Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 Book List

2016 Book list 
Well this is more impressive than last year’s 27.  I managed to pass my original target of 35 which I then extended to 45 and my final count was 52.  Hopefully I will be able to sustain this rate.  I made good use of the library this year.
For one of my online book groups I had to pick my 10 favourites.  I thought that would be easy – just check out the highest rated, i.e. those with 5*.  Not that simple – I ended up going through the list and updating my ratings.  The books are listed in the order that I read them.  My 10 favourites are in bold.

Not Forgetting the Whale – John Ironmonger 5*   I thought this was going to be quite dark as it’s apocalyptic in a way but it turned out to be a really enjoyable read.

A Year of Marvellous Ways – Sarah Winman 3*  

The Secret by the Lake – Louise Douglas 4*   Essentially a mystery but with a ghostly element.  

Crooked Heart – Lissa Evans 3*

Catch 22 – Joseph Heller 2*  FINALLY FINISHED! I hate giving up on books and this one was a real challenge and very long.  The writing is clever but it could have been a lot shorter.

Letters to the Lost – Iona Gray 4* Two love stories linked by letters.

The Redeemer – Jo Nesbo 4* Another in the Harry Hole series.  Classic crime fiction.

The One that Got Away – Simon Wood 4* Crime fiction

The Life I Left Behind – Collette McBeth 4* Crime fiction
 The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins 3* Not sure this quite lived up to the hype but I enjoyed it.
Do No Harm – Henry Marsh 5* This is the only non-fiction book I managed this year, but was really interesting.  Henry Marsh is a renowned brain surgeon.  I wouldn’t want to work for him but if I needed brain surgery I’d want him as my surgeon. (Or maybe someone he’s trained as I think he’s probably retired now.)

The Ice Twins – S.K. Tremayne 3*  A story revolving around the death of a twin.  I found how the family dealt with this (moving away to a remote Scottish island) a bit unrealistic.

Moving – Jenny Éclair 4*  Wasn’t sure what to expect from the author but I enjoyed this book.  Edwina has reached a stage in her life where she needs to sell the family home.  A good study of family relationships.

Vanessa and Her Sister – Priya Parmar 3*  A fictitious study of Vanessa and Virginia Woolf based on actual letters. Interesting but hard to follow at times.  

Broken Promise – Linwood Barclay 5* This is just a good old page turner of a crime thriller.

The Language of Flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh 3*  Romantic fiction.

I Let you Go – Clare Mackintosh 4* This book had me rereading large chunks to see how I’d missed the twist.

The Girl in the Red Coat – Kate Hamer 3*  This is about a child abduction but I found some of it far fetched.

Memory Man – David Baldacci 4* Baldacci is a new favourite of mine.

The Food of Love – Prue Leith 2*  Romantic fiction that I didn’t realise was the first in a series.  Consequently the ending was very unsatisfactory and I didn’t enjoy the book enough to want to read the next in the series.

Room – Emma Donoghue * Speaks for itself.

First One Missing – Tammy Cohen 3* Psychological thriller but police procedures are a bit glossed over.  Told from different POVs so also a bit confusing at times.

The Accident – Linwood Barclay 4* Another good crime fiction from a favourite author.

Alone with the Dead – James Nally 2* Essentially a crime thriller with a bit of paranormal thrown in.  Didn’t grip me.  Didn’t like the characters.

The Bones of You – Debbie Howells 4* This is about the loss of a child and a very dysfunctional family.  Not the easiest of reads but it kept me guessing.

The Kindness – Polly Samson 3*  This is about complicated family relationships and although I enjoyed the writing it’s written from different POVs and the ending is wrapped up very quickly.

The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson 5*  This book had me laughing out loud.  Always a good recommendation.

While my Eyes were Closed – Linda Green 4*  A missing child, how it happened and the outcome.  There are no dramatic surprises but it kept me absorbed.

Ursula’s Secret – Mairi Wilson 4*  This book is quite hard to follow at times and I thought it was going to be a story of unrequited love but it turned out to be much more.

Follow Me – Angela Clarke 3*Crime thriller but brought up to date by bringing in social media.

One Small Act of Kindness – Lucy Dillon3*Light hearted read but with the thread of paying forward an act of kindness carried through it.

The Judge’s Wife – Ann O’Loughlin 3*An overbearing husband, a missing baby and unrequited love. 

The Ballroom Café – Ann O’Loughlin 4*  Two sisters living together in a large family house but not speaking – communicating by notes.  One decides to open a café in the house to bring in funds.  Interwoven with a story of Nuns passing on babies for adoption from unwed Mothers. 

Missing Presumed – Susie Steiner 4* A good solid crime fiction revolving around a missing person.  Didn’t go where I expected it to,

The Lake House – Kate Morton 4* Another mystery involving a missing child.  Well written (although a bit long) it kept me engaged but I felt some of the loose ends were tied up too neatly at the end.

House of Dreams – Fanny Blake 3*  A nice light hearted read – good holiday book.

The Turning Tide – Brooke Magnanti 2* Is it a murder mystery?  A political farce? Or about a woman facing a midlife crisis?  It tries to do all 3 but it’s no House of Cards.

Summer with My Sister – Lucy Diamond 3*  Another ideal read for summer.

Late Summer in the Vineyard – Jo Thomas 3* And another summer read!

Beside Myself – Ann Morgan 2* Another book about twins.  The story centres around the twins switching identities and the consequences.  I found it a bit far fetched.

Fire and Rain – Diane Chamberlain 3* I’m a Chamberlain fan but this took a while to get into.  Complicated relationships that felt a bit disjointed.

The Light Between the Oceans – M.L. Stedman *  Beautiful.  Sad, but beautiful.

The Girls – Lisa Jewell 4* A disturbing tale of how newcomers can change the dynamics of established friendships and the extremes to which some people will go driven by jealousy and a need for revenge.

A Room Swept White – Sophie Hannah 4*  Essentially a murder mystery but quite a complicated plot.

Time of Death – Mark Billingham 3*I’ve read several of Billingham’s books – crime fiction based around the detective Tom Thorne.  I don’t think this was one of his best but it still kept me engrossed.

The Liar – Nora Roberts 3*   Shelby, the heroine in this tale, returns home after her husband is killed and she is left with massive debts.  A story of lies begins to unravel leading to a dramatic but ultimately happy ending.  An easy read, bit predictable and a bit long.

Look at Me – Sarah Duguid 4*  This book grew on me and I began to appreciate the descriptive writing and the author’s understanding of grief.  Based around Lizzie, her brother and her father, all still mourning the loss of their Mother.  Into this mix Lizzie invites Eunice, a half-sister they didn’t know they had. 

Calling Mrs Christmas – Carole Matthews 4*   A lovely topical read just before Christmas.  Cassie and Jim are struggling to make ends meet.  Cassie reinvents herself as Mrs Christmas, offering her services to local businesses and people who need help organising Christmas.  It has beautiful descriptions of Lapland and an Ice Hotel but also what the real meaning of Christmas should be.

You Belong to Me – Samantha Hayes 2* This is essentially a story of stalking.  It’s creepy and has a major twist in it but I found some of it just too far fetched.

Did You Ever Have a Family – Bill Clegg 2*  This is beautifully written at times but the basis of the story, (a woman loses her home and all her closest loved ones in a fire) is quite dark.  The aftermath is told from lots of different POVs and overall I found I just didn’t like it or feel any empathy to the characters.

A Life Without You – Katie Marsh 5* This book is about a daughter reconnecting with her estranged Mother and then losing her again as she succumbs to Alzheimer’s.  Sounds really miserable but it isn’t all doom and gloom.

All I Ever Wanted – Lucy Dillon 4*  A nice easy read.  Just right for after Christmas.  Caitlin has separated from her husband and is trying to get her life on track.  But then Nancy, her four year old daughter becomes a selective mute.  Sad at times but with humour as well, wanting to know how the family situation is resolved kept me reading.

Happy New Year!

I feel like I've been MIA over Christmas but all is good.

We had a lovely Christmas dinner where we suitably stuffed ourselves.  We being hubby and me plus our two sons and their wives.  We were joined in the evening by our daughter and her wife so we were all together for at least part of the day which was lovely.

It was quite a leisurely day once dinner was cooked.  (Hubby and I nearly came to blows when getting to the dishing up phase - my kitchen is small, work surface is limited and too many cooks....I'm sure you are getting the picture lol)

We took time opening presents, playing games and just relaxing.

Dinner time

My favourite present
I received lots of nice things, including a SATNAV so I won't get lost anymore.  I actually don't tend to get lost but navigating new routes is a lot easier with a SATNAV but I'll always have a map book in the car in case!  My favourite present though has to be the pyjama trousers above.  My crafty DIL made everyone a pair and what's special about them is that the material (specially printed and shipped from America) relates to our honeymoon destinations.  Hubby and mine have Austria on them, our daughter's have Hawaii, the youngest son has Vermont and the other son has Thailand.  They are super comfy and so unique.  I love presents that have been thought about and especially those made with love.

On Boxing Day we visited hubby's sister, along with most of the family.  A much noisier, crowded gathering but it was lovely to see everyone, especially our four French nephews who were all home for Christmas from their far flung destinations.  (2 from South America, 1 from California and 1 from Germany.)  My sister-in-law was very happy to have them all together for the first time in a long while.)

We were welcome to stay over but that would probably have meant sleeping on the floor so we opted to make our way home, just as the karaoke was starting and things would probably have got a bit rowdy.

On Wednesday I took my son and 2 DILs over to see our daughter's new home and we had lunch and played more games.  It was nice to have our eldest son and his wife here for an extended visit but they went home on Thursday to spend a second Christmas with her family.

I suspect next year we will be on our own but all being well we will have a Grandson to spoil.  

The last couple of days have been quiet at home - Hubby and our son were back at work so my DIL and I had the house to ourselves.  Tonight Hubby and I will celebrate New Year as we usually do, at home with a glass (or more!) of wine and "Jools Holland's Hootenanny" 

I hope you all have a good night, however you are celebrating, and that 2017 will be a good one.

Happy New Year.

Note to self - don't buy glittery Christmas crackers next year - the glitter gets EVERYWHERE! LOL

Review: All I Ever Wanted

All I Ever Wanted All I Ever Wanted by Lucy Dillon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A light feel-good read. Just the thing for the quiet days after Christmas. I really enjoyed it.

Cailin and Patrick are separating. Caitlin has refused to leave her house (left to her my her Grandmother) and uproot their children, Joel and Nancy, when Patrick takes a new job in distant Newcastle. She feels his job is more important to him than the family. In trying to negotiate visiting rights they settle on Patrick visiting them at his sister Eva's house every two weeks.

In the midst of this Nancy, 4, becomes a selective mute. Once a happy, chatty child, she has come to only speak in whispers and only to those close to her.

As they all try to navigate through their new situations, household disasters, and in Eva's case, grieving for the loss of her husband, they all become aware of what's really important in life, what they really want and, in Caitlin's case what being a Mother really means.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Christmas Hodgepodge 21/12/16

Wednesday's Hodgepodge is brought to us courtesy of Joyce at
Pop over there to see other posts and if you want to join in add the link to your Hodgepodge blog post to the Linky List at the end of Joyce's post and don’t forget to visit at least your neighbours on the list.

1. What's left to be done on your Christmas to-do list?
Not a lot.  One present to buy tomorrow and food shopping to finalise but mainly done.  I keep panicking that I must have forgotten something.
2. The Hodgepodge lands on the first day of winter this year. What's your favourite thing about winter?
Well there seems to be a bit of debate about this being the first day of winter.  To me it definitely seems like winter has been here for a while although today is the shortest day so days should start getting longer again now, although it will be a while before it feels like that.  I don’t particularly like winter but on a nice bright sunny day it’s good to be able to get out for a walk even if it’s cold.
3. In what area of your life are you immature? Feel free to elaborate or not.
I’m not sure I am immature, I’ve dealt with the funerals of both my parents, married and had children.  Had a few traumas in life to deal with.  The only area I’ve not experienced, yet, is being a grandparent.  Something that will hopefully be rectified in 2017.
4. What was the most (or one of the most) important lessons you learned in 2016?
Things don’t always go to plan but life does go on.
5. It's Fried Shrimp Day...are you a fan? What's your favourite way to eat shrimp? Will there be shrimp somewhere in your holiday feastings?
I love shrimp.  I can eat them in a cocktail sauce, battered or in various dishes including paella.  But one of my favourite is the Chinese starter prawn toast.  They’ll probably feature in our holiday food somewhere but probably at our family gathering not at home.
6. What sound lulls you to sleep?
Well it’s fairly quiet in our room so I don’t fall asleep to a particular noise although sometimes the sound of the TV can have me dropping off! lol
7. What one word best describes your 2016?
8. Insert your own random thought here.
Wishing all my fellow Hodgepodgers a Happy and peaceful Christmas, especially Joyce.  It’s a big commitment preparing these questions every week and I do appreciate it.