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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.
The Chernobyl Privileges may seem like an odd title for a novel inspired by the devastating nuclear disaster of the 1980s in Chernobyl. But then, this is by no means an ordinary novel. Set in the present day, Anthony Fahey is lucky to be working at Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde, where Britain's Trident nuclear weapons are kept. His expertise is valued over his complicated personal life and chequered employment history. Anthony's life begins to unravel, following an incident at the naval base. For obvious reasons, due to the nature of the work, he is unable to talk to his wife about the incident, but their marriage is already rocky following the death of her Father, and Anthony having to behave in a secretive manner is not helping. Anthony also believes that he knows better, and is more concerned about the incident than his superiors, so begins to challenge and defy orders, landing him in hot water on more than one occasion. No matter how much Anthony wants to believe that he is not defined by his past, it is inescapable and influences all he does. Back in 1986 Anatolii was just a child living in Ukraine when the nuclear incident took place in Chernobyl. First hand he witnessed the impact of the fallout on the first responders, including his Father. Anatolii didn't much want to leave Ukraine, but he wasn't given a choice, and was enforced into a new life in the UK, and a new identity 'Anthony Fahey'. Anthony believes that he can make a difference in his profession, and prevent something like Chernobyl happening again, but he does not understand that you cannot act against the government. Several chapters are interspersed with letters from Anatolii/Anthony's sister, and these are where we really get a first-hand view of how those still living in Chernobyl have been affected. This is a very thought-provoking novel, for those on both sides of the nuclear weapon/energy argument, and a highly recommended read. Vicky Leigh Sayer, A LoveReading Ambassador
Total madness and a feel of Harry Potter, but for adults this time. Huge cast, a map, street index and comedy I have never come across in a "horror" story before. Set in Yorkshire which I love having lived in West Yorkshire some 20 years ago. So know where the author is coming from. Weird but good characters and well written this author has a great imagination. This is such a romp and oh my goodness this is the third- I urge readers to read all three of these novels and the seaside thrown in as well for good measure. Bizarre but strangely I enjoyed this - hope there is a chance of book 4. I am certainly seeking this author out. Jane Brown, A LoveReading Ambassador
Such a great read oh my goodness this authors first trip and to climb Kilimanjaro was certainly not for the faint hearted most of us would have packed up and gone home but not this determined author and all in the name of charity. Then years later the author and this time with his wife walking with lions, in search of Rhinos, beautiful scenery and the dreaded mountain to climb! and will they climb this? It is an interesting read, fascinating accounts of Africa (I've never been but just loved the descriptions, the wildlife and culture) I take my hat off to him not sure if I would follow in his footsteps but has given me a great read on my holiday. This author writes a good story and keeps the reader on their toes. This author has written a number of books of his adventures and I will certainly be following him and catching up on what I have been missing. Jane Brown, A LoveReading Ambassador
This is one of the best books that I have read in a long time. For sci-fi, thriller, adventure, futuristic the list of genres that can be applied to this novel is first class. It is similar in style to George Orwell's '1984', only this novel is more terrifying for those living in forty year's time in 2059. More aspects of the United Kingdom's citizens' lives are under Government control and society as we know it today is falling dangerously apart. The storyline follows the life of one such citizen, Toli, of the mishaps that befall her, how to deal with these with what little resources she has whist living in a soon to be dystopian society where friendship and family have all but disappeared, with survival of the fittest being the norm status of society. The black side of society is always present, always with her and the author's descriptive style of writing leaves the reader very glad that he/she is living at the present time and not in the future where life is cheap, death is common and anything goes. The storyline is excellent giving the reader the feeling of actually being part of the story, and book itself, apart from being a constant page turner from beginning to end, sets itself apart from similar books in that the book itself should be read in order to fully appreciate the story as it unfolds. If you only buy one book or read one book this year, then this is definitely the one to go for as it is a gripping definitely must read book. Catherine Bryce, A LoveReading Ambassador
"Request: If you enjoyed this book please don't keep it a secret." The above is written by the Author on the last page of the book and this is one book that shouldn't be kept a secret! It has to be one of the funniest books that I have read in a long time. The humour and the style of writing allows the reader to think that this only happened in London last week that someone had won the Globobillions Lottery but no-one has come forward to claim the prize. Rumours abound straight away. Leo Morphetus is an addicted entrepreneur, always trying new ways to make a living. His latest being his Barista tricycle and himself selling coffees on the move. He has separated from his wife Helen and Amy his daughter. He stopped buying lottery tickets ages ago but the local shopkeeper and his wife are certain that he had bought a ticket and from them. The rumours start by them and soon the media is involved. Throughout the whole book Donna the newspaper reporter never gives up trying to uncover who won the ticket in order to get her big story. Events reach the stage where everyone is sure that Leo has won and he and his friend Vince decide to pretend that they have. Helen has a boyfriend Tony who now decides to blackmail Helen now he thinks Leo has actually won. Leo has promised to pay Poppy, a child with cancer, to go to the USA for treatment. The bank manager, desperate for a 'rich client', credits cash ignoring all rules and protocols into a joint account for Leo and Vince whereupon they go and lead the high life - especially Vince and his love for clothes - top hotels are booked and as the managers of the hotels think Leo is the winner, all bills are written off. Begging letters start, Leo's father in law who doesn't like him now is trying to push himself up the Council ladder by asking Leo to donate funds to his various projects, TV are now interested but read the book as there is more. The real winner happens to be a Muslim lady who can't accept the cash because of her beliefs, but wants to send her two daughters to university and despite taking advice form a Muslim lady counsellor she is not further forward with what she can do with the money as her culture does not allow gambling or to spend winnings. When Leo and Vince are at the stage where they have to confess, things work out in an unusual way and I won't say how or why as this is the best part of the book. The author has written one of those brilliant books that tend to come along from time to time and as stated at the top of this review I am not keeping it a secret. Read it you won't be disappointed! Catherine Bryce, 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
The Alphabet of Heart’s Desire is a beautifully written historical fiction novel loosely based on Thomas De Quincy’s early life. English essayist Thomas de Quincy (most famous for “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater”) is the first protagonist that we meet, some years after most of the novel’s narrative takes place. The story is told to us in alternating chapters told by Thomas, Anne and Tuah. Thomas we are familiar with; Anne, is a young girl when we meet her. Forced by life, bad luck and circumstance into a life of prostitution. Tuah, is a young orphaned boy when we meet him. Taken from his home by Dutch slave traders and bought onto a ship bound for the UK. Tuah is sold to the ships captain who takes him under his wing and teaches him English until they arrive in the U.K. Thomas after a troubled early life finds himself on the streets of a London as a young man. He has no idea of how the real world operates having been bought up relatively comfortably. You might ask what connects these characters. Well it’s not at all clear at first, but as the narrative progresses we begin to see how they are unquestionably linked. Thomas falls upon hard times when he arrives in London, abandoned by his family, he is discovered by Anne on the street following an altercation with some men of less than desirable character. They are strangers to each other, of different worlds but drawn together by a need for companionship and laudanum … and that’s where the real story begins. The Alphabet of Heart’s Desire is highly recommended for any historical fiction fan. Vicky-Leigh Sayer, A LoveReaidng Ambassador
Lauren Patterson, an American PhD student, makes a remarkable discovery and accidently finds the diaries of Leonardo da Vinci's assistant. Paulo del Rossi's diaries then lead us through love stories, drama, blackmail, murder and the aftermath of monumental deception. The modern day quest to uncover the historical truths are fantastically interesting. Immersive and intriguing, Paulo del Rossi and Lauren guide us through the Renaissance in Florence to Nazi Germany and into the local Costa coffee shop with ease. We even discover the secret of Mona Lisa's smile and follow a tender love story that spans across the years. A fantastic read. Nikki Telling, A LoveReading Ambassador
'Operation Sustainable Human' by Chris Macdonald is a frightening, frank and forceful description of the state of our planet but the author does offer hope if only we would all take action now. The book examines in turn the four main culprits which have caused our present dire predicament, namely our methods of food production, our penchant for travel, our throwaway society and the unholy alliance between politics and big business. It then goes on to recommend four actions we can all take to counteract each of these. We should adopt a much more plant-based diet, avoid fossil fuel powered modes of travel whenever possible, buy less 'stuff' and vote more responsibly. None of these is easy but we have to stop thinking that it makes no difference what any single person does...if enough people do it, it does make a difference. This book comes at a time when it seems that our young people are growing increasingly disillusioned with the progress towards halting climate change being made by their elders. The recent global climate strike will hopefully make more people in positions of power sit up and take notice and do something as time is rapidly running out. Chris Macdonald's book is cogent, concise and compelling. It should be compulsory reading for every person in every country, especially a certain president I don't need to name. I would urge anyone who loves Planet Earth to buy a copy and spread the ideas it contains because, to quote the author, there is no Planet B. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador Available on Amazon
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
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
This book is a collection of five short stories, each very different but with central theme of all of them desire and how it manifests itself in different ways. Each story is set in a different location and range in time from pre-second World War to the present day. Although I enjoyed all of the stories, there were a couple that stood out to me and I would have liked these to continue, so I could find out more about the characters and what they did next. Overall, this is a really enjoyable book and is nice and easy to dip in and out of, by reading a story at a time. I would really recommend this book. Nicola Coen, A LoveReading Ambassador