Uncategorized

Peggy and Me. Miranda Hart

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Published: Hachette New Zealand
Date:  11th October 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 294
Genre: Memoir
Source:Thank you to Hachette NZ
Rating
           Add to Goodreads

For years Miranda viewed dog owners with some suspicion.  She was bored by the way they only talked about their pooches, alarmed by their light coating of dog hair and troubled by their apparent comfort around excrement. But that all changed when, nine years ago, Miranda met Peggy.  She was exceptionally cute (the dog), very smart (again, the dog) and they bonded from their first meeting.

Since then, Miranda’s life has had its ups and downs – when they first met there was no such thing as a sitcom Miranda – and she candidly charts this in the book. No one has been more surprised than Miranda herself that it’s been her wonder dog who has taught her the best life lessons, taken her on hilarious adventures and become her smart talking but utterly loyal and loveable best friend.

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Multi- talented, writer and actor, Miranda Hart has now written a book about herself and her experience of becoming a dog owner. In her own inimitable style she documents the sometimes rocky but always love-filled road with Peggy.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching some of the Miranda sitcom shows, and found while I was reading the book I had to go to You Tube to re-experience some of those very funny moments. 
Miranda Hart must be very tenacious, she already had this book written in 2013 and then lost it in a house burglary. Imagine the heart ache of losing something like that, hour upon hour of work. But… she began again and here we have the chronicles of Peggy and herself.
Miranda began out unsure of whether she wanted to be a dog owner, but nine years on, she totally loves Peggy and dreads the day that all pet owners face, the day their beloved pet dies. However Peggy is still very much alive and bringing much joy to Miranda.  I would love to see Miranda Hart in a debate for Dog versus Cat. She would of course take the dogs are best side of the argument and would be very convincing and funny. Cat owners you would have a very difficult time putting your side across!
I laughed out loud so many times while reading this book. Mostly something funny would come out of the blue and I would just find a chuckle escaping. I cannot believe the escapades Miranda found herself in, along with poor Peggy who just sometimes had to put her paw over her eyes!
When Miranda first obtains Peggy, she is still unknown – (Miranda that is), and it is in the following years that she becomes more of a well known name for her comedy and acting in both Miranda and Call the Midwives.  She shares with us her vulnerabilities, her worries, her joys. Along the way with Peggy she learns and grows and becomes a bit of a philosopher as well.
I am not a pet owner – for the very reasons of some of the ‘disasters’ that Miranda details in her book, and  she is a braver woman than I. However I love the bond that she forms with Peggy and I do get the joy that pets can bring. 
Full of great humour, personal sharing and lessons about life, I found Peggy and Me  a really enjoyable read. Also loved the little illustrations sprinkled throughout by Jenny Meldrum, totally adorable.
Furry Fun
Review

Two by Two. Nicholas Sparks.

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Published: Hachette NZ
Date: 4th October 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 482
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Thanks to Hachette NZ
Rating
4.5 stars               Add to Goodreads

Russell Greene has it all: a stunning wife, a a lovable six year old daughter, a successful career as and advertising executive.  But underneath his seemingly perfect world, cracks are beginning to appear…. and no one is more surprised than Russ when the lfie he took for granted is turned upside down.

Finding himself single handedly caring for his young daughter, while trying to launch is own business, the only thing Russ knows is that he must shelter his little girl from the consequences of these changes.

A chance encounter with an old flame tempts him to take a chance on love again, and with the loyal support of his parents and his wise older sister Russ will finally come to understand the true nature of unconditional love.

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While it is many years since I read a book by Nicholas Sparks, I am very happy to have picked up Two by Two, it kept me reading into the night until I had finished it.
It is narrated by Russell – husband to Vivian and father of London. He is a wonderful father, but somehow his relationship with Vivian has been in a bit of free fall, without his awareness. He is a romantic, a people pleaser – he is always trying to give her what she wants and has started to fail miserably. It seems he is never going to win. There is tension galore.
Vivian is a character I didn’t like – and that’s putting it mildly. We never hear her point of view, but what she says and does and what others observe, rounds her out somewhat. She seems irresponsible to me and really selfish.  I got annoyed with Russ for not standing up to her more, in a way he enables her in her ways, always believing in the love he has for her.
This is a book about fatherhood, both Russell’s own Dad and his pleasure in his own daughter, London. He has delighted in everything about her since birth, and when Vivian goes back to work, his more hands on parenting is heartwarming. Its a beautiful relationship to watch.
Russ has a sister Marge, who has a partner Liz and both are very much part of the the family. Russ has an excellent relationship with Marge, they have shared much and Marge is often that friend and voice of wisdom and love. 
As well there is Emily, a woman who Russ loved at one time, now divorced with a son that London has become friends with.  Russ and Emily slowly renew their friendship as their children’s lives touch. 
Russ has some rather tough things thrown at him, however he doesn’t crumble, because he has a strength within that helps him to keep putting one step in front of the other, and also placing other people first. He is able to listen and take on board the support and advice he is given. One step at a time when things just keep getting worse he moves through it.
There is sadness and loss, big loss (this is a Nicholas Sparks novel after all) but it is balanced by the love of family and friends and renewed love.  The power of two by two, rather than descending into loneliness.
While I found it sad, it was also very uplifting and I don’t hesitate to recommend it as worthwhile reading. Go get it.

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Review

Apprentice in Death. J. D. Robb

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Published: Hachette NZ
Date: 6th September 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 375
Genre: Crime
Source: Thanks to Hachette NZ
Rating:
                           Add to Goodreads

The shots came quickly, silently, and with deadly accuracy. Within seconds, three people were dead at Central Park’s ice skating rink. There’s a sniper loose on the streets of New York City, and Lieutenant Eve Dallas is about to face one of the toughest and most unsettling cases of her career.

Eve knows tha tonly a handfuul of people could have carried out such an audacious but professional hit. Even more disturbing: this expert in death has an accomplice. Someone is being trained in the science of killing – and they have a terrifying agenda of their own. With a city shaken to its core, Eve and her team are forced to hunt not one but two killers. Worse still – the talented young apprentice has developed an insatiable taste for murder….

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In #43 of the In Death series we find Eve and her team dealing with a long range laser rifle murderer. The book opens with a chilling killing at a ice skating rink. Soon Eve is asking why, who was the target among those who are dead and where did the shots come from?  And knowing Eve we know she is going to hunt down the answers and the murderer. However will she do it before that laser rifle is used again?
The story is all the more chilling because of the shootings we have seen on our TV screens in our world of today. In this science fiction story there is a deadly killer at work. It turns out it is an apprentice, and Eve is thrown into thinking about her own teachers and those she has mentored. However there is good and bad in the world and there is choice. Some choose to learn to foster good and some are so twisted and evil. 
With ruthlessness and objectivity Eve follows up on every detail, ready to put her own body on the line when necessary. She has her usual team there for support – especially Peabody and Roarke. She sets traps, makes wily use of some of her friends… and of course she gets her target. In a way it is formulaic, but each time it is clever and entertaining as we watch Eve at work.
I enjoyed seeing Eve being really aware of how important friendships have become for her, and when some of them are put in a little jeopardy it cuts to her heart. I also loved how the development of her new office at home rounds out and the continuing love of Roarke.
A little light relief is provided by little one year old Bella who totally adores her birthday gift from Eve and Roarke and who shows even as a one year old the goodness that can abide in a heart, in contrast to the deadly killer. 
Ah yes, J. D. Robb does it again.
crimekick ass heroinepage turneraction packed
Uncategorized

The Joyce Girl. Annabel Abbs

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Published:Hachette NZ
Date: 30th August 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 358
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Thank you to Hachette NZ
Rating:
4 stars                Add to Goodreads

Paris, 1928. Avant-garde Paris is buzzing with the latest ideas in art, music and literature from artists such as Ford Madox Ford and Zelda Fitzgerald. Lucia, the talented and ambitious daughter of controversial genius James Joyce, is making her name as a dancer. But when Lucia falls passionately in love with budding writer (and fellow Irish expat) Samuel Beckett he is banned from the Joyce family home.

Her life in tatters, Lucia is sent to pioneering psychoanalyst Carl Jung. For years she has kept quiet. Now she decides to speak.

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The Joyce Girl is a historical novel, written with imagination and based on fact. It has been well researched by the author and it provides insight into the life of Lucia Joyce in a very accessible way.
I chose to read it not because I was drawn by the writing of James Joyce her father! I’m afraid his writing is inaccessible to me and I have no desire to labour long and hard to try to access it. I was drawn by the name Samuel Beckett because as an undergraduate we studied his play Waiting for Godot and I watched it dramatised on stage. I have never had the urge to return to it!
In this book we have the story told through the eyes of Lucia. We see her family life and how she is somehow tied to her parent’s apron strings, not allowed to be independent, bonded with her father but in a somewhat odd way. Her mother does not warm to her and spends her time coddling Lucia’s brother Giorgio. From the outside looking in, Joyce may have been a genius, but family life looked to me to be rather dysfunctional.
The book moves between 1928 Paris and 1934 Zurich. In Paris we witness Lucia living with her family, dancing and being entranced by Samuel Beckett. Fast forward to 1934 where life has obviously taken a turn for the worse and she lives in an asylum and is being psychoanalysed by Jung.
This is a sad story – Lucia a talented and gifted woman, controlled by her family in so many ways. Her descent into illness is not surprising given what she had to put up with.
This is extremely well written, and explores the life of one family’s secrets. and how that affected Lucia in particular. While she longs for love, acceptance and independence it is denied her.
Review

The Angels’ Share J. R. Ward

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Published: Hachette NZ
Date: July 26th 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 414
Genre: Fiction
Source: Thanks to Hachette NZ
Rating:
5 stars                    Add to Goodreads

Charlemont, Kentucky, the Bradford family is the crème de la crème of high society—just like their exclusive brand of bourbon. And their complicated lives and vast estate are run by a discrete staff who inevitably become embroiled in their affairs. This is especially true now, when the apparent suicide of the family patriarch is starting to look more and more like murder…

No one is above suspicion—especially the eldest Bradford son, Edward. The bad blood between him and his father is known far and wide, and he is aware that he could be named a suspect. As the investigation into the death intensifies, he keeps himself busy at the bottom of a bottle—as well as with his former horse trainer’s daughter. Meanwhile, the family’s financial future lies in the perfectly manicured hands of a business rival, a woman who wants Edward all to herself.

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I couldn’t wait to find out all the scandal that has gone on since last year’s book The Bourbon Kings. Of course I had to wait! A whole year, but it has passed and I eagerly began this book. I might even have peeked at the end – although it didn’t tell me that much. This is a book that you have to read every line because you just might miss something of one of the characters evolving story.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips says of The Bourbon Kings….
   “The drama and dark secrets behind the Bradford family’s empire propel this irresistible story of high-society scandal…. a read that’s rich, smooth and satisfying as a a glass of Kentucky bourbon”

The same can be said for The Angels’ Share. The story takes up straight away from the previous book and jumps right in to the death of of William Wyatt Baldwine, the outstandingly horrible father and instigator of the downward spiral of the family bourbon company. Over a week or so there is much that happens that I loved and … also wanted to shout “Nooooooooo……………”

Lane the youngest son steps up and really develops, helped by his beloved Lizzie. Max the oldest brother returns, but he is still very much a shadowy figure. Edward develops in ways I wanted so much but still my heart wants so much more for him.  Gina goes ahead with her plan to ensure she is not destitute… and yet she too begins  to awaken. They have all been so wounded by the shocking deeds of their father.

J. R. Ward says in the forward words I loved….
   ” As the heat and cold of our experiences, our destinies, expand and contract our emotions, our thoughts, our memories, we are, like fine bourbon, a different product at the end – and there is a sacrifice involved. We are made of the same core elements we were first constructed of , but we are never the same afterward. We are permanently altered. If we are lucky and we are smart and we are freed at the right time, we are improved. If we are aged too long, we are ruined. Timing, like fate, is everything.

While there is a satisfying conclusion to the book I do so hope we are going to get at least one if not more in this very engaging contemporary family drama. Yes that is what it is. If you thought this is a paranormal … no its not. Don’t worry though, you are not alone, I did see the first one on the paranormal book shelf in a local book store!

Review

I’m Still Here. Clelie Avit

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Published: Hachette NZ
Date:  12th July 2016
Format: ARC Paperback
Pages: 230
Genre: Fiction
Source:Thanks to Hachette NZ
Rating:
4 stars                         Add to Goodreads

Elsa has been in a coma for five months. With all hope of reviving her gone, her family and doctors are having to face the devastating fact that it might be time to turn off her life support… They don’t realise that in the past few weeks Elsa has regained partial consciousness; she knows where she is and can hear everyone talking around her bed, but she has no way of telling them she’s there.

Thibault is in the same hospital visiting his brother, a drunk driver responsible for the deaths of two teenage girls. Thibault’s emotions are in turmoil and, needing a retreat, he finds his way into Elsa’s room. Seeing her lying there so peacefully, he finds it hard to believe she is not just sleeping.

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I’m Still Here was first published in French and has now been translated into English. It is beautifully written and the story engaged me all the way through. Imagine being in a coma and being able to hear but not to be able to move anything or communicate with the outside world. Worse really than being in solitary confinement, especially as you listen to medical staff informing your family that nothing can be done, that they ought to sanction all the machines to be turned off and let you go.
The story is alternately told from two points of view. It starts with Elsa and then chapter by chapter rotates with Thibault.  When Thibault accidentally finds himself in Elsa’s room he sees it as a kind of refuge. But soon he is intrigued by this girl and he talks to her in a way that no one else has. While this part could be a little far fetched the beauty of Elsa and Thibault had me totally believing!  Elsa looks forward to Thibault’s visits, and her body responds in little but unmarked ways. She wants to wake, she wants to open her eyes, but can she? 
Thibault has issues with his brother a few doors down in the hospital – while driving drunk he has had an accident and killed two girls. Thibault cannot forgive him, does not want to visit him. This is how he has ventured into Elsa’s room, avoiding his brother. How will all that play out?
Thibault has a married couple who are his very good friends. He is about to become the godfather of the little one and he loves her. He has always wanted children and his heart is so open to them. 
How does all this end? Well I am not giving it away. Let’s just say that I was on team Thibault and up until the very end was unsure how it would all end.  If you have the chance, reach for this book, it won’t take long to read, and I am sure you’ll become totally charmed too.
new to me authorthought provokingpage turnerwell written
Uncategorized

Florence Grace. Tracy Rees

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Published: Quercus and Hachette NZ
Date: 28th June 2016
Format: ARC Paperback
Pages: 538
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Thanks to Hachette NZ
Rating:
4.5 stars                   Add to Goodreads

Florrie Buckley is an orphan, living on the wind-blasted moors of Cornwall. It’s a hard existence but Florrie is content; she runs wild in the mysterious landscape. She thinks her destiny is set in stone.

But when Florrie is fourteen, she inherits a never-imagined secret. She is related to a wealthy and notorious London family, the Graces. Overnight, Florrie’s life changes and she moves from country to city, from poverty to wealth.<

Cut off from everyone she has ever known, Florrie struggles to learn the rules of this strange new world. And then she must try to fathom her destructive pull towards the enigmatic and troubled Turlington Grace, a man with many dark secrets of his own.

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Following on the heels of last year’s Amy Snow,  Tracy Rees has written Florence Grace. I really enjoyed Amy Snow, although given a choice I do believe this is the one I would want to reread in the future.  Florence – the heroine of the story is a spirited young woman, she takes the knocks that come her way and remains standing – in herself.
We first meet her in Cornwall, the place she loves. Already she has learned about love and friendship from her Nan, her teacher and the wise old woman Rilla. When she is scooped up and taken to London she is totally out of her depth. Isn’t it a dream to finally find you belong to a rich family? Well, it depends on what they are like! This one – ruled by an iron fist of a wily old patriarch,  it is rather a dark place. And the city is so foreign to Florence with her love of being outdoors and in nature.
She is treated quite cruelly really and yet… is not broken. She makes a friend with a young woman – Rebecca who while being a great friend has some wisdom that Florence thinks about and acts on. She also befriends one of the family who is totally disregarded by the rest of the family, relates well to Sanderson one of her cousins and falls in love with Turlington her other cousin. However Turlington is a dark character, deeply wounded by his past and perhaps in spite of loving and being loved is somehow incapable of redemption. Together they befriend a young boy – Jacob, someone who has a wounded past as well. What will become of him?
The story underlined the importance of life and that it is what we make of it. Each of us is important, yet we have that amazing ability to choose how we live it. We can be dragged down or … we can stand  with spirit and live this amazing life fully. Each character makes those choices and many of them were heart warming. Kindness never goes amiss.
I loved the descriptions of nature, Tracy Rees has a gift for bringing the countryside alive and as well taking me away to Victorian England with the riches and poverty of that time. It was totally worth reading and I know one day I will want to return and pick it up again.
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Review

The Obsession. Nora Roberts

book cover of The Obsession

Published: Hachette NZ
Date: 12 April 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 453
Genre:Romantic Suspense
Source: Thanks to Hachette NZ
Rating:
4.5 stars             Add to Goodreads

Naomi Carson is a survivor. As a child, her family was torn apart by a shocking crime. It could have destroyed her, but Naomi has grown up strong, with a passion for photography that has taken her all around the world.

Now, at last, she has decided to put down roots. The beautiful old house on Point Bluff needs work, but Naomi has new friends in town who are willing to help, including Xander Keaton – gorgeous, infuriating and determined to win her heart.

But as Naomi plans for the future, her past is catching up with her. Someone in town knows her terrifying secret – and won’t let her forget it. As her new home is rocked by violence, Naomi must discover her persecutor’s identity, before it’s too late.

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Again with The Obsession  Nora Roberts has aced another book out of the park. Once I started it I didn’t want to stop. It begins with a ghastly crime, that Naomi – the heroine, comes upon by accident and curiosity.  She is only twelve years old. She and her brother go to live with her uncle Seth and his partner Harry, who surround them with love and give them the security they need.
Now Naomi is settling down into one place in the Washington State, she has fallen in love with an old house, in need of renovation. As the story progresses we hear about the renovation, and as a reader I really enjoy a good renovation! The house sounds totally gorgeous.  Naomi is adopted by a stray dog – she names him Tag because he insists on tagging along. 
Zander is a local car mechanic, plays in a band, and before long he is making a move on Naomi. Along with him, his friend Kevin and wife Jenny become good friends. Naomi does what she loves best, photography. She soon finds oodles of things to photograph, not least of all the hot men working on her renovation!
Everything goes along so well, until…. A killer is in the midst of the town, and the crime has such a similarity to the one that Naomi walked in on years back – there just has to be a link. Mason turns up, everyone is on the look out, but will they find the killer before he gets to Naomi? For once I knew who the killer was from the start of the second spate of crimes, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book and seeing it out to the final denouement.
Classic Nora Roberts!
Review

Under Italian Skies. Nicky Pellegrino

Under Italian Skies book cover

Published: Hachette NZ
Date: 12th April 2016
Format: Paperback ARC
Pages: 287
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Thanks to Hachette NZ
Rating:
4.5 stars                           Add to Goodreads

Stella has life under control – and that’s the way she likes it. For twenty-five years, she’s been trusted assistant to a legendary fashion designer, but after her boss dies suddenly, she’s left with nothing to do apart from clear the studio.

It seems as though the life she wanted has vanished. She is lost – until one day she finds a house swap website and sees a beautiful old villa in a southern Italian village. Could she really exchange her poky London flat for that?

But what was intended as just a break becomes much more, as Stella finds herself trying on a stranger’s life. As the villa begins to get under her skin, she can’t help but imagine the owner from the clues around her. She meets his friends, cooks the local food he recommends and follows suggestions to go to his favourite places. But can an idea of someone ever match up to the reality?

As Stella wonders if she can let go of the safety of her past, perhaps there’s a chance for her to find a way into her future…

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Under Italian Skies – another wonderful read from talented author Nicky Pellegrino. This book transports you to a small place in Italy, and wraps you round with the Italian way of life that has nothing to do with a touristy view.
Stella house swaps and finds herself in the small town of Triento in a villa perched atop a steep hillside.  Her life as she has known it has finished, and she is unsure of where it will lead next. She is willing to take a risk, step out of her comfort zone and do something different. This time in Italy is like a time in a cocoon for her, and what will emerge at the end of it is something completely new. 
Stella is a kind of a catalyst for some of the local people she befriends in this place. There is Tosca – an older woman with some experience of being a movie star, a bit of a diva, but with a sadness within. Then there is Raphaela who owns a trattoria, for whom food is her way of life, yet she still mourns her departed and beloved husband. Raphaela and Tosca have been life long friends and know how to ‘manage’ each other. 
Francesca is the woman that runs the linen shop in the village. She is an interesting character – somewhat manipulative, but as her story unfolds I have to say I found some sympathy for her.  Then there of course is Leo – the man Stella is house swapping with. They begin to build a relationship with each other through email. Leo has left Stella with a way of exploring the local area that is utterly charming.
If you are a food lover this book is for you. I’m not, but it still didn’t prevent my envying the richness of the love of food and family this book portrays. The passion that a true cook brings to their meal preparation  had my mouth watering many a time.
I loved the characters, many of them dealing with the issues of living and supporting each other with friendship and love. I gave a sigh of disappointment as I turned the page – and found there was no more. Always the sign that a book and its characters have really connected with me.
delish book iconwell written book iconwomen's fiction book iconcover love book icon
About the author: When Nicky Pellegrino’s Italian father fell in love with and married a Liverpool girl, he shared what all Italians know – that you live to eat instead of eating to live. This mantra is the inspiration behind Nicky’s delicious novels. Nicky hoards her holiday time so that she and her husband can return to Italy to meet up with family, eat the best mozzarella and research her books. She now lives in Auckland, New Zealand.
Web:       Nicky Pellegrino
Review

The Song of the Skylark Erica James

Song of the Skylark book cover

Published:Hachette NZ
Date: 8th March
Format: Paperback
Pages: 386
Genre:Blended Historical/Contemporary
Source: Thank you to Hachette NZ
Rating:
5 stars              Add to Goodreads

Lizzie has always had an unfortunate knack of attracting bad luck, but this time she’s hit the jackpot. Losing her heart to her boss leads to her losing her job, and with no money in the bank, Lizzie finds herself forced to move back home with her parents. When she reluctantly takes a voluntary job, she meets Mrs Dallimore, a seemingly ordinary elderly woman with an astonishing past . . .

Now in her nineties, Mrs Dallimore is also reluctantly coming to terms with her situation. Old age is finally catching up with her. As she and Lizzie form the bond of unexpected friendship, Mrs Dallimore tells the story of a young girl who left America before the outbreak of World War Two and, in crossing an ocean, found herself embarking on a new life she couldn’t have imagined.

As Lizzie listens to Mrs Dallimore, she begins to realise that she’s not the only person to attract bad luck, or make mistakes, and maybe things aren’t so bad for her after all . . .

My thoughts banner
I have never read a Erica James book before. Where have I been she has not entered my radar! Well she has hit it now, I loved The Song of the Skylark and I look forward to catching up with some of her other books.
The Song of the Skylark is the story of Lizzie – present day and Clarissa Dallimore – from the 30’s and 40’s. Lizzie has lost her job due to an unfortunate love affair and she pays for it. At first I didn’t really like Lizzie, but as the story went on I came to enjoy her and eventually she found a place in my heart. She has a twin brother Luke and her parents. Luke is married to Ingrid and they have a son Freddie. Family dynamics are in play throughout the book and added to its richness.
Clarissa is the other main character, she is now an old woman that Lizzie meets when she goes to volunteer at a rest home. A friendship springs up and Lizzie eggs Clarissa on to share her story with her. It is a fascinating one and highlights the fact that when you witness an elderly person there is a life’s experience behind that elderly face. In Clarissa’s case it has been a rich and rewarding one, but one very much filled with heartache as well as happy times.  
The friendship with Clarissa is wonderful for Lizzie and she grows and develops in this volunteer situation, and Clarissa is not above a little match making for Lizzie with Jed the new gardner. 
While the story is narrated mostly from Lizzie’s and Clarissa’s point of view, there are well placed chapters that gives us a little insight to some of the other members of Lizzie’s family.
I was swept away to another country and time in this novel and by the time it finished I was so sad to see my time with these people had come to an end.