29 October 2020

The Art Fiasco

I love Fiona Veitch Smith's Poppy Denby series and eagerly read her latest novel The Art Fiasco

It is set about three years after Poppy's adventures in The Cairo Brief. Poppy is on annual leave, back home in the Newcastle area for her father's 60th birthday. While there she gets involved in famous artist Agnes Robson's art exhibition. But it is far from straightforward. Agnes has a hidden past and local rumour has it that she murdered her art teacher as a youngster and then fled to Paris. Agnes' past has come back to haunt her and before Poppy knows where she is, she is up to her eyes in Agnes' murder investigation.

I very much enjoyed this gentle whodunnit which reminded me of Agatha Christie's writing. The back story is intriguing and the plot engaging. It kept me turning the pages. It was fun to 'meet' the delightful characters of Poppy's friends and colleagues again: Rollo and Yasmin, Delilah, Aunt Dot and Grace, among others.

The ending was reminiscent of Hercule Poirot with the murderer being induced to confess to a select group how and why the murder had been committed. For me, that part was a little weak with unexplained threads but it didn't spoil the book for me.

I have given The Art Fiasco 4* and hope Poppy goes on to have more adventures. I do enjoy Fiona Veitch Smith's books.

Lion Hudson sent me a paperback copy of the book for the purposes of writing an unbiased review.

17 July 2020

The Healing Knife

Ms Rachel Keyte is an up and coming cardiothoracic surgeon. 100% focused on her career, she is intent on saving lives, though her bedside manner needs a little work.

When Rachel's senior colleague has a bicycle accident, she is asked to cover an urgent operation on a young teenage boy. What should have been fairly routine open heart surgery turns into tragedy and the boy dies in ITU. His obsessive mother loses her mind with grief and blames Rachel for his death. The mother vows to make Rachel physically feel the pain she is going through.

Various unpleasant things happen to Rachel that she suspects are due to the grieving, demented mother. In the end she is forced to move to another hospital for her own safety. Except she isn't safe....

The obsessive mother is determined to have her revenge on Rachel and finally succeeds.

Will Rachel's physical wounds heal well enough for her to continue her surgical career? What about her mental and emotional scars? As Rachel's past finally catches up with her, will she be able to face it? And will she ever be able to forgive?

I couldn't put this book down from the opening sentence to the final word. It is intriguing and satisfying. Being a medical secretary I particularly enjoyed the occasional jargon that was dropped in here and there.

I'm awarding 4* to this Christian fiction novel and will look out for more of Sue Russell's books.

09 June 2020

Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean?

I loved this book. I read it while feeling pretty poorly and still laughed aloud at some of the stories.

This is Fran Hill's lighthearted memoir of a year in the life of an English teacher. Based on true events it is both funny and poignant in turn.

It is written in diary format, divided into terms. Fran and her fellow teachers suffer two Mocksteds and one Ofsted as well as trying to stay in top of lesson planning, marking (with a purple pen - what happened to the red pens of my youth?) and actually teaching.

Fran is also called upon to start a school magazine along with her enthusiastic Journos.

There are hidden depths to this book as Fran's childhood begins to catch up with her present and the ever-present marking threatens to engulf family life entirely. Then there is the daily battle with the Mirror and Bathroom Scales - who can't relate?

I really enjoyed it and can say it was worth the wait to read it. (I read Fran's first book Being Miss about four years ago and have been longing for the second ever since.)

If you're looking for a good read, look no further. I've awarded it a well-deserved 5*.

Oh, there's lots of chocolate, cake and Bailey's in it. So be sure to go on a cupboard rummage before opening it.

23 March 2020


Where is the glory? I loved times in the past when God's presence could be tangibly felt, when a mere whiff of His glory filled a room and knocked me off my feet.

Life was good then, it was easy to have faith in God, to believe that He was good and loved me and was all-powerful.

But, where is the glory now?

Mental health issues, other significant life events I could do without, and now the coronavirus. The UK is (finally) on something of a lockdown, suddenly my weekly online shop at Asda has gone out of the window because everyone else now wants to shop online, and life feels very uncertain.

I've seen other people suffering on the television: Syria, Yemen, Iraq, UK flooding victims, people who've lost everything. But somehow it was far away and couldn't touch me, it would never happen to me.

Today life feels overwhelming with mental and physical ill health, job insecurity and now the danger of coronavirus when I'm suddenly one of the vulnerable.

I don't like it. I'm scared. Where is the glory now? I want God to come striding in and sort it all out, to make the virus go away, and bring peace and stability back into my life again.

But maybe this path for now needs to be stony and harsh. It's tough and I don't like it.

The path to glory always goes through suffering. Even Jesus couldn't have the glory without suffering first. He's promised not to abandon me and to provide for my needs. Do I have faith for this? I hope so; a tiny bit will do.

Glory follows suffering as surely as sunshine follows rain and spring follows winter.

So come on, girl, trust Him. Glory is just around the corner.

08 March 2020

God on Mute

I imagine there aren't many books dealing authentically with the pain and crushing disappointment of unanswered prayer.

God on Mute by Pete Greig is necessary.

I first read it a few months after my life changed abruptly following the re-emergence of long-buried traumatic childhood memories. I'd suffered through a year of mental health issues, grief, anger, huge loss and loneliness. I was raging at God and wondered if I'd lost my faith, indeed whether it was even worth having faith in Him.

Then I got hold of this book.

When you feel you're broken into a thousand pieces and fragile, this is a safe book to read. Pete doesn't gloss over pain with well-meaning platitudes. He knows how it feels. He goes to dark places and looks at the difficult questions.

I found this book so helpful and healing. It's one I keep coming back to and each time I get more out of it.

It is split into four sections, based on the traumatic events at the end of Jesus' life:

  • Maundy Thursday: How Am I Going To Get Through This?
  • Good Friday: Why Aren't My Prayers Being Answered?
  • Holy Saturday: Where Is God When Heaven Is Silent?
  • Easter Sunday: When Every Prayer Is Answered.

Pete writes in a balanced, gentle, real way. He believes in miracles; he's seen God do some truly amazing things within and through the 24/7 prayer movement. But he also knows there are times when God is silent and the much-needed, longed-for miracle doesn't happen. What then?

If you are struggling with horrible circumstances, angry with God for being silent and not coming through for you, I highly recommend this book.

I've awarded it 5* though it's easily worth twice that.

05 February 2020

A Stranger on the Beach

Once again, I loved Michele Campbell's (third) psychological thriller.

It is written in two narratives: alternating the points of view of characters Caroline Stark and Aidan Callahan. One narrative can be trusted, the other is lies. But which is which?

Caroline is a rich woman with a beautiful showy mansion on the beach. Her husband Jason is successful and well-respected in a good job. They have a daughter in college. Their lives appear perfect.

But then Jason turns up at Caroline's big house-warming party with an attractive younger woman. Everyone, including Caroline, presumes she is his mistress.

Divorce proceedings begin.

Caroline is heartbroken and seeks solace in the arms of handsome young stranger Aidan who is a bartender. But after one night of passion, Caroline becomes convinced that Aidan is stalking her and her family.

Aidan, however, is trying to convince Caroline that it is Jason who is dangerous and that he is simply trying to protect her and her daughter.

Everything comes to a head one night at the beach mansion during a category four storm. Terror in the dark, a knife, gun shots, lots of blood and an arrest for murder.

Another 5* from me. I can't wait to read more from Michele Campbell.

03 February 2020

The Murder at the Vicarage

This is Agatha Christie's first Miss Marple mystery and is set in St Mary Mead.

Various people, including the vicar, wish the bumptious Colonel Protheroe dead. When he is found murdered in the vicar's study, Miss Marple reckons there are seven clear suspects.

As the police (with unsolicited help from the vicar and Miss Marple) set out to find the murderer, there is much confusion over timings, shots and letters.

A gentle, easy-reading whodunnit, good for whiling away a rainy afternoon.

I'm happy to give it 4*.