My Bookish December 2019 and a review of the year.

 

Now if I say so myself, I’ve been fairly good this month, although I appreciate that book buying is all relative. However if you make it to the end of this post where I admit to how many I’ve bought this year, I think I need a 10 year book buying ban, rather than ‘a fairly good month’.

E-books bought

 

As the Women Lay DreamingAs the Women Lay Dreaming by Donald S Murray

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.

 

 

Tell NobodyTell Nobody by Patricia Gibney

The boy’s body was so white it was almost transparent. But that’s not what caused the nausea to rise up her throat. He was so young. His body was unmarked, surrounded by a halo of plucked wildflowers.

One hot summer evening, eleven-year-old Mikey Driscoll is on the way home from playing with friends. Two days later, his body is discovered on a bed of wildflowers by some local teenagers.

The case is assigned to Detective Lottie Parker and this time it’s personal. The victim was a close friend of her son, Sean, from the run-down Munbally estate on the other side of town. Sean tells his mother Mikey was behaving normally before he died, but Lottie can’t help but feel that her son is keeping something from her…

Then days later, another boy is found dead, surrounded by wild flowers next to beautiful Ladystown Lake.

On the hunt for a twisted individual with a terrifying calling card, Lottie must uncover the web of secrets within Mikey’s circle of friends. Someone is hiding something but who are they protecting and can Lottie find out before it’s too late? Lottie is desperate to catch the killer before he strikes again because this time her own child could be in terrible danger…

 

 

The ScandalThe Scandal by Mari Hannah

When an young man is found stabbed to death in a side street in Newcastle city centre in the run up to Christmas, it looks like a botched robbery to DCI David Stone. But when DS Frankie Oliver arrives at the crime scene, she gets more than she bargained for.

She IDs the victim as Herald court reporter, thirty-two-year old Chris Adams she’s known since they were kids. With no eyewitnesses, the MIT are stumped. They discover that when Adams went out, never to return, he was working on a scoop that would make his name. But what was the story he was investigating? And who was trying to cover it up?

As detectives battle to solve the case, they uncover a link to a missing woman that turns the investigation on its head. The exposé has put more than Adams’ life in danger. And it’s not over yet.

 

 

A Tangled SummerA Tangled Summer by Caroline Kington

In the West Country village of Summerstoke, the family at Marsh Farm are too preoccupied with living their lives to notice the farm sliding into ruin.

Charlie Tucker, dreaming of victory in a motocross race and flirting with the local barmaid, is unaware of the danger the farm is in; while little sister Alison, busy with her A levels, is determined to dispense with her virginity before the end of the summer and falls for the enigmatic biker, Al. Their brother Stephen is hopelessly in love with the star of the local am-dram society, while mother Jenny dreams of escaping to Weston-super-Mare in the arms of the local vet.

Fed up with watching her family squander their birthright, septuagenarian grandmother Elsie – the only Tucker with a lover – issues an ultimatum: either her grandsons find brides by the end of the year, or they lose their share of the farm. And that’s only half the problem…

Up on the hill in Summerstoke House, the land-grabbing, unscrupulous, Hugh and Veronica (call-me-Vee) Lester watch the demise of Marsh Farm with undisguised pleasure. If they can get the Tuckers turfed off the land, their dreams of owning a bigger stud farm will become a reality.

And at Summerstoke Manor, in the heart of the village, live the three elderly Miss Merfields and their ancient nanny, with nothing better to do than pull strings and watch.

 

 

The Christmas ChroniclesThe Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater

The Christmas Chronicles is the story of Nigel Slater’s love for winter, the scent of fir and spruce, ghost stories read with a glass of sloe gin, and beeswax candles with shadows dancing on the ceiling. With recipes, decorations, fables and quick fireside suppers, Nigel guides you through the essential preparations for Christmas and the New Year, with everything you need to enjoy the winter months.

Taking you from 1 November all the way to the end of January, The Christmas Chronicles covers everything from Bonfire Night, Christmas and New Year to Epiphany. Throughout the season, Nigel offers over 100 recipes to see you through the build-up, the celebrations and the aftermath. Here are much-loved classics such as goose and turkey (and making the most of the leftovers), mincemeat and the cake; recipes to make the cold months bearable, like ribsticker bread pudding with Comté and Taleggio, salt crust potatoes with blue cheese and goat’s curd, and hot-smoked salmon, potatoes and dill; as well as bright flavours to welcome the new year, including pink grapefruit marmalade, pear and pickled radish salad and rye, linseed and treacle bread.

 

 

Christmas Calendar GirlsThe Christmas Calendar Girls by Samantha Tonge

Christmas is meant to be a time of giving, so with Chesterwood food bank under risk of closure Fern knows just what to do to save it. She’s going to get the town to create a living advent calendar.

Fern, and her best friends, call for help from the local community to bring this calendar to life. When Kit, the new man in town, offers his assistance Fern’s heart can’t help but skip a beat (or two).

As they grow ever closer, Fern must admit that Kit’s breaking down the barriers she built after the death of her husband. But his past is holding him back and Fern doesn’t know how to reach him. No matter how hard she tries.

In this town, Kit’s not the only one with secrets. Domestic goddess Cara is behaving oddly, burning meals in the oven and clothes whilst ironing, and Davina’s perfect children are causing trouble at school leaving her son, Jasper, desperately unhappy.

Can the Christmas Calendar Girls find a way to bring the community together in time to save the food bank, while still supporting their families and each other? Can Fern find love again with Kit?

This is a story about kindness and letting go of the past. It’s about looking out for your neighbours and about making every day feel like Christmas.

 

 

SnowdaySnowday by B R Maycock

Sometimes hot cocoa just isn’t enough to keep you warm in the snow…

Eloise is too busy juggling the chaos of three kids, an ever present ex-husband and a demanding boss to even remember the last time dating crossed her mind.

But as soft snow falls silently all around, romance twinkles with the flakes.

After being single for so long, Eloise suddenly has a lot of choices. Too many choices. Will anyone be worthy of melting the guard around her heart to let love in?

 

 

The Last Words of Madeleine AndersonThe Last Words of Madeleine Anderson by Helen Kitson

Once upon a time Gabrielle Price wrote and published an extraordinary novel.

But twenty years on her literary star has dimmed, her “work of genius” is all but forgotten, and no further novels have materialized. She now lives an unremarkable life: middle-aged, living alone in the sleepy village she grew up in, and working as a housekeeper for the local vicar. Her lonely existence is dominated by memories of her best friend Madeleine, who died young, in tragic and mysterious circumstances.

Gabrielle’s quiet world is turned upside down when she meets and befriends Simon – young, attractive, a would-be writer, and enthusiastic fan of the astonishing novel that Gabrielle published all those years ago. Charmed and flattered, she recklessly invites him into her home and her heart. But Simon is mysterious and manipulative, and it’s not long before he forces Gabrielle to confront the demons in her past. Gabrielle’s obsession begins to destroy her carefully cultivated life, and she comes to feel increasingly threatened by Simon’s presence. Who is he? Why did he seek her out? And what does he really want?

 

 

Summer at the Garden CafeThe Summer at the Garden cafe by Felicity Hayes McCoy

A place where plans are formed and secrets are shared, the Garden Café is nestled at the heart of the town of Lissbeg, on Ireland’s west coast.

But Jazz – still reeling from the truth about her parents’ marriage – has more on her mind than the gossip at the café. Increasingly isolated from her friends and family, she finds herself developing feelings for a man who is strictly off-limits …

Meanwhile Hanna, Lissbeg’s librarian, is unaware of the turmoil in her daughter Jazz’s life – until her ex-husband Malcolm makes an appearance. And she begins to wonder if the secrets she’s carried for him might have done more harm than good.

Then Hanna discovers a long-lost book buried in her garden. Could this help to turn Jazz’s summer around, or is she too late?

 

 

Their Little SecretTheir Little Secret by Mark Billingham

She says she’s an ordinary mother.
He knows a liar when he sees one.

Sarah thinks of herself as a normal single mum. It’s what she wants others to think of her. But the truth is, she needs something new, something thrilling.

Meanwhile, DI Tom Thorne is investigating a woman’s suicide, convinced she was driven to do it by a man who preys on vulnerable women.

A man who is about to change Sarah’s life.

 

 

Cruel ActsCruel Acts by Jane Casey

Guilty?
A year ago, Leo Stone was convicted of murdering two women and sentenced to life in prison. Now he’s been freed on a technicality, and he’s protesting his innocence.

Not guilty?
DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent are determined to put Stone back behind bars where he belongs, but the more Maeve digs, the less convinced she is that he did it.

The wrong decision could be deadly…
Then another woman disappears in similar circumstances. Is there a copycat killer, or have they been wrong about Stone from the start?

 

 

All Among the BarleyAll Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison 

The fields were eternal, our life the only way of things, and I would do whatever was required of me to protect it.

The autumn of 1933 is the most beautiful Edie Mather can remember, though the Great War still casts a shadow over the cornfields of her beloved home, Wych Farm.

When charismatic, outspoken Constance FitzAllen arrives from London to write about fading rural traditions, she takes an interest in fourteen-year-old Edie, showing her a kindness she has never known before. But the older woman isn’t quite what she seems. As harvest time approaches and pressures mount on the whole community, Edie must find a way to trust her instincts and save herself from disaster.

 

 

A Better ManA Better Man by Louise Penny

The air is unbearably tense as Armand Gamache returns to the Sûreté du Québec for his first day of work since being demoted from its command to head of homicide.

Amid blistering personal social media attacks, Gamache sets out on his first assignment. He has been tasked with finding a missing woman, but while he leads the search for Vivienne Godin, Three Pines itself is threatened when the river breaks its banks, and a province-wide emergency is declared.

As the waters rise, a body is discovered – and the victim’s distraught father contemplates a murder of his own. Gamache is a father himself, and is haunted by a question . . . what would he do, if his child’s killer might walk free?

 

 

Greetings from Bury ParkGreetings 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

 

 

Tree Books Bought

 

BibliophileBibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount 

Book lovers rejoice! In this love letter to all things bookish, Jane Mount brings literary people, places, and things to life through her signature and vibrant illustrations.

Readers of Jane Mount’s Bibliophile will delight in:

  • Touring the world’s most beautiful bookstores
  • Testing their knowledge of the written word with quizzes
  • Finding their next great read in lovingly curated stacks of books
  • Sampling the most famous fictional meals
  • Peeking inside the workspaces of their favorite authors

A source of endless inspiration, literary facts and recommendations: Bibliophile is pure bookish joy and sure to enchant book clubbers, English majors, poetry devotees, aspiring writers, and any and all who identify as book lovers.

 

 

namesakeThe Namesake by Jhumpa Lahipi (December’s Reposed subscription book choice)

‘The Namesake’ is the story of a boy brought up Indian in America.

‘When her grandmother learned of Ashima’s pregnancy, she was particularly thrilled at the prospect of naming the family’s first sahib. And so Ashima and Ashoke have agreed to put off the decision of what to name the baby until a letter comes…’

For now, the label on his hospital cot reads simply BABY BOY GANGULI. But as time passes and still no letter arrives from India, American bureaucracy takes over and demands that ‘baby boy Ganguli’ be given a name. In a panic, his father decides to nickname him ‘Gogol’ – after his favourite writer.

Brought up as an Indian in suburban America, Gogol Ganguli soon finds himself itching to cast off his awkward name, just as he longs to leave behind the inherited values of his Bengali parents. And so he sets off on his own path through life, a path strewn with conflicting loyalties, love and loss…

Spanning three decades and crossing continents, Jhumpa Lahiri’s much-anticipated first novel is a triumph of humane story-telling. Elegant, subtle and moving, ‘The Namesake’ is for everyone who loved the clarity, sympathy and grace of Lahiri’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut story collection, ‘Interpreter of Maladies’.

 

Christmas Gifts

 

The Month of Borrowed DreamsThe Month of Borrowed Dreams by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

Summer is on its way, and Lissbeg librarian Hanna Casey has started a club showing films based on popular novels. But soon the club’s members find dramatic twists and turns happening in their own lives on Ireland’s west coast.

Hanna’s daughter Jazz finally feels like she can call Lissbeg home. But when her life is turned upside down, will she return to London to make a fresh start?

Aideen is afraid that her romance with Conor won’t survive the pressures of their planned double wedding with overbearing Eileen and manipulative Joe. Meanwhile, Saira Khan is determined to help a troubled new arrival to Finfarran.

And could Hanna’s own newfound happiness to Brian be threatened by the return of her ex-husband Malcolm?

As the club prepares for the first meeting of the summer, they’ll all face hard choices. But will they get the happy endings they deserve?

 

 

The Doll FactoryThe Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal is the intoxicating story of a young woman who aspires to be an artist, and the man whose obsession may destroy her world for ever.

London. 1850. The greatest spectacle the city has ever seen is being built in Hyde Park, and among the crowd watching two people meet. For Iris, an aspiring artist, it is the encounter of a moment – forgotten seconds later, but for Silas, a collector entranced by the strange and beautiful, that meeting marks a new beginning.

When Iris is asked to model for pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, she agrees on the condition that he will also teach her to paint. Suddenly her world begins to expand, to become a place of art and love.

But Silas has only thought of one thing since their meeting, and his obsession is darkening . . .

 

A Bookish Review of 2019

 

While 2019 saw me read the least number of books I’ve ever read, I seemed to make up for that with increased blog activity and lots of literary and bookish events. All in all I think it was a very positive year which bodes well for the one to come. So here’s a quick review of the good bits (though apart from not reading much there really wasn’t any bad bits!).

 

Jill’s Book Cafe Blog

 

My little blog turned 4 in November and continues to go from strength to strength so many thanks to all who drop in, share and generally support my bloggish endeavours. This year I changed the WordPress theme to one which gave a magazine type front page. I wish I’d done this much sooner as it certainly makes the blog look more attractive and encourages browsing so much more than the previous format.

This year I’ve managed 97 posts (not including this one) which attracted 12,432 visitors making 26,701 views which is roughly a 34% increase over last year. While it’s not all about the stats, it’s encouraging to see that more people are visiting and stopping longer.

My most popular post was my Festive Reads 2019.

I’ve made 48 Five on Friday posts and the most popular this year featured author Marjory McGinn (and not forgetting the lovely Wallace).

In November I was amazed and delighted to be announced Best Book Blogger in the inaugural MyVLF blogging awards. In the same week I was notified I’d made it into the  Top 100 Book Blogs in the UK (as per Feedspot).

 

 

 

My Bookish Events 

 

January – The Headline New Voices 2019 – Liverpool

February – Author/Blogger meet up in Stoke

March – Orenda Roadshow – Manchester

June – Author/Blogger meet up in Stoke

June – Northwich Lit Fest Pt1 and Pt 2

July – Harrogate Crime Festival

September – Gladfest 2019

October – Literary Lunch in Knutsford

October – Author/Blogger meet up in Stoke

October – Gina Kirkham Book Launch

October- East Riding festival of Words Crime Day

Round up post – featuring the above

November – RNA, CWA and Historical Novelists Assoc meet up in Birmingham

 

 

Books Read

 

Thanks to my (previously documented problems) with reading and concentration this year has seen me read the least I’ve ever read since I started my reading journals way back in 1990 something. I managed only 30 and you can see a montage of those below. It seemed daft to try and pick a Top Ten when I’ve read so few, but there were 3 that stood out as 5 star reads and I’ve highlighted those as the end.

 

 

My Top 3 Books of the Year

 

3rd place – Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce

 

blood orange

Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise – she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…

Just one more night. Then I’ll end it.

Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle.

I did it. I killed him. I should be locked up.

Alison’s client doesn’t deny that she stabbed her husband – she wants to plead guilty. And yet something about her story is deeply amiss. Saving this woman may be the first step to Alison saving herself.

I’m watching you. I know what you’re doing.

But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything….

See my review here

 

2nd place – The Chemical Detective by Fiona Erskine

 

The Chemical Detective

Dr Jaq Silver. Skier, scientist, international jet-setter, explosives expert. She blows things up to keep people safe. Working on avalanche control in Slovenia, Jaq stumbles across a problem with a consignment of explosives. After raising a complaint with the supplier, a multinational chemical company, her evidence disappears and she is framed for murder. Jaq must find the key to the mystery. But can she uncover the truth before her time?

My thoughts

On the face of it, not normally a book I’d be drawn too but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a pacy, adventure/thriller that grabs you from the start. Jaq Silver is a kick ass heroine, if James Bond and Lara Croft had an adult love child, then I imagine Jaq would fit the bill nicely. She’s an intelligent, older woman with a penchant for young attractive men – sounds like my kind of role model. If you want a gripping, location hopping tale, with an intelligent, well researched contemporary plot, then give this ago. It’s an impressive debut and I’m hoping that it isn’t the only adventure for Jaq Silver.

 

My Book of the Year

 

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

 

The Giver of Stars

The greatest love story is the one you least expect . . .

Alice is stifled, bored, and misunderstood.

So when she meets wealthy and handsome American, Bennett Van Cleve, she is quickly swept off her feet.

Marrying him and moving to America seems like a great adventure – but life as a newlywed in stuffy Baileyville, Kentucky, is not at all what she hoped for.

Until, that is, she responds to a call for volunteers to start a travelling library, surprising herself by saying yes, before her husband can say no . . .

Led by feisty and rebellious Margery O’Hare, this unlikely group of women travel far and wide on their mission to bring books and reading to those that need it, and Alice finally finds the freedom, friendship and love that she’s been looking for.

But not everyone approves of what they are doing, especially her new father-in-law. And when the town turns against them, will their belief in each other and their work be enough?

See my thoughts here

 

So I might have only read 30 but I’ll need to improve on that in the coming year as,  including this month,  I’ve managed to add *whispers* 477 extra titles to my tbr mountain this year (gulp!!).

On that note, I think I’ll take my leave. I just want to re-iterate my thanks for all your support – and stamina if you’re still here!

 

I hope that the coming year is kind to us all and that we all have a healthy, happy and peaceful one. Here’s to 2020 and Happy Reading!!

 

90911595-black-golden-new-year-card-with-happy-new-year-2020

14 comments

    • Thanks Nicki, it wasn’t a difficult choice this year – no doubt helped by the fact that I’ve read sod all. However if I’d read a 100 books it would still likely be number one. Happy 2020 xx

      Like

  1. Terrific post, congrats on all your achievements but especially your positivity and joy (of life, of books, of travel) which shines through your blog. Best wishes for 2020 may it bring you a year filled with wonderful books, happy travelling and good health. Janet x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful post, Jill! I really enjoyed reading about your bookish year and seeing what your favourite books were. I love that you shared how many books you’d acquired over the year and it made me look at my numbers and I acquired 580! Eeek! Still, it means lots of lovely books to look forward to. 🙂 Happy New Year to you! x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy new Year to you too Hayley, hope it’s a good one. Glad you enjoyed the post, you certainly made me feel better about my admission, though you’ve got a few more years on me to get them read! It did make me think I really need to cut down. I know I tend to buy a lot of ebooks when they’re on offer so it’s not a lot of money, but I need to be more selective. Happy reading anyway – you’ve certainly got plenty of choice xx

      Liked by 1 person

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