The Thoughts & Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals – Wendy Jones

In the midst of life there is death. In Wilfred Price’s life there only seems to be death and he is struggling with the personal quest to find a life to be alive in.  He knows amongst all the death he encounters we are all alive.

When an invitation to a picnic with Grace, a girl in a yellow dress, on a sunny day prompts a rather rash and impulsive question by Wilfred, all of a sudden he finds that he is alive. However, he soon begins to regret his rash question and has to find the courage to tell Grace the truth.

Grace is keeping secrets of her own and little does Wilfred know that actually his impulsive question has led him to solve a problem for Grace but incur the wrath of Grace’s father. Putting in jeopardy his own position within the local community. Gossip would be able to ruin his growing business of Funeral Director and he strives to be the best, as the title of the novel suggests. Ever present in his thoughts are the teachings of his master and Wilfred uses these to keep himself in check throughout the book.

And so this rather slow and thoughtful story meanders on as Grace and Wilfred exist together but so far apart. Wilfred seeks solace in his work and with conversations with his father, realises that you cannot live a whole life of unhappiness. Wilfred discovers the confidence he needs through the love of someone else, but he must remain true, and he is utterly confused as to the right thing to do and the right way to go about it. Dealing with death seems easier.

Grace has to deal with her family, her father the local doctor and her mother are rather pious and despite the happy outcome they desire, they seem to be grieving the loss a daughter her being ever present whilst rejoicing in their son, who has gone off to fight in the Army. Grace needs to do something to gain their attention.

The turning point of the novel, is somewhat of a surprise, although I did have my suspicions and the ending leaves open many unanswered questions and possibly there could be more to come. I wanted to know how well Wilfred Price gets on as being the purveyor of superior funerals. I cared about Grace and was rather angry with her parent’s attitude. I enjoyed hearing Wilfred’s father speak and the advice he gave as well as learning about life in a small community reeling still from the aftermath of the First World War and the influenza outbreak and trying to restart many stopped lives, whilst in the midst of this life there is still death. A short story which actually could be so much longer, but it did not need to be.  Captured just right.

I have to confess my morbid curiosity was the reason I chose this book to read. Not expecting something gruesome just how funerals and death is dealt with. However, I got more, it is a slow story as I mention in my review, but I don’t mean that it was not going fast enough, it was going at the pace it should have done – slow and gentle. All reflective of the blossoming relationships in the novel that develop. 

I look forward to seeing what else this author writes. 


Love Letters – Katie Fforde

If you like women’s fiction, if you are a fan of romance and you love books, bookshops, authors and literature as a whole then this is so the book for you!

Laura works in one of those rare things – an independent book shop and she has forgone her life changing career that her parents wanted her to have to do something she simply and purely enjoys. However, the bookshop is about to close and she suddenly finds that she is not sure what she wants to do or where she wants to do it.

By chance when organising a book signing at the shop she encounters people in the book world and impressing them with her knowledge and broad range of books that she is suddenly put forward to help organise a literary festival.

This is not some small volunteering role, this is a rather large and ambitious inaugural event and when Laura happens to mention that she is enamoured by the work of  Dermot Flynn, everyone thinks she has some connections to him. It would be a coup to bring across from Ireland this infamous positively reclusive author. Everyone assumes that for Laura it will be easy. But the course of literary festivals and true love doesn’t run smoothly does it?

However, this new challenge has opened up some many doors for Laura, and she suddenly sees what she might have perhaps been missing in life and wants to experience everything. But Dermot Flynn is a door that is going to take a lot to open.  Laura open it in time for the festival.

Katie Fforde, has with this book created some really lively characters, I could easily picture the innocence of Laura and the wild dark Irishman that was Dermot. Coupled with Eleanora the publicist who gets what she wants and Grant, Laura’s only friend who wants to get Laura to actually have a life.  As well as the lovely couple Rupert and Fenella and even the big house they live in and the lovely village for the setting of the festival. It encapsulates everything in a good escapism read and the fact that is has a book theme was an added bonus for me.

This was the perfect read for my recent short break away. I am glad I have found Katie Fforde and I am enjoying catching up on all her novels. On to the next shortly I hope. 


Bleed Like Me – Cath Staincliffe

“The Journey’s Inn, Lark’s Estate, Manchester. Three bodies have been found, stabbed to death in their beds. The husband and father of two of the victims has fled. The police are in a race against time to find him – especially when they discover his two young sons are also missing…”

It is quite clear from the back of this book, exactly what has happened and what the inevitable outcome will be. However, this should be seen as a challenge as to how the author Cath Staincliffe gets us there.

Janet Scott, wife, mother, daughter, lover and detective is still struggling to come to terms with the stabbing she suffered at the hands of a criminal they were trying to catch. The after effects are still rippling out and the scars have yet to heal emotionally. But she needs to put this to one side and use her skills to draw out the truth in this particular case.

Rachel Bailey is a detective she does not have to balance anything other than her work. However, when family suddenly reappears in an unexpected way she has to now try and balance work and life, something which she is not very good at. Rachel will not let anyone know if she needs help – to her it shows weakness and to get on she cannot show that in front of her colleagues. Her sheer determination is arrogant when it comes to the case they are all working on and she soon goes off  on impulse with very little care for anyone’s safety. It’s this arrogance which infuriates her colleagues and me as a reader!

Gill Murray is the one who has to try and balance Janet and Rachel’s work methods; to make them and the rest of her team in the Manchester Metropolitan Police come together when there is three dead bodies, a missing father and two young boys. All this whilst her own son seems to be avoiding not just her but her ex husband too. Gill wants to be a mother but needs to be a Detective Inspector too but why do her officers look up to her and respect her decisions and requests but not her own son?

Through these three main characters we go through the five days of the investigation and how difficult it is not to just react but to stop, think and take the correct course of action when perhaps the public and even colleagues may think it is the wrong path. Everything has to be covered, every angle looked at and all the evidence weighed up and collated, recorded for future reference. If you need to make sure a conviction will stick, there cannot be any loose ends that are not tied up. Cath Staincliffe does this very well in this book and I felt  as I was racing along with the plot that I was learning something at the same time.

The author has yet again brought to life the characters which some may be familiar with from the ITV series and put them in a believable story with supporting characters and real places which bring a certain about of gritty realism to the story and make it a very good read.

Thank you to the publisher for this copy and also much thanks to the author for writing it and no pressure for the third novel! 

It is very strange to be reading a book based on characters from a programme which I have only watched a couple of episodes of the very first series. The third series is currently (as of the date of this post) being broadcast. That said, the two actors who play Janet Scott and Rachel Bailey, Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones respectively are spot on and I can imagine them playing out exactly what Cath has written for them. Perhaps if they do, then I will be tuned in to watch – but is the film ever as good as the book……


Book Club #10 & Book Club #11 – The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

Our 10th Book Club was postponed due to the weather so went for a double whammy this time around! With holiday times and stuff, it meant we could also have it in the afternoon as well. So that called for tea and cake. Cake provided by Tesco via K. It was yummy!

So the first half I dedicated to Gold by Chris Cleave. All of us had finished the book, although W had asked me what happens to the little girl, Sophie. She could not read on if she had died. Rather than use the questions at the back of the book, which are quite in depth I went for a more general overview set of questions, that I had gathered from various sources on the internet. With the aid of young M who picked out random questions for us to answer we covered more general topics. For example – Did you learn something you didn’t know before? At what point in the book did you decide if you liked it or not?

I picked those two questions funnily enough for a reason. I think we all learnt something about cycling but also as K said the  mental strength and exercise that athletes have to go through to get where they wanted to be. I was pleased that they did not go down the drugs route which could have been an easy way to go. C on the other hand thought they could have least covered it in the book but not used it as a plot necessarily. All of us were most upset about Sophie and her illness, and it was C that said Kate was the one who managed to hold it all together – being a wife, a mother and an athlete. In fact it was the way she dealt with her gold medal – by using it as a light pull in the bathroom that kept her very grounded. W did say everyone needs to use the bathroom and it would always be a reminder and always there. As L commented, she did not move away from her terraced house. Unlike Zoe who was always aiming high – living in an apartment purely paid for by sponsorship and promotion deals. They always have the furthest to fall.

All of us agreed that we disliked Zoe with a passion and we had no sympathy for her in any way shape or form. Not one us had changed our minds about her at all throughout the book which was very interesting. We liked Tom, we felt he was the father figure that Zoe had never had but also that he perhaps did love her in his own way which was something that she was clearly missing in her life.

I think we liked the book and that came at different points. The way it was written did throw some of us. L – all of a sudden we were dropped into the death star and star wars which was rather confusing and perhaps is why it took K a little while to get into the book. However, none of us were overly enamoured of the book. It was a book of the time. L thought it would be more about the 2012 London Olympics. I thought the ending was too neat and a but of a let down. C was rather ‘blah’ about it. It was certainly not a book W would have read under normal circumstances but I think that applied to all of us.

A general consensus of this book was that it was not gold but actually a bit beige.


And so to Book 11 – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Of all us that were there – W had started it but really did not get on with it. C,K, L and myself had finished it. Young M was still a bit of the way to go. Now if you did not know already it is pitched as a Young Adult book and M who is only 11 wanted to try reading it because lots of her friends had seen the film. So C said that was ok and that was the reason for our special guest at this book club!

Interestingly K was struggling with the book. She could not understand how the book came about. Here I do not mean how it was written – but the plot. How did we come to be at this point in the world/life – the post apocalyptic. K wanted a book beforehand to explain this book. Young M was our sense of reference who just said that it was what it was. An example of the acceptance of the young against the questioning of everything of the old through experience. However, as an adult you have to reach a point where you accept something in a book and carry on and see what happens so K did.

K surprised us by saying that she loved it! And was now desperate to read the next two, as it was left so open ended. L has read the other two. I have them to read. C wanted to read them. But W still was not sure it was her book to read. It reminded W of the film Soylent Green with Charlton Heston, a science fiction film which dealt with a dystopian future. She just couldn’t get on with the book.

I think in general we could see two main elements of the book – very Roman, gladiatorial in its approach and also the reality TV side of it. Was it just sending up in its own way about what is very popular on almost every channel?

Now when there is a film to the book – it is always better to read the book of course. But for something different, I put on the film not with the intention of watching the whole book but to demonstrate how much had been cut out of the film that was written so well in the book. Interestingly, W who had hardly read any could see that what she had read was hardly covered in the book. Young M was the same, she could see a difference and as her mum C pointed out to her it was always better to read the book. This was what they were both doing with the Twilight films.

If you have watched the film, then I took it up to the point where they came into the arena in the flaming costumes. As K said nothing like how she imagined it would be. The mockingjay pin was different in the film to the book which K and L picked up on. It was certainly a film that everyone wanted to see and thanks to L’s DVD copy it has now gone to C and Young M first. C said her husband would certainly like this film – but as Young M pointed out. “He has not read the book and can’t watch the film”. I think C might have walked into that one! Out the mouths of babes!

So a book club ended. K is desperate to read the next two which L has kindly provided for her and the film is doing the rounds. W is certainly not going to read any more of them, but still surprised herself with how much she had read and what was not included in the film.

So it is on to book 12 and for something completely different – Monica Dickens – One Pair of Hands.


Good Husband Material – Trisha Ashley

You always remember your first love they say. And Tish is no different, she remembers the dark and enigmatic Fergal who was an artist with a paintbrush and with music but he went off to seek fame and fortune and left Tish behind. How could he? Well it appears there were other forces at work regarding the love of the impetuous youth.

Some years later, everyone has moved on Tish is now happily married to James and Fergal is now a distant memory. But with some expectation you know that Tish’s life is now going to turn upside down. The marriage to James seems to suddenly start developing cracks, quite large gaping ones, as Tish persuades him to move to the countryside and a cottage so she can live the life she has dreamed of whilst trying to maintain her novelist status. James merely thinks she is playing at all this and needs domesticity i.e. waiting on him hand and foot to be complete. Tish has other ideas and James also has other ideas on how husbands should behave. I hated James with a passion – in fact whatever happened to him he rightly deserved. Trisha Ashley wrote him perfectly!

And then if it was not difficult enough for Tish. Fergal appears back. In fact Fergal buys the house which backs onto Tish and James cottage garden. Now there is going to be trouble for Tish wherever she tries to seek solace.

This is a novel which has so much packed into it and I felt for Tish from the very first moment. How she did not collapse with the strain of everything that was happening to her was a mystery. But women in Trisha Ashley novels are strong and you know it will be alright in the end but you are never quite sure if the right you want is the right that Trisha will give us. Only one way to find out – keep reading.

So much is packed into this book, that to talk about it all would inevitably give away too much and I try very hard not to do that. But as well as the awful James, there is the equally vacuous Nerissa and the rather stranger mother. Not only has Tish have to put up with this, she is writing novels of which I assume are of a Mills and Boon – esque type. Looking after a dog that falls victim to one particular dog and ends up multiplying forth. A rather vocal parrot who seems to enjoy a rather funny relationship with Tish’s neighbour. Then there is the strange feeling that she does not have the full picture regarding her upbringing and her rather odd Granny seems to be dropping hints and clues all over the place. Besides, the cooking that she seems to have started in a vengeance  As I say so much and you really get a great story and I loved this book. 

I know this is a reissue but as I have never read it I was thrilled. Now I  have A Winter’s Tale on my shelf to read and I think a couple of other back list books and will nearly be up to date but then there is a new novel out Wish Upon a Star which is out towards the end of 2013! Yay!


The Mammy – Brendan O’Carroll

I come to this book purely and simply based on watching Mrs Brown’s Boys. A programme I got into by sheer accident.  I knew the book was not going to be the actual series in word and paragraphs format it was going to be the inspiration for that series.

Who is Mammy? She is Agnes Browne who is recently widowed in trying to bring up her children all seven of them. Mark, Francis, Simon and Dermot, Rory, Trevor and Cathy. In fact she is keen for the Social Welfare to make sure that she is entitled to all that she can get even if her husband had only died in the morning of the initial claim!

The humour of family life is apparent in this novel and you share the life of trying to survive, making sure the children are clothed, fed, educated and safe. Then there is her friendship with Marion, the possibility of a new romance with a Frenchman who has some rather French ideas of kissing and the driving lessons.  All done with and a heartfelt honesty that you probably don’t find in some other tales of families.

An excellent gift for someone who likes watching Mrs Brown’s Boys or a good honest tale about a not so honest Irish family!


Still Standing: The Savage Years – Paul O’Grady

This is the third of Paul O’Grady’s very frank, honest and rather dark in places autobiography. In this latest if not last edition for a while at least, we are taking literally through the birth, development and death of the well known character Lily Savage.

Paul conveys the problems of becoming a drag act and building on that act that has potential but an artist who is somewhat lacking in confidence and is not sure where the creation is going. He is very honest in what he is telling us the reader and you can tell this has come from the pen of the name and not someone ghost writing because Paul is telling it as it is. Rather like the persona he portrays on screen, which is probably where the majority of us know him from.

Somehow he manages to make funny the escapades of dragging your wig around in a black plastic bag on a bus, train or in a mate’s car up and down the country in some rather unsavoury places, where there is more than just the acts sharing what can be called a dressing room or a curtained area near a stage with a dubious looking mirror and a bucket for a sink.

Through all of this growth of Lily, is rather more nasty growth – that of the HIV/Aids epidemic and the bigotry over the gay scene which was suddenly becoming headline news for all the wrong reasons in the 1980s. There were some heart breaking bits where Paul seems to be saying a permanent goodbye to one too many of his friends and fellow acts but also some of the common misconceptions that were being put around about this disease at the time made me seethe!

His continual banter with his mother is present and it was rather a heart breaking moment for me as her death came so suddenly and Paul never seemed to have been able to tell her the truth about Lily or himself. In some ways I think she probably knew, but it was that family banter that kept their relationship as strong as it was to the end. I do hope Paul has now found some peace with it all.

Whilst this is not as laugh out loud funny as the previous two books, it certainly gives you an insight into another world. It is written from the heart and he packs no punches in telling you what it was really like – would we expect anything less from him? No, didn’t think so. I can see how some may think he has missed some of his finer moments of Lily Savage out – but actually it was the growth of her which is the importance and therefore main aim of the book. To me now having read the book, the TV spin offs which Lily grew into were simply the icing on the cake for someone who had worked hard in fact grafted to get where they were before the more ‘celeb’ lifestyle came knocking.

Whether there is a fourth book or not, I don’t know but for now I feel this and the previous two give you a very honest picture of a man who I hope graces our screens and wireless for many years to come because lets face it he is just saying what all of us our thinking!

You can find my review of Paul’s previous two autobiographies At My Mothers Knee (written before I started this blog) and The Devil Rides Out . I do not read many ‘celeb’ autobiographies but the ones I choose to read are those that I know I am really going to enjoy and that are going to be very honest – Paul O’Grady is one of them. I will be interested to hear what my dad thinks when I pass it on to him (now he does read a lot of autobiographies).

For some reason the other book I was reading at the time of this on my kindle (this was the hardback version and difficult in bed under the covers) was The Mammy by Brendan O’Carroll which does not necessarily seem odd unless you know that Brendan O’Carroll is the irrepressible Mrs Brown of Mrs Brown’s Boys. There seems to be a trend developing of men dressing as women in my reading………


The Other Half of Me – Morgan McCarthy

Jonathan and Theo have each other. Older brother and younger sister. They look out for each other, they need to. Their father has gone and their mother seems to live in another world, an alcoholic one. There is little interest in these two children. However, when circumstances mean their mother is taken, in steps their grandmother.

With this brings some sort of stability,money and power which their grandmother Eve Anthony has, as her business acumen, power and status is renowned all around the world. They are both in awe of Eve, but is it that which ultimately destroys the family unit.

As Jonathan who narrates this book, discovers about his family nothing is ever as it seems. Having grown up with a very distant mother he starts to notice a similar trait in his sister, Theo. She seems to be functioning in a very different world , she sees ghosts of the past where they live, strangers seem to become real figures across the road and when Theo moves away from her home, it all slowly starts to unravel for her and she starts to question much. Jonathan just wants to be a success and leave behind the uncertainty that Theo brings into to his life.

Jonathan has trouble forming relationships with women once he becomes an adult. Perhaps the overtly strong female influence growing up has affected him, the author is perhaps suggesting. He remembers the feeling of not being able to love the one he wanted when young and all his relationships require no emotional attachment just a physical one. As he juggles this as the years pass, he begins to tolerate Theo less and slowly their relationship changes into something different. His relationship with his mother is polite but nothing more but he continues to value his grandmother, Eve and all that she stands for, despite the secrets that she has kept.

This is a beautifully written novel, and from the moment you start, the pages turn with ease as you discover how the story evolves, how Jonathan and Theo change and develop as everything changes around them and the truth of the past is slowly unfolded.

This is a debut novel, but the words, phrases and plot sound like it comes from the pen of an established author. The use of a male narrator by a female author could have gone wrong – but I think McCarthy captures the voice perfectly and the use of this to describe the female characters gave a different angle. I did not like the three main female characters at all, there was something about their flaws that did not appeal but in equal measure they fascinated me in the extreme which is why I enjoyed reading this book so much.

A book that you cannot pigeonhole in one particular genre; is this a romance; a mystery; a story of family and relationships or is it a combination of all and therefore does not fit in anywhere. Which for me is what makes this book so appealing. I look forward to see how Morgan McCarthy follows this up with her second novel.

I listened to this author speak back on November at the Portsmouth BookFest where she featured with three other Headline authors.

Books · Jottings · Witterings

A Thank You Letter

Whenever I am off work on annual leave, I normally make a foray to my local Waterstones. I love my local Waterstones, it has the books of course, a nice little coffee outlet upstairs (the healthy eating is a bit lax during the holidays) and there is something peaceful about it. even with all the noise outside, as soon as you step through the doors, the peace of words and sentences and all the new worlds to discover between the covers comes to life.

I normally stand and look at the books near the entrance, and see if anything grabs my eye and then I make my way round the shelves from Z to A where all the fiction books are. Round the two shelves (both sides) dedicated to glorious crime fiction and then round to biography and autobiography. A quick glimpse at Film and TV and then the individual stands which have offers on. I have no interest in fantasy or science fiction so I do give these shelves a miss and only occasionally do I wander into the brightly colourful children’s book area.

As I go round I pick up books that I am particularly looking for, or anything that grabs my eye. But my latest visit, I suddenly felt very very humble and very grateful  A number of the books that were prominently displayed are the ones that I probably would have picked up read a few pages and made a decision about reading :

But these books I have had thanks to the lovely publicists who work for publishers. I have discovered authors I would not have probably picked up and others I would have done and have had the privilege of being able to read them a few weeks earlier. I do not want this to sound like I am bragging about the books that I get. I have only asked for a couple of particular requests because I am happy to just see what lands on the doormat and also I think it is a tiny bit rude to be so demanding. It  is only since I have been getting more and more into book blogging that I asked a couple of publishers whether I could possibly receive books in return for a review. I have been getting them for around 18 months now. If the books stopped coming tomorrow then that would be fine, I would not stop reading or buying books. Ones that I know I have not read I do pass on to people who I think the books will suit. I can say that in most cases I have picked the right book for the right person! Others I have read and then passed on; The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was read by me, passed on to my neighbour, who has passed it on to her sister, in turn this has now gone to a work colleague and so the beauty of sharing stories goes on and on. Not only that but I am hoping from me posting about the book on this blog that others are going to have a go at something they may have not considered before.

I wish I could thank the publicists and authors all individually and name them all, but I cannot, which is why I write this ‘thank you’ letter post and hope you realise that I appreciate it greatly and that I hope I do something to help in the promotion of the book.

Special thanks to two people though – Lynsey Dalladay for providing some books for my new Book Club which is still going strong and coming up to its one year anniversary. And the other is Alison Barrow who I got to meet when she came to my local library bringing with her Cath Staincliffe. It was lovely to hear from a publicist who appreciates real readers.

Thank you to them all, I feel very privileged and lucky to have been given the opportunity to read the books. I hope to perhaps meet you all in the future.


Sugar Cookie Murder – Joanne Fluke

I am going to class this book as a short story as the novel is really only the first half of the book. The rest is made up of all the recipes that feature in the Christmas Pot Luck dinner which is taking place in Lake Eden and the recipes of which, Hannah Swensen are getting published in to a cook book. (Can you see what the author has done here? – Yes me too!)

If you know Hannah, then you will know this will not be any ordinary Pot Luck dinner.With all her friends, family and fellow Lake Eden residents gathered with all their dishes, to sample there are bound to be some tensions. No more so when resident Martin brings his new wife who married in Las Vegas after only a few hours. Brandi is a stereotype Vegas dancer (code for stripper) and it looks like they are rubbing his ex wife and mother in law noses in it. It is with some expectation that one of these four ends up dead.

With everyone trapped in the community centre due to the blizzard outside the murderer cannot have got far. They must still be inside enjoying the food and the party atmosphere. Therefore it is down to Hannah with help from her heavily pregnant sister Andrea and one of her love interests Norman to come up with the answer that other love interest Mike seems to be slow in coming up with.

Not one of the best Hannah Swensen mysteries, but it made for a very pleasant diversion and it builds more on the who will Hannah choose scenario – Norman or Mike. I prefer Norman, Mike seems to arrogant, but I am starting to hope it is all resolved soon. In the meantime, if you wanted you could cook some of the delicious recipes!