Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Wives of Los Alamos by Tara Shea Nesbit

Their average age was twenty-five. They came from Berkeley, Cambridge, Paris, London, Chicago--and arrived in New Mexico ready for adventure, or at least resigned to it. But hope quickly turned to hardship as they were forced to adapt to a rugged military town where everything was a secret, including what their husbands were doing at the lab. They lived in barely finished houses with P.O. box addresses in a town wreathed with barbed wire, all for the benefit of a project that didn't exist as far as the public knew. Though they were strangers, they joined together--adapting to a landscape as fierce as it was absorbing, full of the banalities of everyday life and the drama of scientific discovery. And while the bomb was being invented, babies were born, friendships were forged, children grew up, and Los Alamos gradually transformed from an abandoned school on a hill into a real community: one that was strained by the words they couldn't say out loud, the letters they couldn't send home, the freedom they didn't have. But the end of the war would bring even bigger challenges to the people of Los Alamos, as the scientists and their families struggled with the burden of their contribution to the most destructive force in the history of mankind."The Wives of Los Alamos" is a novel that sheds light onto one of the strangest and most monumental research projects in modern history. It's a testament to a remarkable group of women who carved out a life for themselves, in spite of the chaos of the war and the shroud of intense secrecy.

This is the first book I have read which has been written in first person plural. I felt it gave more punch and gravity to the story,it had an eerie feel about it.
I had never heard of Los Alamos before reading this book so I guess some parts of my education were somewhat lacking. As soon as I read the blurb about the book I knew it was one I wanted to read.
 These women had their lives turned upside down by the fact that their husbands were scientists. Everything was surrounded in secrecy, they could tell no one where they were moving to or why. They left behind, mothers,sisters brothers and friends not knowing when they would ever see them again. Six hundred and twenty families made a population of thousands. All living in a makeshift town in the desert of New Mexico by order of the American government.
The women never knew what their husbands were working on as they left for the laboratory everyday. This caused anguish as husbands were keeping secrets from their wives.
The town became everyday life for these families. They gave birth to babies,raised their children all without the help from extended family.  The women learnt how to play the system to get what they needed and some even missed the town when it was time to leave.
I enjoyed this story and learning about Los Alamos and I now want to read more on the subject.
How awful it must have been for these women to discover their husbands had been inventing the atomic bomb that was responsible for killing so many people. The book goes on to tell us how it affected their children long after the end of the war which was interesting.
Although I thought the first person plural gave the story authenticity it also prevented me from familiarising myself with the characters and at the end of the book I couldn't remember any of their names. I would have liked to have heard more of their individual stories and also more about the Spanish women who came and cleaned their houses and looked after the children.
This however does not take away much from what was a very interesting read.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

All the Things you are by Clemency Burton-Hill

When New York journalist Natasha Bernstein loses her job and discovers her fiancé has been keeping a dark secret, her world collapses. Turning to her family, she takes inspiration from her formidable grandmother Esther, who runs a community centre in downtown Manhattan. As she starts to rebuild her life, Natasha's friendship with Rafi - the enigmatic architect working on Esther's centre - restores her sense of wonder at the world and her faith in who she is. But when Rafi and Natasha take a trip to Jerusalem, they are plunged into a story far deeper than their own. Here, questions of family and loyalty mean more than life itself, and they must ask themselves what they are ultimately prepared to fight for. In a divided world, is it history or love that makes us who we are?

Natasha's Grandmother Esther, a holocaust survivor is approaching her ninetieth birthday. Esther runs a community drop in centre for homeless people as well as lecturing around the country, her story is heartbreaking. Natasha is now at a loose end having been fired from her job as a journalist and accompanies her grandmother to the centre which is being renovated by architect Rafi.
Two young American people who's family are from different backgrounds,Rafi being Palestinian and a Christian and Natasha being Jewish. Everything looks like working out well from them until they decide on a trip to Jerusalem and Palestine. Will they be on opposing sides or will each understand how the other feels?

The first half of this book is set in New York. Natasha,stunned from having broken up with her boyfriend and loosing her job. Rosalind her mother is worried that her daughter will never meet a nice Jewish boy and settle down.
I really enjoyed this book mainly because it wasn't just a run of the mill love story. The problems encountered by Natasha and Rafi are the same ones that many sweethearts face today across different cultures and religions. Rafi was a likable character and I loved his relationship with Esther.
 Rosalind had to endure the admiration her mother received all the while knowing she was not always a great mother to her. Natasha's sister Rachael works with her grandmother at the centre and shows what a great sister she really is.

The second half is set in Israel and Palestine and was like steeping back in time to another century. I could feel the pain for the people on both sides being forced from their homes. Natasha was convinced she was in a safe place but we find out that no one is safe in the middle of a conflict. My heart skipped a few beats at how silly and trusting she was.
At one point in the book I myself  didn't know who to trust and I think the author was very clever with the plot twist.
I didn't want this story to end and my only slight disappointment was I felt I needed to hear more from Natasha and Rafi at the end.
I could have read about Esther all day long she was truly inspirational.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Every Woman for Herself by Trisha Ashley

First comes marriage. Then comes divorce. Then it’s every woman for herself …
Every Woman for Herself is a hilarious account of divorce and dating from Sunday Times bestseller Trisha Ashley. Perfect for fans of Katie Fforde and Carole Matthews,the country setting and rom-com storyline make this the perfect summer read.
When Charlie’s husband Matt tells her that he wants a divorce she has to start from scratch. Suddenly single, broke and approaching 40 she is forced to return to her childhood home in the Yorkshire moors.
Living with her father and eccentric siblings could be considered a challenge but soon Charlie finds her new life somewhat refreshing. Now that she’s single she’s got no need to dye her roots nor to be the perfect wife and she can return to her first love- painting.
But just as she begins to feel settled, handsome, bad-tempered actor Mace North moves in down the road and starts mixing things up for Charlie in more ways than one

I felt so sorry for Charlie in the first few pages of the book. First her horrible husband wants a divorce which seems to be all in his favour and then a terrible incident happens concerning a friend of her husband. It actually made me laugh (black humour) and I had to read about the incident again to see if I had got it right. This incident comes back to haunt her as the friend's wife wants revenge.

Charlie goes back home to her father's house in Yorkshire where her siblings have names like Emily, Branwell, Anne and her own name,Charlotte, yes they were named after the Bronte family and all as mad as a box of frogs.
Emily has decided to join the black arts and become a witch. Anna is a war correspondent and very stereotypical. Bramwell, well he may be very clever but I didn't understand his character at all.
I loved Charlie transforming herself after her husband left her. She changed the dark Goth like clothes that were hanging on her and cut her hair short. I can't understand why she never left him sooner.

When Charlie arrives at the family home her father is moving in his current girlfriend and her young  twin daughters. Emily who runs the house is doing everything possible to make the girlfriend, Gloria feel unwelcome. I think Emily should have moved out a long time ago and let her father get on with his life.
 I liked Gloria and thought she was treated terribly by the family.
Charlie seems to be the only normal one of the family and her love interest is  a famous actor, Mace but like all good stories true love doesn't always run smooth.
I enjoyed most of this book. Some of the characters like Anna took longer to like but by the end I grew to love her. There are some very funny moments throughout the book especially The Skint Old Northern Woman's Handbook which is a newspaper Charlie is writing in her head which she hopes may become a reality.
Fans of Trisha Ashley might recognise this book as it is a re- release. A pleasant read and enough happenings to keep you turning the page.
Amazon uk

Here's a little taster from the first chapter......

    ‘I’m not falling apart,’ I assured her, which I wasn’t, because nothing lately seemed at all real. I wasn’t sure if I’d been living in a dream world for years and just woken to reality, or vice versa. Sleeping Beauty in her jungle. ‘Actually, I feel more as if I’m imploding – hurtling inwards on myself. There’ll be a popping noise one day, and I’ll have vanished, like a bubble.’
‘You poor thing! There, I knew I was right to come back. But look on the bright side, darling – you and Matt are having a friendly divorce, so it will go through really fast. Then he’s going to pay you maintenance, although I don’t suppose you’ll need much because you will just go back to that insane-sounding family of yours. Did you see your sister, Anne, on the news last night? There were bullets flying around her head, and she just kept on talking.’
‘Emily – my older sister – has second sight, so she knows Anne’s invincible to bullets. And I don’t know why you say my family’s insane. Matt was keen enough to marry me once he found out who Father was, even if he can’t wait to get rid of me now.’
‘Anne, Emily – and your brother’s called Branwell, isn’t he? What were your parents trying to do, breed their own Brontës?’
‘Yes – well Father was, anyway. He thought if he recreated the hothouse environment and we didn’t become literary geniuses, or Branwell became the literary giant, it would prove his point. You know – like in his book: Branwell: Source of Genius?
From her puzzled expression, clearly she didn’t know.
‘And Charlie’s short for Charlotte, of course. When the experiment palled on Father he sent us all to the local school, and although Em didn’t mind being known as Effing Emily, I got very tired of being Scarlet Charlotte the Harlot. My family always called me Charlie, anyway.’
‘Weird!’ she muttered again. ‘I suppose you will go back there?’
‘I’ll have to, but I can’t just return as if the last twenty-odd years never existed.’
Though, mind you, when I do visit home it feels as if I’d never left. Everything’s the same: Em running the place and striding the moors composing her lucrative greeting-card verses, Gloria and Walter Mundi haphazardly doing the work, Father writing his infamous biographies and installing his latest mistress in the Summer Cottage, Bran and Anne turning up on visits.
And the moors. Nothing ever changed on Blackdog Moor except the seasons, that was what made me feel so safe there and so very unsafe here in York.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Harbour Ways by Valerie Poore

Harbour Ways is the sequel to Watery Ways, Valerie Poore's first memoir about living on a barge in Rotterdam's Oude Haven in the Netherlands. This second book tells of the first two years that she owned her own barge, the Vereeniging, and how she converts it from an empty hull into a home. Told with with Valerie's usual tongue-in-cheek humour, Harbour Ways can be read as a stand alone memoir or as the follow on to Watery Ways.

 I can imagine buying an old house and renovating it to bring it back to its former glory. There would be problems found but they could be sorted out by hiring a team of builders and decoraters. I could move into one room and renovate room by room.
What I can't imagine is buying a 104 yr old barge made for carrying cargo and neglected for years and restoring it in a historical harbour by myself.
This is what Valerie Poore did. Her first mistake was to purchase the barge without having it inspected,a bit like buying a house without a survey. On the inspection for insurance purposes after the purchase Val finds she has far more work ahead of her than she had thought.
The first priority was to have a bathroom fitted.This is what Val promised herself after not having one on her rented barge. Wishes don't always come true and a bathroom was one of the last things finished on the barge.
Val is a gutsy and determined woman but at times even she was reduced to a crumbling wreck by the amount of work needing done.  It's a slow process and all work done on a barge takes much longer than you expect it too. The limited space means you can't have that team of builders taking care of things.
The Vereeniging is restored slowly and lovingly and Val learns new skills along the way,like how to plumb in a complete bathroom in a tiny space.
The lovely people of the harbour are always there for help and advice and there's always Koos who I see as something of a dashing Viking sailing out to save the day. Koos was brought up on a barge and knows the waterways like the back of his hand, what a useful person to have around when you live on a barge.

In this book we catch up with all the harbour inhabitants or liggers we met in Watery Ways. We go shopping with Val for her plumbing equipment and laugh with her as she uses her best Dutch possible to ask for u-bends and stopcocks. We are with her as she is taught how to steer the barge by herself and sail with her through the waterways.
One thing really scares me about living on a barge. When you buy the book turn to page 104 and have a look at the gangplank you have to walk down to get on the boat when the water is low. It's at a 45deg angle and Val does admit it's very hard to enter and exit. If I am ever lucky enough to visit Val I'll have to make it when the water is high because there would be no way I could ever walk that gangplank.

There's the new addition in this book of Sindy the pup. She is very vocal and very naughty and reminds me of a dog I had who just like Sindy barked constantly in the car and eventually destroys it.
Valerie Poore was born to write comedy,she can see the fun in any situation and it always shows through in her books.

Valerie Poore's books, Watery Ways, African Ways, How to breed Sheep,Geese and English Eccentrics can all be found on Amazon or The Book Depository 
Her YA book The Skipper's Child has just won a silver award in The Wishing Shelf Awards 2013, so many congratulations Val.
All kindle downloads of Val's book are cheaper than a fancy coffee so give yourself a treat.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Nightingales on Call by Donna Douglas and Book Giveaway.

From the author of The Nightingale Girls, The Nightingale Sisters and The Nightingale Nurses - perfect for fans of Call the Midwife 1937 sees new challenges for the trainee nurses. Dora and her old enemy Lucy are paired up on the children's ward for the final three months of their training. The two nurses couldn't seem more different, but they may have more in common than they think, as each hides a secret heartache and new faces at the Nightingale Jess is the feisty eldest daughter of a notorious East End family and determined to prove herself as a ward maid. And new trainee nurse Effie can't wait to escape her small Irish village, and make her way as a nurse in London. But Effie's sister Katie soon begins to worry that Effie's behaviour is out of control. Nightingales on call and in crisis: have they got what it takes?

I'm delighted to be a blog stop today for Fiction Addiction Book Tours.

I don't usually like reading a book midway through a series and  Nightingales on Call is the fourth book in this series by Donna Douglas. I needn't have worried as soon as I read the first few pages I was hooked and immersed in the lives of the nurses from Nightingale Hospital.
It took a brave girl to train to be a nurse in the 1930's. It was a very strict, like being in the army. The ward sisters were like dragons and the nurses terrified of putting a foot wrong. All day they scrubbed floors and bedpans, made beds so tightly that a coin had to bounce off them.  I found it quite sad that after three years of training a nurse had to give it all up if she wanted to be married. All that hard work for nothing, it's a pity the hospital board didn't give a thought about all the effort to train the girls just to let them go.

This book follows the girl's rotation on the children's ward. We follow Dora, Lucy and a few of their friends who only have three months left before they are staff nurses. Effie begins as a probationer following in the footsteps of her successful sisters but doesn't expect the hard work she is faced with.
I really liked the character of Jess who begins a job as a ward maid mainly cleaning the nurse's homes and looking after the home sister's needs. Jess is told she is worth less than the student nurses and she has not to speak to them but she becomes friends with Effie the probationary much to the displeasure of some of the other girls.
We learn more about the home life of the nurses than we do in the TV series Call the Midwife but if you're a fan you will enjoy this book too. Knowing what the nurses have to face at home gives you an understanding of why some of them are not so nice on the wards,everyone has a different story.
Life on the children's ward was a bit grim for the patients. Visits from parents were only allowed once a month and the children were mostly left to cry without being comforted especially if sister was around.
Kind hearted Dora would love to be a children's nurse but she doesn't agree with the hands off policy implemented.
I enjoyed this book from start to finished, none of it was slow and I grew to love the nurses and even some of the sisters. Now I have finished this book I want to start at the beginning and read the first three one after the other and I'm hoping there is a number five being written at this very moment.

Amazon uk kindle kindle

International blog tour giveaway. Three paperback copies of Nightingales on Call to be won.

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The Man I Fell in Love With by Kate Field

Sometimes we find happiness where we least expect it… After twenty years of contented marriage, no one is more surprised than Mary...