A fairly good month for me on the purchasing front, although I didn’t add as many titles as usual I did buy more physical books than usual, so both my bookshelves and my bank balance felt the pinch! Never mind, as I’ve send many times before, books make me happy, regardless of whether they all stand a fighting chance of being read.
On the reading front it wasn’t too shabby a month either. As I’m still pedaling away in the kitchen (though I’ve swapped Spain for Italy as I’m virtually cycling The St Francis Way) I manage to hook my tablet over the handlebars and it’s in the morning when most of my reading takes place. I’m still on a policy of trying to read something fairly recent as well as going through my immense back catalogue and reading something older.
I also managed a rarity this month – an actual review. A book I really recommend as it makes compelling reading and for anyone of an age to remember the case of Suzy Lamplugh, it will leave you shaking your head in disbelief (see below). I don’t think this heralds a return to reviewing, I suspect it was easier dealing in facts, rather than trying to adequately convey moods, emotions and characters which are part and parcel of a ‘fiction’ title. But never say never!
I have to say my reading and blogging time has also been impacted by the Olympics at the beginning of the month, and in the past week the Paralympics. The time difference between here and Japan has seen late nights followed by early mornings to catch up with the overnight action. The evenings then provide the opportunity to catch up with all the action after my morning viewing. As we’re heading off to Wales later this week for a two week break, I’m looking forward to some lie ins and more importantly some unfettered reading time. As I’ve prepped my blog posts for the time I’m away you’ll still get your regular doses of bookish temptation.
(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)
Books I Bought this Month
Happy Families by Julie Ma
Three generations, two secrets, one extended family . . .
Amy is thirty-four and has just given up her glittering career in the big (Welsh) city to move back in with her grandfather, returning to work in the small-town Chinese takeaway where she spent her bookish and boring childhood. Why? That’s a secret she won’t tell.
Just like the secret of why her grandfather, Ah Goong, and her father, TC Li, haven’t spoken to each other in thirty years. Weirder still, they’ve lived in the same small flat about the takeaway for the majority of those years, with Amy’s mother Joan acting as their unfortunate go-between and buffer.
Now Amy’s parents have moved, leaving her in charge of looking after the old man. But then Ah Goong collapses in the street and Amy realises time is running out if she wants to play happy families again . . .
The Spanish House by Cherry Radford
Juliana makes a modest living as an ‘ethnic’ TV/film extra – even though the only connections with her Spanish heritage are her cacti, Spanish classes, and some confused memories of a Spanish mother she hasn’t seen since she was seven.
When her beloved Uncle Arturo offers her the chance to discover her roots while housesitting his coastal home in a quiet corner of Andalusia, Juliana can’t believe her luck. Especially when he reveals that the house will be hers if she fulfils ten life-enhancing ‘Conditions’ within 90 days.
Redecoration of the house and a visit to the old film studio where her mother used to sew costumes seem ridiculously simple tasks for such a wonderful reward. But little does Juliana realise that there are family secrets and inherited rivalries awaiting her in sunny Spain, and the condition that she has to ‘get on with the neighbours’ – who include a ruggedly handsome but moody artist – may be harder than she thinks.
The Plantagenets : The Kings Who Made England by Dan Jones
Eight generations of the greatest and worst kings and queens that this country has ever seen – from the White Ship to the Lionheart, bad King John to the Black Prince and John of Gaunt – this is the dynasty that invented England as we still know it today – great history to appeal to readers of Ken Follet, Bernard Cornwell, Tom Holland
England’s greatest royal dynasty, the Plantagenets, ruled over England through eight generations of kings. Their remarkable reign saw England emerge from the Dark Ages to become a highly organised kingdom that spanned a vast expanse of Europe. Plantagenet rule saw the establishment of laws and creation of artworks, monuments and tombs which survive to this day, and continue to speak of their sophistication, brutality and secrets.
Dan Jones brings you a new vision of this battle-scarred history. From the Crusades, to King John’s humbling over Magna Carta and the tragic reign of the last Plantagenet, Richard II – this is a blow-by-blow account of England’s most thrilling age.
No Shame by Tom Allen
‘When I was 16 I dressed in Victorian clothing in a bid to distract people from the fact that I was gay. It was a flawed plan.’
No Shame is a very funny, candid and emotional ride of a memoir by one of our most beloved comedians. The working-class son of a coach driver, and the youngest member of the Noel Coward Society, Tom Allen grew up in 90s suburbia as the eternal outsider.
In these hilarious, honest and heart breaking stories Tom recalls observations on childhood, his adolescence, the family he still lives with, and his attempts to come out and negotiate the gay dating scene. They are written with his trademark caustic wit and warmth, and will entertain, surprise and move you in equal measure.
The Appeal by Janice Hallett
In a town full of secrets…
Someone was murdered.
Someone went to prison.
And everyone’s a suspect.
Can you uncover the truth?
Dear Reader – enclosed are all the documents you need to solve a case. It starts with the arrival of two mysterious newcomers to the small town of Lockwood, and ends with a tragic death.
Someone has already been convicted of this brutal murder and is currently in prison, but we suspect they are innocent. What’s more, we believe far darker secrets have yet to be revealed.
Throughout the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons and the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick’s life-saving medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Yet we believe they gave themselves away. In writing. The evidence is all here, between the lines, waiting to be discovered.
Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth?
Always and Forever at Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters
Anna Stewart is lost. After barely surviving a car accident as a teenager, Anna is scared of settling. Flitting between jobs, boyfriends and homes whenever she gets bored, she has no idea what the future holds. Then her brother Brodie, minister of Glendale, suggests she moves to the beautiful Scottish village, lining up a housekeeper job for her at Glendale Hall.
Out of options, Anna agrees to take the job just for the summer. Once at the hall, her culinary skills impress everyone, and she agrees to give Hilltop Farm’s new manager, Cameron, cooking lessons. Sparks fly between Anna and the handsome Scot, but Cameron keeps pushing Anna away, and Anna definitely isn’t looking for love. But it’s wedding season at Glendale Hall, and Anna is about to discover that her new home has a way of working its magic on even the coldest of hearts.
Will she really be able to just walk away at the end of summer, or could Anna have finally found a place to belong?
It’s summertime so pack your bags and escape to beautiful Highlands village of Glendale with this gorgeously uplifting, romantic read. Fans of Milly Johnson, Heidi Swain and Holly Martin will love this charming romance.
Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson
June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock – horribly tortured and branded with a slaver’s mark.
Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham – a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career – is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cause irreparable damage to the British slaving industry. He’d said people were trying to kill him, and now he is missing . . .
To discover what happened to Tad, Harry is forced to pick up the threads of his friend’s investigation, delving into the heart of the conspiracy Tad had unearthed. His investigation will threaten his political prospects, his family’s happiness, and force a reckoning with his past, risking the revelation of secrets that have the power to destroy him.
And that is only if he can survive the mortal dangers awaiting him in Deptford . . .
The Secret Queen : Eleanor Talbot by John Ashdown-Hill
When Edward IV died in 1483, the Yorkist succession was called into question by doubts about the legitimacy of his son, Edward (one of the ‘Princes in the Tower’). The crown therefore passed to Edward’s undoubtedly legitimate younger brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. But Richard, too, found himself entangled in the web of uncertainly, since those who believed in the legitimacy of Edward IV’s children viewed Richard III’s own accession as a usurpation. From the day when Edward IV married Eleanor, or pretended to do so, or allowed it to be whispered that he might have done so, the House of York, previously so secure in its bloodline, confronted a contentious and uncertain future. John Ashdown-Hill argues that Eleanor Talbot was married to Edward IV, and that therefore Edward’s subsequent marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was bigamous, making her children illegitimate. He thereby offers a solution to one of history’s great mysteries.
The Coldest Case by Martin Walker
Bruno Courreges is Chief of Police of the lovely town of St Denis in the Dordogne. His main wish is to keep the local people safe and his town free from crime. But crime has a way of finding its way to him.
For thirty years, Bruno’s boss, Chief of Detectives Jalipeau, known as J-J, has been obsessed with his first case. It was never solved and Bruno knows that this failure continues to haunt J-J. A young male body was found in the woods near St Denis and never identified. For all these years, J-J has kept the skull as a reminder. He calls him ‘Oscar’.
Visiting the famous pre-history museum in nearby Les Eyzies, Bruno sees some amazingly life-like heads expertly reconstructed from ancient skulls. He suggests performing a similar reconstruction on Oscar as a first step towards at last identifying him. An expert is hired to start the reconstruction and the search for Oscar’s killer begins again in earnest.
The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain
‘ALBERT ENTWISTLE WAS A POSTMAN. It was one of the few things everyone knew about him. And it was one of the few things he was comfortable with people knowing . . .’
64-year-old Albert Entwistle has been a postie in a quiet town in Northern England for all his life, living alone since the death of his mam 18 years ago. He keeps himself to himself. He always has. Because he has a secret.
But he’s just learned he’ll be forced to retire at his next birthday and with no friends and nothing to look forward to, the lonely future he faces terrifies him.
His only hope is going to be telling the truth.
So he must learn to go after what he wants. And he must find the courage to look for the man that, many years ago, he lost – but has never forgotten . . .
Join Albert as he sets out to find the long-lost love of his life, and has an unforgettable and completely life-affirming adventure on the way . . . This is a love story the likes of which you have never read before!
Contacts by Mark Watson
One man’s last journey. One hundred and fifty-eight chances to save his life.
At five to midnight in Euston station, James Chiltern sends one text to all 158 people in his contacts. A message saying goodbye.
Five minutes later, with two pork pies and a packet of chocolate digestives in his pocket, he disappears.
Across the world, 158 phones light up. Phones belonging to James’s friends, his family, people he’s lost touch with. All of them now wondering, where has James gone? What happened to him? And more importantly, can they find him before it’s too late?
Starry, Starry Night by Marcia Willett
‘We’ll always be together, won’t we?’
Childhood friends and cousins Leo and Alice had imagined their whole lives playing out on their beloved Devon beach. But one night when they are teens, sitting on the sand beneath the stars, Alice tells Leo a secret that must never be shared with anybody else . . . then packs her bag and flees.
Leo is left to build his own life – without Alice. He surrounds himself with other family and friends and on the whole is content and fulfilled. But he is left with a sense of what – or who – is missing. So decades later, when he receives a note from Alice asking if she can come home, he doesn’t hesitate to agree.
But as the stars align and their reunion draws near, Leo is left to consider their separation and what so many years apart means for a relationship solidified in youth and a secret which could affect the whole family.
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
In 1901, the word ‘bondmaid’ was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.
Motherless and irrepressibly curious, Esme spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of lexicographers are gathering words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary.
Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day, she sees a slip containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutter to the floor unclaimed.
Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.
We Are Animals by Tim Ewins
A cow looks out to sea, dreaming of a life that involves grass.
Jan is also looking out to sea. He’s in Goa, dreaming of the passport-thief who stole his heart (and his passport) forty-six years ago. Back then, fate kept bringing them together, but lately it seems to have given up.
Jan has not. In his long search he has accidentally held a whole town at imaginary gunpoint in Soviet Russia, stalked the proprietors of an international illegal lamp-trafficking scam and done his very best to avoid any kind of work involving the packing of fish. Now he thinks if he just waits, if he just does nothing at all, maybe fate will find it easier to reunite them.
His story spans fifty-four years, ten countries, two imperfect criminals (and one rather perfect one), twenty-two different animals and an annoying teenager who just…
But maybe an annoying teenager is exactly what Jan needs to help him find the missing thief?
Featuring a menagerie of creatures, each with its own story to tell, We Are Animals is a quirky, heart-warming tale of lost love, unlikely friendships and the certainty of fate (or lack thereof).
For the first time in her life the cow noticed the sun setting, and it was glorious.
Vuelta Skelter : Riding the Remarkable 1941 Tour of Spain by Tim Moore
Julian Berrendero’s victory in the 1941 Vuelta a Espana was an extraordinary exercise in sporting redemption: the Spanish cyclist had just spent 18 months in Franco’s concentration camps, punishment for expressing Republican sympathies during the civil war. Seventy nine years later, perennially over-ambitious cyclo-adventurer Tim Moore developed a fascination with Berrendero’s story, and having borrowed an old road bike with the great man’s name plastered all over it, set off to retrace the 4,409km route of his 1941 triumph – in the midst of a global pandemic.
What follows is a tale of brutal heat and lonely roads, of glory, humiliation, and then a bit more humiliation. Along the way Tim recounts the civil war’s still-vivid tragedies, and finds the gregarious but impressively responsible locals torn between welcoming their nation’s only foreign visitor, and bundling him and his filthy bike into a vat of antiviral gel.
People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd (Capital Crime sub)
People like Emmy Jackson. They always have. Especially online, where she is Instagram sensation Mamabare, famous for telling the unvarnished truth about modern parenthood.
But Emmy isn’t as honest as she’d like the fans to believe. She may think she has her followers fooled, but someone out there knows the truth and plans to make her pay . . .
Sleep Well My Lady by Kwei Quartey (Capital Crime sub)
Almost a year ago Lady Araba, the head of a self-made fashion empire, was found murdered at her home in Trasacco Valley, the Beverly Hills of Accra. Araba’s driver was arrested but her aunt, Dele, suspects that Araba’s boyfriend was the real killer.
Now Dele approaches Emma Djan, a young PI with a fast-growing reputation for getting results, to help find the truth. From alleged suppressed evidence by the Ghana Police to unpleasant accusations involving Araba’s parents, Djan’s investigation will navigate a long list of suspects and she will discover that not only are they willing to lie for each other, but that one is prepared to kill.
Patience by Victoria Scott (NB Magazine sub)
If you were offered a chance to cure your child’s disease, would you take it?
The Willows have been through a lot. Louise has devoted her life to caring for her disabled youngest daughter. Pete works abroad, almost never seeing his loved ones. And their eldest, Eliza, is burdened by all the secrets she’s trying to keep from her overloaded family.
Meanwhile, Patience observes the world while trapped in her own body. She laughs, she cries, she has opinions and knows what she wants. But those who love her most – and make every decision about her life – will never know.
Or will they? When the Willows are offered the opportunity for Patience to take part in a new gene therapy trial to cure her Rett syndrome, they face an impossible dilemma. Are the very real risks worth the chance of the reward, no matter how small?
Books I Read
Finding Suzy by David Videcette
How can someone just disappear?
Step inside a real-life, missing person investigation in this compelling, true crime must-read.
Uncover what happened to missing estate agent Suzy Lamplugh, as David Videcette takes you on a quest to unpick her mysterious disappearance and scrutinise the shadowy ‘Mr Kipper’.
One overcast Monday in July 1986, 25-year-old estate agent Suzy Lamplugh vanished whilst showing a smart London property to a mysterious ‘Mr Kipper’.
Despite the baffling case dominating the news and one of the largest missing persons cases ever mounted, police failed to find a shred of evidence establishing what had happened to her.
Sixteen years later, following a second investigation and under pressure from Suzy’s desperate parents, police named convicted rapist and murderer John Cannan as their prime suspect. However, the Crown Prosecution Service refused to charge him, citing a lack of evidence.
High-profile searches were conducted, yet Suzy’s body was never found. The trail that might lead investigators to her, long since lost.
Haunted by another missing person case, investigator and former Scotland Yard detective, David Videcette, has spent five years painstakingly reinvestigating Suzy’s cold case disappearance.
Through a series of incredible new witness interviews and fresh groundbreaking analysis, he uncovers piece by piece what happened to Suzy and why the case was never solved.
People don’t just disappear…
The Invisible Guardian by Dolores Redondo
A killer at large in a remote Basque Country valley , a detective to rival Clarice Starling, myth versus reality, masterful storytelling – the Spanish bestseller that has taken Europe by storm.
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?
Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase by Louise Walters
Forgive me, Dorothea, for I cannot forgive you. What you do, to this child, to this child’s mother, it is wrong…
Roberta likes to collect the letters and postcards she finds in second-hand books. When her father gives her some of her grandmother’s belongings, she finds a baffling letter from the grandfather she never knew – dated after he supposedly died in the war.
Dorothy is unhappily married to Albert, who is away at war. When an aeroplane crashes in the field behind her house she meets Squadron Leader Jan Pietrykowski, and as their bond deepens she dares to hope she might find happiness. But fate has other plans for them both, and soon she is hiding a secret so momentous that its shockwaves will touch her granddaughter many years later…
This is How We Are Human by Louise Beech
When the mother of an autistic young man hires a call girl to make him happy, three lives collide in unexpected and moving ways … changing everything. A devastatingly beautiful, rich and thought-provoking novel that will warm and break your heart…
Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely.
Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy … she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants.
Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care. Getting through the dark.
When these three lives collide – intertwine in unexpected ways – everything changes. For everyone.
A Taste of Home by Heidi Swain
Fliss Brown has grown up living with her mother on the Rossi family’s Italian fruit farm. But when her mother dies, Fliss finds out she has a family of her own, and heads back to England with Nonna Rossi’s recipe for cherry and almond tart and a piece of advice: connect with your family before it is too late…
Fliss discovers that her estranged grandfather owns a fruit farm himself, on the outskirts of Wynbridge, and she arrives to find a farm that has fallen into disrepair. Using her knowledge gleaned from working on the Rossi farm and her desire to find out more about her past, Fliss rolls her sleeves up and gets stuck in. But what will she discover, and can she resurrect the farm’s glory days and find a taste of home…?
The Last Reunion by Kayte Nunn
War would bring them together.
But would it ultimately tear them apart?
Bea, Plum, Bubbles, Joy and Lucy are five young women looking for adventure, fighting a forgotten war in the jungle attached to the Fourteenth Army. Running a mobile canteen, navigating treacherous roads and dodging hostile gunfire, they soon become embroiled in life-threatening battles of their own – battles that will haunt the women for the rest of their lives.
Oxford, 1976. At the height of an impossibly hot English summer, a woman slips into a museum and steals several rare Japanese netsuke, including the famed fox-girl. Despite the offer of a considerable reward, these tiny, exquisitely detailed carvings are never seen again.
London and Galway, 1999. On the eve of the new millennium, Olivia, assistant to an art dealer, meets Beatrix, an elderly widow who wishes to sell her late husband’s collection of Japanese art. Concealing her own motives, Olivia travels with Beatrix to a New Year’s Eve party, deep in the Irish countryside, where friendships will be tested and secrets kept for more than fifty years are spilled…
That’s me for this month so all that’s left to say is : Happy Reading!