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Ms. K. J. Waghorn "library fan" (Brighton)
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The Ship of Brides
The Ship of Brides
by Jojo Moyes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Now in my list of Top Ten books, 22 Jun 2014
This review is from: The Ship of Brides (Paperback)
This is a fabulous story about four Australian brides sailing to meet their English husbands aboard an aircraft carrier, in 1946. Avice, Margaret, Frances and Jean are all very different from each other but have to share a small cabin for the six week voyage through the choppy seas of the Southern Ocean up through the tropical heat of the Indian Ocean and into cooler European waters. The voyage is not all excitement and happiness though, and this story details just how arduous and stressful it must have been for the hundreds of brides who left homes and families in Australia, to join their husbands thousands of miles away in a new country.

The test of a good book for me is this: do I keep thinking about the characters when I'm not reading? Do I continue their stories in my own imagination when I've finished? If the answers are Yes, then it's a good book. This is one of the best books I've ever read!


Me Before You
Me Before You
by Jojo Moyes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars A good story which could have been better, 17 May 2014
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This review is from: Me Before You (Paperback)
Although this is a love story with a difference and is interesting, funny [in places] and thought-provoking, it doesn't really get under the skin of Will's condition and describe it properly. We get to find out what other people in the story have to say [Will's parents, his male carer, Lou and her sister] but Will himself has no voice, which is a great shame. We are told he often has pain, extreme temperature, infections, etc. but these are glossed over and only described by others, never by Will. This may have been deliberate - by failing to give Will a voice he becomes dependent on others to tell his story, as he is for everything else, but that in itself contributes to the general perception that some people have of disabled people - they think that a person in a wheelchair cannot speak for themselves.

Although the story is easy to read and quite light-hearted, there are some issues that really don't ring true, and which for me made it all hard to believe. For example, why was Lou hired to care for Will when she had no experience, no training and didn't even know what difficulties Will faced? Why [given Will's previous life-style and wealth] had he not done more to help himself before Lou arrived - he was the one with IT experience after all ! He could have got someone in to adapt his computer and been in touch with others months before Lou sorted that out. And the fact that his family had pots of money whilst Lou's were scraping by seemed too convenient and bold a contrast to take seriously. It struck me that a more interesting story could have been written if the situation were reversed: a disabled person from a working-class family and a carer from a wealthy family.

The whole process of being in a wheelchair and moving around, particularly going out of the house and [later in the novel] going further afield could have been described more realistically. I never realised air travel for severely disabled people was so easy and trouble-free - from what I've heard it's often far from it.

The ending was unexpected [for this type of novel] and given the light-hearted nature of most of the story, was a great disappointment.

Given my reservations I would normally have given this three stars but as there are so few books dealing with this subject and disability in general, I had to give it four as it does try hard to deal with difficult and uncomfortable issues.


My Outdoor Life
My Outdoor Life
by Ray Mears
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 10 April 2014
This review is from: My Outdoor Life (Hardcover)
I've watched all of Ray Mears TV programmes, right from the time he started out on BBC's "Tracks" about twenty years ago, and have always been so impressed by his knowledge, enthusiasm, skills and lovely personality. This book is a joy to read and confirms what I always thought about Ray - he's thoughtful, respectful, intelligent and personable. And the fact that he's [for the most] part self-taught shows just how motivated he is to learn - when Ray started out [on TV] no-one else was doing what he did. It is our good fortune that he is keen to pass on his knowledge about survival skills, the world's indigenous peoples and bushcraft in general.

I recommend this book very highly.


Every Woman Knows A Secret
Every Woman Knows A Secret
by Rosie Thomas
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book...., 3 Mar 2014
...but not one to read if you are feeling depressed. I have given it three stars because although I thought it was well written and an interesting [if rather unbelievable] story, it was very sad and there was a real sense of dreariness about the characters. This wasn't surprising, given the nature of the event at the beginning of the story but it did make it a bit of a dull read.

I thought all the characters were well portrayed and I could visualise them and their surroundings easily. However, I was deeply irritated that the baby was nick-named "Sock". What an abysmal nick-name [short for Socrates, apparently] - every time I read it, I felt cross!

Where Rosie Thomas certainly shines is in her descriptions of foreign countries [her more recent books are often set overseas] and in this one the sections set in Italy really bring some warmth and colour to this story.


The Horse Dancer
The Horse Dancer
Price: £4.49

3.0 out of 5 stars nothing special, 14 Feb 2014
This review is from: The Horse Dancer (Kindle Edition)
I read and very much enjoyed Jojo Moyes' novel, "The Last Letter from Your Lover" and whilst not especially fond of horses I thought I would give this one a go. It is certainly different from most novels and its originality is interesting but that said, I found this story too long, too sombre and at times highly unbelievable. I didn't particularly like any of the characters [especially Natasha] and although I felt sorry for Sarah, her lack of personality and communication skills was a disadvantage and didn't exactly endear her to me. All through the story, I kept thinking things would not have gone so wrong if only Natasha, Mac and Sarah had talked to each other instead of being absorbed by their own issues. I still have another Jojo Moyes book to read ["Me Before You"] which other reviewers have praised, so this hasn't put me off her work.


Bright Girls
Bright Girls
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars not just for teenagers!, 23 Jan 2014
This review is from: Bright Girls (Kindle Edition)
Like some other reviewers, I have read all of Clare Chambers' novels [including "Burning Secrets"] and despite this being aimed at teenagers [more specifically, girls] I would recommend this novel to adults too. It's very well written with a clever storyline and some interesting, amusing characters [notably Auntie Jackie and the narrator, Robyn].

Being considerably older than Robyn and her sister, it served to remind me of how sheltered and uneventful my teenage years were compared to theirs.

I hope Ms. Chambers writes more adult novels in the future, but if she sticks to the teenage genre I'll be happy to read more if they are as good as this [and "Burning Secrets"].


Burning Secrets
Burning Secrets
by Clare Chambers
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.57

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a good story for most age groups, 23 Jan 2014
This review is from: Burning Secrets (Paperback)
Unlike a couple of other reviewers here, I did know that this was "teenage fiction" before I read it - but despite being 55 years old I decided that as I'd enjoyed all of Clare Chambers' other books [including "Bright Girls"] I would read this.

I was NOT disappointed. It's very well written and gives a good insight into what some teenagers lives are like nowadays. It's a good story, well told and with some important messages.

I hope Ms. Chambers writes some more adult fiction in the future, but if not, then this genre is still worth reading.


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
by Deborah Moggach
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, 6 Jan 2014
The cover and title of this novel are misleading, since the story bears little resemblance to the film of this name and was originally called "These Foolish Things". I read it through to the end and kept wondering how such a good film could have been created out of what is a rather average story. The book cover shows the seven main "elderly" residents of the Marigold Hotel, Bangalore, plus the young manager and his girlfriend. But these images from the film are merely there to sell the book.

Some of the characters in the book came alive and were believable, others [Marcia and Theresa] seemed to undergo personality changes at the last minute to suit the rushed and frankly feeble ending. Some of the characters in the film have been completely changed from their incarnation in the book, so if you enjoyed the film and were hoping to find out more about some of the individuals' history [i.e. Graham] you will be disappointed.

In addition I found the sex scenes revolting. Until I reached that point I had considered reading something else by this writer but I've gone off that idea now.

This is not a bad book - if you haven't seen the film and don't expect to, you might like it, but it isn't one I'd read again.


A Dry Spell
A Dry Spell
Price: £3.95

5.0 out of 5 stars A great book - worth reading!, 23 Dec 2013
This review is from: A Dry Spell (Kindle Edition)
I'm rather surprised at the [fortunately few] poor reviews for this novel as I am in the majority, and think that this is a very good story and well worth reading.

As ever, Clare Chambers excels at characterisation, plot and drama, and her dialogue is fabulous. She is probably one of the few outstanding female writers of our time who can really create a believable story which manages to contain humour and sadness, and which is a joy to read. If only other writers would understand that contemporary fiction doesn't have to include gratuitous sex or swearing.

I love her work!


Secrets of a Family Album
Secrets of a Family Album
by Isla Dewar
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars not one of her best, 2 Dec 2013
Like a couple of other previous reviewers, I have to agree that this is not one of Isla Dewar's best novels. It is 400 pages long, and for the first 200 pages I felt that nothing much was happening and was very tempted to give up. However, from the middle onwards, things improved, the characters developed and it ended up being quite an enjoyable read.


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