Book Review: Hide and Seek by M J Arlidge

Hide and Seek

 

“Prison is no place for a detective
Helen Grace was one of the country’s best police investigators. 
Now she’s behind bars with the killers she caught.

Framed for murder
She knows there is only way out: 
stay alive until her trial and somehow prove her innocence.

Locked up with a killer
But when a mutilated body is found in the cell next door,
Helen fears her days are numbered.

A murderer is on the loose. 
And she must find them.
Before she’s next . . .”

I’ve loved all of the previous books in the Helen Grace series by M J Arlidge – and have always pre ordered the next so it just magically drops onto my Kindle on publication date.  But I realised it was ages since I’d read Little Boy Blue and thought there must be a new one.  Seemingly my ordering in advance had failed massively and I’d missed 2 new instalments (along with some short stories I’d not noticed before) so I did a big Kindle purchase and stocked up!  And my next read was ‘Hide and Seek’.

I think this would stand alone – but you’d be missing out, so I would definitely recommend reading all of the 5 preceding books in the series if you can.  The back stories  of various characters are filled in as required – but clearly not in as much detail as if you’ve read the other books.

My initial worry was that it wouldn’t be as good as the previous books – with Ms Grace behind bars – and it would all be a bit ‘Bad Girls’ – but I need not have worried at all, it was as fabulous as the previous books in the series.

There are basically 2 stories running concurrently.  Helen in prison and the trials and tribulations that brings firstly with ‘normal’ prison life, but then with a serial killer loose in the prison!  At the same time, outside Holloway, Helen’s friend and colleague Charlie is investigating the man who framed Helen to put her away in the first place, in a bid to clear Helen’s name.

Both plot lines build to a simultaneous climax and really keep you on the edge of your seat.  It felt a bit different to the previous books – I guess due to the settings – but still just as much fun.

I am intrigued as to how the series will now develop – but it’s ok, I already have the next one to read!  It’s like binge watching TV box sets already having the subsequent instalment ready to go.

I think this will slot into ‘the next book in a series you’ve started’ in my 2018 Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

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Book Review: Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In

My 2017 Reading Challenge is making me move away from my usual style of books and dip into other genres. I needed to read ‘a book with career advice’ and ‘Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead’ has been on my radar since it was written.  I read something Sheryl Sandberg wrote more recently about grief – after losing her husband suddenly last year – and I thought it very well written, the crux of it being that option A for her life plan was no longer there, so she had to kick the ass out of option B. Anyway – I digress – but her style of writing made me want to read her first book ‘Lean In’  (her second book, ‘Option B’ – the title from the above anecdote – is also out now, so that is on my TBR pile).

I had read in the press that ‘Lean In’ has been criticised for being too white and too privileged – but given I fall in to both of those categories, I didn’t let that put me off.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is a massive cultural phenomenon and its title has become an instant catchphrase for empowering women. The book soared to the top of bestseller lists internationally, igniting global conversations about women and ambition. Sandberg packed theatres, dominated opinion pages, appeared on every major television show and on the cover of Time magazine, and sparked ferocious debate about women and leadership.

Ask most women whether they have the right to equality at work and the answer will be a resounding yes, but ask the same women whether they’d feel confident asking for a raise, a promotion, or equal pay, and some reticence creeps in.

The statistics, although an improvement on previous decades, are certainly not in women’s favour – of 197 heads of state, only twenty-two are women. Women hold just 20 percent of seats in parliaments globally, and in the world of big business, a meagre eighteen of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women.

In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook COO and one of Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women in Business – draws on her own experience of working in some of the world’s most successful businesses and looks at what women can do to help themselves, and make the small changes in their life that can effect change on a more universal scale.”

Overall I really enjoyed it. The geek in my liked the fact that every quote of facts and figures was cross referenced to its source – with a large chunk of the back of the book housing these references.

I found, for a lot of it, running our own small business meant it wasn’t applicable – and would have been much more applicable when I worked for one of the Big 4 (although back then it was Big 6 #showingmyage) accountancy firms.  Specifically things like mentoring.  I think this should be required reading for everyone, male and female,  in their early 20s before they make big life decisions and particularly those entering the corporate world.

Some of it I have witnessed in action – women making career decisions based on the fact they would probably get married and have kids in the future – rather than seizing the career progression at the time and worrying about the ‘what ifs’ later.  There were also simple suggestions about asking for what you want!  If you want part time work but the dream role you’re being offered is only full time then can you ask for a part time option to be considered?  Or change your support network outside of work?  I’m really lucky that my husband is massively hands on with the kids and around the house (in fact his cleaning OCD is legendary!) – but I have friends who have jobs as full on and high pressured as their husband’s, but still it’s them who have to sort the ill child / weekend playdates / shopping / cooking / buying gifts for parties – often with a side order of sleep deprivation thrown in.  Having a partnership at home is a key factor to a woman – and I guess mother in particular – having the ability and will to lead outside the home.

There were some interesting discussions about mothers who go out to work, or chose to work in the home.  Before I had kids I though stay at home Mums had an easy life – then I realised I was going to work for a rest!  The over riding issue is that women should support each other and not judge other people’s life choices.  Sheryl quoted a woman in the US Navy who’d initially been concerned about being the only woman on a submarine – but the blokes on board were all great and respectful of her authority – it was the men’s wives who were horrible – and judgmental – to her.

The partnership Sheryl had with her husband Dave also shines out right through the book – which was made all the more poignant knowing that between this being written and me reading it, he’d passed away.

I think the ending of the book sums it up perfectly:

“I look toward the world I want for all children – and my own.  My greatest hope is that my son and my daughter will be able to choose what to do with their lives without external or internal obstacles slowing them down or making them question their choices.  If my son wants to do the important work if raising children full-time, I hope he is respected and supported. And if my daughter wants to work full-time outside her home, I hope she is not just respected and supported, but also liked for her achievements.
I hope they both end up exactly where they want to be.  And when they find where their true passions lie, I hope they both lean in – all the way.”

 

 

 

 

Reading Challenge 2017!

I’ve mentioned before my lovely friend who edits books – she’s even guest blogged for me!

Well, she suggested that we (and some equally geeky friends!) signed up for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2017!  Given that includes 2 of my favourite words (I am yet to decide how I feel about 2017) then I was in!

So here’s the list:

reading-challenge

I’m already trying to decide how to shoe horn some of my TBR (to be read) pile in to the different categories!  Obviously I will overshare my reading – and the categories they fall into.

But here’s to a 2017 full of lovely books!

 

 

Book Review: Playing Grace by Hazel Osmond

playing-grace

I have read a couple of Hazel Osmond books recently (Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe / The Mysterious Miss Mayhew) and thoroughly enjoyed them, so started this with high hopes.

Here is the Amazon blurb:

“Grace Surtees has everything carefully under control – her work life, her home life and her love life – especially her love life. But then her boss hires Tate Saunders, a brash American, to spice up the gallery tours his company provides. Messy and fond of breaking rules, Tate explodes into her tidy existence like a paintball, and Grace hates everything about him… doesn’t she? Because, for Grace, the alternative would be simply too terrifying to contemplate: to love Tate rather than hate him would mean leaping out of her comfort zone, and Grace’s devotion to order hides some long-kept secrets… secrets she’s sure someone like Tate Saunders could never accept or understand.”

However, I must confess that when I started this I really didn’t like it.  I found it really hard to get into (whether that’s the subject matter – which is art, and not really my bag) or the character (I found Grace really pathetic and annoying) and I just couldn’t get into it. This may also have been because I’d just read THE BEST BOOK EVER that I am not allowed to blog about yet as it’s not out until 2017 – but I think anything after that would have been a let down (keep your eyes peeled for ‘Eleanor Oliphant’ next year is all I can say!)

Anyway – I kept reading a bit and then putting it down and just not getting my teeth into it all.  But, I don’t like to be beaten by anything (I persevered with The Goldfinch for goodness sake!) and so kept going back to it.  In the end it was ok – and I did want to know what would happen to Grace and the other characters.

I guessed fairly early on what her boss’s secret was and felt that element of the storyline was really dragged out.  I liked the change in the relationship between Grace and Tate and how that concluded.

But overall, definitely not my favourite Hazel Osmond book at all.

 

 

 

Book Review: Paris for One by Jojo Moyes

Paris for One

“Bestselling author Jojo Moyes brings us a charming and heart-warming short story in association with Quick Reads.
Nell is twenty-six and has never been to Paris. She has never even been on a weekend away with her boyfriend. Everyone knows she is just not the adventurous type.
But, when her boyfriend doesn’t turn up for their romantic mini-break, Nell has the chance to prove everyone wrong.
Alone in Paris, Nell meets the mysterious moped-riding Fabien and his group of carefree friends. Could this turn out to be the most adventurous weekend of her life?”

I hadn’t heard of ‘Quick Reads’ before – but having just read another Jojo Moyes book ‘After You’ and not wanting to get started on another ‘big’ book on the last day of a break away, this seemed like the perfect thing to download – and I wasn’t disappointed.

Initially I thought Nell was a bit annoying, and I wanted to give her a bit of a talking to about being a doormat with her loser boyfriend, and not trusting her mates more – but I think that was exactly the emotion the author was trying to engender!

As the book goes on you do find yourself rooting for Nell and her new found bravery.

It also made me reminisce about when I ‘almost’ went to work in the Paris office of the accountancy firm I worked for – the partner over there who wanted me to go had great faith in me (even thought I’d told him I would only be able to work speaking French if I kept a plentiful supply of red wine on the go at all times!)  This is also the important person, who when I asked him what sandwich he wanted for a lunchtime meeting in Leicester said I could chose – so I went for a ‘roast beef’ one – at the height of the ‘mad cow’ crisis.  Thankfully he was a Frenchman with a sense of humour!  I often wonder what would have happened if I had braved it in Paris – but that would have been for 18 months plus – Nell’s weekend sounds like a much more sensible starter option.

Although I suspect she will be back!

A lovely, fun, ‘quick read’!

It’s all O2’s fault……

When I first started this blog I was reading LOADS – mostly when sat at the station or at school waiting for my eldest daughter.

Now, back then – 6 months or so ago – the village where we live, the train station our daughter uses, and the location of her school were all total O2 blackspots – so I couldn’t access the internet from my phone – therefore reading was the only option (other than napping, which did happen occasionally!)

Anyway – O2 have sorted themselves out – and all of the above areas are bathed in the glow of 4G – so I can sit in the car and respond to emails, do the internet shopping, play Words With Friends etc – and reading is taking a back seat.

I think I need to sort myself out and get reading again!

Book Review – It’s Not Me It’s You by Mhairi McFarlane

I have read, loved and blogged about Mhairi McFarlane’s previous two books ‘You Had Me At Hello‘ and ‘Here’s Looking at You‘.  So imagine my excitement when my lovely friend Emily sent me this photograph by text message saying ‘Look what I’ve got’:

It's not me it's you 2

There was an actual squeal of excitement from me – as the publication date isn’t until next month!  But as reported before, Em  has contacts!  She also scored super highly in the friend’s stakes by dropping it round to me as I was packing to leave that afternoon for a transatlantic trip with the husband (another blog post is brewing for that – don’t fear!)

I started reading ‘It’s Not Me It’s You’ in a bar in Manhattan with an ice bucket of pinot grigio and a husband with a flight of beers and the sport on TV – pretty much perfection! And it was the sampler of this book that turned me into a Mhairi McFarlane obsessive fan, so my expectations were high!!

It's not me it's you

This is the blurb from Amazon, just to set the scene for you (which interestingly has changed since my previous blog post when the sampler came out  – and you can currently download the sampler for free for your Kindle – yay!):

“An achingly funny story about how to be your own hero when life pulls the rug out from under your feet. From the author of the bestselling YOU HAD ME AT HELLO
Delia Moss isn’t quite sure where she went wrong.
When she proposed and discovered her boyfriend was sleeping with someone else – she thought it was her fault.
When she realised life would never be the same again – she thought it was her fault.
And when he wanted her back life nothing had changed – Delia started to wonder if perhaps she was not to blame…
From Newcastle to London and back again, with dodgy jobs, eccentric bosses and annoyingly handsome journalists thrown in, Delia must find out where her old self went – and if she can ever get her back.”

And I was not disappointed at all – in fact I think this could be my favourite Mhairi book yet!

There is a love story (a twisting rollercoaster) accompanied by a bit of mystery solving (think grown up Nancy Drew rather than Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison) and all in the style of writing and with perfectly relevant reference points that we’ve come to expect. I really really enjoyed it, and want to be Delia’s friend as she sounds like such a lovely person – normal in a Bridget Jones as a heroine kind of way (but way less annoying!).  Whether you’ve read Mhairi’s other books or not – if you’re a 30 / 40 something female Brit, with a sense of humour, penchant for booze and the occasional potty mouth (that pretty much sums me up!!) you will love this book.

Despite being very kindly sent this uncorrected proof to read – I will most definitely be buying the original, as my copy has pages saying what illustrations are going to be on it – but they aren’t actually drawn in – and I am desperate to see them (told you I was obsessed!!)

Book Review: Daughter by Jane Shemilt

For once I don’t think this was a recommendation from a friend – I’m not sure if it was a magazine review in Red – or that I noticed it was a ‘Richard and Judy Bookclub’ book – but I downloaded this to read, and read most of it on a transatlantic flight earlier this week.

Daughter

Here’s what the Amazon blurb says about it:

“When a teenage girl goes missing her mother discovers she doesn’t know her daughter as well as she thought in Jane Shemilt’s haunting debut novel, Daughter.

THE NIGHT OF THE DISAPPEARANCE

She used to tell me everything.
They have a picture. It’ll help.
But it doesn’t show the way her hair shines so brightly it looks like sheets of gold.
She has a tiny mole, just beneath her left eyebrow.
She smells very faintly of lemons.
She bites her nails.
She never cries.
She loves autumn, I wanted to tell them. She collects leaves, like a child does. She is just a child.
FIND HER.

ONE YEAR LATER

Naomi is still missing. Jenny is a mother on the brink of obsession. The Malcolm family is in pieces.
Is finding the truth about Naomi the only way to put them back together?
Or is the truth the thing that will finally tear them apart?

Daughter by Jane Shemilt is an emotional and compelling story about how well you really know those you love most.”

Overall I enjoyed this – the combination of thriller and family drama is often a winner.  The one thing is, and it’s no fault of the writer at all, but I’m getting a bit bored of books that flick backwards and forwards in time each chapter. It seems to be the thing to do at the moment, and frankly – it’s all a bit exhausting!

It made me think a lot about how I juggle family and work life – although thankfully without a missing child thrown into the mix.

Definitely worth a read – and whilst slightly gritty in places, it didn’t have the scariness of ‘I Am Pilgrim’ or ‘Pop Goes The Weasel’ – but maybe the fact it could be more realistic makes it worse?!?  It’s well written – and amazing that the writer juggles being a GP, wife of a neurosurgeon, and mother of 5 (all of which she has utilised in the story to some extent!)

Book Review – The Year I Met You by Cecelia Ahern

I mentioned a while ago about my friend giving me a book to read before publication (you can read about that here) and this is the review that was embargoed until the release date of 9 October 2014 (hopefully today if the scheduling system on WordPress decides to work?!?)

The book in question is ‘The Year I Met You’ by Cecelia Ahern.

The Year I Met You

This is the publishers blurb from Amazon:

“A thoughtful, captivating and ultimately uplifting novel from this uniquely talented author.
Jasmine loves two things: her sister and her work. And when her work is taken away she has no idea who she is.
Matt loves two things: his family and the booze. Without them, he hits rock bottom.
One New Year’s Eve, two people’s paths collide. Both have time on their hands; both are at a crossroads. But as the year unfolds, through moonlit nights and suburban days, an unlikely friendship slowly starts to blossom.
Sometimes you have to stop still in order to move on…
Original and poignant, The Year I Met You will make you laugh, cry and celebrate life.”

Unfortunately it didn’t make me laugh or cry or particularly want to celebrate life. It was ‘nice’ and ‘an easy read’ but I was not desperate to get back to it to finish it, as I have been with lots of other books I’ve read recently.  It was kind of like Marks & Spencer undies – fine, practical, you know what you’re getting – but not going to set the world on fire.

I know Ms Ahern has a huge fanbase – and I am sure lots of people will love this – but I have to say it’s just a like from me.

I’m glad I didn’t pay for it!!

Book Review – Here’s Looking at You by Mhairi McFarlane

A few weeks ago I read and reviewed ‘You Had Me At Hello‘ by Mhairi Mcfarlane and loved it, and the lovely author (whom I must confess I have a bit of a girl crush on) even tweeted back saying she loved my review – eek!!!  She’ll probably block me on Twitter now thinking I’m a crazed stalker….

So – I set about on her next book with high expectations of enjoying it immensely!

Heres looking at you

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

“The new novel from the bestselling author of You Had Me At Hello.
Anna Alessi – history expert, possessor of a lot of hair and an occasionally filthy mouth – seeks nice man for intelligent conversation and Mills & Boon moments.
Despite the oddballs that keep turning up on her dates, Anna couldn’t be happier. As a 30-something with a job she loves, life has turned out better than she dared dream. However, things weren’t always this way, and her years spent as the ‘Italian Galleon’ of an East London comprehensive are ones she’d rather forget.
So when James Fraser – the architect of Anna’s final humiliation at school – walks back into her life, her world is turned upside down. But James seems a changed man. Polite. Mature. Funny, even. People can change, right? So why does Anna feel like she’s a fool to trust him?
Hilarious and poignant, ‘Here’s Looking At You’ will have you laughing one minute and crying the next.
The new must-read novel from #1 bestseller Mhairi McFarlane.”

And it did not disappoint at all.  I totally agree with the writer of the above review – at times I really was laughing one minute and crying the next (although I do cry very easily – adverts / X Factor / school assemblies all have me reaching for the tissues).

Don’t tell my friend Emily – but I also found the bit where she took the mickey out of Mills & Boon editors quite funny!!!

The historic (1980s / 90s) references are just bang on for a ‘just 40’ year old – and it’s so well written, like chatting with a mate.  After reading Gone Girl and not really giving a toss about any of the characters, it was lovely to read something where you are rooting for the good guys.

Only a month until Mhairi’s next book ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ comes out, and the first few chapters are fab.  Now what to read before then…………