What Was I Reading in April 2022?

My reading was of two types this month. There was more research for writing a Regency romance and a browse through other fiction. It was also my birthday and somehow along the way, it became almost a week of birthday celebrations. Not that I am complaining! Thanks to wonderful friends I was taken out to lunch, twice, as well as being treated to my first pedicure.

Saying it with flowers and lunches and pedicures.

Changeless.( Parasol Protectorate 2 )by Gail Carriger.

Alexia Maccon, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears; leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. So even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can. She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.

CHANGELESS is the second book of the Parasol Protectorate series: a comedy of manners set in Victorian London, full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking. 

My Review.
Having enjoyed the first book in the series so much, I was looking forward to reading this.it continues the story than began in book one. Unfortunately, for me personally, it lacked the verve of the first book.

From Where I Fell by Susan Johnson

An anguished email from Pamela Robinson in Australia to her ex-husband in Paris accidentally ends up in the inbox of New York State teacher Chrisanthi Woods. Chrisanthi is sympathetic to Pamela’s struggles and the women begin to tell each other the stories and secrets of their lives.

Pamela, responsible for raising her three sons, must re-invent the meaning of home following her divorce, and Chrisanthi, her dreams long dampened, must find home by leaving it. Temperamental opposites, their emails turn into an exhilarating and provocative exchange of love, loss and fresh beginnings, by turns amusing, frank and confronting

My Review. Having formed friendships online, this book resonated quite strongly with me. I enjoyed the exchanges between the women and their differing perspectives.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal.(Spindle Cove 5) by Tessa Dare

On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.
• Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?
• Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?
• Perhaps the butler did it.

All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.

But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit… and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.

Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love? 

My Review.

I enjoyed this book and its hero and heroine. Charlotte is determined to prove the person trysting in the library was not her. Piers and Charlotte are well-matched and each instance of them coming together proves it, but Charlotte isn’t about to marry anyone. The repartee is fabulous. I was cheering the couple on waiting for their happily ever after. 

Dressed by Iris by Mary-Anne O’Connor

A vivid, romantic story of Sydney in the 1930s Depression – the heartbreak, the glamour, the dark underbelly, the struggle towards a better day – and one young woman’s dream of designing her way from rags to riches. For readers of Natasha Lester and Victoria Purman.

1930: Seventeen-year-old Iris Mitchell dreams of designing clothes, but there’s little spare cash for fashion in their shanty-town home. The gift of a single purple ribbon from would-be boyfriend John Tucker, however, creates an unexpected opportunity … and when Iris’s brother Jim joins the Sydney Harbour Bridge construction, the large, dirt-poor but loving Mitchell family can move to the city. Iris will be torn away from John, but he’s Protestant and she’s Catholic, taboo in their world, so perhaps it wasn’t meant to be …

1932: By day, Iris scrubs the floors at Caron’s, an upmarket department store. By night, she designs and sews in her family’s tiny, crowded house. Friendship with gorgeous, livewire Natasha, one of Caron’s models, allows Iris to show her skills, but will her talent be acknowledged … or exploited?

When John reappears, passions are reignited, and Iris must face not only their religious divide, but the apparent impossibility of having both marriage and a career. Meanwhile, the Mitchells must navigate life in a city riven by corruption, dirty politics and gambling. Will their faith, determination and deep family bond save them when tragedy and adversity strike? In 1930s Sydney, the stakes have never been higher … 

My Review.
An interesting take on an Australian rags to riches story. The depictions of the harshness of life in 1930s Australia are sobering. Iris has talent, but no opportunity until one comes along, but even that isn’t all it promised to be. Friendship is what gets her through these tough times. When she has the opportunity to shine, she does so. Personally, I would have liked a little more about Iris’s success.

The Emporium of Imagination by Tabitha Bird

From the author of A Lifetime of Impossible Days (winner of the Courier-Mail People’s Choice QLD Book of the Year Award) comes this beautiful and uplifting story, that will make you laugh and make you cry.

Welcome to The Emporium of Imagination, a most unusual shop that travels the world offering vintage gifts to repair broken dreams and extraordinary phones to contact lost loved ones.

But, on arrival in the tiny township of Boonah, the store’s long-time custodian, Earlatidge Hubert Umbray, makes a shocking realisation. He is dying . . .

The clock is now ticking to find his replacement, because the people of Boonah are clearly in need of some restorative magic.

Like Enoch Rayne – a heartbroken ten-year-old boy mourning the loss of his father, while nurturing a guilty secret.

Like Ann Harlow, who has come to the town to be close to her dying grandmother. Though it’s Enoch’s father who dominates her thoughts – and regrets . . .

Even Earlatidge in his final days will experience the store as never before – and have the chance to face up to his own tragedy . . . 

My Review

Beautiful book. Spellbindingly magical, a fairy tale for adults. Wonderful phrases and concepts. Inspired by a personal loss, this book should resonate with anyone who has lost a loved one. It’s a joyful book, filled with happiness. 

The Whispered Word by Ellery Adams. Secret, Book & Scone Society 2

In New York Times bestselling author Ellery Adams’ intriguing new Secret, Book, and Scone Society novel, Nora Pennington and her fiction loving friends in small-town Miracle Springs, North Carolina, encounter a young woman desperately in need of a new beginning . . .

Nora Pennington, owner of Miracle Books, believes that a well-chosen novel can bring healing and hope. But she and the other members of the Secret, Book, and Scone Society know that sometimes, practical help is needed too. Such is the case with the reed-thin girl hiding in the fiction section of Nora’s store, wearing a hospital ID and a patchwork of faded bruises. She calls herself Abilene, and though Nora and her friends offer work, shelter, and a supportive ear, their guest isn’t ready to divulge her secrets. But when a customer is found dead in an assumed suicide, Nora uncovers a connection that points to Abilene as either a suspect—or another target.
 
Summer’s end has brought other new arrivals to Miracle Springs too. Entrepreneur Griffin Kingsley opens Virtual Genie, a cyber business that unloads people’s unwanted goods for cash. With the town in an economic slump and folks hurting for money, Virtual Genie and its owner are both instantly popular. A patient listener, Griffin dispenses candy to children and strong coffee to adults, and seems like a bona fide gentleman. But Nora’s not inclined to judge a book by its cover. And when a second death hits town, Nora and her intrepid friends must help the new, greenhorn sheriff discern fact from fiction—and stop a killer intent on bringing another victim’s story to a close . .

 My Review

Nora Pennington has a knack for knowing which books a customer needs. Her quirky bookstore is a hub for the Miracle Springs community. So why can’t she get a sense of the mysterious girl who has shown up in her bookstore? I enjoyed this story and the book-related quotes and recommendations. 

How to Avoid the Marriage Mart by Eva Shepherd.

A notorious rake.

Meets a spirited spinster…At a weekend shooting party, where the guests are as determined to bag a marriage partner as they are a pheasant, two attendees are under siege. The Duke of Kingsford from a clutch of desperate debutantes, and Charlotte FitzRoy from her matchmaking mother! A pretend courtship between them should keep the others at bay, but an unexpected, impassioned kiss may just bring about the marriage they both sought to avoid!

My Review.

This is actually outside the era I wanted to read about, but I began reading and found it quite engaging. Of course, it has the essential elements,  meddling mammas, rebellious daughters, reluctant grooms and a previous encounter between the couple which had not gone well. Charlotte is a rebellious young woman with no interest in marriage, the despair of her mamma. Charlotte is into causes. Nicholas is at the house party purely to gamble; he has no interest in either shooting or picking a wife. They have a previous acquaintanceship which has left both of them bruised but they decide to help each other with a fake courtship. Of course, nothing is as simple as that sounds.

The Jane Austen Society by  Natalie Jenner  

(2020 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction and for Debut Novel!)

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society. 

My Review. Quite a slow-paced read but brimming with character and connections. Sleepy Chawton just after the war, impoverished, little changed. Unaware of the potential goldmine they have in being Jane Austen’s last home.  Similar to Jane Austen’s books here a cast of characters in a small village come together to form The Jane Austen Society. The diverse group have one thing in common they are all devotees of her work and that is what initially binds them together. Relationships are tested and changed. When love blossoms it is unrecognised and almost lost.

The Truth About Dukes.( Rogues to Riches 5)  by Grace Burrowes 

A new duke and a woman with a secret in her past get a second chance at love in this delightful and charming Regency romance from the New York Times bestselling author of the Windham series.

Robert Rothmere is hiding a past no duke should have endured, but he’s not hiding it well enough. Sooner or later, his enemies will learn that he spent years locked away at a private asylum. To get their hands on his wealth, they’ll try to send him right back to his worst nightmares. If Robert is to foil their schemes, he needs to marry a perfectly proper, blessedly boring, deadly dull duchess, immediately—and he knows exactly which quietly delightful lady he’d love to entrust with that role.

Lady Constance Wentworth has cultivated a reputation for utter forgettability. She never speaks out of turn (in public), never has a daring thought (that she admits aloud), and never comes close to courting scandal… as far as anybody knows. Her path crossed Robert’s years ago, though, and she’s never forgotten the extraordinary lengths he traveled to keep her safe when she hadn’t a friend in the world. She longs to be his demure duchess…but little does he know that to marry her would be utter madness.

My Review.

A romance with more substance than most, possibly because of the sensitive nature of parts of the story. I hadn’t read the previous books, in fact, I didn’t know there were previous books. Robert’s epilepsy offended his father who condemns him to life in a private asylum. Now returned to his estate, he is living the life of a recluse. Can a man who has suffered so much begin to live a normal life?

The Viscount Who Loved Me Bridgertons2)  by Julia Quinn

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn comes the story of Anthony Bridgerton, in the second of her beloved Regency-set novels featuring her charming, powerful Bridgerton family, now a series created by Shondaland for Netflix.

ANTHONY’S STORY

This time the gossip columnists have it wrong. London’s most elusive bachelor Anthony Bridgerton hasn’t just decided to marry—he’s even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended’s older sister, Kate Sheffield—the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate’s the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams…

Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes do not make the best husbands—and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate’s determined to protect her sister—but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony’s lips touch hers, she’s suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself…

My Review.
After seeing Bridgerton 2 on Netflix I wanted to read the book. There has been so much debate about which storyline people prefer, as they differ markedly. I thought I’d like to judge for myself. To my mind, the book has a better, more involved, and frankly, sexier story than the series. I enjoyed the show but felt it lacked the edge that season one had.
I have read a few of the Bridgerton series-(obviously not in order) and so far, this is the best one. 

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.


But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love

My Review.

A sparkling romance that will make you laugh out loud. There may be a power imbalance in the relationship initially, but bit by bit Emma demolishes both the Duke’s rules and his objections. Can the disfigured Duke stop himself from falling for her? Dare he risk his heart and happiness? More importantly, does he want to?

You should definitely eat the delicious cake

I am already way ahead of my reading goal for the year, but for now, I need to concentrate on my writing. A submission deadline looms. As for my birthday, well it was such a success, I think I will have another next year.

It was my first pedicure, but it won’t be my last.

Meet Ruth Morgan, Author of The Whitworth Mysteries.

It’s a pleasure to welcome author Ruth Morgan to talk about her  book The Whitworth Mysteries

Ruth Morgan.

Ruth lives in Lismore, New South Wales where the whole community has been devastated by flooding. We are talking unheard of flood levels of up to 14.4 metres. Lives and homes and businesses were lost. Even more cruelly, a month after the first flood, when the cleanup was well underway, Lismore endured a second flood. While helping out in her local area, Ruth is still writing. She is also promoting a re-stocking drive for the Lismore library which lost 29,000 books.

A sight to hurt any book lover.

DETAILS HERE. https://rtrl.nsw.gov.au/  – Flood Recovery Donation page.

So, I am very grateful that Ruth has taken the time to talk to us. We will discuss her writing later, but first some quick-fire questions.

Late nights or early mornings? Always early mornings.

What’s for breakfast? Toast and coffee.

Night out or Netflix? Night in, with a good book.

G &T or Tea/coffee? All three – but not at the same time!

A night in, with a good book.

Perfect weekend? Going for a walk, catching up over coffee with friends, and time spent in the garden getting dirty.

What did you want to be when you grew up? I’m not sure I’ve grown up yet! Everything! Reader, writer, dancer, nurse, vet, work in a zoo..

Cooking can be fun.

What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating ?Love cooking. Dinner tonight – probably leftovers! Preference these days is vegetarian, and when the veggie garden is productive, whatever is in season is usually what’s for dinner. I love it though when someone else cooks.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. Cats – always cats. The sound of a purring cat, being head-butted, sat on – magic. Or going for walk, sitting by the ocean, listening to beautiful music.

Two of Ruth’s cats.Muscat and Champurrs.

Your hero? I don’t know that I have a hero. If I look around me at the moment my community is full of heroes. To deal with two floods a month apart makes heroes of us all. A hero is someone who doesn’t quit, although they may want to, even when the odds appear overwhelming, they just keep going. Those who help clean up after the flood, those who listen, those who are running a business from their damaged premises and are operating through the back door, yet still going. The battlers, the fighters, those putting one put in front of the other… Those wonderful heroes who came from nowhere in droves to help, the wonderful Sikhs who drove 27 hours to come and cook the most amazing food for everyone, groups who turned up offering food, water and fruit to the mud army, those who run the Resilient Lismore FB group…

Ordinary people, emergency services, the fire service and even the army were called in to help.
Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash
It seemed perfect as a representation of the Lismore Heart symbol

If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party,( dead or alive)who would they be and why?

Only three! Probably Laurens van der Post, Arthur Upfield, Agatha Christie and Carl Jung – maths was never my strong point!

Coco as a kitten

Questions about Writing.

Have you always written? I’ve been a storyteller since childhood. Growing up in a very isolated location threw me back on my own resources for entertainment. So I learned at a young age to see stories everywhere and in the most mundane events. In my first years of primary school, I began writing. There have been long periods when I haven’t though and always felt something was missing. Now it’s a full-time occupation, and I’ve never been happier.

What inspired your new book?

Mildura. My home town renamed Whitworth for the book. I love the wide-open spaces, the red dirt, the river red gums, the river… The breathtaking sense of solitude that standing in the middle of somewhere like the Hay Plains brings. The sense of peace. I grew up in Mildura when there were lots of interesting things going on – especially for a budding crime fiction writer. I wanted to explore links between events, characters, to explore what was hidden,  and always to learn why people do what they do.

What time of the day do you usually write? Much prefer mornings. Brain is fresher and ideas emerge more easily.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you? When my characters refuse to co-operate, or tell me what’s going on. Sometimes threats work, cajoling, offers of tea or something stronger. They fall silent when I’m taking the story in the direction I want it to go, rather than how they want it told. When we work in harmony it’s so much easier.

What is your work schedule like when you are writing? It depends on where I’m up to in the process. Always start early and often work through. If I have a deadline, I just keep going. If I have time, usually finish about lunchtime and do other things in the afternoon.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?  Being able to close my eyes and watch the characters interact, eavesdrop on conversations, see what’s unfolding through someone else’s eyes. And if the characters are playing nicely, be able to ask questions. That’s a fabulous quirk to have!

Did you do any research for your current book? Yes. Because it’s a police procedural I need to understand how things are done, interviews conducted, the treatment of a crime scene. A lot of information can be gathered by reading widely, asking questions, but in the end how you put the research together, which sections you use are all determined by how the story wants and needs to be told.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special? It would have to be David. The man in my current novel who didn’t want to be the hero. His refusal to take on the role ground the entire story to a screeching halt. It was only when I asked a writing group I’m part of why he was being unhelpful that someone made the suggestion that perhaps the wrong person was in the hero role. I listened to the characters, to the story, and swapped the hero. A flood of ideas and events, layers and understanding emerged and I have to type more quickly in order to keep up.

Coco all grown up! .Cats just get everywhere..

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions? Possible. But perhaps not fiction. So much of what goes on in a story, love, loss, anger, grief, hope – are strong emotions and for many felt physically as well as in the mind. It would be hard to be convincing if the emotion wasn’t felt.

Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received? Best advice – get the story out of your head in whatever way works for you. Worst advice – draft everything. That takes out all the fun of discovery.

Best money you have spent as a writer? The first course I did at the NSW Writer’s Centre, was in about 1996. I don’t remember now what it was, but I remember the teacher and her belief that I had the capacity to tell gripping stories. No one had ever given me that backup before.

Do you have a favourite author and why? Favourites change from month to month, there are always new discoveries to make. I always come back to Garry Disher and Peter Temple. I love the speed in Temple’s work, and the dark depths and how he handles dialogue. I love the spartan writing in Disher’s work and how the landscape is a powerful part of what unfolds.

What are you reading now?  Gary Jubelin’s I Catch Killers, and Fiona Macintosh’s The Spys Wife.

What books or authors have most influenced your writing? I think everything I’ve ever read has added something. The way of describing a scene, an emotion, a discussion between characters – I’ve taken some piece of information, view, learning from every book I’ve read. Some books show me how NOT to tell a story. The influences can be positive and negative.

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult? How much paper do you have! So many remarkable books and all have had a different impact on how I see stories. I loved the Far Pavilions, Len Deighton’s Hook, Line and Sinker series, Ruth Rendell, Simeon, Arthur Upfield. Arthur Upfield’s, Death of a Swagman has a special place in my memory. It was the first book set in a country that I knew well and had grown up in. Jon Cleary, Trent Dalton, Kate Forsyth….

Favourite book/story you have read as a child? Lord of the Rings was the first book I read as an early teen that has stayed with me and is reread on a regular basis. But I don’t write or read fantasy. There is such depth to the story that it always enriches anything I’m working on. LOTR is a place to retreat, to emerge inspired and restored and after, well, some decades, it always has something new to offer that I hadn’t discovered before.

Flood waters at the second floor of The Lismore library.Photo taken by Dannika from the Lismore library page.

If you would care to donate to the library appeal ,as I did,  more details can be found on the Lismore library home page.

        _____________________________________________

ref=mp_s_a_1_8-dchild=1&keywords=the+whitworth+mysteries&qid=1633821743&sr=8-8

Home

https://www.facebook.com/Ruth-Morgan-Writer-102267447887269

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?

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.


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.




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.

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

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.

 

Which Books Did I Read in October 2021?

October was a rainy month, which certainly favoured more reading. Although I would love to buy all the books I read, I can’t. Instead, I enjoy getting books through my local library. Libraries have been transformed from those “temples of silence,” I knew as a child. Now, libraries are vital community spaces, as well as knowledge hubs. My local library will request books they haven’t got in stock. I also attended an author talk by New York Times best-selling author Natasha Lester. Additionally, this month I started attending a drawing class.

Wouldnt you rather be inside, reading a good book?

The Riviera House by Natasha Lester

The New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Secret weaves a lush and engrossing novel of World War II inspired by a true story and perfect for fans of Kate Quinn and Pam Jenoff.

The evocative American cover.

Paris, 1939: The Nazis think Éliane can’t understand German. They’re wrong. They think she’s merely cataloguing art in a Louvre museum and unaware they’re stealing national treasures for their private collections. They have no idea she’s carefully decoding their notes and smuggling information to the Resistance. But Éliane is playing a dangerous game. Does she dare trust the man she once loved with her secrets, or will he only betray her once again? She has no way to know for certain . . . until a trip to a stunning home on the French Riviera brings a whole new level of peril.
 
Present Day: Wanting to forget the tragedy that has left her life in shambles, Remy Lang heads to a home she’s mysteriously inherited on the Riviera. While working on her vintage fashion business, she discovers a catalogue of the artworks stolen during World War II and is shocked to see a painting that hung on her childhood bedroom wall. Who is her family, really? And does the Riviera house hold more secrets than Remy is ready to face?

Natasha Lester brilliantly explores the impossible choices ordinary people faced every day during extraordinary circumstances, weaving fact with fiction and celebrating women who push the boundaries of their time.

The appealing Australian Cover.

My Review.

A new Natasha Lester book always fills me with anticipation, wondering will I enjoy it as much as her previous book? I needn’t have worried, this book with its compelling mix of intrigue and danger in wartime France was exactly what I had expected. The story concerns the wholesale art thefts perpetrated by the Nazi’s. In exploring this, every sentence is a work of art, arguing the value of art to civilisation. There is also Éliane’s captivating love story, fraught with danger and deception.

In the present day, Remy’s life has lost its meaning and she is far away from Australia in the Riviera House. She can run her vintage fashion business from anywhere and craves solitude. Her gregarious neighbours are determined to involve her in their lives and are impossible to overlook. Allowing herself to experience more, she finds the catalogue of the stolen artworks and is intrigued enough to want to take it further. She is helped by a gorgeous photographer who understands sadness and grief.

Man Drought by Rachael Johns.

Imogen Bates moved to the small rural town of Gibson’s Find to start a new life for herself after the death of her husband. Tired of being haunted by the painful memories of her old life, Imogen set her last remaining hopes on the little town and, in particular, pouring her heart and savings into restoring The Majestic Hotel to its former glory. But while the female-starved town might be glad to see a young woman move in, not everyone is happy about Imogen’s arrival.

Sheep and crop farmer Gibson Black once dreamed of having the kind of family his grandfather reminisces about, but he’s learnt not to dream anymore. Living in the mostly male town suits Gibson down to the ground…and he won’t have anyone — least of all a hot redhead from the city — change a thing.

Imogen has never been one to back down from a challenge, especially when it concerns her last chance at happiness. She’s determined to rebuild the pub and create a future for the little town. But can she create a future for Gibson and herself, too?

A gorgeous and appropriate cover.

My Review.

Intrigued by the title, I picked this up. It’s one of Rachael Johns earlier books and obviously inspired by programs like Farmer Wants a Wife. If you enjoyed that show, you would probably enjoy this book. I did, it’s effortless reading ( which means hard work writing it by the way.)

Imogen is a character who appealed to me, and I was inspired by her gutsy life-changing decisions. What is a woman without her friends? Immy’s friends are horrified by her plans but support her anyway. In a town full of men, one catches her eye, and while everyone else is super friendly he remains remote and distant. Meanwhile, his grandfather Charlie can’t sing his praises high enough and would love to get them together. Maybe the Man Drought weekend that Imogen has organised will provide the spark?

Meet Me In Bendigo by Eva Scott.

Small-town Australia meets You’ve Got Mail in this rural romantic comedy about online dating, second chances, and following your heart.

Small-town sweetheart Annalisa Cappelli has returned to Wongilly to take over her family’s hardware store while she heals from a tragic loss. The business was hit hard by the pandemic, and now a Carpenter’s Warehouse hardware superstore is opening in the district. There’s no way Annalisa is going to let two hundred years of history go down the drain, but she’s going to need to fight to keep her family’s legacy alive.

The one simple thing in her life is her no names, no complications, easy-breezy online relationship with GardenerGuy94. For now, their online flirtation is the only kind of romance Annalisa needs. Until she meets Ed Carpenter. Sexy as hell, he’d be the perfect man … if he wasn’t trying to destroy her business.

Ed Carpenter is in Wongilly to offer the owner of a small hardware store a payout to pave the way for his family’s next superstore. What he doesn’t expect is for the owner to be the woman he’s been talking to online. Annalisa is beautiful and passionate, and he’s sure she’s the one for him. But how can he reveal the truth without losing her?

Who can measure up to the online guy?

My Review

Understandably we are drawn to the story of an underdog and in this case, two hundred years of history is going to be lost. Reinforces a message that when we are online, do we know who we are talking to? Confiding online with GardenerGuy94 Annalisa feels a connection. Yet meeting her nemesis, Ed Carpenter surprises her with a sense of attraction. Although enjoyable, I felt the idea the book was based on hadn’t enough legs to be the whole plot

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
Welcome to…
The Thursday Murder Club

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty, but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late? 

A quirky cover for this unusual book.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it refreshing that retirees were portrayed as vibrant and intelligent individuals. The murder itself has enough intrigue to make its unravelling pleasantly complicated. Great characters and nice plotting. I obviously must have been living under a rock, but I had no idea that Richard Osman was a celebrity.

When You Are Mine by Michael Robotham

A heart-pounding psychological thriller about friendship and obsession

Philomena ‘Phil’ McCarthy is a promising young officer in the London Metropolitan police.

But everything changes when she is called to the scene of a domestic assault. Unbeknownst to her, the abuser is a decorated detective and Phil’s efforts to protect his girlfriend – Tempe Brown – from violence result in Phil being unjustly struck from the force.

In the fallout, Phil begins to teach Tempe self-defence and they strike up a tentative friendship. Tempe is thoughtful and sweet, and within a matter of weeks the two women are inseparable – talking, socialising and confiding their deepest secrets in one another. But something isn’t right. Sinister things keep happening and, when a body is discovered, Phil realises that Tempe is hiding deadly secrets of her own. Secrets she is willing to kill for . . .

This pulse-racing standalone psychological thriller from the internationally bestselling author of The Secrets She Keeps is Michael Robotham’s finest yet, and confirms his reputation as the Mastermind of Crime. 

My Review

Tautly plotted and tension-filled, this book had me reading just a bit more each time. Michael Robotham ‘gets’ women and writes well in the female voice. I couldn’t find a false note. The premise of the daughter of a crime family joining the police is intriguing and Phil( short for Philomena) is a feisty and likeable character. How her life escalates after attending a reported domestic violence incident is well-paced and believable. I couldn’t put it down.

Flying The Nest by Rachael Johns

They say a change is as good as a holiday…but what if you don’t want either?

Is her family’s happiness more important than her own?

The first time Ashling Wood realises her marriage is on the rocks is when her husband, Adrian, suggests they try nest parenting. Heartbroken, Ash suddenly finds herself living a double life – one week with her children, the next cohabiting with her happily single sister-in-law. Her friends think the modern custody solution is an exciting opportunity for her to spread her wings, but all Ash wants is her family back together.

An offer to renovate a seaside cottage seems like the perfect distraction for Ash while waiting for Adrian to come to his senses. She’s determined to fix her marriage as well as the cottage, but life gets even more complicated when she meets local fisherman Dan Emerson.

Soon, each home-stay becomes more dysfunctional, while for the other week Ash enjoys the peaceful life of the beachside community. The more time Ash spends in Ragged Point, the more she questions what she really wants. Is a sea-change the fresh start she needs to move on?

When tragedy calls Ash back to the city, she’s torn between the needs of her family and her future. Can her family life fit in with a permanent move to the beach or could Ash’s newfound independence attract Adrian back to the nest?

Has that holiday vibe.

From the get-go, you feel for Ashling, who is blindsided by her husband Adrian’s suggestion of Nest Parenting. A term I hadn’t heard before. She is not just heartbroken. but emotionally broken, that her ‘perfect life’ has come crashing down. She tries to put a brave face on it for the children, but inwardly she feels like howling. A chance to get away to Ragged Bay offers an escape, although the derelict cottage isn’t exactly welcoming. Slowly, she begins to sort out an alternative life for herself. Her life takes on a rhythm of weeks with the children. and weeks at Ragged Bay. These lives are quite different and begin to allow her to reflect on who she is, and what she wants. 

Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving by Julia Samuel

Death affects us all. Yet it is still the last taboo in our society, and grief is still profoundly misunderstood…

In Grief Works, we hear stories from those who have experienced great love and great loss – and survived. Stories that explain how grief unmasks our greatest fears, strips away our layers of protection and reveals our innermost selves.

Julia Samuel, a grief psychotherapist, has spent twenty-five years working with the bereaved and understanding the full repercussions of loss. This deeply affecting book is full of psychological insights on how grief if approached correctly, can heal us. Through elegant, moving stories, we learn how we can stop feeling awkward and uncertain about death, and not shy away from talking honestly with family and friends.

This extraordinary book shows us how to live and learn from great loss. 

Sadly, I didn’t find it helpful, but it may work for you.

My Review

After a family bereavement, I picked up this book. Grief is a silent companion, one that you often do not wish to burden others with. I had hoped for a compassionate guidebook to help me through the process. While others say they have found it helpful, it just didn’t feel that way to me. I read the relevant chapters and some of the end of the book but found it was depressing me even more. 

Bleed for Me by Michael Robotham

She’s standing at the front door. Covered in blood. Is she the victim of a crime? Or the perpetrator?

A teenage girl — Sienna, a troubled friend of his daughter — comes to Joe O’Loughlin’s door one night. She is terrorized, incoherent, and covered in blood.

The police find Sienna’s father, a celebrated former cop, murdered in the home he shared with Sienna. Tests confirm that it’s his blood on Sienna. She says she remembers nothing.

Joe O’Loughlin is a psychologist with troubles of his own. His marriage is coming to an end and his daughter will barely speak to him. He tries to help Sienna, hoping that if he succeeds it will win back his daughter’s affection. But Sienna is unreachable, unable to mourn her father’s death or to explain it.

Investigators take aim at Sienna. O’Loughlin senses something different is happening, something subterranean and terrifying to Sienna. It may be something in her mind. Or it may be something real. Someone real. Someone capable of the most grim and gruesome murder, and willing to kill again if anyone gets too close.

His newest thriller is further evidence that Michael Robotham is, as David Baldacci has said, “the real deal — we only hope he will write faster

Is she lost or dead?

My Review.

I hadn’t planned on reading another Michael Robotham so quickly, but a friend lent me this book. Of course, reading the blurb, I was intrigued. I’ve ‘met’ Joe O’Loughlin before, and like the character. This is book four in the series, but I was able to read this as a standalone. It was easy to be drawn into the story while continually questioning what was, or wasn’t the truth. The story flowed well and had believability, but two things didn’t sit right with me. One was a scene I wish hadn’t been included and the other was the final explanation. 

A Bad Day for Sunshine by Dyranda Jones

Sheriff Sunshine Vicram finds her cup o’ joe more than half full when the small village of Del Sol, New Mexico, becomes the center of national attention for a kidnapper on the loose.

Del Sol, New Mexico is known for three things: its fry-an-egg-on-the-cement summers, strong cups of coffee – and, now, a nationwide manhunt? Del Sol native Sunshine Vicram has returned to town as the elected sheriff – thanks to her adorably meddlesome parents who nominated her–and she expects her biggest crime wave to involve an elderly flasher named Doug. But a teenage girl is missing, a kidnapper is on the loose, and all of this is reminding Sunshine why she left Del Sol in the first place. Add to that the trouble at her daughter’s new school, plus and a kidnapped prized rooster named Puff Daddy, and, well, the forecast looks anything but sunny.

But even clouds have their silver linings. This one’s got Levi, Sunshine’s sexy, almost-old-flame, and a fiery-hot US Marshall. With temperatures rising everywhere she turns, Del Sol’s normally cool-minded sheriff is finding herself knee-deep in drama and danger. Can Sunshine face the call of duty – and find the kidnapper who’s terrorizing her beloved hometown – without falling head over high heels in love . . . or worse? 

Do you judge a book by its cover? Or by its title? In this case, both appealed to me

My Review.

I picked this book based on the title. Initially, I found the style a little confusing, but then I got into the story. It reminded me of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series in some ways. There is a mysterious disappearance, that had been predicted, and an off-limits love interest and storyline that is set to continue both into the past and the future.

A  Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz  

The New York Times bestselling author of the brilliantly inventive The Word Is Murder and The Sentence Is Death returns with his third literary whodunit featuring intrepid detectives Hawthorne and Horowitz. 
 
When Ex-Detective Inspector Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, author Anthony Horowitz, are invited to an exclusive literary festival on Alderney, an idyllic island off the south coast of England, they don’t expect to find themselves in the middle of a murder investigation—or to be trapped with a cold-blooded killer in a remote place with a murky, haunted past. 
 
Arriving on Alderney, Hawthorne and Horowitz soon meet the festival’s other guests—an eccentric gathering that includes a bestselling children’s author, a French poet, a TV chef turned cookbook author, a blind psychic, and a war historian—along with a group of ornery locals embroiled in an escalating feud over a disruptive power line. 
 
When a local grandee is found dead under mysterious circumstances, Hawthorne and Horowitz become embroiled in the case. The island is locked down, no one is allowed on or off, and it soon becomes horribly clear that a murderer lurks in their midst. But who? 
 
Both a brilliant satire on the world of books and writers and an immensely enjoyable locked-room mystery,  A Line to Kill is a triumph—a riddle of a story full of brilliant misdirection, beautifully set-out clues, and diabolically clever denouements.

A stylish cover for a stylish book.

My Review. Alderney, a remote location, among the Channel Isles is not the sort of place to hold a literary festival. Horowitz’s publishers are enthusiastic about testing out the duo of Hawthorne and Horowitz in such an out of the way spot. Despite misgivings, Horowitz is forced to agree and finds himself once again observing Hawthorne at work. This time though there isn’t a murder in sight. Confounding Horowitz, the usually taciturn Hawthorne charms at the literary festival. Then, the festival’s sponsor is murdered and everyone on the island, including the guest authors, is suspected. Horowitz plays Watson to an increasingly confident Hawthorne, who knows more than he is telling. One solution is arrived at, but is that the end?  Then there is a hint of where the next book will be set.

  

  

  



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.

facebook.com/kathengebretsonauthor/
kathengebretson.com



Writers In The Storm

A Blog On Writing

Welcome to My World

Land of my Fathers. The Land of Song, Mountains, Myths and Legends, Stunning Scenery and so much more.

valerieparv

Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

N M Cunningham

Fiction for genre fluid readers

Sophril Reads

Books and Tea!

Sonia Bellhouse- Author.

Love Beyond Time.

#1 South Wales Copywriter

No fluff. Just Words.

Josh Langley

- inspiring kids-

Cracker of A Christmas

For those looking forward to a Cracker of a Christmas!

How to be eighty

Living and learning at any age

Romance Writers of Australia

Promoting excellence in romantic fiction Helping writers become published and maintain strong careers Providing continuing support and development

The Never Ending Bookshelf

Where dreams are just a bookshelf away ...

Nadia L King

A writer from Perth, Australia

The First Time podcast

Part reality show, part writers' master class. A podcast about the first time you...publish a book.

Mrs B's Book Reviews

Book reviews and recommendations from a self confessed book geek

Cauldrons and Cupcakes

Celebrating Life, Spirituality, Creativity and Kindness!

Wanna be a Writer?

writing tips, information and motivation

The Little Mermaid

MAKING A DIFFERENCE, ONE STEP AT A TIME

Dr. Eric Perry’s Blog

Motivate | Inspire | Uplift

%d bloggers like this: