I hope your year has got off to a good start despite the present political, economic and pandemic related issues. I suspect I might not be alone in escaping through reading to avoid what’s going on in the real world.
Following my Christmas ‘Romance’ binge I decided I wasn’t ready to go back to the dark side and I’ve been happily lapping up more romances in January. My reading count has also hit an all time high for a non holiday month. As I type, it stands at 16 plus I’m a fair way through another one.
January also saw me hop back on the exercise bike. I’ve set myself a rather ambitious target of covering 4410 km this year. This might seem an odd figure but it’s based on the distance of the 1941 Spanish Vuelta. After reading Vuelta Skelter by Tim Moore last year, my friend suggested it would be a good idea for a challenge ie we should aim to cycle the 1941 distance this year. Given that it was completed in less than a week in 1941 it might make our target seem ridiculous, but with time off for good behaviour (ie holidays and can’t be bothered days) it still means aiming for 15 km a day! So I have my Kindle Fire permanently slung over my handlebars for reading.
It’s all gone to plan so far and with at least an extra 45 minutes a day reading thanks to the bike, I’m also getting on well with my other challenge – working my way through my tbr. I’ve decided for the moment to stick to the A-Z policy for choosing most of my reading and so this month has meant choosing titles beginning with A and B. I’m also proceeding well with the weeding, more about both below. This month I also chalked up a rarity for me these days and that was a review, I’m hoping these might become a more regular feature but I’m not making any promises. So, all in all I’m very happy with my bookish month and hope yours has been as positive.
(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)
Books I Bought
On Hampstead Heath by Marika Cobbold
Thorn Marsh was raised in a house of whispers, of meaningful glances and half- finished sentences. Now she’s a journalist with a passion for truth, more devoted to her work at the London Journal than she ever was to her ex-husband.
When the newspaper is bought by media giant The Goring Group, who value sales figures over fact-checking, Thorn openly questions their methods, and promptly finds herself moved from the news desk to the midweek supplement, reporting heart-warming stories for their new segment, The Bright Side, a job to which she is spectacularly unsuited.
On a final warning and with no heart-warming news in sight, a desperate Thorn fabricates a good-news story of her own. The story, centred on an angelic apparition on Hampstead Heath, goes viral. Caught between her principles and her ambitions, Thorn goes in search of the truth behind her creation, only to find the answers locked away in the unconscious mind of a stranger.
A Scorpion in the Lemon Tree by Marjory McGinn
Following on from the first two acclaimed travel memoirs (Things Can Only Get Feta and Homer’s Where The Heart Is), Marjory, Jim and their crazy dog Wallace are on a second hilarious odyssey in southern Greece but this time they end up in a peninsula they didn’t choose, and a house they never wanted to live in. How did this happen? Easy, this is Greece and nothing ever goes to plan.
The couple’s latest adventure in Koroni, on the Messinian peninsula, takes them on another perilous and funny journey, with house rental dramas, scorpion threats, a publishing upheaval, and much more. But when they are finally seduced by the charm of unspoilt Koroni, make new friends, grapple with Greek lessons, and reconnect with some of the memorable characters of their Mani days, they discover once more why they are in love with this resilient country, despite its ongoing economic crisis. And there’s not even a sting in this tale. Well … not one you could imagine!
The Woman Who Came Back to Life by Beth Miller
It’s never too late for a second chance at happiness…
Pearl Flowers has been hiding away for so long that she has forgotten what real life is like. Her quiet routine in a woodland cottage in France is restricted and lonely. But at least it keeps her safe, far away from the painful memories and secrets she left behind.
But then an unexpected phone call throws her calm world into chaos. Back in England, her estranged father Francis is dying. Pearl hasn’t seen him for decades since he pushed her away and destroyed their family, so she hurries back for a last chance to see him. But it turns out he has a final gift for her – a diary, written in a code that only Pearl can understand.
As she begins to read her father’s diary, Pearl discovers that for forty years he had been thinking of her almost every day. And as she reads on, secrets begin to emerge from the pages causing her to question everything she thought she knew.
Reeling from the diary’s revelations, Pearl realises that the only way to heal and find true happiness is to face the past. But is she ready to confront her deepest secret, the one she’s been running from all this time?
How to Save a Life by Eva Carter
Eighteen-year-old Kerry has had a crush on Joel for years, but knows he’s out of her league. Then something extraordinary happens: minutes before midnight on the eve of the millennium, Joel collapses and Kerry saves his life.
As Kerry supports Joel through his recovery, they discover a connection neither of them anticipated – until, haunted by what might have been, he abruptly ends their relationship.
Over the course of the next two decades, the two are bound by that moment of life and death; each time they believe they’ve found love, discovered their vocation, or simply moved on, their lives collide again. But Joel got a second chance at life; will Kerry get a second chance at love?
Because bravery isn’t just about life or death decisions; it’s also about what happens next . . .
This Much Huxley Knows by Gail Aldwin
I’m seven years old and I’ve never had a best mate. Trouble is, no one gets my jokes. And Breaks-it isn’t helping. Ha! You get it, don’t you? Brexit means everyone’s falling out and breaking up.
Huxley is growing up in the suburbs of London at a time of community tensions. To make matters worse, a gang of youths is targeting isolated residents. When Leonard, an elderly newcomer chats with Huxley, his parents are suspicious. But Huxley is lonely and thinks Leonard is too. Can they become friends?
Secrets in the Snow by Emma Heatherington
As the winter snow falls on the small Irish village of Ballybray, Roisin O’Connor and her young son, Ben, are saying goodbye to their beloved neighbour Mabel Murphy. Mabel lived a bold and colourful life, but the arrival of her brooding nephew, ‘blow-in’ Aidan Murphy, just makes life more complicated for Roisin.
However, in one final act of love, a message arrives from Mabel that changes everything. And as winter turns to spring and the cold snow melts, the secrets both Roisin and Aidan are hiding must be revealed at last…
Island Song by Madeleine Bunting
In 1940, Helene, young, naive, and recently married, waves goodbye to her husband, who has enlisted in the British army. Her home, Guernsey, is soon invaded by the Germans, leaving her exposed to the hardships of occupation. Forty years later, her daughter, Roz, begins a search for the truth about her father, and stumbles into the secret history of her mother’s life.
In the Dark by Cara Hunter
A woman and child are found locked in a basement room, barely alive.
No one knows who they are – the woman can’t speak, and there are no missing persons reports that match their profile. The elderly man who owns the house claims he has never seen them before.
The inhabitants of the quiet Oxford street are in shock. How could this happen right under their noses? But DI Adam Fawley knows that nothing is impossible.
And that no one is as innocent as they seem . . .
Unto Us a Sin is Given by Donna leon
As a favour to his wealthy father-in-law, the Count Falier, Commissario Guido Brunetti agrees to investigate the seemingly innocent wish of the Count’s best friend, the elderly and childless Gonzalo, to adopt a younger man as his son. Under Italian inheritance laws, this man would become the sole heir to Gonzalo’s substantial fortune, something which Gonzalo’s friends, including the Count, find appalling. For his part, Brunetti wonders why they’re so intent on meddling in the old man’s business.
Not long after Brunetti meets with Gonzalo, the elderly man unexpectedly passes away from natural causes. Old and frail, Gonzalo’s death goes unquestioned, and a few of his oldest friends gather in Venice to plan the memorial service.
But when Berta, a striking woman and one of Gonzalo’s closest confidantes, is strangled in her hotel room, Brunetti is drawn into long-buried secrets from Gonzalo’s past. What did Berta know? And who would go to such lengths to ensure it would remain hidden?
The Duty of Daughters by Wendy J Dunn
Doña Beatriz Galindo is an uneasy witness to the Holy War of Queen Isabel of Castile and her husband, Ferdinand, King of Aragon. A holy war pushing the Moors out of territories ruled by them for centuries.
Beatriz does not want a life like other women. She desires power over her own destiny. Even if this means walking a far harder road.
A passionate and respected scholar, Beatriz serves her friend Queen Isabel of Castile as her advisor. She also tutors the queen’s youngest child, Catalina of Aragon.
Dedicated to Queen Isabel and her children, Beatriz guides the young Catalina of Aragon to walk her own hard life road.
But can she prepare Catalina to be England’s queen?
Kurinji Flowers by Clare Flynn
Marriage to a man she barely knows. Exile to a country she doesn’t know at all
An emotional love story set in the last days of colonial India
After an abusive relationship with a predatory older man, debutante Ginny Dunbar is publicly disgraced when her artist lover exhibits a nude painting of her in a smart London gallery. All her mother’s hopes for a society wedding are dashed until she lowers her sights and pushes Ginny into a hasty marriage with a tea planter from South India.
Colonial life doesn’t sit well with Ginny. She finds the world of the expatriate community shallow and empty. Caught between fear of and fascination for India and its people, her world is shaken when she meets Jag Mistry, who opens her eyes and her heart. But just as she thinks she has found happiness, World War 2 intervenes.
A poignant story of love, loss, betrayal and redemption set against the dying days of colonial India.
The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley
How one mother gave up drinking and started living. This is Bridget Jones Dries Out.
Clare Pooley is a Cambridge graduate and was a Managing Partner at one of the world’s biggest advertising agencies, and yet by eighteen months ago she’d become an overweight, depressed, middle-aged mother of three who was drinking more than a bottle of wine a day, and spending her evenings Googling ‘Am I an alcoholic?’
In a desperate bid to turn her life around, she quit drinking and started a blog. She called it Mummy Was a Secret Drinker.
This book is the story of a year in Clare’s life. A year that started with her quitting booze having been drinking more than a bottle of wine every day. It sees her starting a hugely successful blog, then getting and beating breast cancer. By the end of the year she is booze free and cancer free, two stone lighter and with a life that is so much richer, healthier and more rewarding than ever before. Sober Diaries is an upbeat, funny and positive look at how to live life to the full.
Dark is the Grave by T G Reid
A dead cop. A damaged detective. A copycat killer on the loose.
When the chief suspect in the notorious Peek-a-boo cop killer case blew himself up, almost taking lead investigator DCI Duncan Bone with him, the psychologically damaged detective thought his days on the force were over. But when another PC is abducted and murdered in the same deranged Peek-a-boo fashion, Bone is persuaded to return to lead the new investigation. But as Bone and his team hunt a copycat killer, and with time running out before yet another cop is slain, Bone’s terrifying past returns to tear open old wounds and push him to very edge of the abyss.
Can DCI Bone end the killing before the killing ends him?
Set among the dramatic hills and glens of Scotland’s Campsie Fells, Dark is the Grave is the first in a series of edge-of-your-seat crime thrillers that will keep you guessing right up to the nail-biting, heart-stopping climax.
The Reading List by Sara Nish Adams
When Aleisha discovers a crumpled reading list tucked into a tattered library book, it sparks an extraordinary journey.
From timeless stories of love and friendship to an epic journey across the Pacific Ocean with a boy and a tiger in a boat, the list opens a gateway to new and wonderful worlds – just when Aleisha needs an escape from her troubles at home.
And when widower Mukesh arrives at the library, desperate to connect with his bookworm granddaughter, Aleisha introduces him to the magic of the reading list. An anxious teenager and a lonely grandfather forming an unlikely book club of two.
Narco Noir by Carmen Amato
After witnessing the execution-style murder of a taxi driver, Emilia replaces him behind the wheel. Undercover with a false identity, her target is a shadowy gang extorting protection money from the upscale taxi service.
The homicide investigation is soon stuck in neutral. No one in Acapulco has heard of the gang. Yet the threat of another murder has all the drivers, including Emilia, scared to death.
When Emilia’s worst enemy gets into her taxi, both her life and the murder case accelerate out of control. Next stop, a movie set.
The script is a nightmare.
The director’s cut is a double-cross.
The leading man has looks that could kill.
The Courier by Holly Down (Capital Crime sub)
She sees much more than you think . . .
Five years ago, Laurel Lovejoy had it all. The high-powered city job, the loving husband, the perfect daughter. Now, she is forty and alone, and working for a courier service. But she has discovered that being a delivery driver comes with a superpower: it makes her invisible. People accept her presence without question. They go about their lives, unaware of just how much she sees – how much she knows.
Laurel is particularly fascinated by the residents of Paradise Found, an exclusive gated cul-de-sac. She sometimes even finds her way there when she’s not working, using her days off to soak up as much information about the inhabitants and their lives as she can. Everyone needs a hobby.
Then one day Laurel sees something in one of the houses – something that blows her whole world apart, and will have devastating consequences for everyone involved . . .
The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse (Capital Crime sub)
A beautiful, eerie hotel in the Swiss Alps, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, is the last place Detective Elin Warner wants to be. But her estranged brother has invited her there for his engagement party, and she feels she has no choice but to accept.
Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. And things only get worse when they wake the next morning to find her brother’s fiancée is missing. With access to the hotel cut off, the guests begin to panic.
But this is only the first disappearance. Everyone’s in danger – and anyone could be next . . .
Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams (NB Mag sub)
What if your mother had been writing to a serial killer?
A convicted murderer with a story to tell
Serial killer Michael Reave – known as The Red Wolf – has been locked in Belmarsh Prison for over 20 years for the brutal and ritualistic murders of countless women.
A grieving daughter with a secret to unearth
Ex-journalist Heather Evans returns to her childhood home after her mother’s inexplicable suicide and discovers something chilling – hundreds of letters between her mother and Reave, dating back decades.
A hunt for a killer ready to strike again
When the body of a woman is found decorated with flowers, just like his victims, Reave is the only person alive who could help. After years of silence, he will speak to Heather, and only Heather.
If she wants to unearth the truth and stop further bloodshed, she’ll have to confront a monster.
Books I Read
All the Fun of the Fair by Caroline Hulse
It’s 1996, summer is coming, and eleven-year-old Fiona Larson is determined to make this her best year yet…
The Fair is the only good thing that happens every year. And Fiona Larson is the only person in town who’s never been.
She’s pretended to go – but she’s never been allowed. Because, before Fiona was even born, her sister died there.
This year, everything will be different.
Fiona is about to turn twelve – older than her sister was. This summer, Fiona will save some money, make new friends, and finally have some fun at The Fair.
But what she’ll actually do is:
– Find a mysterious bag in a bush
– Spy on everyone
– Lose her only friend
– Make a lot of lists
– Learn the truth about what happened at The Fair…
The Visitors by Caroline Scott
Esme Nicholls is to spend the summer in Cornwall. Her late husband Alec, who died fighting in the war, grew up in Penzance, and she’s hoping to learn more about the man she loved and lost.
While there, she will stay with Gilbert, in his rambling seaside house, where he lives with his former brothers in arms. Esme is fascinated by this community of eccentric artists and former soldiers, and as she gets to know the men and their stories, she begins to feel this summer might be exactly what she needs.
But everything is not as idyllic as it seems – a mysterious new arrival later in the summer will turn Esme’s world upside down, and make her question everything she thought she knew about her life, and the people in it.
Aunt Margaret’s Lover by Mavis Cheek
Aunt Margaret, surrogate mother to Saskia, has just waved goodbye to her niece as she sets off for a teenage rendezvous with her father for a year. Now, buoyed up by an unexpected legacy, Aunt Margaret decides to kick up her heels and have some fun and places an advert – ‘Woman, 39, seeks lover for one year – April to April, no expectations.’
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
On 21 June 1922, Count Alexander Rostov – recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt – is escorted out of the Kremlin, across Red Square and through the elegant revolving doors of the Hotel Metropol.
Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely. But instead of his usual suite, he must now live in an attic room while Russia undergoes decades of tumultuous upheaval.
Can a life without luxury be the richest of all?
A Place to Begin by Kate Field (purchased as The Magic of Ramlings)
When Cassie accepts a job as companion to an elderly lady in a remote Lancashire village, she’s hoping for a fresh start that will help her forget the pain of her past.
But from the moment she meets her new companion, Frances, she soon finds herself drawn into the lively community in a way she never expected. And when she encounters Barney, a local farmer and Frances’ nephew, Cassie’s new life is suddenly far from the quiet one she imagined. . .
As she grows closer to this rural community, and to the people within it, Cassie realises that to move forward with her life, she’s going to have to face the secrets of her past.
After all this time, will Cassie finally be able to begin again?
A Dozen Second Chances by Kate Field
What are the chances that twelve little tokens could change a life?
Seventeen years ago, Eve Roberts had the wonderful life she’d always dreamed of: a degree in archaeology, a gorgeous boyfriend, and exciting plans to travel the world with him, working on digs. But when her sister Faye died, the life Eve knew ended too. Faye’s daughter Caitlyn came to live with Eve, her boyfriend left, and she quickly gave up on her dreams.
Now approaching her fortieth birthday, Eve faces the prospect of an empty nest as Caitlyn is leaving home. Caitlyn gives Eve a set of twelve ‘Be Kind to Yourself’ vouchers, telling her that she has to start living for herself again, and that she should fill one in every time she does something to treat herself.
With her very first voucher, Eve’s life will change its course. But with eleven more vouchers to go, can Eve learn to put herself first and follow the dreams she’s kept secret for so long? Because life is for living – and as she well knows, it’s too short to waste even a moment…
Beyond the Lens by Hannah Ellis (Lucy Mitchell 1)
Can love blossom in the spotlight?
Twenty-six-year-old Lucy Mitchell isn’t the sort of person who’d take part in a reality TV show. But when she loses her job and is offered a free trip to Spain, she reluctantly agrees. She has no idea what to expect.
But she definitely isn’t expecting Adam.
The lovely cameraman captures her heart, and as Lucy sips cocktails in the sun with fantastic new friends, everything seems perfect.
But that’s all about to change.
Thrust into the spotlight, Lucy’s world is turned upside down. Can her blossoming romance survive under pressure? Will she ever escape the cameras? There’s one thing she knows for sure: when dealing with the media, you should always read the fine print…
Beneath these Stars (Lucy Mitchell 2)
One senseless tragedy; one family torn apart…
Perfect couple Lucy and Adam have it all: a home in the picturesque village of Havendon, budding careers and a sparkling future. Life is exactly as it should be.
But when tragedy strikes and Adam becomes the guardian to his two young nieces, their idyllic life is turned upside down.
Adam and Lucy’s relationship is about to be pushed to the limit. And this devastated family must find a way to pull together in the most testing of times…
The Butterfly Storm by Kate Frost
Sophie Keech has it all. A new life in Greece with a handsome man enables Sophie to leave her mundane job and her estranged mum. But four years on, a domineering mother-in-law to be and the reality of living in Greece not being what Sophie imagined, strains her relationship with Alekos.
When her mum is involved in an accident, Sophie jumps at the chance to escape. Time to reassess her life and make amends is sorely needed. Yet an attraction to a good looking and newly divorced man, and a shock discovery, complicates things.
Can Sophie and Alekos’ love survive the distance?
Bonnie and Stan by Anna Stuart
After 50 years together Stan still adores his wife… so why is he dating again?
Bonnie and Stan are soulmates. They met during the Swinging Sixties, to the soundtrack of The Beatles and the Merseybeat scene. Now they’ve grown up and grown old together, had children and grandchildren. They are finally building their dream home, when disaster strikes.
Stan is running out of time, and can’t bear the thought of leaving Bonnie alone. Alongside his teenage granddaughter Greya, he forms a plan to find Bonnie a new love of her life. And she must never find out…
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?
Arms Wide Open by Tom Winter
Jack and Meredith are non-identical twins; the only similarity between them is their lives rapidly falling apart. Jack’s high-flying career in advertising has crashed and burned. Meredith’s world is also crumbling – a decomposing yogurt in her fridge now a symbol of her failed marriage. Her children, Jemima and Luke, offer little support, too consumed with the worlds of online dating and amateur taxidermy.
All their lives, Jack and Meredith believed their father to be dead. One day, a throwaway comment leads Jack to question this, but with their mother fading ever-deeper into the grip of dementia, answers are hard to come by. As revelations start to untangle, the twins soon learn that what you seek is not always what you find…Read less
Another You by Jane Cable
Sometimes the hardest person to save is yourself…
Marie Johnson fell in love with The Smugglers pub when she first moved to Dorset with her husband, Stephen.
But when Stephen’s wandering eye caused the breakdown of their marriage, and the costs of running the pub started to mount, Marie felt her dreams crashing down around her.
With local celebrations planned for the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Marie is hopeful things will turn around.
But she could never have predicted the ways her life will soon be changed forever.
A charming American soldier walks into Marie’s life, but it becomes clear nothing is really as it seems…
Why is Marie suddenly plagued by headaches? Is her American soldier everything he seems to be?
Or could the D-Day re-enactments be stirring up something from the past…?
A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray
Meet the Bradleys.
In lots of ways, they’re a normal family:
Zippy is sixteen and in love for the first time; Al is thirteen and dreams of playing for Liverpool.
And in some ways, they’re a bit different:
Seven-year-old Jacob believes in miracles. So does his dad.
But these days their mum doesn’t believe in anything, not even getting out of bed.
How does life go on, now that Issy is gone?
Among the Lemon Trees by Nadia Marks
Anna thought her marriage to Max would last forever. Having raised two happy children together, she looked forward to growing old with the man she loved. But when a revelation from her husband just before their wedding anniversary shakes her entire world, she’s left uncertain of what the future holds.
Needing time to herself, Anna takes up an offer from her widowed father to spend the summer on the small Aegean island of his birth, unaware that a chance discovery of letters in her aunt’s house will unleash a host of family secrets. Kept hidden for sixty years, they reveal a tumultuous family history, beginning in Greece at the beginning of the twentieth century and ending in Naples at the close of the Second World War.
Confronted by their family’s long-buried truths, both father and daughter are shaken by the discovery and Anna begins to realize that if she is to ever heal the present, she must first understand the past . . .
The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser
Thea’s having a bad month. Not only has she been made redundant, she’s also discovered her husband of nearly twenty years is sleeping with one of her friends. And he’s not sorry – he’s leaving.
Bewildered and lost, Thea doesn’t know what to do. But, when she learns the great-uncle she barely knew has died and left her his huge collection of second-hand books and a house in the Scottish Lowlands, she seems to have been offered a second chance.
Running away to a little town where no one knows her seems like exactly what Thea needs. But when she meets the aristocratic Maltravers brothers – grumpy bookshop owner Edward and his estranged brother Charles, Lord Hollinshaw – her new life quickly becomes just as complicated as the life she was running from.
So how did I do with my reading and weeding intentions?
A-Z Reading Challenge, This Month A & B
|All the Fun of the Fair||Kindle||July 2021|
|Aunt Margaret’s Lover||Book||pre 2013|
|Arms Wide Open||Book||Mar 2014|
|Another You||Kindle||May 2019|
|Among the Lemon Trees||Kindle||Aug 2017|
|Beyond the Lens||Kindle||Feb 2017|
|Beneath These Stars||Kindle||Jun 2018|
|Butterfly Storm, The||Kindle||Aug 2013|
|Bonnie and Stan||Kindle||Jul 2019|
|Bookshop of Second Chances, The||Kindle||Nov 2021|
Wading Through Treacle or Weeding the Shelves (real and virtual)
|Unread ebooks||Unread Tree Books|
|Start of Month||4062||778|
|End of Month||3966||765|
That’s me for this month so all that’s left to say is : Happy Reading!
Wow 16 books is amazing Jill you must be really chuffed! xx
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I am! I’m hoping I can do the same this month, but I think it’ll be hard. I shall try very hard though! xx
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Well done and keep up the cycling, Jill! x
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Thanks Janet, I haven’t slowed down yet! x
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Meticulous planning Jill. What’s your secret? Also kudos for your exercise regime. I’ll be glad when I’m more mobile and can exercise again. Maybe this time next year?
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All more good luck than management I can assure you! My exercise bike has been a blessing as that’s basically the only exercise I get – great for reading as well, so win – win x
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