Monthly Archives: December 2013

Review of Into the Killer Sphere by Stefania Mattana

Into the Killer Sphere (Chase Williams detective stories #1)Into the Killer Sphere by Stefania Mattana
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Chase Williams, is a detective who worked at Scotland Yard, until continuing mishaps forced him to give up his career. He now works in Ernesto Ceccarelli’s cashmere company in Tursenia, Italy. He has a few welcome days off and plans a nice quiet vacation, but instead gets a call from his friend Angelo Alunni, an Inspector in the Tursenian police force. Angelo asks for Chase’s help in solving a rather unusual case. The two men arrive at a villa owned by the wealthy Galli family. They are shown upstairs to a room where the body of Piero Galli lies under a large chandelier that has fallen from the ceiling and killed him. Was it an unfortunate accident or something more sinister? Chase’s formidable detection skills are put to the test as many of the family members could have committed the crime, but he soon discovers the guilty party.

I struggled to connect with the characters, I felt that the character of Chase was weak and calling Angelo ‘mate’ was irritating. It is not a term I think a person in Chase’s position would call his friend; it’s more a term you would expect from a couple of friends meeting down the pub!

It is a great skill if you can build several books around a particular character and the author has discovered a character in Chase that will allow her to do so. I hope that Chase becomes the sort of person I can relate to in further books.

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Bailey the dog with an early Christmas prezzie

Christmas 2013
Hello everyone, I have pinched my mum’s blog to wish you all a Happy Christmas.

The weather has been so wet and windy here today, that I refused to go out, so my mum let me have one of my Christmas prezzies early. She didn’t want me to get bored. I love having presents, and I especially love balls, but this one just won’t fit in my mouth, no matter how wide I open it. Look at the state of me, I’m worn out chasing the ball round the house, trying to pick it up, so now I’m taking a little rest to get my breath back and then I will pick it up!

Once again – Happy Christmas, thank you for reading my mum’s blog and I’ll see you all in 2014.

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Guest Blog by Peter Maughan, Author of The Cuckoos of Batch Magna

I have recently read Peter’s book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope you do too. My review is available to read on this blog. I would like to thank Peter for his interesting contribution.
Cuckoos
Peter Maughan is an ex-actor, fringe theatre director and script writer, married and living in the Welsh Marches, the borderland between England and Wales, and the backdrop to the Batch Magna novels, set in a village cut off from whatever the rest of the world gets up to beyond the hills of its valley.
All the books in the series feature houseboats, converted paddle steamers on Batch Magna’s river the Cluny, and the author lived on a houseboat in the mid-1970s (the time frame for the novels) on a converted Thames sailing barge among a small colony of houseboats on the Medway, deep in rural Kent.
An idyllic time, heedless days of freedom in that other world of the river which inspired the novels, set in a place called Batch Magna.

Taken from the first chapter of the first book in the series, The Cuckoos of Batch Magna, a scene in which Phineas Cook, out for an early morning walk with his dog, Bill Sikes, looks down on the valley he’s made his home as if seeing it for the first time – or, considering what follows, for the last.

He stood looking down at the scene, as if coming on it for the first time. A field of buttercups seemed to slide, glistening, off the side of a hill, as if melting under the sweep of the sun, and among the trees above them the pale fire of rhododendrons. The meadow grasses falling away below him glinting here and there under frail webs of dew and mist, catching the light like things hidden. And the river, smoking in the sudden warmth, with the houseboats, the four paddle steamers that had once plied the home waters and a Victorian Thames, now tied permanently to the land, held there on their ropes, and the island called Snails Eye sitting at the heart of the river, where it bulged on a meander like a lake.
The small black and white farms of the valley among orchards, and the houses and half-timbered cottages of Batch Magna, a Marcher village, the cross of St George of England, flown from the Steamer Inn, a riposte to the red dragon of Wales above the door of the Pughs’ post office and shop. The cricket field and pavilion behind the churchyard, and the great, immemorial yew, the centuries in its vast girth corseted with rusting iron bands, shading a church which bore in its nave the marks of Norman chisels, and among its gravestones a sundial which told the time in Jerusalem.
And the tall, star-shaped chimneys and gabled black and white timbers of Batch Hall, home to the Strange family for over four hundred years, set with Elizabethan ornateness in what was left of its park, its lawns, under horse chestnuts heavy with bloom, running down to the Cluny. And the castle, a fortress once against border incursions and the forces of Cromwell, open now to Welsh rain and rabbits, the archers’ loopholes in the ruined towers blinded with creeper, its red sandstone turning to coral in the sun.
The forgotten country, this part of the Marches had been called. A country largely ignored by the rest of the world, apart from a trickle of tourists on their way to somewhere else, and the odd company rep who had taken the wrong turning, in a place with need for few road signs. A valley lost among its ancient wooded hillsides and winding high-banked lanes, on a road to nowhere in particular.
Phineas had arrived there by accident, after taking a wrong turning himself, when on a road to nowhere in particular. Falling into the valley, as he came to see it, like Alice, and five years later was still there.
He thought occasionally, in a vague sort of way, about moving on, getting back to what he vaguely thought of as the real world. But there never seemed to be any particular hurry to do so.
And that of course was the trouble with the river, as he’d had occasion to point out before, to himself and to others, sparing no one. Whether boating up and down it, or simply sitting on it, there never seemed to be any particular hurry to do anything.
Well, now he had the feeling that all that was about to change. That now, with the General no longer at the wheel, they stood exposed to more unsettled weather. That the real world, which had always been over there somewhere, beyond the blue hills, was perhaps about to come to them.
He whistled for Sikes, busy putting up a few panicking pheasants and the smell of wild garlic as he blundered through the undergrowth after the scent of fox or badger.
They had walked this wood together in all the seasons. In autumn, when it ran like a damp fire through the trees, and in weather that had shrivelled Sikes’s testicles as he padded warily through undergrowth crackling with ice or got himself buried in snowdrifts along the rides. The winter bareness like a ruin now in early summer, patched with new growth, letting in the sun and with the sound of birdsong up under its roof.
The sunlight lay among the drifts of bluebells and red campion, and reached with long slender fingers deep into the wood, where the new grass and ferns were tender in the shade between trees. And above him, high in the green and golden heart of an oak, a blackcap opened in sudden song. The sweet, poignantly brief notes flung, carelessly, on the morning air like a handful of bright coin.

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Review of Painter of the Heavens by Bart Stewart

Painter of the HeavensPainter of the Heavens by Bart Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Recently divorced Penny Sturdevant, unhappy with her life, has returned from a trip, and not ready to return home just yet, finds herself driving aimlessly around the countryside, eventually stumbling upon a bookshop tucked away in the back of beyond. She meets the man she believes is the owner – the enigmatic poet, Lyle Chilton. There is an instant attraction.

Their relationship begins in secret, as Lyle insists on complete secrecy; he will explain why when the time is right, he tells her. Penny finds him an odd character, sometimes soft and loving, other times cruel and demanding, but she cannot resist him and finds herself returning again and again to his shop and the flat he lives in beneath the property. The secrecy of their affair is exciting and pushes all her doubts aside. The story is told from Penny’s point of view and builds slowly. Some books you read start slowly, never seem to go anywhere, and eventually become boring, but in this book, you find yourself trying to anticipate what comes next.

I found the book intriguing because I could never guess where the story was going. There was something about the character of Lyle Chilton that made me uneasy, who was he really? Was something awful going to happen to Penny? Then suddenly we find out what Lyle’s shocking secret is and why he had to hide it from her. The story then takes us on a totally different journey. One you just couldn’t have guessed at. I just wanted to keep reading.

I would have given this book 5* except for the poetry. This is just a personal comment, and I feel sure other readers will enjoy it, but I found myself skipping those parts. I understand why it was included, Lyle was a poet and Penny was entranced by his use of words, but for me I felt it interrupted the story.

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RapunzelRapunzel by Molly Greene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two old college friends, Genevieve Delacourt, a Lawyer turned Private Investigator, and Cambria Butler, a would-be investigative journalist, meet up unexpectedly one day to find themselves living in the same apartment block. They are so pleased to met up again, but Bree is in a rush to interview a chemical engineer called Andrew Ducane who works for a company called Elergene Enterprises, so the two women agree to arrange a catch up very soon.

Bree arrives at Elergene Enterprises only to discover a body! She is in shock and is accused of committing the crime by Taylor Vonnegon, the CEO, who calls the police. Bree is taken to the police station and questioned by Detectives Garcia and Hackett. The first person Bree thinks of to help her is Gen, she calls her and the two women find themselves meeting up again much sooner than expected.

The story continues rapidly, with many twists and turns. Has the victim died of natural causes or is it as the two women suspect, a murder, and if so who has committed it? What is Vonnegon’s part in all this? Bree can’t make her mind up how she feels about him. The two women decide to take matters into their own hands and do some investigating for themselves. When the detectives realise that they can’t keep Bree and Gen out of the investigation, they join forces. Bree finds herself in mortal danger, but won’t listen to the detectives who try to keep her safe. This crime has rekindled her investigative journalism as she realises it could turn into a brilliant story. I don’t want to give the plot away, but suffice to say it is a very good story, well written and keeps you engrossed from beginning to end.

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December 16, 2013 · 10:20 am

The Friday Quote

Bailey for blogThe Friday Quotes this week are taken from The Little Book of Calm at Work by Paul Wilson. Although they are work related, these quotes can also be part of everyday life.

Quote 1: Search In Your Spare Time – Instead of searching for distraction or stimulation, use your spare time to search for ways of becoming calm.

Quote 2: Appreciate Silence – If you consider that silence is not so much an absence of sound as a presence of peace, you will soon learn to appreciate this beautiful state.

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Review of The Cuckoos of Batch Magna by Peter Maughan

The Cuckoos of Batch MagnaThe Cuckoos of Batch Magna by Peter Maughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a charming character-led book this is. The writer has truly caught the essence of a small village which time has somehow passed by. Batch Magna, tucked away in a lush valley on the Welsh/English border is home to a closely-knit community and a group of tenants living on old paddle boats on the river. The old squire of Batch Hall has passed away and rumours begin to spread about the new squire, who will it be? Then letters begin to arrive announcing changes to the hall and the paddle steamers. Gossip is rife; the paddleboat tenants declare war on the new squire and eagerly plan his demise.

The new squire, Sir Humphrey Franklin T Strange arrives in the village intent on explaining to everyone the changes that must be made, in order to turn the crumbling Batch Hall once again to its former glory, but he finds any excuse, usually in the form of food or drink, not to confront everyone.

The writer’s descriptive skills are excellent, with both the people and the landscape. It is so easy to immerse yourself in the lives of all the characters and picture yourself standing, looking at the views across the valley that the characters themselves see.

This is an entertaining story, with many twists and turns, which makes guessing the ending all the harder. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

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Review of The Property of a Gentleman by Catherine Gaskin

The Property of a GentlemanThe Property of a Gentleman by Catherine Gaskin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Catherine Gaskin first published this book in hardback in 1974 and now it is available for the first time as an ebook.

With a magnificent but gloomy ancestral home in need of repair; an elderly retainer by the name of Tolson, set in wild moor land on the edge of a national park in Cumbria; mix them together with a bit of mystery, intrigue and romance, and what do you get? The makings of a brilliant story.

The story centres around Thirlbeck, home of the Earls of Askew. The 18th Earl, Robert Birkett, has reluctantly returned, needing money and has asked his old school friend, Gerald, to visit with the purpose of valuing and selling off the art and antiquities. Gerald has worked for Hardy’s, a large auction house in London for many years and mentors a young woman called Joanne. She accompanies him to Thirlbeck, acting as his assistant and driver. Her life is more interwoven with Thirlbeck than she ever imagined. The house and farmland now need vast amounts of investment to restore the estate to its former glory.

The characters are wonderful, especially Tolson, a strange man, just the sort of character you would expect to find in an old house such as this. Tolson has cared for the house for many years in the absence of the Earl and in many ways looks upon it as his home, with his own relatives employed on the estate.

This book, although of its time, is so well written. The descriptions of the characters, the house and the surrounding countryside are quite evocative. Gaskin describes everything in great detail, but that doesn’t prevent the reader from using their imagination. I particularly like the pack of family pet dogs, interwoven in the story, who became almost mystical in their behavour. The story builds slowly and inexorably, with many twists and turns.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading other Catherine Gaskin ebooks.

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