My Bookish March 2020

Well what a month this has been. It started quite normally with one of my regular blogger meet ups and as the month wore on the reality began to dawn, that events like that would be a thing of the past for the foreseeable. I had several bookish events planned for later in the month, but along with so many other things (including my trip to Italy) they were cancelled. As we are all getting used to a new normal it appears that we are turning to books, as we so often do, as a source of diversion and solace. As a result my aim of reducing my acquisitions has gone by the board, largely due to some amazing offers and freebies made as an exceedingly appreciated gesture during these unsettled times.

E Book purchases (total spent £13.84)

 

Cold as the GraveCold as the Grave by James Oswald

Her mummified body is hidden in the dark corner of a basement room, a room which seems to have been left untouched for decades. A room which feels as cold as the grave.

As a rowdy demonstration makes its slow and vocal way along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, Detective Chief Inspector Tony McLean’s team are on stand-by for any trouble. The newly promoted McLean is distracted, inexplicably drawn to a dead-end mews street… and a door, slightly ajar, which leads to this poor girl’s final resting place.

But how long has she been there, in her sleep of death? The answers are far from what McLean or anyone else could expect. The truth far more chilling than a simple cold case…

 

 

Stones of the MadonnaStones of the Madonna by Jan Mazzoni

It’s 1939 and Lily and her American doctor husband James have come to the Amalfi coast in southern Italy in search of a new start. And how could they not be happy in a place where the scenery is stunning, the locals generous and welcoming, where the air is filled with the fragrance of jasmine and the laughter of children?

But escaping the past isn’t so easy.

In the sultry silence of one of the hottest summers for years Lily discovers things about herself that she never knew. She discovers things about James too, things she’d sooner not know. And though the chill and looming shadow of war edges closer and closer, ultimately it is not the war that poses the biggest threat to Lily’s new found contentment…

 

 

Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

 

 

Don't Look Behind YouDon’t Look Behind You by Mel Sherratt

She got into bed but sleep didn’t come easily. Every creak in the house made her alert. She was waiting for him to come and get her.

The small city of Stockleigh is in shock as three women are brutally attacked within days of each other. Are they random acts of violence or is there a link between the victims? For Detective Eden Berrisford, it’s her most chilling case yet.

The investigation leads Eden to cross paths with Carla, a woman trying to rebuild her life after her marriage to a cruel and abusive man ended in unimaginable tragedy. Her husband Ryan was imprisoned for his crimes but, now he’s out and coming for her.

As Eden starts to close in on the attacker, she also puts herself in grave danger. Can she stop him before he strikes again? And can Carla, terrified for her life, save herself – before the past wreaks a terrible revenge?

 

 

I wanted you to knowI Wanted You to Know by Laura Pearson

Dear Edie, I wanted you to know so many things. I wanted to tell you them in person, as you grew. But it wasn’t to be.

Jess never imagined she’d be navigating single motherhood, let alone while facing breast cancer. A life that should be just beginning is interrupted by worried looks, heavy conversations, and the possibility of leaving her daughter to grow up without her.

Propelled by a ticking clock, Jess knows what she has to do: tell her daughter everything. How to love, how to lose, how to forgive, and, most importantly, how to live when you never know how long you have.

From best-selling author Laura Pearson comes her most devastating book yet. Honest, heart-wrenching, and emotionally raw, I Wanted You To Know is a true love letter to life: to all its heartache and beauty, to the people we have and lose, to the memories and moments that define us.

 

 

SearchSearch by D K Bohlman

FIND MY CHILDREN …

Calum Neuman, a private investigator living on Scotland’s remote west coast, has his world turned inside out by a new client.

Glenda Muir, a tormented hypnotherapist, needs to find her estranged twin sons and asks Neuman to locate them.

During a midsummer witching ceremony in the woods, a sinister event shatters Neuman’s normally placid life … and he starts to feel out of his depth.

As the frenzied search gathers pace, doubts creep in as to whether the twins actually exist … and Calum becomes prey as a killer joins his trail.

 

 

The Lost Lights of St KildaThe Lost Lights of St Kilda by Elisabeth Gifford

1927: When Fred Lawson takes a summer job on St Kilda, little does he realise that he has joined the last community to ever live on that beautiful, isolated island. Only three years later, St Kilda will be evacuated, the islanders near dead from starvation. But for Fred, memories of that summer – and the island woman, Chrissie, with whom he falls in love – will never leave him.

1940: Fred has been captured behind enemy lines in France and finds himself in a prisoner-of-war camp. Beaten and exhausted, his thoughts return to the island of his youth and the woman he loved and lost. When Fred makes his daring escape, prompting a desperate journey across occupied territory, he is sustained by one thought only: finding his way back to Chrissie.

The Lost Lights of St Kilda is a sweeping love story that crosses oceans and decades. It is a moving and deeply vivid portrait of two lovers, a desolate island and the extraordinary power of hope in the face of darkness.

 

 

6 Caledon Street6 Caledon Street by D Wells

In an attempt to escape her painful past Sarah Miller moves into a beautifully restored Edwardian property in Caledon Street. Soon her life intermingles with not only her concert pianist neighbour, and her landlord, but also upon the discovery of some dusty journals written by an original occupant of the house. Recognising parallels in her life and the young teenage girl’s among the crisp pages of the journal, Sarah is faced with the choice to overcome her past, or allow it to hinder her future.

Izzy, Sarah’s best friend, is expecting her second child and unsure what her place in society really is. The challenges of being a mother and the pressure to have a thriving career, leave Izzy struggling to understand her purpose in life.

Tessa, a blast from Sarah’s past, is also dealing with her own loss and grief. Their shared pain only highlights that neither woman has truly moved on and both are faced with difficult decisions.

PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED UNDER THE PEN NAME: D. VAN DE MERWE

 

 

Love in a Tuscan KitchenLove in a Tuscan Kitchen by Sheryl Ness

Chocolate cake makes sweet dreams come true.

In a real-life fairy tale, author Sheryl Ness shares how she fell in love with Vincenzo, a chef in a quaint Tuscan kitchen, over his decadent hot chocolate cake.

This enchanting memoir will transport you to the cobblestone streets, lush hillsides dotted with grapevines and olive trees, and unique characters that create the backdrop for Sheryl’s Italian love story.

Love in a Tuscan Kitchen is sprinkled with traditional recipes she collected along the way and flavored with rich accounts of how her dreams were fulfilled many times over while living in a picturesque village in Chianti.

Raise a toast and taste pure joy as Sheryl opens her heart to love, and in turn finds herself on a remarkable journey of discovery through the people, traditions, and customs of Italy as the blond Americana fell in love with the chef with twinkling eyes.

 

 

Grand DepartThe Grand Depart by Susan Parry

As the Yorkshire Grand Départ approaches, the roads through Wensleydale and Swaledale are increasingly popular with cyclists. But when Anna Rycroft disappears on the Etape du Dales route without trace and a serious accident occurs on Buttertubs Pass, suspicions are raised. Is it a coincidence or is there a more sinister cause in the run up to the Tour de France?

Meanwhile young crime researcher, Ruby, is monitoring the activities of the ‘Campaign Against the Tour’ which threatens to disrupt this prestigious race and Mills struggles to retain her job at the university when her forensic work brings her into conflict with an eminent colleague.

 

 

he Things You Do for LoveThe Things You Do for Love by Rachel Crowther

An elite surgeon with a brilliant but philandering husband, Flora Macintyre has always defined herself by her success in juggling her career and her marriage. Until, all at once, she finds herself with neither.

Retired and widowed in the space of a few months, Flora is left untethered. In a moment of madness, she realises there’s nothing to stop her running away to France.

But back home her two daughters – the family she’s always loved, but never had the time to nurture – are struggling. Lou is balancing pregnancy with a crumbling relationship, while her younger sister, Kitty, begins to realise she may have to choose between love and her growing passion for music.

And even as the family try to pull together, one dark secret could still tear them all apart…

 

 

Love, Life and LemonsLove, Life and Lemons by Jane Hugen-Tobler

1927
The ancient lemon tree sits resplendent on a farm in Italy. It holds the secrets of former kings and saints and has been protected through time by the Hugen-Toblers.
The farming family’s future is in the balance when tragic events unfold, and the tree is threatened.
Corrado’s passion is cooking. When he leaves Italy for London no one knows the unimaginable effect it will have on the tree and his family…
In London, Margaret is trapped in a loveless marriage with an older man who has a dark secret. He constantly buys her shoes but cannot make love to her.
Shifting between drab, grey England and vibrant, sunny Italy, Margaret and Corrado find themselves embarking on life changing journeys; little do they know how inconceivably important it will become when their lives collide and cultures clash.
A story of family, food, love and lemons. Can new love find a way through adversity and ultimately save the tree?

 

 

From Moulin Rouge to Gaudi's CityFrom Moulin Rouge to Gaudi’s City by E J Bauer

When Elizabeth receives a diagnosis of breast cancer, she reassesses her life’s to-do list. Having always suppressed her travel longings, she opens her neglected ‘someday’ ledger and takes a much closer look at the contents. After an opportune invitation from a friend to meet in Paris, and her sister’s enthusiastic agreement to be part of the adventure, a plan begins to take shape. Join the Australian trio as they savour the sights of France and Spain, where no trip is complete without a morsel of local cuisine and a sip of something sparkling.

 

 

The Orphan ThiefThe Orphan Thief by Glynis Peters

When all seems lost…

As Hitler’s bombs rain down on a battered and beleaguered Britain, Ruby Shadwell is dealt the most devastating blow – her entire family lost during the Coventry Blitz.

Hope still survives…

Alone and with the city in chaos, Ruby is determined to survive this war and rebuild her life. And a chance encounter with street urchin Tommy gives Ruby just the chance she needs.

And love will overcome…

Because Tommy brings with him Canadian Sergeant Jean-Paul Clayton. Jean-Paul is drawn to Ruby and wants to help her, but Ruby cannot bear another loss. Can love bloom amidst the ruins? Or will the war take Ruby’s last chance at happiness too?

 

 

The American AgentThe American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear

September, 1940. When an American war correspondent’s murder is concealed by British authorities, Maisie Dobbs agrees to work alongside an agent of the US Department of Justice to discover the truth.

With German bombs raining down on London, Maisie is torn between the demands of solving this dangerous case and the need to protect a young evacuee. The stakes are raised when she faces the possibility of losing her dearest friend – and that she might be falling in love again.

 

 

Halsey StreetHalsey Street by Naima Coster

Penelope Grand has scrapped her failed career as an artist in Pittsburgh and moved back to Brooklyn to keep an eye on her ailing father. She’s accepted that her future won’t be what she’d dreamed, but now, as gentrification has completely reshaped her old neighborhood, even her past is unrecognizable. Old haunts have been razed, and wealthy white strangers have replaced every familiar face in Bed-Stuy. Even her mother, Mirella, has abandoned the family to reclaim her roots in the Dominican Republic. That took courage. It’s also unforgivable.

When Penelope moves into the attic apartment of the affluent Harpers, she thinks she’s found a semblance of family—and maybe even love. But her world is upended again when she receives a postcard from Mirella asking for reconciliation. As old wounds are reopened, and secrets revealed, a journey across an ocean of sacrifice and self-discovery begins.

An engrossing debut, Halsey Street shifts between the perspectives of these two captivating, troubled women. Mirella has one last chance to win back the heart of the daughter she’d lost long before leaving New York, and for Penelope, it’s time to break free of the hold of the past and start navigating her own life.

 

 

The Victory GardenThe Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

As the Great War continues to take its toll, headstrong twenty-one-year-old Emily Bryce is determined to contribute to the war effort. She is convinced by a cheeky and handsome Australian pilot that she can do more, and it is not long before she falls in love with him and accepts his proposal of marriage.

When he is sent back to the front, Emily volunteers as a “land girl,” tending to the neglected grounds of a large Devonshire estate. It’s here that Emily discovers the long-forgotten journals of a medicine woman who devoted her life to her herbal garden. The journals inspire Emily, and in the wake of devastating news, they are her saving grace. Emily’s lover has not only died a hero but has left her terrified—and with child. Since no one knows that Emily was never married, she adopts the charade of a war widow.

As Emily learns more about the volatile power of healing with herbs, the found journals will bring her to the brink of disaster, but may open a path to her destiny.

 

 

SovereignSovereign (Shardlake 3) by C J Sansom

Autumn, 1541: King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Progress to the North to attend an extravagant submission of his rebellious subjects in York.

Already in the city are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak. As well as assisting with legal work processing petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a special mission for the Archbishop Cranmer – to ensure the welfare of an important but dangerous conspirator being returned to London for interrogation.

But the murder of a local glazier involves Shardlake in deeper mysteries, connected not only to the prisoner in York Castle but to the royal family itself. And when Shardlake and Barak stumble upon a cache of secret papers which could threaten the Tudor throne, a chain of events unfolds that will lead to Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age . . .

 

 

RevelationRevelation (Shardlake 4) by C J Sansom

England, 1543: King Henry VIII is wooing Lady Catherine Parr, whom he wants for his sixth wife. But this time the object of his affections is resisting. Archbishop Cranmer and the embattled Protestant faction at court are watching keenly, for Lady Catherine is known to have reformist sympathies.

Matthew Shardlake, meanwhile, is working on the case of a teenage boy, a religious maniac locked in the Bedlam hospital for the insane. Should he be released to his parents, when his terrifying actions could lead to him being burned as a heretic?

When an old friend is horrifically murdered Shardlake promises his widow, for whom he has long had complicated feelings, to bring the killer to justice. His search leads him to both Cranmer and Catherine Parr –and with the dark prophecies of the Book of Revelation.

As London’s Bishop Bonner prepares a purge of Protestants, Shardlake, together with his assistant, Jack Barak, and his friend, Guy Malton, follows the trail of a series of horrific murders that shake them to the core, and which are already bringing frenzied talk of witchcraft and a demonic possession – for what else would the Tudor mind make of a serial killer . . .?

 

 

LamentationLamentation (Shardlake 6) by C J Sansom

England, 1546: King Henry VIII is slowly, painfully dying. His Protestant and Catholic councillors are engaged in a final and decisive power struggle; whoever wins will control the government of Henry’s successor, eight-year-old Prince Edward. As heretics are hunted across London, and the radical Protestant Anne Askew is burned at the stake, the Catholic party focus their attack on Henry’s sixth wife, Matthew Shardlake’s old mentor, Queen Catherine Parr.

Shardlake, still haunted by events aboard the warship Mary Rose the year before, is working on the Cotterstoke Will case, a savage dispute between rival siblings. Then, unexpectedly, he is summoned to Whitehall Palace and asked for help by his old patron, the now beleaguered and desperate Queen.

For Catherine Parr has a secret. She has written a confessional book, Lamentation of a Sinner, so radically Protestant that if it came to the King’s attention it could bring both her and her sympathizers crashing down. But, although the book was kept secret and hidden inside a locked chest in the Queen’s private chamber, it has – inexplicably – vanished. Only one page has been found, clutched in the hand of a murdered London printer.

Shardlake’s investigations take him on a trail that begins among the backstreet printshops of London but leads him and Jack Barak into the dark and labyrinthine world of the politics of the royal court; a world he had sworn never to enter again. Loyalty to the Queen will drive him into a swirl of intrigue inside Whitehall Palace, where Catholic enemies and Protestant friends can be equally dangerous, and the political opportunists, who will follow the wind wherever it blows, more dangerous than either.

The theft of Queen Catherine’s book proves to be connected to the terrible death of Anne Askew, while his involvement with the Cotterstoke litigants threatens to bring Shardlake himself to the stake.

 

 

The ButchersThe Butchers by Ruth Gilligan

A photograph is hung on a gallery wall for the very first time since it was taken two decades before. It shows a slaughter house in rural Ireland, a painting of the Virgin Mary on the wall, a meat hook suspended from the ceiling – and, from its sharp point, the lifeless body of a man hanging by his feet.

The story of who he is and how he got there casts back into Irish folklore, of widows cursing the land and of the men who slaughter its cattle by hand. But modern Ireland is distrustful of ancient traditions, and as the BSE crisis in England presents get-rich opportunities in Ireland, few care about The Butchers, the eight men who roam the country, slaughtering the cows of those who still have faith in the old ways. Few care, that is, except for Fionn, the husband of a dying woman who still believes; their son Davey, who has fallen in love with the youngest of the Butchers; Gra, the lonely wife of one of the eight; and her 12-year-old daughter, Una, a girl who will grow up to carry a knife like her father, and who will be the one finally to avenge the man in the photograph.

 

 

Prize Wins

 

The Day that Changed EverythingThe Day that Changed Everything by Catherine Miller

(Lovely signed copy – with added chocolate!)

When you lose the love of your life, how do you find yourself again?

For Tabitha, the day that changed everything started like any other.

She woke up, slid her feet into fluffy slippers, wrapped herself in a dressing gown and tiptoed out of her bedroom, leaving her husband Andy sleeping. Downstairs, she boiled the kettle and enjoyed a cup of tea as the sun rose.

Upstairs, Andy’s alarm sounded, and Tabitha took him a freshly brewed coffee, like every other morning. Except today, the incessant beeping rang out and her husband hadn’t stirred. She called his name, she nudged his shoulder. But Andy wouldn’t wake up.

Three years later Tabitha is trying her hardest to get by in the shadow of her grief. She may have lost the love of her life but she won’t give up on the family they dreamed of. Fostering troublesome teenage girls and a newborn baby is a chance to piece together her broken heart.

But being a mother isn’t easy, and neither is healing the heartache she carries around. After losing everything, could saving these three children help Tabitha save herself too?

Many thanks to Catherine Miller (@katylittlelady) for offering the prize.

 

Indie Books 

 

Sunset SongSunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon (Introduced by Nicola Sturgeon)

Faced with a choice between a harsh farming life and the world of books and learning, Chris Guthrie chooses to remain in her rural community, bound by her intense love of the land.

But everything changes with the arrival of the First World War and Chris finds her land altered beyond recognition. In lyrical prose, Sunset Song evokes village life in the early twentieth century and offers a powerful portrait of a land and people in turmoil. This stunning new edition of one of the most cherished Scottish novels of the twentieth century includes a specially commissioned introduction by Nicola Sturgeon, in which she writes with heartfelt passion of her love for what she regards as ‘one of the finest literary accomplishments Scotland has ever known . . . In no small way, I owe my love of literature to Sunset Song’.

 

 

What I Read This Month

 

 

Still WatersStill Waters by David Mark

Thirty years ago, three school-friends took a walk in the woods. Only two came back – their memories a jumble of hallucinations and twisted visions.

There is a chilling reason why nobody looked for the missing girl.

Now, disgraced investigator ROWAN BLAKE will discover that in the remote and desolate Wasdale Valley, nothing stays buried forever.

Murder and suspense are entwined with supernatural overtones and blistering social commentary in this fast-paced whodunit set in the rugged surroundings of England’s Lake District

 

 

The Olive Garden Christmas ChoirThe Olive Garden Christmas Choir by Leah Fleming

Audiobook borrowed via the library

They have come to Santaniki for different reasons. Some with a dream of happiness. Some running from sadness and failure. But all of them have fallen in love with this most beautiful of Greek islands.

When bossy retired bookseller, Ariadne Blunt, suggests that the English residents form a choir, she did not expect it would unleash quite so much drama. Secrets surface, old rivalries spring up, new friendships are formed and passions are rekindled. In this bittersweet tale of love and loss, people quite literally find their voices – showing that life can begin again when you let go of the past.

 

 

Little beautyLittle Beauty by Alison Jameson

1975: Laura Quinn has spent her life on the remote and beautiful Inis Miol Mor – Whale Island– off the west coast of Ireland. After the death of her parents, and faced with the continuing reluctance of her lover, Martin, to marry her, she realizes she needs to leave the island for her life really to begin.

She accepts a job as a housekeeper with a wealthy couple on the mainland. But a year later, Laura is back, and this time she is not alone. She has at last found the love of her life: a baby son named Matthew. But what sort of life can an unmarried mother have on a remote Irish island in the 1970s? In this complex situation is revealed a picture of a tightly knit community where Laura inevitably comes under pressure to conform to the rules of society.

 

Old BonesOld Bones by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

A young couple discover human remains buried in the garden of their new house: could this be the resting place of 14-year-old Amanda Knight, who disappeared from the same garden two decades before, and was never seen again?

The problem comes almost as a relief to DCI Slider, still suffering from the fallout of his previous case. He is not popular with the Powers That Be, and his immediate boss, Detective Superintendent Porson, reckons that at least this little puzzle will keep Slider out of trouble. After all, with a murder twenty years in the past, this is the coldest of cold cases. Most of the suspects and principal players are now dead too, and all passion is long spent … Or is it?

March’s Bookish Event

 

Another author/blogger meet up in Stoke on Trent this month, can’t believe it was 5 months since the last one. The event is organised by blogging friends Kerry Parsons and Steph Lawrence and Kerry has produced a great write up here . It’s a lovely opportunity to catch up with people who now feel like old friends,  and with others who are friends in the making. This meet up gave me the opportunity to finally say hello in person to Simon Michael (after several years of contact via Twitter and Facebook).

 

IMG_2732
Me with Simon Michael

 

I also got the chance to overcome my fan girl awe to speak to Mel Sherratt.

 

IMG_2727
? (sorry), Caroline England, Mel Sherratt, Roz Watkins

 

There has been a tendency to be more authors than bloggers – so come on bloggers think about joining us. It’s a great chance for everyone to network, to discuss what you’ve been reading/writing or even just watching on the TV. It’s fun and very informal so why not come along to the next one (June 13th –  Clayhanger bar, at The North Stafford Hotel (directly opposite Stoke-on-Trent station). This of course may well be cancelled but we live in hope.

 

 

Pic 1 – Carol England, Simon Michael, Esther

Pic 2 – Esther Chilton, Graeme Cumming, John Pye, Simon Michael

Pic 3 – Stephanie Lawrence, Mel Sherratt, Mick Williams, Kerry Parsons

Pic 3 – Esther Chilton

 

So that was March, memorable for all the wrong reasons. Maybe by next month lockdown will either seem less of a culture shock or we’ll all be going stir crazy. Do whatever you need to do to get through it (providing it’s legal!). Take care and stay safe and well.

Happy Reading !!

 

17 comments

  1. Looks like a lot of interesting reading in your new virtual pile of books – at least you’ll have time to read them just now by the look of it! 😦

    Like

    • I’m actually still working so as yet no more time than I had before, apart from missing out on the none existent bookish events. I’m hoping the Easter break might see some reading, though I’m trying to clear some of my physical books first – I need the shelf space!

      Like

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