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Friday, 15 July 2016

Blog changed to website!

To make my book reviews easier to find, I have moved all my reviews to   

Here you can look for books I have reviewed under genres such as Thrillers, Romance, Non-Fiction.

I hope you like it - and are happy with the change.  Look forward to seeing you there, and receiving any comments you have.

Emma b Books

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Old Friends and New Enemies by Owen Mullen

Glasgow based, fast moving thriller

My rating:  5 out of 5

Whilst investigating a missing husband case Charlie finds his old friend Ian Selkirk dead; an event which  brings him to the attention of the powerful Rafferty gangster family .   What follows is a fast moving thriller with mystery, twists, lots of action and high stakes to play for.

Set mostly in Glasgow, but with visits to the beautiful surrounding countryside and Edinburgh, this is a gritty story of how easy it is to suddenly find yourself the subject of an unwanted, very scary,  spotlight.  Will old friendships be rekindled? Can new enemies be appeased?    The opening pages of the book are dramatic, and this sets the scene for the rest of the book - no gentle ramblings here!

The main characters are well developed, interesting and easy to follow.  Glimpses of their lives and what makes them tick are given, making them very real.   Many of the places, bars and towns visited in the book exist (according to Google), and many of the peripheral events seemed so real that I wondered if they were anecdotes from the author's past (not the gangster bits!). There are moments of violence in the book, (the Rafferty's are a frightening family) but these are in context and necessary for setting the scene. 

The writing style is great.  Lots of short sentences.  No waffling dialogue. 

This book has everything - fast pace, build up of suspense, mystery, action, great characters, sub-plots and lots about Scotland.  Just my sort of book, and perfect to be made into a TV series!  

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Twitter for Writers by Rayne Hall

Essential Reading for Twitter Users                                       My Rating5 out of 5
(Writers and non-Writers)

This books shows you how to get the best out of Twitter, with recommendations on what to do and what not to do, plus useful time saving hints.

Chapters are divided into easy to use sections, such as "The Basics"and "Advanced Strategies".  There is plenty of space within the pages to jot down notes, and the typeface is quite large which makes it very user-friendly, especially if you are using it as a guide whilst implementing the suggestions online. 

NB:   A marker pen is essential, if reading a paper format of this book, to highlight all the useful information that you will want to refer to again.  There is a lot of it!   There is no index at the back (though there is a useful glossary of terms).

Using Twitter over the last 5 months has significantly increased my blog viewings, ,  but I needed  some better understanding of how Twitter really works.  I am not a "Writer", but nearly every chapter in this book is full of information and suggestions  which I have found really relevant and useful to me - sites to help speed up the Tweeting process, how to spot fake Twitter accounts, staying safe and so much more is all included.  There are a couple of chapters specific to book writers which I skipped.    

In the week since I have bought this book I have taken up loads of Rayne Hall's suggestions, and now have a list of others great ideas to look into.  Fantastic!  Thank you Rayne. 

I strongly recommend this book if you are a Twitter user, or thinking of using Twitter (and the price is fantastic!).  I wish I had read it before now.  Come and say hello to me on Twitter @EmmabBooks

Friday, 17 June 2016

Fire in My Eyes by Brad Snyder and Tom Sileo

(I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

Overcoming adversity and living life to the full                My rating:  5 out of 5
Publication Date 9 August 2016

This motivational memoir is about Brad Snyder's life from approximately 5 years old through to his 30s, during which time he experienced enormous life changing events, including losing his eyesight.

The US Naval Academy and explosives disarming training was riveting. The emotions of being out in Iraq and Afghanistan really showed through.  The narrative - all from Brad's perspective - focuses on what he feels is important (his family features often), so does not dwell on the downbeat parts of his life, but rather uses them as a time of learning to enable him to move on.  There are times of heart racing drama, times of deep sorrow as friends and team members are lost and poignant moments that brought tears to my eyes. 

The first half of the book follows Brad's fascinating life before the moment when he loses his eyesight in an explosion.  The second half is about getting to grips with being blind, like how to do the washing up, and working out a strategy to overcome these problems instead of just getting frustrated and despondent about them.  The books takes the reader up to Brad's hopes of competing in Rio de Janeiro in the 2016 Paralympics. 

The message of the book (to my mind) is about learning to live with what you have, not what you don't have, and Brad uses his life experiences to illustrate this.  This is not a book about how awful life can be, but about how to overcome life's problems one tiny step at a time.

At the end of the book Brad sums up his philosophy on life.  This is a section I shall read again and again to put my world back into perspective,  and learn from his motivational attitude. 

Buy this book, immerse yourself in the story, and wonder at the moral and mental strength of Brad.  Then re-read it.

Thank you Brad (and Tom) for your wonderful story.  

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Ruby Flynn by Nadine Dorries

(Book received from, and review written for,
Drama and secrets in Ireland and Liverpool                My rating:  5 out of 5

Set mainly near Doohoma Head, County Mayo, but also with visits to Liverpool, this wonderful story sweeps the reader through Ruby Flynn's early life in the 1950s.

Ruby Flynn is a feisty (for her time) girl who,  following the loss of her family, is brought up in a convent, and then sent off to a service role at the local castle.  This engaging story follows her through her making of friends (and a few enemies) at the convent, and how she makes a pact with those friends that one day they will be free to live as they want to in their beautiful Ireland.   In the meantime she is sent to work at the castle, where she makes some shocking revelations, wonders at the story behind the ancient curse and finds new friends and foes. 

Set mostly in rural Ireland, where the rainy days are as integral part of this story as the seemingly fewer beautiful sunny days, most of the transport is by horse and cart, with the occasional motor vehicle and bicycle - and this speed of transport is also repeated in the story.  There are many wonderful chapters at the pace and loveliness of the horse and cart.  Sometimes there is the drama of the motor car speed, and then there is the exhilaration of a  bicycle flying through the beautiful Irish scenery.

Each chapter ends neatly (no cliff hangers here), so this book is perfect for reading in short chunks.  However within the chapters treachery and secrets abound with loyalty, love and loss also playing their parts.  The poverty of rural Ireland at this time is well described, together with the friendliness of the people and their willingness to share and help each other - whilst telling a story or two. 

In contrast to the life and surroundings of the castle are the chapters based in Liverpool, where the Lord of the castle is starting up his shipping business.  The hustle, bustle and excitement of Liverpool in the 1950s is great reading, and the differences and similarities of his two worlds (life at the castle and in Liverpool) make great reading, and  give plenty to think about if you are that sort of reader.   Lots of information about both locations to interest any reader.

For me this was a book written in the style of the Bronte sisters, but with a modern approach.  I was swept away into the story from the start, and absolutely loved every moment of it. 

Apart from one mild sex scene near the end, there is no sex, violence or bad language.  Just wonderful page-turning story. 

Buy it, read it and keep it on your bookshelves for ever!

Friday, 3 June 2016

A Single Step by Georgia Rose

Romance and Mystery                                                                  My rating:  4 out of 5

Emma Grayson finds a job advert mysteriously left in her letterbox, and after an interview is offered  what seems to be the perfect job of looking after the stables of a manor house.  However very soon the reader (and Emma) is wondering why the Estate Manager is so against her, and gradually begins to wonder if  everything is quite as it appears.

The first page throws the reader straight into the intrigue, and the story builds up gently and steadily, until mid-way through the book there is a sudden twist and drama.  Skilfully woven into the story are events from Emma's past, and the question as to whether she can ever move on , or indeed whether she wants to. 

The main characters are well written, with plenty of interest and great personalities; it is easy to keep track of who is who, and become involved in their varied roles within the estate and in the story.   There is a lot of feel good  and camaraderie  in the book, but also some very moving parts and a few heart racing moments.

I found this was a book that acted like a treat.  It kept drawing me back to see how  Emma was getting on, and was an easy comfortable read.

The book's ending means it can be read as a stand-alone book, or the enjoyment  can be extended by moving onto the other two books in this trilogy.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

We Shall Inherit the Wind by Gunnar Staalesen

(Book received from, and review written for,

Disappointing                                         My rating:   Didn't finish it   

Set in Norway this crime novel starts with Varg Veum sitting beside his dying girlfriend, and then travels back to the events leading up to that moment.

Varg is a private investigator hired to investigate the disappearance of Mons Maeland - a land owner and industrial developer (though it says on the back of the book that he is a wind-farm inspector).   The start is a little vague and confusing - or mysterious, depending on your point of view.  There are family conflicts and another unexplained death/disappearance in the past.  For the first third of the book Varg meets with various people enquiring about the whereabouts of Maeland, during which the wind and rain swept landscapes of Norway are well described.

After reading a third of the book I gave up with it.  The novel has received great reviews from others, so maybe I gave up too soon.  Despite interesting themes of wind farms, family conflict, crime etc. it wasn't holding my attention.  It would have been helpful if I had written down the names of all the characters (there are not too many), rather than just the main protagonists;  that would have saved a lot of flicking back to remind myself who people are. 

This is the first book I have read by Gunnar Staalesen; perhaps I should have started with another of his novels.  

Friday, 20 May 2016

Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors: How the Luckiest Man in the World Became a Spy by Michael Connick

Computers, spies and excitement                                      My rating:  5 out of 5

This novel, based on true events, tells of how Stephen Connor, a US University graduate, accepts employment by the NSA (National Security Agency) to avoid conscription into the Vietnam War.   Following working as a programmer in the early days of computers, Stephen  is then is transferred to the CIA and a role in Iran where the Shah is still in control.  Whilst there, working for Iran's secret intelligence service, he becomes a source of great concern to the KGB.  Then follows an assignment to Vienna, Austria - working with Austrian counter intelligence and anti-terrorism.  The KGB, completely unknown to Stephen, can't believe that he has yet again turned up at the place of a major operation they are carrying out, and so Stephen's life is in grave danger - whilst he is happily visiting the tourist sites of Vienna.

A great book that starts off with interesting glimpses into the computer world in its early days, then moves into the fascinating final part of the Shah's reign, and gallops into excitement and action when Stephen arrives in Vienna.  The book contains humour - mostly involving Stephen's unwitting and naive tumbles into the world of espionage and danger, and the chaos he causes within the secret service agencies.  It contains many interesting stories and historical facts of the years between 1968 and 1982 and it has excitement and heart racing moments as Stephen's gets the action and excitement that he imagined the espionage world was full of.

A short, interesting and gripping self-published book.  Well worth reading.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Learning to Love by Sheryl Browne

Publication date 14 June 2016

(I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

Romance, mystery and suspense                                      My rating:  5 out of 5

Andrea, the mother of two teenagers and a toddler, carer to her slightly dotty mother and partner to Jonathan,  is thinking of giving up her teaching job and starting up a new business.  And then her home burns down leaving her homeless, possession-less, dog-less and for some reason Jonathan has also disappeared.    Fortunately the moody (but good looking) neighbour opposite steps into help, and so begins this fast moving, fun story about Andrea's chaotic life, and that of her family, friends (not all of whom are a friendly as they should be) and neighbours. 

Things are not quite as they seem at first, and the book rushes along with plenty of mystery and suspense, feel good moments, romance and disasters. All punctuated by strops from the teenage daughter and witticisms from the dotty mother.  This is a wonderful book to make you laugh, sigh and read a little bit longer than you really have time for.   

A great womens' fiction book. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Long Time Lost by Chris Ewan

(Book received from, and review written for,

Exciting race through Europe                               My rating:  4 out of 5

Kate is in hiding under a police witness protection scheme.  When those she is hiding from arrive to kill her, Miller offers to take over Kate's protection using his own  private protection scheme.  However his terms are that if she wants to live she must give up every part of her previous life - and that may be too much to ask. 

Then, unexpectedly, Miller finds himself in a race against time to save the clients he has hidden away all across Europe.  His clients are not always as grateful and obliging as he would hope, and, as his is an illegal protection scheme, he can't look to any law enforcement agencies for help.  Who is Miller? Can Kate trust him? Who is he protecting, and from what?

The first page of this thriller is exciting and dramatic, and the action and drama continues throughout the book, alongside a great story.   Miller's team are people you get to know through the book and are an interesting group.  Their roles certainly made me stop and think about what hiding and protecting people might involve in real life.

The book travels through many European locations starting in the Isle of Man and Manchester, then travelling to Hamburg, Rome, Arles in France, Prague and Brienz in Switzerland  etc.  Life is very hectic during these visits, so mostly the reader only gets a quick glimpse, often at a running pace, but enough is shown of some of these settings to give the reader a flavour of their character. 

The themes of starting a new life afresh and hiding one's past are interesting in themselves, as are the logistics of keeping track of these people and keeping them safe - particularly with all the positives and negatives of technology if you are trying to stay hidden.

Quite apart from the thrilling pace of the book, and the action, there are some great background stories going on , which give the characters life and interest.  Most of the book is involved with only a few main characters, though there are quite a number of peripheral characters and sometimes I found I had lost track of exactly what had happened to them.  However the writing was so good that I did not need to go back and check it out, the author clarified things quickly as the story progressed. 

There is so much going on in this book that it is not a quick read but is easy to follow.  My guess is that most readers will rush through it, but the writing style also makes it perfect for short stints of reading.  Perfect for a holiday, long flight, or if you just want to escape into a great book. 

Overall a great, and exciting thriller.  I hope to read more of Chris Ewan soon.  

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Girls' Weekend by Cara Sue Achterberg

(I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

Which character do you relate to?                                           My rating: 4 out of 5
Publication Date:  3 May 2016

A great story about Dani, Charlotte and Meg who decide to have a Girls' Weekend away by the sea, leaving behind their husbands and children. However when it is time to return they all decide that just a weekend is not enough.

If you have ever thought about "running away" from your home and family, think it's time to re-invent yourself, or re-discover the real you, then read this first. As Dani, Charlotte and Meg consider the way their lives have turned out, and whether they have any right to be unhappy about it, so they discover that the lives of their closest friends are not quite as they thought.

This is not always a comfortable read, but it is very real and completely engrossing. Reading it on Kindle I did not realise how near the end was, and was horrified to "turn a page" and find the Acknowledgements. Not because the story wasn't finished, it was, but because I was so involved in the three lives that I couldn't believe there was no more. I wonder what Dani, Charlotte and Meg are doing today.

"There are no mistakes, only lessons to be learned" Cara Sue Achterberg

Monday, 18 April 2016

Into the Black: The Extraordinary Untold Story of the First Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Astronauts Who Flew Her by Rowland White

(I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

The Excitement of Space Exploration                                 My rating: 5 out of 5

This exciting, and very readable, book takes the reader from the 1960s first ventures into space, through the creation of an early balsawood and paper model design for a space plane capable of returning to earth, to the first space shuttle launch in 1981 and right on up to the 2003 Columbia disaster. It gives all the background into space travel including why getting a man on the moon was so important. The reader is taken through the Apollo missions and through all preparation of the astronauts and the space shuttle before launch the 1981 launch of Space Shuttle Columbia.

Rowland White has included all the exciting parts of space history - and there's a lot of them, and skipped all the boring parts - or maybe his writing is just so good that it seems like that. This book is perfect for everyone who has ever watched a blast off into space, and wondered what happened before, and after, that moment, and of course is great reading for any aspiring astronauts. No need for an engineering, science or mathematical background to enjoy this book, it is gripping, with heart stopping moments. At the end of the book is a glossary of terms - which I never needed to refer to, due to the clarity of the writing, plus excellent diagrams and a great list of resources for further information.

The book took longer to read than I had anticipated, as I kept breaking off to google films of the events taking place and pictures of the people and locations involved. I have learnt so much, and been so fascinated by this book. In particular how brave the astronauts are; I had no ideas of the difficulties, and dangers, involved in getting a space shuttle into space.

An action packed history book - fantastic. Get yourself a copy, and give a friend one too.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Dream Accomplished by Elizabeth Gross

Find a dream and follow it                                          My rating 5 out of 5

This inspiring, memoir  is all about having a dream, that will provide focus, fun and fulfilment, away from the problems of everyday life. 

In this case the problem is a diagnosis of a rare blood cancer Essential Thrombocythemia (MPN).  The first part of the book has loads of useful information for anyone who may be going through hospital processes - with any condition.  Though set in the US, it applies equally to other countries.  It deals with coping with contradictory diagnoses, and what to expect of various procedures.   There are anecdotes about the many wonderful doctors and care staff - plus the not so wonderful.  With  lots of "wow" moments that put your own life issues into perspective,  this always remains a positive book, with uplifting moments at the most difficult of times. 

The second part of the book is about finding an adventure to provide focus and joy through difficult times.  With all this going on, somehow this family find time to focus on the needs of others - this is the family we all wish lived next door!

This is a book of hope.  One that everyone should read, as it has life enhancing tips for all, not just the ill.  This is NOT a book about living with cancer, it is a book about living life to the full and enjoying every moment.   At the end of the book is a section with many useful resources.

On finishing the book, I tweeted the following to the author  "Dinner is late tonight, because I can't do anything until I have finished your book, and because I'm crying with positive emotion."

Thank you Elizabeth, Marc and Page for this life enhancing book.  

Thursday, 24 March 2016

This is One Moment by Mila Gray

(Book received from, and review written for,
Love  vs Giving Up                                  My rating:  4 out of 5

Didi, doing her first internment as a trainee psychologist  in a state of the art military hospital/rehabilitation centre, finds herself drawn to a wounded marine called  Walker.  However Walker is struggling to cope with his injuries, his recollections of the event that caused them and what the future will hold for him.  And then there is Didi's boyfriend Zac, who is rich and famous and every girl's dream.  
Didi's goals include having a perfect marriage and life, like that of her parents, a life that Zac could surely give her.  Whilst working in the military centre she, of course, has an obligation not to become too close to the patients, however having met Walker life isn't quite that simple!
This is a wonderful romance, with a deeper theme of what it is like to one moment be a fit active marine with a promising career ahead, and the next moment to be in a military hospital with life changing injuries.  Mila Gray paints the outline of what the various patients in the centre are going through,  and leaves the reader to colour it in, making the imagery very strong.  
Other themes within this book look at why people cope so differently with similar situations, why the young join the military knowing they could be risking their lives, how Post Traumatic Stress affects people differently, and what it is like to suddenly have to consider a future so different to the one previously envisaged.   Answers are not given!   This is a book about overcoming difficulties, changing your goals when the old ones become inappropriate, and seeing things as they are, not through a mist of blackness or an unrealistic glow of brightness.    And about seeing a chance for happiness and grabbing it.
The characters are well drawn and true to life.  There are times you want to shout at them, but their friends do it for you, and they don't listen anyway.  The chapters alternate between life as seen from Didi's perspective and life as seen by Walker.  There are many light and humorous moments, also times of great sadness and some despair.  During the sad narratives I found myself unable to put the book down, gripped to see how it turned out.  During the lighter moments there are some laugh out loud moments.   
Set in California, this book gives brief glimpses of Californian life, but the main setting for this book is the hospital/rehabilitation centre. 
A great read, light enough for any occasion, but with a depth that kept me interested, brought the characters to life and made me keep turning the pages.  

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

Glimpses into personal lives                                           My rating:  5 out of 5

The author of this book stayed with a "middle-class" family in Kabul, Afghanistan,  for four months, having met the father who was a bookseller.  This book is what she learned about the lives of this family (which Seierstad explains is not a typical Afghani  family), through her observations, going out and about with them and what they told her.  The family mostly live in Kabul, and the stories and anecdotes are from the years 1973 - 2002. 

Each chapter of this fascinating book covers a different subject.  Subjects include lives of the women, arranged marriages, meals, roles within the family and love.  Also covered is life under the Taliban and the warlords, education, politics, history of Afghanistan and of course religion.  All these subjects are as seen from the point of view of the people she lived with, and spoke to. 

I picked up this book, having been recommended it and assuming it was a novel.  It was much better than a novel!  The family life and their difficulties and successes are described so well that I felt as if I was there watching the family live out their lives.  

If you are interested in learning about a way of life, where the culture and expectations are very different from the western norm, then this is the book for you.  Shocking, at times frightening, but always engrossing.  

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Free to be Tegan by Mary Grand

Life After Leaving a Religious Cult                                                 My rating: 4 out of 5

This wonderful novel opens as 27 year old Tegan is being cast out from her Community into a world she left 22 years before. Ending up in Wales she is bewildered at the decisions she is required to make in this "outside world", small things like what sort of milk she wants seem overwhelming given her background. Used to being told what to do at all times, Tegan finds it difficult to adjust into a life where she has choices, but little experience on which to base them. The novel follows Tegan as she tries to overcome her brainwashing/life's training. As she begins to enjoy the wonders of nature and everyday life, she is also trying to cope with the loss of leaving behind everyone and everything she has ever known.

Mary Grand draws an amazing picture of the village life that Tegan finds herself in. If this was a true story, I could take you around the village and tell you all about the people and what has been going on - the writing is that involving and realistic. Indeed often whilst reading the book I wondered if this was a true story turned into a novel .

This is a book with a strong and involving story with plenty of action and heart stopping moments; no sex and minimal violence. A book to make you think about life, and what it is that makes people behave the way they do.

Recommended to all readers who like a well researched novel , a great story and a fascinating subject.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Lies of the Dead by Shauna Bickley

(I received this book, free of charge, from, in return for an honest review)

Mystery Thriller that draws you in                                           My rating:  4 out of 5

Set in Cornwall and Bristol, can Tom and Andi save themselves, and their families, after their brother dies, leaving his dangerous problems for them to fix.

Tom gets a phone call from the police to say that his brother has committed suicide; he then breaks the news  to his sister Andi.  Whilst trying to discover the reason behind his brother's death Tom is drawn into a frightening world,  where he and his sister's family are in great danger  because of his brother's actions.

Set mostly in Cornwall (in a fictitious, but true to life, village) and Bristol, this excellent story is engaging  from the beginning as the reader is led deeper and deeper into the lives of the main characters.  It's a "what would you do in their situation" type book - though nobody would want to go where these people are taken!  The characters are well developed in the early chapters, so the reader  is  firmly on Andi's side when she thinks she is developing paranoia, and blaming it on her troubled marriage.  Tom is a likeable character so when things get scary the reader is with him all the way. 

I really enjoyed this book.  It started off as an enjoyable read, that could be put down and picked up easily, but then developed into a "just read the next chapter" as the story developed. 

Suitable for anyone who enjoys a mystery thriller.

Friday, 26 February 2016

The Castaway's War: One Man's Battle against Imperial Japan by Stephen Harding

(I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

Military History and Survival                                                            My rating  3 out of 5
Publication Date:  May 2016

This is a tale of the USS Strong that was launched in May 1942, and sunk in July 1943.  It describes the building of the ship, the weaponry it carried and the preparation of the crew and ship for war.  Among the officers on the ship was Navy Lieutenant Hugh Barr Miller, who survived when the boat sunk and was eventually washed up on Arundel  Islet (Solomon Islands), where he not only survived but performed acts of great bravery. 

Lovers  of military history and detail about the US Navy's warships will find this a fascinating and riveting read, probably deserving of a 5 out of 5 rating.  Unfortunately the detail regarding the building and commissioning of the ship held little personal interest for me, and though the tale of survival on Arundel was  exciting, interesting and page turning it was not enough for me to rate the book higher.  

Monday, 22 February 2016

Code Name Papa: My Extraordinary Life while Hiding in Plain Sight by John Murray,Sharon Murray and Abby Jones

(I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

Real life is more scary than fiction                 My rating:  5 out of 5
This memoir is written by a former undercover agent working for the US, Canada and various European Governments.  He calls himself "Papa".   His story starts in 1965 when Papa joins the Marines, and goes through to 2012 when he retires.  Imbetween these times Papa has carried out numerous operations - often eliminating people who present a security risk to a government, risking his life (and that of his team) to follow the instructions he has been given.   His operations take place all over the world, from Russia to Italy, from Austria to Rendlesham Forest in England. 

The book covers his recruitment, dealing with moles, gunfights and the planning and execution of many assignments that are shocking and frightening in nature.  It also shows the effect that this sort of work has on his home and family life.  Due to the covert and sensitive nature of his work, many of the details are sparse, but enough information is given to make the reader fully understand each operation he describes. 

I found this a fascinating, if very disturbing, book.  I would recommend it to everyone, to learn about a world out there that most of us have no idea about.  However the book is describing a team of highly committed and hard hitting people who carry out assignments without question.  Much of the action described is more scary than any fictional thriller, and may cause you to question that creak you hear downstairs in the dead of night!  

Thursday, 18 February 2016

The Girl in Berlin by Elizabeth Wilson

(Book received from, and review written for,

Spies in London and Berlin                    My rating:  3 out of 5

It's May 1951 in England and Burgess and Maclean have recently disappeared.   Elisabeth Wilson's  novel is set against the background of the public's surprise and shock over the news of spies defecting, and concerns the hunt to find other spies, particularly the one believed to be in MI5

In London Anthony Blunt's staff at the Courtauld Institute of Art adore him, and are shocked at the suggestions that he could be involved in any spying scandal.  The book's character Dinah works at the Courtauld, so gives an insight into Blunt's life at this time.  Dinah's husband works at the BBC and  is also, unwittingly, drawn into the world of spies and espionage.  He, like many of the other characters in the book also has another side hidden from his wife and friends.   Wonderful examples are given of social behaviours in the 1950s, as the charade of normality covers investigations and goings on that are (according to the book) common at this time. 

The book is a wonderful blend of fact and fiction, leading the reader into various private gardens, along London canals, Wimbledon and the world of art.    Many of the fictitious characters in the book are not quite certain of what their exact role is and how the part they are playing fits into the desperate race to track down spies.  The subtleties of their recruitment, and operating methods, is quite fascinating. 

The reader is taken to East (and West) Berlin, at this time of enormous change, and many comparisons made with life in England.   Again all is in confusion there as to who can be trusted, who is working for who and what is safe.   The descriptions of life in the 1950s are fascinating, and the author certainly builds up suspense and interest as events evolve. 

Unfortunately I found that after a riveting start the characters failed to develop, and therefore the story lost its way (for me) in the middle, though the ending pulled everything together and was well worth reaching.    Having finished the book, I can now look back and think how much I learnt about life at that time during the Cold War, and how interesting the book was, however at the time of reading that was not so apparent.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

A Stranger's House by Clare Chase

(I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

Enjoyable Romantic Mystery                       My rating:  3 out of 5

Ruby has had a falling out with her long term boyfriend, so is thrilled to get a house sitting job from her best friend's cousin, Nate.  Very soon the reader is wondering:  what did Ruby's boyfriend do? what happened in Nate's past? why are odd things happening at the house Ruby is looking after?
Then there is a murder.

 Ruby, due to her naturally curious nature (or is she just a bit nosey?) decides to find out more about what is going on.

This is an enjoyable gentle mystery set in Cambridge, England.  It has humour, romantic confusion and, of course, lots of guessing  as to Who Did It.   

Suitable for all the family. 

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Boy from Hell by Alison Thompson

(I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

A practical helpful book - for all parents!                    My Rating:  5 out of 5

This is the story of Alison and her two children, one of whom has been diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger's.  However it is less a story about this wonderful, loving family, it is more a book  about how they can help you with behavioural challenges you may be experiencing  with your child! 

This short book takes the reader through the different types of ADHD, giving practical advice on how to obtain help from the UK schooling system, examples of ADHD behaviour, what to do if your child is facing exclusion from school, and lots and lots of useful tips and techniques on how to deal with a child who is presenting challenges to parents or teachers.

Although ADHD is a "genuine medical condition with biological roots" Alison frequently had to deal with people thinking that Daniel's behaviour was just a bad parenting issue, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.  As Daniel says "There are no benefits from having ADHD". 

This is not only a book of helpful advice on living with a child with ADHD, but also a book on living with any child who has meltdowns, or exhibits behaviour that is difficult to control.   It includes "tips for surviving as a parent" , a section about diets  and medication, ideas for dealing with parenting challenges,  plus appendices with loads of helpful information and contacts.

A book for anyone who spends time with young children!

Oh - and Daniel isn't from hell, it just sometimes seems that way to him and everyone else.