Books · Jottings · Witterings

Books in 2021

So I am probably one of the last people with a book blog to actually witter on about what my favourite books were last year and it seems to have taken me an age to get to this point where I have put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard to consolidate the reading of 2021.

Some facts and figures for those geeks that like that sort of thing!

The Shortest Book was Katie Fforde – Saving the Day at 92 pages

The Longest Book was Kate Quinn – The Rose Code at 624 pages

I read 109 books which was 31,042 pages!

87 were on my Kindle – that is rather shocking when I think of the amount of books on my shelves. I solely blame netgalley which feeds this habit, but I have had the opportunity to read so many wonderful stories because of it and discover new authors that I can perhaps only be a little bit cross with myself!

It is quite clear I come back to the same authors time and time again, for comfort but also because you know you are going to get a cracking good read! So again, I look back on those I have read more than 1 of and this year it seems that 3 is the magic number!

Multiple Books by the same Author

I have marked in bold those who fell into the same category last year too.

3 Books: Christie Barlow, Sarah Bennett, Helena Dixon, Holly Martin, Cressida McLaughlin, Tracy Rees.

2 Books: Merryn Allingham, Phillipa Ashley, Cathy Bramley, Alex Brown, Rachel Burton, Julie Caplin, Liz Eeles, Katie Fforde, Kate Forster, Katie Ginger, Cathy Lake, Shelia Norton, Gervase Phinn, Nancy Revell, Helen Rolfe, Heidi Swain.

Of course all of these colourful covers just make reading even more joyful as to the story insdie.

I read no Agatha Christie! I could have sworn I had, but that probably shows you how much the stories stay with you, or I have watched far too many on the TV! Perhaps this year I will read more. Then again, I have no plans for this blog which is probably why it has taken so long to write this round up post for last year!

I don’t think I have a favourite book, there are too many I read that I enjoy and I just simply love reading. But these are the standout books for that are not featured above just in case you want some more to add to your list.

This is a powerful and emotional book and I was caught out by one particular plot thread, so swept away was I with the story and the characters, it felt that I was suffering my own loss. The comfort was the familiarity of books, the comfort that they can give and the way they help and heal. The message which this debut novel has conveyed with sensitivity, across cultures, across ages and across book shelves.

This is a fascinating book which gives a real insight into life under German occupation on the island and shows the conflicts and battles that the islanders had to face as well as the occupying German forces as well. The book certainly pushed your expectations to make you think of both sides during the war and for that I commend it.

I adored this book, it reminds me of my great love of historical fiction and was an part of history which I knew little about and also even less about the great Champagne houses. How wonderful to discover that a woman was behind one of the greatest much to the chagrin of most. Historical fiction is of course just that but what it does and this book does it in abundance is open your eyes and the world up to reading much more about these fabulous women who have shaped history, who have made an impact and should be recognised much more. It reminded me why I love history. 

I did wonder where and how this book was going to culminate and I was so intrigued by the characters that were created. I was completely surprised by the fact that whilst this story was fiction – every person and experience was based on real people and real events. The information and research given at the end of the book is fascinating and brought more to the story than if it had been pure fiction.

This is a long novel but so worth it, to get so involved with everything, whether it be the light hearted moments, or the thrill of the chase when it came to cracking a code or experiencing life as a debutante in war torn London. 

A real thoughtful book which concentrates on the simplicity of family and friendship, with some difficult moments that leaving you thinking, even if it seems that all works out alright on the surface.

I feel I have been all over the world with Lucina Riley and the Seven Sister series and I have learnt so much from all of the places I have been. The fact that real life events, real people are simply weaved into the fictional tale is a testament to the skill of Riley’s writing and means that for me she is without a doubt one of my most favourite authors.

Sadly the world lost Lucinda Riley in 2021, a great loss and I am thrilled but saddened in equal measure that I still have some of books left to read on my shelf. It will be with poignancy when I do get round to reading these.

So that is the flavour of 2021. I hope you will excuse the time it has taken me to get to this post. And I once again I thank all my blog readers who stop by and read, comment or simply like a post. I feel over the last few years, the book blogging world has changed, but this for me has always been about my little place, my little jotter where I share what I love.

Who knows where this blog will go in 2022, but so far the books and the reading continue.


The Maid – Nita Prose

Molly is a maid in one of the grandest hotels around – The Regency Grand Hotel.

She needs structure to her day, she needs structure to understand how the world works and this was in the main given to her by her grandmother. Now alone in the world Molly is looking for that support elsewhere.

From looking for that support Molly finds herself a nobody in a world where she knows exactly what is going on, but perhaps doesn’t process it like the rest of us would.

When cleaning one day she finds Mr Black dead. Suddenly Molly is not a nobody anymore she is a somebody but that means she is now more at risk than ever before.

This is not a dirty hotel room, to be put back to five start cleanliness that Molly can work to, this is something else and she needs to find support from the unlikely of places and has to start trust others to help.

As the secrets of the hotel and its residents and staff come to light, Molly finds herself in a bit of bother and has to reassess the simplicity and trust she seems to see in everyone. Whilst we has readers start to see how Molly becomes embroiled in something unpleasant and the race is on to see if the truth can be found and that freedom can be achieved.

Many things intrigue me about this book – where is the hotel? You never know, it has no definite setting, no city you can name and relate to. That makes it all the more intriguing. Some of the characters names, made me chuckle – the victim Mr Black, made me think of the dead body in Cluedo (Clue in the USA). I also had no picture of Molly in my mind from the beginning to the end; was she tall or short? Thin or fat? White or Black? What was her hair colour, there were no defining features to her, which added with her surname of Grey made me think her characterisation was meant to be as she if was a nobody someone who blended into the background and was not seen. It worked well.

A book full of layers, that had me in mind of Eleanor Oliphant or The Rosie Project but was every bit unique as they are. A mix of murder mystery, social observation and a cracking good storyline!

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Maid is out now.


The Girl in the Maze – Cathy Hayward

How much can you learn about someone when they have died? For Emma Bowen, in the last few years of Margaret, her mother’s life she has been distant and removed. Her mother was clearly a difficult woman. But Emma discovers some letters that it seems her mother had a past and one that she least expected.

It seems the will is the first of the surprises for Emma and when a painting is left to a friend of Margaret’s, Emma is trying to piece together everything from her mother’s past which she knew nothing about. The solicitor seems to know more than he is willing and allowed to say apart from one thing “some things are better left in the past”.

Then there is the discovery of a birth certificate, a sister, and actions that are wrong at any point in history. The story that the author tells is from the point of view of Emma in the present and Betty, her grandmother, Margaret’s mother in the late 1930s.

As the past is revealed in the present, Emma learns a lot about what happened to the generation before and how it has shaped the generations that follow. I was shocked by events and the secrets that come tumbling out and the ones that are still kept because the truth does not always help resolve the present.

This is with out a doubt a powerful and disturbing novel and not for the fainthearted, with some powerful subjects which will undoubtedly upset. The impact of the storyline will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Girl in the Maze is out now.


Call of the Penguins – Hazel Prior

We are now a year on from meeting Veronica McCreedy, now at 87 there cannot be possibly anywhere else she can go in the world. But then if David Attenborough can do it, so can Veronica.

And when inspired by the delightful Daisy, who at nine has no fear and can only see the good in everything despite the problems she currently faces, Veronica and Daisy this time find themselves miles away from home and looking at penguins yet again.

So whilst we are taken to the Southern hemisphere and the penguins there with Daisy and Veronica and the promise of a television nature programme being filmed. We are also taken back to Locket Island, to the place Veronica first visited where she left behind her grandson Patrick and Pip the beautiful Adelie penguin that started this adventure off.

Life is not being easy for any of them, isolated in different parts of the world and with differing troubles Hazel Prior takes us on quite an emotional journey as there are reunions, discoveries and death. Amongst it all we get to meet Petra the Rockhopper and Tony the Macaroni who bring as much joy to the page as Pip did previously and all the characters do.

I thought the first book was original but it has been surpassed by this one and if I recommend anything, I would say read them both one after the other, for the sheer joy it will bring you and the uniqueness of Hazel Prior’s writing.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Call of the Penguins is out now.


The Mitford Vanishing – Jessica Fellowes

Following the fifth Mitford, Jessica we are back with Louisa Cannon who it seems cannot escape the pull that the Mitford Sisters seem to have on her.

Louisa, settled and married to Guy a former policeman and with a small daughter, life is full and busy. With their own private investigation business starting to prove busy, Louisa finds herself intrigued by a client who comes to ask about her missing sister when she has no luck with the police. Having watched how sisters can relate to each other Louisa says she will help.

Then Nancy Mitford contacts Louisa and says that her younger sister Jessica, known as Decca has gone missing. What are the chances of two cases at work to do with missing sisters? Knowing the pull that the Mitford’s have both Louisa ang Guy concentrate on trying to locate Jessica.

But the world is rapidly changing, it is 1937. Negotiating peace seems to be the order of the day between Britain and Germany to prevent a war, whilst in Spain a civil war is already raging. Louisa and Guy find themselves travelling to Spain both separately and together to where it seems Jessica has decided to run away to.

Along with Jessica’s cousin, Esmond Romilly, the pull of doing the right thing and supporting what you believe in is a driving factor in this race across Europe. Despite war, wedding bells are mentioned and it seems both the Mitford’s and the Romilly’s have a lot to lose in this potential partnership.

Can Louisa and Guy give everyone the answers that they are looking for? Will Jessica realise the conflict she has brought on an already divided family? And what of the other missing women, does she know Jessica Mitford?

Following the previous novels, Jessica Fellowes cleverly blends, factual events, the truth, real life characters with fiction and gives you a crime story that you can lose yourself in as well as learn some history along the way. Whilst I don’t think this is the stronger of the books, it is still a good read, but unless you know your history and the story of the Mitford’s then a lot of it may be lost on you. I recommend starting at the beginning of this series and indulging.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Mitford Vanishing is out now.

If you wish to start this series then you need to go back to

The Mitford Murders – Jessica Fellowes – Nancy Mitford

Bright Young Dead – Jessica Fellowes – Pamela Mitford reissued as The Mitford Affair

The Mitford Scandal – Jessica Fellowes – Diana Mitford

The Mitford Trial – Jessica Fellowes – Unity Mitford


Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage – Sheila Norton

You could almost be forgiven you were about to embark on reading some gothic novel about a reclusive women who lives in a cottage on the cliff edge, where strange sounds come from and that local villagers think of as a witch and that the lady is probably a witch.

However what you get with this new novel from Sheila Norton is something much much more and I thoroughly enjoyed the developing friendship between two lonely women across the generations.

Stella lives at Cliff’s End Cottage, it has been her home since she was in her early twenties, now in her eighties, as she is slowing down the cottage is slowly disappearing as the cliff begins to erode, taking part of the cliff face with it often. Everyone thinks she should move, but Stella is determined to stay.

Holly, single mum to the wonderful Maisie, is a freelance journalist and part time cleaner and determined to make her new piece for a magazine stand out she deicides to go out and see this woman at Cliff’s End Cottage. Faced initially with suspicion, a strange respect grows between these two women. With plenty of home made cake and tea made in a teapot, Holly starts to listen to Stella’s story.

As Holly finds out about Stella’s life, so do we, as we are taken back to Stella as a five year old evacuee, with a cockney accent and away from everything she knows. Until she sees the sea and decides that perhaps this is the best place. As Stella grows, she makes friends and decides to take up violin lessons. Those memories of the past are still very much in the present and it seems that the secrets of Stella are not all that they seem.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read and one that you can lose yourself in as the wind batters the rain against the window and you can snuggle down and simply escape. I enjoyed all the strands of the story whether it be past or present and they weaved together nicely. Nothing is shied away from or made light of and it really was an impactful book about how friendships can come and go at any time during your life and that age is no barrier. All friendships can show us lies and truths, coldness and warmth, hate and love and we can learn from them all.

A warm hug of a book for all those that need it.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage is out now.


A Three Dog Problem – S.J.Bennett

This is the second in what I hope to be a series of books about HM The Queen helping to solve mysteries all the while going about state business and unassuming having no idea what is really going not just in the world outside of those palace walls, but certainly inside of them too.

Back is APS (Assistant Private Secretary) Rozie who fulfilled something The Queen had been looking for and became her partner in crime solving. When out on a visit The Queen spots a painting that used to be hanging outside her bedroom door, she asks Rozie to make some discreet enquiries about its odd misplacement from the palace walls to the walls of the Royal Navy.

When a body is found in the palace swimming pool, suicide is suspected and seems to be the neatest conclusion, but all is not what it seems about the deceased. Opening up a can of poison pen letters, missing items, rare paintings and secret tunnels it seems Rozie and her boss have a lot to consider.

Can a conclusion be reached before there is more murders and perhaps The Queen has to start considering a new APS?

For me you do really need to have read the first one to get a sense of whose everyone is and how Rozie comes to be in the position she is in as well. It is terribly (in a good way!) British and may not translate across other countries, but there are plenty of references to recent events from Brexit, Trump election and the like that it is very much a book of it’s time. All the Royal stuff is a fascinating bonus!

This is the perfect cosy crime book and the fact it features The Queen as one of the main characters just brings me sheer joy. Why shouldn’t she have her own fun, with only a small select few knowing about it!

A great fun distracting read needed in these turbulent times.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

A Three Dog Problem is out now.


December Roundup

Another strange December, will they ever be the same again? Well the reading luckily stayed the same and I had plenty of time for it.

Plenty of time for making a dent in the ever expanding Netgalley list – note to self, must try harder. Further note to self – this is probably not achievable but always worth a go, like reading more books on my shelf.

I did that with Delia Owens – Where the Crawdads Sing. A bit late to the party with this one perhaps, but it was a lovely book to be lost in and one that was tangibly in my hand for me to experience. I can see why it was so popular.

Another actual” book was the last Christmas book I read for the year, I think I was all Christmas booked out by mid November, but I had seen Cathy Bramley – The Merry Christmas Project and knew it would be a prefect gentle read, well written and would be joyous in these uncertain times.

When everything around is you uncertain we do tend to go back to what we know, and all my other reads were from authors I had read before.

In terms of murder and history I was delighted to be taken along the coast from me with Merryn Allingham – Murder on the Pier. 1950s rural England, quite bucolic if it wasn’t for the dead bodies!

Further back a few decades, to the last years of the 1930s and this time to Hong Kong with the delightful young adult book Robin Stevens – A Spoonful of Murder, Now on Hazels home ground so to speak, Daisy takes more of a back seat and doesn’t quite like not being in the spotlight.

Staying in the 1930s with Jessica Fellowes – The Mitford Vanishing. War is clearly looming in Europe and it all depends on which side you wish to be on. And for one of the sisters it will be a decision that splits a family even further. I look forward to seeing how the final Mitford sister is treated in this series.

Of course using ‘real’ people in your stories is a good vehicle to tell a tale and certainly The Queen has been busy in many a book I have read. She is back this time with her crime solving team in S.J. Bennett – A Three Dog Problem. It seems her keen eye has spotted a problem and she sets up everyone else to solve it, whilst playing the innocent. Or so you think!

Playing the innocent is something you could say about Veronica McCreedy, her ability to seemingly be a dotty old lady with a passion for penguins is reignited in Hazel Prior – Call of the Penguins, the follow up to Away With the Penguins. There is something so gentle about these two books and if you want a recommendation then please pick up the first and lose yourself.

Books and subsequently stories can take you away to far away places and to the ends of the earth, even when that end of the earth might be claimed back by the sea. Shelia Norton – Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage is a hug of a book, which brings cross generational friendships to the forefront of the story and teaches us what we can learn and also benefit from when you expand your horizons.

Hugs of books are the best sometimes, Christie Barlow – Heartcross Castle part of the Love Heart Lane series is one of those. Any of the series is but this one particular touched at my heart strings and reminds everyone on the importance of being yourself – something I try to do every day!

So that was December, and that was 2021. I have yet to do my year round of up books, I need to decide what format I want it to take and perhaps along the way I will do a round up of all the craft projects I have completed – who knows. As I sit here typing this I have all these fanciful ideas of what I will do with this blog, but they never materialise or they tail off after an initial spurt of inspiration. Perhaps I will go with the flow….