History of Reading – Part 2

Or should that say – A history of MY reading part 2 – 2009? I give below a review of books I read in 2009.

Binchy, Maeve – Heart and Soul, Orion, 2009, ISBN: 1409102319

Clara Casey has more than enough on her plate. Her daughters Adi and Linda were no problem at all during the usually turbulent teens. Now in their twenties, Adi is always fighting for or against something: the environment or the whale or battery farming; while Linda lurches from one unsatisfactory relationship to the next. As if this wasn’t enough, Clara, a senior cardiac specialist, has a new job to cope with. For Ania, meeting Clara Casey is a miracle: she had never intended to leave her beloved Poland, but after the love of her life has turned sour, her world seems rather empty. Perhaps a new job in a new country will mend her broken heart? Declan is looking forward to joining the clinic – but what should have been a straightforward six-month posting brings him far more than he expected. Then there’s Father Brian Flynn, whose life is turned upside down when his reputation is threatened; and the beautiful, cheerful nurse, Fiona, who can’t leave her troubled past behind. .

Usual Maeve Binchy formula (maybe I’ve read too many), but rather convoluted with so many characters.

Plot and characters **** Writing ****

Binchy, Maeve – The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club, Orion, 2008, ISBN: 0752883070

‘The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club’ gives an insight into how a No.1 bestselling author writes. Inspired by a course run by the National College of Ireland, it comprises 20 letters from Maeve. These offer advice, tips and her own take on the life of a writer, in addition to contributions from top writers, publishers and editors.

Interesting snippets for writers, but not really meaty enough.

Writing ***

Chadwick, Elizabeth – Daughters of the Grail, Sphere, 2006, ISBN: 075153899X

Thirteenth century France. Bridget has grown up mastering the mystical gifts of her ancestor, Mary Magdalene, whose unbroken female lineage has kept a legacy of wisdom alive for a thousand years. The all-powerful Catholic Church has sworn to destroy Bridget for using her healing talents and supernatural abilities. Bridget’s duty to continue the bloodline leads her into the arms of Raoul de Montvallant – a Catholic. When the Church’s savage religious intolerance causes Raoul to turn rebel, a terrible vengeance is exacted by Simon de Montfort, the unstoppable Catholic leader of a crusade against peaceful ‘heretics’. As war rages on, it is the children of these passionate souls, Magda and Dominic, who must strive to preserve the ancient knowledge for future generations.

This had every potential, but some discrepancies in the middle of the book destroyed my interest and I struggled to read the rest. Convoluted plot, which was a bit predictable. Maybe it went wrong when she was padding it out to get enough words or re-writing for this edition.

Plot and Characters **** Writing **** (apart from the bit in the middle)

Chadwick, Elizabeth – Shields of Pride, Sphere, 2007, ISBN: 0751540277

This is the story of mercenary Joscelin de Gael, the illegitimate son of a prominent knight and Linnet de Montsorrel. Linnet’s abusive husband dies in an accident and Joscelin is given the care of Linnet’s holdings and young son. He marries her. The story then focuses on the after-effects of the abuse Linnet suffered at the hands of her now dead husband and father in law, along with the constant plotting of Joscelin’s treacherous half-brother (the heir) and stepmother.

An enjoyable read. It was interesting to note how her writing had developed since writing ‘The Wild Hunt’.

Plot and Characters **** Writing ****

Chadwick, Elizabeth – The Wild Hunt, Michael Joseph Ltd, 1990, ISBN: 0718134230

In the wild Welsh marches a noble young lord rides homewards, embittered, angry and in danger. He is Guyon, lord of Ledworth, heir to threatened lands, husband-to-be of Judith of Ravenstow. Their union will save his lands. They are forced to face insurmountable odds during a war in the twelfth century.

Elizabeth Chadwick’s carries out her research as a member of Regia Anglorum, an early medieval re-enactment society. This was her first novel.

An enjoyable read, but on the lighter weight side.

Plot and Characters **** Writing ****

Jones, Christina – Hubble Bubble, Piatkus, 2004, ISBN: 0749934972

Mitzi Blessing is on the scrapheap: forced into a very early retirement, a lifetime of organising the church flower rota and making cricket teas seems to loom gloomily ahead of her. With her two daughters seemingly happily settled, Mitzi is determined not to dwindle quietly into serene old age and sets about organising and revitalising Hazy Hassocks, the small rural community she has lived in all her life. However, with the discovery of her grandmother’s cookery book in the attic, life for Mitzi and her friends and family starts to get very interesting. Full of old-fashioned recipes with enchanting names like Wishes Come True Pie, Mischief Night Cake, and Powers of Persuasion Pudding – Granny’s dishes provide a nourishing meal, but they also seem to have some very surprising side effects indeed.

Lovely easy read. Lots of fun. Loved it!

Plot and characters ***** Writing ****

Jones, Christina – Love Potions, Piatkus, 2006, ISBN: 0749937351

When aromatherapist Sukie Ambrose starts using her cottage garden as inspiration – and raw ingredients – for her products, she thinks she’s just hit on a good way of saving money while offering her clients a way of de-stressing and relaxation. However, Sukie lives in a village where strange things have been known to happen. She discovers that her new improved lotions and potions are making her massages distinctly magical – and producing more star-crossed lovers than Shakespeare could ever dream of…

Lovely, if a little predictable after reading ‘Hubble Bubble’.

Plot and Characters *** Writing ****

Jones, Christina – Tickled Pink, Harper Collins, 2002, ISBN: 0007126867

This is the story of two women who are both at a turning point in their lives, and who have each suffered an enormous emotional blow. As the book unfolds, they both learn to deal with what has happened to them, and begin to move forward towards a better life. In both cases a surprising new relationship.

Rather enjoyed this, even though it is written in a very light style.

Plot and characters ***** Writing ****

Gregson, Julia – East of the Sun, Orion Books, 2008, ISBN: 1409102513

Autumn 1928. Three young women are on their way to India, each with a new life in mind. Rose, a beautiful but naive bride-to-be, is anxious about leaving her family and marrying a man she hardly knows. Victoria, her bridesmaid couldn’t be happier to get away from her overbearing mother, and is determined to find herself a husband. Viva, their inexperienced chaperone, is in search of the India of her childhood, ghosts from the past and freedom. Each of them has their own reason for leaving their homeland but the hopes and secrets they carry can do little to prepare them for what lies ahead in India. From the parties of the wealthy Bombay socialites, to the ragged orphans on Tamarind Street.

A delightful read. I couldn’t put it down. Admire Julia Gregson’s descriptive powers. I ran out to buy her next book I was so impressed.

Plot and Characters ***** Writing *****

Gregson, Julia – The Waterhorse, Orion Books, 2009, ISBN: 1409102653

Set during the Crimean war, this is the story of Catherine Carreg, a young woman who finds the restrictive life of small town mid-nineteenth century Wales oppressive, and longs to escape. After the death of her mother in childbirth, Catherine decides she needs to make a difference in the world, and runs away to London with local cattle drovers to train as a nurse. She trains in Florence Nightingale’s home for sick nurses, then volunteers to nurse in the hell that is the hospital at Scutari, on the mouth of the Black Sea. Beset by ignorance, antagonism and illness, Catherine must fight to learn the lessons of love and war.

A lovely book, but sadly not as good as ‘East of the Sun’. Implausible end.

Plot and Characters **** Writing *****

Grenville, Kate – The Lieutenant, Cannongate Books Ltd., 2009, ISBN: 1847673449

The Lieutenant’ tells the story of Lt. Daniel Rooke, a junior officer in the Royal Marines, sent with an expedition to Australia to found the settlement at Sydney. While there, he meets the local tribe, begins to learn their language, and in doing so forms a relationship with them, thinking of them as human in a way not shared by his comrades.

This started quite slowly but gradually wrapped me in the story, which at the end was rather poignant and sad. Great writing.

Plot and characters **** Writing ****

James, Eloisa – Much Ado About You, Harper Collins, 2005, ISBN: 0007229488
Teresa (Tess) Essex and her three sisters (Anabelle, Imogen and Josie) are left to the care of their guardian after their horse-mad father dies. They move from Scotland to England not knowing what to expect until they arrive at their guardian’s beautiful estate. However, their peace is shattered after Imogen elopes with the young lord from the neighbouring estate and Tess is forced to marry to save the family from disgrace. Step in the Earl of Mayne.

This promised a lot, but didn’t live up to that promise. The characters were a bit flat and the story a bit trite.

Plot and characters *** Writing and technique *

Melikan, Rose – The Blackstone Key, Sphere, 2009, ISBN: 0751539961

1795, and a young woman called Mary Finch travels in haste from Cambridge to the Suffolk coast. She has been invited to meet her wealthy uncle – and so end a twenty-year estrangement. However, before she reaches her destination she discovers a dying man on the road. He is a stranger, and yet he is carrying an oddly familiar watch bearing her uncle’s initials. He also seems to know who Mary is, and hints that she is in terrible danger. His whispered warning soon exposes Mary to a ruthless conspiracy that threatens not only her family’s reputation, but her very life.

I kept waiting for something exciting to happen. A bit dry and difficult to understand what the fuss was about. Had to persevere to read it at all. Disappointing, I won’t be reading the sequel.

Plot and Characters ** Writing **

Walters, Julie – That’s Another Story – The Autobiography, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2008, ISBN: 0753826089

There were some interesting snippets about Julie’s life in this book, but the inconsistencies, repetition and rapid moves around her life in the second half of the book rather detracted from the whole. A bit confused at times.

Writing ***

Back soon with 2010 so far! Comments please.

By Morton S. Gray

Author of romantic suspense novels. http://mortonsgray.com


  1. You know, you should join Goodreads… that's what I do. Then I can rate the books and I've got a record of everything I read (I had to go through initially and remember the old books, but I tend to keep books so that was easy enough to do) I have a shelf now read-2010 so that I can see what I've read this year 😉


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