Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Book Review: In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware



Title: In A Dark Dark Wood
Author: Ruth Ware
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: 30 July 2015

Twitter: @RuthWareWriter 
Website: http://www.ruthware.com/ 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Blurb

Someone's getting married. Someone's getting murdered.

In a dark, dark wood


Nora hasn't seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Dementia and the Importance of Making Memories

 
 
I don't tend to write many personal posts, however it has been a touch couple of weeks for my family and a few things have been playing on my mind as a result.

We have unfortunately had to put my Grandma (my Dad's mother) into a nursing home due to a significant deterioration in her Dementia. We were dreading the day it would get to this point, however it really is the best thing for her now. My parents live 200 miles away and both they and my uncle work long hours and simply cannot be around 24-7 to look after her. She was managing okay with some home help, however she was gradually starting to become a danger to herself (i.e. putting the electric kettle on the hob to boil!). So, following confirmation of the Power of Attorney two weeks ago, we have had to make a few trips to Manchester (a 7 hour roundtrip!) to clear out her house so that it can be rented out to cover the nursing home fees.
 

Monday, 25 January 2016

Book Review: Holy Cow by David Duchovny



Title: Holy Cow 
Author: David Duchovny 
Publisher: Headline (UK) & Farrar, Straus & Giroux (US) 
Publication Date: 3 February 2015

Twitter: @davidduchovny 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DavidDuchovnyOfficial

Rating: 4 out of 5

Blurb

Holy Cow by David Duchovny is a comic delight that will thrill fans of Jasper Fforde and Ben Aaronovitch. And anyone who enjoys a witty wisecrack in a novel.

Elsie Bovary is a cow and a pretty happy one at that. Until one night, Elsie sneaks out of the pasture and finds herself drawn to the farmhouse. Through the window, she sees the farmer's family gathered around a bright Box God - and what the Box God reveals about something called an 'industrial meat farm' shakes Elsie's understanding of her world to its core.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Blog Tour & Book Review: Untouchable Things by Tara Guha



Title: Untouchable Things
Author: Tara Guha
Publication Date: 1 September 2015
Publisher: Legend Press

Twitter: @TaraGuha

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Today is my turn on the blog tour for the fantastic Untouchable Things by Tara Guha. Please keep reading and don't forget to check out the other stops on this tour from some of my fellow bloggers, schedule as listed below.






Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Book Review: Wish You Were Here by Catherine Alliott



Title: Wish You Were Here
Author: Catherine Alliott
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: 26 February 2015

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlliottCountry
Website: http://www.catherinealliott.com/

Rating: 3 out of 5

Blurb


When Flora, James and their two teenage daughters are offered the holiday of a lifetime in a chateau in the south of France in return for one simple good deed, they jump at the chance. They exchange the confines of Clapham, the weight of the mortgage and anxieties over their future for a blissful break.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Book Review: The Cherry Tree Cafe by Heidi Swain



Title: The Cherry Tree Cafe
Author: Heidi Swain
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Publication Date: 16 July 2015

Twitter: @Heidi_Swain 
Website: http://heidiswain.blogspot.co.uk/ 

Rating: 4 out of 5

Blurb 

Cupcakes, crafting and love at The Cherry Tree Cafe...

Lizzie Dixon's life feels as though it's fallen apart. Instead of the marriage proposal she was hoping for from her boyfriend, she is unceremoniously dumped, and her job is about to go the same way. So, there's only one option: to go back home to the village she grew up in and to try to start again.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Book Review: Into Dust and Other Strange Tales by B.M. Keeling



Title: Into Dust and Other Strange Tales
Author: B.M. Keeling
Publication Date: 20 July 2015

Twitter: @bernadettekeel1
Blog/website: www.bmkeeling.com

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Blurb

’In the darkness the harbinger sings, Of death, destruction, The end of all things.’ An injured soldier crosses a moor in the midst of a storm, a man chases an elusive woman through the streets of York, four children play in an abandoned house on a crumbling cliff top... Containing eight chilling stories of love, despair, loneliness and redemption, Into Dust is a collection of supernatural tales which will have you lighting a fire, reaching for a drink and, of course, locking your door.

Review

I must first apologise to the author, B.M. Keeling, as she provided me with a review copy of Into Dust and Other Strange Tales quite some time ago. Whilst I started reading the book around Halloween time, I was unable to finish it/prepare the review until recently for certain reasons.

I am not generally a fan of the horror genre and, in fact, cannot recall ever having read a horror book before. As such, I was interested to give Into Dust and Other Strange Tales a try.

The book contains eight short ghost stories, each one a stand-alone tale, telling of despair, loneliness and the supernatural. The stories are subtle, timeless and chilling! In each case, the author takes a simple story and gives it a twist which renders each one a haunting tale that will resonate with the reader long after the book is finished.

I found that the apparent simplicity of the stories almost invited me, as the reader, to decide upon the fear-factor myself based on my own imagining of the tales. This caused each tale to not only spook me (as per any good ghost story) but also caused the stories to seek further into the depths of my consciousness, making me mull over the issues in the tales. The tales, whilst ghost stories, are more about the people involved than about the supernatural entities. On several occasions, I found myself flipping back through the pages to re-read sections of the stories. in case I had missed anything important!

I thought the writing was very good. Whilst being modern tales, the prose was reminiscent of the classic old-fashioned ghost stories. It was clear, precise and gripping, showing the reader the true horror of the tale without resorting to overtly terrifying language or cheap shock tactics.

The eight stories are entitled: The Final Soul; Rock Me Gently and I Shall Sleep; Into Dust; Red Carnations for my Love; Beneath the Brushwood; The White Wolf; Chasing the Tail; We All Go The Same Way Home. I think that my favourite story was probably the very first one, The Final Sole. I found it truly chilling but, at the same time, I understood and empathised with the very human feelings of the characters. I felt the loneliness of Lucy, the anger and pain of Samuel Grimes and the guilt of Frank Wallace. This story probably resonated with me most of all.

Overall, I thought this was a well-written book containing genuinely spooky tales with a bit of depth that would appeal to a wide range of readers, not just lovers of the horror genre.

A perfect book to read on a cold, bleak winter’s night, although maybe you would prefer not to read it when in the house alone….

About the Author

Bernadette lives in Leeds, UK with her family and can generally be found either playing with her son or huddled over a laptop. Further information can be found at www.bmkeeling.com where she also blogs.










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Thursday, 14 January 2016

Book Review: The Widow by Fiona Barton


Title: The Widow
Author: Fiona Barton
Publisher: Transworld Digital & Bantam Press
Publication Date: 14 January 2016

Twitter: @figbarton
Blog/website: www.fionabartonauthor.com

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Blurb

We've all seen him: the man - the monster - staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime.

But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him?

Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming.

Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil.

But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms.

Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows.


Review

The Widow is the debut novel from journalist, Fiona Barton, and has been heralded as this year’s stand-out title, comparable to the success seen by Girl on a Train in 2015.

The book is a psychological thriller which tells the story of Jean Taylor whose husband, Glen, has been accused and acquitted of committing a heinous crime. The public have seen him in the paper, on TV, heard the radio reports and have already reached their own conclusions, no matter the outcome of the trial. But what about her? What about the quiet wife who stands quietly beside him, supporting him throughout the investigation and trial?  

After Glen’s death, the public turn towards Jean, expecting her to tell her story.  Surely she knows the truth of the matter – is he a loving husband or a heartless killer?

As a reader, I found the focus on the accused’s wife rather than on the man accused of the crime to be fascinating. I was totally gripped, watching Jean carefully for any sign that she knew about and tolerated/ignored her husband’s supposed crimes. Is Glen wrongly accused or is he the twisted monster that the press and the public make him out to be?

As the story progresses, reporter Kate Waters and Detective Bob Sparkes both contact Jean individually and attempt to piece together the evidence in order to discover whether Glen was guilty of the crime for which he was accused and acquitted.

The narrative is told through multiple voices, whilst shifting between timelines. The chapters are split between the four narrators, the accused’s wife Jean, reporter Kate Waters, Detective Bob Sparkes and even, occasionally, Bella’s mother. Jean’s perspective is the dominant view overall and told in a first person narrative, whilst the other chapters are told in a third person narrative. Using several narrators allows the author to keep shifting focus between characters, so that the outcome of the story remains under wraps until the end of the book.

I personally found it enthralling to hear the story from Jean’s point of view. I found it remarkable how Barton could write Jean’s thoughts in such a convincing way and yet still keep the reader in the dark as to how much Jean really knows about Glen’s activities. I found myself questioning Jean’s motives in allowing Kate into her home. She has shut out reporters for so long, is Kate now taking advantage of Jean’s vulnerability or is it actually Jean taking advantage of Kate’s desperation for the story…? She tells us that she almost has two sides to her character, Jean and Jeanie, and that raised my suspicions. Does she use the two sides to her personality to ease her conscience about something terrible that she knows? Despite my reservations about Jean’s culpability and the unreliableness of her narration, I found that I could empathise with the confusion and guilt that she displayed. How would I cope if my husband was accused of such a terrible crime? Could I accept that the man I love and thought I knew could possibly be such a monster?

The characters in The Widow are not really there to be liked or disliked. They are all multifaceted, with both good and bad points, leading me to waver in my feelings towards each of the main characters as the story progressed. Given Barton’s background, I believe this has enabled her to give a real insight into the perspective of Kate Waters, the reporter covering the investigation. Whilst I have not worked as a journalist myself, I found the character to be very convincing and I wavered between like and dislike for Kate, liking her personally but disliking her attempted manipulation of Jean and the situation.

I have seen mention of The Widow on Twitter for months and it is certainly a book that was worth the wait! It is a fascinating, intelligent and dark psychological thriller that will stay in your mind for days after finishing the last page. This is definitely a book that is worth a read!

I understand that the TV rights have already been optioned for The Widow and that comes as no surprise to me. It will likely make a gripping TV drama.

About the Author

Fiona Barton trains and works with journalists all over the world. Previously, she was a senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at the Mail on Sunday, where she won Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards. Born in Cambridge, England, she currently lives in southwest France.


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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Book Review: Beneath the Moon and the Stars by Amelia Thorne



Title: Beneath the Moon and the Stars
Author: Holly Martin writing as Amelia Thorne
Publication Date: 18 October 2014
Publisher: Carina UK

Twitter: @Amelia_Writes or @HollyMartin00 
Blog/website: https://hollymartinwriter.wordpress.com/  

Rating: 4 out of 5 

Blurb

Home, sweet home…

Joy Cartier has been to some of the most beautiful places in the world – but none of them have ever felt like home. So moving into a tiny cottage in the idyllic village of Bramble Hill, walking distance from her childhood home, seems like the perfect plan.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Recipe Review: Tomatoes, Eggs and Chorizo from Lean in 15 by Joe Wicks, The Body Coach



After a couple of weeks of Christmas indulgence, I decided that this weekend would be a perfect chance to get my spatula out of hibernation and cook up something a bit healthy. My husband is currently suffering from a nasty bout of man-flu, so I thought a few veggies wouldn't hurt!

I decided to try one of the recipes from the much discussed book, Lean in 15 by Joe Wicks, The Body Coach. I recently bought this book for someone's birthday and after taking a sneaky glimpse of the recipes, I purchased another copy for myself.

Anyway, the husband decided that Tomatoes, Eggs and Chorizo was what he wanted, so I got to work.

The recipe was simple enough to follow and, more importantly, quick to prepare and cook.



First, I chopped up 150g chorizo (the hard stuff, not soft cooking chorizo) and 4 spring onions, before frying them up with a pinch of chilli flakes for approximately 2 minutes. Wow, did the kitchen smell good at this point!!



Next, I added one 400g tin of chopped tomatoes. If following the recipe correctly I should really have added two tins, however the frying pan was already pretty full by this point.

I waited until the tomatoes were bubbling and then turned the hob down and simmered the mixture for around 5 minutes.

Finally, I cracked 4 eggs (normal eggs would do, but I treated us to some gorgeous looking duck eggs) on top of the tomato mix before adding a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano D.O.P. 



I then covered the frying pan with foil and allowed it to simmer for a further 5 minutes before serving.



This was a low-carb recipe but I did cheat and serve up the eggs on slices of wholegrain toast.




The meal was HUGE but absolutely delicious. In future, I think either one egg would be sufficient or I could leave out the toast (as per the book!).

The verdict from the husband - a very tasty brunch/lunch and a request that I make it again soon. 

I will definitely be trying out more recipes from this book in the near future.



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Friday, 8 January 2016

Book Review: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson



Title: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
Author: Jonas Jonasson
Publisher: Abacus Books
Publication Date: 9 July 2015

Blog/Website: http://jonasjonasson.com/

Rating: 4 out of 5

Blurb

Sitting quietly in his room in an old people's home, Allan Karlsson is waiting for a party he doesn't want to begin. His one-hundredth birthday party to be precise. The Mayor will be there. The press will be there. But, as it turns out, Allan will not . . .

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Curious Cat's Christmas Reviews - The Winter Wedding by Abby Clements


Title: The Winter Wedding
Author: Abby Clements
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Publication Date: 26 November 2015

Twitter:
@AbbyCBooks
Facebook: facebook.com/abby-clements-books

Rating: 4 out of 5

Blurb

Hazel never set out to be a wedding planner. She was just helping her stressed sister Lila with cakes and d├ęcor for her big day. But when Lila and Ollie's summer ceremony is a runaway success, with guests raving about the food and styling at the pretty venue, word about Hazel's expertise soon spreads.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Curious Cat's Christmas Countdown - Review: Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin


Title: Christmas at Lilac Cottage (White Cliff Bay #1)
Author: Holly Martin
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 23 September 2015 

Twitter: @HollyMartin00 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hollymartinauthor 
Blog/website: https://hollymartinwriter.wordpress.com/ 

Rating: 4 out of 5 

Blurb 

Welcome to the charming seaside town of White Cliff Bay, where Christmas is magical and love is in the air…

Saturday, 2 January 2016

My Favourite Books of 2015

As 2016 starts, I thought I would take the opportunity to look back on my favourite books of 2015. I've split my favourites into categories and have chosen 3 from each category, in no particular order. I've read some great books this year and discovered some authors that are completely new to me. As such, it has been extremely difficult to pick my favourites and I'm still not totally sure that I've made the right choice in some categories!

FAVOURITE CRIME/THRILLER NOVELS


Silent Scream and Evil Games and Lost Girls by Angela Marsons (yes, I know these are 3 separate books but I'm counting them as one because I can't choose between them!)

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Crash & Burn by Lisa Gardner


With special mentions also to The Lie by C.L. Taylor and The Dead Dog Day by Jackie Kabler

FAVOURITE ROMANCE NOVELS



The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance by Kirsty Greenwood

Somewhere Only We Know by Erin Lawless

The Grand Re-opening of Dandelion Cafe by Jenny Oliver


With special mentions also to Lost by Elle Field, Secrets at Maple Syrup Farm by Rebecca Raisin, Game of Scones by Samantha Tonge, Truly Madly Greekly by Mandy Baggot and Cocktails at Le Carmen by Isabelle Andover.

FAVOURITE HISTORICAL NOVELS


Playing With Fire by Tess Gerritsen (an odd choice as I didn't know whether to put this one into the thriller or historical categories, however it was the historical aspect that I liked best)

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

Secrets of the Tower by Debbie Rix

FAVOURITE OTHER FICTION NOVELS


The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst

Stonebird by Mike Revell

A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install



With special mentions also to The Two of Us by Andy Jones, The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel and The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS NOVELS


What Happens at Christmas by TA Williams

Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson


With special mentions also to Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale and The Winter Wedding by Abby Clements.

I've been enjoying comparing everyone's 'best of 2015' lists, and now have a long wishlist for 2016! I hope you all enjoy reading which books I have most enjoyed in the past 12 months.


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Curious Cat's Christmas Review: The Parisian Christmas Bake Off by Jenny Oliver


Title: The Parisian Christmas Bake Off
Author: Jenny Oliver
Publisher: Carina UK
Publication Date: 22 October 2013 (UK) 7 November 2014 (US)

Twitter: @JenOliverBooks
Blog/website: http://jennyoliverbooks.com/ 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 

Blurb 

Welcome to the most celebrated patisserie competition in Paris – ready, steady, bake!

Watching snowflakes settle on the Eiffel Tower, Rachel Smithson’s cosy English village feels very far way – as, thankfully, does her commitment-phobic ex, probably already kissing someone else under the mistletoe. But Rachel hasn’t come to Paris to mope she’s come to bake. Hard.