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Freaky Green Eyes

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Blood and Roses
Blood and Roses
Price: £3.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Historical fiction with bite that gets down and dirty, 22 April 2016
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This review is from: Blood and Roses (Kindle Edition)
Although I haven't finished this yet, it is a good book. The style might take some getting used to; there is not much superfluity in it and you are locked into the main character's head, seeing and experiencing everything from her point of view, which can feel claustrophobic. The story is told from the point of view of the old Margaret, looking back on the events of her life and so the action-packed past events are broken up by the reflections of the old woman, commenting on her actions and those of others. The past events are told in the present tense, which gives the sense that they are taking place right now as you read them. This can be very claustrophobic but it does give a very good sense of the sheer onslaught of what Margaret had to deal with. Catherine Hokin is very, very good at showing us the political machinations and chicanery that went on behind backs and behind the scenes. We might not find Margaret an easy character to deal with but we can understand why she did what she did, even the darker, riskier or more desperate things. In the situation she was in, she had no choice. And she was tough; she didn't back down, she fought - and why shouldn't she?

Hokin paints Margaret as a strong, ballsy, hot-tempered, intelligent woman who was brought down by a combination of things. The weakness of her husband, the youth and possibly ambiguous parentage of her son, the ambitions of others. The political power playing by European leaders with better diplomacy skills who had to form alliances based on what would bring most advantages to their countries and themselves as leaders, not whose cause was actually right. Her own character flaws. The fact that this was a patriarchal world in which women were treated as pawns expected to sit on the side-lines until moved into position by a man and treated with contempt and derision if they tried to take part in the game, to be a player instead of a piece. The fact that in this world all power was in the hands of men, even if that power was actually wielded, far more capably, by a woman. A glass ceiling that covered the entire globe.

I sometimes find all the trials and tribulations, the fast-paced narrative and Margaret's endless temper tantrums wearing but this has given me a new perspective on the Cousin's War, from the point of view of a key player we don't often hear from in fiction about this period. I have wanted to find out more after watching the program 'The She-Wolves of England' on TV. Now I know more. The style of this book means it won't be to everyone's taste but this is historical fiction with serious bite that gets down and dirty with the politics, the double-dealing, the betrayals, the threats, the struggles of this period. Serious grit.


Heaven's Fire (Lords of Conquest)
Heaven's Fire (Lords of Conquest)
Price: £1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A fun read, 22 April 2016
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This was a fun read. The romance was convincing even though you knew exactly where it was going. The setting was interesting and believably portrayed, the hero and heroine were engaging and the villains vile. I haven't read any of the others by Patricia Ryan but I might give them a whirl if they're anything like this. Perfect for a lighter read.


In Praise of the Bees
In Praise of the Bees
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have ever read, 22 April 2016
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I really enjoyed this book from start to finish. This is really good historical fiction with much gentle humour in it. I like the fact that it has lots of strong, intelligent, capable female characters in it but in fact all the characters, male and female are well drawn. The heroine is a person who thinks, rather than just reacts to what is happening in the plot. However, there is never any sense that any of the characters are 21st Century people in historical costume. They think, feel and act as they would have done in the world they lived in.

This is an author who is very good at showing, not telling. For example, when the heroine meets her brother's friend again, Gleeson is so good at showing us how others react to him and to the now much wiser heroine's growing irritation with him, that the reader comes to understand that this man is not a handsome hero who will save the day but a fool whose lunk-headed stupidity, rash behaviour, totally lack of self-knowledge and arrogance make him a liability and a figure of fun. We know why his clan didn't choose him to be King even if he doesn't! Character development and plotting also lead the reader to compare him with the man who is the real hero. Plus, when he and the heroine get together, they are not swept helplessly away by unquenchable passion, nor are they week-kneed about each other. It's a genuine meeting of minds. The reader is shown, not told. This is good writing.

The plotting and structure is very good and takes you, the reader, on an exciting journey, full of twists and turns. It's part murder mystery part coming-of-age story but even that is too simplistic a description. You'll just have to read it! What is really good about it is that there are a number of times when you are genuinely unsure about whether the heroine is doing the right thing, or whether her suspicions are based on the truth or she's going to make an awful mistake. This reflects her own shifting perspectives and makes this book an engrossing read. She does discover the truth in the end, and makes her peace with it. A low-key ending but a realistic one, and one in keeping with the spirit of the book. As Mair Gobnait says, in the end the heroine is no longer split in three. She is no longer either the naÔve child she was before the attack, or the fearful person seeking a place to hide which she became afterwards, nor the intelligent, but vengeful and suspicious person she became when she regained her memory. She has become herself, a strong, whole person - and no longer a child. In that sense, this book is also a coming-of-age story and it is a convincing one.

I was also fascinated by what I learned about early Irish culture and its laws, which was skilfully woven into the book. You feel that you are really there, but the details are not laid on with a trowel. The world and the time in which the book is set is simply there, you are never given an 'info dump' or made to feel that the author's historical knowledge/research is the most important thing in the book. Mair Gobnait was a real person, after her death she was beatified but in the book she is portrayed, again very convincingly, as a real live person with nothing supernatural or holier-than-thou about her. This woman is intelligent, capable, kind and strong-willed; another strong female character.

This was one of the best books I have ever read. I will certainly be reading more Kristin Gleeson.


Talk Softly: A Memoir
Talk Softly: A Memoir
Price: £14.24

5.0 out of 5 stars Wise and compassionate, well worth reading, 22 April 2016
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I really loved this book and the woman who wrote it. She comes across as a person of great strength, grace and compassion. I also liked the fact that her compassion and that of the organization she founded was wise and uncomplicated. It was about helping people because that's the right thing to do, about giving people what they need and being there for them, rather than about how wonderful and important your helping them makes you. This was what O'Neal was saying, albeit obliquely, when she described the work of the woman whose organization she worked for before she founded 'Friends In Deed'. That woman was on a power trip and truly helping people, while there are emotional benefits to doing so, cannot be about ourselves; we have to - not take ourselves completely out of the equation nor 'leave the building' - stand beside those we help and get them to talk, rather than stand in front of them, telling them this is what you're going to do and this is how you're going to do it. To truly help somebody, you have to be what O'Neal is, a good listener whose focus is on the other person, not how you look or what you're doing. I like this story of the heroism of quiet, thoughtful people, rather than the loud people who always grab all the attention. We forget how powerful quiet people can be. Wisdom is, I think, a quiet thing. I think another aspect of her character is that she worries she doesn't do enough for people, when actually she probably needs sometimes to say 'no' to some things for her own emotional health. But I suppose this is the flip side of compassion.


Beyond Love
Beyond Love
by Dominique Lapierre
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Moving, 22 April 2016
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This review is from: Beyond Love (Hardcover)
This is a very moving book - though I sometimes found his treatment of the subject strayed a bit into melodrama at times. His depictions of the work of Mother Theresa and her nuns with the lepers and the destitute in India seemed to me to be more were the focus of the book lay, though I can certainly see the parallels he was drawing between the two diseases and how those who had them were treated. It is a comparison I have often thought about myself. I am not implying that the author lacked sympathy for PWAs. I also found his focus on only a few characters meant that it was not as wide-ranging as other books I have read on the same subject. It seemed to focus only on rather 'perfect' people and thus for me lacked 'grit'. I have not read his 'City of Joy' but this is now on my reading list.


Pandemic
Pandemic
Price: £18.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I have no idea whether he likes it or has played it but it looks like an interesting idea, 22 Feb. 2016
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This review is from: Pandemic (Toy)
This was bought as a Christmas present for my brother-in-law. It looks very complicated though! I have no idea whether he likes it or has played it but it looks like an interesting idea. Will he be able to decipher the rules?


Bubbles pre printed fadeless display paper 1218mm x 3.6M , film wrapped roll. Ideal classroom resource for noticeboards and bulletin boards. Can be used for Background or stage paper.
Bubbles pre printed fadeless display paper 1218mm x 3.6M , film wrapped roll. Ideal classroom resource for noticeboards and bulletin boards. Can be used for Background or stage paper.
Offered by BCreativeģ
Price: £11.68

4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 22 Feb. 2016
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This is very useful for my displays outside the library. Bigger than I thought it would be, though!


MobileToyz iPad Cushion Pillow Stand Holder (BLACK) for iPad and other Tablet devices. Use around the home, in bed or on the desk. Avoid iPad RSI and iPad Shoulder. Filled with bean bag beans
MobileToyz iPad Cushion Pillow Stand Holder (BLACK) for iPad and other Tablet devices. Use around the home, in bed or on the desk. Avoid iPad RSI and iPad Shoulder. Filled with bean bag beans
Offered by MobileToyz
Price: £24.95

5.0 out of 5 stars This is great; it really helps me avoid neck pain and ..., 22 Feb. 2016
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This is great; it really helps me avoid neck pain and puts my kindle and books at just the right height and angle to read comfortably. I haven't removed any of the beads because I prefer it not to be slumpy.


Flagstone Brick pre printed design paper 1218mm x 3.6M , film wrapped roll. Ideal for classroom displays and noticeboards. Also can be used as backdrops in productions.
Flagstone Brick pre printed design paper 1218mm x 3.6M , film wrapped roll. Ideal for classroom displays and noticeboards. Also can be used as backdrops in productions.
Offered by ECH
Price: £7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 22 Feb. 2016
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This will prove very useful in my displays outside the library. A lot bigger than I thought!


To Sleep No More
To Sleep No More
Price: £0.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining Read: suspend disbelief and just enjoy, 2 Feb. 2016
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This review is from: To Sleep No More (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed this book very much; in fact I became obsessed by it! I wanted to read on and on to see who the reincarnated characters would be in two or three hundred years time and how their character traits - both strengths and flaws - would either help or doom them when they were reborn. I'm not going to pretend that this book is realistic; it isn't. But if you just go with it and accept that it is a fantasy, it's very enjoyable and a page-turner. You don't have to believe in reincarnation. It is very character driven, which I like, but the magical valley in Sussex, where it all plays out, becomes a character in itself because Deryn Lake is a highly descriptive writer when it comes to the landscape the characters move around in. This does sometimes lead to descriptive overload, and result in certain descriptive phrases and adjectives being overused to the point where they almost sound like 'stock phrases' reused over and over again. But not enough to spoil my enjoyment of the story and I was in awe of her ability to paint such vivid pictures with words. I like the fact that characters can be reborn as either men or women, again not something you have to believe, and that some characters were present in one historical period and absent in another, were major or minor characters at different times. One major character was reborn into a body that didn't have his previous intellectual disability, which altered the dynamic between the three central characters. This provided more twists and turns than if they'd simply all been present and been exactly the same. The gender swap with the central pair of lovers showed how one character's single-minded, outspoken nature got him into trouble when he became a woman because as one of Wilde's female characters has said: "There is far more forbidden to us than there is to (men)". Particularly at certain times in history when society was not kind to strong, independent women and viewed them with suspicion. One character came back as a ghost! Some particularly unpleasant characters were redeemed by better behaviour in another life, or were punished when they did appalling deeds, in one life or the next. There is a strong concept of 'Karma' in this book: what goes around comes around. Inexorable Fate plays its part too but this plays out in a way that is directed by what characters do and the hand they've been dealt, by the beliefs and practices of society at the time they live. Some characters changed and became stronger over time, obviously learning from past experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed the arc of Oriel's mother Margaret and was very pleased when she got her self-confidence and a much more appreciative gentleman-friend at the end of the first bit. I was even more pleased when I discovered later that she had married him when her ungrateful husband died of the plague. I engaged so much with this character that I was upset when she later seemed to have returned to a similar form of unappreciated servitude in another life but she had learned from her past lives and showed a lot more self-respect and she got her happy ending at last. Plus, I thought that it was poignant how she became friends in this life with the woman who had once been her daughter, with whom she had been distant because of her own insecurities and resentments, which got in the way of any loving exchange. Oriel herself comments on her mother's strength and her own weakness; prompting her mother to take control of her life and this brings them closer. At the end they came full circle and were very good friends, with the older woman (Margaret that was) taking on a maternal role with the younger woman and they love and support one another freely; the Oriel character becomes much stronger and takes more control of her destiny and the Margaret one refuses to be taken for granted. Effectively correcting the mistakes they made in an earlier life. If I'm this invested in the characters, they must be engaging and well-written. However interesting all this is, I read this book for fun, for entertainment, not for uncovering the meaning of life. Don't let the reincarnation and other themes put you off. It's entertaining rather than preachy. If you like this book, you may also enjoy another one called 'Green Darkness'.


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