Tuesday 2 June 2020

Catching up

As per usual I'm several books behind with reviews so this is a quick catch-up post for a couple of them.

First, Summer at the Lake by Erica James. This is my first book for Carl's Venture Forth and it covers the prompt: A book set somewhere I have never been but would like to visit

It's also my sixth book for the European Reading challenge covering the country of 'Italy'.

Floriana is a tour guide in Oxford, Adam is a property developer and Esme is retired and lives alone. None of them know each other until Floriana is knocked over by a car and the other two go to her aid. The three somehow become friends. They learn that Adam has recently been ditched by his longterm girlfriend and is struggling to accept it. That Floriana had a best friend whom she suddenly realised she was in love with... when she told him he rejected her and her world fell apart. Now, after two years, she's had a wedding invitation from him and doesn't know whether or not to go... it's to take place at Lake Como in Italy. Esme has some history with Lake Como, her father took her there as a 19 year old and she fell in love for the first time. So, will Floriana go to her wedding... and will she have company? I seem to be developing a taste for this kind of story, which I think started with The Returning Tide by Liz Fenwick back in February. I do like them to be well written though, so I'm trying to be careful what I pick. I saw Erica James's books recommended on a blog I read so thought I'd give her a go and am very pleased with the outcome. The writing is excellent, good dialogue, amusing narrative, the people felt real, especially Esme. And how nice to have an octogenarian take centre stage in a book! I've never been to Lake Como but would absolutely love to go. I imagine it to be gorgeous and it certainly feels like it from this book. The atmosphere of the area jumps off the page and it was interesting to contrast the Lake Como that Esme experienced in the 1960s with that of the modern day where there are now many more tourists. A super read. I'm not sure if every book Erica James wrote will interest me but I will definitely be reading more by her.

Lastly, The Body in the Dumb River by George Bellairs

The body of James Teasdale is discovered in the river near Ely in Cambridgeshire. This is odd because Teasdale actually lives in Yorkshire with his wife and three daughters. He's a rep who's on the road most of the week, only returning at the weekends, and this was a weekend. But it seems that James Teasdale has been living a double life as 'Jim Lane'. Unbeknown to his wife, her husband isn't a rep at all, he runs a hoop-la fairground stall and has another woman in his life. He tours the fairs around the country but avoids the north where his wife lives. He is both popular and successful. So who killed a man that it seems everyone liked? I was a little bit underwhelmed by this Superintendent Littejohn instalment. I've read one or two others in the series and quite liked them but this one was a bit pedestrian in my opinion. I wasn't very interested in anyone in it or what happened to them. I also did not get a very strong sense of either Cambridgeshire or Yorkshire. The only thing that kept my attention was Teasdale's awful family, they were very well portrayed, especially the snobbish wife and her appalling father. Looking on Goodreads I see that this is book 35 in the Inspector Littlejohn series, I suspect the author might've been a bit bored with him by that stage.

So I had a bit of a decision to make. I started this a couple of days ago.

It started ok, but... a hundred pages in and I'm bored stiff. There's not one character I feel anything for and nor do I care what happens to any of them. What to do? Abandon it or plod on? I've abandoned it. And started this:

One hundred pages in and I love it. *So* interesting and readable. Ah well, such is life... and books.



DesLily said...

I read Jack quite some time ago. He and his family are interesting. I would have loved it if he wasn't killed to find out what he'd be like as a 4 yr. President. ANd I thin Bobby would have made a good President also.. and the "mobs" knew it which is why he was killed too

Cath said...

Pat: Yep, I remember you reading it and I think was why I bought it. It's lingered a while on the shelf but as I just finished Jean Kennedy Smith's 'The Nine of Us' I thought it was time to read, 'Jack'. And it's so good.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Born and raised in MA, I'm all about the Kennedys; a family that has seen so much tragedy but, yet did so much for people in need. I need to check out Jack.

DesLily said...

Gah! gee thanks Cath... I never heard of the Nine of Us..so I looked it up and ordered it! Sigh.. I've read about 3 on JFK and one one JFK and Bobby.. one on just Bobby and one on Rosemary....You do this to me to often LOL .. love you Sis!

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

As I think I mentioned previously, I have a physical copy of the Erica James book on my shelf, as MIL is a big fan, so seeing that you gave it 5 Goodreads stars, I definitely need to schedule it into my reading ASAP.

I can't ever remember reading any George Bellairs, although I generally enjoy this 'traditional crime' fiction style of writing. It is the kind of book my dad would have enjoyed, so may have been amongst the library books of his I used to 'borrow' and read whilst he was at work, even though age wise I was probably far too young for them!

I have read a couple of the early Robert Harris books, but obviously wasn't that impressed, as I can't remember anything about them and I have never kept up to date with the kind of stories he is writing these days!

Thanks for sharing, I always enjoy your bite-size reviews :)


Lark said...

Summer at the Lake sounds like a book I'd really enjoy. And I say abandon all plodders! There are better books out there to be read. :D

TracyK said...

That book by George Bellairs has a lovely cover but I suppose I should not buy it just for the cover. I am sorry you did not like the Robert Harris book, I won't rush out to buy that one either, although I might like it better than you, since I love spy fiction. The only book I have read by him was Enigma which was good. I don't remember it being spectacular but I gave it 5 stars so obviously I was impressed. I did not think the movie was as good at all. I have two more books by him... The Ghost and Fatherland.

Kay said...

Glad you abandoned the one that wasn't working for you, Cath. Life is too, too short for pushing through a book that is only so-so or worse. Hope you enjoy Jack.

Carl V. Anderson said...

What a perfect first book to venture forth, given Summer is in the title!

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I would love to visit Italy, it is certainly one of the top places on my list. I know I'd love the food, the wine, and the scenery.

Cath said...

Diane: I must admit I'm fascinated by the Kennedys, not so much because of Jack but because of Bobby whose assassination hit me like a ton of bricks when I was 15.

Pat: Sorry. LOL But you will 'love' The Nine of Us... it's delightful. I need to find a book that's just about Bobby.

Yvonne: Yes, I certainly think Summer at the Lake is worth your time to read. It takes them a while to get to the lake but I didn't mind that as it gave me time to get to know the three main characters.

Ive read one other book by Harris, 'Pompeii', and I enjoyed it so why I failed with this one I can't say. It's a serious book and wonder if it's my mood in these uncertain times.

Thank you, I'm glad you like my mini reviews. :-)

Lark: I think I gave the plodder a fair chance but I may keep it and give another chance when my mood is different.

Tracy: I'm ok with the spy aspect of this book but no one in it appealed to me. What I did think was good was the author's portrayal of Neville Chamberlain. I shall put the book back on the shelf and try it another time. I have heard that The Ghost and Fatherland are very good so I'm not giving up with Robert Harris.

Kay: I completely agree, life is too short. 'Jack' is proving to be very good indeed.

Carl: Funnily enough I didn't make the connection between the title of the book and Venture Forth. 'Duh'

Italy is a bucket list destination for me. Whether I will ever get there I don't know but I hope so.

Susan said...

THE SUMMER AT THE LAKE looks like a nice summer read. I like the tranquil setting.

If you don't care what happens to any of the characters in MUNICH, I say abandon it. No use wasting time on a book you're not enjoying.

Enjoy your summer reading, Cath!

Marg said...

I like the sound of the Erica James book.

Sam said...

You made the right decision, Cath. Life is too short to force yourself to read something that is not clicking with you. Those days are over for me. I never dreamed that I would abandon a book at page 275 or so, but I did exactly that a few weeks ago when I realized I had no understanding of the rather complex plot and really didn't care anyway. Too many good books waiting for our attention.

Cath said...

Susan: Summer at the Lake was definitely the perfect summer read for me. It's over a week since I finished it and I'm still thinking about the characters.

Yes, I have abandoned Munich. I may try again in a year or so and I may not.

Thank you, I will.

Marg: It was simply delightful. I put it in the charity shop box but may well retrieve it in case I want to read it again.

Sam: Yes, I think I made the right decision too. I feel like I'm too old to plough on with books that are not interesting me. Almost like I've reached an age where the years left are not enough to spend reading books I'm not connecting with. Every book now has to earn its keep. LOL

CLM said...

My parents met in college in a political group and later hosted then Senator Kennedy at an event. Somewhere there is a great picture of my mother looking at him in awe, my father looked at my mother, and JFK - who like the best politicians could read a room in an instant - is looking very amused.

Cath said...

CLM: That's so interesting because I've just been reading about the events and campaigning the family took part in before he became 'Senator' Kennedy. I was fascinated by the tea parties Rose established with her daughters. What I hadn't realised was the extent to which Jack Kennedy was in constant pain with his back and Addison's disease. Apparently your mother was not unusual in admiring him in that manner! This is such a good book.