Thursday, 18 December 2014

Goodbye Piccadilly by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Set in 1914, this is the first in a saga about the Hunters, a middle class family, living a tranquil life of afternoon teas and tennis parties in Northcote.  The idyll is shaken by the start of the war and the novel charts not only the wartime changes but the romantic aspirations of Diana, the Hunter’s beautiful daughter who has her eye on the son of Earl Wroughton.

I found it an interesting read, but I didn’t love it.  Historically, it seems accurate but that’s not enough as there’s a mass of books on the same theme and I’ve read several that were far more enjoyable. I didn’t really get involved in the story as I thought the characterisation was thin and one dimensional.  For a large part of the novel I was struggling to remember who was who, particularly as many of the female characters seemed pretty interchangeable.  This could be due to it being a series and part of the slow build, but I’m not sufficiently engaged to want to continue reading about these rather dull people.

Okay, but a bit disappointing.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for my review copy.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters


The third instalment of the Amelia Peabody series sees the Emersons off to Egypt for the 1894-95 season with their catastrophically precocious son, the cat Bastet and their servant, John.  Emerson is refused permission to dig at the pyramids of Dashoor and instead is given the pyramids of Mazghunah.  The family view these unprepossessing heaps of rubble in the middle of nowhere a great disappointment and expect a season of little challenge.  However, before setting off to their "pyramids", Amelia buys a scrap of coptic papyrus but witnesses something strange during her shopping trip in the souk.  Linking this with the knowledge that illegal antiquity dealing is on the increase, Amelia and Emerson return that night to see the shopkeeper, Abd el Atti, but find him murdered.  Amelia deduces there must be a Master Criminal at work, weaving his evil throughout Egypt and terrifying the dealers!
Once at the dig they have more immediate concerns.  There are missionaries and Emerson has little time for the disruption created by the maniacal Reverend Ezekiel Jones, his sister Charity and the overly handsome David Cabot.  With an obstructive Coptic priest and an allegedly cursed camp, sinister events escalate.  There's also the mystery of the Baroness's mummy case and her missing lion club to cope with too.  Circumstances lead to the Emersons being entrapped in a pyramid and a show down with the Master Criminal.

It's more of the usual stuff - a murder mystery romp through Egypt, which gives us the first glimpse of the Master Criminal.  He remains a shadowy figure who promises that they will not meet again, but it's clear that their paths will cross throughout the series.  Although the setting is less than promising and at times the book feels like (and as a veteran of the series - I know that's what's happening!) it is setting up characters and ideas for future stories, it does flow well and Amelia's insistence on her logical deductions pay off.
The humour created by Ramses is enjoyable, he manages to make a big impression and the family are now presented very strongly as a trio.  At first the lisp is irritating, although it is a constant reminder that despite his extensive vocabulary he is much younger than his thought processes imply, I do like him and it's good that he plays a large part in the ongoing events, particularly his sneaky infringement of de Morgan's work, and unusually for a child in a mystery novel he doesn't need to be "rescued" by his parents.

A light fun read which although not my favourite of the series, is well work a look!

The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston

I wanted to read this as I’ve had Brackston’s previous novels as audiobooks.  I quite enjoyed The Witch’s Daughter, but was less enamoured by The Winter Witch.  However, when I’m in the mood I like my witchcraft/ magical themed stories and so wanted to give the author another go.

Lady Lilith becomes Head Witch of the Lazarus Covern on the death of her father.  Not only is she stunningly beautiful, rich and engaged to an equally gorgeous and talented son of an earl, she’s a powerful neocromancer.  Romantic affairs and sinister witchy complications affect her otherwise perfect life.

Sadly, this one didn’t work for me.  I didn’t like or care for any of the characters, Lilith in particular was just irritating.  The whole point of her covern is the big secret she has protect at all cost and then she tells the rather random guy that she suddenly decides she loves.  I struggled to finish the book, but I did felt I had to give it a chance to grown on me, unfortunately it didn’t.  Not a lot actually happens, the whole magical aspect was unimpressive and by the end I didn’t really care.

Sorry, just not for me.  Although I did like the cover!

Thanks to the publishers and netgalley for the chance to try it.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

I Will Marry George Clooney ( Christmas) by Tracy Bloom


It’s definitely a title to attract attention, and it was that alone that made me request a copy from netgalley.  I haven’t read anything else by this author, but was expecting a fun, light-hearted Christmas read.

Michelle has an argument with her stroppy teenage daughter, Josie which results in the promise that she will marry George Clooney by Christmas.  Michelle is an ordinary single mum with a boring job in the chicken factory and only a fabulous chicken recipe to her name, but she decides to follow her dreams and go after her man, with the help of her friends.  

Yes it’s a silly premise and the whole story is pretty ridiculous and mildly cringeworthy in places.  My biggest grumble is that it didn’t really feel like a Christmas book and there’s very few references to the season, which I was a bit disappointed by.  Overall, it’s frothy and entertaining, with a positive message but it’s not a memorable book as I didn’t find Michelle a strong enough character to really engage with.

Thank you to the publishers and netgalley for my review copy.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Curse of the Pharaoh by Elizabeth Peters

The second of my Amelia Peabody re-reads.

Set during the 1892-93 season, the second in the series is several years after the events described in Crocodile on the Sandbank.
We find Amelia and Emerson in more domestic circumstances, they have settled in Kent due to being unable to tear themselves away from their child, "Ramses" Walter Peabody Emerson.  Emerson has taken a post lecturing at University College and Amelia strives to be a suitable English lady and entertains the local gentry.  However, this idyll is not really suiting them, they both feel disappointed and restricted and long for a return to the excitement and romance of Egypt.  Emerson is a doting father, whilst Amelia's wry and rather scathing views of her precocious son hide her own devotion.
They are easily tempted back to Egypt by the beautiful and recently bereaved Lady Baskerville, who wants Emerson to continue her dead husband's work in a royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings.  People associated with the tomb have started to drop dead or see visions of the ghostly white lady.  The story of the Pharaoh’s Curse makes its way into the newspaper and the press become a constant irritant, particularly the irrepressible Kevin O'Connell.  None of this is a problem for the Emerson's and they leave Ramses behind with Evelyn.  Lady Baskerville and a whole cast of rather eccentric characters are not always what they seem and the story twists and turns until Amelia and Emerson have one of their little wagers on who the culprit really is.

Again, another wonderful adventure...the setting is so well described and the whole atmosphere of the Valley of the Kings just makes me want to be there!  This is the novel that introduces some of the longer serving characters; Kevin O'Connell the annoyingly persistent reporter from the Daily Yell;  Cyrus Vandergelt the wealthy and good humoured patron who becomes a great friend;  Abdullah the reiss reappears and makes a more striking impression "every year another dead body!" and the cat Bastet, who honours the Emersons with her company and becomes Ramses staunch friend in later books.  All these colourful supporting characters are beautifully written and jump off the page.

Amelia and Emerson are on form, the verbal sparring and tender affection between them is good fun.  Emerson is all bluster and in this book he manages to hold one of his famous exorcisms to the amusement and entertainment of the staff and local workers.  Amelia remains her usual brave, no nonsense self with a weakness for young lovers, but as usual she doesn't always see what is going on right in front of her!

When I first read this book (many years ago, now) I didn't really like Ramses and thought he was a twee diversion from the main story of Amelia and Emerson.  After reading the whole series I can forgive him anything and after several re-reads I appreciate him much more.  Although he only really appears at the beginning of the book his actions and strong opinions demonstrate what promise he has as he grows older.  Amelia describes him as "catastrophically precocious" with her usual acerbic tone and that sums him up exactly!

The Curse of the Pharaohs is a pleasant and entertaining read, not one of my top five of the series but with strong engaging characters, a fascinating setting and a murder mystery thrown in it's good fun.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Cold Feet at Christmas by Debbie Johnson

Rob is trying to get away from it all by spending Christmas alone in a Scottish cottage.  His peace is destroyed when a dishevelled and almost delirious bride turns up on his doorstep seeking sanctuary.   Leah has abandoned her fairy tale Christmas wedding after finding her intended up to no good with a bridesmaid.  The unlikely pair is snowed in but quickly make the best of the circumstances by jumping into bed with each other!  We go from serious passion to cruel rejection and it just left me feeling a bit “ick”.

I was expecting a cosy love story with a slow, romantic build up where two hurt and slightly damaged people find love.  If that’s what you’re wanting, this isn’t the book for you; I also didn’t think it was a Christmassy story and I didn’t get the warm, fuzziness I expect from a Christmas novel.  

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for the book, but it’s just not for me.