Friday, 12 February 2016

When I Fall in Love - Wendy Lindstrom

When I fall in love - Wendy Lindstrom
When I Fall in Love by Wendy Lindstrom is a bit of an odd one, it's counted as number seven in the Grayson Brothers' series, but it is actually set before the other six. Not that a prequel is that unusual, but of course we know how this one is going to end. Having said that, this is a romance book, so I suppose the end is hardly a surprise in any case.

I have read and enjoyed the other books in the series, starting with the four Grayson brothers' stories, and then moving onto the next generation in novella form for book five and full story some years later for book six, so of course I couldn't resist going back to find out about how the parents got together.

The story begins with Hal Grayson, loosing his brother and work mate John, in an accident. Consumed with grief and a little guilt, he suddenly finds that his brother had arranged for the arrival of a mail order bride to be. Although he knows that he should send her straight back home, there's just something about her that makes him want to let her stay.

Nancy Mitchell has left her home and her family, to travel to a new town, and marry a man she has never met. Faced with the prospect of a marriage to man she could never love, but that her beloved sister does love, she feels that her only option is to get away and marry someone else. When she finds out that her intended is dead, she decides that she would rather stay and marry his brother Hal.

Of course, as is often the way with these things the course of true love never did run smooth, but Hal and Nancy fall for one another as they learn more about each other. Even so, Nancy is still hiding something from Hal, something she is worried that he will never forgive.

The whole story is well written and although quite sweet, it does have it's slightly steamier moments. I liked the idea of Nancy, who had come from a wealthy background, trying to learn about cooking and house keeping, throwing herself into the tasks willingly. The only slight problem with this, is that being a prequel, I already know what is in store for the couple further down the line, even if it is much further down the line, which does tinge it all with a slightly bitter-sweet feeling. But perhaps that's me just me being a bit silly? It wasn't my favourite of the Grayson Brothers' series, but it was certainly an enjoyable one that I'd recommend. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

One Corpse Too Many - Ellis Peters

One Corpse Too Many - Ellis Peters
I told you that I wouldn't be able to resist starting the next Cadfael novel before too long. I had to reserve One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters and have a read. As I think I mentioned before, this is the book that many people suggest you start with. Unlike the first book, the story takes place in Shrewsbury and we are introduced to a number of characters which I think appear in later novels.

The story is set around the siege of Shrewsbury by the King, Stephen, while the leaders of that town were supporters of the Empress Matilda (also known as Maud), who had a rival claim to the throne. The town soon falls and after many men are executed (which isn't dealt with in any graphic way) Cadfael is sent to tend to the bodies of the men and arrange Christian burials for them. Among the bodies, is the body of a man who clearly was not one of the executed soldiers, and is one corpse more than should have been there.

Cadfael sets out to discover the identity of the body and find out what happened. But this is not all that is going on. He finds himself with a boy to help him with his herbs and garden, but this 'boy' is in fact no boy at all, rather a girl in hiding, something which Cadfael quickly spots. Not only must he keep her safe from the Kings men in the area, he must also hide her from the man she was previously betrothed to, Hugh Beringar.

As the story progresses Cadfael admires Hugh Beringar's cunning and skill and although he is not at all sure of his motives or if he is at all trust worthy, he certainly appreciates him as an adversary.

Again the story was entertaining to follow and although I did wonder as to the idea of the killer before the end, they were only one in a cast of many that I suspected before the final review. I think that I'll be reading another one in the not too distant future, I think that the Cadfael books are a series that I'll be following this year.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Think before you speak.

It's a wonderful thing the internet, you can find out all kinds of information, you can learn about different people, with different ideas, you can travel and experience different cultures without leaving the comfort of your armchair. Or, you can behave like a dick. 

The great thing about being on line, is that you don't actually see people, or interact with them in a way that you would if you were face to face, so it can give you the courage to say things that you might never say in person. You can have debates with people that you've never met before, and express your point of view about all manner of topics. The problem is though, that it can give you the courage to say things that you might never say in person and have debates with people you've never met before... you get the idea.

Every so often, things get blown out of all proportion, people get angry and feelings get hurt. Never a good thing. Often when this happens, someone will post a THINK meme. It's a great idea in theory, think before you speak (or type). It's even been turned into a little acronym. T is it thoughtful, H is it honest, I is it inspiring, N is it necessary, K is it kind. Now, I should say, before going any future, that I have no issue with actually thinking before you say anything, if nothing else, you're far less likely to make a fool or yourself, but this particular idea? I'm not keen on at all.

Think before you speak

T; is it thoughtful? To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what this even means, is it thoughtful? Meaning have you thought about it? Or thoughtful in the sense that it thinks of someone else. Really it does depend on where and what is being posted, but does everything we comment on need to be thoughtful? Valid and true, but if it's something that needs to be said or talked about, then I'm not sure about thoughtful.

H; is it honest? As with all of these things, it will depend on what's being talked about, but is it honest? Is it truthful, yes, it's best not to be making things up to back up your stance, I'm not sure that I'd call this being honest necessarily though. Of course being honest to yourself about why you feel like this is important.

I; is it inspiring? Now this one, I happen to think, is a load of rubbish. If I were only to ever write or say things that were inspiring, then I'd never say or write anything. Does something have to be inspiring to be valid? Of course not. Should you always try to be inspiring? Well, if you really must, although I suspect that you're more likely to sound as though you're full of yourself.

N; is it necessary? I can agree with this one a little bit more than the others. If you're having a disagreement or a discussion, then it's always worth thinking about if it's necessary. Do you really need to get into an argument? Are there things to be gained by it, or is the person that you're talking to just actually winding you up and you want to retaliate?

K; is it kind? I'm not going to suggest that you should be actively unkind, but being kind, or at least outwardly so, isn't always the best thing to do. Sometimes, things need to be said, or discussed, and it might seem very unkind to the person you are discussing them with to bring them up, but they might need to be said. 

Perhaps I'm reading too much into all of this, there's no doubt that some pretty nasty comments get made on facebook and other places on line, but I'm not sure that this nicey-nicey approach is actually all that much better. Yes, you should always think before you speak or post, but you should also be true to yourself and your ideals. Don't be afraid of standing up for what's important and what you believe in, just don't be a dick about it.

Monday, 1 February 2016

A Morbid Taste for Bones - Ellis Peters

A morbid taste for bones - Ellis Peters
I have read some of the Cadfael books, many years ago, when the television series was on (which I also loved) but although I enjoyed them, it's a long time since I picked up one of them to rea. This was the first book in the series, although, it would seem that many people suggest starting with the second instead. 

The reason for this seems to be that this book, although featuring some of the characters from the later books, is in many ways a stand alone novel. Not set in Shrewsbury, for the most part at least, it instead follows Cadfael and some of the other Monks on a journey into Wales in an attempt to gain possession of the remains of Saint Winifred and claim them for themselves, or rather for their Abbey.

This is actually based on real events, the Monks really did go to the grave of this Welsh Saint and remove her bones, taking them to the Abbey at Shrewsbury and installing them in a shrine there. What the local Welsh population may have made of this at the time, I don't know, but I did enjoy Ellis Peters handling of the story. (I should perhaps here, make slight mention of the fact that Ellis Peters is in fact a nom de plume for Edith Pargeter, I wasn't actually aware of that prior to reading this book, and I'll be honest in saying that I hadn't come across her under her 'real' name prior to this, I'd just assumed that Ellis Peters was a man.)

We are introduced to the character of Brother Cadfael, a somewhat worldly Monk, who has taken orders later in life, having had much experience of man (and woman) and their faults before hand. He treads the line between the Church and secular Medieval life, It's this life experience that makes him ideal to be our detective and guide through the story, leading up to discover whodunnit and why.

There is something hugely likeable about Cadfael, perhaps his contentment with his life in the Abbey, without ever fully embracing every aspect or idea that goes with it? He is kind hearted, generous, understanding and wise. 

The story itself is, although perhaps a little slower moving that some other murder mystery novels, very interesting and entertaining, and the final explanation and reveal satisfying. I suspect that I will be reading more of these novels in the series before much longer.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Forbidden - Lauren Smith

Forbidden - Lauren Smith
I will admit that I was a in two minds about reading Forbidden by Lauren Smith. Not because of the topic (more on that shortly) but because, although I love Lauren Smith's writing, when I read one of her novellas, which this is, I am always left wanting more. To make matters even worse, this is the first of three books in a series, not only will I be left wanting more, but there will be more coming, just not for another couple of months.

My plan was to wait until the second and third books in the series were out and then read them all together. But I'd pre-ordered it and once it arrived on my kindle, I'm afraid I couldn't resist.

Kat, is an American student studying at Cambridge as her father has recently moved to London for work and she wants to be near to him. She meets Tristan Kingsley, the future Earl of Pembroke. There is a burning chemistry between them and despite Kat's innocence and inexperience, things get very hot, pretty quickly. 

There is one slight problem, Kat's father has met someone in London, someone who he's fallen for pretty hard and is planning on marrying, someone who happens to be Tristan's mother. I know a lot of people are put off by the idea of a step brother/sister relationship, but I don't think that really counts in this case, they've not been raised together and there is no real connection there, other than the marriage of their parents. So while it might not be everyone's cup of tea, personally I don't think that there's anything really distasteful about this.

What I really enjoyed about this (apart from the steamy, growing romance, which you all know is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, at least when well written) is that although this is a novella, being part one of three, there was plenty of room for the story to grow and develop. I enjoyed the growing blossoming between the two and the connection that they seem to instinctively share.

My only slight reservations were that I don't really fully get this fascination that many American authors have with Earls and Dukes and the like. Yes he's got a title, so what?! But that just might be my British working class roots coming through? Tall dark and handsome, yes, that I do get, of course. 

I'm looking forward to part two and three in the series, Seduction and Climax. If only I didn't have to wait...

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Blood from Stone - Frances Fyfield

Blood from Stone - Frances Fyfield
I was interested to read Blood from Stone by Frances Fyfield when it was chosen as book of the month, for a crime novel reading group that I'm part of. Fyfield is not an author that I have come across before, but the premise for the novel sounded interesting.

The story opens with barrister Marianne Shearer 'winning' her latest case, although not perhaps in the way that her client would have liked. Rather than having him found not guilty, there was simply not the evidence to proceed. Shortly afterwards she jumps from a hotel window, killing herself, and leaving her colleague, Peter Friel to find out what has happened and why.

As the story progresses we find out more about her final case and the impact it had on those involved in it. Peter discovers more about Marianne and her life, than he ever suspected before. He also meets Henrietta, the sister of the main complainant in this last trial. It soon becomes clear that there is more going on here than was first apparent and that Marianne has very carefully and cleverly set everything up to be revealed as he looks into her life and what she has left behind.

One of the real joys of this book is the descriptions of vintage clothing. Marianne was, in her other 'hidden' life, a lover of fine clothing and had an immense and expensive collection. Henrietta (Hen) works as a dry-cleaner and preserver of vintage clothing, with work rooms where she mends and creates new pieces from the old. The descriptions of these items is fascinating, and it's easy to picture these beautiful items. (Just out of interest, should you read the book, the cape at the V&A, which is described as being similar to the skirt that features is this one.) This lively description of beautiful outfits and dresses really adds to the depth of the book.

One of the other lovely parts of the story are the characters of Hen and Peter, to begin with I wasn't sure where the book was going, or if I actually liked any of the people within it. But I quickly warmed towards these two and their developing relationship. 

I'm not sure that I'll be in a rush to read more of her works, but I certainly enjoyed it, although it did take me a few chapters to get into it to begin with. 

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

No break for the holidays

No break for the holidaysI love the school holidays, maybe not quite as much as I did when I was actually at school, but there's no doubt that they are still great. Not having to get up early every morning, no lunch boxes to pack,(ugh, lunch boxes) time to spend with the kids. 

It's not all fun and games, having children at home all day can lead to craziness, fights and cries of 'but I'm bored!' but over all I love it. Apart from one slight problem that is. You see, back in the days when it was me who was on holiday from school, I got a break. There was no homework to get finished, I didn't have other things that I had to get done, even in the days when I had a part time job, it was only a few extra hours in return for extra spending money while I was off. No fuss, no pressure.

These days though, children being home from school means more work. This is where working from home becomes a struggle. Somehow I've got to fit in all of the things that I have got to get done, while still making sure that I'm not ignoring the children and finding fun things for them to do. I don't want to park them in front of the TV and hope for the best while I work my way through my to-do list. 

Fortunately they are quite good at entertaining themselves, and each other for that matter, but I don't want them to have to just rely on that, I want to be part of the school holidays fun to. Sadly though, there's a pile of work to get through that just isn't getting any smaller. I'll just have to try and juggle things until they're back and school and then get back on top of it all again then. Hopefully.