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Review of The Auschwitz Violin – 5 Stars

The Auschwitz Violin by Maria Àngels Anglada

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The book opens with a meeting between an older lady violinist and a charmed young man instantly captivated by her, her playing and her instrument, a friendship blossoms and he asks the story of the violin. This leads us to the extraordinary story of Daniel, and his imprisonment at Auschwitz.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

’Occupation?’
The question had seemed inoffensive enough, but not everyone had the good fortune to be asked. Those who were selected immediately to die – children, old men and women, the infirm – stood in another line.
Daniel was quick to reply;
‘Carpenter, cabinetmaker.’
It was a half-lie. The answer had risen from deep within the recesses of his mind; only later would he reason it out. It was as if someone had dictated it to him.

This book has it all. Sometimes it is soft and gentle and it beautifully captures the love that violin makers have for their craft. It also has many harrowing details of the treatment and suffering of those at Auschwitz. It sweeps you up and you find yourself desperately hoping that Daniel both completes his beloved violin and more importantly lives.

This is a truly haunting tale that stays with you after you finish reading it. Indeed, despite being an avid reader, I found myself taking a break after reading this book, not yet quite ready to leave it behind and enter another world.

Any Negatives: The book is a translation and at times it can feel a little out of sequence. However, this really did not detract from the fabulous storytelling and intent of the author.

Overall View: This is a great story, capturing both the brutalities of the holocaust and the hope that all humans have that things will one day get better. The book is an easy, enjoyable read, and it certainly makes you stop and think.

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Extract – The Auschwitz Violin
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Review of Remarkable People by Dan Walker – 5 Stars

Remarkable People by Dan Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Dan Walker reflects back on his career so far and the many remarkable people he has had the opportunity to meet. Unlike other celeb books, this is not a story about Dan, but their story told through his eyes. Each story is broken down into separate chapters with a lovely collection of images on the central pages.

This book had it all for me, several pages when I really just wanted to sob my heart out, some just really uplifted and inspired me. Some stories I already felt connected to remembered watching and being captivated by others were a fresh revelation, but both were equally captivating. So many of the stories stay with you long after you have stopped reading the pages.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. There were so many I could pick from for this book, but I have chosen the following as it’s a form of bravery I admire so much and equally hope never to be in a position to have to replicate. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

At her funeral, a few weeks later, Ilse read out a thank-you letter from one of the families.
The family received another letter later that month to say that two other transplant patients were alive and well because they had Georgia’s heart valves.
Two young men can now see because Ilse and James decided to donate their daughter’s eyes. Georgia’s death was unexpected, painful, brutal and heartbreaking but, in dying, she had changed the lives of six other people she never met.

Overall View: I think everyone has had a difficult year over the last 12 months, in one way or another, for some every day has been difficult just to get through. This book, full of inspirational stories of remarkable people could be just the tonic. Another reviewer wrote this line, and it is so very true:
You will laugh, you will cry, you will be inspired, you will have a whole new outlook on life and you won’t want it to end.

If you are still on the fence, Dan also revealed in the comment section of a post on social media that a portion of the proceeds from sales of the book would go to a charity or cause related to the stories in the book.

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Extract – Dan Walker: Remarkable People
I LOVE BOOKS

Review of Mr Peacock’s Possessions – 3.5 Stars

Mr Peacock’s Possessions by Lydia Syson

Cover – Mr Peacock’s Possessions


Premise: Lizzie and her family move to become the sole inhabitants of a remote island. Swindled by a ship captain, the family start off with very little and constantly threatened with starvation the family do all they can to make life on the little island bearable. After two brutal years, Kalala and some Pacific Islanders arrive on the island to become the workforce Mr Peacock has long dreamed of, but upon their arrival, Albert, the eldest son of the Peacock’s goes missing.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Pa was unrolling a large tent which had first seen service in the Maori wars. This would be their home until they had built something more permanent.
‘Can we explore now, Pa?’ she asked.
A brief glance at Ma, an even briefer nod back, and Mr Peacock replied:
“Off you go. Not too far though, and not too long either. There’s far too much to be done.’
But when Albert stood up to follow them, Pa blocked his way.
‘No, not you,’ he said. ‘I need you here to hold the pole up. You don’t need strength for that, just steadiness.’

Viewpoint: Mr Peacock’s Possessions follows two stories, that of Lizzie and of Kalala.
Lizzie is strong-willed and single-minded. She tells the stories from a younger teenage perspective.
Kalala is an outsider. He faces a lot of inner turmoil. He was unsure about this trip to the island but believing in his brother agreed. His brother is training to be a man of god and Kalala struggles with his brother’s unquestioning faith.

Character(s): All the characters are pretty good in this book. They provided a great range of dynamics between them. I found the mother a little frustrating, she turned a blind eye to many things, sometimes she appeared to be in charge of her husband, other times she meekly followed him.

Setting: This book is primarily set on Monday Island (with occasional flashbacks to previous homes of the Peacock’s family). The island is uninhabited despite having had inhabitants in the past. The setting is probably one of the things that intrigued me most about this book. The island itself has a darkness to it from the very first introduction of it and the author captures this unnerving feeling brilliantly.

Any Negatives: I hate being negative about a book but unfortunately, I was around 100 pages in (which is quite a hefty commitment) before this book actually took off. It was an awful lot of backstory in that first 100 pages. I am glad I persevered, as the book was great once it got going but it was a little long-winded to start with.

Overall View: I was initially drawn to this book by the beautiful cover (I know, I know, I am just being honest) followed by so many good reviews. I was very intrigued. Isolated family alone on an unknown island. No way to call for help. It is all captivating stuff. Unknown dangers around every corner. However, the story took a long time to kick off and quite a few parts of it were very predictable. I enjoyed this book, it would probably make a great holiday read but I wouldn’t rush out to buy it.

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My rating: 3.5/5

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Extract – Mr Peacock’s Possessions
I LOVE BOOKS

Review of A High Mortality of Doves – 3 Stars

A High Mortality of Doves by Kate Ellis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Premise: Flora Winsmore, the local doctor’s daughter, worked as a volunteer nurse during the war. Now working alongside her father as little more than a receptionist she wishes for more. Within quick succession, several women have been murdered and the ponderous local police force fail to identify the killer, the victims mount up, and the powers-that-be call in Scotland Yard’s Inspector Albert Lincoln.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘I thought you were going to the Cottage Hospital,’ I say as soon as he’s within earshot.
He looks annoyed, like a man whose plans have been thwarted. ‘Sergeant Teague has made a telephone call… to London.’ There is a note of awe in his voice as he pronounces the name of the capital.
‘If the same murderer’s responsible it means they’ll have to release Jack Blemthwaite,’ I say. ‘Surely they can’t think he’s guilty now.’
Father shakes his head. ‘I suspect that was the purpose of Teague’s call. He’s calling a detective from London. Scotland Yard. He will let me know when he receives a reply. I am told the detective might wish to attend the post mortem so it’s been postponed.

Viewpoint: This story is told from multiple viewpoints and the timeline contains many flashbacks to the time of the war.

Character(s): The main two characters Flora and Albert are both strong with their own personal complicated histories they are working through. There is a cast of other characters, many of whom are equally caught up in the aftershock of the war trauma, with their own secrets, lies and grief distorting the investigation.
Setting: The novel is set in 1919 in a Derbyshire village. Ellis captures the village life excellently with its gossips, loyalties to manor houses and landowners, and the life of a country doctor called upon for all jobs. She also captures that small-mindedness that is sometimes felt amongst a rural community. It also helps bring an air of both sophistication and isolation to Albert. He is an outsider so not trusted but also a Londoner, so he is granted a degree of respectability.

Any Negatives: I am a massive fan of Kate Ellis, I think she is one of my favourite authors but I found this book a rather challenging read at times. I can’t quite put my finger on why, it feels very heavy and repetitive in places, it’s quite slow and laboursome at times to get to the action (which is unusual considering the body count). I don’t know, it wasn’t the worst, it just wasn’t the best for me either. I’m really glad I didn’t let it put me off as the ending was great.


Overall View: Brilliant concept. I love some of the historical details woven into the story. The love affair and guilt associated was great. However, in other areas, the plot was a bit slow and cumbersome. A very strong ending.

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Extract – A High Mortality of Doves

I LOVE BOOKS

Review of Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway – 4 Stars

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Premise: A self-help book aimed at overcoming everyday burdens such as a tricky talk with your boss or facing up to a problem at home. It’s about controlling that fear and not allowing it to block you from progressing towards what you really want. With helpful exercises included.


I enjoyed this book, the size of it is brilliant and makes it so much less daunting than some of the larger textbooks on similar subjects. I have read a few of these books such as The Secret and The Tools by Phil Stutz and Barry Michael. In reality, they all make sense in their own way and it depends upon your scenario’s and how you apply them. I found some of the tools from “The Tools” more effective than others, equally I found some of the approaches to Feel the Fear and do it anyway more realistic than others.

However, having recently had a baby and returning to work to a new boss and unknown scenario the book had enough motivational and straightforward content to give me what I needed from it at that point in time. So, I suspect if you yourself are going through a period of change, this book could be what you need.
I also quite liked that the offer told us of her own personal circumstances and period of change, such as the fact she was recently divorced and was applying her own methods. I think that made part of the book relatable.

Any negatives: I doubt anyone would be happy with losing money as the offer off-handedly suggests at one point.
I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

All you have to do to lessen your fear is to gain more trust in your ability to handle whatever comes your way!
I am repeating this point because it is so critical. From this moment on, every time you feel afraid, remind yourself that it is simply because you are not feeling good enough about yourself.

Overall View: Brilliant cost. Easily digestible. Very handy to dip in and out of/remind yourself of important passages when you need it, so useful to have on the shelf for future reference.

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Extract – Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway

I LOVE BOOKS

Review of At the Sign of the Sugared Plum – 5 Stars

At the Sign of the Sugared Plum by Mary Hooper

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Premise: This historical fiction novel centres around a young lady named Hannah who moves from the country to the big city (London) to support her sister Sarah’s sweetmeats business. Unfortunately, her arrival is alongside the arrival of the plague of 1665. As more and more news arrives of plague in different neighbourhoods, the threat seems to come closer and closer to Hannah.


I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

“Well, it’s not in this parish,” she admitted. “But there are some cases in St Giles – and a house has been shut up in Drury Lane.”
“Shut up?” I asked. “What does that mean?”
“One of the people inside it – a woman – has the plague, and they’ve locked her up with her husband and children so it can’t be spread about.”
“So, there – it’s all contained!” I said. “And it’s just one house, Sarah – we don’t need to worry about that, do we? Doesn’t a place like London have all the best doctors and apothecaries? I bet we’re safer here than anywhere.”
“I don’t know – “
“But I’m here now, Sarah. Don’t send me back!” I pleaded, realising now that it must have been the plague that Farmer Price had alluded to in his strange expression. “Oh, do let me stay!” I burst out. “I can’t bear it if I’ve got to go home.”

Viewpoint: The story is told in first person, from the viewpoint of Hannah. Young, naïve, and fresh from the country to the city.

Character(s): Hannah is an endearing character; she can be quite strong willed at times but is equally determined to prove herself reliable to her sister. She meets a young apothecary assistant and quite quickly becomes enamoured by him which brings a little light to this story of dark times. She also meets up with a friend from the country Abigail who has taken on a role as a maid in a local big house. The young girls marvel at the wealth of the men and woman from the city, which gives the novel a lovely degree of colour and some more details.
Setting: I really enjoyed the authors description of the settings, particularly her descriptions of navigating the narrow streets, and how things changed at dusk making it easier for one to get lost. The little shop and the shared room all of which was richly described.

Any Negatives: None that I can particularly think of. Perhaps the almost instant love story but I was happy to go with it.
Overall View: I loved the details of this book. The relationships were sweet and the drama just quick enough paced to be enjoyable. I think I enjoyed this book more as in some ways it seemed so relevant with our current times going through covid. Hannah discusses all the preventatives people try and the restrictions put upon people, how they move around, night-time curfews, how food should be brought to the known infected, dipping coins in vinegar to prevent contamination, etc etc. Obviously, they were much harsher times than our own rather comfortable lives, but it was easier to place ourselves in those scary times, going through what we all recently have. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more of this authors work.

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Extract – At the Sign of the Sugared Plum
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Review of Do you know what? – 5 Stars

Do You Know What?: Life According to Freddie Flintoff by Andrew Flintoff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Premise: Freddie Flintoff’s pearls of wisdom on an eclectic array of topics. Of course, the obligatory cricket is covered (I am not particularly a fan of the sport but I genuinely laughed out loud at his description of the locker room hijinks), there is a bit about his wrestling life, performing in a musical, and all kinds of other areas of his life.

I’ll be honest, I’m not often a fan of these celebrity, blow-their-own trumpet, did they even really write them, autobiographies, but for some reason, I was drawn to Freddie’s. I adore him in his new role at top gear, his camaraderie with the team is brilliant. I have found him quite hilarious in many of his other TV roles, so when I saw this pop up in the sale, I thought I’d give it a go and I was not disappointed.


Much of the book is very, very, funny, although it does cover some serious aspects including depression and some of the ups and downs of his life and career also. The writing style is great, and it does feel like he is actually talking, having a conversation in his own words, not what some journalist thinks he should be saying. It felt like a real insight into his personal and professional life.
I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

… I can’t handle rudeness, it makes my blood boil. Dishonesty really gets me as well. If somebody stitches me up, they’re done, it’s non-negotiable. Through the years, I’ve had plenty of people use me to climb the social ladder. People I thought were friends have used me and then dropped me. I won’t name them, but I hope they get found out.
I’ve also been betrayed by teammates, coaches and financial advisors. Sportspeople are easy prey, quite naïve in a lot of ways. When I retired from cricket at 31, I’d never paid any bills, that was all done for me. I was a sucker, used to lend money to friends willy-nilly and throw myself into things. My money was invested for me, a lot of it in….

Overall View: Honestly, highly recommended. Freddie comes across as open, honest, likeable and so much more human than the media persona everyone thinks they know. Funny with a tad of seriousness when needed. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I have bought his new book – Right Said Fred. Hopefully, it will be more of the same.

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Review of Doggerel: Life with the Small Dog – 5 Stars

Doggerel: Life with the Small Dog by Sue Vincent

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a book of poetry about a small dog named Ani, her human (Sue) and how they spend their life together. I wouldn’t normally purchase a book about poetry but I loved this book. In fact, I devoured the whole thing in one evening. Each poem was more than that, it was a story, a capturing of time and a glimpse into the wonderful relationship with man’s (and woman’s) best friend. Ani is a smart, sassy pup who keeps her human on their toes.

Being owned by a small dog myself, I could relate to many of the tales (particularly regarding the dreaded bath-time). As my own little four-legged companion is 16 in human years, the scale of ball-throwing related activities is much less these days, instead she can normally be found snoring in her basket, or checking out the perimeters for the maverick squirrel who visits now and then. I imagine in her younger years, she and Ani would have made great friends.
I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

You’ve Stolen all my poems,
Put your name upon my book…
Do you think that I cannot read?
Or that I will not look?

Overall View: A fabulous book. Great writing, lovely images and a brilliant display of quick wit. A book so many will relate to (two-legses and four-legses alike). Ultimately capturing that marvellous unexplainable thing called love.

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Extract – Doggerel
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Review of The Mermaid’s Scream – 4 Stars

The Mermaid’s Scream by Kate Ellis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Premise: This is book 21 in the DI Wesley Peterson Crime Series. This story centres around the mysterious figure of Wynn Staniland, an enigma of the literary world. After his wife’s unusual death Wynn stopped producing novels and retreated from the literary limelight, now many years later a biographer set to publish Wynn’s story disappears. Bodies begin to stack up in the area with their only commonality being a connection to Staniland.

In the historical timeline, Neil Watson of the County Archaeological Unit is dealing with his own mystery, the death of Mary Field and a gruesome retelling of her story from the nineteenth century which fascinated Victorian taste for grim tales.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Wesley recognised the object in her hand as a driving license.
‘Maybe he found it.’
‘There was money too.’
‘How much?’
‘Thirty pounds. I know he didn’t have that much. Look at the name on the licence: Zac Wilkinson. I went to that talk he gave last week. Remember? Didn’t you say he was missing?’
Wesley caught his breath as she handed him the license. The picture stared out at him. Wynn Staniland’s biographer; the man who’d failed to turn up at Neston Library.
‘I’d better have a word with Michael.’

Viewpoint: The story regularly changes perspectives from a host of characters and includes diary extracts from the nineteenth century. This makes the story feel fresh and fast-paced even during the more police procedural sections when the police are frustrated with a lack of progress/delays.

Character(s): Using the multi-viewpoint approach also allows the author to introduce us to a great breadth of characters. Some bringing more to the novel than others. There is a sub-story to this of a son navigating trials of being a teenager, a story of a long-lost daughter and the story of a sick wife. All these threads are woven together with great skill without too much distraction from the main plot.

Setting: This novel is mainly set in the region of Tradmouth which is, of course, loosely based on Dartmouth. This setting with small towns and remote locations really compliments the community feel of the novel but also highlights the isolation of the rural communities.

Any Negatives: I love this series, it’s one of my favourites. The author has such a talent for drawing me in quickly so that I am eager to turn the page. With this novel, there were a few things holding me back from going for the full five stars. The first was the random entries of Delia, the mother-in-law. I really don’t think it added anything to the main story or even contributed to the daughter’s cancer storyline. It may be the author setting the series up for a future book, but it didn’t seem to work for me in this book.

The main reason I didn’t give that 5 star is how the standalone book works. I appreciate it is incredibly difficult for any author to balance a book as both a series entry and a standalone and normally I haven’t noticed this as an issue at all. It’s been a number of years since I read the previous novels in this series and I was really struggling to recall details of past relationships etc. The author gave small snippets of info but it wasn’t really enough to clarify things for me e.g. Neil’s girlfriend is working away, Gerry’s relationship with Joyce, Gerry’s daughter Rosie is often spoken of as highly sensitive etc. I just felt like a little more detail or backstory to these would have helped this work better as a standalone, or for those of us whose memories are not as they once were – haha.

Overall View: As always a brilliant book by Kate Ellis. She is a truly fantastic writer. A great array of characters. A lot of fast-paced action. The fascinating historical aspects still pull me in and are so intriguing, I love how she intertwines these with the modern storyline.

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Extract from The Mermaid’s Scream

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International Women’s Day 2021 – female authors.

It’s all about the females today. I’ve got so many female writers whose works I love, I don’t really value writers by sex, more their ability to spin a good yarn and hook me in quickly.

But in the interest of International Women’s Day, here are a few books from my to read or recently read piles. All authors that I have read in the past and thoroughly enjoyed their works.

Who is your favourite female author?