The Books I Read in June 2022.

In the southern hemisphere, June is the beginning of the winter months. It’s perfect for curling up with a good book. Here are the fourteen books that impressed me the most this month. I settled in my armchair, with a cuppa and with my cat on my knee. Then, I opened a good book. It’s a perfect recipe for a cold and dreary winter day or evening. In addition to reading, I’ve also been writing. This time it’s a submission for a Regency romance anthology. Of course, to some extent, my reading has reflected this.

This cutie isn’t my cat.

Elodie’s Library of Second Chances by Rebecca Raisin.

An uplifting story about fresh starts, new beginnings and the power of stories, from the bestselling author of Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop!
When Elodie applies for the job of librarian in peaceful Willow Grove, she’s looking forward to a new start. As the daughter of a media empire, her every move has been watched for years, and she longs to work with the thing she loves most: books.

It’s a chance to make a real difference too, because she soon realises that there are other people in Willow Grove who might need a fresh start – like the homeless man everyone walks past without seeing, or the divorcée who can’t seem to escape her former husband’s misdeeds.

Together with local journalist Finn, Elodie decides these people have stories that need sharing. What if instead of borrowing books readers could ‘borrow’ a person, and hear the life stories of those they’ve overlooked?

But Elodie isn’t quite sharing her whole story either. As the story of the library’s new success grows, will her own secret be revealed? 

My Review. Anyone who is passionate about books and libraries would enjoy this book. Elodie has never wanted the glamorous PR role she’s been given. Family loyalty has kept her tied to a job she has come to resent. Her previous attempts to leave have failed. This time she is determined. Her brother Teddy could take over her role and would love to. Applying for the job of Librarian at Willow Grove is an act of defiance. Willow Grove is where her love of books started. Elodie decides if she gets the job, she will resign. She does, but Willow Grove isn’t quite as welcoming as she had hoped. Maisie, the library assistant seems to resent her. Unless they can make a success of the library. it is due for closure and Elodie isn’t about to let that happen. Why does someone want to sabotage her efforts? Then there is Finn, the journalist. He wants to help her, but would he if he knew the truth? Her plan for ‘The Peoples’ Library’ may give both the participants and the library a second chance. Can telling a story be a step on the way to healing? Can hearing a story be a step to changing someone’s mind?

With thanks to Rebecca Raisin and Net Galley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review

Beyond Scandal and Desire by Lorraine Heath. Sins for All Seasons 1.

At birth, Mick Trewlove, the illegitimate son of a duke, was handed over to a commoner. Despite his lowly upbringing, Mick has become a successful businessman, but all his wealth hasn’t satisfied his need for revenge against the man who still won’t acknowledge him. What else can Mick do but destroy the duke’s legitimate son—and woo the heir’s betrothed into his own unloving arms . . .

Orphaned and sheltered, Lady Aslyn Hastings longs for a bit of adventure. With her intended often preoccupied, Aslyn finds herself drawn to a darkly handsome entrepreneur who seems to understand her so well. Surely a lady of her station should avoid Mick Trewlove. If only he weren’t so irresistible . . .

As secrets are about to be exposed, Mick must decide if his plan for vengeance is worth risking what his heart truly desires.

A steamy romance.

My Review. They should never have met, and when they did, they shouldn’t have connected. Lady Aslyn shouldn’t meet anyone like Mick Trewlove. She finds him fascinating, dangerous, and disturbing. Her life is already mapped out for her, betrothed to her guardian’s son Lord Kipwick , who treats her more like a sister than a potential wife. Viewing the fireworks at Vauxhall Gardens with Mick Trewlove, Lady Aslyn experiences the beginnings of desire. She is a novice in love, but longs to learn and who better to teach her than Mick?

Classified As Murder by Miranda James

Aging eccentric James Delacorte asks Charlie the librarian to do an inventory of his rare book collection—but the job goes from tedious to terrifying when James turns up dead. Relying on his cat Diesel to paw around for clues, Charlie has to catch the killer before another victim checks out.

A cat on a cover will always grab my attention!

My Review.An engaging mystery with enough bookish facts to satisfy the bookworm in me. An appalling family each of whom is a potential suspect. Charlie and Diesel are delightful and I plan to read more of this series.

How to Live to 100 by Ariane Sherine & David Conrad

If you’re reading this, you probably want to live to a hundred.

And why wouldn’t you want to live a super-long life, if you could remain in good health? You’d get to meet your great-grandkids, try out space travel and the teleporter, and gross out all your descendants by having noisy old-person sex.

Comedian Ariane Sherine has always been determined to live into her hundreds, but never knew how. With so much conflicting and confusing health information out there, she didn’t have a clue where to start until she met David Conrad, a public health expert, who helped her to weigh up all the research and evidence and explained exactly what to do to live a long and healthy life.

And together, they’ve decided to tell you how to live to a hundred too.

This book has all the facts, stats, inappropriate jokes and shameless puns you could ever need to make it to your eleventh decade. The evidence is given for a hundred factors that affect life expectancy – everything from green tea to gardening, sex to sweeteners. And celebrities weigh in with their own thoughts too, so you’ll find contributions from Derren Brown, Richard Osman, Lou Sanders, Charlie Brooker, Konnie Huq, Robin Ince, Jeremy Vine, Clive Anderson and many more. 

My Review The book is divided into sections, making it easy to access the information you want. It would be a useful reference without getting in too deeply into any topic. I browsed, rather than read and picked the sections that interested me.

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett.

It’s time to solve the murder of the century…

Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. He took it to his remedial English teacher, Miss Isles, who became convinced it was the key to solving a puzzle. That a message in secret code ran through all Edith Twyford’s novels. Then Miss Isles disappeared on a class field trip, and Steven’s memory won’t allow him to remember what happened. Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Steven decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. Was Miss Isles murdered? Was she deluded? Or was she right about the code? And is it still in use today? Desperate to recover his memories and find out what really happened to Miss Isles, Steven revisits the people and places of his childhood. But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn’t just a writer of forgotten children’s stories. The Twyford Code has great power, and he isn’t the only one trying to solve it…

My Review. An interesting concept, the whole book is told in a series of transcribed recorded messages. It can make for fragmented reading and the book requires concentration. Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing story as forty years late Steven is trying to make sense of what happened that summer. There are no certainties because what people say or believe may not necessarily be the truth. A satisfying conclusion but after the mental work out I felt I needed to read something lighter.

Poison At The Village Show by Catherine Coles.

Westleham Village 1947.

It’s the Westleham village show and with the war finally over, everyone is looking forward to a pleasant day.

But newcomer, Martha Miller doesn’t share the excitement. Because since her husband Stan left for work one day and never returned, Martha has been treated as somewhat of an outsider in Westleham. The village gossip is that Martha must be to blame….

Martha hopes she can win her fellow villagers over with her delicious homemade plum gin. But as glasses of the tangy tipple are quaffed, disaster strikes! Chairwoman of the village show, Alice Warren, slumps to the ground – poisoned!

As fingers of suspicion again point Martha’s way, she’s determined to prove her innocence and find the real culprit. And she’s ably helped by the new vicar, Luke Walker.

But who would kill Alice and why? And will Luke and Martha discover who is behind the poisoning before it’s too late? 

 My Review. A promising beginning to a cosy murder series. Quite reminiscent of Agatha Christie, with its picture-perfect village and villagers. Martha is an outsider and still struggling to gain acceptance. Disaster strikes when her plum gin is implicated in poisoning. New vicar Luke Walker is sympathetic and joins her in investigating. We are sure to see more of this likeable duo.

Shatter By Michael Robotham. Joe O’Loughlin 3

Joe O ‘Loughlin is on familiar territory—standing on a bridge high above a flooded gorge, trying to stop a distraught woman from jumping. She is naked, wearing only high-heel shoes, sobbing into a cell phone. Suddenly, she turns to him and whispers, “You don’t understand,” and lets go. Joe is shattered by the suicide and haunted by his failure to save the woman, until her teenage daughter finds him and reveals that her mother would never have committed suicide—not like that. She was terrified of heights. Compelled to investigate, Joe is soon obsessed with discovering who was on the other end of the phone. What could have driven her to commit such a desperate act? Whose voice? What evil?

Having devoted his career to repairing damaged minds, Joe must now confront an adversary who tears them apart: a man who searches for the cracks in a person’s psyche and claws his fingers inside, destroying what makes them whole.

My Review. Compelling fiction, tense, edge-of-your-seat stuff. Joe might never have got involved but for chance. Once he is, he can’t look away. If anyone can unlock this killer’s mind, Joe believes he can. He just doesn’t know what it will cost him.

The Year of Mr Maybe’s by Judy Leigh

Never say never to falling in love…Val didn’t expect to be starting again in her seventies, but when life gives her lemons, Val is determined to make lemonade.

Settled into her new home – a picture-perfect fisherman’s cottage in the small Cornish seaside town of Lowenstowe – Val is ready to start a new chapter. And with her son due to get married next Christmas, there’s also the little job of finding herself a plus-one to help her face her ex-husband and his new girlfriend.

With the support of her neighbour Connie, and after decades of married life, Val takes the plunge back into the world of dating with trepidation and excitement. But can she remember how the single life works, let alone what her type is? There seem to be plenty of Mr Maybes, but no sign of Mr Right.

As the year passes, and as friendships and community life flourish, Val begins to blossom. And as Christmas approach, she might just decide she doesn’t need that plus-one after all – although never say never… 

Judy Leigh is back with her trademark promise of laughter, love and friendship. The perfect feel-good novel for all fans of Dawn French, Dee Macdonald and Cathy Hopkins.

My Review. I was intrigued to read a book with a lead character in her seventies. Val is facing the problem that many women face, her husband has left her for another woman.

She is determined to start again. Moving to another Cornish town is a start. Here she makes friends and decides that there may be a man who is right for her. Then there is the almost invisible guy next door. I found this a fun but quite realistic read. The friendship between Val and Connie gave her the courage to pursue new ideas and relationships.

The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern. By Robert Morrison

The Victorians are often credited with ushering in our current era, yet the seeds of change were planted in the years before. The Regency (1811–1820) began when the profligate Prince of Wales—the future king George IV—replaced his insane fa her, George III, as Britain’s ruler.

Around the regent surged a society steeped in contrasts: evangelicalism and hedonism, elegance and brutality, exuberance and despair. The arts flourished at this time with a showcase of extraordinary writers and painters such as Jane Austen, Lord Byron, the Shelleys, John Constable, and J. M. W. Turner. Science burgeoned during this decade, too, giving us the steam locomotive and the blueprint for the modern computer.

Yet the dark side of the era was visible in poverty, slavery, pornography, opium, and the gothic imaginings that birthed the novel Frankenstein. With the British military in foreign lands, fighting the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and the War of 1812 in the United States, the desire for empire and an expanding colonial enterprise gained unstoppable momentum. Exploring these crosscurrents, Robert Morrison illuminates the profound ways this period shaped and indelibly marked the modern world. 

My Review. in spite of the catchy strapline on the cover, this book is full of serious research. The book gives a good overview of the era and what a dynamic time it was. I focused on the areas that were of interest to me so a little on the political scene, the ton, Waterloo, fashion, and class. Although there was much more that could have been explored. I’d regard it as more of a reference book than one to read in a sitting.

Talk Bookish To Me by Kate Bromley

Inevitable that a title like this would appeal to me. Overall, I found it an enjoyable read. Ryan and Kara have a relationship that challenges them both. Ryan’s goofy dog added another dimension and her struggle to reach her book deadline added another strand. How can the guy that annoys her the most inspire her fiction?

Kara Sullivan’s life is full of love—albeit fictional. As a bestselling romance novelist and influential bookstagrammer, she’s fine with getting her happily-ever-after fix between the covers of a book.

But right now? Not only is Kara’s best friend getting married next week—which means big wedding stress—but the deadline for her next novel is looming, and she hasn’t written a single word. The last thing she needs is for her infuriating first love, Ryan Thompson, to suddenly appear in the wedding party. But Ryan’s unexpected arrival sparks a creative awakening in Kara that inspires the steamy historical romance she desperately needs to deliver.

With her wedding duties intensifying, her deadline getting closer by the second and her bills not paying themselves, Kara knows there’s only one way for her to finish her book and to give her characters the ever-after they deserve. But can she embrace the unlikely, ruggedly handsome muse—who pushes every one of her buttons—to save the wedding, her career and, just maybe, write her own happy ending?

My Review Inevitable that a title like this would appeal to me. Overall, I found it an enjoyable read. Ryan and Kara have a relationship that challenges them both. Ryan’s goofy dog added another dimension and her struggle to reach her book deadline added another strand. How can the guy that annoys her the most inspire her fiction?

The Village of Happy Ever Afters by Alison Sherlock

Molly Hopkins has happily watched all of her friends’ dreams come true on Riverside Lane.

Deciding to follow her passion for baking, Molly with the help of her friends takes the plunge and opens a Tea Garden in the village hoping to make it a summer to remember!

Meanwhile, after a rather public end of his marriage, Logan Armstrong trusts no one but his beloved Grandad. He just wants his brief stay in Cranbridge to be as quiet as possible. But his Grandad has other ideas; he dreams of seeing the old watermill working again which might just mean Logan has to ask the village for help.

Can Molly finally overcome her lack of confidence and believe in her abilities to make the tea garden a success?

Will Logan discover that Molly might just be the one to mend his broken heart? And will both of them realise that life is for living and loving?

Over a long hot summer in Cranbridge, perhaps everyone’s dreams of a happy-ever-after can finally come true. 

My Review. Ah, the perils of picking up random books from the library. I had no idea this was part of a series. I try to balance my reading between serious/ darker books and lighter ones. The cover indicated that this was going to be a light read. The beginning when Molly meets Logan was promising of an uncomplicated read. However, I got quite frustrated at Molly’s lack of confidence. She seemed to be capable but is filled with self-doubt. I almost gave up. I  read to the end, but it wouldn’t inspire me to go back to read the previous books.

The A List of Death By Pamela Hart

Shooting for fame could end your career … and your life. A sparkling mystery from a stylish new voice in crime fiction, in a book that will delight fans of Richard Osman and Kerry Greenwood.

TV researcher Poppy McGowan has never sought the spotlight and is none too happy to be photographed with rock god Nathan Castle. When the photo pops up on celebrity gossip sites, it sparks a media feeding frenzy, forcing Poppy to go to ground, don a wig, and pull some nifty moves to escape a tailing car. And she cops abuse from Nathan’s outraged fans.

None of this would have happened if Poppy had not found Nathan’s mother Daisy, one-time glamour girl and elderly best friend of her Aunty Mary, bleeding and unconscious in her bathroom. The police dismiss the case as an accident, but Poppy is sure there are questions to be answered. Who attacked Daisy, and why? Will she come out of her coma? What secrets are her gathering family hiding? What happens to Daisy’s money if she dies?

When a murder occurs outside Daisy’s flat, the police step in at last. Unfortunately, they finger Poppy’s boyfriend, Tol, for the crime – after all, he had bad blood with the victim. As Daisy’s money-hungry family circle, amid hints of poisoning, bribery and blackmail, Poppy must find a way to clear Tol’s name and ensure Daisy’s safety

My Review. I enjoyed this book. Poppy is a great character with an interesting job who isn’t easily overawed by fame and celebrity. She also has skills as a researcher and an inability to ‘ leave things alone,’ as advised by the police. You don’t need to have read Digging Up Dirt to enjoy this and, in my opinion, it’s even better than the first book in the series.

Dreams of a Little Cornish Cottage by Nancy Barone.

In her huge mansion overlooking Wyllow Cove, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Natalia Amore had everything she could possibly want. But having kicked out her adulterous ex-husband, her house is filled with nothing but echoes and Nat yearns for the coziness and bustle of seaside living. In particular, the rundown Lavender Cottage that has gone up for sale.

But when her mother has a fall, Nat’s dream of a quiet new life crumbles as she instantly brings her into her home to care for her. With her two energetic nieces then dumped on her doorstep and her recently heartbroken daughter moving back into the nest, Nat can’t possibly abandon her family… Lavender cottage will just have to wait.

That is until Irishman Connor enters Nat’s life and makes her realize that it’s okay to put herself first, and she’s allowed to wish for more. 

My Review. Nat has come out of an unhappy marriage. The house is too big and too reminiscent of her ex who was all about status. Nat dreams of a simpler life in a seaside cottage. However, all the niceties of divorce and separation have to be got through. Connor, her new lodger is a bit of a charmer, is he too good to be true? Nat’s sister exploits her good nature by leaving her daughter with Nat and then her mum has a fall and Nat’s ex who is a doctor gets involved. Oh, and her job as a columnist is under threat too. A lot is going on and this makes for a bit of a confusing book. Is it a feel-good romance? Is it more women’s fiction?

Hearts on Fire: A’firey’ novelette by Jenny Lynch.

Erin Barber works as a junior stylist at her sister Amelie’s popular hair salon and is forever in Amelie’s shadow. When Erin and Amelie attend their cousin Chelsea’s Hen Night at swanky nightclub, Nirvana, sparks soon fly as hunky firefighters put on a sizzling revue to raise money for the Burn’s Unit at a local Children’s Hospital. The fireys-adorning next year’s charity calendar-don’t disappoint, setting the house on fire. And Erin has already become accidentally acquainted with the incredibly ripped and cheeky Mr November! After the smoking-hot performance, the emcee announces a silent auction. The prize? A dinner date with the firey who gets the highest bid. Mr November has already stirred the flames of desire in Erin, but she knows she could never afford to put up the cash for a date with him. Will her dreams of a night with the gorgeous firey go up in smoke? And just what is Erin’s gran, Lizzie, up to? 

My Review. A quick and enjoyable read, perfect for when you settle down with a cuppa or a cheeky glass of wine. The two main characters seem just right for each other. Erin is slightly overawed by her older sister. Not seeing her own potential. Gotta love a ‘firey’ called Cole, the subtle pun amused me. Sparks fly between this couple and it could easily have developed into a longer book. With thanks to Darognfly publishing who provided me with a copy of the book.

Ideal weather to stay in and read a good book.

July has also been a big reading month. We have had lots of stormy weather. Mainly through chance, a few of next month’s books are based on World War Two. I am still reading Regency romance. There is another anthology opportunity I have my eye on. I’m also thinking about the Viking romance I submitted which was awarded a Judges’ choice in the Ink and Insight contest.

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.

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