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Shaz Goodwin

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Before the Rains
Before the Rains
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story that will leave you thinking a long time after you've finished reading, 28 Feb. 2017
This review is from: Before the Rains (Kindle Edition)
The prologue in Delhi (1912) of the procession for the Viceroy Lord Hardinge’s entry into the old walled city hooked me in straight away … all my senses awake and my emotions heightened from the trauma I was ready to experience India and find out where Eliza’s future lay.

Now 28 and not feeling like she’s ever belonged anywhere, it’s no different when she enters the castle for her year commission to photograph the Royals and life in Juraipore. Having been told by the British they had to give Eliza access to the castle and an escort to other locations, she’s not exactly welcomed! Conflict and intrigue arise often adding suspense to this historical love story. Dealing with laws, politics, religious beliefs, rituals and customs that are alien to the British, there is so much Eliza must overcome to get her happy ever after.

To my mind it wasn’t just Chatur who was the enemy, there’s another character who is manipulative and very much ‘self.’ I really didn’t like him and felt despair at one point. He doesn’t have any redeeming characteristics (although you might think differently!). There are others in the castle who want Eliza out of the way so you never quite know who is doing what.

The settings are just magical, not only the exuberance of the festivals but also the mud huts in the villages and Eliza’s time back in Gloucester. Dinah Jefferies is so skillful in bringing everything to life, I was transported to another time to another culture. In fact there is one horrendous scene that she doesn’t hold back from and I could feel the trauma Eliza did. Maybe not so magical but you need to be exposed to a culture with it’s shadow side too don’t you!

The romance is soul to soul. Beautiful, poignant and takes your breath away. And despite being in the 1930’s, is a trend that is very current today.

The ending is perfect. Just perfect.

Dinah Jefferies has penned another story that I will be thinking of for a long time to come.

Colour Psychology Today
Colour Psychology Today
Price: £4.74

4.0 out of 5 stars So much information packed within these pages, 19 Feb. 2017
There is so much information packed within these pages. From the building blocks about colour through to practical exercises and for use as an individual through to using as a brand, there is something for everyone no matter what your interest is.

There is a simple exercise which makes very clear the wavelengths and frequencies. You'll find out the meanings of each colour and the effect it has. You'll learn the facts and find out the experiments/case studies June McLeod has undertaken. As an intuitive, the author has collaborated with a professional musician to create the very first coloured music CD. I have a favourite chakra guided meditation and would love to compare this with The Colours of Soul CD. The music takes you through the colour spectrum, key by key and is healing for a myriad of needs.

The author shares things such as which colours to use in different settings and for different emotions, the best colours to get noticed at meetings, linguistic colour associations, corporate branding, colour personalities and your soul number colour correlation. If you're leading a group session June McLeod gives tips and exercises.

It does feel at times as if the author feels as if she needs to prove herself and I do understand as 30+ years ago was a very different climate than it is today. My only negative is that it does feel repetitive at times but that may be because I have some knowledge and may be different for you.

I liked June McLeod's down to earth and no nonsense approach to language which makes her knowledge accessible to all. I've learnt new things (ie how to use colour for divination) and am fascinated by the water exercise! With the sun out a couple of times I've even managed to do one of the exercises. I felt a marked difference between before and after.

Colour Psychology Today is a recommended read from me.

The Goldfish Boy
The Goldfish Boy
by Lisa Thompson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll need tissues!, 12 Feb. 2017
This review is from: The Goldfish Boy (Paperback)
I loved Matthew's dry humour. All too often we forget about the person underneath the anxiety, relating and responding to the behaviour and this is what happens to Matthew with his neighbours and to some extent his mum and dad. His growing friendship with Melody through their joint venture of working out where missing Teddy has gone bought some normality for him. As well as children being cruel, they can also be accepting. Her unusual 'hobby' gave me a deeper insight to her character as did 'Jake's Story.'

Looking through the upstairs windows, Matthew gets to see his neighbours 'masks' slip as well as keeping up with what's happening. His observations build a picture of their lives (our dog Taz does exactly the same as Frankie!) as well as how they fit in with his own family and the community.

Intrigue surrounds what happened five years ago - snippets are shared so although I had an idea, I didn't know exactly. I couldn't link an action from the beginning to the cause (it was throwing me off the trail) and thought this was cleverly executed.

As to the disappearance of Teddy, I followed Matthew's clues, trying to work out the mystery. There are red herrings which I took at face value. The teamwork was fabulous :)

Through Matthew the reader experiences the physical affects of anxiety and how logical those thoughts are that lead to the repetitive compulsions and behaviours. The author doesn't hold back either in the way these behaviours impact those around him. I know it's stereotypical to say this ... but dad's don't have the same understanding as mum's do. Everything is done with the best intentions and there does come a point where others feel exasperated as they just don't understand, despite wanting to. It was heartbreaking.

The Goldfish Boy is a poignant story. You'll need tissues (no matter what age you are!). I cried at the ending as the cracks open wide - it's real and raw and I could feel all that emotion.

Recommended for children (and adults) who may be going through this crippling anxiety condition themselves, and for anyone wanting to gain a deeper understanding.

The Best of Adam Sharp
The Best of Adam Sharp
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A love story with a difference, 9 Feb. 2017
First of all I'm going to say the reflections (for the back story in Part One) are smooth - loved the way they tie in with Adam's current life (for instance he's at a pub quiz night and a question about the Melbourne Cup takes him right back to being at the race in 1989). Sometimes reflections can be jarring and take you out of the story but not so in The Best of Adam Sharpe. Looking back is important so that we can experience the complications of Adam and Angelina's passion back in 1989.

22 years later, emails between Adam and Angelina reveal very little about their lives. Feeling energised, Adam changes his lifestyle and with a misunderstanding from Claire giving him a way out, he takes it and finds himself on the way to Burgundy to spend some time with Angelina and her husband Charlie. Adam has always been 'the third' person in their marriage and for other reasons as well, it's time for a showdown. I must admit I had no idea what would happen and I did find this love triangle a bit bizarre at first. There is a purpose ... very clever twists!

I wasn't emotionally invested in either Angelina or Claire but I was in Adam. Analytical of almost everything (which ties in with his IT career), his thought processes drew me in and I found myself agreeing with him. Considerate and understanding (maybe too much so!) I also saw him as vulnerable and naive.

Love the way lyrics/music is used to pack an emotional punch. Music connects Adam to his absent father, his time in Australia and with Claire. At the end of the story, there's a link to the playlist on Spotify.

The Best of Adam Sharp is a story of the sacrifices we're prepared to make in relationships (sometimes for selfish gains!). It's a contradiction of putting yourself first and yet letting everything go. It's a love story with a difference.

My Not So Perfect Life: A Novel
My Not So Perfect Life: A Novel
Price: £4.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sophie Kinsella knows how to entertain her readers, 9 Feb. 2017
This is one of those stories where you know where it's heading and yet it's HOW you get there that has you turning the pages as quickly as you can.

26 year old Katie (or Cat in London) had me hooked in from the beginning. Wanting to emulate Demeter's poise and grooming, wanting to fit in with the office politics and seeming like it's never going to happen had my heart breaking a little. She's the odd one out, trying so hard but not fitting into the lifestyle. During the conflicting scenes, I loved that she speaks her mind despite being a mass of nerves. Such a fabulous character - she's brought me much laughter alongside the angst. I thought she was in her element back on the farm in Somerset and wasn't sure what she would do ...A fearless and loyal heroine - would love to have her on my side!

There are lots of scenes that had me laughing - Kate's commute to work, on the roof with Alex, items glampers leave behind and bespoke packages (still belly laughing as I type) and more. There is also lots of conflict and drama that had me shouting at my Kindle.

My Not So Perfect Life isn't only about Katie and her dreams. Characters with their own hang ups and miscommunications leads to feeling the whole spectrum of emotions. Sophie Kinsella knows how to entertain her readers :) I would love to see this as a movie.

Highly recommended.

Meet Me at Willoughby Close (Willoughby Close Series Book 2)
Meet Me at Willoughby Close (Willoughby Close Series Book 2)
Price: £2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Sweet and gentle romance, 9 Feb. 2017
Ellie is a woman who never had the chance to find out who she is or what she wants from life. Falling pregnant at 17 and marrying childhood best friend Nathan, she made the best she could out of the situation. Always feeling overshadowed by her mum and sister she moves miles away to Oxford with 10 year old daughter Abby and family dog Marmite, needing a fresh start for them both. They are the first residents in Willoughby Close.

The emotional hook for me in this story was Abby. The effects of bullying in her previous school are all too real and yet despite this, there’s a sense of how strong she is. I felt Abby bolstered her mum, giving her permission to let go and enjoy life. I so wanted Year 6 to work out for her … The relationship that grows between Abby and Lady Stokeley is heartwarming.

Oliver and Ellie’s worlds are far apart (think the theme in Pretty Woman) giving conflict to the ‘will they won’t they.’ Oliver’s sister doesn’t help matters either. Neither of our leads are confident enough or have enough experience in reading between the lines … although I just knew that Oliver’s gruff exterior hid a soft centre 🙂 I must admit the romance was a bit drawn out for me.

I have to mention Marmite. 1/2 Golden Retriever and 1/2 Rottweiler, he brings a smile to some tense situations.

If you’re looking for a sweet and gentle romance, then this may just be the story for you.

The Legacy of Lucy Harte
The Legacy of Lucy Harte
by Emma Heatherington
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A celebration of life, 4 Feb. 2017
I loved Maggie! Meeting her when life is desolate and she's on a downward spiral, I took her into my heart from the beginning. But it's not just that. She draws you in with her humour and her bursts of optimism make you wish things could have been different ...

The letter is the key for Maggie to take control and wow! we travel to some places that stir up emotions and fear of change. Dublin, Nashville and Millau in France all come alive. I think if I visited Millau I wouldn't want to leave!

I liked that the backstory is revealed at a slow pace. I did want to know and I was intrigued but I was just as caught up in Maggie's challenges and what was happening in the present time. When we do find out it adds even more depth and for me, gave an emotional hook to Lucy and her family.

Once again the pigeon-holed genre 'contemporary romance' doesn't fit. Yes there is romance (an amazing scene on a rowboat in Millau, France touched my soul as much as it did Maggie's!) but that's a small part of the story compared to the relationship between Maggie and Lucy and the realisations and healing that take place. Throughout the story we get to understand a little of how a recipient of a donor might feel. One simple but evocative quote from Maggie undone me:

I don't want to be the woman with someone else's heart.

I was prepared for tears when I picked up The Legacy of Lucy Harte to read but despite the sorrow, Emma Heatherington skillfully focuses on the positives and how lives can be changed. To my surprise, I saw this story as a celebration of life rather than a cause for grieving.

The Legacy of Lucy Harte is an inspiring story. Yes it is heartbreaking but it's also life affirming. I wish I could share some quotes with you (but no spoilers!). If you're feeling in a rut, it will give you a lift and get you moving forwards again. It's a thought provoking story and one you'll be thinking about a long time after you've finished reading.

White Lies and Wishes
White Lies and Wishes
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars One of the most entertaining resolutions I've read in a while, 4 Feb. 2017

We’re introduced to our three leading ladies at Frederic Lafteur’s funeral in the rural village of Woodby. With Jo and Carrie already outside having a moment away from everything, Sarah is the last one to join them … although Sarah thinks she is on her own. The sadness of the funeral is offset by Sarah’s public display – it did make me chuckle. With their wish lists and offers of support for each other made, Jo is off to her parents, Sarah has gone back to work and Carrie has gone home to husband Alex giving us an insight into their individual lives.

I’ve really enjoyed the three different narrations. Three very distinctive and separate lives; Jo receiving mixed messages from her parents and guarding her emotions; Carrie’s past trauma and how it has affected her self-belief; Sarah with her guilt about missing Zac’s ‘firsts’ and trying to live her life to show she can achieve. The growing friendship between Jo, Carrie and Sarah hits some bumpy patches which of course reflects reality. Usually I will have a favourite character but in White Lies and Wishes, all three are fabulous (although Jo’s storyline stood out for me).

The pace is really good, I was invested emotionally in their separate lives as well as their friendship and I absolutely LOVED the Empire State Building. One of the most entertaining resolutions I’ve read in a while 🙂

White Lies and Wishes is a romantic comedy with emotional depth that will, I have no doubt, leave you feeling satisfied that all is ok with the world. Recommended read for that feel-good factor.

The Bear and The Nightingale
The Bear and The Nightingale
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars She knows she will be a girl child and be like her own ancestor (who could tame animals, 22 Jan. 2017

The Vladimirovich family have been fasting for 6 weeks in late winter and are gathered around the fire with Dunya to hear the story of Morozko (Father Frost). Life in Northern Rus is harsh and feeble mother Marina is pregnant. She knows she will be a girl child and be like her own ancestor (who could tame animals, dream the future and summon rain). Vasya is born in November to the accompaniment of howling winds and as soon as she can walk, disappears into the forest. Vasya fascinated me! She's a contradiction of earthiness and yet she's ethereal (very different to her siblings who all dote on her and try to keep her safe). There are some harrowing and dark scenes but I didn't lose faith in her. She's a character that we see grow from a 6 year old to a young adult, and we've only experienced the very beginning of her power. I'm eager to see how this will develop in the next book.

When egotistic and charismatic priest Father Konstantin Nikonovich comes to the village he causes so many problems. Brainwashing the community into fearing their own pagan beliefs (I couldn't help but picture Dobby!) and shaking the foundations of their world. There is a depth of emotion running through this conflict, tangling Vasya and her step-mother Anna into this darkness. You can't help but feel raw to witness (and be a part of) this shadow side of life.

The settings are so easy to visualise from the contrast of barren and isolated life in Northern Rus to the teeming and opulent Moscow; from village to city. I could feel that bone freezing cold, experienced the heat working in the fields and feared the forest. I stood in the main hall waiting for the Grand Prince to notice me and stood in the market place waiting to travel home.

I have a few questions I'm hoping will be answered and a character who I think has a vital part to play moving forward (but I can't figure out what). I'm looking forward to finding out where the story will take us in the next book.

The Bear and the Nightingale is a story of myth, magic and adventure. It's a coming of age story with a kickass heroine who dances to her own beat yet considers everyone and everything. There's plenty of conflict, sacrifice and a fledgling romance. It will take you to the depths of emotions while you walk the shadow side with the characters but give you hope that life can be saved.

A recommended read from me.

Christmas Under the Stars
Christmas Under the Stars
by Karen Swan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Unique romance ... and so much more!, 21 Jan. 2017
The prologue on the day of the disaster followed by a look back at a dangerous run that Tuck and Mitch took is nail biting and makes it clear just how isolated and ruled by the elements in Banff they are. During the time leading up to Meg's wedding and the disaster we get to know Lucy and Tuck and the small community. I thought I knew these people ...

After the disaster, Meg stays away for 4 weeks and it such a poignant return, not least with what she sees on her first sighting of the cabin. She puts a call out on the radio, not expecting to get the response she does. This is so important for the story but I can't say much (no spoilers!) except to say it is unique. And very creative! You won't want to miss this. I was fascinated.

Yes, there is romance (don't you just hate having to pigeonhole genres) but Christmas under the Stars for me was more about Meg finding her way through life, strengthening her relationship with sister Ronnie in Toronto and of course the secrets that twist so much of the story around.

I made judgements and was so sure I knew what was happening but I couldn't have been further from the truth! I did guess one thing (the clues were there) but the other totally floored me. I really had no idea. It made me re-evaluate and look at things differently. Such a tense scene with the key players. Talking of scenes, the film festival where we saw the movie made by Tuck, tears were pouring down my face. I lived life with these characters (Dolores and Barbara are fabulous too). I became a part of their community. I felt the highs and of course the lows. No greater recommendation than that is there!

As always, the settings come alive (so easy to visualise). Isolated in the cabin, in the village or at the hotel, visiting Toronto - different settings and all feel very real. Flawed characters that hook into your heart and reflect the reality of life. A real crisis (the recent Italian avalanche took me right back to this story). It's no surprise I felt a part of everything and that this became my world every evening!

Don't let "Christmas" in the title put you off (the story starts in February). You'll be entertained and experience a host of emotions. Highly recommended.

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