Saturday, 30 June 2012

Review - Life Class by Gilli Allan

As beautifully written as her novel Torn.   My review of Torn can be found here. 

Life Class is centred around an adult art class where a group of artists with various abilities and backgrounds are trying to improve their painting and drawing skills. 

Fran, is married but bored as her husband is constantly under her feet since he retired and her daughter who has just left school has gone off to Thailand, so she tracks down an old boyfriend on the internet.  Her Sister Dory, recently divorced, moved to this village from London and is trying to find a property that she visited as a child and holds memories for her. Stefan, who is the teacher of the class has a history of feeling like he was never good enough for his father who is no longer around and Dom is a young tearaway who Stefan takes pity on as his family are no good and Stefan wants to help him and encourage him to develop his skills and give him a chance of a good future.

All have their own separate and very different issues but they all inter link with each other.

This is gentle, lovely story and Gilli Allan has such a fabulous way of writing, that you really do feel like you're there with the characters on the outskirts of the book looking in and sharing their most intimate secrets.  I had great difficulty putting it down, the pages seemed to turn themselves as I became engrossed in the wonderfully developing plot. 

It had a lovely ending which really put a smile on my face and gave me a really fantastic feel good factor for the rest of the day.  It also made me think about things that people want from their lives, and that it's important to be doing something that you enjoy.  Also that it's never too late to try to do something that you've always wanted to but never quite got round to doing for one reason or another.  (I think I'd better start making a list!)

Delightful characters, charming places and colourful scenes made this a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and was sad that it had to come to an end.  I could have continued to read about these people all day long!

I was really pleased to interview Gilli as she launched Life Class and that interview can be found here. 
Gilli Allan started to write novels in childhood. She went to Croydon Art College when she left school and went on to do a variety of jobs including shop assistant, beauty consultant, barmaid and working in property. She was happiest in her favourite job which was as a commercial artist. She started to write again when she stopped work to have her son and Torn is her third novel.

You can buy Life Class via Amazon by clicking here.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Review - Completing the Puzzle by Amanda Egan

Another absolute cracker from this amazing author.
Fee lives in a marriage where her and her husband have got into a real rut and while she still loves him dearly, she is not in love with him or her life.  She is fast approaching the menopause and works as a school nurse for Sir Fuckwit as she has affectionately nicknamed him.  She has nineteen year old twin boys and her best friend Cordelia is always stuck in the middle of one crisis or another and she is constantly dealing with her dramatics.  Her dad lives with her since he lost his wife and mopes around all day and even the cleaner who has been with her for donkey's years is taking the mickey out of her by not actually doing much cleaning. 
Husband Hugh is a dentist and when he starts acting mysteriously, she wonders if he is having an affair and realises that even if he was, it wouldn't really bother her.  This is the point where she realises that her marriage is over, her sons are old enough to soon be fleeing the nest, and that she should have a more fulfilling, happy life.  She decides that the worm has turned!
She goes to a party at Cordelia's family home where she meets Marcus, the village vet and while she finds him extremely attractive and tempting, doesn't realise at this point the important part that this man might play in her life!
I can't believe how this author can make you cry, laugh, sob and smile all within such a short space of time.  The highly emotional rollercoaster that this book takes you on is just amazing.  The characters are wonderful and you feel like you know them all inside out right from the very first page. 
Amanda captures real life in such a descriptive and genuine way that so many people out there must be feeling and relate to and this book gives you hope that things can change for the better and that you do deserve a life of happiness and fulfillment.  
Fee is a fabulous character, and a wonderful mom, the way she opens up her home and welcomes everyone in, makes you want to pop in and sit at the kitchen table, have a glass of wine and put the world to rights with her yourself.  The way that she has brought up her sons, to be the men that they are, and the relationship that she has with them is delightful.  She actually reminded me very much of my darling mom, who was always the perfect hostess, always managing to whip up a meal for and welcome unexpected visitors and who loved a houseful of people. 
Amanda Egan is such a talented writer and has such a fantastic sense of humour that comes across in her writing, that I could read her books all day long and this was another one that I didn't really want to end.  I just can't wait for her next one.  Her books should be flying off the Amazon bookshelves, they are such a pure pleasure to read.
Another thoroughly enjoyable read for me from Amanda which certainly made me sit up and think about life.  
Amanda Egan was born and bred in London, and she trained professionally as an actress. After many years of procrastination, she has turned her hand to writing Chick/Mummy-lit. She focused more on her writing after her son developed school phobia when he was 11 and she had to hang around his school in the background while he regained his confidence. In her spare time, she loves to read anything from Maeve Binchy, Jill Mansell, and Penny Vincenzi to Noel Coward, Dostoevsky and Zola. She also love crafts and entertaining, particularly hosting themed dinner parties.

You can read her blog

Review - My Dream Of You by DJ Kirkby

A beautiful story delightfully told.

My Dream of You starts in the present then quickly reverts to the past where Betty and Maggie were cousins and the best of friends. Betty, who was constantly bullied by her mother and Maggie who only had a father to look after her, were delighted when the fair came to town. When they met the lovely young man Joe, it meant that Maggie could indulge in her love of horses and Betty could see more of this wonderful boy that she adored. Neither realised that the fair and the people they met there would have such a huge impact upon the rest of their lives.

This was a book with many "Oh My God" moments throughout that left me totally open mouthed and lost for words! It also brought back many stunning memories for me when talking about childbirth and the overwhelming love between a mother and her child. The experience of breast feeding that DJ Kirkby describes was so accurate and conveyed my exact thoughts and emotions.  She has a real skill for portraying motherhood. 

This book was sad, emotional, heart-breaking, and wrenching at times yet compassionate, wonderful and joyous at others.

I felt myself so strongly willing things to happen to the young and courageous Betty almost shouting out loud at her at one point and cheering her on when they did. What a mixture of emotions this book churned up for me and I have to admit to openly sobbing in parts!

DJ Kirkby has an amazing way of writing your innermost thoughts and feelings and I really think she must have been living inside my head!   I reviewed another book of hers - Without Alice - a few months ago and my review can be found here

It is an absolute pleasure to read her books which really are works of art and her very cleverly crafted characters are perfectly formed and almost become members of your own family - that's how well you feel that you know them!   It was a book where the pages turned with ease and again one where I couldn't wait to find out how it was going to end. 

Fabulously emotional and a most enjoyable reading experience. 
D. J. Kirkby is a registered midwife, teaching midwifery two days per week and working three days per week for her local Public Health department. At the age of 40, she was diagnosed with a form of autism called Asperger syndrome, in addition to dyslexia and dyspraxia. She is the author of Without Alice, From Zaftig to Aspie, her soon to be published novel My Dream of You and book Special Deliveries, and has had short stories published in several anthologies. Writing under her academic surname she has had numerous articles accepted for publication, was a monthly columnist for FMA-UK magazine, and is now their midwifery link on pregnancy and childbirth. She is available for interviews, and to write articles on Asperger’s, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and midwifery.
Find out more about D J Kirkby's work at her website

You can follow her on Twitter by clicking here

You can like her on Facebook by clicking here

You can buy My Dream of You via Amazon by clicking here

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Review - Every Step of the Way by Kit Domino

This wonderful book was shortlisted for the 2004 Harry Bowling Prize and it is completely and utterly easy to understand why.

Every Step of the Way transports you back in time to a life of teddy boys, and where rationing had recently ended.  A life where washing machines, televisions, central heating and even an inside toilet were things of luxury, certainly not common-place for an ordinary family in West London.  A life in which Beth Brixham lived, working and looking after the rest of her family and experiencing the killer smog in the 1950s.  She was a strong and plucky young girl who struggled to survive in a tough, male dominated world. 

I must admit that I had picked up this book to start reading and put it back down again a few times, as it was very different to the books I normally read, as I only really read books which are written in current times.  How very wrong I was!  Once I'd read the first couple of pages I was completely hooked and couldn't put it down. 

It was delightfully written, and taught me so much about how tough people were and about the way people lived back in those times which weren't actually that long ago.  It made me realise just how lucky we are, living in the here and now and how much we take things for granted.  It made me think about the life that my parents had lived and I know just how much my darling Mom would have loved this book if she had been around now to read it.  I really felt like I wanted to discuss it with her and ask her loads of questions about how she grew up.  Perhaps they have books in heaven - if so, I'd love you to read this Mom!  

Well crafted descriptions of both the settings and the characters in this novel truly made the story come to life and feel every emotion that Beth went through in her tough existence.  There were some very sad moments in this book, where Beth was so low that she really didn't know how to carry on, yet she pulled herself together and did what she thought was right to survive.  A truly amazing character that you wanted to reach out and give a hug to.   Kit writes in a way that flows so beautifully throughout the well written plot line that I was really quite disappointed when it came to an end.

A thoroughly enjoyable read, which took me right out of my comfort zone and I was absolutely delighted that it did!   

Kit Domino is a very talented lady who is not only an author and poet but also an amazing painter, and you can learn more about her writing and her art at her website  She is also a proof reader and editor - and obviously an expert at time management to fit all of this in!

You can follow Kit on Twitter.
You can like her page on Facebook
You can buy this book via Amazon by clicking here

Review - Recipes for Disaster by Sheryl Browne

Completely hilarious and SO entertaining!

Lisa is single and meets the perfect man; Adam, who is a widower and a policeman.  She wanted to impress him so much that she got her friend Becky to guide her through cooking a meal for him and his mother.  His mother is not the easiest person in the world to get on with, constantly wrapping Adam up in cotton wool and constantly commenting about his wife and how wonderful she was at everything. 

Because Lisa also wants to impress her, she agrees to cater for an event at the golf club, then remembers that she can't actually cook!   Even though Adam lives on his own, he can't cook either, but also ropes in Becky so that he can impress Lisa and so between them they cater for the event.  They both skirt around talk of relationships, neither really knowing what the other was thinking and meaning, yet are both clearly madly in love with each other.   Clearly to everyone else that is except themselves!

One catastrophe after another are the norm in Lisa's life, much to the concern of Adam's mother.  Lisa's dog Rambo and Adam's parrot both play a huge and hilarious part in the book and are wonderful additions to the story.   Becky (the real chef) is bright and sparky, and her relationship with her very recent ex and her gorgeous new man also fit in really well in this plot. 

Tons of laugh-out-loud, spit-your-coffee out moments occur throughout this book.  I was lucky enough to meet this author recently and she is so full of life with a cracking sense of humour.  This absolutely shines through in her writing making this a really fun and entertaining read.   I am really looking forward to reading more of her writing in the future. 

The recipes for the food they are cooking are also detailed in the book, along with pictures too.  Describing it sounds a bit strange, but they work really well together and make this wonderful book the pleasure that it is.

A wonderful reading experience which I thoroughly enjoyed!   
Sheryl Browne is a mum, a business partner, a school critique partner, and a disabled dog fosterer as well as a lovely lady and fabulous author with a terrific sense of humour which comes through in her writing.   She grew up in Birmingham and studied art and design and now lives in Droitwich in the Midlands. 

Find out more about Sheryl and her writing at
Her blog can be read
You can follow Sheryl on Twitter
You can like Sheryl on Facebook
You can buy this book via Amazon by clicking here

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Review - Summer With My Sister by Lucy Diamond

Another delightful, feel-good book by Lucy Diamond. 

I was first introduced to Lucy Diamond last year when I read a fabulous book called The Beach Cafe and my review of that can be found here

Polly was a dynamic, high-flying, London stockbroker with no real friends, or real life.  She just worked non-stop and mixed with colleagues who showed their true colours when her life started to go downhill.  She had always looked down on her sister Clare, who is a single mum to two children who she absolutely adores and her sister has never really showed much interest in her kids, something that has always upset her.   Clare has always lived close to her parents and has a lovely family relationship.   

When Polly realises that the only way she can survive is to return to her family and the village in which she grows up, they realise that they are not only sisters but that they could help each other out and eventually become friends if they both let go of their hang-ups and get on with their lives.     

A wonderful tale of two very different sisters who have always felt that they were to blame for something that had happened when they were both young.  It wasn't until they talked which is something that they have never really done throughout their lives, that they realised that what happened was always going to happen and that they could no longer let these thoughts control and take over their lives. 

This is a beautifully written book.  As someone who got made redundant from a job a few years back, I could so relate to the way that Lucy describes how Polly feels.  Also the way the relationship develops between these two very different sisters, was quite emotionally scribed and I had a few "moments" throughout the book where I found myself wiping away a tear from my eye! (Big softie - I know!)

Lucy has such a fantastic way of creating believable and likeable characters, that you feel you know them inside out and such a tremendous way of describing places that you feel like you could reach out and touch the surroundings and actually be there.  A fabulous author whose work I could read over and over and again and back to back too! Can't wait for more of her work to be published.    I don't think I could ever tire of her writing!

She also writes amazingly gorgeous children's books under her real name, Sue Mongredien.  Sue/Lucy lives in Bath with her husband and three young children.  She was born in 1970 and grew up in Nottingham.  After reading English at Leeds University, she moved to London and worked for various publishers before she travelled around the world for a year and a half.  When she came back, she worked in publishing again before moving to the BBC.  She chose to keep her genres separate by writing children's books under her real name and writing her novels as Lucy Diamond.  Summer With My Sister is her sixth novel and she is currently working on her seventh between being a busy mom and wife. 

Learn more about Sue at her website
Learn more about Sue writing as Lucy Diamond at her website
You can follow Sue on Twitter
You can buy this book via Amazon 

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Review - What I did on my holidays by Chrissie Manby


Sophie is really looking forward to her summer holiday with boyfriend Callum.  Even though they work at the same company, Callum  has spent the last month working away without returning home at all and Sophie has missed him like mad.

While Callum was away, Sophie has been preparing for this holiday, and has cooked a lovely Spanish meal for the night before the holiday to really prepare them. After waiting for him to arrive at her flat for hours and hours, he finally responds to her many many texts by saying that he's not going on holiday with her and doesn't think that they should see each other any more.  He admits that he's actually been home each weekend she thought he was away but didn't want to see her. 

Completely devastated Sophie tells Callum that she'll go away without him but when it comes to the crunch she doesn't feel that brave at all.  Sophie's colleagues think that she's gone off to Majorca on her own and think she is tremendously bold.  She therefore feels that she has no alternative than to play along with it, actually hiding out in her flat.  She feels that the best way to get him back is to let him think she's gone without him.  She scares her sister Claire in a hilarious way when she comes in as promised to water the plants. Claire comes up with an amazing plan and at first Sophie thinks she's a complete lunatic but then realises that she doesn't have much of a choice.  But what will the results of this hilarious plan be?

Another Chris Manby book which has completely bowled me over. This book is hilarious in many parts and again was another book that I started reading one day and finished the next. That would probably tell you enough about how much I enjoyed it.

It's a fabulous feel good book with loads of tender moments between two sisters who are also the best of friends.  I can relate to this very much as my sister is one of my best friends too.  It also makes you think about being careful what you wish for and wonder whether when you actually analyse a relationship in detail, whether it really is something that makes you really happy and whether people you think you know really well are really what they seem to be. 

You almost felt as if you were living in the flat with them creating this perfect plan to fool everybody. This book shows me completely why Chris Manby is the bestselling author that she is.   Her books are so entertaining and extremely enjoyable to read, that they give you true escapism from the real world into a world which is full of fun and colour.  

She writes with such warmth and a sense of humour and also manages to show kindness and compassion through her wonderful charismatic characters and the scenes that she creates. 

Another hugely enjoyable book that I will definitely be recommending to family, friends and readers alike.   An extremely talented writer, who somehow manages to write one book a year, each one different but with the same fabulous qualities.

Chrissie Manby grew up in Gloucester, with her beloved parents, her sister and a menagerie of pets.   Her English teacher encouraged her to write and her first short story appeared in Just Seventeen when she was just 14 years old.   She continued to write short stories for this magazine to help her to pay her way through university where she studied Experimental Psychology.   After graduating, she moved to London and took a series of temp jobs to support herself. It was while she was working at Prelude Audio Books, that she met David Garnet who after daring her to write, read her first manuscript and passed it on to his editor and she was made an offer for her very first book.   Her writing has gone from strength to strength and she has written over 15 books under various names. 

You can follow Chrissie on Twitter .
Her website is
You can buy this book via Amazon

Friday, 1 June 2012

Review - Freelance Writing by Linda Jones

If you are looking to start a career in freelance writing, or if you have already started but need some help to guide you along the way, and boost your income, then this is the book for you. 

Linda Jones (now Aitchison) has written this helpful and informative book which is packed full of ideas and helpful hints and tips which will help you to move your career forward and to unlock your earning potential in the world of freelance writing. 

The sections guide you through getting started, how to understand  the business of freelancing, how to write for the different types of media, how to carry out research and interviews and how to do your own PR to name just a few of the extensive sections.  Linda also recommends other helpful reading material which could help you to progress your career.

The back cover states that this book will give you freelance writing tips to help you to:
  • adopt an effective approach to become a successful freelance writer
  • write punchy pitches for a wide range of newspapers and magazines
  • enter the exciting world of internet writing, social media and blogging
  • increase your income through commercial writing work
  • stand out from the crowd as a writer
The book is written in Linda's "no-nonsense, straight-talking" style which is really easy to read and follow to find the information that you need and extremely easy to refer back to.  A definite "must have" read for anyone looking to branch out in the world of freelance writing. 

A freelance writer herself, Joanne Mallon ( and has written the foreward in the book and says "the great thing about this book's author, Linda Jones, is that not only does she have the wisdom of what it takes to do the job well, she's willing to share it."

Linda Jones, has been a successful journalist, agency director and award-winning blogger for over 20 years.  She founded Passionate Media (now called The Marketing Room), a company which specialises in social media, media relations, copywriting and journalism for a variety of clients.  Linda has contributed to most national newspapers and women's magazines.  She now edits a leading travel blog and parenting website.  She also runs regular workshops for freelance writers on how to make more money.  You can follow Linda's freelance writing blog at  

You can follow Linda on Twitter 

You can buy this book via Amazon 

This book was published by