Friday, 19 October 2018

The Accident by Chris Pavone

This started so well. A manuscript, with a secret that someone famous doesn't want shared is shared with an agent. And then a publisher, and then the agent's assistant is murdered, and then someone else makes an illicit copy, and what is going to happen? 

Is the famous person who doesn't want this published going to murder all who lay eyes on it? Is it going to "go viral"? Is a failing publishing house going to use this as a job-saving income-producing deliverer from the perils of bankruptcy? And who are all these eyes -  by turns researching, stalking, protecting and then running, or defending themselves with deadly precision?

I liked Isabel, the agent, and enjoyed the publishing anecdotes and the tension around how this story could destroy so much, and also - in the way of truth - set others free. Yet, as the pressure built, and the stakes increased, I found the pages turning more slowly, and my head more often inclining to one side - really? Is it that plausible? And they got that upset about that? And so, in the final revelations and consummations, it felt more like a water-logged wrinkled copy than a lit and set the world alight piece of literature.

Still worth the read though, and a diverting (and coincidentally fairly relevant) premise.

3 stars.

ISBN: 9780571298945

You may also enjoy The Killing Lessons by Saul Black, or what about John Grisham's Camino Island?

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Melanzane alla Parmigiana

We've been doing the U-cook vegetarian options for the last few weeks. It's been great, and so that I don't lose our favourite recipes, I'm posting them to my blog. They're great - healthy and tasty, and if you'd like to sign up (they deliver all the ingredients for 3 meals for portion sizes of your choice on a Monday) you can find them on


1kg aubergine (large is good)
2 chillies
8g fresh basil
4 garlic cloves
2 celery sticks
80g grated parmesan
160g grated mozzarella
800g cooked chopped tomato
2 onions
2g fresh thyme


Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees. Thinly slice aubergines lengthways. Lightly salt and place into a colander to leach out bitter juices. Slice garlic and celery finely. Deseed and slice chillies.

Place saucepan with a glug of olive oil on medium heat. Add onions, celery and sweat for 3-4 minutes until soft and translucent. Add garlic, chili and thyme and cook another 1-2 minutes. Add cooked chopped tomatoes and 200ml water and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Taste and season with salt, pepper and a little xylitol.

Pat aubergine slices dry. Sprinkle with salt and brush oil on both sides and layer in a single layer on baking tray. Roast for 15 minutes (flip over after 8 minute) until soft and turning golden. 

Remove thyme stalks from sauce, and chop basil and add to pan (reserving some leaves). Cover bottom of oven proof dish with thin layer of tomato sauce, then aubergine slices, then a sprinkle of combined mozzarella and parmesan. Continue this process, ending with cheese. Reduce oven heat to 190 degrees and place dish in oven for 10-12 minutes - grill for a golden top, if you'd like, but watch carefully. Top with basil leaves and serve with warm sourdough bread and rocket leaves.


Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn

In book #3 in the Empress of Rome series, Vix is back. For those who haven't read Mistress of Rome and Daughters of Rome, we met Vix's parents in the first, and didn't hear much of him in the second. A gladiator for a father and a Jewish slave girl for a mother, Vix has dabbled in arena sports and women, wine and song, and isn't sure what he wants to be yet. Sabina, on the other hand does. Daughter of Senator Norbanus, she is destined for greatness - especially if she marries well.

But, because it's ancient Rome, of course there are enemies, and plots, and counter-plots, and wars. There are also beautiful cities, lavish celebrations and much philandering, plundering and postulating.

I love Kate Quinn's books, especially this series, and Empress of the Seven Hills does not disappoint. All the ingredients are here and I raced through it. Onwards and upwards to the next one.

4 stars

ISBN: 9780425242025

You may also enjoy The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. or what about Dictator by Robert Harris?

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

The Killing Lessons by Saul Black

Rowena Cooper lives with her two children in Colorado, and when two strangers show up in the evening, you know it's not going to end well. But not everything runs as smoothly as the strangers intend, and ten-year-old Nell, injured and terrified, runs to safety, or is that more danger?

Meanwhile Valerie Hart, in San Francisco is feeling quite despondent. Her case, involving a series of murders with bizarre markers left at each scene, is not getting any closer to being solved, and the additional people involved on the case seem to be hindering progress more than helping. The emotional baggage from a past relationship re-entering the crime scene is also not useful.
It's difficult to believe that this is a debut. I loved Nell, Valerie, and even enjoyed getting inside the minds of the murderers. The pages turned at a pleasing pace, all the way through, and the plot had me twisting and turning with it in gleeful anticipation.

A smart, taut, tick-all-the-boxes thriller.

5 stars.


You may also enjoy Snap by Belinda Bauer, Broken Ground by Val McDermid or The Punishment She Deserves by Elizabeth George.

More books.

Monday, 15 October 2018


Morning everyone. It's Monday, and the best place to be? No, it's not in bed. It's out there. In the sunshine.

I love getting out and exercising first thing, especially on a Monday. I love the way the coolness embraces my skin, and the sun glints through the trees. I love the rays - the angles and the shine, the soft glow, the radiance of the beautiful light.

There's nothing like it. Or like the feeling when I'm done, and the rest of my week can begin.

There's only one song we're singing  today. It's Mika's We are Golden. 

Running around again
(Running around again)
Running from running

We are not what you think we are
We are golden, we are golden
We are not what you think we are
We are golden, we are golden

Here's the clip, I couldn't watch it - too much Mika on display for me this early in the morning, but listen as you run.

Let's go golden people.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Ten of the Best #137

Hey hey hey, it's finally Saturday. And time, together with great wifi connectivity and speed to catch up on the stuff we missed on social media - you know what I mean. The link you scrolled past in that meeting, the one you couldn't press play on, because you were supposed to be working, and others would have heard you, the many articles you had no time to read, and of course that one you couldn't download, because you have no more data, and you weren't connected to the wifi.

I've collected my favourites, and I'm sharing them with you. It's been quite a week.

My favourite pic is on the right, but scroll down for the clips and articles and music.

Kanye West, Taylor Swift and politics. Catch up with Trev.

I loved this article - "Relax, Ladies. Don’t Be So Uptight. You Know You Want It" by Anastasia Basil, and this quote "She was never famous, just one of many unsung feminists who stuck her hand down the drain and cleared the sludge for the rest of us."

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Anna Fox is the Woman in the Window. She lives alone, as we discover quite early on. She is a psychologist, so loves to observe humanity, which she does from her vantage point - she sees infidelity, abuse, deceit, lies - all the evil we try to keep behind closed doors, and shuttered windows.

Anna has agoraphobia - an intense fear and anxiety of being in places where it is hard to escape, or where help might not be available. Agoraphobia usually involves fear of crowds, bridges, or of being outside alone. So she watches old movies, she drinks, she takes her pills and she observes.

It's when a child's life and safety may be at stake that the ante is upped, and she needs for her observations to believed. But can they, given her solitary state, her addictions, and her, well plain weirdness?

I enjoyed this page turner. I liked Anna - even though I did guess most of her story, and I loved the neighbours and finding out more about them.

I am a little tired of the "should we believe her, because she's unreliable?" theme, although its use here is less trite than some others I've read.

All in all, a good psychological thriller, that will keep you entertained and figuring out the truth.

ISBN: 9780062799555

3.5 stars

You may also enjoy Snap by Belinda Bauer, Watch Me by Jody Gerhman, or The Wife between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Ten of the Best #136

Well, good morning people. I've had a great week - you?

But the weekend is about to get even better - here are all the things on my social media feeds that interested, entertained and made me think this week. Hope you find something you like. If not, keep scrolling, If you do, don't forget to come back for more.

The pic of the week is the one above - we can't stop laughing.

Trevor's not that funny in this clip. But he does show us the amazing insight comedians have into human nature - in this case the dark side. Trump and victimhood. Spot on Trevor.

Trump mocks Christine Blasey Ford, and .... karma's a bitch.

Meanwhile, Melania, oh Melania...

Friday, 5 October 2018

Friday Books - The Killing Lessons

Welcome to BookBeginnings and Friday56 -where we share books on Fridays. It's a great way to start the weekend.

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader.

 Here's the beginning of the book I'm featuring today.

The instant Rowena Cooper stepped out of her warm cookie-scented kitchen and saw the two men standing in her back hallway, snow melting from the rims of their boots, she knew exactly what this was: her own fault.

I loved that opening - it drew me right in, even though I'm sure it's not her fault. This page-turner of note has me up late at night, willing my eyes to stay open for one more chapter. The link on the cover will take you to the goodreads blurb.

At Freda's Voice, you'll find the Friday56, where the excerpt comes from page 56 or 56% in your Kindle.

Here's an excerpt from page 56 of The Killing Lessons by Saul Black.

Six days had passed. He'd brought no books to read. Reading had gone the way of writing. Reading and writing were proof that you were still interested in the world, still intrigued, still bothered.

The quote is actually on p57, but I loved it so thought I'd cheat - a little. I'm also enjoying the writing - it's not often you want to quote from crime thrillers, but there you are.

What are you reading this weekend? I'd love to visit your blog and check it out.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Self-HelpLESS by Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Davis lives in Cape Town - land of drought and money and 'undisputed epicentre of "alternative" paths to peace and enlightenment in South Africa'. She has recently given up booze, and is on a search for life's true meaning. She's not at all sure she'll find it, but reckons either way, it'll  make for a good story.

And it does.

Rebecca is clever, witty and has a way with words. A search for the meaning of life would have been entertaining with just these qualities. However, she is also brave (she dives right into things that'll make your hair stand on end or your toes curl, depending on your preferences) and she's also been through a lot. 

The honesty with which she talks about her alcohol addiction, her relationships, and her interactions with the world of sweat lodges, excessive exercise, psychedelic drugs, hallucinations and what life really means is what makes this book. It's alive with experience and Rebecca pokes fun at most things and people, including herself. It takes a special talent to see the funny side of life, and she has it. 

You'll read it over a few cups of tea in a day or so, and feel better for having done so.

4 stars


Tuesday, 2 October 2018

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

American Wife is loosely based on the life of Laura Bush, wife of George W. It isn't meant to be even remotely biographical. Alice Lindgren grows up in Wisconsin and never expected to be in the White House. A shy introvert, who loves her job as a librarian, she is passionate about getting young children interested in reading. She is involved in a serious car accident at age 17 and this defines parts of her, but it is when she meets Charlie Blackwell, the charismatic young man who everyone wants to be their new best friend, that the trajectory of who she is changes forever. 

All of the above is true of Laura Bush too (except she was born in Midland, Texas). Yet, Curtis Sittenfeld takes these interesting facts and imagines the heck out of them. She builds worlds of thoughts and dreams around each one, and a beautiful picture emerges of a wife, inevitably disappointed by life, but determined to forge a path that still works for her.

I'm not American, but a lot of what I read and watch originates there. This was different and refreshing - not because of some of the imagined (sexual) content that critics cannot condone in a President's wife - but because in our polarised, yes/no, black/white, in/out world, it is strangely beautiful to read many shades of grey. I loved understanding what it must have been like for a wife to hold different political views from a husband - even when he is the President, and the exploration of the many differences between these two individuals (extrovert/introvert, as well as their views on most things) and the working out of their relationship despite this.

A little lengthy - I found the beginning far easier to read than the end, which I rushed a bit.

4 stars.


Monday, 1 October 2018

Liar, Liar by Lisa Jackson

Didi Storm is going to jump from that San Francisco building, or is she? And would you know it, her daughter Remmi is walking past the actual scene as she's about to.

Coincidence? Well not if they lived in the same house, or even the same city. But they don't, they're 20 years estranged, since ex-beauty queen/club dancer Didi left Remmi in the care of a babysitter, and drove off into the sunset, following a bizarre incident when Remmi witnessed Didi meeting a man in the Nevada desert, and handing over one of her twins for cash.

Detective Dani Settler also finds things a bit too coincidental, a tell-all book on Didi's life has just been published, and nothing will help sales like a body slammed into concrete. Well, whaddaya know, Didi didn't leap - it was someone dressed like Didi, down to the signature fingernail. 

Has anyone noticed the pattern with the names yet? 

Except it's only the girl's names. Boys, we get Noah, Brett, Oliver and so on. And there are other girls who fare better.

So far, it's an unlikely plot - too many weird coincidences, flat dully-named characters - apart from the investigators and one or two others, we don't find out what many of them do with their lives, and a fair degree of cheesiness when it comes to names and catchy songs that are hummed. But this isn't even the most annoying part. It's the writing. A phrase just repeats, every paragraph or so, and then the scene changes, and a new loop of phrase is born. It's not like I can quote a paragraph, you wouldn't get it -  it's just the phrase repeats, sometimes slightly different, but the words and meaning is identical. And the effect is cumulative, so the repeating phrase lodges somewhere in your brain, and the last time the phrase repeats, you want to throw something (the book perhaps). And definitely this review. Because maybe there are some people who need reminders from authors, and perhaps repetition can serve a purpose in writing, but too much of a repeating phrase is not a good thing. See.

So, if you're into earworms, throwing books and kindles around and cheese, then read this book. Else, give it a skip. It's not worth your time. 

Why did I finish it? I couldn't say for sure. I blame my mother, who chased me around the house with cauliflower once, because I didn't clean my plate.

Almost as bad as The President is Missing.

ISBN: 9781617734670

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Ten of the Best #135

Well hello there. It's the fantabulous weekend.

Time to catch up on all we missed - and it was quite a week. All the Presidents at the UN, the testimony of Ford about Kavanaugh's behaviour, and some rants, followed by some great music.

Hope you find something you missed, or wanted to come back to. You know what to do - click on the pics for the stories, and come back for the rest, keep scrolling if you've seen it all before.

The United Nations laughs at Trump - here's the moment. And he was late. In NYC - if anyone should know how long the traffic takes, it's him. Unacceptable.

And then my favourite Prime Minister - Jacinda Ardern from New Zealand (here's why she's so awesome) explains to Steven Colbert why the UN laughed at Trump.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

When you're having a bit of a binge on mystery/ thriller books, it doesn't really matter, right? The plot can be iffy, the characters not so great, there can be lots of suspension of belief, and as long as there is figuring out to do, you'll keep reading until the end.


And in this case, more so because B.A. Paris's previous novels - Behind Closed Doors and The Breakdown were actually quite good.

In this one, Finn and Layla, madly in love, holiday in France and stop at a restroom/gas station. Layla disappears and is not seen for years. It's 12 years on, when Finn is planning to remarry, and the little Russian dolls start arriving. Which is a Layla trademark, and definitely a message, and some sort of ominous warning.

I can't work out whether it was the characters - I'm usually quite forgiving, and like most characters - even the villains, or the plot, but this was just too much for me to swallow. Finn was so stupid at times, Ellen, just pathetic, and the hurried reveal-all ending felt too contrived and rushed and unreal.

It's like an all-day hike. That first niggle - hmm, not sure about that, coincides with the first time you need to stop and take a breath; the second - you pause for longer, and wonder - is this up to standard? by the time you've been climbing a while, you feel like you could take a break the rest of the day and it wouldn't be enough. I so nearly gave up. But the pace of the book was good, and I'm just sorry that there wasn't a view at the end that made up for persevering through all the questions.


2 stars

ISBN: 9780008244873

More books.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

You know when a book is so eagerly awaited in your household that, on the day, on the way back from the local bookstore, when your husband sends you a text message "Did you know the new Karin Slaughter is out?" and you send one back "Yes I do, because I've already bought it", it's a Very Good Day. Seriously, because I'd forgotten it was coming out, and when I saw it, I didn't hesitate. It was done.

And boy am I glad. Slaughter gets better and better.

This one's about a mother and daughter - Laura and Andy. You know when you think you know everything about your mother, but you haven't even scratched the surface. And you know your daughter's clever and brave, but you don't want her to have even more opportunity to prove it; and then you find yourself giving her all sorts of tips and tricks to assist with survival. Yes, survival.

It starts with violence in a mall. Normal, everyday violence, if you know what I mean, until Andy thinks a little harder about it, and realises that her mom may have a little baggage from somewhere. This quickly escalates into both being questioned by police, followed, and running for their lives. And in order to know where to run, all sorts of truths must be confronted. The history is also intense - life was so different a generation ago, for women in particular.

Karin Slaughter is one of my very favourite authors, and she has outdone herself in this one. We adore Will Trent and Sara Linton, and we can't wait another year to get that next instalment, but then we read this, and Cop Town and The Good Daughter and Pretty Girls, and we discover that actually, we really can wait, after all. And we really couldn't, before.

I loved the pace, the tension, the characters, the plot, the drama, the everything.

5 Scintillating stars.


Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Broken Ground by Val McDermid

"The slap of spades in dense peat was an unmistakable sound. They slipped in and out of rhythm:overlapping, separating, cascading, then coming together again, much like the men's heavy breathing."

A body? Almost definitely, I thought. But it's not. And if I gave you a thousand guesses, I doubt you'd guess what they're burying in peat (unless you've read the book).

Back at the office, DCI Karen Pirie has a new boss. You'd think, since she's a woman, life would be better for Karen, but no - the DCI and DC Jason "The Mint" Murray have DS Gerry McCartney foisted upon them, ostensibly to spy and report to Ann Markie (Dog Biscuit). Their Historic Case Unit investigates cases younger than 70 years, but "cold" in terms of evidence. Meanwhile, Karen's friend, River, a forensic anthropologist gets the peat mystery.

Karen and Jason must navigate the bad politics, blurry lines drawn between cases, while they cannot escape the feeling that one bad move will have them blown up and out of jobs.

Val McDermid weaves an imaginative plot, including Highland games, a real highlander, and ties to spy-training units in WWII.

I thoroughly enjoyed the pace, the tension, the detail and the resolution, even though it did come a little suddenly.

4 stars

ISBN: 9781408709351

You may also enjoy The Punishment She Deserves by Elizabeth George, or Snap, by Belinda Bauer.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Ten of the Best #134

Hey people - it's Saturday. Time for the Ten, or eleven or twelve best clips and articles from my social media feeds this week. Have fun.

This interpretative dance clip won for me this week. David Armand must have rehearsed so hard. I'm surprised they didn't interrupt him with a guess ten seconds into the song, but very glad they didn't. I can't stop watching it. There are more similar clips on Youtube, BTW. I know what I'm doing later.

A little history and backstory behind the Booker prize decisions over the years fascinated me - click the comment by the judges for the story from The Guardian. 

And in the BBC short story competition - judged blind - guess what happened?

Friday, 21 September 2018

Friday Books - Broken Ground

Welcome to BookBeginnings and Friday56 -where we share books on Fridays. It's a great way to start the weekend.

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader.

 Here's the beginning of the book I'm featuring today.

The slap of spades in dense peat was an unmistakable sound. They slipped in and out of rhythm:overlapping, separating, cascading, then coming together again, much like the men's heavy breathing.

So what do you think the men are doing? My first thought was digging a grave. But they're not, although this book has at least one body in peat. It's Val McDermid's latest, featuring Karen Pirie, and so far, it's great.

At Freda's Voice, you'll find the Friday56, where the excerpt comes from page 56 or 56% in your Kindle.

Here's an excerpt from page 56 of Broken Ground by Val McDermid.

She cut the music and rang the number of her best friend. She thought it was going to shunt straight through to voicemail, but at the last second, Karen Pirie's voice filled the car. "Hey River, how's tricks?" It sounded like they were doing the same thing, driving on a fast road at speed.

How often does that happen? River is listening to Amy Winehouse belt out Valerie, and Karen has Chris Rea, Road to Hell playing. Both are driving on the motorway, not far from one another, as it happens.

What are you reading this weekend? I'd love to visit your blog and check it out.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

It's a brave move when an award-winning author changes direction in the writing of her novels. We're quite a fussy bunch, that way - not too much the same - it becomes formulaic, and not too different - you will lose your audience. You can imagine the discussions with the publishers.

And that's exactly why Sharon Bolton changed publishers to write this one. She grew up in Lancashire, was raised on the legend of the Pendle witch trials. (Sheds some light on how she's able to make all her novels so dark and twisty.) According to the  Pendle Witch website (that's a few hours of your morning gone now!)  [the witches] were executed at Lancaster on the 20th of August, 16I2, for having bewitched to death 'by devilish practices and hellish means' no fewer than sixteen inhabitants of the Forest of Pendle.

But what else is this about? Well, Florence Lovelady, in 1999, together with 15 year old Ben, her son, returns to Sabden for the funeral of Larry Glassbrook, a man she helped convict 30 years ago, when she was a young detective and he confessed to burying children alive - he was the undertaker after all - together with clay effigies. Told in both Florence's revisiting of the places she detected in the 1960s, and her memories (sometimes dual timelines annoy - but here they flow together like tributaries of a river), we meet the local DC Tom Devins, the sexton, Dwane, Larry's wife and children, and Avril and Daphne, who run the local coven.

Evidenced by an average rating of 4.23 stars on Goodreads, and countless reviews saying 'I don't read witchy stuff, but I'd read anything Sharon Bolton writes', this is already a resounding success. I agree. It's creepy and menacing, the stakes are stupendous, and added to the voices of the ghosts that cry out for justice from the graves, is the young Florence (Flossie) in a tough world where women's voices are never heard, trying to do a great job despite the prejudice and sexism rife in the force.

In a word, this is brave.

It worked for me. If you 'don't read witches', you may want to start with this one. She doesn't write witches either, but hell, she can.

ISBN: 9781409174110

You may also enjoy Sharon's first novel, Sacrifice, or Dead Scared, or what about Little Black Lies, Daisy in Chains, or Dead Woman Walking?

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

The Burning Chambers by Kate Moss

The Burning Chambers opens in Carcassonne in 1562, after a prologue entices us - set in a graveyard under the fierce Cape sun in Franschhoek.

Minou Joubert is 19, running her father's bookshop, and taking care of her younger brother and sister. It's a lot of responsibility, and she takes it all in her stride. The protestants are fighting with the catholics, and there are soldiers on every corner, curfews and locking of city gates at night and raids during the day.

In the shadows and the pubs, men gather and discuss plots and subterfuge, and Minou receives a note - SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE, which means nothing to her. She also meets a huguenot - Piet Raydon, who needs her help.

The action moves to Toulouse, at the children's aunt's home, where the conflict and the bloodshed continues. As does the mystery of who SHE is, which involves family history, secrets kept for generations and a great degree of intrigue.

It's as beautiful as its pretty cover, steeped in fascinating history of the religious wars in France, and the first in a new series, which may just bring us to Franschhoek, South Africa. I can't wait.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

ISBN: 9781250202161

4 stars

You may also enjoy Kate Quinn's The Alice Network, or Mistress of Rome.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The Only Story by Julian Barnes

I'm always enticed (and more than a little intimidated) by the Julian Barnes books I see in the bookshop. They do look very literary, but also like the man knows what he is writing about. An authority on every topic and also the way to write about it.

And maybe I'm also a bit scarred - the look of Barnes's books reminds me of Ian MacEwan, the last one of which I read (Nutshell) didn't appeal. The Children Act was beautiful.

Now that I've finished my first Barnes (lent to me by a friend- I never did overcome that intimidation), I can say with assurance, that I was right to judge this one by its cover.

A love story. Paul meets Susan in the 1960s at a tennis club, where they are thrown together in a doubles tournament. He is 19, she close to 50. They fall in love, and this is a poignant look back at their story.

“Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less, and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question.”

“Perhaps love could never be captured in a definition; it could only ever be captured in a story.”

“Strange how, when you are young, you owe no duty to the future; but when you are old, you owe a duty to the past. To the one thing you can’t change.”

It's beautiful. The author makes wonderful use of the first, second and third person narrative throughout the rendering - which would make for a good case study in a writing course.

I will be frequenting the library and my bookshop until I've read some more Julian Barnes books - nothing to fear here except the intimidation of excellent and inspirational writing.

4 stars

ISBN: 9781787330696