What Did I Read in September 2018?

 

 

person holding and reading book during daytime
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com.

The Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon

Jewels of Paradise

This is the first book by Donna Leon that I have read. I chose it because it was a standalone and not part of her successful Commissario Brunetti series. The prose is quite cool and scholarly as musicologist Caterina Pellegrini is hired to research an almost forgotten Baroque composer Steffani’s supposed ‘treasure’. It would probably resonate more strongly with those who are more musically inclined than I am.

The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham

 

SecretsSheKeeps_FC

An absolute tour de force- in spite of the reader having a good idea what is about to happen, Robotham, manages to keep up the tension and suspense. While at times loathing Agatha it was hard not to feel sympathy for her too. There wasn’t one false note from a male author writing two female characters. Compelling.

High Tide by Veronica Henry

High Tide Veronica Henry

 

An appealing mix of characters from this well-known author. Kate back from New York, for her mother Joys’ funeral. Beautiful Vanessa from the big house is burying her husband Spenser and wondering why she isn’t grieving. Sam has moved to Pennfleet to escape loneliness and stress, but has he done right by his teenage children? Local Nathan keeps his wits about him to earn his living beyond the summer season.

Charming characters and an idyllic location with just enough spice to keep it interesting makes this a perfect beach or holiday read.

 

A Room at the Manor by Julie Shackman

A Room at the Manor

Lara returns to Scotland from Malta, her life in tatters. Her fickle boyfriend found someone else, her PR career is also gone. She needs to start again. What she has always wanted to do is bake, but perhaps with more charm and warmth than Kitty Walker her current boss allows at True Brew Tearooms.

A friendship with the former laird Hugo Carmichael provides an unlikely means of escape as Lara takes to the new challenge with enthusiasm, not everyone is happy though.

The delicacies that Lara creates will have you drooling, (don’t read if you are on a diet!) While handsome bad boy Vaughan, makes Lara dream of more than baking.

Write Smart, Write Happy by Cheryl St John.

Write Smart

Helpful advice from an experienced writer who has over fifty books published. St John encourages whilst at the same time demolishing all those pathetic excuses we make about not having enough time, self- doubt etc.

 

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Rules of Magic

If you ever thought that being magical would make your life easier and happier this book will slowly but persistently demolish that notion. Sister Franny and Jet could not be less alike, but each finds in her own way that magic cannot solve all problems. While their charismatic brother Vincent who seems born for trouble enjoys his powers until he too learns that magic has its price. This prequel to Practical Magic works well as a stand-alone story.

New York Nights by C.J Duggan.  The second book in this series.

New York Nights

Aussie Sarah Williams dreams of New York and when an opportunity to work as an au pair there beckons she accepts. She is almost awed by the Worthington family who scrutinizes her prior to her meeting with Ben Worthington whose daughter Grace she is to care for. Unfortunately, for me, the book didn’t have the same pizzazz as Paris Lights. Perhaps Sarah was alone too much or stuck in the apartment as she spent long periods alone. I didn’t really get a sense of Ben either. I will be interested in what other readers think.

 

Seven Books That I Read in August

August has been a busy and challenging month, with writing contests to enter, and technology challenges to overcome, computer glitches and getting connected to the National Broadband Network but I still made time to read. My selections were perhaps a tad more lighthearted than usual.

person holding book from shelf
Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

The Fast and The Furriest by Sofie Ryan: A Second Chance Cat Mystery

The cover of this book with its handsome black cat and its title attracted me. Two cat -loves- of- my- life were black cats, Midnight and Mystic. Previously I’ve enjoyed a couple of cat mystery series Midnight Louie by Carol Nelson Douglas and The Cat Who series Lilian Jackson Braun.This might easily be another series to add to my favourites list.

The Fast & the Furriest

The fast and the Furriest is the fifth book in the series, but it was easy to get involved. Sarah Grayson owner of Second Chance refurbishes objects and furniture for her store, with the help of Mac, who can turn his hand to most things. There is also a handsome black rescue cat called Elvis. Life is good in North Harbor, Maine until a woman from Mac’s past visits and ends up dead. Suspicions abound, but Sarah can’t believe Mac did it and Elvis agrees. They just have to prove it.

Antiques Flee Market by Barbara Allan. A Trash & Treasure Mystery

Antiques Flee MArket

Spell check wants to change the title but it is Flee market, not Flea market, a play on words! Almost a reprise of The Fast and The Furriest although this time the featured animal is Sushi a Shih Tzu dog. The story is mainly told by Brandy Borne with occasional interjections by her mother Vivian. It’s a madcap mix of fun and danger. Chapters include Flea market tips. Again, part of a series, but I was still able to follow a lot, if not know all the backstory

Paris Lights by C J Duggan

I was fortunate enough to win a  copy of this book but was under no obligation to review it. Its been on my bookshelves for a month or two.PAris LIghts Book

Claire Shorten should be enjoying a romantic time in Paris, strolling by the Seine, exploring the districts and eating fabulous French food, with her boyfriend who she is sure is about to propose. Her dreams crash when he dumps her, leaving her alone in Paris, the city of romance.

Claire manages to get a job at a small hotel and that’s when things get interesting as she meets the inscrutable yet sexy Louis Delarue. He’s a celebrity chef with attitude to spare. A fun read with a sexy, stylish vibe and a certain ‘Je ne sais pas’ that extra ingredients which lifts it from a standard romance. This is the first books I have read by CJ Duggan and I really enjoyed it as I sped through it.

The Other Wife by Michael Robotham

The Other Wife

An intriguing premise what if everything you thought you knew about someone was wrong? This is the problem facing clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin and it’s not an academic problem, it concerns his injured father. It kept me guessing as layer after layer of subterfuge and deceit was revealed. Like Joe we want to know ‘the truth’ but whose truth is the real story? My sympathises fluctuated between characters and I found it a believable and satisfying read, an absolute page-turner.

London Bound By C.J Duggan.

London Bound

London!  Australian Kate Brown has dreamed about it and now she’s there London is tantalisingly close. If only she can escape the ‘it’s for your own good’ clutches of her grandmother who seems to want to occupy every minute of Kate’s day. Fortunately, handsome neighbour Jack Baker finds Kate intriguing and wants to know her better in spite of the unfortunateness of almost running her down.

While I found this an enjoyable read, for me it didn’t have quite the pizzazz of Paris Lights. It ended so abruptly that I turned the page expecting more and was nonplussed to discover it had ended,

Brain Rules for Aging Well by John Medina

Brain Rules

A molecular biologist explains the habits of those people called ‘super agers’ people who stay fit and healthy into old age. The book explores the current scientific thinking and how that can be translated into ordinary lives. Explodes some myths along the way, such as nostalgia is bad for you. It’s good to reminisce. Fascinatingly scientist has managed to double the lifespan of mice but so far there are no human applications. An absorbing read although I did read it slowly. Lots of simple and effective advice.

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee

Lenny's Book of Everything

I was fortunate enough to be sent an advance reading copy of this book. It’s a book which is hard to categorize and a story that stays with you after you have closed the pages. In a sense, it reminded me of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Narrator Lenny worries about Davey, her younger but much bigger brother and their single mother Cynthia Spink. They are dealing with hardships and illness, and with longings for a better life, a better outcome. Lenny wonders about her absent father and knows that her mother is ’thin with worrying.’ When their mother wins a set of Burrell’s Build it at Home Encyclopaedia, arriving in weekly instalments it opens knowledge and imagination for both.  Her determination that her children will have the best that she can provide is expressed in her letters to Burrell. Lenny and Davey became real to me I smiled at Davey’s imaginary eagle improbably named Timothy. I ached for Lenny with her longing to find her missing father. It might be a stretch for most ten-year-olds but any literate imaginative ten+ should love this book.

 

 

 

Which Books did I Read in July 2018?

 

white teddy bear with opened book photo
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In spite of July being a busy and challenging month, I did manage to keep up with my reading. For a writer, reading is essential but more than that its a pleasure. I cannot imagine my life without reading.

The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang

A feeling of nostalgia had me reaching for this well-loved childhood classic. Beautifully produced and with the original illustrations, it is a visual delight. Reading now as an adult, I was surprised at how some of the stories defied the happily ever after tradition.The Blue fairy Book

The Olive Sisters by Amanda Hampson

After reading Amanda Hampson’s later book The Yellow Villa I was looking forward to reading this. Initially, I found the dual timeline confusing. As I read on the strands of the story became clearer. The sisters came to Australia with their family from Italy. Their family relationship is complex. Later, one of their descendants inherits the farm. For her, it becomes a refuge and retreat as she uncovers more about her past and long-lost family secrets.

The Olive Sisters

The Upside Of Over by J.D Barrett

When TV newsreader Olivia makes a drunken mistake her whole life implodes. She loses her marriage, her career and her self-esteem. How did it all go so horribly wrong? And what can she do now?

Luckily, a couple of friends are still there for her as she picks up the pieces. Through her own efforts and with their help she discovers that the network was eager to get rid of her due to her age and this was the perfect excuse.

Olivia discovers that there is an upside to over, being your own person and authentically yourself.  Funny, sexy and wise, but not necessarily for the prudish.

Upside of OVer

Disclaimer I won a copy in a contest but was under no obligation to review the book.

Date with Mystery by Julia Chapman

DAte with Mystery

Book Three in The Dales Detective Series.

Although I hadn’t read the two previous books I still enjoyed this book. It’s an amusing mystery full of Yorkshire wit and grit. About three-quarters of the way through the book I had a good idea as to what had happened but no idea of the why-the reason. I am not too sure about the contrivance of having characters called Samson and Delilah. It stretches the bounds of credulity, but it seems to work for TV’s Shakespeare and Hathaway, so that may just be a personal quibble.

The Beach Hut by Veronica Henry

the Beach hut

When I picked this book up I hadn’t realised that it was an interconnected series of short stories.  All are based around the beach huts on Devon’s Everdene beach. A peek into many lives over the weeks they use the huts. Some stories come full circle while others remain incomplete, left to the readers’ imagination. Initially,  I found it rather disconcerting to move from one story to another. I feel the cover gives an impression of a lighter read, while the stories have more depth.

 

PR Secrets for Savvy Authors By Louisa West

PR

As a writer, you need to get your work noticed and for that, you are going to need PR. (Public Relations) Maybe you are an introvert who doesn’t want to put yourself ‘out there’. Or perhaps you are an extrovert but don’t want to come over as ‘pushy.’ And what is PR anyway?

Help is here, Louisa West is both an author and PR professional. The book is written specifically for authors and addresses their concerns. From learning the difference between PR and marketing, to how to feel ‘legit’ and how to establish your ‘brand’.

The importance of networking effectively with readers, writers and influencers. It demystified the whole process of how to post in social media and how to make it work for you.  Presented in an easy to read style – this book should be an important part of any authors toolbox

I learnt a lot and I think it’s a great read for anyone wanting to know more about PR

Disclaimer I was gifted an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Which Books Did I Read in June 2018?

June was a good month for reading as I read seven books almost all of them were fiction. I like to try different authors and genres as well as reading nonfiction.  Here are this month’s selections.

adult back view blur book
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

              The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

THE DARK LAKE
I don’t want to give plot details away, so of necessity, this review will be non-specific. I was fortunate enough to win a copy of the book in a giveaway but was under no obligation to review it.
I think the book is well written, but I found it hard to warm to the protagonist Gemma Woodstock. She is obviously a dedicated detective and this time the case is personal. While I found the hint of intrigue about the past worked well initially, I grew impatient with the continual repetition and non-disclosure. The book had an unpredictable ending, overall, I didn’t find it a satisfying read

           Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

kell_9781101883075_are_all_r1.indd

This is fiction based on fact and tells a remarkable story of how an American Socialite and philanthropist Caroline Ferriday made a difference to so many women’s lives. Always a Francophile and a volunteer at the French consulate she was gradually drawn into working far more closely with women who had been incarcerated and brutally mistreated in the notorious Ravensbruek concentration camp.
Initially, I found the triple timeline somewhat confusing as each woman’s point of view was presented. American Caroline, Polish Kasia and German Herta. It was worth persevering because this is a story that needed to be told. Unimaginable horrors and deprivations, cruelty, and kindness death and despair, hatred and forgiveness. This is a memorable story, meticulously researched and beautifully written quite unforgettable. The authors note details the research and the real people whose lives were impacted by these terrible events.
Note Caroline Ferriday and Herta Oberhauser were real people Kasia is a composite of many of the Polish women who were held in the

               Mail Obsession by Mark Mason 

MAIL OBSESSION

A great book for trivia lovers and those interested in finding out quirky facts about Britain. Not a book to read at one sitting. This is a book to amuse and delight, but one that is probably best read in small doses. There is a temptation to read out many of the amazing facts and bits of information to your long-suffering family.

A few snippets which amused me.  In 1879 Belgium trialled using cats to deliver the mail. The thirty-seven cats did not cooperate, ( who would have thought that!)and the trial was abandoned.

The Queen carries several items in her handbag, including a handkerchief, lipstick, spectacles, a folded five-pound note and a handy suction hook to stick under a table to hold the bag itself

My favourite though is that on April Fool’s Day 2010 The company Gamestation inserted a clause in their online contracts which enabled them to claim their customer’s souls.

 The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers

THE CLEANER OF CHARTRES

An unknown woman arrives in Chartres and stirs up forgotten feelings and prejudices. Each person sees something different in Agnes Morel with her dark skin and topaz eyes. She cleans the famous Chartres cathedral. Does the cathedral influence her as she polishes the labyrinth walk? Can a wrong ever be righted? Can a sinner find redemption? Is holiness more important than kindness? Everyone has an opinion about her. The town gossips Madame Picot and Madame Beck spend their time speculating about her past. Abbe Paul from the cathedral, Professor Jones and Philippe Nevers all have a certain fondness for Agnes. While Robert, the painter uses her as his muse, model and mistress. Dr Denman wonders if he did right by Agnes. Alain the restorer wants to help her to find her own identity. The nuns’ Mother Veronique and Sister Laurence knew Agnes years ago and their intervention in her story is not the happiest of events,
We saw each person’s perception of Agnes but each time there was something of their personality in the observation too. Was Agnes more sinned against than sinning? Judge for yourself.

           The Yellow Villa by Amanda Hampson

THE YELLOW VILLA

Despite its charming cover, this story has more involved in it than you might at first imagine. A young Australian couple Mia and Ben, buy a villa in France hoping to make a fresh start. They meet a sophisticated older couple Susannah and Dominic and are initially impressed with the pair of Expat Brits.
Throughout the story, fresh information is revealed and the veneer of each couple’s ‘perfect’ life gradually discloses uncomfortable truths about their relationships and each other. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

            Water Under The Bridge by Lily Malone

WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE
The characters were well drawn, and the story events were intriguing. The relationship between Ella with her son was realistic, a boy out of his depth missing his old life and friends. Ella is challenging herself embarking on a new career, selling real estate and trying to put her past behind her. Handsome Jake is a complication that she doesn’t need, and he’s the owner of the house she has listed to sell. It’s inevitable they will keep meeting.
The story while complicated is certainly feasible and is the beginning of a series by Lily Malone

 

What did I read in May 2018?

The key to my heart is a good book and in May I read quite a few books. One really touched me, while others entertained me. This month there is a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Whoever it was who said ‘life is too short to read bad books’ I agree with them. I may pick up a book, read a bit and decide it is not for me.  I won’t post a lousy review because it didn’t suit me, I will simply stop reading and not mention that book.

bloom blossom close up color
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

Hubble Bubble by Joan Lovering.Hubbel Bubble

A bright and breezy romance with plenty of humour and sprinkling of magic thrown in. When Holly  and the other women cast a spell, she specifies she wants ‘excitement.’ She gets that in spades and a couple of hunky men too. Although all are surprised with the results of spell casting, it seems they have effected change and their wishes are coming true.

The Memories That Make Us by Vanessa Carnevale

The Memories that Make us

I was impressed by how much Vanessa Carnevale has developed as a writer since her previous book The Florentine Bridge. The concept of memories making us who we are resonated with me as I struggle with the emotional cost of my close friend’s death. Gracie and Flynn are a relatable couple as she fights to regain her memory. The idea that flowers played a significant part in her recovery seems plausible. Wasn’t it Kipling who wrote’ scent is surer than sight or sound to make the heartstrings crack’? Well written, nicely plotted and well worth a read!

              The Sweethearts by Lynn Russell & Neil Hanson

The Sweet hearts Book

The story of the women and girls who worked at the Rowntree’s chocolate factory in York., United Kingdom, A social history which explores the lives of ordinary women who worked for the giant Rowntree company. It tells how although the work was hard and often physically demanding, the women generally appreciated the time away from husbands and home.

The company seems like a paternalistic employer, who valued a strong work ethic but one with a social conscience. The company provided hot meals, a library, sports facilities, convalescent places and continuing education and even a company pension.

Women’s lives between the wars were incredibly hard and they lived and worked in challenging conditions, bad housing, large families, and before the National Health Service the fear of sickness and injury. The book introduces various women and tells their individual stories

Rowntree’s was York’s largest employer and was well-regarded until it was taken over first by Mackintosh and then later by Nestle. The Quaker care values that saw retired employees being sent a Christmas card and ten-pound voucher to buy chocolate misshapen chocolates was discontinued. Staff was replaced by machines and eventually, even the Rowntree’s name was gone.

Keep The Home Fires Burning by Simon Block

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

The book starts where the top rating and much-missed television series left off. Even a petition was unable to get it recommissioned. For all of us who enjoyed the series, the book is the next best thing,. We’ve known and loved the characters so we are invested in knowing what happens to them. Set in the Cheshire village of Great Paxford  during

Will Campbell the doctor is battling cancer while Erica his pharmacist wife and their daughters all concerned about him. Frances Barden is trying to find her way with Noah, the son of her dead husband and his mistress. Sarah the vicar’s wife is still waiting to hear news of her husband Adam who is a prisoner of war. Theresa the teacher is working hard to make a success of her marriage to squadron leader Nick. Alison is alone apart from Boris her dog, still ashamed at her part in the Barden factory closure. She misses the company of Theresa. Steph and Little Stan are keeping the farm going. Downtrodden Pat is still enduring her marriage to Bob and wondering where Czech officer  Marak is. As problems are solved new ones emerge and once again we are left with a cliffhanger ending and waiting for the next book in the series.
Overall, I enjoyed the chance to revisit Great Paxton and I will certainly order the next book. I did, however, have two minor quibbles. Joyce Cameron has become less acerbic and more gullible  I was surprised by the use of the word ‘loo’ as I would have thought lavatory, toilet or WC would all have been in more common usage. I checked and the first mention of the word loo was in 1940  by Nancy Mitford according to Oxford Dictionary.

 The Paris Seamstress By Natasha Lester

This is the book that made my month,  and days after reading it I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

The Paris Seamstress

It’s a few days since I finished reading The Paris Seamstress.  I enjoyed it so much and I didn’t want to simply write a review filled with superlatives. I relish dual timeline stories if they are well written and this was. Spanning from 1940  France with Estella Bissette, the Parisienne seamstress of the title to 2015 and her granddaughter Fabienne Bissette in Australia, the story crosses decades and continents. It explores family secrets, war, spies, love and loss, madness, revenge, fashion, and relationships. Natasha Lester’s research makes the story impressively believable as real places and people interact with her fictional characters. The story moves seamlessly from past to present and keeps interest and tension throughout. Some of the real characters in the story are so much larger than life, that were they simply fictional creations they would not be believed. Informative and entertaining The Paris Seamstress is Natasha Lester ‘s best book so far.

The Drifter by Anthea Hodgson

The Drifter

I enjoyed this rural romance, which I picked up prior to the author giving a talk at our local library. Unfortunately, my plans changed and I was unable to attend the talk. Its set in the wheat fields of Western Australia, the author captures the locale and characters well. The subtitle asks ‘How far would you go for a second chance? ‘Both Cate and Henry have secrets they’d prefer not to share, but they are drawn together as they are both close to Ida Cate’s great-aunt. The story had enough complexity to keep me interested.

              Close Up by  Kate Forster

Close Up

Subtitled ‘In Hollywood, the drama isn’t always on screen’ this book reminded me of a Jackie Collins  Hollywood book. The parallel storyline has two young women trying their luck in Hollywood to escape their loveless pasts. This is contrasted  with the lives of Zoe Greene  a successful agent  to the stars and Maggie Hall an actress whip has been in Hollywood long enough to know how it works. Dylan Mercer a young runaway on a personal quest adds to the mix.  I also had fun deciding if any of the ‘star characters were based on real movie stars. The characters and their problem are relatable and I found it an enjoyable read.

 

What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You by Kerri L. RichardsonClutter

‘Uncover the message in your mess and reclaim your life’

As a confirmed packrat- I know I have a problem. Maybe its a natural inclination or maybe it was growing up with parents who saved string, rubber bands, paper bags, jam jars etc.  My  house is full of stuff. As a writer words are my resource but my office is filled with paper clutter which I might need ‘someday’.

Through its eight chapter, the book explores our clutter problem is clutter ‘monster or messenger’? Chapter two talks about resistance to dealing with clutter( guilty!) then what’ if your  clutter could talk?’

‘Common causes of clutter’ are explored in chapter four, while in five the question is  asked ‘is your clutter a handy distraction?’  The book offers practical solutions, and suggestions as well as handy quizzes to discover what your clutter is trying to tell you. The book is a definite call to action – the question now is am I motivate enough to act?

   The Right Girl by Ellie O’Neill

The Right girl

The book defied my expectations of a light read with a love story. Yes, there is a love story,  with an appealing heroine and couple of suitable ‘ men.  Is she the Right Girl for the Wrong Man?

The book also points to a dystopian future. A future that is inexorably .sucking everyone in. It’s a life where your power to choose for yourself is slowly being taken over by the App that is supposed to make your life function smoothly. An App that with its constant usage that erodes your confidence in your own ability to make informed choices.

This is a cautionary tale of a future, that many of us are sleepwalking towards. Will it strike a chord, who knows? It certainly gave me pause for thought.

The Librarian By Salley Vickers

                                   The Librarain by Salley VickersT

The title appealed to me, I tend to enjoy books about books and reading and this was no exception. It began almost like a children’s’ story as Sylvia Blackwell sets out to make a success of her new job as Children’s librarian in fictional  East Mole, Wiltshire, Young and idealistic she want to inspire a love of reading while escaping the confines of her own life.

The era (1958) is well conveyed, with its social niceties and class consciousness. At first, her attempts to encourage children into the library are welcomed and she enjoys a modest success. But then the suspicion of a scandal hovers over her and her own integrity is called into question. The Librarian explores the beginnings of social change,  and the power of books, and the importance of libraries, especially for those who cannot afford to buy books.

While reading it so many of my own old favourite books were mentioned. I appreciated the comprehensive book list at the back of the book which reconnected me with other books I had either forgotten or had never read.

The end papers of the book are a design from the Victoria and Albert Museum and add to the feeling that is a book from a bygone era when books were beautiful.

 

What I Read in April 2018

The Great Alone By Kristen Hannah

After reading The Nightingale I was really looking forward to reading this book. Kristen Hannah’s love for and knowledge of Alaska shine through these pages.

The Great Alone

Personally, I found the book too long and too repetitive. The physical isolation of Alaska is described, as well as the kind of people who are drawn to it and able to survive there. Some can’t handle the feeling of being cut off and the mental Isolation. Ex -Vietnam vet Ernst, thinks Alaska is the place for him and his family. His experiences have led to his growing paranoia and to domestic violence.

Leni is a young teenager when they first arrive and for a while doesn’t sense anything is wrong with her parents. then she can not understand why her mother excuses and forgives her father and doesn’t want to leave

Inevitably, Leni falls in love with a boy from a family her father loathes, making her life far more complicated. An act of shocking violence changes all their lives and they return ‘civilisation’, but Leni still has Alaska and the boy she left behind in her heart.

Not for me at this time- perhaps my recent sadness at the death of my friend made it too bleak.

The Secret Vineyard By Loretta Hill.

Grace knows that her ex-husband Jake is ‘a lying, cheating, wife abandoning bastard’.What she didn’t know until his death was that he was the owner of a vineyard in Margaret  River, Western Australia. As Grace is scraping together a living and looking after their three boys it seems like a chance for a fresh start or at least a lucky break.

The Secret VIneyard

His current wife and Grace’s ex-best friend tries unsuccessfully to challenge the will, which has left the vineyard to Grace’s three boys. Grace packs up herself and the boys for a trip down South to see the vineyard and decide if it is saleable. It’s a ramshackle place, in need of some TLC, but it has a certain charm. And events conspire so she has to stay longer than she first planned.

Scott, the charming real estate agent, is always around and there is a mystery about the house and its resident ghost. Then there is the handyman, who is happy to work for just his board. Grace’s life is far more interesting than it ever was in the city.  I enjoyed this book, but I did find the blurb on the back of the book confusing. In the book Grace’s husband is Jake, the blurb refers to him as Derek.  It must have been too expensive a mistake to correct!

 

          The Cat of The Baskerville’s by Vicki Delaney

The third book in the popular Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery Series by Vicki Delaneyhe Cat of the BaskerveillesWhen Sir Nigel Bellingham, star of screen and the theatre accepts an invitation to star in the classic play for the West London Theatre’s Festival, the Cape Cod locals are both thrilled and amazed. Unfortunately, in person, he is not as impressive as his reputation, and it soon becomes apparent that he has a drinking problem. QuIte a few people benefit in various ways because of his death. Even Gemma herself as it increases  book sales and memorabilia.

Gemma Doyle proprietor of the Sherlock Holmes bookshop is both observant and clever. This time she faces a conflict of loyalties and worries that what she has observed will implicate someone close to her.

 

       Choosing Happiness: Life and Soul Essentials by Stephanie Dowrick

I wouldn’t suggest that you read this book in one sitting. It lends itself more to be a potpourri of a book, one to dip in and out of as need arises. It’s a mental and spiritual health check to be used as required.

Choosing Happiness.

The chapter heading broadly define the scope of the book.

Trust Who You Are.

Let Your Values and Goals Work for You

Build Self Respect

Consider Others.

Honour the People You Live With.

Think & Act Positively.

The book is like having a wise and sympathetic friend to talk with. The kind of friend who makes you think a little more deeply about yourself and your behaviour.

 

Maggie’s Kitchen by Caroline Beecham.

I spotted a review of this and the concept appealed to me, women’s work in wartime

Maggies KitchenMaggie has opened a wartime restaurant-  which is a long-held dream of hers. She is facing problems with supplies as her restaurant as ironically becomes ‘too popular. ‘Dealing with red tape and Ministry of Food types is exhausting enough, but then there is twelve-year-old Robbie to worry about too. Where are his parents? Janek the helpful and mysterious Pole reminded me of the Czech officer Marek in the sadly missed and inexplicably cancelled ITV series Home Fires.

Maggie didn’t really ‘come alive’ for me and it felt like the story ended very abruptly. The book also contains a few wartime recipes, showing the ingenuity of the cooks of that time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which Books Made My February Reading List?

A long, hot summer-  one with plenty of reading time

pexels-photo-261889.jpeg

I read nine books this month, a mix of fiction and non-fiction.  Often a serious book will prompt me to choose something lighter to read or I will pick a non-fiction book instead.

Does your own reading follow a pattern or do you choose books at random?

           In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

 

In The Midst of Winter
Simon and Schuster

 

Three people brought together by chance, in a snowstorm. Richard, a university professor, Evelyn, an undocumented migrant from Guatemala and Lucia, a visiting Chilean academic, she is also Richard’s tenant.

Each has past filled with secrets and heartache. They form an unlikely alliance to help Evelyn who was involved in a minor car accident with Richard. Terrified she can hardly speak as she faces a  major problem.Her problem involves them in something far more serious than anticipated. In spite of some bleak events, this is a life-affirming and inspiring book. I won a copy of In the Midst of Winter in a giveaway but  there was no obligated to write a review

.                               5:2Vegetarian by Celia Brooks

 

5 2 VegetarainWhile I am not a vegetarian, I don’t eat a lot of meat, so this book appealed to me. With recipes for easy fast day meals, speedy breakfasts and simple snacks, the book was just what I was looking for. There is a section on convenience foods and packed lunches, with suggestions for how the recipes in the book can be used as packed lunches. All in all a practical and useful book. I borrowed this book from the library

 The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life by Sharon Pywell.

 

The Romance Readers Guiee to Life

This is a book that is quite hard to categorise, in fact, it’s a bit of a genre-busting book. The cover although brilliant is slightly misleading as it conveys the promise of a romance.The story concerns, ghosts, history, domestic violence, entrepreneurship, the relationships between siblings, a murder and a pirate tale. There is a parallel storyline between the supposedly real-life events involving the two sisters and the romance storyline. In a sense, I felt that the title was deceptive in its promise of “romance”. The romance was certainly there, but the author delivered another and more complex and darker version of what life and romance might be. I would certainly be interested in reading another of her book.This book was one that I bought.

                             Jenna’s Truth by Nadia L King

 

Jenna's Truth
from Good reads


The book was written in response to the tragic suicide of Amanda Todd a US teenager who was bullied to death.Jenna’s Truth is a powerful story, which is very relevant for today’s’ teens and their concerned parents.

Written in the first person it feels very authentic. When Jenna is befriended by the popular girl at school she doesn’t question why, as this is her dream come true. Tina’s aim is to lull Jenna into a false sense of security and then to betray her trust.The casual cruelty of the situation is well depicted. Driven by desperation Jenna feels that she has nowhere to turn.

This is a book that should be widely read and its message shared, to speak out against bullying and that there are things that can be done to stop the spread of bullying.In addition to the story itself, the book has pages of resources against bullying and cyberbullying, discussion questions and activities. For international readers, there is a glossary of Australian terms.

   The Hairy Dieters Eat for Life by Si King and Dave Myers

 

Hairy Dieters
Photo from The Hairy Dieters website

 

One look at the cover photo will show how well the boys have succeeded in losing weight. The recipes are colourful and tasty and they should appeal to the man in your life.Unless you are eating one meal a day they may be mostly too high in calories for using with 5;2 or the Fast diet. Eat for Life would be good to use to on non-fasting days to keep your calorie count in check.

                    The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

 

Things that we keep
Image from Good reads.

Although the book tackles potentially depressing topics –such as young age Alzheimer’s disease and the aftermath of fraud and suicide, it is not a depressing read. In parts, the story felt reminiscent of Lisa Genova’s Still Alice as Anna, writes herself journal entries to try and retain a sense of who she is.

Anna Forster is only thirty-eight and worked as a paramedic so she knows the outcome of her disease only too well. Now, she is a resident of RosalindHouse, an assisted living facility. Jack, her twin chose it because there is another young resident.

Eve, Bennett has come to Rosalind House as the cook, a far cry from her easy life of wealth and privileged, as a pampered wife. Her circumstances have changed and she has an important motive for being there.

The story has a parallel structure with Eve and Anna telling their own stories, I found it was easy to read and it kept me turning the pages.

But, the author left Anna and Luke, (the two young age Alzheimer sufferers,) still functioning and maintaining a sense of their own personalities. So while their final outcome was spelt out, the book did not go there. A thought-provoking book.

                           Million Love Songs by Carole Matthews

Million Love Songs HAchette
Image Good reads

After a marriage breakup and a blow to her self-esteem, Ruby Brown wants to start a new life. Forget love and commitment, it’s time for Ruby to let her hair down and have some fun.

Although her friend Charlie warns Ruby about Mason Sloan ( aka Shagger Sloan) and their boss. Ruby enjoys flirting with him. He’s a charmer and an outrageous flirt and his bad boy reputation doesn’t hurt either.

Then there is Joe, her diving instructor who is good looking, caring, friendly but with serious baggage, An ex-wife, who he is technically still married to and two teenage children,

Having the two such different men in her life Ruby is spoilt for choice.Can she tame bad boy Mason? Does she want to? Will Joe see her as more than a casual friend? Is she ready to take on his surly children?

Charlie her best friend and huge Take That! fan swoons over Gary Barlow, it’s far safer than getting involved with a real-life man, one who could hurt you. Ruby’s emotions sway in favour of one and then the other. Her love life has never been busier or her heart so torn.

 Nevermoor; The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

 

NeverMoor image Hachette
image Hachette

While I am not the intended readership of this book, it’ss for primary school aged children ) I enjoyed it very much. I feel it is probably more advanced than most primary aged readers and at 448 pages it is quite a long read. I suggest its more for a mid-grade readership, perhaps 11+

Who could resist reading about Morrigan Crow who is cursed? She is an unusual but relatable character and the concept and ideas of the story worked well. Although it’s a longish book I never felt that the story dragged

Transported to an unfamiliar world Morrigan has the protection of Jupiter North, who proves to be an erratic and eccentric guardian.But without him, she knows that she would be dead.

She learns that in order to remain in Nevermoor she has to face four trials. She feels ill-equipped to handle even one and the mysterious Jupiter isn’t exactly helping.

For an older reader, there are plenty of oblique references to our world, which are likely to amuse you. I particularly liked the reference to the Gobleian library. A second book in the series planned for release in 2018 and I am sure many fans will be looking out for it.

             Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun by Victoria Laurie.

 

19918890._UY200_
from Good reads.

This is part of a series of books written by real-life psychic Victoria Laurie.It’s not the first book in this series, but it is the first one that I picked up and it can easily be read as a stand-alone.

Its a fast and easy read, with a mixture of humour and suspense. M.J Holliday is talked into appearing on a TV show by Gilly her business partner The show is being promoted as a cross between The Antiques Roadshow and Ghostbusters. MJ and other psychics will sense what the objects handed to them have to say.

They are staying in ‘the most haunted hotel in San Francisco’. It is obvious that more than a TV show has to happen. So a murder and an apparent suicide, a portal, and a demon are all in the days work for MJ. and Heath the fellow psychic that she is working with.

The first two-thirds of the book engaged me, the last third less so. It felt a bit rushed and my suspicions about certain characters proved to be correct.

Do any of my choices appeal to you? What have you been reading this month? I’d love to know!