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.

 

 

Which Books Did I Read in October 2019?

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

Reading for pleasure is a pure joy!

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

 

Becoming
An Iconic First Lady in her own words.

 

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

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 Destined to become an important  historical document.

Sanctuary by Judy Nunn.

Sanctuary

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

 

Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

In Another LIfe

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

The Shelley Bay Ladies Swimming Club by Sophie Green

 

Shelley Bay

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

 

 

What Was I reading in September 201(?

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

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

 

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

I have always loved reading.

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

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen.

The Victory Garden.

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

 

Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael RobothamGood Girl Bad Girl

 

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

 

Everything Publishing by Karen Mc Dermott.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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

 

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Reid Jenkins

Loved that 70s vibe of the cover

 

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

 

 

A Pinch of Magic by Michelle HarrisonA Pinch of MAgic

 

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

 

What Was I Reading in July/August 2019?

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

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

Charms & Cupcake by Baily Cates

Charms & choclate chips

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

The Witches’ Tree by M.C Beaton

The Witches Tree

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

 

Bring Your Fiction to Life by  Karen S Wiener

Bring your Ficiton to LIfe

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

The Bookshop On The Shore by Jenny Colgan

The Book shop on the Shore

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

L’Amour Actually  by Melanie Jones

L'amour actually
The perfect cover for this book.

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

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan.

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

 

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

 

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

Your Perfect Presentation by Bill Hoogterp.Your Perfect Presentation

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

TED talks Chris Anderton TED talks

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

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