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The scene is set immediately when the reader finds themselves on Everest, hearing accounts of an historic expedition. Strange Karma centres around two jewels found during this expedition and the secrets that are connected to them. The narrative follows the events of the past and modern day, as Cynthia Graham tries to learn more about the mysterious and dramatic events that took place on her great grandfather’s trip in 1924. I loved the description of the settings, I love being in the mountains myself and the imagery used drew me right into the story from the outset. The locations and details of the expeditions I think give this book appeal for readers of adventures. Amongst the beautiful and harsh backdrop the suspense builds as Cynthia and her guide Dorje try to solve the mysteries she’s uncovered. I like how the story developed, with tension weaved into the plot. Strange Karma reminded me a bit of The Moonstone, that idea of the mystery being centred around a cursed stone. I also felt that there was a classical feel to the writing throughout and I think that helped balance the events of the past and the present throughout the book. Overall I really enjoyed this story and I think that it is a great one for mystery fans.
In 'Single, Again, and Again, and Again...What Do You Do When Life Doesn't Go to Plan' Louisa Pateman eloquently describes her experiences in the dating jungle of the 90s and noughties and goes on, when her 'happy ever after' still doesn't happen, to explain how she eventually resolved her issues and found that the mould, formed for her by her upbringing, was not set in stone and could be broken. The first part of the book resonated a lot with me, as I was also playing the dating game at this time, the only difference being that I had already been married and had a family. I recognised many of the male types that she dated, having had some similar encounters, some funny, some heart-breaking or, on occasion, just plain boring! The second part moves on to the digital age, which I was not familiar with personally, but which didn't prove to be any more successful for the author in finding 'the right one'. Much more importantly though, the end of the noughties heralded a shift in society's view of the status of women and the expectations and acceptance of what constitutes a 'family'. The author could at last abandon her 'life plan' and fulfil her lifelong ambition to be a mother. This is an uplifting book, that debunks the myth of the happy couple ending, perpetuated in literature and the film and TV industry. There's a long way to go yet, as the #MeToo movement shows but, in the author's own words 'Imagine how much happier and freer young women would feel if they had a deeply embedded notion of choice, of carving out their own unique path...that you don't need to wait for your Prince Charming, that you can create an extraordinary life just on your own'. Drena Irish, 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.
Constant Tides is a really lovely story spanning several generations and set in Messina, Sicily. This book is split into three different stories, and from three different periods in history the author weaves together a tapestry of relationship stories with a common essence. The story of Lilla and Enzo is set during and in the immediate aftermath of the 1908 earthquake. Mira and Nicolas’ story is told with the backdrop of WWII, Mussolini leadership and German occupation. Antonio and Caterina’s modern story helps to bring events full circle and shows “When families are close, there is no one closer”. Throughout there is also a collection of equally endearing, interesting and colourful supporting characters. I really enjoyed this book, although by Book 3 I had created myself a little family tree to work out whether Caterina and Antonio were related, or whether they would receive the happy ending I was hoping for. While also being a delightful relationship tale, this book also does a very good job of being a travel brochure for Sicily. The descriptions of the places and the peoples of Ganzirri and Messina were charming and inviting. I feel like I’ve had a little holiday while reading. I don’t want to go into any more detail about the plot. I thoroughly enjoy waiting to see what each outcome would be and where each story would take us, and I would want everyone else that reads this book to enjoy Constant Tides without discovering anything in advance. I think this is a lovely book with real heart and I would recommend it.
Imagine Monty Python meets Terry Pratchett and you'll have an idea of what to expect from 'The Haddock Flies at Midnight'. Keven Shevels, previously known for his walking and fell running guides to the north west of England, has given us a real comedic treat for these dark days. The tone is set from the first page of the first chapter when the main character, Ivor Dogsbreath, conducts a conversation with the 'Arthur', who makes it abundantly clear that what he writes goes and he will write anything for a laugh. The reader can sit back and wait for his giant foot to descend and cause mayhem and humiliation to his 'hero'. Ivor is a clerk in the housing department of his town's local council and, as such, is roped in to help the local police and two MI5 information gatherers, who suspect there's a threat to security in the area. We are then introduced to a group of six Muslims, living in a council house in the same town. Their first problem to overcome is that caused by the fact that they are all called Mohammed, except for Justin. Their second is where to get the supplies they so desperately need. Equally desperate are the members of the North Yorkshire and South Durham Brotherhood of Satanists and Associated Followers of Beelzebub. Where are they going to find a virgin for their next human sacrifice in this town? And then there's Jedidiah Makepeace the Third, leader of the Church of Righteous Souls, on a mission from America to restore the faith in the town to it's former greatness. This mainly involves waging war on the local LGBT community, who meet in The Lace Bridle. Their sermonising falling on deaf ears, they are determined to get hold of guns to replace those confiscated from them at the airport to make people listen. The person all these groups turn to to provide for their needs is Cyril Edgington-Smythe and the story then proceeds to descend into glorious chaos, culminating in the 'Battle of Edwin's Bottom', where all the 'customers' turn up together to collect their spoils, watched by the SAS and Immigration officials, not to mention two owls. This is a totally irreverent, utterly ridiculous, completely hilarious laugh out loud 'hoot' of a book that I can't recommend enough. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
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.
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