Book Review: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

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I’ve read, and enjoyed, books by Lucy Foley before – so when I saw someone raving about this new one on Twitter, I hopped on to Netgalley to try and nab an advanced review copy – but couldn’t find it.  I shared my despondency on Twitter, and the lovely Lucy Foley herself sent me a link to it on Netgalley where I could download it.

The previous books by Ms Foley that I’ve read have been fabulous epic novels straddling eras and continents – but this was a departure, her first crime / thriller book.  I have to say, I had high expectations.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“A shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.
All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.
During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands–the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.
They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.
Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.
The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.
Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.
Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?”

I loved it from the start!  It flicks between who is narrating – sometimes it’s one of the female guests or the female staff member (in the first person) or one of the male members of staff (the only one in the third person) – and it also flicks between before and after the murder.  This jumping around keeps you on your toes and builds the suspense brilliantly.  There are clues throughout as to who the victim is – but it’s not actually revealed until near the very end – which really does keep you guessing.  It also meant I couldn’t put it down and read far too late into the night!

As with Ms Foley’s previous books, the descriptions of the geographical landscapes are incredible and stunningly atmospheric – you really feel like you’re snowed in somewhere in the Highlands too.

The group of friends, who have mostly known each other since being at Oxford Uni together – apart from relative newcomer Emma – aren’t that nice!  There wasn’t a single one that I was rooting for particularly – but that didn’t lessen my interest in the book. There are lots of underlying tensions – between partners and between friends – which means any of them could be victim or murderer, and there are other people in the frame as well.  The staff seem to have hidden pasts for various reasons, and there are a couple of Scandi’s thrown in for good measure – only adding to the intrigue. It’s like a modern day Agatha Christie and would make a perfect Sunday night drama on TV – or even feature film.

Yet again I like the cleverness and intricacy of the plot, and feel like a lot of thought has gone into writing it both in the structure, content and use of language.  Ms Foley is a very talented writer indeed. In a world of ‘disposable’ fiction, this feels like a book that will stand the test of time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

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“In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America – the first African-American to serve in that role – she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it – in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations – and whose story inspires us to do the same.”

It would appear that I – along with a large proportion of the UK and US based on the book charts – read Becoming by Michelle Obama over the festive period!

I have to say I really enjoyed it.  From her early years in Chicago (which I visited some years ago – so I could picture some of the settings), through her own career, her relationship with Barack, becoming a Mum – and then, what she is most famous for, becoming First Lady.  And not just any First Lady – but the first African American First Lady and all of the extra scrutiny and pressures that came with that.

It was interesting to see how Michelle’s early years and upbringing affected all of her decisions as she got older.  Her love for her family shines out of the pages.  I hadn’t realised that her mother had relocated to the White House with them and was such a help when the Obama girls were growing up as part of the First Family.

As a working Mum, I also appreciated the fact that the similar ‘working Mum guilt’ affects even the most famous people in the world!!

The parts in the UK – or UK related – are also really interesting – and Michelle’s connection with the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school in London is discussed a couple of times – along with her meeting of our Queen Elizabeth too.  The famous Carpool Karaoke with James Corden is also featured – she (Mrs Obama, not the Queen) seemed such a natural doing that – I hadn’t even considered she’d spent time practising!

Seeing it all written down makes you appreciate how much change the Obamas brought to the White House and Government as a whole – making everywhere a lot less old, white and male – and also how the appointment of the 45th president of the US has reversed lots of that………..

I quite often beg and borrow (I haven’t quite resorted to stealing yet!) books – but I actually paid for this with my own hard earned cash, as I was keen to read it – and I’m glad I did.  The book finishes when the Obamas handed over the presidency to the Trumps, and I look forward to a sequel in the future to find out what Michelle’s life was like post the White House……..

 

 

 

 

The Prices Do Australia

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I said last month that I would ‘blog the sh*t’ out of our trip to Australia – but guess what, I was too busy having the holiday of a lifetime to do any blogging at all!!

But – I really want to – I want to remember every little bit of the holiday for the future – which was one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place, to have a permanent record of family ‘stuff’.

I want to remember:

the amazing Christmas lights at our friends’ house in Bunbury,

the fabulous new game for Christmas Day ‘find Daddy’s phone that he’s dropped in the ocean’,

snorkelling and diving at the Great Barrier Reef (although perhaps not the ultra unflattering photos of me in a stinger suit – which my husband has ‘kindly’ now got as his computer screen saver),

the 7 year old getting confused and asking why the kangaroo Daddy had for lunch was called Phillip (it was actually a kangaroo fillet)

the fireworks to see 2018 out and 2019 in from our hotel room overlooking Sydney harbour,

2/3rds of the family climbing Sydney harbour bridge

and lots and lots and lots more.

So my one and only New Year Resolution is to get all of the above documented properly to remember forever.

The Price family loved Australia and we will definitely be back (well, depending if we all survive the whole jetlag thing – the little 2 have been up since 3am…………….)

 

 

Book Review: You Let Me In by Lucy Clarke

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“Nothing has felt right since Elle rented out her house . . .
I’M IN YOUR HOUSE
There’s a new coldness. A shift in the atmosphere. The prickling feeling that someone is watching her every move from the shadows.
I’M IN YOUR HEAD
Maybe it’s all in Elle’s mind? She’s a writer – her imagination, after all, is her strength. And yet every threat seems personal. As if someone has discovered the secrets that keep her awake at night.
AND NOW I KNOW YOUR SECRET
As fear and paranoia close in, Elle’s own home becomes a prison. Someone is unlocking her past – and she’s given them the key…”

A friend recommended this in our reading group – and I needed an easy read, and it was only 99p for Kindle – so I downloaded it and devoured it really quickly!

It’s written in 3 different ways – from Elle’s point of view now, in the 3rd person looking at Elle historically, and through the eyes of the person in the house. This keeps it twisting and turning.

A few times you have to suspend belief as the coincidences are just too great – but it doesn’t completely ruin the book.

I have to say I found Elle quite annoying as a main character – and was shouting ‘change the locks’ at her way before she actually did.  There wasn’t really any character I particularly liked – but it still kept me wanting to read to find out what happened.

Overall an easy read that keeps you guessing and wanting to read on.

I’m not sure where this will fit – if anywhere – in my 2018 Reading Challenge – but with only a week to go, and loads of categories unfulfilled – I don’t think that’s the end of the world!!

 

 

 

 

Book Review: I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara

I'll Be Gone In The Dark

I have been trying to complete a reading challenge for 2018 (although have recently accepted I won’t manage it – but hey, life is too short to read books you don’t want to!)  One of the categories is ‘True Crime’ so I asked my reading group (sounds fancier than it is, just some mates on Facebook really!) for recommendations, and one of my friends recommended this.  We have very similar tastes in many things (those people who know us IRL will appreciate that comment #injoke #actuallymid90sreference) so I expected to enjoy it too.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer – the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorised California for over a decade – from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

‘You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.’

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called the Golden State Killer. Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death – offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic – and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.”

I enjoyed this at the start – finding the attention to detail in the reporting of all of the different cases really interesting.  And knowing it was all real making it all the more disturbing.

However, I have to confess it got a bit repetitive and boring and didn’t really seem to have any answers.  I kept thinking it would build to it all being solved, but #spoileralert it doesn’t…….

This sounds bad – but I just didn’t really see the point of the book.  I know the author died whilst writing the book – and so I thought that the irony would be that someone else solved it after her death.  But that doesn’t happen.

I guess that reading true crime means it’s not going to have all of the loose ends tied up – but consequently I found that reading it felt like a waste of time!  Perhaps I am just ungrateful – and should have appreciated it for what it was – but definitely not my bag!

But hey – another category ticked off the reading list!!!

 

 

 

Going Down Under

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Just over 19 years ago (eek!) I worked in Sydney for 3 months. I had an amazing time being an accountant by day and a tourist by night and at the weekends.  I had an inane grin on my face every day when I caught the bus (yes, Libby on a bus!) across the harbour bridge from my flat in North Sydney to the Deloitte office on George Street.  Thankfully there was no social media back then, so not much permanent evidence! This photo is when one of my BFFs came to visit as she’d been working on secondment too, up the coast in Brisbane. How young do we both look?!?! We didn’t look quite that fresh faced after a big night out last week I can tell you!!

The husband and I returned in 2006 when we had the eldest 2 kids. We had a great holiday on the east coast – here’s us on a rainy Bondi Beach and the children in Port Douglas – I’ve actually kept this photo in my wallet ever since (to remind me of when they actually liked each other!!)

Now we’re heading Down Under as a family of 6. We’re doing the recently started 17 hour direct flight to Perth – and catching up with some friends who emigrated a fair few years ago. We’re then flying cross country and time zones to the Great Barrier Reef for Christmas, and then, in proper bucket list style, Sydney for New Year!

I. CAN. NOT. WAIT! Given the festive stress levels, the 17 hour flight to sit (lie) down and drink fizz whilst watching films sounds idyllic – and there should be plenty of sunshine when we get there.

Obviously I will be blogging the sh*t out of the whole trip – so watch this space!!

Although not sure how many more of my husband’s Down Under jokes I can deal with…………………….

 

 

 

 

Book Review: This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay

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This book had been on my radar since it became a bestseller when first released – but I hadn’t got round to buying / downloading it.  I’d talked about it to a lovely friend – and next thing I know, Mr Amazon delivered me a hard copy through the post.   I love getting exciting post – especially books (although I did have a minor panic that I’d been ordering stuff after drinking again – so had to check with my friend that she was the sender!!)

Here is the blurb:

“Welcome to the life of a junior doctor: 97-hour weeks, life and death decisions, a constant tsunami of bodily fluids, and the hospital parking meter earns more than you.

Scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt provides a no-holds-barred account of his time on the NHS front line. Hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking, this diary is everything you wanted to know – and more than a few things you didn’t – about life on and off the hospital ward.”

This book is BRILLIANT – I loved it from start to finish.  Yes, Adam Kay is sarcastic, a tiny bit evil sometimes, and uses foul language – but that pretty much sums up me and my friends too!!

A large proportion of the book is set in labour wards.  Having been there 4 times myself it brings it all back.  I had 2 children on the NHS and paid privately for 2 to be delivered – in fact there’s a whole new blog post that’s sat in my drafts for months just about that subject (I bet my 15 year old daughter’s mates who stalk my blog can’t wait for that one!!) But the one thing I just have to comment on is that Adam talks about delivering a baby for a private consultant, when it would be the consultant getting paid a wedge for doing it – and it’s not like he’d give a refund.  Well!  When child number 3 was born, I’d been induced, and the private consultant decided he’d got time to go back to his office to do some paperwork.  The baby had other ideas and made a very swift arrival – ably delivered by the resident midwife.  The incredibly guilty consultant turned up afterwards – but did write us a 50% refund cheque!!  (Although the cynic in me would say that’s because he already knew we were planning number 4 and he didn’t want to miss out on those fees…….)

Whilst being very cleverly written, and an entertaining read, this book is also a real insight into the life of a doctor.  In fact, just after I’d started reading it, I went to an A Levels option evening for the aforementioned daughter – and was chatting to one of the other Mums whose daughter wants to be a medic.  A GP friend of theirs had given the 15 year old a copy of this book to show her what life as a junior doctor really was like.  Who knew it could be used for recruitment (or possibly anti-recruitment) as well as being an excellent read!

Don’t read this book if you’re easily offended or don’t like bad language – but otherwise, it’s a must read.

As soon as I’d finished it I passed it on to a friend, as I was sure she and her husband (who co-incidentally is also a clever, caustic, anti religion Adam!) would love it. I think wanting to share it is definitely the sign of a good book.

 

 

 

Book Review: I’m Absolutely Fine! : A Manual For Imperfect Women by Annabel Rivkin and Emilie McMeekan of The Midult

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‘I have been waiting for this book my entire life. It’s brilliant.’ – Claudia Winkleman

‘A genius book. So funny, so wise, so cool and above all so USEFUL. I couldn’t love it more. I am buying it for every one of my friends.’ – India Knight

‘I’m absolutely fine but I slightly need to pee, I followed the road less travelled and now I don’t know where the hell I am, I may bleed to death shaving my legs, my soul aches, another week has ended without me becoming accidentally rich, I just put my keys in the fridge, unexpected object in the bagging area, I’ll have a café mocha vodka Valium latte to go please, where’s my phone? My anxieties have anxieties, no… not like that – here, I’ll do it, do I have to do everything? WTF?’

Is it just me? We gnaw on that, don’t we? Is it just me? Well, look around. Look at the rage, the resolution, the ‘hear me roar’, the panic, the power, the chin hairs, the shame, the empathy, the conversation, the sheer potential.

Welcome to Midulthood. A place where we recognise that we are all more alike than we are unalike. Of course it’s not just you. If we’re not in it together, we’re not in it at all…

From sex (What Could Possibly Go Wrong) to self-image (Does This Straightjacket Make Me Look Fat?), I’m Absolutely Fine is a wry look at real life, real wisdom and real information framed in fun.”

 

 

A few weeks ago I was in hospital having (yet another) surgery on my piles – and whilst scrolling through Instagram spotted a competition to win a copy of this book on the lovely doesmybumlook40’s page:

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So, obviously I had to reply:

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A few days later I got a message saying I’d won copies for me and my friend and asking for our addresses – how exciting!

When it arrived (signed, get me!) I started reading straight away. In fact, I left it by the toilet as it was perfect to dip in and out of with my numerous post surgery toilet trips. (Although I DEFINITELY don’t think it was written as a toilet book, in fact who would have books in the toilet nowadays *whistles nonchalantly*)

On a geeky book loving note – it is a beautiful weight, and has a ribbon bookmark inside – retro and gorgeous!

Now I expected to LOVE this – the recommendations by Claudia Winkelman and India Knight added to my expectations (I secretly want to be BFFs with them both) and I really did enjoy lots of it.  Some of the lists had me crying laughing – just soooooo accurate.

This one in particular has been in the press loads, so I don’t feel guilty sharing it:

“20 THINGS YOU KNOW IF YOU’RE A MIDULT

1. Nothing good happens at three in the morning.

2. You should never buy the smallest size you can get into.

3. Everyone needs therapy.

4. Grey hair is beautiful, grey roots make you look deranged.

5. Time flies.

6. You are probably a little bit of an alcoholic. Unless you are actually an alcoholic, in which case you may have given up drinking.

7. You are always hungry.

8. If you check out of technology, you are checking out of life. Don’t do it.

9. If someone has no old friends, there is a problem.

10. Infidelity doesn’t necessarily mean it’s over. Contempt does.

11. Things get stuck in your teeth.

12. Something always hurts.

13. And then you think it’s cancer.

14. You know more and less at the same time. You think they might cancel each other out. So where does that leave us?

15. Good sleep is better than good sex.

16. Moths make you panic. Even talking about them: panic.

17. You have 25 different kinds of herbal tea. You don’t much like any of them. You’d rather have a Diet Coke. But you probably won’t.

18. Swearing f***ing helps.

19. This is the rush hour of life: we have spots, wrinkles and possibly braces.

20. If you need to cancel, you need to cancel.”

But lots of the other lists are even funnier (and ruder!) but you need to buy the book for those #nospoilershere!!

I guess the fact I overshadow ridiculously means I often know things aren’t just me (I was amazed how many friends had period issues / had had endometrial ablations and privately messaged me when I publicly discussed them) but I still enjoyed empathising no end.

Most of the book I absolutely loved – but occasional chapters I felt were a bit neurotic and self indulgent. Maybe if I was at a different stage in my life I may have empathised more – but it seemed like a totally different world that I didn’t quite get. I feel bad writing that – especially when it was a lovely free copy – but I do like to be honest.

Overall, though, I definitely enjoyed it – and will dip in and out of it again in the future – and probably quote the lists incessantly to people!

I now follow The Midult on social media – and totally concur with most of their posts – so I’m very glad to have found them.  This would make a perfect Christmas present for ‘women of a certain age’!!

Book Review: Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other lies) curated by Scarlett Curtis

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This book – curated by Scarlett Curtis – had been on my radar, I’d seen some tweets and it had been reviewed in Red Magazine – but I hadn’t actually ordered it.  Then, on October 4th, after Penguin had set up a a pop up stall to sell the book in the flagship Top Shop store on Oxford Street in London, they were asked to take it all down again allegedly upon the instruction of Top Shop supremo Sir Philip Green. A Topshop spokesperson said: “…. we made the decision from a production and creative standpoint to retract the Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies pop-up from one of our stores. We are sorry – this in no way reflects our stance on feminism and we will be making a donation of £25,000 to Girl Up. We continue to fully support the sentiment of the book, Scarlett Curtis, feminism and equality.”  This was before the recent news reports about Mr Green hit the press, post House of Lords revelations, but I think the #pinknotgreen hashtag was searingly appropriate even at that point.

Anyway – in a fit of solidarity with Ms Curtis, I bought a copy!  Here’s the Amazon blurb:

We asked 52 women: what does the F word mean to you? 
The result is extraordinary.
The must-read book for 2018. Follow @feminists on Instagram for updates. 
Curated by journalist and activist Scarlett Curtis, with incredible pieces by:
Emma Watson – Zoe Sugg – Keira Knightley – Gemma Arterton – Bridget Jones (by Helen Fielding) – Saoirse Ronan – Liv Little – Dolly Alderton – Karen Gillan – Alicia Garza – Jameela Jamil – Kat Dennings – Nimco Ali – Beanie Feldstein – Olivia Perez – Amika George – Evanna Lynch – Akilah Hughes – Tanya Burr – Grace Campbell – Alison Sudol – Elyse Fox – Charlie Craggs – Rhyannon Styles – Skai Jackson – Tasha Bishop – Lolly Adefope – Bronwen Brenner – Dr Alaa Murabit – Trisha Shetty – Jordan Hewson – Amy Trigg – Em Odesser – Emi Mahmoud – Lydia Wilson – Swati Sharma
Warning: contains a lot of feminism and some explicit content!

**Published in partnership with Girl Up, the UN women’s foundation, royalties will benefit this amazing charity**   “

It is a really varied book – as you would expect from many women’s own experience of feminism.  Some of it was funny, some tragic, some historical, some forward looking, some educational – and I really enjoyed all of those different aspects.  It was perfect to read one person’s chapter at a a time (yes, it was a ‘toilet’ book for me post bowel surgery……)

Some of it has been horribly misquoted in certain elements of the press.  For example it was said Keira Knightley SLAMMED the Duchess of Cambridge, who gave birth a day after Keira herself, for posing on the hospital steps.  But it wasn’t written like that at all.  In my eyes, Ms Knightley was pitying Kate for having to be on show like that – not saying she was doing womanhood a disservice by doing it.  But hey – why let the actual context of a written piece get in the way of then newspapers stoking up a supposed catfight between celebrity women……

Some of the contributors were a lot younger than me – but I didn’t find that an issue – and I liked the different perspective.

Overall it was a good read – and I’m not sure I could have found a better book for my ‘A book about feminism’ prompt for my 2018 Reading Challenge!

In another review I read it said to give this to every teenage girl you know!  Well, I went for donating my copy to the teenage girl resident in this house.  She reckons she’s far too busy with Year 11 revision to read it – so I’ve just left it in her bedroom – and hope she’ll be inspired to read it in the future.

 

 

 

Piles of rubbish

So – the aforementioned piles op happened a week ago. There has been an unexpected whizz back to the hospital for an overnight stay for some post op bleeding – but I’m now at home and feeling loads better.

I am, however, using laxatives and lots of fruit and veg to ensure everything keeps ‘moving’ and my internal wounds can heal.

My stomach sounds like there is some kind of chemistry experiment going on in there with loads of fizzing and gurgling,

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and I fear I may never be able to fart again for the fear of horrific follow through.

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#neverknowinglyundershared