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Chatting with Lisa Stanbridge, about Lonely in Paris.

It’s a pleasure to welcome author Lisa Stanbridge to talk about her new book, Lonely in Paris. Lisa recently placed third in the Romance Writers of Australia, Sweet Treats contest. This is a highly prestigious award and it attracts many, many entries. Congratulations Lisa!

Lisa Stanbridge, author of Lonely in Paris.

Some getting-to-know-you questions.

Late nights or early mornings? Late nights all the way. My imagination comes alive at night and that’s when I do my best writing. Unfortunately, I also have a full-time job so late nights are not a good idea as I always wake up tired.

What’s for breakfast? Bacon, eggs and hashbrowns. Yum!

Night out or Netflix? Netflix for sure, I’m such a homebody.

G &T or Tea/Coffee? I like tea and coffee, but I’ll always choose coffee first.

Perfect weekend? A weekend at home with hubby, relaxing, writing, watching movies or playing games.

What did you want to be when you grew up? An author! It’s nice to be able to check that off.

What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating? I can cook and do enjoy it, but tonight we’re having spaghetti bolognaise which hubby is cooking!

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, and chases away a down mood. Going to the beach. Not to swim, but to walk along the sand. There’s nothing quite like the ocean breeze washing away the worries of the day.

Nothing like a dose of Vitamin Sea.

Your hero? A family friend named Barry. He’d have to be in his 80’s now and I haven’t seen him for years, but he ‘saved’ me twice in my life and I’ll never forget him. The first time was when I was at a wedding and I was probably about 12 years old. I didn’t have anyone to dance with and I desperately wanted to, but he came up and gave me my first dance. I was flying high for the rest of the night!

The second time was about a year later when my Nana died. I loved her so much and I was absolutely devastated. At her funeral, I wasn’t allowed to sit in the front row with my family and instead had to sit by myself in the row behind. There were some other people around me, but no one I knew. I couldn’t stop crying throughout the whole funeral but I had no one to comfort me…until Barry came up and held me while I cried. He is truly my hero.

You don’t have to be a superhero to change someone’s life

Do you have any non-writing-related interests? Is reading considered a writing-related interest? Because I love reading but always struggle to find enough time to do so. I also love gaming, the relaxing type. Animal Crossing, House Flipper, Stardew Valley, and Pokémon…just to name a few.

What would surprise people to know about you? I used to dance when I was younger. All types of dance—tap, highland, jazz, Irish, and ballroom. Never professionally, but I danced for a good few years in my teens. Sadly, I never kept it up.

Life lessons-what do you wish you’d known earlier? That adulthood is hard!

Let’s talk about your new  book Lonely in Paris which was released, today 16th January 2023

Lonely in Paris is a bit of a passion project. Ever since I visited Paris a few years ago I’ve wanted to write a story set there. I did try writing one about three years ago but I wasn’t happy with it so it went into the ‘maybe’ pile.

Then I decided to join a Paris anthology and I wrote a new story, which is how Lonely in Paris was born. I knew it would work better as romantic comedy/chick lit and so that’s what I did, and it pretty much wrote itself. It’s a fun, light-hearted romantic comedy with some serious aspects because you can’t have romance without a little uncertainty.

The eBook is available from the 16th of January and will be Amazon exclusive. Anyone can purchase it from Amazon, but anyone with a Kindle Unlimited subscription can read it for free. A paperback will be available wide but will be delayed by a couple of weeks.

Tell us about it.

Jane’s #1 rule in Paris: Don’t fall in love

After ending a disastrous relationship, Jane accepts a job in the City of Love. The trouble is she speaks very little French, has no friends to enjoy Paris with, and she’s awfully lonely.

Then she meets Jacques DuPont.

Rich, handsome, and the cream of the Parisian crop, Jacques is living the dream. Just not his own. His father wants him to follow in his footsteps, but Jacques wants to earn his success. Trapped in a life chosen by his family, he’s always been alone.

Until he meets Jane.

He’s from money. She’s not.
He’s a planner. She’s impulsive.
He’s serious. She’s definitely not.

They couldn’t be more different, but they will fall. Hard.

Together Jane and Jacques will learn why Paris is the City of Love. But when an expiring visa, a jealous colleague, and a manipulative family threaten their fledgling relationship, their loyalties will be tested to breaking point.

Jane broke her #1 rule, now they must decide what they are willing to sacrifice for love.

Who wouldn’t love Paris?

Are you writing anything else?

 Lonely in Paris is book 1 in a 3-book series

Confession: Lonely in Paris was meant to be a standalone, but as I wrote it and the characters grew, I just knew it could be a series. Rather than having different characters in the other 2 books, they’ll instead feature Jane and Jacques during their evolving relationship and the many blips along the way. Book 2 is scheduled to be released on 16th May 2023 (pre-orders will be available when Lonely in Paris is released). Book 3 I’m aiming to release on 16th September, but that date isn’t set in concrete yet. I’ll see how much progress I make on it when I release book 2.

The Louvre, Paris.

Questions about Writing.

What is your writing process like? Like my current manuscript…a work in progress. It’s an area I’m still trying to perfect. Juggling writing and working full time is something I still haven’t got right.

Do you have any other projects are in the works? So many, my mind is full of ideas and future series. As I mentioned above, I’m working on books 2 and 3 of this series. I’m also editing manuscripts I finished a few years ago that I plan to publish in 2024.

Have you ever resuscitated a project you’d shelved? What helped it work better the second time around? My debut novel, Abandoned Hearts (published in 2020), was a resuscitated project. It took me 6 years from start to publication because I just couldn’t get it right and I kept sitting on it. In that 6 years, I worked on my writing, perfected my voice, learnt and learnt and learnt, until I finally I got it right.

Writers never know when an idea will strike!

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your writing/publishing journey? Drafts don’t have to be perfect. I often expected perfection first go and sometimes even led myself to believe my first draft was perfect even though it was far from it. There’s nothing wrong with a dirty draft where you just spill the words on the page and then go back and fix it later. I’ve started doing that recently and it’s such a great feeling. The words flow better without the pressure of getting everything right.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you? Actually getting it down on paper. I get the idea in my head and it all sounds so amazing, but then it comes to writing it and I really struggle sometimes. Since I’ve started writing dirty drafts though, it’s made this a little easier.

Did you do any research for your current book? Yes, because it’s been a long time since I went to Paris, so I needed to make sure what I remembered was still relevant (and in some cases, it wasn’t). I also had to make sure I got the French translations correct.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special? Oh, this is hard, as I have many. 🙂 Michael and Claire in Abandoned Hearts are close firsts, as is Jacques in Lonely in Paris. But there’s also Hamish in my unpublished manuscript, The Final Masquerade, and Gavin in another unpublished manuscript (planned for 2024 release) Oceans Apart. How do I choose?

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions? I think anyone can be a writer, but if someone doesn’t feel emotions it’s going to be a lot harder for them. But since I’m an over-emotional person, I can’t even comprehend not feeling emotions.

Best money you have spent as a writer? Purchasing Atticus to format my manuscripts and paying an editor to get my manuscript up to scratch.

Do you have a favourite author and why? I’ve got many, but my top two would be Katie Fforde and Sophie Kinsella. They were instrumental in helping me find my writing style and voice.

What are you reading now? Let it Snow by Beth Moran

What books or authors have most influenced your writing? Ha, see above!

What favourite book/story you have read as an adult? It’ll always be Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I agree and the BBC 1995 Adaptation With Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle is about as perfect as you could get.

What favourite book/story you have read as a child? The Tin Can Puppy by Wendy Orr and Brian Kogler

Thank you so much for talking with us and good luck with Lonely In Paris.

I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Lonely in Paris and have posted a review on Good Reads and in last month’s blog post.

Buy link for Lonely in Paris: https://books2read.com/LonelyinParis

Buy link for Abandoned Hearts: https://books2read.com/AbandonedHearts

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What was I reading in December 2022? Did I Meet My Reading Challenge?

December, so much going on, gifts to buy, events to attend, and more socialising. Luckily television provided me with few distractions so I kept up with my reading. As you can see it’s quite a mixed bag, some were Christmas themed, but the majority were not.

The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan

Indulge in the perfect winter’s day treat and escape to the snow-fringed fjords of Norway with The Christmas Lights, a delicious tale full of drama and mystery, heartache and hope by Sunday Times bestseller Karen Swan.

Bo lives a life most people can only dream of. She and her boyfriend Zac are paid to travel the globe, sharing their adventures with their online followers. And when Zac proposes, Bo’s happiness is complete.

With Christmas coming up, Bo can’t wait to head to the snow-fringed fjords of Norway. Arriving at the picturesque and remote hillside farmhouse that will be their home for the next few weeks, Bo’s determined to enjoy a romantic Christmas under the Northern Lights. Everything should be perfect

But the mountains hold secrets from the past and as temperatures plunge and tensions rise, Bo must face up to the fact that a life which looks perfect to the outside world may not be the life she should be living…

My Review.

The Christmas Lights was not quite the cosy book I was expecting, as it had a darker, grittier edge to the story. Having visited Norway of course this book already appealed to me. I enjoyed its exploration of how an ‘Influencer’s’ life operates and can understand the blurring of fiction and reality. We can see how easy it is to be swept away by fame and skim the surface of your own life. After four years Bo wants to slow down and have some privacy and private life. Zac her fiancé wants more of the same, more fame, bigger opportunities. In this, he is seconded by their cameraman-Lenny the third and ever-present wheel in their success. Zac has made a deal without consulting Bo who is struggling with problems of her own. The remote location of their Norwegian shelf-farm hideaway gives everyone time to think. As does advice from Sigi, the grandmother who took their booking and Anders, her taciturn, and at times enigmatic grandson.

 Under a Venice Moon by Margaret Cameron

Life isn’t a sort of practice run, something you can afford to play around with. They don’t offer second and third chances to get it right. Use it better. Live it fuller.

A week in Venice ignites Margaret Cameron’s interest in the private city behind the tourist facade and the obscure tales from its history. Tantalised by stories of this lesser-known Venice she returns the following August for a month-long stay, determined to uncover the Venice of the Venetians.

Stepping out from her comfort zone, Margaret finds that friendships – unexpected and spontaneous – blossom within palazzi walls and she makes a discovery: life can lead you along rewarding paths, if you let it.

As each day passes, her time in Venice becomes more than just an interlude; soon, the city feels like home. Could she leave her satisfying life in Perth and start anew in Venice? The question becomes urgent when romance waits where she least expected to find it . . .

352 pages, Paperback

My Review.

Under a Venice Moon is hard to categorise, in part a travel guide and in part a memoir. Margaret Cameron has been visiting Venice for years and in that time, she has come to appreciate the Venetians’ contradictory attitudes to tourists and tourism.

Living in a neighbourhood that is off the tourist path enabled her to live a more authentic Venetian life. She understands the pressure that Venice and Venetians face. They are victims of Venice’s success, all other industry has gone, and their children have to leave to find work. While Venice itself is slowly sinking, unable to withstand the pressure of so many more people.

Margaret Cameron’s impressions of artworks and architecture are interspersed with the day-to-day realities of living in a foreign city. Could this be her lifelong reality or will it be a transitory dream?

City of Time and Magic: Book Four in the Found Things Series by Paula Brackston

Published February 23, 2022, Xanthe meets Paula Brackston’s most famous heroine, Elizabeth Hawksmith from The Witch’s Daughter, in this crossover story with all the “historical detail, village charm, and twisty plotting” of the Found Things series (Publishers Weekly).

City of Time and Magic sees Xanthe face her greatest challenges yet. She must choose from three treasures that sing to her; a beautiful writing slope, a mourning brooch of heartbreaking detail, and a gorgeous gem-set hat pin. All call her, but the wrong one could take her on a mission other than that which she must address first, and the stakes could not be higher. While her earlier mission to Regency England had been a success, the journey home resulted in Liam being taken from her, spirited away to another time and place. Xanthe must follow the treasure that will take her to him if he is not to be lost forever.

Xanthe is certain that Mistress Flyte has Liam and determined to find them both. But when she discovers Lydia Flyte has been tracking the actions of the Visionary Society, a group of ruthless and unscrupulous Spinners who have been selling their talents to a club of wealthy clients, Xanthe realizes her work as a Spinner must come before her personal wishes. The Visionary Society is highly dangerous and directly opposed to the creed of the Spinners. Their actions could have disastrous consequences as they alter the authentic order of things and change the future. Xanthe knows she must take on the Society. It will require the skills of all her friends, old and new, to attempt such a thing, and not all of them will survive the confrontation that follows.

My Review.

I was pleased that I hadn’t had to wait for this last instalment and that the events of the previous books were clear in my mind. I’ve enjoyed this series and the gradual transit through time. Xanthe has help, but ultimately, it’s her choices and her decisions that will affect both the past and the future. It was a fitting conclusion although I will always have a soft spot for Samuel from the first book.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

In every person’s story, there is something to hide…

The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Libr

The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman’s terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who’d happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.

Award-winning author Sulari Gentill delivers a sharply thrilling read with The Woman in the Library, an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship and shows us that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.

My Review.

This is the first book I have read by this author and all I can say is why did I wait so long? It ticked almost all my boxes, set in a library, a book about a writer and writing and a mystery. It was compelling and intriguing. I didn’t want to put it down and kept changing my mind as to who could be responsible as information was revealed.

Flora’s Travelling Christmas Shop by Rebecca Raisin.

’Tis the season for mulled wine, mince pies, and magic under the mistletoe…

Flora loves Christmas more than anything else in the world, so she’s gutted when her Scrooge-alike boss fires her from Deck the Halls Christmas emporium. But now she finally has a chance to follow her dreams – and what better place to start than the home of Christmas?

Before she can say ‘sleigh bells’, Flora’s on her way to Lapland in a campervan-cum-Christmas-shop. She can’t wait to spend her days drinking hot chocolate and taking reindeer-drawn carriage rides, but something Flora didn’t expect was meeting Connor, a Norse god of a man who makes her heart flutter and snowflakes swirl in her stomach. There’s just one problem: Connor hates Christmas.

Can Flora convince Connor of the joys of Christmas – and will she find a festive romance along the way?

My Review.

Flora loves Christmas and wants to help everyone enjoy it too. A kind-hearted gesture leaves her boss cold and gets her fired.  It feels like her whole world is collapsing, but Flora is cheered on by her friend to follow her dreams.

There is no one more passionate about Christmas than Flora so why can’t she open a travelling Christmas shop?  She can and is soon on her way to Lapland, having mishaps and adventures along the way.

There is a definite Hallmark Christmas Movie vibe about the story, and it’s even referenced in the plot. Meeting Connor, a brooding Norse man, makes Flora think all her Christmases have come at once. Except, Connor is grumpy, and Connor doesn’t like Christmas. Flora is convinced he just needs a little persuasion to see things her way. Connor is a hoot as he sees through many of Flora’s schemes. But as its Christmas surely, she is going to get her happily ever after

Around the Kitchen Table: Good things to cook, create and do – the whole year through by Sophie Hansen and Annie Herron.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.” – Annie Dillard

A giftable and inspiring source book for easy-to-integrate-into-a-busy-life projects and inspirational ideas to bring more little moments of joy into our lives. Includes seasonal recipes, creativity prompts, craft and seasonal planting and garden ideas. Around the Kitchen Table will deliver inspiration and encouragement on a daily basis – ideas for rituals, repetitions, family traditions, small and big ways to count the days, from the joy of sourdough starters, growing herbs from seed, to making your own Christmas wreath or the liberating act of morning journaling, these are simple pleasures that will fill you up with goodness and encourage you to step even a little outside your comfort zone, grab a pencil and paper and start to draw.

My Review A great book to dip into for inspiration and ideas. The recipes sound delicious, and the illustrations are stunning. Made me grab my pencils and try a sketch or two. A real treasure.

A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder by Dianne Freeman.

Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, returns in Dianne Freeman’s charming, light-hearted mystery series set in Victorian England, and finds her wedding day overshadowed by murder . . .

On the eve of her marriage to George Hazelton, Frances has a great deal more on her mind than flowers and seating arrangements. The Connors and the Doyles, two families of American robber barons, have taken up residence in London, and their bitter rivalry is spilling over into the highest social circles. At the request of her brother, Alonzo, who is quite taken with Miss Madeline Connor, Frances has invited the Connor family to her wedding. Meanwhile, Frances’s mother has invited Mr. Doyle, and Frances fears the wedding may end up being newspaper-worthy for all the wrong reasons.

On the day itself, Frances is relieved to note that Madeline’s father is not among the guests assembled at the church. The reason for his absence, however, turns out to be most unfortunate: Mr. Connor is found murdered in his home. More shocking still, Alonzo is caught at the scene, holding the murder weapon.

Powerful and ruthless, Connor appears to have amassed a wealth of enemies alongside his fortune. Frances and George agree to put their wedding trip on hold to try and clear Alonzo’s name. But there are secrets to sift through, not just in the Doyle and Connor families, but also in their own. And with a killer determined to evade discovery at any cost—even if it means taking another life—Frances’s first days as a newlywed will be perilous indeed . . .

My Review.

I fell for the title and the cover and didn’t realise this was book five in a series. The perils of making a quick book swoop at the library. There was enough information to enable me to follow the story, but obviously, it would have been preferable to have read the previous books. Frances is a resourceful woman, but her love of family is a danger in itself.

Keeping Up Appearances by Tricia Stringer.

As tensions simmer in a small country town, three women are going to need more than CWA sausage rolls and can-do community spirit to put things right. From a bestselling Australian author comes a delightful novel full of practical wisdom and dry humour that examines female friendship, buried secrets and why honesty is (usually) the best policy.

Privacy is hard to maintain in Badara, the kind of small Australian country town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. So discovers single mum Paige when she and her three children arrive from the city seeking refuge. Paige’s only respite from child care and loneliness is the Tuesday gym club, where she had feared the judgement of the town matriarchs, but she is met only with generosity and a plethora of baked goods. Besides, both the brusque Marion and her polished sister-in-law Briony are too busy dealing with their own dramas to examine hers.

Well-to-do farmer’s wife and proud mother Briony is in full denial of her family’s troubles. Even with her eldest daughter’s marriage in ruins and her son Blake’s recent bombshell. Suddenly Briony and husband Vince have a full house again – and the piles of laundry aren’t the only dirty linen that’s about to be aired.

For Marion, the unearthing of a time capsule – its contents to be read at the Celebrate Badara weekend – is a disaster. She was only a teenager when she wrote down those poisonous words, but that doesn’t mean she won’t lose friends and family if they hear what she really thinks of them – especially as the letter reveals their darkest secrets to the world.

When the truth comes out for Badara, keeping up appearances may no longer be an option for anyone …

My Review.

  • Keeping Up Appearances is both readable and relatable. Many of us try to keep up a perfect façade when dealing with personal problems and anxieties. How much harder to do that in a place where your family have been for generations? Where everyone knows- or thinks they know, your backstory. Even so, secrets have been kept in Badara and for some the fear of what will be revealed is devastating.

 Window Shopping by Tessa Bailey

A sizzling, standalone, feel-good holiday romance from Tessa Bailey, New York Times bestselling author of It Happened One Summer.

Two weeks before Christmas and all through Manhattan, shop windows are decorated in red and green satin.
I’m standing alone in front of the famous Vivant department store, when a charming man named Aiden asks my opinion of the décor.

It’s a tragedy in tinsel, I say, unable to lie.
He asks for a better idea with a twinkle in his eye.
Did I know he owned the place? No. He put me on the spot.
Now I’m working for that man, trying to ignore that he’s hot.
But as a down-on-her-luck girl with a difficult past, I know an opportunity when I see one—and I have to make it last.

I’ll put my heart and soul into dressing his holiday windows.
I’ll work without stopping. And when we lose the battle with temptation, I’ll try and remember I’m just window shopping.

My Review. A quick read with a bit of holiday hotness.

Miss Morton and The English House party Murder by Catherine Lloyd.

Catherine Lloyd, author of the critically acclaimed Kurland St. Mary mysteries debuts with the first book in a new series set in Regency England, where circumstances compel one Lady Caroline Morton to become a lady’s companion whose duties will soon entail solving a murder . . .

The options for the penniless daughter of a deceased earl are few indeed in Regency England. So, following the suspicious death of her father, the Earl of Morton, and the discovery that she and her much younger sister have been left without income or home, Lady Caroline takes a post as a lady’s companion to the wealthy widow Frogerton.

Just as Caroline is getting accustomed to her new position, her aunt, Lady Eleanor Greenwood, invites her and her employer to a house party in the countryside to celebrate her youngest daughter’s birthday. Mrs. Matilda (Matty) Frogerton sees this as an opportunity to introduce her own rather wild daughter, Dorothy, to the ton, and Caroline is eager to see her sister, who as a child lives with their aunt.
But all is not well at the Greenwood estate. For one thing, Lady Caroline’s former fiancé, Lord Francis Chatham, is a guest and refuses to speak to her. Far worse, after a series of troubling harassments of the staff, an elderly family member is found stabbed by a knitting needle.
As Caroline and an unexpected ally—Mrs. Frogerton—attempt to solve the chilling crime, they discover the culprit may be leaving bizarre clues as to who will be next in the nursery. But they must make haste, for this heartless killer is engaged in anything but child’s play . .

My Review.

Again, I was intrigued by the title and the fact that it was set during the Regency years. Caroline is just a bit too saint-like for my taste, but she is at least attempting to forge her way without relying on her relations and becoming beholden to them. Her employer Mrs Frogerton, a forthright Northern wealthy widow is by far the most interesting character. The murders are calculated and bizarre, finding out who is responsible and why will tax Caroline and Mrs Rogerson’s ingenuity if they do not wish to become the next victims.

The Christmas Postcards by Karen Swan

Set in a chocolate-box village, a woman makes a surprising connection with a pen-pal that will change her life – and warm your heart – in the new novel from Sunday Times bestselling author Karen Swan.

It had been a make-or-break holiday for their marriage, but Natasha and Rob’s rekindled romance is short-lived when their daughter’s beloved soft toy disappears on the journey home.

As Natasha comforts the distraught child, she turns to social media for help. Miraculously, the toy is found, but it has become the lucky mascot of a man named Duffy, who is thousands of miles away.

When Duffy promises to keep Natasha updated with pictures, the pair begin a correspondence that soon becomes more meaningful to both of them. Sometimes, Natasha feels this stranger understands her more than the man lying next to her.

But as the weeks pass and Duffy heads deeper into the mountains, Natasha begins to notice a change in him. Then one day, the messages stop. Too late, Natasha wonders why he had ever needed a lucky mascot at all.

From the picture-perfect Cotswolds to the majesty of the Himalayan foothills, The Christmas Postcards is a novel about how the closest connections can be the furthest apart.

My Review.

I was reading this book during a heatwave, so escaping to the Himalayas was quite enjoyable. The story spans the recent past and two main locations in the present. Natasha is apparently living an ideal life in The Cotswolds, while Duffy is about to tackle a great mountaineering challenge. Their paths crossed when Mabel, Natasha’s daughter, left her toy cow Moolah behind in the Viennese apartment. Duffy who is there overnight. found it and decided it will be his lucky mascot.

Mabel is inconsolable without Moolah and can’t sleep. In desperation, Natasha posts to social media and Moolah is tracked down to Duffy in Nepal. He knows he should send Moolah back, but that is getting more difficult by the day. And he has a superstitious belief that he was meant to find Moolah. Instead, he starts to send pictures of Moolah having adventures.

Natasha and Mabel look forward to hearing from him until the messages stop. How have two strangers become so connected? The final pages will keep you glued to the story. Although some plot points were a little obvious, overall, it’s an enjoyable read.

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman.

Thursday Murder Club 3 Goodreads Choice Award

Nominee for Best Mystery & Thriller (2022)

It is an ordinary Thursday, and things should finally be returning to normal.

Except trouble is never far away where the Thursday Murder Club are concerned. A local news legend is on the hunt for a sensational headline, and soon the gang are hot on the trail of two murders, ten years apart.

To make matters worse, a new nemesis pays Elizabeth a visit, presenting her with a deadly mission: kill or be killed…

While Elizabeth grapples with her conscience (and a gun), the gang and their unlikely new friends (including TV stars, money launderers and ex-KGB colonels) unravel a new mystery. But can they catch the culprit and save Elizabeth before the murderer strikes again?

My Review.

They say that easy reading comes from difficult writing and this story just flowed along. Richard Osman knows his characters well but allows them to keep surprising us, too. Elizabeth’s husband is gradually progressing into dementia and yet he is acute enough to provide a valuable clue. It’s hard not to have a favourite character among them. While I can admire the steely Elizabeth, gossipy Joyce ( a Mrs Everywoman) is a favourite of mine. Considered Ibrahim, and Ron round out the group. This is a fast-paced story with a conclusion that should surprise most readers.

Dastardly Deeds at St Brides by Debbie Young.

When Gemma Lamb takes a job at a quirky English girls’ boarding school, she believes she’s found the perfect escape route from her controlling boyfriend – until she discovers the rest of the staff are hiding sinister secrets:

– Hairnet, the eccentric headmistress who doesn’t hold with academic qualifications
– Oriana Bliss, Head of Maths and master of disguise
– Joscelyn Spryke, the suspiciously rugged Head of PE
– Geography teacher Mavis Brook, surreptitiously selling off the library books
– creepy night watchman Max Security, with his network of hidden tunnels

Even McPhee, the school cat, is leading a double life.

Tucked away in the school’s beautiful private estate in the Cotswolds, can Gemma stay safe and build a new independent future, or will past secrets catch up with her and the rest of the staff?

With a little help from her new friends, including some wise pupils, she’s going to give it her best shot…

Previously published by Debbie Young as Secrets at St Bride’s

My Review.

A chatty fun read, the story was fast-paced and easy to read. To say the school is peopled with eccentric is putting it mildly. It was slightly reminiscent of Saint Trinian’s although the staff appear to be more eccentric than the pupils.

Lonely in Paris by Lisa Stanbridge.

Jane’s #1 rule in Paris: Don’t fall in love

After ending a disastrous relationship, Jane accepts a job in the City of Love. The trouble is she speaks very little French, has no friends to enjoy Paris with, and she’s awfully lonely.

Then she meets Jacques DuPont.

Rich, handsome, and the cream of the Parisian crop, Jacques is living the dream. Just not his own. His father wants him to follow in his footsteps, but Jacques wants to earn his success. Trapped in a life chosen by his family, he’s always been alone.

Until he meets Jane.

He’s from money. She’s not.
He’s a planner. She’s impulsive.
He’s serious. She’s definitely not.

They couldn’t be more different, but they will fall. Hard.

Together Jane and Jacques will learn why Paris is the City of Love. But when an expiring visa, a jealous colleague, and manipulative family threaten their fledgling relationship, their loyalties will be tested to breaking point.

Jane broke her #1 rule, now they must decide what they are willing to sacrifice for love.

Expected publication January 16, 2023


My Review.

This short, sweet romance is perfect escapist reading. Paris is the City of Lovers, but only if you have someone to love. Jane is single, far from home and lonely. An unexpected meeting changes that, when she meets gorgeous Jacques. She intrigues him, as she is so unlike any of the women he’s met before. It’s perfect until things go wrong. Can they find their happily ever after? I read an Advance Reader Copy of the book, before voluntarily leaving a review.

News!

I will be interviewing Lisa later in the month, so watch out for that. I am always intrigued to find out what inspired a book, how long it took to write and get a glimpse ‘behind the scenes ‘so to speak. Is this stuff you want to know too?

That Reading Goal.

For me, relaxation is a good book.

In 2022 I set myself a goal of reading at least a couple of books a week. I am not in competition with anyone else, only myself. I want to read books I enjoy, and I won’t hesitate in abandoning a book if I am not enjoying it. If I review a book, then I have read it. I don’t post reviews of books I didn’t enjoy and gave up on.  I accept that we all have different tastes and they weren’t my book and that’s ok too.

How Did I Get On? My goal for the year was 100 books and eventually, I had read 147. So what is this year’s goal? It is still at 100 books. I want to read and enjoy books, not mindlessly consume them to meet a challenge that I have set myself.

Additionally, I have other goals in mind. I want to publish at least one book this year and possibly two. More about that next time. Until then, read what you want, when you want for pure enjoyment

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November 2022 Was a Busy and Emotional Month.

My reading slowed down in November as I impulsively decided to attempt to do National Novel in a Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. For anyone who hasn’t heard of it, it’s a personal challenge to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Many people prepare in October and have plots all drafted out, character lists, settings and even the high and low points of their novel. Me? I suddenly thought I could do it, I had before. So, I  signed up on October 31st with no plot, no plan just the vaguest of ideas. We will have to see how it goes. ( I was writing this introduction in mid-November.) More on that later. Anyway, reading wasn’t as much of an interest this month as I was writing and then something else caught my attention.

Getting lost in a book- a favourite escape!

The Reading List by  Sara Nisha Adams.

An unforgettable and heartwarming debut about how a chance encounter with a list of library books helps forge an unlikely friendship between two very different people in a London suburb.

Widower Mukesh lives a quiet life in the London Borough of Ealing after losing his beloved wife. He shops every Wednesday, goes to Temple, and worries about his granddaughter, Priya, who hides in her room reading while he spends his evenings watching nature documentaries.

Aleisha is a bright but anxious teenager working at the local library for the summer when she discovers a crumpled-up piece of paper in the back of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a list of novels that she’s never heard of before. Intrigued, and a little bored with her slow job at the checkout desk, she impulsively decides to read every book on the list, one after the other. As each story gives up its magic, the books transport Aleisha from the painful realities she’s facing at home.

When Mukesh arrives at the library, desperate to forge a connection with his bookworm granddaughter, Aleisha passes along the reading list… hoping that it will be a lifeline for him too. Slowly, the shared books create a connection between two lonely souls, as fiction helps them escape their grief and everyday troubles and find joy again. 373 pages, Hardcover

My Review.

This delightful book is one for book lovers. As well as meeting the various characters we learn about their journey with The Reading List and what a list it is. Such a pleasure to revisit old favourites and learn people’s reactions to them. More than that though, it is the growing connections formed between people that are the biggest delight of this story A lovely gentle book.

Cats Work Like This by David St John Thomas& Gareth St John Thomas.

Cats Work Like This is for cat lovers who know that even after ten thousand years of living with cats, no one really has a clue what their cat is thinking. In this insider’s guide to the habits of these puzzling animals, the authors offer insights from two generations of watching their cats work. They share the sometimes hilarious and often astonishing observations on cats that have accumulated over ages, and offer some useful insights into how to understand your own cat.

Though there are many famous felines, it is the day to day cat which provides the most enduring interest. Though each one’s behaviour and mannerisms are unique, we can find enough practices in common to guide you to becoming an expert in how cats work.

Chapters include Habits, with an insight into how cats train you to have the right ones; and The Scientific Cat, with observations and empirical learning following the classic scientific method, as cats don’t listen well enough to be subjects in any other kind of experimentation.

Learn how cats practice their values and explore what your cats know about you. Find out what cats do while you sleep, what a cat’s eyes can tell you and what there is to understand about political and ‘eco’ cats. With a focus on attention, emotion, cute affection, manipulation, cunning and cussedness, Cats Work Like This gives a rare insight into the workings of a cat’s elusive mind. 176 pages, Hardcover

My Review.

One to please most cat lovers in your life. It certainly enchanted me, with its delightful photographs and informative text. The book is written from the point of view of someone who has a deep love for cats and a wish to understand them better. I learnt things I didn’t know whilst chuckling at the insights into our cats’ manipulation of their willing humans.

The Austen Girls By Lucy Worsley

By turns thrilling, dramatic and inspiring, this is the story of Jane Austen’s life as you’ve never heard it before.
It is 1809 and Fanny and Anna have just been launched on to the ruthless Regency marriage market by Fanny’s mother (think Mrs Bennet). But luckily their mysteriously wealthy Aunt Jane is there to guide them and help them make better choices – i.e. don’t get married at all!
Jane plays detective to help them rescue a falsely accused friend from being transported to Australia, while Anna impetuously makes and breaks an engagement. Fanny is forced to leave the marriage market when her mother dies and she has to look after ten siblings. She learns the secret of Jane’s wealth and self-possession (she is, of course, a writer) and decides to follow in her footsteps.

My Review. While the book is categorised for Young Adult readers, I decided to read it. The focus is mainly on the younger members of the Austen family and their need to get married. It wasn’t what I was expecting- and devolved from a possible romance into mystery. I found it disappointing although the background information is good. 289 pages, Paperback

Cat Prints at the Crime Scene by K.M Waller.

Loretta Hamilton has never owned one cat, let alone seven.

When cat-loving Aunt Ginger passes away, Loretta is left with a farm she doesn’t want. And as if that’s not bad enough, her aunt’s dying wish is for Loretta to turn her home into a cat rescue sanctuary. Loretta doesn’t even know what to feed her aunt’s seven orphaned cats, let alone how to rescue them.

But Felicity, a pushy real estate agent, has plans of her own. She wants the farm for a land development project, and she won’t take no for an answer. After a heated exchange between Loretta and Felicity at a town hall meeting, Felicity is found dead making Loretta the main suspect.

With a superstitious sidekick and a knack for being practical, can Loretta settle into her new role as cat mom and protector while fending off a murderer?

Published August 13, 2020

My Review. An entertaining read and a promising start to a new series. I look forward to reading more of Loretta’s adventures or should they be mis-adventures? I think she is developing an attachment to the cats.

Revenge by Tom Bower.

The British Royal Family believed that the dizzy success of the Sussex wedding, watched and celebrated around the world, was the beginning of a new era for the Windsors. Yet, within one tumultuous year, the dream became a nightmare. In the aftermath of the infamous Megxit split and the Oprah Winfrey interview, the Royal Family’s fate seems persistently threatened.

The public remains puzzled. Meghan’s success has alternatively won praise, bewildered and outraged. Confused by the Sussexes’ slick publicity, few understand the real Meghan Markle. What lies ahead for Meghan? And what has happened to the family she married into? Can the Windsors restore their reputation?

With extensive research, expert sourcing and interviews from insiders who have never spoken before, Tom Bower, Britain’s leading investigative biographer, unpicks the tangled web of courtroom drama, courtier politics and thwarted childhood dreams to uncover an astonishing story of love, betrayal, secrets and revenge.

My Review.

Reading this book is like entering a parallel universe, where reality is simply the next photo op or sound bite or whatever you want it to be. There was so much hope and promise at the beginning and everyone was happy that Harry had at last found his ‘happily ever after.’

Sadly, that hope has been extinguished as brand Sussex does its best to drag the royal family down. History is continually rewritten to suit the current narrative, although Tom Bower can show that while there might be alternative stories only one is embedded in fact.

At last, the ‘racist ’comment is revealed, and it was made before Meghan was pregnant. So, it was not directed at Archie.

Harry sent a statement with their proposal of entitlements after they left for Canada to Prince Charles. “They expected to retain their titles, privileges and income while living in Canada. They would keep Frogmore(their Uk grace and favour home), enjoy round-the-clock protection costing the British taxpayer annually about £2.5 million and continue to receive £ 1.5 million annual income from the Duchy of Cornwall. In exchange, they would occasionally return to Britain, but would otherwise represent the monarchy in Canada.” They were surprised when it was refused. This is an unflattering portrayal of two very spoiled and entitled people who seem to imagine the world revolves around them.

Murder in an Irish Bookshop by Carlene O’Connor

Between training the new town garda and trying to set a wedding date with her fiancé, Macdara Flannery, Siobhán O’Sullivan is feeling a bit overwhelmed. She’s looking forward to visiting the new bookshop and curling up with an exciting novel—only to discover the shelves contain nothing but Literature with a capital L. The owner not only refuses to stock romances, mysteries, and science fiction, but won’t even let customers enter his store unless they can quote James Joyce or Sean Hennessey.
Despite the owner deliberately limiting his clientele, he’s hosting a reading and autographing event featuring up-and-coming Irish writers who will be taking up residency in Kilbane for a month. Among them is indie author Deirdre Walsh, who spends more time complaining about the unfairness of the publishing industry and megastar bestsellers instead of her own creative works, causing a heated debate among the writers. She seems to have a particular distaste for the novels of Nessa Lamb.
Then Deirdre’s body is found the next day in the back of the store—with pages torn from Nessa’s books stuffed in her mouth. Now, Siobhán must uncover which of Kilbane’s literary guests took Deirdre’s criticisms so personally, they’d engage in foul play.

My Review.

I enjoyed this one, it has that indefinable Irish charm as well as a good story. Book shop? Tick. Authors? Tick. Rivalries? Oh yes. I loved the snobbery of the bookseller and his partner’s subterfuge. The murder kept me guessing and it’s part of a series so I will be able to find others by this author to enjoy.

The Vanishing Thief by Kate Parker.

At 30, Victorian bookshop owner Georgia Fenchurch knows she’s considered a middle-class old maid. That’s all right with her. She has the bookshop she inherited when her parents were murdered before her eyes, providing her with a living and something to keep her busy during the day. At night, she has another occupation. Driven by her need to see people rescued and justice done, she works with the Archivist Society.

In the foggy London of coal fires and carriages, glittering balls and Sherlock Holmes, the Archivist Society digs through musty records searching for the truth. They also don disguises and assume identities as they hunt for missing people, stolen treasures, and cunning murderers. Between her efforts for the Archivist Society and her management of the bookshop, Georgia doesn’t have time to be lonely.

When a respectable middle-class woman comes into her bookshop complaining that a duke has abducted her next door neighbor, Georgia thinks the investigation will be a short one. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in theft, blackmail, lies, secret marriages, and murder. The man Georgia is asked to find may be royalty, may be dead, and is definitely missing. The woman who hired her won’t reveal the truth. The accused duke may be a victim or a killer, but he certainly is involved in the hunt for the missing man. And every aristocrat who knew the missing man seems to be hiding their own dangerous lie.
As Georgia crosses London searching for the missing man, she finds herself staring into the face of the one person she has wanted to capture for a dozen years. The one who got away. The man who killed her parents.

My Review.

This is the first in a series and a lot is happening. It is all interesting, but perhaps a bit too much to keep track of in one book. I didn’t find Georgia particularly likeable, but I did enjoy her interactions with the Duke of Blackford, who promises to be an intriguing returning character.

What Else Was Happening?

November became more complicated when I realised that I wanted, no, needed to make a submission to the Australian Government’s Aged Care Review. It had a deadline of November 25th. Almost eighteen months later I was still upset and angry at what I had witnessed in one aged care home. I felt I owed it to my loved one and to myself to complete the questions and submit my responses. Of course, it brought it all back, the shock, the anger, the pain. I sat at the computer crying and reliving it and trying to put my comments into a coherent order. When I finished I completed the questionnaire and had an additional five pages to add to the submission. Once that was done I felt emotionally spent. I then drafted letters to both my state and federal MPS. It felt good to finally speak out.

I was feeling overwhelmed with too much to do

I raced to finish NaNoWriMo, but I suspect it won’t make sense. I can revisit it and edit it later, that doesn’t matter. I prioritised what was most important to me and to the community. I dont want anyone else to go through what we experienced. Promises made and promises kept and now I feel a sense of relief. I can’t change what happened, but maybe it will help someone else.

Time to reflect wasn’t wasted.

                              

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October 2022 Was A Busy Reading Month.

October, I dont quite know how I managed to read so many books. I was more selective with my time and only watched TV if something interested me. Obviously, not a lot did last month! The cats and I snuggled up and I read.

A snuggling cat and a good book.

Secrets of the Chocolate House by Paula Brackston.

The second novel in a bewitching series “brimming with charm and charisma” that will make “fans of Outlander rejoice!” (Woman’s World Magazine)

New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston’s The Little Shop of Found Things was called “a page-turner that will no doubt leave readers eager for future series installments” (Publishers Weekly). Now, Brackston returns to the Found Things series with its sequel, Secrets of the Chocolate House

After her adventures in the seventeenth century, Xanthe does her best to settle back into the rhythm of life in Marlborough. She tells herself she must forget about Samuel and leave him in the past where he belongs. With the help of her new friends, she does her best to move on, focusing instead on the success of her and Flora’s antique shop.

But there are still things waiting to be found, still injustices needing to be put right, still voices whispering to Xanthe from long ago about secrets wanting to be shared.

While looking for new stock for the shop, Xanthe hears the song of a copper chocolate pot. Soon after, she has an upsetting vision of Samuel in great danger, compelling her to make another journey to the past.

This time she’ll meet her most dangerous adversary. This time her ability to travel to the past will be tested. This time she will discover her true destiny. Will that destiny allow her to return home? And will she be able to save Samuel when his own fate seems to be sealed.

My Review. After enjoying book one, I was eager to read book two and continue the story. Once again Xanthe is called by an object-this time a chocolate pot. Xanthe is trying to ignore the call knowing that her mother’s health means she always needs assistance. But then, Samuel appears to be in danger, and she feels compelled to go to help him. However, nothing goes to plan, and Xanthe is in more danger than she can imagine. She’s facing new hazards and new risks and an unknown enemy.

Bombproof by Michael Robotham.

A kinetic standalone from “first-class storyteller” Michael Robotham (San Francisco Chronicle).

Sami Macbeth is not a master criminal. He’s not even a minor one. He’s not a jewel thief. He’s not a safe-cracker. He’s not an expert in explosives.

Sami plays guitar and wants to be a rock god but keeps getting side-tracked by unforeseen circumstances. Fifty-four hours ago Sami was released from prison. Thirty-six hours ago he slept with the woman of his dreams at the Savoy. An hour ago his train blew up.

Now he’s carrying a rucksack through London’s West End and has turned himself into the most wanted terrorist in the country. Fast, funny, hip and violent, Bombproof is a non-stop adventure full of unforgettable characters and a heart-warming hero–Sami Macbeth–a man with the uncanny ability to turn a desperate situation into a hopeless one.

My Review. it is non-stop action and risk. Suspend disbelief and go along for a fast-paced ride. This could be a Guy Ritchie film, highly visual and at times highly violent. All the seedier sides of life are exposed and yet it is highly plausible.

Seances Are for Suckers by Tamara Berry

When something goes bump in the night . . . it’s most likely a plumbing problem, or something equally mundane. But fake medium Eleanor Wilde is happy to investigate and cleanse your home of spectral presences—for a fee. Hey, it’s a living.

Ellie has an ailing sister to care for, and working as a ghost hunter who doesn’t believe in ghosts helps cover the bills for both of them. When she’s lucky, it also pays for the occasional tropical vacation. Her brother doesn’t exactly approve, but Ellie figures she’s providing a service. On her latest job, though, she may be in for some genuine scares. The skeptical, reserved, and very rich Nicholas Hartford III has flown her all the way to his family’s ancestral estate in England—supposedly haunted by a phantom named Xavier. Nicholas thinks it’s all just as much a crock as Ellie’s business is, but the fact remains that something is causing the flashes of light, mysterious accidents, and other apparent pranks in the chilly, eerie castle. His mother is sure that Xavier is real, and he’s willing to employ Ellie if she can get to the bottom of it and put a stop to the nonsense.

While the food and accommodations are somewhat disappointing (dorm-room furniture? Really?), Ellie is finding it an adventure to get to know this eccentric family and their house-guests, and to poke around in the nearby village for clues. But when an actual dead body appears—and subsequently disappears—at Castle Hartford, she’ll have to apply her talent for trickery and psychological insight to solve a flesh-and-blood murder.

My Review. The first book in a series sets the tone for the rest. Ellie is pragmatic and practical with a useful line between self-belief and scepticism. She’s not above a little trickery if it achieves her objectives. Ellie finds it less amusing though when the tricks are being played on her. Someone wants her investigation to succeed, while an unknown someone wants it to fail. Then there is Nicholas is he a help or a distraction?

The Picture House by the Sea by Holly Hepburn

The brilliant new novel from the bestselling author of A Year at the Star and Sixpence. Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley. All four Picture House novellas in one book!

The picture house by the sea is the Palace at Polwhipple – a lovely art deco cinema, nestled in front of azure Cornish seas. But it is long past its heyday now, and its only saving grace is Ferrelli’s, the family run ice-cream concession in the foyer, which is widely known as the best ice-cream for miles.
 
So when Ferdie, the owner of Ferelli’s, breaks his leg, his granddaughter Gina drops everything to come and help out. But when she arrives she is dismayed by the state of the cinema, which she remembers fondly from summer holidays when she was little, and she is determined to give it the makeover it deserves. Along with local renovation expert Ben, she sets about reviving the Palace to its former glory. 
But the cinema needs more than a lick of paint. Its very future is under threat from a developer with greed in his eyes. Can Gina save the place before it is too late?

** Disclaimer: originally published in four parts as eBooks

My Review. Just what I expected from Holly Hepburn an easy and escapist read. Divided into four parts as the original e-books were released. Each instalment adds to the story of the picture house by the sea. Gina is torn between helping her grandparents and keeping her London life. The longer she stays the more distant London and her boyfriend Max seems. There’s all grown-up Ben,  someone she used to know. Themed around some ‘classic’ movies. It ticks all the boxes for easy reading and escapism

The Witch’s Kind by Louise Morgan

From the author of A Secret History of Witches comes an absorbing tale of love, sacrifice, family ties, and magic, set in the Pacific Northwest in the aftermath of World War II.

Barrie Anne Blythe and her aunt Charlotte have always known that the other residents of their small coastal community find them peculiar — two women living alone on the outskirts of town. It is the price of concealing their strange and dangerous family secret.

But two events threaten to upend their lives forever. The first is the arrival of a mysterious abandoned baby with a hint of power like their own. The second is the sudden reappearance of Barrie Anne’s long-lost husband — who is not quite the man she thought she married.

Together, Barrie Anne and Charlotte must decide how far they are willing to go to protect themselves — and the child they think of as their own — from suspicious neighbors, the government, and even their own family… 

My Review.   A mixed reaction from me. On the one hand, the writing was lyrical and a pleasure to read However, even with the time changes signposted I found the story confusing at times. I kept wondering where the baby was and of course, it was prior to her arrival.  The ending made me think there was a possibility of this being the first in a series.

Elephants: Birth, Life, and Death in the World of the Giants by Hannah Mumby.

What Jane Goodall did for chimpanzees, international ecologist and conservation scientist Hannah Mumby now does for elephants in this compelling, eye-opening account that brings into focus this species remarkably similar to humans—and makes a persuasive argument for saving them.

From early childhood, Dr. Hannah Mumby has loved wildlife, especially elephants. Her first wild elephant sighting at twenty-four changed the course of her life. Since then, she has devoted herself to studying these incredible animals and educating humanity about them. Hannah’s field work has taken her around the world, where she has studied many elephant groups, including both orphaned elephants and the solitary elephant males.

These remarkable animals have so much to teach us, Mumby argues, and The Elephant in the Mirror takes readers into their world as never before, revealing a society as complex as the chimpanzees, maybe even humans. Mumby’s exploration of elephant culture provides an empathetic, humanistic portrait of these majestic animals, illuminating their personalities, memories, and rich emotional lives. Mumby explains how elephants communicate with one another and demonstrates the connection between memory and trauma how it affects individual elephants and their interactions with others in their herd. Elephants and humans, Mumby makes clear, are not very different. From emotional bonding to communication, human and elephant experience similarly nuanced lives, and the commonalities she uncovers are both surprising and heart-warming.

Featuring a 16-page color insert of original photography, The Elephant in the Mirror is a captivating, deeply moving exploration that offers a new way to look at these pachyderms and ourselves and a persuasive, passionate argument for rethinking our approach to animals and their conservation

My Review

Hannah Mumby is passionate about elephants, and it shows in her writing. This is perhaps more for the student than the general reader, but you will learn more about elephants and perhaps rethink how you view them.

An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed(Elderly Lady 2) by Helene Tursten and  Marlaine Delargy (Translator.


Everyone’s favorite octogenarian killer is back in this new collection of stories by Swedish crime writer Helene Tursten that is sure to have you in stitches.

Eighty-eight-year-old Maud is never looking for trouble, but it always seems to find her. First, a woman in her building met an untimely end: tragic. Then, just recently, a dead body mysteriously appeared in her very own apartment, prompting an investigation by the local Gothenburg authorities. Such a strange coincidence. When it seems suspicion has fallen on her, little old lady that she is, Maud decides to skip town and splurges on a trip to South Africa for herself.

In these six interlocking stories, memories of unfortunate incidents from Maud’s past keep bubbling to the surface, each triggered by something in the present: an image, a word, even a taste. When she lands in Johannesburg at last, eager to move on from the bl
oody ordeal last summer, she finds certain problems seem to be following her. Luckily, Maud is no stranger to taking matters into her own hands . . . even if it means she has to get a little blood on them in the process.

Don’t let her age fool you. Maud may be nearly ninety, but this elderly lady still has a few tricks before she’s ready to call it quits-includes cookie recipe
My Review.
Maud isn’t to be messed with. She’s cool, clever and quite ruthless. In real life, she’d be the neighbour from hell, but she is hilarious to read about. Credit to both the  author and the translator

The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown

The 20th Anniversary Edition of Tina Brown’s definitive behind-the-scenes insight into the life of Diana Princess of Wales with a brand new introduction by Andrew Marr.

Twenty years after her death, Princess Diana remains a mystery. Was she “the people’s princess,” who electrified the world with her beauty and humanitarian missions? Or was she a manipulative, media-savvy neurotic who nearly brought down the monarchy?

In this new 20th anniversary commemorative edition, which includes a new introduction by Andrew Marr, The Diana Chronicles parts the curtains on Diana’s troubled time in the mysterious world of the Windsors, as she breaks out of her royal cage into celebrity culture, where she found her own power and used it to devastating effect.

Knowing Diana personally, Tina Brown understands her world, understands its players and has-reaching insight into the royals and the Queen herself. Meet the formidable female cast and get to know the society they inhabit, as you never have before.

My Review.An interesting look at the complex person that was  Diana, Princess of Wales. While the question is posed if Diana was a humanitarian and the ‘people’s princess’ or a manipulative and media-savvy neurotic who nearly brought down the monarchy, I don’t see those positions as being mutually exclusive. I think she could have been both. In fact, she was driven to become both or to disappear entirely. I was always a Diana fan, but it doesn’t mean I can’t see the darker side of her story. She wanted to be loved and thought she had found it with her marriage, only to find that the marriage had never stood a chance.

10 Step Drawing Cats by Justine Lecouffe

Learn to draw your favorite cats and kittens, step by step, with Ten Step Drawing: Cats.

The blank page can be daunting, but the fun and approachable books in the Ten-Step Drawing series offer a quick and easy starting point for any doodler, illustrator, or aspiring artist to be creative. Featuring illustrated tutorials for drawing a variety of different animals, flowers, plants, and people, each book in this appealing series breaks down each subject into 10 simple steps. And all you need is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper!

Handy prompts help you learn to draw by encouraging you to express creative individuality, while helpful general drawing tips enable you to try out your drawing skills on other subjects not featured in the book. The projects feature instructions for graphite pencilink, and colored pencil, for a well-rounded introduction to drawing.

Learn to draw more than 50 cat breeds, including:

Ragdolls
American Shorthairs
Persians
Siamese
Sphynx
Maine Coons
And many more!
The perfect reference for your first steps as an aspiring artistTen Step Drawing: Cats is sure to give you the courage to break out a pencil and paper and draw to your heart’s content! 

128 pages, Paperback Published December 14, 2021

My Review. Does an excellent job of simplifying drawing cats. I think that with practice most people could draw a convincing cat. I certainly have had fun trying.

The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson

Good Morning America Buzz Pick
A Library Reads Pick


June Jones emerges from her shell to fight for her beloved local library, and through the efforts and support of an eclectic group of library patrons, she discovers life-changing friendships along the way.

Lonely librarian June Jones has never left the sleepy English village where she grew up. Shy and reclusive, the thirty-year-old would rather spend her time buried in books than venture out into the world. But when her library is threatened with closure, June is forced to emerge from behind the shelves to save the heart of her community and the place that holds the dearest memories of her mother.

Joining a band of eccentric yet dedicated locals in a campaign to keep the library, June opens herself up to other people for the first time since her mother died. It just so happens that her old school friend Alex Chen is back in town and willing to lend a helping hand. The kindhearted lawyer’s feelings for her are obvious to everyone but June, who won’t believe that anyone could ever care for her in that way.

To save the place and the books that mean so much to her, June must finally make some changes to her life. For once, she’s determined not to go down without a fight. And maybe, in fighting for her cherished library, June can save herself,

My Review.

June Jones is the stereotypical librarian, quiet and devoted to the library. Once she had dreams and ambitions. Since her mother’s death, time has virtually stood still for June. Her hopes and dreams are confined to books.
The threat to the local library rouses something in her, the urge to step up and defend the library. But she’s no one, and library staff have been forbidden to get involved.
This book about books and libraries is like catnip to a cat for me. What makes it depressingly relevant are the facts on which it is based. In The UK local councils are cost-cutting and local libraries are often one of the first things to go.

The Pug Who Bit Napoleon by Mimi Matthews Animal Tales of The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

From elaborate Victorian cat funerals to a Regency-era pony who took a ride in a hot air balloon, Mimi Matthews shares some of the quirkiest and most poignant animal tales of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Meet Fortune, the Pug who bit Napoleon on his wedding night, and Looty, the Pekingese sleeve dog who was presented to Queen Victoria after the 1860 sacking of the Summer Palace in Peking. The four-legged friends of Lord Byron, Emily Brontë, and Prince Albert also make an appearance, as do the treasured pets of Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, and Charles Dickens.

Less famous, but no less fascinating, are the animals that were the subject of historical lawsuits, scandals, and public curiosity. There’s Tuppy, the purloined pet donkey; Biddy, the regimental chicken; and Barnaby and Burgho, the bloodhounds hired to hunt Jack the Ripper. Wild animals also get a mention in tales that encompass everything from field mice and foxes to alligators and sharks lurking in the Thames.

Using research from eighteenth and nineteenth-century books, letters, journals, and newspapers, Mimi Matthews brings each animal’s unique history to vivid life. The details are sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, but the stories are never anything less than fascinating reading for animal lovers of all ages.

 My Review. Some stories are humorous, while others are quite tragic. A positive is knowing that these conditions did lead to the formation of societies against cruelty to animals. Interesting to see who of the ‘great and the good’  shared a love of animals. Overall, it is easy and entertaining reading.

The Garden of Promises and Lies by Paula Brackston.

Book Three of the Found Things SeriesThe third instalment of a bewitching series brimming with charm and charisma that will make fans of Outlander rejoice! (Woman’s World Magazine).
New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston’s second novel in the Found Things series, Secrets of the Chocolate House, was called a time-swapping romance [that] will please fans of Alice Hoffman (Publishers Weekly). Now, Brackston returns to the Found Things series with a third book, The Garden of Promises and Lies.

As the bustle of the winter holidays in the Little Shop of Found Things gives way to spring, Xanthe is left to reflect on the strange events of the past year. While she’s tried to keep her time-traveling talents a secret from those close to her, she is forced to take responsibility for having inadvertently transported the dangerous Benedict Fairfax to her own time. Xanthe comes to see that she must use her skills as a Spinner if she and Flora are ever to be safe, and turns to the Spinners book for help.

It is then that a beautiful antique wedding dress sings to her. Realizing the dress and her adversary are connected in some way, she answers the call. She finds herself in Bradford-on-Avon in 1815, as if she has stepped into a Jane Austen story.

Now in Xanthe’s time, Fairfax is threatening Xanthe into helping him with his evil doings, and demonstrates all too clearly how much damage he is capable of causing. With Fairfax growing ever more powerful, Xanthe enlists the help of her boyfriend Liam, taking him back in time with her. It is a decision that might just ensure she prevails over her foe, but only by putting her life–and his—on the line.

My Review.

An exciting instalment with enough to keep me wanting to get the next book and finish the series. Fairfax is a worthy adversary and Xanthe is wrestling with problems of ethics and possibilities. If she pursues any action, does it have consequences beyond what she can see? Can she harm the innocent while working for good? She can discuss some things with Harley and with Mistress Flyte but longs to confide in her mother and Liam. When she finally does, then a whole new world of possibilities and problems emerges.  It’s such a relief to know the next book is written and available. I can’t leave these characters in peril!

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten translated by Marlaine Delargy.

An elderly lady has accommodation problems
– An elderly lady on her travels
– An elderly lady seeks peace at Christmas time
– The antique dealer’s death
– An elderly lady is faced with a difficult dilemma

Maud is an irascible 88-year-old Swedish woman with no family, no friends,

and…no qualms about a little murder. This funny, irreverent story collection by Helene Tursten, author of the Irene Huss investigations, features two-never-before translated stories that will keep you laughing all the way to the retirement home.

Ever since her darling father’s untimely death when she was only eighteen, Maud has lived in the family’s spacious apartment in downtown Gothenburg rent-free, thanks to a minor clause in a hastily negotiated contract. That was how Maud learned that good things can come from tragedy. Now in her late eighties, Maud contents herself with traveling the world and surfing the net from the comfort of her father’s ancient armchair. It’s a solitary existence, but she likes it that way.

Over the course of her adventures—or misadventures—this little bold lady will handle a crisis with a local celebrity who has her eyes on Maud’s apartment, foil the engagement of her long-ago lover, and dispose of some pesky neighbors. But when the local authorities are called to investigate a murder in her apartment complex, will Maud be able to avoid suspicion, or will Detective Inspector Irene Huss see through her charade?

My Review.

An easy and entertaining read. Maud is anything but a harmless old lady. Although, at times she relies on that persona to conceal her misdeeds. So far, luck has been on her side, but will Maud eventually rely on luck once too often?

Closing thoughts,

It is certainly an eclectic collection, some serious, others less so. I don’t necessarily stick to one genre or author and my selections are usually a combination of recommendations, research and whatever catches my eye. A good title can grab my attention, for example, the Elderly Lady books, those titles were impossible to ignore.







 

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Excitement and Drama in the Life of a Writer.

 October 15th2022 was an exciting day after a frustrating week.

Imagine you have spent ages writing and rewriting a story until finally, it’s ready to be published. Your story with eight others is going to be part of a new anthology of steamy romance. You are all excited about the book launch.

The date is set, the pre-orders organised and all you and the eight other writers have to do is sit and wait for the book to launch.

One week to go and there is a glitch. The group moderator who had been tweaking details on one of her other books was locked out of the Amazon account. No one else could act.

it couldn’t be happening.

Sexy Scandals of Swain Cove disappeared and so did all those pre-orders. She was in daily contact with Amazon, and we were all in daily despair.

Finally, yesterday after the tensest week ever it was reinstated.

Available on Amazon.

In celebration, Sexy Secrets of Swain Cove will remain at 99cents for now.

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My September 2022 Reading.

Here in the Southern hemisphere, it has been a long- wet winter. We are just beginning to think about Spring. Instead of grey clouds, there is sunshine and the promise of the new season. The daffodils and grape hyacinths have brightened my garden and mood, as I relish the rare sunny days. Those long chilly evenings have been perfect for reading, with TV offering few distractions. I’ve also been dipping into some research for my next stories, but I can’t tell you about that just yet!

How lovely to see the blossoms.

The proof copy of my novella A Scandalous Woman has been checked and returned ready for the Swain Cove Sexy Scandals launch on October 15th. Swain Cove is a fictional Cornish village where smuggling is the main occupation. Sexy Scandals is a warm-to-steamy collection of stories. For those who prefer their romance sweet, The Sweet Delights of Swain Cove will launch on 15th November. Save those dates and don’t forget to preorder your copy while it’s currently 99c but the price will increase once its launch day to $4.99

Miss Amelia’s Mistletoe Marquess by Jenni Fletcher. Secrets of a Victorian Household 2.

The virtuous Miss Fairclough…

…now faces ruin!

Part of Secrets of a Victorian Household. When Amelia Fairclough had sought refuge in a blizzard, a brooding stranger had given her warmth and shelter. She’d even tried to soothe him of his demons in return. But as she scurried home at dawn, she was spotted! Now he’s in the parlour, offering to do the honourable thing. Surely she’d be a fool to turn down the new Marquess of Falconmore! 

Do you like this cover? It didn’t appeal to me

My Review. An impetuous decision will alter Amelia Fairclough’s life. She’s unwittingly ensnared the Marquess, who is now offering to marry her. She’d be a fool to refuse, but the proper man who makes the offer can’t be the man she met last night. Cassius was someone she could talk to and even be herself with. Exploring their relationship and the pull between love and duty. I found it an entertaining read.

The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles (Volume 2) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

A story where the character gets exactly what they want doesn’t make for good reading. But add villainous clashes, lost advantages, power struggles, and menacing threats…well, now we have the makings of a page-turner. Conflict is the golden thread that binds plot to arc, providing the complications, setbacks, and derailments that make the character’s inner and outer journeys dynamic.
Inside Volume 2 of The Conflict Thesaurus, you’ll find:

• A myriad of conflict options in the form of power struggles, ego-related stressors, dangers and threats, advantage and control losses, and other miscellaneous challenges
• Information on how each scenario should hinder the character on the path to their goal so they’ll learn valuable life lessons and gain insight into what’s holding them back internally
• Instruction about using the multiple levels of conflict to add pressure through immediate, scene-level challenges and looming problems that take time to solve
• Guidance on keeping a story’s central conflict in the spotlight and utilizing subplots effectively so they work with—not against—the main plotline
• An exploration of the climax and how to make this pinnacle event highly satisfying for readers
• Ways to use conflict to deepen your story, facilitate epic adversarial showdowns, give your characters agency, and infuse every scene with tension

Meaningful conflict can be so much more than a series of roadblocks. Challenge your characters inside and out with over 100 tension-inducing scenarios in this second volume of The Conflict Thesaurus. And for more instruction on how to use this element to enhance your story (and an additional 100+ conflict scenarios), check out The Conflict Thesaurus, Volume 1.

Writers, you need this book!

My Review. I was fortunate enough to get an advanced copy of The Conflict Thesaurus Volume 2. It is impressive the amount of thought that has gone into exploring each scenario. In real life, we are conflict-averse, but it’s an absolute necessity in fiction. This book is a wonderful avenue for exploring sources of conflict for our characters. Character’s responses to conflict won’t all be the same either. It’s a book that I will use constantly, to give myself more insight into broadening and deepening conflict and thus improving my storytelling

The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs

Eliza Acton, despite having never before boiled an egg, became one of the world’s most successful cookery writers, revolutionizing cooking and cookbooks. Her story is fascinating, uplifting and truly inspiring.

Told in alternate voices by the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, and with recipes that leap to life from the page, The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is the most thought-provoking and page-turning historical novel you’ll read this year, exploring the enduring struggle for female freedom, the power of female friendship, the creativity and quiet joy of cooking and the poetry of food, all while bringing Eliza Action out of the archives and back into the public eye.

England 1837. Eliza Acton is a poet who dreams of seeing her words in print. But when she takes her new manuscript to a publisher, she’s told that ‘poetry is not the business of a lady’. Instead, they want her to write a cookery book. England is awash with exciting new ingredients, from spices to exotic fruits. That’s what readers really want from women.

Eliza leaves the offices appalled. But when her father is forced to flee the country for bankruptcy, she has no choice but to consider the proposal. Never having cooked before in her life, she is determined to learn and to discover, if she can, the poetry in recipe writing. To assist her, she hires seventeen-year-old Ann Kirby, the impoverished daughter of a war-crippled father and a mother with dementia.

Over the course of ten years, Eliza and Ann developed an unusual friendship – one that crossed social classes and divides – and, together, they broke the mould of traditional cookbooks and changed the course of cookery writing forever.

I think this cover suits the book.

My Review.

This book is about so much more than food, although of course food is the central theme. There is the accepted harsh poverty of the times and the casual cruelty and intolerance from all levels of society. The Reverend Thorpe and his wife are not above shaming the poor. They recommend seventeen-year-old  Ann for a post with Eliza Acton.  In Ann’s family, her father is a drunk and her mother grows more demented daily. Ann has dealt with grinding poverty and hunger and knows her duty and faith. In her new job, she experiences unexpected kindness. Gradually the two women explore how to cook. Unusually Ann is literate and remembers when her mother cooked. I found  Ann’s faith in the authorities of the  Asylum sad and touching. Imagine what an achievement it was for Eliza Acton, a gentlewoman who had not cooked before to not only in teaching herself to cook, but to cook superbly. She explored not the poetry that had previously captured her imagination, but the language of food and made it her own. Before her cookery book, recipes were imprecise and hard to follow. She cooked and refined her recipes until she was satisfied, that they were as good as she could make them Her book was still in print until the early twentieth century. Many modern cooks reference her recipes.

The Ultimate Cooking for One Cookbook: 175 Super Easy Recipes Made Just for You by Joanie Zisk.

175 single-serving recipes for every solo chef who just wants a satisfying and delicious home-cooked meal for themselves.

Cooking for one is harder than it seems and it can leave anyone wanting to make a healthy, tasty meal either throwing out extra helpings or watching expensive ingredients expire. But it’s possible to prepare single-serving recipes that are full of flavor, easy to make, and economical if you have the right guide.

The Ultimate Cooking for One Cookbook allows you to make a fresh, delicious, home-cooked meal for one without creating a week’s worth of leftovers or leaving an abundance of unused fresh ingredients that quickly go to waste. Each of the 175 single-serving recipes are quick and simple to make and save you both time and money. And while the ingredients are common, the results are anything but. In addition to flavorful meals, this cookbook includes clever ideas of how to reduce food waste and source single servings of fresh ingredients.

With The Ultimate Cooking for One Cookbook, cooking solo never needs to be boring (or overwhelming) again whether you live alone or are just looking for a filling and enjoyable meal for yourself

My Review We have always preferred different meals, so I am quite used to making two meals at the same time. Over time though my recipes got boring, and I wanted to see what else I could come up with. I borrowed the book from the library. I thought it was well set out and easy to follow if you had never cooked before. There were a few recipes that I have kept notes of and will try. As I read a cookbook, I can sense what a recipe will be like and find it quite relaxing reading.

The Little Shop of Found Things by  Paula Brackston

A new series about a young woman whose connection to antiques takes her on a magical adventure, reminiscent of Outlander

New York Times bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter Paula Brackston returns to her trademark blend of magic and romance to launch a new series guaranteed to enchant her audience even more.

Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. So when she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.

It’s while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century. And shortly after, she’s confronted by a ghost who reveals that this is where the antique has its origins. The ghost tasks Xanthe with putting right the injustice in its story to save an innocent girl’s life, or else it’ll cost her Flora’s.

While Xanthe fights to save her amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave.

With its rich historical detail, strong mother-daughter relationship, and picturesque English village, The Little Shop of Found Things is poised to be a strong start to this new series.

My Review.

I found both the title and the cover appealing.

There are some books you want to read at a gallop to find out what happens, but equally, you don’t want the book to end. For me, The Little Shop of Found Things was such a book. Initially, I was unaware it was part of a series. Book two is now on my must-read list. There is a lot of potential in this story, both with the items that will speak to Xanthe to reveal more of the story and with the possibility of two conflicting love interests.

The Work Wives by Rachael Johns

How well do you really know the people you work with?

For work wives Debra and Quinn, it’s a case of opposites attract. They are each other’s lifelines as they navigate office politics and jobs that pay the bills but don’t inspire them.

Outside work, they are also friends, but where Quinn is addicted to dating apps and desperate to find love, Deb has sworn off men. Although Deb is not close to her own mother, her teenage daughter is her life and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do to protect her. But Ramona has other ideas and is beginning to push boundaries.

Life becomes even more complicated by the arrival of a new man at the office. One woman is attracted to him, while the other hoped she’d never meet him again.

But when Deb, Quinn and Ramona are forced to choose between friends, love and family, the ramifications run deeper than they could ever have expected.

The latest novel by bestselling, ABIA award-winning author Rachael Johns will make you laugh, cry and wonder what secrets your friends are keeping! 

My Review.

I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of The Work Wives from Net Galley. In keeping with their terms, I am unable to post a full review just yet. I will say though that I thoroughly enjoyed it. More to follow.

Full Review. Where would we be without our female friends? Deb and Quin are unalike and yet they share a treasured friendship. When we spend so much time at work it’s good to have allies. Friends who will tell us when we are out of line or being self-destructive. Deb challenges Quin to do something she doesn’t want to do. In response, Quinn issues a challenge of her own. This takes each woman out of her comfort zone. Deb’s teenage daughter Ramona is demanding more freedom. While Deb has reservations about how far she can let Ramona go. Each is searching for something, love, security, family and belonging. Secrets and lies have a way of being exposed. Can everyone have a happy ending? Rachael Johns has produced another pacy and pleasing page-turner.

A Buccaneer At Heart by Stephanie Laurens (The Adventurers Quartet 2)

Unexpected love—plus passion, intrigue, and danger—challenge our hero to embrace his true nature.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens continues THE ADVENTURERS QUARTET, a riveting blend of Regency-era high seas adventure, a mystery shrouded in the heat of tropical jungles, and the passionate romances of four couples and their unexpected journeys into love.

After a decade of captaining diplomatic voyages for Frobisher Shipping, alongside covert missions for the Crown, Captain Robert Frobisher decides that establishing a home—with hearth and wife—should be his next challenge. But an unexpected mission intervenes. Although Robert sees himself as a conservative businessman-cum-diplomat and this mission is far from his usual sphere, it nevertheless falls within the scope of his abilities. As matters are urgent, he agrees to depart for West Africa forthwith.

To Robert, his way forward is clear: Get to Freetown, determine the location of a slavers’ camp, return to London with the information, and then proceed to find himself a wife.

Already in Freetown, Miss Aileen Hopkins is set on finding her younger brother Will, a naval lieutenant who has mysteriously disappeared. Find Will and rescue him; determined and resolute, Aileen is not about to allow anyone to turn her from her path.

But all too quickly, that path grows dark and dangerous. And then Robert Frobisher appears and attempts to divert her in more ways than one.

Accustomed to managing diplomats and bureaucrats, Robert discovers that manipulating a twenty-seven-year-old spinster lies outside his area of expertise. Prodded by an insistent need to protect Aileen, he realizes that joining forces with her is the surest path to meeting all the challenges before him—completing his mission, keeping her safe, and securing the woman he wants as his wife.

But the villains strike and disrupt their careful plans—leaving Robert and Aileen no choice but to attempt a last throw of the dice to complete his mission and further her brother’s rescue.

Compelled to protect those weaker than themselves and bring retribution to a heartless enemy, they plunge into the jungle with only their talents and inner strengths to aid them—and with the courage of their hearts as their guide.

It’s more of an adventure than a romance.


My Review. Once again, I chose a book based on its title. In that, I suspect I’m like many other readers. And once again it was part of a series. It was relatively easy to fill in the gaps and the chart of characters at the front of the book was helpful. In my opinion, the book was more of an adventure than a romance although the romance was quite steamy.

Potions Are for Pushovers by Tamara Berry 

 It may have been a ghost that led Eleanor Wilde to set up shop in a quaint English village. But now that she’s established herself as the town witch, Ellie’s contentedly casting spells on anyone desperate enough—or gullible enough—to request her mysterious potions…

Selling mystical elixirs and tantalizing tonics is a pretty good way for a fake medium to earn a living. Or at least it’s Ellie’s main source of income—until a villager turns up dead. The cause? Murder by poisoning.  And though Ellie’s concoctions don’t include anything worthy of a skull and crossbones, suddenly she’s the prime suspect. Her only recourse is to find the culprit who did do away with Sarah Blackthorne. No one liked the mean old battle-axe. But did anyone hate her enough to kill her? 
 
It’s enough of a mystery to make Ellie hang up her witch’s hat and take millionaire beau Nicholas Hartford up on his offer to keep her afloat.  Except Ellie is not the kind of woman to lean on a man—least of all a man she adores but whose place in her life is uncertain. Besides, Ellie’s taken on two young witches-in-training—apprentices if you will—and both of them are convinced a werewolf is the murderer.
 
Just as Ellie’s wondering if there really is something otherworldly going on, animals suddenly begin to disappear—including her beloved cat, Beast. Now Ellie’s on the warpath to uncover the wicked truth about the people and the place she’s only just begun to call home.

Of course, this cover appealed to me.

My Review. I found this an entertaining read. There was enough doubt and suspicion to cloud the waters. This is nicely abetted by the two teenage would-be witches and sleuths. Luckily, Ellie doesn’t allow their imaginations to quite run riot, although her imaginings are beginning to worry her. She is also fearful for her cat Beast.

Gentleman Jim by Mimi Matthews( Somerset StoriesTwo)

 A swashbuckling, second chance Regency romance, inspired by the author’s love of Georgette Heyer romances, and of Henry Fielding’s eighteenth century novel Tom Jones.

She couldn’t forget…

Wealthy squire’s daughter Margaret Honeywell was always meant to marry her neighbor, Frederick Burton-Smythe, but it’s bastard-born Nicholas Seaton who has her heart. Raised alongside her on her father’s estate, Nick is the rumored son of notorious highwayman Gentleman Jim. When Fred frames him for theft, Nick escapes into the night, vowing to find his legendary sire. But Nick never returns. A decade later, he’s long been presumed dead.

He wouldn’t forgive…

After years spent on the continent, John Beresford, Viscount St. Clare has finally come home to England. Tall, blond, and dangerous, he’s on a mission to restore his family’s honor. If he can mete out a bit of revenge along the way, so much the better. But he hasn’t reckoned for Maggie Honeywell. She’s bold and beautiful—and entirely convinced he’s someone else.

As danger closes in, St. Clare is torn between love and vengeance. Will he sacrifice one to gain the other? Or with a little luck—and a lot of daring—will he find a way to have them both?

This was the cover of the library edition that I borrowed.

My Review.

A rollicking good read! Margaret is a spirited character and even under the watchful eye of Fred Burton-Smythe, her spark hasn’t been extinguished. Fred is complacently entitled-  he knows that Maggie has to marry him. Their fathers decreed it and now Maggie is alone. But Maggie doesn’t want to marry Fred, not now, not ever. She knows him too well. When she meets Viscount St Clare, there is something about him that tugs at her memory.


A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers.

A young woman in Belle Epoque France is cursed to relive a doomed love affair through many lifetimes, as both troubled muse and frustrated artist.

In 1895, sixteen-year-old Juliet LaCompte has a passionate, doomed romance with the married Parisian painter Auguste Marchant. When her mother — a witch — botches a curse on Marchant, she unwittingly binds Juliet to the artist through time, damningher to re-live her affair and die tragically young lifetime after lifetime as the star-crossed lovers reincarnate through history.
Luke Varner, the worldly demon tasked with maintaining this badly crafted curse, has been helplessly in love with his charge, in all her reincarnations, since 19th century France. He’s in love with Nora, a silver screen starlet in 1930s Hollywood. He’s in love with Sandra, a struggling musician in 1970s Los Angeles. And he’s in love with Helen, a magazine exec in present-day DC who has the power to “suggest” others do her bidding.

In this life, Helen starts to recall the curse and her tragic previous lives. But this time, she might have the power to break the cycle…

A Witch in Time is perfect for fans of A Secret History of WitchesOutlander, and The Time Traveler’s Wife

A suitably mysterious cover.

My Review.

Initially, I found the book a little slow to start, but then I got drawn into the story which was both enjoyable and believable. I raced through Juliet’s story and Nora’s finding their stories added depth and meaning to the tale. Sandra’s story dragged a little for me, although it was good to see her connection to Luke. It’s a huge feat of imagination but sadly, the ending fell flat for me.

The Viscount’s Veiled Lady(Whitby Weddings 3) by Jenni Fletcher 

A lady hidden from society

A viscount with his own secrets…

When Frances Webster meets brooding Arthur Amberton on Whitby shores, he’s a different man from the dashing young gentleman she once carried a flame for. But life has changed her, too. After a tragic accident left her scarred physically and emotionally, she’s led a solitary life. She cherishes their new friendship, yet she can’t help but hope Arthur sees the beauty within her.

The library edition just showed the couple’s heads,

My Review. Two damaged people meet and connect. One is externally scarred, the other equally badly affected, but carrying internal scars. Frances believes her looks preclude her from life, love and happiness. Arthur Amberton believes he’s no longer fit for society or for the title he holds. Meeting each other by chance they form a friendship, but could it be something more?

Sarah’s Gift( Waterfront 2) by Anna Jacobs

At the age of ninety-five, Sarah Blakemere signs her final will and testament, pleased with how it will throw the cat among the family pigeons. She has left her luxurious home in Mandurah, Western Australia, to two female relatives in the UK, on the condition that they live in the house together for a year. After that they can sell and split the money, but if either of them doesn’t last the full year, the next person on the list will be invited to try for the inheritance.


Will the experience do as Sarah had hoped and shake Portia and Fleur out of their ruts? And when they find another surprise bequest from Sarah, what will they do with it? Life-changing decisions lie ahead … 

My Review.

Easy escapist reading. A pleasurable page-turner, in a modern-day Cinderella-like tale. Note: I hadn’t read book one and I was easily able to follow the story

The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife.

For centuries, the Tower of London has been home to a group of famous avian residents: the ravens. Each year they are seen by millions of visitors, and they have become as integral a part of the Tower as its ancient stones. But their role is even more important than that—legend has it that if the ravens should ever leave, the Tower will crumble into dust and great harm will befall the kingdom.

The responsibility for ensuring that such a disaster never comes to pass falls to one man: the Ravenmaster. The current holder of the position is Yeoman Warder Christopher Skaife, and in this fascinating, entertaining and touching book he memorably describes the ravens’ formidable intelligence, their idiosyncrasies and their occasionally wicked sense of humour. The Ravenmaster is a compelling, inspiring and irreverent story that will delight and surprise anyone with an interest in British history or animal behaviour.

My Review. I was reading this book for research, but it is entertaining enough to read for pleasure. Christopher Skaife is a lively raconteur, with a way of informing and enlightening at the same time. Like all the Yeomen Warders he is ex-British Military. His attention to detail honed throughout his military career has allowed him to understand and bond with the ravens. There is no doubt of his affection for them although he is quite clear that they are not pets and he wants to retain their wild nature.

Looking forward to Spring.

I read thirteen books this month, more than I expected. Nine were a mixture of subjects, while four were Regency romances. The dismal weather and TV offerings helped increase my reading total.

The joy of a good library.

I am fortunate to have a good local library, which I visit at least weekly. The changing book displays encourage my choices and allow me the opportunity to try books that I couldn’t afford to buy. They also provide me with surprise choices that I wouldn’t have picked for myself. It’s also possible to request books, which I frequently do.

Recently, I have been reading more Regency romance, but as my current work has now been submitted, I can return to more general reading. Cosy crime, mysteries, general fiction, and of course, romance.

While we in the Southern hemisphere are looking forward to Spring, for you in the Northern hemisphere it is Autumn. That too has its own pleasures, rustling through leaves, wearing cosy jumpers and eating warming soups. Cooking more, baked potatoes and roasting chestnuts. Looking forward to Christmas as the days get colder and the nights get longer.

The freshness of Spring.

Wherever you are happy reading!





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Endless summer! The Books I Read in March 2022.

Our seemingly endless summer-the hottest in one hundred and twenty-five years here in Perth, Australia, continued into March. Gardens and humans wilted. The East Coast of Australia endured catastrophic floods, with homes and businesses submerged and lives were lost. Covid remained and the war was being waged in Ukraine. How did I escape all that? As usual, I took refuge in books. Some were from the library, a more than usual eclectic mix, and of course, I am still reading Regency romance mostly on my Kindle. Why am I reading Regency romance? Well apart from rewatching Bridgerton series one. I am hoping to be a contribution to a regency romance anthology

Hot days and steamy nights

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Reid Jenkins.

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth 

Old-time Hollywood glamour.

My Review

Embodying all the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood in a story that seems almost inevitable. A small-town girl with a to die for body and big ambitions reveals what she did, and how she did it, to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. It could be called an expose, apart from the fact it is Evelyn Hugo telling her own story. She is unsparingly honest, but why and why now?

The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape.

This is the only money guide you’ll ever need

That’s a bold claim, given there are already thousands of finance books on the shelves.

So what makes this one different?

Well, you won’t be overwhelmed with a bunch of ‘tips’ … or a strict budget (that you won’t follow).

You’ll get a step-by-step formula: open this account, then do this; call this person, and say this; invest money here, and not there. All with a glass of wine in your hand.

This book will show you how to create an entire financial plan that is so simple you can sketch it on the back of a serviette … and you’ll be able to manage your money in 10 minutes a week.

You’ll also get the skinny on:

Saving up a six-figure house deposit in 20 months Doubling your income using the ‘Trapeze Strategy’ Saving $78,173 on your mortgage and wiping out 7 years of payments Finding a financial advisor who won’t rip you off Handing your kids (or grandkids) a $140,000 cheque on their 21st birthday Why you don’t need $1 million to retire … with the ‘Donald Bradman Retirement Strategy’

Sound too good to be true? It’s not.

This book is full of stories from everyday Aussies — single people, young families, empty nesters, retirees — who have applied the simple steps in this book and achieved amazing, life-changing results.

And you’re next

He knows his stuff.

My Review

Exceptional advice that is clear of Jargon and makes sense. I wish I had this book when I was starting out. So much financial advice is useless and often self-serving. If you are in any doubt- read the book and find out how to handle your money better

Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown.

In Atlas of the Heart, Brown takes us on a journey through eighty-seven of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. As she maps the necessary skills and an actionable framework for meaningful connection, she gives us the language and tools to access a universe of new choices and second chances—a universe where we can share and steward the stories of our bravest and most heartbreaking moments with one another in a way that builds connection.

Over the past two decades, Brown’s extensive research into the experiences that make us who we are has shaped the cultural conversation and helped define what it means to be courageous with our lives. Atlas of the Heart draws on this research, as well as on Brown’s singular skills as a storyteller, to show us how accurately naming an experience doesn’t give the experience more power, it gives us the power of understanding,  meaning, and choice.

Brown shares, “I want this book to be an atlas for all of us, because I believe that, with an adventurous heart and the right maps, we can travel anywhere and never fear losing ourselves.

My Review

An encyclopaedic and somewhat overwhelming book. Sections deal with categories of similar emotions. Probably best to dip in and out of reading the section that applies at the time

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan.

Perfect for the holidays! A brand-new heartwarming Christmas novel from the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Bookshop on the Corner and Christmas at the Island Hotel.

When the department store she works in closes for good, Carmen has perilously little cash and few options. She doesn’t want to move in with her perfect sister Sofia, in Sofia’s perfect house with her perfect children and her perfectly ordered Edinburgh life.

Frankly, Sofia doesn’t exactly want Carmen there either. Her sister has always been sarcastic and difficult. But Sofia has yet another baby on the way, a mother desperate to see her daughters get along, and a client who needs a retail assistant for his ailing bookshop, so welcoming Carmen might still have some benefits for everyone.

At Sofia’s behest, Carmen is thrown into the daily workings of old Mr McCredie’s ancient bookshop on the streets of the old dark city. Can she use her design skills to revamp the store and bring it back to popularity in time to benefit from Christmas shopping traffic? Can she choose between bad boy literary rock star Blair and quiet Quaker student Oke? And will she heal the rift with the most important people of all: her family

Gorgeous cover!

My Review.

Almost a hug in a book. It didn’t matter that it was long past Christmas, it brought all the wonder of Christmas back. Set in Edinburgh it made me long to explore that city. Carmen is a perfectly imperfect heroine, regarding herself as a family failure. So, losing her job before Christmas is just one more disaster. Forced to stay with her ‘perfect ‘ sister, Carmen can’t think of anything worse, as even the au pair is perky and gorgeous. Going to the McCredie book shop is her only escape. Can she drag it out of the past, especially when the reclusive owner has no interest in doing so? Maybe gorgeous Blair is the answer to all of Carmen’s prayers? Then why does the quiet Oke, make her think and see more in herself?

The Marlow Murder Club by Richard Thorogood.

To solve an impossible murder, you need an impossible hero…

Judith Potts is seventy-seven years old and blissfully happy. She lives on her own in a faded mansion just outside Marlow, there’s no man in her life to tell her what to do or how much whisky to drink, and to keep herself busy she sets crosswords for The Times newspaper.

One evening, while out swimming in the Thames, Judith witnesses a brutal murder. The local police don’t believe her story, so she decides to investigate for herself, and is soon joined in her quest by Suzie, a salt-of-the-earth dog-walker, and Becks, the prim and proper wife of the local Vicar.

Together, they are the Marlow Murder Club.

When another body turns up, they realise they have a real-life serial killer on their hands. And the puzzle they set out to solve has become a trap from which they might never escape… 

My Review

Initially, I did not recognise the author’s name. He is the creator of Death in Paradise and has written a series of novels about D.I. Richard Poole. The Marlow Murder Club is a stand-alone. Judith Potts has a mind capable of solving and setting cryptic crosswords. So, when a murder takes place in her neighbourhood, she takes it as a  personal challenge. I expected a slightly lighter tone, but overall I enjoyed the book.

Sunrise by The Sea by Jenny Colgan

New York Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan returns to the setting of her beloved Little Beach Street Bakery series for a timely and heartfelt novel set in a Cornish seaside village.

Marisa Rosso can’t understand why everyone else is getting on with their lives as she still struggles to get over the death of her beloved grandfather, back home in Italy. Everyone loses grandparents, right? Why is she taking it so badly?

Retreating further and further from normal life, she moves to the end of the earth–the remote tidal island of Mount Polbearne, at the foot of Cornwall, hoping for peace and solitude, whilst carrying on her job as a registrar, dealing with births, weddings, and deaths, even as she feels life is passing her by.

Unfortunately–or fortunately?–the solitude she craves proves elusive. Between her noisy Russian piano-teaching neighbor, the bustle and community spirit of the tiny village struggling back to life after the quarantine, and the pressing need to help save the local bakery, can Marisa find her joy again at the end of the world? 

A bright cover for a book with a bit more depth than the cover might suggest.

My Review

Marisa was a character it was easy to emphasise, mourning the loss of her beloved grandfather. Suddenly,her life feels overwhelming, and she has to get away. Craving peace the last thing she wants is a noisy Russian neighbour. Yet, the place and people may be exactly what she needs.

I enjoyed this book, but I do have a quibble, I recognised Polly and Huckle and Neil the puffin from The Little Beach Street Bakery. I think it would be helpful to indicate in the blurb to advise the connection with an ongoing series.

Family For Beginners by Sarah Morgan

New York florist Flora Donovan is living the dream, but her bubbly optimism hides a secret. She’s lonely. Orphaned as a child, she’s never felt like she’s belonged anywhere…until she meets Jack Parker. He’s the first man to ever really see her, and it’s life changing.

Teenager Izzy Parker is holding it together by her fingertips. Since her mother passed away a year ago, looking after her dad and little sister is the only thing that makes Izzy feel safe. Discovering her father has a new girlfriend is her worst nightmare—she is not in the market for a replacement mom. Then her father invites Flora on their summer vacation…

Flora’s heart aches for Izzy, but she badly wants her relationship with Jack to work. As the summer unfolds, Flora must push her own boundaries to discover parts of herself she never knew existed—and to find the family she’s always wanted. 

This cover didn’t inspire me. It is relevant though.

My Review.

Sarah Morgan has a gift for exploring family relationships. Likeably flawed characters, whose motivations make perfect sense to them. Flora is open to love, and also to getting hurt. Jack seems like her perfect man, but he has a family including Izzy a prickly teenager. Izzy is still struggling with her mother’s death. Can allowing a stranger into their lives be the answer?  Izzy certainly intends to fight to keep life the same.

The Design of the Dukes by Kathleen Ayers

The Beautiful Barrringtons  Book2

Lady Andromeda Barrington is the most unsuitable young lady in London.

At least in the Duke of Granby’s opinion.

Granby doesn’t care for bastard relatives or tainted pedigrees and Andromeda possesses both. Nor does he like opinionated young ladies who enjoy hurling insults in his direction.

Andromeda is, in short, the most annoying creature he’s ever met.

When she arrives, uninvited, to a house party given at his estate, Granby can’t decide whether to kiss Andromeda senseless or send her packing.

Andromeda is the victim of infatuation and bad luck.

The infatuation is that of her sister for the Earl of Blythe, but the misfortune belongs solely to Andromeda after she is forced to attend a house party hosted by the Duke of Granby. She and the duke are previously, unpleasantly, acquainted. The entire party is bound to be awkward, and their mutual dislike difficult to hide. Her only recourse is to avoid the giant block of ice masquerading as a duke. Thankfully, Granby’s estate is enormous.

But instead of mutual hostility upon arriving, Romy is greeted with unexpected attraction. Insults turn into flirtation. Heated discussions become lingering kisses.

Her heart is ruined. Granby may not even have one.

And the duke has already chosen another young lady to be his duchess.

The Design of Dukes is a steamy historical romance with a guaranteed happily ever after and next in the series The Beautiful Barringtons.

A steamy romance.

My Review.

Spirited heroine, tick. Remote detached Duke, tick. Put them together and wait for sparks to fly. And of course, they do. Found this a fun read.

Bewitching by Jill  Barnett

Adventure, love and enchantment come magically alive in this new historical romance from the author of Just a Kiss Away. Joy’s fine bloodline didn’t make her proper enough to be a Duchess, but the Duke of Belmore could marry whomever he desired. He turned to ice, however, when he discovered that Joy was a witch.

Reads a bit like a fairytale.

My Review.

I enjoyed this tale of a slightly incompetent witch, who lands herself a Duke.

The Red Hot Earl by  Darcy Burke  

The Earl of Buckleigh was once an untitled misfit, tormented at Oxford. Now, he’s overcome his challenges and is eager for the future, especially when his oldest and dearest friend, Bianca, needs help to save the annual holiday party. Ash has a plan to rescue the event, but when the bullies from his youth are up to their old tricks, he must risk everything to put the past behind him and find true love.

Furious when her brother refuses to host the St. Stephen’s Day party, Lady Bianca Stafford is committed to giving the villagers their celebration. In Ash, she sees salvation for their local tradition, and perhaps a future she never expected. But her brother has other plans for her—a Season and marriage, and not to Ash. When disaster strikes, everything she cares about is threatened and it will take a miracle—or a hero—to save the day.

The Red Hot Earl is inspired by the song and story, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. 

This one appealed to a lot of people.

My Review.

Intriguing to read a story based on a song, sadly, it didn’t quite gel for me. Ash didn’t get my heart racing and isn’t that what you want in a hero?

The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves–New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows–returns with the extraordinary follow-up to The Long Call, in the Two Rivers series, soon to be a major TV series too.

North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder–Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter’s broken vases.

Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He’s a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

Then another body is found–killed in a similar way. Matthew soon finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home.

DI Matthew Venn returns in The Heron’s Cry, in Ann Cleeves powerful next novel, proving once again that she is a master of her craft. 

Lovely evocative cover.

My Review.

The second in the Two Rivers series is in my opinion a better story than the first one. Matthew Venn is settling in and gaining the respect of his colleagues and community. But now he’s under pressure not to let Devon’s tourist season be derailed by hints of a serial killer.

Underpinning the story is the continuation of his uneasy relationship with his mother, contrasting with the easy relationship he has with his husband Jonathan.

Hot summer nights.

March was quite a big month for reading and when I came to count I was quite surprised at the number of books I had read. I was also attending a weekly art group and writing a novella that I hope will be included in the upcoming anthology. There are two anthologies in the Swain Cove selection. Both are available for pre-order now. One is on the sweet side and the other is on the steamy side.

Why not treat yourself?

Featured

The Books I Read in February 2022.

February was a sunny, sunny month.

February in my part of Australia (Perth)started off hot. I mean frying eggs on the pavement hot, don’t walk out in bare feet hot. We ended up with a climate record-breaking month. Many days reached temperatures of over 40c ( 104F) While it’s not great for much activity, it is perfect for reading under the air-conditioner. It also is a month with a poignant anniversary for me, so most of my reading was light. Additionally, I am hoping to join a Regency romance project, so some of my reading is geared towards that.

Love is in the air! February is the month for romance

It’s in His Kiss by Julia Quinn. (7th Bridgerton Book)

The seventh novel in Julia Quinn’s globally beloved and bestselling Bridgerton Family series, set in Regency times and now a series created by Shonda Rhimes for Netflix. This is Hyacinth’s story: she’s all grown up and ready to cause havoc . . .

All the ton agree: there is no one quite like Hyacinth Bridgerton..

Fiendishly smart, devilishly outspoken and – according to some, particularly Gareth St. Clair – probably best in small doses. But there’s something about her – something charming and vexing – that grabs one and won’t quite let go.

Gareth and Hyacinth cross paths at the annual – and annually discordant – Smythe-Smith musicale. To Hyacinth, Gareth’s every word seems a dare, and she offers to help him out with a knotty inheritance problem he’s facing. However, as they delve into the mysterious St Clair history, they discover that the answers they seek lie not in the past – but in each other; and that there is nothing as simple – or as complicated – as a single, perfect kiss.

Find out why readers love Julia Quinn .

Fans cant get enough of Bridgerton.

My Review.

I watched the first Bridgerton series last year, but sadly, had only the vaguest recollections of Hyacinth. As it is the seventh book in the series and I have only read one, Benedict’s story, I expected to have some catching up to do. I wanted to fall in love with the characters and plot, but I didn’t. Eloise has always been the outspoken and witty one and Hyacinth didn’t gel for me. One of Gareth’s actions didn’t sit well with me. One for the fans, I think.

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

For the first time in 20 years, Ann Cleeves –international bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows– embarks on a gripping new series.

In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. Once loved and cherished, the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back into the community he thought he had left behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed, and his past and present collide.

An astonishing new novel told with compassion and searing insight, The Long Call will captivate fans of Vera and Shetland, as well as new readers. 

My Review.

I have always been a fan of Ann Cleeves, so I was interested in reading her new series. Matthew Venn is a quiet thoughtful man, one who I am sure will develop as the series progresses. For now, it is his knowledge of the religious community he left behind that informs part of his investigation. They say you can never go back, but sometimes you have to, so you can move forward. There is a TV adaptation of the book, which altered a couple of the plot points. I preferred the book.

Someone to Romance by Mary Balogh

Love comes when you least expect it in this captivating new novel in the Wescott Regency romance series from New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh.

Lady Jessica Archer lost her own interest in the glittering excitement of romance after her cousin and dearest friend, Abigail Westcott, was rejected by the ton when her father was revealed to be a bigamist. Ever practical, however, once she’s twenty-five, she decides it’s time to wed. Though she no longer believes she will find true love, she is still very eligible. She is, after all, the sister of Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby.

Jessica considers the many qualified gentlemen who court her. But when she meets the mysterious Gabriel Thorne, who has returned to England from the New World to claim an equally mysterious inheritance, Jessica considers him completely unsuitable, because he had the audacity, when he first met her, to announce his intention to wed her.

When Jessica guesses who Gabriel really is, however, and watches the lengths to which he will go in order to protect those who rely upon him, she is drawn to his cause—and to the man. 

My Review.

I enjoyed this. Lady Jessica is a character who is strong-willed, independent and finally ready to settle down to marriage. Somehow none of her current suitors’ appeal, too dull, too slavish in their devotion, or only after her money. At twenty -five she really should be married. Gabriel Thorne, piques her interest, although, of course, he is totally unsuitable and totally intriguing.

Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams

The New York Times bestselling author of Her Last Flight returns with a gripping and profoundly human story of Cold War espionage and family devotion that proves again why Elin Hilderbrand says Beatriz Williams “is writing the best historical fiction out there.”

In the autumn of 1948, Iris Digby vanishes from her London home with her American diplomat husband and their two children. The world is shocked by the family’s sensational disappearance. Were they eliminated by the Soviet intelligence service? Or have the Digby’s defected to Moscow with a trove of the West’s most vital secrets?

Four years later, Ruth Macallister receives a postcard from the twin sister she hasn’t seen since their catastrophic parting in Rome in the summer of 1940, as war engulfed the continent and Iris fell desperately in love with an enigmatic United States Embassy official named Sasha Digby. Within days, Ruth is on her way to Moscow, posing as the wife of counterintelligence agent Sumner Fox in a precarious plot to extract the Digby’s from behind the Iron Curtain.

But the complex truth behind Iris’s marriage defies Ruth’s understanding, and as the sisters race toward safety, a dogged Soviet agent forces them to make a heartbreaking choice between two irreconcilable loyalties

An intriguing cover.

My Review.

Smart and compelling but you need to pay attention as it moves at a fast pace between places and people. I remember my parents talking about Burgess and Maclean and Philby. The shadowy world of espionage means loyalty is fluid and who knows who a friend or an enemy is. At times I felt impatient with Iris and her devotion to Sasha, a charming but most unsatisfactory husband. The conclusion made it all worth it.

Romancing The Duke by Tessa Dare.

In the first in Tessa Dare’s captivating Castles Ever After series, a mysterious fortress is the setting for an unlikely love . . .

As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.

Ugly duckling turned swan?

Abducted by handsome highwayman?

Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?

No, no, and… Heh.

Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?

This one.

My Review.

A delightful romp of a book. Izzy Goodnight is a unique character, who gained both my sympathy and admiration. She is unfazed by the surly Duke, Ranson Roxbury. He is in turns enraged, baffled and unwilling to admit she may have got through to him. Unless they work together neither will have a home. Surprisingly Izzy’s past is the answer to their present problems.

The Garden House by Marcia Willett.

After the death of her father, El moves into his home just outside Tavistock in Devon. Fresh out of university and dangling on the precipice of adulthood she questions what it is she really wants from life. Although her childhood friend, Will, is there to help her through her grief she soon realises there were things her father was hiding from her…

Jules is also mourning Martin, but they thought it best to keep their relationship secret, she must now grieve entirely alone. All she has to remember her love are the memories of their time spent at a beautiful community garden and teashop nearby. The Garden House is where they met, fell in love and where their secret affair will inevitably be uncovered.

As El and Will begin to piece together her father’s secrets they bring them closer and closer to both Jules and a truth that is difficult to face.

My Review.

I’ve always enjoyed previous Marica Willet books and anticipated an easy and enjoyable read. Unfortunately, I’d say it’s one for the fans as so many characters from previous books make appearances. I did recollect who a couple were but overall, it left me feeling dissatisfied.

Someone to Love by Mary Balogh.

Humphrey Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune that will

forever alter the lives of everyone in his family—including the daughter no one knew he had…

Anna Snow grew up in an orphanage in Bath knowing nothing of the family she came from. Now she discovers that the late Earl of Riverdale was her father and that she has inherited his fortune. She is also overjoyed to learn she has siblings. However, they want nothing to do with her or her attempts to share her new wealth. But the new earl’s guardian is interested in Anna…

Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby, keeps others at a distance. Yet something prompts him to aid Anna in her transition from orphan to lady. As London society and her newfound relatives threaten to overwhelm Anna, Avery steps in to rescue her and finds himself vulnerable to feelings and desires he has hidden so well and for so long. 

My Review

Having read Someone to Romance I was interested to read the story of how Avery and Anna came to be married. It seemed an unlikely pairing. The initial set-up was confusing with so many Dukes, Duchesses, Earls and assorted nobility crowded onto the pages. Anna is perhaps just as a bit too good to be true, while Avery is not as substantial a presence as I would have liked in a romance.

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles.

Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are–family, friends, and favorite authors–The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.

My Review.

At times a book just speaks to you and for me, The Paris Library was one of those books. It is so obviously a library and book lovers’ book. To some of us, a place without a library is soulless. Libraries bring communities together and none more so during WW2 than the American Library in Paris. This dual timeline story focuses on two women and how their lives become connected. Odile in wartime France and Lily in Montana in 1983.

Odile has memories she’d rather forget, while Lily has longings she can’t even begin to explain.

During the Nazi occupation, even books became dangerous, many were banned and confiscated. And of course, the doctrine of ‘racial purity ‘ meant people were no longer permitted in some areas. The library had welcomed everyone, French, Russian,  American, English, Jewish. But now Jews were disappearing, rounded up by the French police.

Long-time library regular Professor Cohen has entrusted her novel to Odile and the first section reads, ‘ The Afterlife is filed with the heavenly scent of musty books. Its walls are lined with tall bookcases full of forgotten tomes. In this cozy mezzanine between worlds, there are no window nor clocks, though an occasional echo of children’s laughter or whiff of  chocolate croissant wafts in from the ground floor.’

I stopped reading and held the book close at such a beautiful description. A book for bibliophiles and anyone else who enjoys a good story.

Summer Kisses at Mermaids Point by Sarah Bennett

Laurie Morgan runs a café in the small seaside community of Mermaids Point, named after the beauties rumoured to live in the waters a few miles off the top of the point. When a hazy image is posted online of what appears to be a mermaid, the café and the village are soon full to bursting with curious sightseers.

The most eye-catching of the new arrivals is handsome author, Jake Smith, who has rented a cottage for the summer while he works on his new book. Or so he says. In fact, he is a journalist, burned out and disillusioned with life, whose editor has sent him on a crack-pot hunt for mermaids…
Jake quickly finds himself drawn to village life, and to the gorgeous woman who runs the local café. But he soon suspects there’s trouble lurking beneath the idyllic façade, and when it looks like Laurie’s family might be involved, Jake faces a difficult choice. Pursue the truth, or protect the woman he’s beginning to fall in love with…

Warm, escapist, feel-good and altogether brilliant story-telling from bestselling author Sarah Bennett. Perfect for all fans of Trisha Ashley and Milly Johnson.

A cute cover, but I would have loved to see a mermaid.

My Review.

A fun escapist read. Café owner Laurie has a contented life in Mermaid Point, but something is missing. Life is predictable, and her past has left her unwilling to trust men.

Jake Smith is undercover on what he regards as a stupid assignment, the mermaid hunt. He suspects that some in the village may be involved in what he thinks is an elaborate scam.

Laurie thaws to Jake while he is increasingly holding his cynicism at bay until events take an unexpected turn.

Romancing Mr Bridgerton: Penelope & Colin’s Story by Julia Quinn.

Everyone knows that Colin Bridgerton is the most charming man in London. Penelope Featherington has secretly adored her best friend’s brother for…well, it feels like forever. After half a lifetime of watching Colin Bridgerton from afar, she thinks she knows everything about him, until she stumbles across his deepest secret…and fears she doesn’t know him at all.

Colin Bridgerton is tired of being thought nothing but an empty-headed charmer, tired of everyone’s preoccupation with the notorious gossip columnist Lady Whistledown, who can’t seem to publish an edition without mentioning him in the first paragraph. But when Colin returns to London from a trip abroad he discovers nothing in his life is quite the same – especially Penelope Featherington! The girl haunting his dreams. But when he discovers that Penelope has secrets of her own, this elusive bachelor must decide…is she his biggest threat – or his promise of a happy ending? 

My Review.

Like many of us, I have a soft spot for the overlooked Penelope, who has loved Colin from afar. Now he has returned from abroad and she finds him as charming as ever. But, for the first time, he’s noticing her. They share banter and after resigning herself to spinsterhood, a ray of hope grows in Penelope’s heart. Until her secret, threatens to derail the budding love affair. Can he look past it, does he care enough, is she worth it? Will they face the future together?


Most of my reading was escapist reading this month, interspersed with a few more serious choices. For me, reading is about enjoyment and entertainment. Maybe I ‘should ‘ read more serious literary works, but I am content with what I read and I don’t think anyone should shame you for your reading choices.

Still, the sun blazes down.


Featured

What Was I Reading in January 2022?

Anticipating the seasonal heat I had collected a stockpile of books to read. Books were from my local library, gifts, or already on my bookshelves. There were some books leftover from Christmas, an appealing mid-grade childrens’ book and some folktales Also, two books featuring cats. I also find that covers do influence which books I choose to read, well if publishers spend time and money selecting the right cover, it seems I am not alone in this.

I wouldn’t take a book to the beach, all that sand!

The Secret Book, and Scone Society by Ellery Adams.

From New York Times bestselling author Ellery Adams comes the first in an intriguing new series set within a quirky small-town club where the key to happiness, friendship—or solving a murder—can all be found within the pages of the right book . . .
Miracle Springs, North Carolina, is a place of healing. Strangers flock here hoping the natural hot springs, five-star cuisine, and renowned spa can cure their ills. If none of that works, they often find their way to Miracle Books, where, over a fresh-baked “comfort” scone from the Gingerbread House bakery, they exchange their stories with owner Nora Pennington in return for a carefully chosen book. That’s Nora’s special talent—prescribing the perfect novel to ease a person’s deepest pain and lighten their heaviest burden.
When a visiting businessman reaches out to Nora for guidance, she knows exactly which novels will help. But before he can keep their appointment at Miracle Books, he’s found dead on the train tracks.

Stunned, Nora forms the Secret, Book, and Scone Society, a group of damaged souls yearning to gain trust and earn redemption by helping others. To join the society, members must divulge their darkest secret—the terrible truth that brought each of them to Miracle Springs in the first place. Determined to uncover the truth behind the businessman’s demise, the women meet in Nora’s cramped and cozy bookstore to share stories and trade support. And as they untangle a web of corruption, they also discover their own courage, purpose, and a sisterhood that will carry them through every challenge—proving it’s never too late to turn the page and start over . . .

The cover appealed to me.

My Review.

This book is the first in the series and goes a long way to explain, how and why the book club was formed. As a spa resort, Miracle Springs certainly doesn’t need bad publicity and an unexplained death is certainly that. There is a deal going on, but is it all that it seems?  Nora and the club rise to the challenge of finding out who killed the businessman who asked her for book recommendations. Sharing their secrets bonds the female friendships which are such a part of this book. A potential love interest added to the appeal and of course the book suggestions. It’s a series I will continue to read.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa (著 )Philip Gabriel  (Translator)

It’s not the journey that counts, but who’s at your side.

Nana is on a road trip, but he is not sure where he is going. All that matters is that he can sit beside his beloved owner Satoru in the front seat of his silver van. Satoru is keen to visit three old friends from his youth, though Nana doesn’t know why and Satoru won’t say.

Set against the backdrop of Japan’s changing seasons and narrated with a rare gentleness and humour, Nana’s story explores the wonder and thrill of life’s unexpected detours. It is about the value of friendship and solitude, and knowing when to give and when to take. TRAVELLING CAT has already demonstrated its power to move thousands of readers with a message of kindness and truth. It shows, above all, how acts of love, both great and small, can transform our lives.

A surprise success.

My Review.

This is such a lovely book, sure to appeal to any cat lover. The relationship between Nana the cat and Satoru is heart-warming and real. We know there is a mystery, and may even come to solve it before Nana, but the book still packs an emotional punch. I cried from sadness and joy. Highly recommended.

Lily’s Little Flower Shop by Lisa Darcy

When Lily misses out on a well-deserved promotion the day her boyfriend is offered a job overseas, she faces a choice: should she embrace an ex-pat life, or follow her childhood dream and become a florist?

Deciding to follow her heart, she moves to the coast and decides to start again. But fitting into the tight-knit community proves harder than she expected.

As she navigates new friendships, financial worries, and the pull of returning to her city life, she learns how flowers can bring the happiness she’s been looking for.

And when romance appears on the horizon, Lily realizes she can’t commit until she reconciles her mistakes.

Can she overcome her past and learn the true meaning of love? 

My Review.

Easy reading and fun. I was particularly amused and enraged by her dense boyfriend, Ben. He is convinced her life should revolve around him. Lily begins to question her choices. Does ‘ having it all,’ mean working all hours, and living a life you have come to hate? Lily’s hours are more taxing in the flower shop, but her sense of self-worth increases, although her income doesn’t. Will she have to give up her dream?

The Secrets of Sunshine by Phaedra Patrick.

In the heart warming new novel from the author of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper , a chance encounter will lead a single father on an unexpected journey that might just help him find a second chance at love.

Mitchell Fisher hates all things romance. He works on the famous “love lock” bridge where lovers go to fasten padlocks, covering the bridge with their love stories. But to Mitchell, it’s an act of vandalism, and he enjoys his job of cutting off those padlocks. Only his young daughter, Poppy, knows that behind his grumpy veneer, Mitchell still grieves the loss of her mother.

Everything changes one fateful day when, working on the bridge, Mitchell courageously rescues a woman who falls into the river. He’s surprised to feel a connection to her, but the woman disappears before he learns her name. To Mitchell’s shock, a video of the rescue goes viral, hailing him as “The Hero on the Bridge.” He’s soon notified by the mysterious woman’s sister, Liza, that she has been missing for over a year—and the only clue to where the woman could have gone is the engraved padlock she left on the bridge.

Mitchell finds himself swept up in Liza’s quest to find her lost sister. Along the way, with help from a sparkling cast of characters, Mitchell’s heart gradually unlocks, and he discovers that new beginnings can be found in the unlikeliest places…

A suitably sunshiny cover.

My Review.

I found this quirky book difficult to categorise, as it’s part romance, part mystery. Unusual characters, and a storyline that meanders along. I found it quite readable.

The Christmas Tea Shop by Darcie Boleyn.

Fran Gandolfini can’t help taking in strays; with four dogs, five cats and two bearded dragons, she refuses to give up on a creature in need. The only thing Fran has given up on, in fact, is her love life.

Moving from the city to Penhallow Sands to work in the Tea Shop, Ethan Clarke hopes Moving from the city to Penhallow Sands to work in the Tea Shop, Ethan Clarke hopes he’s made the right choice for his daughter, Tilly.

Ethan’s past means he struggles to trust people. Just as Fran starts to change that, a life-changing secret that she’s keeping for a friend causes a rift between them. Fran can’t tell Ethan the truth, but she hates lying to him more. It’ll take a Christmas miracle to set things right…

A festive romance set in Cornwall and perfect for fans of Holly Martin and Phillipa Ashley.

An appealing cover.

My Review.

Leftover from my Christmas reading, but I read it anyway. For me it didn’t feel right, some of the characters were creating their problems. Also, in my opinion, the emotional insights went on for far too long. Fran is an appealing character, but I kept thinking an honest conversation could have solved this. I know others have enjoyed this book and I wanted to too, but it didn’t work for me.

The Wattle Island Book Club by  Sandie Docker

Is it ever too late to rewrite your own story?

COURAGE

In 1950, teenager Anne flees Wattle Island for the big city, where she learns that establishing the life she’s always dreamed of isn’t as easy as she thought. When a secret she’s been keeping is discovered, she has no choice but to retreat home and live a quiet life. But when tragedy strikes, establishing the Wattle Island book club is the only thing that offers her solace.

PASSION
In 2018, spirited librarian Grace has been writing bucket lists since she was a child, and is ticking off as many challenges as she can now that life has handed her a hefty dose of perspective. Heading to Wattle Island on one of her adventures, she is determined to uncover a long-held mystery surrounding the town’s historic book club, unlocking a buried truth that has been trapped between the dusty pages of secrecy for years.

HOPE
All too aware of how fragile life is, Anne and Grace must come together to help the residents of Wattle Island find the bravery to move beyond the trauma that tore the book club apart. Budding relationships offer new hope, along with a library project for the town’s future – but it will take more than a few lively literary debates to break the silence and heal the past.

Welcome to the Wattle Island Book Club, where some chapters may end, but others are just beginning… 

What a great cover!

My Review.

Of course, I was interested in a book about book clubs, having coordinated one for eleven years. Additionally, having Grace work as a librarian added to the appeal. Dual timeline stories can sometimes be uneven, luckily, I found both timelines held my interest. I had a sense of the ending and think it was probably the right choice. Recommended.

The Royal Governess by Wendy Holden.

Sunday Times bestselling author Wendy Holden brings to life the unknown childhood years of one of the world’s most iconic figures, Queen Elizabeth II, and reveals the little-known governess who made Britain’s queen into the monarch we know today.

In 1933, twenty-two-year-old Marion Crawford accepts the role of a lifetime, tutoring their Royal Highnesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. Her one stipulation to their parents the Duke and Duchess of York is that she brings some doses of normalcy into the sheltered and privileged lives of the two young princesses.

At Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and Balmoral, Marion defies oppressive court protocol to take the girls on tube trains, swimming at public baths, and on joyful Christmas shopping trips at Woolworth’s. From her ringside seat at the heart of the British monarchy she witnesses the upheaval of the Abdication and the glamour and drama of the 1937 Coronation.

During the war, as Hitler’s Heinkels fly over Windsor, she shelters her charges in the castle dungeons (not far from where the Crown Jewels are hidden in a biscuit tin). Afterwards, she is there when Elizabeth first sets eyes on Philip. But being beloved governess and confidante to the Windsor family has come at a cost. She puts her private life on hold until released from royal service following Princess Elizabeth’s marriage in 1947.

In a majestic story of love, sacrifice, and allegiance, bestselling novelist Holden shines a captivating light into the years before Queen Elizabeth II took the throne, as immortalized on the popular television series The Crown. 

My Review.

Almost a fly on the wall account of the early years of the Queen and her sister Princess Margaret’s upbringing and schooling. Fascinating to read about some of the archaic rules and regulations. For example, the staff could not walk down the centre of a carpet, that was reserved for royalty. Marion Crawford ‘Crawfie’ had some success with introducing aspects of ordinary life into their gilded world. Some opinions, such as the portrayal of the Duchess of Windsor are bound to be controversial. Sad that after such devoted service Crawfie was relegated to a person non grata.

My Kind of Happy by Cathy Bramley

The new feel-good, funny story from Sunday Times bestseller Cathy Bramley about one woman’s search for happiness…

‘I think flowers are sunshine for the soul.’

Flowers have always made Fearne smile. She treasures the memories of her beloved grandmother’s floristry and helping her to arrange beautiful blooms that brought such joy to their recipients.

But ever since a family tragedy a year ago, Fearne has been searching for her own contentment. When a chance discovery inspires her to start a happiness list, it seems that Fearne might just have found her answer…

Sometimes the scariest path can be the most rewarding. So is Fearne ready to take the risk and step into the unknown? And what kind of happiness might she find if she does? 

Captures the tone of the book, perfectly.

My Review.

Easy to read and entertaining, it feeds into our fantasies of chucking it all in and starting again.  Flowers are so beautiful, no one considers the hard work that goes into making a floral bouquet, the early mornings and perishable stock.

The book is set in Barnaby and characters and places from Cathy’s previous books appear. I recognised some from The Lemon Tree Café. I also picked up a hint about a story I haven’t read yet. Fearne’s road to a happy ever after had a few bumps along the way. The name Fearne simply didn’t gel with me.

You’re Doing It Wrong. A History of Bad and Bonkers Advice to Women by Kaz Cooke.

You’re Doing it Wrong is an outrageous tour through the centuries of bonkers and bad advice handed down and foisted upon women, told as only Kaz Cooke can – with humour and rage, intelligence and wit.

Come with Kaz on a laugh-out-loud frolic through centuries of terrible advice, from 14th-century clergy to the Kardashians (wear a dress made of arsenic, do some day-drinking, have sex with a billionaire biker, worry about your vagina wrinkles). It’s also a roar against injustice, a rallying cry for sisterhood and a way to free ourselves from ludicrous expectations and imposed perfectionism.
Kaz’s own 30-year history of interest and experience in advice – from her newspaper etiquette column to best-selling books, including Up the Duff and the Girl Stuff series – and years of archives and research have culminated in a full-colour, exuberant shout of a book with hundreds of wacky and sobering historical photos of objects and instructions.

You’re Doing It Wrong examines what we’re told to do (change shape, shoosh, do all the housework), and what we’re not supposed to do (frown, have pockets, lead a country). It covers sex & romance, paid work, fashion & beauty, health advice, housework, and a motherlode of mad parenting instructions – from witchcraft to beauty pageants, with a side of aviatrixes. Put the kettle on and settle in. 

My Review.

If ever you were accused of being paranoid over some ‘mansplaining,’ a comment, or a dismissal, here is the book to reinforce the belief that society has been doing a number on us for centuries. It made me furious, it made me sad to realise how many of these beliefs still influence how we behave.

The Secret of Platform Thirteen by Eva Ibbotson.

A forgotten door on an abandoned railway platform is the entrance to a magical kingdom–an island where humans live happily with feys, mermaids, ogres, and other wonderful creatures. Carefully hidden from the world, the Island is only accessible when the door opens for nine days every nine years. A lot can go wrong in nine days. When the beastly Mrs Trottle kidnaps the prince of the Island, it’s up to a strange band of rescuers to save him. But can an ogre, a hag, a wizard, and a fey really troop around London unnoticed?

 

Looks exciting!

My Review.

I dipped into the library’s children’s section for this book. I’d heard about it by chance, and it predates Harry Potter by three years. I was intrigued to see the similarities and differences. Platform13 is at Kings Cross station and opens once for a few days every nine years. As everyone probably knows Platform 9. 3/4 is at Paddington station. In my opinion, this book is geared to a younger audience than the first Harry Potter book. As an older reader, I was fairly sure of the plot development but can see that it would appeal to its intended audience.

Nordic Tales: folktales for Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark.

 By Ulla Thynell ( Illustrator) Peter Christen Asbjorbsen , Parker Hoysted Fillmore,  Jon Arnason.

Nordic Tales is a collection of 16 traditional tales from the enchanting world of Nordic folklore.

Translated and transcribed by folklorists in the 19th century, these stories are at once magical, hilarious, cozy, and chilling.

Welcome to a world of mystical adventure
—where trolls haunt the snowy forests, terrifying monsters roam the open sea, a young woman journeys to the end of the world, and a boy proves he knows no fear.

• Offers a fascinating view into Nordic culture
• The tales come alive alongside bold, contemporary art
• Part of the popular Tales series, featuring Tales of Japan, Celtic Tales, Tales of India, and Tales of East Africa

Nordic Tales will enthral fans of fairy tales and captivate those interested in the rich history of Nordic culture.

Ulla Thynell’s glowing contemporary illustrations accompany each tale, conjuring dragons, princesses, and the northern lights.


• A visually gorgeous book that will be at home on the shelf or on the coffee table
• A perfect gift for fairy tale and folklore lovers, fans of Nordic culture, people of Nordic ancestry, collectors of illustrated classics, and bibliophiles looking for a comforting wintertime read
• Add it to the collection of books like D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths by Ingri d’Aulaire and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire, Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, and Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton.

People who love Greek mythology, roman mythology, Chinese mythology, Celtic mythology, and folklore and cultural studies from around the globe will love Nordic Tales. 

Beautifully Illustrated.

My Review.

Enhanced by the beautiful illustrations, some tales have a familiarity about them, while others are completely new. I read them one at a time and then paused before reading the next one. In my opinion, these aren’t tales for children, as they have a harshness about them. I found the last tale completely baffling.

Happy Hour by Jacquie Byron.

Elizabeth Strout meets Marian Keyes in this wonderful, joyful, funny debut novel from Australian author Jacquie Byron.

Growing older doesn’t necessarily mean growing wiser.

Gin in one hand, paintbrush in the other, Franny Calderwood has turned her back on the world, or at least the world she used to love. Having lost her husband, Frank, in tragic circumstances three years earlier, 65-year-old Franny copes the only way she knows how: by removing herself completely from the life she had before. Franny lives a life of decadent seclusion, with only her two dogs, Whisky and Soda, a stuffed cat, cocktails and the memory of Frank for company.

Then the Salernos move in next door. The troubled but charming trio – beleaguered mother Sallyanne, angry teenager Dee and eccentric eight-year-old Josh – cannot help but pull Franny into the drama of their lives. But despite her fixation with independence, Franny’s wisecracks and culinary experiments hide considerable trauma and pain, and when her eccentric behaviour has life-threatening consequences she faces a reckoning of sorts. Yes, Frank is dead, but did the woman he loved have to perish with him?

A story about one woman, two dogs and the family next door, Happy Hour is a hilarious and uplifting insight into grief, loss, true love and friendship.

My Review

 I was gifted this book by someone I don’t know well and while I appreciated the gesture, I was dubious about the book. She’d asked the book shop to recommend something, and this was their suggestion. I don’t know what she told them, or if she told them anything. I thought I ought to read it and I did. It’s a book that deals with coping with grief, and for me, still grieving, it was the wrong book at the wrong time,

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett.

Polly Perks joins the Discworld army to find her brother Paul. “Ozzer” cuts off her blonde braids, dons male garb, belches, scratches, and masters macho habits – aided by well-placed pair of socks. The legendary and seemingly ageless Sergeant Jackrum accepts her plus a vampire, troll, zombie, religious fanatic, and two close “friends”. The best man for the job may be a woman. 

My Review. Philosophy mixed with slapstick, all in Terry Pratchett’s inimitable style. Politics, religion, patriotism, gender roles are some of the topics explored. I read it as standalone. although it is number thirty-one in the Discworld series. I have enough familiarity with the world to get a  sense of it.

The Sugarhouse Blues by Mariah Stewart.

Allie, Des, and Cara, each having her own reasons for wanting a share of their father’s estate, meet in the grand Victorian home in which he grew up, only to be greeted by another secret he purposely hid from them: his sister Bonnie. The women reluctantly band together to take on Fritz’s challenge, working with a local contractor to begin the renovations financed by an account Fritz had set up for the task. While the restoration appears to go smoothly at first, it soon becomes apparent that the work will be more extensive than originally thought, and Des, elected to handle the money, needs to find ways to stretch out the remaining savings while searching for new sources of funding.

As strangers linked only by their DNA try to become a family, the Hudson sisters also try to come to terms with the father they only thought they knew. In the process, each woman discovers her own capacity for understanding, forgiveness, love, and the true meaning of family.

My Review.

I picked this up at the library, not realising it was the second in a series. So initially I was a bit lost, but I was soon drawn into the sisters’ world. The experience would have been better if I had read book one. The sisters are different enough to each other and have distinct personalities. Their mission is bound to keep them busy through several books.    

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa, Louise Heal Kawai, (Translator)

Grandpa used to say it all the time: books have tremendous power. But what is that power really?

Natsuki Books was a tiny second-hand bookshop on the edge of town. Inside, towering shelves reached the ceiling, every one crammed full of wonderful books. Rintaro Natsuki loved this space that his grandfather had created. He spent many happy hours there, reading whatever he liked. It was the perfect refuge for a boy who tended to be something of a recluse.

After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro is devastated and alone. It seems he will have to close the shop. Then, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks Rintaro for help. The cat needs a book lover to join him on a mission. This odd couple will go on three magical adventures to save books from people have imprisoned, mistreated and betrayed them. Finally, there is one last rescue that Rintaro must attempt alone…

The Cat Who Saved Books is a heart-warming story about finding courage, caring for others – and the tremendous power of books. Sosuke Natsukawa’s international best seller, translated from Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai, is a story for those for whom books are so much more than words on paper. 

I loved this cover and the earnest cat.

My Review.

I was fortunate enough to be gifted this book by a fellow book lover and cat lover. I immediately fell in love with the gorgeous cover and delightful cat. At one level it is a simple story, but simplicity doesn’t mean valueless. It would be a splendid present for anyone who cares about books. What makes books special? Why do we read? What separates readers from those who don’t read?

The King’s Witch By Tracy Borman.

In March of 1603, as she helps to nurse the dying Queen Elizabeth of England, Frances Gorges dreams of her parents’ country estate, where she has learned to use flowers and herbs to become a much-loved healer. She is happy to stay at home when King James of Scotland succeeds to the throne. His court may be shockingly decadent, but his intolerant Puritanism sees witchcraft in many of the old customs—punishable by death.

But when her ambitious uncle forcibly brings Frances to the royal palace, she is a ready target for the twisted scheming of the Privy Seal, Lord Cecil. As a dark campaign to destroy both King and Parliament gathers pace, culminating in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, Frances is surrounded by danger, finding happiness only with the King’s precocious young daughter, and with Tom Wintour, the one courtier she feels she can trust. But is he all that he seems?

My Review.

The title intrigued me, so I decided to read this book. It is well written, and the story moved along at a steady pace, but I had forgotten how much I already knew of this era. These were difficult times, and reading about them also proved difficult for me emotionally. Events move with an inevitability and the conclusion was foregone. Frances is an appealing character, but for me, at this stressful time, I will not continue with the trilogy.

A Year At The Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn

The perfect escapist read, for all fans of Cathy Bramley and Jenny Colgan. A Year at the Star and Sixpence is Holly Hepburn’s four Star and Sixpence novellas collected together as a novel for the first time. 
When sisters Nessie and Sam inherit a little pub in a beautiful country village they jump at the chance to escape their messy lives and start afresh. But when they arrive at the Star and Sixpence, it’s not quite what they imagined – it’s pretty much derelict, ruined by debts, and it’s going to be a huge job to get it up and running again. But they are determined to make the best of this new life and they set about making the pub the heart of the village once again. Their first year at the Star and Sixpence won’t be easy, though nothing worth doing ever is.
But when the sisters’ past comes back to haunt them, they start to think that the fresh start they needed is very far away indeed…
Curl up with A Year at the Star and Sixpence – the perfect novel to welcome Spring.
‘A fresh new voice, brings wit and warmth to this charming tale of two sisters’ Rowan Coleman
‘You’ll fall in love with this fantastic new series from a new star of women’s fiction, Holly Hepburn. Filled to the brim with captivating characters and fantastic storylines in a gorgeous setting. Simply wonderful. I want to read more!’ Miranda Dickinson
‘Warm, witty and laced with intriguing secrets! I want to pull up a bar stool, order a large G&T and soak up all the gossip at the Star and Sixpence!’ Cathy Bramley

++ A Year at the Star and Sixpence is the collected Star and Sixpence novellas. If you have already enjoyed the novellas, then you have already enjoyed A Year at the Star and Sixpence. For new novellas from Holly, check out her Picture House by the Sea series and her Castle Court series.

My Review.

After the last book I read left me feeling rather depressed I wanted to read something upbeat and lively. From the gorgeous cover to the blurb, this book seemed like the perfect answer and for the most part, it was. I think it suffered from having the four novellas combined, as information we already knew from one section was repeated in another. Setting that aside, it delivered good seasonal stories and if characters sometimes got in their own way, well the course of true love never did run smooth.

Well, both the weather and the holidays made sure I was indoors, busy reading. I didn’t realise I had read quite so many books and can’t imagine that I will read so many next month.




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December’s Big Book Haul- What Was I Reading?

In December my library came up with an amazing selection of books. In Australia where I now live, Christmas can be HOT. It never really feels like Christmas to me. I was brought up in Britain, so escaping to read under the air conditioning is fine. Additionally, I knew it was likely to be a time for reflection due to a death in the family.

A book can be company, comfort or escapism.

Some books were ones I had on request which arrived and others were random picks from the tempting library displays. I hadn’t noticed before how many books do deal with death and grief in some way.

Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand.

When Vivian Howe, author of thirteen novels and mother of three grown-up children, is killed in a hit-and-run incident while jogging near her home, she ascends to the Beyond. Because her death was unfair, she is allowed to watch what happens below with her children, her best friend, her ex-husband, and a rival novelist whose book is coming out the same day as Vivi’s.

Vivi is also given the use of three ‘nudges’ so that she can influence the outcome of events in the world of the living. As Vivi discovers her children’s secrets, watches the investigation into her own death and worries about a secret from her youth coming to light, she must decide what she wants to manipulate – and what should be left well alone.

Combining Elin Hilderbrand’s trademark beach scenes, mouth-watering meals and picture-perfect homes with the heartfelt message that the people we lose never really leave us, Golden Girl is a beach book unlike any other from ‘Queen of the Summer Novel’ (People).

Set in Nantucket.

My Review. I had heard of Elin Hilderbrand, but I hadn’t read any of her books until I saw this in the library. It sounded like an intriguing premise, and I was soon involved in the life on Nantucket Island. Of course, it required the suspension of disbelief as Vivi and her guide in the Beyond, negotiate terms as to what she may or may not do. She observes her former life and the choices her children and ex-husband make. Then Vivi has to decide who and what is worthy of using one of her precious ‘nudges.’ I read to the end and was left with the feeling that I hadn’t liked any of the self-absorbed characters.

 The Christmas Swop by Sandy Barker. Chloe, Jules, and Lucy meet at a Maui resort kids’ club, aged 11, forging lifelong friendship spanning two decades and three continents.

Twenty-two years later, they decide to swap Christmases, none of them expecting the hilarity and romantic escapades that will ensue.

Chloe from Melbourne spends her Christmas with Lucy’s mum and dad in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire, England, stunned to the core when she discovers who grew up across the road from Lucy.

Lucy, who has jetted off to snowy Colorado for her dream-come-true white Christmas, is taken into the fold of Jules’s loud and brash family, discovering more about herself in a few short days than she has in years.

And Jules leaves the cold climes of Colorado to spend a balmy ‘Orphan’s Christmas’ with Chloe’s friends in Melbourne, finding that time away from her mundane life is just what she needed.

Join these three lovable women as they each get a Christmas to surpass their wildest dreams. 

My Review. This is easy reading and filled with the joys of each of the alternate Christmases. Of course, having a gorgeous and available male at each location makes each Christmas more memorable. Although all the stories have their appeal, I enjoyed Chloe’s the best for its Love Actually vibe.

 The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan.

In a new World War II-set story from the bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, four women compete for a spot hosting a wartime cookery program called The Kitchen Front – based on the actual BBC program of the same name – as well as a chance to better their lives.

Two years into WW2, Britain is feeling her losses; the Nazis have won battles, the Blitz has destroyed cities, and U-boats have cut off the supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio program called The Kitchen Front is putting on a cooking contest–and the grand prize is a job as the program’s first-ever female co-host. For four very different women, winning the contest presents a crucial chance to change their lives.

For a young widow, it’s a chance to pay off her husband’s debts and keep a roof over her children’s heads. For a kitchen maid, it’s a chance to leave servitude and find freedom. For the lady of the manor, it’s a chance to escape her wealthy husband’s increasingly hostile behavior. And for a trained chef, it’s a chance to challenge the men at the top of her profession.

These four women are giving the competition their all–even if that sometimes means bending the rules. But with so much at stake, will the contest that aims to bring the community together serve only to break it apart?

An insight into the recent past

My Review. I enjoyed this book whilst at the same time marvelling at the ingenuity and privations that happened during the war. It was easy to sympathise with Audrey, the young widow and Nell, the kitchen maid, less so Zelda the trained cook and Gwendoline the lady of the manor. Although, as the story unfolded, I also gained sympathy for them. I was torn as to who I wanted to win the coveted post. There are authentic recipes included for those who wish to try them.

The Last of The Apple Blossom by Mary Lou Stephens.

The fire took everything – except two women’s fighting spirits. A sweeping, big-hearted Australian family saga for readers of Judy Nunn and Victoria Purman

7 February, 1967. Walls of flame reduce much of Tasmania to ash.

Young schoolteacher Catherine Turner rushes to the Huon Valley to find her family’s apple orchard destroyed, her childhood home in ruins and her brother dead. Despite her father’s declaration that a woman will never run the orchard, Catherine resolves to rebuild the family business.

After five sons, Catherine’s friend and neighbour, Annie Pearson, is overjoyed by the birth of a much longed for daughter. As Annie and her husband Dave work to repair the damage to their orchard, Dave’s friend Mark pitches in, despite the fact that Annie wants him gone. Mark has moved his family to the valley to escape his life in Melbourne, but his wife has disappeared leaving chaos in her wake and their young son Charlie in Mark’s care.

Catherine becomes fond of Charlie, whose strange upbringing has left him shy and withdrawn. However, the growing friendship between Mark and Catherine not only scandalises the small community but threatens a secret Annie is desperate to keep hidden.

Through natural disasters, personal calamities and the devastating collapse of the apple industry, Catherine, Annie and those they love battle to save their livelihoods, their families and their secrets.

My Review.

What a gorgeous cover!

A heart-breaking book about struggle and sacrifice. The book is set during and after the devastating fires on Tasmania in 1967 and their aftermath which saw the Apple Island almost cease production of the famed Tasmanian Apples. More than that, it is the story of two women and what they live through and endure.

One More For Christmas by Sarah Morgan.

From the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Christmas Sisters comes this sparkling tale of Christmas redemption. Brimming with Sarah Morgan’s trademark festive cheer, you won’t want to miss it!

For sisters Samantha and Ella Mitchell, Christmas is their most precious time of the year—a time for togetherness, love and celebration. Most of all, it’s about making up for everything their childhood Christmases lacked. But this year, they’ll be buying presents for the most unexpected guest of all—their estranged mother. It’s been five years since they last saw each other. But when their mom calls out of the blue and promises that this Christmas will be different, Samantha and Ella cautiously agree to spend it all together…

Gayle Mitchell is at the top of her career, but her success has come at a price—her relationship with her daughters. She never seemed to say or do the right things. Her tough-love approach was designed to make them stronger, but instead managed to push them away…until a brush with her own mortality forces Gayle to make amends. As the snowflakes fall on their first family celebration in years, the Mitchell women must learn that sometimes facing up to the past is all you need to heal your heart… 

A joyful book.

My Review. This is the perfect book to read over Christmas! It has it all, lush scenery, a luxury location and family dynamics that need repairing. I was drawn into the story as the old hurts of the past resurfaced, and expectations were upended. No, you can’t go back, but you can make a new beginning. It reminded me of the Netflix movie A Castle for Christmas. The book is a new favourite.

Ink and Shadows by Ellery Adams

Controversy erupts in Miracle Springs, North Carolina, when the owner of the local bookstore tries to play peacekeeper—but winds up playing detective instead…

Nora Pennington is known for her window displays, and as Halloween approaches, she decides to showcase fictional heroines like Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Madeline Miller’s Circe. A family-values group disapproves of the magical themes, though, and wastes no time launching a modern-day witch hunt. Suddenly, former friends and customers are targeting not only Nora and Miracle Books, but a new shopkeeper, Celeste, who’s been selling CBD oil products.

Nora and her friends in the Secret, Book, and Scone Society are doing their best to put an end to the strife—but then someone puts an end to a life. Though the death is declared an accident, the ruling can’t explain the old book page covered with strange symbols and disturbing drawings left under Nora’s doormat, a postcard from an anonymous stalker, or multiple cases of vandalism.

The only hope is that Nora can be a heroine herself and lead the Secret, Book, and Scone Society in a successful investigation—before more bodies turn up and the secrets from Celeste’s past come back to haunt them all.

Books about bookshops always appeal to me.

My Review. I picked this book up from the library, as I usually enjoy cosy mysteries and books about bookstores. This is the fourth book in a series, and I hadn’t read the other three, but that didn’t stop my enjoyment of the story. The bookstore Halloween display provokes an over-the-top response, and splits feeling in the town. It all seems relatively harmless until someone is killed, as Nora senses she may be the next target.

The Queen of Wishful Thinking by Milly Johnson.

Love, laughter and friendship from the Sunday Times top five bestselling author.
    When Lewis Cawthorne has a heart attack in his early forties, he takes it as a wake-up call. So, he and his wife Charlotte leave behind life in the fast lane and Lew opens the antique shop he has dreamed of since he was a little boy.


    Bonnie Brookland was brought up in the antiques trade and now works for the man who bought out her father’s business, but she isn’t happy there. So, when she walks into Lew’s shop, she knows this is the place for her.


    As Bonnie and Lew start to work together, they soon realise that there is more to their relationship than thought. But Bonnie is trapped in an unhappy marriage, and Lew and Charlotte have more problems than they care to admit. Each has secrets in their past which are about to be uncovered. Can they find the happiness they both deserve…?

My Review. I felt for Bonnie, trapped in a loveless marriage and in a job that she increasingly has come to hate. All the standards that made her father’s shop appealing have been abandoned by a man who is out to squeeze profit out of everything. He doesn’t respect her knowledge of antiques and treats her like dirt. One comment sees her out of a job.

Lewis is finally living his dream, but if sales don’t pick up, he can’t keep going for very long. Meanwhile, his wife Charlotte is bored and spending as if he still has his high salary and prestigious job.

Two lonely people united by a passion for antiques and maybe something more.

The Book Club by Roisin Meany.

A tragic accident leaves the small seaside town of Fairweather reeling but when Tom McLysaght arrives to the community and joins the local book club, the residents find their lives changing in ways they never could have imagined.
For Tom, his move to Fairweather was to escape his highflying past in London and to put some much needed distance between him and his ex-fiancée but as he begins to open himself to town of Fairweather and the people he meets, including his quiet and reserved neighbour Lil, he discovers that while friendship might be the last thing on his mind, maybe it’s the only thing that will help him move forward.

An appealing cover

My Review Another library pick, influenced by the title. As someone who coordinated a book club for eleven years, I know they can be wonderful places to connect and make friends. Not everyone shares a passion for reading, so it’s good to find those who do.

Tom has moved as far away as he can from his past. The small town of Fairweather is remote enough to give him the anonymity he craves. His landlady seems distant and suspicious and that’s how he likes it. Gradually he starts doing jobs for people and is invited to join the private book club. Over time he is drawn into the community, wanting to learn its secrets, particularly those concerning Lil, the daughter of his landlady. I found this a difficult book to categorise.

All the Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White.

The New York Times bestselling authors of The Glass Ocean and The Forgotten Room return with a glorious historical adventure that moves from the dark days of two World Wars to the turbulent years of the 1960s, in which three women with bruised hearts find refuge at Paris’ legendary Ritz hotel.

The heiress . . .
The Resistance fighter . . .

The widow . . .
Three women whose fates are joined by one splendid hotel

France, 1914. As war breaks out, Aurelie becomes trapped on the wrong side of the front with her father, Comte Sigismund de Courcelles. When the Germans move into their family’s ancestral estate, using it as their headquarters, Aurelie discovers she knows the German Major’s aide de camp, Maximilian Von Sternburg. She and the dashing young officer first met during Aurelie’s debutante days in Paris. Despite their conflicting loyalties, Aurelie and Max’s friendship soon deepens into love, but betrayal will shatter them both, driving Aurelie back to Paris and the Ritz— the home of her estranged American heiress mother, with unexpected consequences.

France, 1942. Raised by her indomitable, free-spirited American grandmother in the glamorous Hotel Ritz, Marguerite “Daisy” Villon remains in Paris with her daughter and husband, a Nazi collaborator, after France falls to Hitler. At first reluctant to put herself and her family at risk to assist her grandmother’s Resistance efforts, Daisy agrees to act as a courier for a skilled English forger known only as Legrand, who creates identity papers for Resistance members and Jewish refugees. But as Daisy is drawn ever deeper into Legrand’s underground network, committing increasingly audacious acts of resistance for the sake of the country—and the man—she holds dear, she uncovers a devastating secret . . . one that will force her to commit the ultimate betrayal, and to confront at last the shocking circumstances of her own family history.

France, 1964. For Barbara “Babs” Langford, her husband, Kit, was the love of her life. Yet their marriage was haunted by a mysterious woman known only as La Fleur. On Kit’s death, American lawyer Andrew “Drew” Bowdoin appears at her door. Hired to find a Resistance fighter turned traitor known as “La Fleur,” the investigation has led to Kit Langford. Curious to know more about the enigmatic La Fleur, Babs joins Drew in his search, a journey of discovery that that takes them to Paris and the Ritz—and to unexpected places of the heart. . .  

My Review.It was interesting to read a book written by three authors, I found that the story and prose flowed seamlessly. Each story underpinned the other and the interrelated events. There was an immediacy about the stories, and it was easy to feel part of the unfolding events. I guessed the identity of ‘La Fleur’, without too much difficulty. For me, the story set in 1942 was the most noteworthy. I enjoyed this book and would happily read another by the same authors.

Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan.

Another heartfelt and delightful Christmas tale from the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Bookshop on the Corner and Christmas on the Island.

New York Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan returns to the setting of Christmas on the Island and Endless Beach for a heart-warming new novel celebrating the season, and Scotland.

On the tiny, beautiful, and remote island of Mure, halfway between Scotland and Norway, a new hotel opening is a big event. New mother Flora MacKenzie and her brother Fintan are working themselves half to death to get it ready in time for Christmas. 

The new hotel’s impressive kitchens throw together two unlikely new friends: Isla Gregor is the hardworking young girl who has been a waitress in the island’s cafe, dreaming of a bigger, better life now that she’s at a proper fancy hotel. Konstantin Pederson is working his way up in the hotel’s kitchens too…but he is also, secretly, the only son of the Duke of Utsire. Konstantin has been sent to learn what it is to work hard for a living, before receiving his inheritance. Although he’s initially resentful, the place grows on him; he has never met anyone quite like Isla and her fellow Murians before. 

As the island’s residents and special VIP guests gather for the hotel’s grand opening gala, Christmas is in the air. But so are more than a few small-town secrets…

My Review. Once again, I found I was reading a book that was part of a series. The perils of picking up random books in the library! It is number four in the Mure series.  So, I was initially slightly confused as to who some of the characters were. Fortunately, I was able to get into the story and enjoy it. Yes, it was slightly predictable, but somehow that’s what you expect in a Christmas story. I enjoyed reading about Konstantin’s struggles in this reverse Cinderella tale. Isolated the island of Mure sounds magical, if incredibly cold.

The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan.

Mrs. Braithwaite, self-appointed queen of her English village, finds herself dethroned, despised, and dismissed following her husband’s selfish divorce petition. Never deterred, the threat of a family secret being revealed sets her hot-foot to London to find the only person she has left—her clever daughter Betty, who took work there at the first rumbles of war.
 
But when she arrives, Betty’s landlord, the timid Mr. Norris, informs her that Betty hasn’t been home in days–with the chaos of the bombs, there’s no telling what might have befallen her. Aghast, Mrs. Braithwaite sets her bullish determination to the task of finding her only daughter.

Storming into the London Blitz, Mrs. Braithwaite drags the reluctant Mr. Norris along as an unwitting sidekick as they piece together Betty’s unexpectedly chaotic life. As she is thrown into the midst of danger and death, Mrs. Braithwaite is forced to rethink her old-fashioned notions of status, class, and reputation, and to reconsider the question that’s been puzzling her since her world overturned: How do you measure the success of your life?

My Review. I was able to picture the redoubtable Mrs Braithwaite quite clearly, she looked and sounded a lot like Hyacinth Bouquet from Keeping Up Appearances. What a fabulous character she is! Full of energy and a conviction that she is right, snobbish and determined. Poor Mr Norris is unable to say ‘no’ to her demands.

Their adventures have a surreal quality to them, but with all the conventions of pre-war time broken, can Mrs B adapt? The story moves along in quite a visual way. I found it fascinating how Mrs Braithwaite’s views were changed by her experiences.  So different from The Kitchen Front,  it’s hard to choose which I liked best

Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry.

The joyous Christmas novel from the Sunday Times top-ten bestselling author of A Family Recipe and The Beach Hut

‘A glorious story full of hope, heartache and Christmas magic’ Cathy Bramley

‘Wise, insightful, beautiful written and sprinkled with Christmas joy – I adored this book’ Milly Johnson

Everyone adores Christmas . . .

Especially Lizzy Kingham. But this year, she is feeling unloved and under-appreciated by her family. The present-buying, decorating and food shopping have all been left to her. So she wonders … what would happen if she ran away and left them to it?

Lizzy heads to her favourite place: a beach hut on the golden sands of Everdene. There she meets an unlikely collection of new friends, all running away from something. But the spirit of Christmas gets under Lizzy’s skin: soon the fairy lights are twinkling, and the scent of mulled wine mingles with the sea air.

Back at Pepperpot Cottage, her family are desperate to find her. For Christmas isn’t Christmas without Lizzy. Can they track her down in time and convince her she means the world to them, every day of the year?

Bursting with love, hope, forgiveness – and plenty of Christmas cheer – this is the perfect stocking filler!

My Review. For every woman who has ever felt overwhelmed at Christmas. I am sure you will be cheering from the sidelines and wondering if you’d have the nerve to do the same.

Christmas is a magical time of the year, but it also involves a lot of planning and hard work, mostly unseen and unappreciated. We do it because we love them, we want to have a magical Christmas and we ignore the little voice that occasionally says, ‘what about me?’

Lizzy has felt exhausted and unappreciated for quite some time. Her husband Simon’s ex-wife Amanda, seems to call all the shots, altering their plans on a whim. The final straw is when no one comes home to trim the tree, although all have promised faithfully to do so. So, very uncharacteristically Lizzy packs her bags and leaves. A really fun read!

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow.

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be

My Review. I was intrigued by the title, a reworking of T.H White’s The Once and Future King as well as the premise of the book, it seemed very timely. The concept of women’s work and will and her words, as well her crafts and storytelling being marginalised and ignored. Anyone who steps out of the conformist pattern is a threat and must be pursued and vilified. I think the story will resonate with a lot of women, who have put up with the endless and relentless mansplaining and sexism.

I read the book over two days, and it sustained my interest. At times the prose is almost magical, weaving a spell of its own. Although I felt that some of it could have been compressed without any loss. A modern fable.

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday by Milly Johnson

It’s nearly Christmas and it’s snowing, hard. Deep in the Yorkshire Moors nestles a tiny hamlet, with a pub at its heart. As the snow falls, the inn will become an unexpected haven for six people forced to seek shelter there…

Mary has been trying to get her boss Jack to notice her for four years, but he can only see the efficient PA she is at work. Will being holed up with him finally give her the chance she has been waiting for?

Bridge and Luke were meeting for five minutes to set their divorce in motion. But will getting trapped with each other reignite too many fond memories – and love?

Charlie and Robin were on their way to a luxury hotel in Scotland for a very special Christmas. But will the inn give them everything they were hoping to find – and much more besides?

A story of knowing when to hold on and when to let go, of pushing limits and acceptance, of friendship, love, laughter, mince pies and the magic of Christmas.

My Review. Milly Johnson has delivered a magical Christmas book. It feels as if you are there inside Figgy Hollow, sharing time with the couples. Mary had so much hope for this weekend, that Jack will finally notice her. Instead of a glamorous evening, they are stuck in an out of the way deserted inn. Charlie and Robin have somehow got lost in Yorkshire on their way to Scotland. For Bridget and Luke, a quick five-minute paperwork handover has turned into a weekend together. These couples will wend their way into your heart, and you hope they will all find their ‘happily ever after.’ Deftly handled, this book is about tolerance, acceptance and love. Another favourite.

The Comfort Book by  Matt Haigh

A manual of reflections for an increasingly stressful world

Nothing is stronger than a small hope that doesn’t give up. 

A collection of little islands of hope, The Comfort Book gathers consolations and stories that give us new ways of seeing ourselves and the world. 

Matt Haig’s mix of philosophy, memoir and self-reflection builds on the wisdom of philosophers and survivors through the ages, from Marcus Aurelius to Nellie Bly, from Emily Dickinson to James Baldwin. 

This is the book to pick up when you need the wisdom of a friend or the comfort of a hug, or just want to celebrate the messy miracle of being alive.

Personally, I wasn’t keen on this cover.

My Review. Having read and enjoyed The Midnight Library, I was interested when I heard about this book. In times like these, I can see it would appeal to a lot of people. What I liked was I knew that Matt Haigh had walked the talk. He wasn’t theorising, he simply said ‘here are some things that have helped me,’ adding ‘they may help you too.’  Some will resonate more than others, but it is a comforting book.

Looking back, I am surprised how many books I did read in December. There is a pattern of reading a serious book and then a lighter book , which I find works quite well for me .I also ignored TV in favour of Netflix, and allowed myself as much Christmas as I could handle. To find two books which I have marked as favourite, about Christmas, when I felt very un Christmassy was a surprise.

Featured

Meet author Rod Baker.

Rod and I have been friends for a few years, drawn together by our love of writing. Both of us are ex-pat Brits. He lives in Canada and I live in Australia. Neither of us can remember where it was that we ‘met,’ but it was probably in one of the many online writers’ forums. Unusually, among my writer friends, Rod writes memoirs. Over time I have read and enjoyed all of his books and I think you might, too.

Rodney Baker. Author.

Thanks for joining us. Prior to your writing, you have had a varied career; can you tell us a little about that?

Like many sixteen-year-olds, I was bored with my home, my home town, my parents, and probably myself. I wanted something bigger, better, an exciting life, adventure! When someone said to me, “You should join the merchant navy and see the world,” two weeks later, I did. 

The lure of the open ocean.
Adventure called!

Samuel Johnson said, “Life at sea is like being in prison, with the added possibility of drowning.” While true, I loved visiting over 20 countries, meeting the local people and talking with them. Lives in Africa, Central America, China, Japan, Tahiti, Canada, to name a few, were so interesting, so different from mine. It stretched my knowledge of humankind and made me a more understanding person. When I was 19, I fell in love with a girl I met on a blind date in Vancouver, emigrated to Canada at age 21, and got a job working on the tugboats. One December night in the far north, the tug ran aground and the barge carrying 18,000 gallons of gasoline and lots of heavy equipment crushed the tug. I escaped with my life and decided to get a job ashore.

Rod visited twenty countries.

I became an apprentice boatbuilder and learned how to build 55-foot boats out of wood. Each payday, I would buy myself a new tool for my toolbox, on my slow four-year journey to become a tradesman. You can read more about it here.

Rod’s most popular book.

After getting married, buying a house becoming a father of two, I lost my job and couldn’t pay the mortgage. Scary! I couldn’t find any work, so, clutching at straws, I started a boat repair business, which I ran for 20 years. Business taught me to be accountable and responsible.

Unfortunately, that marriage ended and we divorced. I had no energy to run the business anymore, so I sold it and retrained to be a psychological counsellor. All the theories were really interesting, and I ended up getting an MA in Counselling. It felt good to help people. I learned that my problems were minor compared to many. For a while, I was a counsellor in a refugee centre. Such awful stories of people’s lives disrupted forever. Chilling! I was also an addiction counsellor for a couple of years.

Counselling can help[ with a range of problems.

My counselling and business experience equipped me to run a non-profit organization for people with mental illness. We provided housing and support for them. I also started an outreach program for homeless people. This sort of work made me realize how lucky I was. Well, not always completely lucky. After I got hired as executive director for the Simon Fraser branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, they told me they didn’t have enough money to pay me! Yes, I was pissed off! I started a thrift store (charity shop) largely run by our mental health clients, which made a lot of money and helped pull us out of financial difficulties. It also gave our clients a chance to give back and learn new skills.

Helping to finance the charity

 Which job appealed to you the most?

They were all interesting. Running the nonprofit was probably the most rewarding because it was the most complex, and I saw the results of my work in the daily lives of the people we were supporting.

What gave you the impetus to begin writing, what are essentially memoirs?

I had to write a lot of really boring funding proposals in the ten years I worked in nonprofits. I promised myself when I retired at 65, I would write something, more interesting, more fun, more entertaining. I hoped I achieved that! Plus, I only usually read non-fiction so memoirs just rolled out naturally.

Rod had a taste for adventure

Which one gets the most comments?

“I Need My Yacht by Friday – True Tales from the Boat Repair Yard,” gets the most comments and sells the most. People who have run any business can relate and boat owners can really understand the various themes.

How do you have such a good recall?

Some notes, some photos, but I have an excellent memory for emotional events, they just stick in my brain. As I had a number of different careers, there were lots of first time experiences. It’s easy to remember those. I often can recall word for word what was said — it just resonates and sticks in my brain.

Yes, where is Belize?

If you were starting out writing now, would you do anything differently?

Yes, I would start earlier than I did at age 65.

As a migrant do you ever feel nostalgia for ‘home’ or is ‘home’ wherever you are?

I miss the English countryside, the humour, the pubs, the regional accents and BBC radio. I don’t miss snobby, pretentious people or the class system. To a point, home is where I am, except I lived in Italy for a year in 2008, and that didn’t feel like home. Ha, I could write about that!

What do you like to read? Any favourite authors or genres?

Alexandra Fuller, Farley Mowat, Gavin Maxwell, Gerald Durrell, Lawrence Anthony, Cheryl Strayed, Jared Diamond.

I think I have read all of your books, but my favourite is the one about managing the Charity Shop.

Thanks, Sonia. In some ways, it was the most difficult to write, so I’m glad you enjoyed it!

Rod is currently working on a memoir of his earlier life, provisionally called The Shilling Thieves. I have read some extracts and it is hilarious. So, look out for that soon

All of  Rod’s books are available on Amazon and if you are in Canada through rodbakerbooks.com

Rod left home at 16 years old and went to sea as a deckhand. He migrated from England to Canada at age 21and found work as a mate on the British Columbia tugboats. After the tug sank in the Haida Gwaii islands, he quit going to sea and worked as an apprentice boat builder, marine repair shop owner, psychotherapist and executive director of non-profit mental health associations.

Since retiring from full-time work in 2012, he has written four memoirs and is currently working on a book of humorous short stories.  rodbakerbooks.com

Featured

What Did I Read in November 2021?

November is officially the last month of Spring in the Southern hemisphere. I live in Perth, Australia and Spring weather is typically unpredictable. We went through our wettest Spring on record which gave me plenty of reading time. And yes, I did begin a bit of early Christmas reading.

Staying at home with a good book

The Perfectly Imperfect Woman by Milly Johnson 

Marnie Salt has made so many mistakes in her life that she fears she will never get on the right track. But when she ‘meets’ an old lady in a baking chatroom and begins confiding in her, little does she know how her life will change. 
 
Arranging to see each other for lunch, Marnie finds discovers that Lilian is every bit as mad and delightful as she’d hoped – and that she owns a whole village in the Yorkshire Dales, which has been passed down through generations. And when Marnie needs a refuge after a crisis, she ups sticks and heads for Wychwell – a temporary measure, so she thinks. 
 
But soon Marnie finds that Wychwell has claimed her as its own and she is duty-bound not to leave. Even if what she has to do makes her as unpopular as a force 12 gale in a confetti factory! But everyone has imperfections, as Marnie comes to realise, and that is not such a bad thing – after all, your flaws are perfect for the heart that is meant to love you. 
 
The Perfectly Imperfect Woman is the heart-warming and hilarious new novel from the queen of feel-good fiction – a novel of family, secrets, love and redemption … and broken hearts mended and made all the stronger for it.

My Review

A new Milly Johnson book filled with warmth and humour and that intangible feel-good factor. She may well be the successor to Maeve Binchy, her books are positive and enjoyable, but she does not shy away from heartbreak either. I enjoy that her books are quite down to earth and deal with the less fashionable North of England. Fell in love with her hero too.

The Man Who Died Twice byRichard Osman

It’s the following Thursday.

Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He’s made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.

As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn’t that be a bonus?

But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can The Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them? 

My Review. Oh, the fun was just beginning in the Thursday Murder Club. Here is a plot as clever and intriguing as any I have read. I am invested in these characters, the enigmatic Elizabeth, the guileless Joyce, providing her with a perfect foil. Ibrahim’s cerebral approach contrasts strongly with Ron’s wish to deal with things directly. This time though, their opponents are ruthless and violent. Even Elizabeth has to tread carefully, especially when her past is involved. Can’t wait for book number three.

The Distant Shores by Santa Montefiore ·

Margot Hart travels to Ireland to write a biography of the famous Deverill family. She knows she must speak to the current Lord Deverill – JP – if she is to uncover the secrets of the past. A notorious recluse, JP won’t be an easy man to crack. But Margot is determined – and she is not a woman who is easily put off.

What she never expected was to form a close bond with JP and be drawn into his family disputes. Shouldering the blame for running up debts that forced him to sell the family castle, JP is isolated and vulnerable. With help from his handsome son Colm, it seems as though Margot might be the only one who can restore JP’s fortunes.

Will the family ever succeed in healing rifts that have been centuries in the making?

My Review.

When I began reading this book, I hadn’t realised it was book five of a series. Fortunately, I was able to read it as a stand-alone. I enjoyed it, but perhaps my reading would have been more nuanced had I read the previous four books. Some in the family are nervous about what a biography may uncover and don’t trust Margot. She has an uncompromising approach to life, enjoy where you are and who you are with, and then, move on. Gradually and perhaps surprisingly, she gains the reclusive JP’s trust. But is his trust misplaced? Will she tell a balanced story?

The Cottage at Plum Tree Bay by Darcie Boleyn

One summer can change everything…

Catherine Bromley has spent her life in Penhallow Sands, dedicating herself to work and supporting her emotionally fragile mother. Since her father left, it’s always been the two of them and Catherine has no interest in romance. What’s the point when men just leave? And besides, her mother needs her.

But when handsome novelist Mark Coleman arrives to stay at the cottage overlooking nearby Plum Tree Bay, Catherine’s world is changed. She’s soon bumping into Mark everywhere – or being thrown at him by her matchmaking friend! Can Mark let go of his painful past to be the man that Catherine can rely on? And will Catherine find the courage to let love in?

A heart-warming romance set in Cornwall and perfect for fans of Holly Martin and Phillipa Ashley.

My Review.

An escapist read, set in Cornwall. Catherine has a lot on her plate, she can’t think about romance. Mark has left his past behind and is having a new start in Cornwall. Neither is looking for romance, but what if fate has other ideas?

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner.

A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them – setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.

Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose – selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate – and not everyone will survive. 

My Review.

I chose this book based on its title and blurb, I usually enjoy dual timeline stories. This one worked well balancing the intrigue of the past with the present day. Disenchanted with her marriage, Caroline is spending time alone and reassessing her life and past. An impulsive stint of ‘mud larking’ ( searching for found objects left behind by the tide) propels her in a new direction. The search is intriguing and as it progresses Caroline sympathises with the women desperate enough to want to escape. Can she find the answer to a forgotten mystery?

Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim

Become enamored with the splendor of Paris in this heartwarming and delightful story about writing one’s own destiny and finding love along the way.

Vanessa Yu never wanted to see people’s fortunes — or misfortunes — in tea leaves.

Ever since she can remember, Vanessa Yu has been able to see people’s fortunes at the bottom of their teacups. To avoid blurting out their fortunes, she converts to coffee, but somehow fortunes escape and find a way to complicate her life and the ones of those around her. To add to this plight, her romance life is so nonexistent that her parents enlist the services of a matchmaking expert from Shanghai.

The day before her matchmaking appointment, Vanessa accidentally sees her own fate: death by traffic accident. She decides that she can’t truly live until she can find a way to get rid of her uncanny abilities. When her eccentric aunt, Evelyn, shows up with a tempting offer to whisk her away, Vanessa says au revoir to America and bonjour to Paris. While working at Evelyn’s tea stall at a Parisian antique market, Vanessa performs some matchmaking of her own, attempting to help reconnect her aunt with a lost love. As she learns more about herself and the root of her gifts, she realizes one thing to be true: knowing one’s destiny isn’t a curse, but being unable to change it is.

My Review.

A winning combination

Like many other readers, I am drawn to books about Paris. This is an intriguing concept of East meets West as Vanessa Yu goes from America to Paris. Her large extended family has various occult abilities, but Vanessa is intent on denying her destiny. Surely in Paris, things will be different? Despite coaching by her Aunt Evelyn, Vanessa doesn’t want to use her abilities. She fears seeing death and disaster, as well as being known as the family screw-up. She does however try to reunite her aunt with a previous love and learns to trust her instincts more.

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick 

Librarian Martha Storm has always found it easier to connect with books than people – though not for lack of trying. She keeps careful lists of how to help others in her superhero-themed notebook. And yet, sometimes it feels like she’s invisible.

All of that changes when a book of fairy tales arrives on her doorstep. Inside, Martha finds a dedication written to her by her best friend – her grandmother Zelda – who died under mysterious circumstances years earlier. When Martha discovers a clue within the book that her grandmother may still be alive, she becomes determined to discover the truth. As she delves deeper into Zelda’s past, she unwittingly reveals a family secret that will change her life forever.

Filled with Phaedra Patrick’s signature charm and vivid characters, The Library of Lost and Found is a heart-warming and poignant tale of how one woman must take control of her destiny to write her own happy ending

My Review.

Probably my favourite out of this month’s reading-I wanted to race along reading it, but I  never wanted it to end! If you are passionate about books and libraries and love fairy tales, this book should delight you. Martha is one of those good but taken for granted people, who help others at her own expense. Unexpectedly finding a book of fairy tales propels her into a  different way of living and reveals a family secret that changed many lives.

Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters.

In this charming, feel-good debut novel, a cynical assistant at a screenwriting agency must re-enact the meet-cute scenes from classic romantic comedy movies in order to help her #1 client get his scriptwriting mojo back–but can a real-life meet-cute be in store for someone who doesn’t believe in happily ever after?

After seven years as an assistant, 29-year-old Evie Summers is ready to finally get the promotion she deserves. But now the TV and film agency she’s been running behind the scenes is in trouble, and Evie will lose her job unless she can convince the agency’s biggest and most arrogant client, Ezra Chester, to finish writing the script for a Hollywood romantic comedy.

The catch? Ezra is suffering from writer’s block–and he’ll only put pen to paper if singleton Evie can prove to him that you can fall in love like they do in the movies. With the future of the agency in jeopardy, Evie embarks on a mission to meet a man the way Sally met Harry or Hugh Grant met Julia Roberts.

But in the course of testing out the meet-cute scenes from classic romantic comedies IRL, not only will Evie encounter one humiliating situation after another, but she’ll have to confront the romantic past that soured her on love. In a novel as hilarious as it is heartwarming, debut author Rachel Winters proves that sometimes real life is better than the movies–and that the best kind of meet-cutes happen when you least expect them.

My Review.

Could it work, can we set out to meet cute and win? Evie must prove that it can to Ezra Scott, otherwise her job and the agency are in jeopardy. Going from one hilarious attempt to another Evie is holding up her end of the bargain, but is Ezra holding up his and writing? By midway through the story, I had guessed the conclusion, but it was a fun journey getting there.

The Christmas Party by Karen Swan 

The Christmas Party is a delicious, page-turning story of romance, family and secrets, by the Sunday Times bestselling author Karen Swan.

When Declan Lorne, the last remaining knight in Ireland, dies suddenly, an ancient title passes with him. But his estate on Ireland’s rugged south-west coast is left to his three daughters. The two eldest, Ottie and Pip, inherit in line with expectations, but to everyone’s surprise – and dismay – it is the errant baby of the family, Willow, who gets the castle.

Why her? Something unknown – something terrible – made her turn her back on her family three years earlier, escaping to Dublin and vowing never to return. So, when Willow quickly announces she is selling up, her revenge seems sweet and the once-close sisters are pushed to breaking point: in desperation, Pip risks everything to secure her own future, and Ottie makes a decision that will ruin lives. It’s each woman for herself.

Before moving in, Connor Shaye, the prospective new owner, negotiates throwing a lavish party at the castle just days before Christmas – his hello, their goodbye. But as their secrets begin to catch up with them, Ottie, Willow and Pip are forced to ask themselves which is harder: stepping into the future, or letting go of the past? 

I couldn’t resist this gorgeous cover!

My Review.

Sister can be so different, and here each sister is convinced that she is acting for the best. Willow risks alienating her entire family but believes she is acting following her father’s wishes. Do things matter more than people? As the book moves along it gives an insight into each sisters’ point of view and why they act as they do. Complex family and other relationships add twists and turns to the plot. Well written and enjoyable.


The comforts of home with books and cats.

For me personally, it has been a tough year and following a death in the family, I will be spending Christmas alone. I have been invited to a couple of places but don’t think I will be good company. My plan is to hibernate at home ( from the heat, not the cold!) with lots of books and cats and Netflix.

 

Featured

Chatting with Kath Engebretson about The Blooming of Alison Brennan.

Hi Kath, It’s lovely to welcome you back to talk about your new book. The Blooming of Alison Brennan which was published recently by Next Chapter.

Kath Engbretson.

A family full of secrets…and one girl who must survive.

Sixteen-year-old Alison Brennan’s mother, Bernadette, is an agoraphobic hoarder, and her father Harry seems to have no past. Struggling every day, Alison seeks the help of a school counsellor.

When an old homeless man is found dead in a Melbourne park, Alison’s life changes. Somehow, the man’s death is connected to her family and the Polish Home Army.

Fighting for her future, can Alison unravel the mystery of her family and the dead man, and find a way to place her trust in others again?

Available in paperback or on Kindle.

I enjoyed reading it and found Alison such an engaging and relatable character.

Alison lives with her agoraphobic hoarder mother, and her father Harry, who lets life happen. Alison’s everyday life is a struggle, even to get herself to school. As a teacher and academic, did you encounter any children of hoarders?

Not especially of hoarders, but as a teacher, you often encounter children or young people who struggle with difficult home situations. It may be that they’re a carer for a sick parent, or the family may be breaking up, or sometimes it’s just emotional and physical neglect. As a teacher, you can be a listener, but most schools have specialist counsellors or welfare officers who have the skills and knowledge to help. I modelled the school counsellor, Stella Goodall, on such a person.

Photo by Lance Grandahi at Unsplash.

Most of us will have seen what a hoarder’s home is like from TV. It’s certainly not a normal environment. What inspired you to write about such an unusual topic?

From reading books and articles about hoarding, I began to try to imagine what it must be like for a child or teenager to be trapped in such a situation. They would either be buried in it or try to rise above it. I had to give Alison lots of inner strength and independence to cope with it, but also empathy, or it would have made her hate her parents.

Alison is lucky that she gains help from a school counsellor, but she is also a strong character herself.

Yes, she’s very strong, and in the story, I try to show that it was a characteristic she inherited from her maternal grandmother.

Lucky to have a loving grandmother.

I got impatient with her father, but when his story is revealed, I gained more understanding. I enjoyed how each chapter gave us a different person’s perspective.

Had you always planned to write the book that way, or did you choose to do that later on?

No, it evolved. It began being a story of a child of a hoarder, but then the characters grew. I wove in the grandfather and the uncle and his partner, to give Alison a support base, then the events that unfolded are indirectly based on actual events.

We ignore the homeless.

The link between finding the homeless man dead in the park and Alison was a surprise. As were the stories of heroism from the Polish Home Army. You didn’t overload the book with information, but it was clear that you had done your research. Theirs is a story that deserves to be told.

Was the linkage always obvious to you or did that develop as you wrote?

The homeless man found dead in a Melbourne park actually happened some years ago, but I changed it in every detail. Making the homeless man a Polish refugee was something I wanted to do. A friend of our family married a Polish man who had come to Australia after the war. He had been a prisoner of war in Poland and was an activist for Poland’s freedom after the Nazi takeover. He expressed his activism through poetry, and the State Library of Victoria has three of his books of poems, all in Polish of course so I couldn’t read them, not knowing the language. The refugees who came to Australia after the war were often sent to remote places to work on big constructions such as the Snowy Mountains scheme.

Refugees could have been lost at sea. Their experiences too painful to share

Imagine the loneliness and pain, in those stark conditions, especially since many of them would also have lost their families to the war. I try to tell that story through Hobie and his son. Richard Flanagan writes of this immigrant experience in Tasmania in The Sound of One Hand Clapping.

What do you hope people take away from the story if anything?

The triumph of the human spirit, that change is always a possibility, that love is everywhere and when we think it’s not possible, it can come from behind and surprise us.

Just a little bit of hope.

How long did the book take to write and what’s next on the agenda for you?

I wrote this over one year, but I didn’t find a publisher until now. Reading it again, I’m very proud of it. I’m working on another book now, set in the Victorian Mallee area. I hope to have it out next year.

Oh, I will look forward to that. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.

Thank you, Sonia, for your interest and support.

You can find the book at Abe Books, Book Depository, or Amazon.

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Writers, Can You Survive Danger & Death in the Conflict Challenge?

Another great book to add to your library.

Do you have a bookshelf of writing guides? I do, and well, it’s an addiction, but a good one. I’m going to flag one for you to look into: The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles (Vol. 1).

This book is from Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, the authors of The Emotion Thesaurus. I bought that when it first came out and I bought several others of their guides- all really helpful and great value.

I’m such a fan of their writing guides I joined their Street Team. Every time they release a book they do something epic and fun to celebrate, and I get to tell you all about it!

But first, you’re probably curious about this book, so let me break it down. The Conflict Thesaurus is set up like the other books in their series: part how-to, part thesaurus. This guide shows writers how to maximize conflict and use it to build tension, drive the plot, reveal your character’s inner layers, and most importantly, keep readers glued to the page.

It’s packed with conflict scenarios like Moral Dilemmas, Ticking Clocks, Obstacles, No-Win Scenarios, Temptations and more. It can help you nail down your plot and character arc, so check it out!

Conflict is so often personal

Now, speaking of conflict, I have a BIG question for you.

Can You Survive Danger as Well as Your Favorite Protagonist? You’re probably pretty good at throwing problems at your characters and making life difficult for them. After all, that’s part of being a writer. But do you ever think about how you’d do if you had to face the same situations? If you were the protagonist, would you hold up to the pressure? Would you make good decisions and succeed, or screw up and fail?

Let’s find out.

Introducing… The Conflict Challenge

Become the protagonist in a story Angela & Becca created using scenarios found in the Conflict Thesaurus to see if you’ve got what it takes to win.

The Conflict Challenge is fun, campy, and will put your wits and instincts to the test.

And if you survive, you will win some cool stuff!

I survived, but I am a lot braver in fiction than in real life!

GIVEAWAY ALERT

While you’re checking out the Conflict Challenge at Writers Helping Writers, make sure to also enter their Conflict Thesaurus release day giveaway, too. But hurry – it ends October 15th.

So, take the Conflict Challenge…if you dare. And don’t forget to come back and let me know how you did against Camp Deadwood!

Now I have to see if I can survive on Team Angela.
Featured

What Was I Reading in September 2021 ?

September was a month filled with rain , so what better time to curl up with a good book, a cosy cuppa and a comfy cat? My reading was a bit random , but overall I thought it was a good mix of fiction and non-fiction. Do you like me, read both fiction and non fiction? Let me know! Some books I pick because I have heard good things about them, some because a cover appeals to me ,and some are simply impromptu choices.

Does your cat want to be involved when you read?

September reading started with this book.

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

In 1901, the word ‘Bondmaid’ was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.

Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the ‘Scriptorium’, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford  English Dictionary. Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutters to the floor. Esme rescues the slip and stashes it in an old wooden case that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world.

Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. While she dedicates her life to the Oxford English Dictionary, secretly, she begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

Set when the women’s suffrage movement was at its height and the Great War loomed, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. It’s a delightful, lyrical and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words, and the power of language to shape the world and our experience of it.

I thought this was a beautiful cover.

My Review.

The book was a gift and I had it since Christmas but felt no urgency to read it. I started to read and was gradually drawn in, stories of motherless girls have a particular appeal for me, as that was much of my childhood experience. Esme is lucky that Lizzie, the kitchen maid is devoted to her and helps steer her through to womanhood. Her childhood is odd and there is no mention of her going to school regularly. Later, she is sent to boarding school, which isn’t a happy experience. A solitary and peculiar child, her ideas are shaped by the male lexicographers and her adored father. Without their influence would she have ever considered the importance of words? But she does, and as she grows up realises that women’s experience is negated and marginalised. While it isn’t a fast-paced read, I found it interesting enough to keep reading. It is on the more literary end of the spectrum.

Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas.

Can she find her recipe for happiness?

Del and her husband Ollie moved to a beautiful village in Provence for a fresh start after years of infertility struggles. But six weeks after they arrive, they’re packing the removal van once more. As Del watches the van leave for England, she suddenly realises exactly what will make her happier…a new life in France – without Ollie.

Now alone, all Del has is a crumbling farmhouse, a mortgage to pay and a few lavender plants. What on earth is she going to do? Discovering an old recipe book at the market run by the rather attractive Fabian, Del starts to bake. But can her new-found passion really help her let go of the past and lead to true happiness?

A heart-warming tale about reclaiming your life, set amongst the lavender fields of Provence. Perfect escapism from the author of Late Summer in the Vineyard and The Honey Farm on the Hill.

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A sunny cover for this book

My Review. An escapist fantasy, that is easy to read and as beguiling as the sunshine on holiday. A mid-life woman starting over in France. Somehow, she has to make it work, as her options are limited and she has no intention of returning to Ollie or England. I had to suspend disbelief a little at the idea that an English woman could win praise for her cooking in France. Peopled with a lively mix of characters and with enough conflict to maintain my interest. I enjoyed this book.

So easy to get lost in a good book.

A Year at the Chateau by Dick and Angel Strawbridge.

Like many couples, Dick and Angel had long dreamed of living in France, but where others might settle for a modest bolthole in the French countryside, the Strawbridge’s fell in love with a 19th-century fairytale château, complete with 45 rooms, seven outbuildings, 12 acres of land and its own moat.

Throwing caution to the wind, Dick and Angel swapped their two-bedroom flat in East London for an abandoned and derelict castle in the heart of the Loire valley and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime with their two young children Arthur and Dorothy.

Sharing their full journey for the first time, A Year at the Château follows Dick and Angel from when they first moved to France in the depths of winter and found bedrooms infested with flies, turrets inhabited by bats, the wind rattling through cracked windows, and just one working toilet, which flushed into the moat, through to the monumental efforts that went into readying the château for their unforgettable wedding and their incredibly special first Christmas.

Along the way we’ll read glorious descriptions of rural life in France, with charming characters, delicious food and wonderful seasonal produce, together with the extraordinary list of renovations and restorations Dick and Angel completed, many of which were never shown on TV.

As warm and entertaining as their much-loved show, A Year at the Château is a truly irresistible story of adventure and heart, epic ambitions and a huge amount of hard graft. 

The inimitable Strawbridge family.

My Review.

I think you could enjoy this book even if you weren’t a fan of the TV show. It takes us back to almost the beginning of Dick and Angel’s story. If you have watched the show, you have probably marvelled at what they do and how they do it. Here we get the dual perspective, the practical from Dick and the creative and quirky from Angel. The practical logistics were daunting. They were made even more so by being in a foreign country, trying to talk to the tradesman, as well as deal with permits and paperwork. To keep the couple afloat financially, Dick had to complete contracted filming work in America. Leaving Angel alone with two kids under two, both trying to start the work towards their dream.

How do you read? Tablet, Phone , or physical book?

The Shelley Beach Writers’ Group by Jane Love. What do you do when your husband dumps you for his PA, your company goes broke and your nearly published novel is cancelled?

Gina, a barely 50-something corporate high-flier, is counting her losses when a chance meeting throws a sea change her way. A job as a house/dog-sitter – albeit in a minus one-star leaky cottage in windswept Shelly Beach – seems the perfect opportunity to relax and regroup. But Gina hasn’t counted on the locals, and soon finds herself reluctantly convening the writers’ group, babysitting, baking, seal-watching, bicycling . . . and perhaps even falling in love.

With a cast of unforgettable characters, The Shelly Beach Writers’ Group is an irresistible story of reinvention. 

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My Review.

I wanted to like this book, but it didn’t quite grab me, and I could easily have put it down. It had all the ingredients, but somehow the recipe was off for me. Perhaps it was the number of assets that Gina had, from an Amani coat to a spare diamond ring, and some serious designer clothes. The book seemed more like a monologue and that can get tedious. Some of the email repartee was fun.

My cat is seldom so well behaved.
The Real History Behind Foyle’s War by Rod Green

A comprehensive guide to the popular TV show, giving evidence the vast amount of historical research conducted prior to the writing of every episode

This fascinating book provides an intriguing insight into law and order on the home front between 1939 and 1945, comparing the Foyle’s War storylines and characters with real crimes and real people from the war years. It offers a wealth of background information on the living and working conditions for ordinary people during this time period, as well as on the role of the police in wartime and the multitude of crimes on which the plotlines of Foyle’s War are based. Complete with an introduction from the writer and creator of Foyle’s War himself, this is the ultimate companion guide for fans of the show, as well as anyone with an interest in military history.

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A well loved TV series based on fact.

My Review. An engrossing read providing the facts behind the fiction. Foyle’s War was exemplary for its authenticity. The book gives insight into what was a difficult job for authorities such as the police. Crime skyrocketed by 57%, the murder rate increased and their manpower declined. Looting and opportunistic thefts were increasing all the time. Representative of all the unsung heroes who kept on with their jobs during increasingly difficult times.

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The Oyster Catcher By Jo Thomas.

Dooleybridge, County Galway. Population: 482 (or thereabouts). The last place Fiona Clutterbuck expects to end up, alone, on her wedding night.
But after the words ‘I do’ have barely left her mouth, that’s exactly where she is – with only her sequined shoes and a crashed camper van for company.
One thing is certain: Fi can’t go back. So when the opportunity arises to work for Sean Thornton, the local oyster farmer, she jumps at the chance. Now Fi must navigate suspicious locals, jealous rivals and a wild, unpredictable boss if she’s to find a new life, and love, on the Irish coast. And nothing – not even a chronic fear of water – is going to hold her back.

Join Fi on her romantic, unpredictable adventure as she learns the rules of the ocean – and picks up a few pearls of Irish wisdom along the way.

My Review.

Having recently read a book by Jo Thomas, I eagerly selected this one. Subsequently, I realised this was her first published book. I can’t say I ever contemplated an oystercatcher as a hero and Sean is a man of few words. The only time he speaks is to talk about oyster catching. He’s also prone to moody silences, so not my idea of a hero. On several occasions, an abrupt transition in point of view confused me.

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Loved this dreamy cover. I picked this book after hearing the author speak.

Journey’s End By Jennifer Scoullar.

From the author of Currawong Creek and Turtle Reef comes a beautiful story of family, friendship and the healing power of love.

When Sydney botanist Kim Sullivan and her husband inherit Journey’s End, a rundown farm high on the Great Eastern Escarpment, they dream of one day restoring it to its natural state. Ten years later, however, Kim is tragically widowed. Selling up is the only practical option, so she and her children head to the mountains to organise the sale. The last thing Kim expects is for Journey’s End to cast its wild spell on them all.

The family decide to stay, and Kim forges on with plans to rewild the property, propagating plants and acquiring a menagerie of native animals. But wayward wildlife, hostile farmers and her own lingering grief make the task seem hopeless. That is, until she meets the mysterious Taj, a man who has a way with animals. Kim begins to feel that she might find love again. But Taj has his own tragic past – one that could drive a wedge between them that can not be overcome .

Published June 13th 2016 by Penguin Books Australia.

Can a city girl love country life?

My Review. It was easy to sympathise with Kim and her desire to get away from her previous life. The sadness of her husband’s death, and her son being bullied at school were two compelling reasons to escape. She plans to visit their property Journey’s End and get it up for sale

At first, the place resurrects painful memories of her husband, but the longer she spends there the more she feels at home. Her children settle easily and Kim finds solace in the beauty around her. Roped in by her neighbour to help care for injured wildlife, she gradually feels more at home.

Ben, the local real estate agent is attentive and then there is the enigmatic Taj, a man of few words. As her emotions begin to settle, she contemplates at least a year in this peaceful retreat. Somehow, the children persuade her to adopt a puppy, and life feels even more perfect. But perfection comes at a price and soon Kim is reluctantly at odds with neighbours and friends. Its a book of quiet charm, which beguiled me with its characters and setting.

The Tuscan Contessa by Dinah Jefferies.

A sweeping new novel from the number one Sunday Times bestselling author of The Tea Planter’s Wife.

In 1940s Tuscany, Contessa Sofia de’ Corsi’s peaceful home in a medieval villa among the olive groves has been upturned by the arrival of German soldiers. She is desperate to help her friends in the village fight back in any way she can, all while keeping her efforts secret from her husband Lorenzo, who fears for their safety. When Maxine, a no-nonsense Italian-American, arrives in Tuscany to help the resistance, the two women forge an uneasy alliance. Before long they find themselves entangled in a dangerous game with the Nazis, each trying to save the ones they love. 

‘Dinah Jefferies has a remarkable gift for conjuring up another time and place with lush descriptions, full of power and intensity’ Kate Furnivall.

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My Review.

It was interesting and enlightening to read a story set in wartime Italy. So much has been written about wartime France, so this was intriguing. The author set out a timeline of wartime events at the front of the book, which helped to contextualise the story. It was easy to visualise the time and setting while becoming involved in the lives of Sofia, the Contessa and Maxine. When reading a book like this, one asks the inevitable question, would I become involved, would I be so brave?

Digging Up Dirt by Pamela Hart

Renovations are hell. And that’s before you find the body beneath the floorboards. An intriguing mystery from a stylish new voice in crime fiction, for readers of Kerry Greenwood and Holly Throsby.

When your builder finds bones under the floor of your heritage home, what do you do? For TV researcher Poppy McGowan, the first step is to find out if the bones are human (which means calling in the cops and delaying her renovations) or animal (which doesn’t).

Unfortunately, ‘help’ comes in the form of Dr Julieanne Weaver, archaeologist, political hopeful, and Poppy’s old enemy. She declares the bones evidence of a rare breed of fat-tailed sheep,  and slaps a heritage order on the site. The resultant archaeological dig introduces Poppy to Tol Lang, the best-looking archaeologist she’s ever met – and also Julieanne’s boyfriend.

When Julieanne is found murdered in Poppy’s house, both she and the increasingly attractive Tol are considered suspects – and so Poppy uses her media contacts and news savvy to investigate other suspects. Did Julieanne have enemies in the right-wing Australian Family party, for which she was seeking preselection, or in the affiliated Radiant Joy Church? Or at the Museum of New South Wales, among her rivals and ex-boyfriends? And who was her secret lover?

Can Poppy save herself, and Tol … and finally get her house back? 

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My Review. I found this a fast-paced and entertaining read. It was interesting to see behind the scenes at the ABC and the museum. Poppy is an engaging character and her interactions with several of the suspects made amusing reading. Julieanne, the victim, is portrayed as cold and unlikable, and it was difficult to feel any sympathy for her. Potential sparks are flying between  Poppy and Tol although both are in relationships. I suspect you may not enjoy this book if you are a right-wing conservative voter, but for the rest of us, it was fun!

The Blooming of Alison Brennan by Kath Engebretson.

A family full of secrets, and one girl who must survive. Sixteen year old Alison Brennan’s mother is an agoraphobic hoarder, and her father, Harry, seems to have no past. When an old homeless man is found dead in a Melbourne park, Alison’s life changes. Somehow the man’s death is connected to her family and the Polish Home Army. Fighting for her future, can Alison unravel the mystery of her family and the dead man, and find a way to place her trust in others again? 

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My Review.

Intensely readable and engaging, I enjoyed this book and learnt a lot through it too. Fiction enables us to live other lives and to begin to understand other perspectives. Although there are things that are confronting in the book. All the topics were handled sensitively and with understanding and compassion. The author’s meticulous research gave her characterisation an added depth.

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Meet Aussie Expat Katrina Coll, talking about her new book, A Match Made for TV.

It’s a pleasure to welcome author Katrina Coll to talk about her new book

An expat Aussie, Katrina lives in rural Ireland where the countryside really is forty shades of green. She is a keen cook, which is why she’s becoming a reluctant runner with the support of the family dog, Beetlejuice.

Thank you for joining us- tell us about your new book A Match Made for TV  which released 16th September.

Author Katrina Coll

Ria De Lorenzo is a damn good doctor. Or was. Burnt out before she’s begun, a three-month paid vacation as the medical consultant to a reality TV show is just what she needs to recover her mojo. 

Cancer survivor and headline grabber Griffin Stromberg is desperate to reboot his ultra-macho image. Typecast by years of fame, showcasing his softer side with a picture-perfect relationship should do the trick. Until Ria breaches show protocol and gets Griff’s fake girlfriend disqualified. 

Now Ria’s only hope of clocking out of reality is to check in to a fantasy by becoming his new partner. Griff, however, wants their relationship to be the real deal, not one of his infamous life-hacks. 

Can a man renowned for taking shortcuts prove he’s ready to commit to a forever relationship? Or will reality bite once filming is over? 

Note: This is a steamy romance, which includes swearing and steamy bathroom sex.

What a great cover!

Oh, sounds great! Are you writing anything else?

My work in progress returns to the world of reality tv with a reunion romance. My couple are paired on a bake-off—one is a chef, the other a cook. The fallout from past betrayals is massive but they have to work through their past for a much bigger reason than a tv show.

We will discuss your writing, but first some quick-fire questions.

Late nights or early mornings? Late nights. I am not a morning person.

What’s for breakfast? I often do overnight oats in jars with yogurt and fruit.

A healthy start to the day.

Night out or Netflix? Netflix on weekends. Weeknights I write.

G &T or Tea/coffee? While I do love a pink gin and elderflower tonic (*Foodie alert), I cannot do without decent coffee.

Perfect weekend? These days it’s any weekend when I get out the house.

What did you want to be when you grew up? An author.

What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? It ended up a roast rack of rosemary lamb with Catalan-style greens, roasted root veggies, and baby new potatoes. For a bit of fun, here’s a pic:

Nothing better than a home cooked meal.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. Taking the dog for a walk always cheers me up.

Your hero? My nanna. She’s a total legend.

If you could choose three people (living or dead ) to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? They’d have to be living because I’m prejudiced against zombies. Actually, I’d just love to be able to hold dinner parties again…

Dinner parties seem like a distant dream!

Do you have any non-writing related interests? I’m re-learning the piano (thanks lockdown!) and I’m going for my second black belt. (The first was a loooong time ago.) What would surprise people to know about you? If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise!

I know you have a dog, but I could not resist this picture with the cat!

Life lessons-what do you wish you’d know earlier? Persistence is more important than intelligence.

Questions about Writing. What is your writing process like? Iterative. I write, re-write, write, edit. It is not efficient but it’s how my brain works.

Do you have any other projects are in the works? I have two paranormal romances waiting to see the light of day, a medieval romance (currently shelved), and the sequel I mentioned.

Have you ever resuscitated a project you’d shelved? What helped it work better the second time around? I have some stories on life support so long it’s embarrassing. The bake-off book is one example. I wrote a version before A Match Made for TV but realised that while I had tension, drama and attraction, the relationship never built. Now I build the relationship first.

A competitive environment can spark rivalries and maybe romance?

If you were to genre-hop, which genres would you most like to try writing? Fantasy and historical.

What writing resources have been most helpful to you? The most singularly useful text was Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes. But collectively, it’s been by joining writing organisations like the Romance Writers of Australia.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the beginning of your writing/publishing journey? I wish I’d had critique partners sooner instead of trying to do it all solo.

A critique partner makes such a difference.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? I’m still at the stage of fitting writing around my work.

What inspired your new book? My love of cooking. And the Aussie TV show the Cook and the Chef.

Always something to learn in the kitchen.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you? Getting new words down and keeping them.

Did you do any research for your current book? I have a chronic need to research, so yes.

Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received? Finish the damn book has to be the best.’

“A writer is a person who writes every day” is the worst.

Best money you have spent as a writer? Buying Scrivener.

What are you reading now? Playing it Safe by Amy Andrews. And the next book on pre-order is The King’s Cowboy by Madeline Ash.

What books or authors have most influenced your writing? I’m looking looking forward to hearing what readers say about my style.

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? Current fave is The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.

Favourite book/story you have read as a child? Almost everything by Diana Wynne Jones.

Available in lots of online formats.

You can catch up with Katrina here.

Web             https://www.katrinacoll.com

Facebook    https://www.facebook.com/KatrinaCollAuthor

Instagram   https://www.instagram.com/katrinacollauthor/

Pinterest     https://www.pinterest.ie/KatrinaCollAuthor/a-match-made-for-tv/

BUY LINKS: 

Here’s the publisher link (best value as on sale): https://www.evernightpublishing.com/a-match-made-for-tv-by-katrina-coll/

https://books2read.com/A-Match-Made-for-TV

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What was I Reading in August 2021?

Where do you read? I read practically anywhere, my Kindle allows me to take a book wherever I go, but I love the physicality of print books. Like many people, I enjoy the pleasure and comfort of reading in bed. Do you judge a book by its cover? It seems that I frequently do, a realisation that had escaped my notice until now.

A cuppa and a good book.

 The Broken Spine by Dorothy St James.

The first in an exciting new series featuring Trudell Becket, a spunky librarian who will stop at nothing to save her beloved books and catch a killer!

Trudell Becket finds herself in a bind when her library is turned into a state-of-the-art bookless ‘technological center’. A library with no books breaks Trudell’s book-loving heart and she decides to rescue hundreds of beloved tomes slated for the recycle center. Under the cover of darkness, Trudell sets up a secret book room in the library’s basement and opens it to her loyal patrons.

When the town councilman, who was a vocal supporter of the library’s transformation is crushed by an overturned shelf of DVDs, Trudell becomes the prime suspect. She was the only person in the library at the time of his murder, or so the police believe. But the visitors to Trudell’s secret book room were actually all there too.

If she tells the police about the backdoor patrons who were in the library at the time of the murder, she’d have to explain about the secret book room and risk losing the books. To keep herself out of jail, Trudell–with the help of a group of dedicated readers–decides to investigate. She quickly finds herself on the same page with a killer who would love to write her final chapter. 

Excellent cover of the genre.

My Review.

By now you have probably realised I have a soft spot for books about books, bookshops, and libraries. So, when I saw this intriguing title, I grabbed it immediately. Trudell Becket is a passionate librarian, who is faced with the imminent destruction of her beloved library. The library is going digital and not just digital, they are going to purge the library of books. It will be a library without a book. When the architect of this scheme is murdered, suspicion falls on Trudell. She knows she is innocent, but how to prove it? I found it an entertaining read with enough red herrings to keep me amused.

 The Dream Weavers by Barbara Erskine.

The new gripping historical novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of Lady of Hay.

A nest of vipers, they called us. But that is not how it was.

Mercia, 775 AD. In the grand Saxon halls of Mercia, King Offa rules with ruthless ambition. Aggressive and relentlessly acquisitive, his three daughters are destined to marry advantageously in service of their country. Eadburh, the youngest, is neither the cleverest nor the most beautiful of the three. But, with her father’s ruthless spirit and the secret gifts passed down from her mother, she is determined to carve her own path in the world.

2021. Simon Armstrong has escaped to a secluded cottage on the English-Welsh borders, desperate to finish his book about Anglo-Saxon King Offa. But he soon finds himself disturbed by unsettling noises and visions. Calling in local expert Bea to identify the issue, Simon hopes to get back some peace – but soon Bea is as embroiled as he is, feeling increasingly connected to a ghostly presence that is growing ever-stronger in its desire for revenge.

And when Simon’s daughter disappears, centuries of secrets and resentment begin to tumble out…

An epic tale of deceit, revenge and exile from the queen of timeslip historical fiction.

Time is running out as the past and present collide…

I found this cover dull.

 My Review.

This book captured my imagination and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. I found the transfer from past to present totally believable and kept wanting to read just that bit more. If you are a history aficionado, like timeslip fiction and enjoy a touch of the otherworldly, this book is for you. I found it interesting that due to skilful writing I was able to feel sympathy for some quite unlikable characters.

All You Need Is Love by Jessica Redland.

When you’ve loved and lost, how do you find the strength to let love in again?

Jemma thinks she’s found the love of her life. Scott is everything she ever dreamed of and she can’t wait to begin the next stage of their life together. But just as she is heading for her happy ever after, a shock revelation shatters Jemma’s life as she knows it. Left to pick up the pieces, Jemma’s friends and family rally round to help her find the courage to move on.

Sam thinks he has his future all worked out. A thriving career, lovely home and an amazing fiancée. But when tragedy strikes, he finds himself alone, far from everyone he cares about. Did he do the right thing by running away and trying to rebuild the tatters of his life alone?

This is the story of Jemma and Sam. Two lost souls, desperately trying to find closure and happiness. When a chance meeting brings them together a friendship is formed, but the guards are up.

Will it finally be their turn for a happy ever after? Or will the secrets from their pasts prevent them from moving on?

Escape to Whitsborough Bay for an emotional, uplifting story of love and friendship from top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland. This book was previously published as Bear With Me. 

As I said, I was misled by this cover.

My Review.

I picked this up because I wanted an escapist read, and hadn’t looked at the synopsis, just the cover. Having had a few personal problems in recent months, I wasn’t looking for anything heavy or demanding. For the most part, it delivered, although on a couple of occasions I found something that affected me. That is just a personal reaction and of course, I was always free to give up if I wanted to. In general, though I enjoyed the story and wanted to know what happened to Jemma and Sam.

Call the Vet by Bruce Fogle.

Arriving in 1970s’ London as a fresh-faced Canadian, Bruce Fogle assumed that because he knew the language, he would understand the English. As a graduate of the world’s best veterinary school, he also thought his profession would come naturally to him. He quickly learned not to make assumptions…

Bruce began his career at the prestigious Woodrow Singleton surgery in the heart of the Knightsbridge. Frequented by Britain’s most distinguished pet owners, from Duchesses and Sultans to Paul McCartney and Elizabeth Taylor, it also cared for the exotic inhabitants of the Harrods’ ‘Zoo Department’. Over the next few years, an arc of clients would cross Bruce’s table, from cats and dogs to alligators, pumas and even a capuchin monkey. Each adventure taught Bruce far more than any textbook ever could, while skilful veterinary nurses provided the greatest lessons of all.

Call the Vet is a wonderfully rich and warmly funny memoir. Set against the vibrant backdrop of 1970s’ London, it explores the unique bond between pets and their owners; the common thread of compassion that unites all cultures and classes, and the discovery of love and joy in unexpected places.

Perfect for fans of Noel Fitzpatrick, Ben Fogle and Kate Humble! 

Appealing cover.

My Review.

An interesting insight into how vets care for our pets. Bruce Fogle shares stories from the 1970s. It is heart-breaking to realise that at that time, the orthodoxy was that animals don’t feel pain, like humans. Observation and his instincts gave Bruce Fogle the understanding that they do, and that they deserved better treatment. As a ‘celebrity vet,’ he shares stories of some of the famous clientele. He was dating actress Julia Foster and so ,inevitably they met a lot of theatre folk. The stories that resonated most deeply for me were those of Miss Williams, valiant cat rescuer, Pat, the unflappable surgery nurse, and the many ordinary people who loved their pets.

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz.

“You shouldn’t be here. It’s too late…”

These, heard over the phone, were the last recorded words of successful celebrity-divorce lawyer. Richard Pryce, found bludgeoned to death in his bachelor pad with a bottle of wine – a 1982 Chateau Lafite worth £3,000, to be precise.

Odd, considering he didn’t drink. Why this bottle? And why those words? And why was a three-digit number painted on the wall by the killer? And, most importantly, which of the man’s many, many enemies did the deed?

Baffled, the police are forced to bring in Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, the author Anthony, who’s really getting rather good at this murder investigation business.

But as Hawthorne takes on the case with characteristic relish, it becomes clear that he, too, has secrets to hide. As our reluctant narrator becomes ever more embroiled in the case, he realises that these secrets must be exposed – even at the risk of death…

Striking with a 1930’s vibe.

My Review.

Another intriguing brain teaser from Anthony Horowitz. Each time I thought I had the solution, another thing popped up which blew that theory apart. The female detective Cara Grunshaw was terrifying, and I imagined her as a belligerent bulldog. At least I guessed who wrote the Doomworld series. As the story unfolds, we are given tantalising hints as to Hawthorne’s mysterious past. So, I guess there will be another Hawthorne and Horowitz mystery soon.

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café by Jessica Redland.

A few minutes of courage might change your life…

Emotionally, Tara Porter finds the festive period a challenge. Christmas Day is a reminder of the family she lost, and New Year’s Eve holds bitter memories of the biggest mistake of her life: marrying Garth Tewkesbury. Shunning invitations to celebrate, she seeks refuge in her flat with only her giant house bunny, Hercules, for company.

Professionally, though, it’s the best time of year. Tara’s thriving café, The Chocolate Pot, is always packed. With the café hosting a wedding and engagement party, it’s shaping up to be the café’s best Christmas ever.

When former nemesis, Jed Ferguson, threatens the future of The Chocolate Pot, Tara prepares for a fight. The café is everything to her and she’s not going to let anyone or anything jeopardise that.

Tara badly misjudged ex-husband Garth and, since then, has refused to let anyone in. After all, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. But has she misjudged Jed too? Is it possible that he’s not the arrogant, deceitful man from whom she bought the café 14 years earlier? Can she find the courage to find out for sure? 

Who could resist that cover?

My Review.

I was drawn to this book both by its title and cover. Never underestimate the power of a good cover. I think that was what made the book kind of surprising. Although light-hearted, it also deals with betrayal and that betrayal is shocking. To me it felt as if I was it was an amalgam of two books, one the chick lit I was expecting and another that veered into darker territory. I found it an interesting read.

Threadneedle  by Cari Thomas

Book one in The Language of Magic  series

Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic.

Magic is the first sin. It must be bound.

Ever since Anna can remember, her aunt has warned her of the dangers of magic. She has taught her to fear how it twists and knots and turns into something dark and deadly.

It was, after all, magic that killed her parents and left her in her aunt’s care. It’s why she has been protected from the magical world and, in one year’s time, what little magic she has will be bound. She will join her aunt alongside the other Binders who believe magic is a sin not to be used,  but denied. Only one more year and she will be free of the curse of magic, her aunt’s teachings and the disappointment of the little she is capable of.

Nothing – and no one – could change her mind before then .Could it?

Excellent cover.

My Review.

I wanted to love this book ,and in parts I did. It has been pitched as an adult book, and its themes are dark, but to my mind, it is better suited to older teens. The premise is intriguing and the paranoia of the Binders truly terrifying, but then what if they do have something to fear? It’s a long book and in places, it dragged for me, but I was interested enough to see how it ended. The dynamics of the relationships, the magic herb lore and spells, were all believable as was the setting of contemporary London. It’s just the sort of place this could happen. Friendships, rivalries, bullying, first love, infatuation , all contributed to the  YA theme I adored the magical library that co-existed with the London Library.

Before the Crown by Flora Harding.

Before the crown there was a love story…

’If you’re a fan of The Crown, you’ll love this’ Woman’s Weekly.

‘Fascinating…a beautiful love story’ Woman

Windsor Castle, 1943

As war rages across the world, Princess Elizabeth comes face to face with the dashing naval officer she first met in London nine years before.

One of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy, Philip represents everything she has always been taught to avoid. Instability. Audacity. Adventure.

But when the king learns of their relationship, the suitability of the foreign prince is questioned by all at court.

He is the risk she has never been allowed to take. The risk not even the shadow of the crown will stop her from taking…

Step through the palace gates and discover a captivating historical novel of royal secrets and forbidden love exploring the tempestuous courtship between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the wake of WWII.

Perfect cover for this book.

My Review.
It’s a strange feeling to read this fictionalised account of the courtship of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. People I have known of my whole life, but of course, do not know at all. It is written in a plausible style and gave a depth of understanding to these somewhat remote figures. Princess Elizabeth, who is as isolated as any princess in an ivory tower, controversially choosing a man who wasn’t constrained by old ideas and ideals. It also gave me an idea of what it would be like to be a princess .It’s not all tiaras and ballgowns , its often tedium and duty.

Soulless by Gail Carriger.

Book one The Parasols Protectorate.

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations.

First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire–and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart? 

This quirky cover didn’t appeal to me.

My Review.

Having recently read Gail Carriger’s The Heroine’s Journey, I wanted to read some of her fiction. Although this isn’t necessarily a book I might have chosen otherwise. It didn’t matter as I was soon hooked and happily chortling away at Alexia’s repartee and character in general.  It’s a rip-roaring fast-paced read with enough steamy scenes to make it interesting. I am definitely going to continue reading this series.

The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin.

It’s The Holiday on the Champs-Élysées in a great big love letter to Paris, charming old bookstores and happily-ever-afters!

When bookshop owner Sarah Smith is offered the opportunity for a job exchange with her

Parisian friend Sophie, saying yes is a no-brainer—after all, what kind of romantic would turn down six months in Paris? Sarah is sure she’s in for the experience of a lifetime—days spent surrounded by literature in a gorgeous bookshop, and the chance to watch the snow fall on the Eiffel Tower. Plus, now she can meet up with her journalist boyfriend, Ridge, when his job takes him around the globe.

But her expectations cool faster than her café au lait soon after she lands in the City of Light—she’s a fish out of water in Paris. The customers are rude, her new co workers suspicious and her relationship with Ridge has been reduced to a long-distance game of phone tag, leaving Sarah to wonder if he’ll ever put her first over his busy career. As Christmas approaches, Sarah is determined to get the shop—and her life—back in order…and make her dreams of a Parisian happily-ever-after come true.

Does the job , but didn’t inspire me.

My Review

This is absolutely my kind of book. I loved everything about it, it was such a comforting, happy read. The concept of books having lives of their own, rustling their pages, and whispering secrets, resonated with me. I suspect most book lovers would secretly adore owning a bookshop. Ignoring the inconvenient facts that it is work, and often hard work at that! The Parisian vibe had me picturing myself there, strolling along the banks of the Seine. Small town Sarah, exploring the delights of Paris and finding the ‘secret Paris,’ that only true Parisienne’s know.  Her relationship with the elusive Ridge.
My copy had a bonus addition The Book shop On the Corner, which showed how Sarah and Ridge had come to meet. I was sad to finish this book.




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The Books I Read in July 2021.

The weather was dismal, as we had twenty eight days of rain in July. The last time the rain was so frequent, in sunny Perth, Australia, was seventy five years ago. Home and comfort was the place to be. My local library provided most of the books I’ve been reading this month. Television provided few distractions, so I happily got lost in a good book.

I love how a library display can inspire you to read something different.
When She Was Good by Michael Robotham.

Criminal psychologist Cyrus Haven and Evie Cormac return in this new thriller from author Michael Robotham. Who is Evie, the girl with no past, running from? She was discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Her ability to tell when someone is lying helped Cyrus crack an impenetrable case in Good Girl, Bad Girl. Now, the closer Cyrus gets to uncovering answers about Evie’s dark history, the more he exposes Evie to danger, giving her no choice but to run. Ultimately, both will have to decide if some secrets are better left buried and some monsters should never be named… 

MY REVIEW.

Although this continues the story which began in Good Girl, Bad Girl, it could be read as a stand-alone. Tautly plotted and filled with tension, the story follows Evie Cormac, aka Angel Face. She was a child discovered at a horrific crime scene. Evie is deeply traumatised, trusting no -one, apart from Cyrus Haven, the criminal psychologist who initially got her to speak. Evie has the unerring ability to know when someone is lying. When she says their lives are in danger, Cyrus doesn’t believe her.

The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah

The world’s most beloved detective, Hercule Poirot, the legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and most recently The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket, returns in a stylish, diabolically clever mystery set in the London of 1930.

Hercule Poirot returns home after an agreeable luncheon to find an angry woman waiting to berate him outside his front door. Her name is Sylvia Rule, and she demands to know why Poirot has accused her of the murder of Barnabas Pandy, a man she has neither heard of nor ever met. She is furious to be so accused, and deeply shocked. Poirot is equally shocked, because he too has never heard of any Barnabas Pandy, and he certainly did not send the letter in question. He cannot convince Sylvia Rule of his innocence, however, and she marches away in a rage.

Shaken, Poirot goes inside, only to find that he has a visitor waiting for him — a man called John Mc Crodden who also claims also to have received a letter from Poirot that morning, accusing him of the murder of Barnabas Pandy…

Poirot wonders how many more letters of this sort have been sent in his name. Who sent them, and why? More importantly, who is Barnabas Pandy, is he dead, and, if so, was he murdered? And can Poirot find out the answers without putting more lives in danger? 

MY REVIEW. It’s a while since I read Agatha Christie and I was intrigued to learn that Sophie Hannah had been authorised by the Christie estate to continue the series. I picked this one at random, not realising it was the third in the series.  There is a new inspector, Inspector  Edward Catchpole, replacing Inspector James Japp. George, Poirot’s Valet also makes an appearance. I missed Captain Hastings and Miss Lemon. Hasting to pose the questions that we all would like to ask. Miss Lemon for her solid devotion to Poirot. The book is cleverly plotted, but for me, it felt a bit flat.

The Charleston Scandal by Pamela Hart.

If you devoured THE CROWN you will love this exuberant story of a young Australian actress caught up in the excesses, royal intrigues and class divide of Jazz Age London, losing her way but reclaiming her heart in the process

London, 1920s: Kit Scott, a privileged young Australian aiming to become a star, arrives in the city to find the Jazz Age in full swing. Cast in a West End play opposite another young hopeful, Canadian Zeke Gardiner, she dances blithely into the heady lifestyle of English high society and the London theatre set, from Noel Coward to Fred Astaire and his sister, Adele.
When Kit is photographed dancing the Charleston alongside the Prince of Wales, she finds herself at the centre of a major scandal, sending the Palace into damage control and Kit to her aristocratic English relatives – and into the arms of the hedonistic Lord Henry Carleton. Amid the excesses of the Roaring Twenties, both Zeke and Kit are faced with temptations – and make choices that will alter the course of their lives forever.
Readers of Natasha Lester’s A KISS FROM MR FITZGERALD will love THE CHARLESTON SCANDAL. Bestselling author Pamela Hart’s energetic, masterful storytelling will have you glued right until the end. 

I was fortunate enough to win a copy of this book.

MY REVIEW. From starting this book, I was immersed in its setting and felt as if I was a participant in Jazz Age London. As an ex-pat Brit, I had of course heard all about dazzling David, the Prince of Wales. Later, he became Edward VIII who subsequently abdicated in favour of his brother Bertie, who became George VI. At the heart of the story is a presumed scandal, that the Prince of Wales should be caught dancing the Charleston with an actress. Australian Kit Scott has orders both from her theatre management and the Palace, to appear alongside someone else. They even provide the decoy in Lord Henry Carlton. He is amiable and aimless. He’s a younger son, with nothing to do and all the time in the world to do it. This conflicts with the connection that Kit has built with Zeke, her dance partner in the play. There they are both second leads and socialise in the theatrical world. As Colonials they feel a sense of connection, and maybe something more.


A Woman’s Courage by Simon Block. Book Three in the Home Fire Series.

As bombs continue to fall on the North West of England, the members of one town’s WI fight harder than ever to help the war effort. Grieving for men already lost or anxious for those still away fighting, the women of Great Paxford must rely on each other. Amidst the complexities of broken relationships, loss, love, betrayal and sudden freedom, this group of very different women must work together to find a way through.

Despite the chaos of war, behind closed doors they fight more personal battles. Pat is reeling from her own role in her husband’s death, while Steph is struggling to come to terms with significant changes in her life.

Together the women of Great Paxford must find a way through .

Celebrates the ordinary lives disrupted by war.

MY REVIEW.

Knowing this book was the last in the series, reading it was bittersweet. I can understand Simon wants to get onto other projects, but these characters have become real to so many. We were heartbroken when Britain’s ITV cancelled the series, as it was a cut above so many other dramas. Well scripted, and well-cast, we glimpsed the lives of our grandparents or parents. Despite being set in a Cheshire village, and not a battlefield, plenty was going on. We see the likes of Downton Abbey more frequently than stories of ordinary people. That was what made the series and books so fascinating. Daily challenges such as make do and mend, food shortages, worry about loved ones. Daily life, not as we know it, but how it was for millions of  Brits.

Most storylines made sense, some happy, some sad. New characters such as the doctor integrating with our old favourites. What rang true for me was the petty jealousies and gossip, as well as the kindness and pulling together. I am sad to say goodbye to these much-loved characters.

Son of A Witch by Louisa West. Midlife in Mosswood, Book Five.

She knew she’d have to find something old and something new. This wasn’t what she was expecting.

Rosemary Bell is going to the chapel and someone’s gonna get married. But when an unexpected visitor begins causing trouble in Mosswood, the something blue on Tammy’s big day could end up being the bride.

For better or worse, Fox Cottage has a new resident. And mostly, it’s for worse. With Declan struggling to rein in his way ward son, Rosie ends up playing referee as well as bridesmaid–and she doesn’t look good in stripes. Wanting to support her boyfriend and still keep peace in the neighborhood, Rosie is stuck between a diamond and a hard place.

When the teenage troublemakers commit a ceremony foul, will Rosie find herself one family richer or one group of friends poorer?

Freaky Friday meets My Best Friend’s Wedding in this short novel about the vows we make, the promises we break, and the things we do for family’s sake.

Just love this gorgeous cover!

MY REVIEW. Rosie’s life keeps getting more complicated, and her magical ability isn’t proving helpful. She’s torn between wanting to keep the peace, or her sanity. Maggie, Rosie’s daughter is slightly in awe of her new sibling. He’s not one for conforming or fitting in. Anyone who has dealt with truculent teens will have sympathy for Rosie and Declan. The book still has the trademark wit and good humour with the characters we have come to know and care about.

The Bermondsey Bookshop by Mary Gibson.

Set in 1920s London, this is the inspiring story of Kate Goss’s struggle against poverty, hunger and cruel family secrets.

Her mother died in a fall, her father has vanished without trace, and now her aunt and cousins treat her viciously. In a freezing, vermin-infested garret, factory girl Kate has only her own brave spirit and dreams of finding her father to keep her going. She has barely enough money to feed herself, or to pay the rent. The factory where she works begins to lay off people and it isn’t long before she has fallen into the hands of the violent local money-lender. That is until an unexpected opportunity comes her way – a job cleaning a most unusual bookshop, where anyone, from factory workers to dockers, can learn to read and then buy books cheaply. A new world opens up, but with it come new dangers, too. Based on the true story of the Bermondsey Bookshop, this is the most inspiring and gripping novel Mary Gibson has yet written.

MY REVIEW. I am pretty much guaranteed to pick up any book with a bookshop, or a library in the title. This story though focussed more on the main character Kate Goss. She is an unloved child ,who has been foisted on her aunt. Her mother is dead, and her father has disappeared. The grim surrounding and tough treatment meted out to Kate were very reminiscent of a Catherine Cookson novel. Her deprivation and the cruelty of her family were hard to take. Kate works a difficult and dirty job as a tin worker. When her aunt throws her out, she needs more work to survive. She finds it as a cleaner at the Bermondsey Bookshop. Through her part-time work there, she is gradually drawn into the lives of some of the middle-class patrons. When a  Pygmalion transformation takes place, Kate learns how the other half lives. The part I found most interesting was about the bookshop ( based on the real bookshop) and its ethos.

Purls and Poison by Anne Canadeo. A Black Sheep Company Mystery.

When a fellow Black Sheep Knitter is suspected of poisoning her coworker, the group puts down their needles and takes up their friend’s defense . . .

Suzanne Cavanaugh has just about had it with her office rival at Prestige Properties. It’s bad enough that Liza Devereaux is constantly needling her at work, but when she shows up at one of Suzanne’s open houses to poach potential buyers, it’s the last straw. No one in the office fails to hear the two snarling at each other.

When Liza is later found dead in her office cubicle–poisoned by a diet shake–Suzanne becomes the prime suspect. It’s soon discovered, though, that Liza had double-crossed so many around town and stashed their dark secrets in her designer handbags that anyone could be the culprit.

The Black Sheep Knitters have no doubt their friend has been framed–but they need to prove it. Stirred to action, they get together to catch a sneaky killer who’s trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes . . . 

A lesson in Don’t Judge a Book by its cover!

MY REVIEW. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but it was the cover of this one that attracted me first. Ironically, neither the gorgeous feline nor the string of pearls appears in the book. Did the cover designer mix up pearls and purls?

Work rivals Suzanne and Liza have had a less than cordial relationship in the past, but does that mean Suzanne murdered her rival? The police certainly seem to think so. They know that  Suzanne had a very public row with Liza over client poaching. As the case unfolds, Suzanne is helped by her knitting club pals and begins to learn about a different side of Liza. The pace of the story flowed well and gave us a couple of interesting possible suspects. An easy and entertaining read.

Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace by Kate Forster.

Love comes when you least expect it…
Tressa Buckland likes her quiet life in Port Lowdy, with its cobbled streets and colourful terraced houses overlooking the sea. Her job at the local paper allows her to pursue her art in her free time, with no one but her tabby cat Ginger Pickles to mind her in Mermaid Terrace. But then the owner of the paper is called away on an emergency, and it’s up to Tressa to run the paper for six months. Her first task: find a new part-time journalist.

Dan Byrne is the angriest man in Ireland – or so the readers of his very successful column, ‘Dan takes on the world’, think. But after a story goes south and he loses his job in Dublin, Dan has no choice but to start afresh. When an opportunity comes up in sleepy Cornwall, Dan and his Golden Retriever Ritchie set off for a new adventure.

For Tressa, Dan’s arrival to Port Lowdy changes everything. Tressa tries not to look too deeply at her own life, but Dan sees a story to uncover in absolutely everyone – even her. The two of them couldn’t be more different… yet, if they can find a way to work together, they may just breathe new life and joy into this sleepy seaside village.

Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace is a heart -warming new village romance about the power of love and kindness, from the bestselling author of Starting Over at Acorn Cottage

Kindle Edition, 263 pages Published February 4th 2021 by Aria.Paperback to follow.

MY REVIEW. Having lived in Cornwall as a child, I do have a soft spot for books set in Cornwall. It was easy to visualise the village and setting. Treena is a lonely character, happily isolated from her family, due to her mother’s expectations. She lives in Port Lowdy, where she feels happy at home. But life changes and her carefully constructed world is upended. George, her boss has left her in charge of the local paper, and she employs Irishman Dan to take on the reporting duties. He arrives with his gorgeous dog Ritchie and soon makes Port Lowdy his home. His charm had everyone telling him their stories and he’s just the one to write them. Treena feels life is brighter with Dan around and begins to trust him. But then, a story threatens to tear them apart. I enjoyed this book, but there was one loss that broke my heart.

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce.

Margery Benson’s life ended the day her father walked out of his study and never came back. Forty years later, abandoning a dull job, she advertises for an assistant. The successful candidate is to accompany Margery on an expedition to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist. Enid Pretty is not who she had in mind. But together they will find themselves drawn into an adventure that exceeds all Margery’s expectations, eventually finding new life at the top of a red mountain.
This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story and it is also a tender exploration of a friendship between two unforgettable women that defies all boundaries. 

MY REVIEW. I was first drawn in by the intriguing title and soon began to appreciate the solitary life led by Miss Benson. An ordinary spinster, in the post-war period in Britain. One out of character event starts her on the path to going on a beetle hunt. She is a relatable character, with her insecurities, and foibles. When she advertises for an assistant, most of the applicants are unsuitable. Still, she embarks on her quest to find the mythical golden beetle. Think Thelma and Louise meet Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The Heroine’s Journey: For Writers, Readers, and Fans of Pop Culture by Gail Carriger. 
The book you didn’t know you needed.

Tired of the hero’s journey?
Frustrated that funny, romantic, and comforting stories aren’t taken seriously?
Sad that the books and movies you love never seem to be critically acclaimed, even when they sell like crazy?

The heroine’s journey is here to help.

Multiple New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger presents a clear concise analysis of the heroine’s journey, how it differs from the hero’s journey, and how you can use it to improve your writing and your life.

In this book you’ll learn:

* How to spot the heroine’s journey in popular books, movies, and the world around you.
* The source myths and basic characters, tropes, and archetypes of this narrative.
* A step-by-step break down of how to successfully write this journey.

What do Agatha Christie, JK Rowling, and Nora Roberts all have in common?
They all write the heroine’s journey. Read this book to learn all about it.

From Harry Potter to Twilight, from Wonder Woman to Star Wars, you’ll never look at pop culture the same way again.

With over a dozen NYT and USA Today bestsellers, and over a million books in print, popular genre author and former archaeologist Gail Carriger brings her cheeky comedic tone and over a decade of making her living as a fiction author to this fascinating look at one of the most popular yet neglected narratives of our time. The presentation she does on this subject sells for hundreds of dollars.

“I’m not sure how you can just rewire my brain to see the heroine’s journey like this and then expect me to make coherent, thought-out comments about the text when all I want to do is hold it in my twisted little grip while I shove it at people screaming like a madman and pointing at passages.”
~ Author Beta Reader

Gail Carriger uses the heroine’s journey to produce bestselling, critically-acclaimed books that genre blend science fiction, cozy mystery, young adult, urban fantasy, romance, historical fiction, and alternate history. In this non-fiction book she uses her academic background and creative writing skills to bring to life the archetypes, tropes, story beats, themes, and messages inherent in the heroine’s journey. Part treatise on authorship, part feminist literary criticism, part how to write guide, Carriger uses mythology, legend, and Gothic Victorian 19th century literature to explore movies, screenwriting, books, and audience desires.

This is an excellent reference guide for genre fiction authors seeking to improve their craft or for readers and pop culture enthusiasts interested in understanding their own taste. It is the perfect counterpoint to The Hero with a Thousand Faces not to mention Save the Cat, Women Who Run with The Wolves, and The Breakout Novelist. 

Kindle Edition, 285 pages Published October 1st 2020 by GAIL CARRIGER LLC

MY REVIEW. Finally, a book that makes sense of the heroine’s journey. Tired of trying to fit stories into the prescriptive and restrictive hero’s journey, and wondering where you went wrong? Perhaps like me, you queried where the heroine fitted into the hero’s journey and was answered dismissively. Try as you might your story wouldn’t fit that pattern. It was the wrong pattern- The Heroine’s Journey is the book that might change your writing life.

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz.

A woman crosses a London street.

It is just after 11am on a bright spring morning, and Diana Cowper is going into a funeral parlour to organise her own service.

A mere six hours later she is dead, strangled with a crimson curtain cord in her own home.

Did she know she was going to die?
Did she recognise her killer?

Are the two events even related? Because nobody arranges their own funeral, and the gets killed the same day – do they?

Enter Daniel Hawthorne, a detective with a genius for solving crimes and an ability to hold his secrets very close.

With him is his writing partner, Anthony Horowitz. Together they will set out to solve this most puzzling of mysteries.

What neither of them know is that they are about to embark on a dark and dangerous journey where the twists and turns are as unexpected as they are bloody..

MY REVIEW. Anthony Horowitz likes to challenge his readers, not because he doesn’t give them a good, imaginatively creative, and intricately plotted story. He does, but he also does the unexpected. This time, he is a character in the book he is writing. On the one hand, it is interesting to learn about his writing experiences and thoughts on writing. On the other hand, I found it vaguely unsettling, the blurring of fact and fiction. And to add to the confusion, he thanks his fictional detective in the acknowledgements.

A Season in Paris: A Historical Anthology by  Ava January, Nancy Cunningham,  Sarah Fiddelaers, Clare Griffin. 

One Paris shop, four women, four decades of intrigue…

Spring, 1909
When Delphine Altrain purchases a date with Paris’ most eligible bachelor, Gabriel La Pouge, she has one thing on her mind…hats. When her latest design becomes the talk of the Grand Prix, it seems everything she has dreamed of is within her reach, but when the past arrives to destroy her present, Delphine needs to decide, stay and risk heartbreak, or run and always wonder what could have been.

Summer, 1924
Beautiful Edith Carrow appears to have it all. As Coco Chanel’s mannequin her life is full of parties and the adoration of a rich man. But Edith holds a deep secret from her past. When she meets toymaker, Henri, her heart threatens to unravel all she has worked hard to achieve. She must choose, follow her head or listen to her heart and risk losing everything.

Autumn, 1935
Genevieve Dupuis is forbidden from doing two things; painting and falling in love. So when she meets handsome Sebastian on a forbidden painting trip her life becomes ever so slightly complicated. Can a girl who has learned to survive by lies and illusions face up to the truth in time to realise that sometimes surrender is the bravest act of all?

Winter, 1944
SOE agent Therese Lambert is about to risk everything to help free Canadian airman Will – a man hiding his own covert activities beneath an identity she knows isn’t his. Fleeing from the German occupiers and the collaborating French, they escape Paris. Can their budding attraction survive a perilous journey, or will a betrayal put both their lives on the line? 

Kindle Edition Published July 26th 2021  by Girl On A Soapbox Press. Paperback to follow.

Perennial Paris

MY REVIEW.   Books about Paris are perennially popular and this one contains four individual stories. Each story highlights a different epoch and aspect of Paris, but all are equally engaging with that ineffable je ne sais quoi of Parisian flair. I read this quickly, finding it an easy and enjoyable read. I received an ARC of this book, but with no obligation to review it.

I love the thrill of finding an unexpected book.



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June 2021

Which books did I Read in June 2021?

The nights are drawing in, is there anything better than settling down with a book of your choice? This month I had plenty of books to choose from, and the time to read. Often, my reading is accompanied by a sleepy cat on my knee, which means I can’t move for an extended period of time. I’m not complaining!

A cosy spot a hot drink and a book to read.

I had heard a lot about this book and wanted to see for myself what the fuss was about.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. Klune.

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management, he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours. 

A magical tale.

My Review A fairy tale for adults and like most fairy tales there is a hidden meaning to this story. I was captivated immediately by this tale. Linus Baker, the oppressed drudge lives his life by routine. At the Department for Magical Youth, the safest course is to be unremarkable. Linus who works there, lives his life to be unremarkable. A summons from Extremely Upper Management presents him with a terrifying new assignment. One he simply can’t refuse. He is to go and observe an orphanage he hasn’t even heard of The House in The Cerulean Sea. There all his certainties are upended, and he begins to doubt the rule book he has lived his life by up to to this point.

Spring Clean for the Peach Queen by Sasha Wasley

Twelve years had passed since the last Harvest Ball.

I was just eighteen when my hometown crowned me their Peach Queen with a blossom coronet. And I was eighteen when I left.

One tanked career, one badly timed glamour shoot and one dead boyfriend later, thirty-year-old Lottie Bentz is finally going home.

Back in the orchard town of Bonnievale, Lottie embarks on a radical declutter of her life, Marie Kondo-style. She casts out everything that got her into trouble: her phone, socials, make-up and a tendency to tell little white lies – to herself and others. But home has its own issues, not least Lottie’s staunchly feminist mother, who is furious with her.

When Lottie lands herself a place to stay in exchange for helping kindly Mrs Brooker try out the Kondo method, it seems like the perfect farm escape. That’s until Angus, Lottie’s former Peach King and heir to the Brooker orchards, makes it clear she’s not welcome – especially when Lottie’s declutter begins to stir up long buried memories and half-truths.

As Lottie finds her way back to herself, can she use her talents to coax Bonnievale and the Brookers out of the past? After all, everyone deserves to feel love, hope and the occasional spark of joy.

A deeply moving story about forgiving, finding joy and falling in love with life again. 

What a fabulous title.

MY REVIEW.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and felt that the characters were real. Lottie was reinventing herself- especially hard to do in a place that has known you as their Peach Queen. Her Spring clean involves far more than throwing out clutter, lies and fakery are at the top of her list. At times this makes for uncomfortable situations. Her strained relationship with her mother struck a chord with me. Equally having a family member with dementia, I found Mrs Booker poignantly relatable. I also enjoyed the slow burn possible romance. 

The Sumer Villa by Melissa Hill.

USA Today bestseller Melissa Hill is back with her most unmissable summer read yet!
This summer, escape to Villa Dolce Vita on the Amalfi coast, where love, food and friendship will come together in this satisfying and epic summer read…

Capturing summer in our winter.

MY REVIEW
An easy and entertaining escapist read. A summer villa is a chance to escape everyday life. To relish time in a beautiful place, and perhaps have a holiday romance. But what if that romance feels so real, how do you move on from that? The three main characters meet by chance and ally. Six years on they are invited back to the villa, to celebrate its successful relaunch. Mysteries will be solved, and secrets revealed.

Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines. A Sassy Cat Mystery by Jennifer J Chow.

When a local teacher is found dead, LA’s newest pet groomer Mimi Lee finds herself in a pawful predicament—with her younger sister’s livelihood on the line.

Mimi Lee is on top of the world. She has a thriving pet grooming business, the sweetest boyfriend, and a talking cat to boot. When she arrives at the elementary school where her sister Alice works, she’s expecting a fun girls’ night out—but instead finds a teacher slumped over in her car, dead.

Alice was the last one to see Helen Reed, which instantly marks her as the prime suspect. Unable to sit quietly and let the authorities walk all over her sister, Mimi starts snooping and talks to Helen’s closest contacts, including one jumpy principal, a two-faced fiancé, and three sketchy teachers. With the help of her sassy but savvy cat, Marshmallow, and a cute kitten named Nimbus, the clock’s ticking for Mimi to get to the bottom of yet another case before her sister gets schooled.

Gorgeous cover.

MY REVIEW

Initially, I was intrigued by the cover, as I do love a good cat story. It didn’t disappoint. Although I hadn’t read book one, it was easy to be engrossed in Mimi’s and Marshmallow’s story. Have you ever wondered what your cat would say if it could talk? Marshmallow, Mimi’s cat provides commentary that only Mimi can hear. In turn, Marshmallow’s point of view is engaging, snarky and fun. Their relationship is a highlight of the book. Apart from that, there is a mystery of how a young teacher comes to be found dead in her car. Suspects aplenty, and all with a motive for wanting Helen Reed dead. I loved how the dour detective Brown, melted at the charms of Nimbus the kitten. 

The Last Bookshop By Emma Young.

Cait is a bookshop owner and book nerd whose social life revolves around her mobile bookselling service hand-picking titles for elderly clients, particularly the grandmotherly June. After a tough decade for retail, Book Fiend is the last bookshop in the CBD and the last independent retailer on a street given over to high-end labels. Profits are small, but clients are loyal. When James breezes into Book Fiend, Cait realises life might hold more than her shop and her cat, but while the new romance distracts her, luxury chain stores are circling Book Fiend’s prime location, and a more personal tragedy is looming. 

I could almost step inside!


 MY REVIEW.

A clear winner for me. I love stories about book shops, and this one is set in Perth, my adopted hometown. We have all heard of the pain bookseller are going through, in the age of the e-book. When large chains struggle, it’s a wonder any of the indies manage to survive at all. Cait has built her bookshop on service, and on combining second-hand books with books fresh off the press. It is a niche market that has helped her survive so far. Change is coming to Perth. It’s a boomtown, rents are rising, and a quirky bookshop doesn’t fit with the vision for prestige brands. 

Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman.

The war is over, but the past is never past …Paris, 1944. Charlotte Foret is working in a tiny bookstore in Nazi-occupied Paris struggling to stay alive and keep her baby Vivi safe. Every day they live through is a miracle until Vivi becomes gravely ill. In desperation, Charlotte accepts …( sorry that is where the description ends)

My paperback had this evocative cover design.

MY REVIEW.

I will be thinking about this book for a long time, as it poses some interesting questions. While l we all like to think we would be brave and resourceful, none of us knows how we would behave in an unthinkable situation. What would we do, not just to save ourselves, but to keep our loved ones safe? Thankfully, for most of us, that is a hypothetical question. For Parisiennes in war-time France, it was a lived reality. Who could you trust? What could you believe? How to stay alive. The author captured that unnerving atmosphere well and later the accompanying questioning and guilt of someone who survived. Not a love story, but a story about love, forgiveness and letting go of the past.

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What was I reading in May 2021?

Back to reading ,after a bit of a Netflix obsession. Two choices were a result of watching Netflix this month. Books have always been part of my life,and if I don’t read ,I feel I am missing something vital.

I could live without a TV, but I couldn’t live without books!

                                The Newcomer by Fern Britton.

It’s springtime in the Cornish coastal village of Pendruggan, and a newcomer is causing quite a stir…

My review

When the Cornish village of Pendruggan farewells its popular vicar Simon and his wife Penny, they are anxious to find out who will be their new vicar. The newly ordained Reverend Angela Whitehorn is equally anxious. It is her first parish, and she wants to make a success of it. Accompanied by her husband Robert, a well-known political journalist, who is ready to play at house husband and her daughter Faith, it’s a challenge for all of them.

Angela wants to make her mark on the village by starting up new initiatives, such as a book club, women’s circle, and couch to 5k training. She ruffles the feathers of the local ‘Queen bee’, who resists all of Angela’s efforts. Then Angela starts to receive poison pen letters. Who can resent her that much?

Believable characters and the ending ties in with the beginning, which by then I had forgotten, so I was dismayed at the loss of a favourite character.

                     Nasty Astrology by Richard McDonald.

Exploring exactly what hidden demons lurk within other people’s psyches, Nasty Astrology reveals all the unspoken truths about people’s star signs.

Aren’t you bored with all the astrology books that tell you what a nice person everyone is? Don’t you know, deep down, that there are some very unpleasant aspects to all our characters? Wouldn’t you like to know the truth about the other signs? What makes them tick? What their dark little secrets are?

In this wonderfully nasty book you learn the truth about the personalities of your friends, lovers, boss, colleagues, and even the dark secrets about yourself. Lifting the lid on real astrology, you can know what everybody around you really thinks and feels, about their secrets and motivations, and how to push people’s buttons. With humour and wit, and no holds barred (no, really), Richard MacDonald, unveils saucy secrets, motivations and the unspeakable traits of the zodiac.

My Review.

The title says it all.

Virgin River by Robyn Carr.

A Netflix Original Series!

Welcome back to Virgin River with the book that started it all…

Wanted: Midwife/nurse practitioner in Virgin River, population six hundred. Make a difference against a backdrop of towering California redwoods and crystal clear rivers. Rent-free cabin included.

When the recently widowed Melinda Monroe sees this ad, she quickly decides that the remote mountain town of Virgin River might be the perfect place to escape her heartache, and to reenergize the nursing career she loves. But her high hopes are dashed within an hour of arriving—the cabin is a dump, the roads are treacherous and the local doctor wants nothing to do with her. Realizing she’s made a huge mistake, Mel decides to leave town the following morning.

My Review.

I first watched the series on Netflix and decided I’d like to read the book. They are not the same, many similarities , but some parts of the story are transposed or altered. I cant honestly decide which version I liked best.

Pastels for Absolute Beginners by Rebecca de Mendoza

Take your first steps with pastels and learn how to produce modern, lively and colourful artwork with this exciting medium.

Artist and teacher Rebecca de Mendonça offers the beginner a complete course in using pastels. Step-by-step exercises and longer projects help you to build essential skills and allow you to produce a range of pictures, including landscapes, still life, portraits and animals. Vital drawing skills are explained and demonstrated, along with an easy-to-follow guide to colour theory. A huge wealth of finished paintings provide ideas and inspiration for your own future pastel work.

My Review

In recent months I have found an escape in art. I have never used pastels before and wanted find out more. I find it relaxing although often frustrating. A good introduction that shows the versatility of pastels and demonstrates various techniques. What I particularly liked was the author showed a variety of subjects, including people and animals, and not just landscapes.

What Cats Want by Dr Yuki Hattori.

 An illustrated guide for truly understanding your cat. From the top feline doctor in Japan comes a fun, practical, adorably illustrated “cat-to-human” translation guide to decoding your cat’s feelings.

When your cat’s tail is upright, she’s saying hello. If it’s quivering? She’s happy to see you. But if it swishes ominously from side to side across your living room floor? Beware-your cat is annoyed.

With nineteen bones and twelve muscles, cats’ tails have countless ways of expressing their emotions. What Cats Want is here to uncover the meaning behind every movement, and the motivation beneath every quirk. Did you know, for example, that adult cats love to reconnect with their inner kitten? Or that cats prefer multiple watering holes over just one? Our cats are sophisticated-no matter what any dog lover says-and What Cats Want has the answers to every question asked by cat owners young and old.

The cute illustrations add to the text.

An invaluable new guide filled with creative tips and darling illustrations, What Cats Want provides a much-desired glimpse into the minds of our most mysterious pets. 

My Review

Advice from a feline expert made it easy to understand and with delightful, funny and charming illustrations. A gem.

An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn.

Will she accept the offer before the clock strikes midnight?

Sophie Beckett never dreamed she’d be able to sneak into Lady Bridgerton’s famed masquerade ball. Though the daughter of an earl, Sophie has been relegated to the role of servant by her disdainful stepmother. But now, waltzing in the strong arms of the debonair and devastatingly handsome Benedict Bridgerton, she feels like royalty. Alas, she knows all enchantments must end when the clock strikes midnight.

Who was that extraordinary woman? Ever since that magical night, a radiant vision in silver has blinded Benedict to the attractions of any other— except, perhaps, this alluring and oddly familiar beauty dressed in housemaid’s garb. He has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, but this breath taking maid makes him weak with wanting her. If he offers her his heart, will he sacrifice his only chance for a fairy-tale love? 

My review.

Book Three in the popular Bridgerton series, but you don’t need to have read any of the others. This is the story of the second Bridgerton brother, Benedict. There is a distinct Cinderella is feeling in Sophie Becket’s life. She is the unacknowledged illegitimate child of an Earl. Lived in his home as his ward and was educated with his stepdaughters. All that changes on the earl’s death when she is relegated to the role of servant to her vindictive stepmother and stepsisters.  Her life of drudgery is unending, until the fateful night, she attends the masquerade ball in borrowed finery. She captivates Benedict and is equally attracted to him. Like Cinderella, she must leave at the stroke of midnight. Disappearing from Benedict’s sight and his life.

After a confrontation with her stepmother, Sophie is almost destitute and decides to leave London. Two years pass as she works as a maid. Occasional glimpses of Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers confirm that Benedict is still single. Sophie has never forgotten him. can it be that he hasn’t forgotten her? Ah, the course of true love and all that.

They meet again when he rescues her from three would-be  despoilers. Benedict is attracted to her, but true to the era and his class, he suggests that Sophie become his mistress. This is something that she has vowed never to do,  knowing too well the misery of being illegitimate.

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March Madness, Those Missing Books-March 2021.

It seemed impossible that I hadn’t read any books in March. Life was hectic and filled with the unexpected. but whatever the circumstances I always find time to read. Finally, I found them! Here is what I was reading.

Always time for a book and a cup of tea or coffee.

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes by Trisha Ashley

The brilliant new novel from Top Five Sunday Times bestselling author Trisha Ashley

All Marnie wants is somewhere to call home. Mourning lost years spent in a marriage that has finally come to an end, she needs a fresh start and time to heal. Things she hopes to find in the rural west Lancashire village her mother always told her about.

With nothing but her two green thumbs, Marnie takes a job as a gardener, which comes with a little cottage to make her own. The garden is beautiful – filled with roses, lavender and honeysuckle – and only a little rough around the edges. Which is more than can be said for her next-door-neighbour, Ned Mars.

Marnie remembers Ned from her school days but he’s far from the untroubled man she once knew. A recent relationship has left him with a heart as bruised as her own.

My review. Returning from France where she’d fled five years previously, after her acrimonious marriage break up, all Marnie wants is a roof over her head and obscurity. The Lancashire village of Jericho’s End promises a fresh start. Here she can work as a gardener, have a place to live and rebuild her life. Of course, it can’t be that simple, can it? I enjoyed this story about rebuilding a garden and a life.

The Polly Principle by Davina Stone.

Polly Fletcher loves marrying off her friends. Which is kind of weird considering she has no intention of ever walking down the aisle herself. Social worker by day, sex siren by night Polly has a clear set of principles that guide her life; her Tinder app, her Jimmy Choo shoes and a packet of condoms in her clutch.

So when she meets a sexy, silver-eyed stranger at a friend’s wedding, all she’s after is a wild night between the sheets.

Solo Jakoby has his Ducati motorbike, a backpack of his belongings, and a disaster he’s running away from in Sydney. And sure, he’s wildly attracted to the curvaceous beauty, but he has a job to do, and some unpleasant memories to forget. So what if their night together blew his mind? They’re never going to meet again.

But when Solo and Polly are flung together in quite different circumstances how are they going to handle the chemistry that just won’t seem to let up between them?

And when they start to uncover each other’s past hurts and vulnerabilities, is their crazy attraction set to turn into something deeper? Something that may just challenge Polly’s firmly upheld principle—to never, ever give away her heart.

Published March 29th 2021 by Feathers and Stone Publishing

Exuberant Polly first appeared in The Alice Equation, encouraging Alice to ditch predictability for sexiness and sass. Both are qualities Polly exemplifies when she has a fling at a country wedding. She’s feeling a little down, as her ‘friends with benefits,’ guy is getting married. Not that Polly wants marriage, she’s content with uncomplicated sex, with no promises, and no commitment. So, after that one night, she’s comfortable that Solo, the sexy stranger, will ride his Ducati motorbike away and out of her life.
Practical workaday Polly is serious about her job, and she doesn’t encourage any distractions there. But changes are in the air and there are diversions she can’t ignore. Can party girl Polly resist making an appearance, when the new guy at work is sexy as hell?
Can colleagues take it up a notch, or does that risk their working relationship? There is depth to the story as it deals with some mental health issues, sensitively and thoughtfully.
I received an ARC and this is my honest review.

Fiddling with Fate by Kathleen Ernst.

Chloe has a devil of a time unravelling the mysteries of Norway’s fiddle and dance traditions.

After her mother’s unexpected death, curator Chloe Ellefson discovers hidden antiques that hint at family secrets. Determined to find answers, Chloe accepts a consultant job in Norway, her ancestors’ homeland. She’s thrilled with the opportunity to explore Hardanger fiddle and dance traditions . . . and her own heritage.

Once their plane lands, however, Chloe and her fiancé, cop Roelke McKenna, encounter only disharmony. Chloe’s research reveals strong women and the importance of fiddle music in their lives. But folklore warns against “the devil’s instrument” and old evils may yet linger among the fjords and mountains. As Chloe fine-tunes her search for the truth, a killer’s desire to stop her builds to a deadly crescendo.

My Review. Chloe Ellefson has questions she wants answered. Is it because of grief after her mother’s untimely death, or is there something to find in her ancestral home of Norway? She is fascinated by the Hardanger dance and fiddle traditions. Traditions that are well established, but changed in her American home. Chloe and Roelke-her fiancé and a cop, are dogged by strange occurrences. Roelke’s cop sense tells him these are more than mere coincidence and that Chloe is in danger. Although this is the tenth book in a series, I was able to read it as stand-alone. An interesting look at Norwegian culture combined with a mystery. It appealed to me because I have visited the region mentioned.

Tidelands By Philippa Gregory.

  • New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory begins a sweeping new series with the story of a poor, uneducated midwife named Alinor who is tempted by a forbidden love affair–but all too aware of the dangers awaiting a woman who dares to step out of the place society carved for her.

England 1648. A dangerous time for a woman to be different . . .

Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, and England is in the grip of civil war between renegade King and rebellious Parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even to the remote Tidelands – the marshy landscape of the south coast.

Alinor, a descendant of wise women, crushed by poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life.

Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbours. This is the time of witch-mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands. 

Paperback, 438 pages Published August 20th 2019 by Simon & Schuster

My Review.

Tidelands begins slowly, but it draws you into this edge of the world place. The book deals with the fate of Alinor, a deserted wife. She ekes out a subsistence existence as a herbalist and midwife. An unexpected encounter leads her to a passion she could never have expected. Intertwined in the plot is the story of the captured King Charles the first and the plans to rescue him. The story speeds up to its almost inevitable end. As I hadn’t realised this was the first book in a series I was left wanting, but feeling let down and reluctant to continue with further books.

A Home From Home by Veronica Henry

Sunshine, cider and family secrets…

Dragonfly Farm has been a home and a haven for generations of Melchiors – arch rivals to the Culbones, the wealthy family who live the other side of the river. Life there is dictated by the seasons and cider-making, and everyone falls under its spell.

For cousins Tabitha and Georgia, it has always been a home from home. When a tragedy befalls their beloved great-uncle Matthew, it seems the place where they’ve always belonged might now belong to them…

But the will reveals that a third of the farm has also been left to a total stranger. Gabriel Culbone has no idea why he’s been included, or what his connection to the farm – or the Melchiors – can be.

As the first apples start to fall for the cider harvest, will Dragonfly Farm begin to give up its secrets?

A Home from Home is the very best of Veronica Henry’s storytelling – gorgeous scenes you wish you could step into, a cast of characters who feel like friends, and an irresistibly feel-good family drama crossing three generations.

Paperback, 416 pages. Published October 8th 2019 by Orion (first published July 25th 2019)

My Review. I generally enjoy books by this author, and this was no exception. I was drawn in immediately by the delightfully named Dragonfly Farm. It is a warm and sheltering home for generations of Melchiors. They live across the river from their rivals the Culbones. A long-ago feud means there is bad blood between the families. Dragonfly Farm is under threat as their uncle’s will has thrown up an unsettling surprise. Tabitha calls the farm home, and it is her cousin Georgia’s second home. They are shocked to learn that a third share of the farm has been left to a Culbone. What possessed Uncle Matthew to do that? The past must be explored to reveal the reasons for this decision.

A  Year at Castle Court by Holly Hepburn.

Previously published as four e -books

The brand new novel from bestselling author Holly Hepburn, perfect for anyone who loves Jenny Colgan, Veronica Henry and Lucy Diamond. A Year at Castle Court is Holly Hepburn’s four Castle Court e-novellas collected together as a novel for the first time. 

Sadie is a single mum, nursing a broken heart. Her best friend from childhood, Cat, is burned out from working long hours as a chef in Paris. In need of a change, they decide to invest in their dream – running their own handmade biscuit shop in gorgeous Castle Court, a three-storey food court tucked away behind Chester’s bustling streets.

They soon discover that Castle Court has its own community – a little haven of delight against the stresses of the outside world. But not everyone welcomes the new business; the patisserie owner is less than pleased by what she sees as direct competition and Greg, who runs the fancy bistro that dominates one end of the courtyard, doesn’t think Sadie and Cat have the talent or business acumen to succeed. Luckily, there’s support in the form of the delectable Jaren, who owns the Dutch waffle house opposite Smart Cookies, and Swiss chocolate-shop owner, Elin. And if all else fails, the friends can drown their sorrows in Seb‘s cocktail bar on the third floor!


 My Review. A new author to add to my list. I found it an enjoyable read and it added to my pleasure that it was set in Chester, UK. The story flowed well, as Sadie and Cat began to establish their custom-made biscuit shop. In Castle Court, they find both friendship and rivalry and events that will challenge and change them. and a life.


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What Did I Read in April 2021?

March passed in a blur and while I cant believe I didn’t read anything, I have not kept any record of what I did read, so apologies and here is my April reading.

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

The Little Bookshop of Love Stories by Jamie Admans

Today is the Mondayest Monday ever. Hallie Winstone has been fired – and it wasn’t even her fault!

Having lost her job and humiliated herself in front of a whole restaurant full of diners, this is absolutely, one hundred percent, the worst day of her life.

That is until she receives an email announcing that she is the lucky winner of the Once Upon a Page Bookshop!

Owning a bookshop has always been Hallie’s dream, and when she starts to find secret love letters on the first pages of every book, she knows she’s stumbled across something special.

Things get even better when she meets gorgeous, bookish Dimitri and between them, they post a few of the hidden messages online, reuniting people who thought they were lost forever.

But maybe it’s time for Hallie to find her own happy-ever-after, too?

My Review: As a passionate reader and lover of bookshops, the book appealed to me. The observations about books and the power of reading, also clicked with my feelings. I suspect that like many readers, I dream of owning a bookshop, forgetting the inevitable hard work involved.

The minute Dimitri crashed into the bookshop; I was hooked. Waiting for the inevitable happy ever after. Less happily, I guessed the major plot points before they were revealed. I still found it an enjoyable read.

                     Wickham Hall by Cathy Bramley.

Holly Swift has just landed the job of her dreams: events coordinator at Wickham Hall, the beautiful manor home that sits proudly at the heart of the village where she grew up. Not only does she get to organise for a living and work in stunning surroundings, but it will also put a bit of distance between Holly and her problems at home.

As Holly falls in love with the busy world of Wickham Hall – from family weddings to summer festivals, firework displays and Christmas grottos – she also finds a place in her heart for her friendly (if unusual) colleagues.

But life isn’t as easily organised as an event at Wickham Hall (and even those have their complications…). Can Holly learn to let go and live in the moment? After all, that’s when the magic happens.

Paperback, 512 pages Published January 14th, 2016 by Corgi.

My Review: I enjoyed this book and found it easy and amusing reading.

Behind the scenes of a stately home, with newly appointed events coordinator Holly Swift. For her, and for us, it’s an escape into another world. It’s a challenge that she relishes ,as this is her dream job. It comes with its own protocols, challenges, rivalries, and friendships. Then there is Ben, or Benedict, as his mother prefers that he is known. The reluctant heir to Wickham Hall. He has his own dreams and ambitions to fulfil, and they may not include Wickham Hall.

One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan.

USA TODAY bestselling author Sarah Morgan returns with this heart-warming novel about the power of friendship, love and what happens when an ending is just the beginning…

To celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Grace has planned the surprise of a lifetime for her husband—a romantic getaway to Paris. But she never expected he’d have a surprise of his own: he wants a divorce. Reeling from the shock but refusing to be broken, a devastated Grace makes the bold decision to go to Paris alone.

Audrey, a young woman from London, has left behind a heartache of her own when she arrives in Paris. A job in a bookshop is her ticket to freedom, but with no money and no knowledge of the French language, suddenly a summer spent wandering the cobbled streets alone seems much more likely…until she meets Grace, and everything changes.

Grace can’t believe how daring Audrey is. Audrey can’t believe how cautious newly single Grace is. Living in neighbouring apartments above the bookshop, this unlikely pair offer each other just what they’ve both been missing. They came to Paris to find themselves, but finding this unbreakable friendship might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them..

My review:  This is the first book I have read by this popular author.
The story flowed well, alternating between Grace and Audrey. It was easy and enjoyable reading, and it really came alive when they arrived in Paris.
At first, Grace and Audrey seem to have nothing in common, but as the story progresses, more similarities emerge. Well-rounded characters, a believable plot and Paris, it’s a winning combination.

The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes.

It’s 1919, and Louisa Cannon dreams of escaping her life of poverty in London, and most of all her oppressive and dangerous uncle.

Louisa’s salvation is a position within the Mitford household at Asthall Manor, in the Oxfordshire countryside. There she will become nursery maid, chaperone and confidante to the Mitford sisters, especially sixteen-year-old Nancy – an acerbic, bright young woman in love with stories.

But then a nurse – Florence Nightingale Shore, goddaughter of her famous namesake – is killed on a train in broad daylight, and Louisa and Nancy find themselves entangled in the crimes of a murderer who will do anything to hide their secret.

My review: Perhaps because this is going to be a series there wasn’t a great deal of information about the Mitford family and their lifestyle. Nancy is an engaging character as is Louisa, however, I found the storyline slightly confusing

The Carer by Deborah Moggach.

From the bestselling author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Tulip Fever, a deliciously funny, poignant and wry novel, full of surprising twists and turns.

James is getting on a bit and needs full-time help. So Phoebe and Robert, his middle-aged offspring, employ Mandy, who seems willing to take him off their hands. But as James regales his family with tales of Mandy’s virtues, their shopping trips, and the shared pleasure of their journeys to garden centres, Phoebe and Robert sense something is amiss. Is this really their father, the distant figure who never once turned up for a sports day, now happily chortling over cuckoo clocks and television soaps?

Then something happens that throws everything into new relief, and Phoebe and Robert discover that life most definitely does not stop for the elderly. It just moves onto a very different plane – changing all the stories they thought they knew so well.

My Review :I found this an enjoyable read and one that delivered a few surprises. Initially, the siblings regard Mandy almost as a saint and a solution to their problems. Some of her choices that their father James now enjoys, offend their middle-class sensibilities. They’d like to get rid of Mandy,but realise they can’t really do without her. Then everything changes, leaving them questioning everything.

Get Witch Quick By Louisa West.

She should have known better than to put all of her eggs in one basket.

Rosemary Bell has begun a new life in Mosswood, Georgia. But when the town’s annual Easter Fair is ruined by a spell gone wrong, the townsfolk are hopping mad, and it could have grave consequences for her daughter Maggie.

With her daughter’s spellcasting shenanigans all over the national news, Rosie finds herself on the wrong side of the worldwide Council of Witches. When Maggie’s magical ability tests off the charts, the Council decides it’s only a matter of time before she winds up in the news again, putting herself and others at risk. Maggie must be trained by a certified magical instructor and will have to leave Mosswood to do it.

Unless she wants her family split up, Rosie will have to hop to it and train Maggie herself—and time is of the essence.

This Easter, the only way Rosie can keep living her best life is to get witch quick.

Stardust meets Gilmore Girls in this short novel about a mother’s love, a daughter’s lesson, and a family’s leap of faith.

My Review :This could be the best yet of the Mosswood series. This instalment had me snorting with laughter. Yet, there is poignancy too, as Rosie battles with her own fears and feelings for her daughter Maggie. Maggie has always been a happy trusting child. Now, she is becoming argumentative and disobedient. Her magical powers are drawing the attention of people and she can’t or won’t control them. Enter the Witches Council with a proposal that Rosie doesn’t want to accept. If ever you thought magic could solve all your problems, this demonstrates that magic can cause even more problems. I believe in the emotional bond between Rosie and Maggie, but there were times when I wondered how far it could stretch. Can’t wait for the next instalment. 

 

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Meet Monique Mulligan, Author of Wherever You Go.

Its a pleasure to welcome Monique Mulligan, author of Wherever You Go to the Chatting with Authors Page.

Monique Mulligan is an author, freelance editor & marketing officer at Koorliny Arts Centre.

Monique is known for her love of words, of cooking, and of cats.

Monique Mulligan, who also writes for children as Monique Alexandra.

What is the book about?

Wherever You Go is about a marriage in crisis after a life-shattering tragedy. Desperate to save their foundering marriage, chef Amy Bennet and her husband Matt move to the small town of Blackwood in the south-west of Western Australia. In denial from guilt and grief, Amy opens a café and starts an Around the World Supper Club and soon finds herself becoming part of a community, but is blind to Matt’s accelerating struggle with incomplete grief. It’s a story of grief and loss, of friendship and community, of renewal and redemption, and the healing power of food.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️“Monique Mulligan has written a heartwarming tale to make you laugh, cry and gasp in surprise.” SheSociety

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ “This debut novel is beautiful in its execution, raw and powerful.” – The Book Muse

Such great reviews, so tell us what inspired the book?

I was inspired by a number of things – a real-life event, my love of food and cooking, the beautiful countryside of Bridgetown, and my interest in relationships and how challenges affect them differently.

We will chat about the book and your writing later.

First, some quick fire questions.

Late nights or early mornings? Early mornings.

What’s for breakfast? Yoghurt, homemade granola and berries.

Night out or Netflix? Netflix.

G &T or Tea/coffee? Definitely not G&T – I think it’s the tonic water I don’t like. Love a good coffee (not instant) or herbal tea, especially peppermint.

Perfect weekend? Reading, writing, cooking, seeing family.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A journalist. In Year 12 I wanted to be the next Jana Wendt (A Current Affair). My career took me full circle into journalism (print, not TV) in my mid-thirties and the skills I learnt were invaluable.

Can you cook? I know the answer to that one!

What is for dinner tonight? Tuna steaks and green veg.

Ha ha, yes I can and I love to cook. Right now, a lemon poppy seed tea cake is cooling on the stove.

Have you always loved cooking, are you self-taught or did you learn as child? I am self-taught but loved to practice when I had the opportunity as a child. Mum wasn’t a big fan of letting us kids use the kitchen though, so the opportunities were few and far between until I married and had my own kitchen to cook in. One of the ways I show people I care for them is through cooking – soups, cakes … feasts!

Favourite meal?

A Monique feast.

Too hard! I love Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods. Maybe a chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. Cat videos! Patting my cat. Walking on the beach. So many things …

Boogle stalks across the desk and sniffs the drink.

Your hero? I can’t single out one person. I find many people to be inspirational or admirable for different reasons, but I wouldn’t say I have a hero.

 Questions about Writing.


Your love of photography- has it impacted your writing in any way? Do you see scenes more visually because of it, or has it had another kind of impact? Photography is a hobby I truly enjoy. I’ve been told I have “the eye” but I’m no expert. The technical side of photography boggles my brain and I’m not sure I’ll ever get it. 

I like to carry a camera with me because I often see things I want to capture, whether for later reference or because they speak to me in some way. Does it impact my writing? Yes, in a way. I used a vision board when I was first drafting Wherever You Go. It was full of pictures I’d taken around and about in Bridgetown, Western Australia (which was the inspiration for the setting). I can’t quite visualise in my mind (as in, if I’m meditating, I can never see the waterfall or the gently flowing stream) but I do learn visually. 

 Were you always going to write about food? That came to me later – I knew I wanted to write a novel and loved reading “foodie” fiction, but I didn’t set out to write about food initially. Now it just seems natural!

Playing in the kitchen. Photo by Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash.

Why do you think that stories of failure and redemption resonate so powerfully? It’s such a universal experience, isn’t it. I think it’s that universality that resonates – we all know what it’s like to fail, to mess up, to lose. Likewise, most understand that redemption is a powerful need and a life-changing gift, whether it comes from ourselves or another.

Photo by Eva Elijas on Pexels.com

What time of the day do you usually write? Mornings when I can fit it in, otherwise afternoons on a weekend. I usually get in the zone.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you? Drafting! I am so slow in this stage. I am not a person who drafts fast at all. I’ve tried and it doesn’t work for me.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? I make faces when I write, talk to myself, and sometimes “act” out certain actions and dialogues. That’s three quirks …

Monique giving a reading.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? I really loved the character of Irene in Wherever You Go. She’s 69-going-on-70, a nurturing woman who has always put others first, a jam-maker, and a protector. She longs to travel, but has to put her dreams on hold. She reminds me of my grandmother a bit.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

That’s such an interesting question, Sonia. I think it would be hard to write if you felt nothing at all. How would you empathise with your characters? Above all, readers want to have an experience, and a writer’s job is to trigger their emotions and feelings to generate that experience using a combination of techniques. The writer doesn’t need to have experienced those exact emotions themselves, and, if they haven’t, could ask, ‘What is the character feeling? What else is the character experiencing?’ or research others’ lived experiences to engage with that scene as genuinely as possible.

But surely you must at least be able to imagine those feelings. That’s my thought, anyway.  

Best writing advice? Trust the process is advice that works for me. What doesn’t work is ‘write every day’ – I need to balance work, family and writing in a way that prevents the feeling of overwhelm. I do want to write ‘morning pages’ every day, but I’m struggling to make it happen on work days. I would have to schedule my time so tightly – or get up even earlier than I already do – and my sleeping time is already being challenged by the fact of getting older! So I choose the way that works for me.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

Best money you have spent as a writer? A manuscript assessment by Laurie Steed.

How can I ignore all-around inspiration and muse Boogle?

Beautiful Boogle.

Sonia, you know we can’t ignore cats – they ignore us! They make it very hard to be ignored when they want attention, and Boogle is no exception. Right now, I’ve taken a break from writing to answer these questions, and she is sitting on the floor next to me, loudly licking her butt. There’s a visual for you. That’s annoying, but I quite like it (love it, really) when she sits on my lap while I’m writing … and when she joins in my cooking videos (you can see them on Instagram). 

Proving the point, Boogle ignoring Monique.

Do you have a favourite author and why? Daphne du Maurier – I love her gothic-style stories about the darker side of human nature. They’re mysterious and uneasy, and clever and unexpected.

What are you reading now? I’m reading The Godmothers by Monica McInerny. Next, I’ll be reading The Breaking by Irma Gold.

Favourite quote (does not matter the source): “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” – Brene Brown

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

Favourite book/story you have read as a child? Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

Thanks, Monique, its been wonderful to learn about your writing style and your process. All photographs unless otherwise indicated are courtesy of Monique Mulligan.

Follow Monique:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MoniqueMulliganAuthor

Instagram: @moniquemulliganauthor

Twitter: @MoniqueMulligan

Website: moniquemulligan.com

You can buy Wherever You Go at all online bookstores such as Booktopia, in print and eBook versions. For eBooks, click here: https://books2read.com/whereveryougomm

You can also buy signed copies at Monique’s website.

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What did I read in February 2021?

As things in my personal life continued to take their toll-I used reading as an escape from reality.

Reading was my escape and refuge.

        Troubled Blood By J.K Galbraith.

Private Detective Cormoran Strike is visiting his family in Cornwall when he is approached by a woman asking for help finding her mother, Margot Bamborough — who went missing in mysterious circumstances in 1974.

Strike has never tackled a cold case before, let alone one forty years old. But despite the slim chance of success, he is intrigued and takes it on; adding to the long list of cases that he and his partner in the agency, Robin Ellacott, are currently working on. And Robin herself is also juggling a messy divorce and unwanted male attention, as well as battling her own feelings about Strike.

As Strike and Robin investigate Margot’s disappearance, they come up against a fiendishly complex case with leads that include tarot cards, a psychopathic serial killer and witnesses who cannot all be trusted. And they learn that even cases decades old can prove to be deadly . . . 

My review

I have mixed feelings about this brick of a book. At 900+ pages it is a lot to read. It could have been edited to a more manageable length without losing much. I did finish the book, but frequently I was lost in the morass of clues, diagrams, astrological and mystical information. The case is complex, at times horribly graphic and disturbing. I might have stopped reading, but I was intrigued by the developing relationship between Strike and Robin. Also, I suspect any woman who has been subjected to unwanted male attention will feel for Robin dealing with a crass male. But I admit I felt sullied after reading this and doubt I will read another Strike novel. I needed to read something lighter and more cheerful, so I picked up a mid-grade novel.

The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle by Gabrielle Kent.

 An exciting story of magic, adventure and a mysterious inheritance. Perfect for fans of ENID BLYTON, ROALD DAHL, and J K ROWLING.

Alfie Bloom’s life is dull. Dull and lonely, and this summer is set to be the most boring yet. All of that changes when he is summoned to the bizarre offices of mysterious solicitor, Caspian Bone, where he discovers he has inherited a castle full of wonders that has been sealed for centuries. Alfie is astounded to learn he was born in that very castle six hundred years ago during a magical timeslip. There, Orin Hopcraft, the last of the druids hid an ancient magic inside him, which others seek but should never be used. With the help of his cousins Madeleine and Robin, and Artan the flying bearskin rug, Alfie must keep the magic from terrifying adversaries and ensure that the secrets of Hexbridge castle stay secret, forever!

My Review

An exciting mid-grade book with lots to like. After all, who wouldn’t want to inherit a castle? Alfie’s life is humdrum and boring, but that is about to change. He receives a letter from Caspian Bone, a Lawyer inviting him to call to discuss his inheritance. This is Hexbridge castle and there is far more to the castle than meets the eye. Not everything is perfect. His new school Wrymwald House’s joint headmistresses, the Misses Murkle and Snitch, are renowned for their bizarre punishments, as well as their ability to bamboozle parents. There is far more to the castle than meets the eye. Alfie and his friends will be tested to the limit, as they battle to save the castle, the village, and themselves.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder. 

My Review.

It seems to me that Anthony Horowitz had fun writing this. His fictional detective Atticus Pund is the creation of an unlikable writer, Alan Conway. Few mourn his death, but he has left a fictional puzzle with his last book. Susan Ryeland, his editor wants to track down the last chapter. In doing so she puts herself in danger as the fictional world impinges on the real world. Adding veracity to the tale is the supposed interview from the Spectator magazine between Anthony Horowitz and Alan Conway. Horowitz exercises his considerable talents with wordplay, anagrams, puzzles and extraneous information. A tour de force.

Never Judge a Lady  By Her Cover by Sarah MacLean Award-winning author Sarah MacLean reveals the identity of The Fallen Angel’s final scoundrel in the spectacular conclusion to her New York Times bestselling Rules of Scoundrels series . . .

By day, she is Lady Georgiana, sister to a duke, ruined before her first season in the worst kind of scandal. But the truth is far more shocking–in London’s darkest corners, she is Chase, the mysterious, unknown founder of the city’s most legendary gaming hell. For years, her double identity has gone undiscovered . . . until now.

Brilliant, driven, handsome-as-sin Duncan West is intrigued by the beautiful, ruined woman who is somehow connected to a world of darkness and sin. He knows she is more than she seems, and he vows to uncover all of Georgiana’s secrets, laying bare her past, threatening her present, and risking all she holds dear . . . including her heart. 

Hardcover, Large Print, 613 pages

Published July 8th 2015 by Thorndike Press (first published November 25th 2014)

The author was recommended to me as someone who wrote whip-smart dialogue. I picked up the first title I saw, not realising at first that it was part of a series. It didn’t matter, the story although improbable, was entertaining and easy to follow. It had the readability factor which kept me entertained, even as my critical faculties were querying the implausibility of the plot. Just what I needed, pure entertainment.

My One True North by Milly Johnson From the bestselling author of the “glorious, heartfelt” (Rowan Coleman, New York Times bestselling author) novel The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew comes a warm-hearted tale about two people brought together by fate.

Laurie and Pete should never have met. But life has a different idea.

Six months ago, on the same night, Laurie and Pete both lost their partners. Overwhelmed by their grief, they join the same counselling group…and change their lives forever.

From their profound sadness, Pete and Laurie begin to find happiness and healing. Except, the more they get to know one another, the more Laurie begins to spot the strange parallels in their stories. Then Pete discovers a truth that changes everything—one which threatens to reverse everything they’ve worked towards.

But, as surely as a compass points north, some people cannot be kept apart.

With Milly Johnson’s signature “warm, optimistic, and romantic” (Katie Forde, bestselling author) style, My One True North is an unforgettable exploration of the power of love, friendship, and hope.

Paperback, 400 pages .Published July 23rd 2020 by Simon & Schuster UK

My Review.

I had requested this book from my local library a while back. By chance, it arrived after a death in my family. I debated whether to read it, would it be too depressing? I didn’t think Milly Johnson could write a depressing book, so I gave it a go. I laughed, and I cried, the characters were real to me. Laurie, the young solicitor, is aware that something was missing from her marriage. Fireman Pete is traumatized after attending the accident where his wife had died. Leavening what could have been a very sad story, were the extracts and malapropisms from The Daily Trumpet newspaper. A wonderful support group and a psychic who is amazed, to discover her powers are real, all propel the story forward to the desired happy ending, but not before a few surprises along the way.

A  Year at Castle Court by Holly Hepburn.

 The brand new novel from bestselling author Holly Hepburn, perfect for anyone who loves Jenny Colgan, Veronica Henry and Lucy Diamond. A Year at Castle Court is Holly Hepburn’s four Castle Court e-novellas collected together as a novel for the first time. 

Sadie is a single mum, nursing a broken heart. Her best friend from childhood, Cat, is burned out from working long hours as a chef in Paris. In need of a change, they decide to invest in their dream – running their own handmade biscuit shop in gorgeous Castle Court, a three-storey food court tucked away behind Chester’s bustling streets.
 
They soon discover that Castle Court has its own community – a little haven of delight against the stresses of the outside world. But not everyone welcomes the new business; the patisserie owner is less than pleased by what she sees as direct competition and Greg, who runs the fancy bistro that dominates one end of the courtyard, doesn’t think Sadie and Cat have the talent or business acumen to succeed. Luckily, there’s support in the form of the delectable Jaren, who owns the Dutch waffle house opposite Smart Cookies, and Swiss chocolate-shop owner, Elin. And if all else fails, the friends can drown their sorrows in Sebs cocktail bar on the third floor!


Paperback, 400 pages

A book, a coffee and time to read.

Published July 23rd 2020 by Simon & Schuster UK

A new author to add to my list. I found it an enjoyable read and it increased my pleasure that it was set in Chester, UK. The story flowed well, as Sadie and Cat began to establish their custom-made biscuit shop. In Castle Court, they find both friendship and rivalry and events that will challenge and change them.

A Home Away from Home by Veronica Henry.

Sunshine, cider and family secrets…

Dragonfly Farm has been a home and a haven for generations of Melchiors – arch-rivals to the Culbones, the wealthy family who live the other side of the river. Life there is dictated by the seasons and cider-making, and everyone falls under its spell.

For cousins Tabitha and Georgia, it has always been a home from home. When a tragedy befalls their beloved great-uncle Matthew, it seems the place where they’ve always belonged might now belong to them…

But the will reveals that a third of the farm has also been left to a total stranger. Gabriel Culbone has no idea why he’s been included, or what his connection to the farm – or the Melchiors – can be.

As the first apples start to fall for the cider harvest, will Dragonfly Farm begin to give up its secrets?

A Home from Home is the very best of Veronica Henry’s storytelling – gorgeous scenes you wish you could step into, a cast of characters who feel like friends, and an irresistibly feel-good family drama crossing three generations.

I generally enjoy books by this author, and this was no exception. I was drawn in immediately by the delightfully named Dragonfly Farm. The warm and sheltering home for generations of Melchior’s. They live across the river from their rivals the Culbones. A long-ago feud means there is bad blood between the families.  Dragonfly Farm is under threat as their uncle’s will has thrown up an unsettling surprise. Tabitha calls the farm home, and it is her cousin Georgia’s second home. They are shocked to learn that a third share of the farm has been left to a Culbone. What possessed Uncle Matthew to do that? The past must be explored to reveal the reasons for this decision.


Featured

What did I read in January 2021?

January was a difficult month as my husband was seriously ill and in hospital . More than ever I was looking for entertainment, escapism. and distraction. What helped? Good friends, books, cats and Netflix.

Being alone felt sad.

                 A Nose for Trouble by D.D. Line.

Betrayed by her lover and left for dead, Senior Constable Ellie Marsden and her canine patrol dog leave Perth and move to the small coastal town of Trinket Bay. Time heals Ellie’s wounds, but not her heart.

When thieves break in and steal drugs from the local doctor’s surgery, she realises it’s similar to her last case back in the city. If her ex-lover is in her town; can she close the case and arrest the man who almost destroyed her?

Brennan Cole has been on the run for almost three years, leaving behind everything he’s ever known and everyone he’s ever loved. He’s never forgiven himself for betraying Ellie, but he’s in too deep to stop now.

Trinket Bay is another perfect target. The police force isn’t as prominent here, the drugs they need are easy to acquire, and its tourists provide a ready market. It’s a simple in and out before they move on to the next town. But then he glimpses the woman he still loves. Can he escape detection before it’s too late?

Or will they learn cases of the heart never grow cold?

A Nose for Trouble is a contemporary romantic suspense novella set in the fictional town of Trinket Bay in South Western Australia.



My review

An exciting beginning to what promises to be an engaging romantic suspense series. Policewoman Ellie Marsden has relocated to Trinket Bay with her K9 companion Miss Charlie. After a heartbreaking betrayal, Ellie has given up on love. She and Charlie share an unbreakable bond and surely that is enough? So why does her heart race when she sees Brennan Cole, the guy who trampled on her hopes and dreams? Ellie suspects its more than a coincidence that he is in Trinket Bay. What is he up to? I loved finding out, and I look forward to reading book two in the Trinket Bay series.

                 The Alice Equation by Davina Stone.

Alice Montgomery’s life is like Groundhog Day. Five years after graduating, she’s still working in her mum’s bookshop, hiding her stash of romance novels under the bed and pining for the gorgeous guy who helped her over a panic attack before her final uni exam.

Aaron Blake loves to party—hard. His idea of commitment to anything other than his legal career is strictly three months. Until landing a job with the most prestigious—but conservative—law firm in town means he has to convince the partners he’s deeply committed to family values.

Aaron needs a fake date fast—and who could be safer than his bookish friend Alice?

Soon Alice finds herself dating her secret crush, sporting a daring new look of vintage frocks and itsy-bitsy lace lingerie.

Now the heat is notching up. Aaron’s feelings for his fake date are proving anything but safe, and Alice is discovering her inner sex-goddess.

But when secrets are revealed and lies uncovered, both Alice and Aaron will have to work out the hardest equation of all… what this crazy thing called loved is all about. 

The Alice equation is a whole lot of fun with a sexy vibe. Alice has secretly loved Aaron forever. Aaron is a player, his cut off point for relationships is three months. When he joins a law firm with ‘family values’ he needs to come up with a suitable partner and fast. So, Alice and Aaron begin a fake relationship. Alice is a newbie at the dating game. Her popular and gregarious friend Polly tells her that , ‘amazeballs sex, equals true love.’ Coached by Polly, Alice embarks on a  revamp of her wardrobe and her ideas. Aaron responds to the new Alice and they become’ friends with benefits’. There is great chemistry between them as Alice releases her inner sex goddess. Until it all goes horribly wrong. I really appreciated the drama and conflict. I enjoyed getting Aarons point of view as well as Alice’s. They both grew throughout the book which made it a satisfying read. Looking forward to book two in the Laws of Attraction series.  I received an Advance Reader Copy through Book Funnel and the author but was not obligated to post a review.

 We Witch you A Merry Christmas by Louisa West.

All she wants for Christmas is some peace and quiet. But Santa—and the local sheriff’s office—might just have her on the naughty list.

Rosemary Bell’s got a brand new bag. She has a great circle of friends, a sexy Irish boyfriend, and a daughter following in her witchy footsteps. But when she becomes the prime suspect in her grinch husband’s disappearance, the halls she’ll be decking might be behind bars.

Things get even bleaker when she’s called home to clean up her husband’s mess. When Rosie finds clues about a family she never knew she had, she realizes she doesn’t know as much about her past as she thought. And her present isn’t much better, when the local sheriff joins the investigation into her crimes.

With the local Sheriff breathing down her neck, it’ll take a Christmas miracle to keep her new family together for the holidays. This year Rosie might find herself witching for a Merry Christmas.

Charmed meets The Santa Clause in this short novel about the families we’re born into, the families we choose, and the magic of Christmas.

It doesn’t need to be Christmas ,for you to enjoy this book.

I’ve enjoyed the books in the Midlife in Mosswood series and had this on pre-order. Due to technical glitches, I wasn’t able to read it pre-Christmas. It didn’t matter, it flowed along and kept me entertained and intrigued anyway. Rosie makes intriguing discoveries, while the Sheriff launches a vendetta against her, and her ex discovers a few things for himself. All wrapped up in tinsel and Christmas, but it’s good to read anytime. The latest in the Mosswood series is, in my opinion, the best so far.

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Featuring his famous literary detective Atticus Pund and Susan Ryeland, the hero of the worldwide bestseller Magpie Murders, a brilliantly complex literary thriller with echoes of Agatha Christie from New York Times bestselling author Anthony Horowitz.

Retired publisher Susan Ryeland is living the good life. She is running a small hotel on a Greek island with her long-term boyfriend Andreas. It should be everything she’s always wanted. But is it? She’s exhausted with the responsibilities of making everything work on an island where nothing ever does, and truth be told she’s beginning to miss London.

And then the Trehearne’s come to stay. The strange and mysterious story they tell, about an unfortunate murder that took place on the same day and in the same hotel in which their daughter was married—a picturesque inn on the Suffolk coast named Farlingaye Halle—fascinates Susan and piques her editor’s instincts. 

One of her former writers, the late Alan Conway, author of the fictional Magpie Murders, knew the murder victim—an advertising executive named Frank Parris—and once visited Farlingaye Hall. Conway based the third book in his detective series, Atticus Pund Takes the Cake, on that very crime. 

The Trehearne’s, daughter, Cecily, read Conway’s mystery and believed the book proves that the man convicted of Parris’s murder—a Romanian immigrant who was the hotel’s handyman—is innocent. When the Trehearne’s reveal that Cecily is now missing, Susan knows that she must return to England and find out what really happened.

Brilliantly clever, relentlessly suspenseful, full of twists that will keep readers guessing with each revelation and clue, Moonflower Murders is a deviously dark take on vintage English crime fiction from one of its greatest masterminds, Anthony Horowitz.  

Published November 10th, 2020 by Harper (first published August 20th, 2020.)

I hadn’t read the first book in the series, but that didn’t matter, as Moonflower Murders reads well as a stand-alone. It was easy and engrossing reading, although at times I stopped to admire the clarity of the prose. Anthony Horowitz is at the top of his game and it certainly shows. The book is elegantly written,  and the descriptions are so clear that I pictured them effortlessly. The concept of a book within a book intrigued me. I have since learned that this was also used to good effect in the first book. There is so much information, so many clues, so many potential suspects. I doubt many people will have solved the murder. A terrific homage to the golden age of crime fiction.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

Hardcover, 288 pages.

I raced through this book eager to know the consequences of Nora’s choices. Would any of her new lives be better? Would some be worse? Most people may have a regret or two, so the concept of trying out different lives certainly resonated with me. Some lives lived up to her expectations, while others had unintended consequences.

Books and cats were a comfort this month.

Books have always been refuge for me, and this month I was very happy to escape into other lives and worlds.


Stuck in place- books helped to visit different worlds,

Featured

Meet Versatile Writer, Sandi Parsons.

It’s a pleasure to welcome author Sandi Parsons to tell us about her contribution to the new anthology Growing Up Disabled  in Australia, edited by Carly Findlay.

Sandi Parsons.

Sandi is hard to categorise as a writer having written both fiction and non- fiction. The titles are ;

The Last Walk and Other Stories
Pepsi the Problem Puppy
The Mystery of the Sixty-Five Roses 

Along with pieces in the following anthologies:

Growing Up Disabled in Australia
Just Alice
Writing the Dream

Apart from her writing Sandi describes herself as , ‘a book nerd, librarian, cystic fibrosis survivor, and lung transplant recipient.’ She also a mum and a devoted dog owner.

Thank you for joining us- tell us about the new book which was released  recently. The book features contributions from forty people and I have since learned that one in five Australians have some from of disability.

Growing Up Disabled in Australia was released on February 2nd.

My story Don’t Have a Bird, is a love letter to my best friend Julie — with the first half detailing our physical growing up. After Julie died, the second half shows my emotional growth as I followed her footsteps in the transplant journey.

Quick-fire questions.

Late nights or early mornings? Early mornings – although I’m trying to write more later in the day.

When is walkies? First thing or Rotto cries. He’s a bit of sook.

What’s for breakfast? That is a very complicated question! I’m one of those people who can eat anything at any time of day. So, breakfast ranges from Saladas with Vegemite, re-heated leftovers, bread roll or muffin to traditional things like bacon and eggs or tomato sauce on toast … and occasionally salted peanuts and can of coke.

Breakfast can be many chocies.

Night out or Netflix? I’m a girl who likes to rock n’ roll all night and party every day so long as I’m home, on my couch, and in my pj’s by 9 pm.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A librarian who also writes books 😊 Ambition realized then!

Your hero? The hero of my story is a woman I will never meet – but her donated lungs have allowed me to have another chance at life.

Lungs

As you don’t show signs of disability, are people surprised when you identify as disabled?

In my case, media and medical professionals will refer to me as a ‘Cystic Fibrosis sufferer.’ An implication that my life is not worth living, full of suffering, and I am an object of pity.  It’s a term that falls smack in the middle of the social model of disability — which means that society disables more than the body does. I prefer the term ‘Cystic Fibrosis warrior’ — I’m at war, not only with my own body but also with a society where I am continually forced to break low expectations of my abilities. Others prefer the term ‘living with Cystic Fibrosis’.

It’s essential to check with someone to see which terms they prefer.

Sandi prefers to be known as a Cystic Fibrosis Warrior

How did you get started as an author?

My start was unique — in that, I had my first publishing contract before I’d written a word. I pitched an idea to Cystic Fibrosis Western Australia that there was a market gap, and we were the ones to fix it. The Mystery of the Sixty-Five Roses evolved from that meeting as a teaching tool to spark a discussion about Cystic Fibrosis.


Many would say you are extremely versatile; do you find it easy to switch from fiction to nonfiction?

Although I like to identify as a children’s writer, my nonfiction and memoir writing has had more published outings. Switching between the two was never my original intent — I received advice that sharing part of my story and journey with CF would help raise my profile and make my own voices middle-grade novel more attractive to a publisher.

Although my middle-grade novel is still looking for a publisher, that advice saw my writing diversify to become a hybrid of memoir, children’s fiction, nonfiction, and short stories. I think navigating between them has helped me become a better writer, but it’s also hard to classify what I do or identify a marketing niche.

Rotto and Chili looking quite unimpressed.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

I’ve always found first drafts to be especially tricky. Lately, I’ve been working on a dot point dirty draft process, which is essentially a list of all things I want to happen and which order, and it seems to help make that process a little easier for me.

The power of imagination.

Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received?

My Year 11 English teacher went on a rant about how I had spelled the same word wrong eight different times. She thought if I was going to get it wrong, I should be consistent about it.

If at first you don’t succeed…. keep trying!

I thought I had perseverance — I knew it wasn’t right and kept having a go. She marked me down to a D because of the spelling errors.

But spelling and grammar can be edited and fixed. However, there is very little you can do with a story that lacks imagination or emotion.  To me, the heart of a story will always be more important.

Best money you have spent as a writer?

Scrivener along with my yearly subscription to Grammarly.

Do you have a favourite author and why?

My favourite authors can change depending on what I’ve read lately. Right now, Jay Kristoff is topping my list — if for nothing else than the brilliant footnotes in the Nevernight series.

What books or authors have most influenced your writing?

Writers are readers and book lovers.

I think everything you read influences you to a certain degree — but one book had more of an impact than others — Robyn’s Book by Robyn Miller was the first book I read written by another person with Cystic Fibrosis. Until then, writing had been something I wanted to do — but the narrative society was telling me I didn’t have a future, so why bother trying? But if Robyn could write a book, then so could I.

Favourite quote (does not matter the source)

I’ve got two — one describes my writing style while the other describes precisely what happens when I have word salad.

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

― Shannon Hale

“I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

― Alan Greenspan

Find out more about Sandi at www.sandiwrites.com.au

Photo by Secret Garden on Pexels.com

Featured

Meet D. D. Line, Author of A Nose for Trouble.

It’s a pleasure to welcome author D.D Line to talk about her new book, A Nose for Trouble. Book One in The Trinket Bay Series.

Thank you for joining us- tell us about your new book which was recently released .

Betrayed by her lover and left for dead, Senior Constable Ellie Marsden and her canine patrol dog leave Perth and move to the small coastal town of Trinket Bay. Time heals Ellie’s wounds, but not her heart.

When thieves break in and steal drugs from the local doctor’s surgery, she realises it’s similar to her last case back in the city. If her ex-lover is in her town; can she close the case and arrest the man who almost destroyed her?

Brennan Cole has been on the run for almost three years, leaving behind everything he’s ever known and everyone he’s ever loved. He’s never forgiven himself for betraying Ellie, but he’s in too deep to stop now.

Trinket Bay is another perfect target. The police force isn’t as prominent here, the drugs they need are easy to acquire, and its tourists provide a ready market. It’s a simple in and out before they move on to the next town. But then he glimpses the woman he still loves. Can he escape detection before it’s too late?

Or will they learn cases of the heart never grow cold?

A Nose for Trouble is a contemporary romantic suspense novella set in the fictional town of Trinket Bay in South Western Australia.

I read A Nose for Trouble not long ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Gorgeous book, fabulous cover.

D.D .Line.

D.D. lives in beautiful Mandurah, a thriving coastal town in Western Australia.

When she isn’t writing she facilitates the Romance Writers of Australia Aspiring Writers Group. She organises Q and A sessions with authors, answers numerous queries and takes member questions to RWA. All in a voluntary capacity.

After an enthusiastic response from readers to A Nose for Trouble  D.D is busy writing book two in the Trinket Bay Series

This could be coastal Trinket Bay.

Late nights or early mornings? Both – I lose track of time.

What’s for breakfast? Black coffee and toast, muffin, or pumpkin loaf, depending on what I’ve baked.

Night out or Netflix? Netflix, but I enjoy the occasional night out

G &T or Tea/coffee? Coffee, but enjoy a social drink

Perfect weekend? A wander around Bunnings*. Coffee somewhere. Time to read and write. A movie. Family time. (I’d better say in no particular order.) 😉 *Bunnings is a large Australian chain of do it yourself hardware and home store

What did you want to be when you grew up? Happy.

What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating? Chicken, rice and veggies. Cooking is okay, but I love baking. Steak sandwich and hot chips with aioli.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. Singing, and dancing around like a crazy person in my office. Be grateful you’re only reading that, not seeing / hearing it.

Sing and dance like no-one is watching.

Your hero? My dad. He was the benchmark to which I judge all other men.

If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? (Dead or alive) My hero! I would love to spend time with him, have our chats and solve the world’s problems like we used to do.

I think I’d be too nervous to meet others I admire. I imagine they’d be doing all the talking, and I’d be sitting there keeping my mouth full of food, so I didn’t say something stupid. LOL

Nick Hornby is quoted as saying, ‘Finding the confidence to write is a constant battle.’ Do you agree?

I disagree. I love writing. I need to write. Having the confidence to start putting my writing ‘out there’, however, was a challenge.

How did you get started as an author? Does wanting to impress my senior year English teacher count? No? Life happened. Then I started writing again after a miscarriage because escaping into words and other worlds helped me deal with the grief. Then I remembered how much I loved to write stories, so I kept writing.

Escaping into words

What is your writing routine? I write in the morning. I write at night. I write while waiting for kids to finish school. And in between whatever else it is I have to do.

Do you find pleasure in writing? I’ve heard there’s a fine line between pleasure and pain, and when you’re writing, you walk that line. When everything’s flowing and the words are working—it’s exquisite.

Have you always written? No, but I have always been a reader.

Dante one of D.D’s dogs. He’s named after the Italian poet Dante.

What inspired  A Nose for Trouble?  An anthology call out by Gumnut Press. They were looking for stories about dogs. I have two dogs that are a bit crazy. We follow most of the stories about things they’ve done with ‘it’s lucky they’re cute.’ I decided I wanted a clever dog to feature in my story and came across an article where the Western Australian Police announced three new canine recruits had joined the force, and my story evolved from there.

Banjo-named after Australian Poet Banjo Patterson.

What time of the day do you usually write? I can write at any time.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you? I call it ‘soggy middle syndrome’. I know how my story begins and how it ends, but sometimes the points to get from here to there are a little haphazard.

What is your work schedule like when you are writing? I have a job, and a family who for some crazy reason like to spend time with me, so I work around them.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? Hmm, maybe that I write notes to myself like “remember on page 24 when ‘this’ happens? Make sure on page 49 you wrote ‘that’” sort of thing. Or is that a crazy one? Might be another of those ‘fine line’ things.

Where would we be without our notes?

Did you do any research for your current book? Yes, an interview with a retired police officer who is a brilliant source of information, the canine patrol unit, and their relationships with their handlers.

The next book involves a winery. I’ll have to do lots of research on that. 😉

D.D’s next line of research.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special? Oh, hard question. I have a story in my drawer, a paranormal romance, about a cursed Romani magician. Nicolae is entirely too attractive for his own good, much too charming to resist, and for all his outward confidence, is someone desperate to right a terrible wrong. And he’s sitting there waiting for me to be an experienced enough writer to finish his story.

Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received? Best – write what you love. I’m not listening to any negativity.

Best money you have spent as a writer? A great editor is worth every cent.

Do you have a favourite author and why? Way too many to fit here.

Photo by Mohan Reddy Atalu on Pexels.com

What are you reading now? I am beta reading a yet to be published book, therefore can’t say the name, but it’s a paranormal romance and I’m enjoying it.

What books or authors have most influenced your writing? For a long time, I believed I was a horror writer, but my characters kept wanting to do that kissing ‘stuff’. I read Stephen King and Dean R Koontz in my formative years.

Western Australian author, Jenny Schwartz, was a great paranormal romance influence. Carolyn Wren, also a Western Australian author, made me fall in love with romantic suspense. Polly Holmes, yes, another WA author, introduced me to cosy mysteries. I read many genres, so I am always learning something.

Love is in the air.

Favourite quote “Love is not the dying moan of a distant violin – it’s the triumphant twang of a bedspring.” S.J Perelman.

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? Another of those ‘too hard questions.

Favourite book/story you have read as a child? The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Biography

D. D. Line lives in coastal South Western Australia with her family, a curious cat, and two pups trying to dig their way back to Central Queensland—we’re Sunshine State ex-pats.

Reading was her favourite childhood pastime. In her senior year, thanks to a crush on her English teacher and her desire to impress him, she developed a deep love of writing stories.

She writes Romantic Suspense, Paranormal Romance, Contemporary Romance and Speculative Fiction. Her short stories have featured and placed in KSP Writing Centre’s Spooky Stories Collections, Western Australia and Queensland Writing Group anthologies, RWA’s Little Gems Moonstone anthology and GEM – a 2014 Dr Liz Huf Memorial Tribute anthology.

She’s been a child wrangler, a mini lab photo developer, an admin assistant, a copyeditor, a proofreader, (no, she can’t edit her own work), and a wannabe baker who wishes she could sing.

D. D. Line is the Aspiring Ambassador for Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) and a member of the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA). She loves hearing from her readers. You can find her here.

https://facebook.com/ddlauthor

https://ddlineauthor.blogspot.com/

https://www.instagram.com/d_d_line/

https://facebook.com/ddlauthor/videos/675006573152129   (book trailer)

Buy links

https://www.gumnutpress.com/product-page/a-nose-for-trouble

https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/a-nose-for-trouble-3?fbclid=IwAR3hudHY0Xbp2O1pPEKYUdK8X01vZN1d3MVSrgntmzGtBS-FBrSZ56YL0cs#ratings-and-reviews

Featured

Meet Davina Stone whose book The Alice Equation is launches today!

It’s a pleasure to welcome author Davina Stone to talk about her new book,

The Alice Equation.

 I’ve just finished reading it and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Available as e book or print.
https://www.davinastone.com/book/the-alice-equation/


https://books2read.com/TheAliceEquation

Davina, thank you for joining us- tell us about your new book  which releases today! 

The Alice Equation – Sometimes love is complicated

Alice Montgomery’s life is like Groundhog Day. Five years after graduating, she’s still working in her mum’s bookshop, hiding her stash of romance novels under the bed and pining for the gorgeous guy who helped her over a panic attack before her final uni exam. Aaron Blake loves to party—hard. His idea of commitment to anything other than his legal career is strictly three months. Until landing a job with the most prestigious—but conservative—law firm in town means he has to convince the partners he’s deeply committed to family values.

Aaron needs a fake date fast—and who could be safer than his bookish friend Alice?

Soon Alice finds herself dating her secret crush, sporting a daring new look of vintage frocks and itsy-bitsy lace lingerie.

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Now the heat is notching up. Aaron’s feelings for his fake date are proving anything but safe, and Alice is discovering her inner sex-goddess.

But when secrets are revealed and lies uncovered, both Alice and Aaron will have to work out the hardest equation of all… what this crazy thing called loved is all about.

It’s a sweet sexy rom/com about love, friendship and family and it’s the first in a series (The Laws of Love).

Are you writing anything else?  The second book The Polly Principle is off for proofreading and will be out in April 2021 and I am working on the third in the series, The Felicity Theory.

We will talk about your writing, but first some quick-fire questions.

Late nights or early mornings?   I have always naturally been a night owl, that’s when I get my best ideas.  But I’m training myself to write in the mornings now since I know my brain is clearer.

G &T or Tea/coffee?   I love a good G&T but the reality is I have no alcohol tolerance at all, so for me it’s a cappucino or two in the morning and copious amounts of French Earl Grey tea in the afternoons