Weekly update: 4th December, 2016

 

Hi everyone and welcome to the first Sunday in December – the one where I finally allow myself to start getting excited about Christmas.  It started Friday with a trip to visit friends and an annual tradition of going to see a band we see every December, Martin Stephenson and the Daintees.  It’s band we’ve loved since we were teens and one of the best shows you can ever see because they aren’t just good musicians but funny too, making it a real show and a highlight of my year.

That was followed by starting to get out the decorations yesterday and one of the two trees we put up – a pink one in my daughters bedroom (her choice!).  Today we belatedly make our Christmas pudding and cake (very belatedly really but they’ll still take good I’m sure).  No doubt there will be Christmas music to help us on our way, with fingers crossed I won’t get too bored or Slade or Shakin’ Stevens over the next three weeks.  How are your Christmas plans going?

In the rest of my life, things have been quite work wise – and should be in the whole run up to the holidays – which has been lovely, giving me plenty of time to read and blog.  I posted every day last week, which happens rarely and always makes me happy when I do…

Monday I reviewed Her Final Breath by Robert Dugoni, the second Tracy Crosswhite detective novel.  Tracy is a character I am coming to love in this clever series set in Seattle.

Tuesday I joined in with Diana at Bibliophile by the Sea for her Tuesday intro linky.  This week I introduced His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet, which I struggled to get into but finally found the flow of and really enjoyed.

Wednesday I did my Monthly round-up for November with one book loved but an awful lot liked.

Thursday I reviewed The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse which was a hard book to read and review as it deals with anorexia.  I can’t say I enjoyed it because of the subject matter but I did think it was a good, eye-opening, book to read.

Friday I joined in a new linky, Feature and Follow, because I couldn’t resist the question – favourite books in a winter setting.  For everyone who has commented on that post, I am sorry I haven’t commented back yet but being away this weekend I was by a computer.  I intend to respond to everyone today.

And that was it for my week.  Not a bad one.  How was yours?

Emma

This week, I’m linking in with Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and her Sunday Post and with (a little early) Katherine at Book Date for It’s Monday, What Are you Reading? Head over to see what other bloggers have read, written about or just added to their shelves.

The Sunday Post

#FF : Favourite Winter Setting

feature-and-followAfter coming across Feature & Follow Friday on Closet Geek Book Group earlier today, I couldn’t resit heading over to check out the link and what others had to say.  Then, as I wasn’t sure what to post today, I decided I had to in; it looks fun and ’tis the season after all…

The question that caught my eye was…

What is your favourite book set in a winter world?

The first thing that popped into my mind?

317500The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, one of my favourite books from childhood (in fact the whole series but given the theme, this had to be the one I chose) and one I’ve read way more than once.

I remember reading it and loving the idea of being able to escape the real world and enter one where I could be someone else, someone brave and clever and world-saving.  The escapism sums up why I still love reading books.

I also remember really liking the white witch, which I know I shouldn’t but she was pretty compelling and oh so evil.  Of all the characters, she’s the one I have an image of that I can never shake and that no TV show or film has ever managed to match.

The only downside – all that winter but no Christmas!

As an adult, I don’t read fantasy books or books set in other worlds very often but every now and again one catches my eye and imagination.

T15932273he Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is one of those and has the perfect winter setting, remote Alaska in the 1920s and the perfect character in Faina, a girl who seems to have been made from ice and snow and who changes the life of a lonely, childless couple.

The setting was beautiful, the language gorgeous, and the story one I hadn’t read before, drawing me in and not letting me go until the end – when I may have shed a tear or two (but don’t tell anyone).

For a woman who mainly reads about murder, it is one of those books that was a welcome change but it is also one that has never left me and I often find myself recommending to others.

And there they are my favourite winter settings in book form.  What are your?

Emma

The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse

30333119A loving mother. A perfect family. A shock wave that could shatter everything.

Freya Braithwaite knows she is lucky. Nineteen years of marriage to a man who still warms her soul and two beautiful teenage daughters to show for it: confident Charlotte and thoughtful Lexi. Her home is filled with love and laughter.

But when Lexi’s struggles with weight take control of her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart, leaving the whole family with a sense of helplessness that can only be confronted with understanding, unity and, above all, love.

The Food of Love has been a hard book for me to review.  On the one hand, I found it very powerful, dealing as it does with the subjects of anorexia, bulimia, and mental illness in young women.  On the other, I didn’t like Freya, the central character and – as I’ve said before – I find it hard to like a book where I don’t like the people I am reading about.

Because of this, then, I have waited almost a week since finishing it to put fingers to keyboard and try and put down my feelings on this book.  With time to reflect, to step away from Freya a little, I have to say my thoughts are generally positive.  It is a good book, one that deals with a difficult subject and one that – having also done some reading up on the subject in the past week – shines a light on what I think is a not-so-hidden epidemic amongst young women (and increasingly young men) in our society.

Given the subject, it probably isn’t a surprise if I say this is also a book that is not filled with a lot of uplifting moments.  It is hard to read because of this.  Lexi is really struggling with her illness and, as a result, so are her family – all of whom have a different take on just how bit the problem is and how they should resolve it.  For Freya, who as I said is front and centre in this book, it is with love.  She believes that with kindness and patience and understanding she can help Lexi.  She is after all her mother. So she cooks, cajoles, cuddles and, sometimes, suffocates her daughter with affection.

Unfortunately, she is also Charlotte’s mother and her elder daughter ends up neglected because all Freya’s time and attention are on Lexi.  Seeing how it impacts Charlotte as a family member was almost as hard as seeing what Lexi was doing to herself.  Over the course of the year the story takes place, Charlotte is ignored – a lot – and misses out – a lot – during a pivotal part of her teenage life.  It shows the wider impact of Lexi’s illness, as does the way Freya and her husband Lockie’s relationship falters too.

Part of the reason is the stress of having to be constantly vigilant – imagine having to watch everything someone puts into their mouth and then having to watch to make sure they don’t immediately go throw it up or do a million sit-ups to burn off the calories they’ve consumed.  But there is also their disagreement on how to handle the situation.  Lockie believes in medical intervention.  He wants to let the professionals deal with things.  Freya doesn’t.

Given this, they try both approaches and, eventually, one works but watching them try to find a solution, knowing that if they chose the wrong one their daughter might die, is hard.   And in this I think the book did a really good job, highlighting how difficult a place families find themselves.  No one wants their child institutionalised – but what if that is the only way to save them.  And what if they are begging you, and hating you, for making that choice?  It makes the story and emotional rollercoaster I did wish I could get off at times.

The book also raised some questions for me as I raise my own daughter, about the emphasis we put on food – about clearing plates (or not), about focusing on healthy foods, and seemingly throw away comments on how we and/or others look.  It also revisits the ongoing debate about the images our children see of perfectly air brushed models and ideals they cannot live up to because they aren’t real.  I have to say I did stop and think more than once.

It is important to remember, I think, that – as Freya says to Lexi “beauty…is nothing to do with a number or a dress size or shape” and I don’t think I, or probably most of us do that enough.  It is this that I took from the book more than anything and why, on reflection, I have to say that – even though I didn’t always enjoy reading it because of the subject matter – it is a good book because it has left a mark on me.  It is well written and seems to be well researched.  I think it would have potentially been more powerful – and Freya possibly less frustrating – if it had been written in the first person but that is a personal preference.  Will it be everyone’s cup of tea – no (and I can see that by some of the reviews on Goodreads) but is it worth reading?  For me, it was and I would recommend it.

Emma

Note: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Pages:
350 (kindle)
Published on:
1st December, 2016 (yes today!)
Source: Netgalley

Other reviews of books by Amanda Prowse:

A Mother’s Story

 

 

 

Monthly round-up: November, 2016

O.k. so one more day till I need to start panicking about Christmas…November how can you have gone by so quickly?  Overall though, you were a pretty good month.  I got to see friends, spend time with family, became addicted to at least two new TV shows thanks to Netflix (How To Get Away With Murder and iZombie), and finally managed to finish the left-over Halloween candy – just in time for the last minute rush to lose weight before putting it all on again on the 25th.

Book wise, you were pretty good too.  Here’s what I read, loved and liked (there were not I really didn’t this month I am pleased to report)…

Loved it

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Only one this month in the loved column and that was Find Her by Lisa Gardner,  an author I really, really, should read more of.  Find Her is what happens when a young woman is kidnapped, locked in a box and survives, or at least makes it out alive.  I couldn’t put this one down and couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

 

Liked a lot

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Her Final Breath by Robert Dugoni, the second in the Tracy Crosswhite series this sees Tracy back in Seattle and on the trail of a serial killer with a difference – he gets the victims to kill themselves…a clever twist in the tale.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, which I wanted to love but couldn’t because of the feeling I was being beaten over the head with the message.  This focuses on race relations in America, a difficult subject to tackle but done well for the most part.

The Doll’s House by M. J. Arlidge, the third in the Helen Grace detective series.  This was another cracker with Helen desperately searching for a missing girl only to come across a serial killer.

The Redemption of Galen Pike by Carys Davies, a great collection of short stories that took me from Wales to Australia via Birmingham and Siberia and introduced me from some interesting, heart-warming and intriguing characters.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood, a modern retelling of The Tempest with a prison replacing the island and a play within a play.  Interesting and involving but maybe not for everyone.

Liked a little

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Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris, a good debut that shows we never really know what happens between a couple when the doors and curtains are closed – this was a real page turner, I would just have liked a little more character development.

The Girls Next Door by Mel Sherratt, which opens with a brutal scene of violence and shows just how cruel teenagers can be.  Personally, I couldn’t get away with the annoying teenagers in this one but it wouldn’t stop me recommending the book.

The Exit by Helen Fitzgerald, a book I had high expectations for after reading The Cry but was left feeling disappointed in because of one scene (I know but sometimes that’s all it takes) that meant I no longer believed in the story.

Along the way I also wrote about…

What books I’d be willing to fight for on Black Friday

My A to Z of books

Night time reading (how late doI stay up?)

and created a page (in part of my ongoing efforts to organise my blog) of Reviews by author.

So, like I said, not a bad month.  How was yours? What did you read?

Emma

month-in-review-6
This month I’m linking up with Kathryn at The Book Date for her month in review.  Head over and see what she and others have been reading too.

 

Tuesday Intro: His Bloody Project

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week I’m reading His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet, a book I read some great reviews of not so long ago and started last night. So far, I have to admit I’m struggling a bit but the good reviews have convinced me to keep going. Here’s what it’s about…

imageA brutal triple murder in a remote northwestern crofting community in 1869 leads to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. There’s no question that Macrae is guilty, but the police and courts must uncover what drove him to murder the local village constable.
And who were the other two victims? Ultimately, Macrae’s fate hinges on one key question: is he insane.

 

And here’s how it starts…

Preface

I am writing this at the behest of my advocate, Mr Andrew Sinclair, who since my incarceration here in Inverness has treated me with a degree of civility I in no way deserve. My life has been short and of little consequence, and I have no wish to absolve myself of responsibility for the deeds which I have lately committed. It is thus for no other reason than to repay my advocate’s kindness towards me that I commit these words to paper.

So begins the memoir of Roderick Macrae, a seventeen-year-old crofter, indicted on the charge of three brutal murders carried out in his native village of Culduie in Ross-shire on the morning of the 10th of August 1869.

what do you think? Would you keep reading? If you’ve read it should I persevere?

emma

Her Final Breath by Robert Dugoni

24937499Homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite has returned to the police force after the sensational retrial of her sister’s killer. Still scarred from that ordeal, Tracy is pulled into an investigation that threatens to end her career, if not her life.

A serial killer known as the Cowboy is killing young women in cheap motels in North Seattle. Even after a stalker leaves a menacing message for Crosswhite, suggesting the killer or a copycat could be targeting her personally, she is charged with bringing the murderer to justice. With clues scarce and more victims dying, Tracy realizes the key to solving the murders may lie in a decade-old homicide investigation that others, including her captain, Johnny Nolasco, would prefer to keep buried. With the Cowboy on the hunt, can Tracy find the evidence to stop him, or will she become his next victim?

Returning to her role as Homicide Detective for Seattle PD after taking time off to search for her sister’s killer, Tracy finds herself faced with the death of another young woman, this time a dancer in a local gentleman’s club.  The woman, found hog-tied in a motel room and forced to strangle herself, has died a horrible death…one that exactly matches that of another dancer in another motel room.

It was a case Tracy was working on before her sister’s remains were found, one that her captain decided was a cold case and has filed away.  Now it seems he was wrong, and Tracy has a serial killer on her hands, a cold, calculating one that means the women essentially kill themselves whilst he (or she) watches.  She might also have the serial killer after her, putting her life in danger.

I really liked Tracy.  She’s a good cop, cares for her team (who like her too) and her boyfriend, Dan.  I like that she is vulnerable, her baggage (the death of her sister and subsequent relationship with her parents) making her that way, but isn’t hard or mean – something you often see in damaged female detectives.  As a character she is well-rounded and well-developed, having grown since the last book.

I also liked the plot, including that it wasn’t gory.  It was cleverly done, with lots of twists and turns and dead ends.  And if that isn’t bad enough there are the roadblocks put in the way by the captain, who – unlike Tracy – isn’t that nice, especially when one of his old cases starts to come under scrutiny.  I didn’t like Nolasco but he was a good foil to Tracy and added to the tension as more dead bodies turned up.

And, finally, I liked the writing.  Robert Dugoni is really good at setting a scene and developing characters, who have all grown since the first book and become much more real.  I was completely drawn in from the first few pages and didn’t want to put the book down.   I could feel the cold, grey, Seattle days and the seediness of the streets.   In fact, I was slightly disappointed when it was over and can’t wait to read the next book in the series.  Really, really, liked this one.

Enjoy!

Emma

p.s you might also enjoy Dugoni’s first Tracy Crosswhite novel – My Sister’s Grave

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Pages:
426 (kindle)
Published on:
15th September, 2015
Source: purchased

Weekly update: 28th November, 2016

Morning all and happy Sunday. I hope you’ve all had a good week (and thanksgiving for those state-side). Mine has been good and pretty relaxed, just what I need in the run up to Christmas. If I’m lucky it will continue right through to Christmas itself as my work schedule, which normally involves lots of travel, has really calmed down. Meaning I get to work from home most days, have a work-life balance for a change, and am managing to find time to cross things off my personal to do list – I’ve even bought my first few presents…yay!

Blog wise this week, I posted two reviews. Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris was one I had rea lots of good reviews of earlier this year and enjoyed. It was a real page turner though I could have done with a bit more in the way of characterisation. There was nothing I needed more of in Find Her by Lisa Gardner, which hooked me from the first page and didn’t let me go. Gardner really is an author I should read more of.

I also joined in the book blogger hop this week after a few weeks off, writing about what books I would be willing to fight for on Black Friday and managed to do some work on the blog, creating page of all my reviews by author (at least I think it’s all, there were a lot so I hope I haven’t missed any).

Book wise I finished Local Girl Missing (from my Tuesday Intro) and Her Final Breath by Robert Dugoni, the second in the Tracy Crosswhite series, plus I picked up three books this week (covers will link you to goodreads)….

6022200  25079833  27405729

And that’s it for me.  What have you been up to and what have you been reading?

Emma x

 

This week, I’m linking in with Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and her Sunday Post and with (a little early) Katherine at Book Date for It’s Monday, What Are you Reading? Head over to see what other bloggers have read, written about or just added to their shelves.

The Sunday Post

Book blogger hop: black Friday books

image
I’m joining in with Billy at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer‘s book blogger hop again this week, where they post a question which you and other bloggers answer, hopping from blog to blog to see people’s answers. This week, the question is…

Name one book that you would fight for on Black Friday!

This is a hard one.

First , because I refuse to shop on Black Friday, even online. I tried once, when I lived in the states, and hated the crush. Now I’m back in the UK it feels like shops overwhelm us with offers, deals and sales for weeks in the run up to the “big day”.  I find it all a bit too much and all too easy to buy just because there is a deal, not because it’s something I want. So I avoid the whole thing. I delete every email immediately and won’t be stepping outside of the house today (other than to go to the pub later).

Second, though, and the one that makes this question really hard, is how do you chose one book? There are too many I have loved over the years. I’ve tried to narrow it down by looking at the books that will NEVER leave my shelves no matter what, books I just can’t bear to part with, or books where I have had to go out an buy a new copy after making the mistake of packing the original copy up in the charity box.

There are probably a handful of these as, for the most part, I’m not overly sentimental about books.  I believe they are for sharing and will often pass them along to friends, family or charity once I’ve read them.  Those that will never go that way, though, include (links to goodreads)…

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Why these books?  The Godfather, because it’s the first “grown-up” book I remember loaning from the library; Dracula, because it’s the first book that kept me up at night scared to death; The Robber Bride, because of all of Atwood’s books this one – for whatever reason – has stuck with me most closely; and finally it’s all of the Famous Five books because it was the first series I got hooked on and they are books I can’t wait to pass on to my daughter (yes, I still have the ones I read).

Any one of the them I would be desperate to keep hold or get a new copy of. Would I fight for them on Black Friday? I’m not sure…if it was the last copy on earth, probably. What about you – what books would you fight for?

two_women_boxing_3129861172

Emma

Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

29437949Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace’s friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

Despite the fact that, no, I don’t know a couple like Jack and Grace (I obviously don’t mix in the right circles), I was still drawn to this book because of excellent reviews when it first came out.  It’s been on hold at the library for a while and so I was excited when it was finally available.  Overall, I have to say the wait was definitely worth it.

This is a fairly quick read – I managed it in just over a day – and a good one.  Tightly plotted, it moves at quite a pace, and builds the tension right through to the end.  All very good for a debut novel.  It also presents a pretty disturbed world and does make you wonder what is happening behind the curtains of the people you know, your neighbours on the street.  I spent a lot of time thinking Jack couldn’t get any worse or be any crueller.

All that said, and possibly because it’s a debut, I don’t think that the characters are as well developed as I would have liked.  Jack is the stereotypical good looking, wealthy, man you find in these domestic thrillers – perfect to the point of being annoying and just a little sickly – and Grace is the woman who falls under his thrall way too quickly because of her own personal baggage. I would have liked to see a little more here that made me feel I could relate to them (I couldn’t).  By the end, I was seeing it with Grace but it would have been nice so see it sooner as she was the main (only) narrator.

Still, it didn’t stop me reading or enjoying the book and I will definitely pick up B. A. Paris’ next offering as I have a feeling she is one to watch because, at it’s heart, this was a good story and a good book, one I liked and would recommend.

Enjoy!

Emma

About the book…

Publisher: St. Martins Press
Pages:
336 (kindle)
Published on:
11th February, 2016

Tuesday Intro: Local Girl Missing

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week I’m reading Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas, whose book The Sisters I read last year.  I have to say, whilst I liked her debut novel, I didn’t love it.  BUT, reviews earlier this year of her latest offering convinced me to give her another go.  Here’s what it’s about…

31627176The old Victorian pier was once a thing of beauty. It’s also where twenty-one-year-old Sophie Collier vanished eighteen years ago.

Francesca has spent the last twenty years haunted by the disappearance of her best friend. But when she receives a phone call from Sophie’s brother saying that a body has been found, she knows she can’t keep hiding from what happened. With her own secrets to keep, Francesca doesn’t relish the idea of digging up the past or returning to Oldcliffe. But it is time to go back to where she grew up, and it looks like she isn’t the only one there hiding truths.

And here’s how it starts…

Frankie

February 2016

It’s a dreary afternoon, just after lunch, when I finally find out that you’re dead.

What do you think – I kept this one short and sweet as I have to say I was drawn in just with this first line.  Would you keep reading?

Emma