Sunday 31 July 2022

A collection of Book Reviews

Well I haven't been doing much blogging but I have done a lot of reading over the last month or two.

Belatedly here are my reviews.  Apologies for the poor presentation and layout glitches.

WinWin by Harlan Coben
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Over twenty years ago, the heiress Patricia Lockwood was abducted during a robbery of her family's estate, then locked inside an isolated cabin for months. Patricia escaped, but so did her captors — and the items stolen from her family were never recovered.

Until now. On the Upper West Side, a recluse is found murdered in his penthouse apartment, alongside two objects of note: a stolen Vermeer painting and a leather suitcase bearing the initials WHL3. For the first time in years, the authorities have a lead — not only on Patricia's kidnapping, but also on another FBI cold case — with the suitcase and painting both pointing them toward one man.

Windsor Horne Lockwood III — or Win, as his few friends call him — doesn't know how his suitcase and his family's stolen painting ended up with a dead man. But his interest is piqued, especially when the FBI tells him that the man who kidnapped his cousin was also behind an act of domestic terrorism — and that the conspirators may still be at large. The two cases have baffled the FBI for decades, but Win has three things the FBI doesn't: a personal connection to the case; an ungodly fortune; and his own unique brand of justice.

This book is written in the 1st person and Win is not a particularly likeable character. His saving grace is probably that he is aware of his faults but he makes no apology for them. But he does get things done and the book is a page turner. Things are also not exactly as they seem.

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Pretending to DancePretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was quite a slow burner of a book for me. It didn't grip me early on but as the story lines developed I found myself enjoying it. Told from Molly's POV it switches between the present, where Molly is married and about to embark on adoption and the summer when Molly was 14 and suffers a devastating loss. It was easy to follow Molly's journey as she faces up to her past which was not quite as it seemed, enabling her to prepare for her future.

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Florence Fairfax isn’t lonely. She loves her job at the little bookshop in Chelsea and her beloved cat Marmalade keeps her company at night. She might have been single for quite a while – well, forever actually, if anyone’s asking – but she’s perfectly happy, thank you. And then Florence meets eccentric love coach Gwendolyn, and everything changes.

When Gwendolyn makes Florence write a wish list describing her perfect man, Florence refuses to take it seriously. Finding someone who likes cats, has the sexual athleticism of James Bond and can overlook her ‘counting’ habit? Impossible! Until, later that week, a handsome blond man asks for help in the bookshop…

Rory seems to fit the list perfectly. But is he ‘the one’, or simply too good to be true? Florence is about to find out that her criteria for Mr Right aren’t as important as she thought – and that perhaps she’s been looking for love in all the wrong places…

Light hearted chick lit showing how finding the right person has nothing to do with making lists!

The Importance of Being Myrtle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an ok book for me. I didn't realise it was written by a celebrity when I picked it up in a charity shop but it's not a bad effort. (I sometimes feel books by celebrities get more publicity because of the author than if they'd been submitted under a pseudonym.) Myrtle is a sad character and her two daughters are not exactly likeable either. The book details the fallout after the sudden death of Myrtle's husband.

Forced to marry Austin at a young age, Myrtle hasn't had the easiest of lives and is very ill-equipped to cope as a widow. Thankfully she has Gianni, an Australian man who was with her husband when he died, and her neighbour Dorothy to drag her, albeit reluctantly, out of her shell.

I can't say I didn't enjoy the book and there probably are women like Myrtle in this world but I found it hard to accept that her daughters hadn't done more to alleviate her situation while her husband was alive.

The Sleeping & The Dead / Hidden DepthsThe Sleeping & The Dead / Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two books for the price of one (and a charity shop bargain as well). What's not to like?

Well I wrongly assumed both stories featured "Vera". The second story does and I enjoyed reading that. Vera is a no nonsense policewoman who gets to the bottom of crimes. I enjoy watching the TV show based on the books and I like Ann Cleeves writing.

However I wasn't as impressed with The Sleeping & the Dead which is a stand alone crime fiction book. I didn't like the main character and the story was a bit slow.

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Did You Miss Me?Did You Miss Me? by Sophia Money-Coutts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nell Mason is extremely happy with her life – or at least, that’s what she tells herself. She’s lucky to have a high-powered job as a lawyer, even if it does come with an eccentric set of billionaire divorce clients. And she’s absolutely fine living with her sweet, if slightly dull, boyfriend Gus in their London flat where they have very sensible sex once (OK, sometimes twice) a week. She’s definitely not stuck in a rut.

But when Nell bumps into childhood friend and first love Arthur Drummond who broke her heart fifteen years ago, she’s more than a little shaken. The seemingly perfect life she’s worked so hard for starts to feel, well, less perfect. Maybe Nell’s been kidding herself all these years. Can she ever get over her first love?

Predictable chick-lit but enjoyable nonetheless.

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Monday: five-year-old Matthew Faraday is abducted. His face is splashed across newspaper front pages. His parents and the police are desperate. Can anyone help find their little boy before it is too late?
Psychotherapist Frieda Klein just might know something.
One of her patients describes dreams of seizing a boy who is the spitting image of Matthew. Convinced at first the police will dismiss her fears out of hand, Frieda reluctantly finds herself drawn into the heart of the case. A previous abduction, from twenty years ago, suggests a new lead - one that only Frieda, an expert on the minds of disturbed individuals, can uncover.
Struggling to make sense of this terrifying investigation, Frieda will face her darkest fears in the hunt for a clever and brutal killer...

Surprisingly (considering I love the genre - psychological thrillers) there were no Nicci French books on my shelves and I picked up one (Saturday Requiem) in a charity shop recently. I started reading it and was enjoying it so I decided to start at the beginning of this series involving Frieda Klein. I think I'll be working my way through the series now.

This one is a complicated story with twist and turns along the way that had me gripped.

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One Good Deed (Archer, #1)One Good Deed by David Baldacci
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure if this would grip me the way other Baldacci thrillers have done, given that it's set in 1949 and features a new character, Aloysius Archer, a veteran of WW2 and an ex convict. I couldn't put it down.

After his release from prison Archer seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when murders start to happen. However as more murders occurred I was really hoping that Archer was going to be able to prove his innocence. He's a likeable character.

It's slow moving at times - Baldacci provides plenty of background stories for his characters and his writing contains much more description than perhaps he does in his action novels set in more modern times so this is not a short book. That did not detract from the story though and kept me wanting to read more.

Beach House SummerBeach House Summer by Sarah Morgan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"When Joanna Whitman's famous ex-husband dies in a car accident, she doesn't know what to feel. Their dysfunctional marriage held more painful secrets than she cares to remember. But when she discovers that the young woman with him in the crash is pregnant, Joanna feels compelled to act, knowing exactly how brutal the media spotlight will be on celebrity chef Cliff Whitman's ex-wife and his mysterious female friend."

A nice easy summertime read. Ideal for the beach or sitting in the sun or just curled up on a sofa.

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Friday 29 July 2022

Friday's Fave Five - 29/7/22

It's Friday again and although I haven't really got my blogging mojo back I was determined to do a Fave Five post today.  For more details and to see who else is joining in go here to our host Susanne's site.

Here are my things to be thankful for this week:

1)  The weather has stayed cooler.  It's still been warm, even hot on some days but nothing like the heatwave we had last week which I really struggled with.

2)  Bees in the garden.  We're often hearing about bees being at risk well they've been having a party in my lavender this week.  The photos don't really show them off that well but we had a lot of bees there.

It was hard to get a good close up picture without disturbing them.  The lavender has done well this year but look at how dry the grass is!

3)  An evening out with other knitters/crafters.  We went to our local wine bar this time and it was more a summer social than a knitting session.  Not a stitch was done but there were a few more people this time so it was a nice sociable evening and only a 10 minute walk from home.

4)  More walking.  I've done more walking this week and on Wednesday Hubby and I walked through the forest to nearby Chingford.  We found somewhere to have a bit of lunch and then we were able to get a bus home.  A good way to spend the day.

5)  Grandchildren - we had time today with Grandson Nathan - I picked him up from his summer tennis session this morning and then he spent the day at our house.  He loves spending time here on his own - especially with Grandpa.  We spend ages playing with the cars but we've also introduced him to Snakes & Ladders which he enjoys.  

A bargain at 99p from a charity shop.

I babysat Ella yesterday and managed to get her to nap so that was an easy time.

I'm grateful that Grandsons Rory and Vinny are doing better - they're currently in Vermont visiting their American family and both boys were very unwell after they arrived.  Rory had a virus of some sort but poor Vinny had croup so they've spent a fair chunk of time at the Doctors and ER.  Also thankful that my son organised insurance before they travelled.

We don't see as much of Noah and Miles but we do of course get regular updates.  Miles seems to have been out in the sun quite a bit because he's gone really blonde.  

Whereas Noah takes after Mum and Dad

Have a good weekend all.

Friday 22 July 2022

Friday's Fave Five - 22/7/22

Time to get back into action and join in with Friday's Fave Five hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell the Story.

It's been 3 weeks since I sat down to do one of these posts.  Not good, especially when I do have lots to be grateful for such as:

1)  The weather is cooler!  Last weekend was hot but Monday and Tuesday saw record breaking temperatures here in the UK.  We hit 40 degrees C in quite a few places including London.  And no, we don't have AC.  Many older houses in the UK do not have AC - most of the year we don't need it.  You open the windows, switch on a fan, it's fine.  But not in this heatwave.  Walking outside was like walking into a sauna.  Downstairs in our house wasn't too bad but hot air definitely does rise - the upper floor was roasting hot.  Sleeping has been very uncomfortable.  It caused travel chaos too as our railway networks were not built to withstand these high temperatures and there were real worries that rails could buckle.  One airport had to close while they did repairs to the runway where the tarmac had melted.  Thankfully we're now back to normal summer temps of high 20s.

2)  I have a roof over my head, money in the bank and don't need anything that we couldn't get or pay for.  The heatwave caused many forest fires.  That is not unusual in these weather conditions but what was unusual this week that in several areas homes were destroyed.  Quite a few homes and very quickly.  Some poor families were left with nothing but the clothes they were wearing as they fled their homes.  Thankfully our communities seem to be good at rallying around at times like these.

3)  Time with grandchildren.  We had Rory and Vinny on Wednesday and we saw Nathan and Ella yesterday and today.  I love that they live close to us and we get to see a lot of them.

4)  An evening with friends.  The 4 of us that usually get together for a Ladies Lunch are planning a trip to Ireland in the autumn and we were supposed to be getting together on Wednesday to try and sort out flights etc.  Unfortunately one of our friends was stuck in Holland due to travel disruptions so the remaining 3 of us still got together and had a nice relaxed evening in A's home.  We sat out in her garden which was nice and cool and she laid on a light supper which was unexpected but lovely.

5)  Mini Magnums.  I do love a Magnum ice cream but the original ones seem a bit extravagant as they're so big.  The mini ones though are still enough to satisfy my craving without making me feel guilty about all the calories.  Just finished a double caramel gold billionaire one.  Delicious!

Have a good weekend all.

Sunday 17 July 2022

A chat with Alice - 17/7/22

Wow! Are you really contemplating doing a blog post Wendy?  It’s over 2 weeks since the last one.  What’s going on? 

I haven’t had any motivation Alice and I’ve been busy grandparenting.  And it’s too hot at the moment and it’s only going to get worse.  We’re under a red heat warning here in the Uk for the first time ever! 

It’s just a bit of heat Wendy. 

No Alice it’s not just a bit of heat – it's going to be a lot of heat.  They’re predicting we could get to 40 degrees!  I think I might live in the shower over the next few days.   

Just go and find yourself a cave.   

Hmm I’ll just sit in front of the fan and wish we had air conditioning. 

You could go for a drive in your car.  That’s got air conditioning hasn’t it? 

It has Alice but my understanding is that using the air con in the car uses more petrol and have you seen the price of petrol at the moment? 

Well I’ve heard you complaining about it but aren’t energy prices going through the roof too?  So all the extra electricity you’re using for the fans can’t be cheap either. 

Nothing’s cheap right now Alice and I’m not sure it’s going to get better anytime soon. 

But there are 5 lovely people ready to step into the clown’s shoes and sort out the economy and cost of living crisis aren’t there? 

Well of course I don’t want any of them or their party but at the moment we’ll be stuck with the best of a bad lot.  And we won’t have any say in the matter at all.  Only conservative party members get to choose their new leader and our Prime Minister.   

Are any politicians honest Wendy? 

Well I’m sure some are Alice, those that remember what being an MP is really about but there have been too many in the current government who seem to lack any concern for their constituents and only think of themselves.   It’s a pantomime at the moment and the current clown only chose to apologise for his errors when he’d been found out.   

Hmm this isn’t a very uplifting post Wendy. 

It’s hard to be uplifting Alice when all you want to do is sit and do nothing except be cooled by a fan or an ice cream. 

Or both, I’ve noticed. 

Yes well at least I’ve been doing some reading. 

Really?  I wonder how that stacks up against all the game playing on your phone?  You didn’t even post your Favourite Fives again this week and I’m sure you do have a lot to be grateful for. 

Of course I do Alice. 

I mean my long suffering of you must count for something? 

I hardly think you lead a life of suffering Alice. 

You should try living inside your head!