The key to my heart is a good book and in May I read quite a few books. One really touched me, while others entertained me. This month there is a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Whoever it was who said ‘life is too short to read bad books’ I agree with them. I may pick up a book, read a bit and decide it is not for me. I won’t post a lousy review because it didn’t suit me, I will simply stop reading and not mention that book.
Hubble Bubble by Joan Lovering.
A bright and breezy romance with plenty of humour and sprinkling of magic thrown in. When Holly and the other women cast a spell, she specifies she wants ‘excitement.’ She gets that in spades and a couple of hunky men too. Although all are surprised with the results of spell casting, it seems they have effected change and their wishes are coming true.
The Memories That Make Us by Vanessa Carnevale
I was impressed by how much Vanessa Carnevale has developed as a writer since her previous book The Florentine Bridge. The concept of memories making us who we are resonated with me as I struggle with the emotional cost of my close friend’s death. Gracie and Flynn are a relatable couple as she fights to regain her memory. The idea that flowers played a significant part in her recovery seems plausible. Wasn’t it Kipling who wrote’ scent is surer than sight or sound to make the heartstrings crack’? Well written, nicely plotted and well worth a read!
The Sweethearts by Lynn Russell & Neil Hanson
The story of the women and girls who worked at the Rowntree’s chocolate factory in York., United Kingdom, A social history which explores the lives of ordinary women who worked for the giant Rowntree company. It tells how although the work was hard and often physically demanding, the women generally appreciated the time away from husbands and home.
The company seems like a paternalistic employer, who valued a strong work ethic but one with a social conscience. The company provided hot meals, a library, sports facilities, convalescent places and continuing education and even a company pension.
Women’s lives between the wars were incredibly hard and they lived and worked in challenging conditions, bad housing, large families, and before the National Health Service the fear of sickness and injury. The book introduces various women and tells their individual stories
Rowntree’s was York’s largest employer and was well-regarded until it was taken over first by Mackintosh and then later by Nestle. The Quaker care values that saw retired employees being sent a Christmas card and ten-pound voucher to buy chocolate misshapen chocolates was discontinued. Staff was replaced by machines and eventually, even the Rowntree’s name was gone.
Keep The Home Fires Burning by Simon Block
The book starts where the top rating and much-missed television series left off. Even a petition was unable to get it recommissioned. For all of us who enjoyed the series, the book is the next best thing,. We’ve known and loved the characters so we are invested in knowing what happens to them. Set in the Cheshire village of Great Paxford during
Will Campbell the doctor is battling cancer while Erica his pharmacist wife and their daughters all concerned about him. Frances Barden is trying to find her way with Noah, the son of her dead husband and his mistress. Sarah the vicar’s wife is still waiting to hear news of her husband Adam who is a prisoner of war. Theresa the teacher is working hard to make a success of her marriage to squadron leader Nick. Alison is alone apart from Boris her dog, still ashamed at her part in the Barden factory closure. She misses the company of Theresa. Steph and Little Stan are keeping the farm going. Downtrodden Pat is still enduring her marriage to Bob and wondering where Czech officer Marak is. As problems are solved new ones emerge and once again we are left with a cliffhanger ending and waiting for the next book in the series.
Overall, I enjoyed the chance to revisit Great Paxton and I will certainly order the next book. I did, however, have two minor quibbles. Joyce Cameron has become less acerbic and more gullible I was surprised by the use of the word ‘loo’ as I would have thought lavatory, toilet or WC would all have been in more common usage. I checked and the first mention of the word loo was in 1940 by Nancy Mitford according to Oxford Dictionary.
The Paris Seamstress By Natasha Lester
This is the book that made my month, and days after reading it I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
It’s a few days since I finished reading The Paris Seamstress. I enjoyed it so much and I didn’t want to simply write a review filled with superlatives. I relish dual timeline stories if they are well written and this was. Spanning from 1940 France with Estella Bissette, the Parisienne seamstress of the title to 2015 and her granddaughter Fabienne Bissette in Australia, the story crosses decades and continents. It explores family secrets, war, spies, love and loss, madness, revenge, fashion, and relationships. Natasha Lester’s research makes the story impressively believable as real places and people interact with her fictional characters. The story moves seamlessly from past to present and keeps interest and tension throughout. Some of the real characters in the story are so much larger than life, that were they simply fictional creations they would not be believed. Informative and entertaining The Paris Seamstress is Natasha Lester ‘s best book so far.
The Drifter by Anthea Hodgson
I enjoyed this rural romance, which I picked up prior to the author giving a talk at our local library. Unfortunately, my plans changed and I was unable to attend the talk. Its set in the wheat fields of Western Australia, the author captures the locale and characters well. The subtitle asks ‘How far would you go for a second chance? ‘Both Cate and Henry have secrets they’d prefer not to share, but they are drawn together as they are both close to Ida Cate’s great-aunt. The story had enough complexity to keep me interested.
Close Up by Kate Forster
Subtitled ‘In Hollywood, the drama isn’t always on screen’ this book reminded me of a Jackie Collins Hollywood book. The parallel storyline has two young women trying their luck in Hollywood to escape their loveless pasts. This is contrasted with the lives of Zoe Greene a successful agent to the stars and Maggie Hall an actress whip has been in Hollywood long enough to know how it works. Dylan Mercer a young runaway on a personal quest adds to the mix. I also had fun deciding if any of the ‘star characters were based on real movie stars. The characters and their problem are relatable and I found it an enjoyable read.
What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You by Kerri L. Richardson
‘Uncover the message in your mess and reclaim your life’
As a confirmed packrat- I know I have a problem. Maybe its a natural inclination or maybe it was growing up with parents who saved string, rubber bands, paper bags, jam jars etc. My house is full of stuff. As a writer words are my resource but my office is filled with paper clutter which I might need ‘someday’.
Through its eight chapter, the book explores our clutter problem is clutter ‘monster or messenger’? Chapter two talks about resistance to dealing with clutter( guilty!) then what’ if your clutter could talk?’
‘Common causes of clutter’ are explored in chapter four, while in five the question is asked ‘is your clutter a handy distraction?’ The book offers practical solutions, and suggestions as well as handy quizzes to discover what your clutter is trying to tell you. The book is a definite call to action – the question now is am I motivate enough to act?
The Right Girl by Ellie O’Neill
The book defied my expectations of a light read with a love story. Yes, there is a love story, with an appealing heroine and couple of suitable ‘ men. Is she the Right Girl for the Wrong Man?
The book also points to a dystopian future. A future that is inexorably .sucking everyone in. It’s a life where your power to choose for yourself is slowly being taken over by the App that is supposed to make your life function smoothly. An App that with its constant usage that erodes your confidence in your own ability to make informed choices.
This is a cautionary tale of a future, that many of us are sleepwalking towards. Will it strike a chord, who knows? It certainly gave me pause for thought.
The Librarian By Salley Vickers
The title appealed to me, I tend to enjoy books about books and reading and this was no exception. It began almost like a children’s’ story as Sylvia Blackwell sets out to make a success of her new job as Children’s librarian in fictional East Mole, Wiltshire, Young and idealistic she want to inspire a love of reading while escaping the confines of her own life.
The era (1958) is well conveyed, with its social niceties and class consciousness. At first, her attempts to encourage children into the library are welcomed and she enjoys a modest success. But then the suspicion of a scandal hovers over her and her own integrity is called into question. The Librarian explores the beginnings of social change, and the power of books, and the importance of libraries, especially for those who cannot afford to buy books.
While reading it so many of my own old favourite books were mentioned. I appreciated the comprehensive book list at the back of the book which reconnected me with other books I had either forgotten or had never read.
The end papers of the book are a design from the Victoria and Albert Museum and add to the feeling that is a book from a bygone era when books were beautiful.