Blood-Tied by Wendy Percival

Two sisters are very close until one learns that the other has a secret past. Unable to get answers from Elizabeth because she is in a coma, Esme sets out on a search for the truth aided by her best friend Lucy.

What makes Blood-Tied really enjoyable are the special circumstances in which the novel is placed. Esme is a researcher with a passion for family history and Lucy works at the County Records Office and is a professional archivist.

Anyone who has an enthusiasm for family history can't help but love this book. Meticulous detail combined with a cleverly constructed plot provides the reader with a completely fresh take on a traditional mystery tale.

Author Wendy Percival uses her knowledge of history, genealogy and research methods to give this novel a great feeling of authenticity in both the family story that is at the heart of the plot and Esme and Lucy's efforts to unravel it.

A cast of well-drawn, interesting characters lead the reader through a complex story with its roots in the past and its consequences right up to the present day. A tangle of family relationships is revealed between siblings; parents and children; grandparents and off-spring; aunts, uncles and cousins; in-laws and out-laws; husbands and wives. Add to the mix nannies, housemaids, gardeners, police officers, architects, neighbours and friends: all helping to confuse and illuminate sometimes at the same time.

Highly readable with a clear, direct, no-nonsense style; good pace; interesting and unexpected twists and turns and a very satisfying ending: Blood-Tied is a really good read and highly recommended.


Get all the details of the book on author Wendy Percival's Amazon Author Page or on her Family History Secrets Blog.

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Best Wishes,
Cathy 

Florence “Flo” Smith – Now and Then | Chris Saul-Smith

My mother-in-law embarked on writing her memoir in her mid-eighties and it promised to be a fascinating document. Sadly she was unable to finish it through lack of mental stamina and we did not have the foresight to tape record it for her.

Fortunately, Chris Saul-Smith did have the prescience to tape record his grandmother’s account of her life. The result is an incredibly compelling document which chronicles the years from the end of the nineteenth century to the late 1960s from the perspective of an ordinary, working class Londoner.

Having read this wonderful memoir in its original paper version, I am delighted that it has been published as an ebook. The author was a drama student in 1969 when he interviewed his grandmother, taped her reminiscences and subsequently transcribed them for his college dissertation.

Grandmother was the Florence “Flo” Smith of the title and she was in her early seventies at the time. Apart from the introduction and a short end-piece, the words are Flo’s. She recounts her Edwardian childhood; the ups and downs of family life, love and marriage; her experiences of two world wars and the grinding poverty of the 1930s. The memoir ends with her reflections on the present day as she saw it in 1969.

Flo’s observations are fascinating and her authentic voice resonates throughout the transcript. Her insights, descriptions and explanations are incisive, at times witty and always full of interest. Her comments are particularly pertinent to understanding the role of women as daughters, wives and workers during that era.

This book is an absolute gem for anyone with an interest in family memoirs and the social history of the twentieth century.

Florence “Flo” Smith – Now and Then is available to download in the Amazon Kindle Store.

Amazon UK
Amazon USA

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Cathy 

Review | Twisted Knickers | A.L Cooper

One of the best things about ebooks is their endurance. Unlike trad. published books with a limited book-shop-shelf-life, they don't disappear. While browsing for new books in the Kindle Store recently I stumbled over Twisted Knickers by A. L. Cooper that I read and reviewed some while ago. It's now accumulated twenty five, very well deserved, predominantly four and five star reviews  and I remembered how much I'd enjoyed reading it.

I downloaded Twisted Knickers as a freebie when I noticed it was doing really well on the Kindle Free Bestsellers and because its catchy title caught my eye. Anything with "knickers" in the title always make me think of 1950's seaside postcards but I suspect that this and the promise in the blurb of a sultry voiced, chat-line hostess talking dirty was intended to raise a sexual frisson. Certainly there are some sexy scenes in the book but they don't cross over into erotica.

Christie Robinson is a thirty-something, single mum who is trying to earn a living as a telephone sex-worker while bringing up her family and dealing with the demands of her ex, her friends and her social life. She works for an agency but has plans to branch out on her own and when she does her new business plan is hilarious.

Overall I suppose this is a novel about relationships and Twisted Knickers has got the lot: a cheating ex; a doting toy-boy; a besotted old flame who wants to re-kindle; a relatively benign stalker and a group of friends who each deserve a novel in their own right.

Twisted Knickers is well written and well presented; it moves along at a good pace with lots of scene changes and variety. It's a light-hearted, easy-reading novel that is thoroughly enjoyable and would make a great holiday read.

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Cathy 

What It Takes by Terry Tyler

I downloaded a free copy of Nine Lives by Terry Tyler and enjoyed it so much that as soon as it was finished I downloaded What It Takes as well.

I finished reading What It Takes during the Christmas / New Year period and it was ideal holiday reading. I found that the talent Terry Tyler displays in her short stories is even greater in her extended writing.

The main character in What It Takes is Karen: a person with low self-esteem but a high level of self-pity. Although you feel sympathetic towards her, she's a difficult person to like. At times you want to tell her to pull herself together which is the last thing she needs. You empathise with her situation but know that she's bringing a lot of it on herself. Which is what her two sisters think but they don't know how to deal with her either. And this is one of the great strengths of the book: the characters are so engaging that within a few pages you are completely involved in this family's complex relationships and rivalries. Author Terry Tyler brings reality to her characterisation so well.

The support characters are well developed too: for example, Lois. She has an important contribution to make to the plot but stands as a really interesting character in her own right. She has a questionable moral compass and could so easily have become a stereotype: a tribute to the author that she hasn't.

I particularly liked the way the author uses shifting viewpoints. This keeps the interest level high; enables the reader to become immersed in the lives of the characters; and ensures that the pace of the novel is sustained right through to the end resulting in a "can't put it down" read.

 What It Takes is a romance novel but it also explores some of the more complex aspects of relationships within families and between individuals. Sibling rivalry is one of the main themes of the plot and these three sisters couldn't have more: Karen's feelings towards Ava and Saskia are jealous, envious, and embittered. As the plot develops she can, with some justification, add betrayal to the mix. 

The ending to the story is satisfying, unexpected and, like real life, not necessarily a happy one.

I really enjoyed reading What It Takes and recommend it highly. 

You can find details of all Terry Tyler's books on her Amazon Author page and don't miss her entertaining Blog which is sure to make you smile.

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Cathy 

The Settling by Alison Quick

I first read The Settling by Alison Quick in July 2012 but am publishing my review again in case you missed it first time round.

The Settling is a mystery story with a romance emerging as the story develops. It just might make you feel slightly uneasy if you live in an old house which needs renovating. The main character is Emma, a college lecturer who leaves London for a rural idyll and an ambitious plan to renovate a very large, very old, very dilapidated house she has fallen in love with but basically she hasn't a clue. Fortunately she meets Martin, local carpenter, handy-man and general good guy who gets the house under some sort of control for her.

The house has a history and as Emma gets more involved in the village the history is revealed. Overall, The Settling is a well presented, easy to read story which keeps your interest through to the end even though Jim Gibson, the churchyard gardener and custodian of village history, knows rather more details of the past than his granny could possibly have told him. How much the effects on Emma of his storytelling are real and how much the product of her over-active imagination, you'll have to decide for yourself. A quick and easy read, The Settling would be ideal for the beach or a long delay at Heathrow.

You can find details of The Settling on Alison Quick's Amazon Author Page.

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Cathy
Spurwing ebooks





Hailstones in May by Laurie Maitland

One of the great things about ebooks is that they're always available unless the author decides to un-publish for some reason.

I first read Hailstones in May by Laurie Maitland in August 2012 but am publishing my review again in case you missed it first time round.

Meanwhile Hailstones in May has been collecting some more reviews in the Kindle Store and now has seventeen that are mainly five stars.

I enjoyed reading The Ganesha Keystone by Laurie Maitland and was looking forward to Hailstones in May which did not disappoint. It is a very well constructed novel with full, rounded characters and an interesting and engaging story-line.

The protagonist is Maggie, a middle aged, middle class mother of two teenagers living in North London in the 1990's. I really enjoyed reading about their hectic, sometimes dysfunctional, lifestyle and the novel explores a number of serious issues in a light-hearted, amusing manner.

In The Ganesha Keystone you meet Simon (the boyfriend) who is a really obnoxious character but he is surpassed in this novel by Chris (Maggie's ex-husband) who is even more obnoxious just smothered over with charm. Chris isn't the only well written character in this novel. Maggie and her two children, Adam and Samantha, plus a cast of interesting supporting characters are what make this novel so enjoyable to read.

It is fascinating to observe Maggie's development as the story progresses and she faces up to the challenges of her life. In some ways this is predictable in the circumstances but there are some unexpected twists in this story which make you re-appraise Maggie and the choices she has made.

Altogether Hailstones in May is a thoroughly good read which I recommend to anyone who wants to lose themselves in a book for a few hours.


You can find details of both Laurie Maitland's books on her Amazon Author Page

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Cathy

Barstow - A Post-Apocalyptic Western by G.P. Grewal

Regular readers of my blog will know that I'm a fan of American writer G.P. Grewal. His novel Nihilist 5.0 was one of the first I downloaded when I got my Kindle almost two years ago. I enjoyed reading it and started to look out for other books by this author.

G.P. Grewal writes about outsiders: those who are alone, don't fit in, struggle to make and sustain relationships. I've read all his other books including Machine Wash Warm Tumble Dry and 600 Miles - A Post-Apocalyptic Adventure and it is fascinating to watch him develop his literary themes in books of different genres.

I'm not usually a P.A. reader but those who reviewed his previous book 600 Miles - A Post-Apocalyptic Adventure rated it well (see reviews on Amazon.com) while I enjoyed it because it has a good plot, excellent characterisation and a strong voice through which to explore its themes.

I've never read a Western apart from True Grit (if that counts as a Western) so wasn't sure what to expect in Barstow - A Post-Apocalyptic Western. A hybrid Post-Apocalyptic Western?

However I needn't have worried. This is the best book yet from G.P. Grewal. It's a story about survival; it's a story about love and friendship; and it's a story about law and order. And a whole lot more as well.

There are some fleeting glimpses of cinema Westerns and hints of traditional cowboy films. And The Justifiers, while placed in their immediate environment, exhibit the characteristics of fascist groups over the ages.

The post-apocalyptic is the context and the setting is of devastation, squalor and destruction not to mention privations culminating in cannibalism all described in vivid, graphic terms.

The writing is crystal clear, direct and economical: wry observations give you just enough detail and leave your imagination to do the rest. The main characters are well drawn and although their flaws are exposed you feel strongly sympathetic to them and their predicaments. There's a strong Western voice which feels authentic and some interesting rhythms in the sentence structure which moves the narrative forward at a steady trot.

I highly recommend Barstow and I'm sure it will have strong appeal for fans of P.A. and Westerns as well as those who enjoy novels that combine originality and good writing. 

Details of all his novels are on G.P. Grewal's Author page at Amazon U.K. and U.S.A.; also on Smashwords.

Nine Lives by Terry Tyler

I finished Nine Lives by Terry Tyler a bit before Christmas. This week I'm catching up with my outstanding reviews which is a word (in a different context) I'm happy to ascribe to this collection of short stories.

I "e-met" Terry Tyler on Twitter when she became the first person to actually "speak" to me in a tweet which as a tyro tweeter threw me completely. Subsequently, of course, I read many of her tweets and clicked links to her books on several occasions but never actually got round to downloading one.

Then, the more people I followed the fewer times I got to see her tweets and the moment passed. That was until a few weeks ago when on the day she launched Nine Lives I was looking at Twitter, saw her promotional tweet, downloaded the book immediately, started reading it and didn't stop until it was finished.

I really enjoyed reading this collection: each of the stories is very different to the rest; a couple are satisfyingly predictable; one has an unexpected ending in the final sentence; and they are all entertaining and make for a good read.

What I love is Terry Tyler's style: it's chatty and intimate like a friend gossiping with you over a coffee. And it's so down-to-earth. She's got such a good understanding of human nature and what makes the world go round and she draws on this to great effect in her characterisation.

Many of the stories are set in a recent past that is very familiar and the author beautifully evokes an era with a few well-chosen details and observations.

If you haven't read Nine Lives yet, I highly recommend it.

I got my copy of Nine Lives for free but as soon as it was finished I downloaded What It Takes which has shown that the talent Terry Tyler displays in her short story writing is even greater in her extended writing: but more of that later.


You can get details of all Terry Tyler's books on her Amazon author page and her highly entertaining blog is well worth a look too.

A 'Maureen' Double Bill

With all the excitement of pre-Christmas family visiting I've overlooked writing about two of Jonathan Hill's 'Maureen' stories that I read a while ago.


If you already know her you'll love this latest story from Jonathan Hill about his hapless creation, Maureen. 

In this special Christmas offering Maureen is at her social climbing, sherry slurping, self-deluded best. Although you know where this story is going before Maureen gets there you're thinking "No! Stop! It won't work Maureen" but she goes to the limit with the inevitable consequences.

If you haven't met Maureen before I'm sure you'll enjoy this short story and want to read the other books too.

In Maureen the author has created a wonderful character who at times amazes with the extent of her crassness but occasionally is poignantly sensitive and insightful. Beautifully written with clarity and precision, Jonathan Hill once again demonstrates that he is the master of small details - a talented writer of short stories.

In addition you get two Maureen drabbles - a form of writing at which the author excels - and an additional story from an earlier period in Maureen's life. All in all an entertaining and lively read for Christmas or any time of the year and excellent value for money.


Having encountered Maureen several times now I'm beginning to feel I know her quite well. I follow her on Twitter @MaureenEbooks and enjoy her barbed comments and so was looking forward to reading another Maureen novella from Jonathan Hill

The context for this book is Maureen attempting to get over her bereavement after the sad demise of husband Roy. Maureen has planned a trip to Blackpool as part of her re-habilitation and the contrast between the destination here and on her other trip in Maureen Goes to Venice couldn't be greater.

I love Blackpool and greatly enjoyed how it's described in Maureen and The Big One: you can smell it as well as see it. Jonathan Hill has a a very good eye for detail and uses this to great effect as he establishes the setting and develops his characters. I particularly enjoyed Ada the B&B owner and her "husband", Trevor the taxi-driver and Stella the clairvoyant. 

You learn more about Maureen's background in this book which goes some way to explaining her personality and her less endearing traits and this gives the book more depth than the earlier ones. Once again Jonathan Hill has produced a well written and entertaining story which I enjoyed reading and highly recommend.


You can find details of all Jonathan Hill's writing on his author page at Amazon and on his website. My reviews for his two very fine collections of short stories are posted earlier on the blog: Eclectic and Beyond Eclectic.