What Did I Read In July 2020?

There were three categories of books this month.

content young woman using laptop in modern living room
July was a bumper month for reading.

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.

Indie Aurhor

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.

28684939._SY475_

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

Ravenscliffe

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.

Dont GO.

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.

Morethen Wrds

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

51MC-wsBUYL._SY346_

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.

Primrose square Secrets

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.

My review

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.

NWOTB-MIM1
A fun start to a new series.

My review.

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

The Book of spells and such

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.

cover Subterreanean

 

‘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?

My Review.

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.Mandrake & Murder

 

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.

Vervain and avvictim

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.

What Did I Read in June 2020 As Lockdown Continued?

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.

 

content young woman using laptop in modern living room
Reading can take you anywhere

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.

Take off your Pants

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’s an author to do?

Gotta Read it

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.

Succesful Self publishing

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.

Vikings Viking surrender

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

Brandr

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?

Garth Vking surredner

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?

 

Her Viking captive

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

Beloved Viking

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

 

Netherwood

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.

 

What Did I read in May 2020?

 

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.

book-3387071_1280
We can always escape into a book

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.

white ceramic mug on plate with strawberries
Light, portable and lots of storage- why didn’t I appreciate it before now?

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch.

Foxglove Summer

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.

Christopher

 

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.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA
Look! its even colour themed with my laptop.

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.

Acorn Cottage

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.

SANY0282 Paris Secret
Settle down for an unforgettable read.

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.

virgin
Botticelli’ Virgin-

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.

 

 

The Books That I Don’t Review.

 

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.

_Books n Cats
Things I love- books and cats and the time to read

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.

person holding a book
Pleasure in reading a good book.

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.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA
My To-Be-Read Book Stack

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.

 

 

April 2020 the last of the library books for now.

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 joy of browsing for a book
The joy of browsing to find a suitable book

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley.

Authenticty Project

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. *

Something to tell you

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.*

The Villa Girls

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 *

Buying Thyme

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.

Consider this

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.*

The LAst Kingdom

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.*SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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.*

Shakespeare

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.*

Enchanted Glass

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.*

aCotswolds Mystery

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.*

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

March Madness: Fourteen Books I Read in March 2020.

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.

book-3387071_1280
Luckily, we can still read.

What Holds Us Together by  Sandi Ward

What holds us together

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

The LAst Voyage of Mrs Henry parker

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.


Secret Letter

 

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.

37822723._SY475_

Coincidentally I was reading this at the same time as I was reading The Secret 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.

Coy coffee shop

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.

Amour

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

Primrose square
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.

Home to Bindarra Creek

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.

The Little LIbrary year

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.

Rules of the Road

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.

White Nights

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.

Book charmer

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

Falling fro Her italian Billioniare

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.

The Sunrise Girl

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.

Have your reading habits changed due to Covid 19?

February’s Fiction 2020.

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

Tellign Tails by Sofie Ryan

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.

Thirteen and Underwater cover

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.

The Confssion Club

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.

JAcobs room is full

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

Sixty Summers

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.

Cold Earth

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.

Refections

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 .

 

Books I Read in January 2020.

Surprised myself with how many books I read in January. As usual, a mixed bag of those I had heard about ,and those that simply appealed to me for some reason. I  looked for books about bookshops, so the list is slightly skewed in that direction and there are many more on that topic i have still to read.

The Bookshop Detective by Jan Ellis.

 

Bookshop Detevtive

Easy and enjoyable reading. It’s a detective story in the loosest sense, as there isn’t a professional detective, instead bookshop owner Eleanor Mace starts to investigate the mysterious ghost ship which is rumoured to appear. Eleanor is an engaging character with a lively sense of curiosity and her investigations have some surprising  consequences. Once again, the book is part of  a series, The Bookshop by the Sea, but it     is  easy to read  it as a ‘stand-alone.’

 

The House on Bellevue Gardens by Rachael Hore.

 

Bellvue gardens

The title and concept appealed to me and I was drawn into the story of this slightly bohemian household of mismatched tenants. Louisa is sharing her house with people she feels need help or a chance. Each story emerges gradually and at times frustratingly slowly.  The part I enjoyed the most was reading about Louisa’s past. Rosa and her quest to find her brother seemed heartrendingly real. I felt that the ending didn’t quite satisfy me but perhaps that is reflective of real-life too?

 

 Messy by Tim Harford

Messy

The most enjoyable part of the book for me was the deconstruction of the idea that partner compatibility could be transformed by the ‘science’ of computer dating. In fact, there was very little science involved in the compatibility scores. Most were dictated by proximity. The example one of the founders of a site, who had access to many more profiles than an ordinary subscriber and had over fifty first dates, he still didn’t find a partner. He met his partner the old-fashioned way and they were not as ‘compatible’ as the women he’d previously met. It also argued that being told a couple had a rating of 90% compatibility was likely to encourage them to try harder and to dissect why that was that was the case. There is also the argument that we don’t necessarily know what we want at all.

 

The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Myerson.

Book shhop of yesterdays

A more literary take on the theme of bookshops, this book is filled with literary references and a puzzle that Miranda ( named after The Tempest) must solve. Her uncle Billy who she hasn’t seen since she was twelve has left her his bookshop, the quaintly named Prospero Books. There are family secrets to uncover, literary clues to decipher leading her on a quest to explain what happened in her family. At the same time, she is trying to conduct a long-distance relationship, sort out the bookshop with its failing profits and deal with a somewhat wary staff, especially Malcolm the manager. Although I finished the book, I personally felt it could have been shorten with no ill effects

 

Coming Home by Fern Britton.


Coming HOme

 

When Sennen ran away from her Cornish life she had always intended to return but twenty years have passed, and it may be too late. Too late to reconnect with the children she left behind, too late to seek her parent’s forgiveness. Too late to have a new beginning and is she is risking the other life she had made for herself too.? Having once lived in Cornwall I enjoy reading about it. The characters are believable, real and flawed and the story had enough tension to make it an enjoyable read.

 

Miss Mary’s Book of Dreams by Sophie Nicholls.

Miss MAry's

An unpredictable book,  and one that defied my expectations. I came upon it by chance in my search for books about book shops. The bookshop was incidental to the story which concentrated more on three generations of the same family. As there are references to The Dress and events that happened in its story line, I felt that I was slightly disadvantaged,

The ‘ Miss Mary’ of the title was a healer or ‘cunning woman’ who fell foul of a disgruntled and incompetent doctor who accused her of witchcraft. Now, a copy of her precious book is in the bookshops and draws to it those who need its magic.

 

 Agatha Raisin-Beating Around the Bush by M.C Beaton

Agatha Beating about thr bush

 

The thirtieth in the very popular Agatha Raisin series and I am happy to say the M.C. Beaton has returned to form. After feeling disappointed with the cynical tone and style of Agatha Raisin and The Witches Tree reading this book was a bit of a gamble. Agatha is back to her best. Charles is being maddeningly elusive and has got engaged, without daring to tell Agatha. After being hired to investigate industrial espionage Agatha gets involved in investigating a murder than no-one wants to admit is a murder. Will it be the death of her?

 

The Café by the Bridge by Lily Malone   

Cafe by the Bridge

You do not need to have read the previous book in the Chalk Hill series Water Under the Bridge to enjoy this story. The Café by the Bridge easily works as a stand-alone.

Characters from the previous book do appear but the main story line concerns the ‘missing’ Honeychurch brother, Abel and an attractive and determined visitor to the town, Taylor Woods. She is on a mission the help her brother Will and she needs to win Abel’s trust and support but having been scammed and lied to by his ex-girlfriend he is in no mood for a feisty and talkative redhead invading his thoughts. He wants to forget the past .his failed bar, the gambling, the debts and especially the woman who made him wary of all women. This is a fun read as Taylor little by little weakens Abe’s defences, but it has enough bite and insight to make it more than just an enjoyable read.

 

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.