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Hello chums,

It’s been a while since I did a Book Bag Blog (I love the way those words sound!). Recently I have been listening to the audio book of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ and this has taken over most of my normal reading time. LOTR is one of those foundation books for me, a story that I know I will return to again and again, I can open it up at any page and feel at home.

I’ve had a couple of bad headaches in the last few weeks which I think are caused by too much ‘screen time’. My eyes sometimes can’t cope with being on a computer all day. When my eyes have had enough it has been really soothing just to lie in the dark and have a reassuring voice tell me my favourite story!

But aside from LOTR I have managed to read a few books recently…

Christmas at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan

Cassie settled down too young, marrying her first serious boyfriend. Now, ten years later, she is betrayed and broken. With her marriage in tatters and no career or home of her own, she needs to work out where she belongs in the world and who she really is.

So begins a year-long trial as Cassie leaves her sheltered life in rural Scotland to stay with each of her best friends in the most glamorous cities in the world: New York, Paris and London. Exchanging grouse moor and mousy hair for low-carb diets and high-end highlights, Cassie tries on each city for size as she attempts to track down the life she was supposed to have been leading, and with it, the man who was supposed to love her all along.

It was the cover that kept drawing me to this book, I had picked it up and put it down again in several book shops before I saw it in the library and finally got a chance to read it. There were a couple of things that put me off from buying it earlier, mainly the line in the blurb: ‘Cassie settled down too young, marrying her first serious boyfriend.’

As someone who believes quite strongly in settling down and that it is good to choose well early on and to avoid if possible a string of serious and non-serious relationships, I found this matter of fact judgement on Cassie’s life off putting.

Nevertheless, I had read Karen Swan’s The Perfect Present last year and I really loved it. So questionable blurb aside I dove in.

It certainly is a readable book, I think I finished it within a week and I did enjoy the journey. There is a lot that goes on and it has excellent pace with each new city beginning a new distinct section. I really wanted to know what was going to happen next but I also enjoyed it when the story slowed down and we got a lingering look at some of the beautiful things in the three cities.

In fact I think the only problem with the book is that the cities Cassie visits are more interesting and attractive than the proposed love interest. In fact I’m afraid the cities outshine most of the characters. With the exception of Anouk who actually had a bit of inner conflict going on, Cassie and her friends may live glamorous lives, but are somehow a little bit dull as characters.

But as a love letter to three very different cities, I loved it! I am the ultimate home bird and do not have the travel bug at all but the vivid and detailed pictures of Cassie’s life in New York and Paris made even a home bird like me start day dreaming about having a city break escape!

Oranges and Lemons: Rhymes from Past Times by Karen Dolby

A collection of the most well-known and best-loved nursery rhymes, along with some that may be less familiar. Oranges and Lemons: Rhymes from Past Times plugs into the memories and knowledge of our earliest years, recalling those rhymes and stories we always seem to have known, yet struggle to remember clearly.

The book examines the history of the rhymes, how they have evolved through the centuries, and the controversies surrounding their origins. Looking at classic favourites such as ‘Humpty Dumpty’, ‘Ring O’ Roses’ and ‘Georgie Porgie’, Oranges and Lemons will put you back in touch with a time lost in hazy nostalgia, just on the edge of memory.

I can still vividly remember my nursery rhyme books from when I was little. I can remember the words, the illustrations and the feel of the sturdy –toddler-resistant pages under my fingertips.

There is something very comforting and nostalgic about nursery rhymes and I really enjoyed reading the familiar verses and finding out interesting titbits behind them.  For me the book had a good balance between the poems and songs and just the right amount of background information.

This is not am in depth academic book, but it is an interesting read that sums up the most intriguing, controversial and questionable history of each nursery rhyme.  It’s a bit like when they play videos on music channels and those little trivia boxes pop up telling you behind the scenes info. It’s not taxing, just enjoyable and interesting.

Gethsemane Hall by David Annandale

The skeptics think they know what’s going on at Gethsemane Hall. So do the religious. So do the spiritualists. They’re all wrong. Richard Gray, grieving over the loss of his wife and daughter, learns that his ancestral home holds the secret of what lies beyond the grave. And all of a sudden, everybody wants a piece of Gethsemane Hall. Louise Meacham wants in because a fellow CIA agent committed suicide there, and she has to put the ghost rumours to rest to get her career back. Anna Pertwee wants in because she’s determined to save the ghosts from the unbelievers and the debunkers. Patrick Hudson wants in because he has to save Gray’s soul. So Gray will let them all in, these people who think they’re coming for the truth. What they don’t know is that the truth is coming for them.

I am a complete sucker for the promise of a good haunted house story. They lure me in every time but unfortunately nine times out of ten they turn out to be pretty lousy books. It’s the risk you take, and while there are some things that are enjoyable about Gethsemane Hall there was plenty that was just ridiculous. At the start the ridiculousness is sort of fun; the idea of a Missionary, a paranormal investigator, a paranormal debunker and a CIA agent thrown into a haunted house together is fun.

But that really is as far is it goes. The book isn’t long but it sure does feel long, there is a lot of Scooby Doo running through corridors, backwards and forwards. And somehow the grand reveal at the end just didn’t have any impact on me. The final battle and bloodshed should have been terrifying but instead it just felt silly.

Maybe it’s one redeeming feature is Louise Meacham the CIA agent, who is the most fleshed out character and the most resourceful and likeable member of the motley crew. She was just interesting enough to keep me reading to the end, but only just.

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