Review of Books in Divided World Series by G. L. Cromarty – Divided Serenity & Serenity Falling

Divided World Series by G.L. Cromarty

Divided Serenity (book 1) and Serenity Falling (book 2)

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I was fortunate to be given copies of these books through The Book Club on Facebook and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Serenity.  A world that is divided.  The Aterran people live inside a “virtual” wall with a land is progressive and based upon technology.  Outside the wall live the Shadowlanders and the Jaru, two groups of people sharing as much hatred for each other as for the Aterrans.

Bill Bremmer and John Tanis are sworn enemies, once best friends.  Bremmer is the leader of the Aterran people whilst Tanis has been banished from Aterra and is now a fully-fledged Shadowlander.  When the normal pattern of war between the Shadowlanders and the Jaru seems to have changed, and Bremmer receives intelligence that there might be Aterran technology within the hands of the Shadowlanders, the already shaky status quo is threatened.

Aterran technology is maintained with the help of so called “ancient technology” stations situated beyond the wall in the heart of Shadowland.  When one of these stations misfunctions and power the Aterran is lost, teams of field agents and scientists are sent to repair the technology.  The youngest and brightest of these scientists is Hannah Duvall, who is in a relationship with Bill Bremmer and has never been into Shadowland before.  The question is why is the Aterran leader sending his partner to near certain death? Or is there more fuelling Bremmer’s motives, such as his intense hatred for Tanis?  Is his need to see John Tanis dead taking over everything?

Hannah and her party must ride on horses to the station, making their journey perilous and prone to attack.  But who will attack the small group and who will accompany them to the station?  Jaru or Shadowlanders?  Can Aterrans be accepted in the Shadowland and how will Hannah fare when she comes face to face with John Tanis, half Aterran half Shadowlander?

I could continue with a plot synopsis, but I can’t write more without giving away spoilers!

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This is not a genre that I would normally reach for, but since joining various book clubs I am enjoying reading different styles of storyline – plus my children have introduced me to Game of Thrones type dystopian fantasy in both books and television!  Initially I struggled to get into the story as it felt slow and slightly disjointed – but after a couple of chapters, once Hannah was in Shadowland, I was completely hooked.  Honestly, I could not put these books down and read them back to back.

Once the story got going I found the plot to be pacey and action packed with some very complex characters. Warning: this is not for the squeamish as the battle scenes are described in great detail – there is blood and gore in copious amounts, and life has little value amongst the soldiers.  The characters really develop throughout the novels and are fleshed out as their past is disclosed to the reader.  Bremmer remains an unlikeable man and as the story moves into the second book, it becomes increasingly apparent that he is a deeply flawed character.  Tanis should also be equally unlikeable, with his apparent lack of emotion and his bloodthirsty warrior gene, yet for me I felt that I started to understand him and actually empathise with him the more I found out about him.  Hannah, as the only female main character, seemed weak and too naïve early on in the story, particularly regarding her relationship with Bremmer.  However, it is her character that probably grows the most and the quickest, to show an inner strength and steely core that surprises Hannah herself.

Secondary characters include the geneticist mother of Tanis, disabled genius scientist and mentor to Hannah – Dan, Hannah’s sister Ella, Tanis’s half brothers and father, and the mysterious Theo and Nate.  The fate of all the characters became important enough that I wanted to know what happened to them!

The premise of the story is good, and for me the book is well structured and well written. The fine line between a world entirely led by technology alongside one that is so primitive is explored well with a survival of the fittest theme, and I love the idea of the virtual wall.  The conflict, the power struggles, and the personal emotions spilling into the professional world is fascinating and could just as easily be in our world as in this dystopian land.  I am itching to get my hands on the third book.

A fast, exciting, bloody read – 5 stars

Available on Amazon:

 

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About the Author

(from the author’s website – GLCromarty.com)

g l cromartyBorn in England, G.L. Cromarty grew up exploring castles and watching Star Wars. As an avid reader, she has been influenced by a wide variety of writers ranging from Tolkien to George R.R. Martin and Anne McCaffrey, and Harry Harrison to Isaac Asimov. Now living in Perth, Western Australia with her husband and two oddball cats, she spends her spare time writing. Divided Serenity is her debut novel – her latest writing blog post is here

 

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Book review: The Pursuit of Ordinary by Nigel Jay Cooper

I was given an advance copy of this book through The Book club on Facebook in exchange for a fair and honest review.

What would it be like to one day be walking along the road with your wife, feeling the impact as a car crashes into you and then to be watching your wife cradling your dying body?  But then you realise that you aren’t watching yourself die from some faraway place, but you are actually in a body and have a voice….that belong to someone else?!

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Dan is a homeless man, wandering the streets of Brighton when he witnesses this fatal car crash and his life changes completely.  His head is suddenly inhabited by someone else, claiming to be called Joe and saying that he is the dead man.  How can this be happening?  Add into the equation the wife of dead Joe, staring at him at the scene of the crash and asking over and over if he saw it….Dan/Joe doesn’t know what is happening!  Sometime later he comes across the wife, Natalie, sitting in the park and after he speaks to her, he determines to follow her home and Joe wants to tell her that he is still here.

Natalie is stunned when the homeless man turns up on her doorstep several months after the death of her husband Joe with his story.  She surprises herself and Dan when she lets him into her home, and then into her life.  Does Natalie truly believe that her husband is somehow now inhabiting another man’s body, or does she have a different motive for inviting a stranger into her home?  Does she even understand this herself – after all she is a grieving widow?  As Dan starts to open up about his life before he found himself on the streets, is it possible that Natalie can help him to find his way home again?

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This is a beautifully crafted surprise of a book.  The storyline is actually very simple, dealing primarily with human relationships and emotion. The writer manages to explore bereavement, grief, love and anger, whilst also including domestic abuse, family conflict, manipulation, miscommunication and mental illness.  The growing relationship between Natalie and Dan is fascinating as they learn to trust each other and themselves.  They are flawed characters and yet the way that they change and grow made me alter my opinions of them along the way.  Mr Cooper has written these characters with such compassion and tenderness that it is impossible not to care for them.  I felt that this care was also shown toward the secondary characters – Dan’s father, Natalie’s parents and even Joe’s mother.

This book is not what it seems to be at the outset.  But then the title should give us a clue, as what is the definition of “Ordinary” – it will be different for all of us.  In the current climate it is wonderful to read a novel that has such a positive and empathetic insight into mental health and mental illness.  There are surprises for both the reader and the characters as to who has the greater needs and the importance to have insight into one’s own situation.  Whilst the story is simple and focuses on these two, or maybe it is three people, there are many twists and turns that will pull you in and certainly had me hooked.

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I found this an intense and emotional read from start to finish and would describe The Pursuit of Ordinary to be absolutely extraordinary. A huge 5 stars!

Publisher: Roundfire (27 april 2018)

Goodreads Author: Nigel Jay Cooper

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nigeljaycooper/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nijay

 

Available from

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AmazonUS

Waterstones

Barnes and Noble

Foyles

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About the Author – Nigel Jay Cooper

Writer and author, born in London, England. He now lives in Brighton (via Nottingham) with his partner, their two children and greying ginger dog.

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Following on from the success of his bestselling debut novel, Beat The Rain, Nigel’s second novel The Pursuit of Ordinary will be published on 27 April 2018 and is available to pre-order now. Nigel was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in the Best Debut Author for Beat The Rain. Nigel previously worked as a writer and editor for Channel 4 Television and as a newspaper sub editor.

He’s a sometime marathon runner and occasional actor and singer in local musical theatre productions. Sometimes his brain switches off and lets him sleep, but not that often.

Blog Tour and Book Review: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Cherry Radford

Light House Keepers Blog Tour

I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book through Love Books and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review

Living in her aunt’s lighthouse at Beachy Head, recently separated Imogen is doing her best to carve out a new life as a writer.  Her teenage son is living with his father and displays indifference to her at every turn, her ex has a younger model and her aunt is in Jersey recuperating at her cousin’s home.  But how will a middle-aged woman, used to life in suburbia, cope living on a rural headland and perhaps most poignantly a mere stone’s throw from the lighthouse where her own father died in a tragic accident.  Aunt Dorothy has started to send Imogen pages, well excerpts really from her father’s diary, but she is being very mysterious as to why she won’t just send her the whole thing.

Imogen is struggling to find a plot for her novel and definitely does not want to go with her ex-husband Ewan’s idea to write about her own father.  It is whilst she is driving in Ewan’s old car that she inserts a CD and falls helplessly in love with a piece of flamenco guitar music.  She feels the “beautiful but unbearable melody” and as she stops the car to listen, wonders how she had not before “understood the anger in sadness”. So begins the second thread of the storyline as Imogen takes the bold step to contact the guitarist on Twitter, setting the wheels in motion for new friendships and relationships.

Imogen finds herself making a new best friend in Jules, who helps her to put some of the demons surrounding her parents’ marriage and then her father’s death to rest.  In return Imogen introduces Jules to the builder, Dylan, employed by her aunt to undertake an endless list of works at the lighthouse.  Meanwhile the tweets to and from Spain are growing as the guitarist Santiago explains that he needs an English teacher and perhaps Imogen can help him.  His music career is fading and his manager has encouraged him into acting.  Imogen finds herself drawn toward Santi and his close family more and more, as her novel starts to unfold and her imagination mixes fact and fiction.

Her Twitter friendship is unfolding alongside her reading and learning more of her father in his diary, even finding that he also had a penpal – of the more traditional variety!  The diary reveals secrets that make Imogen question everything about her past and throw caution to the wind with a visit to Madrid and a man who she only knows through “140 character” messages.

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I would class this as a contemporary romance novel, but with a difference.  There are romance novels and films where it is too easy to unravel the whole plot in the first five minutes – too predictable and one dimensional.  This book is not like that and Cherry Radford has written enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.  The lighthouse storyline about her father lends some intrigue, whilst the Spanish storyline adds another whole dimension.  The characters are believable, and I think the fact that some are more likeable than others shows that they are well portrayed.  Imogen’s relationship with son Ollie had me laughing as it rang lots of bells, particularly as I have a teen Olly too and I really enjoyed the scenes of the blossoming relationship with new friend Jules.  I would definitely enjoy a night at the pub with these ladies (this was their first proper meeting place!) – they are chalk and cheese, but this just adds to the humour.

Using social media to set up a “friendship” is genius, resembling so much of life today, and the communication barriers down to language mistakes are at times hilarious.  There is a whole storyline describing Santi’s life and family in Madrid, which you must discover for yourself alongside Imogen…I don’t want to give anything away….but his early referrals to her as “the English woman” and how he views her as stereotypical English with her pale red hair and shy freckled body are very funny.  The characters in the book all grow, not necessarily in the ways that the reader expects or wants, but relationships develop and become clearer as the storyline unfolds.

There are some very atmospheric descriptions of both the south coast of England, particularly of the rain and mist sweeping in, and also of historic Madrid where Imogen gains inspiration for her own novel.

I really enjoyed Cherry Radford’s style of writing and will be returning for more of her novels.  I found this an easy going read – I actually read it within a couple of days – with a bit of history (the lighthouses), some intrigue, friendships, tears and love.  Plus lots of laughter – from me at least!

Five stars.

Available at Amazon here :

 

About the Author

81tEosh+iPL._UX250_Cherry Radford was a piano teacher at the Royal Ballet Junior School, a keyboard player in a band, and then a research optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London before suddenly writing her first novel in the middle of a scientific conference in 2009.  She now lives in Eastbourne and Almeria (Spain).

Her first 2 novels are available from Amazon and she is now thrilled to have signed with the wonderful Urbane Publications, who will publish The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter in Spring 2018.

Blog: Bla Bla Land

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Book Review: Restitution(#Crazy Amy 3) by Rose Edmunds

I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book by the author and through The Book Club on Facebook in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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After leaving her job as a top city, high earning accountant, Amy fancies herself as a private eye, a super sleuth, and she has taken a job that will immerse her in history across Europe.  Hired by 84-year-old George Smithies, she finds herself tracking down art work that was confiscated by Nazi Germany and may or may not have been part of a haul found in the flat of an eccentric hoarder, Novak, in Prague.  Amy and George set out for Prague to battle through the Czech restitution law and in the process meet Amy’s old “friend” Mel and “art historian” Beresford, who is keen to help track down the missing painting thought to have been owned by George’s parents in the 1930s.

 

During their journey, the Czech law isn’t the only maze to unravel as Amy establishes family ties between her client and the hoarder Novak, flaws in the history of the business partnership of George’s father, and an interest in her investigation from an unknown third party which puts Amy and George in real danger. No one is quite who or what they claim to be and with her own troubled background, and her dependence on alcohol, Amy is not always best placed to play super sleuth!

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This is the third in the Crazy Amy series and I have to admit to not having read the first two – or even realising that there were two others!  It can be read as a stand-alone, but I think that I would recommend reading from the beginning as Amy’s personal dysfunctional history and her relationships with Mel and George have already been established and there are references that I didn’t get!  But I really took to Amy.  She has so many imperfections, a massive chip on her shoulder, an alcohol problem and an alter ego called Little Amy (who I didn’t understand at first having not read the other books)….but she is so real.  I love the humour that Rose Edmunds has infused into the writing of this character!  She constantly describes the extra weight she has gained round her middle (so many women relate to this!) and Amy refuses to acknowledge her alcohol problem, deeming the staff at the infamous Priory to be “idiots” for suggesting it. She builds up a relationship with both the smelly hoarder Novak, who says “I admire a woman who can drink”, and the aristocratic Rudolf Strnad.  She has a love/hate relationship with Mel.  The bitchy description by Amy of eating a slap-up meal in front of the newly skinny Mel as she “turns over a couple of lettuce leaves” is hilarious.  Amy’s flaws should make her the worst candidate as a private investigator, but she is a clever young lady who proves to be surprisingly good at solving problems.

 

The historical information in this novel has been well researched, drawing upon the real art haul found in 2010 in the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, son of an art dealer known to have dealings with the Nazis during the second world war.  I enjoyed the pace of the story which was fast, yet also mindful of having an elderly man as one of the main characters.  The network of deceit and corruption took the tale through Europe and back to the UK, showing the extent of the spread of the international underworld.  Ms Edmunds painted a vivid picture of historic Europe, alongside the contemporary world of sleek lines and minimalism – for instance Amy’s flat and the offices in London.

 

I always say it, but I don’t wish to give away any spoilers….so I will conclude that this is a really enjoyable, pacy thriller with some fantastic main characters, humour, danger and cunning.  Definitely worth a read – although I would personally read the first two books for a proper background!  4 stars!

By the way…I do now have #Crazy Amy 1 & 2!

Books available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Published 19th March 2018

About the Author – Rose Edmunds (from author website)

Rose EdmundsAfter a successful career advising entrepreneurial businesses, Rose jumped off the corporate hamster wheel and began writing thrillers inspired by her experiences. Her books have a strong ethical theme, and shine a light on the moral challenges presented by capitalism. Typically her protagonists are just as flawed as the villains, if not more so…

Rose’s debut thriller, Never Say Sorry, was about a Big Pharma conspiracy to suppress a cancer cure. Since then, she has been working on the Crazy Amy thriller series—an ambitious project which will follow Amy Robinson on her journey from senior finance executive to who knows where…

The first trilogy is now available on Amazon, with further books planned for 2019 and beyond.

 

Book Blog Tour – Book Review of “Evanthia’s Gift” Book 1 The Gift Saga by Effie Kammenou

I have been fortunate to be given a copy of this book by the author through Love Books Group in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga – Women’s fiction/ contemporary romance – Women’s fiction 2106 Reader’s Favorite Award finalist – Available in print, kindle and audible

Review

Anastacia Fotopoulos has moved to the USA after the horrors of the second world war in order to educate herself and so take a step closer to fulfilling her dreams.  She hadn’t anticipated falling in love and marrying the first handsome man to come her way, nor less to then be cruelly betrayed by those closest to her.  It is 1956 and she finds herself alone, pregnant and ashamed to return home to Greece.  She is fortunate in the support of her wonderful friends Stavros and Soula, also first generation Greek immigrants, and her Uncle who gives her employment to keep a roof over her and her new baby daughter’s heads.  The last thing that she expects is to attract the attentions of another young Greek man from her student days, and when her friends try to match make her with Alex she is determined to resist.  She will never put her future in the hands of a man again.

Ana has no idea that Alexandros Giannakos has loved her since he first knew her, and he wins her over with his perseverance and love for both her and daughter Sophia.  Their friends have had two children, Dean and Demi, and life for the close Greek American families is good.  But secrets have been kept, with the best of intentions by all involved, and these will affect life in the future.  The storyline skips forward to the teenage years of the children, and whilst the girls are closer than sisters, a deeper relationship develops between Dean and Sophia.  Their Greek heritage remains extremely important to the families, particularly the older generation, and teen Dean cannot bear to have his life mapped out by his parents – he wants to be an American boy who goes to college and finds his own way in the world.  As a result, he refuses to acknowledge his feelings openly for Sophia and as he pulls away from the family traditions, Sophia too has her young heart broken.

Life continues for the families.  Dean marries a college girl and goes to work for his father in law, Demi marries her secret childhood sweetheart and Sophia throws herself into her career as a dancer.  Along the way family secrets emerge that threaten to splinter relationships, and the rock the families to the core.

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If you enjoy family dramas that span generations, without sugar coating life, then you will love this novel.  The historical element of life in war torn Greece was fascinating, as was the story that was so common to many immigrant New York families be they Greek, Italian, Irish….the author is herself a second generation Greek American, and she appears to have exactly the right understanding between the need for embracing their heritage and culture for the older family members, to the desire to be American youngsters and growing up in America for the youngsters.  The friction was palpable in the writing.

The characters all grow and develop throughout the course of the novel as life throws both expected and unexpected joys and sorrows at them.  Ana remains at the core of the story, and I love the way in which both she and Soula are presented as the strong women keeping the wheels of their family life oiled and turning.  The secret to this is food!  I recognised in this book one of my own close friends, who moved to London from Athens in the 1980s, and is the most amazing homemaker and cook.  My kids love to go to her house and she feeds us all in a very similar way to Ana and Soula in the story.  The descriptions of the food are enough to make the reader’s mouth water, but then the author will offer up a wonderful gem every few chapters with a complete Greek recipe.  Imagine my delight when I also found that the author has a recipe website! I am so excited to try cooking some of these mouth-watering delicacies!

Evanthia’s Gift is a love story that covers generations, continents, different loves lost and found – but it is so much more than a love story, it is a story of human life and emotions over a fifty-year period.  I wanted to shout at the characters when the miscommunication caused problems and altered the course of lives and changed choices made.  I cheered when decisions ended well, and I shouted and cried at the bad decisions and the sorrows that life dishes up.  This book depicts real life – not everything can be planned, not everything is sugar coated and joy is tempered with sadness.  If you haven’t guessed I loved this book and am really looking forward to the next one in the series….and yes, you will find out who Evanthia is and just what her gift is.

Five Stars from me!

Karithopita

Karithopita – An Easy to Make Greek Walnut Cake from Cheffie’s Kitchen

About the Author (from Goodreads)

Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women. cover photo 2.jpg

Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category. Waiting for Aegina: Book Two in The Gift Saga is Kammenou’s latest release.

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her cooking for her family and friends.

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

Member of Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association & Romance Writers of America

Available from Amazon :

 

Amazon author page

https://www.amazon.com/Effie-Kammenou/e/B013NZRWLI/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1488327067&sr=8-1

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/EffieKammenou/

 Twitter

https://twitter.com/EffieKammenou

Goodreads page

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14204724.Effie_Kammenou

 Food blog

https://cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com

 instagram

https://www.instagram.com/author_effie_cheffieskitchen/

Newsletter signup page

 http://eepurl.com/bIoJl1

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Book Review : “Perception and Illusion” by Catherine Kullman

I was given an ARC of this book by TBC on Facebook and by kind permission of the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts are my own.

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All good Regency novels must have a heroine, a hero and a couple of protagonists to really work well.  In Perception and Illusion, we are immediately introduced to the heroine of the piece Lallie Grey…………in 1814 a young woman living with her father’s second family, to all intents and purposes playing the role of governess to her young half siblings and at twenty-four having never experienced her own season or the chance to find a husband in society.  Her own mother died when she was an infant and she lived with her maternal grandparents until their deaths.  Unaware that she is in fact an heiress, Lallie refuses to marry the man who her father schemes for her to wed, in order that he might keep control of her fortune.  But Lallie escapes with her maid and runs into a gentleman whom she has met once before, Mr Hugo Tamarisk. Heir to huge wealth himself, he initially becomes her ally and protector, but I give nothing away by telling you that the hero and heroine fall in love and so the romance, confusion and intrigue begins.

Both Lallie and Hugo are dogged by their family past – Lallie by circumstances that she is not privy to, and Hugo by relationships with his sisters, father and an ex-mistress.  The fairy tale ending comes part way through this book, with the socially naïve Lallie finding herself thrown into a whirlwind of high society and her fairy tale disintegrating as other people invade her space and mind.  Not all the characters are intentionally trying to cause trouble or pain to Lallie and Hugo, but a mixture of miscommunication, half heard conversations and meddling lead to a difficult start to married life.  I am not giving you any spoilers with more plot!

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Picture from Ms Kullman’s website

The words Regency novel jumped off the page and I couldn’t have requested it quicker.  I am a huge Jane Austen fan and had to remind myself that I must not make comparisons, but it is difficult not to initially.  The funny thing is my teen is studying Mansfield Park and whilst I was reading Perception and Illusion, she was reading out loud sections of Miss Austen to me in order to stay awake.  She hates it with a vengeance!  I must admit that I had forgotten just how dry some of Austen’s writing can be, but fear not as Ms Kullman writes this period drama with a modern style.  It is easy to read romantic Regency fiction, but not without some grit and very determined characters.  There are also some cheeky references to a couple of Austen’s characters too.

An area where this novel does share similarities with Austen is the role of the female lead.  She is strong, self-aware and knows her own mind – in many ways Lallie is a very modern, feminist woman living in a man’s world dictated to by male rules.  She reminds me of Lizzie Bennett and Emma Woodhouse, both women struggling to have their voices heard in a time when fathers, husbands and brothers had the final word.  The poor communication between the main characters drove me mad at times, and I wanted to shout at them to just talk to each other.  But the circumstances were of the time, and the fact that I was so irritated must show how well Ms Kullman wove this into the overall plot.

I could quite easily write a full period type analysis…but I won’t!!  The characters all grow with the storyline, whether to become admired or diminished by the reader.  The descriptions of the locations, the fashions and the coach rides were painted as vivid and elegant pictures, depicting the era perfectly.  But the most important thing for me is that the novel was really enjoyable and I read it in a matter of days.  A lovely, witty romantic period piece – 4 stars.

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (30 Mar. 2017)

Available at Amazon here:

Perception & Illusion

The Author

Catherine Kullman can be found at http://www.catherinekullmann.com/

Catherine Kullman

From her website:

I was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, I moved to Germany where I lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. I have worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector.

I have a keen sense of history and of connection with the past which so often determines the present. I am fascinated by people. I love a good story, especially when characters come to life in a book.

I have always enjoyed writing, I love the fall of words, the shaping of an expressive phrase, the satisfaction when a sentence conveys my meaning exactly. I enjoy plotting and revel in the challenge of evoking a historic era for characters who behave authentically in their period while making their actions and decisions plausible and sympathetic to a modern reader. In addition, I am fanatical about language, especially using the right language as it would have been used during the period about which I am writing. But rewarding as all this craft is, there is nothing to match the moment when a book takes flight, when your characters suddenly determine the route of their journey.”

Just Out: The Year that Changed Everything” by Cathy Kelly – Book Review #SundayBlogShare

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Publication Day!

The Year That Changed Everything by Cathy Kelly

Disclaimer: Thanks to The Book Club on Facebook, I was fortunate to be given an ARC of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All views are my own.

When I was told I had been chosen to receive this book I was absolutely delighted – I am a huge Cathy Kelly fan and have always loved her brand of contemporary Irish female fiction.  But this also comes with the possibility of being disappointed by one of my favourite authors and having to write a review!

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Cathy Kelly

Ginger, Sam and Callie are three Irish women all about to reach a milestone birthday.  They have never met, lead completely different lives but share the same birthday – a day on which they will turn 30, 40 and 50.  Ginger is not celebrating her 30th how she had pictured it, in fact her personal life is far from anything she had dreamed of and she is now bridesmaid at her best friend’s wedding on her own birthday. Overweight, overlooked, overdressed in a hideous bridesmaid dress and single.  Meanwhile Sam is planning a quiet day for her 40th birthday as she prepares for the imminent arrival of a much-wanted baby.  After years of failing to conceive she is finally pregnant and feeling excited, yet terrified in equal measure when her waters break. Happy birthday, Sam!  Callie is the woman with everything.  She was a model in her youth and is still has beauty and poise, has a handsome, successful husband, a beautiful home and her greatest pride, her teenage daughter.  To the guests attending her lavish 50th birthday party she appears to live a charmed life.

The stories of these women are written in separate chapters, each chapter titled with one of their names. So, whilst the stories are completely separate, they weave around each other as the chapters progress over the following year of the title.  I enjoyed the way that the author wrote this, although I think I would have preferred reading it from a book rather than on the Kindle – just my preference as I tend to flip back in this style of writing.  Their birthdays all mark a huge change in circumstance for each of them with Ginger overhearing a damning conversation about herself, Sam giving birth to a beautiful daughter and the police breaking up the perfect party at Callie’s.  I am trying very hard here not to write any spoilers!

I have always the loved the passion that Cathy Kelly puts into her writing, and this book is no exception.  These women become real as their stories emerge from the page and their characters grow.  I don’t think that there will be a mother out there who can’t identify with Sam’s feelings of absolute fear as she takes her new born home – “how do I do this? How can I keep her safe? What if I can’t do this? What if I don’t bond? I don’t know what to do and I’m terrified of failing”.  Sam has another reason that is driving her fear and this is deeply connected with her family.  She has been a career woman, but not by choice, whilst her sister has a young family and seems to be the perfect mummy – their own mother is not the role model either of them would ask for, making for difficult relationships.  Ginger flourishes in front of our eyes as she throws herself, quite literally, into her work as a journalist (remember no spoilers) whilst grieving friendships and the lack of a man in her life, but that is not to say it is without some tremendous lows and heartbreak.  For Callie’s tale, all that I will say is that I grew to feel a huge respect for this woman as her world is literally pulled from beneath her feet, leaving her fighting for herself, her daughter and her self respect.

The chapters of the stories wind around each other like twines of ivy until there is one strengthened plant growing…a year on and an epilogue brings them to common ground.  Cathy Kelly has surpassed herself in the realms of female fiction here with warmth, wisdom, tears and laughter….I needn’t have worried as it completely lived up to my expectations. 5 stars

Publisher: Orion 22nd Feb 2018

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About the Author:

Cathy Kelly is published around the world, with millions of books in print. Cathy is the bestselling author of The Honey Queen, Once in a Lifetime and Between Sisters, and is a No.1 bestseller in the UK, Ireland and Australia. Her trademark is warm and witty Irish storytelling about modern life, always with an uplifting message, a sense of community and strong female characters at the heart.
She lives with her family and their three dogs in County Wicklow, Ireland. She is also an Ambassador for UNICEF Ireland, raising funds and awareness for children orphaned by or living with HIV/AIDS.
Find out more at www.cathykelly.com or follow her on Twitter @cathykellybooks

5 Star Book Review: Oracle’s Hunt by A. Claire Everward #SundayBlogShare @ClaireEverward

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I was given an ARC of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review – thanks to The Book Club on Facebook. All opinions are my own. Post contains affiliate links.

This is the first book in the Oracle Series.

Donovan Pierce is a United States Federal Investigative Division Agent and he has been called to a new case – the destruction of the data storage facility for the worldwide defense and security services. This will not be a mission to be taken lightly. Ever since a group of forward thinking citizens of the world had formed a peaceful alliance calling themselves the Internationals and had grown in numbers, strength and support from major powers, there were factions desperate to topple the peace and take power for themselves. This latest act of sabotage shows all the signs that it has been carefully orchestrated by one such group, as the level of professionalism has ensured that there are no traces of evidence left behind. Except one.

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Oracles Hunt

The terrorists couldn’t have known that the old security cameras for the facility were still operating, and that Donovan’s IT team have picked up one very important word: Oracle. But as the investigation commences, it is starting to feel to Donovan that someone is blocking his access to the information that he requires – someone with the highest level of security clearance. Then imagine his surprise the following morning when his new neighbour is sitting sipping coffee in the garden and she is none other than the elusive female who was part of a video call shutting down the investigation into this word the previous day! This is Lara Holsworth.

I really enjoyed the concept behind this book, particularly with current world politics as they are, and I immediately felt sympathetic to Donovan and also felt his frustration. He becomes more convinced that Lara is central to Oracle…..but just what is it and has the impossible been achieved with a functioning human/Artificial Intelligence interface? I must admit that I had to quiz my electronic/computer science engineer son about this – and was still none the wiser by his explanation! The relationship that unfolds between the two main characters is as interesting as the investigation, but I am not going to give away any spoilers! Lara is enigmatic, intriguing and attractive to both Donovan and the reader, and of course Donovan is described as a very fine specimen as well as being a fantastic investigator.

It was only one word, always the same word that lit up whenever it appeared, one word that was the target of those who had made such an effort to procure this information, destroying everything on the way. Just one word. Oracle.

The plot is intricate (I had to keep reminding myself of the different abbreviations for the various agencies – not so easy to flick back and forth on a Kindle)), fast paced and rang alarm bells for me as the reader for just how much fact there could be in this. With the increasing number of terrorist attacks that we see in the real world, it is hard to dismiss the criminal elements as merely fiction. But it kept me on the edge of my seat and I found it very difficult to put the book down, devouring it in a couple of days. I was delighted to see the opening for next in the series pop up on my Kindle and it is on my Christmas list.

If you love contemporary, investigative plots with great three-dimensional characters, you will enjoy this. Five stars from me!

Publisher: Author & Sister (2017)

Available from Amazon here:

Author Biography:

Anna Claire Everward

A. Claire Everward is a suspense author with a love of knowledge and a lively imagination that made writing the natural thing for her to do. Claire is also the author of The First, and is currently working on her next book in the Oracle series with the help of her two hyperactive cats and a laptop named Stanley.A1FEpiy0jnL._SY200_

Claire spent years away from home getting a master’s degree in aerospace engineering, with a risk management specialty. During that time, she lived in the university, surrounded by forested hills and too much silence, so to keep away the boredom she also took on an MBA, and now she feels ridiculously over-educated.

She tried to work in her field, she really did, and even put her education to good use in the finance field. But eventually her love for writing took over, and she decided to leave it all and move to the world of her imagination. Her characters had a lot to do with that—they had lived in her mind, waiting patiently for her to be ready, for too long, they felt, and so they finally decided enough is enough and took over. And Claire didn’t put up that much of a resistance. She has always loved to read, but writing, that’s a whole new world she soon knew she could never give up.

Link with Claire on social media:

Amazon author: www.amazon.com/author/a.claire.everward

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/AClaire_Everward

Facebook: www.facebook.com/annaclaire.everward

Twitter: https://twitter.com/claireeverward

https://twitter.com/authorandsister

Instagram: https://instagram.com/authorandsister

Website: http://www.authorandsister.net

Email: kate.a@authorandsister.net

 

 

 

 

Review of a great contemporary novel! “All We Have Lost” by Aimee Alexander

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Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this contemporary novel by The Book Club on Facebook & the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All views are my own. This review contains an affiliate link.

I am a huge fan of classic novels, particularly those with strong female leads, but I also have an enormous soft spot for contemporary fiction.  “All We Have Lost” features business woman, wife and mother Kim who really does seem to have it all.  She runs a successful PR agency, is married to the good looking Ian – the love of her life, has two lovely young children, a great nanny to care for them and supportive family and friends.  Kim knows her own mind, has life mapped out and is certain where she is headed.  Or is she?

For one day Kim wakes up and realises that this isn’t the road she wants to be on at all.  She rarely sees her children, her home is virtually run by another woman and her husband sees more of the children than he does her.  Add to this her parents’ “perfect marriage” that Kim has placed on a pedestal since her father’s death, and suddenly Kim feels like she is in fact failing.  She decides to wind the business down, let the nanny go and be an author who happens to be a stay at home mum.  Her husband is on trial for a new job, she has always aspired to writing like her best friend Sarah and she is certain that she can work this around the needs of 2 preschool children.  How hard could it be?

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All We Have Lost

I think that any parent – particularly the mums out there – will be able to relate to this, working or stay at home!  Of course Kim has no idea just how demanding caring for young children can be.  A 2 year old just will not stick to your carefully constructed time table allowing mum time to write her novel whilst the tot naps.  Add in cooking, housework and a bit of writer’s block into the mix and suddenly the grass isn’t greener on the other side.  I really enjoyed the way that Aimee Alexander showed Kim’s gradual decline from a business woman in control, to a woman who was “letting herself go” and suddenly felt powerless to take back that control.  How many of us can empathise with the gradual weight gain (gym, who has time to visit the gym with young children?), the lack of regular personal grooming time (feel grateful if your hair sees the backside of a brush daily, let alone regular visits for a blow dry at the salon) and the overwhelming tiredness that strikes before hubby even gets home (from his fourth late night of the week).  But it should be ok if only Kim can start writing – and yet even this is not the easy task that she has imagined.

The author shows just how quickly and easily relationships can change – in Kim’s situation it is not just her marital relationship, but also that with her mother and her friends too.  Failure to communicate leads to misunderstandings, jumping to the wrong conclusions, reading signals incorrectly and great hurt.  At times I found myself becoming so frustrated with Kim and Ian, wanting to shout at them to stand still, take a breath and look what is happening.  Kim seems to become completely hung up on her world at home, forgetting that the very things that she complains about in Ian in his new job were her not so long ago.  Ian is so intent on making up for the fact that he is suddenly the main breadwinner and also feels he has to prove himself in his new job, that he becomes unable to communicate his concerns to a wife who no longer seems to have time for him. Aghhhh – I can see your relationship falling apart and yet neither of you can.  It is a testament to Ms Alexander’s writing that I could also feel Kim’s envy for her friend Sarah’s life as an author, yet also hear the alarm bells ringing loudly to warn Kim that her decisions were having awful consequences and yet she didn’t seem to see it.  Misunderstandings and knee jerk reactions have such devastating effects for all the people that Kim holds dear – including the children.

There are no schmaltzy happy endings for every character here.  This is real life and certain actions cannot be undone or forgiven.  I admire the additional change in the relationship between Kim and her mother – how a mother’s desire to protect her children can have devastating consequences if lies are uncovered, even years later.  I laughed and I cried with the characters in this book and I found them to be believable.  The visit to a single friend’s modern flat with 2 young children for a long weekend did make me smile – you will understand when you read it! The author even examines that age old chestnut – can a man and a woman ever be just good friends?

In my opinion an enjoyable contemporary novel about real life relationships that gets 4 stars!

 

About the Author:

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Aimee Alexander is the pen name of best selling author Denise Deegan who writes contemporary family dramas about ordinary people who become extraordinary in crisis. Her novels have been published by Penguin, Random House and Hachette.

Aimee lives in Dublin with her family where she regularly dreams of sunshine, a life without cooking and her novels being made into movies. She has a Masters in Public Relations and has been a college lecturer, nurse, china restorer, pharmaceutical sales rep, public relations executive and entrepreneur. (taken from Author’s Amazon page)

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (20 Dec. 2015)

Buy the novel on Amazon by clicking here: