#BookReview: If They Could See Me Now by Denise Welch

What’s it about?

Have you ever wondered if you made the right choices? Harper Clarke has…

Harper reminds me of many of the women I’ve known and cared about over the years. Now that her children are close to flying the nest, she is looking across the table and thinking, Is this really how my life was meant to be?

As women, we make sacrifices for our children, for our husbands and for our families. Some are worth it and some we may regret. But there comes a point when it’s time to follow our own hearts. This is the story of what happens when we do.

My thoughts

First off I’m going to admit that I don’t read a lot of women’s fiction as it’s not my preferred read, but this was sent to me out of the blue and has been on my shelf for ages.  I’m currently trying to read all outstanding ARC’s so picked this up for a change to the norm.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book which made me feel so angry towards the main character!

Obviously the reader is meant to feel sympathetic towards protagonist Harper, but I just couldn’t. Ok, her husband may have been cheating and his verbal assaults were on another level but she let him continue and then had sex with him. I didn’t need 350 pages of this to determine the guy was a prick and that was going to be justification for leaving, I had that wrapped up in the first few chapters.  What really got to me was how he bullied the younger daughter and although she told him not to do it, he continued and she let him, it’s no wonder the girl had issues.  This made me so mad!  What I got from her was that her lifestyle was more important – shallow!  I actually got the majority of my thoughts down here before I had even finished the book because of how incensed it made me.

Anyway, aside from that I suspect Denise Welch will have a successful future with any novels as fans of hers would buy them based on her career to date.  Having said that the book I thought the book was reasonably well written with decent secondary characters and I could see what see was trying to achieve.  Although given the title If They Could See Me Now, I would have expected more from what happened after rather than 90% of before and during.  Some books just don’t match their readers, and this was the case for me and this book unfortunately but I appreciated the chance to read it.

Book links: Goodreads | Waterstones | Amazon

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: ARC – many thanks!
No of pages: 400
Publisher: Sphere

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#BookReview: The House by Simon Lelic

It’s my stop today on The House blog tour and I’m very happy to share with you my review.

What’s it about?

What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.

And now the police are watching them…

My thoughts

I’ve got to admit a fab bit of marketing got me interested in this book; when you get a black envelope in the post with a key inside who isn’t going to be intrigued.

The first few chapters really did it for me in terms of the very unsettling feeling that it gave me – very cleverly crafted!  It was one of those books where I wanted it to scare and thrill me but when it did I didn’t like it..like a roller coaster, you know you’ll scream your head off but you will go back for more!

As I always do I thought I’d worked out what was going on quite early but then ended up being led down the garden path completely.  In all honesty, I think that’s why I didn’t rate the book higher; I was somewhat miffed.  To be fair to the author that’s more about my issue than his, but it did impact on my overall feeling and enjoyment of the book.  I had hoped it was going to more about The House rather than its inhabitants and all the orchestrations with the family and their history.

Abuse is at the heart of this novel and it doesn’t make for pleasant reading and quite often made me feel really uncomfortable which is a testament to the author’s writing in being able to convey that but the subject matter may not suit all readers.

Overall I loved the beginning, enjoyed the ending but hoped for something a little more in the middle.

Book links: Goodreads | Waterstones | Amazon

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: ARC – many thanks!
No of pages: 400
Publisher: Penguin

Do look out for other reviews and content on The House tour!

#Recipe – Apple & Cranberry Traybake

So, who’s watching the new series of the Great British Bake Off then? Me, me, me! I admit, I miss Mary in particular but I’m not bothered who’s presenting it as long as it’s on the tele, ok the adverts are a pain but does anyone watch live tv anymore? That’s why we have recorders (or whatever they’re called).  Anyway, this week was fruity cake week and they were warned that they’re hard to get right.  And oh weren’t they right.

I was given a windfall of fruit this week, mostly apples and rhubarb so then went scouring the Weight Watchers site for a suitable recipe (because I’m still on that diet..sorry lifestyle change) or something that I could adapt and therein lay the problem – I thought I could adapt an established recipe and get away with it and so , I could have named this post several titles: Recipe for Disaster, When Things Don’t Go To Plan, How to Waste Time and Food or Disaster Baking to name but a few.

If you’re interested this is the recipe:

You need:
50g caster sugar
100g low fat spread (I used Flora light)
1 medium egg
250g apple sauce (chunky, from a jar)
150g white self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp level ground cinnamon
40g dried cranberries
2 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced

What you do:

  • Preheat your oven to gas 4 or fan 160°c.  Line a rectangular baking tin with greaseproof paper.
  • Keep back 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar for topping the cake later, beat the remainder with the low fat spread until creamy.
  • Add the egg and the apple sauce and beat again.
  • Sift in the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and mix well.
  • Stir in the cranberries, then turn into the prepared tin.
  • Arrange the apples on top in four rows.  Sprinkle on the reserved sugar.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes .
  • Cool in the tin for 15 minutes and then turn out onto cooling rack and cut into 16 squares.

Now, I had so many apples and was looking for a way to reduce the calories so I thought hey I’ll make my own apple sauce! Good hey! I used about 8 apples of varying sizes and types, peeled, cored and sliced into chunks, put them in a saucepan with about 1/4 pint water and 50g caster sugar, boiled, then simmered until the apples were mushy.  This was a success! Yummy apple sauce.

The cake was a disaster!

I substituted the jarred apple sauce for my own, ensuring all excess water was drained off and swapped the cranberries for a bit of rhubarb.  Sounds ok doesn’t it? Nothing too dramatic going on here!

What I wanted

What I Got

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My cake didn’t rise, it took over an hour to ‘bake’ (after I’d taken it out and then put it back in) and it looked vile.  I did try a bit and whilst it was edible I wasn’t prepared to serve it up to my work colleagues.

So what went wrong?

The oven probably needed to be at a higher temperature other than that I don’t know.

So let’s hope for something better next time….

#BookReview: Never Coming Back by Tim Weaver

What’s it about?

It was supposed to be the start of a big night out. But when Emily Kane arrives at her sister Carrie’s house, she finds the front door unlocked and no one inside. Dinner’s cooking, the TV’s on. Carrie, her husband and their two daughters are gone.
When the police draw a blank, Emily asks missing persons investigator David Raker to find them. It’s clear someone doesn’t want the family found.
But as he gets closer to the truth, Raker begins to uncover evidence of a sinister cover-up, spanning decades and costing countless lives. And worse, in trying to find Emily’s missing family, he might just have made himself the next target . . .

My thoughts

I’ve had this book on my book shelf for quite some time and was kind of bullied encouraged to read it by daughter as she bought it for me.  This is the second of the David Raker series that I’ve read, having read Fall From Grace which is book five in the series with this one being book four – ooops a little out of order.

This book reminded me of Linwood Barclay’s No Time for Goodbye, another novel in which a family just disappear without trace from their lives

I found it to be dark and gritty from the outset with pretty much everything you need for a dramatic detective story:  likeable main character, good plot, high body count (though not to everyone’s taste) and so many twists and turns you don’t whether you’re coming or going.  I also loved that it’s mostly set in Devon as I recognised a lot of the places.

I’ll definitely read more and although it can be read as a standalone I usually find these types of books are better read in order; if not just to find out what’s going on between Raker and Healy (one of his copper mates).  I think fans of Linwood Barclay would enjoy this series too.

Book links: Goodreads | Waterstones | Amazon

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 544
Publisher: Penguin

#BookReview: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

What’s it about?

It is 1941 and Captain Antonio Corelli, a young Italian officer, is posted to the Greek island of Cephallonia as part of the occupying forces. At first he is ostracised by the locals, but as a conscientious but far from fanatical soldier, whose main aim is to have a peaceful war, he proves in time to be civilised, humorous – and a consummate musician.

When the local doctor’s daughter’s letters to her fiancé – a member of the underground – go unanswered, the working of the eternal triangle seems inevitable. But can this fragile love survive as a war of bestial savagery gets closer and the lines are drawn between invader and defender?

My thoughts

When I booked my summer holiday to Kefalonia there was one book that I knew I had to read before going.  Well, I didn’t get to read it beforehand so took it with me.  A little cliché maybe, reading the book in its actual setting, but actually it was the best place to read it.  I loved reading it out there, the book is very well written anyway and so I could visualise the setting and places anyway but seeing some of those places was brilliant.

Several readers of this book had said to me prior to starting, “it’s a book of two halves” or “you just have to get past the first 100 pages” and boy were they right.  The first section of the book is so politically heavy it’s no wonder so many people don’t persevere.  In all honesty where it was too heavy, I skim read and I don’t feel it hampered my reading or understanding I just got to the best and more interesting bits a lot quicker.  That’s not to say that the political stuff ends there, but I could take it in small doses.

The scenes of war, the earthquake and the aftermath are so well depicted, just brutal and devastating,  and it’s just brilliant in how it portrays what it was like to live through an occupation.  I did wonder at times though what this book was trying to be, as I said, there’s so much politics, there’s an incredible amount of history which I enjoyed and also there’s the romance between Corelli and Pelagia which although runs through the entire books seems to almost take a back seat until the end – just maybe too many things.  So you can definitely rest assured that you’re not going to be getting a full on romance for the majority of this novel but still worth the read and I’m glad I got through it.

Some holiday snaps of places mentioned in the book:

Earthquake damage in Lixouri (see lines either side of balcony)

Architecture in Argostoli

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Park

Fiskardo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kefalonia is a beautiful island and a must see if you like Greece, and enjoy delving into a place’s history and architecture.

Book links: Goodreads | Waterstones | Amazon

Author links: Facebook | Website

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 534
Publisher: Vintage