My Bookish Month – December 2021

In October and November, as previously reported, I had a real reading slump but I made up for that this month when I managed an unlucky for some, but not me 13!!

I embarked on my Christmas books binge towards the end of November and got totally hooked. As you’ll know if you read my How this Christmas pudding became a Christmas tart! post, I fell in love, and it wasn’t just with the idea of reading! I’m thinking I might just start on this year’s Christmas reading early, because by November there’ll be hundreds more Christmas titles available – and I should know, I’ll be listing them!

I’m hoping this all bodes well for my coming year of reading. I think it’s also been aided by my finally buying myself a new DAB radio and CD player for my reading nook. I can now play whatever I want, though I must admit I’ve virtually been permanently tuned in to Classic FM since I bought it. I can’t read if I’m listening to songs or talking as I tune into the radio and out of my book. My new listening has been chilled and relaxing which makes for a conducive reading atmosphere – even if I have nodded off once or twice!

I’m still buying far too many books and will be making a concerted effort this year to really try and cut down – famous last words I think I say that every month, let alone year – anyway we’ll see. My next post, hopefully appearing soon (ie still not written yet!) will be a round up of the year, along with some of my favourite reads. That will allow me to reflect again on my profligate ways when I see the evidence writ large! Until then, here’s the damage for this month.

(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)

Books I Bought this Month

Call of the Penguins: The new heartwarming story from the No.1 bestselling author of Away with the Penguins by [Hazel Prior]

Call of the Penguins by Hazel Prior

Veronica McCreedy can’t resist the promise of adventure . . .

Nine-year-old Daisy and nearly ninety-year-old Veronica make an unlikely pair of friends.

Fiercely independent and impeccably dressed, Veronica has lived an incredible 87 years. Most of them alone, in her huge house by the sea. But with the arrival of brave and resilient Daisy into her life, Veronica finds she has a renewed thirst for adventure – and that they both share a passion for penguins!

So when Veronica and Daisy are invited to travel to the other side of the world together and visit the penguins of the southern hemisphere, they both jump at the chance.

Veronica had thought her days of new friendships, family and love were over, but perhaps it’s never too late for one more adventure?


The Venetian Legacy: a haunting new thriller set in the beautiful and secretive islands of Venice from the bestselling author by [Philip Gwynne Jones]

The Venetian Legacy by Philip Gwynne Jones


No happy ever after for Nathan and Federica?

Newlyweds Nathan Sutherland and Federica Ravagnan are looking forward to weeks of sunshine and relaxation on the island of Pellestrina, in a cottage belonging to Federica’s late father, Elio.

The weather is idyllic, the views across the lagoon are spectacular and the seafood is the best in Venice. But when the body of an eminent Venetian lawyer is dredged up by a fishing boat, members of the close-knit island community start to take an unhealthy interest in the two honeymooners, and whispers and rumours begin to circulate about Elio’s association with a recently-deceased gang boss.

As Federica struggles to comes to terms with her father’s troubled legacy, Nathan finds himself dragged into the search for the missing proceeds of an unsolved jewellery heist, and the unwanted centre of attention of the Mala del Brenta – the Venetian Mafia.

Clearly Pellestrina is going to be no honeymoon…


The Post Box at the North Pole: The perfect cosy and uplifting Christmas romance to curl up with in 2021! by [Jaimie Admans]

The Post Box at the North Pole by Jaimie Admans

Sasha Hansley hates Christmas. As a child, it was her favourite time of year, but ever since the tragic death of her mother, it has completely lost its magic.

But when she gets an unexpected phone call from her estranged father, she’s forced to dust off her snow boots.

He’s been running a Lapland style Christmas village in Norway and after suffering a heart attack, he is on strict doctor’s orders to slow down. Eager to reconnect with her dad, Sasha books the next flight out there. Only she’s never actually been on a plane before, let alone to the Arctic Circle.

Met at the runway by drop-dead-gorgeous Taavi Salvesen, they sleigh ride through the snow with the Northern Lights guiding their way.

When Sasha uncovers sacks of unopened Santa mail – letters that children and adults from all over the world write to Santa every year – she realises that she can send a little bit of magic out into the world by replying to some of them.

With Taavi on hand to help, will Sasha rediscover her own excitement for Christmas and find love among the letters?


Christmas at the Island Hotel (Mure Book 9) by [Jenny Colgan]

Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan

On the tiny Scottish island of Mure, Christmas preparations are even more hectic than usual . ..

Flora MacKenzie is worried about her brother. Fintan hasn’t got over the death of his partner, Colton, and Flora thinks he needs a project.

The Rock – the rambling, disused hotel on the tip of the island – was Colton’s passion project before he died. With Flora’s help, Fintan is going to get the hotel up and running in time for Christmas, transforming it into a festive haven of crackling log fires and delicious food. But running a hotel, they are about to discover, is not that easy. Especially when their motley staff includes a temperamental French chef, a spoilt Norwegian kitchen boy who can’t peel a potato without mutilating his own hand and a painfully shy kitchen assistant who blushes when anyone speaks to her.

Can they pull it together in time for the big opening?

And can Flora help her family find happiness this Christmas?


Cupcakes for Christmas: The most uplifting and unmissable feel good love story of Christmas 2018! (Return to Willoughby Close Book 1) by [Kate Hewitt]

Cupcakes for Christmas by Kate Hewitt

Welcome back to Willoughby Close, with four new residents and happy endings to deliver…

Olivia James has always been happy running a tea shop and bakery in the Cotswold village of Wychwood-on-Lea, and helping her friends find their happily-ever-afters, topped by the perfect wedding cake. But as Christmas approaches, Olivia is home alone and questioning her choices while eating too many of her own specialty confections.

When Simon Blacklock, a handsome, whimsical stranger, breezes into her shop and buys a cupcake and then returns the next day and the day after, Olivia begins to dream. Can romance blossom amidst the sugar and flour? And after a lifetime of living on the side lines, is she brave enough to star in her own story?

Simon may be hiding a painful secret, but Olivia harbors secrets of her own. If they can dare to risk their hearts, this Christmas might be the most magical yet!


The Man on a Donkey: A forgotten literary masterpiece rediscovered by [H.F.M. Prescott, John Cooper]

The Man on a Donkey by H F M Prescott

A forgotten literary masterpiece, The Man on a Donkey is less about the great figures who shape historical change and more about what it’s like to live through it.

This is a sweeping, immersive historical novel that invites the reader to inhabit Tudor history as it unfolds: Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon; Robert Aske’s rebels fighting the Dissolution of the Monasteries; the machinations of Cardinal Wolsey and Anne Boleyn.

It is, quite simply, one of the finest historical novels ever written.


Blonde Roots: From the Booker prize-winning author of Girl, Woman, Other by [Bernardine Evaristo]

Blonde Roots by Bernadine Evaristo

Welcome to a world turned upside down. One minute, Doris, from England, is playing hide-and-seek with her sisters in the fields behind their cottage. The next, someone puts a bag over her head and she ends up in the hold of a slave-ship sailing to the New World . . .

In this fantastically imaginative inversion of the transatlantic slave trade – in which ‘whytes’ are enslaved by black people – Bernardine Evaristo has created a thought-provoking satire that is as accessible and readable as it is intelligent and insightful. Blonde Roots brings the shackles and cries of long-ago barbarity uncomfortably close and raises timely questions about the society of today.


Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year: A little book of festive joy by [Beth Kempton]

Calm Christmas and a Happy New year by Beth Kempton

This is a book about Christmas. But it’s also a book about belonging, connection, self-care, joy and ordinary magic.

Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year offers inspiration for a new kind of holiday season – one where you radiate calm and cultivate delight. Spanning late November to early January, Calm Christmas embraces the festive build-up, the celebrations and the turn of the year in a holistic, nurturing way. Beth Kempton will whisk you away from the frenetic energy of the high street and invite you to come sit awhile by the fire, pausing to explore what a more mindful festive season could mean for you.

Full of personal stories, tips and advice for slowing down, staying calm and connecting with others, it offers a welcome retreat from the pressure to create ‘the perfect Christmas’.

At its heart Calm Christmas is about a book about wellbeing in winter, which will encourage you to use this time of natural hibernation to germinate new dreams and nurture a beautiful life in the year ahead. Instead of entering January exhausted, further in debt, and already regretting broken resolutions, you will begin the New Year with precious memories, feeling rested, rejuvenated and inspired.


The Dying Day (The Malabar House Series) by [Vaseem Khan]

The Dying Day by Vaseem Khan

A priceless manuscript. A missing scholar. A trail of riddles.
For over a century, one of the world’s great treasures, a six-hundred-year-old copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, has been safely housed at Bombay’s Asiatic Society. But when it vanishes, together with the man charged with its care, British scholar and war hero, John Healy, the case lands on Inspector Persis Wadia’s desk.

Uncovering a series of complex riddles written in verse, Persis – together with English forensic scientist Archie Blackfinch – is soon on the trail. But then they discover the first body.

As the death toll mounts it becomes evident that someone else is also pursuing this priceless artefact and will stop at nothing to possess it . . .

Harking back to an era of darkness, this second thriller in the Malabar House series pits Persis, once again, against her peers, a changing India, and an evil of limitless intent.


A Kiss in the Snow : (Little Duck Pond Cafe, Book 13) by [Rosie Green]

A Kiss in the Snow by Rosie Green

After a cruel twist of fate sends her hurtling into a black hole of despair, Carrie is absolutely dreading the festive season – especially with sister, Krystle, being even more demanding of her time and energy than usual. But then friend Maddy offers Carrie a lifeline: the chance to get away from it all in a holiday cottage in the gorgeous little village of Silverbells. Deciding that a few weeks of tranquillity – reading, baking and going for long walks in the countryside – might just restore her mood, Carrie is quick to take up the offer. But on arriving, it very soon becomes clear that this break is going to be anything but peaceful!
An unwelcome houseguest proves unsettling enough – especially one who whistles loudly first thing in the morning and is far too cheerful for his own good – but finding herself drawn into the spooky mystery of her missing neighbour means there really isn’t much time for personal reflection. And then love comes knocking, and Carrie is forced to decide exactly where her heart lies.
Will this festive season be the disaster Carrie predicted? Or will Santa be good to her and deliver her heart’s desire? One thing’s for sure – this will be a Christmas Carrie will never, ever forget…


The Stranger Times: (The Stranger Times 1) by [C.K.McDonnell]

The Stranger Times by C K McDonnell

There are dark forces at work in our world (and in Manchester in particular), so thank God The Stranger Times is on hand to report them . . .

A weekly newspaper dedicated to the weird and the wonderful (but mostly the weird), it is the go-to publication for the unexplained and inexplicable.

At least that’s their pitch. The reality is rather less auspicious. Their editor is a drunken, foul-tempered and foul-mouthed husk of a man who thinks little of the publication he edits. His staff are a ragtag group of misfits. And as for the assistant editor . . . well, that job is a revolving door – and it has just revolved to reveal Hannah Willis, who’s got problems of her own.

When tragedy strikes in her first week on the job The Stranger Times is forced to do some serious investigating. What they discover leads to a shocking realisation: some of the stories they’d previously dismissed as nonsense are in fact terrifyingly real. Soon they come face-to-face with darker forces than they could ever have imagined.


From the Oven to the Table: Simple dishes that look after themselves: THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER by [Diana Henry]

From the Oven to the Table by Diana Henry

Diana Henry’s favourite way to cook is to throw ingredients into a dish or roasting tin, slide them in the oven and let the heat behind that closed door transform them into golden, burnished meals. Most of the easy-going recipes in this wonderfully varied collection are cooked in one dish; some are ideas for simple accompaniments that can be cooked on another shelf at the same time.

From quick after-work suppers to feasts for friends, the dishes are vibrant and modern and focus on grains, pulses and vegetables as much as meat and fish. With recipes such as Chicken Thighs with Miso, Sweet Potatoes & Spring Onions, Roast Indian-spiced Vegetables with Lime-Coriander Butter, and Roast Stone Fruit with Almond and Orange Flower Crumbs, Diana shows how the oven is the most useful bit of kit you have in your kitchen.


The Vineyard in Alsace: A feel-good, heartwarming romance (Domaine des Montagnes Book 1) by [Julie Stock]

A Vineyard in Alsace by Julie Stock

Is there really such a thing as a second chance at love?

Fran Schell has only just become engaged when she finds her fiancé in bed with another woman. She knows this is the push she needs to break free of him and to leave London. She applies for her dream job on a vineyard in Alsace, in France, not far from her family home, determined to concentrate on her work.

Didier Le Roy can hardly believe it when he sees that the only person to apply for the job on his vineyard is the same woman he once loved but let go because of his stupid pride. Now estranged from his wife, he longs for a second chance with Fran if only she will forgive him for not following her to London.

Working so closely together, Fran soon starts to fall in love with Didier all over again. Didier knows that it is now time for him to move on with his divorce if he and Fran are ever to have a future together. Can Fran and Didier make their second chance at love work despite all the obstacles in their way?


The Almanac: A seasonal guide to 2022 by [Lia Leendertz]

The Almanac : a Seasonal Guide to 2022

A perfect toolkit for connecting with the world around us and the year ahead as it unfolds – all in a compact and pocket size guide that just begs you to pick it up and browse.

The Almanac: A seasonal guide to 2022 reinvents the tradition of the rural almanac for a new audience. It gives you the tools and inspiration you need to celebrate, mark and appreciate each month of the year in your own particular way. Divided into the 12 months, a set of tables each month gives it the feel and weight of a traditional almanac, providing practical information that gives access to the outdoors and the seasons, perfect for expeditions, meteor-spotting nights and beach holidays. There are also features on each month’s unique nature, such as the meteor shower of the month, beehive behaviour, folklore, seasonal recipes and charts tracking moon phases and tides.

You will find yourself referring to The Almanac all year long, revisiting it again and again, and looking forward to the next edition as the year draws to a close.


25 Days in December: A heartwarming Christmas romance that will help you believe in love again this festive season by [Poppy Alexander]

25 Days in December by Poppy Alexander

You can’t plan for the unexpected…

Kate Potter used to know what happiness felt like.

A few years ago, she was full of energy, excited by every possibility. But that was back when everything was different, before Kate’s husband went away with the army and didn’t come home. She can’t even remember what it felt like to be in love.

Then Kate meets Daniel. Recognising her loneliness reflected in his eyes, Kate vows to try and help bring him out of his shell. But as Kate plans to bring life back to Daniel, she might have stumbled on the secret to happiness…

Can one chance meeting change two lives?


Sankofa: A Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick and a BBC 2 Between the Covers Book Club Pick by [Chibundu Onuzo]

Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo

Anna is at a stage of her life when she’s beginning to wonder who she really is. She has separated from her husband, her daughter is all grown up, and her mother – the only parent who raised her – is dead.

Searching through her mother’s belongings, she finds clues about the West African father she never knew. Through reading his student diary, chronicling his involvement in radical politics in 1970s London, she discovers that he eventually became the president (some would say the dictator) of a small nation in West Africa – and he is still alive. She decides to track him down and so begins a funny, painful, fascinating journey, and an exploration of race, identity and what we pass on to our children.


A Town Like Alice: (Vintage Classics Shute Series) by [Nevil Shute, Eric Lomax]

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

Jean Paget is just twenty years old and working in Malaya when the Japanese invasion begins.

When she is captured she joins a group of other European women and children whom the Japanese force to march for miles through the jungle – an experience that leads to the deaths of many.

Due to her courageous spirit and ability to speak Malay, Jean takes on the role of leader of the sorry gaggle of prisoners and many end up owing their lives to her indomitable spirit. While on the march, the group run into some Australian prisoners, one of whom, Joe Harman, helps them steal some food, and is horrifically punished by the Japanese as a result.

After the war, Jean tracks Joe down in Australia and together they begin to dream of surmounting the past and transforming his one-horse outback town into a thriving community like Alice Springs…


Into the Night Sky by [Caroline Finnerty]

Into the Night Sky by Caroline Finnerty

‘The story of the unlikely friendship between a boy and a man who come into each other’s lives when they are both in need of a friend.’

Conor Fahy is the owner of struggling bookshop Haymarket Books and is finding it hard to cope with everyday life in the aftermath of his partner Leni’s tragic death.

Conor’s best friend Ella Wilde is struggling with her own problems having just been axed from her job as a TV presenter after being caught shoplifting. She is struggling to deal with the weight of public disgrace and adjust to life away from the TV cameras. But is there more to Ella’s problems than just what appears on the surface?

Jack White is eight years old. He likes Ben 10, Giant Jawbreaker sweets and reading adventure books. He likes his Dad (when he doesn’t shout). He doesn’t like the bad monsters that are eating up his ma inside her tummy.

Rachel Traynor is the social worker assigned to Jack White’s case but sorting out messy family disputes is taking its toll on her. And it doesn’t help that she has had to say goodbye to the man she loves because he doesn’t want to have children with her.

Into the Night Sky is the story of four people who come into each other’s lives when they are each in need of a friend and how the bonds that form, change them all forever more.


The Literary Almanac : a Year of Seasonal Reading

Spanning the dreary, cold days of January to the first flushes of spring and then the blazing August heat, bibliophile Francesca Beauman offers up a wealth of book recommendations. From The Count of Monte Cristo to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, each has been selected to chime with a particular time of year and provide a richer reading experience.

Beautifully illustrated throughout, this charming guide will delight, inspire and seriously extend your ‘To Be Read’ list!


The Darlings by [Angela Jackson]

The Darlings by Angela Jackson

When Mark Darling is fifteen years old, he is the golden boy, captain of the school football team, admired by all who know him. Until he kills his best friend in a freak accident.

He spends the next decade drifting between the therapy couch and dead-end pursuits. Then along comes Sadie. A mender by nature, she tries her best to fix him, and has enough energy to carry them both through the next few years.

One evening, Mark bumps into an old schoolfriend, Ruby. She saw the accident first hand. He is pulled towards her by a force stronger than logic: the universal need to reconcile one’s childhood wounds. This is his chance to, once again, feel the enveloping warmth of unconditional love. But can he leave behind the woman who rescued him from the pit of despair, the wife he loves? His unborn child?

This is a story about how childhood experience can profoundly impact how we behave as adults. It’s a story about betrayal, infidelity and how we often blinker ourselves to see a version of the truth that is more palatable to us.


The Library by [Bella Osborne]

The Library by Bella Osborne

Teenager Tom has always blended into the background of life. After a row with his dad and facing an unhappy future at the dog food factory, he escapes to the library.

Pensioner Maggie has been happily alone with her beloved novels for ten years – at least, that’s what she tells herself.

When they meet, they recognise something in each other that will change both their lives for ever.

Then the library comes under threat of closure, and they must join forces to prove that it’s not just about books – it’s the heart of their community.

They are determined to save it – because some things are worth fighting for.


Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea: The perfect heart-warming and romantic Christmas romance (The Cornish Cream Tea series, Book 5) by [Cressida McLaughlin]

Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea by Cressida McLaughlin

Can she spread Christmas cheer in Cornwall this year?

All Meredith Verren has ever wanted is to escape the holiday season without having to wear a Christmas jumper. Her new job at the cosy gift shop in a picturesque Cornish tourist spot is making it impossible for her to maintain her scrooge-like manner.

With their seasonal hampers on everyone’s wish list, Meredith must paste on a smile and fake some holiday cheer. Then she meets handsome new arrival, Finn, who wishes it could be Christmas every day and wants her to feel the same way too.

Can she embrace the holly and the ivy before the decorations are packed away for another year?


A Country Village Christmas: A festive and feel-good romance to keep you warm this winter (Welcome to Thorndale Book 4) by [Suzanne Snow]

A Country Village Christmas by Suzanne Snow

Can the magic of Christmas and the community of Thorndale bring two lost souls together in love?

Olivia doesn’t have time for Christmas or for romance – she’s got a demanding career and has been burned before when it comes to love. This year, she’s spending the festive season in her dad’s old house, packing it up now that he’s moved out. Her dad failed to mention she wouldn’t be spending her time there alone…

The last thing Olivia expects is for her surprise guest to be the very man who literally ran from her after an evening of mutual flirtation. But Tom has nowhere else to go and Olivia is determined to forget the disappointment she felt at his abandonment and instead help him find his way again.

As heavy snow keeps them inside the cottage, will their enforced confinement spark romance once again – or will it push them further apart?


Still Life: The instant Sunday Times bestseller and BBC Between the Covers Book Club pick by [Sarah Winman]

Still Life by Sarah Winman

1944, in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening.

Ulysses Temper is a young British soldier, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the wreckage and relive memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view.

Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses’ mind that will shape the trajectory of his life – and of those who love him – for the next four decades.

Moving from the Tuscan Hills and piazzas of Florence, to the smog of London’s East End, Still Life is a sweeping, joyful novel about beauty, love, family and fate.


The 12 Days of Christmas by [Poppy Alexander]

The 12 Days of Christmas by Poppy Alexander

The most magical time of the year…

For the first time in ten years, Freya is back in the little village of Middlemass for Christmas. The streets might be twinkling with fairy lights, but after the recent loss of her mother, she’s never felt less festive.

Forced to sleep under the same roof as her handsome neighbour Finn, Freya realises she’s going to need a distraction – fast! So she sets herself a challenge: to cook the ’12 Days of Christmas’. Her delicious food soon brings the villagers together, and as each day passes, old friendships are renewed, memories stirred and there’s even the flickering of romance…

She was only meant to stay for the holidays, but could Middlemass – and Finn – steal her heart forever?


Find You First: From the international bestselling author of books like Elevator Pitch comes the most gripping crime thriller of 2021 by [Linwood Barclay]

Find You First by Linwood Barclay

It’s a deadly race against time…

Tech billionaire Miles has more money than he can ever spend, but he can’t buy more time. Diagnosed with a terminal illness, he is forced to take a long, hard look at his past.

Somewhere out there, Miles has children who don’t know it, but they might be about to inherit the good and bad from him – possibly his fortune, or possibly something more sinister.

So, Miles decides to track them down. But a lethal killer is one step ahead of him. One by one, people are vanishing. Not just disappearing, every trace of them is wiped.


THE CASE OF THE HEADLESS BILLIONAIRE a totally gripping, breathlessly twisty crime mystery (Detective Roper and Hooley Mysteries Book 1) by [MICHAEL LEESE]

The Case of the Headless Billionaire by Michael Leese

Billionaire philanthropist Sir James Taylor has been missing for three weeks.

Then his headless torso turns up in the basement of a disused East London warehouse.

How could someone so rich and famous disappear without a trace? And who would want to tear him limb from limb?

Chief Inspector Brian Hooley knows his Special Investigations Unit needs help if they’re to have any chance of catching this depraved killer.

Enter Jonathan Roper.

Roper is one of Scotland Yard’s top investigators — exceptionally clever and doggedly determined. His autism means he sees the world differently, and he’s always spotting things that no else can.

Hooley knows Jonathan Roper is the only man for the job. Roper swiftly unearths a gruesome snuff video from the dark web showing Sir James’s death in horrifying detail.

Then Roper is beaten to a bloody pulp on his own doorstep. It’s a deadly warning from those who want their secrets kept hidden


Everything is Beautiful: an uplifting, heartwarming novel about finding joy in little things by [Eleanor Ray]

Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray

When Amy Ashton’s world fell apart eleven years ago, she started a collection.

Just a few keepsakes of happier times: some honeysuckle to remind herself of the boy she loved, a chipped china bird, an old terracotta pot . . . Things that others might throw away, but to Amy, represent a life that could have been.

Now her house is overflowing with the objects she loves – soon there’ll be no room for Amy at all. But when a family move in next door, a chance discovery unearths a mystery, and Amy’s carefully curated life begins to unravel. If she can find the courage to face her past, might the future she thought she’d lost still be hers for the taking?


Forever Young: A Memoir by [Hayley Mills]

Forever Young : a Memoir by Hayley Mills

What happens when a girl tries to grow up in a world where everyone wants her to remain a child?

Hayley Mills’ teenage decade in Hollywood produced some of the era’s greatest coming-of-age family movies: classics like PollyannaThe Parent Trap and In Search of the Castaways, and in Britain the acclaimed Whistle Down the Wind. These films made Hayley a genuine teen idol and a household name. Now and for the first time, Hayley reveals the truth of her own coming-of-age story, in her own words – a story of incredible twists of fate and fortune, but also mismanagement, bankruptcy, family crisis and dislocation.

Told with characteristic warmth, honesty and humour, Hayley takes us back in time to a bygone era, charting a journey from her carefree childhood innocence in post-war Britain, growing up in the shadow of her famous theatrical family, to being propelled into the Technicolor boomtown of 1960s Hollywood, where she is mentored to stardom by Walt Disney himself.


Subscription Books

Care For Me: A tense and engrossing psychological thriller for fans of Clare Mackintosh by [Farah Cook]

Care for Me by Farah Cook (Capital Crime sub)

When Amira takes her mother Afrah to Ravenswood Lodge Care Home, she thinks they will both be safe. But the past is just around the corner . . .

Amira is struggling to look after her mother, Afrah. So when they arrive at Ravenswood Lodge Care Home, beautiful and imposing against the background of the Scottish Highlands, she hopes it is the right decision for them both.

But soon Afrah insists her belongings are being stolen, her photographs, her jewellery, her pill boxes, Amira and the staff are convinced it’s just Afrah’s imagination, it’s just her memory.

But Afrah knows Ravenswood Lodge isn’t a safe place. Could it have something to do with the past? She remembers newspaper clippings, hazy images of a fire years ago, a memory she’s spent years forgetting and now she just wants to remember.

Someone wants her gone. But first, she needs to convince Amira of the truth.


Dog Park by [Sofi Oksanen]

Dog Park by Sofi Oksanen (Capital crime sub)

Helsinki, 2016. Olenka sits on a bench, watching a family play in a dog park. A stranger sits down beside her. Olenka startles; she would recognize this other woman anywhere. After all, Olenka was the one who ruined her life. And this woman may be about to do the same to Olenka. Yet, for a fragile moment, here they are, together – looking at their own children being raised by other people.

Moving seamlessly between modern-day Finland and Ukraine in the early days of its post-Soviet independence, Dog Park is a keenly observed, dark and propulsive novel set at the intersection of East and West, centered in a web of exploitation and the commodification of the female body. Oksanen brings fearless psychological acuity to this captivating story about a woman unable to escape the memory of her lost child, the ruthless powers that still hunt her, and the lies that could well end up saving her.


The Raptures by [Jan Carson]

The Raptures by Jan Carson (NB Magazine sub)

When several children from the same village start succumbing to a mysterious illness, the quest to discover the cause has devastating and extraordinary consequences.

It is late June in Ballylack. Hannah Adger anticipates eight long weeks’ reprieve from school, but when her classmate Ross succumbs to a violent and mysterious illness, it marks the beginning of a summer like no other.

As others fall ill, questions about what – or who – is responsible pitch the village into conflict and fearful disarray. Hannah is haunted by guilt as she remains healthy while her friends are struck down. Isolated and afraid, she prays for help.

Elsewhere in the village, tempers simmer, panic escalates and long-buried secrets threaten to emerge.

Bursting with Carson’s trademark wit, profound empathy and soaring imagination, The Raptures explores how tragedy can unite a small community – and tear it apart. At its heart is the extraordinary resilience of one young girl. As the world crumbles around her, she must find the courage to be different in a place where conforming feels like the only option available.


Wins and Gifts

Requiem in La Rossa: A gripping crime thriller (Daniel Leicester Book 3) by [Tom Benjamin]

Requiem in La Rossa by Tom Benjamin (won in a prize draw kindly run by Tom)

In the sweltering heat of a Bologna summer, a murderer plans their pièce de résistance…

Only in Bologna reads the headline in the Carlino after a professor of music is apparently murdered leaving the opera. But what looks like an open-and-shut case begins to fall apart when English detective Daniel Leicester is tasked with getting the accused man off, and a trail that begins among Bologna’s close-knit classical music community leads him to suspect there may be a serial killer at large in the oldest university in the world. And as Bologna trembles with aftershocks following a recent earthquake, the city begins to give up her secrets…


The Fortune Men: Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Of The Year Award by [Nadifa Mohamed]

The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed ( a lovely suprise from Janet at Love Books Read Books blog

Mahmood Mattan is a fixture in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay, 1952, which bustles with Somali and West Indian sailors, Maltese businessmen and Jewish families. He is a father, chancer, some-time petty thief. He is many things, in fact, but he is not a murderer.

So when a shopkeeper is brutally killed and all eyes fall on him, Mahmood isn’t too worried. It is true that he has been getting into trouble more often since his Welsh wife Laura left him. But Mahmood is secure in his innocence in a country where, he thinks, justice is served.

It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of freedom dwindles, that it will dawn on Mahmood that he is in a terrifying fight for his life – against conspiracy, prejudice and the inhumanity of the state. And, under the shadow of the hangman’s noose, he begins to realise that the truth may not be enough to save him.

Books I Read

Fa-La-Llama-La: Christmas at the Little French Llama Farm by [Stephanie Dagg]

Fa-La-Llama-La by Stephanie Dagg (novella)

It’s very nearly Christmas and, temporarily jobless and homeless, Noelle is back at home with her parents. However, a phone call from her cousin Joe, who runs a house-and-pet-sitting service, saves her from a festive season of Whist, boredom and overindulging.
So Noelle is off to France to mind a dozen South American mammals. She arrives amidst a blizzard and quickly discovers that something is definitely wrong at the farm. The animals are there all right, but pretty much nothing else – no power, no furniture and, disastrously, no fee. Add to that a short-tempered intruder in the middle of the night, a premature delivery, long-lost relatives and participation in a living crèche, and this is shaping up to be a noel that Noelle will never forget.
Fa-La-Llama-La is a feel-good, festive and fun romcom with a resourceful heroine, a hero who’s a bit of a handful and some right woolly charmers.


A Yorkshire Christmas (Christmas Around the World Book 2) by [Kate Hewitt]

A Yorkshire Christmas by Kate Hewitt (novella)

Wealthy New York City girl Claire Lindell isn’t looking for a Christmas miracle or happiness when she abruptly decides to hole up for the holiday at her godmother’s cottage in a little Yorkshire village, and lick her wounds from a near disastrous romantic decision.

After her car skids into a snow bank, Claire may have accidently found her perfect Christmas and the family and love she’s craved when she offers Noah Bradford of Ayesgill Farm help to push the back end of one of his sheep out of the icy mud, even if she’s going to ruin a brand new pair of Prada boots during the rescue.

What’s a little leather when love’s on the line?


One More Christmas at the Castle: An uplifting new festive read from the Sunday Times bestseller by [Trisha Ashley]

One More Christmas at the Castle by Trisha Ashley

This Christmas will be the most special of them all…

Elderly widow Sabine knows this will be her last Christmas in her beloved home, Mitras Castle. Determined to make it just like the ones she remembers from her childhood, she employs Dido Jones of Heavenly Houseparties to help with the big day.

Dido is enchanted by the castle as soon as she steps through the imposing front door. And as Christmas day approaches, her feeling of connection to the old house runs deeper than she first thought.

But when the snow begins to fall and Sabine’s family arrive at the house – including Dido’s teenage crush Xan – tensions rise around the castle’s future and long-buried mysteries begin to unravel…

As past secrets come to light, can this still be a magical Christmas to remember?

In addition I also read a large number that were included on my Christmas reads post.


That’s me for this month so happy reading and all best wishes for the coming year!

 

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