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Greaders please review August September books

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AnninGlos Report 3 Oct 2016 13:18

Please review

Calamity in Kent by John Rowland
Last Voyage of the Valentina by Santa Montefiore
The Girl With No Name - Diney Costelloe
The Secret of Orchard Cottage by Alex Brown


AnninGlos Report 3 Oct 2016 14:42

Greaders review Last Voyage of the Valentina by Santa Montefiore.

The Valentina is a houseboat in Chelsea, where Alba Arbuckle lives a hedonistic lifestyle. She is selfish, beautiful, has many lovers and is bored and dissatisfied with her life, and she is bitter with her father for not telling her about her Italian mother, also Valentina, who died just after she was born. The houseboat belongs to her father and one day Alba find a drawing of her mother Valentina, drawn by her father. She takes it down to his house and gives it to him. Instead of the drawing encouraging her father to speak about Valentina he becomes more morose than ever and Alba learns nothing.
Meanwhile she has met Fitz, a friend of her neighbour Vera. To her surprise she falls in love with him but then they fall out when she decides to go to Italy to Incantellaria on the Amalfi coast to trace any relatives still living and find out about her mother. She demands that Fitz goes with her and throws a strop when he says he won’t go. He tells her a few home truths about herself and she leaves alone for Italy.
From here we are told the story in separate parts. From 1944 to 1972. We learn Thomas Arbuckle and Valentina’s story and we follow Alba as she traces her mother’s family. It is two love stories in one really and a journey for Alba as she finds she is not as wonderful as she had always thought.
When she and later she and Fitz visit her father and stepmother, Alba is upset because her grandmother Lavender professed not to recognise her. She felt Margo the stepmother had pushed her out of the family and taken Alba away from her all adding to the feeling of unsolved mysteries. Then Alba returns to Italy. And the story goes full circle, yet we are still left with a delicious sense of mystery.
I found it really gripping, a page turner as I wanted to know the mystery that surrounded Valentina and Tommy. In fact as one mystery unravelled so there was another one to wonder at. Valentina herself was a web of mysteries being a different person to different people. I wanted to get to the end but didn’t want the story to finish. I absolutely loved it.


AnninGlos Report 3 Oct 2016 14:42

Greaders review The Secret of Orchard Cottage by Alex Brown

Quite a gentle read. The story starts with a flash back as Winnie goes off to join the FANYs in 1941 leaving her family in the village of Tindledale. Edie her little sister was sad to see her go. But keen to take over her bedroom. Winnie leaves all her diaries in a wooden apple box under the floorboards.
Fast forward to the present day and April, widowed 18 months previously and still grieving. April has 22 year old twin stepchildren, Nancy and Freddie.
April receives a birthday card addressed to Miss W Lovell, recognising it is from her great aunt Edie which says Happy birthday Winnie. Her Aunt is 90 and April realises she has not seen her for a while. She decides to visit and see if she is ok or as confused as she sounded by the birthday card.

The story then revolves around April’s search to find out what happened to Winnie and why nobody ever heard from her again.
It is well told and the descriptions of the village, the orchards and the knitting groups are very evocative. Her characters are very believable and altogether it is a pleasant story. I enjoyed it.


AnninGlos Report 3 Oct 2016 14:49

Greaders reviewThe girl with no name by Diney Costeloe
Germany 1938 Lisa Becker and her family are Jewish and are thrown out of their homes.the men were beaten and taken away except Martin, \Lisa’s brother who is blind.
London 1939 Naomi Federman and her husband Dan decide they would be able to take in a refugee child from Germany. Lisa is the child they are given.
I like the style of Diney Costeloe’s writing, I enjoyed her other book we read, Throwaway Children. She weaves a story around true facts. I don’t think I was aware that German children were sent to England at the start of the war. We follow the war through Lisa’s eyes and also those of Harry another refugee, albeit one who was going to end up on the wrong side of the law after being imprisoned as an alien. I was aware of this as we had German neighbours who were taken as Aliens at the start of the war.
Lisa is eventually caught in a bomb raid and has a loss of memory, not being able to remember her name. She is renamed Charlotte Smith and is eventually evacuated to Somerset.
It is a good well written story and I felt Lisa’s frustration and fear at not being able to remember anything. As an evacuee she is taken in by Miss Edie an unmarried and bitter lady who doesn’t realise at first that she is German, her fiancé having being killed by the Germans in the First World war. DC brings those times to life with the fears of those caught in the bombing raids and the more gentle pace of the country village where they listen to the planes flying over on their way to bomb Bristol.
I don’t think I knew that they built a decoy town in Somerset, I assume her story is built on fact so that was interesting. Her characters a very believable and the contrast drawn between the people and happenings in London and those in Somerset very well done. I will certainly look out for her next book


AnninGlos Report 3 Oct 2016 14:50

And an extra one
Greaders review Billy Eric and Adolf by Chris Whitfield

This is a true life story of Chris Whitfields Father and uncle. An interesting account of how the WW2 affected one family. Interesting report of life as an evacuee and as a RAF trainee to Flight engineer. One part that fascinated me was when Eric was posted to RAF Innsworth where I spent the last eight years of my working life and which is a few hundred yards away from where we live. As this was in 1942 hid description of the surrounding area was a bit different to how it is now, surrounded by housing.

A very well written book, not the most gripping but interesting and worth reading.


Mersey Report 3 Oct 2016 22:17

The Secret of Orchard Cottage

This story starts in the year of 1941 and the story of Winnie as she decides to join up
Leaving behind her family,friends and village to start a new life with an unknown future. Her little sister Edie is heartbroken at her leaving and Winnie struggles
Saying goodbye, but knows she has to go.
April is grief stricken at the passing of her darling husband to motor neurone disease.
After 18 months of grieving she can still not find or see a future,bringing everything to a stand still.She is very close to her stepdaughters Nancy who tries in all ways to help her move forward and realise there is light at the end of the tunnel.on her birthday April receives a birthday card from her great Aunt Edie.It is with lots of persuasion that Nancy urges April to go and visit her great Aunt.
A mystery and intrigue surrounds her Great Aunt Edie,Winnie and April decides to fill
in the empty gaps missing in the story of them both and help.
I adored this book. A book so easy to read but made me want to read one more page then another......

Great read
:-D :-D :-D


Mersey Report 3 Oct 2016 22:28

The Last Voyage of Valentina

This story is about Alba, a girl who feels she does not belong or fit in. Never
on the right side of her Father and Step Mother she lives in a houseboat actually called Valentina that was named and belonged by her father.
In the midst of living her everyday life she finds a picture of her birth mother (Valentina) whom had died not long after childbirth to Alba.This intrigues her to a
state of wanting to know more, her father never really spoke of her mother so with the help of a friend and her new boyfriend she decides to investigate.
Following a lot of soul searching and a trip to Italy Alba feels she is finding her
own true identity.The story of her mother and father and what actually happened.Her
roots I to her background and the untold truth makes her question where she really belongs.....
I thought at the beginning,this book was a bit of a slow burner but it did actually pick
up and I have now suggested my Mum read it to :-D :-D


AnninGlos Report 3 Oct 2016 22:33

From Persie

Barefoot on Baker Street By Charlotte Anne Walters

It started off well and then as far as I could see it just sunk into the depths of despair. I watched the television series with Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson and thought it was very cleverly done bringing the story into modern day London. This was followed by Elementary a modern day take by Americans with a woman playing the part of Watson, one look at it left me thinking why do they bother taking British Fiction and messing around with it. Well I am sad to say when I got to where Red meets Holmes and her relationship with Moriarty a few chapters into the book, I said to myself this is silly one should either do it properly or leave it alone, therefore I left it and am glad to say no one chose to read it and my advice would be don't ever bother.

Calamity in Kent
Calamity in Kent on the other hand was excellent, here is a book written in the fifties and has been reintroduced and I am so glad that there are several books of similar ilk also being reintroduced by Poisoned Pen Press (no I am not paid to advertise them). There were a few red herrings in the story and admittedly the main character Jimmy seemed to get them all to talk about themselves quite readily and I did think for a moment or two there that the couple who were to be married could be up to something. It is certainly not best seller material but it is an enjoyable mystery that you sort of wanted to solve yourself whilst Jimmy was doing so and whilst he was also getting a scoop of a lifetime whilst he was supposed to be taking things easy and convalescing. In the end it was really quite simple but then simple can be very intriguing. I think I might have a look at a few more books in this vein that have been republished from the fifties.

Last Voyage of the Valentina by Santa Montefiore ( there were 7 other books by her on the library bookshelf)

It took me awhile to get into this story, I found Alba and her relationships rather annoying and I sort of faltered through the first part until I got to where she and Fitz went home to the Arbuckles for the weekend. I enjoyed the way Fitz was play acting and telling a few porkies as a way of inserting himself into the family and Margo and Thomas and their daughters all rather approved of him, even cook thought he was okay. Then we went back to near the end of the war in Italy when Thomas Arbuckle was a young Naval Officer. It got better after that and the story of both Thomas and Valentina and her family held my interest, was not expecting Valentina to be rather like her own daughter in her behaviour both before and after she met Thomas. Thomas was her ticket to leaving Incantellaria and maybe she did not feel for him like he did for her. Alba on the other hand grew up in her ideas after meeting her mother's family she realised her treatment of both her father and step mother was probably unwarranted. I think though that the ending was not quite right, I would rather have had her leading a normal life in Incantellaria and hope that one day she and Fitz did end up together as she had certainly met her match in him. Incidentally was not till I nearly finished the book that I remembered the prologue.

Re A Simple Life by Rosie Thomas

Rosie Thomas is very much a favourite of mine to read. The first book that I read of hers was A Simple Life, it was not a long story but I thought this is a bit different and I enjoyed it. I followed this up with Sun at Midnight and then Iris and Ruby. I just recently read White and it never ceases to amaze me how much Rosie Thomas can draw you into her books which are on the whole so different from each other. I have only one left in my pile to read "All my sins Remembered" and one left to find in an op shop or maybe a reprint at the library (if only) and that is "A woman of our Times".. then I will have read all her books.


AnotherAnneinGlos Report 3 Oct 2016 23:59

The girl with no name.

I found this book interesteing in the beginning till Lisa was in that air raid. Although a story there was facts in there about the war that I enjoyed reading. What I dont know as my memory isnt at all good and to be honest I had to wait until other people reviewed it to jog my memory what the book was about. How everyone just kepted missing each other when they idividually went back to London dragged on abit.

Calaminty in kent,
it took me several attempts to get past the first couple of pages of this book, for some reason I kept thinking of broadchurch that programme that was on tv.
Once i did I found it easy to read and I thought there was going to be tunnles from the lift to somewhere and that was how the boddies were getting in the lift.
You can imagine this turned into a hr sort of miss marple programme.


Pammy51 Report 4 Oct 2016 22:18

The Girl With No Name

Full of interesting facts – I love the way we seem to have been building up a knowledge of many aspects of wartime life from the fiction we have been reading. Funnily enough there was a bit on television this week about an underground facility prepared for the secret army who would 'disappear ' into it if the Germans invaded. I enjoyed reading this book and although the story coincidences were a little far fetched, the characters were well drawn.


TessAkaBridgetTheFidget Report 17 Oct 2016 09:06

Oh dear, finally got round to reviewing "Bye Bye Blackbird" only to find that it wasn't a suggested book. Had thought that I had suggested it for the August review, and as Ann in Good reviewed it and I had difficulty getting books suggested for October review, thought that I soul read and review it too.
Only to find that I was getting it mixed up with "Rabbit Stew and a Penny or Two". ( or something like that), which had been recommended by Ann.
Found out that Ann was the suggester when I couldn't find " Rabbit Stew" this morning, so checked back on the old lists. ??
In my defence, both books were set in Somerset (at least in part) they both involved Gypsy life and were written by people talking about their own, or their families life.
Although I didn't suggest it I did vote for it.

Confession number two ..... I put my review (of the wrong book), on the wrong thread. ??. But at least it is on one of the Greasers threads.

I will try to do better next time. Please don't give me a hundred lines. "I must do better"


AnninGlos Report 17 Oct 2016 10:06

Lol Tess, I will copy that review onto this thread.


AnninGlos Report 17 Oct 2016 10:08

From Tess
Copied from the vote thread
Confession time. ??. I had difficulty getting suggested books this time. The library only had one of them, but I was on a waiting list.
However, I remembered that someone had read and reviewed a book I had recommended this time, so I decided to do the same while I was waiting for "Last Voyage of the Valentina" to become available. (I have now started reading "Last Voyage).
So I read, and then wrote a review in my note book for " Bye Bye Blackbird," by Patricia Wendorf. Just checked to see who had read it previously, as I wanted to include her name in my review. Disaster! ?? ?? . I've read the wrong book! The correct one included "Rabbit Stew" in the title. My excuse is that both books are about or mention Gypsy culture.
Anyway, here is a review of the book that has not been suggested by anyone.

The author of "Bye bye Blackbird", Patricia Wendorf, was born in Somerset, Blackbird is the third book in her " The Patterns Trilogy" which is based largely on her family history.

I haven't read either of the other two books (Larksleve and Blanche), and although in the story, quite a lot of reference is made to pervious family events and interaction between both families - Greypaull and Carew - it can still be read as a stand alone story.
I was though puzzled that dome of the Greypaull sisters could read and write while the other two were illiterate.

If I had recommended this book the blurb would have read. "They are destined to meet-the gentle, beautiful Eve Neville and the striking red-haired Srv Carew. His grandmother, the gypsy Meridians, predicts it; it is these two who will finally heal the rift between herself and her girlhood friend, Eliza Greypaull.

It is in Staunton that Eve first sees Sev He is a soldier, handsome in his walking-out uniform, on leave from Staunton barracks. Eve, pretty as a picture in her powder-blue costume, cat he's his eye. From that day on he never forgets her. Posted to India, haunted by her sweet-smiling face, he vows to return one day -, to Staunton, and to Eve. Ignorant of his grandmother's prophecy, he doesn't know that the future has long ago been settled, the Romany oatteran laid down.

The story starts just before the birth of Sev and Eve. It swaps between Greypaull and Carew familes quite often, which I sometimes found briefly confusing, especially as both families were involved in the glove making industry.
The Greypaull and Carew families has ceased to have any interaction, but Jye, the son of Meridiana and Blanche, the daughter of Eliza Greypaull had never forgotten each other, after meeting in London, in their youth.
Eve and Sev did not know anything about the shared family history. We follow both of them through their (very different ) childhoods, and their experiences of WW2.

I was more interested in Sev once he left home and spread his wings. His time as a serving soldier in India was informative. Eve's story, as a young woman was informative about fashions, entertainment, music etc.
I thought that the book was interesting and informative, if not gripping. It wasn't the dort of story that you could guess what would happen next (except for Eve and Sev getting together) so didn't set my brain cells working
Pleased that I read it ( a purchase from a charity shop) but wouldn't to spend a lot of money on it. Might though check yo see if the library have any other books by Patricia Wendorf.

Now where did I put that "Rzbit Stew" book??

Off to finish "Last Voyage"


TessAkaBridgetTheFidget Report 17 Oct 2016 15:14

Thanks Ann.


TessAkaBridgetTheFidget Report 21 Oct 2016 16:42

Review - Last Voyage if the Valentina

Have mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed much of it, especially sceans set in Italy both during the war and immediately after Alba's return, the descriptions of rights, sounds and smells of the surroundings, as well as the people living there and the events.

The frequent swapping between Italy in 1943 and England in 1971 was okay too.
Although I was delighted that Alba spoke such good Italian, and was therefore able to cope well, without the introduction of an additional character, to be an interpretor. I was also surprised by this ability. The Alba we had previously met showed no signs of this ability, or any inclination to learn.
(Unless I missed something)She just wanted to know more about her mother, who just
happened to be Italian. There was not even a hint of her wanting to know more about Italy.
A couple of phrases also seemed out of place. eg "going into the light". and. " turning seven" which I believe to be Americanisms, which have only recently come into use "over here". Fine, if it was set in the USA, featured an American or was written by an American, but this was not the case. I know that this is a minor complaint, but it did irk somewhat. Ditto the American spelling of " colour (color) for which I suppose I should blame the publisher - who is British.
Enough of my pet hates and back to the story.

Although by and large I did enjoy the story once the "secret history" had been fully revealed, and Alba had one again returned to her " natural home". I rather lost interest.
I felt perhaps that the author did too. and just needed to finish this book so that she could get on with the next one.
Not sure about the inclusion of the "young man" in the Epilogue - were we supposed to guess who he was? or was this a ploy to whet our appetite for a further book about Alba.

One last point, unfortunately another moan ..., I didn't like or approve of the actual last voyage of the Valentina!

I think that I've read at least one book by this author before, and wasn't do critical then.


AnninGlos Report 21 Oct 2016 17:17

Tess can you explain what you mean by this please I am a bit confused.
"One last point, unfortunately another moan ..., I didn't like or approve of the actual last voyage of the Valentina!"



TessAkaBridgetTheFidget Report 22 Oct 2016 01:11

Didn't want to give any of the plot away Ann.

The scuttled the Valentina. Sank her at sea. I don't think that Valentina ever actually went aboard. It was just the vessel that carried Thomas to Valentina.
The boat could have been given away - possibly to Thomas's friend Jack, who he had just reconnected with, ( or was about to phone).

There was a large homeless problem in London, and other places in the U.K. the Valentina could have made a home for someone, possibly via a homeless charity.

Or return it to the Royal Navy, use it as an art installation, or a dozen other uses.

My disapproval is because such a beautiful, useful, valuable item was wasted. Made into junk. (not A Junk, you notice.). just dumped.

Had the Valentina bought unhappiness to the family, I could have understood it. But this wasn't the case.

Can you tell that I was bought up to "waste not want not". can remember people saying " make do and mend". and strongly believe in recycling.


AnninGlos Report 22 Oct 2016 09:30

Ah, I see. I think you were reading that as non fiction Tess :-D :-D