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Jo D'Arcy (Portsmouth, UK)

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The Stolen Weekend (Short Story)
The Stolen Weekend (Short Story)
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A weekend catch up, 8 Jun. 2014
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If you have read Fern Britton's second novel Hidden Treasures then you will be familiar with the characters Helen and Penny. Best friends who are now both living in a village in Cornwall. Helen who came to escape her husband whose philandering ways were being to become rather tedious. Penny brought a TV show to the village and stayed when she found love with the local Vicar.

And so we are back with them, for a short story. A vehicle no doubt to advertise the fact that Helen and Penny feature in the new full length novel A Seaside Affair. Despite my cynicism, this is perfect little story about the two women who missing London so much have escaped their for the weekend on some pretext.

Once back in the big city with the bright lights, they realise what they have back in their village in Cornwall. The peace and quiet, the welcoming village life and of course the men they have left behind.

What is great about these short stories is that you get to catch up with characters which you enjoyed reading about and find out what has been going on in their lives.

It will be great to find out more about them again in the new novel.

by Veronica Henry
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars "Those Naughty Liddiards" - Veronica Henry, 8 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Honeycote (Paperback)
This is not only the first novel in a trilogy about the village of Honeycote but it is also the first novel of Veronica Henry. An author who has gone from strength to strength in her storytelling.

Honeycote House is the home to the Liddiard's and has been for generations. It's current occupants are Mickey and his wife Lucy with their two daughters and Patrick, Mickey's son from his first marriage. But all is not well; Mickey is running the family business into the ground and is drinking himself into some sort of denial. He is treating his wife shamefully as he goes from one woman to another.

His wife Lucy has no idea about any of this and has always embraced everything in such a wholehearted manner that she appears to be keeping the whole family going. Veronica Henry brought to life the way Lucy brings everyone together in their haphazard house, dogs, horses, children, everyone being welcome and enjoying the food and most of all the company.

James, Mickey's brother is part of the Liddiard family that has not embraced the tradition of living in the family home and working in the family business. He is trying to keep his distance because he has feelings for Lucy and despite his own relationships James feels he is cheating on Lucy when he is with other woman. He even knows his brother is cheating on Lucy and despises him for it but cannot do anything but wait.

One of Mickey's women is Kay. She married for money and not for sex. Kay discovers the latter can certainly make up for some of the loneliness in her life. Is she about to be the next Mrs Liddiard in the 'big house' or is her lifestyle going to change rather rapidly and unexpectedly.

The three main characters are interwoven into the story along with more minor ones, but they all have a part to play in Honeycote. Even the outsiders can see the idyll that is this Cotswold village and dream of making a life for themselves. Trouble is, there are many deceptions and hearts about to be broken for that to be achieved.

This book has it all, a rich array of characters and I admit it does take a little while to get your head round who is who, but within a few chapters you are hooked into their lives. Turning the pages to find out more as if watching a soap opera unfold in front of you. There is the equal amount of humour and heartache and some moments that made me blush! It has the right ingredients for a story to take you away from it all. Veronica Henry does them so well, and as this was her first work it can only (and it does) get better.

by Alison Moore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.19

3.0 out of 5 stars A guiding light for life, 7 Jun. 2014
A man stands on a ferry. He is going on a walking holiday to Germany. With him he only has what he needs and a small silver lighthouse.

A woman sits at the end of the bar. Her husband is working behind it. She is drinking. It is early and she has the bedrooms to clean. She is in a hotel in Germany. She has a small silver lighthouse.

This novel alternates between these two characters. Futh is trying to rediscover a previous walking holiday he had with his father, in the hope that it might contain the clues to what has gone wrong with his current life.

Ester is trying to blot something out about the past through the present of drinking gin and sleeping with strangers as her husband works downstairs.

This is rather an odd story which is very difficult to review, it goes somewhere but nowhere at the same time. What carried me on was the writing, it was so well written that actually when I came to the end and felt that I had perhaps missed the point, it did not matter. A reflective novel, which showed how lonely the two main characters were and I felt sympathy and frustration with them at differing points. Futh his past life was frustrating as he did not seem to acknowledge what was going on at the time and Ester with her present, sympathy for the life she had got herself into.

As for the lighthouse, is it that one singular light that guides us through life? Or does it have another meaning when the light is not shining and guiding you?

An interesting novel if you want to explore something that does not fit neatly into any sort of box. Because life doesn't does it?

London Calling: A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery
London Calling: A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery
by Sara Sheridan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All that Jazz, 7 Jun. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Mirabelle Bevan might have found her niche in life since, the Second World War and the Nineteen Fifties are starting to show a changing world. Her administration role in the debt agency as moved up a notch as she is now in charge and has an assistant Vesta Churchill. The work is flooding in and they are busy. Perhaps they need some help.

Enter Lindon Claremont. He is not help, he comes with a problem as well as being an old friend of Vesta's from London. He has fled to Brighton because he knows he is the prime suspect in the disappearance of a young girl, socialite Lavinia Blyth.

They convince Lindon that if he is innocent then he should return and everything will be fine.

He does and it is not.

So the debt collecting is left in the hands of new character Bill Turpin, an ex policeman with a commanding presence. I sense that we will see Bill feature more in subsequent novels.

Mirabelle and Vesta head to London.

There they find that the world that Lindon was surviving in was rather seedy and murky. Whilst the jazz he was playing might have been uplifting the company certainly isn't. But why would seemingly good débutante girl Lavinia be haunting such a place.

It takes some skill to find out the truth and it looks that maybe Mirabelle has stepped into a world similar to her experiences in the Second World War and that she is putting too many people in danger.

The book as the first one did, captures the Nineteen Fifties wonderfully. The rebuilding of London after the war is continuing, the foggy and dark streets create an atmosphere both tense and thrilling which adds to the plot of the story. Sheridan is certainly not afraid of tackling race as an issue and shows the segregation that was apparent in parts of London and the treatment of blacks. Even her own assistant Vesta encounters such a problem at the hotel. This is not a book that is rushing through the Fifties but covers the first two months of 1952. Great Britain by the end of the book was facing a very different age and monumental change.

A crime novel with a huge dollop of social history in it which makes a very different read and one I would applaud.

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike Book 1)
The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike Book 1)
Price: £4.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new detective on the block, 31 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When I picked up this novel, I knew it was by J.K. Rowling and in the main that is why I probably picked it up. It was a bargain on Kindle. It has sat there for about four months and I have only got round to reading it when I saw the next book was due out.

Cormoran Strike is a private detective but not a very successful one it seems nor is his personal life. He is living in his office, but trying to convince all temporary secretaries that he is not. He is trying to make money to pay off his debts but with only one client this seems impossible. The woman who it looked like he was going to spend the rest of his life with has left him; for his friend. Plus he is having to deal with adapting to having lost a leg in Afghanistan, whilst serving his country and he knows he should take better care of himself but seems to make that one of his last priorities.

Just when he thinks it will all be over, two people walk through his office door.

First to enter his office is Robin. 25 years old, happily engaged to Matthew who is looking for a full-time job. She just happens to get a temporary one at Cormoran Strike's office. Within minutes of their rather abrupt meeting, Robin has somehow changed the whole dynamic of the office, even without clients. It also seems that she has some skills which might prove useful to Cormoran.

Second is John Bristow, his sister a famous supermodel, known as Cuckoo falls from a balcony. But did she fall or was she pushed? The police say suicide but John is convinced otherwise. He wants Cormoran to get to the truth, trouble is when dealing with the famous there is a lot of smoke and mirrors which seem to be hiding the truth and Cormoran is going to enter a world where he needs to look past it.

And so the novel really begins in earnest. In fact as Galbraith uses in the book very early on

"Bombarded with the story, you grew interested against your will, and before you knew it, you were so well informed, so opinionated about the facts of the case, you would have been unfit to sit on a jury".

I would say that was a good description of the way I felt about the book and the case that Cormoran was investigating. Of course it is reference to everyone who when reading in magazines, online and watching programmes believes they know the person so well that they could give you the real answer, despite never knowing them at all.

Cormoran reminded me greatly of Jackson Brodie (Kate Atkinson) and their were times when I felt I could have been reading about Jackson Brodie and I had to keep reminding myself I was not. It was the ex solider, somewhat loner with disastrous relationships with women and his ability to be able to bounce back from some rather nasty scuffles that left me with this image in mind. However there is not enough given away by Cormoran to make us aware of the real man, obviously so the series of books can continue but so as readers we can start to form independent opinions of this new investigator who has graced our bookshelves.

His sidekick is obviously going to be Robin, which is what made it very different from Jackson Brodie, who generally relies on his own skill. Cormoran can see that sometimes you need others to be able to find out the truth. You need to work together, a skill he would have no doubt picked up in the Army but one that was probably tested when he lost his leg. Again you can see a thread which will be continued in the next novel.

I liked the book, I enjoyed it and so what if it was written by J.K. Rowling. If you like crime/investigation genre novels then you will like this one.

The Sweetness of Forgetting
The Sweetness of Forgetting
by Kristin Harmel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Pastries of the Past, 26 May 2014
This book on the surface, just seems like any ”womens” novel which contains a family orientated saga.

There are three main female characters, Rose who came to America to escape the Second World War and find a new life which involved starting a bakery in a small American town near Boston.

Then there is Hope, Rose’s granddaughter who has had to carry on the tradition running the bakery, as now her own mother has died and Rose is in a home no longer able to manage. It was never what Hope wanted to do with her life.

As Hope helped her grandmother. Annie, Hope’s teenage daughter helps her in the bakery where the hours are long, the work rewarding but not very profitable. Her failed marriage means Hope and Annie clash constantly and it is another thing for Hope to worry about.

This book goes way beyond the surface with these characters. Rose is in a home because she has Alzheimer’s and whilst she spends most of her time in another world – her lucid moments, are very lucid and both Hope and Annie are learning a lot about Rose.

Rose gives Hope a list of names. Hope needs to find out the answer to this list of names without ever knowing the question. This information takes Hope on a journey to Paris where it seems there is a past which she never knew existed and that whilst reunions are a wonderful happy moments, it seems Rose’s story is very much tinged with persecution, great loss and sadness. Hope realises that you have to hang on to those happy memories they will last you a lifetime.

As Hope discovers who all these people are, their connection to Rose and the journey they have been on, we learn about the persecution of particular religions during the Second World War. How this persecution was common ground for differing people and beliefs, but they all seemed to put these things to one side to save lives, save each others lives possibly at great cost. It was this part of the story which kept me reading and which made me think this book is more than the fluff you may be expecting from the cover and the inclusion of recipes. Personally it did not need the recipes, the descriptions of the bakery items both in Paris and America were enough to illustrate what food can do in bringing people together, creating memories which last a lifetime across oceans and continents.

This book was a surprise, I didn't think I was going to get a romantic story wrapped up in some very sad moments and I did feel very bereft as the book came to an end. Well worth a read.

Hidden Treasures
Hidden Treasures
by Fern Britton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Finding something but is it treasure ?, 25 May 2014
This review is from: Hidden Treasures (Paperback)
Helen has had enough of her life and putting up with her philandering husband. She decides that it is time to start again and embark on a new adventure.

This adventure takes her to Cornwall and to a small but beautiful run down cottage which she renovates, moves in and embraces Cornish Life. She comes across, the local village gossip Queenie who runs the shop, the Landlord and Lady of the local hostelry, Don and Dorrie, the local vicar Simon, a rather rugged Cornish man Piran and Simple Tony. The village is a cast of characters and it seems with Helen’s initial introduction to village life she will fit right in, especially as she has caught the eye of more than one local.

It seems village life is going to get even more interesting when a TV producer, Penny and also Helen’s best friend thinks it is going to be the ideal place to film a new detective series based on a reclusive authors novels. Suddenly more characters are thrown into the village, this time more famous and well known.

The quiet life Helen was hoping for is dashed…..and then her husband keeps turning up and insisting that it is wrong for them to divorce. Helen does not know which way to turn.

This is Fern Britton’s second novel and it is an easy cosy read, however I was a bit wary of the how Helen was portrayed, I initially thought she was a lot older than she was, as if she was in her mid sixties. The inference that she had money, but without any quantification of where from or how, and whether it was her ex-husband who was the financial provider was glossed over. There was a hint of her own money, but it was a throw away line that’s all.

Whilst I feel that Fern Britton’s novels are very similar to Carole Matthews, Jill Mansell, Katie Ffforde and whilst I do not think she is quite up there yet, she needs to cover a bit more of the background as these authors do, to make the story that bit more stronger and believable.

The Rosie Project: Don Tillman 1
The Rosie Project: Don Tillman 1
by Graeme Simsion
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ticks the boxes, 18 May 2014
If only finding love was as simple as filling in a questionnaire - well for Don Tillman he thinks it is. For everyone else in his life, they know it is not. That does not stop Don.

If he can filter out all the time wasters, those who drink excessively, smoke heavily and can't function without some sort of structure and timetable he thinks he might be onto the right person. In walks Rosie, who drinks, smokes and can just disrupt all plans at a moments notice. Rosie is everything that Don does not require but she does require some help.

Rosie wants to find out who her biological father is and to do so without them knowing, she needs DNA and she needs to get it tested. Don is a geneticist and can do such things. He is drawn to help Rosie and becomes involved in what he calls the Father Project and puts his so called Wife Project on hold.

Although a predictable outcome can be foretold, by simply reading the blurb on the back of the book. How we get there is the most amusing tale I have read for a long time. I could so relate to Don's logic in some matters and at the same time, could find some of his actions amusing. I never felt as I was reading this book, that I was laughing at Don more with him. The author must be laughing with us, as to call a professor 'Don' and his friend in the same field 'Gene' must mean something on a very different level. Don't try too hard and wonder what it is, that is not the point. Accept it all when reading this book.

The author is hoping that readers can see the funny side of how ordinary life is. The situations are not complicated or uncommon, they are simply happening all around us and are everyday in fact. However to Don they are a challenge.

All the supporting characters were well rounded and played an important part. Claudia and Gene were the couple that Don was perhaps aspiring to be in without all the issues that he could see were challenging their relationship. The situation that Don and Rosie get themselves into whilst serving cocktails was funny as is the insight into Don's brain as he meets people and assess them;

"At Yankee Stadium we got beer and hot dogs. A man in a cap, estimated age thirty-five, estimated BMI forty (i.e. dangerously fat), sat beside me. He had three hot dogs! The source of the obesity was obvious".

I think we should be grateful that Don ever vocalised these thoughts.

There are so many 'moments' of clarity for the reader and the characters that this really is a great novel and one to enjoy. It does sometimes come across as a screenplay, but it was written originally for the screen, but then adapted into the novel. And for all Don and Rosie fans, of which I am now one, a sequel is out towards the end of 2014.

A Pleasure and a Calling
A Pleasure and a Calling
by Phil Hogan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creeper of the Keys, 18 May 2014
Have you met Mr Hemming?

If you have sold or bought a house at any point in your average town then you are bound to have met him?

You don’t remember him I hear you say? That is quite possible because Mr Hemming does not really want you to remember him.

Mr Hemming knows you though. He knows everything about you. He might not be able to see into your heart or mind but he can see into your house.

Mr Hemming has the key to your house and yours and yours and yours……..he has the key to them all……..

This book is a very different type of thriller from perhaps what you may expect. It actually gives you the creeps from very early on and stays with you, long after you have put the book down. But you could be forgiven at times for actually liking Mr Hemming, because he seems to have chosen a path for righting wrongs and making sure that all justice is delivered. But everything is not as it seems as we learn more about Mr Hemming and the paths he has chosen to get to where he is today.

With any thriller, writing a review is a challenge as to discuss so much will inevitably give away key plot points and outcomes, revealing more than is needed. Which is why I have to stop about the plot of the book here. The reason for only mentioning Mr Hemming and not any of the additional characters, who are constructed well and you feel equally for them all is that they also have an ability to give away too much as they help Mr Hemming.

This book is not linear in plot or in timeline, it jumps backwards and forwards almost like the mind of Mr Hemming as he tries to convince you that his actions are justified, his place in the town is without question and that you can trust him implicitly. If you like structure then this might not be for you. If you like to be challenged then this book is one you will enjoy. Mr Hemming is drawn into something of a hero by the author, but I think it is ultimately the reader who makes the final decision about his actions and you cannot do that until the very end of the book and I mean the very end.

I have not read anything that matches this book and I think the author has captured a small idea and developed it into a rather good story.

Next time you put your key in the door….stop and think whether Mr Hemming may have already been in before……

The Year After
The Year After
by Martin Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remember the past, 10 May 2014
This review is from: The Year After (Paperback)
They say you should never go back, it will never be the same as it was before. However for Tom Allen, alone at Christmas it seems he is subconsciously drawn back to Hannesford Court and the Stansbury family who reside there.

It is going to be different this time, so much has changed. It is 1919 and Tom Allen has survived The Great War but he is struggling to be a survivor when many of his contemporaries are about to be names carved in stone forever on memorials. Those he goes back to visit at Hannesford Court are no doubt wondering why it was him that survived and their son that did not, their son that got horrifically injured. Perhaps going back to a familiar place will give Tom some chance for the future?

Going back though means having to face secrets of the past. Ones that really should be forgotten. That summer of 1914 before the war, was glorious, everyone who was anyone was at the Hannesford Ball and there were relationships blossoming and friendships being forged. The subsequent war put everything on hold but it seems there is still some unfinished business to be had. Tom suddenly discovers that the truth. Are some things best left in the past and with those that never returned from the war?

This book cuts between the five year period that the novel is set effectively. Whilst you are learning about Tom and the other characters who frequent Hanneseford Court and their reason and relations for being there. You are seeing a society that has changed beyond anyone's belief. A Christmas Dance is heavily populated by women, as the village has fewer men than before the war. The acceptance of women in roles previously only held by men is becoming more common. The old way of life is very much dead and society is changing, especially a society that relies on its parties, balls and servants. The author seems to be able to connect right into the psyche of this society and its descriptions of events such as shooting parties, dressing for dinner and even such a trivial matter as eating breakfast.

What is this book though, is it a mystery or a romance? It is neither but it is both in equal measure. I felt it was a book that has captured the aftermath of events and has shown how war has affected a part of society, which remained unchallenged for a number of years. It is a book which shows emotions clearly and you cannot help but be drawn in, taken along and feel for all the characters.

A worthwhile read, which really makes you think about those that came back from the war. A nice contrast if you enjoy historical fiction and want perhaps something about after 'major' events.

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