The Chalet by Catherine Cooper

3*

The Chalet, by Catherine Cooper, is a fast-paced murder mystery, set mainly in La Madière, a fictional ski resort in the French Alps. It is her first published full-length novel, though she has also written several (unpublished) thrillers for teens and a (what used to be called) chick lit novel set in TV production.

Synopsis

French Alps, 1998 -Two young men ski into a blizzard… but only one returns.

20 years later – Four people connected to the missing man find themselves in that same resort. Each has a secret. Two may have blood on their hands. One is a killer-in-waiting. Someone knows what really happened that day.

And somebody will pay.

The Chalet is Catherine Cooper’s first published full-length novel, though she has also written several (unpublished) thrillers for teens and a (what used to be called) chick lit novel set in TV production.

I read The Chalet quickly. It’s well written, easy reading, with a beautiful setting in the French Alps. It began well and I was quickly drawn into the drama of the story. The narrative moves between 1998, and 2020 and is told from several of the characters’ perspectives. None of the characters are particularly likeable and they all seem to have something to hide.

It’s a story of revenge, stemming from the events in 1998 when two brothers go skiing with their girlfriends and only one of the brothers returns. The weather conditions were bad and on a difficult off-piste route they lost contact with their guides and only one of them was found, but he couldn’t remember anything about what had happened. The body of the other brother was only found 20 years later after an avalanche hit the resort.

In 2020 a group of people, four couples mixing business with pleasure are staying at the same resort in a luxury chalet. The atmosphere is a difficult one as the couples’ relationships begin to breakdown, particularly when the weather worsens and a storm sets in, leaving them somewhat isolated. Various past events became clearer as secrets are revealed. Although there are plenty of twists and turns, it really wasn’t hard to work out what had happened and who was seeking revenge. An entertaining read, but maybe a bit too predictable by the latter half of the book. The last paragraph promises there is more to come in this story – I’ll be interested to see what happens next, if there is a sequel.

  • ASIN: ‎ B086JJ2TK1
  • Publisher: ‎ HarperCollins (31 Oct. 2020)
  • X-Ray: ‎ Enabled
  • Print length: ‎391 pages
  • My Rating: 3*

My thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins, the publishers for a review copy.

The Queen’s Lady by Joanna Hickson

Harper Collins|20 January 2022|451 pages|e-book via NetGalley|Review copy|4*

Publishers’ Description:

As lady-in-waiting and confidante to Queen Elizabeth, wife of Henry VII, Joan understands royal patronage is vital if she and her husband, Sir Richard, are to thrive in the volatile atmosphere of court life.

But Tudor England is in mourning following the death of the Prince of Wales, and within a year, the queen herself. With Prince Henry now heir to the throne, the court murmurs with the sound of conspiracy. Is the entire Tudor project now at stake or can young Henry secure the dynasty?

Drawn into the heart of the crisis, Joan’s own life is in turmoil, and her future far from secure. She faces a stark choice – be true to her heart and risk everything, or play the dutiful servant and watch her dreams wither and die. For Joan, and for Henry’s Kingdom, everything is at stake…

My thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Joanne Hickson’s first book in her Queens of the Tower series, The Lady of the Ravens (my review), so I was keen to read the sequel, The Queen’s Lady, continuing the story of Joan Vaux, Lady Guildford. She was a lady in waiting to Queen Elizabeth, the wife of Henry VII and had became a good friend and confidante of Elizabeth. Her son Henry, known as Hal, had also became a good friend to the young Prince Henry.

It begins one evening at the Tower of London in April 1502. There’s strange atmosphere, as the ravens sit hunched in silence in the trees around the White Tower, Joan thought, as if awaiting some sad event, sensing death. One of the things I had particularly enjoyed in The Lady of the Ravens was Joan’s fascination for and care of the ravens of the Tower of London firmly believing in the legend that should the ravens leave the Tower for good then the crown would fall and ruin would return to the nation.

1502 had begun with pageantry and the New Year celebrations for the wedding of Prince Arthur, the heir to the throne, and Katharine of Aragon. It looks as if the ravens had indeed sensed death because in April he became seriously ill and died. It was Joan who had to break the news to Elizabeth and help console her in her grief. His death left Prince Henry as the heir to the throne.

In addition King Henry’s agents had uncovered a new Yorkist plot against the throne. Joan’s husband, Sir Richard Guildford is a Privy Councillor and loyal to Henry, but Henry is persuaded that he could be guilty of treason and he is imprisoned. Joan’s life is suddenly turned upside down. What happens next is fascinating to read covering Joan’s involvement in both national affairs and in her personal life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It is beautifully written, grounded in its historical context, full of colour and life. At the end of the book there’s a Glossary of words and terms that are not commonly in use today, which I wish I’d realised was there earlier. Intriguingly, Joanna Hickson promises in her Author’s Note that she has ‘more fascinating fifteenth century lives in sight’. I’m looking forward to see what she writes next.

The Author:

Joanna Hickson became fascinated with history when she studied Shakespeare’s history plays at school. However, having taken a degree in Politics and English she took up a career in broadcast journalism with the BBC, presenting and producing news, current affairs and arts programmes on both television and radio. Now she writes full time.

My thanks to the publishers for my review copy via NetGalley.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

3*

I bought a paperback copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four (its original title) in 2008, but have only just read it. It is George Orwell’s last novel, written in 1948 and presents his vision of a dystopian society, a totalitarian state complete with mass surveillance, where individuality is brutally suppressed.

Synopsis from the back cover:

In Orwell’s frightening vision of the future, society is under the control of Big Brother. Every aspect of life is closely monitored, whilst any hint of unorthodoxy is ruthlessly suppressed by the Thought Police. The Ministry of Truth, where Winston Smith works, is the Party’s Propaganda Machine. A secret rebel, Winston yearns for liberty and finds new hope when he falls in love with the earthy, uncomplicated Julia. Instead he discovers a nightmare world of terror where the price of freedom is betrayal.

Winston Smith’s attempt to find liberty and individuality plunges him into a truly horrific version of hell. The world is ravaged by war with three superstates, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia battling for total control. Winston lives in Airstrip One (Britain) in Oceania. His job is to rewrite history and destroy the old records, in accordance with the current circumstances. He secretly opposes the Party’s rule, led by the mysterious Big Brother, and dreams of rebellion. But faced with the Thought Police, the Hate Week sessions the surveillance through the television screens, cameras and hidden microphones monitoring his every move and thought, he realises it is a futile hope and that he is likely to be caught.

This really is the most depressing book and in places it is boring, especially in the middle section of the book devoted to Goldstein’s book. Goldstein, the leader of the Opposition Party to Big Brother, is always the subject of hatred at the Hate Week sessions. There are also passages that I could hardly bear to read – torture scenes that I did not want to visualise – it is a harrowing book. But it was interesting to see where the terms, Big Brother is Watching You, Room 101 (you do not want to be sent there!) Thought Police, Newspeak, Doublethink, holding two contradictory thoughts at the same time, and Thoughtcrime originated.

Nineteen Eighty -Four has received very many accolades and 94% of the people who have rated it on Goodreads ‘liked’ it – 79% giving it 5 or 4 stars .This is possibly the least enjoyable book I’ve read, horrific in content, lacking in convincing characterisation, and has a poor plot. It is depressing and dreary in the extreme, but I can see why it can be considered a brilliant book in its depiction of a dystopian society. It is seriously thought provoking!

‘George Orwell’ was the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950). He ‘was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.’ (Goodreads)

Back to the Classics Challenge 2022

It’s back! This is the 9th year that Karen at Books and Chocolate has hosted the Back to the Classics Challenge and this is the second time I’ll be joining in. Last year I completed 6 of the categories and this year I’m hoping to do more,

See Karen’s sign-up post on Books and Chocolate for more details about the challenge.

There are twelve categories and these are the books I’ve initially chosen for some of the categories – but there are others I could choose, so this list may/probably will change.

  1. A 19th century classic. Any book first published from 1800 to 1899 – David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  2. A 20th century classic. Any book first published from 1900 to 1972. All books must have been published at least 50 years ago; the only exceptions are books which were written by 1972 and posthumously published. Another Part of the Wood by Beryl Bainbridge
  3. A classic by a woman author. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
  4. A classic in translation.  Any book first published in a language that is not your primary language. You may read it in translation or in its original language, if you prefer. 
  5. A classic by BIPOC author. Any book published by a non-white author. The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas
  6. Mystery/Detective/Crime Classic. It can be fiction or non-fiction (true crime). The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie
  7. A Classic Short Story Collection. Any single volume that contains at least six short stories. The book can have a single author or can be an anthology of multiple authors. The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
  8. A Pre-1800 Classic. Anything written before 1800. Plays and epic poems, such as the Odyssey, are acceptable in this category. 
  9. A Nonfiction Classic. Travel, memoirs, and biographies are great choices for this category. In Cold Blood. by Truman Capote
  10. A Classic That’s Been on Your TBR List the Longest. Find the classic book that’s been hanging around unread the longest, and finally cross it off your list!  
  11. A Classic Set in a Place You’d Like to Visit. Can be real or imaginary — Paris, Tokyo, the moon, Middle Earth, etc. It can be someplace you’ve never been, or someplace you’d like to visit again.
  12. A Wild Card Classic. Any classic you like, any category, as long as it’s at least 50 years old!

What’s in a Name 2022

This challenge, hosted by Andrea at Carolina Book Nook runs from January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022.

Read a book in any format (hard copy, ebook, audio) with a title that fits into each category. Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed, it’s encouraged!

Click on the links below for more examples and info about the categories.

It’s a challenge that looks deceptively simple because ‘all’ you have to do is read six books from six categories – but each year there is at least one that that takes me nearly all the year to find. This year it looks like there are two – the first two! I have plenty of titles to choose from for the other categories, but not for the first two.

Mount TBR 2021 Final Checkpoint & Sign Up for Mount TBR 2022

We’ve come to the end of Bev’s Mount TBR Challenge, so it’s time for the final checkpoint!

I began the year aiming for Mount Vancover – that is 36 books and I made it, ending the year by reading 40 of my TBRs, although I haven’t managed to review each one. These are the books I read:

  1. The Measure of Malice edited by Martin Edwards
  2. Exit by Belinda Bauer
  3. The One I Was by Eliza Graham
  4. Cruel Acts by Jane Casey
  5. The Cutting Place by Jane Casey
  6. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  7. English Pastoral by James Rebanks
  8. The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood
  9. Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell
  10. For the Record by David Cameron
  11. The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley
  12. The Salt Path by Raynor Winn – Reached Pike’s Peak
  13. We Are Not In The World by Conor O’Callaghan
  14. A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville
  15. Ice Bound by Jerri Nielsen
  16. Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie
  17. The Mirror Dance by Catriona McPherson
  18. Inland by Tea Obreht
  19. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  20. Coming Up For Air by Sarah Leipciger
  21. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
  22. Katheryn Howard: the Tainted Queen by Alison Weir
  23. An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris
  24. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn – Reached Mount Blanc
  25. The Dressmaker by Beryl Bainbridge
  26. Enigma by Robert Harris
  27. Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen
  28. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
  29. Dead Tomorrow by Peter James
  30. Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronvitch
  31. Fludd by Hilary Mantel
  32. Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon
  33. Country Dance by Margiad Evans
  34. Just Like the Other Girls by Claire Douglas
  35. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  36. The Quiet American by Graham Greene – Reached Mt. Vancouver
  37. The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
  38. The Grand Banks Cafe by Georges Simenon
  39. The Night at the Crossroads by Georges Simenon
  40. Fifty-Fifty by Steve Cavanagh 

My thanks to Bev for hosting Mount TBR 2021. And so on to Mount TBR 2022

Books must be owned by you prior to January 1, 2022. No library books.  Any reread may count, regardless of how long you’ve owned it prior to 2022, provided you have not counted it for a previous Mount TBR Challenge.  Audiobooks and E-books may count if they are yours and they are one of your primary sources of backlogged books. You may count “Did Not Finish” books provided they meet your own standard for such things, you do not plan to ever finish it, and you move it off your mountain [give it away, sell it, etc. OR remove it from your e-resources].

There is no page limit–if it was published as a book, it counts. No single short stories–but collections of short stories do count. And you do not have to review the books you read.

There are a number of different levels to choose from:

Pike’s Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s
El Toro*: Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s (*aka Cerro El Toro in South America)
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s

and for now I’m aiming to climb Mt Vancouver, which is to read 36 books and hope to move up to the higher levels if I can.

What’s in a Name Challenge Wrap Up Post

This challenge was hosted again for 2021 by Andrea at Carolina Book Nook. It ends tomorrow, 31st December 2021.

The idea of the challenge was to read a book in any format (hard copy, ebook, audio) with a title that fits into each category. I’ve managed to complete the challenge by finishing reading Fifty Fifty only the day before yesterday and have not had time yet to write my review.

These are the books I read, with links to my reviews

  1. One’ or ‘1‘: The One I Was by Eliza Graham
  2. Repeated word: Fifty Fifty by Steve Cavanagh – review to follow
  3. Reference to outer spaceThe Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley
  4. Possessive nounThe Queen’s Spy by Clare Marchant
  5. Botanical wordA Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville
  6. Article of clothingThe Dressmaker by Beryl Bainbridge

My thanks go to Andrea for hosting this challenge – it was not as easy as I thought it would be, but it was most enjoyable finding books to fit the category, especially for the ‘repeated word’.

Andrea is hosting this challenge again for 2022 – and I’ll be signing up for it in a later post.

Reading Challenges Update

I’m taking part in a few reading challenges and as we’re now in the second half of the year I thought I’d take stock of where I’m up to in each one.

Back to the Classics

There are 12 categories and I have read books from 4 categories. Still a long way to go:

  1. A 19th century classic: any book first published from 1800 to 1899 – Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens 1857. Not yet reviewed.
  2. A 20th century classic: any book first published from 1900 to 1971 – Checkmate to Murder by E C R Lorac – 1944
  3. A classic by a woman author – Orlando by Virginia Woolf – 1928.
  4. A children’s classic – The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit.

Mount TBR 2021

I aiming to read 36 books and so far I’ve read 25, although I haven’t reviewed all of them, so I’m more than halfway there:

  1. The Measure of Malice edited by Martin Edwards
  2. Exit by Belinda Bauer
  3. The One I Was by Eliza Graham
  4. Cruel Acts by Jane Casey
  5. The Cutting Place by Jane Casey
  6. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  7. English Pastoral by James Rebanks
  8. The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood
  9. Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell
  10. For the Record by David Cameron
  11. The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley
  12. The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
  13. We Are Not In The World by Conor O’Callaghan
  14. A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville
  15. Ice Bound by Jerri Nielsen
  16. Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie
  17. The Mirror Dance by Catriona McPherson
  18. Inland by Tea Obreht
  19. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  20. Coming Up For Air by Sarah Leipciger
  21. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
  22. Katheryn Howard: the Tainted Queen by Alison Weir
  23. An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris
  24. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
  25. The Dressmaker by Beryl Bainbridge

Wanderlust Bingo

Complete the Wanderlust Bingo card containing 25 categories. Any type of book counts – crime, fiction, science fiction, non-fiction. A country can only appear once. I’ve read books that qualify for 8 squares, so I need to get reading more widely as so many of the books I read are located in the UK or the USA.

What’s in a Name?

I’ve read 3 of the 6 categories – so I’m doing OK:

  1. One’ or ‘1‘: The One I Was by Eliza Graham
  2. Repeated word:
  3. Reference to outer spaceThe Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley
  4. Possessive noun:
  5. Botanical word:
  6. Article of clothing: The Dressmaker by Beryl Bainbridge

20 Books of Summer

This is a challenge I don’t usually complete. This year I’ve substituted two of the books I initially chose (which is allowed in the rules) and have read 9 of them and have reviewed 5. This challenge runs from 1 June to 1 September, so I’m doing OK.

  1. The Railway Children by E Nesbit read
  2. An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris
  3. The Dressmaker by Beryl Bainbridge
  4. The Killing Kind by Jane Casey
  5. The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
  6. Coming Up for Air by Sarah Leipciger
  7. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
  8. Katheryn Howard, The Tainted Queen by Alison Weir
  9. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Classics Club

This is 5 year challenge to read 50 classics books. I have just 3 books left to read!

Wanderlust Bingo

This is a brand new challenge for 2021 devised by FictionFan.

This is the safe way to travel for 2021. Virtual travelling is the way to go, so I’m looking forward to seeing new places this year in my reading. Any type of book will count – crime, fiction, science fiction, non-fiction and a country can only appear once. Like FictionFan I’m not planning right now which books to read, but I’ll just wait and see what boxes I can fill from my general reading, and then towards the end I’ll frantically try to find books to fill in any missing squares! 

What’s In a Name? 2021

This year I am planning to take part in just a few Reading Challenges and this is one of them:

The What’s In A Name Challenge is being hosted again for 2021 by Andrea at Carolina Book Nook.  I didn’t take part last year, after doing it for several years, but I fancy taking part this year.

The challenge runs from 1st January 2021 to 31st December 2021. You can sign up any time, but can only count books you read between those dates. Read a book in any format (hard copy, ebook, audio) with a title that fits into each category. Don’t use the same book for more than one category. Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed, it’s encouraged! You can choose your books as you go or make a list ahead of time.

I’ve picked out some possibilities for the categories, from my TBR books. There are others I could choose, so this is just a starting list – I may read other books instead.

‘One’ or ‘1’                                The One I Was by Eliza Graham

Repeated word                       Sing, Jess, Sing by Tricia Coxon

Reference to outer space    Blue Moon by Lee Child

Possessive noun                     Child’s Play by Reginald Hill

Botanical word                       Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi

Article of clothing                 The Dressmaker by Beryl Bainbridge