Books · Jottings · Witterings

#bookaday 22nd-30th June

We are on the home straight now and so it is the final days of #bookaday which has been a wonderful initiative to get people to share the books they love (or hate) and find some other like-minded reading individuals out there. It may well have jogged some memories for some people of long forgotten books.

22nd Out of Print Turning this one on its head- 50 Shades of Grey was actually out of print. I recognise it got people reading but has it got them reading good novels, this poorly written and badly edited. And yes I have read it. 

23rd Made to read at school Barry Hines – A Kestrel for a Knave. Watched the film as well Kes. Rather a bleak book. 

24th Hooked me into reading I suppose going back to basics Ladybird Books, of which I had many. 

25th Never finished it Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama. It was a book club choice and remains unfinished by all of us. It is a very scholarly book and at times I was reading it and then remembering it was the actual President of the USA.

26th Should have sold more copies Anything by Linda Gillard. She is self publishing now, because her books do not fit into nice little pigeon holes. 

27th Want to be one of the characters I so would love to be in a Jeeves and Wooster novel. A woman with a bit of spike to ruffle Bertie into a jam or two! And share a cup of tea with Jeeves too. 

28th Bought at my fave independent bookshop I hang my head in shame. There are two fairly near me and I don’t use them. 

29th The one I have reread most often I am generally not a re-reader. When I was young, it would have been many Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl books, but now no rereads. Too many books out there for me to read. 

30th Would save if my house burnt down Can I say all of them? Or the ones that don’t belong to me? One is too difficult to choose……No please don’t make me choose. 

Thirty days done and dusted. I hope you have enjoyed them and it has certainly made me think about my reading and my books in many different ways.


Undertaking Love – Kat French

This is a stereotypical chick lit novel. That is not a criticism of the book but a statement of fact in my opinion. What makes it different to something that you may have not read before perhaps is the premise and the characters. Weddings and Funerals.

First of all there is Marla, an American, vehemently single and against marriage living in a small English Village running a wedding chapel. No it is not Vegas, this is Shropshire. With her is her gay friend and wedding celebrant, Jonny. Then there is the delightful Emily and her husband Tom, who I both loved from the start far more than Marla and wanted their characters certainly developed more deeply.

Everything is going well, until a new place opens up in town, not just in the village but opposite the wedding chapel. It is not really competition but Marla is convinced it will be bad for business – it is a funeral directors. Run by the dark and brooding Irishman Gabe. He thinks that both places can exist quite happily together. Marla has other ideas.

So cupid and his arrows have been sent to both Marla and Gabe and it seems now they are not just fighting about the survival of their businesses.

Add in a few more wild and wonderful secondary characters, such as Melanie, Gabe’s receptionist, his friend Dan who helps with the more practical side of running a funeral directors. Rupert who seems to be a typical ‘hack’ and has his eye on more than the exclusive article. Ivan and Dora add age to the list of characters, their wisdom and humour make the younger characters reflect a lot more. And of course there is Bluey, Marla’s dog and faithful companion.

Much is packed into this novel and at times it did make me laugh out loud and I admit to shedding the odd tear or two at points. However, I really could not believe in Marla. Her attitude was so scathing and she had immediately decided her business was going to fail because of something which I felt is a fact of life. Death. I know her business relied on the happier moments of life, but I was pleased when Gabe showed her on occasions that actually there is much to be celebrated of the life of someone who has died. Marla was straight in from the beginning, against the funeral directors and ended up with egg on her face (something that I was glad about) in her handling of the feud she had created and that had been escalated by her friend Jonny. A very good description of the media of today.

I knew from the very beginning who was going to end up with who and I carried on reading because I wanted to see if Gabe could possibly make Marla slightly more pleasant and human. This is what grated me with this book – the character of Marla. A well written character if she can get up your nose so well perhaps? Or one that could have needed more work? Only if you read the book will you be able to judge for yourself.

There is enough good and evil in the book for it to be what you would expect in a ‘chick-lit’ novel, the baddies get their comeuppance, the good ones get their goal (with heartache along the way). Having never read any of Kat French’s work before this was an escapism read that can be forgotten.

I understand that Kat French also writes under the name Kitty French as an author of erotic fiction. This book is certainly not that, (thank goodness) but I would not put it up there with the likes of Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews, Trisha Ashley, Veronica Henry et al. It would need a bit of polishing. I think it was the premise Wedding Chapel versus Funeral Director that did not sit comfortably with me. Would have just needed christenings and you would have had it all Hatches, Matches and Dispatches! 


Henrietta Who? – Catherine Aird

You wake up every day and you know exactly who you are, who your parents and are and where you belong in the life you are making for yourself.

When one day you wake up and go about your day as if everything is the same. Until someone tells you that your mother has been killed in a road accident.

And in trying to establish how she died, it comes clear that she has never had a child. So who are you then? And where do you belong? Is your whole life been a lie? Is the man you took to be your father someone else?

I am making this little gem of a novel out to be a psychological thriller. Actually though it is not that at all, but simply a murder mystery novel set in a village in the Nineteen Fifties.

It may seem that this was no accident but something more deliberate?

Inspector Sloan is the investigating officer and this book takes us through the clues and the red herrings and the puzzles that help solve who killed Henrietta’s mother but also who actually Henrietta is.

I hope that keeps your attention, as it did me. I can see why some may find this a rather dry and some may say slow short story but that is all part of the process of an investigation.

A good old fashioned murder mystery for when the time requires.

This is a book my mum recommended. She recalls reading it many years ago and wanted to reread it. I think it was an eBay purchase to satisfy the memory of the book. It was passed to me as I was told it would make you think and was a nice  murder (no horrific scenes, blood and guts) short story. It does make me want to pick up some more Agatha Christie to read…..

Books · Jottings · Witterings

#bookaday 15th-21st June

I am still maintaining my #bookaday tweets (although I have to confess that they are scheduled in some cases, and so is this post – I am on a hen weekend!)  and I am really enjoying reading everyone elses and also struggling to come up with some answers. For those not on twitter here are the most recent days summed up.

15th – Favourite Fictional Father  I am really struggling with this one and wracking my brains – maybe Arthur Weasley ? I think I would have had some interesting things happen if he was my dad. 

16th – Can’t believe more people have read – Deanna Raybourn – Silent in the Grave. For some reason not so popular but wickedly good reads. Here is my review I have read the following two but then got stuck in getting hold of them. Might need to do a bit more digging around! I just love the cover of this one and the following two, then they were no longer published it seems in the UK and the covers now feature the classic picture of a woman staring out at you.

17th – Future Classic The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer. A wonderous read which I discovered long before it was famous and in truth I loved the cover. 

18th – Bought on a recommendation Blogging gives you lots of recommendations – in this case I choose Elizabeth Taylor- Mrs Palfrey at The Claremont. Thanks to Verity for this one and also to Helen who has also introduced me to Mary Stewart. 

19th – Still can’t stop talking about Kate Atkinson Life after Life.  A book despite reading over 12 months ago is simply still there in my mind, especially in them what if moments of life. 

20th – Favourite Cover I don’t think this book is as popular as it should be but I am going with Julia Stuart – Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo.

21st – Summer Read My dream holiday would be A Night on The Orient Express by Veronica Henry. Plus all her covers make me feel summery! I like Murder on The Orient Express too but that is not really a summer read, more a winter one! 

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Shall we do it again?

I started this on a whim in 2012 and carried on into 2013 – it is 6 in 6.

The idea being that as the end of June approaches and we are then halfway through 2014,  let us share the books we have read in those first 6 months. In fact let’s share 6 books in 6 categories, or simply just 6 books. Whatever you want to and the same book can obviously feature in more than one category.

Here are some ideas for headings for your 6 book choices:

  • Six new authors to me;
  • Six authors I have read before;
  • Six authors I am looking forward to reading more of;
  • Six books I have enjoyed the most;
  • Six books I was disappointed with;
  • Six series of books read or started
  • Six authors I read last year – but not so far this year
  • Six books that took me on extraordinary journeys
  • Six books that took me by the hand and led me into the past
  • Six books from the past that drew me back there
  • Six books from authors I know will never let me down
  • Six books I must mention that don’t fit nicely into any category
  • Six books I started in the first six months of the year and was still caught up with in July
  • Six trips to Europe:
  • Six blogging events I enjoyed:
  • Six bookish things I’m looking forward to:
  • Six Espionage or Historical Novels I enjoyed
  • Six Cool Classics
  • Six Non-US/Non-British Authors
  • Six From the Non-Fiction Shelf
  • Six books that didn’t live up to expectations
  • Six books that I had one or two problems with but am still glad I tried.

My new one for this year:

  • Six books that are related to The Great War or Second World War

All you have to do is pick 6 categories that you want to use or come up with your own  (If you do: please comment and I can add them to this list for future years).  Then pick 6 books that fit into those 6 categories and post to your blog. Post any time in July, because I bet we all have books to finish in June that may well fit into a category!

I would be grateful for a link back to this blog if you can and of course please spread the word! I will be back in July with my 6 in 6.

Books · Jottings · Witterings

The Grantchester Mysteries

It is coming soon to a television near you. It is starring James Norton as Sidney Chambers. A relatively new actor to our screens but one who played a phenomenal role in Happy Valley (he was the baddie) and the delightful Robson Green who is playing Inspector Keating.

Of course all this started with a book and an author; James Runcie.

The first book Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death. The second book Sidney Chambers and The Perils of the Night.

The third of the six planned novels Sidney Chambers and The Problem of Evil was released this year.

What I like about these books is they contain 6 shorter stories which can be read quite easily on their own. However, the regular characters somehow link them all together and they can be seen as whole novels. The historical element always appeals to me and these cover from 1953 projected to 1978. Interestingly the first 25 years of  our current Queen’s reign. The world was (and still is) a changing place then as people came out of the Second World War, Sidney Chambers represents all that is good and shows what evils there can be in the world.

I have the third book ready to read and it is one of the rare times I have actually bought the hardback copies, because they look such pieces of art all together.

I look forward to the programme and hope that it does justice the book.


Honeycote – Veronica Henry

This is not only the first novel in a trilogy about the village of Honeycote but it is also the first novel of Veronica Henry. An author who has gone from strength to strength in her storytelling.

Honeycote House is the home to the Liddiard’s and has been for generations. It’s current occupants are Mickey and his wife Lucy with their two daughters and Patrick, Mickey’s son from his first marriage. But all is not well; Mickey is running the family business into the ground and is drinking himself into some sort of denial. He is treating his wife shamefully as he goes from one woman to another.

His wife Lucy has no idea about any of this and has always embraced everything in such a wholehearted manner that she appears to be keeping the whole family going. Veronica Henry brought to life the way Lucy brings everyone together in their haphazard house, dogs, horses, children, everyone being welcome and enjoying the food and most of all the company.

James, Mickey’s brother is part of the Liddiard family that has not embraced the tradition of living in the family home and working in the family business. He is trying to keep his distance because he has feelings for Lucy and despite his own relationships James feels he is cheating on Lucy when he is with other woman. He even knows his brother is cheating on Lucy and despises him for it but cannot do anything but wait.

One of Mickey’s women is Kay. She married for money and not for sex. Kay discovers the latter can certainly make up for some of the loneliness in her life. Is she about to be the next Mrs Liddiard in the ‘big house’ or is her lifestyle going to change rather rapidly and unexpectedly.

The three main characters are interwoven into the story along with more minor ones, but they all have a part to play in Honeycote. Even the outsiders can see the idyll that is this Cotswold village and dream of making a life for themselves. Trouble is, there are many deceptions and hearts about to be broken for that to be achieved.

This book has it all, a rich array of characters and I admit it does take a little while to get your head round who is who, but within a few chapters you are hooked into their lives. Turning the pages to find out more as if watching a soap opera unfold in front of you. There is the equal amount of humour and heartache and some moments that made me blush! It has the right ingredients for a story to take you away from it all. Veronica Henry does them so well, and as this was her first work it can only (and it does) get better.

I come to this book having read Veronica Henry’s other work and I had to look up to see that this was her first novel. Having read this I intend to read the next in the Honeycote series of books. Making Hay is the next one which I will have to purchase, though it looks like I am going to struggle to find a copy. Typical me, I have the third one on my shelf! 

The reason for me showing two covers ? Well the one just above, is the actual copy I read. I picked it up in a charity shop. I hate it! The only reason I bought the book was because I had read the author before. I would not have even considered it otherwise. There is something that puts me in mind of a Jilly Cooper or Jackie Collins novel. It does nothing to give you a clue about the story inside the covers.

The cover at the top of the page is my favourite. It gives me that lovely family image that you know is not going to be perfect and I think is much more in keeping with the authors work. Strange how a cover can change your perception of a book so much. But what do I know? I am just a reader and a blogger! 

Books · Jottings · Witterings

#bookaday 8th-14th June

Remember this and then I did a weekly round-up here well I am back again! So here I am with the next seven days worth of questions.

8th – Have more than one copy: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. My copy, mum’s copy, WBN copy,   the film, the tv. My default I suppose but I do love this book.

9th Film or tv tie-in: Porridge. Each episode as a short story. The beauty of it means that it does not read or look like a script or screenplay. This could have fitted in on day 7 as well. I love the programme, it makes me laugh no matter how many times I have seen it, the book the same. I remember taking it away on a school trip to read on the coach and the teachers wanting to read it instead of me!

10th Reminds me of someone I love: This is really difficult. Should it be any book they bought me or one novel? 

11th Secondhand bookshop gem: Carole Matthews and Katie Fforde. Not the authors themselves but their work for the first time. Since then I have been trying to catch up on al their work, a way to go yet which is always a good thing!

12th I pretend to have read it: Tess of the D’Urbervilles. It’s by the bed, but still not read but I know the story so…. I blame all the tv adaptations but one day I may read it.

13th Makes me laugh: Gervase Phinn – Dales series of books. Tears running down cheeks sort of books! I don’t know whether it is the Yorkshire humour and setting or the innocence of the children Gervase encounters but all of it makes for joyous reading.

14th An old favourite: H.E.Bates – Darling Buds of May. I loved the David Jason programme when it was out, proper Sunday night viewing. I realised that when I was young. I borrowed the books from the mobile library – and enjoyed them and the Beryl Cook cover that graces it.



The Stolen Weekend – Fern Britton

If you have read Fern Britton’s second novel Hidden Treasures then you will be familiar with the characters Helen and Penny. Best friends who are now both living in a village in Cornwall. Helen who came to escape her husband whose philandering ways were being to become rather tedious. Penny brought a TV show to the village and stayed when she found love with the local Vicar.

And so we are back with them, for a short story. A vehicle no doubt to advertise the fact that Helen and Penny feature in the new full length novel A Seaside Affair. Despite my cynicism, this is perfect little story about the two women who missing London so much have escaped their for the weekend on some pretext.

Once back in the big city with the bright lights, they realise what they have back in their village in Cornwall. The peace and quiet, the welcoming village life and of course the men they have left behind.

What is great about these short stories is that you get to catch up with characters which you enjoyed reading about and find out what has been going on in their lives.

It will be great to find out more about them again in the new novel.

Trouble with getting a taster of some previous characters from a book is the fact that the new one is out but it is in hardback. Not that I am averse to reading hardback but it is not a book suited to such, these stories are great in paperback: they are beach or sunny afternoon reads. I will therefore wait for the paperback or if it suddenly becomes very reasonable on kindle. It makes me sound even more cynical….but I wonder whether it is because I have a few weeks ago read Hidden Treasures where the story starts. If I had not then maybe by appetite would not have been whetted. 


The Lighthouse – Alison Moore

A man stands on a ferry. He is going on a walking holiday to Germany. With him he only has what he needs and a small silver lighthouse.

A woman sits at the end of the bar. Her husband is working behind it. She is drinking. It is early and she has the bedrooms to clean. She is in a hotel in Germany. She has a small silver lighthouse.

This novel alternates between these two characters. Futh is trying to rediscover a previous walking holiday he had with his father, in the hope that it might contain the clues to what has gone wrong with his current life.

Ester is trying to blot something out about the past through the present of drinking gin and sleeping with strangers as her husband works downstairs.

This is rather an odd story which is very difficult to review, it goes somewhere but nowhere at the same time. What carried me on was the writing, it was so well written that actually when I came to the end and felt that I had perhaps missed the point, it did not matter. A reflective novel, which showed how lonely the two main characters were and I felt sympathy and frustration with them at differing points. Futh his past life was frustrating as he did not seem to acknowledge what was going on at the time and Ester with her present, sympathy for the life she had got herself into.

As for the lighthouse, is it that one singular light that guides us through life? Or does it have another meaning when the light is not shining and guiding you?

An interesting novel if you want to explore something that does not fit neatly into any sort of box. Because life doesn’t does it?

This was a short story, less than 200 pages. I think I bought it on a whim upon seeing it on a Waterstones table. I certainly did not go out and buy it intentionally but knew of its existence through seeing it mentioned on blogs etc. Like purchasing it, I picked it up on a whim to read, because I was after something short. I really did not know what I was getting and I am not sure having read it I still do. Nonetheless it has shown me that short stories have their place and their impact can be just as intense as a big thick book with interwoven plot lines and numerous characters. It is a book which will certainly divide. 

I think I will certainly look at Alison Moore’s new novel He Wants (to be published in August) and see how I get on with another short story and whether the impact is there.