July in Books

Back again for a round up of what I’ve been reading recently…All on the Kindle in July.

I have just given the spare room and our bedroom a good bottoming, as they say (my mum’s coming to stay!), so I took all the books off the shelves to give them a good dust and a rearrange. I filled two big bags full to give to our friend Richard, who has friends on a narrow boat in the Port at Roanne. There is, I believe, an English-language library in the Captainairie, so from time to time I donate books. It is about to grow by about 50 books! These are books I didn’t enjoy, won’t read again, or which are so unappealing I’m not sure why I ever acquired them in the first place! However, I came across a crop of about 20 books which I wouldn’t mind reading again, so August and September may well be a couple of months of re-reading books. I’ve already started one which I don’t remember at all, but am thoroughly enjoying.

Anyway, in July I read…

The Redbreast: A Harry Hole thriller by Jo Nesbo.(Trans: Don Bartlett)

GoodReads summary says: 1944: Daniel, a soldier, legendary among the Norwegians fighting the advance of Bolshevism on the Russian front, is killed. Two years later, a wounded soldier wakes up in a Vienna hospital. He becomes involved with a young nurse, the consequences of which will ripple forward to the turn of the next century.

1999: Harry Hole, alone again after having caused an embarrassment in the line of duty, has been promoted to inspector and is lumbered with surveillance duties. He is assigned the task of monitoring neo-Nazi activities; fairly mundane until a report of a rare and unusual gun being fired sparks his interest. Ellen Gjelten, his partner, makes a startling discovery. Then a former soldier is found with his throat cut. In a quest that takes him to South Africa and Vienna, Harry finds himself perpetually one step behind the killer. He will be both winner and loser by the novel’s nail-biting conclusion.

Although this was the 3rd in the series, and I haven’t read the others, I didn’t feel I was missing any vital back stories. However, I didn’t fully engage with the characters, which may have been as a result of coming to their stories later in the sequence. I enjoyed the book, but did finds it a little confusing, but I am ready to admit that this may well be because I do read quickly and don’t always concentrate as fully as I might. Mr FD claims this is why I can happily re-read books: I actually read a different story each time as I read a different set of words! Certainly not bad, and I’d be happy to read another in the series.

The One plus One by Jojo Moyes

From “Good Reads”: One single mom. One chaotic family. One quirky stranger. One irresistible love story from the New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your maths whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose holiday home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Maths Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages… maybe ever.

I had read, and really enjoyed, “The Girl You Left Behind” by the same author, so was looking forward to this. It’s not often I spend more than £1.50 on a Kindle bok, so spending £3.99 was a big step! It was okay. I romped through it, and – to be fair – found myself picking it up at odd moments when I might usually have picked up my laptop to browse, but it didn’t have much depth to it. I also found the story completely unbelievable, which, while in itself isn’t a problem, meant that I got a bit too annoyed at people doing things that seemed out-of-character.

While I found this a bit disappointing, I would be happy to read another by the same author – which I will, as I came across one in the cupboard and it’s now on my “Re-read” shelf!

The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marion Keyes

Good Reads tells us: Stella Sweeney is back in Dublin. After living the dream in New York for a year – touring her self-help book, appearing on talk shows all over the USA and living it up in her 10-room duplex on the Upper West Side – she’s back to normality with a bang. And she’s got writer’s block.

Stella wants a clean break as she didn’t exactly leave New York on a high. Why is she back in Ireland so soon? Who is it who keeps calling? Stella wants to get back to being the woman she used to be. But can she? And should she?

I think the kindest thing I can say about this book is “Meh”. I thought Marian Keyes was supposed to be a witty, funny writer. This was basically tedious. The structure was confusing, the main protagonist unappealing and unbelievable, the secondary characters extremely unappealing, unattractive and unbelievable. And I wasn’t too sure I liked the writing style which struck me as being arch and smacked of trying-too-hard. I’m not sure I’ll be reading another by this author.

My Husband’s Wife by Amanda Prowse

Back to “Good Reads”:

Once a week, Rosie Tipcott counts her blessings.

She goes to sit on her favourite bench on the north Devon cliffs, and thanks her lucky stars for her wonderful husband, her mischievous young daughters, and her neat little house by the sea. She vows to dedicate every waking hour to making her family happy.

But then her husband unexpectedly leaves her for another woman and takes the children. Now she must ask the question: what is left in her life? Can Rosie find the strength to rebuild herself? More importantly, does she even want to?

One reviewer wrote: “This is a FANTASTIC book, but don’t go into it expecting a light and fluffy chick lit romance. It’s a deeply emotive and pretty dark look at a woman’s descent into despair and eventual breakdown and it’s NOT easy to watch. It’s about family and friends and never really knowing what goes on in other people’s minds and how fickle and feckless some folk can be. It is enlivened by the girls who are wonderfully refreshing and their antics brought many a smile to my face. They are completely innocently caught up in the backwash of this breakdown of a marriage and I was saddened by their involvement.”

I wouldn’t go as far as saying “fantastic”. It was okay. Rosie, the main character, was a bit annoying, as I feel the author wanted us to really like her, so she was painted in glowing colours; I felt I was being told “See, Rosie copes with even this. Don’t you admire her for it?” (I also found her name very irritating, but that’s not her fault!) I don’t have children, so I can’t comment on how true-to-family-life the domestic scenes were, but again, I thought the children were characterised in a twee, “aren’t they amusing” way which just made me want to slap them.

The ending pissed me off too. So, no. Not fantastic. Again, not another author I’ll be seeking out.

In the Light of What we See by Sarah Painter

With thanks (again!) to “Good Reads”: Brighton, 1938: Grace Kemp is pushed away by the family she has shamed. Rejected and afraid, she begins a new life as a nurse. But danger stalks the hospital too, and she’ll need to be on her guard to avoid falling into familiar traps. And then there are the things she sees…Strange portents that have a way of becoming real.

Eighty years later, Mina Morgan is brought to the same hospital after a near-fatal car crash. She is in terrible pain but recalls nothing. She’s not even sure whom to trust. Mina too sees things that others cannot, but now, in hospital, her visions are clearer than ever…

Two women, separated by decades, are drawn together by a shared space and a common need to salvage their lives.

I enjoyed this book the most out of the four non-crime-thrillers I read this month, but it wasn’t great. The two stories, that of Grace and that of Mina, were both relatively interesting – although I found Mina’s more gripping, as there wasn’t a huge amount of tension and suspense in Grace’s. It was basically the trials of a student nurse in 1938, with a bit of a story thrown in. But I didn’t feel that there was a satisfactory explaination for why there was a connection between Mina and Grace. I felt a bit “and that’s it?” at the end.

From the five, I’d recommend “The Redbreast” most of all, but from the others, this final one is the best of a fairly mediocre bunch.

I have just started “The Outcast” by Sadie Jones

This is a re-read of a book I can barely remember. Already it surpasses the last four books in terms of story, characterisation, and writing alone. This one really has been picked up at every opportunity. It is, so far, a story of loss, of family rifts, of tragedy – I am hoping for a redemptive ending. I fear it may not happen.


March in Books

It seems to be that three books a month is my rhythm – although, as one of March’s books was very short, I am almost through a fourth that I started in March.

But I started the month with


I first read this book when I was about 15. I can see almost the exact shelf in Aintree Library (sadly now defunct) where I found it – right at the back of the big room, almost central to the aisle. I used to go there every Saturday morning, after doing Mum’s shopping, to change my books which I’d devoured during the week.

I “rediscovered” this book while reading someone else’s blog. She was talking about enjoying ghost stories, but not the frightening kind, but rather gentle romantic ones. And she mentioned this book, and memories came flooding back. I went rushing to Amùazon, and bought the Kindle edition. The Amazon site sums it up thus:

Eben Adams is a young painter in Depression-era New York just looking to make a living. His work has thus far left influential art dealers unimpressed. Then Eben happens upon a young schoolgirl named Jennie in Central Park. Intrigued by her mystical quality and her knowledge of things that happened well before her time, Eben begins to sketch a portrait of the young girl. The drawing turns out to be the most emotional piece Eben has ever done, and he finally gets the boost in his career he’s been seeking. But before he can finish the portrait, Jennie vanishes. — Saddened by the loss of his muse, he begins to scour the city for her, and when he does find her again, he is shocked to discover that she has aged several years since their last meeting. Who is this girl, and where did she come from?

My own comment in my notebook “As good as I remembered”.

Another ghost story which I loved, and must read again, is “Jenny Villiers” by JB Priestly. It doesn’t appear to be on Amazon, but I’m pretty sure we still have the book edition in the hoiuse. I don’t think I would have thrown it away. Wikipedia sums it up: A successful but dispirited playwright is supervising the rehearsals of his new play, The Glass Door, at an old theatre in North England. The actors are irritated by his cynical attitude, but when left alone in the darkened green room he experiences visions of a 19th-century tragedy which alter his outlook on his profession.


I wrote in my notebook “An OK detective novel, with an interesting theme. Didn’t guess “who dunnit” & engaged with the main protagonist.” I wasn’t totally gripped by this, but it was certainly an enjoyable read.

Amazon says “A man’s body is found on a canal towpath. In his pocket, a magnetic letter in the shape of an E. Days later, a second victim is found, this time with the letter V tucked into her clothing. As the body count rises, the eerie, childlike clues point to a pattern that sends DS Allie Shenton and her colleagues into full alert. The race is on. Allie and the team must work quickly to determine where the killer will strike next. The rules are simple but deadly—to catch the killer, they must follow the leader.”

I tried to make the story more complicated than it actually was with my thinking, but never mind. There was an interesting set up for a sequel too.

BURIED by GRAHAM MASTERSTON (A Katie MacGuire novel)

I’d read one of this series  before and had quite enjoyed it, but had skipped bits because of the violence described in the book. When I ordered this I forgot that. About a third (if that!) of the way through I realised that, although I was finding the story interesting, I really wasn’t enjoying the almost voyeuristic descriptions of violence done. And so I stopped reading it. If you need to skip fairly vast swathes of a book it doesn’t seem worth carrying on.

THE LAST KINGDOM Book 1 by BERNARD CORNWELL (started in March)

This was a free Kindle copy. I really enjoyed it to begin with and found it difficult to put down. However, as I continued to read it, I found that I was getting a bit bogged down and bored. The story-line is interesting, and it is good to see the “Viking” raiders in a different light, and yet..and yet… Somehow it has lost its grip on me. According to my Kindle I’m 83% of the way through, so I will finish it, but I am looking forward to moving onto another book.

Amazon tells us: Uhtred is an English boy, born into the aristocracy of ninth-century Northumbria. Orphaned at ten, he is captured and adopted by a Dane and taught the Viking ways. Yet Uhtred’s fate is indissolubly bound up with Alfred, King of Wessex, who rules over the only English kingdom to survive the Danish assault.

The struggle between the English and the Danes and the strife between christianity and paganism is the background to Uhtred’s growing up. He is left uncertain of his loyalties but a slaughter in a winter dawn propels him to the English side and he will become a man just as the Danes launch their fiercest attack yet on Alfred’s kingdom. Marriage ties him further still to the West Saxon cause but when his wife and child vanish in the chaos of the Danish invasion, Uhtred is driven to face the greatest of the Viking chieftains in a battle beside the sea. There, in the horror of the shield-wall, he discovers his true allegiance.

I hadn’t realised it had been made into a TV series. I think I would have been interested to see it.

January in books

I decided to record all the books I read this year – if only because I all too often forget what I’ve read!

So, in January I read the following…all in book form. I have a Kindle which I like, but my friend and I came across a rich vein of English books in Noz, all at 99 cents or 1,50€ I bought several, as did Alison, and we’ve been swapping them. So:

  1. The Drop, by Michael ConnellyMy comments read: OK. Bog standard “blokey” crime fiction It took quite a while to read, which indicates that I wasn’t gripped by it!

2. Before I Go to Sleep, by S.J.Watson

This is the book of the film – which I saw in Lyon a couple of years ago, in a tiny cinema which had been constructed in the cellar of a building. The walls were still in the original stone and it was quite a bizarre experience! Even knowing “who did it” (although that isn’t quite the premise of the book) this wasn’t spoiled as a read. My comments were: Good. Different type of crime story. Enjoyable.

I’d recommend this as a fairly gripping story. I suspect that had I not known the story, I would have been quicker to read it, as I’d have wanted to read more…Rather like the third book this month, which was…

3. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I’m not actually sure where I got this from – I suspect Alison lent it to me – but I’m very glad she did! I only started this last weekend, and so galloped through it (for me. I generally only read now in bed, but I actually picked this up during the day too.) As I wrote in my notebook Good. Enjoyable with an interesting, well-crafted “twist”.

I won’t say much more about it, but I thought it excellent. Out of this month’s three books, I think I would recommend this one most of all, if you like a “thriller” type book. The “blurb” about it reads:

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world is shattered. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape her past, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of the cruel November night that changed her life for ever.

DI Ray Stevens is tasked with seeking justice for a mother who is living every parent’s worst nightmare. Determined to get to the bottom of the case, it begins to consume him as he puts both his professional and personal life on the line.

As Ray and his team seek to uncover the truth, Jenna, slowly, begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating.