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Review of Lockdown by Peter May

Lockdown by Peter May

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Cover - Lockdown by Peter May
Cover – Lockdown by Peter May


📖 I loved the premise of this book but I especially loved the Foreword. May began researching and writing this book in 2005, but there was little interest in the book world for it and some editors thought the idea of London in lockdown too far-fetched. If only they’d known then what we do now.

✍️The book itself centres around detective Jack McNeil who is asked to investigate the mystery of a murdered child’s bones. Jack himself is on the last day of the job instead of taking things easy and wrapping up he finds himself on a chase across London to unravel the case. His own family are hit with heartbreak in relation to the virus.

🗣 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:

(Page 273)
‘I’ll scream!’ she said in a voice made so tiny by fear that it barely penetrated the dark.
MacNeil said breathlessly, ‘If you scream, then so will I.’
Something in his voice stopped her struggling. She lay on the ground below him, gasping for breath, a strange wiry creature in a tweed jacket and skirt with a white blouse and pearl necklace. ‘Who the hell are you?’ she gasped.
‘Detective Inspector Jack MacNeil. Who the hell are you?’

👓 I would just like to mention I love Peter May’s work. His Lewis trilogy is a personal favourite, and I would highly recommend that collection to anyone. I wish stars were out of 10 instead of 5 as this book is a solid 7 out of 10.

👫 Jack McNeil is a great character. Your usual flawed policeman, with a troubled family/home life and a girlfriend within the medical department. All quite cliché but you do warm to him and find yourself willing him to succeed.

Dr Sarah Castelli is another great character. A clever, fearless, sixty-year-old Canadian. She’s tough as old boots and will do anything to get the answers she needs. The only problem with Dr Sarah Castelli is that despite the pivotal part she plays in the book and particularly the finale, we are only just introduced to her on page 277 of a 399-page book. I feel like such a crucial character to the plot should have been introduced and established earlier, not just thrown in towards the end.

🗺 This book is set in London and whilst it is probably trying to be realistic (and perhaps to Londoners it is), for me, it felt a bit like we were being dragged from pillar to post with every great London eye mark thrown in for effect.

💭 Overall View: I did enjoy this book and Peter May’s writing style is brilliant. The characters were interesting and the plot was clearly very well researched. I wish the book had maybe been edited a bit to tie some of the strands together a bit neater. You would think everyone would avoid the mention of Lockdown never mind actively choosing to read about it, but I’m glad I did. Brilliant crime drama, very dark in places, fast-paced and full of action.

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Review of The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Ruby Pier amusement park maintenance worker Eddie is 83. Spotting a problem with one of the rides he rushes to help, upon spotting a small child dangerously close to the ride, Eddie dives to save her. That is the last thing he remembers, he awakens, young, no longer aching and with a guide ready to reveal the story of Eddie’s life. Eddie’s next journey begins, with many flashbacks to his life on earth.



I honestly think this is one of the best books I have read in a while. I’m not entirely certain what genre it is, spiritual, personal discovery with a dash of adventure. I bought this from an independent bookshop, drawn in initially by the title and then the blurb. It’s not a genre or an author I have read before, but I really enjoyed it.

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:

Eddie was skeptical. His fists stayed clenched.
“What?” he said.
“There are no random acts. That we are all connected. That you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.”
Eddie shook his head. “We were throwing a ball. It was my stupidity, running out there like that. Why should you have to die on account of me? It ain’t fair.”
The Blue Man held out his hand. “Fairness,” he said, “does not govern life and death. If it did, no good person would ever die young.”

This book is mainly told through Eddie’s eyes or memories but with each guide they also present a snapshot of their stories, how Eddie interacted with them, seeing the things he couldn’t see. It was such a clever representation of “walking in another man’s shoes”.

I loved the range of characters in this book. Each one interesting and complex, yet ultimately simple. They did their best with what they knew. This book is so beautifully crafted. The writer really compels you to think about your actions and interactions big and small. So much of the story resonates with events we all have in our lives, angers we hold onto, opportunities we think we have missed, yet it shows the other side of the coin, the light, the things we gain in return for losses. Its messages are subtle but thought-provoking.

Overall View: An emotional rollercoaster ride of a book. It was everything I had hoped to find in the title and so much more. The novel actually leaves you feeling uplifted and full of hope. This book will stay with me for a really, really long time and I would happily recommend, even encourage others to read it.

I actually bought this book from a cute little independent bookshop in Richmond named Castle Hill Book Shop. Tucked off down a little side street away from the market square and castle I was delighted to come across this little hidden gem and in turn, find this wonderful little book. The beauty of supporting an independent bookshop is being drawn to treasures like these that I would be very unlikely ever to have found by browsing online. After all this time, I still love the magic of a bookshop.

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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

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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
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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

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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 A Cruel Fate by Lindsay Davis – 5 Stars

A Cruel FateA Cruel Fate by Lindsey Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction

Premise: Martin Watt’s is a bookseller who has never stepped foot out of line, is captured for being on the wrong side of a war he didn’t care much about. This short novel follows his story as a prisoner of war and the treatment and brutality received. The novel also contains the story of Jan Afton whose brother has also been captured during the turmoil. Jane being regarded as a spinster to her family is sent to find out what has happened to her brother and retrieve him.

I really enjoyed this short story and was pleased to find a historical fiction novel within the quick reads series. the “quick reads” collection which I have begun looking through lately. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than 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. This seems to be what has jarred other readers (the use of simpler language) but I didn’t find it detracted from the novel at all. 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.

Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Men of humble birth will sometimes become officers, but Nat Afton will never be a captain. He will not aspire to it. He wants to lie low. It is a great surprise to Jane that he has even been taken prisoner.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed about this novel was that multiple viewpoints were captured in its short number of pages and all the characters were really engaging (you liked who you were supposed to like and hated who you were supposed to hate). Not an easy task I imagine with so few words. I particularly liked the ending.

This novel is set during the second English Civil War when Royalist and Roundhead butted heads, pikes, cavalry and cannon across the Country for supremacy. Mostly describing the situation inside Oxford Castle Prison. I think the author did a really good job of describing both this time period and the setting. The descriptions of the treatment of the Royalist prisoners (I suppose any prisoners from the time), has actually intrigued me and I would be interested in reading more about the period.

A fantastic novelist! Cannot wait to read many more of her works.

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Review of Queen of Subtleties by Suzannah Dunn – 5 Stars

The Queen of Subtleties: A Novel of Anne BoleynThe Queen of Subtleties: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Suzannah Dunn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction

I am very surprised by the number of low ratings this book received. Can an author provide a fresh approach to a part of history known by everyone and told to death? Actually yes, I think Dunn made a really good job of it. This book has several stories concealed within its pages all delicately woven together to make the reader turn the pages.

This story as you will probably already have gathered is a story of two halves. Strong-willed, stubborn Anne Boleyn prior to her imminent execution tells her story of her time at the court in the format of a letter to her daughter. The format of the story is quite fun and fiery and I think the author does a good job of getting the reader on Anne’s side. The author then turns the reader’s attention to the second storyline of that of the subtle subdued Lucy Cornwallis, confectionary chef to the king. Polar opposite of Anne, Lucy is quiet, humble and dedicated to her crafts.

The women’s stories are very loosely connected by their involvement with the lovely Mark Smeaton, wunderkind musician—the innocent on whom, ultimately, Anne’s downfall hinges.

I must say this is the first Suzannah Dunn book I have read and it pulled me in hook, line and sinker. Her writing style is superb, it’s easy to read, not boringly over-descriptive like some historical fiction novels are (although it captures plenty of historical contexts) and it keeps the story moving at a great pace. Obviously, Anne’s story is the most exciting (which I think is to be expected).

The main reason others seem to be upset with this novel is the modern tone of language used. Granted there are probably some better wording or phrasing that the author could have used here (Henry telling courtiers to skedaddle) and there but overall I found the tone very readable and if it had been told in the language of the Tudor times this would ultimately have made it far less enjoyable for me. So, I guess it is something to be aware of but don’t let it put you off.

Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

“My uncle never read a book, and he’s proud of the fact. Ruthlessness and efficiency; that’s what matters. He’ll clap you on the back, one day; stab you in it, the next. No hard feelings, just business as usual. Never trust a Howard, Elizabeth, not even if you are one. Look where it got me, sent here to the Tower by my own uncle.”

I think Dunn has done a great job of capturing the period, the courts, all the moving and touring, and of course the feasts. Fun and interesting concepts that make this book a delight to read.

A fantastic novelist! Cannot wait to read many more of her works.

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Review of Blackout by Emily Barr – 5 Stars

BlackoutBlackout by Emily Barr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Crime Thriller

Premise: Sophie should have a perfect life. she has the perfect man, Rob, a hard-working school teacher, and now a new-born baby son called Arthur. When she wakes up in Paris, in a strange house, on her own and recognising no-one she panics. No passport, no money, she needs to get back to London back to her family and figure out what on earth has happened to her.

I liked this book. It is part of the “quick reads” collection which I have begun looking through lately. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than normal book by world leading authors. One of the things I quite like about these books are 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. Blackout is no exception, with a clear-cut and fast-paced plot it meets the quick read criteria perfectly.

I always think it is useful to see an extract of an author’s writing and in this book, there are quite a few action-focussed parts to choose from but I thought this one is quite interesting as its intriguing without giving too much plot away:

“It is Thursday. The day that should be Monday is actually Thursday. Even at my worst I never lost three whole days. Nobody loses three days. It is not possible. Days come one after the other, from the day you’re born until the day you die. If you stay in bed for a day, the day still happens. If you black out in a coma or something, you wake up in hospital. You do not wake up in a mysterious room in Paris.

I went back and forth on whether to give this book 4 or 5 stars but I settled on 5 as despite the books small size it captured quite a few themes; relationships, trusts, childhood memories, post-partum depression, estrangement (to name a few), and I think that is an amazement achievement for an author.

I also liked the character Sophie, she was an interesting mix of vulnerable and strong and I think she came across as very likeable.

I had never read any of Emily Barr’s work before, but I will certainly look forward to reading more of her works.

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Review of House of Shadows by Pamela Hartshorne – 5 Stars

House of ShadowsHouse of Shadows by Pamela Hartshorne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction

Premise: When Kate Vavasour wakes up in the hospital, she can remember nothing about the family gathered around her bed, or of her life before the accident. The doctors diagnose post-traumatic amnesia, following a terrible fall from the roof of her home, Askerby Hall. The doctors say the memories should start returning. Which they do . . . but these memories are not her own. They belong to Isabel Vavasour, who lived and died at Askerby Hall over four hundred years earlier . . .

Returning to her supposed home, Kate finds herself in a house full of shadows and suspicions. Unable to recognise her family, her friends or even her small son, she struggles to piece together her life. However, the memories of Isabel fight their way to the surface and demand to be known. Was Kate’s fall really an accident? Can she trust her own mind? Can she trust those around her?

Kate as a character is fine. Not someone you instantly fall in love with but not someone too irritable either. I really liked Isabel as a character, fiery and insolent in a time period when woman were not allowed to be either.

A few reviewers have commented on the fact the author does little in the way to disguise who the “bad guy” is (for want of a better term). I think this is a deliberate move by the author and don’t really think it detracts from the story. If anything, it gives Isabel a vulnerability in her otherwise strong-willed nature. If she didn’t have this, I think as a reader you would potentially find her too arrogant. What I am trying to get at is, in some ways, this story is predictable, but for me, that didn’t stop it being a really enjoyable story.

The settings of this book are primarily around York/ remote villages of Yorkshire. The author really does a great job to capture the slower paced country lifestyle, the visitors to a grand country hall and weave cleverly into the storyline how formidable that home could be to someone not born into the family.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. I think in historical fiction this is particularly helpful to get an understanding of the language tone the author has chosen to write in.

I don’t recognize either of them.
My eyes dart back to the nurse. I want to say, They’re not my family, but I can’t speak past the tube in my throat.
‘Hello, Kate,’ says the man, trying a jovial smile that doesn’t quite work. ‘What a fright you gave us!’

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