Sunday, 28 August 2016

New from Jenny Worstall: Irish Charm

Sample and download
Irish Charm: a collection of ten short stories 
by Jenny Worstall 

No more review blogposts for the foreseeable future;
just occasional links to new releases 
from my favourite indie authors.
Thanks for reading Indie Bookworm!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Review of Until the Robin Walks on Snow by Bernice L. Rocque

I e-met author Bernice L. Rocque 

on Twitter in a discussion about some beautiful pieces of heirloom crochet-work. 

The author's family history account of the lives of her ancestors is equally beautiful.

Bernice Rocque has meticulously researched her family history over many years and some of the fascinating details are outlined at the end of the book.
The main part of the book is a fictionalised account of the birth of a premature baby and the struggles the family have to sustain the baby in a hostile environment.
There are references to folk-lore and the family's East European background which add interest and support the narrative. The characters develop strong personalities which shine through the pages.

Anyone who has spent enough time researching their ancestors to feel that they really know them will love the way the author has made her ancestors come alive.

This family story is set in early twentieth century east coast America but it transcends geographical area and will be just as meaningful to readers anywhere in the world who have a feel for the past.

Until the Robin Walks on Snow is a charming and insightful book and I loved reading every page of it. 

It's available in the Amazon Kindle Store and I read it with my Kindle Unlimited subscription. More details here if you follow this link.

Review of Full Circle by Terry Tyler

I finished reading Dream On by Terry Tyler a few days ago and started the sequel Full Circle straightaway.

What a great story this is.

The book more than lives up to its eye-catching description:

FULL CIRCLE is the sequel to Terry Tyler’s fourth novel, DREAM ON, but many have enjoyed it as a stand alone work. It’s a tale of love triangles, infidelity, an English rock band, the lure of celebrity, and the destructive nature of alcohol addiction. FULL CIRCLE - love and parenthood dramas, rock music and secret affairs, with a few laughs along the way!

Over both volumes the characters grow and grow. Right from the start the reader knows what the main character, Ariel, really wants out of life but did ever a character go such a long distance out of the way to cover a short distance correctly?
Anyway, in the end, at the very end, author Terry Tyler gets Ariel to the right place and brings the pair of books to a very satisfying conclusion.
If you haven't read Dream On and Full Circle yet then I would recommend you do. I read the books with my Kindle Unlimited subscription and really enjoyed reading them both.

Really good holiday reading 

and details on the author's page at Amazon.

Apart from a collection of short stories I've downloaded all the books published by the very talented Terry Tyler and enjoyed reading every one.

Her characters are always real and their stories embedded into true to life situations that everyone can recognise and identify with.
The obstacles the characters encounter are always plausible and their resolutions ultimately satisfying yet the twists and turns of the plotting are often unexpected, full of surprises with plenty of proverbial spanners in the works.
Although always entertaining and easy to read the novels deal with serious and complex issues. The author doesn't back away from addictions, betrayal or exploitation, for example, which adds depth to plots and characterisation. Terry Tyler's more recent novels set in an historical framework are particularly original and innovative. You can find further details of all the books on Terry Tyler's author page at Amazon if you follow this link and I recommend that you do.

Review of Looking for Lucy by Julie Houston

I really enjoyed reading The One Saving Grace, Julie Houston's second novel (review here) and went straight on to read her recently released title, Looking for Lucy.

This is another novel set in the fictional village of Midhope in West / North Yorkshire and it's another great read from the talented Julie Houston.

From the book description:

Clementine needs to find Lucy before it's all too late. She also knows bringing up a child on your own down on Emerald Street where the street walkers ply their trade isn't easy, even when your daughter's as adorable as four-year-old Allegra. So when Peter Broadbent, wealthy, kind and possessed of the most beautiful house Clementine has ever seen, proposes, it seems almost too good to be true. It is...

Early on in the novel 

the reader has a pretty good idea of where the plot is going and what the likely outcome will be. But, the route to the highly satisfying ending is filled with surprises, unusual twists and unexpected obstacles.

The book is very readable: 

it's partly narrated by the main character, Clementine, and with good contrast in the other sections where the author takes over.

I really liked Clementine. 

She is a strong character who demonstrates positive qualities of resilience and determination that are used most effectively by the author to drive the novel forwards.

There is a well-developed sub-plot 

which is closely enmeshed with Clementine's story.
The characterisation throughout both plot and sub-plot is real and vivid.

I loved the way that Harriet and  Grace, 

the main characters from Julie Houston's earlier novels, feature in Looking for Lucy as supporting players. Along with the setting in Midhope, the inclusion of Harriet and Grace provides continuity between the three novels although Looking for Lucy can easily be read as a stand-alone work.

The missing Lucy of the title 

is another well rounded character whose story brings a whole new dimension and added depth to the narrative.

All in all, another unputdownable read!

I read Looking for Lucy with my Kindle Unlimited subscription and look forward to reading whatever Julie Houston writes next.

Follow this link for more details of Looking for Lucy in the Amazon Kindle Store.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Is Kindle Unlimited changing your reading habits?

I've had a Kindle Unlimited subscription for several months now and I think it's changing my reading habits.

All my reading life I've been a one book at a time reader. 

Right from the early days of Pookie the Flying Rabbit; through the Famous Five and the Bobbsey Twins; into Jean Plaidy and Georgette Heyer; on to Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Suzanne via James Baldwin, John Steinbeck and Scott Fitzgerald; and through most of the English classics I've only ever had one book on the go at any one time.

But since I started paying out my £7.99 each month to Amazon I seem to be reading several books simultaneously.

Currently I'm reading:

Looking for Lucy by Julie Houston
How Wars Begin by AJP Taylor
Shadows from the Past: A Collection of Short Stories for Short Journeys by Malcolm Hollingdrake
Until the Robin Walks on Snow by Bernice L. Rocque
and Full Circle by Terry Tyler.

The other lifelong habit I have is to read everything written by an author I like. 

Whether it's all the short stories of Somerset Maugham or every novel by William Boyd, once I'm hooked on a writer -

I'm hooked!

Before I got my Kindle I bought countless two-for-ones at Waterstones and borrowed armfuls of books from the public library. Now nearly everything I read is on the Kindle. It's light-weight, has the on-board dictionary and I don't need to use reading glasses. I'm getting vari-focals this week so it will be interesting to see if that tempts me back to paperbacks.

Thanks for reading my book blog today. 

I hope some of the books I've enjoyed reading appeal to you too and you find something new to read whether it's with Kindle Unlimited or as a pay-as-you-go download.
I've got a new blog over on my website which you might enjoy.
All the best, Cathy

Review of The One Saving Grace by Julie Houston

I downloaded Goodness, Grace and Me by Julie Houston in November 2013 and really enjoyed reading it. 

My review is here if you missed it.

I'm usually good at keeping tabs on new releases 

from authors I've enjoyed reading and can't understand how I missed the sequel, The One Saving Grace. In fact, the author's third book has been published recently but more of that later.

When I realised that Julie Houston had more on offer I downloaded The One Saving Grace straightaway with my Kindle Unlimited subscription. 

And it was just like meeting up with old friends. 

Once again, the relationships between Harriet, Grace and all their assorted families and friends are explored in great detail and once again it's a 100% enjoyable book to read.

The book description sets the scene:

When Harriet Westmoreland goes into labour with twins in Harvey Nichol’s men’s knicker department at exactly the moment she sets eyes on Alex Hamilton, it marks the start of a year of madness - for her, her family and, at times, it seems most of the West Yorkshire village of Midhope.
Giving birth only two months after Harriet, her childhood soulmate Grace has her own craziness to contend with. As both women hurtle down unexpected and very different paths, they flounder in a maelstrom of passion and confusion, perilously clinging on as the chain of events that threatens not only their comfortable, ordinary lives but also their very existence…

And The One Saving Grace well and truly lives up to its promise. 

I'm not saying anything more about the plot other than I thought it was brilliant. Towards the end of the novel you're on the edge of your seat wondering what's going to happen next and how all will be resolved.
Harriet and Grace are joined by the same supporting cast of family and friends but they're joined by some newcomers notably Anisim, the Russian oligarch Harriet's husband is doing business with and Lilian, the Mrs Doubtfire nanny who saves the day more than once.
The children have grown up a bit since the first book and there's the addition of the new baby twins into Harriet's family. And Grace finally achieves her desire to become a mum and is joined in her part of the story by baby, Jonty.

I really like the way Julie Houston describes the setting of Harriet's home in Yorkshire. 

Her descriptions of nature, sunsets and the weather are almost poetic and create lovely images of a rural idyll.

Narrated by Harriet herself, the novel draws the reader so closely into Harriet's dilemmas and emotions that you feel you know her in real life.

I thought Goodness, Grace and Me was really good but, amazingly, The One Saving Grace is even better. A fantastically enjoyable novel from Julie Houston and I'm going straight on to read her latest novel, Looking for Lucy, which is also available in Kindle Unlimited.
More details of The One Saving Grace by Julie Houston here.

Review of Dream On by Terry Tyler

Dream On is one of Terry Tyler's earlier novels 

and another enjoyable story with some unexpected twists as the plot unfolds.

I really like Terry Tyler's writing. 

She has a remarkable ability to take the lives of fairly ordinary people and turn them into such interesting and engaging characters. And Dream On is no exception.

Book Description

Dave Bentley was born to be a rock star. 
He believes he's a reincarnated Viking warrior, too... 
When Dave forms his new band, Thor, there are plenty of sleepless nights for Janice, his on-off girlfriend and mother of his son. Not only must she deal with the thrills and spills of life as a hardworking single mum, but also the imminent return of singer-songwriter Ariel Swan, Dave's one true love. 
Poor Janice. Dave is still the love of her life. 
Ariel Swan returns to small town life - and Dave's heart. 
She and her friend Melodie (whose ambition is to be "a celebrity") enter a TV talent competition, so Dave and the rest of Thor decide to make the most of the opportunity for possible fame and fortune, too. This adventure brings about big changes in the lives of all of them – none of which Dave could have anticipated. 
One member of Thor even ends up on The Jeremy Kyle Show...

Whenever I read Terry Tyler novels 

I always become really involved with the story. Her writing style draws the reader in so well that every page turns itself and it's difficult to leave the narrative and go and do something else.
Dream On, just like the other Terry Tyler novels, is easy to read and yet it gives the reader something to think about. This time it's an exploration of the values that lead to fulfilment in life. Each of the main characters strives to achieve their ambition but the route to success is filled with obstacles quite often of their own making. For some the end result is not always what at first seemed to be their goal.

I read Dream On with my Kindle Unlimited subscription 

and enjoyed every chapter. Terry Tyler is the author of twelve published ebooks and I thought that, apart from a collection of short stories, I'd read them all. But on double-checking I've realised there's a sequel to Dream On.
You can be sure that I've already got Full Circle on my Kindle, waiting to be read.

You can find details of all Terry Tyler's novels, novellas and short stories on her Amazon Author Page.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Review of Ignoring Gravity by Sandra Danby

Ignoring Gravity is Sandra Danby's debut novel and it's stunningly good.

The novel connects two pairs of sisters separated by a generation of secrets. 

Finding her mother’s lost diaries, Rose begins to understand why she has always seemed the outsider in her family, why she feels so different from her sister, Lily. And the secrets keep on coming.

Ignoring Gravity is a really unusual novel 

which explores family trauma through a fusion of mystery, romance and detective fiction. The romance conforms to the conventions of romantic fiction but it doesn't dominate. Rose demonstrates the skills and perseverance of the seasoned detective. And the mystery she is trying to unravel is complex and original.

The characterisation is excellent 

and the two sisters, their parents, partners, friends and colleagues are vibrant and come alive as the story evolves. 

The novel is about adoption 

and a sense of belonging that Rose begins to understand as the plot evolves; and it's a novel about relationships. 

It's an emotional novel 

and the reader readily shares the emotion but it's never sentimental. The issues explored are handled sensitively by the author although she doesn't hold back in tackling their complex difficulties.

Ignoring Gravity is a very well-constructed novel 

with a plot which keeps the reader's close attention throughout. The plot takes some unexpected turns along the way but reaches a satisfying resolution in the end. 

Highly recommended.

Find details of this and Sandra Danby's other writing on her Amazon Author Page.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Review of Ezicash by Ian Thompson

Ezicash by Ian Thompson 

has a detailed book description on its Amazon Kindle store page which is well worth reading to get a flavour of the book.

I was drawn to the book by the eye-catching cover, 

the unusual title and the European Union setting of the book given the current national obsession with all things EU. I read the book with my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Ezicash is set in 2060 in a post-EU dystopia 

where safety and health have become all-consuming for the citizens of DOSH-1-TERMINUS-UK (Department of Safety and Health).
DOSH1 residents are part of EZICASH (Eurozone Investigative Coordinating All Safety and Health) and they live a carefully controlled, micro-managed lifestyle in a super-size, all-encompassing dome.

But one day there is a problem 

which can only be fixed by an outsider - someone who doesn't live in the dome.
It becomes apparent early on in the novel that there is an alternative to the sanitised dystopia of dome life. This is explored through the narrative of Philip Lud, an old fashioned plumber whose lifestyle, and that of his friends, is the very opposite of DOSH1.

Ezicash is a most unusual, satirical and highly entertaining novel. 

The author has, amazingly, created an extraordinary but completely plausible alternative world in EZICASH. This is because so much of DOSH1 is seen through the eyes of the very down to earth outers. These characters are rather eccentric and very engaging and contrast well with their more regimented neighbours in DOSH1. The author has also created some lovely contrasts in describing the two alternative worlds: the natural world outside the dome and the artificiality within.

I enjoyed reading the novel and look forward to reading more by Ian Thompson.

Details of Ezicash are on the author's Amazon Author Page.

Reviews of three books by Michael Murray

As I explained on my About This Blog page 

I'm the publisher of books by Michael Murray and occasionally I include a promotional piece for his books.
It wouldn't be ethical for me to write reviews of Michael's books but fortunately some readers have kindly done this instead. Here are are a few of the more recent reviews:

On Amazon UK, Diana had this to say about Magnificent Britain:

From the very first page I was well and truly hooked. Intrigue began immediately, and continued throughout the both eras. Mystery piled upon mystery and it was difficult to imagine how all would be resolved. Important issues of the 60s and 70s were also addressed in graphic and indepth subjects. I couldn't leave the book alone, reading instead of doing vital tasks. Once I had finished it, as it had been so complicated and involved, I immediately began reading it again. Just, the same result in that I couldn't leave it alone. Many things I had forgotten throughout the book I was reminded of and by the end of the 2nd reading I fully understood everything. But what a disappointment to have finished it. I'll probably read it again in the future.

On Goodreads, Andrea wrote this about Julia's Room:

Great read, it started slow enough but then the different twists made the characters look different than I first thought and I really enjoyed it! The fact that it took place at a newspaper in the age of true journalism just added to my pleasure. Absolute gem!

About A Single To Filey, Nigel said:

I really enjoyed this book it was well written and not too complicated. It makes a change to read a straightforward detective story where someone is
not trying to kill the detective or his family which happens so often these days in so many books. Keep up the good work and I hope this is not a one off and we get a series of these novels.

and Malcolm shared:

I thoroughly enjoyed 'A Single to Filey'. A well-structured plot laced with some fascinating and intriguing characters. Although I thought DCI Forward demonstrated few professional management skills, both at the theatre and in the Incident Room, he grew on me; his determination and clear focus of thought were commendable proving to be a key factors in solving the crimes. I must point out that the descriptions of the Yorkshire coast brought back some happy childhood memories of holidays in the area. Happy days!
I'd happily recommend this book.

How fantastic is that and many, many thanks to all reviewers. 

There are more details about all the books on our website with links to the ebook retailers.
If you'd like to keep abreast of our new releases and special offers sign up for my occasional email newsletter. There's a signup form at
If you would like to read Julia's Room, the novella is still free to download for Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Smashwords, Kobo and Nook. Links on the website.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Review of Just Above Hades (DCI Cyril Bennett crime thriller series Book 2) by Malcolm Hollingdrake

I've visited the town of Harrogate many times but will see it with new eyes after reading Just Above Hades by Malcolm Hollingdrake.

Just Above Hades is a page-turning tale of murder, mystery and corruption hidden behind the refined and respectable facade of this beautiful Yorkshire town.
Book description
Just Above Hades, is a Yorkshire based crime novel that reunites us with DCI Cyril Bennett and DS Owen in what proves to be a rather gruesome investigation. The tentacles of the Romanian Mafia in Harrogate spread far and wide to encompass prostitution, illegal immigrants and murder. The police are faced with a complex and challenging series of events with a fight against time in a thrilling conclusion. The interaction of the two detectives continues to enthral.

The book is the second in the DCI Cyril Bennett series 

and I read it with my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

DCI Bennett is a very likeable character 

whose off-duty excitement is derived from being a serious collector of paintings. He's affable and considerate with a systematic and thorough approach to detection which leaves no stone unturned.
Cyril Bennett enjoys good working relations with his colleagues especially his forthright sergeant, Dave Owens. They're an effective team who ensure that the pages of Just Above Hades turn briskly.

I really enjoyed reading Just Above Hades

The police procedural aspects of the novel are very realistic and convincing. 

The plot involves some gruesome twists but the violent details are not gratuitous. The plot evolves at a good pace and leads to a satisfying conclusion with all loose ends successfully tied together along the way.
I've added the first DCI Cyril Bennett novel, Keen as Mustard to my waiting to be read list.

Details of Just Above Hades and other books by Malcolm Hollingdrake are on his Amazon Author Page.

Review of The Forgotten Monarch: Franz Joseph and the Outbreak of the First World War by Matthieu Santerre

When the preparations for the commemoration of the centenary of WW1 began I started exploring my family history in that era. I wrote a series of blogposts about family members who'd served in the armed forces and also the impact of the war on the lives of several other ancestors.

My Writing a Family History: World War One Stories blog is dormant at the moment but I still follow several WW1 blogs including The July Crisis: 100 Years On, 1914-2014. This blog introduced me to The Forgotten Monarch: Franz Joseph and the Outbreak of the First World War by Matthieu Santerre which I was able to borrow as part of my Kindle Unlimited subscription
The author, Matthieu Santerre, submitted the text of The Forgotten Monarch: Franz Joseph and the Outbreak of the First World War for his PhD disertation and has subsequently published it as an ebook.
This is an interesting aspect of self-publishing and I've seen many examples of academic texts being made available to the general reading public this way.
The Forgotten Monarch: Franz Joseph and the Outbreak of the First World War was fascinating to read partly because of the academic conventions followed in the book and also because the book explores an aspect of the causes of the First World War which was skated over in all the history courses I've followed.
The book examines the role of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor, Franz Joseph, in the days and weeks immediately following the assassination at Sarajevo.
In forensic and meticulously referenced detail the author explains the background to Franz Joseph's decisions and charts the inevitability of the consequences. It's well worth reading and you can check it out here.
For anyone seeking an accessible and concise overview of the causes and events of WW1 Rupert Colley's World War One: History in an Hour does exactly what it says. Having studied WW1 for 'O' level and 'A' level and also at teacher training college, I should be able to re-call all the salient points but increased grey hairs seem to have affected some of the memory cells and I found this quick-read overview very useful.
After finishing The Forgotten Monarch I skipped through WW1 in an hour and then turned to Matthieu Santerre's second book (also available on Kindle Unlimited) World War I: How Germany Blundered into War.
This book explores the same territory as The Forgotten Monarch but from the perspective of Kaiser Wilhelm and his German advisers. It's another fascinating study: well referenced and very readable
At the moment The July Crisis: 100 Years On, 1914-2014 Blog is unavailable but both books are still available in the Amazon Kindle Store.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Review of The Other Side by Terry Tyler

I've already read several novels by Terry Tyler
and know to expect something good. 

And The Other Side really is very good.

It's a story about making choices and the impact one decision can have on all the rest of life. And subsequent choices and their impact and so on.
But what makes the novel so interesting is that the tale is told in reverse chronological order.
So as the story goes back in time, the reader is already aware of the consequences of earlier decisions made by the main characters.
And then new, earlier choices are introduced which sometimes turn the story upside-down prompting a complete re-appraisal of what has already happened.

Consequently the novel is most satisfyingly complex. 

But it's made even more complex as there are four main characters each with their own story. Each of the characters' lives are profoundly impacted by the choices made but in unexpected ways.

The construction of the novel is very clever 

and the conclusion, which brings the stories up to date, is most surprising.
The more you get to know the characters the more their stories resonate with real life. Katya, Cathie, Alexa and Sandie really come to life along with their boyfriends and lovers, husbands and in-laws, children, friends and workmates. Although at first there are aspects of the main characters that are rather unlikeable, by the end of the novel, when all is revealed, they have become the reader's firm friends.

The Other Side is highly readable with a lovely, intimate narrator's voice 

that draws you in and keeps you totally engaged from start to finish.

It's such an entertaining novel and one that really makes you think. 

Highly recommended.


Terry Tyler's Amazon author page

The Other Side

Follow Terry Tyler on Twitter

Review of Is It Her? by Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton

I've read just about everything that has been published by authors Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton. 

When I saw on-line that they were collaborating on a new book I had high expectations that it would be good and, of course, I wasn't disappointed.

The two authors have taken a beautifully detailed painting 

by talented artist Rod Buckingham as the starting point for their latest work. They've each written a novella which explores their separate response to this one painting.

The painting is rich in narrative potential 

and I defy anyone not to start making up their own story as they study the image.
However, apart from the shared starting point and a setting in the years around the Second World War, the novellas are very different.

Jonathan Hill 

has again demonstrated his ability to create dark, intense atmosphere as he explores intimate secrets between a quartet of disparate yet closely linked individuals. The storyline reflects the strains and stresses of the war-time era. However, the personal conflicts and tragedies that develop are the focus for this first 'Is it Her?' novella.

Kath Middleton 

presents a sweeping overview of the same period in history which incorporates one of the most awful tales of war-time betrayal that I've ever read. The perspective of younger people is explored with sensitivity and insight in the context of a war-time romance which has a warm and unexpected conclusion.

Both novellas are a pleasure to read. 

Each author demonstrates an expertise in writing on the smaller scale with depth and complexity. It was fascinating to observe how they both used the painting to stimulate their writing in such different ways.

Highly recommended.


Jonathan Hill's author page at Amazon

Kath Middleton's author page at Amazon

Is it Her?

Rod Buckingham on-line

Follow Jonathan Hill on Twitter

Follow Kath Middleton on Twitter

You might also like this guest review of 'Is It Her?'

Review of 500+ Truly Useful Cooking Tips & Techniques: No Silly Hacks! by Suzy Bowler

'500+ Truly Useful Cooking Tips & Techniques: No Silly Hacks!' 

is the new version of '219 Cooking Tips and Techniques you might find useful' which I got as a free download last year.

You can read my original review here 

but when I noticed this new, extended version of the book I couldn't pass it by.
In order to download the new version I had to delete the original which caused a few technical glitches with the download. But the customer service at Amazon was 100% brilliant in sorting it out and now I've got the full 500+ version of the book.

I have loads of cooking books in my kitchen 

but what I really like about Suzy Bowler's books are that you can actually read them through from start to finish for the sheer enjoyment of her writing style and the amusing way in which she teaches the reader to cook.

Some of the tips will be familiar 

but I found useful and timely reminders amongst them. Many of the tips are new (to me anyway) and although I'm not entirely certain I'll use them all, they're worth knowing.

The photos in the book are lovely 

and even work ok on an early generation Kindle but they look really good on an iPad.

Suzy Bowler writes the Sudden Lunch Blog 

where she shares generously from her knowledge and publications.
You can get a good idea of her style from the website and, of course, read free samples of all her books at Amazon.


Suzy Bowler Amazon author page

500+ Truly Useful Cooking Tips & Techniques: No Silly Hacks!

Sudden Lunch Blog

Follow Suzy Bowler on Twitter

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Review of Death in a Scarlet Gown by Lexie Conyngham

Death in a Scarlet Gown is the first book in the Murray of Letho series. 

It's an historical, crime mystery and I was looking forward to finding out about my literary namesake.

Charles Murray is a student at a Scottish university which is unexpectedly wracked by murder. 

Not one but three corpses are discovered and Charles gets involved in unravelling the plot.

I'm saying nothing more about the plot 

knowing how easy it is to give something away and ruin the suspense except that it is unusual and intriguing. This is because of the historical context for the novel. Not only is the novel set in an ancient, traditional, long established university town the action takes place at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The author creates a beautifully detailed sense of university life in the era. 

The formalities and rituals; the arcane language; the eccentricities of the professors; and the relations between the townspeople and the university are some of the elements that are explored and described so well. And the author has taken the time to let the picture build up gradually so that
when the first murder occurs it comes as a complete shock.

Although Charles Murray is the pivotal character, 

there is a large supporting cast with whom he interacts as the novel evolves. Charles' brother and father, his professors and student friends are all well-developed along with their daughters, wives and sweethearts.

I particularly enjoyed the verbal skirmishes 

between some of the characters of which these examples give a wonderful flavour:
"The blackyirtly, ill-deedit, meschantly, gallow-breid"
"You contemptible gileynour".
The Kindle on-board dictionary has no explanation for some of these words but you easily get the sense. The use of this type of language contributes greatly to the sense of time and place that is created so brilliantly in this book.

I enjoyed reading Death in a Scarlet Gown 

and look forward to reading some more of the Murray of Letho series when time allows.

Full details of this and all her other books can be found on the author's Amazon page here.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Guest Review of Is it Her? by Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton

Michael and I share a KindleUnlimited subscription and if we both want to read the same book at the same time it causes a bit of a muddle each time one of us synchronises the pages. But it doesn't cause too much of a problem because we rarely want to read the same book at the same time. Until Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton released their new book 'Is it Her?'

And then we both wanted to read it ....

But Michael got in first so he's written the review.

I'm pleased to share Michael Murray's review of 'Is it Her?' by Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton

Drama teachers are aware of a technique which involves presenting a photograph or painting to a group of students and asking them to improvise the circumstances leading up to the moment the image frozen in the frame occurs. The students can also be invited to improvise the development of the action beyond the frozen image and project the characters into the future: a 'What Happened Next?' exercise.

As a drama teacher I was rarely satisfied with this technique because it often resulted in superficial outcomes and working in a busy drama department there was rarely the time for the students to explore the technique in depth or layer in ever greater complexity.

However, Kath Middleton and Jonathan Hill have shown that the technique provides a wonderful stimulus for writers, not least because they obviously have had the time and motivation to develop the necessary complexities and create stories of depth and significance which resonate far beyond the original frozen image.

'Is it Her?', an intriguing picture by artist Rod Buckingham, is the visual stimulus chosen by the writers for their independent novellas both of which have been written without collusion. The painting depicts a bend in a cobbled road somewhere in a town or village. Terraced houses with red doors line up on either side of the bend but are separated by a gap. Linking the houses across this gap is a set of curved, iron railings. The houses and railings appear to be on a hill or a rise, overlooking a hidden landscape, possibly a plain or sea; perhaps a pond. The sky is overcast and filled with dense banks of louring cloud which extend all the way to the barely visible horizon. The cobbled road glistens beneath the pouring rain. A woman in an arresting red coat or dress stands at the railings holding aloft an opened and equally arresting bright red umbrella. The woman's back is to us as she looks out across the sea or plain towards the horizon. In the foreground of the picture an Austin Seven is parked, its bonnet towards us. The engine is running and puffs of smoke issue from the exhaust. The driver has just got out of the car and has started walking towards the woman in red. His back is also to us. In the road, to the driver's right, is another figure, possibly an old man. He carries a stick and is walking his dog. His back is to us as well. The period could be any time in the 1930s or 1940s. The scene is dismal but conveys a strong impression of mystery: there is a quality of suspense, as though something tumultuous is about to happen.

The gap between the terraced houses implies dissolution, fracture, separation yet the railings linking the two sets of houses like fragile black hairs suggest that a tenuous connection is retained and not all hope is lost. The setting is grey and bleak yet on the doors and on the woman's dress and umbrella the strongly contrasting presence of the colour red, the colour of blood, life and animation, provides a vivid contrast with the drab, prosaic setting and suggests survival, continuance, and the triumph of life over death. The principal figures in the painting are both engaged in some kind of search yet there is distance between all three which implies alienation. What intense yearning or longing motivates the woman to wait patiently in the pouring rain searching the horizon? Or is she merely waiting for a lift into town? Is there a complex relationship between the motorist and the woman or has he simply stopped to ask directions? What is the significance of the man with the dog?

The picture's semiotics are perfectly incorporated within the novellas it inspires. I will not commit the sin of divulging the plot of either. However, in both novellas the Second World War is a vital catalyst: transforming lives and sending them spinning off in totally different directions, creating unforeseen and unexpected character arcs. Kath Middleton's 'Is it Her?' is the more epic. It begins with a pre-war romance in which only one of the parties truly appreciates the threat the coming conflict presents to the future happiness of ordinary lives. Exceptionally well researched, it follows the characters for the period of the war and with many realistic and authentic details chronicles their anxieties, terrors and tragedies. On the way it beautifully evokes the tenor of those times: the enforced cheerfulness, infectious camaraderie, blind faith, daily hardships and disappointments. Yet the work also surprises us by finding altruism in unexpected places and by confounding clich├ęs and stereotypes. It reveals the best in people and the worst in people. I particularly admired the skill with which Kath Middleton presents this wonderful, great sweep of a story within the limited canvas of a novella and tells it from the points of view of different characters; also her metaphorical use of the colour red which beautifully acts as a leitmotif throughout. The story ends at the frozen moment in the artist's frame but, like Keats' Grecian Urn, the uncompleted act tantalisingly suspends us between present and future. We savour the irony of knowing so much more than the characters and can only speculate on the shock, sadness, relief, amazement and delight with which the extraordinary information they have to impart to each other will be received. We ask whether they can ever be what they once were to each other again. The best stories do not end with the final word but continue resonating in the minds of their readers encouraging them to supply what has been deliberately omitted.

The events of 'Is it Her?' by Jonathan Hill principally occupy one night in which two men are preparing to leave their loved ones and set off for the war. Jonathan Hill creates with a sure economy the atmosphere of apprehension, dread, anger and reflectiveness that one would naturally associate with such circumstances. The novella is written in the present tense which is a masterly choice because it gives the piece compelling immediacy, but Jonathan Hill also uses it with great technical skill to suggest that, although the wartime situation is understandably tense, the hidden secrets of certain characters are generating an additional subtext which imbues their most innocuous acts or words with social danger and a threat of impending dissolution and chaos. This creates an electric atmosphere of tension and suspense and produces powerful drama. Jonathan Hill also cleverly uses the frustrating restrictions and limitations imposed by the wartime blackout to unbearably ratchet up the frustration and create even more tension. When the moment of awful revelation comes, the superb quality of the writing ensures that it is traumatic for all concerned, including the reader. The revelation also provides us with a delicious sense of that dramatic irony that can only be appreciated in retrospect when the assistance of elapsed time affords us the opportunity at the end of the story to look back and see the powerful subtext suffusing the work. Using a most ingenious point of view, Jonathan Hill takes us up to and beyond the moment frozen in the artist's frame, provides yet more tragedy and projects us into the future. Finally, he supplies a poignantly moving coda which incorporates regeneration and hope and affords us a glimpse of the better world that will arise from the ashes.

The two novellas in their different ways are superbly inventive and their resolutions poignant and moving. They provide very different interpretations of the painting but both reflect the consequences of war, the profound revelations those consequences produce and the dramatic ironies they create for the reader. In Jonathan Hill's case the ironies are strongly foregrounded; in Kath Middleton's they are more oblique yet, ultimately, in both cases, the ironies are brought about by the retrospective enlightenment afforded by historical perspective. None of the principal characters in either novella are untouched by death, yet both stories illustrate that when much is lost, out of the ruins something may also be gained. Therefore, despite everything, their resolutions are positive. Both novellas are complex works in miniature and they are highly recommended.

Sample and download Is it Her? at

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

My ebook Cabbage and Semolina is famous!

If you can get past Julie Walters 

you can find me on page 16 / 17!

The link to the downloadable magazine is

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

My review of Best Seller: A Tale of Three Writers by Terry Tyler

This book is hot off the press 

or whatever the ebook equivalent is as it was just published yesterday.
I like Terry Tyler's writing alot and read three of her novels towards the end of last year.
I'd just finished reading her debut novel "You Wish" when I realised "Best Seller: A Tale of Three Writers" had been published. With the immediacy of my Kindle UnLimited subscription I downloaded the book straightaway and just thought I'd read a few pages to see what it was like.

An hour or so later I was hooked 

and my plan to clean the bedrooms was on hold.
"Best Seller" is a novella (about forty thousand words) so it doesn't take much more than a couple of hours to read but what is amazing is that by the end you feel like you've read a full length novel. The writing is so concise and the detailing so precise that every line of the book is at maximum capacity.
It's in the author's trademark style of  writing separate but interconnected characters whose lives are woven together in a full and engaging plot that throws up surprises right to the end.

The book is set in the exciting and fast changing world of contemporary publishing 

and the three writers of the title share the same ambition: to become a successful author. The book description tells you who the writers are:

Eden Taylor 

has made it—big time. A twenty-three year old with model girl looks and a book deal with a major publisher, she's outselling the established names in her field and is fast becoming the darling of the media.

Becky Hunter 

has money problems. Can she earn enough from her light-hearted romance novels to counteract boyfriend Alex's extravagant spending habits, before their rocky world collapses?

Jan Chilver 

is a hard up factory worker  who sees writing as an escape from her troubled, lonely life. She is offered a lifeline—but fails to read the small print...
The three women are very different from each other but each is a strong character in her own way. However they all share a common trait in their relations with the dominant male in their lives and this is the source of many of the difficulties they encounter.
It's fascinating to read in an objective way about the ins and outs of publishing.
The book description sets the background: "In the competitive world of publishing, success can be merely a matter of who you know—and how ruthless you are prepared to be to get to the top." I've read books set in publishing before but never one where self-publishing is explored so thoroughly and positively. With self-pub books now challenging the big five traditional publishers for book sales this exploration is timely. (Check out this post for more about ebook sales). At the start of the novella it's pretty clear who has the connections and the single mindedness to succeed. As the story evolves, the characters face challenges that  completely alter the reader's take on them. Although hugely entertaining, the novella has a darker side and poses some serious moral dilemmas.
Terry Tyler is an excellent writer and "Best Seller" is another highly readable and enjoyable book. You can get details of this, and all her other books, on Terry Tyler's author page at Amazon.

Monday, 14 March 2016

WWW but not Wednesday

A few weeks ago I started writing WWW Wednesday blogposts but I've got out of the habit and haven't written one for a while. But I like the format so, even though it isn't Wednesday, here's my reading catchup.

Currently Reading

I'm about halfway through
Wish I Was There - I Was the Golden Girl of British Cinema...;Then My Life Fell to Pieces. This is My Story by Emily Lloyd.
You may have seen Emily Lloyd's stunning film debut when she was barely seventeen years old in the David Leland film "Wish You Were Here". In this book Emily tells her own story of how she came to be in the film and what happened next. It's a frank and honest account of the incredible highs and earth-shattering lows that she endured through a tumultuous acting career. It makes for fascinating reading.

Recently Finished Reading

Esmerelda by Frances Hodgson Burnett is one of her adult books. I've enjoyed re-reading some of her children's stories recently and thought I would try something else. Esmerelda is more of a novella than a novel and tells of a poignant romance that fortunately ends happily ever after. It lacks the charm of the children's literature but was ok for a light, quick read. Also it's free if you download the right version.

Slur by Heather Burnside is the first book in The Riverhill Trilogy. Julie Quinley finds herself accused of a murder she didn’t commit. She finds that friends, family and colleagues turn against her and when she is forced to endure the slights and accusations of colleagues and acquaintances, she finds her life becomes unbearable. Eventually, thinking that she has lost the respect of everyone around her, Julie plunges into a deep depression. However, Julie learns what true friendship means when her closest friends stand by her, determined to help clear her name. This is made extra difficult by the unwillingness of the local constabulary to listen to her explanations. Slur is an enjoyable thriller with a good setting in 1980s Manchester. The characters are interesting and their very ordinariness makes for an unusual read. I've put the other books in the series on my WTBR list.

Missing - Dead or Alive by Peter Martin is a gripping psychological suspense novel. Tim is the fourteen year old son of Bob and Maria. Tim is studious, polite and well behaved so when he goes missing his parents are baffled and distraught. Frantic attempts to find Tim fail and the case becomes just another missing person. Bob and Maria are convinced that Tim is still alive but his continued absence eventually causes problems for them both. The relationship between Bob and Maria is explored in depth as the novel progresses and  finally an  unexpected and shocking explanation is revealed.

I read the first book of poems from Lynn Gerrard, The Grumbling Gargoyle, a couple of weeks ago and have been eagerly waiting the launch of the second book, Musings and Mischief: The Grumblings of a Gargoyle. This collection is just as good - maybe even better - than the first. Some poems made me laugh right out loud and one actually made tears come into my eyes. Laugh, cry, think, feel: what a fantastic collection of poems from a remarkable writer. An interesting development is the inclusion of three short stories at the end of the collection. Really good especially 'A Cold Affair' which made me laugh and choke at the same time. What a great sense of humour this writer has along with some deep insights into life and living. Highly recommended and so good I've read them all again.

I borrowed a paperback copy of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel several years ago and think it's about time I returned it to the owner. I haven't been able to get into it although I enjoyed the TV adaptation. I've tried again and gave up after about fifty pages. I like that period in history and I like fiction set in that period. I just can't get on with the writing in the present tense.

I was looking for a biography of the eminent Victorian Prime Minister, William Gladstone when I stumbled on William Ewart Gladstone by James Bryce Bryce which was a free download. It's not a biography as such; rather a series of recollections and reflections about the great man's attitudes, decisions and personality. It was written a few years after Gladstone's death by a fellow Liberal and provides fascinating and informative insights into the era as much as into the life of Gladstone.

I read The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst several years ago after watching the TV adaptation and borrowed a paperback copy of The Stranger's Child from a friend. Thinking it was time to return that book too, I made a start and two days later emerged from one of the most compulsive reads I've had for ages. In the late summer of 1913, George Sawle brings his Cambridge friend Cecil Valance, a charismatic young poet, to visit his family home. Filled with intimacies and confusions, the weekend will link the families for ever, having the most lasting impact on George’s sixteen-year-old sister Daphne. As the decades pass, Daphne and those around her endure startling changes in fortune and circumstance, reputations rise and fall, secrets are revealed and hidden and the events of that long-ago summer become part of a legendary story, told and interpreted in different ways by successive generations. This book has more one star reviews on Amazon than any book I've ever looked at: 89 one star and 77 five stars. I can't believe it. This book is a masterpiece - stunning.

I've enjoyed several books by Terry Tyler and recently read her debut novel, You Wish. It was the winner of the "Best Chick Lit/Women's Lit" in the eFestival of Words 2013 and deserves it's award. You Wish is "a quirky contemporary drama exploring the themes of family affairs, infidelity and guilt, incorporating jealousy, drug abuse and the obsession of a Facebook stalker, against a backdrop of secrets and superstition". The book certainly lives up to its promise -  I couldn't put it down.

Planning To Read Next

I'm going to read:
Terry Tyler's new book Best Seller: A Tale Of Three Writers released this week;
Death in a Scarlet Gown by Lexie Conyngham;
and Is it Her by Jonathan Hill and Kath Middleton as soon as it's released.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Happy 4th Birthday!

I've been posting on my bookblog for four years today.

Happy Birthday Book Blog!

image credit:

260 Posts

142 Book Reviews

80 Authors


53051 Page Views
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Thanks to everyone who reads my blog. 

And a big thankyou to the fantastic indie authors 

who've provided hours of reading pleasure.

Friday, 19 February 2016

My Review of Darkness and Decadence: The Grumblings of a Gargoyle by Lynn Gerrard

I don't read a great deal of poetry but I do enjoy Lynn Gerrard's occasional poems on Twitter. 

I noticed this collection was available in Kindle UnLimited so thought I'd try it.
And I'm so glad I did.

The book description says that 

the poems will take you on a trip through the dark and the humorous sides of reality and fantasy alike, which they certainly do.

Some of the poems are funny, 

notably "The Lovers" and "Filth". Some even are hilarious especially "The End".

Many of the poems are dark and thought provoking. 

"Behind Closed Doors," "Old Soul" and "A Dragon and a Gargoyle" stand out. While "The Path of Yesterday," "Going Home" and "The Box" are just plain sad.
Another feature of some of the poems are the quirky twists in the final couple of lines: "Death Bed" and "An Appointment with Death" are good examples.
The rhythms in some of the poems are really musical: for example, "A Monster's Lullaby," "Panic Attack" and "Oh For Those Days".

This anthology is an excellent mix of subjects and styles

 and each poem is beautifully written with a sharp precision in the language.
I've noticed that

Lynn Gerrard has another collection of poems ready for publication on March 3rd.

I'm looking forward to seeing what's in it.
Meanwhile to read Darkness and Decadence: The Grumblings of a Gargoyle just follow this link or (if it functions on your device) use the Previewer below.

Guest Review of The Anniversary by Jonathan Hill

In the Murray household Michael and I rarely read the same books but occasionally our tastes coincide, most notably with the novels of William Boyd. And from time to time we tell each other of a book the other would probably like. One such is "The Anniversary" by Jonathan Hill which I read a few weeks ago. Click here to read my review. 
Michael got up unusually early this morning and some while later handed me this review which I'm delighted to post here today.

Michael Murray's review of The Anniversary by Jonathan Hill

The nihilistic narrator of 'The Anniversary' engages in bizarre shaving rituals and belongs to that cast of unusual and socially challenged outsiders who first made their appearance in Jonathan Hill's wonderful short story collections: Eclectic and Beyond Eclectic. The novella is a page turning psychological thriller that is perfectly plotted and has great forward drive.

The action is permeated with celebrations of Christmas and moves effortlessly back and forth through time, impressing upon us that childhood torments are exacerbated by thwarted Christmas expectations which extend into adulthood. Perhaps that's why so many adults behave so badly at office parties. The office in The Anniversary is a snake pit of suppressed malice that finds its release in alcohol and contrived Christmas bonhomie at the office party from hell. Childhood torments produce tormented individuals and the torments are never more so acute than at Christmas as this beautifully constructed and macabre novella demonstrates so cruelly and unexpectedly.

The anniversary is full of Jonathan Hill's trade mark prose: similes and analogies that make us stop and re-read sentences with admiration and respect for their unexpected appropriateness. For example, the person who initiates the narrator on his first day at the office characterises her individual co-workers with 'ruthlessness masquerading as humour, a sniper picking off each person one by one'. And I have never before been aware that the recovery from a bereavement could be compared to the movements of a stapler until I encountered Jonathan Hill's marvellous analogy.

The first person point of view is pitch perfect and demonstrates a breath-taking technique. Anyone who has ever attempted to write Stream of Consciousness will be aware of the immense technical difficulties involved such as the presentation of time and the integration of the physical actions of people and objects outside the narrator's direct consciousness; not to mention the tortuous grammatical problems occasioned by such an approach. All these technical difficulties have to be solved if the action is to appear seamless and continuous. Jonathan Hill's complete mastery of the technique eradicates any notion that such difficulties might even exist!

The Anniversary provides the delightful experience of an author extending his range. It has echoes of Bret Easton Ellis and Dostoyevsky, if Dostoevsky had a sense of humour. Highly recommended.

Michael and I both enjoyed The Anniversary as a benefit of our Kindle Unlimited subscription and it's available to download from the Amazon Kindle Store if you follow this link or (if it works on your device) there's a Previewer below.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

WWW Wednesday #9

Welcome to WWW Wednesday once again!

The Three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?
This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived by Taking on a World of Words.

Currently Reading

I've downloaded a less well known short story by Frances Hodgson Burnett which is interesting so far.

by Frances Hodgson Burnett 

I'm about halfway through

Slur: The Riverhill Trilogy: Book 1
by Heather Burnside 

which is living up to its book description:
How would it feel to be accused of a murder you didn’t commit? To believe your friends, family and colleagues had turned against you. Would you reach breaking point or fight to prove your innocence?

Recently Finished Reading

I enjoyed re-reading two of my favourite books from childhood recently. Both were by Frances Hodgson Burnett and you can read more about them here
I downloaded

The Land of the Blue Flower
by Frances Hodgson Burnett 

which is a very happy, feel-good short story for children. I didn't read it as a child and found it a bit too saccharine as an adult but it was interesting to read something else FH-B had written.
I enjoyed

Dead on Demand (A DCI Morton Crime Novel Book 1)
by Sean Campbell and Daniel Campbell

and you can read my review of it here.

I finished

by Kurt Vonnegut 

This book is amazing! How come I've never read it before? It was published in 1969 so I've had plenty of time. The novel is regarded as Vonnegut's best and it is reputedly semi-autobiographical because he served in the armed forces in WW2 and went into Dresden and this event is at the core of the book. The themes of the novel are huge: war; death; ageing; time. But the novel is direct and accessible; it's very funny in places although the humour is dark and satirical. Every time there is a death or reference to dying, Vonnegut adds "So it goes". This is said over 100 times so you can see there is a great deal about death in this novel. Really, a remarkable book and I've already persuaded my sister and my husband to read it. If you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription you can download it for free so nothing to lose!
When I'd finished Slaughterhouse-Five I was browsing "other customers read" and noticed an old favourite was also in Kindle Unlimited.

The Day of the Triffids
by John Wyndham 

must be the best post-apocalyptic novel ever written. It's years since I last read it and I found it more scary now than I ever did before. I kept thinking of GM crops and WMDs and wondering if the author was prophetic. I sat nearly all day on Sunday reading it and by the time I went to bed my imagination was working overtime and I couldn't sleep. 
If you like P-A fiction and haven't read

The Man Who Kept On Living (A Post-Apocalyptic Trilogy): 600 Miles, North, Barstow
by G.P. Grewal 

I recommend all three novels. The books are inter-connected but stand alone and can be bought as an omnibus edition or as three separate titles. My review is here. All the books are currently available in Kindle Unlimited.

Planning To Read Next

Apart from finishing the books I'm currently reading, I'm not sure what I'll be reading next. I've so many books downloaded onto my Kindle it's time for a sort out. Also I have paperback copies of Wolf Hall and The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst which I ought to read and give back to their owners. So maybe they're next.

Thanks for reading my blog today.