Go big or go home they often say and in a first for this blog and me I am going to take part in Cathy at 746 Books 20 Books of Summer. I could have started with 10 or 15 and lets be honest I might only reach one of those but why not aim high.
It all starts on the 1 June and goes through to 1 September so I am going to make an attempt to clear a number on my netgalley list and also plenty off my shelves too.
Here is my initial 20 and we can change our minds along the way but this is the original starting point.
Lucinda Riley – The Missing Sister
Sara Sheridan – The Fair Botanists
Sara Cox – Thrown Angela Thirkell – High Rising
Richard Coles – Murder Before Evensong
Jennifer Ryan – The Wedding Dress Circle
Gervase Phinn – At The Captains Table
Ann Cleeves – The Rising Tide
Celia Rees – Miss Graham’s War
Fern Britton – The Good Servant
Mick Herron – Slow Horses
Gill Hornby – Miss Austen
Anne Booth – Small Miracles
P.G.Wodehouse – Jeeves & Wooster unknown title yet!
Stacy Halls – The Foundling
Robert Galbraith – Troubled Blood
Jennifer Saint – Ariadne
Cathy Bramley – My Kind of Happy
Sue Tedder – Annie Stanley All At Sea
Dawn French – Because of You
Freya Sampson – The Girl on the 88 Bus
Let the reading commences and I will have to see how I get on- hopefully a mix of genres there to keep my interest piqued!
2020 is going to be a year to remember in many ways but for the moment, I am just going to concentrate on books. Taken me a while to reflect back on them all.
All 109 of them that I finished!
Some facts and figures for those geeks that like that sort of thing!
The Shortest Book was 149 pages (The 39 Steps)
The Longest Book was 608 pages (The Moonflower Murders)
I read 35,580 pages – goodness knows how many words that was.
There was no rereading in 2020, despite my promise to myself that I will do this.
79 books were on my kindle – this is in the main due to my netgalley membership which is enabling me to read books and review them and tell all my blog followers and watchers about books to look out for. I am always most humbled by this and do not take it for granted. Though you have to be careful not to get too bogged down in requesting too many!
Though this year more than any I have revelled in being to a hold a tangible book as a reassurance in these strange times.
So what has stood out for me? What is worthy of a mention?
Multiple Books by the same Author
The winner is Agatha Christie – I read 5 of her books in 2020. The Reading Christie challenge hosted by the Agatha Christie official website helps with that. They have brought it back for 2021 and I hope to dip in and out as I did in 2020.
4 Books – Katie Fforde
3 Books – Emma Davies, Helena Dixon, Katie Ginger, Amanda Owen, Caroline Roberts, Heidi Swain, Tilly Tennant.
2 Books – Lucy Foley, Sophie Hannah, Holly Martin, Carole Matthews, Cressida McLaughlin, Bella Osborne, Nancy Revell, Ben Schott, Robin Stevens, Jo Thomas, Emma Burstall, Christie Barlow, Phillipa Ashley.
I know you should not judge a book by it’s cover but in these strange times I have sought such joy in bright colourful covers of books that have then gone on to give me such joy.
This blog in the last few years has prominently been heavily dominated with Women’s Fiction as you can see, but as the blog has changed and developed so has my reading. I made all these promises of looking back over the last ten years of blogging – I got no further than 2012. Odd when I had a lot of time on my hands that I did not go back and manage this task.
Oh well, the blog moves on and develops as I suppose life does.
So what other books should I tell you about well these are the stand out ones for me in 2020.
There is only one Queen of Crime (Agatha Christie if you don’t know) but what if the Queen was involved in solving crime. Well she needs to fill her days somehow between all the papers, visits and family battles surely?
This really is an exuberant take on the cosy mystery genre and has some good research done on it, to understand the workings of the the Royal Family and also the descriptions of Windsor Castle. There are some humorous moments and it had me laughing out loud and what seems like the absurdity of it all but then do we really know what goes on behind palace walls?
Nora is seventeen. Her whole life ahead of her. Bright and skilful. Her heart leads her to one night of passion and that leads to a baby.
In 2020, heads would hardly turn, families would pull together.
In 1939, the world was very different. The Mental Deficiency Act meant Nora could be committed to an asylum as a moral imbecile. She was a threat to herself and others for one act of passion.
Beautifully and emotionally written it engages you from beginning to end. This is one if the best books I have read and for a debut novel should be up there with the best.
I first met Atticus Pund in Magpie Murders, I thought it was a one off, it seemingly started at the end of what could have been a series of books. However four years later Atticus is back and his creator Alan Conway long since dead is still making an impact from beyond the grave.
The reader is treated to a skilfully written novel, the clues are all there, and whilst I had the wrong person for a while, I did have the right reasons but the most obvious simply passed by Susan Ryeland as well as me! If the lead character can be fooled as much as the reader – the author must be on to something.
This brings Louisa back in touch with The Mitford Sisters, who she thought she had left behind. Diana, now separated from her husband Bryan has started a love affair with Oswald Mosley and with her sister Unity obsessed with the beliefs and values of the Fascists, it seems that Louisa is going to be plunged into the darker side of politics and ever growing problems in Europe.
A well written murder mystery perfect for fans of history and the gold age of crime. Long may they continue. Highly recommended.
There is something about Rachel Joyce stories, that have a quietness about them which stays with you for a very long time. I remember the beauty of her debut novel……
This time we meet Margery Benson, spinster, late forties who discovered an interest in a particular golden beetle. It was said to exist but no one had seen or even found it.
With detailed research clearly undertaken in terms of the landscape of New Caledonia as well as the research into all the insects and the treatment and recording of them, the book teaches you as well as gives you a story that you can believe in and characters you put your trust in.
Having finished their A-Levels Judith, Lana and Catrin are about to embark on one of those life affirming moments when they take a trip to Greece to celebrate the fact that they have made it thus far and that their long standing friendship since the age of eight will last a life time.
As the book goes on through key moments in all their lives, it is being told from the perspective of each of the girls as they become women, as they move between close friends and further distance.
This is a book full of strong female characters, with such depth and warmth you will think you have known them a lifetime. In fact you can relate to aspects of all of them and I think that is the key to making this an excellent book.
A book I did not review, it was a Christmas present from 2019, but one all should read if you are a fan of Toksvig.
And finally, I must say thank you to all those who comment on my blog and to those that stop by and read but don’t say anything. It really is all just a stream of my consciousness and I enjoy reading, writing and sharing it all with you.
I am not sure where this blog will go in 2021, I have all these fanciful ideas, but I have not managed at the moment to get to grasp with using WordPress from my iPad and only have access to a computer (notwithstanding the 4 I use at work every day) on a Sunday. Perhaps when and if I do, I will share more of the craft items and other life observations I did when I first started this blog all that time ago.
First of all a very big THANK YOU to everyone who joined in. We might be a select bunch but I hope those that have just read our posts are inspired by some more in their reading, to all the new blog followers, watchers and readers it has been great to discover your little piece of the internet.
Here is a list of everyone that joined in this year. If I have missed you off or you know someone who took part but failed to link back to me, then let me know and I can add. We are growing year on year ever so slowly but we all have one thing in common – we like to read!
In no particular order please check out these fellow Six in Sixers!
After surviving an air crash Jerry Burton and his sister Joanna, need to go somewhere tranquil, peaceful preferably a village in the English Countryside where nothing much ever happens and nothing much to tax the brain.
It is that which brings them to Lymstock but they seem to land straight into the middle of a village who are on the receiving end of something very nasty.
Poison Pen letters.
Everyone is getting them, the vicar, the doctor, the solicitor, the maids, everyone it seems. It spares no one, or does it? Does the one person it spares identifies the culprit?
And now despite being newcomers, Jerry and Joanna are subjected to this vicious poison and deadly gossip.
This wonderful Agatha Christie novel, is told from the perspective of Jerry whose convalescence is taken up with solving the mystery and the murder. He has the answer, it is straight under his nose but he seems to have lost all sense of what is there in front of him. As for his cosmopolitan sister, she seems to have taken to village life rather more than he ever thought she would. It looks like Jerry and Joanna are going to take very different paths.
Eventually Jerry needs some assistance in getting to the conclusion, he has seen all along. In steps the wonderful Miss Marple. This is a Miss Marple story and where she appears in the last 40 pages of the book, the last quarter of it, I did wonder how she was going to make an appearance, as the story progresses you cannot see how she can possibly fit in and bring all the answers.
With Christie’s writing she does of course bring Miss Marple in to merely just point Jerry back to what he knew…. “that woman knows more about the different kinds of human wickedness than anyone I’ve ever known”.
Of course every loose end, red herring is all settled and the answer of course was always under Jerry’s nose (as well as us as readers!). A good example of Christie’s work, but not a story which is full of Miss Marple, so you may be disappointed.
I was trying to find in vain, the cover of the copy of the book I read. Taken from my mum’s bookshelf. I came across many
But I had to resort to taking a photo of the copy I read from:
I knew who the murderer was in this book as I have watched the Geraldine McEwan, adaptation of the story a few times. It was still good to see how they stuck fairly faithful to the story, although in the television series, Miss Marple appears much earlier. It also meant I was on the look out for the clues and the red herrings along the way. I am not sure I found or spotted them all, but it was still a good read and ticks another Christie book off my list.
This book on the surface, just seems like any ”womens” novel which contains a family orientated saga.
There are three main female characters, Rose who came to America to escape the Second World War and find a new life which involved starting a bakery in a small American town near Boston.
Then there is Hope, Rose’s granddaughter who has had to carry on the tradition running the bakery, as now her own mother has died and Rose is in a home no longer able to manage. It was never what Hope wanted to do with her life.
As Hope helped her grandmother. Annie, Hope’s teenage daughter helps her in the bakery where the hours are long, the work rewarding but not very profitable. Her failed marriage means Hope and Annie clash constantly and it is another thing for Hope to worry about.
This book goes way beyond the surface with these characters. Rose is in a home because she has Alzheimer’s and whilst she spends most of her time in another world – her lucid moments, are very lucid and both Hope and Annie are learning a lot about Rose.
Rose gives Hope a list of names. Hope needs to find out the answer to this list of names without ever knowing the question. This information takes Hope on a journey to Paris where it seems there is a past which she never knew existed and that whilst reunions are a wonderful happy moments, it seems Rose’s story is very much tinged with persecution, great loss and sadness. Hope realises that you have to hang on to those happy memories they will last you a lifetime.
As Hope discovers who all these people are, their connection to Rose and the journey they have been on, we learn about the persecution of particular religions during the Second World War. How this persecution was common ground for differing people and beliefs, but they all seemed to put these things to one side to save lives, save each others lives possibly at great cost. It was this part of the story which kept me reading and which made me think this book is more than the fluff you may be expecting from the cover and the inclusion of recipes. Personally it did not need the recipes, the descriptions of the bakery items both in Paris and America were enough to illustrate what food can do in bringing people together, creating memories which last a lifetime across oceans and continents.
This book was a surprise, I didn’t think I was going to get a romantic story wrapped up in some very sad moments and I did feel very bereft as the book came to an end. Well worth a read.
Kristin Harmel is a new author to me and this was a purchase based on the cover and the blurb, nothing more. I wonder if her previous novels are much more deeper than they first appear?
Daisy is back in another adventure and you know that without a doubt she is going to stumble on some bones and be launched into some sort of murder investigations.
Trouble is the bones are a lot older than she could ever imagine as they have come crashing down in the Natural History Museum whilst she is there with her nephew and her soon to be step daughter. But it is not the bones that are the problem but the curator who has crashed into them.
Immediately Daisy begins thinking – why would anyone want to kill an expert? – what could possibly be the motive? And what on earth is her fiancé Inspector Alec Fletcher going to say, about being the first person on the scene?
Daisy promises she will not doing any of her own investigating, but she does need to return to the museum to carry on researching her article, so some exchanging of information is going to be inevitable.
The possible suspects are numerous, from experts in minerals to fossils and everything in between. Even a regular visitor to the museum to reclaim back a jewel is a possible suspect.
Of course as the book progresses you know that between Daisy and her not interfering and Alec and his faithful Sergeant Tring alongside, the perpetrator is going to be caught, the fun is how we get there with them as readers.
I actually found this book boring, that is because of the topic of fossils and the like. It is not a subject I have ever been particularly enamoured with and this made reading some bits of the book quite boring. However, what kept me reading was the fact that all the regular characters feature and that maybe Alec might be a step closer to marrying Daisy and stop her stumbling on these bodies. Then again………
So that is book 8 read and also 1 marked off as one of my challenges for 2014. I wonder where Daisy will be next discovering dead bodies?
This is the first Tasmina Perry novel that I have read and I had a preconceived idea about what I was going to get. Something light and fluffy.
I was wrong.
I got a story that was strong, which had a dual narrative which is a plot technique I favour. Tasmina takes us through the modern-day with Amy Carrell an American girl who has moved to London to further her career in dance. Trouble is she is stuck waitressing and her boyfriend, Daniel seems to be in another class to her. But when she spots a Tiffany box at home, she thinks that maybe she is going to be asked the ultimate question?
The question though is very different – daniel’s parents question the suitability of Amy as a wife. It seems that rather than celebrating, Amy is going to be broken-hearted.
It’s coming up to Christmas and Amy cannot afford to go home and be in the arms of her family. Randomly she spots an advertisement asking for a travel companion for an elderly lady to travel to New York and she decides why not – if it means even seeing her family for a small amount of time it will be worth it.
In steps Georgia Hamilton, a lady of a bygone era when it was all about dresses, money, men, position and doing ‘the season’. We are taken back to late Nineteen Fifties, the last ‘debs’ are going to be presented to the Queen and Georgia Hamilton is not that keen she has a rather more independent view of how she wants to live her life. But needs must it seems and Georgia takes us into the world of posh frocks, the romantic nature of stolen glances with handsome men, competition over the best parties and ultimately who gets the boy. We look back with rose-tinted spectacles perhaps but it was a different time and one not that long ago and it felt like I was experiencing a social history lesson right there on the page. So wonderfully described and showed the contrast to the modern parts of the novel.
But as these two characters come together and the two eras are compared, we begin to see how good Amy and Georgia are for each other. How the secrets of the past, because you know Georgia is hiding something come to the present and how Amy can see that if you are not true to yourself or love, it is ultimately going to pass you by.
The hurt is going to live with you forever; it has for Georgia.
Georgia’s history becomes Amy’s present and the two forge an unlikely friendship which results in some revelations that will be a shock to us all.
I loved the way Tasmina Perry took us through something so simple as a Christmas Party held in the Tower of London and painted a scene so magic that you felt you were there, to the sights and sounds of New York and the upper class places that perhaps the ordinary new yorker would never see. I felt like someone reading a travel guide to New York, especially as I have never been. Even the warmth of Amy’s family leapt off the page which was in complete contrast to the descriptions of family life that Georgia was experiencing in the Fifties.
This book has everything that you could want for a great story, you learn, you feel emotion and you are taken away to another place. I recommend it highly.
As I say in my review this is the first Tasmina Perry book that I have read. It was kindly sent to me by the lovely people at Headline and I am most grateful for this as I have discovered an author and her books that I think I am really going to enjoy. Which is good because there are a couple more waiting to be read.
I am much fascinated by the whole ‘debutante’ process and ‘the season’ I think because it was not that long ago in reality. The 1950s were changing so dramatically and fast, there seemed to be a sudden need to come out of the War Years and for the young to enjoy life. Ironically enough I love watching, period drama (Downton Abbey included) about what upper class life was like, knowing that is was going to radically changed in less that 50 years. It was also refreshing to have a dual narrative book which did not go back to either of the World War’s.
I really do recommend this book. It is one to devour whilst reclining on your chaise lounge with chocolates in a posh box!
Where do I want my reading to take me in 2014? Anywhere and everywhere I suppose but I do not want to tie myself down to much either because I feel like I am under too much pressure much as I am tempted to sign up for lots of interesting challenges out there.
What did I achieve last year and how am I going to apply that to this year?
The aim in previous years was to read 50 books, for 2013 I went for 100 because I invariably get there and I did as well. So 100 books for 2014!
Read 1 Challenge. I read 2 out of the 3 authors I set myself – Georgette Heyer and Charles Dickens. I did not get to visit Dickens place. I have not set myself this challenge this year.
Series Challenge 3 Authors, 3 Books. I did pretty well with this one, 3 Agatha Raisin & 3 Debbie Macomber read and only 2 by Carola Dunn. I make that 8 out of 9! I also completed reading the Cedar Cove series by Macomber. For 2014 it is going to be the same three authors and of course three books.
Read 3 of Agatha Christie, P G Wodehouse and Autobiographies. This one did not go as well, 2 for Christie and 1 for Wodehouse and the Autobiographies category. In 2014 I am going to stick with Wodehouse and also Christie, as I can add to the list of all her works I have read found at the top of this blog.
Book Bingo. Well it was a great idea, but I feel it was not relevant and looking back I could now probably make books fit the categories, which seems silly. This one will not carry over to 2014.
So what can I do new for 2014? Well I do need to read some more books off my shelves (and floor, bedside unit, behind the sofa) and so I had a blitz of all my books, got them all resorted onto my To Read Shelf on Goodreads and there is 153 books as of 5th January. I put them on in no particular order and there are some authors bunched together but they all want to be read at some point.
I used a random number generator on the internet to pick 12 random numbers. Found the corresponding books which match the number on the list and the idea being that I read these books during 2014.
12 being 1 a month was my thinking. I have called this challenge Random Reads.
Here are the 12 numbers picked
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2014-01-05 12:45:19 UTC
And if you want to know what books they are well you will have to look at my 2014 Challenge tab (found at the top of the blog). Please note that I have not included any of the books on my kindle. I am too frightened to even contemplate making a list of them.
There are lots of challenges out there and I enjoy reading about everyone’s choices and I know I am so tempted to join in with most of them, but I will stick to my rather eclectic few I have created.
Rachel Joyce gave us Harold and now she has given us Byron. Byron lives in a world that does not really exist – although by that I do not mean this is some sort of fantasy novel. Byron is living in a perfect world and everything goes as it should. The hands of time tick away as they should that is until Byron’s friend James at school happens to mention that they are adding two seconds to time to balance with the movement of earth. Why would James make up such a thing, he is the cleverest boy in school and therefore it must be true? Byron has no doubts about it.
Then on a normal day, running slightly behind time, Byron’s mother takes a short cut to school, something his father would never allow, in that moment, everything changes and Byron is convinced it all happened at the same time they added those two seconds. Now the perfect world of Byron no longer exists.
His mother’s frailties are obvious from the start of the novel and they seem to veer down a deadly path as time goes on. She suddenly loses control of the perfect world she has cocooned herself in. Cracks in the marriage, which comes across as far from perfect from the beginning get wider, and both Byron and his sister are sucked into some sort of void. Byron formulates with the help of the very clever James a plan to put everything back as the way it should be. He encourages his mother to revisit the past and put right the wrongs for the future.
However, Byron is only an eleven year old boy has an over active imagination and a friend encouraging his obsession to put things back in a perfect way, has repercussions for the whole family and those outside it and as the book goes on, it became apparent to me that there is no such thing as perfect.
Alternating in chapters throughout the book, is the story of Jim, a man in his late fifties, who is living with a mental health problem. He has found himself back in society and is trying to cope with a normal working life in a cafe at the local supermarket, he needs and wants everything to be perfect. Perfect routine of everything he does, wiping the tables, talking to objects in the correct order, entering his home the right number of times but he learns that perhaps his perfect routine is not perhaps perfect after all.
This book is a challenge to read but if you choose to pick it up stay with it. It has been carefully written and crafted to give the maximum impact and does so with great skill. I kept reading because I could not see where everything was going, I tried to guess what was going to happen, but I was constantly wrong and was surprised at every page turn. It is so different from Harold Fry and for me it was the story of the fragility of life and how we have to accept what is round us, accept those who may be different to us and most importantly accept our non perfect selves.
It must be very hard to even think where to begin with a second novel, when your first was so successful as The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Perfect has a different sort of tension than Harold Fry, and I felt at some moment the characters were going to explode out from the page and release the tension that was so palpable in all of them.
It made me think about the word: pefect as a title and it is quite obvious I have used (maybe overused?) it many times in my review. The English language is such a wonderful and flexible thing. “Perfect” can be either an adjective (with the accent on the first syllable) or a verb (with the accent on the second syllable). The ‘perfect’ answer. (Adjective.) I wanted to ‘perfect’ the design. (Verb.) It brings a whole new take on the title and the book, it leaves you wondering long after you finish it.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review and the beautiful dedication in the cover as well, which I will cherish. I think, in fact I know that this is a book which I will have to read again at some point in my life.