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Posts posted by Madeleine

  1. "Dear Mrs Bird" by A J Pearce - the main character of this book, despite the title, is actually Emmeline (Emmy) Lane - it's 1941 and WW2 is devastating London, but Emmy wants to be a Lady War Correspondent, and when she gets a job at what she thinks is one of the London newspapers, she's thrilled. But when she reports for work she finds that she will in fact be working on a magazine, "Woman's Friend", answering readers' problems, which is where Mrs Bird comes in. She is Emmy, and her colleague Kathleen's, terrifying boss and to say she rules with a rod of iron is an understatement. She also vets readers' letters and won't answer anything even mildly salacious eg anything to do with Man Trouble and romance in general. But Emmy, a kind soul, feels sorry for many of the readers, and finds even more to empathise with when she is dumped by her fiancé who promptly marries someone else. So she starts replying personally to those readers who have enclosed an address and before long she occasionally slips a reply into the magazine, having been reassured that Mrs Bird never reads her own column. But discovery is of course inevitable, and coming after a personal tragedy, Emmy finds herself bereft on all fronts. However she is nothing if not resilient, and for me this was when the book really took off, as she tried to pick up the pieces of both her life and career. Overall this was an enjoyable book, the first half is very breezy but it does become darker as the war inevitably takes it's toll when it comes very close to home for Emmy and her friends. Emmy is a great character, well meaning and kind (a bit like Jane Austen's Emma but not so scheming, I wonder if the choice of a similar name is coincidental?) but I found Mrs Bird to be something of a cliche and a bit two dimensional, she's the epitome of the classic English lady dragon! But a nice read, well-written and very evocative of the war-time spirit. 8/10

  2. Well another travesty from the same adapter who basically re-wrote the Dublin Murders - whilst the first part of The Pale Horse was just about watchable, I watched the second part last night and was totally flummoxed, apart from being completely unrecognisable from the book - Ok some changes were fine - but I wasn't even sure what actually happened in the second part?



    Was Mark (whose character was changed beyond all recognition) dead or what? 


  3. oh yes forgot about the reindeer!  Only a couple of flashes of lightning and claps of thunder, then it sort of went to hail then back to rain.  Bit quieter yesterday but still quite a lot of rain and windy again last night.


    I didn't notice too many birds, well no more than usual, but a couple of brave sparrows were clinging on to one of the feeders in all the rain, bless them!


    My purple crocuses are coming out, some have already flowered, and I have quite a few daffodils open or just about to open, and lots of other green bits coming up, no snowdrops though even though I got new ones which I planted at the end of last year.

  4. We had wind, rain, hail, bit of Donnen und Blitzen too (naturally when I went out to the farm shop to get some bird food), no real damage though. I did a bit of battening down the hatches on Saturday and stacked flowerpots etc, and put the watering cans in the shed.  I had to  retrieve our dustbin lid from halfway down the garden, but apart from a few small things being blown over no real damage, and a lot of surface water but no floods as far as I could see.


    Hope everyone is safe!

  5. The Hunting Party" by Lucy Foley - a group of friends from London, all with good, high powered jobs - 4 couples and 1 single woman - are at a hunting lodge in a remote part of Scotland, which has now been converted into a luxury resort, the only other occupants are an Icelandic couple who are staying in a separate part of the complex, Heather who is in charge of admin/housekeeping etc, and Doug, the gamekeeper who keeps himself very much to himself and doesn't mix with anyone else unless he has to or it's work related. The Londoners all travel up by train together, and before the celebrations have even started old tensions - most of them were at Oxford together - are beginning to surface, but these are brushed off as the midnight hour approaches, and a lot of alcohol is drunk, a few drugs are taken, and before the New Year is even halfway through it's first day, one of the group is found dead in a ravine, having been reported missing earlier. It's fairly obvious that the death wasn't an accidental drunken fall, and even more obvious that the killer is someone at the Lodge. As snow falls heavily, the Lodge is cut off and although the police are informed, not even Mountain Rescue can get to the area for several hours, maybe even days, at least. So as the residents all wait, and live in fear as to who the killer is, we gradually get their back stories. We don't know the identity of the victim (although I wasn't surprised when I found out who it was, as I'd suspected all along), but in a clever twist as the climax builds, for a time it's not clear who is the killer and who is the victim. For a while I did fear it would end in one of those lurid bloodbaths so beloved of this type of book, but thankfully it didn't go that way, and all was revealed, although I did think the ending was a little rushed, although there were a couple more revelations along the way. This book has been heralded as a breath of fresh air, but personally I don't think it reinvents the country house mystery/thriller genre - the characters are all fairly stock and most of them are pretty two dimensional, apart perhaps from Heather, who does show some character development, but most of the Londoners are depicted as pretty shallow, and the gamekeeper is the classic strong silent type with A Past. But it is a enjoyable romp, and according to the author's note, a TV version is in the works, not surprisingly. 8/10

  6. "Intrigue in Covent Garden" by Susanna Gregory - this is the 13th in the Thomas Chaloner series, set in Restoration London and takes place over Christmas and January 1665/66. Chaloner, a spy, finds himself investigating several cases, the most important one being a plot which will at best cause riots and at worst might well be another attempt to take out the King (the restored Charles II) and as many of his courtiers as possible. A troupe of actors has arrived in the City and seems intent on stirring up rebellion, along with a self styled preacher Urban, who wants the protests to be peaceful but is planting more seeds of provocation amongst the ordinary people of the City, those who survived the plague, and are furious at the King for fleeing the City during the outbreak, and for living a life of debauchery and flamboyance ever since his Restoration. There's also the ongoing hostility with the Dutch, including a disastrous battle, and the mysterious sinking of a British warship whilst at anchor in London, the murder of 2 physicians, removing a Dutch spy to safety, hunting for a missing courtier's wife, and bizarrely, searching for a missing trumpet which will play an important part at the forthcoming Fast, which supposedly will commemorate and remember Charles I's execution. So Chaloner is pretty busy, and soon becomes caught up in the endless plotting and various machinations of the Court, and then a known assassin decided he wants to help him with his inquiries! This was a very convoluted plot, and it took me a while to work out who everyone was, but once I got that straight I quite enjoyed it, although it did flag a little at times and felt a bit repetitive. But it certainly got eventful, with subterfuge, explosions and a vast list of characters, most of whom, according to the author's note, really existed, so it covers a fascinating area of history too. And Chaloner is, as always, an engaging likeable character, even though sometimes he has to do some very unsavoury things. 7.5/10

  7. I think it's quite well-documented now that too much web use, especially before bedtime, isn't very good, so you're wise to try to cut back.  I never try to be online later than 9.30, and I'm not on it very often in the evening anyway as I'm at a screen all day, but sometimes at the weekend if I check email etc in the evening I try to make sure it's not too late.


    Good luck with your cutting back!