Careless Love by Peter Robinson (#25 in the DCI Banks series)

carelessLove Since being introduced to the DCI Banks series years ago I have made it a mission to read all of the books in order. This is #25 and Banks is slowly aging.  I had eagerly awaited my copy from the library and plan to continue to read more in the series,  but this particular book made me realize Banks needs to retire.

Premise of the book: A pretty young student is dead in an abandoned car.  The car is not hers, she is dressed in evening wear and couldn’t have walked up to this remote road. There isn’t any ID, cell phone or handbag.  Is it suicide? How did she get there? Meanwhile a man in his sixties is found dead in a gully up further up the road.  He is also wearing expensive clothing and carried no identification.  Was it an accident or was he  pushed?

Compliments and Complaints

There were a few reviews from people who were fortunate enough to get an advance copy, a mixed bag of compliments and complaints.  One particular comment complained about the amount of music interjected, as if Robinson was “forcing a musical education” on us.  As I hadn’t read the book yet I thought that was a supremely unfair comment.  If you are a fan of Alan Banks you’ll know music is an important part of his life and you will know what he’s listening to in his car and at home.

But then I started reading the book and I have to say, that comment wasn’t too far off the mark.  For such a short book of only 300 pages there were far too many paragraphs devoted to music.  Much more than in previous books so it felt like filler. So that’s actually two complaints from me – the excess music talk and the length of the book.  Maybe it felt shorter because there wasn’t enough investigative plot.

I mentioned he is growing older and I’m good with that. However, the excessive amount of reminiscing in this book was tiresome. He’s lost his edge. As he matures in his years and the career you expect someone to slow down but this performance wasn’t up to the usual standards.

Compliment: This is the first book in the series where I recall a cliffhanger at the end. The last two lines set up the premise for the next book.  Certainly that story line won’t be ignored as a previous bad guy is involved. This can’t be explained without spoilers but I look forward to that scenario being a major plot point.  Usually there are two investigations going on at once, sometimes they overlap, but it’s easy to keep the stories and investigations separated.

Personally I think it’s time for Alan Banks to retire.  Let him go out with a gangbuster ending.  Please don’t kill him, Mr. Robinson, but let’s have one of those cracking plots that I can’t put down….and then end it.  Let Banks go out on top.  I’m a big fan and I will certainly read the next book but I hope it’s better than this one.

Food is mentioned throughout and some had my mouth watering.

Spicy Vindaloo, Yorkshire puddings filled with roast beef and gravy, sandwiches of prawn, egg and chicken salad, a Spenser and Mark’s dinner of roasted chicken with vegetables and potatoes, wine, scones and tea.  The chicken dinner had my attention so here is a lovely olive oil roasted chicken dish with lots of onions, grape tomatoes and olives.

Sharing with Joy’s Book Blog for her British Isles Friday event and
Heather for the February Foodies Read.

BriFri  2019 Foodies Read

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The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King

chefssecetWhen I learned Crystal King was writing another book set in Renaissance Italy I knew I wanted to get copy. Her first book, Feast of Sorrow, made me a lifelong fan. That was a great foodie book filled with intrigue and politics and plotting. Well, this new book, The Chef’s Secret, won’t disappoint in any of those areas.

The story is told by Giovanni, Bartolomeo Scappi’s nephew and protégé. Bartolommeo was a chef for several Popes and when he died, his estate went to his nephew. It was instructed that Giovanni burn Scappi’s journals without reading them but honestly, would you? There are recipes, secrets and the hint of a long lost love. You have to try and decipher that!

As in the author’s previous book, Feast of Sorrow, we are treated to menus and delicious descriptions of meals. If you like historical fiction, foodie books, the Renaissance period and political intrigue – you’ll want this book.

Unfortunately I was stricken by influenza and while slowly recovering from that mess, I am unable to conjure up a suitable culinary pairing for this book. There is much inspiration here.

The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King came out February 12, 2019. Much thanks to Netgalley for the advance copy.

Linking up with Girlxoxo’s Monthly Motif challenge for the theme Cover Love.

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The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

gemmaThe reviews for this book are all over the place.  Some think it’s a pale, boring retelling of Jane Eyre while other readers loved it.   The comparison isn’t only about Gemma and Jane Eyre, our author was also without a mother at age nine and grew up lonely in Scotland, as Gemma did,  reading Jane Eyre from her own father’s library.  Obviously her experiences were quite different.

The old adage imitation is the sincerest form of flattery holds true for me, at least with this book.  Wuthering Heights is retold in a contemporary setting in Solsbury Hill by Susan Wyler (very popular modernized version with all the heartache you’d expect) and what about Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, a modern version of King Lear?  Anyway, I very much enjoyed this story.   I thought Gemma was an intelligent headstrong girl. Obviously well-educated thanks to her uncle and without formal schooling, she showed remarkable maturity and resilience.

Gemma’s life is filled with tragedy.  We are introduced to Gemma when she is 10 years old, living in her aunt’s home in Scotland.  Although she previously lived in Iceland she was born in Scotland, her mother being Scottish and her father an Icelander.  When she is young her mother dies after falling and hitting her head on a rock.  A few years later her fisherman father drowns.  She is taken in by her Uncle Charles and becomes part of the Hardy household in Scotland. She was only 3 years of age when she moved in with the Hardy family.  Then Uncle Charles died and Gemma’s place in the household changed.  This is the start of the book, how she went from family member to the status of hired help.  She was relegated to the kitchen, removed from the family dinner table, wore old, old clothes and was treated shabbily.

When the chance came to send her away to a school her aunt jumped on it.  For a smart young lady you would think this would be the ideal escape for Gemma but alas, that was jumping from the pan into the fire.  The “working girls” who did not pay tuition were basically slaves.  Cleaning, cooking, gardening and their studies came last.  It was a horrible situation.

It just seemed to be one thing after another for Gemma but she never lost her determination.  Rather than rehash this entire book I’ll say that I enjoyed reading how she overcame many obstacles and fretted for her when something overwhelming cropped up.   Oh, another thing I liked about Gemma was her quest for knowledge and her love of birds.  There was a large book in her beloved uncle’s study called Birds of the World.  She loved looking at the photos and learning where they lived in the world.  Her only friend at school noted this love of birds and gifted Gemma with a book about Scottish birds.  There are references as she points out curlews, lapwings, grebes, blackbird, curlew, jackdaw and puffins when she is working as an au pair and later as a nanny.

There were a couple of things I didn’t like in the book and rather than have spoilers here, I put those thoughts on Goodreads as there is a format for hiding them.

The setting is mostly in Glasgow,  a rural setting of Aberfeldy and the Orkney Islands.  As I note foodie items in most books I read I can say there are many mentions of food here yet it’s not a foodie book by any means.

This is an author I will most certainly seek out, Margot Livesey can paint a vivid picture.

Sharing with Joy’s Book Blog for her British Isles Friday event.

BriFri

Into the Night by Sarah Bailey

intothenightFractured relationships abound in this novel, the second book in the Gemma Woodstock series.

We have a murdered homeless man, elderly and kind, knifed in the early hours of the morning.  Gemma is not assigned lead detective on this case so straight away we can see her mopey side.  Next murder is a high profile case.  A good looking young actor, Sterling Wade, is killed on the set of a movie being filmed locally in Melbourne.  This will take priority as it’s a media nightmare.  Gemma is lead on this one but descriptions of her personality don’t exactly have her leaping off the page.

In the first book, The Dark Lake, she was a lead detective in a rural town in Australia.  Gemma transferred to another detective position in busy Melbourne after her relationship with her partner Scott fails.  She leaves her young son Ben with Scott and has issues with the separation yet doesn’t seem to want custody, only visits. It’s a good transition from book one to this story.

In my opinion, Gemma Woodstock’s personal issues detracted from this story. You do want a little bit of the personal side of your main character, that’s one of the things I like about the DCI Banks series, but Gemma’s internal turmoil could have been toned down.  I was actually warming more to her partner Nick Fleet, incorrigible as he is. Hoping he shows up in the next book and we get more information about his back story.

If you like multiple story lines with more than one murder investigation then you will enjoy that aspect of the book.  Hoping Gemma conquers her many demons and becomes confident and energetic.  We need some flaws in our main characters but Gemma’s issues are legend.

Much thanks to NetGalley for this advanced copy. Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for the review. This book was published in December 2018.

Sharing with the Aussie Reading Challenge and Girlxoxo for January’s Monthly Motif.

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Scrublands by Chris Hammer for the Australian Reading Challenge

scrublands I’ll say straight away that I liked this book and would read more by this author. There were a few things that I didn’t care for but overall, what a great plot. Anyone can read from the book cover/descriptor the story of a priest who guns down 5 men in front of his church. The journalist, Martin Scarsden, arrives in town to report on how the residents are coping a year after the tragedy. Martin is suffering from PTSD after an incident in the Gaza strip, his editor sending him out on this story to give him a chance to get back in the journo game. Why would an admired priest turn killer?

Best I can describe the way the story unfolds is to think of a nesting doll. There are layers and layers of stories that intertwine, the residents’ dark secrets, the greed, guilt and love and motivations of the characters. There are multiple crimes that are revealed in this investigative journalist’s report.
Some of the character names are a hoot – you have Harley Snouch and Mandalay “Mandy” Blonde who are supporting characters.

I’m learned about bush fires in the Scrubland, how they work, quite different from a house fire. Smoke inhalation gets you in a house fire but a bushfire flat out cooks you. This was addressed in another Australian book I enjoyed, Jane Harper’s debut book The Dry. The scenery described is almost apocalyptic, the land has a harshness and character of its own.

What I didn’t care for was how the character Codger Harris was introduced. He’s waaaay out in the Scrubland where it’s dry and extremely hot. When Martin arrives at Codger’s dilapidated house he finds the old man inside, naked and masturbating. Sorry but that part just didn’t fit into the story, it didn’t blend and it was an unnecessary detail to introduce us to Codger. It was established how unbearably hot it is, so much so that Codger didn’t wear clothes in this isolated part of the scrubland. By the way, he is an integral part of this story and has his own interesting past which dovetails with the ending.

Let us meet the author, Chris Hammer!

This book is the first one for the Aussie Author Challenge. It could cover the male author or new author category. Also linking with Girlxoxo for the January Monthly Motif – “category new to me author.”

Much thanks to NetGalley for this advanced copy. Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for the review. Publication date is January 8, 2019.

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First book of the year hosted at Book Journey

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I’m joining Sheila at Book Journey  for the First Book of 2019.

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The Flight of Gemma Hardy By Margot Livesey is set in Iceland and Scotland, a literary inspiration from Jane Eyre. This has been on my to-read list for many years so why not tackle something from my old Goodreads list.

This modern retelling of a classic takes us from the moors and visits Iceland and the Scottish Orkney islands. I’m looking forward to this one and will report back after I’m done.

Thank you, Sheila, for inviting me again this year!

Aussie Author Challenge 2019

It’s the last week of December – how did this year fly by so fast?!
One of the things I like to do near the end of the year is evaluate which books are must-reads for the upcoming year. This leads me to reading challenges and for 2019 I am sticking with two that I love.

There is the Monthly Motif Challenge hosted at Girlxoxo and the Aussie Author Challenge.  The Aussie challenge is in it’s 10th year but this is only my second time participating.  (here is my roundup for 2018)

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I completed the Wallaby level this year and now I’m thinking of taking on the Wallaroo level.  Wish me luck!  A few of the books I am planning are:

Scrublands by Chris Hammer

Sarah Bailey’s The Dark Lake and Into the Night

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

I’ll need at least one book but I hope to find more as I read and see what others have read.  If you’d like to sign up check it out HERE.

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