Sunday, 24 July 2016

Swearing Allegiance (The Carmody Saga Book 1) by Jana Petken

I think Historic fiction or even non-fiction are my favourite genre of books. Not many of my Indie colleagues write (or at least I've not picked any up before now!) historic fiction, so it was nice to have this book to review. A romantic novel set against the Irish struggle for independence and the horrors of the First World War. It was a sweeping family saga which I enjoyed reading and give 5 stars.

Swearing Allegiance (The Carmody Saga Book 1) by Jana Petken on

This is a sweeping family saga set during the Dublin Easter uprising and the First World War. The Carmodys are a well to do Irish family living a charmed life in Dublin. Tragic events following the 1916 Easter uprising sees the family at odds with each other and forced to move to London.
Young firebrand Danny is supporting the cause of an independent Ireland. This puts him at odds with his brother Patrick who decides to join the Royal navy. Jenny his spoiled sister finds herself penniless and forced to look for work. Her Fiancée John, once a promising prospect, is arrested for his involvement in the uprising and imprisoned.
This book is meticulously researched and contains many period details that bring the story alive. The working conditions for the women in the munitions factories and the horrors of the battlefield are a brutal back ground that helped me feel a great deal of compassion for the family.
I especially liked the character of Jenny as she undergoes a complete transformation. She starts of as a spoiled and selfish girl, but through hardship her eyes gradually open and we see her grow into a confident, independent and intelligent young woman. The story ends in 1917 and as this is titled book 1, I hope that Ms Petken is already busy writing the follow up. There are turbulent times ahead for Ireland and I’m sure we’ll see Danny involved. I look forwards to reading the follow up as this writer has a very engaging style and her research is solid.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Promenade des Anglais

This morning I took a dip in the Mediterranean at 8am in the morning; the sun was rising and the water flat and calm. Another day in paradise begins. It's hard to imagine that only a few miles away and a few days earlier such horrific events took place.

You see the aftermaths of atrocities on TV and you feel for the victims but it always seems very far away; until it happens on your doorway.
My husband and I had just returned from a fireworks display in St.Laurent du Var (next to Nice) and decided to stop of for a quick pint before going home. Soon the TVs were switched on and we learnt about the tragedy unfolding in Nice.
Needless to say, the beer was forgotten about as we just wanted to get home and let friends and family know that we were ok. We met some friends on our way and we were just so pleased to see them safe and sound. Social media is much criticised but here it showed its use; with one click of a button I could let my friends know I was safe and see that they were safe too.
It was a late night and the next morning was filled with sadness and dread. The feeling I had driving to work I wont forget very quickly. Would all my colleagues be there? Would they be grieving?
I'm so thankful that I've not lost any friends or colleagues, but many have been affected in some way and they will struggle to come to terms with it.

Nice in happier times:
I firmly believe that the best way to defy terrorists is by living my life the way I have always done. The south of France is a beautiful place with the most perfect climate and I hope many people will continue to visit. I will be going out to restaurants, to beaches and events. I will not cower in my apartment but supporting local businesses who now must face a tough time.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The English Sombrero: Nothing to do but run by Doug Goddard and Anthony Randall

Unfortunately my running days are behind me. My Achilles tendons start to protest after a mere 5 min. Like the main character in this book I struggled with my weight (But nothing like the main character Don Simmonds!) What started out as a chore to lose weight became an enjoyable pass time and I found some determination and will power I didn't know I had. It led to a number of 10k, Half-Marathons and even a full marathon. I found this book hugely entertaining and it brought back a few fond and not so fond memories. Well writen in an easy conversational style; I give it 5 stars.
The English Sombrero:Nothing to do but run on

Don Simmonds is a man you’d love to hate. A brash, arrogant used car sales man who overindulges at every opportunity. At 26 stone he can barely walk from the carpark to the pub. One Sunday after getting held up in traffic by a half marathon and therefore missing out on a car deal, Don vents his anger in the pub. Surrounded by his regular drinking buddies he thinks nothing of insulting the runners; calling them a “bunch of wankers.”
An old gentleman confronts him and demands an apology on behalf of his marathon running grandson. Bolstered by alcohol and the knowledge that few people have his kind of money; he makes the gentleman a bet of quarter of a million pounds that he will run the half marathon in a year’s time in under an hour and a half. He is more than a little surprised when he gets taken up on his bet.
This is a great story that has the feel of an old style Ealing comedy about it. Mind you the actor who would play Don would have an impossible task as he has to go from 26 stone to a sensible running weight. An inspirational tale of one mans will and determination.
I liked the book from the first chapter and enjoyed going on the journey with Don. I loved experiencing new things with him and meeting some great Spanish characters along the way. The book is written with a lot of love for Catalonia and its people. We see the character of Don grow throughout the book and he becomes a genuinely nice bloke you end up cheering for. Having run a few half marathons myself I thought the book was spot on, but going from 26stone to running anything is quite a challenge! I could have done without the subplot of the Russian gangsters, but it did show yet another facet to Dons character.
Enjoyable and inspirational read, I recommend it.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The Photograph by Grant Leishman

Summer here is in full swing and it is hard to concentrate when the temperature hits 32°C. I also have the excuse of the combined distractions of the European cup and friends wanting to meet up for drinks, beach parties or a gossip and a swim. Luckily I get a bit of reading done on my lunch break. This book was a real treat; a good original story and some well developed characters that were closer to my own age and I could relate to. I would like to read more of this writer as I like his sense of humour. A great supernatural thriller which I gave 5 stars.
The Photograph by Grant Leishman on Amazon

When Tony Logan finds a roll of undeveloped film clearing out his house, a nagging feeling in the back of his head tells him not to develop it. His sister Marie however urges him to print some photos when he tells her they were taken at their mother’s funeral many years ago. What they discover on the photos is something that shocks them to the core. Tony and his sisters; Marie and Cheryl embark on a quest to find out the truth about their mothers death and abandonment by their father. It leads them into the dangerous world of the occult. This is a well written supernatural thriller with a twist at every turn. Although it deals with the occult and there are a few nail-biting and gruesome moments it has enough humour and warmth to steer away from full out horror. This is what I liked best about this book, the depth of the characters. Before any spooky happenings, we get to know Tony Logan very well. He is not your usual hero; middle aged, down on his luck and recently divorced from the love of his life. He struggles with getting back on his feet again. I had great empathy with Tony and I understood his actions, despite willing him to leave the past well alone. The interactions between Tony, his estranged sisters and husbands, provide some of the comedy moments. But as they argue we feel that they still care for each other and that in the end blood is thicker than water. I enjoyed reading this book and was surprised and delighted by its originality and unexpected plot turns. The book is mostly written in the first person and we share Tony’s views and insights. Later in the book it turns to 3rd person narration as we follow his brother in law’s antics. I thought this was a good change of pace and worked with that particular plot line. This is my first book by this author but I’m hoping to discover more. Maybe the follow up to this book as the ending is left temptingly open.