Wednesday 30 August 2017

House of Eliott by Jean Marsh

Two sisters, Beatrice and Evangeline. Dad dies, and they are left destitute. They also realize that  father dearest wasn't all he made out he was. His fortune had been philandered, and they are the worse off for it. Not to mention a predatory cousin who wants to claim his right to be their guardian, and marry one of them, and a revolting aunt, who is no help whatsoever, and flitters and flounces in and out of their lives, making things generally worse.

Beatrice, the elder, knows they need jobs. Evangeline just wants to dance - and she possibly could. Until she lands in some hot water and can’t anymore.

But fortunately these sisters have a sense of style that is soon noticed by all. By Beatrice's employer and his clients, and then the rest of high society. The girls quickly apply their fashion sense and dressmaking expertise, together with a sense of the outrageous, yet flattering, and stylish, but not overdone to revolutionise the fashion industry with their genius.

Do I sound a tad cynical? Well yes, this is an unlikely tale, based on a TV series, that went on to tell more about this fashion house. But if you can suspend your disbelief, it’s fun. Jean Marsh tells a good and happy story, filled with flighty, yet intelligent women, who are able to plot careers, and create gainful employment. It’s a fun and pleasurable afternoon, and they do all live happily ever after, with a few about-turns and near misses on the way.

It’s not bad - the writing flows, and it’s a diverting, if not wildly interesting read.

3 stars


You may also enjoy Kit by Marina Fiorato or Georgette Heyer’s Powder and Patch

More Books


Tuesday 29 August 2017

Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

Here and Gone starts with a mother, driving her two young children far from home. They’ve been on the road for a while, and you can sense her desperation, their worry, a quiet sense of panic in the car. Then she must stop for refreshments, and after she has, someone is following her. It’s a cop. Is he going to pull her over? Yes? No? Maybe he will, and maybe it’ll be ok? Maybe he will, and maybe it won’t be ok? It’s the sheriff and he does. And even though you can read more in the blurb, I’m not telling, because you need to discover for yourself.

Stories about mothers trying to escape, in fraught circumstances with their children always ensnare me. This one is no different, yet completely different. The tension you feel from my opening paragraph is the first few pages. Then it gets worse. And then some more injustice and accusations are added to the pot. And when you think you can’t breathe anymore, and you’re wondering if you can dare to keep reading, and also wondering if you dare stop, there is a tiny glimmer of hope.

Haylen Beck is the pen name of Stuart Neville, and he’s renowned. In Here and Gone, he tells the story of Audra, Sean and Louise with a style that is fast paced, yet empathetic; true to life - some broken people trying to make the world little better, and a mother prepared to fight to the death for the future of her children.

Don’t read anything about this book - not even the blurb. Just go and get a copy, clear your diary, and wallow. Maybe have the kettle boiled - you may need to distract yourself with a brew in those “I can’t anymore” moments.

A tense, twisty, completely enthralling thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.

5 stars

ISBN: 9781911215592

You may also enjoy The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer or Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton.

Monday 28 August 2017

Sing Your Song

Good morning everybody.

Time to shine. Get up, and onto that exercise track. It's Monday. No better day to start, now is the  time, no more excuses.

Look at that sunrise - get your shoes on, you want to see it from the road, glinting through the trees - black branches so starkly in focus, with the golden background, the beauty hurts your eyes - the colours in the sky, the shape of the trees and the light streaming through them. 

Sometimes when we start running on a Monday, I feel like we're joining in a song that's already been playing, painting our part of picture already sketched, journeying a road many have pounded down - some only minutes before. The universe is welcoming us  to be a part of its - and our unfolding story. There's a familiarity that calms me, and I know my part, when it comes. It's better joining in than starting all alone.

So here's our song for today. It's a favourite. Symphony - Clean Bandit

And now your song is on repeat
And I’m dancin' on to your heartbeat
And when you’re gone, I feel incomplete
So, if you want the truth...

I just wanna be part of your symphony
Will you hold me tight and not let go?
Like a love song on the radio
Will you hold me tight and not let go?

Enjoy your workout today, and have a great week.

Last week's motivation - Tame the Crazy

Saturday 26 August 2017

Ten of the Best #101

Yes, I know I said I'd never again.

But - and there are a few:

1.  You guys make this such fun. There's such amazing stuff on your timelines, and I can never read/watch it all in a busy workweek, and I do so want to.

2. You've asked, so nicely, that even if I don't do this every week, I do it every "now and again". Ok, ok, that's not what you've asked, but that's probably all I can promise for now.

3. What else is there to do early on a Saturday morning, when I'm awake, and no one else is up? (Except all of you looking for this post). I love the tweeting birds in my ears, the morning air on my skin, and my fingers tapping the keys as I search for the stuff. I could do without the earphones in my ears, but then I may be divorced, so we'll leave those in, for now.

So here we are, checking out the best of last week on social media. You know how it works - click the pic/video link, and use your back button to come back here for more.

It's been a week. There was (always is) Trump. But there was also Manyi, who became a media baron, when the Guptas gave him a Gifta - ANN24 and New Age newspapers. Here's Poplak, hilarious as usual. Click Zapiro.

The NYT said it so well - the test of Nazism that Trump Failed.

Friday 25 August 2017

Friday Books - The Music Shop

It cannot be Friday again, already. But it is and here we are.

Finding books on BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Readerand The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice

Both host sites for Friday link ups, where we discover more books, and make friends. Both involve sharing excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.

This week, I'm featuring

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Here's My Beginning..

Here's the blurb.
It's 1988. The CD has arrived. Sales of the shiny new disks are soaring on high streets in cities across the country. Meanwhile, down a dead-end street, Frank's music shop stands small and brightly lit, jam-packed with records of every kind. It attracts the lonely, the sleepless, the adrift. There is room for everyone. Frank has a gift for finding his customers the music they need.

Into this shop arrives Ilse Brauchmann - practical, brave, well-heeled. Frank falls for this curious woman who always dresses in green. But Ilse’s reasons for visiting the shop are not what they seem.

Frank's passion for Ilse seems as misguided as his determination to save vinyl. How can a man so in tune with other people's needs be so incapable of helping himself? And what will it take to show he loves her?

The Music Shop is a story about good, ordinary people who take on forces too big for them. It's about falling in love and how hard it can be. And it's about music - how it can bring us together when we are divided and save us when all seems lost.

My Page 56

This is my kind of book.

It's funny, quaint, and about old things. Even though I'm not a vinyl fan or collector, I love all things vintage, and this features those. What a treat it was as I tore through it in a single weekend. My review should be up soon.

What are you reading this weekend? 

Thursday 24 August 2017

Fitter Faster by Robert J Davis

I know, I know. Do we really need another book on fitness? Don't we know it all, yet? And isn't it about doing the stuff, not just knowing how to?

Yet this appealed.

You can easily see why the premise got me. I'm busy. I don't have time to exercise. Yet, because I'm busy, I need to. More than if I weren't, actually.

And the irony that when I get exceedingly busy, exercise is the one thing that goes. I don't have time, you see.

The first few chapters of this book explain why. Why cardio, why strength and resistance, why interval training and why a combination.

There's also a fair amount devoted to encouraging us and dealing with our flimsy excuses. But really, when you can get your exercise down to ten to twenty minutes a day, do it at home, with a minimum of equipment, most of those excuses pale into insignificance.

As I paged through the end of the book, where there is guidance on developing your weekly plan to get Fitter, Faster, I was enthusiastic about doing so. I did wonder if I would, though. I think that's the true test of how good a book like this is - its effect.

I'll have to come and update this blog if (when) I do follow the advice.

Since putting it down, however, my cardio has improved - I'm running nearly every day. So there is hope.

ISBN: 9780814437711

More book recommendations - click the pic.

All my 2017 reviews.

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Book Club Books #3 2017

I know, I know, I'm so creative with the titles of these posts. I spend months reading, sifting, and sorting, then hours writing reviews,  and then, when I have sufficiently trimmed down to my seven favourites, I post the cream of the crop, and the post is creatively titled "Book Club Books #3 2017".

But, it does reveal what this is in very few words.

It's all my favourite reads from the last few months, in one convenient place, so that you can come here when you visit your local bookstore shopping for book club/library for borrowing purposes. Or maybe they'll stay at the back of your mind for the next time you're in a a bargain book shop, or visiting a friend and raiding her book shelf.

What is certain is that you need to get yourself these books and read them. You won't be sorry. 

In this post, you'll get a taste for each of these  - I've done a short paragraph on what to expect from each. If you like the tasting, click the cover, you'll link to my review, and then you can decide.

Have fun - I love drafting these posts, and I hope you find something to read.

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

Two sisters - Alison and Kitty. A tragic accident years ago leaves Kitty disabled - in a wheelchair and unable to communicate  - and her best friend dead. Alison is fine on the surface. She's teaching art, struggling to make ends meet. Then she applies for a post at a prison - teaching prisoners art, and the strange calls start freaking her out. 

What really happened all those years ago? Does Kitty remember? Will she ever say? 

A well constructed plot, this  gripping psychological thriller will have you guessing until the very end.

I enjoyed the characters and their relationships - Kitty's life inside a care home was interesting and told with empathy and understanding. Alison was mildly annoying, but this was forgiven under the circumstances.

An enjoyable day and a bit was spent on this one.

4 stars


You may also enjoy Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin or Then She was Gone by Lisa Jewell.

More books...


Monday 21 August 2017

Tame the crazy

Good morning.

It's time to get out of bed and go for a run.

Thing about that, for me, is that I like to go on one of the routes I usually do, stop for coffee at one of the places I usually stop at, and chat to the friend I usually chat to.

Only she's away, and that may be my catalyst for a lazy lie in this morning...

I know I need to go regardless, but it's so much better when I run with a friend. I can see myself - I'll arrive, breathless before starting running, thoughts all over the place, a thousand things I should be doing, and all the stuff I need to get to storming my little brain like a thousand flies - directionless and frantic. Then I take a breath and start with one foot in front of the other. And step by pounding step, word by word, pant by pant, everything falls into place, order is restored and my world is a calmer place again.

When they say you should run only against yourself, for me that has more than one meaning. I'm not just running to be better at doing this - I run to fight the frantic, to tame the beast, to calm the rage and generally, be a better person.

It's a good thing I do.

Yes, yes we're getting to the song.

I'm singing an oldie - that is in keeping with my untamed mind today. It's Aha's Take on me. Who are you taking on today? Hope you win.

Last week - Scars.

Friday 18 August 2017

Friday Books - The House of Eliott

Hello again. It's time for...

BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Readerand The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice

Both host sites for Friday link ups, where we discover more books, and make friends. Both involve sharing excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.

This week, I'm featuring

The House of Eliott by Jean Marsh

Here's My Beginning..

Here's the blurb.
Two sisters fight to assert themselves after being plunged into devastating poverty following their father's death. Luckily, their natural flair for design soon finds them in demand as dressmakers.
Beatrice is the elder and apparently wiser of the two, who considers herself plain and unmarriageable and whose relationship with society photographer, Jack Maddox, is seared with conflict and doubt. Her younger sister is Evangeline, ravishingly beautiful, the victim of chancers, philanderers and rogues – but most of all the victim of her own desires.

Throughout all their private turmoils, their professional goal is constant: to establish a fashion house in London to rival any in Paris. Based on the massively successful television series created by Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins, this is the full story of Beatrice and Evangeline, and of the strength and triumph, bitterly made decisions and anguishes that accompanied the rise of the House of Eliott.

My Page 56

Apparently there was a TV series made about this. I seem to have missed both - the book in 1991 and the series a few years later.

Anyone read/seen it? Here's my review.

What are you reading this weekend? 

Thursday 17 August 2017

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher has lived an interesting life. The daughter of two famous celebrities, she seemed destined for greatness from the cradle. And then she became Princess Leia in Star Wars, defining the role for fans everywhere. Awarded that part when she was just nineteen, fame came with all the trappings - alcohol, drugs, and the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Carrie embraced it. She didn't know anything else. It for her included mental illness, and a number of addictions. Somewhat surprisingly, later on, trapped in the trappings, she fought  to get some semblance of "normal" back. These are her stories. Stories of shame and debauchery, of flying high and scraping the depths of the barrel.

Told with intelligence, wit and sharp insight, this little book packs a punch with its honesty and truthful self examination.

Carrie Fisher is delightful. She is quirky, unashamedly all herself, and the bonus of this audiobook is that she does the narration personally - she's good at that too.

My gripe is the way it hangs together. It sounds more like a collection of her stand up routines (which she did do, at one stage of her career), and therefore feels more like sitting down to a dinner party and reminiscing than reading a carefully crafted and slightly thought out book.

A joy, nevertheless.

3 stars

ISBN: 9781439102251

You may also enjoy Karma Deception and a pair of Red Ferraris by Elaine Taylor, You're never weird on the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day or Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson.

Click the covers for some more reviews.


Wednesday 16 August 2017

The Precious One by Marisa De Los Santos

"In all her life, Eustacia “Taisy” Cleary has given her heart to only three men: her first love, Ben Ransom; her twin brother, Marcus; and Wilson Cleary — professor, inventor, philanderer, self-made millionaire, brilliant man, breathtaking jerk: her father.

Seventeen years ago, Wilson ditched his first family for Caroline, a beautiful young sculptor. In all that time, Taisy’s family has seen Wilson, Caroline, and their daughter Willow only once. "

I tore through a paperback version of this, and for the time I was reading, it felt like I was on holiday. Firstly there it the very pretty cover. And to go with that - such a lovely story. That as you read, you realise is masking an undercurrent of pain so deep, and heartbreak so intense that you can't stop, and at times you feel like you can't go on.

Taisy - quirky, yet sad and nostalgic and Willow - innocent and apple of everyone's eye are the alternating voices here. This is a story of family - broken and healing, disparate yet joined by unseen bonds of love.

As the narrative unfolds, the remarkable thing is it's wonderful optimism, nevertheless. I'll be looking for more by Marisa De Los Santos.

A heartwarming escape.

5 stars

ISBN: 9780061670916

You may also enjoy Faithful by Alice Hoffman, or  Blue Shoe by Anne Lamott


Tuesday 15 August 2017

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

Charlotte and Samantha Quinn live in a cabin on the edge of Pikeville with their mother. Dad is a notorious defense attorney - hardly ever home, too busy standing up for truth and justice and no respecter of persons - he'll defend anyone.

Their domesticity, as it is, is shattered one evening by an invasion of the most horrific kind. Thugs at the door, with malicious intent. Both girls take off, eventually, on foot into the woods, the thugs in pursuit. There more horrors abound, and eventually, it's over.

28 years later, and it's still not. Charlie and Sam are still scarred. Charlie has followed in Rusty Quinn's footsteps, to some extent, and Sam and Rusty now need her back in Pikesville.

There Charlie and Sam must face their ghosts, their demons and some of the self same people who are still mocking them and calling them names, Seriously.

With a name like Slaughter, Karin lives up to it in the gore department.  The body count is not for sissies, and neither are the various methods of torture.

Fortunately, to go with that is an epic plot - all over 500 pages of it were as gripping and enthralling as those that had gone before - and characters that make you want to move to Pikeville.

Sam is the impulsive, get-on-with-life, who gives a damn younger sister, and Charlie is the older, wiser, face down everything with courage person. I loved them both. Them and their not so Atticus Finch father. And the essence of a good Karin Slaughter book is these perfectly captured imperfect people. They bounce off the page with their snarky comments.

It's not often that I give a Karin Slaughter book fewer than 5 stars, and this is no exception - its jam packed with all that makes these books thoroughly enjoyable and unputdownable. even without Will Trent.

5 stars

ISBN: 9780062430267

You may also enjoy Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter or Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton.

More Books

Monday 14 August 2017


Anyone relate to that today?

Yip, it's Monday, and time to get up and get moving.

Today I'm thinking about Scars. You know, the marks life leaves on you. Inside and outside, big and small. Ugly little reminders - of pain, heartache, weakness and failure.

In a nicer world, we tell ourselves that scars are a sign we made it, that grace was operational, that we are better than our scars. But they're still there, under our skin, ridged and raw, exposed and daring us to see them, and not to hate them. To embrace them as part of who we are.

Even though scars do fade when the angry dissipates - they (mostly) don't heal completely. Faded to pale pink or even white, we can touch them, feel them, remember all the horrid in a heartbeat.

So what to do? Well I'm thinking they're not going anywhere, so I'm going to love my scars today. Those reminders of pain that I'm no longer experiencing are also going to remind me that I'm stronger today and a better person because I'm dealing with the pain. I'm also going to see the scars in others and give them some space and mercy, instead of judgement and condescension. 

They're also reminders of our humanity - that we make mistakes, and that's ok, because it can also make us better at this being a human being thing. 

So run today, but not away from your pain, mistakes and humanity. Let it come with you. And as you go, the burden is lighter, Because we all have them, and I think they're beautiful.

Here's our song as we go....

But there's a hope that's waiting for you in the dark 
You should know you're beautiful just the way you are
And you don't have to change a thing
The world could change its heart
No scars to your beautiful, we're stars and we're beautiful
Oh, oh, oh
Oh-oh, oh, oh
And you don't have to change a thing
The world could change its heart
No scars to your beautiful, we're stars and we're beautiful

Last Monday Motivation - Wake me up!

Sunday 13 August 2017

I know a Secret by Tess Gerritsen

Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles in their 12th adventure. And I haven’t even watched a TV episode yet. I’ll get there when I don’t have anything else to read - hahaha.

Medical Examiner Maura Isles’ scary and somewhat deranged biological mother makes an early appearance from prison in this book. You know - a “she knows what’s going to happen, because maybe she did it kind of appearance. But wait, let’s back up. A body. Cause of death not obvious, but the victim is holding her eyeballs in her hand. Yuck. You don't read Detective Jane Rizzoli and ME Maura Isles without some gory corpses. It’s part of the deal. So Jane and Maura set to work, there MUST be a case of death, and there is, and so much more. It’s also part of the deal.

As is Father Daniel - bless him and his love for Maura. Only here he isn't just the love interest, he has a  valid role to play. Will Maura call him?

Maura and Jane (her daughter now three, family dysfunctional as ever) uncover it all. There is also a doppelgänger who is certainly involved as the murders stretch to another, and possibly another. Is the doppelgänger the murderer? Maybe.

These deaths are linked back to childhoods, the Apple Tree Nursery and secrets that need to be revealed. Or maybe not?

Typical Tess - the plot races, and the ride is exhilarating. I didn't even bother to guess, I was having too much fun, and it was over too quickly.

These ladies are back with a vengeance, and who cares if the TV series ends soon, when you’ve got the books to read, and re-read.

5 stars

ISBN:  9780593072462

You may also enjoy Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton or Lisa Jewell’s Then She Was Gone.