The Yard – Alex Grecian

This is a book for a changing time. It is a book where science is used but not counted. It is a book where there is fear in the streets. It is a book where the police are looked at with disdain and not trusted. It is a book where the future of catching the criminal is changing.

It is the late 1880s, Jack the Ripper has disappeared from the streets of London, but that does not mean murder’s have ceased. The people of London are wary of any murder and the police know that because Jack gave them the slip they need to always catch criminals. So when a body is found in a trunk at a railway station, panic could well ensue again. But this time the body is that of a policeman. Now with one of their own dead, it is even more important to catch the murderer.

Enter a new detective to the area, Inspector Walter Day who is heading up the inquiry and winning over the other detectives on the newly formed Murder Squad. Can he restore faith in the public, win over his colleagues and more importantly the faith in himself that he is a worthy detective? Not new to the area, but new to the police is Dr Bernard Kingsley, his knowledge of forensics  and what they can do to make sure the murderer is caught brings an angle to the book where you perhaps appreciate how much science and policing has come forward in the intervening years of when this book was set and when we as readers are reading it.

Interestingly this is not a natural formulaic whodunnit – we know who the killer is from very early on. It is a book about how they catch the killer, if they do at all.  In fact the book is split into sections where we see everything from the killers perspective as well as the detective and constables on the force. Even to the point of going back and finding out about the main characters and how they arrived to where they were now. On the streets of London, surviving in the only way they knew how. Whether that be by killing or protecting the innocent.  There are a few other stories along the way involving the Constables and I admit it became a bit confusing for me to grasp, but perseverance with the novel meant that all ends were suitably tied up.

This is a début novel from an American author and I admire his tenacity to set it in a city that he can only have read about. The publisher has used the selling point of him having never visited the city before writing about it.  It has some areas of improvement and flaws that need to be addressed in future novels – it threw me calling one of the Constable’s Hammersmith because I kept reading the place as supposed to the person at this point and the village that Hammersmith hailed from was called Collier – a mining village in Wales. I did not feel I was right into Victorian London enough, it kind of skirted on the outskirts of it. The science elements though were much more detailed and graphic where perhaps the research was a bit more thorough.  A book where you did not feel you learnt anything. Many have commented on the use of the language and how it is perhaps a bit too modern for the setting of the book. I had not noticed this until I read other reviews, for me I was too caught up with how they were going to catch the killer. I did want to know what happened and that is why I kept me reading.

A promising book, which could have been a bit shorter and worked more effectively with a greater impact to the reader.

Thank you to Amazon Vine for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. 

It took me a long while to get round to reading this, I have had it on my shelf for rather longer than I anticipated.   However, I am trying to tidy up my piles of books, so knew I needed to get on and read it. 

It was good in parts, but as I say in my review there were other parts where the author did not hit the mark. Since finishing the book, I have read about Alex Grecian and The Yard. Grecian has previously published graphic novels, this book therefore is a very large step away from that. I was glad to hear that he used real life characters despite taking them out of their actual time period by a few years here and there. It would have been nice if the book actually at the end mentioned these real life characters and their actual story – with a nod to the work actually being fiction. More can be found out on the q and a part of Grecian’s website. It makes for rather interesting reading. 

I acknowledge in the review that I did not pick up on the language, I wonder why? It has got me thinking now.

There is to be a second book by Alex Grecian called The Black Country featuring some of the detectives from this novel, but I am not sure if I will be picking it up to read, especially if it is as long and not quite succinct enough in its idea.


Book Club #8 – The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year – Sue Townsend

And so the book club goes on into 2013 and the first book of the year was The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend. Oh and so much to talk about with this book, which I mentioned in my review as I was itching to discuss many things but they would have given the plot away! I refrained from using the smiley face cards that I have used before, however they will be back for future get together’s I am sure. I was armed with some questions relevant to this book and I have highlighted those red if you ever read the book please do refer back here.

Sadly this month we were a couple down due to life and illness, but that still did not stop everyone taking part thanks to the magic of iPad where comments could be sent at the same time as discussion. There was a definite response from L that she would not be able to spend a whole year in bed, a day was bad enough whilst ill. This was probably the consensus of most of us, and we would only stay in bed if really ill and not through some sort of decision made as Eva does in the book. W much prefers the sofa with a blanket if ill.

Did we like Eva? Well I think so. We could understand her reasons for doing what she does; a need for some time for her to think, she has been a wife, mother, daughter and now she wants to be Eva. But the obvious breakdown was rather disturbing to read for me and I felt powerless to be able to help Eva but also that I could not point any of the other characters to the suffering that Eva was in and the help that she needed. What did Eva learn about herself during her hibernation? This question was first discussed by us – why use the word hibernation – was it a hibernation (our group did not think this was case) or something else (our group thought it was about finding yourself and time for yourself and what you wanted). Sometimes the questions need to be discussed before we can even begin to formulate an answer.  C could relate to wanting to stay in bed for a while but probably not a year – an extra hour is a luxury. C is a very busy lady who packs a lot into her life. S gave an example of being quite content on her own and how she had learned to love this but a relative could not bear to be alone in the house. Both I and W were content with it. The word guilt was an obvious association with doing something such as ‘nothing’ or doing what you want to do – the guilt being we should always be doing something else and generally for other people too. This book is a reminder in that it is okay to do something for yourself and the last thing you should do is feel guilty about it. Though this book is by no means a self help book and should not be read as such.

We could all understand in some ways getting away from her husband, Brian and her children, twins Brian Junior and Brianne. What did we think of Brian? Did we have any sympathy with him? W was quite vehemently against Brian and wanted him to get his comeuppance. As C commented he thought the whole universe centred round him and that everything else was in his orbit. Appropriate really considering his choice of profession as an astronomerAs S said though, this was changing and he was actually becoming rather backward thinking in his profession and there were people doubting him and his prominence. This was what Eva was doing she was no longer prepared to orbit him. For Brian it was devastating, despite the tangled web of affairs he had got himself into, he returned to Eva because she cooked the dinner, she washed his clothes. Eva balanced everything out. Even the name of their children was centred on Brian.

The issue of Brian’s shed where he went of an evening (before returning for his dinner of course) was where the clandestine meetings with Titania (his lover) happened, and where eventually he resided when Titania whilst Eva remained in the house, in fact remaining in her bed. Conclusion by all that Brian should just remain in his shed. But as with all good books and stories, L wanted to see Brian and Eva reunited. I am not sure it would have worked but that is the beauty of fiction, you can carry on the story ad-infinitum. But why did Eva stay with him was one of the questions put forward. Most thought because of duty and the fear of doing something else and no doubt pressure from outside forces, in the shape of her own mother, Ruby, loved by all of us and mother-in-law, Yvonne who was a particularly nasty piece of work. Eva did everything and the most favourite few passages for all of us were how she recounts Christmas, which was rather apt considering the timing of reading this book. Eva talking to Brian:

“You’ll find the Christmas Card list in the bureau in the sitting room, together with stamps and unused cards. Write them tonight before you go to bed. After work tomorrow, drive around garden centres and garage forecourts look at Christmas trees. In your mind’s eye you are seeing a perfect tree, lushly green and aromatic, rounded at the bottom and rising in ever-decreasing circles until topped with a single branch. However, there are no such trees.

Clear out fridge – use disparate leftovers to make strange little meals, flavours disguised by chilli flakes and garlic. Go to local butcher, order a turkey. Watch him laugh in your face. Go to supermarket, try to order a turkey. Leave to the sound of laughter from the poultry department. Buy ten tins of Quality Street for fifty quid. Queue for an hour and ten minutes to pay for them. Decide how much to spend on distant or near relatives, trawl round shops, ignore present list and make ludicrous impulse buys….Go on-line  order latest technical must-have gadget for Brian and twins, find that there are none left in the country……”.

We all found this funny and could relate to it I think, which was why we were certain this book was definitely geared towards women. It was not a book we could see a man reading, but would be interested to hear what he would think.

The twins were a topic for discussion all on their own. Despite Brianne (S – an unfortunate name for a child, poor girl) trying to get to close to her mother in the beginning. However Eva’s relationship with Alexander put pay to all this and Brianne callously sold her mother’s jewellery and there was no going back for any sort of relationship forming between them, which was sad. Is she a good mother?  She did try Eva to be a good mother but I feel that for these two children there was no reaching them and that she had no support from Brian in doing so. We thought they were somewhere on the autistic spectrum and that their behaviour became very insular and dangerous towards the end of the book, they only needed each other. We found them fascinating characters but not very nice.

Is the book more than a comedy? What does it say about motherhood and family life? S said it was the ultimate dysfunctional family where components of what are a small part in lots of families are suddenly contained into one place. I am not sure it is a book which says much about motherhood in general as it is really Eva’s story which is the main thread of the book and Eva’s issues with motherhood. As for it being a comedy, I think the jury is still out on that one with us. There were some laugh out loud moments, but that was not really the aim of the book. We did love the author’s use of character names throughout – Titania; the mistress being shortened to Tit made us chuckle especially in the way it was called out as if calling for an animal. Nurse Spears conjured up a nurse with a penchant of stabbing people with needles, and certainly stabbed people with her bedside manner. Ruby the gem in the book as Eva’s mother certainly made us laugh and the way she made the most out of a situation. Making and selling cakes and refreshments when the world descends on Eva’s doorstep made me smile. Her ability to be able to say the wrong thing at the wrong time made her such a fallible human character amongst many that were not. And I have not really touched on Poppy much probably because all of us wanted to strangle her. There was some extreme dysfunctional behaviour there!

S felt that she could not get in to the story, she was not drawn right in and could pick it up and down as and when. There were some parts that were humorous but there were a lot of parts that weren’t and it became a frustrating read for S and C. W had not finished yet. L was disappointed with the ending and I was just glad to finish it. Whether it would work on television as Adrian Mole did was something we were not sure about. S did say that it would make an excellent play. Where the action all takes place in Eva’s bedroom and you can almost see the setting but also the deconstruction and change as the bedroom becomes this complete neutral space.

It was a book I feel in conclusion that we were all a bit ‘blah’ about. We read it and now we move onto the next one, The White Queen by Philippa Gregory.


Cupcakes at Carrington’s – Alexandra Brown

This book has made a timely appearance in my opinion. With the recent BBC series of Paradise based on a Emilie Zola novel and Mr Selfridge based on Lindy Woodhead’s book. This novel taps into the wonder of the department store.  The characters of those who fight to get the sales in their department, those behind the scenes that keep it running, moving and accounting for everything as well as the top floor cafe – in this case serving delicious cupcakes; welcome to Cupcakes at Carrington’s.

This is the first in what is going to be a series of novels, so this is very much for me a setting the scene for what could be about to happen. We meet Sam, owner of the Cupcake Cafe, who has a wonderful way of knowing what is going on throughout the store.  Eddie the personal assistant of the managing director who is known as ‘The Heff’ knows secrets but would never divulge, discretion is his key word and that becomes apparent towards the end of the novel when Eddie finds himself divulging secrets unwillingly. Ciaran, a waiter in the cafe is in a relationship with Tina, who works in accounts at the store and is the golden couple that all places have when there is a huge amount of staff. All of these are friends with Georgie the main protagonist of the story who is battling selling handbags to those who do not realise they need one as well as battle surviving outside the walls of Carrington.  Just to make life even more interesting, throw into the mix a handsome stranger and a dangerous Russian and for Georgie it becomes a battle for the balance of what is right and wrong. Her actions could affect more than herself.

Of course the shop is going to go through a tough time and changes are going to have to happen – Carrington needs to maximise everything it has – in steps Maxine. The woman who will sort it all out. But with Maxine, it is not going to be that easy and suddenly all those who you feel are not just colleagues but as friends as well, are suddenly going to turn into your rival. It will be survival of the most profit.

Surely there is something that can help all these characters that you grow to love as the shop continues to trade? Of course but I am not going to tell you, you will have to go through the doors of Carrington’s and find out for yourself, I think you might like what is for sale there.

This is Alexandra Brown’s début novel and it is a good starting point. My only obvious criticism is it took me a while to work out exactly where the department store was – the UK or America? I quickly realised it was not America due to the language but was very surprised to find it in a seaside town.  However, it did not spoil my enjoyment of the book and I look forward to the next because I want to know what happens in other parts of the store as well as those characters that have I got to know in this novel.

I had this book on pre-order and picked it because I do like books that feature a group of people, an ensemble as you will and rather than a big house which is my first love, it was just simply a big shop! It still had that hierarchy that makes for great story lines and this is a series of books where I am interested in how it is going to go. My only frustration is that I have to wait now for the next one, that is the trouble when you start out at the beginning of a series – I do like it when I discover series where I have lots to catch up on. 

I have been watching Mr Selfridge and have the book to read at some point as well. I am not quite sure about the programme at the moment, it could be something that grows I feel. However, when I think department store, other than the lovely Fortnum and Mason’s and H.A.Rods (Harrods to the uninitiated) I automatically think of Are You Being Served, a programme I grew up with and it is the theme tune, that makes me think of these wonderful buildings that held everything, different things on different floors……..

Ground floor:
Perfumery, stationary, and leather goods, wigs and haberdashery, kitchenware and food. Going up…

First floor:
Telephones, gents ready made suits, shirts, suits, ties, hats, underwear, and shoes. Going up…

Second floor: 
Carpets, travel goods, and bedding, materials, soft furnishings, restaurants, and ties. Going down…

First floor:
Telephones, gents ready made suits, shirts, suits, ties, hats. Going down…

If you want to actually listen then click here oh it brings back memories. Although I will note that I do not think this novel is anything like Grace Brothers but it is a novel that has some very up to date relevant comments and certainly makes it a book of it’s time which is what I am getting at. If you see my point? No, well never mind I know what I mean. 

Do you know of any other novels based in a department store? I would be intrigued to see if this is an area where we need more novels based in such places. 


Don’t Want to Miss a Thing – Jill Mansell

Dexter works hard and plays even harder. Women are part of the fun, and there is nothing serious that Dexter wants to get involved in. In fact the only love that Dexter has in is life is for himself and the only woman he loves is his sister. Then another female comes into his life – his brand new niece, Delphi and all of a sudden his life changes in more ways than he could ever imagine. Dexter loses his sister tragically and he is left holding the baby – literally.

Can the man who has never much committed to anything apart from having fun change his ways and become a responsible father figure? It will need a complete change of scenery and a starting again from scratch so he decides to move to Briarwood a village in the Cotswolds.

Molly has no luck with men, she simply chooses the wrong ones. The final straw with her latest beau results in the large carp he caught for her being unceremoniously flung over into the next door neighbours garden – just as Dexter happens to be viewing the property. Molly knows the cliché there are plenty more fish in the sea but this seems a rather stranger way of meeting her new neighbour especially when he appears to be drop dead gorgeous. Living next to him is going to be tough.

So along with Molly and Dexter and their will they wont they relationship, we meet other villagers as well and you really don’t want to miss a thing that goes on in this place. Even the most outwardly appearing secure relationships seem to have secrets hidden, and they are all exposed in various ways and in some cases heartbreaking moments when you think that no one will find love and that the romantic ideal that you have as a reader is going to be severely tested.

This is Jill Mansell’s new novel and whilst I have never read any of her work before, I think you will not be disappointed if you pick this up for some true romance and something that will brighten the winter days until we get to spring.

Thank you to Headline for the sneak preview of this book. It is published in hardback and e-book on 7 February 2013.

This was a book that I needed to have read in the very grey days we have been having in January, it really felt indulgent to be having some me time and escaping into such a novel. It brightened up those winter and going back to work blues. Yes I could see what was going to happen but so what I say to all those critics who do not like such things in novels.I felt reassured by it all.

I have not read any of Jill Mansell’s novels before – not sure why. I will quite happily I am sure pick up some of her other work at some point in my reading years.

Books · Jottings

Do you fancy a game of Bingo?

I have not been taken over by one of those sites where you get £20 free for your first time, though no doubt you have to spend something to get it. You can play this bingo anywhere, in bed, waiting for a bus, at work, at home – anywhere. It will only cost you books!  Yes this bingo is of the reading kind. I spotted this on Twitter a couple of weeks back and it comes from Random House Canada and I wanted to share as I thought it would be a great fun thing to do in the year and also thought it would be a good idea for my book club.

It is simple really, print off the card from this link here and as you go through the year mark off what you do.  Obviously this is geared to a Canadian audience, but actually translates quite well. It will be a challenge to find a Canadian Author, High School is obviously secondary school in the UK and I don’t have a Barista but perhaps I could spot someone reading a book in a coffee shop and give that a go?

I am going to add this to my Challenges for the year and I have passed it on to my book group too!


The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year – Sue Townsend

Eva has quite frankly had enough and decides that it is time for a rest and let everyone else get on with their lives without her input.

So she goes to bed.

She goes to bed and does not leave her bedroom.

Eva is the woman who went to bed for a year.

But who has Eva left behind and can they cope? Brian, her husband is more concerned that he won’t get fed, he is apparently getting conjugal rights from someone else’s wife! Brian Junior and Brianne, her children, 17 year old twins who are gifted that they are already at university, but it seems are complete social misfits. Her mother, Ruby who cannot understand the fuss but still rallies to help her daughter. And Yvonne, her mother in law who thought she was the wrong woman for her precious son.

But with familiar faces becomes lots of new ones, as somehow word spreads about Eva and going to bed. Eva does not need to go out and see life, leaving to one side her rather eccentric family, life is coming to her door, in fact it is coming to her bedside and everyone wants to know what Eva thinks.

Eva has the answer for her own woes. Or does she?

This is a very funny and poignant story from the pen of Sue Townsend better known for Adrian Mole, but she has captured what I think of as a woman who is having a breakdown in form of a protest sit in or lie in, in this instance. The characters are a contradiction , their faults are their strengths and what makes them stand out from the page, is something very unique that I have not seen in a book for a while. I detested Poppy but with that I thought she was a great character, though she did seem to suddenly disappear. I was fascinated by the relationship between Brian Junior and Brianne (poor girl stuck with that name) it dealt with young adults on the autism spectrum, but this was more involved as they were both twins and had seemed to be existing in their own world with their own rules.

The funny moments are just that, the sad the same, especially when Eva decides to changer her surroundings to the extreme. It was like bleaching everything away. I was disturbed at that point and was worried for her welfare but I had to keep reading because I could not see how this book was going to end. It finishes and I still have answers but actually I quite like that about the book.

Yes it’s funny, but there is something just not quite right underneath which makes it quite a dark book in places. Some might think it a silly book, an eccentric impossible unbelievable plot, but the only way you know what to call it is to read it and judge for yourself. For me the book is still with me long after putting it down.

This was my book club choice for January and I have to be honest, I would not have read it if it wasn’t for that. I knew about the book, I knew it existed and who it was by but that was enough for me. It is many years since I read Adrian  Mole and then I don’t think I ever got past the first novel and I also read my memory (not always that reliable) tells me The Queen and I. Sue Townsend is not an author of choice, if that makes sense. I was intrigued by the reviews on Amazon, as it is a very split choice if you look it at it from a visual point of view. Equally spread out over the 5 stars. 

I have found writing the review difficult, maybe because my brain is getting back into work mode after two weeks off or maybe because I actually want to say so much ant this book, that I would end up breaking it down bit by bit and no one else would want to read it as I would have given everything away. Perhaps after book club I will be able to explain more because we have discussed it and there is plenty to discuss.

I will report back soon about how my book club found the book. 


Jottings #10 Brides, Bodies, Blood, Blogging & Back to work

Well there is so much to say and so little time to say it. Bit like the amount of books to read and little time to do so. But as this week has gone on, I have found myself thinking to myself ‘oh I should blog about that’ and then the day has finished and I am in bed with my eyelids closing fast! So here is the first Jottings post of 2013, and please indulge me as I share all the ‘B’s!


No not me. But Tom Fletcher (of McFly) has got married and he put his wedding speech up on YouTube for others to be inspired by.  It has had over 5 million views (as I type this post) and I have to confess it is a fifteen minutes well worth spent and it makes a wee tear form in your eye.


Now at the start of the year there is always a lot new programmes on the television and it seems this week, the television has had bodies spilling out of it. Monday night saw the return of Lewis. Tuesday it was Death in Paradise. Wednesday was Midsomer Murders. Thursday and Friday was Silent Witness. I wonder if this is a reflection on the state of the nation? Anyway for me it is better than celebrity driven reality rubbish.


Without going into too much detail, I have had to have some blood taken. And although it was not in a Tony Hancock style armful, it is a rather amusing wait in the waiting room whilst waiting for your number to be called. I had to be there first thing as it was a fasting blood test but so were many many other people, who quite frankly did not need to be there so early. My inner voice tells me so when you stop and listen to them. So you take your number, I was 9 and sit down. Now I love people watching, as I surreptitiously play on my phone. There was the man who was there and had his wife nagging at him constantly and telling him exactly what was going to happen when his number was called, where he had to go and how he had to sit. I am sure she would have told the nurse how to take the blood if she had had the chance. The lady who insisted on telling everyone who came in they must take a ticket, which was a public service as I have to confess that it is not really that obvious if you have not been before. However she was quite ferocious about it. To the man who complained rather loudly that the service was not very good in fact slow. Ironic really because they are not meant to start until 8am and it was about ten minutes too. What was not very good about that I was not sure? What I do love though, is when your number is called is the looks you get when you go through – thoughts that must be going through some people’s mind – Why is she here now, can she not come at another time? Why is she before me? I am more important than her? Well in answer if I was brave enough; mind your own business, I got here before you and everyone is as important as each other!

The human condition is alive and well and everywhere if you can spend a few minutes watching it. It’s fascinating.


If you are a regular visitor to this blog then you may have noticed the odd change or two on there. I have a few more tweaks to be made, mainly in updating my links and such but I am overall please with the look of it and how easy I can find things. I hope you like it too.

If you are a new follower, welcome it is nice to meet you.

Back to Work

Yep! It was back to work on Monday and it took me to about Wednesday afternoon to come back down to earth! It was busy, new staff, old staff, changes both good and bad. What I could not get my head round for some bizarre reason was that it was a 5 day week. Normally when I go back after New Year, it is on a Tuesday and therefore only a 4 day week. However, because of the way Christmas and New Year fell and the term is structured it meant we went back on a Monday it was the 7th January and I felt that I somehow was late for everything. But routine has been restored and I think when I left on Friday lunchtime, I was pretty much on track as to where I should be for the time of the month. That’s the trouble with accounts!



At the beginning of the new year, it is custom for us all to navel gaze and think about what we have done and what we want to do. I do actually try and do this more than just around the change of year, as I think it is important. But in the interest of being consistent and rounding up what I achieved reading wise in 2012, I thought I better look at my 2012 challenges.

So how did I do?

Well my main aim was to read 50 books in a year, and that final figure was 110 – I think as I have achieved well over 50 for the last three years, I need to reset this number for 2013. So let me go for the 100. I have signed up with this on Goodreads and you can see the progress on this blog on the right hand side.  Reviewing every book I read as well carries on apace and will do so in 2013.

Not buying any books, well as I type this I have failed already so it is not even going to make a place on the 2013 challenge.

Out of my Read 1 of section of my challenge I started the year with 5 choices, and added a further one during the year. So out of the 6, I managed 3. Tick to Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen and Jospehine Tey. So for the 3 I did not complete I move them into 2013 and I am not going to add any more at the moment, if I do I will annotate when I add them in the year.

As for the unfinished books, they remain unfinished, they remain untouched (other than dusting) for 2012. I think it is time to take it on the chin and leave these books to another time. I have no unfinished books at all so, this challenge is not appearing in 2013, but then there is 2014 I suppose.

The series challenge was a bit more successful. I managed 3 of the Agatha Raisin books and 2 of both Daisy Dalrymple series and the Cedar Cover series. So moving forward to 2013 and I take all of them with me. I have plenty of Agatha Raisin on my shelf to read. Have just ordered the rest of Daisy Dalrymple thanks to a fantastic offer on The Book People and picked up the next one I need to read for the Cedar Cover series, so I have no excuses and in fact I am good to go with this challenge.  

As you may have noticed, these are all challenges I have set myself and not taken from organised ones which you can find on many book blogs. I did concede during the year and signed up for the Crime Fiction Alphabet, and was going okay with it, but then life got in the way and it was just taking a back seat, and I had to admit defeat which I was disappointed about, it may have been the weekly post that threw me as all I seemed to be reading was crime fiction and I needed a break from it. I aim to just stick to what I want to do and crime always can feature and that comes in the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie.

I have a page dedicated to reading all these books and there is no set time, it is just a whim but I want to read at least 3 this year, so I have added it to my 2013 challenge list.

There are very few rereads on this blog, they are mainly children’s books which I revisit but I have decided that I want to revisit a favourite of mine – P.G. Wodehouse and obviously Jeeves and Wooster, but as the Blandings set of books are being televised and I read one last year, I aim to read some of them too! So another one to add to my challenge page. And to keep with a theme I will make it 3!

I noticed that I read no autobiographies last year despite receiving some as gifts and having others on my shelf, so I aim to read 3 (were you surprised?) in 2013.

Now this is a very fluid list, and I am sure ideas will pop up during the year as well as suggestions. If it was not for Verity I would have not read any Elizabeth Taylor last year when she challenged me to read one her novels. Do feel free to suggest something and I would certainly give it some thought.

Let us get on with reading 2013.


Realand (The Portal Series) – Dee Kirkby

Being slightly older than the intended audience of this book, I have probably approached it in a different manner to your average 7 year old. However, I was immediately drawn back to a childhood where imagination runs wild and the impossible is in  fact possible.

Opening with Craig meeting a rather well known but mysterious figure, he is given a toy which he has to give to Max and Laura, who live down his street. The only dilemma; Max and Laura have yet to be born.

Years later, the toy has now its rightful owners and Max and Laura are going through some of their dads old broken things and making up adventures. Adventures that suddenly become reality and Max and Laura are in the thick of it.

This short story is great for children to be read to or those who are progressing into reading on their own. It reminded me of childhood books like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, especially the Wardrobe bit! As well as the wonderful lands that could be found at the top of The Faraway Tree.  And I cannot wait to find out what happens next and I don’t mind admitting it!

If you have children then I think this book would be great for them. If you don’t well why not relive your childhood! 

This book is available to buy on Amazon on kindle or in good old fashioned paperback! Find more about the author here. 


After the War is Over – Maureen Lee

Maggie, Nell and Iris have all helped do their bit during the war; they were all in the Army. Now returning to civilian life they face many different challenges as they try and adapt to a world recovering from war.

Maggie and Nell both live within streets of each other in Liverpool. One has dreamt about going to London and seeking the bright lights and fun life that her Liverpool home seems to be missing. The other, wants nothing but to stay within comfort of the family home and be part of her true family once again. Iris wants simply a baby, having lost one before the war, she is now desperate to fulfil this need, but it is not as simple as that.

All the great plans that these three young women had when they returned to Liverpool have all changed. Their friendship remains rather a constant and it goes through cycles as Iris and Nell begin to get on better as they find that Nell has a skill that Iris is lacking in and builds it into a business. Maggie is jealous, until events change her life and she finds herself in a very different position than the one she imagined and that perhaps being away from friends makes friendship stronger. But all three women are hiding something from each other and it is only as the years past and events take place that the truth is finally told, long after the war is over.

This is the latest novel from Maureen Lee and is by far for me one her best in recent years. It is the complete saga that Maureen Lee does very well. The book flows from the end of 1945 through to the 1970s and rather than throwing in current affairs and well known events to just simply pad the book out, it uses them to move the characters along successfully in the plot. For example the bad winter of 1947, is a catalyst for Iris and Nell’s friendship. Good strong characters allows the reader to follow their lives through joy and tragedy which the author does so effectively and shows her excellent skill at this in this book.

This is a good example of Maureen Lee’s work and one I highly recommend for anyone who wants to try out her work. I look forward to her next. 

I do not think a year goes by when I do not read a Maureen Lee and in fact in 2012 I read three! I am all caught up again now and will have to wait until her new one comes out in paperback. 

This book is a return to some of Maureen Lee’s earlier novels where she shows how wonderfully hard and testing friendship and families can be but that always the right thing will happen in the end, even if it means lots of upset on the way. It made a refreshing change to have the women returning from what they had done in the war and adjusting again than it did the men.