My Bookish Month – December 2020

Last month I uttered the words “miraculously this month I managed to rein in on the book buying. I’d like to think that this might be a sign of things to come” – it wasn’t!! Book buying back with a vengeance this month, though in my defense (not that I really need to justify it) I did treat myself a little bit for Christmas in advance of the monetary gifts that normally come my way. So as there’s lot’s to get through best crack on!

What I bought this month

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

Miss Benson's Beetle: An uplifting story of female friendship against the odds by [Rachel Joyce]

It is 1950. In a devastating moment of clarity, Margery Benson abandons her dead-end job and advertises for an assistant to accompany her on an expedition. She is going to travel to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist.
Enid Pretty, in her unlikely pink travel suit, is not the companion Margery had in mind. And yet together they will be drawn into an adventure that will exceed every expectation. They will risk everything, break all the rules, and at the top of a red mountain, discover their best selves.

This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story but it is also about what it means to be a woman and a tender exploration of a friendship that defies all boundaries.


Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan

Strange Flowers: The Number One Bestseller by [Donal Ryan]

In 1973, twenty-year-old Moll Gladney takes a morning bus from her rural home and disappears.

Bewildered and distraught, Paddy and Kit must confront an unbearable prospect: that they will never see their daughter again.

Five years later, Moll returns. What – and who – she brings with her will change the course of her family’s life forever.

Beautiful and devastating, this exploration of loss, alienation and the redemptive power of love reaffirms Donal Ryan as one of the most talented and empathetic writers at work today.


Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior

Away with the Penguins: The joyful Richard & Judy pick with exclusive Christmas bonus chapter by [Hazel Prior]

Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this.


Christmas for Beginners by Carole Matthews

Christmas for Beginners: Fall in love with the ultimate festive read from the Sunday Times bestseller by [Carole Matthews]

IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR . . .

Christmas is fast approaching at the new Hope Farm. Owner Molly Baker has been convinced to organise an open day to raise some much-needed funds ahead of the New Year, but the nativity tableau is proving challenging. With anti-social sheep, awkward alpacas and a seriously sequined Santa Claus to assemble, Molly is feeling overwhelmed, and in desperate need of some Christmas spirit . . .

Despite the chaos of the farm getting in the way of her event planning, Molly is looking forward to spending the holidays with boyfriend Shelby and his son, Lucas, hopeful that a happy family Christmas is exactly what they need to draw them all together. But while she is busy making plans on the farm, Shelby, it seems, has ideas of his own.

As the nativity draws near, the team are working hard to pull off a spectacular festive fete – and make sure the animals and humans remain on their best behaviour.

Will this Christmas be merry and bright… or is there more than one surprise in store for Molly and Hope Farm?


The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier

The Silver Sword by [Ian Serraillier, Jane Serraillier]

Alone and fending for themselves in a Poland devastated by World War Two, Jan and his three homeless friends cling to the silver sword as a symbol of hope. As they travel through Europe towards Switzerland, where they believe they will be reunited with their parents, they encounter many hardships and dangers. This extraordinarily moving account of an epic journey gives a remarkable insight into the reality of a Europe laid waste by war.


The Quickening by Rhiannon Ward

The Quickening: A twisty and gripping Gothic mystery by [Rhiannon Ward]

England, 1925. Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six-year-old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex where she is to photograph the contents of the house for auction.

She learns Clewer Hall was host to an infamous séance in 1896, and that the lady of the house has asked those who gathered back then to come together once more to recreate the evening.

When a mysterious child appears on the grounds, Louisa finds herself compelled to investigate and becomes embroiled in the strange happenings of the house. Gradually, she unravels the long-held secrets of the inhabitants and what really happened thirty years before… and discovers her own fate is entwined with that of Clewer Hall’s.


A Shooting at Chateau Rock by Martin Walker

A Shooting at Chateau Rock: A terrific mystery full of local colour and Gallic charm (The Dordogne Mysteries) by [Martin Walker]

Following the funeral of a local farmer, Bruno gets a phone call from his son. He tells Bruno that before his father’s sudden death, he had signed over his property to an insurance company in return for a subscription to a luxury retirement home. Bruno discovers that both the retirement home and the insurance company are scams with links to a Russian oligarch whose dealings are already being tracked by the French police.

Meanwhile an aging British rock star is selling his home, Chateau Rock. The star’s son returns for the summer with his Russian girlfriend. As Bruno pursues his inquiries into the farmer’s death and the stolen inheritance, he learns that the oligarch is none other than the girlfriend’s father. Bruno’s talents are tested to the limit as he untangles a Gordian Knot of criminality that reaches as far as the Kremlin.

But luckily Bruno still has time to cook delicious meals for his friends and enjoy the life of his beloved Dordogne. What’s more, love is in the air. His pedigree basset, Balzac, is old enough to breed. Bruno heads for the kennels where a suitable beauty, Diane de Poitiers, is ready and waiting for Balzac’s attentions…


Still Life by Val McDermid

Still Life: The heart-pounding number one bestseller from the Queen of Crime by [Val McDermid]

‘The bodies never stay buried forever . . .’

On a freezing winter morning, fishermen pull a body from the sea. It is quickly discovered that the dead man was the prime suspect in a decade-old investigation, when a prominent civil servant disappeared without trace. DCI Karen Pirie was the last detective to review the file and is drawn into a sinister world of betrayal and dark secrets.

But Karen is already grappling with another case, one with even more questions and fewer answers. A skeleton has been discovered in an abandoned campervan and all clues point to a killer who never faced justice – a killer who is still out there.

In her search for the truth, Karen uncovers a network of lies that has gone unchallenged for years. But lies and secrets can turn deadly when someone is determined to keep them hidden for good . . .


Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem

Mudlarking: The Sunday Times Bestseller by [Lara Maiklem]

Mudlark (/’mAdla;k/) noun A person who scavenges for usable debris in the mud of a river or harbour
Lara Maiklem has scoured the banks of the Thames for nearly twenty years, in pursuit of the objects the river unearths: from Neolithic flints to Roman hairpins, medieval buckles to Tudor buttons, Georgian clay pipes to Victorian toys. What began as a search for solitude came to reveal the story of a city, its people and their lost ways of life.


Out for Blood by Deborah Masson

Out For Blood: The tense and addictive detective thriller set in Aberdeen (DI Eve Hunter) by [Deborah Masson]

DI Eve Hunter is back in the edge-of-your-seat new detective thriller from Deborah Masson, winning author of the Bloody Scotland Crime Debut of the Year 2020.

A young man, the son of an influential businessman, is discovered dead in his central Aberdeen apartment.

Hours later, a teenaged girl with no identification is found hanged in a suspected suicide.

As DI Eve Hunter and her team investigate the two cases, they find themselves in a tug-of-war between privilege and poverty; between the elite and those on the fringes of society.

Then an unexpected breakthrough leads them to the shocking conclusion: that those in power have been at the top for too long – and now, someone is going to desperate lengths to bring them down…

Can they stop someone who is dead set on revenge, no matter the cost?


New Beginnings at Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

New Beginnings At Glendale Hall: A gorgeously uplifting, romantic read - guaranteed to bring you sunshine! by [Victoria Walters]

Two weddings and a baby…but who will get their happy ever after?

Emily Prescott’s life isn’t going to plan. Her dreams of starting a family with fireman boyfriend Greg and opening up her own bakery in London feel like they will never come true. So when a wedding invite arrives from her oldest friend, Beth Williams, Emily is thrilled. Not only will she get to return to her childhood home in Scotland, but best of all – Beth wants her to bake the wedding cake!

However, her excitement is cut short when she discovers that Greg has cheated on her. Devastated by his betrayal, Emily flees to Glendale Hall, Beth’s grand estate in the Highlands, and tries to distracts herself with helping with the wedding plans, but that’s not easy when Greg keeps hounding her to forgive him. Then she’s introduced to Glendale’s new young and handsome vicar Brodie, and things become even more complicated.

When Emily discovers that Greg’s betrayal runs deeper than she imagined, she finds herself with a whole host of decisions to make, especially when she discovers her long awaited dream is finally being fulfilled – at exactly at the wrong time…


Hopeful Hearts at Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

Hopeful Hearts at Glendale Hall: The cosiest, most uplifting read to warm your heart this festive season! by [Victoria Walters]

What happens when love takes you to unexpected places?

Heather Douglas appears to have it all. But living on a farm in the Scottish Highlands with her partner, Rory Fraser, all while bringing up their adorable toddler, Harry, isn’t easy. As a former librarian, Heather is worried that she’ll never fully fit into life on Fraser Farm. And after the death of her beloved mum eight years ago, Heather feels lost, as well as guilty for holding back accepting Rory’s marriage proposal because she can’t imagine her wedding without her mother.

So when ex-boyfriend, Stewart, appears in the village of Glendale, it’s a shock to the system. The man who broke her heart years ago now has big plans for the neighbouring farm and wants Heather to be part of the development. Knowing that she’s living a very different life to the one they had planned at university leaves Heather wondering if she has made the right choices since she and Stewart broke up. Especially when things start to go very wrong on the farm …

This Christmas, Heather will need to face her fears and let go of the past or risk losing everything. She will need love, faith, and a whole lot of hope!


Homeland by Fernando Aramburu

Homeland by [Fernando Aramburu, Alfred MacAdam]

The Basque Country, Spain, 2011

Miren and Bittori have lived side by side in a small Basque town all their lives. Their husbands play cards together, their children play and eventually go out drinking together. The terrorist threat posed by ETA seems to affect them little.

When Bittori’s husband starts receiving threatening letters – demanding money, accusing him of being a police informant – she turns to her friend for help. But Miren’s loyalties are torn: her son has just been recruited as a terrorist and to denounce them would be to condemn her own flesh and blood. Tensions rise, relationships fracture, and events move towards a tragic conclusion . . .


Remember Me by Mario Escobar

Remember Me: A Spanish Civil War Novel by [Mario Escobar]

Amid the shadows of war, one family faces an impossible choice that will change their lives forever.

Madrid, 1934. Though the Spanish Civil War has not yet begun, the streets of Madrid have become dangerous for thirteen-year-old Marco Alcalde and his younger sisters, Isabel and Ana. When Marco’s parents align themselves against General Franco and his fascist regime, they have no inkling that their ideals will endanger them and everyone they love—nor do they predict the violence that is to come. 

When the Mexican government promises protection to the imperiled children of Spain, the Alcaldes do what they believe is best: send their children, unaccompanied, across the ocean to the city of Morelia—a place they’ve never seen or imagined. Marco promises to look after his sisters in Mexico until their family can be reunited in Spain, but what ensues is a harrowing journey and a series of heartbreaking events. As the growing children work to care for themselves and each other, they feel their sense of home, family, and identity slipping further and further away. And as their memories of Spain fade and the news from abroad grows more grim, they begin to wonder if they will ever see their parents again or the glittering streets of the home they once loved. 

Based upon the true stories of the Children of Morelia, Mario Escobar’s Remember Me—now available for the first time in Englishexplores the agony of war and paints a poignant portrait of one family’s sacrificial love and endurance. 


This is Happiness by Niall Williams

This Is Happiness by [Niall Williams]

‘A love letter to the sleepy, unhurried and delightfully odd Ireland that is all but gone’ Irish Independent

After dropping out of the seminary, seventeen-year-old Noel Crowe finds himself back in Faha; a small Irish parish where nothing ever changes, including the ever-falling rain.

But one morning the rain stops and news reaches the parish – the electricity is finally arriving. With it comes a lodger to Noel’s home, Christy McMahon. Though he can’t explain it, Noel knows right then: something has changed.

As Noel navigates his coming-of-age by Christy’s side, falling in and out of love, Christy’s buried past gradually comes to light, casting a glow on a small world and making it new.


Five French Hens by Judy Leigh

Five French Hens: A warm and uplifting feel-good novel for 2020 by [Judy Leigh]

The best days of your life might be still to come…

When 73 year old Jen announces that she is going to marry Eddie, a man she met just a few months previously on a beach on Boxing Day, her four best friends from aqua aerobics are flabbergasted.

The wedding is booked and, when the groom decides to have a stag trip to Las Vegas, the ladies arrange a hen party to beat all others -a week in the city of love, Paris.

From misadventures at the Louvre, outrageous Parisian cabarets, to drinking champagne with a dashing millionaire at the casino, Paris lives up to all their hopes and dreams. But a week can change everything, and the women that come home have very different dreams from the ones who got on the plane just days ago.


Hashim & Family by Shasnaz Ahsan

Hashim & Family by [Shahnaz Ahsan]

It is New Year’s Eve, 1960. Hashim has left behind his homeland and his bride, Munira, to seek his fortune in England. His cousin and only friend, Rofikul, introduces Hashim to life in Manchester – including Rofikul’s girlfriend, Helen. When Munira arrives, the group must learn what it is to be a family.

Over the next twenty years, they make their way in the new country – putting down roots and building a home. But when war breaks out in East Pakistan, the struggle for liberation and the emergence of Bangladesh raises questions about identity, belonging and loyalty.

Hashim & Family is a story of family ties, of migration and of a connection to home, and is the debut of an extraordinary new talent.


The Tucci Cookbook by Stanley Tucci

The Tucci Cookbook by [Stanley Tucci, Francesco Tonelli]

For acclaimed actor Stanley Tucci, teasing our taste buds in classic foodie films such as Big Night and Julie & Julia was a logical progression from a childhood filled with innovative homemade Italian meals: decadent Venetian Seafood Salad; rich and gratifying Lasagna Made with Polenta and Gorgonzola Cheese; spicy Spaghetti with Tomato and Tuna; delicate Pork Tenderloin with Fennel and Rosemary; fruity Roast Duck with Fresh Figs; flavorful Baked Whole Fish in an Aromatic Salt Crust; savory Eggplant and Zucchini Casserole with Potatoes; buttery Plum and Polenta Cake; and yes, of course, the legendary Timpano.

Featuring nearly 200 irresistible recipes, perfectly paired with delicious wines, The Tucci Cookbook is brimming with robust flavors, beloved Italian traditions, mouthwatering photographs, and engaging, previously untold stories from the family’s kitchen.


Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry

Christmas at the Beach Hut: The heartwarming holiday read you need for Christmas 2020 by [Veronica Henry]

Everyone adores Christmas . . .

Especially Lizzy Kingham. But this year, she is feeling unloved and under-appreciated by her family. The present-buying, decorating and food shopping have all been left to her. So she wonders … what would happen if she ran away and left them to it?

Lizzy heads to her favourite place: a beach hut on the golden sands of Everdene. There she meets an unlikely collection of new friends, all running away from something. But the spirit of Christmas gets under Lizzy’s skin: soon the fairy lights are twinkling and the scent of mulled wine mingles with the sea air.

Back at Pepperpot Cottage, her family are desperate to find her. For Christmas isn’t Christmas without Lizzy. Can they track her down in time and convince her she means the world to them, every day of the year?


Cry Baby by Mark Billingham

Cry Baby (Tom Thorne Novels) by [Mark Billingham]

It’s 1996. Detective Sergeant Tom Thorne is a haunted man. Haunted by the moment he ignored his instinct about a suspect, by the horrific crime that followed and by the memories that come day and night, in sunshine and shadow.

So when seven-year-old Kieron Coyne goes missing while playing in the woods with his best friend, Thorne vows he will not make the same mistake again. Cannot.

The solitary witness. The strange neighbour. The friendly teacher. All are in Thorne’s sights.

This case will be the making of him . . . or the breaking.


Below the Big Blue Sky by Anna McPartlin

Below the Big Blue Sky: Jojo Moyes meets Marian Keyes in this heartwarming, laugh-out-loud novel by [Anna McPartlin]

There’s no family quite like the Hayes, and yet they’re just like any other – they love each other, they look out for each other and they drive each other mad. When their youngest, Rabbit, dies tragically at just forty, the Hayes are almost torn apart by their grief.

Without her beloved mum, twelve-year-old Bunny is adrift; without Rabbit, there can be no Bunny. Her Granny is concerned when Bunny insists on being called by her real name, Juliet. Even surrounded by the noise and chaos of the Hayes, Juliet feels lost and alone.

Meanwhile, Rabbit’s sister Grace has something else on her mind. She’s got the gene that made her sister ill, and she hasn’t told anyone yet. All she can think about are the things she’s always wanted to do, like fly a plane or climb a mountain, or watch her four children grow up. She doesn’t know how to share the news that may break her family, but she knows she needs their support, now more than ever.

Despite squabbling over what Rabbit will wear at the wake and their dad burying himself in the past with his diaries, the Hayes family know there’s only one way they’ll get through this: together.


Bibliophile 2021 by Jane Mount

Jane Mount’s joyful illustrations of literary treasures and other book miscellany adorn this charming, gorgeous agenda. Each week features a spot illustration and some fun literary trivia, including anniversary dates of important literary people and milestones, and every month opens with one of Mount’s iconic book stacks. There’s even space for avid readers to record what they’re reading every month. Packaged in an elegant hardcover format, with useful features like tabs and month-at-a-glance

Bought in the hope of keeping me organised and ready to blog in 2021!!


The Italian Villa by Daniela Sacerdoti

The Italian Villa: An emotional and absolutely gripping WW2 historical romance by [Daniela Sacerdoti]

Callie, a lonely small-town waitress, is still reeling from the discovery that she’s adopted when she arrives in Montevino, Italy in search of answers – the keys to the stunning hillside villa she has just inherited clutched tightly in her hand. Inside the rusted gates, and through a large wooden front door dripping with sun-kissed flowers, Callie can’t decide if she’s more astonished by her new home or her first encounter with the mysterious young groundskeeper, Tommaso.

Wandering the villa barefoot at night, Callie finds a diary belonging to a woman named Elisa, wrapped in faded blue ribbon and hidden in her birthmother’s antique wardrobe. Page by page, Callie is swept away by its story of love, passion, heartbreak and betrayal as she reads how Elisa married her childhood sweetheart in secret before fleeing to the woods to join the resistance. They vowed to find each other again when the war was over, but history had other plans.

Callie is certain that her and Elisa’s lives are somehow connected, and that the truth about her family is hidden somewhere within the diary’s crinkled yellow pages. It gives her the courage to start asking questions around the close-knit village until, at long last, she feels her closed-off heart begin to open. Perhaps even enough to let someone in…

But when a devastating betrayal in the final pages of the diary unlocks a heart-breaking secret about who Callie’s mother really is, the chance for a new life shatters in front of her. Can she persuade the locals to forgive her past and accept the truth about her identity?


Close to Where the Heart Gives Out by Malcom Alexander

Close to Where the Heart Gives Out: A Year in the Life of an Orkney Doctor by [Malcolm Alexander]

In his forties, Malcolm gave up his job in suburban Glasgow when a persistent seed that had been growing inside him started to bloom, disrupting the foundations of his life. When he saw the job advert, ‘urgent: island doctor needed’, he applied immediately. What he didn’t anticipate was how much Orkney would affect his family, for better or worse.

In stories that range from the humorous to the deeply moving, Malcolm describes what it’s like adjusting to life without modern conveniences and to the extreme – and constantly changing – weather; and what it means to be providing the best medical care to the local population with limited resources. Which often includes the wildlife as well …

Malcolm’s journey evokes the awe that the Orkney landscape can inspire, as well as the challenges of island life and the demons that the dark, cold winter months can give birth to. Gripping and beautifully written, Close to Where the Heart Gives Out reminds us of the importance of listening to our heart, as well as to the rhythms of the landscape.


One Family Christmas by Bella Osborne

One Family Christmas: The most feel-good and funny Christmas romance fiction read of 2020 by [Bella Osborne]

A big family. A whole lot of secrets. A Christmas to remember…

This year, Lottie is hosting one last big family Christmas at the home she grew up in – just like her Nana would have wanted.

But when her relatives descend on the old manor house, Lottie gets more than she bargained for. Every family has its secrets, but in this family, everybody has one!

So, between cooking a Christmas dinner, keeping tensions at bay and a stray dog out of mischief, she has plenty on her plate (and not just misshapen sausage rolls and a frozen turkey). And then her first love shows up – nine years after he walked out of her life.

Can Lottie make their last family Christmas one to remember… for the right reasons?


Wild Spinning Girls by Carol Lovekin

Wild Spinning Girls by [Carol Lovekin]

If it wasn’t haunted before she came to live there, after she died, Ty’r Cwmwl made room for her ghost. She brought magic with her.

And the house, having held its breath for years, knew it. Ida Llewellyn loses her job and her parents in the space of a few weeks and, thrown completely off course, she sets out for the Welsh house her father has left her. Ty’r Cwmwl is not at all welcoming despite the fact it looks inhabited, as if someone just left…

It is being cared for as a shrine by the daughter of the last tenant. Determined to scare off her old home’s new landlord, Heather Esyllt Morgan sides with the birds who terrify Ida and plots to evict her. The two girls battle with suspicion and fear before discovering that the secrets harboured by their thoughtless parents have grown rotten with time. Their broken hearts will only mend once they cast off the house and its history, and let go of the keepsakes that they treasure like childhood dreams.


The Memory by Judith Barrow

The Memory by [Judith Barrow]

Mother and daughter tied together by shame and secrecy, love and hate.

I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.

Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother’s side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.

Rose was Irene’s little sister, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw. Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.


The Big Man Upstairs by JD Kirk

The Big Man Upstairs: A Scottish Detective Mystery (DCI Logan Crime Thrillers Book 7) by [JD Kirk]

Just when he thought he was out…

Burdened by guilt over the trauma recently inflicted on his friends and colleagues, former-Detective Chief Inspector Jack Logan has spent the past nine months living in self-imposed exile.

When a mother and her young daughter are the victims of a double murder staged to look like suicide, Logan is dragged back to help hunt down and catch a brutal, calculating killer.

But the world has moved on without him. To do what needs to be done, Logan must first find his place among old friends and new enemies before the killer strikes again, and a whole Highland community tears itself apart.

Maybe early retirement wasn’t such a bad idea, after all…


When the Music Stops by Joe Heap

When the Music Stops: Discover the most emotional, uplifting new love story for 2020 by [Joe Heap]

This is the story of Ella.
And Robert.
And of all the things they should have said, but never did.

‘What have you been up to?’
I shrug, ‘Just existing, I guess.’
‘Looks like more than just existing.’
Robert gestures at the baby, the lifeboat, the ocean.
‘All right, not existing. Surviving.’
He laughs, not unkindly. ‘Sounds grim.’
‘It wasn’t so bad, really. But I wish you’d been there.’

Ella has known Robert all her life. Through seven key moments and seven key people their journey intertwines.
 
From the streets of Glasgow during WW2 to the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll of London in the 60s and beyond, this is a story of love and near misses. Of those who come in to our lives and leave it too soon. And of those who stay with you forever…

Books I won

New Doctor at Chestnut House/Christmas at the Country Practice by Sharon Booth

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NEW DOCTOR AT CHESTNUT HOUSE

Is home a place—or a person?

Anna’s about to leave Bramblewick behind. She’s due to marry her childhood sweetheart in a few weeks and then she’ll be heading to Kent and a whole new life.

Connor’s a new arrival in Bramblewick. He’s bringing with him a whole lot of baggage, and he’s doubtful that this small village on the Yorkshire Moors is the ideal place for him and his daughter, Gracie.

It’s not easy for Anna, watching Connor move into her family home and take over from her beloved father at the local surgery, but she’s determined to help him settle in and adjust to rural life, so that the villagers get the doctor they deserve. Connor’s not convinced. This country practice is very different to what he’s used to, and the locals have some strange expectations of their GP. Protective of Gracie and hiding behind self-constructed barriers, Connor struggles to adapt to life in Bramblewick.

Can Anna convince him that this is the place where he and Gracie can finally find happiness? And can she convince herself that leaving Bramblewick is the right move for her?

CHRISTMAS AT THE COUNTRY PRACTICE

Christmas has arrived in Bramblewick, along with plenty of snow and festive good cheer. The village is gearing up for the Christmas Eve wedding of popular GP Connor Blake, and much-loved receptionist Anna. At the Bramblewick Surgery, a new GP, Riley MacDonald, is working alongside Connor, and he’s proving to be highly efficient and organised.

When Nell Williamson, proprietor of Spill the Beans café and bakery in the village, first sets eyes on Riley, it’s love at first sight. Nell has always believed that she would know “the one” when she met him, and she’s convinced that Riley is the man she’s been waiting for.

Riley, on the other hand, is a hardened cynic. Having survived a humiliating broken engagement, he’s keeping well away from relationships, and is confused by Nell’s attentions. Her every attempt to attract him pushes him further away, convincing her friends she’s on a hiding to nothing, even though he turns into a clumsy mess whenever Nell’s around.

Deciding she’s a control freak who should be avoided at all costs, Riley makes a serious error of judgement which could cost her dearly.

As Christmas approaches, best man Riley and bridesmaid Nell are further apart than ever. Can the two of them reach an understanding before their friends’ big day, or will it be the most awkward wedding in Bramblewick’s history?


Sins of the Father by Sharon Bairden (with a fabulous set of goodies)

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Lucas Findlay thinks he has struck gold when he marries Rebecca, but she married him for one reason only – to destroy him.TRAUMA RUNS DEEPWhen her past comes back to haunt her, Rebecca begins to disconnect from herself and the world around her. As secrets are unearthed, she begins to fear for her sanity… and her life.TRUTH WILL OUTWith her world unravelling around her, Rebecca clings to her determination to make Lucas pay, whatever the cost.FORGIVE HIS SINSBut someone must pay for the sins of the father…


The Reacher Guy by Heather Martin

Lee Child is the enigmatic powerhouse behind the bestselling Jack Reacher novels. With millions of devoted fans across the globe, and over a hundred million copies of his books sold in more than forty languages, he is that rarity, a writer who is lauded by critics and revered by readers. And yet curiously little has been written about the man himself.

The Reacher Guy is a compelling and authoritative portrait of the artist as a young man, refracted through the life of his fictional avatar, Jack Reacher. Through parallels drawn between Child and his literary creation, it tells the story of how a boy from Birmingham with a ferocious appetite for reading grew up to become a high-flying TV executive, before coming full circle and establishing himself as the strongest brand in publishing.

Heather Martin explores Child’s lifelong fascination with America, and shows how the Reacher novels fed and fuelled this obsession, shedding light on the opaque process of publishing a novel along the way. Drawing on her conversations and correspondence with Child over a number of years, as well as interviews with his friends, teachers and colleagues, she forensically pieces together his life, traversing back through the generations to Northern Ireland and County Durham, and following the trajectory of his extraordinary career via New York and Hollywood until the climactic moment when, in 2020, having written a continuous series of twenty-four books, he finally breaks free of his fictional creation.

Received for Christmas

Olive, Mabel and Me by Andrew Cotter

OLIVE & MABEL: two of the internet’s favourite dogs!
ANDREW COTTER: one of our best-loved commentators.

Olive and Mabel are the Labradors that broke the internet. With more than 50 million views on social media, Andrew Cotter’s brilliant commentaries on videos of his Labradors have resonated with dog owners and sports fans around the world, giving us all something to smile about in this most testing of years, as Olive and Mabel entertained us with their Dinner Contest, Game of Bones, Zoom Meeting, Online Dating and more over the last six months.

Now, in OLIVE, MABEL & ME, Andrew tells the heart-warming story of life with his two famous Labradors. This is the full story of their unexpected rise to internet stardom, their lives together, how the dogs are dealing with their new-found fame (celebrity fans, more offers of biscuits etc), and how trips to the beaches and the mountains help them all find peace and happiness away from a hectic world.

Above all, OLIVE, MABEL & ME is a book about the love we have for our dogs and the companionship and joy they bring. And about how we can all benefit from being just a little bit more Labrador…

Book Subscriptions

Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar (Capital Crime sub)

Stone Cold Trouble (Zaq & Jags) by [Amer Anwar]

Set in the heart of West London’s Asian community, this is the latestinstalment in the unmissable ZAQ & JAGS series . . .

Trying – and failing – to keep his head down and to stay out of trouble, ex-con Zaq Khan agrees to help his best friend, Jags, recover a family heirloom, currently in the possession of a wealthy businessman. But when Zaq’s brother is viciously assaulted, Zaq is left wondering whether someone from his own past is out to get revenge.

Wanting answers and retribution, Zaq and Jags set out to track down those responsible. Meanwhile, their dealings with the businessman take a turn for the worse and Zaq and Jags find themselves suspected of murder.

It’ll take both brains and brawn to get themselves out of trouble and, no matter what happens, the results will likely be deadly. The only question is, whether it will prove deadly for them, or for someone else . . . ?


Inside Out by Chris McGeorge (Capital Crime sub)

Inside Out by [Chris McGeorge]

SHE WAS SENT DOWN…
Cara Lockhart has just commenced a life sentence in HMP North Fern – the newest maximum security women’s prison in the country. She was convicted of a crime she is adamant she didn’t commit.

SHE WAS SET UP…
One morning she wakes up to find her cellmate murdered – shot in the head with a gun that is missing. The door was locked all night, which makes Cara the only suspect.

BUT THAT WAS JUST THE BEGINNING.
Cara needs to clear her name, unravelling an impossible case, with an investigation governed by a prison timetable.
But as Cara starts to learn more about North Fern and the predicament she is in, she finds connections between the past and present that she never could have imagined.

Indeed it seems that her conviction and her current situation might be linked in very strange ways…


The Butterfly Box by Santa Montefiore (NB Mag sub)

The Butterfly Box by [Santa Montefiore]

An unforgettable journey of discovery . . .

Federica is moved from Chile to Cornwall when her parents separate, and all she has left of the relationship she cherished with her father, is a wooden box which has a secret beauty hidden within. Swiftly embraced into the eccentric Appleby family, it isn’t long before Federica falls for her friend’s older brother Sam, who barely notices the little girl until it is too late…

Years later, from the sanctuary of a seemingly perfect marriage, Federica embarks on a painful journey of self-discovery. Will she finally learn the true lesson of the butterfly box?

Books I’ve read this month

The Christmas Party by Carole Matthews

The Christmas Party (Christmas Fiction) by [Carole Matthews]

Louise Young is a devoted single mother whose only priority is providing for her daughter, Mia. Louise has a good job in a huge international corporation and she’s grateful for it. The only problem is her boss who can’t keep his hands to himself, but Louise can handle him. What she really doesn’t have time for is romance – until she meets the company’s rising star, Josh Wallace.

Louise usually says no to evenings out but she’s decided to let her hair down tonight. It’s the office Christmas party, she has a pretty dress to wear and she’s looking forward to some champagne and fun. She’s completely unaware that others around her are too busy playing dangerous games to enjoy the party – until she’s pulled into those games herself . . .


A Winter’s Tale by Trisha Ashley

A Winter’s Tale: A festive winter read from the bestselling Queen of Christmas romance by [Trisha Ashley]

A charming romantic comedy about a hard-up single mum inheriting a stately home – and a host of headaches – The perfect novel for curling up with during the long winter nights.

Sophy Winter is not your typical Lady of the Manor… When she unexpectedly inherits Winter’s End – a crumbling mansion in the beautiful Lancashire countryside – it seems like all Sophy’s prayers have been answered. She eagerly swaps life as an impoverished housekeeper in favour of her own team of staff.

But Sophy quickly realises the challenge on her hands – the house is decrepit and its eccentric inhabitants are a nightmare. And once it is discovered that Winter’s End played host to a young Shakespeare, the entire village of Sticklepond becomes curious about Sophy’s plans, especially charming Jack Lewis. But is he really smitten by Sophy… or her newly-acquired cash?

Meanwhile, Sophy’s gorgeous head gardener Seth is the strong and silent type. But does his passion bloom for anything beyond the horticultural? As Sophy gets to grips with squabbling relatives, collapsing buildings and the ghostly presence of one of her ancestors, she wonders if Winter’s End is not so much a gift from the gods as a mixed blessing… A charming romantic comedy for fans of Katie Fforde and Jill Mansell – guaranteed to thaw the coldest of hearts!


A Winter Flame by Milly Johnson

‘Tis the season to be jolly… But can Eve find happiness through the frost…?

Eve has never liked Christmas, not since her beloved fiancé was killed in action in Afghanistan on Christmas Day. So when her adored elderly aunt dies, the last thing she is expecting is to be left a theme park in her will. A theme park with a Christmas theme…

And that’s not the only catch. Her aunt’s will stipulates that Eve must run the park with a mysterious partner, the exotically named Jacques Glace. Who is this Jacques, and why did Aunt Evelyn name him in her will?

But Eve isn’t going to back down from a challenge. She’s determined to make a success of Winterworld, no matter what. Can she overcome her dislike of Christmas, and can Jacques melt her frozen heart at last…? 


A Wedding on Christmas Street by Ivy Pembroke

Sam is about to propose to his girlfriend Libby, and his neighbours in Christmas Street all think they know the right way to do it. With their help – and sometimes hinderance – Sam gains a fiancée and the wedding planning begins.

Meanwhile, Sam’s nine-year-old son Teddy and his friend Pari – with their constant companion Jack the street dog – are fascinated by the arrival of a mysterious new neighbour on the street who has rented the empty, run-down house. Their attempts to spy on her are thwarted by her staying indoors with the curtains drawn most of the time. But soon Christmas Street begins to work its magic and Millie is reluctantly drawn into street activities.

As Millie starts to relax into thinking she can have a different life, maybe even with Jasper, the local carpenter, someone turns up from her past to threaten that. But with all of the street looking out for her, Millie’s Christmas will be filled with hope and promise.


Coming Home to Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

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No matter how far you go, home is where the heart is…

Beth Williams hasn’t been home for ten years. After falling pregnant at sixteen, she ran away from the imposing Scottish estate where she grew up rather than risk her family’s disapproval, working hard to build a life for herself and daughter Isabelle – but now she’s finally returning to Glendale Hall.

As Beth tries to mend her broken family ties, and fights to bring the community of Glendale back together, she realises that the story she has told herself for a decade might well be a very different one from the truth. Even though she ran from Glendale it has never left her heart. And, she soon realises, neither has Drew – Beth’s first love.

Will Beth be able to forgive her mother and grandmother (and herself) for what happened ten years ago? What will Drew say when he discovers the secret she’s been keeping from him for so long? Can a festive trail bring the village back together?

Will Christmas work its magic on Glendale – or will Beth be forced to run away from it all over again?


New Beginnings at Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

New Beginnings At Glendale Hall: A gorgeously uplifting, romantic read - guaranteed to bring you sunshine! by [Victoria Walters]

Two weddings and a baby…but who will get their happy ever after?

Emily Prescott’s life isn’t going to plan. Her dreams of starting a family with fireman boyfriend Greg and opening up her own bakery in London feel like they will never come true. So when a wedding invite arrives from her oldest friend, Beth Williams, Emily is thrilled. Not only will she get to return to her childhood home in Scotland, but best of all – Beth wants her to bake the wedding cake!

However, her excitement is cut short when she discovers that Greg has cheated on her. Devastated by his betrayal, Emily flees to Glendale Hall, Beth’s grand estate in the Highlands, and tries to distracts herself with helping with the wedding plans, but that’s not easy when Greg keeps hounding her to forgive him. Then she’s introduced to Glendale’s new young and handsome vicar Brodie, and things become even more complicated.

When Emily discovers that Greg’s betrayal runs deeper than she imagined, she finds herself with a whole host of decisions to make, especially when she discovers her long awaited dream is finally being fulfilled – at exactly at the wrong time…


Hopeful Hearts at Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

Hopeful Hearts at Glendale Hall: The cosiest, most uplifting read to warm your heart this festive season! by [Victoria Walters]

What happens when love takes you to unexpected places?

Heather Douglas appears to have it all. But living on a farm in the Scottish Highlands with her partner, Rory Fraser, all while bringing up their adorable toddler, Harry, isn’t easy. As a former librarian, Heather is worried that she’ll never fully fit into life on Fraser Farm. And after the death of her beloved mum eight years ago, Heather feels lost, as well as guilty for holding back accepting Rory’s marriage proposal because she can’t imagine her wedding without her mother.

So when ex-boyfriend, Stewart, appears in the village of Glendale, it’s a shock to the system. The man who broke her heart years ago now has big plans for the neighbouring farm and wants Heather to be part of the development. Knowing that she’s living a very different life to the one they had planned at university leaves Heather wondering if she has made the right choices since she and Stewart broke up. Especially when things start to go very wrong on the farm …

This Christmas, Heather will need to face her fears and let go of the past or risk losing everything. She will need love, faith, and a whole lot of hope!

So that was my month. A lot of lovely books added to the reading list and a good reading tally for me. Given my concentration levels I set my Goodreads challenge at 40 books this year. As I write this I’ve read 47, definitely helped by my splurge of festive reads. It all augers well for next year, which is just as well given the number of books I buy! Hope you all had a good bookish month as well.

The next time I’ll speak to you will be next year, so wishing you all the best for a safe, happy and healthy 2021. Just remember, whatever the year has in store – we always have books.

Happy Reading!!

10 comments

    • I’m hoping the vaccine also includes an elixir of youth so I can live longer to read them all. I really need to stop buying, but there’s just too many good books. Plus it all adds to an author’s income so it’s all good xx

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Away with the penguins made me cry! I thought it was brilliant, and also loved the authors second book, Ellie and the harp maker. She writes superb stories. Really enjoyed the Glendale Hall series too, and The Winter garden was pretty good. Too many books, not enough time! A Happy New Year to you, Jill.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ll make sure I have tissues to hand! I’ve actually got her second book on my Kindle – patiently waiting with all the others. I’ve left my Christmas books behind now, but I’ll be making sure I have another festive reading splurge later in the year. All best wishes for the New Year – happy reading xx

      Liked by 2 people

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