I am seriously wondering how I ever found time to go to work. Nearly a year now since I waved goodbye to the commute and to the City, but I now seem to have a busier time than I did when I was hotfooting it up to town each day.
This week I went up to London on Monday to see my GRANDDAUGHTER and then came back on Tuesday evening (short train so packed and ended up sitting on the floor between the litter bin and the toilet...oh happy day), wind and snow and freezing cold when I got off the train, Wednesday off to Cambridge for lunch with my friend Jan Jones (this was meant to be the last lunch before the baby arrived...), pigged out totally and really enjoyed it, then on Thursday took my mother and myself off to the dentist in Ipswich. Now I loathe going to the dentist. This is a legacy from my years from 11-14 when I had braces and I mean real braces, grin at people and my mouth flashed metal, and I spent hours in the dentist's chair and suffered, oh boy, did I suffer. This has meant that this grown up pensioner shakes like a leaf before going and demands a full anesthetic before being examined. However, not too bad this time, lots of scraping and cleaning etc but I came out feeling like the proverbial wet hen.
Today at home but catching up on my work for the UK Coaching Partnership, which I have shamefully neglected the last week and eyeballs now dropping out and I am overwhelmed with Facebooking, Buzzing, Blogging and Tweeting and still have a nasty feeling that I have yet to come to grips with all this stuff. Was offered a book to review all about these websites and their uses and would I like a copy? Oooh yes please says I, in the vain hope that I may be able to actually understand the great world of Twitterdom.
Mem: I know one Tweets on Twitter but does that mean if you receive a post you are a Twittee or a Twit?
So the end of the week and exhausted but am posting up again tomorrow as I am meeting up with a friend to see Private Lives by Noel Coward, starring Matthew McFadyen and Kim Cattrell. Again, this was booked as a pre-baby treat and I will now be viewing it through half closed eyes and trying to stay awake instead of all alert as I would have been and this sentence is now getting very long and confused so I will stop.
AND then after that I am having a meeting with my other lovely daughter, Kathryn, or Auntie Kitty as she has now designated herself. She is down from Leeds for the day to make the acquaintance of her niece and we are going to have a glass or two in the evening by way of celebration and I also want to hear all about Rio from whence she has just returned.
So we come to Sunday when total collapse will set in.
Monday, I am off up to London again with car full of meals for daughter's freezer
and so it goes on
Please don't think I am complaining. I am not. Just so happy I can help and see my lovely gorgeous Florence as often as possible. However, I have about 50 books on my To Be Read Pile and so all you lovely publishers out there who have, and are, sending me books - please bear with me.
Now, according to Simon Hall the author of these terrific thrillers, I am 'perceptive and thoughtful' in my reviewing. This is rather flattering you have to admit even if Perceptive and Thoughtful sound like a firm of solicitors, and so after finishing the latest book featuring TV reporter Dan Groves and DCI Adam Breen, The TV Detective, I am now on my mettle to come up with a phrase befitting of this description.
So here we go.
This is a terrific book.
This is an exciting book.
This is a witty and amusing book.
This is a very very very good book.
OK not exactly perceptive and thoughtful but expressive of just how much I loved this latest in this series from Simon Hall. I have read all four of them now, read my review of The Judgement Book here which has links to the reviews of The Death Pictures and Evil Valley.
In these three titles the friendship between Dan and Adam is well established and we know much more about their personal backgrounds, but this relationship between TV reporter and Detective was in situ when the series started so in The TV Detective we go back to the beginning and we learn how they met and this partnership began and I was very glad of this as it is always good to have the back story. However, I see that this book was originally published in 2005 under the title A Popular Murder and it is now being reissued, presumably as Simon Hall's books are more popular now than they were then. So this is not exactly a brand new book but as I had never read it or heard of it, then it is to me, and I gather that another is due out later on in 2010.
Now I am not going to get too involved in the plot here as I don't want to give anything away which might spoil the story, but briefly: Dan Groves is newly assigned to the crime beat by his TV company and in order to learn about police procedures and police work, is set to shadow DCI Breen on a high profile murder, that of a local businessman, Edward Bray, who has made so many enemies that there are rather a lot of suspects around, including his own father from whom he was estranged for many years. Adam and Dan have to pick their way through all those who wished Bray dead and as the case continues it becomes more and more complicated with the three most likely looking perpetrators all either having an alibi or being in a different place at the time of the murder.
As I said, no give away clues here save one - Why was the killing planned for an original day but then put off? The answer to this question is the key to the solution and I have to say I certainly did not guess the answer.
Right, so my summing up of this latest book by Simon Hall is, as always, that he is a darn good writer. Keep your Jonathan Kellermans and your Patricia Cornwalls (see earlier post), forget the super cool dialogue, the elliptical sentences, the gosh-I-am-trying-so-hard to be laid back attitude also mentioned in said post on these two authors, what we have here is a book which has the following:
a good plot
an interesting duo solving the mystery (as with all good detective novels, we must have our Holmes and Watson, Lord Peter and Bunter, Roderick Alleyn and Inspector Fox, Poirot and Hastings etc etc) who bounce ideas off each other
lots of clues and twists
an unexpected little extra at the end of the book
good writing - most important of all
Put all those together and you have a most satisfying and enjoyable read. Simon Hall is now the author of four of these Groves and Breen books and it is my profound hope that he continues to write a lot more of them as I do like the combination of these two characters. Adam Breen sounds rather gorgeous actually and I have to say that when doing my usual trick of casting each part as if for a film or TV series, I kept picturing Richard (North & South, Spooks, Robin Hood) Armitage as Adam. Every time I have read one of Simon Hall's books Richard Armitage has popped into my mind, hardly a surprise really as I do think about Mr A rather a lot....
But, I must not end on a flippant note. I have to be perceptive and thoughtful.
No sorry not possible. I am, instead, enthusiastic and delighted.
Published by Accent Press and out on 1 March. If you like a good crime story then go buy
No secret that I adore crime novels and am a huge fan of the Golden Age of detective fiction writers, ie: Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and D L Sayers. Recently have tried Michael Innes and have also loved Edmund Crispin and am now trying Gladys Mitchell (not totally enamored so far but am going to have another go); Margery Allingham, ditto.
In the last couple of years I have become addicted to Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri; thoroughly enjoyed Camilla Lackberg; Simon Hall; Andrew Taylor (particularly the Lydford series); Martin Edwards (the Lake District series) and have been sent crime fiction from new authors all of which I have enjoyed in varying degrees.
So I tell myself that I am not a stick in the mud when it comes to non-British crime writers, but I am finding that I am coming unstuck with thrillers from the US. I recently read two enjoyable reads by Linwood Barclay, pretty formulaic but great fun; loved the John Dunning Cliff Janeway series (probably because the ex-cop turned detective in it is a bookseller and there is loads of bookish info), but on the whole I find the US genre hard to crack.
Have just finished reading Evidence by Jonathan Kellerman which was sent to me by the publisher. This author is a familiar name to me, always see him heaped up in airport bookshops etc and I have never felt the slightest interest in trying one of his books, but hey when you get a review copy, then you give an author a whirl. This book is full of what I call 'Grisham-speak' - as always cars are 'gunned' away from the sidewalk, numbers are 'punched' into a phone etc etc. I was looking for these cliches as soon as I started reading and yup there they were. The writing tries to be achingly cool:
'Milo stared at me.
I raised my eyebrows.
He cocked his head to one side "my partner's gonna ask you some questions now. They're a little personal but we really need to ask"
Waving the red shirted kid over, he ordered an extra-large Coke.
Both women had stopped eating.
Sherry Passant's thigh pressed hard against mine'
It is all trying to hard to be LA Confidential, to be laid back, with snappy short dialogue and oh my goodness me, it gets boring. Don't think I will be trying any more of this guy.
Now a few weeks ago I posted about Patricia Cornwall as I had tried her Kay Scarpetta novels, about which I had heard good things. I picked up an omnibus of three of her novels in a charity shop and got stuck in. This is my original post here and the comments I received were most interesting as they seemed to reflect my initial thoughts precisely.
I decided to persevere and borrowed a couple from the library and managed to read one and then decided no more. The detail in this book turned my stomach. Not the autopsy details, gruesome though they were, but the seeming obsession with bodily appearance and functions. In this particular title, Scarpetta was giving a physical examination of a murder suspect and we had comprehensive descriptions of his skin, spots, cuts, blood, his underwear, nails, smells .....by the end of it I was feeling really nauseous. This particular section of the book went on for pages and pages and totally slowed down the narrative. I cannot see that it helped the story progress in any way whatsoever. Two more murders in this book and the same minute detail. Two thirds through the story I began to skim - I wanted to find out who did the murder, though I had lost interest by then, and once I had shut the book up, did not read the second one and the books went back to the library.
There was an almost ghoulish distasteful feel to this Cornwall book as if the author was relishing the forensic details more than the story line and I won't be reading any more by this author. If I felt the writing, characters and plots were worth the effort then I would persist, but they don't. And there is one thing that is really puzzling me. One of the titles I read a month or two ago ended with the death of a main character, very important in Scarpetta's life. In the last book I read, published only two years ago, this character is alive and well. I checked the publication dates to make sure I was not imagining it, but no. This character should not be there as far as I am concerned. So what happened? Was it all a Dallas-type dream or was it a covert operation or ...what?
If anybody has read all by this author and can enlighten me or tell me I have got it all wrong, then I would be really pleased to hear. I am being deliberately vague as to identity etc as I don't want any spoilers to appear in this post which might upset anybody reading all of Patricia Cornwall's stories.
So, I am now sitting here nice and warm, cold and wet and horrid outside, mulling over my happiness and good fortune and getting that lovely warm glow and feeling in one's tummy when you know something exciting and wonderful has happened. It also happens to be my birthday which I had more or less forgotten about, originally I was to be in London today with James and Helen for lunch and was to be the final visit before the baby arrived and then of course everything went haywire! My birthday celebrations will, therefore, be writing this post, getting into a warm bath when done, using some luxury bath oil which was a present, lighting my Jo Malone candle (a Christmas present 18 months ago and still going strong as I am very miserly with it), and probably taking a book in with me and will stay there for about an hour.
As I don't feel I have eaten properly at all this week, food grabbed on the run, I am roasting a chicken with leeks and peppers and a friend dropped by with a blackberry and apple crumble that she had made for me, so that will be later on and looking forward to it. Simple pleasures are the best.
When I returned on Friday I could not get my front door open easily as my hallway was full of padded envelopes and within ten minutes my kind neighbours knocked on the door to give me parcels they had taken in for me while away, and inside more books. I came back to find fourteen books waiting for me which was wonderful. Now I have to get down to reading them. Thought you might like to see a pic of recently received and here it is.
Simon, of Stuck in a Book fame, has undertaken to only purchase two books a month this year just to see if he can do it, and in the interests of solidarity and also watching my now reduced income, I decided to see if I could do the same. Easy you say, look at all the free books you receive and, yes, you are right, but there are still books you want to purchase and this month I have bought my two. One of themm, A Truth Universally Acknowledged, 33 great writers on why we read Jane Austen, has been purchased because Simon wrote about it on his blog, so if you read this Simon you are entirely to blame...
And the other is an E F Benson title. I find this author incredibly interesting because of his variety and range of writing and subject matter and am pleased to find that many of his titles are being published by print on demand companies. Not the most elegant or beautiful of books, but I am not complaining. Very much looking forward to reading both of these.
Right so off to my bath, then the last two episodes of 24 Series 3, I am rewatching them all again in order (yes I know...sad) and we have reached the stage where one vial of a virus which will kill off Los Angeles is to be tracked down and the carrier has managed to evade Jack Bauer and CTU, escaped from the subway and is heading for another location in order to unleash this deadly disease upon the unsuspecting denizens of downtown LA. Will Jack get there in time? Well, what a silly question.....
Back tomorrow all and, once again, thank you so much for all the simply wonderful messages you have left for me both on and off blog. I cannot tell you how much they mean to me so you will just have to guess.
Yep that's me and sorry but no book reviewing for another day or two as I need to recover from the trauma of the last few days. I will not bore you with the details but Florence would not feed, Helen could not feed her, both were in distress with my daughter in floods of tears, my son-in-law, who has been quite wonderful throughout, almost in tears of exhaustion and a screaming baby.
Susan HIll has just written a most timely article in The Spectator where she blogs, with which I agree totally and completely. I have left a reply if you wish to nip over and look at it so will not repeat myself here. As always, Mrs Wells is full of commonsense and says what she thinks.
Florence is now thriving and content and James and Helen can now relax and just enjoy their beautiful daughter, and she is beautiful. I know every mother and grandmother thinks this but there is no argument as far as I am concerned. I would love to plaster pictures of her all over Random Jottings, but Helen has asked me not to and I must respect her request. I do have one with me and my granddaughter and I will ask permission to publish this one, but am not showing any of the family.
I have known many of you a long time and if you wish to see a photograph of lovely Florence then email me offblog and I will send one to you, with the proviso that it is for your eyes only. I am sorry to be so stringent about this, but Helen is now in charge and I have to do as I am told...which I gladly do.
I seem to have spent the last few days running up and down stairs with cups of tea, trays, food, dinner, baby wipes and anything else that was needed. I was up most nights sitting with them both and offering support and found the sight of my daughter in such an unhappy state most upsetting. But, all is now well and they are relaxed and Florence, having knocked back a good few bottles of milk, has visibly plumped up in the last 24 hours and has become more alert since she is no longer hungry.
When I was a teenager I used to dream of getting married, having a family and living happily ever after, but life does not work out that way. Twice married and twice divorced, I now live on my own, but I did achieve a family, two beautiful daughters and now find it difficult to realise I am a grandmother. The time goes so fast. I have had a lot of talks with my ex this week, which I have so enjoyed, and we have reminisced about the births of Kathryn and Helen and remembering it all and how we felt and the traumas we had, and this is where mothers and fathers come in handy and beat midwives into a cocked hat. Of course they are marvellous and they are qualified, but I honestly do believe a grannie can support and offer advice - but only when asked, mind you. I am already learning that lesson very quickly.
My legs may be aching, I am still tired even though I had a good night's sleep last night, and feel emotionally drained, but the satisfaction of knowing that looking after my daughter, son in law and granddaughter and helping them when they needed support, gives me a feeling of great contentment and satisfaction. It has all been worth it and will continue to be so.
So when I look back today at that teenager and her dreams, well I don't think she has been too badly done by....
Fraught three days, lots of tears and worry but we now have a happy and contented baby feeding well and just sooooo beautiful. As I have had no sleep for three nights and have been charging around like a lunatic, cooking meals and belting up and down stairs which I am not used to (I live in an apartment), all I want to do now is to collapse on the sofa, drink tea and then go to bed.
Unexpectedly off to London for a day or two as received phone call from exhausted daughter. Needless to say I am delighted to be asked to help out so will be taking a bijou blog break. So excited - I will be seeing Florence today...
Tuesday and you will be pleased to hear that my bounces are less Tiggerish and my grins less Cheshire Cattish than they were over the weekend, though I still find myself yelling Calloo Callay O frabjous day! at regular intervals. But gradually calming down and then the cycle will start all over again when I motor up to London on Sunday to see my darling Florence. I am taking up a bagful of essentials for baby (raided Boots this morning and incidentally ended up having a lovely chat with the lady behind the counter who was a grandmother herself and listened to me burbling on... people are so nice), the blanket which I have nearly finished knitting (as I have not knitted anything for over 30 years this is indeed a labour of love), a beef casserole for lunch (so we need not waste any worshipping time in the kitchen), a cake which my friend Rosemary is baking for the occasion and, of course, my camera and I fully expect to come back with my memory card totally full.
All my books which require concentration have been put to one side (sorry publishers will get back to them soon) as my mind keeps wandering off and I find when trying to read anything which needs attention, I end up sitting on the sofa with a stupid grin on my face. So what shall I read thought I and then remembered this smashing book in my To be Read pile, Loves me Loves me Not. It is big and fat and full of lovely stories all by authors of the RNA, the Romantic Novelists' Association and it is precisely what is needed at the moment. There is a foreword by Katie Fforde (and a story by her which will keep me going till her next book is published and which I will grab immediately) who says she has been a member of the RNA 'before the dawn of time' and that she doubts if she would have become a published novelist without their support.
So we have over forty stories in here from writers which include Judy Astley, Joanna Trollope, Anita Burgh, Jane Gordon-Cumming, Diane Pearson, Amanda Grange (whose Diaries of which include Mr Darcy, Captain Wentworth et al are all sitting on my bookshelf) and my good friend Jan Jones who is my fellow sticky toffee pudding diner and who I will be meeting next week in Cambridge.
And while I am here all among these lovely Romantic Lady Novelists, I am simply delighted to tell you that Jan Jones has been shortlisted for the Love Story of the Year 2010 which is administered by the Romantic Novelist's Association. Her story Fair Deception which I reviewed here, the first of her Newmarket Regency Novels is the one chosen and I am keeping all fingers crossed for her. Check out Jan's blog here.
So these stories are just what is needed today, some are Regency, some are set in the 1920's, there is one featuring Mr Darcy, Mr Wickham and Mr Willoughby, and some are set in Venice surely the most romantic city in the world and I am loving wallowing in this big fat book.
It is a bleak, grey drizzly day today, all murky outside now as it is late afternoon, I have Tchaikovsky's Fifth symphony playing and am just about to draw the curtains to shut out the gloom. So here is a picture which I hope will chase away the rain and remind us that spring is on the way.