The 4th Chronicle in the Clifton saga is just okay

Be Careful What You Wish For (The Clifton Chronicles, #4)Be Careful What You Wish For by Jeffrey Archer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I know I’m well behind the times with my reading of the Clifton Chronicles, being only on book 4 when already we are awaiting installment 7 coming soon, however I’ve been really good and not read anything about the books still to be released so I’ve avoided any ‘spoilers’ for want of a better term.

As we enter book four in the series it’s clear Archer is making the assupmtion the reader is familiar with the first 3 books in the series and therefore doesn’t waste any time in revisiting old ground or recapping on characters or their back stories, only ocassionally filling in odd bits of information. We are immediately thrown into the cliff hanger left at the end of book 3, where Sebastian Clifton has been involved in a serious car accident and we are unsure if he is alive or not. His friend, and son of dodgy Argentine businessman Don Pedro Martinez is in the car with him and we know one has died but aren’t sure which.

Resolution of this cliff hanger takes but a mere few chapters before the story moves back to the boardroom of Barrington’s shipping company, the family empire where Sebastian’s mother hopes to become chairman of the board, and indeed much of this book is dedicated to the world of Barrington’s and it’s fortunes moving forward, it all revolves around the decision by the firm to build a cruise liner in order to secure it’s financial future and move it in a different direction. Archer builds a story which is familiar to his readers of previous books of corporate dodgy dealing and politics designed to unseat the hero or heroine of his tale.

There is actually nothing groundbreaking in the story for this fourth installment, I found the characters on the board to have changed a little with focus moving away from the man who till now has been the central character, Harry Clifton, and instead we are focused on his son, Sebastian. In fact I could safely say Harry seemed to have been consigned to the’served his purpose’ bin and therefore appeared in way less of the book than I would have liked. Fortunately for Emma Clifton, Harry’s wife, she seems still to merit Archer’s time and attention if only on account of the fact she as a female character can portray for him the changing attitudes and views towards women in business.

I also anticipated certain characters within the book to have potential to fulfil a bigger role in the story than they eventually did have. In fact one of the biggest Clifton family secrets, and a storyline that should have provided much more writing material was dealt with very swiftly in this book in the course of less than 2 chapters and was for me a strange way to manage a story which seemed to have been waiting to explode in previous books. Made me feel the author had started down a path then changed his mind and had to apply a sledgehammer to the area to ensure it wasn’t explored again.

I can’t say I loved this installment in the series,whereas others have had me gripped and page turning till I was done, with this one I kept picking it up and reading a bit then going ‘meh’ with a feeling that it wasn’t pulling me in because it was all just a little predictable.

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Moving into 2016 – onwards and upwards

I’ve been thinking a lot about my little book blog over the last few days, the reason why I started it, how I currently use it and how I can help to make it more engaging and more insightful over the year ahead.

When I’ve taken time to look over it and reflect I realised that I started it when my children were very young and I did it almost as a bibliography of what I’d been reading and as a way of getting down on paper my views on the books I’d read and maybe allowing others to share in my thoughts, helping them to maybe find their way to a book they would enjoy and so I could feel that my thoughts might reminisce with people about books they had already read.

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It’s been a really fun journey but as I think about my blog currently I’m critical of how little I’ve used it to engage with those of you who have been kind enough to follow me and to those who have stopped by and read my reviews.  I’d like 2016 to be the year where I take my blog and take it to a place where I can begin to create a little community of book nerds like myself and a place where we can all feel safe to share our thoughts and feedback.

The thing I’ve been thinking about most the last few days is that my site was called ‘Mummy Loves Books’ for a reason, I’m currently a stay at home mum who dedicates nearly all her time to raising my 4 children.  As they grow I find myself called upon more and more to take them to different after school activities, to help with homework, make sure our house runs smoothly (or as smoothly as 4 children will allow) and to deal with all those little every day things that seem to eat our time away.  Somehow along the way I’ve moved from being a very social person to one whose social encounters seem to be at the school gates or in the dance school waiting room, suddenly I find I don’t have as many opportunities to meet new friends as I did when I was younger and as I’ve moved to staying at home my old work friends have moved on.  I am sure that many of us stay at home parents can find ourselves in that situation and it suddenly makes you realise that engaging in adult conversation can sometimes be the thing you miss most.

Even for those of us who aren’t raising families modern society can often mean we don’t engage with real people as much as we used to years ago.  Home working, long commutes, growing pressure and hours at the office and we find that the sociability we used to have time and energy for has dipped and the only time we find to relax is climbing into bed at night with a good book, or the stolen 40 minutes on the train to greedily consume a chapter by your favourite author.  Social media has meant we often don’t pick up the phone to friends any more and say “Hey, how are things?  Want to catch up?”, because why would we need to catch up when we can see on Facebook exactly where they holidayed (we’ve even seen the pictures) and we know if they’ve got a new job or a new partner.

So with all that in mind I realised that maybe I’m not the only person out there craving some like minded people to share my thoughts with, to delve into a chat about the books I’ve read, the TV shows I’ve enjoyed, the general challenges of finding time to read and also how as a parent I want to allow my children the opportunity to enjoy the wonders that great literature and drama can bring.

I’ve always wanted to join a book club and therefore one of the first things I’d like to do is develop a Mummy Loves Books book club for 2016, I’m still ironing out all the details in my head but I will post soon with how I’d see this working and would love to have people join me on the journey.  It’s a sad fact that with the demise of local authority provisions many of our libraries just aren’t in a place to be able to provide facilities like book clubs any more, and even if they did I’m not always able to commit to attending at a regular time and date each month, never mind if I’d manage to read the book.  So therefore I’m hoping it will be a place where we can safely get together and share the joy of reading, and even if people don’t want to contribute and just want to read along and digest others comments then that is okay too.

I’m really happy to be taking more time out to get my thoughts down on paper this year, despite my mummy brain most days I know I’ve still got a lot I can share with others and an desire to make people feel welcome, comfortable and part of something special.  My hope is that we grow together as a group, have an opportunity to all contribute and to become friends.

Would love for all of you to come on this journey with me, I’m excited and over the next few weeks I’d like to start sharing my excitement and way ahead with you all.

 

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A great start becomes a tedious ending

Die Trying (Jack Reacher, #2)Die Trying by Lee Child
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It’s been a little while since I read the first Jack Reacher novel and after reading quite a few ‘girly’ books I decided I’d have a bit of a change and try something a little grittier. 

I found the book burst out of the starters gate getting immediately into lots of action with the kidnapping of FBI agent Holly Johnson and the innocent passerby Jack Reacher who gets embroiled in her seizure.  The only problem is Reacher is no innocent passerby he’s a highly trained military police man with nothing to lose.  The start of this book was engaging as we follow Jack and Holly as they are transported across the country to an unknown location.  We are  given glimpses into their intended destination through cryptic chapters and we are also given glimpses into the FBI hunt for them.  It’s all high octane action and I was engrossed very quickly in the story.

From approximately half way through though it began to dip a little for me.  After the big reveal of who was doing the kidnapping and why I just couldn’t love it so much.  It went from having an espionage feel to being very military and cultish.  The action became a bit samey, I lost count of how many times Reacher escaped and was recaptured.  I just began to find the group responsible a little unorganized and unbelievable.

It was all a bit confusing, too many FBI agents who might be rogue and not enough dialogue.  By the time I got to Chapter 30 something I just wanted it to be over already.  I didn’t care how.  I was skimming pages galore and praying for Reacher to just shoot them all already.

This was a great start let down by poor execution.

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The Clifton Chronicles third outing is engaging and gripping but some characters lack depth

Best Kept Secret (The Clifton Chronicles, #3)Best Kept Secret by Jeffrey Archer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Clifton Chronicles has been on my mind lately as the release of the fifth book in the series has kept reminding me I need to catch up as I had only read books one and two, so with a view to catching up before too many future spoilers appeared I decided to delve into Book 3, Best Kept Secret.

Jeffrey Archer remains one of those authors we all know we should be disapproving of,  he has had a more colourful past than most of his fictional characters, but somehow you just cannot help but admit he writes an amazing grand saga and The Clifton Chronicles has proven no different.  In Book 3 we pick up directly after the end of the cliffhanger from Book 2 where the House of Lords is trying to decide who should inherit the family title and all its wealth.  We find best friends,and potential half brothers, Harry Clifton and Giles Barrington awaiting their fate.  From the outset the books zips along at an alarming pace,  its constant action.  Just as you think you are about to catch breath another twist comes in and you are pulled off into another intriguing plot twist and its very difficult to put down.

There is perhaps one criticism is would make and I do with a nod towards the fact this type of big family saga almost demands this but at times the characters can be a little one dimensional.  Heroes and villains play their roles in almost fairy tale style.  The villains almost come with a soundtrack of comedy villain music and they interact with each other in such a predictable manner that at times its a little bit too much and it would be nice to have characters with more complexity than the simple “they’re a good person, they’re a bad person” scenario.

The books never feel overly long in this series but that is merit more to their gripping stories than any shortcomings on the writers part, they engage you so fully that its so easy to say you’ll read for 10 minutes but find yourself tearing yourself away an hour later then relenting with a promise of “just one more chapter?”.  Archer has learned that by setting amazing cliffhangers at the end of each book in the series means he’s guaranteed we will all be desperate for more and this installment was no different, the joy for myself though is should I choose to I could resolve the suspense immediately but for those who read at time of release it must have been torture.

Archer is like a guilty little secret, you know you really shouldn’t love him as an author, he’s not that intellectually stimulating nor is he all that likeable a man but I just love that good old fashioned family backstabbing as per 80’s big budget TV shows and I’d be quite surprised if some TV company wasn’t already considering adapting this series for TV.  Its good, innocent romps through the wars and family power and is written in an amazingly engaging way.

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A poor look at the effects of emotional abuse

Accidents of MarriageAccidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There are very many books exploring the topic of domestic violence but what intrigued my about Accidents of Marriage was the fact it promised a look at the less public topic of emotional abuse and it’s impact upon marriage.

The story follows Maddy and her 3 children as they live on a knife edge around her husband Ben and his ever changing moods. His temper and outbursts have led to a world where they all try to avoid upsetting him. Eventually, the books description outlines, an outburst leads to a car accident in which Maddy is left fighting for her life.

This description of the book was truly intriguing however once I began reading I was left a little disappointed. From page one of the book we are made aware that Maddy has a reliance upon prescription drugs in order to function day to day. This is stated as being due to Ben’s behaviour. The book however did a really poor job of defining the seriousness of his behaviour. Rather than being an emotional account it all felt a little too wishy washy and clinical for me. We are only given one or two brief examples. I would have preferred some flashbacks to the incidents to allow me to identify with them more. Instead we are offered a view from Ben where he talks about feeling like a constant failure to Maddy and at times due to the way her behaviour is outlined I could actually empathise as it did appear this was the case. She seemed to find great comfort in complaining about him to friends. It just wasn’t enough for me to make me feel that Ben’s character was an awful person, instead he came across as misunderstood.

Also the accident described in the book is a difficult one as they blame Ben but when I read it I felt blame was to be shared by Maddy as well as it appeared that she also wasn’t in the best frame of mind at the time and had in fact removed her own seatbelt in order to have a distracting family discussion with Ben as he drove. Also we are told later the other vehicle involved had a drink driver and this seems to be skimmed over.

The second part of the book was painfully slow and I just truly couldn’t care what happened to the family in the end. The characters were very two dimensional and it was a book that for me missed a great opportunity. To write an amazing book about the crippling effects of emotional abuse and instability caused by a persons moods would have been a remarkable thing to read and what I hoped for but instead it became a journey back to health for Maddy and the trials of her daughter rather than the journey of a marriage.

I wanted to love this but I couldn’t and wouldn’t say I’d recommend it very highly

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A poor book by Daisy Goodwin

The Fortune HunterThe Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The premise for this book sounded wonderful and I coveted it for a long time on my Amazon wish list, I checked the price faithfully for months until I eventually bought it as I was so very intrigued by this tale of a love triangle between a cavalry soldier, an English heiress and the Empress of Austria.

Right from the outset I floundered with this book, maybe my lack of Hungarian royal knowledge hindered me as for the first 6 chapters or so every time they talked about the Empress Elizabeth I kept thinking “that’s nice but when is the lead character Sisi that they talk about on the book description going to appear”. It took 6 chapters before they reconciled that Elizabeth was Sisi and I eventually got into the swing of things.

Or did I? You see that was the problem with this book for me, it just never really got off the starting blocks. It was all so very superficial. Aside from the character of Charlotte Baird all of the other characters were intrinsically unlikeable. Snobby, obsessed with social position and oh so many drawing room conversations made them so difficult to warm to.

Also, I know author was trying to convey Sisi’s great beauty but I swear if I read about her hair any tiny waist one more time I was going to throw my kindle at the wall. It was such a bland and uninspired book, devoid of any depth of emotion.

Aside from a few hunts, a grand national and lots of emotional angst not much actually happened in all the pages. I wanted to give up on so many occasions but plodded on praying it might redeem itself. It never did and by the end I just didn’t care what happened.

Very dissapointing and not one of recommend unless you like your reads with little depth.

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