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.



Author: soniabellhouse

Sonia Bellhouse is the author of Fire & Ice, a Scandi-timeslip romance about ice dancing, Norway and Vikings. She is also a contributor to Passages, a short story anthology and a contributor to Writing the Dream, an anthology for published writers both published by Serenity Press. In 2012she won two major awards in the inaugural Rockingham Short Fiction contest. Sonia's articles and stories are published in various magazines both in Australia and the UK. These include Good reading, Today's Bride, That's Life! and That's Life! Fast Fiction in Australia and Yours, The People's Friend and Best of British in the Uk. Sonia worked as a book reviewer for two years. An avid reader and writer of multiple genres she facilitated a local book club for eleven years. She reluctantly decided to give it up, to concentrate on her writing. Sonia is a long time member of a writers group, regularly engaging authors to present workshops to the group. Sonia enjoys catching up with friends, ignoring the ironing in favour of playing with her cat and learning new things. She's taken several online courses with Future Learn and The University of Iowa for both writing and non-writing topics.