Books · Jottings

December Roundup

Yes another month of reading done, in fact another year of reading as well! I thought I would have read loads more in December, mainly because I have time off work but for about two weeks plus I have had the lurgy and simply cannot shift it. Coupled with an immense amount of work to get done before I finished for two weeks. Most things have taken a bit of a back seat, including reading, crafts, exercise and dieting. Four things I need to do to keep me sane. Funny how you know these things but still let them go.

I have just made the 100 which was my target for the year, but more about the years books in coming posts. This is all about December.

I started the month finishing a book for my 2014 challenge (more about that in another post) Patrick Gale – A Perfectly Good Man*. It was thanks to this author and the Richard and Judy book club, that I got back into some serious reading when I picked up Notes from an Exhibition. There is something very different about his work and I cannot quite put my finger on what – needless to say all that I have read so far has been good.

It being December, more Christmas reads were obviously called for. I have read quite a lot (for me) this year. I was back shopping with Alexandra Brown – Christmas at Carrington’s. Whilst not as strong as her first one, I am hoping that the third in this series will pick up and hold my attention a bit more.

The nearest I got to reading A Christmas Carol this year was reading Fern Britton – A Cornish Carol, which in took me back to some well-loved characters that I have come to enjoy reading about with Fern Britton.

Last year I read Susan Buchanan’s Christmas themed novel, because I enjoyed the writing so much I thought I would give another one of hers a go – it took me a year but finally I have read The Dating Game*. A refreshing change to have a main female character not fitting some stereotype – just an ordinary woman, like me!

Jill Mansell is another author who is well-known for her women’s fiction. I was lucky enough to read her latest novel Three Things About You* (out in Jan 2015) and it moved me to tears, handling subjects which I have never read before and somehow making it so heartfelt and believable that it never came across as false and contrite.

I have read very little crime and thriller-esque type novels for a few months now, not sure what. Probably because my brain could not cope with such. However I picked up Liane Moriarty – The Husband’s Secret as it had been languishing on my shelf for so long, it was crying out to be read. Bought at the height of its popularity it is inevitable I never read them then but wait. It could have been light and fluffy, despite its subject. It was anything but.

Way back in 2012, I saw Morgan McCarthy at an author event. I eventually got to her first novel The Other Half of Me last year. So in 2014 I decided to read her third novel, because it had been kindly sent to me for review. Strange Girls Ordinary Women* is her latest. Intriguing read, I am still pondering how to review it.

When you know that you only have a few days to read two books so you can complete a challenge, it was tempting to read two short stories and feel smug. However, I chose to go to two authors and know that I would thoroughly enjoy their books. Veronica Henry – Marriage and Other Games* was an excellent read and was a book which drew me into the plot, characters and setting and the fact that it also featured a bit of Christmas was a bonus for this time of year.

It is three years since I picked up and read a Rhys Bowen and the series I have embarked on is the ‘Her Royal Spyness’ mysteries and I had book three on the shelf waiting to be read. So I indulged some fantasy about the thirty-fourth in line to the throne and caught up with Lady Georgiana in Royal Flush*. And because it has been awhile, it seems I have lots to catch up on. In fact I might have to make this one of my challenges for 2015.

I am now at the cusp of the new year with the indulgent choice of a new book to read! The options are limitless.

*Review yet to appear on blog.


The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty

Three Women.

Three Mothers.

Three Secrets.

One has everything, perfect husband, three perfect daughters, perfect family. Community minded, the sort of woman who volunteers for school activities, fundraising and can still hold down a job with a good income. She knows everything about everyone – but is there a secret more closer to home that is about to change her life.

One has a small perfect unit, a husband, a small son. There are no cracks in this marriage, in fact they even work together successfully. But a secret is about to crack, loudly through this family.

One mother has tragically lost her daughter and her killer has never been found, her husband never recovered from the tragedy and now it looks like she is about to lose her only grandson. She is the women everyone crosses the street to avoid because they don’t know what to say. She knows who committed murder but will anyone listen?

This is not a light fluffy story, but one with substance and depth. It makes you question your own morals and put yourself in their ever changing situations and ask – would I do the same? No one can possibly answer that question and no one answer would ever be the same. The plot draws you in and whilst I could see some of the paths the author was taking us down, I was completely surprised by the justice that was dispensed and the manner in which it was done.  Guilt hangs heavy over all of the main characters and it is how they overcome with it or park and deal it that takes us the reader through the whole story.

An epilogue perhaps answers some questions, but actually it leaves you wondering if any of their lives are ever going to be the same.

This is the first book I have read by this author and I will certainly look out for more of her work in the future. It was a compelling read and I wanted to know what happened, a page turner which is a good length at around 400 pages and did not for me have any weak points which made me want to give up the book.

I had seen this book around for a while, it was popping up everywhere and seemed to be the book to be reading. As is the normal case with this sort of thing, I generally buy the book and then come to it week, even months later. I had no idea the book was based in Australia, the author’s home country. But actually the place is not important, what is important is that that three women and he supplementary characters could be in a village, town, city near you.


Christmas at Carrington’s – Alexandra Brown

This is the second book in the Carrington series and although we had a little bit of a taster in a short story that bridges the gap, we are essentially back with Georgie as she serves the locals at Mulberry On Sea women’s accessories, luxury handbags to be exact in a full length novel.

It all seems to be going well with Georgie and her romance with Tom. They are learning a lot about each other and it seems that this Christmas is going to be the best yet for Georgie.

That is until she sees herself on television. In fact everyone sees a lot of her on television! It seems that the department store is going to be featured in a television programme and that the well known retail guru Kelly Cooper is going to save Carrington’s.

Georgie had no idea that she was going to be featured and even more that Carrington’s needed saving from itself.

There is much confusion as she wonders why she has been kept in the dark about the project and  even more so when they want her to be one of the major ‘stars’ of the show.

Reluctantly Georgie gets onboard, but not before she has fallen out with Tom and it seems that Christmas is going to be spent eating the amassed food she has bought in her freezer on her own. As she is trying to deal with all these mixed emotions and also explain to Tom everything, she gets sucked into the world of ‘fame’.

Not everything is as it seems. Georgie is not fake. But it seems that television is and there seems to be an ulterior motive. The ‘documentary’ part of the book was well described by the author and I really felt that she has looked at the whole process with a rather cynical eye but one which I totally agree with. Everything is not always as it seems.

This is how Kelly Cooper and her annoying daughter come to be portrayed. There is obviously more going on that actually turning round a store. And whilst it might be predictable, it was still a readable plot.

For me this was not as good as the first novel. I was not drawn to Georgie’s character, in fact she annoyed me more than anything, it all seemed a bit too false. Eddie, Tom’s BA(Boy Assistant as opposed to a Personal one!) is larger than life and his character develops throughout the book. He stole many of the moments in the book that where perhaps Georgie should have character that shone through more? Georgie did show strength when she was helping her friend Sam, who run’s the cafe at Carrington’s and I was really touched by the way the sadness was handled.

Regardless of me being grumpy about the characters, it fundamentally achieves being a second book in a series set in a department store. It has that right mix of getting a glimpse of everyone’s lives and also somehow it manages to comment on a very current and ‘now’ concept that of what happens when a television programme takes over your life not just at work, but how it moves into your personal life as well.

A good read, and even if you haven’t read the first one I think you can soon find yourself amongst the shelves of Carrington’s.

I think this might be classed as second book syndrome. (Although I have read many author’s second books and thought they were amazing – so the rule does not always apply?) Especially as her new series The Great Christmas Knit Off was fabulous. 

What I am not sure of is where the story is going to go in the third book, but there is only one way to find out. It might be December, but perhaps I should be thinking about Ice Creams at Carrington’s? 




A Cornish Carol – Fern Britton

Fern Britton has introduced us to the place of Pendruggan on the Cornish coast in earlier books and she has picked up the place and the characters that we got to know and brought us a Christmas story. Of course this is to whet our appetites for her next novel due out next year and to fit in with the festive period. But despite my cynicism I did want to read it, because I actually think that Fern Britton’s writing is improving and her books are very readable.

In Pendruggan, it seems that Christmas is not going to a happy time for Piran Ambrose. He  has turned into Scrooge and has no intention of being festive and certainly will not be joining in any of the celebrations in the village. Who wants to see amateur panto productions and have screeching children singing carols at your door. Certainly not Piran, but he is in the minority.

His grumpiness drives away his new found love, who wants to celebrate a family Christmas with her son and his child. Even the local vicar Simon is fed up with his bad temper and puts it to him straight and makes him see what life might be like if he continues ad infinitum.

A touch of the Dickens’ Christmas Carol,  with memories of the past, the present and what might be happening in the future.

A diverting read and short enough to enjoy whilst you are enjoying your own Christmas.

Another short story I have read this year and another Christmas one too! A pleasant diversion and I do enjoy Fern Britton’s novels and it won’t be long before her output matches that of Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley. Her novels are perfect for fans of these authors.


And breathe out….

I made it, I got to the end. I did at one point think I was going to meet myself coming the other way.

I now have two weeks off work, apart from a slight diversion of a few Christmas Decorations to be dismantled and a staff Christmas lunch come while Monday. That is me done!

What lies ahead?

Reading and Sleeping a plenty.

Swimming and exercise a  plenty.

Friends, Family and food a plenty.

All of it a plenty and in varying different orders for whatever fits the day!

I have a few more presents to wrap – whoever invented glittery wrapping paper is the devil – the carpet is covered in the blinking stuff. I have a few ends to sew into a pair of gloves, which I need to do before the wrapping stage, but I can confidently say I am pretty much done.

Of course as the end of the year approaches, it is time to reflect and I hope now that I have got time, I will be able to finish those reviews that have been hanging around. Tell you all about who I met and saw author wise during the year. I have some ideas I want to explore.  I want to have a good sort out of books and will no doubt need to update my goodreads and think about challenges for the year ahead. My book club is on a bit of a festive break, it needs to be reinvigorated for next year, if other members want.

I need to clear up some of the craft stuff that as emanated from the basket by my settee and is slowing spilling out onto the carpet and beyond! It’s my house, its clean and reasonably tidy and it is my stuff, so I should probably stress a little less. It will always be there tomorrow….. Although working on a Christmas decoration in January might be a bit much – that is one aim for this weekend.


A Good Yarn – Debbie Macomber

This is the second book in the series which is known as The Blossom Street Series. We are back with Lydia who owns the yarn store A Good Yarn on Blossom Street in Seattle.  Of course there is much to catch up on with Lydia’s life and her sister and now colleague Margaret.

But it is not just their lives that Debbie Macomber tells us about in these books, it is those people who for many reasons appear in A Good Yarn.

They all have differing reasons and they come from all walks of life, class and age.

This time we meet Elsie, divorced from the only man she loves and living with her daughter due to some financial problems. It is not where Elsie wants to be and when her ex husband makes an appearance in her life it seems that everyone thinks he has changed except for her.

Bethanne had everything, home, husband and children. It seems her husband wanted someone else and now she has to become the breadwinner and parent and she finds it is not as easy as she thought. A blossoming idea leads to something else and Bethanne maybe able to turn everything around.

Courtney is a teenager in angst. She has had to move from the place she knew, whilst her father works abroad, separated from her older siblings and dealing with the death of her mother, she comes to stay with her grandmother. It means making new friends and starting a new school. Courtney feels she is going to stand out for all the wrong reasons.

These three women, come into A Good Yarn as a way of meeting new people, escaping the past and trying to deal with the present. Knitting for them gives them a diversion, a purpose and most of all friendship that they never knew they needed or wanted.

Of course everything is interwoven like the most simplest knitting pattern to form a great story and these books are cosy familiar reads just the same as putting on your favourite cosy knitted jumper!


On track….

It appears my reading is on track to hit the 100 by the end of the year. According to the Goodreads challenge.

That is about all that is on track – the reviews are getting behind. I apologise as some I should have been writing about long ago and singing their praises daily on this blog.

There is lots I have been mulling over in my mind that I want to write about and I just haven’t.

Christmas is sort of in bags and needs to be sort of wrapped up labelled and start being distributed as some people I will see soon and not at all near the big day itself.

I must go and get the cards out to write. I know where they are so that is a start.

Life is not on track for various reasons. I need some focus and I need some time.



A new home

I bought them before I had even seen them.

I bought two, one for me and one for my parents.

I went to see them, but I could not pick out the ones I ordered.

Others have been to see them.

They may well have brushed past royalty.

They have been made with skill and care, both so unique.

They have seen all weathers (apart from snow).

They could have been there since the beginning, the middle or even the end.

But they have just arrived with me, to their new home.

IMG_2183In fact they are both going to live together at my parents house.

I wasn’t sure when I was going to receive them, and was most surprised to receive a text Sunday just gone, to say that they had been dispatched, to then some thirty minutes later getting a knock at the door to give them to me.

The boxes they came in were decorated inside with a picture of this installation and instructions on how to put them together. The stakes are rusty and still covered in some mud. You can see where the weather has touched them, which makes it all the more special.

A wonderful idea which has touched so many and I am feeling very privileged to have been a small part of it.

Books · Jottings

November Roundup

Well that was November. Did you see it go by? I seemed to have missed it somewhat and certainly the reading has taken its toll this  month although as of this post I am on track to reach my target of books read for the year but it is going to go to the wire, if it were a competition (with myself!)

But what did I read?

More Christmas reads, I seem to have started much earlier this year than in previous years and they have tended to be short reads at that. You cannot go wrong with Katie Fforde – A Christmas Feast and other stories which is just like a delicious Katie Fforde selection box.

Another author I discovered this year was Kate Forster – The Perfect Christmas this is her short story for the year and actually reminds you how much Christmas is not about material items but love.

Veronica Henry – Christmas at the Crescent was where I popped in to see what was going on. Another short story, but it took you in straight away and again reminds you all about the pleasure of being together as a family and that love at Christmas.

Away from Christmas and in the commemorative year of the First World War our book club choice was Eric Collinson – The Bootlace Boys. Although the war only featured in the last quarter or so of the book, it was an interesting read about the coal miners of the North East.

More history came from the wonderful new novel by Lucinda Riley – The Seven Sisters* the first of a series of seven novels, starts to build the scene, the characters and takes us to Paris, Brazil and Switzerland. How can three so different places come together? Of course if you know Lucinda’s writing then you know it will and it was such a wonderful journey.

Another journey I took at the beginning of the year was with Don and his Rosie Project. Now for Don it has turned into an effect. Graeme Simison – The Rosie Effect* is the sequel to the book. It was great to be back with Don and Rosie, and it was also nice to see life portrayed a lot more real than in some books.

If I have not been reading I have been doing crafts and of course some knitting, I have also been reading about it. (A most tenuous link) to Debbie Macomber – A Good Yarn, this is the second in the Blossom Street series and I am back in the yarn store in Seattle and finding out what is happening to the store’s owner and some of the many customer who pop into learn a new skill. A real variety of people.

I did start a book and had to stop, as I was not really concentrating on it as I was reading it with another book at the same time, which was not working for me. Especially as my brain is not calming down and therefore cannot cope with everything whizzing round it. I will go back to it, as there was nothing wrong with the writing I knew it was me.

Going back to reading only one book at a time for the moment sees me ending November reading a Patrick Gale novel, I had forgotten how much I enjoy his work and writing.

I might be a bit behind on reviews but they will be forthcoming but maybe a little more slowly.

* Review yet to appear on blog.