Book Review: For Renata by E Robert Sharry

forrenataPETER AHEARN HAS RETURNED. He disappeared more than thirty-five years ago from his post as lighthouse keeper on Cape Ann, Massachusetts. But his mind has been ravaged by dementia, and no one knows what happened to him or why until his nephew, Mark Valente, discovers a journal Peter kept during the 1970s. Just when Renata Raposo is beginning to get her life back on track, Mark shows up with Peter’s journal. It chronicles the troubled light keeper’s life of struggle and isolation, his passionate love affair with the beautiful yet tormented young Renata…and an astonishing confession. But Mark is stunned when Renata denies an affair ever took place, and he is left to question whether anything his uncle wrote is true. Now he must connect past to present, and piece together a picture of what really happened decades before. …And he must grapple with his own burgeoning infatuation with the now middle-aged, enigmatic beauty

Ebook given to me by the author in exchange for a review.

The first part of the book covers several stories from Maeme coming to the US to get married, through Peter going off to Vietnam and finally Mark becoming aware of his now elderly uncle Peter reappearing after 35 years, sick and suffering with dementia. These threads start coming together in the second act as Mark reads the log book from Peter’s time at the lighthouse, as he recovers from the fallout from the war. He tracks down Maeme’s daughter Renata, who challenges Mark’s newly formed perceptions of what went on.  (To say any more would require a spoiler alert!).

This is a bitter sweet story, with each person facing disappointments and having to deal with them in order to get on with their lives. Things dont always work out like people hoped (or how other people think it should).  The three different threads are handled well, and come together effectively. The log book tells of a person suffering the after effects of a war he ultimately regretted fighting, and that his country never really recovered from fighting, and the story details some of the lasting effects of what that suffering does to someone. Ultimately, patience and friendship (and love) win through during Peter’s recovery.

This is a difficult review to write without giving too much away of the story line. Am I glad I read it? Yes, certainly. Who would I recommend it to? Someone looking for a gentle romance, with more than a little hope thrown in.



Sunday Salon: Top 9 tips for your pitch



I have seen tips elsewhere about pitching your book to a blogger/reviewer and I thought I’d write notes on some tips that I think are useful.

  1. I have both a “Review Policy” and an “About me” page. They reference and link each other. Please read them and know what my rules are. If you dont follow my rules, I reserve the right to not read your book. If you have found the email address to send your pitch to, you have found my review policy.

  2. If you are asking for a free review, please don’t ask me to purchase your book in order to read it. I know you’ve put a lot of time and effort into your book and want financial recompense but I put time and effort into reading a book and then reviewing it. Please value my time at least as much as you value yours.

  3. Be aware of territory rights, and what can be downloaded from which sites. I am in the UK, so cannot download books from If I tell you I can’t download, so won’t be taking your book forward, please don’t email a week later, sending the same link and asking when I’ll be reviewing your book.

  4. A poorly formatted pitch will turn me off. This will include: cut and paste jobs; inconsistent font size and colour; links that are broken or non-existent; visually difficult colourways such as blue text on a black background, which then changes to purple on black; general spelling mistakes; spurious pictures – of the author or otherwise – that clog up the email (send as an attachment, and then if I ask for them).

  5. A pitch with poor content, full of review quotes, but no idea what the book is about, where to find it, no click through to *any* website so I can find out the information the pitch has failed to tell me, will put me off. If I have to put in work to find out what your book is about doesn’t make it a mystery – it makes your pitch consigned to the trash…..

  6. A pitch is you trying to sell your book to someone else. How you present your pitch gives an indication of how your book will be. A poor pitch equals a poor book

  7. Don’t be quirky in the hope of getting my attention. It’s akin to applying to a FTSE100 company writing in green ink on purple paper about something unrelated to the company – you’re not going to get to the interview. I’ve had a pitch sent me, plain black text on white background, neatly formatted, personalised enough to make me think the author had done his homework, no flashy pictures, text etc. It gave me a short but decent enough overview of the book, and after reading the pitch I thought “I have no reason NOT to read this book” (I think I even said so to the author as I accepted the book). Dont give me a reason NOT to read your book – and every reason why I SHOULD.

  8. Plan ahead. I have a day job, other commitments, and other books to read. I read fast and I read a lot, but I’m not that good. I’ve often got enough books to keep me busy for 4 – 6 months and in fact, I had to stop taking books on for 2014 – IN MAY! The more popular the blog, the longer the lead time to get it read and reviewed – please dont contact a blogger, asking for a review within the week.

  9. Have some form of Social Media presence – I work off primarily off twitter, but also cross post to google+ etc. I’ll let you know when the review is up (via twitter) and it’s up to you to social media the darn out of it



Book Review: The Scarlet Kimono by Christina Courtenay

scarletkimonoThe Scarlet Kimono by Christina Courtenay

Abducted by a Samurai warlord in 17th-century Japan – what happens when fear turns to love?

England, 1611, and young Hannah Marston envies her brother’s adventurous life. But when she stows away on a merchant ship, her powers of endurance are stretched to their limit. Then they reach Japan and all her suffering seems worthwhile – until she is abducted by Taro Kumashiro’s warriors.

In the far north of the country, samurai warlord Kumashiro is intrigued to learn more about the girl who he has been warned about by a seer. There’s a clash of cultures and wills, but they’re also fighting an instant attraction to each other.

With her brother desperate to find her and the jealous Lady Reiko equally desperate to kill her, Hannah faces the greatest adventure of her life. And Kumashiro has to choose between love and compromising his honour

Purchased from Audible as an audiobook, narrator Julia Franklin does a decent turn, managing to get voices that are different enough, especially for the men, as well as pronouncing (correctly I hope) the Japanese words in the text.

This book is broken up into several parts: the teenage Hannah, brought up in a privileged city atmosphere, head strong but understanding little of the world of men.  Attracted by the apparently romantic sea faring men, she is horrified by her parents arranging her betrothal to a man who fondles her during a town party.

The second portion of the book tells of when she escapes on a boat, spending the next 18 months travelling to the newly opened Japan. Having thought the boat she sneaked onto was captained by her brother, she is shocked to find that the captain is some one else, who is less than the romantic ideal she thought he was. She keeps herself hidden in the bowels of the ship, along with the Japanese cook, learning more about Japanese culture and how  to speak Japanese.

Trapped in a marriage she didnt want (to protect her reputation), she finds herself in Japan, kidnapped by a man who is fascinated by her thick red hair whose Sensei had predicted her arrival.

The next part of the book is dedicated to their developing relationship as she learns more about Japanese culture and the strength behind a Shogun and his daiymo. Their relationship is threatened on several occasions, particularly by Taro’s sister-in-law, who wishes to be Taro’s next wife, to the point where she is prepared to kill Hannah to get what she wants.

Finally, the disconnect between the western and eastern worlds comes to a head and both Hannah and Taro need to decide what’s important to them.

Ultimately this is a standard romance story, in the standard format. There is the usual “threat to split the couple up” near the end, but the couple are finally reunited with all impediments neatly dealt with to make it easier for the couple to remain together. Once Hannah is on the ship, she spares no thought for her family (apart from her brother who she thinks is on the ship).  Her parents and her siblings are never given a second thought, with no concerns as to what her disappearance could mean to the people back in England.There is an assumption that the reader knows the basics about Japanese culture so, for example, tatami mats covering the floors are not explained.   The narrative switches between intense detail during a particular scene and “meanwhile, 3 weeks later…..this happens”.

Reading back the above implies that I didnt like the book. Whilst I didnt hate it, I didnt adore it either. It was a nice book to listen to, it was a setting different to normal historical romances, and the author didnt treat the reader like a complete idiot. There’s some adult situations, but described appropriately, so only the most sensitive will be offended.

Book Review: Paris Rose by Dawn Douglas

parisroseWhen Lucy Rawlinson moves into the fixer-upper next door to her ex-husband, Nick, she has more than renovations on her mind. Desperate to win back his love, she begins a campaign to reignite the passion they once shared.

Nick is haunted by the same bitter-sweet memories of their marriage and the baby they lost, but he is determined to never forgive his ex-wife’s infidelity. All Nick wants to do is move on and forget, a task that now seems beyond impossible with Lucy and her noisy little dog living right next door.

Is there a way back? Can Lucy convince Nick that everything they once had is worth fighting for?

A short story, where Lucy buys a “fixerupper” house, that’s next door to that of her ex-husband, partly because she’s at a loose end and in order to get back with him. Everyone welcomes her warmly – apart from Nick, who still smarts from the loss of their baby and the subsequent apparent infidelity of Lucy.  There are a couple of scenes that convinces Lucy that she hasnt moved on as much as she thought and that perhaps this wasn’t such a great idea. She finally decides to let it go, and moves away, only to bring Nick to his senses.

I assumed that the story was set in the UK, so some things were a little confusing (such as someone saying that “Paris isnt far away”, but then it takes 2 days of travel to get there) but they were minor.

There’s not much more to say about this story – it takes a couple of hours to read, and is a nice break between other stories but is not a deep story to overthink.


Classics Club August 2014 Meme


What are your thoughts on adaptions of classics? Say mini-series or movies? Or maybe modern approaches? Are there any good ones? Is it better to read the book first? Or maybe just compare the book and an adaptation?

Meme from (

I like watching the repeats of the old BBC adaptations from the 1970s of classic books (such as Barchester Towers, The Onedin Line etc. Whilst the BBC were good at doing shows like this, their lack of budget was clear to see, when compared against the shows produced even in the 1990s – set pieces shot in the studio, with few outside locations (Onedin Line being one of the few with ships being involved).

ITV started coming out of this with Jeremy Brett playing Sherlock Holmes. Great actor, location filming, slightly let down by some dubious facial hair on some of the men.

The 1990s brought a change in the game with shows such as Pride and Prejudice, Middlemarch and (for ITV) the Poirot adaptations. More money was available, with the chance of outside shots, shooting on location, a change in the types of actors (not all of them famous). Could or would we have had Colin Firth diving into a lake and walking about in see-through tops in the 1970s?!

For the longer books, I prefer mini-series to films. I’ve watched more versions of Jane Eyre than I care to admit, and few give it the effort that it deserves. My favourite version is the BBC version with Toby Stephens, though I know many that dont like this version


Back to School Book Blogging Challenge – Biggest blogger lesson learnt


Parajunkee is having a “Back to School Book Blogger Challenge“, and has some prompts for people to join in!

Challenge #8:

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt as a blogger?

The main thing I’ve learnt is That it’s my blog and therefore my rules!

I can say “no” if I want, I can publish what I want, when I want.


Sunday Salon: How do you write your reviews?


How do you write your reviews? How long does it take you? Do you work in silence?

I know some people who agonise over their reviews, and it can take them several hours to write each one.  I am currently at the point where I have loads of posts already written and scheduled, so I am in the wonderful position of being able to take my time over any new review.

Often I have stubbed the review, whereby I have brought down the front cover, the summary (from somewhere like Goodreads), and any other little snippets I’ve found along the way, such as the author’s website). I might take notes along the way, which may or may not reach the final review (e.g. a plot point that annoyed me at the time, but which was resolved later in the book). I might take several days after reading the book to start the review in anger.

I then write some form of review. Sometimes that’s the one that goes out, sometimes it isn’t. If it’s not, it’s because I’ve re-read it, checked the spelling, seen if there’s a break in the review’s logic somewhere (do I jump from point to point, only to come back to the original point?). Can someone else tell whether I have loved, hated or am just ambivalent about a book, and can take away an idea of whether they might like a book? If the answer is “no” then I try again.

The hardest books to review are the “average” book – nothing fabulous to rave about, but nothing bad so tat you can go “this is where it all went wrong”. It is these books, where a reviewer has to find another way of saying “actually it was just ok” without offending either the reader or the author that are the worst reviews to write.

Overall the review might take 30 minutes. It might take two hours in total – it all depends on the book and the mood I’m in.

I cant read or write whilst listening to spoken word, such as audiobooks or the radio (I particularly like Radio 4).  I usually work in silence, but occasionally have some music on shuffle in the background.

So you, dear blogger – how do you write your reviews?

Back to School book blogging challenge – Organisation


Parajunkee is having a “Back to School Book Blogger Challenge” for people to join in!

Challenge #6:

Back to School means time to get organised and start fresh. What are some steps you’ll take on your blog to keep things flowing smoothly or change things up?

  • I’m going to continue with my current posting schedule until the end of the year and will then (I think) change the frequency.  I have Sunday Salon posts scheduled every Sunday for the first 3 months of 2015, so will decide which days I will schedule other posts during the rest of the week.
  • I keep wondering whether to move my blog over to a self hosted – I might decide to do that next year, or at least pay for an upgrade to remove adverts
  • I’m going to make use of a scheduling spreadsheet, so keep an eye on what’s scheduled and when
  • I’m going to investigate a similar method for monitoring the galleys  that I have to read and when they need to be reviewed by (and who I got them from!)


Back to School book blogging challenge – own story of reading


Parajunkee is having a “Back to School Book Blogger Challenge” for people to join in!

Challenge #5:

Share your own story as to what or who fostered your love of reading

I cant remember learning to read, but know I “had my letters” by the time I went to school (my mother is still not impressed at my first school report saying I “was coming on leaps and bounds with her reading”, since she had already taught me.

I have a sister who is 3 years older than me and she is the one who slipped me books (possibly slightly age inappropriate) for me to read. I know I had read plenty of Brian Aldiss and Piers Anthony books before I was in my teens!

The one type of books I got *her* to read is comic/graphic novels – not that she reads them that often! I started reading these in earnest when in college, had a collection into my 20s, which she started reading when I lived abroad (one of her friends also read them, so she wanted to find out what it was all about). She had previously been a bit snobby about them, but when she started reading them and realised what grown up comics actually looked like – and they are harder to read than she gave them credit for – she stopped dismissing them so much.

Back to School book blogger challenge – inspiring children


Parajunkee is having a “Back to School Book Blogger Challenge“, and has some prompts between now and August 28th for people to join in!

Challenge #4:

If you are a parent, or have advice for parents….What would you do (or think would work) to foster a love of reading in your kids?

I dont have children of my own, but understand that children copy from those around them so I suggest the following:

  • read age appropriate stories to children from an early age
  • buy books for each child and keep the books within easy access
  • let children see adults reading (it doesnt matter what) – if they see it’s something the big people do too
  • listen to a child read back to you, be it from one of their own books, or something they’ve written themselves
  • let them read books in different formats – picture books, plain narratives, comics (whatever works best for them)

Anything else I’ve missed off?

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