The Rock – A Broderick Mystery By Robert Daws – Explore Gibraltar and Encounter Murder and Intrigue Along the Way. @RobertDaws @Urbanebooks #Review #Gibraltar #CrimeFiction #Readers #Authors #NewBlog

The Rock
By Robert Daws
Rating: 4 Stars **** 


About the Author

Robert Daws

*As an actor, Robert Daws has appeared in leading roles in a number of award-winning and long-running British television series, including Jeeves and Wooster, Casualty, The House of Eliott, Outside Edge, Roger Roger, Sword of Honour, Take A Girl Like You, Doc Martin, New Tricks, Midsomer Murders, Rock and Chips, The Royal, Death in Paradise, Father Brown and Poldark.

His recent work for the stage includes the national tours of Michael Frayn’s Alarms and Excursions, and David Harrower’s Blackbird. In the West End, he has recently appeared as Dr John Watson in The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, Geoffrey Hammond in Public Property, Jim Hacker in Yes, Prime Minister and John Betjeman in Summoned by Betjeman.

His many BBC radio performances include Arthur Lowe in Dear Arthur, Love John, Ronnie Barker in Goodnight from Him and Chief Inspector Trueman in Trueman and Riley, the long-running police detective series he co-created with writer Brian B Thompson.

Today I am giving you 2 reviews in 1. I don’t normally do 2 reviews together like this, but I read The Rock and The Poisoned Rock back to back and the 2 fit together nicely, although both books can be read as stand-alone too. So, I wanted to tell you about both books together.

Blurb

 

Book RD

The Rock. Gibraltar. 1966.

In a fading colonial house overlooking the Straits of Gibraltar, the dead body of a beautiful woman lays dripping in blood. The steel handle of a knife protrudes from her chest, its sharpened tip buried deep within her heart.

The Rock. Present day.

Detective Sergeant Tamara Sullivan arrives on The Rock on a three-month secondment from the London Metropolitan Police Service. Her reasons for being here are not happy ones and she braces herself for a tedious and wasteful twelve weeks in the sun.

After all, murders are rare on the small, prosperous and sun-kissed sovereignty of Gibraltar and catching murderers is what Sullivan does best.

It is a talent she shares with her new boss, Chief Inspector Gus Broderick of the Royal Gibraltar Police Force. He’s an old-fashioned cop who regards his new colleague with mild disdain.

But when a young police constable is found hanging from the ceiling of his apartment, Sullivan and Broderick begin to unravel a dark and dangerous secret that will test their skills and working relationship to the limit.

Review

This is the first in this police procedural series. I had not read any of Robert Daws books before now, but having recently met him, I thought I would give them a go and from the beginning of the series. It is worth it! This first book is a novella, which is nice and different. It is shorter than an average sized book, but is a great introduction to Gibraltar and his characters, still containing an air of mystery and intrigue within the pages. The second in the series, which we will get onto shortly is more novel in size. Either way, they are both well-written and holds attention well.

The series is set in Gibraltar and this particular one begins in 1966. From the outset, the scene is set and rather well. It’s all very mysterious before the first chapter has even begun.
The book then swings forward to the present day. It begins with familiar territory which Tamara Sullivan, a private investigator has to endure before taking off on the plane to Gibraltar. Readers will discover that it was never her intention to head to Gibraltar to work, but she was forced into a 3 month secondment there.

I would say not to be put off by the different timelines because they are skillfully written in such a manner that is far from confusing.

The scenery of Gibraltar is beautifully described. Robert Daws has clearly used all his knowledge of the Rock, which he has spent much time on, very well to capture interest in the place as well as the imagination.

Very quickly the story moves onto an intruder on a yacht. It makes for a fast-paced book.

The working relationship between Calbot and Sullivan and Broderick and Sullivan is quickly established and makes for a good read. Sullivan is a woman who can certainly stand up for herself when necessary and make her point, but in a likeable way.
Chief Superintendent C.S. Harriet Massetti and PC Bryant also make up the team of investigators and readers also get a good flavour of their personalities when they are introduced into the book.

The story later, transports readers to 5 months earlier in England. This works rather well in telling what actually happened to Sullivan and why she was seconded to Gibraltar instead of staying at the London MET where she could further her career in the city. It gives further establishment of her personality and how she does go off on a limb at times.

Martin Taveres is a character readers will feel the full force of emotion from due to the death of his loved as it so sensitively and skillfully written.

Later on readers return to 1966. It works and fits in well. The attitudes are realistic and it creates for a good and interesting back story to what was read in the present day.

The style of writing is distinctive and different from many other books, but I like it. I think it works and different and individual writing styles can only be a good thing and not something to be put off by.

For a quick read, this book does just the job. It is written well and has enough setting and drama within it, as well as good characterisation. It made me decide it was worthwhile investing the time to read more of this series.

Please continue reading onwards to discover the second book in this series.

______________________________
The Poisoned Rock
By Robert Daws

Rating: 5 Stars *****

Blurb

WitBook one RDh only five weeks to go before the end of her secondment to the Royal Gibraltar Police Force, D.S. Tamara Sullivan is enjoying life on the Rock. With one murder investigation successfully under their belts, Sullivan and her commanding officer, Chief Inspector Gus Broderick, settle down to regular police work under the sunny Mediterranean skies.

In London, the British Government has declassified a large number of top-secret files regarding British Military Intelligence operations during World War Two. One file, concerning espionage operations on Gibraltar, has been smuggled out of the U.K. to Spain. It contains information that will draw Sullivan and Broderick into the dark and treacherous world of wartime Gibraltar. A place where saboteurs and espionage plots abounded. Where double and triple agents from Britain, Germany and Spain were at war in a treacherous and deadly game of undercover operations.

As the summer heat reaches its zenith in Gibraltar Town, a film crew has arrived on the Rock to shoot a movie about one of the most enigmatic and legendary spies of the war years – ‘The Queen of Diamonds’. Starring Hollywood A-lister Julia Novacs and produced by local born film maker, Gabriel Isolde, it is the talk of the Rock.

It is only a matter of time before past and present collide and a dangerous battle begins to conceal the truth about the Rock’s poisonous wartime history. Detectives Sullivan and Broderick become caught in a tangled web of intrigue and murder that will once again test their skills and working relationship to the very limit.

Review

The Poisoned Rock begins in 1942. It’s a whole new case within this series. There is a well thought out quote used from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at the beginning, which sets the scene up for what’s to come in excellent manner.
Both books, although are part of a series, also work well as stand alone books. I would say the writing has improved within this book in terms of the flow of it, especially, but  both are worth reading. Again, there is an excellent prologue, setting this scene for the rest of the book and a murder already committed. There’s no having to wait, wondering when the action to begin in these books.

There’s murder, offshore accounts, secrets and jeopardy within the well-written pages of this book.

The book spans seamlessly and effortlessly between the 40’s 60’s and Present day as well as a number of locations. Importantly, it all makes sense and flows easily when reading. It is well-constructed and the time frames are well-stated in each part and they all fit together well within the plot. There are also enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing within this book, which can be read as part of the series or it stands alone pretty well too.

Readers are quick to learn a little about Gibraltar’s Second World War history before being transported to the present day where Tamara Sullivan is still serving out her enforced secondment.

Within this book, there are secrets revealed of British Intelligence and a film crew filming about “The Queen of Diamonds” about a spy in the Second World War. There are creatively crafted twists and turns surrounding this mysterious spy and the film, showing that its mere creation has more to it than meets the eye.

There is much intrigue surrounding  the film, creating just about enough tension… just who is the mysterious figure observing screenwriter, Josh Cornwallis? There’s also more than just film action surrounding the film’s producer – Gabriel Isolde.
These scenes are written with complete believability, as you can imagine with the acting experience Robert Daws has and whatsmore it adds much to the storyline in a positive way.

The chapters of the book move the story onwards, effortlessly between the film set and the activities of Broderick and Sullivan. Throughout the book, remains an excellently written, sense of place. The more of these books that are read, the more you get a feel of Gibraltar.
This book, also however, also takes readers to a crime committed in Marbella after the victim, Krystle Changtai disappeared from Gibraltar.

People who are not all they first seem to be… There is also more than just the glamour of designer dresses and shoes to contend with… adding to the intrigue of this captivating book.

Lech Jasinski is an interesting character who was a Polish soldier, serving in Iraq and we get a sense of his PTSD. There’s also more to him than what can possibly be first presumed. The characterisation of Lech is good, there’s enough written to create a tension and an air of mystery.

It’s not all about murder. Readers are treated to really being able to get to know more about the characters who work for the police service in Gibraltar in terms of their background, which I also enjoyed.

This series was optioned for TV and when reading the books, it is clear that they would be a good “fit” as it were. The chapters are written exquisitely and almost like they could be scenes.

All in all, Robert Daws has created books with mystery, intrigue and an air of beauty in terms of the setting and all fit together very well indeed to create a compelling and very readable series!

These are all the books at time of writing that are within this series. A Rock Ghost Story is completely stand-alone.

*I thank Robert Daws for allowing me to take his photo at the Morecambe and Vice Festival and for kindly allowing me to use it on my blog. Please also note that my reviews are unbiased.

_____________________________________________

Books: The Rock
The Poisoned Rock

Author: Robert Daws

Publisher: Urbane Publications

Main Purchase Points:  Amazon, Waterstones, Independent Bookshops, WH Smith

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A Christmas Gift by Sue Moorcroft – Full of life, it is a perfect book for Christmas @SueMoorcroft @AvonBooksUK @HarperCollinsUK #NewBook #Review #Readers #Christmas #music #bands #theatre

A Christmas Gift
by Sue Moorcroft
Rating: 5 Stars *****


About the Author

Sue Moorcroft A Christmas GiftSue Moorcroft writes award-winning contemporary fiction of life and love. The Little Village Christmas was a Sunday Times Bestseller and The Christmas Promise went to #1 in the Kindle chart. Her latest release, The Christmas Gift has also become The Sunday Times Bestseller this year (2018). She also writes short stories, serials, articles, columns, courses and writing “how to” guides.

An army child, Sue was born in Germany, then lived in Cyprus, Malta and the UK, and still loves to travel. Her other loves include writing (the best job in the world), reading and hanging out with friends, dancing, yoga, wine and chocolate.

 

Links to Sue Moorcroft’s website and social media

Website: http://www.suemoorcroft.com 

Blurb

One Christmas can change everything…
Georgine loves Christmas. The festive season always brings the little village of Middledip to life. But since her ex-boyfriend walked out, leaving her with crippling debts, Georgine’s struggled to make ends meet.

To keep her mind off her worries, she throws herself into organising the Christmas show at the local school. And when handsome Joe Blackthorn becomes her assistant, Georgine’s grateful for the help. But there’s something about Joe she can’t quite put her finger on. Could there me more to him than meets the eye?

Georgine’s past is going to catch up with her in ways she never expected. But can the help of friends new and old make this a Christmas to remember after all?

A Christmas Gift by Sue Moorcroft

Review

A Christmas Gift will put you into that festive spirit and give you that desire to stay warm and cosy with a good book. The cover deserves a mention here too. It’s bright, colourful, cosy and really draws the eye in. It is an excellent gift to give to someone, or indeed, treat yourself to. It’s warm and uplifting. Perfect for this time of year!

Just a few pages in and this book had already captured my attention. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a flimsy, syrupy book because of the title. This book is about life, right down to its deepest, darkest pockets, which is cleverly coupled with a lot of lightness throughout with Christmas joy and happiness. It has a lot of substance packed into what is an average sized, good paced book. It is emotive and with characters to really care about.
Sue Moorcroft has written a very enjoyable, entertaining, well-observed book that actually contains a lot of excellent, modern content; and yet all flows with consummate ease. There are twists and turns throughout with family relations, an ex-partner, bailiffs, a student theatre production, a band, a romance and of course a heartwarming Christmas atmosphere.

There are many characters due to the nature of the story, but don’t let that put you off, they are described well and you will get a good feel of their personalities very quickly and are easy for any reader to follow. They make the story more realistic due to the life and premise that weaves throughout this book so well. 

Georgine France is the Events Director at Acting Instrumental – a performing arts college in Middledip. The college is putting together a musical theatre piece to showcase the student’s work. There’s clearly been a good amount of research as it is all realistically written with the different attitudes of people and what it takes to put on a show, which as this book shows, it takes a lot to pull a show off, even if it is a student production. I can see the detail that’s put into this work as I, myself get involved in amateur theatre, albeit front of house or backstage, but I’ve seen a fair bit. So, the way Sue Moorcroft has handled the piece was joyous. It is a bit like being able to take a peek of what goes on behind the scenes, but whether you’re involved or an audience member ot just like reading about life, there’s something for everyone here that will be found to be relatable to.

Sue Moorcroft has even thought of the audience for the show. I love that a Girlguiding group gets a mention. Being a former Girlguiding leader myself I can definitely say that it is so typical to do a fun outing of seeing a live show at Christmas with the girls. The fact they are even briefly written about, shows the thought and attention to detail that has gone into creating this book.

Georgine thought, when she successfully gained the Events Director position, all would be different. Little did she think she would be having financial issues to deal with and having to support her family.
This is a great premise and is set in so much reality for many with the great sounding job, but with the backdrop of other things happening in people’s private lives. It immediately drew me into wanting to know more about her life. It also shows very well, that no matter what the job title is, people are still people and have very real life issues to deal with, just the same as anyone with say, a lesser title. I find this keeps the main protagonist grounded in a way that makes her very likeable and relatable to.

Norman Ogden (Oggie) is the head/Principle of Acting Instrumental and an instantly likeable character with his very nice sounding personality and drive for wanting people to do well. Like all the characters,  the impression of the type of man Oggie is understood very quickly.

One of the other main characters is Joe Blackthorn who is the new colleague at the college. He isn’t all who he first seems and as you read on, you will find out there’s much more to him. He leads a fascinating life, part of it is being part of a band, which readers will be treated to a very believable insight into. I enjoyed getting to know more about him, his life behind his work and his interactions with others. He wants a quieter life, but will he get it? He has a lot to contend with from the past to his present, including the very topical issues of the press, selfies and autographs. There is a small paragraph, which is thought-provoking and basically makes the point of seeking permission before taking a selfie with any celebrity and not to assume you will receive an autograph. It is a very current topic within this world. 

There’s a beautiful love story that also develops between two characters (I won’t say who because that would spoil the intrigue). Let’s just say, it is written so tenderly and beautifully but also realistically, that it becomes part of the story that any reader would want to see if it develops further. I also like the portrayal that basically other aspects of life happens, some good, others almost heartbreaking, even when you’re caught up in the romance of a particular moment. I ended up really rooting for these characters to get it together and wanted to read more to see what happens and hoping they would.

I was left more than satisfied by how this meticulous, well-crafted, uplifting festive book concluded and how it had many twists and turns along the way.
It is also worth reading the acknowledgements because they are so interesting. Whether you have read her books before or not, then I highly recommend giving this one a try and finding out more about the characters living in Middledip.

*With thanks to Sue Moorcroft for providing a profile photo and for kindly allowing me to review her latest book, as well as contacting her publisher. I also thank her publisher – Avon Books UK (division of Harper Collins) for sending me a copy of her book.

*Please note: this is an impartial review.

___________________________________________________

Title: A Christmas Gift
Author: Sue Moorcroft
Publisher: Avon Books UK (Division of Harper Collins)

Pages: 370 pages
Main Purchase Points:  Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith, Foyles,
                                         Libraries to name but a few.
ISBN: 978–0-00926007-1

Tony Plumb and the Moles of Ellodian – All is Not as it Seems in this Unique Book @Jsmithauthor @matadorbooks #fantasy #mentalhealth #kidslit #fiction #crossover @twylie68 @litlemonbooks @EmmabBooks @SueWeedon #Review

Review of Tony Plumb and the Moles of Ellodian
Author – J.M. Smith

Rating – 4 Stars ****


About the Author

J.M. Smith is a retired psychotherapist who worked within the NHS mental health department for many years.

 

Tony Plumb book


Blurb

If Your Mind Housed a Spy, What Secrets Would it Spill?

Harbouring troubled memories of time in care, Tony Plumb struggles to keep his mind on track.

Prone to episodes in ‘Madsville’ and bombarded by thought chariots carrying unwanted baggage from the past, he’s smuggled to Ellodian by the rule dodging social worker, Ms Bendy Legget.

At this spooky, underground facility, Tony’s history intertwines with the present and the task of answering three crucial life-changing questions cannot be avoided.

With help from good friends and therapy, Tony challenges authority, rights and wrongs and makes enemies, until he finally comes to understand the nature of his conundrums, the meaning of the word family and the darkest secret of all:
What really happened at the waterfall

Tony Plumb card

Review

Tony Plumb and the Moles of Ellodian is a fictional book that is perfect for Christmas, but it is also one that can be read all year round. It does mention Christmas, but that’s not the main crux of the story.

There are strong themes of mental health, family relationships, separation, loss, being from the care system, dealing with issues, self discovery, throughout this book. They are all written in a sensitive, tangible and realistic way. There is however some humour to be found within this book too, which really lifts it and adds to the life of the tale.
The story is complex, but not overly so, since it is well plotted. It would hit its target audience of 9-12 year olds who are good readers very well. It is age appropriate for this age group in the way the themes and language used are handled.

This book is firmly in the crossover market because it would suit any child from 9, teenager/YA and adult. It would easily suit people who enjoy either fantasy and/or tales that take you on a journey through life and of mental health.  I would recommend for its target “crossover” audience.

We immediately meet Tony Plumb who is not just thirteen, but thirteen and a half years old to be precise. He is at Evensham Social Services to see Ms Bendy Legget (whose name I just love for its humour). We get to know that he was in a children’s care home in Daisy Bank. I like that there is no hanging around to meet the main protagonist and to get to begin to know and understand him. The story has instantly begun and starts at a good pace, which remains constant throughout the book.

Before long, Tony has entered the mysterious place of Ellodian. The story goes between this world and the world of the therapy he receives.

The thought processes of Tony and the moles are in a different font and style. This is an ingenious idea because it doesn’t detract from the narrative of the story and flows very smoothly. It also looks effective and fun on the pages, making the story easy to read and follow. We actually get to know that Tony has what he calls “thought chariots”. I love this description, already it depicts what is going on and gives a real insight into the state of his mind. It gave a sense of true feeling about what he was going through.

Enter the unique world of Ellodian

The mysterious, dark place of Ellodian is where Tony is sent to, with his parrot – McGurney. It’s an adventure like no other! As a reader I found myself being immersed into this world very easily. We meet new characters, more authoritative adults for Tony to contend with – Miss Frankly and Mrs Sherbet and Prospect . Again, I just love the humour of the names.

The entire world of Ellodian that readers are thrust into is well described and mysterious, with odd uniforms which makes you question: Who or What are The Moles?
As you read on, I am sure you too will find yourself totally immersed because you want to know more and you will discover the significance of the moles. This is a world that I found myself not being able to help myself wanting to know what more curiosities it had to offer.

Tony finds himself on a mission to discover the answers of 3 questions. These aren’t any ordinary questions. They are exploratory questions about himself. Let’s just say, not the types of questions you would normally be asked in everyday conversation. I think this just adds to the mystery of the main character of Tony Plumb and who he truly is as a person. The questions are effectively set out, easy to understand and moves the story onwards very well and is created in such a way that feeds into the curiosity of the imagination. It becomes even more thought-provoking. By this time, I had already invested in the main protagonist, so I needed to know if all the questions were answered, how and what the actual answers are and the truth of Tony Plumb. I also wanted to know by this stage, what Ellodian actually was.

I enjoyed meeting Mrs Heapy – a psychotherapist by profession. In amongst the talk about mole friends, there is a real emotion that comes through from Tony. It is sensitively and realistically written, when we learn a bit more about the relationship between him and his parents. Quickly, I was captured and I think even our younger readers will be too. Tony also at this point, becomes even more likeable than what he ever was to begin with. We begin to get much more of a sense of his life. This isn’t just an adventure/fantasy book with some character or other leading you through many paths. It’s more than that. The main protagonist is 3 dimensional with real issues, real emotions and is a character to invest fully into.

Perfax is an intriguing character with major issues, which we see quickly and get the understanding of his temperament. He is a character that, although comes very much later in the book, is so well written.

Evensham Social Worker Department is returned to in the book. It gives it some grounding and shows the depth of Tony. The story, as it goes between Evensham and the world of Ellodian is written in a way that any reader will be able to follow.

The book concludes very well, it left me satisfied and I am sure it will leave anyone else reading this well written, well paced book, feeling the same. All in all it is a thought-provoking story and the balance between the issues and the fantasy elements are well-balanced. There are also the most unexpected twists and turns that are written in an inspired way of creating more drama. This also develops the story further and adds to the intrigue into how the story can possibly end. I would say –  take a chance on this debut child/YA/adult cross-over novelist and discover what is real and what is not in Tony Plumb’s life. Discover the world of Ellodian and allow yourself to be taken on a journey. You won’t be disappointed!

With thanks for J.M. Smith for writing to me with extra information about herself, for sending me a message/request to review her book and for sending me a copy of her book and an accompanying card/bookplate.

*Please Note – This is an impartial review.

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Title: Tony Plumb and the Moles of Ellodian

Author: J.M. Smith

Publisher: Toubador/Matador – Juvenile/YA Fiction

Pages: 273

Main Purchase Points:  Amazon, WH Smith, The Telegraph Bookshop

ISBN 978 – 1 – 78901 – 503 – 4

My Christmas Go To Books – A small collection that will inspire you to get into the mood for Christmas.

Quick Reviews of:
A Christmas Carol 

Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World
An Almost Perfect Christmas
Fill My Stocking

Xmas Reads

There are always Christmas books around, old and new. New ones can be fun and exciting to see what is inside their warm or jazzy covers. Older ones can be comforting and have that lovely well-read feel.

I have what I will call my “Go to Books for Christmas”. I know some of them better than others, due to age, but nevertheless, they are well-read. One in fact, I only received last year and it was a delight and one I just know I shall be returning to slip in-between the pages again this year.
Today on the blog, I present you quick reviews of 4 excellent books for Christmas.

A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
Rating 5 stars *****

 

Christmas Carol

It’s a well-known film, remade many times with many different actors in many different styles straight versions, a musical version and even a version with muppets. Some tv versions and films that are very modernised with really just the themes being left in. There’s much to choose from, but how many of you have actually read the book, I wonder? Now, it’s not actually anywhere near as thick as the book I have shown here. That book is actually 4 books in one. At only between 50 and a little over 100 (depending on the size of the pages of the copy of your book, it is a fairly quick read, but it will set you up nicely for Christmas. There’s the comfort within it that the story is well-known and yet it is one of those stories that can be read over again. After all Christmas only comes once a year. It is also very interesting to see what they miss out and what they include in the various films.
A man who lives by his name of Ebenezer Scrooge, ghosts that come to visit him in the night to try to change him and an epic ending. What’s not to like? So, if you’ve never given this a try, then it is worth every minute of time on it.

I will add here that you can buy the book The Christmas Carol on its own. For those of you who are interested. The particular book in the picture happens to contain: Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Hard Times. All, also worth reading.

 

Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World
by Simon Callow
Rating 4 Stars ****

 

Charles Dickens


It is highly interesting and entertaining read of who is possibly the first ‘celebrity author’, who is/was Charles Dickens. The book takes readers on a fascinating, immersive journey from his early years to being not only the author he became, but also his obsession with the stage and having that need to connect with his audience. Simon Callow has brought a great and unique insight into Charles Dickens and the era of the world he once inhabited. Like his performances, the book oozes charisma and a passion for the subject. You will discover so much more about Dickens. The style of writing immerses you easily into Charles Dickens’ world as it is written in almost story narrative form. Even if you’re not so into Non-fiction books, I would still recommend you give this a go.

This was also actually a one-man play. Yes, one-man with Simon Callow, playing several parts of the works of Charles Dickens. You do not have to have seen this play to read the book by the way. It’s a book that has a great narrative about who Charles Dickens was and his work. Now you might be thinking it’s a bit high-brow, especially at Christmas. It’s not at all. It’s not fact after fact or a long list of things. It’s written in a more thoughtful manner than that with enough lightness to see any reader through until Christmas and beyond. In a way, it is almost like you were watching the play, but not in play format. All in non-fiction, book format. It’s easy-going and an incredibly interesting book, which is very well-written. Simon Callow (this is when I often get who? And a sort of blank look. For those who cannot picture him, I will bet most, if not all of you have seen the film Four Wedding’s and a Funeral. He plays the Scotsman in the film. The one who dies. Sorry if that’s now a spoiler!).
I will also add that I highly recommend Simon Callow’s one-man plays. He does them at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and in London and possibly other places too. Each time they are something different. He knows his subjects and he plays everyone in such a way that audiences are in awe of.

This isn’t the only book written by Simon Callow, there are several others, including one about Wagner, which was published just last year.

 

An Almost Perfect Christmas
by Nina Stibbe
Rating 5 Stars *****

An Almost Perfect Christmas

Nina Stibbe has written a few books now, but is quite possibly best known for writing Love, Nina, which was also televised as a BBC drama.
This is an entertaining book, for which I am sure there are many readers out there who can relate to. It’s about having to face Christmas, or rather her mother having to. It takes readers on an entertaining journey through from the turkey to shopping to decorating to a present for the teacher to the Christmas pudding and much more. It’s about drying out the turkey, which has been left out to defrost in the downstairs toilet for 48 hours. Put it this way, as it says on the blurb, it soon becomes clear that her mother is no foodie. Gifting and re-gifting, the insane rush to get ready for what is the most wonderful time of the year.
I received this book from a good friend of mine one Christmas and it makes for a great read near Christmas Day. It is packed full of humour, joy and a bit of poignancy. If you read this, you absolutely have to read the glossary at the back too. It’s not as it first appears to be. It too is just so joyously fun!

I also recommend reading Love,Nina and Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe. They are a delight to read.

 

Fill My Stocking
by Alan Titchmarsh
Rating 4 stars ****

Fill my Stocking

One year I found this book in my Christmas parcel pile and it’s brilliant! It is packed full of wit and sheer Christmassy joy on every page. It is an anthology really of well-known short plays (sometimes with a twist), poems and excerpts of books all on the theme of Christmas. This has been wonderfully thought out and put together by Alan Titchmarsh. There’s a world to be discovered. There are poems by the likes of John Betjeman, Noel Coward, GK Chesterton to name but a few. There are twists of plays: written for pantomimes (for those who don’t know what a pantomime is. It is a British custom to see a well-known fairytale like Aladdin, Cinderella etc at Christmas time to be acted out, except with a lot of comedy added to them). So, there is Peterpain and Windy, Aladdin and the Wonderful Limp amongst others. There are excerpts from Wind in the Willows, Cider with Rosie, The Nativity, The Pickwick Papers, to name but a few. There is also a play in one-act of Pride and Prejudice.
There are beautiful illustrations throughout the book as well as some written works by Alan Titchmarsh himself.


So why not, this Christmas time, take a look at these book, either yourself or buy them as a festive gift for someone special in your lives. They are found on Amazon and other bookshops will also be able to assist. I hope that you all enjoy this little selection of books.

Xmas Reads

The Wrong Direction – Immerse Yourself in a Witty 1920’s Romance With Substance @LizTreacher #Romance #HistoricalFiction #1920

Review of The Wrong Direction
Author – Liz Treacher

Rating – 5 Stars *****

About the Author

Liz Treacher Picture*Liz Treacher is an author and photographer who lives in the Scottish Highlands, by the sea. Her website http://www.liztreacher.com shows off some of her photos of City Silhouettes, WW1 letters and the Coast. Her love of images influences her writing. Liz Treacher tends to think visually when she writes. Her interest in that period started when she stumbled upon a suitcase of letters sent to her grandmother by two soldiers during and after the First World War. She was fascinated by the way people expressed themselves at that time.
When Liz Treacher is not writing, she works as and adult literacy tutor. She uses storytelling and photography to encourage the students to write.

 

                                                Blurb

Autumn 1920 – When Bernard Cavalier, a flamboyant London artist, marries Evie Brunton, a beautiful Devon post lady, everyone expects a happy ending. But Evie misses cycling down country lanes, delivering the mail, and is finding it hard to adapt to her new life among Mayfair’s high society. Meanwhile Bernard, now a well-known artist, is struggling to give up her bachelor ways.

The Wrong Direction is as light and witty as the Wrong Envelope, with racy characters and a fast paced plot. Wild parties, flirtatious models, jealous friend – Bernard and Evie must negotiate many twists and turns if they are to hold onto each other.

The Wrong Direction

Review

It’s the 1920’s – what’s not to love? It’s a great period to read about and at an excellent pace, this fictional book will keep readers entertained and enthralled. There are the artists, such as the Pre-Raphaelites who get a mention, there’s the parties, the lifestyles and attempts to push the existing boundaries of that time. I find the 1920’s a fascinating period of time. This book captures a sense of society after the First World War, at a time when people wanted something different and women wanted more from life. This story really encapsulates the era very well. I had a feeling I would enjoy this book, which I did very much and even more than what I was anticipating.

The beauty of this book is that even though it is a sequel to The Wrong Envelope, which does get mentioned in this book, The Wrong Direction also stands very well on its own. So you can either jump straight into this with consummate ease, or you can start with The Wrong Envelope. I will add that I have not as yet read the first one, although I may well do in the future, I found the sequel easy to follow. So therefore, readers definitely have a couple of options open to them as to how to read these books.

The Wrong Direction is packed full of humour, but it is meaningfully done, with real substance. The humour does not feel forced or over-done. It is also actually relatable to people living in the world today! There are conversations that men and women have today, that you can imagine them having in the 1920’s. I don’t know what that says about people – perhaps some things never change? Anyway, this helps make the book be accessible to everyone. The tone of the book and the way the language is used fits in very well with the era.

The Wrong Direction has many chapters, but please do not let that put you off. At 309 pages, it’s an average sized book. Each, cleverly constructed chapter is just a few pages each. It makes for perfect reading when travelling or before going to sleep because then you’d be rarely interrupting yourself mid-chapter. I love that each chapter is named. Each title fits well with the content. The book is divided into sections, to signify the passing years and events and ends in 1922.

Evie and Bernard are newly weds. They’re very much in love, but trying to find their way in this new stage in life. It is set in the 1920s and is very funny, light and warm, but not frothy or sickly sweet. It’s attractive and a whole lot of fun!
There’s wonderful fun and banter between Bernard and Evie. I’d defy anyone not to smile at the warmth between them and have a giggle at their fun! When Evie is trying to cook and trying to find her feet, is so humorously written. I liked the characterisations of Bernard and Evie very quickly.

The book begins in Autumn 1920. Right from the first chapter, I found myself immersed into the story. The setting has enough description to visualise exactly what is going on at each moment and the scenery around them, but is not overly done. It’s all wonderful for the imagination. At the same time, there is a truth about the scenery as Evie and Bernard go through parks and other parts of London, which is seamless.

Everything has clearly been so well thought out and researched, right down to the fashions, the magazines, right down to a housekeeping book by Mrs Beeton. There are society balls and also initiation ceremonies for clubs, such as “The Custard Club”. The atmosphere is created exquisitely well and it all has an authentic feel about it, which is down to an understanding of the era and the writing style. The style of writing flows with ease.
Even though the book is set in the 1920s, the characters are still very much relatable to, for example, there’s certain habits that men had then, that they still have today. Women still flick through magazines looking at the latest articles and fashions.

It’s not all walks in the park and parties. Bernard is a flamboyant artist after all. Liz Treacher has done well in showing an understanding of the art movement of this period of time. I like that attention to detail and the references made to the Pre-Raphaelites such as Matisse. It shows where Bernard sits in the art world and is written like almost giving a nod to these great artists and their styles. It gives him some roots and context of his being part of this profession/vocation.
Evie herself isn’t a woman who is idle. She wants to create more of a life for herself. She wants to try to find where her place in life now sits, now that she isn’t in the more sedate Devon. She worked before her move to London and she wants to again.

Evie is a bright woman who wants more in life, she wants to learn new things and experience something different, so off she goes to Cambridge University. Both the university and the scenery by the River Cam is a great addition to this story. The scenery by the River Cam is idyllically described, but, cleverly, not stagnating the story. There are also the issues of the day highlighted about women in further education (but not heavily, they don’t distract from the easy, light flow of the book).
As a reader, we can almost, nervously question the relationship between Evie and Bernard and wonder what is going to happen next. It makes you wonder if it can last, with tensions growing between them with the distance between them in both mileage and in educational terms. There are very real worries that they will perhaps drift apart. Readers, you will have to read on to find out what happens in 1921.

Readers are introduced to all sorts of characters throughout the book, especially at university, such as Hilda, who has a quirky game she plays when she meets new people, but there’s also more to her than that as readers will discover as 1921 progresses. There’s a nice amount of characters to populate the book, that’s not too overwhelming for any reader. Some are a bit more in the background than others. It’s written in a way that people can be kept track of very easily.

The book goes as far as 1922, where we find out more about Evie and Bernard and just what has happened within their relationship and within their lives and emotions. I won’t say any more than that on this year because I don’t want to give away any spoilers.

The way the book is written and the tale it tells is light and yet has a lot of substance and authenticity about it, which strongly holds the interest.

To conclude: I love the sense of humour that runs through this book and the writing is excellent. This is a story with character, humour and some poignant and serious moments throughout it. I wanted to know more after each chapter was read. The pace is quick due to the layout and writing style of the book, which is immersive. Immediately I found myself caring for the main characters and I am sure other readers of this book will too.
The Wrong Direction, although isn’t Christmas themed, would make for an excellent Christmas present, which can then be read all year round.

*With thanks for Liz Treacher for writing to me with extra information about herself, for sending me the photo, for allowing me to review her book and for sending me a copy of her book.

*Please Note – This is an impartial review.