Books

Murder at Enderley Hall – Helena Dixon

This is the second novel from Helena Dixon and the second to also feature the delightful Kitty Underhay, You do not need to have read the first, but it does help fill in a bit of the background of Kitty and the dashing private detective Matt Bryant.

Kitty having discovered family she did not know she had and that they lived fairly close by she goes on a visit.

Having borrowed a chambermaid from the hotel she lives in with her grandmother, Kitty sets off on a new adventure to meet these relatives.

There is an Aunt and Uncle plus a cousin, as well as a few more assmeled house guests that make up such a house party. Her Uncle is obviously involved in some important government work and as tensions are growing in Europe, it is 1933 and things are changing, there is an air of mystery to the whole proceedings especially when some important papers go missing.

Then old Nanny Thoms is found dead at the bottom of the stairs.

Kitt’s friend Matt Bryant turns up and proves to be useful in getting to what is really going on at Enederly Hall.

Then another body turns up, guest are arrested and mysterious faces at the window and bodies in lakes all start to get a bit too much for Kitty.

Surely Kitty is not going to lose the family she has only just found?

This is a wonderful second novel and starts to fill in the gaps about Kitty’s family. It is a wonderful take on a the country house murder mystery and the growing friendship between Kitty and Matt is delightful. The added dimension of it being a history murder mystery is all the more interesting as you can see how in these interwar years, the First World War is still very much affecting people and the obvious growing threat in Europe is goign to have some sort of effect.

There is much to like about these two novels so far in the series I look forward to seeing what other mischief Kitty gets embroiled in. The series could potentially run for a while.

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

Murder at Enderley Hall is published on 19 March 2020.

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Ten Years of Lists and Reviews – 2011

This is the second in a reflective post of ten years of blogging and also to mark the new decade as well. Reflecting back I have rediscovered books and authors I have read and promised myself I would read more, but never getting round to it. I have also seen how much my blogging has perhaps changed, developed and hopefully improved – even if some of it does make me cringe!

So here I am back in 2011, the first full year of blogging.

I was still talking about my crafts – looking back at the pictures it seems that 2011 was a bit of a turning point where I started to branch out with more than one thing on the go (no different to now really)

2011 was the year that I discovered Lucinda Riley with Hothouse Flower 

This is a strong book, with a fairly complex plot and a number of characters but Lucinda Riley weaves a tale that makes it easy to follow and completely absorbing. I found myself wanting to read it any spare minute I had, just to get to the next bit.

I was hooked with this writer and anyone who has been reading this blog for as long as I have been wittering on, will know that I have read many of her novels. I love the current Seven Sisters series but I still think if I had to choose it would be The Girl on the Cliff.

Another author I have read no more of since 2011 is Nicola Upson, I know I did try one of her later ones but at the time did not get on with it. I probably subconsciously gave up with them at the point. Rereading the review for Two For Sorrow, led me to find two other reviews not featured on the blog and to looking out for one of her other books.

2011 was the year that a kindle came into my life. I am now on my second one as the original developed lines and made it difficult to read the screen. I was very dubious at first and am passionate about ‘real’ books, still am. However I then went the other way and started trying out lots of books, because I could and seeing if I wanted to read any of them.

It became a little project which sort of died a death really as some blogging projects do sometimes. I got simply bogged down in looking up and trying out books – I ended up not really reading many of them.

I think when you start a new blog you spend a lot of time trying out what works or doesn’t work for you and sometime you simply need ideas for blog posts. Some work, some don’t and some like this one from Simon at Stuck in A Book I only did once here when it was first brought out and then again for a second time here and for a bit of nostalgia look out for another one of these in the coming weeks and with all credit to Simon.

I look back at the books mentioned and find that some authors I have never ventured back to, others have stuck. How reading changes and introduces you to new things.

One of those new things was Persephone Books- this was my first time in participating a reading challenge and a read along. The book I chose was The Home-Maker. Ironically it is the only Persephone book I still have read and probably all these years later I should perhaps tackle another one.

I did go back and revisit some wonderful childhood books which I have carried on doing over the last ten years or so but may not have written about them. Of course my childhood was dominated by Enid Blyton but sadly many of the books I have read have been given away and the only versions I could find were of the ‘newer’ variety

Yes but there is a problem, I can only download a newer version of her novel. All updated to fit in with the politically correct brigade that seem to lurk around. Oh well, lets just try a sample without having to part with any money and see how we get on? They cannot have changed that much can they? Oh, they have!

Here where I have revisited Five on Treasure Island I go into some of the comparisons. If you ever go back and read them – find the originals not the ‘correct’ versions.

However I did find a copy of the Malory Towers book I read as a child many times and that was a sheer delight. Definitely the place I get my love of school stories from.

The term goes on with the trials and tribulations. Tricks are made with pretend deafness, spiders and spilt ink. Courage and cowardice are fought and lost. Work is hard and positions are important. Tempers are lost and regained and new friendships are formed. I do not need to go into detail of all the events, as they just fit in so seamlessly and that although they are short they are dealt with effectively and efficiently. Good and bad, rights and wrongs corrected. The right sort of justice is dispatched to the right people with no comeback. Rereading as an adult I wonder if perhaps Blyton was using some sort of moral tale with these stories. That thought passes very quickly and I have just enjoyed the book for what it is pure pleasure.

Going back to my childhood took me back to the Mobile Library that visited and also libraries in general. I should use them far more and I don’t and I feel totally ashamed by that. I know I should do more, reflecting back on this post and the last ten years has really made me think. Perhaps I need to redress the balance in 2020. I make no rash promises because I know that life has a funny way of interfering.

There are many things that interfere in life and looking back in 2011 I was busily losing weight – I got to my target, I was more than please but life got in the way the following year. The losing weight ceased and I think I need say no more for the moment. Now is not the time to share about it. But what looking back at 2011 showed me was I shared a lot about food and cooking.

Cakes are a popular bake in my household, carrott, chocolate and cookies. Of course living on your own means you have to adapt and change things around and challenge yourself which I did when I made some Scotch eggs. I don’t think I have made any since – and I know I could quite easily as I have all the ingredients at home.

2011 for blogging was what I call a real mixed bag and I posted about lots of different things as you can see from this post. That has certainly changed as I look back at the blog in the last twelve months. It is all evolving and what I do wonder is what people want when they pop by and read my blog. Do they want to see what else has been going on? Do they want to understand the person behind the book reviews? Only you reading this know that!

So in conclusion from looking back at 2011 I need to find some Nicola Upson books, Persephone books, libraries and Scotch Eggs! I wonder if I will?

 

Books · Witterings

February Roundup

I want to say an extra day has given me an extra days worth of reading but I feel that probably is not the case, I am on target for my 100 for the year but who can possibly be thinking about when we have only completed two months of the year.

All but one of the book was on kindle, and that makes me glad and grumpy in equal measure. I delight in holding the actual book but with so many opportunities to read great books, the kindle was heavily used in February.

Having only read The Hunting Party back at the beginning of the year, I was intrigued to get Lucy Foley – The Guest List. A great twisting turn of a novel which kept me guessing or did I really know but not want to admit it? Read it see if you think the same?

There was more murder with Daisy Waugh – In the Crypt with a Candlestick, not an author I have read before and one I probably would be reluctant to pick up again. This was very tongue in cheek but lost something in the aim of the book. I am afraid I was swayed by the cover, judged and was wrong.

And even more murder with Helena Dixon – Murder at Enderley Hall, the second in a series of novels, set in the 1930s and featuring the wonderful Kitty Underhay and ex Army Captain Matthew Bryant. This time they are in the big country house and that can only mean one thing – murder!

Staying in the past I was delighted to be back with Nancy Revell – Triumph of the Shipyard Girls. This saga gets better and better as the book goes on and I am delighted it continues apace.

Learning about the past is a wonderful pastime and one I thoroughly enjoy in many forms. No more so that picking up Sandi Toksvig – Between the Stops. Sandi has not written your average autobiography, but then she is not your average women really. This is Sandi on a journey, on a bus through London on the way she tells us about her surroundings, the buildings, the roads, the famous people and it jogs ehr memory to what has happened to her in her past. Whether that be with her mother and father and the places she was luckily to travel, to her schooldays, early days of celebrity and more recent experiences. It is a great book to dip in and out of.

Talking about taking journey’s there is one place I really want to visit (though it is not a real place) and that is Heartcross in Scotland. It was great to be back there with Christie Barlow – Clover Cottage. Here we join the local vet Rory and his girlfriend Allie who are struggling with the concept of escaping the little village and finding an adventure. Sometimes adventures can be had at home. But is that enough?

Cottages unintentionally started to be a theme in February when I was off to visit Kate Forster – Starting over at Acorn Cottage. A dream of Clara’s to live in a cottage because a nightmare when reality bites and she finds herself in a rundown cottage with no roof, no job and no prospects. But events can take an unexpected turn.

More run down properties in Lisa Swift – The School of Starting Over mean that new resident Nell has a lot to contend with if she wishes to settle into the village. Being the new reception class teacher will help but what else is distracting Nell as she makes the home of her dreams?

Fulfilling people’s dreams seems the obvious job description for a wedding planner, but Lara is not the perfect contender for that in Tilly Tennant – The Break Up. Determined to not let her personal life affect her job she throws herself wholeheartedly into weddings and looking after her cat. But then it seems someone else has been feeding the cat….

Not a bad month, it is only when I look back how I see that some of these books connect and follow different themes. I promise you it is not an intended course of action but a wonderful coincidence. It makes me wonder where my March reading is going to take me.

Books

In the Crypt with the Candlestick – Daisy Waugh

A new author to me and I was drawn to the cover without a doubt and the promise of:

In the traditions of two great but very different British writers, Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse, Waugh’s hilarious and entirely original twist on the country house murder mystery comes complete with stiff upper lips, even stiffer drinks, and any stiffs that might embarrass the family getting smartly brushed under the carpet…

At Tode Hall, at ninety three Sir Ecgbert has finally died. Widow Lady Tode no longer wants to be lady of the manor and neither of her three children have much interest in the Tode Hall.

So the hall and all its residents is passed across to a distant relative much to the chagrin of the remaining family and staff.

However Lady Tode’s idea of spending her twilight years in Capri are thwarted when she ends up dead in the Hall’s mausoleum. What follows is a half hearted attempt to find out who the culprit was and with the aid of the granddaughter of a former employee and a ghost it seems the answer has been staring them in the face all the time.

This is not your normal murder mystery, a book which had a sense of wanting to be stuck in the past, the cover gives that impression but was very much in the present. The correlations to Wodehouse I could see, think Blandings not Jeeves and I am not sure if it has the real sense of Christie, that you may see in other homages.

However it was humourous in an almost pastiche to the country house murder mystery and was a passable diversion. It perhaps did not deliver as well as it could have done. Shame it had potential.

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

In the Crypt with a Candlestick is published on 20 February. 

 

Books · Jottings · Witterings

January Roundup

Boom and one month gone! My nan was right, time goes quicker the older you get.

But this month time has been spent reading more books that have been hanging around for a while.

I saw all the hype regarding Lucy Foley – The Hunting Party, the cover itself makes the books stand out and when I spotted her new crime novel available on netgalley I only thought it fair to read the first. A page turner that is well worth a read and I have to admit was probably worth a lot fo the hype as well! As for her second I end the month reading that and well it seems to be up there with the first!

January 2020 is the month we lost Marion Chesney/M.C. Beaton and I therefore thought it as fitting to read one of the books which I had on my shelf for a while M.C.Beaton – Agatha Raisin: There Goes the Bride. A passable book which almost cleans your brain for whatever else is to come and what you have read before, they are a simply forumliac joy. My only wish is that they do not ship in a ghostwriter to carry on the oeuvre simply for making money.

Last year was the first time of reading anything by Caroline Roberts and I had did a bit of a binge with Caroline Roberts – The Cosy Teashop in the Castle followed straight away with Caroline Roberts – The Cosy Christmas Teashop. Both delightful reads and I think a first for me reading a Christmas themed book after the event and not before. I look forward to catching up with more from this author.

To balance it all out a bit I did read some of the wonderful new novels which I gain access to through netgalley. Lorna Cook – The Forbidden Promise, second novel is as good if not better than the first. A great historical dual time narrative set in the second world war which draws you in and keeps you in the wilds of Scotland.

Going further back to the turn of the century and mining takes me to Tracy Rees – The House at Silvermoor. This time we are taken to Yorkshire, mining villages, conflicts between families and the lies and mysteries that a seemingly empty house brings. One of the best books written by Tracy Rees with such fantastic attention to detail you could almost taste the coal being mined.

And finally across the oceans to Australia and the mid nineteen eighties. Sophie Green – The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle, showing the strength of friendship and community in a shared love. Swimming. It appealed to me because of my own love of swimming although the coast around Portsmouth has slightly cooler water than that of Australia!

So that was January 2020 – not a bad month really. A time to reflect and get back to some sort of order and resemblance which helps my mental health no end. Unfortunately the grey weather does not. More books full of sunshine needed.

How has your January been? What is bringing you colour?

 

Books

Silent in the Sanctuary – Deanna Raybourn

This is the second Lady Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane novel by Deanna Raybourn, if you have not read the first then do so, though this book will fill in some of the background story you will not get the full picture of their relationship and all its underlying currents.

Lady Julia is recovering from her ordeal in the previous book in Italy with two of her brothers Plum and Ly, but their father wants them all back home for Christmas, and for Ly to bring his new Italian bride with him. They come home bringing with them Alessandro, a friend from Italy who harbours a secret passion for Lady Julia to their country pile Bellmont Abbey or March Manor, where they are greeted by many members of their rather funny and eccentric family as well as a surprise or two and the mysterious Lord Wargrave. But is he mysterious or does Lady Julia already know him?

What then transpires is something which brings all great detective novels together – a murder. Who has committed this murder and why? And why has one of the house guests and cousin of sorts to Lady Julia claimed sanctuary in the chapel attached to the abbey? Did they really commit the murder or are they protecting someone.

Brisbane investigates with some help from Lady Julia, who whilst helping in one investigation ends up causing friction in another – the real reason that Brisbane has descended on Bellmot Abbey. Everyone is under suspicion and as the snow closes any access in or out of the murder, items go missing and the body of the victim is stored (and a post mortem carried out) in the game larder. It rather puts some of the guests (and the cook) of the food!

Raybourn has brought the two characters of Lady Julia and Brisbane back to life again, and this book reads as a witty tale of (despite the murder) escape into life in Victorian England. Ten out of ten for capturing so much of the society by an author who is an American but not once does this book slip from what it is all about – England. If like me you love reading about that upper class society world in an age gone by and you are not averse to a bit of murder and intrigue then this is the series of books for you. Raybourn successfully leads the ending of the story into the next one and I cannot wait to read it.

This review was first published on Amazon in 2009 and is featured on this blog as part of my look back at the last ten years of blogging. 

 

Books

Silent in the Grave – Deanna Raybourn

Silent in the Grave is a great discovery. Lady Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane make a rather odd duo, when they set out to find out if Edward, Julia’s husband was actually murdered or did he die of natural causes and his weakening heart condition.

We go on a journey through Julia’s strict mourning, with her family the March’s, her rather odd behaving brother Val, Portia her sister, `The Ghoul’ as well as her servants, Morag and Magda and even Desmond a character who seems rather insignificant at the beginning comes more important as the story goes on. Faithful servants like Aquinas and rather odd characters like Cass all make this story richer. This background all adds to the developing plot – who killed Edward? This doubt over his death is kept in a rather close knit way from many people, and as you read you feel privileged to be apart of the secrets that have been found and the clues that lead to dead ends as well as amazing discoveries and eventually the truth.

You are plunged into some rather low life parts of Victorian Society, but also some rather frivolous ones with the evening of entertainment by a `March’ aunt, tea with Fleur and the discovery of gypsies and their ways and means. So much more to say, but this would give vital clues to the plot and outcome and would be unfair to someone reading this review.

This is a real delight, if somewhat tongue in cheek it still serves as a great page turner and definitely worth a look, I can’t wait to read Book Two.

Looking back over the last ten years of posts I stumbled across the fact that the last time I had read anything by Deanna Raybourn was back in 2010. 

I spoke about Deanna Raybourn in a post here

Silent in the Grave was the first book by this author and I read it long before the blog and my review has only been on Amazon and I now resurrect it here. I would like to think that my reviews have improved since this one. Over the next month I will feature the other two books that I have read and reviewed and it has inspired me to go back to this series and once again join Lady Julia Grey.