Review of Rules for a Perfect Life by Niamh Greene – 3.5 Stars

Rules for a Perfect LifeRules for a Perfect Life by Niamh Greene

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My review for this is really a 3.5 Stars.
Maggie has a taste for the nicer things in life, she has a nice man, a nice job and a love of nice handbags. On a whim, she decides nice isn’t good enough for her and ditches her fella. Soon after she finds herself out of a job due to the housing market crash and finds herself in need of a new home too. With few other options when her friend offers her the chance to move out to the country to house sit for her, Maggie accepts. She soon finds out country life is not all it’s cracked up to be!

Niamh Greene has a very easy to read writing style, and I would suggest Marion Keyes fans will adore her. My only concern is the story felt a little drawn out (however that may just be this novel or my own preference). The story followed the typical rom-com structure and I enjoyed it as an easy light-hearted read.

While Maggie as a character did get a fair few drama’s thrown at her to deal with, I actually found her character a little frustrating. She came across as a bit spoilt and selfish and it took me a while to get behind her and start willing her to get the guy (haha). Although some of her sarcasm was top notch. The guy, however, came across as lovely, single devoted father, hard-worker, and all-round family man. You really do want him to get his happily ever after.

The tale was very similar to those by Marion Keyes, I would say Greene is not quite as good as Sophie Kinsella or Helen Fielding but similar in a lot of ways.

A good, enjoyable holiday read, I would certainly read more from this author but I do think it could have been even better.

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Review of The Guardians by Andrew Pyper – 4 Stars

The GuardiansThe Guardians by Andrew Pyper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Trevor, Randy and Carl return to the small town they grew up in for the funeral of their friend Ben. They are surprised to find that Ben had become a recluse after they left town and spent most of his time watching over “Thurman House”. The house brings back tortured memories for the boys and they find themselves struggling over whether to confront their past or not, but after another friend goes missing the past can no longer stay hidden.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Trevor and his Dictaphone diary entries with occasional flashbacks to the boys’ childhood. This captures the story really well and Andrew manages to weave a lot of subtler subplots into the story, which really kept the suspense on top form. Trevor is a very likeable character. His journey to discover whether the house is haunted or if it’s all just his imagination brings out the strengths and flaws in his personality, but underlying throughout the difficult situation is his brotherhood “in-it-together-no-matter-what-happens” attitude.

Other reviewers have suggested this is similar to Stephen Kings writing and while at some of the more suspense-driven parts I can see this, for me it wasn’t scary. It wasn’t really a horror, the plot certainly had darker elements but there was very little fear factor. However, I enjoyed the mystery of the novel, and the friendships and relationships throughout.

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I would have preferred this book to be a little scarier (to be put in the same category as a Stephen King/James Herbert style horror) but it was an enjoyable read and I will look out for more works by Andrew Pyper.

Review of Killing Hemingway by Arthur Byrne – 5 Stars

Killing HemingwayKilling Hemingway by Arthur Byrne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As the description says, Teddy is an exceptional young boy who relishes every learning challenge that comes his way. He soon finds his appetite for learning can be a hindrance as much as an achievement when he speeds through classes and soon finds his lessons boring. The book follows him through from childhood schooling into his college years where he soon finds that his attention turns to finding a girl, and meeting friends, a much greater challenge for him than any academic puzzle he had previously been set.

I enjoyed this book, I found the author’s writing style very easy-going and also witty when required. As others have suggested in reviews this book is more than a YA novel yet not a tough adult read – somewhere in the middle. All the settings are very natural for the reader and easily absorbed and the story moves along at a great pace, allowing you to enjoy Teddie’s wins and also sympathise with his frustrations.

I was trying to think what this is similar to and there are only two things that spring to mind; Matilda by Roald Dahl but for me, this book could easily have been about Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory TV series, to me the characters were quite similar.

A very enjoyable book – not sure the title portrays the true nature of the story, as it is only relevant to a small part but the book itself is well worth a read. It’s short, an easy read and I think people will enjoy it.

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Review of Two Strangers by Beryl Matthews – 4 Stars

Two Strangers: An Historical Saga Set in 1920s LondonTwo Strangers: An Historical Saga Set in 1920s London by Beryl Matthews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is set in London after the First World War. Vicki is a troubled teenager who has had a very poor upbringing with a mean father who never wanted a daughter and a continuously pregnant mother who keeps desperately trying to provide the much sought after son. When her father tries to send Vicki to work for an untrustworthy man, Vicki refuses. Her father responds by throwing her out on the streets. Vicki struggles for survival but at the two points when she is lowest she meets two strangers who offer her the much-needed help she needs. These fortunes turn Vicki’s life around and she soon starts to have a life that is better than she ever dreamed possible. Her heart never forgets the kind gestures of the strangers and she sets on a mission to find them.

This book is a really easy read, at quite a slow pace. It’s not a fast-paced high drama kind of book but enough to keep you interested. The story grows and develops along at a steady pace, almost like a diary.

The descriptions of the City in this book are superb. The author really takes you back in time, and captures big city hustle and bustle, with the markets, abandoned warehouses and the traditional barbers all incredibly vivid.

Vicki is a very likeable character, smart but vulnerable, headstrong but humble. She easily pulls you into her world and her quest to find her two strangers. Some of the other characters such as Flo and Alfie are also very heart-warming and you do find yourself hoping everything turns out okay for them all.

This book is very easy to read and is very slow paced. It would suit those that like Linda Page, Jessica Blair, M.L. Gardner or similar.

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Review of Skeleton Key by Robert Richardson – 4 Stars

Skeleton Key (Augustus Maltravers, #1)Skeleton Key by Robert Richardson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brief Outline
Novelist Augustus and his girlfriend Tess have planned a week’s holiday staying with friends in Bellringer. This stay is immediately disrupted when a skeleton is stolen from Edenbridge House, the stately home of the Earl of Pembury. The mystery of the missing skeleton surges through the village with rumours abound. So when the heir to the estate, Simon (Lord Dunford) is found murdered, most people find themselves as suspects.
Maltravers and Tess find themselves caught up in the mystery of vengeance and murder. Could it be Simon’s own cousin Oliver Hawkhurst or the estate’s coldly efficient secretary, Mister York? Who had the strongest motive for murder? Maltravers and Tess increasingly want to know the truth and more importantly, want to stop the killer from killing again.
Writing Style
This book does start very slowly (particularly for a crime novel) and it does take a while to build up the suspense and the storyline. I think this is partly to do with a lot of characters in the book for the reader to get to know. However a few chapters in it gets going and the mystery starts to take shape. I would say this is more of an Agatha Christie or M.C. Beaton style of pace.
The storyline is quite interesting and the settings are very well described; a small village, cricket pitch, large estate house, etc. There are quite a lot of characters in this novel to get used to, each with their own agendas and interest in the murder, this was probably my slight criticism of the novel as it distracted me from the story a little trying to remind myself who was who and what they had said/done previously. However the main characters Maltravers, Tess and Simon were all very interesting and it was enjoyable to read their story unfold.
Summary
An enjoyable book, particularly for fans of MC Beaton, Agatha Christie style of the crime genre.
About the author
I came across this book as the author has won the John Creasey Annual Award given by the Crime Writers Association. This award is for the best crime novel by a first-time author of any nationality first published in the UK in English. I have adored the work of some of the previous winners including SJ Watson and it is always a helpful place to discover new talent.

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Review of An Island of Illusions – 4 Stars

An Island of Illusions (A Sarah Woods Mystery #3)An Island of Illusions by Jennifer L. Jennings

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hadn’t realised this was the third novel in the series when purchased and do feel I would have been better acquainted if I had read the previous books prior to this, for example Sarah’s relationship with her husband has broken down quite dramatically in this book and I feel there was probably a prelude to this that I have missed out on. This issue aside (as I do feel it is my mistake) the book was very good.
I enjoyed the mystery plot and the investigation that went into resolving the storyline, very cosy mystery based. This story is quite quick paced and it doesn’t take long for the readers suspicions about the characters to build. Who is really good and who is putting on a show.
The characters were quite well written and did what they were supposed to. The husband was annoying, the soon to be lover alluring, and the culprit kept you guessing. There was a few things that didn’t work though with continuity of Sarah’s decisions being a little frustrating.
The book itself was very easy to read, nothing too hard-hitting. It wasn’t edge-of-your-seat thrilling but it was enjoyably. The mystery storyline was very good. I would happily read this author again and think her writing style will develop well.

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Review of AMBER WAKE: Gabriel Falling by P.S. Bartlett & Ronovan Hester – 5 Stars

AMBER WAKE - Gabriel FallingAMBER WAKE – Gabriel Falling by P.S. Bartlett & Ronovan Hester

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recently finished reading Amber Wake by PS Bartlett & Ronovan Hester and I must say it is such a catching and intriguing storyline. It is set around the classic storyline of a hero trying to right a wrong done to him but it is so much more than that. When Royal Navy Captain Gabriel Wallace finds himself unknowingly tricked into a situation the ruins his career and risks his family he makes the decision to leave England. With the help of his friends and crewmates, they make an escape and become regarded as Pirates. As a reader, you truly get caught up in the need for Captain Wallace to take down Admiral Chambers and all that he corrupts. With drama leaping off the first page, it gets its hook into you straight away. A page-turner from start to finish.

 

I adore historical fiction novels anyway, but I must say Amber Wake’s storyline is excellent and unlike anything I have read before. I don’t know much about the British Royal navy (and maybe that made it all the more intriguing to me), but felt I could easily have lived through each setting from the British courtroom, the American Colonies, Caribbean ports, and, of course, the ships themselves.

 

The characters throughout the book were superb. As a reader, you could feel the strength of Captain Wallace, the loyalty of his crew, the difficulties with trust and friendship. All the emotions leapt straight from the page. Of course, there is also moments of strong comradery and humorous touches too. One of my favourite quotes being:

“His face was puffed-up and as red as a drunken Irishman with an empty wages packet.”

For me, the book was totally unpredictable and a real gem of a discovery. The authors writing style, the plot twists, the locations and most importantly the strong storyline all kept me turning each page eager for more. Highly recommended.

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For those that haven’t yet discovered it. Ronovan has a great blog right here on wordpress with loads of hints and tips for writing featured, a hiaku prompt, and a weekly flash fiction prompt – Visit for more info. https://ronovanwrites.wordpress.com/