Books

Never Greener – Ruth Jones

Kate was twenty-two and had a mad passionate all-consuming affair with Callum. He was married, she didn’t care and thought that he was the man for her.

It wasn’t to be and Kate’s life took a very different path but she remembers Callum and how she felt.

She married Matt and became a mother to Tallulah. She had it all, family, home, money, recognition as a famous actress. Her life was perfect from the outside.

But for Kate, it wasn’t perfect because she had given up the one thing she wanted…..Callum.

A chance meeting seventeen years later, Kate gets to wonder what might have been.

Is the grass really greener on the other side? And if you get to have another go, will it work?

This novel, drew me right in from the beginning and I was hooked. We are launched into the actions that Kate takes which sets off the whole tone of the book. Brought screamingly up to date we then see her in as a wife, mother and actress. In fact to me Kate is nothing but and actress, she is playing the part of wife, of mother, of whichever character she happens to be. Her true self is when she is with Callum and that bit shocked me the most. I despised her for affecting so many people with her actions. Even when I got to the end, I never changed my mind about her. Powerful writing from Ruth Jones which kept me hooked long into the night.

She is a narcissist, unless it is all about her then she doesn’t really want to know. Callum on the other hand was portrayed as weak, he easily falls for Kate’s spell but whilst a flawed character he was the only one able to see what Kate was doing even if he was caught up in the middle of it all. I don’t deny he hurt people, but he could see what he had done – Kate on the other hand……

Of course with any great read, there are supplementary and supporting characters in the book and here they are just as well-rounded and thought out as the two main protagonists. The book is full of angst, of humour, strong emotions which cause upheaval for everyone and of course the age-old questions what if things had turned out differently.

I love this quote from the book – it sum’s the book up most perfectly and it makes you think:

‘We spend most of our lives wishing we were somewhere else or someone else, or looking forward or harping back. Always thinking the grass is greener on the other side. But it never is. It’s still grass. Just a different patch of it, that’s all.’

An excellent piece of writing from a debut author. I am always skeptical about actresses/famous people crossing over into writing fiction but Ruth Jones does this well. Clearly her ability to write sitcoms for television, create ideas and projects and characters transfers perfectly into fiction writing and if this is the quality of the writing then I want to read more!

Never Greener is out on 5th April in Hardback. 

Thank you to Alison Barrow from Penguin Random House for the ARC copy of the book. 

 

Books · Jottings

February Roundup

I don’t know about you – but I have so many books to read that sometimes I find myself just staring what I have on my actual shelves as well as on my virtual ones too and actually not getting much reading done.

When I am reading, it is a few pages at night and then my eyes close….zzzzzzz. Too much television watching I think. However some of the programmes that always race the beginning of the year are not finishing and that means I go to bed earlier, keep warm with a good book instead.

So in February I have been everywhere reading wise and the thing I can say about every book I have read is that I have enjoyed them all.

Being part of the Lynda Page – All the Fun of the Fair blog tour meant I could pick up a book by an author I have never read before and start at the beginning of a very interesting series of books about a travelling fair. This is historical saga writing at its best and a genre I love to read.

Of course I always love to read authors that I know are going to deliver on their books a simply great story and that was the case with the latest from Trisha Ashley – The House of Hopes and Dreams I am convinced her stories get better and better and I only have two of her back catalogue to catch up on now. Trouble is I will have to wait an age for a new book but in the meantime I got down to the seaside

Sarah Bennett – Spring at Lavender Bay is the first in a new trilogy and this will keep me busy throughout the year no doubt! When the weather is grey and the days short there is nothing better than reading sunshine with books like Sarah’s.

Of course in winter all you want to do is eat comfort food and what better than a homemade pie and my mouth was watering while reading Cathy Bramley – Hetty’s Farmhouse Bakery. I really enjoy Cathy’s novels but I have to read them as a whole and not in parts, as I like to immerse myself int he storyline.

I balanced out all of this nice sunshine and romantic notions with Robert Galbraith – Career of Evil, the third book in the series so far. I wanted to read it before the third television programme was broadcast. I had a week to do it and because of the excellent writing and plotting, despite the gruesomeness of the story I finished it with 48 hours to spare! I hope I do not have to wait too long before the next one is published as I love Cormoran and Robin – such a wonderful dynamic.

Short amount of books for the shortest month of the year and doing nothing to the years overall total – but I am enjoying my book choices and I hope you enjoy reading about some of them on this blog.

 

 

 

Books

By the Pricking of My Thumbs – Agatha Christie

Tommy and Tuppence Beresford visit an unpleasant aunt in a home. From this typically unlikely beginning, murder and all kinds of excitement develop, to the point when Mrs Beresford meets the mass killer in the secret room of the house.

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes

Divided into four books we are back with Tommy and Tuppence who are drawn into a rather peculiar mystery. And if the cover of the edition I read is anything to go by, something quite frightening or perhaps something desperately wicked.

I knew the story, but not the actual story. My warped version came from a television adaptation (more on that later) so I had a rough idea of the story and knew whodunnit. Perhaps not the right way to tackle a book but I wanted to know what happened and how the conclusion was reached.

I have always found Tuppence Beresford a bit wishy-washy, and this book lived up to that, but actually I think this part of her character which is what enables her to go off on these hunches when she remembers houses from trains, that later reappear in pictures and what elderly old women say when incarcerated in rest homes. None of it seems relevant or useful to Tommy Beresford but when you have been married as long as he has to Tuppence he knows there is perhaps a grain of something in her thought process.

We have the facts early on, but despite me knowing the answer I could not see how it was all going to come together.  Is that the beauty of Christie? I just think it might be.

Tuppence gets into some scrapes, but she is on to something and it takes a bit of Tommy’s past skills to find out where she is when she fails to come home to him. Of course Tuppence’s task is a simple one, to return a picture to its rightful owner, Mrs Lancaster after she gifted it to Tommy’s Aunt. How can one picture cause such trouble?

This is only the second Tommy and Tuppence that I have read and I have to confess they are a funny pair and in this book, they have aged. The only characters of Christie to do so within real-time of the books being published I learn.

I got into Tommy and Tuppence when back in 2015, an adaptation of a couple of their novels was made by the BBC with David Walliams and Jessica Raine. I enjoyed them, but didn’t hit the mark with the critics and subsequently was not recommissioned. Shame because I liked it. However they did not pick this particular story to adapt, but it has been adapted by ITV within the Marple series.

Some things you need to know:

Miss Marple does not appear in the original story in any way shape or form. There might be some veiled references to the innocent observations of little old ladies but no Miss Marple.

The book is set much longer after the Second World War, and neither of them were still involved with the security services anymore.

Tuppence is not an alcoholic who feels she has missed out on life and been passed over, because she is a woman, a mother and now suffering badly with empty nest syndrome.

Additional storylines of American Air Force, turning village girls heads does not appear, film premieres with precocious children are not part of the plot either. And the names of the villages are very different.

I could go on, but I won’t. However for a Sunday night television drama and without causing much offence it is a reasonable programme and it has everything I suppose you need in such a thing.

However like a lot of things it cannot beat the book – this is the case with By The Pricking of My Thumbs. Although perhaps choose your choice of cover carefully, mine is creepy and the back cover has a picture of Christie herself, staring out at me from my bedside table. I am not sure that the cover conveys the right message. I do prefer something much less weird.

I read this book as part of the 1968 Club which is run by Simon and Karen. I have joined in nearly all of them and have found it a great way to make a dent in the back catalogue of Christie. She wrote so much!

 

Books

The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz

A woman walks into a funeral directors to arrange her funeral.

Six hours later she is dead.

Coincidence?

Murder?

A private detective, Daniel Hawthorne has been called in by the police to help with this case. A consulting detective like Holmes or Poirot but with a character and manner all of his own. So gruff and strange I could not be anything but fascinated by him. Hawthorne is private in many ways, we know little about him and whilst he was once a police inspector, it takes us a while to find out what happened.

The narrator of this story, is drawn into Hawthorne’s world.

The narrator is in fact an author, who has used Hawthorne before to help in his research in previous novels and television adaptations. Here you can quite easily think Watson to Holmes, Hastings to Poirot. Except this author, this narrator, we all know.

It is in fact Anthony Horowitz.

All of a sudden, The Word is Murder becomes part autobiography, part fiction and part fact and it was actually fascinating to learn all about Horowitz’s world as an author and script writer, to  the idiosyncrasies of the publishing and television world. A parody but actually not  – more a reality, a truth.

But just like us as readers, Horowitz is drawn to Hawthorne and the murder of the woman hours after arranging her funeral. He is reluctant to become involved but something draws him back to Hawthorne, because it is not just the murder to unpick Horowitz needs to understand the detective as well. Without that surely he will never have a book.

This is an interesting book, where you have to remind yourself when you are reading, what bit could be true and what part was the fiction of the story being weaved by Horowitz as he helped Hawthorne (not a real person) complete his investigation.

I chose not to go into much detail about the murder in this review, mainly because I am always too frightened of giving some obvious clue and rendering anyone else reading the book as a pointless exercise.

A cleverly crafted novel which will appeal to fans of murder mysteries. I would not put it down as a thriller but it is certainly a page turner. Very different to Magpie Murders published last year but both of these books have the potential to be developed further.

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

The Word is Murder is out now. 

 

 

Books

How to be Champion – Sarah Millican

No doubt many people are going to call this book Champion and it will become a well-worn plaudits – but that is quite simply because this book does exactly what it says on the cover.

I have never been a fan of self-help books, but if they were all like this then I would be reading far more!

First of all, I read this because I am a fan of Sarah Millican. I have seen her live and watched many of her DVDs and wandered around YouTube listening to bits and pieces. There is something about what she talks about in her stand up and general day life that makes me smile, laugh out loud and totally relate to.

This is obviously an autobiography taking us through her days at school, right up to the present day via various jobs, various friends, men, stand up tours and hotels.

Of course there is some crossover in her stand up routines and this book. Clearly a lot of material came from real experiences. But if you laughed once, trust me you will laugh again and again. I did a lot of laughing out loud and it was a good job I was on my own in bed!

But you do find out more about this lovely smasher of a woman! I certainly could relate to her chapters about children and about clothes that fit or don’t fit. I was horrified about the world we live in when she recounts a review she read when she appeared in the programme Who Do You Think You Are? What she says makes perfect sense and it is amazing the world we women still live in. I have experienced many a similar thing at work and it is still shocking that such a thing exists in the twenty-first century.

A book and an author who is not afraid to tackle sex, mental health, heavy periods, depression, divorce, confidence, cats, clothes and cake with equal aplomb. The subjects are wide and varied and the laughs are there but underneath it all there is plenty to make you think.

If you are not a fan of Sarah Millican then this probably isn’t your cup of tea. But if you are then, grab a large slab of cake, a mug of tea and find out how to be champion or in my case more champion than I already am!

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

The formatting when I received it from netgalley was a bit out, and I had to make some sense of the jumbled up bits, however it was easy enough to read. But I will be going out and buying this book so I can read it how it is meant to be and of course look at the photos!

In all the excitement of reading this, I tweeted the lovely Sarah Millican about reading her book and got a like back – I know it’s not like meeting her in person, but hey I was thrilled

How to be Champion is out now.

 

Books

August Roundup

Anyone who is a regular to this blog will know that August is one of the bumper months of reading for me as I have around three weeks off work. This August has been no exception and as you will be able to see from the list of books below, I have been busy. The majority have been reviewed but there are some that have been read for sheer pleasure or fascination.

I have seen many blogs mention Susan Hill – Howards End is on the Landing, but had yet to read it. It is one of those books, that you can pick up read a chapter, which are like small essays and then put it down comfortably for a fortnight without thought and pick it up again to learn some more. Fascinating but not the book I thought it was going to be.

I do love a good saga, and Daisy Styles – The Code Girls was going to give me that. I liked the premise and I thought perhaps I was going to get more of the codebreaking than the cooking I did get, it was a pleasurable diversion apart from one thing – the historical mistakes. Poor research is unacceptable especially when people who could well be reading books like this probably remember the events.

This did not happen through the book, but in the first 15 pages or so – it was stated that Clement Attlee was the prime minister who announced the war, that the Dunkirk evacuation from the North Sea was on the Normandy beaches. At this point the book nearly flew out the window. I kept reading because I was under the impression it would be perhaps interesting – it was passable for a wet afternoon. Realistically if these ‘Code’ girls were as clever as they were portrayed they would not have been stuck in the kitchens. I am now in the process of writing to Penguin (publisher) because of what I feel is a very poor example of a book. It is this which has put me off reading any more from this author.

Thank goodness for Roald Dahl – The Witches. A childhood read which I wanted to go back and enjoy and I did, what pleasure it gave me when I was a child and read and reread and just the same as an adult. Although looking back I am surprised I was not frightened of such creatures!

If you have read my previous posts then you will know that I was spending my summer vicariously in different places that’s the wonder that is books, novels and stories! It was surely a mere coincidence that a lot of them had Summer in the title!

Holly Martin – Summer at Buttercup Beach, second in a trilogy meant I had to read Holly Martin – Spring at Blueberry Bay first so I knew what was happening and it is only a couple of weeks until the final book is published and I can return to Hope Island.

Jennifer Bohnet – Summer at Coastguard Cottages was one of my favourite summer reads as was Lily Graham – Summer at Seafall Cottage (or The Cornish Escape). I recommend both of these authors wholeheartedly, you will get a really good read.

I was disappointed with two books I read in August, both from authors I had not read before; Jen Mouat – Summer at Bluebell Bank and Fiona Walker – The Weekends of You and Me. They had the potential to be much more than what they were.

My holiday type reads did not just involve sun, there was a sprinkling of murder as well. Robert Thorogood – Death Knocks Twice took me away to the Caribbean and the television programme Death in Paradise on which these books are based.

Italy was my destination for a wedding, Tilly Tennant – A Wedding in Italy and to catch up on the goings on there from when I visited earlier in the year. I am growing to love Tilly Tennant books, but some are much stronger than others and I do wonder is perhaps writing a series is not always the right way to go.

If I am going to stay in a B&B I want it to be a boutique one, no candlewick bedspreads and nylon sheets for me, with doors shut at 930pm sharp! So I want to go to Jennifer Joyce – The Little Bed and Breakfast by the Sea, even out of season I am sure it would be delightful.

Bizarrely reading some of these women’s fiction, light reads whilst engaging can lead you wanting to read something with a bit more meat, a bit of a page turner in a different way. That is why Joanna Barnard – Hush Little Baby, her second novel was the book I chose. Much better than her first, something which can be very difficult to achieve.

Historical Fiction is a real love of mine and I always say I must read more, then get diverted by a million and one other books, but when I do go back I revel it. Despite receiving the book last year and putting off reading it, not because it was going to be awful, but because I knew I would lose myself in it and not want the book to end I finally got round to reading, Lucinda Riley – The Shadow Sister. Easily my favourite of the year and will be hard pressed to beat. So much is contained within the pages, that the writing of the review needs to be considered and thoughtful.

Tracy Rees – The Hourglass is recommended by Lucinda Riley and because I have read her other books I knew I was going to get a cracker of a book. This is different from the previous two, but sweeps not that far back into the past. But far enough back to show the changes that have happened. Cannot wait for this author’s next one.

As the month closes I am reading another historical fiction book, which I have been lost in and will become my first finish of September. The nights are drawing in and there is more than enough for me to be reading.

 

 

 

 

Books

Death Knocks Twice – Robert Thorogood

This is the third ‘Death in Paradise’ novel and this time the challenge for DI Richard Poole, stuffy english detective in his woollen suits in the Caribbean and his rather more laid back team, of Camille, Fidel and the Dwayne.

An unknown man is found dead, shot twice in an old shower room at the Beaumont’s coffee plantation. The door is locked from the inside, the window as well. He could not possibly have been murdered.

Could he?

As DI Poole employs his propensity for such unexplainable acts it seems that perhaps there is more to this unknown man than first thought. The coffee plantation, seems to be running at a loss and the Beaumont family are at odds with each other as well as what to do for best about the plantation.

Of course the truth is obvious, when you know where you are looking, but with every good detective novel there has to plenty of red herrings, plot twists and perhaps another murder. Who is telling the truth?

Of course methods of detection are notoriously slow on such a  laid back Caribbean island and DI Poole has to result in some old fashion research and plenty of patience. He knows if he was back in England, wet dreary England he would not be in this predicament.

But when the answer is revealed… it is time to gather everyone together and ‘name the murderer’!

As with the previous two novels, this encompasses the bygone era of crime writing such as Christie and simply transports it to somewhere warm and appealing. With humorous characters and someone one is never going to fit in and chooses to remain the odd one out. Of course there is another plot running through this and that is the bootleg rum which is being sold on the island, and it might even mean the grumpy english man in his woollen suit might need to go undercover as a proper islander……

A good whodunnit, taking you away to where the sun shines, the water is warm and the chance of death could be quite high!

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

Death Knocks Twice is out now. 

You can also read the first two novels A Meditation on Murder and The Killing of Polly Carter

I hope these books are successful enough to warrant more, because when the tv series is not on, these are a wonderful stop gap. 

 

 

 

Books

Apple Tree Yard – Louise Doughty

I am late to the party in reading this book, I knew it was maknig a splash in the thirller genre when it was first published, but I simply passed it over. My only reason for picking it up now to read was because it was about to be broadcast on the BBC on a Sunday Night. And the reasoning, logical part of me likes to make comparisons.

For those who do not know the premise:

Yvonne Carmichael sits in the witness box. The charge is murder. Before all of this, she was happily married, a successful scientist, a mother of two. Now she’s a suspect, squirming under fluorescent lights and the penetrating gaze of the alleged accomplice who’s sitting across from her, watching: a man who’s also her lover. As Yvonne faces hostile questioning, she must piece together the story of her affair with this unnamed figure who has charmed and haunted her. This is a tale of sexual intrigue, ruthless urges, and danger, which has blindsided her from a seemingly innocuous angle. Here in the courtroom, everything hinges on one night in a dark alley called Apple Tree Yard.

Instantly you want to know what has happened, who are these people that you have let into your life and why are their actions as addicative as you are in reading this book.

But not everything is as it seems.

The story is pieced together, the parts revealed at different points, the reasons behind the actions are not necessarily in the order that you would expect. You have to keep reading to understand.

The actions of one will affect so many.

It is for the court to decide, it is for us as the reader to decide what we think Yvonne has done, we do not know for a long time, and for me the television adaptation successfully kept this element of the book in the first epsiode certainly.

The book is not for the feint-hearted, it is much stronger in description of some of the scenes depicted. It all adds to the plot, nothing in this book is put there just because the author can. It is there for a reason, to aid the story, to move it forward and to make us the reader question every action.

As the end comes closer, we learn more and it was here I felt that I had missed a vital part. What was the reasoning in Yvonne’s accomplice’s actions. It was never explained, we never got into their head. Does that leave me feeling disappoined or more intrigued. I guess that is why the book has hooked so many.

Have you read the book?

Have you seen the adaptation?

What do you think of the choice of actors?

 

Books · Jottings

January Roundup

First month of 2107 gone. Done, dusted, put away. Surely it can only get better, brighter and warmer!

An average sort of month for reading, behind on my goodreads challenge already. which made me panic unnecessarily, because it is only the first month. However, I have throughly enjoyed all that I have read in January.

I caught up with Emma Burstall – The Cornish Guest House, I am a big fan of Emma’s work and probably should have read this when it first came out. Trouble is with authors I really like I tend to not want to read their books immedieatly as when you have done, you are bereft. I feel much the same about reading a Lucinda Riley novel.

Caught up in the hype of the new BBC Drama adaptation of Louise Doughty – Apple Tree Yard and having heard the beautiful Emily Watson be interviewed more than once, I had to read the book before it started on television. Gripping and so far the television is very much in the vision of the book I had when I read it.

What also was brought to life for me was Deborah Burrows – Ambulance Girls. A new author to me and I was asked whether I wanted to partake in the blog tour for the book. The setting is London in the Second World War, and the focus is on those that stayed behind and risked their lives while the bombs were reigning down. However there was a lot more depth to this book and I am looking forward to more in the series.

If you want comfort, easy reading then I normally turn to an author I know will provide that. Which is why I picked up Debbie Macomber – A Girl’s Guide to Moving On. It was one of a series which I did not realise, but it did not detract from the story. The book fulfilled what I wanted it to, but if you asked me to tell you what it was about I probably would struggle.

I have been rather request happy on netgalley in the last month, which is why I was suddenly at the recommended 80% feedback and now I am not. Like a child in a sweetshop looking at all the bright colours I was hooked by so many, and I think some might be of a similar ilk. However I started with Karen Clarke – The Beachside Sweet Shop. If the rest are as good as this, it will be great and I get my feedback percentage back up.

I have also picked up a book from my shelf that has been hanging around for a while which has been in complete contrast to everything else I have read this month Essie Fox – The Somnambulist. I am late to the Essie Fox party but that must mean I have a few to catch up on and enjoy.

So that was January – and I finish it reading another one of my requests from netgalley, which I can feel is going to be a stand out book.

 

 

Books

Not Quite Nice – Celia Imrie

I am always sceptical, very in fact when it comes to ‘slebs; moving onto writing fiction. Always with the cynicism that was it them that really crafted such a novel. I have been proved wrong on occasions, but in this case I think the jury is slightly still out.

Theresa, fed up with being treated as downtrodden babysitter by her daughter and being retired early from her job decides to shock everyone and probably herself into moving to France, a small town just outside Nice. Her ghastly daughter, Imogen who was wonderfully written and annoyed me almost immediately, gives her only a few weeks before she is back with her tail between her legs. And quite possibly what is Imogen going to do for free childcare now her mother has upped and left.

There she finds some other expats who at similar times on their lives and similar ages have found that settling into life in this small town is just what they need. The warmth of the sun and the relaxed way of life is very much different from that in Britain.

Theresa soon starts to find her way, somewhat naively when she has very little in terms of belongings but she soon settles into some strange friendships with glamorous Americans, forgotten tv stars and occasionally naked australian poets and a rather suave looking man.

As the sun shines down, the sea forever blue glistens in the harbour as wine is sipped in the early evening, it seems Theresa has made a good decision until that is events start to happen and everything seems to be out of control.

A very summery read, which sets the characters at an older age than in a lot of women’s fiction. Brought to mind Hilary Boyd’s debut novel Thursdays in the Park if you need a comparison, although not quite as good.

A good example of women’s fiction and I did forget who the author was as I devoured the book. I do want to read the next one, Nice Work(If You Can Get It) because I have this feeling that the writing will get stronger and my scepticism will be unfounded.