Book Review: The Doctor Wears a Stetson by Anne Marie Novark

 

the-doctor-wears-a-stetsonJessie Kincaid was fifteen and innocent when Cameron asked her to the prom. She lost her heart that night, but his plans didn’t change. He left their small town to pursue his dreams.

Seventeen years later, a trip home leads Cameron McCade back to Salt Fork, Texas and the newly widowed Jessie Devine. Since his return, the fire between them burns as hot as ever. Can they take up where they left off? Can Jessie risk her heart again?

Ebook free from Amazon. I started reading this in the effort to clear some space from my ebook, and if I’m honest – it’s not engaging and the story line is barely remembered just a week after finishing.

Jessie was in love with Cameron well before he asked her to go to prom (after Cameron and his girlfriend split up mere days before the dance). Not long afterwards, Cameron goes to the city to become a doctor, and has come home for his mother’s birthday, having been offered a lucrative job – all he has to do is accept.

Jessie is newly widowed – he husband had been seriously sick – and with the medical bills etc, the garage she inherited from her father is on the verge of bankruptcy. She has drilling rights to the McCade ranch and had vowed to her now dead husband never to sell them back to the McCades – there was some long running feud I long stopped caring to find out about, that meant the rights werent to be sold back out of spite.

Cameron comes back, Jessie has low confidence and is spiralling out of control financially, blah blah hlah.

Sorry, just a completely forgettable story

Book Review: The Last Night by Cesca Major

The Last Night by Cesca Major #BookReview

In a quiet coastal village, Irina spends her days restoring furniture, passing the time in peace and hiding away from the world. A family secret, long held and never discussed, casts a dark shadow and Irina chooses to withdraw into her work. When an antique bureau is sent to her workshop, the owner anonymous, Irina senses a history to the object that makes her uneasy. As Irina begins to investigate the origins of the piece, she unearths the secrets it holds within.

Decades earlier, another young woman kept secrets. Her name was Abigail. over the course of one summer, she fell in love, and dreamed of the future. But Abigail could not know that a catastrophe loomed, and this event would change the course of many lives for ever..

The Last Night was received from the publisher (Corvus Books) in exchange for a review. I have read this author’s debut novel The Silent Hours and the review can be found here

This story has a dual timeline, and is apparently inspired by real events. In the modern day Irina is a furniture restorer,  who keeps her secrets very close, hiding behind layers, even when she strips the varnish off the furniture she looks after to find the secrets hiding within.

Irina’s face carries scars, a daily reminder of an accident that happened years before, damaging her face as well as her relationship with those around her (from her mother to her now-ex-boyfriend Andrew and, for most of the book, us too). An unnamed client sends a bureau to Irina for repair, and during repairs she begins to feel a presence.  Strange things begin to happen. She hears and sees things that make her doubt herself and her sanity. She becomes obsessed with discovering more about the history of this piece of furniture. The culmination for her is to confront the past in conjunction with her mother – both of whom have been avoiding the subject for years, carrying their own form of grief with them.

Meanwhile, back in the 1950s, young Abigail’s mother has died and she has to leave her family home, and her friend Mary,  to live with her sister Connie and Connie’s husband. As children, Abigail and her sister were close, but have drifted apart over the years (we get an inkling as to how and why) and Abigail is surprised by the luxury they live in. She’s also surprised by the actions of her brother-in-law Larry, and spends as much time away from the house as possible. She meets and falls in love with a local fisherman called Richard and finds comfort with Richard and his father that she is not feeling in her sister’s house.  The 1950s story culminates with a tragic series of events that changes Abigail’s and Richard’s lives forever.

The relationship between Abigail and Larry is suitably disturbing (especially bearing in mind Abigail is a naive 1950s girl with a sister who has learnt how to protect herself, even if it means not protecting Abigail).

Whilst Irina has some history of seeing things that aren’t there (she has been known to see her dead brother in a crowd – even though it can’t be really), the images she sees are real to her at the time, and obviously puts her off staying in her flat and driving her car etc.

It’s a slow paced book with a slow build up of the tension and pressures for both women. This is a good use of the two time periods, with both main women confronting issues that are seemingly out of their control and their comfort zones.  I have read a debut and second novel from another author and was disappointed when it appeared that the writer had written essentially the same story twice. However, I can categorically say that Major has not done this here, and has sucessfully pulled off the dangerous “second novel”.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter

The Long Earth Book Review

The Silence was very faint here. Almost drowned out by the sounds of the mundane world. Did people in this polished building understand how noisy it was? The roar of air conditioners and computer fans, the susurration of many voices heard but not decipherable…. This was the office of the transEarth Institute, an arm of the Black Corporation. The faceless office, all plasterboard and chrome, was dominated by a huge logo, a chesspiece knight. This wasn’t Joshua’s world. None of it was his world. In fact, when you got right down to it, he didn’t have a world; he had all of them.

ALL OF THE LONG EARTH.

This is a Terry Pratchett, who is/was one of the few authors I generally buy their books in hardback. It’s been a while since he did a collaboration, but it was around the time that this series was announced it was also announced that Pratchett had early onset Alzheimer’s, which he subsequently died from. There are 5 books in the series, and this is the first, where the whole thing gets started.

It turns out that the Earth we live on isn’t the only version of this world….it seems that there are many other versions, at various stages of development, that can be reached by “stepping” either east or west. Some can do this naturally, some can do it with the use of a little stepping device that is powered by a potato, and some can’t step at all. There is a certain level of resentment in the latter group, especially  rest of their family leave for what they see as a better life and Leave them behind.

We are introduced to a number of main characters through whose eyes we see this new world.

  • Labsong who is a Tibetan consciousness associated with the Black corporation, and it is his money, tools etc that set up finding out more about the non datum earths.
  • Joshua is a natural “stepper” and Labsong gives Joshua the tools to get away from Datum Earth and investigate the other possibilities.
  • In the latter part of the book we are joined by Sally, a natural stepper, who is the daughter of the man who invented the stepping device. Rumour has it that daddy is dead, but there is some foreshadowing that he might turn up in a following book.

This is a relatively slow book, where Labsong, Sally and Joshua are generally left alone to do their own thing. Occasionally they get to investigate new creatures, some benign, some not, and this allows the authors to muse on what earth may have looked like had evolution taken a little detour from what happened on our version of earth.

Finally they come across a massive beast that seems to be the source of Joshua’s unease and Labsong sacrifices his ambulatory unit, if not his consciousness, to be absorbed by the alien in order to find out more.

The focus on the Long Earth for the story made it a bit disconcerting when very late in the book they introduce the idea of the long Mars. Either I was not paying attention in the rest of the book….always a possibility….or this was a very late entry of the idea of alternate other worlds. The fact there is a whole novel dedicated to the long Mars makes me wonder…..

I actually read this book in late 2016, but it’s taken me this long to write a review. It wasnt *bad*, it’s just been really difficult to know what to say about it. In reading other reviews, it seems I’m not the only one. Whilst overall people like/love the book, there are a number of things said that I tend to agree with:

  • It seems more of a number of short stories on a theme, rather than a comprehensive joined up narrative.
  • Whilst there are some amusing scenes that bring a wry smile on occasion, it’s missing the sharp wit of Pratchett that brings up dodgy looks on the bus when you laugh out loud.
  • Labsong and Sally are reasonably well defined and memorable, but Joshua (as the character the human outsider should be able to relate to the most) is the least memorable – it took me ages to remember what his name was!

 

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.

#BookReview: Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky (A Town Called Christmas #1) by Holly Martin

Christmas under a Cranberry Sky

This year spend a wonderful Christmas on Juniper Island, where love can melt even the iciest of hearts…

Piper Chesterfield lives a glamorous life travelling the world and reviewing the finest hotels. She calls nowhere home, she works alone and that’s how she likes it. For long ago Piper decided that to protect her heart she should lock it away.  So when Piper’s next assignment brings her to the newly opened Stardust Lake Hotel for the festive season, the last person she expects to face is Gabe Whitaker, the man who broke her heart so completely she could never love again.  But Piper isn’t the only one who has been frozen in time by heartbreak. Gabe hasn’t forgotten the golden-eyed girl who disappeared from his world without a trace.  Now fate has reunited them on Juniper island, can the magic of Christmas heal old wounds? And can this enchanting town be the one place Piper can finally call home?

From the publishers via netgalley in exchange for a review.  Piper is a professional hotel reviewer, and has spent the last 10 years travelling the world.  As her last review before taking a 6 month sabbatical, she goes to the Stardust Lake Hotel for the Christmas and New Year break. Little does she know that the man who owns the hotel and trying to get it ready is the man she’s been running from for the last 12 years, ever since her father’s death and Gabe unknowingly broke her heart.

Piper has turned up whilst they are still getting the hotel ready for the Christmas period, a fact that isn’t helped by the loss of general power to many of the cabins. That, plus some staff taking a final holiday before the season starts proper, means she ends up helping out with getting the cabins ready, whilst staying with Gabe in his set of rooms. Their connection comes back fairly quickly but it is clear that both of them have issues that need to work out – Pip is devastated that Gabe spent time in hospital after she disappeared, and she has to deal with the fact that apparently his family turned down money from her father to take her off his hands. Throw in the fact that she was in the car when he died, only adds to the fact she’s been running the last 12 years.

The Cranberry Sky is a reference to a Old Wives Tale that the usually green Northern Lights turn red when there is true love in the air. This is seen by Gabe and Pip when they spent a night alone in one of the cabins with a glass roof.

Meanwhile the hotel is concerned that Mr Black – a well known hotel reviewer capable of closing hotels on the back off a review – is expected over the holiday period with noone – including Pip – knowing that Mr Black is Pip. It is Pip’s reticence to declare her proper job as hotel reviewer that is the cause of the new breakdown between her and Gabe. Due in part to the remoteness of the hotel, it is impossible for Pip to do the traditional romance “running away until he follows” act, and they have to work it out with her staying put.

Meanwhile some of the secondary characters are being developed, including Gabe’s sister Neve, and it is the arrival of her ex boyfriend (the actor) that sets up the premise for the next book in the series.  There’s plenty of room for at least two more books in the series – perhaps more depending on who else gets added – whilst developing Pip and Glen into something a little more rounded.

Over all a cozy story for the Christmas season with plenty of potential to take further

Inspector Montalbano: The Sense of Touch, Collection 2, Episode 3

montalbano-3Like the previous episode, The Artist’s Touch, this is another episode based on a short story, rather than an actual book.

The episode starts with an old blind man leaving his house with his guide dog Orlando. The house is not one of the more salubrious places in Sicily, which, despite being near the sea, is a one story structure with the basics. No lighting, a double bed, a chest of drawers, low ceiling. There is none of the wealth and high ceilings displayed in other episodes.
The man’s departure is watched by another man, his face shrouded by hat and upturned collar, who promptly breaks into the house to put something in the medicine bottle beside the bed

The following day, the man’s neighbour walks past and spots Orlando is now outside, but he doesn’t approach the house.  Piccolomini doesn’t answer the calls to the fact that he’s shut his dog out and the neighbour leaves without getting a response.

We’re back to Salvo swimming then having a coffee on his balcony as his phone goes. Caterella calls, leading to telling Salvo about the dead man. Initial thoughts are gas poisoning as the gas hob seems to have be left on, with no ventilation. The neighbour warns that Orlando is dangerous, something Salvo doesn’t believe, as dog has been fine with him.

Not knowing what to do with the dog now the owner is dead, Salvo takes him home. When he tells her, Livia is amused and thinks it a great idea for Salvo to have some company

In investigating the dead man, they come across a charity, “Lux in Umbria” who provided Piccolomini with the guide dog. Salvo doesn’t like the idea that the old man left the dog outside – why would a blind man lock his dog outside? The suicide theory doesn’t sit with him either. The autopsy shows that death was due to overdosing on barbiturates, combined with an unknown heart problem, and that gas in cylinders cannot poison you.

Mario di Stefano, the director of Lux in Umbria, pays Salvo a visit, asks for the dog back. Salvo promises to get around to it, but is in no rush to do so – he thinks the dog is part of the whole situation. Piccolomini’s sister Ignazia runs a hotel in Levanza, which peaks Salvo’s interest, especially when he finds she is a very good cook and that Piccolomini visited every weekend.

Coming back from a swim with the dog, the people from the charity are at Salvo’s front door. Not willing to give the dog back right now, Salvo hides both himself and Orlando.

Salvo meets Ignazia at the funeral and gets invited to stay a while. When Livia comes for a visit, Salvo suggests a trip to Levanza, taking the dog. Once on the ferry, Orlando slips away and greets one of the crew, who gives his impression of the old man as difficult. It’s not long before Livia realises that this holiday is really a job for Salvo and she’s moderately annoyed. The hotel and specifically their room is lovely, with the balcony overlooking beach and sea.Montalbano Livia

Meanwhile, back in Vigata, notes are being found in carafes saying “help they’re killing me” and they’re upsetting Caterella, leading to a call to Salvo. Cue a four way comedy piece between Salvo, Caterella, Fazio and Mimi. Salvo tells Fazio to work out as much as possible about the people who sold the carafe to Caterella.

Whilst sightseeing, in some spectacular looking caves, Orlando runs off again, making his way to a fisherman, Toto Recca, who doesn’t take well to Salvo’s questions. Recca has lots of electrical equipment, but hasn’t taken the boat out in a couple of days. He did take Piccolomini out for a drive every weekend however..

Salvo returns to Vigata for a few days without telling Livia, whilst getting Mimi down to keep her company. Both are angry at him, so wind him up when he rings and playing to his jealous streak.

When in Vigata, the carafe seller has been tracked down and Salvo pays.them a visit. The man is tetchy and evasive and it is clear that he treats his wife badly – which makes Salvo suspect something deeper is going on.

When he returns to the hotel, he gets jealous at the thought of Mimi flirting with Livia and the possibility that she gave in, even though it was his idea. He and Livia have sex in bedroom, then having gone to private beach, have sex again….

Walking the dog early one morning he overhears a conversation between the brother in law (Palomino) and Recca. Later in the day, and during a bike ride with Livia and the dog, they reach a beach where the police  have found a body…it’s Recca. Whilst talking to cabineri, Livia and dog stay away, but Orlando still barks at them.

Finishing their holiday. Livia and Salvo leave, and when getting on the ferry, Orlando reacts badly to a cabineri with a dog. Ferryman remembers Piccolomini losing his stick in the water on one trip back to Vigata and going crazy until it was returned. Stick floated till it was fished out. Somehow Livia forgives Salvo for working during their holiday

Salvo nips home to find that Orlando has disappeared – someone has broken into his home and stolen him. Salvo thinks he’s been dog napped, won’t consider him simply having run away Salvo returns to the office to find Mimi in crisis…he still finds other women attractive, despite having Beba. Salvo tells him to grow up.

Salvo visits the propane gas providers, finds Piccolomini was regular as clockwork, and cylinders always have specific tags on them. The ones in the house didn’t come from usual supplier, therefore can only have come from killer. Meanwhile they test the white stick in water, to find it sinks…Salvo’s theory is that empty ones float, full ones sink.

Galluzo gets to investigate di Stefano’s driver funds he was arrested for illegal dog fights but nothing proved. Salvo makes a visit to kennels in search of Orlando, hears that the dogs have been given away, and that Lux being closed down as they have run out of money.

Salvo has been called by Mrs Sara Tarantino, wife of the carafe seller, who asks him to come round after midnight. She admits she put the messages in the carafes the year before as she feared her husband, but they have sorted things out in a way that she doesn’t want rescuing or protection. Clearly this is a case of Domestic Violence, where he had tied her up for days, she had tried to slit her wrists… But if the victim doesn’t want to take it further, there is nothing Salvo can do, no matter what he feels or wants. Episode shows Salvo’s more sensitive side, that he can get away with not bullying people. Lighting does Zingaretti no harm either….!

Recca also had large of money in his account and following the autopsy it is clear his death wasn’t an accident…

The police pull Palomino in for questioning and he admits he is deep in debt. Salvo points out with Piccolomini’s death all problems are over, but Palomino claims he didn’t know of €400,000. He asks the question though, that on a pension of 500 a month, where did all that money come from?

Salvo goes to visit Cascio, but finds out he died several days previously. Another blind man, officially poor, Salvo finds out from a neighbour that Cascio has died in mysterious circumstances, but leaving a large estate. His guide dog had to be put down as it attacked every dog in sight.

Forensics have found fingerprints on light switch in dead mans house….those of a previous offender – Aloisio, di Stefano’s driver.

Salvo pulls the team in to explain his theory…Russo gives drugs to Piccolomini, who hides the drugs in his  stick, gives the drugs to di Stefano, who gives to Cascio to pass on. Orlando reacts the way he does to dogs and police because he is a trained attack dog. The reason for the killings unclear but possibly cos people want out.

The team raid the Lux site, get shot at, with lots of guns….you don’t get this on Morse! The team find the place is empty with the gunman, Aloisio, having disappeared. Empty hollow white sticks found by the sniffer dogs confirm that part of theory.

Salvo visits di Stefano at home, a short but well framed shot of Salvo walking across empty town square late at night, for him  to be confronted by thick heavy door….compare and contrast with Cascio’s one story beach front council house! Salvo puts scare onto di Stefano, blaming Aloisio, but showing he knows everything. Tells di Stefano that a patrol car will be outside and a wiretap will be on his phone…at which point the phone goes. di Stefano answers it to silence on other end. Finally Salvo leaves, and congratulates Fazio for timing the call perfectly.

Following day di Stefano goes to what I take to be a large farm, where Aloisio is hiding out. He tries to bribe Aloisio for his silence, but pulls out gun when Aloisio refuses, only to be stopped by Salvo and his armed team. Both men taken away, but Salvo demands time to talk to Aloisi on his own. Gives Aloisio three choices: die by di Stefano’s gun, die by Salvo’s gun, or tell Salvo where Orlando is.

Cut to scene where there is another raid breaking up an illegal dog fight in process and a number of dogs including Orlando are released.