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!!!

 

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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 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 *****

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 *****

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 ***

 

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!!!

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.