Books · Jottings · Witterings

January Roundup

I think this is possibly going to be the shortest roundup post I have ever written as it seems that longest month of the year with around 864 days means I have only read 4 books!

I have simply stuck to reading one book at a time, I generally have two on the go, but found that with the brain filling up with work I had not the capacity for this. As the month draws to a close, I am back to the two book scenario. One actual book, one from my ever growing netgalley list. It is that which needs tackling and I am trying not to be so frenzied in requesting books that take my fancy. I am being a bit more select and sticking authors who I know will deliver.

Perhaps 2023 is the year of slowing the pace. Slowing the pace was definitely the way I felt reading Diane Setterfield – Once Upon a River a book that has been on my shelf, having been donated from a friend a while back. The meandering tale was fascinating and reminded me of Diane Setterfield’s debut novel all those years ago which I thoroughly enjoyed and was before I took to book blogging.

Going back to author I haven’t read for a while, took me to this author’s latest Jill Mansell – Promise Me. It has been around seven years since I have ready anything by her, I have no idea why as she hasn’t stopped writing and I follow her on twitter. If she ever reads this blog, I can only apologise and perhaps will look to rectify it in 2023.

Ironically the last two books of the month feature the strong relationships and friendships of girls and both written by a Georgina. First up is Georgina Clarke – The Dazzle of the Light a fascinating historical fiction novel that took me to the Forty Thieves, to the lure of the diamond and the beginnings of women making their own way in life. I do love the rich detail in this novel and this would be an excellent companion book to Kate Atkinson’s latest Shrines of Gaiety.

Then I moved more modern to the debut novel Georgina Moore – The Garnett Girls. I have followed Georgina on twitter for a long time and she has enabled me to read some fantastic novels. And now she has written a fantastic novel of her own. What makes it that little bit more special for me is that it is set on the Isle of Wight, somewhere I can see from where I live. Do look out for my review nearer the publication date of this novel.

So a simple January you could say, a simple start to the year, at this rate I will not hit 100 books but who knows what tomorrow will bring let alone the next 11 months. So on with more reading.

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Books in 2022

Again, I seem to have waited for 2023 to start and settle before I got round to looking at what I read in 2023. This must be the last roundup post to be published.

So first off, I did not reach that magic number 100: 2 short. Who knows why but do you know what I haven’t let it stress me out, I think I have read a decent amount of books and learnt not to read books just to keep the numbers up if I am not enjoying them.

The Shortest Book was Holly Hepburn – The Little Shop of Hidden Treasurer at 100 pages

The Longest Book was Robert Galbraith – Troubled Blood at 944 pages

Of the 98 books read that is the equivalent of 30,476 pages! Of course this is all dependent on which version I save to my Goodreads list and I am not particularly fussed about ensuring it is the correct one, as I read quite a lot of advanced review copies.

As for the kindle it was 79 books and these would have been thanks to the wonder that is netgalley wish is also a curse as it means I am not reading books from my shelves as much as I should.

To stick with common themes in my look back of the year we will start with:

Multiple Books by the same Author

Top spot for 2022 was Helena Dixon with 4 books. 2020 was the last year with 4 books.

3 books: Merryn Allingham, Christie Barlow, Cathy Bramley, Holly Martin, Cressida McLaughlin, Jo Thomas. Authors in bold featured in this category in 2021.

2 books: Phillipa Ashley, Vicki Beeby, Sarah Bennett, Liz Eeles, Sharon Gosling, Molly Green, Stacey Halls, Tracy Rees, Helen Rolfe, Jennifer Ryan, Heidi Swain, Tilly Tennant. Authors in bold featured in this category in 2021.

As you can see I go back to the authors I know and love, who will give me a great read and also comfort as well. Of course as tastes change and books are written and discovered, there are more authors added into the mix.

No Agatha Christie (well not really) in this list but there is one reread. P.G.Wodehouse – Carry on Jeeves, I really wish I had not given away my Wodehouse books I had collected years ago. These are such a great joy. For 2023, I want more rereads, I want more Agatha Christie.

What about my favourite, I really can’t say I have one. There have been some cracking good reads and I am pleased to have delved a bit back into the historical fiction/saga area which has always been of great interest to me. So here is a snapshot of those books that stand out in 2022, a mix of many genres.

I think it is good that I haven’t got a stand out book of the year and haven’t had for many. I always think that leaves a lot to live up to with all the other books out there waiting to be read. So as for 2023, expect to see more of the same I think and more of reading what I want at a gentle leisurely pace or fast and furious depending on the book and the timing.

Finally thanks must go to my readers, book blogging has changed a lot of the years and a lot more is done on social media rather than specific blogs and also with a lot more visual content, especially videos. I am grateful to everyone who pops by and reads my wittering, for the time being I will continue to read and post.

Books

The Three Dahlias – Katy Watson

You can’t beat a house party in the country for entertainment and if it comes with murder mystery then all the better.

The home is Aldermere, staying are the occupants of the house of the Davenports. Hugh, his wife Isobel and their granddaughter. High is the nephew of the famous crime writer Lettice Davenport, long since passed.

Also present are three Dahlia Lively’s, Lettice Davenport’s most famous creation, Of course fictious, but having been played on the screen big by aging actress Rosalind King. Caro Hopper the small screen version for numerous series and then Posy Starling, ex wild child about to start the latest film version.

The murder that happens is meant to be staged as part of the weekend convention for all the fans of the books and screen adaptations. However it seems that someone else has real crime on their mind and when items go missing and strange notes keep being left it doesn’t seem to far fetched to think a body will turn up next. But surely it must have been a heart attack…….

Pooling their knowledge, the book is told from the perspective of the Three Dahlias (hence the title). They use the skills they simply learnt by rote or in the case of the newest Dahlia, by learning fast from the available books that Lettice Davenport wrote. A strange concept, but one that seemingly works and makes for a fun novel.

Is the answer obvious, are the clues real or just copied from the books and can they prevent any more bodies turning up ?

Definitely a book and plot which is a homage to Agatha Christie, sneaky little elements here and there that you can pick up if you know your Christie well enough. It moves along with a meandering pace at times, but stick with it as I think we are forming the three main characters in this book which is clearly the start of a series.

Perfect for fans of characterful mysteries with a nod to some of the great crime writers of the past. I enjoyed the escapism and the humour of the book.

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

The Three Dahlia’s is out now.

Books

Murder at the Charity Ball – Helena Dixon

It’s book eleven, its the week before Christmas and finally Matt and Kitty are going to tie the knot on Christmas Eve. What could be more romantic and what could possibly go wrong?

A murder at the ball?

Kitty’s father the prime suspect?

Kitty and Matt are invited to a Charity Ball by Lady Eliza Foxley, well known for perhaps not the right reasons but still not averse to organising and giving something back. Present is Edgar Underhay, Kitty’s father who is back from America for the wedding and came across the Atlantic accompanying Eliza.

All seems to going well, dancing, drinking and enjoying life. Until Eliza is found dead, strangled by one of her own silk stockings and Edgar standing over her.

With his reputation, it’s clear who the focus goes onto. But with some persuasion Kitty and Matt try and convince the police that perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye. When some of the potential suspects all have something to hide, including Eliza’s sister, niece, secretary, financial investor and old nursery nurse it seems Kitty is going to be focusing on something else before her wedding.

This is like picking up with stories of old friends every time I return to The Dolphin Hotel and Kitty, Matt as well as the wonderful Alice and her sister Dolly. As the series has gone on, the characters have grown and the plot moves on. This was a lovely way to finish my reading year as it felt I was closing some chapters with Kitty but also at the same time opening some more up and moving forward.

I look forward to the next chapter of Kitty’s life. Though I wonder if she can get through her honeymoon unscathed and without any bodes?

This book, this series is perfect for those who like the warm hug of a story even if slightly scattered with dead bodies and criminals. The supplementary characters make for fun diversions and back stories and the fact that it is set in churches, big houses, hotels, trains to name a few adds to that golden age feel of the books.

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

Murder at the Charity Ball is out today.

Books

Promise Me – Jill Mansell

The latest novel from Jill Mansell does not fail to disappoint. Lou is visiting friend Sammy in a Cotswold village and bumps into Edgar Allsopp. Edgar is grouchy, unfriendly and determined to make his and everyone else life miserable, for no real reason.

But Lou has the experience of dealing with the Edgar’s of the world and when he offers her a job, she thinks she doesn’t have anything to lose by accepting it. Besides, she has just lost hers as well as her home, husband and lately mother. Moving to be near friends Sammy and his brother Remy seems the perfect temporary solution. At least for a while.

An unlikely friendship also starts to develop between them and Lou finds herself settling into the village and Edgar finds himself becoming more amenable to others. Especially when Captain Oates arrives. who captures Edgar’s heart. A lost love of Edgar also reappears, Della along with dashing son and weird daughter but nothing is as it seems anymore and Edgar and Lou perhaps have to learn the hard way.

As always richly driven by the characters and all their little sub plots, this book shows the worst and best of people into this lovely novel. Comic and sad in equal parts with an abundance of love sprinkled throughout, this is a great novel and probably reflective of our times, especially when it came to Della’s children! They could have done with a jolly good shake. What I did like was the romance which included Lou was not the main focus of the book, it was nice for it to be happily moving along without all consuming every plot line.

This is the perfect book to start a new year of reading off, full of hope and warmth and the perfect tonic to the grey days.

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

Promise Me is published on 19th January 2023.

Books

The Mitford Secret – Jessica Fellowes

It has come to the end for this series and we have finally reached the last Mitford Sister. Deborah or ‘Debo’ was as well known for her married life in later years as that of her siblings escapades.

Newly married to Andrew Cavendish and going to be the poor relations to the heir to the Chatsworth estate, Deborah is determined despite war, despite some of her sisters being all over the world or in prison that she will make the best Christmas they can have. she invites the constant throughout this eries of books Louisa Cannon, who was her elder sisters nursery maid and been involved in their ives for a long time.

Time has moved on, Louisa now married and with a daughter is glad to escape the bombs of London but not to leave Guy, her husband behind to run their detective agency. However it seems that the house party this Christmas is going to be a bit more interesting. A psychic arrives one night and claims that a maid once died in this house and her body never found. Surely this woman is stirring up trouble until she is found dead.

It seems ideal that a private detective is staying at the house and Deborah along with older sister Nancy, look to Louisa to try and solved this very cold case as well as the most recent death. With many house guests staying all with something to hide it seems that Louisa is going to have her work cut out. What she really needs is help from her husband and luck would bring him to Chatsworth.

With the facets of a locked room mystery – surely it must have been one of the house guests, this is a great historical mystery for fans of big houses and the upstairs, downstairs life. Plenty of class and society struggles and a reflection of the time, perhaps some of the dates have been manipulated a bit so some of the characters such as Kick Kennedy and Adele Astaire appear. However all in all this is a well researched and great book showing the sphere that the Mitford Sisters lived in. I have enjoyed all in there series and the historical notes at the end are as fascinating.

A must for historical fiction fans, murder mystery really is the vehicle to get to know these Mitford Sisters more informally. I am sorely disappointed that it has had to end.

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

The Mitford Secret is out now.

Books

The Sister Returns – Joanna Rees

In the final book of this excellent jam packed trilogy, we have crossed an ocean to New York. Vita and her baby Bertie have followed Nancy to America. Still always in Nancy’s shadow but living a very different life it seems that 1929 will be the year for them.

That is until the Wall Street Crash, action then moves to Los Angeles where Nancy is convinced she will be come a Hollywood starlet, and yet Vita is always in the background. However she is still noticed and her seamstress abilities are soon seen to be the best and she gets to work with beautiful gowns for beautiful people in a beautiful place.

However, Vita’s past is never far away and it seems that her brother Clement and his evil wife Edith are always just behind her. Clement’s adventures take him to America and mixing with the wrong sort of people but with one aim in mind, to deal the final blow to his sister.

Vita then finds herself face to face with another person from her past, another man she has been trying to forget but just can’t. The time is up for Vita and she must return home and face the shadow of Anna Darton but is home ready for this?

This series of books have been a joy to read and if you can indulge in all three in one go, you will be taken across continents, cities, eras and moments in time and have a real depth of feeling for the characters. Even if that depth of feeling is not a nice one!

For fans of historical fiction, the concept of Bright Young Things that has dominated 1920s history as well as the pressures of families, individuality and money. It has it all and is woven so tightly you are swept along with the story.

Books

Merrily Ever After – Cathy Bramley

It wouldn’t be Christmas unless I read Christmas books from certain authors – and a Cathy Bramley one is always near the top of the pile. I do not even read the synopsis, I just plunged right in. And as I did I was back in familiar territory as it is a book that follows on from The Merry Christmas Project. You can read as a standalone with enough back story to get you through, but why would you want to when you can completely indulge in all things Christmassy and read them both.

Here Merry, is happily settled with Cole and a surprise proposal and a very quickly planned wedding for Christmas Eve, sees Merry in a complete spin. How can she find the time to organise everything and have the wedding she wants whilst also bonding with Cole’s two children when it is clear they have other ideas about their young lives. On top of all that, Merry’s candle business is taking off and the orders are outstripping the manpower, she is relying too much on one person who should be taking it easy. Help is there but will Merry accept it?

Not one to shy away from the realities of life, we are introduced to Emily, struggling to cope with her previous work due to her fathers decline into dementia she takes a less stressful job, but even that now is beginning to become too much. With no one to discuss the decision about what to do with her father with her, her boyfriend has upped and left, her best friend is far away and her mother is no longer married to him, she make the decision that for his own safety he must go in a home.

When moving her father, she discovers a photograph of him at Christmas, it gladdens her heart. But the photograph is bringing stress to him and when Emily shows her mother, she seems to harden her heart to what she sees? Is there something Emily doesn’t know?

Although having never met, Merry and Emily cross paths over a few weeks at some interesting points within both their storylines. Of course there is a reason for this, and whilst it adds to the romance of the novel, the realities of finding out about your past and dealing with a relative who is ill is all consuming. Cathy Bramley handles it with such care that my heart was bursting with joy as much as my eyes were filling with tears because of the situations.

It was great to be back with these characters and I hope we go back again as the community feel, the settings and the plot devices are so wonderful that this book was just like a big Christmas hug!

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

Merrily Ever After is out now.

Books

The Hidden Secrets of Bumblebee Cottage – Christie Barlow

I have often describe these books as sagas that are perfect for Sunday night television, and this the latest novel is no exception. They are so enjoyable that they actually become more difficult to review as each book goes on, as the story of Love Heart Lane and Heartcross has evolved so much since the very beginning.

I implore anyone to read the first, read the last or any in between and you will immediately be transported and captured in Heartcross that you will never want to leave.

In this book, Jinny decides that life working for a megalomaniac newspaper editor, who is also her father is too much and she quits. She quits everything her job as a journalist, her flash car, her posh flat, basically her life and with nothing tying her to London anymore takes up a job in Heartcross at The Bees Knees. This job tending bees and making chutney is far from her previous life as you can get. Jinny really isn’t suited to this job.

Heartcross attracts all those who need help to heal from whatever has happened to them in the past and it is that which draws Jinny to the job and place and perhaps why she was chosen for the role. Jinny gets to meet Gabe who helps her out at The Bees Knees so she can learn the ropes. Jinny’s enthusiasm knows no bounds and you can predict perhaps some of the bother that she is going to get into, but all with the wisdom of youth and exuberance Jinny does manage to make it all work.

However there is something mysterious about Gabe, and Jinny can’t help that she is curious. Clearly being a journalist never goes away. But is the truth what Jinny is expecting and can Gabe really let anyone close to him?

Great to see familiar characters from the series appear, especially Molly and Cam from the previous novel which is how the threads of the place keep me interested and returning book after book.

A prefect book to fill your heart with sunshine in the dreary winter month filled with laughter and romance. What more could you want. Just more from the series that’s all!

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

The Hidden Secrets at Bumblebee Cottage is out now.

Books

December Roundup

Looking back at the last December Roundup, I can see that I have yet again picked up the same authors at this time of year. By the time December comes around I am normally full to the brim with Christmas Reading and therefore need to delve into something else.

The something else seems to have come in the form of murder and cosy crime. Merryn Allingham – Murder at St. Saviour’s is the next in the series of books and these are a wonderful way to distract from a busy brain. With it’s chocolate box type village it seems impossible for murders to take place.

Further along in the series and I know with more to come (I checked with the author) is Helena Dixon – Murder at the Charity Ball. Kitty Underhay is nearing her marriage, her father has returned from abroad and the family is gathering around. Trouble is a body is found a week before the wedding and it all seems a bit too close to home. Set at Christmas so a perfect read for this time of year, it was quite nice to see some threads tied up within the novel as we obviously move ahead to the next era for Kitty and Matt.

Ending a series is always saddening and I felt this with Jessica Fellowes – The Mitford Secret, these have been wonderful historically rich books about the Mitford Sisters as well as the society and world around them during the inter war years and into the Second World War. I look forward to seeing where the author may go next.

I saw Katy Watson – The Three Dahlias on another blog, apologies but I cannot remember who’s but it sounded intriguing and was still available on netgalley so I took a risk. This was a lovely book, full of fun characters and a mystery to solve as well. It looks like we might be seeing more of Dahlia Lively again in future.

For future reading, I was invited to read the first chapter of the new AJ.Pearce novel Mrs Porter Calling. I don’t normally like reading first chapters at the end of books or samples, mainly because I am either so captured I am grumpy that the book does not continue. Or I will forget what I learn in the first chapter when I get round to reading the whole book! I have not added this to my list of books read in 2022, as I didn’t think it should count, even if it might have brought me nearer to the target for the year.

Joanna Rees – The Sister Returns is the final book in this trilogy which takes you across Europe and the Atlantic Ocean. Rich in period detail, this is a proper saga to get swept up in and is worth reading all three in one go, if at all possible. That said it was easy enough to pick up the threads and immerse myself in this story.

Immersing yourself in a plot or a place is always reassuring when reading novels and it is always a pleasure to pick up the next in a series of books with Christie Barlow – The Hidden Secrets of Bumblebee Cottage. Back to Heartcross and Love Heart Lane to learn more about the area and the old and new characters with their own stories to tell. A series which if it was on television would be a continuing drama and one I would always tune in for, gentle and filled with warmth. I cannot wait for the next episode.

In a world of unknowns it is sometimes certainty which is needed and I simply picked up the latest Cathy Bramley – Merrily Ever After without giving it much thought or reading the blurb,. Plunging right in I was taken back to last year’s Christmas novel and found I was with familiar characters and got to share more of their story. What a Christmas present!

Books can take you away and no more so than Jo Thomas – Keeping a Christmas Promise which whisked me away to Iceland and the Northern Lights, somewhere I could experience without getting too cold in the process.

That was December. In fact that was 2022. I need to have a look back on what I have read this year before I do my round up post for that, so please do pop back to see what stood out for me and perhaps what didn’t!