Dusting the Cobwebs Away…

Hello friend, oh I’m sorry about the dust – a glass of water may help your cough. It’s been a while since I was in my book corner I’m afraid so I’ll need to do a bit of cleaning to make it homely around here again.

The bumps and cracks in the pavement of life over the last month left me feeling a little unbalanced so I have been gathering my resilience before taking on the world again. 

Once I’d brushed the cobwebs away I learned that the new Richard and Judy Book Club list has been published. Gadget Man very kindly treated me to the books that made their Summer Read shortlist so I have a lot to get through!  

Let me explain about my love of the Richard and Judy Book Club. My Mum was an avid bookworm and passed her love of reading on to me. I remember the scent of her perfume as I cuddled up to her for a bedtime story when I was a child. Those moments evolved in my teenage years to the two of us reading together in companionable silence broken only by a sip of coffee or pages turning.

When I moved out to live with my boyfriend our reading continued with phone calls and catch ups, which inevitably turned to the books we were enjoying. My Mum stumbled upon the Richard and Judy Book Club and we began to digest and dissect the novels together. As she was retired, Mum got through the books quicker than I did so she began to read books from their previous lists while I caught up with the current ones after work. 

And then she died.

Just like that.

One day we were talking about novels, my little Bookworms, her planned visit and the next I received the call that shattered my world. 

There’s never a good way to lose the closest person in your life but to have her snatched so quickly left me shocked and lost. Having the little Bookworms helped me get out of bed each day. Gradually I stopped expecting her daily phone call, learned to stay my hand to stop myself texting her when I heard something funny and more importantly, I moved to a place where I could examine the memories I had locked away in my mind and cherish rather than fear them. 

Mum never got to read the whole back catalogue of the Richard and Judy Book Club so I am slowly working my way through them for her. 

She is buried in a beautiful churchyard with an open book for her headstone. Wherever she is, I’m sure she’s reading still and would have been as excited as I am to start the Summer Reads. 

So this post is to thank Richard and Judy for encouraging Mum and I to read books outside of our usual genres and giving us so much to talk about.

And it is dedicated to Mum. My mother, my teacher, my friend. 

‘Blood Sisters’ and a Book BFF

After having my car broken into yesterday my best friend, we’ll call her Book BFF, has invited me for a sleepover with wine, pizza and chocolate.  

I’ve just been reading Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar to Book BFF’s beautiful baby girl who was fascinated with turning the pages while I was looking at the little holes in the food that the caterpillar has crawled through. It seems like only yesterday when I sat cuddled up to my mum and poked my fingers through those same size holes in the book; now I have to do so by proxy, watching Book Baby take the lead. 
Although I packed my kindle to read a book tonight I also had to bring a big library hardback copy of ‘Blood Sisters’ by Graham Masterton. I have only 16 pages to go before I finish it and it’s impossible to wait until tomorrow to find out how it ends! 

I’m relatively new to Masterton’s DS Katie Maguire series and I was hooked from the first chapter of novel that I randomly opened in February.  Now as soon as I have finished one book I order the next as they seem to be a popular choice in my local library. 

DS Maguire is a senior police figure in Cork, holding her own against career criminals, drug barons, human traffickers and serial killers. Not to mention the sexism she encounters from those jealous of her position and cynical about a woman being effective in that role. 
Maguire is not without dramas in her personal life and the reader follows her bumpy relationship road and family crises throughout the series. That said, each novel can be read as a standalone. 

Masterton’s use of local dialect and phrases really makes me feel like a fly on the wall in Cork and the surrounding areas as Maguire works with her team to bring justice to the victims they encounter.  The characters of Maguire’s colleagues also develop along the way, as do those of some of the criminal bosses who appear as either background figures or with a larger share in the plot. There are times when Maguire has to use those people she despises to help her catch another offender. 

The acts of murder and subsequent crime scenes are gritty, detailed and at times gory so depending on your constitution, these books may require a little bit of skimming over some paragraphs. I came across one scene towards the end of Blood Sisters today where I slammed the book shut at something which happened as it the description seemed so realistic that I could imagine standing next to Maguire witnessing the horror that had just unfolded. It wasn’t enough to stop me reading though and I can’t wait to see how Masterton finishes this book off. 

I have recommended this series to several friends, none of whom have been disappointed. If you are a crime fan who is yet to encounter DS Katie Maguire, I suggest you may enjoy making her acquaintance. 

And now it’s time for a refill. And maybe a few more sneaky pages before our pizza is ready…

No Evening With Paula Hawkins For Me

I normally offer blog visitors a cup of tea and a sit down but this evening you’ll have to fend for yourself I’m afraid. Please don’t mind the mess for I am a little upset.

I was planning to post a picture later of a signed copy of Paula Hawkins’ new novel, Into The Water, as I’ve been looking forward to an event I was due to attend tonight: A hosted discussion with Hawkins and Sarah Schmidt, who has just released her debut novel, See What I Have Done. 

Unfortunately that is not to be, thanks to the lowlife who has broken into my car. Instead of meeting these two talented authors and participating in the discussion session, I am at home alone having just bid farewell to the scene of crime police officer.

Various things have been taken out of the boot and glove compartment of my car but the thing that upset me most was seeing one of Book Wizz’s Jacqueline Wilson books lying bent and crumpled in the footwell. This person has touched the book my daughter treasures and because it isn’t of value to them, they treated it like rubbish. 

Aside from feeling somewhat violated about someone rummaging through my belongings, it’s sad to see her favourite book in that state and treating books in that way feels a little sacrilegious. I’m going to buy her a new one before she returns on Friday and I’ll claim I accidentally spilled something on it rather than have her know about what’s happened in case it scares her. 

I have to say a huge thank you to Waterstones in Liverpool; I had reserved copies of the authors’ books to get signed tonight and rang the store to explain that I wouldn’t be needing them after all and to give my ticket to someone else since I couldn’t leave until the police had been. Instead, the lovely book seller sold the books to me over the phone and took my details down so she can get them signed with a dedication then post them to me. What a jolly good egg.

I try not to think vengeful thoughts about people and am desperately trying to keep the images of a book related injury occurring to the thief; instead I think I shall write this person into my novel and have something humiliating happen. They’ll never know of the written revenge but it will hopefully allow me to feel that a smidgen of just desserts has been doled out. 

‘Someone Else’s Skin’

Well hello there, what a delight to see you! I’ve just put the kettle on if you fancy a cuppa…

It’s been a beautiful spring day here but unfortunately my day has largely been spent indoors attending to various tasks, including a declaration of war on pests and a victory over technology.

A few cheeky ants have managed to breach my kitchen today, much earlier in the year than usual and certainly not by the back door where I’m used to tackling them.  They seemed to magically appear by my sink with no warning, no obvious direction of approach and no fanfare – one at a time, they’re randomly just there.  Rincewind and I spent an obsessive 25 minutes keeping watch before I left to stock up on my tools of war and in that time he only noticed one to run away from (honestly, he’s such a coward!).

My victory over technology involved making a printer submit to my technical wizardry when I set it up today.  Alright, wizardry is perhaps too strong a description for my skills;  maybe sheer luck and pleading is a more honest description!  It may not sound much but given how I usually wail in frustration and call someone to help me when it comes to these things, I’m rather pleased with myself.

And now on to my review of a book that I finished reading earlier this week.

Someone Else’s Skin was Sarah Hilary‘s debut novel which follows Detective Inspector Marnie Rome as she finds herself at the scene of an attempted murder in a women’s refuge, opening the door on a trail of lies, deceit and domestic violence.

The book challenges some assumptions society can make about domestic abuse and this makes for some interesting plot developments along the way.  Although cool and collected most of the time, DI Rome’s frustration is palpable as she hovers between professional conduct and a darker temptation to get results for the victims by any means necessary.  The reader also sees her gentler side and her battle to understand a horrific incident from her past.

As the novel progresses, a niggling feeling develops that something isn’t quite adding up in the situation with two key women from the refuge and the true picture remains tantalisingly close but just out of grasp until the climax of the story.  Intertwining the past and present lives of the characters gradually builds a realisation of manipulation, fear and abuse in often unexpected ways.

Like a gothic horror movie, Hilary only allows the reader a glimpse around the corner, never revealing what’s really happening, increasing the sense of unease.  Each time I was sure I had it all figured out, another curve ball was thrown, leaving me grasping once again in confusion as I tried to make sense of the new reality.  At one point towards the end I thought it was all over then realised that with several chapters to go, I couldn’t relax yet.  The ending did not disappoint, with surprises right up to the last page.

This skilfully woven plot serves as a caution that ghosts of the past can haunt someone’s present and with the right (unfortunate) combination of toxic circumstances, can lead them to feed on this darkness to become the nightmare that will later plague others.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book even if you are not a crime fan;  the theme, twists and characters make it a riveting read.

As a final note, I should perhaps mention here that I grew up next door to a family who suffered at the hands of the man of the house.  Everyone knew what was happening when the wife, I’ll call her Claire, wore dark sunglasses even in winter and had yet another sprained wrist from “falling over the dog.”  The police were called on countless occasions when the screaming and thuds became ever louder but in the late 80’s, they said their hands were tied unless this man attacked his wife outside of their front door.  Eventually he turned his attention to his 13 year old stepson and this gave Claire the strength to leave.  The man was never charged.

I truly hope that anyone reading this who has suffered or is suffering from abuse in any of it’s devastating forms is able to seek support and be safe.

And now to lighten my mood, I’m off to make another cup of tea and try to convince Rincewind to move away from where we saw the ants.

My ‘Bookywook Book Book’

It’s been a relaxing bank holiday today, which is great considering I blame the talented Sarah Hilary for keeping me up into the wee hours when I couldn’t put down her book, Someone Else’s Skin, last night (review to follow tomorrow)!

Whenever I finish a book, I write the author and title in my ‘Book Book,’ pictured above.  This is something I started doing on 1st January, 2006, after one of my friends on Boxing Day 2005 asked me asked how many books I get through in a year since I seem to have one attached to me at all times.  I had no idea so decided to keep a log for the year to find out.  I read 53 books in a range of genres and enjoyed looking back on my reading choices so much, I decided to keep the log going.

The books I was drawn to throughout each year tell their own story of what was happening in my life;  I’ll share some of the literary highlights and the occasional anecdote in some future posts.

I sometimes wonder if I should add a rating system to the ‘Book Book’ but the novels really enjoyed (and the ones I forced myself to continue reading to the bitter end) tend to jump off the page immediately.

The little stationery devil sitting on my shoulder sometimes entices me to buy one of the bespoke book journals which are available.  The stationery angel, with his practical approach and sensible shoes, reminds me of how my ‘Book Book’ has been with me through thick and thin over the last 11 years, so I have managed to resist upgrading so far.

I love seeing that Book Boy has started keeping his own book list too, albeit on a scrappy piece of paper which seems to attract all manner of inky fingerprints and sticky patches.  Perhaps it’s time to add a Book Boy ‘Book Book’ to his life so we can sit in 11 years time and reflect on his reading journey too…



Breezes, Battles and Bullets

Happy Sunday everyone and a rather breezy one it was here.  Fooled by the glorious sunshine I set off for a walk in the nearby park this afternoon.  Unfortunately the April wind, keen to put in a farewell performance before May takes the limelight, insisted on snatching the breath from my lips only to replace it with my hair which was repeatedly whipped across my face.  So much for my plan of reading in the sunshine…  I scurried home to immerse myself in Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary (I’m really enjoying it and will share my thoughts when I’ve finished).

Apparently I wasn’t the only one disgruntled by the weather today; Rincewind is a bit of a [whispers] cowardly cat, similar to his Discworld namesake, and can regularly be seen dashing towards or away from things, depending on his anxiety levels.  A considerable amont of his time was spent running from room to room whilst voicing his complaint about the wind, jumping at every noise as unseen objects rattled and rolled around outside.  Unfortunately he was not pacified by my explanation that I can provide many things for him in life (food, shoelaces, Cat TV channels if I’m feeling generous) but a mute button for the blustery gusts is not one of them.

Perhaps it was Rincewind’s poor opinion of my customer service standards or his disrupted cat naps but something compelled him to pick a fight with Greebo.  And I don’t mean the usual play fighting or a that-was-my tail-you-just-pounced-on-not-a-shoelace induced squabble; this was a battle which raged through the entire house.  With flying kicks, paw punches, claw slashes and biting, it was as if they were hosting an ultimate fighting championship for cats.  Greebo has a broken miaow and his fractured squeaks betrayed how upset he was getting.  After all, one minute he was enjoying a nap in his radiator bed and the next he was assaulted by a Tasmanian Devil impersonator.  Eventually I waded into the fray and separated them, which I don’t usually have to do.  Five minutes later I found them snuggled up together, fast asleep on my bed.  Their feud had seemingly been settled and they are back to being the best of friends again.  Hopefully this will be a rare occurrence but I will watch with interest what happens the next time it is very windy outside…

My cat refereeing duties over, I settled down to a task which I have been planning for a month now but never seemed to get round to.  After discovering the art of losing time browsing on Pinterest, I was drawn to a trend which apparently has been passing me by: the bullet journal.  I’m not sure if it’s just me that this concept is new to or if it’s still quite novel in the UK as a whole but the mixture of planning and creativity is intriguing.  Search for “bullet journal” on the web and you will find a plethora of images and ‘how-to’ guides, ranging from the purist symbols and spreads created by Ryder Carroll, through to artistic embellishments and additional journal pages which ooze positivity.  During my searches I have read a whole host of blogs which seem to endorse the system and claim it has had a life-changing impact on them.

Taking my rose-tinted glasses off for a moment, I’m not sure if this is anything other than the latest fad; a post modern approach to time and task management using the vintage methods of pen and paper rather than an app.  However I have been looking for ways to use the left side of my brain more since my job demands a strategic and analytical approach which can often quash my creative nature, so I’m willing to give it a go.

Although I’m starting part way through the year, this has not stopped me putting together my yearly, monthly, weekly and daily spreads along with the goal oriented, positive mental attitude pages which have been adopted by others.  From tomorrow my bullet journal will be my guide although I’ll be adding the doodles and embellishments over the course of the month since I’ve only plotted the essential information in so far.  I genuinely hope it helps, particularly as in this day and age our senses are overloaded by so many emails, tasks and to do lists that it’s amazing we actually achieve anything.  I’ll report on progress periodically as I go and aim to progress from writing in it with pencil to pen by next week as I keep finding ways my layouts could work better for me.

And now the pull of ‘Someone Else’s Skin’ is becoming too strong to ignore. It’s time for me to retire to bed and accompany DI Marnie Rome as she battles the scars of her past while trying to make sense of the shocking twists and turns of her investigation… goodnight all.




Blogging, Books and a Furry Bomb

After peeping suspiciously several times at my phone, I gingerly plucked up courage to open up WordPress and attempt to customise my blog.  I lost track of how many times I accidentally clicked to go back to the theme selection, losing any editing I had completed but eventually here we are… Ta daaaah!  A big achievement for a newbie like me 🙂

My little book worms spend a week with me and a week with their dad as part of our custody agreement, so I had today to myself.  After getting rather excited at how well my new cordless Dyson sucks things up (I know, I bore myself too at times), then wrestling one of Book Boy’s Lego figures out of it, I went for a wander into town.  I could talk here about the sights I saw along the way but it would all be lies.  You see, dear reader, I have succumbed to Pokemon Go.

It’s ok, I’ll bear with you for a moment while you either roll your eyes or you sit up excitedly at the thought of yet another adult who shares your enthusiasm.  Ready?  Sure?  Alright, let’s continue.

It might help to explain that it started off as curiosity when someone at work came back from their lunch break talking about the Pokemon they’d caught on site.  After a few ordinarily professional staff got excited by this and wanted to know where these seemingly rare specimens had been lurking, I couldn’t resist asking what they were talking about.  Before I knew it, a tutorial had been arranged for me after work to initiate me into the Pokemon craze.   It was a great hit with my kids and as they don’t have mobile phones yet, our walks were punctuated by cries of, “Quick mum, get the Pidgey!”  If I found that I switched the game on when they weren’t with me, I told myself it was merely maternal love compelling me to help them amass more Pokemon and hatch the eggs they were incubating.  Pretty soon though I couldn’t deny it any longer.  I was hooked.

My guilty pleasure has brought about some surprising discussions: one day as I waited for a meeting to start at work, a normally serious director opposite me punched the air in excitement and announced that they’d caught a Jynx on the table!

Discreetly checking my phone as I walked indicated a Teddiursa nearby and I walked along a street I don’t often go down in hot pursuit of the virtual creature.  As I smugly caught it, I pocketed my phone again and looked up to see a huge table of books outside a charity shop, whispering to me temptingly to come closer and see their delights.

And what a delight it was.  I was spoiled for choice at the wide range of novels on sale but confined my purchases to a Jacqueline Wilson book called “Cookie” for Book Wizz, a “Disgusting Poems” anthology for Book Boy and “Eeny Meeny” by MJ Arlidge for myself, which I will read and review next week.   I will definitely return again in the future to delve through the rest of the books and see what other gems I can find.

So that’s the Blogging and Books of my title covered but what about the Furry Bomb?

I’ll have to refer you here to my blog picture, for which I set up books, a cuppa and some flowers to depict some of my favourite things.  Can you see what’s odd in the picture?  I didn’t notice an additional prop at the time but as I cropped the photo to upload it to WordPress, I saw a black and white furry face peering out from behind the flowers.  Yes, I had been photobombed by Greebo.  He isn’t usually a photogenic feline, turning away when I take his photo or flashing his nether regions as he decides that a photoshoot is the ideal time to clean himself.

I’ve decided to leave Greebo in the picture, especially as he is named after a fictional character in one of my favourite book series (more on that in another blog post).  If I can figure out how to do it, I’ll add a photo of his brother, Rincewind, who employed the seven second rule this afternoon and made himself comfortable in my reading corner when I went to get a drink.  It’s only fair; I would hate for him to accuse me of favouritism.