Review | The Sister by Louise Jensen

A terrific debut. 4/5 stars.

The Sister by Louise Jensen

The blurb: Grace hasn’t been the same since the death of her best friend Charlie. She is haunted by Charlie’s words, the last time she saw her, and in a bid for answers, opens an old memory box of Charlie’s. It soon becomes clear there was a lot she didn’t know about her best friend.

When Grace starts a campaign to find Charlie’s father, Anna, a girl claiming to be Charlie’s sister steps forward. For Grace, finding Anna is like finding a new family, and soon Anna has made herself very comfortable in Grace and boyfriend Dan’s home.

But something isn’t right. Things disappear, Dan’s acting strangely and Grace is sure that someone is following her. Is it all in Grace’s mind? Or as she gets closer to discovering the truth about both Charlie and Anna, is Grace in terrible danger?

There was nothing she could have done to save Charlie …or was there?

My take:

This review will be rather sparse as I think the less you know about the plot of The Sister, the more you’ll enjoy it. And the more I say, the more spoilery things will get, so I’ll keep this brief.

If I hadn’t know this was Louise’s debut novel, I never would have guessed. So the first thing I have to say is, congratulations Louise!

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WWW Wednesday 24th August 2016

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Firstly, a public service announcement: I won’t be taking part in the next couple of WWW Weds as I’m off on my hols. But I’ll try to keep up with your posts!🙂

This meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Wait! There’s more. Click to find out what I’ve been reading!

Review | A Mind to Murder (Adam Dalgliesh #2) by P. D. James

I doubt this is James’ best, but it was a good place to start. 3.5/5.

A Mind to Murder by P. D. James

The blurb: When the administrative head of the Steen Psychiatric Clinic is found dead with a chisel in her heart, Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. Dalgliesh must analyze the deep-seated anxieties and thwarted desires of patients and staff alike to determine which of their unresolved conflicts resulted in murder.

My take:

I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting from P. D. James… perhaps something more spectacular? Anyway, this is a perfectly well-written detective story. In fact, it reminded me of the two Poirot stories I’ve read, although the detective in this case – Dalgliesh – isn’t as much of a “character” as Christie’s Belgian sleuth. In fact, he’s practically personality-free, which isn’t a bad thing, as it means the focus is on the “whodunnit” aspect of the book.

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Recipe | Chocolate toffee melts

These chewy chocolate biscuits are easy to make with children. You can give them a Rolo centre or use Smarties or whatever you prefer!

How to make chocolate toffee and smartie melts biscuit cookie recipe

Another recipe pulled from my Mum’s recipe folder. It’s from BBC GoodFood Magazine once again but this time it doesn’t seem to be available online. So you’ll just have to take my word for it!

Ingredients (makes 24 – 30 biscuits)

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Review | Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell

I honestly don’t think she’s capable of writing a bad book. 4/5.

Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell

The blurb: Hallie has a secret. She’s in love. He’s perfect for her in every way, but he’s seriously out of bounds. And her friends aren’t going to help her because what they do know is that Hallie doesn’t have long to live. Time is running out…

Flo has a dilemma. She really likes Zander. But his scary sister won’t be even faintly amused if she thinks Zander and Flo are becoming friends – let alone anything more.

Tasha has a problem. Her new boyfriend is the adventurous type. And she’s afraid one of his adventures will go badly wrong.

Three Amazing Things About You begins as Hallie goes on a journey. A donor has been found and she’s about to be given new lungs. But whose?

My take:

I picked up this book in a local charity shop because I was in desperate need of a cheerful, lighter read. I’ve read about ten of Mansell’s books now and I’ve enjoyed all of them. So although I flicked through the first few pages before buying, just to double check I hadn’t read it before (my memory isn’t brilliant for titles and all the covers are very similar), I didn’t bother reading the blurb because I trust Mansell to entertain me with a good contemporary romantic tale and don’t feel the need to know exactly what’s going to happen.

The result of this was that I was already four or five chapters into the book and had been introduced to all the main characters and their love interests before I finally read the blurb… and was instantly on edge! In that short time I’d become quite attached to the characters and it was certainly an incentive to keep reading to find out which one of them was going to end up being an organ donor!

Mansell’s books usually present us with various heroines and heroes. This is a great tactic because you can be pretty sure that you’ll become deeply invested in at least one of the stories, if not all of them. For me, the highlight of the book was Hallie’s story. She was so likeable, I desperately wanted her to get her happy ending in terms of her health and love-life, and her story was well-paced.

Overall: another great contemporary romance from Jill Mansell. If you like this sort of thing, you can’t go wrong with any of her books!


Claire Huston / Art and Soul

 

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WWW Wednesday 17th August 2016

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This meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Wait! There’s more. Click to find out what I’ve been reading!

Review | The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

I guess we can’t all love everything. 3/5 stars.

The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review.

The blurb: Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.

Sal seems to appear out of nowhere – a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he’s welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he’s a runaway from a nearby farm town.

When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperatures as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him.

As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be.

While the Bliss family wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.

My take:

“What?!” I hear you scream. “Only 3 stars?! What is wrong with her?!”

My 3-star rating is a reflection of my experience of this book. I’m not saying this is a bad book. Not at all. The writing is very good and at times excellent. I particularly liked all of Sal’s parable-like stories and the author also manages to describe a few fleeting moments of true beauty. There is a strong story here and it unrolls at a good pace, giving us just enough information to keep us moving forward with the characters. The book is also commendably ambitious in how it seeks to tackle a number of difficult issues including mob mentality, racism, child abuse and homophobia. The initial idea of a child arriving in response to an invitation for the devil to present himself is a great starting point for a story and an exploration of ideas of good and evil.

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Recipe | Jam doughnut muffins

Yes, you read that right. These muffins are also jam doughnuts!

how to make jam doughnut muffins recipe 1

I got this recipe from my Mum’s folder of various recipes she’s cut from magazines. Fortunately, as this came from GoodFood Magazine, it’s also available online. You can check it out here. However, the online version only gives metric weights and measures. I’ve given both metric and imperial here below.

I learned some important things making these doughnut muffins and would suggest some changes to the cooking time and temperature. But more of that below…

Ingredients (makes 9-12 muffins depending on how big you make them)

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Review | The Museum of You by Carys Bray

Not quite everything I’d hoped. 3.5/5 stars.

The Museum of You by Carys Bray

The blurb: Clover Quinn was a surprise. She used to imagine she was the good kind, now she’s not sure. She’d like to ask Dad about it, but growing up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story is difficult. She tries not to skate on the thin ice of his memories.

Darren has done his best. He’s studied his daughter like a seismologist on the lookout for waves and surrounded her with everything she might want – everything he can think of, at least – to be happy.

What Clover wants is answers. This summer, she thinks she can find them in the second bedroom, which is full of her mother’s belongings. Volume isn’t important, what she is looking for is essence; the undiluted bits: a collection of things that will tell the full story of her mother, her father and who she is going to be.

But what you find depends on what you’re searching for.

My take:

I’m saddened that I didn’t enjoy this book more. The writing is good: clear and evocative. The idea of the “museum of you” is great and had a lot of potential. I liked Clover – the 12-year old protagonist – very much. The story is told in alternating third-person point-of-view between Clover and her Dad, Ben, and I looked forward to every one of Clover’s sections.

However, I didn’t really connected with any of the characters other than Clover. Getting through the sections told from her father’s viewpoint felt like a chore. I started to skim through his sections to get to The End faster.

The neighbour’s SHOUTING (yes, in ALL CAPS) and continued malapropisms were quite funny at first. Unfortunately, they quickly became irritating. I understand this sort of comic relief is a good idea when the backstory which is slowly being revealed is very sad, but less would have been more in this specific case.

As I say, I’m quite sad about not having liked The Museum of You more. The story is touching, the characters are all drawn as decent (if damaged) people, and I can see why so many people have loved this book and been deeply moved by it. Perhaps if I read it at another time, I’d feel differently.

Overall: a moving story and the idea of the ‘museum of you’ is terrific. I just didn’t feel enough sympathy for any of the characters other than Clover for this story to truly “land” with me. Other opinions are available!🙂


Claire Huston / Art and Soul

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WWW Wednesday 10th August 2016

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This meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Wait! There’s more. Click to find out what I’ve been reading!