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The Improbability of Love: SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016
The Improbability of Love: SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016
by Hannah Rothschild
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All love is improbable, 17 May 2016
Apart from reading ‘The Girl with the Pearl Ear-ring’ many years ago I have not read many novels about art. Where this one differs from the aforementioned, this novel is about the mad, mad world of art acquisitions and auctions.

The improbability of love does not merely refer to artwork itself but how we find love in the most improbable of places, how it or the lack of it influences our actions and affects our lives for good or ill.

Throughout the novel we meet many interesting characters who although well written and researched but due to the sheer number of them many felt rather two dimensional. The novel had quite a few points of view which could be rather confusion but each POV was written in a different way. Interestingly enough we also get the POV of the artwork itself which was original and fascinating.

The POVs include those of wealthy society types, gallery owners, Russian oligarchs, politicians, scholar, restorers, and ‘ordinary everyday’ people. Their lives are both fascinating and on occasion heart-breaking … the lengths people will go to, to acquire an important piece of art. However, instead of being a major part of the plot; many could have merely been supporting characters as is befitting their station.

The plot was reasonably paced and suspenseful. Without giving too much away there was a mention of Holocaust/Nazi history. Although a literary work of fiction the descriptions of the art and the food draw you in and make you want to be a part of the action.

One of the main characters and the unwitting owner of the artwork was Annie who had a very dysfunctional relationship with life, love and her alcoholic mother. Yet through the novel Annie grows and develops her love of life, work and another.

This book is good albeit there were, in places large gaps in the story; and the ending felt rather rushed. There seemed to be huge gaps between some significant events near the end, as if the author had been given a page count and had to cut a lot of the novel out to achieve it.

Sometimes the novel cannot decide whether it wants to be a modern or even archaic romance, a satire of the London art scene, a cooking book, a mystery, a history of the lives who owned the painting or of art theft in Nazi Germany. Perhaps the author was trying to cover too much ground in her debut novel. All that taken together with the rather archaic/literary and foreign words used could put quite a few readers off. Thank goodness for the build in dictionary feature of my Kindle.

I think the most interesting part of the novel was the restoration and researching the history of the artwork (proving is provenance); and what this painting meant to its creator and each of its owners.

As a first novel this work is reasonably well polished although some more editing would have given it more of a gleam. I will definitely be looking for more works by this author.


We Are The Hanged Man (DCI Jericho Book 1)
We Are The Hanged Man (DCI Jericho Book 1)
Price: £1.00

3.0 out of 5 stars All the satire left me cold, 17 May 2016
This is a police procedural novel set in the West Country of the UK. Although it is well plotted and makes you want to continue reading it is written in a gloomy ploddy fashion, much like the protagonist of the novel.

DCI Jericho is rather an unlikeable gloomy, damaged (aren’t they all?) do with only one real companion in the Somerset and Wells Police force. He is even disliked by his Chief Superintendent (the reason for which is divulged later in the novel). He does not suffer fools gladly and despises a lot of things especially cheap ‘popular’ television and yet he is assigned to be the Police representative for a reality TV show.

So whilst he is not participating in the reality show is also has to try and sole a crime or two. This character did not really come off the page for me. I think he was too much inside his own head.

I did not really get into this novel despite it being well written and with an intriguing plot. Don’t get me wrong I love mystery thriller novels and the creepier and gorier the better but this one was so bland. There were humorous light touches thanks to the DCI’s only ‘friend’ and partner DS Haynes; but other than that there was very little to bring this novel out of the doldrums.

Like the rest of the novel the ending felt flat too. Too little action rather too late with very little explanation and too many things were left open ended – a perfect set up for book 2 (which I was going to read next but needed something lighter before getting to it).

I am not really into satirical books and perhaps for this reason this novel didn’t grab me. If this genre of book is your bag then this is probably the book for you.


Burying the Honeysuckle Girls
Burying the Honeysuckle Girls
by Emily Carpenter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who is the Honeysuckle Girl?, 4 May 2016
A well-crafted novel written from two points of view; one from the 1930s and one from the 2010s. What starts as a simple time-sensitive search by one woman for the truth about her mother becomes somewhat of a quest that entails generations of the family and others. It will keep you guessing right to the end.

I cannot say I was gripped from the beginning but I was certainly intrigued but once the story got involved and the first intimation of the mystery was mentioned I was hooked. Towards the end it was a case of oh how much further ‘til the end; Ok I’ll read just one more chapter and the next I know some 2 hours later at 4.30 am I had finished and what an ending it was.

I liked the way the author wrote to book from two points of view and more intrigued as to how these women, some 75 years apart were essentially being treated the same by the men of the family. In the 1930s women were essentially the property of their father until they were given to their husband on their wedding day and felt no remorse in butting in throughout their married life. It would also seem that in modern Alabama, in ‘upper class’ families this is also an unspoken rule.

Although written from two points of view, there is no confusion as to which story you are reading, even though there are many similarities between the two stories which make the story more suspenseful. It also keeps the reader reading so that we can learn the conclusion of both these inter- connected stories.

The characters are beautifully written, they have real depth of character and many redeeming features. They are written in such a way that you want them to secure their own happiness and have a good resolution of their story; and find out what really happened on these women’s thirtieth birthday.

You empathise with Jinn and her plight; the way she is treated by her family and the distain she experiences from her young son. One of her only bright spots is her relationship with a neighbour. Throughout the novel you want Jinn to have her ‘HEA’.

In the case of Althea you feel all of her despair as she re-enters the world only to find that it is different to the one she left. Again this woman is written such that you want to see her success in her quest, and to overcome her demons (both real and imagined) and history. Althea’s exploits are both hilarious and yet in places rather disturbing.

The author also paints a very real world within which her characters live. I have never been to Alabama but the description of the area is really vivid and comes alive on the pages. That together with the old gothic charm added to this psychological mystery.

I was surprised to learn that this was a debut novel as the writing was so polished; and the plot well throughout and beautifully executed. The ending was satisfying and a fitting conclusion for this novel. You will be touched, disturbed, and appalled at Althea’s plight and treatment; so much so that you will be affected by this novel for quite a while.

I will definitely be looking for more novels by this author. Thank you, Netgalley, for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.


The Glassblower (The Glassblower Trilogy)
The Glassblower (The Glassblower Trilogy)
by Petra Durst-Benning
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.64

4.0 out of 5 stars Who is the glassblower?, 3 Dec. 2015
My previous experience of translated novels has not been good until recently and since then it has been blown away. Perhaps it was the subject matter that affected my previous experience or that modern translators are not so literal but convey the essence of the novel. Whatever it is I am glad that I have resumed my adventures into translated novels; otherwise this gem would have gone unread.

My initial reaction was how is this about the glassblower who dies in the first chapter leaving three daughters. Each daughter has a particular trait which most of us can identify with. The sisters relationships with each other is reasonably realistic and engaging; but at times annoying beyond belief (as it is with normal sisters). As we experience their trials and tribulations we also learn who the glassblower actually is.

This is not an historical novel per se and even the glass blowing elements (albeit fascinating when they occur) are few and far between. The characters are well written even though sometimes what they do or say is at odds with the setting of the novel; they are extremely interesting whilst they are extremely flawed. Initially they are portrayed as innocent and annoying, having been cosseted by their father (and not knowing the ways of the world – be it good or ill) but when they experience ‘real life; they become hardened to it; and move forward, and take on untraditional roles in their village of glassblowers. But the novel develops these characters and they become reasonably grounded women who have found their place in their world.

I cannot say that the action is constant or fast paced as they are periods of monotonous inactivity. Indeed the story line does not have a definite time line and appears to jump in places. Ultimately this is a novel of women overcoming adversity by becoming successful against all the odds.

This reader has becomes so involved with these women that she will be looking forward to reading the next novels in this series.

Full Disclosure: I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


The Shakespeare Conspiracy: A Novel About the Greatest Literary Deception of All Time
The Shakespeare Conspiracy: A Novel About the Greatest Literary Deception of All Time
by Ted Bacino
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare, Elizabethan England and a mystery Oh My, 2 Dec. 2015
Elizabethan history has been a topic of great discussion, deliberation (and is one of this reader’s favourite historical periods). It is often the topic of many mysteries not least those many novels based on the work of the astrologer John Dee. This is a period of history that is extremely rich in more ways than one. The Tudor era is a topic that this reader is particularly interested in the many works of John Dee but for many other reasons including the Witch Holocaust and the Shakespeare ‘who was he really’ question (previously dealt with to some extent in the excellent novel The Rose Labyrinth??).

This novel, in particular, proposes that Shakespeare was a member of the infamous ‘School of the Night’ which included Christopher Marlowe, George Chapman and Thomas Harriot and Sir Walter Raleigh (and is mentioned in Love’s Labour Lost).

This novel is apparently the result of 10 years of extensive and meticulous research which is evident (not least in the many appendices that are added at the end of the novel which make least 20% of the total of the novel (according to my Kindle) but not having read it all this reader is not sure how much of this is repeated from the novel itself).

This novel proposed an alternative reason for Marlowe’s early death and the sudden resurgence of Shakespeare; and for this reader had a certain ring of truth to it. What did rankle this reader is that there are just too may modernisms used in the narrative as whole to totally immerse this novel in the Elizabethan era; an era familiar to most historians and others.

All that said the characters, for me, felt rather one dimensional. It seemed that that the author had spent so much time on finding the footing of this novel that he did not establish plausible and fascinating characters. Another element that detracted from this novel were the numerous spelling and punctuation errors which this reader hopes are fund before final publication.

Even though this period of history is shrouded in mystery the novel is written in an easy manner and flows from one historical detail to the next be it in England, or Italy; Padua or Venice, Verona, Milan or Sicily. Having not visited many of these places I cannot say whether their portrayal is accurate.

Although this is a well-researched novel, founded on fact, it is not necessary for the reader to know every miniscule detail that occurred during this historic period. Yet despite this meticulous research there were still some historical errors such as people drinking tea some 100 or so years early. Also there was the introduction of 21st century language with did not fit with the telling of the story at all.

Although overall the story is interesting the ‘history professor’ butts in very frequently giving us extraneous background material that would have been better left in the appendices (as detailed as they are).

If you want an alternative point of view of this period in English history you cannot go far wrong but be aware of the provisos in this review.

Full Disclosure: I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


The Yellow Rose Beauty Shop
The Yellow Rose Beauty Shop
Price: £3.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We all want to go here, 30 Nov. 2015
When I started reading this novel I did not realise that it was the third in the series. But having realised that it did explain why many of the relationships felt grounded so early (they had been begun two books earlier). To be honest, it did not really matter, although this reader will be looking for the preceding novels as this one as such good fun. I was captured by this novel from the get do and did it held my attention until the final page.

I am not one to reveal the plot of the novels I review but believe me when I say this one is a humdinger. It seems to be a modern Steel Magnolias but in contrast it is laugh-out-loud funny. For this reader it epitomises the ‘movie/vampire’ notion of what the Deep South is.

As with Steel Magnolias this is a novel about the relationship of strong minded and strong willed women who have interfering alpha mothers. As in most life situations there is a mean girl and the one in this novel is a doozy. Each character is unique (as I life) but the reader can identify with each and every one of these women. There is a wonderful American usage of malapropisms courtesy of Agnes (I soo want to be her when I grow old) which is one of the many reasons that made this a laugh-out-loud novel.

The characters in this book are well rounded, rich, relatable, and leap off the page. They are sassy, independent, loyal and full of heart. This novel deals with relationships, new beginnings and ultimately gossip and its consequences. Ultimately this novel epitomise small town America; and how everyone knows everybody else’s business.

Although laugh-out-loud funny there are strong themes in this book, together with a powerful romance that makes the heart beat faster. This is this reader’s first Carolyn Brown novel but I can categorically say it will not be her last.

If you miss this novel you will be missing a treat.

Full Disclosure: I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


The Arrival
The Arrival
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars We are all awaiting, 29 Nov. 2015
This review is from: The Arrival (Kindle Edition)
As a fervent Matthew Riley, Raymond Khoury fan I thought this would suit my need for factual based mystery thrillers with a bit of sci-fi thrown in.

I would not say that this was the easiest read ever but it was very thought provoking. There were three distinct timelines in this novel 1948, 1980 and 2015. Each time-line provided an interesting element to the story.

The relationship between the two main characters of the 1948 part of the novel was not explained in enough detail and left this reader scratching their head later in the novel. The 1980s DNA sections were interesting but gruesome; and it is this reader’s fervent hope that such things did not and do not continue to occur. The way the three storylines merge is interesting to say the least. Yet slightly fantastical!

This novel started really well and this reader’s initial assumption made concerning the ‘unnamed Jew’ was incorrect yet my second guess turned out to be correct. But how one gets from a despot Jew to the antichrist is too much for this reader to comprehend. There were quite a few places where the detailed dialogue not only did not ring true but affected the action and pace of the novel. I am not sure if this is intended as part of the ‘preachy’ part of the novel or something that just happened but it did detract from the whole experience.

The story is told in the third party and therefore throughout the book the point of view (‘POV’) changes which can be rather confusing for the inattentive reader. That said this reader followed the story easily. The story itself was well paced with loads of action (it may have even left the way open for a sequel). The book also dealt with many ‘taboo’ issues with a great deal of grace.

This reader felt that the ending was rushed, unless the author intends to produce another novel in the series and then the novel ended just right.

It is this reader’s fervent hope that this does not happen but then again would the antichrist use those people who are the dregs of society – somehow this reader does not think so. This novel got me to question my faith to a degree and in so doing resulted in me deepening my faith (not too bad for a novel!).

Full Disclosure: I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Reign of the Vampires (The Society Trilogy)
Reign of the Vampires (The Society Trilogy)
Price: £2.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Previously Humans reigned but now it is, 27 Nov. 2015
I absolutely love books about vampires, especially modern books that have vampires living alongside humans. So you would have thought that I would also love this book. To be honest I am not sure how I feel about this book. It had loads of potential but for me fell very short.

I personally did not think that the world building was complete. We have three distinct types of vampire and the distinctions between them are not fully explained enough for my liking. I can understand the uprising and the V2000 release but the vampire distinctions left me cold.

So in this new world, vampires were lording it over humans but whereas previously humans were able to live free lives; here they were slaves to the vampires. Why I ask was this necessary? Oh wait it was to make it so that vampires become the salvation of humankind.

Lord Danika (surely this should be Lady; but what the hay), seems to be a lady lost in a man’s world (so what’s new I hear you ask!) and as the youngest Lord she is trying too hard to fill her father’s shoes and for me with little success. She was being pressured to find a mate (again so what is new!).

This novel fails on numerous counts, the lack of action between Lord Danika and her underlings and Lord Danika and her love interest. Everything seems to be too cold and calculated.

For the majority of the book Lord Danika left me cold. She spend too much time wishing she was her father’s son rather than getting on and dealing with the job in hand; ie being a big fearless leader: (or is it a case of the fact that she has to work twice as hard at everything in this modern world to equal one man?) Bearing in mind the number of years you have been one earth you should know this is the case! Wake up girl and smell the roses, oh sorry you can’t you are a vampire!

While this vampire is trying to rule her ‘nest’ there are humans who have not been captured and are doing anything they can to remain free. One such human is Mason who becomes Danika’s love interest but the way the character is written you just know his is more! (More I cannot say lest I spoil the plot for future readers.)

There were two big reveals in this book and only one of them caught me of guard. The second reveal had left hints throughout the book so it was no big surprise.

As this is the first in a series one would expect to be grabbed in kicking and screaming wanting to read more, more, more. Yet for this reader this novel was very lacking not least the weak vampire heroine (if one can even call her that). This reader, for one, will not be continuing with this saga.

Full Disclosure: I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Witches Protection Program
Witches Protection Program
Price: £2.10

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where to go when you are a witch and in need, 24 Nov. 2015
This is a book about living up to expectations (of self, family and others) and deals with a son of a detective that doesn’t cut the grade yet ends up in a programme that in underground and finds his feet.

In this novel, set in modern day America there are good and bad witches. The good witches are protected by a government organisation which also polices the bad witches.

This is a fairly short read as I managed to read this within 24 hours. The story is original and witty (in a laugh out loud sense); and an interesting new take on witches and their associated powers. The action was constant and the story line engaging with some ‘oooh what’s going to happen next’ seat of your pants action. There is also a smudging of romance too (which no doubt will be further explored in a sequel novel, should there be one). The final conclusion was satisfying and rounded out the story but then again left it open for a sequel (this reader lives in hope).

The characters are strong, yet flawed with elements that readers can identify with. They are also varied, interesting, well rounded, and intriguing with elements that readers can easily spot eg; expounding one’s image of a typical desk cop in some and an active investigator in others. Over the course of the novel you grow to love them and want to see their story even after the novel ends.

If you love witches that are historically based, but are able to see a joke then this book is for you. Although this is my first read by this author it will not be my last and I will definitely be on the look-out for The Witches Protections Program book 2.

In short this is a MUST read

Full Disclosure: I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Presumption of Guilt (Innocent Prisoners Project)
Presumption of Guilt (Innocent Prisoners Project)
by Marti Green
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What you need when the system fails you, 24 Nov. 2015
This started out very similar to another book that I have read for review. However, as it progressed it was so much more complex and totally different to the story I thought it reminded me of.

I really enjoyed this novel and was fascinated as to how this would pan out. As we are given all sides of the story we are well ahead of the solicitor in figuring out who did what, and way. And this in no way detracts from the work of HIPP or the story itself and whether justice will ultimately prevail.

It must be good as I read this book in just one day. I was riveted and kept turning the pages so I could find out what happened next. I really want to follow this series and see how she develops her skills and to read about the story that was mentioned fleetingly at the end of this novel. The writing enhanced the overall feel of this book; it is not too slow and not too fast paced so that the reader can assimilate all the information given; yet it is not too technical either. In short it is uncluttered and engaging and does not let you go until the very end.

This is a judicial procedural novel that deals with a flawed legal system that allows innocent people to be incarcerated and the pains some lawyers will go to to rectify that situation.

The development of the characters was excellent. They are developed and show what may really happens in small town America; and/or to someone you know; with all the associated feelings. The characters are realistic and though provoking with lots of emotional baggage that makes them true to life.

This is my first novel by this author and it certainly will not be my last. If you want a judicial procedural novel that fights a flawed system written by an author that knows that aforementioned system then this is one for you.

Full Disclosure: I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


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