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

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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!

Books I read in January 2018

I read nine boosk this month but I only reviewed eight.

February already!  January flew by in a flash, and it was a busy month, as I expect it was for many people. I started a diet ( the 5:2 or Fast diet). I also prepared a submission for an Arts festival and also did a short online writing course.

Our TV schedule provided me with plenty of opportunities to read, I managed to read nine books this month. I am only reviewing eight of them because I gave myself permission to abandon one book., so I don’t feel it is fair to comment on that.

Image coverdesign Pixababy public domian BOOKS
image pixababy.

Vasilisa The Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women by Kate Forsyth illustrated by Lorena Carrington

Vasilisa-cover

A beautifully presented book and one with an uplifting message- that girls can do just about anything, Having read and loved all of the Andrew Lang Coloured Fairy Books, I suppose that I was a natural fit for this book. It did not disappoint me.The tales are all little-known folk-tales, which are retold sympathetically by Kate Forsyth.Adding to the charm of the book are the delightful and almost magical illustrations by Lorena Carrington.You will probably want to keep a copy for yourself, but this book would make a wonderful gift for most teenage girls.

The Other Woman by Laura Wilson

The Other Woman

A domestic noir that left me virtually on the edge of my seat.The Other Woman completely subverts a reader’s expectations, at the same time providing shocks and surprises in plenty. It kept up the pacing and the growing tension. Best of all, it did feel completely plausible. It was easy to project yourself into Sophie’s enviable life and then its gradual disintegration. Surprises up to the very last page. An author I will look out for.

The 5.2 Diet By Kate Harrison.

5.2 diet book

Easy to read and very practical, this book is based on Michael Mosley’s The Fast Diet. In it, Kate Harrison explains how the diet changed her way of eating and how it worked for her.Part one also contains the scientific information that underpins the diet. Part two tells personal experiences and shares recipes and food ideas. Easy to follow and encouraging. Brands listed are UK ones.

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

A Secret History fo Witches

A big book of 484 pages which spans the times from 1821 to 1937 and follows the lineage of one family the Orchieres. When they are forced to flee from France the family settled in Cornwall. Their secret is of course that one of them is a witch. The craft is passed from generation to generation, with each daughter facing her own challenges, needs and desires.Equally not all mother-daughter relationships are shown to be perfect.

For me personally, its pacing felt a little slow, until I got to 1886, midway through the book. Then I raced through the rest of the story, feeling a deepening connection with each of the women. There were some surprising developments in 1937 onward, which added to the veracity of the book. The author has chosen to use pseudonym and dedicated the book to her mother, which could add to the intrigue, If you have the patience this is an enjoyable read,

The Other Side of the Season by Jenn J. McLeod.

The Other Side of the Season

I find dual timeline stories intriguing and in reading this one I felt as though I had hit the jackpot. Both the times that were chosen were interesting, the 1970s and the present day.For me, the characters were real., flawed and complex. Some were instantly relatable while others were harder to appreciate. This book played with my emotions( in a good way) as I cared about the characters. It was one of those books that I both wanted to finish and equally one that I didn’t want to end. The landscape is a part the appeal but the book is never bogged down by description. Its Jenn J McLeod’s best book yet.

River Road by Carol Goodman

.River Road

An almost literary thriller. I enjoyed it but anyone who expects a fast-paced read will find it too slow for their taste. Professor Nan Lewis is a college creative writing lecturer who might have hit and killed a student as she returned from a year-end party. Nan’s private life has been a mess since the tragic death of her young daughter six years earlier. She turns up for class and teaches and grades student’s papers but increasingly is drinking more and more. Could she have done it and not remember? And if she didn’t, then who did?

Gifts for Our Time by Anna Jacobs.

Gifts for our time Anan Jcobs

The final book in the Rivenshaw series. Although you could read it as a stand-alone novel as all the major plot points are covered.Set in post-war Britain with its privations and shortages, Gifts for Our Time is an enjoyable read. Jacobs skilfully draws the many threads of the previous books together, and also adds new characters, this book is a worthy conclusion to the series

Disclaimer . I won a copy of the book in a giveaway, but was not required to write a review.

A Very Late October and November Reading List

To explain yes I was still reading in October and November, but as it was National Novel in a Month my focus was mainly in my writing. Reading was my relaxation and also my inspiration throughout the month.

I did achieve the word count of  50,000 words and that is nowhere near the end of the story., which I will allow to rest for a month and then look at again.

 

 

thought-catalog-214785
November was spent writing as part of National Novel in a Month.

 These are the books that I read in October

A Seaside Affair by Fern Britten

An easy and relaxing read, Fern’s own television experience has obviously informed the insights into how reality TV is constructed.

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At times reminiscent of those old movies where a bunch of amateurs try to save a theatre by ‘putting on a show.’That is essentially what happens here, only with professional actors. Producer Penny is able to call in some favours to recruit stars of TV and film to help save the old theatre. Fern name drops Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville and writer Lord Julian, Fellowes believably and with ease. A good holiday read,

Talk of the Town by Rachael Johns

An enjoyable read with an engaging duo of Megan and Lawson at its centre, as well as a supernatural element. I personally really enjoyed the supernatural aspect of the story and would have liked to have seen more of it.

 

Talk of the town

 Megan has moved interstate in an attempt to leave her past behind her. Perhaps she hadn’t reckoned on country town hospitality and curiosity? in spite of being wary of revealing too much about herself, Megan is unable to resist Lawson, and his adorable and incorrigible eight-year-old son, Ned. The characters are well drawn, relatable and appealing. The mysteries of the Old Store and Megan’s past are revealed slowly and satisfyingly.

How to Market Your Book by Rachael Bermingham.

A thoroughly practical and useful book, written by someone who as she says,’made all the mistakes’.She shares her insights and expertise and as she is a best-selling- author, Rachael is the best advertisement for her methods.

 

How to Market your book Chapters cover so much ground from media release tips to marketing plans How to get your book into libraries and how to obtain testimonials. How many promotional copies you should send out. Many of the suggestions simply require you to use your time rather than money. A worthwhile book for anyone with a book to promote

Body on Baker Street By Vicki Delany

A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery.

Although I had not read book one of this series Elementary, She Said, It is an oversight that I will rectify. In spite of that. I was able to connect easily with the characters and the story,

Body on Baker Street

The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium and Mrs Hudson ‘s Tea Rooms are situated in West London, Massachusetts The bookshop is currently being run by British Expat Gemma, during the prolonged absence of her Uncle Arthur. Her friend Jayne runs the tea rooms, which are handily situated next door.

When a famous author Renata Van Markoff who writes,  a pastiche Holmes series decides to visit the store it is a tremendous boost to the bookshop sales.That is until she is murdered there. It happened after a very public argument during the book signing. Gemma’s amateur sleuthing abilities are put to the test, and it sets her at odds with the local police department. Worse, there is an embarrassment of suspects, many of whom wanted to see Renata dead, Who will solve the case first?

 

It is a More Abbreviated List for My November Reading

 

 A Trail Through Time By Jodi Taylor

Book Four in The Chronicles of St Mary’s Series; The Battle for St Mary’s.

 

A trail through time.

A brilliantly original idea and a great concept, but for me, it is all getting a little too complex and confusing,

When historians cross and recross the timelines and St Mary’s itself has several different incarnations, then the story can become too complicated. While the introduction of the Time police in this book whose job is to monitor the timelines was an innovative touch.Adding to my confusion with the story is that the two major characters Max and Leon have both died at various times in some timelinesBy crossing and recrossing the timelines, loves, lives, memories and relationships are all being challenged both by the past and the future interactions. This popular series continues.

Still Writing by Dani Shapiro

I was prompted to read this book as it was recommended by author Natasha Lester at a workshop that she gave.

Still Writing

While there are no outstanding insights, I felt that Dani Shapiro was an encouraging voice who understood the doubts, fears and insecurities which plague most writers.Her advice is sound and she reminds us via words from poet Jane Kenyon to ‘Be a good steward to your gift’

I loved the irony of the title, as ‘still writing?’ is the query that writers, whether paid or not, hear most frequently. The subtext apparently being ‘what haven’t you got a proper job yet’

Which Books Have I Been Reading in August?

Write Naked by Jennifer Probyn- A helpful and inspiring guide to writing by a New York Times best-selling author. Not all books on writing hit the mark with me – but this one did

A Bouquet of Love by Various authors .published Serenity Press. An anthology-based around Serendipity bridal boutique. Ten authors give us their own inimitable take on romance. They made me laugh, they made me cry. 

The Forever House by Veronica Henry-

A delight of a book that ticked all my ‘must -haves’.,Simply enchanting I liked the characters so much and wanted to live in The Forever House myself, with its romantic name of Hunters Moon.

Escapism, romance, nostalgia, and even estate agents’ selling secrets. A peek into another lifestyle  which is far  more glamorous than my own I didn’t want to close the pages. A captivating read! *****

Champagne for Breakfast By Maggie Christensen.

A mid-life romance

The Little Teashop of Lost and Found by Trisha Ashley.

Another delight An abandoned baby girl is left near Haworth in Yorkshire – home of the Bronte sisters. Alice is adopted and then left with a chilly stepmother when her lovely dad dies.

The book centres on Alice finding herself through baking and buying a tea shop near Haworth in an attempt to find her past. The tea shop is a dump and she has spent almost all her money., but of course a feisty heroine always has a plan and a potential man, if she wants one. *****

A Desirable Marriage By Hilary Boyd.

What turns a long-term marriage on its head? The declaration that the husband has fallen in love, with another man!  Who could resist reading that?