Book Review: Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay

 

Death on the Cherwell Book ReviewFor Miss Cordell, principal of Persephone College, there are two great evils in the world: unladylike behavior among her students and bad publicity for the college. So her prim and cosy world is turned upside down when a secret society of undergraduates meets by the river on a gloomy January afternoon, only to find the drowned body of the college bursar floating in her canoe.

The police assume that a student prank got out of hand, but the resourceful Persephone girls suspect foul play, and take the investigation into their own hands. Soon they uncover the tangled secrets that led to the bursar’s death – and the clues that point to a fellow student.

Received from Poisoned Pen Press, via Netgalley, in exchange for a review.

I’ve been in two minds as to whether to write a review right now about this book, but decided to give it a go. I read this in late 2016, at a time that I became a touch apathetic around reading in general, and this might well have soured enjoyment of any book I read during this time.

This should be exactly my type of book – set in a woman only college, with plucky gels suspecting foul play; their best men friends/brothers being pulled into the investigation (despite them being asked to do unspeakably bad things – like ask their friends questions!; a random Yugoslavian student who may be mad enough to kill; and several older, gentlemanly policemen who have to put up with women going where they shouldn’t.

In reading other reviews of this book to get some inspiration, it seems that other people are able to articulate my general mood – one calls it a “curate’s egg” (i.e. “good in parts”), whilst others say that the story “ebbs and flows”. This is generally what I was thinking, where the conversations between the girls for example are good, but there is far too much time spent working out possibilities in terms of alibis, motives and routes taken. The attitudes of some of the characters are quite old fashioned to modern day audiences, but are very much a product of the time the book was written – and should not be a surprise to consumers of Golden Age Crime.

In Summary: I might well read this book again in the future when I’m in a better frame of mind, and should my reaction change, you’ll find out about it!

 

Book Review: Christmas at the Rekindle Inn by Lori Waters

 

Christmas at the Reindle Inn #BookReviewMary Walker has a habit of giving in when it comes to her mother, but this time her mom went too far. At first glance, the gift seems innocent. Seven days at a lovely Vermont inn in mid-December is Mary’s idea of the perfect Christmas present—that is until she discovers her traveling companion’s identity.

The Rekindle Inn is the last place J.T. Walker wants to spend his Christmas vacation, much less in the company with the woman who’d recently ripped his heart to shreds. A challenge of wills, and the need to show Mary he no longer cares, has him on the plane to Santaville faster than the time it takes to unwrap a candy cane.

The Rekindle Inn specializes in mending relationships, but when the Walkers check in, it will take more than a little Christmas magic to bring these two broken hearts back together. More like a Christmas miracle.

Picked up from Netgalley in exchange for a review, this almost didn’t make it into the Christmas Reading pile, until I was checking my dashboard on the site for another book, and – eeep! It was there ready to read, and my chance of a themed romance was rapidly running out the door!

So: it’s a romance set at Christmas, so you have to suspend any Grinchy-ness if you’re going to survive this book. A week before Christmas, and a month before their divorce is finalised, Mary and JT (Joseph Tanner) (yes, there’s the first of them!), are sent to the Rekindle Inn by their mothers, in the hope they can recover what’s left of their marriage.

They have been separated for 6 months, ever since Mary organised a surprise vacation, only for JT to bail out at the last minute “for work purposes”. Both characters have issues that have contributed to their marriage breaking down – Mary hasn’t trusted anyone since her father walked out on her mother when Mary was 10, and she gives up at the first sign of trouble anywhere in her life. JT has always felt that whatever he did was never “good enough” for his father, so he strove to be the best at his job, whilst neglecting his marriage.  Both of them struggle with communication, with their spouse and family members. Neither have confronted their parents about the trip, or their issues.

Arriving at the Rekindle Inn, the couple realise there is something unusual about the people who make up the staff and the community, starting with the fact that their hosts are called Mr and Mrs Klaus, and virtually no-one is over 5 feet tall. There’s the occasional “slip up” where references are made to “el, I mean staff”.

This is told primarily from the point of Mary, with a little side view from JT.  Some of the secondary characters are more 3 dimensional than others but some are barely sketched.

Once at the Inn, the couple are told about the week’s schedule, which involves time spent apart as well as putting the two of them together as a couple.  Each day is themed, and allows the couple to reflect on what made them fall in love in the first place, and hopefully bring some spark back into their relationship. They do get together – briefly – during the week, but it is the end of the week when Mary’s new boyfriend turns up to pick her up, and JT’s  boss’ daughter continues to try and get her claws into him that almost ruins the reconciliation.  However, as per all good romances, especially one set at Christmas, things work out as wished for!

The Christmas tie-ins were laid on a little thick for my liking, but them’s the breaks. Some people love the book, some people hate it, I found it to be a nice, fast, post Christmas read over lunch one day.

2017 Blogger Resolutions

It’s now becoming traditional for me to set goals at the beginning of the year, then reflect how I’ve done by the end. Many of these are based on resolutions from previous years, which I have had mixed results in achieving.

  • Increase subscribers to this blog to 1100, excluding twitter followers
  • Increase annual page hits to this blog (to 12000)
  • Increase twitter followers to @brumnordie (to 1100)
  • Read and review 60 books. 50% to be paperbooks or audiobooks.
  • Post at least twice a week
  • Mamet use of sharing with Facebook groups as appropriate.
  • Make better use of twitter, including the analytics, scheduling content.
  • Take part in twitter chats such as #Blogtacular #bookbloggers etc
  • Ensure about and contact details are maintained and up to date.
  • Make use of scheduling and planning software as appropriate.
  • Take part in blogging challenges, such as Bloggiesta, as and when I remember!
  • Continue doing more non-review posts, such as Sunday Salon posts, which I hope people find interesting – they certainly generate comments!
  • Look to do more non book related posts – get out into Birmingham more and write about stuff! This includes stuff at the museums etc.
  • do more posts about sewing, my cross stitch and quilting in particular. I’m not putting numbers on this.
  • Comment more on other people’s blogs – I’m not going to put a number on this as it’ll be a nightmare to track. Just “do more”.
  • Release more books via Bookcrossing. I still have half a crate left over from the closure of a couple of OBCZs and the bookcrossing UK meetup in Birmingham in September 2016
  • Reorganise my bookshelves (Haven’t been done in two years – about time they’re done!)

State of the Union 2016 address – Resolution updates.

It’s now becoming traditional for me to set goals at the beginning of the year, then reflect how I’ve done at the end of the year. Following are the resolutions I set at the beginning of the year.  As you can tell, I didn’t do as well as I hoped! There was a lull in the second half of the year, which meant that I hardly read, never mind blogged, so that took a large dent in my stats.

  • Increase subscribers to this blog to 1100, excluding twitter followers [I still got new followers, taking me up to 773]
  • Double annual page hits to this blog (to 12000) [considering the drop off in the amount of content I was producing, page views remained steady, at a same as last year’s stats]
  • Increase twitter followers to @brumnordie (to 1100) [i went some way to this, in getting to 690]
  • Read and review 75 books. 50% to be paperbooks or audiobooks. [i did a much better ratio of paper to ebooks, but didn’t hit the 75 mark, coming in at under 60 books.]
  • Post every other day [as I mentioned above there was a period I didn’t blog for several weeks, so missed this goal]
  • Make better use of hashtags on twitter [the increase in followers on twitter is due in part putting out other content than my own, as well as making use of tags]
  • Ensure about and contact details are maintained and up to date.  [Yes, this was done, especially by About and Review Policies]
  • Make use of scheduling and planning software as appropriate. [the death of my laptop late the year has meant that I haven’t used the spreadsheets that I used to use for tracking scheduling. However, what’s wrong with a simply diary?]
  • Take part in blogging challenges, such as Bloggiesta, as and when I remember!
  • Continue doing more non-review posts, such as Sunday Salon posts, which I hope people find interesting – they certainly generate comments!  [I did run out of subjects that I inspired to produce a post for, but I’ve found some more and will be posting some new content in the new year!]
  • Pay better attention to sites like Problogger and Hubspot for social media and blogging tips to see how I can achieve some of my goals [I did follow some additional sites in looking at producing content etc, but I don’t think I made best use of them. I certainly tried to comment more on other people’s blogs – not all of them about books, and attended several blogging events. I even managed to go to this year’s Bookcrossing event where I got some of my mojo back in terms of reading and releasing books – look out for more on this in the new year – I hope! ]

So, did you have any goals, and how did you do? Feel free to comment or link to your update post!

Reading Challenge – Final Checkpoint

MY READER'S BLOCK_ 2016 Mount TBR Reading Challenge

As I mentioned at the end of last year, I was going to take part in one reading challenge in 2016 and I chose the Mt TBR challenge over at My Reader’s Block.  There’s was the chance to post details of your reviews each month, and every three months there’s a quarterly (personal) update as to how each participant is going against their challenge.

Needless to say, I didnt meet my overall Goodreads reading challenge of 60 books, and therefore didn’t meet the Reader’s Block challenge of reading 60 books that were on my TBR before 1/1/2016. I have done previous checkin posts (with my review links) Quarter 1, Quarter 2 and Quarter 3, but here are the remaining books that I read in the final quarter:

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (review still to come)

Red Chrysanthemum by Henry Mazel

 

These books were obtained after the 1/1/2016 and so dont qualify for the TBR Challenge unfortunately.

Christmas at the Cornish Cafe by Phillipa Ashley

A Cotswold Christmas by Kate Hewitt

A Proposal to Die For by Vivian Conroy

Wrong Brother, Right Match by Jennifer Shirk

Red-Handed in Romanee-Conti by Jean-Pierre Alaux

The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

Sonoma Rose by Jennifer Chiaverini

Lady of the Bridge by Laura Kitchell

The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas

Hunting Season by Andrea Camilleri

The Fire Child by S. K. Tremayne

As you can see, I didnt make for the Reading Challenge. However, I think I will do a variation of this in the new year, as I continue to need to clear off the backlog off my physical TBR shelf. Here’s hoping eh?

Did you take part in any reading challenges, even casually? How did you do? 

Sunday Salon – will you read everything on your TBR?

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I wrote a short post about this topic a few years ago, but I thought I’d re visit it. It’s the reader’s equivalent of “we need to talk about Kevin” with “we need to talk bookshelves.

my TBR bookshelfIf I’m honest – looking at my bookshelves I’ll probably not read every book on my TBR stack, but I’ll give it a darn good try!  This is what my bookshelves look like at the moment. They dont show the books that are stacked under the coffee table – thankfully I’ve got rid of the books hiding under the bed and in the cupboards! I’m trying to never get to that point again! However, even if I dont bring another book into the place, I’ve got enough books to last me several years (if not several decades!).Birmingham and Midlands Institute Library

By taking the reading challenge sword from over my head, I’ve been able to balance my reading between ebooks and paperbooks much better.  It has resulted in me reading some of the hardbacks that have been lurking around for a number of years, but many of which I will never be getting rid of (so I will still have a packed set of shelves!).

Once every few years, I do a mass re-order of my shelves. A few years ago they were changed from height order (easier to pack your shelves I think) and changed them to theme order (e.g. all the books by specific authors, or similar themes, such as “India”). During these re-oreders I check the book and ask myself if I’m realistically going to read it. If the answer is “no” then it leaves the house – either via bookcrossing or being given to a friend. I’m due another re-order if I’m honest, as the “theme” thing isnt really working out for me (though grouping books by the same author does, especially if they’re in some sort of series).

I’ve managed to slow down my intake of ebooks – finally! I’m still taking on perhaps one or two a month, but I’m also trying to go through my older books in order to get through them (and improve my dreadful Netgalley rating of 56% – eeek!). I started two books a few weeks ago, and have yet to finish either of them. I think I’m down to the last 50 pages for the last week on one of them. I’ve given up looking at my reading challenge on Goodreads as I know I will have missed it, potentially quite significantly, considering how low it was to begin with.

So what about you? What’s your relationship like with your TBR, and do you have any plans in the new year?

Sunday Salon: Yearly reading goals

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In looking to wind the year down, it’s time to reflect back on some of the reading subjects that tend to crop up most years, and I’ve found this question floating round the internet:

When you set a yearly reading goal, do you set it high to force yourself to meet that goal or do you keep it low and normally go over that goal any way?

For a long time I didnt track how many books I read, or even which books I read – the horror, right? Then, several years ago, I was listening to a couple of bookish friends compare notes as to how many books they had read, what were their top 10 etc – how could I list a top 10 when I didnt even remember what I’d read that year?!

Therefore in 2011 (had to go off and check there!) I started making use of Goodreads and their reading challenge facility. 2011 – 2014 I challenged myself to read at least 95 books, and each year read more than that. However, by 2014 I had realised that the challenge was no longer fun to be reading that number of books, and that by the end of each year I was finding myself reading short and light books simply to get the numbers up – and the reviews could be light on detail too!  (And I still dont produce top 10 lists!).

Book pages text
Patrick Tomasso via Upsplash

Therefore in 2015, I plonked for something more realistic: 60 books, with the very real chance of reading more. And I did – I read 64. 2016 was the same level of 60, which I may or may not meet. It’s meant that I’m not trawling Amazon for the freebie romances to boost my numbers. I’m reading the hardback books that have been on my shelves, unread and unloved, for years. Some of the books I’ve been reading are longer, genres I’ve not tried before (YA books and the SummerReads books from Quercus are examples) and a better mix of paper and ebooks. So whilst my numbers arent high, they have meant that I think my reading is more rounded as a result, and I will probably do the same again next year.

So I put the same question to you now:

When you set a yearly reading goal, do you set it high to force yourself to meet that goal or do you keep it low and normally go over that goal any way?