Did You See Melody? Sophie Hannah

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Did You See Melody
Author: Sophie Hannah
Paperback 327 pages
Publication Date: August 24th 2017
ISBN: 9781444776171
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Imprint: Hodder & Stoughton
Publishers Summary:
Pushed to breaking point, Cara Burrows abandons her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can't afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied - by a man and a teenage girl.
A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist - but Cara's fear intensifies when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can't possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.
Cara doesn't know what to trust: everything she's read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life?
Review
It was the tantalising blurb which attracted me to this book and I was looking forward to enjoying an interesting mystery. 

Cara is fed up with her husband and two teenagers, she is middle-aged and unexpectedly pregnant and wants to get away from them all, so she decides to fly off to spend a couple of weeks (and a small fortune) at a luxurious spa in Arizona.

The plot then evolves from a series of rather odd coincidences. First, she is sent to the wrong room which is already occupied by a man and a young girl.
Later, at the reception desk, she overhears a woman named Mrs. McNair loudly demanding that the police be called as she has seen a girl named Melody who was presumed murdered seven years earlier.

Cara is intrigued and decides to do a bit of sleuthing during which she comes across a photo of seven year old Melody. Despite the time lapse she is immediately convinced that the teenaged girl she saw in the room and the child in the photo really are the same girl.

She teams up with another guest, Tarin, who has her daughter Zellie with her.
Another major character makes an appearance, one Bonnie Juno who, on her TV show “Justice with Bonnie” featured the disappearance of the child Melody, Bonnies relentless trial by television seemed to convince everyone that  Melodys' parents killed her and they were imprisoned for her murder.

There is a huge amount of back story which I found interrupted the flow, however, we finally get to the end of this story via denouement after denouement.

For me, I am sorry to say it was all a bit too unbelievable to be a serious mystery. Yet though it was a little comedic in parts it was not enough to lift the story to an actual comedy.
Having said all that, I did love the character of Tarin and would love to see her starring in her very own cozy mystery!
Copy provided by Hachette Australia for an honest review



Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Sleeping in the Ground 
Author: Peter Robinson
Series: Inspector Banks Book 24
Publisher: Hachette Australia
July 12th 2017
ISBN: 9781444786927
Paperback 374 pages

Publishers Summary
'A shocking mass murder occurs at a wedding in a small Dales church and a huge manhunt follows. Eventually, the shooter is run to ground and things take their inevitable course.
But Banks is plagued with doubts as to exactly what happened outside the church that day, and why. Struggling with the death of his first serious girlfriend and the return of profiler Jenny Fuller into his life, Banks feels the need to dig deeper into the murders, and as he does so, he uncovers forensic and psychological puzzles that lead him to the past secrets that might just provide the answers he is looking for.
When the surprising truth becomes clear, it is almost too late.'

Review
What an opening chapter! 
Usually it takes me a few chapters of reading before I become fully immersed in a story, but those first twelve pages of “Sleeping In The Ground” are absolutely riveting.
There is the shocking incident of the shootings at the wedding, which is attended by Terry Gilchrist whose military experience returns in force as he hears the first shot, Terry is there with Winsome, who gets injured by the shooter.
Moving on to Banks, who, at the time, is attending  the funeral of his first love, he is deeply immersed in thoughts of times past, but eventually news of the terrible shootings reach him and he rushes to the scene of the horrifying crime. 

Then there is Ray, hippy artist father of  Banks’ sidekick, Annie Cabbot, Ray rocks up at her tiny cottage telling her he wants to move up from Cornwall, to find a place close to her. 
All this, just in the first few pages, and it beautifully sets up the whole story line.

At this point I should say that I am so happy to have read most of the Inspector Banks series, as I honestly don’t think a reader could fully appreciate the storyline if not familiar with these characters who have been involved with past story lines.

Moving on again to a bit later in the story; when the investigation of the shootings is underway, Jenny Fuller, the consulting crime psychologist returns from Australia and joins the team, she is a woman who featured in Banks’ life when he was still married. They had worked together and had become close, but the relationship ended before it had barely begun. 
At this point I’m thinking that Banks should wake up and smell the coffee, he is divorced now so why doesn’t he just get things moving with Jenny! I couldn’t wait to read on to see how that panned out! 
That’s what I mean by being thankful for having followed the series, as new readers might well miss out through lack of back story.

Moving on again to the main story; the shooting and “who dunnit", well, as usual, there is the evidence, and then there is Banks and his gut feel for the case. He picks up on and pontificates about the smallest of details, and, of course, puts many small details together to eventually solve the case.

An excellent story which, for me, is at times a tad too long winded when it comes to describing the police procedures, but nevertheless, it is a real page turner of a mystery.

However, Banks can be a little irritating with his aspirations of becoming a little more highbrow, his music, his attempts to learn more about poetry, somehow, to me, it all seems a little forced and not entirely in keeping with his natural character.
Still, that is just personal opinion, and it didn't stop me from loving the book, it is a wonderfully entertaining and satisfying story and I am so looking forward to reading the next episode in the life of Inspector Banks. It is definitely not yet time for him to retire!

Highly recommended.

Review copy provided by Hachette Australia

Friend Request: Laura Marshall

Monday, 14 August 2017

Friend Request
Author: Laura Marshall
Publisher: Hachette Australia
July 2017
ISBN: 9780751568332
Paperback: 371 pages
Publishers Summary
When Louise Williams receives a message from someone left long in the past she feels sick.
Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook.
Because Maria Weston has been missing for over twenty-five years. She was last seen the night of a school leavers' party, and the world believes her to be dead. Particularly Louise, who has lived her adult life knowing herself responsible for Maria's disappearance. But now Maria is back. Or is she?
As Maria's messages start to escalate, Louise forces herself to reconnect with the old friends she once tried so hard to impress, to try to piece together exactly what happened that fateful night. But when another friend's body turns up in the woods outside their old school, Louise realises she can't trust anyone and that she must confront her own awful secret to discover the whole truth of what happened to Maria . . .
Review
How chilling and spooky would that be? Receiving a friend request from someone whom you had thought to be long dead!
Well, Louise Williams was braver than me, I would have ignored it, but she didn’t, she responded, and right there begins an intriguing and very twisty tale.

Maria Weston transferred to Louise’s school in the senior year, there was a little bit of mystery attached to her but nobody knew exactly what. Louise hung out with the popular girls, she wasn’t quite one of them herself but tried hard to stay close. When she tried to include Maria, the popular girls would have none of it and so Louise, not wanting to upset them, excluded her too.

Then one night something terrible happened to Maria, she disappeared and was presumed to have drowned, Louise believed that because of something she had done on that night, she was to blame.

Now, years later, Louise is living alone with her small son when this bombshell drops, “Maria Weston wants to be friends”. At the same time an invitation to attend her High Schools 25th reunion arrives, is this a coincidence?

Louise wonders if she is the only one to have received this spooky friend request and sets out to contact her old school friends via Facebook. She is a little nervous as she hasn’t been in contact for years.

This truly is an insidiously creepy story, I thought the descriptions of the awful ways of teenaged schoolgirls to be very well written and probably quite emotive for some readers. 
Later in the book we meet one of the most Machiavellian of spine chilling characters, but you will have to read the book to discover who that might be -and it might no be who you think it is!
Then there is Louise herself, we know of course, that she has a secret, but there seems to be something more, an undercurrent of something a little sinister in her life. The author does reveal all, but in a slow, tantalising way which keeps the reader turning those pages.

A cracking debut novel from author Laura Marshall, and I very much look forward to reading her next book.
Highly recommended.
Review copy provided by Hachette Books Australia





Difficult Patient: Sue Currie

Author: Sue Currie
Publication Date: June 2017
Publisher: Affirm Press
Paperback
ISBN: 9781925584097
Genre: Memoir
Publishers Summary:
Imagine having a life-threatening illness only for doctors to think you’re faking it. Sue Currie suffers from a strain of porphyria so rare that she was only the 18th known case in the world. In 1991, the medicine she needed
had a guaranteed Fed Ex delivery date of four days from Europe. But hers took fifteen years, three months, and twenty-two days. Sue was admitted to hospital, in agony, hundreds of times, but when her disease was assessed as not serious enough to be causing that level of pain, she was labelled as mentally ill and manipulative, a drug addict shopping for painkillers. Though Sue, herself a nurse, knew her pain was real and how it could be treated, the ‘experts’ refused to believe her. She became a difficult patient, forced to stand alone against the entire state medical system. Eventually, after years of fighting and irreversible damage to her body and mind, she found the medical maverick who would save her life.
Difficult Patient is a powerful and timely account of falling through the cracks in the medical system, a compelling story of cover-ups, power plays and, ultimately, redemption.

Review
In this book Sue Currie relates the story of her fight not only against her illness, but against those who obstructed her from receiving the medication which would alleviate her symptoms.

At first, her pain could not be explained, nobody knew what was causing it and the only treatment that helped was ever increasing doses of opioid medication.
Eventually she was given a diagnosis, a treatment was available but only if the outcome criteria for certain laboratory tests were met. This is where Sue met yet another hurdle, her medical team chose to treat her according to the outcomes of a less efficient test. In a nutshell, this meant that she did not qualify for the very treatment that would help.

Sue realised that she must fight the system and she did eventually find another doctor who attempted to help, but this too resulted in a messy medical bureaucratic fight. She had already been labelled as a difficult patient and was unpopular with staff. 
Sue has written a very detailed account of her pain, her hospital admissions and of the humiliations she suffered, and I must say, it does make harrowing reading. Frequently a ray of hope appears only for it to be dashed away, again and again. 

Her family life suffered terribly from the effects of her illness, it changed her and made her unreliable and difficult to live with. Sue writes of those times with ruthless honesty, hiding nothing of herself from the reader. 
The most heart wrenching aspect is, that but for the apparent arrogance of one man, Sue may never have needed to write this book, and that is very sad indeed.
There will always be those who must fight the system in order to receive the care that they both need and deserve, I hope that Sue’s story will inspire them to keep on fighting.

Review copy provided by Affirm Press

Calaway Jones: Blair Howard. Harry Starke 10

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Calaway Jones: The Harry Starke Novels, Book 10
Written by: Blair Howard
Narrated by: Tom Lennon
Length: 6 hrs and 8 mins 
Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date:05-03-17
Publisher: Blair Howard
Publishers Summary:
"Stand absolutely still, Amanda," she read, "and you won't get hurt." Two seconds later a bullet from a sniper's rifle shattered the driver's side window of her Lexus SUV.
That's how it began, early on a Friday morning when Amanda, Harry's wife, found the note tucked under her windshield wiper. The incident was quickly followed by a series of events that would put his family and friends in deadly danger and test Harry to his limits.
©2017 Blair Howard (P)2017 Blair Howard
Review
Just when you think the “Harry” stories can’t get any better another great new read comes along.
Harry has never had a fight on his hands like this one, someone wants him dead, but that someone wants to play games.
Once again, all the team are pulling for Harry, but there isn’t much they can do to help him, Harry does everything he can to keep them out of the way because he knows what will happen to them if they interfere in this battle of wits.

The thing is, Harry thinks he knows who wants him dead but he doesn’t know who is trying to do the deed. This adds to the excitement, which, in this story, gets quite intense.
Brilliantly entertaining Five star story, Highly recommended.

Narrated by Tom Lennon, who yet again makes Harry and the team come alive. Each time I listen to a new Harry Starke book I am reminded yet again of how lucky we are that someone chose Tom to narrate this series.

Audiobook review copy provided by the narrator

Moon Gardening: John Harris 5 Stars

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Moon Gardening
Author: John Harris and Jim Rickard
Publication Date: 22nd September 2016
Publisher: John Blake Publishing Ltd
Imprint: Metro
ISBN-10 1784184152
ISBN:-13 978-1784184155
Publishers Summary:
“This is not your average gardening book. In it you will discover how to increase your crop yield and grow healthier plants and better tasting food, while reducing work in your garden and forking out less on fertiliser. This seemingly impossible win-win is achieved by planting and reaping in tune with the phases of the moon.
Lunar gardening has been around for as long as man has pulled food from the soil. It was practised by the Incas and the Native Americans, and is still followed by the Maoris and rural communities in Eastern Europe. Because it works. But with the mass adoption of fertilisers achieving quicker results for a need-it-now-generation, these techniques have been all but forgotten by the modern gardener. Until now.
Head gardener at Cornwalls famous Tresillian Estate, John Harris has researched, studied and put in to practice the principles of gardening by the phases of the moon for more than forty years. The results he's achieved are nothing short of astonishing. He has never watered his garden (even during the drought of 1976), he only grows organically and yet he's won numerous show awards and prizes for the size, abundance and taste of his produce. In Moon Gardening, he shows you how you can do the same by following a few simple principles.
Moon gardening is not some groundless fad. It's been followed for thousands of years with great success. Anyone who's met John Harris knows he is one of the most down-to-earth people you could wish to meet. This book, written in his own inimitable style, is packed full of tips that improve results, anecdotes that inspire and resources you can rely on. Its ultimate aim is to pass on Johns treasure trove of horticultural knowledge to future generations, so that we can all get more from our garden.”
Review
My first ever gardening book was written by TVs original celebrity gardener, the late Percy Thrower. I couldn’t say how many more I have read since then, but this book, Moon Gardening, definitely rates as the most interesting of them all.

John Harris begins with a few tales from his childhood in Cornwall and of how his gardening life began on the allotment of his uncle Jack Honey. He then goes on to describe his old style gardening apprenticeship at Polwhele under the tutelage of head gardener Noel Masters.

It was Mr. Masters who introduced John to all the old ways, including moon gardening.
An apprenticeship back then took five long years of hard work and John was the only boy to complete it. When he describes some of the old style gardening tasks he was obliged to do then you can understand why. You will have to read the book though to discover their method of growing greenhouse grapes, but believe me, it took a strong stomach!

John then went on to work at the Tresillian estate where he became head gardener, his first job was to restore the walled kitchen garden, it was completely derelict, and so was a huge undertaking, it took two years to clear the brambles and rubbish before the garden could finally be cultivated.

The rest of the book is just jam packed with information such as crop rotation systems, how to prepare fertilisers and apply them, how to make and use compost, digging techniques and so much more, including the Native American three sisters planting - a technique I use - and how moon planting helped the Maori of New Zealand.

I was thrilled to receive a copy of this book as a birthday gift from my friend who lives in the U.K. She chose this for me not only because of my interest in gardening but also because we both grew up living close by to Johns’ family. We didn’t know John as well as we knew his sisters because he had grown up and left home, but we would see him when he came back to visit and to tend their garden.
Being raised in the same town as John I can remember many of the old Newquay people that he speaks of, so for me, that is a lovely bonus.

There are a few reason why I highly recommend this book for every gardener, firstly, of course, because some may wish to learn and utilise the moon gardening techniques. Secondly, because it has all of this wonderful, yet hard to come by information and it's right there between the covers.

Mostly though, I would love if every gardener used this book to learn something of the history of gardening, I think it would be so very sad if these old ways and ancient methods were lost forever.
These days I live a long way from home, but I look forward to using Johns advice in my garden here in Tasmania.

Disclaimer: This book is my own copy, no incentive has been offered for this review. Purchased from Amazon UK

About John Harris (via Amazon UK)
JOHN HARRIS has been a professional gardener since he started his working life in 1956. He got his first spade when he was ten, his first allotment when he was eleven and his first job on a Cornish estate when he was fifteen. He was taught by the best in the business , Noel Masters, a head gardener for many of Cornwall s leading gardens. After his apprenticeship, John worked through various horticultural jobs including running commercial garden centres and advising on large public-works projects until twenty-five years ago, when he was offered a challenge he couldn t refuse the restoration of Tresillian Estate s famous Victorian kitchen garden, which had fallen into deep neglect. He agreed, on condition that he could follow the ancient principles of moon gardening. Tresillian is now regarded as one of the UK s finest examples of a working estate kitchen garden.
John shares his wisdom regularly on TV and radio, including appearances on BBC2 s Gardening Stories, Gardener s World and BBC Radio Devon s Potting Shed. Numerous articles have been written by him and about him in the national press, including the Daily Telegraph, Vogue, Amateur Gardening and Country Life. At seventy-four, John still works full time as head of the gardening team at Tresillian, and lives on the estate with his wife Olive.

About Jim Rickards
JIM RICKARDS picked up a pen at about the same age as John picked up his first spade. He has written two books, Fields of Light and Out of Africa (both published by John Blake). After working in London for twenty years as an editor and sub-editor for HarperCollins and the BBC, he now lives in Cornwall, only a pasty s throw from John Harris. Though nowhere near as green-fingered as the world s most famous moon gardener, he shares John s passion for the end product tasty, healthy food sourced as locally as possible. And you can t get more local than your own garden.

The Night Visitor: Lucy Atkins 3 Stars

Saturday, 29 July 2017

The Night Visitor
Author: Lucy  Atkins
Paperback
Published: May 20th 2017
ISBN: 9781786482181
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Publishers Summary
Professor Olivia Sweetman has worked hard to achieve the life she loves, with a high-flying career as a TV presenter and historian, three children and a talented husband. But as she stands before a crowd at the launch of her new bestseller she can barely pretend to smile. Her life has spiralled into deceit and if the truth comes out, she will lose everything.
Only one person knows what Olivia has done. Vivian Tester is the socially awkward sixty-year-old housekeeper of a Sussex manor who found the Victorian diary on which Olivia's book is based. She has now become Olivia's unofficial research assistant. And Vivian has secrets of her own.
As events move between London, Sussex and the idyllic South of France, the relationship between these two women grows more entangled and complex. Then a bizarre act of violence changes everything.
Review
Olivia, the history professor, sees a flyer that reads:

“The Real Diary of a Victorian Lady!
…. a sensational diary, handed down through one family. On short term loan by Lady Catherine Burley of Ileford Manor”

Curious, and on the lookout for some inspiration for writing a new book, Olivia visits the museum where the diary is held on loan, there she meets the taciturn and surly looking Vivian Tester, housekeeper to Lady Burley. She gets to read the diary, she can barely contain her excitement when she realises that this is it, her new book!

Vivian makes herself invaluable to Olivia during her writing process, Olivia wants to milk all the information that she can from Vivian but she does not want her as her friend.
 Neither seems to like the other much, the two women work together in an uneasy and slightly unfriendly way.
Both women seem a bit odd, Olivia is perpetually stressed by family problems, she needs money badly, hence the importance of writing a best seller, and she is also haunted by the belief that she has a stalker.

Vivian is a complex character, she seems to care that Olivia shuns her friendship yet she herself never displays a friendly manner towards Olivia.

I did enjoy this book … eventually, but I found it to be a really slow starter, everything is such a slow burn and I often felt that I was being manipulated into thinking that something awful was about to happen only to be let down because the creepily written build up led to something mundane.

It isn’t until towards the end of the book that the storyline begins to crackle and gather pace, and though a tad predictable in places it does have a very unpredictable ending.
Paperback copy provided by Hachette Books Australia for unbiased review

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