Books · Jottings

December Roundup

That was it is all over for December reading, for 2015 reading. And we go head long into a new year. I have had lots of time to read, lots of time to rest and lots of time to think about where I am going and also where this blog is going. For the moment though here is December’s roundup of reading.

It being December I had to continue with the Christmas themed reading, and Katie Fforde – A Christmas in Disguise is a great way to get in the festive mood, especially as a short story it sometimes all we can manage at this time of year.

I discovered Rosie Blake – How to stuff up Christmas from reading a fellow blogger’s review and was tempted. I loved it but the title was slightly misleading and unnecessary for my liking.

The best for me though was Susan Buchanan – Return of the Christmas Spirit there was something just so lovely about it. A book that made me feel all warm inside.

Whilst buying books as presents, I thought I would treat myself to one that I wanted to read too. Sue Perkins – Spectacles I know it is the time of year for the “sleb autobiogs” but I wanted to see how this one came across. Well, so much so I was laughing too much in bed, her wit and turn of phrase is brilliant and she readily admits that she has fleshed out some parts, but the essence of Sue Perkins is certainly here between the pages. (That sounded good, will need to use that in my review).

Rather than keep reading on my kindle, I do need to make a dent in my actual books, so I picked at random Mark Watson – Hotel Alpha  wasn’t sure what I was going to get. I got a thoroughly good read and a rather interesting one at that.

Another ‘actual’ book was Dilly Court – The Orphan’s Dream which was sent to me for review, it was good but I actually haven’t reviewed it. It was something that I decided for 2015 and I have kept true to it and I think it will move forward into 2016.

Back on the kindle and back on review books via netgalley. I went on a bit of a binge of picking them after having got through a lot of them and reducing the amount to read, but I was drawn to Sinead Moriarty – The Way We Were. 

Then having read the first novelisation of Death in Paradise television programme this year, I was lucky enough to get the second Robert Thorogood – The Killing of Polly Carter. I look forward to the third book and I hope there may be more after that.

There was no real reason for picking B.A.Paris – Behind Closed Doors, other than the fact that it was available and the publisher had emailed me rather than me choosing it on netgalley itself. So I thought I would give it a go, eventually when I got round to it. But after some ‘nice’ stories I wanted something that was a bit more thrilling and did I get it with this book – yes in bucketfuls. Edge of seat stuff and holding breath at some points too!

Surprisingly enough this took me to my 100 books of the year, more about that in another post. So I thought I would pick up a random book and read that next which is what took me to James Anderson – The Affair of the Thirty-Nine Cufflinks there was three of these and the second read way back in 2011 (having just checked) so I have completed the set and rather disappointed there is now no more.

I end the year in the middle in of a book so that will be my first finish of 2016.


Return of the Christmas Spirit – Susan Buchanan

As always at Christmas everyone is being pulled in lots of different directions due to outside influences.

Arianna is feeling the pressure of her exams and a Christmas without seeing her father.

Evan is struggling with two children who want everything and cannot see the pleasure in the little things in life.

Daniel is looking after his children and a sick wife as well as trying to hold down a job where family is not an important issue.

Patricia’s husband has left her. In true style for his secretary.

The only thing that seems to pull all of these people together is the local library and their most recent employee Star.

The library is holding lots of events in the run up to Christmas and Star has taken on a lot of the organising herself for them. Somehow as the four main characters of the novel, cross paths at the library Star manages to get them to help at the library festivities. Whether it be helping with the children’s activities, the adult book club, or simply the pleasure of the children choosing their library books, somehow Star manages to become part of their lives.

As the book progresses and we see the struggles that these characters have to go through and some of the decisions they have to make, especially the choices when it comes to family, you start to feel empathy for them. There was not one character I did not like, they all came across for me well and I admired their resolve and determination.

As the book comes to its right conclusion, it seems that Christmas for all of them will be a star feature this year.

I said of Susan Buchanan’s The Christmas Spirit that it was “….a book to cuddle up on the sofa with and just simply enjoy….” then this book is exactly the same. The author has knack of the magical for writing Christmas stories and therefore I hope that there will be more to come in the future.

One of the best Christmas books I have read this year.

What I do want to say and I have left out of the body of my review is how much this book resembles the Angels series by American Author Debbie Macomber, who I have read for the last few Christmases. If you enjoy those books then this book is certainly for you. If you have no idea what I am wittering on about then well go and read the books and then perhaps come back and tell me the answer!



These Wonderful Rumours!: A Young Schoolteacher’s Wartime Diaries – May Smith

Being able to sneak a peek into someones diary is a rather thrilling thing. You have no idea what you are going to learn about or what secrets are going to be revealed.

Second to that is the mundane that is recorded because that itself is just as revealing. Especially when the diary in question forms part of what can be called the social history of the Second World War.

In this book, May Smith, 24 years old and a schoolteacher in Derbyshire shares her life with us as she negotiates evacuees, ARP, rationing, lack of sleep, romance, holidays, trips to the cinema, tennis matches, new hairstyles and making clothes.

Ordinary everyday activities set to a backdrop of an extraordinary time that if you’ve never lived through it then you would have no idea. It is these stories, this information that needs to be kept alive for future generations to understand. I have literally picked a few random entries to share with you.

October 1939

Oh dear! This dreadful war! Nothing is secure any longer. It’s like living on the edge of a precipice. Auntie Nell says that Hitler is going to drop thousands of men over England in parachutes. Oh how awful! For them, I mean.

December 1940

An orgy of Christmas activities at school. We spend the afternoon making calendars and cards.

May 1941

Cold again. My dress arrives from Bracegirdles and my father states that it is The Worst I’ve Ever Had and he doesn’t like The Colour.

June 1942

King’s Birthday. Go to the Electric to see Dumbo – Another Walt Disney (his latest).

April 1943

Discover the sad truth when I arrive in Derby that I have come without a powder-puff, and they are now unobtainable in velour.

June 1944

A day of dither. We have invaded Normandy, and landings have been going on successfully since early morning. Oh dear! Sit around listening for news and poring over the paper.

May 1945

VE Day. War in Europe over. Broadcasts by Prime Minister at  3p.m. and the King at

I think the key element to this book which is important to share and know is that life continued, in fact life has to continue despite the influences of something much greater.

This is a book to dip in and out of and read a few entries, it is not going anywhere we know the ending this is all simply part of the journey.



A Christmas in Disguise – Katie Fforde

Short stories at Christmas and Christmas Short Stories are sometimes all we can manage to squeeze in to our busy hectic entertaining and eating. This is one such story and you cannot go wrong with Katie Fforde.

Jo’s friend Andi wants her to stand in for her and cook Christmas Dinner at her employees house. Andi assures her it will not be a problem as her boss will not even notice, she is that self-absorbed.

Jo reluctantly agrees because she does not want Andi to lose her job.

Jo seems to get away with it, until a guest appears in her kitchen. And he seems he wants her to stand in for someone as well just to maintain the disguise even more.

It looks like for Jo, that this Christmas Feast could turn into a Christmas Farce.

A satisfying story.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for allowing me to read this book. 




Behind the Scenes at the Museum – Kate Atkinson

We first get to meet Ruby the central character of this story as soon as she is conceived. Bizarre though that may sound it is this type of quirk writing that Kate Atkinson can draw a reader in and keep them there for the entirety of the book.

Ruby’s narrative, is comical and moving in equal parts as we are taken through her entire life. It jumps backwards and forwards through the life of Ruby and her relatives and when we get to an important part of Ruby’s story – there is a footnote to filling more of the background. These footnotes are dedicated chapters themselves.

Imagine if you will a blank colouring book titled Ruby Lennox, as I read through I was eventually colouring in parts of Ruby’s life, her choices driven by her experiences, her family history and the thoughts of the future.

Interestingly enough, the story flows as you are genuinely wanting to know what happens in Ruby’s life. I was captured by this story and family I was learning about.

A true reflection of the varying type of work that Kate Atkinson can produce. I think this is a book I need to read again to appreciate it even more.

A gem of a book just like the main character.

My apologies for the lack of substance to this review. I have foolishly got rather behind with such things. If I do read the book again, then I will have to review far more fully than I have here. 


The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith

Ironically enough, I picked up the first Robert Galbraith on my kindle and it sat there waiting to be read and I got round to reading it just as this book was published. Fast forward and I have done the same thing reading The Silkworm as the third book is published.

In this Cormoran Strike is settling into his role as a private detective and his assistant the rather spiky but clever Robin making an interesting work dynamic. Trouble is Robin wants to be more involved, she just doesn’t want to be good at the paperwork side of the business.

It seems in The Silkworm she may get her chance to shine.

Contacted by the wife of author, Owen Quine who has been missing for a while, leads Coromoran into the world of publishing and it is here I stopped, paused and wondered if perhaps the author was using this book to make a veiled dig at the publishers that she has dealt with in the past or events she has witnessed by fellow authors.

There is plenty of petty squabbling, jealousy about who actually writes the book, the fans of the novels, the agents, the editors and when Owen Quine’s body is discovered in some rather odd circumstances, is the truth perhaps not stranger than fiction but really the truth?

This was an interesting insight into the world of publishing through the medium of a crime novel. Clever.

It is up to Cormoran Strike to get the truth and we get there with twist and turns in the tradition of a well written crime novel.

This book is easily better than the first and I think as the series progresses (it has no definite end apparently) the writing will become stronger, the plotting more succinct and the storylines as good. You can read it as a standalone without having read the first, but to really understand the nature and personality of Cormoran and to a lesser degree Robin you really need to start at the beginning.

I am looking forward to the third.




According to Yes – Dawn French

This is the latest novel from French and is very much the quirky Dawn French novel that you have come to expect but it is so different again from her previous two novels.

Rosie I can only compare to Mary Poppins, for reasons we are never really sure of, we know little of her background apart from the fact the she cannot have children and comes from Cornwall.

Rosie is transported to New York. By conventional transport I hasten to mention.

Rosie is placed at the Wilder-Bingham’s apartment. A prison of sorts. No laughter, no emotion and no light in their lives both from the enjoyment they could possibly have as well as the physical light from the windows in this wonderful apartment.

Rosie is different, she knows nothing of such behaviours. She is eccentric, warm and loving, showing all emotion and in her own way is teaching not just the children she has come to be a nanny too but other members of the family as well.

Rosie turns the light on for this family just as Mary Poppins did for the Banks. But that trust me is where the similarity ends – Mary Poppins, mentioned in the book ironically, would maybe not been so amenable to all.

This book is funny and warm just like Rosie and whilst I probably had to suspend belief a little in the events that happened throughout the book and the turns along the way I have to say the storyline drew me in, but most of all I was inspired by Rosie (although perhaps not all her actions) and wanted to see what an effect she would have on all of the Wilder-Bingham’s.

A good read.




Tinsel and Terriers – Cressida McLaughlin

Tinsel and Terriers is the final part of the four novella series set in Primrose Terrace which is all now combined into A Christmas Tale for those who want to read the book as a whole.

I have to make a confession, I thought this fourth part was not quite up to the previous three. Perhaps because the end was coming and I was no longer going to be able to be peeking behind the doors of Primrose Terrace anymore.

Cat is still confused about how she feels about Mark and Joe is still lurking around in the background. Even when Joe goes away for a time, it seems that he is still able to get under Cat’s skin.

When Cat finds something out about Mark, it looks like her gut feeling was right all along. Throwing herself into her next community project seems the only way to forget about her love life.

It is to be a Christmas Light contest in Primrose Terrace and each house starts to plan exactly how they are going to outshine the other (excuse the pun!). But Cat’s enthusiasm is diverted again when one of her beloved dogs she walks becomes ill and the prospects could be upsetting.

So much is happening, will Cat actually see what has been obvious from the start or is she still too busy trying to sort everyone else out and neglecting herself?

There is to be a new series from Cressida next year, but I am not sure if I want to read it in four parts as small novellas, I think I want to wait to be able to read the whole novel. I am sure you get more of a depth from a story that way.

Nonetheless I do like this way of getting stories out there and perhaps if it is getting people to read in short bursts because that is all they have time for then perhaps it is a good thing. 

What do you think of the recent surge in books being published in four parts first? 


November Roundup

I think this must be the latest I have ever done a round-up post of the previous months reading. I really do not know where time has gone lately, but although I have been reading as a form of relaxation I have somewhat been distracted away from the blog and not had the desire to write reviews or much else. I have a current spurt of interest and therefore my one aim if nothing else is to write this post.

So without further ado…..

I finished May Smith – These Wonderful Rumours!: A Young School Teacher’s Wartime Diaries* which I had been reading over a couple of months, dipping in and out. It really gives you another insight into how war affects people. And that humour was still very much present.

Of course I had started my Christmas themed reading back in October but I did a little bit more in November with Scarlett Bailey – Secret Santa which I had downloaded from netgalley last year!

When the weather is bad you dream of sunny places and I did with the new novel from Vanessa Greene – The Beachside Guest House* when I was transported to  the Greek Isles and I could imagine the warmth of the sun on my face.

New novels featured with Dawn French – According to Yes*. This is the comedienne’s latest foray into literature and again is very much out of the genre pigeonhole some novels can be placed in. This book has already been devoured by one friend after me and has been passed on again.

New books lead me to an older book. The third Cormoran Strike novel was published in November and I hear J K Rowling talking exclusively to Simon Mayo on his Radio 2 Book Club feature and it reminded me that I very much enjoyed the first and I had the second waiting to be read. So I did read Robert Galbraith – The Silkworm* and of course now I really want to read the third, especially as I cannot wait to see what Galbraith tackles next, there is very much I am sure an undercurrent of the chance of getting back at publishers in the second novel.

When it all becomes too much but you need to read this is where some easy cosy reading comes in. I chose the M.C. Beaton – Agatha Raisin Love Lies and Liquor,  as I make my way through these novels. Stupidly I picked up the previous one thinking I had not read it – it was late at night – and wasted some good reading time thinking this is all a bit too familiar but I was not quite sure until the following morning when I checked Goodreads to find out I had read it.

Whilst reading another Agatha Raisin, helps me with my challenges this year, reading Adele Parks – The State We’re In* helped me as well. This is very different from some of the more earlier Parks novels I have read and recall, it was fascinating but I did struggle reading it on my kindle. It was one of those books that in the first few chapters you had to keep (well I did) flicking back to the beginning to get a sense of who everyone was.

So that was November, not bad considering I think the phrase should be. But actually many of these have yet to be reviewed and if you are waiting to hear what I think about some of them, then can I ask you wait a little bit longer.

*Book review yet to appear on my blog.