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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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Review Of Head Over Heels

Magee Sinclair works for the family advertising agency and is set to take over the helm once her father retires.  Recently though, she just cannot get anything right.  Desperate to prove she is not a screw up she is relieved when she lands a contract, a contract she believes will save her career.  There is only one problem though, when she met with Justin Kane, the owner of a bike shop.  Justin hopes to expand his bike shop and Magee promised him she was the right person for the job.  But she had to tell a lie to get him to agree to use her family’s advertising agency.

What could possibly go wrong?

When Justin’s girlfriend dumps him just before the client he is trying to woo flies into the country, he finds himself turning to Magee to help him out of a bind.  After all, she has as much to lose as he does if the client does not invest in his company.  Justin needs a temporary girlfriend, a woman who told him she loved mountain biking as much as he did.

When Justin approaches Magee asking her to be his stand in girlfriend, outlining what the weekend will entail, she cannot believe that her small, white lie has come back to haunt her in such a way.  But, believing she can pull the whole pretend girlfriend gig off without anyone being any the wiser, she agrees.

This is a very fast paced read, but really enjoyable all the same.  It is not difficult keeping up with the plot.  You know its going to go wrong eventually.

Magee is a very likable character and you find yourself willing everything to work out for her and Justin, especially when Tina, Justin’s ex, turns up causing a scene and threatening to expose the lie.

An excellent read.

Recommended.

5 stars *****

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Review of A Bad Boy Is Good To Find

New York heiress Lizzie Hathaway is not quite the media babe you might expect her to be, she is anything but.  This does not bother her though, she thinks she is the luckiest woman alive as she has found her dream man in Conroy Beale, a man she believes is every bit as rich as she is.  Conroy makes her feel good about herself, she isn’t exactly the typical heiress type and is lacking in confidence when it comes to her appearance and personal life.  That Conroy chose her has her walking on cloud nine, and when he proposes to her she feels like the luckiest woman alive.

  But then her whole world comes crashing down around her in spectacular style.  Her father is arrested for fraud after he has embezzled all of Lizzie’s inheritance and then she finds out that Conroy is not the man he claims to be.  Lizzie is devastated, firstly she has to endure the very public scandal surrounding her father and then she discovers that Conroy is not the rich tycoon he told her he was, instead he is a mechanic with no money.  Believing that Conroy does not really love her, and that all he was truly after was her money, Lizzie spirals out of control.

  But Conroy truly does love her and now he must prove that he is not just out for what he get out of her.  In order to this he kidnaps Lizzie and then allows himself to be dragged back to the Bayou where he hails from.  Lizzie believes she has conned Conroy into marrying her – exclusively filmed by her scheming cousin who works for a TV company.  What she does not bank on are her growing feelings for the man she believes has duped her.

Loved this book!

 From the moment I began reading this book I was totally hooked.  I loved the characters, the plot and the ending was fantastic.  I loved the concept, loved how the guy was poor for a change.  I loved how everything went belly up and the woman acted bad and the guy was the one trying to put everything right.

Excellent read!
 
I would definitely recommend this book.
 
5 stars *****

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Review Of A Faded Cottage

Review of A Faded Cottage.

Quaid Witherspoon’s life is turned upside down when he becomes ill and is unable to continue with his painting. Quaid is a very rich man and has always had everything that money can buy. One summer, during his teens, he met Sandy and fell fast and hard for her, but his family were less than impressed with his choice of girlfriend. Like the dutiful son Quiad did as his parents bid and married a dutiful, rich girl more suited to their lifestyle than someone like Sandy.

Fast forward thirty years and Quaid has returned to the place where he and Sandy first met. He is living a quiet life now, away from prying eyes, out of the public eye where he can avoid the pitying stares of his many fans, friends and family, along with the media and general public. Quaid is a critically acclaimed artist but since his illness he has not been able to hold a paint brush. He cannot stand the pity he receives from others so he goes away to Hathaway Cove to avoid the public eye.

The story centres around two weeks of Quaid’s life; the two weeks around Christmas time. Sandy turns up and their relationship springs back to life, much to the delight of Quaid. But Sandy is hiding something from him, a secret she fears will take him away from her again.

When I first started reading this book I actually thought I was not going to enjoy the story. It took me a little while to get into it, but then I found I was enjoying the story and became easily engrossed in it. Towards the end of the book I felt the story became rushed, and I did not enjoy that. For me, it spoilt the story somewhat; given that the story had romantic overtones I felt leaving the reader guessing would have been a much nicer ending, rather than the methodical tidying up of loose ends.

Overall the story was slow to start and the ending was less than satisfactory, in my opinion. That said, the main bulk of the story was well written and a pretty good read.

3 stars ***

 

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Review Of Bristol House

 Annie Kendall is a recovering alcoholic who has come to London, from the USA to revive her career. Annie is an architectural historian and the Shalom Foundation, headed by Philip ~Weinraub, has head-hunted her to work for them. The brief is to locate several pieces of Judaica – historical items significant to the Jewish faith – rumoured to have been gifted by a mystery man known as the Jew Of Holborn. Annie isn’t certain that such a figure actually existed, he was said to be around during Henry VIII’s reign and as this was a particularly unsettled religious time, especially for Jews, it seems unlikely that such a man would have been open about his beliefs, let alone lavish the religious artefacts upon the chosen people.

But Annie is keen to reignite her career and what better way than to prove that the Jew Of Holborn is more than a myth but also to find his missing treasures. Her flight and accommodation are arranged by the Shalom Foundation, she is to stay in an appartment in Bristol House for the duration of her trip. The owner is going away for a while and her niece, in the employ of the Shalom Foundation, arranges for her to rent the appartment whilst her Aunt is away. Before she takes possession of the appartment she is instructed by the owner to take an inventory of the furniture and items of art etc that are in the flat. It is while she is doing this that she encounters a monk. The puzzling fact is that he is a Carthusian monk and definitely not from this era.

At first Annie is a little spooked by these events but pretty soon she finds herself engrossed in her research which accidentally introduces her to Geoff Harris, a TV celebrity, renowned for his investigative journalism and his current affairs show. Of course Annie has no idea who he is but she warms to him immediately.

Throughout the book we are subjected to Annie’s history, her remorse for her actions in the past, her enthusiasm for her research and her keen sense of something not being right about the whole gig she has signed herself up to. With the help of Geoff and his mother and her friend they uncover some startling revelations about the Tudor past and th Jew Of Holborn, with a link to the present day. They also uncover a plot by Philip Weinraub to wreak havoc within the Catholic church and right in the midst of Rome itself.

The book is a pleasant read, plenty of action and suspense to keep the reader hooked from start to finsih. The suspense at the end of the book is quite thrilling, ensuring the reader stays with the story right until the end.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to everyone. It has something for everyone, from mystery to romance and loads of history thrown into the mix too.

My rating for the Bristol House is 5 stars *****

Excellent!!!

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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 Broken Elements

The fantasy genre is becoming my favourite genre, so I looked forward to reading this book. It did not disappoint. It is well written and the author uses clever language to explain her characters and their powers in a way that makes sense to the story line, and does not come acoss like a reference section!

Written in the first person the story follows Aidan Brook, a water elemental, who has lived in solitude for a decade. She left her old life in Lake Tahoe behind after she could not prevent the deaths of three people who got caught up in a murder spree her and her best friend, fire elemental Sera, were unwittingly caught up in.

But now Sera has found her and she has some terrible news to share; their mutual best friend, Chris, was murdered recently and his murder bears all the hallmarks of the killings ten years earlier.

The book follows Aidan and Sera as they link up with a couple of other elementals and a couple of shapeshifters all hell bent on finding the killer and bringing him to justice.
The book was a thrilling read and I found I could not put it down.

Early on in this book I thought to myself “I know who the killer is” but then dismissed my thought. Later on when the killer’s identity is revealed I discovered I had been right after all. That does not mean the author made it obvious who the killer is, I just had a gut feeling when I read a certain paragraph.

This book was a joy to read, compelling, thrilling and difficult to put down! Thoroughly recommend giving it a read – you certainly won’t be disappointed.

***** 5 stars!!!!!

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