Another great review for Settlement

I can’t imagine not writing. I just love it so much. Even if nobody read my scribblings I reckon I’d still have to keep on doing it. But if even one person reads and enjoys what I produce then that’s a bonus. But of course I’m delighted when more than one person does.

I love getting positive feedback and reviews – even the less positive but constructive reactions are helpful.

I really appreciate when readers who have already done enough by buying and reading my books, also take the time and trouble to review them – whether that’s on one of the online retailer sites or on their book blogs. This all helps spread the word to other potential readers and it does my writer’s ego good as well…

And today I certainly got that ego boosted when I read book blogger Joanne’s wonderful review of Settlement. What I especially loved was that she totally got what I was trying to say in the novel and she appreciated the subtleties of the title. This was a thoughtful and, to me, very special review.

You can read her review on her Portobello Book Blog here.

You can get a copy of Settlement here

 

 

In Honour Bound by Christine Webber @1chriswebber #BookReview #RomanticFiction #amreading

This is Christine Webber’s latest book and the third one of hers that I’ve reviewed. You can read my reviews of her earlier novels Who’d Have Thought It and It’s Who We Are here on the blog too. Just click on the book title to do so. I also interviewed Christine back in January this year and you can read that post here.

I very much enjoyed this author’s first two books, so it’s safe to say I thought knew what to expect with her new one. And yes, I did enjoy it. And yes, the writing and the storytelling were first class.

But the story content was quite different from its predecessors.

First of all, unlike Christine Webber’s first two books, In Honour Bound is not quite contemporary fiction. It’s set in the 1980s and this is when it was written and first published. This latest edition is a rewritten and revised version of the original.

The story is set in London and it tells of the intense and passionate love between TV reporter Helen and Egyptian, but London-based, heart-surgeon Sam. There are highs, lows, and several shocks along the way. And it’s an emotional and poignant read from start to finish.

I enjoyed being taken back to a time when I too – like the main character Helen –was in my thirties. I enjoyed the insights into how the live TV set up works and into what Helen’s working days involved.

But most of all, I loved being immersed in Helen and Sam’s story which is so beautifully told.

All in all a great read.

From the Back Cover:

Set in 1980’s London, Helen Bartlett, a popular TV news presenter and Sam Aziz, a glamorous middle-eastern cardiac surgeon, meet on a live programme. They dislike each other on sight, and the interview is a disaster. But that is not the end of their story because later that evening, they find themselves at the same dinner party. 
Over the weeks, hostility morphs into passion, and soon they fall desperately in love. 
Both are looking for the right partner with whom to settle down and produce a family. They seem made for each other; they delight in the joy that they have found, and plan to marry. But then, the differences in their cultural backgrounds start to manifest themselves. And a debt of honour that Sam cannot ignore returns to haunt him. 
Struggling with their torment, while she is so much in the public eye and he is performing life-saving surgery on a daily basis, places them under intolerable strain. 
Must they relinquish the most magical relationship either of them has ever known? Can they find a way out of their dilemmas? Or do they have to accept that no matter how modern we are, we cannot fly in the face of the traditions that served, and shaped us, for centuries?

In Honour Bound is available to buy here.

A Model Wife by Maggie Christensen @MaggieChriste33 #Book Review #amreading

I was looking forward to reading this latest novel from one of my favourite authors. I wasn’t disappointed. A Model Wife is a compelling and involving read.

The story centres around Celia, who readers first met in Isobel’s Promise – one of Maggie Christensen’s earlier novels – and Johnno. At its heart there’s the slow-burning romance between Celia and Johnno. But this is intertwined with other stories of family and friendship, and with difficult issues such as Celia’s abusive husband and Johnno’s precarious and high pressure business life.

The storytelling is excellent. I was hooked from the start and really cared about what happened to Celia and to Johnno. I so wanted them to overcome their difficulties and to be happy and together that it was difficult to put the book down.

This was a first-class story of mid-life challenges and of second-chance romance.

From the Back Cover:

Former top model Celia Ramsay is determined to extricate herself from her bullying husband – a former football hero. Despite his despicable behaviour towards their daughters, Celia agrees to join her husband on the media campaign for his memoir in return for an advance on the divorce settlement. But what she hasn’t bargained for is the spate of sexual harassment allegations against her husband and the media fallout which threatens to affect her entire family, not to mention her own sanity.

Real estate developer Johnno Henderson has always been a commitment-phobe, preferring to have a string of young models on his arm. But, as he nears fifty, he’s beginning to long for something more permanent. On the brink of the biggest deal of his career, a chance meeting with a former top model stirs up feelings Johnno never thought he was capable of, if only his playboy reputation would stop following him around.

Can this unlikely couple make a future together?

Set in Sydney at the height of the same sex marriage debate and the #MeToo campaign

A Model Wife is a women’s fiction book featuring compelling real-life characters, fascinating plot twists and a strong mid-life heroine. If you like feel-good stories of second chances, you’ll love this new book from Maggie Christensen.

A Model Wife is available as a paperback and as an ebook.

The Winter That Made Us by Kate Field @katehaswords #BookReview #amreading

This was such a good book. It was one of those books where you’re desperate to get to the end but at the same time you don’t want it to finish because you’re enjoying it so much.

I’d already read and enjoyed The Magic of Ramblings by the same author and it was good to be back in the same setting and to be able to have a bit of a catch up with some of the characters from that earlier book.

But I’d say this return to Ramblings was even better than my first visit. I loved the main characters Noah and Tess. The author drew them so beautifully and made them so likeable despite their flaws. Their back stories were fed in gradually, and their continuing stories – with the setbacks they had to face and the testing of their vulnerabilities they had to cope with – made for a truly beguiling novel.

This was one of my top three reads of 2018 so far. And I’d love it if the Kate Field were to write more of Tess and Noah’s story…

From the Back Cover:

When Tess finds herself unexpectedly alone and back in Ribblemill, the childhood village she thought she’d escaped, she’s sure she can survive a temporary stay. She’s spent a lifetime making the best of things, hasn’t she?

Determined to throw herself into village life, Tess starts a choir and gathers a team of volunteers to restore the walled garden at Ramblings, the local stately home. Everything could be perfect, if she weren’t sharing a cottage and a cat with a man whose manner is more prickly than the nettles she’s removing…

As winter approaches, Tess finds herself putting down her own roots as fast as she’s pulling them up in the garden. But the ghosts of the past hover close by, and Tess must face them if she’s to discover whether home is where her heart has been all along.

The Winter That Made Us is published by Accent Press and is available as an ebook and as paperback here.

Isobel’s Promise by Maggie Christensen @MaggieChriste33 #bookreview #MondayBlogs #amreading

This book is one of several books I read while on holiday in Australia. I actually read most of it on the long flight home to Scotland – which was slightly weird but very fitting considering where the book is set. And not only is one of the best books I read on holiday, it’s one of my favourite reads of the year so far.

 Back Cover Blurb

A promise for the future. A threat from the past. Can Bel find happiness?

Back in Sydney after her aunt’s death, sixty-five year-old Bel Davison is making plans to sell up her home and business and return to Scotland where she has promised to spend the rest of her life with the enigmatic Scotsman with whom she’s found love.

But the reappearance of her ex-husband combined with other unexpected drawbacks turns her life into chaos, leading her to have doubts about the wisdom of her promise.

In Scotland, Matt Reid has no such doubts, and although facing challenges of his own, he longs for Bel’s return.

But when an unexpected turn of events leads him to question Bel’s sincerity, Matt decides to take a drastic step – the result of which he could never have foreseen.

Can this midlife couple find happiness in the face of the challenges life has thrown at them?

A sequel to ‘The Good Sister’, ‘Isobel’s Promise’ continues the story of Bel and Matt which began in Scotland

If you enjoy reading about strong women who have learned to live and love in later life, you’ll love Maggie Christensen’s books.

 My Review

Isobel’s Promise is the sequel to The Good Sister which I also very much enjoyed. But even if you haven’t read the first book this new one works well as a standalone. Although I have to say I’d recommend reading the first one too.

The novel is set in Sydney Australia, and in Glasgow and the Loch Lomond area in Scotland – and these settings provide the perfect backdrop to the story.

The plot is nicely balanced – not only between the two countries in which it takes place, but also between the differing points of view of the two main characters – Isobel and Matt. The reader is on both their sides – and is kept wondering if and how they will ever be able to resolve the problems and difficulties that stand in the way of them being together.

But it’s the characters who really make this book a page-turner. Isobel and Matt are in their sixties but they are not in any way stereotypically old. They are warm, likeable and flawed. They have full lives, families and friends who need them, and are open to new experiences – including falling in love. And they look forward – not back.

So, if you’re a fan of a good romantic story and you agree that age is neither a protection from, nor a barrier to, falling in love – then get this book. You’ll love it.

I was lucky enough to be given a pre-publication copy to read and was asked to give an unbiased review.

Isobel’s Promise is available to pre-order online and will be published as a paperback and as an ebook on the 2nd of August 2018.

Here a few links:

Amazon UK

Amazon Australia

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

The Homecoming by Rosie Howard @RosieHowardBook #BookReview #MondayBlogs #amreading

The Homecoming

This was a most enjoyable read. The Homecoming is a first-class example of intelligent, contemporary and credible romantic fiction.

From the Back Cover:

Maddy fled the idyllic market town of Havenbury Magna three years ago, the scene of a traumatic incident she revisits most clearly in her dreams. Even so, when she is called back to help at the Havenbury Arms when her godfather Patrick suffers a heart attack, she is unprepared for the welter of emotions her return provokes. Psychologist and ex-army officer Ben is sure he can help Maddy to resolve her fears, until he finds himself falling for her, and struggling with a recently uncovered family secret of which Maddy is blissfully unaware. Then Maddy’s mother, Helen, arrives and Patrick himself must confront a few uncomfortable truths about his history and the pub’s future.

My Review:

This was such a good read. The two main protagonists, Maddy and Ben, despite being relatively young (she’s in her 20s and he’s in his 30s), have enough life experience for their approach to any sort of romantic relationship to be realistic. They are also portrayed in way that gets the reader on their side and to care about how things will turn out. I also liked the supporting cast of characters who were also well drawn by the author. And it was good to see the older characters – Maddy’s mother and her godfather Patrick – being presented in a realistic way.

The story is engaging with just the right blend of jeopardy, mystery and things at stake to keep the reader hooked.

If you’re looking for a heart-warming holiday read, this book definitely fits the bill.

My only minor gripe is the ending felt slightly too abrupt. I wanted a bit more of a sigh and a wallow. Maybe there needs to be a sequel…

The Homecoming is currently available as an ebook and is available to preorder as a paperback due out on 19th July 2018. The Homecoming by Rosie Howard @RosieHowardBook #BookReview #MondayBlogs #amreading

An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns @june_kearns #bookreview #MondayBlogs #amreading

What a great story! This is one of my favourite reads of the year so far. It was one of those books where you want to get to the end to see how it all plays out, but you also don’t want it to end because you know you’re going to miss it.

From the back cover:

Jane Austen meets Zane Grey
The American West, 1867. After a stagecoach wreck, well-bred bookish spinster, Annie Haddon, (product of mustn’t-take-off-your-hat, mustn’t-take-off-your-gloves, mustn’t-get-hot-or-perspire Victorian society) is thrown into the company of cowboy, Colt McCall – a man who lives by his own rules and hates the English.
Can two people from such wildly different backgrounds learn to trust each other? Annie and McCall find out on their journey across the haunting , mystical landscape of the West.

My Review:

An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy is a romantic novel with a difference – at least it was for me. I’ve never read a romantic story set in nineteenth century America’s Wild West before. Indeed, before reading this, I would have said a Western setting wouldn’t have interested me. But having read a couple of reviews I was intrigued enough to give it a go. I’m so glad I did.

The main characters were vividly and convincingly drawn.

First of all there’s Englishwoman, Annie Haddon, who is tougher than she knows. The reader can’t help but root for her as she faces extreme adversity and danger following the crash of the stagecoach in which she is travelling. Her courage, her ability to stand her ground, and the way she copes with the cruelty dished out to her by her family, all keep the reader on her side.

And then there’s Colt McCall, a handsome and charismatic cowboy with an interesting and mysterious past, who comes to Annie’s aid. All I can say is – what’s not to love?

The rest of the characters form a strong supporting cast. There are Annie’s relatives – her cruel aunt and her horrible cousin. There’s Annie’s revolting suitor, and there’s a magnificent Sioux scout. They, along with various army personnel and saloon girls, all add interesting detail to the story – detail that is sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous and sometimes sad.

The descriptions of the landscape bring the setting to life – along with the details about clothing and culture.

So everything is well set up by the author for this most intriguing, will-they-won’t-they tale. And she certainly delivers. Yes, indeed – what a great story!

An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy is published by New Romantics Press and is available here as an ebook and as a paperback.

Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar by Olga Wojtas @OlgaWojtas #bookreview #MondayBlogs #amreading

Entertaining, eventful, erudite

This debut novel by Olga Wojtas is impossible to confine within one genre as it both kicks against and embraces quite a few of them. It is part crime, part comedy, but there are also elements of thriller, fantasy and sci-fi along with historical and romantic. All I can suggest is a new genre of olga-fic.

Back Cover Summary: “Fifty-something Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name. Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, Shona is thrilled when selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for a one-week mission in 19th century Russia: to pair up the beautiful, shy, orphaned heiress Lidia Ivanovna with Sasha, a gorgeous young man of unexplained origins. But, despite all her accomplishments and good intentions, Shona might well have got the wrong end of the stick about her mission. As the body count rises, will she discover in time just who the real villain is?”

My Review: This book is brilliantly written, completely original and as far as my reading goes it’s unique. The main character, Shona, is well-educated and knowledgeable on many topics, she’s eccentric, kind-hearted, morally upright, brave and stoical – but she’s also utterly lacking in perception when it comes to understanding her fellow human beings and is completely bonkers.

I don’t know if the timing of the release of this novel is a coincidence or not, as this year is the centenary of the birth of author Muriel Spark, and there are currently many events going on in her home city of Edinburgh to celebrate her life and writing. And probably Spark’s most famous novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is set in the fictional Marcia Blaine’s School for Girls in Edinburgh.

Coincidence or not, I love d how Olga Wojtas has taken this fictional school and made it Shona’s alma mater –  and that’s she also made Shona fiercely proud and protective of her former school’s reputation and extremely resentful of what Spark did, as she sees it, to trash that reputation.

The plot centres on the time-travelling mission given to Shona by her school’s founder and is a mad and clever mix of fact and fiction. The supporting cast are hilarious. I especially loved Old Vatrushkin, a most endearing serf. And Shona’s complete lack of understanding of what’s actually going is also very amusing.

I enjoyed, too, Shona’s attempts to introduce elements of Scottish culture to her Russian friends, the Burns supper and square sausage being just two examples.

I would however advise against reading this book on public transport. I read part of it while on the train and did get some funny looks from fellow travellers as I smiled and nearly choked on stifled laughter.

This novel really is the crème de la crème or rather, as Shona would prefer, cremor cremoris

Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar is available as a paperback and as an ebook and is published by Contraband.

Memory and Straw by Angus Peter Campbell @ aonghasphadraig #bookreview #MondayBlogs #amreading

Insightful, magical, truthful writing

Memory and Straw is yet another wonderful book from Angus Peter Campbell. It’s magical and it’s beguiling and it’s a book to be savoured as you read.

 

Back Cover Description: A face is nothing without its history. Gavin and Emma live in Manhattan. She’s a musician. He works in Artificial Intelligence. He’s good at his job. Scarily good. He’s researching human features to make more realistic mask-bots non-human carers for elderly people. When his enquiry turns personal he’s forced to ask whether his own life is an artificial mask. Delving into family stories and his roots in the Highlands of Scotland, he embarks on a quest to discover his own true face, uniquely sprung from all the faces that had been. He returns to England to look after his Grampa. Travels. Reads old documents. Visits ruins. Borrows, plagiarises and invents. But when Emma tells him his proper work is to make a story out of glass and steel, not memory and straw, which path will he choose? What s the best story he can give her? A novel about the struggle for freedom and personal identity; what it means to be human. It fuses the glass and steel of our increasingly controlled algorithmic world with the memory and straw of our forebears world controlled by traditions and taboos, the seasons and the elements.

 

My Review: Gavin, the narrator, is a scientist working in the very precise world of nanotechnology. His work and his twenty-first century lifestyle means that, like many people nowadays, he inhabits both the virtual online world and the real world.

As he undertakes his latest work project, he finds himself increasingly making comparisons and links to how, in the past, there was a different sort of virtual world, a world of magic and fairies. He concludes that whereas now the internet offers insights and solutions into how we should live our lives, in the past it was the supernatural world that did so offering as it did visions, spells and rituals.

As work and home pressures build to intolerable levels for Gavin, he decides to take some time out and to delve into his ancestry and heritage. He hopes by doing so that he’ll find a clearer idea of who he is and of his place in the world. As he carries out his quest, he finds the lines between past, present and future becoming increasingly blurred but he also comes to terms with where and how he fits in.

There’s a dreamlike quality to Campbell’s writing. His use of language to describe setting and people is exquisite. The plot is fragile. It has to be, but it’s like a spider’s web in its flimsiness. It has coherence and purpose and, for the reader, it’s easy to suspend disbelief and just go with it.

This is a book to transport you, to fully immerse yourself in and to take your time with. It’s an insightful and rewarding read.

 

Memory and Straw is available as a hardcover print book and as an ebook. It is published by Luath Press.

 

Bad Apples by JJ Marsh @JJMarsh1 #bookreview #MondayBlogs #amreading

Bad Apples

A satisfying, delightful, engaging read

Regular readers of my book reviews will know I’m a big fan of crime writer JJ Marsh. So my expectations were high when I came to read Bad Apples, the sixth and final book in the DI Beatrice Stubbs series. My high expectations were more than met but I was also gutted that this was to be Beatrice’s last case. However this meant I savoured it all the more.

 

Back Cover Blurb: Acting DCI Beatrice Stubbs is representing Scotland Yard at a police conference in Portugal. Her task is to investigate a rumour – a ghostwritten exposé of European intelligence agencies – and discover who is behind such a book.

Hardly a dangerous assignment, so she invites family and friends for a holiday. Days at the conference and evenings at the villa should be the perfect work-life balance.

Until one of her colleagues is murdered.

An eclectic alliance of international detectives forms to find the assassin. But are they really on the same side?

Meanwhile, tensions rise at the holiday villa. A clash of egos sours the atmosphere and when a five-year-old child disappears, their idyll turns hellish.

From Lisbon streets to the quays of Porto, Parisian cafés to the green mountains of Gerês, Beatrice realises trust can be a fatal mistake.

 

My Review: As in the previous books, Bad Apples has Scotland Yard detective, Beatrice Stubbs, working alongside police colleagues in Europe. This time the setting is Portugal and as always, JJ Marsh’s writing style ensures the reader really feels they’re there. The cities of Porto and Lisbon along with the Portugal’s mountains are all vividly brought to life with small details capturing so much.

There are two plotlines – one domestic and personal, and one criminal. The supporting cast are wonderful as always including old and loved characters as well as some new ones. And Beatrice is at her lovable and quirky best and still uttering those mixed metaphors of hers such as ‘ears to the grindstone’, ‘long in the hoof’, and ‘a dustman’s holiday’.

The action begins quietly enough with Beatrice, close to retirement and having been promoted to Acting Chief Inspector, preparing to attend a European police conference in Portugal. And for this final working trip, she has decided to combine work with pleasure. So whenever she’s free she intends to join her partner, the wonderful Matthew, and other family and friends at a villa they’ve rented in the Portuguese hills. But it’s not long before there’s a murder and some other sinister events which not only require Beatrice and her colleagues to investigate crime rather than attend seminars, but also threaten the safety of Beatrice and those close to her. Yes, all the usual ingredients of a DI Stubbs plot are there and the story is told with all JJ Marsh’s usual flair. The writing is clever, original, witty and warm and the twists and turns are far from obvious. And the end if both fitting and satisfying.

And so it’s farewell to Beatrice, and here’s hoping she enjoys a long and happy retirement. I’ll miss her. *

 

All the books in this series including Bad Apples are available in paperback and ebook formats and are published by Prewett Publishing. They are also available as two e-book box sets of three.

*PS: adding this to original post. JJ Marsh has been in touch and assured me that although Beatrice has retired, her adventures will continue and three more books are planned. Hurrah!