Welcome to the new Smorgasbord Bookshelf 2022 where I will be sharing my own book reviews, author features and special events during the year such as book fairs.
It is my intention to still provide a platform for authors to share their books, but in 2022 the focus will be on my own reviews, features about authors on the bookshelf and regular events such the recent Christmas Book Fair series and the upcoming series in the New Year – Meet the Authors – Personal Recommendations
For the last seven years I have shared three posts a week with recent reviews, but this year I will just be promoting new releases in one off promotions.
You will notice that the new bookshelf has just my own personal recommendations for the authors and I will update with new reviews I write as we go through the year. Some authors are on my TBR and I will update with my reviews as I read them.
I hope to review more books in 2022 which is part of the reason for cutting back on my blogging. Reading is my first love and I am not doing enough of it. In addition I hope that by posting my review here on the blog and Goodreads, Bookbub etc, it will help support authors in a more constructive way.
Currently like most of you I have a TBR as long as both arms, and I try to read in the chronological order that I buy the books. Which is the key here, as I prefer to buy the books that I review, so that there is no pressure to read and review, and I can enjoy at my leisure.
There is an exception to this, and it is when an author I have previously read and reviewed asks if I might accept their book for an advance review. If I feel I can do so in a timely fashion then I am happy to do so.
It would be very helpful if you have a new book release coming up in the next couple of months if you could let me know when it is either on pre-order or available. I tend to work a couple of weeks ahead and advance notice is appreciated.
There is a set format to the new book promotion and because of scheduling ahead, I am sorry that I don’t participate in book launch tours.. but happy to post a new book promotion either side of a tour.
New Authors to Smorgasbord
I am very happy to post a one off promotion for a new book and if you have not been promoted by me in the past please email me on email@example.com with the Amazon link, Goodreads, Blog or Website and social media, I will come back to you for any other information I require and availability of a promotion date.
Following a new book promotion I do ask authors to individually respond to comments from readers and share on their social media.
Meet the authors on the bookshelf that I can personally recommend.
My review for Tell Me a Story May 26th 2022
Whether it is verse or prose, Annette Rochelle Aben creates stories that touch the heart. It takes skill to write a story in only 99 words and each of the 75 stories reflect that artistry beautifully.
The stories are a celebration of life, love and simple everyday events that remain in our memories through childhood and beyond. There are one or two that hint at the darker side of life, such as Bedfellows but most are heartwarming and thought provoking.
I enjoyed all the stories, but I would like to give a special mention to just some of the gems. Chocoholics, Daybreak, Determination, Giddy Up Go, Gnome More, Last Request and Somewhere Out There.
Some lines in the stories have also stayed in my thoughts about the collection.
‘Legs with the strength of over-cooked spaghetti’
‘Into the darkness of the cave of fear breaks the light of a new day’
This is a lovely read to in one sitting or enjoy dipping into, written by a wonderful storyteller with an eye for detail.. Highly recommended.
My review for Warning Signs February 2020.
This is definitely a novel about obsession. The serial killer with finding the source of his need to murder, the detective who has his own demons and is determined to track down the killer, and the vulnerable Angie who lost her childhood to the need to care for her addicted mother.
Clearly Carol Balawyder had researched the background for her characters in depth, and instead of presenting us with gory details, she slowly peels back the layers that both killer and victims have built up around childhood trauma and surviving in the ‘system’. We are all flawed but when does that become a full-blown obession with murder? Why these particular victims that are already vulnerable?
Eugene is aware of what he is, but researches other killers to find out why he has this need and how he might be stopped. Angie might just offer a way back from this madness, but is he expecting too much from her by putting the responsibility for his redemption on her fragile shoulders?
Detective Darren Van Ray has a gut feeling about Eugene but he has been wrong before and he now must get up close and personal to prove his case.
Carol Balawyder does an excellent job of keeping the pace and tension tight throughout the story, and there are some surprises along the way as the three individuals test their own strength against each other and what life throws at them.
If you would like to get into the mind of a serial killer and enjoy a subtle and carefully crafted thriller you will enjoy Warning Signs.
One of my reviews for the books by Judith Barrow – The Heart Stone February 2021
I have read nearly all of Judith Barrow’s previous novels and was delighted when a new book was announced.
As always the author has created a cast of characters that embody all aspects of human nature and are guaranteed to elicit an emotional response. Combined with the harsh reality of life during this dreadful period in history, Judith Barrow has written a compelling saga .
The book covers seven years in the lives of two young people who face moments of joy but also untold dangers, loss, and at times despair. Arthur at only 16 is thrown into the maelstrom of the first year of the war leaving behind Jessie, his first and only love, to face her own devastating life events on the home front.
Times were very hard and despite the progress made by the suffragette movement, for women it was even tougher. Despite some enlightened men, particularly in this small village, the pressure was applied forcing women into marriages doomed from the start.
I am not going to share any spoilers but I do recommend The Heart Stone as a wonderful story with well drawn characters which will certainly bring you to tears from time to time. The author deals with the heartbreak and trauma with great sensitivity but does not shy away from writing honestly. This includes a thread of hope running through the novel which leads to a fitting conclusion to the story.
As with all the books of Judith Barrow, I highly recommend The Heart Stone. It is a story that will linger in your mind for a long time to come.
My review for Marriage Unarranged from March 12th 2020
What a lovely story and one I enjoyed very much.
This is a romance and an exploration of life in families where parents are striving to maintain cultural traditions, as the younger generation adapt and engage in the environment they were born into. For Aashi’s parents and those of her fiancee Ravi, the drama that unfolds is unthinkable, but love and a realisation that losing face in the community is not the end of the world, opens the door to a new beginning.
With the support of her brothers Sunny and Bali, her friend Kiran and a fellow traveller Arjun, Aashi finds the strength to move on.
The central part of the story is set in India where the five friends set out to discover their roots without the guiding hand of parents on previous visits, and for Arjun for the first time. Simple pleasures such as watching a Bollywood movie in an authentic Indian cinema with all the trimmings and exploring the colourful markets. Then taking the train to Amritsar to celebrate the harvest festival of Vaisakha along with thousands of pilgrims, and on a more emotive visit to pay their respects at Jallianwala Bagh garden the site of the infamous Amritsar massacre.
A the end of the two week trip which has been a mixture of business and pleasure, and with a deeper sense of family and tradition, love is also in the air. As the group leave India and return to Britain, it is clear that life will be different for them all.
The author has created characters that are engaging and memorable. The story is told from each of their perspectives and this enables the reader an opportunity to get to know them better and to witness their growing awareness of their strengths and how their futures will unfold.
The novel is well written and flows with a wonderful sense of humour. Bhathal also offers the reader an opportunity to participate in the multi-cultural world we live in, a privilege and a reminder of how our lives are the richer for it. Highly recommended.
My review for Lucky Jack 16th April 2022
An inspiring story of 106 years of living life to its fullest by a compelling storyteller.
I felt I was sitting drinking a cup of tea and listening to Henry Jack Rogers (Jack) recounting his adventures. It is wonderful that at over 100 years old he was able to tell his story in newspaper columns and on radio as it is certainly a life worth sharing, as his granddaughter has done in this biography.
Jack was born in 1894 and shares stand out moments in his long and hard working life from being held aloft on his father’s shoulders and getting a special wave from Queen Victoria, to receiving the telegram for his 106th birthday from Queen Elizabeth II.
What came across from the first page to the last is that Jack was not just lucky, but also courageous, hard working, kind hearted and entertaining, especially when things were tough.
There were so many ‘firsts’ during Jack’s lifetime including cinemas, cars, radios, televisions, which he embraced as soon as he could with some hair raising escapades driving on excursions with family. What I found particularly entertaining was his recollections of travelling on the first tube trains in early 1900s, visiting travelling fairs including seeing Buffalo Bill Cody, and his life long love of entertaining others.
From 1914 to 1918 Jack was in the Sherwood Foresters and saw action in the major battles as a sniper and observer before being captured. As a prisoner of war Jack and his comrades faced untold hardships and this is when his spirit really shone through keeping him alive to enjoy the rest of his long life.
The book is easy to read, well written, and entertaining and I can highly recommend.
My review for the book November 2020
This book is a challenging read, not because of how it is written, but the subject matter. We tend to picture islands in the Caribbean as having sun swept sandy beaches, luxury accommodation and smiling faces of the inhabitants, happy to see tourists pouring into their paradise. However Haiti has had centuries of political, economic and social unrest and suffered devastating natural disasters. Following one such event, the earthquake in 2010, thousands of men, women and children were killed and many more thousands were left homeless. The population is left reliant on assistance from the outside world, including volunteers to help them rebuild. However, as well as the suffering caused by this natural disaster, there is an underlying evil that thrives on misery, and manipulates parents in dire straits, to offer up their children under the pretense of a better life.
Two Americans Tyler and his father-in-law John Webster arrive on the island following a tragedy of their own, with the loss of Joy, Tyler’s wife and John’s daughter from cancer. Hopeful that the physical labour of helping to construct an orphanage, will bring them both a measure of peace, they find themselves caught up in the violent world of the human traffickers preying on children in particular. From mines to plantations the trade in cheap slave labour is thriving, and it is manned by thugs with money the motivator.
In a desperate search across the mountainous interior of the country, and forced to form alliances with those they cannot trust, and in some cases with those wishing them violence, the two men seek one child among thousands. Their story runs in parallel with heartrending accounts of others who have been caught up in the trafficking, who seek to escape, often at the expense of their lives.
The author has created strong characters across the spectrum of good vs. evil, and the story maintains its pace throughout the book. The mission Tyler and John have undertaken hurtles towards a violent climax, and consequences that will need to be faced. A thought provoking thriller that serves as a reminder of how fortunate we are to live in a kinder world.
My review for Love Me January 22nd 2022
Having read other books by the author I fully expected that this story would be heartwarming and in keeping with the spirit of Christmas. The characters are always relateable and being a romance they also tend to have attractive personalities which makes them likeable too.
The interactions between those falling for each other are subtle, and much is left to your imagination, which is something I prefer when reading about love. In this particular case you are left with the wonderful feeling that love is alive and well despite the global troubles impacting us all at this time.
At the heart of this story is also the issue of childhood leukemia which the author adds details of at the end of the book. A difficult subject to cover, particularly in a feel good romance novel, but Jacquie Biggar handles it very sensitively.
A book to curl up in front of a roaring fire, with a large mug of hot chocolate and a couple of hours free for some lovely escapism. Recommended for lovers of romance and those who enjoy a heartwarming reminder that there are good things in the world.
One of my reviews for Mike Bile’s books – A Bit About Britain’s High Days and Holidays January 2021
This book is not only an entertaining and informative guide to the history of the high days and holidays we celebrate in Britain, but also an excellent reference book for authors and visitors to the country.
Mike Biles has a unique style of delivery that encourages absorption of the facts and myths surrounding days that we often celebrate without much thought behind their origins. Even our Patron Saints of the countries in Britain, have stories that are complicated by legends and embellishments by the ancient storytellers who brought their exploits to our shores.
Visitors from other parts of the world I am sure, find some of our traditions and celebrations bemusing, which is why I recommend this book as a guide to the oddities they might encounter. Also, with a calendar of events throughout the year with descriptions of the proceedings to hand, it makes it much easier to plan a tour to get in touch with the real British traditions.
Authors will find it a great resource when including references to religious, cultural or fixed holidays celebrated throughout the year in their writings. This includes Christmas which has a whole section dedicated to its traditions and foods in a comprehensive A-Z.
I found history pretty heavy going at school, as it always seemed to be date obsessed, with little time spent on the characters involved. In this book, and in A Bit About Britain’s History, It is a completely different story, and I have probably learnt more in a few hours than I did in seven years.
I highly recommend this book to add to your shelves. You will find yourself dipping in and out of the various sections for a long time to come whenever you have a question about Britain’s history and high days and holidays.
My review for Good Liniment (The Hat Book 5) June 14th 2022
Another colourful and creative fantasy adventure with Lizzie and The Hat working together to seek out monsters and help others within the supernatural world to remain secret and safe.
The band is back together after a brief hiatus as Lizzie comes to terms with previous events that have shaken her confidence in the path chosen for her. Into that path come new characters to add to the fantastical ensemble always present in these stories.
We neet the rather world weary witch Cyrus and his apprentice Dash, the wonderfully playful Noodles and ethereal but feisty Destiny. The local coven is full of visually disturbing but colourful members who the author describes in quite nightmarish detail in some cases…Humour however is never far away and even the most outlandish become endearing.
We are treated to the art of trog hunting, not for the faint hearted, an introduction to the precious elements needed to create the spells and magical potions to enhance and heal, and a glimpse into the secrets of witchcraft.
The coven and Lizzie have lost a dear friend who it appears is victim of a killing spree with witches the target. This monster is the first human that Lizzie and The Hat have hunted and it brings an additional element of danger that could be fatal.
As always the author has created a fantasy that flows and engages with wonderful characters, plot and humour that I can highly recommend.
My review for Maggie’s Way February 24th 2022
My review for the Shadows we Breathe October 2021
Wonderful storytellers take on the task of creating stories that haunt, bring hope and satisfy in stories, 100 word flash fiction and just 10 words.
That is a challenge all the writers excelled at and I found myself turning the pages eager to read the next gem.
I am familiar with the writing of some of the contributors but was intrigued to see that they embraced the dark side of human nature in some unexpected ways.
Difficult to single out any particular short story for special mention as they were all excellent but in the first section “What You Wish For” by Georgia Bell, “The Perfect Face” by D.Wallace Peach and “A Good Night Sleep” by Mary Smith. “Moment of Truth” by Maria Carvalho gave me goosebumps.
In the 100 word flash fiction…”Certainty” by Reena Dobson, “Fair Exchange” Ali Isaac and “A Woman Walking” by Sarah Brentyn were exceptional, as was Allie Potts 10 word interpretation of ‘Fold’
This will be much enjoyed by those who love short stories in all their forms and appreciate the skill it takes to create them in only a few words
My Review for The Sum of our Sorrows January 2021
This is a well written family saga, packed with complex but relatable relationships that we may well recognise from our own experiences. Father and daughters, sisters and between lovers. Friendships that fizzle out as circumstances change, or grow through surprising connections.
The author sets the scene early in the story as we learn of a family tragedy that changes the dynamic of the relationship between father and daughter and the three sisters. The spread of ages of the girls, places them all in a different stage in their lives and each is vulnerable in their own way.
As the novel progresses we are introduced to other characters who impose their own agendas on the sisters and their father, sometimes with traumatic effect. Others bring clarity and hope to the family as a whole and individually There are moments of drama and also evil, as the family try to come to terms with a mother’s death and three young women face uncertain futures.
The author does an excellent job of getting to the heart of her characters and portrays them well. The reader is left feeling that they are part of the family and involved in a very personal way as they face demons, secrets that are revealed and the future. I can recommend the book to lovers of family drama with elements of thriller, mystery and romance.
My review for Stones Corner – Turmoil December 2021
The author gives a warning in the blurb about what a reader can expect in her debut novel set in Derry, Northern Ireland during one of the darkest years in the province’s history. The book delivers the reasons for that warning with chilling effect, bringing home the reality that this was a part of the United Kingdom, experiencing civil war within the last 50 years. The ripples of this violent outcome to the separation of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and its issues of belief and inequality, spread devastatingly outwards from the province; at times devastatingly.
When extremism on both sides of the divide are intent on winning, those innocents caught up in the turmoil are at the greatest risk, and when an outside force such as the British army are brought in, it adds fuel to the fire. The author creates that atmosphere of everyday fear and loss with great skill.
At the heart of this turmoil are young men and women who are vulnerable to manipulation by the fanatics, and imprisoned by age old segregation between religions and class.
Inhumane treatment of individuals, bombings resulting in mass casualties of innocents, illicit love affairs, revenge, espionage and poverty all combine to break the spirit of those who can see no end to the deprivation and conflict.
The author has created characters that will haunt you and some who inspire. Despite the environment, good people try to find comfort in their lives, falling in love across the divide and working to bring peace and stability. As the story moves forward they all come together centred on an event which will impact all of them and the future of the city.
This intiguing thriller delivers a great deal in terms of the writing, characters, storyline and expectations and I highly recommend the book. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series soon.
My review for Breathless January 2022
As a lover of fairy tales from childhood, I appreciate that there is often a sinister element to the stories, even if they do eventually end with everyone living ‘happily ever after’.
This story by Yvette Calleiro takes that disquieting element to a new level by focusing on the cursing abilities bestowed on certain beings living amongst us. The trouble with special powers is that they are not so easily controlled, especially when emotions are high and expectations are not met.
It would take a saintly kind of person not to occasionally wish to visit misfortune upon certain people we come across, however, as is often the case revenge takes its toll on both parties.
The author has created an interesting storyline with great characters who come together for one brief moment, impacting the rest of their lives and those around them.
An intriguing short story and an excellent introduction to the author’s full length books which Iook forward to reading soon.
One of my reviews for Robbie Cheadle’s books – A Ghost and his Gold June 2021
This was certainly an ambitious project from a number of perspectives. The fusion of paranormal and history with two stories running in parallel is a challenge, but the author has succeeded in writing a flowing saga spanning 130 years. All the characters are excellently crafted and are memorable..
Usually it is left to the victors to write the history of wars, but that means you get the abridged truth and their own atrocities and failures tend to be skirted over. In this account of the Second Boer War between 1899 and 1902, both sides of the conflict are represented by two soldiers, enemies, but united in death by a need for resolution and forgiveness. They share the unabridged truth from their individual perspectives of the military and civilian devastation that occurs during this period, and it makes for sombre reading.
Their accounts of the conflict have been meticulously researched and provide a compelling behind the scenes background, not just to the military victories and defeats, but the appalling impact on whole families, the Boer way of life and Africa’s future. Those who worked the land with their native farm workers saw treasure in the earth and in the animals that grazed the grasslands, and fought for the right to retain their rights. The British Army was sent into battle to secure what lay beneath the ground for politicians who wanted gold and to remove the right to autonomy.
Men on the front line from both sides suffered from ineffective leadership and devastating losses but the conflict spread uncontained across the veld due to the scorched earth policy which destroyed farms and livestock, leaving nothing for the Boers to return to. Families were incarcerated in concentration camps lacking the basic human needs leading to the deaths of thousands of women and children from starvation and disease..
Running parallel to this personal account of two men caught up in this vortex, is the story of a modern day couple living on the land once a thriving Boer farm. The earth holds secrets and the house, now built over the rubble of its troubled past, also contains an unresolved mystery. One that has attracted the attention of another ghost who is not seeking forgiveness but revenge.
The author manages the various threads of the story with skill, weaving them back and forth across the loom of time. She brings them together for a dramatic climax which will shake the foundations of the future, as the dead and living claim their right to be heard.
One of my reviews for Colleen’s books – Word Craft Prose and Poetry May 2021
I have enjoyed poetry from childhood and would write stories in verse from an early age. I was introduced to Japanese syllabic poetry when I began participating in Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly Tanka Challenge three years ago. At first hesitantly, but then as my confidence grew under her tutelage, I became more adventurous.
Word Craft: Prose and Poetry shares an expanded guide to the various forms of syllabic verse shared on the author’s website, and includes the history and provenance of the traditional and more modern versions. It is fascinating and also humbling that we are in this day and age, creating poetry with such a lineage.
This guide reminded me of how much I still have to learn about the intent of each form and their accepted applications. Nature and the self are prominent, but in some there is a freedom to express emotion, irony and humour. Most forms tell a story and the challenge is to do so with sometimes as few as seventeen syllables and within the framework of the format.
I was very honoured to have some of my challenge pieces included with the talented poets who have participated, and whose poetry brings such pleasure to those who read it in the challenge recap… and that includes the author who always explains the intricacies of a particular form then shows with examples for even beginners to follow.
I recommend this guide and collection for all lovers of poetry who will enjoy the poems shared throughout the book, beginners who are looking for a way to express themselves with brevity, and more experienced poets who are looking for a new challenge. For me as a writer of short stories and novels, writing syllabic poetry has been a great way to learn how to make a few words convey more.
My review for Things Old and Forgotten December 2021
Wow this is a story collection across the genres that will amaze and delight the reader.
We travel roads from the past and into the future meeting interesting characters along the way, some drawn from the worlds of fantasy and others from the edge of darkness. There are also light-hearted moments with encounters with intoxicating small yellow birds and escapees from the confines of ancient bottles.
Mae Clair writes with clarity and with a focus on the reader’s engagement, creating memorable characters and bringing favourite legendary elements into a new environment.
The stories are all excellent and tough to highlight any for special merit but my heart was warmed by Father’s Day, I was totally drawn in by Robin of Sherwood and Miss Lily Makes a Wish had me laughing.
I can highly recommend this well written and entertaining collection of stories that crosses the genres with ease and expertise.
My review for A Year in the Life of Leah Brand July 2020
A tense thriller that hurtles towards a cliff…..
I don’t think that I could have lived through the year that Leah Brandt did in this psychological thriller by Lucinda Clarke. Even when attempting to deal with the events and doubts that are causing such mayhem, in a rational way, Leah is drawn deeper and deeper into madness.
Surely this woman has already faced enough tragedy in her life? To lose your family and become disabled, would by daunting enough. However, it would seem that the fates have not finished with her just yet.
We are carried along on a roller coaster ride over the year, as each of the main characters, her dismissive new husband Mason, his stroppy teenage daughter Belinda and the seemingly warm and supportive next door neighbour Andrea Coe, all adding levels of manipulation, rejection and secrecy. There is little respite, even in her mother’s home where she might have assumed to be free of the disturbing goings on in her own house. Layer upon layer of self-doubt results in a crisis of identity, and it is painful but compelling to watch the spiralling descent into despair.
The characters were all well drawn and it was easy to have very clear opinions about their personalities. At times you almost you could reach into the pages and make your presence felt with a few choice words….. it is not easy to stand by and see someone being victimised and to remember this is a story!
Who is behind this personal vendetta and why? Will Leah be saved from this train wreck of her life? Who can you trust? I recommend that you read the book for yourself….
My review for Wings of Mayhem 27th April 2022
This first book in the Mayhem collection certainly gets the series off to a fast paced and thrilling start.
Shawnee Daniels is a complex character with a difficult past and an interesting present with a foot in both camps each side of the crimimal world. Trust does not come easily apart from her best friend, but slowly her heart opens to love and a relationship that complicates her life even further.
She is definitely independent and stubborn even in the face of a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a serial killer. As she becomes more entangled with his killing spree and protecting her own secret life, she not only endangers herself but those around her. The violence escalates and it is a race against time to catch the killer before Shawnee loses more of those she loves, her career, her freedom and very likely her life.
The main characters are excellently portrayed and the plot moves at a rapid pace towards a showdown that has you on the edge of your seat. Clearly well researched both in police procedures and the mindset of a serial killer, it will be enjoyed by readers of crime thrillers and action packed novels.
One of my reviews for the books by Sandra Cox – Gwen Slade: Bounty Hunter January 2021
Another wonderful western romance from Sandra Cox. As always the author creates a strong feisty heroine who does not take fools gladly.. Gwen Slade has had to learn to take care of herself and her younger brother at an early age and now has a fierce reputation throughout the west as a woman who always gets her man.
Enter the good looking and not so innocent Jordie, and as the story heats up in both the action and romance departments, their lives become increasingly entwined.
Bounty hunting is not for the timid and the bad guys don’t care if she is a woman or not, they will still fight to the death. As Gwen tracks down the members of a violent gang, her life and future of her family hang in the balance.
I highly recommend to those who love both westerns and romance, especially when they are brought together in an action packed adventure. This is not the first Sandra Cox book I have read and will certainly not be the last.
My review for Someone Close to Home February 15th 2022
This fast paced thriller plays into the fears of most of us. Those where we end up incapacitated, unable to communicate in the hands of strangers, some of whom may not have our best interests at heart. It is a page turner as the reader becomes engaged in a race against time and the danger that awaits.
The story is set in the present and the daily anquish of Megan who suffered a stroke and has been placed in an understaffed and cheap care home, where support for recovery is not on the menu. As she lies in a bed, dependent on a variety of carers, some dedicated and some sadistic, Megan also has all the time in the world to reflect on her life from a childhood marred by tragedy and manipulation, through a successful classical musical career, a love that brought light into her life and the disastrous outcome of a doomed marriage to a narcistic and violent bully.
These two timelines have converged to bring Megan to a place where past wrongs by others result in her torment and intended death at the hands of an avenging psychopath
The author has created memorable and relateable characters. Your heart goes out to Megan as she is swept through life on the whims and cruel intentions of others, willing her to find the strength to escape the chains that are used to keep her under control. The evil in both men and women who hold the keys to those chains is chilling and malignant, and the entitlement and disdain shown to her by those who should love and nurture her is heartrending.
Alex Craigie is the master of suspense and maintains a pace that is breathless with the reader turning the pages anxious to find a glimmer of hope for the doomed Megan.
Horror and fantasy novels that portray monsters and evil are easier to read as they can be dismissed as imaginary… This thriller is however definitely close to home in many respects and it makes it all the more compelling a read. I can highly recommend.
One of my reviews for the books by James J. Cudney – Frozen Stiff Drink: A Kellan Ayrwick Cozy Mystery (Braxton Campus Mysteries Book 6
It is hard to believe that Kellan Ayrwick has only been back at the Braxton Campus for a year in this series of mysteries. In that time he has solved several murders and other criminal activities and either charmed or alienated family and residents. Just when the poor guy thought he could relax with his daughter and nephew away in Florida with his parents, and his developing romance with the town sheriff April on track, a storm front races in.
It is not just the snow that Kellan is up to his eyes in, with his fiesty grandmother going missing, corruption allegations rocking the judicial office, accusations piling up against all his family members and bodies being discovered on an alarmingly regular basis.
As always the author keeps us on our toes with fast paced action and a growing list of suspects; all well drawn with their own quirks and characteristics. Some are familiar from other books and others new to the town.. including the irritatingly arrogant Fox Terrell who seems to turn up when he is least wanted or expected.
James Cudney writes a very good murder mystery and leaves the reader guessing to the last minute as to who could be the killer. He also unravels the other mysteries very satisfactorily in the final chapters, although we are left with a cliffhanger guaranteed to encourage you to buy the next book in the series, which of course we will.
Recommended for murder mystery readers who enjoy second guessing the author right to the last page.
My advance review for We Are Saul March 5th 2022
Having read other books by Richard Dee I was delighted to be offered an advance copy of his latest release.
There have been elements of what might be termed science fiction in stories going back hundreds of years. However it is only in the 20th century that reality caught up with the fantasy with space exploration, and humans not only landing on the moon, but orbiting the earth on a permanent manned station.
We are now faced with incredible possibilities both for the future of space travel, and in the advancements this brings to humans in the form of their capabilities.
The concept for this novel is very clever as it builds on the achievements in a number of areas including robotics and human enhancement, taking them to a whole new level.
Humans do have free will, but when you have lost everything that you have including your control over your own body, how desperate would you be to accept a radical and experimental lifeline?
Saul is about to find out. Whilst he may be paralysed, his mind and his heart still yearn for love and connection, the question is, will all of that still be possible in his future?
This is science fiction, but the author writes with such clarity that you find yourself believing that this too, like so many of the futeristic imaginings of the past, might well be feasible at some point in the coming centuries, if not decades.
Richard Dee has created wonderful complex characters including the enigmatic and secretive Dr Tendral, the nurses who assist Saul in his recovery and progress in the experiment, and others on the sidelines who will influence the success or failure of the project. He is known for his world building both in science fiction and fantasy novels and that is evident in this book too.
As a thriller prepare for some unexpected twists, dangerous revelations and some thought provoking questions about the morality of interfering with human mortality.
I can highly recommend this intriguing and fast paced science fiction thriller which is likely to leave you wondering how soon it will become fact.
My review for Lulubelle Loves to Bake September 4th 2021
This is a great sized book for children A4 with big print and beautifully illustrated by the author.
Lulubelle definitely has a sweet tooth and all the recipes are favourite deserts and cookies that children will be immediately drawn to and offer an opportunity for some fun baking sessions in the kitchen with mum or dad.
Some of my personal favourites are Perfect Pumpkin Pie and Zucchini Muffins…although I wouldn’t say no to Kitchen Sink Cookies either.
Each recipe is accompanied by Lulubelle and her friends, suitably attired to complement the particular recipe, and a rhyme for a child to read and learn, featuring the letter of the alphabet featured.
A great idea for a cookbook and perhaps Lulubelle might follow it up with an A-Z of easy savoury dishes that will introduce them to other foods as well as the format is terrific.
Bright, colourful and full of rhymes and recipes adults and children alike will enjoy reading as they prepare and eat the treats. A recommended read.
My review for She who comes forth 7th May 2022
I have found the stories of ancient Egypt and the discoveries made over the last two centuries fascinating and I was looking forward to this action adventure set in the land of the Pharoahs in the 1960s.
France Leighton is an innocent abroad. Her upbringing has been unconventional, with an ancestral link to the excavation of the tombs and undecided about her future, she applies to and is accepted to a dig in progress in Luxor. With mundane tasks and friction amongst the members of the dig team, France retreats into her comfort zone which is playing her much loved cello.
The cello and an exquiste emerald ring are links to the past, and as she shares her experiences and thoughts about the present with us, strange and disturbing elements begin to filter in, making her question who and what is attempting to manipulate the future. France is the narrator of her story, but not in control of her own destiny, as others have their own agendas, pulling her into their distorted plans for the future.
The author has done an amazing job in recreating both the 1960s setting for the plot and the world of the ancient Egyptian pharoahs and deities. The characters are distinctive and easy to like or dislike with some multi-faceted, only revealing their true selves as the story reaches its climax.
We are treated to a wondrous tour of the inside of tombs both excavated and open to the public and as the mystery deepens to hidden and sacred sites deep within the earth. Clearly the author conducted a great deal of research to create such an authentic and detailed journey into the past.
You will find the book difficult to put down, and there is plenty of action to maintain the pace of the plot, and intriguing supernatural elements that become more dynamic as the story unfolds. The book definitely has a style of writing that both Agatha Christie and H. Rider Haggard fans will appreciate and I can highly recommend this first in the series and look forward to the next.
My review Tree Fairies October 2021
This is a lovely set of three stories that introduce us to two children whose camping adventure would lead to a discovery of ancient wisdom and the need to participate in a life- long guardianship of a wonderful forest.
Not everyone believes in fairies, but even those who are sceptical, will find themselves engaging with the magical cast of characters the author has created.
There are parallels in the history of the fairies, to the way humans have split from the old ways to seek their fortunes in the cities. Those who left the forest generations before, have lost the respect and appreciation of the power of nature and its gifts.
The stories span several years, the involvement of the two children and their family, and their close relationship with the fairies over generations is heartwarming.
With the threat of an ecological disaster, ancient wisdom, magic and modern technology must combine to save the forest.
The stories will enchant children and young teens and even oldies who like to be reminded of childhood fairy and adventure stories.
One of my reviews for the books of John Howell – Eternal Road
I am a fan of John Howell’s books and as always was looking forward to his latest. The story of this road trip undertaken by the delightful characters James and Sam does not disappoint, as it crosses timelines and genres with ease and entertaining as well as thought provoking results.
It is an accepted truth that at some point we will die, but the question has always been about our destination after that defining moment. Religions have for millennium offered their own versions of heaven and hell, with various incentives for one and warnings about the other.
John Howell creates a middle world between death and your final destination that offers infinite possibilities, and tantalizes with the thought that perhaps some of our worldly emotional and physical pleasures might be still be enjoyed. And, perhaps an opportunity, particularly following an unexpected departure, to tidy up some loose ends.
The devil of course is in the detail, and in this case the charismatic Lucifer is recruiting likely prospects for one of his key employment openings, and will stop at nothing to get his way. Thankfully Sam who is guiding James through this confusing limbo he finds himself in, has a few tricks up her sleeve and a back up team.
During this interim period, the two travellers get to visit times in man’s recent history that could use some fine tuning, provided it does not compromise the time continuum. However, sometimes it might just be devilish meddling. There is adventure, mystery, humour, romance and some just desserts served up across the last 200 years, and it makes for a lively read with plenty of action.
As an alternative to what is currently on offer from the established authorities on the matter, I would happily take advantage of John Howell’s interim world. To have extra time to get used to the idea of passing on and to revisit events and people in my life to tidy up some loose ends. Temptingly, whilst you are not allowed to influence the events that have taken place already in history, the author hints that there might be a way to prevent a catastrophe in the far distant future.
I recommend that you suspend accepted belief for a few hours and try this world on for size.
My review for Father January 29th 2022
At the heart of this story is family and its complex relationships. To set the scene the author shares the arrival and progress of the Hill brothers from new immigrants to an established clan of descendents settled into a variety of occupations in the early 1940s Canada.
Times are tough for many and making a little extra cash, even if it is on the illegal side, makes all the difference to a growing family. Many are in the know… but it only takes one disgruntled customer to cause a life changing showdown.
With war waging in Europe, and for more reasons than just patriotism, Tanner and his brothers enlist and find themselves caught up in the campaigns to take strategic targets such as Sicily and the rest of Italy. Tanner’s story is shared in detail as he spends three years moving across Europe as part of the invasion force, facing danger and losses of those close to him. The detail included by the author creates an authentic and compelling coverage of the events during those campaigns, bringing home the effect on the men and women physically and mentally.
Contact with home is rare and a return at the end of the conflict comes with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety about what has changed in the years apart. Tanner has some truths to face that will force him to look at his own actions to enable him to move forward with acceptance and for the future of his family.
A recommended read.
My review for the Tina Lost in a Crowd April 2021
This is a beautiful picture book that carries an important message even very young children will benefit from.
School holidays are to be enjoyed, with a mix of fun and learning experiences that broaden a child’s knowledge about their environment and surroundings, but some do come with risks that even with the best will in the world, can ruin a special outing.
The setting is spectacular at a classical music concert in the Hollywood Bowl. This of course comes with an audience of thousands of people, and it is easy for a small child to slip from a parent’s hand or wander off in a brief moment when a back is turned. Every parent’s nightmare.
Thankfully in the story, Tina and Erica benefit from a mother’s wise words to her child to keep them safe, and what might have been a distressing situation ends well.
I applaud the author for the flow of the story which is easy to follow and carries nuggets of wisdom for both parents and children. The illustrations are beautifully drawn and brightly coloured to catch the eye of a child and enhance the story as it unfolds. Highly recommended.
My review for Yellow Hair
As a child of the 1960s, and with a father who was a huge Western fan, it was easy to get carried away with the dramatic and sweeping misinformation that was paraded before us. John Wayne led the charge across the plains and the common theme running through these Hollywood epics was ‘the only good injun, is a dead injun!’
Then in my late teens I read ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’ by Dee Brown and my love affair with many of the western films was at an end.
I had read the reviews of Yellow Hair and I was interested to read this fictionalised version of actual events. I was not disappointed and as I was introduced to the back stories of the white settlers, and their often very pragmatic and desperate reasons for heading into the West, I began to see how it was not usually a malicious intrusion and greedy land grab but two cultures being misled and manipulated by the US Government and those with commercial interests.
You reach a point early on in the book; having been introduced to the settlers in this wagon train, when you are shocked into the recognition of how very dangerous their undertaking was and how unprepared the majority of them were.
Then begins the saga that becomes the story of a white man living as part of this besieged indigenous people, struggling to maintain their traditions and to survive the destruction of their way of life and the land that sustains them.
The list of injustices is very long, and the brutality of the clashes between the cultures, graphic and very disturbing. Peace was brokered time after time and promises were made that were only as good for as long as it took the ink to dry. You will be shocked at your sense of outrage as the behaviour of those in power and also saddened that these once proud and flourishing tribes should be so decimated in just 85 years.
Andrew Joyce does not pull any punches, but he presents the facts well and fairly. The thread that binds the story together, and humanises it, is the story of a young man with a foot in both cultures. Seeing the events and catastrophic impact on both settler and Indian through his eyes, will make you question much of the history written by the victors and then dramatised for our entertainment.
I recommend that you read the book for yourselves and you can find it here:
My review for Oh Baubles January 18th 2022
The aftermath of a devastating tragedy leaves body, mind and emotional well-being in jeopardy, particularly when there are permanent physical reminders of the event. For a young woman in her mid-twenties, scarring and the loss of her leg, have understandably stripped Charlene of her self-confidence and self-belief.
How could anyone be attracted to the person she has become? Who could possibly look passed the visible scars of the accident that also broke her heart?
Thankfully the author created someone who might, because of his profession be sympathetic to Charlene’s circumstances and see her as a beautiful and vibrant young woman.
The challenge then of course is for both these star-crossed lovers to put aside their personal misgivings and realise that they have to take matters in to their own hands if they are to achieve happiness.
Harmony Kent was adept at bringing this story to a satisfactory conclusion, having steered the reader through the rollercoaster ride of emotions and challenges facing these two deserving characters.
A lovely lighthearted read.
Profits from her books go to help rescue dogs from kill shelters.
My review for Where Irises Never Grow March 2021
What begins as a search for a first edition of Aesop’s Fables and the discovery of a scrap of paper with two names, turns into a story that is both haunting and unforgettable.
This novel is one that brings to life a time, still within living memory, that demonstrated how thin the veneer of civilisation really is. All it takes is a cadre of evil men, led by a man without humanity, to perpetrate one of the worst atrocities in modern history.This carefully and well researched story, based on actual reports by survivors and historians of the time, spotlights the best and the worst traits of mankind.
Set in Vichy France where pro-Nazi leaders began to systematically remove their own citizens from the population at the behest of the occupiers, a resistance movement grows as defiant men and women took a stand against the tyranny. Putting their own lives at risk and those of their close family and friends to save those among them who follow a religion that is being demonised. .
The author captures and brings the horrifying events of those few years in the early 1940s into stark reality. Isolated and hunted by packs of men and dogs, Jewish families and captured resistance fighters faced the horror of the basement in a previously luxury hotel at the hands of a monster. Those who did not fall into the hands of the Gestapo lived in fear of being discovered, wondering what the next bang on the door would bring.
The characters are vividly portrayed and the reader becomes engaged and emotionally invested in their plight and fight for survival. The author keeps up the pace of this desperate race against time, and despite the dreadful consequences of a careless whisper or action, there are still moments of humanity and the power of love in sustaining the human spirit.
I give the book five stars unreservedly, but I do understand that it might not be a book that everyone feels they can read. This is about the past, and today enemies have become allies. And even in that time of desperation, there were elements within the occupying army who were sympathetic and compelled to pass along information to the resistance that saved lives. There are few left alive who perpetrated this particular atrocity, but even today there are still millions who live in fear and seek to escape persecution in other parts of the world.
The truth is hard to face, and there are certainly more than a handful of people who voice their disbelief that the holocaust took place. This book based on actual accounts of the time, leaves the reader in no doubt about its truth. And part of that truth is that very few of our own countries can take the moral high ground with regard to religious persecution over the centuries and even today. This book reinforces the need for responsible nations to stand up for those who cannot defend themselves.
At its heart, this novel is also about remembrance, and a tribute to the millions who lost their lives along with the thousands of men and women who saved as many as they could, at the expense of their own survival. They should always be remembered. Recommended.
One of my reviews for M.J. Mallon – Mr. Sagittarious March 2020.
Set against the beautiful back drop of the botanical gardens in Cambridge, prose and verse tell the story of people who find solace and joy in the weeping willow tree and dragonflies and in the wonders of the orchids in the hot house. Twin brothers have a favourite bench where they watch the world go by, and their sister Annette reflects on her life after their loss… Other characters make their appearances sharing the magic of the natural world, including young Aurora who collects rainbows and semi-precious stones.
The author takes us through the seasons with poems reflecting the festivals such as Halloween and Christmas, with ghosts and snowmen and a Christmas Bubble Monster. Finally we meet Mr. Sagittarius who shares the loves of his long life….
This is a delightful read with wonderful photographs to enhance the words, and you will find yourself returning to certain passages to read again and enjoy. I am sure you will find your own favourites and I was hard pushed to select just one, but the Etheree: A Face on Bark struck a chord with me.
One of my reviews for Sharon Marchisello’s books – Going Home September 2021
This is a well written and thought provoking story that combines a care crisis that many of us face with elderly parents who have developed dementia, and the unravelling of the mystery surrounding a murder in a family home.
It is clear the author has experience of the challenge of communicating with someone who has short term memory loss, and brings in a cleverly crafted murder plot with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader interested.
There are flashbacks to the past and events which have a bearing on the present, and the reader is witness to the fallout that revelations result in as the search begins for a viable suspect amongst the outsiders who have access to the family home. It would seem that the authorities have only one suspect in mind, and without the ability to communicate coherently, an elderly woman must rely on her extended family to prove her innocence.
The author does a great job in keeping all the various strands of the plot running smoothly in parallel and brings the story to a satisfactory climax.
I recommend to those who enjoy well written murder mysteries and family sagas.
My review for Apple Blossom February 2021
Receiving the diagnosis of cancer is everyone’s fear. Jaye Marie shares her journey through this frightening experience from the first examination and her treatments at Queen Alexander hospital in Portsmouth with honesty and courage. A journal such as this is so important, not just as a way to document the experiences of those living through this devastating illness, but for those who might be at the start of that journey. Half the battle is the fear associated with the diagnosis, and at times the lack of information available as the medical professionals are understandably reluctant to commit themselves to a definitive prognosis. Whilst it is frightening, being informed is a key factor in getting through the treatment and remaining positive about the future. Jaye Marie does an excellent job and whilst the book is a short read it is filled with heartfelt inspiration.
My review for Blood Mark October 2021
This is an excellent psychological, paranormal thriller that will keep you turning the pages to discover more of the story as it unravels.
The present day and the past are entwined in the intricate pattern that has wound itself around the body of a girl who believes that she was abandoned and been cursed all her life.
Her interactions with even her closest friend is impacted by her reticence to allow anyone to see her markings as she tries to make sense of dreams that vividly involve her night after night. The reader becomes totally engaged with the daily struggle to maintain some form of normality within a world that is judgemental of those who are different.
It is fast paced wth little padding to distract from the story which maintains the tension right to the last page.
The characters are very well portrayed and easy to take an instant dislike or liking too. As the mystery of the markings is unravelled, the pace of the story heats up bringing all the strands of the past and present together in a final heartstopping finale.
The author has done a great job in creating both the concept for this thriller and its execution and I can highly recommend.
One of my reviews for the books by Marcia Meara – The Light January 2021
A delightful addition to the Wake-Robin Ridge series and as always the star of the story is a little boy called Rabbit. An old soul who sees far beyond human comprehension, he still retains his gentle and loving nature. He also sees far more than a boy of eleven should, and yet his determination to help those in limbo and their living loved ones, is too powerful to deny.
In this chapter in the series, Rabbit’s family extends to new friends and those who have lost their way. Collaborations and combining ‘The Sight’ with modern technology takes this current investigation into the depths of the stunning Appalachian mountains building the suspense as the story behind the light runs parallel.
As always the author engages us with her scenic descriptions and charming characters, weaving an intriguing mystery which unfolds with some surprise revelations. Heartwarming and thought provoking this series is a must read. I do recommend that you begin with Wake-Robin Ridge, followed by A Boy Named Rabbit and Harbinger.
My review for Felix Finds Out July 2021
I stepped back in time to my childhood and my enjoyment of the adventures of The Famous Five and The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton.
Felix Finds Out is a full length novel for slightly older children and adults who wish to revisit the enjoyment of reading a well written adventure containing all the classic elements needed such as realistic plot, wonderful characters, heroes and villains, and a wicked witch….of sorts.
I loved the individual natures of the co-conspirators, on a mission to discover what the school caretaker has been up to, which might have a disastrous knock on effect on Felix’s future. The group grows from the solitary Felix anxious to hide his family situation, to include Samantha the worldly planner, shy Hubert who is the technical support and Joanne, slight but feisty.
This intrepid band of crime fighters are putting themselves at risk but at the same time forming a friendship that will strengthen them all for the potentially dangerous climax to the story.
The author writes with flow and clearly knows the minds of children and young teens caught between being a child and a young adult with all the angst that goes with it. Elizabeth Merry evolves the characters over the story giving them plenty of opportunity to grow and shine.
A very enjoyable read I have no hesitation in recommending the book.
My review for Inner Rumblings
Poetry should stir the emotions and convey imagery with flow and rhythm and Joyce Murphy achieves that in her debut collection of verse.
It is a collection that reflects many shades of human emotion through the various phases of the poet’s life from 15 years old after what was an idyllic childhood. Teenage years are not the easiest for many of us and it is clear that the poet experienced anguish and self doubt as she moved into young adulthood including the turmoil of first love. We travel with her to Germany where she worked as an au pair, experiencing feelings of being an outcast in this very different environment to Ireland… and the dilemma caused by a romantic attraction.
There is also lightness from touches of humour and the renewal that comes with finding a soul mate in ‘Love’s Vision’, but it is countered by the enormity of great loss.
The poetry is a roller coaster that takes you along for the ride. I am sure that there will be life’s experiences that many will relate to throughout the phases of the collection.
My review for Laws of Nature August 2021
I read the first book in this trilogy in 2018 and eagerly awaited book two. The author does set the scene for this second book, but I do recommend that you read Born in Treacherous Time first.
Difficult to extol the virtues of this book without giving away spoilers, but I can tell you it is an extraordinary story of survival under the most extreme conditions the earth was experiencing 1.8 million years ago. Unpredictable is putting it mildly, with earth shifts, bitter cold, droughts, floods with violent storms with lightening splintering the ground and causing rampant fires. Shelter is a rarity from the elements and when it is discovered it holds even more dangers within.
This is not a fantasy story, as it is about the real and dangerous evolutionary journey of not just man, but many of the world’s beast that we are more familiar with today. It is a time where there are a number of versions of humans, some who are more advanced than others, but even they marvel when they come into contact with those they consider more primitive. Despite this early stage in man’s evolution, natural and instinctive skills have already been lost, and it is the respect for these abilities that spark the fascination of ‘Man who Preys’ a long term enemy.
Lucy and her group have members gathered along the harsh journey who have found themselves outcast or abandoned during shifts in the earth or extreme climate conditions. They are a mismatched mix of species who learn from each other and adapt to form an unbreakable bond.There are whispers of how the individuals will evolve into modern day counterparts such big cats and primates but also sadly those that have become extinct.
The author writes flawlessly and takes you on a journey into our past with detailed accounts of this harsh environment and its inhabitants. It is an adventure with heartbreak and also moments when you can only applaud the ingenuity and the will to survive of these primitive ancestors of ours. It certainly leaves you will a greater appreciation of all we have in this modern world.
I hope you will read both book one and two of this trilogy and I am looking forward to following Lucy and her group as they continue their journey in book 3.
My review for The Magic Carpet –September 2019
The Magic Carpet is set in outer London in early September 2016, and its cast is a group of young schoolchildren aged seven and eight, tasked with developing the classic fairy tales into performances on Friday October 14th.
The children head home with their assigned stories with the wide remit of telling the fairy tale in any way they wish, involving whoever they wish, including family members.
The author invites us into the children’s homes to meet parents, brothers and sisters and grandparents, and for them to have the chance to share their stories of how they arrived in this part of London.
Beautifully written from both the children’s and adult’s perspective, we get to understand the complexities of integration within a multi-cultural society. It is not just about religion, colour or traditions, as within a single family there can be three generations struggling to understand the new culture, language and accepted practices of a society they were not born into.
Such as the loving grandmother struggling to communicate with her English speaking grandson as he shares the wonders of the story he has been given. A single father who is concerned about the proprieties of bringing his son’s friends into the home, and a young girl who sees a side to her parent’s marriage that will challenge her perspective on the happy ever after of fairy stories.
We also come to appreciate the role of teachers at primary schools, who patiently prepare the children from these diverse backgrounds, and with varying language skills, for their future as part of society.
The story culminates with the performances and the interpretations the children have brought to the classic fairy tales. We also discover the impact of this simple exercise has had on the dynamics of the families involved and the changes in perception it has achieved. Demonstrating it is the children, who have the power to bring the generations and different cultures together.
My review for The Cruel Romance
A well written novel with central characters and events that will stay with you long after the book is finished.
The story is told with stark realism of life in a small village near Moscow and of the conflict on the Eastern Front, at a time when Russia and Germany were back and forth across each other’s border with devastating consequences. For all the horror, suffering and death of the men fighting on the front line, it was the women and children who ended up being brutalised, starved and reviled by their own.
There is already poverty in the village where Serafima lives with her single mother in a small house that catches the eye of the commander of the invading German forces as his billet.
Despite the forced labour and the harsh Russian winter, Serafima keeps her dreams alive by thinking of Vitya who she loves and is now on the front. Then one day there is a devastating event that would not only change her life for ever, but that of a young German soldier whose gentleness has been twisted by the military code of domination.
Threaded through the inhumanity of war, is the beauty of music, kindness from unexpected sources, compassion, rekindling of maternal love and forgiveness.
All the characters are strongly drawn and evolve through the story as events bring about fundamental changes to their personalities and behaviour. Some become dehumanised whilst others seek redemption. We follow their lives during the conflict and in the uneasy peace that follows, discovering their inner thoughts in letters written to family and loved ones.
With the war ended, the race to grab power in the resulting vacuum is lethal in its unbending drive to annihilate any resistance. Even from those who have fought for their country or worked as slaves in the factories to support the war effort. For a population already starved of food, freedom and rights during war, there is little difference in peace time.
This book is not a Mills and Boon romance, it is stark, realistic and emotive with a surprising ending that does at least bring all the threads together with a feeling of closure. Whilst a little more justice was deserved by one or two, in the real world that does not always happen, especially when the people concerned are shielded by the uniform that they wear.
It is a reminder that whilst there is bravery on an individual basis in war, there is also inhumanity, cruelty and dishonour, tragically aimed at those least able to defend themselves. Recommended.
My review for White Water Landings February 9th 2022
As we hop on and off planes with destinations around the globe, we rarely think further than checking the timings and paying with our credit card. Most long distance flights are non-stop and it is now something we very much take for granted.
Imagine you need to make the trip from the UK to Capetown by air in 1936. It would have required several short hops by flying boat down across Europe to the top of Africa and then to several refuelling stops set up on the coast or rivers over the 3,500 miles to the tip of the continent.
This biography of the young Geoffrey Pett is fascinating, both from a historical perspective and also because of his passion and perserverance in setting up these isolated and sometimes dangerous stations along the route.
Geoffrey was clearly adaptable and resourceful, making connections both with local residents and those from other companies and the military that passed through his care. Whilst his mandate was to establish the stations for Imperial Airways, he understood the benefits of working well with others. It was complex with very basic communications to maintain contact with aircraft to ensure safety and a rigid schedule that had to be met to ensure continuity of flights across the length and breadth of Africa.
As you read the story, it is easy to imagine you are sitting across from a natural storyteller listening to his adventures. And there are plenty of those including following hippo tracks to access suitable river landing sites, hauling barges and launches hundreds of miles across country and upriver that were virtually unnavigable. Dealing with some quirky passengers unaccustomed to rudimentary overnight facilities, dealing with snake-bites, and those who have enjoyed the hospitality a little too vigorously.
It is also a love story, and how the ingenuity and tenacity that Geoffry applied to his job, was put to good use as he masterminds a trip to reach the girl he loves in Uganda, marry her, take a honeymoon and be back by an almost impossible return to work date.
The author has done a great job in transcribing the recordings made by her father, keeping the authenticity of his narration and adding in helpful links between stories. Jemima Pett also shares her parent’s life after the war including Geoffrey’s contintued career in aviation.
Recommended for history lovers, aviation buffs, and those who enjoy finding out about ordinary people leading an extraordinary life.
My review for Linda’s Midlife Crisis May 21st 2022
This is a heartwarming read that shares the journey of Linda Lockwood as she suffers bullies in and out of the classroom, a husband who treats her like a doormat and is very vocal in public about her ‘flaws’, and her own lack of self-esteem.
Just how much is too much, and when will Linda finally snap? At 50 years old and at the end of her tether she decides there has to be a better life than this. Especially when her secret dreams are thrown back in her face.
After years as a teacher she is resourceful and over the following months Linda gets back her joy in life and begins to open up to the world. Meeting new friends, being close to family and looking amazing she blossoms.The one area of her life that doesn’t tempt her is romance, but when you are not looking, sometimes it finds you anyway.
This story encourages all those who find themselves suddenly alone and facing an uncertain future that there is hope and a second chance. Recommended.
My review for The Garden Black 26th March 2022
Frank Prem’s poetry always has the power to move those who read it. Never lacking in emotional content, he creates verse that illuminates our world, its experiences and history.
In this collection we are introduced to speculative fantasy, still bringing relateable experiences and events in our lives into focus, but also exploring the outer edges of our consciousness and our universe.
Nature is not far from the centre of the verse with storms at sea, forests and skies blue and vast. Such as in the poem “storm and the sea (bubbles of foam)”
He invites us to wander with him through a garden where the blooms are black, to imagine orbiting the earth in space and offers a reminder of how our minds might lose touch with reality and the present in “Something” which begins we these words….
I have lost something
I can’t tell
I put it
This is a collection to read at your leisure without haste and with an open mind. The poet provides plenty of opportunity to use your imagination and enjoy the experience.
My review for Myrtle the PurpleTurtle
Beautifully illustrated children’s book with a lesson for us all.
This is a beautifully written and illustrated children’s book, that gently encourages the young to accept that being different should be celebrated. Whether it is the colour of a person’s skin, accent, cultural background, religion or disability, they should never feel excluded and forced to change to fit in. Adapting is a different thing altogether and that comes when two people or groups respect each other’s differences, learn from them and adopt some elements in common. Cynthia Reyes expresses that effectively with the words in this book, complimented perfectly with wonderful illustrations of Myrtle and those she meets along the way by Jo Robinson. I also believe that parents or any adults reading this to a child, will also take on board how important it is for young children to grasp this concept as they enter this multi-cultural world we live in.
My review for Undercover Crime Shorts March 2021
This is an interesting mix of short stories all with a criminal theme…We open with a story of intrique and double dealing that follows a charasmatic redhead with her sights on the big prize and willing to use anyone she can to achieve it. The other stories reveal the darker side of people’s nature, including a writer caught up in her neighbour’s terrifying drama, a woman who leaves a will to heirs who have to complete certain tasks to inherit her money, a stalker who gets more than he bargained for and a woman with justice on her mind.
The author has created some complex characters and a number of inventive schemes and deadly plots to keep you entertained and wondering just who will get away with murder. A short read packed with intrigue and surprises.
My review of More Glimpses 29th March 2019
Reading More Glimpses is like dipping into your favourite box of chocolates. We all have different tastes and some like the dark chocolate and others the milk. Some of us prefer toffee and others soft centres but you can guarantee that the box ends up empty.
There is a mix of genres to suit all tastes in More Glimpses with Science Fiction, Drama, Horror, Rom-Com, Fantasy and Comedy. All have a twist at the end that leaves you with something extra to think about, especially in relation to human behaviour. Some of the stories challenge our stereotyping of those we have not met, and others offer an opportunity to understand the actions of others a little better. The horror stories do a good job in scaring you into looking at everyday items and technology in a new light, not always favourable.
If I was to highlight some of the stories that I connected to more than the others it would be the first story The Whistle set in the trenches of World War I, where young men not only faced the terrors or war but the isolation of emotional conflict. The Door will have me looking at letter boxes in a new way.. at a distance! And Tap left me with a satisfied sense of retribution.
I am sure whatever your preference of genre you will enjoy all the stories and dip in and out and find your own favourites.
My review for Women Who Walk February 12th 2022
I have always considered myself to be nomadic, and have trouble at times identifying exactly what nationality I can claim. Hence stories of these women and that of the author are fascinating in many respects, and I immediately related to each and every one of them.
The accounts begin in childhood and as their lives unfold, it is evident that the reasons to leave family and culture behind are sometimes complex. We join them on their journeys as they absorb life, learn new skills, find love, have families of their own and finally lay down roots far from home.
What struck me was the bravery that was required, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s for these young women, to head into the unknown. Although some did have travel companions, it still required an enormous leap of faith. The stories also highlighted the resilience and ingenuity required when arriving in a foreign country, usually without an adequate grasp of the language, to find employment and the means to remain for an extended period.
Some of those featured spent many years travelling around the world, visiting remote regions to work within charity organisations, global companies or other organisations such as the United Nations before arriving in Portugal. Whilst these postings were by nature temporary, what comes across is that few of these destinations provided all the elements needed to call home. Be it environment, culture, people and in some cases weather, Portugal has provided many of those elements in abundance.
Apart from the individual accounts, it is also a very useful guide to living and working in Portugal. The acceptance into the tight-knit Portuguese community, bureaucratic complexities and life within the expat groups offering a wide variety of cultural and creative programmes to assist in the integration.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about courageous and adaptable people who travel the world in search of a place to call home… and anyone thinking of living in Portugal.
My review for Flowers and Stone July 2nd 2022
This is the first chapter in the passionate love story of a young woman enjoying the freedom of having left a restrictive upbringing with a bad boy of country music.
Although Darlina has tasted the joys of a more liberated lifestyle dancing for extra cash in a nightclub, there is still an air of innocence about her that attracts the much older and charasmatic Luke Stone. Wiser heads warn her of the dangers of becoming involved with a man who has long history of playing fast and loose in relationships, but she is in love.
That love will be tested in several ways over the following months and yet through it all Darlina is totally committed to being there for Luke in every way possible. His demons become hers as she watches him battle through a physical and mental crisis and yet there are still secrets that have the potential to rip them apart.
Despite his approach to women and previous relationships, Luke finds himself deeply connected to this young girl and her convictions. Secrets have a habit of being exposed to the light and in a desperate attempt to protect Darlina, Luke may have to make a major sacrifice.
You can tell that this story is written from the heart and is deeply personal. Even fictionalised the strength of the love and commitment to the relationship shines through and as the onlooker you find yourself hoping against hope things will work out. The love of a good woman can redeem a man who has fallen by the wayside, but the road is going to be long and hard.
The 70s and the setting for this story is also authentic and captures a time in music history that is legendary.
I look forward to reading the second book in this love saga soon.
My review for Fireflies and Chocolate June 2021
As the author explains in her notes, this story is based on actual events that took place in Scotland in the 1740s, when six hundred children and young people were kidnapped from Aberdeen and sold into indentured servitude in the American colonies. Although there are accounts of this devastating event, they are mainly from the male perspective and the author created her central character Elizabeth to redress the balance.
Sinclair has done an excellent job of merging fact and fiction with wonderful characters, some based on real people of the day. Those who survived the crowded and dangerous crossing, were sold to the highest bidder to use as they saw fit for the years of their indenture. At that time slavery was still embedded in the culture, and the indentured servants worked side by side, often in appalling and cruel conditions.
Elizabeth comes from a privileged background but it is a time of conflict with the English and like many Scottish noble families times are hard. However, nothing could prepare her for voyage that broke the spirits of many, and the horror of being sold into an uncertain future.
We follow her adventures as she meets those who are on the run from the harsh treatment on the plantations, and those with a more enlightened attitude to the slavery and the use of indentured servants. Her bravery in the face of the treatment to those she now works side by side with, wins hearts and also endangers her life and those she loves.
This book is well researched, bringing history to life and the writing flows smoothly like hot chocolate as it warms on a cold day. It is a coming of age and love story which will have you holding your breath on occasion as Elizabeth comes to terms with her future.
I can highly recommend the book to those who enjoy well researched and compelling historical novels.
My review for Hues of Hope June 25th 2022
Balroop Singh writes poetry not just from her heart but verse that touches the hearts of those who read it.
There are so many elements in her verse we can all relate to. The love of nature with its emotional and physical impact on us with its raw beauty and power, the variations on the theme of love and relationships, and the chains that bind us created by expectations of our own or others. The author shares her thoughts on finding our own identity, conquering pain, finding forgiveness and the sanctity of family. Each tells a story and all highlight the author’s ability to appreciate and understand human nature.
The collecton is divided into these areas of nature and the human condition and that provides a flow that moves you seamlessly from one poem to the next. Some of my favourites include Tread Softly Here, Magic, A Concert, When Love Whispered, and Don’t Dwell On It! Really?
One poem in particular struck me with its emotional elements. The Golden Cage
Trapped in the golden cage
The cage of unfulfilled desires
The cage of love and expectations
The cage with vast vistas
Each door so welcoming
Yet so deceptive
This is a lovely collection of poems and I can highly recommend.
My review for Drystan the Dragon and Friends Series, Book 6: Dragana Helps a Fairy October 2021
This book is a lovely example how giving those from a different background, even if they come with a fearsome reputation, a chance to become friends is a good thing. Dragons are not normally cast in such a friendly light, but these colourful creations by Janice Spina and her illustrator husband will delight small children with their vibrant colours and easy to read rhyming stories.
In this last book in the series Dragana in all her burgandy and cream glory, comes to the aid of a fairy queen in trouble who has dared to enter the realm of the dragons in desperate need of help. Despite her misgivings she puts her trust in Dragana and together they find a solution.
As this is the last book in the series, the author brings all the other dragons together at the end of the story with a recap of their own adventures which is a lovely link to the other books in the series.
I can recommend these stories for young children to ignite their imaginations and show them how kindness to others is so important.
You will be happy you read it and will re-read it over and over.
My review for the book February 2021
This memoir of a teacher with over thirty years experience, is an interesting snapshot of the American education system, particularly the elementary school years for 5 to 10 or 11 years old. This is a key period in a child’s life and so important that the skills for learning and development are absorbed during these years.
Pete Springer provides a step by step guide to creating the best environment within a classroom, for learning and as a place of safety and respect. Clearly a dedicated teacher, but also an observer of human nature, Springer provides a manual for new teachers, including how to achieve a rapport with both students and their parents. Importantly of course, creating lesson plans that stimulate and educate, and how to use effective and empathetic methods when dealing with behavioural and discipline issues.
The book it is not just about teaching a curriculum set out by a state education board, but also developing relationships in and out of the classroom with key people in a child’s and a teacher’s life. As the author points out, children come from a multitude of backgrounds with varying family circumstances and one size does not fit all when it comes to treating them as individuals or those in their lives.
With anecdotes of life in the classroom with young minds trying to be one step ahead of you, overeager parents, and absent ones, and differing teaching methods being supported by successive administrators, it is not a 9-5 job. Especially when you are a dedicated educator intent on sending well taught and well-adapted children on to secondary school.
There is much to enjoy by the casual reader looking for an informative and entertaining read, with memories of their own early years rising to the surface, not all as positive as in the classes of Pete Springer.
I do think it is an excellent guide to those who are considering teaching as a career or have just begun their training. Also new teachers trying to find their own style, and a way to connect with their students effectively and the others involved in their lives.
Parents, and to a degree grandparents, would certainly benefit from understanding the complexities of the work of a teacher. Whilst this is written from the perspective of the American education system, children of this age around the world require the same level of dedication and commitment to their well-being.
The author includes some wonderful stories of students (with their names changed) their parents and incidents that will entertain. It is heartwarming to learn about past students who keep in touch, even when they too have become parents with children passing through Springer’s classroom. All of which underline what a caring person and teacher these children were lucky to have in their lives.
My review for Amazing Matilda January 1st 2022
As an adult reading a children’s book, I look for and enjoy how an author shares life lessons embedded within the story. Bette A. Stevens does this very well using animals that a child would be familiar with, as the bearer of these inspiring but simple encouragements to be kind, to be patient and to perservere with life and tasks we are faced with.
Matilda goes through the complex phases in the life of a butterfly and the author shares these not just in the words of the story, but lovely illustrations which would catch a child’s attention and prompt a discussion between child and the storyteller An opportunity to emphasise elements of the tale and explore in more detail the creatures met during Matilda’s transformation.
Bette Stevens has created a lovely book that any child would treasure and also would engage older members of the family too. Highly recommended.
My review for the book January 15th 2022
My review for Where There’s Doubt on April 9th 2022
This is a psychological thriller which delves into the minefield that is modern day online dating and keeps you on the edge of your seat from page one.
Dating has become big business. Certainly for those who host the sites where millions hopefully upload their photographs, likes and dislikes and reach out into the void for a connection that will fulfil their dreams of everlasting love. It is also a feeding ground for sharks, seeking out the vulnerable, the desperate, the broken-hearted and those who are easily manipulated. Their intent is to bequile and deprive their victims of their money, self-esteem, dreams and hope.
Kate is just out of a long term relationship which has left her wondering about the myth surrounding true love. Then along comes a man who ticks all the boxes… seems to know her so well from the outset, anticipating all her needs and hopes within a relationship. Wary but falling in love, Kate begins to ignore her inner voice and friends well-meaning cautions and the game is on.
Over the course of the first part of the book the other players in this game each side of the con are introduced, including the masterminds behind the scam. The author is very good at creating characters who the reader can easily identify, including the poster boy for every woman’s romantic dream, handsome, attentive, successful and sexy. However we hear first hand from this adonis about what he thinks of his victims and his accomplice as well as his endgame. We are spectators to the events but can only watch from the sidelines, helpless to intervene to prevent the inevitable tragedies and loss.
In the second part of the book we discover which of the victims are going to rise above this dispicable piece of trickery and deal with the aftermath. The best and worst of human traits is explored and for some there will be surprising revelations that threaten to devastate them even further. Does crime pay, will there be retribution, who will survive the con?
Highly recommended as a thriller you will find hard to put down.
My review for The Silent Brother June 18th 2022
There is an expression – ‘It if was not for his bad luck, he would have no luck at all’. That seems to sum up Tommy’s unforgiving and relentless passage through life.
Family is Tommy, his younger brother Benjy, and a mother who seeks comfort in a bottle, and in relationships that are addictive and dangerous; for herself and her children.
Like a row of dominoes one event sends Tommy’s life crashing. The only glimmer of light in his dark childhood is a scrap of a girl with a love of chocolate caramel.
There is no escape from the path Tommy finds himself on, guilt and a need to find his place in this uncertain world he inhabits, deliver blow after blow.
This book is set in Newcastle at a time when major industries, the lifeblood of the city, closed down leaving a generation of hard-working men and women without purpose. Lacking adequate support, the heart of a community dies, leaving the young with no future to work towards and a vacuum filled by those happy to take advantage. When criminal organisations are the only ones hiring… what is a lad to do?
This is not a cosy mystery but an edgy and gritty look at a life at the mercy of circumstances, poverty and criminal dominance. It is also compelling and filled with characters that are vividly drawn and whose every thought, word and deed ooze the menace that comes with ingrained hardship and deprived upbringings.
As a reader you are drawn into the turbulence of Tommy’s life. You absorb his desperation and also his passion for his brother and Annie whose life he becomes enmeshed in again as an adult.
Risks have to be taken, trust has to be given and a plan must be carried out to drag Tommy and Annie away from the precipice they are clinging to. Secrets long hidden offer a chance at a future and redemption.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. The author brings all the threads of this story to a close masterfully with revelations and hope. A reward not just for the characters, but for the reader who has become so engaged in their story.
I recommend this book to those who enjoy gritty novels about ordinary people who strive to fight their way out of difficult circumstances.
My review for The Ferryman and the Seawitch 16th October 2021
Wow. This stand alone fantasy novel from D.Wallace Peach is fantastic. The author is known for her world building and creation of memorable characters, and does not disappoint with the worlds above and below the sea, and those who struggle to survive within them.
Deals have been made following a dreadful incident. Innocents must suffer to fulfil the terms of the agreement. A floating derelict world with a queen intent on survival, and a rich and fertile land with an unrelenting king, are connected by one ship and the Ferryman. He bears the burden of keeping to the bargain made to the Sea Witch for free passage between the two realms, and he has sacrificed much over the years to maintain this fragile peace between them.
There is deceit, side-deals and an undercurrent of violence that races towards a deadline set many years ago. Young lives are at risk, as are those who sail the dangerous waters ruled by the Sea Witch. There are heart-stopping moments when it seems that all is lost, and heart-warming interactions between humans and those beneath the sea that demonstrate the power of trust and love. However, those seeking their own version of justice will stop at nothing to to achieve satisfaction.
This is a love story, adventure, mystery and thriller rolled into a compelling and page-turning fantasy. Highly recommended.
My review for Jazz Baby April 20th 2022
Some people are born holding a bad hand of cards. Emily Ann is one of those. At age 13 she has seen and experienced far too much for her years, and despite this, still holds on to a burning ambition to sing. Her voice moves people to tears in church and devilry in the seedy night clubs in New Orleans.
Those who she should be able to trust see the magic in this young girl and most have a twisted vision for her future.
As with any historical novel you have to keep an open mind and base a review on the era in which it is set. In this case is a time of racial inequality, sexual exploitation of the very young and a seedy underworld thriving on the vulnerability and addictions of those desperate to escape their upbringings.
As a woman who has enjoyed the privilege of being raised in a very different world, protected and allowed to make my own choices, it makes for sobering reading. Especially as I was born only 28 years after this story is set.
However raw the circumstances surrounding the story of Emily Ann and her commitment to sing for the world might be, this book is beautifully written. The characters, language, descriptions of the surroundings and the dens and dives of New Orleans are vividly portrayed and you are engaged from the first page to the last.
Emily Ann navigates herself through the minefield that is her life and you leave her story wishing her all the success in the world, on her own terms and beholden to nobody.
My review for Barty Barton February 5th 2022
A lovely story about how even when old and worn out there is still love to be given and received. Very hopeful for those of us of a certain age, who like Barty Barton the bear, are showing signs of wear and tear.
Barty and his fellow stuffed toys have been rather neglected after their young owner grows up and leaves home to start a family of his own.
Luckily his mother comes to the rescue and Barty and his collection of friends go through several rejuvenating processes. They are a delight to read about, offering useful suggestions to those who have favourite worn toys that might enjoy being pampered, and passed along to younger members of the family.
As with all children’s books that I read, I like to see the underlying messages of kindness, love and hope being embedded in the story for a young reader to absorb.
The illustrations are perfect and any child reading, or having the story read to them, will be tempted to stop and discuss in more detail.
My review for Flashes of Life October 2021
How often do we hear the expression, or even use it ourselves, ‘I am just an ordinary person.’ In reality that expression could not be further from the truth.
This collection of flash stories is a delightful walk down memory lane with Pamela S. Wight, who shares moments from her childhood through to being a grandmother with humour and an appreciation of the small things that make up an extraordinary life.
Made extraordinary by finding an elusive middle initial,a dog who stood watch during a crisis, a small granddaughter who disrupts sleep delightfully, a fear of being in a steel cylinder in the air, a love of walking on beaches, a fiesty mother and a guy who makes a calming playlist for times of stress.
This is a reminder of family, empty nests, leaving homes and coming home, friendship, love of music, good food and the fears that might keep us awake at nights.
This collection of memories is a wonderful way to pay tribute to a life well lived, and I can recommend as a way to reconnect with the special moments in our own lives with a deeper appreciation.
Thank you for dropping in today..and I hope that you have found a book or two to take away with you.