Sunday, 31 May 2009

Book Review: Face of Betrayal by Lis Wiehl

Genre: (Christian) Mystery Thriller
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers (2009)
Pages: 284 (Hardback)

First Lines:

"Come on, Jalapeno!"
Katie Converse jerked the dog's leash.

My Thoughts:

Katie, a 17 year old student goes missing before Christmas.
With no clues to go on, the police and her family are baffled by her disappearance.

In Lis Wiehl's debut novel we are introduced to the 3 members of the 'Triple Threat' Club, who are Allison - a Federal Prosecutor, Cassidy - a TV Reporter and Nicole - an FBI Special Agent, all friends from way back.

As they all get involved in the case, we learn about any new developments from each different angle, from Nicole interviewing the distraught parents to Allison grilling the main suspect to Cassidy's nightly TV news reports of her 'scoops', all of which I found very compelling.

As each of the women did have such different roles, I was about half way through the book before I could remember exactly who each of them was, e.g. when Allison was mentioned, I had to keep checking the blurb on the book to jog my memory of who she was! Maybe my brain just couldn't cope with remembering 3 main characters.

But, overall, I thought this was a very intelligent thriller, with just enough twists and turns to keep my interest going till the end.

Recommended for anyone who enjoys crime thrillers.

At the end of the book you can read the first two chapters of Lis Wiehl's next book Hand of Fate which is out in April 2010 - the 2nd in the 'Triple Threat' series.

For Lis Wiehl's website click here.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers - this book was part of their Book Review Bloggers program.

Thursday, 28 May 2009


According to

Headline Unzips humour for Christmas

Headline is hoping to corner the comedy market in the run up to Christmas, with the launch of three humour titles this autumn. Foremost among the trio is Rainbow Unzipped!, an "official and uncensored" look at life behind the scenes of the popular TV show, as told by Zippy, George and Bungle to journalist Tim Randall.

This is the first time the "squabbling" Rainbow stars have agreed to lift the lid on what really went on, having rejected approaches from publishers for the past 17 years. Headline described the resulting book as a "hilarious and nostalgic romp through their life stories". It will be released on 1st October, in hardback, priced £12.99. Publisher Emma Tait said: "It's a wonderful and irreverent slice of nostalgia humour that is truly laugh-out-loud funny."

I remember Rainbow on the TV but I don't think I ever watched it. I just wonder why they've decided to "tell all" now?

Before it unzips Rainbow, Headline is publishing its follow up to last year's bestselling Evil Penguins with the September release of Evil Cats (hb, £7.99).

Illustrator Elia Anie's book "confirms once and for all that felines are as capable of dastardly deeds as any other member of the animal kingdom", Headline said. Tait added: "Evil Penguins was one of the big humour hits of last Christmas, and with cats as the subject matter this year, we think Elia's new book has the potential to be even bigger."

I've never heard of Evil Penguins but it sounds like a fun read!

Topping off the titles is another sequel—Busty, Slag and Nob End, the follow-up to Potty, Fartwell and Knob—which is published on 15th October (hb, £9.99).

Russell Ash has compiled real names of places and products as well as people from around the world. Each name has been thoroughly checked and authenticated, from Connie Lingus and Blo Job to Harriet Nicewonger and Dick Swinger.

Publisher Val Hudson said: "As this country's greatest living expert on naughty bits, Russsell's delivered another belter of a book with this piece of smut-lit."

I love the sound of this book - it's difficult (but funny) to believe that there is actually somebody called Dick Swinger. What were their parents thinking of??!! Guess what hubby's pressie is this Christmas? Haha

Monday, 25 May 2009

Book Review: The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (11 June 2009)
Pages: (Paperback) 381

Evelyn Gifford (30) ~ the narrator ~ is a young woman who is living in the past, present and future.

The Past

The year is 1924 and Evelyn, who is a trainee solicitor, lives a lonely, unhappy life with her mother, grandmother and elderly aunt Prudence in a big rambling decaying house, still mourning the death of her brother, James, killed in WWII six years earlier. Both her mother and Prudence can't understand why she wants to be a solicitor, they think it's totally unsuitable for a young woman.

The Present

One night, Meredith, a young Canadian woman, turns up on their doorstep, totally unannounced, with her son, Edmund, 6, whom she claims is James son, throwing the house into total confusion.

The Future

Evelyn is a woman before her time. Women solicitors were almost unheard of in 1924 and many practices would not employ a woman over a man. But Evelyn's employer is a man who loves to defy convention and happily takes on the young and eager woman.

When Evelyn meets the charismatic barrister Nicholas Thorne who offers his help with her two cases, one of defending a man accused of murdering his wife and the other of a young mother accused of kidnapping her own baby, her world turns upside down.

My Thoughts

Katherine McMahon's writing was an absolute pleasure to read, she has a way of describing details so that you really feel you're there in the room. It reminded me of R.J. Ellory's A Quiet Belief in Angels. She is a wonderful storyteller and in Evelyn Gifford she has created a compelling and feisty character, who is so quiet and respectful at home but who can speak confidently when a magistrate treats her with disdain.

I absolutely loved The Crimson Rooms and was sad when it ended, I wanted to know more of Evelyn's life, of how far she can go. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the 1920's, of women solicitors, courtroom dramas, or who just wants to get lost in a really good story.

Katharine McMahon's website can be found here.

Sunday, 24 May 2009


I know this blog is mainly book reviews and I don't normally post about my life but I just wanted to share my good fortune with you. Hubby and I are going on holiday to The Gambia next month! Believe it or not I was lucky enough to win this holiday through Bookarmy, a great book recommendation website.

We will be staying at The Kairaba Hotel for one week, our prize consists of return flights, airport taxes, transfers to hotel and Bed and Breakfast.

Doesn't it look lovely! I'm so looking forward to just relaxing in the sunshine and listening to audio books on my ipod - not sure which ones I'm taking yet.

I do enter lots of competitions and I've won a few items over the years, including some books, and about 10 years ago I did win a laptop, but this is by far the best thing I've ever won!

If anyone has been to The Gambia and can give me any tips on anything please do!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Audio Book Review: B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton

Genre: Crime, Thrillers & Mystery

This is a short review of the abridged audio book version.

Kinsey Milhone, Private Investigator, is asked to find a missing sister. It sounds a fairly straightforward case - she should be easy to find, but, of course, nothing is straightforward in Kinsey's world.

This is the 2nd in Sue Grafton's popular alphabet crime series. If you've read the first one you'll know what to expect, it's more of the same. Kinsey Milhone is a very likeable, funny, lady.

A good plot, pacy, easy to listen to, and I didn't guess whodunnit.

Recommended for fans of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum crime books.

Book 21 U is for Undertow will be available from December 2009.

If you want to know more about Sue Grafton click here.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Book Review: Knight's Angel by Ronda Melendez

Genre: Historical Fiction: Fantasy/Romance
Publisher: Outskirts Press (2009)
Pages: Paperback 126
ISBN-13: 978-1432738815

First Sentence:

The wind howled outside Angel's classroom window.

Angel is the Professor of Medieval History at the University of Texas. Recently she has been haunted by dreams of Medieval England where she meets Llewellyn the Sorcerer, and she sees the handsome Lord D'Arcy.
She is then invited to England on an archeological dig where she has another dream and this time she is swept back in time to meet the people from her dreams.................

This is Ronda Melendez's debut novel and is the first in the 'Fated to Love' series.

I'll get my main criticism out of the way first! It was very difficult to form a comprehensive picture of any of the characters, I didn't know their height, build, facial features, traits, likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, what they were feeling or thinking most of the time. The only description was of their hair and I was informed several times that the Lady Angel was 'very beautiful' but how and why was she beautiful?
In order to empathise with them I really need to get to know them, of how their mind works, in order that I can care about what happens to them. I felt that this information was sketchy at best in this book.

Also, there is a timeline very near the end that I found confusing, it just didn't make sense.

Now to the positives! Overall though, I did enjoy reading this medieval fantasy, at only 126 pages long it was a quick, light and easy read, with likeable characters. I was particuarly impressed with Angel's toughness in dealing with her adversaries which both surprised and amused the men! I had a sense of the lives of people in those olden times. Whilst reading I was reminded of Barbara Erskine's Lady of Hay.

This is a paragraph (page 33) where Angel is adjusting to her new life

It was certainly beautiful here, Angel mused to herself silently. She would have no qualms about staying here in this time and place. There was a sense of being and belonging that she had never felt before. Not even back in her own time. It was like finding the perfect pair of jeans that fit you just right.

This is a book that would appeal to anyone interested in medieval times/romance and who doesn't want a complicated storyline.

About the Author:

You can read about Ronda Melendez here

Her sequel to Knight's Angel will be available soon and is called Angel's Heart.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Book Review: The Perfect Summer: Dancing into Shadow in 1911 by Juliet Nicolson

Genre: Historical Non-Fiction
Published by: John Murray (2006)
Pages: 290 (Paperback)

First Line:

On the first day of May 1911 temperatures throughout England began to rise, and everyone agreed that the world was becoming exceedingly beautiful.

Set against the backdrop of the long hot Summer of 1911 we see English life through the eyes of several different people including
  • Queen Mary (who's husband George V was to be crowned the new King in May) and who 'had never felt so lonely'
  • Politician Winston Churchill
  • Lady Diana Manners (a debutante) who was looking forward to a Summer of relentless partying
  • War Poet Siegfried Sasson who, in the middle of the summer, said 'We seemed to have forgotten that there was such a thing as the future'
  • Butler Eric Horne who thought some of the noblemen and women he worked for had 'a kink in the brain'
  • Trade Unionist Ben Tillett who almost brought the country to its knees through a series of industrial strikes

This is an absolutely absorbing look at the England of yesteryear, we see how life was changing especially for the under-class in society, they were beginning to question their role and the rules they were governed by.

Juliet Nicolson's detailed research could not be faulted and at the end of it I almost felt as if I had lived through the heatwave. I loved so many of the fascinating facts she gave us. Thinking about the present furore over many UK MP's expenses claims I found this nugget -

The proposed salary of £400 a year for Members of Parliament was not scheduled to come into effect until August: traditionally, MP's had funded themselves, from a private income or earnings outside the House of Commons.

How times have changed!!

Another entertaining fact regarding the rise of the picture-houses -

Some cinemas had tea-houses, and special sitting-out rooms reserved for ladies only. A reassuring manager in a tailcoat - like a maitre d'hotel in a restaurant or a butler opening a front door - would greet the audience as they arrived.

What a wonderful picture she painted of the everyday lives and loves of so many people, of their struggles just to survive in contrast to the upper-classes bored lives filled with playing bridge and partying.

My only criticism with The Perfect Summer is of the very lengthy paragraphs, some were almost a page long, of which many could have been edited better to make it easier to read.

However, if, like me, you love reading about the Edwardian way of life and can't resist enlightening anyone within listening distance of your amazing historical knowhow, you're going to want to add this to your collection!

About The Author:

To learn more about Juliet Nicolson read an interview with the Mail Online here

Her new book Living in the Shadow of the Great War 1918-1920 will be available from October 2009

Thursday, 14 May 2009

In The Post Today

Beachcombing by Maggie Dana
Genre: Fiction
Published by Macmillan New Writing (2009)
Paperback: 340

Synopsis (from Amazon):

Jillian Hunter treasures her independence. She s raised two sons by herself, launched a small business, and restored a tumbledown beach cottage in Connecticut. But when a trip to London reunites her with Colin an old flame she hasn t seen in thirty-five years Jill falls for him all over again. Love makes Jill reckless. This could be her chance for a new beginning. But Colin isn t quite the boy she remembers and she ends up risking everything she s worked for her business, her home, and her two closest friends to make a life with him. And when she s faced with the risk of losing Colin as well, Jill is forced to take an uncomfortably close look at the woman she s allowed herself to become.

Funny, sophisticated, and wise, Beachcombing is a coming-of-middle-age story about girlfriends when you re no longer a girl, about growing up when you re already grown up, and the price you're willing to pay for the love of your life.

This looks like a good summer read and I just love the colourful book cover.

If you want to know more about Maggie Dana click here

Special Thanks to Maggie Dana

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury (2007)

Pages: 482 (Large Print Paperback Edition)

ISBN: 978-1-40740-544-5

Synopsis from Amazon:
Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed. Nearly two decades later, a friendship grows between Mariam and a local teenager, Laila, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter. When the Taliban take over, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Yet love can move a person to act in unexpected ways, and lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with a startling heroism.

First Line:

Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami.

I loved the character of Mariam right from the beginning as she spends every Thursday waiting anxiously for her father to visit her. He already had 3 wives and Mariam was born out of wedlock. It was interesting and upsetting watching her grow up and begin a new life in which she had very few choices and nothing much to look forward to until the 15 year old Laila enters her life.

It was this relationship that was very moving. At first Mariam disliked and distrusted the young girl but gradually they began to depend on each other for moral support and a common enemy.

I found it so frustrating how the women were treated by the Taliban and couldn't help thinking throughout the book about the comparisons between their lives and mine. I think this paragraph (page 103) sums it up very well:

Mariam lay on the couch, hands tucked between her knees, watched the whirlpool of snow twisting and spinning outside the window. She remembered Nana saying once that each snowflake was a sigh heaved by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. That all the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below.
As a reminder of how women like us suffer, she'd said. How quietly we endure all that falls upon us.

This is not only a moving story but it's a history lesson and a reminder of how lucky I am to live in a country where women have as many opportunities as men and are listened to and respected as equals.

The title of A Thousand Splendid Suns (as explained on page 221) is taken from a poem written in the 17th Century, two of the lines are:

'One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.'

If you're interested in learning more of Afghanistan from 1959 until 2003 then this is a book I would certainly recommend.

About the Author:

Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965. His father was a diplomat with the Afghan Foreign Ministry and his mother taught Farsi and History at a large high school in Kabul. In 1976, the Afghan Foreign Ministry relocated the Hosseini family to Paris.

The Hosseinis sought and were granted political asylum in the United States. In September of 1980, Hosseini’s family moved to San Jose, California.
While in medical practice, Hosseini began writing his first novel, The Kite Runner, in March of 2001. In 2003, The Kite Runner, was published and has since become an international bestseller, published in 38 countries. In 2006 he was named a goodwill envoy to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. His second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns was published in May of 2007. He lives in northern California with his family.


A film version of A Thousand Splendid Suns is being adapted to the screen by Steve Zaillian, the brilliant screenwriter behind Schindler’s List and Searching for Bobby Fisher. The film will be produced at Sony/Columbia by Producer Scott Rudin, who just won an Oscar for No Country For Old Men.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Audio Book Review: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This view of a dystopian future got better and better. The story starts with a young man called Jimmy who is living in a tree on the beach with some people who seem to be his followers. They think he's like a God and they don't question him or disagree with what he tells them.

As days go by Jimmy looks back on how he came to be there and we find out why he's the only one left in the world - or is he?

I thought this was a fascinating look at how the not too distant future could turn out and really felt sorry for Jimmy as he tried to make the best of his new life. One of my favourite parts is when he pretended to talk to the tribes creator, Crake, through his wristwatch, then relayed to the tribe people what Crake had replied. They believed him implicitly when he said he was the only one who could talk to Crake.

The chapter where Jimmy travels away from the beach to look round some empty houses scavenging for food, clothes, weapons etc. reminded me very much of The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

The abridged audiobook was narrated by Alex Jennings.

View all my reviews.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Book Review: This Time of Dying by Reina James

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publishers: Portobello Books (2007)
Pages: 290
ISBN-10: 1846270464
ISBN-13: 978-1846270468

It is October 1918, and England is gathering its dead. For Henry Speake, of Speake & Son Undertakers, laying to rest the shattered bodies of young men sent home from the front has become a grimly familiar duty. But then a country already reeling from war faces an unexpected shock: an epidemic. The Spanish influenza will kill more people than World War I. There is no cure, no help from the government, not even a clear sense of what is happening.
Henry sees the dangers much sooner than most, especially when he finds a letter left behind by a dying doctor, who begs health officials to start closing ports and setting up quarantines before it is too late. Unable to get a government minister to listen to him, Henry turns to a local schoolteacher, Allen Thompson, a woman who would usually be above his station.........

First Line:

Monday, 14 October 1918
Thomas Wey got dressed very slowly, feeling for his buttons and doing them up without looking down at his shirtfront.

I'm not really sure why this book appealed to me, perhaps it was because of the time period, perhaps it was the cover. Well, whatever it was I'm very pleased that it did. It was a thoroughly engrossing and informative read, if somewhat ghoulish in parts. It covers 3 weeks in the winter of 1918 and it was interesting to note how people were kept in the dark about the epidemic.

Reina James compelling writing was a delight to read - this is an excerpt when Henry was remembering a conversation with his father -

I asked him if he'd ever thought about where a person is, in the body. He didn't even look up. 'I'd get on with your work, if I were you,' he said. And that's where we left it. But I still think there's a lot to find out. Say a good man comes back with a head wound. He might have been the best husband, the best father, then suddenly he's smashing out at them all, cursing and kicking. Is the damage to his head taking over his soul? Has the good man disappeared or is he cornered somewhere else, inside himself? And will God judge him on who he really is or on who he became because of a piece of shrapnel?

Even though I didn't like either of the main characters - middle-aged, grumpy, dull, Henry the Undertaker who loves playing his piano, and lonely, indecisive Mrs Allen Thompson the Teacher, I was always hoping that their friendship would turn to a romance by the end of the book.

This is not a book for the squeamish, as you can imagine there are plenty of deaths, sometimes whole families, but it was a fascinating account of how people coped while WWI was coming to an end, how they survived and carried on.

To read more about the 1918 flu epidemic click here.


This Time of Dying was Reina James debut novel (incidentally, she is the daughter of Sid James, the comedy actor from the wonderful Carry On films). Her second novel The Old Joke (2009) is now available.

Do you think that death is too morbid a subject to read about?
Have you heard of the flu epidemic of 1918/1919?

I would be interested in your thoughts


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