Well this was another month when my reading was again dominated by my Camino texts, but I did manage to sneak a few more in. The Camino influenced a few of my purchases this month too, with a crime novel by Dolores Redondo set in the area North West of Pamplona and a mystery by Amy Moroney set along the route of the Camino. Spain in general, also features in several of my other purchases as well. I clearly hadn’t had enough of Hemingway as I bought myself a hefty 752 page biography – that should keep me quiet!
I’ve managed to really mess with my head this month by starting to read Chasing Shadows by TA Williams. The book features Amy (who is blind) and Luke her guide/travelling companion as they travel along the Camino while at the same time imagining two medieval characters, Aimee and Luc, who are also travelling to Santiago. So while I’m virtually cycling to Santiago and creating blog posts as if I’ve actually visited the places enroute I’m simultaneously reading a book where the characters are actually travelling to Santiago while creating an imaginary world for their characters. When I’m putting my blog posts together I get fully immersed in the places I’ve ‘cycled’ through and must admit my reality is blurred. I’m fully on board with Luke’s thinking,
he felt like reminding her that this was, after all, just their invention … Of course this was heightening the experience for her. Unable to see the mountains, abbeys, villages and countryside, she needed some extra stimulus. He tried to think it through, just as if they were dealing with a real event. Why not? He thought to himself. Who’s to say it isn’t?
It was another good month for online events. I spent the beginning of the month at some excellent panels as part of the Crime Cymru online festival and needless to say that resulted in more authors and books being added to my reading list. To balance things off I had another online panel towards the end of the month featuring Anstey Harris, James Bailey, Mike Gayle and Eva Verde. Oh dear – more books to be bought as I only have two of them!
Books I Bought this Month
I had a bit of a splurge on titles by Mari Hannah when her books came up as a ‘Big Deal’ offer on Amazon. I already had quite a few by Mari that I’ve bought over the years, but this gave me the chance to plug some gaps which included Deadly Deceit, Monument to Murder, Killing for Keeps and The Insider, it also included her latest Without a Trace that she discussed in her Crime Cymru panel.
A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall
LONGLISTED FOR THE AUTHORS’ CLUB BEST FIRST NOVEL AWARD 2018
Jonah roams Kew Gardens trying to reassemble the shattered pieces of his life after the death of his wife, Audrey. Weathering the seasons and learning to love again, he meets Chloe, an enigmatic origami artist who is hesitant to let down her own walls.
In the gardens he also meets ten-year-old Milly, and Harry, a gardener, both of whom have secrets of their own to keep – and mysteries to solve.
The Invisible Guardian by Dolores Redondo
Shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger
The body of a teenage girl has been found on the banks of the River Baztán – the second in a month. Soon rumours are flying in the village of Elizondo. Is this the work of a serial killer, or something even more sinister?
Inspector Amaia Salazar leads the investigation, returning to the Basque country where she was born. Shrouded in mist and surrounded by forest, it conceals a terrible secret from Amaia’s childhood that has come back to haunt her.
Facing the superstitions of the village, Amaia must fight the demons of her past in order to catch the killer. But what is the dark presence she senses lurking in the shadows?
The Tuscan Girl by Angela Petch
She ran away through the pine trees when the soldiers came. Staggering into the hiding place, she felt a fluttering in her belly, like a butterfly grazing its wings, and knew instantly she had something to fight for.
Present day: When her fiancé is tragically killed in an accident, twenty-six-year-old Alba is convinced she’s to blame. Heavy with grief and guilt, she flees to her childhood home – the tiny village of Rofelle, nestled in a remote Tuscan valley. Out hiking one day to fill the long, lonely hours, she finds a mahogany box filled with silverware, hidden near the vine-covered ruins of an isolated house left abandoned after World War II. Could finding the rightful owner ease Alba’s heartache, and somehow make amends for her own wrongs?
In search of answers, Alba meets Massimo, an elderly man who wants to spend his final years pruning his fruit trees, alone with his painful memories. His face turns pale when Alba brings up the war, but she senses that their shared grief connects them. An unlikely friendship grows as little by little Massimo speaks of Lucia: a wild young girl with sparkling eyes who fell in love with an enemy soldier, bravely stole precious Italian treasures back from Nazi occupiers, and whose selfless courage and sacrifice altered the course of the war – and Massimo’s life.
With each visit, Alba gets closer to unravelling the mystery of the silver, and they both start putting their ghosts to rest. But there’s one part of Lucia’s story that Massimo might never be able to share – and he’s running out of time. Has Alba churned up emotions that are too painful to ever confront? Or, will unearthing a wartime secret that has lain buried for generations finally bring Massimo peace?
What Will Burn by James Oswald
The charred remains of an elderly woman are discovered in a burned-out game-keepers cottage, hidden away in woodland to the west of Edinburgh. Clearly no accidental fire, Detective Inspector Tony McLean suspects that neither is this simply a grim arson attack. There is far more to the victim than her humble surroundings might suggest, and something ritualistic to her horrific murder.
Nor will it be the only case of death by fire that Tony and his team will be faced with. This is only the beginning, and with such evil clouding the air, Tony begins to wonder what else will burn . . .
Death at the Workhouse by Emily Organ
Someone’s preying on Victorian London’s poor.
Something’s not right at Shoreditch Workhouse and plucky reporter Penny Green is struggling to convince someone to listen. After spending time there undercover, she knows that more can be done for the deserving poor beneath its roof. But does anyone else care?
When two workhouse inmates die in a fight, the police and the coroner accept the simplest explanation. Penny undertakes her own investigation with Inspector James Blakely’s help and it’s not long before they make themselves unpopular.
A macabre turn finally makes the authorities act, but can anyone stop the force behind the crimes?
If Fiona has learned anything in life, it’s how to keep a secret—even from the father who raised her. She is the only person who knows about her late mother’s affair in Tuscany thirty years earlier, and she intends to keep it that way…until a lawyer calls with shocking news: her biological father has died and left her an incredible inheritance—along with two half siblings.
Fiona travels to Italy, where the family is shocked to learn of her existence and desperate to contest her share of the will. While the mystery of her mother’s affair is slowly unraveled, Fiona must navigate through tricky family relationships and tense sibling rivalries. Fiona both fears and embraces her new destiny as she searches for the truth about the fateful summer her mother spent in Italy and the father she never knew.
Spilling over with the sumptuous flavors and romance of Tuscany, These Tangled Vines takes readers on a breathtaking journey of love, secrets, sacrifice, courage—and most importantly, the true meaning of
It’s Not Never by Louise Gregory & NGK
Ambitious and hardworking, astronaut Jessica Gabriel refuses to let love get in the way of becoming the first person to walk on another planet. Or maybe she is just afraid of losing her best friend?
Fellow astronaut, John Eden, is determined to prove he is more than his family name. Yet his insecurities might cost him his place on the mission.
Neither of them are looking for love, and mission protocol forbids it. But love doesn’t follow the rules, and the two friends have to decide whether they want to risk everything they’ve worked for to be together
Summer in Andalucia by Lucy Coleman
Lainey Summers feels blessed to have her dream job writing for a renowned foodie magazine. And the day she goes to interview chef Rick Oliver at his new restaurant—Aleatory—in London’s popular Piccadilly, is the start of an unexpected journey.
When Rick is offered the opportunity to jet off to a monastery in Andalucía, to film a cookery competition for Spanish TV, Lainey goes too, to cover the story.
Spending a month filming in the stunning Spanish countryside, soaking up the sights, sounds, smells and of course the cuisine, Lainey and Rick start to enjoy each other’s company. But their time together flies by too quickly, and before they know it, Rick and Lainey have to face going their separate ways.
With both their worlds shifting beneath them, the call of Andalucia and the call of happiness grows ever stronger. But with everything at stake, will they be able to take the chance of a happy-ever-after…
Stealing the Spanish Princess by Bea Green
In this captivating and dazzling art crime mystery, eccentric detective Richard Langley hunts for a 16th-century masterpiece by the artist El Greco. The thief stole the priceless painting from an apartment in Kensington, London, and in the process knifed to death a Russian woman.
DCI Richard Langley from Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiquities Unit joins colleagues from Homicide as they pursue a trail that leads them to St Petersburg and then to Madrid. Following closely in their footsteps is a maverick private investigator hired by the painting’s owner. Knowing how hard it is to sell on stolen artworks of that calibre, Richard wonders what the motive behind its theft might be. The answer, when it comes, takes everyone by surprise.
The Girl from Oto by Amy Moroney
A Renaissance-era female artist and an American scholar. Linked by a 500-year-old mystery…
The secrets of the past are irresistible—and dangerous.
1500: Born during a time wracked by war and plague, Renaissance-era artist Mira grows up in a Pyrenees convent believing she is an orphan. When tragedy strikes, Mira learns the devastating truth about her own origins. But does she have the strength to face those who would destroy her?
2015: Centuries later, art scholar Zari unearths traces of a mysterious young woman named Mira in two 16th-century portraits. Obsessed, Zari tracks Mira through the great cities of Europe to the pilgrim’s route of Camino de Santiago—and is stunned by what she finds. Will her discovery be enough to bring Mira’s story to life?
My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding
‘I had spent most of my childhood thinking I was a dog, and suspect I had aged in dog years.’
Clare Balding grew up in a rather unusual household. Her father a champion trainer, she shared her life with more than 100 thoroughbred racehorses, mares, foals and ponies, as well as an ever-present pack of boxers and lurchers. As a toddler she would happily ride the legendary Mill Reef and take breakfast with the Queen.
She and her younger brother came very low down the pecking order. Left to their own devices, they had to learn life’s toughest lessons through the animals, and through their adventures in the stables and the idyllic Hampshire Downs. From the protective Candy to the pot-bellied Valkyrie and the frisky Hattie, each horse and each dog had their own character and their own special part to play.
The running family joke was that “women ain’t people”. Clare had to prove them wrong, to make her voice heard – but first she had to make sure she had something to say.
The Transit of Lola Jones by Jackie Swift
Lola Jones’ life is not turning out the way she expected it to.
As the book opens we find Lola recovering from the breast cancer that threatened to prematurely end her life and languishing in a police cell, the main suspect in the murder of businessman Daniel Blain.
As the truth begins to unfold about the events leading up to the untimely demise of the dashing Daniel, we learn more about the journey that brought the normally infectiously vivacious Lola Jones to such an unsatisfactory pass.
But is she guilty, and even if she is guilty, is she to blame?
The Orange Grove by Rosanna Ley
An unforgettable story of past love and family secrets, set in sunny Seville
Holly loves making marmalade. Now she has a chance to leave her stressful city job and pursue her dream – of returning to the Dorset landscape of her childhood to open Bitter Orange, a shop celebrating the fruit that first inspired her.
Holly’s mother Ella has always loved Seville. So why is she reluctant to go back there with Holly to source products for the shop? What is she frightened of – and does it have anything to do with the old Spanish recipe for Seville orange and almond cake that Ella keeps hidden from her family?
In Seville, where she was once forced to make the hardest decision of her life, Ella must finally face up to the past, while Holly meets someone who poses a threat to all her plans. Seville is a city full of sunshine and oranges. But it can also be bittersweet. Will love survive the secrets of the orange grove?
After the Silence by Louise O’Neill
Nessa Crowley’s murderer has been protected by silence for ten years.
Until a team of documentary makers decide to find out the truth.
On the day of Henry and Keelin Kinsella’s wild party at their big house a violent storm engulfed the island of Inisrun, cutting it off from the mainland. When morning broke Nessa Crowley’s lifeless body lay in the garden, her last breath silenced by the music and the thunder.
The killer couldn’t have escaped Inisrun, but on-one was charged with the murder. The mystery that surrounded the death of Nessa remained hidden. But the islanders knew who to blame for the crime that changed them forever.
Ten years later a documentary crew arrives, there to lift the lid off the Kinsella’s carefully constructed lives, determined to find evidence that will prove Henry’s guilt and Keelin’s complicity in the murder of beautiful Nessa.
One Way Street by Trevor Wood
A series of bizarre drug-related deaths among runaway teenagers has set the North East’s homeless community on edge.
The word on the street is that a rogue batch of Spice – the zombie drug sweeping the inner cities – is to blame, but when one of Jimmy’s few close friends is caught up in the carnage, loyalty compels him to find out what’s really going on.
One Way Street sees the welcome return of Jimmy Mullen, the homeless, PTSD-suffering, veteran as he attempts to rebuild his life following the events in The Man on the Street.
As his probation officer constantly reminds him: all he needs to do is keep out of trouble. Sadly for him, trouble seems to have a habit of tracking Jimmy down.
Staying Out for the Summer by Mandy Baggot
This is one summer that won’t end in tiers!
For NHS nurse, Lucie Burrows, it’s time to put the past behind her and embrace Greek life.
Finally free from the UK restrictions, Lucie is excited for the summer of 2021. When her best friend, Gavin, finds the perfect Greek island getaway, Lucie is sure that this holiday to Corfu is going to be one to remember.
But when a landslide puts the village into a local lockdown, Lucie is thrown together with Michalis Andino, the super sexy village doctor. It’s not quite the escape she had planned, but things could certainly be worse.
As Lucie relaxes into the Greek way of life, she begins to wonder whether this lockdown might just end in a new beginning – and a new love…
You Will be Safe Here by Damiam Barr
A beautiful and heart-breaking story set in South Africa where two mothers – a century apart – must fight for their sons, unaware their fates are inextricably linked.
Orange Free State, 1901. At the height of the Boer War, Sarah van der Watt and her six-year-old son Fred can only watch as the British burn their farm. The polite invaders cart them off to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp promising you will be safe here.
Johannesburg, 2010. Sixteen-year-old Willem is an outsider who just wants to be left alone with his Harry Potter books and Britney, his beloved pug. Worried he’s turning out soft, his Ma and her new boyfriend send him to New Dawn Safari Camp, where they ‘make men out of boys.’ Guaranteed.
The red earth of the veldt keeps countless secrets whether beaten by the blistering sun or stretching out beneath starlit stillness. But no secret can stay buried forever.
The Devil You Know by Emma Kavanagh
Up until yesterday I knew who I was.
Up until yesterday my life wasn’t a lie.
Rosa Fisher is the smart girl, the good girl. At twenty-five and mid-way through a PhD in the psychology of fraud, she thinks she has herself all figured out. Until that night, when the house is dark and she is all alone, and she hears an intruder on the stairs.
But the intruder isn’t looking for Rosa Fisher. He’s after someone else. And everything Rosa has ever known about her world is about to be turned upside down.
Determined to find out who she really is, Rosa traces her origins back to a small Canadian town, to a fire in a barn and a devastating family tragedy. Which forces her to question – if she can lie with such ease, was she ever really the good girl after all?
How to Mend a Broken Heart by Katey Lovell
When you know how, you can make anything from scratch, including a new life after love…
When Leanne and Richard bought a dilapidated old seaside cottage to renovate together as their forever home, their future was full of hope and promise.
But heartbreak was just around the corner: fast forward a few months and Richard is gone. With his death, Leanne finds herself stony broke, faced with an uninhabitable home and lacking even the basic skills to do it up herself.
With the help of the friendly woman who runs the library and the reluctant assistance of the man who works in the local hardware shop, the cottage is lovingly restored. But broken hearts aren’t so easy to fix… are they?
My Lemon Grove Summer by Jo Thomas
When life hands you lemons … is it ever too late for a second chance?
Zelda’s impulsive nature has got her precisely nowhere up until now. A fresh start in a beautiful hilltop town in Sicily looking for new residents, together with her best friend Lennie, could be just what she needs. And who better to settle down with than the person who knows her best?
But the sun-filled skies and sparkling seas can’t hide the shadow hanging over Citta d’Ora, which means not everyone is pleased to see their arrival. The dreams Zelda and her fellow new residents had of setting up a new life might be slipping away. But a friendship with restauranteur Luca could be about to unlock the possibilities that lie in the local lemon groves. And there’s a wedding on the horizon that might be just what the town needs to turn it around…
Could a summer in Sicily help Zelda learn to trust her instinct and follow her heart?
Ernest Hemingway : A Biography by Mary V. Dearborn
A St. Louis Post Dispatch Best Book of the Year
The “most fully faceted portrait of Hemingway now available” (The Washington Post) draws on a wide array of never-before-used material, resulting in the most nuanced biography to date of this complex, enigmatic artist.
Considered in his time the greatest living American writer, Hemingway was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize whose personal demons undid him in the end, and whose novels and stories have influenced the writing of fiction for generations after his death.
The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter (Capital Crime subscription)
An attractive student. An older professor.
Think you know the story? Think again.
She has everything at stake; he has everything to lose. But one of them is lying, all the same.
When an Oxford student accuses one of the university’s professors of sexual assault, DI Adam Fawley’s team think they’ve heard it all before. But they couldn’t be more wrong.
Because this time, the predator is a woman and the shining star of the department, and the student a six-foot male rugby player.
Soon DI Fawley and his team are up against the clock to figure out the truth. What they don’t realise is that someone is watching.
And they have a plan to put Fawley out of action for good…
The Source by Sarah Sultoon (Capital Crime Subscription)
One last chance to reveal the truth…
1996. Essex. Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak…
2006. London. Junior TV newsroom journalist Marie has spent six months exposing a gang of sex traffickers, but everything is derailed when New Scotland Yard announces the re-opening of Operation Andromeda, the notorious investigation into allegations of sex abuse at an army base a decade earlier…
As the lives of these two characters intertwine around a single, defining event, a series of utterly chilling experiences is revealed, sparking a nail-biting race to find the truth … and justice.
Betty by Tiffany McDaniel (NB Magazine sub)
‘A girl comes of age against the knife.’
So begins the story of Betty Carpenter.
Born in a bathtub in 1954 to a Cherokee father and white mother, Betty is the sixth of eight siblings. The world they inhabit is one of poverty and violence – both from outside the family and also, devastatingly, from within. When her family’s darkest secrets are brought to light, Betty has no choice but to reckon with the brutal history hiding in the hills, as well as the heart-wrenching cruelties and incredible characters she encounters in her rural town of Breathed, Ohio.
Despite the hardship she faces, Betty is resilient. Her curiosity about the natural world, her fierce love for her sisters and her father’s brilliant stories are kindling for the fire of her own imagination, and in the face of all she bears witness to, Betty discovers an escape: she begins to write.
Books I Read
The Coffin Maker’s Garden by Stuart MacBride
A house of secrets…
As a massive storm batters the Scottish coast, Gordon Smith’s home is falling into the sea. The trouble is: that’s where he’s been hiding the bodies.
A killer on the run…
It’s too dangerous to go near the place, so there’s no way of knowing how many people he’s murdered. Or how many more he’ll kill before he’s caught.
An investigator with nothing to lose…
As more horrors are discovered, ex-detective Ash Henderson is done playing nice. He’s got a killer to catch, and God help anyone who gets in his way.
Chasing the Italian Dream by Jo Thomas
A summer escape she’ll never forget . . .
Lucia has worked hard as a lawyer in Wales, aiming for a big promotion she hopes will shortly come her way. Finally taking a well-earned break at her grandparents’ house in southern Italy, the sunshine, lemon trees and her nonna’s mouth-watering cooking make her instantly feel at home.
But she’s shocked to learn that her grandfather is retiring from the beloved family pizzeria and will need to sell. Lucia can’t bear the thought of the place changing hands – especially when she discovers her not-quite-ex-husband Giacomo wants to take it over!
Then bad news from home forces Lucia to re-evaluate what she wants from life. Is this her chance to carry on the family tradition and finally follow her dreams?
Three Women and a Boat by Anne Youngson
Meet Eve, who has departed from her thirty-year career to become a Free Spirit; Sally, who has waved goodbye to her indifferent husband and two grown-up children; and Anastasia: defiantly independent narrowboat-dweller, suddenly vulnerable as she awaits a life-saving operation.
Inexperienced and ill-equipped, Sally and Eve embark upon a journey through the canals of England, guided by the remote and unsympathetic Anastasia. As they glide gently – and not so gently – through the countryside, the eccentricities and challenges of canalboat life draw them inexorably together, and a tender and unforgettable story unfolds.
Disarmingly truthful and narrated with a rare, surprising wit, THREE WOMEN AND A BOAT is a journey over the glorious waterways of England and into the unfathomable depths of the human heart.
The Cake Maker’s Wish by Josephine Moon (audio-book)
When single mum Olivia uproots her young son Darcy from their life in Tasmania for a new start in the English Cotswolds, she isn’t exactly expecting a bed of roses – but nor is she prepared for the challenges that life in the picturesque village throws her way.
The Renaissance Project hopes to bring the dwindling community back to life – to welcome migrants from around the world and to boost the failing economy – but not everyone is so pleased about the initiative.
For cake maker Olivia, it’s a chance for Darcy to finally meet his Norwegian father, and for her to trace the last blurry lines on what remains of her family tree. It’s also an opportunity to move on from the traumatic event that tore her loved ones apart.
After seven years on her own, she has all but given up on romance, until life dishes up some delicious new options she didn’t even know she was craving.
An uplifting and heartwarming story about the moments that change your life forever, human kindness and being true to yourself.
The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam
Eliza Peabody is one of those dangerously blameless women who believe they have God in their pocket. She is a modern-day Florence Nightingale, always up at the Hospice or the Wives’ club; she is too enthusiastic; she talks too much. Her concern for the welfare of her wealthy south London neighbours even extends to ingenuous, well-meaning notes of unsolicited advice under the door.
It is just such a one-sided correspondence that heralds Eliza’s undoing. Did her letter have something to do with Joan’s abrupt disappearance from number forty-one? What to make of the long absences of her husband and Joan’s, and of the two men’s new, inseparable friendship? And why will no one else on Rathbone Road speak of Joan? As Eliza’s own life seems to disintegrate, she finds that, despite the pity and embarrassment with which her neighbours greet her, she is at last being drawn into their lives – although not in the way she had once fantasised about. This is a sharp, poignant and wickedly funny tale of love, heartache and disillusionment.
Balancing Act by Joanna Trollope
Four strong women. All working in a family business. But what happens when they begin to want different things? And what about the men – and the children – in their lives?
Susie Moran has always been the breadwinner in her family. Her husband was the one who was there for their three girls. But now he wants something of his past back – the life he had before Susie’s career took off, before they had children. And those children don’t see their mother’s business the way she has always seen it, thereby threatening the balance she has worked so hard to achieve.
And then, amidst the simmering tensions, someone significant from the past, someone almost forgotten, turns up. The problems of the past, the present, and the future all become challenges to the stability of both family and work. Which relationships – if any – will survive?
So how did I do with my reading intentions?
The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam (from my bookshelves)
Three Women and a Boat by Anne Youngerson (bought in March)
Chasing the Italian Dream by Jo Thomas (via Pigeonhole)
Something Borrowed (NetGalley/Library)
The Coffin Maker’s Garden by Stuart MacBride (via Library)
The Cake Maker’s Wish by Josephine Moon
Something Blue – pot luck as long as it’s blue!
Balancing Act by Joanna Trollope (from by bookshelves)
That’s me for this month so all that’s left to say is : Happy Reading!