Saturday, 30 July 2016

Book review - Narrow Margins: Marie Browne

The following review will also be posted on Amazon US & UM and Goodreads

I don't know what it is about narrowboat adventures but this is the third book on the subject that I've read recently. I'm now officially ADDICTED!

This one is a highly enjoyable read about a couple who buy a large former river cruising boat and with a lot of hard graft and make it into a delightful home for themselves and their children.
There are many adventures and near disasters along the way because the family are not experienced boaters but their learning experiences are interesting and humerous.
I'm now half way through the next in the series and it's as addictive as this one.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Book Review - Things Can Only Get Feta: Marjory McGinn

The following review will also be posted on Amazon US& UK and Goodreads

This book by Marjory the first in an enchanting three book series, is so much more than a memoir. It's funny,  informative and interesting. A really enjoyable read about a couple's stay in a remote village in the Mani Pelapponese region of Greece.

Marjory and her husband Jim, both journalists whose jobs in Scotland were affected by the newspaper industry upheaval in the UK, arrive in Greece planning to spend maybe an adventurous year or so in the country documenting their adventures. They bring with them their lovable but mad Jack Russell Wallace, who ends up having quite a few hair-raising adventures of his own in a country where dogs are not generally kept as pets and are barely tolerated except largely in a functioning role of guarding their owners' properties. Wallace somehow becomes accepted or by the villagers who give him a new name of 'Vassy'. 

Marjory and Jim, or rather Margarita and Dimitrios as they are renamed by the locals, immerse themselves in village life, make friends and in time become accepted members of the community. Life is hard for the villagers and more so in the Greek crisis. The background to the crisis is explained in an informative way and I learned much more about the history and circumstances behind it. Having spent time in Greece on holiday and more recently in Athens, I was aware of the crisis but not as fully informed as I'd like to be, but a lot more of what we witnessed makes much more sense after reading this book.

Marjory makes friends with an indomitable lady called Foteini who features in many  anecdotes and adventures. Foteini looks after her olive trees and keeps a few goats and a donkey in a hillside dwelling, she also has a village house in a state of some disrepair that's hardly used. Their friendship is real and deep and we learn much about the history and hardships of Greek hill farmers and villagers.

A must read for anyone interested in learning about the real Greece.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Book review - Up The Garden Path: Henry Butterfield

The following review will also be posted on Amazon US & UK and Goodreads.

An absolutely delightful book about a couple's effort to turn their average size town garden in North Devon into a wildlife haven and submit it into the National Garden Scheme.

Henry Butterfield has both experience as a gardener and a few qualifications after completing a number of courses and ending up with the Royal Horticultural Society Level 2 certificate
He is also has some experience as a writer with gardening articles published in various local newspapers and some magazines. Also qualified with a diploma in Literature & Creative Writing. 

This book is a non fictional memoir account of Henry and his wife Evelyn's hard work towards making their garden acceptable to those who decide which gardens are eligible for the National Garsen Scheme.
Filming takes place at various stages during the work in progress in their garden involving the well known gardening expert Carol Klein, who is one of my favourites. 
Henry has the writer's knack of making even the mundane jobs and events in the garden sound interesting and often laugh out loud, but I think his nervous habit of cracking jokes at inappropriate times, although hilarious, would drive me insane.
I really enjoyed this book and with family living in North Devon I am familiar with the places mentioned within the book such as RHS Rosemoor and BJ's Value store!

Book review - Only The Lonely: L M Krier

Ted Darling is my favourite fictional detective. I can't wait for each book in the series to be released. 
In this one, that might just be my favourite so far, Ted Darling has more responsibility and is in charge of a newly developed team of detectives, some of whom appear to have very different methods and standards of policing to his own. Within the team are some familiar faces from his old team that Ted knows he can trust but will the others sabotage the investigation?

Dating apps and meeting up with strangers for a night out or other encounters seem to be ever more popular these days. Brutal murders are happening on Ted's patch and the perpetrator appears to be choosing his victims via a dating site. It's a complicated case and all is not as it seems. 
In the background is Ted's rock, his life partner Trev who provides the calm and stability that is needed to help him through such a difficult case. Fans of this series are usually fans of Trev too and who wouldn't love to have a Trev in their lives?
Quite an original plot to this gripping book and as always I was sad to reach the end because now I have to wait for the next one! 

(Thank you to the author for an ARC)

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Book review - Harbour Ways: Valerie Poore

The following review will also be posted on Amazon US & UK + Goodreads

Val's first book in this series Watery Ways is the first book on my list of the #20booksofsummer challenge. I enjoyed that book so much that I was led off-piste and just had to read this one too!

In common with the first book, this one is beautifully written and humerous throughout. 

There is just something so heartwarming about the way the author writes about life aboard a historic 100 year old barge in the Netherlands; a barge that she is more or less single-handedly trying to restore while living on it. Barges require a lot of maintenance for a number of reasons; to keep watertight and prevent any damage from the elements plus the hull needs to be inspected from time to time to ensure that it is safe on the waterways. Val copes with all of that plus the restoration work and also a job teaching English and another resident on the barge, her newly adopted dog

There is some help at hand from the other live aboard barge-owning characters at the harbour and Val's partner Koos, another barge owner whose lifetime experiences of living aboard a barge and navigating the waterways are an invaluable help.
Val is the one doing most of the work though, often in bad weather situations and very cramped conditions and sometimes carrying the large items she needed back from the hardware store on her head, African style (do not try this at home!) 

The whole challenge is described with much self-deprecation and good humour  Val has a way with words and makes the plumbing in of a bathroom aboard the barge sound fascinating and describes the other local characters in such a way that I'd really like to meet them all. Actually I'd quite like to move into the beautifully finished and restored barge thank you very much. If someone else was doing all the hard work and driving of course!  

I've read the series while going through quite a stressful time and have found them to be real escapism and an absolute tonic.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Book review - Lying in Wait: Liz Nugent

The following review will also be posted on Amazon UK & US, Goodreads and Net galley.

If I had to use one word to describe this book it would be 'exceptional'.
Set in Ireland, it is crime fiction but rather uniquely isn't a murder mystery because we know whodunnit in the first paragraph. It's the events that unfold following the terrible act that are so gripping and the devastating effect to two families and the impact on the lives of all of them. 

The words flow easily throughout the book because the writer is eloquent and appears to be able to empathise with each of the characters she created. 

There's a young boy Laurence who struggles with a weight problem and his domineering mother who has more than one secret. Both of these central characters are portrayed so realistically I wondered how the author could have such an insight into their minds and understand what each one was going through. 
Karen, a young woman, tries to discover what has happened to her missing sister and her search leads her through a difficult and unexpected series of events. Her background is difficult but she is possibly the only character who is entirely honest. 

I galloped through this to get to the ending it was that good. Usually I can find a little something to niggle about when I've finished reading a book but no, not this one. Love the writing style of the author and will definitely read more of her books.
Thanks to the publisher via Netgalley for an ARC.
pre-order the book, available July 14 here:

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Book review: See How They Run Tom Bale

The following review has been posted on Amazon US & UK and Goodreads.

Now that I've read 'the thriller that everyone is talking about' I was going to ask how on earth does an author come up with such a gripping plot and one that kept me reading right through to the end. The idea for the book apparently came to the author after he had a sleepless night during which he'd spotted a burglar trying to enter his home.
If you like being scared out of your wits by a novel, then read this one!

The book begins with a young couple, parents of an eight week old baby, waking up during the night to find that their home has been invaded by two violent thugs who seem to be convinced that they know the whereabouts of a man they are looking for.
The couple are put through a terrifying ordeal and from that night on become embroiled in nightmarish situations for which there doesn't seem to be any way to escape.
They meet people along the way who aren't always what they appear to be. Are they friend or foe and who can they trust.

This is quite a gripping thriller that kept me reading until the end. I liked the young couple and cared what happened to them and their young baby, so had to keep on reading and holding my breath during the difficult and scary situations they found themselves in.

Well written throughout and deserves a place on this years list of best thrillers! So scary it made my skin crawl.