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Jo D'Arcy (Portsmouth, UK)
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Amelia Grey's Fireside Dream
Amelia Grey's Fireside Dream
by Abby Clements
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

3.0 out of 5 stars DIY Programme in Novel Form, 19 July 2014
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Amelia has a dream of a cosy cottage, an open log fire, with all the rooms decorated just so. All her own work. It is a dream, she really lives in a flat in London and is a teacher in a secondary school.

But actions force Amelia to confront her dream head on and finally she is out of London and in the country. Working her way to creating the perfect cottage. It is not going to be easy for Amelia nor is it going to be perfect.

Rather than walking into the perfect place, Amelia and her husband Jack decide to makeover a cottage which needs a lot of work. Jack, is less than reluctant about the whole idea from moving to the country let alone renovating a cottage with no skills of their own.

Amelia is a determined woman and character and she begins to throw her whole energy to this one task. She has mood boards for each room, which precede a number of the chapters as we see this cottage come to life but Amelia's stability with Jack, her mother and her new-found love, a dad who owes money as well as a rather spiky teenage sister start to crumble.

This is a very light read but for me was a bit like watching a renovation programme on television from beginning to end, all the details, the stresses and strains of renovating and the problems and discoveries along the way. It felt like the characters were added in after all of that. Which is a real shame, because I thought the book had potential, especially when Amelia found something about the previous owner. But that really was rather glossed over and could have developed a lot more.

A book for fans of dreaming over interior magazines and the like. But if you want a story with a lot more substance then I would pass this book by.


The Return Of Captain John Emmett
The Return Of Captain John Emmett
by Elizabeth Speller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The failure of survival, 12 July 2014
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For those that survived The First World War, coming home and readjusting was another battle that many were facing. John Emmett returns having survived although not completely unscathed but it is mental wounds that are the most worrying and has caused his whole personality to change.

John is admitted to a nursing home in the hope that these mental wounds can heal. However, one day he is found dead in the surrounding woods. Assumption by all is that it was suicide.

Mary his sister, believes that there is an actual answer to the death of her beloved brother. She writes to a school friend of John's, Laurence Bartram in the belief that maybe he will be able to make sense of the fact that someone who has survived a war, takes his own life.

Laurence has been through the same war, his tragedy is the loss of his small child and wife. He has no one, no interest in anything other than writing a book which will never be finished. What was left for him now he had survived the greatest of horrors?

The letter from Mary sparks some sort of interest to find out the truth about his former school friend. He decides perhaps this will give him a purpose. Laurence starts to unravel a mystery not just at home and find answers for Mary but from incidences during the war.

This is a book which is a mystery, a page turner, you inevitably want to know the truth and see that if there is any evil then it has been overcome with good. However, it has its place in historical fiction. The aftermath of the First World War is rarely mentioned in fiction, apart from the Flu Epidemic which took even more lives. Those who returned are just as important as those who never did. Elizabeth Speller is concentrating on an upper class system, the officers at a particular time and in a particular place to bring together the many strands of this story and the mystery to a conclusion.

This is not a sunny story about war and life afterwards. Some of the topics touched upon are distressing and depressing, but I think it is important that all life is covered when trying to embed war into fiction. The research that the author has done, shines through in the book and for me she has seemed to make sure that she has not held back on anything and captured it well. Though the mystery is not part of the research but the imagination of the author, it has been fitted in well, but sometimes a bit too obviously well for it to be quite believable. That aside, though it is the characters and experiences of war, being a certain class, holding a place in life which is what has made the book for me and fascinated me once again for history.


The White Woman on the Green Bicycle
The White Woman on the Green Bicycle
Price: £4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars History Fiction, 2 July 2014
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George and Sabine have a rather odd marriage. There is three people in it. The other woman is Trinidad. Not a third person but the actual country.

When George and Sabine Harwood make the move to Trinidad in 1956, they were only meant to be staying for a minimum of three years which was as long as the contract George had with his company. George falls in love with Trinidad immediately and begins a love affair with the place from the moment he steps off the boat. Not only is this an island vastly different from the England he left in the mid 1950s but he is more of a 'someone'. He is important, he can buy land, mark his territory make his way further up the class ladder in this small place. George was never going to be that in England.

Sabine cannot reconcile herself to this place, so different from home. She feels so far away and is permanently hot and is counting the days down until she can return to the cool place of England and not worry about who she speaks to and can be friends with. Sabine is trapped in a place where she cannot speak her mind. The only way she can be free is to get on her bicycle, green and go down meet George from work or simply to try and escape the island which has taken her husband.

The locals all know the White Woman on the Green Bicycle. One day Sabine stumbles across a gathering of locals who all seem to be enthralled by one speaker - Eric Williams. Sabine learns that he is the leader of the new national party and becomes obsessed with him. His values and his ideals, not in a sexual or romantic way. She wants answers to issues which she feels strongly about, those which affect her maids. People it is frowned upon for her to associate herself with.

Sabine decides to write to him, to explain it all. But she does not send the letter. Sabine continues to write over the years and never send the letter, simply keeping them until one day George finds them.

George sees his future in Trinidad. Sabine does not and this third person drives a wedge between them and it is never resolved. We know this from the very beginning of the novel, as it starts at the end. An interesting concept which I was a bit wary of. You know what happens but how is the author going to take the reader back to the beginning and guiding us through to what we already know in the first few pages.

I struggled with the first 200 pages of the book, all from George's point of view. I did not warm to him as a character and found his attitude racist and he gave the impression of being a white man there to save the country despite the major changes that were happening. He could not see the change.

Past this we are taken through the rest of the story with Sabine. A character who was really struggling to be heard and seen by her husband. She can see the changes and wants to move away from them, back to a safe environment. However, she cannot do anything to convince her husband and I felt let down by her that she could not make the journey away on her own. Whilst Trinidad held onto her husband, Sabine held onto George and was not prepared to let go.

A different book from what I normally read, I wasn't sure what I was getting with it and although the story was rather boring in parts, I learnt a lot about Trinidad and the political and colonial history of the place from these two ex- pats. It intrigued me that we had the ending first and I wanted to see how that was going to work out. It worked but perhaps not with the impact it could have done. The language is colourful and in keeping with the culture, my technique is to try and hear the words, so I can get more of an idea. This worked sometimes, but not others and I felt I was reading and had no idea what was being said. These are all minor personal preferences.

The book is perhaps bit too long and unless you have a particular interest in colonial history then this may not be the book for you.


Undertaking Love
Undertaking Love
Price: £2.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Angel upsets the Wedding, 25 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Undertaking Love (Kindle Edition)
This is a stereotypical chick lit novel. That is not a criticism of the book but a statement of fact in my opinion. What makes it different to something that you may have not read before perhaps is the premise and the characters. Weddings and Funerals.

First of all there is Marla, an American, vehemently single and against marriage living in a small English Village running a wedding chapel. No it is not Vegas, this is Shropshire. With her is her gay friend and wedding celebrant, Jonny. Then there is the delightful Emily and her husband Tom, who I both loved from the start far more than Marla and wanted their characters certainly developed more deeply.

Everything is going well, until a new place opens up in town, not just in the village but opposite the wedding chapel. It is not really competition but Marla is convinced it will be bad for business - it is a funeral directors. Run by the dark and brooding Irishman Gabe. He thinks that both places can exist quite happily together. Marla has other ideas.

So cupid and his arrows have been sent to both Marla and Gabe and it seems now they are not just fighting about the survival of their businesses.

Add in a few more wild and wonderful secondary characters, such as Melanie, Gabe's receptionist, his friend Dan who helps with the more practical side of running a funeral directors. Rupert who seems to be a typical 'hack' and has his eye on more than the exclusive article. Ivan and Dora add age to the list of characters, their wisdom and humour make the younger characters reflect a lot more. And of course there is Bluey, Marla's dog and faithful companion.

Much is packed into this novel and at times it did make me laugh out loud and I admit to shedding the odd tear or two at points. However, I really could not believe in Marla. Her attitude was so scathing and she had immediately decided her business was going to fail because of something which I felt is a fact of life. Death. I know her business relied on the happier moments of life, but I was pleased when Gabe showed her on occasions that actually there is much to be celebrated of the life of someone who has died. Marla was straight in from the beginning, against the funeral directors and ended up with egg on her face (something that I was glad about) in her handling of the feud she had created and that had been escalated by her friend Jonny. A very good description of the media of today.

I knew from the very beginning who was going to end up with who and I carried on reading because I wanted to see if Gabe could possibly make Marla slightly more pleasant and human. This is what grated me with this book - the character of Marla. A well written character if she can get up your nose so well perhaps? Or one that could have needed more work? Only if you read the book will you be able to judge for yourself.

There is enough good and evil in the book for it to be what you would expect in a 'chick-lit' novel, the baddies get their comeuppance, the good ones get their goal (with heartache along the way). Having never read any of Kat French's work before this was an escapism read that can be forgotten.


Henrietta Who?
Henrietta Who?
by Catherine, Pseud Aird
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.24

5.0 out of 5 stars I didn't catch your name......., 25 Jun 2014
This review is from: Henrietta Who? (Paperback)
You wake up every day and you know exactly who you are, who your parents and are and where you belong in the life you are making for yourself.

When one day you wake up and go about your day as if everything is the same. Until someone tells you that your mother has been killed in a road accident.

And in trying to establish how she died, it comes clear that she has never had a child. So who are you then? And where do you belong? Is your whole life been a lie? Is the man you took to be your father someone else?

I am making this little gem of a novel out to be a psychological thriller. Actually though it is not that at all, but simply a murder mystery novel set in a village in the Nineteen Fifties.

It may seem that this was no accident but something more deliberate?

Inspector Sloan is the investigating officer and this book takes us through the clues and the red herrings and the puzzles that help solve who killed Henrietta's mother but also who actually Henrietta is.

I hope that keeps your attention, as it did me. I can see why some may find this a rather dry and some may say slow short story but that is all part of the process of an investigation.

A good old fashioned murder mystery for when the time requires.


The Stolen Weekend (Short Story)
The Stolen Weekend (Short Story)
Price: £1.49

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.


Honeycote
Honeycote
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.


The Lighthouse (SALT MODERN FICTION)
The Lighthouse (SALT MODERN FICTION)
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: £12.84

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All that Jazz, 7 Jun 2014
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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)
The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike)
Price: £3.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new detective on the block, 31 May 2014
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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.


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