Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Gatekeepers - Chris Whipple

From Nixon's Watergate, Reagan's Iran-Contra affair to Obama's non follow through on Syria, author Chris Whipple takes the reader through a political journey of what it takes to be Chief of Staff (COS).

The book details how important this role is to the president, and if the COS was more brutally honest, didn't back down from confrontation or was too loyal, then certain events may not have happened.

Presidents always seek information and advice of key confidants. "When the president makes a life-and-death decision, often the Chief of Staff can make or break an administration, and each president reveals himself by the chief he picks."

Flowing in a chronological order, the books gives the outsider an insight on how the Oval Office is run - all the from the viewpoint of the chief of staff. Whipple offers his analysis and having interviewed several people, including two presidents, several chiefs of staff's (naturally) he has shown a world very few people see on a daily basis.

In his Epilogue, Whipple writes: "That duty - telling the president what he does not want to hear- will prove all the more important for Trump's chief., who will be advising a man who has shown no evidence that he has the focus, knowledge, or discipline required to be commander in chief. Never has a president been more in need of a "reality therapist"..."

A fascinating read. One that if you're completely or slightly interested in politics, even if you're not, just read it. It's a combination of every political TV drama out there in written form. Intrigue, history, and scandal.  I could quote the whole book, however this struck me as I read it, mainly because of the current political climate: page 289 (after considering the use of executive orders) "'...let's execute smartly.'" Barack Obama.

An engaging, informative book and a highly recommended read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books program to review. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Behind the Scenes (Apart from the Crowd) - Jen Turano

Permilia Griswold is a wallflower. Attending the balls and dinners in the highest of society events should ensure a husband. But as someone who is relegated to the sidelines, the likelihood of that happening is slim.

It doesn't help that her stepmother Ida, tasked with showing Permilia what it is to be a lady, pays more attention to her daughter, Lucy, so as to establish a worthy match.

With her mother dying when she was young and therefore, growing up in the world of mining - which her father made his fortune in - meant that Permila's view of the world is somewhat different.

Regardless, Permilia is happy to be a wallflower. Without this title she wouldn't be able to carry out her job as "Miss Quill". Writing for a newspaper about society balls, giving details that only an insider would know, the young, independent woman enjoys her role. However, when she hears a murder plot about one Asher Rutherford, she is duty bound to tell him.

Rutherford, owner of much respected department store in New York city is knowledgeable about the world of fashion and society. When he hears news of his imminent death he is, understandably, unwilling to accept it.

Frustrated by his lack of wariness, Permilia takes it upon herself to keep an eye out for him. She wasn't planning on playing bodyguard. Asher isn't very appreciative of the gesture until an arrow heads his way.

They now find themselves allies against an unknown murderer. Who is behind this plot? And will they discover who it is before the actual deed is carried out?

It was okay. It was humorous, detailed filled with likable characters. Whilst the murder plot is the main essence of the story, the underlying romance that unfolds is sweet, if a little unconventional. The references to a new world where women are paid to work and able to educate themselves was interesting but obviously not the main focus of the story. Overall, it took me a while to get in to this story and I'm a fan of historical fiction, just didn't gel that much with this one. If you're a fan of Turano you may well enjoy it a lot more than I did.

I received a complimentary copy of this book to review from Bethany House publishers as part of their blogging program. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Murder on the Moor - Julianna Deering

When old school friend, Beaky Bloodworth calls upon Drew and Madeline to investigate the death of a vicar, they take moments to consider and take up the challenge.

Setting off for the Yorkshire moors and his friends home, Bloodworth Park Lodge, with a mystery that has little clues, Drew only knows that he is determined to help his friend.

Meeting Beaky's wife, Sabrina, is a blast from the past and Drew wonders what the pretty socialite, who loved London life, is doing married to a man from Yorkshire. Regardless, mysterious events surround the brooding moors and its residents - sheep killed, talk of the berghaus and possible poachers - all of which keeps Drew's mind occupied. What or who is causing all this commotion?

And then another murder takes place.

This time, an elderly woman who, like the vicar, was harmless and kept themselves to themselves. What is the link between these two benign people? How is Bloodworth Park connected? It's a close-knit community in town of Bunting's Nest. Anyone could be a suspect yet Drew is drawn back to Sabrina. The danger is closing in quickly around the Lodge. Can Drew discover who the murderer is before he or she strikes again?

Another alluring and charming murder-mystery from Deering. Drew and Madeline Farthing are a couple akin to Christie's Tommy and Tuppence with an American flair (Madeline is from the US). A complicated plot with quite a few characters. However, it's easy to follow and the subtly of sub-plots carries the story forward. All theories of 'whodunit' are tested throughout. With a quintessentially British feel, this is an enjoyable, satisfying novel.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from Bethany House Publishers as part of their blogger program. The opinions expressed here are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Tarquin Hall – The Case of the Missing Servant (A Vish Puri Investigation)


It’s not very often I finish a book and feel bereft. As I started the final chapter, a sadness crept in as I knew that I would come to the end of an amazing novel.
Vish Puri, private investigator extraordinaire (he has the awards to prove it), has been tasked with proving the innocence of a renowned lawyer. A young girl, employed to carry out household tasks suddenly disappears. A body is found, badly beaten. Is it her?
With little to go on, Puri and his trustworthy, hardworking staff investigate what happened to the woman named Mary. Is she the body that has been found, that has conveniently been cremated? The autopsy photo is blurred, yet positive identification has been made and Puri’s client is arrested.
As a well sought after detective agency, Puri is also tasked with finding out more information on a prospective groom. The bride-to-be’s grandfather doesn’t trust him and wants Puri to make this case a top priority. Yes, he’s handsome, works hard, wealthy – but what’s really wrong with him? After all, his granddaughter is a few years older than the prospective groom, why would he marry her?
Can Vish’s team find enough damming material of unsuitability for one case and convincing information of innocence for another? And, if that wasn’t enough someone fires a shot early one morning at the investigator. Sadly, for him, his chili plant bore the brunt of the attack. It’s on his mind to look into that but ‘mummy-ji’ steps in and does a little snooping on his behalf – much to his chagrin.
From the opening sentence, I knew this was going to be a work of art. Hall’s descriptions of Delhi is so good you can hear the sounds of the streets as you read, imagine the smells, feel the heat. Vish Puri is an instantly likable character and you will wish him to succeed. The three plots are interwoven so intricately, yet there is no confusion. Each case reaches a satisfactory conclusion and Vish and his dependable team have righted the streets of Delhi once again – for now.
A highly recommended read for fans of mysteries, good fiction and memorable characters. Visit tarquinhall.com

Monday, 16 January 2017

An Uncommon Courtship (Hawthorn House Series) – Kristi Ann Hunter

When Lord Trent Hawthorne stopped to investigate the singing he heard from abandoned ruins, the last thing he expected was to spend a night with the woman seemingly trapped there and least of all to propose to her soon after 'escaping'.

It wasn't his intention to marry Adelaide, but he didn't want her reputation to become a disgrace. Trent has a carefree life – after all he’s not going to inherit the title of ‘Duke'. (Thankfully that honor and serious job fell to his big brother Griffith.)

Adelaide Bell, middle daughter of Lord and Lady Crampton was used to being ignored. Her mother lavished all of her attention on her elder sister Helena. So, when confronted with the prospect of a loveless marriage, she simply went along with it, as she did with most things whilst growing up.

Moving to Trent’s London home, is a completely new and almost unnerving experience for Adelaide. Although, her new husband refers to the residence as ‘theirs’, she still feels a stranger in her ‘home’, especially with the familiarity of the staff – something her mother would never have stood for.

In a bid to make the marriage work, Trent suggests a scheme that he hopes will rectify a difficult situation. However, the ‘ton’ are renowned for gossip and the unexpected marriage of the Duke of Riverton’s younger brother is a source most fruitful.

And then Trent’s mother finally hears of the news. Lady Blackstone is astounded at her son’s behavior and knowing what Adelaide’s mother is like, takes the young inexperienced (with London society) under her wing.

Will this marriage of responsibility turn into one filled with understanding, compassion and love? And with a scheming mother who is still looking out for her eldest daughter, can Adelaide truly be happy with life and it's expectations?

Whilst a robust novel, I found the first few chapters almost repetitive in that the main characters were both foisted into a marriage that neither wanted. Both wanted to be in a union that was based on love. However, once past this, the development of these characters and their circumstances is rich and absorbing.

There are touches of humor throughout and whilst part of series, it still read well as a standalone novel. Descriptions of London and it's High Society, as well as the hierarchy, are detailed with being laborious. Some may find the reference to the consummation of their marriage too much for a novel such as this but it is done tastefully and is something I would expect in a 'marriage of convenience'.

Overall, I enjoyed this regency romance and am glad to have discovered Hunter. I am looking forward to backtracking and reading the first few books in what I'm sure is an enjoyable series. A recommended read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, as part of their blogging program in exchange for a review. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique.

Monday, 12 December 2016

The Angel of Forest Hill - Cindy Woodsmall

Rose Kurtz, quiet and unsure of herself, yet hard-working, has been asked by her Bishop to travel to Forest Hill to help a family. Lost in her thoughts when asked, she only half listened to the request but accepted that she had little choice.

With no fond farewell from her family, Rose arrives at the home of Joel Dienner. There she finds that she’s not helping in the way she expected. Thrust in to the role of surrogate mother to a newborn and two boisterous toddlers who constantly seek their mother, Rose must buckle down and deal with the situation before her. Her familiar prayer, “Dear God, if it’s not a bother, show me what to do, and let Your truth set me free," gives her the strength to do just that.

However, as a single woman, Rose cannot stay in the house with a widowed man. Joel’s father comes up with a solution that in his grief, Joel agrees to but not before asking Rose what her expectations are regarding their marriage of convenience. Kindness is all she requires.

Time passes and Joel finds himself in love with Rose. But can they move forward with so much of the past still surrounding them – the death of his wife, the unhappy familial home life of Rose – and now Joel’s mother-in-law has spoken to the Bishop about a personal situation.


Rose is horrified, Joel angry. Now there is talk of an annulment. Can they overcome this latest obstacle and have a happy Christmas?
A short and sweet romance with a Christmas background. I wished it were a little longer but that’s only because Cindy creates characters that have so much depth and realism. Her ability to write an absorbing, warming story is exceptional. It’s an easy read and fans of Amish fiction and/or Cindy Woodsmall will not be disappointed. A highly recommended read.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books as part of their blogger program. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Doodletopia: Manga Style - Christopher Hart

In the second book of the 'Doodletopia' series, the talented Christopher Hart explains in simple yet detailed fashion of how to draw manga cartoons.

From humans to animals, there are signature effects and styles that are adhered to so as to create memorable manga characters. Besides showing how to draw a face on figure, Hart shows how to draw the character in situ, show facial expressions, actions and so on.

The book ventures on to other areas such as mazes and creating a page of doodles - this is where you draw tiny manga icons.

Hart's easy going style is very encouraging. Even if you have little artistic ability, you will be able to follow his examples with ease and little fear.

I've wanted to be able to draw cartoon type figures for a while and Hart has given me both a boost and the confidence to try. It's a step by step process but he allows you to be in charge of creativity - the scenarios your figures may find themselves in - and throughout the book he emphasizes to have fun. It's a great start to creating your own manga type characters as well as make stationery or bookmarks. A recommended read

I was given a copy of this book as part of the Blogging For Books program. The opinions expressed are my own and I am not required to give a positive critique.