Book review: Little Boy Blue by M. J. Arlidge

Little Boy Blue

Detective Inspector Helen Grace is no stranger to tragedy. But when a body is found in a Southampton nightclub, the death cuts too close to the bone.
Hiding her personal connection to the victim – and a double-life which must remain secret at all costs – Helen becomes a woman possessed, working her team around the clock to chase down every lead.
As the killer strikes again, the investigation takes its toll not only on Helen but also her senior officers. Tempers flare, friendships fray and Helen faces an impossible choice.
Confess her sins and lose control of the case? Or keep living a lie, protecting her darkest secrets, and risk getting trapped in this tangled web?
But whatever she does, this killer will not stop until the truth is revealed: there are some fates worse than death . . .”

This is the 5th book in the DI Helen Grace series – and having loved the first four (Eeny Meeny, Pop Goes The Weasel, The Doll’s House and Liar Liar) I had high hopes for number 5.

I was not disappointed.  The fast paced writing keeps you intrigued from the outset.  There are LOADS of chapters – and I’ve realised that Mr Arlidge also writes for TV (I was very excited to see him having written a Silent Witness episode in the last series) and the chapters are basically scenes from a TV drama.  I can’t believe I hadn’t realised that before!

Again it follows DI Grace’s personal and professional life – and this time they intertwine even more than before.  I really think you need to have read the previous books to get the most out of this – as there are lots of links to the previous 4 in many different ways.

As with the others in the book it is pretty graphic at times – in terms of violence, but more in terms of BDSM stuff in this particular storyline.

It twists and turns brilliantly – and the descriptions from the inside of a fetish club to Southampton Common – all give you a great feel for the individual settings.  It made me want to go back to Southampton again (more than 20 years after graduating from Uni there!)

Whilst all of the books follow on from each other – this one finishes on a total cliff hanger – and so I’m desperately wanting more – and have to wait until the Autumn – grrrrrrrrrrr.

I would thoroughly recommend this entire series to anyone – but be prepared to stay up into the early hours reading ‘just one more chapter’!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Bog Slog

My friend Mandy has written this FABULOUS piece about the mud run we did a few weeks ago. So proud to have been a part of it (and pleased Mand didn’t include the picture where I did look like a hippo!!)

The Davies Diaries

It didn’t occur to me to question why it was called the bog slog. I had signed up to do a mud run and had a romantic notion of skipping through fields with my mates, sun shining down on us as we laughed and joked, creating happy memories. I was in quite good spirits that morning – make up on, hair straightened and all set to get on with it.

20160319_085452816_iOS Before

A huge group of us signed up for the 5k mud yard mud run to raise money and awareness for brain tumour research. Fin was just 11 when he lost his battle to this killer. 11. No parent should ever bury a child. We’re just not programmed to cope. Many of us watched this pan out from the sidelines unable to find the words or reach out in any meaningful way. I, for one, felt totally useless. I wanted to help…

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Book Review: Who’s That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane

Who's That Girl

 

“When Edie is caught in a compromising position at her colleagues’ wedding, all the blame falls on her – turns out that personal popularity in the office is not that different from your schooldays. Shamed online and ostracised by everyone she knows, Edie’s forced to take an extended sabbatical – ghostwriting an autobiography for hot new acting talent, Elliot Owen. Easy, right?

Wrong. Banished back to her home town of Nottingham, Edie is not only dealing with a man who probably hasn’t heard the word ‘no’ in a decade, but also suffering an excruciating regression to her teenage years as she moves back in with her widowed father and judgy, layabout sister.

When the world is asking who you are, it’s hard not to question yourself. Who’s that girl? Edie is ready to find out.”

I am a huge Mhairi (pronounced Vah-Ree, in case you were wondering) McFarlane fan – having really enjoyed all of her previous books ‘You Had Me At Hello‘, ‘Here’s Looking At You‘ and ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You‘ – so was very excited when my pre-order of her latest book dropped into my Kindle.

As usual the main character, in this case Edie, is really likeable – and you’re rooting for her from the off.  Early on she is caught in a compromising position at a wedding – and she’s the one who is totally blamed.  The other party gets forgiven PDQ.  (I empathise completely with Edie after a similar situation happened to me many moons ago!  The bloke I had a ‘fling-ette’ with was ‘on a break’ at the time – but subsequently the estranged parties got back together and this girlfriend became his wife – clearly forgiving him – but 16 years on she still won’t even speak to me. I am regularly grateful there wasn’t any social media at the turn of the millennium!!!)

Anyway – enough of my colourful life and back to Edie’s!

She is sent to Nottingham (rather than Coventry!) after the wedding debacle, to work on a project – but Nottingham is also her hometown.  She moves back in with her widowed father and sister – and their relationships are explored, as is her relationship with the very interesting elderly next door neighbour. Having had a couple of nights out in Nottingham over the years, I could imagine some of the settings which was also fun.

The actor she is ghost writing for initially seems a bit of a knob – but I ended up really liking him and all of his family.  In fact – I pretty much liked everyone by the end! It twists and turns and isn’t predictable – but that adds to the story.  Whilst the premise is definitely rom-com – it’s so much more than that – with some pretty deep topics explored (and wept about by me!).

I enjoy the fact that with all of Mhairi’s books the characters are fleshed out and you get to know them all – from Edie and her family, to her best friends from school, to ‘the actor’ and his family and the gay BFF who is definitely not a BFF (he was one of the few I didn’t like by the end!)

It’s also very clever the way Mhairi weaves in the use of technology and social media into the book.  It’s totally how everyone works nowadays – and so when I read a book and people aren’t using such things it seems a bit odd.  I feel that Mhairi writes ‘ real’ stuff – in a social media heavy / slightly sweary / true to life way. (That’s a compliment by the way!)

And as ever – I was definitely left wanting more – and desperate to find out how their lives pan out after the book – and WHO WAS AT THE DOOR???  We need a sequel – pretty please……………

 

Book Review: The House of Hidden Mothers by Meera Syal

This book was recommended in Red Magazine months ago, and I downloaded it to my Kindle immediately (I love Meera Syal as an actress – and hadn’t realised she’d also written books) – but hadn’t got round to reading it.  I started it when we were away last week – and devoured it pretty quickly!

The House of Hidden Mothers

And here’s the Amazon blurb:

“HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO TO GET THE LIFE YOU CAN’T HAVE?

Shyama, aged forty-eight, has fallen for a younger man. They want a child together.

Meanwhile, in a rural village in India, young Mala, trapped in an oppressive marriage, dreams of escape.

When Shyama and Mala meet, they help each other realise their dreams. But will fate guarantee them both happiness?…

Brimming with warmth, wit and indignation, Meera Syal immerses us in a devastating story of friendship, family and the lengths we will go to have a perfect life. THE HOUSE OF HIDDEN MOTHERS is her long-awaited third novel and shows Meera Syal at the height of her literary powers”

Initially this seems to start out as 2 disconnected stories (particularly if you haven’t read the blurb first – sorry about that!). Shyama and her extended family live in East London – with Mala across in rural India.  I really liked the descriptions of Shyama and her folks in the UK – and have friends with Indian heritage – so a lot of it rang true.  Within a few chapters you can see how the stories are going to intertwine.

Shyama and her younger boyfriend Toby are keen to have a child – but have exhausted options in the UK – so are looking at surrogacy in India.

I sometimes got a bit frustrated with Shyama and wanted her to talk to her daughter Tara or her other half Toby properly – but otherwise I did like her and felt for her situation.

I think there was lot more cunning to Mala than was evident on the surface – she was very manipulative at times – but I like the fact this was a sub text and not spelt out in words of one syllable.

There was also a clever inclusion of some of the political issues currently facing India – and having had a friend work in Mumbai recently, I know just how accurate this was.

Perhaps having an interest in India made me enjoy this more – but I thought it was very well written and entertaining – and will actively seek out other books written by Meera Syal.

 

 

 

 

Sore Bum

My bottom is still hurting having fallen down the stairs on Good Friday.  I was a little concerned that it was still so tender after a fortnight – so the other night I asked my husband if he would have a look for any bruising, lumps, exposed spinal column etc (never one to over dramatise!!).

After I dropped my trousers he took a sharp intake of breath and said ‘Oh My God ‘ – to which I immediately panicked that there’s a serious problem, his reply:

‘It’s got a huge crack in it’

#helpful

 

Book Review: In Your Prime by India Knight

 

In Your Prime

First of all I should ‘fess up to a bit of a girl crush on Ms Knight!  My first foray into her writing was ‘Neris and India’s Idiot Proof Diet‘ many years ago.  The accompanying website, Pig 2 Twig (which is what they wanted to call the book but Penguin wouldn’t allow it!) introduced me to lots of lovely people who have become life long friends, and for this I will be eternally grateful.  In fact, I actually feature on the ‘before and after‘ page of the website – and right at this moment, would take the ‘before’!!

I’ve read India’s other non-fiction and fiction offerings – all of which I’ve really enjoyed – so I asked for this book ‘In Your Prime’ for my 42nd birthday last month.

I think I am slightly, but only slightly, younger than the target reader – but hey, you can always be prepared!  Here’s what the Amazon blurb says:

“‘I love India and her no-nonsense, honest and utterly hilarious guide to navigating the post-45 years’ Marian Keyes, Mail on Sunday

‘A route map for the midlifer woman. Knight tackles every issue – beauty, menopause, laser eye surgery . . . she is not held back by the fear of laying down the law’ The Times

Happy, confident, in control, ready to do and enjoy everything that comes your way – you’re definitely In Your Prime. But too many of us allow mid-life’s little nuisances to dictate how and who we are. So let India Knight tell you how to deal with the obstacles while living life to the full.

Whether it is coping with ageing parents, divorce, dating, teenagers, wavering libidos or your saggy bits, India dispenses perfect tips. She’ll instruct you how to drink, dress and party gracefully (or disgracefully), but above all she’ll show that happiness is the one thing you deserve.

This is the book that will tell you how to live the rest of your life.”

Yet again, I wasn’t disappointed.  India’s style – like her Sunday Times column – is quite opinionated, a bit bossy and occasionally sweary (which is very much like me, except the swearing is more frequent in my house!) and I can imagine it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – but it is most definitely mine.

Some of it (menopause, parents with dementia) I hope I am still some way from, but it was really useful to see some suggestions of things to consider beforehand.

Some of it was relevant already – supporting friends who are ill by cooking meals and leaving them with reheating instructions is something I’d already done (in fact, 2 of the recipes out of the ‘Neris and India’s Idiot Proof Cookbook‘ are my ‘go to’s on such occasions – the Spanish chicken and one of the sausage casseroles have been devoured by children in the village who would never eat the contents if their own parents had cooked it) – but highlighting the fact that people don’t want to have to make decisions when they’re ill – so asking ‘how can I help?’ or ‘what can I cook you?’ is actually putting additional pressure on the already suffering friend – so making other decisions for them, like what to cook, or announcing you will do the ironing rather than asking what you can do – is actually way more helpful.  I know it’s stating the obvious – but is definitely something I will think about more in future.

The chapter about teenage kids was a bit scary – as we’re fast approaching that stage – but forewarned is forearmed and all that.

I am also renowned for always being super busy and super efficient – and the section about not needing to ‘have it all’ all of the time and taking time out and appreciating the little things really resonated.  As did the suggestion of paying for help if you can afford it.  We’ve recently employed our own Mrs Patmore (co-incidentally the third author – although unmentioned in the title – of the aforementioned cookbook) and it’s changed our lives!!  Partly from the fact that the fridge is always filled with low carb delights, and that the children are trying lots of new things (with varying degrees of success – 4 kids all liking the same thing is so rare) but also because it frees up my husband’s and my time to spend with the kids doing reading, homework, playing games etc – and means we often all sit down to eat together as a family – which we rarely did on weekdays before.  I also think stress levels are just generally lower without the daily ‘what on earth am I going to cook?’ ponderances.  Paying for this help has definitely been a worthwhile investment.

And having been squeamish about it for years – I might just have to look into laser eye surgery……………..

In summary I’d definitely recommend this for all India Knight fans of a ‘certain’ age who are in their prime and want to be older, wiser and happier!