Chick Books

Chick Books

Hi! I'm Fiona and these are the books I have reviewed to date.

Chick Lit (or should that be Clit Lit!
Tall Poppies by Louise Bagshawe
The Holiday by Erica James

Spirit & Mind Books
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
The Tenth Insight by James Redfield
Shambhala by James Redfield
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Click on the titles above to go to the review

Tall Poppies by Louise Bagshawe

TALL POPPIES
Phew! Even though I was lying in the shade I was getting hot. I glanced at my near naked body glistening with oil as I quickly turned another page of my book. "Her legs gave way dizzy with pleasure ... like a tidal wave rearing up ..." Phew again! I ran into the sea for a cooling swim before my own wave crashed, exploded or whatever.

Tall Poppies by Louise Bagshawe is definitely my kind of holiday reading.

Now I can see some supercilious book types looking down their haughty noses and sniggering at this, but I don't care. What I want on holiday is escapism, vitality, beautiful people and, well, sex. You can keep your stuffy books that have won some obscure prize or need deep contemplation to see if the author may perhaps, possibly, have hidden some meaningful message between the pages. I may give them a look at some other time, but not on holiday.

Tall Poppies starts as it means to go on. "No! Stop it, we can't do this! ... she could see the outline of his ..." So you know straightaway what you are going to get from reading this book - as indeed do the two leading girls! For this is girl power, girls on top so to speak (and every other way).

The two main characters, the heroines if you like, are Nina Roth and Elizabeth Savage. So lets have a big hurray for them, even though they don't like each other for well over three quarters of the story. Well they wouldn't because they are from such differing backgrounds. And there's another reason. When they meet up Nina is, erm, regularly straddling Elizabeth's father. Not exactly the basis for forming a friendship. Oh yes, nearly forgot, we should have had a boo when I mentioned Elizabeth's father. He's the baddy.

When reading a Bagshawe blockbuster it's necessary to suspend the real world because amazing things happen through coincidences, luck and so on. Everything falls into place and works out right for our two girls - or does it?

Lets look at Nina. She's a poor Jewish girl born in Brooklyn to a drunk of a mother and a dad who is 'fat, squalid and a major armchair jock'. Not exactly a good start. When we meet her first she's got a boyfriend and gets herself pregnant (her boyfriend helped with this as well). Silly girl, but what can you expect if your only form of contraception is antiseptic douches. So she leaves home, gets a job in a health shop, loses her baby, and then amazing things happen. Before the bat of an eyelid she's a major player at Dragon plc (an Anglo-American 'health' company) in London and still a mere babe. But she does have alabasta skin and black cherry nipples which no doubt contribute to her success.

Now Elizabeth Savage, she's actually Lady Elizabeth, is the daughter of the 13th Earl of Caerhaven (boo!) who owns, you've guessed it, Dragon plc. Liz is packed off to school in Switzerland for being a bit rebellious and 'her curves become high and tight, her legs powerful'. She's also got ever hardening nipples - and not just because it's cold!

Elizabeth takes up skiing, while still at school, and before yet another bat of an eyelid she's World Champion and what's more she's British by gad! I did say you have to suspend the real world when reading this book.

I'm not going to give away the plot but it's pretty obvious that Nina and Elizabeth meet up through their link with Dragon plc and Elizabeth's father (boo!). They dislike each other instantly.

While Nina and Elizabeth are at each other's throats, I don't mean this in a sexual context, they meet wonderful, handsome guys and they fall in love - but won't admit it at first to themselves. So there's a lot of misunderstandings and frustration. When they do both eventually get together with their chosen ones then ... pow. Wow! There's bucket fulls of frustration to unload.

That's what I like about Louise Bagshawe, her men aren't like that old joke: 'What's the difference between a clitoris and a pub?' Answer: 'A man can always find a pub'. An LB guy can seek out buttons that even us girls have never found and they are always, shall we say, well built. Take Elizabeth's guy, Jack Taylor. That's Jack the USA Olympic Skiing Champion and millionaire, of course, not the bloke from the local chip shop.

Elizabeth gets it together with him for the first time and says, "You're huge." "And you like that", says Jack, "You like me to be a man." "Yes", Elizabeth managed, "You know that". I'd better not continue this bit as there's a lot of arching, hands, tongues and unmentionables. I think they must have got on alright as they ended up 'drenched in sweat, fighting for breath and kissing' and it all went on for a couple of pages. (If you've ever got a free evening Jack!)

Eventually Nina and Elizabeth call a truce. They have to in a way for they are the 'Tall Poppies'. According to an Australian proverb: You've got to cut down the tall poppies. And who wants to cut them down? None other than Elizabeth's father (boo!) Between you and me I reckon he may not actually be Liz's real father, but don't say I told you.

So the book becomes a battle of strength and domination between Nina and Elizabeth on one side and the big bad 13th Earl on the other. Nina & Elizabeth start a company called 'Tall Poppies' in direct competition with the massive multi-million Dragon plc. I won't tell you why this happens or the outcome as I've got to leave you with wanting more. I'll just say that the girls are determined to make an extraordinary mark on the world and escape from their past.

I suppose if I had a criticism of the book it is that it builds and builds to the actual battle, this takes some 370 pages. Then it's all over by page 423. It's almost like the author got a bit fed up, or saw that she had already written a lot, and decided to finish it off quickly. The ending was a bit too ... well that bat and eyelid springs to mind again.

To find out: who won between Tall Poppies v Dragon plc, whether Elizabeth married Jack, if she won a gold at the Winter Olympics, how Nina got on with her guy (a Dr. Harry Nemath - computer whiz) and to discover who had a tragic accident (it wasn't the baddy) you'll have to get hold of the book.

Though I think I've already indicated this I would stress that the book does have sexual (erotic?) content, the 'f' word and therefore may not be suitable for everyone. I thought it was a great holiday read with an underlying touch of humour, though I wasn't sure if this was always intentional. I'll give you an example:

Nina was thinking about her sexual experiences with Harry including how she 'went down on him' (whatever that means). Ms. Bagshawe writes, "But there was no shame to that, no nasty, guilty tang in the mouth afterwards. It was the difference between having sex and making love."

So there is a moral here after all, even a meaningful message to ponder. Supercilious book types discuss in not less than 5000 words. Or there again you could just read the book for the dirty bits!

Other information
Title: Tall Poppies
Author: Louise Bagshawe
ISBN: 0 75280 875 3

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

THE CELESTINE PROPHECY
What do you reckon? Is a coincidence just a coincidence, or is there something a bit more to it than this? Say you had a feeling, or a hunch, to go somewhere and you went. When you got there you met a long lost friend, someone you hadn't seen for years and years. Would that be a coincidence - or are there higher aspects of the mind at work?

Suppose you open a dictionary and hit exactly the right page for the word you are looking for or, perhaps, one morning you are unable to get your normal newspaper but in another one, you bought instead, is the answer to the very question you've been pondering over the last few days. Would these simply be coincidences or is something else guiding you?

I ask these questions because your answers will probably determine if you will appreciate The Celestine Prophency, or not. If you've got a closed mind and think coincidences are simply just that, you'll probably think this book is a load of rubbish. If, on the other hand, you feel that there could well be something more to life and that things like hunches, energy patterns and secret manuscripts of the ancient Mayans sounds pretty interesting, then give this a read - and hold on to your hat for a story full of amazing coincidences.

This book is an adventure, you can decide for yourself whether it is fiction or not. It could be either. The author is James Redfield and it may be his own story or something that popped into his head one day while having a bath, who knows. There is a 'hero' but we never learn who he is. This doesn't really matter, for it is the 'secret' information contained within the book that will keep some readers spellbound and glued to the pages.

It's written in a story format. One day, out of the blue, an old girlfirend is passing through our hero's local airport. She gives him a call and off he goes to meet her. She, Charlene, felt 'compelled' to contact him to tell him about an old manuscript, dating back to 600 BC, that had been discovered in Peru.

We later discover that the manuscript is in nine parts that have to be 'discovered' sequentially. Contained in each is an 'insight' to life, not religious, but with knowledge that will alter human culture dramatically. According to the book us humans will all eventually discover these insights for ourselves, but imagine if we had the information right now - wow! Is it any wonder the Peruvian government wants this all kept quiet and denies the existence of any such manuscripts?

What would you do if you heard about this? I'll tell you what our guy does. After a nights rest, he enquires if there is a flight to Peru. And there is! By chance the airline has had a cancellation. There is a seat on a plane and a hotel room going begging - coincidence or what? So, as any of us would do, he packs a bag and heads for the airport. His flight is in just three hours. The adventure, in search of the manuscripts, is about to begin.

Now what I didn't tell you was that Charlene had a copy of the first part of the manuscript, containing the first insight, and passed this on to ... what's his name. Perhaps this was what got him excited and not her 'wide mouth and huge blue eyes'. I'm not going to tell you what the insight is all about, or any of the others, as this would spoil the story. You need to read the book to get the proper effect and feel like you are also discovering them for yourself. I'll just say that the first manuscript and insight is all about - yes you've guessed - coincidences! Look out for them in your life, they are important, and follow those hunches.

On the plane, who does our man meet? Someone else looking for the manscripts, that's who, and he just happens to have part two. I'm getting a bit fed up with writing the word coincidence now! They reach Peru and before they can draw breath they get shot at and chased. No, I don't know why! I guess someone doesn't want them to succeed in their mission and it makes it all seem more exciting.

The story unfolds as our man travels the country, through the foothills and mountains of the Andes, visiting churches, monuments, ancient ruins and so on. He even ends up in prison for a short while. But everything has a purpose and there are always people to help him. He is 'guided' in the direction to follow. As he travels he learns the insights. These assist him on his way - along with a lot of that 'C' word - the eleven letter one, that is.

I wouldn't call this wonderful literature but it's adequately written. I wanted to keep reading to see what the next insight would be all about. Often I found our hero to be a little slow on the uptake. He sometimes asks people he meets some very obvious questions. This is done, of course, so us readers will have some information imparted to us without it all turning into some sort of boring spiritual or self help book.

There are 'messages' galore in the book, who knows, they may change some readers lives - well they could! They may at least make some question what life is all about and wonder if we are evolving towards a completely spiritual culture on earth, as the book suggests. Seemingly the time is right for this to start happening - new millenium and all that.

By the end of the book all of the nine insights and manuscripts have been discovered. The ninth will either have you roaring with laughter as absurd or have you saying, "Well that's interesting", depending on your outlook on life - or some will no doubt say gullibility!

To illustrate this final insight, without giving the game away, lets go back in time to 600 BC. This was the time of the Mayans who had a thriving civilisation in Peru. This was prior to the Incas, who developed another civilisation later in the same location. Now the odd thing about the Mayans is that their own culture suddenly vanished about 600 BC without any apparent reason. So what happened to them? The ninth insight gives you the answer. Don't worry, it wasn't anything nasty. In fact it was what Jesus did much later and even allowed Him to 'walk on water'. It's all about humans being able to raise their vibrations to a level where ... no, sorry, can't say any more! Let's just say, if you or I could also do this, we could walk into heaven.

I enjoyed the book. It wasn't all completely new to me as I have read a lot along similar themes. I believe in intuition as being something real and not just a flight of fancy. I think we can all generate energy and that a lot of family conflicts are caused by one member trying (unconsciously) to 'steal' someone elses energy. And before you laugh at this: do you feel drained after being in some peoples' company and uplifted in others? I also feel that we can all get answers to any question or problem by either meditating or following our intuition. The answers and signs are there but we mostly ignore them. I'd better stop otherwise some of you will really think I'm completely off my trolly! I mention these things here as you'll find stuff along these lines within The Celestine Prophecy. All I'd say is, I've proved to my own satisfaction that there is a lot more to life - we can be in control!

I'll finish the opinion with a few quotes from The Celestine Prophecy of what may lie ahead once we have all learnt and practised the nine insights ...

"Our needs will be completely met without exchange of any currency, yet without over indulgence or laziness ... Guided by their intuitions, everyone will know precisely what to do and when to do it, and this will fit harmoniously with the actions of others. No one will consume excessively because we will have let go of the need to possess and to control for security ... life will have become something else."

Where The Celestine Prophecy fits into the great scheme of things, I've no idea. As I've already said, the book describes itself as 'An Adventure' and to me that is what life is - I hope you are enjoying your journey.

P.S. Bit of a coincidence you reading this, wasn't it?

Other information
Title: The Celestine Prophecy
Author: James Redfield
ISBN No: 0 553 40902 6

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

THE ALCHEMIST
I'll soon wrap this one up, here goes ...

Once upon a time there was a shepherd boy who followed his dreams and was guided by omens along the way. He eventually found what he was looking for and lived happily ever after.

OK, so that's the plot of the book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, taken care of. All I have to do now is give my opinion on whether I liked it or not. Easy peasy!

Well did I? No, not really.

The End.

Wish everything in life was as simple as this. Must say the book has a nice orange cover, hmmm, what's this blurb on the back? 'Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of readers forever'. Really? And The Alchemist is one of them? 'Over 20 million copies have been sold worldwide' and it has 'already achieved the status of a modern classic'. Strewth! I hadn't noticed my life being changed. Mind you I did get my hair cut and styled on Saturday, so have a bit of a new look.

Bother! Wonder what I missed when I read it? There I was thinking I was a good little reader. I'll soon flick through it again - there are only 177 pages and all in quite large print, so what's that? About 31,457 words - roughly. Quite short for one supposedly so transforming.

Let me have another look ...

Erm, there's this shepherd boy. Santiago was his name and he herded (is that the right word) his sheep around Andalusia in Spain. This must all have happened many, many years ago because he chose his job especially so that he could travel! No, I'm not kidding. Nowadays he'd have hopped on a train or something - and probably wouldn't have bothered with the sheep. He met a girl now and again, but there never seemed to be any naughty business, he just told them about his travels. Must have been riveting stuff, all those sheep zzzz zzzz zzzz ...

Anyway, he was in one particular village because he needed to sell some wool. He parked his sheep, did the necessary and then went to see a gypsy who could interpret dreams. She told him that dreams are the language of God and that his meant he would find his fortune near the Pyramids in Egypt.

He popped into the village plaza to give this some thought. What should he do? Should he follow his dream? Could he possibly part with his sheep? Decisions, decisions! No worries though, for he met a king, with a golden breast plate encrusted with jewels, who helped him decide. Sorry, didn't I mention that this story is a bit like a fairy tale for adults?

The king told him about the world's greatest lie, which is: 'That at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate'. Quite profound I think. It motivated the boy to go follow his dreams and set out on the first part of his journey to the Pyramids.

Santiago headed to Tangier remembering that, 'When you want something all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it'. That's true you know. I've found that when I know what I definitely want, and decide to achieve it, things happen to smooth my path towards whatever it is. Mmmm, could be something in this book after all.

I shan't tell you the whole story otherwise I'll end up writing a review that is longer than the book! Our boy got to Tangier, stayed for many months before heading across the desert towards the Pyramids. Needless to say he had experiences and learnt a few lessons of life while in Tangier.

While crossing the desert, as part of a camel caravan, he got to know an Englishman who was heading in the same direction. He was trying to find an Alchemist he had heard about - thus the title of the book. This Alchemist, seemingly, could turn lead into gold and had found the Philosopher's Stone. Ah ha!

The caravan stopped at an oasis where there was quite a sizeable village of tents. It was here that the boy met the Alchemist for himself and also a beautiful girl called Fatima, with whom he fell instantly in love - ahhh! But true love never runs smooth does it? The boy still wanted to go to the Pyramids and the Alchemist said he would show him the way. All Fatima could do was - get a sick bucket ready guys - to send her kisses to the boy, hoping that the wind would touch the boy's face. Isn't that sweet? Not sure why she couldn't have gone with him, I guess it wouldn't have been 'proper'. How times have changed.

Reaching the Pyramids wasn't at all plain sailing (there wasn't any water for one thing) and there was one major problem, which I won't go into. The boy discovered the answer though, after conversing with the desert, wind and the sun. What, you've never done such things then? He had quite lengthy dialogues with them and he found out about the 'Soul of the World' and learnt that this was part of the 'Soul of God'. And, what's more, the Soul of God was his own soul. He (and therefore us) could perform miracles. Deep stuff!

Eventually the boy did reach the Pyramids and then there is a twist in the tale and another lesson. It doesn't spoil the story for me to tell you that he does eventually find his fortune 'somewhere' - this is pretty obvious throughout the story. It all ends thus:

'The wind began to blow again ... it brought a perfume he knew so well ... and the touch of a kiss from far away ... until it rested on his lips.'

'The boy smiled. "I'm coming, Fatima," he said.'

Messy pup. But you can't really blame him, after all that time!

So that's the plot (again) - a bit expanded from my first try. I'd better lengthen my opinion as well, only slightly, so don't go counting those sheep.

The book is written in a very simple style. The author was born in Brazil and The Alchemist has been translated into 42 languages. With all of those millions of copies sold it must have something, but I still don't think it is very special. I've read heaps of New Age, spiritual, philosophy type books and for me there was nothing new here. It's simply a couple of obvious philosophies wrapped up in a simple story. Seems to me to be vastly overrated. Even The Times has been sucked in by the message as they are quoted as saying: 'His books have had life-enhancing impact on millions of people'. If they have, that's great, but this all sounds to be a clever marketing ploy in my opinion.

The message is simple. It's the wisdom of listening to our hearts and learning to read the omens strewn along life's path. Most importantly though, it's about following our dreams - something I personally believe in. Perhaps the book did little for me as it was preaching to the converted. If you haven't read much along these lines, it may possibly be of interest.

But, whatever, go follow those dreams - whether you read the book or not.

P.S. Please ... if you have one, take the love of your life with you. Kisses on the wind are all well and good but sometimes you need a little more. Plus, of course, it's more pleasurable to share life's experiences with someone.

Other information
Title: The Alchemist
Author: Paulo Coelho
ISBN: 0 7225 3293 8

The Tenth Insight by James Redfield

THE TENTH INSIGHT
I want you to join me on a journey. It'll vary slightly for each of us but, hopefully, we'll all end up in roughly the same place as one big happy group. For some it may take a little longer than for others but, no matter, if you are sitting comfortably and paying attention we'll begin. Be warned though, I'll be asking questions that only you can answer.

Let's all think about yesterday. Well, we've got to start somewhere and - as we are going to travel backwards through time - yesterday is as good a place to start as any. But we don't want to stop there, let's travel back ten years. No, more than that, fifteen. No, that's still not enough, let's all go back to when we were babies.

Gurgle, hic! Right, as secure as this feels, after breast or bottle and a clean nappy, let's keep travelling and go back to before we were born. No, not just snug and comfy in the womb but before we were actually conceived. Are you still with me?

I'll wait a few minutes while the stragglers catch up.

Take a look around. It's nice here isn't it, in this other dimension? Glad you all made it. Now, let's get our thoughts ticking over. Some questions: As you are now at the time where you are about to be conceived, why did you choose your mother and father? What do you hope to experience from being part of their family? More important though, what is your Birth Vision? By this I mean what do you hope to learn and achieve by returning to earth once more?

Well? What are your answers?

"Have you been at the red wine again, Fiona?", some may wonder.

No, not today. I just want to see if you are suitable candidates to read The Tenth Insight or not. I mean, if you think we are just upmarket animals who live for seventy years, pop our clogs and that's it, then this book isn't going to appeal - buy a CD or a few drinks instead. But if you are at least a little open minded, and feel that there could be a purpose to all of our rushing round here on earth, then give it a read. If you also think there may possibly be an 'afterlife' and even a 'beforelife' so much the better.

'The Tenth Insight' is a follow up book to 'The Celestine Prophecy' by the same author. Now you do really need to have read the first book to fully appreciate the second, as the 'story' is a continuation.

To set the scene, The Celestine Prophecy is about a bloke who nips off to Peru to discover the Nine Insights into life itself. It is claimed that all of us have to grasp their meaning sequentially, one insight after another, as we move towards a new spiritual culture on earth.

Still with me? Good.

So what comes after nine? Yes, that's it, in the second book our man is now off to discover the Tenth Insight and the Spiritual Dimension - derrr der dern der derrrrrr ...

Our hero, whose name we still never learn, has realised that his friend Charlene has gone missing. The only clue is a crude map she has drawn. After sitting down and comparing this with pages from his 'Atlas of the South' he thinks he knows the location. Just as he forms this conclusion he experiences a vivid image of Charlene in his mind. The very same image he had perceived in Peru when told of the existence of a Tenth Insight. Creepy or what! So, with this acting as his proof that he is on the right track, off he heads for a large Appalachian Valley.

His adventure is about to begin. Will he find Charlene and also discover the Tenth Insight? Yes, of course he will. That's pretty obvious. If he didn't there wouldn't be much point to the book.

It's all really a parable, an attempt to show the spiritual transformation, that the author believes is now occuring. Instead of writing some dull book full of theory James Redfield has set it all out as a story. Another guy did this sort of thing 2003 years ago and He seems to have got some of His messages across - not that I'm comparing the two, heaven forbid.

The story is all based in this mysterious valley where our man is synchronistically led. By this I mean he bumps into the 'right' people and situations to help find his missing friend and also discover the illusive insight. Even the animals and birds guide his way - they are signs that he intuitively knows he should follow. But everything isn't straightforward, no way. There are some bad guys who are creating a new form of natural energy that could cause big problems.

So, gosh, not only does he have to find Charlene and the insight but he has to now somehow stop the baddies. Not to worry though. As he has dabbled in the first nine insights he has a bit of an advantage. He can pop into other dimensions, such as the 'afterlife', for some help and explanations of what it's all about. There he can meet up with others, contact his Soul Group and visit dead people who don't realise they are dead and ... and just generally find out the reason for mankind. Personally I can usually only do this down the pub after a few red wines and some serious heated debate.

It may sound as if I'm mocking the book, but I'm not really. I actually feel there are some 'truths' within The Tenth Insight and the previous Celestine Prophecy. Some of it may appear a bit, shall we say, far fetched. Especially to anyone not having read material along these lines before, but it makes the reader think. And, to me, if a book does this it has served its purpose to a certain degree.

I'm obviously not going to tell you the meaning behind the Tenth Insight. You'll have to find that out if, or when, you read the book. As I've all ready intimated our man explores the Afterlife Dimension, while in the valley. By doing this he reaches a greater understanding of why we live our lives and how evolution relates to us today. This knowledge is passed on to the reader. You'll also learn of Life Reviews, Birth Visions, the 'Fear' that holds us back and the World Vision. Who knows, you may even find that some of this rings true. Somewhere locked away in a far corner of your mind you may have once thought along similar lines, but had quite forgotten.

The book isn't particularly big, only 236 pages, and I have read better along similar themes. But what it does do is to get the author's ideas across in a quite easy to read style. It can get a little slow at times as the hero has to keep asking questions so that someone may explain to him, and therefore the reader, some particular part of the insight.

I like the idea behind the book, that we are all awakening gradually to spirituality. To me it illustrates a positive future - things can only get better, and they will, there is a spark of goodness in us all. The problem is that many of us have forgotten our Birth Vision, but it's hidden away within us waiting to be ignited once more. There again all of this could be a load of codswallop! It depends on you but ...

Oh strewth, just remembered. I left you all a while back waiting to be conceived, didn't I? Okay, so you've picked out your parents, worked through your Birth Vision with your Soul Group and you are ready to be conceived - right? You know why you are heading back to earth and your purpose for doing so. Here we go then - get ready to be conceived ...

Your Soul Group raises and intensifies its energy which moves 'as a large whitish swirl of moving amber'. There is a great feeling of love and vibration. Your future parents are locked in an embrace (close your eyes if you want!) and 'at the moment of orgasm a whitish-green energy' flows, passing through you and your Soul Group and enters your parents. 'With an orgasmic rush' this energy pulsates through their bodies towards each other, 'pushing the sperm and egg towards their fated union'. You are now earth bound and the beginnings of your new life have been created. I don't know about you, but I've often felt the earth move, but never heaven as well! Perhaps one day I will.

You should now all move forward through time again until you are at your computer reading this. Some journey, wasn't it?

And finally, towards the end of the book ...

'We must watch our thoughts and expectations very carefully, and catch ourselves every time we treat another human being as an enemy. We can defend ourselves, and restrain certain people, but if we dehumanise them we add to the Fear. We are all souls in growth; we all have an original intention that is positive ...'

I wonder if you can remember your Birth Vision?

Other information
Title: The Tenth Insight
Author: James Redfield
ISBN No. 0 553 50418 5

The Holiday by Erica James

THE HOLIDAY
You know, I reckon it's pretty easy really - this writing a best seller lark. I might well have a go myself, now that I've sussed out how it's done. The extra money would come in useful. I could buy a few properties as investments and stock up on Cosabella thongs. I don't foresee any problems or difficulties.

"What about a good plot?"

Oh dear, trust someone to be negative, but a plot isn't a problem. I mean, let's look at Erica James's book The Holiday, as an example, and you'll see how simple this writing business is. All you need is a bit of a standard story line such as girl falls in love with bloke, and bloke with girl, and they end up happy ever after. Ahhhh! The only slight difficulty might be that you've got to fill about 500 pages but, not to worry, I've found the answer ...

It was last night. I became very restless as I lay in bed thinking about how to fill those pages. I must have eventually dozed off, but only for a couple of hours. I kicked off the sheet, which had twisted itself into a second skin around me, and went and stood by the window. Everywhere seemed so still and quiet, scarcely a trace of movement anywhere.

Images came to my mind and of me crying, cradled in my father's arms. I was about five. A little boy had broken a terracotta plant pot over my head, a small scar still remains under my hair. All I had tried to do to him was ...

Now do you see what I've just done? I've filled up a few lines of this review, quite easily, by going back over something that happened years ago. If this was a story you could say I was building or developing the character to give the reader an insight into how the little girl became the person she is today.

Erica James does an awful lot of this. You seem to get everyones back history. Suddenly you realise that very little has actually happened relevant to the present time, in which the book is set - and yet here you are placing your bookmark on page 450.

Let's look a bit more at writing a best seller with the help of The Holiday.

The book is set in Ayios Nikolaos, Corfu but the main characters are British, by gad. There is one Greek, Theo. Well I suppose there would have to be. He's a millionaire though, not your rough trade. The Britishers also have a few quid with their own holiday villas overlooking the bay. The only exception is Izzy, our heroine, who is conveniently an unattached school teacher and so has the whole summer to spend with her wealthy friends, Max and Laura. Which is nice for her.

So we've got a pleasant place to escape to, decent people, none of your dreadful bucket and spade, two weeks in the sun brigade. Shudder the thought. Our lot go away to their villas for the complete summer, so obviously they are a little superior - like I'll be when I've written my book! Unless, that is, I'd be more comparable to the 'new' rich couple in the story, with their slightly dodgy taste. They are called Dolly-Babe and Silent Bob, useful for any time you feel a bit of a mock coming on. Dolly has had a boob job, and wears the sort of swimwear that she just shouldn't at her age - can you imagine! Plus she has a 'tumble of dyed blonde hair', which is 'perched on the top of her head' - fortunately.

Now smoothy Theo, a bit of a ladies man, has an English friend, Mark, who is a troubled but successful crime writer. He is staying with him for a few months to finish his latest book. There are a few other people who pop in and out, when needed, but there you have the main cast.

We've learnt so far, therefore, that we need a good setting for our best seller, an affluent set of people and lots of back history to build up the characters. No probs! And now we come to the plot - it's that love type story I mentioned earlier.

It was pretty apparent to me, right from the start, that what Izzy needed was a damn good, erm I'll behave and say, man - to help her relax and release the lingering tensions of her last relationship. Poor girl, it seems her ex 'didn't know a G-spot from his Air on a G-string' - nothing out of the ordinary there then. Well, who have we on hand to sort her out? There are just two men available, Theo and his mate Mark, so who will win her favours? The smart money is on Theo, a smarmy and full of himself bloke, but with an obligatory heart of gold. Whereas Mark is a complex, moody so and so with a long list of hang ups from the past which are described, of course, in great detail.

Personally I wouldn't fancy either of them, and that is where I feel that this book falls down. Not because I didn't fancy Theo or Mark but because, despite all of the pages given to building the characters, they didn't come across as real people. I didn't believe in them and frankly couldn't have cared less what happened to them. So watch that when you write your book.

If a story is centred on two or three people they have to somehow get inside your head. Recently, for example, I read Robert Waller's 'The Bridges of Madison County' and I ended up with tears running down my face. Yet in The Holiday one of the main characters gets seriously hurt and I wasn't the least bit bothered. I didn't 'feel' for any of the people concerned.

Getting back to the plot. It's a standard romance but there is a little bit of excitement, over a couple of pages, when someone from the past - and pretty heavily sign posted to any reader who hasn't nodded off - comes back to do some damage to someone. And, gosh, a gun is involved. So we have to remember to add a little dash of something to liven things up when we start writing. Judging from this book, it doesn't seem like it has to be too much, or last for too long, but it can help to push things along to a climax.

Perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned the last word because there are no graphic sex scenes in this book. Izzy does get plundered, much to everyones relief, and hopefully her own as well, but we don't have the full, intimate, juicy details. It's all in the best possible taste. I was going to put a bit of rumpy pumpy detail in my book, but I'll have to see. The question is: does sex boost or inhibit sales? The Holiday sold quite well without.

I'm not actually sure why this offering from Erica James did so well. It may have been down to her reputation. Perhaps her previous books, which I haven't read, were much better. With The Holiday though she seems to have written to a format and the story line is much too predicatable. It's glaringly obvious, for instance, who Izzy would get the hots for and that everyone would end up happily ever after. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but it's good to have a bit of a mind work out along the way.

This is a bubble gum read, you chew away and then spit it out from your memory. If you want something to while away a few hours, that is easy to read, fine. I don't think I'd have bothered to finish the book if I hadn't have been on holiday myself.

I should have started writing my best seller instead. Mmmm let's see, I've been to a couple of the Greek Islands: sunshine, skimpy clothes, friendly locals, blue sea, golden skin - I'm hot to trot just thinking about it. 'She watched him emerge from the clear blue water and make his way up the pebbly beach. Even by Greek standards he was deeply tanned, and with his strong muscular physique he made a striking impression. Laura found herself speculating on just how far his tan went up those long legs.'

I reckon you could get a lot of pleasure and satisfaction out of writing a book ... but as for reading The Holiday - disappointing is the word that sums it up for me. Erica, I'm sure you can do much better.

Shambhala by James Redfield

SHAMBHALA
Spin me a tale of Kathmandu or Tibet, throw in an ancient monastery and mix this with a secret valley, where the great truths of life can be found, and I'll be hanging on to your every word. Okay so I'm gullible, but that's alright because I know I am. I just have this urge, a restlessness, to try and discover what this life of ours is really all about.

This means I look in some very peculiar places! At times I read some duff books, visit areas that turn out to be disappointing and I have attended many dry, dreary lectures, meetings and interviews. Just occasionally though, every once in a while, I get glimpses of things that appear to me to be meaningful. So my search continues.

As you can imagine, therefore, when I saw the book 'The Secret Of Shambhala', that purports to tell of a place where there is a knowledge that has been hidden for centuries, I'm soon saying, "£7.99, gosh, is that all? I'll have a copy please."

This book is the third in a series by James Redfield. Though it can be read by itself I feel that you need to have read the two previous books, The Celestine Prophecy and The Tenth Insight, to appreciate the full meaning of this latest offering.

In the first two books the author tells of a search for Ten Insights. These are described as 'life-affirming truths about synchronicity, intuition and personal destiny'. I won't enlarge on this any further, other than to say that The Secret of Shambhala goes in search of the Eleventh Insight - exciting, huh?

Perhaps you might be thinking how dull but, don't get the wrong idea, this is an adventure story and not some boring treatise. It may well get your pulse racing and your juices flowing as our adventurer sets off to meet a friend in Kathmandu.

Okay, let's start off at the very beginning of the story. The main character (we never get to know his name) is the same guy who has discovered the previous Ten Insights in the two earlier books. He's living quietly at home, as you do, and a neighbour mentions that his fourteen year old daughter would like to see him - all perfectly innocent, so no need to worry. Our bloke nips off to see her and she (Natalie) tells him, "We aren't living the Insights".

He's knocked over by this statement and even more so when she tells him that there are people in Central Asia, in the Kunlun Mountains, who are actually living the Insights. How does she know about such things for goodness sake? Natalie insists, "You've got to go there, it's important".

He goes home, no doubt scratching his head, when blow me if he isn't contacted by his old buddy Wil who says, "Can't explain everything now ... but there is a place in Asia we must find. Can you meet me at the Hotel Himalayian in Kathmandu on the 16th?"

Now is this some coincidence, or what? Or perhaps it's that old synchronicity talked about in the First Insight - you'll have to read the books to find out what this is all about. Sufficient for me to say that coincidences happen and guide you when you follow your inner dreams or feelings. Hope that's not too much mumbo jumbo for you!

Before you or I could pack a bag, or even put our things together, our hero is on a plane and heading off to meet his friend Wil - he's obviously not trapped in a nine to five job!

He books in at the Hotel Himalayian but, oh dear, no Wil. The adventure begins!

Our man meets up with Yin, who just happens to know Wil, and also knows a little about the Eleventh Insight. Off they set the next day heading towards Lhasa in Tibet hoping to trace their friend and also discover further spiritual truths along the way. A bit like popping down the pub on a Friday evening, no doubt.

As they travel Chinese soldiers are in pursuit - don't ask me why - and they have to take refuge in a convenient monastry. Here they learn of Shambhala, a valley where people live 'the insights' and have great knowledge of life. They are told that this is from where the stories and legends of Shangri-La were originated.

Now it seems it's impossible to find Shambhala unless 'they' want you to find them. In which case you will be guided and helped by the Dakini - that's angels to you and me. Hope you're not going to groan now and mutter, "Rubbish, what absolute clap-trap". Me? I believe in angels ... or is that a song?

Anyway we, the readers, also learn that the Eleventh Insight is something to do with Prayer-Energy. It's actually also about those Dakini as well but I shan't tell you any more. By now I bet you have already decided if this book is for you or not!

The adventure goes on and our man gets separated from Yin. He climbs over mountains and things and eventually, in his own words - for our man is the one telling the story:

'Before me was an unbelievable sight. I was facing a large pastoral valley and clear blue sky. Beyond the valley were huge, snow-capped mountain peaks ... The temperature was chilly but temperate, and green plants were growing everywhere. In front of me a hill sloped gently down to the valley floor ... I felt overwhelmed by the energy of the place and began to have trouble focusing. Lights and colours were swirling ... I began to roll down the hill ... I rolled ... losing all sense of time".

Wow!

See life is about energy and it's at a different level in Shambhala where our guy has just entered. It's a whole different ball game. He meets some of the residents like Ami and Tashi and finds that everything they need is created by energy fields - that's all of the dwellings, their clothes and anything else they may need to live. Could this be Prayer-Energy? And where do the Dakini fit into this plan? Are we in the outside world also now moving slowly in this direction? Perhaps we are even being helped ...

Our man has a voyeuristic experience where he watches a man and woman merge their energy fields to create a new light of energy forming in the 'midsection of the woman'. He realises afterwards that they had been making love - slow or what!

It's not all straight forward though, this sex and energy business, as many of the created smaller lights are being 'lost'. Could they be transfering into our world? Could it possibly be true that Natalie, the girl at the beginning of our story, is the 'sister' of Tashi who lives in Shambhala? Are some of the gifted children born today originally 'conceived' in Shambhala Valley? Are we moving towards a new era? Will Prayer-Energy then become common place?

Strewth, so many questions! Realistically though, could any of this possibly have any truth, or is it all just a figment of the author's over active imagination written especially for gullible people like me?

Whatever.

The Secret of Shambhala is easy to read, the paperback has just 251 pages. It's a good enough story. As to whether it achieves it's objective to 'stretch your world view', this depends largely on whether you want it to be stretched or not. You cannot open a closed mind.

I enjoyed the book, but I would! I'm open to all new thoughts and theories. Many I discard, but Prayer-Energy - there could be something there. I've found that when I know exactly what I want, and send out sufficient energy, coincidences happen and I go on to attract whatever it is I'm after. I must point out though that my boyfriend thinks I'm as mad as a hatter! And there is a certain synchronicity between Alice in Wonderland and tumbling into Shambhala.

On the book cover there is a phrase: 'Get in touch with the mysteries of great masters.' Only you can decide if you can be bothered, but I'd recommend the book to those that can.

May your Dakini watch over you!

More Information.
Title: The Secret of Shambhala
Author: James Redfield
ISBN No 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2