09-04-2020: A Revival of Book Reviews

Hi Fellow Readers 🙂

I hope you are staying safe and well!

Having just re-discovered a book review site I set up after having major hand surgery early 2018 – when I was confined indoors – and had joined a book club, I felt it might be interesting to share those reviews here. As a disclaimer, I will explain that when I wrote these reviews I hadn’t yet worked for a publishing company, nor had I started any editorial/proofreading training. I didn’t start my BA (Hons) English Literature and Creative Writing until much later that year too, so my apologies if the writing style isn’t what you’re used to from me…

Life with the Lid Off by Nicola Hodgkinson

Back of the Book:

‘When single mother Nicola Hodgkinson decided to follow her rural dream, it involved transporting her young family – three rowdy children, her beloved horse, a wilful donkey and two single-minded bantams – to a ramshackle cottage in an idyllic seaside village. The family soon attracts the horrified attention of nosey neighbours, and annoys motorists by hogging country lanes with a horse-drawn caravan.

But amid the chaos, the magic of family life shines through, peppered with humour; love, moments of high drama and nostalgia.’

Firstly, I have to mention how shocking the amount of interests I have in common with the author of this book are – not only am I passionate about horses, my favourite book is Black Beauty, and I thoroughly enjoy everything nature/wildlife related, but I also love to write stories that are emotive; stories that I hope invoke laughter, relatability, and deep thought.

I quite literally laughed out loud on so many occasions whilst reading this book – I thoroughly enjoyed the style in which it was written, which kept me so gripped that I stole every spare moment I could and finished reading it in less than a day!

Nicola Hodgkinson’s sense of humour shines through, regardless of how embarrassing or ridiculous the situations seemed – however, this humour was laced with a darkness that, just as happens with us all, did seem to preside over certain moments. Despite the darkness faced, on ploughed the story – to weave a wonderful tapestry of what country life is really like.

Although surprising, I felt the story’s end offered the chance of a new beginning – something so many people fail to believe is possible as their age progresses. It’s truly refreshing to read a story written by an older author whose view on life is so appreciative and positive, regardless of the relentless struggles she had to deal with. And the fact she couldn’t fathom the writings of Virginia Woolf only made me like her more (apologies to any Virginia Woolf fans!).

I applaud the honesty of life’s revelations as Nicola Hodgkinson portrays them, though I also admire her way with words. Some of her descriptions offered such magical scenery, that it genuinely inspired me to strive to try writing such lovely imagery myself.

I definitely give this book 10/10 – and although aimed at the adult market, I’m sure it’d do no harm for a YA audience to delve into this story too 🙂

I recommend this read wholeheartedly, and am probably going to purchase a copy of my own to read (the copy I read was owned by the Book Club I’m part of) during difficult times as a comfort of sorts; if in no other way than to relate to equine based hilarity!

Thank you for reading <3

Regulus by Aaron Ozee

Book Description:

‘King among the mice and eater of all the cheese. Regulus, the lord of all squeaking feuds within the wall, is betrayed by those closest to him for the ego he holds so high. Struggles between the just and wicked come to pass in this paramount tale of the darkest and brightest sights in our lives.’

A story, although entertaining for children, fueled by the underlying importance of being appreciative instead of greedy. Children won’t only find this book funny, but it’ll also teach them about treating others as equals – showing that differences are to be celebrated, not to be utilised for self gain.

This is something we don’t often find nowadays, books that offer children a sense that their moral compass is their responsibility to wield and control.

Choosing the subject of a rat has proven popular for series such as Wind in the Willows etc. It seems to be a suitable character choice here too! The illustrations are just lovely, so children of all ages would enjoy them.

On the topics of learning and illustration, some of the wording may seem a little advanced for young children – however, given the cleverness and clarity of the illustrations, it enables children to widen their own vocabulary by using the images to give definition to words they may not have encountered before. As well as this, the style of poetry is not the general ballad type, in which every last word of every or every other line rhymes. There are a variety of sentence structures, allowing children to explore a diverse range of writing style which they may not find in other children’s books.

I think it unfair to give a score to children’s books, since I am not their intended audience and so my mind may not appreciate the book in the same way a child would. Therefore, I suggest this book is suitable for children of all ages, whether read by parents or children themselves.

Thanks for reading <3

Small Truths by Josanne Wilson

Book Description:

‘Following the lives of Isabella and Estafano Celestino, there are so many changes as their family enter the early 1900s. Business is booming, and the married couple utilize their wealth to improve the lives of those less fortunate – as well as to take care of their employees. As they tussle with the challenges of balancing family and work-life, can Isabella and Estafano’s love survive such turmoil, or will their love find them lost amidst the temptations their wealth unveils?’

About the Author: ‘Josanne Wilson’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy and she always wanted to build a story around their journeys. Wilson is married with five children and one granddaughter. She enjoys reading, writing, crocheting, and making crafts. She lives in Jamestown, New York.’

Talented author Josanne Wilson tells the tale of Isabella and Estafano.

Continuing on from the Cobbler’s Daughter, Small Truths entails a series of unexpected twists in the storyline. Laced with romance, drama, tragedy and happiness, this book would be an ideal summer holiday read.

It’s so easy to become entrapped in the fascinating descriptions of a world we wouldn’t know now, with the rise of technology and social media.

If you enjoy historical or romance novels, you will certainly enjoy reading Small Truths – which will entertain until the very last sentence.

I rate this book 8/10, and recommend you keep an eye on Josanne Wilson’s Author Page for its official release: https://www.facebook.com/josannewilsonromancenovels/

Thank you for reading <3

The Cobbler’s Daughter by Josanne Wilson

Book Description:

‘In search of a better life, young travelers make the journey from Italy to America in the late 1800s. Not only do Guiseppe and Josephine find that better life – they also find each other. What begins as a few stolen glances on the ship soon becomes a clandestine affair. When Josephine realizes she’s pregnant, they both worry about how her abusive husband will react. Enjoy reading the story of how they each make a home in their new homeland, how each endure hardships but find prosperity through hope, love, and a belief in God. Understand that life is short and it’s important to follow your heart.’

About the Author: ‘Josanne Wilson’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy and she always wanted to build a story around their journeys. Wilson is married with five children and one granddaughter. She enjoys reading, writing, crocheting, and making crafts. She lives in Jamestown, New York.’

Following the hazardous journey from Italy to America in the late 1800s, the Cobbler’s Daughter depicts the detriments and fortunes of two families pulled together through tragedies – held together by the strength of family.

As the story unravels, it reveals not only interesting historical descriptions of the time, but also the awakening of a multitude of emotions and feelings of every character.

Delving into the intertwined connections of the characters, this story won’t cease to keep you turning the page – to follow each of the shocking revelations around every corner of the narrative.

Recommended to readers of romance and historical novels.

I would give this book 7/10, simply because there were not chapters to break up the story’s sections – though that is just personal opinion.

Thanks for reading <3

Together by Julie Cohen

Book Description:

‘Robbie and Emily they have been together for decades. Now, their joints are creaking and their eyesight is failing – but their love for each other is as fresh and fierce as the day they first met. They have had children and grandchildren, lived full and happy and intimate lives. But they have been keeping a secret since the day they met, when their lives changed forever. Over the years, the sacrifices and choices they made have sealed their fates together.’

(Borrowed from a local Library, on recommendation of a relative who’d enjoyed it…) This book is structured reading events backward from 2016 to 1962. As you progress through the pages, history is revealed and secrets are slowly but surely unraveled.

The reader is kept guessing throughout!

It’s difficult to understand why the book is structured the way it is, until the story begins to take shape. I actually found the unusual setup interesting, and I believe it matched the subject of this story well.

The settings and situations read fluidly, with lovely descriptions of the environment – as well as characters that really draw you in. You’re made to feel for the characters’ circumstances, which definitely brings them to life.

I particularly loved how the characters’ pet dogs were described! Although a secondary detail of the story, I felt realistic canine characters added a sense of depth.

I was grateful the story wasn’t left on a cliff-hanger! Though the conclusion was shocking…

Found the style of writing so ‘readable’, that I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

It kept you wanting to find out what might happen next; which I liken to getting hooked on binge-watching a new television series!

My review mark for this book is 8/10. I enjoyed the read, but felt there were a few small details that were left unexplained (which I imagine is largely due to the backward structure of the story-line) – and the ending was such a surprise, that it took away a little from the sense of affection you might have developed for some of the characters; whilst leaving you wondering what happened to other characters.

I’d recommend as a Book Club read, as ‘Together’ offers much opportunity for the discussion of a variety of topics.

Thank you for reading this review <3

A Sorry Affair by Kirsten Nairn

Back of the Book:

‘Jen and Mack are the perfect couple; meeting at university, moving in together and engaged to be married. Then, one day, Abbi turns up on their doorstep and throws a huge spanner in the works of their seemingly well-oiled relationship. On that day, Mack’s life is turned upside down and it seems there’s no way back. Resigned to the fact that the relationship is over and Jen is selling the house, Mack is forced to go back home and live with his parents. He comes to blows with his father, who was close friends with Jen’s father, and emotions run high when past hurts are revisited. Despite several letters from Mack, years pass without any word from Jen.

The reader is left in suspense, always wanting more and wondering if it really is the end for Jen and Mack.’

The story follows a unique perspective of three people affected by an affair.

Although at first difficult to get to grips with, the original style and setting of the story became intriguing – I found myself enthralled by the story, and couldn’t stop turning the pages!

I particularly liked the way Kirsten Nairn built up the image of each character through their own perspective in each chapter. It really gave the characters a great sense of depth, to the point the characters felt as though they were real people who could be anyone, anywhere – neighbours, acquaintances, colleagues etc. It just goes to show that you can never know what’s going on in another’s life, behind closed doors!

I don’t normally read many romance novels, though I’d definitely recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys romance, or would like a steady introduction to reading romance genre for the first time. I believe it would be suitable for adult readers, especially if you enjoy a little suspense.

There was a balance of emotions, which never left me feeling too disheartened or overly ecstatic for the characters. Although there are times that make you truly feel for the characters’ situations, the surprising twist at the end of the story almost consoles you for all that.

It genuinely leaves you wanting to find out how the characters’ lives turn out – which is definitely the mark of a good writer.

Personally I believe I would give this novel a score of 7/10, because I feel the script could have read with more fluidity to begin with – given that the style of writing is so original. However, once I understood the layout of the chapters, the book was a thoroughly enjoyable read that I struggled to put down!

Thank you for reading <3

The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

My first ever ‘Book Club Read’ – for the first Book Club meeting I attended, 20th February 2018 🙂

Back of the Book:

‘It’s 1928. Freddie Watson is still grieving for his brother, lost in the Great War. Driving through the foothills of the French Pyrenees, his car spins off the road in a snowstorm. Freddie takes refuge in an isolated village and there meets a beautiful, captivating woman. They spend the night talking of love and loss and war. But by daybreak, Fabrissa has vanished and Freddie realises he holds the key to an ancient mystery that leads him deep into the mountains, to a cave that has concealed an appalling secret for 700 years…’

A grieving Englishman seeks solace for his mental health in France. Whilst there, he happens across a ghostly, mystifying lady, who helps him talk about his grief; and step foot on the road to recovery after many years. Losing her suddenly, he fights all odds to find her. When he does, his discovery is haunting…

I really like the way the book is set out. The way the story is told enables your imagination to become immersed within it. The author’s descriptive style of writing makes the book exceedingly difficult to put down!

If ever you’ve, or someone you know has, suffered mental health issues, the protagonist Freddie is not only relatable, but the author genuinely makes you feel for his character – willing positivity to shine upon his life’s darkness.

Scenes of revelation are written so very well, that your imagination is gifted vivid images that could so easily be reality somehow – I believe this book could be transformed into a fantastic film! I felt the length of the story, and indeed the book itself, was just right. Not so long as to make you lose interest, yet suspenseful throughout its 239 pages.

I like how much background information and research are included after the story; the author was very gracious in her acknowledgements too. I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘The Winter Ghosts’ by Kate Mosse, and look forward to discovering more of her work.

I rate this book 10/10.

Thank you for reading <3

I also included a selection of brief reviews of equestrian-themed books I grew up reading…

For readers who love all things equestrian, this list comprises of works I believe are essential equestrian reads 🙂

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

About the Author:

“Anna Sewell was born in 1820 in Norfolk, England. After an unfortunate accident, Anna seriously injured her ankle – for the rest of her life she couldn’t walk for any length of time and needed a crutch. This led to her travelling by horse-drawn carriage, which contributed to her love of horses and concern for their welfare. Although she passed away in 1878 – so sadly didn’t see the popularity of Black Beauty after its publication in 1877 – Anna Sewell’s work resulted in the use of bearing reins – which are particularly painful for a horse – falling out of favour. There is also an Anna Sewell memorial fountain and horse trough outside the public library in Ansonia, Connecticut, in the United States of America.

Black Beauty, having sold an estimated 50 million copies, is one of the top ten best selling novels for children.”

Book Description:

“Black Beauty is a well-bred horse with a fine black coat, who beautifully narrates the story of his life. The story tells of his idyllic upbringing, followed by the hardship and cruelty he suffers at the hand of unscrupulous owners, before finding security and happiness in a new home. Being one of the most popular children’s novels ever written, Black Beauty’s story was successful in inspiring more humane treatment of horses in Victorian Britain; anti-cruelty impact of this novel is still recognised today.”

My Review:

“Powerfully thought-provoking, Black Beauty is still one of my most favourite novels of all time. (It has even inspired my writing!) The way Black Beauty makes you truly feel what horses at that time were experiencing is beyond enchanting. Whether you’re a child who’s pony-mad, or an adult experienced equestrian, Black Beauty is sure to make you laugh, cry, and long to cwtch the nearest horse/pony!”

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

About the Author:

“After meeting a World War I veteran, who had been in the Devon Yeomanry working with horses, Michael Morpurgo began to think of telling the story of the universal suffering of the Great War through a horse’s viewpoint. He also met another villager who had been in the cavalry in the Great War – and a third villager who remembered the Army coming to the village to buy horses. Michael thanks these men in the dedication of the book. Another event inspiring the writing of War Horse was when Michael encountered a young boy with a stammer who was terrified if spoken to by another person, was able to speak freely to a horse – the trusting relationship that child had with the horse amazed many.

With his wife, Michael Morpurgo founded ‘Farms for City Children’, a charity that allows inner city children to experience spending time on rural farms.”

Book Description:

“Told through the eyes of Joey, War Horse follows Joey’s journey during World War I. Originally a working farm horse, Joey was sold by the farmer to become a cavalry horse – which saddened his young owner Albert. Having been captured by Germans, then finding himself in the care of young Emilie. Joey and his companion enjoy farm life for a short while, before being taken away again to pull an artillery wagon.

After many trials Joey finds himself alone in no-man’s-land, wounded by barbed wire. Eventually ending up in veterinary hospital, where he reunites with an old friend.

A children’s novel that teaches not only of the horse’s role, but also of the devastation experienced during war.”

My Review:

“It’s impossible not to fall in love with honest, hard-working horse Joey. His willing nature and integrity highlight how much of an impact wartime had on horses, as well as people. Through brilliant storytelling, War Horse carries you through every emotion – drawing you in with each page turn. I originally read this novel whilst in school, and would choose it as reference whenever wartime was the topic in class. I felt it so very important to show the truth of war through the eyes of a horse, whose involvement in it wasn’t through choice – if future generations continue to read War Horse and relate with Joey’s experience, I honestly believe it holds the power to prevent war ever happening again.”

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

About the Author:

“The Horse Whisperer was the debut novel by English author Nicholas Evans. Selling over 15 million copies, with The Horse Whisperer Nicholas experienced much success – especially in the United States of America. The story is said to be inspired by a real-life horse whisperer from America.”

Book Description:

“Beginning with teenager Grace and her horse Pilgrim going out riding with Grace’s friend Judith on her horse Gulliver, The Horse Whisperer follows the journey of Grace and Pilgrim after an horrific accident in which Judith and Gulliver lose their lives. Desperate to help her daughter through the trauma of losing a leg, her friend and the trust of her horse, Grace’s mother Annie seeks the help of a horse whisperer. Taking the reader on an emotional roller coaster, The Horse Whisperer follows Grace and Pilgrim’s expedition to recovery together – along with the short-lived affair Annie has with Tom, the horse whisperer himself.”

My Review:

“I read The Horse Whisperer for an English Literature project whilst at school. Having watched the film beforehand, I believed I was prepared for what I was about to read. I wasn’t. There was so much depth in the writing, that it became impossible to stop turning the pages. Found myself staying up until the early hours – even on a school night! – to ‘finish one more chapter’. A gripping tale I found fascinating – since equine behaviour is a subject close to my heart anyway – not only does The Horse Whisperer travel through coping with post traumatic stress experienced by horses and people, but also enlightens to the effects a traumatic event has on those indirectly involved in the resulting impact of an accident.”

Heartland Series by Lauren Brooke

About the Author:

“Lauren Brooke is one of the pen names of British writer Linda Chapman. As well as writing the Heartland series with Beth Chambers, she has written around 200 books – most of which are fantasy series for younger children.”

Book Description:

“25-book series about young Amy Fleming who lives on a horse ranch in Virginia called Heartland. Amy, along with her family and friends, rescue and rehabilitate mistreated horses. Amy prefers treating horses with natural remedies and therapies, over traditional methods. Having experienced trauma resulting in psychological issues herself, the series follows Amy’s story as she overcomes her own issues whilst working tirelessly to help horses. Heartland has a target readership 8-14 year olds.”

My Review:

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading every book in the Heartland series. I’ve forever been interested in equine behaviour and welfare, so reading these heart-warming and uplifting stories became a lovely past-time for me whilst in school. I even encouraged my friends to start reading Heartland! I would definitely recommend this series to any child who loves horses. However, regardless of the fact this series was written for children, I am certain adults would enjoy this series just as much – especially if they hold interest in the field of equine behaviour and alternative remedies.”

The Silver Brumby Series by Elyne Mitchell

About the Author:

“Australian author Sybil Elyne Keith Mitchell was a keen horsewoman, famous for her series of children’s novels. Elyne Mitchell won many awards for her writing.”

Book Description:

“The Silver Brumby series follows the adventures of creamy-silver stallion Thowra and his herd of wild horses. The reason Thowra is known as ‘The Silver Brumby’ is because during winter Thowra’s cream coat becomes much paler, having an almost silver shine. In combination with his silvery mane and tail, Thowra’s pale winter coat blends into his native snowy landscape. A rarity for a brumby, since their coats are usually black, bay, grey or chestnut.”

My Review:

“Wonderful stories following the adventures of wild brumbies in Australia. I read these stories as a child, and believed them fantastic! Usually finding stories originating from Britain or America, to learn about the Australian landscape through these magical stories offered a lovely reading experience I believe children today would also thoroughly enjoy.”

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

About the Author:

“American author who primarily wrote horse stories for children, Walter Farley’s most famous book was ‘The Black Stallion’ published in 1941.”

Book Description:

“Following the story of a wild stallion known as ‘the Black’ or ‘Shêtân’ who encountered young boy Alec Ramsay, and ended up stranded on an island with him. They form the strongest bond. When they’re eventually rescued, the Black and Alec are found to be a formidable racing partnership – and are trained by retired racehorse trainer Henry Dailey. Due to the fact his breeding isn’t documented, the Black races as a mystery stallion, enabling young Alec to remain his jockey.”

My Review:

“I’ve never been a fan of horse racing. Though The Black Stallion wasn’t purely about racing. It told the tale of the unique bond between a horse and his boy, brought together under unique circumstances. The Black Stallion novel is full of descriptions depicting the time in which it was written, providing an outlook that may have otherwise been lost to future generations.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this time capsule of book reviews 🙂

Take care <3

Best wishes,


D.E. Kendall

Author, Pawrent, Tea-Drinker.

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