Books/book review/fiction/crime fiction

Shorn of their trees – an environmental disaster

Gray Mountain Book Cover Gray Mountain
John Grisham
crime, thriller, mytsery, legal
Hodder Paperbacks; 01 edition (2 July 2015)

Donovan Gray is ruthless and fearless. Just the kind of lawyer you need, deep in small-town Appalachia.

Samantha Kofer is a world away from her former life at New York's biggest law firm. If she is going to survive in coal country, she needs to start learning fast.

Because as Donovan knows only too well, the mountains have their own laws. And standing up for the truth means putting your life on the line . .

A very apposite read as Trump trumpets about jobs for Coal – Make Coal Great Again! Which is the last thing of course that environmentalists want to happen, especially if retrieving that said coal means strip mining off forests and taking the top of mountains!

Coal is one of the worst air pollutants (see London Smog) and burning it and mining it is a sure way to ill-health and eventually death for the miner – my husband’s grandfather was a coal-miner.

The lack of legislation still, in the US, about health insurance, working conditions and environmental responsibilities makes me very glad I don’t live there. And this novel is a telling tale that reminds us why not to go and live in the Appalachians.

So not a fun read, but a worthy read and one that reminds us that the technological revolution has brought misery to many as well as life improvements to others, and that we humans are raping our planet’s riches and destroying our life giving eco-systems.

Rant over.

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Books/book review/fiction

A Very Close Familiy

The Roanoke Girls Book Cover The Roanoke Girls
Amy Engel
psychological, mystery, thriller, literary fiction
Hodder Paperbacks
September 21, 2017

A gripping, provocative thriller about the twisted secrets families keep, perfect for fans of Good Me Bad Me and The Girls. 'Deeply, darkly twisted. I loved it.' Sarah Hilary, SOMEONE ELSE'S SKIN 'Utterly addictive.' Lisa Hall, BETWEEN YOU AND ME 'Hauntingly beautiful... not for the faint-hearted.' THE BOOK BAG Beautiful. Rich. Mysterious. The Roanoke girls seem to have it all. But there's a dark truth about them which is never spoken. Every girl either runs away, or dies. Lane is one of the lucky ones. When she was fifteen, over one long, hot summer at her grandparents' estate in rural Kansas, she found out what it really means to be a Roanoke girl. Lane ran, far and fast. Until eleven years later, when her cousin Allegra goes missing - and Lane has no choice but to go back. She is a Roanoke girl. Is she strong enough to escape a second time?

I found this book very disturbing and compelling. Just how did Yates justify his behaviour? What was it about his background that meant that his love for his sister and then all the girls got so twisted?

How can I critique this book without giving away the whole story? Except to say that it was very well written. The story was told in such a way that you understood the characters of the girls as they were introduced and you also understood their behaviour, and yet you wondered about the Grandmother. All the way through, her behaviour seemed at odds to what she must have known about. And then there was Charlie and Sharon also living in that household. What did they know and why didn’t they say anything?

The ties that bind – once you know something and don’t tell, then these ties get stronger and bind more tightly, and that was what happened at Roanoke. And by the way, Kansas summers sound awful! 7 months of the year when the temperature is above 20 and at least 3 of those above 30 degrees! And then a very cold winter.



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Books/book review/fiction/Romance

Cooking for fun

The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club Book Cover The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club
Chrissie Manby
cooking, baking, women'sfiction
Hodder Paperbacks
September 21, 2017

In the quaint seaside town of Newbay, a beginner's cookery course is starting. And three very different students have signed up . . . Liz's husband has left her for a twenty-something clean-eating blogger, and she's determined to show the world - and her daughter - she's just as capable in the kitchen. John, newly widowed after fifty years of marriage, can't live on sympathy lasagnes forever. To thirty-year-old workaholic Bella, the course is a welcome escape from her high-pressure job. Their only common ground: between them, they can barely boil an egg! Enter talented chef Alex, who is determined to introduce his pupils to the comforts of cuisine. As Liz, John and Bella encounter various disasters in the kitchen, the unlikely trio soon form a fast friendship. Their culinary skills might be catastrophic - but could the cookery club have given them a recipe for happiness? The wonderful new novel from Chrissie Manby is perfect for fans of Jill Mansell, Trisha Ashley and Cathy Bramley.

As i wrote this review I followed one of the recipes in the book- how to make a really good tomato sauce. For Aubergine Parmigiana in the novel. As I caramelised the red onions I thought of how this was a new method of caramelising that I had learnt.

I also learnt a wicked Beef Wellington recipe.

So the cookery club of the title was not only brilliant for the 3 novices who attended in the story but for the reader also.

I really liked this novel with its gentle humour and characters that were totally believable. And as for the Waggy Weight Loss Club and the pet owners being called by their pets’ names – well. I suppose I could be called Mrs Crackle (if they had Cat Club) so long as they pronounced the ‘r’ clearly.

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Books/book review/fiction

How Great are those Small Things?

Small Great Things Book Cover Small Great Things
Jodi Picoult
women's fiction, contemporary fiction
Hodder & Stoughton; 01 edition
(11 Oct. 2016)

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.

It is about opening your eyes.

As Jodi Picoult says herself in her article in the Times newspaper on Monday 28th November 2016, this book takes her into a sphere of life she hadn’t known. And takes many of her readers there too. Including myself.

Picoult says she thought she had black friends but had never discussed racism with them, and how it had affected them. She hints that racism is less prevalent in the UK than in the US, and that the US is more racist than it is comfortable to think about.

As a liberal white North Londoner who has never concerned herself about her friends’ colour or religion, her comments hit me hard. I too had never thought to discuss prejudice with my Muslim and black friends. I really don’t notice colour I tell myself and yet am surprised to even contemplate that they are a different colour from me – does everyone appear ‘white’ to me? Is this reverse racism? And is it any better?

I had to ask my Muslim friend if she had encountered any racism and she had but at an airport and soon settled she said. But she said she had heard of others having more trouble. Is that because she is female and they are male I wonder? Or is it because she is an articulate Londoner with a great education who is comfortable in speaking out and wouldn’t stand any nonsense?

Is it because we live in London I wondered? and then reflected on Zadie Smith’s book NW, which I had recently seen televised. I live only half a mile from where this was based and asking local friends they say it was not too far from the truth, at least in 2012 when the book was written. Surely these events couldn’t reoccur? Or could they? Our local garden group has 1 black member and 1 Asian member. Where are the others? Is it that they can’t afford to live in our rather nice conservation area enclave?

You read the book and say ‘this couldn’t happen here’. This is London. London is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society – at least on the surface but what lies beneath? Jodi Picoult makes you question this. ‘Look at your bookshelf’ Picoult says. Do you read black authors? Do you even know what colour the authors you read are? She says we are limiting ourselves to people who look and sound like us, and the way we grow is from those who are different from us.

So the book has a story to tell not just about the nurse and her experiences and the trial, but also about ourselves and the way we look at the world in which we live and who we encounter and what we do with that experience.

This is a book that must be on everyone shelves to be read and considered – it has a message, but is also well written, well researched and stylistically excellent.

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Books/book review/fiction/crime fiction

Into the Harbour

Broken Harbour Book Cover Broken Harbour
Dublin Murder Squad
Tana French
crime, thriller, mystery
Hodder Paperbacks
(28 Mar. 2013)

In Broken Harbour, a ghost estate outside Dublin - half-built, half-inhabited, half-abandoned - two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy is given the case because he is the Murder squad's star detective. At first he and his rookie partner, Richie, think this is a simple one: Pat Spain was a casualty of the recession, so he killed his children, tried to kill his wife Jenny, and finished off with himself. But there are too many inexplicable details and the evidence is pointing in two directions at once.

Scorcher's personal life is tugging for his attention. Seeing the case on the news has sent his sister Dina off the rails again, and she's resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family, one summer at Broken Harbour, back when they were children. The neat compartments of his life are breaking down, and the sudden tangle of work and family is putting both at risk . . .

Tana French is one of my favourite authors. Her stories are suitably chilling and full of suspense, twists in the plot and people behaving in a way you generally could not imagine. Yes, her imagination is much darker than mine…

I found this story full of good style and writing that insisted you kept on reading and turning the page. The mind games and psychological darkness kept me enthralled.

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