My bookish May 2020 #BooksBooksBooks

Well another strange month, with many of us still in lockdown. Although there’s a loosening of rules in some areas, I suspect many of us are still reluctant to tempt fate until things are looking more promising. On the book front, things have been much more positive, some great reads, great buys, a lovely gift and fabulous subscription books.

What I’ve Read his Month

 

The Confession

The Confession by Jo Spain

Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear. It looks like Harry’s many sins – corruption, greed, betrayal – have finally caught up with him.

An hour later the intruder, JP Carney, hands himself in, confessing to the assault. The police have a victim, a suspect in custody and an eye-witness account, but Julie remains troubled.

Has Carney’s surrender really been driven by a guilty conscience or is this confession the first calculated move in a deadly game?


The Quaker

The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney

A city torn apart.
It is 1969 and Glasgow has been brought to its knees by a serial killer spreading fear throughout the city. The Quaker has taken three women from the same nightclub and brutally murdered them in the backstreets.

A detective with everything to prove.
Now, six months later, the police are left chasing a ghost, with no new leads and no hope of catching their prey. They call in DI McCormack, a talented young detective from the Highlands. But his arrival is met with anger from a group of officers on the brink of despair.

A killer who hunts in the shadows.
Soon another woman is found murdered in a run-down tenement flat. And McCormack follows a trail of secrets that will change the city – and his life – forever…


In the Sweep of the Bay

In the Sweep of the Bay by Cath Barton

This lyrical, warm-hearted tale explores marriage, love, and longing, set against the majestic backdrop of Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Fells, and the faded splendour of the Midland Hotel.

Ted Marshall meets Rene in the dance halls of Morecambe and they marry during the frail optimism of the 1950s. They adopt the roles expected of man and wife at the time: he the breadwinner at the family ceramics firm, and she the loyal housewife, but as the years go by, they both find themselves wishing for more…

After Ted survives a heart attack, both see it as a new beginning… but can a faded love like theirs ever be rekindled?


 

It's Raining MenIt’s Raining Men by Milly Johnson

A getaway to remember. But is a holiday romance on the cards?

Best friends from work May, Lara and Clare are desperate for some time away. They have each had a rough time of it lately and need some serious R & R, so they set off to a luxurious spa for ten glorious days. But when they arrive at their destination, it seems it is not the place they thought it was. In fact, they appear to have come to entirely the wrong village …

Despite the strange atmosphere, the three friends are determined to make the best of it and have a holiday to remember. But will this be the break they all need? Or will the odd little village with all its secrets bring them all to breaking point?



 

eBooks Bought

 

This Lovely City

This Lovely City by Louise Hare

The drinks are flowing.
The music is playing.
But the party can’t last.

With the Blitz over and London reeling from war, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for help. Fresh off the Empire Windrush, he’s taken a tiny room in south London lodgings, and has fallen in love with the girl next door.

Touring Soho’s music halls by night, pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home – and it’s alive with possibility. Until, one morning, he makes a terrible discovery.

As the local community rallies, fingers of blame are pointed at those who had recently been welcomed with open arms. And, before long, the newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy which threatens to tear the city apart.


The Lost Thumb

The Lost Thumb by Orla Owen

Lara and Luella Jeffreys lead isolated lives until the night they are left alone for the first time, and Luella decides to have some fun.

That evening goes horribly wrong.

After Luella wakes up in hospital, she’s kept prisoner at home with her mother acting as her warden. Lara is sent to school to keep up the pretence that she is fine, her sister is fine, and the world is fine. Except they aren’t. Sensing that something’s wrong, the local storekeeper’s son befriends Lara, but the results of his meddling are deadly…


Once Upon a Mulberry Tree

Once Upon a Mulberry Tree by C L Hoang

As Roger Connors, a widower with no children, ponders whether to pursue aggressive treatment for his cancer, a cryptic note arrives from a long-lost USAF buddy announcing the visit of an acquaintance from Vietnam. The startling news resurrects ghosts of fallen comrades and haunting memories of the great love he once knew.

Shocking revelations from his visitor uncover a missing part of Roger’s life he never dreamed possible. Peeling back one layer at a time, he delves into a decades-old secret in search of answers and traces of a passion unfulfilled.

From the jungles of Vietnam through the minefields of the heart, “Once upon a Mulberry Field” follows one man’s journey to self-discovery, fraught with disillusionment and despair but ultimately redeemed by the power of love.


Broken Greek

Broken Greek by Pete Paphides

When Pete’s parents moved from Cyprus to Birmingham in the 1960s in the hope of a better life, they had no money and only a little bit of English. They opened a fish-and-chip shop in Acocks Green. The Great Western Fish Bar is where Pete learned about coin-operated machines, male banter and Britishness.

Shy and introverted, Pete stopped speaking from age 4 to 7, and found refuge instead in the bittersweet embrace of pop songs, thanks to Top of the Pops and Dial-A-Disc. From Brotherhood of Man to UB40, from ABBA to The Police, music provided the safety net he needed to protect him from the tensions of his home life. It also helped him navigate his way around the challenges surrounding school, friendships and phobias such as visits to the barber, standing near tall buildings and Rod Hull and Emu.

With every passing year, his guilty secret became more horrifying to him: his parents were Greek, but all the things that excited him were British. And the engine of that realisation? ‘Sugar Baby Love’, ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’, ‘Tragedy’, ‘Silly Games’, ‘Going Underground’, ‘Come On Eileen’, and every other irresistibly thrilling chart hit blaring out of the chip shop radio.

Never have the trials and tribulations of growing up and the human need for a sense of belonging been so heart-breakingly and humorously depicted.


Dockland Girls

The Dockland Girls by June Tate

Spring, 1944. Working on an aeroplane production line, Hildy believes she is doing her part for the war effort. But troubles at home make it hard for her to find happiness and independence. Meanwhile, Cora is still reeling from the devastating loss of both her parents in the Blitz. Faced with homelessness and poverty, Cora and her friend, Belle, turn to the dark streets of Southampton to work on the game. They dream of raising enough money for a new beginning and the chance to put their pasts firmly behind them. For all three women, the war creates hardships from which they will only emerge by maintaining strength and, above all, the hope that they can achieve their dreams.


Old Baggage

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

It is 1928. Matilda Simpkin, rooting through a cupboard, comes across a small wooden club – an old possession of hers, unseen for more than a decade.

Mattie is a woman with a thrilling past and a chafingly uneventful present. During the Women’s Suffrage Campaign she was a militant. Jailed five times, she marched, sang, gave speeches, smashed windows and heckled Winston Churchill, and nothing – nothing – since then has had the same depth, the same excitement.

Now in middle age, she is still looking for a fresh mould into which to pour her energies. Giving the wooden club a thoughtful twirl, she is struck by an idea – but what starts as a brilliantly idealistic plan is derailed by a connection with Mattie’s militant past, one which begins to threaten every principle that she stands for.


The Heatwave

Heatwave by Kate Riordan

Elodie was beautiful. Elodie was smart. Elodie was troubled. Elodie is dead.

Sylvie hasn’t been back to her crumbling French family home in years. Not since the death of her eldest daughter Elodie.

Every corner of the old house feels haunted by memories of her – memories she has tried to forget.

But as temperatures rise, and forest fires rage through the French countryside, a long-buried family secret is about to come to light.

Because there’s something Sylvie’s been hiding about what really happened to Elodie that summer.

And it could change everything.


Daisy Jones

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylors Jenkins Reid

Everybody knows Daisy Jones and the Six.

From the moment Daisy walked barefoot on to the stage at the Whisky, she and the band were a sensation. Their sound defined an era. Their albums were on every turntable. They sold out arenas from coast to coast.

This is the story of their incredible rise: the desire, the rivalry – and the music.

Then, on 12 July 1979, Daisy Jones and the Six split up.

Nobody knew why. Until now…


Four Minutes to Save a Life

Four Minutes to Save a Life by Anna Stuart

Supermarket delivery driver Charlie enjoys his new job, because he doesn’t have to spend too long with people, who, he’s found, are nothing but trouble. But when he’s assigned the Hope Row street, he realises there are a lot of lonely people out there – and for some, he’s their only interaction.

The supermarket boss tells Charlie he’s a driver, not a social worker – but Charlie’s tough exterior begins to soften, and he can’t help show a little kindness to the Hope Row residents, helping them find their place in the world once more.

But will his helping hand make everything worse?


The Weight of Small Things

The Weight of Small Things by Julie Lancaster

Nine-year-old Frankie Appleton likes to count gates.

One day she hopes to design the perfect gate – a gate to keep the bad things out.

Little does she know that the bad things have already got in.

Now her mother is dead, and the only other person with a house key has disappeared.

Frankie thinks she knows who it is. But first she has to prove it.

A delicately brutal exploration of what lies behind closed doors, and of the secrets and lies that form the fabric of every family, The Weight of Small Things is as charming as it is chilling.


Taken

#taken by Tony Parsons

#taken in the night

They thought they were kidnapping the mistress of one of London’s most powerful gangsters. But they’ve taken the wrong woman. And crossed the wrong detective.

#taken underground

Detective Max Wolfe’s hunt for the missing woman takes him from New Scotland Yard’s legendary Black Museum to the glittering mansions of career criminals, from sleazy strip joints to secret sex dungeons – and to unspeakably dark deeds committed decades ago.

#taken to the limit

It’s a world of family secrets, sexual jealousy, and a lust for revenge – which might also become Wolfe’s grave…


Reasons to be Cheerful

Reasons to be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe

Teenager Lizzie Vogel has a new job as a dental assistant. This is not as glamorous as it sounds. At least it means mostly getting away from her alcoholic, nymphomaniacal, novel-writing mother. But, if Lizzie thinks being independent means sex with her boyfriend (he prefers bird-watching), strict boundaries (her boss keeps using herloo) or self-respect (surely only actual athletes get fungal foot infections?) she’s still got a lot more growing up to do.

 


Things I Should Have Told You

The Things I Should Have Told You by Carmel Harrington

Every family has a story…

But for the Guinness family a happy ending looks out of reach. Olly and Mae’s marriage is crumbling, their teenage daughter Evie is on a mission to self-destruct and their beloved Pops is dying of cancer. Their once strong family unit is slowly falling apart.

But Pops has one final gift to offer his beloved family – a ray of hope to cling to. As his life’s journey draws to a close, he sends his family on an adventure across Europe in a camper van, guided by his letters, his wisdom and his love.

Because Pops knows that all his family need is time to be together, to find their love for each other and to find their way back home…


Wintering

Wintering by Katherine May

Wintering is a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsiderHowever it arrives, wintering is usually involuntary, lonely and deeply painful.

In Wintering, Katherine May recounts her own year-long journey through winter, sparked by a sudden illness in her family that plunged her into a time of uncertainty and seclusion. When life felt at is most frozen, she managed to find strength and inspiration from the incredible wintering experiences of others as well as from the remarkable transformations that nature makes to survive the cold.

This beautiful, perspective-shifting memoir teaches us to draw from the healing powers of the natural world and to embrace the winters of our own lives.


Summer in Provence

Summer in Provence by Lucy Coleman

When married couple Fern and Aiden have a windfall, their reactions could not be more different. While Fern is content to pay off their mortgage and build a nest egg before starting a family, her husband is set on traveling the world.

Fern’s not much of a back-packer so, before she knows it, the idea of a ‘marriage gap year’ takes shape. And, as Aiden heads off to the wilds of Australia, Fern chooses the more restful Provence for her year out.

Set amidst the glorious French scenery, Château de Vernon offers a retreat from the hustle and bustle of normal life, and Fern agrees to help out in return for painting lessons from the owner – renowned, but rather troubled, painter Nico.

As their year unfolds in very different ways, will the time apart transform their marriage, or will it drive Fern and Aiden even further apart…


 

Purchases from UK Indie’s & self published authors

 

settlementSettlement by Anne Stormont

Rowan Russell Publishing

Can love truly heal old wounds? Can the past ever be put peacefully to rest?
If you like a complex, grown-up romance with lots of raw emotion, dramatic and exotic settings, all mixed in with some international politics and laced with elements of a crime thriller, then this is the book for you.
Falling in love is the easy bit. Happy ever after requires work, commitment and honesty.
She wants him to be her friend and lover. He wants her as his wife. Can a compromise be reached? Or are things truly over between them?
When former Edinburgh policeman Jack Baxter met crofter and author Rachel Campbell at her home on the Scottish island of Skye, they fell in love. It was a second chance at happiness for them both.
But after Jack proposes marriage, it becomes clear they want different things.
Then, as Rachel prepares to return to the Middle East to work on a peacemaking project that’s close to her heart, and as Jack’s past catches up with him, it seems their relationship is doomed.
Can Rachel compromise on her need to maintain her hard-won independence?
Can Jack survive the life-threatening situation in which he finds himself?
Will they get the chance to put things right between them?


The Corsican Widow

The Corsican Widow by Vanessa Couchman

A strict island society. A forbidden love. The two are on a collision course.

Corsica, 1755. Valeria Peretti is destined for an arranged marriage with a prosperous older man. A quiet life beckons, but a prophecy spells mortal danger ahead for Valeria.

Without friends in a hostile village, Valeria turns to her only ally. But when she is unjustly accused of a serious crime, she realises that a secret enemy wants her dead.

While Corsica fights to drive its Genoese rulers from the island’s shores, can Valeria win her own battles to save her life?

A tale of passion, injustice and revenge in the Corsican mountains and the French port of Marseille.


The House Party

The House Party by Mary Grand

Someone is about to die… Someone is about to lie…

At the intimate house-warming party for her glorious ‘grand design’, Kathleen confides in her best friend Beth that she is terrified of one of their close friends, but daren’t reveal which one. The guests are a tight-knit group, but Kathleen is convinced one of them is dangerous.

The next day Kathleen’s body is found at the foot of a cliff and Beth must face the sickening truth that she may have been killed by one of their trusted friends. With little help from the police, Beth’s decides to seek answers.

All the friends have secrets they are desperate to hide, but only one of them is ready to kill to keep theirs safe…


Cross Purpose

Cross Purpose by Claire MacLeary

Longlisted for the 2017 McIlvanney Award for Scottish Crime Book of the Year

Two Women, One Quest, Grave Consequences.

When Maggie Laird’s disgraced ex-cop husband suddenly dies, her humdrum suburban life is turned upside down. With the bills mounting, she takes on his struggling detective agency, enlisting the help of neighbour ‘Big Wilma’. And so an unlikely partnership is born.

But the discovery of a crudely mutilated body soon raises the stakes… and Maggie and Wilma are drawn into an unknown world of Aberdeen’s sink estates, clandestine childminding and dodgy dealers.

Cross Purpose is surprising, gritty, sometimes darkly humorous – a tale combining police corruption, gangs and murder with a paean to friendship, loyalty and how ‘women of a certain age’ can beat the odds.


How Not To Be A Loser

How Not to be a Loser by Beth Moran

Amy Piper is a loser. She’s lost her confidence, her mojo and her way.

But one thing she has never lost is her total love for her thirteen-year-old son Joey, and for his sake she knows it’s time for a change. But first she has to be brave enough to leave the house…

What she needs are friends and an adventure. And when she joins a running group of women who call themselves The Larks, she finds both. Not to mention their inspiring (and rather handsome) coach, Nathan.

Once upon a time Amy was a winner – at life, at sport and in love. Now, with every ounce of strength she has left, she is determined to reclaim the life she had, for herself and for Joey. And who knows, she might just be a winner again – at life, sport, and love, if she looks in the right places…


eggs_thumbnail

Few Eggs and No Oranges by Vere Hodgson

Vere Hodgson worked for a Notting Hill Gate charity during the Second World War ; being sparky and unflappable, she was not going to let Hitler make a difference to her life, but the beginning of the Blitz did, which is why she began her published diaries on 25 June 1940: ‘Last night at about 1 a.m. we had the first air raid of the war on London. My room is just opposite the police station, so I got the full benefit of the sirens. It made me leap out of bed…’

The war continued for five more years, but Vere’s comments on her work, friends, what was happening to London and the news (‘We hold our breath over Crete’, ‘There is to be a new system of Warning’) combine to make Few Eggs and No Oranges unusually readable. It is a long – 600 page – book but a deeply engrossing one.


Shadows (Llys y Garn Book 1)

Shadows by Thorne Moore

Kate Lawrence can sense the shadow of violent death, past and present.

In her struggle to cope with her unwelcome gift, she has frozen people out of her life.

Her marriage is on the rocks, her career is in chaos and she urgently needs to get a grip.

So she decides to start again, by joining her effervescent cousin Sylvia and partner Michael in their mission to restore and revitalise Llys y Garn, an old mansion in the wilds of North Pembrokeshire.

It is certainly a new start, as she takes on Sylvia’s grandiose schemes, but it brings Kate to a place that is thick with the shadows of past deaths.

The house and grounds are full of mysteries that only she can sense, but she is determined to face them down – so determined that she fails to notice that ancient energies are not the only shadows threatening the seemingly idyllic world of Llys y Garn.

The happy equilibrium is disrupted by the arrival of Sylvia’s sadistic and manipulative son, Christian – but just how dangerous is he?

Then, once more, Kate senses that a violent death has occurred…


Dreaming of Florence

Dreaming of Florence by T A Williams 

Fresh pasta, red wine, fine art… and love? Find enchantment this year in the magical city of Florence

When Debbie Waterson’s bicycle crashes into handsome doctor Pierluigi, she wonders if her luck has changed. Determinedly single after ending a long relationship, at last, a man worth bumping into!

Inspired to visit Florence, she soon runs headlong into that old foe: reality. But is Pierluigi the man of her dreams? Then there’s her booze obsessed boss, his forbidding secretary and her noisy inconsiderate neighbours. But could her luck be about to change? Will she find love after all?


Book Subscriptions

 

In the Sweep of the BayIn the Sweep of the Bay by Cath Barton

Louise Walters Books

This lyrical, warm-hearted tale explores marriage, love, and longing, set against the majestic backdrop of Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Fells, and the faded splendour of the Midland Hotel.

Ted Marshall meets Rene in the dance halls of Morecambe and they marry during the frail optimism of the 1950s. They adopt the roles expected of man and wife at the time: he the breadwinner at the family ceramics firm, and she the loyal housewife, but as the years go by, they both find themselves wishing for more…

After Ted survives a heart attack, both see it as a new beginning… but can a faded love like theirs ever be rekindled?


Beekeeper

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

NB Magazine subscription

In the midst of war, he found love
In the midst of darkness, he found courage
In the midst of tragedy, he found hope

The Beekeeper of Aleppo

What will you find from his story?

Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo – until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape.

As Nuri and Afra travel through a broken world, they must confront not only the pain of their own unspeakable loss, but dangers that would overwhelm the bravest of souls. Above all – and perhaps this is the hardest thing they face – they must journey to find each other again.

Moving, powerful, compassionate and beautifully written, The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit. Told with deceptive simplicity, it is the kind of book that reminds us of the power of storytelling.


Others

Others edited by Charles Fernyhough

Unbound Reading Club

It doesn’t take much familiarity with the news to see that the world has become a more hate-filled place. In Others, a group of writers explore the power of words to help us to see the world as others see it, and to reveal some of the strangeness of our own selves.

Through stories, poems, memoirs and essays, we look at otherness in a variety of its forms, from the dividing lines of politics and the anonymising forces of city life, through the disputed identities of disability, gender and neurodiversity, to the catastrophic imbalances of power that stands in the way of social equality.

Whether the theme is a casual act of racism or an everyday interaction with someone whose experience seems impossible to imagine, the collection challenges us to recognise our own otherness to those we would set apart as different.

Profits from this book will be donated to Stop Hate UK, which works to raise awareness of hate crime and encourage its reporting, and Refugee Action, which provides advice and support to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.

Contributors include: Leila Aboulela, Gillian Allnutt, Damian Barr, Noam Chomsky, Rishi Dastidar, Peter Ho Davies, Louise Doughty, Salena Godden, Colin Grant, Sam Guglani, Matt Haig, Aamer Hussein, Anjali Joseph, A. L. Kennedy, Joanne Limburg, Rachel Mann, Tiffany Murray, Sara Nović, Edward Platt, Alex Preston, Tom Shakespeare, Kamila Shamsie, Will Storr, Preti Taneja and Marina Warner.


Book Gifts & Prizes

 

How Greek is your Love

How Greek is Your Love by Marjory McGinn

This sequel to A Saint For The Summer (Book 2 in the Bronte in Greece series), is a page-turning mystery drama full of romance and humour. Expat Bronte McKnight is in the early days of her love affair with charismatic doctor Leonidas Papachristou. But as Bronte tries to live and love like a Greek, the economic crisis spawns an unlikely predator in the village. While she begins to question her sunny existence in Greece, an old love from Leonidas’s past also makes a troubling appearance.

Now working as a freelance journalist, when Bronte is offered an interview with a famous novelist, and part-time expat, it seems serendipitous. But the encounter becomes a puzzle that takes her deep into the wild Mani region of the southern Peloponnese, for which she enlists the help of her maverick father Angus, and the newest love of her life, Zeffy, the heroic rescue dog.

The challenges Bronte faces bring dramatic as well as humorous outcomes as she tries to find a foothold in her Greek paradise. But can she succeed?

Many thanks to Marjory for gifting this to me, very much appreciated.


 

Many thanks to Sharon Booth for picking me out in her monthly newsletter draw – my prize was a lovely £15 Amazon Gift Voucher – wonder what I’ll spend that on?

Congratulations (Floral)

 


NetGalley

 

I’ve been avoiding NetGalley as my reviewing is on the back burner. However with a few mini reviews appearing this month I couldn’t resist the offer of a new book by Lissa Evans. It’s a sequel to Crooked Heart which I absolutely loved.

 

V for VictoryV for Victory by Lissa Evans

It’s late 1944. Hitler’s rockets are slamming down on London with vicious regularity and it’s the coldest winter in living memory. Allied victory is on its way, but it’s bloody well dragging its feet.

In a large house next to Hampstead Heath, Vee Sedge is just about scraping by, with a herd of lodgers to feed, and her young charge Noel ( almost fifteen ) to clothe and educate. When she witnesses a road accident and finds herself in court, the repercussions are both unexpectedly marvellous and potentially disastrous – disastrous because Vee is not actually the person she’s pretending to be, and neither is Noel.

The end of the war won’t just mean peace, but discovery…



 

Well that was my lovely month, how was yours?

Happy Reading!!

 

 

 

16 comments

  1. Thank you for giving many more books to add to my want to read list! I’m not that much of a reader where thrillers are concerned, but I’m hooked by the storylines of the thrillers you’ve included here. Looks like I’m going to be saying hello again to sleepless nights and staying up till morning just to find out what happens next!

    Liked by 1 person

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