Here’s this month’s list of books that took my fancy. Usual rules apply – all books I include are those I’ve either read and recommend, or are books that are patiently waiting to be read, or they’re ones I’d happily to add to my reading list. Therefore it’s a list that’s skewed towards what currently appeals to me so feel free to look at the complete list on Amazon here.
The Frances Garrood Collection : Cassandra’a Secret, Women Behaving Badly & Ruth Robinson’s Year of Miracles
Cassandra Fitzpatrick’s family isn’t quite like everybody else’s: her house is always full to bursting with the various misfits her mother houses as lodgers. The creative and chaotic household is all she has ever known and loved, until something awful happens that changes everything.
Cass loves her mother deeply, but, as she gets older, she becomes more and more aware of her flaws. Will Cass have to distance herself from her family to find happiness? Or is she destined to follow in her mother’s footsteps? As Cass reflects on her memories, she must lay the ghosts of the past to rest and make peace with the secrets that have haunted her adult life…
Women Behaving Badly
Alice is a harried single mother dealing with a teenage son, an irresponsible ex, and a noncommittal lover. Mavis is juggling caring for her elderly, confused mother alongside her long-standing affair with a hypochondriac father-of-two. And Gabs is a high-class escort who’s fallen in love with someone completely unattainable.
All three women are behaving in ways very much frowned upon by the Catholic Church. But their priest, Father Cuthbert is determined to reform them. As the three women strike up an unlikely friendship, each re-evaluates what is most important them. And it seems the not-so-holy trinity of Alice, Mavis, and Gabs can’t be ‘cured’ that easily…
Ruth Robinson’s Year of Miracles
Six months ago, Ruth Robinson had a regular job, a monthly salary and a comfortable flat to go home to. After quitting her job ready to go travelling, a momentary lapse of judgement put a major spanner in the works… Now Ruth has a baby on the way, and no place to call home…
With the father of her child AWOL and her parents less than impressed, Ruth decides to move in with her eccentric uncles. And when the Virgin Mary appears in their hen house, it is clear Ruth’s unplanned pregnancy isn’t the only ‘miracle’ she’ll be encountering this year…
Larkinland by Jonathan Tullock
Arriving in 1950s Hull, Arthur Merryweather finds himself lodging with the landlady from hell, and falling in love with fellow librarian Niamh O Leary. But just as their love threatens to bloom, the mystery of Mr Bleaney, the enigmatic insurance salesman who rented his room before him, threatens to pull the poet into disaster and cast him into the criminal hinterland of fish town , that sublimely banal Larkinland beached on the mudflats at the end of the railway line, like a brick seal with a woodbine in its gob.
Death by Dark Waters by Jo Allen
The charred remains of a child are discovered – a child no one seems to have missed…
It’s high summer, and the lakes are in the midst of an unrelenting heatwave. Uncontrollable fell fires are breaking out across the moors faster than they can be extinguished. When firefighters uncover the body of a dead child at the heart of the latest blaze, Detective Chief Inspector Jude Satterthwaite’s arson investigation turns to one of murder.
Jude was born and bred in the Lake District. He knows everyone… and everyone knows him. Except his intriguing new Detective Sergeant, Ashleigh O’Halloran, who is running from a dangerous past and has secrets of her own to hide…
Temperatures – and tension – in the village are rising, and with the body count rising Jude and his team race against the clock to catch the killer before it’s too late…
The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford
Hoping to make a clean break from a fractured marriage, Agatha Christie boards the Orient Express in disguise. But unlike her famous detective Hercule Poirot, she can’t neatly unravel the mysteries she encounters on this fateful journey.
Agatha isn’t the only passenger on board with secrets. Her cabinmate Katharine Keeling’s first marriage ended in tragedy, propelling her toward a second relationship mired in deceit. Nancy Nelson—newly married but carrying another man’s child—is desperate to conceal the pregnancy and teeters on the brink of utter despair. Each woman hides her past from the others, ferociously guarding her secrets. But as the train bound for the Middle East speeds down the track, the parallel courses of their lives shift to intersect—with lasting repercussions.
Filled with evocative imagery, suspense, and emotional complexity, The Woman on the Orient Express explores the bonds of sisterhood forged by shared pain and the power of secrets.
As the Women Lay Dreaming by Donald S Murray
A novel of the Iolaire disaster.
In the small hours of January 1st, 1919, the cruellest twist of fate changed at a stroke the lives of an entire community.
Tormod Morrison was there that terrible night. He was on board HMY Iolaire when it smashed into rocks and sank, killing some 200 servicemen on the very last leg of their long journey home from war. For Tormod – a man unlike others, with artistry in his fingertips – the disaster would mark him indelibly.
Two decades later, Alasdair and Rachel are sent to the windswept Isle of Lewis to live with Tormod in his traditional blackhouse home, a world away from the Glasgow of their earliest years. Their grandfather is kind, compassionate, but still deeply affected by the remarkable true story of the Iolaire shipwreck – by the selfless heroism and desperate tragedy he witnessed.
A deeply moving novel about passion constrained, coping with loss and a changing world, As the Women Lay Dreaming explores how a single event can so dramatically impact communities, individuals and, indeed, our very souls.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies.
But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her.
For the next twenty-two years Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds.
Gallows Court by Martin Edwards
Sooty, sulphurous, and malign: no woman should be out on a night like this. A spate of violent deaths – the details too foul to print – has horrified the capital and the smog-bound streets are deserted. But Rachel Savernake is no ordinary woman. To Scotland Yard’s embarrassment, she solved the Chorus Girl Murder, and now she’s on the trail of another killer.
Jacob Flint, manning The Clarion‘s crime desk, is looking for the scoop that will make his name. He’s certain there is more to the Miss Savernake’s amateur sleuthing than meets the eye.
Flint’s pursuit of his story will mire him ever-deeper into a labyrinth of deception and corruption. Murder-by-murder, he is swept ever-closer to that ancient place of execution, where it all began and where it will finally end: Gallows Court.
Jesika is four and a half. She lives in a flat with her mother and baby brother and she knows a lot.
She knows their flat is high up and the stairs are smelly. She knows she should not draw on the wall where the wallpaper is peeling or touch the broken window. And she knows she loves her mummy and Toby.
She does not know that their landlord is threatening to evict them and that Toby’s cough is going to get much worse. Or that Lauren, her new best friend, has a secret that will explode their world.
Chocolat (Chocolat 1) by Joanne Harris
When a mysterious stranger, Vianne Rocher, arrives in the French village of Lansquenet with her daughter and opens an exotic chocolate boutique directly opposite the church, Father Reynauddenounces her as a serious moral danger to his flock – especially as it is the beginning of Lent, the traditional season of self-denial.
As passions flare and the conflict escalates, the whole community takes sides. Can the solemnity of the Church compare with the sinful pleasure of a chocolate truffle.
The Afterlife of Walter Augustus by Hannah Lynn
When he was alive, Walter Augustus dreamed of lasting fame. But now that he’s passed away, he’s stuck in limbo until the last living soul who remembers him dies. Except just as his 200 years of perdition look like they’re at an end, a stranger opens his dusty book of poems and adds another eternal verse to purgatory.
Letty Ferguson jumps at the sight of her own shadow. But she thought shaking the ghostly shenanigans that haunt her would be a piece of cake compared to her anxiety-riddled dream of opening her own bakery. Confused by her apparition’s bizarre antics, the middle-aged shoe saleswoman seeks the aid of a clairvoyant to help with the spiritual pest.
But Letty and Walter’s hapless forays into the void may just damn both their souls to eternity’s waiting room…
Pieces of Happiness : A Novel of Friendship, Hope and Chocolate by Anne Ostby
I’ve planted my feet on Fijian earth and I intend to stay here until the last sunset . Why don’t you join me? Leave behind everything that didn’t work out!
When recently-widowed Kat writes to her four old school friends, inviting them to live with her on a cocoa plantation in the South Pacific, they swap icy pavements and TV dinners for a tropical breeze and an azure-blue ocean. Leaving behind loneliness, dead-end jobs and marriages that have gone sour, they settle into the Women’s House, surrounded by palms and cocoa trees; and locals with the puzzling habit of exploding into laughter for no discernible reason.
Each of the women has her issues to resolve, and secrets to keep. But together the friends find a new purpose, starting a business making chocolate: bittersweet, succulent pieces of happiness. As they embrace a new culture that views ageing so differently from their own, will they learn to accept and forgive: to discover the value of friendship, and a better way to live?
Bryant & May : Wild Chamber by Christopher Fowler
Our story begins at the end of an investigation, as the members of London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit race to catch a killer near London Bridge Station in the rain, not realising that they’re about to cause a bizarre accident just yards away from the crime scene. And it will have repercussions for them all…
One year later, in an exclusive London crescent, a woman walks her dog – but she’s being watched. When she’s found dead, the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to investigate. Why? Because the method of death is odd, the gardens are locked, the killer had no way in – or out – and the dog has disappeared.
So a typical case for Bryant & May. But the hows and whys of the murder are not the only mysteries surrounding the dead woman – there’s a missing husband and a lost nanny to puzzle over too. And it seems very like that the killer is preparing to strike again.
As Arthur Bryant delves in to the history of London’s ‘wild chambers’ – its extraordinary parks and gardens, John May and the rest of the team seem to have caused a national scandal. If no-one is safe then all of London’s open spaces must be closed…
With the PCU placed under house arrest, only Arthur Bryant remains at liberty – but can a hallucinating old codger catch the criminal and save the unit before it’s too late?
The Best Boomerville Hotel by Caroline James
Let the shenanigans begin at the Best Boomerville Hotel …
Jo Docherty and Hattie Contaldo have a vision – a holiday retreat in the heart of the Lake District exclusively for guests of ‘a certain age’ wishing to stimulate both mind and body with new creative experiences. One hotel refurbishment later and the Best Boomerville Hotel is open for business!
Perhaps not surprisingly Boomerville attracts more than its fair share of eccentric clientele: there’s fun-loving Sir Henry Mulberry and his brother Hugo; Lucinda Brown, an impoverished artist with more ego than talent; Andy Mack, a charming Porsche-driving James Bond lookalike, as well as Kate Simmons, a woman who made her fortune from an internet dating agency but still hasn’t found ‘the One’ herself.
With such an array of colourful individuals there’s bound to be laughs aplenty, but could there be tears and heartbreak too and will the residents get more than they bargained for at Boomerville?
Greetings from Bury Park by Sarfraz Manzoor
Sarfraz Manzoor was two years old when his family emigrated from Pakistan to join his father in Bury Park, Luton. His teenage years were a constant battle to reconcile being both British and Muslim. But when his best friend introduced him to Bruce Springsteen, his life changed for ever. In this affectionate and timely memoir, Manzoor retraces his journey from the frustrations of his childhood to his reaction to the tragedies of 9/11 and 7/7.
Original, darkly tender and wryly amusing, this is an inspiring tribute to the power of music to transcend race and religion and a moving account of a relationship between father and son
1911: Inside an asylum at the edge of the Yorkshire moors, where men and women are kept apart by high walls and barred windows, there is a ballroom vast and beautiful. For one bright evening every week they come together and dance. When John and Ella meet it is a dance that will change two lives forever.
Set over the heatwave summer of 1911, the end of the Edwardian era, THE BALLROOM is a historical love story. It tells a page-turning tale of dangerous obsession, of madness and sanity, and of who gets to decide which is which.
Meadowland : The Private Life of an English Field by John Lewis-Stempel
What really goes on in the long grass?
Meadowland gives an unique and intimate account of an English meadow’s life from January to December, together with its biography. In exquisite prose, John Lewis-Stempel records the passage of the seasons from cowslips in spring to the hay-cutting of summer and grazing in autumn, and includes the biographies of the animals that inhabit the grass and the soil beneath: the badger clan, the fox family, the rabbit warren,the skylark brood and the curlew pair, among others. Their births, lives, and deaths are stories that thread through the book from first page to last.
When Tess Angel receives a solicitor’s letter inviting her to claim her inheritance – the Villa Sirena, perched on a clifftop in Sicily – she is stunned. Her only link to the island is through her mother, Flavia, who left Sicily during World War II and cut all contact with her family.
When Tess goes to Sicily, Flavia realises the secrets from her past are about to be revealed and decides to try to explain her actions. Meanwhile, Tess’ teenage daughter Ginny is stressed by college, by her blooming sexuality and filled with questions that she longs to ask her father, if only she knew where he was…
Into the Blue by Robert Goddard
Harry Barnett is a middle-aged failure. Leading a shabby existence in the shadow of a past disgrace, he is reduced to caretaking a friend’s villa on the island of Rhodes and working in a bar to earn his keep. Then a guest at the villa – a young woman he had instantly and innocently warmed to – disappears on a mountain peak.
Under suspicion of her murder, Harry stumbles on a set of photographs taken in the weeks before her disappearance. Obsessed by the mystery that has changed his life and determined to clear his name, he begins to trace back the movements and encounters that led to the moment when she vanished into the blue. The trail leads him back to England, to a world he thought he had left for ever – and a past he has tried desperately to forget.
The Light Years (Cazalet Chronicles 1) by Elizabeth Jane Howard
Every summer, the Cazalet brothers, Hugh, Edward and Rupert, return to the family home in the heart of the Sussex countryside with their wives and children. There, they are joined by their parents and unmarried sister Rachel to enjoy two blissful months of picnics and childish games. But despite the idyllic setting, nothing can be done to soothe the siblings’ heartache: Hugh is haunted by the ravages of war, Edward by his latest infidelity and Rupert by his inability to please his demanding wife. Meanwhile, Rachel risks losing her only chance at happiness because of her unflinching loyalty to the family.
The Winter Crown by Elizabeth Chadwick
Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the most powerful women in Europe, is crowned queen of England beside her young husband Henry II. While Henry battles their enemies and lays his plans, Eleanor is an adept acting ruler and mother to their growing brood of children. But she yearns for more than this – if only Henry would listen.
Instead, Henry pushes Eleanor to the sidelines, involving himself with a young mistress and denying Eleanor her rightful authority. As matters reach a crisis, Eleanor becomes caught up in a family rebellion. And even a queen must face the consequences of treason…
The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd
Lauren Pailing is born in the sixties, and a child of the seventies. She is thirteen years old the first time she dies.
Lauren Pailing is a teenager in the eighties, becomes a Londoner in the nineties. And each time she dies, new lives begin for the people who loved her – while Lauren enters a brand new life, too.
But in each of Lauren’s lives, a man called Peter Stanning disappears. And, in each of her lives, Lauren sets out to find him.
And so it is that every ending is also a beginning. And so it is that, with each new beginning, Peter Stanning inches closer to finally being found…
The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory
Berlin, 1989. As the wall between East and West falls, Miriam Winter cares for her dying father, Henryk. When he cries out for someone named Frieda – and Miriam discovers an Auschwitz tattoo hidden under his watch strap – Henryk’s secret history begins to unravel.
Searching for more clues of her father’s past, Miriam finds an inmate uniform from the Ravensbrück women’s camp concealed among her mother’s things. Within its seams are dozens of letters to Henryk written by Frieda. The letters reveal the disturbing truth about the ‘Rabbit Girls’, young women experimented on at the camp. And amid their tales of sacrifice and endurance, Miriam pieces together a love story that has been hidden away in Henryk’s heart for almost fifty years.
Inspired by these extraordinary women, Miriam strives to break through the walls she has built around herself. Because even in the darkest of times, hope can survive.
One Christmas Night by Hayley Webster
Nine lives. One street. And a secret behind every door.
Christmas is ruined on Newbury Street, Norwich.
Presents have been going missing from resident’s homes. There are rumours going around that it’s one of their own who’s been stealing from the neighbours. Festive spirit is being replaced with suspicion and the inhabitants of Newbury Street don’t know who to trust. The police presence isn’t helping matters, especially when they all have something to hide.
But Christmas is a time for miracles… and if they open themselves up to hope and look out for each other, they might discover the biggest miracle of all.
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak
It’s Christmas, and the Birch family is gathering for the first time in years.
Olivia, the eldest daughter, has returned from treating an epidemic abroad and must go into quarantine for seven days. Her mother has decided it’s the perfect opportunity to spend some ‘special time’ together. Her youngest sister wholeheartedly disagrees. Her father isn’t allowed an opinion.
When no one can leave the house, seven days for the Birches feels like an eternity.
Especially when they’re all harbouring secrets. One of whom is about to come knocking at their door…
Sacrilege by S J Parris (Giordano Bruno 3)
London, 1584. Giordano Bruno travels to Canterbury for love. But finds only murder …
Giordano Bruno is being followed by the woman he once loved – Sophia Underhill, accused of murder and on the run. With the leave of the Queen’s spymaster, he sets out to clear Sophia’s name. But when more brutal killings occur a far deadlier plot emerges.
A city rife with treachery. A relic steeped in blood.
His hunt for the real killer leads to the shadows of the Cathedral – England’s holiest shrine – and the heart of a sinister and powerful conspiracy …
Heretic, maverick, charmer: Giordano Bruno is always on his guard. Never more so than when working for Queen Elizabeth and her spymaster – for this man of letters is now an agent of intrigue and danger …
The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse
Carcassonne 1562. Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words:
SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE.
But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to get out of La Cité alive . . .
A thrilling adventure, and a heart-breaking love story, The Burning Chambers is a historical novel of excitement, conspiracy and danger like no other . . .
Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry
Everyone adores Christmas . . .
Especially Lizzy Kingham. But this year, she is feeling unloved and under-appreciated by her family. The present-buying, decorating and food shopping have all been left to her. So she wonders … what would happen if she ran away and left them to it?
Lizzy heads to her favourite place: a beach hut on the golden sands of Everdene. There she meets an unlikely collection of new friends, all running away from something. But the spirit of Christmas gets under Lizzy’s skin: soon the fairy lights are twinkling and the scent of mulled wine mingles with the sea air.
Back at Pepperpot Cottage, her family are desperate to find her. For Christmas isn’t Christmas without Lizzy. Can they track her down in time and convince her she means the world to them, every day of the year?
Bursting with love, hope, forgiveness – and plenty of Christmas cheer – this is the perfect stocking filler!
We Must be Brave by Frances Liardet
Ellen Parr has always been sure she never wanted children. But when she finds a young girl asleep and unclaimed at the back of a bus fleeing the Blitz in Southampton, everything she once believed is overturned.
As she takes Pamela into her home, the little girl cracks open the past Ellen thought she had escaped and the future she thought she wanted, for in uncertain times it seems the only certainty is love.
But with the end of the fighting comes the realization that Pamela was never hers to keep…
We Must Be Brave is an epic and intensely moving novel about the ways we rescue one other, and the astonishing tenacity of the human heart.
An Island Christmas by Jenny Colgan
Christmas on the remote Scottish island of Mure is bleak, stark – and incredibly beautiful.
It’s a time for hunkering down, getting cosy in front of whisky barrel wood fires, and enjoying a dram with the people you love – unless, of course, you’re accidentally pregnant to your ex-boss, and don’t know how to tell him. In what should be the season of peace and goodwill on earth, will Joel think Flora is a bearer of glad tidings?
Meanwhile Saif, the doctor and refugee from war-torn Syria is trying to enjoy his first western Christmas with his sons – but without his missing wife. Can the little family possibly find comfort and joy?
Travel to the beautiful northern edge of the world and join the welcoming community of Mure for an unforgettable Christmas.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather.
The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
Not an accident – a murder among friends.
Thank you. I’ve picked up some goodies 🙂
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Brilliant 🙂 x
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You can’t really go wrong with a Robert Goddard!
The one that appeals to me is As the Women Lay Dreaming so I just bought it. I wonder if its based on a true episode?
I read Larkinland when it first came out – very interesting portrayal of Hull
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I love Robert Goddard, though I preferred the earlier ones. I think it was you that alerted me to Larkinland, being from Hull I had to buy it. As the Women Lay Dreaming looks very good and it is based on a true event – On 31 December 1918, hours from the first New Year of peace, hundreds of Royal Naval Reservists from the Isle of Lewis boarded the HMY Iolaire at the Kyle of Lochalsh to return home. As the boat headed into Stornoway pier, she piled onto rocks off the coast. 205 men drowned, on their own doorstep, in front of their loved ones. In one of the most eagerly-anticipated novels of year, As the Women Lay Dreaming explores the aftermath of this worst peacetime British disaster at sea, the grief, the survivors’ guilt, and the changes over time to a close-knit community.
It’s a while since I read any Goddard so if his quality has fallen off a little I can’t say I would have noticed. It’s not surprising is it that he hasn’t sustained the same level, given how ,any books he’s written and all so different
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I wonder whether having got used to his style and the unexpected twists, part of it, is that the later ones have lost that element of surprise as you’re anticipating them.
Turns out I’ve read four of these titles Jill and all were excellent reads. “Home” by Amanda Berriman still lingers in my memory – heartbreaking fiction. “Seven Days of Us” was an excellent holiday read. “The Hunting Party” is a great thriller to read at this time of year. “Death by Dark Waters” was an enjoyable police procedural series debut. Thanks for this post as I’ve seen at least one other title to add to my TBR.
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Always happy to increase someone else’s tbr! Thankfully I’ve got a lot of them already. I bought Home after I met Amanda Berriman at my now defunct local book group.
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