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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.
I have been waiting to read this book for a long time, so long that I almost wrote it myself. Thank you Michael Tappenden for saving me the trouble and thank you A Long Dark Rainbow for being a far better read than I could ever have made of it. This is the story of Samantha and Alex, two septuagenarians, who meet each other again by chance after forty-odd years and realise that things could have been a lot different in their lives. Both very damaged by their previous relationships, they contemplate trying again though with serious concerns about the practicalities and fears surrounding self-image, physical capabilities and emotional adaptability. It follows their journey as they define, explore and finally, with mutual support, openness and honesty, expand their boundaries, building a healing and fulfilling relationship. The writing is explicit without being gratuitous or offensive and displays a genuine understanding of how important and difficult personal interactions are at any age but that, with advancing years, there are added dimensions that younger people might not necessarily appreciate. The author chose a quote from the Talmud to preface his work, which sets the tone completely and is very moving. 'For the unlearned, old age is winter. For the learned, it is the season of the harvest'. Readers of a mature age will find much here that will resonate and maybe inspire, whilst younger generations will hopefully see their elders in a different light. An enthralling read, thoroughly recommended. Drena Irish, 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
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
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
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
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
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
Having read about this period in the war and admiring pilots such as Geoffrey Wellum. I was keen to read this. Well researched and based on six days during the famous Battle of Britain where the airmen's life expectancy was actually something in the region of 4 weeks. At that time Europe was crushed by the Nazi and it could have been our turn next but the Battle of Britain played such a pivotal role in this. But as the novel shows this was not just about the airmen themselves women - working in the ops and maps rooms knowing what was happening but struggling to be recognised in their roles. We have Johnnie the pilot and Eleanor in this story and the book alternates around these two main characters. The author portrays this time well and those who have studied this time know, Britain was at the brink and history could have taken a very different turn. Whether the reader is familiar with this period in history or not it makes a good read and highly recommended for those interested in this part of history. The author's notes were fascinating and the reader can learn so much, I look forward to reading more from John Rhodes. Jane Brown, A LoveReading Ambassador
A well-crafted story, beautiful language, a mystery and a wild cat with a sense of humour. What's not to like about this book? It grabs the reader's attention from the start and holds on to it throughout the story. I also love the information about Wild Cat conservation which appears before the story starts: hopefully this will encourage readers of all ages to take an interest in the conservation of this beautiful animal. I normally clear my downloads after reviewing a book, but I will be keeping this one to reread and I can't wait to read about Catastrophe's next adventure Pauline Braisher, A LoveReading Ambassador
Winner of the Book Excellence Award 2016 for Romance. Thank you for the opportunity to read and review this book. This is a beautiful book the author has created such a detailed account of relationships and beautiful Sardinia. Children of the Mists is a beautiful story consisting of an interesting plot with lovely characters in love in 19th Century Sardinia. I think that this book would be a great sunbed read or, like today, sitting by the fire warmed by some hot chocolate. I cannot believe I have never come across this author before and I am now seeking her out. Jane Brown, A LoveReading Ambassador
This is a really superb book, the type of book that you can sit comfortably in a chair in a winter's night and just totally relax with. The Author has written the story in a smooth continuous flow of writing which allows the Reader to follow the story easily without having to backtrack to previously read material to keep the theme of the story in mind. The book itself satisfies many genres and thus will appeal to a wide range of readers. The work includes love, classical background, fear, battles, friendship and so many other areas. The main characters are with the story from beginning to end with a few twists along the way which brings surprise to the reader and also draws the readers attention to a deeper understanding of the story. A classical themed story but not all romance and god's. A good read guaranteed. Catherine Bryce, 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.