December Distraction-What I Was Reading in December 2019

December has been a horrendous month in Australia . Day after day ,fire ravaged our beautiful country. There are incredible stories of survival and heroism, but also tragically deaths.Three young fireman, all volunteers and fathers ,or fathers to be ,lost their lives  while bravely fighting the fires. And still it continues, it has been relentless and worse than anyone can ever remember. So many of our precious native animals are dead.Koalas pushed to brink of extinction ,other native animals and birds, lost. Farm land lost, sheep and cattle lost,vineyards destroyed. Over 1,000 homes lost and so far 23  have people died trying to protect homes.

“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.”

Albert Schweitzer

Personally , I have always found solace in reading, so December has been a full on reading month.  I was surprised to see I read fourteen books this month.

I have also donated to WIRES animal rescue. By paypal Online with WIRES 24/7 or you can call (02) 8977 3396 between 9am and 5pm Mon-Fri. All gifts to WIRES $2 and over are tax-deductible.

RSPCA in each state New South Wales, Victoria ,Queensland and South Australia.

 

My country is on fire!
Australia is on fire.and my heart is heavy.

 

Hotel Valhalla by Rick Riordan.

Hotel valhalla

The companion book to the Magnus Chase series. Hotel Valhalla is comprehensive and easy to read. It lists the various Norse gods and goddesses of Norse mythology as well as the other inhabitants of the nine realms. Entertaining. Of course, it would have made more sense to have read this after reading Magnus Chase and The Sword of Summer.

The Transatlantic Book club by Felicity Haynes McCoy

Transatlantc bookclub

What a joy this book was! So much Irish charm, I felt I was walking along with Cassie as she explored her Irish heritage. Reminiscent of Maeve Binchy yet subtly different. Loved the idea of a book group on both sides of the Atlantic via Skype and of course, with so many Irish settlers in the US it makes perfect sense. Evocative descriptions, characters that feel real and enough intrigue and gossip to keep things lively. Dreadful child Gobnitand her hapless and hopeless mother Daria made for some amusing moments. I choked with laughter as a man asked Hanna the librarian for books by male authors, alleging there was a conspiracy against male writers. When he requested Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith and she said she would get it via Interlibrary Loan. He again accused her of bias. She reminded him that  Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym for J.K Rowling. He is happy to acknowledge that but when Hanna says J.K is a woman he leaves the library in disgust.

Marvel Studios Character Encyclopaedia by Adam Bray.

Matvel Studios

A comprehensive illustrated guide to all of the most popular Marvel studio characters. All your favourites are here. For me of course,it was Thor.

The Book of English Magic by Philip Carr-Gomm & Richard Heygate.

The Book of Engish Magic

Not to be read in one sitting- more a comprehensive encyclopaedia of all types of magic and beliefs. Some will appeal to you and some might appal you. Talks to various practitioners today too. For me, it was research for something I am working on, and also as a handy reference to future work.

The Little Bookshop of Herring Cove  by Kellie Hailes

Bookshop at Herring cove

Easy to read and of course about a bookshop, which is one of my favourite topics. Here the bookshop is under threat due to potential development. A conflict between the bookshop owner and the charming, handsome and persuasive representative for the developers sets up an engaging story and conflict.

Magnus Chase and The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Magnus Chase

It’s a big book – (495 pages) so it took me a little while to read. I am not the intended audience for this YA book, I chose to read it because it dealt with Norse mythology. I can’t comment on its similarity to the Percy Jackson series which I have not read,although other reviewers have mentioned this. Its a relatively fast-paced read, with plenty of action and interference from the gods. On a personal note it would have helped me to have read it and Hotel Valhalla concurrently. I found it had an engaging mix of characters, although I felt the story might easily have been compressed. There is  a useful glossary at the end of the book.

Murder by the Minster by Helen Cox

Murder by the Mintyer

Not what I expected and not in the cosy mystery formula. So, not written in the first person, not chatty and informal. A bonus for me was the setting, which was York in the Uk. I struggled to relate to the main character Kitt Hartley. Although one of her exchanges with a man who was mistakenly in the women’s studies section of the library had me laughing out loud. Her trilby wearing had me see her as an androgynous character and I was surprised by her reaction to D I. Halloran. Enough mystery to be mysterious but all staged in a rather classic Agatha Christie way. Not sure if I will continue with this presumed series

The Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill.

Magic Appletree

When a talented author describes a year of rural living- it’s a magical journey. Tramping across the snow singing carols to harvesting their own garden produce. It’s a seasonal delight and a nostalgia trip for a British Expat like me. Lyrical and so well described. One I will keep forever.

Jamie’s Great Britain  by Jamie Oliver

Jamies.jpg

A surprise addition to the list. Can you ‘read’ a cookbook? I often do, for recreation, imagining meals I may never cook. It’s a big book and pretty heavy too. Lots of photographs for Inspiration. Less inspired was how the text was so visually broken up and placed on different coloured backgrounds. Many people have vision problems and personally, I found this irritating.

Hovel in The Hills by Elizabeth West.

Hovel in the hills

This book is the antithesis of the genre of ‘we moved to Provence or Tuscany ‘or somewhere exotic with the vague idea of writing and some free time and the cash to support ourselves. Here the impoverished couple moved to Wales and set about trying to eke out a living. I enjoyed the book because of its realism and the fact that problems were not glossed over. I had read it many years ago and re-read it this time as a piece of nostalgia.

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

The Printed Letter Bookshop

A book that really resonated with me- I almost always enjoy a book that features books and bookshops so I  was anticipating that I would enjoy this. I found it a total delight, from start to finish. I wanted to hold onto the characters and keep them with me. Claire, Janet and  Maddie are engaging personalities and I found the dynamic between them believable. Maddie new to bookselling is educated, smart, younger and the bemused new owner of the beloved bookshop. A city lawyer it makes sense for her to sell the bookshop.

Twenty years have passed since she enjoyed working there as a teenager, with her beloved Aunt Madeline. Until suddenly the family dynamic changed and there were no more visits. The last thing she expected was that Aunt Maddie would leave her the bookshop.  Rationally it would make more sense to sell if she can demonstrate the bookshop is profitable and that will take work.

Claire and Janet the two assistants have almost single-handedly run the shop and cared for Aunt Maddie whose cancer diagnosis was known to only a few people. Divorcee Janet even moved in with her to care for her day to day. Claire  meanwhile picked up the accounts and planning and organising. Each finds a kind of sanctuary in the beloved bookshop.

Through Aunt Madeline’s illness,  the shop has run down as author events and signings are scaled back and Maddie’s personal touch is lacking. But the shop is still a community hub and Maddie begins to realise its importance to the town of Winsome and to herself.’

When she finds out that her preconceptions about the family dynamic are wrong and that she actually enjoys being a bookseller then the fight is on to save the bookshop.

Mistletoe & Murder by Polly Holmes ( Book 4 in the Cupcake Capers series)

Misteltoe and Murder

An easy read for the holiday time. Slightly disadvantaged as I had not read the three previous Cupcake Capers books, but I was soon caught up in the story. By mid way through I had suspicions about one character , which were later confirmed .I found the ending was satisfying.

A Woman’s War by Simon Block.

a Womans war

A book which continues the story of the sadly discontinued and much missed  Home Fires TV Series  This is book two. Worth the wait although my faith in that did teeter a bit in the middle of the book. I won’t say what that was, as  I don’t want to post any spoilers! The ending was a partial ending but not of the series. In my opinion, the series should continue through each year of the war. However, I sense that depends on the sales of the books and Simon’s desire to continue with them.
I enjoyed hearing more about the characters we have come to care for, and I congratulate Simon on his ability to write believable women. Steph’s story, Theresa’s story, Sarah’s story, Pat’s story among others all need to continue.

The Cats Came Back By Sofie Kelly

THe Cats Came Back

I picked this up because the title and the cover appealed to me. I hadn’t realised this was book ten in the series , but I need not have worried  it was easy to catch up and keep track of the characters. Librarian Kathleen Paulson narrates the tale and works on solving the mystery with the help of her cats. It was a fun and easy read and I totally fell in love with the magical cats Hercules and Owen. There was enough complexity to keep me guessing right to the end of the story. Out of curiosity I checked how many books featuring cats my local library had, 158 fiction and 163 non fiction.

ash background beautiful blaze
Stay safe , wherever you are-heed warnings and survive.

The Books I Read in November 2019

I had November all planned out- I was going to do National Novel In Month(NaNoWriMo) and get a head start on my next book after Fire & Ice. The as yet unnamed sequel. I started well, but then I got an unexpected call to go for eye surgery. I wasn’t going to miss my chance at that. So on November 14th, I  had the surgery. The results are brilliant. But I had a few days when I didn’t write and I completely lost the focus of my story.  So ,I didn’t win this year, but I have a solid 26,000 words written . I devoted the rest of the month to catch up on my reading, As usual, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

I cannot imagine a month without reading
I can’t imagine a month without reading.

 

Whispers at Wongan Creek by Juanita Kees.

Whispers

Travis Bailey is a stalwart of Wongan Creek and an all-round good guy. He’s caring for his elderly and sometimes disorientated neighbour Harry, as well as his orphaned niece. There are many burdens on his broad shoulders, as he’s been left in charge of the family farm. His day brightens when they are visited by the replacement social worker Heather Penny. She’s there to check on Casey, his niece’s well being. Heather has her own secrets and burdens, trying to recover from her mother’s death from motor neurone disease and her own health fears. Zac Bannister the town bully also intrudes into both their lives
None of this stop either of them feeling the strong pull of attraction to each other. While Travis’s adored niece Casey wants nothing more than a happily ever after for Travis and Heather,

 

Matters of The Heart by Fiona Palmer.

Matters of the heart

A very individual retake on Pride and Prejudice, giving it a distinctly Australian flavour. It was curious experience to see those familiar names attached to Australian characters. Spirited Lizzie Bennet is running the family farm almost single handedly. Her four sisters are disinterested while she is passionate about it.  Mrs Bennet is predictably agog when the reputed to be wealthy, Charles Bingley buys the neighbouring, but rundown property of Netherfield. His friend  Will Darcy, businessman, and farmer is also visiting and casts a cold eye on the burgeoning romance between Lizzie’s sister Jane and Bingley.  The plot unfolds following the Pride and Prejudice story line but interspersed by the demands of rural life, farming and agriculture. I chuckled when Luke Wickham appeared as a jack of all trades and rodeo cowboy. As in the original ,he’s a chancer and charmer. Of course, the expected happy ending but a fun journey getting there.

 

The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew by Milly Johnson

46849820._UY200_

I found this quite relatable, as Sophie’s need to be a perfect politician’s wife superseded anything else. Meanwhile, her husband John, a professional charmer ,has lost his charm for her. He belittles her, treats her like a child and has the support and acceptance of her horrendous family.

In her gilded life, there is no one she can trust, no one to be friends with. Sophie knows any breach of protocol, or spark of humanity will be seized on by John’s political rivals, or their ambitious wives. Hers is indeed a gilded cage.

She has always been exemplary, done the right thing. Her one rebellion was at school years back.When she confronted a bully. Now ,it’s  John’s political survival they are fighting for, after his dalliance with another woman. Sophie is expected to support him, forgive him, and go on as before. She stands on the doorstep, the charming and compliant political wife and the weasel words won’t leave her mouth. Instead, she calls him out for his behaviour.

Returning to Yorkshire where she was at school ,all those years ago is where Sophie eventually finds herself. Living simply ,she discovers what she cares about and what matters to her. It isn’t being on the cover of Hello.

Sophie was always going to have to fight to regain her identity, to find her long-suppressed individuality and eventual happiness. Anyone who has been humiliated and patronised by a man will be cheering her on, to the predictable and hoped-for happy ending, I enjoyed it.

 

Viking Warrior by Angus Konstan.

 

Viking Warrior book cover

I dipped into this book for research purposes, taking notes of many facts and useful illustrations. I do make sure that what I write about the Vikings is factually accurate, although of course I use my imagination to build a credible and engaging story.

The Boot Camp by Kate Harrison.

Boot camp

Fun to read- although it sounds quite unbearable for a non-athlete like me. What makes the boot camp and the novel work are the friendships and rivalries among the campers. Two ex-squaddies, as trainers are perhaps not what one expects at a supposedly luxurious retreat. But then luxury also seems to be in short supply.

 A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry.

 

A Family recipe

I had mixed feelings about Family Recipe. I usually enjoy books by  Veronica Henry and on a superficial level, I enjoyed this. The two timelines made for interesting and contrasting reading. In 1942 in wartime Britain Laura’s grandmother, Jilly makes a fateful decision which changes the course of her life. While in the present-day Laura’s happy and comfortable life also comes crashing down after an unexpected discovery. Both have to work to make life bearable again for themselves and for others. Jilly used her mother’s recipes to feed the household and in the present Laura also uses the adapted recipes once again  While they face challenging circumstances, a little part of me was thinking but how much easier it is to face those when you have property and money behind you.

Dying to Know by Josh Langley

Dying to KNow

Curious about the afterlife but faint-hearted? Not to worry, Josh Langley has been asking questions, to satisfy his own curiosity and ours. The exploration starts with undertakers and crematoriums and goes on from there. Mediums, psychics, out of body experiences, a spiritualist church and a potentially haunted house. Josh lead us on an interesting and at times confronting journey. I felt quite terrified as he explored the ‘haunted’ building and marvelled that he kept his nerve.Of course, the experiences and inferences are his own, but they make interesting reading. Did they all happen in his head?

As Dumbledore says in Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows” of course it’s happening in your head that doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

Spookily, this is the only section that appears in frame or box and I didn’t create it this way. So what is happening here?

The Cinema at Starlight Creek By Ali Sinclair.

Starlight Creek

A dual timeline story, 1950s Hollywood and 1990s Queensland. The interconnected story line tells of two women, decades apart but both determined to live their dream and not give in to prejudice or bullying.

Lena a 1950s  a Hollywood star fighting for fairness and equality in an industry dominated by men. While the fear of the Hays morality code, as well as Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt spreads through Hollywood.

In 1990s Queensland, Claire is scouting locations for tv and films and comes across the art deco cinema at Starlight creek. It’s perfect for the project she is currently working on . The reclusive owner doesn’t want to allow the cinema to be used. After convincing the owner of her commitment to quality and care, Claire has to live up to her promises. But no dream is fulfilled without cost.

 

 

Which Books Did I Read in October 2019?

Inexplicably October wasn’t a good month for reading for me, as I only managed to read four books

Reading for pleasure is a pure joy!

It rare for me  to read biography or autobiography , but I made and excpetion for Michelle Obama’s Becoming

 

Becoming
An Iconic First Lady in her own words.

 

As Becoming was getting rave review and I was curious about the Obama presidency  I chose to read Becoming. It was surprising to me how candid Michelle Obama was and how she spoke of the difficulties and challenges of acclimatising to the loss of privacy.

I had always seen her as someone who was quite reserved and even  a  bit stand-offish so her  frankness was surprisng.-  She talks of her upbringing  in a decent and  loving  but poor working class family.  She acknowledges the strength of kinship and extended family. Her own good fortune was in  being intelligent and in having  encouraging and supportive parents.They gave her confidence in her abilities and higher aspirations. Her rise as  a lawyer, working hard .She was always aware  that she was a flag bearer for others. How she and Barrack first met, his easy going attitude that charmed ,but at times irritated her. She speaks of their courtship and eventual marriage. She doesn’t paint him as a paragon, revealing that he’s messy, overcommits and at that time was smoking. I loved the honesty of the book.  Michelle reveals that she was reluctant for Barrack to try for the presidency, fearing the  loss of privacy,  as well as the effect it would have on their childen.Later there was the weight of expectation at being the first black First Lady of The United States of America. Although they served with grace and dignity  it is obvious that she would relish the return to their  previous less public life. The autobigraphy is humanised her frankness in discussing their struggles to start a family as well as their hopes and losses as well as sucesses. Destined to become an important  historical document.

Sanctuary by Judy Nunn.

Sanctuary

As I was soon to attend a talk by this immensely popular author, I wanted to read at least one of her books. Sanctuary was inspired by a real-life event when a fishing boat filled with asylum seekers pulled up at Geraldton in West Australia’s north.  This is not their story, but a story of a similar group of people who land on an uninhabited island. The issue of asylum seekers is a contentious one in Australia and has been politicised. Here we learn of the reasons these desperate people have taken the life-threatening risk to try and make it to Australia. In my opinion Judy Nunn establishes sympathy for them while allowing voices of prejudice to also speak. She set up a situation where I feared for the happiness of them all and left us with them facing an uncertain future.

 

Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

In Another LIfe

I  applaud the clever premise of this book, but for me, it didn’t quite come off. Initially, it was okay, and I enjoyed the contrast, but the further into the book I got, then the more confused I became. Maybe in part, this was because I was not able to read for long stretches at a time. The book has been compared to the film Sliding Doors, and I wonder if perhaps it might be easier to convey the dual timeline visually.

The Shelley Bay Ladies Swimming Club by Sophie Green

 

Shelley Bay

Explores the growing friendship between four diverse women who may never have connected at all but for swimming. Elaine, an unhappily relocated British ex-pat has come with her surgeon husband who is an Australian. She misses her adult sons and her English life Leanne, shy, self-contained except around children her past hides a painful secret, one she is unwilling to share. Marie, the doyenne of the group, a lifetime swimmer now widowed. Her two loves are ocean swimming and Charlie Brown, her dog. Theresa, overworked mother of two with a neglectful husband who steals time for herself with a precious early morning swim. The four women forge bonds of friendship that in time go far beyond the superficial. Topics include loneliness, isolation, starting life again, illness and infidelity. Believable it had some tense and tender moments- perfect for a book club discussion.

 

 

What Was I reading in September 201(?

For some reason, September was a slow reading month for me as I only managed to read five books.  There was another non- fiction which I gave up on so let’s not talk about that!

woman in blue striped flannel shirt holding a book indoors
The pleasure of reading a good book.

 

I also dipped into a childhood favourite Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree in preparation for an author talk I am presenting later this month. That threw up many memories as well as reflections on how life had changed in the intervening years-. Then the children were routinely expected to help around the house and garden and were served bread and jam and milk for tea.

I have always loved reading.

The other books were a mixed bag of recommendations and whimsical choices

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen.

The Victory Garden.

I spotted this at the local library and having read her On Her Majesties Secret Service was inspired to give it a try. Set in WW1  Britain it offers a glimpse into a forgotten time. For whatever reason, it did not have the same bite and light touch of that series. The story focussed on Emily and Australian pilot Robbie lovers met only to be parted. It focussed on how the privileged young woman defied her parents and went on to make a life for herself. I was a little sceptical that delicately reared Emily could fit so easily into the back-breaking work of a land-girl. That her parents would disown her for defying them was more easily believable. Knowing the British class structure her gradual friendship with Lady Charlton was quite credible. In the second part, of the book, Emily is living in what is known as ‘the witch’s cottage ‘ and practising herbalism.

 

Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael RobothamGood Girl Bad Girl

 

Deserves every ounce of praise it received. An intriguing story and one that explores the many preconceptions we have about people. I  found some of the details a bit grisly but the major characters ( Cyrus and Evie )both fascinating and I wanted to know more about them. Thinking all the time how did they survive the traumas in their lives? A bonus for me was it was set in Nottingham the former home of skaters Torvill and Dean and had a bit about ice skating too.

 

Everything Publishing by Karen Mc Dermott.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Subtitled the Ultimate publishing guide and it is. All your publishing questions are answered here and explained in simplified form by someone who knows what she is talking about and who has indeed built a successful publishing empire.

 

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Reid Jenkins

Loved that 70s vibe of the cover

 

Allegedly based on Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac, the book reminded me of the movie A Star is Born. Although Daisy Jones started out having it all, looks, money and attitude. Through the multiple perspectives is an interesting way to tell a story. Each tells their own version of ‘the truth’ so the lies, evasion, jealousies are all exposed to scrutiny. And of course, as readers we ask – are they revising as they go? is this the truth as it was then? The songbook at the end of the book adds another layer of authenticity. I kept flicking back to read the songs as they were referred to and imagined them being performed, Camilla Billy’s wife doesn’t appear much in the book, but there is a sense of her presence in the background and perhaps she was the strongest of them all. It reads true.  Did the book live up to the hype? In my opinion, yes it did.

 

 

A Pinch of Magic by Michelle HarrisonA Pinch of MAgic

 

It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. This is a mid-grade children’s novel. I would have loved this book as a child, and I enjoyed it now. The Widdershins sisters are a force to be reckoned with. Don’t you love the choice of name? They are brave, resilient and resourceful. They face challenges that are quite a bit worse than they and perhaps we would have liked. I especially liked the dual timeline story and how the two timelines merged.

 

What Was I Reading in July/August 2019?

After the previous computer problems, my monthly reading list has needed to be combined so you and I can catch up.

book opened on top of white table beside closed red book and round blue foliage ceramic cup on top of saucer
Reading always relaxes me-.GIve me a good book and a cup of coffee and my cares melt away.

Charms & Cupcake by Baily Cates

Charms & choclate chips

Three and a half stars from me. Again, a likeable and engaging story. Unfortunately, I somehow missed book two, so I was not reading in sequence. However, it was easy to catch up.  What I like best about this series is how Katie is learning more about her magical abilities and also the ramifications of using magic. Again, an ample supply of suspects, red herrings and a neat solution.

The Witches’ Tree by M.C Beaton

The Witches Tree

I have long been a fan of Agatha Raisin since she burst on the scene in Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death. This book does not have the same light tone as the earlier books, it made me wonder if the author had grown tired of the series. It was more satirical about the joys of living in the Cotswolds. Not quite as much fun as I was expecting. Plenty of red herrings and an alarming list of suspects again put Agatha in danger.

 

Bring Your Fiction to Life by  Karen S Wiener

Bring your Ficiton to LIfe

Helpful and informative with a wealth of advice from a hugely prolific author who knows what she is talking about. I think all writers would find something of interest in this book. Useful appendices too

The Bookshop On The Shore by Jenny Colgan

The Book shop on the Shore

A bit more serious than the light-hearted cover design might suggest. Heartfelt and beautifully told –  it certainly did not gloss over some hard situations- self-harm, single parenthood, neglected children etc. But with a hopeful and inspiring message too.

L’Amour Actually  by Melanie Jones

L'amour actually
The perfect cover for this book.

Not quite the romantic idyll that city girl Mel was expecting. For me, it was laughing out loud funny and describes rural life a long way from Paris and Parisienne chic. A cottage which although charming has ‘challenging’ plumbing-plus the rural suspicion of foreigners- including those from Paris. Add a  debonair and charming French man-of course! Lovely to read far less pleasant to live I would imagine. Told with good humour.

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan.

The Lovliest Chocolate shop
Personally, I think this cover is a bit of a disappointment. I woudl have preferred something lusher. But as we know, authors don’t get to choose their book covers.

 

A book that celebrates both Paris and chocolate. It also highlights cultural differences, identity, coming of age, love and all things chocolate. I was delighted to read about Claire managing to escape her dominating father for one magical summer in Paris. Later on, she sends Anna to Paris to recuperate from an accident and once more Paris works its transformational magic. Additionally, the back pages have many tempting and delicious-sounding chocolate recipes.

 

And as I am preparing to give an author talk, I did some research

Your Perfect Presentation by Bill Hoogterp.Your Perfect Presentation

Takes you through the steps needed to build an interesting and informative presentation. A useful book.

TED talks Chris Anderton TED talks

What could I learn from reading about Ted talks? Quite a lot and all relayed in an easy to read and informative style.

With both of these books, I took plenty of notes.

 

 

 

Finally! My June Books.

Double trouble in June /July for me.My desktop crashed-June 23rd  and shortly afterwards my internet connection  also stopped working. It has been forty-four days minus the desktop and a little over three weeks without the internet. Fortunately, I have been able to read.

woman working girl sitting
Missing connection with the wider world

Sail Away by Celia Imrie.

Sail Away

Actress and author Celia Imrie tells this story in her own inimical style.Its a delightful story of women of certain age taking chances and making changes. Embracing the  posstiblities of now. The author’s  depth of knowedge of both acting and luxury cruising make this a lively and entertaining read.

The Strawberry Thief  by Joanne Harris

The Strawberry Thief
The much anticipated fourth book of the Chocolat series.

 

 

How could the Chocolat story continue?  Joanne Harris returns us to Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, and expands Vianne Rocher’s story. Things have changed in the sleepy town, old rivalries forgotten and even the wind seems content to let Vianne stay put. This is a book that reflects on motherhood and having to let our children grow and change. Vianne’s late child Rosette is ‘different,’ like a wild creature she senses things and has never spoken. Anouk, Vianne’s older daughter has gone to Paris  to be with her boyfreind and Vianne  misses her. It means that she cherishes her life with Rosette even more.When changes come to Lansquenet with the arrival  of a mysterious  and charismatic stranger ,Rosette also begins to change. And Vianne  has fears for her younger daughter.

Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier

Wolfskin
I wasn’t inspired by this cover.

I enjoyed the blend of fact and fictional reality ,which drew me in and kept me engaged with the characters and their situation. To be a Wolfskin was to be regarded as among the best of fighters. Reputation and honour figure large, as does trust and friendship. Neglected Pictish culture and mysticism are explored.While the raiding and conquering  the Vikings have their own code of honour.

On the Same Page by Penelope Janú

On the same page
A well deserved XO prize winner

MIles Franklin is the daughter of a literary family- who would be horrifed to know that she writes romance- a genre they despise. Of course, her subterfuge is bound to come out, especially when her girl Friday enters her for prestigious literary award  Add into the mix a handsome publisher, who wont take ‘no,’ for an answer and who insists on  meeting the reclusive ( and fictional) author . Entertaining.

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

Once upon a RIver
Meandering RiverThames is part of the wondeful story

I loved her first book, The Thirteenth Tale, an all-time favourite .Sadly, I  wasn’t as thrilled with her second, so I approached this book hesitantly. I need not have worried – it’s a brilliant book  It combines some history of the river Thames ( the river in the title) with an almost fairy-tale feeling story about generations of storytellers and the folk tales of the mysterious and unpredictable river. Abduction, murder, identity theft, are all deflty woven into the plot ,which has a magical quality. I have recommended the book to many people. For me, it’s a 5 star winner.

Miss Seeton Flies High by Hamilton Crane

Miss Seeton
Part of a very long running series.

I was browsing the library catalogue looking for a cosy mystery to read prior to a workshop on  writing cosy mysteries.This title popped up and as I had never heard of the author, I decided to give it a go. There are numerous books in the long running series.It has an ingenious plot, but not having read  any of the  previous books I felt disadvantaged  by people and references to previous  events  It has an Agatha Christie feel about it, and the series  is very popular ,but for me it didn’t really fit into the cosy category .

Creating Characters from the Editors of Writer’s Digest.

Crearting Characters

If you are struggling creating characters, then this book is for you. It has a wealth of information from a range of wrietrs. It is easy to read and you can skip between sections and  chapters. A very useful book

The DandelionYears by Erica James.

Dandelion Years,

A charming story of inter-generational living which highlights both its benefits and its dilemmas. Love and loyalty, family ties, secrets, disappointments. Of course, there are also romances,  poignant and sweet.The book is about the loovongly described  setting, and the craft of book binding and restoration,book shops and book selling – things that appealed to me.

The Forgotten Letters  of Esther Durrant.

 

THe Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant
The beautiful cover

I was fortunate to win a copy of this book and what an eye opening experience reading it was.
Readers may be shocked to learn that in the 1950s women could be confined to a mental home if they suffered from a prolonged post-natal depression. Esther’s is only one of three stories which interlink at some point to form a cohesive whole. This is a thought-provoking book which would be perfect for book clubs. Highly recommended.