Book Review: The Vine Witch by Luanne G Smith

The Vine Witch (Vine Witch, #1)The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story is set in France in the early days of the motor car. The story opens with Elena, having been cursed by a wicked spell, in the form of a toad. She has spent a few years languishing in a stinking swamp, using her magical knowledge and power to regain her normal, witchly form. She walks back to her home vineyard to be welcomed by her Grand-Mèr, who brought her up after she was orphaned.

In these days, there are witches to help their mortal friends to be better at everything they do: wine fermentation, brewing of beers, baking of fine pastries, production of magical perfumes, to name a few. There are huge rivalries involved, some of which are quite deadly. Why can’t the vine witches collaborate for the success of the whole region rather than battle, valley against valley, vineyard against vineyard? Because, without those vicious conflicts, there would be no story.

There is plenty of high tension. There are lots of twists and turns. I was continually wondering how Elena was ever going to get out of a very challenging, life-threatening situation only to be delighted by the creative magical device or guileful ploy that secures her escape. Right to the very end, there are unexpected twists.

I was left wondering if Luanne Smith is, herself, a witch. She certainly appears to have great knowledge of witchcraft, which she imparts with great integrity. I wouldn’t risk crossing her for fear of the consequences.

I recommend this book. It kept me gripped from beginning to end and was thoroughly entertaining.

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Book Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Harold Fry, #1)The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The title of this book is very apt. Harold’s journey could hardly be more unlikely and it is certainly a pilgrimage. Even he doesn’t realise, when he leaves his house wearing deck shoes and inappropriate clothing, that he is embarking on the longest walk of his life.

The young lady in the local garage inspires him to set off on his journey from Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed, almost the entire length of England, in the belief that his long walk will motivate a lnog-lost work colleague and friend to survive her terminal cancer.

During Harold’s journey, he encounters many interesting people, who influence and help him along the way. He also finds time to reflect on his own life and the lives of the people who have been closest to him. Particularly his wife and son. There is tragedy and comedy, tears and laughter. The revelations and the life-changes are ceaseless, right up to the final page.

I recommend this to all of my friends and to reading groups. There are enough discussion points, open to individual interpretation, to keep any reviewing group chatting for many hours.

I enjoyed my journey with Harold.

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Lance Greenfield chats with Eloise De Sousa

Introduction

Eloise Space Dust

Eloise De Sousa

Today, it is my great pleasure to welcome Eloise De Sousa for my first author interview on this blog. Eloise is a writer of children’s fiction, adult crime fiction and poetry.

Working in the library at the local primary school gives Eloise the opportunity to inspire the children to read and write, which she does in abundance. She is a fascinating person and I hope that you enjoy her revelations in the following discussion as much as I did when I heard her answers to my questions first hand.


Interview

Lance: What was your favourite subject at school and which was the lesson you always wanted to avoid?

Eloise: I loved science because you never knew what to expect from the teacher. He had a tendency to throw blackboard dusters as the girls dozing off in class, leaving white squares where the deadly duster kiss struck. There weren’t any lessons I truly wanted to avoid unless my homework wasn’t done. Then, of course, there was extra incentive to avoid that lesson at all costs!

Lance: Talking about yourself, how would you finish the sentence “Not a lot of people know . . .”?

Eloise: . . . that I once abseiled down a hotel building to raise money for Arthritis research. The gentlemen running the event were part of the South East Berkshire Emergency Volunteers and encouraged me to join their team of volunteers which I did. I was part of the search and rescue team for a few years.

Lance: Where is your favourite place on earth — and why?

Vumba Mountains - credit Mark Taber

Vumba Mountains – photo credit: Mark Taber

Eloise: It’s a place in Zimbabwe called Vumba. Exotic plants decorated with moss covered vines dangle like Tarzan ropes and secret pathways lead to a hidden waterfall where the birds sing their lullabies to the sun. There’s nothing to do but immerse yourself in all the natural beauty and whenever I feel stressed, that’s where I go in my mind.

Lance: How do you relax?

Eloise: I retreat to my proverbial cave (in my mind), shove a rock across the entrance and sip tequila in the silence. Very therapeutic. If that doesn’t work, a dog walk will suffice.

Lance: If you knew you only had 24 hours left, how would you spend them?

Eloise: That’s a tough question. It’s depends on where I am and who I’m with. The dream would be to spend it with my family but life is never simple or forgiving. Whatever I’m doing or wherever I am, I just hope I’m making a difference to someone else’s life.

Lance: If you were a car, what type would you be — and why?

Eloise: Probably a Jeep. I’m tough, I love going off the beaten track and you can rely on me.

Lance: Watch a film, go to the theatre, read a book or talk to friends — which would you prefer?

Eloise: I prefer them all! It’s who I am with that makes it special.

Lance: If you could take part in one television programme, which one would it be?

Eloise: Bear Gryls’s The Island on Channel 4. Twelve strangers are dropped on a deserted island for a month. They have to survive the elements and each other but there’s a lovely twist – up to £100,000 is dropped onto different parts of the island for the adventurers to find and keep. It has all the elements to stimulate great writing and challenge myself.

space-dust-finalLance: Finally, since this is a special trip for Space Dust, please tell me something about your latest book.

Eloise: Space Dust is my fifth published children’s book and, as with all my books, targets an issue experienced by children. My other books focus on bullying whereas Space Dust deals with separation and support for young children with parents who have hectic schedules. I hope that families get to enjoy the story which highlights the importance of a family support system.

Lance: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today, Eloise. I am sure that my blog foloowers will be as interested as I have been by your answers. I hope that they will take the time to look at my review of Space Dust and go on toobtain copies to share with their families. My grandchildren certeinly enjoyed it.

Eloise: Thank you for hosting me today Lance, and for the fun questions which I enjoyed answering.


Link to Space  Dust on Amazon
Link to Eloise’s website and blog.


 

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Book Review: Counterfeit by Elizabeth Ducie

Counterfeit! (Suzanne Jones, #1)Counterfeit! by Elizabeth Ducie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a well-crafted and very believable tale of deceit and intrigue. The pace is good and is maintained throughout. I love the characters, who continue to reveal hidden secrets from first to last. As Suzanne seeks the truth, she, and the reader, wonder whom she can trust and whom she cannot. There are plenty of surprises.

I enjoyed the whole story and the conclusion, which leaves itself open to many possible paths for the next instalment.

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Film Review: Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey 02Downton Abbey is a very enjoyable, comfortable ride in movieland. Although the scenery, costumes, sets and acting are all superb, of the highest quality, this film is not a classic period drama. I would classify it as a period comedy. The single dramatic scene is very predictable. The hilarious, comedic quips that are littered throughout the script are not. In the 122 minutes that the film was running, there were at least twenty moments where the whole audience were laughing out loud. Dame Maggie Smith, in her role as the Dowager Countess in particular, is fed some great lines. But the laughs are liberally spread around the other characters.

Downton Abbey 01There is brilliant pathos, portrayed by Kevin Doyle as Mister Molesley, who is continually close to fainting at the very thought of serving their Majesties, King George V and Queen Mary.

I loved the stiffness, which was bound to meet its comeuppance, of David Haig as Mister Wilson, who informs the staff of Downton that he is “the Royal Page of the Backstairs.”

All of the staff and the characters are wonderful, as is the acting.

The plot and sub-plots are all very predictable, but that doesn’t spoil the enjoyment. My experience was two hours of top quality entertainment.

There was a marvellous taste of things to come came early on in the film, when the family are informed by the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) that the King and Queen were coming to stay. The following exchange between Lady Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) and Isobel Merton (Penelope Wilton) ensues.

Isobel: “Will you have enough clichés to get you through the visit?”
Violet: “If not, I’ll come to you.”

I highly recommend this film as two hours of comfortable, comedic entertainment with plenty of style and panache.

My rating: Four stars [out of five]

As an aside, I have run in the Highclere 10k race a few times. The route is around Highclere Castle estate, where much of the outdoor filming was done. I remember running along the driveway that is much-featured in the film.

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Book Review – Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter A Levine

Waking the Tiger: Healing TraumaWaking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter A. Levine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There was much in this book that resonated with me. Some of my personal life experiences, good as well as bad, run in parallel to the case studies that Levine cites.

He examines trauma in great detail and talks about animal reactions to danger: the commonly discussed fight or flight and the less discussed freeze. You may have seen this in wildlife documentaries or even have witnessed it for yourself. When a prey is chased and caught by a scary predator, it might freeze and ‘play dead’. The predator is momentarily caught off guard and becomes complacent. The prey springs into life and makes a dash for freedom. Occasionally, that sub-consciously triggered tactic is successful.

The author goes on to talk about addressing the balance between the psychological and physiological treatments of the effects of trauma, which may be long-buried in the body and mind. In his book, Peter Levine has convinced me that western society places far too much emphasis on the psychological side of the equation.

There are many case studies, perhaps too many, in this book. Levine’s experience shines through. He talks about the use of somatic experience as a way of breaking down the barriers that stand in the way of escaping from the trauma that exists because the event that led to the trauma in the first place was never seen trough to completion. It is much more than re-enactment. You’ll have to read the book to find out more.

I practiced the exercises that Levine describes. Some of them made me quite emotional. I am an emotional man anyway, so it didn’t take too much. The instructions were to write down everything that is felt. He talks about the ‘felt sense.’ Although they inspired a plethora of words, spinning around inside my head, not all of them made it to the page. However, I wrote two or three good poems as a result of working through the exercises.

I am grateful to my friend, Bridget Holding, for recommending this book to me and to Peter Levine for informing me and for making think.

The only downside of this book is that the points are laboured far too long. I was getting the messages and understanding them very early on but I had to trudge through treacle to get to the next chapter. It became a bit boring at times.

Having said that, I would recommend Waking the Tiger to everyone. It will give you some good insights. My top tip is, once you’ve got the message from a chapter, skip to the next. You will save valuable, never-to-be-repeated, minutes of your life.
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Book Review: Space Dust by Eloise De Sousa

Space DustSpace Dust by Eloise De Sousa

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a delightful little story with massive appeal to the 4-11 year-old age group. You will enjoy reading the adventures of Big Ox and Little One to your youngsters. As they learn to read, I am sure that they will enjoy reading the story back to you.

The beginning of the story is rather sad. Little One’s mummy has left the house without any explanation or “Goodbye.” Understandably, Little One is upset but Big Ox soon comes up with a scheme to pick them both up. He invites Little One to travel into space in his special canoe which he paddles with is “absolute favourite spoon.”

They visit Venus, calling out to Little One’s mummy along the way. Maybe they’ll find her. Maybe they won’t. But they’ll see lots along the way and much silliness is guaranteed.

The book is beautifully illustrated by the author. I liked the rhythm and the rhyme and the flow. You’ll almost be able to sing your way through the story with your children or grandchildren and I am sure that you will all be as happy as Little One when it’s time for bed.

Having enjoyed Space Dust, I am left excited at the prospect that the story leaves me anticipating the pair’s next adventure. There is much promise of a lot more to come. I can’t wait!
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