Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Book of Closed Doors - Jane Steen

The House of Closed DoorsThe House of Closed Doors by Jane Steen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A thoroughly enjoyable romantic historical novel set in America in the late 1800s where choices for a young woman were limited by background and convention.

Our heroine Nell having lived a sheltered and privileged life, decides she wants to experience life before or even if she settles down and marries. Nevertheless she succumbs to the temptation to flirt with a personable young man who enters her life and almost without realising it can have happened finds herself unmarried and pregnant a scandalous state of affairs.

Deciding she must stick to her guns and remain single she resolutely refuses to name the child's father, (although how nobody manages to work it out seeing she meets so few men is a bit beyond me) Her own harsh stepfather happens to be a governor of a poor farm, an institution for the unfortunate members of society, mentally infirm, feeble minded, unwed mothers and sends Nell there to await the birth of her child decreeing that once it is born it can be adopted.

Although the circumstances and surroundings are far from Nells own background, living in the institution is not nearly as bad as she imagined as it is compassionately run by Mrs Lombardi. Nell who is an accomplished and keen needleworker and stitcher is encouraged to work as the farms seamstress, and working thus gives her satisfaction and the company of another inmate with whom she builds a strong friendship - Tess, abandoned by her family for being "feeble minded" It is clear from her description that Tess has Downs syndrome, she is feisty. bright and loving, I loved Tess.

Tess temporarily takes over the place in Nells affections of Nells best friend Martin who she misses lots as he has previoulsy always been there for her as a platonic family friend

However Nell uncovers a mystery in this establishment when two bodies are discovered and she suspects foul play and is determined to uncover the culprit.

Meanwhile her child is born and she discovers that parting with her is not going to be something she can consider, baby Sarah is the most endearingly written baby, usually authors gloss over the difficult task of character building for an infant too small to even speak but this author does it so well I could really picture the little mite and wanted to hug her.

The story was left open for a sequel and I'd love to read what happens next and possibly have my hopes throughout the book for a romance for Nell, which I felt we were being led towards which sadly didn't come to fruition.

Thank you to the friend who recommended it saying I'd enjoy it - I very much did. Lovely writing, great characters, really enjoyed it.

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Monday, 17 September 2012

The Road back - Liz Harris

The Road BackThe Road Back by Liz Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The story begins in the 1990s where we are briefly introduced to Amy a young woman adopted at an early age searching for clues about her birth parents, we learn that her name at birth was Nima and she has unusual eyes which mark her out as being a little different.

Then the story flashes back to the 1950s and we are introduced to the main heroine of the tale Patricia, sister to the chronically sick James she bears the brunt of her domineering ex-army major fathers disappointment that he doesn't have the son he wanted to follow in his military footsteps and her submissive and rather cowed mothers misplaced guilt complex, turning her teenage years into a sheltered and rather lonely adolescence.

Keen to impress her father she is flattered when he demands her help in compiling a book he is writing about the time he spent abroad living in Ladakh, a place his fond memories of provide an escape from his humdrum and disappointing life.

When this in turn leads to the opportunity to actually travel to this remote country about which she has heard and read so much, she jumps at the chance of travel and excitement albeit as her fathers companion and assistant.

Upon arriving in the Himalayan kingdom she immediately understands his fascination and love for this mystical and beguiling place and finds a similar instant attraction towards the quite and unassuming local helper Kalden who has been introduced to them as their guide, partly because of his ability to speak English (although haltingly) because of time he spent with an English family of missionaries in his childhood.

His life as a fourth son holds little opportunity and Kalden is destined to soon enter the monastery as a monk, a life he has little enthusiasm for, nor any likelihood of avoiding his fate.

When fate throws these ill fated young people together, despite their huge cultural differences they are instantly and irrevocably drawn to each other and an ill advised and secret relationship rapidly develops between Patricia and Kalden and what follows is a heartbreaking but enduring love story destined to fail … or is it? You must read the book to find out.

Its truly romantic and the characters are full blown and realistic if, understandably, a touch flawed by their circumstances. The dual time aspect although focussed heavily on the past really lifts it and adds to the story. An accomplished and satisfying debut romantic novel.

My only slight niggle, which wasn’t enough to spoil the book for me but irked me a tiny bit is the halting English which Kalden speaks making him sound childlike and a touch dim, which jars with his warm and emotional character somewhat.

Don’t let this put you off in any way, This is a heartwarming, passionate and very tender love story. Sit yourself down with a big mug of hot chocolate and have the tissues ready!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Taste of Fear - Jeremy Bates

The Taste of FearThe Taste of Fear by Jeremy Bates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the publisher: American movie star Scarlett Cox and her husband, hotel tycoon Salvador Brazza, head to Africa to get away and resuscitate their ailing marriage. When robbed of their money and passports, they seek help from the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam—on the very day Al Qaeda chooses to bomb it. In an eyeblink they're taken hostage and whisked across the border deep into the Congo, one of the last truly wild places left on earth.

Battling terrorists, deadly wildlife and cannibalistic rebels, Scarlett and Sal must find a way to survive in a violent, primeval world.

My review ....

A sensational, breakneck thriller with loads of action, merciless violence and adventure.

Celebrity couple actress Scarlett Cox and her older, tycoon husband Salvatore (Sal) Brazza have hit marital problems just 4 years into their marriage, life together in the constant glare of camera flashes and dogged by the paparazzi provides little time for the pair to reconcile their differences.

So they decide that spending Christmas on a safari holiday in remote Tanzania will give them some time away from the glare of publicity and make a last ditch attempt to rekindle their waning love for each other. But a safari holiday can be a bit too adventurous and dangerous especially when things don't always go as smoothly as planned. It's a hostile world out there in the jungle but its not just the wild animals who are a threat.

Someone wants Sal dead and he's omitted to tell Scarlett about a previous attempt on his life and when the would be assassin follows them to the other side of the world intent on killing Sal he is thwarted in his attempts by the unlucky couples run of bad luck and ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - placing them in the American embassy at the very moment Al Qaeda terrorists detonate bombs and the hapless couple end up being taken hostage with several others, by a band of violent and ruthless killers.

Taken deeper into the heart of Africa, followed by the ruthless assassin, Scarlett has to rely on her wits to survive and as bloody violence and mayhem erupts, battles to stay alive and keep her sanity.

The Taste of fear is bitter in her mouth as she experiences horror and savagery she has never before imagined.

This is one real roller coaster ride of terror which begins with a romance being rekindled then builds throughout the book to bloodthirsty violence.

I have to admit that having read and loved this authors excellent debut novel the psychological thriller White Lies I was very keen to see what he'd come up with next. When I read the blurb I wasn't quite so sure that this one would be my cup of tea at all.

I needn't have worried - the authors excellent style of writing, very real characters and superb handling of multiple very complex situations, backed up by thorough background research and detail make this story effortless to get into and easy to relish.

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Untied Kingdom - Kate Johnson

The Untied Kingdom - Kate Johnson - Choc Lit

Description from the publishers blurb:
The portal to an alternate world was the start of all her troubles - or was it? When Eve Carpenter lands with a splash in the Thames, it's not the London or England she's used to. No one has a telephone or knows what a computer is. England s a third world country and Princess Di is still alive. But worst of all, everyone thinks Eve's a spy. Including Major Harker who has his own problems. His sworn enemy is looking for a promotion. The general wants him to undertake some ridiculous mission to capture a computer, which Harker vaguely envisions running wild somewhere in Yorkshire. Turns out the best person to help him is Eve. She claims to be a popstar. Harker doesn't know what a popstar is, although he suspects it's a fancy foreign word for spy . Eve knows all about computers, and electricity. Eve is dangerous. There's every possibility she's mad. And Harker is falling in love with her.

I'd seen this book reviewed and liked the concept, I love the idea of time travel. So when I saw it on kindle for only 99p I snapped it up. (if you hurry you might just still be able to nab it for your kindle at this bargain price) Buy it on Amazon here

It's from the folks at Choc-lit so I was expecting romance - what I got was super romance I think this is about one of THE most romantic love stories I've ever read.

It begins when Eve, a has been celebrity, ex member of a girl band is taking part in a show something like "I'm a celebrity get me out of here" and has to paraglide above the River Thames, but the jump goes wrong and she plummets into the water - to find she has somehow fallen through a hole into another London. Pulled from the murky waters of the river she finds herself in a parallel England currently at war where only the very rich have any kind of technology and where she is suspected of being a spy. When she tries to explain herself what she says sound completely bonkers so they decide as it can't be proven that she's a spy she must be insane and lock her up in an asylum!

Then she meets Major Will Harker, he's rough, tough grubby and grumpy and determined to find out just what it is Eve's hiding and the 2 are destined to clash and misunderstand each other time and time again whilst being physically attracted to each other.

What ensues is a paranormal romance of a different kind, a passionate love story and a clash of worlds and cultures as well as 2 minds fighting not to be drawn towards each other in a love that's doomed to be hopeless.

Theres a lot of fighting and military events but somehow it all just works really really well. I'm not usually much of a fan of paranormal romances but this is so refreshingly different. As in most Choc-lit romances we are treated to the male perpective as well as the female and this helps us get inside the mind of Will as well as Eve. He really is a hero I'd not think I'd be drawn to, scarred of body, divorced, killer of men, rough at the edges but oh he's SO darned sexy!

If you like lots of love and romance in a different setting do give the Untied Kingdom a try. I really enjoyed it and would like to read a sequel just to find out what happens afterwards.

I think it might appeal to anyone who enjoyed Cross Stitch (Outlander, US) although its much more contemporary.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Split Second - Cath Staincliffe

QUOTE from the publishers blurb:

On a winter's evening, a trio of unruly teenagers board a bus, ganging up on Luke Murray, hurling abuse and threatening to kill him. The bus is full but no one intervenes until Jason Barnes, a young student, challenges the gang. Luke seizes the chance to run off the bus, but he's followed.

Andrew Barnes is dragged from the shower by his wife Valerie: there's a fight in the front garden and Jason's trying to break it up. As Andrew rushes to help, the gang flees. Jason shouts for an ambulance for Luke, but it is he who will pay the ultimate price.

Split Second, Cath Staincliffe's insightful and moving novel, explores the impact of violent crime - is it ever right to look the other way?

What a fabulous read, the characters are intensely real and the descriptions of their emotions are amazingly well handled.

Shy, plump Emma is taking a late bus ride home when 3 Chavs get on and begin harassing and racially abusing a young lad sitting a few seats in front.

Emma is appalled and frightened, she wants them to stop but is also scared they'll notice her and turn their attentions to her and as they get more violent and nobody else intervenes we share her feelings of fear and disgust.

When they all get off the bus she hopes its the end of the incident but its just the beginning of a new nightmare.

What follows is a tragedy which affects many lives and we are drawn into those lives with stunning ease peeling back the layers of peoples lives.

Its mainly the story of the families of Luke the bullied boy and Jason another young man who is the only one to come to his aid. The repercussions really are like ripples in a pool spreading outwards.

As Emma is called as a witness we learn more about her background and her character and I can honestly say I don't think I have ever hated anyone as much as I loathed and despised her father - so much that I shook every time he appeared on the page! My empathy for her was intense and vivid.

My only slight drawback was the rather lengthy and dull courtroom scenes which although necessary to the conclusion weren't nearly as enjoyable to read and made the ending a little dull after a sparkling and fast paced main story.

I would compare this in some ways to One Moment, One Morning as they both deal with the aftermath of events and the lives it touches.

Blog Tour - The Rectors Daughter by Jean Fullerton - review

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