June 09, 2014

Book Review :: The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

Ordinarily, I do not read anything that can be called “chick lit”. It just isn’t to my interest. It was, then, a surprise to read The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain and discover that not only was it a mystery but “chick lit”.

Chamberlain’s prose is smooth and gripping and by the time I realised what was happening, I was too engaged with the story to stop reading. The story flowed seamlessly from start to finish without any glaring problems that kick you abruptly out of the story. I found myself imagining the characters and the houses and the multitude of scenes as clearly as though I were watching a movie. This is always part of my reading experience but how clear my image is, is directly influenced by the writing.

The characters are strong and believable. I feel Riley is the most developed character but as the narrator, she would need to be. Danny was an enigma that I always wanted to know more about and it is interesting to see in Chamberlain’s note at the end, she thanks a friend(?) for her help in bringing Danny forward. I found Jeannie and Christine to be exactly what you would expect from the circumstances and I was left feeling I didn’t know enough about Lisa. I can’t discuss Lisa here because of the dreaded spoiler but it will be interesting to see what other readers make of her.

I’ve given this 3.5 stars because it doesn’t really sit well for me in the 3 or 4 star ratings I’ve given this year.

This is a great story if you’re on the beach or going on a flight of a few hours. It does have a couple of moment where I felt it was a little over wrought, with too much angst but for the most part, these passages can be overlooked.

I did think at the end that I wouldn’t go back and read any more by Chamberlain because I didn’t want to tarnish this story, so it was another surprise to see I’ve got three other titles marked as to read. This is the power of books. You never know where they’ll take you, where you’ll be delivered, or what they will open up for you.

Thank you Diane and NetGalley for the ARC copy.

June 03, 2014

Book Review :: Death Can't Take A Joke by Anya Lipska

4.5 out of 5 stars

Death can’t take a joke
, published by The Friday Project/Harper Collins, the second novel by Anya Lipska, continues following two lead characters, Natalie Kershaw – a tough “girl-policeman” and Janusz Kiszka – a Polish private eye; plus an assortment of characters supporting the duo throughout. Detective Sergeant "Streaky" Bacon, Oskar, Ben and of course, the bad guys, are fantastic creations and drive a highly realistic and accurate plot.

When Jim Fulford misses a pint in the pub with Kiszka, a chain of events is begun that leads the reader around Walthamstow, Canary Wharf and into the world of organised crime, illegal imports and prostitution.

Lipska writes believable characters, characters who leap off the page and would not be out of place in London and the world. Kershaw is a strong female character. She is more than happy to look after herself, she stands up for her principles and has unwavering convictions and morals. Kershaw is a refreshing character in literature and she is also unique. I can think of few other examples, from my personal reading list, of who she could compare with.

Janusz Kiszka is similar. He is depicted as a gentleman. A man who seeks to protect women from abusers, a man who cooks, a man who has the best interests of his family and friends at heart but isn’t so passive he has lost his ability to drink, carouse and get himself into the odd scrape.

I wish I could phrase my praise in a better way. All I can say is thank you Anya and that I’m waiting with great anticipation for the next adventure with two of my favourite literature mates.

May 18, 2014

Orleans January 2014

Among all the cathedrals of France, Saint Croix d’Orleans is one of the oldest still standing. Foundations, dating back to the fourth century are visible in the crypt and evidence of the Catholic tradition are obvious throughout the building.
The foundation stone was laid in 330 and owes its name to Saint Euverte, Bishop of Oleans.

Entry Doors

Historic Graffiti 

Joan of Arc Chapel

Looking towards the alter

Architecture of the old town

The boy that never was by Karen Perry

2 out of 5 stars
Read April 2014

Reviewed as an ARC from Goodreads - with thanks.

I really wanted this to be good and it sounded fantastic reading the blurb but sadly, I have been left disappointed.

The writing was easy. When I say easy, I mean a single syllable word was always used where something a little more challenging would have been appropriate.

The story is told in two character narrative. It doesn't work. Neither of the characters are sympathetic, both are needy, self obsessed pains in the backside. The back and forth between the characters was far to much like that other, overrated work, Gone Girl. There was always the hint of depth but it never quite eventuated.

The nefarious, or meant to be nefarious, Cozimo, seems to be a clone of Count Fosco from the Woman in White</>. I am not so naive I cannot recognise where inspiration has struck but this is so blatant it is almost insulting and in many ways, a thumbing of the nose to say, look how clever we are. 

This is definitely not the criminal thriller I was expecting. It is cheap, holiday, chick lit and I feel like I was conned in a way because the marketing and the cover do not suggest this.

I can see why a lot of people have enjoyed this and rated it highly but it just didn't charm me.

January 02, 2014

June 30, 2013

Review :: A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to KashgarA Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Disclaimer : Copy received via Goodreads First Reads

It is 1923 and Evangeline English, keen lady cyclist, arrives with her sister Lizzie and their zealous leader Millicent at the ancient city of Kashgar to establish a mission. As they encounter resistance and calamity, Eva commences work on her book "A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar..."

First problem, Evangeline doesn't own a bike, nor has she ridden one, until she embarks on the mission.
Second problem, Millicent isn't so much a zealot as an annoying, faux religious, maybe lesbian. The character is so under developed you barely notice her when she's not being nasty.
Third problem, Eva doesn't really write a book about cycling as she only rides the bike once and the rest of the time she pushes it, loaded up with items or its in the back of a cart.

In present-day London another story is beginning. Frieda, a young woman adrift in her own life, opens her frond door one night to find a man sleeping on the landing. In the morning is is gone, leaving on the wall an exquisite drawing of a long tailed bird and a line of Arabic script. As their worlds collide, the two wanderers begin an unlikely friendship and they embark on a journey that is great, and as unexpected as Eva's.
I did not get the impression, at any point that Frieda was "adrift". She had a life that was similar to many women I know. Work, boyfriend, travel etc. The bird and the Arabic do not maintain the importance given in the blurb and if what happens between them is "world's colliding", I guess I need to be very cautious in my own.  As for "great journey", going to Surrey, Hastings and Victoria Station hardly qualify.

This book had so much potential! What has happened is three completely separate, and truly interesting stories have been squashed together in 370 pages with no chance for any of them to show their true potential. The connections between the stories are all there but have been left distinctly under developed. Even a little historical context would have been better than nothing. It seems the author assumes readers will have the same level of knowledge of the period as she has.

I have come away from this book frustrated at how much could have been done with this story. I wanted to feel more connected with the experiences of all the characters. Irene Guy's connection should have been made specific far sooner so that the reader, having worked it out early on, isn't left suspended and waiting. There are so many ways that this book could have been developed differently that would have resulted in a more fulfilling experience.

This has left me hugely disappointed and it is disheartening to be left with yet another 3 star review from a book I was lucky enough to win.

June 18, 2013

Book Review : The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber

The Marlowe Papers: A Novel in VerseThe Marlowe Papers: A Novel in Verse by Ros Barber
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What a bore. Yet another scholar trying to convince an audience, by bashing them around the head, that Shakespeare was a creation of Marlowe. Books on this "conspiracy" will now be filed with romance novels and chick lit, the "won't read even if prodded by a ten foot barge pole". Honestly, there are so many books out there, spend your time reading the good stuff.

Croeso i Gaerdydd!

Cardiff Council Hall
© Glaciations of the World

Millenium Statium
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Mot and Bailey within Cardiff Castle
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Propaganda in the bunker built into the wall.
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Cardiff Castle from the wall.
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Hello Me
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All the landmarks from the wall
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This chap was preening at the peahen. The peahen was taking no notice.
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Stained glass of English royalty inside the castle.
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The Islamic Room - amazing! and by far my favourite room.
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The floor of the Islamic Room
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Everywhere you look, monkeys getting into mischief. The monkey's alone could make an entire blog post.
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Roof of the banqueting hall.
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The five languages high on the wall in the library.
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I loved the library.  One day, I will have a space like this.
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The wall of animals.
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Graffiti up one of the lane ways.
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© Glaciations of the World