Book of Spells by Bill Lucas (Urban Fantasy)
This is a fun tale full of elves, hobgoblins, gnomes, and other denizens of the Fae as the narrator, Pete Marsh, discovers when he inherits a bookstore and all the weirdity that comes along with it. The story itself is engaging and the characters are fun. Pete is a likeable young man who finds himself dealing with all sorts of unexpected events and individuals and becomes the unwitting defender of humanity’s future. Readers who enjoy the likes of Harry Potter and Bilbo Baggins will find this full of adventures, places, and goings on that meet their approval. The world created by the author pulled me in, and much of it is very clever.
My complaint is that this book needs better proofreading and line editing. Too many misplaced commas and semicolons are distracting, as are the incomplete sentences and wrong punctuation of dialogue tags. Pete describes Kate as his girlfriend sometimes and, at other times, as his wife. The writing itself is good, and the author is doing himself a disservice by not polishing his work. If you can look beyond these things, however, you will enjoy this book.
Bella gives Book of Spells four stars for content but two for proofing.
Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave (Women’s Fiction)
Sunshine Mackenzie is a social media lifestyle guru whose fabricated life is coming apart. She has achieved and maintained her celebrity status by pulling the wool over the eyes of her adoring fans, and she is about to lose everything at the hands of an unknown truth-teller.
The directness with which Sunshine tells this very enjoyable story is ironic, considering the lies that have brought her to this point, and I quickly became her biggest fan, not for who she claimed to be but for who she must become — herself. What I appreciated most about this telling is how real it felt. No one is transformed overnight, and wronged friends and estranged family members don’t leap to forgive. We don’t know who has outed her, and there are lots of possibilities. And we don’t know who she will become next, because neither she nor the people around her are clichés.
The story moves right along, and the characters rise up off the page. I knew and understood her sister, I loved her niece, and I wanted to meet Chef Z for myself. I recognized the fair-weather friends, the co-workers who were quick to distance themselves, and the wronged individuals from her past who were reticent to trust her again. And I came to understand how someone could get so caught up in her own lies that she no longer knew who she was. Sunshine is the biggest victim of her own lies, and Laura Dave made me want to make sure that Sunshine would be okay.
Grandma gives Hello, Sunshine five stars.
Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free advanced reader copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Hello, Sunshine will be released by Simon & Schuster on July 11, 2017, and is available for pre-order.
The first thing about my life you might want to know is that I have been on the planet for seventy two years and hope to be around for at least another twenty years of active and healthy life.
I have been extraordinarily lucky as I have been able to pursue several varied, interesting and very fulfilling career pathways. These include medical research, journalism, recruiting agency business, holistic massage therapy, establishing a training school for teaching acupressure chair massage, setting up a First Aid training company and just recently starting up Wellbeing Direct with my business partner Davina. We have a team of therapists going into corporate companies offering chair massage treatments.
I have no intentions of retiring which I think helps you to forget the rapid passing of the years. Occasionally, when I wake up feeling a bit stiff I do feel ‘finite’ then. My weeks just fly in with a variety of activities. One day a week I visit my husband in his nursing home where he has been for just over two years. He had a massive stroke ten years ago and for the first eight years I was his full-time carer which was tough for both of us. Now he has dementia as well and needs residential nursing care. I suppose in some way, I want to claim those lost years back. Just One Life was written as a result of going to a creative writing class and being encouraged and inspired to expand my first 10,000 word effort into a novel. I have a non-fiction book and another novel in the pipeline. Maybe I will end up like Barbara Cartland still writing in my nineties, but not reclining on a chaise longue swathed in pink chiffon! I am more comfortable writing in a tracksuit and T shirt!
Every morning regardless of the weather, I walk Molly my little Schnauzer who is 14, for almost an hour in the nearby fields and woods. I still go to a creative writing class once a week as it keeps my ‘writing brain’ tuned up and I enjoy the company and stimulation of my fellow writers in the class. I belong to two book clubs so always have a couple of novels to read and discuss at our meetings (in the pub, very convivial). I am very blessed to have a few good friends living locally, so I usually meet up with one of other of them every week for a coffee and catch-up chat. Another old friend is in a local retirement home and I visit her once a week or take her out walking if the weather is fine. I have Glaucoma and had to give up driving about ten years ago, so I go everywhere by bus. My husband’s nursing home is two bus rides and a long uphill walk away. The bus pass is useful!
I treat a few private clients at home which is very fulfilling as they always leave feeling loose and relaxed, all the muscle tension eased out. The acupressure chair massage is a great treatment as it is done through clothes and only takes 20 minutes to do a full session which does not tire me out!
These are my own personal tips for making the most of what is left of my life. They work for me, but everyone is different of course.
Friendships are unbelievably precious, nurture them and be sure to let your friends know that you care about them. Keep in touch with your long distance friends and family, preferably by phone ( isn’t WhatsApp great!!) or if you must, by Facebook. Don’t get addicted to Facebook, it can be a terrible time waster watching videos people have posted of cute animal antics etc.
Laugh as much as you can, laughter releases wonderful endorphins in the brain (although so does eating chocolate!) Reminiscing with old friends on earlier funny experiences is always a good way to have a laugh. Shared laughter is the best kind)
I am a vegetarian because I don’t like the taste of meat or chicken (never have) but I do eat fish and lots of fruit and vegetables every day. My best kitchen accessories are my Nutribullet, my soup maker and my steamer.
I walk every day, often ride my bike and do pilates and yoga (I confess I have just started the latter two but already feeling the benefits)
Getting out in nature. Water, woods, trees, fields, mountains. All uplifting. I went to the bluebell woods at Easter. Acres and acres of them. Absolutely stunning. Tending my garden gives me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction.
I am not lonely now living by myself. I have a lovely family, two daughters and grandchildren. Sleepovers for the grandchildren sometimes, love their company but nice to have the house quiet again when they leave.
I love classical music and go to concerts as often as I can with a friend. I usually have Classic FM on but still enjoy listening to some of the old pop favourites from my early years as well.
I try to be ‘a cup half full’ person and stay optimistic in spite of the personal and global challenges facing us these days.
I am saving (might take a while) for an overseas trip to America, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand to visit friends and family while I am still young enough and fit enough to travel. As I will be gone for a few months, I may have to wait until Molly, my 14 year old dog passes on. Not too sure what to do about my husband… but I can’t wait too long before I go, so I will have to risk it, knowing that my girls will take on the weekly visits for me.
About the author: Living in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, Pat Abercromby has enjoyed a varied career – from recruitment consultant to journalist in Saudi Arabia and massage therapist – eventually setting up a training school for Seated Acupressure Massage. Today she continues to work within the field of corporate wellness with her business partner Davina Thomson with their joint company Wellbeing Direct. She also co-wrote and published Seated Acupressure Massage with Davina Thomson in 2000. In her spare time, Pat enjoys being an active member of her local creative writing group, classical music and the outdoors.
Just One Life
When you realise you have just one life left to live, how do you make peace with the mistakes of your past?
Fran should be looking back on her life with pride. She’s risen to the top of the job ladder, having left behind a council housing estate in post-war Glasgow, to forge a colourful, fulfilling career and enjoy all the trappings of success.
But instead, Fran is consumed by regret. A shocking revelation has cast her life, and her thirty-year marriage, asunder. She finds herself the full-time carer for her husband, a man she now accepts, she has never loved. The sacrifices she has made, the personal freedoms she has lost, have left Fran crushed. Her free-spirited friend Iona is her one salvation. Their friendship has survived the storms of conflict and loss since childhood, their deep affection for one another the only constant remaining in Fran’s life, a life she no longer recognises as her own.
Her husband’s new brush with death will give Fran the chance to reflect on what she has left, the choices she has made and the two men she has loved and lost.
Can Fran find a way through the ruins of her marriage and find inner peace, to make the most of what remains of her life’s journey?
For our review of Just One Life go here.
Just One Life by Pat Abercromby
This was a difficult book to read, not because of the writing, but because of the subject matter. We follow Fran through roughly sixty years of her life, over half of it married to a man she never truly loves, a man for whom she settles because of his physical appeal but who lacks a sense of humor as well as a moral compass, is a poor communicator, and never provides the quality of companionship she craves. We watch her give up more than one satisfying career to live in places she doesn’t enjoy in order to accommodate her husband’s career, and we learn about the men she sleeps with and the ones she loves but cannot have. We know early on that she will become her husband’s reluctant caregiver after he has a debilitating stroke, and we experience her resentment about giving up all personal ambitions to take care of him in her old age. In short, we’re reading about the life of a woman who comes to regret how it all plays out. It’s not a very jolly topic.
We also follow, on the periphery, the story of her lifelong friend, Iona, who has issues of her own with the men in her life. We see Fran’s and Iona’s daughters grow up, and we learn about the difficulties and joys they bring and how the two women’s lives continue to intertwine. Because of the timespan to be covered, multiple years often pass in a single sentence, which can leave the reader feeling left in the dust. We know Fran well in some ways, but mostly we’re just voyeurs peeking through her windows, watching someone whose days and life are whizzing by without much detail, and we don’t feel particularly involved.
Without involvement, there’s little investment. Add to that the lack of any type of story arc, mystery, or real tension, and you have what is basically a human interest story. Upon reading the author’s guest post, I am guessing that this book is more autobiographical than not (emphasis on “guessing”), which would explain a lack of riveting plot points.
The writing is fine. The story has its interesting aspects. Would I have finished the book if I hadn’t promised to participate in this blog tour? I’m not sure.
Grandma gives Just One Life three stars.
Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review and participation in the blog tour.
For our Guest Post from author Pat Abercromby, go here.
Exodus ’95 by Kfir Luzzatto (Suspense)
Two ordinary people unwittingly become pawns in a confrontation between dangerous and powerful men seeking the same valuable item. Add in the dilemma of a lead with a multiple personality disorder that’s getting out of control, and you have the action-filled premise of Exodus ‘95.
Dan is a likeable, somewhat self-effacing, everyday guy who has done things of substance but is no macho hero. He is a native-born Israeli who served in the 1973 Yom Kippur war as a very young man, and in 1995 is just your average guy trying to make a go of a small business in Tel Aviv. Claire is a somewhat enigmatic young American who, while clever and resourceful, is a graphic designer, not a covert agent. Together they must outwit a ruthless Russian and an equally ruthless Egyptian in order to save their lives.
The writing is well done; Luzzatto has several fiction and non-fiction books under his belt. He keeps the pace moving and held this reader’s attention throughout. The story is not predictable, and the characters are engaging. The multiple personality disorder made things feel surreal and disturbing to me, and I found myself wishing it wasn’t there because the people involved were more believable without it and the tale was good on its own. However, it adds a unique twist that ups the tension and the stakes and ultimately did not keep me from enjoying the book.
Grandma gives Exodus ’95 four stars.
Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Payback by Michael FitzGerald (Alternative History Thriller)
What if the Mafia and FBI joined forces to assassinate Hitler in 1938? Could it have succeeded? Could it have prevented World War II? Could it have changed the world?
Michael FitzGerald has written a mesmerizing alternative history thriller that partners American gangster Bugsy Seigel with an FBI sharpshooter, Luigi Carmona, in a daring plot to assassinate Hitler. The volatile and unpredictable Seigel, a Jew who hates Hitler but has a hard time keeping himself under control, and Carmona, a Jewish Italian expatriate working for the U.S. government, travel to Rome together in 1938 when Hitler is meeting with Mussolini to cement their countries’ alliance in support of fascism and Germany’s quest to expand its borders. With the help of local Mafiosi, Seigel and Carmona plan to assassinate Hitler during a welcoming parade and then quickly escape the country.
FitzGerald writes well and obviously knows his stuff. He successfully combines the reality of historical characters and events with a clear vision of what might have been to produce a story that rings true with possibility. By taking us into the minds of all the characters, including Hitler, Mussolini, and their closest compatriots as well as the warring Mafia Dons and the honest Roman police lieutenant seeking to meet his commitment to uphold the law, we get a close-up look at the action from multiple points of view. That action never stops, and, because of the subject matter, at times the reader is torn over whom to root for. The result is a book that kept this reader engaged right up to the end and one we recommend for fans of alternative history fiction.
Grandma gives Payback five stars.
Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.