Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Seven friends arrive at a lodge in Scotland to celebrate New Years Eve.  They are old friends from Oxford and get together for a well planned party.  The vacations are planned by a different member of the group, rotating the making of arrangements over the last ten years.

This year it's Emma who plans the get together, having them gather at a very isolated estate in beautiful Scotland.  The intent is to catch up with each other's lives and ring in the new year together.  All of them have little secrets.  Eventually, one is missing then found murdered. Of the seven friends, one is probably a killer. 

After university people tend to drift apart, get other interests and just move on.  It seems this gathering isn't as easy as years prior - the laughter is too loud, the comments are barbed but delivered with a smile so it's not serious, that sort of thing. 

I purposely didn't read any reviews because I love being surprised and while there was one character I hoped it might be our author kept us guessing.  You knew the missing guest and their body had been found but lack of a pronoun didn't narrow it down for us readers.  Was it one of the men or a woman? 

The story is told by alternating points of views.  Heather is the manager and arranges for the guests' comforts and provides information, such as a ships purser may do.  She holds a secret as to why she lives in this stark wilderness.  Doug is the gamekeeper and has his own secrets about a violent past.  Him I like - well, Heather also as these are the only genuine characters in this narrative.

There are many characters in this book and I had thought I may be confused by all of them when I started reading, but then it's actually easy to know them apart. There are the seven guests comprised of three couples and the single woman Katie.

The locale and weather play a signficant part, almost a character of it's own right.  The snow storm was heavy enough to block access in or out of the estate. Descriptions of the cold were frequent, so vivid you could feel it.
 Everyone was staying put whether they liked it or not.  Not a comforting thought with one person dead and killer evidently among them.

In my opinion this is a good mystery which kept me turning the pages. 
Would I read more by this author?  Oh, absolutely. I'm on the list at the library for The Guest List by Lucy Foley.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

The beginning of this book starts with an except of a poem
by Dorothea Mackeller:

I love a Sunburnt Country, 
A land of sweeping plains, 
Of ragged mountain ranges, 
Of droughts and flooding plains.


Bill Bryson is an entertaining, witty author of nonfiction books.  In my longing for travel I read about other countries.  Armchair traveling.  That works right now.  I have a few of his other books on the to-read shelf.

Stories I liked: There was a landowner, Thomas Austin  who released 24 wild rabbits to hunt. Those rabbits bred, naturally, causing a devastating  effect on the country, eating their way through everything. The history of how two dozen rabbits became 3 million and what carnage they caused was incredible.

Reading about the Aboriginal artwork was interesting to me as well. "Imagine if there were some people in France who could take you to the caves in Lascaux and explain in detail the significance of the paintings.  Why the bison was bolting from the the herd, what the three wavy lines mean - because it was as fresh and sensible to them as if it were done yesterday. Well, Aboriginals can do that.  It is an unparallelled achievement, scarely appreciated.  That is worth a mention here."

I liked reading about the Aboriginal art but was saddened to read about their treatment hundreds of years ago as well as this century.

Creatures! The many toxic poisonous creatures that live in Australia gobsmacked me.  All in one place on earth, how did they develop such dangerous levels of venom?! Also, the saltwater crocodile stories were very interesting.

Stories that could have been cut short:  At the one third mark in this narrative I found his comedic writing amusing but could tell I wasn't going to get the history lesson I desired. The side stories of his escapades such as running from dogs he never saw and a long winded explanation of how all dogs universally  despise him went on a bit long.

The explanation of cricket was meant to be funny but it wore thin fast.  It would have been interesting to read how they actually played the game.

Overall it was a good book and kept my interest for most of the 305 pages.  I had previously enjoyed his book about England, Notes from a Small Island, tempered with reservations about his behavior there. 

Would I read more by Bryson?  Maybe. I have a few books planned for camping trips and will leave them for others at the campground library.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Thursday's Children by Nicci French


thursdayThursday’s Children is book #4 in the Frieda Klein series. This one moved slowly.  I’m glad it wasn’t my first acquaintance with Frieda Klein as I may have put the series on the back burner.  So, having read five books in this eight book series, I will still say the Sunday book is still by far the best.

Looking at the positives first, I will say I learned more about our elusive main character in this book than any of the others. It dragged a bit when she went back to her childhood home of Braxton and I think the story line could have been abbreviated.

I like how her friends gather to bring her nice meals, the support they show her, the wine, the mystery aspects of the story and the English setting.  Both London and the little rural town of Braxton.

My favorite supporting character is still Josef.  Hoping to see more of him in the next few books.  I felt very sorry for Frieda’s boyfriend and thought she was too cold with him.  Don’t want to reveal spoilers but I will be adding my thoughts on Goodreads where I can hide the spoilers.  I had it narrowed down to two characters as the main perpetrator but have to say I was actually surprised who the baddie turned out to be.

Side note on an unrelated documentary:   The musical group Thursday’s Children was focused on in the book, however, Thursday’s Children was also a documentary  about the Royal School for the Deaf in Margate, Kent.  It won an  Academy Award for the Best Documentary Short of 1954. The subject deals with hearing-handicapped children.  They learn what words are through exercises and games, practicing lip-reading and finally speech. Richard Burton was the narrator.

It doesn’t appear the name of the fictional band has any relation to the documentary.  There isn’t a mention or connection in the novel.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Waiting for Wednesday by Nicci French


waitingWaiting on Wednesday is book 3 in the Frieda Klein series. There were quite a few things that weren’t believable and yes, you do need to suspend disbelief when you are reading a novel but….Frieda is coming off as unbalanced in this book. She did suffer horrific attack and injuries in the previous book so I can somewhat sympathize with some of the actions she takes.
The story starts off with the murder of Ruth Lennox. Ruth is a wife and mother of three and by all outward appearances, she’s perfect. I’m not talking about the physical attributes, rather her very organized life, devoted to her family and no little secrets.

Except yes! She has a big fat secret and once revealed, the plot takes off in multiple directions. Two of her children will figure prominently, opening up to other subplots.

One of the things that bothered me was the side story about a missing girl. It had zero to do with the Lennox murder or investigation. An offhand story relayed to Frieda had her tracking the girl named Lila, all on her own. Now introduce a newspaper reporter who had been trying to find a link between several missing young women and he and Frieda combine forces, sharing information. So, no link to the Lennox murder but a huge story on its own.

It weaves together at the end. I want to discuss some things that weren’t resolved but it will spoil the book for any who plan to read it. Goodreads has a feature to hide spoilers so I will discuss there when I post my review. I’m hoping the DCI Malcolm Kaarlson’s story will develop more as well as his detective Yvette Long. Would love to know their backstory and where they are heading.

For the record, Hal Bradshaw, the psychologist working with the police, is unbearably smug and it wouldn’t hurt me to see him written out. Hopefully with shame and discredit somehow. Frieda’s nice Chloe can be a distraction but I see we need that sometimes, so you can see Frieda’s caring side. Notice I didn’t say warm side. Ha!
I like Josef very much and also the gruff DCI Kaarlson.

Hoping this is a miniseries one day.  Who would you want as Frieda Klein, for anyone who has read this series?  Maybe Anne Hathaway for her dark features or Nazanin Boniadi, a Persian-British actress.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Day of the Dead by Nicci French



I’m certainly a fan of a series. The more books in a series the better in my opinion. Some folks don’t like the feeling of commitment with five or more books, following the same characters on a mystery or whichever genre it may be – I figure I am going to be reading anyway and I like familiar characters, watching them grow as characters and in their personal and professional lives.

So, this is the end of the Frieda Klein series. Eight books total starting with Blue Monday and winding our way through the days of the week. As I’ve mentioned before, I read the Sunday book first so I read many spoilers. Still, I went to the beginning and read through. Sunday was the best book. Thursday was not my favorite and had a seriously slow start.

This last book, Day of the Dead, wrapped up the series and so I will no longer have Frieda, Reuben, Josef, Chloe, Jack and Karlsson in my life. Josef was my favorite of the sub-characters.

Frieda needed to disappear in the previous book and spent most of her time in this last book under the wire. A killer was on the loose and she was the target, a string of violent incidences and a conclusion that I could accept.

There was a character named Lola Hayes who is introduced early in this book. She needs a subject for her criminology classes and plans to explain how psychoanalyst Frieda Klein thinks, planning on interviewing those close to Frieda and working out a profile. By trying to discover more about Frieda she puts herself in danger and is forced, literally, to go on the run with our main character. It’s a cat and mouse game and a bloody one at that.

The beginning was slow for me and I’ll say I wanted a different ending to this eighth book saga. I wasn’t especially disappointed as all things were resolved, I would just like to have seen some characters end up differently. It’s hard to review this without giving out a very important factor that is a huge spoiler.

Lots of food mentioned throughout the book.

Butternut squash soup, burgers and beers, bowls of bean sprouts and Greek salad, a simple salad of tomato and avocado and a bread roll.

Spaghetti and red wine, a Ukrainian lamb dish and a bottle of vodka. A flat white and piece of carrot cake. Chicken sandwiches with lots of mayo and tomatoes.

“Frieda bought a cauliflower, some cheddar cheese, butter, milk and a half-baked baguette. She added a small jar of mustard to the basket, two chocolate bars, apples, a jar of marmalade and oatmeal. Later she cooked a mustardy cauliflower cheese which they ate with hunks of baguette.”

I bought a cauliflower and planned to make that cheese dish but I still haven’t gotten around to it.

Goodbye Frieda Klein – it was a good ride.  Lots of mystery and I would certainly watch a television series if one was developed base don her character.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Secret of the Irish Castle by Santa Montefiore


Novels with an Irish setting?  Bring it on!

This is the last book in the trilogy and I can say I enjoyed all the books immensely.  Book 1 is The Girl in the Castle, Book 2 is The Daughters of Ireland and The Secret of the Irish Castle wraps it all up neatly.  Perfect ending if you ask me.

The author does a good job of recapping things from previous books so you’re not lost if you haven’t read the other two books in quite a while.  That being said, you need to read these in order for the character development to make sense.

We continue with the story of Kitty Deverill , Bridie Doyle and Jack O’Leary.  Lots of scenes with the fun characters Harry Deverill, Boysie and Celia. There are ulterior motives for assisting one another with exposing Bride’s husband the faux Count – Rosetta wants to help her friend while Grace is helping so she can get back in Michael’s good graces and his bed.

There are times it’s a soap opera or Facebook drama but if you are a fan of the series, what a page turner.  It’s always nice to be an armchair traveler and visit Ireland.

There were a few food items mentioned but it’s the usual tea, scones, biscuits, cake and fish.  For a fancy dinner salmon mousse, roasted duck and pheasant were served.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Broken Harbor by Tana French



This is the fourth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French. I would read anything she writes, she is so descriptive and engaging. I was immediately pulled into this story line from the beginning. All of her characters are so fleshed out. As I read the people come to life for me, people I would like talk to and hear about their jobs and their lives.

To be forewarned, French isn’t a cozy mystery writer. This is another murder mystery but in this one, dead children involved. If that’s offensive then you won’t want to read this one, I only bring that up as there were a few reviews where people didn’t like this book at all yet they were fans of her other novels. To me, this one is so well written and may be my favorite in the series. So far.

By the 81% mark on my Kindle I was thrown for a loop – something I did not see coming, a twist in the story. Honestly, I couldn’t put this one down.

Without giving away any spoilers I will tell you what you could read on the book jacket cover.

“Detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy and his partner are sent to the abandoned, half-constructed housing development Broken Harbor to investigate the brutal murder of the Spain family. The husband and two children are dead. What Scorcher thinks is an open and shut case is quickly complicated when Jenny Spain is found barely alive, and the family’s circumstances are brought to light: hidden baby monitors, a strained mortgage brought on by the housing crisis, and the increasingly erratic signs of a family in crisis.”

I am looking forward to book 5, The Secret Place, which is on sale via Amazon for $7.99 for Kindle. Just bought my copy and eagerly await another Dublin Murder Squad story.

Check out Tana French’s website and see all her books.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

  The beginning of the story unfolds in Carricklea, Sligo in western Ireland. Our main characters are Connell and Marianne and they are you...