The Cloths of Heaven by Sue Eckstein

Cloths of heaven

Synopsis from Myriad Publishers:

West Africa in the early 1990s. Isabel Redmond is tiring of her iconoclastic husband’s penchant for pendulous black breasts; the High Commissioner and his wife Fenella are both enjoying illicit affairs; an old English judge is wandering through the scrub following a tribe of Fulani herdsmen; Bob Newpin is about to make a killing in timeshares; and just what Father Seamus is up to is anyone’s guess.

Enter new diplomat Daniel Maddison on his first posting abroad. Rebelling against the endless rounds of cocktail parties, golf and gossip, he finds himself drawn to people and places that lie way beyond the experience of his High Commission colleagues – and specifically to the dusty warehouse in the heart of the city where a thin white woman is silently measuring out lengths of brightly coloured cloth.

In this assured début about loneliness and passion in Africa, Sue Eckstein enthrals with a deliciously intricate plot, compelling characters and razor-sharp dialogue.

Eckstein, in her début novel, transports us to life in West Africa in the 1990s. We meet Daniel, who is experiencing his first international posting as a British diplomat. But life is more play than work. There are plenty of parties, many affairs, mysterious women and an entrepreneur who wants to build time shares in the “real Africa”. This is not the life he expected when he was posted here. This is life that is full of gossip and racism, not politics.

This was an interesting novel that I enjoyed. It looks at life in West Africa for the British diplomats out there. There is an eclectic group of people to learn about – in fact one of the problems I found with this book were the sheer number of characters. I found myself forgetting who some people were as I read the book. However, there were a few I liked. Such as Isobel, a lovely lady with a husband with a slightly disturbing hobby; Daniel, who seemed to genuinely care for people – he seemed like someone you would want to have around; and Father Seamus, who just made me chuckle as he went around in shirts with the Pope on.

Eckstein states in the back of the book that this is purely fictional, and that is how I read this book. As I was not concerned about how accurate the story and events were I was not disappointed with the novel. It is a bit disjointed but there is one main storyline, in which Daniel investigates the mysterious Rachel, with which every storyline eventually links up with. Each character and their part of the unfolding story is explored, giving the book greater depth.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and it did not take me long to read it. I found myself wanting to know what happened, and although there were aspects of the book I didn’t like they didn’t completely spoil the book. This is a good debut novel.

8/10

PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

ps i love you

Synopsis:

A wonderfully warm and heartfelt debut from a stunning new talent. Everyone needs a guardian angel! Some people wait their whole lives to find their soul mates. But not Holly and Gerry. Childhood sweethearts, they could finish each other’s sentences and even when they fought, they laughed. No one could imagine Holly and Gerry without each other. Until the unthinkable happens. Gerry’s death devastates Holly. But as her 30th birthday looms, Gerry comes back to her. He’s left her a bundle of notes, one for each of the months after his death, gently guiding Holly into her new life without him, each note signed ‘PS, I Love You’. As the notes are gradually opened, and as the year unfolds, Holly is both cheered up and challenged. The man who knows her better than anyone sets out to teach her that life goes on. With some help from her friends, and her noisy and loving family, Holly finds herself laughing, crying, singing, dancing — and being braver than ever before. Life is for living, she realises — but it always helps if there’s an angel watching over you.

Holly is lucky; she found her soul mate when she was young. Except she is unlucky – he dies young of a brain tumour. Her life is ripped apart. What is she going to do? Her husband has dead. Yet her mother is holding a letter for her, one from Gerry. There is a note for every month of the rest of the year, which will help her carrying on living.

This is a well written, touching book. To lose your u at a young age must be horrendous, and that is how Ahern writes it. It is so sad, very heartbreaking. Ahern looks at what losing your spouse does to you, how relationships change, who are your real friends, and how you can keep going. I loved the idea of notes, and everything Gerry set up for her to help her. What a lovely thing to do. It was so beautiful that he was there supporting her through these few lines a few. Ahern’s writing is gripping and draws you into the story. I felt the emotions Holly was feeling, and could have cried along with her.

I don’t think I have a favourite character in this book. Everyone was well written and I liked how they developed over the year. It was interesting to see how Gerry’s death affected everyone. It was good to see how Ahern remembered the other characters and incorporated their grief in the book too.

It is important to note that not all the book is sad, and there are moments of joy, fun and laughter. Ahern looks at a range of emotions and the rollercoaster of grief.

I really enjoyed this book. It is chick-lit, but it explores a hard issue. It did not take long to read this book – it was just a good novel.

9/10

The Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson

the chocolate run

Synopsis from Amazon:

Amber Salpone thinks in chocolate – talk to her for three minutes and she’ll tell you what kind of chocolate you’d be. In fact, most days, if she was asked to choose between chocolate and relationships, there’d be no contest. At least chocolate has never let her down. Unlike her family. Growing up in the Salpone household has taught Amber to avoid conflict – and love – at all costs. So, when she does the unthinkable and has a one-night stand with womaniser Greg Walterson, her uncomplicated, chocolate-flavoured life goes into meltdown. Especially when Greg announces she’s the love of his life – and Amber finds it hard enough to decide if she wants plain or Fruit & Nut …Meanwhile, her best friend, Jen, seems to be launching a bid to become Bitch Of The Year and Amber’s family are making unreasonable demands. Amber has two choices: to deal with her past and the people around her, or to go on a chocolate run and keep on running …

Amber is not a chocoholic – if you ask her – she is just a chocolate sniffer, needs chocolate to think, and compares everyone to chocolate. It is her constant in life, her safety net.  But running for chocolate is not going to help her this time. She has been off relationships for 18 months, and has loved it. Yet she is falling for Greg, the womaniser. As she pursues this line she realises that her best friend is being turned into skinny, selfish, horrid person, who Amber doesn’t know, or want to know. The some dark secrets come out – not only does Amber have to confront her childhood fears, but she must make choices about friends and lovers.

I really enjoyed this book. This is the second book by Koomson I have read and liked it so much I have bought a third novel. Koomson is a great writer. She is exciting and gripping. I didn’t want to put the book down. The story flows easily off the page and incredibly readable.

I loved the characters. Koomson writes in a way that you feel how Amber feels – so when she was sad you were too; when her heart broke, so did yours. I really liked Renee and Martha her work collegues – they were funny but good people – great friends to have around.

This is chick-lit, but anyone who likes a good story of friendship, love and family should read this book.

9/10

Speaking of Love by Angela Young

speaking of love

Synopsis from Beautiful Books:

When human beings don’t talk about love, things go wrong.

If a mother had told her daughter that she loved her, they might not have spent years apart. If a man had found the courage to tell a woman that he loved her she might never have married another man. And if a father had told his daughter that he loved her when her mother died, she might not have suffered the breakdown that caused the rift with her own daughter.

But if you are born into a family that never talks about love, how do you learn to say the words?

SPEAKING of LOVE is a novel about what happens when people who love each other don’t say so. It deals passionately and honestly with human breakdown. And it tells of our need for stories and how stories can help make sense of the random nature of life.

This is Young’s first novel, and in my opinion it is a success. The book follows three people: Iris, Vivie and Matthew. Iris is Vivie’s mother and suffers from mental health issues and suffers a devastating break down. Vivie is only young when this happens and it emotionally scars to the point she feels like her life is collapsing around her. Matthew is a few years older than Vivie and they grew up as next door neighbours. Matthew is in love with Vivie but cannot tells her how he feels. In fact, none of them can voice their feelings; leading to heartbreak and separation. But in a special twist of fate, a storytelling event where Iris is speaking brings all of them together…will feelings be voiced and hurts mended?

This was a beautiful book. It took a little while to get going, and to be honest I did think about stopping reading it; however I am so glad I pushed on. As the story unfolds it is gripping and real. I would not class this as chick-lit or romance fiction because the main theme alongside love is mental health. Most of the consequences in the book arise from Iris’ illness and Young honestly explores the repercussion of being so ill and having a breakdown.

One aspect I really enjoyed was the fact Iris was a story teller. Not just that but some of her stories are published in the book, and they were lovely to read.

The book flits between Iris, Vivie and Matthew; and it flows easily between the three. Alongside that, they all slip into memories gracefully and this explains how they were feeling, recalls events that changed their lives and gives an insight into Iris’ illness.

This is not a fast read, however it is a wonderful book and I recommend it for everyone.

8/10

Published by: Beautiful Books

RRP: £7.99

Heavenly by Jennifer Laurens

heavenly

Synopsis from FantasticFiction:

I met someone who changed everything. Matthias. My autistic sister’s guardian angel. Honest. Inspiring. Funny. Hot. And immortal. That was the problem. What could I do? I did what any other girl would do-I fell in love with him. Zoë’s sister darts in front of cars. Her brother’s a pothead. Her parents are so overwhelmed; they don’t see Zoë lost in her broken life. Zoë escapes the only way she knows how: partying. Matthias, a guardian sent from Heaven, watches over Zoë’s autistic sister. After Zoë is convinced he’s legit, angel and lost girl come together in a love that changes destiny. But Heaven on Earth can’t last forever.

This book is released in August 2009, and well worth reading. Zoe is an 18-year with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Ever since her younger sister was diagnosed with autism her life started to go downhill. Her parents became wrapped up in their concerns for her sister, her brother has turned to drugs and Zoe has begun to party and seek out boys. Until one day when she is out at the park and her sister runs off. After frantic searching she finds her, with Matthais. A few days later she runs off again, and again Matthais finds her. Who is this guy? Her sister’s guardian angel. With him around life changes for Zoe. She starts to grow up and she falls in love, but how can love survive between a human and a heavenly being?

This is a younger adult book, but I recommend it for everyone. Laurens is an amazing writing. I read this book in a day – the story just flowed off the pages, drawing you in. Laurens explores many difficult issues, from autism, to drugs, and she started to explore the idea of Heaven and God. All of which were done sensitively and well.

The characters were lovely. Abria, the autistic sister, sounded lovely, even if she was hard work. And I too fell in love with Matthais. Calm, sensitive and caring, he sounded perfect.

And of course, there was a bit of a cliff hanger at the end of the book, which I didn’t anticipate. And it has made me eager for the next installment.

I cannot fault this book. It was a gripping, enjoyable, great read, and I highly recommend it.

10/10

The Last Good Man by Patience Swift

the last good man


Synopsis from Beautiful Books:

His solitude is broken by the discovery, one early morning on the flat sands of a low tide, of a child washed up on the beach. Somehow, she is still alive.

In the village, a woman reflects on a lifelong fascination with an ancient love story as she faces an unknown future.

The new arrival on the beach sets in chain a sequence of events that no-one can alter, and in this mystical and powerful novel, we witness a man experiencing our world as though for the first time.

Discover Sam: the last good man on earth.

Sam is a loner, but he likes that. He enjoys his own company, and the company of nature. His life is shaken up when he finds a girl washed up on the beach. He takes her in and looks after her. Isobel is also alone, back in the village to deal with her mother’s estate. She has been looking for love that she has read about, but without success. She crosses Sam’s path too, and things start to look up. Sam takes in the two ladies and his life changes for good….

This is a short book. It is descriptive and enjoyable. It is an easy read, with short, simple sentences. The book flowed and was a lovely read, even though it is a tragic read. It is beautiful read. Swift writes gorgeous characters, and wonderful scenery. Sam was sweet and caring. Isobel was vulnerable, with a troubled streak. The girl is silent, but was happy and a lovely read.

I found the ending a bit strange. The majority of the book was written in third person and then in the last few pages the book switches to first person. The ending is sad, but I felt it was a bit inconclusive. However, I do recommend this book, I really enjoyed it.

9/10

The Ingenious Edgar Jones by Elizabeth Garner

the ingenious edgar jones

Synopsis from Amazon:

Set in nineteenth-century Oxford, and shot through with a powerful sense of magic, Elizabeth Garner’s new novel will appeal both to fans of historical fiction and to the huge Susanna Clarke/Philip Pullman fanbase.

In nineteenth-century Oxford, an extraordinary child is born – Edgar Jones, a porter’s son with a magical talent. Though his father cannot see beyond his academic slowness, his abilities as a metalworker and designer are quickly noticed, and become a source of tension within the family. When Edgar comes to the attention of a maverick professor at work on a museum of the natural sciences, Edgar is at once plucked from obscurity and plunged into the heart of a debate which threatens to tear apart the university. Edgar’s position is a dangerous one – will he be able to control the rebellious spirit that fires his inventiveness, but threatens to ruin him, and to break up his family once and for all?

I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t know what to expect from the blurb, and in fact it is a lot more complex than the blurb lets on. The star of the show is Edgar. He is an exception in every way. He is a genius. From a young age he is creative, exploring the local neighbourhood and inventing all kinds of things. He catches the attention of an Oxford professor, who uses Edgar for his needs and then dismisses him. Edgar, just a child, seeks revenge, which could cause mayhem and destruction wherever he goes, but can anyone, or anything really keep him down?

This is an exciting, gripping book. Garner is a literary genius. Her descriptions are full and rich. Her writing style is easy to get into and enjoyable. She is imaginative and creative. I liked her characters, how each was different and how they all fitted together to make this wonderful book. She explores history, God and science and family values. All of which she does successfully.

I don’t think the ending was particularly convincing, but that is the only compliant. This is a must-read book.

8/10