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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.
Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller in 18th century Norwich. He also does a bit of amateur sleuthing as a side hustle, and if he has any spare time left after those two pursuits, he is also something of a womaniser. When Foxe finds himself trying to solve three murders at once, one of them apparently linked to a book he has been asked to source for a client, there is little time for his other interests, and he is led through a tangled web of privilege, poverty, deceit and crime. A very readable and enjoyable book which successfully highlighted the vast differences in living standards, expectations, rights and morals of the different classes in 1760s society. Foxe himself comes across as a charming and likeable man who does his best to straddle the “uncrossable” class boundaries making him popular with men and women, rich and poor. The book ends with his love life about to enter a very unconventional (for the era) phase, which already threatens to have added complications, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series to see how he handles it. Jane Willis, A LoveReading Ambassador
Revealing the beautiful romance between a couple who went on to be married for 58 years alongside fascinating social history, this anthology of letters - enhanced with dozens of photos and detailed footnotes - is an enthralling delight. Ronnie and Hilda met in 1945 when he was home on leave from Italy after fighting in some of the most brutal battles of WW2. Though they came from different backgrounds – Ronnie’s much tougher then Hilda’s more secure, carefree upbringing - there was a spark between them and they were engaged only ten days after meeting, before Ronnie returned to his duties. Through the letters that grace the pages of this elegantly executed book, we’re offered a window into how they came to know one another, with an abundance of sweetness laced through all their correspondence, such as when Ronnie remarks early on, “By the way, I’ve got a lovely cold. I’m really enjoying my eyes watering because I caught it off you!” Hilda and Ronnie’s letters lay bare their personal love story, and provide unique insights into the social history of life for post-war Britons, both at home and overseas. Ronnie shares his experience of attending the trials of SS soldiers and witnessing firing squads, while also expressing a longing to see Hilda in her “new dress, deep red cherry”, while Hilda tells of comings and goings at home, sharing ideas and plans for their much-anticipated wedding. Framed by family history and details of the couple’s later life, this is a radiant read from start to finish. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading Ambassador
Berlin in 1960 is a city that is very much still trying to cope with the after-effects of World War II and the subsequent division between East and West. Among those trying to pick up the pieces are Angelika and Christian, a brother and sister whose childhood was torn apart by Russian soldiers, and Max, Bastian and Ottilie, police officers who are investigating a series of brutal murders. I found this book to be really gripping and moving on many levels. The murder scenes were very gruesome, which is not always to my taste, but as the story unfolds and the reason behind the vicious way the victims are treated becomes clear, I began to understand why the murderers felt it important for the victims to die that way. Although it was clear from the outset who the murderers were, this didn’t detract from the enjoyment at all – the story was a great interplay between hunter and hunted and brought to light the fact that there is both good and bad in everyone and that sometimes very good people do very bad things that they perceive to be fully justified. The characters were well developed; people who I came to like and to want to know more about, so I hope there will be more books in this series. Issues such as the everyday sexism faced by Ottilie, the ethics of co-workers forming relationships, vagrancy, and the moral issues involved when a crime is committed but even the prosecution sympathises with the actions of the criminal are all sensitively dealt with. Finally, one small touch that I really liked was the technique of giving each chapter a title that was a brief but relevant quotation from Shakespeare. Jane Willis, 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
Available on Kindle I love reading about ‘off the beaten track’ places that are not on the main tourist trails. This fascinating book did not disappoint. The author’s style of writing so vividly depicts the places he visits that you really do feel immersed in West Africa. I particularly liked the accounts of interactions with the locals. It must have taken a lot of courage to do such a trip solo but the author clearly has the ability to interact positively with all sorts of people. I knew very little about these countries and now that I know more I would like to visit them, thanks to this fascinating book. Susan Wallace, A LoveReading Ambassador
This is an unusual take on Christmas but so very good with hints of the future. Children no longer want the traditional toys and it seems video games are all they ask for so Santa and his elves have no work and then Santa finds a way to keep the workshop alive but it definitely isn't for the children. Back in the 'normal' world Dallas Stone a cop who 'did things his own way' has been allocated a partner much to his disdain but Joel is new out of university and is very much a rules guy, saying they would clash is an understatement but when they get information about Santa's little operation they have to investigate. What follows is such a great ride that I was rushing to see how it would end and in between, it held some funny parts and some poignant parts but all in all it was a good book. Well worth a read. I love David Blake's Space Police books and this reminded me of them. Carol Peace, A LoveReading Ambassador
'The Richness' by Stephen Driscoll is a powerful indictment of racism in all it's forms, wrapped up in a tale of love, cruelty and suffering that spans five centuries and three continents. It is well written, meticulously researched and chillingly relevant to the present-day crisis. The book comes in three parts. The first follows three young Irishmen, brothers John and Conor O'Driscoll and their cousin, Patrick O'Mahoney, who left Ireland in the early 17th century, each for a different reason and with a varying degree of compliance. We track the men and their fortunes until their deaths, with two of them eventually reuniting briefly in the West Indies. This section was full of historical surprises for me and was thoroughly readable, exciting and heart-wrenching as well as informative. The second section outlines the social and political issues of the Caribbean and Ireland, the inequalities and historical attitudes which have led to the existence of everything that is unfair and unacceptable in today's world. It's written with a great deal of passion and background knowledge. Finally, we are brought almost to the present day, when two strangers meet at a series of lectures and discover that they have more than physical attraction in common. This is where the title of the book comes into it's own, as the author demonstrates that none, absolutely none, of us would be who we are now, were it not for the variety in our heritage and the part that all races and religions have played in the past. We are human beings, first and foremost, and no-one has cause or reason to believe they are superior to any other in any way. A thoroughly fascinating read, highly recommended Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Wow! For the Love of Alison had me hooked from the very first chapter on and it just kept giving. The main character, David, a journalist, gets an unexpected phone call one day to meet his university friend Alison after not having seen her for about 30 years. He jumps at the chance as he used to be obsessed with her in the past to the extent that he had to be hospitalized in a mental institution for a while. The meeting will change his life forever and get him accused of a crime for which there is apparently only one possible perpetrator - himself. Has he gone insane or is there another explanation for the events that occurred? I absolutely loved the depiction of David's character: he clearly struggles with mental issues, but that doesn't stop him - he never gives up, taking anything in his stride that life throws at him. There are twists and turns wherever you look in this book and as I reader I was really rooting for David. The feel of it reminded me a bit of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. It felt life-affirming, sweet and made me feel good. A wonderful read! You know you are onto something fantastic when you feel sad upon reaching the last page! Alexandra Williams, A LoveReading Ambassador
The Secret Resort of Nostalgia is a modern-day classic, beautifully written, engaging and thought-provoking. Mike Denning gets offered the opportunity of a lifetime, a job on the remote island of Nostalgia, where he discovers a thriving community without crime, cars or any of the negative aspects of modern society, he even has a gorgeous colleague who he is getting very attached to. But is all really as it seems? Why are there security fences in parts of the island? Mike is on a quest to find out more. What a special book: it’s far from only being a mystery novel, as it touches on so many philosophical and environmental aspects as well, but always in a thoroughly approachable and entertaining way. Sahlan Diver’s talent for writing is phenomenal, his characters jump off the pages and his descriptions are so vivid that you can picture yourself in the landscapes. Gripping from the first to the last page! Alexandra Williams, A LoveReading Ambassador
An interesting and thought-provoking memoir based on Ruth Hartley’s escape to London, and the ordeal she went through to get here in the early 1960’s while pregnant with her first born. I’m not one to get emotional over books but this is one of those rare occasions where I went through a whole roller-coaster of emotions, ranging from Sadness to happiness to even angry about some of the attitudes that people had in the early 60’s. I know some of these prejudices and stigmas still exist to this day but these day’s people and even communities are learning to accept it a little better. This was a very well written memoir, which I found easy to read. I managed to race through this book quite quickly. In fact I finished it in 2 sittings. This was due to the fact that I just wanted to keep reading to find out what happens next. Overall a very enjoyable read. I haven’t read Ruth’s other books but I will definitely be adding them to my TBR list. I highly recommend this book, especially if enjoy reading memoirs and your looking for a memorable read. Manisha Natha, A LoveReading Ambassador
I'm sure I won't be the only person to open this book and feel that it's about being noisy and outgoing. The title is slightly misleading. I have read a few self-help books in the months since my husband died. I quickly warmed to this book when the author suggested becoming creative as I have found this advice so helpful and so true. The book is written with common sense and in an easy to read style. I particularly liked the format of Masterclass chapters with things to consider at the end of each one. It was interesting to read the author's own experiences. Live Out Loud gives you a lot to think about and plenty of suggestions to put into practice and is a very useful addition to this genre of books. Christine Waddington, A LoveReading Ambassador
An exciting thriller with a lot of surprises. I wasn’t expecting this crime thriller to be as good as it was, especially taking into account that Robin Driscoll is more well known as being the writer for Mr. Bean. The Unborn, his first novel in the Josie King Detective series, is a relatively short novel and only took me a day to read once I had started it. It is a real page-turner. The title, The Unborn relates to embryos and foeti that are aborted. The crime thriller deals with a religious fanatical group, Nondum Natus, who regard the termination of a pregnancy to be a horrendous sin. Early on in the book, Josie King, the main character, a police detective, fails to shoot someone who is about to kill her father, a police commissioner. This leads her on the path to vengeance and to attempt to solve a case her father had previously been obsessed with, to do with the Nondum Natus. Josie is a strong, determined, fearless character. Sometimes she appears almost a bit too much so to be real. Her character appears to be almost unstoppable. All in all, The Unborn has a fast-paced plot and a multitude of twists and turns to keep the reader on his or her feet. Great book which I would definitely recommend. Rachel Anderson