Books

44 Cranberry Point – Debbie Macomber

This is the fourth book in Debbie Macomber’s successful Cedar Cove series. I have quickly fallen for these books with some guilty pleasure and I am sure that there are many other fans out there as well.

All the characters from the first three books are back, and I did wonder if I would remember who everyone was and how the all relate to each other, either through birth, marriage, death, friendships, work colleagues, neighbours, associates the list is somewhat endless. There is a list of ‘who is who’ at the beginning of the book but to be honest, as soon as I started reading I remembered. Rather like a soap opera where the same characters are there all the time, some of them have more prominent storylines than others and therefore they are far more in the front and not just passing references. However, I have found with Debbie Macomber, pay attention to these passing references as actually they are the strands from which stories are picked up and obviously going to be continued into future books.

44 Cranberry Point features around the couple who own Cedar Cove’s Bed and Breakfast, Peggy and Bob Beldon. Their life has not been the same since a man was found dead in their house and that the man in fact was a former colleague of Bob’s when he fought in Vietnam. Something is not quite right, and it seems that perhaps Bob could be in danger,  the local private detective Roy McAfee is still on hand to help as well as Bob’s AA buddy Jack Griffin.

Jack is newly married to Olivia (the local judge) and their lives are going through a change, as is Olivia’s mother Charlotte and when a suggestion that all may not be as it seem. Family relations are very strained for a while. Olivia seeks solace with her friend Grace Sherman but Grace is preoccupied with Cliff the man she let go because of an infatuation which was never going to go anywhere and the death of her husband, Dan who was also with Bob Beldon during Vietnam.

I have said in previous reviews before that everything is cyclical in these books and everyone interrelates nicely. It works do no ask me how but it does. Something in this book stood out for me, whether it was the strength of the writing, but I did not find myself skim reading (which I admit to doing in the past with these novels) but actually absorbed into the book completely, even if I could guess what was coming next, I did not want to spoil the surprise.

I will continue with the series.

Books

The Blue Geranium – Agatha Christie – TV Adaptation

I posted a few days ago about the fact that I had read The Blue Geranium in preparation of seeing it on ITV last night. So what is my theory about the TV version. A very good version but to make it television there were a few things missing.

  • Where was Dolly Bantry? Miss Marple is invited to dinner at her house where she meets Sir Henry Clithering again. She does not seek him out.
  • Where was Colonel Bantry? It was him who told the story of George Pritchard, his wife and the wallpaper.
  • The reason for the murder was love and although this was shown in the programme it was more focussed on greed than anything else.
  • The murderer and the method was correct.
  • Extra characters and threads of stories (some red herrings perhaps?) were added, presumably to flesh a short story out into a 2 hour programme.  The detective, the mysterious Eddie Seward and his past life, the previous relationships of George Pritchard and his brother, plus their wives Mary and Phillipa.
  • There were three flowers that would turn blue, and took place over three subsequent 3 full moons. I am sure the programme only covered 2 flowers and there was no mention of the moon. Odd considering the victim was very much intro astrology and mystical beliefs.

All this aside, it was a good adaptation and Sharon Small who played Mary Pritchard did it very well, as did her husband Toby Stephens. In fact all the characters were played well whether they featured in the original story or not. That is why I think this programme is so successful.

(L-R) Toby Stephens (George Pritchard) Julia McKenzie (Miss Marple) Caroline Catz (Hester) Sharon Small (Mary Pritchard)

Julia McKenzie has grown on me as Miss Marple, and oddly enough my way of telling is whether she can knit for real. If you do not know how to knit, I really believe you cannot fake it, especially when you are knitting but listening and talking to what is going on without looking down at your knitting. As soon as I saw her knitting in previous TV adaptations I knew she was right for the role.

I look forward to the next adaptation and perhaps when I have read some more of the stories, I will be back to do some Book versus TV type reviews. I would like to hear what others thought?

Books

Additions to the pile

I was very lucky this year and got just a few books for Christmas! None of these were a surprise, as I had asked for all of them.

From the bottom working up:

Alan Titchmarsh – When I was a Nipper. Have not really dipped in this yet, but I get the sense of a ‘Coffee Table’ book.

Paul O’Grady – The Devil Rides Out & Chris Evans – Memoirs of a Fruitcake. Got to get my fix of autobiographies and these will then be shared with my father.

Jennifer Worth – In the Midst of Life. Have read her three previous books and wanted to find out more about her life but also I find the books educational at the same time.

Sharon Owens – A Winters Wedding. I have fallen back in love with Sharon Owens books so wanted to keep up to date.

Tessa Hainsworth – Seagulls in the Attic. The follow-up to her first book Up With the Larks which I reviewed here. I am looking forward to reading this, I hope it is as good as the first.

Mary Nichols – The Summer House. Have recently read The Fountain and was slightly disappointed, apparently this is an earlier novel and got better reviews. The title of the book has also given me an idea about reading other books with the same title. Watch this space and please get in contact if you are interested.

Carola Dunn – Death at Wentwater Court. Really got into my crime in 2010 (reading obviously!) and wanted to try another ‘cosy’ mystery series out. This is the first book perhaps of many I may read.

James Anderson – The Affair of the Mutilated Mink. This is the second book in Anderson’s Burford mystery series. I enjoyed the first and having a rather OCD nature in all things complete, I thought I would read the second.

Helene Hanff – 84 Charing Cross Road. This is the first book I have got from reading other people’s blogs. Such high recommendations I felt I was missing out if I did not read this.

Karen Wheeler – Toute Allure. Another sequel to novel Tout Sweet. Part novel but also part autobiography.

Rhys Bowen – A Royal Pain. Another ‘cosy’ crime mystery, having loved the first.

Phew! Quite a haul and a fairly mixed sort of selection. There was one more book, which is not photographed because I was already reading it when I took the photo and having now finished it; it will be the next review on here.

I was also blessed with two other books; which I did not know about.

The Second Book of General Ignorance – taken from the wonderful BBC 1 programme QI with the equally wonderful Stephen Fry. Christmas would not be Christmas if it was not for books like these. The other is not a book but a ‘Book Journal’ with wonderful blank pages to record books read, out on loan, reviews etc. I just love the front cover. So what can I possibly write in this book, well after some thought, it is going to be my journal on all things Agatha Christie. My mum got me this journal and it was her that got me into Agatha Christie, so I think the two go together very nicely. I have only read a couple of her books, but watched countless episodes on the television. Now is the time to correct that and my mum has a wonderful collection to delve through; although she failed to have Murder on the Orient Express (a story for another day) so that is winging its way to me so both myself and mum can read it.

Books · Witterings

Ending 2010…Starting 2011

I am ending 2010 having finished 81 books (and the year is not over yet!). The full list can be found here. This is more than last year for me, but also far less than some of you readers out there! I always set myself the challenge of reading 50 books in a year,  part of me secretly because I know I can achieve this and I like some goals in life that I know I will achieve!

Looking back on all the books I have read, under no particular rigid titles but as I think of them.

My best book of the year was probably Kathryn Stockett – The Help and this held the spot for me in some ways until Dawn French –  A Tiny Bit Marvellous.

I discovered some new authors and have devoured many of their books already; Debbie Macomber and  Sinead Moriarty come to mind as they are what I call ‘easy reads’. Another author I have discovered and look forward to Subsequent books; Belinda Bauer – Blacklands. Sarah Rayner – One Moment, One Morning was also a page turner.

I was disappointed in Sadie Jones – Small Wars and Sarah Waters – The Little Stranger; sometimes subsequent books are not as good as the ‘hype’ that can surround them. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was another over hyped book for me. I still have not seen the film.  Although I know people who loved the book immensely.

Crime was definitely a feature in 2010,  I am now up to date bar one with Simon Brett’s Fethering Mysteries; The Poisoning at the Pub, which I will wait until I see it in a Charity Shop or library before I buy. Brian McGilloway was introduced to me through the Amazon Vine programme; The Rising and I sought out the first book in the Inspector Devlin series; Borderlands.  Nicola Upson, James Anderson, Kate Atkinson ‘ Jackson Brodie’ novels and Rhys Bowen were all ‘criminal’ discoveries and books that are now on my ever-growing to-be-read pile.

Surprising book for me was Alan Carr – Look Who it is! My Story it really exceed expectations. Funniest titled has to be Julia Stuart – Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo, having read Stuart’s previous novel The Matchmaker of Perigord I knew what I was expecting but this her second book far exceeds her first.

Just a small review of the books that I have read without trying to review every single book again. I am sure I have probably missed some gems to tell you about, and I will think of them after this post has been published but what I have mentioned, stands out for me as I write this post.

Amazon Vine has allowed me to discover books I would not normally have picked up but also only two books which I could not finish – they were just not my cup of tea and I have learnt not to punish myself by reading books I am not enjoying. That was for school. Getting into book blogging has also allowed me to discover some other books that I perhaps would not have read and I start 2011 with a few more than I would normally have.

Books

The Blue Geranium – Agatha Christie (Short Story)

I am not normally a short story person. However, upon discovering that one of ITV’s adaption for Christmas was going to be The Blue Geranium, I wanted to see first of all whether it was actually a Miss Marple story and did my mum have the book. It was and my mum did have it –  then that I actually discovered it was a short story.

It is one of the thirteen stories in ‘The Thirteen Problems’ and a nice short one, which I have read twice in the last couple of days. Miss Marple is called upon to sort out a ghost mystery that Colonel Bantry has got. Bantry’s friend George Pritchard’s sick wife had a passion for fortune tellers and the light and when one visit results in finding out “Beware of the Full Moon. The Blue Primrose means warning; the Blue Hollyhock means danger; the Blue Geranium means death”. Every full moon, Mrs Pritchard waits and witnesses the changing of the wallpaper with each flower in turn going blue. Is it something ghostly or does Miss Marple have the recipe for the result?

The ITV have adapted it for their Marple series with Julia Mackenzie as the infamous lady detective to be shown on Wednesday 29 December – look out for my review of this as well. On reading the cast list, there seems to be lots of ‘new’ characters.

I am now also tempted to take a foray into the other Miss Marple short stories, and see if rather than for sort of research purposes, I may enjoy short stories.

Books

The House of Dust and Dreams – Brenda Reid

This is the story of two women who become unlikely friends. Heavenly is married to a British Diplomat and is used to the luxury and fineries of British Embassies. Anthi is a local Cretan woman married to a man that her family chose for her, and she works and toils on the land to just survive. Together they face many challenges and the growing threat of War means that Crete become a vital place where the focus of inter fighting transfers to the enemy from outside Italy and Germany.

Brenda Reid captures the feel, the smell and the heat of Crete in the late thirties and how these women adjust to their ever changing lives. Heavenly stays on Crete in her husband’s family home whilst he goes back to Athens. Here she restores a rundown house, which is falling apart and covered in dust. At the same time her dreams are being rebuilt as she falls in love with a local builder, Christos and becomes a very different woman, a local some would say as she embraces village life and changes the way she views life and then her future changes forever.  

Anthi has to struggle to survive, with two small children to protect and the memory of a third who never lived a full life, she not only has to battle with living from the land wondering about harvests and weather but also her husband who distrusts her and slowly begins to break down her dreams for her future and her children’s future until they are merely dust. Something then changes and Anthi finds she has the strength to almost fight the forthcoming war all by herself; she wants to play a part.

The war is portrayed with such care, that you can see that research has been carried out. This is not a book which is showing war in a major town on Crete, the ones we all know about from history books. This book shows it from a much lower level, the people in the mountains and the hills and the little villages that keep Crete a unique place. Even if you know very little about Crete’s role in the Second World War, this will show you a different side to it all.

If you want to escape to another time, another place and experience something through the eyes of the women out there then this is the book for you. I am sure it will be compared to Victoria Hislop’s The Island but take that with a pinch of salt, this book stands out on its own.

I enjoyed this book, as although reading can be seen as escapism it can also be seen as an education sometimes directly, sometimes subtly. This book was both. I have included the Hardback front cover (above) and also the paperback (below). They both encapsulate the love, mystery and dreams of the story and although you should not judge a book by its cover, sometimes it is the cover which sells us the story as much as the blurb on the back.

 

Books

The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella

This is Rebecca Bloomwood’s story of her life as a financial journalist where she reports on all things financial. But there is a problem her own personal finances are out of control and she cannot bring herself to sort them out. Rebecca has her head in the sand. Then an opportunity to help goes wrong but can she rectify all that she has done and does she really know something about finances after all?

She tries cutting back but that costs her more money, she tries making more money but does not have the skill. Her debt just keeps increasing as do the letters from the Bank, the Visa Card people, and stores where she has accounts.  These are throughout the book, as we are in Rebecca’s world where she tries to justify to us as readers and ultimately herself that it is okay to be buying all these things. Shopping is Rebecca’s addiction and even if you do not have the same sort of passion for shopping that Rebecca does you can still probably relate to some of them justifications in making purchases no matter how small or big.

I found Rebecca really annoying as a character; I am one of those people who do not shop like this; unless it is in a bookshop! She actually grated on me, but because she was that annoying I wanted to see what happen to her, and like all good chick lit books it all comes good in the end. And it was very easy to work where the book was going to go. Although this book was published 10 years ago its topics are just as relevant now as they were then. Debt is not going to go away, and for as long as they are shops there will be characters like Rebecca Bloomwood shopping in them.

Despite my lack of interest in the character and probably the story as a whole, it was a good escapism book but I will not be reading the others.

I am rather late in discovering Sophie Kinsella and the ‘Shopaholic’ series, and since I saw a lot about her latest novel, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I think my review gives that opinion. I do wonder why the character annoyed me so much. That does not mean that the book was no good, it must have had something for the character to annoy me so much and make me want to finish the book but it does not make me want to read the rest of the series, I think perhaps because I can predict what the subsequent books are going to be like. But if I am looking for some sheer escapism, perhaps if I came across one in a charity shop as I did this one I might buy it?

Crafts · Cross Stitch

Christmas Decorations – Version 2

In my recent post I showed you some of the decorations that I have made this year. Well I am back with some more I made; which are now hanging from the wooden tree. Here you can see the tree in full.

These are Lizzie Kate’s 12 Blessings of Christmas. I love Lizzie Kate designs, and since I have got these out of the box to hang on the tree (I made them back at the beginning of the year) I suddenly want to find all my Lizzie Kate and stitch them! I have quite a few already stitched but  will not bore you with them on this post. The 12 Blessings were as follows; Love, Friends, Hope, Charity, Joy, Song, Giving, Caring, Family, Faith, Peace and Home. Blessings for Christmas but also for any time of the year I feel.

A close up of two blessings. I went for the finishing method of the framed felt, and as you can probably see by the picture, not my best cutting. It is great doing the stitching, but sometimes the finishing can get you! However I love them, because I made them and they are finished uniquely by me. I hope you all enjoy some of these blessings this Christmas and in 2011.

Crafts

Christmas Decorations

My tree is out of the box, the lights are on it, and the baubles (spherical and heart-shaped) are hanging nicely, along with the beaded chain and the angel/fairy on the top!

So it is beginning to look  like Christmas in my flat. But I have another tree – a wooden one, made by my dad which is actually half a curtain pole and a few bits of dowelling. On this tree hang my home-made decorations. Currently at the moment – the Christmas Ribbon Decorations.

You start with a polystyrene egg, available from all good craft shops. Then you need the ribbon to decorate it with, and some scissors to cut the ribbon, plus lots of pins to pin it to the polystyrene.

You need to cut it up into a couple of inch wide pieces, enough so you can fold each edge in, to make a point. Then you simply pin to the egg, building up as you go, the pattern you would like.

Once you have covered all the egg, and the top can be quite fiddly, you attach ribbon or beads to hang from your nearest tree.

I have not made as many as I had hoped to this year, time seems to have run away with me and I have so much on the go that choosing what to sit and do takes longer than actually doing it!

These are the other two that I made.  Well there is always next year……

Books

The Gypsy Madonna – Santa Montefiore

This is the story of Mischa who when his mother dies leaving a piece of priceless art to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, embarks on trying to find out the truth about who this art really did belong to and how his mother came to have it and he knew nothing about it.

Santa Montefiore takes us back to France after the war, where Mischa was born to a German father and where his mother paid for this sin watched on by a local crowd and the priest. This action rendered Mischa mute until a mysterious American, Coyote comes into their lives and changes everything.

Coyote has power over everyone, and Mischa believes that someone else loves him as much as his mother does, and through this love and belief his voice comes back one Sunday during Mass. Prompting the locals to believe that God has had an influence and that the priest must know. But the priest is harbouring his own secret? And what exactly is Coyote doing in this part of France?

Mischa moves to America with his mother and Coyote and begins the next stage of his life, where when one day Coyote walks out and never comes back, Mischa turns to crime, hurting people and sheer hatred. Although his actions can be seen as mere teenage excessiveness the hatred he has seems to go with him throughout his life. Only when he tries to discover the truth about the painting does this hatred disappear and love seems to flow from him.

I found this book rather wishy-washy. Montefiore portrays the young Mischa with all the knowledge of a man and the older Mischa with the naivety of a boy and this although perhaps intentional actually annoyed me. I could not warm to Mischa, nor any of the other characters and I felt that this affected the whole plot for me. The conclusion and the truth behind the painting seem to have happened within a few pages, and I felt that I had missed something?

Montefiore has written in my opinion far better books than this one. And whilst the premise is a good one, there was too much chopping and changing around for me in terms of characters and places and I felt that I did not get time to know them as I have in her other books.

I was really disappointed in this book, and at one point actually wanted to put it down unfinished. But I ploughed onto the end. Reflecting on it I think if I knew the painting they were referring to perhaps it might have had an impact. Art is not one of my strong areas, although I wish it was. This is what they are referring to:
I have to confess I am none the wiser. I think I was disappointed by the book, because I have read other books by Santa Montefiore and enjoyed them; Sea of Lost Love and The Butterfly Box. My reviews can be found at the links. I pick up another of her novels with more trepidation I think in the future.