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

A Good Heart is Hard to Find – Trisha Ashley

This is one of Trisha Ashley’s earlier novels previously published as Singled Out but given a bit of a brush up and a lovely cover and re-released and it is also one of her books that I have yet to read. (I don’t think there are many left now, apart from the ones that she hasn’t written yet!)

Cass is a horror writer and quite a successful one at that. To keep the money coming in she occasionally dresses up as a vampire to take part in surprising people in a ‘singing telegram’ type of way and spends a lot of time at night in the local graveyard finding her ‘muse’.

It seems that Cass perhaps has it all, apart from one thing – a good heart to love her. She has Max but Max belongs to someone else and is perhaps not all that he seems. Her friend Jason seems to have taken a shine to her, but that might be something to do with her vampire outfit and her parents have disowned her because she as the only dark haired and dark eyed child out of six she clearly must be a throwback to a more evil time.

But whilst taking part in a bit of ghost hunting in an alleged haunted house, Cass falls in a number of ways into Dante’s arms. Trouble is she is not quite sure what happened that night, it is all a bit of a blurr and the only noise she can hear at the moment is that of her ovaries knocking!

Along the way there are plenty of complications, comic situations, jealous wives, bizarrely behaved siblings and a rather dubious diet.

This is a fun escapist read from this author, the horror stuff weaved through, is really bad but it a wonderfully good way and I think perhaps it maybe a reminder that there is so much literature out there is something for everyone whatever your taste.

I don’t think this a true reflection of the work that Trisha Ashley can produce, her later novels are much stronger in plot, setting and characters but if you are looking for some reading which is escapist good fun then this is the book for you.

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

A Good Heart is Hard to Find is published on 25 Jan 2018 in paperback. 

Remember this was previously published as Singled Out

By my reckoning I only have two of her novels previously published that I have not read – Happy Endings and Lord Rayven’s Revenge both also feature authors as their main characters – I can see a themer!

Of course I have yet to get my hands on the new release in March of this year – The House of Hopes and Dreams. 

 

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

November Roundup

November by tradition is always a quiet month for reading, this year even more so as it was a ‘zero’ birthday for me and much was taken up with celebrating. I am still eating the birthday cake.. don’t worry it is fruit, well made so, well-preserved.

It has very much been a Christmas month for me and catching up with people who I have come across in this years reading.

I only recently read The Canal Boat Cafe so I was delighted to see that there was more to follow with Cressida McLaughlin – The Canal Boat Cafe Christmas: Port Out where they reach Little Venice in London for some Christmas themed cakes and some ghost of Christmas past! And if you go Port Out you always go Starboard Home and that is lined up ready for reading in December.

I was lucky enough to complete the trilogy of Butterfly Cove and got to spend and early Christmas with the lovely Mia, Kiki and Nee in Sarah Bennett – Christmas at Butterfly Cove. It is always a sign of good writing and good stories that makes me sad to leave a place and that is certainly the case with this particular book.

I have mainly been disappointed by some of Tilly Tennant novels , they seem to not grab me as much as some other authors do but prepared to have my mind changed I embarked on Tilly Tennant – A Very Vintage Christmas. Sadly it was a book which could have been so much more, I do have the second in this Christmas selection she has written but I approach it with some trepidation.

Cornwall has featured heavily in many setting and plot in books I have read over the last couple of years and was probably one of the reasons I picked up Liz Eeles book back in May. I venture back for a colder and probably wetter Christmas in Liz Eeles – Annie’s Christmas by the Sea which was a lovely tale.

With all this jollity and festiveness what about a little bit of murder. This is the first in a series of novels, featuring each of the Mitford Sisters in turn. Jessica Fellowes – The Mitford Murders starts with the eldest Nancy who becomes embroiled in a murder on a train. What makes it even more intriguing is that some of the book is actually based on real life events. But I am not going to tell you which – you can read the book and find out for yourself.

So that was November, and to add a bit less Christmas and a bit more excitement I finished it reading Paula Hawkins second novel Into the Water – more of that in December.

 

Books

Murder at the Mill – M.B. Shaw

Iris Grey is staying at Mill Cottage, in Hazelford, a Hampshire Village. Not only is she escaping from her failing marriage but she has also been commissioned to paint Dom Wetherby’s portrait.

The Mill is the house where Dom Wetherby lives, a famous crime writer whose books have sold millions and have been made into television programmes. But now it is time for him to retire his most famous detective and his writing. The portrait is one of the gifts that his wife, Ariadne gives him.

Iris is drawn into the Wetherby family as she starts to paint Dom. She starts to see the real man and not the facade as she spends time with him.

Invited to their Christmas Eve party, Iris watches as Dom and Ariadne greet welcome and unexpected guests. There is history at this party, there is hate at this party and there is a story to tell.

When a body is found on Christmas Day floating in a nearby stream, it seems that the party may have been the catalyst for what followed.

Iris, intrigued by what has happened and encouraged by a Wetherby family member she starts to ask some questions and hopes to get to the truth of the matter.

This is a rather light cosy murder mystery. For me it took too long in setting the scene before predictably you got to the dead body. I found it meander for far too long once the body had been found and it had a slightly unbelievable element to it in the process of detection and the denouement. The clues were there, the red herrings obvious and whilst I worked it out fairly early on, it did nothing to make me doubt my theory.

As someone who has read many Agatha Christie who can pull a punchy story in around 200 pages, this book is in fact 200 pages too long. It is a pleasant diversion and was the perfect book for an easy read after a hard day.

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

Murder at the Mill is published on 30 November. 

I have never read any Tilly Bagshawe who is the author behind this book and this book, the first in what looks to be a series is a step in different direction for the author. I do wonder if perhaps this first book should be given the benefit of the doubt and perhaps the second will be stronger. I will have to wait and see.