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.

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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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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Elmet by Fiona Mozley

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Elmet by Fiona Mozley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mini Review

I can without a doubt see why Elmet by Fiona Mozley was nominated for an award. The way in which this story was written had the power and presence of an orchestra. Sweet, sweet music, ambling along at perfect pace, flowing and describing and setting the scene. The characters were the boom from the cymbals, the mighty beat of drums, and in contrast, the delicate poignancy of a triangle.

As you can probably tell, this story totally GOT ME. Such simplicity, and yet, it was INCREDIBLE.

Elmet is contemporary fiction at its best. This story has a heart, and it made mine beat in unison with it.

*Thank you to the publisher, author and NetGalley who provided me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.*

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The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

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The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh Shaun, your hatred for Kindles and stroppy, tight-fisted customers shines through in your highly entertaining diary! I wish I could get away with customer service ‘Bythell Style’, but I doubt I’d be employed for very long! The advantages of being your own boss I guess.

Next time I come across a book with age-related mould on it, I will undoubtedly be visualising some dude in a protective suit, complete with breathing apparatus, whipping it out of my hand to dispose of it safely.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Diary of a Bookseller, what’s not to love?!

For starters, it’s about a second hand bookshop in my most favourite place ever. SCOTLAND.

Shaun gets to rummage through thousands and thousands and thousands of books FOR A LIVING!!!

It gave me a fascinating insight into being part of the second hand book industry, and it definitely isn’t all bookish loveliness.

Did I say this delightful shop is in SCOTLAND? Oh yeah, I did.

Hey, Shaun, I’m coming up for a visit in the summer. I promise I’ll put the books I look at back where I found them. (Even if they are possibly in the wrong section already. Sigh…..*Shakes head*).

I promise I won’t come in armed with a pencil, writing in my own prices on the inside page. I am SHOOK that book lovers even do this!

And I’ll BUY some books too. And possibly a walking stick.

Thank you Shaun for sharing a year of your bookish life. I sincerely hope that your Aladdins Cave continues to prosper for many, many years. Bookshops are sadly an endangered species these days thanks to that flipping internet lark. (She says, on her online blog.)

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The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards

The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards

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My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Devil’s Work was an enjoyable reading experience with a clever plot and interesting characters.

I seem to keep choosing books that have a dual narrative, past and present events being woven together to create mystery and questions a-plenty. It’s not on purpose, but it’s such a common style that I’m finding it hard to find a book that doesn’t have this! Don’t get me wrong, it is something I like and it worked incredibly well here, but with my next book choice, I’m hoping it doesn’t have this because I’m getting a bit fed up with this concept. (For now).

Mark Edwards uses clear, concise language that tells a quite complex tale that I could follow without any confusion. Sometimes these multiple time lines in books muddle up my brain and I often find I’m back-tracking to help boost my understanding. That was not the case here, Edwards created brilliant characters that I could clearly visualise, whether they were in present day or past.

Only a three star rating though, well, let me explain. I think I’m reading too many psychological thrillers at the moment. It’s one of my favourite genres and I’m becoming rather difficult to please. I’m also getting too good at predicting outcomes, hidden agendas, red herrings and sussing out the unreliable narratives. I’m looking for more WTF’s and, I hate to say it, but I’m getting a little bit bored of this genre!! 😮

The Devil’s Work is the first book I’ve read by this author and I will undoubtedly read more from him in the future based on my enjoyment levels.

Overall, a good, but sadly, not gripping read.

Thank you to the author, Mark Edwards, the publisher, Thomas & Mercer for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley.

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