Monday, 23 November 2015

Death on Beacon Hill - P.B.Ryan

For some reason, this review has taken me quite a while to get around to writing. It could just be because we're heading into silly season and as a result I just seem to be so busy. Or it could, of course, just be that I've been being a bit lazy. Either way, it's certainly not because I didn't enjoy the book. 

This is book three of the Nell Sweeney mysteries, which, if you've read the other two reviews (here and here) you'll know I love. One of the great things about this series is the slowly developing relationship between our two main characters; Nell and Will. Yet again, Will has been off, indulging, we can only assume, in some of his seedier pass-times, earning his living gambling. Although, he does seem to have said goodbye to his drug addiction. 

With each story, Will becomes more settled and stable, his demons seem to trouble him less, and he makes more steps back to returning to respectable society. In this third book, this is more evident than ever before, with him showing every sign of sticking around a little longer than he has in the past. The deepening relationship between Nell and Will, continues to simmer quietly, just beneath the surface, will either of them ever take any step to take it further? Can they?

The mystery this time comes about when one of Nell's few allies in the Hewitt household, the coach driver, Brady finds that his niece has not only been shot and killed at her employers house, but that she is blamed with the murder of her employer, the actress Virginia Kimball. Nell willingly starts to look into the murder and find out what happened, she soon finds that Will is happy to assist as he knew Ms Kimball when he was younger. Between them they get to the bottom of what really happened.

For me the mystery worked well, it wasn't obvious from the beginning who was involved, but the final solution made sense and didn't feel forced. I love the relationship between Will and Nell, it may be somewhat predictable in some ways, surely we all have an idea where it is going eventually, but I don't think that it makes the series any less enjoyable, and the development of it is great.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The write idea

Every year, at New Year, I make some resolutions. Things that I want to do in the following year, things that I want to change. This year I was a little more vague than I have been in previous years, knowing, as I do, that it's rare for me to actually achieve all of these big plans. I've already started to think about what I'd like to achieve in the next year and it occured to me that I didn't really need to wait until the New Year. Of course, I don't in any case, you can decide that you're going to do something at any point, but, more importantly, a birthday is the start of your own personal New Year, and seeing as mine was two days ago, this seems to be as good a time as any.

The write idea, keeping a diary
One of my birthday gifts this year was a five year diary or journal, I've kept these before, as a
teenager I had a five year diary that I wrote in every day, religiously, for, well, five years. After that I had A5 sized, day to a page diaries that I filled with my hopes and dreams. As time passed though, I became less good at keeping them, days became weeks and blank pages opened up. It's some years now since I kept a diary. This one is a little different though, each page is headed with a question and each year you answer it, seeing how your thoughts change over time. On the first entry the question was about your biggest dream, which tied in quite well with my recent thoughts about what I want to achieve in the next year or so.

I have been talking for along time now about writing and although I've made some movement in that direction, I still have a long way to go, but it remains a goal. I've notes jotted down, ideas started, my main problem isn't a lack of inspiration, but the ability to focus on one single story long enough to get it written down. I need to keep on with that. Something that did occur to me though, was that I used to write letters, lots of them. I can't remember now the last time I wrote anyone a letter, which is a bit sad really. I thought, along with my attempts to actually get somewhere with my first book and writing a diary again daily, I perhaps also ought to start writing letters again. I did wonder about trying to write one a week, or perhaps one a month, but they seemed either too frequent to keep up, or not quite frequent enough. I'm going to aim for one every two weeks and see how I go. I think I shall find some nice writing paper and envelopes and go from there. Once I get started with the write idea, who knows where it shall lead.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Murder in a Mill Town - P.B. Ryan

Murder in a Mill Town - P.B. Ryan
After reading the first of the Nell Sweeney mystery books the other day, (you can see my review here) I couldn't resist moving onto the second in the series. I didn't go straight into it, but I'm not reviewing every book I read at the moment, so it is the next one that you are going to hear about. 

Murder in a Mill Town picks up some months after the end of Still Life with Murder, and Nell hasn't seen Will since. The story opens with Nell in her governess role, playing the Mad Hatter's tea party from Alice in Wonderland with Gracie. Not only does this show Nell in the position that she holds in the Hewitt household, but it also gives Gracie the opportunity to proclaim 'How dweadfully savage' something is, with great comic timing, a little further into the story.

Nell is called downstairs to listen to the plight of a couple who's daughter is missing. She had been working at the Hewitt family Mill, run by the third of the Hewitt son's, Harry. Having already appealed to him for help and getting nowhere, they have now turned to his mother, Viola, for assistance. Nell finds herself sent off on an investigation for a second time, to attempt to find out what has happened to the missing girl. Before long she runs into Will again and the two of them begin to investigate together, particularly when it becomes clear that Will's younger brother, Harry, is caught up in the affair one way or another. 

In the first book we learnt a little of Will's past, his experiences during the civil war and how he came to be an opium addict and a gambler. In Murder in a Mill Town we are shown much more of Nell's back story and her life prior to becoming part of the Hewitt's household. Nell and Will become closer and work well together, but as the past is revealed their growing relationship comes under increasing strain.

The first time I read this book I didn't work out who done it and the end came as a surprise, that may of course have just been me being a bit slow, but either way, I did think that the mystery worked and didn't leave big unanswered questions. I have already mentioned that I love this whole series, so it will come as no surprise that I love this book and highly recommend it, (but read Still Life with Murder first).

By the end of Murder in  Mill Town, you may well find that you're a good way to being in love with Will, if you're the type that does fall for fictional characters, I certainly was. I'll try to hold off reading the third in the series, for a few days at least. 

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Lacking motivation

At the moment, I'm in a bit of a slump and feeling rather sluggish. That's an attractive thought, I hope that I'm not looking sluggish too and giving off sluggish vibes. Although, if I'm honest, I haven't really got the energy or the inclination to care either way, so I don't suppose that it really matters. 

I'm not really sure what the reason for this feeling is, it's possibly just the time of year. Winter has been long and cold this year, at least for New Zealand it has, it's been much more like a UK winter. Although with a distinct lack of central heating and double glazing, it's slightly less tolerable than a UK winter. Everyone being sick hasn't really helped matters either, it's seemed to be one thing after another for the last month or so now, and, to be honest, I've had enough.

Half of the problem is that I've got so much to actually do, there's all the work that I need to get on top of, and then of course there's all the things that I'd like to do but don't have time for. I had such big plans for when A started going to daycare, so much that I was going to get done. But of course, it doesn't actually work like that. I think in the time since she started about two months ago, I've probably only had a handful of full days at home to get things done. 

I really would like to think that as summer comes, I might have a bit more energy and a bit more chance to get things done. The weather keeps teasing me at the minute, one day it will be warm and beautiful and then next cold, wet, grey, and miserable. Just the other week I went for a drive after dropping the kids off and took the photo below. It was stunning, the next day was a completely different story, wet, windy, and generally horrible. Still it at least gives me hope that there's something better on the way.

Lacking motivation

With any luck, I'll be out of the slump soon too, and any resemblance to a slug (be it mentally or physically) will be long gone.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Still life with murder - P.B.Ryan

Still life with murder P.B.Ryan
I think I've said before that as much as I love reading real books, I wouldn't be without my kindle. One of the many great things about it, is that it has allowed me to find books and authors that I would have never come across in a million years. The self-publishing phenomenon which has grown alongside the popularity of e-readers, has it's downsides, there are stories out there that probably should never have been published. On the other hand, there are some wonderful writers who are publishing their own books and reaching an audience that they would never have encountered before. 

One of my favourite books (and authors) to have discovered this way is Still Life With Murder by P.B.Ryan. Actually, I would go a lot further than that, the Nell Sweeney books are some of my favourite books anyway, not just from those I've discovered via my kindle. Reading some of P.B.Ryan's other novels (under the name Patricia Ryan) actually made me realise that I do actually like romance books. Or at least some romance books, there is still a lot of rubbish out there. Modern technology and social media have also helped me find quite a few other authors I enjoy, as self-publishers seem to be quite good at promoting one another. Enough about all of that though, this is supposed to be a review of Still Life with Murder, not some ramble about self-publishing and kindle books.

Still Life With Murder is set in the late 1860's in Boston, America. Our heroine is Nell Sweeney, an Irish girl who has survived a rough beginning to find herself as governess to a wealthy, Boston family. She has become close to her employer, Viola Hewett and when the black sheep of the family, Will Hewitt, who was presumed dead in Andersonville during the American civil war, turns up having been arrested for murder, it's to Nell that Viola turns.

We're taken into the dark underbelly of Boston where whores, drinking, and opium smoking are the order of the day. Nell is in a unique position, being a member of a respectable household, but also having grown up around the darker side of life herself, she is not as delicate and shockable as other members of more respectable society might be. She also has more freedom to visit some of these places and do some investigating. One of the huge draws to this book is Nell, her character is very likeable and well-drawn. I did wonder slightly about how plausible her becoming a governess was, the first time I read this, but it works so well for the story, and I really don't mind suspending belief slightly, it really is a small thing.

The other main character in Still Life With Murder as Will Hewitt. A broken man, dependent on opium and not really caring if he lives or dies. There is something about him that really draws you to him, despite all of his faults. Somewhere hidden under all of the emotional turmoil and mess, is really a good, decent, caring, person. 

I do love a good murder, or, as I should perhaps quickly clarify, a good fictional murder, then trying to find out who-done-it, ideally before the end of the book. This being the third time that I've read Still Life, I already knew who the guilty party was, but it didn't stop me from enjoying the book all the same. The first time I read it, I was kept guessing until the end, but in the spirit of all good murder mysteries, the final reveal worked and didn't leave me thinking 'huh?' 

Even though I've now read this three times, I doubt it will be the last time I read it. I'm looking forward to moving onto the next in the series.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Getting back on track.

Getting back on trackI started doing book reviews on here with a hiss and a roar, after my July blog challenge, things were going along swimmingly. Then August arrived. I don't want to talk about August, but I will say that I'm glad that it's now September. I still find myself deIveloping a tic as I answer the phone, just in case it's the school again asking me to collect another vomiting child. (Shudder, it's been one of those months.)

I haven't felt like blogging, I have been reading, quite a bit, having been ill myself, but I haven't had the motivation to do any reviews. I thought that it was about time to get back into both the blog writing and the book reviews. I have just finished a book, (Zone of Interest by Martin Amis) but, although it was a great book, I just don't feel that the holocaust is a subject that I want to tackle in order to get back into the reviewing thing. 

Last night I needed something else to read, I had got something ready out of the library, but it had been helpfully tidied away somewhere or other by a child, so I needed something else at bedtime. Picking up my trusty kindle, I couldn't resist giving an old favourite another go. I have reviewed this book before, on Amazon, but not on here. Being a favourite, I thought that it might be worth re-reading and then sharing my thoughts on here. 

I shouldn't think that it will take me long, I can't help myself with this one, I'll try to not race through it and race to the end, but I can't promise. Watch this space though, because shortly I shall have a review of Still Life With Murder by P.B. Ryan for you shortly.

Friday, 4 September 2015

To snack or not to snack

To snack or not to snackI've never really been one for snacks between meals, I might very occasionally have a little treat, or if someone's offering me some chocolate, I'm never going to turn that down, but I don't tend to regularly eat between meals. I've also never been really one for offering my kids snacks outside of meal times. I don't know if it's a British thing, or a me thing, but since living in New Zealand, I've certainly noticed that most people here do tend to feed their kids between meals.

Most children, small children in particular, are grazers. Rather than eating three fairly substantial meals a day, they are happier with a lot of smaller meals, or opportunities to eat throughout the day. I have read that even adults might be better off eating like this, rather than the three main meals in the course of the day too. For some reason though, I struggle with the idea of eating between meals, and as a result, tend not to bother or offer the kids extra food.

When we first came over here, I was really quite surprised to find that most kiwi parents will take a stocked lunch box out and about with them for their children, even when it's only a couple of hours and not over a meal time. It's not something that has ever occurred to me, and I don't remember people doing it back home. 

For most New Zealand children and adults, morning and afternoon tea, a break time with food, is a part of every day. (Slight side issue here, morning tea? How can you have morning tea, tea is by definition in the afternoon, but that's a debate for another day.) A mid-morning snack was not something that I ever had at school and the idea of eating as soon as I got in from school would have immediately have been questioned by my Mum, as I'd probably not eat all of my tea that evening.

It's true that we do have a term for  mid-morning snack, elevenses, and that high tea is generally a small meal in the late afternoon in Britain, but I'd always dismiss these as something that maybe the rich do. I wonder if there's more to it than that though? 

Certainly historically speaking, the poorer end of society might not have been able to afford snacks between meals, but perhaps there's a bit more to it than that. I wonder if the impact of the second world war and rationing has had more of an impact on modern life than we realise. If you look at some pre-war books, the likes of Enid Blyton's famous five for example, they do nothing but snack and eat. 

When the war arrived, rationing meant that food was hard to come by, there wasn't this huge amount available anymore. Rationing lasted until nine years after the war, food rationing was lifted in 1954, which in the scheme of things isn't that long ago. I can't help but wonder if that has altered the way that we think about food in Britain? It would definitely have impacted on my parents experience, which they would have passed onto me. 

Maybe that's not the reason at all, maybe I just don't do snacks, I might try to embrace the idea of snacks, I doubt I'll find it too hard.