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Jo D'Arcy (Portsmouth, UK)

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A Perfectly Good Man
A Perfectly Good Man
by Patrick Gale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Perfectly Good Read, 28 Dec. 2014
This review is from: A Perfectly Good Man (Paperback)
This story opens with impact. Lenny Barnes, paralysed from a rugby accident commits suicide in the front of the local parish priest, Barnaby Jones.

The ripple effect this has, reverberates throughout the book. But what is unique is the fact that, we are taken away from this story line and immediately thrust into that of Barnaby, his wife Dorothy, their children, Nuala and Modest.

What makes this book unique is we see each of these characters at different stages in their lives, each chapter is focusing on one character at pivotal points. They are not in any particular order more a patchwork of forming a story for the reader. I would be intrigued to learn how the author wrote this story.

With each chapter, we learn more about these characters, their background, their family their beliefs and their actions are all built upon layer upon layer. Underlying all of this is the impact of the suicide at the beginning it is still uppermost in your mind when you carry on reading.

Among these characters is the setting which this author does very well. Cornwall seems to come across as a place where dark secrets are held and how the environment either hinders or helps the decisions that these characters make. I was interested in the sections which featured Modest Carlsson in Portsmouth. Coming from that area, it was described with such clarity I knew exactly the roads, the landmarks and the church. When the story and Modest moves into Cornwall, I knew I was getting an exact description and not some glossed over ideal of what the landscape was like. This is the beauty of Patrick Gale's writing.

Gale's books tackle different and difficult issues that are perhaps not seen very often in mainstream fiction. This book was no different, do not be put off by the thought of a possible assisted suicide. This book is much more about actions and beliefs of people, religious or agnostic and the effect they have on all those close.

A book which has a tone which resonates quietly and creeps up on you when you are least expecting it to. A thoughtful read and not one to be rushed through to reach the next part.

The Dating Game
The Dating Game
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Modern Woman's Dating Game, 26 Dec. 2014
This review is from: The Dating Game (Kindle Edition)
This is perhaps a book about today's society, about todays women in it and how love is perhaps not an easy thing to find.

Gill has not been very lucky in love, but she has channeled her excess energy into creating a recruitment agency and has been single-handedly running it for many months. However, she is becoming wistful and now needs something else in her life. She wants to have that wonderful feeling of being in love.

She needs to get back into the dating game.

Set in Glasgow, Gill joins a dating agency and through that she gets to meet a succession of potential candidates, some are suited, some are not but they all had to the colourful tale that Susan Buchanan has woven in this story.

Gill is a 'real' character, she has not been made into a stereotype which sometimes infuriates me in these type of novels. You can relate to Gill. You feel for her as she has some rather hilarious moments and you can sympathise when perhaps she needs to tell some of the more keen candidates that it is just not working.

Anton arrives right at the start of Gill's dating game and it seems that her search may not be as difficult as she thought. Anton is someone quite different. Then in a twist of fate she meets another man not through the agency, Liam who captures her heart. From nothing to being able to pick and choose, it seems that Gill is going to find the dating game difficult to finish.

What will happen and who will she choose? It keeps you reading to the end and certainly was not the choice I would have made, but then that is what keeps this novel real and not some fluffy piece of literature to pass the time.

The Rosie Effect: Don Tillman 2 (Don Tillman series)
The Rosie Effect: Don Tillman 2 (Don Tillman series)
Price: £3.66

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Growing Up and Moving On, 25 Dec. 2014
Don Tillman had a project - that project was to find a wife. And that project is now complete.

Trouble is Don cannot be without a project and being a husband is rather a major project and one he seems to be struggling with at times.

He is learning with his new wife Rosie, in their new life in New York that spontaneity is ok, it is good and healthy in a relationship. Too much structure and control might not be good for a relationship.

When the arrival of a combination of genetics begins to form in the shape of a baby. Don decides that he now needs to concentrate on this project and understand fully something which is beyond his comprehension - as although this is a process he can look at and analyse and take solace in development from a scientific point of view, he is not equipped to deal with emotions and feelings. Rosie has an abundance of them. It is all beyond Don's control.

Don gets himself into some sticky situations and whilst inevitably you could see what happens, it is the humour in Simison's writing which takes over and makes us understand Don and his actions.

Characters from the first novel reappear, either in person or through the medium of technology. Of course there is not many as Don's immediate circle is small but we still manage to love and hate Gene in equal measures and watch with some pained moments as Dave tries to cope with also being a father but with a very different outlook on it, than Don. The new characters that appear fit in with this circle of Don's friends which in itself is rather amusing as they seem to gravitate to Don rather than the other way round. He uses them all in his quest of the Baby Project.

This is nothing like the first book and I was a long way through when I realised that Rosie is merely a secondary character, a vehicle which to show Don. That would be fine if she was not such a major part of the first novel. It was this which left me feeling that this book has not quite got the edge. Rosie was a feisty character but she has lost that and seems to have retreated as if the whole thing was a huge mistake. I am not sure if this was the author's intention, but for me it came across as such.

The next project may be one that neither Don or Rosie want to embark on. With a new life due it can only mean happiness somewhere.

I enjoyed this book, however I think that perhaps Don and Rosie should have been left to manage life without us peering in, voyeuristically through the pages of a sequel?

Christmas at Carrington's (Carringtons Department Store 2)
Christmas at Carrington's (Carringtons Department Store 2)
by Alexandra Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Behind the real scenes, 21 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is the second book in the Carrington series and although we had a little bit of a taster in a short story that bridges the gap, we are essentially back with Georgie as she serves the locals at Mulberry On Sea women's accessories, luxury handbags to be exact in a full length novel.

It all seems to be going well with Georgie and her romance with Tom. They are learning a lot about each other and it seems that this Christmas is going to be the best yet for Georgie.

That is until she sees herself on television. In fact everyone sees a lot of her on television! It seems that the department store is going to be featured in a television programme and that the well known retail guru Kelly Cooper is going to save Carrington's.

Georgie had no idea that she was going to be featured and even more that Carrington's needed saving from itself.

There is much confusion as she wonders why she has been kept in the dark about the project and even more so when they want her to be one of the major 'stars' of the show.

Reluctantly Georgie gets onboard, but not before she has fallen out with Tom and it seems that Christmas is going to be spent eating the amassed food she has bought in her freezer on her own. As she is trying to deal with all these mixed emotions and also explain to Tom everything, she gets sucked into the world of 'fame'.

Not everything is as it seems. Georgie is not fake. But it seems that television is and there seems to be an ulterior motive. The 'documentary' part of the book was well described by the author and I really felt that she has looked at the whole process with a rather cynical eye but one which I totally agree with. Everything is not always as it seems.

This is how Kelly Cooper and her annoying daughter come to be portrayed. There is obviously more going on that actually turning round a store. And whilst it might be predictable, it was still a readable plot.

For me this was not as good as the first novel. I was not drawn to Georgie's character, in fact she annoyed me more than anything, it all seemed a bit too false. Eddie, Tom's BA(Boy Assistant as opposed to a Personal one!) is larger than life and his character develops throughout the book. He stole many of the moments in the book that where perhaps Georgie should have character that shone through more? Georgie did show strength when she was helping her friend Sam, who run's the cafe at Carrington's and I was really touched by the way the sadness was handled.

Regardless of me being grumpy about the characters, it fundamentally achieves being a second book in a series set in a department store. It has that right mix of getting a glimpse of everyone's lives and also somehow it manages to comment on a very current and 'now' concept that of what happens when a television programme takes over your life not just at work, but how it moves into your personal life as well.

A good read, and even if you haven't read the first one I think you can soon find yourself amongst the shelves of Carrington's.

A Good Yarn (A Blossom Street Novel)
A Good Yarn (A Blossom Street Novel)
by Debbie Macomber
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Another warm read, 21 Dec. 2014
This is the second book in the series which is known as The Blossom Street Series. We are back with Lydia who owns the yarn store A Good Yarn on Blossom Street in Seattle. Of course there is much to catch up on with Lydia’s life and her sister and now colleague Margaret.

But it is not just their lives that Debbie Macomber tells us about in these books, it is those people who for many reasons appear in A Good Yarn.

They all have differing reasons and they come from all walks of life, class and age.

This time we meet Elsie, divorced from the only man she loves and living with her daughter due to some financial problems. It is not where Elsie wants to be and when her ex husband makes an appearance in her life it seems that everyone thinks he has changed except for her.

Bethanne had everything, home, husband and children. It seems her husband wanted someone else and now she has to become the breadwinner and parent and she finds it is not as easy as she thought. A blossoming idea leads to something else and Bethanne maybe able to turn everything around.

Courtney is a teenager in angst. She has had to move from the place she knew, whilst her father works abroad, separated from her older siblings and dealing with the death of her mother, she comes to stay with her grandmother. It means making new friends and starting a new school. Courtney feels she is going to stand out for all the wrong reasons.

These three women, come into A Good Yarn as a way of meeting new people, escaping the past and trying to deal with the present. Knitting for them gives them a diversion, a purpose and most of all friendship that they never knew they needed or wanted.

Of course everything is interwoven like the most simplest knitting pattern to form a great story and these books are cosy familiar reads just the same as putting on your favourite cosy knitted jumper!

The Husband's Secret
The Husband's Secret
by Liane Moriarty
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Can you handle the truth?, 21 Dec. 2014
This review is from: The Husband's Secret (Paperback)
Three Women.

Three Mothers.

Three Secrets.

One has everything, perfect husband, three perfect daughters, perfect family. Community minded, the sort of woman who volunteers for school activities, fundraising and can still hold down a job with a good income. She knows everything about everyone - but is there a secret more closer to home that is about to change her life.

One has a small perfect unit, a husband, a small son. There are no cracks in this marriage, in fact they even work together successfully. But a secret is about to crack, loudly through this family.

One mother has tragically lost her daughter and her killer has never been found, her husband never recovered from the tragedy and now it looks like she is about to lose her only grandson. She is the women everyone crosses the street to avoid because they don't know what to say. She knows who committed murder but will anyone listen?

This is not a light fluffy story, but one with substance and depth. It makes you question your own morals and put yourself in their ever changing situations and ask - would I do the same? No one can possibly answer that question and no one answer would ever be the same. The plot draws you in and whilst I could see some of the paths the author was taking us down, I was completely surprised by the justice that was dispensed and the manner in which it was done. Guilt hangs heavy over all of the main characters and it is how they overcome with it or park and deal it that takes us the reader through the whole story.

An epilogue perhaps answers some questions, but actually it leaves you wondering if any of their lives are ever going to be the same.

This is the first book I have read by this author and I will certainly look out for more of her work in the future. It was a compelling read and I wanted to know what happened, a page turner which is a good length at around 400 pages and did not for me have any weak points which made me want to give up the book.

A Cornish Carol
A Cornish Carol
by Fern Britton
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Happy grumpiness, 21 Dec. 2014
This review is from: A Cornish Carol (Paperback)
Fern Britton has introduced us to the place of Pendruggan on the Cornish coast in earlier books and she has picked up the place and the characters that we got to know and brought us a Christmas story. Of course this is to whet our appetites for her next novel due out next year and to fit in with the festive period. But despite my cynicism I did want to read it, because I actually think that Fern Britton's writing is improving and her books are very readable.

In Pendruggan, it seems that Christmas is not going to a happy time for Piran Ambrose. He has turned into Scrooge and has no intention of being festive and certainly will not be joining in any of the celebrations in the village. Who wants to see amateur panto productions and have screeching children singing carols at your door. Certainly not Piran, but he is in the minority.

His grumpiness drives away his new found love, who wants to celebrate a family Christmas with her son and his child. Even the local vicar Simon is fed up with his bad temper and puts it to him straight and makes him see what life might be like if he continues ad infinitum.

A touch of the Dickens' Christmas Carol, with memories of the past, the present and what might be happening in the future.

A diverting read and short enough to enjoy whilst you are enjoying your own Christmas.

Mr. Miracle: A Christmas Novel
Mr. Miracle: A Christmas Novel
by Debbie Macomber
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Male angels work hard too, 14 Dec. 2014
I have said before and for fear of repeating myself, I say again. Christmas would not be Christmas without a Debbie Macomber book. This year we are treated to another ‘Angel’ story. In Mr Miracle get to meet the first male angel.

Harry is a ‘guardian’ angel and is sent to earth to help those find the right way, especially at Christmas which can be a tough time for many. Harry is here to help Addie.

Addie decides that she needs to come home and get her life moving. She decides to take an English Literature class, which is where she meets Harry.

Harry is the tutor and the book chosen to study is A Christmas Carol. There could not be a better book to show you what Christmas spirit is all about. Addie has to look after Erich after he has an accident. The history between these two starts way back in the past and it seems that even if Addie can move forward Erich is going to need a lot more convincing. What once was hate is soon turning into something else.

It is up to Harry to make sure the future for Addie is filled with love. However, he is having problems of his own as he tries to understand the emotions and problems about living on earth. He is trying to help everyone and seems to have lost his focus, perhaps he is not cut out to be a guardian angel?

But it is Christmas and miracles are bound to happen.

This is a light heart warming story, with characters who could all develop into future stories and all no doubt have their own stories to tell. Perhaps miracles will happen for them in the future. A great way to start off your Christmas reading.

A Christmas Feast
A Christmas Feast
Price: £4.82

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great selection box!, 14 Dec. 2014
This review is from: A Christmas Feast (Kindle Edition)
You know how you get a selection box at Christmas, with all those favourite chocolates or sweets in, that you can certainly polish off before new year? What if you could get one which was full of stories from one of your favourite authors? Well if Katie Fforde is one of your favourites then this is the book for you.

This book contains everything you need for the Christmas Feast. Of course you have fizz and small eats and you are delighted with four short stories, when I say short they are short, the sort that feature in a magazine. Of course they all have the lovely women that Katie Fforde creates and there is plenty of Christmas cheer to be had for all. It shows you there is no such thing as a perfect Christmas.

As you sit down for your starter, you are invited to read a longer short story – The Undercover Cook. It can be bought separately but you have it in this book too. Emily a journalist has gone undercover to find out what it is really like working with famous chef Theo Milton. She enjoys strangely the cooking but it could be perhaps that the chef is enjoying her – but does he know the real Emily?

Another of Fforde’s short stories, From Scotland with Love takes us into the mains. We need something warm and substantial if we are going out into the snow in Scotland with a grumpy author and a dog about to have puppies.

Staying Away at Christmas is the perfect palate cleanser with the cheeseboard course. Two families thrown together at Christmas because of a double booking. It looks like they are all going to have learned some new Christmas traditions.

Pudding is always one of my favourite course and this year it is with a new short story A Christmas Feast. Imogen moves into her new house just before Christmas and thinks that she will have a perfect quiet time on her own. However, it seems that the Village has other ideas and she ends up having to entertain the village ‘witch’, Miss Wentworth on Christmas Day. It also seems that Miss Wentworth’s nephew decides to spend Christmas with her. It is going to make an interesting Christmas.

If you have room for Coffee and Chocolates, and quite frankly who doesn’t at Christmas this book ends with some more of the magazine style short stories.

Yes this book is a compilation of a lot of Katie Fforde’s shorter stories, but so what. It does contain a sneak preview of her new novel out in 2015, but I have not taken the plunge and read any of that as I otherwise I would be wanting to read it all! This book with it’s contents is all packaged together and makes an excellent gift either to introduce someone to her work or as a gift for yourself. It is not exclusively on kindle either you can hold a real paperback copy too! And that can be wrapped up and placed under the tree.

The Perfect Christmas
The Perfect Christmas
Price: £1.26

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Love ?, 23 Nov. 2014
When you are one of the most in demand actress in the world and there is nothing you can get, you would think that your life would be wonderful.

How wrong you can be. Maggie is that actress but behind closed doors she is fighting with her husband when he decides to take his son to Mexico, Maggie doesn't want to be left at home on her own.

She books a trip to London, dragging along her overworked manager and friend Zoe, they turn up at The Dorchester Hotel.

There every need is catered for by the love struck Holly. It seems that if Maggie cannot get a happy Hollywood ending for herself she is going to give it a try for someone else.

You get a glimpse of an ideal Christmas(snow in London!) and also how the rich can live in such sumptuous surroundings with anything but that basically all they want is something that no matter what money cannot buy - love and happiness.

This short story, by Kate Forster is just long enough to enjoy if you only have limited time to be reading during the festive break.

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