“A young boy Tom goes to his Grandfather's home in the village of Cairn Holme to spend his summer holidays. Staying in the small village deep in the Scottish Highlands his grandfather reveals to him that he is the bearer of a magical staff. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Tom finds himself dragged back in time to fight great evil using the staff he knows little about. Forced to learn the lore which is his heritage in a matter of weeks, he struggles against dark forces to help keep he and his family alive. A baptism of fire, the little boy who is obsessed with magical adventures finds himself in the middle of a story from which he cannot escape”.
When Tom Mackay goes to stay at his grandfather’s house in Scotland just before his thirteenth birthday, he has no idea how suddenly his life is going to change. How could he know the old wooden staff his grandfather carries with him constantly is actually an intensely magical object, used by his family for centuries? The Mackays are in fact bound to prevent an ancient power connected to the land around them from falling into the wrong hands. Tom suddenly finds himself in a completely different time and is thrown into an adventure. He must master using the staff if he is to help to prevent an evil force from rising up and creating untold devastation.
I liked the book’s Scottish setting and enjoyed the descriptions of the beautiful landscapes and scenery. I thought the idea of a magical staff being passed down through the generations was pretty original and I loved the idea of the familial tradition involved. I also enjoyed the part that the friends of the family played in the fight against evil; they may not have had magical powers, but they were very loyal and brave.
One thing that spoilt this novel a little for me was the large amount of errors contained within it: I spotted two grammatical slip-ups just on the first page. The same words tended to be repeated in close proximity, which I found somewhat off-putting and I also felt at times that there were slight contradictions in the text.
In my view, the book might have benefited from a little tighter editing.
Tom was a likeable and realistic character. He was brave, but also acted his age: he admits to missing his mother and frequently doubts his abilities. It did come across as a little peculiar, however, that he seemed so unperturbed by his sudden time travel!
By far my favourite character was that of Naithara, the laird’s niece who’s working for a wicked demon. I thought her part was particularly well written. She had been taken over by evil but still showed some human weakness and traces of her former self.
I was slightly disappointed with the ending, which seemed incomplete. I can appreciate what the author was trying to do, but I felt a bit cheated. I’m assuming we’ll find out the missing elements during the following chapters of the serial.
I think ‘The Long Staff’ has the potential to be the start of a very good series. Unfortunately I felt it was let down a little by poor editing, but despite this, it was a gripping story with a beautiful setting and a successful cast of characters. I took pleasure from reading it and look forward to the next instalment in the series. 3 starsMore information about Clare Wilson and the Staff Wielder series can be found at: http://www.staffwielder.com/
“Brought up in a caravan on a settled trailer park, Vicky could not be happier with her life. At 15 she is engaged to her childhood friend Liam, the handsomest man on the park. Not only that, but she can't help feeling she's got the balance of her life just right. She's doing well at school and if she works hard she might even fulfill her dream of becoming a dressmaker.
But as she turns 17 the pressure is on for her and Liam to set a date for the wedding, and suddenly Vicky is not so sure. How can she give up her dreams and spend the rest of her life looking after Liam? Especially as her classmate Jordan seems a far more exciting prospect...
What on earth is a girl to do? She loves Liam, but Jordan makes her feel things she's never felt before, and her best friend Kelly's life seems so much more fun than her own limited options. But can she really turn her back on her friends and family and survive in a hostile world?
In the year running up to her wedding, Vicky is about to find out that life outside the traveller community is a lot more complicated than she'd thought...”
Seventeen-year-old gypsy Vicky is expected to settle down with her fiancé Liam very soon: they’ve been engaged since Vicky was fifteen and their families are getting impatient. Vicky loves Liam, but longs to become a dressmaker, a dream which will have to be firmly set aside once she walks down the aisle: gypsy wives don’t work. Going to college to study dressmaking has opened up a whole new world to Vicky, a world in which she could give up her traveller life and go out having fun with her best friend Kelly and do something about her feelings for fellow college student Jordan.
Obviously this book is looking to appeal to the viewers of the very popular television series ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’. It manages to capture the flavour of the gypsy world very well without either glamorising or demonising it. I found if fascinating to read about the logistics of having a family of five living permanently in a caravan. The little details that Lace gives throughout the novel really helped to create a complete picture of Vicky’s life.
Naturally the traveller characters play by the rules of the gypsy world, some of which seemed peculiar to me, but Lace explains the reasoning behind them clearly. It is perhaps the young age of marriage that a lot of non-travellers would struggle with most, and it was constantly on my mind just how juvenile Vicky and her fiancé were. I liked what I saw of Liam and how he treated his betrothed, but for me to really believe in the love between Liam and Vicky, I would have liked to have seen more of the couple together.
In truth I thought that I knew exactly what was going to happen in this book just from reading the first chapter, but I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Although the ending was unusual, I think Lace made the right decision with it: she listened to her characters and not to what her readers would have anticipated.
This isn’t a book I’d necessarily have chosen myself, but the setting really made it stand out and ‘Gypsy Wedding’ was an unexpected hit with me. The author kept me guessing what her heroine was going to decide until the very end and I was surprised by how involved I became in Vicky’s life, which is a real tribute to Lace’s writing. The ending was unforeseen, but worked well and was the correct choice for the protagonist.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder…doesn’t it?
What happens when two people decide to give themselves the year off…from each other?
Annie and Dan were the perfect couple. But now the not-so-newly weds feel more like flatmates than soul mates and wonder where all the fun and fireworks went …
When Annie lands her big break in a smash-hit show that’s heading for the bright lights of Broadway, she’s over the moon. Goodbye remote Irish village of Stickens, hello fabulous Big Apple! But with their relationship already on the rocks, how will Annie and Dan survive the distance?
They’re hitting the pause button on their marriage. One year off from each other – no strings attached, except a date to meet in twelve months at the Rockefeller Centre to decide their fate.
Will they both turn up? Or is it too late for love?”
Annie Cole’s acting career became virtually non-existent when she moved into the middle of Irish nowhere with her lovely husband Ben to take over his family’s country vet’s practice. That was three years ago. Three years of barely seeing her husband because he’s always working, putting up with nosy neighbours, and dealing with the constant demands of her mother-in-law. When Annie is offered an amazing job opportunity she knows she has to grab it with both hands, even though it means she’ll be spending a year in New York. Neither she nor Dan are sure their marriage will survive. Dan decides his best chance of keeping Annie is to set her free whilst she’s away – they’ll take a marriage break, they won’t even be obliged to call each other until they meet up at the end of the year. As Annie is swept away in the whirlwind of her life as a single Broadway actress, being hotly pursed by her handsome, talented and very persistent director, will she still consider her marriage worth saving at the end of the year?
Claudia Carroll wasn’t an author I’d read before, but when this novel came through my letterbox its cover and blurb immediately appealed to me. My first instincts were correct – I was hooked on Annie’s life from the first page.
Annie was a wonderfully believable and lovable character. I could completely understand her decision to go to New York; after years of putting herself last she really had to do something for herself. She’d a terrible time living in Dan’s family home in Ireland – personally I would’ve throttled her mother-in-law within a week - and she really had done everything that she could to make her marriage work. I liked the fact that she didn’t want to walk away from Dan completely; she just needed her life to change.
Carroll managed to make me understand that whilst Annie had to get away from her marriage, there was genuine love between her and Dan. I so wanted Dan to pull himself together and prove himself worthy of lovely Annie.
The setting of New York, whilst heavily used in chick lit novels, provided the perfect contrast to Annie’s married life in Ireland. I imagine Carroll had a wonderful time researching the novel; she certainly seemed to know plenty of lovely restaurants and touristy places to visit.
Annie’s friend Liz’s problems were dealt with very well: they’re important to the story and are dealt with realistically, but aren’t allowed to take over the book to the detriment of the reader’s involvement in Annie and Dan’s relationship.
‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’ kept me truly captivated. I thought Annie was beautifully written. Although Dan behaved terribly, the flashbacks to their earlier life together, as well as Annie’s own feelings, kept me longing for the couple to get back together, but only if Dan turned his behaviour around pretty sharpish. With an ending which I thought was completely lovely, ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’ was extremely good and is a book which I suspect I’ll re-read again and again.
4 and a half stars
"With only a few weeks to go until her Dublin wedding, Molly Jackson is happily anticipating married life with Declan, her boyfriend of four years. Her sister Laura has all the arrangements firmly in hand, from the designer dresses to the prestigious venue; and if Molly would have been happier with something a little more low-key, she can hardly complain. She's got everything she ever wanted: her perfect job, as an agony aunt for online magazine Teenage Kix; Declan, the love of her life; and, in Belle, Oliver, Rory and Laura, a loving and warm, if slightly eccentric family. Then Declan drops his bombshell: he has to go abroad, on business. The wedding must be postponed. Hurt, and reeling from the shock, Molly is seeing Declan off at the airport when she bumps into Luke Fortune. Luke, her childhood sweetheart, left the country when they were both eighteen. It's been almost twelve years, and Molly thought she had moved on. But, seeing Luke again, she realises that she has a window of opportunity, while Declan is away, to put a few of the ghosts in her past to rest."
Molly works in her dream profession, as an agony aunt for online magazine Teenage Kix, and is engaged to be married to Declan – it seems like her life is going along quite nicely. Then Declan gets a new job which requires him to go on a ten week induction course in Japan – their wedding will have to be cancelled but Declan doesn’t even try to explain to his bosses that he has something rather important going on. Molly is so hurt that she decides its best that they wait until after Declan comes back before they set a new date for their big day. Things go from bad to worse when Molly drops Declan off at the airport and spots her childhood sweetheart, Luke Fortune, a man with whom she’s got rather a lot of unfinished business. Will Molly hang around for Declan or is Luke a more attractive prospect?
As a lead, I think it would be impossible not to like Molly – she’s kind, clever and a good friend to her pal Ellen and even to her sister, who doesn’t necessarily always deserve it. I wasn’t completely convinced by Molly’s reasons for staying with her fiancé and as a pair they didn’t seem particularly suited or even very much in love; I wanted more for her than Declan.
Molly’s life, and in particular her career choice, has been affected by a traumatic event from her past, unfortunately I’m not sure that the author completely gets to grips with the sombre subject matter. On a similar note, I thought it a shame that Caddle doesn’t go into details about Ellen’s ex-boyfriend’s drug addiction. As Ellen was such a lovely character, I would have liked more about her background and what she’d been through which led to her being so reluctant to tell her ex that he’s going to be a dad.
I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamic of Molly’s family. These relatives were all very different but manage to rub along together well enough; with only a low level of pretty constant bickering. I wanted more of Molly’s brother Rory, a character who seemed that he’d have a lot to offer given the chance. I didn’t like Molly’s sister Laura and certainly didn’t approve of her actions but appreciated that she felt somewhat forced into them. Laura’s relationship with her children was extremely well-written.
You should never judge a book by its cover – a sentiment I’ve expressed before, which is just as well as I’m afraid I thought the cover of this novel was frankly bizarre. It features a beach, two deckchairs and a sunhat, but the story is based solely in rainy Ireland and not one of these objects make any sort of appearance, or is referred to, in the book.
‘Always on my Mind’ is Caddle’s eleventh novel and was a lovely story with some very likeable characters. It was an easy, enjoyable read which dealt with some deeper issues at times than your typical chick lit experience, although not in as much depth as I would have liked. It was the family relationships which really made the novel stand out for me and I’d happily read a follow-on starring Molly’s very entertaining relatives.
3 and a half stars
“Three ambitious, rivalrous sisters. And a deadly secret, which one of them is determined to keep buried at any cost ...Deeley is the fake wife of a Hollywood TV hunk, who is secretly gay. But Deeley's five-year contract is up, and his cut-throat publicist wants Deeley out. So, dejected and penniless, Deeley wends her way home to London, hoping to re-establish links with her two estranged elder sisters ...Devon is married to the nation's-favourite-rugby-hunk Matt, and has her own highly successful TV career, as the sexy hostess of her own cookery show. But behind her buxom facade, Devon is lonely and frustrated, and when a live celebrity cook-off shows her up as a fraud, she leaves sweet Matt and runs off to Tuscany, to learn a few lessons - not just in cookery - from an Italian master. Lastly, there's Maxie: a politician's wife, Maxie is fiercely ambitious. She's furious when Deeley, hard on her luck, sells the sisters' childhood story to a tabloid newspaper, revealing their impoverished roots and unsavoury parentage. The story undermines Maxie's carefully cultivated image, and the fallout threatens to be devastating. But Maxie is only too aware that there is much more Deeley could yet reveal. What murderous secret lies in the sisters' past? And just how far will Maxie go to keep it buried?”
Maxie, Devon and Deeley form our eponymous ‘Bad Sisters’, three siblings who are far from close, divided rather than bonded by a dreadful childhood secret. The trio follow very different paths: Maxie is an incredibly ambitious politician’s wife, Devon is a TV cook and Deeley lives in LA, paid to pretend to be the girlfriend of a very famous, and secretly gay, actor. However, when Deeley’s ‘boyfriend’s’ publicist decides that the time has come for her relationship to break up, Deeley returns to London - unsure what to do with her life and knowing no one apart from her sisters, neither of whom are especially keen to have her around. Maxie, in particular, is determined to ensure that her silly little sister never gives away any clue as to their terrible past, and to make mattes worse, Deeley soon falls madly in love with Devon’s rugby player husband.
Deeley was the most likeable of the women – she’s very sweet and tried hard to please, she hasn’t been as affected by wealth as her sisters. However, she also lacks their ambition - both a good and bad thing: without Devon’s vanity or Maxie’s cunning, she’s certainly a more pleasant person, but with the absence of their drive, her character has no real motivation in life.
I did enjoy reading about all three of the leading ladies, but there were points where some of the characters – such as Devon, in many ways a parody of Nigella Lawson, and the ex-public school boy Tory MPs - were such caricatures that it was a little off-putting; they just didn’t come across as ‘real’ enough to completely engage me.
I appreciate that no novel of this genre is going to be completely realistic – that’s surely the point, they’re pure escapism - however, particularly towards the end of the tale, I felt that the storyline was verging on ludicrous. The whole thing was completely improbable and the ending much too convenient. But having said this, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, and ended up staying awake far, far too late one night because I couldn’t bear to put it down – it was completely addictive reading.
‘Bad Sisters’ is a classic ‘bonkbuster’- it has it all: glamorous, wealthy characters, gorgeous settings, intrigue and lots and lots of sex! The story was compelling and the action was well-paced. Whilst I’d have liked a touch more realism and greater originality with the characterisation, the novel was great fun and would make an absolutely perfect beach read this summer.
3 and a half stars
“Thirty-five-year-old Samantha acts without thinking. Her heart is huge while her sense of purpose is small; she's willing to fight for those she loves, but she's never learned to fight for herself. Eighteen-year-old Melody is cold and calculating, and she's driven by the desire to better herself. As these compelling yet deeply flawed women battle for the affections of twenty-five-year-old Nathan, he becomes increasingly confused and torn between them. Nathan is Melody's English teacher, and after he saves her from being raped, she becomes attached. Melody longs for the affection she's never felt, so she involves people in her self-invented drama, making sure she is at once the star and the director. Meanwhile, Samantha is newly married to Nathan. But Samantha has hang-ups about motherhood and lingering feelings for her ex. To make sense of the world, Sam relates her life to the themes of her favorite movies, while she independently makes a documentary to jump-start her non-existent film career.”
Eighteen-year old student Melody and thirty-five year old Samantha have one very important thing in common – they both love the same man, Nathan Linden. Samantha is Nathan’s wife; a lovely person, but unfortunately one with a great many unresolved issues stemming from a bad relationship and being abandoned by her mother in her teens. She works in a movie rental store, but dreams of becoming a film-maker.
Melody is a student at the school where Nathan teaches. He saves her from being raped at a school dance and she attaches himself to him, determined to make him leave his wife and be with her. It seems she’ll stop at nothing to get her man.
The book started off well. I liked the two female leads and their situations, particularly Melody’s. However, as the novel went on, it seemed to lose something for me. I think this was mainly due to Samantha: she’s thirty-five but often acted far more immaturely than Melody; she’s pretty lacklustre about her film-making ambitions, and so as a reader, I was too; and as for her decision to help her friend Jane, it was made ridiculously quickly and with little logical thought by anyone involved.
I was surprised that Melody turned out to be my preferred character out of the leading ladies – I would have thought I’d have more in common with Samantha, and thus have greater empathy for her. Melody’s behaviour is pretty awful, but the author does a good job of making sure that her motives are clear and understood – such a good job in fact, that despite everything, I was still rooting for Melody at the end of the book. Melody longs for affection and for an escape from her home life; the only way she knows how to get what she wants is to follow the example of her horrible, conniving mother, even though Melody hates her mother and everything she stands for.
The quality of the writing was high and the book made easy, but consuming, reading. It definitely wasn’t the light, chick-lit experience that I was expecting – it dealt with some intense, dramatic subjects, and did so without frivolity. The characters were well developed and believable, unfortunately I just didn’t manage to ‘bond’ with Samantha. Overall I found ‘Starring in the Movie of My Life’ an interesting and thought-provoking read. Laurel Osterkamp is an author to watch.
3 and a half stars