The Carer by Deborah Moggach


James, a once eminent professor, needs full time help. So Phoebe and Robert, his distracted middle-aged offspring, employ Mandy, a veritable treasure who seems happy to relieve them of their responsibilities. 

‘Our marriage was one long conversation that was only interrupted by her death’.

The Carer connected with me on a very personal level. A story I initially thought to be predictable, turned out to be a very powerful and surprising book, with numerous unexpected twists. 

I continually nodded my head throughout reading, raising my eyebrows on numerous occasions and thinking gosh, I totally get this. 

This is a cracking read, and it’s reinforced the fact that as you get older, life just gets more and more complicated. Fortunately, we do become wiser, so dealing with complex matters of the heart can be taken with a pinch or ten of salt. 

I think readers of a certain age would take a lot from this, particularly if they have/had elderly parents and middle aged siblings. 

I haven’t read anything before by Deborah Moggach, and unbeknown to me, she wrote The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and have added the book to my shelf. Her writing style is simple, yet magical. She designs her stories in a way that hooks gently. 

A solid 5 star read. It was faultless. 

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The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster – Mini Review

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“You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” explained Reason quietly, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.” 

Milo must rescue The Princesses’ Rhyme and Reason, so off he goes through the Phantom Tollbooth in his car that ‘goes without saying’.

A wonderful pun-tastic story for any Wordsmith. The storyline has hints of The Wizard of Oz mixed with the superb wit and intelligent humour of Roald Dahl. 

I probably got a lot more enjoyment from this than a child would! My Mum would have LOVED this book because she used to come up with some absolutely classic ‘play on words’. 

I’ve got her to thank for teaching me to love and appreciate the written word. This book reminded me of conversations I’ve had with her, and that’s priceless 💕 

I borrowed this fab little nugget from my local library.

The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

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5star

I read this during a stressful and difficult year. I was faced with some pretty tough obstacles and struggled with my health and happiness levels. So, like many of us readers, I got engrossed in books so I could travel around when I felt unable to really go anywhere.

Joshs’ biography was book number 29 for the year, having given myself the challenge of 52 and actually managed 57! Among the 57, not one filled me with as much hope, joy and positivity as this one.

Josh Hanagarne has Tourette Syndrome. He is also a book lover, a librarian and a Mormon. He sure makes a fascinating character! His life has been a tough journey with Misty (his nickname for his condition) at his side continuously, she just interferes with his health and happiness day in, day out, making things you and I take for granted, a constant uphill struggle.

Now, Josh is a BIG guy, he’s 6’7″ and his Tourettes has a huge impact on his life, so in order to try and curb it, or have some sense of control of the daily tics, he turns to weight lifting. Maybe his physical strength can have some positive effect on Misty, so he at least has some control of his body. Hopefully Misty will then stay quiet and do as she’s told! So, with Joshs’ faith, family and steely determination, he tries to lead a normal life as possible. This is his story, and it’s incredibly uplifting. (Pun intended, weights, lifting, see what I did there?!!)

I knew I was going to LOVE this after I’d read the contents page and the 9 page introduction. The contents are ingeniously listed chapter by chapter using The Dewey Decimal Classification System. You know, the numbers on the edge of the book spine in libraries, eg: 291.13 Greek Mythology, 808.543 Storytelling. It is fantastic!

On libraries……

“The library has a robust collection of what I call, non-cuddly hate lit. This is one of my favourite things about working here: if you believe censorship is poison, here lies paradise. We have sections on anti-Mormonism, anti-Semitism, anti-anti-Semitism, anti-Atheism, anti-God, anti-Feminism, pro-Gay……there’s something to offend everyone”.

“A library is a miracle. A place where you can learn just about anything, for free. A place where your mind can come alive.”

That’s what I love about the library, that’s why more people should support their local library, they are amazing places to feed the brain. They’re a supermarket for the old grey matter. Some stuff you’ll like, some stuff you would abhor, but it’s available FREE, and the human brain needs feeding as much as the belly! Get fat on words and education, it’s healthy!! Here in the UK, libraries are closing down left, right and centre. It’s an area that is always the first to have cuts because not enough people support them. And the government wants to save money, and instead, build an enormous pointless sculpture somewhere.

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So going into chapter 2, Josh explains briefly about his Mormon faith, which I found fascinating, I’ve learnt a great deal about this religion, and it’s a bit like Christianity, with a few different twists. (That’s how I see it anyway, forgive me if I’m wrong!)

Josh is such a funny guy, considering the very tough life he leads, he seems to be able to keep his sense of humour. With the support of an amazing family, his faith, Stephen King and not forgetting the heavy metal band Slayer, he never gives up his battle.

Play guitar and read King!! Yeahhh! 

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On going to church…

“It’s an interesting experience to watch religious males try to out-righteous one another to catch the eye of the women. (…everyone trying to put the ‘stud’ into Bible Study”)

I could go on and on about this book and how it inspired me to start taking regular walks to the library on a sunny day instead of sitting around feeling pretty darn sad. Or how it’s got me walking again, in the forests and woodlands of Southern England, appreciating what I do have, instead of dwelling on what I don’t.

Josh, for those very things, I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you 🙏 

I initially gave this 4 stars, but on writing my review, I’ve decided it deserves no less than full marks.

Witch Light by Susan Fletcher

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My rating: 5 of 5 stars5star

‘There is no devil. Only the devilish ways in a man’.

Back in February 2016, my partner took me to Scotland. Later that year in August and early September, Susan Fletcher took me back again.

Witch Light, or Corrag, as its alternatively known, tells the story of a wild young girl living in the Scottish Highlands in 1692.

Learning everything from her Mother, Corrag heals with plants and herbs, and leads a beautiful, simple life amongst nature and the elements.

But this simplicity gets Corrag labelled as a Witch and she’s thrown into a dark, dank cell to await her fate.

Charles Leslie, an Irish man of the cloth, hears of her incarceration and begins visiting her in her last days. He learns that she witnessed the brutal Massacre of Glencoe, and so, to him, she tells her story. One that could not only change her destiny, but perhaps everyone else’s too.

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If you’re after a story which is action-packed and fast-paced, this isn’t it. Witch Light is a beautiful, serene story full of incredible description. I found myself walking through the Highlands, feeling the snow tickle my face and freeze my ears. I saw the grand hinds, I heard the owl and smelt the peat-smoked aromas of the mountain villages.

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I’m not usually one for books with loads and loads of description. But the author was so brilliant at it, it made this book absolutely breathtaking.

When I go back to Scotland, which I undoubtedly will, this book will be carried with me in my thoughts as I look at the scenery with a new pair of eyes and far more appreciation of this beautiful world we live in.

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The Curse of the School Rabbit by Judith Kerr

The Curse of the School Rabbit by Judith Kerr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This had me smiling away all the way through, who could resist a naughty bunny story?!

Lovely storyline and characters, with a simple, yet intriguing plot perfect for bedtime. More so if there’s a cuddly rabbit sharing the bed, I could see myself animating with gusto to this little gem!

There used to be a menagerie of stuffed toys sharing my daughter’s bed years ago and she would of loved this between the ages of 3-9 ish.

Certainly a super book for early readers too, complete with really cool little pencil drawings, the facial expressions of the characters were delightful.

I wouldn’t expect any less from Judith Kerr, she wrote with simplicity, humour and love.

5 solid stars from me, my grandchildren (if and when I get them!) are going to share this one with me, I absolutely loved it! But then, I am a big kid at heart I suppose.

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The Puppet Show (Washington Poe #1) by M W Craven

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5star

Call me a psychic! A five star psychic! I predicted that The Puppet Show was going to be brilliant, and I was bloody right! I knew it! I just knew it!

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It gave me those vibes, you know what I mean? You pick up or hear about a book, feeling all attracted to the cover. Come on, we ALL love a bit of sinister looking cover art don’t we? The synopsis gives you that ‘oooh, this could be juicy’ feeling. And it gets put right to the top of that enormous TBR, winking at you, beckoning you to pick it up. This one went straight to the top of mine and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

Much to my delight there’s murder and fire and stone circles and a copper who’s got the DRIEST sense of humour ever. And there’s a REALLY COOL CHICK too, who wears band tees and happens to be a mathematical genius. I’d also like to mention that there’s a Spaniel called Edgar.

That gives you a basic rambling idea of the two main characters, but I’m going to cast my mind back to my last read for a moment, Murder at the Mill (I’ll call it MATM for short) by M B Shaw. And for those of you who haven’t read my review yet, you may do so HERE if you so desire. Why am I mentioning my previous read I hear you cry?! Particularly in another book review as well! Shocking! Let me explain.

Similies. Descriptions. Creative writing in general. It has to be good. Clever. Funny. Emotional. Flowy. I could go on. I’m a tough reader to please. MATM is a perfect example of how NOT to do it. In contrast, The Puppet Show is a perfect example of how it SHOULD be done. It’s creative, witty, well planned and brilliantly researched. Craven’s similes are CLASS. After my last read I was so relieved that this author can write. He can write gooooood.

‘The chief constable walked like a man badly in need of a stool softener.’

‘He had a drinker’s nose and his upturned chin resembled a jester’s boot.’

If there’s one thing I enjoy when I’m reading, it has to be when characters’ personalities shine through and they become so real.

‘Poe pointed at the BPhil after Francis Sharples’s name and asked, ‘You know what that means, Tilly? ‘Bachelor of Philosophy, Poe.’ Poe shook his head. ‘It means he’s a cock.’

Dry, British humour always gets a thumbs up from me, particularly if there’s some cracking insults in the mix.

The Puppet Show is one hell of a ride, I read it in just under two weeks but I wanted to read it in one sitting. Life got right in the way, and I found myself drifting off thinking about it when I should of been concentrating on work. I really wanted to cancel a family occasion as well because I just wanted to read. I love how a great book can make me feel so unsociable and selfish.

I’ve always been a fan of crime fiction, especially when it’s about a serial killer, my first being Silence of the Lambs twenty-odd years ago. I have also recently discovered Robert Bryndza and J D Barker for new reading in this genre. M W Craven is now up there for me as a go-to author as I just love the Britishness he injects into his story.

I cannot fault The Puppet Show in any way, I highly recommend it. It is pretty graphic in places and there’s a bit of sweary dialogue, but it all fits a treat. For a debut novel, this is exciting and gripping from start to finish. And I’m pleased to say that the author has just finished #2 and is writing #3. YESSSSSS! GET IN THERE! I will undoubtedly read the next instalment of Poe and Bradshaw solving gruesome murders in their quirky and entertaining way.

Many thanks to Netgalley, Little, Brown Book Group UK and M.W. Craven for an advanced copy of this awesome book in exchange for an honest review. The pleasure was all mine.

 

Murder at the Mill by M B Shaw

Murder at The Mill by M.B. Shaw

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My rating: 2 of 5 stars

‘She was a riot of contradictions: quiet but pushy, reserved but passionate, observant yet refreshingly slow to judge.’

Reviewing Murder at the Mill is also going to be a ‘riot of contradictions’ because I’ve gone from rating it a one star, ‘this sucks’ read to a near on four star ‘ooooh I need some answers page-turner’ read.

It was also a riot of Post-It notes, as you can see here!

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I have never felt so conflicted about rating a book as this one, I shall try my upmost to review this honestly and fairly without too much snark.

So, Murder at the Mill is a cosy mystery set in Hampshire, England, ‘perfect for fans of Midsomer Murder and Agatha Christie’. Apparently.

To try and fathom out my star rating, I’m going to have to see how this review pans out, as I still haven’t decided my final decision even at this point.

The plot itself deserves a solid 3 stars, possibly even 3.5 because the ‘whodunnit’ element was really very good. This, along with characters whose closet skeletons were being discovered left, right and centre was what kept me going.

The characters, in which there were many, all helped to build an intriguing mystery with their dodgy pasts and poisonous personas. A 3 star rating for sure here is deserving as I particularly liked Billy, the black sheep of the family. He was portrayed well in a sinister and menacing way. The main protagonist, Iris Grey was my least favourite, her quirkiness and terrible taste in clothes became rather tiresome as the story progressed.

The writing style. Oh god, this is where it gets awkward.

SIMILES. SIMILES. SIMILES. SIMILES. SIMILES. SIMILES.

I am so DONE with the countless, terrible, TERRIBLE similes in this book.

…’the spindly tree branches swayed and shivered pathetically in the wind like the starved limbs of concentration camp prisoners pleading for escape.’ (WHAT? WHY? Editor, why? Awful. Truly awful.)

…’tore at the wrapping on his gift like a starving child clawing at a bag of rice.’ (No. Just no.)

And what’s with all these animals? After the first two dozen, I was destined for eye-rolling moments throughout.

…’like a smug cockerel.’ (Smug! Whaaat?!)

…’like a wounded fox.’

…’listening to the satisfying crack as they shattered beyond repair like the bones of tiny mice.’

…’as excited as two piglets on speed.’ (What the..?! 😂)

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…’staggering around like a newborn fawn.’

…’impale them like lambs on a spit.’

…’attached himself like a louche limpet…’

I could go on, it gets worse. Describing someone’s anger pouring out …’like pus from a lanced boil’  was the final straw really. It was pretty damn dire.

Ok, maybe there’s a bit of snark here, but I just can’t help myself! Tell me, Ms Shaw, were you sponsored by all those brands you name-dropped throughout your book? Tesco, Smarties, Heinz, Next, H&M, Zara, Cath Kidston, blah, blah, blah. So much was described based on the brand alone, and it irritated the hell out of me.

It’s also funny how so many different characters used the term ‘whatnot’ in their conversations. Must be a Hampshire village thing.

By now, you can probably tell why I’m still debating about this books star rating. My main problem is I really enjoyed the story, it hooked me in and I was overall impressed by the final revelations and conclusion. There was some pretty good red herrings in there too. But for me to rate a book above 3 stars, the writing style has to satisfy me. Towards the end I started to laugh and groan at some of the descriptive text and it took away my enjoyment and marred the seriousness of the story.

After all is said and done, I’ve decided, I’m giving Murder at the Mill 2 stars. And strangely, I would indeed read another cosy mystery about Iris Grey and her irksome sleuthing. Even if it was just to spot all the awful, and sometimes unintentionally comical similes that are scattered ‘like dandruff on one’s shoulders’ throughout the book.

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Thank you to the author, the publisher Orion Books and Goodreads for hosting a giveaway for which I was lucky enough to win!

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