As it has for many others, it’s been a tough ending to the year. I’ve been in waiting rooms, and hospital rooms, and chewing my nails with anxiety. I’ve given up having a social life, or any life, beyond visiting the hospital .I’ve gained a huge appreciation for my friends ,who have been there for me, day in and day out .My gratitude to them is immense.
Another thing that has kept me going, is the power of books, to entertain, to divert, and even to amuse me.
I’ve appreciated my Kindle more than ever, with its ability to contain a whole library in a portable form.
By October, I‘d reached my yearly goal of reading eighty books. I didn’t stop reading, but I didn’t have the energy to fill in my Good reads. The important thing was that I was still reading.
I read books related to the craft of writing. Easier than actually writing a book, right? In October I was 50,000 words into the first draft of a new book. With all that was happening in my life that has stalled.
My taste in books changed, I no longer wanted drama and conflict. Like many others, I began to appreciate the distraction of stories. I wanted a happily ever after, I wanted goodness to prevail. I couldn’t control what was happening in the world. or even in my world, but I could choose the books that I read. One element of control in the chaos.
Others had their plans disrupted too, and a promised interview didn’t take place. But things are changing, and a new year is a new beginning.
While life isn’t back to normal, I do have a sense of how my days will be. So, I am reconnecting with the blog, and thank you for your patience. You can also find my Facebook page Sonia Bellhouse’s Chatting with Authors, where I post bookish snippets and interviews. There are three exciting interviews lined up for the New Year. Wishing you and yours the Happiest of New Years. See you on the other side in 2021 .
Most of the books I read this month were downloaded on my Kindle. I appreciate the benefits of the Kindle but also find it can be frustrating if I want to leaf back over a book.
The Cottage at Hope Cove by Hannah Ellis.
The summer that changed everything…
Lizzie Beaumont has it all: a great career, a wealthy fiancé, and the wedding of her dreams just months away. But when her fiancé puts work before her again, she sets off for a week in the picturesque town of Hope Cove. She’s hoping for time away from the chaos to find herself.
Instead, she finds Max.
When the gorgeous guy next door asks her for decorating help, Lizzie finds herself all too eager to please. The week she expected to drag suddenly flies by, and before she knows it, she has to return to her other life. The life with the impending marriage and the fiancé she loves.
Or does she?
One week with Max has left her questioning her life choices. Is her fiancé the man of her dreams, or just the man who asked? Now Lizzie must decide what her life will be. Will she go for the safe and predictable route, or take a chance on a man she hardly knows? No matter what she does, someone’s heart is going to break. She just doesn’t want it to be hers.
My review: What if your perfect life began to feel less than perfect? What if your partner spent more time at the office than with you? What would it take for you to wake up and question everything? Has Lizzie been sleepwalking through her life? Could one week at a Cornish cottage be enough to crack her eyes wide open? I enjoyed this engaging story and related to the heroine’s dilemma.Should she give up all she knows, for an illusion, or is her previous life the illusion?
After finishing the book I realised it was the beginning of a series and I would be happy to read more.
The Women’s Pages by Victoria Purman
From the bestselling author of The Land Girls comes a beautifully realised novel that speaks to the true history and real experiences of post-war Australian women.
Sydney 1945 The war is over, the fight begins.
The war is over and so are the jobs (and freedoms) of tens of thousands of Australian women. The armaments factories are making washing machines instead of bullets and war correspondent Tilly Galloway has hung up her uniform and been forced to work on the women’s pages of her newspaper – the only job available to her – where she struggles to write advice on fashion and make-up. As Sydney swells with returning servicemen and the city bustles back to post-war
My Review: This book was such are a revelation and an eye-opener to what the older generation went through. Not the elites we so often are told about, but the working class, those at the bottom of the ladder- most people. I was absorbed and immersed in another time and place. Infuriated over the derogatory remarks and dismissive attitude to women. Seething at the unfair treatment of women in general and war widows and their children. It’s a very readable book, one that you feel you want to read just one more chapter.
I received a free copy through a promotion with Book Stack but was under no obligation to review it.
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.
In Being Mortal, author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending
Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.
Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.
My Review :Have you ever thought about death and dying? Unless someone close to you has died you probably haven’t. There is so much focus on ‘living well’ but what about ‘dying well?’ Not in a one-upmanship kind of way, but one that allows the person the right of choice as to what they want as their time approaches. Medical intervention at all costs? What if that results in less quality of life? Prioritize the quality of life, over living? To die at home or in the hospital? What are the things the patient doesn’t want to compromise on? Can hospice care be right for some people? It asks how much autonomy do we want to delegate to some else? A very thought-provoking book.
The Wash by Lisa Wolstenholme.
Clara wants to be a writer a passion she shares with her older brother, Jake. But when Jake is found dead in the wash on Scarborough beach, it shakes her to the core and she’s desperate to understand why he took his life.
While studying Psychology at uni, she finds herself assisting with a rehab program in a low-security prison. There she meets Michael, an alcoholic and petty criminal with an irresistible pull. He reminds her so much of Jake and constantly challenges her, testing her resolve to stay true to her partner, Dan.
As time moves on, Clara sets up her own practice but cracks are forming in her work and relationship with Dan, not helped by Michael weaving his way in and out of her life. She’s treading water and still plagued by Jake’s death.
Can she overcome her loss and save Michael before it’s too late?
A collision of loss and love.
My Review:The Wash is a short novella, but a thought-provoking read, asking can we save people, or do they need to save themselves? Do we meet people by chance or is there some purpose to our meeting? Lisa’s insights into the lures of alcohol drugs and sexual attraction make compelling reading. A perfect cameo of a book.
The Little Cottage on the Hill by Emma Davies.
There’s blossom in the trees and daffodils as far as the eye can see. Maddie is looking forward to a fresh start in the countryside, but there’s just one little problem…
Following a scandal at her high-flying PR agency, twenty-six-year-old Maddie flees London to help promote what she thinks is going to be a luxurious holiday retreat in the countryside. Everything is riding on her making a success of this new job…
Yet when she arrives, Maddie is horrified to find a rundown old farm in a terrible state. The brooding and secretive owner, Seth, spent all his money on leasing the land when he fell in love with the beautiful, dishevelled farm cottages and the very romantic story behind them.
When Maddie discovers an old painting by the original owner’s wife, she unlocks the secret of the farm’s history and quickly realises she must start getting her hands dirty if this very special place is going to have any chance of survival. As she and Seth begin working together, the stunning view from the top of the hill is not the only thing that’s leaving her breathless…
After weeks of hard work the dream looks like it might become a reality, until a secret from Maddie’s past threatens to snatch it all away again.
Can Maddie find a way to save the business and herself? Will she finally find a place to keep her heart within the crumbling walls of the little cottage on the hill? Perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan, Lucy Diamond and Debbie Johnson who are looking to escape to the countryside and fall in love watching the seasons change.
My review:Such a pleasure to read a book that easily transports you out of your mundane world and leaves you absorbed in the story.For an expat Brit such as myself there is a sense of nostalgia too. A relaxing read that celebrates friendship, finding your place in the world, and following you heart. Perfect escapism.
Aconite & Accusations by Ruby Loren.
Book Five of the Witches of Wormwood series.
On Midsummer’s Eve, a town will vanish.
A witch, a devil, a detective, and a talking cat are the only ones who can stop it from happening.
That makes the sudden appearance of a mystery body even more inconvenient than usual.
Who is the unidentified man in the river, and why does the invisible barrier around town seem to keep letting in the worst kind of people?
…Like the three annoying ghost hunters who roll into Wormwood with about as much supernatural ability between them as a cheese sandwich.
…And the definitely evil Amber Leroux who arrives intent on digging her claws into DCI Admiral.
Wormwood has always been weird, but things are about to get even more strange.
My review:The series just keeps getting better. As usual, things appear bad in Wormwood and they are about to get worse. The barrier that keeps the town isolated is disintegrating. The town’s Mayor is actively working toward attracting tourists. They will unwittingly aid in the town’s destruction.
Hazel’s business is booming as quickly her worries are multiplying. Her magical abilities are better. She fears she won’t be able to stop the destruction of the town she now calls home. Following her instincts, she is drawn towards the river, where she finds a body. The river usually keeps strangers out of Wormwood, but now they are flooding in. D.C.I .Admiral has had to arrive on foot to investigate. He was unable to gain access any other way. As usual, the coven Hazel leads, and which is supposed to have her back, is divided. There is a new witch in town Amber Leroux. And she isn’t friendly. Then there’s the Witch Council, and the mystery of Hazels father’s disappearance. Jesse is back and appears to be being helpful. Hemlock is the most unhelpful familiar. He tries not to get involved and now has a protégé of his own to teach his unhelpful ways.
I was sad to see the series end and I have since heard that book six is on its way, so looking forward to it.
Studying Her Vikings by Skye Mackinnon
Travel back in Time. Bring a Viking into the present so he can help save the world. Easy, right? Before she can travel back in time, she needs to go back to school to learn Old Norse, decipher runes and try not to fall for the sexy Runology professor who’s hiding a dark secret…
Lainie had given up hope on ever getting out of the slums of New London. Applying to the prestigious Time Travel Academy seemed like a waste of time, but when she’s accepted and assigned Vikings, her life changes forever.
A time travel reverse harem full of action, intrigue and hot Vikings. Part of the Time Travel Academy world.
My review. The Viking and time travel and angles appealed to me and I downloaded it- without realising that it was a series..Of course, I ended up downloading the rest and in parts it’s a steamy read. Three gorgeous men and Lainie ,getting up to all sorts of sexy stuff. Apart from that, its intriguing story and I was sorry to learn that there are no more TTA Vikings books planned
August was quite a different month to July, and I didn’t manage to complete as much reading as I had hoped.
August had promised to be an exciting month. I’d planned to attend my first Romance Writers of Australia conference. Both the conference and the hotel were booked in January. Usually, its a great event with workshops and talks, as well as award presentations and a Gala dinner. Additionally, there are unofficial events to look forward to. Gossiping, grabbing a cheeky wine, meeting authors informally, sharing cake and confidences.
Sadly, it was cancelled and transformed into an online conference. This was excellent and well worth attending, with lots of inspirational and practical content. I spent five days at my computer listening to workshops and talks. It was an absolute credit to the organisers who had pulled it together so quickly.
That said, brilliant as it was, it wasn’t the conference experience I had heard about and hoped for. Maybe another year….
I’ve also started writing another book, a historical romance so that is keeping me busy
I’m still staying close to home and indulging in my passion for reading. All the books that I read this month were on my Kindle. I find it is both convenient and annoying
Convenient: Multiple books in a light and easy to carry format. Backlit for easy reading in bed. Enlarges text size at a touch, ability to add notes and highlights and a dictionary built in.
Personal gripe: I wish I had paid the additional cost for the model that included colour.
Annoying: This may be personal, but I think my recollection of the books is not as clear. Additionally, where a book has notes, exercises, or appendices with a print book I could print them out I don’t have that option with the Kindle. Unless someone can tell me how?
Death in the English Countryside by Sara Rosett.
Location scout and Jane Austen aficionado, Kate Sharp, is thrilled when the company she works for lands the job of finding locations for a new film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, but then her boss, Kevin, fails to return from a scouting trip to England. Afraid that Kevin has slipped back into some destructive personal habits he struggles with, Kate travels to England to salvage Kevin’s and the company’s reputation before word gets out that he is missing.
Things go from bad to worse when Kate arrives in Nether Woodsmoor, a quaint village of golden stone cottages and rolling green hills, only to find no trace of Kevin except his abandoned luggage. Even the rumpled, easy-going local scout they consulted, Alex, doesn’t know where Kevin might be.
Increasingly worried about Kevin and with an antsy director waiting for updates about the preproduction details, Kate embarks on a search that includes a pub-crawl and cozy cottages as well as stately country manors. But Kevin remains missing, and she begins to suspect that the picturesque village and beautiful countryside may not be as idyllic as they seem.
The premise is intriguing- an American location scout searching for places to film a new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. When the principal of the agency fails to report in, serious concerns are raised. He is usually the soul of reliability unless he’s gone on a rare bender. Kate, his assistant, is despatched to take over and to find out discreetly what’s happened to her boss When his car is found abandoned in the river, Kate’s fears are raised. Once the car is out of the river it proves to be empty. For Kate, it’s both an opportunity to prove her worth. It is also a chance to do some detective work. and location scouting of her own. Unfortunately, when her boss turns up dead, she becomes the prime suspect. Village rivalries simmer over the merits of competing locations. Local contact, Alex is helpful and charming, but is he all that he seems? One clue stood out for me early on, giving me a suspect. It’s the start of what promises to be an engaging new series
Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes.
What makes a romance novel a romance? How do you write a kissing book?
Writing a well-structured romance isn’t the same as writing any other genre—something the popular novel and screenwriting guides don’t address. The romance arc is made up of its own story beats, and the external plot and theme need to be braided to the romance arc—not the other way around.
If you have been struggling to fit your romance into the Hero’s Journey story structure and failing, this book will help you understand why. A romance is not apt to work well with that formula. The female journey isn’t and shouldn’t be a carbon copy of the male journey. The author gives examples to illustrate the points she makes. A quick and easy to read.
Feverfew & False Friends by Ruby Loren
A witch has vanished. The only clue to her whereabouts is a threatening letter and a gory trail that screams foul play. When Hazel receives a similar letter, she realises that this mystery involves the entire town… and she could be the next witch to disappear. It’s a race against time to find the missing woman and discover who is using their poison pen to turn the residents of Wormwood against one another..
Hazel has gained some acceptance in the Wormwood community, both magical and non -magical alike. Her cute teashop is becoming a community hub and D.C. I. Admiral has also gained a grudging respect for Hazel. Her newsletter ,Tales from Wormwood is well received, and life seems to be improving. She is gradually finding her talents are and they are unlike any other witches’ abilities. When threatened she can manifest weapons and has accidentally opened a between worlds chasm. Unfortunately, she has little control over these events. They can surprise her, as well as everyone else. Two similar murders suggest a vampire is on the loose and put the townsfolk magical or not, on edge. Hemlock, her familiar is as sarcastic and unhelpful as ever. He will only do what she asks for treats and is always trying to sneak a look into the spell books. Meanwhile Hedge, who turns out to be Jesse’s familiar (and spy) is still living with Hazel. Troublingly, she realises her eyes are a similar colour to those of the local demon. Then , another demon arrives on the scene , with a pack of hell hounds.
The First Draft is NOT Crap by Bryan Hutchinson.
The impetus for this book was from an article Hutchinson wrote nearly a decade ago, the article was titled, ‘The First Draft Is Not Crap’ and it became one of the most viral articles about writing. The assertion is the counter to the all too typical -the first draft is shit- mantra, which has led far to too many writers to give up and quit before their writing has had the chance to blossom. You can’t quit! You can’t. This book will give you not just the mindset, but also the tools to continue and finish. Keep-on-keeping-on even when every fibre of your being wants to quit. Formerly, “Serious Writers Never Quit.”
This book is like having your own personal cheer squad, encouraging you to keep going. Most writers experience those moments of self- doubt, the question, what am I doing this for? This is the book for you.
Belladonna and a Body by Ruby Loren.
Book four of this popular series
What happens when the sleuth becomes the suspect?
Once the town’s hero witch, Hazel Salem is now the prime suspect in a murder investigation. Her fall from grace is nearly complete when a stranger comes to town and throws a spanner in the works – one large enough to alter the course of the murder investigation. Hazel knows she’s being framed. But who is out to get her… and how far will they go to put her out of the picture? Wormwood has always had its secrets… but this one might be its darkest yet.
Hazel was coaxed into publishing an ancient recipe in the town newsletter ,but she didn’t expect anyone to use it. She had labelled the Belladonna Bottle Curse as of historical interest and dangerous. A solicitor shows up with news of her inheritance from her mysterious and disappeared father. After ten years he is presumed dead and she is given the keys to his mansion and told she has money coming to her. Exploring the house, she hopes to find more clues to her parentage. What she does find suggests her father is not magical but points to him conducting an investigation of his own. This leaves her with more questions than answers. She returns to Wormwood to find that her creepy uncle, who considers himself the head of the Salem family, has opened a competing apothecary shop opposite her tea shop. She can detect traces of magic all over it and it appears to be doing a roaring trade. When a member of the coven Hazel now leads turns up dead, all the clues point straight to Hazel, salt circle, runes and the recipe. D.C I Admiral who initially asked for her help is forced to consider her a suspect .As does the head of the Witch council.
An Unsuitable Lady for a Lord by Cathleen Ross.
Lord Aaron Lyle has one hell of a choice: a bankrupt dukedom, or marriage to some simpering society miss so his spendthrift father can get his hands on her huge dowry. He won’t do it. He has a reputation to maintain, and besides, he’d rather run naked through the streets of London than marry anyone at all. Surely, there must be a third option. Then Lady Crystal Wilding walks into his life, a bluestocking, full of subversive thoughts, who hates the notion of marriage even more than he does. He is intrigued…and suddenly he has an idea. He invites the totally unsuitable lady home on the pretext of presenting her as a possible match…but in truth, Aaron has something far more pleasurable in mind. For her part, Lady Crystal has her own reasons for going along with his hare-brained scheme. Imagine their shock when his highly proper family loves her and starts planning the wedding. Will their chemistry be the end or the beginning of them.
A delightful and entertaining read. Orphaned, Lady Crystal has a low opinion of men and of marriage. Lacking her father’s control, she is apt to do as she pleases. She has many progressive ideas and being tied in marriage to a man she hardly knows is not one of them. After a speaking engagement at Sir Walter Scott’s house goes wrong, she is the talk of the town.
Lord Lyle is being hounded to marry, to save his family estate, to fulfil his duty. Entirely suitable rich young women candidates are continually being presented to him. He can’t stand any of the simpering misses and refuses to marry. He attends Lady Crystal’s talk and is intrigued by her and her outrageous opinions and causes. Soon they are bantering about anything and everything and all they seem to agree on is their low opinion of marriage. With a strong-willed heroine, sizzling sexual chemistry, and a lord apt at seduction, this story will keep you entertained until the last page.
Romance Writers of Australia. Conference .Kindle. Convenient. Annoying. Death in the English Countryside. Cosy Mystery. Romance. Witches. Writing. Romance. Witches of Wormwood series.
First, because you can never learn too much about the craft, books about writing. Next, books that the library sent in its bookbag selection. Finally, my personal choices.
Books about writing
Successful Indie Authorship by Craig Martell.
Demystifying the tangled web of self-publishing to put you on the road to success.
This is a motivational guide based on my two and a half million published words (mostly with Amazon) to help you see past the hurdles that are keeping you from climbing the mountain of success. Nothing is overwhelming once it’s been explained. If you are smart enough to write a book, you are smart enough to do everything else needed to make your indie author business a success.
My review. I have this on Kindle, and I wish I had it in paperback as well. It’s a book I expect to refer to again and again. It may look like I’m stuck at 78% read, but that because there is a useful appendix recapping all the recommendations, and I want to keep referring to it.
Write to Market by Chris Fox.
Have you written a book that just isn’t selling? Would you like to write a book that readers eagerly devour?
Many authors write, then market. Successful authors write TO market. They start by figuring out how to give readers what they want, and that process begins before writing word one of your novel.
This book will teach you to analyse your favourite genre to discover what readers are buying, to mine reviews for reader expectations, and to nail the tropes your readers subconsciously crave.
Don’t leave the success of your novel up to chance. Deliver the kind of book that will have your fans hounding you for the next one.
My review. With a premise like that what writer wouldn’t want to read it? Encouraging and definitely worth considering the marketability of your book.
The Library Bag Selections
Ravenscliffe by Jane Sanderson
For fans of Downton Abbey . . . The peaceful beauty of the English countryside belies the turmoil of forbidden love and the apprehension of a changing world for the families of Netherwood
Yorkshire, 1904. On Netherwood Common, Russian émigré Anna Rabinovich shows her dear friend Eve Williams a gracious Victorian villa—Ravenscliffe—the house Anna wants them to live in. There’s a garden and a yard and room enough for their children to play and grow.
Something about the house speaks to Anna, and you should listen to a house, she believes…Ravenscliffe holds the promise of happiness.
Across the square, Clarissa and her husband, the Earl of Netherwood, are preparing for King Edward’s visit. Clarissa is determined to have everything in top shape at Netherwood Hall—in spite of the indolent heir to the estate, Tobias, and his American bride—and much of it depends on the work going on downstairs as the loyal servants strive to preserve the noble family’s dignity and reputation.
As Anna restores Ravenscliffe to its full grandeur, she strikes up a relationship with hardworking Amos Sykes—who proposed to Eve just one year ago.
But when Eve’s long-lost brother Silas turns up in their close-knit mining community, cracks begin to appear in even the strongest friendships.
As change comes to the small town and society at large, the residents of Netherwood must find their footing or lose their place altogether.
My review. This is the second book following on from Netherwood which I read last month. Fortunately, I had bought it but hadn’t read it- and of course,I wanted to read it before reading Ravenscliffe. I am glad I did, as this second book made more sense after reading it.
Life is changing for the families, upstairs in Lord Netherwood’s household, his heir Tobias has no intention of taking his position or his responsibilities seriously. His sister, Henrietta, would be an exemplary heir, but she’s female. A couple of major events alter everyone’s plans. Eve Williams has gained status and the family has moved to a bigger house called Ravenscliffe. Anna, the Russian emigre was the mover in this, and she plays a more substantial part in this story. Some of the stories engaged me and other parts I found dull. Primarily concerning Amos and politics, although some of the mining information also felt a bit laboured to me. The standout for me was the emergence and transformation of Anna. I know there is a third book in the series, but I doubt I will read it.
Don’t Go by Lisa Scottoline.
When Dr Mike Scanlon is called to serve as an army doctor in Afghanistan, he’s acutely aware of the dangers he’ll face and the hardships it will cause his wife Chloe and newborn baby. And deep inside, he doesn’t think of himself as a warrior, but a healer.
However, in an ironic turn of events, as Mike operates on a wounded soldier in a war-torn country, Chloe dies at home
My Review I would never have chosen this book for myself but decided to give it a go. Let me say at the onset it’s not for the faint-hearted as surgical procedures are explained in detail. At first, I thought that might be overdone but as the book continued I realised the relevance of Mike’s experiences to his handling of events stateside. He’s now a sole parent and has dual responsibilities to his surgical team and patients and his daughter. It’s a combination of murder mystery and legal procedural and deals with how good people can be torn apart by events.
More Than Words by Jill Santopolo.
From the New York Times, bestselling author of The Light We Lost comes a tender and moving new novel about a woman at a crossroads after the death of her father and caught between the love of two men.
Nina Gregory has always been a good daughter, a good girlfriend. Raised by her father, owner of New York City’s glamorous Gregory Hotels, after her mother’s death, Nina was taught that family, reputation, and legacy are what matter most. And her boyfriend Tim, thoughtful, kind, and honest, not to mention her best friend since childhood, feels the same. But after Nina’s father passes away, she learns he may not have practised what he preached.
As her world falls apart, Nina begins to question everything she thought she knew and to see the men in her life–her father, her boyfriend, and unexpectedly, her handsome and attentive boss, Rafael–in a new light. Soon Nina finds herself caught between the world she knows and loves and a passion that could upend everything. More than Words is a heartbreaking and romantic novel about grief, loss, love, and self-discovery, and how we choose which life we are meant to live.
My Review Having never heard of the author I did not expect anything of the book, but it resonated with me and I raced through it. In part, I suspect that as an only daughter I understood Nina’s wish to pleas her father. Nina is her father’s daughter, her choices modelled on what he would approve of. Her life is already mapped out for her, a suitable boyfriend, marriage and maintaining the Gregory hotel and its and her reputation. She is almost sleepwalking through life when Rafael her charismatic boss, makes her look again at all she has. Then her father’ s death disrupts her carefully planned life. Will she continue down the same path or is there another, better way forward?
Personal Choices. Hemlock and Hedge: The Witches of Wormwood Prequel
Only a witch would poison a cake. And only another witch would blackmail the poisoner.
Hazel Salem is the family disappointment. She isn’t a witch.
She doesn’t believe in magic. And she definitely doesn’t want a black cat for a pet.
But when she discovers an unsolved mystery amongst her inheritance, she is forced to accept that ignoring her heritage is no longer an option.
Hazel is determined to reveal a secret that’s stayed hidden for years.
But the witches of Wormwood have other ideas…
My Review. I enjoyed this prequel, so much so that I bought the first five books in the series. Several things appealed to me. Firstly, the English setting, then the fact that Hazel had no idea she was a witch or had abilities and the brilliant addition of Hemlock, a black cat with catattitude.
The Secrets of Primrose Square by Claudia Carroll.
There are so many stories hidden behind closed doors . . .
It’s late at night and the rain is pouring down on the Dublin city streets. A mother is grieving for her dead child. She stands silently outside the home of the teenage boy she believes responsible. She watches . . .
In a kitchen on the same square, a girl waits anxiously for her mum to come home. She knows exactly where she is, but she knows she cannot reach her.
A few doors down and a widow sits alone in her room. She has just delivered a bombshell to her family during dinner and her life is about to change forever.
And an aspiring theatre director has just moved into a flat across the street. Her landlord is absent, but there are already things about him that don’t quite add up . . .
Welcome to Primrose Square.
All you would expect from an Irish writer in the Maeve Binchy tradition. The book has heart. The women who are the inhabitants of Primrose Square are dealing with a variety of changes and secrets, Nancy who has escaped her past London life. Melissa a girl whose life has changed dramatically and whose mother is barely hanging on. Susan, her mother who is obsessed with loss. Jayne, who lives her life in the past talking to Tom her deceased husband.
New Witch on the Block by Louisa West.
Practical Magic meets Bridget Jones’ Diary in this fun, heart-warming short novel about starting over, putting family first, and finding love when you least expect it.
She thought she was running away from her past, not catching up with it.
Rosemary Bell just wants to live a quiet, happy life and raise her daughter as far away from her toxic ex-husband as she can get. But when they move into a decrepit cottage in the woods of Mosswood, Georgia, Rosie realises her life will never be simple.
A fun beginning to what promises to be an entertaining new series. I had this book on pre-order, so it was immediately available on release day on my Kindle. The town of Mosswood is a retreat for Rosie and her daughter Maggie, after packing up and leaving everything behind to start again. However, it’s not as straightforward as she might have hoped. Her rental is an almost derelict cottage and her nearest neighbour, Declan has some strange ideas about who she is and what they might accomplish together. After leaving her vicious and controlling ex Rose isn’t ready to get inv.oved with anyone, let alone this hunky Irishman. I predict some fun and exciting times ahead and I am looking forward to reading book two, Jealousy A Bitch, which is due in September.
The Book of Spells and Such by Jacquie Underdown
When destiny knocks, do you invite it in?
When a spell book lands on Ariana’s doorstep, her world is thrown into turmoil. That’s nothing new for her, except this time it involves bizarre and terrifying creatures who attempt to kill her. Then there’s a little fact that she now has the ability to perform magic.
Hadeon is another new addition in her life. He happened to drop in at the same time the spell book appeared. He’s dark, sexy, and mysterious as hell, and Ariana doesn’t know if she wants to kill him or love him.
But all this chaos is nothing compared to what destiny has in store for her. A future is promised of royalty and immense power, palaces and undying love. But hers is a destiny that is not easily won. She will have to fight to the death against those who want to take it all for themselves. And when the real battle begins, just who the true enemy is will surprise everyone.
My review. Expecting a magical story, I was slightly confused as the story began in the rather sleazy everyday world. In fact, I almost gave up, but I am glad that I persevered. Ariana had no one to turn to as she grew up. She has been treated badly almost her whole life, so she has trust issues. Hadeon could be her protector or her worst nightmare, but she has to trust someone when life takes a totally unexpected turn. To me, a part of the story read like a modern fairy-tale and had some unique magical touches. I am happy I continued to read this book.
Subterranean by B Michael Radburn.
‘The past is my shadow, forever behind me.’
Cassie Belrose was used to looking over her shoulder. Running away was what she did best – away from a possessive husband who wants her back, running from city to city, from job to job, to stay one step ahead of him.
Daniel Woodsman is at home in the dark; in the abandoned railway tunnels below the city where the homeless veteran has built his life since his injuries had taken away more than just his confidence.
Fleeing the Suits dispatched by her husband to bring her home, Cassie enters Daniel’s domain in the subway where their two worlds collide.
Together, can they stop running long enough to begin living again?
A fast-paced and immensely readable story that kept me hooked. The story is prefaced and concluded by a charming allegorical fairy-tale. Cassie is a totally relatable character, as is Daniel. He is both an enigmatic and interesting character who we gradually come to understand. There is enough gritty realism to make the story authentic. It makes one think about the fate of those veterans traumatised by their service. I was provided with a free copy of the book by the publisher but was not obligated to write a review.
The Witches of Wormwood Mysteries: Books 1 – 5 A thrilling and funny British witch cozy mystery series, packed with magic, cats, and murder! Perfect for fans of Agatha Raisin and Amanda M. Lee.
Not many people move to Wormwood. The witches aren’t welcoming.
The fortune tellers are frauds. And the recent murder is only going to make things worse.
Hazel Salem just wanted a story for her magazine. Instead, she finds herself at the centre of an investigation that’s about to turn into a witch hunt.
If someone doesn’t solve this murder – and fast – it will be out of the cauldron and into the fire for Wormwood’s witches.
Although I bought this as a boxed set I will be reviewing the books individually.
Mandrake And Murder by Silver Nord.
My Review. Hazel has returned to Wormwood, after the death of her mother to run the failing apothecary shop. Profits are abysmal and so is her reputation. Wormwood is a community divided between those who are magical and ordinary folk who have no idea that anything is unusual. Hazel senses she is an object of scorn as a supposed witch who can’t do magic. Two women who say they are her aunts arrive and reassure her that late-blooming magic could be powerful. When Wormwood has a murder, the first in hundred years everyone in town magical or not is on edge. To make matter worse there are some clues that it could be concerned with magic. Hazel hits on the idea of producing a free local magazine. It’s the perfect opportunity for her to ask questions. D.C. I. Admiral is also investigating and despite an initial speak between them, he doesn’t require any help. Jealously, fake fortune-tellers and hexes add to the fun.
Vervain and a Victim by Silver Nord.
A cauldron, a coin, and a corpse.
Three things that don’t belong in the woods.
The man standing over the body shouldn’t be there either, but when Hazel finds him with the victim, she suspects she’s already found the killer.
The only thing that keeps the prime suspect from being arrested is the absence of a murder weapon and a motive.
But in a town as weird as Wormwood, a motive for murder is only one dark secret away.
My Review. Wormwood hasn’t wholeheartedly welcomed Hazel. Although she is invited to join the coven, she suspects they are simply curious about her magical abilities. Her nemesis Natalia Gould is openly hostile. Another problem is she has now got a fake boyfriend, putting her at odds with his admirers. Her cat Hemlock seems to despise her and Jesse Heathen, the supposed detective has tried to charm her. All while murder has shaken the town and there is talk of vampires, the enemies of witches being seen in Wormwood. More fun and suspense, developing relationships and unanswered questions.
June and my local library still wasn’t open, so I was still reading from my TBR pile and the books I had on my Kindle. Luckily, there was still plenty to choose from. However, the month was mainly devoted to reading about the craft of writing. I also read books for research, which were Viking romances. This was because I was submitting part of a Viking romance for consideration. I also read one book from my To Be Read pile.
Take Off Your Pants ! by Libbie Hawker.
When it comes to writing books, are you a “plotter” or a “pantser?” Is one method really better than the other?
In this instructional ebook, author Libbie Hawker explains the benefits and technique of planning a story before you begin to write.
I have been hearing about this book for it seems like forever. As a confirmed ‘pantser’ I have always resisted the idea of outlining. However, I had a project that required me to submit a synopsis-awkward! So, I worked my way through this book, I found it helped and I made crucial scene cards. However, I used it in conjunction with The Virgin’s Promise as mine was a female orientated journey. This focusses heavily on The Hero’s Journey. Combing the two perspectives helped and gave me the tools to work out a solid synopsis.
Gotta Read it by Libbie Hawker.
Blurbs, product descriptions, query letters… no matter what you call them, they’re a chore to write. And yet the success of any novel can depend on its pitch. What’san author to do?
Gotta Read It! The book is helpful and gives useful guidelines, as to how you can write compelling synopsis for your book. A job that most writers detest. I’m certain I will keep referring to it
Successful Self- Publishing by Joanna Penn.
Do you want to successfully self-publish?
There are thousands of new books being published every day, but many self-published books quickly sink to the bottom of the pile.
Many authors are frustrated because there are so many options for self-publishing, and they don’t know which one to choose or what will be best for their book.
An easy to understand and comprehensive review of the steps it takes to self- publish. Joanna Penn ( was there ever a more perfect name for an author?)has walked the walk and is now a successful author and speaker. She didn’t start that way, and she lets us know the mistakes and slip-ups that dogged her early attempts to publish. Encouraging and helpful.
Vikings by Ashe Barker prequel to Viking Surrender Series.
A horde of battle-hardened, ferocious Nordic warriors.
A Pictish village at the mercy of its enemies. A harrowing bargain struck for nine fearful and reluctant brides Delivered into Viking hands, claimed and conquered, each bride must accept that she belongs to her new master. But, as wedding nights bring surrender to duty, will fierce lovers also surrender their hearts?
An interesting prequel to the series. At twelve thousand words, it’s not a long read. One that encouraged me to try a couple more of the books.
Brandr by Ashe Barker part of the Viking Surrender Series
Forced to wed the fierce Viking warlord in order to save her people, Eithne has no choice but to surrender to her powerful and terrifying husband. She submits to his stern discipline, but his tenderness takes her breath away. A man of his word, Brandr means to keep his side of their bargain and will see her village safe and protected from their enemies. But what of Eithne
The prologue hadn’t given me the idea that these stories might be confronting. I refer in particular to the so-called ‘discipline’ handed out by Brandr to Eithne. Now I know modern sensibilities are involved and life was harsher then, but these stories are categorised as romances. Eithne was strong, brave, adaptable and resourceful I would have thought an ideal wife. Brandr comes across as a bit of a brute. If you are into spanking and discipline this will appeal. Adult content
Garth by Assa Daniels – Viking Surrender Series.
A proud warrior, he hides a debilitating weakness. The village outcast, she’s plagued by terrifying visions. Their marriage seems cursed from the start. But, as they come to terms with their union, will they find the love they both need?
More of the same, a reluctant bride and reluctant groom with the question can this marriage work? Garth has a weakness he doesn’t want to talk about- he suffers headaches that leave him unable to function. Ytha was so much the better character, intelligent, trying to understand and please her new husband. I enjoyed some of the characterisations but once again spanking seems to be to the fore. If that’s your turn on, then it will appeal. Adult content.
Falling for her Viking Captive by Harper St George.
The Viking warrior
In her cellar…
Lady Annis must stop Viking Rurik Sigurdsson from discovering the truth about his family’s death. Her only solution is to imprison him. But as the ruggedly handsome Viking starts to charm his way out of his cell and into her heart, can she be sure he’s not still intent on vengeance—or perhaps an unexpected alliance is the solution?
Well written and entertaining. Nicely balanced characters who are a foil for each other. A well-rounded plot that delivered a few surprises. I enjoyed this and the repartee between this evenly-matched pair.
Beloved Viking by Ree Thornton
The shield-maiden must marry…
Heir to her father’s Jarldom, Rúna Isaksson will soon ascend to replace him as a leader, but first, she must marry a warrior from another clan to form a powerful alliance. When her father creates a contest to determine the strongest suitor, Rúna demands to compete as well—if she wins, she can choose her own husband.
A new take on the familiar subject matter and an entertaining read. These two characters are destined for each other but how they get there is the crux of the story. He hurt her once, now she wants to hurt him, but events are not all that they seem. Zips along at a good pace and holds the readers’ interest. Well written and engaging.
Netherwood by Jane Sanderson.
Eve Williams is about to discover just how the other half really live, in this epic and absorbing “big house” drama perfect for Downton Abbey fans
I bought this book a while ago and hadn’t got round to reading it. My initial impression was that it was like a Catherine Cookson novel all grit and gumption as I read of the realities of life in a Yorkshire mining village. The pit was the centre of life and the miners and their families were living with the dust and dirt. Netherwood, the ‘big house’ was situated so that the Earl and Countess saw none of poverty or squalor. Their home was amid greenery and expansive parkland. Eve is an admirable heroine, dealing with loss, but she wouldn’t have got so far without the prodding of Anna, the Russian emigre. The contrast between the grinding poverty of the village of Gradley and the thoughtless lavishness of the aristocracy is well shown. When Eve’s baking talent is discovered the book the reminded me of The Duchess of Duke Street. Even to the point where she cooks for King Edward VII. Netherwood is a good reminder of the progress we have made toward giving people some measure of security and hope.
Like many people, I was battling with the restrictions and limitations of our Covid 19 world. This meant no visits to the library, which was closed. Like many readers, I have amassed a significant To Be Read Pile, otherwise known as TBR. What is in it? It’s a mixture of books I had bought and never started, books I’ve been given, and books acquired at book swop.
Also, I have learned to love my Kindle. It was an under-appreciated Christmas present that has finally come into its own. Plusses are that it has a book light making for easy reading in bed and the ability to adjust the text size which I have appreciated since an eye operation.
Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch.
One from book swop, with the tagline, “Two missing children. One lost copper.” This is book five in the Peter Grant series, and it would have helped enormously if I’d read the previous four. That said, it was still an enjoyable read, although I suspect some in-jokes and references went completely over my head. The police presence mixed with the supernatural gave it an unusual and amusing twist. Peter Grant is both a cop and a man with an aptitude for magic.
The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones illustrated by Tim Stevens.
Another children’s’ book from my TBR pile- this book is a precursor to the popular ‘Chrestomanci’ series. As I hadn’t read any of them, I started the book with no preconceptions. It is an engaging story of Christopher, a rather lonely boy, who finds out that he has a destiny. His parents are aloof, his mother beautiful, but always out, his father important and busy. When his uncle takes an interest in him, he’s flattered by the attention. The next bombshell is he’s to be sent away to school. Unexpectedly, he finds fun and friendship at school and as a love of cricket. Then, he is unceremoniously removed from school. Sent into the guardianship of a wizard to learn magic. He is to become the next ‘Chrestomanci.’ magical guardian of all wizards, but he proves inept at magic. However, unknown to anyone else he can go to a place he calls ‘the in-between’ a doorway onto other worlds. The revelation of this secret increases the danger, that he and everyone else is in. Reading a children’s book as an adult, you pick up more of the hints and nuances that would have bypassed you as a child. Even so, there were still a few surprises.
Pawprints of Love- A Gumnut Press Anthology.
This anthology is stylishly put together, and the contents do not disappoint either. Ten Australian Authors write stories filled with canine capers, disarming and distracting their human companions. In Stonecrest Bay, at Dee’s dog grooming salon The Funny Bone, dogs always come first. All doggy life is there. The good dogs and the naughty ones. They steal not only their owner’s hearts but yours too. The town is abuzz with a local fundraiser for the Fireys*, and the upbeat vibe catches hearts unaware as they fall under its spell and give love a chance.
* Fireys is Australian slang for the fire fighting men and women
Starting Over At Acorn Cottage by Kate Forster.
As a fan of the TV show Escape to the Country, I was anticipating enjoying this book and I did. However, there is far more to the story than the charming cover might have you imagine. Clara has bought a country cottage over the internet. A betraying boyfriend and best friend and too much wine can do that to you. I snorted with laughter at the nicknames she came up with for the dubious duo.
Inevitably, the pictures don’t tell the whole story- the place is a dump and Clara has nowhere else to live. She need help and fast and it arrives in the shape of Henry, the thatcher who can fix anything. Henry has a daughter Pansy and they live in a gypsy caravan. So far, so predictable. The village of Merryknowe has its mix of strange inhabitants. There is Tassie who is a grandmotherly/ tea leaf reading/ knowing things type. Rachel at the teashop, a sad wisp of a girl, whose storyline is particularly sad. The plot deepens with the addition of these characters and in helping them and being helped by them Clara also helps herself. Despite its light cover, there are serious issued addressed here with family violence and domestic abuse. This might be upsetting for some readers.
The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester.
I was fortunate enough to win a copy of this book in a book giveaway, otherwise, I would have bought it. Every book Natasha Lester has written has surpassed the previous book. The Paris Secret continues this trend, it is superlative and compelling storytelling.
Much of Natasha’s success is in combing topics which interest her and resonate with her readers, such as travel and fashion. The bonus is that she then combines them with historical research into lesser-known topics to craft a compelling story. The authors note at the end of the book details much of this research and show how comprehensive the research process was.
Natasha takes the research and brings it to life, peopling it with characters that we come to care about.
Like Skye Penrose, surely with a name like that she was born to fly? One of two illegitimate sisters to an unconventional mother Skye enjoyed an almost idyllic childhood in Cornwall. As someone who spent part of my childhood in Cornwall, I enjoyed reading about Skye’s halcyon days with Nicholas Crawford an American boy who is destined to return to the States.
Later, when Skye joins the war effort as an Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) pilot the trials and humiliations these women endured just to do a vital job were almost unbelievable. They faced male patronage, misogyny, and hostility in breathtaking amounts. All this is based on documented fact. If we bear in mind that these women were middle class, educated women, who had the funds to be able to learn to fly- we can only imagine how lower-class women were treated. To still undertake the jobs given to them, to fly in freezing conditions in an open cockpit plane. To smile, to boost male morale, to be treated so poorly and expected to perform to impossible standards. Every single one of those women was a heroine who deserves our respect and thanks.
Christian Dior, that iconic name in fashion had a sister Catherine. The famous Miss Dior perfume is named for her. Again, a little-known story, she was part of the resistance and was captured in 1944 and sent to the infamous Ravensbruek concentration camp. This makes grim but compelling reading.
When Skye meets Nicholas again, he’s engaged to a Frenchwoman Margaux Jourdan. So, they can only remain as friends and in the camaraderie and tensions of wartime that has to do. But can it be enough? Nicholas still has feelings for Skye and she for him, but he’s an honourable man.
In present-day Australia, Kat Jourdan is a fashion conservator. Sent on a mission by her grandmother Margaux Jordan to visit Cornwall. Kat becomes fascinated by what she has discovered and what she has still to learn. And then there is a collection of sixty-five priceless Dior gowns. They are so well described; it is easy to visualise them and to covet them.
This book takes a reader on an emotional journey, one that makes you laugh and cry, exclaim at the courage and weep at the baseness of some of humanity. Unforgettable.
The Virgin’s Promise by Kim Hudson.
I didn’t know how much I needed this book until I read it. As a writer trying to tell a female story fitting it into the heroes journey concept has always felt unsatisfying to me, and now, I know why. The stories may intertwine, but they are immensely different. I found myself nodding as various points were raised. It was like finding the missing piece to a jigsaw, everything finally made sense. I had a submission to complete and using these concepts made it easier and I think more emotionally satisfying.
I have always read widely and extensively. Books are chosen at random, maybe through a friend’s recommendation, or reading a blurb. At times, I am tempted by a bookshop or library display. I have a passion for fiction and also dip into non-fiction if the topic appeals to me.
Often, I will then write a review, I like to keep track of what I have read and use Good reads as well as posting reviews on my blog. I am not paid for the reviews and hardly ever receive a ‘free’ copy of a book. If I do so, then I reveal that.
There are some books that I won’t review though. As a writer, I know the amount of time and effort that goes into writing book. Volunteering as a book group coordinator for eleven -years taught me that there isn’t a book that appeals to everyone.
As readers, we bring our own experiences and expectations, to the books that we read. What one may describe as slow-paced, another may consider introspective and thoughtful. We may have ‘hot button’ topics, which are always going to be negative to us. Some may have moral or ethical scruples about certain kinds of books. Hot romance will not appeal to sweet or Christian romance readers, graphic content may not appeal to a more sensitive reader.
For me it is simple, if I am not enjoying a book I stop reading and don’t review it. It’s not a bad book, put simply I am not the right reader. That is not to say there are no bad books, over wordy, pretentious, slight on a story, dull, or prosaic, of course, there are. It’s up to us to decide for ourselves what they are.
I love my local library, I am a regular library user and generally pop in once a week. It was fortunate that I had just grabbed a stack of books, when the library closed for the foreseeable future. So this month my reading is a mix of library books and ones I had on my bookshelves.Those I have marked with an asterisk.
The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley.
This was the perfect book for now. Strangers are brought together by chance. Each has read a green notebook,The Authenticity Project. Julian, an elderly artist started it off, asking what lies we tell ourselves and others? He writes that he’s lonely and leaves the book in Monica’s café.
Café owner, Monica,reminded me of Monica in Friends, with her quest for order and perfection. After reading Julian’s confession, she writes of her hopes, fears and dreams. Hazard is next, he gets the book by accident.He’s an ex-city trader , burnt out and trying to quit his coke habit. Going as far as possible, from everything and everyone,he knows, he winds up on a beach in Thailand. Even paradise can have its drawbacks, boredom makes Hazard read the book and then add his story to it.
Laidback and likeable Riley,gets the book by chance. As a stranger to London, he decides to see if he can find Monica’s café. An amusing part of the book showed the disconnect between perception and reality Alice is an influencer, and mummy blogger.She stares through the window of Monica’s café. Alice is tired of her so called ‘perfect life; and looks at the homeliness of the cafe with envy.Meanwhile, Monica, sees the perfect mother and baby. Each envies the other for what they think is lacking in their own lives and to me, that was very realistic.
This is one of those rare books that you want to read in one sitting and then you are sorry that you finished. I cared about these people and felt that I knew them.
Something to Tell You by Lucy Diamond. *
A carefully planned, much anticipated golden wedding anniversary party, for Harry and Jeanie Mortimer, goes wrong when a gate-crasher turns up. Unknown to them, John, their eldest son, has become increasingly distant from his wife Robyn. Sweet Bunny is in love with Dave Mortimer, but she is living a lie and fears exposure. Londoner, Frankie lives with Craig and his little boy, but their situation is becoming precarious. Everyone has something on their minds, lives will be reshaped, as the secrets and failings are exposed.
The Villa Girls by Nicky Pellegrino.*
Hiring a villa is an escape from reality, everyday worries and problems. It started when the girls were leaving school. Addolorata impulsively asks Rosie – whose parents were killed in a car crash, to join them and so the tradition of the four villa girls is born. The first trip was to Majorca, the next to Italy, and that set up a tradition. Through tough times and life upheavals, they still have the villa to look forward to. In Italy charming and somewhat spoiled Enzo basks in the adoration of his family and enjoys the privilege as the heir to a wealthy olive estate. Meeting the villa girls will change his life and theirs.
Buying Thyme by T.J.Hamilton *
High-end escort Miranda is pragmatic about her job and the men she meets. She keeps her real name and life a secret. She is seductive and alluring, playing the fantasy role men want. Powerful, charismatic and dangerous, Joe Tench, a reputed underworld figure is her best client. But Miranda thinks she can handle him. Until events spin out of her control, putting her in danger. Sexy and sizzling. Frustratingly nowhere on the book blurb was it revealed that the book was part of a series. A letdown.
Consider This by Chuck Palahniuk.
Who hasn’t heard of him? He is the sort of celebrity writer who generates headlines and controversy. His tales are always edgy, so I picked this book up wondering what kind of writing advice he would give. Practical advice interspersed with anecdotes. Clear-eyed and realistic about the writer and writing process. Not prescriptive, simply saying ‘this is what works for me.’ Not for the easily offended.
The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell.*
Set in 9th century England and Denmark. Uhtred, son of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a noble English boy is captured after a raid and is taken to Denmark. He finds favour with Ragnar and is eventually accepted as almost another son. The unfettered way of life appeals to him. He much prefers the fighting upbringing, to the one he might have had in England, with its prayers and learning. Throughout the book, his identity is fluid as his loyalties shift ,in these his formative years. At heart, I think he is always a pagan. He has a fatalistic attitude to life, embodied in the phrase ‘destiny is all.’ I enjoyed the immersion into the midst of this way of life, vividly written. The book inspired the popular TV series The Last Kingdom
Mary Poppins by P.L Travers illustrated by Mary Shephard.*
I had never read Mary Poppins and I thought now might be the time to enjoy it. The book was a shock ,after the saccharine Disney version of Mary Poppins. The original Mary Poppins as written by P.L.Travers is very definitely an Edwardian no-nonsense nanny and a far more acerbic creation. She is an interesting, although not a likeable character, in my opinion. However, as there were five more Mary Poppins books, she proved popular.
Shakespeare by Bill Bryson.*
What we think we know about Shakespeare is probably wrong. Bill Bryson sets out to tell us that we know extraordinarily little about England’s most famous poet and playwright. There are only three portraits in existence, and only one is from Shakespeare’s time. This summarises very well the entire Shakespeare knowledge, as hardly anything is contemporary. Bryson works through the conspiracy theories of who else could have written the plays. He demolishes the arguments one by one, some made by serious scholars, others by cranks. Personally, the conclusive argument for me was the way Bryson showed how Shakespeare’s Warwickshire upbringing and knowledge imbued his work in the phraseology and concepts of that place.
Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones.*
This has been on my bookshelves for a while. After trying to read a much-anticipated book, which I gave up on ( I hate to do that!) And no, I dont like posting snarky reviews. I read Enchanted Glass, as a kind of antidote. It was an enjoyable read. Andrew Hope had a magical grandfather and, on his death, inherits his house, his staff, and his field of care, without really realising what that entails.
As he is coming to grips with this, a young boy , Aidan Gain turns up and needs his help. Andrew already has the disruptive staff to deal with but accepts Aiden and tries to help him. Aidan’s arrival seems to be a catalyst for trouble and adds mystery and complexity to Andrew’s life. Altogether a very enjoyable read. As others have noted, Aidan’s parentage gives cause to pause and consider the implications of a throwaway sentence or two. Perhaps the author didn’t see it as problematical at the time? I think the book could have done with a better cover too.
A Cotswold Mystery by Rebecca Tope.*
I am reading books I have at home and this is the first in the series that I have, although its number four in this series. I was soon able to keep up as the author quickly filled in house sitter Thea Osborne’s background. Engaged to house sit in delightful Cotswold village for ten days Thea and her spaniel Hepzie, are engaged to ‘ keep an eye on granny’ as her daughter and son in law have a ten-day break. It sounds like a perfect job although they do seem a bit paranoid about security arrangements. Thea finds her charge a puzzle at times capable and the at times confused. She is voluble about ‘dear Julian’ their next-door neighbour. All is going well until Julian is found dead by Thea’s daughter trainee police constable Jessica.
Edit Your Own Romance Novel by Ebony McKenna.*
A helpful and practical guide which talks you through the steps needed to edit your own romance novel. Romances have their own structure and it is useful to have some explanations which make that clear and relatable. Simple explanations and examples make the steps understandable. Encouraging and user friendly.
Like many people around the world, I am staying home. It has provided me with a reading bonanza. The month started as normal until mid-month with the need to stay home. Most normal activities were cancelled and I read and read.
What Holds Us Together by Sandi Ward
Browsing in the library and this book caught my eye, I was attracted by the beguiling cat picture on the front cover. Reading the blurb further intrigued me, so I took the book home. Serendipity, as I enjoyed reading it, especially the perspective of Luna, the family cat. This is a reflective and thoughtful book, dealing with the sudden death of a husband and father and how the family must try and come to terms with it. Guilt and anger cloud the points of view as Annika wasn’t home when Peter died and Donovan, her son is unforgiving towards her. Luna is the only one who is aware of the presence of Peter’s ghost. Donovan has Peter’s journal and won’t return it, while Annika is concerned about what it might reveal. Things become complicated as Sam Annika’s old high school boyfriend and his brother Danny come to plough them out of a snowstorm. A positive and hopeful book
The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker by Joanna Nell
As I had enjoyed The Single Ladies of The Jacaranda Retirement Village, I settled down with this book anticipating an enjoyable read. I would have relished it when I was younger, finding it amusing. However, for someone who is aware of ageing, it makes uncomfortable reading. Poor bewildered Mrs Parker valiantly battling on with her memory loss, confusion and worries. Throughout the book, we worry is poor Henry dead, misplaced, or playing a cruel game with Mrs Parker? All the classic fears of ageing, are here, the book wasn’t the happiest choice for me. It is well written, and others have and will enjoy it.
The Secret Letter By Kerry Barrett.
Two interlinked storied make up this book and they are perfect companions for each other. Esther in 1910 is fighting for women’s rights after being left in poor circumstances due to her father’s’ death and gambling problems. In 2019 teacher Lizzie needs to begin again after being unwittingly implicated in her ex-husband’s less than ethical dealings. Both women need grit and determination to solve their problems and build a life worth living. I was cheering on the sidelines with this one and can’t wait to read more from this author.
Bad Girls by Caitlin Davies.
Coincidentally I was reading this at the same time as I was reading TheSecret Letter. This is a social history of Britain’s Holloway women’s’ prison. Bad Girls is a sobering book and one that left me both sad and angry at the treatment these women received. I am full of admiration for the courage of the suffragettes. Political prisoners, which essentially what the suffragettes were, were often treated with special harshness. For example, Lilian Lenton was eventually tied to a chair by six wardresses after refusing food and forcibly fed by two male doctors. It was a brutal procedure, forcing a tube down the throat or even in some cases the nose to enable ‘feeding’. In Lilian’s case, the tube was pushed into her windpipe and then food was forced into her lung Women were not ‘given’ the vote. They fought for it, demanded it, and eventually won it. There are heartrending stories of interred so-called’ enemy aliens’- women who had fled Nazi persecution to go to Britain, who then ended up in prison. They could even end up with fascist and Nazi sympathisers and the system did not seem to recognise the difference.
There are of course the ‘celebrity cases’ notorious women who ended up in Holloway. More interesting to me were the so-called criminals who were products of a society that had no compassion for the beaten, the starving, the ill-educated, and the poor. A society that shamed and devalued women while holding them to a higher standard of behaviour and morality than men. Holloway became a women’s prison in 1902 and was closed in 2016- the site has now been sold to a housing association. It is planned to build social housing on much of the site
The Cosy Coffee Shop of Promises by Kellie Hailes.
Set in the fictional Rabbits’ Leap Devon, the book explores the rivalry and attraction between Mel, the local café owner and Tony the owner of the decrepit village pub. Mel is in a panic due to an upcoming visit from her matchmaking mother. Mel can’t face that humiliation again and persuades Tony to act as decoy fiance. It can’t be that simple, can it? And of course, it isn’t.
Amour: How the French talk about Love by Stefania Rouselle.
The title of this nonfiction book intrigued me. The French are masters of the art of love, or so the mythologising says. So, what did they have to say on the subject? As a journalist, Rousselle covered hard subjects, terrorist attacks, refugees, and far-right parties. She felt despair and decided to look for the antidote-love. What follows are interviews and photographs of ordinary people and how they see love. The whole spectrum of emotions is here from those whose search has ended in despair to the long-married couples who still hold hands. Each story is as individual as the person who tells it. Do I know any more about love? If anything, the lesson is that we each seek what matters to us. Love is more than the physical, it’s the rightness, the connection and one special individual.
The Women of Primrose Square by Claudia Carroll
A surprise party for Frank Woods that delivers one hell of a surprise and sets off a chain of inevitable events. Primrose Square was once a genteel place and Miss Violet Hardcastle deplores what it has become. She’s the self-appointed arbiter of standards, firing off angry missives to all and sundry. Then there is Emily Dunne, out of rehab and out of chances. I found their stories realistic and entertaining. Claudia Carroll writes with compassion and warmth.
Home to Bindarra Creek by Juanita Kees.
Alice is at home in Bindarra Creek, after a tragedy she had built a life for herself. She feels safe, although trapped by her memories and regrets. Dan Molyneux is a local boy returned from the big city, where he was reportedly a hotshot financial whizz. At their initial meeting, sparks fly. When he buys the old pub, Alice expects him to tear it down and that’s alright with her. Unexpectedly, Dan plans to reopen the pub, where there are painful memories for Alice.
The Little Library Year by Kate Young.
An absolute treasure of a book for anyone who enjoys browsing cookbooks and reading. The recipes sound like the sort of things you might want to cook. For me, the book was a revisit to my birthplace England and a homage to the seasons. This book combines seasonal recipes and recommended reading in a glorious mixture to inform, entertain and inspire.
Rules of the Road by Ciara Geraghty.
Each of Ciara Geraghty’s books is different and for me, this was perhaps the wrong book for this stressful time. Terry is determined to accompany her friend Iris and to try and dissuade her from her ultimate plan to end her life in Switzerland. Iris had progressive Multiple sclerosis and feels its time. The book is about relationships, memories and taking a road trip. Well written and plausible.
White Nights by Ann Cleeves.
An atmospheric story that immersed me in the long Shetland evenings of almost endless daylight. These are the White nights of the title, an unnerving time for those unaccustomed to them. Jimmy Perez has a bizarre death to deal with, which is at first presumed to be a suicide. Later, when a murder is revealed the Shetland community feels quite secure. The victim was an incomer, not one of their own. But tongues are loosened, and gossip is revived, as old secrets take on new importance. After another death, the case becomes closer to home. I enjoy Jimmy’s thought processes and his ability to use his island background as he investigates. Well -paced and kept me guessing.
The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins.
I am always drawn to books with either a book or library in the title, so this was an obvious choice for me. Initially, the book read like a fairy tale drawing me in and inviting me to enjoy myself. Sarah Dove, Dove Pond’s town librarian has a gift, to her the books live and breathe and sometimes they let her know who needs them. It’s a gift as rare as it is inexplicable. New arrival Grace Wheeler isn’t interested in staying in Dove Pond. She plans to say a year then leave, but Sarah knows the town needs her. It’s just a matter of convincing her and making her stay. I look forward to reading more of this charming series
Falling for the Italian Billionaire by Annie Claydon
Three and a half stars from me,-this is the first Mills and Boon romance that I have read. I choose it because of the cover and the title. After all who could resist an Italian billionaire if he looked like that. I found it enjoyable and readable. The relationship balance ebbed and flowed. Gabriel de Marco and Clare Holt are well-matched both physically and intellectually. Yet each has something in their past they want to forget. My only disappointment was that I felt the ending let the rest of the book down.
The Sunrise Girl by Lisa Wolstenholme.
Lucy is in limbo, two years have passed since her husband’s death, yet she is still waking each morning at sunrise. She can’t escape the guilt that she was responsible. It keeps her stuck in an endless loop of grief and guilt.
Best friend Em, drags Lucy out for birthday celebrations. Soon, Lucy is in familiar territory as she tries to block out her feelings. The meaningless one-night stands, endless cigarettes, and glasses of wine don’t dull her pain. Em drags Lucy off to Ibiza, the Spanish ‘party island’ with its hedonistic lifestyle. They relished it when they were in their twenties, but now in their thirties, isn’t it a bit sad? Lucy starts to think so, until she meets a sexy man who makes her pulses race. Determined to find answers , she impulsively decides to go home and sort out her affairs there and then returns. At first, it’s great, but he wants more than a casual fling and she is adamant she wants no promises, no commitment. He wants to wake up with her beside him, to have a real relationship. Once again, confronted with this she leaves.
Lucy has been seeing a grief therapist intermittently and Marj’s skillful questioning enables Lucy to examine her thoughts and beliefs. She goes through grief, blame, guilt and avoidance, numbing herself with the partying to avoid facing her feelings. There is no future until past issues are resolved, and Lucy now find the courage to do just that.
I was intrigued by how the author cleverly kept us guessing as to how Joe died and what part Lucy played in that. Overall a bit of an emotional roller coaster and a story that is very readable and relatable was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Note on this month’s book choices
As the month progressed and the news became more dismal, my reading pattern changed. I no longer wanted to read anything deep, meaningful or tragic. I know that others have to embrace dystopian fiction, but for me, that felt like too much of an overload. I wanted distraction and comfort. Some take solace in baking; I take comfort from reading. It was a big blow for me when my local library inevitability closed down. I know it is the right decision, but I felt the loss keenly. A small loss in the scheme of things, but it matters to me. So, I can no longer anticipate a serendipitous find from the library. I will be exploring the many books I have at home which are waiting to be read. Like most book lovers I do have a TBR( To Be Read ) stack of books.
A mixed bag of books this month most of which were chosen on a whim because the title appealed, or the cover appealed.
Telling Tails by Sofie Ryan. A Second Chance Cat Mystery
An easy and enjoyable read and luckily you don’t need to have read any of the other books in the series to keep up with Sarah Grayson and her Second Chance furniture store and staff. The crew includes Elvis the rescued black cat-( I have a soft spot for black cats,) as well as Sarah’s family and friends.
Rose a sprightly senior swears she saw a murder, but the local police don’t believe her, suspecting it might have been a medical episode. Sarah is convinced that Rose did see something and so the investigation begins. The wife of the man presumed missing says her rat of a husband is very much alive, that he’s left and was having an affair and has cleared out their joint bank account.
Sarah can’t help thinking something feels wrong and when Rose is given a clean bill of health, the investigation begins in earnest.
Thirteen and Underwater by Michelle Weitering.
I would give it six stars if I could – This is a really brave book, raw and honest. This isn’t a story of a perfect family and perfect motherhood, rather a story of how a family had to learn to cope with extreme anxiety and mood swings when their previously happy little boy developed them. Bullying at school can have dreadful consequences. Through it, all compassion and mother love shine through-Michelle talks of her heartbreak and the mistakes she made. She doesn’t talk about the courage it took to plaster a smile on her face and get through day after day. She doesn’t comment when the child she loves is screaming at her and saying he hates her. Yes, this is a scenario which affects the whole family, what they can do, where they can go for help? But the mother is at the centre of this, questioning herself, what shall I do, did I do right, did I do wrong? The strength of the book is how she shows us her expectations of herself and the reality where she fails to measure up to the standard, she sets herself. Luckily, Michelle found the help she and her family needed and in telling her story she is wanting to help and encourage others that there is hope.
The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg.
I saw a recommendation for this book somewhere and the concept intrigued me. What it hadn’t mentioned was that this was part of a sequence of books, but luckily that didn’t matter. The basic premise is that over time the monthly supper club in Mason, Missouri transforms after one woman’s revelations and becomes the Confession Club. Sharing secrets helps bond the women on a deeper level and many of us will recognise our own failings, deep insecurities and regrets. A second chance at love beckons for one, but will that too be a cause for regret?
Jacob’s Room is Full of Books by Susan Hill.
A year of reading from this talented author. It is so intriguing to peer over someone’s shoulder and see what they read, much like browsing someone else bookshelves. She is so clear and delightful to read, describing places and animals’ scenery and skies. Opinionated, idiosyncratic and so enjoyable., reminds me of books forgotten, books to add to my ever-expanding reading list. Now to trace her book Howard’s’ End in on the landing.
Sixty Summers by Amanda Hampson
I gained one impression of the book from its cover and blurb, which didn’t in my opinion quite relate to the book I was reading. I had anticipated a light, easy read and instead got a book that was far more insightful about the regrets of midlife than I had expected.
I suppose few of us reach middle age without regrets for what is, or what might have been. Can a return to the places from past change that? The three women, Maggie, Rose and Fran’s trip gets off to a bumpy start wondering the friendship can be reignited. Unexpected events break down barriers and each women’s problems or secrets are revealed.
Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves.
I grabbed this book with enthusiasm, not realising that it was number seven in this popular series. It didn’t matter, the story gripped me anyway. Of course, I came to Shetland via the popular TV series starring Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez. I was momentarily startled to read in the book of his dark hair and darker skin. I enjoy both the series and the books accepting that there are differences. In both though, Jimmy is polite, persistent and thoughtful. He’s not one to barge in shouting. He’s a man who observes and thinks and then acts. The story kept me guessing to the end as various people emerged as possible suspects. I will be sad to see both the series and the end of the books, but I respect what the authors said about realism. Just how many murders can you have on Shetland?
Reflections by Marcia Willett.
Like many of Marcia ‘s books Reflections is like sitting down with old friends and catching up where they are in their lives. The plot has enough bite to make it interesting. Cara newly widowed is staying with her brother Max and his wife in Sidcombe, Devon. Recent visitor Cosmo is a charmer and he’s attracted to local girl Amy, but is he all that he seems? Cara senses there is more to Cosmo than he’d like to reveal. Sam newly down from university and ready to start a career in the navy isn’t entirely certain about his choice. By the end of the summer, new choices may be made and old secrets revealed .