things were going to turn out differently for Diego and was pretty disappointed they didn’t.

Overall I give this book 5 stars *****

Recommended.