Posted in I LOVE BOOKS

Review of The Donor – 5 Stars

The Donor by Clare Mackintosh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Premise: Fourteen-year-old Meg is in recovery, six months previously she had a heart transplant. She has been given a second lease of life and is desperate to live it to its fullest. Her mother Lizzie is somewhat nervous, after years of living with the worry of Meg’s illness, she can’t help be cautious. When the bereaved mother of the donor, Karen, makes contact and asks to meet Meg, Lizzie worries, but she feels obligated to her for giving her daughter this new lease of life, begrudgingly she agrees. Soon Karen’s motives come into question and Meg’s attitude begins to change. Has Lizzie made a huge mistake allowing Karen to get to know Meg, worse still, is her daughter in danger?

I really enjoyed this short story, part of the “quick reads” collection which I love to intersperse with longer reads. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than a normal book by world-leading authors. One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast-paced with a lot happening in less time. I’m proud of authors who take on the challenge of writing these books so that they can be enjoyed by all even those who aren’t keen readers.

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:

‘She’s taking a lot of pills already,’ I say. The bottles are in the bathroom, their labels filled with long names I can’t pronounce.
‘These are supplements. They’ll help Meg stay healthy.’
‘She is healthy. She’s doing really well. The consultant said so.’ I don’t mean to sound so abrupt, but Steve turns to look at me, a shocked expression on his face.
‘Lizzie!’

The story is told from Lizzie’s point of view. She has felt so much strain from her daughter’s illness over the years. Her guilt and stress are palpable through the page and it’s pretty easy to picture yourself in her position, what would you do? How would you react?

The story of course captures the concept of organ donation (for a real-life insight into this I highly recommend Dan Walker’s book Remarkable People, there is a chapter on organ donation that is both heart-breaking and inspirational). The author also dabbles with the theory of cell memory, a really interesting concept that really adds to the story.

Overall View: Fast-paced, well-written, character-driven short novel. A really good read. A fantastic novelist! Cannot wait to read many more of her works.

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Extract – The Donor
Posted in I LOVE BOOKS

Review of The Tools: Transform Your Problems…

The Tools: Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity by Phil Stutz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A self-help book aimed at overcoming everyday burdens that block you from progressing towards what you really want. With helpful exercises included. It shows scenarios with individual cases and how they applied the techniques, even some initial failures where repetition is needed.

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 Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffries. 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 which is an emotional enough period, followed by a fall-out of a fifteen-year friendship and an incredibly difficult working situation, this 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 or reflection, this book could be what you need.

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:

Its power has touched your own life as well. You started life as a helpless infant; yet in a remarkably short time, you moved from crawling to standing to walking. You did this despite countless painful setbacks. Watch a child learning to walk now. No matter how many times he falls, he soon picks himself back up to pursue his goal. His sense of purpose is amazing; he’s tapped into the Force of Forward Motion.

Any Negatives: Long-winded in places in comparison to other self-help books. It does also repeat itself regularly, but I guess that could be useful if you are dipping in and out.

Overall View: Easily digestible. Great comparisons/real-life stories associated with the ideas and tools. Useful to have on the shelf for future reference.

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Extract – The Tools.
Posted in I LOVE BOOKS

Review of The Fool’s Girl – 4 Stars

The Fool’s Girl by Celia Rees

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This story is a nod to the twelfth night and its characters and of course William Shakespeare.
Violetta the Duchessa (the equivalent of a young princess), has fled her home country to come to London in search of a holy relic taken from her home in Illyria so that she can restore it to her people. She has the companionship of Feste, her clown from childhood. When they meet playwright William Shakespeare, their fortunes finally seem to turn around.

I adore Celia Rees’s writing. She captures the past magnificently. Her descriptions are always rich and details. Pirates and Witch Child are phenomenal books, I would highly recommend both. However…

The fool’s Girl, I really struggled with. It just took me a long time to settle into the story. The characters and timeline jump back and forth (which is quite normal for both the historical fiction genre and Celia Rees’s writing) but on this occasion, it left me struggling to keep up and pinpoint what was going on.

Once I got into the story, I did enjoy it. The action was great, the love story was enjoyable as was the characters introduced. The historical landscape of London was really visibly brought to life and I was of course left really intrigued by Illyria.

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:

VIOLETTA
…Until the year when I was ten years old and everything changed. At the end of each summer, the palace was closed up and we went back to the city. I saw less of Stephano during the winter, but that year he did not appear at the summer palace at all.
‘Sebastian has claimed him,’ Lady Olivia said. ‘Made him his page. He wants to make a man of him.’ She laughed but there were tears in her eyes as she said it.
I missed him sorely, but I hid my sorrow in the way that children do. I always had Feste to teach me new tricks and laugh me out of my misery. He’s no child, but he can enter into a child’s world.

Overall View: I begrudgingly gave this a four-star but in reality, for me, it was a bit less, 3 and a half would be more accurate. A mixed bag, great writing, loved the historical aspects but just a lot of effort upfront to get to the good bits.

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The Fool’s Girl – Extract
Posted in I LOVE BOOKS

Review of Right, Said Fred

Right, Said Fred by Freddie Flintoff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


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 Freddie’s descriptions help to make it sound more interesting), Top Gear (Woohoo) and many other random facts and ideas from all other aspects 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 after reading his earlier book “Do you know what?”, which genuinely had me laughing out loud at times, I thought I’d give this one a go too and I was not disappointed.

Much of the book is very funny. 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. In fact, it often feels like a conversation with a bloke down the pub, putting the world to rights and questioning the bizarre and intriguing in the world that rarely tends to pop up in day-to-day conversation.

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:

When my fourth child was born, I didn’t tell anyone about it apart from family. I did an interview in Australia for Ninja Warrior and the bloke said, ‘I understand your wife is expecting your fourth child’, and I replied, ‘Yeah, it’ll be brilliant when it happens.’ The fact was, he was already about three months old. I just didn’t think anyone apart from family needed to know about it.

Any Negatives: Not quite as funny as “Do you know what?”. I genuinely laughed out loud reading parts of that book. But it’s still really pretty good.

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. A bit of light-hearted reading which after 2020, I think we all needed.

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Extract – Right, Said Fred

Posted in I LOVE BOOKS

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
Posted in I LOVE BOOKS

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
Posted in 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
Posted in 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

Posted in 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

Posted in 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