Books · Jottings

January Roundup

Been a funny month, been reading but not had the inclination to blog, then not had the time because I have been knitting and then not had time to knit because I have been working or away. February is more of the same and I cannot wait!

It has been a slow start to the year, especially when I had a week at the beginning to get stuck into some books. But finishing my challenge of 100 in a year seems a long way off at the moment.

Got really into sagas this month and was surprised with Jennifer Wells – The Murderess which had more than the average saga.

I was swept up with Elaine Everest – The Woolworths Girls a book I bought myself last year and wanting to make a dent in actual books thought I would read. Which then led me to read Elaine Everest – Carols at Woolworths so I could continue the tale. The next book is a Christmas one and although I would not normally read such themed books in February it looks like I might have to so I can keep up with all the characters that I have grown to love.

I fell for the latest serialised Holly Hepburn by accident but have read book two now Holly Hepburn – Frosty Mornings at Castle Court now I have started I am going to have to finish!

A book that I wish I had not started and should have not finished was Stuart Turton – The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle the idea of the book sounded great, the delivery of it was clever but it just did nothing for me. I was disappointed with it and with myself for perhaps wasting time on pursuing it to the end.

Sophie Green – The Inaugural meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club – this was an interesting book which took me all the way to the outback, to a cattle station, to Australia. It was a strong female character led novel and it had me intrigued about the isolation. It reminded me of another book I have read by Monica McInerney which then reminded me I have one of hers waiting to be read…….

But in the meantime I picked up another saga to read for a blog tour, a new author to me with a cracking good story to tell.

How was your first month of 2018 reading wise?

 

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Crafts · Knitting

Knitting Unicorns

There is rather a niche market at the moment for anything to do with Unicorns – the list of unicorn related items to purchase is probably endless. I fell into this trap when I spotted a pattern for said knitted unicorn whilst I was at the Knitting and Stitching show back in October. I think I loved the colours and the wool more than the unicorn.

It was a really quick knit and took shape well and whilst the pattern actually has a tail, I did not include it as it just didn’t look right compared to the rest of it.

Then I foolishly thought I would make another two for Christmas presents, roughly four weeks before the big day! I got the two recipients to choose the colours they wanted – although they had no idea what they were choosing the colours for and off I knitted.

I must have been mad, the four weeks up to Christmas is one of the busiest times at work and adding that sort of pressure onto myself despite the fact that they knit up quickly was perhaps a tad risky. However the last one was knitted, stuffed and stitched together on the 23rd December and they then went on their way to await their new owners. A close friend’s daughter and daughter in law, both unicorn mad.

Luckily they remembered the colours they chose and the unicorns are now being well looked and well-loved. It does bring me such joy that something so simple as a knitted gift can mean more than a flashy one.

And whilst I am still finding bits of fluff off the wool, I have gone and done it to myself again – to knit some socks before the 15th February – luckily I have given myself about six weeks for this as the socks have a pattern and I have never knitted patterned socks before – I am onto sock two – more about that in another post.

For those that are interested in the pattern and wool it was Sirdar Touch Wool and everything about it can be found here.

Books

Books in 2017

So I did it – 100 books. Looking back over the previous years of this challenge on GoodReads I have been reading fewer books, as I have to confess that I sort of only just made it to 100 books in 2017 – I was still reading my 100th book as the clock struck 12 and the calendar went back to 1. So I have stretched the rules and snuck it into the 2017 list!

But with all reading and list keeping, it is all about what YOU want and not to be judged by anyone else!

GoodReads do a wonderful thing and you can look back at your year with some good old-fashioned statistics and all the lovely book covers – the statistics first:

The shortest book was 35 pages.

The longest book was  665 pages.

A total of 31,215 pages! I cannot possibly imagine how many words that translates to!

I did a quick count up of my own – and in terms of books read on kindle as opposed to the ‘real’ thing then I am somewhat shocked. 75 on kindle, 25 ‘real’. I know the main reason for this – netgalley. It has given me the opportunity to read lots of books, well before publication date and I have utilised it very much in 2017 and have plenty on there to read, but whilst I really need to make a dent in the amount I have requested I need to make a dent in my actual books, and remember why I enjoy reading – that physical act of holding a book, turning pages, referring back and becoming lost in a story.

I cannot promise that the statistics at the end of this year will be any different but I will give it a good go!

As for my books of the year? Oh that is a tough one but these are a few that just simply stood out for me, along with a snapshot of the review.

The use of letters, diary entries and public notices, forms a very rounded picture of the village and characters within. It is almost like experiencing the Mass Observation movement. Here was how others felt about what was going on around them in a small snapshot of the Second World War. An d whilst you may think perhaps it would be insular in its outlook, the book actually touches on problems far away from the village green and choir.

A really unique way of telling a story, and one that worked so beautifully, you could actually pick it up and read it again. An excellent debut novel. This is certainly going to be up there as one of my favourite books of 2017.

As with any Trisha Ashley novel, this is well written, the characters fully formed and developed and there is always more than one plot line weaving its way through the book.

There is so much packed into the pages.

No one knows the truth about Agatha Christie’s mysterious disappearance in 1926. We can all surmise from what we do know, but what we don’t know we can perhaps weave a story around. This is exactly what Andrew Wilson has done in this exciting novel, a must for all Christie fans.

Windward, 1945 – The marquee is out there on the lawn waiting for the wedding guests. Adele watches on and wonders how she has got to this point.

Windward, 2015 – The wedding marquee is out on the lawn waiting for the guests. Elle watches on and wonders how she ended up here.

It is in fact not the intervening years which complete the story it is that which has passed before.

I was transported to Elba, to the beautiful hotel, the intense heat and warmth of the sun. The sea as it was calm in the morning as Kit went to break the surface, to wake herself up, to find what she was looking for.

Star is going to have to step out of the shadow of her younger sister CeCe who since the beginning of the series I have found oppressive and claustrophobic, I was cheering Star on right from the start.

…Star has an address of a book shop in London and the name Flora MacNichol, a small black figurine and the translated quote ” The oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow”.

the skill of Lucinda Riley as a creator of wonderful dual narrative stories comes into its own. We are transported back to Cumbria, to the turn of the century where the Victorian Era had been only over for about 8 years and to a young lady who is determined not to marry, to not become anything of note in society but to enjoy her artistic talents and her small animals that have become her pets and to live near her idol, Beatrix Potter.

I have never been a fan of self-help books, but if they were all like this then I would be reading far more!

If you are not a fan of Sarah Millican then this probably isn’t your cup of tea. But if you are then, grab a large slab of cake, a mug of tea and find out how to be champion or in my case more champion than I already am!

 

Dee Blackthorn is ruthless when it comes to the corporate business world and she strives for one hundred percent success. She works hard and that is all she does, there is no stop, there is no pause. Dee lives for her work.

That is until one day she finds herself without a job and back living with her brother, JP. Suddenly working all the time is not the priority.

So there you go, a selection of some of my favourites. I think looking back on the year I have stuck to favourite genres – contemporary women’s fiction and good old fashioned sagas. I have simply been reading for pure enjoyment and I intend to do the same for this coming year.

I hope you will continue to read with me in 2018.

Happy New Year.

 

Books

December Roundup

There we go then – December done and dusted with (well depending on when you are reading this of course).

It is time to reflect back on Decembers reading and see where it took me – into Christmas quite obviously!

I finished the lovely Canal Boat story I started earlier in the year with Cressida McLaughlin – The Canal Boat Cafe Christmas: Starboard Home. 

I also caught up on another author I read this year with her Christmas story Karen Clarke – The Beachside Christmas which was the best out of the trilogy she has written.

My favourite Christmas book was Heidi Swain – Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair I have loved all the books that I have read so far from this author and delight in the fact that I have two more to catch up on into the new year. This really is a Christmas feel good novel to lose yourself in completely. I so wanted to be apart of it.

I fell into the trap again of picking up what I thought was a short story only to find it was part one of four books. Grrr! Trouble is I fell for the cover of Holly Hepburn – Snowy Nights at Castle Court and didn’t pay much attention to anything else. Never mind, I have preordered the next three and only have myself to blame. Although I did resist another part one on netgalley. Serves me right for being smug about it!

I came across Samantha Silva – Mr Dickens and his Carol on The Book Trail blog and it sounded an interesting read – a bargain on Amazon for 99p (still is as of this post) and if you are a fan of Dickens this makes for an interesting concept about how the story of A Christmas Carol came to be. I wish I had discovered it earlier in the month as I would have gone ahead and reread the said book. It always seems strange reading it at any other time of the year!

With all this ‘nice’ christmas feeling books – i needed something to counteract it all and so I had been lent Paula Hawkins – Into the Water. Her second novel after the momentous Girl on a Train and for me the book was a bit of a let down, second books can either be amazing or just meh. For me it was the latter option, still good but not quite so gripping.

Back to some saga, to some well trodden path and who better to fill that spot than Rosie Goodwin – The Maid’s Courage. I thoroughly enjoyed it, some say it follows the same old formula but hey if it works why try and change it when it means you can escape real life for a few hundred pages.

And so to the books of 2018 – I have had a little head start by reading Trisha Ashley – A Good Heart is Hard to Find, one of her earlier works which has been tweaked and renamed. More about that in 2018.

I end the year (and slightly cheating because I am not sure if I will actually finish it before 23:59) reading Carole Matthews  – A Million Love Songs. A discover only in the last couple of years and whilst I should go back and read some of her earlier work I am too busy reading her recent stuff – another one to look out for in 2018.

Where will next years reading take me? Where will it take you?

 

 

Books

By the Pricking of My Thumbs – Agatha Christie

Tommy and Tuppence Beresford visit an unpleasant aunt in a home. From this typically unlikely beginning, murder and all kinds of excitement develop, to the point when Mrs Beresford meets the mass killer in the secret room of the house.

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes

Divided into four books we are back with Tommy and Tuppence who are drawn into a rather peculiar mystery. And if the cover of the edition I read is anything to go by, something quite frightening or perhaps something desperately wicked.

I knew the story, but not the actual story. My warped version came from a television adaptation (more on that later) so I had a rough idea of the story and knew whodunnit. Perhaps not the right way to tackle a book but I wanted to know what happened and how the conclusion was reached.

I have always found Tuppence Beresford a bit wishy-washy, and this book lived up to that, but actually I think this part of her character which is what enables her to go off on these hunches when she remembers houses from trains, that later reappear in pictures and what elderly old women say when incarcerated in rest homes. None of it seems relevant or useful to Tommy Beresford but when you have been married as long as he has to Tuppence he knows there is perhaps a grain of something in her thought process.

We have the facts early on, but despite me knowing the answer I could not see how it was all going to come together.  Is that the beauty of Christie? I just think it might be.

Tuppence gets into some scrapes, but she is on to something and it takes a bit of Tommy’s past skills to find out where she is when she fails to come home to him. Of course Tuppence’s task is a simple one, to return a picture to its rightful owner, Mrs Lancaster after she gifted it to Tommy’s Aunt. How can one picture cause such trouble?

This is only the second Tommy and Tuppence that I have read and I have to confess they are a funny pair and in this book, they have aged. The only characters of Christie to do so within real-time of the books being published I learn.

I got into Tommy and Tuppence when back in 2015, an adaptation of a couple of their novels was made by the BBC with David Walliams and Jessica Raine. I enjoyed them, but didn’t hit the mark with the critics and subsequently was not recommissioned. Shame because I liked it. However they did not pick this particular story to adapt, but it has been adapted by ITV within the Marple series.

Some things you need to know:

Miss Marple does not appear in the original story in any way shape or form. There might be some veiled references to the innocent observations of little old ladies but no Miss Marple.

The book is set much longer after the Second World War, and neither of them were still involved with the security services anymore.

Tuppence is not an alcoholic who feels she has missed out on life and been passed over, because she is a woman, a mother and now suffering badly with empty nest syndrome.

Additional storylines of American Air Force, turning village girls heads does not appear, film premieres with precocious children are not part of the plot either. And the names of the villages are very different.

I could go on, but I won’t. However for a Sunday night television drama and without causing much offence it is a reasonable programme and it has everything I suppose you need in such a thing.

However like a lot of things it cannot beat the book – this is the case with By The Pricking of My Thumbs. Although perhaps choose your choice of cover carefully, mine is creepy and the back cover has a picture of Christie herself, staring out at me from my bedside table. I am not sure that the cover conveys the right message. I do prefer something much less weird.

I read this book as part of the 1968 Club which is run by Simon and Karen. I have joined in nearly all of them and have found it a great way to make a dent in the back catalogue of Christie. She wrote so much!

 

Books

October Roundup

So there goes October, a funny month. The weather cannot make its mind up, I have been full of cold and yet I am still swimming outside! And so begins the countdown to Christmas and the reading continues apace with it.

Lily Graham – Christmas at Hope Cottage is one of those magical Christmas stories that fill you with hope and food. There is some magic food happening on the tables of Hope Cottage.

Of course you need a drink with Christmas and it will depend on what your favourite tipple might be. I expect you can guess what mine is? Catherine Miller – Christmas at the Gin Shack sees us return to octogenarian Olive and her friends as they discover more about Gin and friendship in difficult times.

If you only have time for a few short stories then turn to Katie Fforde – The Christmas Stocking and other Stories, if you are a fan of this author you will recognise some but still read them because they are brilliantly written and capture the spirit of Christmas is just the right amount of pages. The new stories are just as capturing.

It cannot all be about Christmas in October, which is why I have gone back a bit to Summer and picked up a book that has been sitting on myself for an age. Cressida McLaughlin – The Canal Boat Cafe, why I had not read this sooner when I enjoy the author I do not know. However I was transported away to the freedom of a Canal Boat and the wonderful Summer who is struggling to make a go of a very different lifestyle, especially when it seems many are against her. I am also thrilled to see that two short stories, Christmas themed of course are due out following on from this story so I read it just at the right time.

Another book which was a sort of serendipity to me was Poppy Dolan – The Woolly Hat Knitting Club. I love crafts and in the middle of doing quite a bit of knitting, for myself and for others. In particular the little babies born at my local hospital. If you are a fan of knitting then this book is a must and if you want to knit something yourself then get in contact and I can direct you to some great patterns. I am looking forward to seeing what Poppy writes about next.

I always enjoy getting into a saga and I have this year with Nancy Revell and the Shipyard Girls series. I have read books one and two and was thrilled to be able to get hold of book three. Nancy Revell – Secrets of the Shipyard Girls is a good read and it was lovely to be back amongst women that you have grown to know and admire as war still rages and loves still has to conquer all, no matter what stands in its way.

Sometimes with all these ‘nice’ reads as I call them, you need something which is a bit more meaty with the odd dead body or two. So I was intrigued by what is to be a new series of books by an author I have heard of but not read, publishing under a different name is how I came to get M.B.Shaw – Murder at the Mill. It sounded promising but for me did not really live up expectation. I think I have read too many Agatha Christie.

Which leads me to the 1968 club and my choice which was Agatha Christie – By The Pricking of My Thumbs. I try and participate when I can in these clubs as it is a useful way for me, to be able to make my way through Christie’s catalogue!

So that is it for October, my netgalley shelves are positively bowing with the weight of books that I have requested and I have more actual books wandering around my house looking forlorn by not being read. So time for more reading.

Books · Jottings

Summer Holidays

In a bid to work my way through a number of books languishing on my kindle thanks to the wonder that is netgalley and also the ones residing on my shelves I thought I would set myself a little task and that was to go on a summer holiday via the medium of books.

So allow this post to take you to lots of different places, to stay in some rather interesting accommodation and perhaps have a summer holiday vicariously. Hopefully some of the links are not too tenuous!

So browse this brochure and tell me perhaps where you fancy going?

The Place – Elba, an island in Tuscany, Italy.

The Book – The Thousand Lights Hotel – Emylia Hall

……I was transported to Elba, to the beautiful hotel, the intense heat and warmth of the sun. The sea as it was calm in the morning as Kit went to break the surface, to wake herself up, to find what she was looking for. Even down to food and the welcome that hotel gives…….

The Place – A fictional island, Greece

The Book – The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach – Kat French

…..A distillery is hidden beneath the Villa and part of the deal is to keep producing the islands famous spirit – gin and to make sure that the island and the islanders never run out. For if it did, the consequences could be catastrophic……

The Place – Loire Valley, France

The Book – Summer at the Little French Guesthouse – Helen Pollard

…..drip the sunshine into the pages and the rolling hillsides, even the delicious food prepared in the guesthouse has you salivating as you can almost taste the chilled white wine, easing away your troubles……..

The Place – Dorset, UK

The Book – The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse – Cressida McLaughlin

….. immediately checked into the guest house, can smell the bacon cooking as you wait for your breakfast and relax into each specially selected room after the exciting day you may have experienced…..

The Place – Cornwall, UK

The Book – Summer at Seafall Cottage – Lily Graham

…..find my own cottage and just experience the simple view, ever-changing through the windows that look out across the sea. I want to be able to read in comfort a book such as this as the weather does its worst. Knowing that tomorrow is a new day and something else may be discovered…….

The Place – A Fictional Island, Caribbean

The Book – Death Knocks Twice – Robert Thorogood

….taking you away to where the sun shines, the water is warm and the chance of death could be quite high!…..

The Place – Fictional Seaside Town, North West Coast, UK

The Book – The Little Bed and Breakfast by the Sea – Jennifer Joyce

….A pier…arcade machines…A fish and chip shop…devour the salty chips…ice cream van which specialises in different flavours…A beach, cliffs, coves and breathtaking views of the sea and the landscape.

The Place – Fictional Island, Scilly Isles, UK

The Book – Spring at Blueberry Bay – Holly Martin

…The book completely took me away to Hope Island, and its scenery and residents, and the wonder that is Holly Martin’s writing….

The Book – Summer at Buttercup Beach – Holly Martin

…A book for the perfect escape, along with the wonderful setting and the beauty that can be seen not just in love but also in the surroundings and the art that can be created through the medium of glass……

The Place – Devon Coastline, UK

The Book – Summer at Coastguard Cottages – Jennifer Bohnet

….where you can enjoy coming together with a community who do not judge your choice, your life and you can enjoy a glass of something chilled and toast the day as the flag shifts and the sun sets over the sea……

Thank you for stepping into the pages of my brochure and as for my real summer holiday, it is now over and I am back at work, counting the days to my next break.