Books · Knitting

December Roundup

What a December, one of the quietest I have had in a long time from a work perspective. Normally the three weeks proceeding the big day are some of the busiest with functions, lunches, Santa visits and masses of paperwork proceeding audits, etc. As work has changed and will continue to do so in the coming months, I have had to find a new sort of normal, a common phrase we hear now.

But what of the books you say? Well I had already hit my target of 100 going into December so it was a case of seeing how many I could get to by the 31st.

The last book of the year was Rosie Goodwin – The Blessed Child a real chunky saga, which curled up on the sofa under a blanket was the best place to read it. I was transported to tales similar to that of Catherine Cookson and I must go back for some others.

Going back for more is why I went to join the delightful Daisy and Hazel in Robin Stevens – Mistletoe and Murder. Although aimed at a much younger market, I still feel slightly indulgent reading such a book, but these are much better than some adult aimed books that I have read over the years.

Keeping it still Christmas was Cressida McLaughlin – The Cornish Cream Tea Christmas, continuing the adventures of the Big Red Bus full of cream teas in Cornwall. You know that Christmas is going to be a magical time and whoever comes on the bus is going to have their hearts and heads turned.

It is always great to carry on with a series, whether it be familiar characters or places. I am an avid fan of Heidi Swain but have only just got round to reading her first novel Heidi Swain – The Cherry Tree Café. The book you could say where it all began and now having completed them all, I am itching for her next.

When you find an author you love, you can get a little impatient to wait for their newest work. So discovering authors when they have a oeuvre to work through normally keeps all of that at bay. So I went back to one I had not read Katie Fforde – A Springtime Affair, it had been languishing on my Kindle for a while so I delighted in the spring weather during a winter cold snap. The perfect tonic.

Jeeves and Wooster have always provided me with tonic of some sort and the homage I read in November was closely followed by the new one Ben Schott – Jeeves and the Leap of Faith. Sheer utter spiffing joy – I need to go back to some Wodehouse. I rue the day I gave away my books.

I wish I had given away this book, or at least as it was on my Kindle given up on it Sarah Pearse – The Sanatorium. A book that promised something it did not deliver. Not the right book for me at the time of picking it up. Though I acknowledge some have loved it and it will no doubt feature on many blogs.

I started to see Sarah Steele – The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon on books of the year posts and knew I had yet to get round to it. So to make a dent in my forever expanding netgalley list, I picked it up. Now I know what everyone was on about and really wish I had read it sooner. A wonderful dual narrative novel with a great vehicle of telling a story.

I would like to say I was ahead of the game in terms of books published next year – sadly I am not, but no matter because the one to look out for so far is Joanna Nell – The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home. Humorous, bittersweet and with a touch of ‘what if’ this is a lovely read from a relatively new untapped author. Do check out this and her other two books if you get the chance.

So that was December, there was a lot of reading what I wanted with no pressure. I think that is a good mantra to start 2021’s reading with.

As for my favourites for the year….. I have not quite decided yet…….more to follow soon.

Books · Jottings

November Roundup

Well only one month to go in 2020, thank goodness though I don’t think we are out of the woods just yet. But November was a month where I hit my annual target of 100 books – such a satisfying feeling and also a month where I have just simply read and not worried (well not too much) about the never ending netgalley request list.

So what was on my November shelf?

Only one Christmas book, I think I reached peak Christmas in the previous couple of months but Anne Marie Ryan – The Six Tales of Christmas was a quiet tale reminiscence of previous American styled Christmas novels that I read. It’s message was very lovely though.

Of course snow for many equals Christmas but the snow in Catherine Cooper – The Chalet was a lot more sinister and this debut thriller novel is one to watch out for. Excellent and kept me hooked quite happily and made a change from all the ‘nice’ books.

To contrast the snow what better than to go back to summer with Cressida McLaughlin – The Cornish Cream Tea Summer where I caught up with old friends and made some new ones on the lovely bus in Cornwall and with an added dollop of actors as well as clotted cream this made for a great read. I rushed out to buy the next in the series and have started that within the last couple of days of November.

Cornwall was the setting of Raynor Winn – The Salt Path a book leant to me by a friend who thought I would enjoy it. I did. I knew nothing of the South West Costal path and it was a joy to read an ‘actual’ book where I could quite happily flick back to the map at the beginning so I could see locations and get a sense of place. One of the downsides of kindle reading is this ability. Wild camping is not something I would want to do, but certainly walking and in Cornwall is a place I would like to be.

More Cornwall was featured in Emma Burstall – A Cornish Secret and Emma Burstall – The Girl Who Came Home to Cornwall. The latter of the two novels I had on my kindle for ages meaning to be read, but knowing it was book five and I had omitted to read book four and it turns out I bought that ages ago to. Anyway, enough of the procrastinating as I know I enjoy this author immensely so I just went from one to the other and it was delightful to just keep reading about the same place, same characters like watching a continuing drama without the break. I do wonder if Emma Burstall has any more plans for Tremarnock.

Now as there are six Mitford sisters, I know that there is more to follow after Jessica Fellowes – The Mitford Trial. These are really excellent novels and I got a lovely response on Twitter from the author, because I ‘got the book’ in the way she intended it to be written. I had to go and reread my review just in case I had said something insightful – well I can’t see it. But if the author is happy and then I am happy as the plots of all of these books are great and really tap into my love of history.

Feeling rather ‘out of sorts’ about many things, like many people across the globe no doubt. So I picked up Ben Schott – Jeeves and the King of Clubs again this was because I got the latest Schott novel featuring Jeeves and Wooster through netgalley and realised I had not read the first of these homages. It was spiffing, tip top and everything you would expect from Wodehouse and I have read many over the years. It was a sheer delight to be back in their world and I rush to read the latest and go back and relieve some of Wodehouse’s best. My heart was fair cheered.

Not a bad month overall and I made a dent in some old books on my netgalley list as well as reading some ‘actual’ books, I really much prefer this way, but the kindle has let me read so many more I probably would not have read. It’s a conundrum for many an avid reader I am sure?

So what was on your November shelf? Any plans for December?

Books

Angel with Two Faces – Nicola Upson

Do you want a murder mystery story? Do you want it set in on an Estate which employs and houses a number of the village? Do you want characters such as the strange woman who seems to have the answer for everything? Do you want it set in the 1930s? Do you want it to resemble Miss Marple but with a touch of Daphne du Maurier bringing that mysterious edge? If you say yes to all these things or at least some of them then Nicola Upson’s second novel Angel with Two Faces is for you.

Upson uses the real life character of Josephine Tey and the real places of the Penrose Estate, Rowena Cade, Minack Theatre and location as a vehicle to show Inspector Archie Penrose on his local ground as opposed to the life in London. Penrose and Tey’s relationship is obviously dealt with in the first of Upson’s book. However not having read it(which I will now rectify) makes little difference to this story. Penrose has gone on holiday from London to his family home in Cornwall. He takes Tey with him for company and to enable her to work on her next book.

Penrose is launched into being a pall bearer at a local funeral of Harry Pinching, a young lad of the villager and worker on the estate whose body was dragged from the lake after being missing. However Harry’s death is not as straightforward as it seems and his two sisters, seem to have differing views on how he was.

With Harry gone, Penrose is also asked to step into his place in the local play the villagers are putting on at the famous Minack Theatre which is situated dangerously close to the edge of the cliffs of Cornwall. Here during the play he witnesses another murder, the curate Nathaniel holding onto his own demons is pushed off the cliff behind the Minack Theatre. His holiday turns into work as he feels he cannot just witness a murder and then leave it to others to investigate.

As Penrose starts to question the locals including his own relatives and starts to learn about his own past which has been kept hidden from him and others for years. Tey is his right hand woman in helping to discover much about the locals using her famous identity to her own advantage and learns things about Penrose and what he thinks of her along the way.

This is an excellent novel and the characters have depth and a back story which is the catalyst to the whole book. The characters of Harry and his sisters Morwenna and Loveday have similarities to the relationship Penrose has had in his past, with his cousins and this goes further back also with Penrose’s parents as well. There is other tales interweaved throughout, the relationship between Beth Jacks and her husband and the vicar. The missing of Christopher Snipe the village undertaker’s son. These stories are not as a diversion but they all are important to the main story – was Harry Pinching’s death murder or suicide and why would someone kill the curate, Nathaniel – what did he know and what was he hiding?

This review was first published on Amazon in 2009 and is featured on this blog as part of my look back at the last ten years of blogging. 

Books

Murder on the Dancefloor – Helena Dixon

It seems that even if Kitty Underhay tries to live a normal life, murder seems to follow her around. In this her fourth outing, murder is found at the dinner table at the Imperial Hotel. Kitty and her close friend Captain Matt Bryant are also at the table.

The victim it seems has ingested potassium cyanide and is a pompous unpopular local councillor Harold Everton.

He previously has spoked to Matt and asked him if he could help with something in his capacity as a private investigator.

Also at the table is the councillor’s downtrodden wife, his equally downtrodden daughter, a nephew who seems to have money, a married solicitor who was always advising Everton as well as a brother and sister hotel owners who seem to want answers from Everton as to why planning applications were not being approved.

It is a lot for the police to check through and Kitty and Matt soon find themselves embroiled in the affair and when an accident turns out to be murder it seems that perhaps those who know too much might be the next victim.

Are Kitty or Matt in danger?

This is an equally interesting read to the previous books in the series. It can be read as a standalone and is a good introduction to the series, you meet all the main characters. Kitty’s grandmother, Mrs Treadwell, her bumptious and annoying friend Mrs Craven who makes me smile every time she appears on a page. Then there is Alice, an employee of the hotel but also when needs must she comes to Miss Kitty’s aid as a confidante, friend and ladies maid when the role suits.

What perhaps you don’t get a sense of is the back story which runs through this story and we start to get some answers about Matt’s past and his experiences of war. Plus the disappearance of Kitty’s mother is also investigated more and it seems more questions are raised than answers given. It is therefore reassuring to know that there will be more Miss Underhay.

Great for fans of historical mysteries, with plenty of diversions and twist with a bit of threat involved, these really are gentle reads but show the spark that Kitty has and how perceptions are changing about women in more dominant roles. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

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

Murder on the Dancefloor is published on 28 October. 

 

 

Books

A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls – Nancy Revell

I cannot believe we have reached book nine and it is coming up to 1943 for the Shipyard Girls that I have grown to love over the previous books. History tells us that the Second World War is taking a new path and I know as I read there is some momentous changes abound. It worries me that we could be near the end of this wonderful series.

But as ever I am taken into the lives of Rosie, head welder of her close knit team of women whose wish is to know that her husband Peter is alive and well. She also wishes Charlotte her younger sister would develop some interest in someone other than Lily.

Gloria and her young daughter Hope, wishes that her she could be reunited with the man she loves and that her daughter will actually see her father.

Dorothy and Angie, best friends in and out of work, wish that falling in love would be easy and that there should be no barrier to it.

Polly wishes for the safe arrival of her baby and that her husband, that she hasn’t seen since last Christmas gets to meet the most important person in their lives besides each other.

Bel wishes for what others have, Gloria and Polly especially, but something is preventing it all happening and it seems that she needs to close many door from her past before she can perhaps move forward with being a mother.

Helen, wishes that her mother and grandfather’s influence has not got so deep seated within her and that she would never be good enough for Dr Parker, their friendship it seems is all that there will be.

Pearl has no wish to relive the past but stumbling across it, she realises that she might be able to make her daughter Bel’s wish come true – to close the door on the past.

Along with other regular faces, this is a book packed with raw emotion. I was so incensed by the behaviour of Miriam, Helen’s mother that I had to put the book down. That said when the dénouement to a plot line that has been in development for many books comes to a head, I was almost out of my chair cheering on the main characters. The rollercoaster of emotions that Nancy Revell portrays in this book means it should come with a health warning.

At the heart and the core of all of the books, is the strength that these women have in taking on work, specifically and historically been the preserve of men, dealing with birth, death and everything in between. Love, laughter, tears and friendship everything you could want from this book and even your own life!

This series of books has not lost momentum and I am thrilled that they simply seem to get better and better. Perfect example of a well written historical saga for everyone to enjoy.

 

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read these books. 

A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls is out now.  

If you wish to read them all 

  1. The Shipyard Girls
  2. Shipyard Girls at War
  3. Secrets of the Shipyard Girls
  4. Shipyard Girls in Love
  5. Victory for the Shipyard Girls 
  6. Courage of the Shipyard Girls 
  7. Christmas with the Shipyard Girls
  8. Triumph of the Shipyard Girls 
  9. A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls

 

Books

The Diver and the Lover – Jeremy Vine

The background to this book is fascinating and I was intrigued by the presence of a well known painter, Salvador Dali and one his controversial pieces of art – Christ of Saint John of the Cross. A painting I knew nothing about, which forced me to look it up and to understand the background to it’s creation and subsequently it’s arrival in a Glasgow art gallery in the 1950s.

All of this is subsequently weaved into the book.

Ginny and Meredith, sisters have only just found each other when their father dies and Ginny discovers she has a half sister.

Meredith is traumatised by past experiences and is in an asylum. Ginny becomes her rescuer and with an ulterior motive vows to heal Meredith. This is what leads them to Spain, to Catalonia, where Meredith’s passion for art, is the path that Ginny sees can heal her.

With a famous artist in the area, it seems that Meredith can indulge in this passion. Ginny has her head turned by another passion and when these collide with the politics of the time and the execution of this famous painting, the book takes a somewhat nasty turn.

I wanted to like this book, but I found it descend into a bit of a muddle and mess but it had these brilliantly handled passages of prose which worked so well, especially the affects of the asylum on Meredith.  For me the rest of it did not fit together so well and I found myself skim reading just so I could see how it concluded.

I learnt a lot despite not enjoying the plot and for that I am grateful, but I was left disappointed overall.

 

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

The Diver and the Lover is out now. 

Books

V for Victory – Lissa Evans

Here we are taken back to the wonderful characters of Noel Bostock and Vee Sedge who we first got to know in Crooked Heart. For me you need prior knowledge and background of Noel and Vee and the circumstances that lead them to where they are now.

It is late 1944 – it is clear that war is coming to some sort of conclusion. However there is still the risk of death as the V2 rockets seem to be destroying an uncharted path through London.

Noel and Vee now live in a large house, Green Shutters, adjacent to Hampstead Heath. Vee takes in lodgers to keep roofs over heads and mouths to feed, but she is still not quite telling the truth to the world.

All of the lodgers are of varying occupations and differing personalities, and they are educating in their own way young Noel, now 15 instead of him attending school. But then Noel is also not quite telling the truth to the world either.

Both Noel and Vee are locked into the secrets of their past but it seems that events in the present are going to change everything.

The other strand of the novel is taken over to Winnie Crowther, who is a senior ARP warden. Married but having not seen her husband for the majority of the war, she simply exists until such times when the world will be righted again and she can live her life. Her twin sister, Avril on the other hand is as far removed from Winnie but when she uses Winnie’s life as an idea of a book, little does she realise what work her sister is actually doing until she experiences it for herself.

Winnie does meet Noel, there is a connection to the past, to Matilda Simpkin, the original owner of Green Shutters and Noel’s former godmother. Winnie knew Matilda. Winnie also knew someone else close to Noel and it seems all of these past lives are going to come crashing together in the final pages of the book.

Evans writing is unique and the books is unstructured which adds to it’s flow and narrative. When I found myself in the midst of an incident that ARP Winnie has to deal with, you could almost taste the brick dust. With just as much ease we are sat at the table in Green Shutters as an eclectic mix of people gather to see what food rations and Noel have created for supper.

The stories of Matilda Simpkin, Noel and Vee are brought to a conclusion in this novel and whilst there is enough information to understand all these people without having previously read the other novels. I appeal to any readers sense of completeness and read Old Baggage and Crooked Heart. You can then experience the great writing of Evans but also the wonderful characters for a lot longer.

A book worthy of any fans of historical fiction.

 

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

V for Victory is out now. 

Books

August Roundup

So what was your August like – as you planned? Or like most people’s taking it as it comes. As the world around us changes, pivots, tilts and decides what is going to happen next I have sought much solace from being at home, reading, crafting and just being. Luckily enough now I can go back swimming which has been an absolute balm to soothe and has helped my mental health no end. As I go back to work and wait to find out what happens in terms of hours and contracts I just hope that all the things that help me continue to do so.

August was a real mix of books and were just what was needed – Louise Candlish – The Disappearance of Emily Marr has been sat on my shelf for awhile and as I make some dents in these books I picked this one up. The first I have read by this author and it was different from perhaps what I am used to and was a great change, I must seek more of her work out. Sometime you need a book that finishes and you just don;t know what happens!

Of course when it comes to murder mystery you have to know what happens, otherwise what would be the point! The book you will no doubt see a lot of is Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club. Sadly the formatting on the advanced copy was poor and that did make it harder to read, but once I got over my fastidious and got into the book I was hooked. If you want a book that says everything about being British – then this is it.

Of course if you want fastidious then look no further than Hercule Poirot. I can accept a tribute to such a great character and a great author and I know there are some naysayers out there but Sophie Hannah – The Killings at Kingfisher Hall is an excellent novel and a great introduction to good old fashioned golden age murder mystery.

Sticking with the golden age theme then picking up Anthony Horowitz – Moonflower Murders which took be back to Atticus Pund and his author Alan Conway, it is a novel within a novel. And if you think that can’t possibly work – trust me it does.

A book with no definite chapters can be a troubling read – it can work and it can fail spectacularly and reminds me of a colleague who writes emails and notices in a stream of what I can only call verbal diarrhoea. However when it works it works brilliantly as it does with Lissa Evans – V for Victory. A book that takes you to the heart of the conclusion of the war on the home front and the devastation still be wrought across London.

If you want devastation then imagine not having enough hay to feed the animals for the next year, or enough lambs to be able to sell or breed. Imagine doing that miles from any where and with nine children in tow. Well known on the television for their programme on Channel 5. I picked up Amanda Owen – The Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen – A Year in the Life of The Yorkshire Shepherdess and Amanda Owen – Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess as a treat for not having a holiday this year. Amazing, what a life and again there is many critical of her chosen life and the way she has decide to raise her children – but I feel that they will be more well rounded adults than many of their generation to come. Their playground is acres of land and if that is the only way you can enjoy the outdoors then I implore you to read the books and watch the programmes.

Books are a great place to escape to other places and what better than to experience Holly Martin – Autumn Skies over Ruby Falls who manages to always achieve this and throws in a big dollop of romance too. I am booked into visit Jewel Island again I hope.

I also want to go and stay in Christie Barlow – Starcross Manor or even the little B & B in Heartcross because I know I will be welcome and there will be plenty of people to catch up on and you can walk for miles, breathe the fresh air and reconnect with nature.

Of course it can be whatever season you wish but what better than a Katie Fforde – A Rose Petal Summer where I was taken from London to Scotland to France and all back again. I simply enjoy Katie’s novels and they are just like old friends, pick one up and you are immediately whisked away.

Talking of old friends what about when you have made a pact with your oldest friends that it is the three of you forever? What happens to Ruth Jones – Us Three life has a funny way of making it a lot harder than you imagined and perhaps only giving you things you can actually deal with. Some friendships are just not meant to be forever.

Friendship betrayal and forgiveness can lead to all sorts of disaster and even escaping to Helen Rolfe – The Little Cottage in Lantern Square can have consequences . When it threatens your whole world surly the answer is to confront it head on and not run away again?

I don’t think I was disappointed with any of these books they all proved to be the right books at the right time. Serendipitous you could say!

How was you August?

 

Books

The Hidden Wife – Joanna Rees

Vita Casey has made it to Paris after fleeing London and her brother.

She is trying to keep a low profile and becomes a dresser for the dancers in a cabaret club where her friend Nancy is performing. Always in Nancy’s shadow and seemingly picking up the pieces after her, Vita knows this is not the life she wants to lead in Paris.

Paris is where the fashion is and Vita’s life is about designing and creating clothes. Nancy’s life is one of late night parties, drink and drugs and it seems that Nancy is going to spiral down and Vita will not be able to help if she doesn’t do something more.

A chance meeting leads to Vita getting to venture behind the doors a Paris fashion house and she finds herself with the chance to finally get her designs out there and make a name for herself.

Back in Darton, England. Vita’s brother Clement has still not forgiven Vita for her actions and when his marriage throws up some interesting opportunities his new wife can see a way of the past being finally put behind them all.

Faces from the past come back to Vita and it doesn’t matter where she hides, someone will always find her – whether that be brothers, sister in laws, wives and long lost lovers.

So much is packed into the pages of this book, you get a real sense of the Paris of 1928, the lifestyle led by the up and coming ‘young things’. The live for this moment attitude and that money can buy anything, position, clothes, tables in clubs, yachts and women. Rees manages to remind the reader that actually not all lives were rich with wealth and position.

The book gives you plenty more questions to take you into the final part of the trilogy but I would strongly recommend you have read the first to really appreciate the story of this one.

Excellent historical fiction a must for all fans of this genre.

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

The Hidden Wife is out now. 

 

Books

Miss Benson’s Beetle – Rachel Joyce

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, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and I think this book captures the essence of that book, that new adventure not just for Joyce but for Harold Fry as well. This is a new adventure.

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. This would be her work, but events took another path and she finds herself in a job she dislikes.

When a case of stolen boots, forces her to reevaluate her life she abandons everything and puts all she has into an expedition to find said golden beetle.

Enter Enid Pretty.

Pink Suit, bright yellow hair, pom poms on her shoes and clutching a red valise.

She is the last person you would expect to see Margery with but somehow they make it half way round the world to New Caledonia.  Sometimes together and sometimes apart but there is something about two unlikely people forming a friendship and it surviving.

Enid is everything Margery isn’t – a rule breaker, a chancer, a woman with secrets.

Margery is everything Enid isn’t – staid, organised, a woman with one chance to discover the beetle and leave her mark on the world.

This book is a journey of the impossible and believing in trying to do something is just as important as the end result, whether it be positive or negative. What has happened in the past is forgotten as these two unlikely women form a bond, a bond which has to suffer blood, toil, sweat and tears in equal measure from both of them.

There are ups and clearly a lot of downs on this quest, and not only do we glimpse a life of a entomologist but we see a life far away from home. It may seem the dawn of a new age in 1950/1951 but the echoes of both wars still resonate and they affect nearly everyone they come into contact with. Women have a very different role to play, there time has yet to come and perhaps Margery and Enid are just the beginning of the change. Who knows.

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.

A quiet book with a big impact. Rachel Joyce’s writing at her best in my humble opinion.

 

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

Miss Benson’s Beetle is published on 23rd July.