Monday, 6 April 2015

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin


Rabbit Hayes is in the last stages of cancer and the story begins with her feisty, belligerent mother Molly taking her to the hospice.  The story is told through Rabbit’s memories and takes us through her awkward teens, blossoming through her love for Johnny Faye and becoming a mother to her beloved Juliet.  The whole collection of Rabbit’s family and friends also has a voice and together they create a lively and chaotic background to her final few days.  I refuse to say any more other than the whole cast jump of the page and all of them are wonderful.

I loved, loved, LOVED this book.   I held back from reading it for a while as the subject matter was very close to recent personal events, and yes I did sob, but Anna McPartlin has created a touching, sensitive and downright funny novel that celebrates family, love and grief.
Beautifully crafted, moving and a must read.

Thank you to the publishers and netgalley for my copy of this book.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Hello From the Gillespies by Monica McInerney

Angela’s Christmas round robin email is the usual blend of good news with more than a hint of smugness about it but life on the Australian station isn't as fulfilling as it used to be and her sudden whim to write a more honest evaluation of her life creates ripples when it is accidentally sent out to all her friends and family.

Angela’s life becomes increasingly complicated with the Christmas festivities coming up and the additional pressures of her husband Nick becoming obsessed with finding his Irish ancestors, all three (clueless) adult daughters living at home after all making huge mistakes and young son Ig refusing to stay at boarding school and over relying on his imaginary friend.  Angela retreats into her own dreams of what might have been if she hadn't married Nick and stayed in Australia.

A darkly humorous story of a struggling, but loving family who have to cope with serious issues and illness.  I found it full of warm, realistic and flawed characters that made it a touching read.  Ig in particular is a delight!

Thank you to the publishers and netgalley for my review copy.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley


A gorgeous book, (both in writing and presentation) I loved it!  

After the death of her beloved mother and grandmother, Kate is alone and bereft but has the opportunity find her unknown family through a  sketch of a beautiful woman who closely resembles her mother, but was clearly from an earlier time.  Travelling to Corsica, Paris and New York she uncovers the dramatic love story of Tom and Alice and the consequences of decisions made in difficult times, where happy endings are elusive.   

It’s a sweeping romance that moves backwards and forwards in time, beginning with the carefree, halcyon days of the roaring twenties, through occupied Paris and beyond. Beautifully written I was totally drawn into the story and couldn't put it down.  I can't say enough about this book, but I don't want to spoil it for all I shall say is it's a fabulous first novel from Lucy Foley that you must read! 

Due to be published 15th January 2015.  Thank you to lovereading and Harper for my review copy.  

Monday, 5 January 2015

Lion in the Valley by Elizabeth Peters

The Emersons are back in Egypt for the 1895-96 season and Amelia has a dark foreboding!  The family are working in Dashoor, which de Morgan has conceded to them, probably after some sort of bribery and definitely a form of corruption from young Ramses at the end of the last book.
When they first arrive at Shepheard's hotel they meet the sinister Kalenischeff again, who is escorting the beautiful and unchaperoned young heiress, Miss Debenham around Cairo and creating a scandal.  Emerson insists on a quick move to their archaeological site after there is an attempt to abduct Ramses from the Great Pyramid.  They offer a job to Ramses's rescuer, the opium addict Nemo, but their plans are delayed when Kalenischeff is found dead in Miss Debenham's hotel room and the lady has disappeared.  Amelia immediately blames all these strange events on the enigmatic master criminal, much to Emerson's disgust!
Once at the site, Miss Debenham reappears in the guise of a young Egyptologist "Miss Marshall", Amelia decides to go along with the charade for a while, but the appearance of Ronald Fraser, cousin and supposed fiancé of Miss Debenham reveals the true identity of Nemo and further confusion occurs.  As one of her talents is matchmaking, Amelia is determined to help the young lovers but is perturbed by Ramses' fondness for Miss Debenham, which means that Emerson has to have a difficult discussion with his precocious son who insists on taking notes and would like further diagrams!  Strange events and odd gifts imply that the Master Criminal is watching the Emersons and Amelia is determined to spot him amongst the many people that she meets, but is his motivation, purely revenge?  Emerson doubts it and a kidnapping proves him correct.

This is one of my favourites from earlier in the series, even though (as you'll have already realised and I have already mentioned several times) I do love them all!  The murder mystery element takes a back seat to the humour, it's all tongue in cheek and the kidnapping scenes are hilarious - the one liners and Amelia's unintentional quips are great, I found myself sniggering when listening to the CDs in the car!  Probably not the best audiobook to have when in public!

Ramses remains horribly precocious and is always a couple of steps ahead of his parents.  He remains the most sensible and logical of the family and his loquacity is the mini-version of Amelia, although she of course would refute that accusation!  Emerson is still all bluster, but it's sweet how he quickly realises the MC's true intent and wins the day.
Sethos comes into his own with his dastardly plan, all he needs is the twirling moustache!  His scenes towards the end of the book show wicked charm, wit, intelligence and a fit physique which make him a serious contender for being more attractive than Emerson! (Even Amelia could be slightly tempted for a moment, but she has her thrilling moment when both men are fighting over her!) 
As an aside, it's worth remembering these characters as they do pop up again needing further help from the Emersons in a later story too!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Goodbye Piccadilly by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Set in 1914, this is the first in a saga about the Hunters, a middle class family, living a tranquil life of afternoon teas and tennis parties in Northcote.  The idyll is shaken by the start of the war and the novel charts not only the wartime changes but the romantic aspirations of Diana, the Hunter’s beautiful daughter who has her eye on the son of Earl Wroughton.

I found it an interesting read, but I didn’t love it.  Historically, it seems accurate but that’s not enough as there’s a mass of books on the same theme and I’ve read several that were far more enjoyable. I didn’t really get involved in the story as I thought the characterisation was thin and one dimensional.  For a large part of the novel I was struggling to remember who was who, particularly as many of the female characters seemed pretty interchangeable.  This could be due to it being a series and part of the slow build, but I’m not sufficiently engaged to want to continue reading about these rather dull people.

Okay, but a bit disappointing.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for my review copy.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters


The third instalment of the Amelia Peabody series sees the Emersons off to Egypt for the 1894-95 season with their catastrophically precocious son, the cat Bastet and their servant, John.  Emerson is refused permission to dig at the pyramids of Dashoor and instead is given the pyramids of Mazghunah.  The family view these unprepossessing heaps of rubble in the middle of nowhere a great disappointment and expect a season of little challenge.  However, before setting off to their "pyramids", Amelia buys a scrap of coptic papyrus but witnesses something strange during her shopping trip in the souk.  Linking this with the knowledge that illegal antiquity dealing is on the increase, Amelia and Emerson return that night to see the shopkeeper, Abd el Atti, but find him murdered.  Amelia deduces there must be a Master Criminal at work, weaving his evil throughout Egypt and terrifying the dealers!
Once at the dig they have more immediate concerns.  There are missionaries and Emerson has little time for the disruption created by the maniacal Reverend Ezekiel Jones, his sister Charity and the overly handsome David Cabot.  With an obstructive Coptic priest and an allegedly cursed camp, sinister events escalate.  There's also the mystery of the Baroness's mummy case and her missing lion club to cope with too.  Circumstances lead to the Emersons being entrapped in a pyramid and a show down with the Master Criminal.

It's more of the usual stuff - a murder mystery romp through Egypt, which gives us the first glimpse of the Master Criminal.  He remains a shadowy figure who promises that they will not meet again, but it's clear that their paths will cross throughout the series.  Although the setting is less than promising and at times the book feels like (and as a veteran of the series - I know that's what's happening!) it is setting up characters and ideas for future stories, it does flow well and Amelia's insistence on her logical deductions pay off.
The humour created by Ramses is enjoyable, he manages to make a big impression and the family are now presented very strongly as a trio.  At first the lisp is irritating, although it is a constant reminder that despite his extensive vocabulary he is much younger than his thought processes imply, I do like him and it's good that he plays a large part in the ongoing events, particularly his sneaky infringement of de Morgan's work, and unusually for a child in a mystery novel he doesn't need to be "rescued" by his parents.

A light fun read which although not my favourite of the series, is well work a look!

The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston

I wanted to read this as I’ve had Brackston’s previous novels as audiobooks.  I quite enjoyed The Witch’s Daughter, but was less enamoured by The Winter Witch.  However, when I’m in the mood I like my witchcraft/ magical themed stories and so wanted to give the author another go.

Lady Lilith becomes Head Witch of the Lazarus Covern on the death of her father.  Not only is she stunningly beautiful, rich and engaged to an equally gorgeous and talented son of an earl, she’s a powerful neocromancer.  Romantic affairs and sinister witchy complications affect her otherwise perfect life.

Sadly, this one didn’t work for me.  I didn’t like or care for any of the characters, Lilith in particular was just irritating.  The whole point of her covern is the big secret she has protect at all cost and then she tells the rather random guy that she suddenly decides she loves.  I struggled to finish the book, but I did felt I had to give it a chance to grown on me, unfortunately it didn’t.  Not a lot actually happens, the whole magical aspect was unimpressive and by the end I didn’t really care.

Sorry, just not for me.  Although I did like the cover!

Thanks to the publishers and netgalley for the chance to try it.