Profile for V. G. Harwood > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by V. G. Harwood
Top Reviewer Ranking: 2,756
Helpful Votes: 249

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
V. G. Harwood "V G Harwood" (Derbyshire)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
Tigers in Red Weather
Tigers in Red Weather
Price: £3.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, lovely descriptive scenery, 4 May 2014
I really enjoyed reading Tigers in Red Weather and literally devoured it in more or less two sittings. It's well-written, easy to read, has some lovely imagery of New England and Florida where the scenery is evocatively described and comes out of the page to surround you. However, I was left a bit confused by the conclusion of the story and still can't really decide what to think about that. Klaussman, in one of the end sections, talks about "writers who leave their readers something to decide for themselves" but I still feel, on balance, that a few more clues would have been nice. It felt a bit like something she'd learned on a creative writing course which was being spouted at the end for the benefit of the reader. However, this is really my only criticism of the book. It is nice to have something to think about at the end of a book, although this is just a light read, so I didn't want to be thinking too hard!

I liked the characters and thought they were well-rounded with distinctive narrative voices. Nick was brilliantly shallow and selfish; and Helena suitably damaged by her cousin's meddling. I liked the way Ed panned out and how his "research" made him focus upon seeing what was inside of people beneath the facades. There were so many facades in the book and so much superficiality being presented by characters, that it seemed a particularly pertinent study. I can definitely recommend this book - it's a great read with some lovely scenery.


The Crime and the Criminal
The Crime and the Criminal
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars More twists and turns than average., 2 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Another offering from Richard Marsh, a man who literally churned out novels during the late Victorian period. This was probably down to the fact that due to an unfortunate incident involving him masquerading as several wealthy gentleman, living the high life and committing large-scale fraud, he ended up being arrested and, I suppose, on his subsquent release, he really, really needed the money. I'm surmising this, but any author who wrote as much as Marsh and at the speed he did, must have really needed the money. This previous history of Marsh's puts him in an interesting position to write a book on this subject matter - and, indeed, what the reader gets is a story which is really quite ambivalent about the nature of crime and the people who perpetrate them.

The "crime" in question initially starts out being about a man named Tennant getting on a train, having a row with a woman in the carriage and her "falling out of the train". He fails to act (this is a prevalent trope in Marsh's work - the characters in question end up becoming criminals due to the failure to act when necessary) and it turns out that the woman is dead. Or is she? Because then we learn about a man named Reginald Townsend - now he really is a criminal - after joining a murder club he gets rid of the girl who he's knocked up and abandons her body on the Brighton line. So whose body has been found? And who actually murdered her? This has got more twists and turns than your average whodunnit,and I was guessing to the end how it would pan out.

What is clear is that the ending is distinctly unsatisfactory from a moralistic point of view - the criminals seemingly get away with it (well, nearly anyway - they certainly don't meet any kind of justice as they deserve it). Townsend, who is thoroughly vile and probably everything that was wrong with Victorian Britain's aristocracy at the time, is let off far too lightly, even though some may see it as he gets what he deserved in the end. I never could quite work out why the fabulous Helen/Ellen wants to marry him so much (but assume it's a comment from Marsh about the decline of the aristocracy of the time, and how Americans were the ones with the money, marrying into the titles - think The Canterville Ghost/The Importance of Being Earnest, etc). The ambivalence of the "justice" at the end is interesting when you consider that Marsh has written this work and his own status as not quite belonging to the better classes of Victorian society.

Marsh was very much a man of his time, and this book is a product of its time - Fin De Siecle literature, through and through. Well worth a look.


The London Burial Grounds: Notes on Their History from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (1896)
The London Burial Grounds: Notes on Their History from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (1896)
by Mrs Basil Holmes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.75

5.0 out of 5 stars Tea in the crypt?, 27 April 2014
This may seem like a rather dull book about the history of London Burial Grounds, but trust me, it is an absolute GEM. The wonderfully eccentric Mrs Basil (Isabella) Holmes published this book in 1896 after trawling all over London and finding out every single burial ground in the city. The first part of the book is concerned with the history of the burial grounds, but being as this is a fin-de-siecle book and very much part of the cult of social investigation which was going on at the time, it quickly becomes a platform for Mrs Holmes to moralise about the disgusting state of the burial grounds and how much better it would be for everyone if they were all transformed into metropolitan public gardens for the benefit of the lower classes living in the East End. Coincidentally (or not, as the case may be) her husband (Mr Basil Holmes) was the Secretary for the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association. There are then some wonderful descriptions of graveyards which have been transformed and their opening ceremonies, including a marvellous description of Mrs Holmes taking tea in the crypt of a renovated churchyard, complete with lace curtains partitioning off all the mausoleums. Finally, there are the illustrations - photographs of miserable looking Victorian kids being forced to play on swings with crypts in the background. Add in the park keeper (every renovated green space had a park keeper to keep an eye on those pesky kids) and indeed, part of the raison d'etre for this social reform was that it presented a way to keep an eye on the lower classes, and this is just a wonderful, wonderful piece of social history. Print on Demand £15 - absolute bargain.


The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book, 27 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you've ever wondered where some of the most famous witticisms of Oscar Wilde can be found then look no further - it's right here. How about: "There's only one thing worse than being talked about and that's not being talked about" - it's in this book. The character who comes out with all of these delicious, pithy sayings is Lord Henry Wootton - a man who would "sacrifice anyone for an epigram" apparently.

Pretty much everyone knows what happens in this book - it's the famous story of a man who makes a Faustian bargain in which he retains his youthful good looks whilst his portrait ages for him, whilst his actions become more and more depraved. However, if you've never read it, you won't know that there is some beautiful writing in here. The description of the garden in which the first scenes take place are delicious; and these are paralleled nicely with the later urban scenes, in which the description reflects that of the garden, and yet there is now an overtone of superficiality as Gray loses his patina of youthful innocence.

One of the real strengths in the book, in my opinion, is the fact that it is never really revealed just how depraved Dorian has become - it is merely hinted at. We get the hard facts of his seduction of an actress and his murder of the artist, but there are lots of other things that we just never get to know. As with all gothic novels, it is what is not being said that adds to the chill of the novel. This is a classic example of fin-de-siecle literature with all of the themes of degeneration and the dangers of aestheticism prevalent within it. It compares, I thought, quite nicely with Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan. The novel was interestingly quoted quite heavily during Wilde's trial as supposed "evidence" of his debauchery. Of course, that was a nonsense, as the novel is a work of art - and art and artistry is one of the main themes of the text. Beautiful book - cannot recommend it enough.


Yesterday's Echoes (Mills & Boon Modern) (Penny Jordan Collection)
Yesterday's Echoes (Mills & Boon Modern) (Penny Jordan Collection)
Price: £2.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Caution: Never drink Scrumpy Jack Cider at parties, 27 April 2014
1993 and Rosie, the heroine of this one, is getting over a traumatic experience at 16. At age 16, she went to a party with some of her friends when her parents were away (been there), got drunk on Scrumpy (oh, yes, done that) and then was unfortunately raped by one of her horrible chums (mercifully, not done that). Anyway, just after the event, she is found on the bed by Jake Lucas (the cousin of the rapist) who she believes is condemning her for sleeping with his cousin. (She only lives in a small town, you see, and there's lots in this book about small-town mentality and how despite it being 1993, people still believed that you should be married before sex). After that, it just gets worse for poor Rosie - she gets pregnant after the rape and ends up miscarrying and blaming herself for it all. Now, at this point, I was asking myself, what would I do if it were me? Get as far away as possible from small-town low-lifes is what - but not Rosie, oh no. She throws herself into her work, gets a job in insurance and stays in the same small town. The town isn't the only thing that's small about this book; Rosie is clearly a person who thinks small.

Being as it is a small town, and all, inevitably, she runs into Jake again (although curiously it takes her over a decade to do this - not such a small town after all? Or maybe he's away a lot...) Of course, there's lots of angst and misunderstandings before she realises she has fallen in love with him (At this point Rosie asks herself how she could have fallen in love with him; and I must admit I was asking the same question. She had barely spent any time with him..) Still, all's well that ends well and by page 165, she's in love with him, destined to marry him in a marquee in her interfering sister's garden and she's so over the rape/miscarrying baby thing. Although on the downside she still works in insurance. Can't have everything, even if you're a character in a Mills and Boon?

This is one of Jordan's more ridiculous novels but I still quite enjoyed reading it. Jordan herself lived in a small town very close to where I grew up and it was all terribly nostalgic for me. The hero is actually quite credible and the cover illustration isn't too bad (i.e. no one has a mullet or looks like they've just appeared on "Plastic Surgery Gone Wrong!" or they've got glandular fever.) Rosie is a bit mopey but then you would be, wouldn't you, after everything she's been through. Plus Scrumpy has a tendency to make you maudlin. Read it if you've nothing better to do - it cheered up one of my night shifts anyway.


Game of Love (Mills & Boon Modern) (Penny Jordan Collection)
Game of Love (Mills & Boon Modern) (Penny Jordan Collection)
Price: £2.39

4.0 out of 5 stars Love in the first minute, 20 April 2014
It's back to the 1990s with this classic Jordan romance, where the heroine, Natasha, has got to be the most old-fashioned 27 year old in history. She doesn't drink, doesn't go out with boys and doesn't do anything really except mess about with ecclesiastical fabrics (whatever they are, I'm not entirely convinced you could make a living out of them...) She meets Luke, an artist, who is completely arrogant and utterly unpleasant. Also on the original cover of the novel which I own, he's sporting a mullet. (Wisely, HM&B have updated this to a woman cavorting in her negligee for the Kindle edition). It's an era where men were men, got pissed even though they're supposed to be driving and women were oppressed and wore sleeveless polo neck shirts for the only date they go on with the hero before deciding they're in love with them and want to marry them.

This has got to be one of the more ridiculous of Jordan's novels and as a result it's a classic of nostalgia, although the premise is extremely unlikely. Natasha and Luke hardly spend any time together at all (again, wisely on Natasha's part, because I've got to say he comes across as a bit of a knob). This is even something that Natasha acknowledges when she agrees to marry him, telling herself that "he's always going to have an arrogant streak" and she won't be able to change him entirely. By the time page 132 rolls around and Natasha realises (with a shudder of ice down her spine) and she acknowledges she is in love with him, I could only think that they'd actually spent about 20 minutes in each other's company; and most of that was spent arguing. The rest of the time, Natasha is away from him, just daydreaming about him, in between dusting off her ecclesiastical curtains.

There's lots of familiar Jordan tropes in this one - most of the action takes place in gardens (a familiar feminine space for the heroines to have their moments) and it takes a wiser, older aunt to interfere in Luke and Natasha's relationship and ultimately bring them together (although even she says she wouldn't like to see Natasha get involved with him).

Utter crap - so crap, in fact, it's actually quite good. I spent a good ten minutes laughing at the cover illustration alone (that's from the original HM&B version - not the Kindle edition with the woman writhing in her nightie). I loved the one and only date they manage to go on - to a riverside restaurant specialising in fresh water fish. During the trout mousse, Natasha keeps telling herself it's not a date and she doesn't care that Luke has spent most of the time drinking a bottle of wine to himself whilst staring at the woman behind her. Why does she fall in love with him? Why? I could only think that some of the dust mites from those ecclesiastical fabrics have got into her brain. Not to be missed for the endless comedy value in this one.


A Secret Disgrace (Mills & Boon Modern)
A Secret Disgrace (Mills & Boon Modern)
Price: £2.39

5.0 out of 5 stars So very sad this is her last..., 20 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is the last ever book from Penny Jordan for Harlequin Mills and Boon and as such, I wanted to save it for a special occasion - therefore, I waited until I was on holiday from the call centre to savour it, and this one did not disappoint at all.

This is the story of Louise, a former wild child who has had a bit of a holiday fling with Caesar in the past and paid the price for it. Not only does she feel that she has brought shame on her (admittedly, rather old-fashioned) family but she also feels that she has destroyed any chance of finding love again and has therefore lived a much quieter, sensible life since falling pregnant with her son during a one-night stand with Caesar. The story takes time to develop in this one, but it's so very romantic, and I just loved every minute of it. Consider the following: "She wanted to go back inside and escape the memories of what it had meant to lie naked in a man’s arms in the scented warmth of the Sicilian night." and this is juxtaposed with the everyday reality of many women's lives, as the paragraph continues: "Behind her the safety of her hotel room would no doubt be smelly with the reality of Ollie’s trainers,…" pp. 64-65 Publishers Weekly famously said about Jordan: “Women everywhere will find pieces of themselves in Jordan’s characters’, and there can be no doubt that that there is something of all of us in Louise's insecurities as she struggles to cope with both her feelings for her old lover and an adolescent son.

I so enjoyed this one - it really showed how Jordan developed as a writer as I really do think this final offering was one of her finest novels to date, with some lovely romantic writing and a truly believeable heroine (the hero isn't that believeable, but let's face it, it's a Mills and Boon; he's not going to be, is he? Louise says of him at one point: "Caesar cast a powerful spell around her that robbed her of the ability to think straight." p. 98. I've got to say, going into Tesco has that effect on me, and it's not always a pleasant feeling!) However, I loved this book. It really was worth the wait and I'm glad I saved it for a time when I could really concentrate on it and enjoy it (i.e. not during a night shift, which is where I do my normal Penny Jordan reading).

Definitely recommended for all Penny Jordan fans everywhere who will, like me, really miss her work.


Half Bad
Half Bad
Price: £3.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Not Half Bad at all, 19 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Half Bad (Kindle Edition)
I so much enjoyed this book about half-black witch, Nathan and his (many) sufferings at the hands of the white witches (who are supposed to be the good guys!) in their efforts to control him. I read this on holiday in a day and I just couldn't put it down. It is seriously addictive stuff. However, I do have a real issue with books which do not work as stand-alone stories and this one is obviously part of a series. There are soooo many books which are a part of serials these days - it's like the author cannot think up a new idea, after hitting on a winning one and just has to keep growing it until the profits run out. Other issues I had with this: despite it being incredibly well-written and addictive (as I've already said) I did find myself questioning originality. It's a great story, don't get me wrong - but witches who have special powers such as.. for instance... controlling the weather? Or stopping time? I think what really all made it slot into place was when Nathan contemplated escape from his cage for the first time and considers retractable claws instead of a hand ("Ker-chink!") When you add in the fact that he can heal himself, I was thinking Wolverine and the X-men. I'm sure I'm not the first person to have noticed this - however, that said, this is a very enjoyable novel in its own right. I don't think I'll be reading the sequels (they always go downhill and disappoint) but for a quick holiday read, this was great.


The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules
Price: £3.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Growing old disgracefully..., 19 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I really, really enjoyed this story of five pensioners who are sick of the cuts in their retirement home and decide to take matters into their own hands. It was such a fabulous story, wittily written and very, very clever. I just hope that I end up like Martha (the ring-leader of the "League of Pensioners") and grow old disgracefully. There's not much else to say about this, without giving the plot away, which I really wouldn't want to do because one of the (many) strengths of this book was in all the convoluted twists and turns of plot. I did feel that the ending of the book wasn't quite as strong as the beginning although it does have a fabulous ending. It would, however, have been great if the ruthless director and nurse at the retirement home had got what was coming to them more and also the horrible criminal Liza - some payback there would have been nice too, although it didn't work out exactly as she wanted. Still, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this - I shall be looking out for more works by this author.


The Ghost Hunters
The Ghost Hunters
by Neil Spring
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creepy in parts... but a bit long-winded at the end., 19 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Ghost Hunters (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book about Borley Rectory (the most haunted house in England!) and Harry Price's investigation of it, his personal life and his (fictional) involvement with his secretary, Sarah Grey. Told from the viewpoint of Sarah, the story is genuinely creepy in parts and there is some really fine writing in here. I loved the parts that focussed on the rectory itself and I really enjoyed the evocation of England between the war years. However, in my opinion, it is just a tad over-long - the story stretches on and on and by the final stage I was getting just a tiny bit sick of it. The final part could just have done with tightening up a bit and not being quite so waffly. On the whole, I must stress, I did enjoy this book, but I felt that it just got a bit longwinded at the end. Don't want to do the same thing with my review, so I'll end it there.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20