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.

 

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.

2 thoughts on “What Did I Read in November 2021?

  1. Hi Sonia,
    I’m very sorry to hear you’ve had a death in the family. I hope you are able to enjoy your Christmas of reading and patting cat/s and Netflix – might actually be nicer than the hustle and bustle and need to socialise that is sometimes so exhausting!
    Thanks for your book recommendations and take care.
    x Fiona

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