I have always read widely and extensively. Books are chosen at random, maybe through a friend’s recommendation, or reading a blurb. At times, I am tempted by a bookshop or library display. I have a passion for fiction and also dip into non-fiction if the topic appeals to me.
Often, I will then write a review, I like to keep track of what I have read and use Good reads as well as posting reviews on my blog. I am not paid for the reviews and hardly ever receive a ‘free’ copy of a book. If I do so, then I reveal that.
There are some books that I won’t review though. As a writer, I know the amount of time and effort that goes into writing book. Volunteering as a book group coordinator for eleven -years taught me that there isn’t a book that appeals to everyone.
As readers, we bring our own experiences and expectations, to the books that we read. What one may describe as slow-paced, another may consider introspective and thoughtful. We may have ‘hot button’ topics, which are always going to be negative to us. Some may have moral or ethical scruples about certain kinds of books. Hot romance will not appeal to sweet or Christian romance readers, graphic content may not appeal to a more sensitive reader.
For me it is simple, if I am not enjoying a book I stop reading and don’t review it. It’s not a bad book, put simply I am not the right reader. That is not to say there are no bad books, over wordy, pretentious, slight on a story, dull, or prosaic, of course, there are. It’s up to us to decide for ourselves what they are.
I love my local library, I am a regular library user and generally pop in once a week. It was fortunate that I had just grabbed a stack of books, when the library closed for the foreseeable future. So this month my reading is a mix of library books and ones I had on my bookshelves.Those I have marked with an asterisk.
The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley.
This was the perfect book for now. Strangers are brought together by chance. Each has read a green notebook,The Authenticity Project. Julian, an elderly artist started it off, asking what lies we tell ourselves and others? He writes that he’s lonely and leaves the book in Monica’s café.
Café owner, Monica,reminded me of Monica in Friends, with her quest for order and perfection. After reading Julian’s confession, she writes of her hopes, fears and dreams. Hazard is next, he gets the book by accident.He’s an ex-city trader , burnt out and trying to quit his coke habit. Going as far as possible, from everything and everyone,he knows, he winds up on a beach in Thailand. Even paradise can have its drawbacks, boredom makes Hazard read the book and then add his story to it.
Laidback and likeable Riley,gets the book by chance. As a stranger to London, he decides to see if he can find Monica’s café. An amusing part of the book showed the disconnect between perception and reality Alice is an influencer, and mummy blogger.She stares through the window of Monica’s café. Alice is tired of her so called ‘perfect life; and looks at the homeliness of the cafe with envy.Meanwhile, Monica, sees the perfect mother and baby. Each envies the other for what they think is lacking in their own lives and to me, that was very realistic.
This is one of those rare books that you want to read in one sitting and then you are sorry that you finished. I cared about these people and felt that I knew them.
Something to Tell You by Lucy Diamond. *
A carefully planned, much anticipated golden wedding anniversary party, for Harry and Jeanie Mortimer, goes wrong when a gate-crasher turns up. Unknown to them, John, their eldest son, has become increasingly distant from his wife Robyn. Sweet Bunny is in love with Dave Mortimer, but she is living a lie and fears exposure. Londoner, Frankie lives with Craig and his little boy, but their situation is becoming precarious. Everyone has something on their minds, lives will be reshaped, as the secrets and failings are exposed.
The Villa Girls by Nicky Pellegrino.*
Hiring a villa is an escape from reality, everyday worries and problems. It started when the girls were leaving school. Addolorata impulsively asks Rosie – whose parents were killed in a car crash, to join them and so the tradition of the four villa girls is born. The first trip was to Majorca, the next to Italy, and that set up a tradition. Through tough times and life upheavals, they still have the villa to look forward to. In Italy charming and somewhat spoiled Enzo basks in the adoration of his family and enjoys the privilege as the heir to a wealthy olive estate. Meeting the villa girls will change his life and theirs.
Buying Thyme by T.J.Hamilton *
High-end escort Miranda is pragmatic about her job and the men she meets. She keeps her real name and life a secret. She is seductive and alluring, playing the fantasy role men want. Powerful, charismatic and dangerous, Joe Tench, a reputed underworld figure is her best client. But Miranda thinks she can handle him. Until events spin out of her control, putting her in danger. Sexy and sizzling. Frustratingly nowhere on the book blurb was it revealed that the book was part of a series. A letdown.
Consider This by Chuck Palahniuk.
Who hasn’t heard of him? He is the sort of celebrity writer who generates headlines and controversy. His tales are always edgy, so I picked this book up wondering what kind of writing advice he would give. Practical advice interspersed with anecdotes. Clear-eyed and realistic about the writer and writing process. Not prescriptive, simply saying ‘this is what works for me.’ Not for the easily offended.
The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell.*
Set in 9th century England and Denmark. Uhtred, son of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a noble English boy is captured after a raid and is taken to Denmark. He finds favour with Ragnar and is eventually accepted as almost another son. The unfettered way of life appeals to him. He much prefers the fighting upbringing, to the one he might have had in England, with its prayers and learning. Throughout the book, his identity is fluid as his loyalties shift ,in these his formative years. At heart, I think he is always a pagan. He has a fatalistic attitude to life, embodied in the phrase ‘destiny is all.’ I enjoyed the immersion into the midst of this way of life, vividly written. The book inspired the popular TV series The Last Kingdom
Mary Poppins by P.L Travers illustrated by Mary Shephard.*
I had never read Mary Poppins and I thought now might be the time to enjoy it. The book was a shock ,after the saccharine Disney version of Mary Poppins. The original Mary Poppins as written by P.L.Travers is very definitely an Edwardian no-nonsense nanny and a far more acerbic creation. She is an interesting, although not a likeable character, in my opinion. However, as there were five more Mary Poppins books, she proved popular.
Shakespeare by Bill Bryson.*
What we think we know about Shakespeare is probably wrong. Bill Bryson sets out to tell us that we know extraordinarily little about England’s most famous poet and playwright. There are only three portraits in existence, and only one is from Shakespeare’s time. This summarises very well the entire Shakespeare knowledge, as hardly anything is contemporary. Bryson works through the conspiracy theories of who else could have written the plays. He demolishes the arguments one by one, some made by serious scholars, others by cranks. Personally, the conclusive argument for me was the way Bryson showed how Shakespeare’s Warwickshire upbringing and knowledge imbued his work in the phraseology and concepts of that place.
Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones.*
This has been on my bookshelves for a while. After trying to read a much-anticipated book, which I gave up on ( I hate to do that!) And no, I dont like posting snarky reviews. I read Enchanted Glass, as a kind of antidote. It was an enjoyable read. Andrew Hope had a magical grandfather and, on his death, inherits his house, his staff, and his field of care, without really realising what that entails.
As he is coming to grips with this, a young boy , Aidan Gain turns up and needs his help. Andrew already has the disruptive staff to deal with but accepts Aiden and tries to help him. Aidan’s arrival seems to be a catalyst for trouble and adds mystery and complexity to Andrew’s life. Altogether a very enjoyable read. As others have noted, Aidan’s parentage gives cause to pause and consider the implications of a throwaway sentence or two. Perhaps the author didn’t see it as problematical at the time? I think the book could have done with a better cover too.
A Cotswold Mystery by Rebecca Tope.*
I am reading books I have at home and this is the first in the series that I have, although its number four in this series. I was soon able to keep up as the author quickly filled in house sitter Thea Osborne’s background. Engaged to house sit in delightful Cotswold village for ten days Thea and her spaniel Hepzie, are engaged to ‘ keep an eye on granny’ as her daughter and son in law have a ten-day break. It sounds like a perfect job although they do seem a bit paranoid about security arrangements. Thea finds her charge a puzzle at times capable and the at times confused. She is voluble about ‘dear Julian’ their next-door neighbour. All is going well until Julian is found dead by Thea’s daughter trainee police constable Jessica.
Edit Your Own Romance Novel by Ebony McKenna.*
A helpful and practical guide which talks you through the steps needed to edit your own romance novel. Romances have their own structure and it is useful to have some explanations which make that clear and relatable. Simple explanations and examples make the steps understandable. Encouraging and user friendly.
Like many people around the world, I am staying home. It has provided me with a reading bonanza. The month started as normal until mid-month with the need to stay home. Most normal activities were cancelled and I read and read.
What Holds Us Together by Sandi Ward
Browsing in the library and this book caught my eye, I was attracted by the beguiling cat picture on the front cover. Reading the blurb further intrigued me, so I took the book home. Serendipity, as I enjoyed reading it, especially the perspective of Luna, the family cat. This is a reflective and thoughtful book, dealing with the sudden death of a husband and father and how the family must try and come to terms with it. Guilt and anger cloud the points of view as Annika wasn’t home when Peter died and Donovan, her son is unforgiving towards her. Luna is the only one who is aware of the presence of Peter’s ghost. Donovan has Peter’s journal and won’t return it, while Annika is concerned about what it might reveal. Things become complicated as Sam Annika’s old high school boyfriend and his brother Danny come to plough them out of a snowstorm. A positive and hopeful book
The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker by Joanna Nell
As I had enjoyed The Single Ladies of The Jacaranda Retirement Village, I settled down with this book anticipating an enjoyable read. I would have relished it when I was younger, finding it amusing. However, for someone who is aware of ageing, it makes uncomfortable reading. Poor bewildered Mrs Parker valiantly battling on with her memory loss, confusion and worries. Throughout the book, we worry is poor Henry dead, misplaced, or playing a cruel game with Mrs Parker? All the classic fears of ageing, are here, the book wasn’t the happiest choice for me. It is well written, and others have and will enjoy it.
The Secret Letter By Kerry Barrett.
Two interlinked storied make up this book and they are perfect companions for each other. Esther in 1910 is fighting for women’s rights after being left in poor circumstances due to her father’s’ death and gambling problems. In 2019 teacher Lizzie needs to begin again after being unwittingly implicated in her ex-husband’s less than ethical dealings. Both women need grit and determination to solve their problems and build a life worth living. I was cheering on the sidelines with this one and can’t wait to read more from this author.
Bad Girls by Caitlin Davies.
Coincidentally I was reading this at the same time as I was reading TheSecret Letter. This is a social history of Britain’s Holloway women’s’ prison. Bad Girls is a sobering book and one that left me both sad and angry at the treatment these women received. I am full of admiration for the courage of the suffragettes. Political prisoners, which essentially what the suffragettes were, were often treated with special harshness. For example, Lilian Lenton was eventually tied to a chair by six wardresses after refusing food and forcibly fed by two male doctors. It was a brutal procedure, forcing a tube down the throat or even in some cases the nose to enable ‘feeding’. In Lilian’s case, the tube was pushed into her windpipe and then food was forced into her lung Women were not ‘given’ the vote. They fought for it, demanded it, and eventually won it. There are heartrending stories of interred so-called’ enemy aliens’- women who had fled Nazi persecution to go to Britain, who then ended up in prison. They could even end up with fascist and Nazi sympathisers and the system did not seem to recognise the difference.
There are of course the ‘celebrity cases’ notorious women who ended up in Holloway. More interesting to me were the so-called criminals who were products of a society that had no compassion for the beaten, the starving, the ill-educated, and the poor. A society that shamed and devalued women while holding them to a higher standard of behaviour and morality than men. Holloway became a women’s prison in 1902 and was closed in 2016- the site has now been sold to a housing association. It is planned to build social housing on much of the site
The Cosy Coffee Shop of Promises by Kellie Hailes.
Set in the fictional Rabbits’ Leap Devon, the book explores the rivalry and attraction between Mel, the local café owner and Tony the owner of the decrepit village pub. Mel is in a panic due to an upcoming visit from her matchmaking mother. Mel can’t face that humiliation again and persuades Tony to act as decoy fiance. It can’t be that simple, can it? And of course, it isn’t.
Amour: How the French talk about Love by Stefania Rouselle.
The title of this nonfiction book intrigued me. The French are masters of the art of love, or so the mythologising says. So, what did they have to say on the subject? As a journalist, Rousselle covered hard subjects, terrorist attacks, refugees, and far-right parties. She felt despair and decided to look for the antidote-love. What follows are interviews and photographs of ordinary people and how they see love. The whole spectrum of emotions is here from those whose search has ended in despair to the long-married couples who still hold hands. Each story is as individual as the person who tells it. Do I know any more about love? If anything, the lesson is that we each seek what matters to us. Love is more than the physical, it’s the rightness, the connection and one special individual.
The Women of Primrose Square by Claudia Carroll
A surprise party for Frank Woods that delivers one hell of a surprise and sets off a chain of inevitable events. Primrose Square was once a genteel place and Miss Violet Hardcastle deplores what it has become. She’s the self-appointed arbiter of standards, firing off angry missives to all and sundry. Then there is Emily Dunne, out of rehab and out of chances. I found their stories realistic and entertaining. Claudia Carroll writes with compassion and warmth.
Home to Bindarra Creek by Juanita Kees.
Alice is at home in Bindarra Creek, after a tragedy she had built a life for herself. She feels safe, although trapped by her memories and regrets. Dan Molyneux is a local boy returned from the big city, where he was reportedly a hotshot financial whizz. At their initial meeting, sparks fly. When he buys the old pub, Alice expects him to tear it down and that’s alright with her. Unexpectedly, Dan plans to reopen the pub, where there are painful memories for Alice.
The Little Library Year by Kate Young.
An absolute treasure of a book for anyone who enjoys browsing cookbooks and reading. The recipes sound like the sort of things you might want to cook. For me, the book was a revisit to my birthplace England and a homage to the seasons. This book combines seasonal recipes and recommended reading in a glorious mixture to inform, entertain and inspire.
Rules of the Road by Ciara Geraghty.
Each of Ciara Geraghty’s books is different and for me, this was perhaps the wrong book for this stressful time. Terry is determined to accompany her friend Iris and to try and dissuade her from her ultimate plan to end her life in Switzerland. Iris had progressive Multiple sclerosis and feels its time. The book is about relationships, memories and taking a road trip. Well written and plausible.
White Nights by Ann Cleeves.
An atmospheric story that immersed me in the long Shetland evenings of almost endless daylight. These are the White nights of the title, an unnerving time for those unaccustomed to them. Jimmy Perez has a bizarre death to deal with, which is at first presumed to be a suicide. Later, when a murder is revealed the Shetland community feels quite secure. The victim was an incomer, not one of their own. But tongues are loosened, and gossip is revived, as old secrets take on new importance. After another death, the case becomes closer to home. I enjoy Jimmy’s thought processes and his ability to use his island background as he investigates. Well -paced and kept me guessing.
The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins.
I am always drawn to books with either a book or library in the title, so this was an obvious choice for me. Initially, the book read like a fairy tale drawing me in and inviting me to enjoy myself. Sarah Dove, Dove Pond’s town librarian has a gift, to her the books live and breathe and sometimes they let her know who needs them. It’s a gift as rare as it is inexplicable. New arrival Grace Wheeler isn’t interested in staying in Dove Pond. She plans to say a year then leave, but Sarah knows the town needs her. It’s just a matter of convincing her and making her stay. I look forward to reading more of this charming series
Falling for the Italian Billionaire by Annie Claydon
Three and a half stars from me,-this is the first Mills and Boon romance that I have read. I choose it because of the cover and the title. After all who could resist an Italian billionaire if he looked like that. I found it enjoyable and readable. The relationship balance ebbed and flowed. Gabriel de Marco and Clare Holt are well-matched both physically and intellectually. Yet each has something in their past they want to forget. My only disappointment was that I felt the ending let the rest of the book down.
The Sunrise Girl by Lisa Wolstenholme.
Lucy is in limbo, two years have passed since her husband’s death, yet she is still waking each morning at sunrise. She can’t escape the guilt that she was responsible. It keeps her stuck in an endless loop of grief and guilt.
Best friend Em, drags Lucy out for birthday celebrations. Soon, Lucy is in familiar territory as she tries to block out her feelings. The meaningless one-night stands, endless cigarettes, and glasses of wine don’t dull her pain. Em drags Lucy off to Ibiza, the Spanish ‘party island’ with its hedonistic lifestyle. They relished it when they were in their twenties, but now in their thirties, isn’t it a bit sad? Lucy starts to think so, until she meets a sexy man who makes her pulses race. Determined to find answers , she impulsively decides to go home and sort out her affairs there and then returns. At first, it’s great, but he wants more than a casual fling and she is adamant she wants no promises, no commitment. He wants to wake up with her beside him, to have a real relationship. Once again, confronted with this she leaves.
Lucy has been seeing a grief therapist intermittently and Marj’s skillful questioning enables Lucy to examine her thoughts and beliefs. She goes through grief, blame, guilt and avoidance, numbing herself with the partying to avoid facing her feelings. There is no future until past issues are resolved, and Lucy now find the courage to do just that.
I was intrigued by how the author cleverly kept us guessing as to how Joe died and what part Lucy played in that. Overall a bit of an emotional roller coaster and a story that is very readable and relatable was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Note on this month’s book choices
As the month progressed and the news became more dismal, my reading pattern changed. I no longer wanted to read anything deep, meaningful or tragic. I know that others have to embrace dystopian fiction, but for me, that felt like too much of an overload. I wanted distraction and comfort. Some take solace in baking; I take comfort from reading. It was a big blow for me when my local library inevitability closed down. I know it is the right decision, but I felt the loss keenly. A small loss in the scheme of things, but it matters to me. So, I can no longer anticipate a serendipitous find from the library. I will be exploring the many books I have at home which are waiting to be read. Like most book lovers I do have a TBR( To Be Read ) stack of books.
A mixed bag of books this month most of which were chosen on a whim because the title appealed, or the cover appealed.
Telling Tails by Sofie Ryan. A Second Chance Cat Mystery
An easy and enjoyable read and luckily you don’t need to have read any of the other books in the series to keep up with Sarah Grayson and her Second Chance furniture store and staff. The crew includes Elvis the rescued black cat-( I have a soft spot for black cats,) as well as Sarah’s family and friends.
Rose a sprightly senior swears she saw a murder, but the local police don’t believe her, suspecting it might have been a medical episode. Sarah is convinced that Rose did see something and so the investigation begins. The wife of the man presumed missing says her rat of a husband is very much alive, that he’s left and was having an affair and has cleared out their joint bank account.
Sarah can’t help thinking something feels wrong and when Rose is given a clean bill of health, the investigation begins in earnest.
Thirteen and Underwater by Michelle Weitering.
I would give it six stars if I could – This is a really brave book, raw and honest. This isn’t a story of a perfect family and perfect motherhood, rather a story of how a family had to learn to cope with extreme anxiety and mood swings when their previously happy little boy developed them. Bullying at school can have dreadful consequences. Through it, all compassion and mother love shine through-Michelle talks of her heartbreak and the mistakes she made. She doesn’t talk about the courage it took to plaster a smile on her face and get through day after day. She doesn’t comment when the child she loves is screaming at her and saying he hates her. Yes, this is a scenario which affects the whole family, what they can do, where they can go for help? But the mother is at the centre of this, questioning herself, what shall I do, did I do right, did I do wrong? The strength of the book is how she shows us her expectations of herself and the reality where she fails to measure up to the standard, she sets herself. Luckily, Michelle found the help she and her family needed and in telling her story she is wanting to help and encourage others that there is hope.
The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg.
I saw a recommendation for this book somewhere and the concept intrigued me. What it hadn’t mentioned was that this was part of a sequence of books, but luckily that didn’t matter. The basic premise is that over time the monthly supper club in Mason, Missouri transforms after one woman’s revelations and becomes the Confession Club. Sharing secrets helps bond the women on a deeper level and many of us will recognise our own failings, deep insecurities and regrets. A second chance at love beckons for one, but will that too be a cause for regret?
Jacob’s Room is Full of Books by Susan Hill.
A year of reading from this talented author. It is so intriguing to peer over someone’s shoulder and see what they read, much like browsing someone else bookshelves. She is so clear and delightful to read, describing places and animals’ scenery and skies. Opinionated, idiosyncratic and so enjoyable., reminds me of books forgotten, books to add to my ever-expanding reading list. Now to trace her book Howard’s’ End in on the landing.
Sixty Summers by Amanda Hampson
I gained one impression of the book from its cover and blurb, which didn’t in my opinion quite relate to the book I was reading. I had anticipated a light, easy read and instead got a book that was far more insightful about the regrets of midlife than I had expected.
I suppose few of us reach middle age without regrets for what is, or what might have been. Can a return to the places from past change that? The three women, Maggie, Rose and Fran’s trip gets off to a bumpy start wondering the friendship can be reignited. Unexpected events break down barriers and each women’s problems or secrets are revealed.
Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves.
I grabbed this book with enthusiasm, not realising that it was number seven in this popular series. It didn’t matter, the story gripped me anyway. Of course, I came to Shetland via the popular TV series starring Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez. I was momentarily startled to read in the book of his dark hair and darker skin. I enjoy both the series and the books accepting that there are differences. In both though, Jimmy is polite, persistent and thoughtful. He’s not one to barge in shouting. He’s a man who observes and thinks and then acts. The story kept me guessing to the end as various people emerged as possible suspects. I will be sad to see both the series and the end of the books, but I respect what the authors said about realism. Just how many murders can you have on Shetland?
Reflections by Marcia Willett.
Like many of Marcia ‘s books Reflections is like sitting down with old friends and catching up where they are in their lives. The plot has enough bite to make it interesting. Cara newly widowed is staying with her brother Max and his wife in Sidcombe, Devon. Recent visitor Cosmo is a charmer and he’s attracted to local girl Amy, but is he all that he seems? Cara senses there is more to Cosmo than he’d like to reveal. Sam newly down from university and ready to start a career in the navy isn’t entirely certain about his choice. By the end of the summer, new choices may be made and old secrets revealed .
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 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.
Hotel Valhalla by Rick Riordan.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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)
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 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
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.
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.
Whispers at Wongan Creek by Juanita Kees.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.