Books

The Chalet – Catherine Cooper

A debut novel, a setting that perhaps would have turned me off – the French Alps. The thought of skiing not something that has ever interested me. However, the luxury, the mystery and the murder had me hooked from page one.

1998 – Will and his brother Adam, with respective girlfriends find themselves skiing. Not necessarily the choice of them all but still a holiday that is going to change all of their lives forever.

Will and Adam have a testosterone fuelled one-upmanship that is simmering beneath the surface of both brothers and when the opportunity to perhaps put it to the test on the slopes presents itself it seems too good an opportunity to miss.

Cameron and Andy, ski guides meet Will and Adam, out of the four of them only three return and their lives are changed forever?

2020 – Hugh and wife Ria are here to impress Simon and his wife Cass to get Simon to invest in Hugh’s business. The one-upmanship has a different purpose now. But the slopes are the same, the snow is the same and amongst a fierce snowstorm the likes that no one has seen for over twenty years; a body is discovered.

Whose body is it?

And can the four people from the past and the four people from the future have connection to it?

Told across dual timelines, a plot device that I enjoy in historical fiction works really well in this novel. Not only are we getting the movement of back and forth we are seeing everything from the different point of view of the main characters. It doesn’t always work, in this book it excels and adds to the build up of tension.

Don’t make your mind up about what you think about one character? Immediately the author twists that on its head and shows you a different version?

All these versions, these sets of events and beliefs result in a real pacey novel which had me hooked and add to that the claustrophobia of being trapped in a chalet with people you don’t know, in the midst of a snowstorm. I felt I was trapped and the only way out was to solve the mystery.

An excellent debut novel and if this is what to expect in the future from this author then I am ready for the next novel. A contender for one of my favourite books of the year. And as for skiing – still not interested!

 

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

The Chalet is out now. 

 

Books

For Emily – Katherine Slee

Renowned children’s author Catriona Robinson has dedicated all her books to the people that have meant something to her during her life.

Her granddaughter Emily, one of the dedicatees has never given it much thought until the death of her grandmother.

Catriona became Emily’s life when a tragic accident robbed her of her beloved parents and for a while the ability to walk, talk and function as a human being.

Now seemingly alone in the world, a final task from her grandmother is to go and search out all those that have had books dedicated to them. Popularity of Catriona means that no one wants to believe there is no more stories to come and the trip suddenly becomes a quest for a lost manuscript, the final story, the one that has yet to be published.

The only person that can discover any of this is Emily. But since her accident, Emily exists in a very small world, near the cottage in Norfolk, not conversing with anyone and seeking solace in the illustrations she did for her Grandmothers work but also in the birds she starts to draw after her grandmother dies.

However, it seems this legacy has to be fulfilled and Emily has to break down barriers and step outside what she knows.

This is a quiet tale of grief and rediscovery of a life seemingly lost and one that has been lived through words and pictures which have come alive as Emily goes on this mystery tour – but where will it end?

The writing is carefully constructed, the use of birds is a unique way of creating chapters and sections all linked in with the beautiful drawings described.

In my opinion a sleeper of a debut novel which is going to take people by surprise and will undoubtedly become a hit. It was a hit with me.

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

For Emily is out now. 

 

Books · Jottings

Jottings #1

I had noticed that I had been rather quiet on the blog lately, not because I have nothing to say because actually I do but I have not had the inclination to get writing. Upon reflection, I should have been writing as I realise how therapeutic it is or at least can be.

So I thought I would just do a jottings post and tap into the title of the blog which makes sense really. So here are my thoughts on various topics, books plus a few links along the way.

I seem to have slightly lost my reading mojo for two reasons

a. having too many books on the go!

b. knowing that I was not enjoying the book I was reading and how on earth was I going to review it. The book in question was Helen Dunmore’s Zennor in Darkness. Thank you to everyone who commented and it is interesting to see how we take on some sort of guilt about not liking a book that others rave about!

My mojo is probably back as I was lucky enough to be sent a wonderful debut novel by M.L. Stedman – The Light Between the Oceans. Thank you to Alison Barrow from Transworld. I have not reviewed it as of yet, because this is a book and a review which I want to take my time over, and there are lots of things I want to say about the book but I will publish the review around the time of publication on 26 April. In the meantime here is the ‘blurb’

This is a story of right and wrong, and how sometimes they look the same.

1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia. The only inhabitants of Janus Rock, he and his wife Isabel live a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world.  One April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant – and the path of the couple’s lives hits an unthinkable crossroads.  Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they make that day – as the baby’s real story unfolds …

M L Stedman’s debut is a mesmerising novel of love and loss and unbearable choices.

Once I had finished this book I could not decide what next to read, it felt disloyal to start something new. So I have carried on reading a rather 2012 themed book which is Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith. It is quite interesting although I do not feel I have learnt anything outstandingly new about her. The Queen not the author. I feel it is rather geared to an American audience, but I will not let that put me off and it is written chronologically and I have just got up to the Silver Jubilee celebrations so about half way through.

However I do not think this book is a patch on Andrew Marr’s The Diamond Queen: Elizabeth II and her People which I have yet to read but thoroughly enjoying the BBC TV series for which this book accompanies. (It was also a Kindle Daily Deal – and worth the £1.59) I have learnt from this programme  – that the HMY Britannia (which should never have been decommissioned – but that is a another story) was actually meant to be a nuclear bunker for the Queen in the event of nuclear war. Fascinating and even more so because I work with an ex RN Petty Officer who served on the ship that guarded the Royal Yacht and even he did not know about it. Some secrets can be kept.  I look forward to reading this book. I also have The Final Curtsey by Margaret Rhodes, (The Queen’s first cousin) to read. 2012 could be the year for reading royally!

In all things celebration in 2012, I give you the link for you to read at your leisure. Why is 2012 a year to remember? Although we are only two months into this celebratory year, who would have thought that it was 70 years since the film Casablanca was made! And with the Olympics happening this year, 2012 will remain a year to remember in the future.

World Book Night is in its second year this year and I have been lucky enough to be chosen to give out 25 books – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. It is my favourite book and also my mum’s who first got me into the book and we both have watched the film version, the TV series and also a stage play. Fabulous. I am so excited about this and I hope to give some of the books away on this blog for anyone that has not read it or for those who have but just want to take part!

The old reading mojo might be a little wobbly, but the swimming one seems to be there. I have swam 4Km in the last week, mainly because I have not had any PT sessions. Some days are harder than others, especially when you have had only 5 hours sleep the night before and up at 0515. Power through and I got there, but I am glad of the weekend to have some time to relax (and sleep!)

Reading newspapers is not something I do on a frequent basis unless I am on holiday, I see it as a luxury especially in the days of instant news on 24 hour television and the internet. Saturday is the day I do buy a paper (Daily Express) mianly for the TV listings for the following week and because it is bliss to settle down and spend the time to read the paper. However I signed up to reading The Telegraph on the iPad because I had a subscription through work and was just going to try out and see what it was like. I am hooked. Secretly a bit like feeling guilty about not liking a book you are reading, I always feel I should be reading a newspaper which is a bit more highbrow and less tabloidy. All the news aside I have got into doing the quick crossword, and seeing the next day whether I was right or not is quite satisfying and I am surprising myself with what I know.

This post has turned into a bit of a reading, book related post which is fine as I am going to continue that theme with words. Whilst flicking through the Which magazine that arrived at work this week, I came across the article about Food Labelling, you can read the online article in full here. I read the one from the magazine, not that dissimilar. What interested me was the ‘creative writing’ that supermarkets and food manufacturers use on products.

A visit to the supermarket can bombard you with labels that use creative language…Words such as ‘real’, ‘homemade’ and ‘hearty’ draw people in because they allude to feelings of comfort. Although not legally defined…on the use of the term ‘homemade’ – it shouldn’t be used on factory-made foods, only on products prepared in a domestic kitchen.

Now here is a term that I think could catch on ‘Weasel Words’, wonderful alliteration. Defining ‘Weasel Words’

Heather Hartwell, associate professor in food service and applied nutrition at Bournemouth University told us [Which] “These words fall into the “affective” category. They allude to emotions tat can trigger happy memories such as grandma’s apple pie. Other words provide a sensory description – ‘crisp’, ‘succulent’ and ‘rich’ are used frequently on premium products to indicate luxury. In the industry these are known as ‘Weasel Words’.

Who knew that doing your weekly shop could be such a literary experience. And apparently we are all being conned by the difference between ‘flavour’ and ‘flavoured’.  Manufacturers are banking on us not realising the difference, so to inform you all as i feel this sort of information should be shared:

Flavour – can mean something from artificial flavouring.

Flavoured – has to contain the natural ingredient.

Rest assured that I am going to eat my “Homemade Butternut Squash Soup flavoured with garlic. It has been made in a domestic kitchen – Tick!. It has got the natural ingredient garlic in it – Tick! And there is not a food manufacturer with a labelling problem within sight – Tick!