Book Review: A Catered Fourth of July by Isis Crawford

A Catered Fourth of July

One of the categories in my 2017 Reading Challenge was ‘A book set around a holiday other than Christmas’ – so good old Google came to my assistance and I found this on Amazon. It looked like it would be a relatively easy read – and one of the characters was called Libby!  So this was a deliberate choice, rather than my last book where it came as a shock that I shared a name with a main character!!

Anyway – here’s the Amazon blurb:

“High noon on July Fourth in the quiet town of Longley, New York, and it’s got to be one hundred degrees. Thankfully, sisters Bernie and Libby are setting up their yummy catering out of the sun in the gazebo for the reenactment of The Battle of Meadow Creek—and not baking in those Revolutionary War uniforms with their fellow townspeople …
After a few cheery exchanges of “Moveth” and “Thou speakest treason,” the muskets are fired and the fake battle is over. But the blood on notorious town playboy Jack Devlin looks very real. Is it possible that Jack has had his last tryst? 
When town councilman and resident loudmouth Rick Evans fingers Libby’s beau, Marvin, as the killer, Bernie and Libby know they’ve got to get cooking on the case. But the former Casanova has burned half the town—including the hot-headed politician and his occasionally faithful wife. And what about re-enactor Elise Montague, who is training to be an EMT yet almost fainted at the sight of blood on the deceased? 
Bernie and Libby have their plates overloaded with suspects, and will need to work very fast to clear Marvin’s name. The simmering killer is still out there, armed and taking shots, and unless the sisters quickly get to the bottom of this patriotic pre-meditation…their goose may be cooked!”

It would appear that this is a series of books – but I don’t think that mattered, at no point did I feel I was missing out on key facts – so I think they could all be read standalone.

Early on I was annoyed at the slap dash editing – with the omission of an ‘of’ (I know, I probably need to get out more!) but as the book progressed I realised that this was probably an Americanism in the writing as it happened a lot.

It was a basic read – and not at all challenging – and also not that brilliant.

The ‘mystery’ twists and turns a bit – but I didn’t care enough about any of the characters to be that bothered who was guilty and why.

There were recipes at the end – which might be nice if you were in to that sort of thing – which clearly the author is, as the food throughout the book is described really well.

I definitely won’t be searching out any other books by this author – but at least that’s another one off the list…………

 

 

 

 

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The top ten – telephone numbers I know….

I was thinking the other day that there aren’t many phone numbers I actually remember – most are programmed in to my mobile (I’m showing my age just by calling it that – my kids would call it phone without thinking of any other sort of phone!) and so I don’t need to know them.

telephone

So – if I lost my mobile – who would I be able to call (aside from the emergency services, the speaking clock and directory enquiries):

  1. My husband’s mobile.  One of the very few numbers I actually remember – probably from calling it quite so much.  Let’s face it – he probably wouldn’t answer it as he’d be busy on another call – the kids even know the voicemail spiel off by heart from hearing it so much.
  2. Our landline. Admittedly that would freak everyone out!  The only people who phone the home phone are my Nan or cold callers. Or other household members and the call usually starts with ‘why haven’t you picked up your mobile?’
  3. My parents.  They’ve lived in the same house since before I was 2 – and had the same number I’m guessing from when they moved in.  They answer the phone with the last 4 digits of the number – which used to be ‘a thing’ – but I’m not so sure is now?  Back in the day the neighbours all had very similar numbers.  I clearly remember once mis-dialling the last digit when trying to call my folks and then realising I was talking to Auntie Val from down the road!! Once, when my best friend from school had actually lost her mobile (not hypothetically for a blog post) she managed to get in touch with me as she also remembered my parents number from our youth!
  4. My best friend from school.  The aforementioned friend has lived in the French Alps for the last 15 years – and when she first moved there I had this fancy calling account that meant it was cheaper than just using the landline.  However, this meant I had to dial a number first before putting in her number, so it couldn’t be programmed in to the phone. Consequently I remember all 13 digits of her phone number off by heart – similar to knowing my credit card number off by heart too.  Although, in both instances, I can only do the number in one go – if I pause in the middle it completely throws me!
  5. My middle sister.  In a similar vein to 4, my sister has lived in Munich for many years – and so I’ve memorised her number too.  There’s been the odd time I’ve had fat fingers and miskeyed the number and ended up talking to a random German – but generally I get it right!
  6. The office number.  Now this comes with a disclaimer.  I can remember the number that we give out publicly and is on all of our headed paper etc. but when we moved offices 5 years ago we changed exchanges within Birmingham and so couldn’t move our number across.  But – we didn’t want to change the number all of our customers and staff knew – so it gets forwarded every time someone calls it to a new local Kings Norton number.  I have that number saved into my phone for when I call the office (as it’s cheaper!) but don’t know the direct number at all!
  7. My Nan.  Nan has had the same number as long as I can remember – I suspect as long as she’s had a phone in her home, and it’s moved with her over the years (she’s clearly lived in the same Birmingham exchange all that time).  Although it if was an emergency and I’d lost my phone I’m not sure my almost 89 year old Nan would be my immediate source of assistance!  And we won’t even mention Nan’s own mobile…….
  8. The doctors’ surgery. Our doctors are great – but getting through to them at 8am for a same day appointment is impossible.  I tend to use the landline on ringback – but at the same time keep pressing redial on my mobile, sometimes in excess of 100 times.  I might not have to physically key in the digits each time – but the number is burned on to my retinas from looking at it so much.
  9. My best friend from work in the 90s.  She – like me – has had the same mobile number since we started working together in the mid 90s – it has therefore been used MANY MANY times in the last 20+ years.  Our teenage daughters are friends now – but clearly they’d iMessage or use social media to contact each other, nothing so retro as actually CALLING each other!
  10. Number 9’s husband’s mobile.  Now admittedly this is not quite as weird as it sounds – as he and I worked together lots in the 90s too – surviving some audits on pretty much caffeine and Haribo.  For some reason his mobile number would also be one I’d remember in a crisis.  And he has been known to be my knight in shining armour in the past – and this story probably needs to be recorded on my blog as it’s been told many time!!  I’d been out for dinner with them both and came home to find my front door unlocked.  At the time I lived on my own and it was pitch black. So lovely friend’s lovely husband picked up his weapon of choice (a squash racket from the boot of his car) and came into the house with me to check for intruders. We searched the house and there was no sign of anything remiss – until I went in to the kitchen and found an ENORMOUS bouquet of flowers.  My now husband had not long had a key to my house, and whilst I’d been out with friends he’d let himself in to deliver me some flowers.  He’d just not realised my front door needed to be manually locked when you left. Needless to say the phonecall to ‘thank’ him for the flowers also included some expletives….

So there you go – my ‘squad’ if I needed to make my one phone call from jail or such like!!

Apologies to my littlest sister and any friend I’ve made since 1996 – but at least you’re off the hook for bailing me out!!

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

 

The Wonder

I have been doing the Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge for, well, 2017 to date!  Sometimes I’ve shoe horned some of my TBR pile into a category – and sometimes I’ve followed up on recommendations from friends.  However, I was struggling for some categories – but a little Google revealed that Popsugar had some recommendations for all of the categories – so I thought that would be a good place to start!

So – for the category ‘A book about food’ I went for The Wonder by Emma Donoghue.

Here is the blurb:

“An eleven-year-old girl stops eating, but remains miraculously alive and well. A nurse, sent to investigate whether she is a fraud, meets a journalist hungry for a story.

Set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s, Emma Donoghue’s The Wonder – inspired by numerous European and North American cases of ‘fasting girls’ between the sixteenth century and the twentieth – is a psychological thriller about a child’s murder threatening to happen in slow motion before our eyes. Pitting all the seductions of fundamentalism against sense and love, it is a searing examination of what nourishes us, body and soul.”

First things first I was a bit shocked that the main character, and the person whose view the book is written from – the English nurse sent to investigate – is called Lib – like me. That had to be a good sign?!?

I found this a bit of a slow burner (which looking back I also did with the other book I’ve read by Emma Donoghue – the critically acclaimed ‘Room’).  I kept expecting for it to get going – but it definitely took over half of the book to do that.  There was a lot of descriptions of the Irish Midlands, and the house where the young girl and her family lived.  It all felt a bit repetitive and dull.  Lib wasn’t that nice – and definitely looked down her nose at the family she was ‘observing’ and the other ‘locals’ – particularly their religious faith.  However, most of them did need a good shake – so I can see where Lib was coming from.

I’m not a massive fan of historical fiction (or TV programmes or films) so I guess it’s not a massive surprise I found quite a lot of it a bit dreary (like the Irish Midlands by the sounds of it!)

However, about 70% through (got to love a Kindle!) the book finally picked up – and was a real roller coaster through to the end with numerous twists and turns.  This meant that overall it was an ok book – but definitely just ok rather than brilliant!

I’m not sure how much of it was based on fact – and how much was artistic licence – but terribly sad if this did happen a lot.

In conclusion, I’m not sure I’ll be rushing to read any more Emma Donoghue – but that’s another category ticked off the list.  Just 13 more categories to complete in the next 2.5 months #nopressurethen

 

 

 

Training shoes

This morning I was off to a breakfast seminar to be technically updated about current changes in Financial Reporting legislation.  These seminars are great because I can tick the continued professional development box on my ICAEW renewal, catch up with old colleagues, have a lovely bacon bap* – and miss the morning chaos at home – winning all round!

Anyway – as I was getting ready the youngest said, ‘Mummy, where are you going?’

I decided the above was a bit verbose for a 5 year old, so went with ‘A training course’ – she looked at my feet and replied ‘I don’t think you’re going to be able to run in those shoes Mummy?’

IMG_1120

 

At the seminar I bumped into one of the retired partners who I hadn’t seen in over 15 years – I had a momentary panic as I couldn’t remember which surname he knew me by.  Then I realised it didn’t actually matter, as he had once signed me in to a client as Libby Purves as he couldn’t remember my surname!

 

* In shocking news there were no bacon or sausage baps today!  The chef was trying out some fancy pants breakfast canapes!!  Whilst they looked and tasted great – you just didn’t have the volume of a bap – and some of the pretty tiny bowls required a spoon, and when you’ve got an essential mug of coffee in one hand (I’ve learnt you need a double caffeine hit before these things, having once fallen asleep and had the notes on my lap clatter to the floor!) you can’t faff with a spoon and tiny canape as well!!

 

 

Don’t Stop All the Clocks

A few weeks ago there was UPROAR because Big Ben isn’t going to bong for many years whilst the Houses of Parliament are undergoing renovations!  People were quoted as saying it may harm tourism?!?!  (To be honest most tourists want a photo with Big Ben in the background not a sound recording of the bongs?!?)

Big-Ben (1)

In the mid 90s I lived on St Paul’s Square in the centre of Birmingham.  There was a church in the middle of the square (cue reminiscing about my brother in law doing a comedy dive over one of the benches in the churchyard the day they helped me move in!)  Anyway – I digress.

St_Paul_Birmingham

 

When I first became resident I was really concerned that the clock would keep me awake – but it didn’t at all.  In fact the only time it was an issue was when the clock was broken and stopped chiming every 15 minutes, and bonging on the hour!  I think my subconscious would wait to hear it – and when it didn’t happen I’d wake up – weird!

We now live within striking distance of one of the churches in our village.  Bell ringing practice on a Tuesday can be a wonderful sound (or it can be quite annoying when children use it as an excuse as to why they can’t possibly get to sleep!)  Again the clock at this church chimes every 15 minutes and bongs the hours. This was very useful before I wore a Fitbit 24/7 – as if I was up in the night with small children I could work out what time it was even if I wasn’t near a clock.

St Laurence Church

The other day the 5 year old announced that as the clock had just struck she was coming in for some lunch – given it goes every 15 minutes, I’m not sure why this particular ringing meant food time?!

Although award for the craziest bell has to go to the church in the centre of Le Biot in the French Alps where my BFF from school and her family live.  There is seemingly no rhyme or reason to when or how many time that bongs!!  But at least I’m not moaning about the cow bells – which apparently most English residents living there don’t like (well, according to the Daily Mail anyway – so it must be true!!)

Le Biot France

Book Review: Watermelon by Marian Keyes

Watermelon

I recently read The Break by Marian Keyes and really enjoyed it – so when my 2017 Reading Challenge suggested ‘ the first book in a series’ I thought I’d go back to the start of Marian’s writing and read  the first book in her series about the Walsh sisters.

Here’s the blurb:

“On the day she gives birth to her first child, Claire Walsh’s husband James tells her he’s been having an affair and now’s the right time to leave her.
Right for who exactly? Exhausted, tearful and a tiny bit furious, Claire can’t think of what to do. So she follows the instincts of all self-respecting adults in tricky situations.
. . . And runs home to Mum and Dad.
But while her parents are sympathetic, Claire’s younger sisters are less so. Helen wants to share the new toy (she means baby Kate). While Anna is too busy having out-of her-head experiences.
So when James slips back into her life, desperate to put things right, Claire doesn’t know whether to take a chance on a past she feared she’d lost forever or face an uncertain future of her own.
But is she as on her own as she really believes?”

Very early on in the book I had a wobble.  Claire takes her 2 day old baby and flies from London to Dublin.  I was concerned about the lack of official documentation, surely there are child trafficking issues if the new baby doesn’t have a name, let alone a birth certificate or passport. Anyway, I gave myself a good shake, and reminded myself it was a book and I shouldn’t be so anal.

Slightly further on – Claire, at her parents’ home in Dublin, phones her husband back in London – but he doesn’t pick up.  Why doesn’t she text him?  Facebook or Twitter direct message him?  Send  him a quick Whatsapp or Snapchat message?  I am confused.  I then check when the book was published and it was 1995!!  This is practically a historical novel!  I hadn’t even graduated or been married the first time back then.  So – I went back to the book with a slightly different view point!!

The book is told from Claire’s point of view – and she thinks around facts A LOT.  Sometimes I wanted to give her a slap and get her to concentrate on the task in hand.

I found the character of James REALLY annoying (and not just because he is giving accountants bad press!) – but he was horrible and controlling and not nice at all.  I also didn’t particularly like either of Claire’s sisters that you meet in this book (so I don’t think I’ll be pursuing the rest of the Walsh family books TBH)

A lot of the writing felt quite frantic, and rush rush rush from topic to topic – almost manic at times. I think Ms Keyes’ writing style has definitely improved over 20 years.

Overall it was amusing, emotional, entertaining and not challenging to read – but hasn’t made me want to go through the entire Marian Keyes back catalogue in order (which was kind of my reasoning for starting with the first one).