Thursday, 31 March 2016

Middle-Aged Boys & Girls - Diane Bracuk


Middle-Aged Boys & Girls

Description

We all know adults who are stranded in the amber of adolescence. Growing older but not necessarily growing up is the central theme of Middle-Aged Boys & Girls, featuring characters who, to varying degrees, are stuck in adolescent roles of rebel, outcast, enfant terrible and cool kid. All are linked by losses--of looks, of status, of job security, of health, of confidence--which forces them to life's inevitable turning point. Given that we are living in an age where fifty is the new forty, and forty is the new thirty, and twenty is the new god-knows-what, these stories, with their sometimes painful, sometimes funny and always unflinching truths, resonate.

Review
This is an easy collection of stories to dip in and out of and none of them take too long to read. Each story is a microcosm of everyday life with an aspect maybe twisted or blown out of proportion to make the story. I did find I was just getting into the story when I flicked the page to find the end of the story - just when it was beginning to capture me.
I was attracted to this book by the cover and being of an age that I thought I would relate to the stories. However, I think it would suit any age and as I was reading the link to being middle-aged never really came into play for me.

My thanks to Netgalley for a free copy of this book for review.

I'm giving the book 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

To Catch a Creeper - Ellie Campbell



Description
Cathy is riding high in her brand-new job at a (surprisingly bitchy) top London advertising agency working with best friend Rosa. But when Rosa's pregnancy goes amiss and enemies sabotage her new career, she finds herself leading a chaotic double life of lies and deception, hiding a shameful secret from all, especially husband Declan who appears in the throes of a nervous breakdown. Meanwhile she's agreed to unmask the notorious Crouch End Creeper, a burglar terrorizing their neighbourhood. Little does she know that her meddling, assisted by fellow mothers (the Wednesday Once Weeklies) and the Neighbourhood Watch, will lead their dangerous opponent to murder. And that it's not only the tall elegant transvestite who is placing herself at risk...

Review
This is the third book I have read by the sisters writing under the name of Ellie Campbell. I really like their writing style - so upbeat and a little crazy with the characters, but if you just go with it you are in for a really good enjoyable read.

There is a new book out in a few weeks called "Meddling with Murder" which is a sequel to this book - so I thought I had better get this off my virtual TBR personal shelf and read it.

In this book we meet Cathy again from "Looking for La La" but it is not necessary to have read that book first as there are enough references for this to be a standalone book, but without the - "I know all this" when you have read the previous book.

Cathy really could put a stop to all the misunderstandings and chaos that surrounds her life if she just told the truth - but that would be boring. I enjoyed the character more in this book, probably because I felt I already knew her and was willing to go along for the ride that is her mad life. 

There is yet again a "whodunnit" element to this book - I really thought I knew who it was, but I was a mile out! But the whodunnit is not the whole story, intermixed is Cathy struggling to fit in with a new job after returning to work, being undermined and also joining the neighbourhood watch. Not to mention her Husband having a mid life crisis - or is he? 

Such an entertaining read and some very true to life insights underneath all the slapstick.

I'm giving this book five out of five stars.

Friday, 18 March 2016

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying - Marie Kondo



Description
Live in a clean and clutter-free home forever with the life-changing KonMari Method - now a multi-million copy international bestseller

Review
This book is from my own personal book shelf. I wanted to read this book as I kept hearing about it. However, I have seen lots of TV programmes on clearing clutter and the mantra that you are paying to store things you don't need/use is a strong one with me - did I need this book?

So, after reading a number of reviews on Amazon I decided that I would purchase it and also the book format rather than the kindle edition. I find it so much easier to dip in and out of "real books" and also the simplicity of the book cover did make me want to own it!

I finished reading the book a few weeks ago and have put some of what is advised into practice. I then came down with a nasty bug - I'm not sure whether this is related as I was cleaning and clearing away the past maybe it was connected?

The book is also the personal journey of the author and at times I got a little irritates as I wanted to just get to the "how to do it" bit. One of the experiences she shares is when she got rid of other peoples clutter for them, without telling them and without their permission! I must admit to being taken aback by this admission and perhaps this is why she includes her journey so that we can learn from her mistakes.

One of the things from the book that I have done is the rolling of clothes, and I have to admit that it is now so much easier to see what I have and in fact uncover things I forgot that I had. Previous reviewers had mentioned that space in the UK is maybe not the same as that in Japan and I agree that the author advises keeping everything of the same kind in the same place - but this may not be practical due to storage space. I would advise that you look at the Youtube videos of how to fold, as the book alone will not explain exactly what she means.

I have always thought of myself as quite tidy and organised but admit that lately I do seem to have a lot of clutter just lying around. What I found out from this book is that there are three types of people and I am the one "who never puts things away" - I admit it! I do put things away, but my excuse is that a lot of what I leave out is because...well I am going to be using it again soon and it is a wasted effort to put it away only to get it out again! With me,  also out of sight is out of mind, particularly with my crafting items. So now, I am conscious of this and am putting things away when I have used them.

I do recommend this book - a lot of it is common sense - but then there is no standard for common sense so that is why you need the book. A lot of the things I already do and gave myself a pat on the back but unfortunately they were outweighed by a lot of things I don't do. I have a long way to go - the charity bags have been full as soon as they come through the door.

I'm giving this book four out of five stars. 

Monday, 14 March 2016

The Good Neighbor - Amy Sue Nathan



Description

Things are a little rough for Izzy Lane. Still reeling from the break-up of her marriage, the newly single mom moves back to the Philadelphia home she grew up in, five-year-old Noah in tow. The transition is difficult, but with the help of her best friends—and her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Feldman—Izzy feels like she’s stepping closer to her new normal. Until her ex-husband shows up with his girlfriend. That’s when Izzy invents a boyfriend of her own. And that’s when life gets complicated.
Blogging about her “new guy” provides Izzy with something to do when Noah’s asleep. What’s the harm in a few made-up stories? Then, her blog soars in popularity and she’s given the opportunity to moonlight as an online dating expert. How can she turn it down? But when her friends want to meet the mysterious “Mac,” someone online suspects Izzy’s a fraud, and a guy in-real-life catches her eye, Izzy realizes just how high the stakes are. That’s when Mrs. Feldman steps in, determined to show her neighbor the havoc that lies can wreak. If Izzy’s honest, she could lose everything, and everyone. Is the truth worth any cost?

Review

It took me a while to get into this book and feel anything towards the main character Izzy. It all seemed a little superficial and did it matter if she lied online anyway, wasn't it all just a little harmless make believe?

After a couple of chapters that all changed for me, I really bought into Izzy and the challenges she was facing as her ex-husband went to California for an extended break, leaving her with no support or income.

I started to enjoy the Carrie Bradshaw type posts that Izzy was writing and the dilemmas she faced in the real world. Then the "good neighbour" part of the story kicked in and we met Mrs Feldmen. What a fantastic character - I could just picture her house and her family, but formed the wrong picture about them it turned out, but I will let you discover that for yourself.

(BTW - if you search for the book online, make sure you use the USA spelling of Neighbor - otherwise you won't find it by title).

One of the scenes near the end of the book with Mrs Feldmen did give me a moist eye and not something I saw coming. This book is a real surprise, the chick lit type description does not do the book or the author justice as she tackles lots of different issues and on different levels.

Oh and the lying online? - turns out it did matter - big time - but as I don't do spoilers you can discover that point yourself.

I'm giving this book 5 out of 5 stars.

My thanks go to netgalley for a e copy of the book in exchange for a review.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Never look away - Linwood Barclay

Product Details
Description
It starts with a trip to a local amusement park. David Harwood is hoping a carefree day will help dispel his wife Jan's recent depression that has led to frightening thoughts of suicide. Instead, a day of fun with their son Ethan turns into a nightmare.
When Jan disappears from the park, David's worst fears seem to have come true. But when he goes to the police to report her missing, the facts start to indicate something very different. The park's records show that only two tickets were purchased, and CCTV shows no evidence that Jan ever entered the park at all. Suddenly David's story starts to look suspicious - and the police to wonder if Jan's already dead, murdered by her husband.
To prove his innocence and keep his son from being taken away from him, David is going to have to dig deep into the past and come face to face with a terrible childhood tragedy - but by doing that, he could risk destroying everything precious to him . . .

Review
This book is one from my own personal book shelf. Linwood Barclay has a new book coming out in April which I have ready to read and review courtesy of Netgalley. I love Linwood's books so much that I try to keep some in reserve, so I decided it was time to read this one, as I know I have the pleasure of a new one in weeks to come.

Only gripe I have is that these books are not numbered and you have no way of knowing which ones to read first, so I had read Broken Promise the book that follows this one, and knew that something had happened to David Harwood's wife Jan but not what. I'm still confused why that book is called Broken Promise Falls #1. Maybe that is all part of some bigger scheme on Linwood's part.

Putting all that aside, the plot was as usual fantastic. Yes some of it is a little unbelievable but as they say "truth is often stranger than fiction". Near the beginning of the book David sets out to look for his wife, and something he uncovers made me literally gasp out loud, and yet again there it was - the hook.. So many little subtleties that start to stack up, you are thinking "how is it ever going to come together?", but as always it does.

The book did have me wondering would there be any way out for David? It is difficult to review this genre without giving away spoilers. All I can say is that to me Linwood is the master of this genre - I've never read a bad one yet - bring on the next one........

I'm giving this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

A seige of Bitterns - Steve Burrows



Description
Newly appointed police inspector Domenic Jejeune doesn’t mind ruffling a few feathers. Indeed his success has elevated him into a poster boy for the police. The problem is Jejeune doesn’t really want to be a detective at all; he much prefers watching birds.
Recently reassigned to the small Norfolk town of Saltmarsh, located in the heart of Britain’s premier birding country, Jejeune’s two worlds collide with the grisly murder of a prominent ecological activist. His ambitious police superintendent foresees a blaze of welcome publicity, although doubts soon emerge when Jejeune’s best theory involves a feud over birdwatching lists. A second murder does little to bolster confidence.
Jejeune must call on all his birding knowhow to solve the mystery and deal with unwelcome public acclaim, the mistrust of colleagues and his own insecurities. For, in the case of the Saltmarsh birder murders, the victims may not be the only casualties…

Review
The plot line of this book reminded me a lot of all those Agatha Christie books I used to read many years ago. But I out grew them and this is how I felt about this book. 

As the book cover tells us Jejeune doesn't want to be a detective, so that doesn't really endear you to him as he harps on about it through his internal dialogue. He likes watching birds and so too I feel does the author. To have this much knowledge of birds to this level the author has either researched so very deep or is already a birder himself. Yes there was a mystery in this book,  but it is so routed in the concept of birds that it just began to turn me off reading the book. At one point the main character Jejeune goes to visit a house and is admiring the garden and then he starts to think about the birds he sees. I found myself saying out loud "enough with the birds!" 

Don't get me wrong, to begin with I was totally fine with the concept of the plot being linked to birding, but this was too much for the average reader.Really the book is so very heavily routed in the birding culture that I doubt many people will make it to the end of this book. 

I got to page 188 and Jejeune announced he knew who the killer was - thank goodness for that I exclaimed - except the book is 344 pages in length, so what was going to take up the rest of the book........... a second murder!

There was some good exploration of the characters and the one that most intrigued me was Maik, I really enjoyed the parts of the book that his voice narrated. A lot of the other characters I found very flat and dull and they held no interest for me.

I don't do spoilers but the scribbled note that sets Jejeune off on his investigation - I just knew from the start wasn't what he thought it was - and I'm NO birder.

I understand the author now lives in Canada. But if you are going to set a novel in Norfolk, England then terms like cell phone and other transatlantic phrases need to be changed in the book. As a reader they just irked me.

I'm giving this book 3 out of 5 stars. 

My thanks go to Real Readers for a free advance copy of this book in exchange for a review.