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Living in Cyprus with husband, one of our sons, two cats and around 3,000 books. Hadn't realised quite how long I'd been away... 19/01/14

Reviews written

since 12/08/2003


Little Girl Lost - Katie Flynn 12/09/2013

Light historical novel set in Liverpool and Dublin

Little Girl Lost - Katie Flynn THE AUTHOR Katie Flynn is a British writer in her seventies who has produced an impressive number of light historical and romantic novels, many of them set in Liverpool. Despite having suffered with ME since 1996, she still continues to write one or two new books each year. LITTLE GIRL LOST - OVERVIEW This novel, first published in 2006, is set in the early part of the 20th century, with the opening scenes in Liverpool. We meet Sylvie on the first page walking along the banks of the Mersey late at night, desperately worried about the fact that she's pregnant. She's married, but her husband Len has been in jail for more than a year, so she knows it's not his baby. Moreover, Len is very possessive and becomes violent if another man so much as looks at his wife admiringly... and he's due out of prison in another six or seven months. Sylvie has been to see her sister, hoping she can find a solution to this problem, but her sister just kept asking why on earth she did such a stupid thing. Enter Brendan, a policeman off-duty, who startles Sylvie so much that she falls into the river, and (naturally) he rescues her. As a plot opening, it's hardly subtle. Indeed it was so dramatic I had to read it twice before I realised that yes, Sylvie really is both stupid and selfish, and that the strong, handsome Brendan is probably going to fall in love with her. The only person I felt much sympathy with by the end of the first chapter was Sylvie's sister, and she doesn't come into the book ...

Blunt Instrument - Georgette Heyer 09/09/2013

A Blunt Instrument - Crime Fiction by Heyer

Blunt Instrument - Georgette Heyer GEORGETTE HEYER Georgette Heyer was born in 1902 and enjoyed quite a long career as a novelist until her death in the 1970s. She is best known for her meticulously researched light Regency romances, which usually feature strong-minded and likeable heroines. She wrote a large number of these, most of which I have on my shelves. I have enjoyed and re-read Heyer’s Regency novels over several decades, yet only learned about ten years ago that she also wrote twelve crime fiction books too. They were out of print for a while, but most have recently been republished. I found most of them tucked away in charity shops, or inexpensively from, the second-hand online bookseller. The style of Heyer’s crime books is somewhat reminiscent of Agatha Christie, with the bonus of considerably better characterisation, and a little mild satirical humour, if one is in the mood to appreciate it. This is balanced out by somewhat inferior plotting; Heyer simply did not have Christie’s brilliant ability to plant false clues and red herrings, nor her impeccable logic. A BLUNT INSTRUMENT 'A Blunt Instrument' is, in my view, one of Heyer’s better crime fiction novels. It features Ernest Fletcher as the victim - not that we ever actually meet him. He is found dead in the opening chapters, with his head bashed in by some unknown blunt instrument. This all seems very surprising at first: Ernie was considered to be very popular, particularly with women. Nobody can imagine any possible ...

Days of Wonder Ticket to Ride Europe 03/09/2013

He's got a Ticket to Ride...

The Lands Beyond - Marie Lange 29/08/2013

The Lands Beyond: Impressive Debut Novel

The Lands Beyond - Marie Lange THE AUTHOR Marie Lange is the oldest daughter of some close friends. She lives in Cyprus, and has been home educated for most of her life. She was just fifteen when she wrote this book, as part of the ‘NaNoWriMo’ challenge in November 2012. She wrote it by hand, transcribed it to computer, and spent several months editing before taking up an offer of ‘print on demand’ self-publishing with CreateSpace. I watched Marie’s progress with interest, and growing admiration as she made goals for herself...and fulfilled them. A friend of hers designed the cover, and my husband helped her with the technical part of uploading the document.Then finally, a few weeks ago, her novel became available on the Amazon sites, both in paperback form and on Kindle. While young adult fantasy isn’t my preferred genre of reading, we were delighted to be given a signed paperback edition of ‘The Lands Beyond’, and I finished reading it a few days ago. It’s not a long book - the challenge in November was for a 50,000 word novel, and that’s roughly what this is. It’s just under 170 pages in printed form. THE STORY Zephyr - like the author - is fifteen. As far as she knows, she’s a normal American schoolgirl who gets along well with her parents, and enjoys after-school activities such as drama. We meet her as she’s about to get ready for a summer production of an abridged Shakespeare play, and observe her hanging out with her friends. Zephyr has no idea that her life is going to change drastically ...

You, Me and Him - Alice Peterson 26/08/2013

'You, Me and Him' by Alice Peterson

You, Me and Him - Alice Peterson THE AUTHOR Alice Peterson is a British writer, who thought, as a child, that she would be a champion tennis player. She had been awarded a scholarship to train in the US when she learned that she had rheumatoid arthritis, a painful and debilitating chronic condition. While the pain is controllable by drugs, it meant that she had to give up her beloved tennis; she then turned to writing, and has now written several moving and poignant novels. YOU, ME AND HIM - OVERVIEW Josie and Finn's marriage has been going through a stressful time, although they very much love each other. It doesn't help that their six-year-old son George has been diagnosed with ADHD and is extremely difficult at times. They love him dearly, but their lives (particularly Josie's) have been disrupted since his birth. Finn is a successful doctor. He's very good-looking, and also a great father who understands his young son well - but unfortunately he's often too busy to spend time with him. He is frequently late for family events, or finds that can't get to them at the last moment. This makes Josie become resentful which in turn leads to Finn becoming defensive. There's another man in the picture, too. Clarky, Josie's childhood friend, lives nearby and is George's godfather. He's the first person Josie turns to when anything worries her, as he's sympathetic, caring and warm; at times she finds herself comparing Finn with him negatively, wondering if she should have married her best friend rather than the ...

Houseboat (DVD) 22/08/2013


Houseboat (DVD) 'Houseboat' is one of those films I picked up on special offer, probably a 'three for ten pounds' kind of thing on I tend to glance at the synopsis and reviews when browsing special offers, and this one looked interesting enough to go with two other DVDs that we actually wanted. This film was produced in 1958. On the whole my husband and I both tend to prefer modern films to older ones, so it's not something I would necessarily have chosen. On the other hand, even I had heard of Cary Grant and Sophia Loren, who co-star in this film, and it was billed as a light family comedy. Moreover, it was nominated for a couple of Oscars, and won a couple of other awards. When we eventually sat down to watch it, we didn’t have very high expectations… but were prepared to enjoy it. THE STORY The plot features a harassed widower called Tom (Cary Grant) who has three rather riotous children. He was divorced from his wife and had little to do with the children, until he suddenly has to look after them, after his ex-wife’s demise. Her relatives would like to raise (and spoil) them, but he’s determined to take his fatherly duties seriously… however, he has not the slightest idea how to deal with his offspring. He is offered a mobile home by one of his ex-wife’s relatives… only to see it destroyed. And then in 1950s tragi-comedic pseudo-slapstick style, things get worse and worse… This film also features a rich young lady called Cinzia (Sophia Loren) who runs away from home ...

Ani's Raw Food Desserts - Ani Phyo 19/08/2013

Raw Food Desserts for Beginners

Pack Up Your Troubles - Pam Weaver 15/08/2013

Pack Up Your Troubles

Pack Up Your Troubles - Pam Weaver I know one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I think it’s inevitable to some degree. So when browsing the Bookbag shelves of books available for review, this one leapt out at me. It was clearly a women’s fiction book, probably based in the middle of the 20th century, and most likely featuring some young women in the aftermath of the war years. Which is pretty much what the book is about. THE AUTHOR Pam Weaver is quite an accomplished writer who tends to focus on historical fiction, in and around the Worthing area of the UK. This is where she lives, and a place that she clearly loves. She originally trained as a nursery nurse, but in more recent years has written a large number of articles and short stories for magazines, as well as the half dozen or so novels which have been published. THE BOOK Chapter One of ‘Pack up your troubles’ begins on VE Day. Connie - who has been doing war work - and some friends are on their way to Trafalgar Square to celebrate. Connie had hoped her boyfriend would be with her, but he’s stood her up... however she’s determined to enjoy herself anyway. She meets some other girls, and gets chatting to Eva. They find themselves parted from the rest of their group, but have fun anyway, including playing in a fountain with some soldiers... and are caught on camera doing so. Unfortunately, as they discover at the end of the day, they are from families who have sworn enmity and should not even have spoken to each other, let alone become ...

My 300th Review 12/08/2013

Ten questions, Ten years, Three Hundred Reviews...

Reaching for the Invisible God - Philip Yancey 11/08/2013

Reaching for the Invisible God

Reaching for the Invisible God - Philip Yancey THE AUTHOR Philip Yancey is one of my favourite modern Christian writers, whose books I have been reading and enjoying since about the turn of the century. Yancey is an American in his 60s; he grew up in a rigid and uncompromising denomination, which caused him to lose his faith entirely at one point. Trained in journalism, now working as an editor, he has also written several best-selling non-fiction books. Yancey writes with self-deprecating honesty, without being over-religious or assuming that everyone feels the same as he does. He addresses the kinds of questions that Christians (and others) have about God. His early books are perhaps his best-known: ’What’s so amazing about grace?’ and ‘Where is God when it hurts?’ are very thought-provoking indeed, as he attempts to answer the questions in the titles. REACHING FOR THE INVISIBLE GOD I first read 'Reaching for the Invisible God' early in 2005, and re-read it five years later. The subtitle, 'What can we expect to find?' is what the book is about, in a nutshell. How, Yancey asks, can Christians possibly talk about having a personal relationship with somebody we can't see, hear, or touch? This is a query that tends to be avoided by those of us who consider we have such a relationship, and asked with some ridicule by many who don't. So the book focuses on questions such as: How is it that we can 'have a relationship' with someone who is invisible and intangible?’ ’What does it mean to relate anyway?’ ’Can we really ...

The Mummyfesto - Linda Green 09/08/2013

The Mummyfesto

The Mummyfesto - Linda Green THE AUTHOR Linda Green is a British writer in her forties, who has also worked as a journalist. I had not come across her, despite the fact that she has published several novels, until I saw her book ‘The Mummyfesto’ available from the Bookbag site for review. The title was more than enough to tempt me, and Amazon’s blurb sounded intriguing, describing it as being about three mothers who save a school lollipop lady, then decide to stand for the next general election.... THE MAIN CHARACTERS The story is, indeed, about three women, who meet regularly in the school playground, and who have become close friends. Sam has two sons: the sensitive, old-for-his years Zach, who is seven, and the fun-loving five-year-old Oscar. Anna has two teenagers, Will and Charlotte, and a younger daughter called Esme. Jackie just has Alice. Oscar, Esme and Alice are classmates, and good friends; sadly, Oscar suffers from an incurable muscle-wasting disease, and can only move in a wheelchair. Sam and her partner Rob have to use ventilators and other machines just to keep him alive, knowing that any infection could be seriously life-threatening. Jackie works as a teacher at Will and Charlotte’s high school. In odd moments she also has to deal with her mother, who lives alone but is becoming more and more stricken with Alzheimer’s disease, sometimes wandering around the neighbourhood in her nightwear looking for roses to prune. Jackie would dearly love another child, but seems unable to conceive ...

Google Drive 07/08/2013

Driving Into the Cloud with Google

Google Drive AROUND 2003... I still recall a conversation I had with my husband, perhaps ten years ago. One of the major computer companies, he said, wanted everyone to start using online packages rather than buying software to install. At the time, I used my browser for browsing websites, and uploading my own... but I did everything else - word processing, website design, games, even email - off-line. I was shocked at the thought of trusting my documents or photos to ‘the web’, no matter how secure it might be. I could see that this could be an effective way of preventing software piracy, but could not conceive of any reason why I would ever want to do any more online than I currently did. FAST FORWARD FIVE YEARS The rot set in, I suppose, when I started using gmail - Google’s online email service - about five years ago. I had several email addresses, but some of them were attracting too much spam, and one of them stopped working out of the blue when the company went bankrupt. I had to set up a gmail account to use Blogger, so I decided to import all my email to that for a while, as I looked for alternatives... and quickly became enamoured with gmail and its many features, in particular its excellent spam-blocking abilities. GOOGLE DOCS At the time, Google had a fairly basic online word processing application, called Google Docs. I tried it, but it didn’t have all the features I wanted in a word processor. On the other hand, it was a useful place to store text of web pages that I ...

The Horn of Merlyns - Violet Needham 06/08/2013

The Horn of Merlyns - 1940s Children's Adventure

The Horn of Merlyns - Violet Needham THE AUTHOR - VIOLET NEEDHAM My mother was a great fan of Violet Needham. Many people these days have never heard of this writer, but apparently she was quite popular in my mother’s childhood and teens. Her books - nineteen of them in all - were published between 1939 and 1957, and were mostly historical or contemporary children’s fiction. Needham came from quite a wealthy family originally, and lived in society until her family members died, and she suddenly had to support herself. She had always told stories to her nieces and nephews, but her first novel was not published until she was in her sixties. My mother had managed to keep hold of some of her old childhood editions of some of Violet Needham’s books, and to find a few more in charity shops. She was then delighted when the ‘Girls Gone By’ publishers reprinted, in full, a few of her favourites which she had not been able to get hold of previously. While her usual taste in fiction tended towards thrillers and crime, she also loved to re-read her much-loved teenage novels when she wanted something light and undemanding. Despite seeing Violet Needham’s books on my mother’s shelves as far back as I can remember, I never actually read any of them. I’m not entirely sure why as some of the titles were quite intriguing, and I also like books intended for older children from this era. When my mother moved to a rest home earlier this year, I made sure that, among others, her Needham collection was moved too. Sadly she passed ...

The Secret - Beverly Lewis 05/08/2013

Secrets unrevealed, questions unanswered...

The Secret - Beverly Lewis THE AUTHOR I don’t think I had come across Beverly Lewis before. Apparently she’s quite a prolific writer in the American Christian fiction world with around 80 published books. I chose this particular one primarily because it was available free for my Kindle some time ago. I’m not a huge fan of US-style Christian fiction, which can be quite twee and over-religious, but some books in this genre make interesting light reading, and I’ve read a few that are quite moving. I noticed when I downloaded it that this was the first of a trilogy, which is often the reason for a free offer: the writer (or publisher) hopes that readers will want to buy the other two books after reading the first one. At least, I thought it was the first novel of a series... THE SECRET - BACKGROUND ‘The Secret’ is contemporary fiction set in the heart of an Amish community in the US. I can’t say I knew much about the Amish, other than a vague idea of extreme pacifists who go against the grain by rejecting materialism. They don’t own cars or electrical appliances, and dress in very old fashioned ways. Occasionally they hit the news, sometimes in positive ways, sometimes less so. But they are so far away from my own experience of life that I usually forget that they even exist. As it was, I had no idea when I started reading this that it was about an Amish family. It was quite a while since I downloaded the book, and it’s hard to read blurbs on the Kindle. So for the first few chapters I assumed that I ...

My House In Umbria (DVD) 03/08/2013

Idyllic Umbria

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