Bookclub delight

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Definitely an incredibly fascinating story, gloriously detailed and richly thematic. And absolutely a bookclubber’s delight.  However, I’m not sure I’ll be adding it to my favourite ever books.

Yet, I think my view probably misses the point.  Anthony Doerr shows us so many slices of life, and his style is deliberately open to so many different interpretations.  In fact, there are elements that I simply didn’t get, which makes a bookclub conversation so much better.

For most books it’s pretty clear who the protagonist is. Not so here. Is this Marie-Laure’s story? Or Werner’s? Or maybe it’s both? Or is it all about the jewel?

Depending on how you saw the protagonist will define your story perspective. Is this about war and one that ask questions about the obvious villains?  Is it a war novel or not?  And how do you feel about the sympathetic portrayal of the Germans.

Or is it the story of M-L’s blindness, and the war is a tool that demonstrates the difficulties she faces. In particular the struggle to find a learn a new town.  And to survive the horrors when perhaps so much if it us hidden from you. Or is it?

Perhaps it is a story about power. The stone is incredibly powerful, as are the Germans and the man who searches for the ultimate jewel. But is the power in having the jewel, or in setting it free, given the supposed curse?

Alongside this big story, the author captures in such incredible detail an insight into a long lost world. The description of the museum and Marie-Laure’s father and his role with the keys was immensely moving and fascinating.  It’s so out of the realms of understanding for those of us working today, yet gives a sneak peak at the work our great grand parents might have done.

Werner’s love of radios and wires, when the mobile is so ubiquitous is both sweet and compelling.  It’s extraordinary to imagine little children tuning into radio shows across Europe as the fabric of that society tore itself in two.  The concept of a small boy trying to work out how and why the radio worked touched my heart.

The horror of the war with a unique twist of the average German, is exemplified throughout but the Giant’s search for clothes in his size and the Russian soldiers and the girls in Berlin were so simple, powerful and dreadful. It left a metallic taste in your mouth.

What makes it perfect for a bookclub is that I’ve not mentioned so many aspects of Doerr’s book:

– what makes someone like Eitenne so brave. Who would risk family for the greater good? And if none did what would the consequences have been?
– what does the ending mean? How impactful what was it? Was it what we wanted? Personally I didn’t get it at all!
– what was Frederick’s role? Was it demonstrate the changing nature of power? Or to show the impact on Werner? Or was he just a side show? I can’t see Doerr going with a side show but you never know.
– the indoctrination of children to the Nazi cause. How relevant is that today looking at Syria and other conflicts.  Have we learnt nothing?
– do the German people have a particular national resilience?  Or strength? To suffer the complete chaos in defeat that Doerr made evident yet somehow move past it to become a world power in a generation, is rather amazing.  Perhaps Mrs Merkel is really into something in her belief in Germany’s ability to cope today.

Of course, the resonance of Doerr’s story has such powerful implications for all of us today.  So, definitely suggest it to your bookclub and may the discussion commence!

Found the one yet?!

The One John Marrs (out January 26th)

How far would you go to find the one?

This deserves to be the book every dinner party is talking about.

Emotive, imaginative and with a heathy dose of morality, that pretty much sums up the premise of John Marrs’ third book. Add in Mr Marrs’ trademark ability to turn multiple characters and storylines into a gripping tale and you have an absolutely brilliant book.

Clearly, the author is a fan of the slow burn. He lets the characters seep into your consciousness and before you know it, you’re lost to a can’t put it down book! And I do mean can’t put it down!

So, the question is if you could take a simple DNA test to find your perfect match, your true soul mate, would you? If you were happily married would you take the risk? Once you take the test are you forever sitting and waiting for your DNA match? What if you’ve no interest in taking the test, are you robbing someone of their match? What if yours is a same sex match, are you gay and not aware? Oh, the permeations are endless.

Yes, there’s a bit of a sci-fi dystopian feel, but it’s the powerful exploration of human nature that makes this book. Who knew that a DNA matched pair would have such social cache? Equally, how can social prejudice exist if your match is just as likely to be a black man when you expected a white woman? What would Nigel Farrage make of it? Interesting isn’t it?

I loved how the author combined the minutiae of the human drama with the big story that hurtles towards you at light speed. The combination of light and dark, soft and harsh had me gasping.

Brilliant story, brilliantly told. I dare you not to talk about it.

Thank you you to the publishers and netgalley for an arc in return for an honest review.  This book was previously published as A Thousand Small Explosions.


The boy done mostly good


On the Line  by Victoria Denault

I’m steadily getting into Victoria Denault’s Hometown Players series.  But I wasn’t too keen to read this one. Avery Westwood getting his own book?  My nose wrinkled there.  Not too sure.

Ugh! I was wrong Avery is soooooo likeable in fact I love him. Yep I love Avery Westwood.  He’s so lovely.  Sure there’s some difficult stuff with his dad but underneath it all he’s a charming and hockey mad boy who simply lost himself.  And dad did too.  The fame, money, expectations and opportunities pushed aside the sweet little boy.  Up stood this rigid, cautious, image obsessed and almost scared hockey God – the best in the league – with the ultimate well meaning hockey dad.

And then along came Steph.  So, almost without realising it, he takes a chance.

Steph is a fab, spirited, fun and somewhat complicated girl.  She is also Sebastian’s sister and we get loads of Seb! Loads I tell you – one can never have enough Sebastian!

There’s lots of fun and just enough crazy in there!   As it gets darker and colder this will warm you up, right down to your pinky toes!

On the Line is a total must read for all hockey romance fans.  Victoria’s storytelling and writing is wonderful. Enjoy!  And perfectly read as a stand alone.

All time faves

This week I’m lucky enough to get to share my top 20 all time favourite books with members of TBConFB.  A fantastic online bookclub hosted by Tracy Fenton and a team of ninja admins. Most I read before I started blogging so it’s been nice to revisit books.

Here our my first five #ATF reads.

Pride & Prejudice Jane Austen
Girl meets boy and they find their happy ever after. The spirited but poor Miss Bennett takes on spirited but rich and bad Mr Darcy – who will win?!

This is the book that spurned a $1b industry, a few films and a million references to Mr Darcy. So, its kind of great but not for everyone.  Quite simply my love of romance, written and real, started with Mr Darcy and trundles on today.
One of the best things about it, is the number of memorable scenes and quirky characters. Elizabeth’s response to Darcy’s proposal marks her down as an early feminist or at least a real heroine!  Of course, there is one problem, especially if you remember Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy, how does the everyday bloke compete? Mr Darcy has set the standard for husband material for teen girls for 200 years.


Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafron
Set in Barcelona during the civil war, the story centres on the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. This old, huge, gothic library is presided over by a few caretakers. As tradition dictates Daniel takes one book from the library but must forever after protect it. Daniel’s choice is The Shadow of the Wind.

This is my favourite book forever, if only I could back in time and read it for the first time. I can’t really tell you what this book is about.  I can honestly say I don’t really know how to tell you why I love it so much and even what it’s really about. But I just love it. And if you read it and love it, you’ll be booking tickets to Barcelona. Although this is totally stand alone, there are three books in the trilogy, the other two are good but this is a literary masterpiece. And beautifully translated from the Spanish.


The Magic Pudding Norman Lindsay
A true Australian classic children’s book. It’s the story of a pudding. In fact a magic pudding, no matter how much its eaten it reforms to be whole again. Albert the pudding travels with a sailor, koala and a penguin, and has adventures.
As a child I loved this, a pudding that never ends? Seriously, who wouldn’t? Its fast paced, with cute characters and it made me smile I don’t know how many times as a kid. As an adult I’ve read it endless to kids, and its always a winner. The ending is just so lovely. Its old, probably one hundred years old but its still great. The author was also a celebrated artist so some wonderful drawings bring the pudding to life.


The Ocean at the Bottom of the Lane Neil Gaiman
This is a story about remembering your childhood forty years on.  A man returns for a funeral and the past that happened in a neighbouring farm pulls at him and the story unravels.  He and his childhood friend had adventures and mysteries but in fact his past is quite a scary place much as his childhood was. He remembers Lettie and her family and the almost fairytale like encounter they had.
Neil Gaiman writes fantasy for grown ups whilst totally getting the whole childhood thing. I just loved it. Its probably the most quoteable book I’ve ever read and with fantastic imagery. It’s the kind of book that you take great pleasure in finishing and sharing with others. You’ll want to talk about it! It wasn’t for some time after that I realised we never get to know who the man returning to his childhood is. And that really plays to the strength of Gaiman’s uniqueness.


Blood Shadows, book 1 Blackthorn Lindsay J. Pryor

Book 1 in an eight part series about an urban dystopian world. Here humans rule the third species. Vampires, lycans and angels are at the mercy of a cruel system and so are humans who fall by the way side. But war is coming and the man in the know is master vampire Kane Malloy. He wants to stop the war at any cost, he’ll need to make the right alliances and learn what others know. But most of all he’ll have to deal with shadow reader Caitlin Parish.
This UF series is unlike anything else I’ve read in this genre. Its full of Machiavellian politics. The author trails breadcrumbs throughout so that you can never quite trust what you think you know. If you love unique worlds, this will blow you away. In this genre just about everything gets compared to JR Ward’s BDB (which I adore), where that warms your heart and makes you smile Blackthorn twists your guts and makes your pant.

I’ve reviewed Blackthorn books several times here is the latest review

The brutal Milky Way


Yes to the Silver Fox


Falling for Flynn by Kate Willoughby

I’m not overly a fan of a silver fox romance. Truth be told I only read this as I’m such a fan of Ms Willoughby’s writing.

Turns out I was wrong to completely rule out a hot older guy and girl romance. This is a sweet and easy read, with bucket loads of romance and cuteness.  Interestingly as it’s a story about a chap who avoids drama the story is light on superfluous melodrama (thank you Kate!).

Flynn is an all round nice guy who just needs to find his girl or perhaps better said his lady.  Tracy has real backbone to her.  What I liked is that she was the real catch – no doubt Flynn was lucky to have her.  She has a successful career, good friends, hobbies, is super fit, smart, sexy, respected, good fun and all up has a fabulous life. Yep, he’s a lucky boy.  Usually it’s the hockey star with the great life he shares with his lady. That’s so not Tracy’s story.

And her message to sports administrators and fans about women’s sport is perfect for hockey, but also football, rugby and cricket etc.  You go girl!

Totally great start to a new series from Kate Willoughby.  It is kind of a spin off from her Barracudas series but you don’t need to read that to like this. It’s absolutely stand alone.

I always look forward to Kate Willoughby’s books and was so happy I read this one!

Terrorists and Russian Dolls


The Theseus Paradox by David Videcette

‘I can’t tell you the truth, but I can tell you a story’

And yes he does exactly that.  Clearly, as a former Met detective David Videcette has plenty of real life experience to bring to his story telling. There are quite a few scenes where there’s so much authenticity in the detail that the bare bones must be true, but the wider story?  Who knows?

The more I read The Theseus Paradox the more I thought of those Russian dolls.  As you got deeper and deeper into each layer of the story the kernel of the truth was there somewhere waiting to be uncovered. Or was it?!

It’s a totally brilliant concept that has you asking what is true or not?  And is that the same in real life? Could there be truth in this version of London’s 7/7?  Is what we accept as true really true?

David Videcette takes the reader on a journey about the nature of terrorism.  What actually is terrorism? Are terrorists always the fanatical extremists we imagine?  How do they get there? Are the school girls who left Gatwick for a what they perceived as a more religious, and therefore better life, terrorists? Or are they victims of other people’s agendas?

Could impressionable young people’s passion for their cause be misappropriated by criminal master minds?  And if so, is it terrorism or just a criminal act?  Do we feel more fear about a radical terrorist willing to do anything to gain entry to the afterlife or a criminal genius willing to do anything for money and power?

The other interesting theme in this book is around the use of data.  It made it quite clear that the war we fight today is on so many fronts.  Leaving endless DNA and clues to process has the potential to cripple our emergency services in the same way as the bomb itself.  Fascinating, I never thought of that, but it’s so obvious when you think about it.

This is a really interesting read.  You need to be open minded to question everything you know about 7/7, and for some that might be painful. Like so many Londoners this story is personal to me, I was on the circle line tube at the very time it happened.  It took me a while therefore to read this.  But once I got into it I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Videcette’s book is fast paced with strong characters, believable details and a challenging story line.  I loved the insight into the British psyche. I can’t wait to see what DI Jake Flannagan gets up to next!

Dripping Luxury


The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

Oh wow I wasn’t expecting that!

I downloaded this wondering if it would be any good as I didn’t know the author and hadn’t heard of the book, I took a chance because it was on the best Goodread books of the year.  Well, it’s a terrific read, one of my 2016 favourites.

Sometimes it’s all about the slow burn, in this case a very slow burn.  A dripping tap almost. It might have taken me a while to fall for Aiden Graves but I fell in love with this book by page two.

It’s so gorgeously written that the slow unwrapping of the story is like waiting for the best present ever. How the author holds back on the pace I will never know, but surprisingly you don’t want her to go any faster. And I normally like a heathy dose of pace with my stories. Not this time.

There’s something about the way Ms Zapata describes the growing physical closeness between Aiden and Vanessa. It’s not about sex because they aren’t getting down to it, but it’s so damn sensual and romantic.  She sits on his knee in front of his friends and slowly gets so comfy that she falls asleep in his lap.  I wasn’t reading what happened I was there watching it.  It was so eloquently written that I wanted to frame the words – still might!  Or at least fall asleep in Aiden’s lap.

The writing was romance at it’s best.  It was like fabulous coffee, expensive chocolate, gorgeous silk and aromatic cognac it glided through my senses. Luxurious!

There’s plenty of friends to lovers books or the instant attraction or second chance romance. This is just so different, especially for a sports romance. Bravo Ms Zapata!  I certainly know who you are now!

Move over Bluebell, Sparkle has arrived!


Archangel’s Heart by Nalini Singh (Guildhunter #9)

Superb! Nalini Singh does it again, she couldn’t write a bad book if you paid her.

I adore this cover.  Yet, today I’m staring at it rather bleary eyed.  Normally I’m dreaming by 10pm.  Instead last night I was still reading at 2am. I was so swept up in this wonderful story, I couldn’t even consider putting it down.

So, this book revisits Raphael and Elena and in particular focuses on Elena’s past.  I’ll admit at first I was disappointed that Bluebell wasn’t meeting his match, in fact it’s Aodhan who plays a huge part in this story.  And little by little I fell in love with Aodhan.  His steely strength, soft humour and love of art coupled with a depth of character that is slowly coming to the surface meant I was a goner. Illium who?

Nalini Singh’s writing style is so gentle, it’s like a friend whispering in your ear.  Slowly she sucks you in, and it’s not until the end you realise you’ve been subsumed. Hence at 2am I’m reading ‘just one more chapter’.  When I finish a Nalini Singh book there’s a sadness, I’ve lost that friend’s voice in my ear.

Nalini’s beautifully gentle style contrasts sharply with the Machiavellian angel politics and the evil surrounding the Cadre as they try to solve the riddle of Lijuan.

Aside from Aodhan, the other star of the show is Morocco. The descriptions of the buildings and town market were so perfectly evocative, that I imagine the Moroccan tourist board has been on the phone!

And so back to my wonderful Bluebell. Yep, I’m kinda sorry but Aodhan has replaced him in my affections. Oh well, something tells me that the blue winged one will cope.

Let’s hope that Aodhan is next! Would saying please help?


Thank you you to netgalley for an ARC in return for an honest review. However at midnight my preordered book I arrived and I happily finished reading that! 


A new fave









Tulsa Thuderbirds series by Catherine Gayle

In case you don’t know I have a soft spot for ice hockey romance. I don’t know why.  Other than once at the last Olympics I have never seen ice hockey, and even then it was the TV highlights.

Luckily, I think I have found a new hockey writer to join my two faves Sawyer Bennett and Kate Willoughby.  Catherine Gayle’s Tulsa thunderbird series is surprising, challenging and fun – just the kind of read I like.

The challenging starts with the heroine. Blushing virgins need not apply!  And certainly don’t go looking for flowers and chocolates!

These are different heroines – a beauty queen with her reputation in tatters, a porn star and a spiky disabled girl. They make life complicated for their men and it’s not down to the usual communication misunderstandings (thank goodness). Catherine Gayle has her heroes confronting their issues and pasts as their relationships with these complicated ladies grow.

Now, I have to admit the blurb for the second book – Smoke Signals – put me off reading it for ages.  And that pretty sums up what I admire about Ms Gayle’s writing – it’s brave, passionate, unconventional and just a tad humourous.  She focuses on the story she wants to tell, not so much what the reader expects and wants.

Ms Gayle also has her Portland Storm series, most of which I’ve four starred so another good read for hockey fans!

To go back to my two original faves, in case you don’t know… Ms Bennett’s writing is hero led, fabulously hockey rich and with a strong message in tow. Whereas Ms Willoughby has the sweetest writing style creating characters that you can’t help but love.

Catherine Gayle’s Rites of Passage (Tulsa Thunderbirds #4) is out Nov 10th

Sawyer Bennett’s Max (Cold Fury #5) is out Dec 13th

Kate Willoughby’s Falling for Flynn (first in a new series) was out Oct 19th review soon!