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

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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.

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

 

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Reid Jenkins

Loved that 70s vibe of the cover

 

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

 

 

A Pinch of Magic by Michelle HarrisonA Pinch of MAgic

 

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

 

What Was I Reading in July/August 2019?

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

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

Charms & Cupcake by Baily Cates

Charms & choclate chips

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

The Witches’ Tree by M.C Beaton

The Witches Tree

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

 

Bring Your Fiction to Life by  Karen S Wiener

Bring your Ficiton to LIfe

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

The Bookshop On The Shore by Jenny Colgan

The Book shop on the Shore

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

L’Amour Actually  by Melanie Jones

L'amour actually
The perfect cover for this book.

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

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan.

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

 

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

 

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

Your Perfect Presentation by Bill Hoogterp.Your Perfect Presentation

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

TED talks Chris Anderton TED talks

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

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

 

 

 

Finally! My June Books.

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

woman working girl sitting
Missing connection with the wider world

Sail Away by Celia Imrie.

Sail Away

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

The Strawberry Thief  by Joanne Harris

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

 

 

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

Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier

Wolfskin
I wasn’t inspired by this cover.

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

On the Same Page by Penelope Janú

On the same page
A well deserved XO prize winner

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

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

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

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

Miss Seeton Flies High by Hamilton Crane

Miss Seeton
Part of a very long running series.

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

Creating Characters from the Editors of Writer’s Digest.

Crearting Characters

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

The DandelionYears by Erica James.

Dandelion Years,

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

The Forgotten Letters  of Esther Durrant.

 

THe Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant
The beautiful cover

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