Thursday, 27 March 2014

Skeletons by Jane Fallon

Jen has discovered a secret.

It's not hers to share, but is it hers to keep?

If she tells her husband Jason, he might get over the shock but will he forgive her for telling the truth? She might drive a wedge through their marriage.

If she tells someone else in Jason's family - the family she's come to love more than her own - she'd not only tear them apart but could also find herself on the outside: she's never really been one of them, after all.

But if she keeps this dirty little secret to herself, how long can she pretend nothing is wrong? How long can she live a lie?

Jen knows the truth - but is she ready for the consequences?

 Today is publication day for Jane Fallon's new novel. I have read a few of her books and always enjoyed them.
Jen's father walked out of her life when she was young and she has never forgiven her mother.  An only child of only children Jen has always craved the perfect family and she found it when she married Jason and adopted his family and all their traditions. Life is good until her two children leave home and she wonders if cracks are beginning to appear in her marriage.
Jen witnesses something she shouldn't she's in the wrong place at the wrong time and doesn't have a clue what to do. She makes wrong choices and that old saying of don't shoot the messenger seems to be coming true. Jen will soon discover that blood really is thicker than water when everything she holds dear explodes around her.

 After a slow start this book is fast paced as Jen tries to do the right thing by her husband's family. I felt quite sad that Jen had neglected her own mother but she then  finds out a secret about her which could potentially damage their relationship more. 
I didn't agree with the decisions Jen made but she thought she was doing the right thing. Keeping secrets was making Jen ill and destroying her relationship with everyone around her.
Temptation rears it's head and loyal Jen is torn.
This is a good story about what matters in life,is it the truth or is it appearances? How loyal should you be and does your wife and mother of your children matter more than your parents and siblings?
The story has many twists and turn that take you to a good ending and another great story from Jane Fallon. for kindle

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Peach Blossom Pavilion by Mingmei Yip

Torn from her family. Destined to become the most desired courtesan in China. A seductive and evocative debut that opens the doors on life as a Chinese courtesan in the Peach Blossom Pavilion...Behind the doors of the pavilion, a world of sensuality and intrigue awaits...Falsely accused of murder, Xiang Xiang's father is executed, and her mother forced into a Buddhist nunnery. Xiang Xiang, alone and friendless at thirteen years old, is tricked into entering the Peach Blossom Pavilion, where she is given the name Bao Lan - Precious Orchid. There she is trained in the fine arts of womanhood, studying music, literature, painting, and more importantly, the art of seduction and pleasuring men; and becomes one of China's most successful courtesans. However, Precious Orchid is determined to avenge her parents and sets out on a journey that includes passion, adventure, danger, fame, and finally, her chance to achieve the justice she has sought so long. An enchanting tale of opulence and desire, perfect for fans of Anchee Min and Memoirs of a Geisha.

Xiang Xiang is 98 yrs old and writing her memoirs from a time when her name was Bao Lan meaning Precious Orchid. Her great granddaughter and her fiance are hanging on her every word waiting for her story of how she became one of China's most prestigious courtesans.

Xiang Xaing's father was wrongly accuses and executed for murder set up by a war lord to save his own skin. Thrown into poverty Xiang Xiang's mother goes to live in a Buddhist nunnery and at thirteen years old Xiang Xiang is given over to a distant relative Fang Rong to work in the house of a rich business man. What her mother doesn't know is that Fang Rong is the madam of a brothel and her young daughter will be taught how to be a prostitute in the Peach Blossom Pavilion.

One of the older prostitutes Pearl takes Xiang Xiang under her wing and they become blood sisters.
There are many twists and turns in this book and the violence Xaing Xaing suffered in the brothel was extreme.
The thought of finding the war lord and avenging her father's death and being re-united with her mother again is what keeps Xiang Xaing's spirit up through her turbulent life.
I started off liking Xiang Xaing, then half way through the book I started to loose sympathy for her mainly because of how she criticised the way the other girls looked. She was said to be one of China's most prestigious courtesans but I didn't feel that came across in the story.

I enjoyed this book and it was a page turner but I would have enjoyed it more without the many swear words and sexual phrases. A few I could have managed but the rest made me cringe, and the constant references to Jade Stalks and Precious Gates (male and female genetalia) seemed childish with the rest of the language.
I have read quite a few books about the same subject although some were set in Japan but this book is rawer and grittier, maybe the others have been sugar coated.

Amazon uk for kindle 99p

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

The name of your first-born. The face of your lover. Your age. Your address...

What would happen if your memory of these began to fade?

Is it possible to rebuild your life? Raise a family? Fall in love again?

When Claire starts to write her Memory Book, she already knows that this scrapbook of mementoes will soon be all her daughters and husband have of her. But how can she hold on to the past when her future is slipping through her fingers...?

Claire has early onset Alzheimers Disease (AD). She also has a husband and two daughters,one a teenager and one of three years.
A counseller suggests that Claire writes down all her thoughts in a memory book and soon the whole family is using the book to record their own thoughts and memories.
Claire is trying hard to remember everyday objects and routine and sometimes she does have lucid moments where she's back to her old self and feels she can do everything as usual and that's when things go wrong.
Esther her little daughter has some great times with her mum as Claire looses her inhibitions and acts more like Esther's friend than her mother.
Caitlin,should be returning to university but with her mum's illness, she feels she should be looking after her but she's also worried that she may inherit the disease. She also has a huge secret she's keeping from everyone, how will she cope?
Sadly the first person Claire is torn apart from by this terrible disease is her loving husband Greg and it breaks his heart as she pushes him away, throws his clothes from her bedroom and can't understand why a strange man is in her house. Love finds a way and so does Greg and you will be amazed at how he does it.
It is so difficult for Claire to relinquish her life to others but gradually she accepts that's the way it will have to be.

We are told the story by the people who write in the memory book,Claire,Greg Caitlin and Claire's mother who has moved in to look after the family.We read how they all cope with what is happening to Claire.
I had a huge lump in my throat from the first page of this book until the last. I have tears streaming down my face as I type this and relive this book. I was emotionally drained when I finished it. I hasten to end that it was not all sad, there are some very funny escapades and funny lines in this book so you will be laughing between the tears.

Throughout the book I was thinking,"How would I cope if it was me?" I had no answer.
When my mother in law was in a care home there was a woman in her early forties being cared for, she had AD and  seeing her in a home for very elderly people with dementia all living in their own world was one of the saddest sights I have ever seen.

I can't recommend this book enough and I would give it ten stars if I could. I'm not telling you any more of the story as I want you to read it for yourself.
Apart from a good story this book will raise awareness of Alzheimers Disease as Claire tells her story of how it feels and how she sees the world. It will perhaps make us all a bit more tolerant.
 A word of advice, have a box of tissues at the ready.

Amazon uk for kindle for kindle
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Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Turkey with Stuff in / A Scumptious Tale of Adventure and Just Deserts by Kim Ciftci

Waking up in hospital, covered in drips and drains, Kym realises that life really is too short. Turning down a great opportunity and saying goodbye to the rat race, she ups sticks with her 18 year old son and throws herself headfirst into pastures new without the slightest bit of research and breaks all the rules by doing the don’ts and ignoring the do’s. When she finds herself freezing, without electricity and the sole inhabitant of a Turkish complex, she wonders if it has all been a very big mistake? Her search for company leads to a fall and in the darkness of night she is taken to a witch doctor whose methods are rather unusual. Surviving that, she finds a job with an ageing lothario and his dancing caterpillar and ends up miles from home and fearful for her sanity. Summer returns breathing life back into the town and she meets a man who may just be her reason to stay. Introduced to his large family and their culture, she wades deeper into his Kurdish village life of subservient females, raw food & sacrifices and much to her surprise feels a sense of belonging. Can she find a balance between this and her expat life or has she really bitten off more than she can chew this time?

 Anyone who reads my writing blog knows how much I love Turkey so when I was asked to review this book about a British woman leaving her life here and going to live in Turkey I jumped at the chance.
I was truly shocked at the treatment Kim received at the hands of our NHS and private medicine too. She was in pain for years before they even agreed that something was wrong and an operation was needed. Kim was so happy that something was being done but mistakes were made during the operation causing her even more pain which was not believed by the nursing staff. Eventually after much pleading by Kym this was looked into and the discovery made that her bladder had been nicked and she was bleeding internally. No apology was ever given for the blunder but this was the catalyst that made her want to change her life.

Kim wanted a whitewashed cottage on a beach somewhere hot and looking online she found it in Turkey.
A holiday to see the cottage with her teenage son sealed the deal,she loved it and so moved lock,stock and barrel to Turkey.
The whitewashed cottage was great during the summer months but not practical for winter so Kim moved to Altinkum with more facilities and people around her.
I really enjoyed this memoir. I did think Kim was a bit mad (and I told her) when she went travelling to different towns with her new boss, staying in dingy apartments and wondering if she would get out alive. I found myself shouting at her to get out,instead she kept her clothes on at night and didn't leave the room to go to the loo she was so scared.
Kim eventually finds true love with a Kurdish man, Murat and goes to meet his family who live in a remote village.
I thought she was so brave fitting in so well and trying not to show how she felt about all the strange customs including sleeping on the floor,women in one room, men in another.  Witch Doctors, weddings with guns,unusual food and a whole new language well actually two,Turkish and Kurdish. Murat's close family and extended family were so welcoming to a British women and the love they all had for each other just shone.
There are many parts of this book where I found the writing to be just beautiful,Kim has a lovely way with words. The Epilogue had me in tears.
Here is a paragraph for the first chapter.

"On the other side of the world, the sun is rising to shine on someone else's home,someone else's dream,someone else's new beginning.
"How did I get here?" Well I'd like to think destiny had a hand in that.
Before here I was your typical suburban resident; three bed semi, decent car, good job, all the things that make up the rat race and then, I had a life changing experience....waking up covered in drips and drains can do that to a girl." 

Kim has a lovely blog and I'm directing you to a post which she has written a very poignant story.
"Two Little Boys" Turkey With Stuff In.

Kim's book is for sale at

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Take Mum Out by Fiona Gibson

“What do you need a boyfriend for? You’re a mum.”
Fiona Gibson’s eagerly awaited new novel is full of dating disasters. Sharply observed and laugh-out-loud funny, its perfect for fans of Tracy Bloom, Kate Long and Tess Stimson.
Three blind dates
Two teenage boys messing up her plans
And one man who'll melt Alice's heart.
'You need to get back in the saddle…' Alice despises that phrase. She's fine being single – with two slothful teenage boys and a meringue business to run, she has enough on her plate without negotiating the troublesome world of modern dating.
However, Alice's three best friends have other ideas. Each one will present her with an utterly delicious, eligible man – all Alice has to do is pick her favourite.

This must be the month for, " books to make you laugh out loud." I don't think I've ever read so many.
This is the first book by Fiona Gibson that I've read although she has written many and they all look as much fun as her latest is.
Alice has been a single mum of two boys for the past six years after splitting with their feckless father. She works as a school secretary and is now staring a business from home making meringues to sell to shops.
Alice has not really been on the dating scene and after one disastrous date is scared of trying again. She feels even more downhearted when she opens a house magazine to find her ex and his new wife and perfect daughter spread across the pages showing off their beautiful house and talking about their great business. Three of Alice's best friends decide to sort her out and each pick a man for her to date, after all they know her best. Nothing ever goes smooth in the search for true love and Alice has to kiss some toads before she finds her prince, not helped much by her two teenagers Fergus and Logan.

I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I'm well past the dating stage in life having been married for more years than I can remember and reading about dating can be rather boring. I was wrong, Fiona Gibson drew me into the story and I went on the Alice's dating journey with her. I loved how she threw 
caution to the wind and flew to Paris, what happened to her there would probably been my story too.
 I felt her hurt and anguish when her son wanted to leave home. I hoped that each date might find her the love of her life and was disappointed with her when things didn't go to plan. I rejoiced at a happy ending with a great big grin on my face. I loved reading about Alice and her family and as usual when I enjoy a book I want a sequel, please.

Amazon UK
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Author Fiona Gibson tells us about her favourite place to write

 My Writing Room – Fiona Gibson

My writing room is a tiny box room. Sometimes I love its cosiness, but other times I feel too hemmed in and have to escape to work at the kitchen table. I'd love a bigger room. I had one, until my sons declared they wanted their own bedrooms, which is fair enough, as they're twins. They needed space of their own.

So here I am - in the smallest room in the house, surrounded by books, scribbled notes, dead pens and to do lists. I’m a list fanatic – I have my ‘list book’ about three inches from my elbow at all times, and about 23 other lists on my phone. I do like a few bright, cheery things around me, though – a rubber duck my daughter bought me, a collection of old tin robots, and a crocheted owl a writer pal gave me as a good luck charm. But it’s not terribly pretty in here.
Fiona Gibson

There's a hole in the window (one of my kids threw a stone at it) which my husband Jimmy kindly patched up with a piece of cardboard. It’s one of those ‘menus’ you get in a box of chocolates, telling you what the flavours are. Bet JK Rowling doesn't have that. Music is more important than having beautiful things around me – I hate working in silence. Old soul music (especially northern soul) makes me feel geed up and productive. Or I might listen to Trevor Nelson's soul show on the iPlayer. I also love music which my husband calls 'fey', like Belle and Sebastian. At least in my workroom, I can listen to whatever I want, without fear of ridicule!

Sometimes our rescue dog, Jack, lies at my feet while I’m working. If he’s overdue a walk, he starts nudging my hand away from the mouse with his wet nose. He’ll force me out for a walk, which is probably a good thing. A dog is a great addition if you’re a writer – he reminds me that there’s a world out there and that I need to take a break. On a walk, all those plot conundrums tend to magically untangle. It's like the brain starts working again. 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Survivor By Lesley Pearse

London, 1939 Eighteen-year-old Mari is defiant, strong-willed and selfish.

She has craved independence her entire life and now, with the World on the brink of war, Mari has finally escaped the sleepy fishing village of her childhood in New Zealand. After passionately falling for Morgan, the cockney steward aboard ship on her voyage to England, she hastily dismisses him in favour of being taken out by handsome young pilots in the glamorous West end.

But, without warning, the Blitz blows her new life apart. Now Mari has the chance to make a difference but can she learn from her mistakes in time?

Lesley Pearse is a wonderful storyteller and once again she hasn't let me down. This book is the third book about Belle although it can be read on it's own and I know someone who read it and loved it without reading the first two books. 
Belle doesn't really feature in this book as it's mainly about her daughter, Mari.
Living in a small village in New Zealand Mari is bored with her life and is getting the kind of reputation that a good girl shouldn't have. Her parents decide to send her to England to her godfather and his wife thinking that Mari would enjoy living in a city more. No one thought that world war 2 would happen or that Mari would be stuck in London for years with no way of returning home.
The war changes Mari in ways no one could ever have guessed and she longs for the safety of New Zealand and for her family.

This book starts in New Zealand then to London where we live through the blitz. We join the resistance movement in France and finally end up back in New Zealand.
I have read lots of books set during wartime Britain and this book has been the most descriptive. I actually felt I was there hearing the bombs and smelling fires. I was literally biting my nails during the part set  in France as our heroine is escaping from the Germans, I dreamt about it for nights.
Mari met lovely people during her time in London. I loved Joan, she was lonely without her two children who were evacuated and when Mari was homeless she lived with her for a while. Joan was so down to earth and found the good in everything and I think it was her who changed Mari. Sybil and Ted the owners of the bar where Mari worked treated her as their own daughter and were the salt of the earth.
I was in agreement with Mari when she hoped great misfortune would fall upon the vile JeanPhilippe. What a horrible man he was and treated Mari terribly.

All Mari's experiences went towards making her a better person and I enjoyed her journey. Who knows what would have become of her if she had stayed in New Zealand instead of moving to London?
If you haven't read any of Lesley Pearse's books before then you are missing really good stories.
Although as I said this book can be read as a stand alone story I would recommend reading Belle and The Promise first just because I know you will enjoy them.
I'm now waiting patiently for Lesley's next book.
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and of course from all bookshops and supermarkets.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Bolder and Wiser by Sarah Dale

Hit 50 yet? Sarah Dale is about to. This impending event set her wondering about successful ageing, what life looks like for women who have been there and done that, and what adventures are to be had on the other side of 50.

In this fascinating and celebratory book, Sarah talks to 20 inspiring women who have not only made it past 50, but are happy to be there.

These open and honest conversations, punctuated by Sarah's observations about her own journey, reflect on friendship, work, health, creativity, marriage, motherhood, money - and whether you should stop dyeing your hair.

Sarah Dale is a chartered psychologist and accredited coach. She devised the Creating Focus programme and is the author of Keeping Your Spirits Up. She was born in 1964...

You won't be able to read this book without reflecting on your own life and comparing it to the women featured in the book. I must be truthful and say that I didn't take to this book at first, I read some of it then put it down. A week later I picked it up again and this time I began to enjoy it. 
The women interviewed by Sarah were all ages over sixty and the majority of them have all done well in their lives. Some are still working and some are doing voluntary work. They were all asked the same questions which were followed by discussions with Sarah.
We read that some women had a hard start in life especially during and just after the war when money was short. They tell us how they adjusted to being older and having to find a new purpose in their lives with family grown up, or being widowed. 

It was interesting reading what the women thought about housework, cooking, raising families etc. We also find out what is important and what is not. These are women who speak from experience of life.
Each milestone you reach in life is scary, from the young woman leaving her twenties to the older woman leaving her sixties. This book will put everyone's mind at ease that we are not going to suddenly change as we age and become, "old women." In our heads we are forever young. None of the women interviewed came across as being old and they all had something interesting to say.

We are challenged by Sarah at the end of her book To buy ourselves a lovely notebook and ask ourselves or older people in our lives," What matters and what doesn't" and mull over what we hear.
A few of the other questions are...

* What's the best and worst thing about getting older?
* Did you have any role models or mentors?
* Has life since you turned fifty been how you expected it to be, and in what ways (or not)? 
Author, Sarah Dale

My first comment on this book was," You won't be able to read this book without reflecting on your own life and comparing it to the women featured in the book"
I stand by that. I am now thinking a lot of where I have been in life and as I approach my sixties (3yrs) and where the rest of my life is taking me. I have to thank Sarah for making me think.
I have the lovely notebook and I'm going to write down the answers to all Sarah questions, maybe one day my daughter will read it and make her feel better about growing older.
This book is a great celebration of the older woman and released just as we're celebrating International Woman's Day.

Amazon.UK       for kindle

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Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Flavours of Love by Dorothy Koomson

'I'm looking for that perfect blend of flavours; the taste that used to be you. If I find it, I know you'll come back to me.'

It’s been 18 months since my husband was murdered and I’ve decided to finish writing The Flavours of Love, the cookbook he started before he died. Everyone thinks I’m coping so well without him – they have no idea what I’ve been hiding or what I do away from prying eyes. But now that my 14-year-old daughter has confessed something so devastating it could destroy our family all over again, and my husband’s killer has started to write to me claiming to be innocent, I know it’s only a matter of time before the truth about me and what I’ve done is revealed to the world.

My name is Saffron Mackleroy and this is my story.

I always eagerly await the latest book by Dorothy Koomson and I always forget how frustrated they make me. This is actually a compliment as her books keep me on the end of my seat riding that rollercoaster .
The book opens as we find out that  Saffron's husband Joel has been murdered. It doesn't take too long before we know who the murderer is but this is a Koomson book and nothing is that straightforward.
I really had no idea how the book would end, I do like to guess the ending but with Dorothy's books I'm never right.

The story is told from the day of the murder, before that day and after that day. I found that a bit annoying as I wanted to get to the present day and find out what was going to happen. I could not put this book down and as more revelations were revealed the more I didn't want to stop reading.

Saffron had a reason for baking, as well as trying to finish her husband's cookery book it was also a way of controlling a hidden illness that was taking over her life.
Daughter, Phoebe 14yrs  has a secret and she's not going to tell it easily.
 Saffron is relying more and more on Joel's best friend Flynn but is he falling in love with her?
I loved Joel's Aunty Betty who came to live with the family after being kicked out of the old people's home she was living in. She's like an out of control teenager but eventually finds her niche in life.
This author never fails to amaze me. Her imagination is second to none but I somehow think it must keep her awake at nights.
Now I have finished this book I am waiting for the next offering by Dorothy Koomson.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Diamonds and Dust by Carol Hedges

When a horrific murder takes place on a dark night in 1860's London, it changes two women for ever. New light is cast upon past lives they thought they knew so well, and suddenly their futures become intertwined.

The death of her uncle will leave eighteen-year-old Josephine King an orphan, an heiress and the owner of a priceless diamond, The Eye of the Khan. For Lilith Marks, a chance finally arises to end her life as a highly paid prostitute and to prove herself as a serious businesswoman.

Set against the backdrop of the great gas-lit city, the two women are drawn together in their quest to discover just who killed the man they both loved.

This book  made my heart race as I found myself screaming at the heroine Josephine not to leave her room to investigate a noise, but like all heroines, she did.
Josephine has just found herself some luck in life after a bad few years and now it looks like everything could be taken away again.
 When you read that someone has a precious and unusual diamond you know that someone else is going to want to take it from them although I did think that Josephine was particularly careless with hers. I suspected everyone in the book and trusted no one but I was wrong until near the end when it all came together.
 The author has obviously put in a lot of research into this book, with Victorian street names and descriptions of homes and traditions. I was transported by the sights and smells back to Victorian London, a place I'm so glad I was not born into as it seems whether rich or poor, women seemed to have a raw deal. There were lots of facts I didn't know until reading this, like the need to pay for a boy to brush the street in front of you as you crossed the road.

 Poor Isabella as her mother calls her is being forced into marriage with a horrible man but her parents don't seem to care what he's like or what he gets up to as long as their daughter is married. Isabella is having control of her life by not eating and seeing an artist in secret. I can see no good coming from that liaison. Although Isabella and the Thorpes were part of a back story I would like to have known more about what happens to poor Isabella in the future, perhaps we will have a sequel.

Author, Carol Hedges.
I loved the language of this book, the words ran across the page like honey. I saw the narrator as some kind of divine being looking out on London like an all seeing eye, allowing me to be privy to something no one else knew about. The characters are all believable and I found myself wanting the best outcome for our heroine, Josephine. The story kept me on the edge of my seat and for a few nights when my husband was away from home I had to put it aside because I'm such a scaredy cat.
There are a few nods in the story to classic writers and books which I thought was a lovely touch by the author. I hope you have fun finding them out. I would describe this book as a historical crime novel with a touch of the supernatural,something for everyone.
I also have to say I loved the front cover it's very elegant and I'm sure wouldn't have been out of place in Josephine's library. 
Well done Ms Hedges!

For Kindle Amazon uk      As I've said before,for less than a posh cup of coffee (what's not to like?)

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...and from many more places

The Stolen Child by Jennie Felton

Will anyone believe her baby is gone? When Stella Swift is discovered holding a shard of broken glass near her newborn baby boy, fears...