April Roundup

Yes that was April, that was Easter, it was the start of Spring, but let us not cast a clout till May is out. I have still have my winter quilt on my bed, black opaque tights at work and more than one layer or two on. Of course all this keeping warm but being wonderfully light means more reading was done. Still ‘officially’ behind if I want to reach my target at the end of the year, but that is too far ahead to even thinking about!

Old books, new books, old authors, new authors and all sorts in between.

Mention first must go to Cath Staincliffe – Split Second for the simple reason that this has book has been languishing about on my shelf for around 3 years and it certainly should not have been. I should have been raving about this one months and months ago. What would you do? Is such an open question and I don’t think there is in fact a correct answer. Keep an eye out on this blog in the coming weeks (please excuse the advertising) as there will be more from Cath Staincliffe and her new novel, Half the World Away.

If we are sticking with crime, of course you can’t go far wrong with something simple, cosy and relatively free of descriptive cadavers and crime scenes M.C. Beaton – Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon is where you need to be. It ticked a book off my list for my challenges and also was a great diversion as always. Plus I did not feel the least bit guilty for not writing a review about it. More information about my thoughts here.

Social Media Buzz is a term which has come into use and recent years, very recent years and it is somewhat exciting to think that I might have been a small, if not minute part of it for some recent novels. The Girl on the Train springs to mind. However the latest ‘buzz’ book is Renee Knight – Disclaimer. Imagine reading a book about your life. Reading a book about a secret that you thought no one knew about? Don’t imagine for too long, go and find a copy of this book!

I do love a good read, chick-lit, women’s fiction, a bit of romance whatever you want to call it, it comes in many forms and just recently I have discovered a new author (to me anyway) to get my teeth into and especially her back catalogue. In the meantime I was lucky enough to read her latest novel, Carole Matthews – The Cake Shop in the Garden. A must for all fans, and for those wanting to start out on this author a good place to start. Full of romance, warmth, humour, sadness and cake! What more could you want from a book?

Publishing books in parts has started to be popular and was how I was aware of Cathy Bramley – Ivy Lane*. I read the book as a whole and jolly glad I did, because it meant I did not have to wait to find out what happened next. I think I will have to do the same with her latest work which is also being published in four parts!

Always wanting to know what happens to characters once you have finished the books is often a much raised question if you ever get to meet any authors. The beauty being that actually once they have left the author and you have reached the final page, it is up to us to let our imaginations take on their next story. In the case of Maureen Lee – The Seven Streets of Liverpool* I went back to some characters I read about years ago. A challenge when it has been probably 15 years or more since you read about them.

Going back to familiar author you know if you pick up a Monica McInerney you are going to get a chunky read. In terms of size At Home with The Templetons* fits the bill. You will have to wait for me review in terms of anything else. This was another book which has been sat on my shelf for a while and finally made it off to be read.

Again a book bought and promptly shelved was Dinah Jeffries – The Separation*. Again another book I wish I had read straight away from buying it. The only impetus that made me read this was seeing her next novel available on netgalley. This is a book which will certainly be in my memory for a long while and tapped into my love of historical fiction.

History being my ‘thing’ well at least my degree, many moons ago. I was intrigued by the wonderfully titled Barbara Comyns – Our Spoons Came From Woolworths*. My reading of ‘old’ fiction has increased since I have been blogging, I am sure I saw this on a blog I visited and knew that I wanted to read from it, if just for the title. It was a wonderful novel and another one which I am going to pass on and say you must read.

The beauty of being on netgalley is to get the opportunity to read books before they hit the proverbial shelf. The dangerous beauty of netgalley is you can click away and request far too much. This was the case with Liz Fenwick – A Cornish Stranger*, a name I had seen around but had to yet pique an interest in me to pick up. I did and I was pleasantly surprised. A Cornish novel reminiscent of many books set in Cornwall and as I ended the month reading Poldark, I feel that I know the area rather well at the moment. Both now and in the past.

So that was April, let’s see if we can clout May out!

 

*Book review yet to appear on blog.

 

Disclaimer – Renee Knight

You find a book by your bed that you have no recollection of acquiring. How has it got into your house?

Curiosity gets the better of you and you pick the book up and start to read.

The story sounds familiar, of course it does. This is your story.

And so this debut novel begins. The disclaimer about the coincidence of the characters resembling actual persons living or dead is simply a lie.

This novel reveals the readers secret which she has kept for over twenty years.

Catherine is a successful documentary maker, her husband a lawyer, they have one son and have moved to a new property which is where this book turns up.

Upon the surface, the marriage seems a strong one. Cracks seem to be appearing and it seems that the secret that Catherine has been keeping is in fact eating away at her husband, her son and someone else. But who?

“The act of keeping the secret a secret has almost become bigger than the secret itself”.

Running concurrently is the story of Stephen, widowed, a teacher who left under a cloud. Stephen is grieving for a life lost, a past life, a life that never existed. There is something ominous about him. From the moment his chapters start and he starts talking directly to us the reader, I felt uncomfortable. He seemed desperate and no one could reach him or help him. I had to keep  reading to get past these points as I knew they were relevant to the plot but I did not like what I was getting from this character.

The question as a reader you are going to ask yourself – what is in the book that is supposed to be Catherine’s story? And what is the ending going to be. In fact the author tells us the ending. So we know what is going to happen.

Don’t we?

Slowly Renee Knight reveals all, there are some twists and turns in this thriller as you would expect there to be but it made me stop and think. I made a judgement based on one persons story – then when you know the truth you feel that you have been so blind-sided you were never open to hearing everyone’s story.

To say any more would be foolish. Try the book, challenge yourself.

Disclaimer is out now in e-book and hardback. 

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy for review. 

Writing reviews for thrillers are so hard. To say too much about the plot is futile as there would be no point in buying the book. Even too much about the characters can give the ‘game away’. This book was strong on both plot and characters. The setting was perhaps intentionally very much in the background, until “wallop” it suddenly becomes very important in the story. All of this did not occur to me when I was reading the book, but now as I sit down and construct a review from some little notes I had made it comes back to haunt me. A book that will stay with me I think.

I recommend if you like thrillers. However, perhaps space your thriller reading out, especially as I recommend The Girl on the Train and Second Life, too much will do your pulse no good! 

 

Split Second – Cath Staincliffe

The tag line of this book is – what would you do? Ask yourself at the very beginning of the story and then again at the end. Would you come up with the same answer I wonder?

Luke, a teenager is being harassed on the bus by three other teenagers. Everyone is ignoring the incident. No one wants to be the one to step in and do something.

That is until Jason, not much older than Luke does step in.

The incident moves off the bus and ends up outside Jason’s house. The three attackers flee. Leaving behind their victim.

Everything that happens next seems to be in slow motion as everyone takes in what has happened to Luke and Jason.

This book opens with such an impact that you are left reeling along with the three main narrators of the story.

Andrew, Jason’s father is coming to terms with what has happened and is trying to hold onto his marriage at the same time.

Louise, Luke’s mother is coming to terms with what has happened and is trying to hold everything together for the sake of her son and daughter.

Emma, witnessed the events on the bus. She was the one that turned a blind eye. She was in fear of her own life. What if the three teenagers, turned on her?

As the story develops, we learn more about each of the main narrators, more about Luke and Jason and sadly we learn about the three teenagers who fled. Emotions are highly charged and as a reader I was swept away with the fact that time seemed to have stopped still for some of them, whilst life was going on for others, maybe not so happily but moving forward none the less.

The actions of those that are affected might seem odd out of a situation like this but make perfect sense, as friendships are forged under the most strained circumstances and that the questioning can perhaps never end if there is no justice. But it raises the question of what is justice?

This book dealt with many issues and it is very difficult for me to pigeon-hole them into this review. This book is gritty, it’s real and emotional. However, when you get to the end you will not only ask yourself what would you do? But if you were in the situation of Andrew, Louise or Emma what would you do in their shoes?

Well written and plotted. I personally cannot fault anything about the book.

It has taken me an absolute age to get round to reading this book. I have had it for at least three years. But the impetus for me to read it came about when it was picked for one of my challenges for 2015. I wish I had not waited so long.

If you are looking for a good book to discuss at your book group, then I think this would make an excellent choice. 

 

 

The Cake Shop in the Garden – Carole Matthews

What could be better than running a cake shop and small cafe in your own garden. Even more so when your garden backs onto a canal, and the wonderful canal boats that pass, make the view one that many would pay good money for. It felt like I was there.

Fay seems to be living an idyllic life, with the cake shop in her garden. However, she is also trying to deal with her mother who has taken to her bed and the fact that her safe relationship with Anthony is not very exciting.

Things are going to change for Fay and she is going to see everyone and life in a very different light. Opportunities present themselves and it is time to make some decisions. It seems that Fay’s idyllic life has some key factors missing.

This is another wonderful read from Carole Matthews, an author I have only started reading within the last 12 months. Her characters bring out differing emotions in me, I wanted to shake Fay at times and get her to take a risk on a decision she was making, I felt like slapping Fay’s mother and boyfriend Anthony for being so needy and wet in equal measure. I would have all the time in the world for Stan, the daily customer to the Cake Shop in the Garden and no time at all for Edie who was the sister that we would all rather think was never related to us. And as for Danny, my heart beat that little bit faster.

However, special mention must go to the forthright, spiky, full of passion character Lija who said everything we (and Fay) were thinking and had me ;laughing out loud with the way she dealt with life. We all need to be a bit like Lija.

A lovely summer read, to while away some time in the garden with tea and cake!

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me to read this book. 

The Cake Shop in the Garden is out now

This was just the book I needed to read whilst on holiday from work, which is why I flew through it. I do love a nice comfortable read which actually packs a lot into the pages and the plot. I can see I need to read more of Carole Matthews in the future. 

The Rose of Sebastopol – Katharine McMahon

Mariella’s life is a fairly simple one. She is devoted to her duties within her family and sewing circle. Her life is somewhat mapped out for her and all its constraints that a future life will give for a young woman in Victorian society.

Her fiance Henry has made a name for himself as a surgeon and it is that which takes him away from Mariella. There romance is to be put on hold.  Henry enters a world which Mariella can only but begin to imagine,her sheltered life and upbringing can only touch a small part of what Henry is a part of every day. Henry goes to war. Mariella’s war is constrained to watching soldiers march past Buckingham Palace, to scrapbooks full of newspaper cuttings and making items for the soldiers abroad.

Mariella’s cousin Rosa, has other ideas about life and certainly about war. She wants to experience everything that Henry has the chance to do within his work. She wants to go to places that young ladies of a certain standing do not even go. But there is something I found disturbing about Rosa, she wants Mariella’s life as well. Her behaviour is erratic, her love for Mariella verged on the obsession and there was an undercurrent of homosexuality there, certainly on Rosa’s part, I think Mariella was too naive to even begin to see such a thing. At times I despised both characters but also admired them for the strength they seemed to gain as war suddenly affected them all that much more.

Rosa goes to war. Henry is there. By chance their paths cross. But communication with home ceases, and when Henry is recuperating in Italy after illness Mariella makes the decision to visit.

What then transpires is something which shocks Mariella and she now has to find the truth and more importantly find Rosa.

And so the book takes us into the heart of war, the shocking losses, the smells, the tastes and the fantastic scenic imagery from war ravaged landscapes, to the organisation of military hospitals and the basic nursing care as it develops. This is all brought to life by the author and gives a small insight into a period of history that I knew very little about.

The backdrop of the Crimean War was a new historical period for me to be reading about and I feel that I was more enlightened having read the book. The book contained many interesting aspect as we see the development of hospitals within the Victorian society and I would have liked personally a bit more background on that and the world which Mariella was inhabiting.

A good piece of historical fiction and with characters that you can like and dislike in equal measure.

This book has been on my shelf for a long time and I am glad that I am now getting round to reading some of these books, especially the historical fiction as it reminds me so much of why I love reading. 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Snippets

I have gone back to work today (I have honest – this post is scheduled!) And whilst I will not have to write an essay about what I did in the holiday and have to read it out in class I thought I would tell you that I am still here and this is what I did on holiday.

Reading  – lots and lots. Apparently according to Goodreads I am only one book behind schedule. I started my holiday five behind. I have made progress.

Eating –  too much. Lunches out with friends, in glorious weather. Egg and Cress sandwiches. Carrot Cake. Scampi and Chips. Salmon Salad. Lots of chocolate and shortbread too! Therefore it has led to…….

Weighing – myself. Which has led to weighing what I eat and counting the calories. I can do this, I have done it before I need to do it again. So I was also weighing up all my options too and generally getting myself back on an even keel.

Cobbling – well making slippers actually.

IMG_0710

All will be revealed in another post.

Exercising – being off from work means I can go swimming with my dad. So I have.

Sleeping – plenty of afternoon naps. Somehow I don’t think I will be able to get away with that at work.

Counting – not just those calories, but how many days until the next bank holiday weekend and how many days until my next decent break. (It’s over a 100) Not probably a great way to start back at work.

Painting Pottery

I am probably telling you all about something of which you already know – but you can go to wonderful places and paint pottery, with absolutely no need to throw any clay around) and you don’t have to be a child to join in this fun!

The local place to me is called Artypotz and is a small concern, but full of lovely stuff to paint and inspiration. I was first introduced to this about three years ago now with some friends for an alternative night out as opposed to eating and drinking your way to oblivion.

I had an idea in my head and found a plate that I could out my idea onto. It was not bad for a first attempt, but I would certainly do things differently now.

IMG_0688I was in a purple mood (in fact I always am) so I accompanied it with a spoon rest in some rather wobbly lines as you can see! I know I would do the plate differently and when I see the right sort of plate I may well have another attempt, to make the words clearer.

IMG_0689A couple more visits, with my mum as a good way to pass an evening have ensued over the years and the results have had a varied theme and results.

IMG_0693This was in 2012 and ended up being more like a jubilee celebrations – just look at those wonky dots!

I went for something more sedate for a little bowl for my cereal in the mornings.

IMG_0691This time round when I went I spotted some rather strange-looking bowls – but I knew what they were!

IMG_0684They are of course Yarn Bowls and so I excitedly painted one for me and one for my mum. Ironically we had asked about these on one of the occasions we had been before.

IMG_0695All of course signed uniquely by me. This is the one my mum did not want she opted for the other one

IMG_0703Here it is in action…….

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed a few chips on the older models! I am a bit heavy-handed with the washing up and always have been and probably always will be.

I certainly want to go again this year and might have to persuade my mum along again – but what shall I paint. Plenty to choose from if I keep chipping things!