Do you review?

As you all probably know, I’m a fan of a book review and try to leave them as often as possible for authors.

But I came across this today and it really made me chuckle…

I wonder how many books are set in 2020? 🤔


Review of The Thursday Murder Club

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Thursday Murder Club Cover

📖 I’m always a tad sceptical when I come across these celebrities turned author type books. There seems to be so many of them at the moment (especially in the children’s range) but I had heard good things about Richard Osman’s book, watched/listened to several interviews with him discussing it) and in general was quite intrigued by the premise so when I saw it on special offer I thought I would take the punt and I am so pleased I did.

✍️ The story takes place primarily in a retirement village, where most of the central characters reside. Each week a small group of residents meet up and review unsolved murder cases. When the builder who built the retirement complex and then the owner of it both are murdered, the team find themselves intrigued and soon very much involved in the police investigation. Can they help catch a killer?

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

So it seems we are investigating a murder. And, better still, I have been in a police interview room. This diary is bringing me luck.
It was interesting watching Elizabeth in action. She is very impressive. Very calm. I wonder if we would have got along if we’d met thirty years ago? Probably not, we are from different worlds. But this place brings people together.
I do hope I’ll be of some help to Elizabeth in the investigation. Help to catch Tony Curran’s killer. Perhaps I will, in my own way.
I think that if I have a special skill, it is that I am often overlooked. Is that the word? Underestimated perhaps?

👓 The book switches between viewpoints but the primary character recording the anecdotes is Joyce, a retired nurse and general newbie to the group. Adding Joyce into the mix was a stroke of genius from Osman and I love how her thoughts ramble across the page. I think most people will have a relative that they find is very much like Joyce. The “Club” is made up of: Elizabeth (unknown, perhaps ex-spy, she seems to have a lot of contacts), Joyce (former nurse), Ibrahim (retired psychiatrist) and Ron (ex-trade union boss).

💔 Any Negatives: None really. The only thing I can think of is Joyce seems to be far too sweet and far too nice. I hope she has a really interesting back story or thing from the past that comes out of the woodwork in later books of the series.
The correspondence with the police is perhaps a tad far-fetched at times but I think is needed to drive the story forward and it certainly doesn’t detract from the story.

💭 Overall View: A truly cosy crime mystery. An enjoyable read with a great pace. An interesting cast of characters. I can see this series being around for a long time with the characters’ stories developing and being explored more as the series goes on. I looking forward to reading more from this series and indeed book 2 is on my Christmas list.

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At the time of reviewing this book, it is on sale for £4.50 (2 for £8.00) at Amazon (affiliate link):

📣 Disclaimer: This book review contains an affiliate link. This means I earn a small commission if you use the links on my book reviews to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, but you will help support my reading habit and keep me supplied with books to review. Thank you. 😘

Word Of The Year – 2022 edition! #WOTY

I had written a short and sweet happy new year post but to be honest given the last few years it felt….meh. I try to focus on the positives and I just wasn’t happy with how it felt.

Then whilst browsing the reader I came across Ritu’s lovely post on her #WOTY. It really made me smile and got me thinking about what my word of the year would be and what it would mean to me.

Take time to celebrate – even the little things.

So, if I was to pick one word to sum up last year for me it would probably be CHANGE.

  • Changes at Work – Last year, during a redundancy period I was promoted to a new position. Whilst I am still very much trying to get to grips with that, I welcome the chance to hopefully make positive improvements to the company in future.
  • Changes at Homes – My OH and I took on a renovation project, something we had never done before, and despite many hiccups along the way, at the end of November we finally got it complete (it felt like a Christmas miracle!).
  • Changes to my Writing – I took over as host of the weekly #writephoto challenge.

However, despite that probably being the most accurate word to sum up my year, it is only through hindsight, none of these are things I would have predicted or even planned for in January. Life doesn’t half throwh in some surprises at times – haha. Still, on reflection, I am very grateful for the opportunities it has given me. 🧡

On to 2022, I think my word this year will be PLAN

  • Planning for Health – the cliche new years resolution perhaps but I am planning to lose some weight this year and improve my fitness. I have a big family wedding coming up in Autumn and I would really like to at least feel good and not self-conscious about my body at the event. A few years ago now whilst I was on maternity, I think I was the happiest with my shape, size, figure. I was eating well and getting good exercise most days and doing a great variety of activities. Returning to being behind a desk for 8.5 hours a day has greatly hindered that, then covid, then a not-great diet whilst we were renovating, the spiral continued. So now to break the cycle!
    • I have food plans in place.
    • I am working on a weekly exercise plan.
    • I have joined a whatsapp group with friends all trying to achieve similar goals to keep motivated and on plan.
  • Planning for Home – Hubby and I sat down on New Years eve and reviewed our finances and created a budget. We have a few big events coming up, some special holidays booked, and also a mortgage renewal due this year. So, financial it was important to create a plan that captured everything.
  • Planning for Writing –
    • I am now looking at putting in a monthly writing schedule (Sara at heartbreathings has a useful download for this – here).
    • I have planned some of my posts already for the year. For those looking to do this, Marsha at WQWWC publishes her schedule ahead, so you can plan in some prompt responses – you can find this here for 2022.
    • I am hopefully going to have a monthly writing meet up with the writing group I joined.
    • I’ve also already planned a short break in London, to do some research for my new novel (fingers crossed).
    • I also plan to up my goodreads count. Last year, I played it safe with a low number and with the help of interspersing longer books with quickreads I smashed it. So, this year I am going for a book per week.

An hour of planning can save 10 hours of doing.

Dale Carnegie

So, Happy New Year to you all.

I’d love to hear any plans you may have for 2022.

I hope it is a happy, healthy & successful year for you all.


Review of The Gift of Stones by Jim Crace

Cover - The Gift of Stones
Cover – The Gift of Stones

The Gift of Stones by Jim Crace

📖 This is such an unusual little book; I’ve never read anything quite like it. This book is inspired by the stone age, or I guess more accurately the transition from the stone age to the iron age. It follows the story of a young boy who is shot in the elbow by an arrow. As a young man he is feeling quite inadequate to help out in the village he sets of wandering and comes back home to tell his stories full of adventure. Soon, the village is captured by his tales.

✍️The village itself exists as a hub for working stones into weapons which are then traded by passers-by for food and other things. As this trade begins to dwindle, the village needs to address what they need to do to survive and perhaps they might need to learn to be more like the brave storyteller.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Give us the details, we, his audience, would say. Tell us once again how your blood flowed like a cliff spring down your arm, into the sling, onto the scallops, how the landscape turned from bracken-brown to red, how the bracts on the under-leaves stuck to the thickening blood as you toppled from the rock. Tell us, too, about the rich foliage that would have grown, coddled, germinated by the blood. What mushrooms, toadstools; what grubs, what flies, might have flourished there if you had simply fallen and not staggered to your feet again?

👫 Character(s): The story primarily follows the tales of “father”, “daughter” and Doe. The narrator is primarily “daughter” telling of her father’s story and how he came to meet Doe and their life together.

💭 Overall View: Told in simply constructed prose, this is an odd, beautifully written book about storytelling, imagination, disability and people’s resistance to change. It had a charm throughout it although the underlying story of uncertainty for the villager’s future was present. I’ll certainly look forward to reading more of this author’s works.

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Review of The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am very late to discover Jon Ronson and The Psychopath Test which appears to now be a cult classic. To be honest, I’d never heard of it, but came across it in a store and was intrigued by the title, the cover and then the blurb. It was reasonably priced, so I decided to give it a go and I am so pleased I did.

Firstly, this book is non-fiction (I mostly read fiction and honestly when you read parts of this you might mistake it for a psychological thriller).

This story is what it says on the cover, a journey. So, you learn more and more about what it means to be a psychopath and how they are defined (these days). The book starts with a strange hoax that has been sent to a variety of individuals in the world.

Cover: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
Cover: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

It then introduces us to The Hare Psychopathy checklist, the standard screening test for potential psychopaths. Suddenly, armed with this material Jon is finding everyone around him seems to have these psychopathic traits (and indeed many do as most people display some symptoms of psychopathy). Jon is particularly interested in the business world after finding out psychopaths are found in greater proportions among CEOs and indeed meets some very interesting individuals in the process.

Alongside this is the story of Tony. Tony committed GBH at the age of seventeen and in an attempt to evade the prison system decided to feign madness. He was then imprisoned in Broadmoor. He then had the difficult job of convincing people he was sane and twelve years on still hadn’t. As he says, how do you sit in a sane way, how do you act in a sane way? With psychologists watching your every move the more normal you try to act, the more self-conscious you become. It becomes a vicious cycle. So, is he a psychopath or not? Well, that’s what Jon tries to figure it.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style.
Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘One of my old buds from the FBI was investigating this woman, Karla Homolka,’ Bob had told me earlier. ‘She and her husband had videotaped themselves torturing and raping and murdering these young women. The police were taking her through the house where they’d cut up the bodies, carved them up, and Karla was saying, “My sister would like that rug…”. They took her into the bathroom and Karla was saying, “Can I ask you something? I had a bottle of perfume here…” Totally disconnected.’

As mentioned above, some of the writing and scenes are quite graphic, as you can imagine they would be in a book of this kind, dealing with mental health and violence.

💭 Overall View: I really enjoyed this book. I’ve never really read anything like it before. I did study psychology in college when I was younger so I do have an interest in this topic and understanding how people’s minds work. It’s odd and it’s not the quickest read but it is interesting and I find myself reflecting back on it.

P.s. Jon has also done a TED talk on this book which people may find interesting.

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Review of Mr Peacock’s Possessions – 3.5 Stars

Mr Peacock’s Possessions by Lydia Syson

Cover – Mr Peacock’s Possessions

Premise: Lizzie and her family move to become the sole inhabitants of a remote island. Swindled by a ship captain, the family start off with very little and constantly threatened with starvation the family do all they can to make life on the little island bearable. After two brutal years, Kalala and some Pacific Islanders arrive on the island to become the workforce Mr Peacock has long dreamed of, but upon their arrival, Albert, the eldest son of the Peacock’s goes missing.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Pa was unrolling a large tent which had first seen service in the Maori wars. This would be their home until they had built something more permanent.
‘Can we explore now, Pa?’ she asked.
A brief glance at Ma, an even briefer nod back, and Mr Peacock replied:
“Off you go. Not too far though, and not too long either. There’s far too much to be done.’
But when Albert stood up to follow them, Pa blocked his way.
‘No, not you,’ he said. ‘I need you here to hold the pole up. You don’t need strength for that, just steadiness.’

Viewpoint: Mr Peacock’s Possessions follows two stories, that of Lizzie and of Kalala.
Lizzie is strong-willed and single-minded. She tells the stories from a younger teenage perspective.
Kalala is an outsider. He faces a lot of inner turmoil. He was unsure about this trip to the island but believing in his brother agreed. His brother is training to be a man of god and Kalala struggles with his brother’s unquestioning faith.

Character(s): All the characters are pretty good in this book. They provided a great range of dynamics between them. I found the mother a little frustrating, she turned a blind eye to many things, sometimes she appeared to be in charge of her husband, other times she meekly followed him.

Setting: This book is primarily set on Monday Island (with occasional flashbacks to previous homes of the Peacock’s family). The island is uninhabited despite having had inhabitants in the past. The setting is probably one of the things that intrigued me most about this book. The island itself has a darkness to it from the very first introduction of it and the author captures this unnerving feeling brilliantly.

Any Negatives: I hate being negative about a book but unfortunately, I was around 100 pages in (which is quite a hefty commitment) before this book actually took off. It was an awful lot of backstory in that first 100 pages. I am glad I persevered, as the book was great once it got going but it was a little long-winded to start with.

Overall View: I was initially drawn to this book by the beautiful cover (I know, I know, I am just being honest) followed by so many good reviews. I was very intrigued. Isolated family alone on an unknown island. No way to call for help. It is all captivating stuff. Unknown dangers around every corner. However, the story took a long time to kick off and quite a few parts of it were very predictable. I enjoyed this book, it would probably make a great holiday read but I wouldn’t rush out to buy it.

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My rating: 3.5/5

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Extract – Mr Peacock’s Possessions

Review of At the Sign of the Sugared Plum – 5 Stars

At the Sign of the Sugared Plum by Mary Hooper

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Premise: This historical fiction novel centres around a young lady named Hannah who moves from the country to the big city (London) to support her sister Sarah’s sweetmeats business. Unfortunately, her arrival is alongside the arrival of the plague of 1665. As more and more news arrives of plague in different neighbourhoods, the threat seems to come closer and closer to Hannah.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

“Well, it’s not in this parish,” she admitted. “But there are some cases in St Giles – and a house has been shut up in Drury Lane.”
“Shut up?” I asked. “What does that mean?”
“One of the people inside it – a woman – has the plague, and they’ve locked her up with her husband and children so it can’t be spread about.”
“So, there – it’s all contained!” I said. “And it’s just one house, Sarah – we don’t need to worry about that, do we? Doesn’t a place like London have all the best doctors and apothecaries? I bet we’re safer here than anywhere.”
“I don’t know – “
“But I’m here now, Sarah. Don’t send me back!” I pleaded, realising now that it must have been the plague that Farmer Price had alluded to in his strange expression. “Oh, do let me stay!” I burst out. “I can’t bear it if I’ve got to go home.”

Viewpoint: The story is told in first person, from the viewpoint of Hannah. Young, naïve, and fresh from the country to the city.

Character(s): Hannah is an endearing character; she can be quite strong willed at times but is equally determined to prove herself reliable to her sister. She meets a young apothecary assistant and quite quickly becomes enamoured by him which brings a little light to this story of dark times. She also meets up with a friend from the country Abigail who has taken on a role as a maid in a local big house. The young girls marvel at the wealth of the men and woman from the city, which gives the novel a lovely degree of colour and some more details.
Setting: I really enjoyed the authors description of the settings, particularly her descriptions of navigating the narrow streets, and how things changed at dusk making it easier for one to get lost. The little shop and the shared room all of which was richly described.

Any Negatives: None that I can particularly think of. Perhaps the almost instant love story but I was happy to go with it.
Overall View: I loved the details of this book. The relationships were sweet and the drama just quick enough paced to be enjoyable. I think I enjoyed this book more as in some ways it seemed so relevant with our current times going through covid. Hannah discusses all the preventatives people try and the restrictions put upon people, how they move around, night-time curfews, how food should be brought to the known infected, dipping coins in vinegar to prevent contamination, etc etc. Obviously, they were much harsher times than our own rather comfortable lives, but it was easier to place ourselves in those scary times, going through what we all recently have. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more of this authors work.

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Extract – At the Sign of the Sugared Plum

Review of Queen of Subtleties by Suzannah Dunn – 5 Stars

The Queen of Subtleties: A Novel of Anne BoleynThe Queen of Subtleties: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Suzannah Dunn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction

I am very surprised by the number of low ratings this book received. Can an author provide a fresh approach to a part of history known by everyone and told to death? Actually yes, I think Dunn made a really good job of it. This book has several stories concealed within its pages all delicately woven together to make the reader turn the pages.

This story as you will probably already have gathered is a story of two halves. Strong-willed, stubborn Anne Boleyn prior to her imminent execution tells her story of her time at the court in the format of a letter to her daughter. The format of the story is quite fun and fiery and I think the author does a good job of getting the reader on Anne’s side. The author then turns the reader’s attention to the second storyline of that of the subtle subdued Lucy Cornwallis, confectionary chef to the king. Polar opposite of Anne, Lucy is quiet, humble and dedicated to her crafts.

The women’s stories are very loosely connected by their involvement with the lovely Mark Smeaton, wunderkind musician—the innocent on whom, ultimately, Anne’s downfall hinges.

I must say this is the first Suzannah Dunn book I have read and it pulled me in hook, line and sinker. Her writing style is superb, it’s easy to read, not boringly over-descriptive like some historical fiction novels are (although it captures plenty of historical contexts) and it keeps the story moving at a great pace. Obviously, Anne’s story is the most exciting (which I think is to be expected).

The main reason others seem to be upset with this novel is the modern tone of language used. Granted there are probably some better wording or phrasing that the author could have used here (Henry telling courtiers to skedaddle) and there but overall I found the tone very readable and if it had been told in the language of the Tudor times this would ultimately have made it far less enjoyable for me. So, I guess it is something to be aware of but don’t let it put you off.

Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

“My uncle never read a book, and he’s proud of the fact. Ruthlessness and efficiency; that’s what matters. He’ll clap you on the back, one day; stab you in it, the next. No hard feelings, just business as usual. Never trust a Howard, Elizabeth, not even if you are one. Look where it got me, sent here to the Tower by my own uncle.”

I think Dunn has done a great job of capturing the period, the courts, all the moving and touring, and of course the feasts. Fun and interesting concepts that make this book a delight to read.

A fantastic novelist! Cannot wait to read many more of her works.

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Review of The Guardians by Andrew Pyper – 4 Stars

The GuardiansThe Guardians by Andrew Pyper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Trevor, Randy and Carl return to the small town they grew up in for the funeral of their friend Ben. They are surprised to find that Ben had become a recluse after they left town and spent most of his time watching over “Thurman House”. The house brings back tortured memories for the boys and they find themselves struggling over whether to confront their past or not, but after another friend goes missing the past can no longer stay hidden.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Trevor and his Dictaphone diary entries with occasional flashbacks to the boys’ childhood. This captures the story really well and Andrew manages to weave a lot of subtler subplots into the story, which really kept the suspense on top form. Trevor is a very likeable character. His journey to discover whether the house is haunted or if it’s all just his imagination brings out the strengths and flaws in his personality, but underlying throughout the difficult situation is his brotherhood “in-it-together-no-matter-what-happens” attitude.

Other reviewers have suggested this is similar to Stephen Kings writing and while at some of the more suspense-driven parts I can see this, for me it wasn’t scary. It wasn’t really a horror, the plot certainly had darker elements but there was very little fear factor. However, I enjoyed the mystery of the novel, and the friendships and relationships throughout.

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I would have preferred this book to be a little scarier (to be put in the same category as a Stephen King/James Herbert style horror) but it was an enjoyable read and I will look out for more works by Andrew Pyper.

Review of Two Strangers by Beryl Matthews – 4 Stars

Two Strangers: An Historical Saga Set in 1920s LondonTwo Strangers: An Historical Saga Set in 1920s London by Beryl Matthews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is set in London after the First World War. Vicki is a troubled teenager who has had a very poor upbringing with a mean father who never wanted a daughter and a continuously pregnant mother who keeps desperately trying to provide the much sought after son. When her father tries to send Vicki to work for an untrustworthy man, Vicki refuses. Her father responds by throwing her out on the streets. Vicki struggles for survival but at the two points when she is lowest she meets two strangers who offer her the much-needed help she needs. These fortunes turn Vicki’s life around and she soon starts to have a life that is better than she ever dreamed possible. Her heart never forgets the kind gestures of the strangers and she sets on a mission to find them.

This book is a really easy read, at quite a slow pace. It’s not a fast-paced high drama kind of book but enough to keep you interested. The story grows and develops along at a steady pace, almost like a diary.

The descriptions of the City in this book are superb. The author really takes you back in time, and captures big city hustle and bustle, with the markets, abandoned warehouses and the traditional barbers all incredibly vivid.

Vicki is a very likeable character, smart but vulnerable, headstrong but humble. She easily pulls you into her world and her quest to find her two strangers. Some of the other characters such as Flo and Alfie are also very heart-warming and you do find yourself hoping everything turns out okay for them all.

This book is very easy to read and is very slow paced. It would suit those that like Linda Page, Jessica Blair, M.L. Gardner or similar.

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