#Review of The Consequences of Love by Gavanndra Hodge Rated 5 stars @gavanndra @MichaelJBooks #BookReview #NonFiction

The Consequences of Love
By Gavanndra Hodge
Rated: 5 stars *****

This is a moving story of Gavanndra Hodges compelling, emotional, honest account of the strength and bonds that creates sisterly love and how love can devastate a person. The book goes between the 1980s, 1990’s and 2000’s. There is a lot that readers will be familiar with from music to locations to childhood toys. From the start you can almost feel the tender love between Gavanndra and her sister Candy. It is sweet and yet so devastatingly heart-breaking as Candy becomes so unwell from an airborne virus and slips away, the girl who is described as being loving, wilful, funny, curious and so much more.
The numbness of grief and the consequences of not giving time to grieve is layed bare within this brave story, that holds more than, certainly what I ever imagined in this must read book. It is definitely a book that will take readers through many emotions and yet does shed some light and hope and how powerful the psychological make up of our minds can be in this terrifically written book that is a great read.
Within my post here, you will find out more about the author, the blurb and my review.

I give thanks to the publishing company – Michael Joseph – an imprint of Penguin for allowing me to review such a heart-rendering, touching and tender book; and for supplying me with a physical print copy in-exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

About the Author

Gavanndra Hodge has worked in newspapers and magazines for over twenty years, at the Daily Mail, Independent, ES Magazine and Tatler, where she was deputy editor and acting editor. In 2018 she left Tatler and became a freelance writer, contributing to publications including the Sunday Times, The Times, Telegraph and ES Magazine. She writes a column for The Times LUXX Magazine about how to talk to children about difficult subjects, such as privilege, grief and fairness, and has interviewed many high profile people, most recently Michael Caine, Margot Robbie and Carey Mulligan.

The Conseequence of Love

Blurb

Seven-year-old Gavanndra Hodge’s life is a precarious place. Her father is a hairdresser and drug dealer to Chelsea’s most decadent inhabitants; her mother an alcoholic ex-model. So, it is up to Gavanndra to keep her little sister Candy safe.

But when Candy dies suddenly on holiday aged nine, Gavanndra’s family, already so fragile and damaged, implodes.

Now a mother herself, and with only memories of Candy’s awful final moments, Gavanndra embarks on a journey to write her way back to the little girl whose death tore her family apart.

The Consequences of Love is a story of loss and recovery, trauma and memory. It is a joyous and compelling account of the strength of the love between sisters and how nothing is ever truly lost if we are brave enough to return to where we began.

Review

Candy (Candida Meander Hodge) died 4th April 1989. This book is about love, loss, grief on a huge scale, dealing with the consequences of the magnitude of grief, identity, drugs and alcohol of dealing with memories and handling life when people fill in the gaps, that have been long since suppressed. This is an emotional read and also one that is perhaps important. As much as there are other people mentioned in the book, like a boyfriend and friends etc, it is ultimately one that focuses your mind on both Gavanndra and Candy Hodge.

It finally becomes about both preserving both sisters. One dead, the other alive and the beginnings a gradual recovery, decades later for the one who is alive. It shows the messiness of life and the need to give time to actually process emotions and to grieve. It’s a brave book that in no way could have been easy to write and to bare so much about life in the past and closer to present times as memories are retrieved about the people she associated with and the way her family was and the emotional pain, that she may have thought she dealt with at the time of the death, but had not as it states her own vices. It becomes apparent that, although there is hope and love as she now has a family of her own, with a husband who is different from her father, that it would have been a lot to deal with, enough to hope that some way, Gavanndra Hodge’s personal life gets that bit better as more time goes on.

It’s also about, perhaps not full recovery, but a merging of the past and present and finding a way to live with them both. There seems to be strings of pain that, like threads that intertwine to create it to run through something, the pain intertwines and feeds through this family and the profound effect Candy’s death had on her, into adulthood and the entire surviving family. There is some optimism and hope provided by Gavanndra Hodge as she tells this life story.

There are however, in 1982,  childhood memories of fun like Enid Blyton books, wobbly teeth and fun with her dad. The type of fun that would make any reader smile and may bring back their own childhood memories. There’s a cutting darkness of her dad being involved in drugs.

Time moves on to 2014 and Gavanndra naturally grows up and has her own children – Hebe and Minna, with an age gap not far from herself and Candy. It is evident that the memories hits hard when her children are playing gleefully around. At this time Gavanndra works for Tatler magazine as a successful Deputy Editor as she tries to work through the past and yet separate it from her present at times. The writing is powerful, it grabs you from the beginning to the end.
The book covers quite a lot and her mother also becomes terribly unwell with cellulitis and sepsis, both that are challenging to deal with and are thankfully becoming more prominent in certain narratives in the news in recent years. Time moves also to 2015 and there is a sentence, that, for me anyway, hits home even more and that is about how every time a phone rings, you wonder if someone else has died. It will feel so uniquely different for everyone, but at the same time, I know how that feels for me, as Gavanndra will for her.

The book highlights some of the great work of Julia Samuel – a psychotherapist who consoled Princes William and Harry after their mother died and is a founder of Child Bereavement UK. This, apart from being nice, fits in with Gavanndra’s personal as well as her ambitious professional life. It is also very interesting to read about the social circles she moves/moved in. 

In 1991 there is a mix of drugs and GCSEs, quite a comparison to later in 2015 when she finally goes for therapy and to try to remember Candy more, the sister who she lost and to release the profoundness and pain of the grief a bit so it becomes more manageable. Reading onwards I hold hope for Gavanndra Hodge that she gets what she is seeking and that her personal life improves as more of what happened to Candy almost tumbles out in some interesting therapies and therapists, except I doubt in reality it did tumble out completely and took time.

There’s a really interesting interview in the last quarter of the book that shines a light on Jan Hodge about the family and tragedies.

The book does ultimately take readers up to 2018 and 2019, where we really get a glimpse into Candy, who seemed vibrant, knew her own mind – bordering on stubborn with and arty flair and friendly and the school reports are fascinating.

This is ultimately a book that is emotional and moving and is very interesting indeed. As much as the years move around a bit from chapter to chapter, it reads very well and does make sense to do this in this instance. It reads like there is a lot of honesty and in the end you cannot but help that there’s some more light in the author’s life to come. There is in a sense, perhaps more to be told, but the focus is excellent. It deals well with what “The Consequences of Love” can be, and yet we all need love and to be loved.

 

#Review of Paper Sparrows by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi – A Beautiful book about family, love, civil-war and more #PaperSparrows @EzziAbi @HhouseBooks #Fiction #libraries #readingcommunity #writingcommunity #readingforpleasure

Paper Sparrows
By Nathalie Abi-Ezzi
Rated: 5 stars *****

Thank you to Holland House Books for trusting me and my blog enough to approach me to choose a book to review. I chose 2 and one of them is Paper Sparrows by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi, which is highly praised by The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, Sunday Business Post, The Financial Times and more… The book is definitely, in my humble opinion worthy of such people praising it. It’s a fabulous book that will take you on a journey out of London to Lebanon to Beriuit. It will also take you on a journey of a perhaps, different life, but one that will have some resonance. It is emotive, powerful and yet subtle at the same time about what was going on in 2006. The book was published early March 2020.

About the Author

Nathalie Abi-Ezzi was born in Beirut, and has lived in Lebanon, Austria and the UK.
It was while working on her PhD in English Literature at King’s College London that she realised that she wanted to write her own novels, rather than just analyze other people’s. So, while working variously with an editor, teacher and tutor, she wrote and published several prize-winning short stories and her first novel, A Girl Made of Dust, was widely praised, and was shortlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize and te Author’s Club Best First Novel Award, and was the winner of the liBeraturpreis in 2011.

Blurb

Back to Lebanon – to family, love and war…
Layla, a 19 year old music undergraduate, travels from London back to Lenanon for the summer holidays, only to find that her brother has gone missing. Without a second thought, she sets off to find him in Beirut. On her way, she picks up a stray dog, falls in love with Joe, another student, and sees her country through entirely new eyes. But just as she is beginning to pick up clues about where her brother might be, the July war breaks out and turns everything on its head.

Paper Sparrows

Review

What can I say? Amazing, Must Read, Beautifully written. The author captures music, love, civil war, family strains, compassion, warmth, anger incredibly well. I thought I would take a chance on this book and I am so pleased I did. Discover Layla, her family, the country she grew up in and what happens in her life and to the place she called home, all within this fantastic book. This is one of those books I hope many people read. It is more than what you may initially think it is. It is gently written, but the themes are anything but gentle. This is a book with substance and one I find myself hoping everyone takes a chance like I did and read it.

I cannot help but mention is the wonderful cover art. I absolutely love it, with the sparrow and pattern. It is so fitting for this book as, apart from it being called Paper Sparrow, it is set in London, Lebannon and Beirut. From the outset, this is a beautifully written book . It’s a book I felt caught up in and really hope others try reading this amazing and lovely book. This isn’t to say it is a cosy read. The words may drift easily along, but there is bite in this book as the plot builds and builds. It’s a book I highly recommend.

There is life, music and love in the air with the backdrop of civil-war. The way it is all written and joins together is encapsualting, beautiful and sensual. Wherever you live in the world, there is something that people will find relatable or familiar to what they’ve seen on the news, but written so much more subtly as this is also about the spaces in-between the war, where ordinary civilians lives go on.

19 year old Layla is the main character in this book. She is an under-graduate at the Royal College of Music in London and returns to Lebannon to attend a wedding. Imagine being away from your home country and returning to find things are just not quite the same? Layla did. She has been away for quite some time and people have changed. The book pronounces these changes and the feelings about them empathetically. There are also some wonderful and warm memories from her childhood that she reflects on from time to time, especially music.

Ziad – Layla’s brother goes missing. There’s been the pressure of exams put upon him, on-top of a worrying job-market situation and he may or may not want to take over the pharmacy. Something everyone, the world over can relate to, perhaps not the pressure of taking over a family business, but the rest of it. So, Layla goes on a road trip to Beirut to find him, picking up a stray dog along the way. It sounds trivial, it isn’t. The dog becomes more like a friend and she needs it. There is the desperate worry of what could have become of her brother.

This however is no ordinary story about growing up and life changing, this is a story taking place when there is civil war.
It is so well told and a great demonstration of how life can seem quite average and yet have different challenges from many other western countries as there are checkpoints to contend with, soldiers around and the news of what Hezbollah’s leader will do next and where his army will encroach on. This isn’t also your usual political story either. Find out the effects of civil war and family has on a person and find out where Layla goes and her geographical and life journey here. The book may be fiction, but the conflict in 2006 was very real.

There is something for most readers in this book.

In this very different time, let me take a moment to write a short note:

Bloggers care…As I write this, my thoughts also turn to everyone who is now experiencing very different times, possibly more challenging times as the Corona Virus and its effects unfold. Be Kind to Each Other and Take Care. More reviews and extracts will come on many of our blogs. Most of us bloggers have stepped up to support readers, authors and publishers and much more when we can. I want to let readers know still, what is coming soon or is newly published and independent bookshops also provide delivery services. I also know that this may be an isolating time for some and it is recognised that books can go some way in dealing with that as they can give people an outlet when they cannot go anywhere and a bit of release for a little while from these uncertain times. Books can provide the perfect escapism and are also good for wellbeing. It is lovely to see that so many Bloggers, Readers, Authors, Publishers are all trying to support each other, because we are all in it together. Take care and I hope you are all well. Thank you!

Review of The Longest Farewell – James, Dementia and Me by Nula Suchet – Rated 5 stars @nulasuchet @johnsuchet1 @SerenBooks @LoveBooksTours @David_Suchet #TheLongestFarewell #BlogTour #Review #dementia #nonfiction #review #health

The Longest Farewell
By Nula Suchet
Rated: 5 stars *****

Nula Suchet Blog Tour poster.jpg

It gives me great pleasure to be closing Nula Suchet’s blog tour with my review, that was arranged by Kelley at Love Books Group. I first came across Nula Suchet’s book in the summer of 2019 and I am so pleased a blog tour has now occurred. This is one of the most heart-breaking non-fiction books, but it is also one of the most important. It also has the most wonderful happy moments within it. This book is worth investing the time in reading it. I highly recommend this absorbing, all-encompassing book that you may feel every emotion from.

 

About the Author

Nula Suchet picNula Suchet was born in Ireland, part of a large family. After a difficult early life she became an interior designer who worked internationally in the UK, Europe and the US. Now retired, she lives in London with her husband, the broadcaster John Suchet, who she met in the care home where their spouses were being cared for with dementia. Her book, The Longest Farewell, on dealing with her husband’s dementia and the heartbreak that came with it is available now.

Blurb

When Nula’s husband James, a British documentary filmmaker, becomes forgetful they put it down to the stress of his work. But his behavior becomes more erratic and inexplicable, and he is eventually diagnosed as suffering from Picks Disease, an early onset and aggressive form of dementia. Suddenly their lives change from comfortable middle-class creatives through inexplicable behaviour, the shock of diagnosis, coping with the ongoing illness, not coping with the illness, to the indignities of care home life. The Longest Farewell is a moving description of James utter mental and physical deterioration, and the effect that it had both on him and on the people from whom he was involuntarily retreating, particularly Nula. Her life is completely taken over by James illness: her frustration at trying to cope, her guilt at having to hand over his care to professionals in England, are just part of her at times harrowing story.

With James in care and left with seemingly little to do but wait for his death, Nula meets Bonnie, another resident at the care home suffering from the same condition. In turn she meets Bonnie’s husband, the broadcaster John Suchet and the similarity of their positions becomes a bond between them. After the deaths of James and Bonnie, and some guilt-induced false starts, Nula’s story takes a bitter-sweet turn: they become partners, and eventually marry. The Longest Farewell is a heartfelt yet inspiring account of dealing with dementia, and of unexpectedly finding a happy ending.

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Review

Brave, devastatingly emotional, moving, heartbreaking, thought-provoking and yet there’s so much love in the Longest Farewell and ultimately, such a special kind of happiness.

I am pleased and privileged to review The Longest Farewell by Nula Suchet. It is with great thanks to her for agreeing to allow me to review her book. I also thank her for arranging with her publisher to send me a hardback copy.

Nula Suchet chronicled her life in the hope that anyone whose life is blighted with dementia can know that the tunnel they feel enclosed by need never be totally closed. The book is 182 pages and every word is evidently written from the heart. There is so much in this book to capture, so please bear with me.

At only fifty-seven years old, Nula’s husband was diagnosed with Picks disease – a rare form of dementia. This is an important book. It really shows that dementia really does not choose age or class or creed. It is a cruel disease at any age, but particularly to someone who was in his prime to then suddenly not be. There’s so much heartbreak when reading this book. Any reader, I am sure would feel it. This book is brave and must have taken a lot of courage to write as memories of a life since past, come to the fore once more in such a way, in order to write this brilliant book. The book begins with there just not being something quite right about James. The worry is there in the writing as is the fact that it perhaps makes more sense to put the new behaviours James is expressing, down to stress.

There is a strong glimpse into what life for James used to be like pre-dementia. I like that we are treated to the type of man he was and what he did. He had a strong place in the world, he created scripts for documentaries and wrote screenplays and worked very hard and over many hours. There seems to be a real sense of vibrancy and intelligence about James, even when there’s a bit about him meeting with a producer and normally he talks a lot about various ideas, when instead, there is a silence, that would by now, seem, to any reader as being unusual for James. There was an energy and enthusiasm in his work that was all of a sudden whisked away, leaving the love of his life wondering what to do. Nula writes unambiguously, throughout, including the emotions, the striking behaviours in James and Nula’s understandable initial denial that it could be anything other than stress or lots of time writing alone. There is a deep sense that every single sentence written is incredibly heart-felt and I believe other readers will feel this in their hearts too as I do in mine. There’s the feeling of anger too about what the Picks disease is doing to James. Everyone reacts differently and until dementia happens, you cannot fully really know how you will react, let’s just say, it is a familiar reaction. In amongst all of the different emotions and the having to deal with it, I like that Nula Suchet shows an air of determination to still to try to live life to the fullest with James, doing the things they used to enjoy together. There is however, such a bitter-sweetness. Nula Suchet writes about some wonderful memories, that seem so happy and full of love. There is such a determination to care for James. How hard this is isn’t sugar-coated as bit by bit it is there for all readers to see, but ultimately dementia is sadly taking over and behaviours, caused by Picks. Even before the chapter called Isolation, there’s a sense of it creeping stealthily and unwelcomingly in and life as they once knew it coming to a halt. Nula also has to give up working on her interior design business too. The writing is so amazingly strong, every aspect of the book is absorbing and all consuming in a good way because every emotion can practically be felt and empathised and sympathised with. I know this is a book that I will read more than once. I realised that before I even reached the end.

When Nula Suchet says about their being a comfort that she finally found a “good home” that did activities with their residents, even I feel gladness of that, because very unfortunately that isn’t always the case, as is pointed out in the book. Not that this makes anything any easier, not really, as travelling to the care home also is another emotional challenge of sadness as that feeling of guilt takes hold and lingers. The phrases used could not be put any better to describe that situation of struggle, anguish and the sheer depths of despair she goes to. Not one bit of it could be easy to have re-lived at all.

It is so interesting and thoughtful that other residents are remembered from Nula’s visits to see James and what I think readers, who perhaps don’t need to make visits to a care home will find is how different the residents all behave that she describes, as well as the feelings and vocal demands of James too.

The book then naturally merges into John Suchet’s life too as he and Nula meet and it is touching as she also gets to know Bonnie in the care home.
John Suchet is a broadcaster, currently on  the radio channel Classic FM.
It reads a little bit differently from what went prior. There are correspondences between Nula and John, which contain warmth, care and attention.

There are similarities in emotions felt and the emotionally charged writing, for he too is losing Bonnie – the love of his life all too early with the cruelty of dementia.  There are some parallels between their lives as a strong connection starts to build between them, such as John and Bonnie also travelled together whilst he worked – researching for his books. The connection builds into friendship and more and this is beautiful to read about as there is a clear hope and glimmer of happiness and being able to re-discover all the things they both enjoy and together. There are however a few times of understandable tentativeness at first and a challenging holiday in Greece together, which is written so well and with also recalling her own upbringing, which was so different from John’s. Hers, one of more turmoil and heartbreak, compared to John’s seemingly more perfect life. There is some comfort to be found in her insecurities as she asks calls “girly questions” due to insecurities. It is something many females will relate to, I am sure, but also the self-protection both males and females I am sure will relate to some degree. There are other trips where there are memories of James and the sadness that comes with it. There’s also more feelings of guilt and the pain of not being able to have a  coherent discussion with James about what she had been doing.

The further deterioration in both Bonnie and James and the medical issues and palliative care is not shied away from. It is told how it was for them. Poignantly there is a shared “list of nevers”, which is things they will never be able to do again.  It is by this time at its starkest yet as is the fact that dementia never leaves those who actually have it, but also others, like John and Nula, no matter what else is done in life.

Nula goes into some detail about the further deterioration of James and how it affects her relationship with John, who is also seeing this in Bonnie and is trying to cope with his own emotions, has to be given credit for being so incredibly patient and for showing such care and realising they need each other, even when emotion is trying to get the better of Nula and is trying to pull the relationship apart and almost forever, even after the funerals of James and Bonnie, which is chronicled with such respect. I found myself thinking thank goodness that Nula’s computer needed fixed and they were going to an expert together and she still agreed. Through all the devastation Nula and John lived through together, there is so much love and the ending is one that nearly was not, but my goodness I am glad it is just the best ending or perhaps best ever continuation of their lives may be more appropriate, for two people who have lived through so much and now bravely shared so much to the world.

There’s so much pain and guilt that is so understandable and deserves compassion. What is perhaps not actually said, is still there in-between the lines because this is actually an incredibly well-written book and written from the heart.

There are two sections of wonderful, meaningful photos that are excellently placed within the book. The first section, depicting happier times of James and Nula and they are so full of joy and life and yet there is a sadness because these are memories now of his work and of other life’s adventures they did together.  There’s also some other family photos too that are interesting to see. The second set shows James and Bonnie years into dementia and what it was doing to them, and yet they are so poignantly remembered through these photos. They are so tastefully done and with sensitivity. There are also photos of happier times again of Nula and John together, which are so heartwarming and they really do look so happy together. Each photo has its place. They seem so carefully chosen and go with the text before and after them. Every single expression looks so genuine.

I do also recommend reading the very important postscript. It highlights further the need for greater awareness and compassion for those with dementia. It isn’t just those who actually have this devastating disease that has still no cure to, it is everyone around that person. It highlights that care needs to be better and more research and more expertise needs to be put into it and that care, although can be good in some places of the UK, it isn’t always good around the UK. There’s acknowledgement of the greatest campaign’s so far, such as Line of Duty actress Vicky McClure’s Dementia Choir, hosted in Nottingham and Formula One champion Jackie Stewart launching a fund for research.

I have never read a book quite like The Longest Farewell before. The Longest Farewell is an important and timeless book in raising awareness of what Dementia can do and how it affects everyone’s lives and not just the person who is suffering from it. It also raises awareness of the inequalities in the care for dementia patients. There also is a need for more compassion towards people with dementia and their affected families around them.
For some, perhaps the book may also provide comfort and hope for those who are carers or are visiting their loved ones in a care-home that they aren’t alone.

It is also kind that Nula mentions that John also has a book called My Bonnie, documenting his dispair and loneliness about losing Bonnie to dementia. He also writes books about different classical composers in his fascinating Man Revealed series.

 

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Great books from 2019 – Happy New Year and Happy Reading #HappyNewYear #2019books #2019wrapup #MyYearinBooks #BestBooks #MustReads #amreading #readingforpleasure #books #CrimeFiction #Thriller #FamilySaga #Saga #Historical #Kidslit #YA #NonFiction #Fiction #Fantasy #UpLit #Bookish

Great Books to check out and read from 2019

I have read and reviewed so many books this year. I have decided to follow the trend of compiling an end of year list of what I would consider “The Must Read or Top 2019 Books. The list will be in no particular order, but will be broken down into genre. Here you will find great Children’s Books and Young Adult books, followed by all types of crime fiction; followed by general fictional books; followed by family saga/historical fiction; followed by fantasy; followed by non-fiction/autobiographical/biographical.
Firstly, I would like to say a few thanks:

I am incredibly grateful to everyone however who contacts me through my blog or Twitter, interacts with me, sends me books to review, either personally or through publishing houses. I am grateful for the generosity of authors, publishers and bloggers for sharing my reviews on their social media platforms and websites. I thank publishers and authors for considering me and for giving me the responsibility of reviewing their books. Reviewing someone’s work is something I don’t do lightly. A lot of thought goes into it all and also I am so conscious that what is in my hands at that moment is someone’s hard work and, whether I’ve met the person/people face to face or not, I am always aware of them being human too. I must say that I do love writing my blog and I appreciate every opportunity I have ever had that has come with writing it.

I also thank those authors, publishers and bloggers who have been kind and generous in other ways too, such as help with the community library I currently lead. You know who you are and I am eternally grateful.

Now onto the lists. I hope people find something new, some inspiration or are perhaps reminded that they want to check out a book. The books on the list are all on my blog, so feel free to check out the full reviews. The books can be borrowed from libraries, bought from bookshops and are also e-books on the various e-book platforms.

Children and Young Adult Fiction


Princess Poppy – Please, Please Save the Bees by Janey Louise Jones
Timothy Mean and the Time Machine by William A.E. Ford
The Hangry Hamster by Grace McCluskey
Leo and the Lightning Dragons by Gill White
Toletis by Rafa Ruiz
The Age of Akra by Vacen Taylor

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty
10 Things to do Before You Leave School by Bernard O’Keefe (YA)

Crime Fiction , including Thrillers and Political Thrillers

Absolution by Adam Croft
Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver
In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone

Nothing to Hide by James Oswald
The Poisoned Rock by Robert Daws
Death at the Plague Museum by Lesley Kelly
The Killing Rock by Robert Daws
In Plain Sight by Adam Croft
Sealed with a Death by James Sylvester
Hands Up by Stephen Clark
The Silence of Severance by Wes Markin
A Friend In Deed by G.D. Harper

General Fiction

 


The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris
Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami
A Summer to Remember by Sue Moorcroft
Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls
Let it Snow by Sue Moorcroft
Summer at the Kindness Café by Victoria Walters
Secret Things and Highland Flings by Tracy Corbett
Sunshine and Secrets – The Paradise Cookery School by Daisy James

Family Saga/Historical Fiction

Bobby Girls coverHeady HeightsTime will tell book

Bobby Girls by Johanna Bell
Welcome to the Heady Heights by David F.Frost

Time Will Tell by Eva Jordan

Fantasy

The Blue Salt Road Joanne HarrisThe Old Dragon's Head Coveer

The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris (YA and Adult)
The Old Dragon’s Head by Justin Newland

The Longest Farewell by Nula Suchet
Zippy and Me by Ronnie Le Drew
First in the Fight 20 Women Who Made Manchester by Helen Antrobus
The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler

I have some books to review already and working on them for 2020.
I’ve plenty of exciting things to be blogging about in 2020 and hopefully many more exciting opportunities will crop up in the future. I will also be publishing brief resumes of great theatre shows from 2018 and 2019, most of which are still running, going to tour nationally in the UK and some of which come back every so often, so could be ones to look out for in the future.
For now, I hope you enjoy what I have for my 2019 resumes and all else that is on my blog. I hope you all had a great Christmas and I wish you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2020. Thank you too for following and reading my blog, without such, it wouldn’t exist. I love writing my blog and always grateful to those who give me opportunities to review and to write and to talk to people and to those who read what I write. Thank you!!!!

As I didn’t do this in 2018, here is a quick run down of the best books I read then. 
Fiction – Stealth by Hugh Fraser, Antiques and Alibis by Wendy H. Jones, The Wrong Direction by Liz Treacher, A Christmas Gift by Sue Moorcroft.
Non -Fiction – An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe, Charles Dickens by Simon Callow, Fill my Stocking by Alan Titchmarsh.
Young Adult – Tony Plumb and the Moles of Ellodian by J.M. Smith
Children’s books – The Treasure At the Top of The World by Clive Mantle.
Reviews can be found on my blog. Please note the Christmas books are reviewed within one blog post with quick reviews.

Happy New Year 2020

 

Bookmark pic

Review of Ka-E-RO-U – Time to Go Home – A beautifully written book about the repatriation of a flag, history, culture and love by B. Jeanne Shibahara #Time to Go Home #B.JeanneShibahara #Review #WW2 #Japan #UK #USA #History #Culture #ModernTimes #fiction #Mystery #Humour

KA-E-RO-U – Time to Go Home
by B. Jeanne Shibahara
Rated 4 stars ****

About the Author and Book

B. Jeanne Shibahara studied fiction writing from Mark Harris (Bang the Drum Slowly) B Jeanne Shibharaand copywriting from Beth Luey (Editorial Consultant, Chicago Manual of Style, 16thEd.) in the MA program for creative writing at Arizona State University.

In Japan, B. Jeanne has taught English at a private university, written articles for research groups, and created jazz lyrics for composer Hajime Kitamura.

Daughter of a US military officer, she married into a family of calligraphy, ikebana, and tea ceremony teachers, shamisen player, kimono fabric artist, business entrepreneur, and architect. Her home is in Nara City, the ancient capital of Japan.

Time-slip to my Osaka life, 1995, fifty years after the end of WWII—bubble economy ready to burst and the seed to KA-E-RO-U falls into my hands. A WWII Japanese flag. A widow of a US veteran in Akron, Ohio sends the flag to a colleague of mine, asks him to find the family of the fallen soldier who had carried it into the battlefields.
Please click on the website link for more information about the author and the very interesting backstory to the book.           Link:    Website

Meryl is a Vietnam War widow who misses her grown son, feels left out after her father’s recent marriage. A WWII Japanese flag falls into her hands. The gentle push of a love-struck professor starts her adventure to take the flag home. From the neon of Osaka, to the ancient capital Nara, to the forests of Akita, the trail follows British and US expats, a newspaper reporter, factory manager, ikebana teacher, a Matagi hunter and winds through Japanese culture, past and present. A story of shared humanity and love “in the simplest things.”

Kaerou

Review

The book is well organised and split into 6 sections – Desert Flower M, The Backstreets of Namba, Day 2 in Japan, To Meryl To Atika, Returns and Finale.

The opening sentence is  “Everybody who knew the secretary knew she couldn’t resist any chance at serving up beefy gossip—seasoned, well done, sizzling and sputtering the latest, the most titillating, the just-gotta-tell.” I must say, it is instantly intriguing and I wanted to know a bit more and it is written so excellently.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the book as a whole really, but I was intrigued enough to really want to read it. I started to enjoy it from the outset in the office and getting to know the characters. The letter interested me as do the Shakespearean quotes. I like that there is some humour mingled in with history and people’s lives.

Kaerou takes readers along with Meryl, who is a war widow from the Vietnam war, on a  journey to Japan. She discovered a Japanese flag of a fallen soldier from the second world war and wants to deliver it back to the family. She meets many interesting characters who I enjoyed reading about, including a professor and a writer. The book is very character driven. The premise of the actual plot is fine and interesting enough. Sometimes the grammar isn’t at its best, but somehow that doesn’t detract from the actual story and the richness in culture. It really is fascinating to read about the cultures and how they sit in people’s minds as the book isn’t just about Japan, it covers the UK, Vietnam and the US.

The scenery is beautifully written and picturesque.

The book is nicely written and it is interesting as there are some quick, short chapters, yet the pace is smooth and gentle. The way it goes between past and present is beautifully presented and flows well and in an unconfused way. With all the complexities of the book, everything marries up well on the whole, leaving a pleasant satisfaction.

The book is a love story and one of discovery. It is also one of history and how it can join up with the present as there is a journey to join up the flag of the fallen soldier with his family. It’s about moving on, but not without making peace first with what was lost in the war. It’s also about life ever-moving onwards and it’s there to be really lived and embraced and trying to overcome and bridge that which divides us. So, as much as this is Remembrance Sunday and we think of our war dead and the veterans who are still alive, this book is about love too and there is something to learn here as well, even though Japan wasn’t an ally nation. In this book readers can learn about the past and more present times of Japan through the characters that are written about.

I think B.Jeanne Shibahara has achieved what she set out to achieve. She has a book that has a story, great characters and I get the sense of most importantly, one that tells the world about Japan.

Overall, I recommend this book. Take a leap, take that chance and read about the familiar and the perhaps, lesser well-known and learn something from this story that, although is fictional, is based on fact. So, I recommend to try this book for something new. Sometimes we get into reading very similar books time and time again, this book brings something new, or if you like reading about people’s lives or family sagas even, or learning about different cultures and thoughts and feeling emotions and history in terms of where it also sits with the present,  then I would recommend Ke a rou. Bascially, I say give it a go for a pleasant, satisfying read.

I have to say I enjoyed reading the book. Thanks to B. Jeanne Shibahara for contacting me on my contact page on my blog and for giving me this amazing opportunity to review her book. I thank her also for buying me a copy of her book and sending it to me.

Review of Trillium by Margaret Lindsay Holton #Trillium #MLHolton #Review #Historical #Canada #UK

Review of Trillium
by Margaret Lindsay Holton
Rated: 4 Stars ****

 

About the Author

Artist Author MLHoltonMargaret Lindsay Holton is a senior Canadian artist and an award-winning fiction author from the Golden Horseshoe region of Southern Ontario, Canada. She has recently released her third novel.

Blurb

TRILLIUM intimately portrays the intertwining evolution of three very distinct families in the wine-making region known as Niagara in the Golden Horseshoe region, Ontario, Canada. …It all starts when 19-year-old Tom Hartford crosses over the mighty Niagara River in the 1750s … Readers will meet Maaka, an ingenious indigenous trapper; Franco, a dirt poor Sicilian labourer; Paddy O’Sullivan, a sweet-talking Irish con-artist and sweet Cate, the Hamilton port prostitute. And that’s just the beginning! All unfolds with a pair of motherless red-headed twin brothers, a diabolical hate-filled drunkard, two devoted raven-haired sisters, an obsessed land developer, hard-working Mexicans, a blind man, a handsome Italian-Canadian wine-maker, a blessed treasure trove of attentive mothers, one demented vineyard-wandering wife – and a startlingly beautiful, simpleton savant, Anna. A 250 year-old story about three families: the good, bad … and ugly.

TRILLIUM by MLHOLTON book cover

Review

Firstly, I was honoured to be asked by Canadian author Margaret Lindsay Holton to review her book – Trillium. I thank her for getting in touch with me via my blog with her request to read and review her book.

“Trillium is a spring flowering perennial, also known as Wake Robin, which are slow to establish but have a long life-span”.

Take an opportunity to read of this historical saga that gives an enlightening portrayal of different lives and times as it tracks families through multi-generations and their way of agricultural life and historical events that occur. The book is almost like reading a family tree, seeing people and what occurs during each generation makes this book fascinating. It goes further than that though as readers can get plunged into their lives and feel the emotions too. 

The book is in 9 parts, cleverly titled like a plant – seeds, roots, growing vines, flower, fruit, harvest, second harvest, MOG and new seeds. When you read the book, this all then makes sense in both the agricultural life of the characters and of the way the story spans across many years and generations, which begins with 3 settlers – Tom, Franco, and Paddy.

Reading about Niagara is interesting in this book and is brought to life beautiful descriptions, which enhances the book and the flow of the story, which moves along at a gentle pace as it evolves like a good wine.

There are traditional ties that link Scotland and Canada and in this book you will meet Clan Macdonald and their family traditions and the farming life. The book then moves onto seed number two as does the way of life in 1885. There’s even more of a feeling of some tension between Canada and England. There’s also, as time moves on the building of a suspension bridge and travel and trade really starts to get interesting too in this chapter. The author has captured a good sense of busy merchants and their trades.

Roots is an interesting part, like seeds, there are a number of roots also feeding into the family. It is interesting to read about the war times and then with vines, highlighting the aftermath of war. Flower has a different feel, a freshness about it again with life blossoming again and entering another new era, whereas by contrast, Harvest brings some challenging times and MOG, delves deeper as time moves on into the 90s that brings upon sadness and Holton captures the emotion well here. 90’s culture and attitudes is captured very nicely, an era I have lived through. New seeds are then sown into the family and the weave of time for other events to occur and this is the closing part of the book, which has a satisfying ending and one that is a reminder that there is death and there is birth and the way of the world goes on, as does life.

All in all, this is a well-rounded story that weaves fact and fiction to create character’s lives through different time-spans, which are well-captured in this book and gives great insight. I would recommend the book to those who enjoy historical sagas and family tracing and those wanting a glimpse into what events occured at different times.

I thank the author for providing me with her book and photos. I again thank her for writing to me to request I read and review her book. This review however is by no means biased.

Links to the book:

AMAZON paperback and ebook :
 https://www.amazon.com/Trillium-Margaret-Lindsay-Holton/dp/0992127289


EBOOK only : 
https://www.books2read.com/TRILLIUM