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Loss, recovery and pervasive secrets from the past - this engrossing saga tells the page-turning tale of an unforgettable Jamaican woman from WW1 to 1950. From the author of White Feathers, Susan Lanigan’s Lucia’s War is an absorbing, twisting, historical saga about the memorable Lucia Percival who came to Britain from Jamaica and worked as a nurse during WW1 before becoming a celebrated opera singer. Lucia’s lively, sharp-witted narrative undulates and unfolds at spellbinding speed - coloratura style, to use an operatic term - as she relates her story to a music critic as she’s set to give her last performance in 1950. It’s impossible not to feel invested in Lucia’s life as the tale darts back and forth from her working in the Voluntary Aid Detachment in France in 1916, to her striving to live as a musician in London on returning from war, to her later trials, all the while living in the tight grasp of her past. Recalling her father’s words towards the end of the novel, Lucia notes, “The trouble with you, Lucia, is that you can do anything.’ Turned out my father was right, just not in the way he meant. I was capable of doing anything.” This facet of her character chimes throughout the novel, as does her connection to the gruff Scottish surgeon she encountered in France: “You come all the way from the West Indies to England on your own…I’ve never met anyone like you in all my damn life.” These words ring true, for Lucia is a one-of-a-kind woman, driven by a longing to mother the son who was taken from her, a longing that sees her agree to a plan concocted by old Lillian (“The Witch”), a woman similarly scarred by loss, and damaged by war. Revealing the contribution Caribbean commonwealth citizens made to Britain during WWI, and touching on the Spanish flu epidemic, at its heart this is the powerful story of a black woman in a white man’s world; a personal account of the ravages of war; the story of a woman torn. In Lucia’s words, “The two parts of me – musician versus mother, public versus private – were separating out so rapidly and so completely there seemed to be no way of reconciling the two.” While I wondered what impact the novel might have if it followed a strict chronological structure, it’s gripping stuff, and the final twist is likely to catch readers off-guard, hungry to know how the next acts of Lucia’s extraordinary life play out.
How Can I Stop Worrying? contains a concise 5-step process to help the reader worry less. Using their own experiences of finding and applying stress management techniques over the years, the steps depicted in the book are ones that they use to overcome the stress associated with everyday life. At the end of each chapter, there’s a summary of the key points discussed that I think would be really useful, especially if you take a break between chapters. Not only is each chapter simply, concisely named, but there are also headings throughout to break up the information and everything is written in a clear, conversational style. The five-step process demonstrates what the author does when worry strikes. The techniques try to help the reader form the habit of thinking more positively about a situation, thereby reducing the levels of stress and worry in their everyday life. Later in the book, the technique is also applied to letting go of the past and building self-confidence which I thought were useful applications. This is a very insightful book, and the author shares personal insight and examples of how the techniques she adopts worked for her. I think that How Can I Stop Worrying? is a nice example of someone pulling all of their years of research together in order to help other people. As is clearly stated in the book, I wouldn’t mistake it for medical advice. I would describe this book as a single experience shared, that can be related to and perhaps learnt from.
Wow, what a story! Roses down the Barrel of a Gun is an incredible memoir of one British woman’s experience working and living in a tumultuous Georgia. I have learned so much about this country, its culture and its history by reading this wonderful book and the author’s love of Georgia really shined through as I read. This book manages to convey the warmth and welcoming nature of the people Jo met as well as more difficult living and working conditions as Jo arrived at the British Council in Tbilisi. As well as giving insight into life before, during and after the Rose Revolution in 2003, which I found incredibly interesting in itself, the author manages to include a more personal narrative filled with the difficulties of transferring to an overseas role, the culture and warmth of the new country and the development of new friendships and relationships. I like the descriptions of the meals, and the toasting and felt as though I had a seat at the table as I read. In addition to not knowing much about Georgia, I’m also unfamiliar with the work carried out by foreign embassies and initiatives like the British Council. I enjoyed finding out about the exhibitions and performances and I think that this book highlights the vital importance of the arts to society. Roses Down the Barrel of a Gun is a fascinating insight into a country that I knew little about and I highly recommend this book.
Unlikely Return is an effortlessly stirring expression of the complexities of human relationships. It is told against the backdrop of an unlikely, yet equally damning tragedy that befalls five men, whilst aboard a sport-fishing vessel. Captain Jack, his petulant assistant Tony and three other passengers; Paul, Ben and Stuart all board the Princess Rose, for a weekend away of fishing and as a means of escape from the woes of their everyday lives. Each of these men carry the burdens of estranged relationships and emotional trauma, which a shared life-altering experience at sea, will force them to confront and forever change them. This book is extremely cognizant of human emotion and how one's sense of self is deeply influenced by one's formative years. It stirs empathy within the reader and explores a wealth of different perspectives that make for fantastic characterisation. Unlikely Return is an insightful slow-burner of a book which I relished sinking my teeth into! Lois Cudjoe, A LoveReading Ambassador
Also Available on Kindle. The Inconvenient Need to Belong introduces us to Alfie, an old man with no visitors, living in a care home. To combat his loneliness, he sneaks out to the local park every Saturday to feed the ducks, where he meets Fred a young boy, to whom Alfie tells his life story in order to impart some wisdom. This book really reminded me of books like Three Things About Elsie and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. I liked that the story also focuses on Julia, a nurse at the care home who wants to learn more about this rather grumpy old man. I thought that this was a heartwarming story about getting old, life and grief. Using the young Fred as a way to convey imparting wisdom to the next generation, is a brilliant idea and like in life, it’s just whether the younger generations as willing to listen. I would recommend this book to anyone who loved either the books that I have mentioned or the contemporary family saga stories that are similar on the market. A lovely read to curl up with and enjoy.
A Simple Life: A Snatch in Time surprised me. Paul Williams has a simple life, he lives on a boat, the Sandpiper, and works at the local college in order to be closer to his son. A cumulation of events (the prospect of reducing visitation access to his son and a bad classroom experience threatening his job), lead him to consider a life of smuggling when two local criminals proposition him. I thought to begin with that Paul was a bit of an unreliable narrator, his ex-wife and himself reference moments of an overactive imagination, so I did wonder throughout whether the “gangsters” in a small-ish town and the two love interests appearing on the scene in quite a quick succession were all figments of Paul’s imagination. The introduction of the 2039 epilogue timeline heightened my interest and fueled some of my suspicions about Paul’s unreliability. I was curious to find out the outcome of this book. But how wrong I was! I finished A Simple Life in one sitting and the end surprised me. I’m not going to spoil anything, but by the final page, I had reframed my perspective of the book. As I finished reading, I considered it a story of a man left vulnerable by a number of situations, which is exploited for someone else's gain. I write this in regard to the Jan and Gunton but realise this could also be applied to a number of the secondary characters in the book. As the introduction mentioned that Paul was mild-mannered and his equally mild-mannered lawyer left him paying out a significant amount after his divorce to his ex-wife. The ending gives a poignancy to the entire book and I would really recommend it to anyone looking for a shorter read, based around a moral dilemma. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
A really inspirational thought-provoking book. Whilst this is not a self-help book as such, each chapter poses a question that reveals a little bit more about the author and also gets you asking the same question and promotes self-reflection and self-awareness but not in the typical way that books of this kind normally do. Written with a feeling of part journal/part travel diary the author mixes the two topics really well and got me thinking about the metaphor of travelling as a journey much like the life journey. Travelling by not only means of escaping but actually travelling has enabled the author to become more independent, grow, change, learn, make mistakes and enabled self-reflection, developed intrinsic values and deepened self-confidence. The book does not seek out to offer solutions but does so in the way of asking questions and through worked examples of what has helped CJ get through some of her toughest times. An extremely difficult and complex childhood traumatic event is described and the strength of character and honesty surrounding the conflicting emotions at the time evokes a sense of inspiration. I am glad I read the book, it gave me things to think about and a longing to travel. CJ Lacsican- I am celebrating your win. Sam Lewis, A LoveReading Ambassador
'Downtime Shift' is an intriguing, complex and chilling work of science fiction by Robert Holding. Set in the twenty-first and twenty-ninth centuries, it paints a frightening picture of a future in which mankind is totally controlled by artificial intelligence. Evelyn, the main character, is a 'Shifty', that is someone who has been trained to survive and carry out tasks for the 'EYE' when travelling 800 years into the planet's past to alter its future for the better. Questioning these tasks, Evelyn returns to her own time to find that many of the remaining population want to take back control of their lives but that the 'EYE' also has more forces under her control than had been reckoned with. This is a very challenging read on many levels and so plausible in general that it is truly terrifying. The characters are well-defined and the plot fast-paced. The author does leave us with a light at the end of a horrendously turbulent tunnel. I would certainly recommend this book, especially to anyone feeling disillusioned with the way modern life seems to be heading. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
I found this to be a gripping story, it did put me in mind of Daphne Du Maurier. Once started it was hard to put down, the friendship between Stella and Lilly was a strong one, until the day that male nurse Will arrives. But Will is not quite what he seems, and though Stella tries to tell her, Lilly who is under his spell won't hear a thing about him, after all, they are just rumours, right? Towards the vanishing point is a tale of love, friendship, and betrayal A book for all fans of mystery, with a slight gothic overtone. Angela Rhodes, A LoveReading Ambassador
This was an interesting slant on World War 1 and focused on two British captains. Normally we read either accounts of battalions and individual soldiers in some of the famous battles. This story was quite different. Captain Quinn is the new intelligence officer for the 10th (Service) Battalion in France. He’s in temporary charge of the C Company manning the front line in Captain Cody’s absence. Captain Quinn's style of military management is different and the man is downright arrogant. He wants Captain Cody's company and sets about this in a ruthless and devious way, delving into Cody's private life. It is clear on Cody's return to the Front that Quinn has turned things and soldiers around to his thinking he begins to distrust. But Cody is a loose cannon. It is World War 1 and the storyline alone is shocking but the author skillfully throws some extra shockers in as the reader wonders who will survive. I found this book well-written and it offers a different slant on the horrors of the great war. Jane Brown, A LoveReading Ambassador
England lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966 was controversial then and remains so to this day. In 'Fixing Sixty-six' Tim Flower debunks some of the myths surrounding our 'greatest sporting achievement' so successfully that it is at times hard to remember this is a work of fiction, albeit firmly rooted in fact. The story is mainly narrated by Harry Miller, a Liverpudlian sports journalist, working for 'The Daily Mirror'. In 1966 he was recruited by Ludovic Forsyth, the personal assistant to the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, to Operation Jules Britannia. This project's aim was nothing less than to ensure England won the World Cup to avert attention from the Labour government's inadequacies and mismanagement of the nation's economy and was to be achieved by manipulating the media, the match venues and game officials. Fast forward 50 years and Harry, now terminally ill, has no more fear of the official secrets document he signed at the time and decides to sell his story to the press. The author has captured the feel of the 60s very well. He takes us back to a time when a married woman was expected to stay home and busy herself with childcare, cooking and cleaning, as anything else was seen as an insult to her husband, implying he didn't earn enough to support his family. This may have changed drastically now but little else the book refers to has. The 'power, privilege and complacency' of the gentlemen's club, the nations 'superior' attitude to the EU and foreigners in general, the corruption within FIFA, the 'freedom' of the press and the unholy alliance between politics and big business are all much as they were and parallels are easy to see with the present day. This is a fascinating tale, all the more so knowing how much contemporary evidence supports its revelations and even someone not in the least bit interested in 'the beautiful game' will appreciate the skill of the storytelling. A thoroughly good read! Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
An Ode to the NHS. The twisting and turning story of Henry's sciatica treatment. a non-fiction account of both private and public healthcare covering any and all aspects of Henry's illness including being temporarily paralysed, the characters on the wards, spinal surgery and recovery, addiction to pain medication and his treatment by the doctors nurses and physiotherapists throughout. This is a story of hope as well as a letter of gratitude. As someone who has grown up with parents working in the NHS, the work patterns and experiences of the staff were familiar to me. I also found this a very insightful read, it is not only about Henry's diagnosis and treatment, but about how desperately we need the NHS to keep going, and how much the human mind and body can endure. The characters described throughout keep you interested in their treatment as well as Henry's and provide light relief during darker periods of his journey. They act as a balm to the reader as well as the writer while describing the weeks and months of constant pain, worry, doubt and depression that would have otherwise been all-encompassing. A brilliant book full of the ups and downs of a long term and life-changing illness, made even more endearing that 50% of the proceeds go to the charity that supports the NHS hospital so frequently mentioned throughout. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Available on Amazon Complete Darkness is an action-packed science-fiction explosion. At 111 pages, though it is small, it is mighty. Following the story of Cleric20 and his sidekick GiX who perhaps unwittingly must defeat the satanic President of the World. The writing in this book flows very well and I thought the world-building was really strong. I enjoyed spotting the modern culture references throughout such as the Lloyd Weber Museum, and the integration of landmarks such as Westminster Cathedral and Tower Bridge. I think this really helped to create an “our world but not as we know it” feel that invites the reader into the futuristic setting and helps to make everything more believable. I also liked the concept of the futuristic world being built on top of the old world, it reminded me of the sunken streets below Edinburgh and reflects the building practices already used but adapted and made more futuristic. This book also deals with Armageddon, good, evil, God and the Devil but the subject is addressed in a way that I found innovative and easy to enjoy regardless of religious inclination. I thought this was a well-written book that, although it has a comic book/action hero vibe, is definitely targeted at a more mature audience, with the odd graphic moment and use of black humour. I would recommend this to science fiction and fantasy fans.
This expansive, engaging pancontinental novel explores patriarchy, race and power against a dazzlingly evoked Ghanaian backdrop. The cross-crossing lives of two characters provide the focus of the story, with Ghana looming large as a vividly-evoked character in its own right. Fifty-something Carlos is a privileged Puerto Rican businessman who returns to Ghana to face his crimes of youth, a murderous misdemeanor that’s haunted his whole life. Liz is a Ghanaian native working in the US, from where she’s been supporting her family and building an orphanage. She returns to her homeland to oversee the construction, and finds herself also having to deal with her family’s complex needs. Both drawn back to Ghana, Liz and Carlos find their lives once again transformed by the country that transformed them so many years before, and by encountering each other. Evocative and smartly-plotted, this fine novel is as driven by its compelling characters as it is by the omnipresence of Ghana’s rich culture. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading Ambassador
Wow. This is an amazing tale packed with drama on and off the stage. a circular tale of Colonel Tearwood's American Theatre Company. A plot filled with love, loss, anger, jealousy and drama, that I don't think I can sing the praises of enough! How Beautiful They Were is incredibly well-written and drew me in from Jeremiah's introduction to the spectacular candlelit finale. It reminded me quite a lot of The Phantom of the Opera - the idea that life reflects art with secrets, betrayals and deaths happening in the world around the theatre. I thought the setting in 1850s America and the side story / undertone of racism was poignant and very well handled. I've loved following the story of John James Beaufort, my heart broke along with his in the early stages and I was fascinated to see what would become of him on his voyage to America. The adaptations of notable works into plays that reflected their life and surroundings in America and as a way to expose crimes and tell each character's stories was marvellous and when Wuthering Heights was mentioned I couldn't wait to see how it was interpreted. La piece bien faite indeed! Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador