Book Review: The Ghost Manuscript by Kris Frieswick

I like to share my book reviews – as hopefully you’ve noticed – but because of this I sometimes get people saying ‘Oh, I’ve written a book’ or ‘My friend has written a book, would you like to read it?’ This makes me nervous, as no one wants to have their baby criticised (which reminds me of Emily’s excellent guest post some years ago!) So I’d heard about The Ghost Manuscript from a mutual friend of the author but had never bought it. Then – at the mutual friend’s 50th – I met Kris Frieswick in person, and really enjoyed her company (although I’m not sure either of us will drink an espresso martini ever again?!) and despite the alcohol imbibed, I managed to buy her book from Amazon from the hotel bar! If you need *slightly* more information than a mutual love of champagne, cocktails and fast cars between me and the author – here’s the blurb:

“Rare-book authenticator Carys Jones wanted nothing more than to be left alone to pursue her obsession with ancient manuscripts. But when her biggest client is committed to an asylum, he gives Carys an offer she cannot refuse. In exchange for his entire library of priceless Dark Age manuscripts, she must track the clues hidden in a previously unknown journal, clues that lead to a tomb that could rewrite the history of Western civilization. 
But there are people who would do anything to stop her from finding what she seeks – for reasons both noble and evil. The hunt takes her to places she never thought she’d go, physically and emotionally: first to Wales, her estranged father’s homeland, then to bed with Dafydd, a mysterious Welshman who agrees to help her with the search, and, finally, deep inside her own psyche when the monk who wrote the journal 1,500 years ago appears and assists her in her search.”

Now I need to hold my hands up and say ghosts and fantasy books of 1,500 year old monks appearing is not my usual bag – but I thought I’d give it a go – and I’m so glad I did. I really enjoyed the whole book (and have had to Google things whilst reading it to see what was fact and what was fiction!)

The book starts on the East coast of the US where Carys works for an auction house specialising in rare books. Her boss is horrible, she has a client she respects who offers her an amazing deal to investigate an unknown journal, and she has a brilliant kick ass lawyer best friend watching her back. It soon becomes evident that there is more to this unknown journal than meets the eye – and not just her client knows this.

Carys then ends up over in Wales – and more specifically Mumbles just outside Swansea. In a strange twist of fate, I took my son (who also got to know Kris at the aforementioned 50th!) to visit Swansea Uni and then we went for coffee and cake in Mumbles whilst I was part way through the book! It was really interesting to see all of the locations from the book in real life – albeit on a very grey and rainy day #Wales. And in a further twist, the building at Swansea that my son would learn Classics in, is called the Taliesin building – and Taliesin is an ancient Welsh poet mentioned in ‘The Ghost Manuscript’ (the world is a very small place sometimes!)

Back to the book!

Whilst in Wales, Carys enlists the help of some locals – telling them elements of her story without disclosing exactly what is going on. In the meantime, back in Boston, her best friend, the client and the client’s housekeeper are doing their bit too. The trail then takes Carys back across the Atlantic again.

The book twists and turns – it’s part Indiana Jones type quest, part fantasy, part romantic comedy, part family drama, part murder mystery – with lots of other things thrown in too! I don’t want to walk you – or take you out on a boat – through the story, as you need to see how it develops yourself.

I have to say I didn’t see the ending coming at all – which was great – not in the least predictable, which I loved.

All in all – I’m glad I took a chance on a different genre – and look forward to seeing what Kris writes next!

Book Review: The Christmas Wish by Lindsey Kelk

I’ve previously enjoyed books by Lindsey Kelk – so when I saw she had a Christmas book out, I requested it from NetGalley and was lucky enough to be sent a review copy. Here’s the blurb:

“Newly single lawyer Gwen Baker is hoping that a family Christmas – countryside, a mountain of food and festive films –
will salve the sting of her career hanging by a thread and her heart being trampled on. Because everyone else has their life sorted: even Dev, her boy-next-door crush, is now a tall, dark and handsome stranger with a fiancée. She can’t help wishing her future was clearer.
Then Gwen wakes up to discover it’s Christmas day all over again. Like Groundhog Day but with turkey. And family arguments. On repeat.
As she figures out how to escape her own particular Christmas hell, Dev is the one bright spot. He might be all grown-up but underneath he’s just as kind and funny as she remembers.
Maybe, just maybe, her heart can be mended after all.
But how do you fall in love with someone who can’t remember you from one day to the next?”

I enjoyed the book from the start with Gwen and her cousin Manny travelling to their family home town from London for Christmas. Although not specified exactly where – later on in the book it’s evident that it’s walking distance to Chatsworth House – so clearly near my Aunt and Uncle in Derbyshire!

Gwen and Manny clearly have a close relationship as cousins – and as the book continues, lots of the backstory for the whole family is filled in. They are a really mixed bunch – but you’re rooting for them all. You’re also definitely rooting for Gwen and Dev!

The Groundhog Day element is brilliant! Each day Gwen wakes up and it’s Christmas morning again – and she needs to work out what has gone wrong and why she’s gone back in time again, and again. It’s so clever – and each iteration affects the next in some way or other.

It’s well written, intricate but still very funny and relevant. I had one tiny niggle (because I’m a d*ck) and that’s in one version of the day, Gwen grabs a bacon sandwich as she leaves the house – but a few pages later is starving because she hasn’t eaten all day. Now maybe she didn’t eat the sandwich she grabbed – or maybe I just spotted the one tiny continuity error in it!

It’s a perfect book to curl up with at this time of year – and it’s bargain on Kindle at the moment. I would thoroughly recommend it with a glass of Baileys / box of celebrations / log fire / cozy blanket (delete as applicable)

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC.

Book Review: The Bullet That Missed (The Thursday Murder Club 3) by Richard Osman

“It is an ordinary Thursday and things should finally be returning to normal.
Except trouble is never far away where the Thursday Murder Club are concerned. A decade-old cold case leads them to a local news legend and a murder with no body and no answers.
Then a new foe pays Elizabeth a visit. Her mission? Kill. . . or be killed.
As the cold case turns white hot, Elizabeth wrestles with her conscience (and a gun), while Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim chase down clues with help from old friends and new. But can the gang solve the mystery and save Elizabeth before the murderer strikes again?”

Having loved the previous two Thursday Murder Club books I was a bit sad that the third instalment didn’t hit NetGalley – so when I had a book token to spend, it was a no brainer. I bought it planning to give it to my Mum for Christmas (but then decided to read it myself first!!)

It was so good to be back with the gang again. Whilst the book would stand alone – I really think you need all of the back stories to fully appreciate it – and I’ve found each book is better than the previous because of the familiarity with the 4 founding members of the Thursday Murder Club but the supporting cast of characters as well. The relationships between these supporting members are also an integral part of this book – and it feels like the cast is growing and intertwining as if you were in a serial drama (posh term for soap opera!)

There are huge twists and turns, you have to suspend your disbelief sometimes – but I enjoy that. I can totally ‘hear’ Richard Osman in the writing – but I enjoy that too!

I don’t need to give this a glowing review to get Mr Osman more sales – as his books are ridiculously popular and often fill up multiple spots on the Sunday Times bestseller lists – but I am definitely a fan, and I’m already looking forward to book 4! And yes – I have passed this one on to my Mum as an early Christmas present.

Book Review: The Sh!te Before Christmas by Serena Terry

Having followed Serena Terry / @mummybanter on social media, and enjoyed her first book – when I saw she had a sequel out – and it referred to Christmas in a similar vein to me – I had to request a copy off NetGalley!

Here’s the blurb:

One month to go. One stressed mum. Can she pull off the perfect family Christmas?
Twas the sh!te before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring except for … mum!
Like every mum, Tara wants a perfect Christmas for her family – but no-one else is lifting a finger and she’s losing her elf-ing mind. From the kids behaving badly (vaping! Potty training! The Nativity!), to a distracted husband acting very out of character, the last straw is Tara’s glamorous, feckless, boundary-less mother moving herself back in for the holidays.
Can Tara pull off the holly jolly Christmas of her dreams? Will she deck the halls and not her family? Or is this a Christmas catastrophe”

I finished this book ages ago – but for some reason forgot to post the review! Anyway – we’re now in advent, so life feels much more Christmassy – so definitely the right time to purchase and read this – or it would make a great Christmas present.

It was fabulous to go back to catch up with Tara and her family – it felt like visiting friends for Christmas! All of the relationships from the first book are revisited – and Tara’s Mum plays a key role in this book too. Whilst you could read this as a standalone book – I really think it would be better if you’d read the first book so that you know the back story to all of the characters – from Tara’s immediate family, to her friends and work mates.

The relationships are – again – the centrepoint of the book. From the stroppy teenager, to the excitable small child, the grumpy husband, the nightmare boss – all if it is written very well.

Some of the book was quite predictable, some of it completely surprised me – so all in all I really enjoyed it.

Is this book going to win any literary prizes? Probably not. But a bit like how I don’t always want to watch Oscar nominated films – sometimes a funny, relevant, laugh out loud, have a little weep book is what you want – and this fits the bill perfectly.

A big festive thank you to the publisher and Net Galley for my ARC.