I’m back, and first of all, I need to thank everyone who’s been supporting me by sending best wishes, dropping by, and sharing my posts this month. This is my first post-op blog which thankfully means all went well although I’m still not exactly firing on all cylinders. It’s still too soon to hunch myself over the keyboard at my desk so I’m working with my tablet, mini wireless keyboard, wireless mouse (with no right click, so it necessitates a stylus pen) and my handy padded lap tray. Just what every convalescing blogger needs! It at least means I can get something together, even if it’s a bit cumbersome. So please bear with me as I ease myself back in slowly, not to mention gently.
I’d like to say that being off this month has upped my reading quota, but sadly it hasn’t. I didn’t manage a page whilst I was in hospital and didn’t read much more during my first week back home. It did pick up speed after that, but then so did my time spent browsing t’interweb and buying more books! In my defence I did also start an online course I’d signed up for on Renaissance Art which led me down another bookish rabbit hole (and more books bought).
As I idled away my hours in my comfy chair my thoughts also turned towards the C word – yes, Christmas – assuming it’s still happening. As I write this, the doom and gloom re the impending lack of turkeys, toys and trees might actually just make us all think about what is really important at Christmas. I’m flippantly trying not to shout BOOKS!! at this point. However, now that I’ve mentioned them, I have spent some of my free time adding to, and co-ordinating my annual ‘Christmas’ book post. It’s looking like this year’s will be the biggest so far, so I’m giving you fair warning to brace yourselves for either a spending spree or a heavy bout of book envy.
Now to confess to what I’ve bought!
Books I Bought this Month
(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)
All We Left Unsaid by Natalie K Martin
In this captivating novel of love, family and betrayal, two sisters mean everything to each other—until one secret shatters it all.
Sisters Jess and Ivy have always shared everything—childhood memories, a flat, a love of romcoms. As different as they are, together they’re the perfect balance, with Jess’s calm elegance complementing Ivy’s spirit and thirst for adventure.
But there is one thing—one person—they can’t share: Ivy’s friend, Finn. And when Jess falls for him, the betrayal cuts deep, forming a chasm between the two sisters that widens with every passing day…
Years after that fateful falling-out, Jess receives a call that changes everything and throws her on a journey following in her wilder sister’s footsteps, to discover what happened to Ivy. But is it ever too late to say you’re sorry?
A Day Like This by Kelley McNeil
What if everything you’ve ever loved, ever known, ever believed to be true…just disappeared?
Annie Beyers has everything—a beautiful house, a loving husband, and an adorable daughter. It’s a day like any other when she takes Hannah to the pediatrician…until she wakes hours later from a car accident. When she asks for her daughter, confused doctors tell Annie that Hannah never existed. In fact, nothing after waking from the crash is the same as Annie remembers. Five happy years of her life apparently never happened.
Annie’s marriage is coming to an end. Now a successful artist living in Manhattan, she’s no longer home in their beloved upstate farmhouse. Her long-estranged sister is more like a best friend, and her recently deceased dog is alive and well. With each passing day, Annie’s remembered past and unfamiliar present begin to blur. Haunted by visions of Hannah, and with knowledge of things she can’t explain, Annie wonders…is everyone lying to her?
The search for answers leads Annie down an illuminating path far from home, to reconcile the memories with reality and to discover the truth about the life she’s living.
Dead Ground (Washington Poe 4) by M W Craven
Detective Sergeant Washington Poe is in court, fighting eviction from his beloved and isolated croft, when he is summoned to a backstreet brothel in Carlisle where a man has been beaten to death with a baseball bat. Poe is confused – he hunts serial killers and this appears to be a straightforward murder-by-pimp – but his attendance was requested personally, by the kind of people who prefer to remain in the shadows.
As Poe and the socially awkward programmer Tilly Bradshaw delve deeper into the case, they are faced with seemingly unanswerable questions: despite being heavily vetted for a high-profile job, why does nothing in the victim’s background check out? Why was a small ornament left at the murder scene – and why did someone on the investigation team steal it? And what is the connection to a flawlessly executed bank heist three years earlier, a heist where nothing was taken . . .
Christmas at Fox Farm by Helen Pollard
Daisy is preparing to spend her first Christmas in the only place she’s ever really felt at home: beautiful Fox Farm. But when tragedy strikes, she will need all her festive cheer, and all the mulled wine, to keep Christmas from being cancelled…
Living atFox Farm, with its cosy café and charming pottery workshop, is a dream come true for thirty-one-year-old Daisy. The kindly owner, Jean, and the close-knit village feel like the family Daisy has never had. She’s been looking forward to finally having people to buy gifts for and to share cookies with in front of the fire after too much Christmas dinner.
When Jean suddenly falls ill, Daisy is the first to lend a hand in organising the holiday celebrations. She ropes in Alex – Jean’s handsome Scrooge of a nephew – to help her. From the get-go Daisy and Alex cannot agree on anything, butting heads through decorating disasters and tripping over each other at the holiday barn dance. Alex hates Christmas, and Daisy is feeling so festive she might as well be the fairy on top of the ten-foot tree. Can Daisy melt Alex’s icy exterior and prove to him just how magical Christmas can be?
But then Alex discovers Fox Farm is almost bankrupt, and suddenly its whole future is in jeopardy. They need a plan, and quickly, if Jean is to have a place to come back to this Christmas. Will Daisy be able to save the only real home she’s ever had? And might this Christmas be the beginning of something special?
Toward That Which is Beautiful by Marian O’Shea Wernicke
On an ordinary day in June of 1964 in a small town in the Altiplano of Peru, Sister Mary Katherine (formerly known as Kate), a young American nun recently arrived in this very foreign place, walks away from her convent with no money and no destination. Desperate and afraid of her feelings for an Irish priest with whom she has been working, she spends eight days on the run, encountering a variety of characters along the way: a cynical Englishman who helps her out; a suspicious Peruvian police officer who takes her in for questioning; and two American Peace Corps workers who befriend her. As Kate traverses this dangerous physical journey through Peru, she also embarks upon an interior journey of self-discovery—one that leads her somewhere she never could have expected.
The Couple at No 9 by Claire Douglas
When Saffron Cutler and boyfriend Tom move into 9 Skelton Place, they didn’t expect to find this.
Two bodies, buried under the patio over thirty years ago.
When the police launch a murder investigation, they ask to speak to the cottage’s former owner – Saffy’s grandmother, Rose, whose Alzheimer’s clouds her memory.
But it is clear she remembers something . . .
What happened thirty years ago?
What part did her grandmother play?
And is Saffy now in danger? . . .
Princes of the Renaissance by Mary Hollingsworth
A beautifully illustrated history of the Renaissance told through the lives of its most important and influential patrons – the princely rulers of Italy’s dynastic states and their families.
From the late Middle Ages, the independent Italian city-states were taken over by powerful families who installed themselves as dynastic rulers. Inspired by the humanists, the princes of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy immersed themselves in the culture of antiquity, commissioning palaces, villas and churches inspired by the architecture of ancient Rome, and offering patronage to artists and writers.
Many of these princes were related by blood or marriage, creating a web of alliances that held society together but whose tensions sometimes threatened to tear it apart. Thus were their lives defined as much by the waging of war as the nurturing of artistic talent. Mary Hollingsworth charts these developments in a sequence of chronological chapters, each centred on two or three main characters with a cast of minor ones – from Ludovico Sforza of Milan to Isabella d’Este of Mantua, from Pope Paul III to Emperor Charles V, and from the painters Mantegna and Titian to the architect Sansovino and the polymath Leonardo da Vinci.
Princes of the Renaissance is a vivid depiction of the lives and times of the élite whose power and patronage created the art and architecture of the Renaissance. In a narrative that is as rigorous and closely researched as it is accessible and informative, Mary Hollingsworth sets their aesthetic achievements in the context of the volatile, ever-shifting politics of a tumultuous period of history.
The Civilisation of Europe in the Renaissance by John Hale
‘The Civilisation of Europe in the Renaissance’ is the most ambitious achievement of Britain’s leading Renaissance historian. John Hale has painted on a grand canvas an enthralling portrait of Europe and its civilisation at a moment when ‘Europe’ first became an entity in the minds of its inhabitants. John Hale’s Renaissance has no compartments. With astonishing range and subtlety of learning, he paints a gigantic picture of the age, enlivened by a multiplicity of themes, people and ideas. It contains memorable descriptions of painting, sculpture, poetry, architecture and music, but Hale is not simply concerned with the arts. He examines the dramatic changes during the period in religion, politics, economics and global discoveries. And throughout his book approaches the art of war and the art created for princes from the point of view of their impact on the imaginations, sensibilities and lives of ordinary people.
The Beauty and the Terror : An Alternative History of the Italian Renaissance by Catherine Fletcher
The Italian Renaissance shaped Western culture – but it was far stranger and darker than many of us realise. We know the Mona Lisa for her smile, but not that she was married to a slave-trader. We revere Leonardo da Vinci for his art, but few now appreciate his ingenious designs for weaponry. We visit Florence to see Michelangelo’s David, but hear nothing of the massacre that forced the republic’s surrender. In fact, many of the Renaissance’s most celebrated artists and thinkers emerged not during the celebrated ‘rebirth’ of the fifteenth century but amidst the death and destruction of the sixteenth century.
The Beauty and the Terror is an enrapturing narrative which includes the forgotten women writers, Jewish merchants, mercenaries, prostitutes, farmers and citizens who lived the Renaissance every day. Brimming with life, it takes us closer than ever before to the reality of this astonishing era, and its meaning for today.
Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton
In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege.
Pupils and teachers barricade themselves into classrooms, the library, the theatre. The headmaster lies wounded in the library, unable to help his trapped students and staff. Outside, a police psychiatrist must identify the gunmen, while parents gather desperate for news.
In three intense hours, all must find the courage to stand up to evil and save the people they love.
Girls Who Lie (Forbidden Iceland 2) by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir
When single mother Maríanna disappears from her home, leaving an apologetic note on the kitchen table, everyone assumes that she’s taken her own life … until her body is found on the Grábrók lava fields seven months later, clearly the victim of murder. Her neglected fifteen-year-old daughter Hekla has been placed in foster care, but is her perfect new life hiding something sinister?
Fifteen years earlier, a desperate new mother lies in a maternity ward, unable to look at her own child, the start of an odd and broken relationship that leads to a shocking tragedy.
Police officer Elma and her colleagues take on the case, which becomes increasingly complex, as the number of suspects grows and new light is shed on Maríanna’s past – and the childhood of a girl who never was like the others…
A Trip of One’s Own : Hope, heartbreak and why travelling solo could change your life by Kate Wills
Kate Wills wasn’t expecting to be divorced after less than a year of marriage. She hadn’t anticipated restarting a life that had, for the last 12 years with her partner, seemed so stable. Luckily, her job as a travel journalist offered her the perfect opportunity to escape from it all. But this time, her jet-setting felt different. Kate felt more alone, particularly against a backdrop of never-ending hen dos, weddings and baby showers.
So she began to search history for female travellers to inspire her. From a 4th-century nun to a globe-girdling cyclist, Kate discovers that throughout history, there have been astonishing women who’ve broken free from more burdensome expectations, clearing the path for us to do the same.
A Trip of One’s Own is a funny and heartfelt invitation to take that trip: to Paris, to Whitstable, and maybe down that street you’ve always wondered about.
Winterkill (Dark Iceland Book 6) by Ragnar Jónasson
A blizzard is approaching Siglufjörður, and that can only mean one thing…
When the body of a nineteen-year-old girl is found on the main street of Siglufjörður, Police Inspector Ari Thór battles a violent Icelandic storm in an increasingly dangerous hunt for her killer … The chilling, claustrophobic finale to the international bestselling Dark Iceland series.
Easter weekend is approaching, and snow is gently falling in Siglufjörður, the northernmost town in Iceland, as crowds of tourists arrive to visit the majestic ski slopes.
Ari Thór Arason is now a police inspector, but he’s separated from his girlfriend, who lives in Sweden with their three-year-old son. A family reunion is planned for the holiday, but a violent blizzard is threatening and there is an unsettling chill in the air.
Three days before Easter, a nineteen-year-old local girl falls to her death from the balcony of a house on the main street. A perplexing entry in her diary suggests that this may not be an accident, and when an old man in a local nursing home writes ‘She was murdered’ again and again on the wall of his room, there is every suggestion that something more sinister lies at the heart of her death…
As the extreme weather closes in, cutting the power and access to Siglufjörður, Ari Thór must piece together the puzzle to reveal a horrible truth … one that will leave no one unscathed.
The Glorious Guinness Girls by Emily Hourican
The Glorious Guinness Girls are the toast of London and Dublin society. Darlings of the press, Aileen, Maureen and Oonagh lead charmed existences that are the envy of many.
But Fliss knows better. Sent to live with them as a child, she grows up as part of the family and only she knows of the complex lives beneath the glamorous surface.
Then, at a party one summer’s evening, something happens which sends shockwaves through the entire household. In the aftermath, as the Guinness sisters move on, Fliss is forced to examine her place in their world and decide if where she finds herself is where she truly belongs.
The Secrets of De Courcy Square by Ann O’Loughlin
What if your life was built on a lie…?
When Cora Gartland learns that long-term partner, Jack, has been killed in a car crash in Ireland her world falls apart. But she soon discovers that there was another woman in the car: a wife he’d never told her about.
Devastated, she flies to Dublin to try to make sense of Jack’s secret life. As she grieves, Cora must find the truth and a way to move forward. But what else was Jack keeping from her and how will she survive this betrayal…?
Falling in Love by Donna Leon (Brunetti 24)
In Death at La Fenice, Donna Leon’s first novel in the Commissario Brunetti series, readers were introduced to the glamorous and cut-throat world of opera and to one of Italy’s finest living sopranos, Flavia Petrelli – then a suspect in the poisoning of a renowned German conductor. Now, many years after Brunetti cleared her name, Flavia has returned to the illustrious La Fenice to sing the lead in Tosca.
As an opera superstar, Flavia is well acquainted with attention from adoring fans and aspiring singers. But when one anonymous admirer inundates her with bouquets of yellow roses – on stage, in her dressing room and even inside her locked apartment – it becomes clear that this fan has become a potentially dangerous stalker. Distraught, Flavia turns to an old friend for help. Familiar with Flavia’s melodramatic temperament, Commissario Brunetti is at first unperturbed by her story, but when another young opera singer is attacked he begins to think Flavia’s fears may be justified. In order to keep his friend out of danger, Brunetti must enter the psyche of an obsessive fan and find the culprit before anyone comes to harm.
Blood Ties by Brian McGilloway (Capital Crime sub)
How can a dead woman avenge herself on her killer twenty years after her murder?
This is the puzzle facing Ben Devlin in his latest case. He is called to the scene of a murder – a man has been stabbed to death in his rented room and when his identity is discovered Devlin feels a ghost walk over his grave as he knows the name Brooklyn Harris well. As a teenager, Harris beat his then-girlfriend Hannah Row to death, and then spent twelve years in prison for the murder.
As Devlin investigates the dead man’s movements since his release it becomes apparent Harris has been grooming teenage girls online and then arranging to meet them. But his activities have been discovered by others, notably a vigilante, who goes straight to the top of Devlin’s list of suspects… until he uncovers that Harris was killed on the anniversary of Hannah’s death – just too big a coincidence in Devlin’s books. So Hannah’s family join the ever-growing list of suspects being interviewed by his team. And then forensics contact Devlin with the astounding news that blood found on Harris’s body is a perfect match to that of Hannah Row’s. Yet how can this be; the girl was murdered many years ago – and Devlin doesn’t believe in ghosts.
His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie (NB Mag sub)
In one of the most talked about and hilarious debuts of the year, Afi Tekple, a bright young seamstress from a small town in Ghana, is convinced by her family to marry a man she has never met.
Elikem Ganyo is a wealthy businessman whose family has chosen Afi in the hope that she will distract him from a relationship with another woman they think is inappropriate.
The fact that she doesn’t know Elikem seems a small price to pay for a marriage that offers her family financial security and provides the key to a lifestyle she has always wanted. But when Afi arrives in Accra, Ghana’s gleaming capital, she realises her fairy-tale ending might not be all she had hoped for…
I won this lovely bundle of books last month, but had delivery delayed because I was away on holiday. Delighted to say they arrived safely for inclusion this month. They are beautifully bound and a delight to own. So, many thanks, to lovely author Poppy Alexander for such a gorgeous prize. All the books listed feature in her book The Littlest Library.
The Littlest Library by Poppy Alexander
It’s only the beginning of her story…
Jess Metcalf is perfectly happy with her quiet, predictable life – it’s just the way she likes it. But when her beloved grandmother passes away and she loses her job at the local library, her life is turned upside-down.
Packing up her grandmother’s books, she moves to a tiny cottage in a charming country village. To her surprise, Jess finds herself the owner of an old red telephone box, too – and she soon turns it into the littlest library around!
It’s not long before the books are borrowed and begin to work their magic – somehow, they seem to be bringing the villagers together once more…
Maybe it’s finally time for Jess to follow her heart and find a place to call home?
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Puffin in Bloom edition)
Meg is the eldest and on the brink of love. Then there’s tomboy Jo who longs to be a writer. Sweet-natured Beth always puts others first, and finally there’s Amy, the youngest and most precocious. Together they are the March sisters. Even though money is short, times are tough and their father is away at war, their infectious sense of fun sweeps everyone up in their adventures — including Laurie, the boy next door. And through sisterly squabbles, their happy times and sad ones too, the sisters discover that growing up is sometimes very hard to do.
Based on Louisa May Alcott’s childhood, this lively portrait of nineteenth-century family life possesses a lasting vitality that has endeared it to generations of readers.
Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier (Virago edition)
The Restoration Court knows Lady Dona St Columb to be ripe for any folly, any outrage that will relieve the tedium of her days. But there is another, secret Dona who longs for a life of honest love – and sweetness, even if it is spiced with danger.
Dona flees London for remote Navron, looking for peace of mind in its solitary woods and hidden creeks. She finds there the passion her spirit craves – in the love of a daring pirate hunted across Cornwall, a Frenchman who, like Dona, would gamble his life for a moment’s joy.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Penguin Clothbound Classics)
This Charles Dickens novel traces the journey of Pip, from his young days of admiring the rich from afar, to his own experience of living as a gentleman among London’s elite. While living with his sister and brother-in-law in a quiet rural life, Pip meets the reclusive heiress Miss Havisham, and her adopted daughter, Estella. Pip is attracted to the aloof Estella, who symbolizes the social status he aspires to. Pip’s fortunes reverse when he receives money from an anonymous benefactor. As a newly-rich Londoner, trapped in appearances of ‘gentility’, Pip starts incurring debts to continue his dream of being equals with the elite, and feels ashamed at his background. Through adventures involving envious adversaries, a criminal Pip once helped, and Pip’s friends Joe, Biddy, Herbert and Wemmick, Dickens’s Pip learns to disregard pretensions and appreciate loyalty and love, guaranteed not by birth but by one’s character.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Part of Penguin’s beautiful hardback Clothbound Classics series, designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith, these delectable and collectible editions are bound in high-quality colourful, tactile cloth with foil stamped into the design.
Charlotte Bronte’s first published novel, Jane Eyre was immediately recognised as a work of genius when it appeared in 1847. Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity.
How she takes up the post of governess at Thornfield Hall, meets and loves Mr Rochester and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage are elements in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than that traditionally accorded to her sex in Victorian society.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era.
As First Lady of the United States of America – the first African-American to serve in that role – she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world. She dramatically changed the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and stood with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it – in her own words and on her own terms.
Books I Read
Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
1957, the suburbs of South East London. Jean Swinney is a journalist on a local paper, trapped in a life of duty and disappointment from which there is no likelihood of escape.
When a young woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud.
As the investigation turns her quiet life inside out, Jean is suddenly given an unexpected chance at friendship, love and – possibly – happiness.
But there will, inevitably, be a price to pay.
Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin
Ex-priest DI Frank Farrell has returned to his roots in Dumfries, only to be landed with a disturbing murder case. Even worse, Farrell knows the victim: Father Boyd, the man who forced him out of the priesthood eighteen years earlier.
With no leads, Farrell must delve into the old priest’s past, one that is inexorably linked with his own. But his attention is diverted when a pair of twin boys go missing. The Dumfries police force recover one in an abandoned church, unharmed. But where is his brother?
As Farrell investigates the two cases, he can’t help but feel targeted. Is someone playing a sinister game, or is he seeing patterns that don’t exist? Either way, it’s a game Farrell needs to win before he loses his grip on his sanity, or someone else turns up dead.
Sea of Bones by Deborah O’Donoghue
A career politician investigates the suspicious death of her niece in this “stirring and evocative thriller” set in the Scottish Highlands (T.F. Muir, author of the DCI Andy Gilchrist series).
As Chief of Staff for the Progressive Alliance, Juliet MacGillivray is used to wielding influence and getting answers. But when her beloved niece Beth is found dead at her family’s Scottish Highlands castle, Juliet is suddenly powerless in the face of her grief. Worse, her doubts over the coroner’s report of suicide fall on deaf ears.Traveling back to the remote coastal home, Juliet delves deep into the investigation. As her personal and professional lives collide, she unwittingly finds herself pitted against dangerous individuals who seem intent on silencing her. In order to expose the truth behind her niece’s death,Juliet must face the fact that nobody in her life is who she previously thought them to be—including herself.
Snowblind (Dark Iceland 1) by Ragnar Jónasson
Siglufjörður: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel.
Ari Thór Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind.
When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life.
An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by snow, and with a killer on the loose.
All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle
In phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun and friendship.
But Hubert Bird is lying.
Something has made him turn his back on people, and he hardly sees a soul.
So when his daughter announces she’s coming to visit, Hubert faces a race against time: to make his real life resemble his fake life before he’s found out.
Along the way Hubert renews a cherished friendship, is given a second chance at love and even joins an audacious community scheme. But with the secret of his earlier isolation lurking in the shadows, is he destines to always be one of the lonely people?
That’s me for this month so all that’s left to say is : Happy Reading!