Tag Archives: goodreads

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. Review 

Read no further if you haven’t read the first book Outlander as there will be spoilers from the first novel, but none from Dragonfly in Amber

I really enjoyed Outlander where I was swept into the world of Claire and Jamie Fraser. Claire travels back through time to the 1700s where she meets a young highlander Jamie Fraser who she falls in love with. These are hefty books but beautifully written with amazing language, wonderfully put together passages of language. 

We return to this world in Dragonfly in Amber but twenty years on, Claire is back in the 1960s with a grown up daughter, returning to Scotland to reveal several truths that will blow the worlds of those near to her wide open. But fear not avid readers, we return to Claire’s memories to find out what happened next in her love saga with Jamie.

This sequel has all the passion of the first book in the series but tinged with sadness, knowing that Claire is back in present day means that the reader is second guessing how this could have happened and what may happen next. Some of the old friends and foes return and in places it’s a case of life and death! It’s another bulky novel but it doesn’t feel that way because of how engrossed you become in the storyline and needing to know what happens next. 

From a historical fiction lover’s viewpoint, I was really enamoured with understanding the rising of ’44 and the historical perspective not only of Bonnie Prince Charlie who I had heard of but never really studied, but also the court of the Parisian King Louis and his followers. It was interesting to see how much more advanced the French were in those days than the English. For example, I’m sure this doesn’t count as a spoiler but there is a very funny scene where Claire’s French friend gets her to wax her legs and armpits and Jamie’s reaction to this is just hilarious. I can’t wait to start Voyager

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal. Review 

I can’t say why this book appealed to me other than to say that the title really intrigued me. Two words that in the Western world we would never associate with one another ‘erotic’ and ‘Punjabi’. I guess that’s because our little knowledge of other cultures sees anyone who is religious as being strict, conservative and definitely not about to write erotic stories! And that’s exactly what Nikki thinks too. Nikki is a young Punjabi woman born and raised in London as an East-West mix. Nikki is a member of feminist groups, she doesn’t believe in the culture of her religion which she sees as binding, controlling and far too conservative for the modern woman. Certainly she isn’t happy when her sister Mindi asks her to post her profile on the marriage board of the temple in Southall. Nikki doesn’t want her sister to have an arranged marriage, something she certainly couldn’t imagine herself. 

But while she is at the temple, Nikki sees an advertisement to teach storytelling to lonely widows in the community and is excited by the prospect. Currently working in a bar after quitting her law degree she has been at a loose end and is unsure where to go or what to do next. But her plans to teach the Widows English reading and writing goes astray when they have other ideas about what stories to tell. 

I really enjoyed this novel. The story was for the most part light, and enjoyable but there was also a dark undertone. The suppression of women in certain cultures. Murder, bullying, hatred, racism and fear. But it was not an unhappy novel despite these undertones. Instead what we see is women brought to life by stories, gaining their freedom, enriching their lives and rising from surpression. I think for people who have grown up in a completely western world, who may possibly have a lack of understanding of other cultures this book provides an interesting and different perspective, to gain understanding that people are people no matter where they come from, the religion they follow and certainly not the colour of their skin. 

The story is funny, honest, bright and leaves you with a sense that justice has been served. 

The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory. Review 

This was perhaps my favourite of the Tudor Plantagenet series by Philippa Gregory. It tells the story of the three Grey sisters. Jane who is otherwise known as the 9 day queen and the only one I’d actually heard of, and her sisters Katherine and Mary who were equally persecuted by a bitter and attention seeking brat, I.e Elizabeth I. 

The Last Tudor is not as we would initially think about Elizabeth I herself which is what I expected, but instead about the other remaining Tudor’s Jane, Katherine and Mary. 

The novel is split into three parts with each sister narrating each section in order of age. Jane of course was well known (so hopefully no spoilers) as the young queen forced onto the throne after King Edward’s untimely death and 9 days later is thrown into the tower under arrest as Queen Mary takes her throne back. Jane was of course beheaded for treason. 

The story then takes up with Jane’s younger sister Katherine, a seemingly frivolous girl who loves animals especially her little monkey Mr Nozzle. Always cheerful she marries for love, seeing herself as doing no wrong and yet encountering Elizabeth’s wrath. The same goes for Mary the youngest of the sisters and a little person. She too marries for love only to be imprisoned herself and pushed far from court, but it is she who is bravest and endures the most at the hands of the spiteful ruler who expects attention only for herself.

I really enjoyed this novel because I think that as people we often idolise the Tudors. They were the first monarchs I learnt about in school and of course Mary and Elizabeth were the first queens to rule as a female monarch and not the wife of a king. It was interesting therefore to see another take on it where Elizabeth is shown as actually rather a B*tch! Her obsessive behaviour, her refusal to stand up for anything and to Convict people who she saw as a threat not only to her throne but to her own life as the ‘virgin’ queen. All she really wanted was to be the most beautiful and most admired. 

I really felt passionately like I hated Elizabeth! While I felt unsympathic towards the pious (and slightly annoying) Jane Grey, I felt the true passions, loved, hopes and dreams of Katherine and Mary and felt like writing to William Cecil for their release myself! 

As always with Philippa’s books she educates, mixing fact with a little fiction to make the characters come to life, while reminding us that these events are ones which truly happened in England’s past. A book which truly makes you think. 

The Dark Side of Reviewing 

I have a policy myself to never leave a bad review. This is a fairly new policy which I only implemented about 12 months ago. It was after an indie author asked me to review their book, which was awful and I couldn’t finish it, and I’m ashamed to say that at the time, when I was still very new to reviewing I wanted to give it a good bashing because I felt like I hated it so much. It was poorly put together, the main character was abhorrent and the plot was pathetic. But I was wrong to do what I did. I should never have gone in for a ‘book bashing’ and since then I never have. I may leave a comment or too on a review that says what I was unhappy with but that’s if say we’re talking about a 3*. If I’d rate it lower than 3* then I don’t leave the review in the first place. 

One of the reasons that as a new reviewer I thought it was acceptable to do this, was because I was following another reviewer on Goodreads who I thought was the ideal person to copy. That is until I realised that this person pretty much slanders every book they read. I’ve been reminded of this tonight when I got yet another notification to say someone else had commented on their review of a certain book and I was driven back to read it again. And it got me thinking about the darker side of reviewing and how counterproductive it is for both readers, and authors. 

Being a reviewer is definitely about giving an honest opinion, don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect anyone to hide that they didn’t enjoy a book or lie and pretend they did. But I think sometimes a little understanding and compassion is needed. Many of us review because we love books, we love reading and some of us would like to be writers too. For me, reviewing is as much about promoting reading to others as anything else. I want people who don’t read, or don’t read widely to join in the fun that can come from reading a book. Boasting nearly 3,000 books on your ‘read’ list doesn’t really count if Over 1,000 are on the dnf list and you’re mostly well known for reading books apart. 

Because of this darker side of reviewing, I no longer read reviews before reading books. Which is a shame as most reviews should be there to promote books we love and want to share with others. Not aplace to put your personal opinions about whether you agree with points raised etc. One prime example being many of the reviews of Carve the Mark stating it had connotations of racism. Yet for me, reading the book before the reviews, this never crossed my mind. But had a I read some of the abuse this book got before I read the actual book, I doubt I’d have enjoyed it half as much. 

This is all just me getting my thoughts down on paper but I think a book should stand on its own merit and we should consider keeping it short and sweet when it comes to a book we didn’t enjoy. A rating out of 5, a ‘dnf’ message and perhaps if really necessary a short review with conscientious points. 

If we’re comfortable writing ‘the writing style was excellent.’ Why are we not comfortable saying ‘I didn’t get on with the writing style’ instead of tearing it apart? 

Maybe it’s time to spread a little more love and stop authors fearing reviewers. After all, without them where would we be? 

The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory. Review 

It all started with The Cousins War or at least it did for, my love of Philippa Gregory came when I cut my teeth on the White Queen, The Red Queen, Lady of the Rivers etc. Then of course the story began to merge with the Tudors. With the release of The Last Tudor (check back for a review on that coming soon) it made sense that I should finally get around to reading The King’s Curse. It’s a pretty hefty novel coming in at over 500 pages, and rightly so as it details the long life of one of the forgotten players in the Tudor/Plantagenet history; Margaret Pole. Beloved tutor of Princess Mary and friend to Queen Katherine of Aragon. 

Margaret saw a lot in her 67 years, a long time to live in those days. This story picks up after the fall of the Plantagenet family from the Royal Household and Margaret’s undying loyalty to her cousin the Queen, married to Henry VII. Margaret was a key player in the Tudor’s story, Prince Arthur lived with her and her husband until his death, she became friends with, and defended Katherine of Aragon and fell constantly in and out of favour with both Henry VII and Henry VIII, fearing constantly that death and danger were stalking her family because of their name, and their royal blood. 

Through Margaret’s eyes, we watch the child Prince Harry, first turn the half destroyed and neglected kingdom around from his father’s rule, to becoming the harsh tyrant who ripped apart the church, the faith of the country and tore down the monasteries, not to mention the divorcing, beheading and casting aside of his wives in his obsession to beget a male heir on one of them. We see the bitter, twisted control of the Boleyn family as they strive for greatness through the vicious Anne, a very different perspective from the one given by Anne and her family in Philippa’s earlier book. 

The novel, despite being long, is well put together and it is clear, as always that Philippa Gregory has considerably researched her subject. Although some of the storyline is not known to be completely factual (this is a work of fiction after all), Philippa does use rumours and presumptions as well as modern scientific and medical research to form her opinions and plots. 

I really enjoyed this, as I do all of the Plantagenet / Tudor hybrid novels, I’m just sad that after The Last Tudor it will all be coming to an end! 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Review. 

A Monster Calls is a short low fantasy novel by Patrick Ness, based on an original idea by Siobhan O’Dowd. Sadly Siobhan herself died of cancer before she could write the book. 

I’d actually seen the movie of this book before I read it so I had an idea of what happened and the sad theme. Connor is a young boy, 13 years old and his mother is dying, as he tries to deal with her imminent death, he is visited by a Monster who tries to teach him about things. 

‘There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.’

This novel is so real, it explores an extremely sensitive subject as seen through the eyes of a 13 year old boy who doesn’t know how to deal with his feelings about his mother’s illness. It is raw, tragic, and moving. 

For a children’s book it is extremely well written, passionate, heart rendering and most of all, honest. And that’s what it is really, a book about honesty and truth, the truth that’s deep inside us and which we don’t ever want to admit. 

Behind Closed Doors by Kathryn Croft. Review. 

I want to say initially that having seen some of the really bad reviews of this book on Goodreads, I really cannot understand them. I get that everyone’s entitled to their opinions but it’s really lost on me, how, if you’re a fan of psychological thrillers you couldn’t enjoy this book. 

Now that’s out of the way, I want to say a little something about Kathryn Croft. I was first introduced to her when I read her novel While You Were Sleeping last year. Kathryn started out as a self published author but was soon snapped up by publishers Bookouture, and there’s a reason for that. Kathryn is a really good author and writes fantastic psychological thrillers. She’s also a really great person and you can read my interview with her here: https://lifehasafunnywayofsneakinguponyou.wordpress.com/2016/11/27/author-interview-kathryn-croft/

As well as my positive reviews of the other two novels I’ve read by her here: 

While You Were Sleeping: https://lifehasafunnywayofsneakinguponyou.wordpress.com/2016/11/22/while-you-were-sleeping-by-kathryn-croft-review/

The Stranger Within: https://lifehasafunnywayofsneakinguponyou.wordpress.com/2017/06/29/the-stranger-within-by-kathyrn-croft-review/

Now, Behind Closed Doors is one of the novels Kathryn wrote as a self published author which means she wrote, edited and marketed that book herself. Which frankly to me makes it even more amazing! I really enjoyed it start to finish and couldn’t put it down! 

Olivia has just got divorced from her husband and moved into a flat with her 10 year old daughter Ellie. Soon after moving in, she befriends and becomes close to their upstairs neighbour Michael. But things start going downhill from there, Michael can be a little strange at times and Ellie hates his sister Chloe. To top it off, Olivia is having to deal with an ex-husband who doesn’t want to let her go, and now she’s got a stalker as well. As things start to get even weirder, Olivia doesn’t know where to turn or who she can trust anymore. Who is really out to get her? 

This novel was a real page turner. What baffled me most was that a lot of previous reviewers said the ending was obvious. I simply cannot agree, there were plenty of red herrings thrown in and just like our first person narrator Olivia, I didn’t have a clue who to trust, no sooner did I think I’d worked it out, I became suspicious of someone else. I did start to work out who it was eventually but not until about 95% of the way through, and even then I wasn’t expecting that ending! I’m still reeling and pretty certain I’ll have a book hangover for a few days while I try and process that! 

Well done Kathryn on another suspenseful, psychological thriller!