I read one book by Tasha Alexander, which I loved and so I borrowed A Terrible Beauty before lockdown from my library.
It is an odd read. It isn’t a high-octane thriller. It has intrigue, crime and mystery – a dead man comes back to life!
I feel like the emotional depth of the story and its characters took centre stage. There were a couple of surprise moments and excitement towards the end. The build-up of the story is slow. I don’t mind slow. The setting of Santorini and Greek myths was a distraction. My best description of A Terrible Beauty can be found in the text, in this quote, ’High stakes but seemingly endless time in a prolonged state of expectancy’
We are going back in time to December 2019. I did read this story then and somehow the review has been in my drafts ever since – even though I could have sworn I posted it?
I am now a massive supporter of the Lady Hardcastle mysteries. The characters are beginning to feel like people I know.
Christmas at the Grange felt like a full-length novel, opposed to a short story that takes no more than an hour to read. It is set at The Grange, the home of The Farley-Stroud’s. They are one of my favourite couples in books, so good to learn more about them and their home. While I feel a lot of short stories are a cast-off idea and fall short, Christmas at the Grange did not. It had a great idea, the usual brilliant dialogue between the characters and is a lot of fun.
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A romp, I think is fair, to describe the Lady Hardcastle mysteries. Aside from liking the setting, the era it is in, the characters, and the plots of the books, it is the dialogue which delights me. When I used to write my own stories, I was often praised by the people who read it how authentic my dialogue was (not that I am bragging) Couple that with my love of television sitcoms and film, I appreciate good dialogue. T. E. Kinsey’s dialogue, particularly between Florence Armstrong and Lady Hardcastle, is a joy because it has wit and speed.
Are these books going to be everyone’s cup of tea/coffee/squash etc? No. If you like a fast-paced book, this isn’t for you. But give it a go. I’m sure I said in *an other review, but that the protagonists are female in this series. That’s everything. I want to see Florence as a character on my TV screen.
*thought this sentence was broke until I realised that should be another
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The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie 4/5
Can you imagine how fun it must be (I’m kidding) sitting down and imagining … these murder scenarios? Do the writers fox themselves? Because characters, even if we do ultimately control them, still do what they damn well like.
I also love Agatha Christie’s dialogue. I think I have said it before in a review, but I bloody love good dialogue. It’s like music to my ears, when you read some dialogue and it has a bit of bite to it and a bit of humour. It’s pleasing. Roddy Doyle is another author that I like for dialogue.
I think I want dialogue to mirror real life. Which is why there are no rules to writing. You would have dozens of editors complaining if how we spoke to each other was put in our stories. It wouldn’t make sense. Unfinished thoughts, talking over one another, repetition, some coarse language. Of course, accents and dialects too. Do you feel perhaps in stories we try to replicate the perfect scenario? Isn’t that why we read stories, we expect a start, middle and end. I personally love reading stories that don’t really have a story, more happenings. I read a book a couple of months ago like that. It was Keith Waterhouse’s There is a Happy Land. It’s a beautiful book. I probably read it once every couple of years. I don’t have my own copy of it. I know where it is in the public library and I pluck it off the shelves periodically. Pluck is the wrong word. The shelves are packed tightly in my public library and it’s more of a shuffle, tug, pull, shuffle, break a nail and a yank. Then you realise it’s the wrong book and not what you want after all and have to get it back in.
Anyway, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was a hit with me. It’s all very clear and obvious whodunnit by the explanation at the end, isn’t it?
Another mystery I read was
Hate Bale: A Rural Cosy Mystery by Stephanie Dogg 3/5
Hate Bale is very cosy. It has romance, humour and its setting and characters were different (depends what you’ve been reading, I guess) The murders though are brutal, when you think about what you are reading. The ending was wordy, and it went from 60 to 100 in the space of 3? chapters. I felt the plot and the pacing could have been tightened. It did meander, not that I mind a meander. Other readers may not. Not a bad read though. I liked it.
Jennifer is a student, studying film noir. With student accommodation not yet built she is living off campus temporarily in a nursing home. The home is, somewhat, unique. It is home to five elderly residents and owned by the Granges. Joining Jennifer are fellow students Liverpudlian John – Paul George ‘Ringo’ and Bo Liu and Lling Liu. There are a few secrets in the book, and I never knew which characters I could trust. Jennifer, in her opinion, is boring and so takes on a whole different persona in her new surroundings. She is so self-absorbed, I have to quote Hermione Granger and say ‘oh stop feeling all misunderstood,’ to her. She also lies about something HUGE, and when the lie is revealed she doesn’t seem to realise how wrong that it is. When will it click Jennifer?!
The residents in the nursing home, on one hand, did feel like clichés, and Ringo did not convince me as a character, but are very amusing and I laughed out loud at a lot of their exchanges; with the discussions between the two groups about ‘when they were young’, Brexit and how the young are more self-absorbed than their generation. Typical stuff, really. There is a mystery in the book, and I kind of felt the author didn’t know whether to go all in with that part of the story or not, and so I was underwhelmed by the ending as it seemed so at odds with other parts of the book, where all the residents are bonding, going out and getting drunk, and with everyone working together to stop the home from closing. There is a poignancy to the book, about aging, and loneliness, and in being happy with who you are, and who your family are.
I took from the book the message that our experiences from childhood, what beliefs we are brought up with, and the gripes and grudges we hold onto all our lives can impact us in different ways, leaving us unfulfilled. We must choose to change or remain entrenched in our prejudices.