My Bookish Month – August 2020 #BooksBooksBooks

Well as you can see from the list below I’ve been extremely frugal again (not!) with my book purchases. The only saving grace is that most were in the Kindle sale so it didn’t make much of a dint in my bank balance.

I’m well aware that I’ve already got too many to read and the likelihood of getting around to reading these and others are slim, but hey ho. The knowledge of having them makes me happy, I can thankfully afford it and it’s not harming anybody.

I have to say I was exceedingly happy to see Christopher Eccleston in the sale, as someone who was an avid watcher of Our Friends in the North, I’ve always like ‘our’ Chris and his latest role in The ‘A’ Word as Maurice is just perfection. I’ve heard him interviewed on a number of occasions and I love his northern honesty, and some might say bluntness – all traits I can readily identify with! But underneath there’s a warmth and vulnerability so I will make sure I read that one.

So here we go with this month’s assortment.

Books Bought

I Love the bones of you

I Love the Bones of You by Christopher Eccleston

Be it as Nicky Hutchinson in Our Friends In The North, Maurice in The A Word, or his reinvention of Doctor Who, one man, in life and death, has accompanied Christopher Eccleston every step of the way – his father Ronnie. In I Love The Bones Of You, Eccleston unveils a vivid portrait of a relationship that has shaped his entire career trajectory, mirroring and defining his own highs and lows, from stage and screen triumph to breakdown, anorexia, self-doubt, and a deep belief in the basic principles of access and equality denied to generations. The actor reveals how his background in Salford, and vision of a person, like millions, denied their true potential, shaped his desire to make drama forever entwined with the marginalised, the oppressed, and the outsider.

Movingly, and in scenes sadly familiar to increasing numbers, Eccleston also describes how the tightening grip of dementia on his father slowly blinded him to his son’s existence, forcing a new and final chapter in their connection, and how ‘Ronnie Ecc’ still walks alongside him today. Told with trademark honesty and openness, I Love The Bones Of Youis a celebration of those on whom the spotlight so rarely shines, as told by a man who found his voice in its glare. A love letter to one man, and a paean to many.

‘My father was an “ordinary man”, which of course means he was extraordinary. I aim to capture him and his impact on my life and career.’  – Christopher Eccleston


all that is buried

All That is Buried by Robert Scragg

A parent’s worst fear is realised when seven-year-old Libby Hallforth goes missing at a funfair. There are no witnesses, no leads, no trace. Her mother says she only took her eye off her for a second and her father has a quick temper. What might have been happening behind closed doors?

Months later, after the trail for Libby has gone cold, DI Jake Porter and DS Nick Styles find human remains, but that’s just the tip of a gruesome iceberg.

Everyone is a suspect, nobody can be trusted, including the Hallforth family. The chances of getting justice for Libby are fading fast, along with Porter’s chances of stopping a killer before they strike again.


pondweed

Pond Weed by Lisa Blower

A love story in the slow lane about loss and getting lost—two childhood sweethearts take a trip via pints, ponds and pitstops to find their future on a road less travelled from Stoke-on-Trent to Wales

Apparently, we spend almost two weeks of our life completely lost. If you add up all the times you take a wrong turn or find yourself somewhere you don’t want to be, it equates to fourteen days of essentially being missing.

One Monday afternoon, around three o’clock, pond supplies salesman Selwyn Robby arrives home towing the Toogood Aquatics exhibition caravan and orders his like-wife, Imogen ‘Ginny’ Dare, to get into the car. He’s taking her on a little holiday, he says. To Wales. So begins their road trip west, via blasts from Selwyn’s past, and a fortnight’s journey of self-discovery for them both. But it’s a fishy business towing this caravan, with its saucy mermaid curtains and fully stocked bar, and Ginny must untangle the pondweed to get to the bottom of it, even it does mean unearthing her own murky past to find out.


force of evil

Force of Evil by Simon Michael (pre-order)

A seemingly simple case leads Charles to a shocking discovery…

London, 1965

After a series of successful cases, Charles Holborne’s reputation is on the rise.

He is asked to work pro bono to represent a widow in a recent accidental death case.

The deceased was a Sergeant Maynard, an RAF policeman who worked at the Cardington base in Bedfordshire.

It seems his death was the result of a tragic motorcycle collision, but Mrs Maynard insists her husband was murdered.

Though sceptical at first, Charles soon realises she could be right.

And as he delves further, he realises that the RAF base could be the centre of a much bigger criminal undertaking…

As rifts in the corrupt Metropolitan Police are revealed, and the threats to Charles and those he loves escalate, he begins to wonder — has he finally bitten off more than he can chew?

FORCE OF EVIL is the sixth crime novel in an exciting historical series, the Charles Holborne Legal Thrillers — gritty, hard-boiled mysteries set in 1960s London.


only human

Only Human by Diane Chandler

Every betrayal has a consequence… one family… one summer… one woman

The Bonds are, seemingly, a tight family unit, until one fateful summer when the temptations of lust and love come for them all

Tiger mum Anna, who gave up her career to build the perfect home life in London’s leafy Chiswick, is shocked to the core when she discovers that her husband of 20 years is having an affair.

Her daughter meanwhile is transforming into a tricky teen chopping at the apron strings.

Then Jack walks into their lives. Sophie’s first boyfriend is a breath of fresh air for the whole family, and Anna gradually discovers new purpose for herself.

But when more deceit creeps in, tensions soar, and Anna is propelled through a tangled web of secrets and lies towards a devastating climax.


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The Phone box at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina

We all have something to tell those we have lost . . .

When Yui loses her mother and daughter in the tsunami, she wonders how she will ever carry on. Yet, in the face of this unthinkable loss, life must somehow continue.

Then one day she hears about a man who has an old disused telephone box in his garden. There, those who have lost loved ones find the strength to speak to them and begin to come to terms with their grief. As news of the phone box spreads, people travel to it from miles around.

Soon Yui makes her own pilgrimage to the phone box, too. But once there she cannot bring herself to speak into the receiver. Then she finds Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose own daughter has stopped talking in the wake of their loss.

What happens next will warm your heart, even when it feels as though it is breaking.

When you’ve lost everything, what can you find . . ?


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Winter Downs by Jan Edwards

Bunch Courtney stumbles upon the body of Jonathan Frampton in a woodland clearing. Is this a case of suicide, or is it murder? Bunch is determined to discover the truth but can she persuade the dour Chief Inspector Wright to take her seriously?

In January of 1940 a small rural community on the Sussex Downs, already preparing for invasion from across the Channel, finds itself deep in the grip of a snowy landscape, with an ice-cold killer on the loose.


Welcome to Nowhere Kindle Edition

Welcome to Nowhere by Caimh McDonnell

A little revenge never hurt anybody…

When a gambling debt puts him between a rock and a swim in the Hudson with concrete shoes, Smithy has no choice but to take the worst job imaginable. The gig – as prey in leprechaun hunt for a bunch of Wallstreet jerks –  goes as badly as it sounds. He could leave it there and write it off as a harsh lesson learned, but fourteen months later when Smithy comes up with a plan to take his revenge on the man behind it all, it is too good to resist.

What is it they say about best-laid plans? Instead of teaching his nemesis, Louis, a valuable lesson, Smithy ends up saving him from an assassin. From there, Smith and his friend Diller are dragged into his opponent’s messed-up world. Louis is part of ‘the Collectors’ a group with way more money than sense dedicated to the competitive acquisition of truly one-of-a-kind items that define the secret history of the world.

When one of the group’s members loses his marbles, Smithy and Diller find themselves shanghaied to Nowhere. A well-named location in the middle of the desert, where a madman is trying to build an army from the worst of mankind.


The Narrow Land by Christine Dwyer Hickey

1950: late summer season on Cape Cod. Michael, a ten-year-old boy, is spending the summer with Richie and his glamorous but troubled mother. Left to their own devices, the boys meet a couple living nearby – the artists Jo and Edward Hopper – and an unlikely friendship is forged.

She, volatile, passionate and often irrational, suffers bouts of obsessive sexual jealousy. He, withdrawn and unwell, depressed by his inability to work, becomes besotted by Richie’s frail and beautiful Aunt Katherine who has not long to live – an infatuation he shares with young Michael.

A novel of loneliness and regret, the legacy of World War II and the ever-changing concept of the American Dream.


The Viper by Christobel Kent

Sandro Cellini faces his demons…

Sandro Cellini hasn’t set foot in La Vipera, a derelict farmhouse just outside Florence that was once home to a free-living commune, for forty years – until the discovery of two bodies nearby leads him back there.

At the start of his career, Cellini investigated an accusation that minors were being corrupted at La Vipera, but no charges were ever brought. Now, tasked with tracking down former members of the community, he has a chance to finally discover what really went on all those years ago.

But in order to learn the true nature of the commune’s mission, he must face his own traumatic memories. As he sifts through the lies, those closest to him are placed in danger. Only Cellini can unravel the final mystery of La Vipera, and so protect those he loves.


If You Could Go Anywhere: The perfect summer read for 2019, from the bestselling author Kindle Edition

If You Could Go Anywhere by Paige Toon

HOW DO YOU FIND WHERE YOU’RE GOING, IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE YOU’RE FROM . . . 

Angie has always wanted to travel. But at twenty-seven, she has barely stepped outside the small mining town where she was born. Instead, she discovers the world through stories told to her by passing travellers, dreaming that one day she’ll see it all for herself.

When her grandmother passes away, leaving Angie with no remaining family, she is ready to start her own adventures. Then she finds a letter revealing the address of the father she never knew, and realises instantly where her journey must begin: Italy.

As Angie sets out to find the truth – about her family, her past and who she really is – will mysterious and reckless Italian Alessandro help guide the way?


Silenced For Good: An absolutely gripping crime mystery that will have you hooked Kindle Edition

Silenced for Good by Alex Coombs

Detective Hanlon is addicted to violence. She likes the rush, the danger, the losing control…

When Hanlon is suspended from the force for assaulting a suspect, she escapes to the remote Scottish island of Jura, home to the mysterious Corryvreckan whirlpool.

But wherever Hanlon goes, violence is sure to follow.

As soon as she checks into The Mackinnon Arms, Hanlon senses something isn’t quite right about the staff at her home for the week. 

Sure enough, within days of arriving, the body of a member of staff is found floating in the sea. While police believe she was claimed by the local whirlpool, Hanlon isn’t so sure. 
As she pieces together the evidence, dark secrets begin to unravel. Can Hanlon work out what is going on before another floating body is found…?


The Guest Book: The New York Times Bestseller Kindle Edition

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

The Miltons are a powerful old New York family, the kind that runs the world. And in 1935, they do. For generations, Kitty and Ogden Milton revel in their own utopia, a small island they own off the coast of Maine, but it cannot last.

Across the generations, we see the Milton myth slowly unravel. In 1959, two strangers enter their circle, forcing each member to question what their family stands for. Then by the 21st century, the money has run dry, the island is up for sale, and their granddaughter is about to uncover disturbing evidence about her family’s wealth.

Epic and sweeping, The Guest Book is a family saga that explores privilege and racism in America, and how choices made in the past can be felt in the present.


Spirited: The spellbinding new novel from bestselling Richard & Judy author Julie Cohen Kindle Edition

Spirited by Julie Cohen

Viola has an impossible talent. Searching for meaning in her grief, she uses her photography to feel closer to her late father, taking solace from the skills he taught her – and to keep her distance from her husband. But her pictures seem to capture things invisible to the eye . . .

Henriette is a celebrated spirit medium, carrying nothing but her secrets with her as she travels the country. When she meets Viola, a powerful connection is sparked between them – but Victorian society is no place for reckless women.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, invisible threads join Viola and Henriette to another woman who lives in secrecy, hiding her dangerous act of rebellion in plain sight.


In the Dark Kindle Edition

In the Dark by Deborah Moggach

1916. Pretty Eithne Clay runs a ramshackle South London boarding house with the help of her teenage son, Ralph, and their maid, Winnie. Struggling to keep herself, her lodgers, and her son going as every day life vanishes in the face of war, Eithne’s world is transformed by the arrival of Mr Turk, the virile, carnal, carnivorous local butcher who falls passionately in love with her. As the house bursts to life with the electricity – metaphorical and real – he brings, dark secrets come to light…


Dear Emmie Blue: The gorgeously funny and romantic love story everyone’s talking about this summer 2020! Kindle Edition

Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis

A long time ago, Emmie Blue released a red balloon with a secret message hidden inside – and against all odds, across hundreds of miles of ocean, it was found on a beach in France by a boy called Lucas.

Fourteen years later, on the eve of her thirtieth birthday, Emmie hopes that Lucas is finally about to kiss her. She never expected him to announce that he was marrying someone else!

Suddenly Emmie’s dreams are shattered and the one person in her life she can rely on is slipping through her fingers. But what if Lucas isn’t her forever? What if her love story is only just beginning…


Interpreters Kindle Edition

Interpreters by Sue Eckstein

When Julia Rosenthal returns to the suburban estate of her childhood, the unspoken tensions that permeated her seemingly conventional family life come flooding back. Trying to make sense of the secrets and half truths, she is forced to question how she has raised her own daughter — with an openness and honesty that Susanna has just rejected in a very public betrayal of trust. Meanwhile her brother, Max, is happy to forge an alternative path through life, leaving the past undisturbed. But in a different place and time, another woman struggles to tell the story of her early years in wartime Germany, gradually revealing the secrets she has carried through the century, until past and present collide with unexpected and haunting results. In her devastating and beautifully understated second novel, Sue Eckstein takes the reader on a skilfully plotted journey where our growing awareness of Julia and Max’s true heritage is in stark contrast to Julia’s own interpretation of the past. Interweaving universal themes — the nature of identity, the meaning of family, the emotional legacy of the past — Interpreters magnificently unravels the impact of a war that resonates across four generations.


Clean: A remarkable walk along the cliff edge of life *2020 winner of the Christopher Bland Prize* Kindle Edition

Clean by Michele Kirsch

When Michele Kirsch’s father is killed in a train crash, her mother gets the vapours and Michele gets extremely nervous. By her mid-teens, she has found salvation in valium. Her favourite words on the prescription sheet are “Take As Needed”, which she interprets as Take All The Time.

Later, as a wife and mother, she adds alcohol into the mix, and before long her life is spinning out of control. Leaving home “for the sake of the family”, she takes the scenic route to rehab, redemption and reinvention.

But this is no misery memoir. Clean is a darkly comic tale about the difficult choices we have to make as we navigate our lives. While working as a domestic cleaner in her 50s, Michele finds herself living vicariously through other people’s messes, tidying her way through early sobriety. As the Duster of Large Things, she taps into her natural nosiness to reveal the absurdities of a seemingly banal job.


Till the Cows Come Home: the bestselling memoir from a beloved presenter Kindle Edition

Till the Cows Come Home by Sara Cox

Till the Cows Come Home is DJ and TV presenter Sara Cox’s wonderfully written, funny coming of age memoir of growing up in 1980s Lancashire.

The youngest of five siblings, Sara grew up on her father’s cattle farm surrounded by dogs, cows, horses, fields and lots of ‘cack’. The lanky kid sister – half girl, half forehead – a nuisance to the older kids, the farm was her very own dangerous adventure playground, ‘a Bolton version of Narnia’.

Her writing conjures up a time of wagon rides and haymaking and agricultural shows, alongside chain smoking pensioners, cabaret nights at the Conservative club and benign parenting. Sara’s love of family, of the animals and the people around them shines through on every page. Unforgettable characters are lovingly and expertly drawn bringing to life a time and place.

Sara later divided her childhood days between the beloved farm and the pub she lived above with her mother, these early experiences of freedom and adventure came to be the perfect training ground for later life.


Between the Stops: The View of My Life from the Top of the Number 12 Bus: the long-awaited memoir from the star of QI and The Great British Bake Off Kindle Edition

Between the Stops by Sandi Toksvig

Between the Stops is a sort of a memoir, my sort. It’s about a bus trip really, because it’s my view from the Number 12 bus (mostly top deck, the seat at the front on the right), a double-decker that plies its way from Dulwich, in South East London where I was living, to where I sometimes work at the BBC in the heart of the capital. It’s not a sensible way to write a memoir at all, probably, but it’s the way things pop into your head as you travel, so it’s my way.

From London facts including where to find the blue plaque for Una Marson, ‘the first black woman programme maker at the BBC’, to discovering the best Spanish coffee under Southwick railway arches; from a brief history of lady gangsters at Elephant and Castle to memories of climbing Mount Sinai and, at the request of a fellow traveller, reading aloud the Ten Commandments; from the story behind Pissarro’s painting of Dulwich Station to performing in Footlights with Emma Thompson; from painful memories of being sent to Coventry at a British boarding school to thinking about how Wombells Travelling Circus of 1864 haunts Peckham Rye and anecdotes about Prince Charles, Monica Lewinsky and Grayson Perry; from Bake-Off antics to stories of a real and lasting friendship with John McCarthy, to the importance of family and the daunting navigation of the Zambezi River in her father’s canoe; this Sandi Toksvig-style memoir is, as one would expect and hope, packed full of surprise.

A funny and moving trip through memories, musings and the many delights on the number 12 route, Between the Stops is also an inspiration to us all to get off our phones, to look up and to talk to each other because as Sandi says: ‘some of the greatest trips lie on our own doorstep’.


Lights on the Sea Kindle Edition

Lights on the Sea by Miguel Reina

On the highest point of an island, in a house clinging to the edge of a cliff, live Mary Rose and Harold Grapes, a retired couple still mourning the death of their son thirty-five years before. Weighed down by decades of grief and memories, the Grapeses have never moved past the tragedy. Then, on the eve of eviction from the most beautiful and dangerously unstable perch in the area, they’re uprooted by a violent storm. The disbelieving Grapeses and their home take a free-fall slide into the white-capped sea and float away.

As the past that once moored them recedes and disappears, Mary Rose and Harold are delivered from decades of sorrow by the ebb and flow of the waves. Ahead of them, a light shimmers on the horizon, guiding them toward a revelatory and cathartic new engagement with life, and all its wonder.

Wildly imaginative, deeply poignant, and entirely unexpected, Lights on the Sea sweeps readers away on a journey of fate, acceptance, redemption, and survival against the most rewarding of odds.


Prize Wins and Publisher Supplied Books

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Listed Dead by Jan EdwardsA lovely prize win, thanks Jan!

November 1940. The Battle of Britain has only just ended and the horror of the Blitz is reaching its height.

Two deaths in rapid succession on the Sussex Downs brings Bunch Courtney and Chief Inspector Wright together once more. What could possibly link a fatal auto accident with the corpse in a derelict shepherd’s hut? The only clue the pair have is a handwritten list of the members of a supper club that meets at London’s Café de Paris. Two of those on that list are now dead and the race is on to solve the mystery before any more end up on the mortuary slab.


London Made Us: A Memoir of a Shape-Shifting City Kindle Edition

London Made Us by Robert Elms ( blogger request copy via Canongate Press)

‘London is a giant kaleidoscope, which is forever turning. Take your eye off it for more than a moment and you’re lost.’

Robert Elms has seen his beloved city change beyond all imagining. London in his lifetime has morphed from a piratical, bomb-scarred playground, to a swish cosmopolitan metropolis. Motorways driven through lost communities, accents changing, skyscrapers appearing. Yet still it remains to him the greatest place on earth.

Elms takes us back through time and place to myriad Londons. He is our guide through a place that has seen scientific experiments conducted in subterranean lairs and a small community declare itself an independent nation; a place his great-great-grandfather made the Elms’ home over a century ago and a city that has borne witness to world-changing events.


Books Read

I failed abysmally this month to keep up the momentum of my holiday reading and only finished two. I think I should say that much of my spare reading time was spent trying to get to grips with the new WordPress Block editor. It was painful and it’s still slow but I’m getting there.

V 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…

This was a cracking read and you can see my review here – yes really I actually managed a review!


Elsewhere: One Woman, One Rucksack, One Lifetime of Travel by Rosita Boland

From her first life-changing solo trip to Australia as a young graduate, Rosita Boland was enthralled by travel. In the last thirty years she has visited some of the most remote parts of the globe carrying little more than a battered rucksack and a diary.

Documenting nine journeys from nine different moments in her life, Elsewhere reveals how exploring the world – and those we meet along the way – can dramatically shape the course of a person’s life. From death-defying bus journeys through Pakistan to witnessing the majestic icescapes of Antarctica to putting herself back together in Bali, Rosita experiences moments of profound joy and endures deep personal loss.

In a series of jaw-dropping, illuminating and sometimes heart-breaking essays, Elsewhere is a book that celebrates the life well-travelled in all its messy and wondrous glory.


12 comments

  1. I can recommend The Narrow Land which also won this year’s Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. Like you, I loved V For Victory and my review is up today as part of the blog tour. Didn’t the author bring everything together so well at the end? I see a future for Vee and Mr Jepson, don’t you?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m looking forward to The Narrow Land, I’m taking it on holiday with me later this month. V for Victory was just wonderful, so lovely to meet Vee and Noel again. I think Vee has earned a happy ending so fingers crossed. I think there’s still scope for more so maybe one day we’ll find out.

      Liked by 1 person

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