Books

Disclaimer – Renee Knight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t we?

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

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

Disclaimer is out now in e-book and hardback. 

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

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

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

 

Books

Split Second – Cath Staincliffe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Books

The Cake Shop in the Garden – Carole Matthews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cake Shop in the Garden is out now

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

Books

The Rose of Sebastopol – Katharine McMahon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Jottings

Holiday Snippets

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

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

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

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

Cobbling – well making slippers actually.

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All will be revealed in another post.

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

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

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

Crafts

Painting Pottery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0703Here it is in action…….

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

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

Books

Creature Comforts – Trisha Ashley

If you are acquainted with Trisha Ashley’s work then this book will not come as complete surprise to you. It has all the classic characters, plots and locations that makes her writing so familiar and wonderful to read.

However, I will note that there has been a slight change of direction in this latest release and there is more of an element of tragic mystery about it than in previous novels.

Izzy was involved in accident in 1993, but she remembers very little about it. Her peers seem to have all the answers as do the residents of Halfhidden where she lived. Even ten years later, the memory might be very hazy for Izzy but for the others involved, what happened that night is very clear.

Returning to Halfhidden, after spending time abroad and having decided that perhaps her abominable fiancé, Kieran is not the man she thought he was. She has returned to the home of an aunt, to set up her online fashion shop and deal with the eccentricity of her aunt’s dog sanctuary which has rather taken over her life, money and also the grounds of the estate where they live.

Now there is a new owner at the estate it seems that things are going to change. Will the future for Izzy mean that she will finally get some answers about her past?

Halfhidden has a community feel to it and there is very much more going on in the story than the brief plotline I have mentioned. All of it brings the reader into the centre of the community and you can easily dream away your time reading this book imagining you are part of it all as well. As always Trisha does write some wonderful characters, and Kieran was especially unctuous that it was a delight to read and dislike immensely. Add to this mix the landscape and scenery that is described in an almost Brontesque manner you can imagine walking the twisting lanes waiting for which ever ghosts or local characters are going to surprise you from behind a tree.

A rich story, with a good mystery that keeps you turning the pages and is a wonderful example of Trisha Ashley’s work.

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

Creature Comforts is out now in hardback and kindle and available in paperback from 18 June 2015.

I know it is wonderful to get review books via netgalley and I admit to being a bit click happy when it comes to requesting them. But sometimes I do miss the feel of reading a physical book, this is one of those times, curling up on the sofa with an abundance of tea and biscuits is how Trisha Ashley novels should be read, you don’t get the same feeling when you read it on a kindle!

I have nearly read all of Trisha’s work but I am pleased to say another new novel is coming out towards the end of 2015 – so not long to wait until I can indulge again.

Books

One Summer in Venice – Nicky Pellegrino

Addolorata Martinelli, Dolly to her family and friends has a successful restaurant which she runs after her father retired to Italy. She pours her heart and soul into this place and with a husband who she has been in love with since she was very young and a daughter, Dolly seems to have everything.

However, a choice few words from a restaurant critic leaves Dolly in crisis – maybe a midlife one, certainly one about knowing what food works in the restaurant but very much one where she needs to fulfill all those clichés – ‘regroup’ and ‘find herself’  but this book certainly is not a cliché.

Dolly is given an opportunity of time and space away from the restaurant to find what she needs to carry on her life, whether that be in London or somewhere else. Whether it be with food or another skill. Dolly needs to fundamentally find out what makes her happy.

Dolly finds herself in Venice, somewhere she thought she would be with the ones she loves not on her own, in a rather shabby hotel trying to fill her days and thinking about her. Despite her misgivings about going away for so long, it seems that fate deals her something which helps her on her way.

Alone in a city she has to find something to occupy her. Her thoughts turn to coffee, pastries, seafood, dance and friendship. She becomes friendly with an enigmatic lady known in Venice as Coco who shows her how another life can be led. A feisty Valentina who is working to avoid her happiness. Nanda whose happiness nows comes through long ago memories that do not stay around for very long. And Angelo who sweeps Dolly off her feet.

As the days turn into weeks, the list starts to develop and Dolly learns not just about the ten particular things that make her happy but actually what happiness is.

As a fan of Pellegrino’s work I know what I am getting with her books, the warmth of the sun on my skin, the feel of the breeze when it appears, the smell of the freshly cooked food to the point that you can almost taste it. With this book you get to appreciate something else – that although yes the big things can make you happy, like family, friends, a good job it is in fact all the small pleasures in life that we should be stopping and thinking about, being mindful of.

One of those pleasures is reading and this author is certainly one you need in your life to experience.

Thank you to the publisher Orion and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

One Summer in Venice is out 21 May in hardback – but out today on Kindle. 

In the meantime, check out Nicky Pellegrino’s other work and my reviews, as I have added her to Author’s List of Works found at the top of this blog. I hope to read another Pellegrino before the year is out. 

 

 

Books

The Dish – Stella Newman

Laura is in London, trying to find her feet following her divorce and not very successfully dating anyone with a future.

After another disastrous date she bumps into Adam, in fact she bargains with him in relation to a bacon sandwich and a doughnut (my kind of girl!). In fact Adam is quite a dish in his own right.

With a spark of attraction, friendship grows to something else and Laura finds quite a lot out about Adam – in fact he is a Head Chef.

The Head Chef of the restaurant that she has just visited.

Because that is Laura’s role a restaurant critic for a magazine known as The Dish.

Surely she does not need to tell Adam? But perhaps she does if he sees her review? But it seems that Adam has some secrets of his own to hide?

This is a romantic read with girl and boy meet, fall out and get back together again. However, Stella Newman weaves this tale over more pages than I would have perhaps expected for a romantic read. It has some great interactions with her colleagues and family through emails which are there for you to read and you get a real sense of how Laura, is struggling with this dishy dilemma. She is a rounded character who you see interacting with her family and also her work colleagues, you really get a sense of the woman she is trying to be and get the life (and love) she wants.

I was not sure what Adam’s secret was going to be and I admit to being slightly disappointed. However, that did not take away from the overall story. There is plenty about food in the book and that adds to its depth and helps out when for me the story did slow down.

Perhaps a bit longer than it needed to be but a good read from an unknown author to me.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this novel. 

I do feel very lucky to have access to netgalley and the wonderful books I have been given the chance to read. However, the formatting does somewhat put me off and when this story slowed at times, it made it even more irritating. Especially when you get to the email sections of the story. All disjointed does not cope well for my OCD. 

Ironically a book I am reading at the moment on my kindle, through netgalley is not formatted as well, but that is not annoying me and I am flying through the story.

Books · Crafts · Jottings

Snappy Snippets

It seems rather quiet on the blog, I am still here.

Reading – a tremendous amount, got into some great recently released novels, but thinking I am neglecting more older works, especially those on my shelf.

Reviewing – nothing at the moment, because I have been reading so much! That will change.

Exercising – Circuit training – I have surprised myself with the adrenalin kick it has given me.

Swimming – outside at 0630. A bit nippy but refreshing and relaxing watching the plane trails in a blue sky.

Watching – not very much. Poldark is still captivating, and now that the wonderful Vera has started again with the fabulous Brenda Blethyn.

Eating – A Big Easter Sunday Roast with friends and family. Something that being from a family that cannot raise a crowd in a phone box was enjoyable and exhausting in equal measure.

Working – holiday started today!

Making – I know it has been Easter, but I had some unfinished Christmas Decorations that needed finishing………..

Winning – I entered a competition on twitter, one of those that you just need to retweet (I would quite like to win the Fortnum and Masons competitions next please)  and I won!!! Thank you to Waterstones Birmingham New Street, if I am ever in Birmingham I will pop in. It looks a vibrant branch with stuff going on! Wish my local Waterstones were a bit more active on Twitter!

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So here is what I got. The complete Bryant and May series of books by Christopher Fowler. Ironic really since I have been raving about his latest novel The Burning Man here.

Book reviews are scheduled to appear shortly……